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Biden to Travel to Hawaii Monday to See Wildfire Devastation; Biden to Mark One-year Anniversary of Inflation Reduction Act; Tim Scott Polling Better in Iowa Than Nationally; Trump Lawyers Negotiating With Fulton DA Over Details of Former President's Surrender. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired August 16, 2023 - 12:30   ET



JESSICA DEAN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Just this morning, the White House announced President Biden will head to Hawaii Monday. And while there, he will view firsthand the destruction caused by the massive wildfires that have killed at least 106 people. But first, today, a momentous occasion for the White House as President Biden takes a victory lap, celebrating the one-year anniversary of the $750 billion Inflation Reduction Act, president hoping to convince voters that the so-called Bidenomics is working for them. But it's been a hard sell. We're going to go CNN White House Correspondent Arlette Saenz. Arlette, what's the messaging strategy here from the White House?

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jessica, White House is hoping to use this first anniversary of the Inflation Reduction Act to not only celebrate that moment, but also to educate voters on the benefits of it. But it comes at a time when many Americans voters are either skeptical or simply unaware of some of the benefits of that historic Climate Tax and Health Care Legislation that Biden signed into law one year ago.

Now, recent polling showed that 7 in 10 Americans had heard little or nothing at all about what exactly that piece of legislation entailed. And that is why you have seen the White House really engage in this sales pitch over the past few weeks.

The president traveling the country to tout not just the benefits of the Inflation Reduction Act, but pieces of legislation like the Infrastructure Law, the CHIPS and Science Act as well, as they are trying to show Americans that the steps that the president has taken are trying to -- starting to pay off a bit economically for them. But it does come at a time when the president's approval rating of handling of the economy sits around 37 percent. But the White House has seen some signs of some positive indicators, things like consumer sentiment are up, wages are increasing.

You'll see right there, the inflation numbers, while they are significantly down from last year, they slightly did tick up in July. But this really presents one of the challenges for President Biden heading into this campaign. Kitchen table issues, the economy, are still top of mind for so many voters. And now, he has the task of trying to sell this to people as 2024 quickly approaches.

DEAN: Yeah, certainly true. All right, Arlette Saenz for us at the White House. Thanks so much. And my panel back with me to discuss all of this. Kayla, 71 percent of Americans say they don't know anything about this or they know very little about the Inflation Reduction Act. How tough is this for Biden and his campaign?

KAYLA TAUSCHE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's very tough and part of it goes back to when they were initially trying to sell the Inflation Reduction Act. There was a worry that pumping $750 billion into the economy would make inflation even worse. And at that time, the White House and its economists said, "No, no, this is going to be money that's spent over the course of ten years. So it's going to trickle into the economy. It's not going to rush in all at once."

But, that fact alone means that a lot of Americans won't see the benefits of this immediately. They won't see it in their hometowns before it's time to go to the polls. And so, that's going to be a problem for the White House. I do hear from private sector executives that it has caused this boom in private investment, but sowing the seeds of that investment is very different from having the projects finished where voters can see them. And so, this is going to be a really long time coming.

DEAN: Right. And people are going to be waiting and waiting. They are going to have to sell this. It's interesting we had this quote from Senator Kevin Cramer to Punchbowl. He said, "One thing I know for sure is you can't pee on people's backs and convince them that it's raining. They are living whatever it is they are living and telling them something different than that generally doesn't work."

Now, I will buttress that with some information from Bank of America that shows kind of some of the top lines, the good positive top lines from the Inflation Reduction Act. There are 270-plus clean energy projects announced, $132 billion in private investments, 86,000 jobs created. But Toluse, the fact what Kayla was just saying is true, like what people are living and seeing right in front of them here and now is what matters to people.

TOLUSE OLORUNNIPA, WHITE HOUSE BUREAU CHIEF, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yeah. You have the numbers that show pretty strong numbers for the president. The unemployment rate below 4 percent for such a long time during his presidency. You have new job creation, you have low jobless claims, all the numbers which show in sort of a normal environment that things are going well.

But when you actually look at what people are experiencing, especially the fact that they have been experiencing inflation at a high rate over the past year plus, it does show that people are feeling something different from what the statistics are showing.

And inflation is such a personal thing for families and such a personal thing that people see at the gas pump, at the grocery store, that even as the numbers come down, even as inflation is not as big of a problem as it was a year ago, people are still struggling to make ends meet. And as much as the Biden Administration wants to show that people are doing well and the economy is doing well under his watch, people are feeling a different experience than that. And it's hard for him to sell his bills as a result of that.

DEAN: And like (ph) bridging that gap. He did say he wished he'd call the IRA something else.


He said "The Inflation Reduction Act, I wish I hadn't called it that. It has less to do with reducing inflation than it does with dealing with providing alternatives that generate economic growth.

Jeff, how -- where is inflation as a political issue right now? Because it is coming down. And clearly, when they named this last year, it was top of mind and they needed to seem like they were doing something to attack it. It was so many people were talking about.


JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORREPONDENT: It was named in part because of Joe Manchin.

DEAN: Right.

ZELENY: I mean, to get his vote for it.

DEAN: Right.

ZELENY: It was named this. So when I saw that he said that last week in Salt Lake City, I thought, hmm, I wonder if anyone is having any second guessing about Bidenomics. Like naming, sort of branding the economy -- a year from now, will that be a good idea? I think at the end of the day, you own it regardless. The president cannot control all of the economy, cannot control gas prices, but they are blamed for it and they take credit for it. So, all of that is fair regardless of who is in office.

But I do think that inflation is cooling. There's no doubt about it. But, gas prices now are ticking up a bit. All that matters is next summer, the economy next summer, what are voters going to see. But as you travel around there, people do not know the benefits of the Infrastructure Act or the Inflation Reduction Act. That's one of the challenges of these huge programs, but they needed to do that obviously to get the votes in the Congress.

DEAN: Right.

ZELENY: So they need to unpack this a little bit more. So that's what he will be doing today, saying exactly what do you get, what is in this Inflation Reduction Act. But the naming of it there, very interesting as we look ahead to Bidenomics.


DEAN: It sure is (ph).

TAUSCHE: It reminds people that inflation existed and continues to exist.

ZELENY: Right.

TAUSCHE: Some categories have fallen, but like by and large, stuff is still more expensive.

DEAN: Than it once was. All right. Stay with us. We'll be right back. We are going to talk about a second look at Tim Scott. Is the South Carolina Senator the next GOP hopeful to get a serious look from Republican voters? We are going to Iowa live to find out, next.



DEAN: Can Senator Tim Scott polite his way to an Iowa win? The Republican contender had a plan for the State Fair and executed it to a tee. Step one, kindle an Iowa fair-mance (ph) with the state's governor.




It's a 100 percent.


GOV. KIM REYNOLDS, (R) IOWA: How many of you all love Senator Scott?


OK. Well, we're off to a good start.



DEAN: Step two, stay on message and rely on a stump speech that's light on grievance, heavy on hope.


SCOTT: I believe America can do for anyone what she has done for me.


I am going to focus my time in office on restoring hope, creating opportunities and protecting the America we love.


DEAN: CNN's Eva McKend is in Des Moines, Iowa for us. And Eva, is Tim Scott not only making his mark, but he is gaining ground there?

EVA MCKEND, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS CORRESPONDENT: Jess, it's clear to see that Senator Scott is having a moment here on the campaign trail. It's one thing to talk about high favorability ratings. It's whole another to actually see it playing out on the ground. So many well wishers at that Iowa State Fair. And funnily enough, even people that don't explicitly support him, so someone who said that they were a Democrat, another person who said that they were a Trump supporter, him having some warm moments with them as well.

He also campaigned in Cambridge, Iowa, about 45 minutes outside of Des Moines. This beautiful place surrounded by corn fields and he was reciting parts of his campaign ads to this largely conservative audience. And they parroted back lines from his ads to him. So that's how well that they know him here and have seen those television ads. He joked with them that the money is being well spent here, upwards of $5 million on ads.

Listen, Senator Scott is a disciplined campaigner. You hear him talking to these conservatives in this state about backing the blue, a very pro-law enforcement message. We don't hear him so much talk about his criminal justice reform with this crowd. He also is reticent to go after Former President Trump directly or any of the other Republican hopefuls. We don't see him sort of getting in the mud here.

Next week presents a huge opportunity for him on that debate stage because he will have the chance to introduce himself to more conservatives across the country. And his team has long maintained that the more people get to know him, the more they like him. Time will tell. Jess?

DEAN: Yes, it will. All right, Eva McKend for us in Des Moines. Thanks so much. And our reporters are back around the table to talk about this. I want to put up the polling we have out of Iowa because I think it is important to look specifically at Iowa. Where you see that Tim Scott is polling at 9 percent versus 3 percent nationally. So it is getting at what Eva was explaining to us. Jeff, you were there over the weekend just a few days ago. What was your sense on the ground?

ZELENY: Look, one of the reasons he's doing better in Iowa, he's spending a lot of money there. He's on the air, he has been for months, really introducing himselves through ads. That's one of his advantages. He has a lot of money in his campaign accounts, leftover from his race in the senate last year in South Carolina. And look, he is sunny side up. There's a sense of optimism that he projects. Any grievances towards President Biden, any grievances towards the Democrats, and he's talking about drawing distinctions. He also has the stage to himself.

He is at the fair, he was going around yesterday with Senator Joni Ernst, very popular in Iowa. Of course, the governor, very popular in Iowa. Whenever I look at polls like that, I'm reminded of what Governor Reynolds told me just last week. She said, "Look, it's very early. Do not trust polls now. Surprises happen in Iowa." And I think this is his opportunity to introduce himself. I'm not surprised he's not going negative on Former President Donald Trump. [12:45:00]

That's not how he wants to introduce himself. He wants to introduce himself in a positive way. What happens at the debate next week, when people sort of drawing lines with him, that's the question how he responds to some of this.

DEAN: Right, he will stick with kind of what has been his hallmark, which is so positive and optimistic. You mentioned all the television ads and Eva mentioned it as well. He spent $6.5 million on ads. The PAC has $36.9 million reserved. He's got a lot of money. $21 million cash on hand. Toluse, that's a way to get into people's homes and talk to them directly, and you turn on the television in Iowa and you're going to see that. Do you think there's an appetite for somebody that is more of a happy warrior?

OLORUNNIPA: Well, there's the paid media, that's one sector, but then there's also the earned media. And he's trying to carve out for himself space in the earned media space by being different than the other candidates, by having a more uplifting story to tell, by not tussling with Donald Trump, not making his campaign about Donald Trump. I thought it was interesting that he did break with the governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis, over the teaching of slavery in Florida schools.

He used that as an opportunity to create a little bit of earned media, a little bit of tension there. But for the most part, he's had a positive message, talking about his own personal story, his family story in this country. And I think there's an appetite for something that's different than the grievance-filled campaign of Trump and even DeSantis, but it remains to be seen how much that will play in a primary versus a general election where that kind of campaigning seems to have a little bit more success.

DEAN: Yeah. And Kayla, obviously, the Biden campaign is amping up. They have run against Donald Trump before. Ron DeSantis, we know, that Kamala Harris has been going directly at DeSantis. Do you get any sense about how they might respond to somebody that's campaigning this way? Senator Tim Scott.

TAUSCHE: Well, it certainly makes it harder, especially given the fact that President Biden builds (ph) himself as a bipartisan. Senator Scott is someone that he has worked with before. And so going directly against someone like that is very difficult, but of course, it's still early. It's very unclear that President Biden would even have to respond to any of that messaging. And I think to Jeff's point, the debate stage is going to be critical because Tim Scott is not the only one who is trying to borrow from this playbook. Former Vice President Mike Pence is also trying to polite his way to the top. Can they out- polite each other?


Who is going to distinguish themselves? Or are they going to at each other's throats? Who is going to breakthrough? That's the question. DEAN: We're going to keep our eye on it. All right. We'll be back.

Coming up, as the U.S. barrels towards a government shutdown, Kevin McCarthy is floating a plan to avoid it. Will the far right flank of his party get on board with that? That's next.



DEAN: Now, to new reporting on the negotiation over Former President Donald Trump's surrender in Georgia. CNN's Alayna Treene is joining us now. Alayna, what are we learning?

ALAYNA TREENE, CNN REPORTER: Right. Well, Jessica, we're learning that Donald Trump's lawyers are currently in ongoing negotiations with the Fulton County District Attorney's Office about his potential surrender. He has until August 25th, that's next Friday, at noon to surrender before the court.

As is the same with the other 18 co-defendants listed in the indictment. But from my conversations with Donald Trump's team, they say that they're currently trying to land on a date and that those negotiations are continuing. And they also told me that they expect that it will happen next week, although again, this is all still fluid at the moment, Jessica.

DEAN: And Alayna, we do have this Republican debate next Wednesday. Is there any sense -- and he's supposed to have this press conference on Monday.

TREENE: Right.

DEAN: Is there any sense about how that all fits in to their schedule?

TREENE: Well, it's a very busy schedule as you just pointed out. Yes, Monday, he will be holding that "major news conference" is what he said on Truth Social yesterday, at his Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey. Wednesday is the debate. From all my conversations so far with Trump's team, the early indications are that Donald Trump will not be appearing. Again, that could change. He has not officially or formally said that he will not attend.

But that's what we're looking at. And it could very much be a collision between these two major events. Of course, all of the 2024 Republican candidates expecting to go to that debate or most of them, those who have qualified, but maybe not Donald Trump. And at the same time, we could be seeing this surrender kind of go up against that very big day next week.

DEAN: Yeah, absolutely. It could collide right into one another. And then lastly, before I let you go, oftentimes when we're seeing this in previous indictments, he fund-raises off of this.

TREENE: Right.

DEAN: He really tries to maximize this politically. Do you expect to see that happening again?

TREENE: Definitely, Jessica. I mean, as much as Donald Trump does not want to be indicted, I know from my series of conversations over the past several months that this is something that he is angry about, he is frustrated about. But at the same time, his team does recognize the political advantages of these indictments and so they are leaning into it in some respect. They are fund-raising off of it. You'll see him fund-raise off of this latest indictment. And it does give him, you know, a boost at least in the short term with many of his voters.

From my conversations with Donald Trump's most staunchest allies and people when I attend rallies, when I talk to them, his supporters, they tell me that they believe he did nothing wrong. They use the same rhetoric that the former president does in arguing that he is a victim of political persecution. That's what many of his supporters believe.


And so that's something that Donald Trump's team is leaning into. But again, this is his Republican base that we're talking about. These are primary voters. A big question is, if Donald Trump continues to do well, if he succeeds in potentially getting the nomination, that's a far way off, how could this play in general? And that is something that his team is also thinking about, Jessica.

DEAN: All right. Alayna Treene there with the news that Trump's lawyers are negotiating with the Fulton County D.A. as they try to figure out when he'll surrender himself before that deadline of next Friday, August 25th. Alayna, thanks so much for that reporting. We appreciate it.

TREENE: Thank you.

DEAN: And a quick programming note for you. "The Whole Story" breaks down the details of the criminal indictment of Donald Trump in Georgia. "The Whole Story" with Anderson Cooper airing Sunday at 8:00 p.m. Eastern, right here on CNN. And thanks so much for joining "Inside Politics." "CNN News Central" starts right after the break.