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Economy & Inflation Were Top Issues For GOP Midterm Voters; Georgia On The Front Line Of New Political Battlefield; Supreme Court Hears Case That Could Reshape U.S. Election Laws. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired December 07, 2022 - 12:30   ET



MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: He doesn't want to look like he's cutting side deals, but he knows that he needs to do a lot more if he's going to become speaker.

JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Right. Back to how they handle this in a minute, but what about the Biden White House now? We know for months they've been, you know, do we need better lawyers? Do we need better staffers? If you go through this list, again, the border Secretary Mayorkas possible impeachment there and border policy big tech, China's Select Committee, national security and what the Republicans leave are woke politics there, COVID origins, Hunter Biden, Afghanistan withdrawal, the Department of Justice and the FBI leadership. I mean, how is Team Biden or is there going to be a new team Biden to deal with all of these?

FRANCESCA CHAMBERS, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, USA TODAY: It's a long list and the White House is essentially in wait and see mode to see how many of those things actually come to fruition because they're promising that, well, Kevin McCarthy is in this race to become speaker. But Republicans, they don't control these committees yet. James Comer is already issuing letters to the White House. But they want to see what he actually does. And if they do end up focusing on things like inflation, or some of these other issues that they campaigned on. But wait and see doesn't mean that they're waiting to staff up, they already began to do some of that. And the White House says that they'll be adding more people as they get closer to the beginning of next year.

KING: And so one of the challenges, Toluse, we're going to see in the next year, most of these House Republicans come from safe Republican districts where they believe they will be supported back home, when they take it to the Biden administration, pick your issue, but take it to the Biden administration. If you go over to the Senate side where they have to run statewide, they're a little bit more nervous about this.

And we were just talking during the break about in this midterm election year, people were not trying to rock the boat, they were more safe than spicy, if you will, given all the stresses of the last couple of years. In our exit polls around the election, what are the top issues for Republican midterm voters? The economy, inflation 71 percent, immigration 9 percent, abortion 5 percent. So you see, immigration gets a modest number there. So you got to understand why the Republicans want to look at border policy. Is there a risk that they sound completely out of step, out of touch with what the American people just voted for?

TOLUSE OLORUNNIPA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: There is a risk. And that's in part, the challenge that Kevin McCarthy faces in trying to appease so many different parts of his constituency in the Republican caucus. If you're looking at just protecting your majority makers, some of those moderate Republicans that won and Biden districts, then you focus on inflation, you focus on some of the major policies that could actually help people and help their pocketbooks.

But if you're talking about folks like Jim Jordan and folks who are some of the flame throwers on the right, then you got to start talking about Hunter Biden and things that the American people aren't as interested in. And so Kevin McCarthy is in a very difficult position in trying to appease so many different parts of his constituency. And in doing so he may find it difficult to protect the members of his party who need protection going into 2024. Because that majority is narrow thin, there are a number of people who are new Republicans, New House members from Biden districts who don't want to be spoke -- spending all of their time focusing on Hunter Biden and woke policies and whatnot, they want to focus on issues that actually help the American people. It's going to be difficult for McCarthy to figure out how to do that.

KING: And to the to the difficult part, to the point that he is not is -- I assume it's most likely he will be the speaker, but the fact that he has had to do this to get the votes to be speaker, when he tells a one of these chairman or Subcommittee Chairman too much too far. Does he have that authority over them? Or are they running the show?

ZANONA: Well, I think it depends on which committee chairman you're looking at. There's definitely some members who are his allies. He has them in those committee positions for a reason. They're about to elect their chairman's officially and he is working behind the scenes to boost some of his allies in those positions for that exact reason. But he's also made promises to get some of these flame throwers on some of these committees. He's going to give them that platform that's part of his bid to get the speakership. He's brought Marjorie Taylor Greene into the fold. And so he's emboldened a lot of these members, and he's going to have to answer for that if he gets the speaker's gavel.

KING: One of the many remarkable things as the new Congress, what, four weeks from yesterday, it convenes.


Up next for us, inside Raphael Warnock's big Georgia win, Democrats do see a red state turning purple. Republicans though, see this much more as Donald Trump being a massive drag.


KING: Sit closer look now at the morning after debate about what to read into that Senator Raphael Warnock's win last night in the Georgia Senate runoff, 95,000 vote lead. They're almost done counting the votes, 51 to 49, if you round that up for Herschel Walker, a big win in Atlanta and the suburbs around. And Senator Warnock now gets a six year term. So what should we make of this? Let's bring into the conversation, Tia Mitchell, you frequently see her here in studio with us. She is back in Georgia for this. She works for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Tia, one of the big messages out of this is if you look at this, the Democrats did very well in the suburbs around Atlanta. So a lot of conversations today is that Georgia is trending blue is at least purple. But Senator Warnock wins with 95,454 votes. Just one month ago, the Republican governor is reelected with a nearly 300,000 vote margin. So what is the conversation among the political pros in Georgia about what we learned last night?

TIA MITCHELL, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION: I think the conversation on both sides of the aisle is that candidates matter. So in the governor's race, Brian Kemp was very popular. And Stacey Abrams happens to be very polarizing as beloved as she is from Democrats and progressives. She's very unpopular among Republicans. And so that was a big difference in how big of a margin Brian Kemp was able to run up in that governor's race.

But then you come to the Senate race and candidates matter because we know Herschel Walker was a flawed candidate. That being said, he was able to keep it closer in his race. Because of his celebrity, his popularity, the Trump affiliations. But still Raphael Warnock was a able to, as you've noted, expand his base, expand his margins and counties that count and was able to pull out a win in the runoff.


KING: So let me follow up on the point you make as Toluse is making this in one of our conversations earlier as well about there's no question that Donald Trump's brand and Herschel Walker's own baggage help Senator Warnock but we should give Senator Warnock some credit as well. A, he's been campaigning for two plus years. Number two, you raise an important point. I'm just going to pick one randomly and pick one of these small rural counties.

This is Dodge County, Herschel Walker gets 74 percent, Raphael Warnock gets 26. But if you look at the governor's race, Stacey Abrams is getting 23. So you might say that's not a lot, but that three points, margins do matter. And you see that consistently across the smaller rural Republican counties. What was Warnock's brand? How did he do that? How did he run stronger than Stacey Abrams in those red counties?

MITCHELL: So one of the things that Warnock did, especially during this runoff is, yes, he was speaking to his base, just like Herschel Walker was speaking to his base, but Warnock was able to speak to different segments of his base in their own language. For example, he had events just for the labor unions. So if you're a union worker across the state, you saw Warnock speaking directly to you. He had events just for the Asian American Pacific Islander community, speaking directly to them. He had his campaign literature translated into Korean and Thai languages. That's something we did not see from Herschel Walker's campaign. And I can go down the list black men, black women, students, he visited so many college campuses and spoke to students. So Warnock just really was talking to all these different segments in ways that I think paid off across the state.

KING: Tia Mitchell of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, we'll see you back in Washington soon. Really appreciate your help on this important race in Georgia. If they let -- let me bring the conversation back in the room, if they let Tia out of Georgia. Because it's so important, because it's going to be so important again in 2024, because the Democrats want to move up their primary and they're trying to get an agreement with the Republicans in the state to do that. It is one of the five or six states that is going to determine National American politics for the foreseeable future.

One of the questions is, you heard Tia talking about Senator Warnock, even Chuck Schumer tonight who celebrates now he gets 51-49 says, yes, Stacey Abrams lost the governor's race but, wow, did she help us.


SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MAJORITY LEADER: They give lots of credit to Stacey Abrams. She and her organizations helped take a state that was very red and made it purple.


KING: It is an interesting point and that her candidacy she was Joe Biden considered her for vice president. She was a rising star in the Democratic Party. We'll see what the future holds for Stacey Abrams. She lost and that still stings in the governor's race. And she lost by a big margin. But the turnout operation that Warnock was able to again, turnout votes and turnout votes and turnout votes, you have -- that helps.

CHAMBERS: The strategy worked, it didn't work for her, but it did, it worked in terms of turning out votes, as you mentioned in some of those rural areas. But as we look forward to 2024 and President Biden, he was in Georgia earlier this year, when he announced the vote, the voting rights, made the voting rights announcement with the Vice President. But then he didn't go to Georgia during the midterms. He did not go to Georgia during the runoff.

And when I asked the White House about that earlier this week, they said well, it was his agenda essentially, that Warnock and others campaigned on and that was very accessible. But it doesn't change the fact as you were pointing out that the President if you'd like to win, that state is going to have to go down to Georgia and actually talk to voters themselves.

KING: And so if you're in the national political parties, what do you make of it. I mean, Kemp wins by nearly 300,000 votes. Raffensperger wins reelection. They say this is a red state. You just need to be a mainstream conservative Republican. Joe Biden won it by 11,000 votes. Senator Warnock now wins by 90,000 votes. The Washington Post says today, this is proof Georgia is turning purple should be a 2024 early primary state. We do know it's one of the half a dozen states that are in the middle of a transformation. Where that takes us, we're not certain. This one is more competitive for Democrats. I guess how so is the question.

ZANONA: Yes, I mean, I think it's a valid question whether it is a true battleground. But certainly both parties are going to treat it competitively. And they feel like Democrats have a playbook now, not just in terms of strategy, but the type of candidate. I mean, Warnock ran a disciplined race. He was a disciplined messenger. He was organized. He had a compelling backstory. He had this Biden like coalition of voters, and that proved successful in a state like Georgia.

OLORUNNIPA: And we talked about how many elections the Georgia voters have endured for the last several years 2018, 2020 and 2021, 2022 runoff just now. And it's clear that despite having so many times that they've had to go out and vote. The Democrats have been able to see a pathway. They've been able to see sort of how to get to stitch together those coalition's, some of those coalitions that Tia was talking about, Asian American voters, different parts of the electorate, because they know that these races are going to be so close.

And so it's very clear that even as we go into 2024 the electorate continues to change, it continues to shift. It's a growing state. Metro Atlanta is a fast growing part of that state. And so Democrats have a lot to be excited about in Georgia. But it's continues to be a state where Republicans can do well with the right candidate so that national Democrats have to be hoping that Donald Trump is the nominee.


KING: And the biggest national Democrat is, of course, the President of the United States, which is we close the curtain now, we're done with the 2022 midterms, right? The Republicans will have a narrow majority in the House. Democrats will have a 51-49 in the Senate. And then Joe Biden has to tell us sometime next spring, we assume if he's running for reelection. Now this, from "The New York Times," it's about the state dinner, the French President Emmanuel Macron was here. Mr. Macron asked the First Lady whether she was ready for another campaign. Absolutely, was Dr. Biden's emphatic reply. Then Mr. Macron led the table in a toast to Mr. Biden's 2024 campaign. Mr. Macron raised a glass of wine, and Mr. Biden raised his glass of Coca-Cola.

Is there -- last night, it's one race, but it's the Democrat winning Georgia by a decent margin, does that -- is Biden already decided or does, you know, does say, OK, it's getting even more competitive. The map is better. Is it about the Trump issue?

CHAMBERS: Maybe all of the above. Realistically, what I've been hearing from Democrats is they expect that the President will run in 2024 and him putting Georgia in that early primary window. They do see as a down payment on Georgia and what a battleground state that it has become. And I go back to something Chuck Schumer said today about winning elections is that you can't just show up three months beforehand or like you said even a year beforehand if you want to win and that's what Democrats are trying to do.

KING: It'd be fascinated to see what Senator Warnock is doing today. For the first time in two years he doesn't have to call the fundraisers, get in a bus, go to an event, go to an event, go to an event. It's pretty fascinating.

Up right now for us when we come back, arguments underway in a critical Supreme Court case that could shape, could shape the future of our elections.



KING: Right now the Supreme Court is hearing arguments in a high stakes case about election laws. The central question, can state legislatures write the rules for federal elections without oversight or input from state courts? CNN's Jessica Schneider tracking the stakes, she joins us now with the latest. Jess, what's happening?

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, really intricate arguments happening here. And it's all centered really around the meaning of the elections clause in the Constitution and the power that state courts possess or state legislatures possess. But when it comes down to it, what the Supreme Court decides here will really determine how much power politically charged state legislatures have over election procedures and redistricting because this is a case about a new North Carolina districting map. It's at the heart of this case.

So attorneys for Republicans, they're arguing that by the very text and history of the Constitution, state legislatures have ultimate and sole power when it comes to election rules. They say they set the rules. They don't have to stay in line with the state constitution. And a state court can't check them. But there was a lot of pushback from the liberal leaning justices. Elena Kagan really said, if we go with the Republican argument here, that would really destroy checks and balances. Here she is.


JUSTICE ELENA KAGAN, SUPREME COURT: I think what might strike a person is that this is a proposal that gets rid of the normal checks and balances. Legislators, as we all know, have their own self interest. They want to get reelected. And so there are countless times when they have incentives to suppress votes, to dilute votes.

DAVID THOMPSON, PLAINTIFF ATTORNEY: Our position is that checks and balances do apply, but they come from the federal constitution and the panoply of federal laws like the Voting Rights Act and other statutes that are highly protective of voters.

(END VIDEO CLIP) SCHNEIDER: And what the Supreme Court will really be deciding here is there'll be interpreting the election clause, you know, but what's concerning to some who are watching this case, John, is that Trump's supporters seized on this same independent state legislature theory back in 2020 to argue that state lawmakers, state legislatures in battleground states had the power to override the will of voters and choose presidential electors favoring Trump.

Now, that's the extreme version of the theory. But it's not out of the realm of possibility that some state legislatures could actually try to apply that wide ranging theory if the Supreme Court rules for the Republican challengers here. So the arguments still playing out. We'll see what's happens when the decision is expected probably in the spring or early summer. John?

KING: Now, we wait the court. It's a big issue. Jessica Schneider, thanks very much appreciate the update.

Now to a troubling global story in Germany where authorities have arrested 25 people suspected of plotting an armed attack to overthrow the government. They've relieved to be members and supporters of a far right terrorist organization. Our international diplomatic editor Nic Robertson tracking this story live in London for us. Nic, that sounds pretty wow. What are we learning?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: It is pretty wow, 3,000 police, 150 different raids this morning, 25 people taken into custody, 22 of them members of the group, three of them supporters of the group, the group the Reichsburgers. This is a group, a far right fringe group that believes that the German state is illegitimate. Their plan was to stage an armed coup at the Bundestag, the parliament, take down the parliament.

They had already identified people who were going to be ministers of various different departments. They were going to remake the German army. Some of this group, the German interior minister describes is very dangerous with violent ideologies. Some of them were former members of the German military. So this is a major incident averted and a real worrying blow, potential blow against democracy.


KING: Remarkable case. Nic Robertson, appreciate the update on that case out of Germany.

Ahead for us when we come back, the Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff now taking national lead in the Biden administration's fight against anti- Semitism.


KING: Topping our political radar today, the Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff who is Jewish stepping into a bigger role in the fight against anti-Semitism, leading today a roundtable on the spike in high profile anti-Semitic incidents.



DOUG EMHOFF, HUSBAND OF VICE PRESIDENT: Anti-Semitism is dangerous. We cannot normalize this. We all have an obligation to condemn these vile acts. We must all, all of us cannot stay silent.


KING: We'll see you tomorrow. Ana Cabrera picks up our coverage right now.