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Two Days To Go Until High-Stakes Georgia Senate Runoff; Democrats Move Forward With Major Shake-Up Of Primary Season; Trump Has Yet To Condemn Kanye West For Anti-Semitic Rants; Jeffries: Democrats Will Be United In The Minority; House Republicans Splinter Over Choice For Speaker. Aired 8-9a ET

Aired December 04, 2022 - 08:00   ET





ABBY PHILLIP, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Two days to go until the final election of a stunning midterm year.

HERSCHEL WALKER (R), GEORGIA SENATE CANDIDATE: I'm not a politician. I don't look like one, I don't dress like one, I don't talk like one, do I?

SEN. RAPHAEL WARNOCK (D-GA): This is not about right and left. This is about the difference between right and wrong.

PHILLIP: Who has the momentum in Georgia? And what impact will it have in Washington?

Plus, spewing hate. Donald Trump refuses to denounce anti-Semites like Kanye West.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): There is no room in the Republican Party for anti-Semitism or white supremacy.

PHILLIP: But is it enough to turn GOP voters against him?

And President Biden repays a favor.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you, South Carolina!

PHILLIP: Democrats in the Palmetto State saved his candidacy. Now, he wants them, not Iowa, to kick off his party's primaries.

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


PHILLIP (on camera): Hello, and welcome to INSIDE POLITICS SUNDAY. I'm Abby Philip. Overtime is nearly over in Georgia's high stakes and high drama Senate

race, with more than 1.8 million early voters already casting their ballots. All eyes are on this Tuesday. Democratic senator, Raphael Warnock, and Republican Herschel Walker spent the campaign's final days urging voters to head to the polls, and making their closing arguments.


WARNOCK: Now, I'm not mad that he doesn't know what he's talking about. I'm mad that he doesn't know what he's talking about and he thinks he ought to be a United States senator.

WALKER: He's voted with Joe Biden 96 percent of the time. Either he didn't know he's voted with him or he loved that man? I don't know what he's doing, but it doesn't matter because he's doing the wrong thing for the Georgia people, because the Georgia people are sick and tired of what they're doing to them.


PHILLIP: Now, the latest CNN poll shows Senator Warnock holding a narrow lead heading into this final stretch. And on the ground, there have been long lines at the polls and momentum seems to be at the moment with the Democrats who are out spending Republicans by 2 to 1 on the airwaves.

CNN's Eva McKend has been spending many months in the Peach State of Georgia, covering this race, and she joins us now from Atlanta.

So, Eva, it's been a very busy weekend in this very critical race for Senator Warnock. But lots of folks asking this morning, where is Herschel Walker?

EVA MCKEND, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER: That's right. Good morning to you, Abby. Just two days left until the votes are counted. And you are correct, Senator Warnock, Herschel Walker could not be ending their campaigns more differently.

Senator Warnock holding three public campaign events yesterday. Herschel Walker holding none. He did show up at a tailgate party to greet supporters and friends, but he did not get remarks or take questions from the media. Senator Warnock began the day with union workers who then went out to go door knock for him, and it ended with a big AAPI event.

And I think that is noteworthy because the Asian American community is often described as an overlooked part of the electorate. And, you know, in this state, you cannot overlook any group or anywhere, right? These candidates have to campaign in big cities, and small towns, with every demographic. Herschel Walker, for his part, has long argued that Senator Warnock is too closely aligned with President Biden.

But that's not an argument we heard from him yesterday. His campaign in recent days has also knocked Senator Warnock from missing some key votes in Washington last few days because Warnock, of course, he's been on the trail here in Georgia and not in D.C.

PHILLIP: Yeah, especially in a runoff, every single vote has to be found and brought up to the polls.

So, what are you hearing, Eva, from voters on the ground there?

MCKEND: So, if you go to these along lines during the early vote period here in Atlanta, you speak to Democratic voters, they will tell you, listen, it should not have even come down to this runoff. They describe Herschel Walker as an embarrassment.

Meanwhile, you go to Herschel Walker rallies and you speak to his Republican supporters, and they say, they think that he's been underestimated. And also that the ground game that Republicans have built in the state is being underestimated as well -- Abby.

PHILLIP: Eva McKend, thank you so much for all your great work on the ground there.

Let's discuss all of this and more with CNN's Jeff Zeleny, Heidi Przybyla of "Politico", Julie Davis of "The New York Times", and "The Atlantic's" Adam Harris.


So, in this race now, it's boiled down to kind of the basics really, which is, our voters going to default to the candidate who is in the opposition party not in the leadership of the Senate running on this issue of the economy? Or are they going to focus on this?

This is a CNN poll recently that asks voters which candidate do you think is well qualified, Warnock with a 25-point advantage over Herschel Walker. Has good judgment, 17 point advantage, would effectively represent Georgia, a nine-point advantage, has the right priorities, a six-point advantage.

That's really the Warnock side it boils down to.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: For sure, despite all that, the racist will very close because it is Georgia and it is a key battleground state. Even though the Senate control is not necessarily hanging on Georgia, it matters tremendously for Senate committees and the makeup of Senate for a subpoena power, et cetera, the real question, those ticket splitters back in November, a month ago, who voted for Brian Kemp, Republican governor, and then Senator Warnock, the Democratic senator, are they going to basically have their votes the same, or will some of them change because of that check on the Biden administration?

So, the Democrats are in pretty confident, but not overly confident, because the voting period was shorter, the early voting period was shorter. So, going in, there are some unknowns, but there is no doubt that some Republicans are not thrilled with how Herschel Walker has been campaigning in the final days. As Eva was saying, he's been pretty absent. HEIDI PRZYBYLA, POLITICO NATIONAL INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: The

entire reason to just point that we're in the situation of a runoff is because 200,000 voters voted for Kemp and not for Warnock.

So, the question is not, are those folks going to come back out for the guy who they just on the ballot the first time? But are the folks who actually just marked a straight Republican ticket even going to come back out when so much is not at stake here for the Republicans, meaning the Senate majority?

And if you look at what's been invested not invest in the past few weeks, outspent 2 to 1, where are all the surrogates who were here for the other Republican candidates? I think they're a lot less motivated to help who is considered a flawed candidate when you don't have the Senate majority at stake.

PHILLIP: Yeah, the absence of surrogates on the Republican side is very notable. They've been trying to keep former President Trump out of the state as much as possible. On the Democratic side, former President Obama was in Georgia making an argument to voters that Herschel Walker just does not deserve to be in the Senate, listen.


BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: 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. And then I grew up.

In case you're wondering, by the way, Mr. Walker decided he wanted to be a werewolf.


PHILLIP: Yeah, I mean, it's funny, it's funny for sure. But I wonder though, is that argument just for the Raphael Warnock voters who really can't stand what Herschel Walker represents? Or is it also trying to appeal to even some Republican voters who held their nose and might have voted for him the first time but maybe can't make themselves do it a second time?

ADAM HARRIS, ATLANTIC STAFF WRITER: Yeah, down the stretch, the Warnock campaign has really been trying to make this what character incompetence, quote unquote. They continue to say this is about character and competence. Well, our candidate has that, the Walker campaign does not.

I mean, if you look at the energy that voters have shown in this early voter period, you seen something like 1.9 million voters have already gone out to the polls, 370-some-odd million voters, 370,000 voters on the last day of early voting. So, you've seen some of the rhetoric around, you know, our candidate, Raphael Warnock is the candidate of character and confidence, being kind of affective. Of course, there's a lot of votes left to be counted, something to the tune of 4.5 million votes in the last runoff election.

But I think that they should feel, they are likely feeling very comfortable going into Tuesday.

JULIE DAVIS, NEW YORK TIMES CONGRESSIONAL EDITOR: I think what we're hearing former President Obama tried to replicate is the dynamic that drove a lot of the mid term outcomes prior this, right, a month ago. This was sort of, and you heard Mitch McConnell actually articulated not long after the ballot saying that the candidates that Republicans put forth in some cases frightened voters, turned off voters.

And so, I think Democrats are really trying to sort of exacerbate that dynamic and bring it back, you know, make sure that given how closely outcome was on election day in Georgia, some of those Republican voters or leaning voters in the middle, they either just decided not to show up or just sort of look to what they're presented with and say, you know what, no thanks.


And just, either vote for Warnock or do not vote at all.

PHILLIP: Yeah, I mean, this early vote period is really critical for the Democrats. They have to really maximize whatever advantage they have among their constituencies.

Just to take a quick look at where we are so far on early voting, women voters comprise about 56 percent of the electorate. In November, it was 53 percent. If you're a Democrat, you probably like that number. Same with Black voters, they are outpacing, you know, where it ended up in November.

When you look at younger voters, it explains why you've seen Raphael Warnock hitting the college campuses nonstop in these last few days. They are trying to get that number up most likely. And for Democrats, the argument is, as you were saying, Jeff, about the balance of power in the Senate. They need this extra vote because it makes the difference between them relying on, you know, Raphael Warnock or a Joe Manchin.

ZELENY: Without question, I mean, also, like I said earlier on committee assignments, it really is a big deal, it's not paid attention all that much, but they've been split 50/50, is Republicans and Democrats and every committee. So, Democrats having a majority will actually give them the full majority to take some of the Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema power away and also save some time for the vice president to be having to go to the Hill every time there's a vote.

PHILLIP: Shuttle back and forth down Pennsylvania Avenue, for Vice President Kamala Harris. Yeah, I mean, Joe Manchin is also pretty happy that he may not have to be in the line of fire quite as much as he needs to be.

But, coming up next for us, a shake up in the Democratic Party calendar could leave the state of Iowa behind. And we will still be treated to some images like this from the all important Iowa state fair.


REPORTER: How is it going?

OBAMA: It is ice-cold and tasty! It's delicious. It's going to go well with my pork chop.




PHILLIP: Democrats are on the brink of the party's biggest primary shake-up in decades. On Friday, the DNC's rules committee approved President Biden's proposal to reshape its 2024 nominating calendar. If the full DNC gives the go-ahead, South Carolina would take Iowa's coveted spot as the first in the nation, followed by Nevada and New Hampshire, just three days later. Georgia and Michigan would round out the five earliest contests.

The committee vote was near unanimous with no surprise, Iowa and New Hampshire as the only dissenters. Though, their populations may be small, these two states have had a big impact of presidential election cycles for the last 50 years.


BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT: New Hampshire tonight has made Bill Clinton the comeback kid.

FORMER SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA): Iowa, I love you.

OBAMA: You have done what the cynics said we couldn't do.

HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: As I stand here tonight, breathing a big sigh of relief. Thank you, Iowa!


PHILLIP: So, Iowa and New Hampshire used to make or break candidates and their campaigns until 2020. And that's also when I think the Democratic Party had a very public conversation about whether their nominating process was actually producing nominees that appealed to their voters.

And I think that this change explicitly from the memo written by President Biden to the DNC is about centering Black and Brown communities at the beginning of the process, not the end.

HARRIS: Absolutely, I think it's very core, this is about emphasizing the base of the party, reaching out to the base of the party early. As you've seen Black voters turning over Democrats and numbers that are, you know, disproportionately large, right, in election after election. And so, I think acknowledging the diversity of the party, the diverse coalition they're trying to build starting in South Carolina, then moving into Nevada with a large Latino population, I think for President Biden and the coalition he formed in 2020, and for Democrats moving forward, that is the vision of the party that they're looking for.

PHILLIP: And, I don't want to ignore the parts of this that are not just race what, raises about ideology, it's also about socioeconomic status. You have in Michigan representation from the Midwest, from, kind of working class communities in the south, South Carolina and Georgia. What you're talking about there are voters who are actually a little bit more conservative than some of the Democratic primary voters that you might find in New Hampshire, and even in Iowa.

PRZYBYLA: This has been decades in the making from the perspective of Michigan. Debbie Dingell will tell you they've been lobbying for a long time because Michigan is actually really representative of the broader country. We have big minority populations in cities like Detroit. In Flint, you have more rural areas, like the cherry farmers up and on the Expressway 75.

And you also have the unions which are huge faces of the Democratic Party. So, look, the big argument for Iowa and New Hampshire has long been that there are small states. They allow upstart candidates, less well-known, less well funded, to get a foothold in might not have otherwise had.

But the way they've structured it, New Hampshire is not -- it's only four days later, right? It's going to be a question of how you prioritize your funding, there's always a chance to reassess. Part of what Biden was proposing here, was every four years potentially looking at this, because it's been since the 1970s that Iowa has had a stronghold.

DAVIS: Yeah, I mean the model of having Iowa and New Hampshire going first and always been about, like Heidi is saying, sort of the more retail aspect of campaigning when your maybe not known as a candidate.


This -- clearly, this is a calendar and a geographic makeup that advantages someone like President Biden, who is a known quantity and has had a lot of success in these states, knows how to campaign there, and can commit campaign, in all of those places all at once.

If you're an upstart candidate who is a lot less known, that's going to be a lot more difficult, particularly when you're jamming New Hampshire and Nevada to get Nevada together. It's a huge state. You know, New Hampshire obviously very small, but an expensive media market.

So, there are going to be a lot of factors at play here, but no question, this is a way of kind of going straight to the base of the party and various aspects of it -- unions, people of color, and really trying to give them more of a voice earlier on to set the precedent.

PHILLIP: Yeah, two things just to highlight what you said. The time between South Carolina and Nevada and New Hampshire is three days, that is not a lot of time. But Nevada is not going to go quietly into the night.

Maggie, the senator, Democratic senator from New Hampshire, says: I strongly oppose the president's deeply misguided proposal. Make no mistake, New Hampshire's law is clear and our primary will continue to be the first in the nation.

They are going to fight, maybe Iowa acknowledges after what happened to the caucuses two years ago, they can't really complain, but this might not be as easy as saying this is what we want to do.

ZELENY: It's not, and we're going to be talking about this for the next -- a couple of years, because there is a state law in both Iowa and New Hampshire that says they go first. Who cares? So, the DNC will have to make --

PHILLIP: Basically, that's what the DNC is saying.

ZELENY: For sure. The DNC will have to make a decision if they're going to strip their delegates or not. We'll get all into the weeds on that.

But I think history will show that it's certainly different time now. Going back, looking at those clips of the young Senator Barack Obama in 2007, I covered that campaign from start to finish. And it wouldn't -- it's clear that most people did not get much of a chance, including in South Carolina and other states. So, he put together a Iowa coalition of young people, of old people, Black, white, et cetera, even though it's a small diverse population, and he won Iowa, that showed he could run elsewhere.

So, it's a different moment now, but certainly the history -- Jimmy Carter as well. So, Iowa has a long history here. But we should point out, Republican still go in Iowa. So, all the Republican candidates in 2024 will be heading there.

PHILLIP: And on the organizing piece, I should point out, everything Georgia has showed us, organizing happens in other places, and I don't think that we can assume that it can only be demonstrated in Iowa, we've seen in Georgia to great effect for the Democrats.

But coming up next for us, Kanye West professes his love of Hitler. And in his silence, former President Trump is making it clear where he stands on the matter.



PHILLIP: Former President Trump's dinner guests are still spewing hate. Just when you thought Kanye West's antisemitic rhetoric could not get more vile, it did.

Take a listen to just a small portion of what he had to say this week.


KANYE WEST, RAPPER: Ii see good things about Hitler also. This guy that invented highways, invented the very microphone that I use as a musician, you can't say out loud that this person ever did anything good.

Every human being has something of value that they brought to the table, especially Hitler. There's a lot of things that I love about Hitler, a lot of things.


PHILLIP: We play that so you can understand what's out there in the open right now. This is a man that former President Trump chose to spend time with, he's also man whose rhetoric former President Trump refuses to condemn.

The Republican Jewish Coalition issued a statement this past week saying, in part: Enough is enough.

But when is it enough for the former president? And when is it enough for his party?

We're back with our panel here.

The astonishing part of all of this, though perhaps not surprising, is that Trump still has not condemned any of this. And there doesn't really seem to be any kind of effort to get him to.

PRZYBYLA: Yeah, the difference between 2016 and today is pretty stark and that Trump has been platforming this type of extremism, but mostly with a wink and nod. Like, he initially refused to condemn David Duke, if you recall, during 2016.

But now, actually playing QAnon music at his rallies. He is talking about exonerating the January 6th insurrectionists who've been convicted. And this speaks very loudly given that you have Kanye West comments, so upsetting to so many Americans.

And so, yeah, the question is whether voters now are going to reject that. It seems like a lot of people in the party are ready to be done with him, but look, this was similar in 2016 when you have the entire institution of national security experts in the Republican Party, people like Lindsey Graham saying they did not support him. And so, ultimately, the voters have said, no, we'll make that decision.


DAVIS: And the striking thing here is that we have seen some Republicans -- some leading Republicans particularly in Congress come out and say this is abhorrent. These comments are abhorrent. He should not -- you know, these people should not ever be part of the Republican Party.

They pushed back on the views of Kanye West and Nick Fuentes here, the man who Trump dined with but they haven't directly criticized the president for associating with them and they haven't called on him publicly to disavow any of this. Not that he would, right.

I mean this is -- I think a lot of Republicans see that as a losing battle. But if you are a leader in a party and you hear this kind of abhorrent rhetoric, you know, it behooves you to basically call on everyone to push back on it and to reject it.

We just don't see that happening. And I think, you know, as you said at this point it is not surprising because they have long since learned, the leading Republicans, that calling on the former president to reject comments like this and people like this and ideology like this just doesn't work and frankly I think they are somewhat worried about alienating some voters who they know in their base actually, you know, will tolerate or actually support this.

PHILLIP: Yes. It is probably about 35 percent of at least the Republican electorate that is fine with pretty much anything that Trump does.

But just to add to what you are saying the big picture here is an emergence of a candidate who seems to be running pretty explicitly on extremism. This is a Truth Social post from yesterday from the former president where he says in part about the 2020 election, "A massive fraud of this type and magnitude allows for the termination of all rules, regulations and articles even those found in the constitution."

You don't have to take a leap to figure out what he is talking about there. And yet, this is the guy who claims he's the leader of the Republican party.

HARRIS: Yes. You know, this is -- this is -- the former president is a person who has always run towards those who have been enthusiastic about him. And what his most recent post, what his sort of lack of condemnation of radical extremist views say is that, you know, he views those people as the sort of base, as those who are most enthusiastic about him. But it is also a fundamental subversion of democracy, right, sort of moving past the constitution is a subversion of democracy.

And so, you know, I think that as we move towards 2024 that has to be in the back of your mind that one of the leading candidates, probably the frontrunner for the Republican Party, the former president, is actively moving towards more radical, more extreme views and that is funneling down to members of his party.

PHILLIP: And Heidi, you mentioned the January 6 insurrectionists. This also is something that's becoming at the heart of the former president's reelection campaign. Listen to what he said at a fund- raiser for the families of January 6 insurrectionists, by the way, just this past week.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Patriot freedom is what it is about. And that's not happening in our country. What they have done to torment people and go after people like never before. We're going to be as you know looking about it and talking about it

very, very strongly in the coming weeks, months, and over the next period of a year, year and a half during the campaign.


PHILLIP: It tells you a lot about where this is all headed.

ZELENY: It absolutely does and it's like as though the midterm elections didn't happen. As though there was no lesson at all for the former president or for Republicans.

It gives Republicans I talk to -- donors, elected officials so much angst and pause that this is at the forefront because this is not where the conversation should be for a winning message for the party.

But to go back to the base like you said, that 35 percent, that's all the former president likely needs to win a primary because certainly if there's a broad field, so he's going to keep saying things like this.

I think the question is, are they going to be diminished in terms of how much oxygen they consume. Is he going to consume all the oxygen in the race or is he going to be diminished bit by bit by all these various controversies? It feels different to me than 2015 and 2016. But we'll see.

PHILLIP: Yes. I mean I think that everyone has been given pause but no one is really organizing a sort of effort to marginalize Trump.

But not just Trump. The interesting thing is that this is happening in a broader context in which conservatives are kind of grappling with the figures in their midst.

And you know, Kanye West is back on Twitter in part because Elon Musk let him back on. And now Elon Musk is a hero to the right.

Rick Scott writes a letter to Elon Musk thanking him for then suspending Kanye for being an anti-Semite on Twitter. "I want to express my thanks for the swift action of the suspension of the Twitter account of Ye following the sickening comments praising Nazis and Adolf Hitler."


PHILLIP: The same week the Daily Stormer is back on Twitter. It just seems to me there is a lot of kind of playing around with these forces in the Republican Party and they've got to decide who's in the camp and who is not.

HEIDI PRZYBYLA, NATIONAL INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT, POLITICO: Look, it's not just playing around. It is unleashed. I think it was the "New York Times" that had a story this week that showed that since musk took over Twitter anti-Semitic posts have gone up 60 percent.

So there is unfortunately a market for this and to Jeff's point, if there's a big split field and a lot of Republicans running 35 percent is a huge number. I'm not saying that 35 percent is anti-Semitic or that this specific message of anti-Semitism appeals to 35 percent but they're willing to go along with this. They've showed in the past, they're willing to go along with it, if there's strong Trump supporters, look past it where there's a portion that it directly appeals to. And that's the truth unfortunately.

PHILLIP: Yes. It is the unfortunate truth. And I mean it just strikes me that the condemnation has not been strong enough because it is not going away. in fact these people are very much emboldened.

But coming up next for us, what does the new House Democratic leader really think of Kevin McCarthy? We've got brand new CNN reporting on that coming up next.



PHILLIP: We have new reporting this morning in his first major interview since being elected Democratic leader, Congressman Hakeem Jeffries is telling CNN how he plans to win back the majority. Part of that strategy, unifying the Democratic Party ranks, an advantage that he touted earlier this week.


REP. HAKEEM JEFFRIES (D-NY): Sometimes we can have noisy conversations but as we showed time and time again on issue after issue after issue at the end of the day we always come together, find the highest common denominator and get big things done for every day Americans.


PHILLIP: CNN's Isaac Dovere who landed that interview joins our panel now. So Isaac, Hakeem Jeffries is known to be a pretty disciplined kind of political figure which is why landed at the top of the pack without really much ado about it. So tell us what you learned about how this kind of younger, new generation of the Democratic Party plans to lead.

ISAAC DOVERE, CNN SENIOR REPORTER: Well look, I first met Hakeem Jeffries when he was running for assembly in 2006. He has always been a very careful guy, carefully working his way up there. And that's how you have this major change in Democratic leadership that ended with not even an opponent for him or his two deputies.

These three people who, with Catherine Clark and Pete Aguilar, the leaders of the Democratic in the House now who none of them were even in Congress when Barack Obama was elected in 2008. They're replacing people who are all in their 80s and they're looking to figure out how to get this very rapidly changing Democratic Party and Democratic Caucus to be on the same page with a singular goal in mind which is to defy history again and make a Republican majority here just a two-year majority. They think that they can keep progressives in check and not have them

being -- causing all sorts of trouble for where the agenda would want to go.

That's easier, of course, in the minority when they don't have to think about making deals that will actually work their way into law but it's also about really hitting Republicans a lot on extremism.

And I asked Jeffries, do you respect Kevin McCarthy. And he said to me, well Kevin McCarthy and I serve in Congress together.


PHILLIP: You asked him what he thinks of McCarthy, he said we serve in Congress together and stopped talking. Asked if he respects McCarthy, Jeffries said "I respect the fact that he is the current House Republican leader depending on what happens on January 3rd, and maybe the next Republican speaker."

Not exactly the most effusive.


PHILLIP: But, you know, perhaps he could have taken a few more jabs and helped --

DOVERE: Sure and Mitch McConnell, the Senate Republican leader, after Jeffries was elected went to the floor of the Senate and started hitting on Jeffries and saying he called Trump a fake president, he's attacked the judiciary. I asked Jeffries about that. And he said to me, you know, it seems like most of America rejected Donald Trump but if Mitch McConnell wants to stay with Trump then ok, that's a decision.

But he said going on the attack and not talking about what they want to actually get done for Americans going right back on to message there is in line with the Republicans. I think you're going to see that be what they do a lot.

PHILLIP: And you made a good point about his relationship with the progressives which is going to be the big test. He has two years to sort it out in the minority but here's just a little bit of a taste of what that relationship has been like between Jeffries and the squad.

These are actually the quotes. Jeffries said, "There's nothing more unifying than being in the minority and having a clear objective getting back into the majority."

And AOC told Axios, asked if Jeffries is someone who she can work with, she says, "I think that's something we'll learn."

Cori Bush also told Axios, "I appreciate being approached. He acknowledged that, you know, you're part of the caucus, too."

So they're giving him a little bit of the benefit of the doubt for the moment. ZELENY: I think they definitely are. And the reality is this is going

to be easier being in the minority. He's not going to be the speaker. And the whole plan is to try and get Democrats to win back the House.

So they want the next two years to be about the Republican majority. They don't want it to be about the Democratic minority. We'll see if he can hold it together.

But as you said, he was elected very swiftly here without much opposition, so I think that' gives you a sense of his support and respect among his colleagues.

PHILLIP: Let's talk about the other side of the aisle though. On the Republican side it is definitely not going to be that easy for Kevin McCarthy. He's still trying to wrangle the votes to get to 218. And he seems confident but his opponents are also equally confident that he won't get there.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If you don't think you'll have 218 when it finally comes to the floor would you step down in the race for speaker?

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): No. We'll have 218.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Will you get there?

MCCARTHY: I'll get there.


REP. BOB GOOD (R-VA): He's not going to be speaker. He doesn't have the votes to get to 218. He's not going to get to 218.

I hope that Kevin McCarthy will say and recognize ok, for the good of the country, for the good of the party, for the good of congress I'm going to pull myself out.


PHILLIP: It's not going to be easy and a lot of Republicans at this moment think it's still going to have multiple ballots on this.

DAVIS: Absolutely. I mean look, it's just a math problem that they have and it's made worse by the fact that the majority is going to be so small for the Republicans. So he really can only afford to lose a handful of Republicans.

Obviously, all the Democrats are going to vote against him on the floor. He needs 218. And right now, there are five people and more privately are saying that that group is actually much larger. He lost more than 30 people -- 36 people I believe it was when he was nominated for speaker by secret ballot a couple of weeks ago.

So he clearly doesn't have the votes right now. And he actually (INAUDIBLE) would acknowledge that. What he is saying is he's not going to step aside willingly. But the question is, is he going to be forced to step aside.

And the problem that he has is he looks back -- I mean Nancy Pelosi did face a similar issue four years ago. She had about three dozen people in her caucus who had now voted for her to nominate her for speaker but if you look at what she was doing at this time four years ago she was methodically meeting with people, cutting deals with them and getting them over to her side.

There were more than a dozen members Democrats who she figured out a way to get on her side. Kevin McCarthy is dealing with people who almost by definition don't want anything except for his head. They just don't want him to be speaker.


PHILLIP: And so some degree of chaos -- I mean it is going to be a chaotic few weeks.

DAVIS: So how do you win people like that over and you heard Bob Good and others say they can't be won over.

PHILLIP: Right. Exactly. I mean he is willing to give them whatever perhaps they want but they may not want anything except his head.

Coming up next, DeSantis is being touted as the 2024 front-runner and he's receiving the scrutiny that comes along with all of that. So is he ready for prime time? That's next.



PHILLIP: The front-runner treatment -- that is what Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has been receiving this week despite the fact that he hasn't made it clear he's even running for president. At least three different publications have taken a deeper look into the newly reelected governor. And some of the coverage was, shall we say, less than flattering.

Mark Leibovich in "The Atlantic" writes, quote, "People who know him better and have watched him longer are skeptical of his ability to take on the former president. He can be awkward and plodding and he is not a fun and convivial dude. He prefers to keep his ear buds in, his 'step away from the vehicle' vibes are strong.

Ron DeSantis is quite, you know, the favorite of the political class in Washington, the donor class, so on and so forth.

But Heidi, the voters will decide and we really don't know whether this is going to translate on a national stage.

PRZYBYLA: Right now these profiles also coincide with some polling from reputable Republican firms that show that DeSantis is doing a good job in this very early stage of kind of coalescing the Trumpy side of the party along with the more traditional, Reagan Republican side of the party.

But we all know and we all lived through 2016 when we saw that Trump does a great job at branding -- mostly branding his opponents. And so once DeSantis becomes more of a known quantity, really that's up in the air.

Right now a lot of these polls also show that people -- you know, a lot of people don't even know who he is or what he's about. And so yes, once he gets more onto the stage and Trump has a bite at him, it could really change.

PHILLIP: Yes. I mean some of the polling in addition to what you just mentioned also seems to indicate that compared to Trump, he might do better than Trump at competing against Biden.

Here is this Marquette poll that shows Biden and Trump -- Biden would lead Trump by ten points if the election were held today. Biden versus DeSantis, that's an even race. That's what makes DeSantis feel pretty good about his chances, perhaps.

But again, to Heidi's point, very few people know him. And at the end of the day, once you get out of the bubble and it's not just theoretical, I mean you're interacting with real people, that starts to affect things.

ZELENY: Without a doubt. But look, he comes into this very strong in the sense that he had a very strong reelection, I mean an incredible reelection in Florida.

And look, he has coalesced a lot of donors. But we have no idea who the Republican nominee will be or the front runners are going to be. But he starts out an unenviable position but so did Scott Walker, the Wisconsin governor back in 2014. So you don't want to win the primary of 2023. You want to win the primary of 2024.

But I still think you'd rather be him than some of these other Republicans. But the question is -- and Fox News has taken quite a liking to him. He's on constantly.

So do you have to run the (INAUDIBLE) of campaign shake hands and being in living rooms as they used to? Donald Trump sort of showed us you didn't necessarily. He had rallies and things.

So we'll see. But it's far too early for us to say that he's going to be a nominee. But he's in a decent spot.

PHILLIP: Yes. Well, speaking of Scott Walker, there's Scott Walker leads a tight GOP pack in the new Iowa poll. This was January 2015, and Bush, Jeb Bush surges to 2016 GOP front-runner in December 2014. So yes.


DAVIS: There are risks to peaking too early, right. There are risks to being seen as, you know, sort of the antidote to whatever ails the party going into the primary season. And as much as it's important and obviously Republicans love to see those poll numbers that show him neck and neck with Biden in a hypothetical race, the first and much bigger challenge for any candidate -- certainly any Republican candidate in this day and age is the primary.


DAVIS: And we know that Trump will be a presence. We know that he has mastered that process of winning a Republican primary. And of course, it will be very different this time around given the mix of candidates and given how much ahead of steam DeSantis seems to have.

But that is going to be a huge obstacle for him to get over. And we really don't know how he's going to do when voters start to take a much closer look at him, those Republican primary voters who are so important to get him over that -- to even get to the point where he's maybe facing President Biden.

PHILLIP: That's exactly right. I mean I think it -- look maybe Trump didn't do all the hand holding, but he had a hold on people. He related to them in a certain way.

But that's it for us on INSIDE POLITICS SUNDAY.

Up next on CNN "STATE OF THE UNION" with Jake Tapper and Dana Bash. And Jake's guests this morning include Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Senator Sherrod Brown.

And just be sure to tune in this Tuesday evening for our election night coverage of Georgia's Senate race. Our coverage starts on Tuesday afternoon at 4:00 p.m. I will be there all night. Hope you will be, too.

And thank you again for sharing your Sunday morning with us. Have a beautiful rest of your day.