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AZ GOP Gov. Nominee Pivots To Debunked Claims When Pressed About Spreading Election Lies; NYT/Siena Poll: GOP Making Gains As Voters Focused On Economy; New Book Goes Behind The Scenes Of Trump's Historic Impeachments. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired October 17, 2022 - 12:30   ET



SEUNG MIN KIM, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Democrats and even some Republicans say that position is and should be disqualifying. But right now, poll show it is not. That is a very, very close race. And --

MARGARET TALEV, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: No, I'm sorry. I don't mean to cut you off.

KIM: Yes, no, the polls are just, even though there are so many people who say that position alone should be disqualifying. That race has shown very, very close with certainly a good chance for her to win on Election Day.

TALEV: Which like if you cover politics, if you follow politics even kind of closely, you've been hearing a lot more about Kari Lake recently. It's not only because she is poised, has a good chance of winning this governor's race holding all those positions. It's not just because of what that could do in terms of election law ahead of the 2024 race is because Republicans and Democrats around the country are watching her as kind of an heir apparent or a core companion to Donald Trump and the MAGA brand. It's because of her communication skills, and her television skills, her understanding of how to flip the script or put reporters on the defensive or change the topic or answer it in a way that reframes it and that combined with the election denialism is what is so potent and what has so many elections experts, as well as the Democratic party concerned.

JOHN KING, CNN HOST: David Axelrod, our CNN contributor who of course, ran the two successful Obama Presidential campaign says if you get a candidate who has the performance skills of a major market, local T.V. anchor and the philosophy and thinking of Steve Bannon, that's a potent and dangerous combination. That's how he puts it as a veteran Democrat. The thing about it, like it or not watch her on the campaign trail. She is unapologetic when it comes to Trumpism.


KARI LAKE (R-AZ), GOVERNOR NOMINEE: We've people who are known terrorists who are coming in. We have people who are murderers and rapists. I know President Trump said that many, many years ago. That's a fact.

Today, our kids don't have an innocent childhood. Just look at this disturbing curriculum being forced on them at school. I have some of these no, nothing consultants who tell me, you know, you really need to back away from President Trump right now. And I say to them, put down Hunter's crack pipe right now.


KING: It is an interesting and a big question strategy in the state that Joe Biden won, but just barely. This is the big debate. What is Arizona, what was there -- is Arizona in 2022 like it was in 2020 or?

CLAUDIA GRISALES, CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT, NPR: Democrats don't have much room for margin for error here and Arizona is one of those battleground states. And with Kari Lake having such a powerful delivery like she's compared to the former president, but with better delivery with voters and connecting and can see that energy with that crowd there that she's carrying that Trump support forward for her candidacy.

So for Democrats, this could be a really, really tough race for them in terms of taking over the governor's office. Kari Lake has done a pretty strong job in terms of delivering Republicans message here, colored by Trump's viewpoint.

KING: And a lot of Democrats who have a lot of experience in campaigns are rather apoplectic that the Democratic candidate Katie Hobbs refuses to debate Kari Lake. There's no question Kari Lake is a great communicator. Katie Hobbs is the Secretary of State. She counted those votes in 2020. She could at least try to make the factual argument against it. Instead, she says this.


KATIE HOBBS (D-AZ), GOVERNOR NOMINEE: Kari Lake has made it clear time and time again, that she's not interested in having substantive, in- depth conversations about the issues that matter to Arizonans. She only wants a scenario where she can control the dialogue.


KING: In a fairly moderated debate, she cannot control the dialogue if you have agreed or format where you each have your time. A lot of Democrats are very nervous about this strategy.

KIM: Right. It's an understandable tactic, if you are. So far ahead of your opponent like Katie Hobbs was in the primary because she didn't debate in the primary either. But this is a very close race. And I think Democrats are nervous that this, the narrative around the debates has turned into Katie Hobbs is scared of Kari Lake and she's hiding and certainly that is not a beneficial narrative for her in the last weeks of the campaign.

KING: Three weeks from tomorrow, we count votes. Three weeks from tomorrow. [12:34:18]

Up next for us, we'll continue the conversation, new evidence of Republican midterm momentum, how you feel about your vote for Congress and what you see right now as the top issue.


KING: Some new numbers today detail at least modest Republican momentum as we head now into the final three weeks of the midterm campaign. Our latest CNN poll of polls average shows the nationwide generic congressional ballot, who you're going to vote for when you vote for Congress now tied at 46 percent. Democrats had a three point edge and that average just a month ago. Why the shift? Well, partly detailed in a new New York Times/Siena College poll out today showing the economy and inflation are by far, by far the greater concern of voters and Republicans have a clear edge there.

Our reporters back to discuss, 46, 46 percent overall dead heat, if you look at the New York Times/Siena poll, one of the polls we average in, it's safer to average them all in to get a more representative sample, Republicans actually a little ahead in the New York Times/Siena College poll. If it's even on Election Day, Democrats can see they will lose the house and maybe even lose as many as 18, 20 or more seats. It's a nervous moment for the majority.

GRISALES: Right very nervous moment. We're looking at historical trend here as well where the party that holds the White House doesn't do well in that first midterm election. So Democrats are already looking at that precedent. And then you drill down in this poll. And the numbers are settling as we get closer to Election Day showing that Republicans do have that edge when it comes to issues. They're very critical and very urgent to voters, which is the economy, they're hurting, and they're really worried about this. And they see Republicans who have done a great job delivering the message that they can save the day as the answer when they go to the ballot box.


KING: Right. Republicans don't have a specific plan when it comes to inflation. Their plan mostly is Joe Biden and the Democrats are in charge. Joe Biden is president, Democrats run the Congress. That's how it works. That's how it works. I know a lot of people they would say, how about a plan, how about a proposal?

TALEV: Rick Scott would say, how about a plan. Mitch McConnell --

KING: You can go back to when Donald Trump was president, Democrats did roughly the same thing, although they ran a lot on health care in 2018. But here, this is the big change. If you look after the Dobbs decision in late June and July and August, the abortion issue was way up high of a concern. Democrats are running better, the economy has jumped in the New York Times/Siena College from 36 percent to 44 percent as the biggest issue. And again, a lot of Democrats out there say this is not fair. But it's the way politics works. They're in charge. TALEV: Timing is everything. And right now, the timing of Dobbs and the timing of inflation. And the crime messages working against Democrats and for Republicans, the big swing votes, big swing voters to watch for and actually appeared to be independent women and Hispanic voters who are the closest demographic slice model to an independent voter, and these two voting blocks and how much they care about abortion versus inflation and crime are going to be everything, turnout is going to be everything.

KING: Right. So the challenge is with three weeks left and the Democrats, you know, turn people to something else or bend the arc, if you will. You mentioned the crime issue as well. The economy inflation by far most punishing right now, if you're the party, you know, party in power, because you get punished in the midterm election. But look at this Wisconsin, New Wisconsin Senate race poll.

Senator Ron Johnson, the Republican incumbent, now up six points in this new Marquette Law poll. That was essentially a tie 49, 48 when they pulled about a month ago. So again, you're seeing evidence as we get into the final weeks of some Republican momentum. This is a race where crime has factored large, and just in the last, listen to this $56 million, 247 unique ads over the past 30 days, crime ads, run by Republicans. This one also came up in the Barnes-Johnson debate.


RICK, RETIRED SERGEANT: I worked on the force for 30 years. I've seen plenty of politicians. But Mandela, he's the real deal. Mandela doesn't want to defund the police. He's very supportive of law enforcement.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: From defunding our police to releasing predators, Mandela Barnes is a threat to Wisconsin families.

SEN. RON JOHNSON (R-WI): I'm Ron Johnson and I approve this message.


KING: $56 million just in the past 30 days just on crime ads. Barnes responding there with his own ad saying that's not me, I'm not a defund the police guy. But the old least the traditional rule of politics is a bit if you're responding to the other guy, you're back on your heels a bit.

KIM: Well, if you're explaining you're losing, that's been kind of the traditional adage of campaigns. And I think what's less discussed here is that Republicans like they traditionally do had save a lot of their advertising campaign for after Election Day, which is why along with the salience of abortion and all the legislative accomplishments that Democrats had, they were riding a little bit higher in August, because they had spent a little bit early, but September hit Republicans really pushed their at push their money and really focused on crime. And you saw the numbers move, particularly in Wisconsin and also someone in Pennsylvania as well.

TALEV: I just look at, we're talking about the Senate races and obviously that's pivotal, we could decide control the Senate, my colleague, Josh Kraushaar, following the Republican money into House races at the last minute, we're talking about a dozen races, around $25 million in ads in states like California, Connecticut, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, these are Democratic seats, Democratic held seats, Democratic controlled states, and Republicans think these seats are in play because of precisely these issues.

GRISALES: Republicans are trying to get the last word and so their timing could be right on in terms of these issues becoming so urgent, and they are the ones who have the last message in with voters.

KING: Again, three weeks left, although early voting starting in some states as well, so crunch time, crunch time for the midterm campaign.


Up next for us, a brand new book sheds light on the dramatic video, this dramatic video of the congressional leadership on January 6th, and that book details how the Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy went from calling for Donald Trump to be censured to racing to Mar-a-Lago to get back in his good graces.


KING: January 6th and its aftermath. The new book brings even more detailed description to what you see in these newly released videos from January 6th. Congressional leaders, you see them here, evacuated from the Capitol huddled at Fort McNair. Unchecked: The Untold Story Behind Congress's Botched Impeachment of Donald Trump goes behind the scenes and you see Republicans and Democrats working together united to get President Trump to call off the rioters as they attack the Capitol.

The Washington Post's, Karoun Demirjian and POLITICO's Rachael Bade are the co-authors. It's great to see you both. It's a fascinating account that goes through both Trump impeachments. And then we had this documentary video released last week, released just last week, this has been in the work for months. Essentially, you have all the details that we saw in the video, it tells you how great the reporting is, when you see it. Including in the video, we hear the Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer saying this.


SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), DEMOCRATIC LEADER: Why don't you get the President to tell them to leave the Capitol, Mr. Attorney General in your law enforcement responsibility? Answer my question.

JEFFREY ROSEN, FORMER UNITED STATES DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL: Senator, I'm going to do everything I can to do.

SCHUMER: Does that include asking the President to get these people who are followers of earth to leave the Capitol?

(END VIDEO CLIP) KING: We got that video last week. This was already the printer by then. You have that all detailed in the book. It's fascinating stuff. Including Mitch McConnell who was across the hall with -- all the Republicans at one point who comes over to the Democratic meeting because he's so frustrated, he says, get help in ASAP, McConnell said firmly. We want the Capitol back. What did you learn in this reporting about the impeachments and about that critical day that you think people at home should think about as we watch about what's going to happen next, if the Republicans take power, if McConnell is the majority leader, if McCarthy is speaker?


RACHAEL BADE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, I mean, it was -- the first time in Trump's presidency that we saw the leaders of all four parties sort of come together to try to bring Trump to heel. And it was -- it's sort of shocking given that they have been at war with each other for years through these two -- through the first impeachment. But I mean, just as quickly as they came together, I mean, they fell apart, right?

I mean, McConnell, we report in the book that he came very close to a conviction. But ultimately, he stuck with his party, right. And McCarthy within a few days, was down at Mar-a-Lago kissing the rink, and tried to get back into Trump's good graces. And so what that says about McCarthy, and we have a lot of interesting nuggets about McCarthy in the book. He's going to be a weak speaker, man.

I mean, he sometimes he thinks he wants to do something that's right. But he knows something else is wrong, but then he wants to be speaker someday and he's got to toe the line with Trump, or at least he thinks he does.

KING: Right. That's one of the more fascinating parts for me is that he's meeting the days after January 6th, with what we'll call more moderate, more centrist or more pragmatic Republicans. He says, we should censure Trump, Trump was responsible, yes, we're not -- Trump is going to be gone, he's going to fade away. And then within days, he's on his way to Mar-a-Lago to say, you're my man.

KAROUN DEMIRJIAN, PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT, THE WASHINGTON POST: He's doing that with Trump. He's hiding from his own rank and file is there's actually taking the impeachment vote on the floor because he doesn't want to have to face anybody. And then a couple of weeks later, he's lambasting Jaime Herrera Beutler for ever having told the truth about what he and Trump conversed about on January 6th.

So it shows somebody who's, as Rachael saying, not very strong and very flippable and very amenable to being kind of blown with the wind. And if the wind is going towards Trump, he's going to kind of go to the least common denominator and follow that sort of lead. And the thing is that, you know, the stakes of this matter and looking at the history of this is kind of a cautionary tale because there's clearly a groundswell in the GOP right now to try to impeach President Biden over many different things. But there is that push, Kevin McCarthy has shown in the past, he's not going to stand against that tide. So you have to assume he'll enable it. And the stuff that we document in this book about the impeachment and trials that came before really taking a close look at both parties about punches that were pulled about, basically, how the standard of how to impeach was weakened constitutionally. That's what the GOP is going to take advantage of now, in order to say, hey, look, you did it for Trump, why can't we do it for Biden, again.

KING: And you mentioned McCarthy flip that he's not alone. He's significant because he could be the Speaker of the House and incredibly powerful third most powerful position in American politics, you could argue, Lindsey Graham, who was going back and forth and back and forth, but on January 6th. Graham grew angry upon hearing a rumor that started circulating among Trump allies in the room that the President was refusing to send troops to help secure the Capitol.

From their lockdown, he tried to call Trump to get clarity. When the President didn't answer, Graham phoned Ivanka, asking whether her dad was intentionally keeping the National Guard from responding to the crisis. He couldn't see any other reason. It was taking him so long for reinforcements to arrive. Again, what's the spell? What did you learn on the Republican side of reporting this book that Lindsey Graham says then I'm done with him, right, I'm done with Trump after that, and now he's back golfing at Bedminster and Mar-a-Lago anytime you can?

BADE: Yes, I mean, that day, he's screaming at, you know, the sergeant-in-arms telling to get your guns out and go start shooting people on January 6th, and he's that afraid, right. And all of a sudden, he's back trying to get back into Trump's good graces. I mean, it just shows that when it comes to these sort of Trump allies, there's one thing that's most important, one thing that's king and that is, you know, this political opportunism and staying in power and being close to the guy who is still obviously leading the Republican Party.

But beyond Graham, I mean, you go back to McCarthy, if in part four of this book we show time and time again, about how, you know, he is sort of pulled back by this group of Trump allies again, like he was going to not sign on to the amicus brief to try to overturn the election. He was potentially going to not object to the election after January 6th, we report in the book, but then he caves and he does it anyway.

DEMIRJIAN: It also just shows how there was this moment where they all were so angry at Trump and they had an opportunity, we document in the book, to impeach Trump that night. And if they had taken advantage of that, how different of a place might we have been in if they had not had time to think about the political back and forth consequences, but it just acted with their guts. And we document that really clearly here for many of them.

KING: Two great reporters, friends of the program, it's worth the read folks at home. Thank you both for coming in. Appreciate it.

[12:54:32] Eagles fans once booed Santa Claus, the political figure they took aim at last night when we come back.


KING: Topping our political radar today six months or probation, the government wants Steve Bannon to serve six months in prison for his conviction on two counts of contempt of Congress. Bannon's lawyers, though, filed their own response saying their client should get no jail time. And they want his sentencing delayed pending his appeal.

For the first time today, Americans can buy a hearing aid over the counter. The FDA rule change means you don't need a prescription or custom fitting to get one if you are over 18 and have moderate or mild hearing loss.

At the Eagles game in Philadelphia last night, the First Lady of the United States Jill Biden was booed when her picture showed up on stadium screen. Let's be honest those fans are tough. They once booed Santa Claus. The First Lady was there participating in a cancer awareness event she is from the Philly suburbs diehard fan and Eagles won.


Thanks for your time in INSIDE POLITICS. We'll see you back here tomorrow. Ana Cabrera picks up our coverage right now.