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Bolduc Flip-Flops On Biden 2020 Election Win; GOP Divided On Abortion After Graham Proposes National Ban; Ukraine Forces Make Sweeping Gains, Recapturing Thousands Of Miles Of Territory In Recent Days. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired September 15, 2022 - 12:30   ET



JOHN KING, CNN HOST: But your view that one, bring it there. They thought in Arizona, Republicans thought they would have a candidate there, the Trump endorsed candidate Blake Masters, an election denier winning there. Democrats are more confident, again, a tough race. They can hold that. Now you come over to Georgia. This is a state Republicans were most confident about the beginning of the year, the Trump backed candidate Herschel Walker, a new comer, personal controversies. Democrats think we believe we can hold on to this seat. The last primary was the other day Tuesday up in New Hampshire, Maggie Hassan, the Democratic incumbent, Don Bolduc, a retired general, Trump did not endorse but very Trump like in his statements very MAGA like in his statements. The Republicans wanted an establishment candidate. Don Bolduc instead won that race, the two candidates already on to November.


SEN. MAGGIE HASSAN (D-NH): Don Bolduc has demonstrated that if elected, he would be more interested in pushing an extreme out of step agenda that would drag our country backward.

DON BOLDUC (R-NH), SENATE NOMINEE: We are going to come together with one common goal and that is to beat Senator Hassan who has not served this state well, over the last five and a half years. She has been problematic with the economy and created a tremendous amount of hardship for granted staters.


KING: Our great reporters who back with us. I want to start with that race in New Hampshire. The Republican establishment upset. They had a State Senator Chuck Morse. They thought he was the better candidate. They thought he was a more mainstream conservative who could win. But we see just today, just today. Let's listen to General Bolduc. Today and a month ago, very different on a key question.


BOLDUC: You know, live and learn, right? And I've done a lot of research on this. And I have come to the conclusion and I want to be definitive on this, the election was not stolen. Was there fraud? Yes. Unfortunately, President Biden is the legitimate president.

I signed a letter with 120 other generals and admirals saying that Trump won the election, and damn it, I stand by my election.


KING: Damn it, I stand by it a month ago before for the primary when you need those votes from election deniers, today, nevermind.

JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I believe they call this a pivot to the general. I mean, this is what happens after these hard fought primaries is, you know, you have your candidate and then they have to go and face all of the voters instead of just the Republican base, which is what he has been concerned with the last several months, it's not clear whether he's going to be able to effectively make that pivot, though with tape that like you just played out there, voters are going to know that this is the one, this is the Republican in the race who has said that Joe Biden is not the legitimate president and the election was stolen. And they know that he has been the one that's much more willing to tie himself closely to former President Trump.

And that's going to be a factor in this actually already very competitive race. And Maggie Hassan, the Democrat, you know, was seen as quite vulnerable going into this. And, you know, some of the issues that voters are concerned about are still problems for Democrats. There's still high inflation, as we talked about President Biden's approval rating has ticked up a little bit, but it's still not where Democrats would like it to be. But this is a contest that Democrats would much rather have with a candidate like that than a candidate like Morse who had not made statements like that.

KING: Right. I try to stay on top of these things. Mr. Bolduc says he's done a lot of research on this. There's a lot changed on the question of who won the election between August 14th and September 14th?

JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Not that I'm aware of. But I imagine his polling showed us something a bit different when it comes to, as you said, pivoting to the general. But, you know, he's not the only candidate that won. And there's a house race, where Kevin McCarthy headline and several other more mainstream Republicans if you want to call them that, lined up behind Matt Mowers and Elise Stefanik and Jim Jordan and several others had lined up behind Karoline Leavitt who was a another former Trump person but also worked for Elise Stefanik. She won, the more Trumpy candidate.

And now you're looking Chris Pappas is probably in a lot better position, the Democrat there now that he's running against someone who might be more to the right than perhaps the other candidate.

KING: Right. And seven and a half weeks is a ton of time. But the biggest dynamic is Republicans are just on defense or not in a solid position they thought they would be and if you go back a few months. You can look at Wisconsin, a Republican incumbent. If you're a Republican incumbent in the Democratic President's first midterm, you hope to have this locked up a long time ago. You look Mandela Barnes, the Democratic candidate at 48, Ron Johnson, the incumbent, at 49. So a tossup race there. Republicans have to spend money in a state where they have an incumbent.

You move on to Georgia. Again, this was the one that Republicans were most confident about Raphael Warnock just elected. They think first time Georgia is still a purple state, not a presidential year, 52 to 46. That looks like a more comfortable lead. Again, eight weeks, seven a half weeks is a long time. And then the Pennsylvania race, this is one early on, Republicans knew they would have an issue in just because the state is so 50-50 and the incumbent is retiring, but John Fetterman with a five point lead a moment over Dr. Mehmet Oz.


Republicans had hoped to have their seats just checked by now so you could invest but they're on defense in Ohio as well in Wisconsin, potentially North Carolina.

TOLUSE OLORUNNIPA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. And most of the states where they're on defense are places where President, the former President Donald Trump endorsed these candidates, got them through the primary, got them onto the ticket. And now there's the scramble to try to get them through the general trying to get them to pivot and try to get them to be more amenable to broader electorate, not just the primary electorate, not just the Trump base that comes out during these primaries, but people who may be in the middle, people who may have voted for Joe Biden in 2020, and voted for Donald Trump in 2016, and are up for grabs, and they don't like the idea of election deniers being put into Congress.

And so now you are starting to see these pivots. You are starting to see some of these candidates try to moderate but it's been very difficult and we're seeing in the polls, that they're not quite being able to pull it off.

KING: And up next for us, one of the key issues that Democrats think are helping him and no statewide races just like those, abortion policy and politics and new restrictive law taking effect today in Indiana, and a Republican senators call here in Washington for a national ban after 15 weeks. Well, it infuriates some of his own Republican colleagues.



KING: Some brand new developments today on state abortion restrictions. Indiana's newly passed law banning most abortions went into effect today. In Ohio, a judge just put on hold for now, that state's ban on abortion at six weeks. The map you're looking at there shows the state by state changes since the Supreme Court's June decision wiping Roe v. Wade off the books. Democrats see evidence that anger at that court decision is helping them in the midterm campaign.

And now this Republican grumbling that one of their own might just be giving the Democrats a gift. Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina just introduced legislation that would establish a federal ban on abortions at 15 weeks just moments ago, evidence from a top Senate Democrat Graham's ban, now, midterm fuel.


SEN. PATTY MURRAY (D-WA): If there is any doubt about Republicans true intentions about their extreme abortion plans, there is no question after this week. Their plan is playing a steak. Republicans want to ban abortion in every single state, and they want to punish doctors.


KING: Our reporters are back with us, Patty Murray, a prominent Senate Democrat also on the ballot this year in a race that we're keeping an eye on just in case, we get surprised out there. We should applaud politicians who make clear what they believe Lindsey Graham laying out what he believes. It's the timing that has his Republican colleagues literally banging their heads off the wall.

KUCINICH: Well, it's twofold, right? Because one of the things you heard from Republicans for years and years and years, is they wanted to return abortion rights to the states. And this takes that off the table number one, and that's what a lot of his colleagues had said you'd heard other Republicans say that. Number two, the day this happened was a day of not great economic news for the Biden administration. And it completely wiped that out of the news. And instead we're talking about Lindsey Graham, and none of his Senate colleagues really wanted to discuss it. They wanted to talk about the economy all day. So and you just saw Democrats kind of gleefully skipping around the Capitol that day, because this really was a gift for them.

KING: Right. There's plenty of evidence out there in a lot of places, not everywhere, but in a lot of places. This is helping Democrats in the suburbs, we saw the Kansas referendum. If you're looking at some of the big battleground states, Democrats think, OK, this helps them win back moderate Republicans, Independents, who might be ready to vote against President Biden in the Democrats because of inflation, because of crime, because of something else. You mentioned Democratic glee, listen to this. This is several of Lindsey Graham's Republican colleagues, rather uncomfortable.


SEN. RICK SCOTT (R-FL): And this is an issue that people are talking about, but ultimately the campaign is going to, the election is going to be about this ridiculous inflation.

SEN. JOHN THUNE (R-SD): I don't think there's anything at the national level for sure that comes anywhere close to getting 60 votes.

SEN. RON JOHNSON (R-WI): I support this going out to the states laneway the people sign.

(END VIDEO CLIP) DAVIS: There it is. Let's be clear here, the vast majority of Republicans in Congress would support, have supported some form of abortion. But it's not that they don't support this on the substance for most of them, although many of them had made similar comments that they want to leave it to the States. What they don't want to do is bring it up right now. Because as you said, they know that this issue has galvanized voters not just on the left, but many voters, including independent voters and suburban voters and voters who they are going to need in November.

And so talk about it now, A, it divides the party that is something you never want to do eight weeks out from an election. And B, it reminds people that the election is a choice. And actually Lindsey Graham said this out loud when he had his news conference earlier this week, that it you elect Republicans, this kind of thing will get a vote. And if you elect Democrats, it probably never will. And that is a message that Republicans probably don't want voters to be thinking about as they're trying to weigh, should I vote for the Democrat or should I vote for the Republican in my state?

Now for some voters that might, you know, steer them toward the Republican but they would rather that that not be the ground on which people are going to be deciding this election? They would much --

KUCINICH: Mitch McConnell said when he was asked about it, whether he would put the man who controls the schedule, and assuming if they take the House or excuse me, the Senate, he would control the schedule again, was kind of dismissive of that. So apparently Graham didn't really --

KING: Right. We just talked about the New Hampshire Senate race, Magie Hassan, the Democrat there, it's a tough state. It's a tough state for her immediately. She thinks this issue helps her in the suburbs where the votes are.


HASSAN: This is about whether you're going to take right gets away from half the population and whether politicians are going to insert themselves into an examining room during very complicated and tragic and difficult circumstances.



KING: That's thank you, Senator Graham.

OLORUNNIPA: Yes, there's a reason Democrats are gleeful about this, or there's a reason they're talking about this or there's a reason they're very forceful and not shying away from this issue, because they are seeing it in the numbers. They've seen it in the Kansas vote during that special election. They saw it up in upstate New York during that special election and other special elections in which they've over performed since the Dobbs ruling. And it's very clear that they feel like they can go on offense over this because they don't -- have not only supercharged Democratic voters, but also moderate voters, and even some Republican voters, like we saw in Kansas that aren't happy about that decision and are happy about where Republicans --

KING: And the data so far tells us it helps the Democrats. We don't know that it will on Election Day on November. But the data so far tells us that some Democrats think it could be so overwhelming that you get a surprise. You're from the state of Ohio, the Democratic candidate for governor there that's an uphill race running as a Democrat for Ohio governor in a Democratic President's first midterm election year, listen to this ad from Nan Whaley, thinking maybe this issue helps.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Without that abortion, my children wouldn't have their mother and this baby wouldn't be on the way right now. Mike DeWine has basically banned abortion in Ohio. I would have died without mine.


KUCINICH: You also had that horrible story about the young girl who had to go to another state who was 10 who was abused to get an abortion in Ohio. So they've had some, you know, extremely tragic cases already that have made headlines. I don't know what's going to help someone like Nan Whaley, who was so far behind. That race hasn't looked like it's really moved very much. Stranger things have happened. It's a lot of time to November, but you have seen some, excuse me, Congressman Ryan, has is in a lot of polls, several polls ahead of J.D. Vance at this point. Now there are a couple of reasons for that. But this you've seen voter registration among women go up in Ohio and as you said, we don't know that that's going to help Democrats. But a lot of Ohio Democrats sure thinks it's going to.

KING: Interesting to watch. There's no question registration went up and after the decision in June and July and August. The question is, does it continued through September, October, up to November something we'll keep an eye on as we move forward. Up next for us, Vladimir Putin holds a summit with Xi Jinping. And the Biden White House offers some advice.



KING: The Russian President Vladimir Putin, the Chinese President Xi Jinping meeting today face to face in Uzbekistan. That meeting comes as the White House says Putin is quote, very much under strain. At the moment Russia is in retreat as Ukrainian forces post impressive gains in recent days, a top Biden national security official suggesting today China should think twice at this moment about offering Putin any support. Let's get to CNN's Ben Wedeman. He's live for us in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv. Ben, what's the latest?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the latest at this point is that there isn't much news out of the Kharkiv front. That's that area where Ukraine within the last two weeks has regained control of about 8,000 square kilometers of territory. But what we are seeing increasingly is that the Russians are using long range missiles to target a civilian infrastructure. A few days ago, of course, they knocked out the electricity in much of the city of Kharkiv, that's Ukraine's second largest city.

Yesterday, we saw that they used cruise missiles to take out a pumping station at a major dam, causing local residents to have to flee from the flooding as a result of that. And today, there was another missile strike on an industrial site in the city of Kryvyi Rih. Now, we did hear President Zelenskyy today saying that Ukraine desperately needs advanced air defense systems from its allies to try to counter this Russian tactic which seems to be making up for losses on the battlefield by using their missiles to strike these targets. And he specifically mentioned, Germany, France, Italy, Israel, and the United States, as countries he's going to try to request these new advanced air defense systems. John?

KING: Ben Wedeman live for us in Kyiv, an important moment. Ben, appreciate the latest from there.


Up next for us, some big headlines from a brand new book digging inside the chaotic Trump administration.


KING: Topping our Political Radar today, a ton of new information inside information about the Trump administration coming out of a new book "The Divider." First, Trump says he would not pick Mike Pence as his running mate again saying he quote committed political suicide in refusing to block certification of the 2020 election. The book also details a clash involving Trump's one time Chief of Staff John Kelly, after Trump refused to lower the flags following Senator John McCain's death. Kelly told Trump if he didn't show support for McCain, that when Trump died, quote, the public will come to your grave and piss on it.

Democrat John Fetterman tells "The New York Times" he's quote running a perfectly normal campaign to be a U.S. senator in Pennsylvania, this of course as he recovers from a stroke. His campaign disclosing two neurocognitive tests as proof he's fit to serve. But the doctors who administered those tests were not made available for interviews. Fetterman just agreed to face off against Republican Dr. Mehmet Oz in a debate on October 25th.

This is the scene right now inside London's Westminster Hall as mourners pay their respects to Queen Elizabeth II. Tomorrow evening, her four children including the new King, Charles III will guard the Queen's coffin, the funeral state funeral set for Monday. A senior Biden administration official confirming to CNN the President is planning to meet with the British Prime Minister Liz Truss ahead of the funeral. It would be their first meeting.


Join CNN of course from London live as the country and the world remember Queen Elizabeth II, the state funeral of Queen Elizabeth, live Monday right here on CNN.

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