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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Abortion Gets Limited Discussion Time At GOP Debate; U.S. Launches Airstrike On Iran Weapons Facility In Syria; Actors Union Reaches Tentative Deal With Hollywood Studios. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired November 09, 2023 - 05:30   ET





VIVEK RAMASWAMY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: In the last debate, she made fun of me for actually joining TikTok. Well, her own daughter was actually using the app for a long time, so you might want to take care of your family first before preaching to anybody else.

NIKKI HALEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Leave my daughter out of your voice.


RAMASWAMY: Your adult daughter. The next generation of Americans are using, and that's actually the point. You have her supporters propping her up -- that's fine. Here's the truth.

HALEY: You're just scum.


KASIE HUNT, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Thank you for getting up early with us. I'm Kasie Hunt.

Just after 5:30 here on the East Coast, just a few hours after that moment where things got personal between Nikki Haley and Vivek Ramaswamy about TikTok during the Republican presidential primary debate in Miami last night.

The five candidates, not named Trump, agreed that supporting Israel and opposing Iran and China was the right thing to do. Abortion rights, though, not even mentioned until more than 90 minutes into the debate despite Democrats winning major victories in multiple states in Tuesday's elections.


TIM SCOTT, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I would challenge both Nikki and Ron to join me at a 15-week limit. It is in our nation's best interest.


HUNT: So what was the man who was missing from the stage doing? He held a rally nearby. He was -- you know, honestly, he got through the debate pretty unscathed by his rivals. Take a look at this.


GOV. RON DESANTIS, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He said Republicans were going to get tired of winning. Well, we saw last night I'm sick of Republicans losing.


HUNT: All right, CNN's Arit John joins us now. Arit, good morning to you.

I do want to zero in on abortion, and we heard what Tim Scott had to say there, calling for the 15-week ban. That was what Glenn Youngkin ran on in Virginia.

I want to show everybody a little bit more of how these candidates talked about abortion once they did get to it in the back half of the debate and then we'll talk about it. Take a look.


SCOTT: We need a 15-week federal limit. Three out of four Americans agree with a 15-week limit. I would challenge both Nikki and Ron to join me at a 15-week limit.

HALEY: As much as I'm pro-life, I don't judge anyone for being pro- choice and I don't want them to judge me for being pro-life. So when we're looking at this there are some states that are going more on the pro-life side. I welcome that. There are some states that are going more on the pro-choice side. I wish that wasn't the case but the people decided.


HUNT: So, Arit, a very interesting -- I mean, Nikki Haley has been taking a very interesting stand on abortion. In the way that she talks about it, it's very distinct. And this -- the bottom line is this was a losing issue for Republicans across the country on the ballot on Tuesday.

What were your takeaways from how the Republican candidates handled it last night?

ARIT JOHN, CNN REPORTER: That's absolutely right, Kasie. This is -- I mean, what we saw on Tuesday was a governor, Glenn Youngkin of Virginia, stake his entire political capital on this idea about a 15- week limit was a consensus opinion that would help neutralize the issue for Republicans. Instead, we saw Democrats make major gains in the legislature there.

And now we have that same argument playing out on the national stage. Scott saying that 15 weeks is where the nation needs to be. Anti- abortion groups have also called for a national defender of life to make a stake at 15 weeks, but that's not what the voters are asking for.

I mean, you have Ohio, a very red state -- Vivek Ramaswamy's home state. We had voters saying that they want abortion rights to be protected up until the moment of fetal viability, which doctors believe is around 22 to 24 weeks.

So the takeaway is that Republicans have a lot of thinking to do on what is the -- where -- what is the place -- where is the argument for how to neutralize this heading into 2024. Because if they don't figure it out we're going to see a lot more Democratic victories, a lot more abortion rights ballot initiatives passing in 2024, and they -- this is going to be an issue that's going to continue to follow them.


HUNT: No, it's a good point. I mean, Democrats and abortion rights groups are already working overtime to get this issue basically on as many ballots as possible.

Big picture, Arit, from last night, very briefly. Vivek Ramaswamy had a lot of attacks on women, specifically. What did you make of that?

JOHN: It's interesting. I mean, yeah, we had the Dick Cheney in three-inch heels comments. We had him, from the beginning, going after Ronna McDaniel, blaming her for Republican losses even though a lot of them happened when Trump was in office.

It's hard to say why he went that route. We've seen him sort of go back and forth between sort of trolling to try to be sort of everyone on stage is a good person. And this time it seems like he just wanted to go after anyone and everyone who wasn't Donald Trump.

HUNT: Yeah, although we should point out there were three moderators for this debate -- two men, one woman. Who do you think he attacked by name? The woman sitting there as --

JOHN: Yeah.

HUNT: -- representative of the media.

Arit John, thank you very much for being up early with us. I know you had a late night. Thank you.

JOHN: Thanks, Kasie.

HUNT: All right, our panel is back -- Alice Stewart, Doug Heye, Tia Mitchell.

Doug, let's talk about abortion. I want to show everybody a little bit of what Ron DeSantis had to say about what happened in Ohio and other states on this issue. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DESANTIS: You've got to do a better job on these referenda. I think of all the stuff that's happened to the pro-life cause. They have been caught flat-footed on these referenda and they have been losing the referenda.


HUNT: So, Doug, stating the obvious --


HUNT: -- but is it that they've been caught flat-footed or that they just don't -- their views just don't line up with where the American public is?

HEYE: Well, those aren't mutually exclusive statements. The reality is when the Dobbs decision came or was leaked it essentially was the dog that finally caught the bumper, and then Republicans didn't know what to do. And there's a challenge with that. That's if you have 50 state legislatures or 50 states with legislatures within them, which means there are 50 different possible answers.

And I think part of what we saw in Virginia just this week is that what Glenn Youngkin is talking about can also be defined by what is happening in South Carolina, or Arizona, or Alabama, or any other state. It's very easy for Democrats to say well, he's talking about 15 weeks now but the reality is that may mean with a Republican legislature or a State Senate, that's 10 weeks, eight weeks, six weeks -- and that's very real political quicksand for Republicans.

HUNT: Alice, what did you make of how Nikki Haley handled this issue because she does take a distinctly different approach than the other candidates on the stage?

ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST, FORMER TED CRUZ COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: She hit the nail on the head on this issue. Look, every person on that stage has been a stronger supporter of the sanctity of life. And every person on that stage wanted to see Roe v. Wade overturned. There's no dispute about that.

But you also have to acknowledge the political reality of what has happened since the abortion ban was overturned. Every time this has been on the ballot, people in the individual states have voted to protect abortion rights in the states. And that's what Republicans wanted -- pro-life Republicans wanted is to take this issue out of the hands of unelected justices and put it in the hands of people in the states. And now that they have it they are protecting abortion rights.

And what Nikki Haley has said -- let's not demonize people on this issue. Let's not judge those who are pro-life, let's not judge those who are pro-choice, but let's find a rational and meaningful limit on abortions that we can all agree to.

Not only that, let's be honest with the American people. What could pass in the U.S. Senate? What could pass in the House? What could be signed by a president? And whether or not that is a 15-week abortion limit, whether it is a six-week limit, let's find what works to protect the sanctity of life. And let's also protect and make sure that we have a ceiling on what is too far to allow abortions.

And I think that is the sweet spot on this very difficult, very emotional issue. And it's also a way to be honest with the American people without this continuing to be a losing issue for Republicans.

HUNT: Yeah. I mean, I think Americans have been pretty clear how they feel about a six-week ban, in particular --


HUNT: -- which is, honestly, way before most women even realize that they're pregnant.

Tia Mitchell, this issue promises to be one -- it's not just going to be what the candidates have to say about this, right? Like, we know Donald Trump has tried to stake out a slightly more moderate position on abortion despite frequently bragging that he stacked the court to overturn Roe versus Wade.

But you -- your paper is based in a key swing state, right, where the margins are incredibly narrow. There are going to be a handful of such states that decide the presidential election.

In Arizona, for example, there's going to be a ballot measure on abortion. Democrats are looking at this and saying this is a way that we can turn out more Democratic voters who are -- who care about that ballot measure, and that ultimately is going to affect the top of the ticket.


What's your sense of how much that might matter here?

TIA MITCHELL, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION: Right. So, it's the -- it's that -- it's two things. It's the policy itself, which we know that women, progressive voters, younger voters -- there's a big coalition that wants to protect access to abortions and, as you said, don't necessarily trust that Republicans in power won't do everything they can to limit abortion.

But it's also the fact that Democrats believe when abortion is on the ballot it helps with turnout for other races. So, for example, in Arizona, in states like Florida, they think that if there's an abortion referendum it can help, again, with that key coalition, particularly, younger voters that sometimes need extra encouragement to show up at the polls.

At the end of the day, when abortion has been on the ballot either explicitly with a referendum or implicitly with things like Supreme Court elections, gubernatorial races, and the balance of power in state legislatures, Democrats have won on the issue every time. They're keenly aware of that. So, of course, if they -- if it's not broke don't fix it. They're going to keep running on abortion.

HUNT: All right. Panel, stay with us. You all should stay with us, too, because we're going to have much more with our panel.

First, though, we're going to get some quick hits across the globe.

The U.S. launched an airstrike on a weapons storage facility used by Iran and affiliated groups in eastern Syria. The Pentagon says it's a response to the recent series of attacks on U.S. troops in Iraq and Syria.

The Minnesota Supreme Court is keeping Donald Trump's name on the state's Republican primary ballot despite a 14th Amendment insurrectionist ban challenge. The court said the challengers can try again if Trump wins and appears on the general election ballot.

And Hollywood actors have reached a tentative deal with major T.V. and film studios, ending their strike that started in May. So far, the details haven't been disclosed. SAG-AFTRA, which still has to vote, says that they are thrilled with the agreement.

Let's get those -- let's get those shows back on T.V.

All right. Just over two months from the Iowa caucuses and Donald Trump skips another debate. Does this debate even make a difference? We'll have that, next.




DESANTIS: But I'll tell you this -- if someone in the drug cartels is sneaking fentanyl across the border when I'm president, that's going to be the last thing they do. We're going to shoot them stone-cold dead.


HUNT: Hmm, a lot to unpack there.

Let's bring back our panel -- Alice Stewart, Doug Heye, and Tia Mitchell.

Doug, that's some strong rhetoric on immigration -- obviously, an issue that Republicans want to focus on and voters -- polls tell us voters are not happy with what the Biden administration is doing on immigration.

Is what Ron DeSantis said there the answer?

HEYE: Well, it's certainly an answer to some part of the electorate. But ultimately, Kasie, a lot of this is going to be forgotten. It may influence where the party moves a little bit when Trump is the nominee because nothing is changing for Donald Trump not to be the nominee.

The Washington Post just tweeted or X'd the most memorable lines from last night's debate. Honestly, if we're having this conversation a week for now is there a specific line from this debate or any previous debate that any voters remember? No.

And ultimately, it's because Republican candidates, by and large, have refused to take the gloves off and go after Donald Trump and they've reinforced him and shored him up to make sure that he is going to be the next nominee. And it really leads to the question of why are so many of these candidates running. And there's not a really good answer for that.

HUNT: I'm really glad that you brought that up because we do -- I do have -- you know, to the extent that there were attacks on Donald Trump in this debate -- and there have been more attacks from these candidates as it's become clear that what they're doing against Trump is absolutely not working. Some of them have tried to start taking him on.

But let me show you what they did have to say about it and I'll ask you guys about it on the other side -- watch.


DESANTIS: Donald Trump's a lot different guy than he was in 2016. He owes it to you to be on this stage and explain why he should get another chance. He should explain why he didn't have Mexico pay for the border wall. He should explain why he racked up so much debt. He should explain why he didn't drain the swamp.

HALEY: But I think he was the right president at the right time. I don't think he's the right president now. I think that he put us $8 trillion in debt and our kids are never going to forgive us for that. I think the fact that he used to be right on Ukraine and foreign issues, now he's getting weak in the knees and trying to be friendly again.


HUNT: So, Alice Stewart -- I mean, as far as attacks go, Nikki Haley says "I think he was the right president at the right time. I don't think he's the right president now." I mean, to Doug's point, I mean, they're basically saying oh, it was great when Trump was president but also, now, I'm going to try to attack him. And also, by the way, they're not talking at all about what is clearly his biggest liability in a general election and that is four indictments and the possibility he'll be a convicted felon.

STEWART: Right. An attack that is sugarcoated is hardly an attack. And every time any of these candidates go after Donald Trump they put some positive spin on it because they want to alienate his base, and that's the reality of it.

But the problem is if you're going to go after Donald Trump you have to put that aside and you have to go right in on the attack with him. And there are plenty of other areas to hit him on.

I think the most compelling argument against Donald Trump is him arguing that Republicans are going to be so tired of winning. But we're tired of losing and we have lost repeatedly due to Donald Trump. And not necessarily his policies but his tone and tenor, as well as the way he has conducted himself in choosing candidates that are not going to win.

In addition to the fact his election denying and what he did on January 6 has turned off Republican voters and Independent voters, which will decide the next election.


These are avenues of attack that Republicans show go on every single time they have the opportunity to go after Donald Trump because that is what will turn voters that are undecided right now in their favor.

And look, as we have said, Donald Trump is going to spend the next several months in a courtroom and not on the campaign trail. And so, this should be an opportunity for these candidates to seize that and talk about what they can do for the American people as opposed to what Donald Trump is doing and what he can do to keep himself out of jail.

HUNT: So, Tia, one of the things that struck me as well in these attacks or lack thereof is what the messaging was that came out after the Republican losses on Tuesday. I mean, Nikki Haley's campaign literally sent out a press release like isn't it time we had a Republican nominee who can win a general election.

But that attack was not sharply delivered on the debate stage -- I mean, by anybody except for Chris Christie, who has been making that attack this entire time to great unpopularity, honestly, with the Republican base.

Alice is right that in the Trump era, Democrats have been winning elections. But at the same time, there does seem to be a reluctance from these candidates to tell their own voters that this has been the case. Why?

MITCHELL: I think you look at Chris Christie and his polling. You look at Chris Christie and the reception he's getting from the Republican base. And quite frankly, the other candidates don't want to be in the same position as Chris Christie. He's not considered the alternative to Trump at this point. He's considered kind of the second tier who might not even make the next debate stage.

I think that's what scares off a lot of these other Republicans from going too hard against Donald Trump. At the end of the day, it's not where the base of the party is. Quite frankly, I think a lot of Republicans believe going too hard against Trump is not a winning message in a Republican primary.

HUNT: Yeah.

MITCHELL: Also, we have to remember that everyone on that stage has pledged to support the nominee whoever he or she may be, including Donald Trump.

HUNT: Yeah. Briefly, Doug, who do you think drops out next? And I'm also curious

-- do you think if Nikki Haley was one-on-one with Trump she'd actually have a shot at winning the nomination? Is it just a matter of too many people being in the race?

HEYE: Well, maybe the first person would be Doug Burgum, who wasn't on the stage last night and should get out, or Tim Scott who sort of was on the stage last night but also should probably get out.

If we have a one-on-one race against Trump, some of those attacks, just by default, will sharpen. Some of those contrasts will sharpen but you still have to make them.

And to Tia's point, what we've seen from so many of these candidates is what we know in politics doesn't work. It's that hope is not a strategy and hope is not a way to win. They all hope that they can outlast everyone else to be that person to take on Donald Trump. But this nomination doesn't go around Donald Trump, it goes through them.

And Kasie, I know you're a big "Star Wars" fans. What have we learned in "Star Wars"? Luke Skywalker had to take on Darth Vader. He could sit back and hope that the force of Hans Solo would somehow take care of things for him.

HUNT: Not the first time that we have had that metaphor on the show, and I am happy to have you come on and mention it every single time you're with us.

HEYE: Any time.

HUNT: Alice Stewart, Doug Heye, Tia Mitchell, thank you guys very much for being up early with us today. I really appreciate it.

HEYE: Thank you.

STEWART: Thanks, Kasie.

HUNT: And coming up on "CNN THIS MORNING," what Ivanka Trump said on the stand as the prosecution rests in the case against her father.



HUNT: All right, a much-needed break from politics now. It was a busy night in the NBA. The reigning champs outlasting Steph Curry and the Warriors.

Andy Scholes is here with more in this morning's Bleacher Report. Always great to see you, Andy.

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS ANCHOR: Yeah, good morning. Good to see you, too, Kasie.

You know, the Denver Nuggets -- they've just kind of picked up right where they left off after winning the title last season. Nikola Jokic and company -- they haven't lost at home this season, so far.

And last night they were hosting Steph Curry and the Warriors. This game coming down to the final moments. Steph with the steal here. He takes it the other way and he's going to drill the three. That cuts Denver's lead to two.

So now down three in the final seconds, Reggie Jackson is going to miss the free throw here. Chris Paul grabs the rebound and is going to get it ahead to Klay Thompson, but he just can't get a good grip on it.

Nuggets win 108-105. Denver a league bet 8-1 this season.

All right. Two Eastern Conference powerhouses also squaring off last night as the Sixers hosted the Celtics. Boston rallying from down 15 with under four minutes to go. And Kristaps Porzingis is going to have a chance to tie in the closing seconds but his shot no good.

The 76ers hold on to win by three after starting 5-0 this season. The Celtics have now lost two in a row.

All right, Victor Wembanyama, meanwhile -- he made his Madison Square Garden debut last night. He said before the game MSG was smaller than he expected. Well, Knicks fans -- they don't want to hear anything negative about their home. They chanted "Overrated" at Wemby during parts of the game.

And it wasn't a stellar first game in New York for Wemby. He didn't make a shot until the third quarter and finished with 14 points.

The Knicks got the win there 126-105.

All right. And finally, UConn superstar Paige Bueckers playing her first game in 584 days last night. The 2021 National Player of the Year tore her ACL last August and missed all of last season. And Bueckers scoring eight points in the Huskies' 102-58 win over Dayton.

And Kasie, Bueckers actually called it a bad game for her but added she's just grateful to have a bad game right now after being out for so long. Good to see her back.


HUNT: Yeah, it's wonderful to see her back. It takes a lot of grit to come back from an injury like that.

Andy, I have to -- I have to say I'm not as read-in on the NBA as I am on many of the other sports you cover. So I appreciate you carrying us through this particular point in the sports season until my --

SCHOLES: Not a problem.

HUNT: You know, I love football season and I love basketball, but I know very little about it. So thank you very much for being with us.

SCHOLES: All right. HUNT: And thanks to all of you for joining us. I'm Kasie Hunt. Don't go anywhere. "CNN THIS MORNING" starts right now.