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Poll: Majority Of Voters Disapprove Of Biden On Key Issues; Officials: Speaker Pelosi To Visit Taiwan, Despite China Threats; Early Voting Up 203 Percent In Kansas Ahead Of Tuesday's Primary. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired August 01, 2022 - 12:30   ET



DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Few weeks, we've seen the President's approval rating go down and sort of settle into a 37, 38 percent range while the generic ballot has gone up. And people seemed to be making and I hear it from focus groups as well. People seem to be making a distinction in their mind between Biden and this choice that they're making in the fall. So right now, Democrats are defying gravity to some degree. The question is, if that will be the case come November.

JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Right. And so the Republicans want to make it about the things that play to their advantage. And you mentioned that separation. You're right. Normally the President's approval rating is your north star in a midterm. There does seem to be at the moment, 99 days out, a bit of separation. But this is a new CBS YouGov poll, President Biden underwater on the economy significantly so, underwater on gas prices, underwater on inflation, underwater on abortion, underwater on crime.

I want to focus on the economy and inflation for a minute. The veteran democratic pollster Stan Greenberg wrote a recent memo. He says he believes it is possible, possible if Democrats are near perfect from here to the finish line to mitigate what could be a horrible year. But he talks about the tone and reaching the blue collar voters that he studied since the Reagan Democrat days in the 80s. But that Donald Trump has brought back into politics.

Stan Greenberg writes this, in reality, wages in median income have not remotely kept up with rising prices. President Biden used to talk about people living paycheck to paycheck, and that got him an audience. Well, that's even more true today, being seen as a precondition to getting heard. His point getting heard, the Democrats are not listening to these key voters. How important is that when you look at how tough the President standing is on the economy and inflation?

AXELROD: Look, I think I think it's absolutely critical in these battleground states. In particular, the margin of difference may be those voters who feel they're being heard, and those voters who feel they're not. One thing, so I agree with Stan, one thing I would say, John, is that another factor that has changed is Democrats have started to turn in some legislative wins here. After the Build Back Better Bill was defeated, there was a sense of futility that kind of suffused the Democratic Party.

And now, Biden and the Democrats are on a winning streak, the gun bill, the manufacturing, the chips bill, the infrastructure bill. And now if they get this bill that you've been talking about earlier, the infrastructure bill, with all of the component parts, they have a story to tell, they can't just tell that story. They have to tell the story of Republican extremism, but they have a platform to stand on now that addresses at least some of these issues.

KING: Oh, well watch that plays out. Just quickly before you go, what's it like? You're a smart guy. You were an architect of two winning presidential elections. You had in Barack Obama, very good communicator, very good politician. In 2010, you got wiped. There was nothing you could do to fix it. What is it like when you see a wave and you feel powerless?

AXELROD: Well, I had some PTSD, when you mentioned it at the beginning of this segment. I still remember it. It's bad. And, you know, there are things that a presidents can control and things presidents can't control. And but there's an awful lot of panic in your universe. And, you know, people are very generous at times like this with their advice. And you can't get away from it. So it's I feel for the people in the White House right now. I'm sure I'm one of the people who've given them advice that they probably could have done without. So, you know, this is just the nature of it. It's a very, very -- you feel embattled. It's an echo chamber. It's not good.

KING: Ninety-nine days out. We'll see how this one plays out. David Axelrod, we'll continue the conversation. We're grateful for your perspective. We also want to congratulate you on the 500th episode, the 500th episode of the Axelrod podcast.

AXELROD: Thank you.

KING: That is remarkable. It's great to see you.


Up next to us, live to Taipei for news you heard first here right here on CNN, the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi plans to visit Taiwan despite China's stern warning she must not.


KING: Now listen, first on CNN reporting and simmering U.S.-China tensions. Multiple sources now tell CNN, the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will visit Taiwan, despite muscular warnings from Beijing that she better not. Taiwanese officials tell us the plan includes an overnight stay. The Speaker is in Singapore today with other stops in Malaysia, South Korea, and Japan. The Biden White House did try to dissuade the Speaker. But two sources telling CNN President Biden stopped short of directly telling Pelosi not to visit Taiwan. Now, the administration says Beijing's dire warnings are out of line.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JOHN KIRBY, NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL COORDINATOR FOR STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS: Very much in keeping with our policy, and in consistent with our support to Taiwan under the Taiwan Relations Act. We're not -- we shouldn't be as a country, we shouldn't be intimidated by that rhetoric, or those potential actions. This is an important trip for the Speaker to be on. And we're going to do whatever we can to support her.


KING: CNN's Will Ripley is live in Taipei for us. Will, a very tense 24 or 48 hours ahead of us.

WILL RIPLEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and you know, previous visits have been kind of dialed back, you think you'd have three hours on the ground, something sort of casual refueling, you hear an overnight visit and think, OK, this is going to be much more substantive. Until you look at the possible timeline, let's say the land eight, nine in the evening, get to the hotel, you know, by 10, sleep, you know, for eight hours and have breakfast. And then what is it, a few hours of meetings in the morning before getting on the plane and heading out. So it might actually be in terms of actual face time, pretty similar to some of these other short U.S. trips, but the optics, you know, from the Chinese perspective, you know, Xi Jinping, of course, you know, has said repeatedly that China will take back Taiwan. They have Taiwan listed in Chinese passports as just yet another province that China will eventually reabsorb.


But, you know, doesn't want to do it now, you know, months ahead of this crucial Party Congress where he gets a third presidential term presidency for life, theoretically. Everyone I speak -- spoken to says, you know, China doesn't want a confrontation. President Biden has made clear he hasn't wanted either. So it is now up to both sides to be cautious, as you know, there is going to be more military hardware potentially in the skies and the seas in the Taiwan Strait.

KING: And it's the bellicose language, the specifics, Will, that have the world on edge in the sense that China is saying, essentially, those who play with fire will perish by fire? Is the United States prepared? And to what level are they expecting fallout from China?

RIPLEY: I have to say that some folks I've spoken with actually reassured, John, that that was all that President Xi said, because we've actually heard that playing with fire line before it's kind of standard boilerplate stuff. There's nothing specific in terms of a threat. Now, granted, China always keeps it ambiguous, you know, what are they going to do? Why did they do what they did? You know, they're not putting out a press release explaining why, you know, dozens of war planes flew at this time? You know, they do that on purpose, they keep it ambiguous.

But there's been so much talking commentary leading up to this that China will have to respond in some way that makes them look strong, but doesn't cross a line that could really create the instability that President Xi is so desperately trying to avoid over these next months.

KING: Will Ripley for us live in Taipei. Will, great reporting, we'll stay in touch the day or two to come.

Tomorrow here in the United States, five states will hold primaries. There's a spotlight on Kansas, the first state to put abortion on the ballot since Roe v. Wade was overturned.



KING: Tomorrow, Kansas voters weigh in on abortion rights in their state and that vote is being watched as a giant bellwether. They'll be the first vote on abortion since Roe was overturned by the Supreme Court on the primary ballot and amendment to the Kansas constitution that would remove guaranteed protections for abortion rights.

Our great reporters are back with us. We can put up on the screen what the ballot looks like and what the language is. Essentially, right now in Kansas as a constitutional protection for abortion rights, this would replace the language that says the Kansas Constitution does not create or secure a right to an abortion. It goes on to say that the state legislature may pass restrictions including a ban if necessary. It is fascinating to me that you have a red state with Democratic governor, but a traditionally conservative state in the middle of America that will be our first test both on the policy, but Democrats believe this could be, this is the first big test of is this issue going to be a giant turnout mechanism.

SEUNG MIN KIM, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It's really fascinating because you do have a lot of hurdles, a lot of issues going against it, going against the momentum because, you know, tomorrow is a primary day of traditionally lower turnout. But it will be a really fascinating gauge of whether this matters even in a red state. And obviously remember that Kansas City area, you know, in a conservative state, relatively progressive. And Kansas has been of interest fascinating sort of, you know, testing ground for a lot of these issues for the last several weeks.

KING: Right. So Democrats are wondering, A, will this motivate our voters. B, will help us get back Republican leading women in the suburbs, Republican leaning independents who maybe because of inflation or the economy or whatever other reason, we're planning to vote against Joe Biden, in the Democrats, if you will, does it give them pause and bring them back? That's the test.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: That's the big test. And nobody knows, traditionally, abortion has been a real motivating issue for Republicans, not so much for Democrats. But the Democrats I've talked to particularly ones who are listening to focus groups, listening to sort of rank and file voters, particularly young voters, this is a real motivating factor for them now that this reality is here, Roe v. Wade, has been overturned in the country, they really think they are already seeing sort of a momentum that, you know, they hope they can sustain in November. We'll see what happens not only among young voters, but also these suburban white women swing voters, right, who, as you said has in some ways, might swing back to Republicans. I have traditionally been in Republican columns, but have over the last cycles really are showing up for Democrats. Can they keep that going? So this will be a test for that.

EVA MCKEND, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER: And from a messaging perspective, I think why Democrats are finding that they're having some success here in galvanizing their voters is to the way that they're talking about this, right? They're talking about abortion, as a matter of health care, sometimes as a matter of life saving care. I'm covering the Georgia Senate and governor's races. And Stacey Abrams a few days ago, speaking to her folks, she says, I would say to balance whether your immediate concerns about money, so inflation there, outweigh your concerns about your constitutional protected rights. I think it is in the messaging and how they are packaging this is why we are seeing just this rush of people I think so motivated to voters.

KING: And so that's part of the key tests, can candidates effectively make the argument in a way that fits your state. A lot of liberals in Georgia, but also a lot of more conservative voters in Georgia, Stacey Abrams has stuck to, Kansas, of course, you know, again, has a Democratic governor, but it's a pretty conservative state when you look at it. Here's one piece of evidence. We won't know until we count the votes tomorrow. But as of 6:00 a.m. this morning, early voting, early voting both in person and mail-in voting is up 203 percent from the 2018 midterm year to 2022.

Now, the COVID election year 2020 is in the middle there, so some people have become more accustomed to early voting and mail-in voting but still that is a giant jump from the last midterm election to this one, we don't know what they're saying yea or nay but that tells you something.


KIM: It is really fascinating just to see the interest in that. I do think though however, despite -- whatever energy we see tomorrow on the abortion issue, I still think it is a big question how much that matters when you bring in other issues which voters will be voting on in November because obviously, it won't be just abortion, it would be the economy, it would be inflation, perhaps other issues. So how abortion access gets prioritized with those other issues I think we'll be, it's a question that we're continue -- going to continue to be asking.

KING: That's why this one state is such a great laboratory because everybody will react to it. If it's a very good turnout for the Democrats, if they believe this helps them, Republicans going to figure out how do we counter it, which gets you to the other issues. Katie Glueck wrote about this smartly in "The New York Times" on Sunday, Republicans insist that anger around inflation and fear of a recession will crowd out other concerns for a broad swath of voters. The Tuesday vote will offer an early snapshot of attitudes and energy around abortion, if not a definitive predictor of how these voters will behave in the fall. So, you know, the Democrats are telling you now that they think that climate is better than it was a couple of months ago, because they do think this will be motivating. You can say that. Here's a test.

HENDERSON: That's right. And one of the reasons it's motivating is was Democrats are angry, right? If you've seen over the last couple of weeks, there have been these terrible cases, right? The girl from Ohio who had to go to Indiana, she was 10 years old, she was raped, and it was difficult for her to get an abortion. And so those are the kinds of cases that I think we'll probably likely see more of, the idea that, you know, maybe if you have a miscarriage or something there, all of these are scenarios that is not just about women who might be poor, who might not have access to abortion, it could affect any woman in any state if abortion access is restricted. So you're seeing I think emotion around this and that usually helps in terms of motivating voters.

KING: You could see Pennsylvania Senate race, suburbs matter. Arizona Senate race, suburbs matter, Michigan governor's race, Arizona governor's race, Georgia governor's race and Senate race there, anyplace else on the map where we'll stay steady tomorrow and say, OK, this has happened in Kansas. Let's watch out here.

KIM: Right, right. And I think the impact particularly on the Senate races will be really interesting because so many of the Senate battlegrounds this year are places where, you know, voters tend to be more of supportive of abortion rights. So that's why you've seen candidates, incumbent senators such as Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada, Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire really lean into this issue that perhaps they wouldn't in another state.

KING: When we come back, up next for us, yesterday was a sad day for the country and for a kid from Boston, remembering a basketball and civil rights icon.



KING: Topping our political radar today, President Biden's physician says the President continues to test positive for COVID but the doctor says the President is feeling well and will continue to isolate. Biden finished the five day course of Paxlovid to treat his mild symptoms. Last week, the CDC does warn COVID symptoms sometimes come back regardless of vaccination or treatment.

Senator Tim Scott says he's not running for president. That declaration coming after the publisher of a new memoir from the South Carolina Republican admits editors made a mistake by slipping in two sentences into the copyright page of the book that claim Scott is preparing for a presidential bid this year. The senator did not OK the line, still not clear how that error will be fixed. Scott's book set to be released nationwide next week.

An NBA legend, a civil rights icon, a man with an enormous legacy, the tributes pouring in for the late Bill Russell, the 11-time NBA champion died Sunday peacefully according to his family. President Biden called the Boston Celtics star a great American who did everything he could to deliver the promise of America for all Americans. Russell, a star center became the first black coach of a major U.S. sports franchise.

President Obama awarded Russell the Medal of Freedom back in 2011, the first NBA player to receive that prestigious honor. Saluting his civil rights work as much as his basketball brilliance. Mr. Russell was proud and he was famously stubborn. He had a deep, amazing laugh. His father and his grandfather were his role models for their courage in the segregated south. Respect, respect was Bill Russell's North Star.


KING: Why do you think the Russell was chosen for this prestigious honor?

BILL RUSSELL, AMERICAN PROFESSIONAL BASKETBALL PLAYER: I tried to take care of my community like when I played for the Celtics, especially after I became the captain. I considered myself sort of a big brother to my teammates. And I always acted the same way about my community, you know, that we tried to make sure that I and my friends were always treated with respect. And I shall or say it doesn't, whether anyone likes me or not, is irrelevant. The relevant thing to me was to be respected. And by being respected myself and being respectful, it can create an atmosphere that the folks that they could see the folks around me are also people to be respected.



KING: Because of a relationship with the NBA a blessing of my life was have several conversations with Mr. Russell over the years and for him to meet my children study his story. It's worth it. Bill Russell was 88.

Thanks for your time today in Inside Politics. We'll see you tomorrow. Ana Cabrera picks up our coverage right now.