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CNN This Morning

Another Atmospheric River Threatens California; Trump Leads in Primary; Mitch Henderson and Tosan Evbuomwan are Interviewed about March Madness; Chinese and Russian Presidents Meet in Moscow. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired March 20, 2023 - 08:30   ET



DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back, everyone.

This morning, storm-battered California bracing for the 13th atmospheric river of the season. The parade of storms has sparked floods and land sides, toppled trees and power lines, and stranded mountain residents in record deep snow. Authorities now warning it could be a dire spring, especially if warm temperatures melt the snow quickly.

CNN's Veronica Miracle live in the midst of it in Pajaro, California, near Monterey.

Good morning to you.

What kind of preparations are being taken?

VERONICA MIRACLE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Don, preparations hardly being taken in this community because this community hasn't even recovered from the last storm, Don. This whole area was covered in floodwaters just last week. You couldn't even navigate it by car, you had to take a boat. We had to ride with the Monterey County Sheriff's Office just to even take a look at what was happening here.

Those floodwaters have since receded, but the entire town is covered in mud and debris. And, in fact, it is still a ghost town. You cannot get in if you are a resident. There are still blockades. And the only sign of life that you see, first responders, those who are helping to clean up some of the mud, and then those people who refused to leave, the few who stayed behind.

Now, this is impacting the community on every single level. Not only can they not get back into their homes and those areas that are contaminated with mud and water and debris.


But you take a look here, we're standing in a strawberry field. This is where so many people work. And I'm trying not to fall in this mud here, but it is covered in mud. You can see those leaves just brown from the mud here. And people are not going to be able to and have not been able to come back to work. So, they can't get in their homes and they cannot come to work.

There is only a sliver of good news for this community, who the -- for the thousands of people that have been impacted. This thirteenth atmospheric river, this next storm coming in, it is expected to hit southern California harder than it is expected to hit northern California. It still means moisture is coming to this area, and so it delays the process of drying out, and there are still communities deeply impacted in southern California. So, this has been an incredibly difficult time for California.


LEMON: Boy, it certainly has.

Thank you, Veronica Miracle.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: OK, also this morning, former President Trump is leading Florida Governor Ron DeSantis in new polls on the 2024 race and what it might look like. It is actually mostly due to one key voting bloc. It might surprise you. Harry Enten is here to explain, next.



COLLINS: All right, former President Trump seeking to weaken Ron DeSantis ahead of his expected White House run. Not announced yet, but it is expected. The former president has been calling the Florida governor names when he is out speaking publicly, criticizing his past views on everything from Social Security to ethanol. Now polls suggest that DeSantis might have his work cut out for him, especially when it comes to one particular voting bloc among Republican voters.

CNN's Harry Enten has been looking into the numbers.

You find that there is one group of voters that Trump has a pretty significant advantage over DeSantis with. Which group?

HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR DATA REPORTER: Yes, that's right, Kaitlan. So, this morning's number is 29. It's 29 points. So, Trump's lead in the primary over DeSantis is 29 points among GOP and GOP-leaning voters of color. That is non-white Republicans, where he has a significant lead, 29 points.

And I want to compare white voters with voters of color on the GOP side. You see among white voters, right, Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis are within the margin of error of each other, right? It's just a one point advantage for Donald Trump. But, again, look at this ballooning lead that Donald Trump has among voters of color. It's 29 points. So, he's doing 28 points better among voters of color than he is among white voters.

And, you know, I think there's this idea, you know, the Republican Party is much more white than the Democratic Party. But, in fact, the GOP is becoming more diverse. So this is the share of GOP voters who are people of color. This year, right now, it's 18 percent. Back in 2016, when Trump first ran, it was just 13 percent. So, Trump is doing better among a group of voters that is becoming a larger share of the Republican Party.

COLLINS: Yes, so this could be a pretty significant voting bloc, if he does maintain their support or potentially grow it.

ENTEN: Yes, that's exactly right. That's exactly what's going on here. And I think it kind of intersects with another sort of divide that we're seeing in the Republican Party, right, which is, we were talking about this before in the break, you know, voters in the Republican Party are breaking along income lines. So, voters making less than $50,000 a year, they favor Trump by 27 points. Voters making at least $50,000 a year, they, in fact, favor DeSantis by six points. And, again, it's this intersection of everything going on, right? So, 28 percent of white GOP voters make less than 50k, while 45 percent of GOP voters of color make less than 50k. So, essentially what we go -- what's going on here is this populous message that Trump has is working particularly well with voters of color at this point.

COLLINS: Yes, and that's so interesting to see how that shapes DeSantis once he formulates his own message when we see him officially enter the race, as he's expected to do.

ENTEN: It's going to be a wild ride, Kaitlan.

COLLINS: Yes. Harry, a really interesting look. Thank you.

ENTEN: Thank you.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: OK, beating the odds, busting your bracket, but that's OK. Watch this. The fifteenth seed Princeton Tigers will continue their Cinderella run to the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA tournament. The team's coach and one of the star players here live in studio, next.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The number fifteen seed, the Princeton Tigers, it's never been sweeter if you're a Princeton fan than right now.


HARLOW: Look at that!

LEMON: Look at that.

HARLOW: Fifteenth seeded Princeton will continue its Cinderella run into the Sweet Sixteen round of March Madness. It is the first time the Tigers have gotten this deep into the tournament in almost six decades.


HARLOW: And it comes after two major upsets. First against number two- seed Arizona, who had been a popular pick to win it all. Then Princeton dominated Missouri, a number seven seed. Now they will face Creighton, a number six seed on Friday with a trip to the Elite Eight on the line.

Joining us now is Princeton's head coach, Mitch Henderson, and their March Madness star, Tosan Evbuomwan.

Guys, when I heard you were coming in studio, I was We were all so excited because it's so great, Mitch, to be underestimated and then prove everyone wrong. And for you, this is like, we all remember, I think we have the picture we can pull up, right, back in 1996. You were a player for Princeton. You guys upset UCLA. You jumped for joy. And now you get to do it as a coach.

That's you, by the way.


LEMON: How you doing? I mean how are you guys?

HENDERSON: We're on cloud nine. And, you know, as the coach, you know, you - you want to separate yourself from being the player as often as possible.


HENDERSON: I am so glad we're getting rid of that photo around our gym. Time for some new photos. And we've got a lot of them. And we're really pleased. And I know it's Cinderella and brackets are busted. We're happy to be in that role. But this group really believes in themselves. And it's a national stage.

One of the cool things about the tournament, as you guys know is, you know, it's neutral court. And all these guys grew up watching the tournament and you believe. And the group has -- it's a very gritty and gutty group that also plays with a lot of savvy. And we're not surprised that we're here.

HARLOW: Gritty, gutty, and savvy, that's a good combination.


LEMON: You're right in the middle of it. I mean you -- whether you -- do you realize how big this is?

TOSAN EVBUOMWAN, PRINCETON SENIOR FORWARD: I'm not sure I quite do, to be honest. You know, obviously, it feels amazing. I think when we finish playing, I think we'll probably appreciate it for what it is. But, right now, we're trying to stay in the moment a little bit. And, yes, I mean, obviously, enjoying myself a massive amount, as well.

COLLINS: Yes, but you're making it into the Sweet Sixteen first time since 1967, six decades, as we were noting. What -- how do you coach at a time like this? What is your message to the team?

HENDERSON: Well, we -- I think, don't lose sight of what got you here. We were just fighting to make the tournament eight days ago. So, it's been quick. And we're pinching ourselves a bit. I also think that you have to tap into the little kid in you. You know that all of us wanted to be at this moment.


These guys have earned the right to enjoy the process.

And then the school, we - you know, Princeton has such incredible school spirit. So, we wanted to tap into that. I thought that's a big part of the reason why we were successful in Sacramento. We had - we have an amazing fan base and alum base that, I don't know, I don't think anybody does the four year undergraduate experience like Princeton. So there's a real comradery there and we're going to have a lot of support going into the Sweet Sixteen.

HARLOW: Can you talk about what inspires you to play, because I know so much of it is your family. Not only your dad, who played in Nigeria, but you wear these pink shoes, I think we've got a picture, for -- in honor of your mom.

EVBUOMWAN: Yes, my parents, like you said, have been a huge influence on me. Now my family (ph) -- my brother, too. Yes, I try to honor my mom, you know, every game with pink shoes with the number 20. That was -- her birthday was March 20th. So, you know, everything's kind of for her. I try to make her proud as best as I can and my dad, too, and I kind of play for them. And, you know, I've had other (INAUDIBLE) in my life, too. And it's just amazing to be able to, you know, perform on this stage, you know, for them and, you know, hopefully have the same kind of effect on younger generations, whether back home in England or, you know, in the Princeton community as well. So, you know, it's been amazing to play a part in inspiring younger generations.

LEMON: Yes. Look, I mean, it's -- basketball in many countries, but it's looked at as an American sport, right? You are from England. You didn't start playing ball until you were 14?

EVBUOMWAN: Yes. Yes, that's right.

LEMON: What's up with that? And now here you are.

EVBUOMWAN: Yes, it's not huge in the U.K., but, you know, it's growing. It's growing. Everybody's getting behind the sport, I think, right now specifically. But, yes, it was a lot of soccer for me growing up. A lot of different sports. Pretty much all but American sports. But, you know, I'm glad I found basketball and, you know, here I am now.

HARLOW: His nickname is slow-mo (ph), but it's a good thing, is this right?

HENDERSON: Yes. Yes. So I think the game slows down for him. He even -- I'm often urging him, like, can we go a little bit faster now? But I think that maybe this is the football/soccer influence on him, but the way he sees the game makes it - makes it easier for others to play faster. He's such a gifted passer. I always say, when he came to Princeton, it's like a brilliant blinding light from heaven.

LEMON: Oh, nice.

COLLINS: When you beat Arizona, what was it like?

EVBUOMWAN: Surreal. Yes, surreal. I mean we always had belief. But to actually go out and do it, you know, surreal. In front of the fans, amazing crowd, amazing stage to play on. Yes, you can't ask for much more.


LEMON: And when you beat Alabama, what's that going to be like?

COLLINS: I was going (INAUDIBLE) leave you with a Roll Tide. I love having you on set. My dad's going to be thrilled, but -

HARLOW: Guys, congratulations.

EVBUOMWAN: Thank you so much.

HENDERSON: Thank you. Appreciate it.

HARLOW: So proud.

LEMON: Thank you very much. Thank you.

COLLINS: I can't believe you made time to join us on set while you're in the middle of this.

LEMON: It's so good. Yes.

HARLOW: And thank you for this.

LEMON: Thank you.


LEMON: There are two more.

HARLOW: I'll wear it. We love (INAUDIBLE) for you guys.

LEMON: Maybe we'll get Kaitlan to wear one.


HARLOW: Maybe.

LEMON: With - yes.

HARLOW: Maybe.

COLLINS: You guys are awesome. LEMON: Thanks.

COLLINS: We wish you the best of luck.

HARLOW: All luck.

LEMON: Thank you very much.

COLLINS: Unless you're playing Alabama.

LEMON: Good to see you. Good luck.

COLLINS: OK, also this morning, CNN is live on the ground in Moscow. Chinese President Xi Jinping has just touched down. He is about to meet with President Putin, first time since Russia invaded Ukraine. We're going to tell you the number one thing leaders in the west are watching for. That's next.



LEMON: So, this morning, Chinese President Xi Jinping arriving in Moscow. Soon he will meet face-to-face with Russian President Vladimir Putin. On the agenda, Ukraine, of course. Xi saying that he is actively promoting peace talks.

Joining us now from Taiwan, CNN's senior international correspondent Will Ripley.

Will, hello.

What should we expect to see today in this meeting between Xi and Putin?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, certainly on the surface it's going to be quite a lavish affair. This is an official state visit going on for three days and I bet Vladimir Putin is very happy to see Xi Jinping. I mean, this is his best friend in the world right now, considering, you know, the, you know, potential to be tried on war crimes charges, you know, condemnation by the west, you know, growing allegations of just, you know, barbaric behavior with him at the helm and yet you have the Chinese president showing up, talking about, you know, working with Putin to safeguard the international order.

A journey of friendship, cooperation and peace. You know, it's -- it just really it's so thick, you know, you can slice it with a knife and yet this is what, you know, the Russian public, the Chinese public, this is what they're being fed. And this - and so this buildup of this no limits partnership between these two, again, you know, Xi continues just to really put so much, you know, of his own credibility really in this relationship with Vladimir Putin.

Now, the question that we need to see if it will be answered publicly or if it will come out, you know, later is whether they talk about lethal weapons, which Putin needs because his troops are running out of ammunition and other things, and will China be willing to give Russia the weapons that it would need that could actually turn things around for them on the ground potentially? This is the big concern.

And also this Chinese peace plan that Xi is going there touting. Basically Ukraine says this plan needs to begin with a Russian withdrawal.


RIPLEY: But what China is calling for is for Russia to basically be given the land that they've already taken.

COLLINS: Yes, , and notable given that John Kirby said earlier, even if China does publicly propose a ceasefire once again, he - they -- the U.S. believes Ukraine should reject it and he said the U.S. will reject it as well.

RIPLEY: Yes, it's - it's -- these are two men, two strong men up against the west.


RIPLEY: And with each visit, with each, you know -- each side just digging in their heels, it's really pretty troubling for a lot of people watching the direction of these two polar opposites in the world right now.


LEMON: All right, Will Ripley in Taiwan for us this morning.

Will, thank you very much. Appreciate you joining us.

COLLINS: And we'll be tracking all the latest with this Putin/Xi meeting.

CNN "NEWSROOM" starts right now.