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CNN: Palin's Loss Could Signal Midterm Troubles For GOP; State Elections Pivotal To Future Of Abortion Access; Tonight: Biden To Focus On "Soul Of The Nation" In Philadelphia. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired September 01, 2022 - 12:30   ET



KASIE HUNT, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: The question here is, do these special elections just tell us that Democrats are very engaged right now and we when we get lower propensity voters joining the electorate that it may even out a little bit? I'm not sure. Alaska will be an interesting test of that, because we're going to have back to back races here.

And the other thing I would just say about Alaska also, I mean, when I went up there and covered, it was actually Senator Begich who was recently a Democratic senator from Alaska who lost back in 2014. It is a state that holds on to its individuality in a very aggressive and unique way. And I think any of us, you know, I sort of made the vow to myself, I'm not going to come, you know, be here in Washington, if I haven't been there recently and explain to people what's going on there, because it's a very special place. I think it's easily a state that could send Peltola and also Lisa Murkowski to Washington come November.

LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: One thing that's also striking, is it again, yes, as Kasie said, Alaska is its own unique place. But Democratic data firms have been tracking the registration changes, since the Dobbs decision from the Supreme Court came down. And prior to Dobbs and Alaska, men, were registering by an advantage of three points and then since Dobbs that's flipped to plus seven women registering in Alaska. So Democrats are paying attention to that. They've seen that in a number of other states like Wisconsin, and Michigan, and they saw it in Kansas as potentially contributing to that ballot initiative there on abortion.

JOHN KING, CNN HOST: And you see, we report about this yesterday, number of Republicans scrubbing their websites to try to moderate or lessen the impact of abortion statements on the website. They see it too. They see what's happening. It's also going to spark another round of conversations about this rank choice voting, which a few states have, Alaska trying it for the first time here. And here's how it works. We can show you in the graphic, everybody you vote for, you know, all the candidates are on the ballot. So you make your choice, right?

If somebody gets 50 percent plus, then they're declared the winner. If not, though, the top tier stays and they go back and look at the ballots. Republicans are starting to complain about this. This is what Tom Cotton the senator from Arkansas said rank choice voting is a scam to rig elections, 60 percent of Alaska voters voted for Republican, but thanks for convoluted process and ballot exhaustion, which disenfranchises voters, a Democrat won.

Adam Kinzinger but though says a Republican who's leaving Congress and on the January 6th Committee more in the middle says rank choice voting gives Americans a voice and not the extremes of a party. So you're out of luck. No wonder you don't like it, trying to label Cotton as an extremist there. The question is, do other states copy -- do more states copy this?

NICHOLAS WU, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, POLITICO: That is that is the question of the moment right now. We actually see a push to in salt rank choice voting in Nevada, where not only Republicans, but also some Democrats have hosts the move to do this. The interesting thing to me about Alaska, though, is that the second choice votes here came from baggage voters who clearly didn't want Sarah Palin, they wanted a Democrat instead. And so the test here for this process is how the vote totals going to shake out when they all go back in November for the general election.

KING: Right. And I mean she has obviously, Peltola in the House for months as a congresswoman to come to Washington and say, look what I've done for you. But it's right. Do you see the partisan? But the question, the rank choice voting, if you haven't followed it, the advocates of it say, it forces you if you're a Republican to have a conversation with Democrats and independents, because you might need to be their second choice. And the flip side, if you're Democrat to have a conversation with Republicans, because you might need to be their second choice. Now, the question is, is that catch on with people or, you know, some view it is, the idea is to mitigate polarization. The question is, is it a gimmick?

BARRON-LOPEZ: Yes, it's hard to see right now whether a number of other states across the country are going to adopt a format like this, but Alaskan voters wanted this. I mean, they are the ones that decided that they wanted their state to go through this process, so that's another thing to keep in mind as Republicans are arguing that this was something that disenfranchised Alaskan voters when the electeds there as well, as the voters decided that they wanted this process.

HUNT: Yes, you know, it also forces candidates to not run quite as negative a campaign as you might otherwise. I mean, there was a lot of conversation that perhaps the Begich versus Palin just turned a lot of people off to both of them, and that, you know, resulted them either not choosing a second choice or, you know, sending their vote to Peltola. Now, that's something voters you know, tell us that they want. They want less negative campaigning. Obviously, the track record is that voters responds to negative campaigning, but that might not be true in this kind of situation.

KING: That's a fascinating place to watch. I think we should all go visit, maybe we should take the show up there before we get to November.


When we come back next, more of the conversation about abortion including a key state where Democrats thought they could put it on the ballot, but as of today, they have failed.


KING: Abortion rights supporters in Michigan are dealing with a giant and a very unusual setback. They collected some 750,000 signatures to place on the state ballot this November, a measure that would enshrine the right to an abortion in the Michigan Constitution. But as of today, it will not be on the ballot because of a printing or a formatting error. Take a look. Republicans on the evenly divided Board of State canvassers objected to the ballot language because they said and you can see it there if you look closely, there's a lack of spaces between many of the words those. Republicans argued it made the initiative confusing, confusing.

Now supporters of the ballot initiative will appeal to the state Supreme Court to try to get that effort on the ballot. But our reporters are backwards for the conversation. As of today, it will not be on the ballot because of this decision. And we learned from Kansas where voters came out a couple of weeks ago back to push in a conservative state, a ballot initiative there. If you're a Democrat in Michigan, you have a key governor's race. You have other key races as well. They had hoped this was on the ballot, number one, for the policy point, they believe it's important policy get in the constitution but politically they also thought it would help it turn out.

BARRON-LOPEZ: Exactly because so many governors particularly Democratic governors and Democratic candidates for attorneys general are making abortion a big issue for themselves when they're running for election or reelection because they argue that they could be one of the last stop gaps against Republican legislatures that attempt to pass restrictions on abortion.


Another thing that I think is a key when we're looking at whether or not it has an impact on the midterms is that youth voter registration, we can't forget that young voters are really influenced by what is happening on abortion across the country. And that since the Dobbs decision, young voters under the age of 25 have increased their registration by about six points. So they're going to be a key part of this conversation.

KING: Right. And you see, it's showing up in that data, registration data, you also see it showing up in the polling data. Let's start with this one here. This is Quinnipiac. The importance of a candidate sharing his or her views on abortion among registered voters, 54 percent say it's very important, 28 percent say it's somewhat important. So voters want to hear, you know, what your views are for, against, what about exceptions, you know, where are you there?

And then look at this from the new poll out just today in "The Wall Street Journal," overturning Roe v. Wade is now more likely to vote in the midterms, because of which issue. Overturning Roe v. Wade is now higher than inflation. That is a dramatic impact chain. If you look, if you go back just a couple of months it was inflation, economy, inflation, economy.

HUNT: Right. No, absolutely. I mean, and also, you know, frankly, the fact that gas prices are receding, as well is underscoring the impact that this is having here. But, you know, I do think this is something that you see repeatedly, and there are multiple data points from the registration data to polls, like the one that you've shown to some of the results we've seen in these special elections that show just how much people care about this. And I think Republicans have been learning the lesson that, you know, when this decision came down, you know, as I was reading through it, you know, my first thought was really, this puts Republicans out of step with where they know the electorate is row really protected, Republicans who wanted to say I oppose abortion in all instances, because at the end of the day, they couldn't actually do anything about it.

And some of the Republicans I've talked to privately, you know, they would never admit this in public. But they would say, in many ways, this actually makes it an easier issue for us to deal with. And now Republicans suddenly are faced that with being in situations where the leaders of their states are outlying exceptions, they're banning abortion entirely. And it's just not where the American people are. And you're seeing it in all these instances.

KING: And you'll see it in some of these governor's race. So we're (INAUDIBLE) Democrats believe it helps them hold Pennsylvania in what could be a tough year. They hope it helps them in Michigan, even though won't be on the ballot. They think it has an impact over Wisconsin as well. The question is in Republican held states, can they make an issue in Georgia? Can they make it an issue in Arizona?

WU: That's certainly the question for Democrats here. I mean, the -- with these sorts of governor's races and other things that aren't necessarily federal people were going to the polls for a whole basket of different issues, right? You might recall that Governor Whitmer was elected on a pledge to fix the roads in Michigan, right, but now we have abortion entering the discussion and Democrats trying to make this election this fall, a referendum on a woman's right to choose and abortion rights, you know, instead of the overall basket of issues that would otherwise compose a governor's race. And we might see that same strategy in other states as well.

KING: And a key point, POLITICO has a very smart piece today. First, I want to just show you a map, since the Dobbs decision, since Roe v. Wade has been wiped out, Dobbs is now the law of the land. A number of states immediately had trigger laws in place, so restrictions took effect immediately. Other state legislatures have moved to pass additional restrictions.

And so now you have this argument, not just in governor's race, it's not just the congressional races, but there's a Democratic group that raises money for legislative candidates saying this is essential. I just want to read this, if we continue to neglect this level of the ballot, meaning legislative races, devastating consequences. If you want to protect abortion rights, the single best place to devote your time, energy and resources is on state legislative races, that Jessica Post, who's the President of the Democratic legislative Campaign Committee. It does remind you that because of Dobbs, this is a state by state decision now. So those -- the governor's race, yes, critical legislative races equally so.

BARRON-LOPEZ: Democratic voters are learning how key there -- it goes to pay attention to the down ballot races, how key their legislatures are, because that is where, you know, in states like Wisconsin, they control whether or not they have the votes to restrict abortion. And even if there is a Democratic governor do the state legislatures have veto proof majorities and if they're ruled by Republicans versus a Democratic governor, so that's something that I think a lot of Democratic voters are starting to pay attention more especially since over the past decade, Republicans have paid far more attention to state legislatures than the Democrats have.

KING: This has been a generational issue for Republicans. Democrats are trying to catch up now that they understand the stakes.


Up next, some primetime perspective, President Biden's big speech in Philadelphia tonight is designed to shape your 2022 vote, traces back to a theme critical to his 2020 win.


KING: President Biden tonight returns to a central 2020 campaign theme in an effort to shape your 2022 vote. President knows a midterm campaign is usually about the party in power. And he knows inflation is punishing American families. But President Biden will argue now as he did in the last campaign, that there's something bigger at stake, and he will argue giving Republicans more power would undermine democracy.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You are in the battle for the soul of this nation. If we give Donald Trump eight years in the White House, he will forever and fundamentally alter the character of this nation, who we are and I cannot stand by and watch that happen.


KING: Presidential historian Doug Brinkley is with us now. It was a very effective message Joe Biden versus Donald Trump one on one versus an incumbent president. Can you make that in a midterm election campaign, which we all know the first midterm is generally about the President in power, but you call this a State of the Union for the midterm year, why?

[12:50:17] DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Because 2021 was not a good year for Joe Biden and 2022 starting to shape up to be pretty good. He got gasoline prices down, the Roe decision, you know, the overturning of Roe v. Wade was an apocalypse in the Democratic world. But Biden is able to say get behind Democrats or this is what you're going to get.

And I think he's seen now as a commander in chief dealing with the Ukraine, climate crisis, everywhere, a burning, forest burning across America. That's a Democratic issue. And so we see Biden being what, like, Biden, Joe Biden of Scranton this past week. I suspect we'll see more of that tonight. But it's also at a great stage like Philadelphia's Independence Hall where he could relate back to the founders in Abraham Lincoln.

KING: He wants to talk about in his view, and there's plenty of evidence to support the argument American democracy is at least stressed if not bending in some places. If you look at this Quinnipiac poll, it's interesting, 69 percent of Republicans say yes, democracy is in danger of collapse, 69 percent of Democrats, yes, 66 percent of independents. Yes. So you would say America's together on this question, except they're not they have, the Republicans and Democrats especially have very different views of where the stress is. Can any president speak to all of America at this moment? Or do you have to pick your target?

BRINKLEY: You have to pick your target. And that's what Joe Biden is doing what he's, I think tonight going to try to do is do those ultra Magna Republicans and show them as a smaller group than they are. Don't treat it as Trumpism being half the country, treated us a sliver. And look what's happened this past year. I mean, whatever we say, think about the January 6th commissions, John, that they dented him. It was night after night of hammering on Donald Trump, and now Mar-a-Lago raid, and you're able to have Biden seem like the adult, the President that at least is a calming force and is keeping whatever cohesion is alive and well in America together.

KING: It is this a moment, George W. Bush, the only president in modern times not to lose House seats in the first midterm election. That's the one that came right after 9/11. The country viewed it as a crisis, crisis moment. But every other, Ronald Reagan was a good politician. Bill Clinton was a good politician. Barack Obama was a good politician. They all lost seats in their first midterm election in the House. Can Joe Biden defy history? Do you see that this moment is that big?

BRINKLEY: Two weeks ago, I would have said impossible. But there is a blue wave going on right now. And I think it's the House is in play. Why? women, women, women, I mean, the fact of the matter when Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights and Civil Rights Act and said there goes the South. When the Supreme Court demolished Roe v. Wade, it really said there goes the women's vote whenever that we consider that in America, shifting to the Democrats.

And I think that the amount of women that are engaged this year, midterm year, it's something like we've never seen in American history, one caveat, ever since women's suffrage in, you know, in 1920, we were always talking about the women's vote and often doesn't show up in blocks. I have a feeling this year it might and that means Congress might be a dead heat.

KING: We count those votes and nine and a half weeks. We'll watch the President tried to shape them tonight. Doug, thanks for your time and perspective for us on this day. And join us for special coverage when President Biden takes that message primetime tonight. Our CNN special coverage begins 8:00 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN. Please join us.

Ahead, tens of thousands of people in Mississippi tragically, still fighting for access to clean water.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's horrible. And I will likely to be fixed. Please fix our water.



KING: Topping our political radar today, the FEMA Administrator heads to Jackson, Mississippi tomorrow. Though city water crisis there now in day four, the city's 150,000 residents worth noting more than 80 percent of them are black, according to the census have been told to shower with their mouths closed. Schools are setting up portable toilets. One student telling CNN quote, it's like we're living in a nightmare. Businesses meanwhile, are struggling.


TANYALYN BURNS, RESTAURANT MANAGER: Not being able to open the doors, not being able to employ staff, not being able to support the community is a really hard place after the past year that restaurants have had pretty much since COVID.


KING: John Fetterman says he feels amazing, but you could see during his first national T.V. interview since suffering a stroke back in May, Fetterman is still recovering. The Democrat running for Pennsylvania Senate admits he still occasionally skips a word or mushes two words together. And Fetterman says it is still TBD if he will debate Mehmet Oz. He says Dr. Oz has been mocking his recovery.


JOHN FETTERMAN (D-PA), SENATE NOMINEE: Desperation is the worst cologne and they understand that Dr. Oz's campaign is in shambles whether you look at the polls, you look at the fundraising. You know, they've just figured out that, you know, let's appeal to folks that get their jollies, you know, making fun of the stroke dude.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KING: And a snob for the former leader of the Soviet Union, the Russian President Vladimir Putin will not attend Mikhail Gorbachev's funeral on Saturday. Putin says it's because of a work conflict but the two leaders had a very strained relationship. Putin did find time to lay flowers on the former Soviet leader's coffin.


Appreciate your time today on INSIDE POLITICS. We'll see you back here tomorrow. Ana Cabrera picks up our coverage right now.