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Florida Death Toll Rises To 67 As Residents Struggle To Rebuild; Republicans Turn To Culture War Issues To Boost Base Turnout; Pennsylvania's Senate Race Attacks Get Weirder; Ginni Thomas Testifies Before January 6 Select Committee; Gov. Youngkin Eyes Presidential Run. Aired 8-9a ET

Aired October 02, 2022 - 08:00   ET





ABBY PHILLIP, CNN HOST (voice-over): Neighborhoods decimated. Homes flattened. Lives ruined.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is destroyed. Then you have to start all over again. Where do you start?

PHILLIP: Ian is one of the biggest storms ever to hit Florida, and one of the biggest tests yet for its ambitious governor.

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R), FLORIDA: The impacts of this storm are historic.

PHILLIP: Plus, can Democrats keep control of the Senate? The answer may come down to Pennsylvania.

JOHN FETTERMAN (D), PENNSYLVANIA SENATE CANDIDATE: Do you want the 51st vote in the Senate? Send me to Washington, D.C.

PHILLIP: But with his lead in the polls narrowing, can John Fetterman fight off attacks he is soft on crime?

And Ginni Thomas tells the January 6 Committee she still thinks the election was stolen. As Americans trust to the judiciary plummets to historic lows, can the justices win it back?

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


PHILLIP (on camera): Welcome to INSIDE POLITICS SUNDAY. I'm Abby Phillip.

Just days after hurricane Ian slammed into Florida, shell-shocked residents are still trying to assess the damage that's been left behind by a record setting storm surge, damaging winds and catastrophic flooding.

At least 67 people now we have learned were killed by this storm in Florida. And nearly 900,000 residents remain without power. Last night, the White House announced that the president and first lady will travel to the hard hit state on Wednesday after first visiting Puerto Rico, which is still recovering from Hurricane Fiona.

Now, CNN's Boris Sanchez is down there in Ft. Myers, Florida, with the latest now.

Boris, you're -- I mean, you're standing in front of real devastation. And some officials down there are now saying that the communities that were there are unrecognizable now. What are you seeing? What's the latest on the ground?

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN NEW DAY WEEKEND ANCHOR: Abby, what has been a search and rescue effort is now transitioning slowly into a recovery effort. Keep in mind, Hurricane Ian slammed into Florida five days ago. At least 67 people killed as a result of the storm.

And that number is likely to go up. Officials are now gaining access to areas previously cut off by the storm. Bridges that were dismantled are now being slowly put back online.

In Sanibel Island, in Captiva Island, which is just a short few miles away from where we are now in Ft. Myers Beach, we have heard pleas for help from residents in those areas who have lost everything because, as you noted, if we look at aerial photographs of those islands, they were essentially washed to sea. The hurricane destroyed everything there.

And even where we are here in Ft. Myers, standing outside of this marina, close to Ft. Myers Beach, the damage is extensive. The marina here receded back into the waterway. There are large vessels everywhere. This commercial fishing charter boat behind me, that is enormous, washed on the driveway, on the road here.

Nearby, there's a gentleman who told us he rode out a storm in his business here at the marina. He was asking us if we had food to offer him. He hadn't had anything to eat in several days.

PHILLIP: Boris, what do we know about the president and first lady's visit to Florida on Wednesday, just a few days from now?

SANCHEZ: It's going to be a busy start of the week for President Biden, because as you noted, he is visiting Florida on Wednesday. He's also visiting Puerto Rico tomorrow, because that island is still recovering from hurricane Fiona. Large swaths are still without power. And soon after that, he's going to come here to visit Florida. It's unclear exactly what areas he is going to visit, what parts of the state he is going to tour.

Also unknown, if he is going to meet with Florida's Governor Ron DeSantis, who has been extremely critical of this administration and who potentially could be President Biden's opponent in the 2024 presidential election, Abby. PHILLIP: Boris Sanchez, thank you so much. I know there's a long road

ahead for the residents of Florida, and you will be there covering it.


Now, as Boris mentioned, Governor Ron DeSantis spent the past week seeing his state through the worst of the storm. Now his focus is shifting to rebuilding.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R), FLORIDA: I've seen a lot of resilience in this community of people that want to pick themselves up, and they want to get their communities back on their feet. And we really appreciate that spirit. We understand the needs will persist long after the cameras are gone, but we'll be here and we'll be helping every step of the way.


PHILLIP: This is, of course, a pivotal moment for DeSantis. He is weeks away from hissing his owe re-election bid. And politically speaking, natural disasters can make or break political careers, especially in the state of Florida.

Let's discuss all this and more with "Washington Post's" Leigh Ann Caldwell, CNN's Eva McKend, CNN's Kaitlan Collins, and Jonah Goldberg of "The Dispatch".

Now, Leigh Ann, DeSantis really is in the center of this -- of the attention on this storm. He is facing really catastrophic damage and he has taken this on as a test of competency. What are you seeing in how he's reacting?

LEIGH ANN CALDWELL, WASHINGTON POST EARLY 202 CO-AUTHOR: Yeah, he is trying to be the face of the storm, the face of recovery and the face of leadership. He is has been on television every day. He has been giving briefings. He is trying to show that he is a capable and effective leader.

And he says he is putting politics aside. He has thanked President Biden, as we said might be his rival in 2024. And so, he is putting politics aside, but also being a leader like he is is also very political as well.

He needs -- he needs the support and the trust of voters in Florida. But also, in the first days after a storm, those can be the easiest days. There are going to be many, many questions ahead how he deals with this recovery.

PHILLIP: The hard part potentially comes next.

What's striking to me in part about DeSantis' response is that he is really leaning into the bureaucratic administrative bit of this, not so much into the comforting people and kind of the softer side of post-storm leadership that you often see from lawmakers. EVA MCKEND, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER: Yeah. That's an

interesting observation. I haven't seen that as much. What he is doing -- I don't know how many points he gets because I think we expect this of our governors, right, in a time of crisis. They're supposed to put politics aside.

I think that this episode, though, underscores just how important the federal government is. It's interesting now that he has to play nice with these I institutions that he has had a contentious relationship with.

PHILLIP: To that very point, listen to DeSantis' evolution, let's call it, in the last week since the onset of the storm.


DESANTIS: Of course, people are going to be upset at all the wreckage he left in his wake. He is the American Nero. He's a failed hero.

You look at the way he's weaponized federal agencies. It all plays into this idea of him mobilizing government against people he doesn't like. I view this as something you got folks that are in need. And, local, federal, state, you know, we have a responsibility to work together.

Every request we have asked from FEMA has been approved. So, we appreciate that.


PHILLIP: To be clear, he doesn't say, President Biden has been so great, et cetera. Although Biden did say he thanked him in a phone call.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESONDENT: Yeah. And he has said the Biden administration has granted all of the requests quickly that they have asked for. The White House said the same thing.

When President Biden was giving his readout of the call, he told a reporter that a question about their political differences was irrelevant because he says that's just not a factor in the conversations they're having now. He said DeSantis complimented him, that he thanked him for the immediate federal response.

And you have seen, of course, naturally he is leaning on the federal government as any governor would in this situation with the devastation that you have seen in Florida.

But it's interesting, you know, when President Biden goes to Florida on Wednesday, we will go with him, it's first time they have been in the same area since they have been clashing over immigration and transgender and abortion -- transgender rights and abortion, and all of these issues that they have been talking about.

And so, they have said, you know, we're going to be the adults. We're going to put this aside. That's not the focus. Of course, it's notable to see them talking about this in a way -- but it shouldn't be surprising, because there's devastation on the ground.

JONAH GOLDBERG, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yeah, so -- two points. I think a lot of people misunderstand Ron DeSantis in that -- it's not a defense, it's just an analytical point.

The wonky, nerdy, do my homework guy I think is the real Ron DeSantis. And his approach to culture war politics comes from a careful study of what is the best way to troll people, what will play really well with the base. He brings that kind of focus to it.

It is not a visceral gut thing the way it is with Donald Trump. It is like polling says this play on Disney will be great for me, that kind of thing. And so, when we have a hurricane, it actually lets him be a natural of his normal type.


And the second point is, is like we are hearing -- he is speaking to two different audiences. The audio we heard in the beginning, that's purely a base play. That is Fox audience base play stuff.

Hurricanes get large numbers of normal people to turn on their TV.

PHILLIP: People outside of the conservative politics and the state of Florida. These are nationally televised briefings.

GOLDBERG: Biden has talk to people outside of his base, too, because of the hurricane. So, both of them are putting away their toys and behaving properly.

COLLINS: Another distinction of not letting the personal attacks factor into something like a hurricane, which we became so used to when Trump was in office. It's another way for DeSantis to distinguish himself from Trump

PHILLIP: That's an important point. We went through a cycle in which those norms just went out the window. So, maybe, we're coming back to normal here.

But coming up next for us, are Republicans s focused mo on winning over swing voters or energizing their base? Their ad strategy is going to give us a big clue.



PHILLIP: Former President Trump spent most of his nearly two-hour rally at Michigan last night focused on his familiar list of grievances. But he did carve out a few minutes for the reason he was actually supposed to be there, which was to promote his hand-picked gubernatorial candidate, Tudor Dixon.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT: The first step to restoring public safety is defeating the radical Democrats this November, and that starts with trouncing Whitmer. Michigan, you need to dump this wild- eyed extremist Gretchen Whitmer and put Tudor Dixon in the governor's mansion.


PHILLIP: But the reason Trump is there in part is because Tudor Dixon's campaign is struggling. And so, she's turning her focus to culture wars in a last-ditch effort to energize her base.


TUDOR DIXON (R), MICHIGAN GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: I don't know if you saw what happened with the Michigan Department of Ed. They have decided that it's appropriate for teachers to ask kids what their gender is. We're going to make sure that we protect women sports.


We will not let Joe Biden and Gretchen Whitmer rewrite Title IX and put boys in our girls' locker rooms.


PHILLIP: Now, I'm old enough to remember when a lot of analysts were saying that the culture wars were really a base primary play. Here we are weeks before the general election, and it's it has taken front and center.

GOLDBERG: Yeah. A lot of damage has been done to the country since 2016 or since 2008. It started with Obama and doubled down with Republicans of thinking that the way you win elections is just by turning up the game of the base. And that's the only thing Republicans now know how to do. It's one of these things that fuels the polarization in the country.

And part of the problem is you can't appeal to the center at a Trump rally. You have to lean into all of that. Both parties have this belief that there's this vast reserve army of voters that make them the majority party in this country rather than reaching out to the middle and trying to build coalitions. That was how Biden won.

PHILLIP: I mean, two things about what you said. You make a good point about the Trump rally. The Trump rally itself is a turnout machine. Tens of thousands of people, she's speaking to them.

It's not just what she said at that rally. Look at these ads. Tudor Dixon and also Ron Johnson, his ad against his opponent, Mandela Barnes.


AD ANNOUNCER: Under Gretchen Whitmer, the radicals want a drag queen in every classroom, indoctrinating our children.

DIXON: Gretchen Whitmer stands with radical activists pushing sex and gender theory.

AD ANNOUNCER: Mandela Barnes, stands with defund the police and supports no cash bail that releases dangerous criminals into our community.


PHILLIP: It goes beyond just the rallies.

COLLINS: It is. But it's also interesting. I mean, this is a totally different case study in these states of what's happening in Wisconsin, and what's happening in Michigan.

In Michigan, I mean, Tudor Dixon is running against a well-funded incumbent governor. She has struggled to reset the race when it comes to abortion. She has focused on culture wars lately.

But they have their limits. And so, we will see you know, what it looks like. She's struggling. I don't think her campaign is on the air right now when it comes to what she -- when it comes to funding and what she's doing with television ads.

Meanwhile, when you have seen what Gretchen Whitmer has -- and when it comes to abortion, I think one thing that I'm really watching in this race is, there's a referendum on the ballot that enshrines abortion rights.

And Tudor Dixon has said, you can vote for her position on this without voting for her. I think that's been a struggle for her to really take a position on that that's been able to be helpful and boost her campaign.

CALDWELL: Part of the reason that she is trying to turn out the base is because, in part, the abortion issue is really impacting independent voters and moderate voters who are not satisfied with where Republicans are at this point. And abortion is playing into that.

And so, if you are not an independent, moderate voters, then you need to find those voters somewhere and high turnout is the way you do it.

MCKEND: I agree. I think that there are limits to the cultural battles Republicans want to wage. We have seen this before. Republicans have been centering crime as an issue for more than 20 years. Sometimes it's a racialized argument.

PHILLIP: I mean, it's not lost on me in the Mandela Barnes case. I mean, race is a part of that race -- I mean, race is a part of that campaign one way or another.

MCKEND: Absolutely. You have ads, you know, suggesting he is dangerous, right?

Have you spoken to the lieutenant governor? There's nothing dangerous about Lt. Governor Barnes, were threatening.


So, yeah, I think there are limits to this argument, particularly in battleground states, right, where both parties need to appeal to independents and moderates. The way that Republicans make this argument, they sort of have to be careful. It might be off-putting to some of the voters that they're actually seeking.

PHILLIP: We are also somehow in a place where Republicans are not talking about the economy anymore. I mean, it's not -- Democrats had a good summer, but it's not as if the economic indicators are going in right direction.

Mortgage rates are high. Gas prices are going up. You know, 98 percent of a recession according to a financial research firm. And yet, Republicans are pivoting away from the economy.

GOLDBERG: Yeah. I don't completely understand why they would pivot away. But I do want just sort of give a little pushback here. Crime is a legitimate issue, right? And so --

PHILLIP: Oh, no, I mean, of course, of course it is. But I think the question is centering crime on black candidates is what we are seeing.

GOLDBERG: Yeah, I don't know the data on that. I mean, if you're going to talk about -- they're talking about crime in a lot of races and Mandela Barnes is Black so it's going to -- I'm not defending specific Republican ads. My point is, they are probably talking about crime because there's something showing up in polling saying that people are really concerned about crime in part because people are really concerned about crime.

And the trends on inflation are sort of baked in. Everyone sort of knows it. I still think they should be talking about it more, but maybe they have some data that I haven't seen about why they were pivoting --

COLLINS: That's why what Gavin Newsom has been saying is also so interesting, the way he's been talking about how he doesn't like the way Democrats have been running their races or when it comes to crime, he is saying, why aren't they pointing out that eight of the ten top states are run by Republicans?

Like he's kind of used those counterpoints to say how Democrats he believes should be running, which has been interesting to watch as well.

CALDWELL: Well, crime has been an issue that has worked for Republicans. You look at the 2020 election, Republicans picked up seats in the House of Representatives in part many of the Democrats think is because of their push -- they are pointing out Democrats want to defund the police.

Of course, they don't want to de-fund the police, but Republicans used that. That's why just in Congress in the past two weeks, you had a huge push -- it was very hard -- but Democrats pushed through crime safety bills. Not going to pass in the Senate, but to show -- to push back on this.

PHILLIP: An acknowledgement that it's a real vulnerability, a real concern n for voters as well.

But stay with us.

Coming up next, just when you thought the Senate race in Pennsylvania couldn't get anymore strange, it did this week. That's coming up.



PHILLIP: There's one race that could end up deciding which party controls the Senate, and that is Pennsylvania. And the one word that sums up the race for that seat is just weird. And this week, the race got even weirder. The Republican candidate, Dr. Mehmet Oz, accused his opponent, John Fetterman, of having ties to the notorious L.A.-based street gang, the Crips.

Here is what Oz tweeted. He wrote, "Pennsylvania Democrat John Fetterman spelling of Braddock that showed fidelity to the notorious Crip gang.

And that tweet included a link to a Breitbart article which included a link to a "Washington Free Bacon" article which included a link to a 2006 "Pittsburgh Post Gazette" article which notes that on occasion, the then-mayor of Braddock, Pennsylvania, which spelled Braddock with two Cs rather than with a C and a K, as a way to appeal to younger residents, some of whom had allegiances to the Crips.

Now, to be clear, there's no evidence, no evidence that Fetterman has any ties to the Crips. His campaign denies the accusation. The oz campaign hasn't provided any evidence of this whatsoever.

But, my goodness, this is the most important Senate race in the country and this is what we are talking about.

MCKEND: Well, I think Oz would argue they are playing in Fetterman's territory, right? We are talking about this this morning, and that's the goal. This is something that's going to play out very well online. This is a very online argument.

And, Fetterman has, I think, used very skillfully Twitter, memes to poke fun at Oz. Oz is, I think, with this argument trying to give him a dose of his own medicine here.

CALDWELL: This is a continuation of the crime issue, right? Oz has been trying to attach Fetterman as being weak on crime. As a lieutenant governor, he has tried to reform the parole board as a last step of justice for people in prison, and to, you know, he has given people second chances.

And so, this is along those lines trying to -- you know, either dog whistles or not, or just overtly trying to say that Fetterman is --


COLLINS: OK, what is happening in this race? And this is so bizarre. We are taking this as just a normal race that's been played out. Pennsylvania is not known for these Republicans who are just, you know -- these races that are garnering so much attention.

The arguments happening this week, it makes you wonder if the Fetterman campaign has hired Dr. Oz. They are using him so effectively when he makes comments like that, when he criticizes the way Fetterman is dressing, saying he looks like he wants to --

PHILLIP: Let's get into that. This is another way in which -- I have to say, on some of the stuff, the crime argument is what it is, but if it doesn't pass the basic common sense test, I don't know how well it really works with voters.

But what Kaitlan is talking about, listen to what Dr. Oz said on a podcast about Fetterman.


DR. MEHMET OZ (R), PENNSYLVANIA SENATE CANDIDATE: When he dresses like that, it's not an accident. He is kicking authority in the balls.


DR. OZ: He's saying "I'm the man. I'm going to -- I'll show those guys who is boss."


PHILLIP: Fetterman taking that as an in-kind donation tweeted this. "D.C. could use a kick in the balls." And in the very online way as Eva put it --

COLLINS: If people are not awake now --


PHILLIP: That's a TikTok just for the record. But Oz seems to be teeing up some of the stuff for Fetterman in some way.

GOLDBERG: In a weird way, if it were intentional I could understand it. It's sort of like my criticism of Democrats boosting sort of MAGA types in Republican primaries.

You almost feel like someone paid Fetterman to give that statement because all Fetterman would have to do now is take that exact soundbite and say this ad was paid for by the Fetterman campaign --

COLLINS: That's what I'm saying.

GOLDBERG: -- because it's such a great ad. You know, I mean it's exact -- That should be his motto. And I don't get it. It's just a weird --

MCKEND: His entire political rise has sort of been fashioned on kicking -- in Oz's words -- kicking authority in the balls, right.


O'DONNELL: But to be clear --

MCKEND: When you go to his rallies, that's why people like him because they don't view him as a standard politician.

COLLINS: We are laughing about this. And we talk about, you know, this being an in-kind donation. It seems like they've hired Oz. The fight over crudite versus (INAUDIBLE). This is such an important senate race that could determine control of the senate and what happens in the Biden administration for the next two years going forward.

They've got immigration, abortion, so many key issues. And this is what the race has boiled down to. this is what we're talking about. It's just fascinating to see. they're not --

PHILLIP: But also -- it is also getting closer. You know, back in July, there was an 11-point spread in the polling average between Fetterman and Oz. That has shrunk now to about four points.

So something is happening to tighten that race. I think the Oz folks now are thinking, ok, whatever we're doing, keep going?

CALDWELL: Well, it seems like Oz is kind of throwing spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks. But races always tighten as they get closer. So I don't know if this is that natural tightening, or if what Oz is doing is actually effective. I mean we'll will have to see.

But Oz is all over the place. He is talking about Fetterman's health. He is talking about the crips. He is talking about crime. He is talking about not the economy.

PHILLIP: And something is happening with Fetterman where he is running behind Josh Shapiro in the gubernatorial race. That could be for a lot of reasons. I mean Shapiro is not facing much opposition but Fetterman has a lot more work to do when it comes to Democrats.

And also he's been taking some hits on his health, on his, you know, past -- this whole thing with, you know, running after a neighbor with a shotgun.

GOLDBERG: First of all his health is a legitimate issue. And one of the problems that Oz has is that he -- when he mixes in and talk about the Crips, with talk about his health, it makes both issues seem silly, right or illegitimate.

And Shapiro's opponent, you know, is bonkers. And so it's not surprising that Shapiro is outperforming Fetterman. I think that one of the problems that Oz has is that -- I used to say this about Mitt Romney, you know. I think he's a very honorable guy.

But Oz speaks conservatism as a second language. He speaks politics as a second language. He's not a politician. He doesn't select -- he may think, Republicans are -- respect authority and so if I say that this guy is kicking authority in the crotch, that will like sound good to people and it doesn't because you just spent four years with a Republican president whose whole point was kicking the establishment in the crotch. He just doesn't, he doesn't get where the landscape is.

PHILLIP: Yes. I mean I think that Oz's kind of awkwardness in this race is really what comes across.

But you brought up Mastriano. He -- just listen to the sound bite that emerged this week from back in 2019 on the issue of abortion.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would that woman who decided to have an abortion, which would be considered an illegal abortion, be charged with murder?

DOUG MASTRIANO (R), PENNSYLVANIA GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: Ok, let's go back to the basic question there. Is that a human being? Is that a little boy or girl? If it is, it deserves equal protection under the law.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So you are saying yes?



PHILLIP: This is a race where just this week, I mean the RGA was basically like, you are on your own.

CALDWELL: Yes. Mastriano has lost all support among Republicans. Since August, there have been high profile Republican donors, politicos who have come out and said that they are going to back Shapiro -- Republicans because Mastriano is just too far gone.

I was texting with, you know, a Republican Pennsylvania source this week. I said, is Mastriano really dead in the water? And they said, Mastriano is toast.

PHILLIP: I mean it's rare that you get that kind of definitive answer this early.

CALDWELL: Right. But that's what people are saying.

PHILLIP: Coming up next for us, Ginni Thomas testifies in front of the January 6th Committee as faith in the nation's highest court is dropping to an all-time low. We will discuss it.



PHILLIP: Ginni Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas appeared in front of the January 6 Select Committee this week, to answer questions about the contacts that she had with key Trump allies about overturning the election. And according to her opening statement, which was obtained by CNN, she

claimed that she never spoke to her husband about details of her volunteer campaign activities or her post-election activities or any of the legal challenges to the election.

But she also told the committee that she still believes the election was stolen. That won her praise from former President Trump at a rally in Michigan last night.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I would like to thank a great woman named Ginni Thomas. Do you know Ginni Thomas? She's a great woman. The wife of a great man, Justice Clarence Thomas, for her courage and strength.


TRUMP: She said that she still believes the 2020 election was stolen. She didn't wilt under pressure, like so many others that are weak people and stupid people.


O'DONNELL: We have CNN's Joan Biskupic with us, the expert on the Supreme Court.

And really all of this -- it really just strikes me, this just must be a huge headache if you are Chief Justice John Roberts and you are trying to argue that the court is not political and that the court is not, you know, aligned with any politician or political party. I mean it's hard.

JOAN BISKUPIC, CNN SUPREME COURT ANALYST: There's several things happening right, a day before the new term is going to open, Abby. You have statements like that.

You have Ginni Thomas who still denies that the election was fair and that Joe Biden should be president, married to a man who is sitting right there on the court, who I do have to say has already been in the space of casting doubt on whether elections are free and fair.

He had, in his own opinions has suggested there might be fraud. He thinks state legislatures might be going rogue.

So you know, this whole idea that she might be influencing him or him influencing her. They have both felt very strongly about some of these things for a long time.

And it does raise, as you say, questions about the court's ability to be fair at a time when its polling numbers are plummeting, the justices themselves are disagreeing over whether the legitimacy of the institution should be questioned. All in the wake of the fact that last June, they rolled back a half century of abortion rights and reversed precedence. PHILLIP: Yes. I mean the confluence of things and as Joan was saying

the approval ratings for the court went from 75 percent back in 2000, just -- do you see that nosedive? It's 47 percent now in the wake of all of those atmospherics that Joan just mentioned.

CALDWELL: Yes, absolutely. I mean trust in institutions has been degrading throughout this country for the last several years anyway. But the level that people don't trust the court now -- and a lot of that came after the Dobbs decision, too. The fact that they did overturn that.

Republicans for so long have been saying that they do not want an activist court, they don't want a court that legislates from the bench. But what this current court has shown last year and perhaps, you know, we're getting into cases coming up, that, you know, Democrats say that that's exactly what they are doing. They are overturning precedents. They are legislating from the bench and they are not in line with the American people.

PHILLIP: And those justices are responding to that.

BISKUPIC: They are. I just want to say, they truly are rolling back precedent. They truly are reaching out to address questions. So that's a (INAUDIBLE) fact. And they -- Justice Thomas and Justice Alito and Justice Gorsuch, just to name three of them, want to be doing that. They feel a sense of urgency.

And what's happened is, the chief justice has said, people's dissatisfaction is only with the ruling. It has nothing to do with our legitimacy. You shouldn't be questioning our legitimacy. Samuel Alito earlier -- just a few days ago gave a statement to the "Wall Street Journal".

PHILLIP: Yes, I'll read it for everyone. He said, "It goes without saying that everyone is free to express disagreement with our decisions and to criticize our reasoning as they see fit. But saying or implying that the court is becoming an illegitimate institution or questioning our integrity crosses an important line."

And he was responding to a story that was about other justices on the Democratic side -- on the more liberal side, I should say.

BISKUPIC: Exactly. Justice Elena Kagan has said, of course, the legitimacy of a court would be questioned if a court isn't acting like a court -- if it's acting in partisan ways. We all know that the six justice conservative super majority -- everyone was a Republican appointee. The three justices on the left are all Democratic appointees.

And what I would say to the statements by the chief, especially, he's sort of in denial about what's happening.

The American public isn't saying we don't trust you because we don't like your ruling. They are say, we are seeing what you've done. We're seeing that you're rolling back precedent. Because the truth is, you know, there are a lot of ambivalences out there on a lot of these years. It's just the way the court is doing it.

PHILLIP: I want to take a moment just to mark -- I mean the history of this past week. In the investiture of Ketanji Brown Jackson on to the court, a huge moment for the country and for the court -- a black woman sitting on the Supreme 0Court.

The court also released this photo of all of the women on the court now -- four women. A black woman, a Latina woman, a Jewish woman, a Catholic woman -- I'm sorry, not a Jewish woman -- a Catholic woman on the court. There is actually, we are at really a high watermark of diversity now on the court.

BISKUPIC: Elena Kagan is Jewish.

PHILLIP: Yes. Elena Kagan is Jewish.


PHILLIP: Ok. I was right about that. 0

BISKUPIC: You got it. You have it.

PHILLIP: So this high watermark for diversity but also the most conservative court in a very long time.


BISKUPIC: Yes. Three of those women are on the left. Amy Coney Barrett is the only one who is on the right wing. But there was in the courtroom -- Abby and Leigh Ann -- there was just a real sense of optimism. And you could forget for a moment about where the court is going just because of this feeling of a real historic milestone in America.

CALDWELL: Well, something that John Roberts is trying to do, he is trying to return to the court of the past that was -- had more comity.

PHILLIP: We'll see if he's going to be able to do that. It's really hard right now.

And coming up next for us. Is the Virginia governor Glenn Youngkin, the man who can unite Republicans in 2024? We will see.



PHILLIP: So Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin has been in office for just nine months, but he's already signaling a possible presidential run. Last week he held a retreat near Charlottesville to introduce himself to big GOP donors.

And Youngkin has a clear message. But let's see if you can spot it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GOV. GLENN YOUNGKIN (R-VA): These kitchen table issues have common sense solutions. I think that's the future of the Republican Party is how do we bring people together around these common sense solutions?

Well, at the end of the day I think we've taken a very common sense approach here.

I think the Republican candidates are showing that we have common sense solutions.

I think we can bring people together around these common sense solutions.


PHILLIP: Did you get that? But he is also not shying away from the MAGA wing of the party.

Youngkin is campaigning for GOP gubernatorial candidates in about a dozen states across the country including election deniers like Kari Lake in Arizona and Tudor Dixon in Michigan.

And Eva, you have a great story this week about this very issue. You write, in a GOP often plagued by factionalism, Youngkin is quote, "hugging everyone, said a person close to the Governor. No one else in the party is doing that."

So the strategy here being, leave no Re publican behind even if they are a Kari Lake or a Tudor Dixon or whoever it may be.

MCKEND: That's right. And few people are able to do thing. But this is sort of the story of Glenn Youngkin, I covered his campaign last year, is trying to connect with everyone, right -- Never-Trumpers and MAGA Republicans.

And I think the issue is that he is firmly conservative, more conservative than I think he appears.

PHILLIP: And -- or maybe than he campaigned as?

MCKEND: Exactly. And that is to, I think the great frustration of Democrats in the state who often argue well, the media isn't covering him as he really is. And that's just not the case. I don't know if it's political skill, his PR team, personal branding or really his aesthetics.

He doesn't appear to be a far right figure. And so he's able to continually comfortably take these far right positions. There's a split screen moment this week -- last week Abby, when he was down in Georgia, campaigning for Governor Kemp, putting on that signature red vest that he often sports on Governor Kemp.

And meantime, back at home in Virginia you have students stringing out of the classroom in protest of this draft policy on transgender students.

So he's really comfortable waging these culture battles, but not how he's defined.

CALDWELL: Well that's also how he ran his primary. He ran very far to the right in his primary in Virginia. But then in the general election he was able to pivot to win there.

And so maybe this is the gift of Glenn Youngkin, but does this give him enough support nationally to decide to run for president?

PHILLIP: The interesting thing about Youngkin is -- I mean we mentioned Kari Lake. But here is how he explained his willingness to campaign for Kari Lake despite trying to run as sort of a common sense Republican?


YOUNGKIN: I think the people of Arizona deserve a Republican governor. I'm comfortable supporting Republican candidates. And we don't agree on everything.


PHILLIP: So Jonah, I mean I know that you, like on the Democratic side, Democrats have been boosting some election deniers to get a leg up on them. I mean what do you make of the strategy from Youngkin? I mean can he get away with playing both sides of this game here?

GOLDBERG: Yes. Part of the problem is we live in a country now where people are voting as if we live in a parliamentary system. They're voting for parties rather than individual personalities in a lot of these races. And that's sort of his argument about Kari Lake.

But moreover, what Youngkin is doing, you know, there's a reason why vanilla is the most popular flavor of ice cream in America.


PHILLIP: That is not the endorsement I think he's looking for.

GOLDBERG: Probably not. but it's nobody's favorite flavor, but it's the least objectionable flavor to the most people. That's why you serve it at weddings. No one's going oh, vanilla, right.

And so he's trying to be the vanilla Republican, Republican to all Republicans, acceptable to all Republicans. And I think it's an interesting strategy. I don't think it works for 2024 which is what he's clearly looking for because the Republican Party is still very much in the "own-the-libs" mode and not the "least-objectionable Republican" mode.

COLLINS: It is fascinating to watch though, just to see how certain potential 2024 hopefuls are laying the groundwork for a run. How he's handling this. We're seeing the word "common sense" every time he is appearing on television with the way others are preparing a potential presidential run and maybe --



PHILLIP: It's actually quite the contrast between the two of them. I mean DeSantis is so kind of bull in a China shop and Youngkin is really trying to carve a different path.

COLLINS: Right. It will be fascinating to see which, of course, pans out. And I think we have a pretty good idea of that based on the midterms but we'll know in just a few weeks.

GOLDBERG: He also could be running for vice president.

PHILLIP: That's a good point, too. I mean --

MCKEN: But Youngkin has long sort of played footsies with these issues. In the Republican nominating contest last year before he was successful in the general election, he elevated so-called election integrity. And that could sort of be seen as a wink and a nod to the election lie, to the former president's election lie. But he wasn't all in on that.


MCKEND: And so few other politician have really been able to do this, have been able to Court MAGA Republicans but at the same time sort of style and fashion himself as a moderate. I think it's going to be difficult actually for fellow Republicans to be able to compete.

PHILLIP: And Eva, you mentioned the students in Virginia streaming out of schools to protest the things that he's doing when it comes to trans students. That's a clear example of where he actually is in the culture war fight, I mean almost in the same vein as Ron DeSantis and others but is portraying himself differently to the public in how he speaks.

It's funny, the "Washington Post" described it as almost like you listen to Glenn Youngkin and people hear different things depending on what they're listening for. Maybe that is actually what he's going for with some of his remarks.

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

And up next for us on CNN, "STATE OF THE UNION" with Jake Tapper and Dana Bash. Dana's guests this morning include Florida Senators Rick Scott and Marco Rubio.

Thank you again for sharing your Sunday morning with us. Have a great rest of your day.