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Rare With Reunion: Obama And Biden Team Up In Obamacare Ad; Trump Says He'd Try Again To Repeal Affordable Care Act; Will Obama Be Able To Bring Young Voters Back To Biden? Haley Agrees To Participate In CNN Iowa Debate; Christie Attacks Haley, DeSantis For Not Going After Trump; Top Biden Aid Meets With Palestinian Leader In West Bank; Signs Of Divide Between U.S. And Israel Over Next Phase Of War; Israel Believes 132 Hostages Remain In Gaza, Including 20 Bodies. Aired 12- 12:30p ET

Aired December 15, 2023 - 12:00   ET



DANA BASH, CNN HOST, INSIDE POLITICS: Today on INSIDE POLITICS, together again. Barack Obama and Joe Biden are teaming up to promote one of their biggest accomplishments. We have details on their rare White House for union, and whether the former president can help the current one to get reelected.

Plus, a growing divide. The U.S. and Israel are no longer in lockstep on how to prosecute the war against Hamas terrorists. As a top Biden official meets with the leader of the Palestinian authority in the West Bank.

And it's time for closing arguments. Republican candidates have one month left to make their case to Iowa voters. Nikki Haley just agreed that the CNN debate stage will be one of her final stops.

I'm Dana Bash. Let's go behind the headlines at INSIDE POLITICS.

We start with Obama and Biden joining forces again. The former president taped a new ad with his former V.P. on the importance of Obamacare. CNN's Kevin Liptak is at the White House. Kevin, you broke this story. Tell us about this.

KEVIN LIPTAK, CNN REPORTER: Yeah. And it's always interesting to see how this White House chooses to deploy the former president in their messaging. Obviously, President Obama remains enormously popular among Democrats and the Affordable Care Act remains a major part of his legacy.

So perhaps, it was no surprise that the White House is taping this ad in the White House residents have tried to time around the open enrollment period for those Obamacare exchanges. They taped it last week. Let's watch a little bit of it.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: A President Biden, is Obamacare still a thing? It's still a thing? BARACK OBAMA, 44TH U.S. PRESIDENT: Yes. Obamacare, the Affordable Care Act. Bidencare, whatever you call it. Yes, it is still a thing. The other side's been trying to repeal it every year since it's existed. But we'll keep fighting to protect it.

BIDEN: Not just protect it but expand it. Saving millions of dollars for working families. We're covering more people than ever.

OBAMA: Just go to to learn more.

BIDEN: Yeah. It's still a BFD.


LIPTAK: Yes. So, BFD, obviously a reference to that hot mic expletive that the two leaders exchanged on the day Obamacare was signed. But I think this tells you a couple of things. One, the Biden folks really do think that healthcare will be a big issue in next year's campaign, particularly after former President Trump vowed to repeal the law and the law is popular.

And I think it also tells you that they plan to rely on President Obama as they try and enthuse Democrats heading into next year's election. President Obama still popular within the party, and they are looking for reasons to get Democrats out to vote for issues that they care about. And this is certainly one of them, Dana.

BASH: Kevin, thank you so much. Great reporting. Appreciate it. I want to bring in our political panel on this and more, CNN's Kasie Hunt, CNN's Daniel Strauss, and Jackie Kucinich from The Boston Globe. Hi, everybody. Happy Friday. We obviously all got the Navy memo. It's a little spooky.

OK. Let's obviously talk about -- they want to talk about Obamacare no matter what. But let's go back, not that far in time to remind our viewers of INSIDE POLITICS, why they think it's even more resonant right now. Let's listen to what Donald Trump said recently on the trail.


DONALD TRUMP, 45TH U.S. PRESIDENT: But Obamacare is a disaster. And I said, we're going to do something about it. I saved Obamacare when we got John McCain's negative vote, you know, he voted against it after campaigning for many, many years. He said, thumps down, I'm not attacking it. When we had Obamacare, I fix it and made it work. But I also made the statement, it will never be any good. It will never be any good. And it is no good.


KASIE HUNT, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: I mean, that was a gift, too. I mean, my sense is Donald Trump was responding to criticisms from his Republican rivals over his failure to repeal Obamacare. And that's why suddenly this was brought up into the conversation, but it was a gift to Democrats, who see the popularity of the law. Know how it played last time and are just -- I mean, they haven't had many great breaks lately, but this was a good one for them.


BASH: And the Obama of it all. The fact that he is engaging as he is pretty early in the campaign process for Obama. He likes to kind of be more of the closer in a general election. This is what Dick Harpootlian said on Sunday. And I think we caught our eye because it seems very astute.

Barack Obama ought to step up. Every Democrat and independent who cherishes the democracy that we've gotten to know, and if they want to stop it from unraveling, better step up with checkbooks and every waking moment to try to motivate people to vote.

DANIEL STRAUSS, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: It's a curious contrast from 2022. And that cycle where Obama and his team look to use him very tactically and did not distribute him across the country as much as one would expect. But right now, he's being rolled out early.

And let's also remember something important about the Obamacare. It's the phrase, Obamacare. It is his legacy. That's something that was submitted. Originally, it was a derogatory term that Republicans were trying to push. And then Democrats embraced it.

And the Biden administration hasn't had that sort of fortune with Bidenomics. It just is not -- it's not the conversation the same way. It is not associated with benefits and entitlements that really get Democrats energized the way Obamacare does. Now, there is a large portion of young Democratic voters who don't really remember the fights of Obamacare and now feeling old.

BASH: Well, I'm about to make you feel even older because I'm glad you brought that up. Let's look back at -- or let's look sort of just generally at the way young voters voted. In 2008, 2012, they voted for Obama in a big way. Now, let's look at how old those voters are? Those young voters, Daniel, -- yes, man. He's crying. The tears are getting older. They're not -- I mean, they're young, but they're not the youngest voters anymore. So, the question --


BASH: The question is whether or not Obama has the same magic with "young voters" or is it just the voters who were young at the time who are now 30 to 44?

JACKIE KUCINICH, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, THE BOSTON GLOBE: Well, Democrats do need that set of voters to come out, but there is a healthcare issue that has been motivating voters and that's abortion. And so, we know that healthcare in both in the Obamacare and taking away abortion rights in many states have gotten voters to the polls.

So, Democrats, you can totally understand why they're harping on this. Whether Obama will be the spokesperson, he does motivate black voters. He motivates, you know, a certain sector of the -- I like to call them young voters, even though --


KUCINICH: We'll just stick with it, the elder millennial of the bunch. So, you know, will that -- I don't know that any one person will get someone to the polls, but it can hurt.

BASH: Young voters, just not the youngest. Yes. Everybody sit tight for just a minute because we do have some big news out of Iowa this morning. Nikki Haley says that she will participate in next month's CNN Iowa primary debate so far. The only three candidates to qualify are Haley, Ron DeSantis, and Donald Trump.

CNN's Jeff Zeleny joins us now. Jeff, what can you tell us about this decision from Haley campaign?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Dana, we can say that Nikki Haley, the former governor of South Carolina and the former U.N. ambassador is agreeing to participate and she's doing more than that. She noticed that the field is getting smaller and she said it's, "getting harder for Donald Trump to hide."

So, as she accepted this debate invitation just days before the Iowa caucuses, she's also trying to persuade Donald Trump to come into this debate or make clear that -- in her words, he's afraid to debate. We will see, of course, he has made a decision-by-decision every debate to throughout the fall. He has not attended and that has served him just fine.

He's still in a commanding lead of this race. So, something would have to change obviously for him to jump in. But what this is going to shine a light on is that race for second place between Nikki Haley and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. And this is the criteria for that debate.

Each of the candidates must have at least 10 percent in three polls, either nationally or in Iowa. The qualifying window for that is January 2. So, some of the other candidates like Vivek Ramaswamy out there campaigning aggressively to try and make that. And three candidates as you said, Donald Trump, Ron DeSantis and Nikki Haley have qualified.

But this coming days before the Iowa caucuses, there are a lot of open minds out there. A lot of voters are still trying to weigh decisions, particularly looking for the Trump alternative. Now we know, there'll be on the debate stage at Drake University moderated of course by you, Dana Bash and Jake Tapper.

BASH: Thank you so much, Jeff. Appreciate it. And Jeff mentioned, part of Nikki Haley statement was saying, trying to shame Donald Trump into finally getting on the debate stage. This is what Ron DeSantis said in a tweet.


If Donald Trump and Nikki Haley are going to continue to spend millions against me on television with false ads, they should at least have the courage to meet on the debate stage. Now Nikki Haley has been shamed into coming to the CNN debate. It's time for Donald Trump to follow suit and join us.

KUCINICH: He said no, the last -- however, many debates I mean, there's no -- and it hasn't hurt him. So, what is the incentive? I mean, because he -- I don't think shame is something is a feeling that you would associate with the former president. So, I don't know that tactic is going to work, even baiting him there hasn't worked for these candidates. But you know, who knows?

HUNT: Well, I think the question is going to be, does it get to a point where -- you know, so far, he's been able to basically say, like, this is not a race among equals, right? These candidates that are challenging me have not shown that they are equal to me in terms of their chances of winning this nomination based on the poll numbers.

And the reality is, particularly in Iowa, the numbers have actually been moving in his direction. I mean, he was in October below 50 percent in the Iowa poll, which is the gold standard there. And in the most recent poll, he's up above 50 percent. And so, you know, I think there's something there.

I do think that, you know, there is potentially the most risk for him. To the extent there's any risk at all, in skipping one that is, what five days before the actual caucuses when Ron DeSantis is going to be trying to. Look if Ron DeSantis comes, you know, within 20 points of Donald Trump in Iowa or like surges beyond where he is in the polls in some sort of meaningful way. That's going to be a narrative that hurts Donald Trump, and New Hampshire is a much riskier place for him.

So, I mean, Dana, I'm really looking forward to seeing you moderate this no matter who shows up. I do think it's possible that New Hampshire is the more likely place where we would see Donald Trump actually get forced out of the state, depending on what happens in that.

BASH: Speaking of New Hampshire, Chris Christie continues to play in New Hampshire, not in Iowa. So far, he does not have the polling to make the Iowa debate stage. He is still hitting hard the notion that the other candidates in the race aren't going after Donald Trump enough. And he's doing that in a brand-new ad.


STRAUSS: Look, as a former Christie reporter in 2016, I will -- I can't say enough how much he and his team see New Hampshire as key to any chance of winning the White House. But this ad shows really how much of a threat Haley is to the rest of the field. And that was on display in the last presidential debate. All of the discussion, of the conflict surrounded Haley.

So, the fact that the Christie team feels that they need to spend ad time and money on Haley means that she's threatening not only DeSantis and his voters who are pro-Trump, but looking for an alternative, but also the more moderate voters who are open to Christie. And you know that shows that she's moving, not surging.

BASH: Yes. Moving, not surging. So far. Again, like I said, right now the numbers don't show that he will make the stage, nor will Vivek Ramaswamy. The idea of just two people, assuming Donald Trump doesn't show up, which we hope he does. But if it doesn't happen of just two people, maybe three people, it will be a different vibe.

KUCINICH: Well, I think even the debates where you had Vivek Ramaswamy and Chris Christie, it was only about two people. Because they've been the two contenders -- the two contenders for second place. And the biggest problematic part of that, Chris Christie ad is that lessons. He's the only one who could beat Donald Trump. Well, he's not.

It's the primary -- the primaries are very close, and he hasn't shown an ability to get even close. So, there's a reason. The focus has been on those two candidates. That seems to be who the voters who do not want Donald Trump are spending their time investing in and -- you know, perhaps winning their votes.

HUNT: So, a huge opportunity to just have the two of them on the stage totally though, Dana. And I'm going to be really interested to see if either one of them do are willing to focus outward and say that the race here is not -- the fight is not between the two of us, the fight is between each of us and Donald Trump. I'm not sure that --

BASH: Everybody standby because today the White House national security adviser is back in Israel with a new message from the Biden administration. He says, it's time for a new phase of the war. What does that mean? We'll go to our reporter in Israel, next.




BASH: A critical meeting in the West Bank. President Biden's national security adviser is there today for a one-on-one meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. It comes just hours after Jake Sullivan met with top Israeli officials, amid a growing divide between the U.S. and Israel on what happens next in Israel's war against Hamas terrorists.

CNN's Jeremy Diamond is in Sderot. Jeremy, you cover the White House. You have been in Israel now since -- basically since right after October 7. You understand the sort of inner workings of this relationship, as well as anyone there is a big shift and a growing impatience in the Biden administration. No?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: No doubt about it, Dana. And we saw that rift between Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Biden spill into public view earlier this week. But what we saw today from the National Security Adviser. Jake Sullivan was to at least publicly try and paper over what are some real and major differences between the two governments. There are major differences on everything from when exactly to begin transitioning, the fighting from a more intense to a less intense phase, civilian casualties in Gaza. And of course, what happens after Hamas is eradicated from Gaza if indeed Israel achieves that objective in the Gaza strip.


All of those, the subject of debate and intense discussion between Jake Sullivan and his Israeli counterparts over the course of last days. But Jake Sullivan, this is how he described those meetings to our colleague, Alex Marquardt, listen?


JAKE SULLIVAN, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: We're not here to tell anybody, you must do X, you must do Y. We're here to say, this is our perspective. As your partner, as your friend, this is what we believe is the best way to achieve both your tactical and strategic goals. We expect that that will occur in the future. When exactly that happens and under exactly what conditions will be continuing intensive discussion between the United States and Israel.


DIAMOND: Of course, when you look at the public comments made by Israeli officials, I mean, they are talking about this war lasting for months. The Israeli prime minister yesterday making clear that this war is going to continue until he reaches the objective of destroying Hamas.

Sullivan today insisted that there's no contradiction between the war lasting for months and transitioning to a less intense phase of fighting much sooner than that. But it is clear that there are differences over exactly when this will happen.

And Jake Sullivan also talks about the civilian casualties in Gaza, saying that while he believes that Israel has the intent to distinguish between Hamas targets and civilians in Gaza, that effectively that is not the reality on the ground. And that the U.S. even before that transition to a less intense phase of fighting, wants to see that intention that the U.S. believes Israel has reflected in the reality of its war in Gaza.

BASH: Yeah, Jeremy, and just the idea of Jake Sullivan, going to Ramallah, meeting with the Palestinian authority president is a very symbolic given the fact that Benjamin Netanyahu is arguing that they should have absolutely no role in governing Gaza when the war is over.

Speaking of Gaza, what are you hearing about the hostages? Many, many hostages still being held captive there by Hamas terrorists. It's been two weeks since the last hostages were released.

DIAMOND: Yeah. Well, the Israeli prime minister's office today providing an update on the number of hostages that they believe are still being held in the Gaza Strip, that is 132-hostage. But 20 of those, according to the Israeli governments are believed to be dead. The Israeli government will of course, still have to negotiate for the release of those bodies or have to recover them in ground operations.

So, what we saw happen today, as the bodies of two Israeli soldiers who were abducted on October 7, were recovered by Israeli forces inside of Gaza. And of course, that is also the subject of Jake Sullivan's meetings with Israeli officials and with players in the region. They want to try and restart those hostage negotiations to try and look for another potential truce between Israel and Hamas to get more of those hostages, at least eight of whom are believed to be Americans out of Gaza. Dana?

BASH: Jeremy, thank you so much. Appreciate all your reporting there. And now, here in Washington to Capitol Hill where senators cannot go home for the holidays, not just yet. Instead, Senate negotiators were meeting today with President Biden's homeland security secretary. They are trying to reach a deal to tie new immigration restrictions to aid for Israel and for Ukraine.

Majority Leader Chuck Schumer delayed the holiday recess to give lawmakers more time to negotiate. CNN's Lauren Fox is on Capitol Hill. Lauren, what are you hearing from your sources about where those negotiations stand?

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Dana. I am just coming from standing right outside of that meeting where we understand the Mayorkas has just left the Capitol. Senators are still in the room. However, having those hard soft conversations about if any middle ground can be found between Republicans and Democrats on this really tricky issue of what can they do on the southern border.

Now, these talks have intensified over the last several days. And yet, they still have a long way to go. Senator Kyrsten Sinema. One of the key negotiators in these talks told me yesterday that what has really changed over the course of the last week is the involvement from the administration. Here she was.


SEN. KYRSTEN SINEMA (I-AZ): About the fact that the White House is fully engaged in the negotiations, has definitely made a difference. It's communicated to Senate Republicans that this is serious and that we've got a deal in the future. So that's been really helpful.


FOX: And senators on the Republican side are still deeply skeptical that a deal can be found over the next several days and that one could be voted on as soon as next week. Senator John Cornyn telling our colleagues yesterday that he still feels like Schumer might be dreaming when it comes to that timeline. Dana.

BASH: We'll say the fact that they're actually staying and talking is a big deal, you know, far better than I. Thanks, Lauren. Appreciate it. Just ahead, CNN's John King is checking back in with Iowa Republicans some he met earlier this year. Some of them have changed their minds and who their choices in 2024.



BASH: We are exactly one month away from the Iowa caucuses and Donald Trump is holding on to a commanding lead in the polls there. But is that the whole story? CNN's John King went back to the Hawkeye State to speak with some of the voters he's been spending time with this year, and asked whether the final days of the campaign are changing any minds.