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Inside Politics

CNN Poll: 50 Percent of Americans Approve of Biden's Job as President; Buttigieg on Biden's Agenda: "We will get it Done"; CNN Poll: 75 Percent of Dems Say Congress Should Pass Big Economic Bill that Expands Policies versus Costs Less; Shatner: "I Hope I Never Recover" From This "Moving" Experience; Trump-Backed Michigan Rally Demands 2020 Election "Audit". Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired October 13, 2021 - 12:00   ET




JOHN KING, CNN HOST, INSIDE POLITICS: Hello, and welcome to "Inside Politics". I'm John King in Washington. We have a packed hour ahead. Thanks for sharing your day with us.

Some brand new CNN polling on President Biden and the challenge selling his ambitious agenda, most Democrats still favor going bold, but even within the president's party, there are doubts his plan will make things much better.

Plus, subpoena showdown the committee investigating the insurrection now faces a credibility test as it responds to Trump allies who refuse to cooperate. And beam me up Jeff Bezos Star Trek William Shatner boldly goes to the edge of space as a tourist. Now back on Earth, the 90-year-old actor reflects on the remarkable journey.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voice over): And here comes our crew back into the desert newest astronauts 596, 97, 98 and 99. And capsule touchdown. Welcome back the newest astronauts, Audrey Powers, William Shatner.

WILLIAM SHATNER, OLDEST PERSON TO TRAVEL TO SPACE: What you have given me is the most profound experience.


KING: Back to that dramatic story in a moment, but we begin this hour with President Biden and his ambitious agenda and brand new CNN polling on what you think? The president standing is a bit stronger than some other recent polling suggests. Our numbers illuminate those two big Biden Presidential challenges, managing expectations within the Democratic family and doing a better job selling how his plan would make your life better?

Let's walk through the numbers first. You just look at this the North Star of any presidency, the North Star of a party heading into a midterm election year, where does the president stand with the American people?

50 percent in our brand new poll releasing right now approved, 49 percent disapprove so an even split in our polarized times, the Biden White House would say you'd like to be a little better. But that's not so bad 50 percent approval rating for the president.

Now what do Americans think about this big economic agenda? The Democrats are trying to put together a mix of climate change social safety net in the like, well, 41 percent of Americans say go big do at all, all safety net and climate proposals.

41 percent of Americans say do it all, please get that done here in Washington, but 30 percent say, fewer proposals, put some things to the sidelines and do it for less money. 29 percent say don't pass anything. This is the base of the Republican Party right here.

So here's the challenge for the president. How do you move these numbers and what to do? If you look even just among Democrats the president knows this is going to be Democrats alone here when the votes in Congress happen?

Well, look, 75 percent of Democrats still want to go bold. They want it all, all those safety net proposals like free Pre-K, free community college, more childcare and climate proposals. 75 percent of Democrats say go bold 20 percent of the Democrats say fewer proposals shrink the cost a little bit. Only 4 percent of Democrats don't say anything.

So the president has a challenge. Now you see that 75 number you think, OK, you can go into the meeting with a centrist and say, hey, the rest of the party wants to go bold. But there are some contradictions in our polling, if you will, who's doing more to help the Democratic Party right now?

This is a question asked of this - this part is just among Democrats and voters who lean Democrat. Well, 49 percent say that progressives who want that big bold agenda are doing more, but 51 percent say moderate, so the Democratic Party is evenly split on which side of the party if you will, which piece of the party best represents their views right now, so go bold, but listen to the moderates. There's, again, a little bit of a conflict here.

Here is the biggest challenge for the president and his party right now. They are failing to sell this agenda to the American people in terms of how it would change your day to day life. Look at this number. Only 25 percent of Americans in our poll, this is all Americans only 25 percent.

One in four, think if the democrats passed this big bill; it's going to make my life better from day to day. Only 25 percent think that. A third say I'd be worse off 43 percent say about the same tough to say we're going to spend three $4 trillion if your life is going to be about the same, the president has to do a better job selling how this would impact your life, even among Democrats look at this.

In short Republicans don't like it. That does not surprise anybody in these polarized times. 65 percent of Republicans say this would make things worse, 32 percent say would keep things the same. But look at the challenge the president has to get votes from Democrats in Congress; he needs support from Democrats out in the country.

Only half of Democrats think this ambitious agenda would make them better off 6 percent say worse off, but look at that 45 percent nearly half of Democrats say my life would be the same even if they do this big thing. So the challenge is not only to reach agreement in Congress, it's to convince Democrats and then the rest of the country.

This would actually help the Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg a key Biden ally in this fight says we'll get there.


PETE BUTTIGIEG, TRANSPORTATION SECRETARY: The place that we can get to is going to represent a stronger economy and a better life for this country. We're building back better whether we're talking about physical infrastructure, or whether we're just talking about making it easier to raise a child to get through life to participate in the economy in this country. Progressives believe in that moderates believe in that the president believes in that and we're going to get it done.



KING: With me studio to discuss these numbers and to share their reporting and their insights, Rachel Bade the "Co-Author of "POLITICO" Playbook, Seung min Kim White House Reporter for "The Washington Post" Tarini Parti who covers the White House for "The Wall Street Journal" and David Chalian, our CNN Political Director.

Let me start with you, Mr. Chalian because you're the guru behind our polling here. The president said 50 percent, again, you'd like to be stronger but that's better than some other recent polls have shown. But the idea of what people think right now, what people think right now?

Up 25 percent of the country, only 25 percent of the country at this moment thinks if the Democrats passed something, they will be better off. They have a giant hill ahead of them on the sales challenge.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yes, that that to me - that number jumped out to me I thought it was stunningly low. And it jumped out to me as a clear failure to date, to actually sell what it is the Democrats are trying to do to the American people broadly, there's been so much debate for months now, literally months now.

We have heard about top line numbers going back and forth. And you could hear the frustration and Democratic Leaders in Congress in Nancy Pelosi will tell the timer oh, it's not about a top line. It's one two in it. But there's that has not gotten past the beltway to actually start selling the - when you know, you look at other polling, popular items are part of the substance of this, that is not getting through to the American people, quite clearly our polls. KING: And what did they say when you ask about that at the Biden White House in the sense that look, there's been a debate in Washington, you know, it was going to be a $6 trillion reconciliation package? No, we have to roll it back to 3.5.

Now the debate is how do you get closer to about $2 trillion? So the big fight has been about the price tag, which is incredibly important here in Washington, because you can't write the policy particulars until you know how much money you have to spend and yet they have - the American people out there listening to all these numbers, and they don't understand what that means free Pre-K, that means free community college, that means help with childcare.

SEUNG MIN KIM, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Right. And the White House has certainly acknowledged that they have had a broader communications issue when it comes to what is in it, which is why you've heard them, which is why first of all, President Biden is launching a new national tour to go out and sell the plan he'll be in Connecticut later this week.

And you've heard Press Secretary Jen Psaki talk about the provisions a lot more during your briefings. But one problem is that they haven't agreed on a package. So we can't talk. We can't tell readers what is in the package until the Democrats come to an agreement. So that's challenge number one.

And, John, you mentioned earlier that obviously, the challenge is to come to an agreement among Democrats and then obviously, the challenge is to sell the plan once that's public. But another challenge is when you're putting together the agreement to actually deliver those benefits to voters.

And that's another struggle that Democrats are really grappling with right now. For example, some of the expanded Medicare benefits right now, it may not kick in for another seven years and the year 2028. So will voters vote on that for the year 2022 and that is a big challenge right now.

KING: And it's a lesson Democrats don't when they passed Obamacare back in 2009 and 2010 midterms, Obamacare was, you know, still being drafted the regulations and all that and they got smoked in the midterms. That year later, it became more popular, but it's interesting.

We've watched this play out in Washington, you watch the show, and you know, Joe Manchin is on TV, and he says, no, make it smaller, make it cost less. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is on TV, she says we promised to go bold. The debate in Washington is actually reflected in our poll among Democrats out in the country who's doing more to help the Democratic Party.

But if you are under the age of 45, you say, the progressives are doing more. Let's have that big ambitious agenda; the young energy in the Democratic Party tends to be more liberal, more progressive. But if you ask people over the age of 45 58 percent, say no the moderates who are trying to make this a smaller package and constrain spending. So the debate we have in Congress, which sometimes seems you know, petty, and personal, or at least public, is the debate Democrats across the country have as well?

TARINI PARTI, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: I think it is totally reflective of what we're seeing when you talk to voters out in the country. But I think a couple of the numbers that stood out to me, despite those divisions, was that more than eight out of 10 Democrats or Democratic leaning voters, or those who were surveyed said they approve of the president's handling of these negotiations.

And I think when you talk about these divisions, that's the number of the White House would point to, you know, saying that, at least they're happy with the way the president is trying to negotiate with both sides and sort of try to come up with something in the middle.

And then also 88 percent of those surveyed said they have Democrats said they support the president. So for now, even with the divisions, he's sort of holding the party together, which is important, looking ahead to the midterms, when those Democrats need to turn out.

KING: And critically important, looking forward to the next couple of weeks, as the Democrats say, we'll see if they can do this. But they're trying to get this done by the end of the month. They're trying to get this done pretty quickly reach an agreement, how much are we going to spend reach an agreement?

How are we going to spread that money out? And to that point, a lot of Democrats yelled at me yesterday, because we used a poll that showed the president's polling was pretty weak. It's one poll, you should never invest in just one poll, not even this one. This is our poll, and we love it and trust it.

But this one does show the president in a bit of a stronger position here, as Tarini just noted, you know, 88 percent of Democrats approve of his job as president. Let's down a little bit from September, but roughly within the margin of error.

Among independents, the presidents held firm among Republicans, he's actually gone up a little bit. So the president who's the one who has to in the end, he's let them - he's - his strategy has been I'm going to let you guys air it out. At some point he's going to have to say, let's get to the finish line. He is in pretty good standing and he can say that to members of Congress. Democrats across the country are with me.


RACHAEL BADE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, and I think a lot of Democrats on Capitol Hill, frankly, are looking at these polls and deciding, you know, how hard? How much hardball are they going to play right now? You know, the stronger that the president is in these polls, the more likely they are to support a bigger bill, if he's hurting, you know, they're going to cut bait and run.

There's another thing, you know, on the sales pitch, this whole sales pitch, and the fact that people don't realize what this bill would do for them, which, again, I agree is totally, you know, surprising. And the biggest takeaway I had for this from this poll as well, they had this problem with the COVID relief bill in the past that in January, it was like $2 trillion worth of assistance for the American public.

And still, a lot of people to this day don't realize that their enhanced child tax credit is because of, you know, President Biden, one of the first things he did when he got into the White House. And so the sales pitch is a really big thing.

And then in terms of the differences, it's not just ideological in terms of Democrats moderate Dems versus progressives; they're also a huge difference on what politically is going to work in the midterms? You have moderates who say, if we go big, you know, we're going to lose our seats, we're going to lose our majorities.

And then you have progressives who say, if we don't deliver, we promised these things, you know, people are not going to turn out our basis, I'm going to turn out and we're going to be in big trouble.

CHALIAN: That's such a good point, Rachael. Also, just to note about the midterms, and let's say more immediately, in three weeks in Virginia, if President Biden is at 50 percent, nationally, and I would note, this is the fourth poll since that Quinnipiac Poll, and this is really a more consistent number across those polls that he's in this upper 40s range, I think, on average.

You know, in marginal districts, he's lower than that in a state, like if he's at 50 percent nationally, he's lower than that in Virginia. And yes, he held firm on independence, like, you noted John, but he's upside down with independence, though. And that's a problem because that was a huge part of his winning coalition.

KING: Right. And just to that - just to button it up with that point. Let's put up here just the president in terms of approval rating compared to some other predecessors. George W. Bush is 88 percent that was the year after 9/11. So that's the outlier.

But Republicans did quite well; they held their own in the first midterm when the president's party usually gets spanked. Obama was a 55 percent at this point, in his first year, remember that they lost 63 seats in the Obama first midterm.

So Joe Biden's at 50 percent right now better than Bill Clinton, they also lost a lot, right there. They're way better than Donald Trump who lost a ton. But that 50 percent if you're at the Biden, White House, this is your leverage in the meetings about this bill is about this bill, that if we do something, we can get that up to 52 or 53.

We live in a very different climate next year than we do if it's at 50 or if it starts sliding in the other direction.

CHALIAN: And you're pretty happy sitting between two democratic presidents that won reelection when you're looking at that chart.

KING: Right? But the midterm comes before that. CHALIAN: Exactly.

KING: That is always the challenge. Up next for us the final frontier for real this time Star Trek's Captain Kirk and William Shatner blasts into space thanks to Jeff Bezos and that Blue Origin rocket.



KING: Star Trek's OG Captain Kirk just went on a historic trip to the very edge of space. 90-year-old Actor William Shatner and three crew mates lifted off from a remote stretch of West Texas was an 11 minute trip this morning on Jeff Bezos Blue Origin flight Shatner now the oldest person ever to travel into space.

Let's discuss the meaning of all this now and the coolness of it. But Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson he's the Co-Author of the book "A brief Welcome to the universe a pocket sized tour".

Neil, grateful for your time this day! You are a Trekkie, like I am a Trekkie. So just the fact that Captain Kirk James Tiberius Kirk, William Shatner is from Canada, James T. Kirk is from Iowa. But you know, no snow Spock no bones, no, Scotty but pretty cool.

NEIL DEGRASSE TYSON, ASTROPHYSICIST: Yes, they didn't - they didn't beam him into space. He actually went there. So that's, that's good. An important part of Americana yes, he is Canadian originally. But it's - it's the show is American. We feel it, although it was the Federation of Planets of nations that went into space.

The point is to see someone who we care about, and who's an endearing part of our culture, and to participate in this enterprise is it helps to open it up as a destination for future vacations that people might take. And it's not often you get to see the birth of an entire industry. And that's what's going on right now.

KING: And to that point, let's listen to a little bit of William Shatner, I heard my former colleague, Miles O'Brien say this a couple hours ago. And I think you agree that one of the interesting things here is nothing against astronauts, I'm in awe of astronauts. But they're trained in the sciences.

So they speak a certain language that's more technical, listen to Bill Shatner describing his this moment.


SHATNER: It was so moving this experience is something unbelievable. I'm so filled with emotion about what just happened. I just - it's extraordinary, extraordinary. I hope I never recover from this moment. You see how but the vulnerability of everything, it's so small, everybody, it would be important for everybody to have that experience.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KING: You hear him there talking about seeing the vulnerability. He talked about seeing the blue comforter, if you will, around the planet, how is it? How important is it that especially where we have the climate crisis, where we have other challenges before us that we hears about these things in plain English are for lack of a better way to put it?

TYSON: It changes you. And I mean, just to put some of this in context, I haven't seen anyone mentioned it yet. But Alan Shepard was America's first astronauts went into a suborbital trajectory, not much unlike what William Shatner just went through.


TYSON: That happened 60 years ago, had you fished him out of the ocean and tell him in 60 years, we're going to send a 90 year old actor into space, and he's going to come back and feel emotional about it. I think they would be shocked that we've even come that far.

I think we could have been at this stage decades ago had been people's priority, but better late than never. And I think the more different people you send into space, the more we can vicariously participate in who come closest to who you are?

I was alive and remember the Mercury 7 and the Apollo missions. And no, I didn't connect to them. I'm sorry, I just didn't. They were just some other. They were like test pilots. That crew cuts at a time when the Broadway musical hair was on Broadway. They didn't have any hair, you know, and they spoke money and my skin colors didn't match.

So we're in a whole new era where space exploration is not just a geopolitical act, it's an - it's a choice to how to spend your entertainment money. And I don't have a problem with that. Yes, rich people do it now, but that the first people who flew airplanes were rich, OK.

Then it became commoditized. And then nearly everyone becomes a participant. And that's really what's going on here.

KING: Well, so that - let's follow on that point. I just want to show our viewers by the way, because you've talked about you weren't there for you know, we're already into Mercury or the early Apollo. So you're into Bill Shatner, we have a tweet from you talking about you know, Godspeed to William Shatner. He has gone up there.

As I said, I've - I was blessed to a friend to get a signed autograph from Bill Shatner, I have it done in my office. I showed the staff today, a lot of them. I thought I was a little weird. But frankly, but I'm afraid - but yes - but so when the question is when?

You know, this is still a pretty exclusive club. But as you noted, rich people were the first people to fly airplanes. If these remains a priority, these things tend to grow exponentially if there's investment and if it's a priority, when does a normal person get to do this is that in our foreseeable future? TYSON: If you can run the math when you ever reusable rocket, then you reduce you amortize out the annual cost of maintaining such an enterprise. So for example, if you fly to Europe in a Boeing 777, they don't just put it in a dumpster and roll out another one for you to fly back stateside, they reuse it as many times as they possibly can.

And it's the reuse factor was pioneered by Elon Musk, and all the rest of the billionaires know that that's an important cog in the economics of making this accessible to everyone. And even if the price doesn't quite come in reach of sort of a middle class vacation budget, you could still hold up in a seat and a lottery.

I paid $2 - $5 for a lottery ticket for that chance. And then you get to see who goes up and you follow them. You the media would track them. It would be fun. It would be - we would all be participants in this.

But one point I want to make just as an astrophysicist I got a reality check here just for me is if Earth were a schoolroom globe, you can ask how high up did they go? This magical space line that everyone talks about the Karman line is about the thickness of two dimes above the surface of a schoolroom globe.

So no, you're not seeing Earth recede as a pale blue dot into the distance. But you do ascend above the atmosphere that the bulk of the atmosphere so that you can see the sun in the sky and stars in the darkness. And that transition can be quite emotional for people.

Plus you're looking at continents with no color coded boundaries drawn in. So yes, you can, they should send everybody up, just so that we'd all come back and we'd be more peaceful with each other. And consider that if two times the thickness or two times up gets you above the bulk of the atmosphere.

That means the atmosphere is thin. It's a thin atmosphere; the outer atmosphere is to Earth as the skin of an apple is to an apple. So if you want to, if you want to leak, you want to rescale how you think and care about this one place that we have only existed on Earth.

That perspective from space can launch you into a whole new understanding of our environment, and to become better shepherds of civilization as we go forward.

KING: You're proving the value of it right there if we can have interesting conversations like this learning experiences like this after cool flights like this, we all benefit in the end. I'll join that lottery with you Neil deGrasse Tyson grateful for your time on this important day, sir. We'll keep in touch. Thank you.

TYSON: Thank you.

KING: Thank you. Up next for us on "Inside Politics" sadly, the big lie gets bigger a heated rally in Michigan just part of the GOP's tightening embrace, growing embrace of Donald Trump and his big lie.


KING: The big lie is alive and well sadly thriving even when you look at scenes like this one Lansing, Michigan signs and flags at this Trump back rally well they say at all. It's not right or left it's right or wrong? Trump won, we deserve an audit.

You could look at that and say well, it's only a few 100 people but a few 100 people on a Tuesday afternoon is not anything and they believe what they believe.