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Source: Archer Said VP Biden Was On Speaker Phone With Son & Associates, But Business Wasn't Discussed; Pollster Shares Findings From Iowa GOP Focus Group; Anti-Abortion Group: DeSantis' Position Is "Unacceptable"; NJ Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver Passes Away At 71. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired August 01, 2023 - 12:30   ET



DANA BASH, CNN HOST: Congressman Dan Goldman of New York was in the room. And he went on with Anderson Cooper last night. And I want to play a little bit of that interview.


REP. DAN GOLDMAN (D), OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE: The fact that he spoke to business associates of Hunter Biden to say hello, to have small talk, casual conversation, is not evidence that Joe Biden or Hunter Biden did anything wrong.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Why was Hunter Biden having his dad, who is a very powerful person, obviously, on speakerphone during some business -- with business associates in the room? I mean, it could appear shady, no, at the very least.

GOLDMAN: Well, to be clear, it was social dinners when -- that he was having with his business associates when he would occasionally put his dad on the phone. Now, he did this about 20 times over 10 years, and this is someone who was speaking to his father every day.


BASH: I mean, that's the question that Anderson asked about the fact that doesn't it appear shady. Does that mean that the President was involved in Hunter Biden's business dealings? No, but we all understand Washington, and we all understand that a lot of these relationships operate in the gray areas intentionally.

Especially when you have somebody who is either related to a famous person or a powerful person or used to work for a powerful person, you want your clients to know that you can get them on the phone.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yes. I mean, my big question around this is what impact does this overall story have on voters? That, to me, is like the big thing because Republicans are investing really heavily in it. So is it something that just plays to the Republican base, or is it something that potentially paints a different picture in voters' minds of Joe Biden who will be on the ballot? I don't think there's a voter in America who doesn't believe that Hunter Biden was involved in business dealings because he's Joe Biden's kid. Like, that -- I don't think there's a person that doesn't believe that already.

BASH: Right,

CHALIAN: So the fact that he may put his dad on the phone or what have you, to me, that's a lot of smoke. But I have not yet seen anything. I don't think any of our reporting indicates that there's actual fire somewhere yet that we've seen --

BASH: Right.

CHALIAN: -- as it relates to Joe Biden. We'll see more -- because they're not letting go of this investigation, what comes out here. But I'm dubious at the moment that this is something that is going to persuade the decisive voters in this election to change their perception about Joe Biden. But we'll see.

BASH: No, I totally agree with you. And because a lot of Republicans like to operate inside the whataboutism land and when, you know, when things like this happen, they say two tier justice system. We should point out that the people in the Trump White House, a lot of people did very well for themselves inside the Trump White House. So it's not as if that would be something that would be surprising or not contradictory.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, listen, I think Americans remember very well that the Trump kids were very successful. Some worked in the White House. Kushner, obviously, worked in the White House. They have benefited greatly from President Trump being president. And Republicans didn't have anything to say about that when that was going on.

Listen, Republicans are going to keep at it. They have been at this for many, many months. This idea that Biden is the head of some sort of Biden crime family, I think in many ways this was a bit of a dud. It's sort of what you would expect. Like, yes, he's at some business meeting or dinner and, you know, his dad calls and he's like, hi, dad, or whatever.

I mean, it seems like, yes, I'm sure that Biden -- Hunter Biden traded on his dad's fame and his power and his name, but still, as of yet, Comer can get on TV all he wants and talk about, oh, well, we're going to see if there's evidence out there. We're going to keep investigating. But as of now, they don't have anything that looks remotely like a smoking gun that ties Joe Biden to Hunter Biden.

BASH: I want to read the statement from a spokesperson for the White House Counsel's Office Ian Sams. "He said instead of continuing to waste time and resources on this evidence-free wild goose chase, House Republicans should drop these stunts and work with the President on the issues that actually impact Americans' daily lives".

So that is the statement there, which, again, makes sense. It is -- this is not the last of it, for sure that we know.

All right, everybody, stand by, because some Republican voters in Iowa say they aren't thrilled about a Trump redux. Next, we're going to talk to a veteran GOP pollster who says skepticism of the former president is still there despite his very comfortable status as the front runner.



BASH: While thorough polling and campaign fundraising offer really good insights into the 2024 race, it is face to face meetings with voters that really shed light on the human side of it all. Hearing how voters feel and why they support a giving candidate are key resources for political experts and campaigns trying to navigate a very crowded primary field.

Here to share his insight is Republican pollster Frank Luntz, who recently traveled to Iowa, and he spoke with conservative voters there. Thank you so much for coming in and sharing what you learned. What's the big picture take away? What is your assessment of the fields? I guess, let's just start with Iowa, because that's where you were.


FRANK LUNTZ, POLLSTER AND COMMUNICATION STRATEGIST: Well, it's different in Iowa and New Hampshire, because the voters are different. In Iowa, it's much more faith-based, more morals, values. New Hampshire is much more economically based. It's a financial conservative electorate.

And in Iowa, which we're going to hear, from the voters like Donald Trump, and they think he's a victim. They think that he's being persecuted, is the word I would use. That said, there's a whole lot of them that are looking for somebody else right now because they don't want to relitigate what has happened over the last seven years.

They don't believe in these indictments, but they don't want that to be a sideshow. They want to move ahead rather than looking backward.

BASH: Let's look specifically about the former president and the support before we get to the focus group that you did. The support that he has nationally has grown since February, 12 points since February. And DeSantis, who was just right behind him at a time, is now even further behind him.

Who are these people who aren't part -- maybe necessarily of, like, that Trump core, what we call the Fifth Avenue Republicans, who, you know, he famously says, I could shoot somebody on Fifth Avenue, and those people will support me. But the people on top of that who are looking at everything that's going on that happened on January 6, and they're saying, OK, I'll throw my support behind Donald Trump.

LUNTZ: The -- OK, the less educator you are, the more likely you are to support Donald Trump. Lower income, people have been unemployed at some point in the last five years. It's a socioeconomic level that was once a Democratic voter, which is quite interesting.

The people have come over to the GOP that gave them the majority in 2016. A lot of them, maybe 15 percent have been voting Democrat in the past, and they were simply frustrated, fed up. They feel ignored, forgotten, even betrayed. And there's a level of anger there that brought them to Donald Trump because he represented and offered to be their voice and to speak for them.

And what has happened is that group has actually grown over time, and DeSantis, from the opening of his campaign, has simply not appealed to them. Here's someone with a very strong record in Florida. The voters have looked at this and said, why are you weaponizing government against companies you don't agree with?

Why are you taking such an extreme position on abortion when you're selling yourself as a common sense conservative? So there are issues that are driving voters away from DeSantis at the very moment that so many of these Iowa voters are looking for a change.

BASH: I just want to quickly ask you about something that you said at the beginning. I remember seeing you in Iowa in the 2015 -- the 2016 election cycle, and we were watching Donald Trump. And one of the questions then was whether or not this evangelical Republican voting base would support somebody like Donald Trump. The answer was almost.

He almost won, but he didn't. Now you're saying that he does have support in Iowa. There are lots of alternatives who are traditionally fundamentally evangelical kind of candidates. There's Mike Pence, there's Tim Scott, and there's -- they're trailing so far behind Donald Trump there.

LUNTZ: And the reason why they're trailing is because the evangelical community, which is who I talked to in this focus group held by the family leader, that evangelical community feels attacked. They feel like they themselves are not being treated fairly. And so they see Trump act this way, and they think that he speaks for them.

BASH: Let's listen to one. This is a man by the name of Dan who is a Republican voter in Iowa. You spoke to him.


LUNTZ: What would you tell President Trump?

DAN, IOWA GOP VOTER: Say, thanks for continuing to take the hit and continuing to fight because he doesn't have to. He can leave, and so thank you for sticking in and helping us get through.

LUNTZ: It's amazing that they appreciate his tough talk. I would not have thought this when you and I talked in 2015. I now feel this in 2023. They want someone who's going to stand up and say, Joe Biden is wrong. Joe Biden is corrupt. They want a fighter, not a conciliator.

BASH: Then there's the question of electability. That's what they want in the short term. The question is, who can beat Joe Biden? I want to listen to a woman that you spoke with as part of the focus group that you did in Iowa.


DEBI, CONSERVATIVE VOTER: He obviously has a very solid base, but that base is not enough to get him elected. Your base is never enough. You have to get other people. And I don't think Trump can get -- everybody is already on the Trump train or never getting on the Trump train again, and the base is very solid, but it's not enough to beat Biden.



LUNTZ: And that's what I heard again and again. They're so afraid of giving Joe Biden four more years. For some of them, it's because of his age. For others, it's because of his policies. They desperately want a Republican -- and by the way, they don't necessarily identify themselves as Republicans.

They're closely identified with conservative. And their religious values are more important quite often than their political --

BASH: And how much did this notion come up, the electability -- the question of whether Donald Trump is electable in a general election as part of a decision maker for these Republican voters?

LUNTZ: It's a deciding factor for a lot of them. But in the end, they desperately want to go back. They want to have the benefits of the last four years. In their perception, they want to have those benefits, but they don't want to be focused on the past. They want to be focused on the future.

They want someone to fight for them. They want someone who believes in them. And they believe that Trump did perform. But their doubt is, can he do it again?

BASH: Thank you so much. Fascinating.

LUNTZ: It's great to be here.

BASH: Appreciate it. Thank you so much, Frank Luntz.

And up next, unacceptable. That's what a big conservative group is now saying about a Ron DeSantis position. We're going to tell you why after a quick break.



BASH: Ron DeSantis got a message from a group with big conservative sway, no more half measures. The national anti-abortion group, Susan B. Anthony, their -- Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, rather, they took aim at Florida Governor Ron DeSantis in a statement issued last night saying, "A pro-life president has a duty to protect the lives of all Americans. Governor DeSantis' dismissal of this task is unacceptable to pro-life voters".

The strongly worded rebuke was triggered by an interview DeSantis gave to Megyn Kelly and his.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I've been a pro-life governor, I'll be a pro-life president, and I will come down on the side of life. We are running on doing things that I know I can accomplish.

I'm going to be a leader with the bully pulpit, you know, to help local communities and states advance the cause of life. But I really believe right now in our society. It's really a bottom up movement and that's where we've had most success.


BASH: Our panel is back with us. I find it so fascinating that a guy who signed a six-week abortion ban in Florida is having trouble with any anti-abortion group.

CHALIAN: Well, Susan B. Anthony list, the --

BASH: I know, it's a national. Yes.

CHALIAN: No, I know. And they have made it a mission of theirs to get every presidential candidate --

BASH: Yes.

CHALIAN: -- to speak firmly in favor of a national --

BASH: Understood, but still.

CHALIAN: But, yes. But you know what? He's not running for reelection of Florida governor anymore. And if you look at that New York Times/Siena poll that we were talking about earlier today, they asked voters about a six week abortion ban in a state or a 15-week federal abortion ban.

I know this may surprise you. They're totally unpopular with the American people, both of them. And Ron DeSantis understands that and is trying to navigate as he's thinking about, I signed this six-week ban. I can use that with certain audiences in the primary season. But I also am trying to get to a general election where I know this is broadly unpopular with American.

BASH: Right. His play is the right play, taking the long view, which is basically what you're saying. The question is whether or not this is one of many things that will hurt him in the short term because these are the groups, these are the --

HENDERSON: Right. BASH: -- the voters that he needs, particularly, in a place like Iowa.

HENDERSON: Yes, I mean, he signed the ban in Florida. And the idea that he's sort of waffling and offering that word salad in terms of how he would be as president, I think it kind of speaks to why he's not really doing well. It's also, it's like, who isn't this guy fighting with, right? He's fighting with the pro-life group, this national organization. He's fighting with Byron Donalds.

He's fighting with Tim Scott. There's like -- there's not a fight that he wouldn't show up to, and it really isn't getting him anywhere. If you look at these polls, I think he's, what, 37 points behind Donald Trump. So, again, it just -- this is his MO. But it is surprising that he isn't giving them some sort of number in terms of what he would do.

BASH: Here's what he said today about the Susan B. Anthony pushback.


DESANTIS: Different groups, you know, are going to -- they have different agendas. But I can tell you this, nobody running has actually delivered pro-life protections. I have done that. I've stood up. I've said that I would stand for life, and we have done that, and we have delivered, and we're proud of that.


JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: He's not the only one trying to navigate this, though. I mean, Nikki Haley was kind of all over the place initially. Tim Scott had trouble with this question initially. Former President Donald Trump hasn't gone down the road of a national ban. What he does is he talks about the Supreme Court justices.

BASH: He says they had -- the federal government has a vital role, and it took a long time --

KUCINICH: It took a long time.

BASH: OK, yes.

KUCINICH: It took a long time to get there. So it really is, to your point, there's some of these candidates are taking the long game. I think only Mike Pence was one -- the ones who came out right away and said this, and he's not on the debate stage. So it'll be interesting to see what kind of clout they have and ability to pressure these candidates to go that far going into this -- into the later months of this.

BASH: So far.


BASH: We'll see. We'll see what happens on that debate stage.

[12:55:08] All right, everybody, thank you. We close on a sad note today. New Jersey's Lieutenant Governor Sheila Oliver has died. Her family announced her passing in a statement. She was 71 years old. The governor, Phil Murphy, says he and his family are incredibly saddened and distraught.

Oliver was born and raised in Newark and was the first woman of color to serve in statewide elected office in New Jersey's history. May her memory be a blessing.

Thank you so much for joining Inside Politics. CNN News Central starts after a quick break.