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Nation Pauses To Reflect On 20th Anniversary Of 9/11 Attacks; Biden Issues Vaccine Requirements For Federal Government & Large Businesses; Democrats' Plan Would Reshape Big Parts Of U.S. Economy; New CNN Poll: 63 Percent In GOP Say Trump Should Be Party's Leader; California Recall Looms. Aired 8-9a ET

Aired September 12, 2021 - 08:00   ET





KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN HOST (voice-over): Enough is enough. President Biden unveils tough new COVID rules with a pointed message for the unvaccinated.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We've been patient but our patience is wearing thin and the refusal has cost all of us.

COLLINS: Plus, how Democrats seize the momentum in Tuesday's California recall.

GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM (D), CALIFORNIA: Our principles, our values are on the ballot. California, this race matters.

COLLINS: In 20 years since the horror of 9/11, America remembers and reflects.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let us be worthy of the selfless sacrifices. Let us remember who we became on September 12th.

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


COLLINS (on camera): Welcome to INSIDE POLITICS SUNDAY. I'm Kaitlan Collins, in for Abby Phillip.

It's been 20 years since the worst terroristic attacks on U.S. soil, an anniversary that comes just weeks after America's longest war ended in Afghanistan. Yesterday, the nation paused to reflect on 9/11 and remember when Americans united in the face of tragedy.


GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT: I saw millions of people instinctively grab for a neighbor's hand and rally to the cause of one another. That is the America I know.

BIDEN: Unity is what makes us who we are, America at its best. To me, that's the central lesson of September 11th.


COLLINS: Overnight, the FBI declassified a 16-page documents regarding connections that they examined between the 9/11 hackers and the Saudi government. The documents have some pretty big redactions and doesn't draw any definitive conclusions but does come after Biden signed an executive order to make public for years what has been secret.

It details the FBI's work to investigate the alleged logistical support, a Saudi consular official and a suspected Saudi intelligent agent in L.A. provided to at least two of the hijackers.

Victims' families have pressured Biden to release more information after previous have refused to do so.

Joining me now with their reporting and their insights is Zolan Kanno- Youngs of "The New York Times", CNN's Melanie Zanona, Asma Khalid of NPR, and CNN's Jeff Zeleny.

Asma, I want to start with you on what this release of this document overnight means. Did it really tell us anything?

ASMA KHALID, NPR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, as you mentioned, Kaitlan, a lot of the information is still redacted and still classified. You know, this came as a result as a number of family members connected to the September 11th attacks that had been pressuring Joe Biden to release this information. In fact, they said they did not show up to the memorial ceremony in New York City if he didn't do this.

So, as you mentioned, he did release this executive order to do so. I think what a lot of families are looking for and understandably so is some sense of definitive proof of what happened on that day and I don't think what we've seen thus far answered those questions. There are two Saudi nationals mentioned here and no definitive links to the Saudi government and the Saudi government for years has been saying it does not have connection despite the sort of connections between two Saudi nationals.

COLLINS: Yeah, we know claims they welcomed the release of these documents. We'll see as the declassification process goes on.

I do want to ask you, though, about what we heard from former President Bush. What We heard from president Biden talking about unity in the wake of 9/11. Yesterday you were saying some of that led to the division we're seeing in the U.S. now. What did you mean by that?

KHALID: Sure. I mean, I think there was such a theme of unity yesterday. As I was listening to it, it felt very much like there was this nostalgia for an era that perhaps, A, did not entirely exist in the way that we all sort of remember it fully. I think that while there were certainly a vast chunk of the population

was united, I think it's important to remember that there were clear moments of division shortly after 9/11, as well. We saw hate crimes against Muslims and Sikhs within the United States.

But, secondly, I think there were some decisions that resulted from that moment of unity and I think very clearly of, you know, legislation that was passed, the Patriot Act that curtailed civil rights and civil liberties here of many Americans. I think something like the decision to go to war in Afghanistan which every member of Congress but one, Congresswoman Barbara Lee, voted for. Some of these decisions ultimately you could argue paved the way for the very deep divisions and disunity that I think we see today.

You know, I think that unity allowed us collectively to make decisions based to some degree on fear that you could argue may not have been perhaps the most politically astute and politically calculating decisions to have made.


COLLINS: Yeah, and a lot of the decisions were made by the presidents we saw yesterday. Of course, starting with Bush but this has transcended so many presidencies.

And so, what did you make of seeing Bush and speaking yesterday, Obama and Clinton in New York, President Biden, of course, President Trump a little bit. But what did you make of that?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: I was so struck just by watching and hearing these presidents. It was literally we used the word bookend a lot over the last several years, but this was a bookend from President Bush to President Biden. And I was struck by just how interwoven their presidencies were.

George w. Bush was not elected because of 9/11. He was elected because of a very tight election in Florida and very controversial until September 11th. That really brought the country behind him. It paved his re-election.

Barack Obama likely never would have been elected, but for his early opposition to the war. And Hillary Clinton's war vote.

That, of course, led to Donald Trump. He changed the Republican Party's orthodoxy on foreign policy in ways that are still ongoing. We don't know the end of that chapter.

Joe Biden, of course, there from the very beginning I was struck and going back and doing some research and at the Pentagon that day and always such an interesting reminder. But I didn't know that a military phone line was installed in his Wilmington home that evening because that's when he first started getting briefings.

He was the new chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee only in office, only in that spot for three months after Jim Jeffords of Virginia, a Republican became a Democrat, so Joe Biden is the chairman of the committee. He talked to President Bush that day. So, of course, he entered the war.

So all of these presidents are interlinked, and that leads us to the current moment going forward here this week. They're going to be hearings on his Afghanistan withdrawal. So, that brings it to the present moment.

So, they're all a piece of the puzzle that don't fit perfectly at all, of course.

COLLINS: We don't know the end of the Afghanistan war what that really looks like.

ZELENY: We don't, uh-huh.

COLLINS: And yesterday when he was in Shanksville, he didn't give any official remarks. But he did defend his withdrawal and the execution of it.


BIDEN: If you had told anybody that we were going to spend 300 million bucks a day for 20 years to try to unite the country after we got bin Laden, after al Qaeda was wiped out there, can al Qaeda come back? Yeah, but guess what, it's already back other places. What's the strategy? Every place al Qaeda is we'll invade. Come on.


COLLINS: Does he have a point?

ZOLAN KANNO-YOUNGS, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, NEW YORK TIMES: Look, the president has been clear on this position. This has been one of his more resolute decisions to withdraw. If you've been covering President Biden for a while this position has been consistent throughout.

That said, I mean, there is still criticism around the operational steps that were taken in this withdrawal. What he's talking about there is what we are actually talking about just a little while ago. And that's that the decisions that were made in the wake of 9/11 led to this multi -- this massive investment by the United States into an effort that he is questioning if it was ultimately successful.

And if whether staying there with troops on the ground and continuing to invest U.S. taxpayer dollars would continue to produce any sort of results that effective in the long run. That being said, he is going to continue to be criticized for the operational steps that we're taking and the Afghan allies that continue to be stranded in limbo, the roughly 100 million citizens that continue to be stuck in limbo and we're seeing based off polling data that it does matter to voters across the U.S.

COLLINS: It does matter. And it's not even a reflection of U.S. foreign policy that we're looking back on 20 years after the attacks, but also how American life has changed I think was a big conversation we had yesterday. How you go to the airport. So many ways of your personal life have changed.

And I think Americans were willing to change aspect of their lives after seeing the horror unfold that day and how you could link that and how it relates to what we're seeing today and what we're living through this pandemic and what people say about their personal civil liberties when it comes to wearing a mask and getting vaccinated to go places.

MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Right. I mean, it's completely different environment than it was 20 years ago. I mean, look at the recent crisis. Even January 6th the reaction that we saw unity lasted maybe a few days, maybe a few hours on Capitol Hill. There's no bipartisan commission to investigate it and an effort in the GOP to whitewash what happened that day.

I think it speaks to the fact that the makeup of Congress is so different. I mean, our politics are so polarized and even the type of lawmakers that are coming to Congress are different. You have your Marjorie Taylor-Greenes, your Madison Cawthorns, people who are not here to make laws. They're going to make name for themselves and to fund-raise and those type of fire breathing tactics really work for them.

ZELENY: In terms of members of Congress, though, also struck by how many Iraq and Afghanistan veterans are serving in Congress on both sides.


It used to be an anomaly, one side would recruit them. The Congress is filled with them. You have to wonder, will there be an American president who served in one of these wars and that also will be a mark on history.

COLLINS: I'm so glad you brought up January 6th, too, because that is also a reflection people had in what President Bush said in his speech yesterday about this stood out the most to me of anything in his remarks.


BUSH: There's little cultural overlap between violent extremists abroad and violent extremists at home. But then there's disdainful pluralism, and their disregard for human life and their determination to defile national symbols. They are children of the same foul spirit and it is our continuing duty to confront them.


COLLINS: It's pretty remarkable.

KANNO-YOUNGS: Oh, absolutely. It wasn't just an effort to remind Americans of the unity of a message of unity. It was also an effort to flag to Americans the current danger and the current threat and how the threat landscape has changed. Now, domestic extremism and the threat of domestic extremism has been

persistent. Look, the Oklahoma City bombing happened in the '90s. This has been around for quite a bit. And even the groups that participate in January 6th have been around. What has changed, however, and what I think President Bush is, former President Bush's remarks really highlighted is the threat has been there of domestic extremists and far right militia groups.

What has changed is the public officials willingness to actually call it out, in both parties. Not just talking about the Trump administration. It was the Obama administration that had an intelligence report warning of the rise of militia groups and it was the Obama administration with then Vice President Biden that withdrew that report, pulled it back because of criticism from mainly Republicans over how it would look upon veterans.

So, look at where we've come from 2009 then to now with President Bush standing there and making a comparison between the threat of domestic extremists and the, you know, what the federal government had been willing to call out for years and the more foreign-based terrorism.

COLLINS: Yeah, it is nothing like what we heard from former President Trump yesterday who was absent from the formal ceremonies and he spent the day really criticizing President Biden over his Afghanistan withdrawal.

Up next, we're going to talk about GOP governors threatening lawsuits over this president's big vaccine mandate move.



COLLINS: President Biden says his patience is wearing thin when it comes to the 80 million eligible Americans who haven't gotten vaccinated yet.


BIDEN: The vast majority of you who have gotten vaccinated, I understand your anger at those who haven't gotten vaccinated. The unvaccinated overcrowd our hospitals, are overwhelming emergency rooms and intensive care units, leaving no room for someone with a heart attack or pancreatic or cancer.


COLLINS: As the delta variant is tearing through the unvaccinated communities, Biden is using the full force of his presidency to get people vaccinated, including announcing a new rule from the labor department that would require private companies with 100 or more employees to get their workforces vaccinated or test them weekly.

The Republican National Committee and several Republican governors are vowing to defy him.


GOV. RON DESANTS (R), FLORIDA: When you have a President like Biden issuing unconstitutional edicts against the American people, we have a responsibility to stand up for the Constitution and to fight back.

GOV. DOUG DUCEY (R), ARIZONA: What the Biden administration is doing is government overreach, pure and simple.


COLLINS: Biden's response to those governors, bring it on.


BIDEN: Have at it. Some Republican governors have been so cavalier with the health of these kids, so cavalier with the health of their communities.


COLLINS: The national death toll now stands at about 660,000 people. That means roughly one in 500 Americans have died from COVID-19.

Jeff, what we're hearing from the president this week I was so struck by how different it was. Listen to what he was saying in July compared to what he is saying now.


BIDEN: You're putting yourself, more importantly, maybe from your perspective your family and your friends at risk. So, please get vaccinated now. It works. It's free. And it's never been easier and it's never been more important.

We have been patient but our patience is wearing thin and your refusal has cost all of us. So, please, do the right thing.


COLLINS: It seemed like it went from pleading to you need to get vaccinated.

ZELENY: For sure. I think this week will mark a political turning point for the Biden administration. We don't know which way it is going to go.

They were always scared of mandates politically. They never wanted to be the one. President Biden from the time he was running to when he was first in office. They did not want to, you know, tell Americans what they had to do or forces it, because, A, they didn't think it would work.


ZELENY: And, B, they thought really persuasion would work.

But the politics have changed. So, now, not being in control of this pandemic is hurting him politically.


So, they have made the decision both medically to get people vaccinated and I think politically to be on the side of the vaccinated versus the unvaccinated, and the language there from the president. You were in the room on Thursday saying it has cost us all.

And, really, that is giving voice to a lot of people who have sacrificed either on the front lines or getting their shots while emergency rooms are filling up with people who have not. I think they have decided they never wanted to do mandates for the political fallout. Now it's flipped and they're just sort of leaning into what they have here.

I do think business owners. I was struck by the most yesterday for a lot of Republican governors criticizing them. Chamber of Commerce, Business Roundtable just fine with this. Some business owners like the cover from the government and, of course, some don't. It seems the White House is on pretty solid ground.

BOLDUAN: He did seem frustrated in the room. It was evident in his speech. Do you think this is something he wishes he had done sooner?

KANNO-YOUNGS: Melanie and I were discussing before the show last time we were on. It was July 4th and the White House was having basically a celebration and the president was declaring independence over the pandemic, right? Going into the summer.

So, you have to wonder now as he looks back to that point, I'm sure they're looking back and they're saying how are we now at this point where, you know, hospitals and certain states are running out of enough beds and we're in a similar place where, you know, the central theme of his presidency, that being getting control under the pandemic is being questioned. That is going to be a huge point going ahead of the midterms.

But to go back to your question, when it comes back to President Biden and the White House, what I think they're probably going back and especially when you talk to officials is just how strong the level of misinform misinformation was on the vaccine, as well as the vaccine hesitancy and one might even say vaccine resistance on the part of some areas in the country.

COLLINS: Yeah, they say they were so surprised that we have this vaccine because in December, President Biden was saying I don't want have to do a mandate and I don't want to take that route. Now they're getting closer and closer to that route. Of course, we're seeing Republicans within hours of that speech that President Biden gave on Thursday saying this is overreach and they're threatening to sue once this Labor Department rule comes out.

A "Washington Post" poll found 52 percent of people support businesses vaccines for employees.

ZANONA: Yeah, Republicans are betting that there's going to be a backlash to mandates, and that might work with the base, but the polling suggests otherwise and Democrats and Biden are betting that there will be far more frustration with the people who aren't vaccinated and the spread of misinformation by the Republican Party that is causing us to still be in this pandemic.

COLLINS: Does any of this have to do with these new poll numbers that are, A, about the president's response and his handling of the pandemic and his job approval, but also the CNN poll that was just asked, how are things going in the country today? Sixty-nine percent said badly. Is that playing a factor in the White House trying to really dial up the aggression here?

KHALID: The White House will say, you know, as Zolan said, that I think that they were struck by the level of misinformation and vaccine hesitancy.

That being said, I will say, as a reporter who just spent a lot of time out in the country and even throughout the pandemic, I am confused by their befuddlement because it was very apparent that the country was opposed to large mask mandates. They were opposed to getting the vaccine even when it was not a reality. There was no vaccine. I would argue that the White House should have been aware of the vaccine hesitancy.

Some of the poll numbers are not necessarily just tied to COVID. Some of it is how the withdrawal from Afghanistan was handled and they need to right the ship. But a calculation that a certain segment of the population is just going to be un-persuaded and will not be able to be persuaded so perhaps they let that population go and move forward to mandate. It strikes me as being very different, though. Biden's character is I can persuade and I can work with people who are opposed to my ideas. This strikes me as a realization that maybe he can't.

COLLINS: And how do they measure success here? Because Dr. Fauci said in a country of our size, you can't be hanging around and having 100,000 infections a day. You have to get well below 10,000.

We are so far off from that right now. How is the Biden administration going to actually get there?

ZELENY: It is going to be incrementally, but I do think they believe that through the bottom line basically if people want to keep their jobs, they'll have to get vaccinated. We're talking about just on the margins here. I mean, the White House likes to point out some companies like a Kroger and other grocery stores when there are mandates, a few people have done it.

Like United Airlines basically has already said and other big companies, you have to get vaccinated or lose your jobs. Some people are doing it. They're going to count successes if they tick that up a few more percentage points.

But as you were just saying, there is no question that they, you know, are realizing that some people are just going to remain unvaccinated.

[08:25:02] That's just how it is. That goal of Fauci's 10,000 seems pretty hard to meet.

KANNO-YOUNGS: There's also a question here, as Asma was saying, the vaccine hesitancy has been apparent throughout the country for months. So, I mean, I asked on Friday at the White House briefing, look, if these mandates are a matter of life and death and public health, why also didn't you move on them earlier? Why didn't we see this weeks ago?

You know, they might say they were waiting for the FDA approval and also an awareness that support is starting to wane and polling numbers are on the decline.

ZELENY: Politics had nothing to do with it.

KANNO: Of course not.

COLLINS: Politics don't get in the way of science.

It does raise the question of whether they'll have to crank the dial up even further. I guess we'll find out.

Up next, we are going to talk about President Biden's plan to reshape much of the U.S. economy and whether or not Democrats can unite to get that agenda over the finish line.



COLLINS: There are critical days ahead for the biggest part of President Biden's domestic agenda. House Democrats must finish writing the massive bill the White House called its Build Back Better Plan. It's impossible to understate the impact that this plan would have on every American's life.

If you are a new parent you get paid family leave to care for your newborn, childcare subsidies for toddlers, and universal pre-k for 3 and 4-years-olds. When that child is old enough he or she would be entitled to two years of free community college.

If you're a senior, your dental, vision and hearing would be covered by Medicare. Drug prices could go down if Medicare is allowed to negotiate them. And you'll also get subsidized in-home elder care.

Plus Democrats want to overhaul the electrical grid, give millions of undocumented people a pathway to citizenship. Any one of those would be a huge legacy-defining accomplishment.

But even some Democrats say the country can't afford it. This is Speaker Pelosi's take.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Where would you cut? Childcare, family medical leave paid for, universal pre-K, home health care -- so important.


COLLINS: She's saying there's nowhere to cut, Jeff. But some Democrats want them to cut. So what are they going to do?

JEFF ZELENY CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: That is going to be the central challenge here over the coming weeks. We talk about this in broad strokes of $3.5 trillion. But I think that breakdown there was really good. That's what goes into that. That's what it means.

And every one of those agenda items that you were pointing out are legacy defining and they add up to a lot of money. So one of the challenges as we know Senator Joe Manchin, Democrat of West Virginia has said, you know, put the pause button on this, it's too expensive.

I asked President Biden about it earlier this week about Joe Manchin and he said Joe is always with me in the end. We can work something out.

I actually asked Senator Manchin about it this morning. He's going to be on with Dana in "STATE OF THE UNION" and he did not necessarily agree with what the president said. I mean he certainly supports President Biden but this price tag is still too high.

So the next coming weeks, as Melanie knows well walking the halls of Congress, this is going to be a big, big deal. It's hard to imagine, though, at the end of this that Democrats in control of the White House, narrowly the House, and narrowly the Senate will not come to some agreement.

MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Yes and they want to get to yes, let's be clear.

ZELENY: Right.

ZANONA: Everyone wants to get to yes. They know this is their last and best shot to pass this sweeping economic social agenda. But getting there is going to be incredibly messy and it's hard to overstate how important these next few weeks are both in terms of the economy and politically.

I mean, they're also trying to keep the government funded. They have to do the debt ceiling. They have razor-thin majorities, progressives and centrists, they're at war. And the GOP is not going to lift a finger to help them. So they have a lot riding on these next few weeks.

COLLINS: So what is it going to look like on Capitol Hill this week? What is your week going to look like on Capitol Hill this week?

ZANONA: It will be a busy one. So first, they need to finish writing the bill, which they haven't even done yet, right. And then they are trying to pass the bill. They also have this bipartisan infrastructure bill that they're trying to pass. I think one thing to look out for is some of the policy disputes. It's not just the price tag. I mean as Jeff pointed out, it's what goes into that price tag. How do you get it down?

One of the debates that's going to be really interesting to watch is on health care. Because there's only so much money to divvy up for health care.

And on one side you have Speaker Nancy Pelosi who's in legacy mode. She wants to shore up Obamacare, make sure the benefits are permanent so a GOP majority can't take them away one day.

And you have Bernie Sanders in the other corner who wants to shore up Medicare and expand Medicare, also a legacy item for him and something that benefits wouldn't be felt for, for a few years.

COLLINS: And also -- well, of course, Senator Joe Manchin is someone that the president said is always -- has always been with him. That's what he told Jeff as he was coming back to the white House this week.

Progressives do not see him in the same view. And they have become increasingly fed up with Senator Manchin and his way of getting in the way sometimes when it comes to President Biden. This is what Congresswoman Katie Porter said this week.


REP. KATIE PORTER (D-CA): I think it's dead on. Fiscally irresponsible for Senator Manchin to refuse to raise revenue and at the same time out of the other side of his mouth, the side of his mouth that he uses to talk to his corporate donors, complain that we can't pay for the things that American families desperately need.


ASMA KHALID, NPR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: So, I interpret that as a Democratic maneuvering to put pressure on him. I mean, Democrats know, Democrats, you know, like Katie Porter and progressives in the house know they need Senator Manchin to reach yes and there will be negotiations, no doubt, to get there.

But I think that there is a sense that if we put public pressure on him in these intervening weeks perhaps we can nudge him to a slightly larger sum.


COLLINS: But is that really going to work? I mean we've seen that frustration, that pressure from Katie Porter there --


COLLINS: -- Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is saying similar things about corporate donors earlier this week. Is this -- could that be successful on Senator Manchin? KHALID: I don't know. I mean I think that ultimately -- Joe Biden, you

know, he knows Joe Manchin and I think there is something to be said that the fact that this president believes in his strength and his ability to make legislation happen through personal relationships and personal negotiations.

And I know that many folks dismiss that but I also think that there is -- there is a lot of value in his ability to do that. You know, I think that one of the big questions for me though, is that you all mentioned, you know, that they want to get to yes and I would argue they very much want to get to yes ahead of the midterms.

There is a sense that this is important, an important piece of legislation because they believe that it will help them if voters see, you know, you gave me say a permanent child tax credit or you gave me expanded universal pre-K.

I am not convinced that that is how voters vote, though. I do think there is this disconnect between the Democrats' ambitions to get this done, you know, certainly ahead of the midterms and believing it is a political win for them and the reality that actually there are other issues that may be more politically volatile in nature.

COLLINS: And Zolan, you cover the White House. What are you hearing about their strategy here because, of course, they know this is important to the president's political fate. What are you hearing that they're going to be doing here?

KANNO-YOUNGS: You know, compared to months ago when we would hear from White House officials talking about the infrastructure negotiations, right for a bipartisan plan. That was very much about reaching across both sides of the aisle, going to Senator Rob Portman but also talking to the Democrats that we were just saying that the president has these relationships with.

When you talk to the White House now, this is more about, look, right now you have progressives that are putting the pressure on, as we heard, on Joe Manchin. They're trusting that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi can get everyone in line.

Of course, you're going to see them deploy some White House officials to the Hill and continue to talk to these folks, see if you can try and get to the price tag close to $3.5 trillion that you want. We know Senator Manchin has said something much lower at this point, around $1.5 trillion.

And I just want to say there's also some questions here because when you talk about price tag, slimming that down could cut down also, obviously, these sweeping policies that they're going to tout before the midterms.


KANNO-YOUNGS: And there's also a question of which of those policies will actually qualify under the budgetary rules for reconciliation? We saw that when minimum wage was dropped off months ago, the White House got a lot of criticism. So it will interesting to see whether or not something like the immigration measures and reconciliation will actually qualify for the Byrd rule.

COLLINS: I imagine Senator Manchin will bet getting a lot of phone calls in the coming days from the White House.

Up next, brand new CNN polling reveal whether Republicans think that Trump should be at the top of the ticket in 2024.



COLLINS: A brand-new CNN poll out this hour shows that 63 percent of Republicans still think former President Trump should be the party's leader. That number is driven largely by non-college voters.

But earlier this week former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie who was once a close adviser to Trump seem to disagree with that.


CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), FORMER NEW JERSEY GOVERNOR: No man, no woman no matter what office they've held or wealth they've acquired are worthy of blind faith or obedience. We need to renounce the conspiracy theorists and the truth deniers, the ones who know better and the ones who are just plain nuts.


COLLINS: I love when they say that but they don't name who they're talking about even though it's obvious to the rest of us.

But Asma, I'm wondering what do you think of that 63 percent number saying that Trump should still be the party's leader given these (INAUDIBLE).

KHALID: Yes. I mean there isn't really an alternative de facto leader of the Republican Party nationally at this point. And I think it jives with what the actions that we've seen from members of Congress who are Republican.

There has not been support say widespread support within the Republican Party to really accurately look into what happened on January 6th. You do not see denunciations widespread within the Republican of any behavior or action that the former president takes.

I would say it's not really surprising. I think what is surprising if you look a little deeper at the numbers is it does seem like Republicans aren't really entirely sure they want him to be their nominee in four years.

COLLINS: And I think it also raises the question of is there success for the Republican Party if he is still the party's leader. And another really interesting part of this new poll, Jeff, found that in March 2019 78 percent of Republicans thought their chances were better with Trump. Now that number is 51 percent.

ZELENY: I think that is fascinating there and not a good trajectory. And what has happened during this period? Former President Trump has been sticking his head up more. He's been talking more. He's been more active.

So it's not like he's sitting on the sidelines. This isn't happening in a vacuum.

So as I travel around the country and talk with Republicans and voters and just officials and other rank and file folks, there is even among Trump supporters not a lot of unanimity about they want him to come back. Yes, his hard-core believers absolutely do.

So what this shows me, and I'd say a little surprised, shouldn't it be higher than 63 percent? Former president, you know, said the election was questioned. So, this makes the 2024 Republican primary fight absolutely fascinating. And it is not all that great of news actually for Donald Trump.

COLLINS: And you wonder if it only goes down further? What does it change going forward?

Part of that though, it said that 58 percent of the Republicans without a college degree thought their chances would be better with Trump. But when you ask college grads, there's only 34 percent thought that they would be better with Trump as the leader.

ZELENY: And that's not a huge surprise because that's reflective of his support from the very beginning. And if you really -- you know, you can translate that to GOP establishment in some respects and outsider non-establishment.

So look, I think it puts the challenge on is there going to be someone like Chris Christie, perhaps Chris Christie himself to come out and actually challenge Donald Trump face to face?


ZELENY: So far no one has been willing to do that. So we're seeing a delicate dance here. Everyone is sort of waiting for him to disappear.

The former president says -- he keeps teasing he's going to have an announcement shortly. I don't think it's coming shortly at all. He's going to draw that out in the next season perhaps.

But this is not necessarily great news for Donald Trump, especially that declining number. That's a fascinating number.

COLLINS: I know it's really interesting. I like that you said next season.

ZELENY: Next season.


COLLINS: He loves a good tease.

Melanie, we also have this ranking of Republican priorities that I thought was really insightful into what they think is most important. Most important, 86 percent was favoring a less powerful government; holding conservative positions was 85 percent; supporting Republicans in Congress is 81 percent; opposing Democratic policies 69 percent; supporting Trump 61 percent.

ZANONA: Yes, supporting Trump is really interesting. And I mean, I think it's also very interesting that despite the polling that we have seen, Kevin McCarthy still continues to hug Trump very tightly. He keeps going down to Mar-A-Lago, use him as fund-raising gold mine.

I mean there's a reason why they are not crossing him or excommunicating him yet because they do still view him as very valuable, especially for base turn out. And that he is continuing to play an effort into their efforts to win back the House majority.

The other element to this is that a lot of Republicans are still scared to cross Trump because he still does have a bully pulpit even without his Twitter profile, he's out there making endorsement against some of these impeachment Republicans in the House and in the Senate. So there is still like this reluctance to go against him.

COLLINS: When it comes to -- go ahead.

KANNO-YOUNGS: That ties to a little bit of a surprising element here, as well. You were mentioning Kevin McCarthy and how he has continued to be very outspoken in his support of the president and even have that support tailor his actions on the Hill.

But also we're seeing other down the line potential big players in the Republican Party. Governor Greg Abbott as an example really tap into the Trump playbook, right? Going to the border. Standing by the border wall, becoming really the prominent foe of the Biden administration. Filing lawsuits against, you know, immigration policies of the Biden administration as well as getting into the abortion fight, as well as voting rights, as well.

And some of those actions trying to tap into the base that President Trump had. So, seeing these numbers and seeing kind of the different support, it does hold to question in a way that strategy.

COLLINS: And I wonder how all of this with Governor Abbott and the new Texas abortion law and these Republican governors trying to make themselves in the mold of Donald Trump, how does that play into the midterms and whether or not it's going to increase excitement from certain blocs and voters. Because we know the poll also found those who are quote, "extremely enthusiastic" about the midterm vote. GOP is 30 percent; Democrats 26 percent.

ZELENY: I think some of these laws of abortion in particular can potentially rally and fire up liberals. But conservatives are always more animated by court decisions and liberals. We'll see if that changes at this point.

But in Texas specifically so many House races as you know, Melanie, around Houston, around Dallas. In Texas this will be a very key thing in Republican primaries. So it certainly gives Democratic members of congress and candidates a talking point.

But overall we do have to take a bit of a pause here, I think. We just do not know what this necessarily means for the mid terms. But if history maybe our best guide, not great for Democrats.

COLLINS: Yes. and of course, they have been kind of bracing for that but we'll see if it actually plays out.

Up next, California Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom -- can he avoid a total recall on Tuesday? We'll find out.



COLLINS: Pandemic management is becoming a flashpoint in the final days of California's recall election. Democrats are growing more confident that the leading Republican, Larry Elders' promise to end most restrictions will end up helping Governor Gavin Newsom in the end.


GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM (D-CA): He will sign an executive order eliminating mask wearing for our kids in public schools and eliminating vaccine verification for health care workers.

KAMALA HARRIS, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And Gavin stepped up to the moment. Over 22 million Californians have been vaccinated.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Your vote could be the difference between protecting our kids and putting them at risk.


COLLINS: But Elder says he thinks most Californians are on his side.


LARRY ELDER (R), CALIFORNIA GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: What I'm opposed to are vaccine mandates and face mask mandates. Virtually everybody in California who wants to be vaccinated has been able to be vaccinated.


COLLINS: President Biden is getting involved and he's going to appear at a rally in Long Beach tomorrow, just one day before election day.

So, Melanie, of course, now that we've seen this play out, there have been some concerns about how tight the polls looked initially over the summer. Now that the pandemic is becoming more of the main issue in this race, does this bode well for Governor Newsom?

ZANONA: Well ironically, the recall effort started, at least in part, because of the backlash to his aggressive response to the pandemic. But then we had the delta variant, hospitalizations on the rise, real concern about this pandemic still lingering.

And now we see Newsom really leaning into his management of the pandemic, framing it as a matter of life and death. And the polling appears to be on his side there. And I think it really is a reflection that this is not only good policy but also good politics.

COLLINS: Yes. A Democratic pollster told Politico that Democrats have started to make a distinction between what Newsom had done on COVID and what Elder and some of the Republicans are promising that they would do on this. Saying if he wins by a significant margin, that's going to tell you something by next week.

What would it tell you if Newsom does win by a significant margin?

KHALID: I think it would show you that vaccination and the idea of just handling COVID responsibly is resected to a bulk of the population, right. There has been all this, I think, back and forth as we've seen, as Joe Biden put forth, you know, an increased focus on mandates of what that means.

And what I've been struck by is you're not actually hearing a lot of pushback from say large corporations. You're not hearing that. and I think that that's the sense you get from what's going on in California is while there may be very vocal voices on the right saying that they don't want some of these more restrictive measures on COVID, a bulk of the population thinks these measures are necessary to prevent future deaths and future hospitalizations.


COLLINS: So three of you are all going to California this week with President Biden. But he is going so soon before the actual election. We know more than a third of active registered voters have already cast their ballots.

So is this trip from President Biden really going to make a difference, Jeff?

ZELENY: Well, they're hoping it's going to be a victory lap potentially for President Biden to sort of get a bit of the glow from Governor Newsom if the recall fails. So we'll see how that goes. It's obviously risky, but it is largely a vote-by-mail election.

So coming in at the end is largely just for, you know, for media purposes at the end and to give a little attention.

But what the Newsom campaign and Democrats overall believe that they've done is made this a choice between Governor Newsom and Larry Elder and the variety of other dozens of candidates as opposed to a referendum on Governor Newsom's handling of the pandemic.

So if -- if Democrats win there, it will be a shot in the arm for them. What does it mean for the midterms, absolutely nothing.

COLLINS: Right. And so completely divorced from that.

ZELENY: Right.

COLLINS: But Zolan, I do have a question whether or not we could see this potentially pop up in other elections which is what we saw in the aftermath of the 2020 election, laying the groundwork to claim fraud if you don't like the results of the election. Elder already seems to kind of trying to do that.


ELDER: There are all sorts of reasons why the 2020 election, in my opinion, was full of shenanigans. And my fear is they're going to try that in this election right here in recall.


COLLINS: Is this something that we're going to see after Tuesday potentially?

KANNO-YOUNGS: I mean we've seen it since the 2020 election. You know, officials continuing, especially when they're on the side of an official who is on the losing end of election, continuing to criticize the process. We're seeing that continue, misinformation is still persisting on this area.

And there's some other themes also to draw from this election just early on. Early participation in early voting. That is something that the Democratic Party probably is going to be pleased about.

One concern, though, for Democrats as well could be the low turnout so far from the Latino vote. Especially in California where they're such a powerhouse and hold such strength when it comes to politic capital.

COLLINS: We'll be watching to see what happens.

Thank you all for joining us.

And that's it for INSIDE POLITICS SUNDAY. Join us back here at every Sunday at 8:00 a.m. Eastern time and the weekday show as well at noon Eastern.

Up next is "STATE OF THE UNION" with Jake Tapper and Dana Bash. And Dana's guests today include U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, and Senators Joe Manchin and Bernie Sanders.

Thanks again for sharing your Sunday morning.