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Dean Phillips is Interviewed about His Campaign for President; Trump and Haley Head-to-Head in New Hampshire. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired January 23, 2024 - 06:30   ET



POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you, Phil. Great reporting, by the way, from Alex there.

We will be joined next by Democratic Presidential Candidate Dean Phillips. We'll talk about his bid to try to shake things up here in New Hampshire and the pushback he's getting from some in his own party.



REP. DEAN PHILLIPS (D-MN), 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm only doing this to defeat Donald Trump. Nobody seems to want to do that in the Democratic Party right now other than me because Joe Biden can't is my proposition because the data says he can't. No one in the country right now cares.

In fact, most of the people in the country are going to the Trump rally right now because he's listening to them. No one's asking about this stuff. I'm just frustrated. I hope you understand why I'm getting tired of it. You're doing your jobs, but you're not asking the questions that Americans give a (EXPLETIVE DELETED) about.


HARLOW: Fired up. Congressman Dean Phillips, one of the few Democrats hoping to derail President Biden's re-election campaign in the name of defeating Donald Trump. To say he is facing an uphill battle is an understatement.

KASIE HUNT, CNN ANCHOR: Indeed. President Biden's name won't even appear on the ballot on the New Hampshire primary today due to a squabble between state and national Democrats. And yet new CNN polling shows 63 percent of New Hampshire Democrats plan to write in Biden's name anyway, compared to just 10 percent who plan to vote for Phillips.

But Phillips did secure an endorsement overnight that could help boost his prospects.

[06:35:01] The New Hampshire "Union Leader" editorial board putting their weight behind Phillips' bid, writing, quote, "For anyone who supports Joe Biden for his policies but would prefer a president born during the Vietnam War rather than World War II, they will not be disappointed with Dean Phillips."

And Dean Phillips joins us now.

Congressman, it's wonderful to have you.

HARLOW: Good morning.

REP. DEAN PHILLIPS (D-MN), 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Top of the morning. Good to be with you guys.

HUNT: So, the "Union Leader," historically a conservative publication here in the state, did endorse you here at the 11th hour, but your -- the Democrats that you know and who perhaps once loved you back in Washington are not very happy with what you've been doing here, partly because you've been very aggressive in criticizing the president.

My question here, you're sitting at 10 percent in the polls, do you have any regrets about how this has gone?

PHILLIPS: Oh, my goodness, my only regret is that my party just doesn't want to wake up from this delusion. And, by the way, I think I'm still loved. It's like a family. You know, we have differences of opinion. I have a conviction that Joe Biden is going to lose. And if anybody looks at the data really objectively, I mean he's going to, and someone had to do it. And I'm saddened that there's this culture of cowardice, silence, and people sitting in line waiting for their turn at a time where we need to meet the moment.

So, no, I'm not - I'm not surprised. It hasn't been nearly as horrifying because the fact is the pain I'm feeling by my party isn't close to what people are feeling all around this country.

HUNT: I mean, with all due respect, Chris Sununu, we played him earlier in the show basically saying that Trump is going to lose and that's why they shouldn't nominate Trump, they should nominate Nikki Haley. That's kind of the opposite of what you're saying.

PHILLIPS: Well, I mean, I think it would take -- it would take a really unusual look at these numbers. And, look, the governor's not a bad guy. He knows Trump's going to win. He's trying his best to prevent that. I respect that.

But the writing's on the wall. If Nikki Haley's in this race a few weeks from now I would be really surprised. And that's the truth. And the fact is, we have a duopoly, a two-party system that is literally working against voters, and voters who don't want to show up and vote in primaries and then get frustrated by the choices we have in November. That's part of the problem. We have a crisis of participation.

And I've got to tell you guys, I went to a Donald Trump rally a couple nights ago. Never been to one. I had an event across the street. I saw the line of people waiting in the cold for hours and I thought, what the heck, you know, I'm going to be a leader who actually invites people, doesn't condemn them, Met probably 50 Trump people waiting in line. Every single one of them, thoughtful, hospitable, friendly, all of them so frustrated that they feel nobody's listening to them but Donald Trump. A diverse crowd. People who had never been to a Trump event before. My party is completely delusional right now, and somebody had to wake us up. And if that's my job, so be it.

HARLOW: You would rather, though, have Biden in the White House again than Trump in the White House, yes?

PHILLIPS: Of course. Absolutely.

HARLOW: OK. So do you think that this bid, what you've done, has made President Biden stronger? Because that was one of your goals, if it's not going to be you, make him stronger. Have you succeeded in that?

PHILLIPS: Well, if he would come out and debate and maybe meet voters and actually start showing up. I'm trying to extend an invitation to the president to get in the game because if you want to be the president again the only way to even possibly win is to get out here, listen to voters.

HARLOW: Right, but what I'm asking is, do you think your effort made him stronger or weaker?

PHILLIPS: I'm giving him -- if -- if I did nothing, if nobody entered this race, we've turned -- the Democrats here, Poppy, have turned over hundreds of hours of prime time TV to the GOP. CNN, you guys, doing one-hour town halls with every single GOP candidate. Every bit of coverage of the GOP because they've got a competitive race. If Democrats had a competitive race right now, which I'm trying to create, we would have energy. If you had been to my events the last three days you'd see young people carrying signs, rah, rah. We're trying to get something going.

The president is doing nothing. And if he's not going to debate, he's not going to answer questions, how many interviews has he done? He's not doing town halls. He's not showing up. So, yes, I'm trying to do him a favor to show up. And if he does, and he does really well in the primaries, and suddenly his numbers rise and he can beat Donald Trump, my goodness, I'd get behind him in a heartbeat. But get in the game.

HARLOW: Here's what Ro Khanna, fellow Democrat, said about you. He doesn't take issue with what you're doing per say but how you're doing it.


HARLOW: Here's his criticism.


REP. RO KHANNA (D-CA): I don't agree that you should challenge the president. But if you're going to do it, run on your vision. Run on your ideas. Run on what you want to do for the nation. And the attacks on President Biden, on someone who has dedicated his whole life to public service.


PHILLIPS: I'm so glad Ro gave me this chance. I've been talking about my agenda this whole time. Nobody's covering it. I'm going to start with --

HARLOW: That's not fair. Jake asked you last night how your --

HUNT: I came up and -

PHILLIPS: Oh, and I told Jake.

HARLOW: You (INAUDIBLE) Kasie's interview.

PHILLIPS: And I told -- and I told Jake last night, if you had listened. I mean you guys - if you watched the tape -

HARLOW: We watched the whole thing. I watched the whole thing.

PHILLIPS: Yes, American dream accounts. American dream accounts. Thousand dollar accounts set up by the federal government to start raising the equality of opportunity, raise the foundation for everybody. We need Medicare for all. We need a national health insurance program. We need to build 7 million houses in this country. We need education for all that doesn't burden people with debt.


Cost and chaos are what's on people's mind. Social Security, we can fix. I know how to do it. Not to mention, I'll have a bipartisan cabinet, a youth council. I'm going to completely change leadership in this country.

I would love it - would love it if people would ask about what's actually my propositions and what's on people's minds. All the press wants to talk about is things like this.

And, by the way, what Ro just said, we shouldn't challenge the incumbent, that is the nonsense that Democrats fall into time and time again. Thank gosh in 2008 a young unknown senator had the audacity to challenge the coronated candidate, and he won. Barack Obama.

HUNT: Well, right. So I mean that's the thing. It's -- you are -- you are running against President Biden. And it hasn't caught on. What are you going to do if you don't hit -- I mean, 20 percent in New Hampshire? Are you going to keep going? You said you were going to drop out on March 5th last time I talked to you.

PHILLIPS: First - yes, and then - and then I -

HUNT: Does that still stand?

PHILLIPS: No, actually not at all, because I'm recognizing that there is an immense need to keep this challenge going. And I will continue it.

But tonight, I know your poll has me at 7. Another one has me at 32. The fact is, ten weeks ago nobody knew me. We were at 0 percent. And in ten weeks, with a ragtag startup little operation, spending almost no money, with very few people, I think we're going to be in the 20s today. And if we're better than that, that's awesome.

But that's not the story. You guys know this. Joe Biden should be at 80 percent, even with a write-in. Super PAC got every member of the cabinet coming up, people like Ro Khanna, my colleagues.

You know, Bill Clinton achieved 84 percent here. I'm sorry - 80 - yes, 84 percent. Barack Obama, 81 percent. Joe Biden is the incumbent. Everybody knows him. If he's a strong candidate, he should get in that range. But he's not going to. He's probably going to be way, way below that. And I want to wake people up. And that's my job.

HARLOW: In that great interview Kasie came up here in New Hampshire and did with you a couple of months ago, you said to her, I could win this. I intend to win this, talking about New Hampshire. Or you said, I could open the door for others who might be better positioned.

PHILLIPS: Sure. Still true.

HARLOW: Is that still a goal to open the door for others?

PHILLIPS: Absolutely.

HARLOW: And, if so, who?

PHILLIPS: Any -- I've been trying this, I hope you guys know, since I called on the president to pass the torch. He didn't. I spent months literally calling other candidate who are much better known than I -


PHILLIPS: -- because I know in this game you have to be well-known. It helps the - it helps the cause. The invitation, Poppy, is still --

HARLOW: That's why I'm wondering who. Who?

PHILLIPS: Gretchen Whitmer. J.B. Pritzker. Gavin Newsom. Vice President Harris. Where are you? This is the practice of democracy that I really am trying to impress upon Democrats, that we should not have a coronation, we should have a competition. And I hope you're telling people also the truth that my party is suppressing voters here. You know this, I hope. In New --

HARLOW: You're talking about the DNC letter.

PHILLIPS: The DNC sent a letter to the state here, the New Hampshire Democrats, saying that this is meaningless, despite having a massive write-in operation. It actually precipitated a letter from the secretary of state here to the Democratic National Committee just last week, a cease and desist for the unlawful suppression of voters. There's a lot going on here that nobody's really aware of, and I'm trying to call attention to the truth. I wish other candidates were participating.

HUNT: Sir -

PHILLIPS: That call is still wide open. The water's warm.

HUNT: You - you mentioned Vice President Harris. She has come in for considerable criticism from Republicans and has been listed by, you know, privately some Democrats worry about her being the second half of the ticket. I mean do you think that Kamala Harris would be qualified to be commander in chief?

PHILLIPS: Well, I think she should enter the race and be assessed. But in the absence --

HUNT: Yes, but do you think she's qualified? I mean we see she's --

PHILLIPS: It's not my place. It's not my place. Every experience that I've had with the vice president has been, I think, quite impressive. But that's the whole point. What the president is doing right now is what Democrats have done for generations, they stick around too long, they don't give space and place and stage and platform to next generation candidates. The vice president cannot even introduce herself on that stage. Gavin Newsom, Pritzker, Gretchen Whitmer, all these next-generation Democrats are being suppressed by people who simply --

HUNT: Well, Harris did lose to Biden once already.

PHILLIPS: That's - but my point - my - but my point is this, that we should be having a competition. Let Americans decide if she is the right person or not or he or she or me. That's the whole point. I'm trying to change this delusional process that will probably almost certainly have us lose again if Biden's at the top of the ticket. Plain and simple.

HARLOW: Since we have you on, I want the detailed plan on how you're going to fix Social Security. But quickly, before we go -

PHILLIPS: I could do it in 10 seconds.

HARLOW: To Kasie's good question --


HARLOW: Kasie's good question, how long are you in this?

PHILLIPS: As long as it takes to get a head-to-head matchup with Donald Trump that demonstrates where I'm at, vis-a-vis Joe Biden. I'm just introducing myself.

HARLOW: Months.

PHILLIPS: It will take months. It will take months.

HUNT: How about your money - how many millions of dollars are you willing to put in? PHILLIPS: I - we're going to -- we're going to do what it takes. And

right now -

HARLOW: You seeded it with two, though. That's a great question. $2 million.

PHILLIPS: Well, now we're up to five.


HUNT: Yes.

PHILLIPS: And look at -- this is the most important philanthropic pursuit of my life. My dad - you know, you guys, my dad died in Vietnam.


PHILLIPS: He was a soldier who gave his life. One of one million Americans who have done this. When I went to Vietnam earlier last year, you know, I recognized that, you know, when people are willing to give their lives to defend freedom and democracy, why are so few politicians, you know, willing to do something to do the same thing. And that's part of what I'm trying to do. I know I'm a long shot.


I think I'm going to do a lot better than your poll. We'll do a little bet. How about a nickel?

HARLOW: Come on tomorrow morning?

PHILLIPS: You understand. I'd love to come on.

HARLOW: Come on tomorrow morning.

PHILLIPS: And I think we're going to do better. But that's -- the point is this, I'm trying to shake it up. We need to.


PHILLIPS: Donald Trump is going to win. Joe Biden's a fine man, but he's going to lose. And most Democrats, including Ro Khanna, know that. He wants to run for president in 2028.

HUNT: Come back tomorrow.

HARLOW: See you tomorrow.

PHILLIPS: I'd love it.

HARLOW: Social Security.

PHILLIPS: Bright and early. OK.

HARLOW: On a serious note, thank you to your father for his service. PHILLIPS: Well, thank you.

HARLOW: The greatest sacrifice. And thank you for being with us.

PHILLIPS: Thank you. Thanks for what you do, too. Appreciate you guys.

HUNT: Thank you.

HARLOW: Thank you.

HUNT: Great to see you.


PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN ANCHOR: Well, President Biden and Vice President Harris not in New Hampshire, but they are on the campaign trail together today, laser focused on one issue they believe could swing the November election. That's ahead.




NORM GAGNON, NEW HAMPSHIRE VOTER: We've been a Trump supporter. Weren't too happy with how he behaved. And it seems like he might have changed that a little bit. So, we figured, give him another chance.


GAGNON: And he can only go for four anyways, so.

JIMENEZ: Yes. You weren't too happy with how he behaved --

GAGNON: Well, sometimes you behave like a child and, you know -- but then again we didn't hire him to be a personality, we hired him to get a job done.

JIMENEZ: And how do you think he changed, you know, from, as you say, behaving like a child?

GAGNON: Well, I think he's trying to contain himself now.

JIMENEZ: Did you feel particularly strong about a candidate? Who - who'd you vote for?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, absolutely.

JIMENEZ: Who'd you vote for this time?


JIMENEZ: And why did you feel this time that he was the one?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because my life was a lot -- I think everybody's life was a lot easier, better economically, everything, just, you know, I feel like this is the Obama administration all over again.


MATTINGLY: You're looking at live pictures of New Hampshire as voters head to the polls. You just heard from two of those voters talking to our colleague Omar, who's been at the polling stations, been talking to voters.

I want to bring in CNN political commentators Errol Louis and Geoff Duncan and former Republican strategist and pollster Lee Carter.

And, Lee, I want to start with you because there are people who will watch that -


MATTINGLY: And their heads will explode. And I don't say that in a condescending or mocking manner. I say that because you have talked about things like what we just heard repeatedly that you've seen in the numbers over and over and over again over the course of the last several months.


MATTINGLY: That really explain what we just heard.

CARTER: Right.


CARTER: So there's - there's, I think, two things that are really important to remember. Number one, most people feel worse off today than they did when Joe Biden took office. And most people say that they felt better under Donald Trump. And that's on both sides of the aisle. And so that's number one that he has going for him.

The second thing is, more than 60 percent, some polls have over 70 percent, of voters are looking for a fighter, saying that the system seems like it's unfairly working for some than others. Only 4 percent believe that the political system is working for them. And so they're looking for a fighter. Donald Trump represents to them a fighter and no one else does. And so when you see these people who are feeling like things are worse, they feel like the system's not working for them, they're feeling like they're getting left behind, they feel like they're being judged, they're talked down to, Donald Trump is the one for them. And - and it shouldn't be surprising to anyone.

The other thing that I think is fascinating is, if you look at Biden and Trump voters from 2020, only 79 percent of voters that voted for Joe Biden in 2020 are likely to vote for him again, while 90 percent of Trump voters are likely to vote for him again. And 5 percent of Joe Biden voters are more likely to vote for Donald Trump today. So, the math isn't looking good for Joe Biden right now. And we're - we're not even, you know, all the way to a general election right now. But it's really fascinating to see the enthusiasm that's with (ph) Trump. ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: This is - this is, by the way,

this is where Nikki Haley's comments about chaos trails him and we don't want chaos. If you're that voter who thinks that the system is working against you, that Washington has ignored you and Wall Street has swindled you and Hollywood is laughing at you, you want chaos. You want something to sort of shake up the whole system. That was always, from 2015 on, that was the Donald Trump appeal. And I think we're seeing it play out in New Hampshire and throughout the Republican primary.

GEOFF DUNCAN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think one of the challenges has been that the - you know, Ron DeSantis, Nikki Haley, and Chris Christie did to the best of his ability, didn't call Donald Trump for what he was, and that was a fake Republican. He failed as a Republican, right? There's selective memory amongst the base right now. Donald Trump did not actually build the ball. And certainly didn't get Mexico to pay for the 20 miles of it. He stashed $8 trillion worth of additional debt. He fumbled the ball on Covid. These are things that they were reluctant to - they tried to play cute. And I think now we're having to play a catchup game and the base has got selective memory. And that's - that's painful.

The only thing that's really keeping Donald Trump alive, in my opinion, in this race, or so strong amongst the other contenders, is that Joe Biden is doing that bad, right? If there was actually a threat to the White House and if Joe Biden was actually polling up or even with Donald Trump, I think there would be a melting of support for Donald Trump.

CARTER: Yes, but also I think Donald Trump is -- realizes that he's playing into a very emotional voter. We're not rational beings who are occasionally emotional, we're emotional beings who are occasionally rational. And he's playing into the emotion where no one else is. Everyone's trying to give these rational arguments and that's not necessarily what's winning.

MATTINGLY: The irony to some degree is that if you go back to when Trump left office, the economy was on the brink of a depression. People were in the middle of the worst pandemic in a century. And I don't think anybody felt great. And yet everybody kind of blacks out 2020, which makes it interesting as you see Biden and Harris campaigning together today, talking about the issue the Democrats see as the kind of -- the kill shot for them in a general election. This was what the vice president said in an exclusive interview with Laura Coates last night.


KAMALA HARRIS, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are here in January and I'm going to tell you, in these intervening months between now and the election, I am going to do exactly what I'm doing here in Wisconsin, which is traveling the country to remind people of not only what is at stake and the harm that is occurring every day, so many women silently suffering, but also remind them of the connection between their vote and an outcome that puts back in place the protections of Roe. (END VIDEO CLIP)


MATTINGLY: So, a message from somebody who fights for them, who is able to create some type of blackout of the worst year that we've had as a country and really like to have effectively versus that policy.

LOUIS: Yes. I mean, look, there's policy -


LOUIS: And there's a ton of history just in the last couple of years that abortion motivates the Democratic base, pulls over some independents, gets suburban women and so forth and so on. But you've got to talk about the economy. I was leafing through the paper the other day. I think it was page nine of the -- oh, by the way, the Biden administration got, you know, $5 billion worth of additional loan forgiveness for something like 73,000 Americans.


LOUIS: And I'm thinking, that would be a pretty good thing to talk about if you really want to get people's attention. I mean I understand the abortion issue. It moves people. It's real. It's a substantive difference. They're going to campaign on it. But if they forget about the economy, even as they've tried to sort of make some strides that they can take credit for -


LOUIS: I think they're going to have a real problem.

MATTINGLY: I'm sure it will come back. Jim Clyburn made this exact point.

DUNCAN: Yes, Joe Biden has a chance to win. Kamala Harris has got to pick up her game. She's got to figure out a way to improve her approval ratings. She's got to figure out how to actually dive back into immigration. And she's got to be a viable option because, quite honestly, you know, in this world, we've got a 78-year-old running against an 82-year-old.

MATTINGLY: Yes, she will be a focal point. It will be interesting to see how that continues to develop.

Lee Carter, Geoff, Errol, thanks, guys, appreciate it.

And up next, we're going to head back out to Poppy in Manchester, New Hampshire, as primary voting in parts of the state gets underway this hour.

This is CNN THIS MORNING's special live coverage of the New Hampshire primary.