Return to Transcripts main page

Inside Politics

Biden Approval Sinks To 41 Percent In Final Midterms Stretch; Economy & Inflation Most Important To Midterm Voters; Majority Of GOP, Independents, Dems Say Economy In A Recession; Biden Losing Key Pieces Of Dem Coalition Ahead Of Midterms; Tonight: Biden Delivers Speech On Protecting Democracy; Poll: 2/3 Of GOP Say Biden Was Not Legitimately Elected; Pelosi Attack Suspect: It Was A "Suicide Mission"; Court Filing: DePape Wanted To Stop "Lies Coming Out Of Washington". Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired November 02, 2022 - 12:00   ET



JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Hello, and welcome to Inside Politics. I'm John King in Washington. Thank you for sharing your day with us. Today, brand new CNN poll numbers just six days from the midterm vote count, most every number, how you feel about the president, how you feel about the economy, how excited you are to vote. Spells giant trouble for the Democrats and giant, giant opportunity for Republicans.

Plus, some new CNN reporting, on the behind the scenes battle between senators Mitch McConnell and Rick Scott over who should get more credit or more blame for how the Senate shakes out after the midterm. And an interrogation, other targets, new horrific details about the assailant who bludgeoned the Speaker of the House's husband until he was unconscious.


BROOKE JENKINS, SAN FRANCISCO DISTRICT ATTORNEY: Mr. Pelosi asked to go to the bathroom, which is where he was able to call 911 from his cell phone. The defendant realizing that Mr. Pelosi had called 911, took Mr. Pelosi downstairs near the front door of the residence. Two police officers arrived at the front door, two minutes after that 911 call.


KING: Up first for us, though, a final CNN snapshot of the midterm climate and it is beyond bleak for the Democrats. Let's set the stage. Remember, Republicans need only a net gain of five, 220 to 212 right now. Republicans need only a net gain of five to take back the House of Representatives. Let's start there with the battle for the House.

The president's approval rating, always the North Star in a midterm election season. Look at this as we get closer to election day. The president's approval rating down in our new poll to 41 percent, disapproval up nearly six in 10 Americans as we get very close to election day, disapprove of the president's job, as he's handling right now. So, take that, this is the national map. Look at this when we bring up just the competitive seats for the House. The president's approval rating is down, every point it goes down. Republican hopes go up in every one of these competitive districts.

Now add in this, what is your choice when you vote for Congress? Some of you have already voted early. Some of you will vote in the next several days. Everybody finishes by Tuesday. Look at this, a month ago, we had Democrats with a small lead on your choice. You're going to vote Democrat or Republican in your congressional district.

Now look, Republicans have an advantage heading into the final days outside of the margin of error 51 percent, a majority of Americans plan to vote Republican or Congress, that helps Republicans in every one of these competitive districts. Those are national numbers. These are more competitive districts. If the president's approval rating is down, the Republican vote is up. You look at these 78 competitive districts. That is great news for Republicans.

Now let's switch maps. And take a look and view some of the other numbers in the context of the Senate battlefield control. They impact the House as well. But here's where we are in the Senate. 50-50 going into election day. Now we switch the map this way. This is how we write the races. The yellows are tossups, the light read lean Republican, the light blue lean Democrat.

The economy is dominating in the final days, and that hurts the democratic chances. Remember, back after the Dobbs' decision in June, Democrats that abortion would help them in the suburbs here, help them in the suburbs here, maybe in red states like Ohio, and Wisconsin in the suburbs, certainly out in Arizona and Nevada, and in Colorado and more. That's what the Democrats thought, and you saw evidence of that in August and in September.

But now look at where we are, as we get closer to election day. Number one, the economy is dominating the discussion. Look at these numbers. This is a change election. 72 percent of Americans think the country is going badly. Only 28 percent think things are going well. And so, what are people voting on? This tells you everything you need to know, as we head into the final days.

Excuse me for turning my back, just to stretch this out a little bit. Democrats had hoped the abortion issue would at least compete with the economy and inflation. It's not a competition as we head closer to election day. 51 percent say the economy and inflation is the top issue, only 15 percent say abortion, 9 percent say elections. The economy is dominating in voters mind and that is why Republicans are stressing it, is that he tried to win across the board in their final ads.


KING: With me in studio this day to share their reporting and their insights, CNN's Nia-Malika Henderson, CNN's Melanie Zanona, Carl Hulse of the New York Times, and CNN's David Chalian. David, let me start with you. If you look, I just said, you know, 72 percent of Americans think it's going badly, 51 percent of people in the country right now believe the economy is issue number one.


You've dug even deeper into these economic numbers, the economy inflations are dominating, and on top of that the Fed is going to raise interest rates again today to remind people inflation is a big problem. You dug deeper, and it's even worse.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yes. So, of that 51 percent, well, we have the economy voters, which as you noted, it's a majority of likely voters in our poll. Just to underscore what the Republican advantage is on this issue, 71 percent of those voters are planning to vote for the Republican, 26 percent are planning to vote for the Democrat in their congressional district. That is a 45-point advantage on issue number one.

So, you've got the overall mood like you're saying. You have an issue environment, that advantages Republicans, and you have the unpopularity of Biden. It's hard to find environmentally overall, where the Democrats see in these closing days, they're good news.

KING: And so, you keep - you look through the poll, and you try to find is there anything in here, anything in here where Democrats would say, you know, hang your hat on that. It's hard to find. If you look, one of the big questions in an election years, which is, are you enthusiastic about voting? Midterm elections tend to be about the party in power base.

Look at these numbers when it comes to, are you extremely enthusiastic to vote. Back in October 2010, if you go back that, look, there you see the Republican advantage. That was when Barack Obama lost 63 seats and lost the House. Look at the Republican advantage.

Then move forward to November 2018, Democrats had only a slight advantage when it came to enthusiasm. And yet they took the House back under Donald Trump. If you look at now, look at that edge in Republican enthusiasm, Nia-Malika Henderson, and it looks very much like 2010, which was a big wave election.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. That was the show lacking in the words of Obama. And I think you hear from Democrats, the nervousness about what this election is going to look back. There was some, you know, optimism weeks ago, you know, in the sort of last weeks of the summer, but that pretty much has dissipated, is dissipated, partly because gas prices are up. They had been sliding down a little bit. They're going up now. Partly it's just history.

The party in power tends to lose seats. Some of it is structural. You've got an issue with black voters, are they going to actually turn out in the way that they turn out in presidential elections? And sort of the Democratic base is such a diverse base, right? It's young people, it's African Americans, it's Latinos, it's college educated white voters. Can they have a sort of issue set that brings all those voters together, makes them enthusiastic, mobilizes them and gets to the polls? It's a very tall order for them. KING: It's tall order. Look, we have these new numbers, campaigns have numbers just about every day. They have as numbers as good, if not better than our numbers, which is one of the reasons to the enthusiasm question. Democrats see this coming, which is why the former President Barack Obama is out there, trying to convince Democrats, you might be discouraged. Maybe you're mad at the president, votes.


BARACK OBAMA 44TH U.S. PRESIDENT: But I'm here to tell you, Nevada, tuning out is not an option. Moping and feeling cynical is not an option. The only way to make this economy fair is if we all of us fight for. The only way to save democracy is if we together fight for.


KING: It's a tough argument, though, Melanie, in the sense that Obama's in Nevada giving that speech, the gas prices in Nevada are $1 higher than the national average because of the unique conditions out in the western states. Nevada's unemployment rate hit 28 percent during the pandemic. Donald Trump was president then. But when you get punched like that the bruise lasts a long time. If there's just a funk out there still.

MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Yes. And Democrats only really in the closing days tried to address the economy as a major issue. They really tried to throw everything at the wall to see what sticks in terms of messaging. It was abortion, it was the economy, it was trying to refute Republican attacks on crime, it was student loans. But you contrast that with Republicans who were incredibly consistent.

I mean, David, and I sat down with some GOP operatives in the beginning of the year, who said this is going to be about the economy, crime and the border, and they have not strayed from that message all the way through the final days.

KING: And so, Carl, again, some of this is bad timing to Joe Biden coming in after the COVID pandemic. It's a tough global situation when it comes to the economy, but he's in charge and he's party's in- charge. Are we in a recession is a question we asked in our poll? We are not.

If you ask economists, if you look at the data from a statistical standpoint, but 61 percent of Democrats think we're in a recession. 74 percent independents think we're in a recession. 91 percent of Republicans think we're in a recession. So, if you're Tim Ryan, Democrat of the House trying to win an increasingly red state of Ohio in this year, you're mad at your party.


REP. TIM RYAN, (D) OHIO SENATE CANDIDATE: When it comes to inflation, we need a tax cut. We need to put money in people's pockets. If we're going to weather the storm here, so a tax cut in the short term.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How many here think inflation and the economy is the number one issue in this race? And you're one of them?


REP. RYAN: I'm one of them. I've been screaming at Democrats too, for a year and a half to pass a tax cut.


KING: He has been pushing. I think Democrats may regret some of their decisions in their strategy of passing things in the rearview mirror, but in the front view mirror, even at this a bit like me, this is a very, very bleak climate for Democrats.

CARL HULSE, CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: It feels like a recession to people because of inflation. And we're not used to inflation. So, people are really struggling with it. I think it's telling that it's President Obama, who's out as the closer, right, because it's not who is doing, Democrats think a great job, but it's not President Biden. I look at the wrong track number that you focused on it.

How does the party in power, whether that kind of sentiment out there, it just becomes almost impossible. I mean, there's still a bit of a split between the fate of the House and the fate of the Senate. And that has to be, and we've seen that split before, including in 2010. So, you know, it's possible that they can hold on to the Senate, but it's just a horrible environment for Democrats right now. There's just no way to others.

KING: It is when you look at the numbers. It is if you just think, you know, Joe Biden was elected to, A, and the pandemic leadership, and then the daily chaos of Donald Trump. But people don't feel like they've gotten a break, because the pandemic lingered for longer than they thought, it's still out there in some ways, and then you got inflation to the economic terms (crosstalk)

HULSE: It's a gas price. It is just a simple indicator, and people look at that, and that sign is up in front of them (crosstalk).

KING: So, you didn't get the break you want. I just had to jump in on the front part. I just want to show, so you look at, you know, the key pieces of the Democratic coalition in 2018, the big anti Trump wave that made Nancy Pelosi speaker or there's weakness. If you look at voters over the age of 65, 48 percent for the Democrats back in 2018. That's the exit poll.

In our new poll at 44 percent. Voters with a college degree 59 percent for the Democrats in 2018, down to 52 percent, independents 54 percent for the Democrats in 2018. Down now below, now down to 45 percent. You take those pieces of the coalition, you might say, oh, well, 48 to 44. That's not a big margin. That's a huge margin when you're talking about competitive House districts and close Senate races.

CHALIAN: Yes. This is a game of inches, right, in many of these states and districts. And I'll just say a bigger trend about, if you look at our poll, white college educated voters, OK, a key voting bloc in terms of the transition in American politics, right? And we saw Hillary Clinton made inroads in 2016. But Donald Trump actually edged ahead with that group.

But then in 2018, Democrats won them by seven points, white college educated voters laden suburban America. We saw Joe Biden in 2020 edge ahead of Trump with them by three points. In our poll today, Democrats are losing white college educated voters by five percentage points, that to me shows that swing that we saw that you're describing the sort of anti-Trump swing, a key portion of it, some of it is swinging back to the Republicans, that poses a danger to Democrats.

KING: And if enough of it swings back in the suburbs around Atlanta, around Philadelphia, around Phoenix, those are Senate seats, bang, bang, bang. Up next. We'll dig deeper President Biden's as a speech tonight to talk about threats to democracy. It's another effort to bend the midterm trajectory and highlight an issue Democrats simply had hoped would get more traction.




KING: There's a late add to President Biden scheduled today. An evening speech framing the midterm elections as a critical test of America's democracy. The president will point to the large number of Republican election deniers on the ballot, and he will address Republican attacks on the integrity of voting and the integrity of vote counting. It's a late campaign attempt to elevate an issue, the president and others have raised went out on the trail.


JOE BIDEN, 46TH U.S. PRESIDENT: For coming after your right to vote, Democracy is on the ballot this year.

PRES. OBAMA: The only way to save democracy is if we together fight for.

REP. LIZ CHENEY (R) WYOMING: Not a single one of us in this room and not a single one of us across this country can be a bystander. We all must stand and defend this republic.


KING: CNN MJ Lee is live for us at the White House. MJ, tell us more about the president's plan.

MJ LEE, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, obviously as you know, protecting democracy is a very familiar theme for this president and this White House. And what we expect to hear from the president tonight is one him directly addressing election deniers. And second, talking about these recent threats of violence, including politically motivated ones. And you're absolutely right that this was a late addition to the president's schedule. And speaking to Biden advisors, what they're telling us is that they have been watching very closely recently, as they have seen a surge in anti-democratic rhetoric, including Republican elected officials and candidates basically saying, we're not sure that we're necessarily going to accept the results of the elections next week, and also very concerned about these threats to violence. And one event in particular, obviously, that people behind me in this building have been especially alarmed by is the violent attack on Paul Pelosi.

So, all of these things went into the consideration for why the president wanted to make this speech today, that he did want to make this speech for a while. So, it's not a surprise, but it does just show how high the stakes are right now in this moment, because we are so close to the end, and just six days away from the election.

KING: ML Lee live at the White House. MJ, thanks so much for setting the table. There are great reporters back at the table. And it's interesting, many Democrats did think after the violent attack on the Capitol on January 6, after so many Republicans who still deny the 2020 election results. So many Republicans who say, maybe the legislature or governor should be able to overturn or reconsider the relative election, Democrats thought this would be a bigger issue, but the economy and inflation, just snuffing it out.

HENDERSON: That's right. And many Democrats wanted the administration to make a consistently bigger deal of it, maybe even try to end the filibuster to ensure the Voting Rights Act or bolster the Voting Rights Act. And you saw from this administration, some speeches about this in the past from Biden. But in terms of it translating to a motivating issue, that out balances the feelings around the economy, it's probably not that.


But you have seen Biden tried to do this with a number of issues. Voting, you'll see that today. He did that with an abortion speech a few weeks ago, and also with student loans as well, trying to piece together this coalition with these individual issues. But again, the economy is the most potent issue.

KING: Right. He's trying to - it's just be the pain. You mentioned, the gas, that's the pain in people's daily life. It's hard to convince them, that yes, that's horrible, but it will pass. This is a bigger threat to your children, your grandchildren and the country. If you look at our polling, it is just striking. When you look, number one, that significant doubts everywhere, but the partisan differences.

Are you confident the U.S. elections will reflect the will of the people. Six in 10 Democrats say yes, but even 39 percent of Democrats say, they're not confident about that. Only 41 percent of Republicans and independents more split on this.

And then did Joe Biden win legitimately? This should not be a question. This should not be a question at this point. But if you look at the totals 67 percent, two-thirds of Americans say he did, but almost a third of Americans there say he did not, 66 two-thirds of Republicans, Carl, two-thirds of Republicans to this day think Joe Biden is not the legitimate president United States. That is a cancer on democracy.

HULSE: Yes. You see this much suspicion about these outcomes, and it sinks in, and people really start to believe it. I think that the Democrats were really hoping the January 6 hearings would elevate this and make it a big issue. The hearings were considered a success. But I've been on the road. I've been in multiple states, who just don't hear discussion about this when candidates are meeting voters. It's just not something that people are talking about out there.

ZANONA: Yes. I mean, politics aside, though, a lot of Democrats that I talked to feel like there's a moral obligation here. For Biden to be making this speech, whether this is going to work and move the needle at all on November, we'll, you know, wait to be seen. But especially since this attack hits so close to home, close to being second in line to the presidency. Obviously, after the events of January 6, there is a feeling like Biden, no matter the politics has this more obligations.

KING: That was Liz Cheney's point, campaigning for a Democrat in Michigan yesterday that this is bigger. This should be bigger than any party affiliation, but we'll see. We'll watch the president tonight. See if it has an impact. Up next for us. New details in the simply chilling, horrific attack on the Speaker Pelosi's husband. And first reported here on CNN, the Pelosi family is set to get a look at the key evidence in the case.




KING: Horrific details from court filings show the suspect to attack Nancy Pelosi's husband described his plan as, "a suicide mission", needed to combat what he sees as, "lies coming out of Washington." That filing also alleges that David DePape had a list of other state and federal targets.

Let's go live now. Veronica Miracle standing by in San Francisco with more. Veronica, what else are we learning?

VERONICA MIRACLE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, those court documents laid out so many details, we learned so much. It's quoted as saying that John, DePape told officers and medics on the scene why he went to the Pelosi residence and what his intentions were. He's quoted as saying to Paul Pelosi and asking him, if Nancy Pelosi is second in line to the presidency. And when Paul Pelosi agreed, he said we've got to take them all out.

That motion also says the attack on Paul Pelosi was caught on body camera video. The chief of police here in San Francisco says that you can see him being hit with a hammer at least once. It also says that DePape told officers that hurting Paul Pelosi was not his intention, but that he would go through him if he had to. He said, "this was a suicide mission." I'm not going to stand here and do nothing even if it costs me my life.

The San Francisco District Attorney Brooke Jenkins says, this was absolutely politically motivated, and that motion says that DePape named other targets including a local professor and other prominent federal and state officials, including their family members. Yesterday in court we watched as David DePape was arraigned on a slew of state charges including attempted homicide, burglary, elder abuse, assault with a deadly weapon. And he entered not guilty pleas to all of those charges that Pelosi family through the prosecutor told the judge they are seeking privacy during this very traumatic time. John?

KING: Veronica Miracle, live on the ground for us, doing great reporting. Veronica, thank you. Let's bring it to discuss further, the former New York City prosecutor Paul Callan, and our CNN's senior justice correspondent Evan Perez. Paul, I noticed in some incoming to the show stuff. You talked about this motion filed by the prosecutor here, you find it unusual, and you see something behind it, explain?

PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes. It was an unusually detailed recounting of how the crime occurred. And I have no doubt, John, that the San Francisco prosecutor is trying to send a clear message that this was a real crime, a real attempted murder and attempted kidnapping to dissuade those, who might believe a radio interview with the former President Trump in which he said there was something weird going on in the premises, and that there was glass found outside of Nancy Pelosi's and Paul Pelosi's premises.

That is an absolute misstatement and lie. It's kind of a conspiracy theory that seems to be circulating in right wing circles. This was a real assault, a real attempted murder. And the prosecutor I think is trying to get the message out in a detailed way as soon as possible.

KING: And Evan, often we see in big cases that involve both state and federal issues, the state and the Feds will get together and decide, you have a stronger case, or you have a stronger penalties on the books, you take it. In this case, we're expecting both state and federal prosecutions, right?