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Inside Politics

Biden Goes On Offense, Blitzing GOP On Key Issues; House GOP Committees Spell Out Priorities: Biden, FBI and Twitter; This Week: Haley To Become First 2024 Trump Challenger; Haley To Become First 2024 Trump Challenger; Harris Struggles To Define Herself, Allies Tired Of Waiting; Haley's Comet. Aired 8-9a ET

Aired February 12, 2023 - 08:00   ET





ABBY PHILLIP, CNN HOST (voice-over): Biden on offense.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Their dream is to cut social security and Medicare. If that's your dream, I'm your nightmare.

PHILLIP: The president gets a political gift and runs with it. Can he keep the ball in his court?

Plus, Republicans play to the base.

REP. MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE (R-GA): He permanently banned my personal Twitter account. You were censoring and wrongfully violating our free speech rights.

PHILLIP: But is it what voters really want the new majority to focus on?

And gloves off. Governor DeSantis fires back after a new string of attacks from Donald Trump.

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R), FLORIDA: I spent my time delivering results for the people of Florida and fighting against Joe Biden. I don't spend my time trying to smear other Republicans.


PHILLIP (on camera): Welcome to INSIDE POLITICS SUNDAY. I'm Abby Phillip.

And it is Super Bowl Sunday. In just a matter of hours, millions of Americans will tune in to see the Philadelphia Eagles take on the Kansas City Chiefs. But, it won't be the only must be television battle of the week. Millions of Americans also tune in this week for President Biden's State of the Union Address.

And the country watched as Biden forced to Republican fumble on entitlements.


BIDEN: Some Republicans want Medicare and Social Security to sunset. I'm not saying it's a majority. Let me give you -- anybody who doubts it, contact my office. I'll give you a copy. I'll give you a copy of the proposal.



PHILLIP: Biden took that ball and he ran with it. Wisconsin on Wednesday. Florida on Thursday. And each stop, Biden dialing up the offense on these two issues, Medicare and Social Security.


BIDEN: Republicans seem shocked when I took out the pamphlets they were using about cutting Medicare and Social Security. I know that a lot of Republicans, their dream is to cut Social Security and Medicare. Well, let me say this -- if that's your dream, I'm your nightmare.


PHILLIP: The president also leaning into the Keystone of his pitch to Americans: a message of economic populism.


BIDEN: My American planned, my economic plan is for the middle and working class to get up every day and go to work, and bust their necks trying to get an honest living. We're building an economy where no one's going to be left behind. My economic plan is about investing in places, people that have been forgotten.


PHILLIP: Let's discuss all of this and more with our great panel. Zolan Kanno-Youngs of "The New York Times", Margaret Talev of "Axios", Rhonda Colvin of "The Washington Post" and CNN's own David Chalian.

So, this was the week, it seemed, that Biden got his grove back. The year started off a little rough for him, but the State of the Union Address, of all things, even though it typically is one of those kind of anodyne Washington moments seemed to give him a little pep in his step.

ZOLAN KANNO-YOUNGS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, one thing we've been talking about is the White House has been looking for a foe, a way to contrast their economic policies. In the absence really of Donald Trump being in the void, he founded with these economic proposals, limited economic reversals from some Republicans. But really, you saw him try to contrast that, and when Republicans came out in bantered with him, even heckled him, he took advantage of that. It was -- it was something that White House aides definitely celebrated.

MARGARET TALEV, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think he also just like had a good night, had a lot of energy, seems super --

PHILLIP: Yeah, the delivery was effective, which is not always the case with him.

TALEV: And it's not always the case with Joe Biden, right, to your point, I think a lot of White House officials and Democrats watch that and we're like, oh, if he could just do that all the time, the messages would go a lot further. One of the questions is can he keep that up?

But on that one particular night, first rule of the State of the Union is do no harm. And the second is, if anyone happens to be watching and you can harness public opinion around you, go for it.


But he clearly passed the first test and so far, as you said, taking the ball in running with it. I think the Medicare and Social Security issues to have real lasting power. They -- taking those off the table should help Biden in the early negotiations on the debt ceiling. They also give him between now and whenever he announces his run, a clear message to focus himself around.

PHILLIP: Speaking of the lasting power of Social Security and Medicare, I'm going to take you a long memory lane here. This is an ad from 2011. That kind of gives you a sense of how long this issue has been in the public sphere.


PHILLIP: That's a real ad of -- those of us who are old enough to remember, yeah, going into the 2012 elections.


DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: The Republicans won the 2010 election, the House majority. So, all of a sudden, Paul Ryan's plan -- at the time, he was the chairman of the committee that was going to oversee this. Paul Ryan plans all the sudden became a reality in a way that Democrats seized on, and headed into 2012. And no doubt, Barack Obama used a lot of similar messaging in terms of the protection of these benefits against the Republicans, as you said, sort of a foil and a foe.

So, yes, perhaps history repeats itself but I think Margaret's point is a key one because this serves both the short term and the long term for Joe Biden.

A year ago, when Rick Scott, the Florida senator, rolled up the plan to sunset these federal programs every five years, two things happened. The White House immediately grabbed onto it and said, we are going to run on this. Not just in '22, in '24, and this is going to become the Republican plan. And, simultaneously, Mitch McConnell put his head in the sand and was like what is Rick Scott doing? You're going to kill us there.

So, there was agreement on both sides about the political potency.

PHILLIP: Yeah, listen to Mitch McConnell really like slamming Rick Scott. These two men do not like each other very much right now.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): It's clearly the Rick Scott plan. It is not the Republican plan. It's just a bad idea. I think it'll be a challenge for him to deal with this in his own reelection in Florida, a state with more elderly people than any other state in America.


PHILLIP: Yeah, McConnell understands how damaging this could be politically.

RHONDA COLVIN, CAPITOL HILL SENIOR REPORTER, WASHINGTON POST: Yeah, McConnell has been around for so long, as Joe Biden. And they know that Social Security, Medicare, these programs are things that people vote on. And if you look at our electorate, the people who turnout are older voters, are retirees.

So, bringing up Social Security is certainly a very good strategy for either party, really. And I was reminded while I was covering the State of the Union this week how long Biden has been a part of Congress.

That is his second home, that's where he spent most of his career. He knows that body. He was able to message in a way that put Republicans in the corner and, you know, made them clap at things that maybe they weren't prepared to clap on, and made for a bad look if they did not agree with him.

ZOLAN KANNO-YOUNGS, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, NEW YORK TIMES: Let's be honest. One other thing the state of the Union did, to, he seemed agile. The one thing that voters -- that we get feedback on all the time is his age. And when he was going back and forth with Republicans who are heckling him, he seemed agile as well, quick on his feet.

PHILLIP: And that's really important because it sort of like a barrier to entry. If people are so distracted by the other stuff, they're not going to listen to what he actually has to say on the issues. They did roll out a kind of economic message.

I want to play a bit of how this message really is an echo of something else that we've heard in recent years.


BIDEN: My economic plans not investing in places and people that have been forgotten. Too many people have been left behind and treated like they're invisible.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: These are the forgotten men and women of our country. They are forgotten. But they're not going to be forgotten long.


PHILLIP: That doesn't seem like a mistake to me.

TALEV: Democrats have been seeing an erosion in their claim to the working class vote, especially the working class white vote, and to the labor vote. And there are two different brands of working class populism. You know, the Republicans policy pitches will be different than Democrats policy pitches.

But the idea that Democrats that Joe Biden is saying, I -- you know, this is his version of a feel your pain, talking about insulin, talking about fentanyl, talking about opioid abuse, talking about the ability to have opportunities, and talking about rebuilding manufacturing.


That is his populist platform that we're going to hear him running on again and again and again. It's going to be in places like Wisconsin and Michigan.

PHILLIP: OK. Real quick before we go, Super Bowl Sunday. Biden's not doing an interview with Fox News.

Chalian, do you have any thoughts on that, the strategy there?

CHALIAN: Well, there seemed to be so much back and forth about a between how that all played out. You know, I think it's always a missed opportunity for president to be in front of millions and millions --

PHILLIP: Yeah. I mean, these are -- we're talking tens of millions of people, yeah.

CHALIAN: Americans.

So, this is a rare annual thing that a president usually gets. And he's giving up on political grounds. That he doesn't want to sit down and play nice with the network that beats him up every day.

PHILLIP: Fascinating sub-narrative here in all of this, while you watch your football tonight.

Coming up next, blockbuster hearings on the Capitol Hill addressing some of the nation's most pressing needs


GREENE: See, you permanently banned my personal Twitter account. And it was my campaign account also. I am so glad that your sensor down. I'm glad you lost your jobs. Thank God Elon Musk bought Twitter.




PHILLIP: If you want to gauge the real state of our union, look no further than your kitchen table. At least that's according to House Speaker Kevin McCarthy.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA), HOUSE SPEAKER: Inflation has exploded. Mortgage rates have doubled. Working Americans after inflation and taxes have gotten a pay cut. And eggs, a staple of America's breakfast, have gone from a cheap source of protein to a luxury good.


PHILLIP: If you're eating your eggs right now, yes, you know, the cost of eggs is up. In fact it's more than double what it was just a year ago.

So what are House Republicans doing about it? They are holding a series of high-profile hearings to get to the bottom of not the price of eggs. Let's put it that way


REP. NANCY MACE (R-SC): Thank God for Elon Musk for allowing to show us and the world that Twitter was basically a subsidiary of the FBI.

REP. MATT GAETZ (R-FL): I want to show you about that we come not to trash the FBI but to rescue at the FBI from political capture.

REP. LAUREN BOEBERT (R-CO): So, I'll ask again, did you shadow ban my account, yes or no?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not to the best my recollection

BOEBERT: So, the answer is, Mr. Roth, yes, you did.


PHILLIP: So, this is the committee that's looking into the, quote, weaponization of the federal government and "Washington Post"/ABC News poll asked a simple question. What do you think about this committee? Is it attempt to score political points?

It's not even close. 56 percent say it's an attempt to score political points. I come back to the point that I often raised, which is that voters are not as stupid as people in Washington seem to think that they are. They understand what's going on here.

CHALIAN: Well, yes, I mean, it's pretty plain insight. Not the first time that Congress has formed a committee to just have a political purpose. The American people are hit to it.

I mean, listen. This is part -- we were talking in the last segment about Joe Biden's good week on economic populism or what have you. The other part of the equation is just the contrast of the Republicans are doing.

And so that also is working to the president's benefit right now because with a Republican House majority fresh off its yes more limited victory perhaps an anticipated, puts this front and center, as issue number one, not only did the American people clearly see it as political gamesmanship. It is so far away from the actual things that the American people care about. That means Republican turnout to sort of make up ground here as we go forward.

COLVIN: That's right. I talked to representative comer who is over there -- I asked him a lot of Americans are going to deem these hearings as retaliation politics. And o you feel that way? Are you going to do anything about it?

And he said they make no apologies for making this part of their strategy. They believe investigating the president is important and bringing in issues related to his family members.

So, to your point, I feel it's striking, as a Capitol Hill reporter to see them double down on this, knowing that the American people aren't really interested, knowing that on the other side of the Capitol, senators are doing hearings on the Chinese surveillance balloon -- and other matters that Americans really want to tune in about.

But right now, what we're seeing is Republicans off to a bit of a slower start on some of their plans. They're not backing down.

PHILLIP: Yeah, it is a little too transparent. It also is in such contrast to industrial work being done to the real work that's being done in other parts of the Hill. One of the highlights, call it a highlight, of this week's hearings was conservatives trying to make this claim that social media was censoring them due to undue influence from people in the government.

Just take a listen to this exchange that happened between Congressman Maxwell Frost and one of the Twitter witnesses in this hearing.


REP. MAXWELL FROST (D-FL): Earlier, you testified about a 2019 tweet that was about President Trump. I think it was from Ms. Teigen. What was the tweet about?

ANIKA COLLIER NAVAROLI, FORMER TWITTER EMPLOYEE: Please excuse my language, this is a direct quote but Chrissy Teigen referred to Donald Trump as a (EXPLETIVE DELETED).

FROST: Okay, free speech. What happened after Ms. Teigen posted her tweet? What did the White House do? What did the Trump White House do?

NAVAROLI: From my understanding, the White House reached out to ask that this tweet be removed.

(END VIDEO CLIP) PHILLIP: So this has all totally backfired in the spectacular fashion.

ZANNO-YOUNGS: And one part of -- I remember talking to someone close to President Biden. I was asking them about being increased oversight that would happen from Congress. And what they were saying is look, as long as we can keep proposing plans and frame the opposition as not being pragmatic, but not getting things done, then that's going to be our strategy going forward.


This helps with that. This does help with that in a way.

That being said, to say that there is not people that are nervous in the White House about some of the increase investigations, including maybe on immigration and potentially the homeland security secretary being brought down -- I wrote a story this week about the White House officials increasingly anxious about the time that it takes away from actually addressing real issues that are happening.


PHILLIOP: They hire lawyers to deal with. That the social media stuff is such a cul-de-sac in all of this.

I do want to get one more thing in here or on a bit of different topics. Huckabee Sanders gave the Republican response to Biden this week. I just want to play real quick what she had to say.


GOV. SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS (R), ARKANSAS: Most Americans simply want to live their lives in freedom and peace, but we are under attack in a left-wing culture war we didn't start and never wanted to fight. Every day, we are told we must partake in their rituals, salute their flags and worship their false idols.


PHILLIP: It just speaks to this question of what path is the Republican Party going to take here. They seem to be leaning into the culture war stuff, in addition to all of this sort of friendship conspiracy stuff on social media platforms.

TALEV: These are appeals to the base. Pew Research Center which is unparalleled has terrific mainstream large sample of research. Just in the last couple of days put out an updated list of Americans top policy priorities: strengthening the economy, number one. 75 percent of states are priority. Number two, reducing health care costs. That's why you see Biden leaning into insulin and some of these other discussions. Number three, defend against terrorism, that's why the border and China spy plane issues have such a residents.

You've got a getaway down that way is to get to two issues -- issues of race equity in America. That's 32 percent. They will be on the Democratic base side. I think in the issue of parents having more control over things or parental issues, down to 27 percent. The only major issue with lower interest and that is COVID, in early 2023.

So, these are -- these are issues that really appeal to the base when you're looking at what's left of the center or swing voters, or the broadest base of Americans is the economy, it's health care, it's protecting American national security.

PHILLIP: Yeah, it's really back to the basics on this stuff. So, we'll see how that unfolds.

But coming up next for us, former President Trump is about to get his very first official primary opponent. Who is going to throw their hat into the ring next?

Stay tuned.




NIKKI HALEY, FORMER SOUTH CAROLINA GOVERNOR: I wear heels. It is not for a fashion statement. It is because if I see something wrong, we're going to kick 'em every single time.



PHILLIP: So it begins. In just two days, the former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley will officially become the very first candidate to take on former President Donald Trump for the 2024 Republican nomination.

Others however may not be too far behind. Republican Tim Scott kicks off his listening tour in South Carolina just one day after Haley's launch, and in very short order, Haley, Scott, and former Vice President Mike Pence will all make their way to a pivotal early primary state, Iowa.

So, here we go. It has begun. She's first up out of the gate. How long will she be out there alone before other people join her?

CHALIAN: Look, other people are going to join in rapid succession, I think not -- I don't think necessarily the week after, but I think what you're going to see is, as this first quarter turned into the second quarter, at the beginning of April, those first two weeks of April. By the time we get to the middle of April, I think you're going to have a field of probably at least six of that point. It may grow to eight or more, overtime.

In addition to the folks who showed their. We'll see Mike Pompeo. We'll see Asa Hutchinson. Maybe Larry Hogan, the former governor of Maryland. So, yes, it's on. We're here. Now the question is, DeSantis later in the spring.

The question becomes how are people going to formulate the argument against the one guy who has already in the race, Donald Trump, who's had the field to himself but has not seem to have quelled any concerns yet about whether or not he's the best foot forward for the Republican Party in a general election in 2024?

So, watching how Nikki Haley takes that on, how much does she make that part of her argument? Or if she simply going to step away from that, make this generational argument and try to sidestep Trump on this? Because sidestepping Trump, we've seen, is not necessarily the most successful strategy.

PHILLIP: There is, Rhonda, there is an interesting "Politico" headline out this week that says why Donald Trump may not be Nikki Haley's biggest obstacle. They talk about how she has nobody in her home state. But it could be trickier in part because there's another person from her home state, Senator Tim Scott, who could be trying to make a run for it.

COLVIN: He could be. And, you know, recent times, he has been pretty quiet on the Hill. He does sit on a few committees that are probably going to be committees of note pretty soon. He might be able to use that as a platform to do some self to the national public.


RHONDA COLVIN, CAPITOL HILL SENIOR REPORTER, "WASHINGTON POST: But, you know, with Nikki she checks a lot of boxes and for her to get out this early, introduce herself to those who might not remember her, or remember her separate from being a part of the Trump administration, she is going to be a very attractive candidate for many people, specifically the moderates in the Republican Party.

It looks like she's building a lot of excitement being the first person, of course, she's also going to be able to start fund raising a lot. So it is going to be very interesting to see where this goes, who is after her.

It's all very interesting and might we mention, what's going to be the dynamic between her and Trump. She was certainly one of his main cheerleaders when she was in the administration. She didn't say much critical against him but I suspect that will possibly change.

PHILLIP: There was also some news about Vice President Mike Pence this week. He's been subpoenaed by the special counsel looking into Trump's various investigations. It seems like the subpoena was something that he would have needed really in order to cooperate.

How does that complicate whether he runs which is still a question and how he might be able to run against Trump?

ZOLAN KANNO-YOUNGS, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, "NEW YORK TIMES": It will be interesting to see just how much this resonates and really factors into whether this race, to be quite honest.

Polling data thus far when it comes to Pence, when it comes to Biden, shows that even for President Biden with his current situation with documents it hasn't impacted voter sentiment all that much. So it will be interesting to see if that's a prime factor also for

Mike Pence and whether he chooses to run here.

What I am watching also is what we've all been talking about here. The real thing hanging over this race is do you directly go at Trump or do you avoid him? And it seems like that really is a theme when it comes to the Republican Party in Congress as well as when it comes to this election.

PHILLIP: I mean you're not going to be able to ignore him. I mean I think that that is such wishful thinking on the part of some of these folks. But the one -- the other thing that's looming over all of this is the DeSantis factor.

We have yet another poll, Monmouth poll. Take a look at this. DeSantis is really the only one putting up numbers of significance against Trump. Even look at Pence. I mean Pence is at 2 percent in this poll. And by the way, we should say these are numbers based on sort of self volunteered from the respondents so they weren't sort of fed a list of names. So that I think says quite a lot in a potentially very large field.

MARGARET TALEV, SENIOR CONTRIBUTOR, AXIOS: It helps you understand why Nikki Haley wants to go now. It's a decision to control the narrative --


PHILLIP: Get a little bit of free air time in that space.

TALEV: The irony -- I guess irony is the right word is that she and Senator Scott who are both from South Carolina and therefore (INAUDIBLE) cancel each other are two of the clearest examples and relatively rare still examples of diversity inside the republican party. You have the only black Republican Senator.

You've got the only black Republican senator, and a female former governor and former U.N. ambassador of Indian American background whose parents have an immigrant story to tell.

Scott and Nikki Haley are what Republicans say they want to be talking about as they are courting new voters, and trying to expand the brand of the party and yet DeSantis and Trump between the two of them hold like two thirds of the base's attention right now.

And I think that's a real challenge for anyone else who wants to get in starting now.

PHILLIP: Ok. Before we go, I wanted to play a little game. I'm going to show you headlines and you tell you when these are from.


PHILLIP: Take a listen.

All right. "Talk in GOP turns to stop Donald Trump campaign. Wary of Donald Trump GOP leaders are caught in a standoff, so on and so forth. Any guesses?

TALEV: 2016.

PHILLIP: Ok. All right. You win.

Margaret Talev wins that game I mean it's going to be a repeat a little bit of what we have seen in the past from Republicans trying to figure out how to navigate this Trump factor.

CHALIAN: Yes. There's no doubt that it is going to be a little bit of a repeat. But here's one key difference. Donald Trump isn't as unknown of a political factor now as he was then. He is now in the context of being a twice-impeached former president who attempted to overturn the legitimate election results of 2020, and incites an insurrection.

That was not part of the fact pattern of Donald Trump in 2016. And so it is true that there are lessons to not underestimate Donald Trump. It is also true there are new facts and context to his candidacy.

PHILLIP: Yes. I mean critical point here but you can also argue his support in some ways have calcified just as his opponents have calcified against him as well.

But coming up next for us, the question that keeps dogging Vice President Kamala Harris surfaces yet again. Does she have what it takes to be the future leader of the Democratic Party. We'll have the details next.



PHILLIP: As President Biden prepares to announce his reelection bid it is questions about his expected running mate that have the party talking. There was new reporting this week by the "New York Times" that points to serious doubts among Democrats Vice President Kamala Harris' ability to lead them in 2024 or beyond. In dozens of interviews over the last few months, "The Times" found that quote, "Even some Democrats whom her own advisers referred reporters to for support of (INAUDIBLE) confided privately that they had lost hope in her.

The vice president took to the air waves this week to make the case for yet another Biden-Harris term. And also to defend herself.

KAMALA HARRIS, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think that age is more than a chronological fact to be very frank with you. We have a very bold and vibrant president in Joe Biden.

As the president has said, he intends to run and if he does I'll be running with him.

There's important good work that's happening and I take the job very seriously and I'm honored to serve.

(END VIDEO CLIP) PHILLIP: The reporter who wrote that "New York Times" story -- or co- wrote it, Zolan is here with us.

Zolan, there's no question that she's going to be on the ticket but these questions about her performance on the job won't go away.


KANNO-YOUNGS: No, they won't. And they are still there.

Look, we have been asking folks talking to people across the country, national Democrats or Democrats across the nation, before and after the midterms I should say and there's still the skepticism.

It is now after the midterms around -- look, the thing looming over all this is the president's age once again. Once he announces -- likely announces his re-election the skepticism is going to go from him, also to the vice president. Republicans will say, and we have been told this, a vote for him is also a vote for Vice President Harris.

That being said here -- look, in our reporting we also were looking at her assignments that she's had, her portfolio. The double standard that is applied to the vice president as well which is very real. But also the thing with Vice President Harris is you go from being a D.A., an AG where merit is valued, is prioritized, symbolism is (INAUDIBLE) when you are overseeing law enforcement.

Now to possibly a job in government where symbolism is valued more than anything, symbolic gestures included. It is been a little bit of a struggle there, that transition as well.

That being said, I wrote a piece after year one recapping her time and there has been a change. The Roe decision changed things. I know from talking to her team as well that she is trying to appeal to crowds including young black voters that she can galvanize and relate to that the president can't as well.

It will be interesting to see how it goes.

PHILLIP: Yes. You make a -- several very important points. I mean I think that her team will say the double standard is a huge part of this. It is there. Obviously the Republican attacks --

KANNO-YOUNGS: It's real. Yes.

PHILLIP: -- are in some cases explicitly racist and sexist against her. But the question of if there's been progress between year one and year two, is it enough progress? And the fact that we're going into a presidential year is what makes this more salient because they are now a team and Republicans are not just going to be attacking Biden, they're going to be attacking her, too.

CHALIAN: Yes. So the track record is trying to attack the vice presidential candidate or a sitting vice president in the heat of a presidential election is not all that -- is not a very strong one. People are still going to be focused on the people at the top of the ticket.

I mean it seems like progress is it went from a year of monthly Democratic handwringing stories about Kamala Harris to now maybe they're popping every seven months or so. That seems to be the progress here.

I was covering a press conference with Democratic governors this week who were in town for the National Governors' Association. 11 Democratic governors standing up in the front of the room and they were asked if indeed they all support Joe Biden running for re- election. And (INAUDIBLE) Phil Murphy, the chairman gets up there and says I can speak for all of us. We are 100 percent behind Biden. Everyone agreed.

Follow up question from our friend and colleague Jonathan Martin who says, but if he chooses not to run, are you all agreed on Vice President Harris to be the nominee for 2024? That's a hypothetical, Kathy Hochul said. Phil Murphy said I'm not going there. Nobody wanted to touch that question.

PHILLIP: The question about, first of all that's a hypothetical -- that's not an out of bounds hypothetical. But then there's also the question of will Biden sail to the Democratic nomination?

Listen to AOC talking to Dana Bash about this this week.


REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO CORTEZ (D-NY): In any chance of a (INAUDIBLE), we need to see what the plan is for our future.

DANA BASH, CNN HOST: And you're not ready to say you support him?

OCASIO-CORTEZ: Well, I got here through a primary process. And out of deep respect for that process, I never try to jump ahead of it. But I would enthusiastically support him if he were the Democratic nominee.


TALEV: Actually that is pretty close to an endorsement for AOC. I'll take that.

PHILLIP: Yes. I think -- not to downplay it. I mean she supports Joe Biden if he were to be the nominee but she is basically saying it is ok for there to be a primary process.

TALEV: But these numbers sort of cut both ways. You look at Joe Biden's latest approval numbers, right. I think it's ABC/Washington Post poll -- it's 31 percent, something like that. That's not great.

But you look at who Democrats would coalesce around if there weren't Joe Biden and like Kamala Harris is in the top spot. Yes that's tremendously unpopular yet there's no other Democrat who's the clear alternative to it.

And that -- yes does her unpopularity kind of hurt Biden? Yes. But also helps Biden in a way. It is sort of job security -- there's not a process really -- there's not a clear process by which an incumbent president who wants to seek a second term, and his running mate could be toppled by somebody else.


TALEV: And there is no person in the Democratic Party who Americans who lean Democratic have coalesced around other than Joe Biden. And that's why we are where we are.

PHILLIP: This is sort of a classic case of everybody is sort of like meh on Joe Biden. But then you ask them, who else? And they're like -- they got no one.

So that's why, you know, we are I think where we are where Joe Biden seems to be cruising into another re-election fight.

But coming up next for us, as the former governor of South Carolina is on the cusp of her 2024 bid we're going to take a look at how her past has shaped her present and potentially her future.



PHILLIP: Nikki Haley has been a presidential candidate in waiting for more than a decade. Ever since she was elected governor of South Carolina in 2010 at the age of 38.

But who is Nikki Haley as a person and as a politician? The "Post and Courier" in Charleston, South Carolina, took a closer look at all of that and their senior political correspondent Caitlin Byrd joins me now.

Caitlin, really fascinating story. You guys dug really deep into her biography. Tell us about her early years. She grew up a child of immigrants, a first generation American. Her family was Sikh (ph) in a very small town of Bamberg -- that I've actually been to in South Carolina.

How did that shape who she is today?

CAITLIN BYRD, SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: POST AND COURIER: Well, the fact that you've been there says a lot, because a lot of people might blink and miss Bamberg, South Carolina.

So growing up there in the late 1970s and 80s, Nikki Haley was born an outsider, even in her own hometown. I think especially about an example that we included in that piece about her entering the Little Miss Bamberg beauty contest with her older sister.

At the time she enters it, she wears this white, ruffly dress, she sings a song. And then the pageant organizers in Haley's retelling split the children up into white children and black children and Nikki and her older sister are standing there in the middle, totally out of place, and Nikki Haley is left holding a beach ball. But she's also left with this indelible impression about how the organizers thought, as she put it, in categories. And that sticks with her for the rest of her life. And it's very challenging, as she says, being a brown girl in a black and white world.

I expect we'll hear that, as well, when she officially launches her bid on Wednesday. But her mother gives her a piece of advice that I think really tells us a lot about her as a person and a politician. She tells Nikki, your job is not to show them how you are different. Your job is to show them how you are similar. And we see that in her messaging as a conservative.

PHILLIP: It is a really telling anecdote I think about how she approaches those tricky issues of race. And this came up as well after the racist massacre at Mother Emanuel Church in Charleston. It really raised her political profile. She led the charge to remove the confederate battle flag from the statehouse grounds.

I want you to take a listen to how she talked about it at the time.


HALEY: 150 years after the end of the civil war, the time has come. There will be some in our state who see this as a sad moment. I respect that. But this is a moment where we can say that that flag, while an integral part of our past, does not represent the future of our great state.


PHILLIP: She's really tried to thread this needle on race, not really kind of putting herself in one camp or another, but trying to kind of be a bridge, which I imagine in a place like South Carolina doesn't always rub people the right away.

BYRD: Yes. I mean, you said it, Abby, thread the needle. That is a phrase I associate very much so with Nikki Haley. The way that she's able to very deftly navigate these tricky situations.

And in that instance, you know, Nikki Haley couldn't do this unilaterally. She couldn't sign an executive order to bring that banner down. This took good old-fashioned politicking. This took talking to people. And she did.

She talked to statehouse leaders, she talked to state senate leaders, and I'm talking both Republicans and Democrats. She also spoke with Senators Graham and Scott and also Representative Clyburn, at that time. So behind the scenes, she's meeting with people, she's greasing the wheels, and she's bringing down this banner that the last Republican governor who had tried to do such a thing, Governor Beasley, he was not re-elected in South Carolina, and he's actually gone on record in other pieces and said, he's the last casualty of the civil war.

PHILLIP: Yes. And she talked about how bruising that last fight to take the battle flag down was. Before you go, gender here really looms large. She would be a woman running in a field probably of a lot of men, a lot of white men. How does that kind of tap into her biography, as well?

BYRD: Well, in many ways, this is the story of Nikki Haley as a candidate. Even though she doesn't lead with her race or her gender, it's always there. When she's standing on a debate stage, she's standing alone, just like she did in that Bamberg beauty pageant.

And it's something where she's actually really comfortable, being the underdog. So when we're seeing these polls trickle out and Nikki Haley is in the single digits, maybe low double digits, I look at that and say, Nikki Haley's probably comfortable with that. She knows what to do with those numbers. She knows what it's like to have to build from the ground up. And she's the first one who's jumped in against Trump, so she has the unique opportunity to start drawing those contrasts now.

But she has experience doing this. And it seems like in the past when she's been hit on things like having her name used as a racist dog whistle, to people raising questions about her faith and claiming that she was Buddhist or Muslim, those comments have just tapped off of her like she's Teflon and she endures and survives and it endears her to people.

And I'm curious if she's going to do the same thing this go around. I even think about 2016. She wasn't even in the race. She endorsed Marco Rubio.


BYRD: One of the best lines of the South Carolina Republican presidential primary, when she called for Trump to release his tax returns, he went and attacked her on Twitter, and said that the people of South Carolina should be embarrassed of Nikki Haley.

And she fired back with, "bless his heart". That's the ultimate southern (INAUDIBLE) -- I mean it means something I can't say on your program.

PHILLIP: Yes, exactly.

BYRD: And she wasn't even in the race.

PHILLIP: And when you talk to people close to her, they tell you that they are really looking forward to those moments. I think that that is one of her political skills, they believe, is really fighting back at someone like Trump, who likes to go after individual candidates. And she's going to be the first one out.

So she might be the first one to get maybe a nickname or something to that effect.

Caitlin Byrd, thank you for all of those really interesting insights. Thanks for joining us this morning.

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

Up next, "STATE OF THE UNION" with Jake Tapper. He's got three important interviews you will not want to miss: House Intelligence Committee chairman Mike Turner, Michigan's Democratic governor Gretchen Whitmer, and Republican Senator Mike Rounds of South Dakota.

Thank you again for sharing your Sunday morning with us. Have a great rest of your day.