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Trump Posts Dark Holiday Message Before Hitting Campaign Trail; Trump Increases Share of Non-White Voters in Polls; April Kicks Off with Severe Storms, Snow, Flooding. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired April 01, 2024 - 06:00   ET



KASIE HUNT, CNN ANCHOR: It's Monday, April 1, right now on CNN THIS MORNING.


Donald Trump ready to return to the campaign trail after releasing an Easter Sunday message that was pretty dark. We'll bring it to you.

The first pieces, meanwhile, of the Key Bridge recovered from the water as workers race to reopen the critical Baltimore port.

And millions of Americans facing the threat of tornadoes, hail, and flooding over the next several days. We'll bring you that.

All right, 6 a.m. here in Washington. A live look at Capitol Hill on this Easter Monday. Good morning, everyone. I'm Kasie Hunt. It's great to be with you.

Don't forget: today's April Fool's Day. So just, you know, turn up that skepticism meter just a little bit.

Of course, this weekend, we did have Easter Sunday in an election year. Today, President Biden is preparing to host the annual Easter egg roll at the White House. The current president posted this message over the weekend, writing, "To all those gathering in churches and homes around the world today: Happy Easter. May God bless and keep you."


Which is -- you know, what are we celebrating on Easter, you know, the rise, the resurrection? Anyway.

This all played out days after Trump started hawking Bibles for $59.99, which led to this.





It's Easter, the time of year when I compare myself to Jesus Christ. That's just a thing I do now, and people seem to be OK with it. I'm going to keep doing it.

And if you think that this is a bad look, imagine how weird it would be if I started selling Bibles. Well, I'm selling Bibles.

Look at this beautiful Bible, made from 100 percent Bible. Sounds like a joke. And in many ways, it is, but it's also very real.


HOLMES: It's also very real.

Our panel's here: Ron Brownstein, senior editor of "The Atlantic"; Lance Trover, former spokesman, North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum's 2024 presidential campaign; and Lulu Garcia-Navarro of "The New York Times."

Ron Brownstein, let me -- let me kick this over to you, because you've seen a presidential campaign or two in your day. And this has really reached -- the sort of biblical language and approach of Donald Trump, obviously, has led to what we saw there on "SNL."

I think we should also refresh everyone's memory. This was a video that the former president posted in January to his Truth Social feed. He reposted this video. Let's just remember what, you know, he seems to want everyone to think about him.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: God said, I need somebody who will be strong and courageous, who will not be afraid or terrified of the wolves when they attack; a man who cares for the flock; a shepherd to mankind, who won't ever leave nor forsake them.


So God gave us Trump.


HOLMES: So God gave us Trump -- Ron.

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. Well, you know, his core support -- I mean, the bedrock of his coalition are white, conservative, evangelical Christians who view themselves, by and large, as besieged by a changing America.

And in many ways Trump explicitly -- as someone said to me way back when in, I think, 2016 Trump offers himself as a human wall. You know, the human equivalent of the wall against all of the changes that they think threaten their -- their position and their values in American life.

And so you get this kind of conflation of Trump as a -- as a messianic figure that strikes voters, you know, in kind of the center, not only politically, but you know, in their -- in their religious belief and practice as, you know, way over the top and -- and vainglorious and all of that.

But yet, does speak to something that is driving his votes. And I believe that the core of the Trump coalition remains the voters who are the most uneasy about the way the country is changing. And he presents himself, in effect, as their retribution against all of that.

HUNT: So, Lance Trover, one of the -- one piece of literature along these lines that I often recommend to people is the book by Tim Alberta called "The Kingdom, the Power And The Glory."

And Tim is someone who comes from the communities that Ron was just talking about. He was raised as a white evangelical in Michigan. His dad was a pastor.

And I think one of the things that sometimes people trip on in trying to explain this is, you know, Donald Trump does not live a Christian life by the sort of normal metrics that people think of in that regard. He had a number of wives. And obviously, his focus on money.

Maureen Dowd wrote in her column, she -- she pulled on the -- the metaphor of the golden calf, right? The false worship metaphor.

What is it about these communities, these voters that have them approaching Donald Trump in a way that they -- they don't approach Mike Pence, who is objectively more of an evangelical at his heart, than Donald Trump?

LANCE TROVER, FORMER SPOKESMAN, DOUG BURGUM 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN: Well, let me first start by saying he has two goals here, and that's for us to be talking about him. And we are leading the show talking about Trump this morning. And he has great success of that.

And I mean, you're right. He has an effect on people like none other, right? Especially with the evangelical community. And that's why you saw him step out this weekend on this Trans Day that Biden did. And obviously, it's a day that falls March 31st. Because he wanted to tell evangelical voters, I'm on your side. I have your back. And that's what he does.

And when it comes to the larger notion, he's succeeding all around, right? Because a lot of voters are saying, Look, we don't really love the rhetoric. We don't love the -- maybe the man himself, but they love the policies, and they hearken back to how their financial situation was four years ago. And you see that play out in the polls, and that's why he's still

viable today.


LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Yes. I mean, we spent a lot of time discussing what is the appeal of Donald Trump and how he manages to completely sort of enrapture the people who follow him.

And I think it does come down to what Ron Brownstein was saying. But I also think there's something else that happens here, which is that he does manage to tap into this sort of apocalyptic view that some people have of this country. This idea that this country is falling apart; this idea that everything that we hold dear is being taken away from us.

He is speaking to people who feel that, you know. And -- and they respond to that rhetoric.

While some of us look at that and say, it doesn't correlate with how I live my life or what my experiences are, a lot of people do feel that this is actually what's happening in this country. And so when he talks like this, we might see it as the sort of, like, an exaggeration, but they see it as articulating their very real fears. And I think that, you know, that is really part of his appeal.

HUNT: Certainly. I mean, we're -- it's interesting because, I mean, certainly, when I was learning initially about what kind of politics actually works, it's optimism and the city on the hill, and Ronald Reagan. And we're obviously very far from that at this point.


HUNT: All right. Our panel sticks around.

Coming up next here, warning signs for President Biden. Can he keep his coalition together?

And what's being done right now to get ships back into the port of Baltimore after the catastrophic bridge collapse?




MICHAEL CHE, CAST MEMBER, NBC'S "SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE": President Biden said Friday that he would visit the site of the Baltimore bridge collapse, because like that bridge, Biden is no longer connecting with black communities.

You've got to read the polls, Colin.


HUNT: OK, let's talk about the fresh wave of polling out last month.

It shows that the Biden campaign is losing support from voters of color in a presidential race that is going to be so, so close.

The panel rejoins. Ron Brownstein, I want to talk to you about this, because your new piece on really digs into this question that the Biden campaign has about how they are losing ground and how much ground they are losing with non-white voters.

What have you learned and what -- what are they paying attention to? What do we need to be paying attention to?

BROWNSTEIN: Yes. I mean, the racial dynamics in this race could be unprecedented, and they are certainly fascinating.

Donald Trump at this point is polling not only better than he did in 2020 among both black and Hispanic voters, he's polling better, Kasie, than any Republican presidential nominee since the civil rights era, you know, in the -- routinely getting in the 20s now in polls, above nationally and in the key states among black voters. And around 45 among Hispanic voters.


And all of that has understandably received a lot of attention.

The other side of the racial ledger, though, has received, I think, surprisingly little attention, which is that Joe Biden, at this point, is matching or even slightly exceeding his 2020 number among white voters in virtually all national and swing-state polls. And if Biden can, in fact, maintain that support, it kind of flips the central issue in this -- in this campaign.

I think it really becomes whether Donald Trump, all the way through November, can defend these beach heads in black and Hispanic communities while running on such a racially polarizing agenda: with ideas like mass deportation, internment camps, unilateral military action against Mexico, ending diversity and inclusion efforts, and pardoning the white supremacists who attacked the Capitol on January 6.

Right now, he's getting the best of both worlds. He's energizing his socially conservative base we were talking about in the last segment with a lot of these very racially tinged polarizing ideas. And he's winning an historic number of non-white voters, primarily around other issues like inflation and the economy.

If he can maintain that tightrope all the way to November, very hard to beat. If Democrats can push him off that tightrope, the race could look very different, given that Biden, somewhat surprisingly, I think, is basically where he was among white voters when he won in 2020.

HUNT: Interesting. Ron, for people who -- I mean, you've pointed out all of the ways and places, or many of them, why some people might kind of scratch their heads about why these voters might be willing to back Trump. And I do think -- there's certainly some frustration when I talked to

people in these communities who get lumped together as people of color. I mean, Hispanic communities, there's all kinds of different groups of people across the country. Obviously, black communities have something similar. Then you've lumped those people together. We don't want to do that.

But when you kind of pull these pieces apart, why is it that many Hispanic voters seem to be willing to go with Donald Trump? And then separately, black voters? Like what -- how do you explain why this is happening?

BROWNSTEIN: Well, there are long-term trends, and there are short-term trends.

There's no question that voters of color have been increasingly subject to the same realignment along educational lines that has reshaped political, you know, allegiances in the white community for 50 years. At least for the last decade, we have been seeing that, especially among men, with Republicans gaining and Trump gaining among non-college non-white men. Obviously, not to the same degree that they do among non-college white men. But kind of along the same trajectory.

But I think the proximate cause of what we are talking about is inflation. And the sense among many voters living at or around the median income or below the median income that life is just more of a squeeze than it was from what they remember the early years of the Trump presidency.

I mean, one Democratic pollster said to me that the nightmare phrase -- that's his phrase -- that he hears in focus groups all the time is, I -- I don't like Donald Trump. I don't like what he says. I think he's a racist. But if I'm being honest, I had more money in my pocket at the end of the week when he was president.

That is a serious problem for Democrats. But it is also true that there's very little awareness in the states that count, in -- in communities of color about the kind of things that I mentioned before. You know, mass deportation, military (AUDIO GAP) against Mexico, ending all diversity and inclusion efforts.

And -- you know, the question will be -- I think Trump is likely to run better than he did in 2020 among black and brown voters. The question is, can he run as well as he is running today? And what's that kind of break point that Biden has to roll them back to in order to regain the initiative, particularly in those Rust Belt states. So I do think there is a question out there for Trump.

As Democrats and their allies make these voters more aware of these polarizing ideas that he's putting forward and also try to draw an economic populist contrast with things like the tax bill and the Affordable Care Act, can he sustain what he's doing?

Because it's not a nice to have at this point, Kasie, because of what's happening among white voters, it's a need to have for Trump. I mean, he needs to run better than any Republican ever among non-white voters. And we'll see if he can sustain that all the way through November.

There's reason for him to be optimistic. There's reason for Democrats to believe they have an opportunity.

HUNT: All right. Ron Brownstein for us. Ron, very grateful to have you. Thanks very much for coming on. See you soon, I hope.

BROWNSTEIN: Thanks for having me on.

HUNT: All right. Coming up next here, the third-party elephant in the room. Why the campaigns of President Biden and Donald Trump are so worried about RFK Jr.


Plus the close call that a man never saw coming with a runaway saw. This is just terrifying.



HUNT: All right, 23 minutes past the hour. Five things you have to see this morning.

CNN getting a close-up look at Baltimore's collapsed bridge and ship wreckage, revealing the enormity of the cleanup task.

Crews are carefully cutting and hauling pieces of the tangled mess away to try to clear the channel.

A really close call for an Oregon man. Look at that. That giant metal blade from an industrial saw came loose at a construction site and slammed into that wall just inches and seconds away from striking him.


Glad he's OK.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Stop! Albuquerque Police! You are being detained.


HUNT: Police said plenty of horsepower chasing down a shoplifter in Albuquerque. How's that for body camera footage?

Officials say they found $230 worth of stolen items on him. After this John Wayne style take-down. I didn't know this still happened in America.

A NASCAR driver took road rage to the extreme when he threw a damaged bumper at a competitor's car. Joey Gase chucked the bumper after crashing into Dawson Cram during the NASCAR Xfinity race in Richmond, Virginia, on Saturday. Unclear if he'll face any penalties from NASCAR.

Emergency crews escorting drivers around a collapsed section of Highway 1 in California after an Easter storm. About 2,000 motorists were stranded when a -- when chunks of one of the lanes fell down into the ocean. Yikes.

All right. Wide-ranging storms bring tornado threats to the Plains and the Midwest, as well as rain, flooding, and snow to parts of the Central and Eastern U.S.

Our meteorologist Elisa Raffa joins us now with more Elisa. Good morning.


It's going to be a pretty busy day for us. We've got the storm system that's developing. We've got some thunderstorms out near Omaha, but this will really start to crank into full gear as we go into the afternoon.

And we're looking at an enhanced risk with that level 3 out of 5 of severe weather there in the orange from St. Louis through Springfield down to Dallas and Oklahoma City. That's where we've got the threat for 70-mile-per-hour damaging winds, large hail up to two to three inches in diameter. That's to the size of tennis balls. And tornadoes.

Now we are concerned about the threat of some stronger tornadoes up to EF-2 in strength or greater. So we'll really have to keep an eye on this as we go through the day today.

And it extends into tomorrow. That risk slides East from Lexington down into Nashville by Tuesday for the continued threat of the damaging winds and the tornadoes.

You can see the storms really blowing up after 4 p.m. today across parts of Missouri; could also come with some flooding rains, as well.

Then the storms reignite East across parts of Ohio and then Tennessee, going into Tuesday, again with the threat for the damaging winds, large hail, some tornadoes and flooding rains.

We've got that excessive rain risk from Springfield to Charleston, West Virginia, today. And then from Knoxville to Charleston going into tomorrow.

HUNT: All right. Elisa Raffa for us. Elisa, thank you very much for that.

Coming up next here, Donald Trump shares a video of an image with President Biden hogtied. Now a Republican lawmaker says politicians need to tone down the rhetoric.

Plus, America's sweethearts versus dirty debutantes? A column about the women's NCAA tournament lands a newspaper in the hot seat.