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Florida Dem Voters To Pick Candidate To Take On DeSantis; CNN: Biden Officials See A Second Chance To Promote Year's Infrastructure Law. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired August 22, 2022 - 12:30   ET



ABBY PHILLIP, CNN HOST: A lot of people never went to college in this country.

MARIANNA SOTOMAYOR, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yes. And that's the bigger question, too, is how is does this affect future students, right? This obviously affects people who already went to school, have debt, hopefully get a leg up and whatever they want to do in their lives. But it's not like it's changing the university system to either, you know, help more students in the future, these people would still accumulate debt, if not more debt if universities, you know, keep hiking up their prices.

So, some people are questioning that, is there a bigger thing to do on education policy? Is there something a role that government could potentially play in, in looking at those kinds of prices, capping them in some way more federal aid? That's where some people are saying that might be more beneficial for the future?

PHILLIP: Yes, I mean, there's very little talk about kind of systemic reform. But Chalian, what do you think about the timing? I mean, here we are, OK, it's almost September, maybe this is perfect timing, just in time for the midterms, for people to start feeling the relief.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Well, you recall back in the presidential campaign, this was a divide among the Democratic candidates about canceling student debt. Joe Biden was never in favor of wiping out all student debt the way Elizabeth Warren was. So he has been navigating this issue and constantly punting on it. They obviously don't want to do anything that is going to disparate Democratic turnout, especially at this moment when things are looking perhaps a little bit better for Democrats that they can mitigate some of the worst forecasts of this election season.

I think coming on the heels, though, of getting that huge investment in climate, the White House feels that folks I've spoken to, they have a little bit more running room here to try and get this message out there. Because they're -- they've just delivered on another big commitment from the left. We'll see we know where the advocacy world is on this issue.

PHILLIP: Absolutely. We will hear from them one way or another I'm sure.

And up ahead for us though, three states take the primary stage tomorrow, including Florida were to top Democrats square off to take on Republican Governor Ron DeSantis.



PHILLIP: Tomorrow's primary day and Democrats in Florida will decide who will face off against incumbent Governor Ron DeSantis. The front runner heading into Tuesday is Congressman Charlie Crist taking on Florida Agricultural Commissioner Nikki Fried. My panel is back with me. This is a race that not getting a whole lot of attention, but is perhaps one of the most important races if they can make a real run at Ron DeSantis. Who is perhaps, you know, of all the Republicans in the country, the one that almost everyone thinks might try to go up against Trump in 2024 or run if Trump doesn't run.

But interestingly, to me, this race is for South Florida. So we don't really know what's going to happen but also the impact of the Roe decision and abortion on this race. Take a listen to some of these ads from both Crist and Fried.


NIKKI FRIED, FLORIDA AGRICULTURAL COMMISSIONER: Want to know the difference between me and Charlie Crist is not just that I'm pro- choice, and he's pro-life.

REP. CHARLIE CRIST (D-FL): We must defend a woman's right to choose and protect kids with common sense gun laws. Ron DeSantis has a radical agenda.


PHILLIP: It -- this is for a Democratic audience. But clearly this is a message that they need to have strong footing on.

CHALIAN: We should remind viewers of course, that Charlie Crist was the former Republican governor of Florida. And so his track record on the issue of choice was something that Nikki Fried immediately inside the context of a Democratic primary now that Charlie Crist is a Democrat, was something she was going to seize upon.

We should also note, Nikki Fried is the only statewide elected Democrat in the state of Florida. So it is obviously a state that has been trending more red. But you are right to point out that the moment the court overturned Roe, that became a central issue between these two Democrats in this campaign, as they tried to sort of outdo each other to convince Democratic voters that they will protect it, the DeSantis factor, and it's a big if, if one of these, either one can make a real run, you mentioned how well funded he was earlier, Abby, I mean, they will see, but they are going to have the opposition research book and the game plan of how you run against Ron DeSantis. It's going to be like the opportunity test case for Democrats to road test how they do run against somebody who may be the 2024 nominee.

PHILLIP: And the state of Florida itself is just I mean, the last few elections, it seems to be slipping away from Democrats. So it's a real question whether, you know, this race so we'll talk a little bit about the Senate race, can Democrats put up a statewide fight in the state of Florida?

SOTOMAYOR: Yes. You know, ever since 2020, especially you've heard Democratic strategist say, you know, it's too early to say that Florida isn't a battleground state, but it's probably not going to be a battleground state anymore. It's just trending much more red. And for the first time, we see more Republican registered voters and Democratic voters in decades in that state, so they absolutely have that advantage.

And being from Florida, you see Republican efforts everywhere, all the time. And it's been a question about how much have Democrats have actually been investing both the national party, the state party, which has come under question and targeting a number of minority communities. It's really a big question and a mirror in some ways of what this means for the Democratic Party moving forward nationally, I think too.

PHILLIP: Yes, I want to talk about the Senate race. Marco Rubio is an incumbent up for reelection, but he's facing Val Demings who has an interesting profile black woman, a former law enforcement officer, and she is outspending him by a lot on television right now. You could argue that she has to. She's the one who's going up against an incumbent. But she's raised $47 million, spent $22 million on ads has 8 million it on hand. By contrast, Rubio has raised less $29 million, but has a little bit more on hand because he has only spent, he and the NRSC combined have only spent about $2.8 million in that state. Do you think Rubio is taking this challenge seriously?


SEUNG MIN KIM, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think there haven't been too many public complaints about Rubio and his campaigning just yet. But what Val Demings is, it's another example and a fascinating example of how Democratic Senate candidates have outraised their Republican challengers and the lack of fundraising or the lack of ability to fundraise from Republicans, whether they are the Republican challengers or even the Republican incumbents themselves have been a major concern for folks like Mitch McConnell and others.

I do think that to Marianna's point, Florida is becoming a more and more difficult state for Democrats for all the reasons that Marianna outlined. But I mean, if Democrats can make this more competitive than initially thought force Republicans to spread that -- the resources more will be an interesting challenge.

PHILLIP: Yes, the Democratic Senatorial Committee isn't really spending in Florida because they have other battlegrounds. But if Demings can make that race competitive, it's going to force Republicans to spend and that's going to change the battleground going forward. But coming up ahead for us, the White House is taking its policy wins on the road, hoping to keep the momentum ahead of the midterm elections.



PHILLIP: Better late than ever. The White House is revamping its infrastructure sales pitch, nine months after President Biden signed the sweeping $1.2 trillion package into law. And starting tomorrow, Biden officials will embark on a week's long nationwide media blitz hoping to gin up some local coverage and goodwill ahead of the November elections. CNN Isaac Dover reports that the administration officials admit that they flopped and getting out the word for the first nine months after passage with the law getting lost in the shuffle of the year, and of other party infighting and bureaucracy. Issac joins us now. Nine months later, why now?

EDWARD-ISAAC DOVERE, CNN SENIOR REPORTER: Well, it's a couple of things, Pete Buttigieg, the transportation secretary said to me that they had underestimated the idea that this was going to be instead of a two phase project, get the bill passed and start talking about what's going on and getting projects underway, a three stage process. So first, they had to get the bureaucracy going and deal with how they were talking about it. And now they're into this part of the infrastructure law, where there's actually money to hand out. So what they're going to be doing is going around and not saying, hey, look, there's a -- there might be a bridge over there, we're going to fund something or we're going to put rural broadband in over there.

But there are projects underway that they can point to tangible things, jobs that are already being created by it. And the other thing is that they are hoping that they can ride off the good news that has been coming for the Biden White House with these other legislative wins and say, look, this is all part of the argument for Democrats getting things done that they want to make, in front and center in the country, as voters go out in November.

PHILLIP: A little bit of a do over for them in some ways. You also report that the administration communications problems persist, even though they have this new plan. But it just makes you wonder, I mean, how hard is it to explain that you're handing out money for projects, I mean, shovel ready projects, and infrastructure has always been kind of the holy grail of politics is something that ought to be pretty easy for voters to understand?

DOVERE: Well, that's actually part of the thing that they've been dealing with is that they were talking about in terms of handing out money, and especially given the larger questions about the economy that around at this point, and a lot of voter's minds, they say, oh, look at these big checks that are going out. What about my finances? Why are -- why is the government spending so much money? So what they have focused on instead, going into this next phase of it is telling the human stories, what the real impact is on people. Mitch Landrieu who's the coordinator for all the infrastructure going on, stress this to cabinet officials earlier in the summer. We got to talk about how this is going to cut down on commutes. This is going to save people money in their businesses because they won't have to pay for gas or extra hours for their drivers and going around ways. This is going to mean kids in schools are going to have access to broadband now. All those things to get it really, really into people's lives and not think of it as like giant projects that are costing billions of dollars.

PHILLIP: Fascinating reporting, Isaac Dover. Thanks for joining us.

DOVERE: And back with our panel now. So this is as -- it would not be the first time that the White House has decided that they really need to try again to get out to the country and sell their legislative achievements. But what do you think really this is going to accomplish for them 78 days before the midterms?

KIM: Well, I think it's partly what Isaac laid out. I think it comes at a good time for the Biden administration. And it is a reminder to disaffected Democratic voters, particularly that if you have a Democratic House, a Democratic Senate and a Democratic White House that you can get some stuff done. Obviously, bridges aren't built overnight. Broadband isn't, you know, it put in place overnight. But I think, looking at how low President Biden approval ratings have been among members of his own party I think the White House is really focused on at least trying to get the approval from his own party back up and I think touting their accomplishments and reminding voters what they can do when Democrats are in charge is a big part of that.


PHILLIP: Rising tide lifts all boats. I mean, this could be a particularly fertile moment for the White House to try again, a new NBC poll shows a really important factor here going into the midterms, the enthusiasm gap is narrowing by a lot, going back to March and looking at it today, it is almost even. And that makes a big difference for Democrats going into this fall.

CHALIAN: Huge difference that -- when I was saying earlier that Democrats are looking at this moment, at a slightly better midterm environment than they thought they had inherited. It's largely that finding there, the fact that Democrats are nearly tied now, with Republicans in this enthusiasm factor, that's -- those people that say they are extremely enthusiastic and interested in voting in this midterm election. And it was such a wide gap and they've narrowed it. It's interesting, listening to what you're saying about how the administration wants to go out there and shore up Democrats at a Democratic House, Senate and White House can get stuff done.

When the bill was first passed, what they were touting was the bipartisan aspect of the bill. That now is the like leading message heading into the midterms here. It is exactly what you're saying, which is that you handed Democrats control of everything. And we are now showing you what that -- what the deliverables are. PHILLIP: Yes, in some ways, it's so fascinating that Biden has gone from, you know, wanting to be the big uniter to just being the President who can just get his guys to pass things and to get stuff done.

SOTOMAYOR: Yes. And Democrats are really leaning into that, because they see it as ability to draw contrast with Republicans. What they want to do now is say, look, not only have we passed this bill a year ago, but we also just passed semiconductors to manufacture more jobs here and we also just passed our own priority bill with 1,000 different things in it. We're the ones passing policies, and yes, it could you've seen the growing pains over time within the Democratic Party, but we did it.

What are Republicans offering? They're offering to impeach, you know, said cabinet secretary or they're looking to, you know, start some investigations. They're not talking seriously about policy. We can get things done for you. Here's the evidence. Here's the check. Here's the ribbon cutting. What are Republicans going to do? So that's the new momentum, I think right now.

PHILLIP: It's still an open question, though, how this affects President Biden himself. His approval ratings, even -- with all this going on, really have not moved that appreciably up. And this past weekend, one of the most embattled senator, Democratic senators Mark Kelly was on with Jake Tapper. When he was asked, do you want President Biden down in Arizona campaigning with you? Here's what he said.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Would you want President Biden to come to Arizona and campaign with you?

SEN. MARK KELLY (D-AZ): Hey, I'll welcome anybody to come to Arizona, you know, travel around the state at any time. If anybody wants to come to Arizona and talk about Arizona issues or issues that affect the country, I'll be here.

TAPPER: Well, it's not exactly an open invitation to President Biden to come.


PHILLIP: We can confirm that was not a yes. So I mean, it's real, look, I think it might be a little too early to know how this shapes out. But right now, Mark Kelly is not jumping to say, hey, President Biden come down visit?

CHALIAN: Well, listen, I think one of the defining characteristics of this midterm political environment is this divide between the President standing and that not necessarily being this huge anchor and wait around the necks of Democrats who are running in these races. I mean, Mark Kelly, and I think the most recent box poll had his ballot number of 50 percent in that race and a significant lead over Blake Masters in that race, far more popular than Joe Biden in that state. And it doesn't seem to be hurting them right now. So yes, traditionally, there has been such a close correlation between the President's approval rating and how his party performs. And that still may be the case in November. We'll see at this moment in time this race, these Democrats on the ballot have been able to separate themselves from an unpopular President.

KIM: And it's a telling sign that President Biden's first kind of big political event in some time is in -- this Thursday in deep blue, Maryland. It's not in the swing states. It's in Maryland.

PHILLIP: And you know what, at the end of the day, most presidents they know that when it comes to the midterms, sometimes they are not wanted and most of them are OK with that, most of them.


Well, coming up next for us, the latest on a violent arrest caught on camera in the state of Arkansas. We'll have more on that.


PHILLIP: And Topping our political radar some of the families impacted by the Uvalde School shooting in Texas are now part of a major lawsuit. A civil rights attorney is drafting a $27 billion class action suit against anyone who can be held accountable for the May 24th massacre. And that includes the school police, the Texas Rangers, and even the gun manufacturer. The suit is expected to be filed next month.

And a violent arrest in Arkansas is now under investigation. A warning to viewers this may be difficult to watch. This horrifying video shows two deputies and a police officer beating a suspect in the head and kneeling -- kneeing him in the back. That man was eventually taken to jail and is facing several charges. And the governor of the state Asa Hutchinson confirming this morning on Twitter that he has now spoken to state police officials and vows further review of the incident.


And another American official taking a trip to sure to anger Beijing, Indiana's Governor Republican Eric Holcomb arriving in Taiwan on Sunday for an economic development trip, Holcomb is the first U.S. governor to visit Taiwan since 2019.

And thank you again for joining Inside Politics. Bianna Golodryga picks up our coverage right now.