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Inside Politics

Mounting Problems Test Biden's Presidency; Steve Bannon, Other Trump Allies Could Face Criminal Charges for Defying Subpoena; Democrats Clash Over Size, Scope of Biden's Economic Plan; Democrats Still Far Apart on How Much to Spend and on What; McAuliffe, Youngkin in Tight Race for Virginia Governor; Pushback on Vaccine Mandate. Aired 8-9a ET

Aired October 17, 2021 - 08:00   ET




PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Unraveling? A deepening Democratic divide puts their agenda on the brink. The president is still optimistic.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's time for us to invest in ourselves. I'm convinced we're going to get this done.

MATTINGLY: Plus, Congress ready to hold Steve Bannon in contempt for ignoring its subpoenas. Could he and others really face jail time?

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): We're not messing around. If people don't show up, we expect that it will be prosecuted.

MATTINGLY: The biggest race of the year. It's down to the wire in Virginia.

GLENN YOUNGKIN, REPUBLICAN NOMINEE IN VIRGINIA GUBERNATORIAL RACE: Terry McAuliffe believes in big government. He believes that government should be between you and your children.

TERRY MCAULIFFE, DEMOCRATIC NOMINEE IN VIRGINIA GUBERNATORIAL RACE: He's a Trump wannabe. He's trying to play it both ways.

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


MATTINGLY: Welcome to INSIDE POLITICS SUNDAY. I'm Phil Mattingly in today for Abby Phillip.

It's a crossroads moment for President Joe Biden. These next few weeks could make or break his presidency. And as the president himself would way, that's not actually hyperbole. So let's lay out these three major questions the White House is currently facing.

Number one, where would the economy be just a few months from now? At this moment, supply chain disruptions causing major shortages. Job growth, wavering back and forth. Prices, they are up. If the Fed wants to target, say, a 2 percent inflation rate, that's what they're generally looking for, it's been above that level for the last seven months.

Question two, have we seen the last major surge in COVID cases in the U.S.? Experts at this moment seem to be optimistic, but no one's quite sure what will happen as the weather gets colder.

And question number three, can the president's party come together and pass his sweeping plans to rebuild America's infrastructure and transform much of the U.S. economy. Democrats, at least from the outside, they appear hopelessly divided. Not the president.


BIDEN: Too many folks in Washington still don't realize it isn't enough just to invest in our physical infrastructure. We also have to invest in our people. I'm convinced we're going to get this done. I'm convinced we're going to get it done. We're not going to get $3.5 trillion. We'll get less than that, but we're going to get it, and we're going to go back and get the rest.


MATTINGLY: Now, Americans are split down the middle on the president's performance. According to a new CNN poll, 50 percent approve, 49 percent disapprove. Shocking, the country polarized to some degree.

Joining us now with their reporting and their insights, Jackie Kucinich of the "Daily Beast," the "Washington Post's" Tulose Olorunnipa, Jeff Mason, "Reuters," and Kimberly Adams of "Marketplace."

Jeff, look, I thought this was a week, and I've been bothering our production team about this for the last several days. It really kind of laid bare the challenges the administration faces. And also the states, in terms of, you looked at the supply chain issue which we'll get into, obviously inflation is very real at this moment in time, the very real divides inside the Democratic Party as they're try and get their agenda forward.

Jen Psaki was asked kind of what the vibe is at the White House right now. And this was how she put it.


JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I promise you we don't get too glum around here. Even if things look challenging our view and his view is that he was elected to continue to press forward and address the challenges the American people are facing.


MATTINGLY: So maybe they don't get too glum.


MATTINGLY: But I feel -- they're very cognizant inside the White House of the scale of what's going on right now. What's your read of how they view this moment?

MASON: I was thinking at the very beginning of the administration, I spoke to a senior administration official in the West Wing who said we will be judged on two things. We'll be judged on how we address COVID and we'll be addressing the economy. And here we are in October, many months on, and the economy is facing headwinds and COVID is a little bit better, but definitely not where they thought it would be by the fall.

I think that they -- I mean, I think Jen's right, they don't let themselves get down, but they're not where they thought they would be this far in the administration. And certainly, the frustrations with the legislation, he needs a win and he's about to go on a couple -- or one foreign trip, two stops, where he wants to highlight some wins about how well the economy is doing or how well they're dealing with COVID. And he just doesn't have enough yet to be able to really make that argument.

MATTINGLY: And I think one of the challenges right now is, look, if the president wants to win, there are opportunities on the legislative front. There's no question about it. It's intractable seemingly from the outside, but there's a very real possibility that they end up getting both pieces of legislation.

On the economy right now, in terms of what the president can actually do when it comes to inflation or when it comes to supply chains and they're very interconnected at this moment in time in a post-pandemic world, there's not a lot the president can do. Is that the right assessment?


KIMBERLY ADAMS, MARKETPLACE WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Right, because there are so many parts that factor into inflation and the rising prices that American consumers are seeing every day. You're looking at gas prices, which are right in your face as you drive down the street. You're looking at the price of food going up in the grocery store. All of those things are part of inflation.

Now the president wanted to open the Port of L.A. 24/7 to try to ease up some of the supply chain problems we're having getting goods into the United States. That's all well and good but may not help you out that much if you don't have enough truck drivers to carry those goods to different parts of the country.

At the same time we are seeing some wage growth, which is good. Congratulations, American workers, but that also can factor into higher prices when companies choose to raise prices so they can pay their workers more. And so you have all of these different factors feeding into why prices are going up, and that's what's in the face of American consumers, and it's hard to pick and choose what part of that to attack at any point in time and whether or not that will actually make a difference.

MATTINGLY: Well, and so, I want to follow up on that because, you know, the port issue that the president laid out said it could potentially be a game changer. You know, the reality is, no, it can't, in isolation, because there are so many different things up and down the supply chain.

So I think the question becomes from a federal government perspective, and I've been talking with White House officials about this, what can they do to actually change these dynamics to make things shorter term than they have seemed like they're going? Is there anything they can do?

ADAMS: I mean, opening that port a little bit longer was one thing they could do, but like I said, with so many inputs, sure, maybe you can try to make it easier for truck drivers and encourage more people to sign up and provide additional support to large companies asking them to say, hey, can you put some other things on these giant ships that you're chartering to help move these things along?

There are things they can do at the edges, but it's really -- we have such a globalized distribution system for the goods that we're buying that wasn't equipped for a pandemic. And consumers in the United States used to be very services oriented, and then in lockdown we started buying a lot of stuff.

And so at the same time that you had people shutting down manufacturing operations all over the world, you also had us buying more physical things. And the global economy just wasn't equipped for it and it's going to take us years to catch up.

MATTINGLY: Yes. And an unprecedented demand shock at the absolutely worst possible time which the president can't just wave a magic wand and snap his fingers and make change. What the president can do is try and sell his legislative agenda, try and get his legislative agenda across the line. It's been one of the things of course over the course of the last month we expected the president be out selling the agenda on a regular basis. Talking about the pieces of the plan.

Reality got in the way of that, whether it was Afghanistan, whether it was storms. You take a look at the president's travel to promote his agenda over the course of the last three months. You see four or five, a lot of them were intertwined with other things. Not a primary focus. What can the administration do.

We're going to dig in on the agenda in a little bit, but what can they do to help get this plan, I guess, more understood, better understood?

TOLUSE OLORUNNIPA, WASHINGTON POST POLITICAL INVESTIGATIONS REPORTER: Well, they can definitely hone their messaging and they can tailor some of their messaging to what people are feeling in the grocery store with some of this inflation.

When you listen to Senator Manchin, I know we'll talk about him later in the show, he is one of the people that says, you know, we need to pump the brakes on all of the spending and maybe rear back some of these very ambitious pieces of the agenda, in part, because they could add to the inflation.

He is worried about the amount of money -- the amount of government money that's being pumped into the economy. And he believes that having a $3.5 trillion bill will make things worse on that front.

So having the White House sort of directly tailor their message to him and to other people that are worried about the inflation and the economy and say this is how we could actually solve these problems could help move this agenda along. Because right now with Senator Manchin saying we're going to put trillions of dollars into the economy is going to make it very hard for them to get that legislative agenda through.

JACKIE KUCINICH, DAILY BEAST WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF: Welk, I think one of the things that they're struggling with, right, is that they don't even know what's going to end up living through the process, right? I mean, they're about the 3.5 -- they don't want to be talking about numbers, but they don't know what number to land on and they don't know if they're going to be talking about a program that they're making big promises that they can't keep because it died in the legislative process.

So they want to put out there what they want, what the Build Back Better agenda, as they call it, should include. What they want it, but right now it's wish-casting.


KUCINICH: Until you have a bill.

MATTINGLY: And it's such a good point because you take up the CNN poll I was referencing earlier, the key Biden constituencies who don't actually think that the bill would help them, people who think their family would be better off with both bills passes, total, 25 percent, independents, 20 percent women, 23 percent. The core of the second proposal is women and women who have been detached from the workforce or have been unable to get into the workforce. People of color, 28 percent. Under 45 28 percent. I mean, look, go ahead --

ADAMS: Yes. I mean, something as simple as the child tax credit, which whether or not it's going to be extended is dependent on whether or not this legislation passes. You have more than, like, 60 million kids who are affected by this.


This is money the parents are getting every single month that they weren't getting before the pandemic. And so here you have -- we're waiting on the details of this legislation, and it actually does matter to many American families whether or not something, one piece of it, the child tax gets extended.


MASON: The fact that people don't know that, don't necessarily realize what the components of this bill are comes back to a little bit of what Toluse was saying. There is a messaging miss there because there's a lot of great stuff in it for people who should be the core constituents of the Democratic Party and of President Biden.

MATTINGLY: Yes. And, look, if (INAUDIBLE) clear, once we have a better idea of things it's going to be a blitz. And if we do end up passing this, the better part of the next year is going to be focused on explaining to people what it is. But the idea of having to explain it after the fact hasn't necessarily always worked out so well in the past. We'll get more into this in a little bit.

All right, an update for you on the health of former president Bill Clinton. He is expected to be discharged today from a California hospital. Clinton has spent the last several days there receiving treatment for a urinary tract infection that spread to his bloodstream. He's received a steady stream of well-wishers this weekend including President Biden, Vice President Harris, former president Bush, and former president Al Gore -- Vice President Al Gore.

Up next, Steve Bannon defies a congressional subpoena. Could it cost him his freedom?



MATTINGLY: Steve Bannon is refusing to comply with a subpoena from the committee investigating the Capitol insurrection. The big question, though, will that send him to jail?

The committee will move this week to hold him in criminal contempt, and then the Justice Department must decide whether to bring actual charges. That's not all. Committee chairman Bennie Thompson says anyone trying to obstruct the probe will face consequences, including the former president.


REP. BENNIE THOMPSON (D-MS): If former president Trump thinks he can get away with what happened on January 6th about being cute with his press releases, then he has another thing coming. Our committee, the bipartisan committee takes our work very seriously, and we will pursue it.


MATTINGLY: CNN's Melanie Zanona joins the panel now. And Melanie, I was asking you before, did you get a break during the congressional recess? And the answer is no because of this panel and what they've been working on. But I think the big question right now is as they start this very real process, contempt process, what actually happens? Is Steve Bannon going to jail tomorrow? The answer's no, but why?

MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL CORRESPONDENT: I mean, that is a great question. You remember covering Capitol Hill for so many years, as Democrats are trying to hold the Trump administration accountable, it really exposed the weaknesses that Congress has when it comes to oversight.

I mean, they could do something called inherent contempt, which hasn't been used. It would require the sergeant in arms hauling people in and holding them in custody or they could do criminal contempt, which is what they are pursuing with Bannon, but it ultimately kicks it to the DOJ.

So Congress doesn't actually have a ton of power here, and we don't know what Merrick Garland is going to do. I mean, he has shown that he wants to be cooperative and wants to aid the investigation. But at the same time the administration doesn't want to look political. They want to show that the DOJ is independent. And so we don't know, and even if they do decide to pursue criminal charges at the DOJ, it's going to wind up in a lengthy court battle.

So it could take years to resolve and the truth is the committee doesn't have that type of time. The House could flip to Republicans next year, and then this whole select committee would go away.

MATTINGLY: And Jackie, I guess that's my biggest question, right? Having -- and we all did, but having lived through the two impeachment investigations, specifically the first investigation where I feel like the former president's lawyers figured out that you could basically destroy the investigation by just saying no to absolutely everything.


MATTINGLY: What's the actual end game here? Is this going to be the same situation where everybody is waiting for three years to see anything about anything? And by that point everybody has moved on?

KUCINICH: I think it very well could be, honestly, which is not only -- it's a shame mostly because the American people deserve to know what happened on January 6th, the full picture. And we don't know all the answers. We're finding out new information every day because of various investigations. Look what happened with the DOJ this week and the Capitol police officer who's been accused of helping the rioters after the fact and trying to get them to take down their social media post.

So -- but Melanie's absolutely right. Congress' powers here are very limited. And we don't know what the DOJ is going to do, and that is by design. That's how things are supposed to work, which wasn't necessarily the case in the Trump administration because of pressure from the White House to the DOJ. So, we're kind of hurry up and waiting right now. But this committee has to be aggressive just in terms of the posture they take because all -- a lot of these people that are going to be subpoenaed are watching what happens with Steve Bannon.

MATTINGLY: Yes. No, no question about it. You talk about pressures from the White House, the president on Friday had an interesting response given the fact that the White House and the president has made very clear the Justice Department is a separate entity, Merrick Garland is his own man who's going to make his own decisions.

The president was asked if the Justice Department should prosecute those who ignore subpoenas. Take a listen.


BIDEN: I hope that the committee goes after them and holds them accountable criminally.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Should they be prosecuted by the Justice Department?

BIDEN: I do. Yes.

SCHIFF: I was very encouraged to hear what President Biden said today, that he thinks our committee should go after those who don't comply, and he believes that they should be prosecuted.


MATTINGLY: Now, to note, the Justice Department very quickly perhaps statement saying, "The Department of Justice will make its own independent decisions in all prosecutions based solely on the facts and the law, full stop." Are Democrats trying to put their thumb on the scale here, Jeff?

MASON: Well, I think President Biden would like to see this pushed for sure. I don't think that he's changing his view about the independence of the Department of Justice. But sometimes when he has a moment like that where he's chatting with reporters, you'll see what he really thinks. And he thinks this was an attack on our democracy and he thinks that the committee needs to get down and get under the -- you know, get at the dirt, and that's why that came out.


OLORUNNIPA: And the delay tactics that we saw during the Trump administration were effective. They were able to delay a lot of the impeachment investigation. We didn't hear from Don McGahn until, you know, after Trump had basically left office and essentially that is the same playbook that Bannon and some of these other Trump acolytes are using.

They want to say, you know, we'll take this to court, we'll see you in court. Two years later, three years later we figure out what's going to happen and if that works it may make it very difficult for this commission to get anything done.

MATTINGLY: Yes. Especially if it's, as the president says, a threat to the core of democracy. Seems like something you'd want to address in the near term.

Speaking of the former president, you had a great story this week about how, you know, the president's push on fraud, you know, he put out a statement saying, and I'm reading here, "If we don't solve the presidential election fraud of 2020, which we have thoroughly and conclusively documented, Republicans will not be voting in '22 and '24." Just to be abundantly clear they have not thoroughly or conclusively

documented anything. Anything they've documents has actually been proven false or lost catastrophically in court. However, that's a very real problem for Republicans who want to run and don't want to run on this issue but feel like they have to, right?

ZANONA: I talked to a ton of Republican lawmakers and aides this week and they were all privately at least very frustrated that Trump continues to try to rehash 2020. They want to focus on Biden, the border, the economy. They do not want to talk about this. They want to put 2020 in the rear-view mirror.

And there's also some concern that Trump talking about false claims of election fraud and a rigged election are going to depress Republican voter turnout like we saw in the Georgia Senate races earlier this year, when Republicans lost both seats and a lot of Republican leaders blamed that on Trump continue to say it's a rigged election.

But look, at the same time, Republican leaderships are not rejecting these lies, they're not calling Trump out. And as long as they continue to make him a part of their party and a centerpiece of their party, they're going to have to deal with those consequences.

MATTINGLY: Yes. Look, Melanie wrote a really great story about this. You should read it. The Republican leaders have made a very clear choice here. You can complain on background as much as you want.

ZANONA: Right.

MATTINGLY: But you've made the decision. You're in with him now. We know when it happens when you are.

All right, coming up next, Bernie Sanders on offense. Why he's taking on Joe Manchin in his own home state newspaper.



MATTINGLY: The road appeared to get even rockier for the Build Back Better agenda this week. The Democratic Party -- the leaders of the party's liberal and moderate wing spent much of the weekend at each other's throats. First, this op-ed from Bernie Sanders in West Virginia's biggest newspaper, "Poll after poll shows overwhelming support for this legislation. Two Democratic senators remain in opposition, including Senator Joe Manchin." Joe Manchin's from West Virginia.

Then this response from Manchin. "I will not vote for a reckless expansion of government programs. No op-ed from a self-declared independent socialist is going to change that." And news that is infuriating progressives, the key plank in Biden's climate change agenda is likely to be stripped from the final bill because of said West Virginia's opposition.

So now that we've had two senators -- yes, other than that everything's going absolutely swimmingly. And two senators from the top rope at one another. Look, I think the question right now is, you know, you're in the White House every single day. What's your read about how they view this moment in time with the legislation?

MASON: I think they're ready to get it across the finish line, and it's just not moving very quickly. And we talked earlier about these upcoming summits that the president is going to, the climate piece is really important to his argument at Glasgow, which is this international climate change conference where he wants to say the United States is back and we're going to cut our emissions 50 percent to 52 percent from 2005 levels by 2030.

It's going to be a much harder sell for him to say that if he doesn't have the goods to deliver it. And the goods right now are in that legislation.

ZANONA: In some ways it feels like we are farther away from a deal than we were a few weeks ago because they still haven't agreed on a topline number. You have Bernie Sanders and Joe Manchin sparring with each other in public, and you still have a litany of policy issues that haven't been resolved from climate change, Medicare expansion, drug pricing. These are major, major components of the agenda.

I think my question is at what point does the White House put its foot down and say this is where we're at, it's time to move forward? Up until this point they have kind of treated Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema with kid gloves. Deferring to Pelosi and Schumer on this. You know, they don't want to paint themselves in a corner, they want to get buy in but they don't have a lot of leverage points. They don't have a lot -- right.


JEFF: And they haven't done that. They haven't put their foot down. That, I think, has been some kind of a frustration for some Dems, right?

ZANONA: It has. It has. Yes.

MASON: That they haven't -- the White House hasn't ever, I mean, it's not that they're not showing any leadership, but they're not coming out and saying this is our bottom line, this is absolutely what we want. This is what can or can't be cut because that's just hasn't been their strategy.

MATTINGLY: So why not? Why hasn't the president, which we've heard from a lot of congressional Democrats and I think all of us probably have, like, why isn't Biden coming in and telling Joe Manchin this is what we're doing it and get on board, and we're going now?


OLORUNNIPA: Well, If you look at how he campaigned he said he was a moderate. He said he was going to bring the party together. He said he was going to work with Republicans.

But he also said he was going to be the most progressive president in history. He worked with Bernie Sanders to put together a joint agenda.

So he's been sort of straddling these two parts of the party and it's been very difficult to bring them another, in part, because if you look at the op-ed and the statement from Manchin and Sanders, they both think that there is a problem that is making it harder for working-class people to make it in America.

But they think those problems are completely different. Sanders thinks it's because the rich are too rich. That we need to tax them more and we need to give more money to middle-class people from the government.

Manchin thinks we're getting too much money from the government and expanding government too much and that's leading to inflation making it harder to get people to be able to afford their everyday needs.

So those very fundamental, very major differences in policy thoughts makes it harder for Biden to come with, you know, get everyone in the back room and say let's figure it out.



MATTINGLY: Real quick, I just want to talk about that because in the new CNN poll we've been talking about on the show, you take a look at kind of where Democrats and Independents land on things and you kind of get into a little bito f maybe what Senator Manchin is looking at versus what Bernie Sanders is looking at.

You know, if you have -- would rather Congress pass a bill that includes all safety net policies, climate change policies. Democrats at 75 percent; Independents only 36 percent. Includes fewer policies but cost less, Democrats only 20 percent; Independents about 32 percent. Not pass any bill at all, Democrats 4 percent; Independents at 32 percent.

It's not Democrat versus Democrat there. But Manchin -- probably leans a little bit more towards the Independent side of things.

Democrats are very behind these proposals. The vast majority of both caucuses are behind these proposals.

Bernie sanders has been a good soldier for the better part of the last nine months with the White House, I think much to the surprise of some people in the White House. This moment feels different though to some degree because of how close they are and how divided they are on certain issues.

KUCINICH: Right. And I think what policies do you remove? How do those numbers change if some of the policies that are popular start falling away?

And that -- and because of how Congress is divided both in the House and the Senate, all of these, while we focus -- we tend to focus on Sinema and Manchin -- there are some moderate Democrats who are kind of hiding behind those skirts and have been the entire time, who might have some problems, who have tough re-elections coming up like in the very near future.

And then you go to the House, that's really -- I mean the progressive caucus effectively made it so the infrastructure bill couldn't go to the floor. So they are trying to please a lot of people, and every single one of those members of congress, they are really back benchers right now, which is kind of weird, right.


KUCINICH: Because usually you can count on good soldiers to sign right up and march right on and some of them will. But if you decide you want to take a stand and you're a member of -- Democratic member of Congress, the White House has to listen to you right now.

MATTINGLY: Yes. There's (INAUDIBLE) President Biden that didn't get a lot of attention on Friday, but actually think, it's really interesting as they try and figure out how to thread this needle. Take a listen.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm of the view that it's important to establish the principle on a whole range of issues without guaranteeing you get the whole ten years. It matters to establish it.

You pass the principle and you build on it.


MATTINGLY: So there's been this debate about do you do fewer programs well, as the speaker laid out last week and then seemed to walk away from. Or do you do all the programs with significantly less funding. And I think what the president is saying there is something else that I have heard is that it's not mutually exclusive, right.

You can do kind of all of the above of having pieces of each thing or trying to have, maybe it's some things for longer, some things for shorter, some things just the principles of it on the climate program, we were talking during the break.

Just because you can't do the climate energy performance program, perhaps you get at that through different ways, through tax incentives. But we've all watched this happen legislatively before. There's ways to thread needles.

Do you feel like staff, very smart staff, can figure out in this case how to thread that needle?

ZANONA: It's a Rubik's cube, right.


ZANONA: I mean there are two different schools of thought. As you mentioned, you can fund fewer programs and do them more robustly. The argument there is that you are setting these programs up for success. But then you have entire programs that are on the chopping block and that could be really, really difficult.

And the other school of thought is that you could do more programs and just fund them for shorter periods of time. That makes it harder theoretically once people start receiving benefits for future Congress to take them away, but then you do set up these risky sort of cliffs and moderates really don't like that idea.

And so the question is can you do a little bit of both? Maybe some here, maybe some there. But that is how they are trying to decide how to pare back over a trillion dollars likely from the top line number.

MATTINGLY: Yes we're firmly in the Goldilocks stage of this.

ZANONA: Right.

MATTINGLY: I think that's -- we'll see.

Anyway, there's one last thing I want to talk about because I thought this was really interesting. We're constantly looking at polling and numbers.

And if you wanted the animating theory of why the president's economic team was willing to go so big, why the president was willing to get behind a progressive economic proposal like he was. It was that coming out of the pandemic, the idea was people finally recognize that they needed government, right. You desperately needed government, the pandemic just laid bare these fragilities in the economy that have been there for a long time but were really exacerbated.

So if you look kind of at the core of the pandemic, people who thought government was doing too much or should do more, the numbers have started to shift dramatically where they spiked up kind of in the middle of the pandemic, and now are starting to reverse almost to some degree where people are starting to get more weary (ph) of government again.

And look, you've paid closer attention to how this White House operates than anything else. If those numbers are shifting against them all of a sudden, people are concerned more about the role of government, what does that do to kind of the animating theory of the proposal?


MASON: Well, it's a problem. I mean it rips the rug a little bit out from what he's trying to do. I think to your broader point, Phil, I mean it shows what the progressives are arguing, which is that Biden has been on their side. He wants all of those things.

That clip -- that quote that you just played shows I still want it. I still want all of it even if it's a little bit shorter time horizon. But if he doesn't have that support publicly or obviously legislatively in terms of the votes, it's a challenge.

MATTINGLY: Yes. It's going to be interesting to watch. I think we're all going to be busy the next couple of weeks.

All right. Coming up next, 16 days to go until Virginia's gubernatorial election. The big question: will it be a referendum on the current president or the last president?


MATTINGLY: Parishioners at dozens of black churches across Virginia are seeing this today.



KAMALA HARRIS, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Virginians, you deserve a leader who has a vision of what is possible and the experience to realize that vision. Terry McAuliffe is that leader.

So early voting has already started, and this is the first year that you can vote on Sunday. So, please vote after today's service.


MATTINGLY: Now the vice president is one of many top Democrats trying to make the case for McAuliffe in the final days of the Virginia governor's race. Now McAuliffe is hammering a very specific message but it may be hard to see. See if you can spot it right here.


TERRY MCAULIFFE (D-VA), GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: President Trump said Glenn Youngkin will do whatever we want him to do. People don't want President Trump. They don't want a Trump wannabe like Glenn Youngkin. Donald Trump wants to use this race to kick himself off for 2024.

And we're just not going to have that here in Virginia. So we've got to stop old Donald Trump. We don't want him back again.


MATTINGLY: I told you it was subtle.

MASON: What's he doing there?

MATTINGLY: So you had to -- you had to really pay close attention there. Did you pick up what he was going for?

OLORUNNIPA: Well, it's pretty clear if you look at 2018, if you look at 2020, the times the Democrats were able to get a lot of turnout and build that coalition that Obama had in 2008 and 2012. It was when they were hammering home the message of you don't want Trump in office, you want to take away some of his power. You need a check on Trump.

Now he's out of office, they are testing whether that message will continue to work especially because as we talked about earlier in the show, the Biden agenda has not produced as much as the Democrats wished it would've produced by this point.

We don't have voting rights legislation. We don't have legislation on some women's rights, women's health issues. And there are a number of different issues. Climate change that Democrats said, you know, put us in the White House, put us in the House and Senate and we'll get you all of these things.

You know, they did pass the American rescue plan, but there are a lot of things they have not yet been able to pass. So now they're saying, you know, don't allow Trump acolytes to get into office at least that will try to build out some of the turnout that they need in order to win in an off year election like this.

MATTINGLY: And it was interesting because it seemed like the campaign was kind of casting about for a message, kind of hoping to bait Trump into coming in. And then you had this rally -- this Steve Bannon rally that Youngkin did not attend, but it was in support of Glenn Youngkin where they pledge allegiance to the January (INAUDIBLE) flag that was raised on January 6th which was absurd.

And Youngkin pushed back on that, made very clear that it was weird and wrong. I think was his terminology. And when asked about Trump, this is how Youngkin responded.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would you like to see him campaign here?

GLENN YOUNGKIN (R-VA), GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: Well so no. The person that's just going to be campaigning here for the next two and a half weeks is Glenn Youngkin. I'm on the ballot. I'm running against Terry McAuliffe.

By the way, Terry McAuliffe wants anybody but Terry McAuliffe campaigning. He's inviting the world to come and campaign for him.


MATTINGLY: It was actually a good response, I guess a sharp response to the question. The Youngkin campaign clearly feels like they got a message. They feel like they've had McAuliffe kind of on the ropes compared to where you would think somebody in Virginia where President Biden won by 10 points would be.

How do they close this next 16 days out?

KUCINICH: You know, they're talking a lot about, it's kind of like this all politics are local message. They're talking a lot about education. They're talking about the economy.

And they're trying -- he is trying to keep it focused on him because -- but he's also not coming out against anything former President Trump has said. He's walking this line. And he seems to be doing a pretty good job doing it right now of trying to attract those Republicans who may have voted for Biden in 2020 and also hold the Trump coalition that are going to be kind of the loudest and proudest out there on election day, and the Independents who've kind of gone back and forth.

You know, the McAuliffe people say that they're focusing on vaccine -- they're both focusing on vaccines but they're taking different tacks to it.

And so -- and McAuliffe has been very supportive of the Biden position on vaccines and how that helps the economy come back. So, it's going to come down to the wire. It really is a fascinating race to watch because it does have this local nationalizing split. And we'll see how that gets analyzed after the fact.

MATTINGLY: Yes, I'm sure it'll be analyzed to death regardless of what happens. It's an off-year election. Virginia voters have got to be exhausted, right. They have elections every single year. We live in an area where you get the Virginia campaign ads.


ZANONA: Right. And so close to D.C. too, right. So they get the D.C. politics too.

MATTINGLY: You literally want to throw your remote through the television.

You know -- what's going to lead -- we've talked of kind of Republicans on the Hill. We've always talked about the balance between how you deal with the former president. Youngkin seems to have done a fairly decent job to the degree he can up to this point.


MATTINGLY: How do they read kind of what's happening right now, what they're seeing?

ZANONA: Well, they're viewing the way he's running his race as a potential model for 2022, especially for these Republicans in more moderate areas or in swing states, in battlegrounds because he's found a way to tap into the GOP Trump base without fully embracing Donald Trump.

I mean he said the election was not stolen, and yet he's made election integrity a key part of his campaign. And he's talking about the vaccine mandates in school, packaging them as parental rights, using this cultural issues.


ZANONA: And so I think Republicans see this again, as a potential playbook for them. Democrats meanwhile, are watching this very, very closely, they're starting to get really spooked.

I think if McAuliffe loses you could see Democrats pull away potentially from what they're doing on reconciliation. They might think it's a sign of unpopularity for Biden and Democrats writ large. So I think there's a lot at stake for Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill. MATTINGLY: And you want to know how much Democrats know what's at

stake? Take a look at who's descending on Virginia.

We talked about the vice president. We had Joe Biden there yesterday or two days ago. Former President Obama is coming. Vice president Harris. Stacey Abrams. Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms from Atlanta.

You understand -- you're bringing the power houses but they're also targeting very specific demographic areas. There are obviously Black voters in particular it seems like. Talk to a lot of Democrats, talk to the White House, how do they feel about what's going on?

MASON: Well, the White House is using language like Virginia's race is not about weather. So sort of setting expectations up just in case it doesn't go out. I spoke to a source in the Youngkin campaign yesterday who said that all of these big names that McAuliffe is bringing in, they see that as a sign of desperation. That's their spin. They have a reason to say that.

But it is, as Jackie said, it's really tight and that's certainly not where Democrats are hoping at this point.

MATTINGLY: Yes. And it absolutely be over analyzed every single day no matter what happens but obviously 16 days to go.

All right. Guys, thanks so much.

Up next, the clash over mandates. What impact the high-profile vaccine holdouts like Kyrie Irving have on the White House's push to get everyone vaccinated.



MATTINGLY: The Biden administration embraced vaccine mandates as the quickest way to end the pandemic but not everyone feels that way. Exhibit A, the head of the Chicago police union battling the Chicago mayor over vaccine requirements.


JOHN CATANZARA, PRESIDENT CHICAGO FRATERNAL ORDER OF POLICE: We're going to keep fighting this mandate and this dictatorship. You would think that there's no crime in this city to worry about. You would think that there's no murder, no robberies, no guns being fired.

MAYOR LORI LIGHTFOOT (D), CHICAGO: What we have seen from the Fraternal Order of Police and particularly the leadership is a lot of misinformation, a lot of half truths and frankly flat-out lies in order to induce an insurrection. We're not having that.


MATTINGLY: This is quite a battle. I want to get to a resident Chicago native in a second. Kind of the bigger picture perspective, the White House has been very clear in this shift. It wasn't a shift that they necessarily wanted to move towards for several months but they have obviously embraced it. They are obviously fully behind it.

We are waiting for this OSHA rule to come into place. You have heard from businesses a little bit concerned about labor shortages. Things of that nature.

What's your read right now on the sense from the White House about how this process is going, even when we see political flare-ups?

MASON: Well number one, I think they want more businesses to follow and more businesses do it. I think it's interesting you mention that this wasn't where they wanted to go. Biden said recently that this really wasn't my initial instinct, but guess what, it's working. And they are touting the fact that vaccination rates are going up.

I think it's important to note that some of those requirements didn't just come from the federal government. Some states were ahead already and some companies were already ahead. So you can't give all credit to Biden and the White House as sort of coming to that process eventually.

But it is having an impact. And I think they're frustrated that more businesses aren't jumping on board.

MATTINGLY: And you have seen the cities follow. Some cities were leading. Now some cities are following. Chicago is the latest. What's your sense right now in the battle in the city? Is this something that's just -- pretty usual, police union versus perhaps the mayor that they don't like, or is it something bigger.

ZANONA: Yes. In Chicago that is very common. This one does hit close to home for me. I'm from Chicago, I have relatives who are Chicago police officers. I have friends who are Chicago police officers. And they put their lives on the line every single day.

The coronavirus right now is the leading cause of death among police officers. And yet, they are the most resistant to getting these vaccines.

I think more broadly what the challenge is right now is that your vaccination status has become so much a part of your identity. Like politically, culturally and that is a really hard thing to overcome.

But as Jeff was mentioning, the vaccine mandates work. You have to wonder what things would look like right now had the Biden administration implemented them from the very beginning.

MATTINGLY: Yes. I think that's a question a lot of us have had in the briefing. You mentioned police officer deaths from COVID since the start of the pandemic, it's roughly 470, 475 at this point in time.

You talk about the effectiveness of it. In the NBA, more than 95 percent of the players have been vaccinated up to this point. And yet, one player in particular, Kyrie Irving, has gotten a lot of attention. He's decided at least to this point that he's not going to be playing -- the Nets decided he's not going to be playing. And he addressed why. Take a listen.


KYRIE IRVING, NBA PLAYER: Don't believe that I'm retiring. Don't believe, you know, I'm going to give up this game for a vaccine mandate. This is not a political thing here. This is not about the NBA. This is not about any organization. It's really about my life and what I'm choosing to do.


MATTINGLY: Cool, right? You make a decision. There are repercussions for said decision. Unfortunately, everything is political in this day and age. But what's your sense?

95 percent of players are vaccinated but Kyrie Irving is the front page of every single story for the better part of the last two weeks. Where does that leave us?

OLORUNNIPA: Yes. There's a power in the sports world. There's also power in the cultural world. There's power in the political world to speaking out and saying, you know, I'm going to resist a government mandate or company mandate.

Even if, you know, it seems like Kyrie and other people are essentially putting their own personal interests above community interests. There's sort of this idea that you can stand out and say, I'm going to fight back and I'm going to be the outcast or I'm going to be the person leading the charge.


OLORUNNIPA: And that has power in the political world. You see a lot of Republicans, you see people in Trump's world also essentially saying, you know, I'm going to resist the government forcing me to put something into my body. And there's some political power with that, even though, you know, the vast majority of people have either gotten the vaccine or agreed to some of these mandates.

The people that are standing out are keying into something that does have some political power and that Biden and Democrats are going to have to deal with.

KUCINICH: But it's also influential, right. I mean I think the danger is he is saying it's about my choice. This isn't about your choice. That's the thing about this virus.

It has nothing do with you. it has to do with everyone around you that could potentially sick get because of your personal decision. And I think that's what it boils down to. So the danger here is that people that are listening to him, that are on the fence, who haven't gotten vaccinated or who are thinking about their children getting vaccinated. Because that's sort of where we are in the -- in this part of the pandemic. We are talking about, you know, kids soon under 12 getting vaccinated. So that is why I think you see such a strong pushback to those who are still at the holdouts and who have this public platform.

MATTINGLY: Right. and I think there's a recognition too that this becomes as Toluse is saying, it's a political issue. Take a look at how Republicans have kind of keyed in on Kyrie Irving, any Republicans who aren't vaccinated, I would note, including Senator Ted Cruz. I don't know his vaccination status. But his tweet in 2016, "To all the athletes who've made millions in America's freedoms, stop insulting our flag, our nations, our heroes. How dare you take a personal stance," essentially.

Tweet in 2021, "I stand with Kyrie Irving, I stand with Andrew Wiggins. I stand with Bradley Beale. I stand with Jonathan Isaac, NBA. Your body, your choice."

KUCINICH: Almost seems like it's cynical.

MATTINGLY: Really? In Washington?

KUCINICH: Really. I know.

MATTINGLY: I don't believe it.

Also really, Ted Cruz has been vaccinated.

MASON: It underscores how little power the Biden White House has over this aspect of the whole debate. Biden said again, I think this last week, we shouldn't make this political. We shouldn't make this political. It doesn't matter how often he says it.

It is political. And there are people and there are political forces who are using it to their advantage.

MATTINGLY: No question. 95 percent of the NBA is vaccinated. Mandates seem to work.

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

Up next "STATE OF THE UNION" with Jake Tapper and Dana Bash. Jake's guest include transportation secretary Pete Buttigieg, (INAUDIBLE) Congressman Adam Kinzinger and Jon Stewart.

Thanks again for sharing your Sunday morning. Have a wonderful day.