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GOP Candidates Descend On Iowa To Speak At Party Dinner; DeSantis Tries To Reboot Campaign With Iowa Bus Tour; Sen. Scott On FL Curriculum: "No Silver Lining" In Slavery; House Leaves For Recess Without Passing Spending Bills; After Recess, House Has 12 Days To Avoid Government Shutdown; DeSantis: I'll Put A Physician Or PhD In Charge Of CDC, Not RFK Jr. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired July 28, 2023 - 12:30   ET




DANA BASH, CNN HOST: Tonight in Iowa, almost the entire Republican presidential field will take the stage at a GOP dinner to make their pitch for why Iowans should caucus for them in January. At the center of attention, of course, is Donald Trump. It's his first campaign event since the news broke that he's facing more federal charges.

CNN's Jessica Dean is in Des Moines, Iowa. Jessica, how's it looking out there?

JESSICA DEAN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's going to be quite a night. We're really seeing all of Trump's legal issues colliding right into this 2024 presidential primary, as we've seen time and time again in the last several months. And, you know, we looked at some of the polling that we got from Fox Business over the weekend, and it just shows Donald Trump's incredible hold over this race in the state of Iowa.

Now, it is early. Things change. There is certainly Trump fatigue based on the voters I've been talking to. But one word that did not come up yesterday, either from Ron DeSantis, who I was with on his bus tour, which I'll get to in just a second, or from the voters I was talking to, was indictment.

Nobody was really talking about that. They were talking about who can win in 2024 against Joe Biden. That's the calculation that the voters I was speaking to are making, and they're trying to ascertain who that person is. Governor Ron DeSantis in the middle of kind of a campaign reset. A couple of months into his campaign, we've seen him shedding about a third of his staff.

They're promising a leaner and more insurgent campaign, and I asked him about that yesterday, Dana. He told me that sometimes, you know, you have to make new decisions. You have to have this kind of commander's intent, and if they're not following what needs to be done, then you have to make changes. And that he's all about substance and that's what he's going to focus on.

What he's not doing is directly talking about Donald Trump on the stump. And aside from Asa Hutchinson and Chris Christie, as you well know, we really aren't hearing any of these candidates directly take on Trump. They're really trying to thread this needle with voters that likely voted for Trump in the last two elections and convince them that they're the person to do it.

What we're hearing from DeSantis is this electability argument. He keeps coming back to what he's done in Florida. Yesterday, he said he won by 20 there, Trump won by three, that he was able to get independents to come to his side, making the case that that's what he could do in a broader election.

Dana, whether or not voters are absorbing that and going to side with that, we'll see. But it is going to be interesting to see them all on that stage tonight and then Trump whirring into town and really, will he suck that oxygen out as he often does.

BASH: Yes, absolutely. Thank you so much for that reporting, Jess. Appreciate it.

Let's just, as we talk about this, bring back up that poll that came out on Sunday, I believe, in Iowa, because it really is striking when you look at those numbers, David Chalian. 46 percent, which is an increase. If you look at -- around that many Iowa polls, but generally speaking in the way that people feel about the former president.

But what's also maybe the most striking is how DeSantis goes down and everybody else. They're just so far behind him.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: So far behind. And listening to Jessica, she's sort of standing in the center of these two separate universes that are taking place in this Republican nomination race right now, because we all get press releases every day. It's like, how many doors the Never Back Down, the DeSantis Super PAC has knocked on and how many phone calls have been made and they're opening up offices.

And it's like there's this attempt of a traditional campaign that's happening. And that's what you're going to see with these 10 minutes speeches tonight at an Iowa Republican gathering with the faithful. And it's this, like, bizarre bizarro universe of a normal campaign season.


And then you have this force of Donald Trump who's facing all of this legal peril, who, you know, the legal peril based on perhaps upending our democracy and trying to thwart it, right? And yet he's still 30 points out in that poll, and he's such the dominant force that he comes in on a day like this where the indictment is all the news.

And do those other speeches matter? Yes. To the half of the Republican caucus coming electorate that is open to an alternative, they matter, but it's not to the full swath. A lot of folks are locked into Donald Trump already.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: And listen, they liked him from 2016 as well, right? He barely lost Iowa. There's so much chatter about, oh, well, maybe he's not the favorite of evangelical voters, but then he can say, look what I did around abortion. Look what I did around the Supreme Court.

The other thing that's interesting about that poll, too, is Tim Scott, right?

BASH: Yes.

HENDERSON: You hear so much buzz about Tim Scott, him possibly getting a second look, particularly in a place like Iowa. He is a man of real deep faith, and he can speak the Bible and he can speak Jesus. I know you're a preacher's kid, and so you know all of this. I'm a preacher's kid, too, so I expect, you know, there could be some sort of Tim Scott boomlet --


HENDERSON: -- at some point, and this might be the beginning.

BASH: I'm glad you brought that up because I wanted to play something that Tim Scott said yesterday in Iowa. It was specifically about what we saw in Florida last week, where they changed the education standards, questioning whether or not slaves got skills, usable skills, when they were slaves. Tim Scott pushed back on that in a big way.


SEN. TIM SCOTT (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There is no silver lining in freedom, in slavery. The truth is that anything you can learn, any benefits that people suggest you had done slavery, you would have had a free person. I would hope that every person in our country, and certainly running for president, would appreciate that.

And listen, people have bad days. Sometimes they regret what they say. And we should ask them again to clarify their positions.


HENDERSON: So gracious.

HERNDON: Yes, yes, yes. I mean, this is him. See, this was teed up for him. And this is Tim Scott really taking advantage of an opening that Ron DeSantis has left for him. We see donors giving him another look. We see those evangelical voters in Iowa giving him another look, and it fits with his campaign message. He's trying to tell a different story about the Republican Party.

And you saw even Representative Byron Donald, who's supporting Donald Trump, come out to kind of rally around Trump's side here. But let's be kind of honest. For this primary to even be competitive at all, someone needs to grow in Iowa. I mean, if Donald Trump is winning Iowa by 46 percent, this primary hasn't started yet, right?

And so I'm saying there is a baseline that even the Tim Scott still have not cleared yet, that I think we have to re-remind ourselves, even though he's kind of taking up some of that energy that was being coordinated around Ron DeSantis, that wasn't enough to surpass Donald Trump.

They have to add. They need addition --

BASH: Yes.

HERNDON: -- to add up all they need to coalesce rather than only 1 percent here, 2 percent.

BASH: That's right. Ron DeSantis is trying. There was a clip that I think probably, it's fair to say went sort of viral --


BASH: -- yesterday.

HENDERSON: In our world.

BASH: In our world which is the world that matters on INSIDE POLITICS, of Ron DeSantis on the campaign trail, was on that bus tour that Jessica was talking about, interacting with a child about an icy.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Oh, what is that? An icy? Yes, that's probably a lot of sugar, huh. Good to see you.


HENDERSON: Yes, I don't know what's more awkward, the sort of good to see you part to a child or the, you know, comments about the calorie count of an icy. You know the problem that Ron DeSantis has, and we've been talking about it endlessly, he doesn't have a lot of charisma. He's very awkward on the trail, and sometimes he comes across as a humorless robot.

And in a place like Iowa, in a place like New Hampshire, where you're going to be greeting all sorts of people from kids with ices to grandmas with ices, he's got some work to do. Listen, I think the average small town mayor is probably better at sort of the nitty- gritty of politics than Ron DeSantis is. And we're sort of seeing that over and over in clips like this.

HERNDON: I mean, no one has more pressure on themselves to be normal at the Iowa State Fair than Ron DeSantis currently has. And so with that fishbowl, that -- all those qualities, that is really going to be on display.

BASH: That is a very gracious --

CHALIAN: And eating a corn dog on camera. BASH: Yes.


BASH: No, it's not, it's not. All right, well, that'll be next month.

Up next, when is a to-do list not a to-do list? Oh, when you're a member of Congress, that's when it seems to be the case. Both Houses head out of town for recess with not very much to show and a lot on their plate to get done. Stay with us.



BASH: The month of August on Capitol Hill means one thing, recess. The House of Representatives spent the last week of the summer session trying to make progress on crucial spending legislation. But lawmakers are leaving Washington with little to show for it.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: Can we eliminate some waste and make government more accountable, more efficient and more effective? We're going to do it. And if we've got to take a couple of extra days to go through, it's not until September 30th.


BASH: Speaker McCarthy is downplaying there the looming deadline for a government shutdown. Once his conference returns in September, they're going to have only 12 days to fund the government.

And my panel is back to discuss. Let's just give a little meat on to this bone. We're talking -- if you look at the progress that the House has made, this is the fundamental function, one of the key ones of Congress which is to fund the government, right?


Two bills are in committee. Nine still need a floor vote. Only one has passed. Now let's look at where the House of Representatives is going to be for the next six weeks. Not in Washington. They're gone and they don't come back until the second week -- yes, the second week in September. And as you just heard the Speaker mention, September 30th is the spending deadline. And you wonder why people get frustrated with Washington.

HENDERSON: Yes, I mean, that is going to be a long 12 days for us looking to see if they're going to fund the government, if they're going to have a government shutdown. I think all the good money is probably on a government shutdown, right? I mean, we've seen it before the sides on this probably aren't going to come to any agreement.

But I think you're right. It's like you're off for six weeks, you're sort of delaying what you have to do, and then it's going to be crunch time when you come back. And they probably still won't get it done in time.

CHALIAN: I mean, I have not spoken to a Republican on the Hill who doesn't believe a shutdown is in our future. And remember, part of this is -- so, we've seen slow progress like this in previous Congresses at times. But what is the difference here? We know that his right flank --


CHALIAN: -- does not want what we call an omnibus -- you know, where you wrap all these spending bills together. They want to see these individual spending bills.

BASH: I know, but then why are they leaving for six weeks?

CHALIAN: No, I understand (INAUDIBLE) but I'm just saying why people believe a shutdown is, you know, very on --

BASH: Yes.

CHALIAN: -- that the Congress is on course for it --

BASH: Right.

CHALIAN: -- is because of that pressure as well.

BASH: Let's listen to Bob Good, a Republican congressman, on that question.


REP. BOB GOOD (R), VIRGINIA: We're going to pass a good Republican bill out of the House and force the Senate and the White House to accept it, or we're not going to move forward. We should not fear a government shutdown. Most of what we do up here is bad anyway.


HERNDON: I mean, that's the answer for you. They believe the politics --

BASH: Yes.

HERNDON: -- will work in their favor. And so you have -- you know, it's not necessarily just even the time here. It is the factions, to David's point, that specifically, that right-wing flank that knows that they have power over Kevin McCarthy and frankly thinks that they can pressure Senate and White House using said power.

And they basically think that even if a government shutdown comes, that they can convince their voters --

BASH: Yes.

HERNDON: -- that that's an OK thing in the service of what they're trying. BASH: And I should say that the Senate, which is run by Democrats, they're also leaving town. I'm not sure if it's six weeks, five weeks. It's a long time. They have another problem on their hands, which is that the senator from Alabama, Tommy Tuberville, he's holding up all of the military appointments, and it would take a very long time to do each of them individually.

But they're leaving town, so there's no chance that they can get done. That's a whole different conversation.

There's one that I want to have because I know you're super interested in this, David, and that is about the aging population in our politics. And let's just start with something that was a very unfortunate moment in a Senate committee yesterday with Senator Dianne Feinstein of California.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Clerk, call the roll.






FEINSTEIN: I would like to support a yes vote on this. It provides 823 billion. That's an increase of 26 billion for the Department of Defense, and it funds priorities submitted.



FEINSTEIN: OK. Just -- aye.


BASH: Now, I just want to say that Senator Feinstein has had an incredible career. She is 90 years old, though, and this is part of a broader generation across party lines of people who are 80 and above, from the White House to Capitol Hill.

CHALIAN: Yes, I mean, we saw the moment with Mitch McConnell this week. We see Joe Biden, at times at a slower pace than we've seen over the course of his five decade career in Washington. This is a generation of leadership that is quite old, probably the oldest political leadership we've seen in our lifetimes. And this is what happens.

There are only two ways that people step down from this. Either retire, choose not to run for reelection or the voters vote them out. That's it.

BASH: All right, everybody, stand by, because just in, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is attempting to clarify some eyebrow raising remarks. We're going to talk about it after a quick break.



BASH: Just minutes ago, Ron DeSantis walked back a controversial proposal, and that would be putting RFK Jr. at the head of the CDC or the FDA. I want to go back to Jessica Dean in Des Moines. Jess, that's obviously very different from what he appeared to say this week.

DEAN: That's right, Dana. We just heard from him. He's on this bus tour here in Iowa. These remarks just coming a few moments ago. And he essentially clarified, saying that he, of course, he would put a physician in that position.


He was simply saying that he agreed with RFK Jr. on his positions on Dr. Fauci, on the lockdowns. And what's worth noting, Dana, is that Ron DeSantis' COVID policy is so integral to his whole selling of himself to the electorate here in Iowa. That's where he really seeks to have a sharp contrast with Donald Trump.

So to see him kind of get tripped up in all of that, trying to agree with RFK Jr. and bring him on his side is very interesting. But again, him clarifying, saying, of course he'd put a physician in, that he'd been asked about having him as a VP. And he -- that's how he kind of landed on those comments that came a little bit earlier this week, Dana.

BASH: Yes. Clean up on Aisle Kennedy. Thank you so much. Appreciate it.

Thank you for joining INSIDE POLITICS. "CNN NEWS CENTRAL" starts after the break.