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Federal Judge Pauses Restrictive Texas Abortion Law; New CNN Polling Analysis: Independent Voters. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired October 07, 2021 - 12:30   ET




SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), SENATE MINORITY LEADER: The Democratic leaders did nothing, and then complain that they were actually short on time. The majority didn't have a plan to prevent default. So we stepped forward.


JOHN KING, CNN HOST: So all praise Mitch McConnell is his view of this, Dick Durbin, one of the top Democrats says, oh, no.


SEN. DICK DURBIN (D-IL), MAJORITY WHIP: It was a reckless and irresponsible strategy, which Senator McConnell finally realized. It still is not resolved as it should be. But at least during this period of time, we can finally act on the bipartisan infrastructure bill as well as the reconciliation bill.


KING: Both things actually are true. McConnell and Republicans were reckless leading up to this irresponsible, I guess, is the word at least temporarily coming forward. But now what? So Democrats get their two months, but they still have to decide how are they going to do this in December? And McConnell knows that.

ZOLAN KANNO-YOUNGS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. I mean, we're going to be right back in the same place in a couple of weeks. I think Senator Bernie Sanders said, you say you were there. He said that, you know, two months is a lifetime. I'm paraphrasing here. But is it? I mean, we're --

CLAUDIA GRISALES, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, NPR: Exactly. You hear the groans, you're right there by the Senate Chamber when he said that, and we thought, no, it's not a lifetime. We're going to be right back here in a few weeks.

KING: And these things play into the other politics at play in the sense that McConnell decides to do this, whether it's to protect the filibuster, whether it's because of corporate allies or other Republicans are saying, sir, we're on the edge of a cliff here. But the former president, of course, no fan of Mitch McConnell, it looks like Mitch McConnell is folding to the Democrats again. He's got all the cards with the debt ceiling, it's time to play the hand, don't let them destroy our country.

That from former President Donald Trump, just by context reminder, President Donald Trump raised the debt ceiling three times and it was done on a bipartisan basis in those days.

JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: As I was going to say. And Republicans voted for it. But this is political -- this this is like hot potato. They're trying, all that matters at the end of the day and I'm just saying politically is the blame. The Republicans don't want to be blamed. Democrats don't want to be blamed. This is a really insane way to run the country.

KING: One of the things that does get you, these two months, there'll be no default is can the Democrats get their act together on the other part, the agenda --

KUCINICH: That's the question.

KING: -- in that period of time, just before we go. Look at Biden's approval rating. This is an average of recent polling, President's approval rating now at 45 percent. Disapprove at 50 percent. If you're the president, you just got two months' time to work on your agenda part and then come back to the debt ceiling. We'll see if that plays out.

Up next for us, the restrictive Texas abortion law on hold now. A federal judge sides with the Biden White House in round one of a legal fight that is surely destined for a Supreme Court showdown.



KING: The restrictive Texas abortion law is on hold as the legal and political fights intensify, a U.S. District Court Judge yesterday agreeing with a Biden administration challenge to the Texas law in a scathing 113 page ruling, U.S. District Robert Pitman called it quote, an unprecedented and aggressive scheme to deprive its citizens of a significant and well-established constitutional right.

The Texas law you will recall effectively bans abortions after six weeks. And it allows private citizens to bring lawsuits alleging violations. CNN's Laura Coates is back with our panel. So you have this district judge. I want to read a little bit more from the ruling.

We often say judges are supposed to be a political, they often get right to it. That other courts may find a way to avoid this conclusion is theirs to decide, this court will not sanction one more day of this offensive deprivation of such an important right.

Judge Pitman is Obama appointee. Judge Pitman is well aware, this is going to make its way up through the appellate courts, likely to the Supreme Court, which already has a Mississippi case in front of it, pretty stark language there.

LAURA COATES, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: It is. And I don't think the judge is being political. He's being a judicial. This is the opinion that the Supreme Court of the United States should have issued because it was their precedent under Roe v. Wade. And let's think about what they actually tried to do.

They figured out a way to try to evade judicial review, which essentially says there's no check on a legislative branch in Texas, our entire democracy is premised on the idea of separation of powers, checks and balances.

And the idea that somebody in any context, let alone one involving the 14th amendment, equal protection, Supremacy clause of the federal laws and what's going on in the precedent, you could try to evade it and say, you have no recourse because I don't want you to have recourse in the courts. That is astonishing in what the Supreme Court should have already said about this.

And so you have here though, is frankly going to be fleeting perhaps or is temporary, because it will assuredly make its way to one of the most conservative appellate courts in our country, the Fifth Circuit.

And they have already said in some instances, they've been very gunning for the approach talking about these issues, that this is may not be the fight, if they want to find that the underlying law is constitutional, the Supreme Court could arguably decide not to take it up if they requested to go up in the Supreme Court of the United States, which means that this law could continue to be in the law, and it already has a chilling effect.

It already has the intended effect. People not being able to get legal abortions in Texas, you got surrounding states having an increase people going to those places because abortions are not going to stop, but lawful and medically safe ones will in Texas.

KING: And right now the question is if this law is on hold for a day or for a week or a month, depending as it makes its way to the court, what happens? One of the conversations has been well, if you're an abortion clinic and you reopen and somebody comes in for an abortion services, can you be if the next court says no, and puts the law back into effect, can you then be sued?

KANNO-YOUNGS: You can be sued retroactively at this point, right? I mean, that's what -- I understand many people in the administration and allies of the administration saying that this is a win when you look at that language, of course it can have an impact. But when you look at the impact on the ground with these clinics being sued retroactively, I mean for those that are looking to oppose this ruling in Texas, there's still a lot of work to be done.


KING: If you look at polling, this is out of -- and if you look at national polling, if you look at that 58 percent of all adults support or oppose, the Texas law, 58 percent oppose. If you look at among Republicans, 59 percent of Republicans nationally oppose it. But this was done by the Texas Legislature.

I just want to put some numbers up on the screen here, 74 percent of the Texas legislators are men, 50 percent of the state population are men, 61 percent of the legislature is white, 41 percent of the state is white, 64 percent of the legislature is over the age of 50, just 42 percent of the state. You have a lot of these decisions being made by people who shall we say, are not necessarily -- they're representing their views of their population.

COATES: And most of them have uteruses, by the way. Let's just talk about the idea here of the idea of agency of a woman's body. And remember this is also about vigilantism. The numbers you've quoted had been Texas specific. But remember, the law allows for people who are not in Texas, in Alaska, in New Jersey, in D.C., wherever it will be, without any skin in the game, so to speak, can now bring lawsuits in a vigilante approach and get a bounty.

They are incentivized to do so because unlike in any other context in our litigious society, which by the way, is truly America's favorite pastime, not baseball, it's litigation, is the idea of I can bring the suit, I can get attorney's fees if I win. And I get a bounty of 10,000 as opposed to you get nothing. So this is one of those things that is so just negatively impacting the way we should envision our judicial system, period.

KING: Period. I'm pro baseball.

COATES: I'm pro baseball too. It's, you know, your team, your choice. I'm a Red Sox fan, though.

KING: Wow. OK, breaking news.

Up next for us, inside the numbers, brand new CNN polling shows the growing power of independence. But remember, looks can be deceiving.



KING: Most of us tend to think D and R, Democrat and Republican, red and blue like we have on the map here. That's how we think we have political conversations. But a close look inside the numbers tells us a growing number of you reject a party label. And an even closer look tells us that calling yourself independent doesn't necessarily mean you're really a free agent when it comes to voting.

Follow along, our recent CNN polling shows 29 percent of Americans identify as Republicans, 35 percent say they are Democrats the largest slice of the electorate, though, 36 percent say independent or something other than the two major parties. But a closer look debunks the idea. There's this giant swing vote in the middle. When pushed by pollsters, look at this, a majority of independents acknowledged they lean Republican, 46 percent lean Democratic most of the time.

But those who reject the party label do share something important, in common. Nearly eight and 10 say they are not well represented here in Washington. And a vast majority of those who identify as independents believe the country is on the wrong track right now.

With me to share their insights and expertise is CNN political director David Chalian and Margie Omero. She's a principal at the Democratic polling firm, GBAO. So you look at the numbers, you see the largest group are actually people who say I don't want to be in any party, you would think there's this big, we've had the conversation before about the radical middle. Not true.

When you push them, when you do a poll, most people who say their independence are not Democrat or Republican, actually are one or the other, they just don't want to say so why?

MARGIE OMERO, DEMOCRATIC POLLSTER: Well, for a couple of reasons. One we have -- we aspire to be independent. Think of the word independent outside of the political context. We want our kids to be independent. We want to live independently. There's something about being independent that seems very American before you even get to the party. So there's just some desire to -- for some people to say they're independent.

Of course there are the, you know, folks who are wearing the blue jersey or the red jersey all day long, but for others they want to aspire to think about it a little bit differently. At the same time, they may still have some party allegiances when pushed and that's why as pollsters we look at the pure undecided, the people who are truly undecided, and those who are undecided but lean one way or other because they are for sure different.

KING: Right. So as you saw on that number, again, let me just bring it back up here, 46 percent of people who don't identify with the party actually lean Democratic, 51 percent actually lean Republicans. So they have leanings. But they are more open, if you will, more open to going outside of the box because they're not in a party label. They don't feel this immediate loyalty and they matter David Chalian in elections.

If you look when Donald Trump won in 2016, those who identify themselves as Independents, Donald Trump had a narrow edge. In 2020 Independents said enough, they went to Joe Biden. So they're not as locked in which is why politicians fight over them.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Right. I mean, Bill Clinton used to say all the time, right, there's 45 percent over here and 45 percent over here, and we'll fight over the 10 percent in the middle. I do think in our more polarized times, we understand that international politics especially can't just be a battle for the middle because of how polarized we are. It's a both and proposition. You got to rev up that base, and you got to try to win the middle.

And I'm glad you highlighted the Independents that was a critical part to Biden's coalition there. What I think is so interesting, John, is as you see that people do lean one way or the other, you also find some meaningful differences between the diehard Republicans and the Republican leaners or the diehards Democrats and the Democratic leaners. Yes, there's some affiliation. But there are some meaningful differences. [12:50:04]

KING: And we're about to get a great laboratory in the State of Virginia, which is the next election. You have a hotly contested governor's race right there. Everybody is studying it to see what does it teach us about the 2022 midterms?

Margie, I would make the point. If you look at our polling right now, those who are Republican leaning Independents or Republicans are more motivated to vote, this is about 2022, not about Virginia. But they're more vote -- motivated, excuse me right now than Democrats. Why are Democrats and Democratic leaners more discouraged right now about politics?

OMERO: Well, I wouldn't say -- I wouldn't go from saying less motivated to meaning discouraged. I mean, overall independents, whether Democrat or Republican feel that the country is moving in the wrong direction, they're less motivated to vote. At the same time Independents -- Democratic leaning and Republican leaning, want to see a roll, they want to see government doing more rather than doing less.

And so the case for anybody running for office, Democrat or Republican, looking to reach out to Independents to try to make a case why, why they have the right vision for what the government can be doing to help people.

CHALIAN: And to that point, John, just to say, the enthusiasm gap in that chart that you just showed, right, if you look at just the Republicans and just the Democrats, there's pretty -- there's parity there, right? And if you look at the dark red and the dark blue 31 percent, 32 percent. But where you see the enthusiasm gap is actually between the leaners.

So this enthusiasm advantage that Republicans have right now is largely in our research due to the Independents that lean Republican, which is why somebody like Terry McAuliffe, you say in Virginia saying stop all the chitty chat in Washington and actually pass something because I need to generate more enthusiasm among especially those Independents that lean Democrat.

KING: So what works, Margie, I want to go back to the who are the Independents. And if you have the scale we have here, you know, 46 percent say they lean Democratic, 51 percent say they lean Republican. Joe Biden was able to convince a decent portion of those Independents who lean Republican to come his way to win the middle.

Was that animus toward Trump, they'd given up on Trump, or was it something about Biden, that Republican leaning Independents, enough of them, were willing to say we'll vote for this guy?

OMERO: Well, I think it's a combination of all that. I mean, your polling showed that Republican leaning Independents were less likely to think that Joe Biden was extreme compared to other kinds of Republicans so they were more open, if more think he's more likely to be mainstream. Now, I think the thing that about Independents is they feel it's hard to get good information. That's something we hear from a lot of Independents. And we've done some polling for navigator and we saw Independents say one of the things they feel that they're most worried about, that's a major crisis is the spread of misinformation. So the sense that it's hard to know who to trust, it's hard to know where to get good information, that's something that lots of people feel independents in particular,

KING: Well, the disenchantment, eight and 10 say they're not well represented in Washington, 70 percent, more than 70 percent, you know, say that they think the country is off on the wrong track. This is a group that some of them might lean D, might lean R, they seem disaffected.

CHALIAN: Yes, they're not a happy crowd. And it makes them that much further out of reach potentially for politicians to court because they're not really happy with politics in the way it's being run in this country. They're some of the most disenchanted in the polling that we see. So it makes it that much tougher to move them back in to support one way or the other.

KING: When you when you see, Margie, historically, this is only goes back to 2004. But you see this this, you know, 33 percent up to nearly 40 percent of people identify as Independents. I remember after the pro campaign in 1992, I thought for sure there would be a new third party in the United States. No, is no a never, not going to happen?

OMERO: I can't predict the future. But I mean, we may have more people identifying as Independents, but you still have real hyper partisanship. I mean, Democrats are pretty sure that, you know, they feel Republicans, the Republican Party is on the wrong track. Republicans feel the same way about Democrats. That partisanship every -- unites us all because it's something we hear in every focus group, every surveyed, these are R's, Independents, all of them.

KING: Thank you both. I'm going to -- as we go from now through the midterms go inside these numbers anytime we can appreciate your help today.


Up next for us, Senator Lindsey Graham tries to encourage his supporters to get a vaccine and it didn't go very well.


KING: Topping our Political Radar today, call this an awkward moment for Lindsey Graham. In an event in South Carolina, the Republican senator said people should think about getting the COVID vaccine and the crowd made its views clear.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): If you haven't had the vaccine you ought to think about getting it because if you're my age -- CROWD: No, no.


KING: President Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping have agreed to meet in principle virtually before the end of the year. That agreement came after National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan and his Chinese -- China's top diplomat met for six hours in Switzerland. This is likely to come up at that meeting.

The CIA now building a new mission center focused squarely on China. The CIA Director William Burns said in a statement, the center will address the quote increasingly adversarial Chinese government. Other changes announced by the CIA today include a new transnational and technology mission center and a Chief Technology Officer position.

And the Ninja Turtles get an unexpected shout out from Senator Dick Durbin. At a Wednesday hearing on voting rights, the Illinois Democrat confused those teenage terrapins with the group that conducted the recent Arizona recount. That was the cyber ninjas.


DURBIN: And you remember what happened in Arizona, 5.7 million spent on the Ninja Turtles who were going through all these ballots.


KING: Ninja Turtles, aha, the GOP-led Arizona recount remember it confirmed President Biden won the state in 2020.


Thanks for your time today. Hope to see you back here this time tomorrow. Don't go anywhere, busy news day. Ana Cabrera picks up our coverage right now.