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DeSantis Ends 2024 Presidential Campaign; Endorses Trump; Trump On Possible V.P. Pick: "People Won't Be That Surprised"; Kansas City Chiefs And Detroit Lions Advance To Conference Championship Games. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired January 22, 2024 - 05:30   ET





NIKKI HALEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Can you hear that sound? That's the sound of a two-person race.


KASIE HUNT, CNN ANCHOR: Just two candidates left standing now in the battle for the Republican nomination.

Good morning. Thank you for being up early with us. I'm Kasie Hunt. We're live in Amherst, New Hampshire just after 5:30 on this Monday morning.

He entered the race as the single greatest threat to Donald Trump's bid for a return to the White House. This morning, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is out of money, out of hope, and out of the race.


GOV. RON DESANTIS, (R) FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I can't ask our supporters to volunteer their time and donated their resources if we don't have a clear path to victory. Accordingly, I am, today, suspending my campaign.


HUNT: Trump has been attacking DeSantis nonstop for weeks, but when the Florida governor ended his campaign and backs the former president, Trump changed his tune.


DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He was very gracious and he endorsed me, so I appreciate it. I appreciate that. And I also look forward to working with Ron and everybody else to defeat crooked Joe Biden.

(END VIDEO CLIP) HUNT: Now Nikki Haley remains the only person standing between Donald Trump and the Republican nomination. And right now, it is unclear how well she will stand up.

A new CNN poll taken after the Iowa caucuses shows Trump now has a majority among New Hampshire Republicans. Look at that -- up at 54 percent with DeSantis supporters reallocated to their second choice. Haley trails there by 13 points.

Let's bring in former Trump administration official and GOP congressional candidate here in New Hampshire, Matt Mowers. Matt, you are up in Gilford, I believe. Thanks so much for being here.


HUNT: What happened here with Ron DeSantis? I mean, he was kind of the great hope for the -- I think one of our panelists earlier in the show called them the over-Trump voters. Not just the never-Trumpers but people who just wanted somebody other than him. And honestly, it was -- the fall from grace was pretty stunning.


What was the biggest mistake?

MOWERS: Well, it's a number of factors. I mean, here in New Hampshire, he never really took off outside initial polling that actually showed him winning. If you go back to polling a year ago he was beating Donald Trump here in the Granite State.

The challenge to Ron DeSantis, though, was a few different things. One, he staked it all on Iowa, right? And that's not just about time and money but it's also about, like, ideological positioning. If you go back, he started trying to move to the right of Donald Trump on abortion, on issues of transgender issues. On a whole host of different things.

And what that did was for every Iowa caucusgoer, which is a low turnout affair and only has the hardest of hardcore supporters that show up to that, it lost some Independent voters here in New Hampshire. And so, that really limited his appeal once he tried to go beyond Iowa. So that was number one.

Number two, let's don't forget -- I mean -- and you can talk a lot about Ron DeSantis -- whether it was a failure to launch. Whether it was impossible for him to connect with voters. Whether his super PAC was misrun by folks like Jeff Roe or what have you. But the key thing to remember -- $47 million -- actually, probably a little bit more by now -- was spent against Ron DeSantis trying to ensure that he did not become the Republican nominee.

And look, I don't care who you are, that's a lot of money. That is more money than was -- than was spent against Donald Trump and that was spent against Joe Biden -- certainly, against Nikki Haley. And so, all that money that was spent against him limited both his appeal to Republican primary voters. B

But if you go back to the ads that were run by Donald Trump's super PAC -- MAGA, Inc. -- they actually hit him from the left. And what that told me and so many others, as well as those who were talking to the super PAC about what they were doing, was they were trying to actually kill his appeal with general election voters. Because if you think about it, Ron DeSantis -- and this will be my final point -- was trying to say he is Trump without the baggage. He was Trump who could win, except poll after poll after poll showed that he had less appeal with general election voters than Donald Trump did and it just didn't serve him well.

Not to mention the fact that Joe Biden has shown that he's so weak politically that if you look at polls in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Georgia, and Arizona -- these key swing states -- he's actually losing to Donald Trump. So it's a very difficult message to sell people.

HUNT: Yeah. You know what? That's really, really interesting because we really did -- I think the idea at the beginning of it all was could there be someone who could show that he or she could beat Donald Trump? That was really almost the entire appeal of it to kind of think through how they went after that potential kind of right out of the gate is a really interesting way to think about it.

Here's what DeSantis had to say -- let me show you -- in Iowa just days before the caucus and, of course, eventually we would learn days before he would drop out of the race -- about kissing the ring -- watch.


DESANTIS: He's running a campaign about putting himself and his issues first. That's what he cares about. You can be the most worthless Republican in America but if you kiss the ring he'll say you're wonderful. You can be the strongest, most dynamic, successful Republican and conservative in America, but if you don't kiss that ring then he'll try to trash you. You know what? You deserve a nominee that's going to put you first, not himself first.


HUNT: Well, look who is kissing the ring now, and it sounds like Trump may drop that DeSanctimonious nickname. This all seems, of course, oriented toward whatever DeSantis' future might be in 2028. Do you think he has one as a potential future Republican nominee, or was this his last best shot?

MOWERS: I mean, it's a challenge for him for sure. I mean, look, you don't get a second chance to make a first impression -- that's for certain -- especially in American politics these days.

The one thing I will say about Ron DeSantis, though -- if he does choose to have a future running for president, despite all that money being spent against him, his favorable ratings are actually still pretty good among core Republican voters. The challenge he had -- and, again, it was one of the questions that

folks like myself and others who had -- was how do you go from being someone who is liked by Trump voters to having them actually choose you over Donald Trump?

And that was actually I think at the core of his problem and honestly, the problem of almost every other candidate in this race was going from someone who was trying to appeal to those voters who clearly like Trump and honestly, maybe even love Trump -- you know, whether it's his style, whether it's policies -- regardless of what it was -- and actually get them to migrate away from him to someone who is an alternative.


Ron DeSantis tried to do that and while it did not serve him now what it did do was ensure that some of his unfavorings were actually decent with Republican primary voters.

And so, I'm not shocked that he got out yesterday.

HUNT: Yeah.

MOWERS: It just salvaged some of that because he's trying to harbor it so he can use it maybe four years from now.

HUNT: All right, Matt Mowers for us in Gilford, New Hampshire. Matt, thank you very much.

All right, our panel is back with me.

MOWERS: Thank you, Kasie.

HUNT: Jackie Kucinich, Christian Hall, Michelle Price.

Let's not forget there is actually another primary going on tomorrow, albeit one that is much less interesting. And I mention it because -- I mean, if there's anything about what we're seeing this morning it's that we are on track for this Trump-Biden rematch, right? And there is this sort of sense that -- of dread among voters if you look -- if you dig into the polling there.

I want to show you a little bit about -- we have some sound from Dean Phillips who, of course, has been running in New Hampshire. I saw his bus parked in the Doubletree, which is the main hotel here -- kind of in the parking garage. His little Dean Phillips bus that he parked out there and no one had come to his coffee. He has really fallen far behind here. He's now talking about no labels.

I want to show you a little bit of what Phillips said recently just to kind of give you a taste of how this is all going. Take a look and we'll talk about it.


REP. DEAN PHILLIPS, (D-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm just going to leave it at this. Whether it is any third-party entity if they have data that shows that by putting up a certain candidate who could actually take votes away from Donald Trump -- if that's -- if it is a Trump-Biden matchup -- why would we not all consider that? Why would all of you not consider that?

I've got to tell you, something tells me when 70 percent of the country doesn't want a Trump-Biden rematch I think maybe a Haley- Phillips match could be pretty good.


HUNT: Oh, boy. So we've now gone from a Democratic primary to him saying hey, I'll run with Nikki Haley on the no-labels tickets. There's obviously been some chatter about trying to draft her to do that as well.

Michelle, how does this, like, next turn of the screw play out? I mean, the Biden team does have to win their write-in campaign. There's no real anticipation that is going to go horribly wrong for them. Phillips' campaign has not caught fire. But there is something to this idea that people want some -- another choice.

MICHELLE PRICE, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, ASSOCIATED PRESS: That's right. I mean, this is -- in a similar way to Nikki Haley, Team Phillips has also campaigned very hard here after New Hampshire. I think there will be some reflection about where to go forward.

On the no-labels front, Nikki Haley has shot that down. She has said she's not interested.

But there are other potential candidates out there. We've heard names like Joe Manchin is maybe a potential candidate for that run. But there's also Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. who is out there. There are people who are drawing other interests and enthusiasm from folks. But these are, so far, marginal figures who are not really ginning up a lot of interest.

But it's going to be an ongoing question, especially as we get into this rematch that's just not drawing a lot of enthusiasm among the Democratic base.

HUNT: Yeah.

Jackie, how big of a risk do you think the primary situation is for Democrats? I mean, just for people who haven't -- are just tuning in now because obviously, some people do right before the primary. The president's name is not going to be on the ballot because the DNC changed the rules.


HUNT: Right -- made a choice, right.

South Carolina is their first official primary, but New Hampshire state law says nope, New Hampshire goes first. So New Hampshire is going first without Biden. This write-in campaign has been launched.

Is there any risk there in terms of what we're going to see when the returns start rolling in? I know there was some nervousness that Nikki Haley's campaign might draw Independents that they were hoping might write in Biden instead -- not to do that for him.

KUCINICH: I just don't if it would be a temporary situation, right? I mean -- because I think there will be a movement to try to really take whatever comes out of New Hampshire as an enthusiasm for Biden, whether or not New Hampshire voters are going to be all in. It's a swing state in the general.

HUNT: It is.

KUCINICH: However, I think it's hard to really go out that far, particularly when you have the president's choice to not be on this ballot because of that rule change and have South Carolina be the new DNC first-in-the-nation primary.

So I think it's -- we'll have to see but I think it's not clear cut. It's a little bit more muddled than it would be somewhere where he's on the ballot and they've really gone hard.

But they have -- they have not left New Hampshire for dead. You have seen Biden folks coming in and trying to make sure that these things get done -- allies like Michelle Wu from -- the mayor of Boston who has been here to try to get out the vote and make sure people do sign their names. So they're not leaving it all to chance -- let's be clear.

HUNT: They're not.

All right, we have to take a quick break. We're going to hear from Christian and the rest of the panel a little bit more right after that. Please stay with us.



HUNT: Welcome back.

Former President Trump has been staying pretty tightlipped about the person that he has picked to be his running mate.


TRUMP: It's never really had that much of an effect on an election, which is an amazing thing. Both election and primary, it's never really had much of an effect. I may or may not release something over the next couple of months. There's no rush to that. It won't have any impact at all.

And the person that I think I like is a very good person, pretty standard. I think people won't be that surprised. But I would say there's probably a 25 percent chance it would be that person. (END VIDEO CLIP)

HUNT: The person that I think I like.

All right, our panel is back with us.

Christian Hall -- I mean, all this V.P. chatter obviously just underscores again this kind of bigger story that we're talking about, which is this kind of Trump roll to the nomination. But the chatter did kind of reach a fever pitch here in New Hampshire it seems like.

There was a -- there was a no-Nikki push from the MAGA wing of the GOP on that front. There was an acknowledgment from the Haley camp that wasn't going to happen. And now you've kind of got tryouts going on. Tim Scott, Elise Stefanik, and others kind of seeing how they work with the former president.

What's your view? I mean, have you caught any of this on the trail, and how do you see this playing out next?

CHRISTIAN HALL, WHITE HOUSE POLITICS REPORTER, BLOOMBERG: Well, I think the interesting thing of note is that Trump is kind of doing this V.P. audition right now on the trail and we're still in the primary. I think this is him -- we're still in the primary.

I think this is him really trying to show to voters look, I'm beyond racing against Nikki Haley. Let's get real. Let's coalesce around me. I'm the former president. I'm the frontrunner in this race and we don't have to really focus on this primary. We can move straight forward to me as your president -- me as the nominee of the party.

HUNT: Jackie, the Elise Stefanik bubble -- it seems like she really wants it. But, sort of, my sense of it is that they're not at the point where they're ready to do something like that. That she -- there's a sense she might not be ready for the kind of big stage.

What is your reporting around her?

KUCINICH: You know, I mean, she's been -- she's been here in New Hampshire campaigning with the former president. But can I just take a (inaudible) -- his whole thing about the V.P. doesn't matter. Mike Pence actually did matter for him.


HUNT: Yeah, he did.

KUCINICH: He brought in the evangelicals. He really provided Trump with a permission structure for evangelicals to vote for the former president because of his credentials.

And if I am a -- if I'm an Elise Stefanik, if I'm a Tim Scott, if I'm a J.D. Vance who is also here in New Hampshire, I'm looking at what he says there being like you don't matter. It's all about me. And so -- and you are going to be second fiddle, which is understood when you're taking the vice president nomination, but usually not that explicit. HUNT: It's not usually right out there.


HUNT: All right. Well, let's kind of wrap up here. Let's turn back to what we're seeing on the ground here in New Hampshire, which is -- again, we've talked so much about this Nikki Haley kind of launching all these attacks at Donald Trump in the -- at the -- at the very last minute, really coming out of Iowa.

She's gotten even more intense in the last 24 hours, responding to something that Donald Trump said about her -- or seemed to confuse her with Nancy Pelosi at a rally in talking about January 6. Watch this exchange.


TRUMP: By the way, they never report the crowd on January 6. You know, Nikki Haley -- Nikki Haley -- Nikki Haley -- you know they -- do you know they destroyed all of the information -- all the evidence -- everything? Nikki Haley is in charge of security. We offered her 10,000 people -- soldiers -- National Guard soldiers. Whatever they want. They turned it down.

HALEY: And he's going on and on mentioning me multiple times as to why I didn't take security during the Capitol riots. Why I didn't handle January 6 better. We can't have someone else that we question whether they're mentally fit to do this.


HUNT: So, mental fitness, Michelle. I mean, I kind of had two questions here. One, did Trump actually do that on purpose since he's conflating two female politicians -- trying to draw lines between Nikki Haley and Nancy Pelosi? Let's say OK, maybe he's not it on purpose.

Nikki Haley hits him on mental fitness, which is something that when we ask that question about Joe Biden in polls, that's something that voters raise and it's certainly an attack that Trump likes to use against Biden. It was -- you know, it actually hit Trump.

PRICE: I mean, whether he did it on purpose it's a very hard question to get to. But his rallies are so rambling sometimes that it's -- it feels like he's just kind of throwing stuff out there.

But this is not the first mix-up he's had. He routinely will swap out Obama and Biden and sometimes it's in a way where he sometimes acts like he's running against Obama. He'll try to explain that away and saying look, that he thinks Biden is controlled by Obama. And it will be like days later he'll try and clean these things up.

But look, for Nikki Haley, this is kind of an effective way for her to lump Trump into a category with Biden -- that they're both older. That she's this new generation. And this is something that Trump and his team have been trying to very

forcefully respond to. Last night, he was bragging about mental acuity in his tests. He's been saying on the trail that he thinks he feels 35. That he is -- his memory is sharper than ever.

HUNT: I don't feel 35.

PRICE: I don't feel 35 either.

HUNT: Closer to (inaudible).

PRICE: It's something that they're clearly very sensitive to and worried about though.

HUNT: Yeah -- no, for sure. I mean, and obviously, this is a -- Ron DeSantis tried this attack but again, too late in the game. Again, we have Nikki Haley doing this one day before voting in New Hampshire, which is really, I've got to say, Nikki Haley's last stand here.

All right, Jackie Kucinich, Christian Hall, Michelle Price. I'm so grateful to have you guys in the morning. It's really nice to have you all with us.

All right, another instant classic between the Chiefs and the Bills. Kansas City coming out on top, knocking Buffalo out of the playoffs, for the third time in four years. Now the stage is set for the AFC and NFC championships game.

Coy Wire has this morning's Bleacher Report. Coy, good morning.

COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS ANCHOR: Hey, what's going on? I woke up weeping hot sauce. Too many buffalo wings and too much heartache for this former Bills player. Good to see you.

All credit goes to those Kansas City Chiefs. Patrick Mahomes and Travis Kelce -- they connect for their first of two touchdowns on the night, passing Brady and Gronk for the most by a QB-receiver combo in playoff history. Watch Kelce show up the heart hands. Taylor Swift's up there somewhere and so is his brother, who is everyone's spirit animal. Shirt's off, frosty can in hand -- yeah, man.

But Josh Allen and the Bills -- they jabbed right back, punching it in on the ground back and forth -- six lead changes in all.

The Bills had several opportunities, Kasie, on the final drive. First, Stefon Diggs dropping a perfect pass from Josh Allen that likely would have given them that opportunity to take the lead. Then another with over a minute to go. Kicker Tyler Bass still has a chance to tie it but pushes the ball wide right.

So the Chiefs win by three, 27-24, advancing to the AFC title game for a sixth-straight season. They'll face the Ravens.


PATRICK HOMES, QUARTERBACK, KANSAS CITY CHIEFS: This is a great environment, man. It really is. But we did hear it all week, man, about playing a road game and we were -- we were here to prove a point, man, and to show that we can play anywhere. And that is a great offense and a great football player in Josh Allen, and a great team.


And they -- I mean, they were going up and down the field and the defense said enough is enough. They got -- they got the stall from the offense -- we sputtered. And that's what you take -- it takes to be going to the AFC championship game is full teams and we were able to do that today.


WIRE: The Detroit Lions are going to the NFC title game for the first time in 32 years. A 31-23 win over Tampa Bay. They're going to face the 49ers for the title.

Quarterback Jared Goff -- he's a former number-one overall pick -- an afterthought to a lot of folks when he was traded to Detroit in 2021. But he's been lights out in their two playoff games.

But it all starts with Coach Dan Campbell, a former Lions player who talked about biting kneecaps at his first press conference. He believes they can do this and so do his players.


DAN CAMPBELL, HEAD COACH, DETROIT LIONS: I envisioned that we would have a chance to compete with the big boys and that's where we're at. All you've got to do is get in.

And then I think these guys -- you know, they have a kinship with this city and this area and they love it, man. And ultimately, that's what you want. Now, a year from now, two years we'll be getting booed maybe. That's a whole other deal though. But right now, life's good and I'm glad we could deliver that.



Finally, history made. Stanford coach Tara Vanderveer is now the winningest basketball coach in NCAA history, passing the great Mike Krzyzewski -- 1,203 wins. Coach K. said more important than all the accomplishments is her positive impact on countless lives as a coach and mentor. Hall of Famer, three-time national champ, Olympic gold medalist. The list goes on, Kasie, and so do her number-eight Stanford after this historic win over Oregon State. Congratulations to Coach Tara.

HUNT: That's awesome. Congrats to her. And I've got to tell you, Jason Kelce -- he is all of us right now.

Coy Wire --

WIRE: Let's go!

HUNT: -- thank you. Thank you very much for that.

And thanks to all of you for joining us one day before the New Hampshire primary. I'm Kasie Hunt. "CNN THIS MORNING" is live with more right here in Amherst, New Hampshire. Don't go away.