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Inside Politics

Trump To UAW: Biden "Wants To Take Your Jobs Away"; Poll: GOP Holds Advantage On Economy, Middle Class; Menendez Support Crumbles As More Dem Senators Tell Him To Quit; Sen. Cory Booker Joins Calls For Menendez To Resign; Biden Arrives In Michigan To Join Striking Autoworkers; Tomorrow: GOP Candidates Debate In Trump's Shadow. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired September 26, 2023 - 12:00   ET



DANA BASH, CNN HOST: Today on Inside Politics, in minutes, something we have never seen before from any sitting U.S. president. Joe Biden stands shoulder to shoulder with picketers on the frontline of a strike against Detroit's Big Three. His team hopes to show the sign of solidarity with unions and hope that will pay dividends for workers and also for his own roadmap back to the White House.

Plus, the Dem breaks. At least a dozen Democratic senators say Bob Menendez should quit, including his fellow senator from New Jersey, Cory Booker and lawmakers from swing states who face tough battles to keep their own jobs. And the lineup is locked in. Tomorrow seven Republicans clash on a California debate stage.

I'm Dana Bash. Let's go behind the headlines at Inside Politics.

Up first, history in Detroit. This hour, Air Force One will land in Michigan where the president will head to the picket line, auto workers are in the middle of a very big fight over pay and whether they get a bigger piece of record corporate profits. Joe Biden is fighting a war of his own to against a familiar foe Donald Trump. Detroit is now the stage for a 2024 contrast between the two men and their two very different visions for America.

CNN's Arlette Saenz is in Wayne, Michigan. Arlette, what do we know right now? Is the president on his way to where you are and what do we expect him to actually do on the picket line?

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Dana, President Biden is expected to land here in Michigan in the next hour as he's looking to offer that show of support for those striking union workers.

Now the White House has yet to detail exactly where President Biden will visit. But he is expected to visit a picket line here in Wayne County, where he will also appear with the UAW President Shawn Fain. Fain had extended this invitation to President Biden to come to a picket line.

Just last week, the president decided to go ahead and accept that. But it comes at an important moment, as the UAW has refrained from endorsing in this presidential election, many of the labor groups have already backed Biden, but this is one of those endorsements he is still trying to secure.

And it comes as the White House has really walked a very careful line when it comes to these negotiations between the UAW and these Big Three automakers. The White House doesn't have any legal authority to be involved in these negotiations. So, they've been very careful with what they have been able to say.

President Biden has been out there, saying that he supports these auto workers that he believes that the record profits that auto companies are earning at this moment should be shared with those workers. But the White House has stopped short of weighing on in on the specific demands that the UAW has been making.

Now, all of this is playing out as part of the president's core mission here is appealing to those working-class voters. And it comes as there is about to be a remarkable split screen in the 2024 race playing out here in Michigan over the next two days. Biden is here today. Former President Donald Trump will be here tomorrow to talk to union workers himself gathering a group together.

The White House says that this trip is not about Trump. They didn't plan this because Trump was coming here, and then said they are focused on showing support for their workers. But it does signal some of the fights that could be brewing as the 2024 election. He sat between President Biden and potentially former President Donald Trump.

BASH: OK. Arlette, keep us posted. Let us know when you do see the president there for this historic visit. And when he lands, the president will arrive to please from workers to make them whole.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I came to work through my chemo to support my kids, because that's what a hard worker does. And I give that to them. And I expect in return for somebody just to say, you know what, all those years, all these profits we've made, you know what, maybe we can give you guys a little bit more, so you can go on vacation with your family.


BASH: Here with me to talk about all of this and share their reporting and their insights, Writer Coleman Hughes, Margaret Hoover of PBS, Shane Goldmacher of The New York Times, and Michelle Price of The Associated Press. Nice to see you one at all.

Let's continue to set the table for this discussion by listening to what President Biden said just yesterday about this strike.


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JOE BIDEN, 46TH U.S. PRESIDENT: I think the UAW gave up an incredible amount back when the automobile industry was going under. They gave everything from their pensions on, and they saved the automobile industry. And I think that now that the industry is roaring back. And they should participate in the benefit of that.


BASH: And now let's look at what the former president said on his social media platform yesterday. Remember, he wants to take, of course about Biden. He wants to take your jobs away and give them to China and other foreign countries shout out to your union leadership to endorse Donald J. Trump, I will keep your jobs and make you rich. Margaret?

MARGARET HOOVER, HOST, PBS "FIRING LINE": There's a reason Donald Trump is going straight to Michigan and not even bothering to go to California to compete for the Republican contest. I mean, he's making a robust argument to the people who helped get him to the White House in the first place, that even if the jobs market is coming back, and even if rather the auto market and jobs in the auto market is coming back, it is still bigger in China.

And if you want to keep with the same policy, stick with Joe Biden. He's just turning into a rally. And if you want a Republican who's going to fight for workers, which is what the Republican Party has come to represent amongst the base of the party that supports Trump. That's a winning message for him. Because the facts are an aside. The China auto market is bigger than the American auto market. And this is crux and this is sort of central to the issue.

COLEMAN HUGHES, CONVERSATIONS w/COLEMAN PODCAST: Yes. So, it may be very good politics to tell people, we're going to bring manufacturing back to America. But when you ask economists what actually happens when you institute tariffs, they're fairly unanimous in saying, you know, industries that have gone to Mexico, gone to China, you can't just bring them back by instituting a tariff.

What that actually does is it increases prices for consumers at home without actually bringing those industries back. So, what you end up with is a lose, lose in reality, although it may be a nice message.

BASH: Yes. And that that's maybe definitely true when you're talking about in the short-term about trade. But when it comes to, this is Inside Politics, when it comes to the workers who are striking. And the workers slash voters who are striking, not just in Michigan, but elsewhere.

Let's just sort of stick with -- well, let's just talk broadly about the question. This just was asked in an NBC News poll that came out over the weekend, which party would do a better job for the economy among Dems and Republicans, middle class and the GOP, excuse me, Dems and Republicans? Look at that. The Republicans are about even with Democrats when it comes to the middle class, and way ahead when it comes to the economy. SHANE GOLDMACHER, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: I mean, that's a pie chart. That's a big red flag for Democrats getting into the next election. And I think when you look at the two visits, it really speaks to both how President Biden and former President Trump want to be portraying themselves.

For Biden, being a pro union Democrat is basically a non-negotiable, like it, given a set of choices politically, throughout his career, he has wanted to appear a working-class Democrat. As part of his image, you know, the fact that he was from Scranton, he brings up on a regular basis. He's ties back to Pennsylvania.

And so yes, on the specifics of whether the workers should get the 40 percent raise that they're asking for, he hasn't necessarily gone all in on the specifics, but he wants to be there. And for Trump, it's the same thing, right? This is the place that helped send him to the White House.

It was voters who are working class in Michigan, and Wisconsin and Pennsylvania that broke what had been a blue wall. And he is saying, I'm the guy who can go win them back. And yes, he's going to skip that debate in California with the rest of these people. I want to talk about Joe Biden because that's who I'm going to really be running.

BASH: So absolutely. The story here, it would not be a story if Donald Trump were not a figure right now in the Republican Party, a very looming figure and potentially Joe Biden's Republican rival. You mentioned how things shook out in Michigan and Wisconsin, certainly he did very well, but didn't win with union households in Michigan and in Wisconsin.

But let's look at what happened with Joe Biden. In Michigan, he got 62 percent of union households, and in Wisconsin 59 percent. Again, that was up from what Hillary Clinton got. And guess what, Joe Biden won Michigan and Wisconsin, Hillary Clinton did not in 2016. That tells the political story of why we're saying what we're seeing.

MICHELLE PRICE, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, ASSOCIATED PRESS: Right. I mean, we're talking nationally, how a candidate is perceived to be on the economy is one thing, but in these states, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, these industrial states, union heavy states, it's a slightly different message. And what's interesting is we're going to see President Biden, you know, he's a pro union message, a pro worker message.

Former President Donald Trump is not necessarily pro union, but he's pro worker. And he's actually made some statements encouraging some of these union workers here showing solidarity with them, but suggesting maybe they shouldn't pay union dues. He's been critical of the union leaders who have not been supportive of him. And he's somehow trying to thread this needle with aligning himself with the workers, but if you're not unionization definitely.


BASH: Yes. There was a huge discrepancy at least rhetorically between the union leadership back in 2016. And how they voted, which we hadn't seen before much with Democrats. Let me just zero in if I may on Wayne County, which is where the president is going. As we speak, we'll be there very soon.

Again, Joe Biden got 68.4 percent there. I mean, he really cleaned Donald Trump's clock in Wayne County. For Joe Biden to win again, he needs those numbers and the enthusiasm to stay high like that, because this is part of the blue wall. And the blue wall keeps Democrats in the White House and when it crumbles like in 2016, Republicans win.

HOOVER: Right. But let's also be realistic about what's happened in Michigan since 2020. I mean, Michigan was a blue wall, and it returned to being a blue wall in 2022. Democrats swept the state at every level of the governorship, the entire all the legislature, both houses and legislature.

BASH: And it was despite the economy, not just the economy.

HOOVER: Despite the economy, but because of abortion.

BASH: Right.

HOOVER: And so, you know, the economy and autos are part of the argument. But there's a larger argument at play in favor of Joe Biden, which isn't going to help Republicans if you rinse and repeat in 2024.

HUGHES: You talked about Wayne County. Macomb County was one that was really considered a case study for the flip from Obama to Trump back in 2016. So, we've seen a lot of these places in Michigan, and Michigan have basically been signals of where really the marginal independent voter is going. So, I think the stakes are very high for both Trump and Biden here.

BASH: Macomb County home to Reagan Democrats. I'll go back even further and Obama. Everybody standby because we have breaking news from Capitol Hill, more calls for embattled Senator Bob Menendez to resign including from his fellow New Jersey Senator Cory Booker. We'll talk about that, coming up.



BASH: Support for indicted Senator Bob Menendez among his colleagues in the U.S. Senate is crumbling. At least a dozen Democratic senators are now calling on him to resign. One of them as of, about an hour ago is his fellow New Jersey Senator Cory Booker. Menendez is facing corruption charges including allegations that he used his influence to help the government of Egypt in exchange for cash and gold bars.

My panel is back with me. Let me just read this Cory Booker statement, at least part of it. He said, "Senator Menendez fiercely asserts his innocence and it is therefore understandable that he believes stepping down is patently unfair. But I believe this is a mistake." We were talking about how significant this is for his fellow senator to do this from New Jersey. GOLDMACHER: Yes. This has come really quick, right? You saw even at the beginning of today, a handful of the senators who are invulnerable seats up in 2024, lead the way you're saying. I think he should step down in Montana, earlier in Ohio, in Nevada, in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.

And that matters politically for the party, but for Menendez's seatmate from New Jersey and for the person who stood by him when he was indicted before to say now it's time to go. Look, they can't force him out. But this is about as much political pressures he's going to face from that sort of people simultaneously calling for him to step down.

BASH: You know, gets to the point, when sometimes when these things happen, when the dominoes start to fall very quickly. And you're seeing that this morning. I mean, it's happening as we speak. Let me just put up on the screen.

John Fetterman was a couple of days ago. Peter Welch, now it's Jacky Rosen, Cory Booker, Michael Bennet, Mark Kelly, and then the key that you just said, which is very telling politically, all of these senators who are on the ballot, this coming year. Sherrod Brown, Tammy Baldwin, Jon Tester, Bob Casey, Martin Heinrich, Elizabeth Warren, these are all Democrats.

PRICE: Yes. I mean, this is, you know, for these candidates, these senators who are running for reelection, they want to draw a contrast with Republicans. They want to draw a contrast with Donald Trump who is facing for criminal cases. And this is a distraction. This isn't something they want to be talking about defending.

And today, we did kind of reach that moment where it was getting conspicuous, especially for Senator Booker to not speak up about it. You know, some of these states, the swing states like Nevada. Their contrast with Republicans with Trump at the top of the ticket, it helps a Democratic candidate to show that they are not a party that tolerates, you know, the appearance of any corruption.

BASH: Yes. And that's such a good point. One of the other questions about strategy here, having all of these Democrats come out now, is what they really want to do. And I interviewed Dick Durbin, the number two Senate Democrat on Sunday. And he stopped short of saying that Bob Menendez should resign.

When I asked him, if Bob Menendez should run for reelection? He said something along the lines of we're going to see what happens with that. My sense and it's not just my guess, it just in talking to some Democrats from New Jersey is that part of what we're seeing here. These dominos is trying to at the very least get Senator Menendez to say, I'm not running for reelection to try to take some of the political pressure off.

HOOVER: Absolutely. I mean, this pool is really at a political debate about retaking the Senate when you're talking about Dick Durbin or what if you're a Democrat, holding the Senate, control the Senate expanding your power. And for Republicans, 2024 is their best shot at taking back the Senate.

If you look at the map, all of the Republicans who are up are in very safe Republican are in seats where they have opportunities for pickups and actually take the majority back in the Senate. So, they would like nothing more than to have a pickup opportunity in New Jersey.


And by the way, New Jersey recently has demonstrated that Republicans have gotten pretty close at taking majorities in that state. So, if I were a Democratic senator, I would much prefer to have Chris Murphy the Democratic governor appoints somebody for the remainder of Menendez's term that then has a running start at holding that seat.

Or at least say that he's not going to run, so that they can be sure they know who their candidate is that will be a strong opponent against Republicans. I think this is entirely about the 2024 Senate map. And that's why you see Democratics -- Dem and Democrats piling on because they want the contrast, and they want the power.

BASH: Right. So, if he, Senator Menendez says, I'm not going to run for reelection, then it starts to campaign the Democrats to run against each other in a primary, and then it kind of maybe tries to balance the playing field a little bit more.

Now you have Coleman, Republicans, including some who work closely with Senator Menendez on foreign policy, national security issues, sort of coming to his defense, sort of. This is Tom Cotton, who tweeted the charges against Senator Menendez are serious and troubling.

At the same time, the Department of Justice has a troubling record of failure and corruption in these cases against public failures from Ted Stevens to Bob McDonnell to Donald Trump to Bob Menendez, the last time around.

Again, he's not coming to the defense of his colleague when it comes to the substance of the allegations, instead, using it as a way to get in on the sort of hammer that the Republicans are hitting on every front that they can against the Justice Department.

HUGHES: Well, yes. So, I think we can expect to see Republicans try to draw a parallel between Bob Menendez's corruption and the corruption they're alleging of the Biden family, right? In the Menendez case where they've actually seized the gold bars, they've seized the cash stuffed into clothes and so forth.

This is exactly what Republicans hope to find some time down the line at Biden's house, right? And because they're part of the same party, Republicans are going to try to draw a parallel here, of course, there's no yet direct evidence in the case of Biden. But you're going to see a story told where, you know, this is what Democrats do. Look at Biden, look at Menendez, et cetera.

GOLDMACHER: I was just going to ask, add on like, what is Menendez's future here? We're talking about the political questions, but there are real legal questions for him, right? And if you're a sitting U.S. senator, being a sitting U.S. Senator, is one of your leverage points with the Justice Department, right?

There's conversations about not running and there's conversations about stepping down, there's conversations about resigning. Those are often parts of a negotiation post indictment, and you've seen fourth members of Congress who hold out for some kind of a plea deal, and as part of it, they step out of office.

So, despite the political pressure that's building today, Menendez has a separate legal argument that he's going to be dealing with in addition to the political -- -

BASH: It's such an important point. They are all very much connected and no question conversations are happening with -- they're not happening officially are being discussed behind the scenes. Very good point. Everybody stand by, because the stage is set for the second Republican primary debate. Donald Trump won't be there, but we'll tell you who did and make the cut. Next.




BASH: You're looking at live pictures of President Biden who is now on the ground in Michigan. You see that he's talking there, embracing Debbie Dingell, the congresswoman from Michigan who represents the district where he is, where the strike is happening in part, and the part of the state where he is going to visit.

And then next to her is Shawn Fain who is the head of the UAW, the United Auto Workers union. And they are greeting the president. Unclear if they will all be going with him to this picket line. But what you're looking at is the beginning of a historic visit.

The first time a U.S. president comes to a picket line, an active picket line. Just kind of surprising that in the history of this country, given how many strikes there are there have been and the kinds of presidents that we have seen that it hasn't happened before, but apparently it has not.

So, we are waiting for the president to finish his meet and greet there on the tarmac in Michigan. And then he will get in the motorcade and go and join workers on the picket line. So, we're going to monitor that. We're going to monitor that, and we will let you know when that event does indeed happen.

In the meantime, let's talk about what's going to happen in California tomorrow night. California will host seven Republican candidates and it will be the latest. The second actually debate clash, who we're going to see on the stage, Doug Burgum, Chris Christie, Ron DeSantis, Nikki Haley, Mike Pence, Vivek Ramaswamy and Tim Scott. The missing person, of course, is Donald Trump. Again, he will counter program. He will be where Joe Biden is right now. He will be in the state of Michigan. He is going to go there to make an argument about trying to get workers in his corner again and if he does win the Republican nomination and does go on to run against Joe Biden in November of 2024.

Let's talk about all this with our reporters who are here. Talk about the sort of the debate stage and what we're going to see? I'm going out there. It was certainly for the first debate. I was in Wisconsin.