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CNN Poll Of Polls: 42 Percent Approve Of Biden, 53 Percent Disapprove; Omicron Wave Appears To Peak In Some East Coast Cities; GOP Zeroes In On Biden's Immigration Record Ahead Of Midterms. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired January 14, 2022 - 12:30   ET



JOHN KING, CNN HOST: She's a prominent progressive in Ohio. She says, because Senator Sinema and Senator Manchin won't help the President, he should do this.


NINA TURNER, CO-CHAIR, BERNIE SANDERS' 2020 PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN: And he wasted a whole bunch of time with these folks being diplomatic, inviting them out to the White House and to Dell, timeout for it. He needs to hold a press con, let them know, either you're going to be by my side saying, you're going to be with me and getting rid of the filibuster, or I'm gassing up the jet on your behind. And I will be in Arizona and West Virginia directly let the American people know who's standing in the way of my entire agenda, not just voting rights. So, President Obama, President Biden, gas up the jet.


KING: You see, you hear, I don't need to explain the anger and the frustration right there. The challenge, though, isn't a midterm election year if you have a Democratic civil war, that makes a tough campaign environment even worse.

TIA MITCHELL, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, THE ATLANTA JOURNAL- CONSTITUTION: Yes, I don't -- I think that what the White House could do to help President Biden in his approval ratings, and his chances in the midterms, is get some wins and things that they can control. We -- it's clear, they can't control Congress much right now. But you can control, you know, the supply chain, and testing for COVID, and things like that. Because, you know, the bully pulpit right now is not where Biden is being successful. So I think he needs to perhaps pivot away from that, at least in the short term.

KING: Is that the way through it, Manu, if you put up our poll of polls where the President stands right now, again, it's a long way to November, we can insert all those cliches. But if you look at those numbers right there, if 42 percent approved, 53 percent disapprove if that holds anything like that come October, when people are ready to vote in November, then the Democrats are going to lose both the House and the Senate. What can they do? And isn't the fact that I get it. There's a giant concern, a legitimate concern in the country about testing.

But there's so many Democrats who are willing to publicly send a letter to the White House saying you are failing this test. What does that tell you right now about the President standing in his own party?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, no matter what they do, even in Congress right now, that is not going to have much of an impact on voters before the election, if they would pass some version of the Build Back Better plan, implementing that into law would take months and months and months. And any impact would probably feel until the years to come maybe in the 2024 race.

And the real concern about Democrats is when you show that, those sliding approval ratings is that that -- that is a big indicator of what happens in House races in particular. Oftentimes, a party in power sinks when the President is of their same party is seeking in their approval rating in those House races. And, of course, we know from historical trends, that first midterm is typically detrimental to the party that's in power.

The Democrats hope, best hope right now is to slog it out race by race on the Senate side, perhaps save their 50-50 Senate majority by pulling off some victories, because primaries may go array on the Republican side, they can paint their Republican foes as extremists, perhaps, and maybe win over in those purple states. But it is going to be incredibly difficult if particularly these numbers continue to slide for the President.

KING: And one of the things, Seung Min Kim, we think we're going to hear from the President momentarily, we know we're going to hear, is that he did do some big things late last year, that had been overshadowed, if you will, by the defeats of lay, the President is going to try to make the case actually, there are some things coming your way that should help.

SEUNG MIN KIM, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right, right. I think there's going to be provisions. He's going to continue to talk about the bipartisan infrastructure law. You know, we're having that event or that he's holding that event at the White House shortly to tout the new bridges that are coming under that law. And you've also seen him kind of up his rhetoric about the benefits and how the benefits of the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package particularly as it relates to schools and pointing out that it was Democrats on a party line basis that delivered this relief that will help get your schools back open.

And I think you're going to start to see a little bit more of a combative President Biden in this midterm year that you're already starting to see. Now, it's not completely within his nature to be really confrontational in perhaps the way that members of the progressive base won. But you're going to see, I'm confident that you're going to see a stepped-up effort on the part of President Biden, the White House, and the campaign committees to really create that contrast and talk about what Democrats have done even if as Manu said, it may not make a difference at the end of the day.

KING: We'll be interested. President is just moments away from speaking again about that infrastructure bill. We'll see how that goes. Our conversation will continue.


Coming up next, more hospitals right now relying on the National Guard because of staff shortages, amid the Omicron surge.


KING: The Omicron variant continuing to drive some new daily record COVID numbers. Look here, more than 155,000 Americans are hospitalized with COVID-19. That leaves many hospitals short staffed and some now relying on National Guard members to help fill the gaps. Let's get some insights and expertise. Dr. Ali Raja is the Executive Vice Chair of the Department emergency medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital. Doctor, grateful for your time today.

One of the things we've talked about the last couple of days here in this program is in the big cities where Omicron had first some evidence perhaps were peeking and starting to come down. Yours is one of them. These are numbers from the Boston Department of Health. And if you look to the right of the screen, the Omicron surge not as high as it was perhaps starting to tilt down a little bit at least when you look at the average. That is potentially hopeful but you're not seeing it in the emergency room and in the hospital yet is that right?


DR. ALI RAJA, EXEC. VICE CHAIR, EMERGENCY MEDICINE DEPT. AT MASSACHUSETTS GENERAL HOSP.: Not yet John. We have 260 patients right now admitted with COVID to Mass General. And the numbers still look like this. We haven't seen that plateau yet. So unfortunately, while numbers might be plateauing for the city or the state for the sick patients who end up in the hospital, we haven't seen that yet.

KING: And so, I'm from Boston. And so, I pick up the globe every day. I do it online now, because with my distance. And I saw some pictures of protests outside the mayor's house the other day about her new vaccine mandate in Boston businesses. How do you as a public health professional, I don't want to get too deep into politics, but how do you try to break through with people in the sense that if you look at Omicron, you look at the data that if you are vaccinated and if you are boosted you are in so much better shape? That's true throughout the once we've had vaccines, but especially with Omicron.

And yet, look, this is the fully vaccinated percentage population in the United States, two months ago, it was 59 percent. One month ago, it was 61 percent. Now it's just 63 percent. It has barely budged up despite all the public data telling you this is the way to help yourself. If you look at the unvaccinated two months ago was 26 percent, a month ago 23. Now it's 21 percent. And even among those who are vaccinated, and the government says get a booster it will protect you against Omicron, 78 million people have received a booster, but that's about 40 percent. It's less, fewer than half of those eligible for boosters. How do you break through?

RAJA: John, I think what we're going up against is that so much of the data is showing the Omicron is less severe than Delta and other variants. But what I try to remind my patients, especially those who come up and say, well, I'm going to have an Omicron party so that we all get Omicron now and just get it over with. It's we know that COVID has long term effects. And we know that we don't know all of them yet. And we know that they're going to be many more long term. So, if you can avoid it, we still need to avoid it. This is not something we should all just try to get over. And that's why we need vaccines and masks.

KING: One of the conversations from the very beginning back when Trump was president was, why isn't there more and better and easier and affordable testing? Are we getting anywhere there now the administration, the Biden ministration says it is trying not to ramp that up, Democrats today sending an urgent letter to the White House saying you're not doing it fast enough, where are we?

RAJA: We're not there yet. John, the fact is that it's great that President Biden is having insurance companies pay for and support people getting their own tests. But right now, getting test is still exceptionally hard for my patients and more and just as importantly, for the health care staff who are trying to take care of them in the hospital, even our own nurses and doctors can't find rapid tests to take. And so it's still very much a problem.

KING: Dr. Raja, grateful for your time. We'll continue the conversation, hopefully it gets better in the days ahead. Grateful for you today, sir, thank you.

Republicans now immigration motivates their base, now, a midterm, your plan to ramp up attacks on Biden, and the border, some brand new CNN reporting, next.



KING: Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis is ready to defy the highest court in the land. The Governor standing by a threat to find hospitals that comply with President Biden's vaccine mandate for some health care workers, this, a day after the Supreme Court upheld that part of the Biden mandate. CNN's Steve Contorno is live from Florida with the latest. This is a big deal.

STEVE CONTORNO, CNN REPORTER: Yes, John, it is. Thanks for bringing it to me. We have a lot going on in Florida. There is a new mandate that came into effect last year that says basically all businesses are not allowed to have vaccine mandates. And when I asked the governor's office yesterday, if this applies to hospitals, which, you know, the Supreme Court ruled on that yesterday. Here's what this office said, Florida law is very clear, employees who require workers to get the COVID-19 vaccine must provide the exemptions that are specific in the Florida Department of Health rule.

Now here's what those exemptions are, you must provide alternatives to a vaccine such as periodic testing, proof of past infection, and personal protective equipment, the opportunity to wear that kind of stuff. So, if a hospital violates this law and they fire someone for not getting vaccinated, they can be fined up to $50,000. So, I talked to the hospital system, what are they going to do? They said that they thought the laws pre court ruling yesterday it was pretty clear and that they are going to have to abide by this or potentially lose millions of dollars in Medicare and Medicaid funding. So now they're stuck between Governor DeSantis's new law and the Biden administration's vaccine mandate.

KING: Which likely means we end up back in the courts when somebody challenges again, we go back up. Steve, appreciate the live reporting and we will stay on top of it.

Moving on, another big story, no secret that immigration is a motivating issue for the Republican base and GOP lawmakers remember began attacking Biden administration border policies on day one. Now comes a test of the issue's midterm clout both in Republican primaries and then in contest critical in the fight to control Congress. CNN immigration reporter Priscilla Alvarez joins us to share some new reporting. Priscilla, what's the highlight?

PRISCILLA ALVAREZ, CNN IMMIGRATION REPORTER: Look, immigration has vexed the Biden administration, immigration policy hawks have seen opportunity in that and there are familiar faces. Take Stephen Miller he was the senior adviser to former President Donald Trump and the architect of his hardline immigration policies. And he told me he's talking to Republican Party officials and two Republican candidates on this issue saying that they need to elevate the issue. And he's not alone. Immigration hardliners are preparing to spend millions preparing to put out ads attacking the Biden administration's border policy and immigration policy writ large.


And here's why, John, a Quinnipiac University poll released this week put Biden's approval rating at around 33 percent. Now, that is slightly lower than other polls. And in December, Biden's approval rating on immigration was 40 percent, which at the time was slightly lower than his overall approval rating. So Republican strategist, consultants and immigration policy hawks, like Miller, say with those numbers combined with images of, for example, migrants underneath the bridge that we saw last year, they can really make a case that the Biden administration is failing on immigration policy, and not only in border states, but also across the country. John?

KING: And so, what's interesting in your reporting is you have a border state Democrat, you have a veteran activist on this issue, Frank Sharry, essentially saying the Biden White House needs to help us, we need a better answer, right?

ALVAREZ: That is what they've been asking for four months. How do you articulate an immigration policy and a border policy, particularly when there are record numbers of arrests? And so, what Frank Sharry told me is if you let the Republicans control the narrative, then it becomes very difficult to articulate a counter message and that's going to be really important in the midterm election. So, they are waiting for that message that they can articulate to the base and then also pivot after that to the other issues that voters care about, like health care or the economy, Democratic Congressman Henry Cuellar told me the same thing, he's also looking for a message that he can articulate to his constituents. John?

KING: Priscilla Alvarez, grateful for the fresh reporting. You find more of it on Priscilla, thanks so much. We'll be back after this throughout the election year.

Coming up, Saturday night Patriots versus Bills, which means it's also King versus Blitzer. Wolf Blitzer in the chair, he'll be with us next.



KING: The NFL playoffs begin this weekend and unless you're new here, you know my loyalties. This weekend, my love of the Patriots puts me at odds with a dear friend and colleague the great Wolf Blitzer. Wolf is a proud son of Buffalo. I plead Boston. Saturday night it is Patriots versus Bills on what is supposed to be Wolf a subfreezing evening on the eastern shore of Lake area. The Bills are the favorites of this game and Wolf has been stopping by the office this week, folks, and he's not just confident he's uncharacteristically cocky, why Wolf?

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST, "THE SITUATION ROOM": I don't know if I'm cocky but I'm hopeful. It's going to be really, really cold in Buffalo. I don't know how that's going to impact Josh Allen, our quarterback. I don't know how it's going to impact your guys. It's going to be chilly in Buffalo. But you know what? We got a warm heart and we're going to be watching it very closely. Normally I would have gone to Buffalo. I know you would have gone to Buffalo too to see this game, but we're both stuck here in Washington. We'll watch it on T.V.

KING: So rare is it that a team faces off three times in the same season, right? The Patriots won the first matchup 14 to 10. That was one of the ugliest games in football history because of weather in Buffalo.


KING: The Bills kicked the Patriots butts. The score says 33-21. It was worse than that on December 26th. Now we go a third time. So, I'm counting on Bill Belichick and the hoodie to help the Patriots. Is there any truth, any truth to the football rumor, let's show Wolf Blitzer in the snow? There are some questions, how good is Josh Allen in the tough conditions. Is Wolf Blitzer going to come off the practice squad as the backup quarterback?

BLITZER: You know what, maybe when I was at Kenmore West Senior High School in Western New York and I played linebacker, not well. It was the end of my professional football career. I must say that. But I've loved the Bills ever since. And you notice, take a look, I don't know if you can see the little shirt, it says champions, John. You know what that means. That we're the AFC East Division champions right now. The Patriots are not the AFC East Division champions.

KING: Right. So, you got me you got me today. You got me this season for the division championship. But you have to prepare in politics for the debate rebuttal. Here's mine.

BLITZER: All right.

KING: Dad and Jonah, those are six Super Bowl trophies right there, six Super Bowl trophies that started 20 years ago, this January, 20 years ago, Tom Brady won the first of those six. So that's what I'm counting on. The Bills are a better team. There's no question on paper, the Bills are a better team. I'm counting on legacy, history, and the hoodie.

BLITZER: All right, here's the deal, John. And remember, you know, the last year or the year before we had an exchange --

KING: Right.

BLITZER: -- you gave me a Patriots jersey. If you remember that had the name Blitzer on it and I said I would wear that if the Patriots won. I believe I gave you a Bill's jersey.

KING: You did.

BLITZER: There it is. That says King on it. So, if the -- let's put it this way, if the Bills win, you put on a Bills jersey, if the Patriots when I put on a Patriots jersey. How does that grab you?

KING: I think that is more than a fair deal. I will wear this if the Patriots get knocked out because of my love of Wolf Blitzer not my love of the Bills. I have no love of the Bills. But I do love Wolf Blitzer who many people don't know this. When I came to CNN, he's the senior White House correspondent, I was the new kid. He was a great mentor and a great friend from the beginning. I will wear this, the rest of the playoffs. If the Bills win, I will become a Bills fan for the rest of the playoffs. That's a steep climb for me. But that means you have to be a Patriots fan.

BLITZER: I will be a Patriots fan. And I love the Patriots, don't get me wrong. But I love the bills a lot more.

KING: I get it. I get it. All politics is local, correct, son of buffalo, son of Boston. We'll see how tomorrow night goes, best of luck to you Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank you.

KING: This quick programming note, you know her face but do you know her whole story? Discover the life and legacy of the true Marilyn in a new CNN original series Reframed: Marilyn Monroe premieres Sunday night right here 9:00 p.m. Eastern.


Thanks for joining Inside Politics today. Thanks for indulging us a little football. Don't forget you can also listen to our podcast. Download Inside Politics wherever you get your podcasts. Ana Cabrera picks up our coverage right now. Have a great weekend.