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CNN Poll Shows Biden Approval Rating Sinks to 39 Percent; Judge Skeptical of Fani Willis' Proposed Joint Trial in October; Pence Calls Out Trump by Name During New Hampshire Stop. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired September 07, 2023 - 07:00   ET



POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Quickly, before you go, Christine. Naomi Osaka with a big announcement. She's going to come back.

CHRISTINE BRENNAN, CNN SPORTS ANALYST: Exactly. She's had a baby, obviously working so much on mental health issues, talking about that again. What a wonderful role model she is. But she's coming back for the Australian Open four times. She's won Grand Slam events, and I expect there are more for her yet to come.

HARLOW: Love it. Thank you, Christine--

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks, Chris. Good to see you.

HARLOW: -- Green Bear Brennan Appreciate it.

CNN This Morning continues now.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A great big nope for Ken Cheseboro and Sidney Powell. The judge in Fulton County shut down their attempt to be tried separately.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It just seems a bit unrealistic to think that we can handle all 19 in 40-something days.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's going to take at least four months, up to 150 witnesses.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The fireworks are really going to start going off. People do not want to go to prison.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: We did hear from the most famous defendant of all of them, Donald Trump.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Will you testify in your own defense?

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: That I look forward to.

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Defendants rarely take the stand. In real life, it would be a disaster. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A brand new court filing from the special counsel investigating Hunter Biden reveals plans to indict the president's son on gun charges.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He possessed a gun and filled out paperwork and he falsified the documents.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It fuels what the Republicans in Congress are trying to fan. This will be a log on that fire.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The incredible video of an escaped killer on the run, scaling a brick wall to get to freedom.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They have found footprints and other signs that Cavalcante is in certain areas still.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I haven't seen a manhunt that's lasted this long with so many sightings.

HARLOW: So, you get this head coaching job and you get diagnosed with cancer.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We circled up over there and just the guys and I want to share something with you.

HARLOW: Were you scared telling them?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I was. You have to set the example. Leadership is not about you, but it will start with you.

HARLOW: Well, you have a second chance now. It sounds like you're making the most of it.



HARLOW: Morning, everyone. We are so glad you are with us. It is a busy day with a lot of fascinating news, including a new poll.

MATTINGLY: A new poll with a lot of numbers that we definitely want to dig into. Also very excited to see that piece, you've been working on that for a while. It's coming up later.

HARLOW: I'm the bigger NFL fan here, obviously.

MATTINGLY: Yes, that is clear. It's unequivocally the case. Constantly, Poppy is like, what's on your fantasy team? Who are you drafting? What's the spread this weekend? It's literally all of our conversations in our office.

HARLOW: Football starts tonight in America.

MATTINGLY: All right, that's awesome. I love that. Vikings, we'll be talking all fall. But, first, we want to talk about big numbers, important numbers and numbers that I think to some degree are jarring given the scale and what they may mean for the current president.

We have brand new CNN polling this morning, and those numbers are looking rough for President Biden. It could be a troubling sign for Democrats and the president's hopes for re-election in 2024. Biden's approval rating sinking to 39 percent. Nearly 60 percent of voters think Biden's policies are making the economy worse. And close to 70 percent of Democrats want somebody else to run for president. His overall approval rating among Democratic voters, that's slipping from July.

And when it comes to hypothetical matchups between Biden and the leading GOP presidential candidates, it's a tight race with no clear winner.

HARLOW: Except for Nikki Haley, who, in this hypothetical matchup, is leading President Biden by six points. Donald Trump ahead by one point of Biden. This all comes right before President Biden heads off on a big foreign trip. He's set to meet with world leaders at the G-20 summit in India.

Happy to be joined this morning in studio by our Political Director David Chalian with all this new polling. And some people think polls, polls, this one, to me, is totally riveting and fascinating about how Americans think Joe Biden is handling his job, including Democrats.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yes. And it's going to set off some alarm bells in the White House, no doubt.

You noted his approval rating is down at 39 percent. 61 percent of Americans disapprove. He's been hanging at that low point, guys, for quite some time. When we talk about the mood of the country 14 months out from a presidential election, not that great. Three in ten Americans, that's it, say things are going well in the country. Seven in ten say things are going badly in the country.

And 58 percent of Americans in this poll say that Joe Biden's policies have actually worsened economic conditions in the country. Only 24 percent say they've improved economic conditions. This is why we hear him talking about Bidenomics every day he's out and about in the country.

MATTINGLY: David, the president is the oldest president in history. He was this morning. He will be tomorrow. That's just the reality. And White House officials acknowledge that, don't love talking about it, but have long made the case that's not the kind of pervasive issue for voters. It's not going to be the determinant factor. What does this poll show?

CHALIAN: Well, it's certainly on the mind of voters. We'll see how important it becomes, but it clearly is a major concern. We asked folks, though, do you think-- are you seriously concerned that Biden's age might negatively affect his ability to serve a full term?


Three quarters of Americans are indeed seriously concerned. Three quarters of Americans don't agree on anything but there's concern there.

You see it here, too, seriously concerned about his current mental and physical competence being negatively impacted by his age and seriously concerned that his understanding of the next generation's concerns are impacted. 68 percent say that.

And that and the economy of me, as we talked about, that is what is behind these numbers. Why? Joe Biden is in a sort of dead heat margin of error race with nearly every Republican tested. Poppy noted that Nikki Haley is the exception to that. She's running outside the margin of error. But look at this, Trump margin of error race. No clear leader. DeSantis, Pence, Scott, Ramaswamy, Christie, they are all with no clear leader.

And I just want to note, guys, one other thing that is going to cause agita for the White House team is this motivation factor. Are you extremely motivated to vote in next year's presidential election? Look at this. Republicans and Republican-leaning independents have a ten point advantage over Democrats on that score.

HARLOW: Yes, that really matters how people feel on that front. David, thank you very much.

CHALIAN: Thanks, guys.

HARLOW: So let's talk about what these numbers portend to people who served up close with Joe Biden is former White House Communications Director Kate Bedingfield, also CNN Political Commentator, and CNN Political Commentator and former Senior Adviser to Barack Obama, David Axelrod.

David, you look at these numbers and they're not just not good, they're bad.

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, Poppy, I heard you say they were fascinating. I forget what the other word you used. I'm not so sure that's how the President will receive them over his morning coffee this morning.

These numbers are not good and they're consistent with most of the other polling that we've seen, that country is in a sour mood. He's not getting credit for what I think is a fairly substantial list of achievements, and there is real concern about his age, and that has been true for some time. It continues to be true. And the reality is, if this were a referendum, he would be in deep, deep trouble.

The fact-- and David just noted it, the fact that he is competitive with the guy who is the runaway frontrunner for the Republican nomination, who has some significant problems of his own, is what he's looking and, you know, there's an expression in sports that sometimes you have to win ugly. And I think that's what lies ahead here for this president in this White House. MATTINGLY: All right. Kate Bedingfield, when we both worked on separate sides of the West Wing, I learned very early on, wandering into your office and asking straight up about polling on any given day was likely not to elicit the most friendly response.


MATTINGLY: Yes, no, but you always had answers and kind of explanations or this is why this matters, this is why you're missing this, that or the other. What are people missing here that the White House, that the political team for the re-election campaign knows that they're not seeing?

BEDINGFIELD: Well, remember, polls don't get asked in a vacuum, and there's a lot of information that doesn't get folded into a question the way it's posed to somebody who's responding to a poll. So, you have voters raise, for example, that they would like to see someone else other than Joe Biden as the nominee, but then when they're asked specifically who that would be, that number drops down to 1 percent.

And so what you don't see here is people being asked about where Republicans-- how they feel about where Republicans stand on abortion, on guns. And we saw that dynamic play out in 2022 when people went to the polls and largely rejected what Republicans were offering.

So, I think what we aren't seeing here and what it's sort of easy to look at a poll and get really sucked into the numbers, although I'll tell you, the Biden White House is not going to be rattled by this because their view is they're going to be 500 polls between now and Election Day, but there's a lot of information that isn't here that's a reminder that campaigns don't happen in a vacuum and it's on the Biden campaign to make this election a choice and to make it about the contrast between what Republicans are offering and what Biden's offering.

That's a challenge. I don't think anybody is saying that's easy. I don't think the Biden White House would. That's easy. But that's the challenge before them, is to really make this about the contrast. As Biden would say, don't compare me to the Almighty. Compare me to the alternative.

HARLOW: David what about the Nikki Haley aspect of all of this, that she's the one who beats Biden in this hypothetical matchup by six points?

AXELROD: Yes, I know. Look, I think she benefited from that debate. Obviously, she stands out from the field. She's the only woman in the field, and she has significant general election advantages. But she's sitting at 5 or 6 percent in the Republican polls.

One of the issues here has been that Republicans themselves believe that Trump is the strongest candidate they have and there has not been a coalescence around any other candidate who could challenge him for the nomination.

[07:10:12] She has a task in front of her to win a Republican primary.

One of the paradoxes of our contemporary politics is what it takes to win a Republican primary often makes you less appealing as a general election candidate because you have to tack so far to the right. So, we'll see how she navigates.

But, you know, right now, Donald Trump is the runaway frontrunner, and it's not clear that she or anyone can overtake him.

MATTINGLY: Kate, Poppy was talking about this, flagged this from me last night, and we've been talking about it this morning, and it's something you and I think have actually talked about over the course of the last two years, and that is that there's just kind of a general discontent in the country that's hard to overcome based on the last couple of years, COVID and the pandemic and all these different factors.

There's a column from Brett Stevens where he says, in part, the news isn't all that good. Americans are unsettled by things that are not always visible in headlines or statistics but are easy enough to see. And I think that kind of defines the disconnect between legislative accomplishments, the current state of the macroeconomy, those types of things that the White House wants to talk about and how people are feeling.

How do you kind of thread that together if you're the Biden administration and campaign?

BEDINGFIELD: Well, I think there's certainly truth to that, and that's absolutely something that the president recognizes when he is talking to his staff about what he wants to say when he's going out to speak.

He is always very focused on making sure that he is talking about connecting with people's concerns. He believes that it's important for a president to show that he understands that people are feeling doubtful or feeling dubious after essentially a once in a generation pandemic that kind of rocked our world, more or less. So, it is a challenge.

I think for the President and for the Biden campaign, they have to continue to show that they connect with people's sense of unease, but also remind them about how much has been done and critically convey a sense of optimism, remind people that we are on a good path and that there's opportunity for things to get better.

I think he has a lot of proof points. He can point to a lot of things that he's been able to get done in a very divided Washington. He's been able to accomplish historic job creation, a historic infrastructure bill that's fixing people's roads and bridges, obviously the Inflation Reduction Act. There's a lot that he can point to, to say, listen, I've been able to get things done to make your life better and there's so much more to do.

And so conveying that sense of optimism, I think, will be critical for the campaign and for the president.

HARLOW: But, David, I think what struck me so much about this column by Brett Stevens is when he went beyond all the things Kate just mentioned, rightly so, those legislative accomplishments. And he said-- he writes, easy to see is the frequent collapse of public order on American streets, easy to see is that our kids are not all right. And he points to social media companies. Easy to see is that the border crisis has become a national one. And then he writes, not all the rune mentioned is Biden's fault. None of it is irreversible, but there is much more rune than his apologists blinkered by selective statistics and too confident about the president's chances next year can admit.

Should Biden definitely run again? Should he definitely be the one, David?

AXELROD: Well, look, I've been very clear from the beginning. Let me say one thing as a preface to this. Phil said something important, which is hooking up, connecting up with the nation's mood. You can't jawbone people into feeling better. You can't jawbone people into thinking that whatever they're experiencing isn't what they're experiencing.

And I think that the president has to find a way to talk about the things that he's done in a context other than kind of asking for a report card from the American people, because if that's what he does, it's pretty clear right now that that's not going to work out well. If he takes more populist bent on the fights that he's fought and why he's fought them, I think he has a better chance.

But in terms of your question, Poppy, I've been very clear from the beginning. If you gave me Joe Biden and lopped 15 years off of him and gave me this record, I would be very confident about the next election polls notwithstanding. That is not the case.

And navigating this age issue is hard because people are not just saying, how is he performing now? They're also trying to postulate how he'll perform when he's 83, 84, 85, and that's a difficult question to answer. But he is running. I mean, he's made clear that he is running.

And I can tell you that the mood of Democrats is that as long as he is running, no one wants to challenge him and weaken him in what many Democrats consider an existential fight with Donald Trump. Now, if Trump went away, I think the feeling might be different.


I don't know. But no president has ever been benefited from a primary challenge and presidents generally win primary challenges.

So, I think this is in Joe Biden's hands, and he has to decide whether he can complete this task and win this election and prevent what many people fear would be a disaster for the country. And if not, then he should step aside. But what I think and what other people think is not terribly important, what he thinks is because he's kind of in control here.

HARLOW: Yes. David Axelrod, Kate Bedingfield, really fascinating discussion, I appreciate it, guys. Thank you.

AXLEROD: Good to see you.

HARLOW: Good to see you.

MATTINGLY: We're breaking down the key takeaways from the first televised hearing in the Georgia election case against Donald Trump and his 18-code defendants. The big question at hand, win, and how long will the trial be?

And right now, we're keeping a very close eye on Hurricane Lee in the Atlantic. It's rapidly expected to strengthen into a potentially catastrophic Category 4 storm within the next 48 hours. The current forecast has the hurricane passing north of Puerto Rico but it's still too early to tell if and where the storm might make landfall after that.

Stay with us. We'll be right back.



MATTINGLY: Well, we got our first look at how the Georgia Trump election subversion case is shaping up to be like yesterday, and it was all on live television. The judge denied co-defendant Kenneth Cheseboro's motion to separate his case from Sidney Powell and ruled they will go to trial together on October 23. The judge was also highly skeptical of District Attorney Fani Willis' proposed October trial for the former president and his other co-defendants.


JUDGE SCOTT MCAFEE, FULTON COUNTY SUPERIOR COURT: It just seems a bit unrealistic to think that we can handle all 19 in 40-something days. It could easily be twice that.


MATTINGLY: Well, joining us now is Tamar Hallerman, senior reporter for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, who's covered every inch of this story from the very beginning. And also with us is former Fulton County prosecutor Melissa Redmon. She is currently the director of the University of Georgia Law School's Prosecutorial Justice Program.

Melissa, I want to start with you in terms of what we were watching yesterday, which I think was a very kind of normal run-of-the-mill procedural event in this process with a whole lot more attention on it given the people that are involved here. What did you learn? What kind of stood out to you as we walked through this yesterday?

MELISSA REDMON, FORMER FULTON COUNTY PROSECUTOR: Well, I didn't see any real surprises. And the hearing we saw yesterday, as you said, is pretty much a standard motion that we see in co-defendant cases.

The defense really had an uphill battle, because the guardrails that we have from case law in when a motion to sever is appropriate are pretty set. There's lots of case law that comes down to those three things, the number of defendants, whether or not it will be confusing, whether there's so much evidence against one that it would kind of engulf the other, and whether there were antagonistic defenses.

And what we saw yesterday, the defendants, Sidney Powell and Cheseboro, they weren't pointing the fingers at each other. They admitted that that there were no antagonistic defenses. There's only two of them, right? So, we can pretty much keep that straight.

And then the evidence is -- there's evidence against one. There's evidence against the other. That was their main argument is there may be days or weeks where we're just sitting here, and the judge did not find that persuasive.

I think their strongest argument is that it is at the discretion of the court. Judge McAfee pretty much could have used his discretion to credit (ph) it, but he said that, really, you know, the law is not on your side on this one. So, I didn't find that surprising.

What I did find surprising is what we're going to see moving forward in these weekly check-ins. And I think that's a very efficient way to move a case this large where you can anticipate many pre-trial motions going forward.

HARLOW: Yes, for sure. Tamar, one thing I thought was really interesting was just watching Judge McAfee and this sort of, as you put it, willingness to be skeptical of District Attorney Fani Willis' claims. He clearly wants to move fast, but also being open about the fact that these are completely uncharted waters.

TAMAR HALLERMAN, SENIOR REPORTER, THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION: Yes, and we were all closely watching Judge McAfee. He's 34 years old. He was appointed to the bench in February. And there are questions of how -- what kind of presence he would be like in the courtroom in one of the biggest cases of our lifetimes.

And, initially, he kind of sat back, listened. We didn't hear much from him at the beginning of the hearing, but then he made clear exactly of how skeptical he was of the D.A.'s timeline, and also showed that he knew that he had to move fast, especially when it comes to the Ken Cheseboro-Sidney Powell hearings in October. There's a real question now, are we going to be moving on one track or two? It looks very likely there's going to be two. So, I was really fascinated to see that.

It was also interesting to watch the D.A.'s office tip their hand just a little bit, more than 150 witnesses, four months, not including jury selection, pretty remarkable timeline. And I was impressed to see the judge kind of push back on that and kind of show his skepticism.

MATTINGLY: Yes. MELISSA, to that point, is that timeline even remotely feasible or plausible? REDMON: I think it is. If we look at the other legal cases and how long those cases are taking --

MATTINGLY: Melissa, go ahead.

REDMON: Okay. When we look at the other cases that we've seen in a case of this magnitude, you do -- remember, it took the special purpose grand jury, they heard evidence for months, right? And it took the DA herself two and a half years to bring these charges. So, 150 witnesses, I do expect that to be pared down a lot. But as far as the four months, I don't think that's an unreasonable timeframe.

And I think one of the reasons they gave that timeframe is to impress upon the judge how many times do you want to go through a trial of this large and this long.

HARLOW: Yes. But the voir dire tomorrow is going to be really difficult. I mean, picking a jury, I think it's taken them like months in Fani Willis' other current RICO case right now, just to pick a -- I don't even know if they've seated a jury in that one, it's taken so long.


HALLERMAN: No. They've been going through jury selection for about eight months now, and there has not been a single jury selected, juror selected. So, I mean, that goes to show.

And then once we start talking about somebody as polarizing as Donald Trump, it's going be pretty hard to find people who don't have a solid opinion of him one way or another. So, that's something we're closely watching there.

MATTINGLY: There's a lot to closely watch. It's an interesting kind of first window into what will be a televised process. And I know you guys will be watching every step of the way tomorrow, Melissa. Thank you guys very much.

Well, Mike Pence on the campaign trail calling out his former boss by name. Pence says former President Trump's brand of populism is, quote, a road to ruin. How effective will that strategy be? Well, he's going to join us live in studio ahead.

Stay with us.


HARLOW: So, former Vice President Mike Pence campaigning in New Hampshire after going after -- and going after his former boss, I should say. He did call him out by name. Watch this.


MIKE PENCE, FORMER U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: When Donald Trump ran for president in 2016, he promised to govern as a conservative, and together we did. But it's important for Republicans to know that he and his imitators in this Republican primary make no such promise today.

And the truth is Donald Trump along with his imitators often sound like an echo of the progressives they seek to replace.


HARLOW: Joining us now, CNN Political Analyst Natasha Alford and CNN Anchor and Senior Political Analyst John Avlon. It is great to have you guys looking particularly stunning in your pink this morning, I should say.

NATASHA ALFORD, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Thanks. I've been more channeling Barbie.

HARLOW: You too, John. This was interesting because the populism of Trump was the populism of the Pence-Trump White House. And now he's pivoting on it and it was just notable.

ALFORD: Well, I mean, when you think about that GOP debate, you have to distinguish yourself at some point.


And there was this fear of challenging Donald Trump by certain candidates, right?