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Joe Manchin Won't Seek Re-Election; Gershon Baskin is Interviewed about Hostages in Gaza; Biden's Support is Slipping. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired November 10, 2023 - 06:30   ET




PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN ANCHOR: This morning, federal law enforcement is on high alert as public officials in multiple states, mostly election officials, have reported suspicious mail. And some of those letters contain fentanyl. Officials say more than a dozen letters have been reported so far. California, Georgia, Nevada, Oregon, Texas and Washington state were all targeted, and investigators are treating the letters as connected for now, especially given the timing.

Now, the FBI said that they are continuing to keep the public safe and that is the top priority.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: West Virginia's Democratic senator, Joe Manchin, making this announcement.


SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): I will not be running for re-election to the United States Senate. But what I will be doing is traveling the country and speaking out to see if there's an interest in creating a movement to mobilize the middle and bring Americans together.


HARLOW: That decision creates two new problems for Democrats. First, it makes retaining that Senate seat in ruby red West Virginia nearly impossible, and calls into question whether Democrats can keep control of the chamber in 2024. And, second, it fuels speculation that Manchin might mount a third-party run for president.

Errol Louis, John Avlon, back with us.

He said it all but didn't say it.


JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: That's one read on that announcement. You know, the first point, I think it's important to emphasize that a lot of folks on the far left have been hating on Joe Manchin like it's their job for years, the entirety of the Biden presidency. And all of a sudden you've got a little bit of regret this morning, I think, because you realize that without Joe Manchin, you're not holding the West Virginia Senate seat. Democrats probably don't hold the Senate. It becomes much more difficult.

And all the historic accomplishments of the Biden administration to legislate are because Manchin ultimately came on board, consistent with his, you know, negotiations, conscience, his constituents, but how the system's supposed to work. So, democrats are going to miss Joe Manchin, no matter how much some folks have been - been hating on these past few years.

MATTINGLY: It's a great point. I think it's underscored by Joe Biden's effusive praise and his statement after the retirement announcement.


MATTINGLY: Even as much frustration as he caused the administration, he got it and he understood Manchin.

AVLON: Yes, absolutely.

MATTINGLY: Errol, my kind of theory of the case here is, Democrats didn't necessarily expect him to run. And if they did, they knew it was really likely he could lose to a very good Republican candidate. As somebody told me, Joe Manchin doesn't lose races, which implicit in that is, he's not going to run if he doesn't - if he can't win.


MATTINGLY: And so the bigger issue for Democrats would seem to be the potential for a third-party run.

LOUIS: That is a danger that they have to be very, very aware of. He could probably do way more damage, even than walking out of the Senate. I mean if -- they're going to miss his vote, I mean, because on a whole range of issues that almost never make it to the top of the broadcast, he's been a reliable vote. And so the legislative mechanics, like Chuck Schumer, and like Joe Biden, they're like a vote is a vote is a vote. This guy's gotten us through we don't know how many different, you know, nomination fights, and has helped to stop the federal judiciary, and on and on and on.

If he - if he should run for president, first of all, it's going to be a very steep uphill battle. If the country's looking for change, the fresh faced, you know, career politician who's 75 years old is not necessarily going to be that change.


AVLON: Although, a spring chicken compared to some other folks.

LOUIS: Yes, right, younger than the other guys, but, still.


LOUIS: But then secondly, right, in the six to eight states that we think they're going to really be decisive in the presidential race, could Joe Manchin sort of swing a few thousand votes? Yes, he probably could. And, you know, to the extent that Biden won Arizona by 10,000 votes, you have to start really looking at what -- what's - what's he up to, why does he want to do it, is it a vanity project, because this is probably not going to be the next president of the United States. Well, you know, you have to sort of start with that premise and then ask, well then why would he do it? And that's something only Joe Manchin can answer.

HARLOW: Guys, listen to this from Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal. Here's her big warning.


REP. PRAMILA JAYAPAL (D-WA): But our biggest swing voter is our base who won't swing to Donald Trump or a Republican, but they will swing right out to the couch if they don't think that it's worth their time, nobody's paid them attention, or they're being ignored or taken for granted. They won't vote. And we know what happens when that happens, it's 2016 all over again.


HARLOW: You're nodding, Errol.

LOUIS: Yes, I mean, look, that's politics 101, you know? I mean Democrats like to wring their hands and there always -- there's always a crisis around the corner and they're always in disarray somehow. .But the reality is, the Democratic Party is a cluster of activist groups, right, at its base. There's the labor movement. There's young people. There's the women's movement, you know? And - and they do have to be sort of cultivated and activated and mobilized and energized and informed. And it's very expensive and it's a lot of work and I guess they're feeling like they're a little bit behind on their chores.

AVLON: Yes, but, I mean, you know, it takes both wings to fly, you know? Yes, Democrats need their base, just like Republicans do. But -- I'm glad you liked that, Phil.

MATTINGLY: I loved that, yes.

AVLON: But - but you also need the center of the political spectrum, right? You need those actual swing voters and swing votes in swing states to turn out. And the two -- those two things can be intentioned. Some cases they're necessarily intentioned. But - but I don't think, you know, when you look at polling and perceptions that the Democratic Party, many folks shockingly say it's as extreme as the Republican Party. I don't want to get into the false equivalence of that. But the reality is that, you know, a lot of folks see them spending a lot of time in their base and not enough reaching out to the Senate. You need to do both. So, it's not mutually exclusive and we should ditch that kind of thinking.

MATTINGLY: But it is hard to do.

AVLON: Sure. MATTINGLY: And I think what Jayapal accurately is pointing to right now is their coalition, right? Black voters.


MATTINGLY: As you look at the polling, black voters, young voters, not always high propensity voters and they're not monolithic. And that, I think even campaign officials in the Biden team would acknowledge, there's work to do there.

LOUIS: Oh, there's a lot of work I think.

MATTINGLY: But there's also, I think, often an assumption, they're all going to come home eventually. Are they?

LOUIS: Well, you know what -


LOUIS: You're trying to call them home, you've got to do it in a lot of different languages. That's - that's really what the challenge is, is that, you know, the party organizations have sort of really taken a backseat over the years. You know, can't go down to the county level and find like, you know, big, strong machines that know how to turn out the vote. You've got to do it. It's almost like bespoke kind of work. You know, you've got to talk to labor activists in one particular way. You've got to go into black churches and talk to black voters in a particular way. You've got to talk to young voters through TikTok or whatever it is that they're using to - to sort of communicate this kind of stuff.


The environmentalist movement is really very active.

AVLON: Sure.

LOUIS: You've got to talk to them a particular way.

And - and -

AVLON: You also have to be authentic and consistent.


AVLON: And - and - and -

LOUIS: Well, and somebody's got to pay for all of this work, you know? I mean that's where it gets really -

MATTINGLY: It sounds really easy. It sounds super not complicated.

LOUIS: Yes. Yes. Right.

MATTINGLY: But it's also what the Biden team says they are very much in the depths of doing right now. LOUIS: Right.

MATTINGLY: We'll see if it works.

John, Errol, thanks, guys. Appreciate it.

Well, we're going to show you again Gaza City. This morning there have been thousands of people, at least it looks like, evacuating after Israel announced today's humanitarian pause in Gaza will be extended to six hours. We're going to have more on that ahead.

HARLOW: That also comes as another terror group in Gaza announces it has multiple hostages and says it is willing to release two on humanitarian grounds. We're going to be joined next by someone who has been deeply involved in hostage negotiations for Israel, next.



MATTINGLY: We are continuing to show you live pictures from Gaza City this morning. People evacuating after Israel announced today's humanitarian pause will be extended to six hours. Now, another terror group in Gaza, the Palestinian Islamic jihad, acknowledged for the first time that it is also holding Israeli hostages. The group released a video of a 77-year-old woman and a 13-year-old boy. They say it's ready to release the two on humanitarian grounds.

Joining us now is Gershon Baskin. He is the Middle East director of the International Communities Organization and has extensive experience negotiating the release of hostages. In 2011 he was a critical player in the peace negotiations with Hamas that resulted in the release of an Israeli soldier. Gershon has also been working as an unofficial negotiator to try and help free some Hamas hostages.

Thanks so much for joining us.

We spoke to you last - I think a couple of weeks ago. You, at that point, said your contacts with Hamas had gone dark. Has that changed over the course of the last ten days?

GERSHON BASKIN, UNOFFICIAL ISRAELI NEGOTIATOR: No, there's been silence from their side over the past week. I'm not particularly concerned because I believe that the decisions that need to be made now with regard to hostage releases are being done under ground in Gaza by the military wing of Hamas. And the people I was talking to, although they're leaders in Hamas, they're not connected to the decision making process. They're detached from what's happening on the ground. One or two people I was talking to in Gaza have no influence, and the people, the Hamas leadership in Qatar or in Beirut are not going to be consequential in making the decisions ultimately on who gets released and when.

HARLOW: Gershon, why do you think that Palestinian Islamic Jihad, which is a separate terror group operating in Gaza, why do you think that they, at this point, said we have hostages, here's video of two of them, we're ready to release them on humanitarian grounds. What's with the timing?

BASKIN: Well, I think that, first of all, they're all under control of Hamas, even if hostages are being held by Islamic Jihad. After a month of this war, Hamas has taken control. They have the special unit to deal with hostages. They're trained and disciplined troops. And Hamas would not tolerate anyone having control. So, if a video was released last night, it was done with the agreement of Hamas.

And it's part of the psychological warfare that's going on, aimed at putting pressure on the Israeli government through Israeli society. When they see live hostages, first of all, we're all very happy to see that they're alive, but we all have to understand that this is part of the negotiations that's going on, and it's a tool to apply pressure on Israel.

MATTINGLY: Gershon, you make a critical point that reflects some of the frustration I've heard from western diplomats in terms of how these negotiations are going. They're not sure if who they're negotiating with always actually has power, has authority. You had CIA Director Bill Burns, Israeli intelligence officials in Doha meeting about this issue. Doha is where Hamas' political leadership is. They're saying they may not have a ton of influence on what's happening underground right now. How do -- who are they supposed to negotiate with?

BASKIN: Well, obviously, I don't have the inside information of what's happening between -- behind closed doors in Doha, but it seems quite important because the CIA director go -- did go there. The head of the Mossad in Israel went there. The head - the former head of central intelligence in Lebanon went there after being engaged by the American diplomat Amos Hochstein.

But my thinking, my understanding is that the more direct channel and the channel with more influence is the Egyptian channel, who have negotiated not only with Hamas but with the Islamic jihad. The last two rounds of warfare between Israel and Gaza was (ph) Islamic Jihad and it was the Egyptians who negotiated the ceasefire.

The two women hostages who were released early on in the war were released through the Egyptian mediation, and they came from the Kassam (ph) fighting unit. And it was negotiated from Egypt's intelligence to the Hamas military command. So, I really would put more emphasis on there.

Yesterday, some of the Hamas leaders from Doha traveled to Cairo and they met with Abas Camel (ph), who's the head of central intelligence in Egypt. And I think that's significant because they're recognizing, perhaps, that the Egyptian channel is the right channel.

HARLOW: You have personal -- sadly, personal experience with this, losing a family member kidnapped and killed by Hamas in 2005. And with all of that experience, it's part of why you've dedicated your career to this. But also you really urged people to have caution and pause when we're hearing about potential significant hostage deals. Why?

BASKIN: Well, because it's all part of the negotiation. Everything that's said by all sides, including Israel, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the mediators themselves, it's all aimed at putting pressure on the negotiators, on all the sides, to make a deal. It's very difficult to believe everything that's said. There are rumors floating around every day when these negotiations are taking place at very high levels of security and secrecy.


So, if there are leaks from it, they are intentional leaks and they're meaned (ph) to influence decision makers and public policy - public opinion. So, we really have to be caution about -- cautious about it.

There is a possible deal in the making, a humanitarian deal for women, children, and elderly. It will require an Israeli ceasefire. That in itself is a difficult decision, not because Israel doesn't want to ceasefire, but with the positions of the Israeli army today, a ceasefire requires redeployment, because, if not, their soldiers are sitting ducks. They are inside Gaza City. They are surrounding Gaza City.


BASKIN: They're around hospitals and schools and refugee camps. So, it would require a major military move to do a ceasefire when we don't trust that Hamas would stop the fire.

HARLOW: Gershon Baskin, live for us from Jerusalem, thank you so much.

BASKIN: You're very welcome.

HARLOW: President Biden responding to these polls, multiple polls, showing him trailing Donald Trump in a head-to-head matchup. How he downplayed it yesterday to donors.

MATTINGLY: And this morning the IDF announcing that six-hour humanitarian pause for civilians to get out and aid to get in. Israel insists these pauses won't change its war effort. CNN's Oren Liebermann was imbedded with the IDF and got a firsthand look at what Gaza has become with Israeli troops on the ground. We'll have that, next.



HARLOW: So, new overnight, President Biden celebrating Democrats' success in elections this week at a fundraiser in Chicago. Also taking a swipe at Donald Trump, saying, quote, "we haven't stopped winning and he hasn't stopped losing. The truth is, this guy can't get tired of losing." Biden also disputing, though, the CNN and "New York Times" polling that shows him trailing Trump in a hypothetical head-to-head rematch. The president also told donors, they are not wasting their money on him, and said, quote, "the press has been talking about two polls. There are ten other polls we're winning." But Democrats are especially concerned about the polls that show him losing among, not just head-to-head, you know, in one group, but key voting blocs that helped Biden win in 2020.

Take black voters, for example. Our polls show Biden getting 73 percent of support among this group, to Trump's 23 percent. That's a 14-point drop for Biden since 2020 and an 11 point gain from Trump.

Let's bring in our friend, CNN anchor Victor Blackwell, also the host of a great new show, "FIRST OF ALL WITH VICTOR BLACKWELL." It airs 8:00 a.m. Eastern Time on Sundays.

Good morning, Victor.


HARLOW: The president may say there's ten other polls. Maybe there are. But you can't ignore those numbers, can you?

BLACKWELL: Yes, you cannot ignore them. And his supporters, members of Congress, Democrats, they say they're concerned about these numbers. I mean the latest CNN poll for the president is not great. A loss of support among some crucial groups.

But I'm going to focus in this weekend, Saturday at 8:00 a.m., on non- white male voters, because the poll finding that Trump is at 49 percent, and Biden is at 46 percent, is stunning. Now, that's within the margin of error. But consider that in 2020, President Biden won non-male white voters by 34 points, according to our exit polls.

Now, will Biden ultimately win non-white male voters? History would suggest yes. No Republican of the last 50 years has won with that group. Trump came closest in 2020 at 31 percent.

But we've got two questions we're going to try to answer, why is this happening, and where will it make a difference.

First up, where will it make a difference? Right here where I am in Georgia. In 2020 there were more than 500,000 black male voters in this state. Biden won it by 12,000 votes or so. If enough black men stay home or vote for Trump, that could certainly switch this state back to Republicans.

In Arizona, more than 300,000 Latino men voted. He won that state by fewer than 11,000 voters. Of course, if enough Latino men in Arizona switch to Republicans or stay home, that could be a Republican state again.

Now the why. We've talked about the voting rights legislation that did not get passed, policing reform, immigration, but the economic conversation is so important here too. President Biden came here in October of 2020, in Atlanta, and said, a $15 minimum wage, we're going to get it done. Nobody should have to work two jobs to stay out of poverty.

Well, the economic numbers came out from the Labor Department for the third quarter and said nearly 8.4 million people in this country are working at least two jobs. That's the highest number since 2019. The economic story is what people feel often and they feel first. So, we're going to talk with a pollster about the significance of

these numbers. We're going to talk with someone who is focused on men of color and why they're voting the way they are. And then we've got someone from the Biden campaign. What are they going to do about this? You've got less than a year, and these numbers are softening.

MATTINGLY: And you talk about coalitions. The war that's going on between Israel and Hamas really cuts across several Democratic coalitions. You're going to be covering a story about guests who have declined an invitation from the White House to attend a Diwali event hosted by Vice President Harris over the administration's handling of that issue.

What more can you tell us?

BLACKWELL: Yes, so, this is something that is certainly hitting the White House on their social calendar, of course politically as well. We've covered this over the last month. But there are several guests who have said, we will not stand by this administration considering their handling of the crisis in Gaza. The most notable name is Rupi Kaur. She's a poet, a Canadian poet, author of "Milk and Honey." She released a statement, said that, "I refuse any invitation from an institution that supports the collective punishment of a trapped civilian population, 50 percent of whom are children." She went on to say, "as a Sikh woman, I will not allow my likeness to be used in whitewashing this administration's actions."

We'll hear more about why several guests are now not attending. Any White House response to that, we have not heard one yet.


Really just the breadth of the consequences for the president's handling of what's happening, specifically.