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Today: Walker, Warnock Make Closing Arguments In Pivotal Contest; Warnock: Walker Not Ready To Be A Senator; Walker: Warnock Is A Rubber Stamp For Biden; Closing Ads Spotlight Gov. Kemp's Support For Walker; Nearly 2M Georgia Voters Cast Early Ballots In Senate Runoff; Trump's Call To Terminate Constitution Draws Few GOP Rebukes; Liz Cheney: Trump Is "Enemy Of The Constitution"; McCarthy Gears Up For Fight To Be Speaker. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired December 05, 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. Giant consequences in Georgia. Tomorrow, voters settle the Senate runoff that will complete the new balance of power here in Washington. Today, Democrat Raphael Warnock and Republican Herschel Walker get one last chance to make closing arguments.

Plus, throw out the constitution. Donald Trump says, he should still be president and it's worth ripping up the country's founding document to make it so. Top Republican sadly, are again mostly silent. And a remarkable reemergence, Paul Pelosi attends the Kennedy Center Honors, his first public appearance since an attacker brutalized him inside his San Francisco home.

Up first for us, one final day of campaigning in Georgia. Today, closing arguments take center stage. Tuesday tomorrow, voters settle the Senate runoff, pitting the Democratic incumbent Raphael Warnock against Republican Herschel Walker. A democratic Lynwood deliver President Biden a 51-49 Senate and some critical breathing room in a divided Washington, with an $80 million spent on TV ads in just a month. And today, a pair of new ads. It meant to leave one last impression.


SEN. RAPHAEL WARNOCK (D-GA): I don't work for the big oil and gas corporations. I work for you. I don't work for the big pharmaceutical companies. I work for you. I keep fighting until every child has a chance, until every veteran has the benefits that they deserve, until women know that they're in the control of their own body.

GOV. BRIAN KEMP (R-GA): This is going to be a turnout elect. Who's more motivated? Is it them or us? That's right. And that's why it's time to retire Raphael Warnock instead Herschel Walker to the United States Senate.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KING: CNN is live on the ground tracking both campaigns. Jeff Zeleny is with the Walker campaign today. Let's begin though with CNN's Dianne Gallagher, live in Atlanta following the Warnock campaign, Dianne?

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, John. We're here at Georgia tech where Raphael Warnock is going to be holding a rally with students. He's going to have his fellow Georgia Democratic Senator Jon Ossoff also newly elected member of Congress from Florida, Maxwell Frost, the first member of Gen Z to be elected to Congress.

Now, the Warnock campaign going into Tuesday feels good, although the candidate himself has been warning his supporters not to celebrate before they reached the end zone. Looking at some of those more than 1.85 million early votes that have already been cast, breaking them down, look roughly 30 - roughly, I'm sorry, a third of them come from black voters. It's actually a larger percentage by just a few points than was back two years ago.

In that runoff election when Warnock won his first bid to the Senate. We're looking at some of that, especially in terms of the seat latest CNN poll that you referenced there. When black voters in Georgia, likely black voters were asked who they preferred, they said Warnock 96 to 3 percent for Herschel Walker. And so, look, this is something that the campaign has paid close attention to.

But again, we're also here on a college campus. You can see the students starting to come in here. Older voters have had a much greater turnout here. But during a gaggle with my colleague, Eva McKend yesterday, we're not told her, look, I'm not giving up on college students. I'm not giving up on the youth vote. It is important to him. I've attended several events for the senator at college campuses. HBCU's across Georgia, thinking he can motivate them especially come Tuesday to get out on election days, John.

KING: One final day, every vote counts. Dianne Gallagher, thanks so much. Let's go to the Walker campaign now, CNN's Jeff Zeleny. Jeff, what do you see today?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, we are seeing Herschel Walker, John, his campaigning across northern Georgia. You can see a crowd has gathered behind me here. He'll be here shortly but holding five campaign events today. And that is extraordinary, because it's about as many he's been - as he's been holding in a week.

He is clearly targeting these rural conservative counties across North Georgia, some of which he had a bit of a fall-off in performance. A month ago, of course, Governor Brian Kemp, the Republican who performed very strongly, and Herschel Walker had a bit of an underperformance. So, they're trying to get out to base. And earlier this morning, he said he has three focuses today, turnout, turnout and turnout.

So that of course is the name of the game for Herschel Walker, but he does face a problem of math and money. On math, there is that underperformance of 200,000 votes from November that still hangs over his campaign. And money, his is being spent - he's being outspent considerably more than double he outspent by Democratic candidates, Raphael Warnock.


So clearly, Donald Trump, first recruited Herschel Walker into this campaign. He asked his longtime friend to be a Senate candidate, but in the final month Donald Trump has not been here at all. He is, however, holding a tele rally tonight with Trump supporters trying to get out the base for Herschel Walker.

So tomorrow, election day, the turnout of course always important, but so important because Democrats believe that they have an edge in early voting 1.8 million votes. But of course, there are millions of more to vote tomorrow. So, John, turnout is certainly key. And Herschel Walker supporters here are still keeping hope alive. John?

KING: Jeff Zeleny, on the ground for us in this final day. Jeff, thank you. Let's continue the conversation. With me in studio to share their reporting and their insights, CNN's Nia-Malika Henderson, Michael Scherer of The Washington Post, and Heather Caygle of Punchbowl News.

Let's focus on closing arguments in the final days, both Warnock and Walker out in the campaign. This is Senator Warnock on the campaign trail yesterday saying look, people of Georgia whatever you think, whether you're Democrat or Republican, he says Herschel Walker simply not up to the job.


SEN. 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. He's running for Senate. He's not just your uncle talking at the family reunion.


KING: Senator Warnock at the end of the campaign. He's A, he's gone after the character questions raised about Herschel Walker. But at the very end here, he's essentially saying you don't want - he's not ready.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: He's incompetent. Yes. I mean, that's those are the sort of the two-bound argument, character and incompetent. And listen, in so many ways, Herschel Walker has himself made this argument, very easy for the Senator Warnock campaign because of his own utterances on the campaign trail.

And you can tell that they feel like sort of the best messenger for Herschel Walker. Isn't necessarily Herschel Walker, it's Lindsey Graham, who seems to appear next to him on many of the ads, you know, many of the commercials he does, or appearances he does on Fox TV. And then even in this closing argument, it's not Walker who's making the argument, it's Kemp who's out there speaking for them.

And you know, listen, partisans will show up and vote down the line, most likely, but I think his main problem. If you're Herschel Walker, you have to look at independents. In our last poll, independents are backing Warnock, 61 percent to 36 percent and that's what they're hammered. And I think if you're - the Warnock campaign really trying to reach out to voters.

KING: To that point, I'll come back to Walker's closing argument. But you tee up an important point. We showed a little bit of the ad at the top of the show, by the Senate leadership fund. It's a political action committee affiliated with Mitch McConnell, the Senate Republican leader. And let's play first a little more of that ad and who said it not Herschel Walker.


GOV. KEMP: Families are struggling because of Biden's inflation. And Washington won't change unless we make. Georgia is doing better than the rest of the country because we stood up for hard working families. Herschel Walker will vote for Georgia, not be another rubber stamp for Joe Biden.


KING: What does that tell you that Mitch McConnell thinks his best messenger here is not the candidate?

MICHAEL SCHERER, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: That's like aspirational and they wish this was a referendum on Biden. They wanted this to be a referendum on Biden. They wanted to use the turnout that Kemp can bring in, which he brought in the general election. And they've lost both.

I mean, this is right now shaping up to be a referendum on Herschel Walker and whether he's ready. I mean, that's what the polling shows. That's what the discussion is in the final weeks. And Kemp is it - like Kemp's voters who did not vote for Walker at the same level in the general election may not come out. And that's the fear that Republicans have. If Kemp voters don't come out and Democrats do come out, and Warnock is going to be the winner.

KING: And then the final back to Walker himself now. This is Walker yesterday on the campaign trail, sounding like Brian Kemp. Like he's been listening to the governor, maybe this is what I should be telling people.


HERSCHEL WALKER, (R) GEORGIA SENATE CANDIDATE: He went to Georgia and said that he was going to represent Georgia, but what is - who is he representing, Joe Biden. He's voted Joe Biden. 96 percent of the time, which he didn't know he was voted with, or he love that man. I don't know what he's doing. But it don't matter because he's doing the wrong thing for the Georgia people.


KING: Does is that as effective when this is not for control of the United States Senate? The Democrats will have the majority either way. The question is, will they have 51? And a little bit of breathing room, not a lot, but a little or 50-50 and the vice president still gets to break ties?

HEATHER CAYGLE, MANAGING EDITOR, PUNCHBOWL NEWS: No, I mean, it just isn't. I think we've talked to Senate Republicans on the Hill. I checked in with them late last week. I talked to them today. They are basically resigned to the fact that Walker is probably going to lose, and they will be in a 49-51 Senate. No one is saying that out loud yet, but that's where they are.

If you're a Senate Democrat, like you pointed out, it's much better to be at 51, right, because you can move judicial nominees quickly. Your committee chairs can have subpoena power, you don't need to sign off from Republicans, and you can lose to Joe Manchin or Kyrsten Sinema on votes when you need to and they're in cycle in 2024, so that's really important. But most Republicans, it gets back to Mitch McConnell in the fall, talking about Candidate quality. Herschel Walker, he didn't say his name, but he was one of the prime examples that he was alluding to.


KING: What does it tell us about Georgia? What will it tell us? We'll count the votes tomorrow night, hopefully we'll know tomorrow night sometimes you have to take a day or so to count the votes. What will this race tell us about Georgia was Joe Biden's victory in 2020? And then, you know, if Warnock wins reelection, does that tell us Georgia is what purple?

HENDERSON: Listen, I mean, Democrats certainly hope so. I mean, they've done so well, over these last couple of cycles, partly that Republicans have fielded fairly weak candidates, but also Georgia isn't the Georgia than it was 2, 3, 4 years ago. There have been a lot of influence from around the country into that state. It's always had sort of the idea that it's sort of the new South and not like, say, Mississippi, or Alabama.

And listen, Democrats have poured a lot of energy and time and money into that state. And finally, I think with somebody like Warnock and to a certain extent Ossoff as well. They kind of had a perfect storm in these great candidates, so they were able to capitalize.

KING: And what does it tell us about Trump in the sense that he was not welcome? Walker is using Brian Kemp. Mitch McConnell super-PAC is using priming camp. Trump will have a tele town hall tonight. He will call in as he's done for several candidates. He also sent out this email today, fundraising email that says it's about Herschel Walker. Herschel Walker needs your help. This money does not go to Herschel Walker.

When you click on the link in this, this goes to two Donald Trump PACs which Donald Trump uses to pay his legal bills and other political funds.

SCHERER: Yes, that's right. Look, we should say this is still a margin of error race, is too close to call. It's hard to pull in run offs. But if what is expected to happen happens, then we understand why Joe Biden just said he wants Georgia to be one of the early nominating states.

Democrats see Georgia as their path to 270 in general elections now, especially if Trump is on the ballot, because what we've seen in repeated elections now and we're going on the fourth, right, because we had a runoff for four elections. You know, statewide, Trump and Trump allies do not do well in Georgia, even though Republicans do and that's a huge asset for Democrats.

KING: We'll watch it again. We'll watch the final day of the campaign. Today, we count those votes tomorrow night. Hope you'll join us for that. Up next, a dangerous rant from Donald Trump and sadly telling silence for most top Republicans.




KING: Donald Trump says it would be OK to rip up the document that makes America great. In a shocking statement, even by Trump's standards, the former president says it's OK to ignore all the rules of our democracy and even the constitution itself to restore him to the presidency immediately. Trump said that in a social media post over the weekend that also recycled his lies about massive fraud in the 2020 election.

Now Republicans call themselves constitutional conservatives. Yet, there's virtual silence from the GOP leadership. One House Republican asked Sunday about the Trump statement, listen to the very end, making excuses for the former president.


GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS, CHIEF ANCHOR: If he's the nominee, we support him.

REP. DAVID JOYCE, (R) OHIO: I will support whoever the Republican nominee is. And I don't still think that at this point, he will be able to get there.

STEPHANOPOULOS: It's a remarkable statement. You just thought, you'd support a candidate who's come out for suspending the constitution?

REP. JOYCE: Well, you know, he says a lot of things. You have to take him in context.


KING: Our great reporters back with us. That's a running one. Look, I have empathy for Republicans who have to get asked about every outrageous thing Donald Trump says. But, but he's a former president, he's a declared candidate for the nomination. They raise money off his name, they use his name, and they won't stand up to him.

So, you have to, you know, take it in context, the context of his statement was a massive fraud of this type of magnitude allows for the termination of all rules, regulations and articles, even those found in the constitution. That's in context.

SCHERER: And he's a presidential candidate. I mean, since he announced for president, he's two big acts have been going to dinner with two vocal anti-Semites and putting this out. I mean, it's not a great start. He doesn't really have a campaign. There's no difference in the way he's behaving.

He doesn't have a campaign around him in any practical way. And he's just right now giving ammunition to his opponents within the party. I think it's still a long way for them to really cut ties with him or, or burn those bridges, because they're worried about his voters. They need to get those voters not only in the primary, but in general.

KING: A little bit closer before you jump in and a little bit closer. Last hour here on CNN, the Republican governor of New Hampshire says really.


GOV. CHRIS SUNUNU, (R) NEW HAMPSHIRE: It's outrageous, and it's just driving even more people away from him in terms of, of his race and 24 because he's proving day after day that he becomes more, or I should say less and less electable in November of 2014.

HENDERSON: Well, listen, he's always been an outlier in the Republican Party in wanting to criticize Donald Trump. It's one of the reasons he didn't want to be in the Senate. But you know, by and large, we haven't seen much change in terms of the behavior of Republican elected officials' vis-a-vis Trump, right? Even given his record, going back to January 6, even given his record being a loser in 2020 and in 2018 for the party.

They are still terrified of Donald Trump. They are still terrified of his voters. And there still is a great deal of attachment that rank- and-file Republican voters who would determine who wins, GOP primary and 2024 they still have a great deal of attachment to Donald Trump. They haven't turned on him. And so far, publicly, most Republican leaders are with him.

KING: So, to that point, let's listen to a couple more. This is Congressman elect Mike Lawler just elected, he has not been sworn in to the Congress just yet. And Congressman Mike Turner of Ohio, who would be I believe the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, whether Republicans take charge. Listen?


MIKE LAWLER, (R) NEW YORK CONG. ELECT: I don't support that. The constitution is set for a reason to protect the rights of every American. And so, I certainly don't endorse that language or that sentiment. MARGARET BRENNAN, CBSNEWS, CHIEF FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Is that disqualifying for presidential candidate?


REP. MICHAEL TURNER, (R) OHIO: It's certainly not consistent with the - I do it. It's certainly not consistent with the oath that we all take. I vehemently disagree with the statement that Trump has made.


KING: He puts them all in this box. They're about to take power in the House. It's a pretty big responsibility. They have other issues we're going to talk about later in the program about organizing themselves and getting ready. And they all know, now every time they pop in front of a camera walked by a reporter, they're going to get asked about this.

CAYGLE: Yes. Especially, you know, since he is a declared presidential candidate, I mean, they can't really evade it anymore in the way that they used to, like, oh, I'm not paying attention to what he said. I'm actually surprised watching that clip that Congressman Turner said his name, because when I was up there on the Hill asking Republicans last week about Nick Fuentes and Kanye West, it was kind of like, the man who should not be named.

They all went to great care to not actually say the name Trump and they kept using this line. Well, the aide who let them in should be fired, right? Well Trump let them in, right? So, we'll probably get similar answers this evening when the Senate Republicans fly into this comment.

KING: And so, how do you square this circle, if you will? This is a tweet from Kevin McCarthy. back some time ago, on the very first day of the new Republican led Congress, we will read every single word of the constitution aloud from the floor of the House, something that hasn't been done in years. Republicans call themselves constitutional conservatives.

Kevin McCarthy has not issued a statement about Donald Trump's Truth Social post saying, I want to be president immediately. I shouldn't be president now today, and it's OK to rip up the constitution to make that so.

CAYGLE: Yes. I mean, honestly, like these guys, we've seen this for years and years, these guys have twisted themselves into knots to either defend him or distance themselves in some way from what he said without angering him, and we will continue to see that. You know, I do think the most progress that we've seen on the Hill, is them - a lot of them saying, well, I don't think he'll get there in terms of the nomination. And that actually is a recently new development from the midterms.

HENDERSON: Hopes and prayers, right?

CAYGLE: With more and more of them saying that. KING: So that raises a good question. How does this - do we have to wait till the 2024 primaries for this to be litigated? In the sense Liz Cheney says this, Donald Trump believes we should terminate all rules, regulations and articles, even those found in the Constitution, she's quoting from him to overturn the 2020 election. That was his view on January 6, it's an important point remains his view today, no honest person can now deny that Trump is an enemy of the constitution. So, does this have to be litigated in the primaries?

SCHERER: I think it does. I think Republican leaders right now, even Republican rivals to Trump want to defeat him in the primaries, but it matters how they defeat him, if they if they torture him, if he leaves with the same grievance, he has to the rest of the world now directed the Republican party that's going to hurt them in 2024. So there has to be an easing out. There has to be something sort of a delicate dance done here. I don't think anybody knows how it's going to work out. It doesn't look on paper right now, like it can be done without real anger and dissension.

But there is a portion of the Republican general election vote that is a cult of personality about Donald Trump. And if you fry those people, if you alienate those people by going too hard against Trump right now, you're going to be hurting in two years.

HENDERSON: Yes. And they've been hurting already in 2018 and 2020, and in this past election, I mean, that contingent and that sort of power, which gave them the kind of candidates that proved to be so weak in general elections, you know, that is about Trump. They don't at this point, want to actively drive Trump from the party, they can hope, they can say stuff behind closed doors. But when they had a chance, right, when the second impeachment came, when they possibly had a chance to do something, they basically blinked in a lot of ways. That's what they're doing now.

KING: And there are a lot of people who look at us and say, just ignore him. Just ignore him, which, OK, except that he's a declared candidate for the republican presidential nomination, right? You can't just ignore him to give him the power that he has in this way he has over the party.

CAYGLE: Yes, absolutely. And I mean, we get this from Republicans, when I walk up to them on the Hill this afternoon, they'll say, why are you asking me about this? I haven't seen this or isn't the issue of the day. We know we're trying to find the government, whatever, but he is the head of their party, whether they like it or not, and it's fair to ask these questions and talk about it.

KING: Up next, another Republican issue, Kevin McCarthy still has a math problem.



(COMMERCIAL BREAK) KING: Kevin McCarthy's allies are trying to help him solve a math problem. Republicans take the House majority when the new Congress convenes in four weeks. But McCarthy is still short the votes he needs to be speaker of the House. Now the House Republican leader is making promises in his effort to sway a few critics. And McCarthy allies, while they speak of the holdouts in harsh terms.


LAWLER: Kevin is the only person that I will be voting for speaker. If it's one vote or multiple votes, we're not going to be held hostage by a handful of members. When the overwhelming majority of the conference is in full support of Kevin.


KING: Our Capitol Hill reporter, Melanie Zanona joins us now live. From the Hill, Melanie, where are we today in Kevin McCarthy's quest for enough votes.

MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Well, what you're really seeing is both sides are digging in and it's creating a lot of tension in the House Republican Party. In one corner, you have the anti- McCarthy group so far, at least five House Republicans have vowed to oppose them on the floor. If those numbers hold or if more come out, that would be enough to deny. McCarthy the speakership, you can only afford to lose four votes.

And so far, this group is not backing down. In fact, I'm told that they've been trying to recruit an alternative candidate. They asked Steve Scalise, McCarthy's top deputy as well as Jim Jordan and Tom Emmer, if they'd be interested in jumping into the race.

Now, all three of them said they're supporting McCarthy, they wouldn't challenge him outright. However, if McCarthy can't get to tweet teen or if he does drop out, any number of Republicans aren't specter to jump into the race.

And then in the other camp, we have McCarthy's allies, and they are starting to get vocal, and they are starting to push back a group of moderate.