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Haley Makes Final Pitch To Caucusgoers In Iowa; Extreme Winter Weather Disrupting Campaigns In Iowa; Haley's New Hampshire Primary Support Boosted By Independents; New CNN Poll: DeSantis Falls To 5th Place In New Hampshire; Hard-Line House Republicans Threaten To Block Spending Deal; Speaker Johnson Faces Pushback From The Far Right With Just 10 Days Left To Avoid A Government Shutdown; Sen. Menendez Pushes Back On Indictment Against Him For Alleged Corruption. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired January 09, 2024 - 12:30   ET




MANU RAJU, CNN HOST: A brand new CNN poll out this morning. Nikki Haley has slashed Donald Trump's lead there to single digits. Her support is up 12 points since our last poll in November, and she's the only one with any momentum in the Granite State. Ron DeSantis's campaign there has all but collapsed.

But this week, Haley is focused on Iowa. Here she is just this morning in the suburbs outside Des Moines.


NIKKI HALEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The only way we're going to win the majority of Americans is if we go forward with a new generational leader that leaves the negativity and the baggage in the past and goes forward with the solutions for the future. Don't complain about what happens in a general election if you don't play in this caucus. It matters.


RAJU: CNN's Kylie Atwood is following Haley today in Iowa. So Kylie, tell us about Haley's attacks against Trump and how voters are responding to those.

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, listen, Nikki Haley in this poll, as you guys said, continued momentum for her in New Hampshire. She is now at 32 percent, Trump at 39 percent. She's narrowing the gap when it comes to the difference between her and the former president on the campaign trail in New Hampshire.

Now, an important aspect of this poll, Manu, is that her support among independents and moderates is growing. And so that is a key area for us to watch and in not in all of the primaries are independents even allowed to partake. So that is an area to watch because can she continue this momentum? Can't she grow on that momentum after New Hampshire, in states where there aren't independents that are able to partake in the actual primary voting process?

Now she's out on the campaign trail today. She's the first candidate to have an event here in Iowa today. And what she's telling voters here is that they can't complain about what happens in November if they don't partake in the Iowa caucus.

RAJU: And Kylie, as we can see on our screen there, it is quite snowy and I'm sure it is not warm doing those outdoor live shots in Iowa right now. So how are the candidates' plans being impacted by that massive winter storm you're all enduring?

ATWOOD: Well, obviously, the impact is undeniable. I mean, yesterday, Nikki Haley had to cancel an event. Vivek Ramaswamy went ahead with his events, but then he tweeted out a photo of his car actually going into a ditch on his way back to Des Moines from Northwest Iowa.

He was poking jabs at Nikki Haley for canceling hers, but then just this morning, he canceled a few of his events. So there's a lot going on here right now. Folks are trying to get around with these rows, which are quite slick given that there are these snowstorms coming through the state right now.

But what Nikki Haley said to voters today at her event, was that she was pleasantly pleased that there was a packed house. She thought there could only be five people. And when we talked to Iowa caucus goers in that room this morning, what they told us is that this is Iowa. They are prepared to go out in caucus on next Monday, which is just six days from today.

And Haley's campaign, for their part, says what they're focused on is staying in touch with their supporters, to make sure that they are reminded, that Monday is caucus day, that they're going to get out there and vote for Haley. And they don't think that the weather is going to have a deeply chilling effect on the turnout, but we'll just have to watch and see. Manu?

RAJU: That would deeply chilling effect. I like what you did there and we'll see. It's going to be below zero there, but Iowans know cold weather in January.

Kylie Atwood from a very cold Iowa. Thank you so much.

Our panel is back here in our warm set. A little cool in here, but not like --


RAJU: Yes, cold for her, watching her. So the question here when you look at this poll is just how strong Nikki Haley's support is in New Hampshire. If you just look, dig a little deeper, it says a 54 percent of Haley's supporters are definitely decided on the primary vote, 80 percent of Trump supporters.

The rest of the candidates, they're supportive of 45 percent, according to this poll. What do you take away from that, Jackie? KUCINICH: She's holding firm with that, you know, more than half. However, I mean, there -- it is pretty -- it's soft in places. People could change their mind. I mean, in this poll and also on the Boston Globes, which is a little bit different, that came out today.


I don't want to be Chris Christie if I'm looking at these polls. Because he has, what, 12 percent in one of them and about the same in the other. And almost all of his voters say if he wasn't in the race, they would vote for Nikki Haley because -- and that just increased, ratchets up the pressure on Christie, who a lot of people called for him to bow out up until this point.

RAJU: Yes. Fancy you mention that because we actually have that poll as well showing that we're -- how people would vote their second choice for nominee. This is Chris Christie voters. This is an interesting question of this poll to ask Christie voters. Who would you vote for if let's say Christie was not your choice?

Haley, 65 percent of Nikki Haley would vote for Nikki Haley. Christie has been saying for -- and look at Trump, less than 1 percent, that asterisks means less than 1 percent. But what they're saying here is that Christie, if they've grown in the race, potentially Haley would have even more support. They'd have a chance to knock off Trump.

AYESHA RASCOE, NPR HOST, "WEEKEND EDITION SUNDAY": Because they're competing for the same voters, right? The same people who are looking for that alternative to Trump are looking at Chris Christie and Nikki Haley. I think the problem for both Chris Christie and Nikki Haley -- and we got to give, you know, credit to her for being able to get where she's at today is that you have a base that is not really for them.

Is that, yes, the independence, the moderates will go for them. But is that going to really get them the nomination? And that's the problem. If only she could run in the general and didn't have to go through the primary, the nominating process, she'd be in much better shape.

RAJU: Yes. And that's a great point because the same poll asked about Moderate voters and conservative voters. Where does Nikki Haley's support lie? And Kylie was mentioning this as well, but just to talk a little bit more about it, her support clearly in the moderate lane. 55 percent of people who identify themselves as moderate voters in New Hampshire support Nikki Haley.

Just 13 percent of those support Donald Trump. 60 percent Trump is dominating the conservative lane. 60 percent. Look, this may be good for her in New Hampshire, but John McCain won New Hampshire in 2000. George W. Bush became the nominee in 2000 because all these other states, they don't have that same, not all of them, have that same moderate appeal or independent voters or even are open primaries. Some of them are closed primaries and they cater to the conservatives that Donald Trump appeals to.

ALAYNA TREENE, CNN REPORTER: No, absolutely. And I think that's why you see Nikki Haley spend so much time in New Hampshire, targeting New Hampshire because the way that that primary is set up. It is very different than the other races.

And, look, I think just a really good example of Nikki's Haley or Nikki Haley's rise in New Hampshire is how we're seeing the other candidates react, specifically Donald Trump. I mean, we've seen for the past several months now, he's really only gone after Ron DeSantis on the campaign trail. I've gone to, you know, nearly all of his rallies and you hear him repeatedly hitting DeSantis.

But in recent weeks, a lot of that fire, if not all of that fire, has been trained on Nikki Haley. We're seeing his campaign also, his Super PAC pouring millions of dollars into New Hampshire attacking her and that's because she is rising. I think the key way that the Trump campaign looks at, and I think the other rivals are the same, is that yes, New Hampshire is one race, but it's also defining.

If she can do really well, if she can come in second in Iowa, if she can do really well in New Hampshire, that will set her up so much better for Nevada and South Carolina and the other races that mean so much in this primary.

RAJU: And the question, of course, through all the Trump opponents is how they deal with Trump. We talked a little bit about in the last segment that it shied away from all those criminal charges. Nikki Haley was asked about this last night.


HALEY: Just because President Trump says something doesn't make it true. He said January 6th was a beautiful day. I think January 6th was a terrible day. I hope we never see that happen again.

President Trump was the right president at the right time. I agree with a lot of his policies. But rightly or wrongly, chaos follows him. And you all know I'm right. Chaos follows him.


RAJU: She's kept that line for some time --


RAJU: -- chaos, it's about chaos, not diving into kind of the specifics here, is that -- what do you make of her strategy?

KUCINICH: She's really trying to walk a line of not upsetting the Trump faithful and perhaps those people that are on the bubble, unlike Chris Christie, who's been, you know, said what he said about Trump and has been very consistent since he started running, it's been very never Trump esque.

She hasn't had that. She's -- she has been more like a, we should move on from Trump, thank you very much. Next. And that has been her consistent -- if we're a candidate that has been kind of all over the place on some other issues, she's been very consistent in that approach against a former president.

RAJU: Yes. Meanwhile, what happened to Ron DeSantis campaign? Look, he is still banking on Iowa. He's been saying we need to win Iowa. We'll see if he actually gets -- how close he gets to Trump if he does not win Iowa. He's barely a factor in New Hampshire.

And today he's in Florida. He's giving a --


RAJU: -- speech in Florida. State of the state speech that he has to give as the governor of Florida. You look at the polls right there, he is barely a blip there. 5 percent now, he's down four points in New Hampshire. If he does not come any -- if he loses by double digits and be in Iowa, can he stay in this race?


RASCOE: I think it would be very difficult because what is the case for him? You know, I mean, he was such -- he was this figure that I think we see often where you're not on the national scale yet. You're on your state, you're the governor and everybody is looking at you.

But then when you get onto that presidential campaign trail, you just cannot take a punch. You cannot roll with them. You can't do it. You cannot rise above. And Nikki Haley has done it. Ron DeSantis has not.

RAJU: Yes, and we'll see. Ron DeSantis will have a chance to talk -- be on the national stage tomorrow, as a reminder. The CNN presidential debate is set for tomorrow night. Nikki Haley and Ron DeSantis will face off at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, starting at 9:00 p.m. Eastern. Dana Bash will be moderating along with Jake Tapper.

OK, ahead back in session and back to butting heads. High stakes talks over government funding and border security collide in Congress.



RAJU: House Speaker Mike Johnson returns to Washington today, facing an uprising in the ranks. Does that sound familiar? Well, it is. The hard right is furious at a deal he cut intended to keep the government open, saying it spends too much money. And now he has just 10 days left to turn that bipartisan deal into a law.

But some fellow Republicans are saying the House should include tough new border security restrictions to the funding bill. Even if it risks a showdown with Democrats and a possible government shutdown. Here's what Congressman Jim Jordan told me.


REP. JIM JORDAN (R), OHIO: We should use every opportunity. Every must pass bill, we should be looking to put on that legislation language that would address the problem. RAJU: Aren't you concerned that could risk a shutdown?

JORDAN: If the Democrats think that not -- keeping the border in the crazy situation it is, which is on pace to get to 12 million, is more important than funding our government. That's on them.


RAJU: CNN's Melanie Zanona is strolling the halls of the Capitol as she always is and talking to her sources and to lawmakers. So what is your sense of how Speaker Johnson is going to navigate this dilemma?

MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Well, Speaker Johnson is on a very complicated footing as he heads into the New Year. Border politics, which is already very complicated, has now been injected to almost every debate happening on Capitol Hill from Israel and Ukraine aid to now government funding.

And meanwhile, as you mentioned, Johnson is facing some very serious and loud criticism from his right flank over this bipartisan agreement he made on top line overall funding numbers for the government. A deal which we should point out is very similar to the one former Speaker Kevin McCarthy made in last summer before he was ousted.

So there is really this growing sentiment inside the GOP right now that Johnson is getting rolled by Democrats and that maybe he's not getting up to speed on the job as quickly as some had hoped. But that's not to say that his job is immediately at risk. I don't think there's an appetite at this moment to do another motion to vacate the speaker's chair.

But as we've seen, his right flank can cause a host of other headaches and problems for the speaker. So these are voices that he simply can't ignore.

RAJU: And it's really interesting, his strategy here, because, you know, those are the same voices that you're saying -- he can't ignore, but they're the ones who, as you said, pushed out Kevin McCarthy from the speakership. They're the ones who essentially said because he tried to keep the government open and did not seek spending cuts, he should be out as speaker.

But since then, he has moved to keep the government open without seeking spending cuts. He has moved a defense bill, cut deal with Democrats, that essentially he used a process to circumvent the right flank so he can get it passed by a significant bipartisan vote.

And he may do that again on this government funding bill essentially pushing the right flank to the side, working with Democrats to get this through. How do you think that's going to go over?

ZANONA: Not well. I mean, Manu, you know these people as well as I do, in terms of the Freedom Caucus and the hard right. They're going to be furious if Johnson indeed works with Democrats to fund the government. So he's really boxed himself into a corner here because he has also said that he's not going to pass any more short term government funding bills.

But the next deadline is January 19th. That is just around the corner. He's now dealing with criticism over these top line funding numbers, facing pressure to inject border politics and demands into these fights. Now, he hasn't gone as far as embracing those calls to shut down the government over this issue. But he is making it a top priority.

So all of it is risking a potential shutdown. It's just a matter of a few weeks here, Manu.

RAJU: Yes, and look, he has not yet said whether or not he would actually do what Jim Jordan said that he should do, which is include provisions in their dealing with border security in this must pass plan. Chuck Schumer, the Senate majority this morning said, that's a poison bill. That will absolutely not -- should not be included here. That could risk a shutdown.

That is a big fight. We'll see how that plays out. There is not much time. Once again, potentially causing a mess of their own making. And Melanie Zanona will be there to cover it all.

Thank you, Melanie, for joining me this afternoon.

And next for us, indicted New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez, he proclaims his innocence on the Senate floor, blasting new sensational charges, he says, against him.



RAJU: Senator Bob Menendez defended himself on the Senate floor this morning. Prosecutors have charged the New York, New Jersey Democrat with participating in a yearlong corruption scheme with Qatari and Egyptian officials. Allegations he has emphatically denied.


SEN. BOB MENENDEZ (D), NEW JERSEY: The sensationalized allegations are now creating a rising call for my resignation, despite my innocence. And before a single piece of evidence has even been introduced in a court of law. The United States attorney's office is engaged not in a prosecution, but a persecution. They seek a victory, not justice.

I have received nothing, absolutely nothing from the government of Qatar or on behalf of the government of Qatar.



RAJU: Now, one Democratic senator not holding back this morning. Senator John Fetterman, the freshman Democrat, telling reporters, quote, "That sleazeball has got to go." Menendez's term is up this year. He has not said whether he would run for reelection, but Democrats have lined up to run against him in the primary.

Now, before we go, a quick reminder. The CNN Republican Presidential Debate set for tomorrow night. Nikki Haley and Ron DeSantis will face off at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, starting at 9:00 p.m. Eastern. Dana Bash will be moderating along with Jake Tapper.

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