Return to Transcripts main page

CNN This Morning

Haley to Exit Race; Haley Won't Endorse Trump Today; Biden Campaign Looking at Haley Voters. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired March 06, 2024 - 06:30   ET



DAVID POLYANSKY, FORMER DESANTIS DEPUTY CAMPAIGN MANAGER: Of Republicans are. And so, if you're talking about, you know, looking forward into November, Joe Biden's the one that has a real base problem right now, I mean with minority voters, with men.


POLYANSKY: You know, maybe he'll do exceedingly well in the suburbs today.

BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I don't know how we get that. I mean, I - listen, Joe Biden doesn't have a base problem. Joe Biden has a very loud minority that oppose certain policy views, particularly that in Gaza. That -- that does not equate to Joe Biden having a base problem. The fact is, if you go back and look at last night's Super Tuesday and you compare it side-by-side with Barack Obama in 2012, Joe Biden outperformed him. Like, so this whole narrative that -- I mean it's weird how narratives get baked into our lexicon. Joe Biden has a base problem. He doesn't. Joe Biden is old. Yes, but so is Donald Trump. I mean we - we have to reframe the argument when we're talking about Joe Biden. Nobody's cared - nobody's caring about whether or not he can complete a speech on Thursday. I heard that being said by my friend Geoff. The question is, what is he going to say?

HUNT: I do -- we have to push pause because we're hitting the bottom half of the hour here and I do want to reset on breaking news before we continue this conversation.

We continue our coverage now with breaking news.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

HUNT: This just into CNN, Nikki Haley expected to exit the presidential race later on this morning after she lost -- a sweeping loss to Donald Trump in the Super Tuesday primaries yesterday. She plans to address supporters in South Carolina at 10:00 a.m. We did not hear from Nikki Haley last night. She was in private, behind closed doors as these results were rolling in. So, this is going to be the first that we've heard from her about what she plans to do next.

Let me bring my panel back in. And we were, you know, kind of resetting this argument in terms of talking about these voters, these people that backed Nikki Haley, right, who feel like they are politically homeless in a situation where you've got Joe Biden and Donald Trump.

And, Bakari, you and David were - you know, I didn't - I don't want to cut that off because he said, you know, the Democrats have a base problem. You say that that's not true. But the numbers contradict that. I mean the numbers, especially among black voters, are tough for President Biden.

SELLERS: Well, I - if - no they're not.

HUNT: They're tougher than they were.

SELLERS: If you believe that 23 percent of black voters are going to vote for Donald Trump, I just want to go ahead and sell you that bridge in Brooklyn. That is --

HUNT: So, why are they telling pollsters that they will when they -

SELLERS: Because you -- first of all, we have to begin to turn the page on polls and actually read cross tabs. And we have to begin to actually analyze how - how these polls -- many of these polls that we're referring to are plus seven or are plus eight. I mean and so when you actually look at these polls and you're looking at the voters, now is their discontentment among black voters with what they're seeing in Washington, D.C., the answer is yes. Is there a question or a disconnect between the policies that have been passed and whether or not they feel it in their pocket? The answer is yes.

But we have to get out of this social media bubble where people run to the fact that Meek Mill is out here tweeting something about - that's pro-Trump or pro-Republican talk points, or Killer Mike is out here traversing the land with Robert F. Kennedy and all of a sudden we're saying Democrats have this - this base problem. That - that is not the case. They -- are there messages that need to be heated? Yes. But -- but we are saying that - the 35 percent that voted against Donald Trump, that's hard and fast. Biden is putting up win after win after win without seeing that consternation that you're referring to.

HUNT: Briefly, and then we've going to Kyle Atwood.

ZOLAN KANNO-YOUNGS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I was just going to say, from, look, the political experts, to Democrats, people around the campaign I've talked to, it's not a matter of the black -- the black voters, you know, going towards Trump. But what you talked about earlier, which is a risk that they could stay home.


KANNO-YOUNGS: That is a real concern for those around the White House and the Democratic Party.

HUNT: All right, let's bring in Kylie Atwood. She is our reporter who covers Nikki Haley. She is down in South Carolina with the latest and she's got some new reporting for us.

Kylie, what are you know?

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, so as we're expecting Nikki Haley to announce that she's suspending her presidential campaign today, she's also not expected, according to sources familiar with her plans, to endorse former President Trump today. What she is going to do is make the case that he should be courting the reporters who had the -- excuse me, the voters who have supported her throughout the course of this campaign. Those are Republican voters, those are independent voters, those are voters that she believes he will need if he is going to win a general election.

So, this does not appear to mean that she will not endorse Trump at all before the November election, but what she's going to do today is really make the case that he needs to reach out to those voters.

We also should expect her, Kasie, too harp on the themes that we have heard from her throughout the entire course of her campaign. The need for there to be fiscal responsibility, conservative fiscal responsibility in U.S. policy, the need for there to be a certain approach to foreign policy that we haven't heard from former President Trump.


So, she's really teeing up what will be a conversation between her and the former president and her voters over the course of the next few months here. And we'll really we just have to watch and see how that plays out because we don't know how the former president is going to respond to that. If he's going to, you know, play ball with her and engage with her voters because what we have heard from him over the course of the last few months is that he doesn't want those people who are supporting Nikki Haley. (INAUDIBLE).

HUNT: All right, I think we may have lost her live shot. We will come back to her in just a moment.

But we do have Alayna Treene standing by for us.

Alayna, what do you hear in this new reporting Kylie has in terms of the planned Haley pitch to say, hey, you can't -- you can't win a general election without my voters?

ALAYNA TREENE, CNN REPORTER: I mean it's something that I think Donald Trump's team recognizes. They know that any sort of general election rematch with Joe Biden is going to be very close despite what the polls have been saying. And, of course, they like to tout the ones that show that Donald Trump is beating Joe Biden in a hypothetical rematch. They recognize that it would be very close, and they can't take any voters for granted.

And so I think, obviously, Nikki Haley has a point here and I think what we saw on Super Tuesday, particularly her strength with suburban voters, is something that Trump's campaign needs to internalize and place into their upcoming strategy in some of -- especially in these battleground states, like Arizona, Michigan, Georgia, the ones they know that they really need to go full force ahead in the coming months to try and beat Joe Biden.

But look, I also just want to point out that I think, you know, Donald Trump very much is going to remain Donald Trump regardless of what Nikki Haley says, regardless of what other people says. He's always had a problem with more moderate voters, more independent voters. Again, something that the Trump campaign recognizes they need to work on, but he's going to continue, you know, using the rhetoric that turns a lot of these people off. And that's another part of this as well. His campaign knows that Donald Trump is very much a polarizing figure. And even as they've been repeatedly telling him to only focus on Joe Biden, over the last couple of weeks we saw last night when he did a radio interview, he still attacked Nikki Haley pretty fiercely. And so I think it will be interesting to see how they move forward.

And I also just want to add, Kasie, in the conversations I'm having with Donald Trump's campaign right now about this, they're expecting that Trump himself will be weighing in on the announcement that Nikki Haley is exiting the race at some point. They expect he'll be the one to have the first word potentially on Truth Social, as we've seen him do with similar announcements in the past. And we're still waiting to see whether or not they're going to be giving remarks at all, more former remarks, in relation to this news. I know that Donald Trump had wanted to hold a big event, maybe get up on stage at Mar-a-Lago again, when it seemed like he was going to be the presumptive Republican nominee. So, I think those are questions that we'll be looking into today.

HUNT: What do you think, Alayna, the -- sort of as Kylie was reporting, that there's not going to be an endorsement today. How much does that get under Trumps skin?

TREENE: I think it gets under his skin a lot. I know that they want -- they - well, I'll say - I'll put it this way. I think a lot of the Republican rivals that he had initially who had dropped out and immediately endorsed him, you saw the way that Donald Trump reacted and embrace them. We saw, you know, Doug Burgum, Tim Scott, a lot of his strong rivals being surrogates now for Donald Trump. I do not expect that to happen with Nikki Haley. And I think the fact that she's not going to immediately endorse, that she has these messages for Donald Trump about how he should be running his campaign, of course that's not going to sit well with him or his team. And so I think that's just going to add further to their unwillingness to want to embrace her at all looking forward.

And, of course, it's also unclear if Nikki Haley even wants to be embraced or associated with Donald Trump moving forward and his campaign.

HUNT: All right, Alayna Treene for us.

Alayna, thank you.

We're going to go now to Arlette Saenz. She is at the White House for us. Kind of check in with where the Biden campaign and the White House stand as they are taking in this news.

Obviously, Arlette, Nikki Haley and her voters, again I think this is really the important part to underscore, this group of people that, whether they were voting for Nikki Haley or they were voting against Trump and against Biden or, you know, whatever, there are a group of people out there who are saying we don't want either Trump or Biden. And the Biden team, in this campaign memo they put out at 5:00 this morning, says that, hey, those are people that they can potentially get.

What's the latest that you're hearing and what's your take on this as we've watched these results unfold over the last 12 hours?

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kasie, Biden campaign officials I've spoken to in recent weeks have long felt that Super Tuesday would be the moment that this race crystallizes between Joe Biden and Donald Trump. And the latest proof point in that argument is the fact that Nikki Haley is expected to withdraw from the presidential race today.


And one thing the Biden campaign will be working on very hard in the coming months is trying to see if they can tap into those Haley voters who are turned off by Donald Trump. The senior campaign officials says as much in a memo last night as they offered their assessments of the Super Tuesday results, saying that president -- former President Trump came out as a damaged and unpopular candidate. And Jen O'Malley Dillon and Julie Chavez Rodriguez, the two women leading the Biden campaign, wrote, quote, "a significant share of moderate and Haley voters across the country are saying that Trump cannot count on their votes in a general election." And that will be key for Biden going forward, whether they can tap into those Haley voters, those moderate voters, those suburban women who do not want to see Donald Trump have a second term in the White House. The Biden campaign has long argued reproductive rights is a key vulnerability for Donald Trump, and that is something that they think will also play with moderate voters as well.

And it's not just Haley voters that the Biden campaign will be going after, its also Haley donors. I've had conversations with fundraising officials over the course of the past few months and they have believed that there might be a universe of Haley donors that they could also tap into. But clearly the Biden campaign thinks this is going to be a very close race. There is certainly a number of challenges facing President Biden. And tomorrow he will have one of the most high profile moments to offer his vision for a second term and try to convince voters to give him another four years in the White House with the State of the Union Address tomorrow night.

HUNT: All right, Arlette Saenz for us at the White House. Arlette, thank you very much for that reporting.

And, of course, if you are just joining us here, we have been covering this breaking news just into CNN. Nikki Haley plans to exit the presidential race and later on this morning she will address supporters at 10:00 a.m. Eastern Time in Charleston, South Carolina.

We're going to take a quick break, but we're going to have much more of this breaking news when we come back.



HUNT: Welcome back. Weve been covering breaking news. Nikki Haley, according to sources, expected to exit the presidential race later today. Our sources also tell CNN that she will not endorse the presumptive now Republican nominee, Donald Trump. He has yet to reach the number of delegates that he would need to clinch the nomination. But without any serious rival left in the race, and after he essentially swept, with the exception of Vermont, the Super Tuesday states last night, Donald Trump in a commanding position here to become the Republican nominee.

Our party -- our panel is back. We're having a party, right? The panel's here.


HUNT: Breaking news party this morning.

I want to show you a little bit of like Haley's sort of final critique of Donald Trump. This was her campaigning over the weekend as she was heading into Super Tuesday. And it really highlights, in a pretty stark way, the challenges that both Trump and, I mean, honestly, Biden also will face challenges in the general election in terms of fighting over the moderate and independent voters that currently feel homeless.

She put it in the context here of Donald Trump. Watch.


NIKKI HALEY (R), 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We lost in 2018. We lost in 2020. We lost in 2022. But look, two weeks ago, Republicans lost the vote on Mayorkas. They lost the vote on Israel. The RNC chair lost her job. And Donald Trump's fingerprints were on all of it. How much more losing do we have to do before we realize, maybe Donald Trump is the problem?


HUNT: I mean, David Polyansky, after that, how do you really go crawling back to the Donald Trump wing of the party?

POLYANSKY: Well, look, I mean, memories are short. I remember being with Senator Cruz in Cleveland at a convention speech where he didn't endorse Donald Trump, and just a few months later was one of his biggest allies and surrogates and has become so on The Hill. So, politics makes strange bedfellows. You say what you need to say on the campaign trail, but ultimately I believe Nikki Haley will endorse Donald Trump. I think she'll be part of the program to get Donald Trump elected this November. And I think if she wants to have a role and a future in the party, she's going to need to do that sooner than later. And I expect she will.

SELLERS: The difference, though, and I -- I have to disabuse us of this kind of notion or talking point that the similarities between Joe Biden or the issues that Joe Biden and Donald Trump have are the same.

POLYANSKY: For sure.

SELLERS: The fundamental -- the fundamental issues that Donald Trump has are not going to change. They're issues of character. They're issues of fitness. History is history. He lost those things. He's being branded as a loser. He's struggling with Mike Johnson to find any - any footwork or any stability. When you're talking about policy, this was repeal and replace Republicans. They haven't been able to replace Obamacare with absolutely anything. There -- they have nothing but a no on immigration. And so those are - those - that's the foundation of who Donald Trump is.

With Joe Biden, there are things that can change. For example, if there's some semblance of a ceasefire or permanent ceasefire in Gaza, and we believe that they're inching closer and closer to a least a period of time where there's a cessation of forces back and forth. If that happens, that changes.


The economy, which we've seen him actually be strong is Wall Street performing. The S&P, Nasdaq, all performing extremely well. If those things continue to go in the direction they're going, that is a plus in the right direction. And when he's, when -- on Thursday, if he's on stage and he's able to lay out a clear vision on what immigration reform actually looks like, and the Democrats are the party of immigration going forward -

HUNT: So -

SELLERS: That's different than the problem.

HUNT: Bakari, I take all these points. I really do. But like I disagree - you'd mentioned this earlier about how you didn't think people were going to be watching the speech to watch Joe Biden's performance, President Biden's performance. And I just -- I sort of have to push back on that a little bit because I think that this is as much about Joe Biden, the man, and kind of what people see from him and the - the fundamental reality that you just -- you can't turn back the clock. It just doesn't work that way.

SELLERS: But those of us -

HUNT: I mean and this is what people are telling us they're worried about.

SELLERS: But it's -- but Joe Biden is not going to look like Tom Cruise. I mean he's not going to go up there and -

HUNT: I don't think anyone expects that. SELLERS: He's not going to go up there and all of a sudden become Matthew McConaughey and start, hey, hey, hey, being -- I mean, he's - he's old. Right, that is the president.

GEOFF DUNCAN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: We - we - we, as Americans, just want him to look like a president, act like a president, talk like a president, talk like the leader of the free world.


DUNCAN: And I think that's the position we're in. If I'm a Democrat, I'm sitting here going, how is -- how is the sitting president, with all those accolades that you talked about, the economy, the S&P, Nasdaq, all of those other - how are they not 20 points ahead of a guy who's got 91 charges against him, four separate indictments, federal, state charges. The next seven months are going to be absolutely brutal watching facts, figures and evidence come out that Donald Trump lied, tried to coerce people to do awful things. I mean, we're going to watch this continue to play out.

I think Nikki Haley has to continue doing what she's done. That closing argument was spot on, right? And to see her change her tune just because she wants to chase a short-term sugar high, I'd disagree with. I'd push back on that notion. I think she's done exactly what she needs to do and needs to keep doing because if I'm skating to where the puck's going in the Republican Party, Republicans are going to get beat. Joe Biden is going to limp his way into the White House again for a second term. Republicans are going to be beat. And then what? And then what?

So, now we have a whole list of potential candidates that have endorsed Donald Trump and have to kind of take a shower. There's not a big enough shower to wash Donald Trump off you.

KANNO-YOUNGS: I just want to follow up on one thing when it comes to President Biden. It seems like the State of the Union as well. It is a bit twofold. You know, there were folks in the White House last year, when he had that back-and-forth with House Republicans over Medicare and Social Security. They were watching performance. They actually thought that was a response to some of the concerns about his age, the ability - the fact that he was able to kind of move on his feet and engage in that tit for tat.

It's twofold when you look at the State of the Union. One, addressing the concerns about his age, and that being how -- does he have another moment like that if his Republican critics do speak up in the crowd, but also I think the greater challenge, the more pressing challenge for Democrats is, he has passed a lot. A lot of people don't feel it and a lot of people don't understand what's in those bills. So, how does -- how do you articulate a cohesive, digestible message of what you have passed and these past couple of years.

POLYANSKY: That's right. And, look, I think with Trump, you look at what's happened on the legal front. I think if -- as we came into this year, most people expected he would be on trial sooner. He would potentially be convicted sooner. HUNT: Yes, it was supposed to have started yesterday.

POLYANSKY: That's right. And, in fact, there were a lot of people, both in the Republican Party and outside of it, who assumed he might even be in handcuffs by the end of this year. That's not going to happen.

And, number two, when you look at the issues that matter most to voters, number one, immigration, President Biden's at 18 percent with voters on that issue. There's nothing he's going to be able to say from the State of Union that's going to turn that around.

KANNO-YOUNGS: There's - there's an interesting moment, though, right now with even the immigration because for a while, yes, you're right, it's been one of his greatest political vulnerabilities, and practical vulnerabilities as well. It's a big challenge. It's intractable. But there's a moment here that you're seeing a shift in strategy, them actually - I'm not saying -- I don't know if it will be successful, but - but not distancing themselves from it, going on the offensive to say, that House Republicans, the Republicans in Congress are the ones that have roadblock this. You might hear that tomorrow.

SELLERS: But - but - but also -- just to - again, I mean, immigration is a number - is a - is a large, looming issue, right? That is an issue that Democrats have to tackle. And Joe Biden does not do well in comparison to Donald Trump on that issue when polling.

But on the flip side of this, you have a major driving force that we've seen win elections in places like Ohio and Kansas, which has turned out voters in one - in one seat to maintain seats in the Senate, and that is the issue of abortion. And you cannot - and - and Donald Trump's going to try to oh, my goodness, I can't use that - that phrase of splitting -- he's going to try to -- he's going to -- he's going to try to thread the needle is a better -- better analogy.

HUNT: Fair enough.

SELLERS: He's going to try to thread the needle and say, although I am responsible for the reason that Dobbs is law now, you know, I also want to make sure that women have a right to choose. And that's just not something that's going to happen. So to -- you know, to articulate a counter point to your - to your policy point there, yes, immigration and crime are Achilles heels right now, and were trying to figure that out as we -- as Democrats are finally paying attention to those two issues. But on the issues of the - of abortion, reproductive rights and the economy, those are winners for the Democrats right now.


KANNO-YOUNGS: Right. And you're also seeing when it -- those latter points that you made, abortion as well, you're seeing them also talk about that under the umbrella of democracy. And I'm interested to see how that resonates. Yesterday, late last night, President Biden's statement issued through the campaign definitely focused on democracy. We saw Mike Donilon, as well as the recent "New Yorker" piece say that that's kind the way they're going to talk about these issues as you get closer to the election.

HUNT: Yes.

KANNO-YOUNGS: Watching if that -- to see if that resonates with (INAUDIBLE).

HUNT: Geoff -


HUNT: Sorry, go ahead.

POLYANSKY: I was just going to say, look, at the end of the day, in November, I think people are going to vote with what matters most to them and their families. That's do they feel safe at home? Do they have the money they need to put their kids through school, pay for textbooks, pay for groceries, and take care of their families? And right now, voters are not giving Joe Biden the benefit of the doubt, even if, as we see the economy climb back.

SELLERS: I don't disagree with that.

POLYANSKY: And he certainly has a long way to go in battling both his base and where the - the -- most of the nation is at on immigration and crime. It is going to be a tough haul for him.

HUNT: Geoff, can I ask you about January 6th and - and the democracy argument because we are seeing - I mean this is clearly something that for President Biden is like incredibly important to him. It is a motivating, animating issue for him. And Zolan referenced this Evan Osnos piece that came out in "The New Yorker" where it was very clear that he and his team were very focused on that.

This is not an area where you saw - I mean Nikki Haley attacked Donald Trump vociferously at the end of her campaign in a lot of different ways. She kind of steered clear of what happened on January 6th. Why is that? And, I mean, I know that you have a lot of friends, family, people you talk to all the time, who are Republicans in Georgia, who are not fans of Donald Trump. When you talk to them, how much does what happened on January 6th factor in? Do you think that this democracy argument is one that would resonate with them?

DUNCAN: Starting with January 6th, it's probably one of the worst moments I've seen in my lifetime, in 48 years. Certainly there's others. September 11th and whatnot. But it certainly was. And it was a moment in time that showed how vulnerable our democracy was. I remember Governor Kemp and I talking about its sitting in Atlanta at the capitol watching this play out in front of us.

Just put yourself when you were at January 7th. Republican, Democrat, independent. Just put yourself where you were at January 7th. Did anybody in the right mind think Donald Trump ever had a chance to be elected to anything because you knew - you could tangibly feel how culpable he was for that moment in time. That moment of insanity for this country. That moment of just terminal velocity towards the wrong direction. But here we are. And I think what's happening, and I think Ron DeSantis made a misstep

here, I think Nikki Haley made a misstep, then -- in that they didn't take the fight to Donald Trump. They didn't take the fight and just call out January 6th for what it was, didn't call out Donald Trump for being a fake Republican, for raising the debt $8 trillion, for not actually building a border wall. He built a selfie station (ph), but not a wall, right? He - he just was a fake Republican. And they didn't do that early enough. And I think that helped - that hurt the trajectory because, to your point earlier, a third, a third, a third. A third, never going to vote for Donald Trump. A third's always going to vote for Donald Trump. And that third in the middle was trying to look for somebody that had the substance to get across the finish line and to actually have a chance to win.

SELLERS: The problem with the democracy argument, and I was - I was talking with Terrance Woodbury yesterday, who's a pollster. And we were at a National Urban League policy forum where they were talking about the state of black America. The problem with the democracy argument, particularly for black and brown and young voters, is that they don't feel that argument, feeling that something is broken when it's never really worked for them in a first place. And so there is a -- there is somewhat of a removed sense from that democracy argument. And that's why this - that's why this campaign, or the - or the Biden campaign has a unique task of tying in things like, capping credit card fees or insulin or student loan debt relief and all of those things that they've done, right? A showing that they've actually effectuate change. But Joe Biden, what gets him going every morning is protecting democracy.

HUNT: Yes.

SELLERS: And so it's this really weird tug and pull that they're having to face.

HUNT: To Geoff's point, David, I mean, do you think if you had -- you know, when you look back on the DeSantis campaign, did you miss an opening?

POLYANSKY: No. The minute Donald Trump was indicted, the race was really over. It was over in Iowa. But the minute he was indicted, he was the nominee. You saw it in every way measurable, not just from polling, and cross tabs, but just as importantly on the ground. I mean you saw a sense of momentum and energy get behind him because the former president did a very effective job of making the fight against him legally, a fight against conservatives, at fight against the party, and a fight against the country. And that's a very difficult message to push back on. Whether it's, you know, on trillions of dollars in Covid spending, not finishing the wall. There were a lot of criticisms against him.

HUNT: Yes.

POLYANSKY: But when you veer too closely in that lane, you also found yourself being pitted on the same side, unfortunately, is "The New York Times" and others who criticized him every day. And that's a tough place to be in a primary. [07:00:03]

HUNT: All right, well, Geoff, Bakari, David, Zolan, thank you all for a great impromptu news conversation this morning, because, again, Nikki Haley, again, we expect to exit the presidential race when she speaks to supporters at 10:00 A.M. this morning. Don't go anywhere. Stick with CNN as we cover this unfolding breaking news.