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Inside Politics

Biden Sells 2024 Campaign Message At The White House Correspondents' Dinner; Pence Testifies To Grand Jury Investigating Trump Over Jan. 6; Trial Begins In Lawsuit Against Trump For Defamation, Battery; U.S. Could Face Default In July If There's No Debt Ceiling Deal; DeSantis Blasts Disney Lawsuit As "Political." Aired 11a-12p ET

Aired April 30, 2023 - 11:00   ET



MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The president makes it official, he's running for reelection.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We made a lot of progress, let's finish the job.


RAJU: Most voters disapprove of his first two years in office. Can he convince them he's still better than the alternative?

Plus, historic testimony.


ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: This is an astonishing moment in our legal and political history.


RAJU: Mike Pence testified before a grand jury investigating Trump's efforts to overturn the election. Are prosecutors moving closer to indicting the former president?

And DeSantis versus Disney.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): The days of putting one company on a pedestal are over.


RAJU: The would-be presidential candidate may have picked a fight he can't win. So why does need just?


RAJU: Welcome to INSIDE POLITICS SUNDAY, I'm Manu Raju in for Abby Phillip.

This morning, President Biden wakes up marking the end of his very first week as an official 2024 candidate. Biden launched his reelection bid on Tuesday setting up a battle which he must convince voter -- voters that he deserves to remain in the White House for another four years. He faced a different type of battle last night trying to convince, not voters, but the star studded audience the White House Correspondents' Dinner of his skills as a comedian. He did not shy away, however, from what is probably the biggest question looming over his reelection bid, his age.


BIDEN: I believe in the First Amendment, not just because my good friend Jimmy Madison wrote it.

I get that age is completely reasonable issue on everybody's mind. And everyone -- by everyone I mean the New York Times.


Headline, Biden's advanced age is the big issue. Trump's however is not. Sorry, that was a New York Times pitch, but I apologize.

You might think I don't like Rupert Murdoch, it's simply not true. How could it just like a guy who makes me look like Harry Styles?


RAJU: He also took time last night, as most presidents do at this annual event, to poke fun at his political opponents on the other side of the aisle.


BIDEN: Tonight, please be safe. If you find yourself disoriented or confused, it's either you're drunk or Marjorie Taylor Greene.


I had a lot of Ron DeSantis jokes ready, but Mickey Mouse beat the hell out of me got there first.



RAJU: Now, at the end of it all, he made sure to hit home at the central message of his campaign launch that the fight for the soul of the nation, he says, is far from over.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BIDEN: I like to make a toast, seriously. At this inflection point in history, let us commit, there will be a nation that will embrace light over darkness, truth over lies. And finally, finally, finally, restore the soul of the nation. Here, here.


RAJU: Now, let's discuss all this and more with our great panel here. Managing Editor of Punchbowl News, Heather Caygle. New York Times national political reporter and the host of the Run-Up podcast, Astead Herndon. CNN is very own numbers whiz, Harry Enten. And CNN national political reporter, Eva McKend. Thank you guys all for joining us.

Biden's campaign message here is basically, I'm better than the alternative. And look at how the New Yorker puts it in their -- in their headline here. "Joe Biden's 2024 Opening Argument: It's me or the abyss."

He's not talking about what he will do in the next four years, but he's trying to say, he's worried about his opponents. Is that going to be a winning message here?

ASTEAD HERNDON, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: I mean, that's clearly the strategy. Even when you saw the short of reelection video that came out on Tuesday, the very little we have to go off of what this campaign officially sees itself was very light on policy, even though this is a White House that thinks it has a lot of policy issues to run on, it was very heavy on that message about soul of the nation.

We notice how Biden sees his own legacy, how he sees his own place in this history. He wants to continue that through line that began when he ran for president the first time saying that he can heal the soul of the nation and that is because Democrats know their best argument to voters is not to fight on the merits of this White House administration, but to look to the other side of the Republican Party that is still in chaos.


We were at the DNC and they were very clear that the unity around Joe Biden is not because they see the kind of evidence on the ground. They know those approval numbers are lower. They know that there's some interest in voters are looking other places. They think it's because they have confidence that the other side is an option that will bring voters back to Biden. That's what's really clarifying this campaign. And that's what we see as the initial messages, me better than the alternative, better than the abyss.

RAJU: And, look, we have heard a lot about his age. It's going to be continued to be an issue throughout this campaign. He told reporters this week, he does not feel 80 years old, but listen to how some of the Democrats explained his age and it being an issue next year.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. CHRIS COONS (D-DE): I think Joe Biden is agile, is capable, his record of leadership both at home and abroad makes him eminently qualified. And we should be focusing some on the wisdom and experience he brings to the job.

SEN. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN (D-MD): I think people should judge presidents on their performance and their record, not on their age. And the president has a great record.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT): I think age is one thing. I think experience is another thing. If you believe in democracy, you want to see more people vote, not fewer people vote, I think the choice is pretty clear, and that choice is Biden.


RAJU: How do you think that plays with average voters?

HEATHER CAYGLE, MANAGING EDITOR, PUNCHBOWL NEWS: I mean, I think they're trying to neutralize it coming out of the gate, right? And like Biden said last night, Trump, who is the leading GOP candidate, is not that many years behind him, quite frankly, and people don't seem to make as big of a deal about it, because Trump has so many controversies.

So -- and like Astead said, you know, Biden use that line last night, he said, don't compare me to the Almighty, compare me to the alternative. And that is going to be their campaign. I mean, that's it in a nutshell.

And, Manu, you know this, but Republicans control the House. There's not going to be much that gets done on the Hill the next few years, so that -- there's not going to be a lot of policy for them to run on.

RAJU: Right. And we'll -- go ahead.

HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR DATA REPORTER: No, I would just say, look, we just came off of midterm election, which Joe Biden's approval rating was arguably lower than it is right now. And Democrats have one of the best midterms for a president's party ever or at least certainly in the last century. So why not run the same playbook?

Although I will say it does feel a little bit like deja vu, you know, which 2016, right, where we had two candidates with favorable ratings, well south of where their unfavorable ratings were. But I think one of the key differences that we see right now is if you look at the polls, that key group, the voters who have a favorable rating, have neither Trump nor Biden, who are they going for? Well, Quinnipiac University found that they're going for Joe Biden by 10 points. Now, it was why he was up in their polling.

RAJU: And you're mentioning the polls, just a snap of the numbers here. CNN poll of polls of Biden's approval ratings show that he has not been above 45 percent, really, since 2021. So, obviously, that is a huge issue. I do want to just ask you, Eva, about the -- how the Republicans are playing the age issue. Nikki Haley made some comments this week that got some attention.


NIKKI HALEY, FORMER GOVERNOR OF SOUTH CAROLINA: I think that we can all be very clear and say with a matter of fact that if you vote for Joe Biden, you really are counting on a President Harris, because the idea that he would make it until 86 years old is not -- is not something that I think is likely.


RAJU: So she said, making it to 86 years old is not something that I think is likely. But according to NBC poll, 48 percent say that the people who don't want Biden run site age is a major issue here. But is there a risk of taking it too far?

EVA MCKEND, CNN NATIONAL REPORTER: Yes. And certainly in framing it in those crass terms that she did, I think, could be viewed by some voters as problematic. But I also think -- look, you can't outrun the realities of visibly aging, it's going to be something he has to contend with. But I don't think that we should diminish the fact that voters are somewhat sophisticated. So the Democrats are going to be supporting President Biden.

It's not so much about him all the time. They know his age, they know his vulnerabilities. It is about using him as a vehicle to accomplish a whole host of issues. So that's what you cannot forget in this election. Republicans will want to talk all about age, but that's not the only factor.

RAJU: And, look, underlying all this will be Vice President Harris, obviously, something would happen, she would be president, said what her. She's going to be an issue throughout this campaign.

In the -- it was interesting, in the announcement video, 2024 announcement video from last week, three minutes long, this video, 15 appearances of Kamala Harris in this video. That was a -- it was interesting. You know, she doesn't have the greatest favorability ratings herself, but they're highlighting her. What do you make of that?

HERNDON: I mean, I think it's to the same point. They've come out on this age issue early, they've come out on another vulnerability early. They know that she has been someone who has faced questions about whether she was a drag on the ticket. And you see Democrats doing a kind of proactive defense of that. That's not only including her in the campaign.

I think you saw folks mentioning that yesterday kind of framing her as underestimated of a former chief of staff claimed made that argument this week. This is something they're going to speak directly about and this is going to be a runway for the vice president to try to flip that narrative as you see her calling out more on the campaign trail. [11:10:05]

I do think Republicans are going to try to make the argument, maybe more suddenly than Nikki Haley did but that would have tried to make the vice president a larger issue on the campaign trail. The onus will be on the vice president to really answer some of those questions that swirled around her during the presidential campaign. So she can be a leader and then galvanized her for the Democratic Party.

I remember when she was chosen, the Joe Biden campaign was saying that she would be someone who would boost them with young people, would boost them with women, would boost them with all these types of groups. We haven't really seen that come to fruition, but I think it's kind of a time in the window this summer, as they move into the campaign where the spotlight will be on her, to see if she can turn some of that narrative around.

MCKEND: This town -- this town is really tough on her and she is, I think, scrutinizes well established now more than any vice president that we can remember. But I think that that is a really Washington conversation.

You bring the vice president to any campus, any HBCU campus. And it really animates those folks. And those are the core constituencies that they are going to have to get engaged and to turn out and vote.

RAJU: And Biden has been struggling with black voters. How do you -- how does Kamala Harris playing a general election?

ENTEN: I mean, look, I don't tend -- granted with Biden's age, you know, maybe a vice president plays more than it normally does. But the fact is people vote for the top of the ticket, they don't vote for the bottom of the ticket.

There. You know, Dan Quayle had the lowest favorable ratings pretty much for any VP. And I don't recall people saying in 1992, oh, Dan Quayle is the reason that George H.W. Bush is trailing, and then ultimately lost. I've just also note in terms of Nikki Haley's comment, it's factually false. You know, we have actuary tables. And it turns out that Joe Biden is expected to live a past 86 years old. So it's not only crass, it's wrong.

RAJU: Yes. Well, there you go. That's why you're the data whiz. But also the data about Joe Biden and how much enthusiasm or lack thereof within the Democratic Party.

Check out this poll from Fox News from just a few days ago, about his only two declared candidates here in the race. Robert Kennedy Jr. has 19 percent in this race. Marianne Williamson at nine percent. So these candidates, obviously, the chance of defeating him in a primary, very, very, very small, but still pulling in that 28 percent of the vote.

CAYGLE: Yes. I was talking to Harry about this. I mean, the numbers to me, I'm not a pollster, seem a little nutty, right, you know, it's like, do they -- are these credible polls, and he can get more into that. But I think like Eva said earlier, in many ways, Biden is a vessel for Democrats to accomplish the things that they want to accomplish. He's a nice steady hand. And they may not be that excited about him overall but, you know, they see him as continuity. And that's really important for a lot of people right now.

And one more thing on Harris I wanted to hit on, I think the White House has finally given her a platform and a portfolio abortion rights, gun rights, she flew down to Tennessee that she feels comfortable with and that she is very good at promoting and talking about.

I mean, we think back to the early days of the administration, she was supposed to solve the border crisis. I mean, who can even do that, right? That's a very thankless task. So I think that she is also really coming into her own.

RAJU: Yes. They gave her a difficult task at voting rights, things that were very difficult didn't -- they didn't pass the legislation in the Senate. We'll see if that has any impact whatsoever in the campaign trail.

But next for us, a history making moment. Former vice president Pence testifies about his former boss, but what exactly did he say? That is next.



RAJU: It's a scene out of a Tom Clancy novel. A former vice president makes history by testifying against his ex-boss before a criminal grand jury. But this is not fiction. It's actually the stunning reality of the Trump era. And Mike Pence spent more than five hours on Thursday answering questions under oath about his discussions with then president Donald Trump in the days leading up to January 6. Those conversations have been of keen interest to prosecutors probing Trump's efforts to overturn the election, as Pence could be a star witness in any potential future trial.

CNN's legal analyst, Elliot Williams, joins us for this part of the discussion. And, Elliot, why don't you just give us your view of the significance of this kind of testimony and history making nature of it?

ELLIOT WILLIAMS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, there's -- so there's two sides of it. There's -- its history making and that you have a vice president of the United States submitting to the criminal justice system in some way. He has a testimony -- testifying as a witness just like any other, that's a big deal. And we lose sight of how profound some of these moments are, given that we have so many of them day after day after day it seems.

On the other hand, the grand jury is about as mundane a process as any legal one. There's not a lot of pomp and circumstance, the grand jury, it's literally like going to the DMV and happens every single day in courtrooms or courthouses across the country.

And we can't forget that. He's still, at the end of the day, just a witness. Now, one with a very important job and with a lot of proximity to somebody who is being investigated, possibly, by the Justice Department, but he's still just a witness providing testimony just like anybody else, just like an eyewitness or a guy who might have been cleaning Mar-a-Lago or anything else, testimony about the things that they saw or heard.

RAJU: And that he has sort of downplayed his what he has known as discussions with Donald Trump. This is how Mike Pence has discussed his interactions with the former president.


MIKE PENCE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I obviously have nothing to hide. I've been speaking about those days, writing about them extensively over the last two years.

But I have nothing to hide. I've written and spoken extensively about that day.

I've been speaking very openly and written very extensively about the events leading up to January 6.

The story that I've been telling the American people all across the country, the story that I wrote in the pages of my memoir, that'll be what I tell in that setting as well.


RAJU: But, Elliott, these are discussions that he has chosen to relay in his book and other interactions with the press. He'll be getting questions about things that perhaps he has not revealed before.


WILLIAMS: He certainly could answer questions about things he hasn't revealed before. Now, just for a little bit of quick background, he had sort of challenged the subpoena that was bringing him in to testify on account of the fact that well, he's the vice president united states serving as the president of the Senate, meaning that he -- some of his conversations should have been protected.

But he lost a big part of that, and now will be asked many questions about conversations he had firsthand with the president. Now, certainly that didn't appear in his book. How he might have been pressured by the president to take actions on January 6. Other things he'd overheard also wouldn't have appeared in his book.

So it's a little bit. I don't want to say misleading, but to say, well, look, I've written everything in my book. I have nothing else to say. Because there's a world of conversations that would never have appeared in someone's memoir and are certainly valuable in the criminal justice system. RAJU: Yes. It's just fascinating situation. And while all this is happening, there are other legal issues that Trump has had to deal with. It's kind of hard to keep track of all the just civil criminal things that are happening, including in New York office of civil lawsuit by E. Jean Carroll, who's a writer who claimed that Donald Trump raped her in a clothing store about 30 years ago. He denies that. This is a civil trial, not a criminal one.

But, Heather, how about the politics of this? There's so many issues that Trump is facing. Does this breakthrough in any different way to voters or Republican voters this really serious allegation from someone who claimed that Trump raped her?

CAYGLE: You know, I was actually surprised. We did not hear about this on the Hill hardly at all last of this week. I mean, of course, they were, you know, trying to pass this giant debt limit bill in the House and things like that. But I stopped and thought about it and it's like, there are so many controversies around him that do any of them really break through at this point.

And even that indictment in New York, I mean, maybe if one of these other cases, the Special Counsel cases, or the one in Georgia leads to some kind of charges, maybe that breaks through. But at this point, it's like, they're -- people just can't keep up. They can't keep their head above water.

HERNDON: I mean, and that's really clear, right? And that's the question of which one of these next charges I think for other candidates, I think for other Republicans. There has been some sense that maybe Georgia and something that was more focused on Donald Trump's actions with breakthrough to voters.

That was also positive that we kind of think differently about what is breaking through and not because I do think it's shifting Donald Trump's messages, right? This is the -- these kinds of legal questions have caused him to be more open about having a platform about weaponization against the federal government about retribution.

That language is so ingrained now in the Republican primary, they've kind of flipped and reversed the argument. We're not seeing a breakthrough in terms of Republican voters hold Donald Trump, quote- unquote, accountable or maybe flee him in polling because of that, but we are seeing a Republican base that becomes more hardened against the legal system, against the federal government. And it's now using that language as a means to round up their voting base.

So it's having an effect politically on the messaging. I don't think it's just having a support effect on Donald Trump. It's not caused him to lose voters. This changing the way he is talking about himself and what he will do if he is -- if he's elected.

RAJU: And just to get back on this E. Jean Carroll case, because there's pretty -- some pretty stunning testimony in a lot of ways and interesting the way that the Trump team has tried to push back against this. This is just an excerpt of a back and forth between Trump's attorney and when -- and E. Jean Carroll on the stand Tacopina who is Trump's attorney said, "You never screamed at Donald Trump or screamed for help." She said, "I'm not a screamer. I was in panic and too much panic to screech. I was fighting."

The Trump attorney goes on to say, "When you're fighting and being sexually assaulted and raped, because you're not a screamer, as you describe it, you wouldn't scream?" "I'm not a screamer." And this goes back and forth. She says, "You can't beat me up, beat up on me for not screaming."

What do you think of that legal strategy going after this witness making the serious allegation?

WILLIAMS: There's too, again -- once again, there's two things going on here. Number one, sexual assault cases can be incredibly hard to establish because as an -- unlike many other types of crime, you often don't have eye witnesses or video or things and it's really just the credibility of a witness on the stand.

And we have a long history in America of not treating victims of sexual violence well in courtrooms. So there's that.

Now, this is not a criminal case. And all she has to establish is what's called a preponderance of the evidence that there's 51 percent evidence in her favor that says that this assault happened. And so she's got a relatively low burden and hurdle with her. She just has to make it through this cross examination.

But, you know, to the point of it backfiring, I don't know. Because at the end of the day, cross examinations are often very aggressive. And Joe Tacopina has been doing this for a very long time. And despite the bluster around him, he's very skilled attorney. So we'll see how it plays. But I think the thing that -- if anything helps her, it's the low burden she has to clean this.

RAJU: And this is, of course, happening in the heat of the presidential campaign. There's 63 percent. There's a poll from PBS that came out last week saying 63 percent of Republicans would still want Donald Trump to be president again, even if found guilty of a crime. Just 70 percent of college graduates or 21 percent of independents.


You are down with Asa Hutchinson in -- who announced his presidential bid in Arkansas. He's trying to be the anti-Trump candidate. He's having a difficult time getting traction in the polls. Is there a lane like that after your reporting on the ground?

MCKEND: We certainly have to see. I think that Asa Hutchinson is an institutionalist in the way that President Biden is, you know, former House member to term Republican governor. I think in the Republican Party of the past, he would have really been a formidable, I think, opponent or a contrast to President Biden.

But in this Republican Party, that sort of seems to be defined by bombast. It seems like he is going to have a difficult time. But certainly his team thinks that there is a viable path and that there -- that the Trump party is an anomaly and that he isn't the anomaly, he is really representative of the brand.

RAJU: Right and we'll see there's still a long ways to go here.

OK. Up next for us, a debt default is looming. President Biden and Kevin McCarthy at an impasse, but who will blink first? That's coming up.



RAJU: Within weeks the U.S. could be forced to default on its debt, potentially triggering a devastating global financial crisis. Congress was first raised the debt ceiling by then. But here in Washington, the two sides are as far apart as ever on how to do it. House Republicans passed the debt ceiling like last week that slashes spending and reverses key parts of the Biden agenda. The Democrats took to the airwaves just a short time ago saying they will never go for that.


SEN. CHRIS COONS, (D) DELAWARE: The Republicans are demanding hostage negotiations, where they will crash the full faith and credit of the United States.

SEN. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN, (D) MARYLAND: He's not going to negotiate with people who are threatening to literally blow up our economy, right? Put more people out of work, drive up costs, in order to get their way.


RAJU: Top House Republicans say if Democrats won't negotiate, then that means their bill is the only way out of this mess.


REP. TOM EMMER, (R) MAJORITY WHIP: We have passed a debt ceiling solution. We will not -- House Republicans will not allow America to default on its debt. We showed that last week. The solution is in the Senate right now. Again, you pass that solution that solves the problem. If you don't like it, then I suppose your next step is to start to talk to our Speaker and tell them what you would like to change.


RAJU: Now this bill passed, it was an incredibly difficult effort by Kevin McCarthy, but he got this pass. It was difficult in the 2011 with John Boehner was speaker getting a bill passed with a much bigger majority in the House. They couldn't even pass a bill along party lines. He got this bill done, just a bit about what it does.

They would cap annual growth and spending at 1%. It would make it harder to qualify for food stamps and Medicaid, goes after a whole slew of Trump -- sorry, Biden policies, as well as goes after energy tax breaks and other energy issues here. What is your sense of whether this had makes any difference here in this standoff?

CAYGLE: I think it's a great question. So far, Democrats are not budging on this. You know, they want to separate raise the debt ceiling. And then, you know, we will have these funding discussions if you want, but we won't do them at the same time.

I think the question on the Hill is how tenable is this position? And we're getting closer to this next date, it could be in June, it could go as far out as July. In a week or two, we should hear more from Treasury and know exactly when that date is.

But if you look at McCarthy's politics menu, I mean, you -- he did pass this, you're right. But he had to reopen it at the last minute after bowing he would not to get the votes. And this was the easiest thing that he will do in this process, right? It's loaded up with Republican goodies. So I think you look at this. And if you're McCarthy, you know that this is not what's going to be passed into law. This is not the final bill, but you're thinking OK, I use a lot of political capital to get this across the finish line. How do I maneuver from here?

RAJU: Yeah. And in the press -- the White House keeps saying no negotiations over the debt limit. And the question is, how long will that position be tenable? A number of moderate Democrats like Jared Golden of Maine, told me on Thursday -- Friday, he needs to negotiate. Some people like Joe Manchin have been saying that for some time. People like Mitt Romney calling -- saying that they're going to stick with the House Republican position and demand this negotiation. Can the White House sustain that level of pressure?

HERNDON: Yeah, I mean, that's the key question around this. I do think we see an increasing amount of that moderate slice of Democrats track trying to bring the White House to the negotiating table. But that's not the -- that's not the party at large right now. They're really allowing -- trying to allow President Biden to maintain that position.

But as the cliff gets closer, as the prospect of a default gets closer, and the fear that Democrats will be blamed for any type of financial economic downturn that could come from it, that would will put an increased set of pressure on the White House to come to the negotiating table.

But I think when we look from that kind of the election side, where I say, this all kind of adds up to the brinksmanship, feeling that fake people feel about dysfunction in Washington. And that's going to be part -- that's part of the thing Biden said he was going to try to solve.

RAJU: Exactly.

HERNDON: There's a political pressure on him, there is a kind of narrative pressure on him to make Washington work. And I think as someone who has positioned himself as willing to talk to the other side, as someone who's positioned themselves as coming to the table, it might be a little harder for him to maintain that lane, considering it's a part of his brand to be able to come to the other side.

RAJU: Harry, how likely do investors see a default happen?

ENTEN: Yeah. So basically, the chance of a default actually happening is rising in the minds of investors, right? But what I will point is that the cost to insure government bonds is rising, but the chance is still less than 1%. So that's the good news. But it's been rising rapidly the last few days especially after the Republicans passed their bill. And I will note that we're now well past the chance of a one in 200 chance. So it's somewhere between a 1 and 100 and a 1 and 200 chance.


And I'll tell you this one, the idea that we're in that zone, yes, it's less than 1%. But the fact that it's greater than 1 and 200 does not exactly make me feel particularly good at this particular point.

RAJU: Yeah, correct.

EVA MCKEND, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER: You know, yeah, I will just say that, as I talked to voters, it's not clear to me that this issue really registers at this stage talking about the debt ceiling. But I think that -- I think we're trying to figure out which side is going to get blamed if we do sort of green towards an economic crisis? I think both sides, I think both Democrats and Republicans are going to face the heat if they're tangible impact on people, if it changes the reality of everyday life for Americans.

Senator McConnell talking about another issue of brinksmanship, not the debt crisis, but formally when discussing the perspective of a government shutdown, he describes it as mutually assured destruction. And I think that it -- that is always the case in these kinds of disputes.

HERNDON: I think Republicans think they're playing with house money on that, though. They're looking at President Biden and say, if that economic downturn becomes something that's blamed on the White House, that's something that they would take because that is something that can shift his -- what he feels is a strong position heading into this year. One of the big variables is whether the economy stays the way it is.

RAJU: I just want to shift the focus just slightly to someone who's been central in all of this, was Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia. He's been calling for these negotiations. He's been siding with Kevin McCarthy, been meeting with Kevin McCarthy, of course, he's facing the prospects of a difficult reelection bid in 2024.

If he decides to run this past week, he got a significant opponent, Jim Justice, the governor of the state, who has a primary take on Manchin if he decides to run. The question will, how does Manchin position himself. He's trying to be a thorn in the side of Joe Biden saying he's independent. But listen to how one Democratic senator sees Senator Manchin.


SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL, (D) CONNECTICUT: Joe Manchin voted with us on all of the key measures that really forged a new era for the Democratic Party at heart. He's a Democrat, and he votes with Democrats. My guess is the overwhelming majority of time. We want Joe Manchin back in the United States Senate.


ENTEN: Oh, no, no, no, you know what Senator from liberal Connecticut saying that. My god, oh.

RAJU: That doesn't play so well to West Virginia.

ENTEN: I don't think so unless it's the 1992 election, maybe then it might play. But West Virginia has gone through a political transformation since that point. You know, I don't know if Joe Manchin is going to run for re-election. I think, you know, he put out a statement. I'm going to run for some office or something like that. Maybe he'll switch jobs with justice. And maybe he'll go back to being governor.

RAJU: He may want to, but look, the point Blumenthal is making he's the only democratic can win that seat.

CAYGLE: Absolutely. Absolutely. I mean, he's one of two Democrats up for reelection who are sitting in seats that Trump won by double digits, right? I think Jim Justice is probably cutting that clip as we speak, you know. But Joe Manchin, they've really given him a lot of latitude, and he's really cutting against the grain here.

I mean, he says he'll vote to repeal the Inflation Reduction Act if he needs to. He's opposed some of Biden's key nominees. He might oppose another, you know, labor secretary nominee. So I think Democrats realize, though, that they need him to win that seat. And when you talk to them on the hill, and I did this week, I'm like, are you kind of chafe by all of this? They're like, no, this is what he needs to do to win and as Nancy Pelosi says, just win day.

RAJU: Just win -- and Manchin has not made a decision yet on whether to run. He's weighing and he says he'll told me that he's going to wait until the end of the year and maybe January, we'll see. There will be a premier race in the fight for the Senate.

Coming up, the mouse fights back. The gloves are off as Disney sues Ron DeSantis in a dramatic escalation of their ongoing feud.



RAJU: The political saga starting Ron DeSantis and the Disney Empire is taking its most dramatic turn yet. On Wednesday, the much beloved company filed a lawsuit against the Florida Governor over his efforts to exert control over the popular Disney World Resort.

And court documents the company claims a relentless campaign to weaponize government power against Disney in retaliation for expressing a political viewpoint unpopular with certain state officials. DeSantis wasted no time firing back. And had this to say during an overseas trip to Israel this week.


GOV. RON DESANTIS, (R) FLORIDA: The idea that somehow, being pro- business means giving companies their own governments. That is not what a free market is all about. Last I checked, they're upset because they're actually having to live by the same rules as everybody else. They don't want to have to pay the same taxes as everybody else. I don't think the suit has merit. I think it's political.


RAJU: Look, this is not going to be an easy fight for Disney. First of all, they have significant resources, their market value is $187 billion. They're a company that's of course known to so many Americans, have a really soft spot with so many children and families. And look at a poll from the Reuters/Ipsos poll agreeing with DeSantis on Disney. The question overall, just 36% of voters, 64% of Republicans, 33% of independents. Is this a fight that DeSantis can win politically or legally?

MCKEND: Well, Governor DeSantis sort of thrives on these cultural battles. This is where he seems to be most comfortable. So I understand why he just won't let this go. But I do wonder about the sustainability of this argument, especially when you have your eye towards a general election and you're trying to clear Republican primary.

Yes, this battle is attractive to the base but what about general election voters? Do they really care about you going back and forth with Disney? And it does disrupt the thesis that Republicans have elevated so long that they are pro-business, that they have fidelity towards the business community.


Disney is one of the, you know, biggest employers in that State. Governor Hutchinson on our air this morning, alluded to that. And he said that he, you know, as a Republican doesn't understand it, because when he governed Arkansas, it was always an effort to attract and retain business.

RAJU: Yeah. And you're starting to see some of the criticism from the presidential candidates are going up against Ron DeSantis. Assuming he runs, we all expected that he will. But this is how Nikki Haley messages this earlier this week.


NIKKI HALEY, (R) SOUTH CAROLINA PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: South Carolina was a very anti-woke state, it still is. And if Disney would like to move their hundreds of thousands of jobs to South Carolina and bring the billions of dollars with them, I'll let them know, I'll be happy to meet them in South Carolina and introduce them to the governor and the legislature that would -- that would welcome it.


RAJU: So Harry, where are Republican voters? Are they within the Haley view of the role or the DeSantis view of the role?

ENTEN: I mean, look, you mentioned that poll from Reuters/Ipsos, which showed that the majority of Republicans do agree with Ron DeSantis on Disney. But there's still a sizable portion 1/3 of the Republican electorate. That actually disagrees with Ron DeSantis. And if you look at the Republican primary polling over the last few months, you know, we were talking about that Fox News poll earlier. You know, back in February, Ron DeSantis, was trailing from by 15 points. Now he's trailing him by 32 points.

Ron DeSantis at this particular point, and that Fox News poll was polling in the low 20s. He was polling right near RFK, Jr. was on the Democratic side. I do not think that is an enviable position to be polling near somebody who spouts out conspiracy theories about vaccines.

And here's the other thing that I will note, you know, we're talking about that general election, right? Look at the Reuters/Ipsos poll. Last month, what we saw was that DeSantis was pulling better against Biden, and Trump was. This month, what happened? He's pulling worse against Joe Biden than Donald Trump was. So all of a sudden, your big argument towards the general election might be going adios amigos because you're deciding to run to the right and Republican primary and it's not working anyway.

RAJU: What's interesting is that DeSantis' allies, Super PAC have been going after Nikki Haley and trying to essentially carve going after her, suggestion as an alternative to Trump. This is a tweet from one of the super PACs going after Haley calling her Nikki Mouse. But why -- what's your take of this effort to punch bad Haley?

HERNDON: Yeah, I mean, I think it's to Harry's point. There is the general election problem that DeSantis has walked into, the fact that his electability argument has been complicated by positions like this, like positions he took on abortion that might be in line with the primary but disconnected from the general.

But there's also a shorter-term problem, which is that this issue has put him on the defensive in the last three months, he has fallen, even among the Republican electorate coming out of the midterms, he was kind of a vessel for anti-Trumpness in the Republican Party, that kind of feeling that they needed to turn the page. But as he has tried to, it's actually funny reminds me of the Roy Wood joke, he made about this yesterday.

As he tried to put meat to that bone, it's really created more problems for him. And as Donald Trump has attacked him more, he has not found a way to really reflect that back. Because the question here is, even if Republican voters do agree with him on something like Disney, does that make him more of a cultural warrior than Donald Trump already is?

Is that a reason that they're going to prioritize this over all of the other concerns that Donald Trump and grievances that he speaks to also? And so it's already something that has a general election complication, but it's not even clear that he's actually helping his short-term gain. And I think that's one reason why you see them pushing back against folks like Haley, because the alternatives, the anti-Trump alternatives, the Haley's of the world, the Scots, they're increasingly looking at DeSantis as vulnerable.

RAJU: And DeSantis is clearly and his allies are clearly taking steps for him to potentially run. Just look at the number of bills that they're trying to pass here in the final days of this legislative session in Florida, dealing with shielding essentially public records, that people could dig up, opposition researchers could dig up.

They're clearly concerned about possible dirt being used against him, things such as de-shielding official travel from DeSantis, visitor logs, things that could be off limits, clearly gearing up for something and concern about the dirt.

CAYGLE: Yeah. And I mean, they, you know, looked at, does he have to resign or not to run, right? There -- I mean, it's interesting, the state legislature is really at his will with this Republican supermajority, which I think he thinks will help him in the primary, as we've noted, but how does it help them in the general. And I just want to say this Disney thing is become such a distraction. Look at his big overseas tour that was supposed to introduce him to the world this week. And all of the coverage back here was about his answers to that.

RAJU: Yeah. And it's still going to continue as this lawsuit plays out.

All right, coming up next, the best of the laughs from last night's White House Correspondents Dinner. Don't miss it.



RAJU: It was not just the overcook steak that was on the menu last night at the White House Correspondents Dinner. There were also a lot of laughs. The head light of the evening, the daily shows Roy Wood Jr. kept the crowd in stitches. And no topic or political party were saved from his jabs. Take a listen to some of the best of the best.


ROY WOOD, "THE DAILY SHOW" CORRESPONDENT: Don't look good, though. I've been -- I've been watching and looking around all night. Y'all look good. You dress nice. You got the nice threads on. You got the jewelry glistening. Like everybody got a little piece of that settlement money from Fox News. And that's all I have to say about that. Because I'm not going to have Dominion on my ass.

I love Dominion. Matter of fact, let me just say right now my favorite voting machine is Dominion voting machines. When I go to the polls, I make sure it is a Dominion machine that I use. If your election needs the truth, put Dominion in your booth.

And overlooked purpose of tonight's dinner is to award scholarships to students who have shown great achievements in journalism, that's right.



WOOD: These brave young souls are the future of the industry. And I'd like to stop right now and congratulate tonight's top scholarship recipient, Arizona State Senior, George Santos. Oh, yeah, yeah, George couldn't be here tonight. He's auditioning for RuPaul's Drag Race.

We should be inspired by the events in France. They rioted when the retirement age went up two years to 64. They rioted because they didn't want to work till 64. Meanwhile, in America, we have an 80- year-old man begging us for four more years of work.


RAJU: All right, that's it for Inside Politics Sunday. Up next, State of the Union with Jake Tapper and Dana Bash. Thanks again for sharing your Sunday morning with us.