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Inside Politics

263,000 Jobs Added In November, Jobless Rate Holds At 3.7 Percent; Wage Growth Remains Hot, Fueling Inflation Concerns; Biden: Admin Is "Laser-Focused" On Bringing Down Inflation; Georgia Runoff: Early Voting Wraps Up After Record Turnout; Obama, Graham Stress Importance Of Winning Extra Senator; CNN Poll: Warnock Holds Narrow Edge Over Walker In Senate Race; Walker Talks Vaccine Mandates In Final Days Of Runoff Campaign; Biden Proposes Historic Overhaul Of 2024 Primary Calendar. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired December 02, 2022 - 12:00   ET



JOHN KING, CNN HOST, INSIDE POLITICS: Hello, and welcome to Inside Politics. I'm John King in Washington. Thanks for sharing your day with us. The jobs report conundrum. Robust hiring last month proves the economy is strong and resilient to recession. But it also shows the feds efforts to slow growth some will not get easier anytime soon.

Plus, President Joe Biden tries to rewrite the Democratic primary calendar by putting South Carolina first, that shift doubles as a signal. Right now, he's dead set on running again in 2024. And today, only four days left in the critical Georgia Senate showdown. A brand- new CNN poll shows the Democrat with a narrow lead. The stakes are giant, the sniping well, pointed.


BARACK OBAMA, 44TH U.S. PRESIDENT: Since the last time I was here, Mr. Walker has been talking about issues that are of great importance to the people of Georgia. Like whether it's better to be a vampire or a werewolf. This is a debate that I must confess I once had myself when I was seven.


KING: Back to politics in a moment. But at first for us the monthly measure of the economy giving us a clear new evidence, clear new evidence that a recession is not here right now. And evidence to though that the feds push to tame inflation is facing major resistance. Here are the top line numbers. 263,000 jobs added last month that beat expectations.

And it happens of course, in the middle of a wave of layoffs that had been triggering alarm and headlines. The unemployment rate holding steady from last month 3.7 percent, go sector by sector and what you see is growth, wages trending up too, in a big way. But therein lies the rub, too hot wage growth will prop up inflation. The president a short time ago says though he sees reason, reasons for optimism.


JOE BIDEN, 46TH U.S. PRESIDENT: We're in a position now wherein things are moving. They're moving in the right direction. As we go into the holiday season, here's what this all means. The Americans are working, the economy is growing, wages are rising faster than inflation. And we've avoided a catastrophic real strike.


KING: With me in studio to share their reporting and their insights, Margaret Talev of Axios, Zolan Kanno-Youngs of The New York Times, Jeanna Smialek, also of The New York Times, and CNN's Manu Raju here as well.

Jeanna Smialek, this is your wheelhouse. So, you look at this report, 263,000 new jobs, 3.7 percent unemployment rate, sector by sector, everything but retail trending in the right direction. So why are people a bit nervous about a good jobs report?

JEANNA SMIALEK, FEDERAL RESERVE AND ECONOMY REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: All about inflation at this stage. So, the Federal Reserve has been very closely watching the jobs market, which it says is out of balance. There are just too many people trying to hire workers relative to the number of workers who are available. And this was further confirmation that it remains out of balance.

The fed just for context thinks that about 100,000 jobs need to get added every month just to make up for population gains, were more than 2.5 times that. And we have been pretty steadily all year long. So, this is just a very strong labor market, far stronger than what the fed would be hoping to see to feel confident that the economy is slowing down enough to bring inflation back down to its target.

KING: So then let me stick with you for a second, the idea that the fed has said it will continue to raise rates, it has also suggested those rate increases, at least for the next one or two would be slightly more modest. Does this report change that and add in this part?

Mark Zandi, the chief economist at Moody's Analytics says this, it's going to be a struggle, it's going to feel uncomfortable, but I think we're going to thread the needle. The data over the last couple of months have been better than I would have thought, none of the financial market indicators suggest we have a recession dead ahead.

Is always, does this jobs report change that dynamic at all? Or is it still possible with all the caveats and asterisks that you can land the plane without a recession?

SMIALEK: I think we are still trying to thread that needle. It is still possible. But what this jobs report tells us is it's going to be a longer road. So, the feds clearly recalibrating its policy. It's going more slowly, but it is going to push those rates up a little bit higher than had previously suggested it would as Chair Powell suggested this week. I think that sort of MO basically remains intact after this jobs report. But I think the second part of it becomes all the more important. You know, this is a very strong economy. It may take higher interest rates and interest rates that stay high for longer to really slow it back down.


KING: And so that gets to a fascinating political calculation. As you move into the next year, the Republicans are going to take the House inside of 30 days or about 30 days from now. President Biden if he wanted to do something, if he thought there was some legislative juice or help or fix, probably can't get it done with a Republican House. So, this is the president on the road yesterday saying, I'm on top of this, I'll do the best I can, but I think we're in a better place.


PRES. BIDEN: The inflation at the grocery stores, thank God beginning to slow prices for things like clothes, television and appliances are going down. As good news for the holiday season. It's going to take time to get inflation back to normal levels as we keep the job market resilient. And we could see setbacks along the way, but we're laser focused on this there. I promise you, we're laser focused on this.


MARGARET TALEV, MANAGING EDITOR, AXIOS: Did you catch the theme? I feel like laser. This is Biden's reelection plan. This plus Donald Trump saying in the game at least long enough to make things crazy. And you can see it in the very consistent rhetorical messaging, gas prices are down, you can see it in his laser focus on averting that rail strike.

Even if it meant putting the paid leave issue aside for the time being very unpopular with the core labor, but incredibly important to keeping things smooth out through the Christmas season. And he's been actually pretty transparent about all that.

And I think Newt Gingrich, the former House Speaker, Republican activist has a column that everyone should read if they haven't read yet this week, telling Republicans to stop under estimating Joe Biden, that he had a one of the best first term off year elections in history, saying Biden's actually been pretty effective. This is about two things. This is about Trump and then fighting, and this is about the economy. Biden is going to stay focused on the economy. That's his path back.

KING: And psychologically convincing people look, this has been tough. I understand how hard this is and has been on you. And we're not out of it yet. But we are getting better. And because of my policies, as is his argument, you can agree or disagree that at home because of my policies, we're in a better place than we could have been. If it goes south from here, it's their fault.

ZOLAN KANNO-YOUNGS, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Right, you know, absolutely. I mean, you even saw him say something like that just this morning, right, just a little while ago, where he said, in terms of referencing the rail strike and the agreement that he signed. Look, I know, this was tough for members of both party to do this. This was also tough for me. He at one point said this was a tough choice.

And by that, he was basically acknowledging that something like the rail strike, when you combine that with the inflation that people are feeling right now would have been devastating for the economy, and particularly for consumers, even to the point where a president who has not been shy to celebrate his bona fides and working for unions, was willing to sign an agreement that didn't go all the way for some union members in terms of getting enough paid leave that they want.

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Would there's so many good questions about the legislative landmines ahead. I mean, the RE (Ph) has the right heed, he did avert this rail strike by passing this.

KING: Democrats still control the House.

RAJU: Exactly, that's my point. Kevin McCarthy, the House Republican leader who wants to be the speaker opposed this, would he put something like this on the floor. I asked him about his position on this. He said Biden should have solved. This is Biden's fault. And there are other legislative landmines ahead, that could have an impact on the economy. Just this month, there's a major push to get your long spending bill.

This is a massive proposal to fund the entire federal government. It's very possible they don't get a deal. And they have to do a continuing resolution to essentially a stop gap measure to force the new Congress, the divided Congress to deal with it. That can be a problematic. Also, they don't have to raise the debt limit. And the new Congress to avoid a potential default. All these big things, how do they get there? It's going to be a mess, and it could have real economic concepts.

KING: And to that point, as someone who builds your list, right, what am I looking for next, right? When is the next fed meeting? When's the next inflation report? This political volatility and uncertainty as things are a little harder to track, it's not a monthly report, it's not data. It's the wild west of politics.

SMIALEK: Yes, absolutely. And the political volatility here is just feeding into a very volatile global political environment, right. We've seen these protests in China. We don't know how those are going to play out in the longer run. If China reopens, it could mean this big demand shock, it could mean that we've got Chinese consumers buying stuff, competing with American consumers again next year. It's a real question. There's a lot. There's a lot ahead that could royal inflation in 2023.

KING: That's why we'll keep inviting you back to sit right there in that seat to explain it to the rest of us. Up next, we go live to George. Early voting in the Senate runoff ends today. And new CNN polling shows the Democrat Raphael Warnock cling to a narrow lead, narrow lead over his Republican challenger, Herschel Walker.




KING: Today is the final day of early voting in Georgia's Senate runoff between the Democratic incumbent Raphael Warnock and his Republican challenger Herschel Walker. So far, record early turnout and eyepopping spending by both parties. Our new CNN poll releasing today, you see it there show Senator Warnock with a small lead.

Democrats will control the Senate now, no matter who wins on Tuesday. But as both candidates get some high-powered help in these final days, both sides publicly acknowledge having 51 Democrats, instead of 50 makes a bigger difference than you might imagine.


FMR PRES. OBAMA: An extra Senator gives Democrats more breathing room on important bills. It prevents one person from holding up everything. And it also puts us in a better position a couple of years from now.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, (R) SOUTH CAROLINA: If it's 50-50, the budgets are the same. The number of committee people is the same. If it's 51- 49, they have one more vote on every committee than us. The bottom line it really changes the structure of the Senate.



KING: Let's go straight now live to Atlanta, CNN's Eva McKend is there tracking this race for us. Eva, what's the latest?

EVA MCKEND: Good afternoon to you, John. I want to begin by showing you this line here at this polling site in Atlanta, just a steady stream of folks all day. People here tell us it takes them about 45 minutes to get through this line. All in all, not so bad because other sites this week that we've been to, it's been upwards of two hours, more than a million people have come out during this early vote period in Georgia. And I think that really speaks to the level of engagement here. People are clued in. It is impossible not to be in Georgia, between those radio and television ads, you cannot ignore of this run off contests.

We've also seen quite a bit of star power on the campaign trail. Former President Barack Obama on the trail last night in support of Senator Warnock. He was also here just a few weeks ago during the general election. There's also been a bevy of Hollywood celebrities to America Ferrera, Tessa Thompson, Dule Hill, all in support of Senator Warnock.

Meanwhile, Herschel Walker has pretty much been joined on the trail by Senate Republicans, chief among them Senator Lindsey Graham, both of the candidates crisscrossing the state today. We're still learning, waiting to learn Herschel Walker's weekend schedule. We do know though, that Senator Warnock is going to be returning to a college campus over the weekend. I think that is noteworthy because he has spent quite a bit of time, John, emphasizing the youth vote. John?

KING: Eva McKend, live on the ground for us, critical final weekend. Eva, thank you. We'll be in touch, obviously in the days ahead. Our reporters are back at the table to discuss. Senator Lindsey Graham and Brock Obama, I saw the nodding, some nodding, some shrugging at the table. They might not be exactly right, about how it all plays out. But it is hugely different. It might not - at home, you think 51-50, what's the big deal? It does in the terms of the set subpoena power committee hearings.

RAJU: I mean, look, because there's a divided government, it will probably would not have as much of an impact as it were, if there was one party control. Because in one party control, as we saw this time, they passed what used the budget process, which could circumvent a filibuster in the Senate.

Meaning, you could pass bills along straight party lines, which is why Joe Manchin had so much power this Congress because they tried to do everything in this those big bills in the Senate along straight party line. So, if he said, no, it wasn't going to happen. You get the additional Senator, that helps.

In the new Congress, we have a Republican House, a Democratic Senate, so very little is going to get accomplished anyways. Yes, it will change some of the committee structure. You may have one more seat margin than you do is a dead-lock Senate. But there are ways to get around that procedurally in the Senate.

So, I may not have as huge of an impact that they're saying, but every Senate vote does count, especially as we get into future election cycles. When they're going to be battling one or two seats to take the majority and additional seat will be crucial.

KING: And before we get to that every vote counts. And so, it's encouraging whether you're Democrat or Republican to see this record early voting. You see the long lines where Eva was in Atlanta, they're largely democratic in Atlanta, but we've seen large early voting in other parts of the state as well, where you have more Republican voters.

Here's our latest poll released just this morning. 52 percent for the Democratic incumbent, 48 percent for the Republican challenger, Herschel, Warnock. If you dig deep in it, this is interesting to me. Do you view these candidates as favorable or unfavorable. Senator Warnock, who's the incumbent, 50 percent favorable, 45 percent unfavorable.

Herschel Walker, you know, football hero, University of Georgia went on to play in the NFL and the USFL. 39 percent favorable, 52 percent unfavorable. It is interesting that the political newcomer has the higher unfavorable rating here. He's being treated almost like the politician or is it just because the total of this campaign, people have more doubts?

TALEV: I think he's run a pretty disastrous campaign and that if he somehow emerges to prevail in this runoff contests that Brian Kemp will immediately go to the top of the heap for GOP presidential contenders because it will be all Governor Kemp, who has helped push Herschel Walker forward. He's had a number of personal scandals controversies that have come forward.

And one of the most popular ads by Raphael Warnock's campaign right now is just voters watching Herschel Walker say goofy things on the stump that are kind of non sequiturs. Also, his ties to Donald Trump had been problematic in a state like Georgia. But when you look at that polling, that very good zero CNN polling, you see how close the race still is anyway, which is why that turnout really, really matters.

And you know, what we know about the general election returns is that around the country, black voters just did not come out on mass with as much strength as they did in the previous election. There are signs that that is different in this runoff, which is really interesting.

Talking about the youth voters Max Frost, the incoming 25-year-old youngest ever member of Congress from Florida, who is black and Hispanic is going to be one of the kind of political celebrities brought out over the weekend to try to turn out the youth vote in Atlanta.


KING: And so, let's look a little bit before you jump in. Just to contrast in the final seconds. Margaret raised the point about the Warnock ads, that was part of Obama's mission too that Herschel Walker is not serious. Listen?


FMR PRES. OBAMA: Since the last time I was here, Mr. Walker has been talking about issues that are of great importance to the people of Georgia. Like whether it's better to be a vampire or a werewolf. In case you're wondering, by the way, Mr. Walker decided he wanted to be a werewolf, which is great. As far as I'm concerned, he can be anything he wants to be, except for the United States Senator.


KING: Obama trying to join the Democratic effort to say Walker is just not up to the job. He is not serious. Walker in this - listen to this, this is yesterday, understanding 200,000 people voted for Governor Kemp's reelection, did not vote for him. He's trying to get Republicans who don't like Biden administration policies, but who also don't like him to come over. Here he is on vaccine mandates.


HERSCHEL WALKER, (R) GEORGIA SENATE NOMINEE: 20,000 I'm going to T (Ph) is active-duty warriors in the United States military that's being kicked out by Joe Biden and Raphael Warnock for not taking that COVID shot. Yes, yes. And then 40,000, a national guardsman that's being cut out of their military benefit by Joe Biden and Raphael Warnock for not taking that COVID shot. I think that's immoral, and I think it's treason.


KING: You see him there trying to scratch his way back into being a more of a traditional Republican candidate, which if people viewed him that way, in a state like Georgia, he would have a better shot.

KANNO-YOUNGS: And you're seeing him do something that a lot - that many members of the Republican Party say, wasn't done enough by some candidates leading up to the midterms, which is actually focusing on the Biden administration, not just the previous presidential election or trying to kind of pledge your loyalty to the former president as well.

Right there, he's actually focusing on some things he thinks can galvanize some Republican voters. But I think it's also interesting that you're seeing some of those stumps for Democrats, for Senator Warnock as well, more of making this a choice rather than a referendum.

Not just explaining how this could impact Congress but also saying, look, just look at the comments of the opponent here. Look at some of the gaps, look at some of the crises, look at some of the accusations against him as well. And also remember that we've been here before in terms of runoff election.

Just another note on the early voting, there are some prominent Democrats that are pretty excited about some of those numbers. Yesterday, last night before the State dinner, Keisha Lance Bottoms as well as Chuck Schumer went out of their way to say, they've been looking at those numbers and to continue and really much were touting some of the early voting turnout. We'll see how it turns out.

KING: Now, we count, we count them all on Tuesday. Hope you'll join us for that. Up next, President Biden proposes an extreme makeover of the presidential primary calendar. Iowa loses its place at the front of the line. New Hampshire slides down too, now a little history. If you remember the state that changed everything for Biden in 2020, you will understand who's on first.



KING: About this for a Friday flashback. You remember this map. This is the 2020 Democratic primaries and caucuses for president. I remember it. President Biden now though proposing a dramatic overhaul of the 2024 Democratic nominating calendar. Take a look. The Biden proposal strips Iowa of its first in the nation caucuses, that's hundred plus year tradition.

Instead, the new first in the nation honor would go to South Carolina, then New Hampshire and Nevada on the same day one week later, after that Georgia and Michigan would move up. Now, why would these changes? Why this proposal from the president?

You look at the map from 2020, the White House position is this would put more diverse states, more diverse economically, more diverse demographically, more diverse geographically on the calendar. But let's be honest about the raw politics that play here as well. Iowa went first in 2020. That was a Pete Buttigieg's state, that Pete Buttigieg green there.

Then you had New Hampshire. You notice there, that's Bernie Sanders blue in New Hampshire in 2020. Then we went out to Nevada, also Bernie Sanders blue there. And so, when you come back to the national map, what happens next? Well, what's this? This is South Carolina.

Joe Biden written off as done until this big primary night. This is what propelled him to the presidency. And he wants to make it first now on the calendar come 2024. He also wants to move up Georgia. That's a lot of Biden blue to the tune of 85 percent when you look at that right there. And he wants to move up Michigan, another state, a competitive state, but where he ended up winning big in the end.

Jim Clyburn, remember he endorsed Biden back in 2020. He's the senior congressman from South Carolina. He says for both parties, he thinks his state going first is a good thing.


REP. JIM CLYBURN (D) SOUTH CAROLINA: The person that has won, the South Carolina primary has gone on to win. With one exception, the general election, and that's on both sides of the card, right? George W was out of it, right? He got to South Carolina. He won South Carolina and went on to become president of the United States. So, you look at that state, it is the best laboratory.


KING: CNN Jeff Zeleny joins us at the table. You just back from the meeting where Democrats are talking about, there's been a whole number of proposals for as long as I've been doing this, which is long, long, long time. This one seems to have bones and because he's the incumbent president, is he going to get his way?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: I mean it would be extraordinary if he wouldn't because he is the leader of the party, and this is what the White House has sent out in a letter.