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Biden To Join Michigan Picket Line In Support Of Automakers; Trump Kicks Off Week Campaigning In South Carolina; New Poll Suggests Tight Race Between Biden And Trump; Senate Fights Over Suits Vs. Sweats; Senators At Odds Over Sartorial Standards. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired September 25, 2023 - 12:30   ET




MANU RAJU, CNN HOST: Today, the Writers Guild of the major film and TV studios have reached a tentative agreement. The deal, if approved by the Guild's members, could end one of the longest strikes in WGA history.

Tomorrow, President Biden is expected to walk the picket line of a different strike, joining members of the United Auto Workers Union in Michigan.

CNN's MJ Lee joins us live from the White House. So, MJ, this is an unusual move from a sitting president.

MJ LEE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it is a very unusual move coming from a sitting president. It is not every day that you see a president actually actively going to join with the members of striking workers. But you have to keep in mind that this is a president who very frequently describes himself as being pro-union.

And clearly, a decision was made here at the White House that it wasn't enough for the President to just talk about the fact that he is supportive of these auto workers. And just as a political matter, this is a story, Manu, that sort of touches on everything.

There is, of course, sort of the political power of the unions. Remember, the UAW did endorse President Biden back in 2020, but they have yet to endorse him in his 2024 reelection bid. There's also the policy piece of this as well.

Remember, there are serious disagreements that we have seen between these auto workers and the administration, particularly when it comes to the decision by the administration to invest billions of dollars in electric vehicles and whether that is ultimately going to be bad for these auto workers.

And then, of course, there is the political piece of this, including the fact that former President Donald Trump, he is going to be making an appearance in Detroit on Wednesday. So we are about to see sort of this fascinating back to back split screen that has huge ramifications politically, even if White House officials and allies of the President have been saying for days that this actually has nothing to do with politics, Manu.

RAJU: Yes. Underscoring the significance of Michigan as a swing state next year. MJ Lee at the White House, thank you.

And as MJ mentioned, while President Biden joins the picket line Tuesday, his main rival has his own plans. Today, Donald Trump is kicking off his week campaigning in South Carolina. But one stop will be notably absent from his schedule, the second Republican primary debate.

CNN's Kristen Holmes is traveling with the former president. So, Kristen, how is the former president dealing with this week?

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, this is going to be a big week for two reasons. One, you talk about the GOP primary. It is true, Donald Trump has a comfortable lead over all of the other candidates, both nationally and in these early voting states like South Carolina, New Hampshire, and Iowa.

But his team wants to hold onto that lead and secure that lead. They are aware that there are still conservatives out there who might say that they support President Trump or former President Trump, but they are still open to other alternative candidates.

They are hoping to ramp up his travel in these early voting states to really secure down his lead and try and make sure that he is the candidate going forward. But this is also an important week when you look ahead and see the campaign looking ahead to the general election and that trip to Michigan.

We expect him to make a pitch to these workers. It's going to be a primetime pitch just outside of Detroit, talking to both former and current union members, and that includes, I am told by people who organize the event, members of the United Auto Workers who are currently on strike, and their families, making his pitch to these workers.

Now, Donald Trump himself has clashed with unions in the past, but their argument now is that he is pro-worker. So expect to hear this pivot in his messaging towards that general election, talking about those, as MJ mentioned, the electric vehicle policies, the green policies of the Biden administration.

Trump likely to be slamming those policies and saying that he is more pro-worker. That that's going to kill jobs, in fact, in Michigan. But again, it is going to be interesting to see here. This is huge political ramifications.


And again, as MJ said, the UAE -- UAW has not yet endorsed a candidate. Trump himself already posting on Truth Social that they should be endorsing him. That would be obviously a huge win if that were to happen, Manu.

RAJU: Pivoting to the general while the primary is still going on. Kristen Holmes in South Carolina, thanks for that.

Coming up, new polls on a hypothetical Biden-Trump rematch. Which candidate appears to be taking the lead? Next.


RAJU: A pair of new polls spelling more trouble for President Biden. Let's dig much deeper into the numbers. Our excellent panel back here with us.

Jeff, how concerned is the White House, just to flash these numbers on the screen, these head to head polls between Trump and Biden right now. Now, the Post/ABC poll is considered an outlier. It's really not consistent with other national polls. Had thumped it up by 10 in that national poll.


The NBC poll out yesterday, that is more consistent. It serves a deadlocked race right now. I mean, amid, there have been positive economic signs. Donald Trump has been indicted four times, yet this is still a dead heat. How concerned should the Biden campaign be right now?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Look, pretty concerned. This is like yet another example of warning signs blinking furiously as every poll comes out. Our poll a couple weeks ago, similar thing. Look, the exact number isn't something we should focus on because we are more than a year out.

So regardless of the outliers or not, but the fundamentals inside the poll are, you know, there's huge consistency. The White House has not seen any sort of favorable movement on the economy. This is something that the president has been talking about a lot all the time, on immigration.

There is deep concern and there is a deep sense of angst in country. And also in these polls, a strong sense of concern about his age, a strong lack of enthusiasm among Democratic voters compared to Republicans. So look, this is set, the discussion is set for the next year. So they should be concerned.

And one thing that they've always sort of held out hope, Democrats have, like a rematch with Trump will be -- have the same outcome. That's not guaranteed at all.

RAJU: Sure.

ZELENY: And I think we talked about earlier what's happening in Michigan this week is Exhibit A of that.

RAJU: Right.

ZELENY: We are going to think a year from now and we're getting onto the general election. How did this strike get resolved?

RAJU: Yes.

ZELENY: How do workers view the resolution of this strike? How the president did, how the Biden administration did, how Trump did. So, a huge challenge for the president without question.

RAJU: And you talk about the numbers a little bit more about them, just as the disapproval numbers in that NBC poll. 56 percent disapproving of Biden. That is the highest of his presidency in this poll. You can see the trend there. The green line number, the disapproval number spiking up, approval number dropping down substantially from April 2021 up until September 2023.

And then when you look at the economy, as Jeff was just talking about, just 37 percent approve of his performance on the economy. That is a huge warning sign when, of course, the economy cycle after cycle is the main driver for voters.

MARGARET TALEV, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: There are a lot of numbers in the ABC poll that the White House is choosing to sort of diminish or put on a back burner. The economy is not one of them.

RAJU: Yes, and this is the NBC poll.

TALEV: They get it.

RAJU: Yes.

TALEV: They get it now. The economic message is not working. They're not getting the credit they want from the economy.

RAJU: Yes.

TALEV: And it's a major problem because how people feel about the economy is what drives domestic elections like, it's really, really important. One of the numbers that has been used to sort of marginalize the poll is to say the outlier numbers on the youth vote because they showed Trump has a wide, wide lead, and there's no historical precedent for something like that.

Having said that, the Biden campaign, if I were the Biden campaign, would be absolutely trying to understand how younger people are feeling and why they're feeling that way. And I actually think age, as much as the economy, has a lot to do with it.

It's true younger voters don't turn out in the same share that older voters do, but it is an essential block for Biden. There are many essential blocks for Biden. Not that they would vote for Donald Trump, but that they might not bother to turn out to vote --

ZELENY: Or go third party.

RAJU: Yes. And look --

TALEV: Yes. RAJU: -- as Jeff was just saying about the contrast that the Biden team hopes will change the dynamic once people start focusing on Trump versus Biden. I talked to one of Biden's closest allies on Capitol, Chris Coons, about this on Thursday. This is before these two recent polls.

Polls have been not good for the president for some time, and he admitted that there's some concern about the polls, but he believes things will shift in the months ahead.


SEN. CHRIS COONS (D), DELAWARE: Right now, the polls head to head are more concerning than I would expect, but I would so much rather be in this position of having an incredible record for our president to run on.

Former President Trump is someone who talked a good game but didn't deliver. President Biden has delivered on his promises, and that's what he's going to run on.


RAJU: But we're still not hearing that consistent message coming from the Biden campaign or the Democratic apparatus down the line about driving that contrast between Biden and Trump. We've seen it more recently, but not as much as a lot of Democrats would like.

TIA MITCHELL, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Right. And I think some of that is just we're over a year out from the election. Donald Trump is getting pounded. Well, not pounded, but he's in a crowded primary election. He is having to face off with those challenges.

So I think in a lot of ways, the Biden-Harris campaign is holding their fire just a little bit because there will be a time. And if you start too early, by the time you get to crunch time, voters will be a little bit fatigued. That being said, the approval ratings is the big concern because they're not budging.

And the fact that when you ask people, do they feel good about their economic situation, they talk about gas prices, they talk about their grocery bills, and a lot of them say they don't feel good. Plus, you hear things about, you know, student loan repayments starting back up.


And that's just a recipe for not good months now, months with an S for the president. That's where they can address it now and they haven't found a strategy to turn it around yet.

RAJU: Yes. And let's talk a little bit about this decision by the president to go down to Michigan next week. And he wants that United Auto Workers endorsement. There have been some criticism about his handling of this.

This is what Tim Scott, who is running in the Republican side of the aisle, said about the president and his plans to go down to Detroit.


SEN. TIM SCOTT (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You have a president who says he's willing to go down and pick it with the workers during the daytime, but he cuts deals at night with the environmentalists that literally destroys those jobs. The union bosses and this president are working against the very workers who are out there picketing.


RAJU: Now the UAW eventually endorsed Biden in April of 2020. This time, though, it's Biden's endorsement to lose.

ZELENY: It is. I mean, union households in 2020 voted pretty overwhelmingly for Biden, but without a doubt, the rank and file members of the union, many of them, are supportive of the former president. An endorsement, obviously, is something the White House anticipates and hopes and would certainly want to get, I think.

But separate of the endorsement actually winning over or neutralizing some of this anger that is out there among the working class. This is a fascinating moment where in politics we haven't seen it, at least in recent cycles, where tables are being turned a little bit.

This populism movement inside the Republican Party has them siding a little bit more with the workers rather than the companies --

RAJU: Because of Trump.

ZELENY: -- so this is a -- because of Trump. So this is definitely a different moment here. I think we'll see that split on the debate stage on Wednesday night. But the bigger picture here is, to me, this is the first moment I can think of where President Biden has done something in anticipation of what the former president has done.

He was going out to California, so they're stopping in Detroit tomorrow. So getting ahead of that. They didn't really want to have an East Palestine situation --

RAJU: Yes.

ZELENY: -- where the White House is not looking like they're involved in this. But seeing a president on a picket line, it's something that we haven't seen in American history.

RAJU: Yes. It's very historic, unprecedented, controversial event. Something we'll be watching closely tomorrow.

OK, suited for the job. The continued debate over the Senate's new dress code, next.


[12:52:14] RAJU: Who knows if this will be the only campaign Joe Manchin launches in the next 14 months? This week, the West Virginia senator plans to try to force his colleagues to vote to restore sartorial standards inside the senate chamber.

Chuck Schumer said the Senate would not enforce the institution's dress codes just a few days ago, an accommodation for Pennsylvania's John Fetterman, who subscribes to Bill Belichick's style guide, hoodies and shorts.

It is interesting. This is, of course, a bit of a sideshow from all the other huge issues going on, but one that has actually gotten a lot of attention on Capitol Hill, because typically you wear a tie, you wear a jacket. If you're gentlemen, you go into the chamber, you vote.

John Fetterman has much different style guides, as we just noted. That's been his thing all throughout the campaign trail and the like, and he's brought it back now into the United States. Where do you think this is going?

ZELENY: Look, I think that if this just -- it's actually is resonating. I was at a town hall meeting in Iowa last week with Senator Tim Scott, and two voters asked a question of him about it because they, of course, see the coverage of this and the outrage of it.

Look, is it the most important thing? No. But it does say something about our moment in time and culture. And I think Democrats, just because they happen to be in the -- in charge at the moment and this was Schumer's decision, Democrats are going to get hammered on this out in the country, that they've ruined the, you know, the aesthetics of the Capitol. Yes.

RAJU: Is this what we talk about the Democrats? I mean, Dick Durbin, who's the number two Democrat, said he actually disagreed with Chuck Schumer's decision not to enforce and you have Manchin, of course, is a Democrat going to push -- try to force a vote.

Who knows if he's going to get a vote? Actually, it's not even clear vote will happen. He's going to try to introduce a resolution. We'll see if it actually comes to it. But there's a split among Democrats on this, too.

TALEV: It's interesting. I think there are a lot of cross currents in this debate. Again, not to make more of it than we all should. Fetterman, for his part, has been comparing himself essentially to Bob Menendez and saying, like, am I the problem or the guy with the bars of gold?

RAJU: Yes.

TALEV: The problem. But this is also coming at a time when this populism that we talk about all the time has really taken root in American politics and things like, you know, these debates over the haves and the have nots or being anti-institution. Those would all suggest that Americans are more and more comfortable with the idea of being able to wear sneakers --

RAJU: Yes.

TALEV: -- onto the House or Senate floors. You know, if you're a member of the working class or the middle class, would you be more comfortable --

RAJU: Yes.

TALEV: -- wearing clothing that you have?

RAJU: And look, this is not just Fetterman. Senators on fly in and fly out day are dressed casually all the time.

TALEV: Over the weekend.

RAJU: Thom Tillis --


RAJU: -- I've seen Rand Paul, Chuck Grassley when they're leaving on Thursdays --

ZELENY: Ted Cruz.

RAJU: -- Ted Cruz. Ted Cruz plays basketball with his staff during the week. Comes sometimes in gym shorts and his T-shirt, votes, and the like. Ben Sasse and former senator used to run and then go jogging. He'd be sweating, go vote and leave. So it's not unusual. Fetterman just getting a lot of attention here.


MITCHELL: Right? And I think some of that is, you know, where the partisanship comes into play and just the moment of kind of conservatives latching on to the controversy of the day and making it a huge thing on conservative media.

I also think we have to note, though, Fetterman had a stroke. He also had a bout with depression. And to me, this looks like something that Schumer did in a concession to make things a little bit easier on him mental health wise.

RAJU: Yes. OK, we'll see. We'll see how that plays out if a vote actually happens here.

OK, quick programming note. CNN's Anderson Cooper and Dana Bash host the Republican Presidential Debate, Post-Debate Analysis live Wednesday night at 11:00 Eastern. Get the critical context and political analysis you need right here on CNN.

Thanks for joining Inside Politics. CNN News Central starts after this quick break.