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Inside Politics

Pelosi Adds Paid Family & Medical Leave Back to Spending Bill; Warning Signs for Dems After VA Loss, Tight Race in NJ; Exit Poll: Independent, Suburban Voters Favored GOP's Youngkin; Source Close to White House: Voters Unhappy with Inaction, Nitpicking; Virginia Loss Offers Dire Outlook for Dems in 22 Midterms. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired November 03, 2021 - 12:00   ET



JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Hello, everybody, and welcome to "Inside Politics". I'm John King in Washington. We begin with the wow and what it means; a startling loss for Democrats in Virginia, a tiny Democratic lead and are still too close to call race for Governor in New Jersey.

Both bruising rebukes of President Biden in two blue states he won easily just one year ago. Right red signal flares Republicans believe today that a midterm route and congressional takeover looms just a year away.

Virginia now exhibit an as both parties scrambled to learn Tuesday's lessons. Glenn Youngkin is now Governor-Elect, the first Republican to win statewide in 11 years. One obvious lesson, the suburbs are more competitive with Donald Trump on the sidelines. Another is that voters didn't buy Democrat Terry McAuliffe's incessant refrain that Youngkin was Trump and a button down and a fleece.

A third without a doubt is voter exhaustion with 19 months of COVID offers openings on issues like schools and jobs to the party out of power. That is especially true when the central premise of the president in power was that he would quickly and calmly make things better and quickly make government work.

We'll get to New Jersey in a moment we start at Arlington, Virginia, CNN's Sunlen Serfaty Sunlen a huge change in the Commonwealth?

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: A huge changes John, a huge swing for Republicans here in Virginia and a significant blow for Democrats. Terry McAuliffe making it official a short time ago officially concedes this race calling Glenn Youngkin. We are told the two have not officially connected by the phone yet.

McAuliffe's loss though certainly in part due to his laser focused strategy on attempting to tie Youngkin to Former President Donald Trump in the end that simply did not work. Youngkin was successful in being able to cultivate his own brand outside of President Trump at the same time while not alienate Trump voters, attracting moderate voters and appealing to the base. In part that was due to him being able to tap into Virginia focused issues education and parental rights. John exit polling showing that was a big win and resonated with Virginia voters here.

KING: This fascinating race will be studied now for months and months heading into the next one Sunlen Serfaty thanks. Let's go to New Jersey now and Jason Carroll, Jason a narrow Democratic lead for Governor Phil Murphy but still a message from voters.

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Still a message and still the never ending nail biter here in New Jersey, both campaigns watching very close watching where every vote is coming in from Governor Murphy at this point, feeling good about where he stands at this point. That's because he's continuously seeing his lead sort of expand.

And at this point, though, you have to remember what Governor Murphy was saying all along, John, he said, look, if his voters don't come out in huge numbers, this is going to be "A coin toss". And that's exactly what we're seeing right now Ciattarelli for his part, watching very closely.

I just reached out to his campaign just a short while ago to see what the mood is at the campaign over there. They said no public no press schedule yet. But then she just texted back and said stay tuned, John.

KING: Stay tuned as we watch the count Jason Carroll appreciate the live reporting in New Jersey. Let's take a look now we'll start in New Jersey with what happened. I could spend a week here but let's take just a minute to learn some of the lessons the last night.

Yes, Jason is correct. Looks like Phil Murphy will win this race. 7000 vote lead right now the votes that are still out of largely in this blue county. So it looks like it's trending that way, but there is still a message and let's focus on what I said at the top of the show about the suburbs.

This is Bergen County, the largest county in New Jersey, just across the border from New York City 51 percent, 52 percent if you round up right now with 86 percent in 2021. That's for Phil Murphy.

Yes, they'll probably eat this out go. Back four years ago he won this county with 57 percent. Democrats struggling more still winning but struggling as Republicans make inroads in the suburbs that flatly rejected Donald Trump. It's more fertile ground now.

Move over to Passaic County this is four years ago, Phil Murphy get 60 percent four years ago in the election right now down to just over 50 percent. So without a doubt in New Jersey, and we'll move on now to Virginia with Donald Trump on the sidelines.

Republicans can make inroads in the suburbs. Let's come all the way up now and bring up the Commonwealth of Virginia. So how did Glenn Youngkin can pull this off one year after Joe Biden wins Virginia by 10 points? How does Glenn Youngkin pull off this narrow victory? Number one, he managed the relationship with Donald Trump and the Trump base. Republican voters came out in droves in droves. Glenn Youngkin over performed the Republican candidate from four years ago dramatically in these smaller rural counties and 100 votes here and 1000 votes there that adds up.


KING: What else did he do? Look down here in Southeastern Virginia and look here, just south of the Capitol in Richmond. If you want to turn a dynamic in a state, you have to flip this is the 2017 Governor's race, Ralph Northam won south of there.

He won everything down here. Glenn Youngkin was able to turn blue counties red in winning. And again, let's clear this out and come up. Close races are won in the Northern Virginia suburbs. Glenn Youngkin did not win Loudoun County.

You see it right here. But look at this is right now 55 percent to 44 percent, four years ago in the Governor's Race 60 percent, nearly 60 percent for Ralph Northern. Move right down here to Prince William County 61 percent for Northern four years ago, Terry McAuliffe at 58 percent.

Three points here four points there in a close race margins make a difference. Glenn Youngkin was not Donald Trump. Glenn Youngkin knows he did not solve the Republican suburban problem. But he did make some inroads and because of that, he's talking today not as a candidate, but as a governor elect.


GLENN YOUNGKIN, (R) VIRGINIA GOV-ELECT: Virginia, we won this day. Friends we're going to embrace our parents not ignore them. We are going to keep our communities safe. We're going to comprehensively fun law enforcement because they stand up for us, and we are going to stand up for them. We're going to protect qualified immunity. This is the spirit of Virginia coming together like never before.


KING: With us to share their reporting and their insights on this day after CNN's Nia-Malika Henderson, Toluse Olorunnipa of "The Washington Post" Maggie Haberman of "The New York Times" and CNN's Jeff Zeleny.

Maggie Republicans say there's your blueprint, Glenn Youngkin is your blueprint for how to navigate? I don't know what we call this Trump on the sidelines world anyway, the current environment isn't.

Or is Virginia A, he's a wealthy candidate who can sell finance, Virginia is not the same as Pennsylvania or some other state. But there's something to be learned from that.

MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: There definitely is. But I also think there is something that we over learn from an off year elections. I think that we tend to do it. I think both things are true at once, right?

I think that Youngkin's race does tell you at least strains of how Republicans could try to move forward, I think you're going to see Republicans trying to emulate some of what Youngkin did next year in the midterms.

You already saw Kevin McCarthy, telegraphing that privately with donors yesterday, but I think the idea that Trump is going to be you know he was not happy about not being involved in this race. And you saw that in the, you know, numerous statements he put out last night claiming credit, I don't think he's going to be as able to keep himself on the sidelines.

You know, his being off Twitter has been a benefit to himself, because it has kept voters from remembering a lot of the behavior they didn't like. It was not a help to Democrats. And so I think that you are going to see more of him out there. What that looks like going forward? We don't know.

But it is true that Youngkin showed there is an animated, energized Republican base. He didn't just do well in suburbs, he exceeded Trump's turnout with rural voters. And that I think is key.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: And obviously only on Trump I mean, it's clear that it I think it answered the question for Democrats how to deal with Trump? And that is you can't rely on them right.

But for Republicans, I still think it's an open question. How do you deal with Trump every candidate is not going to be like Glenn Youngkin who essentially was a blank check with a blank slate and did masterful at it, no doubt about it all kudos to Glenn Youngkin, but I don't think it answers a Trump question.

What it does, though, is show the limitations of the Democratic disconnect from the voters. This was a bread and butter school class house election. And I was out there a lot in Virginia, and you heard Democrats talking about Donald Trump, Donald Trump. So the fundamentals here were ignored by the Democrats.

KING: And we'll walk - we'll walk through some of this as we go through the program in more detail, but that's an important point. Let's just look at the exit polls. The key issues in the Virginia election right now economy and jobs number 130. 3 percent education 24 percent normally an issue the place for the Democrats place for the Republicans here, and then you see taxes and more traditional Republican issue.

COVID down as an issue at 14 percent but let me make an argument economy jobs is COVID. Education is COVID. People are exhausted after 19 months of COVID. Parents are frustrated, their children had to spend a year more than a year at home in from schools in Virginia after COVID.

Glenn Youngkin was able to tap into that. We do not know if the COVID dynamics will be the same a year from now. But in this election, Glenn Youngkin, was able to say Joe Biden essentially promise you this would go away. It hasn't.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. And what is Joe Biden delivered, right? What have we seen for the last many months here in Washington? A lot of gridlock, a lot of inability to deliver on any of these agenda items, not only to progressives and African American voters and young voters who were down in terms of their turnout and chair of the electorate in this off year electorate, but also moderate voters.

So what are you doing? What are you delivering? How are you easing the widespread anxiety that voters have? And they have anxiety for different reasons, depending on if you live in the suburbs? Maybe you live in an urban area, you have different kinds of anxiety and stressors and issues but Democrats had no answers for any of those issues.


HENDERSON: And you saw, you saw in Terry McAuliffe is someone who was sort of an old school Democrat relying on that old playbook of Trump is really bad.

TOLUSE OLORUNNIPA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: And that question of anxiety is an incredibly important point because there was a lot of anxiety during the Trump years, even in the suburbs, even under with traditional Republicans they just did not like the toxicity of the Trump years.

And now we are starting to see some of that anxiety carrying over to the Biden years, as people wonder, what is the government actually doing? How are they actually delivering to solve some of these problems?

You know, there was a lot of concern that, you know, the headlines never ended with the Trump years. And now with the Democrats fighting over, you know, moderate policies versus progressive policies, we are continuing to get a lot of those alerts on our phones. And there still continues to be, you know, problems with COVID. And a lot of different issues that Biden said he would solve, and it's taken quite a while for that to happen.

HABERMAN: Inflation is also real. And I mean one of the things that I think this White House has really struggled with is at any time, reporters start writing about inflation as an actual concern. It doesn't matter that the causes or supply chain issues related to COVID people are just experiencing what they're experiencing.

And the White House has tended to; you know, push it back or suggested this as a press creation. And that's not true. And you saw that again last night.

KING: I think that's one of several areas where the president's just what he says and what the White House is out of touch with white Americans feel? One more point about Youngkin. He looks at - he talked about parental choice. He talked about banning critical race theory, which is not taught in Virginia schools, but it was an issue that some say was a dog whistle to talk about diversity and race issues.

Others say it gets to the COVID exhaustion parents have about schools. More Republican message on police protecting qualified immunity. Well, let's start on the education issue. This was usually a Democratic wheelhouse issue. Do they need to find a different way to talk about education?

Terry McAuliffe I think the fact that he's a no name is important. Voters are looking for photos, we're always looking for change something do something different, always. But in the final days, he was campaigning with the Head of the Teachers Union, when you had a lot of parents frustrated. And again, this might not be fair, but a lot of parents frustrated, their kids had to stay at home.

ZELENY: No doubt. And this is something that the Democratic side, the entire really establishment Democratic Party was out campaigning for Terry McAuliffe, it was not just him. It was Barack Obama, President Biden, the Vice President, First Lady Jill Biden and the unions.

I was at that rally with the Teachers' Union leaders and it was sort of discordant. I'm told the reason why, because they spent a lot of money on GOTV get out the vote effort. So they were sort of involved in this product. But look what happened.

There's no question that Democrats one lesson they can learn and they know they need to learn is how to address these issues? It's too simple to just say, oh, it's a dog whistle. Perhaps it is. But they're addressing real concerns as well those parents have and that is something that a Youngkin tapped into that Terry McAuliffe underestimated and ignored for months.

KING: He dismissed the power.

HANDERSON: He dismissed it. I mean to say that it's not taught in school CRT, that's not enough. You know, parents need to hear well, should it be taught in schools? Maybe an answer is, maybe it belongs at Harvard, but not in Hampton Roads or something but just the idea that you just dismiss it as sort of a figment of the conservative element imagination is not good enough.

I heard from a lot of Democrats who said Democrats are going to have to focus groups this issue and figure out how to address it because on the culture wars, Democrats tend to lose. And we saw that a bit here with that CRT Union.

KING: But they tend to be dismissive that it's going to actually play when Republicans raise it. And guess what, if it plays a little bit on the margins, as you look in Northern Virginia suburbs, that is enough, it doesn't take a groundswell.

It just takes moving Loudoun County four points from four years ago. Voila, you're the next Governor of Virginia with more to talk about as we move up and next. So now what for the president and his agenda? Democrats vowed to finally pass two big bills but policy differences remain. And guess what, now there's some finger pointing over that's to blame for last night's reflection. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


KING: President Biden is back at the White House today after a transatlantic air journey on Air Force One that aid says turned grim as these election results became clearer and clearer last night. The midterms are a year away.

So it is true Democrats have time to turn things around. But the Deja vu some Democrats feel today is something Mr. Biden knows firsthand from his first year as Vice president. What do I mean? Let's go back in time.

This is where we are right now as the votes come in, but let's go way back. Back in 2008 Obama is President of the United States and here's what the House of Representatives looks like Joe Biden's in his first year as Vice President.

Democrats have a big majority in the House. But in 2009 Republicans won in Virginia. Republicans won in New Jersey. Democrats are likely to win in New Jersey this time, but still a message a bad election night in 2009, right?

This is 2008 fast forward one year later to the 2010 midterms, a wipe out a shellacking. Go back through that one more time. Look at all the blue. Look at all the blue this is the House in the first year of the Obama Presidency.

This is the Republican House after the 2010 midterms. Now, Team Biden has time to turn it around. But how will they try to avoid a repeat of that in the midterms next year? Jeremy Diamond live for us at the White House Jeremy?

JEREMY DIAMOND, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well listen, John, there's a lot of second guessing and soul searching happening here at the White House after those results last night.

The president declining to answer questions as he returned in the wee hours of the morning but sources telling my colleague Kevin Liptak that the mood aboard Air Force One last night was grim as they returned to the news that Terry McAuliffe the Democratic gubernatorial candidate had lost a state that President Biden won just a year ago by 10 points.

Some this morning; saying that it is because of the inaction on the two pieces of legislation that the Biden Administration is trying to move forward. Others pointing to broader economic woes and a pandemic that has gone on for longer than expected but one thing is clear. The president was not expecting this. Listen to him yesterday.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: We're going to win. I think we're going to win in Virginia. I don't believe and I've not seen any evidence that whether or not I am doing well or poor. Whether or not I've got my agenda passed or not is going to have any real impact on winning or losing.



DIAMOND: And whether or not the president wanted to make a connection between his agenda and that race yesterday, Democrats this morning, certainly making a connection between now and the midterms next year. And certainly this is going to light a fire under people at the White House here to get that legislative agenda pass the infrastructure bill, and that reconciliation package John.

KING: Jeremy Diamond live at the White House I appreciate the important reporting. The panel is back with us to discuss. Focus - let's focus on the last part of what the president said there about. I don't think there's any evidence that my agenda or inaction on my agenda has anything to do with what's happening out there.

Is that just denial or - stubborn, he's just refusing to reject reality. Maggie touched on this in the earlier block. But the president said, you know, essentially is left the impression COVID would go away pretty quickly. It's not his fault, the Delta variant surge, but it's just reality of American life. COVID has not disappeared.

Because of that the economy has not roared back the way the president wanted to do it. The president has said inflation would be fleeting, it is anything but people know that when they fill up their gas tank or they go to the grocery store, or now as they try to order their holiday gifts.

He said Afghanistan withdrawal would be orderly, it was not. So there's a disconnect between what Americans see and feel to what their president says.

OLORUNNIPA: Yes, the buck stops with the president, essentially, the president promised a number of things, he had a very broad agenda when he was campaigning. He said he was going to unite the party, he said, we're going to unite the country. And he said he was going to solve a lot of the problems that the country faced.

Now, it's only been 10 or 11 months. But there are still a number of problems that were in place when he was elected. And there are new problems that have cropped up over the past several months that Democrats are still trying to figure out how to coalesce around and figure out a solution for it.

So I think that's part of the problem is that when you're having, you know, a very close race in Virginia and New Jersey, it's pretty clear there's something happening nationally, that ties back to what's happening in the White House.

HABERMAN: He has been very focused to try to be transformative, right? I mean, that has basically been this White House's message from when they first came in, you know, they were eagerly espousing these comparisons to FDR. And when you do that, and then you have many, many, many, many months drag on before you pass a signature bill.

But if it does pass, to be clear, it would be a very large, new package of spending in programs. But nonetheless, they have been very focused on Biden's legacy and voters can tell I mean we tend to sometimes oversimplify this right?

Number one, voters tend to care more about things that impact them than impact the White House and the White House's emotions, number one. And number two, when a president to your point says things like Afghanistan, and you know, it's not going to be XYZ way, or you know, the economy is going to get better or on July 4th, this is our Independence Day from the virus. Voters can tell if things don't go that way. It is actually that simple.

KING: And so part of it is so can you fix it? One of the things the silver lining, if you will, potentially, for this president, is there a lot of economists who think the economy is about to kick in. They've said that for a while, though, and we've had fits and starts one step forward to suspect but there's a possibility that the Democrats have a roaring economy next year.

There's a possibility as children can now get vaccinated now that hopefully there's not a winter surge and COVID starts to go down. But if you look at the numbers now, if you guide us presidential approval as your north star of how midterm elections work?

On this day, in 2009, Barack Obama was at 53 percent at 53 percent. He still lost Virginia, and he still lost New Jersey. And then a year later, he was at 45 percent and he lost 63 seats in the House of Representatives.

Joe Biden is already right now below where Barack Obama was on midterm election day in 2010. He needs to change that number around or the Democrats are looking at a trapdoor.

ZELENY: Yes. And he's also something that he's never been before is toxic. Joe Biden has never been really someone who Democrats don't want to campaign with but if that stays the same, there are going to be very few Democratic Congressional candidates, gubernatorial candidates, Senate candidates who are going to want him in their district.

He was the one that when Brock Obama as President was unable to travel around a lot. Joe Biden went everywhere. Yes. So it happens when you're president there definitely. It's a referendum on you. So inside the White House right now, we may hear from the president later today. We may not I'm told they're still deciding that.

But he needs to try and corral this very divided party. It's not all his fault. The blame goes all the way at Pennsylvania Avenue. But he's the leader of the party. He owns it.

HENDERSON: Yes, it is so incredibly hard to turn those numbers around once they start cratering. I mean, we've seen that with every president --

KING: Especially in polarized times and they're trapped in a narrow box to begin with.

HENDERSON: And this idea that these bills are all of a sudden going to juice up this presidency and juice up the Democratic Party. I think that's a little bit naive. I mean, are people going to immediately feel these packages, which we know we're going to be different by the time they actually arrived?

So they are in a world of trouble at this point, Democrats? Listen, they knew before last night that, you know, the midterms were going to be difficult given all of the gains that we saw Republicans make in 2020. And so they know it now that it's even got to be harder.

KING: And just one more metric to think about we'll watch us in the months ahead. Right now 71 percent of Americans think the country is on the wrong track at this point in the Obama presidency was 52. By the Obama midterms it was up to 60. Joe Biden needs to change that number he just does that's one of the things you watch as we head into next year.


KING: Up next for us, action or blame game leading Democratic moderate joins us live with her take on the results and what Democrats must do now?


KING: Today dissecting the big loss in Virginia and the close call in New Jersey is yet another source of Democratic division. Moderates say the climate might have been better if progressives had a lot of final vote on a big infrastructure plan weeks ago.

But progressives blame moderates for the delay because the moderates keep trying to shrink the size and the scope.