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CNN This Morning

5 GOP Candidates Spar at 3rd Debate without Trump; Actors' Strike Finally Ends with Deal. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired November 09, 2023 - 06:00   ET



POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. Glad you're with us. Big debate last night. Lots of headlines to get to on this Thursday, November 9th.

The third Republican debate turning personal at times. Candidates also sparring over critical issues and foreign policy and abortion rights. Did it make a difference with about two months until the Iowa caucuses?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN ANCHOR: Former President Donald Trump skipped the debate for a third time, instead rallying just down the road, taking on his GOP rivals and President Biden.

And breaking overnight: lights, camera. We are back in action. The Hollywood actors' strike is finally over after four months on the picket line.

HARLOW: And just in this morning, new video from Iranian-backed Houthi rebels showing them shooting down an American drone. This happened off the coast of Yemen. The U.S. struck back, launching an air strike on a weapons facility warehouse in Syria.

MATTINGLY: And the New York attorney general's office rests its case against Donald Trump and his family business. Ivanka Trump said she couldn't recall key details of a deal for the old post office in Washington, D.C.

CNN THIS MORNING starts right now.

HARLOW: If you're counting, 67 days left until the Iowa caucuses. We just saw five Republican presidential candidates go head-to-head on the debate stage in Miami, and yet again for the third time, the Republican frontrunner, Donald Trump, skipped it.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Donald Trump's a lot different guy than he was in 2016. He owes it to you to be on this stage and explain why he should get another chance.

NIKKI HALEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We can't live in the past. We can't live in other headlines. We've got to start focusing on what's going to make America strong and proud.

CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Anybody who's going to be spending the next year and a half of their life focusing on keeping themselves out of jail and courtrooms cannot lead this party or this country. It needs to be said plainly.


MATTINGLY: Now, during that debate, Donald Trump held a rally just miles away from the venue. He was not at the actual venue itself. He called the whole thing a waste of time.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's time for the Republican establishment to stop wasting time and resources trying to push weak and ineffective RINOs and never Trumpers that nobody wants and nobody's going to vote for.

They're not watchable. You know, the last debate was the lowest rated debate in the history of politics. So -- so therefore, do you think we did the right thing by not participating?


MATTINGLY: Jeff Zeleny is live for us in Miami.

To that point from the former president, Jeff, not showing up hasn't seemed to hurt him at all. The candidates last night seemed to spend more time attacking one another than Trump. Why?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, good morning, Phil and Poppy.

Look, they're attacking one another, because they're in a furious scramble for second place. They are trying to emerge as the leading alternative to Donald Trump.

But it was clear that time is running out, and tensions nearly reached a boiling point.


ZELENY (voice-over): On a raucous debate night in Miami --

HALEY: -- haven't been able to get that negotiation done.

VIVEK RAMASWAMY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You can change your mind. That's fine. But don't lie to the people.

ZELENY (voice-over): Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and former South Carolina governor, Nikki Haley, scrambling to become the leading alternative to Donald Trump.

DeSantis blaming the former president for presiding over a party that endured major defeats Tuesday in Virginia, Kentucky and Ohio.

DESANTIS: He said Republicans were going to get tired of winning. What we saw last night, I'm sick of Republicans losing.

ZELENY (voice-over): Haley also imploring Republicans to turn the page.

HALEY: I think he was the right president at the right time. I don't think he's the right president now. I think that he put us $8 trillion in debt, and our kids are never going to forgive us for that.

ZELENY (voice-over): But two months before the first votes of the Republican race are cast, the winner may not have been on the debate stage but rather a few miles away, holding a competing rally in Hialeah.

TRUMP: I think they're at a debate tonight. Nobody's talking about it.

ZELENY (voice-over): Trump holds a commanding lead in the primary fight, with time running out to slow his momentum.

Still, a fierce exchange broke out on China, the Middle East, abortion and more, with South Carolina Senator Tim Scott pushing his rivals to support a national 15-week abortion ban.

SEN. TIM SCOTT (R-SC), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I would challenge both Nikki and Ron to join me at a 15-week limit. It is in our nation's best interests.

ZELENY (voice-over): Yet, voters sent a clear message on abortion rights Tuesday night in Ohio and Virginia. Haley called for a consensus.


HALEY: We don't need to divide America over this issue anymore.

ZELENY (voice-over): DeSantis pointed his finger at the antiabortion movement for failing to make its case.

DESANTIS: You've got to do a better job on these referenda. I think of all the stuff that's happened to the pro-life cause, they have been caught flat-footed on these referenda. And they have been losing the referenda.

ZELENY (voice-over): The debate was the first since Hamas attacked Israel October 7th. All candidates pledged support for the U.S.'s long-time ally.

DESANTIS: Finish the job once and for all with these butchers, Hamas.

CHRISTIE: America is here, no matter what it is you need at any time to preserve the state of Israel.

ZELENY (voice-over): Haley and Scott placed blame for the brutal terror attack squarely on Iran.

HALEY: We need to be very clear-eyed to know there would be no Hamas without Iran. SCOTT: You actually have to cut off the head of the snake, and the

head of the snake is Iran.

ZELENY (voice-over): Some of the biggest flashpoints of the night came between Haley and Vivek Ramaswamy, who accused her of rushing to war.

RAMASWAMY: Do you want Dick Cheney in three-inch heels?

ZELENY (voice-over): She wasted little time pushing back.

HALEY: First, I'd like to say they're five-inch heels, and I don't wear them unless you can run in them.

RAMASWAMY: We've got two of you on stage.

HALEY: The second thing that I will say is I wear heels. They're not for a fashion statement; they're for ammunition.

ZELENY (voice-over): Later, with tensions inflamed in a discussion over TikTok and China, the attacks grew personal.

RAMASWAMY: In the last debate, she made fun of me for actually joining TikTok. Well, her own daughter was actually using the app for a long time, so you might want to take care of your family first.

HALEY: Leave my daughter out of your voice.

RAMASWAMY: Before preaching to anybody. It's an adult daughter.

HALEY: You're just scum.

ZELENY (voice-over): Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie sought to rise above the fray, defending the U.S. for taking an active role in Israel and Ukraine.

CHRISTIE: Let's remember, the last time that we turned our back on a shooting war in Europe, it bought us just a couple of years, and then 500,000 Americans were killed in Europe to defeat Hitler. This is not a choice.


ZELENY: So for much of nearly two hours, it was a deeply substantiative discussion on foreign policy, Social Security reform, and more. The question: is this merely an academic exercise?

But Phil and Poppy, for all the familiarity of the exchanges back and forth, there was a very new moment at the debate last night. That came from South Carolina Senator Tim Scott, who's been talking throughout the campaign about a girlfriend that he has. Of course, he's 58 years old. He's single.

But after the debate he appeared on stage with this woman here. We have her picture. Her name is Mindy. She's an interior decorator from Charleston, we are told. The campaign said that he was happy to be with her at the debate last night. You guys, he's mentioned her occasionally, in fact, more often

recently on the campaign trail. But last night we got a glimpse of her onstage -- Phil and Poppy.

HARLOW: We did. Thank you for the reporting from Miami, Jeff.

Let's bring in CNN senior political analyst and anchor John Avlon; CNN political commentator and the host of PBS's "Firing Line," Margaret Hoover; as well as CNN political commentator and former national coalitions director of the Biden-Harris 2020 campaign, Ashley Allison.

Guys, thanks for joining us this morning.

I'm very pro-love. That's really all I have on this. Seeing the girlfriend thing. That's awesome. I hope they're very happy.

Actually, there was a lot of substance in the debate.


MATTINGLY: A lot of back and forth. Particularly, there were a number of exchanges between Ron DeSantis and Nikki Haley; seemed to be battling for the second-place role at this point, including this on China. Take a listen.


HALEY: Then we will go and end all formal trade relations with China until they stop murdering Americans from fentanyl, something Ron has yet to say that he's going to do.

DESANTIS: Ambassador Haley said somehow I wasn't doing. She welcomed them into South Carolina, gave them land near a military base, wrote the Chinese ambassador a love letter, saying what a great friend they were.

HALEY: Yes, I brought a fiberglass company ten years ago to South Carolina, but, Ron, you are the chair of your economic development agency that, as of last week, said Florida is the ideal place for Chinese businesses.


MATTINGLY: Credit where it's due. Oppo research solid in the files that they had prepped for that. But Margaret, to the point of China was a winning issue for the former president back in 2016. It's clearly an issue that's top of mind for Americans right now from a foreign policy perspective.

Do you think they differentiated from one another in that battle?

MARGARET HOOVER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think in that moment, Nikki Haley went on the attack. She defended herself from an attack, and then counter-attacked and had all the receipts to show it. And so in that moment, she won the point. What it does also show is the country has moved in the last ten years

on China. We have had a total paradigm shift in foreign policy as a country.


By the way, Biden's policy on China doesn't look anything like his predecessor President Obama's policy on China.

So the nuances of where all the individual candidates are may not stand out to the voters, but what stood out in that moment was that Ron DeSantis had a cheap hit on Nikki Haley, and she came back at him with something quite substantial.

AVLON: Yes, I think that's right. I think tying it to fentanyl is also fascinating. Because we saw all the candidates on stage really digging into, in a substantiative way, an issue that's hurting a lot of folks.

And that's about bringing foreign policy home, and that's an important thing to do. This was a foreign policy debate. That's where the world is right now.

And that actually plays to Nikki Haley's strengths overall. Because she's the one who's got the most foreign policy experience on that stage by far, as a former U.N. ambassador.

And lest we forget, the presidency is largely a foreign policy job. And I think that played to her strengths.

But people were laying out their markers, particularly that divide we see in the Republican Party, between the defiant internationalists, defending Ukraine, as well as Israel, which is a consensus position, getting tough on China, and the folks who are more neo-isolationists, sounding Trump's tones on that stuff.

HARLOW: A big issue was abortion. It was saved toward the end of the debate, but a substantive important conversation on abortion, after big wins on the abortion front across the board for Democrats earlier this week.

Let's just listen to a few of the sound bytes from last night on this.


SCOTT: We need a 15-week federal limit. Three out of four Americans agree with a 15-week limit.

I would challenge both Nikki and Ron to join me at a 15-week limit.

HALEY: As much as I'm pro-life, I don't judge anyone for being pro- choice, and I don't want them to judge me for being pro-life.

So when we're looking at this, there are some states that are going more on the pro-life side. I welcome that. There are some states that are going more on the pro-choice side. I wish that wasn't the case, but the people decided. (END VIDEO CLIP)

HARLOW: You've got Republican senators like John Thune saying this is going to be an issue for Republicans. J.D. Vance saying we've got a lot of persuasion to do as a party. If you don't see that, you're totally missing the issue here.

But abortion is not the top issue for voters. In our polling, it's about 6 percent. Doesn't mean it doesn't matter.


HARLOW: But it's top issue for 6 percent. Economy's for 37 percent. How much can this help Democrats going forward?

ALLISON: Well, I think people look at abortion as an economic issue, one. But the other thing is, with Tim Scott saying he wants to do a 15-week ban. It was like he didn't even realize what happened the day before, when Glenn Youngkin was saying 15-week ban, and Virginia's Senate and House went Dem.

And so Nikki Haley and Ron DeSantis are kind of like, I'm not even touching that with a 10-foot pole, because that's not where the American people are. And then Nikki --

HARLOW: Do you think Nikki Haley is where the American people are?

ALLISON: I think she gave a -- No, but I think she gave a good --

HARLOW: I wasn't going to get you to say yes on that.

ALLISON: I think she gave a good answer for a Republican primary debate.

But the reality is where the American people are, they actually don't want a weak number. They want the government out of their personal choices that they're making. Women want to be able to have bodily autonomy between -- in the doctor's office with their doctor and themselves and their family, and not with politicians.

So whatever Republicans want to throw out, it's out of touch with where the overall American public.

MATTINGLY: All right. Hang on. Everyone stick around. We've got a lot more to get to over the course of the hour. A lot more to get to.

HARLOW: Donald Trump rallying just down the street from the debate in Florida. His surprising comments about Joe Biden's age and who he's floating for V.P. That's next.

MATTINGLY: Plus, the strike is finally over; 160,000 actors can return to work today after nearly four months on the picket line. Why the union president is calling the deal historic as actors celebrate.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Back to work, Hollywood. Finally, action.





TRUMP: Biden's not too old. That's not his problem. He's too incompetent. He's not old.


MATTINGLY: That was former President Donald Trump, down the road from the debate stage. We're back with John Avlon, Margaret Cooper [SIC] -- Margaret Hoover, Margaret Cooper. It was a late night last night. And Ashley Allison.

His numbers have gone up, the former president, after skipping every single one of the debates. When he talked about whether or not it was a good strategy last night, the crowd roared and cheered. Was there any -- ever any reason for him to attend a debate, either the three prior or going forward?

HOOVER: Yes. Going forward, he absolutely should, because the field is winnowing, OK? And now there are -- there are five candidates on the stage.

As you approach Iowa, especially in these early states, where you've got to live there. You have to live in Iowa to get Iowans to vote for you.

New Hampshire is the same way. Voters want to be shown the respect of somebody showing up. And while you say his numbers have gone up, his actual share of the base really hasn't expanded.

And when you look at these early -- we don't have national primary elections. We have early primary elections and maybe 25 relevant states. And those states include Iowa, in which the plurality is still against Trump.

So if the field can winnow around an alternative, a single alternative, Trump can lose.


HOOVER: And Trump -- Trump owes it to the voters to show up. And if he doesn't, then you know what?

HARLOW: I think he went to the state fair for like 45 minutes or something. And now DeSantis has the endorsement of the governor.

AVLON: Kim Reynolds, yes.

HARLOW: Nikki Haley said something about what's happening on college campuses right now that was striking. John, I want your take on that. Listen.


HALEY: This is what I would say about our college presidents, is if the KKK were doing this, every college president would be up in arms.

This is no different. You should treat it exactly the same. Antisemitism is just as awful as racism. And we've got to make sure they're protected.


AVLON: Yes, that line jumped out to me because of its moral clarity. And I thought it was particularly strong.

You know, if Jewish students are being menaced on campus, there's not a lot of -- there's not a lot of room for hand-wringing and wondering how this should be dealt with. It should be clear, right? You protect students. You stop discrimination based on identity.

And we apply the same standards across all our society. And Nikki Haley was very strong on that. And it's the kind of thing that right now, there's elements of the Democratic Party that seems tied up in knots about this issue, and it really should be simple.

HARLOW: It's interesting because there has been that clarity, too, from President Biden on this.



ALLISON: Absolutely.

AVLON: Yes. Very much so.

ALLISON: There has -- I think it's clear that we should not support antisemitic activity or language in -- on college campuses, on the street, in government.

But I will say, on a Democratic side, the -- Gaza and Palestine -- and Israel issue, I think, has taken a toll on the Biden polling right now.

The numbers that came out today -- on Tuesday, Joe Biden with young voters, with voters of color, he was not where he needs to be to win in 2024.

What I do think, though, he needs to go out and make his position very clear. We support free speech. We think that innocent civilians should not be killed in Gaza. We want to end terrorist organizations, Hamas, and all alike. And we don't support antisemitism.


ALLISON: And I think the Biden administration has been very, very clear on that. But this is a very heartfelt issue.

And, you know, I will just say, as a millennial who grew up during the Iraq war, I think -- and was on a college campus, and lost a friend to that war.

HARLOW: I'm so sorry.

ALLISON: Millennials have a different position on how we are engaging on international conflicts. And I think that is what you're seeing right now in the Democratic Party.

But we are a big tent party, and we have the ability to compromise, and I think that if we just go out and make it very clear on -- with a moral compass and where our values are, I think we land in the right place.

AVLON: I think that's the key. It's about applying consistent principles consistently and calling out hate and discrimination.

HOOVER: And standing up to the extremes in your own party, as somebody who is from a party that hasn't for too long.

AVLON: As a Republican. My dad being a Republican.

HOOVER: A Republican who -- I mean, you say, look, I think there's moral clarity in the center of your party. I think that's right right now. There used to be in the Republican Party, too.

And for too long, the people in the center didn't stand up to the extremes, and those voices on the extremes have taken it over. So I think pushing back against the extremes on the left, from the center- left position, is -- is inherently important for the sustainability of the country.

AVLON: What she said.

HARLOW: What she said. Generally. The best advice.

AVLON: Always. Always the best answer.

HOOVER: He's really in a good place. He really -- 14 years.

HARLOW: Happy belated anniversary, you guys.

AVLON: Thanks, guys. Thanks.

HARLOW: John Avlon, Margaret Hoover, Ashley Allison, always great to have you.

MATTINGLY: So I don't recall, I don't recall, I don't recall. That's not Avlon when Margaret is asking him where something important is. That's what the judge in the fraud case against the Trump Organization heard from Ivanka Trump over and over and over again. What it actually means for the case.


BUSY PHILLIPS, ACTRESS: I am so happy. I'm so happy. Oh, my God.


HARLOW: Recognize her? How Hollywood is responding to the end of the actor's strike. That's ahead.





UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's what I'm talking about.


HARLOW: Celebrations, that's what you're seeing across Hollywood and beyond, as the actor's union SAG-AFTRA reaches a tentative deal with the big film and television studios after nearly four months of this strikes. It means about 160,000 film and television actors could be at work as soon as today, if it's ratified.

Vanessa Yurkevich following it with us now. I think Busy Phillips's elation that we showed before the break says it all. We don't know what's in the deal, though, yet. Do we?

VANESSA YURKEVICH, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: We don't know the specifics. We do know that people are incredibly relieved by this. This was the last piece of the puzzle to get Hollywood back to work.

Because you had the writers. You had the directors who had already come to deals. This was the key part to get everyone back into those studios, back filming again.

This deal is worth a billion dollars in value, three times what their current contract is worth in value. And here's what's in it. We know a little bit from SAG.

These are the biggest gains that the union has seen in history. We know that there are increases in minimums for workers who are -- for actors who are just starting out. So not the Cuba Gooding Jr.s and George Clooneys, but the folks who are just getting into this field.

We're seeing increases in caps in pensions and healthcare, and we're also seeing the key element here is the provisions and language around artificial intelligence. If you remember, this is really what --


YURKEVICH: -- the union has been advocating for. And even this weekend when the studios put their best, last and final deal on the table, the union came back and said, Hold on, let's just tweak a little bit of this language. They were able to come to an agreement on that, and that's what ultimately got them across the finish line.

HARLOW: And what about, I mean, they could be back at work today we were saying. Do we expect delays in projects?


HARLOW: I know they were trying to get -- at least salvage some of the winter season for TV.

YURKEVICH: They were trying to salvage that. Some of that is lost.

However, there is an opportunity to get folks back to work as soon as possible. They can go back to work before they ratify the deal, but of course, what's important is the 160,000 SAG members really hold the key to whether or not this deal becomes -- becomes lost, so to speak.


YURKEVICH: We know that shows have been delayed. We know that the studios were really pushing to get the actors back into this winter production season, so that we all have something to watch next year and into the summer.

But more importantly, so the folks who have been out of jobs for four months now --


YURKEVICH: -- the actors and then all of the employees that have supported the actors in other industries can get back to work. When you push the winter season production off --


YURKEVICH: -- that just prolongs how long people are out of work.

This deal came, really, at the last possible minute to make sure that we have a show season and a movie season next year for people to act in and for us to enjoy.

HARLOW: And important to remember what the average actor makes. Right?

YURKEVICH: Not a lot.

HARLOW: Not a lot. Thanks Vanessa.