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DeSantis Downplays Crisis As FL Becomes COVID Epicenter; NYC Vaccine Requirement Gets Mixed Response; Moderate Brown Wins Dem Primary Against Progressive Turner. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired August 04, 2021 - 12:30   ET




GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): OK? So let's just be real here.


JOHN KING, CNN HOST: I believe the translation there, he says, you know, just tough it out. Some people are going to get COVID, tough it out. But isn't there better way to put it that, yes, it's great that seniors are vaccinated now, that seniors are more protected. That's fantastic. But why is it OK to have 5,000 among young people if you can prevent it, and vaccinations in mask can prevent it or at least lower it?

MARGARET TALEV, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think the Florida Governor is going to be really important to watch in the coming weeks, for obvious reasons, the health reasons Florida, a huge state with a huge senior population. And you can't totally sequester college students from seniors. So we all know that's true. What happens to college students could boomerang onto seniors.

But DeSantis, politically speaking, has a much tougher message to juggle because, of course, he is the natural successor to Donald Trump heading at this very early stage towards 2024. And he has a base messaging that he has to get right while protecting, you know, his state and trying to survive, you know, beyond just a Republican primary. And the message in the Republican primary, still, there's a real salience to the idea that you shouldn't let the authorities tell you what to do, or states know what is best and all that kind of stuff.

How do you juggle that in the middle of the Delta variant with unmistakable infection and hospitalization rates and this stark divide that we still see between how Republican voters perceive this illness and how everyone else does.

KING: And I think that's what makes the Biden switch to confrontation more interesting in the sense that, number one, he believes from a public health standpoint he needs -- he does need help, they do need help. And I think these governors are in the way. They also, though, the politics Francesca, is coronavirus pandemic is it getting worse or better? And if you go back to May, you see the number right there way above 70 percent, above 80 percent at one point said things are getting better.

If you look at where we are now, only 40 percent say things are getting better. Public perceptions are changing because of the spikes in cases in the Delta variant. And Joe Biden is President where this is happening in red states or blue states, whether he's mad at this Republican or that Republican, this is going to reflect badly on him if it continues.

FRANCESCA CHAMBERS, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, MCCLATCHY: And you're talking about naming names, but he wanted to come right up to the line. He wanted to talk about Florida and Texas, but he didn't want to specifically say Governor DeSantis or Governor Abbott. And I caught him on his way out and asked him why not just give Governor DeSantis a call to talk about this message. You seem to be trying to deliver to him specifically.

And he said he knows the message. He knows the message because they met recently when President Biden was in Miami for the Surfside tragedy. And so he seemed to suggest that maybe they had a conversation about this but didn't want to go further. So the next step would be, does he take additional action in some way to try and head this off.

KING: And Margaret mentioned, Heather, the different take many Republicans have on this issue that we've seen play out throughout the pandemic. But here again, in another moment of national crisis, the case count is going up, hospitalizations are going up. This is the Republican leader in the House saying what the President and the Democrats saying wrong.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA), MINORITY LEADER: We were told if we got the vaccine, we could go back to work, back to school, back to health, back to normal. Now they're trying to take us back because somehow they're losing control. They want to control us and live another way. That is not right. That is not fair. That's not the American way.


KING: They want to control us or make us live another way. They want to encourage you to get a vaccine and I thought Republicans used to be put power as close to local as you can. So if a local school board wants to say have a mask, why is the Governor saying no. What happened to Republican philosophy of let people closest to the problem make the decision?

HEATHER CAYGLE, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, POLITICO: Well, I think, you know, we're seeing this divide on the Hill, too, that they think this control as anti-COVID, anti-vax narrative plays really well with Republicans, especially Trump aligned Republicans. On the other side of the Senate, though, you see McConnell, who is, you know, cutting these ads in Kentucky saying please get vaccinated, do your part and help us.

And so that further underscores the divide in the party right now. And I will say I was in Florida, probably three weeks ago, and you would have thought that DeSantis was on the ticket. The number of Trump- DeSantis 2024 flags that I saw on the beach, I mean, so obviously he knows what he's doing. And the political motivation seems to be winning out here.

KING: Right. So at least with the base, I think the question part of 2020 is very clear now with this tone from the President. This is going to be part of 2022 as well. We will see. We will see who carries the day. It would be nice to solve the public health crisis first before we worried about politics, but uh-huh.


Up next, we continue the conversation. New York says you need proof of a vaccine if you wanted a restaurant table or a gym treadmill indoors. The mayor says it is essential in the COVID fight. Some business owners though tell CNN, they're not so sure.


KING: The big financial firm Vanguard now the latest company offering incentive for employees to get vaccinated. Vanguard promises to pay $1,000 to workers if they get the shot. Microsoft, Google, and others also requiring workers in the United States offices -- in their offices here to get vaccinated. Most of the companies putting such requirements in place are big corporations with white collar workers.

You see though there on that graphic, Arkansas based Tyson Foods, that's the big standout. The company announcing it will require all of its frontline workers including in the factories to be fully vaccinated. In New York City, the mayor now will require proof of vaccination before you can enter a gym, eat indoors at a restaurant, or go inside to attend events and entertainment venues. Our CNN business and politics correspondent Vanessa Yurkevich joins us now live from New York. Vanessa, this is a big step by the mayor, how's it being received?


VANESSA YURKEVICH, CNN BUSINESS & POLITICS CORRESPONDENT: Well, businesses here in New York City tell us they're split on this issue. Right now it's looking like the businesses are going to be the ones that are checking and enforcing this new vaccine mandate. We spoke to one restaurant owner who says that he welcomes this news. But we also spoke to a live venue owner who says he doesn't think that this new proof of vaccine mandate will change people's mind to get the vaccine.


JACK MCGARRY, CO-OWNER, THE DEAD RABBIT: We were wrestling with right from the get go because like the last day for sort of a coach isn't working. So we were I believe this week, we would have made the decision that he hoped but I'm very happy that it's been there for us.

MATTHEW GARRISON, CO-OWNER, SHAPESHIFTER LAB: I think it's much better. The fact that we can just point to somebody else say, hey, listen, don't get on our case, it's coming from high above, we have to comply, so there's not much we can do about it. It makes us feel much more comfortable in the act of rejecting somebody which we don't want to do.


YURKEVICH: Now, Matthew, who you just heard from there, says that he's going to have to hire an extra person just to check people's vaccine statuses. This is something that he was not anticipating budgeting for. And the National Restaurant Association is raising concern saying that, hey, you're essentially asking employees of businesses to be the vaccine police. They're concerned that that could create tensions with customers or potentially turn some away.

But other cities are now looking into what New York has done in the Bay Area, some cities there considering this proof of vaccination. The mayor of Boston said that she's not going to be requiring this for businesses in her city. But right here in New York City, John, this is going to be going into effect August 16th. And it's going to be enforced September 13th. John?

KING: One of the many fascinating experiments we need to keep an eye on, Vanessa Yurkevich, grateful for the important reporting there.

Up next for us, back to politics in Ohio's midterm message, a Biden establishment win in one primary but a Trump win in another.



KING: Two primary elections in Ohio are being studied today for early clues, possible clues anyway, about the midterm mood. Donald Trump quite happy today that after a recent loss of Texas, you see there, the Trump-backed candidate in one of the Ohio contests yesterday, won and won handily. President Biden happy today too, the primary winner in a Cleveland House District is an establishment candidate who just like Biden back in 2020, benefited from a big endorsement from Congressman Jim Clyburn of South Carolina.

The panel is back with us. Now let's start with that Cleveland race. You have an establishment candidate running against a Bernie Sanders, acolyte, if you will, in Nina Turner, who was not happy when she lost. She said this was big evil money, manipulating the race. What is the impact because that's a primary in Ohio but you see this every day on Capitol Hill, these same tensions between the progressives and the establishment?

CAYGLE: Yes, I will say this was a really interesting split screen on the Hill last night. So you had the big eviction moratorium when with the progressives on the steps, and then the establishment candidate won last night in Ohio. And I'll tell you, all of the leadership staffers, the senior Democrats were texting me and we're like, let's see what matters here, it's the primary.

You know, progressives can do so much, the eviction moratorium was important. But there are only so many of these like seat-ins and, you know, big outside activist tactics that you can do on the Hill. By limiting the numbers of progressives on the Hill, especially the most outspoken ones who aren't going to fall in line with establishment, they feel that they can keep their power contained. And that's really important to them.

KING: Keep their power contained, which it's interesting, because, you know, if you just look at the Internet, the progressives dominate the conversation quite frequently, which is why third way, a more centrist Democratic who says, once again, the pundits in the Twitterverse got it wrong. Democratic voters pick the moderate, Shontel Brown, over the candidate ordained by the far left. Paul Begala, a Democratic strategist I've known since back in the early 90s. The endorsement of Jim Clyburn is pretty much the most powerful thing in the Democratic primary, Joe Biden would agree.

With that, I mean, it is one race. But the fact, to Heather's point, the fact that the establishment felt so compelled to make sure the monitor (ph) and this is includes Hillary Clinton, it's not just the Biden people, get money in there, get people in there, try to pull the establishment candidate cross the finish line tells you what?

TALEV: Tells me that their strategy for 2022 is to run a centrist as possible. So they don't get totally wiped out. And like you're looking at historical disadvantage for the party and power heading into the midterms, you're looking at this razor thin majority, we're looking at redistricting. Anyone who watches the show is familiar with all of this. But the Democratic leadership believes that their best, their only path is with a more centrist Biden Democrats kind of message heading into the midterms.

And if this primary had gone the other way, it would be much harder to try to build and sustain that movement. You know, I really wonder how much of this is style over substance though. I think when we think about the progressive movement, traditionally, we have thought they're better in motivating the base, they're better at raising money, but they can't get policy done.

And what we're seeing now is a flip flop where the messaging has to be packaged in a Biden message. But look what Biden did yesterday with the eviction moratorium. It's what the progressives have been pressing him to do for a month. He literally went out there and said, yes, the Supreme Court is probably going to toss this out, but at least it'll buy us some time to get it done, you know, so.


I think there's a really interesting juxtaposition going on here. Jim Clyburn is certainly at the forefront of it. There are so many different types of goals in this story. But the main takeaway I think that you can take from this is, the Democratic leadership will take this victory, put it in their pocket and try to push for more centrist candidates heading into the midterms. KING: And the President called her today. Is that just a courtesy or is that the, you know, a sigh of relief?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's also notable because he had not gotten involved in this. The White House has stayed out of it. They did not comment on it. And then he did call Shontel Brown last night, according to Jeff Zeleny, to congratulate her on the win.

And I do think it's a sign, it's reaffirming for the White House of what the messaging should be, because this is the same thing that Biden fought during his campaign, which was that they weren't going to listen to Twitter and the pundits. They were going to stick with their messaging. And that's what she did here saying she would be a partner to Biden, a partner to Pelosi saying, essentially, I'm not going to put my thumb in their face, like you see, some of the progressives do at times.

And so I do think it raises the question, it helps potentially bolster their argument that this is the path to take, if we want to stay in the majority.

KING: And after a loss in Texas, President Trump, former President Trump proved he still has some play with Republican primary voters without a doubt. I'll put the vote board up again. Mike Carey is a coal lobbyist. He's never run for anything before, but he had the former president's backing. And significantly, one of the questions was, would the Trump organization, Trump forced to spend money, he did a tele town hall for Mike Carey in the end, and they dropped in, I think, a few $100,000 in some ads there. But if you're the Trump forces today, you're saying we're still here.

CHAMBERS: And he had also campaigned in Ohio in person. So there were a couple of key differences between these two races. And that would be one of them, the in person campaigning, but also the view from Trump world had been even heading into the race in Texas, that the endorsement from Donald Trump can overcome a lot of different things. But it can overcome a bad candidate, which was one view.

And certainly it put to the test how much that endorsement compares to local people like Rick Perry, the former Energy Secretary who had endorsed the other candidate in that race, so a couple things going on there. And when we talk about Democrats for a minute, though, a key story line here in this election in the midterms, will be the House but also the Senate, because Senate Democrats are taking a different approach here. They're taking a step back right now and waiting to make some endorsements because they think progressives could potentially do better.

KING: And you're part of the writing today on Margaret made the point about, you know, most Democrats think trying to get more to the middle, if you will, in a midterm climate. You're talking about that at the head of the Congressional Campaign Committee going into a meeting with his colleagues, I just read a little bit of it. During a closed-door lunch last week with some of the most vulnerable incumbents, House Democrats campaign chief delivered a blunt warning, if the midterms were held now, Republicans will take the majority.

CAYGLE: Yes, there was a lot of head banging among leadership yesterday when I warned them and asked for comment about this story coming out because what happened right after that, is Republicans circulated it and said, Democrats don't even think they can win the House, donate to us. But I think the Sean Patrick Maloney D trip he sees it a little bit differently. He thinks if they, you know, fire off these warning bells now, they can adjust their message, the economics, the Biden economics are polling really well with voters, they just don't associate it with Democrats. That's the problem here.

So he's trying to make that connection with voters. And he's hoping by, you know, doing this big blaring siren to Democrats that they'll get the message and start putting the two together.

KING: Right. Back in 2009, heading into the crushing 2010 cycle for Democrats. Most of the House candidates ran from the Obama agenda, they hid from it. And they got punished. And --

CHAMBERS: Shellacked.

KING: Shellacked was a word I think that was used quite frequently in those days.


Up next for us, a big birthday, but a smaller party, Barack Obama is 60. That celebration, though, is being scaled back big time because of the COVID spike.


KING: Topping our Political Radar today, the former President Barack Obama dramatically scaling back his big 60th birthday bash in Martha's Vineyard. The initial invitation list was in the hundreds including Steven Spielberg and a performance by Pearl Jam. But now because of rising COVID cases and Obama spokeswoman says the weekend celebration will be limited just to close friends and family.

The Missouri Governor Mike Parson has pardoned the St. Louis couple who became infamous for pointing guns at protesters near their mansion last summer. You remember Mark and Patricia McCloskey well they pleaded guilty in June to misdemeanor charges and they faced fines. This likely they won't be the last to we see the McCloskeys, Mark McCloskey now running in a crowded Republican primary field of retiring Senator Roy Blunt seat.

Just now in the United States Senate, the Arizona Senator Mark Kelly gave his first speech on the Senate floor. John McCain's widow, Cindy McCain was there to hear her husband's successor, invoke his legacy. Take a listen.


SEN. MARK KELLY (D-AZ): It's what inspires me serving in the Senate seat. And it's his example of bipartisanship of independence that continues to demand more of us.


KING: Nice moment there.

A new reporting this hour shows it inside the Justice Department effort to carry out former President Donald Trump's election gambit. Jeffrey Clark, the former acting head of the Civil Division circulated a draft letter intended to pressure Georgia officials to investigate claims of voter fraud. New e-mails obtained by "ABC News" show the then acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen and his Acting Deputy Richard Donoghue just flat out refused to sign off on that request.


Appreciate your time today on Inside Politics. Hope to see you back here this time tomorrow. Don't go anywhere. Busy News Day, Ana Cabrera picks up our coverage right now. Have a good day.