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Inside Politics

Clyburn Calls For "Carve Out" In Filibuster Rule For Voting Bill; Billionaire Branson Set For Space Launch This Morning; Biden Warns Putin: Stop Russian Ransomware Attacks Or Else; Biden: We Accomplished Our Objectives In Afghanistan; Biden Pleads With Americans To Get Vaccinated; GOP Zeroes In On Critical Race Theory In Virginia Governor Race. Aired 8-9a ET

Aired July 11, 2021 - 08:00   ET





ABBY PHILLIP, CNN HOST (voice-over): COVID cases are rising. Vaccinations are slowing. And President Biden is practically begging Americans to get the shot.

JOSEPH R. BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Please get vaccinated now. You're putting yourself, your family and your friends at risk.

PHILLIP: Plus, Biden plans a big speech this week on voting rights. But is that enough?

MARC MORIAL, NATIONAL URBAN LEAGUE: Democracy is under vigorous, vicious and sinister attack.

PHILLIP: And billionaires in space. Richard Branson will make history when he launches into space about an hour from now.

RICHARD BRANSON, VIRGIN GALACTIC FOUNDER: I'm going to enjoy every second from the beginning to the end.

PHILLIP: INSIDE POLITICS, the biggest stories sourced by the best reporters, now.



With Republicans advancing voting restrictions in states all across the country, President Biden is facing intense pressure to act on the defining political issue of this year.

On Tuesday, he'll give a speech on voting rights in Philadelphia where he'll lay out the White House's strategy to counter new state laws that make it more difficult to vote and this week, Vice President Kamala Harris touted a $25 million investment in the Democrats' voter registration and turnout efforts. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KAMALA HARRIS, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Where the legislature is hell bent on making it difficult for us to vote, we're going to have to start rallying now to make sure we're thinking creatively about how we register people to vote, how we remind them of what's on the line.


PHILLIP: The latest fight over voting is playing out right now as we speak in Texas, where the legislature is on the verge of passing new voting restrictions.

And civil rights leaders are growing impatient.


SHERRILYN IFILL, NAACP LEGAL DEFENSE FUND PRESIDENT: Our backs are against the wall. This is the moment. There is no more time. We must have legislation, we must have the president use his voice, use his influence, use his power.


PHILLIP: And joining us now with their reporting and insights, CNN's Jeff Zeleny, Molly Ball of "TIME Magazine," CNN's Lauren Fox, and Jonathan Martin of "The New York Times."

So, this week, we had news from one of the most important people in Biden world, Congressman Jim Clyburn, largely responsible for Joe Biden being in the White House in the first place.

But he took -- he told Laura Barron-Lopez of "Politico" something very important about the filibuster. He said, President Biden could pick up the phone and tell Senator Joe Manchin, hey, we should do a carve out. I don't care whether he does it in a microphone or on the telephone, just do it.

This is the frustration going from the activists standing outside of the White House all the way to Capitol Hill, to the most important voice in Biden's ear on the Hill.

Lauren, what is the impact of all of this?

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think you are hearing from progressives and, of course, Clyburn's voice is an important one, that they want Joe Manchin to change his mind on the filibuster.

We should note, he's not the only one standing in the way of changes to that rule. I think that that's part of the issue here is that Joe Manchin's mind is likely not going to be changed. We have asked him every which way on Capitol Hill about the filibuster. He has been unequivocal that he's not going to change his mind even on the issue of voting rights. So, that leaves Biden very few tools to use to actually pass this

legislation. You are seeing his administration is trying to do as much as they can on their end. But on Capitol Hill, I just don't see that shift happening.

PHILLIP: Just to follow up, isn't it that Clyburn believes that Manchin can be coerced into getting rid of -- create a carve out for the filibuster, let's say, to the filibuster, that people like Kyrsten Sinema and others will follow along?

FOX: Well, certainly, that is sort of the hope, right, is if you could convince Manchin, perhaps you convince someone like Sinema, perhaps you convince someone like Jeanne Shaheen, someone who's not as public about her position here on the filibuster, but is clearly in the same camp as Manchin, that she wants to preserve the rules.

So, I think the challenge is, I'm not sure so goes Joe Manchin, so goes the rest of the Senate. That, of course, is the hope.

PHILLIP: What about the Republicans? This is not -- you can't get to a voting rights bill unless Manchin changes his mind without ten Republicans.


It seems like less of a chance of that now than before, right?

MOLLY BALL, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yeah, I think so. I mean, look, the Democrats are hitting the reality that they don't have the votes to do all of these things that they want, whether it's prevent Republicans from passing laws in the states, whether it's get, you know, either of their legislative approaches through the Senate.

So I think when you hear Kamala Harris making the announcement, talking about putting money into voter registration and turnout, that's a tacit acknowledgement that the legislative strategy is really going nowhere, either at the federal or at the state level.

And, you know, we saw with the recent Supreme Court decision, a growing acceptance among Democrats that the litigation strategy also is probably not going to achieve any kind of dramatic overturning of the status quo. So the solution is a political one. The solution is to try to register and turn people out to vote, despite these restrictions that Democrats feel will make it more difficult to do that, and try to make this a rallying cry at the ballot box to 2022 and beyond.

JONATHAN MARTIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yeah, I think the Democrats are -- I think the Democrats are happy to have the issue. Obviously, they prefer to have a bill passed. But they are happy to have the issue in the midterm.

They know they have to get out midterm voters who are typically sporadic. One of the ways to do it is to say the other side is trying to stop you from voting. That's a powerful lever going into that midterms. PHILLIP: For the base. But --

MARTIN: Right.

PHILLIP: -- I mean, there's been evidence that for the rest of the country, it's not really resonating.

I do wonder, though, Jeff, this speech on Tuesday that Biden is about to give, activists are kind of tired of hearing him talk about this and they want to know what he is going to do. So, what's the deal?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: It's a bit of a balance. They are tired of hearing him talk. But they have been waiting for him to give a big speech on it. Several weeks ago, he said this would be the issue of his time and haven't heard him do much. He said he would travel the country making the case for this.

I think that the -- following that meeting on Thursday in the White House, it was a meeting that ran almost two hours long with the activists we saw, Sherrilyn Ifill. She was in that meeting. I spoke to them afterward.

Look, they are happy the president is drawing presidential level attention to this matter and to give the speech in Philadelphia. But I'm told that not to expect a lot of new stuff from that speech. He is not going to call for a carve out in the filibuster, because he knows that Senator Manchin is not there.


ZELENY: So, we'll see if that changes. Things can always change. We should keep open the possibility.

I think this is one issue with history on the line that this is maybe one issue that's movable. I'm skeptical of that. I think the fact that he will talk about this is music to some people's ears. Jonathan's right, it's a base motivating issue and that's the value of it.

PHILLIP: So, base motivating on the Democratic side. But also on the Republican side, this weekend, CPAC is happening again. This is the kind of thing -- this is from Matt Schlapp who was on CNN just this past week. He is running CPAC. And this is what he is focused on.


MATT SCHLAPP, AMERICAN CONSERVATIVE UNION CHAIRMAN: There's fraud in every election since the beginning of time, including in America. We ought to all agree, Democrats and Republicans, that nobody should vote who is not legally allowed to vote.

And, unfortunately, in the last presidential election, because they didn't check those signatures, we had massive amounts of fraud. These are facts. They are undisputable.

(END VIDEO CLIP) PHILLIP: Except that all of that is not true, right? But on the Republican side, we were just talking about what was -- what's going on in Texas. This is the motivating, animating issue on some level, on the grass-roots level for Republicans, J-Mart. So, I mean, you know, I mean, on both sides, it's kind of a motivating issue.

MARTIN: Yeah. And, you know, they are seeing two different versions of America. It's an extension of the larger divide that this cleaving the two parties, which is they are not operating with the same set of facts, right? They're just not.

And so, I think that obviously is what's driving these laws from being written in the first place in state capitals. They are operating under the false believe that the election was stolen last year and they had to sort of tighten these voting laws.

That's not true. But that is the push for these laws in the first place.

PHILLIP: I want to pivot real quick to -- I mean, this is related, because January 6th -- you know, came out of this lie. But we are talking about this committee to investigate what happened. All eyes on Kevin McCarthy -- Lauren, where is his head at in terms what his strategy is going to be going forward?

FOX: Well, what we have seen from CNN's reporting is that he is looking at trying to put members on that committee. But it's very difficult to try to decide which Republicans do you want balancing out Democrats' arguments here?

You have to be very careful in selecting people who just aren't going to argue that January 6th wasn't real or didn't happen. That's a political liability. But you also have to find members who you know are going to defend the former president. That is also difficult.

Meanwhile, you have to find people who want to do the job. This is not a committee that a lot of people are going to want to serve on, especially if they were among the members who thought that Republicans went too far in arguing that the election was stolen.

PHILLIP: And do Democrats have a plan to not make this a circus, as you have reported?

FOX: They are trying very hard to make sure this isn't a circus. They're going to have some of the interviews behind closed doors. That's one strategy, because every public hearing you have, you have the glare of the cameras. It's an opportunity for Republicans and Democrats to go at it.

The first hearing is going to be with rank-and-file police officers. They're hope that that sort of makes the American public wake up and realize, this is what real people, people who serve in uniform on Capitol Hill went through on January 6th. And that is the compelling argument that they hope will start to galvanize Republicans to want to investigate what happened. Of course, we heard from those officers here at CNN and elsewhere. It's very unclear that that's going to actually move Republicans.

PHILLIP: Well, it may not move them. But hopefully it will tamp down on some of the crazy at least for that hearing. We'll see what happens.

Coming up next for us, we will bring you the latest on that billionaire space race hours before Richard Branson is set to blast off.



PHILLIP: The first space race spanned multiple presidents and premiers, and it turned astronauts like Alan Shepard and John Glenn into national heroes. Now the space race has taken a different turn with two billionaires, Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos, about to blast off.

You can see here the launch pad for Virgin Galactic where Virgin founder Richard Branson will become the first of the two men to launch into space just in a few hours.

Today, Virgin Galactic released a mission statement from Branson


BRANSON: My mission statement is to turn the turn of space travel into a reality for my grandchildren, for your grandchildren, for everyone.


PHILLIP: And Rachel Crane joins us from the site of today's launch in New Mexico.

Rachel, we have had a little delay this morning due to some weather. But what else do you expect in the next hour?

RACHEL CRANE, CNN INNOVATION AND SPACE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Abby. And that is typical of space launches. I have never been to a space launch that has taken off on schedule. It was overnight winds that delayed the vehicles from coming out of the hangar.

But right now, the vehicles are on the runway. So, we are only a couple of hours away from this hotly anticipated space flight. About an hour before that scheduled takeoff, that's when we will see the astronauts, including Sir Richard Branson -- or the soon to be astronauts, I should say, come out of the building, the hangar behind me.

And 40 minutes prior to the scheduled takeoff, they will board the vehicle and they will drive out there in some Land Rovers. And, you know, about 40 minutes after takeoff, that's when the Mothership Eve is going to release Spaceship 2. And it will be in freefall fall. It will blast off. It will be a 60-second burn. The passengers on board will experience about 3G. And after that, the motor will cut and they will experience four

minutes of precious weightlessness before gliding back down here. As you can see, the energy is really, really picking up. We heard helicopters coming in. You can hear there's a deejay behind me.

So, a lot of activity on the ground and a lot of VIPs. We expect a live musical performance. Richard Branson teasing he is making a very exciting announcement upon landing -- Abby.

PHILLIP: Very much the spectacle atmosphere over there where you are.

But in just a few days, there will be another one of these from Jeff Bezos. They're different in a lot of ways. Can you walk us through a little bit of what is different about today's launch versus what we will see on July 20th?

CRANE: That's right. Well, Abby, just looking at the two different vehicles, you see the difference. Virgin Galactic system, it's really a space plane. The New Shepherd Blue Origin system is a space capsule. So, traditional more like what you see the SpaceX, NASA astronauts launch to the ISS, the SpaceX recently.

Also, the altitude that they go through, the apogee. Virgin Galactic goes 50 miles above. That's what NASA, the FAA, the Air Force deemed the boundary of space. But the international boundary of space called the Karman Line, that's what Blue Origin passes. It's 62 miles above Earth.

So, Blue Origin does go a little bit higher. But also the duration of these missions differs greatly. Virgin Galactic, the entire mission will be about 90 minutes. Blue Origin, the ride, it's 11 minutes. So, that's a big difference.

Both companies have said that potential customers might be interested one day in flying both, if they can stomach the price tag. We don't know what the average Blue Origin ticket will go for. 600 customers have paid around $200,000 to ride on Virgin Galactic's system.

So, one other key difference, Abby, is that Virgin Galactic's system is piloted. Blue Origin's system is automated. A lot of difference.

They both touch the edge of space, making their passengers on board astronauts but kind of depends where you are. Virgin Galactic, you are only an astronaut in the States.


Blue Origin, you get to brag that you got the astronaut wings around the globe.

PHILLIP: As you said, it's all about the precious few seconds of weightlessness. Thank you. We will be with you all throughout the morning.

But joining us now is Jeffrey Kluger, senior editor at "TIME Magazine", and the author of "Apollo 13", which, of course, became a classic film. And his new novel, "Holdout", will be published next month.

Jeffrey, thanks for being here.

Look, we were just talking to Rachel about this spectacle atmosphere that she's a part of. There will be music, all of this stuff. We are learning also that the price tag for these flights, for the Virgin Galactic flights could be up to $250,000. And we've already heard that 600 people have kind of reserved their seats.

So, is this just, kind of, you know, a play thing for the wealthy people? Or is it about more than that?

JEFFREY KLUGER, TIME MAGAZINE EDITOR-AT-LARGE: It's about more than that. I mean, for the time being, yes, this will definitely -- will be a vacation indulgence that only a handful of people will be able to afford. Six hundred people out of 300 million Americans is not a big market share.

At the same time, though, I think we are witnessing some very solid technology being developed by both companies, by Virgin Galactic and by Blue Origin. As you were saying earlier, the two spacecraft fly very differently. But they both are very well proven.

Branson has three flights to suborbital space, three crewed flights to suborbital space. Bezos has 15 uncrewed flights to suborbital space. So, in both cases, we see solid technology developing.

And as with so many things, the more popular it becomes, the more people who crowd into the field, the more the price will come down. Look, your first flat screen TV cost $3,000. Now you can get one for $300. The analogy is imperfect but it nonetheless does illustrate things a little bit.

PHILLIP: Talk to us a little bit about safety, because as much as this is exciting, there is so much risk involved in going into space always. The American space program has experienced some of these highs and some of the lows with the explosions of the Challenger and the Columbia shuttles. So, you how confident are you that this is going to be a safe mission, especially for Branson? The Virgin Galactic had a test pilot die in 2014. There is something hanging over this scenario here.

KLUGER: Yes. Space is, by definition, a very hard place to go and it's a hard place to come back from safely. Astronauts -- NASA astronauts were lost on the launch pad, obviously "Apollo 13" nearly came to disaster. Russia or the old Soviet Union lost two crews on the way back to Earth.

People do die in space. Whether it's commercial or whether it's a government operating it, that hard fact does not change. Again, I am comfortable -- reasonably comfortable with both of these companies, because they have had a series of successful flights. But remember, the physics of space remain non-negotiable. As your reporter was saying earlier, they're going to have -- the crew will have to tolerate 3Gs on the way up, some G forces on the way back down as well. That doesn't change. It's a very punishing thing on the body and on

the spacecraft. So, space will never be as safe as a simple intercontinental flight, say. But, again, the technology that these two companies have developed does seem to be reliable and proven out, at least insofar as it's a reasonably safe bet for Branson to be taking this flight today.

PHILLIP: And just quickly, before we go, I mean, we're watching today the commercialization of parts of space. But what is left for NASA? What is NASA's mission if private companies are now jumping into this aspect of space travel or exploration or whatever you want to call it?

KLUGER: In some respects, I think it's a unalloyed good for NASA that private companies are jumping into this space. NASA's budget back in the days of Apollo was 4 percent of the total federal budget. Now it's 0.4 percent of the total federal budget. It's $25 billion a year which is -- that's $25 billion is a lot of money. But we're spending, you know, $2 trillion on economic bailout packages. So, it's a small share of the federal budget.

If NASA is freed up from having to spend its precious resources, getting astronauts to and from lower earth orbit, to and from the ground to the space station, it can focus on deep space exploration, specifically on the Artemis program to get astronauts back to the moon in the middle of this decade and then later on to Mars.


So, I think this is one of those plans that worked out spectacularly well, the commercial crew program that NASA instituted in 2006 has turned into exactly what we wanted it to turn into, freeing NASA up to do deep space exploration.

PHILLIP: Well, we will be watching very closely this morning. I know it's an exciting morning for you and for a lot of people who are fascinated by space.

Jeffrey Kluger, thanks for being with us this morning.

KLUGER: Thanks so much.

PHILLIP: And coming up for us, President Biden has a warning for Russia. But will Putin listen?


PHILLIP: President Biden didn't mince words --



PHILLIP: President Biden didn't mince words after a tense Friday phone call with Vladimir Putin. His message: do something about these recent cyber attacks on U.S. interest from groups operating out of Russia or else. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The United States expects when ransomware operation is coming (INAUDIBLE) -- not sponsored by the state (INAUDIBLE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You said three weeks ago there would be consequences. Will there be?



PHILLIP: That's you, Jeff, asking that question. Is the White House concerned about two things? One, that they won't be able to stop these attacks? And two, that they, you know -- I mean, they won't be able to enforce their own red line that he just set to Putin a few weeks ago in Geneva and it seems to have had absolutely no impact whatsoever?

ZELENY: I will answer like President Biden. Yes. I mean they are concerned about that because the reality is, it's one more ultimatum that President Biden is giving Vladimir Putin.

Will it be the last one, we don't know. But we are told by talking to officials that the call on Friday really was quite intense and focused specifically on cyber, more so and in a deeper way than at the summit just over three weeks ago in Geneva.

But look, I mean President Biden has the challenge here of now following up on what he laid out very publicly for the world to see in Geneva, that the U.S. would go after and would retaliate against Russia for allowing these cyberattacks to happen.

So I think there's a couple of things. One, the president made clear in this phone call that this is now a national security threat for the U.S. It's not just a criminal action. It's a national security threat.

So that means that, you know, perhaps some action can come from that respect. But just the fact that they had an hour-long phone call three weeks after the summit is pretty extraordinary. The White House is trying to draw attention to this and shortly after we asked President Biden that, he was asked again on the tarmac flying to Wilmington, Delaware if he would escalate this even more and go after Russian servers then he said yes again. So we'll see.

PHILLIP: We'll see. One of the other fascinating things about this is the kind of video silence on Capitol Hill. Like what are Republicans saying about -- about all of this, especially after four years of Trump dealing with Putin in -- you know, I don't know, however you want to describe it.

He was not exactly the most tough on Vladimir Putin face to face, in private, whatever you want to call it.

FOX: I think that when you have really identified the issue here which is Republicans know that there's not a lot of ground to stand on when it comes to asking the president to be tough on Russia, given what they put up with when it came to Trump's relationship with Putin.

And I think that might be part of it. Not that Republicans or Democrats on Capitol Hill have ever been against, you know, being for something and then against something in the past.

But I do think that what you are going to see moving forward is once you set a public red line, if you don't go ahead and enforce that red line, you're going to face criticism. And that criticism may come just from Republicans, but my guess is that you're going to hear from some Democrats, too, if they start to feel like Biden isn't being as tough as he's really set himself up to be on this issue now.

PHILLIP: Foreign policy has really been one of those things in the Biden era that I think Republicans are having a hard time, you know, building up, you know, outrage about.

But on another issue that Biden is dealing with, the Afghanistan issue, one thing that's been very notable is Biden's demeanor around pulling out in Afghanistan.

He has been very resolute publicly about this. and just take a listen to -- just listen to the tone here as he talks about this issue from the White House this past week.


BIDEN: I will not send another generation of Americans to war in Afghanistan with no reasonable expectation of achieving a different outcome.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is a Taliban takeover of Afghanistan now inevitable?

BIDEN: No. It is not.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Will the United States be responsible for the loss of Afghan civilian lives that could happen after --

BIDEN: No. No, no, no. It's up to the people of Afghanistan.


MARTIN: Yes. I think look, there's just no domestic political investment in Afghanistan anymore. You know, the people who are most focused on the issue now are those who serve there, who had family who served there. It's just a political fact of life here.

I think Biden recognizes that. That's why he is being very assertive talking about the pullout.

But obviously, this is a difficult story. You saw Kandahar over the weekend, second biggest city in the country now has the Taliban moving in.



MARTIN: So obviously the world stage is only getting messier for Biden. But I think when it comes to Afghanistan, he's somebody who has always been clear that he does not want a large U.S. footprint there. He was one of the loudest voices in the Obama years for not deferring to the generals there for more troops. I think he's finally now having his way. And I think it worked back home politically just fine. The country has moved on.

PHILLIP: Well, you know, the other part about this is, you know, this is actually something that he told Richard Holbrooke, according to --

MARTIN: Oh, right.

PHILLIP: -- a book back in 2019. He said, "I am not sending my boy back there to risk his life on behalf of women's rights. It just won't work. That's not what they are there for.

He is talking about Beau Biden who actually didn't serve in Afghanistan but in Iran. But there's something personal here about his desire to get Americans out of that part of the word.

BALL: That's right. And I think you also hear the frustration of someone who has had decades in the American foreign policy establishment who was there at the outset of the U.S. going to war in Afghanistan, ostensibly to root out a state-sponsor of terror, and then saw over the course of decades the mission creep into all these other things.

You know, we've got to, you know, protect human rights and protect Afghan women. You know, I remember interviewing then Senator Joe Biden in 2008 when he was proposing a sort of federalist plan for Afghanistan, when he was running for president against Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

And you know, his belief at that time was, we cannot keep applying a military solution to a political problem. So, you know, he was criticized for that idea and who knows if it would have worked.

But he was trying to think of a way to solve this problem politically instead of militarily. And I think what we see after 20 years is that political solution never came. And that is why the military effort eventually is ending in failure.

ZELENY: And this was such a historic moment when, if you think about as Jonathan was saying, no criticism from Republicans. That is the fault of the Trump era really because President Trump supported the pullout that the Neo-Con voices.

Imagine six months into a Democratic administration a new president pulls out of war --

PHILLIP: Practically radio silence.

ZELENY: -- there's practically silence and that is a -- just the function of America's longest war, the fatigue and cost in every way. It's really a dramatic moment in our history.

PHILLIP: Absolutely. And in many ways the Trump administration set the table for this political dynamic.

But coming up next, we're going to pivot to Biden's next challenge. Can he move the needle on COVID vaccinations?



PHILLIP: President Biden's top priority since taking office has been ending the COVID-19 pandemic. But the case count is creeping up, especially in these red states with low vaccination rates, like the ones that you see on your screen.

And the administration is running out of options to convince Americans to get vaccinated just at the same time that some Republicans are ramping up their efforts to convince conservatives to resist getting the shot.


BIDEN: So please get vaccinated now. It works. It's free. It has never been easier. And it has never been more important.

Do it now for yourself and the people you care about, for your neighborhood, for your country. It sounds corny, but it's a patriotic thing to do.


PHILLIP: That's a message that probably will resonate with a lot of liberals in America. But on conservative side, almost overnight, what has taken over is this message about how getting vaccinated or the government urging you to get vaccinated is going to mean that they're going to take away your guns, your bible, other things you care about. Take a listen.


REP. MADISON CAWTHORNE (R-NC): Now he's sort of talking about going door to door to be able to take vaccines to the people. The thing about the mechanisms they would have to build to be able to actually execute that massive of a thing and then think about the -- what those mechanisms could be used for. They could then door to door and take your guns. They're going to go door to door, take your bible.


PHILLIP: I mean it's amazing to me that getting a vaccine has now become part of the culture wars. And it's been -- this weekend, we have seen it at CPAC. It has become the dominant message for a lot of Republicans on all parts of the spectrum.

MARTIN: Yes. Well, I think it's more the far right than it is the mainstream of the party. I think the mainstream of the party, there's more ableness to take the vaccine.

But I think there's no question that this has become fertile ground for well, the government wants you guys to have to take the vaccine. This is one more example of big government run amok.

Comments like Cawthorne there obviously are the most vivid example of this -- where this is going.

But look, everything in American life now gets polarized, ok. The virus happens last year. Immediately, masks become polarized. Why? Because you had an actor in the White House who was trying to make them a political issue. So it's sadly, not surprising that, of course, the cure also becomes polarized as well.

PHILLIP: Go ahead.

FOX: I do think it's interesting, you know, a couple of months ago, CNN canvassed everyone on Capitol Hill that was an elected official to ask them are you vaccinated or aren't you vaccinated. And when we first canvassed the house, more than 100 House Republican offices just didn't respond. And that's not to say that they weren't vaccinated --

MARTIN: That's the reveal.

FOX: -- or they were vaccinated --

MARTIN: That's a reveal.

FOX: -- but that was very clearly a moment where you saw, people didn't want to say if they were vaccinated, because back home it's become such a political issue.

PHILLIP: And if you look at the map of this country, you will see red states where Trump won big are the ones with the lowest vaccination rates. I mean it's pretty consistent, whether it's Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, Wyoming, Louisiana. The correlation is there.


PHILLIP: You know, Molly, do you think that there is -- there are some public health experts, for example, who are saying, you have to -- mandate vaccines. You have to create a vaccine passport. You have to mandate vaccines in schools.

That all sounds all good and well. But from a political perspective, is that real life?

BALL: I think what you see from this controversy that we are talking about is that that might backfire if they were to try it, because some of this resistance is political in nature.

And, you know, if you are a public health expert, you have to be thinking about that, right. You are not just thinking like a doctor. You have to be thinking about the psychology of people and why they are resisting. Now there are some people who haven't gotten the vaccine because they are still in a wait and see mode or they still have legitimate concerns about safety that they don't feel have been answered.

For those people, maybe full FDA approval is the key, right. Maybe some of these measures that you are talking about that some might view as coercive are the key because those people are not operating from a position of, you know, paranoid disinformation.

But for people who are operating from some less rational mindset or for people whose resistance is just, well, you know, a Democratic president is telling me to do this and I don't trust him, the idea that the administration then can either plead with or force those people, again, seems like it would probably be counterproductive.


BALL: So you have to look for different approaches.

ZELENY: The White House is going to start -- the White House I going to start going after the disinformation. Just what you said. A White House official has told me over the weekend they're going to start going harder after this disinformation. We will see if it works.

PHILLIP: And you have already seen them signaling that in some of their comments in the last couple of days.

Coming up next for us, a senate primary in Ohio proves Donald Trump's grip over the GOP remains ironclad.



PHILLIP: When you take a closer look at the down ballot Republican primary races across the country, you'll find candidate after candidate vying over who can hug Trump the closest.

Case in point, Venture capitalist turned Trump populist JD Vance who announced his Ohio Senate bid this week only to quickly apologize for deleted tweets where he denounced then-candidate Trump in 2016.


J.D. VANCE, OHIO SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: I Criticized Trump back in 2016, and I ask folks not to judge me based on what I said in 2016 because I've been very open about the fact that I did say those critical things, and I regret them.

And I regret being wrong about the guy. I think that he was a good president. I think he made a lot of good decisions for people. I think he took a lot of flak.


PHILLIP: By very open he means deleting them quietly. But Vance's change of heart may not be that sincere. In an interview this week with Molly Ball, he admitted that Trump is the leader of this movement, if I actually care about these people and the things I say I care about I need to just suck it up and support him.

It doesn't sound exactly --

MARTIN: A ringing endorsement.

PHILLIP: A wringing endorsement but also what is the play here if you are JD Vance? Why are you so transparent about how this turn-around for you was politically calculated in nature?

BALL: Well, look, I think Vance views supporting Trump as sort of the price of admission in Republican politics these days. And it's hard to say that he's wrong about that.

You're not going to have a very viable campaign, particularly in a reddish state like Ohio, if you don't just answer that threshold question of whether or not you support Donald Trump.

However, I don't think it's the most interesting thing about his campaign. I mean as you said, the other candidates in this race are also staunchly pro-Trump and from what we understand, the former president doesn't seem particularly interested in jumping into this race and directing his followers toward one of them or another at this point.

But, you know, I think Vance is hoping that he can get over this Trump admission ticket and then talk about the issues in a way that he hopes will resonate with the Ohio Republican electorate.

The question is, do they buy his views on Trump enough to listen to the rest of what he's saying.

PHILLIP: And if you're a Republican elsewhere in the country running, there are a couple of key issues that are on the table for the base.

It's critical race theory. It's election fraud. It's wokeness.

I mean take a listen to the way in which for a lot of these candidates, election fraud is at the heart of all of this.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The left wants to keep lying and cheating. So they can steal our elections.

JANE TIMKEN, SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: I'm running for the United States Senate to stand up for you. Just like when I stood next to President Trump.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As your governor, I'll fight to secure our election.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I stand for the Trump agenda of America first.


PHILLIP: So that's it, right? Like it's all about the fraud.

FOX: Well, that's exactly right. You don't have to look any further than the state of Oklahoma. You have James Lankford who is a conservative, a conservative member, who voted with former President Trump every step of the way, but on the day after the insurrection or the hours after the insurrection, he changed his mind and decided he didn't want to vote with the slew of Republicans he said he was going to vote with to question the results of states in that election

And he is getting hammered back home. You have the state GOP chairman saying he might support his opponent. I mean that, to me is incredible.

PHILLIP: And threatening to censure him and Senator Inhofe as well. What's been also fascinating is let's take the state of Virginia, which I know is near and dear to you, J. Mart.

MARTIN: Yes, it is.

PHILLIP: They've got a big gubernatorial election coming up and right down the street from here in Loudoun County you have this massive knock down, drag-out fight happening over critical race theory and transgender rights.

And it's being fueled by GOP activists, former Trump officials. Take a listen to one of them at one of the school board meetings recently.


DICK BLACK, FORMER VIRGINIA STATE SENATOR: : You're teaching children to hate others because of their skin color. And you're forcing them to lie about other kids' gender. I am disgusted by your bigotry.


MARTIN: Yes, this is going to be sort of the first test case, Abby, onto how that issue plays out in a statewide race in a place that's gotten pretty blue in recent years. In Loudoun County especially.

PHILLIP: And Loudoun is not really that much of a swing county anymore.

MARTIN: No, it's not anymore. It's basically sort of D.C. Ex-urb, it's gotten very, very democratic in the last couple of cycles.


MARTIN: Look, I think this is a test. If a young kid who is the GOP nominee can really utilize this issue, and beat McAuliffe or if he made it close. I think that's going to show things for his party going into the midterms.

But I wonder about on that issue and just watching that clip in that room, how much of this is grassroots and how much is Astro turf. PHILLIP: I think that's exactly the point. I mean --

Martin: How much -- is this activist driven, people who are super- invested in the issue. And how much of this is frankly medium to low information voters and parents who aren't (INAUDIBLE) --

ZELENY: This could have the same effect though like the Tea Party though, started out as an Astro turf moment and then it became something.

So I mean a question for Democrats is like they watch this and see, oh, this could be good but, you know, the whole issue of how woke the Democratic Party is really worries a lot of Democrats overall. Is it too woke?

MARTIN: They don't say it out loud, though.

ZELENY: They don't want to say it out loud but watch President Biden's face on this because he is still -- he's the leader of the party and moderate in every way on these types of issues so it's, you know, it's interesting on both sides.

PHILLIP: Yes I mean I think just to your point, J Mart the voice that we heard was from a former Virginia state senator. It's not really that grassroots where it is right now, but that doesn't mean that it's not motivating enough to Republican base voters who are actually the rank and file out there going to the ballot box.

MARTIN: Exactly.

PHILLIP: But we have to leave it there for today.


But coming up next, an early edition of "STATE OF THE UNION" with Jake Tapper and Dana Bash. Jake's guests this morning include the president's chief medical adviser on COVID-19, Dr. Anthony Fauci and Republican congressman Adam Kinzinger.

Thank you again for sharing your Sunday morning with us. Have a great rest of your day.