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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Today Begins a Seven-Day Sprint to the First Contest of the Primary Season; NTSB Says Missing Part of Alaska Airlines Plane has Been Found in Portland; First U.S. Moon Lander in 50 Years Blasts Off. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired January 08, 2024 - 05:00   ET



OMAR JIMENEZ, ANCHOR, EARLY START: Right now on EARLY START, we've got one week to go, people. Today begins a seven-day sprint to the first contest of the primary season. Plus, a pretty important find in the Portland area backyard, the missing piece ripped from a packed airliner in mid-flight. And --


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Five, four, three, we have ignition.


JIMENEZ: Mission to the moon. The first lunar launch in decades blasts off, but the real aim might be Mars. Now, that Mars mission setting the standard high for us on this Monday. Hi, everyone, what's going on? A good day to our viewers in the United States and around the world, I'm Omar Jimenez in for Kasie Hunt.

It's Monday, January 8th. Let's get into it. It's 5:00 a.m. in Washington, 4 O'clock in Iowa where it's just a week before the first votes are cast in the 2024 presidential race. Republican candidates blanketed Iowa over the weekend, urging voters to caucus for them next Monday when temperatures are forecast to be in the single digits. Got to love Iowa in the Winter.

The candidates emphasized Iowa's influence on the nomination process and the vital importance of turnout. Donald Trump continues to dominate polling in Iowa, so overwhelmingly that the other candidates struggled to escape talking about him and put the focus on their issues.


NIKKI HALEY, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: For those that want me to hit Trump more, I just am not going to do it. I told you that -- I'm not going to do it.


HALEY: If he lies about me, I'll call him out on it. If he's done something wrong, whether it's the economy or how he talks about dictators and those things, I'll call him out on every one of those issues. But I just think politics is personal enough. And I think let's focus on the issues and getting America back on track.

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The Republicans, we have a great shot to win if we frame the issues about the problems facing the country, the failures of the Biden administration, and how we have a great set of ideas to turn the country around.

I think if we're re-litigating the past elections, if it's about, you know, Donald Trump or his legal issues or criminal trials or all that stuff, you know, I think it's going to be a really nasty election. I don't think that puts Republicans in a good position to win.


JIMENEZ: So, let's bring in "Bloomberg" national politics reporter, Christian Hall to talk about all this. All right, so let's start with Trump's lead in Iowa. I mean, he's been leading so overwhelmingly at this point. His rivals as we've seen are maybe starting to lower expectations a bit, which is tricky, though, when they're trying to fire up their supporters in the home stretch. What do they need to be doing to position themselves to at least stay in the race, if not competitive?

CHRISTIAN HALL, NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER, BLOOMBERG: Well, look, I think that what we're seeing in the race right now is the candidates who are running, you know, with the exception of Donald Trump, of course, are really kind of starting to go head-to-head. Nikki Haley, a few weeks ago, when she made a few comments about the civil war that definitely caught the attention of the media, DeSantis really went on the attack, right?

He went after it. Nikki Haley has called out DeSantis for any type of mistakes that he's making as we head into the Iowa caucuses. Look, I think the performance of these candidates in Iowa are really important. If DeSantis can overtake Donald Trump, they can completely change the landscape of the election.

And if Nikki Haley is able to overtake DeSantis, it can really help her build some momentum ahead of New Hampshire. So all eyes are going to be on Iowa and the candidates are really focusing on how they can edge out each other.

JIMENEZ: Yes, you know, and it will be a question of if there's a strong second place, what that would mean for some later races in this primary. Now, look, Trump has had his own tight rope to walk. He'll be juggling campaign stops with courtroom activities by his lawyers, and even he's expected to appear himself Friday at his civil fraud trial in New York.

And what you're seeing is a preview of some coming attractions when you look at the calendar of what we're seeing here. I mean, how does he balance the court appearances with the campaign appearances, and does it help him? HALL: Listen, it's not going to be easy. I mean, we haven't seen this

before. A candidate who has the amount of legal challenges as Donald Trump, who is also the frontrunner, right?


I think that one of the advantages that Trump has, is the fact that he was the former president of the United States. So voters know who he is, right? They know what he stands for. They're familiar with him. He definitely has a significant advantage in this aspect.

I don't know if a new candidate -- I don't know if someone like Nikki Haley, Ron DeSantis could be able to, you know, go through these court challenges and be a front-running candidate like Donald Trump. So we haven't seen this before. We will have to see how this is going to impact him on the campaign trail.

JIMENEZ: Yes, well, we're a week out to Iowa right now. Let's just think back to six months ago. Based on what you've seen and what you're seeing from the campaigns now, have there been any surprises for you in Iowa? Or is this playing out almost exactly as you would have expected?

HALL: You know, I think that one of the surprises to me is how the civil war has seemingly become a really big talking point on the campaign trail. I mean, we had Nikki Haley being questioned by a voter at a town hall about the causes of the civil war.

Her response avoiding, saying that slavery was a cause, has definitively caught a ton of attention. And then we move on and we see just this past weekend Donald Trump is also getting caught up on the civil war question. So I think that has been really interesting to me to see that, that has become such a talking point on the campaign trail.

JIMENEZ: It's a question I feel like has a simple answer, but yes, that's a whole -- that's a whole separate segment. Now, look, I've got to close this out here, but I just want to -- I want to end with, you know, Trump's opponents, you know, Nikki Haley, Chris Christie, Ron DeSantis, et cetera. They've been really trying to focus on issues that work for them.

So like the economy, immigration, healthcare, issue-based policy discussion. Is that even a workable strategy when Trump has succeeded so spectacularly at this point, by focusing on the personal grievance politics of this, and the us vs. them identity sort of space here?

HALL: I mean, it's really difficult. The GOP, a lot to it, today, is very different. I mean, Donald Trump has a lot to do with that. But talking about those kitchen table issues, you know, it really raises the question, is that enough for these candidates to win over the GOP primary voter?

We're seeing that voters are really sticking by Donald Trump by large numbers. I mean, honestly, these candidates are kind of competing, and you know, growing a little bit of momentum, but is it enough to gain the majority of the Republican primary voter? And I'm not sure.

JIMENEZ: Yes, and look, you know, I've spoken to at least, you know, a candidate like Chris Christie. I think a lot of these candidates are eager to see what voters actually think as opposed to relying on polls that have sort of been giving clues up to this point. And we're a week out until we get some of those answers. Christian Hall of "Bloomberg", thank you so much.

HALL: Thank you.

JIMENEZ: All right, everybody, still ahead, a section missing from that Alaska Airlines jet has been found. We're going to tell you where it was located. Plus, delicate hostage negotiations are still in play as Secretary of State Antony Blinken visits the Middle East.

And a major storm set to hit the Midwest and the southeast here in the United States. We'll have the latest from the weather center. Stay with us.



JIMENEZ: It's not just the U.S. A record-breaking 41 percent of the world is set to hold a major election this year. That's about 76 countries or 4 billion people, mostly right-wing parties are on the rise everywhere, from the European Union to the Pacific -- in fact, the economists also say it has found that only 43 of those 76 elections this year will be free and fair.

The others, they say, don't meet the essential conditions for a democratic vote. So, let's bring in CNN's Max Foster to talk about all of this. Max, good to see you.


JIMENEZ: So I just want to start with why you think we are seeing a rise in support for some of these right-wing parties?

FOSTER: Well, you know, the epic election obviously this year is India. You've got a right-wing government likely to come back in there. You've also got, you know, the return of Donald Trump potentially in the -- you know, the right-wing politics in the U.S.

I do think the European Union, which is the second biggest election this year is an interesting case-in-point. We've had this big rise in right-wing parties from Sweden down to the Netherlands, down to Italy. And also here in the U.K., the reform party, I wouldn't describe it as extreme right, but it's certainly on the rise here as well.

And the U.K., that used to be the Brexit party, and it was Brexit, really, where we first saw that big immigration debate blow up, right- wing parties capitalizing on that. That informed a lot of the original Trump campaign, and now we've got Trump coming back and re-inspiring a lot of the ideas. And immigration is where I think the right-wing, particularly the far-right thrives. And it's resonating. Also Omar, interesting here in Europe is the --

like in America, there's more skepticism about funding the war in Ukraine, and parties are doing quite well, right-wing parties suggesting that we shouldn't be supporting the war in Ukraine and sending funds over there. So, it's sort of a -- the topics that are resonating are often right-wing issues.

JIMENEZ: And is it sort of a sign of the times that these are the issues that are motivating, you know, a certain base of people particularly on the right here. Or what do you think it would take for that rise that we've seen to end or to slow down or to shift in any way?


FOSTER: It's interesting. I mean, I can't necessarily answer that, but when I speak to people who are voting for the right, it often comes down to cost of living economics. It's the idea that economies are doing well, but the rich are getting richer, but the middle class is for example, just aren't feeling that. And this is what the right- wing often speaks to, anti-establishment, and protecting people's incomes by closing the borders for example.

So, I wonder if it's just a case of, you know, economies doing well, but the spread of wealth increasing, so people don't feel as if they can't afford the funding in the Ukraine, they kind of feel -- afford to sort of compete with immigrants for jobs. It's those sorts of issues that's definitely, deeply tied to the economy and cost of living.

JIMENEZ: Yes, and that gap between the wealthiest has grown, and we've seen it grow significantly over the years. Max Foster, thank you so much for your perspective.

FOSTER: Thanks, Omar.

JIMENEZ: Of course. All right, everybody, still ahead, the boss at the NRA quits just as a civil trial against the organization begins today. And what President Biden's allies are saying about his re- election and the MAGA wall. We'll have more coming up.



JIMENEZ: Quick hits across America now. Federal investigators say the missing section of the Alaska Airlines plane that blew off mid-flight Friday has been found in a Portland school teacher's backyard. The door plug could hold the answer to what caused the panel to detach from the jet. Some airlines have grounded their Boeing 737 Max 9 planes as the probe continues.

Michigan Republicans voted to remove the Kristina Karamo, the embattled state GOP party chair, who's been blamed for the party's financial problems in the past year. Karamo told CNN, the vote on Saturday had no legal standing. And the civil trial against the NRA is set to begin today. New York

Attorney General Letitia James has accused five NRA executives of committing tax fraud and stealing millions. Former executive Josh Powell admitted wrong-doing in a settlement, and is expected to testify. Wayne LaPierre; the CEO since 1991 abruptly resigned Friday.

Now, to weather. A powerful storm brings heavy snow and blizzard conditions across the plains and Midwest, up to a foot of snow is possible in some areas with winds nearing 70 miles an hour. So let's go to meteorologist Elisa Raffa who's been tracking the system for us. What are we looking at here?

ELISA RAFFA, METEOROLOGIST: Really, we're looking at a multiple hazard system. We're going to have blizzard conditions in the plains. That's heavy snow coupled with gusty winds and low visibility. A threat of tornadoes today along the Gulf Coast. We could have power outages from wind-gusts, 50 to 60 miles per hour across a lot of the U.S. and flooding rains as well.

So multiple things to track here. Here's a look at the storm right now. It has been intensifying pretty quickly this morning. You can see some lightning strikes across Oklahoma City as the storm kind of deepens and starts to intensify this morning. Here's a look at the Winter alerts, all of that orange is the blizzard warning.

Not only do you get a foot of snow, but you get 35 mile-per-hour winds, and that's going to drop visibility. All of the pink is the Winter storm warning where you could still get some snow again up to about a foot. All the wind alerts here you could see in that tan color, 50 to 60 mile-per-hour gusts that could take down some tree limbs, power lines could cause some power problems.

Plus, we have that severe threat today, you see that level 3 out of 5, that enhanced risk there in the orange for the potential for a couple of tornadoes. Some of which could be strong, some damaging wind-gusts as well, 60 to 70 miles per hour. So here's a look at how this plays out. Look at the line of some strong storms coming across Louisiana where we could see some of those tornadoes embedded.

Plus, the snow, plus, the 35 mile per hour gust. Again, that's where you get the blizzard conditions. All this continuing to work its way east by Tuesday. The snow and the winds have been the Great Lakes. You've got some of the intense thunderstorms rolling through the Carolinas. And then you keep the 50-60-mile-per-hour gusts up into New England along the east coast.

And that could again continue to give you power problems plus flooding. Because we're looking at 2 to 4 inches of rain, and this area in New England also has snow on the ground, a lot of it. So we'll have to watch that in the coming days as well.

JIMENEZ: Yes, a lot of things compounding on each other. Elisa Raffa, thank you so much. Meanwhile, it is make or break time for election campaigns. We are just a week away from the Iowa caucuses. And a star- studded Golden Globes return. The hits and the misses just ahead.



JIMENEZ: Good morning everyone, thanks for getting up early with us, I'm Omar Jimenez. We are officially one week out from the Iowa caucuses. The first in the nation contest that could make or break many of the GOP campaigns for president. Candidates are in full scramble mode at this point, traversing the Hawkeye State to make their final pitch. And Iowa voters are finalizing their choice for the Republican nomination.


JACK SWEENEY, VOTER: I think DeSantis is very respectful to people, and I don't think Donald Trump is respectful to people. Name-calling doesn't go good with us. Henry Legend(ph) is very important, and family is very important for us too.

ROBIN TUCKER, VOTER: Trump is not a conservative. So, I believe Vivek Ramaswamy is a conservative. So, that is where I am at.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Trump. All my friends are Trump.


JIMENEZ: Even as Trump maintains a wide lead in the polls, you can see them there, his GOP rivals continue to court these caucus goers and insists that it ain't over yet. So let's bring in Margaret Talev; a senior contributor at "Axios" and Director of Syracuse University's Democracy Journalism and Citizenship Institute. Great to see you. So, this last phase of campaigning is typically pretty dynamic with candidates really crystallizing their final pitches.

What -- is there anything about these Republican campaigns that's sticking out to you right now?

MARGARET TALEV, SENIOR CONTRIBUTOR, AXIOS & DIRECTOR, INSTITUTE OF DEMOCRACY, JOURNALISM & CITIZENSHIP, SYRACUSE UNIVERSITY: Good morning, Omar. I mean, the most obvious element is that, while the two rivals closest to Trump in Iowa have ramped up their attacks on the former president, they're really still going after each other, and they're sort of attacking him contextually.

You're seeing Nikki Haley say things like, I'm not going to.