Return to Transcripts main page

Inside Politics

Biden: "MAGA Republicans" Are A "Threat To This Country"; 65 Days Until the Midterms; Trump Slams "Vicious" FBI As Legal Woes Grow; Trump's Political Standing One Month after the Mar-a-Lago Search; Can Democrats Pull Off An Upset In Ohio Senate Race?; Family Feud. Aired 8-9a ET

Aired September 04, 2022 - 08:00   ET





MANU RAJU, CNN HOST (voice-over): President Biden says the stakes in November have never been higher.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: MAGA Republicans do not respect the Constitution. They do not recognize the will of the people. And we, the people, must say this is not who we are.

RAJU: But do voters see the midterms as a choice between Democrats and the former president? Or is a referendum on the current one?

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): Washington and the White House aren't listening. We must change direction before it is too late.

RAJU: Plus, even more new details about the classified documents Donald Trump was hoarding inside his Florida home.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These documents belong to the American people. It's not a good picture for Trump. There's no possible way to spin it that it is.

RAJU: Has the Mar-a-Lago search and its aftermath dimmed Trump's 2024 odds?

And in the race for the Senate, can Democrats really pull off an upset in a state Trump won by eight points?

REP. TIM RYAN (D-OH): This is about getting back to some common sense. This is about getting back to building the economy, making things, manufacturing things.

RAJU: INSIDE POLITICS, the biggest stories sourced by the best reporters now.


RAJU: Welcome to INSIDE POLITICS SUNDAY. I'm Manu Raju, in for Abby Phillip.

It's Labor Day weekend here in the United States, the unofficial start to the final sprint to Election Day. In 65 days, Americans will head to the polls to decide control of politics. And President Biden wants voters to see it as a choice between democracy and Donald Trump.


BIDEN: There's no question that the Republican Party today is dominated, driven and intimidated by Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans. And that is a threat to this country. For a long time we've told ourselves that American democracy is guaranteed but it's not. We have to defend it, protect it, stand up for it, each and every one of us.


RAJU: Republicans, on the other hand, they say it's a judgment on two years of Democratic control of Washington.


MCCARTHY: Joe Biden has launched an assault on the soul of America, on its people, on its laws, on its most sacred values. This is the national referendum, a referendum on inflation, illegal immigration, indoctrination, and crime at home and humiliation abroad.


RAJU: Democrats feel the wind at their backs after a series of legislative wins and Republican setbacks. Polls show they've regained a narrow lead on who voters say they prefer win control of Congress.

But Republicans know they don't need a red tsunami on November 8th, just a red trickle. Five seats in the House, one seat in the Senate, that's all it takes to win control.

Now let's discuss this and much more with Margaret Talev of Axios, Zolan Kanno-Youngs of "The New York Times", "Politico's" Christopher Cadelago, and CNN's Gabby Orr.

So, lots to discuss here. So, let's start with the Biden speech. A primetime address talking about democracy, talking about how that is at risk.

Zolan, is that what the White House wants to be focusing on more than, say, the bread and butter economic issues voters say they tend to care about more?

ZOLAN KANNO-YOUNGS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, that's a recent calculation by the White House, pretty much this summer. No longer trying to engage in almost a debate about whether or not job growth indicates a strong economy even though people are still feeling the pain of inflation.

But more so, moving the conversation away from a referendum on the Biden administration and their record, and moving more so making this a choice, an election choice between democracy and extremism.

They've been looking at polls, including a recent poll from this week at Quinnipiac that basically says 69 percent of both Democrats and Republicans do believe democracy is in danger for different reasons depending on what party you're affiliated with.

But that's what you're going to see moving forward and weeks ahead, putting under one umbrella, basically saying this is a party that's putting democracy in danger and pointing to a couple of different things, whether it's the level of extremism, rhetoric fueling potential political violence as well.

And also it does show, look, Biden came into office really preaching unity and national healing. Many of the supporters want accountability and it seems like finally that's now coming.


RAJU: Yeah, and part of the Biden speech is the alarm he was raising, the rhetoric was very sharp against Donald Trump. Take a listen.


BIDEN: Too much of what's happening in our country today is not normal. Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans represent an extremism that threatens the very foundations of our republic. I will not stand by and watch elections in this country stolen by people who simply refuse to accept that they lost.


RAJU: But if you're a Democrat running in a swing state, are you embracing this rhetoric about the existential threat or talking about issues like the infrastructure bill or drug prices?

CHRISTOPHER CADELAGO, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, POLITICO: I think a lot of these Democrats have been saying to us they want this to be a component of it. But it certainly is not something they're leading with.

They're leading with the economy. They're getting questions over shortages in baby formula. They're getting questions about why the gas prices are so far before $4.

And what they wanted from the White House and other leading Democrats is to come in and explaining the macro factors but what the party is doing to solve these issues. And I think that is what they want to talk about in their districts.

Now, whether it helps in a congressional district where the Republican has not established themselves in a national way, branding them under this MAGA banner could help around the margins, it could help with independents. It's been helping with Joe Biden's approval rating.

It's part of the mix but not something they are leading with. Joe Biden is also creating this larger national message for the party. These folks have to focus on the bread and butter in their district.

RAJU: Yeah, and the reaction from the Republicans was a lot of pushback, saying this was a president who said he was going to unite the country. This is the opposite of that. Even some of the ones who were critical of Donald Trump made that case.


GOV. ASA HUTCHINSON (R), ARKANSAS: I think it was a political speech. It was a divisive speech, and that's not presidential. And I've said repeatedly that we should not be dwelling upon the last election.

We need to be looking at the future and solving problems. He said we should look at each other as Americans and not enemies and yet he singled out a segment of Americans and said basically they're our enemy.


RAJU: To be fair, Donald Trump also is dwelling on the 2020 election, that is what he has been doing. How do you think independent voters that Biden needs would react to a speech like this?

GABBY ORR, CNN REPORTER: Well, I think a lot of them were sort of wondering -- to Chris' point, why isn't he talking about what his administration has done?

We've now hit the unofficial start of the final sprint to the midterms, and you would think on the heels of passing the Inflation Reduction Act, being able to talk about bipartisan infrastructure reforms, enabling negotiations over prescription drug prices, those are things voters want to hear about and want be to be made aware of.

And I don't know this calculation, as you put it, to shift the focus to Donald Trump and threats to democracy among extremist Republicans is going to pay off in the long run. And that's the point that a lot of my Republican sources have made this week on the heels of that speech that Biden gave. Why is he suddenly choosing to focus on this?

They understand there's a significant portion of his progressive supporters who want him to be leaning into this, want him to be talking aggressively about Trump and his supporters, MAGA supporters in the Republican Party, but they also were questioning why isn't Biden talking about this? And Republicans themselves feel that Democrats would be in a better spot if they were talking about --

MARGARET TALEV, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think some of this is about splitting the Republican Party. It is divisive, divisive by nature. That's the point of the speech. When you use a phrase like MAGA Republicans it's poll tested, it's not the same thing as saying Republicans as to say there is a different brand of Republicanism inside the Republican Party.

That's what Biden is trying to get to and give independents and Republicans a permission structure to split the ticket. Vote Democratic or stay home. That's what he's doing in states like Ohio, states like Pennsylvania, states like Wisconsin.

What he's saying is, hey, centrist voters or center-right voters or Republican voters who don't want to be a part of the last six years, you don't have to be.

And I think that is the rhetoric that he's beginning to test. Will it work? What's the right way to calibrate it? Will it turn Republicans off? Yeah, maybe, maybe all those things.

But I think this speech, the third time in Pennsylvania a week part, there's a handful, like three states, this message is super potentially going to matter and it will decide control of the Senate and will decide --


RAJU: The governor's race potentially.

TALEV: Absolutely. And that as the abortion message is going to be Joe Biden and the Democratic Party's counter argument to inflation or the perception of economic woes. And this is him beginning to test that.

CADELAGO: The counterargument, also, folks looking at their pocketbooks, I may cross the aisle or I'm an independent and I may vote Republican. Biden is trying to say this is a lot bigger than where gas prices might be now versus where they were three months ago.

This is about the future of democracy, just trying to make this argument on a higher plane to draw them in, look at the party you might be voting for. So and so candidate might be a more moderate Republican but this is who they're going to join in Washington.

I think that is something voters often might need a reminder of if they're in a district where somebody has tried to sort of separate themselves from the larger Republican Party.

RAJU: Look, you can't deny the mentality of the way the midterms is going has changed, the outlook has changed. Democrats are more optimistic. Republicans still think they will take back control of at least the House. Things may change in terms of the margin.

But look at the things that have been lining up in Democrats' favor over the last several weeks here. The gas prices have gone down since June. Abortion, the issue has galvanized Democratic support. They passed this massive climate and health care bill.

The Trump investigations have heated up, the Mar-a-Lago search. Biden's approval rating has inched up a little bit.

But that's not all that's the way this is looking for the Democrats. Some things are going in the Republicans favor. Inflation is very high, a top voter concern. Two-thirds of the country believe it is headed in the wrong direction.

Biden is still unpopular despite his increase in approval ratings and it's still just a five House seat, net house seat they need to pick up. One Senate seat to win back control.

Are Democrats getting too optimistic after looking down for so long but because of some of those recent victories are they getting a little too bullish here?

KANNO-YOUNGS: There is some concern about that, right? Just to go back as well, this ties directly to what's going to be a challenge, the White House and Democrats moving forward.

How do you balance this rhetoric and this message of painting the party as one of divisive and a party of extremists but also talking about your recent legislative achievements on the hill as well and the slate of bills you have passed?

Having those two things grouped together while also having a challenge of coming off as possibly too optimistic when people are still feeling economic pain even if gas prices is going down, inflation is still too high.

TALEV: If you're a Democrat to be like, we've got this, but I do also think the Democratic -- the discussion about democracy is not coming out of nowhere. It's pegged directly to this FBI search and to the changing public sentiment around that search, the more that we find out about the details of why it got to this.

I think that's important if you are Biden and you see a window of opportunity to change the dynamic, to put the wind at your back, of course you're going to drive into it.

But I think you're right, if Democrats are reading the signs as everything has changed, that would be a mistake.

RAJU: A lot will still change over the next two months and one of the big issues next is the abortion fight giving Democrats a key message heading into November. Republicans are still grappling with a response.



RAJU: We are back with our great panel of political reporters talking about the final weeks of the mid-term campaign, Election Day now just 65 days away, and we saw Donald Trump back on the campaign trail last night. He was in Pennsylvania. He reportedly wants to have a lot more of these rallies between now and November 8th.

And when speaking to his supporters last night, the rhetoric was sharp. He played some of his familiar hits, and he went after his political opponents.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT: There's only one party waging war on American democracy by censoring free speech, criminalizing dissent. You see that happening. Imprisoning political protesters. That's what they're doing. Rigging

elections. Weaponizing the Justice Department and the FBI like never ever before.


RAJU: And, of course, talking about imprisoning political prisoners, the people who stormed the Capitol, attacked the Capitol, on January 6th. He was critical many of them are being charged and have, of course, faced charges in court and the like.

But rigging elections, elections have not been rigged. It's been established time and time again.

But is this really what Republicans want? They want more Donald Trump on the campaign trail heading into November?

TALEV: Yeah, first of all, if the things he was describing were remotely true, the country would be in an even worse crisis than now. Which Republicans? The Republicans attending the rally last night, yes, that's exactly what they wanted to hear. My colleague was in the crowd last night.

The dispatches from the line outdoors and the mood in the arena were strongly for that message for candidates like Doug Mastriano, heroes like Marjorie Taylor Greene to the movement.

But outside of that rally room when you are looking at statewide level races or swing districts -- no, it's absolutely not what the leadership or individual candidates want to hear and that's the main tension point inside the Republican Party, and it's why you see Joe Biden using the phrase MAGA Republicans to try to split the Republican Party.


There's a real concern that not just the rhetoric and putting Trump back into the center focus of the discussion, making it a referendum on the past president versus the current one, not just that but some of the candidates themselves, some of their stumbles, position, lack of experience, could in the end come back and boomerang and hurt the Republican Party in some of these key races.

RAJU: And are Republicans more concerned about Trump and what he says and getting back on the trail or the abortion decision and that galvanizing Democratic voters at this key moment?

ORR: Well, Trump, himself, has expressed concern privately about the abortion decision. He was sort of the sole person responsible for Dobbs by nominating the three concern justices during his White House, but at the end of the day doesn't want to talk about it.

If you looked at a transcript of his rally last night you would see only passing mentions of Roe v. Wade and abortion made it into his remarks. He didn't talk about it. He hasn't been talking about it. And a lot of these Republicans candidates are running away from the issue. Doug Mastriano in Pennsylvania is an example. I mean, he has

previously said in debates that abortion is his number one issue and yet we haven't heard Mastriano give a speech about abortion, mention abortion on the campaign trail other than just in passing, celebrating the Dobbs decision but not going deeply into what that means for voters moving forward.

It's not a politically motivating issue for Republicans right now and I think they're very much aware of that and trying to navigate that.

RAJU: And they haven't figured out how to message it. It's happening across the state. Take a look at the map here. The states here you see in deep red on your screen, states like Texas and along the South here, those are the states abortion has actually been banned right now in this country.

There are some other serious restrictions taking place, or six-week bans in states like Ohio and states like Georgia, and then you have the court fights where this is still playing out, still uncertain exactly what's going to happen in a state like Michigan where there is a big race there.

Some big House races taking place and key races across the country and in other states as well like Florida has a 15-week ban. Pennsylvania not highlighted here on this map, but they elect a Republican governor or legislature perhaps that could change things.

So, Republicans, what is their strategy right now in talking about this issue? Just to not talk about it?

KANNO-YOUNGS: That -- there seems to be a lack of consistency on what the message is going forward. We do know the concern you mentioned with the former president is really, really telling with the GOP here.

Yes, there were some people in the party that were banking on energizing the base here, but I think the lack of consistency with the messaging that we've seen really does show there are some in the Republican Party that also realize, one, an issue like this where you are impacting the health of so many people across the country can also galvanize the Democratic base to go to the midterms here.

So, it seems like they're almost avoiding the issue at this point.

CADELAGO: To that end I was going to say on the Democratic side we've seen surges in registration particularly among women in a lot of these states right now. We've seen surges in turnout. There was the New York special and a whole bunch of others, the race in Nebraska, obviously the measure in Kansas.

And so part of it is Republicans have been sort of caught flat-footed by the wave of what this has done for Democrats. In some of the comments Trump did make, he was saying I'm for exemptions -- exceptions on abortion, so even he in these brief comments was a bit defensive about what this overturning of Roe has done.

RAJU: When you say caught flat-footed, Republicans in the immediate aftermath of the Dobbs didn't think it would be have a huge impact on the midterms and thought the abortion views would be already baked in. It was a leaked opinion and everything else. But we'll see what happens come November.

Now, new details on the highly sensitive documents recovered in the Mar-a-Lago search and what it means for the former president's political future.



RAJU: When FBI agents seized boxes from Mar-a-Lago last month, they didn't just find classified documents. A mix inside boxes containing some of America's closest held secrets were articles of clothing, gifts, photos, even press clippings, along with scores of classified documents. The Justice Department says more than 11,000 other government documents and photographs in Trump's possession.

Now, four weeks after the search of Mar-a-Lago, 64 percent of Americans say Trump's mishandling of classified documents is serious.

Last night at a rally, he lashed out at the Justice Department.


TRUMP: The FBI and the Justice Department have become vicious monsters controlled by radical left scoundrels, lawyers and the media who tell them what to do -- you people right there -- and when to do it.

They're trying to silence me and, more importantly, they are trying to silence you. But we will not be silenced, right?


RAJU: Now after all these revelations, how do the rest of the Republicans view what is happening here?

You reported in the immediate aftermath, Gabby, of the search at Mar- a-Lago. Some Republican support for Donald Trump, a lot wanted him to run. This is what Jim Banks said to you and a team of reporters working on it.

He's a congressman from Indiana, the Republican Study Committee chair, a Conservative Caucus in the conference saying, "The group encouraged Trump to run sooner than later. Banks said he would describe Trump as being upbeat, fired up, not fazed at all by the FBI search on his Florida property.

"My sense is he is fired up and ready to go and he received a lot of encouragement in the room to get out sooner than later." We have learned a lot since that. Do they still feel that way?

ORR: Absolutely not. And it's actually funny that you chose that story to reference because look, that was on August 9th we reported that. And that's when they told us that. That was the day after the search was conducted of the former president's residence.

Last week I checked in with a lot of Republican sources including Trump aides and advisers who were helping him work through the 2024 question and now they say he wants to and is under pressure to wait until after the midterms. Wait until he's figured out just how much trouble he is in here -- legally, politically before jumping in.

And so there has been a notable shift over the past two weeks as we've had this drip, drip, drip of information about the classified documents, the way that they were being stored at Mar-a-Lago. Also just empty boxes of documents being confiscated during that search raising questions about whether there was some form of obstruction that happened.

RAJU: Right. And that's a real legal concern.

ORR: Major legal concern. And so the thinking among Republicans has totally shifted here. And this is part of a pattern that we've seen for years now with Republicans where they say publicly that this is going to help the former president, he's the victim of political persecution. Privately, they say he's in a lot of trouble.

RAJU: Yes. And one of the persons who thinks this is very serious is Trump's former attorney general, Bill Barr.


WILLIAM BARR, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: If, in fact, he sort of stood over scores of boxes, not really knowing what was in them, and said I hereby declassify everything in here, that would be such an abuse and show such recklessness it's almost worse than taking the documents.


RAJU: His position is veering into the indefensible to some key Republicans.

TALEV: You know, that's right. I think for the former president there are two questions and one is how much legal trouble is he in? And the other is how much political trouble is he in? How damaging is this going to be to his efforts or desire to lead the party or be a future nominee for president again?

These two questions obviously intersect at some point if the legal jeopardy becomes serious enough it answers the political question. But until then I think this is operating on two political tracks.

There is a core of his base as you saw from that clip and the rally last night that message they're not just coming for me but they're coming for you really resonates with.

And that's a group that that message is going to resonate with whether or not Donald Trump is ever a nominee for president again. But whether -- whether he ever is a nominee for president again depends on where this case is going in large measure. RAJU: Yes. And on the political front there's a clear irony here. I

mean this was a president -- former president who railed against mishandling of classified information including, of course, against Hillary Clinton.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We also need the best protection of classified information. That is the worst situation.

Hillary's private email scandal, which put our classified information in the reach of our enemies, disqualifies her from the presidency. Totally.


RAJU: And that was in 2016. CNN KFILE came up with numerous other examples -- John Bolton, James Comey. He even called for the death penalty. He even signed legislation to strengthen the punishment against people who mishandled classified information. And here he is defending what he did.

CADELAGO: Yes, and just to go back to something that Margaret said before. I mean if you're looking at it from Trump's perspective or looking at it in a 2024 perspective, there's so much more that needs to come out for us to really know what the implication politically is going to be for him.

But in the short term, we, for a couple months, were reporting about Democrats almost sort of urging Trump to announce his 2024 campaign before the midterms, and he's obviously resisted so far. He's indicated he probably won't do that.

But the effect of this search at Mar-a-Lago and this whole storyline is he's leading headlines. He's back where Democrats sort of wanted him to be and if he were to announce his campaign anyway and he's given these openings to Joe Biden, to other Democrats, to sort of seize this moment and really make him the face.

He's already the face of the party, but use these current headlines to sort of paint the whole party as MAGA. And so I think that's been, it has had already a short-term political impact on the midterms just by having him out there.


KANNO-YOUNGS: That's the key for the white house and Democrats, too, right. We talked about this earlier but attaching really any Republican to the kind of, quote, "MAGA extremism" that you've heard the president talk about so much even to the point where some Democratic allies are fund-raising as well for some MAGA candidates with the belief that it will give actual Democrats a better chance of winning some of these elections as well. So that's a prime strategy as well for Democrats moving forward. RAJU: Yes. We'll see if that strategy propping up for those folks they

believe unelectable that successful, maybe they'll backfire. We'll, of course, see in next few weeks.

But up next, a major rift between two top Senate Republicans. Is that putting a potential GOP majority at risk?


RAJU: Ohio has become a reliable red state. Donald Trump won it twice by wide margins but is that partisan lean enough for J.D. Vance to win the Senate race in November? He has struggled to fund raise, has done little advertising and goes days without public events.


RAJU: Now, when I went to his campaign office in Cincinnati last week and tried to interview him an aide said he was not available.

Now moderate Democrat Tim Ryan has been running strong in early polls, but one influential conservative in the state told me Republicans will eventually come home.


BILL CUNNINGHAM, CONSERVATIVE TALK SHOW HOST: J.D. Vance is playing on the card with the R next to his name and the endorsement of Donald Trump. Now, is that enough? Probably. I would bet a hot fudge sundae on it.

I can guarantee you that. J.D. Vance, if he loses, it's his own damn fault.


RAJU: So what's been interesting here is that this was a state that Republicans thought would be a slam dunk. Keeping the seat that Rob Portman, the Republican senator has vacated because he's retiring.

But Mitch McConnell's Super PAC has spent $28 million -- that is a ton of money to reserve -- to help save this seat, and that has an impact across the map. Just look at the Senate map, all across the states in yellow are some of the key senate races that we are watching.

States like Wisconsin. They may want to play in a state like Colorado, of course we're watching Arizona. We're watching Nevada, Florida and Georgia. Florida we'll see if it comes to the map.

Georgia, of course, one of the biggest races in the country. We're seeing Pennsylvania, also New Hampshire and North Carolina. Maybe North Carolina could come into play and, of course, Ohio, that state there that I did not circle, one being that $28 million is being spent.

So even though they may save the seat it could have an impact across the map. TALEV: Yes. I think that's right. And of all the races you mentioned

Ohio and Pennsylvania are the two that I tend to think of in tandem, because they're two of the closest races.

They're two where Trump-backed candidates who have national personas and a lot of money but some voters in those states aren't sure like is this guy one of us? These are kind of the parameters.

The difference is that Pennsylvania is much more of a swing state that's even leaned Democratic in recent years. And Ohio is much more of a red state.

So I think, look, if you look at Tim Ryan, he's about as good as it gets for a Democrat trying to run statewide in a Senate seat right now. And he's done an outsized job. He's done a good job of connecting on these issues like manufacturing, right.

Similarly if you look in Pennsylvania, Fetterman has that kind of populist appeal. So a Democrat with a populist working class message against a Republican nominee who's trying to find that tone, right and trying to find that beat, that's created a really interesting dynamic.

I do think the trajectory in Pennsylvania really does look different in Ohio.

RAJU: And the thing about Tim Ryan was interesting. He's got -- he's raised a ton of money and he's advertised a lot not as a Democrat, as a --

TALEV: Yes. Yes.

RAJU: He says that I voted for the Trump trade policies and I voted against Obama. And you talk to some Republicans, it sounds like he's a Republican running but he's clearly a Democrat.

TALEV: If he just doesn't have his party, it might have worked.

RAJU: Yes. Exactly.

And I asked him about all of this, and he told me the Democratic brand is, quote, not good in Pennsylvania and in lots of parts of the country in his state. When I asked him why he's not promoting the fact that he's a Democrat and he also said this.


TIM RYAN (D), OHIO SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: I'm an independent operator and I will agree with Republicans if I think it's in the best interests of Ohio and people know that. That's what Ohioans want. They want you to be independent and want you to focus on Ohio.

I like to work with Republicans and get stuff done for Ohio.


RAJU: I mean, this is a problem for Democrats in some key areas of the country not just in Ohio but in rural parts of the country in particular, the Democratic brand is not good.

CADELAGO: Yes, this has been happening for quite some time. I think the thing you see with Ryan he's someone who has sort of been through the wringer, been through some of these races.

The other that these candidates that Margaret talked about have in common whether it's J.D. Vance, whether it's Dr. Oz, whether it's in Arizona with Masters or Herschel Walker in Georgia, they've never, for the most part won anything before.

And I think, when you look at fund-raising, that's really hard. It's something that takes quite a while to be able to build up to do. And that is what even in these areas where Democrats have struggled with their brand, even with all the head winds that they're facing with the economy, that is part of what has given them a fighting chance including in Ohio.

I think in both of those, you're right, Republicans are hoping that Republican voters ultimately come home.

Dr. Oz obviously also sort of blitzed with ads in that primary that really increased his unpopularity and really gave suspicions among the MAGA voters is he really one of them.

RAJU: And you know, what's been fascinating to watch play out is this rift that is growing between Rick Scott, the head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, they're in charge of all the key Senate races, spending money and trying to come up with strategy, and Mitch McConnell, the top Republican, who is also deeply, deeply invested in trying to take back the senate majority.


RAJU: You rarely see a fight break out like this in public. But Rick Scott went public with these attacks against Mitch McConnell who had said that candidate quality is an issue that voters care about in senate races.

Rick Scott says "When you complain and lament that we have, quote, 'bad candidates', what you are really saying is that you have contempt for the voters who choose them.

Now we are at the heart of the matter. Much of Washington's chattering class disrespects and secretly or not so secretly loathes Republican voters." It's a shot at Mitch McConnell, a pretty stunning one at that.

ORR: Absolutely. I mean having an op-ed like this come out 60 days before the midterms when you have a number of vulnerable Republicans who are struggling to get an edge over their opponents, just doesn't help the Republican Party at this point.

And, you know, just a couple of days after Rick Scott published that op-ed there was this incredible "New York Times" story about the NRSC's cash haul and their fund-raising and how, you know, almost $200 million has just disappeared into Rick Scott's efforts to build out a fund-raising list that would potentially help him if he decides to run for president or, you know, become majority leader in the Senate.

So I do think there's this interparty battle happening that comes at a very difficult time for Republicans. Doesn't help them at all, and if I were a Republican candidate right now looking at Washington and seeing what's unfolding, I would be pretty upset that this is what, you know, we're talking about as opposed to what these candidates are doing and how they're running their races.

RAJU: If the National Republican Senatorial Committee is burning through cash or the Senate Leadership Fund, Mitch McConnel's super PAC is reserving tens of millions of dollars in a lot of these he key states.

But what we do know is that they don not take back the senate majority, the knives are going to be out and the Republicans are going to be blaming each other. We're already seeing some of that play out here two months out.

Up next, Joe Biden says unions got him to where he is today. We'll look at how he's repaying them.



RAJU: President Biden will be in two big battleground states tomorrow. He'll speak at Labor Day events in Pittsburgh and Milwaukee. And Biden has enjoyed support from big unions throughout his career, never more so than in 2020. He's promised to return the favor.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: (INAUDIBLE) and that's what brought me to the dance. You all brought me to the dance, and I mean it.

I intend to be the most pro-union president, leading the most pro- union administration in American history.

By the way, Amazon, here we come. Watch. Watch.

Wall Street didn't build this country. The middle class built this country, and unions built the middle class.


RAJU: This is what he's been saying from the time he was a candidate through his time in the presidency.

Chris, you've been writing about this issue. Has he lived up to this promise to be the most pro-union president?

CADELAGO: Yes. I mean there's been some symbolic gestures on the part of Biden but there's also been real ones. He brought some really aggressive folks and pro-worker folks into the National Labor Relations Board. He came out with an early order looking at requiring federal contractors to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour.

He's consistently sort of looked for areas and I think, you know, we shouldn't downplay this idea of having for the next generation of labor leaders in the White House, meeting with them. I mean that's really a powerful signal.

And him saying, you know, I want to be the most pro-labor president. I mean, it might be since FDR, and we hear that from folks like Sherrod Brown, others who have been part of the movement for a long time, have sort of backed that up.

And labor has been very pleased. Even recently with this climate and health care package that passed. I mean the only thing that they were sort of worried about for months and months was whether the Build Back Better package would get through. I mean that was sort of the one thing that you would hear from labor.

Now that that's gotten through, I think they've checked a lot of boxes so far and lived up to at least some of the rhetoric. There has been a lot of rhetoric.

RAJU: And look, he can thank them for some of his key support in his win in 2020. Look at some of the key states here. Michigan and Nevada, and in Wisconsin, he had a 15-point edge over Trump in Michigan. 19 in Nevada and Wisconsin. Can thank autoworkers in Michigan, (INAUDIBLE) worker in Nevada, electrical workers in Wisconsin.

But Zolan, can Democrats really rely on that in the midterms? Can they rely on that in these key states in this year's election?

KANNO-YOUNGS: Well, they're going to hope so. I mean in the weeks leading up to November you're also going to see the White House and President Biden and Vice President Harris probably having more events as well. We have been talking to folks that are already planning on traveling throughout the country, meeting with some of these organized groups.

As you were saying, this was a key focus for President Biden and other Democrats in previous elections as well. They're going to hope going into the midterms that they can have that support once again.

The White House is also, as you were saying, it's not just symbolic gestures it also brought in some of these groups when it comes to policy decisions as well. A good example is recent student debt relief.

One of the reasons for the delay on that decision was conversations with some of those organized groups. They're going to hope that they can return the favor and get some support during the election as well.

RAJU: But Trump also made inroads with key white working class voters and unions in Ohio he won by 12 points union households. In Pennsylvania, he narrowly won. Are Republicans doing anything to maintain that support among those white working class voters post- Trump? ORR: Well, I mean, I think it would be a mistake to pretend that

Republicans are doing anything significant right now to promote worker representation or even align themselves with organized labor.


ORR: But there are some Republicans who have strategically sort of tried to get shifts to happen inside the party. Marco Rubio is one of them. Last year he endorsed this push for an Amazon union in the country. He has also aligned himself with a group, American Compass that's been sort of pro-worker representation and works a lot with populist candidates like J.D. Vance.

But on the campaign trail you don't hear a lot of these Republicans especially candidates like Vance, talking about worker representation, organized labor or promoting any of the efforts of the Biden administration to make inroads with unions.

So, I do think that there's some corners and pockets of the GOP that are trying to, but this wasn't something that Trump championed when he was president. It was something he said he would champion on the campaign trail. Didn't necessarily happen and isn't happening with the Republican Party right now.

RAJU: Right. That's something that he was able to tap into, can the rest of the party do that is another question going forward.

But that's it for us for INSIDE POLITICS SUNDAY. Don't forget you can also listen to our podcast. Download INSIDE POLITICS wherever you get your podcast. Just scan that QR code at the bottom of your screen.

Up next for us, "STATE OF THE UNION" with Jake Tapper and Dana Bash. Dana's guests include this Democratic Senator Patty Murray and her midterm opponent Republican candidate Tiffany Smiley.

Thanks again for sharing your Sunday morning with us. See you next time.