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Sources: Biden To Announce Reelection Bid On Tuesday; Poll: 1 In 4 Say They Want Biden To Run For Reelection; Tuesday Announcement Would Mark 4 Years Since 2020 Campaign Launch; GOP 2024 Hopefuls Slam Biden's Leadership; Poll: One Quarter Of Americans Say U.S. Heading In Right Direction; Christie: Trump Can't Come Back Because He "Failed Us"; RNC Chair: GOP Must Stay United During "Bruising" Primary; Supreme Court Faces Midnight Deadline On Abortion Pill Decision. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired April 21, 2023 - 12:00   ET



JOHN KING, CNN HOST, INSIDE POLITICS: Hello, and welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm John King in Washington. Thank you for sharing your day with us. Biden, Harris 2024. is ready to launch. The official reelection announcement will come in a video likely early next week. Even many Democrats are lukewarm about this. But team Biden is betting again, that Republicans are to remind voters why they chose Biden back in 2020.

Plus, all eyes today on the Supreme Court, a midnight deadline for a pivotal decision. Will the justices leave mifepristone on the pharmacy shelf? Or will they again feel a major blow to abortion access? And some brand-new CNN reporting on Trump allies' obsession with breaching voting machines and exclusive look at text messages as Trump allies look for a way to challenge possibly even decertify a Democrats win in a key Georgia Senate race.

We begin though, with President Biden and his plan to make the obvious official. The president plans to release a video formally announcing his reelection run. And sources now tell CNN the tentative plan is to do it next Tuesday. There is superstition at play here. Tuesday is the fourth anniversary of his 2020 campaign launch. There's also financial reality at play.

Those who favor keeping the announcement on ice are losing out right now to those who say it is essential that the president clear the legal hurdles for fundraising asap. The political challenges for the incumbent are many, voters of all stripes are worried about the strength of the economy right now and they are worried about the direction of the country.

And even many Democrats grateful Biden evicted Donald Trump from the White House worry, he is now too old to serve four more years. Numbers worth noting as we get to the starting line, just 26 percent of Americans overall want to see Biden back on the ballot. That is a slight uptick from January. Among Democrats, less than half. Look at that 47 percent of Democrats want to Biden reelection run, that though is better than three months ago. Team Biden is quick to remind us, and on this they are right that we live in polarized times and the president's numbers while not so great, or better than those of his 2020 opponent and the current Republican front runner Donald Trump.

CNN's Arlette Saenz joins us now from the White House. Arlette, we've been waiting and waiting and waiting, apparently the wait is almost over.

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, John. The waiting game may soon be over. President Biden has for months said, he intends to run for president. And it appears that those plans to formally launch are finally taking shape. His team is working towards a launching as soon as next week. Having the circle around that April 25th, that is Tuesday, which is four years after he launched his last campaign back in 2019. A very personally significant day for President Biden.

Now aides have cautioned that that timing could slip, but one senior democratic official said that they've reached the moment where quote, it is no longer helpful or necessary to not just say the obvious he's running. Now, Biden's team has been working behind the scenes for months, trying to sketch out what this campaign apparatus will look like.

One decision, sources say has been made is that the campaign headquarters would be based in Wilmington, Delaware, the president's hometown. They had also thought about Philadelphia, which he -- where was the base for his campaign last time around. But there are still more details about this campaign that we are waiting to hear.

One thing, advisors are keeping a close eye on is the need to get the ball rolling when it comes to fundraising, grassroots supporters and also high dollar donors will be critical and what's expected to be a very expensive race. And in fact, sources tell us that top donors from President Biden's 2020 campaign had been invited to Washington D.C. to meet with the president next Friday.

So, all of this is taking shape at a time when the president still has a very long road ahead and trying to court the public to come on board with his campaign. As you noted, there is skepticism not just among the general American public, but also within his own democratic party about whether he should seek a second term. So, all eyes will be on next week to see when exactly that formal launch will happen.

KING: The moment is at hand. Arlette Saenz, who was there every day the last campaign ready for the next one as well. Arlette, thanks for kicking us off. Joining us now in studio to share their reporting and their insights, CNN's Melanie Zanona, Astead Herndon of The New York Times, and Seung Min Kim of the Associated Press.

Seung Min, you wrote the story about the new AP poll, we showed some numbers of it. Overall, support for Biden reelection. In January among all voters, it was 22 percent, now it's 26 percent. So, that's up a little bit, among Democrats a 10-point uptick there. But in your poll, there are just voters who just say, thank you. Thank you, Mr. President, for getting Donald Trump out of the White House. If you're a Democrat or an independent didn't like Trump.

But listen to Jenipher Lagana here. "My problem with him running in 2024 is that he's just so old. I would love to see somebody younger like Pete Buttigieg or California Governor Gavin Newsom be able to get in there and handle things maybe a little differently just because they're a younger person." But the numbers do seem to suggest that Democrats while they wish things were differently, if it's Biden on the ballot in November, they will be there?


SEUNG MIN KIM, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, ASSOCIATED PRESS: Exactly. So, right now you're looking at just under half of Democratic voters who say they want President Biden to run again. But if and when he is the nominee, so you have Biden as the Democratic general election nominee and a Republican general election nominee, perhaps someone like Donald Trump. They say, yes, we are very supportive of his reelection bid, we will vote for him.

I talked to one woman in Georgia who said, age is the literally the only thing that's given me pause about President Biden running again for a second term, but you know, and she's a Georgia voter. So very important in national elections.

She said, if it's between Biden and Trump, it's going to be Biden. And that is a strategy of team Biden here. You hear Joe Biden saying all the time, don't compare me to the almighty, but to the alternative. And that's their strategy here.

KING: Well, so to that very point, let's show the map of 2020. Team Biden is convinced and the numbers at the moment, long way to go, numbers at the moment support them. Trump is the front runner for the Republican nomination, they are convinced he will win the nomination, and they'll be running against Trump.

So instead, when you look at the map, right. If you look at this map, that's a pretty convincing win, 306 to 232, when Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton by that same margin, he called it a landslide. He has a different view about the 2022 map.

But when you look at this map, right, it's the same five or six states. We're going to look at Michigan. Democrats feel better about that, than they did even in 2020. We're going to look at Wisconsin. Democrats feel better about that right now, given the Supreme Court, the abortion issue right there. Pennsylvania, where Biden was born. Democrats feel better about that.

You have the question marks in Georgia, maybe the question marks in Arizona, question marks out in Nevada, but they look at the map today. If it's Trump again, they feel pretty good. I know it's a long way to go, but that's their mindset.

ASTEAD HERNDON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. I would say even pass pretty good. I think if it's Trump again, on the other side, you have a Democratic Party who feels confident. And that's because of those states you're talking about. When you look at the midterm results, Democrats had really good governor wins in Wisconsin. Michigan, certainly splitting the state legislature.

They think that those things not only had a policy impact that they can tell a story in those states. They think it has a democracy protection impact. They think that, you know, they will have a folks running those elections that they feel like a can -- can kind of hold the line.

And so, when you look at where the Biden team is looking across the landscape, they feel good. And they -- even is with there -- within their own party. Because last year at this time, there was a lot of Democratic angst, not only about the Joe Biden's age, but just in general, whether he can inspire the kind of grassroots base around Democrats, that energy has totally disappeared.

And so, even to her point, even if Democrats aren't super excited about Joe, there is no energy to have a challenger in the chaos that will come with that. And that is what is fueling that confidence on team Biden.

MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: I obviously do think that Trump's continued strength in the Republican Party was another factor here, or Biden deciding to announce. But I will say, it's not going to be easy for Biden and his team knows that right?

He has to energize these voters who are worried about his age, voter who energize Democrats, there's also the economy, that's a huge x- factor. We don't know what that's going to look like. It's very fragile right now. So, they recognize that, and that's another practical reason why they want to get the ball rolling and start this fundraising operation.

KING: It's also interesting, this is campaign number 10 for me. Presidential campaign number 10 for me. They're different when you're running from the outside, you know, Biden was a former vice president, or when you saw Arlette Saenz standing there with that building behind you.

As you're an incumbent president, there are great assets in being the press the United States. You have the bully pulpit of the presidency. You have the Rose Garden where you can make an announcement, you can make news at any minute. You have a big 747 that takes you around the country, but you need to raise the money because you got to start paying for some of that as you start to do it. But I would call this a low key-ish announcement if you will. And I think that's because they understand the challenges of incumbency.

This is the calendar for the president next week. On Monday, he's meeting with the Tennessee 3. To Asteads' point, maybe you don't love Joe Biden at the top of the ticket. The energy, the Democrats believe they can tap the energy on the abortion issue, on the gun control issue, on these young activists standing up for what they believe in. The President meets with the Tennessee 3.

On Tuesday, we'd like to get the video, again superstition, you know, the anniversary of the president's 2020 announcement. Then you have the South Korean state visit. He has to do his real job. Then Thursday is open on the calendar right now. And then later in the week you have this donor meeting. It is difficult. Again, there are some great advantages. But there are also some challenges being an incumbent president.

KIM: Some challenges too just to see -- just that you saw what that schedule there. But I also think dropping it in the early part of next week, when he does have such a busy presidential schedule, could almost be by design.

He can say look, I am running, send out a video to his supporters and then go back to his day job, because they think that being able to govern the country effectively, being able to handle issues on the economy, domestic policy, foreign affairs is the way to sell to voters, at least for the first, you know, years or so of the cycle, that he should be reelected for a second term.

And I think it's worth reminding that even when President Barack -- former President Barack Obama announced in April of 2011, he didn't really get his actual campaign going until the following spring. I believe his first rally was the following May. So that's kind of the tactic right now of team Biden. Right now, they don't feel the need to go out there and actually campaign because he has a day job.


HERNDON: They also understand that the circus of the Trump indictments is going to continue if not intensify. And so, that is another thing that I think is on that mind, because they understand that throughout this summer going into the fall, this is going to be a political campaign where Donald Trump is still sucking up a lot of that oxygen. They don't think that's a bad thing.

And so, I think some of the rules that we have seen apply to campaigns, they've really shed, particularly post midterms. They think that they're dealing with a different type of landscape where voters can feel bad about the president, can feel bad about the incumbent party and still vote for them because of the other side, that is informing so much of that confidence.

I would also add that the switching the primary order really matters here because he has South Carolina coming first. And that means that he does not have to think about Iowa, New Hampshire that gives Biden also some little leeway on this too.

KING: Right. And we're going to take a close look at the president a minute, but it's a -- we call it the 2024 presidential cycle, but the Senate is also at stake. The House is also hanging in the balance. Democrats again think a presidential year is better for them.

Just getting it over with, it's been these quiet whispers. Is he delaying it because there's a possibility he won't run? Getting it over with does allow your wander the halls on Capitol Hill everyday, everybody else to understand, here's the terrain. This is where we're playing.

ZANONA: Yes. There was so much hand wringing before this announcement for Democrats, as this usual, wondering if you're going to run, what are his intentions? Is he capable? So, I do think that announcing early there were some days about, whether he's going to announce later early. I think it silences a lot of those questions and concerns on Capitol Hill.

KING: It allows everybody to figure out the terrain you're running on, which is interesting. And next, just to that point, a closer look at the president's current campaign strengths and his weaknesses. One plus, is that he has a clear path to renomination. Republicans on the other hand, are very early and what promised to be a feisty debate about you know who, Donald Trump.


CHRIS CHRISTIE, FORMER GOVERNOR, NEW JERSEY: One of the reasons I think he can't come back is he failed us.





KING: A president running for reelection is of course a president running on his record and what you think of it. Let's walk through as we wait for the president's announcement likely next week of his reelection, where he stands right now. This is the president's job approval rating.

This is an averaging by CNN of all of the public polls out there. This goes back six, seven months, August 2022. You see a few ups and downs. But essentially a flat line. The president hovering right around 40 percent approval rating. That's not great. But in these polarized times team Biden would say it's not so bad either. But you see that pretty much a flat line.

Here if the president, he can run in this election saying hey, look, during my tenure, we have as of today created nearly 13 million jobs. That's a big plus for an incumbent. The unemployment rate is at a 50 year low. That is a big plus for an incumbent president.

The problem. This is inflation. Last month, it was 5 percent. Now, team Biden would say that is an improvement over where we were a few months back. The question for the president is, can he get that down a little bit more as you get deeper and deeper into the 2024 cycle.

He clearly has liabilities. As discussed, he's 80 years old. He will be 82 on Inauguration Day 2025, but the American people want that. They want four more years. For this president, immigration is an issue where the Biden administration, the numbers are not working in its favor, and the Republicans plan to make a very big deal of that. Inflation and recession fears, obviously, issue number one.

Where does the economy six months from now. And nine months from now compared to today? This is a tough challenge. If you're an incumbent president. Look at this number. Nearly three quarters of Americans say, the country is going in the wrong direction. Joe Biden is asking for four more years.

When 74 percent of Americans think the country is heading the wrong way. It's hard for the boss to say give me four more years. This is a giant challenge for the president. One giant advantage at the moment, though, he has a clear path to nomination.

Listen to the Republicans, there are a handful of them. Maybe a couple more about to get into the race, trying to figure out just how to frame it against Biden.


DONALD TRUMP, 45TH U.S. PRESIDENT: If you took the five worst presidents in the history of the United States and added them up, they would not have done near the destruction to our country as Joe Biden and the Biden administration have done.

GOV. RON DESANTIS, (R) FLORIDA: He's weak leader. He's floundering around, no and no energy in the executive.

SEN. TIM SCOTT, (R-SC): The radical left and Joe Biden are literally attacking the ladder to success, I used to climb.

NIKKI HALEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We have to win. We can't take four more years of Biden. You have to have a new generation of leader.


KING: Our great reporters are back with us. I want to come back to the Republicans in a moment. But the number that just jumps out from the poll, 74 percent. So, three quarters of the American people think the train is going the wrong way.

KIM: Right.

KING: Right. And you're the incumbent president saying, let me keep driving the train. It's just how -- that now wrong track has been a bad number for a long time, to be fair to Joe Biden. The country is in a funk, the coronavirus pandemic, now inflation threats and all of that. The country has been in a funk for a long time. But at the moment, he's the president asking for reelection. How do they try to bend that number, Seung?

KIM: Well, I think it's kind of how they've tried to handle the economy issues and try to say a little bit more. We understand that it's painful. We're working to fix it. But also, it's good to keep in mind that a lot of the wrong direction voters sentiment comes from the fact that there are Democrats who feel that this White House is not doing enough.

And that's some of the sentiment that I also talked to voters this week, they say, you know, things are going wrong on reproductive rights. We're not being aggressive enough on climate, there's all these existential issues. And maybe President Biden is not the person for this moment. But I think at the end of the day, it does come back down to ultimately that binary choice. If it's Biden or Trump, everyone will call it, or they hope that Democrats will coalesce (Ph).

KING: And so, one of the challenges if you're a Republican not named Donald Trump, is to talk to a Republican base. The people who vote in primaries who like Donald Trump, you can find, you know, suburban Republicans who say can't do it again. But the people who vote in primaries like Donald Trump.

Chris Christie trying to make the point is, let's not do this again, folks. Number one, he lost the last election. He did not -- it was not rigged. It was not stolen. He lost. Chris Christie trying to make an argument to Republicans, Donald Trump failed you.



CHRISTIE: One of the reasons I think he can't come back, is he failed us. He failed us as president based upon what he himself told us in 2015 and 2016. He didn't present an alternative vision to the Obama vision on health care. To the Obama vision on immigration. He was going to build the biggest, most beautiful wall anybody's ever built.


KING: It's factually true. Donald Trump did not repeal and replace Obamacare is factually true. The wall was only partial, it didn't get completed. But can you make that case to Republican, that's a tough sell.

HERNDON: It's a tough sell. And I think Christie knows that's a tough sell. But it is a case that you have to make if you're on the other side. I mean, when you look at the other Republican candidates for '24, it's been kind of perplexing that they have been unwilling to do that kind of calling out of Donald Trump, when that is clearly the lane that you need to consolidate to overtake him.

I was at the RNC winter meeting in Dana Point. And one of the things I remember is, as we talked to someone who said the anti-Trump strategy is an automatic loser. And that is because to your point, the people who are Republicans, there are people who have left the party because of Donald Trump, become independents of supportive Democrats.

The people who are Republicans have only their primary, they like Donald Trump. That's the reason they have stayed. He's an organizing principle. And they take real pride in how he shifted the party from the George Bush, from the Mitt Romney into what they feel is a more working class or anti-establishment party. That's Christie's problem is that the policy isn't what's driving them. It's actually the fact that he up into the establishment that has made it's important to stick with them.

KING: And so that helped me. Who is this message for? This is the chairwoman of the Republican National Committee. She knows Donald Trump well. She knows that he is slashed and burned. But she also knows that he's the formidable front runner at the moment and that to beat him, you're probably going to have to go at Donald Trump very hard.

So, what she's saying is, look, Joe Biden is the incumbent. He does not have a serious challenger. Go easy boys and girls.


RONNA MCDANIEL, RNC CHAIRWOMAN: We're about to go through bruising primary guys, probably. We're about to have some rough and tumble time. But we have to come together as a Republican family, despite our differences. If we let rigid ideological purity tests define who can join our movement, or we allow personal animus to divide us, we will be no better than the left. And guess what, we will lose again and again.


KING: I read the kit let personal animus divide us. That is Donald Trump. That's what he does. He is the politics of personal grievance. But, but if you're the chairwoman, and he is, at this moment, more probable than anybody else to be your nominee, is that a message to everybody else, like punch gently?

ZANONA: I mean, Trump literally cut an ad of Ron DeSantis, using his fingers eat, but I mean, it didn't take very long pressed to get to that moment in the story. She's right, it's going to be a bruising primary. And you hear from Republicans privately that that is what they're very concerned about.

No matter who ends up emerging, that they are going to be bruised, that Biden is going to be able to stay under the political fray, that the scrutiny is not going to be on him. And it's all going to be about this messy bruising primary fight amongst Republicans, and they're just going to eat each other alive.

I'll say, someone like a Tim Scott, for example, he has a very different style and message. He's sort of this happy warrior. He's someone who could potentially benefit from that right? If DeSantis and Trump are going out each other, and then he's waiting in the wings, potentially. But I mean, it's a hard scenario to imagine that it's not going to turn ugly.

KING: Right. And on the one hand, you say it's very early. On the other hand, if you track these nomination contests, especially when there's a clear leader early on, they tend to hold on, they said hold on. So, the new Wall Street Journal poll today is really interesting. Donald Trump in December 38 percent, to 52 percent for Ron DeSantis. It flipped, it now flip.

In part of that is Republicans rally around -- rallying around Trump because of the indictment in New York. A part of that is though, is not so great performance so far by Ron DeSantis. And you can learn a lot. Barack Obama was a terrible candidate at the beginning. He learned his lesson and became a very good candidate.

The question is, can Ron DeSantis learn from his mistakes? Or is that going to stick?

HERNDON: I mean, that is the key question. And it's because he's been trying to straddle a really difficult line here. I mean, I think the position on Ukraine was kind of a first kind of blow. And then also you had his recent abortion ban, six-week abortion ban that come out of the Florida State Legislature.

And if you're Ron DeSantis, someone who's making an electability-based argument, mostly that like, I can take Trumpism and turn that into a winning coalition. These are real problems because the base that you need, the donors that you need, the folks that you need to believe in your electability see those issues, and they see the disconnect between the general election -- the general election populace, or even a lot of Republicans who -- the other 50 percent who aren't Trump supporters and are fine with supporting Ukraine.

And so, he's taken positions to give him credibility among the Trump MAGA base. But in doing that, it's brought him further from the exact reason he had that 50 percent support, which was the idea that he was the type of Republican who could still win.


KING: That's a great point. And to that point and the art of the segue, you mentioned DeSantis and the abortion issue. Right now, the clock is ticking for the Supreme Court. At any moment, the justices could drop a major decision on abortion access. We'll talk about that next.


KING: A midnight deadline now looming for the Supreme Court decision on a major abortion access question. The judges are deciding the fate of mifepristone, a widely used medication to end pregnancy.