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Inside Politics

One-On-One With Former GOP Rep. Fred Upton; U.S. Job Market Cools Off, Adds 187k Jobs In July; Biden Touts Improving Economy With New Billboards, Signs; Iowa Poll: Trump Leads But By A Smaller Margin Than Nationally. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired August 04, 2023 - 12:30   ET




DANA BASH, CNN HOST: Special Counsel Jack Smith wants to hold Donald Trump accountable for his actions in and around the 2020 election. It's something Congress tried to do in 2021 after the insurrection. House Democrats and 10 House Republicans voted to impeach Donald Trump.

The Senate ultimately voted to acquit him. Only two of those 10 Republicans are still in office. They all faced really tough reelection odds after breaking with the former president.

Republican Fred Upton of Michigan was one of those 10. He decided to retire after being in the House since 1987, and he joins me now. Nice to see you. Thank you so much for joining me, sir.

We are watching members of your party who are still in Congress and elsewhere really fall in line behind the president as -- former president -- as he continues to face legal consequences for trying to overturn the election. What is your assessment of why your party is so loyal to Donald Trump?

FRED UPTON (R), FORMER U.S. CONGRESSMAN FROM MICHIGAN: Well, Trump has a real grip on the grassroots. There's no question about that. I mean, he has a lockstep group of 30 percent to 35 percent. You see his numbers in all these primary states where he's just running away from it. I mean, I heard David Axelrod, who, by the way, doesn't live very far from me, and he said, rightly so last week, why should they go for DeSantis when they can have the real thing, Donald Trump.

With Donald Trump not getting out of the race, likely DeSantis folks are all with Trump. So he's got a big lead. And if you look at the statements just this week, since the likely and now the formal indictment of former President Trump, no one's walked away. I mean, unlike that one state senator in Iowa when Trump dissed the incumbent governor and he said, I'm switching from Trump to somebody else --

BASH: Yes.

UPTON: -- nobody has walked away. So Trump has a good majority of my former colleagues, even in the state of Florida, where you think DeSantis would have a strangle hold, but they're all sticking with him. And for Kevin, the Speaker, you know, he's got these Freedom Caucus. They're allowing one person to have a vote to call for -- to vacate the chair.

And if he walks off that line, guess what? Trump makes a call and one of those guys is going to say, you're out, Mr. Speaker, and chances are they could win.

BASH: Well, speaking of Kevin McCarthy, I want to play a bit more of the remarks he made last night after the former president's arraignment.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: You were entitled to raise a question. You're entitled to question whether it was honest or not. That's the uniqueness of the First Amendment. That's the uniqueness of America. But you know what? You shouldn't be prosecuted for your thoughts.


BASH: What is your reaction, your personal reaction to that, and also the dynamic that you just said persists in your party?

UPTON: Well, until 2021, we had the peaceful transition of power. Without exception, the loser called to concede the winner, or maybe they sent him a letter back. But four telephones, who knows? But it was an orderly process, formalized in the Constitution until the 2020 election, which obviously January 6 was the ultimate day.

And even those, you know, I remember, Florida with the Chads, with the Al Gore, but no, they all conceded. Some of them went to early courts. And remember, the Supreme Court made a ruling in 08 with Bush beating Gore, but Gore conceded within, I don't know, what was it? A week, maybe 10 days.

BASH: So why is --

UPTON: So what we --

BASH: -- Kevin McCarthy saying what he's saying then?

UPTON: Well, because, you know, he show that the president's remarks after the indictment yesterday, he's angry.


He's got a temper and he is really angry. And I'm sure that he talked to Kevin yesterday and some of the Freedom Caucus guys who say -- said, you know, stand firm, you know, we're going to circle the wagons. We can -- you know, we'll get -- you're still going to win the primary. You're going to get there.

And as Will Hurd believes, and me too, he's going to want to give himself a pardon. You know, he's all in, guns are all blazing. And, you know, I'm sure that in his remarks to Kevin, it's like, better stick up for me and Kevin is. Kevin's certainly playing that role and showed that anger last night.

BASH: I mentioned earlier that you were one of 10 Republicans in the House who voted to impeach Donald Trump over his actions in and around January 6. I want you to just ponder this for one second publicly, if you will. Imagine a world in which the Senate voted to convict him and what that would mean for our body politic today.

UPTON: Well, a couple things. They actually did vote, but they didn't have the two-thirds vote. They had a majority of the Senate that voted --

BASH: What they needed to convict.

UPTON: But they needed 67. I wonder and, you know, I -- you know, I remember Mitch McConnell's speech on the floor. You know, I knew, you know, a whole bunch of senators, many of them came from the House, many of them came from the committee when I chaired, Energy and Commerce.

I think they would like to have a redo maybe on that vote, but in large degree, I think they said, you know, this really is -- since the president's leaving -- and I heard that from my own district, you know, why are you voting to impeach him? He's only in office. What another, you know, actually out of office?

I think when we had the vote to impeach -- or maybe it was just before the 20th, but why are you voting to impeach him when in essence, it really is over? Biden's going to be sworn in. And, you know, the senator said, well, let the criminal proceedings move forward and --

BASH: Right.

UPTON: -- that's exactly what's happening. And, you know, I don't believe for a minute and I heard the little exchange before I went on about the new polling about Trump, you know, what would you do if Trump was in jail before the election?

Even if he's convicted, he's not going to jail before the election. There's going to be appeals. He's going to be out. I mean, he is not going to be in jail.

BASH: Yes. I mean, yes. I think you're probably right about that. Congressman, we are out of time. Love to have you back. It was good to see you. Thank you so much for coming on.

UPTON: You bet.

BASH: Up next, brand new CNN reporting, Joe Biden is literally trying to signpost that his economic plan is working. The question is, will voters buy it? That's next.



BASH: Fresh job numbers just out this morning show the U.S. jobs market is continuing to cool down. 187,000 jobs were added in July, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And unemployment ticked down slightly to 3.5 percent, indicating the Fed just might be able to achieve its goal of a, quote, "soft landing for the economy". For Joe Biden, that is another reason to celebrate. The American people, however, they remain pessimistic about the economy and his handling of the economy.

We have some brand new reporting by CNN's Kayla Tausche, who is showing us what she is hearing about the lengths that the White House is going to try to communicate with the American people about what they are doing. And Kayla joins the panel now. First of all, welcome.


BASH: A formal welcome to CNN.

TAUSCHE: Thank you so much.

BASH: This is great reporting. Let me just show our viewers some of what you have inside this reporting. We're -- that you're hearing from White House sources. "We're finally getting the kind of clouds clearing that we need for people to hear that message and see what we're doing. I think communication in this day and age is always tough. It's a fractured media environment, and that makes it even more necessary for us to keep repeating it."

TAUSCHE: They are going to be repeating it. They've been repeating it. But the administration more importantly, they've been telling the American voters for months about how good the economy is and now they're going to start trying to show them in a decidedly old school tactic.

They're plastering signs all over the country. There are going to be hundreds of thousands of them on the projects that are being funded by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the Inflation Reduction Act.

BASH: Yes, we're looking at some other time.

TAUSCHE: A highway in Wisconsin, a dam in Pennsylvania, a land port of entry in Arizona, superfund cleanup site in Montana. I mean, these are going to be countrywide, essentially, with the administration hoping that this not so subtle visual appeal to voters as they're on their commute or they're on long walks. That they will, you know, essentially just take note of what these legislative achievements have done and that will -- it will move the needle more than the slight amount that the more overt messaging has.

BASH: Yes, that's so interesting. And then the question is whether or not in areas where people are not thrilled about him, whether or not that could back fire.

TAUSCHE: Yes, definitely. I mean, and I think that, in talking to aides and advisers, I mean, they raised two potential issues. One, there are certain hearts and minds that are just not movable. We saw this in the CNN poll that was out yesterday.

Democrats in this day and age more likely to say that their personal financial situation is doing well. Three quarters of Republican were respondents said that they're incredibly pessimistic about the economy. Joe Biden's economic approval among Democrats, 70 percent. Among GOP, 5 percent.

BASH: Yes.


TAUSCHE: So there's an acknowledgment that --

BASH: Yes, that's not going to move.

TAUSCHE: -- that's not going to move. The people are just really entrenched in their views at this time. And then there's also 15 months before the election. There's still time for this to turn around, for the forward momentum to start sliding backward. And so that's one of the reasons why I think you have a little bit of a grain of salt that the administration is throwing in here, too.

BASH: And we have to just remind people that when you look at the economic indicators -- I mentioned the jobs numbers -- but more broadly, how people maybe should feel because it's their money in their pocket versus how much their goods cost, they should feel better. And we have a graphic just to kind of give you a sense of where things stand.

There's a lot of lines there, but just keep your eye on the sort of greenish blue, that is how much things cost. And the dark blue is the hourly earnings, meaning the earnings now, they were lower than how much things cost. Now people are making more money and things are costing less. Inflation is down.

MARGARET TALEV, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I just think it's all about the price of everyday goods and items. And I'm not talking about gas prices. It's like every time you go to the grocery store, every time you go to a restaurant, every time you try to buy anything.

And yes, inflation, the rate of inflation is better than it was when it looked like the bottom was falling out. And you're like, oh, my God, it's going to be $40 for a cheeseburger. But it doesn't matter. Things are still way more expensive than they were two years ago, and everybody feels it.

And the less disposable cash you have the more you feel it. And so I just think you can't tell people how to feel. You can make the case, Biden is, and he should be. And the infrastructure projects are going to take a long time.

And so it makes sense to say, look, here's your tax dollars at work. This road is getting built. You might not see it immediately, remember it was me. But even so, every time you have to buy something, it costs more than you're used to it.

BASH: That's true.

OK, everybody, stand by because we want to talk a little bit more raw politics after a quick break. It's 23 weeks until the Iowa caucuses. Who's counting? We are.

Up next, new polling shows Donald Trump's support in the state may not be as ironclad as the former president would like. We'll explain after a quick break.



BASH: Today, there's new evidence that Donald Trump's gravitational pull is strong no matter where you look. A new poll of Iowa Republican voters finds a familiar result. Donald Trump is up big. Ron DeSantis remains a faraway second. The rest of the field is still staring up a very tall mountain.

But go deeper inside the numbers and there are windows of opportunity for Ron DeSantis or someone else to challenge the frontrunner. My panel is back with me. Let's look at this specific poll that looks at national voters versus the new poll of Iowa GOP voters about Ron DeSantis. They think he's more moral in Iowa than they do nationally, more likable in Iowa than they do nationally, more able to beat Biden in Iowa, and, well, fun is probably within the margin of error.

MARIANNA SOTOMAYOR, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yes, I mean, it's interesting to see finally DeSantis being in Iowa all the time, seems to be paying off in some ways because, yes, nationally he's not doing so great. A lot of people writing him off. But that's been the whole point of his campaign, is, listen, if we put him in front of people, if we tell the story of him, his family, if Casey DeSantis, his wife, is out there, we'll likely see his favorabilities go up.

But still, again, pulling back, sure, Trump is a little lower nationally in that Iowa poll, but he's still predominantly leading --



KUCINICH: If you add up all the other people that are not Ron DeSantis, it's 22. He's still beating the entire field by double digits. And so that -- and he did lose the state, and we should say --

BASH: Yes, barely.

KUCINICH: Barely, it's Ted Cruz. So there is -- Iowans don't naturally flock to him, I think, in the same way they do in other places. However, it's still such a steep climb --

BASH: Yes.

KUCINICH: -- for anyone. And yes, he -- DeSantis is doing better with college educated voters, but he's going to have to do a lot more with a lot more people.

BASH: I want to put up a tweet from Bob Vander Plaats, who is a veteran strategist. He's an evangelical in Iowa who does not like Donald Trump. And he insists, "While all these polls show Donald Trump the clear front runner, I see no evidence on the ground to support. My early hunch is he gets beat in Iowa caucus. All narrative regarding him is the same. He did good. Can't win. Time to move on. Need to win".

TALEV: I mean, in fairness, he's not a neutral observer. He's made his view on this known and clear. But I think it is -- I'll do the, you know, I'll do the thing that needs to be said, which is that a poll is a snapshot in time. It is not predictive.

You cannot look at the polls today and say, who's going to win Iowa? Who's going to win the GOP nomination? Who's going to win in November 2024? It is a snapshot in time. But I think for Ron DeSantis, none of the data suggests that Ron DeSantis is going to catch up to Donald Trump.


Ron DeSantis' path appears to be and always has been if Donald Trump implodes, if support for Donald Trump collapses. And I think some of the other polling we've seen suggests that even among that very still strong support for him in the base, there are these kind of threshold issues. Like now there's an indictment, we'll see what impact that makes.

There's going to be a criminal legal process now. And so, some of that could be changeable, but DeSantis does not appear to be having that momentum on his own in any of these polls.

BASH: Great discussion. Great to see you all. Happy weekend. I will be in the chair Sunday morning, 09:00 a.m. Eastern on State of the Union.

Thank you for joining INSIDE POLITICS today and this week. "CNN NEWS CENTRAL" starts right after a quick break.