Return to Transcripts main page

Inside Politics

DeSantis Cash Crunch Underlines His Early Struggles; DeSantis: Trump Made "Big Mistake" Spending Against Me; Pence Raised $1.2M In Q2, Lags Behind GOP Rivals; Backlash Pushes Jayapal To Walk Back Israel Remarks; Jayapal Back Pedals Accusation Israel Is A "Racist State"; Tlaib: You Can't Be Progressive And Support Israel's Gov. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired July 17, 2023 - 12:00   ET



DANA BASH, CNN HOST: Today on Inside Politics, reality fights. Ron DeSantis wants you to ignore his current predicament that he's spending too fast and too furious and he's cutting staff, and that seven weeks in, he can cut into Donald Trump's lead.

Plus, backlash, then backtrack, a top Democrat crosses the line into antisemitism earns a rebuke from her own party then revises her words. And does Joe Manchin want to run for president on a third-party ticket. Today he makes a splashy appearance in New Hampshire alongside a group that Democrats worry could bump Biden out of office. His motives remain a bit murky.

I'm Dana Bash. Let's go behind the headlines at Inside Politics.

Up first, disappointment has a name and right now it appears to be Ron DeSantis. As conservatives and excitement about the Florida governor's campaign has given way to some deep sighing. The headlines reflect that political playbook DeSantis in disarray.

The Washington Post's a long slog, The New York Times DeSantis shed staff amid heavy spending, look no further than his campaign finance reports for the evidence. DeSantis did raise a lot of money, but he's burned through a lot of it and there's little sign he's gaining traction outside elite Republican circles.

CNN's Kristen Holmes is in Arlington, Virginia, where we expect to see the governor and other Republican candidates. Kristen?

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Dana. We're expecting him just any minute now. Speaker kind of about to wrap up. I do want to note, when these numbers came out, I was with a number of Trump advisors. I talked to them about this, and they weren't getting, particularly when we talk about that burn rate and the fact that they didn't have a number of the smaller donors, that so many of these donors are the big ticket donors who had maxed out.

You have to keep in mind that just because Trump is leading in the polls, his team is still very concerned about Florida governor. They are watching him very carefully. And they know there are Republicans who are seeking an alternative.

Now DeSantis himself went on Fox yesterday, he defended the fact that he had raised all this money, burn rate. He said that they raised more than Biden that they raised more than former President Donald Trump. And he also sought to downplay those polls that show Trump leading. Take a listen.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: At the end of the day, the Bragg indictment, just elevated. I think there was a lot of sympathy. But then I think just dominating the media coverage. I had gotten a lot of coverage in the aftermath of the midterm election. We always knew with these national polls that that was a sugar high.


HOLMES: Interesting, they're showing that he believes that this lead is coming from that Bragg indictment that first indictment in Manhattan. Now I do want to talk a little bit about this event here today because it is very interesting. This is a large evangelical conference, and Donald Trump was not invited. Ron DeSantis is clearly the keynote the biggest speakers because candidate speaker that's going to be here later tonight.

We're going to see former Vice President Mike Pence as well, as former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley. Really these candidates are seeking to differentiate themselves in the former president. They believe that there is a section of evangelical voter, which of course is critical to Republicans who are looking for an alternative to Donald Trump.

So, we'll be watching carefully to see if they could make an impact with this crowd and of course, also talking to these voters about their feelings about these candidates.

BASH: Kristen that is very difficult to do. I know you're in a small room with a lot of people trying to focus on the speakers. Well done and thank you for that reporting. Appreciate it. Let's discuss this in more, CNN's Phil Mattingly is here. So as Heidi Przybyla POLITICO, and CNN's Manu Raju. Happy Monday, one in all.

OK. So, let's start with the money because the money does tell the story of the current state of the race. And let's focus on Ron DeSantis. And explain why those headlines that we showed are what they are. First just look at the top there. He raised $20 million, $20.1 in Q2. OK, that's, that's good. That's a pretty good haul. It includes only 14.5 percent from small donors.

We'll explain why that matters in a second, but just look at the green part of that pie chart. Money spent 39percent, so that's a really high burn rate. And then in the sort of yellow orange color, 46 percent that is what is available for the primary in the short-term, and then 15 percent of it is available in the long-term.

[12:05:00] Now, Phil Mattingly, as somebody who has, I mean we've all covered campaigns. But explain why this snapshot of this cash on hand fundraising situation matters?

Phil Mattingly: I think if there's two red flags, I think Kristen can hit on this with a great reporting in terms of what the Trump guys were able to kind of key on when they actually dug through the report. It's on the small dollar side, and then just the overall burn rate.

So, I less about what's already been set aside for the general election, because likely that's max out donors to both your primary and to your general election. So, wasn't money that is going to necessarily be fungible in a primary to begin with.

The burn rate in terms of the speed with which they're spending money, even as they're raising huge sums of money. And that ties together with if you do not have a significant base of small dollar donors, because small dollar donors and what they've become so invaluable for over the course of the last couple of cycles is you go back to them again, and again, and again.

And oftentimes, they don't actually know that they are constantly donating small sums of money. And so, when you tap out huge donors, and DeSantis is a very, very impressive large donor network. It's the small dollar folks that are going to maintain that type of pace. And when you have a high burn rate and a less than significant small donor base, you have potential problems in a very near future.

BASH: I want to play something else that DeSantis said on Fox over the weekend, about the fact that a lot of the money that his chief opponent, that front runner Donald Trump and his groups have spent, at least early on was to define DeSantis and not in a flattering way.


DESANTIS: I think they made a big mistake by spending all that money against me. I don't think it had its intended effect. And you know, we have a PAC, I can't control it. But I imagine they're going to start lighting up the airwaves pretty soon, with a lot of good stuff about me, and that's going to give us a great lift. So, we look forward to that.


BASH: Well, first of all (crosstalk) do you guys remember the popup video from VH1 where nobody remembers (Ph)


BASH: So, like if there was a thought bubble, it was like, come on, guys start spending the money because he can't speak to them. But you know, what he's also trying to say is that, don't worry, we're going to get there. The question is, is it too late? I mean, there are certainly examples in past elections where the answer is no, it's not too late. HEIDI PRZYBYLA, NATIONAL INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT, POLITICO: What did we learn from 2016, among other things, that if you're talking about Donald Trump, you are not helping yourself. And DeSantis is talking a lot about Donald Trump, that may be true that a lot of this money was spent defining him. But that's not to take away from the real structural problems in his campaign that go back, frankly, a couple of months.

Dana, I talked recently with a top donor in the Republican Party who said, look, it was two months ago that a group of pastors came into a room in South Carolina to meet the guy that they knew was going to be their guy, this alternative, younger alternative to Trump and they just left them cold.

Now, that's been a slow burning problem within the party as well, that they're starting to view DeSantis as just not as strong a candidate. It's not just that Trump has spent against him and he's kind of like, not had his moment yet. It's real problems with the donor base.

BASH: That's interesting. Sorry, Manu, I want you to come in. But as you're saying, you shouldn't be talking about Trump. Or when you're talking about Trump, you're not talking about the things. That is true. The flip side of that is that you have the Chris Christie's of the world who tweeted like, welcome to the party, because DeSantis is finally trying to get at. Trump saying the only way to get the nomination is to go right through the frontrunner.

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And look, there's a real hunger among a lot of Republicans for a different candidates. There is yes, Donald Trump has a sizable, vocal, enthusiastic, unmovable block of supporters.

But there are a lot of Republicans who are worried about all the vulnerabilities, criminal indictments and the fact that he has failed in recent election cycles, failing again, if he's the nominee. But not a candidate yet has figured out the right way to prosecute the argument against Donald Trump. DeSantis being one of them, suggesting that Donald Trump has not been conservative enough on key policy issues.

Well, a lot of voters just simply don't believe that. Rather than getting into more of the electability argument, it will be interesting to see that he is sitting down with Jake Tapper tomorrow, clearly a shift in his media strategy. What does that mean for his messaging as well, that will be significant if he wants to make any headway.

BASH: So, let's get the bigger picture of the Q2, second quarter fundraising and look at where the whole field is. DeSantis again, he did raise a lot of money, but he just spent a lot of money. There are couple of interesting points I want to make on these numbers.

Doug Burgum and Vivek Ramaswamy, they have a lot of money, but they also put a lot of their own money into their campaigns. Also just go to the very end there. And look at Mike Pence. $1.2 million cash on hand, $1.1 million. Now again, he got in it in June. So, he got in later than some of the others, but he's really lagging Mike Pence, a former vice president of United States.


MATTINGLY: The former vice president, but also somebody who has been kind of a central figure in Republican politics from his time. Throughout his time in the House. He was obviously in House leadership. He was also governor of Indiana. Like, it's not that he doesn't have the phone numbers of the people who give lots of money. And it's not that they're unfamiliar with him.

And I think the big question, we've often had discussions, hey, what's his lane? How does he break out in this primary, particularly given that Trump is there? And I think the other question comes, if he can't raise money, given his decades of experience within the party, within the donor base, all of those things.

How do you ever find a lane because I'm not totally sure you can finance even the time you need to try and find that lane if you haven't found it yet, and you don't have the money to do so, maybe that changes. But somebody who's been in politics for this long within the party and well known and particularly well liked in the party shouldn't have the struggles to read.

RAJU: And clearly Trump's attacks on Pence have had a real effect. I mean, he has been withering the criticism since Pence refused to break the law essentially and overturn the election on January 6, but maybe that has had an effect you.

BASH: Yes. He's in probably the toughest position because he's trying to be on Trump's coattails and then attack Trump at the same time. Everybody standby. Because first -- before we go to break, we want to remind viewers. Manu mentioned this CNN exclusive interview, Jake Tapper is going to sit down with the Florida governor and presidential candidate Ron DeSantis. That is going to be on the campaign trail. We're going to hear how he plans to take on Trump, that will be 4pm eastern tomorrow Tuesday.

And next, the top Democrat goes too far. What she said and why it matters, just ahead




BASH: This week, Israel's president addresses Congress. Today Democrats are at odds over Israel and when condemnation of his government crosses over into antisemitism. The chair of the Progressive Caucus Pramila Jayapal played to protesters of Israel at Netroots Nation. When she said this.


REP. PRAMILA JAYAPAL (D-WA): We have been fighting to make it clear that Israel is a racist state that the Palestinian people deserve self-determination and autonomy, that the dream -- that the dream of a two-state solution is slipping away from us.


BASH: That was Saturday. These are Jayapal's words just a day and a four-alarm firestorm later. She said, "I do not believe the idea of Israel as a nation is racist. I do, however, believe that Netanyahu's extreme right-wing government has engaged in discriminatory and outright racist policies. Let's get straight to CNN's Melanie Zanona on Capitol Hill. Really quick condemnation from the House leadership, Mel?

MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Yes, Dana. I would say lightning speed at condemnation usually takes us reporters hounding the leadership to get these sorts of statements. But that was not the case here, which is shows you how to have a stir these comments cause and how much heat Democratic leaders were facing to quickly rebuke what Jayapal said.

The top Democrats in House put out a rare joint statement, yesterday saying Israel is not a racist state. As House Democratic leaders, we strongly support Israel's right to exist as a homeland for the Jewish people. And on top of that, there's also a group of Jewish House Democrats who have been circulating their own letter to sharply criticize what Jayapal said, I obtained a part of that draft letter.

Let me read you part of what they said. They wrote, we strongly support Israel's right to exist as a homeland for the Jewish people. We will never allow anti-Zionist voices that embolden antisemitism to hijack the Democratic Party and country.

Now, most Democrats are refraining from directly attacking Jayapal herself. But all of this is coming as the president of Israel is set to issue a joint address to Congress on Wednesday. And several progressive Democrats have already threatened to boycott that speech over Israel's treatment of Palestinians. So, the Democratic Party is divided over Israel. Once again, coming to the forefront this week, Dana?

BASH: Sure is. Thank you so much for that, Mel. And let's go back to the table. You know, what's so important about this is that it's not just a onetime thing. This is a part of a growing movement. And in some cases, a litmus test. In some quarters of the progressive movement, that if you at all, say anything that is in favor of Israel. Then you are, you know, name your adjective against things that have to do with basic human rights and democracy.

And what is noteworthy is that the Israeli president, certainly is part of the Israeli government, but he has been somebody who has been trying to fix a lot of the problems with the Netanyahu government. And it is very, very complicated. The question is whether or not, and this is I've done a lot of work on sort of antisemitism for CNN recently. When the notion of criticizing the Israeli government, which everybody does in democracies, that's what a democracy is about, bleed into a comment that is intentionally or not intentionally antisemitic.

RAJU: And that's the fine line that a lot of these critics have to balance here. The reason why Jayapal stirs such concern was that this is someone who is a leader of a very sizable bloc of members within the House Democratic Caucus, one of the most, one of the biggest groups within all of the House Democratic Caucus. They have influence. They have sway. They have power, and a lot of them wanted to make clear. And what she's saying does not represent what they are saying.


Let just be clear, though, a vast majority of the Democrats in the House don't align themselves with these kind of comments from Jayapal or some of the others who have been very outspoken about Israel. But they are outspoken voices and they do drive a lot of attention.

And Republicans are eager to exploit those divisions between a small bloc of members and the rest of their leadership, which is why you did see Hakeem Jeffries come out so quickly and rebuke one of his own. Something you just rarely, rarely see, but something they thought was necessary.

BASH: Let me just give it a quick example, Rashida Tlaib, said the following in September of 2022 about Israel.


REP. RASHIDA TLAIB (D-MI): I want you all to know, that among progressives is to become clear that you cannot claim to hold progressive values, yet back Israel's apartheid government. And we will continue to push back and not accept this idea that you are progressive, progressive, except Palestine, any longer.


BASH: So that's the litmus test. Again, there is nobody saying, you can't criticize the Democratic government because that is what democracy is all about. But a lot of people take that a few steps further, which is why the bipartisan condemnation.

PRZYBYLA: I mean, you're right. The fact that the leadership did feel that they had to make such a statement. And even after the retraction, this group of Jewish Democrats feeling that they need to issue their own statement shows how much they think is at stake here.

I read some of the headlines in Israel this morning from the Jerusalem Post, and they saying that this faction of progressives is trying to cancel Israel, speaking to that movement that you speak up of boycotting and becoming very aggressive and making it kind of like a litmus test.

And unfortunately, there's unfortunate timing here with the optics as well with some of these Democrats now boycotting Herzog's address. Now there were Democrats who did that with Netanyahu in 2015. But Herzog is here, at the invitation of the Democrats, as well, a Democratic leadership and he's meeting with Biden.

BASH: And the internal politics to go Inside Politics of Israel here is that he is somebody who was trying to bridge the very deep divide internally there, especially when it comes to not to get to inside, but the judicial branch and what Netanyahu has done there. I mean, some really, in the eyes of a lot of Israelis detrimental moves to the notion of democracy. He is in Herzog as an individual who is trying to push back against them (crosstalk) at least help to fix it.

MATTINGLY: And I think it's what -- Manu was doing great reporting on this last week, in terms of where members of the House Democratic Caucus, particularly members who've raised these issues and concerns repeatedly drawn condemnation, repeatedly from close allies to Israel, that we're going to boycott, are thinking about boycotting the actual address.

Herzog is not, I don't think anybody would say he's in direct ideological alignment with Netanyahu government at all. He's also kind of as a ceremonial position to some degrees within the government. But he's serving was more of a convener trying to find some type of pragmatic solution here. It's not Netanyahu coming to speak right now.

So, it's been an interesting divide. And I was telling Manu earlier, I'm very interested to see after all this over the course we can have anybody changes their mind in terms about whether to attend or not.

RAJU: And Jayapal had said that she hadn't made a decision yet.

BASH: Whether she's going to go. We want to go back to the Hill because there's some new reporting that Melanie has about Democrats asking the Republican House Speaker and the Republican chair of the Judiciary Committee to disinvite Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. who was supposed to testify before Congress this week. Part of the reason why, a wild conspiracy that RFK Jr. said last week that somehow COVID-19 was engineered to not target Asians and Ashkenazi Jews.


ROBERT F. KENNEDY, JR., (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: COVID-19 there's an argument that it is ethnically targeted. COVID-19 is targeted to attack Caucasians and black people. The people close to me are Ashkenazi Jews and Chinese.


BASH: I want to go back to Melanie Zanona on Capitol Hill. What have you learned?

ZANONA: Yes. This just in to CNN, Dana. A group of Democrats have now sent a letter to top Republicans calling on them to disinvite Robert F. Kennedy from testifying before the so called weaponization committee later this week. He has had a long history of peddling conspiracy theories, particularly about COVID-19. And as you just mentioned, he recently suggested that it was engineered to target certain races. So, this group of Democrats just sent this letter. It's pretty scathing.

So, I want to read you part of it. They said, Mr. Kennedy is employing a pernicious form of antisemitism that has been used for centuries. This technique was used by Hitler claiming that there are biological differences between ethnic or racial groups to portray Jews as a lesser form of humanity, a steppingstone to justify the annihilation of the Jews during the Holocaust. That letter was signed by Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Daniel Goleman and Judy Chu.


So, as Democrats are wrestling with their own divide over Israel, Republicans now confronting how to deal with antisemitism regret, something that has roiled both parties in recent years. Dana?

BASH: Absolutely, and it's not the first time RFK Jr. has been peddling antisemitic and other conspiracies. Thank you so much for that reporting, Melanie. And from front writer to fodder. My next guest tries to dish out some advice to Ron DeSantis on how not to follow his example when he ran for president. I'm going to go one-on- one with Scott Walker in minutes.