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Inside Politics

Trump-Backed J. D. Vance Wins In Crowded Ohio GOP Primary; Trump-Backed J. D. Vance To Face Dem Tim Ryan In OH Senate Race; High- Stakes May Primaries Will Test Strength Of Trump's Endorsements In PA, GA, NC; Biden Slams Trump, "Ultra-Maga" Republicans In Remarks On Deficit; Today: Fed Expected To Raise Interest Rates To Fight Inflation; Biden: Trump "Ballooned" Deficit, But I've Reduced It For 2 Years; Russian Missiles Strike Power Station Near Lviv; Mariupol Mayor: Heavy Battles Around Azovstal Steel Plant. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired May 04, 2022 - 12:00   ET



JIM OBERGEFELL, CANDIDATE FOR OHIO HOUSE DISTRICT 89: would still be the property of whites. That means only white landowning man would have the right to vote. So, absolutely I will be campaigning on that and fighting for it.

BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN ANCHOR: Jim Obergefell, thank you. Thank you for speaking to us today. And thank you for watching. Inside Politics starts right now.

JOHN KING, CNN HOST, INSIDE POLITICS: Hello, and welcome to Inside Politics. I'm John King in Washington. Thank you for sharing your day with us. It is a big day in the inflation fight. The Fed poised to raise interest rates, so the president says he is shrinking the deficit and paying down debt. The Biden goal is to tame price hikes without stalling the economy into recession.

Plus, the power of Trump. Voters in Ohio send a clear election night message by picking Trump candidates up and down the ballot. The former president is still the GOP dominant force. How dominant will be tested in the big primaries just ahead. And a scorched earth assault has left thousands dead, pictures and accusations of war crimes. The Russian war on Ukraine is bloody beyond comprehension, yet some asks, why isn't Vladimir Putin being even more brutal?

We begin the hour in Ohio and an early middle America midterm year verdict about Donald Trump's brand. J. D. Vance is Ohio's Republican Senate nominee, and he is proof the former president can be forgiving. The Hillbilly Elegy author once called Trump a demagogue, but he is now all in on the big lie and other conspiracies, and his surge to a convincing win in a deep primary field began, when the former president said Vance was his man.

Vance's says victory confirms Trump's stamp of approval still carries considerable juice with Republicans. And they spell disappointment for Republicans who had hoped to move past the big lie. We start our coverage this hour in Cleveland, Ohio, CNN's Kristen Holmes. Kristen? KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And John, one thing you didn't mention there was the millions of dollars that outside Republican groups spent in the state, trying to stop J.D. Vance from becoming the Republican candidate on that ticket, obviously, unsuccessfully there. But this was a test, a litmus test on Donald Trump's hold of the Republican Party. And it is clear if last night is any indication that he's still yield an enormous amount of power and influence.

We know that President Trump watched the results from his home at Mar- a-Lago with allies and aides. And sources say that he was "relieved," he is obviously aware what this would have done, what this will do for his brand. He called J.D. Vance to congratulate him.

And the big question now is, as you say, what does this mean moving forward? This is just the beginning of this primary season. There are several races in which these Trump endorsed candidates are not leading the pack currently, but sources say, and these are sources that are close to Trump, that they believe this is going to start some sort of momentum to boost least some of these candidates.

Of course, this is going to be something we're watching very closely to see if it is in fact, a ripple effect. It is undeniable when you look at Vance's trajectory, just how big of an impact Donald Trump had. He was trailing in the polls. And once he was endorsed, not only did he get a boost, but he also led the pack, let it all the way to victory. So again, something we're watching very carefully as we head into this primary season.

KING: The first of many important ones. Kristen Holmes, grateful you're on the ground for us in Cleveland. We'll move forward. Now, let's just take a look at the map. And this just looking at the map, even before I tried to break it down, tells you everything you need to know. This is J.D. Vance's color right here. This lighter shade of red. The darker red Josh Mandel. The pinkish color, Matt Dolan. Those are the top three candidates in this primary.

88 counties, 88 counties across Ohio. These results are not final yet, meaning they're not certified. But at the moment, J.D. Vance leads in 74 of the 88 counties. He got the Trump endorsement. He jumped. And you look at it, he did very well down here in Hamilton County right, just eking out a victory. In this county, the third largest county of the state.

The question was, what an establishment candidate brings back traditional Republicans conservatives closer there, but no, J.D. Vance wins in a place that has a city and then the suburbs, but the key to it was all this. You see all this out here. These are smaller rural counties.

You go through this, this is the 69th of the 88 counties in terms of popularity. J.D. Vance was close again, a very Trump like candidate and Josh Mandel, but the power of the Trump endorsement in the end across rural Ohio, proving the distance.

And that is, if you are other Trump candidates and you want to follow the map that Donald Trump followed in 2020, Joe Biden one just eight counties in the presidential election in Ohio. Look at all that Trump, especially in rural and small-town America. That is what J.D. Vance rode to victory last night.

It's what other Trump candidates want to ride to victory and the other primaries coming later this month, which is why, listen to J.D. Vance. He once called Donald Trump, a demagogue. He said he was horrible for the Republican Party. Last night, he said thank you, and more.



J.D. VANCE, CANDIDATE OF OHIO'S REPUBLICAN SENATE: I have absolutely got to think the 45th, the president United States, Donald J. Trump. And remember 2019 when workers were doing well in this country, not struggling terribly. Thanks to the president for everything. They wanted to write a story that this campaign would be the death of Donald Trump's America first agenda. Ladies and gentlemen, it ain't the death of the America first agenda.


KING: With me to share their reporting and their insights, Seung Min Kim, The Washington Post, and our CNN political director, David Chalian. Seung Min, it was one of the big questions. There were a lot of establishment Republicans, some publicly most privately saying, they had just hoped that something else would happen here, that Trump would be embarrassed. Instead, Trump, this is a victory for J.D. Vance, and it's a victory for Donald Trump.

SEUNG MIN KIM, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST & CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It's a huge victory for Donald Trump, particularly because this month starts off so many primary races where he has picked aside. So, Ohio was the first test. We have Pennsylvania coming up, North Carolina, Alabama, where he's done sort of is an endorsement of Mo Brooks in that state.

But it's also a victory and a validation of at least Donald Trump's influence in the Republican Party because there was a candidate in the Ohio primary race, that did kind of try to set himself away from the Maga crowd, and B, sort of that anti-Trump candidate, or as anti-Trump as you can be in a Republican.

Primary, we're talking about Matt Dolan here and that person did not succeed. So very much, the Trump wing of the party looks very alive at the moment. You see, you know, the establishment folks like Rob Portman coalescing behind J.D. Vance with his endorsement. This morning, even though Portman endorsed another candidate in the race. We'll see what happens in these other primaries, particularly in Pennsylvania, but certainly a victory for the former president.

KING: Right. And I want to get to Pennsylvania and beyond in just a second. But David, let's stay in Ohio for a second. So, 50-50 Senate, very precarious, not a horrible map state by state for the Democrats. But just given the election your climate when it's 50-50. So, the Democrats are desperate. Can we pick up any? Can we pick up any seats currently held by Republicans?

That seat is held by now by Rob Portman, and you have to say J.D. Vance today is the favorite. The Democratic nominee will be the Congressman one-time presidential candidate, Tim Ryan. Listen to him this morning. Number one, he says J.D. Vance is a carpet bagger, you know, didn't really stay in Ohio. Now he's coming back, trying to get the seat. He says he's backed by pro Trump billionaires and the like, but he tries to make this about the economy.


REP. TIM RYAN (D-OH): I am representing the exhausted majority here. And the exhausted majority wants to stop the Washington D.C. food fight. They want us to start working together. This is what Ohioans want, build a community of people who really care about Ohio, really care about the country, and want to put this partisan stuff behind us. The age of stupidity behind us.


KING: He talks about middle class issues. He says, I've been doing this for 20 years in Ohio, an uphill fight. Ryan's hope has to be the J.D. Vance is new to politics that he will make mistakes.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Right. And it's somehow not good at this. And I don't know that that has presented itself as the viable path for Tim Ryan. It is interesting to hear him because so much. You mentioned the carpet beggar stuff, and so much of the Democratic apparatus.

As soon as the Vance victory came in, John, was trying to frame Vance as actually an elitist. Like this inauthentic argument that he was never Trump, and then he was proud, that somehow, he just can't be believed. He's not the guy who identifies with what he wrote in Hillbilly Elegy, the way he claims he is.

What they're trying to do. But Tim Ryan, while he may have tried the carpet beggar thing, pivoted to this central message. I mean, he has talked about the economy every day on the campaign trail. He understands the climate that you're talking about. But this is a red state now.

This is not the Ohio of a couple of election cycles ago even. It was the mother of all battleground states. Donald Trump in 16 and 21, won it by eight points or so, nine points. So, this is a state that has trended from purple to red. And in this climate that is just a mountain decline for Tim Ryan.

KING: And if we can show a map of what's to come, the question is, is Ohio proof of what will come in the rest of the primary season. That map there is just Trump endorsed Senate candidates. He's involved in some governor's races as well. But what you have contested Republican primaries. And by the end of May, Pennsylvania, Trump's on his second candidate there, Sean Parnell had to drop out because of controversy. But Dr. Oz is the Trump candidate there. In North Carolina, it's Ted Budd, and there are other Senate races as you move through. We will know more by the end of the month. But if you were one of those candidates. If you're a Trump back candidates in one of those places, you're looking especially in small town rural counties in Ohio. There are a lot of those in Pennsylvania. There are a lot of those in North Carolina. You will find them as you move on. You're thinking OK, this is good.

KIM: You're pretty happy right now after the Ohio results, especially if you know, if I were Dr. Oz, a weird sentence to say. I would be pretty pleased at the results last night because, obviously you have Dave McCormick in that race, where sort of the Maga alumni had split before president - the former President Trump had made his endorsement.

So, clearly this is going to provide the momentum. We saw how President Trump's momentum or endorsement gave J.D. Vance the momentum in the final days, in the final weeks of the race. So, it'll be really interesting to see how the rest of the primaries work themselves.


KING: And as we watch the Trump factor. Number one to you. If you're not the Trump candidate, do you make him more of an issue? It's a risk to run against him. And number two, I think one of the interesting things at the end of the Vance race. The Trump endorsement came relatively late. In the end, he recorded robocalls, saying turn out to vote. A president to his repeatedly undermine our democracy by criticizing the institution of democracy, told voters to participate and that helped J.D. Vance.

CHALIAN: Hey. And I thought their votes would be legitimately counted, apparently, to get J.D. Vance across the finish line. That's a good note, John. I do think we have to be a little careful here from what you're saying. Because even in Pennsylvania, for example, I mean, Dave McCormick, who's running against Dr. Oz, he saw Trump's endorsement. He wanted to be there.

So, I think what we're seeing here is, yes. Donald Trump can in crowded Republican fields, perhaps where the vote gets split, pick a horse and get that horse over the finish line. That's what we saw in Ohio last night. But I think the larger point here is, no matter which candidate, the ones with the Trump endorsement or without the Trump endorsement, that make their way to the nomination are likely going to be Trump and Maga aligned as much as possible because that is the fuel of the Republican Party these days.

KING: For better or worse. To your point, only one of the five leading candidates in the Ohio race broke from the big lie. All of the others embraced it, at least to varying degrees, which tells you what we can probably expect. One legacy of Ohio would be a break from Trump at your own risk in the Republican primaries. More on the Ohio results a bit later in the program.

Next, though some very big economic news, state the Fed will raise interest rates in a bid to tame inflation. And the president moments ago saying, Republicans always complained about deficits, but he says he, a Democrat is slicing them by a record amount.




KING: President Biden today staging a White House event to highlight a step. He says, helps in the inflation fight. While the president also was looking to expose what he believes is Republican hypocrisy. The announcement, a record reduction in the federal budget deficit and a promise to both cut it more and also to keep paying down long-term government debt.


JOE BIDEN, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA PRESIDENT: The bottom line is the deficit went up every year under my predecessor before the pandemic and during the pandemic. And it's gone down both years since I've been here. I don't want to hear Republicans talk about deficits and their ultra-Maga agenda. I want to hear about fairness. I want to hear about decency, all of our help on ordinary people.


KING: President speaking there just hours before another big event in the inflation fight. The Fed meets later today and is poised to raise interest rates by half a percentage point. CNN's Matt Egan joins our conversation. Matt, let's start with that. The substance, the impact on the American people. The Fed is trying to tame inflation. It believes raising interest rates will do that.

We can show our viewers, already mortgage rates because this is not the first time the Fed has done this. Mortgage rates have already jumped quickly. The average American out there, who clearly wants inflation tamed. What are the risks of higher interest rates to them? Where's the sweet spot?

MATT EGAN, CNN BUSINESS REPORTERS: Yes. John, everyone's going to really feel the impact here. This is a big deal. The Fed hasn't done anything like this since Bill Clinton was in the White House in 2000. And this was not part of the plan. When it was drawn up, you know, a year ago or so by Jerome Powell, they wanted to just slowly increase interest rates.

They don't want to rock the economy, rock markets, but they don't have that luxury right now, because the jobs market is booming. And inflation is at this 40 year high. And so, the Fed has to take out the big guns, they have to raise interest rates a lot more, we're going to see that borrowing costs. You mentioned mortgage rates. This is the biggest spike in mortgage rates we've seen in four decades.

Now the tricky part for the Fed, though is, how do they catch up to inflation because a lot of people say they're behind, and they can't catch up, they could keep raising interest rates, but the higher they raise them, the more economic pain. And so, they've got to figure out a way to get inflation under control without ending this economic expansion prematurely.

KING: And the more the worried, the risk, is the Fed is trying to tame inflation. Do they stole the economy? Did they do it too much? They're too aggressive and stole the economy and tip it into a recession, that in an election year. This is already tough enough for the Democrats. If it were to happen that soon, wow.

KIM: Right. I mean, inflation is the biggest political and many other problems for the Biden administration right now, which is why they have been so focused on trying to promote an agenda where they're cutting prices, whether it's cutting prices of food. Doing things too lower, gas prices, even if temporarily, but this is also why, you know, we're, you know, there's been so much focus clearly in the last 24 hours or so, about the big abortion implications for the midterms.

But Republicans that I've been talking to are pretty confident and still saying voters at the end of the day are really going to care about what they're paying at the grocery store. What they're paying at the gas pump. And obviously, this is, you know, that's going to be what we're going to be focused on, which is why, you know, President Biden is holding events like this. It's why, you know, he continues to talk about the economy and the pain that people are feeling, because they know this is the big issue for the midterms.

KING: You mentioned, you know, Democrats, we're going to talk more about this later in the program. Democrats believe they're mad about the policy implications of this draft, Supreme Court opinion. They believe politically, they might benefit from it. But that depends where you go state by state and what that lawmakers' particular views. Joe Manchin is an opponent of abortion rights. He was asked about it today. And he said that's not the number one issue back home. This is.


SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): The inflation is the number one driving factor, I believe in my state. Right now, it's hurting everybody. Not just at the pump, but at the grocery store, at the drugstore, at the pharmaceutical, everything they do.


KING: David, one of the president's challenges, the Democrats hope to pass something. They had to set aside. They didn't have the votes because of Senator Manchin and Senator Sinema last year to pass the big, bold, Democratic agenda. They're hoping to find a few pieces, so they can convince the American people, we are doing things that are relevant to your life. We're doing things to help on climate. We're doing things to help with inflation. We're doing things to help the economy. They need that guy's vote.


CHALIAN: They do indeed, and that guy talks a lot about deficits and getting budget deficits under control, which may be why you heard President Biden lean into that today. As a reminder that under Trump, there were growing deficits, and under Biden there are shrinking deficits. That is in part to say, I hear you Joe Manchin, and you identified right, John.

The little slices that they may get done, that you just laid out maybe something on the environment, something on inflation, something on the economy more broadly. That's precisely the roadmap Manchin has provided at the White House of what he'd be interested in.

We're getting off late in this calendar, as you know, the way Capitol Hill works, to actually move through something that is going to be - have the ability to take it out on the campaign trail and sell it. I just think, the clock is ticking for this administration and the Democratic majorities in the Hill.

KING: Right. And if you could put that deficit year-by-year back up on the screen for us here. Well, during the break, you David, I think you made a very important point. The president is right. If you look at - just look at the right of your screen, the numbers, the deficit numbers under Donald Trump, a Republican president who came to office with an all-Republican Congress, the deficit was going up modestly.

You see it, then you have the big spike in the pandemic year, when understandably, the government was spending a lot of money to deal with the pandemic. But you see that rising thing and then you see under the Biden administration is starting to come down. Republicans always cry about deficits yet, when you have Republican presidents and especially Trump deficits went up. But why?

You've had the president talking a lot about the deficit recently. Speaker Pelosi, you know, the Republicans would say San Francisco liberal. Why is she talking about the deficit? Chuck Schumer talking about the deficit. Why?

KIM: I mean, a lot of it is at least for Chuck Schumer, it's a lot of - is getting Joe Manchin on board, getting him comfortable, getting him to whatever place he needs to be. But it is kind of trying to promote this message of fiscal responsibility.

And also at the same time, when Democrats talk about a rising deficits under Republican control, they always like to point to the Republican tax law 2017, that gives an opening for President Biden. The rest of Democrats to talk about Rick Scott, his tax plan, and that's a contrast that they want this midterm year.

KING: But the president wants to make the point. David made this during the break that we're trying everything we can. We're going to use every tool at our disposal, and it might help, it might help. I don't want to discount it at all. But when it comes to fighting inflation, the Fed has most of the eggs in the basket, right?

EGAN: Yes, absolutely. This is the absolute job of the Federal Reserve. They're charged with price stability, and right now prices are anything, but stable.

KING: Now we'll watch the Fed announcement, play out later today. And obviously, this will be with us throughout the election year. Next for us, though live to Ukraine. Russia expanding the scope of its strikes, and there is a fierce fight underway at that besieged steel plant in Mariupol.



KING: A slew of important developments in Ukraine today. The European Union now, says it is ready for Russian oil ban. Russia is expanding its target list. It says, it will now target NATO weapons shipments. The Azovstal steel plant is now blocked, that according to Moscow, and civilians and soldiers they are trapped beneath a constant flurry of artillery.

Moscow's eastern assault killed 21 on Tuesday, that from Ukrainian officials. And a Russian reminder nowhere inside the country is safe for missiles. This in Lviv. You see the orange blaze at a power substation. That makes the last 24 hours interesting. Most of the fighting in the last week or so has been over here, in the eastern part, the southern part of Ukraine. Lviv, obviously way out in the west.

And if you look at the new targeting, just in the past few days, you do see more. This is central. This is where Russians have access from here. But the attacks out here reminder from Putin that he can reach anywhere in the country if he so chooses with his missiles and bombs. Let's get straight to Lviv now, and CNN Scott McLean. Scott, give us the latest from the battlefield?

Scott McLean: John, the big concern right now is the fighting at that Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol. These brand-new pictures that show really that plant looking as if it's being suffocated by the smoke, caused by all the heavy bombardment of that facility. The mayor of Mariupol, saying that the plant is now getting hit from the air, from artillery, from tanks, they've even moved a ship close to the plant to fire on it from the deck of the ship as well.

The mayor says that there are still civilians trapped underneath, including 30 children as well. And the fighting has been so heavy that he's actually lost contact. He says with the actual fighters on the ground. Now, the Russians, as you mentioned, say that they have completely sealed off that plant. There's no way to get in or to get out, but they insist that they are not storming the plant from the ground. They say that Vladimir Putin specifically gave an order not to storm the plant.

So therefore, it's not being storm. But what they are doing, though they, say is suppressing militants attempts to take up new firing positions. All of this does not bode well for the evacuation attempts. The mayor says that those children inside, trapped inside that plant, they still need a new negotiation process to begin. And then after that, some kind of an evacuation operation.

You mentioned as well, the new air strikes overnight. This was a series of strikes overnight. The deputy mayor of Lviv, says that there were 18 or 19 missiles fired at the country. Many of them were shot down though, by the missile defense system in places like Kyiv and Vinnytsia. But there were strikes in the Geneva pro region, and three of them actually here in the Lviv.

I went out to one of them quite close to the city center. We could hear the blast from here, was about four miles out and it was right along a railway line. There was an electrical power substation that was hit, just a few hundred yards from an actual passenger station, a very small passenger statement out on the outskirts of town.

What's remarkable about these strikes is, where they're hitting in the western part of the country, very far from the front line.