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Inside Politics

Democratic Pollster On Biden Polls: "This Is Grim"; KFile: Trump Defends Former Influencer Convicted Of Election Interference Who Has Racist, Antisemitic Past; Justice O'Connor Lies In Repose At Supreme Court. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired December 18, 2023 - 12:30   ET



JIM ACOSTA, CNN HOST: Welcome back to Inside politics. Despite President Biden's efforts to sell his economic vision and inflation data, signaling better economic times ahead, Americans are not buying it. Take a look at this. A new study from a democratic advisory group put it simply for the president, quote, "This is grim".

Joining me now is one of the authors of this study, Democratic pollster and strategist Stanley Greenberg. He helped elect Bill Clinton back in 1992. Stan, great to see you. Welcome back.


Your group found that some of the president's support is waning among some pretty key constituencies that he had back in 2020. What can you tell us about that? What are you seeing in the numbers?

STANLEY GREENBERG, DEMOCRATIC POLLSTER & STRATEGIST: Look, that's actually the most important piece. And, you know, sometimes people say, are the polls too early, you know? But when your approval with your base is lower, then the -- your opponent, you know, you've got to -- you need a new start.


GREENBERG: You need to look fresh. And frank God, you know, David Lauter in the LA Times finally pointed out, every incumbent, every leader in the world has low approval. They're losing elections. What's happening with Biden is not new.

ACOSTA: Right.

GREENBERG: But we are coming out of a period with three exceptional factors. I've talked about them in the Financial Times article that I wrote. One is inflation. You know, inflation concentrates the mind. It's been inflation on essentials, getting, you know, energy, fuel prices, food, real basics.


GREENBERG: Second has been the fact that the political class has done nothing about the profiteering. And then third is the migration that's come out through as a result of wars and climate change.

ACOSTA: So, yes. So the immigration issue is a real thing. The question I have, though, is inflation is cooling. I mean, if you look at gas prices, they're going down. They're around $3 a gallon in the Washington, D.C. area, Maryland or Virginia. I suspect it fluctuates depending on where you are around the country, but generally coming down, people aren't feeling that enough just yet.

GREENBERG: It's a bubble.


GREENBERG: It's a bubble. People -- look, what I have discovered in doing my polling in Europe, in U.K., and here is what matters is how many months people have been struggling to deal with inflation. And each month they get madder and madder about it, as long as their wages are trailing prices.

And --

ACOSTA: So they're grumpy right now.

GREENBERG: So they're still three -- look, get out of the bubble.


GREENBERG: They are -- it's 3 percent higher than it was --


GREENBERG: -- when Biden came in. In the last six months, there has been a decline in disposable income. So the context is you have to start there. Inflation is like 30 points higher than the next problem. And you can't -- you know, what the president currently doing is his tweets always start with, we're making progress, and then he mentions prices.

If you look at his ads aimed at black voters, it's mainly trying to convince them they're doing a good job. But that's not where they're. They are losing ground every month and anger about it. But you have to stop. You have to say, what's the main problem? How do you, you know, how do you deal with the first problem, which is inflation and the cost of living?

ACOSTA: Stan, the Washington Post has some new reporting out today about a meeting President Biden held with his staff about his poll numbers. And it says, in part, "After pardoning a pair of turkeys, an annual White House tradition, Biden delivered some stern words for the small group assembled. His poll numbers were unacceptably low and he wanted to know what his team and his campaign were doing about it."

What are they doing about it? What should they be doing about it?

GREENBERG: Well, what they're currently doing -- what the president currently is doing is still talking about progress. And you can't talk about progress with three quarters of the country think we're on the wrong track. So you have to stop on the notion that we're making progress. You have to get where people are.

And where they are is on the rising prices. They need to stop with their own voters and say, we get it. If inflation is the biggest problem, we get it. We know what you've been through. We're in touch with that. Here's what we're dealing with it. We are going to do a child tax credit. We're going to cut drug prices. We're going to lower health care costs, and we're going to go after the big companies that aren't getting -- aren't paying any tax.

We're going to go after profiteering. We're going to shift power from work to workers and focus again on the needs of working people.

ACOSTA: I want to get you to respond to how former President Trump spoke about immigration over the weekend. Let's talk about on the other side and ask why this issue is resonating for him right now. Why is he going after it? Let's talk about it.



DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Our border has been erased. We have no border any longer. Criminals are running wild and our Democrat run cities. Given the unprecedented millions of Biden illegal aliens who are invading our country, it is only common sense that when I'm re-elected, we will begin and we have no choice, the largest deportation operation in American history. Crooked Joe Biden and the ultra-radical left Democrat extremists in Congress have turned America into a haven for bloodthirsty criminals.



ACOSTA: Some pretty dark talk, I mean, you heard the president over the weekend --


ACOSTA: -- former president over the weekend talking about immigrants poisoning the blood of this. He's labeling undocumented immigrants, Biden illegal aliens. Obviously, all of that is pretty repugnant stuff. But how does President Biden reframe this issue to talk about in a way that helps Democrats?

GREENBERG: Yes. Look, I wish I could tell you that the --

ACOSTA: Bill Clinton did not have this problem.

GREENBERG: No, no. The voters actually fear if Biden gets in with Democrats. They won't deal with the border, they won't deal with crime. They do think that they will try to protect democracy. And so there is a competition here on stepping forward and defending democracy as part of the closing argument, you know, for Democrats.

But they have to deal with the fact, they have to deal with the border. Their own voters want more control on crime and the borders. And I think the White House is right in trying to get to a deal that addresses, you know, those issues. That's part of the deal. But they have to move this election to the future.

They have to make it a choice, a very tough choice. And it has to be focused on how it's impacting way of life and has to focus on the cost of living and how Democrats are addressing those issues.

ACOSTA: All right, Stan Greenberg, great stuff. Wish we had more time, but thanks a lot. Really appreciate it. Happy holidays.

Coming up, exclusive reporting from CNN's KFile. Donald Trump throws his support behind a Twitter troll and prolific racist who was convicted of trying to suppress democratic voters in 2016. That's next.



ACOSTA: Some new reporting now from CNN's KFile, Donald Trump and one of his sons have been defending a former social media influencer who has a history of posting some of the most offensive, racist and antisemitic tweets we have ever seen. CNN's Andrew Kaczynski dug deep into this one. Andrew, great work as always. What'd you find?

ANDREW KACZYNSKI, CNN REPORTER: Yes, that's right. Both Donald Trump and Donald Trump Jr. have been defending and praising a man with a history of racist and antisemitic tweets who was convicted in March of interfering in the 2016 election. His name is Douglass Mackey. He went by the pseudonym Ricky Vaughn on Twitter.

That's where he posted this meme, which prosecutors said suggested that people vote for Hillary Clinton by text. They say at least 44,900 people texted this number. Now, Mackey and the Trumps have sort of claimed this is a joke that no reasonable person would believe, but prosecutors allege this is part of a much more sinister plot to deprive people of their right to vote.

He was convicted in March. He was sentenced in October. He's currently out on while his appeal goes through the justice system. Let's flash forward to today, and Donald Trump is claiming this is an example of Joe Biden's Justice Department going after his supporters for attacking their free speech. Take a listen to this.


TRUMP: Crooked Joe and his henchmen have tried to shut down free speech with a massive government censorship operation to silence their critics. They're putting Douglass Mackey in jail for sharing a joking meme about Hillary Clinton seven years ago. Nobody ever heard of anything like that.


ACOSTA: And Andrew, there's more to it than just the text to vote scheme, right? Mackey was notorious for posting antisemitic and these offensive racist memes. What can you tell us?

KACZYNSKI: Yes, that's right. And what's so interesting is he was prosecuted or investigated by Trump's own Justice Department. He was charged just one week into Biden's new administration. And the content that he shared on his Twitter account was some of the most racist, antisemitic content that we've seen. We can't even show really any of it on air because it's so offensive.


KACZYNSKI: He regularly used the n word, where he called black people feral. He shared antisemitic propaganda that was reminiscent of Nazi Germany. There was a post where he joked about having a cake baked that said, gas the Jews using a slur with a symbol for Hail Hitler.

And take a look at this tweet right here. This is, again, one of the only ones that we can show on air where he says that "The Jews fear that Donald Trump is Hitler because they have known -- they have done great evil in America. They fear justice will be done." He wrote that in December 2015.

And it's not like this stuff was hidden, Jim, this is why this account was popular. This was everything that was really on his feet --


KACZYNSKI: -- day in and day out when we were looking through it. So now that you've heard and seen some of that stuff, take a listen to what Donald Trump Jr. said about him when he had Ricky Vaughn, Douglass Mackey on his podcast earlier this year.


DONALD TRUMP JR., FORMER PRESIDENT TRUMP'S SON: You had an awesome account. It may be my favorite Twitter account of all time. Now I'll get in trouble for saying that because I was like, oh, he said something once that you must disavow. Like, it was hilarious, O. Like, again, like I said, maybe the best of all time. But how did you get into the idea of that account? How were you able to grow such a large following that put you on the radar of these people?



KACZYNSKI: So we reached out to Mackey's attorney. We also reached out to the Trumps. We didn't hear back from them. Mackey's attorney tells us that he regrets the tone and substance of these posts. He said they don't reflect his current view or the person he's been the last several years.

But they did tell us that he is grateful that Trump and his son and thousands across the political spectrum have rallied to his case, which they say is an important issue about protecting the first Amendment rights of all Americans. ACOSTA: Gosh. Just awful, awful stuff. All right, birds of a feather, I guess. Andrew Kaczynski, thank you very much for that reporting. We appreciate it.

In the meantime, Sandra Day O'Connor makes her final journey to the Supreme Court, remembering the life and legacy of the late Supreme Court Justice. That's next.



ACOSTA: Today, Vice President Kamala Harris and second gentleman Doug Emhoff paid their respects to the late Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. O'Connor's casket arrived at the Supreme Court earlier this morning draped in an American flag. Justice O'Connor, the first woman to serve on the nation's highest court, died on December 1st at the age of 93. She was remembered today as a fearless trailblazer.


JUSTICE SONIA SOTOMAYOR, SUPREME COURT: She understood that personal relationships were critical to working together, even and especially in the face of adversity or strenuous disagreement. Today, I know she is smiling knowing that four sisters serve on her court.


ACOSTA: And thanks very much for joining Inside Politics today. I'm Jim Acosta. CNN News Central starts after the break. Have a good one.