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Poll: 64 Percent Of Dems Want Someone Other Than Biden In 2024; Battle For The Senate: 14 Dems Plus 21 GOP Seats Up This Year; Gas, Human Rights Complicate Biden Visit To Saudi Kingdom. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired July 11, 2022 - 12:30   ET



NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I thought it was fascinating the way Joe Biden use the words this is real vivid and relevant, because he's really trying to make his presidency.

Some of the policies that he's enacted are real to voters, because in some ways, they haven't necessarily felt them.

JOHN KING, CNN HOST: And when the White House is getting now increasingly, this pushback from liberals who say things like, you know, use federal lands or tribal lands to let allow abortion clinics to take up or do more on guns with executive action.

President says I don't have the votes in Congress, and my lawyers telling me, there's only so much I can do. But what is remarkable is to see them go on the record.

This is Kate Bedingfield, the White House Communications Director, Joe Biden's goal in responding to Dobbs, that was the abortion decision that wiped out Roe, is not to satisfy some activists who've been consistently out of step with the mainstream of the Democratic Party.

It's to deliver help to women who are in danger and assemble a broad- based coalition to defend a woman's right to choose now, just as he assembled such a coalition to win during the 2020 campaign. That is essentially a public on the record, go away, shut up to liberals.

MARGARET TALEV, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It is. And, you know, I've heard a lot of mixed reaction about that. Many people saying why would you fanned the flames of that fight.

It's important for Democrats to try to stay together, it's the only chance that, you know, minimizing losses in November and raising up the President. But on the other hand, I do think there are a group of Democrats who think the only thing that matters right now is the fate of midterm elections, including control of the Senate.

And the Senate is going to be decided in swing races where voters, you know, in places like Pennsylvania, or Arizona, where voters don't want to see the far left of the progressive movement controlling the movements of the Democratic Party from the White House to Congress. And so there are these kinds of two competing, you know, tides that the President is trying to navigate. And it's very difficult. But the bottom line is, even if he is hamstrung by the filibuster, or how many votes he has or whatever, part of the power of the presidency is signaling.

It is to show strength, to show resolve and to show that you can always control your own party. And to the extent that he can't do that it further weakens them. And that's kind of the spiral he's in.

KING: Right. Well, this new New York Times/Siena College poll out today gets it that. The President's not on the ballot in November, but his leadership is. And when you see this here, this is among Democratic voters choice for 2024 Democratic -- those voting in Democratic primaries.

Only 26 percent want the incumbent President of the United States to be their nominee. Sixty-four percent, nearly two-thirds of Democrats say someone else and then the poll asked well, why of that group that says someone else? Why?

Age, 33 percent, job performance, 32 percent. So a third of that group of -- that subset of Democrats, a third of them think the President is too old for the job, and a third of them think he's not doing a good job, that's damning.

NICHOLAS WU, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, POLITICO: Yes, I mean, from what I hear from Democrats on the Hill, there's just a lot of frustration that all of these big policy aspirations that the administration rolled out in the beginning just haven't been met.

There is no Build Back Better right now. There's polling showing that Americans barely remember that they got a stimulus check from the American Rescue Plan, right?

The infrastructure plan is something that like they can talk about, but it isn't at the same level of the transformative plans they had promised with Build Back Better. And so this boils down to a lot of the frustration that Democrats are expressing.

KING: And so you're having a fight within the family. And then you have the question in Peter Baker of the New York Times over the weekend. At 79, Biden is testing the boundaries of age and the presidency.

In that article, David Gergen is quoted, I do feel it's inappropriate to seek that office after you're 80 or in your 80s. And David talks about just turning 80 himself. And he says he's not as sharp as he used to be.

This conversation is not helpful for the Democrats in the midterm election year. It's not helpful for any president anyway.

HENDERSON: No, it's not. And listen, Americans typically look at the office of the presidency as embodying strength, stamina. And in some ways, I think this factor with this President, you can't change it, right? He's not going to get any younger.

I think there are a lot of people who have looked at him over these last years. And he isn't what he used to be 10 years ago, no one is, and maybe he isn't up for these times.

That is a fact that he's not going to be able to change. Can he change stuff in terms of the legislative agenda? Sure. I will say this, though, a lot of Democrats who I've talked to you sort of rank and file average voters will essentially say, yes, you know, maybe he's a little old.

Maybe he hasn't been as effective as possible, but at least he's not Trump, right? I mean, that was his mandate in getting in, and that may very well be his mandate for getting re-elected.

KING: That's -- and that's the, I think, the fascinating question, how much of this -- I mean, the polling obviously, is people out in the country, but how much of it are people talking about is a big conversation here in Washington.

Is it a conversation out in the real America which is what we have almost four months until Election Day to figure out?


Up next for us, to that very point that Margaret just made, the midterm battle for control of the Senate. Republicans seem to gain just one seat, and it should be a Republican year, yet the map is complicated.


KING: Some colorful weekend trolling in one of this year's most important Senate races. The Pennsylvania matchup is Democrat John Fetterman and Republican Mehmet Oz.

And Fetterman as you can see here, took to Twitter Sunday to remind voters Dr. Oz for years was a New Jersey resident and still owns what Fetterman called a sprawling mansion there.

We just talked about the President's struggle in the first midterm election usually favors the party out of power yet, even though they need to gain just a net of one Senate seats to take control of the chamber.

It is not a done deal. Look at this "Washington Post" headline from over the weekend candidate challenges, primary scars have GOP worried about Senate chances. And control of the chamber next year is still up for grabs.


Our great reporters back with us. The Pennsylvania race I'll just show you on the map as you look through it. Why this one is so important is that the Democrats in a tough year that is held by a Republican incumbent, he is not running for reelection. So the Democrats think if we could pick up that seat, it just helps

our math get plus one there in case we have minus one somewhere else. So you see Fetterman saying, Hey, Dr. Oz, you are really from New Jersey, not from Pennsylvania.

And then the Republicans responded in kind with this. We could show you on the screen. John Fetterman had some health issues.

They took them off the campaign trail even before the primary and he has not been out campaigning as he recovers. Republicans saying, have you seen this person and there you see Fetterman. Colorful, the question is what voters respond to?

HENDERSON: Yes. And we don't know yet, right? And that's why it's going to be so exciting to cover these races to talk to different voters.

Will it be about what Republicans want it to be about which is inflation, which is gas prices, which is you can't find what you need when you go to the grocery store?

Or will it be about John Fetterman and this idea that anything is better than the Republicans? That's essentially the kind of argument that you see Democrats trying to make that --

KING: -- Warnock just won that seat after the 2020 election. He has to run again. And there, Erik Erikson, conservative activist in Georgia, he's on the radio in Georgia as well.

He's worried about Herschel Walker, the Republican candidate there. Warnock is the Democratic incumbent. Eric Erickson writes this, I don't know anyone who has confidence in Walker's campaign, including people on the campaign.

He doesn't have standard county discipline. He just doesn't have a deep grasp of the issues, nor really the desire to learn those issues. My sense is he just thought he could carry the Trump flag through Georgia and rally enough Republican candidates, and never thought about independent voters.

So again, some jitters among a guy who knows the state pretty well, knows conservatives pretty well saying not worried about this candidate.

WU: Yes, there's been a lot of controversy surrounding the Walker campaign as of late, for example, the disclosures about children that he apparently didn't tell his own campaign about.

And just this morning, the Walker campaign announced a whole staff shakeup, and so this close to the election, it's not really a great sign if you're turning over that much of your staff before then.

KING: No, it is not. And then so that -- if you're the Republicans, so you look and you're thinking of a Democratic incumbent in Nevada, might be a competitive race we get there. You have a Democratic incumbent in Arizona, could be a competitive

race there. Republicans try to hold on to Wisconsin. The question is when we go race by race, which is why the Senator is so interesting, but in the broad dynamics that Nathan Gonzalez, very smartly, editor and publisher of Inside elections writes this, they don't need to win all these races.

They need to net gain of one seat and they have at least three or four or five takeover opportunities and two vulnerabilities. Out of that combination netting one seat looks better.

If you're Mitch McConnell, you began the year thinking we might be able to get net four, net three, net four, maybe even net five in a wave your -- all he need is net one.

TALEV: All he needs is that one, but it's possible that you won't get it. And I think, you know, for Democrats, the House is, you know, you might try to minimize your losses. But that seems much harder to change the dynamics of, the Senate is really important.

And Roe v. Wade makes a difference in mobilizing not just in mobilizing turnout, but in shaping how women who might be swing voters will go. Guns may be an issue to some extent, inflation is helping the Republicans.

And so you have a lot of issues here but the weaknesses or the problems with some of these GOP candidates, plus the addition of abortion rights into the dynamic that will be made to appeal to voters.

Those are two really powerful things the Democrats have. And all -- it's to double down on the Senate everything, every single race matters.

KING: Right. And you look at those key Senate races whether it's Arizona, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, to your point about abortion rights that will be the -- all states where suburbs, swing close elections. So it's fascinating to watch in the just under four months we have left.


Coming up for us, relief, gas prices dropping for the 26th day in a row hitting the lowest price point since the start of summer. And President Biden on the defensive ahead of his controversial visit with the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.


KING: For all the bad numbers around the President at the moment, there is a helpful positive trend for the President right now. Gas prices are down. One year ago, it was $3.14 a gallon.

One month ago though, it was $5 per gallon. Now, $4.68. Yes, still high but 32 cents less per gallon in just last month. It's a trend the President hopes continues. And he says energy will be a vital, that's his word, vital focus of his trip to the Middle East this week. That trip includes a controversial stop in Saudi Arabia.

In a weakened essay, the President defends his plans and says he's undone the Trump era blank check approach to this Saudis.

Remember though, candidate Biden had promised to make the kingdom a pariah. President Biden now chooses a very different framing.

He says quote, from the start my aim was to reorient but not rupture relations with a country that's been a strategic partner for 80 years. That's the candidate having to say being a candidate is one thing, being a President is something different.


TALEV: No one could have -- well, I'm not going to say that, you could have anticipated the Russian invasion of Ukraine, but nobody knew what's going to happen or what it was going to happen.

These are all factors bearing down on President Biden. It's obvious he doesn't want to do this. It's obvious by the defense of op-ed, it's obvious by the way the administration is talking about it to kind of go hat and hand and do this and not even know what's going to be the outcome, how is it actually going to impact gas prices?

This is an unpopular trip to the extent that the public is paying attention to it, and you've seen him try to do things like Axios, my colleague, Barak Ravid reporting, Biden is going to announce $100 million for Palestinian hospitals trying to get, you know, the Saudis and the Israelis and other countries to contribute to that.

So it's kind of trying to say, see, I'm a good guy, I'm still -- I believe in the right things. But he -- they have made the assessment that he has to do it. That he has to do it because of domestic pressures on oil prices. That he has to do it because of China geopolitics. That he has to do it because of relations with Israel. And so he's going to go do it.

KING: And so some veteran diplomats, you know, essentially acknowledged the fact that candidates can say one thing, presidents have to do hard things.

This is Dennis Ross, the veteran Middle East negotiator, almost every president tries to value -- tries to balance values and interests, sometimes on a short term basis, they will see that they choose one over the other.

Robert Jordan, former ambassador to Saudi Arabia, an Ambassador and the President have broader responsibility, some of which sometimes conflict, not all partnerships are pleasant partnerships.

So essentially, you have to do business with them, even though in the case of the Crown Prince, Biden's own intelligence agencies, U.S. government intelligence agencies say he's a murderer.

HENDERSON: That's right. And listen, Saudi Arabia has long been one of the worst countries in terms of human rights. It's also one of the richest countries. So in some ways, I think, you know, maybe that fact is obscure to some people.

But it certainly wasn't obscure to Joe Biden, when he said he wants to make them a pariah that they had no social redeeming value of this new regime, which in some ways, has made the human rights abuses worse, if you look at a lot of the reports coming out of Saudi Arabia.

You know, I guess the hope out of this is there's an actual deliverable in terms of these domestic items that are so important to average Americans in terms of gas prices. So we'll see what comes out of it.

Also be interesting just to sort of see the visuals that come out it, right? I mean, does it look like it's a warm meeting? I mean, obviously, if you're the folks over in Saudi Arabia, you want it to look that way. And we know deep down, not even that deep down, Joe Biden does not want to make this meeting.

KING: The Crown Prince is getting what, I mean without a doubt. The President United States coming to his country and for a meeting. And so the question is, here's what the President said in "The Washington Post" op-ed, I know that there are many who disagree with my decision to travel to Saudi Arabia.

My views on human rights are clear and long standing, and fundamental freedoms are always on the agenda when I travel abroad, as they will be during this trip, just as they will be in Israel and the West Bank as well.

He talks about many who disagree with my decision that many, Nicholas, include many Democrats up on Capitol Hill who say Mr. President, you should have stayed where you were.

WU: Exactly. There are quite a few Democrats who still disapprove of this whether it's over, you know, does he go and shake Mohammed bin Salman's hand like, does he acknowledge the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, there's just a host of factors here weighing on this trip.

And but like it or not, the White House still does want to do something on oil prices. It's something that Democrats feel acutely. And so this is what puts them between the rock and the hard place here on this trip.

KING: I have to coordinate regarding Iran as well and it is a good thing, the Abraham accords started in the Trump administration. It's a good thing if Israel and the Arab neighbors go more public with their cooperation, that is a good thing. But it is the optics I think are key as we watch.


Food crisis, a food crisis leading protesters to storm a president's home. The images, just unbelievable. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) KING: Topping our political radar today, Sri Lanka's President and Prime Minister set to step down that after thousands of protesters stormed their homes furious over the country's crippling economic crisis. Demonstrators broke into President Rajapaksa's home on Saturday, rifling through the property, swimming in the pool, and setting fires. Protests have been escalating in Sri Lanka since March over rising food costs, fuel shortages, and electricity cuts.

The former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson planning to travel to Russia in the coming weeks to discuss the possible release of American's Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan. The U.S. government considers both Whelan and Griner wrongfully detained.

News of Richardson's trip comes just days after Griner pleaded guilty to drug charges in a Moscow court. Last night the WNBA honored Griner at its all-star game, players coming out at halftime wearing jerseys with Griner's name and number on the back.

The Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has tested positive for COVID-19. Schumer spokesman says he's experiencing very mild symptoms.

The leader is fully vaccinated and double boosted. His office says Schumer will work remotely this week as the Senate reconvenes from a two week recess.

And a new book reveals the former House Speaker Paul Ryan was quote sobbing as he watched the Capitol riot unfold on T.V. The account is from the journalist Mark Leibovich, his forthcoming book quote, thank you for your servitude is the title, a copy of that book obtained by CNN.

Leibovich writes Ryan told him he's not much of a crier, but quote, something snapped in him noting, I spent my whole adult life in that building it really disturbed me foundationally. Ryan also telling Leibovich he never thought Trump's grievances would result in the violence on January 6th.


Thanks for your time today in Inside Politics. Hope to see you tomorrow as well. Ana Cabrera picks up our coverage right now.