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Democrats Score Big Wins In Kentucky, Ohio, Virginia; Five Republicans Not Named Trump Debate Tonight; Today: Ivanka Trump Takes Stand At Father's Civil Fraud Trial. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired November 08, 2023 - 05:30   ET



OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN ANCHOR: It was a major issue for the fight in the Virginia legislature, which Democrats won last night by adding control of the House of Delegates to the State Senate where they already had the majority.

In Ohio, abortion was literally on the ballot. Voters there approved an amendment enshrining the right to abortion in the state constitution.

And in deep-red Kentucky, Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear beat back a challenge from GOP attorney general Daniel Cameron.

The one big cloud hanging over Democrats yesterday was another discouraging presidential poll. This one, CNN's, showing Donald Trump narrowly ahead of Biden in a hypothetical rematch, 49 to 45 percent among those polled.

While it's still early, Trump is also casting a shadow on the GOP primary debate tonight as these five Republicans take the stage in Miami. You'll notice not a single one of them is named Trump even though -- or really because the former president is polling better than all of them combined.

CNN's Steve Contorno is on the ground in Miami for the debate and joins us live now. All right, Steve, we're down to five -- a much smaller graphic than we had in the previous few debates. But how is this field shrinking here, and when you look at Trump's continued absence, is that affecting the dynamics?

STEVE CONTORNO, CNN REPORTER: Well, and to that point, Omar, former President Donald Trump will be just down the road holding his own rally where he continues to do these counterprogramming events during the debates.

But for the five candidates on the stage, as you mentioned, it is a smaller field, and that gives them more space to share their vision for the country, to speak directly to Republican voters, and to engage with each other.

And we have seen Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley -- they have signaled going into this debate that they are ready to mix it up quite a bit. Haley has a bit of momentum at her back. A new poll coming out of Iowa shows that she is now tied in second place with Gov. DeSantis.

DeSantis has put a lot of resources into Iowa and that has been -- but yet he has struggled to break out there. He is hoping that the endorsement he received Monday from Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds will be a shot in the arm for his campaign.

But we have seen these two going at it on social media, in advertising, in statements on the campaign trail and they -- it is all going to come to a head tonight.

For the rest of the field -- you know, this field, as you said, has been shrinking every week and it will get tougher to make the debate stage for the fourth debate. So, for Vivek Ramaswamy, for Tim Scott, for Chris Christie, this is one of their last chances to tell Republican voters why they deserve to still be part of the conversation going into the next debates.

And lastly, Omar, I'll just say that last night's election results is something that these candidates might need to talk about. The fact that all these candidates have staked out anti-abortion positions given the message that we heard from voters last night, we have to understand from Gov. Ron DeSantis why his six-week abortion ban makes him viable in a presidential election general race where we just saw voters shoot down abortion bans across the country. And yet, for someone like Nikki Haley, who has taken more of a middle-of-the road approach, can she convince Republican voters that she is enough on their side in this issue.

So it will be interesting to see the merging of last night's election results with tonight's debate, Omar.

JIMENEZ: And it's certainly a dynamic we're going to be watching for to see, of course -- in real time -- how that affects maybe some of the prepared answers a lot of these candidates may have had.

Steve Contorno, thank you so much.

So, let's bring back our panel. Matt Mowers, former Republican congressional nominee and now president of Valcour; Karen Finney, CNN political commentator and former Hillary Clinton campaign spokesperson; and Jackie Kucinich, CNN political analyst and Washington bureau chief for The Boston Globe.

All right, Karen, I want to start with you because we've got a debate tonight -- I don't know if you've heard.


JIMENEZ: Yeah. You know, it's just a small little debate -- the third one.

But do you think the dynamics of what played out in the elections are going to affect some of what these candidates -- one will say -- but obviously, the dynamics of how they answer the questions here? FINNEY: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, look, we saw Nikki Haley actually try to plot the same path or chart the same path that they tried yesterday in Virginia in terms of talking about a kindler, gentler approach and a 15-week ban instead of the more restrictive six-week bans.

And she -- you know, it may have worked, although I think what we're seeing now -- it didn't in Virginia. It may have sounded good on the debate stage but I think the results from Virginia show us that people aren't buying it. A ban is a ban is a ban and Americans know it.

And the other piece I'll say -- you know the stakes are a lot higher in 2024 on this issue because one of the issues Americans are deeply concerned about and continue to be concerned about is that a Republican president would pass a national abortion ban regardless of what's happening at the states.


So it will be interesting to see how people try -- if they try to modify their language on this issue and whether or not they call out Donald Trump for switching positions on this issue.

JIMENEZ: Yeah. And obviously, one notable name who won't be on that stage, Donald Trump, and that's slightly related to his influence, at least, to the race in Kentucky.

And Matt, I want to bring you in for this because Democratic incumbent Gov. Andy Beshear -- yes, he won reelection in Kentucky, a red state, over his opponent Daniel Cameron, who was endorsed by Trump.

Take a listen to what the former president said of Cameron just this Monday.


DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Daniel Cameron, I've known him right from the beginning. He's going to bring lower taxes. He's going to bring safe communities. He's just done a fantastic job. He loves you. He loves everything having to do with Kentucky.


JIMENEZ: So, Matt, do those words from Trump hold the same weight they did three years ago?

MATT MOWERS, FORMER STATE DEPARTMENT WHITE HOUSE ADVISER, PRESIDENT, VALCOUR: No. I mean, look, at the end of the day, every candidate has to get their own message out there and actually has to push for their message.

And I do think you saw the Cameron campaign, to some degree, fall back with the Trump endorsement and then also fall back on some national talking points. And the folks who are nationalizing the race with a relatively popular incumbent governor. And I think what the results of that shows that there's limited

effectiveness at the end of the day, especially at state-level races and especially for executive positions where you're voting beyond just policy viewpoints and policy prescriptions. You're voting for that individual and how they'll handle circumstances as an executive, whether it's a natural disaster or tragedy of some sort. They're looking for other characteristics as well.

And so, every candidate has to go out there and run on their own message. I think that's really what Republicans can learn from yesterday. You're not going to be able to fall back on messaging of just relying on one endorsement or relying on one talking point. You really have to start talking about the issues that voters care about in your district or in your state.

JIMENEZ: Yeah, and it will be interesting again to see how the current GOP presidential nominees take some of the data that we got from last night. Potentially, it influences some of their campaigns. We will see.

Now, Jackie, in our most recent CNN poll, just 25 percent of those polled say Biden has the stamina and sharpness to effectively serve as president, while 53 percent polled feel Trump does. Look, they're not that far apart in age and while it's still early in regard to polling, how big of an issue do you think this is going to be for Biden as we get into the meat of his campaign over the next year?

JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, THE BOSTON GLOBE: Well, I mean, you have seen voter concern about it. You're seeing it across a lot of different polls. And the White House is trying to counteract some of this by getting the president out on the road. They're touting the various projects that his initiatives have funded.

But it is something -- it is going to be a challenge for them to overcome, if they're able to overcome it, in the next year because that concern hasn't really gone away and it's only gone up in several polls of late.


And Karen, we talked a little bit about it earlier this hour, but abortion and voter enthusiasm around the issue. And Virginia, Ohio, and Kentucky were no doubt a factor here.

But how do you anticipate Democrats will use that as a strategy here? I guess, in other words, how long does that enthusiasm last, and how much do you anticipate Democrats using that to their advantage in the presidential cycle we've got coming up here?

FINNEY: Well, I think what's important, both if we look at some of the recent polling and the results that we've been seeing in special elections, is that I think the pathway in 2024 for Democrats is about the issues. It is about talking about the issues that people care about and really drawing a very sharp contrast between it. And I think that's part of the difference. When there has been an election where there has been a clear contrast or a clear choice, that's when we've seen Democrats win. At this point, as we talk about the election, that choice between Biden and Trump -- it's not exactly as sharp as I think it will be next year -- certainly, in the spring of next year.

It was interesting to note also in the CNN poll there were numbers like 51 percent think that Trump isn't a good world leader. Sixty-two percent say Trump is not someone you'd be proud to have as a president. Sixty-six percent said they don't think he's honest and trustworthy.

So, clearly, there's a bit of cognitive dissidence and I wonder if what voters are trying to tell us they're not happy with their choices. I think next year when it becomes a binary choice of two different visions for the country, I think we'll see a difference in those numbers.

JIMENEZ: And that, of course, is what will play out over time. As you mentioned, as the field narrows and those choices start to become real it will be interesting how some of those opinions may or may not shift.

We've got to leave it there. Matt Mowers, Karen Finney, Jackie Kucinich, thank you -- thank you as always.


Now, former President Trump's eldest daughter, Ivanka Trump, is set to take the stand this morning at her father's civil fraud trial here in New York. She attempted to challenge her subpoena multiple times without success. And her testimony follows appearances by her brothers Don and Eric and Monday's testy exchanges between the judge and her father.

So, let's bring in former federal prosecutor Katie Cherkasky. All right, so it's been eventful so far, at this point, I would say -- this civil fraud trial. But what does Ivanka Trump bring to the table? What is the state looking for from her?

KATIE CHERKASKY, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, it's going to be interesting to hear from Ivanka. Now we have to remember that Ivanka, unlike her brothers, is not a defendant in this case. The judge had to get rid of those charges because they were time-barred.

But her testimony is still very important because she was very critically involved, at least according to the A.G.'s office, with the preparation and discussion of many of these financial disclosures. She was obviously very involved with the organization in total before she went to the White House.

So, certainly, the A.G. is going to want to get her to commit to certain statements that she's made in the past and to the involvement that she had, some of which she won't be able to contest because this case does have a lot of documents. So I think the big thing with all of the Trump family testimony is

really for the A.G.'s office to reveal some of the inconsistencies and some of the past statements of the witnesses in order to show more of a concerted effort to commit this fraud that the judge has found has existed in the filings.

JIMENEZ: And just to give people a sense here -- I mean, will the prosecution likely delve into Ivanka's tenure as, let's say, White House adviser, for example -- or do you anticipate this being pretty narrow and focused to any involvement she may have had in some of the business dealings going on?

CHERKASKY: Well, I would anticipate her testimony would be focused on the business dealings. It's not particularly narrow though because there is so much involvement that Ivanka personally had. Now, she doesn't have personal liability on the line here but obviously, as the heir to her father's properties and fortunes, she does technically still have that on the line.

So I think that you'll see some getting into a lot of the discussions about some of the disclosures that she was personally involved in. The amount of debt that she says existed on certain properties, which is contrasted by some of the very specific documentation that does exist. So, some of the things she won't be able to give a particularly different answer to because an attack on any witness's credibility is going to come in the form of revealing past inconsistent statements.

But I think the focus is always here for the A.G.'s office to show the amount of coordination that they believe existed in trying to commit these frauds. Whereas, the Trump family, on the other hand, is going to back off of their personal involvement as much as possible and claim that they relied on the experts that they had hired and the accountants and other such individuals. While they were somewhat involved, that was kind of where these numbers came from. And again, these numbers are ultimately subjective.

JIMENEZ: Yeah, yeah.

Well, we will see how it goes. She's being billed as the prosecution's last witness that they are calling in this, so we'll see if that potentially frames things up as this case moves forward.

Katie Cherkasky, thank you so much -- former federal prosecutor.

CHERKASKY: Thank you.

JIMENEZ: Now, five Republican presidential hopefuls are preparing to spar tonight in Miami -- spar with words, of course. We'll take a look at what's on the line in this third presidential debate.

And if you're just waking up, new CNN polling on a possible Trump- Biden rematch in 2024.


[05:47:51] JIMENEZ: It was a big night for Democrats in Virginia, Ohio, and Kentucky. They're hoping the momentum translates to the national level in 2024. But there are signs it could still be an uphill battle.

New CNN polling shows a 39 percent approval rating for President Biden and that he narrowly trails former President Donald Trump in a hypothetical matchup, though it's still early.

Let's bring in CNN senior political analyst and senior editor for The Atlantic, Ron Brownstein. Ron, good to see you.

Now, look, in a statement --


JIMENEZ: -- Biden praised the passage of Ohio Issue 1, which enshrined abortion rights into the state constitution, saying democracy won. And it's been a tough week for the president when you look at polling. But we're still a year out from election day.


JIMENEZ: Can last night's results for Democrats provide a springboard of momentum of sorts for his campaign?

BROWNSTEIN: Maybe more of a blueprint and a -- and a pathway. You know, as I say in The Atlantic this morning -- I mean, Democrats continue to perform better at the polls than in the polls. The results -- the results last night looked a lot like 2022, which has important implications for 2024.

I mean, the polls are showing us something real -- that there is significant discontent with President Biden's performance and there are significant doubts about whether he has the physical and mental energy and capacity to executive the duties of the presidency for another term.

But the elections are showing us something else, which is that even when those conditions are present, for a significant slice of voters who are dissatisfied with President Biden it is still a bridge too far to empower Republicans to impose their agenda -- their kind of Trump- era cultural agenda.

And you see this dynamic again last night, most clearly in the big population centers -- the metropolitan areas, inner suburbs, and major cities. That was I think the most consistent thread we saw not only in Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky, but also this Pennsylvania State Supreme Court race.


In all -- in some of those races, Democrats did OK in small towns and rural areas, and others they didn't. But in all of them, they dominated the largest population centers. That's what we saw in 2022 in the swing states.

And that, I think, is clearly the pathway. If Biden is going to find a road to another term it's going to run through those large population centers where Republicans struggled again last night.

JIMENEZ: Yeah. And look, a lot of that enthusiasm -- we saw, at least, glimpses of it come out in the midterms of last year. It was the first electoral test after Roe v. Wade was struck down.


JIMENEZ: So we'll see if that momentum continues there.

I want to touch on -- you wrote a piece for CNN yesterday giving some fascinating insight into the geographic shifts in states --


JIMENEZ: -- like Virginia where, of course, Democrats got some wins last night. And also pointing out that, of course, the Democratic emphasis on protecting legal abortion is part of why the party is so competitive there.

So, one, do you think geographic shifts actually did play a role, and what's your takeaway -- what's your analysis on what we saw in Virginia?

BROWNSTEIN: Yeah. I think the geographic realignment that we are living through played a critical -- the decisive role, really, in what we saw last night just as it did in Democrats' ability to avoid the worst in 2022 and over perform by far -- not on the expectations but the traditional results for the party holding the White House when people are dissatisfied with the president.

I think what you have clearly is that there is, as I -- as I said, a slice of suburban voters who don't really believe Democrats have yet delivered for their interests. Who still would not vote for Republicans in 2022 and would not vote for Republicans in 2023 because they consider them a threat to their rights and their values and, in some cases, to democracy itself.

If you look at those Virginia legislative races, Democrats won key contests in the suburban rings outside of Richmond and in northern Virginia. If you look at Ohio, they won -- I believe it was 17 of the 20 largest counties to restore abortion rights, including two-thirds or more in each of the three largest counties.

If you look at Pennsylvania in the State Supreme Court race, which was somewhat similar to the Wisconsin State Supreme Court race earlier this year that turned on abortion, Democrats dominated Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and the Philadelphia suburbs.

And again, in Kentucky, places like Lexington and Louisville delivered overwhelming margins for Andy Beshear.

This is similar to what we saw again in the competitive swing states in 2022. That's where the biggest concentration of voters are who may be disenchanted with Democratic performance but are still extremely resistant to the Trump-era GOP cultural agenda. And that is the biggest electoral problem facing, I think, Republicans going into 2024 despite all the real dissatisfaction with President Biden that these polls are registering.

JIMENEZ: Yeah, and it's not that this -- again, it's not that this election wasn't important, but it also wasn't one that was on a presidential cycle. So as we know, there are many on both sides taking notes and trying to see what their blueprint is actually going to be to win their respective races, and we're going to see how that plays out.

Ron Brownstein, thank you so much.

BROWNSTEIN: Thanks for having me.

JIMENEZ: Now, just minutes ago, Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaking at the G7 in Tokyo. What he's saying about Gaza and Israel when the fighting ends.



JIMENEZ: Could Jets quarterback Aaron Rodgers be back in time for Christmas? Oh, you're teasing Jets fans. He's certainly making it seem that way.

Andy Scholes has this morning's Bleacher Report. People are getting their hopes up.

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS ANCHOR: Well, you know, Omar -- I mean, based on what he says it's hard not to. Normally, an Achilles injury means you're out about a year, but Aaron Rodgers -- he's trying to be the first ever to make it a three-month injury.

And Rodgers was on the field Monday night before the game. He was just launching 50-yard passes. And then after the game -- well, cameras caught him telling Chargers safety Derwin James that he'd be back in a few weeks.

Well, yesterday, on The Pat McAfee Show, Rodgers kind of downplayed the "few" part but said that's not far off.


AARON RODGERS, NEW YORK JETS QUARTERBACK: It's more of a -- you know, a phrase that didn't have a specific timetable. But yeah, I said it smiling and joking. Obviously, it's going to be more than a couple of weeks.

PAT MCAFEE, HOST, THE PAT MCAFEE SHOW: So, a couple is two. A few is three.


RODGERS: I'm aware of this. (INAUDIBLE).

MCAFEE: All right. So, obviously --

RODGERS: It's going to be -- it's going to be a few -- it's going to be a few -- a few fortnights. It'll be a few fortnights.


SCHOLES: All right, so you can do that math. A fortnight is two weeks. A few is three. Rodgers basically saying he'll be back in six weeks. Of course, the Jets would still have to be in contention for that to happen. Right now, they are 4-4 on the season, so we'll wait and see.

All right, no changes in the top four for the second edition of the college football playoff rankings, or the top eight for that matter. Ohio State, Georgia, Michigan, and Florida State are in with Washington, a still undefeated power five team right now, out of that top four. They're at number five.

But that could all change this weekend. A couple of huge top-10 matchups. Georgia hosting number nine Ole Miss, and you've got Michigan at 10th-ranked Penn State.

All right, to the NHL. Hurricanes' goalie Antti Raanta coming up with a couple of stellar saves against the Sabres. Raanta sprinting out of the net to knock away a potential fast break, then immediately diving back to make another stick save. This was in the third with the game tied at two. And the effort definitely paid off as Carolina would win in O.T. 3-2.

And there was a Spider-Man sighting at last night's MLS playoff game in Atlanta. Xande Silva is going to power home a goal in the first half of Atlanta's 4-2 win over Columbus. Then he's going to do his best Peter Parker impression. He's going to go grab a mask from a team staffer and begin shooting imaginary webs into the stands.

Atlanta could advance to the second round of the playoffs with a win in Columbus on Sunday.

And finally, a Kelce was named as a finalist for People magazine's sexiest man alive but it's not the one dating Taylor Swift. Eagles center Jason Kelce, not Travis, getting the nod. The six-foot-three 300-pounder -- he, though, did not get the title, Omar. That went to Patrick Dempsey.

So what do you think, Omar? Should it have been Travis Kelce or Dempsey there?

JIMENEZ: Look, I mean, Dempsey. I mean, that blazer alone -- that sets him ahead. But I will say the Kelce stock is up. The Kelce stock is up.


SCHOLES: Unbelievable.

JIMENEZ: Yeah. I mean, you got -- I -- honestly, I envy them. But Jason Kelce just being a finalist. I'm waiting for my call, but we'll see.

SCHOLES: Maybe next year, Omar.

JIMENEZ: Yeah, maybe next year.

Andy Scholes --

SCHOLES: All right.

JIMENEZ: -- thank you so much as always.

And thank you all at home for joining us on this slow news day, of course -- of course, a joke. There is a lot going on and it's why even though I'm leaving -- and I'm Omar Jimenez -- "CNN THIS MORNING" starts right now.