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Inside Politics

Biden's Approval Rating Sinks One Year Before Midterm Elections; CNN Poll: 36 Percent of Americans Think the Economy is the Most Pressing Problem Facing the Country; New Low for Biden Approval in CNN Polling; Biden Cements to Win on Infrastructure; Progressives Pressure Dems in Senate to Deliver Biden Agenda. Aired 12-12.30p ET

Aired November 08, 2021 - 12:00   ET




JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Hello, and welcome to "Inside Politics". I'm John King in Washington. Thank you for sharing your busy news day with us.

Infrastructure has done the Biden social safety net moving forward. The White House sees a turning point and Democrats well, they better hope that's right. A CNN poll releasing right now finds the majority disapprove of the president's job performance and nearly 6 in 10 Americans say the President is not focusing enough on the country's biggest problem.

Plus, the biggest question in the world. Are we close to the end of the COVID pandemic? Today word Pfizer wants the OK to offer vaccine boosters to all adults. And Former President Obama visits the Global Climate Summit and throw some shade at Donald Trump got our contentious battle it.


BARACK OBAMA, 44TH U.S. PRESIDENT: It's one of the things about democracy. Turns out you don't always get your way. My successor maybe wasn't as interested climate sciences, I was a turned up. But there are a lot of people in the U.S. government who care about this deeply and work really hard and are invested.


KING: We begin the hour though with the current president and the giant turnaround challenges he faces between now and the midterm elections exactly one year from today. A brand new CNN poll releasing right now shows a deepening Biden slump.

A majority of Americans disapprove of his performance so far, and many see the president is not focusing enough time on the issues that matter most to them. If you compare Mr. Biden to Donald Trump, or Barack Obama at this point, history suggests a Republican midterm's route is in the offing.

But and this is a very important but the president did just get one big winning Congress and the Biden team believes the second agenda win is coming and coming very soon. So team Biden is betting his numbers are about to improve. If you're a Democrat, you want to keep control of Congress. They're better. Let's walk through them. And let's start with the North Star of American politics.

The president's approval rating 48 percent of Americans approve right now of the job, President Biden is doing 52 percent a majority of you now disapprove the job the president is doing. Here's another way to look at that as the disapproval goes up.

Look at this back in March 4 in 10 Americans disapprove now a majority 52 percent you see the steady progression, rise of the president's disapproval rate. That's one way to see the intensity is on the other side.

You might have just seen that last Tuesday's elections, the intensity is on disapproval. Here's another way to look at it. How about the percentage of Americans who strongly approve of the president's job performance?

Well, that was 34 percent more than a third of Americans strongly approved the president's job performance back in April. That number is now down to 15 percent. As the president's numbers go down, here's the problem.

Many Americans see disconnect between what the president focuses on and what they are most worried about. 42 percent of Americans say yes, the president has the right priorities. But look at this number, nearly 6 in 10 Americans think the president is not spending enough time on the issues that they believe are most important to the country, nearly 6 in 10 Americans believe that.

And here's how the divide if you look at if you look more closely at that number. Yes, the president still has strong approval among Democrats, but even among Democrats, even among Democrats, members of his own party, those who believe he's focused on the right priorities down from 90 percent on April to 75 percent now.

The president also is losing the middle of the American electorate 52 percent back in April said the president had the right priorities that's down to 36 percent now in a dip he never had Republicans to begin with. But even that is down a little bit.

Now if you put these numbers to Team Biden, they would say this. Yes, we had a very tough year in the COVID pandemic in a tough economy. Team Biden insists this will get better soon.


RON KLAIN, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: In my opinion, it's been a rough and tough year and we knew it would be President Biden said this all the time. We're in a yearlong effort to dig out of the holes we were left.

I understand that voters are tired Americans are tired of how long it's taken to get the economy moving to get COVID under control. They are in a show me don't tell me mode. I think we are going to show them in the weeks and months ahead that we have made this progress on COVID. We have made this progress on the economy.


KING: With me to share their insights and their reporting on this day CNN Chief Political Correspondent Dana Bash, our Chief Congressional Correspondent Manu Raju, Zolan Kanno-Youngs White House Correspondent of the "The New York Times" and our CNN political director, David Chalian.

David, let me start with you. You're behind our polling here and I just wanted to walk through some of these numbers. President's approval rating, majority disapprove. And then you look at the top issues facing the country right now.

36 percent of Americans say the economy 20 percent say it's the COVID crisis. 14 percent say immigration but 36 and 20 are the top two, and then let me blank this up. This is the two different worlds the two different countries President Biden is trying to govern right now. Among Democrats 34 percent say the Coronavirus is still our number one challenge.

If you look at Republicans, only 4 percent of Republicans say that more than half of Republicans say it's the economy and look, independents increasingly are siding with the Republicans and presidents having a hard time because he's essentially governing two countries.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yes, I mean, these are Mars and Venus numbers in that way. And what is - what you see in the numbers is that Coronavirus, keeps coming down all year long as the most important issue as it recedes as people are getting vaccinations and getting back to some semblance of normal life.


CHALIAN: The needle that the president has to threaten the challengers, his own party, his base is still in a Coronavirus environment in their - in their headspace of what's important. The rest of the country is really focused on the economy and jobs.

And so the president has to morph himself now, it seems from being the COVID recovery president. And of course, these two things are tied together John to the economic president, and that the country Independents, Republicans are a bit ahead of him there, his party still needs to hear him on COVID. That's a very difficult challenge for him.

KING: And when you - when you see the numbers that Americans don't think 6 - almost 6 and 10, Americans don't think their president is focusing enough time on the issues that they believe people at home.

Believe are the most important issues, inflation comes to mind, people are paying more money at the gas pump more money at the grocery store. And the president's trying to do this one step at a time to get through his agenda. But there's a disconnect.

ZOLAN KANNO-YOUNGS, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: There is a disconnect. And the challenge here is the president is obviously the two central themes really of the presidency of their agenda.

The focus thus far, was overcoming COVID and also passing through the legislative packages that we just saw partially happened last week with infrastructure as well as the larger social spending package.

The difficulty here is these are sprawling packages that are very hard to understand if you're Americans on the ground, especially when compared to rising prices at the grocery store, crime in certain areas of the country.

And there are also topics that the Republicans are directly focusing on as well. So the challenge here now is yes, you've had just this last week some progress when it comes to his agenda. But now how do you translate that into actually galvanizing a base here for these really difficult to understand topics?

KING: And how do you change numbers when your numbers slump, it's - we've watched this throughout the Trump Presidency, we live in polarized times, it is hard to move the dial, when you have such polarized times.

Just a little history here if you want to look at presidents in November of their first year in office, President Clinton was at 48 percent of President Trump was at 36 percent. President Obama was at 54 percent by George W. Bush 87 percent. That's after 9/11.

So that was the anomaly or the country rallied behind their president at a time of crisis. Now you see Biden at 48. The reason I underlined these guys is lost the House, lost the House, lost the House in the next election.


KING: Right.

BASH: And that is the historical trend. And that is the reality that everybody in the White House understands, particularly since in this day and age, there is the narrowest of majority in the Senate doesn't get any narrower and very narrow in the House, just the three seat majority.

So that is the impetus behind what we have seen from the White House and from Democratic leaders desperate to get the agenda that the president promised progressives and you know, just generally speaking Democratic voters that they believe was their mandate.

There's a very big debate right now among Democrats about what that mandate was, but that is the belief in the White House. The thing about those numbers that fascinates me is that, yes, Ron Klain says that the American people are expecting them to show them not, not tell them. But will these bills actually show them? I interviewed Jennifer Granholm the Energy Secretary yesterday, she says that there are bits in this infrastructure bill that is going to be signed next week that will actually deal with inflation that will actually deal with supply chain issues.

But will it and if not, when are they going to start communicating the - I feel your pain message from the White House? That's what a lot of Democrats, I'm sure you as well hear from say that at the very least they need to say we understand you don't have enough money for groceries or they're higher than they should be same with pain at the pump.

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And look the promise is that it takes a lot of time to spend this much money. We they have the first COVID Relief Bill. Well, that money is still not into the economy that passed in March, that was almost $2 trillion, that the Democrats complained that they have not got enough credit for the expansion of the Child Tax Credit, which is one central component of that bill also in that's a central component of the social safety net package.

And it's still tied up in Congress, even if they get it done in December. Can they get into the new programs that they use, whether it's an expansion of Medicare, universal child care, you name it, no child care, money, housing money?

Well, that actually be felt by voters heading into the midterms? That's a big question. And the infrastructure package to yes, it's good bipartisan achievement. It's one of the biggest infrastructure built in decades, but still will take a lot of time to be felt around the economy.

And it reminds me too, so much of 2009; you showed the numbers of Barack Obama was losing 63 seats in the House in 2010. They were squabbling over Obamacare. It eventually passed in March of 2010. They lost the House they almost lost the Senate. Obamacare is popular now but it wasn't popular then that could be the same problem.

KING: And again, back to the disconnect point. When people see higher gas prices they're about to go through higher home heating fuel costs. In a big part of the country when it's hard to find a new car because of the - you know the conductor semiconductor chip shortage in the country right now.


KING: If your president's not talking about these issues that you're feeling every day, you just you disconnect, even though he's working on very important things. And even though you're right, the Democratic package, if they pass the Build Back Better Plan would be transformational.

People don't see that today. They see what they're going through. And here's the disconnect, right? President Biden right now 58 percent say he hasn't paid enough attention to what people at home believe is the most important problems.

That's about the same is where President Trump was that's a little earlier in the year before the midterm elections September. And then this is President Obama was at 55 percent in January of his midterm election year.

Again, if the American people think their president is out of sync with them, they punish him in his party when it comes to voting. How at the White House do they play to - will we see more of the president on the road? Will we see more of the president talking about these other issues, even as he tries to get as the rest of his agenda?

KANNO-YOUNGS: I spent basically the last week especially after election, the election in Virginia as well as New Jersey talking to political strategist as well as folks in the White House about how they translate what has been a package that has been associated with pretty much being stuck with a bureaucratic morass, and proceed - in a procedural maze into an electoral winner.

They're going to plan on sending out cabinet officials across the country, as well as the president to try and translate the infrastructure package into terms that the American people can easily understand jobs that it could create.

That might be an issue, though, with the current state of the labor market, as well as supply chain issues in terms of time to actually see the impact for some of these things are also going to specifically focus on issues in that package as well as the pending Build Back Better social spending package that they think has widespread bipartisan support, such as empowering Medicare, to negotiate down prescription drug prices, thinking that that can win some of the coalition's that they struggled to kind of get votes from last Tuesday as well.

So you are going to see I mean, the Deputy Press Secretary described it as a blitz that they're going to do you're going to see them try and sell this thing. But that's the question there is how do you translate that legislative package, which has been associated with a slow moving Washington into the kind of issues that these polls show Americans are caring about?

KING: And to that point, I want to circle back to the point you made at the beginning with these numbers, again, because you have Democrats who are still living in a we have a COVID crisis; you have Republicans who say we have an economic crisis.

Independents you know, if you look at the COVID numbers, and it's, it's a COVID funk, I talked about Trump's Austin during the Trump years, this is COVID, exhaustion, whether you view at about masks and social distancing, or why does - last week's unemployment report it was great. The one before that, you know, this fits and starts one step forward, two steps back.

CHALIAN: Well, John, let's combine both the issue matrix with the priorities issue, disconnect that you're talking about in this poll. If the economy is your top issue, OK. 72 percent of economy, voters says his priorities are wrong.

He's not focused on the more important thing, overwhelmingly, right. But if your priority is COVID, nearly 8 in 10 COVID voters, if you will say he's - he is very much addressing the most important thing.

So he where you say it depends in this issue matrix is sort of how you assess how the president's doing? But I just want to know, when you went back to the previous presidents, I mean, this is not going to be welcome news to the Democrats who are on the ballot next year.

But if you look at the Clinton number and the Obama number and the Biden number, they're a lot more aligned. That probably gives Biden some comfort for his own reelection in 2024. It's Trump who was lower down who didn't get reelected. So, yes, it may not be in time to save Democrats next year. But we will see at some point Americans are starting to feel these plans in their real life.

BASH: But in the meanwhile, in the meantime, they're saying very high gas prices. You again Granholm said, admitted that the average price of gasoline could be $4 a gallon admitted that you are going to pay higher prices for home heating to heat your home this winter. That's the reality that people around the country are going to deal with well be.

KING: Well, it will be interesting to watch again the White House is well aware these numbers is new sets not good news for them. They say they say turning the corner but how to deal with them. It's the next big challenge? Up next for us infrastructure finally done. Democrats in Congress promised the Biden social safety net package is coming soon.



KING: It's a new week and Democrats do have reason to celebrate infrastructure is done.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Infrastructure week. I'm so happy to say that infrastructure week. Folks, yesterday, I don't think is an exaggeration to suggest that we took a monumental step forward as a nation.


KING: Next up is the social safety net package how Speaker Nancy Pelosi wants to set up a vote when Congress returns from recess next week? New momentum does make that possible but there are still Gremlins and plenty of them on paid family leave climate issues and what progressives called tax breaks tax breaks that reward the wealthy?

Well, the panel is back with me for the conversation it is we were just talking about the president's slumping poll numbers. And that is a dynamic that is very real that he has to deal with. But the Democrats do get deserve credit with a small handful of Republicans are finally getting this to the finish line.

You look at this infrastructure package and it's got to touch every aspect really, of roads and bridges and broadband, the water supply the power grid. In the end, the question Manu is I guess how fast people feel it and see it but this is a historic investment in desperately needed infrastructure.

RAJU: Yes, no question about it. It's not been done for a long time. Many presidents have tried and they've battled and squabbled of exactly how to finance such a program.

And now they've gotten an agreement and it took a lot to get there and a lot of efforts to try to bridge the divide between the progressives who weren't really to go forward with this until they got insurances from the moderates of the larger social safety net package and that is going to be the focus of the next few weeks how quickly can they get the larger package?


RAJU: Now there is a hope among the leadership, they're saying November 15th, the problem is that they are waiting on the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office to provide an estimate of the cost and that typically takes longer.

People are expecting that to even slip in Thanksgiving week when that estimate comes back. And the moderates need that estimate, to vote for the larger package. So even if that all comes out great for them, and they decide they're going to vote for it. It could slip into Thanksgiving or after Thanksgiving to get it out of the Senate, because Joe Manchin wants to pare that back.

So what does this ultimately look like and to get the two wings together? There are still a lot of questions, what are the larger bill can actually make it when it will make it and what it will look like?

KING: And what it will look like to that point on the House side, they decided we're going to put paid family leave back into the bill. You mentioned Senator Manchin, he's among those on the Senate side who say, hey, wait a minute, does it belong in this kind of a bill?

A list of the one of the White House Advisors, Cedric Richmond, a former member of the House, so he knows the train on Capitol Hill quite well. So well, we're going to try but there's this thing called math.


UNIDENTIFED FEMALE: Are you going to go to the mat this time to get Senators to keep it in?

CEDRIC RICHMOND, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE ADVISER: Well, we put it in the president's commitment was that he would put stuff in the framework that he thought had 50 votes in the Senate, we are for paid medical and family. And that's why you see the president bringing so many senators down to the White House to make sure that it can stay in the Senate. But right now, it does not have 50 votes in the Senate.


KING: A piece of why the president is in the slump Dana is because this has been so messy for the Democrats. Again, they're trying to do giant things. They have no votes despair in the Senate, three or four votes despair in the House. So it's hard.

I'm not minimizing the depth of the challenge, especially when the Republicans say you're on your own. We're not doing anything to help. But it being so messy is one of the reasons the president's not getting credit for maybe other things he wants to do out there.

Will we see a different president as Manu notes when they come back? They still have some things to work out. Well, we see a stop it gets it done. Push it to the finish line now?

KANNO-YOUNGS: Well, it's been interesting. I mean, that was one of the actually points of criticism against the president from some members of Congress, some Democrats. You know, there were some members that were questioning before you went on your trip to Europe why didn't you come and get in, give us a firm clear kind of mandate here of passed the infrastructure package first, or just any sort of direction?

And that's kind of emblematic of just how different this Washington is than the one that President Biden. You know, really was shaped in the Senate, right? I mean, he has been approaching this in the White House has been approaching this very much at times from a listening kind of standpoint, and trusting Pelosi and other Democrats to kind of get this party in line.

But now you would think especially as some things are on the chopping block, and we get in the sense of urgency grows based off some of those poll numbers as well, that you might see a more kind of affirmative present.

And you even saw it last week, towards the end of last week, with him calling into, you know, the meeting of progressives putting him on speakerphone and making his appeal known calling members throughout those couple of days, as we kind of got to the finish line there. You would expect that to continue.

KING: And you see the president's numbers, which again, normally president's approval ratings, the North Star of a midterm election, you ever here's another number Dana in our new poll, the Democrats have to be thinking about maybe in a couple of contexts.

Which party would you vote for so called generic ballot? Which party would you vote for if the congressional election were today? 49 percent of Americans say Democrats 44 percent say Republicans. So Democrats might be saying, hey, we have a five point lead.

That's good for us. But it doesn't really work that way. If you go back in time, and look how it works, because of how congressional districts are drawn, because of how things play out across the country? Here's where we are right now, right?

Five point lead for the Democrats. Here's where we were - Democrats had an 11 point lead at this point in the Trump Presidency, they went out to the big wins, but this is very similar. Let's - let me go to the strip here. Sorry about this. Let me just come back here Biden, Obama.

You know, very, very similar right there. So these members of Congress have to know if nothing changes, they're almost certain to lose the House. There's a year they can try to change it. But in terms of passing things, shouldn't the adrenaline now be a year from now we may lose power. So let's do everything we can now?

BASH: Yes. And that's exactly why you're seeing them do what they do. I have not talked to a House Democrat. I'm sure you have an either, who doesn't say in all candor, we don't think we're going to keep the House and so much frustration because of what you were talking about.

When the president rolled up his sleeves and really got involved got on those conference calls, even helped write this deal that they that they came up with late on Friday. They all said Thank you, Mr. President.

We wanted you to do this weeks ago, maybe even months ago for the better from their perspective, not just of the party, but of the policies that the party is putting forward. And I've heard from lots of members saying we just wanted this leadership earlier, and maybe it would have saved some of the messiness.

Kevin Liptak has some great reporting that I encourage people to read on about the fact that the president it took him a while to realize that this Washington, this Democratic Party is different that they are so at odds they needed a president a leader to broker these deals.


RAJU: And you shouldn't be lost to the fact that when they did Obamacare when he was vice president, they had a 60 votes Senate majority. They are 60 Democrats now they've virtually no majority in both chambers. And they're trying to do so many issues all at once is contributed to the messiness.

KING: So they're trying to do a lot at once, which is they say they're - you know, they're challenged, but the math - the math gets hard. We'll see if people change their minds while they're home for a week as well. Up next for us, Pfizer wants to offer COVID booster shots to all adults, and it's a new day for international travel.