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Inside Politics

The Political Plot Twists of 2022; How Joe Biden Became 2022's Comeback Kid; Trump's 2022: A Year of Losses, Legal Peril and Unforced Errors; Biggest Political Winners And Losers Of 2022. Aired 8-9a ET

Aired December 25, 2022 - 08:00   ET





ABBY PHILLIP, CNN HOST (voice-over): The red wave that wasn't.

SEN. RAPHAEL WARNOCK (D-GA): The people have spoken.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX): We should have seen an overwhelming victory for Republicans, we didn't.

PHILLIP: How a Supreme Court ruling and GOP missteps helped Democrats defy midterm history.

Plus, the comeback kid.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Experts said we couldn't beat the odds, but we did beat the odds.

PHILLIP: A string of winds on Capitol Hill, and at the ballot box rejuvenates the Biden presidency. So, why do so few Democrats want him to run for a second term?

And Donald Trump under siege.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT: We have a weaponized Department of Justice. Nobody else has gone through this. These people are sick.

PHILLIP: His legal jeopardy has never been greater. Is his iron grip over the GOP finally loosening?


PHILLIP (on camera): Hello, and welcome to INSIDE POLITICS SUNDAY. I'm Abby Phillip. And thank you for spending your Christmas morning with us.

2022, it was the year of the political plot twist -- ups and downs, twists and turns, surprises, unexpected reveals and upended expectations. How did a year that began with President Biden's agenda seemingly in shambles and with a record number of bipartisan accomplishments? How did a year that started with Donald Trump firmly in control of the GOP finish with more rivals than ever, ready to challenge him in 2024?

And the biggest twist of all, how did the party in power overcome raging inflation and unpopular president and an angry electorate to notch a historically good midterm performance?

Here is how 2022 is closing out from both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue.


BIDEN: For months and months, all of you urged the press and the pundits, was it Democrats are facing a disaster. Remember that? And all those polls, all those polls, God love them, you know? Historic losses around the way. Giant red wave. Folks, that didn't happen.

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): Remember in the House, they don't give gavels out by small medium in large. They just give you the gavel. We're going to be able to govern.


PHILLIP: Republicans picked up nine House seats, providing them with only the slimmest of majorities and Democrats not only maintained control of the Senate, but they also added a seat to their majority.

Let's discuss all of this and more with Amy Walter at the "Cook Political Report", Margaret Talev of Axios, CNN's Jeff Zeleny, and CNN's Nia-Malika Henderson.

Wow, what a year it was. And just by the numbers, if those numbers were not enough for you, here is just how historic Democratic expectations beating was. This was the best midterm result for the party in power since 2002. It was the first time since 1934 that every incumbent Democratic senator one, and the first time since 1934 that the party gained governor seats in its first midterm elections.

So, really, I mean, maybe they lost the House, but it's really a historic performance on Democratic Party's part.

AMY WALTER, PUBLISHER & EDITOR IN CHIEF, COOK POLITICAL REPORT: There's no doubt about it. As we go through this conversation, we're going to come back to issues and other things that happen over the course of the year.

But I want to start off with the structural advantage that Democrats did bring into this election, especially on the Senate side. They did not have to win in any state that Trump carried, and they didn't. They didn't win Ohio, they didn't win North Carolina. So, that was benefit number one.

Benefit number two for the House, which we've been writing about for quite some time, is the fact that Republicans started at a really high floor, they had 212 seats, that is so much higher than where we were in 2010, where Republicans were in 2010 or 1994 when they were in the one 170s.

So, the room for making these big gains was always difficult. Based just on the structural advantages, and let's be clear, we're going to talk a lot about candidates on the Republican side. But Democrats had very strong candidates and campaigns, and more important on the Senate races, they did not have any retirements. I don't think we appreciate that enough. That they went in with their incumbents who raised a lot of money, didn't have to come out of a bruising primary.


PHILLIP: All of those really excellent points, and really important. I have to say on the Senate side, I was a little skeptical. Because even though Democrats were defending a lot of seats that Biden won, he didn't carry --

WALTER: That's right.

PHILLIP: They were of the tiniest margin.

But here's the other thing that happened in 2022, the Dobbs decision on abortion. That really changed the landscape. Just listen to one Pennsylvania voter and how this played -- just one person, who might be a microcosm for a lot of other voters this year.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I feel like a lot of us are feeling threatened. I have a granddaughter. I'm a woman. And I don't really want people dictating to me how I can see my doctor or the conversations I can have with my doctor.

When it comes to inflation, I understand that it's something that happens. It's a wave. It comes and goes, it goes up and down.


PHILLIP: Okay, inflation versus abortion.


PHILLIP: Clearly, abortion had a huge role to play.

HENDERSON: It did. And particularly, in Pennsylvania. The candidate there, Fetterman really leaned into that issue. He very well knew that women, particularly, felt the way that that woman did.

Another trend we saw was young women, right? They were very moved to get engaged in this election, but we saw this record turnout it was because of young women were moved to get into this and involved, primarily because of Roe, because they're sitting there and they're saying, wait, I might have the less writes that my mother had? Given that they overturned Dobbs?

So, listen, I think going into this, when Dobbs first happened, the energy certainly was on the Democratic side around this. There was some question about, okay, would the Democrats really be able to message this because the Democratic Party sort of didn't really talk about abortion in the way that Republicans had learned to do that and really turn it into a politically potent issue for them? And it turned out, that in some ways, Democrats didn't even have to learn how to talk about it because they were these egregious cases that came to --

PHILLIP: Yeah, the stories could not be --

HENDERSON: The stories of women and young women.


MARGARET TALEV, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Some of the limitations also reminded us.


TALEV: When you ask someone, what's more a pressing issue nationally, inflation or abortion? They may say inflation. But it's hard to pull for the what-about-both question. And it really was a both question for a lot of people.

I think, you know, and also -- Gary Peters told my colleague, Hans Nichols, last summer around Labor Day, like -- as we are gearing up for the final push, he said, here's the thing, it's really bad to try and defend your majority in a middle of really hard economic times at the end of a pandemic and everyone's malaise. Though Democrats had working in their favor was that, a lot of voters really didn't like Republicans. I think that combination of kind of the Trump hangover, the pro-Trump candidates --

PHILLIP: And the Trump choices. I mean, the choices of candidates mattered in key places, in Arizona, in Nevada. It mattered in Pennsylvania. It mattered in Georgia, twice.


PHILLIP: It mattered.

ZELENY: Basically, any race in the country, as we look back at all the miles we've traveled and saw all these races, any race that Trump touched from endorsing someone in the primary, Republicans were likely to lose that race. The Republicans that did well were races that Trump did not touch. Like Georgia, for example, the governor's race with Brian Kemp.

So, I think writ large, all of these things certainly added together. But as you're saying, in Pennsylvania, I remember talking to voters there. They were very concerned abortion was front and center, because of the state legislature. Michigan, where abortion literally was on the ballot, no one expected, I think one of the biggest surprises, no one expected the legislature to go Democratic for the first time in some four decades. Not even Democrats, because of abortion.

So, there were voters out there, who may have told pollsters one thing, they won in the ballot box, this was a central issue to them because a lot of the candidates were unacceptable. They were Trump endorsed candidates who are pushing abortion. So, all of these things can affect together, they're all interrelated. PHILLIP: I want to get this in because I told Amy that I was going to

let her take a victory lap on this one. The key, perhaps the most infect important factor in this election, was those people who were, and, not really thrilled with Biden.

WALTER: Right.

PHILLIP: What would they do in this midterm cycle? Take a look at how the somewhat disapprovers of President Biden voted -- 50 to 44 Warnock; 47 to 44 Cortez Masto, the Democrat; Hassan New Hampshire, 72 to 25; and in Pennsylvania, 51 to 42 Fetterman.

I mean, that's pretty clear picture.

WALTER: It's a pretty clear picture. And it's so different from where we were in 2018. Those voters in 2018, they somewhat disapprove of Donald Trump still voted for Republican candidates by 30 points. In the national polling, you put up the Senate polls, in the national polling this year, those who somewhat disapproved of Biden voted for the Democratic candidate by four points.


So, this is quite unusual in part because I think you have a lot of people saying exactly what Margaret did, which is, this isn't a either/or election, it's a both/and. I am disappointed, yes, in the president. I don't like how he's handling the issues, he's not doing as well on the economy. In fact, people who said the economy was not good, not that it was really bad, but not good. So, the same sort of meh, on the economy, voted for Democrats by 62 percent.

So, one important thing it is want to say about the abortion issue, and Democratic strategist said to me, it really wasn't about abortion, it was about Dobbs. And by that meeting, we talk about the issue as this is access to a procedure versus a rolling back of rights. And that was a big deal.

PHILLIP: And Democrats framing it as a freedom issue. I think was critical to that.

We may need to call up James Carville and have him, you know, update "It's the economy, stupid", it's the economy and abortion and maybe democracy and all these other things.

But coming up next for us, how Joe Biden avoided a sophomore slump.

As we go into the break, a 2022 flashback, history made on the Supreme Court.


KETANJI BROWN JACKSON, SUPREME COURT JUSTICE: The path was cleared for me so that I might rise to this occasion. And in the poetic words of Dr. Maya Angelou, I do so now we'll bringing the gifts my ancestors gave.



PHILLIP: President Biden's year began with inflation surging. His top domestic priority is fading, and a war in Eastern Europe looming.

It ends now with a still growing economy, a long list of accomplishments, and a triumphant visit with the president of Ukraine.



BIDEN: I want you to know President Zelenskyy, I want all the people of Ukraine to know as well, that the American people are with you every step of the way and we will stay with you. We will stay with you for as long as it takes.

Together, I have no doubt that we'll keep the flame of liberty burning bright and the light will remain and prevail over the darkness.


PHILLIP: It was one year ago last week that Joe Manchin torpedoed Biden's multitrillion dollar Build Back Better plan.

But look at this list of legislative accomplishments that have happened since then. The biggest clean energy investment ever, Medicare and drug price reform, bipartisan bills on guns, veterans health care, and same-sex marriage.

And here is what his longtime adviser Mike Donilon has to say about the president's trajectory. He says there is a pattern where, when it comes to Biden, and that is for the longest time, he is underestimated, and for the longest time, people say how he is wrong, and that when the results come in, they say he wasn't wrong.

And that is, in a nutshell, how the Biden White House feels, Jeff. They have a little bit of a reason to feel kind of vindicated.

ZELENY: Without a doubt. I mean, the year is ending in a much stronger position that it began, and frankly in a stronger position than anyone inside the building hoped, including people on the Biden payroll, people who have been longtime admirers.

No one was exactly predicting this. The reality is it was a surprise. The outcome of the midterm election was a surprise to the president as well. It's so interesting as history is, it was the 50th anniversary of his first election, the midterm day was, when he was first elected as a senator.

And how many election -- midterms elections and presidentials has Joe Biden seen in the Senate, in the vice presidency, in the presidency. So he knows what history shows. But he defied it. Not necessarily because of his own doing, but there is no doubt that voters certainly can see some of the accomplishments he was making. So regardless of whether or not he is responsible for it or not, he does own these victories and it sends him into the second half of his first term in a much stronger position that he had hoped. So I think there -- now the challenge of the White House is to make sure that the country is feeling all of these things. Because they still aren't necessarily, he didn't exactly get inflation right he, said it was transitory, but the reality is they have done a much shattered job than they expected.

Now, it's implementation of transportation and the Inflation Reduction Act, et cetera. But for sure, he should take a victory lap over this holiday season.

Obamacare was obviously the driving issue, the implementation also, did not go particularly well.

WALTER: Well, and think about 20 -- go back to the Obama, his first midterm terrible. It was Obamacare that was obviously the driving issue. The implementation part also didn't go particularly well. And, in fact, he never ran one ad in that presidential reelection in 2012 that mentioned Obamacare, his signature issue.

Very different going into Biden's second half of his first term. They are going to be talking a lot about infrastructure, they are going to be rolling it out, rolling out the prescription drug plan in 2023, building as the president likes to talk about, building all these new factories to turn out microchips. There is a lot -- even if no legislation gets done next year, there is a lot they can talk about legislatively as an accomplishment.

PHILLIP: The theory of the case for the Biden campaign and now the Biden White House is basically: ignore the peanut gallery. I mean, take a listen to how he framed it.


BIDEN: Today, too often, we confuse noise with substance. Too often, we confuse setbacks with defeat. Too often, we hand the biggest microphones to the critics and the cynics who delight in declaring failure, of those committed to making real progress to the hard work of governing. Making progress in this progress in this country as big as ours clearly is not easy. It's never been easy. But with unwavering conviction, commitment, and patience, progress does come.


PHILLIP: A pretty accurate portrayal of how he feels, but he also got a little bit lucky. Look at the gas price drop in the second half of this year. Maybe it's a little bit of some things, maybe it is something's are totally outside of their control. But that is the most important and the luckiest thing that happen to Biden.

TALEV: If I could identify three things that would help bind turn the dynamic around, number one would be gas prices. If you looked at how they -- as they increased, his approval rating went down, as they decrease again, his approval rating went back up. Number two, his ability to re-frame this instead of a referendum on him as a comparison between him and the alternative, aka Donald Trump. But number three, it is Democrats coming together to support him, but it is still less in the book and Republicans played it well for the last few years, which is, stick together, literally no matter what.


What Biden encountered was like the interior of firing squad. So, he's kind of taking incoming from the Republicans and, not just from Joe Manchin, from the progressive wing, the beginning of this presidency. You know, they were painting him as a conservative or not in-step with the party.

As progressives came together to support President Biden, it helped him tremendously. It helped push all of those accomplishments over the line and I think, as you see control of the House flip, Kevin McCarthy facing that sort of chafe -- you know, we hear him talk about there is no difference between a small gavels or large gavels, there are definitely small gavels.



PHILLIP: But you make such a good point. I mean a lot of people were surprised by Democratic unity that has unfolded in this. They were not the most thrilled -- the progressives at least with Joe Biden as their nominee, and here he is, you know, kind of keeping the party together.

I do want to kind of point out one thing, we talk a lot about domestic politics, Afghanistan was a really low point for the Biden administration. And this moment with Zelenskyy this week is a triumphant moment for him, coupled with the Congress giving him a pretty big defense budget that will kind of silence the conservatives for the time being, they are kind of setting up a potential reelect that is a little on the hawkish side when it comes to foreign policy.

HENDERSON: That's right, and the Republicans are sort of helping him do that as they are questioning whether or not the United States should actually support Zelenskyy when these billions of dollars with weapons as well as they fight this incursion of Russia. It is certainly a turnaround from what we know of the Republican Party.

Listen, we'll see what actually happens with this House and whether or not they actually are going to try to stay in the way of the United States aiding Zelenskyy in this war, but it has been phenomenal to see what happened with Biden, I think that in some ways would -- help him begun his slide and we saw it really for about a year, 18 months or so.

And then obviously, I think what happened with the gas prices is key. And also he did something that I think a lot of Democrats questioned whether he should do, that was labeling MAGA as extremist and talking about democracy being on the ballot of some Democrats, particularly the moderates, felt like, oh, is he going too far? Is he sort of losing his bipartisan machine? But it turns out that that really resonated.

ZELENY: And that was his own instinct, too. That was the thing.

PHILLIP: Yes, and I think a lot of people criticize that but it turned out perhaps to be prescient. Real quick before we go, will he or won't he? The decision has yet to be made whether he will run.

Take a look at the polls, 42 percent approve, 52 percent disapprove. Still unpopular, 40 percent of Democratic-leaning voters think that it should be Biden in 2024, 59 percent it should be someone else. Does that weigh into his calculus, do you think, Jeff?



ZELENY: Because that is exactly what it would've been. He's decided if he's going to run for president five times. This will be the fifth decision.

It's always been difficult for him going back to the 1987. This was the most difficult, of course. But the Democratic party has never been fully behind him at the beginning. He could care less at that.

But as he heads off to Christmas vacation. He'll be spending some time in the islands. He will be thinking about this. But as of now, people around him think it's a go. We'll see what he says about that.

And he takes his time to make this. So I think we may be into the end of winter before he makes this decision.

PHILLIP: Yeah. And obviously coming off the midterms, fairly triumphant, and it really bolsters his taking on this.

But coming up next for us, former President Trump's year has been even worse than a lot of people expected, but how strong really is his hold on the GOP.

But first, another 2022 flashback, the first female speaker of the House is ending her 20 years as Democratic leader.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I have seen this body grow more reflective of our great nation, our beautiful nation. With great confidence in our caucus, I will not seek reelection to Democratic leadership in the next Congress.




PHILLIP: For the most powerful man in the Republican Party, 2022 was, by objective standards, a terrible, horrible, no good, very, very bad year. His handpicked candidates lost the ballot box, classified documents were phone at his Florida home, the January 6 committee referred him to the Justice Department for criminal prosecution, his company was found guilty of fraud, and he hosted two notorious antisemites for dinner.

The number of losses, legal setbacks, and missteps was in a word, staggering, and he met them all in a typical fashion.


TRUMP: If I fly over a state they send me before a grand jury. There's Trump, he's up there. Let's see. What can we do with a grand jury? I'm going through this for six years now.

A friend of mine recently said that I was the most persecuted person in the history of our country. It's true. When I thought about it, I actually felt that he may very well be right.

There's never been a president that's gone through the crap that I'm going through left and right. Left. You feel like a fighter. Left and right. Then you knock the hell out of them.


PHILLIP: Same script, different day. But there's no two ways about it. This year has been really a rougher year than I think even Trump and his allies expected.

And you can see the effect of it on his poll numbers. Question here for GOP-leaning voters is, should Trump be the 2024 nominee? Watch as the number drops from 50 percent in January to now 38 percent.

And folks around him are taking notice.

TALEV: They are taking notice and taking notice for two reasons. One is the party's losses, the party's losses in the midterm elections. The party's unrealized gains in the midterm elections.


TALEV: And the other is the prospect of an alternative, a viable alternative who could be as popular or more popular with the base than Trump. I think it would be really naive to say the Republican Party all of a sudden woke up and realized that he propagated a number of damaging lies that threatened the constitutional future of the United States.

It's really not about that. I mean, this was a slow simmering pot for years and the party stood by him. But the cracks that are fomenting are not just the result of the fallout of January 6, but the ballot box implications of it, and I think it's the combination of those things.

The bill is coming due two years after the last presidential election. But it has not halted his, at least, official declaration that he's going to be running. HENDERSON: I mean, 38 percent is still pretty high, right? I mean,

it's not --

PHILLIP: Maybe just enough.

HENDERSON: Yeah, it might be just enough.

But if you think about what happened in 2016 he is there and they have a field of, you know, ten others or so and they split the vote meaning that he could just run up the middle and grab the nomination.

He still has the hearts and minds of a good percentage of the Republican Party, 30 percent or so, maybe 40 percent if you look at that poll. You know, it is likely that he will probably descend a little bit more. How much he descends is an open question.

And who actually feels like they can challenge him, right? Ron DeSantis is certainly the flavor of the sort of Beltway crowd. At this point, he did phenomenal in his election in Florida. But does he have what it takes to take on Donald Trump? Greg Abbott down in Texas, maybe he runs. Mike Pompeo, the other Mike, Mike Pence.

So there is an array of people who would enter that race.

PHILLIP: A lot of Mikes.

HENDERSON: A lot of Mikes.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: And Trump hopes all of those people run because that is his strength comes in in that.

PHILLIP: I do want to just a take a moment because the January 6 committee just wrapped up its work really, this is the end. And I think a lot of people did not quite expect the impact that they would have.

But it had some impact if only to reveal the grift of it all. And that all these people knew that they were lying and just take a listen to some of what was revealed over the course of this year.


BILL BARR, FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL: I made it clear I did not agree with the idea of saying the election was stolen and putting out this stuff which I told the president was bullshit.

IVANKA TRUMP, DAUGHTER OF DONALD TRUMP: I respect Attorney General Barr so I accepted what he was saying.

CASSIDY HUTCHINSON, FORMER AIDE TO MARK MEADOES: I overheard the president say something to the effect of I didn't care that they have weapons. They're not here to hurt me. Take the effing mags away. Let my people in. They can march to the Capitol from here. Let the people in. Take the effing mags away.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When you were in the dining room in these discussions was the violence at the Capitol visible on the screen on the television?



PHILLIP: These are all Trump people. They're out now. And to me a lot of this really permeated to some extent, right, into the psyche of the voter if only to say that's enough.

AMY WALTER, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, COOK POLITICAL REPORT: It's chaos. If we learned anything from the 2020 election it was that voters might not have been enamored with Joe Biden but they wanted to stop the chaos that Donald Trump brought both literally and figuratively.

The other thing that I think we learned from the January 6 experience was despite the fact that Donald Trump had asked all those people he endorsed to back his contention that the election was rigged, that there was all this talk that after election day none of these Republicans were going to concede, they were going to continue down that path that Donald Trump had forged after the 2020 election. But for Kari Lake, they have all conceded.

We have not had runs on the Capitol. This is not a winning message.


WALTER: I mean on so many levels of January 6, the horror of it I think permeated into our psyche and for Republicans, when you said the grift, I think many even Republican candidates who were mouthing the words didn't believe it in reality.

PHILLIP: But Jeff, you know, you have covered Trump for a long time. And I do want to know -- I mean I'm going to just play this announcement moment. I want to know, I mean a lot of people are wondering, I mean where's the energy? Listen.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My fellow citizens, America's comeback starts right now.

In order to make America great and glorious again I am tonight announcing my candidacy for president of the United States.


PHILLIP: What are people saying is going on with him. I mean does he really want to do this.

ZELENY: We'll see. I mean that was scripted Trump. I mean that was -- he was told to be calm and was told to be sort of, you know, measured.

One thing I was struck by and it actually happened in Iowa which is where the (INAUDIBLE) rise essentially began at a rally just in the final week of the campaign. He was going there on his final tour. I was talking to a lot of Trump supporters, loyalists who were

standing in the cold for hours, asking if they want him to run again. I was surprised by how many people said I'm not sure. I don't know. They love him but they're not sure.

So as we end this year, his confidence is sapped. So people can still like him and they can still order his things, holiday wrapping paper, et cetera.


ZELENY: But they don't know if they want him in the Oval again because of the chaos and the options. As you said, now they have options.


ZELENY: This does not mean, now we should be very clear, midterm elections are a very poor predictor of presidential elections.

PHILLIP: Absolutely not.

ZELENY: So we have no idea how strong of a candidate he would be going forward. But he begins 2023 with sapped confidence, for sure.

PHILLIP: All right. Speaking of things that he might be excited about and that he's selling to you, this is what he has been selling these last couple of days.


TRUMP: I'm doing my first official Donald Trump NFT collection right here and right now. These cards feature some of the really incredible art work pertaining to my life and my career. It's been very exciting.

Go to right now. And remember Christmas is coming and this makes a great Christmas gift.


PHILLIP: Look, I mean there's energy there that --


PHILLIP: -- didn't see in the announcement.

HENDERSON: -- they're not really pushing about Donald Trump, sort of is it basically down to the grift, right? The grift and maybe a little bit of the grievance over 2020?

In 2016, you know, there was sort of the racism and the sexism but there was a message about the economy, right. there was this kind of economic populism at the center of it -- build the wall and all those sorts of things. But now it really just seems to be down to NFTs.

PHILLIP: Hey. I mean whatever makes him money which is the oldest of all Trump commandments. But coming up next, the biggest political winners and losers of 2022.

And as we go to break, listen to one of this year's winners, the man many Republicans see as their party's future.


GOVERNOR RON DESANTIS (R-FL): Now thanks to the overwhelming support of the people of Florida we not only won election, we have rewritten the political map. Thank you for honoring us with a win for the ages.




PHILLIP: 2022 was the year you couldn't make up even if you tried. So we wanted to take a look at the biggest political winners and biggest political losers. So we will start with the winners, Jeff.

ZELENY: I think secretaries of states across the country, by and large, who had to deal with all of these election lies, they are my winners starting with Jocelyn Benson in Michigan and Brad Raffensperger in Georgia. Democrat, Republican but they represent a class of officials who up until now, I've been covering national politics for a long time, I don't really recall even knowing the names of --


ZELENY: -- but now they were front and center in television ads, former president who are campaigning for them, et cetera. I think that they are my winners in terms of how they upheld democracy. Stood against the lies that were out there in both parties.

So I think it's important to look that it is not just Democrats. There were many Republican examples of this who said no, enough of this. Truth matters. So they are my winners.

PHILLIP: I mean I could even add Katie Hobbs, former secretary of state who won kind of in a little bit of an underdog situation in Arizona as well.

WALTER: I'll go next. I put Georgia television stations as a big winner this year. If you combine just the ad spending from 2020 and 2022 in Georgia it is $1.4 billion, in one state.

PHILLIP: Missed investment opportunity.


WALTER: I mean -- I know. And think about how little money was spent in Georgia from basically the 80s until 2018. To think about how much money has been going in there now is quite incredible. And there's no sign of stopping now that Georgia is officially on the battleground list and Atlanta is a very expensive media market. PHILLIP: And maybe an early state.

WALTER: And maybe, very good.

PHILLIP: But take a look at one of the ads that really made a splash in this cycle.


SENATOR RAPHAEL WARNOCK (D-GA);: You think Herschel Walker would want to explain what he would do in the Senate if he actually wants to represent Georgia. Instead, he repeats the same lies trying to distract from what we all know is true about him.

But I think Georgians will see his ads for what they are. Don't you?


PHILLIP: All right. Who doesn't love a great dog?

TALEV: There were so many incredible Warnock ads, by the way, like if he could just like bring that magic to the Senate I would watch every Senate proceeding of the next year.

PHILLIP: It is a very well run campaign where Democrats really did the things, they raised the money to run the ads and when from there.

Ok. Margaret, who is your winner.

TALEV: My winner is Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Ukraine's president. This is, I realized, kind of a glass half full versus glass half empty argument because I think when your country is under siege by Russia and more than 100,000 soldiers and civilians in your country have been killed and you can't get the long-range missiles that you want and you can't get into NATO.

It's hard to argue that you're winning but given how things could have gone, I think it has -- he has driven about the best outcome that he could out of 2022 to get $45 billion out of this congress before Kevin McCarthy and the House Republicans make it much more difficult ahead of a really dangerous year for Ukraine.

And to win the hearts and minds of many Americans and the people around the world.

PHILLIP: Let's listen to a little bit of his speech before Congress.


VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT: Our two nations are allies in this battle. And next year will be a turning point. I know it. The point when Ukrainian courage and American resolve must guarantee the future of our common freedom. The freedom of people who stand for their values.

(END VIDEO CLIP) PHILLIP: Talk about rising to the occasion -- former actor.

TALEV: Comedian.

PHILLIP: Thrown into the situation and meeting the moment. But Nia who is your winner?

HENDERSON: Brittney Griner gets to spend Christmas with her family today and it's because of this amazing team of diplomats in the Biden administration at the State Department, folks at the WNBA, folks at the NBA, activist who really shown a light on her cause and acted in some ways in unorthodox way, right, particularly if you look at some of the history of these hostage negotiations.

You are sort of supposed to lay low. You're not supposed to really bring so much attention to it. But that's now what her supporters wanted to do.

Cherelle Griner, for instance, who you interviewed, they really wanted to put the pressure on. It worked. She was there for 10 months and she'll get to spend Christmas with her family and she's going to play this season.

PHILLIP: All right. I have to tell. I mean I had a very front row seat to part of the incredibly bold strategic decisions that her team made to try to get her out. Jeff.

ZELENY: That was because of interviews that you did and others and that really caught the president's attention. You can say a lot about his team. He directed his team to do this.

This is one example where you can really see the experience of the office and really someone who knows the levers of power and things we can do.


ZELENY: I think some other presidents -- maybe a newer president may have been kind of afraid to make this move.

PHILLIP: A lot of presidents are afraid to do that.


ZELENY: He wanted to bring her home. So I think this is one of those things where public pressure getting directly to him worked because he is an empathetic guy.

PHILLIP: And you know, what's been interesting to watch is how this administration has now, especially this year in 2022, they have decided to bring Americans home.

This week bringing home, you know, Americans who were basically kidnapped in Afghanistan. In addition to Brittney Griner and Trevor Reed and prisoner swaps, there are about a dozen others who were freed this year. They have made a concerted decision -- TALEV: This is really a legacy of the Trump administration. This is

something that Donald Trump himself emphasized, he wanted to put himself front and center during his term in a lot of those I brought these guys home. But this was carried over and has become kind of a shifting dynamic in diplomacy to put more public emphasis and acknowledgement on bringing Americans home and (INAUDIBLE).

PHILLIP: Yes. and maybe a little less concern that it will backfire with voters.

But coming up next for us, our panel weighs in on the biggest political losers of the year like a celebrity heart surgeon in Pennsylvania and his crudite.


MEHMET OZ (R), FORMER PENNSYLVANIA SENATE CANDIDATE: I just was grocery shopping. And my wife wants some vegetables for her crudite, right. So here's a broccoli. That's $2. Not a ton of broccoli there. Here's some asparagus, that's $4.

Guys -- that's $20 for crudite and this doesn't include the tequila. I mean it's outrageous.




PHILLIP: Our panel is back here to talk about some of the political losers, the biggest political losers of 2022 from Nia. Who have you got?

HENDERSON: Celebrity candidates. They essentially got wiped out in this election. You think about Kari Lake over in Arizona. She had been a TV anchor and she wanted to run for governor.

Herschel Walker, football player. Excellent football player, terrible candidate -- got beat.

And then you've got Dr. Oz, Mr. Crudite himself, a fantastic heart surgeon and a really terrible candidate. People weren't whether or not he was really from Pennsylvania. He had many, many, many houses and you know, it was -- I think people went into this thinking, obviously these were Trump candidates and maybe they could do what Trump did too, right? He was a celebrity candidate. It helped obviously that he was a billionaire, it helped that he had a wife who looked like Melania Trump.

And I think these folks didn't really pass the test because voters wanted to know. Listen, you were a football player. What does that mean for you being a senator?


WALTER: Those were all states that Trump lost.



WALTER: So there was that. Nominating candidates who were like Trump was a Trump approach to the world in states that Trump lost doesn't seem like a great strategy.

TALEV: There was also an anti-elite dynamic going on right now, or a populist dynamic that Trump has inexplicably been able to surf the wave of but a lot of these other folks like Oz really fell victim to that if you don't feel relatable to a person who identifies as a working class voter, as an everyday person. If you talk, if you live in ways that are more lavish, if you talk in ways that are different, it is hard to relate to that person.

If you're not sure if someone's from that hometown, if you're not sure that they can understand your experiences it makes it difficult.

PHILLIP: I want to just take one moment for this now iconic Herschel Walker moment.


HERSCHEL WALKER (R), FORMER GEORGIA SENATE CANDIDATE: I don't know if you know vampires. I tell you something that I found out, a werewolf can kill a vampire. Did you know that? I never knew that so I don't want to be a vampire anymore, I want to be a werewolf.

We need to control the air. That was good air (INAUDIBLE) because China is bad air. So when China gets our good air, their bad air got to move, so it moved over to our good air space.


PHILLIP: Ok. I think voters also said in 2022 you got to know what you're talking about.

But Amy, who is your political loser?

WALER: I picked Adam Laxalt, the Republican candidate in Nevada. If you talk to any strategist on either party going into this election, Democratic incumbent Catherine Cortez Masto was seen as the most vulnerable, and Laxalt, he wasn't really a celebrity candidate.

Yes, he got endorsed by Donald Trump. Yes, he was part of the denial of the outcome of the 2022 elections, but he didn't lean into that as much as some other candidates did.

He seemed to be very much as close as Republicans could get to a sort of standard issue generic candidate. And even so, he came up short in a state where the Democratic governor lost.


WALTER: It speaks to --

PHILLIP: Volumes.

WALTER: -- it does. And to a really good -- I know this was (INAUDIBLE) -- but a very good campaign I think run by Democratic Senator Cortez Masto.

PHILLIP: Yes. I mean and despite really a significant odds, real concerns about Latino voters, et cetera.

All right, Jeff. Who do you got?

ZELENY: I think when you look at the beginning of the year to the end of the year, the biggest political loser, certainly one of them is Stacey Abrams. You'll remember she was in Georgia coming off of her failed bid the first time around. She was being talked about as a running mate for Joe Biden.

And it's not just the fact that she lost. This was always going to be a difficult race for her, but the "Atlanta Journal-Constitution" has done some really incredible reporting over the last couple of weeks.

She raised $103 million. She owes her vendors a million dollars. So some of her employees and aides who I've been speaking to say that the spending just went crazy. They rented a house in Piedmont Park for TikTok videos to be filmed and they just kind of got ahead of themselves with the celebrity, and didn't sort of stick to what brought her.

And you always remember like winning candidates, if they were run by Democrats or Republicans they are tight with the money. Karl Rove was, David Plouffe was.

And they seemed to spend a ton of money. It didn't help her necessarily. So as she moves to her own future, of course she'll have a second act, but she at least electorally is a political loser this year.

PHILLIP: So much to say there about perhaps laying the groundwork for a Raphael Warnock that she's (INAUDIBLE).

HENDERSON: That's exactly right. I mean she was on the ground in Georgia, believed that Georgia could be more of a purplish state, registered all sorts of voters. And you saw Raphael Warnock, really be able to capitalize on it.

She came close in her first race, ran a really competitive race and then going up against an incumbent just was very hard for her. What her next act is, is anybody's guess.

PHILLIP: Margaret, what do you got?


TALEV: The voters of New York's third congressional district seem like the clear political losers to me at the end of this year. These are the voters who live in the district of the current congressman-elect Republican George Santos. Looked like a very promising candidate for the swing district -- young, gay, Latino.

PHILLIP: I mean -- and now who knows. I just have to show folks this. I mean, this is where we are at least as of right now. He claimed he attended a college in New York. There's no record of it. He claimed he worked at Citi and Goldman Sachs. No record of that.

He founded -- or at least he claimed -- a non profit focused on animals, no record of it. He lost four employees, he claims in the 2016 Pulse shooting, no record of that either, and he even claimed that his grandparents were survivors of the Holocaust with no proof.

TALEV: So this is --

PHILLIP: -- extraordinary.

TALEV: This is a 360 degree failure. This is everybody's fault, and it starts with the candidate who has lied or been dishonest or been misleading or all of the above about basically his entire life story based on the reporting. But it's also a failure of his own party, which has a responsibility to vet candidates, ok.

It is a failing of his opponent, the Democrat who said that he knew about a lot of these problems and talked about them, but really, if he really knew about them, he would have been talking about them a different way.

It is a failure of the press. Our collective responsibility is to help people find out things that other people don't want to tell them so that they can make good, informed decisions so that democracy can work for them.

Everybody failed and none of this is working for the people.

PHILLIP: Should I know that the head of DCCC the Democratic Campaign Committee is a new yorker who lost his seat and we're just learning about all of these perhaps, I mean maybe the whole thing is just a big lie. We'll find out.

But that is it for INSIDE POLITICS SUNDAY. And don't forget, you can also listen to our podcast. Download INSIDE POLITICIS wherever you get your podcast. So scan that QR code at the bottom of your screen.

Coming up next, we have Dana Bash's exclusive interview with Doug Emhoff, the second gentleman of the United States.

But thank you again for sharing your Christmas morning with us. Have a wonderful holiday and a Merry Christmas from my family to yours.