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CNN This Morning

Ohio Voters Decide to Make Abortion a Right Under State Constitution; Democrats Projected to Gain Full Control of Virginia State Legislature in Off-Year Election; President Biden Trailing Former President Trump in Battleground States in Recent Polls; GOP Candidates Debate in Miami; Trump to Skip, Republican who Vote to Impeach Trump Runs for Senate. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired November 08, 2023 - 08:00   ET



DAVID CAY JOHNSTON, SYRACUSE LAW SCHOOL: I don't see anything so strong that it would allow them to overturn something. But you will see a whole flurry of appeals on everything they can possibly imagine because Donald has two fundamental legal strategies -- attack the people who are coming after you from law enforcement. They are illegitimate, they are corrupt, you are a poor innocent victim. And then delay, delay, delay, and delay again.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN ANCHOR: It's been effective so far. David Cay Johnston, we appreciate your expertise, as always, my friend. Thank you.

JOHNSTON: Thank you.

MATTINGLY: And CNN THIS MORNING continues right now.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're getting our first look at the results from CNN's new 2024 presidential poll.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Donald Trump has a narrow lead among registered voters.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president is going to have to do things that show people that he can engage, he can handle the combat and the debate.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you think that Biden's policies have helped you or hurt you economically? By a double digit margin, they say hurt.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The best thing in this poll for Joe Biden is the date on it.


POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: 2024 top of mind this morning after yesterday's elections. Big wins for Democrats and for abortion rights. In Ohio voters have decided overwhelmingly to make abortion a right under the state constitution. In Virginia, CNN projects Democrats will gain full control of the state legislature, and a major setback for Republican Governor Glenn Youngkin in Virginia who had been pushing to restrict abortions after 15 weeks. And in the deep red state of Kentucky, Democrat Andy Beshear has won reelection. By the way, Donald Trump won Kentucky by 26 points in 2020.

Last night's results have left us with some crucial questions. First, what do these victories mean for Democrats in 24? Number two, will Republicans change their messaging about abortion? And number three, how will election results play into the GOP presidential debate that is tonight? And finally, will these wins boost President Biden as he runs for reelection? So, Phil, let's to go you at the wall. What do the numbers say about those questions?

MATTINGLY: Poppy, what I think is most interesting, we can't predict what's going to happen a year from now. We can obviously look at the polls as a snapshot in time. But what you can do is look at a very clear trend line that has transpiring since the Supreme Court overturned Roe versus Wade.

What do I mean by that? Take a look at the 2020 map. Obviously, Joe Biden winning the election by 7 million votes. But what happened after Dobbs is instructive about what happened last night and what Democrats think could happen despite Biden's very negative poll numbers over the last several weeks.

So last night we saw the state of Ohio, very clearly a red state, won by Trump, voting for abortion rights by a very sizeable margin. Why does that matter? It actually follows a trend that we've seen since last summer where states like Michigan, where states like Kentucky, where states like Montana, Kansas, others, red states, for the most part, have all voted rather overwhelmingly in favor of abortion rights. That a critical issue Democrats want to talk about in 2024, that the Biden wants to talk about. It is an issue that Democrats continue to win on.

OK, that's ballot initiatives. What about the broader issue? What about states themselves? What about races? If you want to go back to that same time period and you want to talk about a state like New York. Well, New York 19 special election, Democrat overperformed, Pat Ryan, now a member of Congress. Alaska a Republican state, a Republican seat, a Democrat is now a member of Congress. What about last night? Well, let's flip up, 2023, the governor's race. At some point it's actually going to come up. There we go, the governor's race, Andy Beshear winning a deep red state by 66,000 votes.

Let's be very clear here. He was a popular governor in a state who had an advantage, had a lot of money as well. But this is a sizable win much larger than his initial win back in 2019. Health care, abortion were critical issues there.

And then you talk about the state of Virginia. Why does the state of Virginia matter, you say? Back in 2020, this was a state that President Biden won by 10 points, largest margin of victory for a Democrat since 1944. And yet, a year later, Glenn Youngkin, the Republican governor,

entered this campaign season trying to get the trifecta, all three bodies, the governorship, the statehouse, the state senate as well.

Instead he doesn't have the state senate or the statehouse, underscoring the fact that on abortion, an issue he tried to take head on, he lost. And Republicans right now are looking at Democrats who have rolled off a string of victory after victory after victory on issues in special elections and governors' races even in the midterms, and that despite the poll numbers are what Democrats are pointing to this morning. Poppy?

HARLOW: For sure. Phil, thank you.

With us to talk about this, CNN political commentator, former Trump White House communications director Alyssa Farah Griffin, our senior political commentator, former senior adviser to Obama, David Axelrod, back with us, CNN political commentator Van Jones.


David, good night for Democrats.


HARLOW: But I am interested in your tweet got a whole lot of attention on Sunday. You said the stakes of miscalculation are too dramatic to ignore for Biden. Did last night change this?

AXELROD: I think you have two things going on at once. I do think that the tide in the country is a good tide for Democrats. That has been true almost since Trump got elected. And I think it was kind of turbocharged by the Dobbs decision and the reaction to it. This year, even before last night, in 38 out of 40 elections around the country, Democratic turnout was much, much higher than is traditional. And I think this has a lot to do with it, and Trump does, too. One of the things about last night, and I'll get to the issue of Biden --

HARLOW: Are you going to answer the question about Biden?

AXELROD: Keep the clock running.


AXELROD: No. But in Kentucky, I talked to our friend Scott Jennings this morning who was on the ground in Kentucky. And he noted the fact that Michael Adams, the secretary of state there, who was a guy who resisted the election denial, led the Republican -- he got 60 percent of the vote. Daniel Cameron, who clung to Trump, got 47, 48 percent. So it's not just about abortion. The tide is good.

The question I raised wasn't -- you see it shot through the poll, and the question is whether that tide can carry Biden forward despite what is, obviously, where doubts that are rooted primarily in age. And that's the question that has to be answered. I think this is set up for a Democrat to win. And the question is does -- is there a drag on him, not on the Democrats in general, but on him.

ALYSSA FARAH GRIFFIN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: And that was kind of my takeaway. Biden's numbers are objectively bad. But he is yet to be a drag on Democrats' down ballot. What's interesting on the flipside is Trump seems to overperform in these polls but is a massive drag to down ballot Republicans from the 2018 midterms to 2020 when he lost the election to the 2022 midterms to last night.

So it's this bizarre dichotomy. I think we have to consider the polling to be a snapshot in time. I do think the age factor is huge, though. The number that was glaring to me from CNN's poll was the stamina question. Even though Joe Biden and Donald Trump are about three years apart, the way they are perceived is so different. So objectively a good night for Democrats. Abortion is clearly the most animating issue out there. But still an uphill battle for Biden.

MATTINGLY: Van, to that point, and I asked the principle deputy campaign manager about this earlier this morning, 80 years old, 77 years old, and the way people view them -- it's not even a party thing, it's just generally -- is so dramatically different. And yet if you watch a Trump rally, it's not like everything he is saying is making a ton of sense. Is that something they can attack? Is that something the administration should be focused on, Biden's team should be focused on, trying to bring those numbers down?

VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: They are going to try to make him younger. Probably won't work. And so they're going to have to talk about it differently. He comes from a very long-lived family. You know, he is fit. He is active. They have to talk about it differently. But the reality is this. People are unhappy. They are just unhappy. We are not in a leftwing or a rightwing period. We are in a turbulent, volatile period, and people are looking for a port in the storm.

Biden was that port in the storm after four years of crazy from Donald Trump. But the storm has gotten worse. The crazier has gotten crazier. And so now you are asking people to vote for the status quo. That's what we are going to be asking people to do in a year. The only way you do that is if you feel that the status quo is going to be able to hold you, help you, support you, and get you through. And when someone looks weak, looks fragile, that becomes a drag.

But because of what you saw last night, there is a wave out there of Democratic enthusiasm that has nothing to do with Joe Biden. It has to do with democracy, it has to do with abortion, it has to do with organized labor coming back. And that force could carry Joe Biden across. But Joe Biden is not going to carry that force across. That's what --

AXELROD: I said to you guys the other day when you were asking me about this that he needs to throw this race and they need to throw this race into a very, very tough comparative frame right away. I mean, he can't allow to be a referendum on him or people's feelings about the status quo. It needs to be a choice. And Donald Trump and this Republican Party is the choice on the other side. And I think that's what gives Biden, you know, his best chance in this election. GRIFFIN: And I think that the Biden campaign probably thought that

other Republican candidates were going to litigate the case against Trump, and frankly, they just haven't. Nikki Haley has kind of gone there, Chris Christie has kind of got there. But I think he also needs to broaden it beyond the democracy argument. I think that worked for Democrats in 2022. Election denialism was rejected.


But the case of abortion, this is going to be a fascinating dynamic. Nobody bears more responsibility for Dobbs than Donald Trump, yet voters, I don't know that they perceive him the way they do someone like a Mike Johnson or a Mike Pence with regard to abortion. So that's Biden's job is to define him as the reason that abortion is where it is in the country. And I don't feel like that case is being made right now.

AXELROD: He is making it harder, Trump, because having the sort of card of having appointed those justices, he feels free to criticize some of the more draconian abortion measures. And he has done that, particularly against Ron DeSantis, and he is positioning himself somehow as a moderate. And you're right, he can't have it both ways. And they have to prosecute that case.

But there are a series of issues on the economy and other things in which Biden is well positioned to contrast with Trump and the Republicans, and I just think they need to get going on that.

HARLOW: I think it's interesting that the administration, at least to this point, and maybe they will, has not honed in on some of the reporting in the last week from "The New York Times" first and the "The Washington Post" on what Trump is planning to do if he wins again in terms of the lawyers he is going to put around him, in terms of real political retribution at the Justice Department, really those fundamental things, what happens to the administrative state. I know it doesn't sound sexy, but they are not focusing on those things and they could.

JONES: And they will. This stuff is terrifying. You know, Darth Vader would be like, you guys are a little bit authoritarian here. This is not so great. So I think they are going to make that a big part. I agree with you, it can't be democracy only. But we underestimated the midterms, the power of that argument, that we might lose our democracy.

You've got to talk more about bread and butter, dinner table issues. Democracy brought Democrats out, abortion brought Democrats out. I just think that what's going on right now is we are in this season of discontent in the Democratic Party. There is no great savior to come along. We have Biden and Biden's numbers are weak, and so we are in a season of discontent. But the underlying fundamentals of concern that Biden can run on are extreme when it comes to Trump.

HARLOW: On the democracy point, can we play something. This is what Rick Santorum said last night on News Max about democracy and elections. Here it is. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICK SANTORUM, (R) FORMER PENNSYLVANIA GOVERNOR: You put very sexy things like abortion and marijuana on the ballot, and a lot of young people come out and vote. It was a secret sauce for disaster in Ohio. I don't know what they were thinking. But that's why I think thank goodness that most states in this country don't allow you to put everything on the ballot, because pure democracies are not the way to run a country.


AXELROD: I don't remember Rick being that outspoken when they were putting rightwing initiatives on the ballot. I think he doesn't like the result that he got there.

GRIFFIN: But I also think -- we will have to see the breakdown of the numbers in Ohio on abortion. I guarantee that there were some Republicans who voted for it. The sheer margin of it.

AXELROD: There's no doubt about it.

MATTINGLY: The Trump counties that voted in favor of this by fairly sizable margins was something like 75, 80 percent of them.

GRIFFIN: And is why when you --

AXELROD: We saw that in Kansas as well.

GRIFFIN: Yes. When you see the general election polling, why someone like a Nikki Haley outperforms Donald Trump head-to-head with Joe Biden, someone who is talking about the issue of abortion with more nuance, with more grace.

AXELROD: Rick Santorum calls himself a populist, and yet he doesn't want to hear from the people.

HARLOW: He just said pure democracies are not a way to run a country. That's the line I was focused on.

JONES: I think what he means is we are a democratic republican. A pure democracy would mean 51 percent of the people could vote to take all the money from all the other 49 percent. And so that's why we do have protections for minorities, stuff like that. So you wouldn't want to live in a pure democracy. That would be called mob rule. I think that it's a little bit of sour grapes on Santorum's part on this particular issue, because on other stuff he loves the popular way.

MATTINGLY: We are all just going to ignore that he referred to marijuana and abortion as very sexy.


MATTINGLY: We are going to try to keep a level head about it. I respect all of you deeply for your ability to do that. David Axelrod, Alyssa Farah Griffin, Van Jones, thanks, guys, appreciate it. Moments ago, one of the pandas from the national zoo has left and is now on their way back to China. It will be the first time in more than 50 years that zoo will be panda-less. What it means for the future of pandas in American zoos. That's ahead.

HARLOW: It is debate night for Republicans. Five presidential hopefuls, not Trump, will be on the stage in Miami. Can any of them seize the chance to gain ground on the overwhelming frontrunner? That's ahead.



MATTINGLY: Five Republican candidates will face off tonight in Miami. It'll be the third presidential debate. The front runner, Donald Trump, of course, will not be there again. He's going to hold a rally nearby at the same exact time.

So less than a year from the Presidential election, the big question is, what is the state of the 2024 Presidential Republican Primary Race? That's why we have Senior Data Reporter Harry Anton who is going to tell us exactly that. Harry, state of the race.

HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR DATA REPORTER: What is that state of the race Phil? We've had two debates so far. We're going into a third. What difference have these debates actually made? Well, Donald Trump in June on our CNN poll, pre-debates was at 47%. He's now at 61%, despite the fact he hasn't appeared on any of those stages.

And there's all this talk, oh my goodness, Nikki Haley's come in. She's done so well. She's gaining ground. What ground has she gained? She's gone from 5% to 10%. She's still 51 points behind Donald Trump leading. And, yeah, in some of those early states, it might be closer, but it ain't that much closer.

Really that only noticeable drop isn't from Donald Trump's angle. It's from Ron DeSantis's angle, who's dropped by nine percentage points. So, the fact is, all these debates, everything we've done hasn't really made a lick of difference at all in terms of the fact that Donald Trump is the clear frontrunner for the Republican nomination.

And this gives you an understanding of just how strong Donald Trump is from a historical perspective. Primary poll leaders at 50% plus at this point, all before Trump won the nomination. Dolan 96, Gore in 2000, Bush in 2000, Hillary Clinton in 2016, and Donald Trump in 2024.

The fact is, if you look at Trump's poll numbers, they have only become stronger, and he's very much in line with prior folks who went on to win their party's nominations.

HARLOW: How does he compare now with how he matched up in the polling around this time with Biden before 2020?

ENTEN: Yeah so, look, I think one of the big questions coming out of last night is we have polling like this, right, which shows Donald Trump ahead of Joe Biden, 49% to 45%. And are the polls telling us one thing and the actual election results telling us something else? That's something that we're going to have to untangle in the days and weeks and months to go.


We still have a year until the next presidential election. But this, to me, is not an outlier poll. It's very much in line with what we've been seeing so far. So, these are national polls where Trump led Biden. This is the 14th; 14th poll where Trump has led Biden.

Give you an idea of how different that is from what we saw in the 2020 cycle, Poppy. There were zero, zero polls where Trump led Biden nationally, now we've got 14. So, something is very clearly different. Why it's different, how it differs from the election results that we saw last night.

Again, I'm not quite sure, but the numbers are clearly telling us that these are two very unpopular frontrunners for their party's nomination.

MATTINGLY: When you say we're going to have to untangle this, go forward, can we, I mean, maybe a couple more specials over the course of the next year? But I think this is the real question, right? We're going to have a thousand polls. We're going to have a thousand polls.

I think the real question is there are a lot of people in the middle who just can't possibly believe that these two parties are going to nominate two people as unpopular as Joe Biden and Donald Trump. What happens when they realize, no, these are the choices that we're actually going to get?

I think that's why we still have a year to go. Polls at this point are not predictive, but they do give you an idea of the state of the race in the folks' minds right now. People are not happy with what's going on and they may be willing to throw out the baby with the bathwater, despite the fact that they're voting for Democrats and voting for abortion and marijuana rights like they did last night.

MATTINGLY: That's a good point.

HARLOW: Thank you.

MATTINGLY: Thanks, buddy, appreciate you.

HARLOW: A Republican who voted to impeach Donald Trump lost primary, is launching a Senate campaign in a battleground state. Former Congressman Peter Meijer joins us live with his message to Michigan voters this morning.

MATTINGLY: And, a window for Gazans to evacuate south was extended and is set to close this hour as international pressure grows for more humanitarian pauses, the latest from Israel ahead.




HARLOW: A Republican who voted to impeach Donald Trump announced a run for Senate in a key battleground state.


FMR. REP. PETER MEIJER (R-MI), MICHIGAN SENATE CANDIDATE: We need leaders who are willing to stand up for what they believe, no matter the risk. I'm Peter Meijer. I'm a proud dad. I'm an Iraq war veteran, a fourth-generation Michigander. And if you know anything about me, you know that I'm not afraid to risk my job.


HARLOW: Talking about the vote. He was one of just ten House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump after January 6, and he paid a political price. He lost narrowly to a Trump-endorsed primary challenger in the 2022 midterms.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT, 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: A guy who spells his name M-E-I-J-E-R but they pronounce it Meijer. The hell kind of spelling is that?


HARLOW: He spelled it right. That was Trump in Michigan last year, Meijer will have to win back some of those booing voters you just heard from. His announcement this week also set off instant backlash from others in the Republican Party.

The Senate Republicans campaign arm put out a statement that says, quote, "Peter Meijer isn't viable in a primary election. And there's the worry that if Meijer were to be nominated, the base would not be enthused in the general." Peter Meijer joins us now, good morning.

Glad you're with us, why can you win? Why can you turn those booze around?

MEIJER: Well, I love that statement that they put out because, oh, he can't win. But by the way, if he can win, there's a little bit of an internal contradiction within two sentences there. But the plain reality is that I'm running for the folks who are sick and tired of the way things are, who are frustrated at just a political system that is still trying to throw options out there, even though they keep rejecting them.

And in the state of Michigan, in the past almost 50 years, we've had 16 Senate races. A Republican has won one once. Massachusetts and Delaware have had Republicans more recently in their Senate delegations than Michigan has. And frankly, I think it's time we do something different.

Well, hard to get more different than I am these days.

HARLOW: It's been since 94 in the state of Michigan that a Republican has won a Senate seat but you're entering a really crowded Republican primary field. And I'm struck by the fact that one of those candidates is Former Michigan Congressman Mike Rogers.

He served seven terms in the House. As you know, he led the House Intelligence Committee. You guys seem aligned on a lot. Why should people vote for you and not him? Where do you differ?

MEIJER: Yeah, no, I would say our biggest difference is where we think the party needs to go. Now, I think Mike, he's a decent and honorable man. He certainly has served this country in uniform; he served in the House.

At the same time, I think we need to be moving forward and offering more of a vision to make sure that by 2050, we're in the second great American century. And that sense of a vision I just do not see in the field right now. I think it's important and positive to have a very diverse set of views expressed.

But at the end of the day, I think I see a lot of folks who are just trying to navigate a current circumstance as opposed to trying to outline where we need to go, how we're going to get there, and connecting that with the realistic approach so that we're being honest with voters.

Because at the end of the day, honesty and truth are what matters. We have a tremendous amount of phoniness in the system. You look at both Biden's approval rating right now, the inevitable, or at least what it seems like the inevitable outcome of the Presidential nominating process.

Folks want something different.

HARLOW: You said honesty and truth are what matters. Do you think Former President Trump is honest and truthful?

MEIJER: Well, I mean, I think our political system is rife with folks. I would say that Trump is probably more sincere and authentic about projecting now. Does he get the facts right all the time? Does he shape things in his view, probably not.

HARLOW: Doesn't that matter a lot?

MEIJER: But as someone who administration lies to my face on multiple issues -

HARLOW: Don't the facts matter a lot in the front runner in your party?

MEIJER: Facts absolutely matter.


MEIJER: Donald Trump's never lied to me. The Biden administration lied to my face in classified briefings on Afghanistan. They lied to my face about whether or not migrants were being brought into my district. I mean, I have time and again found them to be incredibly deceptive.

So, I'm more than happy to criticize the Former President. The challenge is nothing in this world is going to be black and white. We live in fields where it is shades of gray. And when we have to go to our polls, I think nobody wants to be in a box where they have to focus on either, hey, if you like this.