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Inside Politics

New Iowa Poll: Trump Holds Massive Lead, Haley In Far 2nd; GOP Hopefuls Try To Motivate Voters Amid Frigid Temps; Veteran Iowa Reporters Share What They'll Be Watching; GOP Hardliners Clash With Party Over Spending; Race to Replace George Santos Draws National Attention; Record-Breaking Cold Air Expected for Iowa Caucuses. Aired 11a-12p ET

Aired January 14, 2024 - 11:00   ET



MANU RAJU, CNN HOST: Frozen field. A brutal Arctic blast paralyzes Iowa.

NIKKI HALEY, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Monday is going to be cold. Really cold.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have record cold weather, a record snowfall, a record everything.

DESANTIS: Nobody can forecast what the turnout is going to be.

RAJU: How will extreme weather impact the coldest caucuses ever? And are we in for an Iowa surprise?

Plus, Mike in the middle.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This place is a joke.

RAJU: Worrying Republicans threatened to shut down the government.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've wasted an entire week this week.

RAJU: And new reporting on their attempt to impeach the president.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If he doesn't show up, you know, I guess we'll just have to wrap it up without him and assume that these were bribes.

RAJU: Plus, replacing George Santos.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: People are concerned about border security. People are concerned about safety. People are concerned about the economy.

RAJU: How much are Biden and Trump shaping races where they're not on the ballot?

Inside politics, the best reporting from inside the corners of power, starts now.

Good morning and welcome to the INSIDE POLITICS SUNDAY. I'm Manu Raju.

Well, it is finally here. After months of rallies, handshakes, and photo ops, the presidential candidates will face off tomorrow in the first contest of 2024.

The stage has been set in the Hawkeye state and now the political world is reacting to a major new poll from the Des Moines Register and NBC News showing Donald Trump with a commanding lead, 28 points ahead of his closest rival.

Nikki Haley is narrowly pulling ahead of Ron DeSantis for second place, but both far behind Trump who still has more support than both of them combined. And Trump supporters are, by far, the most enthusiastic. Forty-nine percent are extremely enthusiastic compared to 23 percent of DeSantis supporters and just 9 percent for Haley.

The pollster called those Haley numbers, quote, on the edge of jaw dropping and not in a good way.

But this year's extreme weather could have an unpredictable impact on turnout and already did some damage to the candidate's plans for their final weekend on the trail.

CNN's Jeff Zeleny is in Des Moines indoors. Very happy to be indoors, I'm sure. Jeff, how worried are the campaigns at this moment about turnout ahead of this-- ahead of tomorrow with this extreme weather that you're all enduring?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Manu. Good morning. I mean, it is the central concern of every one of the campaigns.

First and foremost, it is something that is outside of their control for all of the planning, for all of the precise strategy. This is something that is not in their hands and it is going to dramatically impact who turns out to the Iowa caucuses tomorrow evening.

Already this morning, Governor Ron DeSantis is canceling an event tonight in Sioux City. Nikki Haley is canceling an event this morning in a Dubuque. They don't want their supporters out on the roads today, but tomorrow night they do.

So what is happening behind the scenes is really a furious scramble to ensure that all of their supporters get out to the polls, but some very interesting numbers that you were just talking about inside the Des Moines Register poll.

The intensity is something that certainly is a worry for Nikki Haley supporters. She certainly has some movement here in Iowa as well as in New Hampshire. But are her supporters as intense?

Yesterday, we went out with one of her hot advocates who is going door to door in this bone chilling cold.

Drew Klein is the veteran of Iowa Republican caucuses. He acknowledged that weather is a concern. DREW KLEIN, REGIONAL VICE PRESIDENT, AFP ACTION: There are folks that are going to decide to stay home, for sure. We're trying to overcome that as much as possible by, you know, just kind of laying out to them that the gravity of their votes and their participation, what that means.

When you're deciding between the couch at 70 degrees or negative five degrees outside of your front door, it's tough to get people to go.

So there's no question that Trump supporters are the most committed, so they are perhaps the most likely to turn out. But some of them have to drive the farthest as well. His supporters in rural areas. Nikki Haley is looking for the suburbs right here around Des Moines.

So for all of the spitting that normally happens, weather now is part of it. But no one has more on the line than Florida Governor Ron DeSantis who knows he needs a second place finish here. He's campaigning aggressively here today, Manu.

RAJU: Yes. He says he needs a second place finish before he used to say he needs to win Iowa, lowering the bar of sorts.

ZELENY: Right.

RAJU: Jeff Zeleny indoors. Stay warm, my friend. We'll talk to you soon.


All right. My panel is with me now to break this all down. And Margaret Talev from Axios. CNN's David Chalian and Marianna Sotomayor from the Washington Post. Good morning.


RAJU: So it is finally, finally here. David, you're back. You were in Iowa. You barely made it back in time for this show. Give us your lay of the land. Where is this race right now and how significant is tomorrow?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Well, one of the things that I find remarkable about this race is how constant it has been in its state of play throughout the entire caucus, the stability of the race.

Donald Trump's dominance from the get-go has remained the story all the way through. And so when you think about where we are, this first step in the process for Republican voters, after the last three years since Donald Trump left office, January 6th and all that followed after that, to have a moment now to weigh in with their votes, to say whether or not Donald Trump is the person they want to be, their standard bearer in a potential rematch against Joe Biden.

Tomorrow night is the first time voters get to actually weigh in on that question. And according to the poll that we saw from the Des Moines Register, they're going to potentially say so rather robustly in Iowa. Yes is the answer to that. They do want him to be his standard bearer. So his dominance is one thing.

The other thing I would note here is that while we look at that race for second place, Manu, and Jeff encapsulated sort of the different strategies from the Haley and the DeSantis campaigns, there's no doubt that is all on display.

You said, you know, you can add DeSantis and Haley support together and still not get to Trump. You can throw in the Vivek Ramaswamy's eight percent and still not get to Trump.

So it's -- that is the kind -- we haven't seen this kind of lead from a candidate heading into the caucus like this, a non-incumbent candidate. And so if that is what the results look like Monday night, Donald Trump's going to be well on his way to quashing the competition and moving towards this nomination.

RAJU: Yes. And you're so right about it. This is finally the time for voters to vote. Polls -- our polls, they are snapshot in time with voters vote actually matters here.

I just want to dig a little deeper though in this final poll about just the undecided aspect. Who is undecided here in this -- in this state? Mind is made up. Sixty-eight percent of voters in Iowa say that -- Republican voters say that a mind is made up.

There's still about a quarter of the vote who are -- say they could be sort of persuaded, but it is different per candidate here. As David was talking about the dominance of Trump, perhaps it's because of this. Eight-two percent of Trump -- the supporters say that their mind is made up.

That is much different for DeSantis and Haley. That is in the 60 percent range. It just shows you the steep climb they are facing at this moment.

TALEV: Right. And I think if you're Nikki Haley and you've seen your momentum increasing, you're thinking, I can get maybe some of those DeSantis supporters, although that's a really different choice. It's an alternative to Trump, but that's where a lot of the commonalities end.

For Haley, though, one of the other big, I think, challenges or cuts of the poll to look at is not just the lower intensity of enthusiasm for her, but the fact that so much of her support is coming from independents or even some Democrats who've decided to caucus as, you know, Republicans.

It just made me wonder if somehow Nikki Haley could defy all expectations and really make a run for it and end up at the convention. Would Trump still grab it back at a convention? I mean, I'm just thinking, whatever, 50 states ahead, right?

Like the type of support. It's not just the intensity of support inside the Republican base, but who the support is coming from.

CHALIAN: Which is -- sorry. Which is why we see her doing so well in New Hampshire, right?


CHALIAN: Because independents can play --


CHALIAN: -- in the primary. But as you note, looking at the calendar has a lot more closed primaries where it's dominated --


CHALIAN: -- by Republicans and conservatives.

RAJU: Yes.

CHALIAN: -- than the contests are dominated by moderates and independents. That is Nikki Haley's math challenge going forward.

RAJU: Yes. And just to dive deeper, as pretty much of Nikki Haley, you mentioned this as well, just about her support. The pollster talked about the jaw-dropping nature of her unenthusiastic supporters, not necessarily what you want to hear from a pollster, despite being in second place.

Look at what it says, extremely enthusiastic about choice for voters. Gives me note there, 49 percent Trump, 9 percent for Haley. And then you talk about where the support lies.

Margaret, you just talked about this. Forty-nine percent of Republican voters are supporting Haley. This is the first choice, but that is 50 percent of independents and Democrats.

But, you know, as David was just saying there. The problem for Haley is that in New Hampshire, that's where most of our support lies from those more moderate Republican voters. You go down the line, that is just not going to be the case in more conservative states with more conservative electorate.

MARIANNA SOTOMAYOR, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, WASHINGTON POST: Absolutely. And, you know, she has been trying to make this argument and not attack Trump, as we've seen DeSantis do also try not to aggressively go after Trump because they know the reality of the situation, which is many Republican voters are backing Trump.

I mean, she is going in to the caucuses in a better footing than when she started. But we've even seen her unfavorable numbers go down. And I think when it comes to, you know, the question of whether and whether people can even turn out.


A number of Nikki Haley supporters may actually not -- they do not have that very enthusiastic to even go out and cast vote or, you know, convince other people where Trump, 88 percent of his supporters said they are extremely enthusiastic to go out, make sure that he can win across Iowa.

TALEV: Although I do think the weather argument is interesting --

RAJU: Yes.

TALEV: -- and Haley -- at any of us who spend time in Iowa, you know that it's much easier to clear the roads quickly in a major city in Des Moines -- in West Des Moines, even the suburbs than it is out in some of the really far out places.

And those pockets of support are concentrated in different areas. Like, polls are interesting. History tells us there's never been a candidate who's overcome a 30-some point gap to flip the results. But having said that, it really only matters who shows up.

RAJU: Yes.

TALEV: At the caucus.

RAJU: And maybe it's enthusiastic supporters. But maybe those enthusiastic supporters can't get there because their roads are in plow.

Just look at the snowed out campaign stops that we have seen over the last several days. Trump had three rallies canceled. Haley and DeSantis as well. Ramaswamy, no cancellations. He's gone around the state multiple times.

And I want you to hear from the candidates themselves about what they're saying about enduring this call to whether they think it's going to really make much of an impact.


TRUMP: You have the worst weather I guess in recorded history. But maybe that's good because our people are more committed than anybody else. So maybe it's actually a good thing for us.

HALEY: I think Iowans will decide intensity tomorrow. We're just excited that tomorrow's the day. It's go time. And we're going to keep crisscrossing the state. We've done that for days now. We're going to keep doing it.

DESANTIS: People want to be a part of this process. And what I've said is you're probably never going to have an opportunity to have your vote count more and pack more of a punch than in this Iowa caucus.


RAJU: Does DeSantis, is he -- does he have an organization that can bring out his voters and help him deliver an upset here? Not when necessarily, but better than expected.

CHALIAN: There's no doubt he has a robust organization. The investment was large and early. And it has been a months long process has mostly farmed out to a super PAC, never backed down, which obviously had its own sort of demise of leadership and internal tensions.

But nonetheless, on the ground, I was talking to an Iowa Republican operative earlier this week. Despite the tumult around never back down, the people that are actually working it are very experienced Iowa organizers and like, it is -- it is a robust organization.

Now, I don't know that we've ever tested it when it feels like 60 below out and like --

RAJU: Right.

CHALIAN: -- that's going to be a whole thing. I do think though the other thing that Ron DeSantis said to Jake this morning in that same sound bite in just a little bit is that his, to your point, Manu, about who shows up, he is saying, well, if indeed turnout goes lower than even expected.

So 186,000 showed up in 2016. That was a record. Nobody anticipates breaking that record this time around.

I've spoken to people as recently as Friday, who's telling me maybe around 150,000 is going to be total turnout. But if that goes lower, if you have the most committed supports that go out, you get a higher share of it.

And so DeSantis, I think, is actually now hoping for a little bit of lower overall turnout to actually bank on his organization to increase his share of the vote that shows up.

RAJU: Yes. I mean, as this is, as postscript has finally written in this race, the question is going to be whether or not how these candidates dealt with Trump attacking him or not attacking him.

Well, it's been -- Trump, though, is not holding back, right? Even Vivek Ramaswamy, he was not really much of a factor in this race. He's been essentially trying to butter up Trump. He goes after him on social media last night, says that, you know, he disguises himself as a great supporter and that he's not actually not.

He also attacks Nikki Haley as well yesterday in Des Moines saying that she's quote, not strong enough to be president. He said that to his rally goers, but you're just not hearing that from the Trump opponents, the rivals are not going after him.

At the end of the day, will this be viewed as a mistake or simply something they had to do given the nature of the GOP electorate?

TALEV: If they were trying to win the nomination for president, it will be viewed as a mistake. An understandable mistake, a calculation to say, can we just wait for him to implode, I think? Or can we wait for people to change their mind about him?

And so far, the answer is a robust no. If that holds and it doesn't happen, and the only way to know whether it's a mistake or not, tactically, is to see what happens in the end. But obviously, if no one else wins the nomination, it was a mistake not to try. RAJU: Sure. I mean, amazing. Seven, eight years later, Republicans are still --

TALEV: Still playing the 2016 game.

RAJU: -- trying to figure. Still trying to figure out how to run against Trump.


RAJU: And we'll see if they finally figure it out. We'll start learning some big clues tomorrow.

All right. Coming up. Two longtime Iowa reporters tell us what you should be watching tomorrow night. And no, it's not just the weather.



RAJU: Iowa's Caucuses have a history of producing some surprises, but with freezing temperatures and a former president dominating the polls, will this year be any different? Who better to break it all down than two longtime reporters from Iowa?

Joining me now are O. Kay Henderson, the news director at Radio Iowa and Stephen Gruber-Miller, the Statehouse and politics Reporter for the Des Moines Register. Thank you both for spending time on this incredibly busy day.

And, Stephen, first to you. You're a veteran of covering these caucuses. Tomorrow, viewers are going to be glued to their screens, hopefully here on CNN.

Can you give us a quick sense of how these caucuses work and what viewers should be looking for tomorrow night?

STEPHEN GRUBER-MILLER, IOWA STATEHOUSE AND POLITICS REPORTER: Sure. So the caucuses start at 7:00 P.M. So about an hour before that doors will open. Iowans will begin filing into their locations at 7:00 P.M. You know, if they're registered Republicans, they'll be checked in at the door. If they're not registered currently, they can register at the site as Republicans if they bring photo ID and proof of residency.


You know, the precinct chair will check everybody in. And then representatives for each candidate will be given a chance to make a final pitch for that candidate. So Iowans will listen to those final pitches and then they'll be given a blank sheet of paper. They write down who they would like to support. Those are counted up and sent into the state party.

So, that's how the process works. What we'll be watching for is really who turns out. You know, the final Des Moines Register of NBC News, Iowa poll came out yesterday and what we saw is that Donald Trump supporters are extremely enthusiastic to support him.

Ron DeSantis, somewhat less so and Nikki Haley, less so than that. So, on a day when it's going to be near record colds, the actual people who turn up will make the difference here. So, they've got a really good ground game if they're able to knock on those final doors, send those final text messages and then convince their supporters to brave those frigid temperatures. They will come out on top on August 9th.

RAJU: And, Kay, as you watch the results come in tomorrow night from across the state, what areas across the state are you going to be particularly paying close attention to and who's going to be relying more on performing well in the rural areas compared to the metro areas?

O. KAY HENDERSON, NEWS DIRECTOR, RADIO IOWA: Well, as most everyone in politics knows, Ron DeSantis has visited each one of Iowa's 99 counties. He particularly paid attention to the counties which Cruz won, Ted Cruz, that is, in 2016, earlier this year, over the summer.

I'm also watching what happens in Dubuque County. Both Nikki Haley and Ron DeSantis are campaigning there today. That was a very narrow victory for Donald Trump in that particular county, less than one percent ahead of Cruz in 2016.

And then Nikki Haley has spent a lot of time in the Cedar Rapids Metro. And in that particular county, which is Lynn County, Donald Trump finished third in 2016. So those are the counties that I'm watching.

And going back to 2022, Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds racked up an enormous victory in Iowa. And she did so by really sweeping rural areas as did Donald Trump in 2016 and 2020. So the real question is, will Donald Trump's margins in rural areas sort of equate to his general election performance here?

Will his campaign in 2024 that he's assembled for the caucuses be demonstrably different from the campaign that he had in 2016? Those of us who've been out on the campaign trail see that it is different. It's organized in a way that is very similar to the DeSantis campaign in terms of precinct level organizing.

RAJU: And, Stephen, I mean, so much of this is where DeSantis is riding on a strong performance tomorrow. He has said that he needs to win it before he's lowered their expectations.

But how much will he have to rely on rural Iowa cutting into Trump's margin as Kay was laying out, this margin in rural Iowa? How much does DeSantis need to narrow that margin in order to have some semblance of victory on tomorrow night?

GRUBER-MILLER: Well, that's why he's done the 99-county tour. That's why he's been hitting Trump on the campaign trail for not showing up in Iowa more frequently, not showing up to debate, not really putting in the time, shaking hands in every corner of the state.

And he's hoping that'll give him an advantage. And he's hoping that his organization with Never Back Down will also give him a turnout advantage.

Actually, what we found in the Des Moines Register poll is that DeSantis's supporters are more likely to say that they will definitely show up to caucus than Donald Trump's or Nikki Haley supporters. So he's hoping that that ground game, that organization gives him the ability to at least pull off a second place finish here.

RAJU: Yes. And Nikki Haley has spent a lot in her campaign apparatus, as well as outside group supporting her and spent a ton on T.V. Really has not done in much. The retail politics as DeSantis has, as you mentioned, going to all 99 counties that Haley has not done that. So a lot of it is going to be about enthusiasm, as you mentioned.

It is expected to be the coldest ever caucus night as we've been discussing. From, Kay, from what you've seen, which candidate, which campaigns are best suited for this extreme weather event in terms of their organization on the ground?

HENDERSON: Well, we're going to see on caucus night, if the Trump campaign apparatus that they've put together here is able to turn out people. In 2016, it was sort of an organic organization. This is very much structured in the same way that a traditional caucus campaign is.

So it will be fascinating to see if this enthusiasm that you see in the Des Moines Register poll sort of among the Trump adherence turns out that they are really, you know, set on turning out on caucus night.


DeSantis organization, when you -- when you talk to people who are in it, not only have they've been, you know, gaming for what happens at the caucus event tomorrow night, they are gaming for how to get people there. They're organizing, you know, four-wheel drive vehicles.

They're organizing babysitting at caucus sites for people. So this is going to be really interesting to see how it plays out. As you mentioned, Haley has been depending on a different kind of campaign. And she's been targeting in these last days, some of the areas that Marco Rubio did incredibly well in.

RAJU: The question, will there be an upset? We'll see. It's a big margin for these two candidates to overcome.

Both of you, thank you so much for joining us this morning, giving us your insights. Stay warm out there.

All right. Up next --


RAJU: -- with less than a week to possible shut down, House Republicans cannot contain their anger.

Plus, my exclusive new interview with the man leading the Biden impeachment inquiry, what he says they'll do if Hunter Biden does not testify.



RAJU: After he moved last fall to keep the government open until early this year, Mike Johnson made clear there would be no more short-term extensions of government funding under his speakership. Now Johnson is moving forward with a short-term extension of government funding.

Yesterday, congressional leaders reached a deal to try to avert a partial shutdown by week's end and keep the government open until early March. This after he cut a deal with Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer on setting overall funding levels.

If this deal cutting sounds familiar, well, it is because it is. Kevin McCarthy cut similar deals and eventually he was ousted by his right flank. So once again, hardliners are not happy.


REP. WARREN DAVIDSON, (R) OHIO: By the time we could even get back into D.C., he had negotiated the terms of our surrender on the issue.

REP. ANDY OGLES, (R) TENNESSEE: What I'm looking for now is a fighter and I want -- I want the Speaker to start fighting for us and fighting for the American people, which means we have to close the border.

REP. ERIC BURLISON, (R) MISSOURI: I didn't come up here to spend more money than Nancy Pelosi as a Republican and I'm not going to be a part of it.

REP. BYRON DONALDS, (R) FLORIDA: The way this place operates, I think everybody's job is at risk.


RAJU: All right, our panel is back. I mean, this has just been the story of this Congress. Mike Johnson now the new speaker, the former speaker had to deal with this, raises the majority in bold and right flank, lurching from crisis to crisis, potential shutdown -- potential shutdown.

And some of these vulnerable members in particular are absolutely fed up with it. I caught up with one of them on Friday. Congressman Mike Lawler comes from a swing, New York District. He made clear that he is tired of these antics.


REP. MIKE LAWLER, (R) NEW YORK: But when you don't have the White House and you don't have control of the Senate, you have to find compromise. And the failure on the part of some of my colleagues to recognize this and continually try to undermine the majority, it's getting old. They gave up a lot of the leverage when they removed Speaker McCarthy

from office. And you don't just stomp your feet and shut the government down to get your way. We have to be able to show that we can govern, that we can get big things done and put forth a plan for the American people in '24.


RAJU: I mean, instead of putting forward a plan, they're going to just be punting this for another few weeks, government funding. And they're going to have to deal with it again. This is eerily familiar to Kevin McCarthy's deal making. And the tension is very real.

SOTOMAYOR: Yeah, the tension is extremely real, and I would say that Johnson right now is at a crossroads of sorts, because he really is getting it from all sides, which of course we predicted, we've seen this story before.

However, you know, I have been hearing, I'm sure you have been hearing as well, just a number of lawmakers just trying to understand Johnson's leadership style. It's almost been a hundred days that he has been in office, and he has this tendency of wanting to listen to all members and kind of float these ideas before actually landing on a decision that many members acknowledge, someone, enough members are going to hate and obviously vote against, which will only force Republicans to work with Democrats and likely land a deal that is not as conservative as many people want.

Many members want conservative deals. We've seen them be able to do that early on last year, but it is impossible. And many members say, you know, I want Johnson to be more forthcoming, stronger, leave negotiations, all of those things, but they also understand that whether it is Johnson or whether it is literally any other Republican, they will not be able to bring this very broken and fractured conference together.

RAJU: He's damned if you do, damned if you don't, because he makes a decision on what to do, he'll get flack for making the decision as he cut a deal with Chuck Schumer. But then as he listens to members, talks to them, as he did all last week, and so many meeting after me with different factions, he'll be criticized for being indecisive.

And the question is experienced. Like he was thrust into the speakership after they ousted Kevin McCarthy. He was a rank-and-file member. He became speaker. The question that some members of his own conference are asking is that, is he too inexperienced for this position?


REP. STEVE WOMACK, (R) ARKANSAS: The Speaker is in a position right now where I think he's got to decide whether or not he continues to negotiate with people who have an unrealistic view of where we are politically right now versus working with the other side.

But we don't make things better when we shoot ourselves in the foot and fail to be able to get our work done. I mean, we've wasted an entire week this week, and I think the American public are kind of tired of this charade.


RAJU: How much do you think this frustration, this anger back and forth really will translate into November for Republicans trying to hang on to the House?


CHALIAN: Well, it's all created from what happened November 2022, right? We all saw as the returns came in and the much narrower Republican majority that emerged than expected. And everything from that moment has flowed as we thought it would. We would put this in the speaker, whoever the speaker was, in an impossible position constantly. And there's really no way out of it without changing the margin of the House, right?

So I -- what I -- your point about this coming November, this is no longer a party that can just play the game of the swing seats, right? Because the base is so critically important to their electoral success as well, right?

This is always a both end proposition, not either or, which is what puts them in a bind. You can't just placate the swing seats and at risk of alienating a base so much that they don't turn up and you can't just juice your base where you lose the Congress.

So you -- he has to constantly balance these things. I do think though, Mike Lawler, right, a perfect example. I mean, that -- they're not likely to be in the majority if Mike Lawler is losing his seat, right?

RAJU: Good question.

CHALIAN: I think that is a critical seat to watch in November and listen to him. Listen to what he's telling you, Manu. He's trying to provide the Speaker a path to keeping the majority.

RAJU: Yeah.

TALEV: And yet, Mike Lawler's district looks a lot different than Marjorie Taylor Greene's district, Matt Gaetz's district. If you're in a plus 37 red district, what Mike Lawler said is not true. You will get primaried if you're thinking about compromise.

You are not going to benefit politically from it unless you really, really make a case that you're not seeing a lot of courage on that front with those kind of cases.

RAJU: Yeah.

TALEV: So, you know, the new speaker, newish speaker, on the one hand is saved a little bit by the Democrats because they don't see him as the same fundraising juggernaut or leadership threat of Kevin McCarthy. You're seeing Democrats saying, if it came down to it, we would -- we would help keep him in the speaker's office.

RAJU: I'm skeptical of that, but yes, we'll see.

TALEV: But they're saying enough for saying that, right? But on the other hand, if that's really true, he can primaried inside his own district.

RAJU: Yeah. Look, we'll see. I mean, if they're the minority, will he run for minority leader? That's another question as well.

Look, we also -- he also has to deal with this push about impeachment. There's an impeachment inquiry going into Joe Biden. There's a big demand within his conference to go forward. He doesn't have the votes. That's the problem because of the people like Congresswoman Mike Lawler. Other people are just simply not there yet.

I caught up with the chairman of the House Oversight Committee, James Comer. And I talked to him about the allegation that Republicans are trying to make or trying to prove that there was some sort of quid pro quo.

The Joe Biden was engaged in some bribery scheme when he was vice president that involved his son Hunter Biden. Hunter Biden himself has refused to testify behind closed doors to be deposed. And if he -- as a result, they may hold him in contempt. We'll see if that happens.

Comer told me that if Hunter Biden does not show up, they're just going to assume that those bribery charges are real.


RAJU: If Hunter doesn't show up or testify, how much harder will that make your investigation to pin anything on the President?

REP. JAMES COMER, (R) HOUSE OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: Well, I mean, if he doesn't show up, then -- then, you know, well, I guess we'll just have to wrap it up without him and assume that these were bribes from foreign countries, assume that what the bank said was true. He was money laundering. He was involved in a human trafficking ring.


RAJU: Biden's team pushed back about that, said that they don't have any evidence to support any of that. But we're hearing that perhaps they may delay things on the contempt for it. It may actually not happen this week.

SOTOMAYOR: Yeah, yeah, we just heard from Comer and also Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan, seems like the argument that Hunter Biden's team has made of, well, you issued these subpoenas way before the House actually legally validated this investigation. You should issue new subpoenas. The Chairman are now saying, OK, we will do that.

RAJU: Yeah. SOTOMAYOR: We will see if this vote this week gets canceled on the contempt vote. It just has to -- there's a number of things that have to develop.

RAJU: Yeah. And look, it's not going to resolve the issue. Hunter Biden doesn't want to testify behind closed doors. Republicans want him first behind closed doors. And that's not going to get resolved. It could delay the ticket contempt for some time. But as you heard from James Comer there, he's ready to move ahead and assume the worst, even if you don't really know if the worst is true.

All right, coming up. How are Biden and Trump impacting critical races down ticket? My exclusive chat with one of the candidates to replace George Santos in the New York's special election, next.




RAJU: Not when, will you regret expelling George Santos?

REP. NICK LALOTA, (R) NEW YORK: No, you got to do the right thing at the right time, regardless of the consequences. And it was absolutely right to throw Santos out, a miserable human being who lied his way to get here, who lied while he was here. It was the right thing to do to expel him.


RAJU: That was Congresswoman Nick LaLota, a New York Republican, talking about what's now become the most watched special election in the country, the battle to replace George Santos. Already, Democrats have pumped more than $6 million into the race to represent New York's 3rd Congressional District, which covers parts of Long Island and Queens.

Republicans have spent $1.1 million dollars. The vote's not until February 13th. And this is the reason why. Speaker Johnson has the narrowest of majorities, and he can't afford to lose another seat. This past week, I caught up with the Republican candidate, Mazi Pilip. She was in town for a major fundraiser on Capitol Hill, and she made clear to me, she's quite bullish.


RAJU: How difficult is this seat to hold in a district that Joe Biden carried?

MAZI PILIP, (R) NY CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: It's not going to be difficult. The people are with us. The issues are with us. People are excited. They are supporting me big time. And just yesterday, over 1,000 people came to support me in Nassau County. I'm very excited and February 13 is going to be a big victory.


RAJU: How much is Joe Biden's approval ratings on popularity impacting things in your district?

PILIP: Big time. People are concerned about border security, people are concerned about safety, people are concerned about the economy. Therefore, Joe Biden right now is not doing well in my district.


RAJU: Now, she'll face off against Democrat Tom Suozzi. He's a former congressman from that area. This morning I spoke with Suozzi. He told me that Republicans in Congress are the ones who are unpopular. He also said, quote, "both Biden and Trump are unpopular in the district. Biden is a little more popular than Trump is. So I think this race is more about me versus my opponent."

Now, I also caught up when Pilip, and I asked her about Trump, and I asked her about her views of Donald Trump. And this is what she said.


RAJU: What about Trump, does he pull you down? Is he popular in your district?

PILIP: Some of them love him. Definitely, he's doing great, to be honest.

RAJU: Do you support him?

PILIP: I'm going to support the Republican nominee. Right now, the process ongoing. We're going to give them the opportunity. And in the end, I will support whoever is going to be the Republican nominee.

RAJU: I've seen there's some questions if you voted for him in the past. Did you vote for him in the last cycle?

PILIP: I will tell you right now, I'm talking about February 13, my race, I'm focusing on this. So let's focus on this one.


RAJU: Not saying if she voted for Trump.

TALEV: No. So, Biden's unpopularity may be somewhat of a drag, but I think what you saw right there is her not betting on Trump's popularity, helping her gangbusters in that district, right?

I think, look, nationally, how people feel about Biden and Trump really matters, but in this district, George Santos and that legacy really matters, and Tom Suozzi is a known name. So, I think -- I think bouncing these two things is really interesting. Is the standing of the two leading national candidates going to be important, or are the specifics of that race going to be important? I'd be looking to how people think about the legacy of Santos and people's recognition of Suozzi. RAJU: But it's also the Democratic brand, too. I mean, that, even in a

district like New York, that's a swing district, as you see from that poll we just showed on the screen. Trump -- new poll this morning from "ABC," Biden down by eight points nationally to Trump, 33-41. How much is the Democratic brand, David, impacting races down ticket like this one?

CHALIAN: That's not a horse race. That was approval ratings, right?

RAJU: Oh, that's approval rating, correct. Yeah.

CHALIAN: But yeah, I mean, Joe Biden is very unpopular across the nation right now. And, you know, what we've seen in special elections in the last year is that Democrats have been outperforming Biden in a lot of these special elections. Certainly Democrats hope that is the case here. Although in '22, these New York districts, it's how George Santhos got in, didn't behave like a lot of the other districts that we saw across the country.

I would note you put up the money that all the Democrats are spending their money. A lot of that is on this playbook that we're going to see Biden do too. It is on abortion rights and trying to paint the candidate on the Republican side as an anti-abortion rights candidate.

And it's on Trump. I mean, and you can see her trying to do the dance, but the Democrats are going to spend all those millions on making her part of the MAGA movement, which is not robustly hugely popular with the swing voters in that district, obviously. And so you're going to see those two things to try and defer the Biden image issue. Deal with abortion rights and Trump.

RAJU: And Republicans are going to try to use immigration and border security, especially in New York, where you see all these migrants being bused up to New York. It's a real issue in New York City and trying to make that a problem for Democrats and racists.

SOTOMAYOR: Absolutely. The outcome of this race will absolutely foreshadow what nationally these candidates need to do. And besides, you know, Johnson needing this seat for his own majority sake. This is really going to be looking at those particular issues because, you know, we've seen in California and in New York during the midterms, a lot of those voters know that they're always going to have access to abortions.

So that message did not really resonate in those states. Instead, it was issues about the economy, border security, which we're seeing a lot happening in New York right now, as well as a number of other things that really do Republicans have the advantage on that front. And they are going to make that argument. If Democrats are able to flip it, that is going to be significant because they will absolutely be touting, look, we're starting to break into New York, we're starting to -- at least be able to go back and maybe regain a critically important state because both Republicans and Democrats, their playbook runs through California and New York.

RAJU: And that's the real problem in redistricting in New York. That could be a thrill. It gave the majority back in 2022. It could cost them a majority in 2024.

CHALIAN: And remember, on the issue of abortion, Tom Suozzi was not your typical Democrat, right? Kathy Hochul, the Democratic governor who was his political nemesis obviously, she -- before she would agree to the fact that he was the nominee for this special election, she demanded that he was going to be robustly in favor of choice and abortion rights.


RAJU: Yeah, all right, so let's see, it's a huge race. Another one that we'll have to watch in the weeks ahead.

All right, but straight ahead, heavy snow, strong winds and a brutal Arctic air. We could feel like 40 below zero for caucus night tomorrow. More from our CNN weather team coming up.


RAJU: Tomorrow, Iowa voters will have to brave dangerous, potentially life-threatening cold to go to the caucuses. We check the high temperatures in Des Moines for every caucus day since the first one in 1972. And as you can see on your screen, tomorrow is shaping up to be the coldest ever. CNN's Meteorologist Allison Chinchar is tracking just how bad it's going to get. Tell us, Allison.

ALLISON CHINCHAR, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yeah, that's right, Manu. I think the thing to note, Iowans, they're hearty people. But even for them, these temperatures are extreme. Yes, when we look at the high temperature forecast in Des Moines, you're talking four degrees below zero. Same thing for Sheldon and Fort Dodge. It's not much better in a place like Davenport, which is three degrees below zero for the high temperature.


One thing they all have in common, though, is these temperatures are about 30 degrees below normal, even for this time of year. To put this in perspective, because we know it's a cold place, but even the high tomorrow of minus four in Des Moines is going to be colder than the high temperature in Anchorage, Alaska.

Again, just to kind of put things in perspective for you of how cold this is, but it's not just the temperatures. It's also the wind. That's going to be a component. You've got wind chill warnings and wind chill advisories for the entire State of Iowa.

So no matter where you live, that combination of temperature and the wind is going to combine to make frigid wind chills. You're talking temperatures that will feel like minus 21 in Des Moines, minus 30 in Sheldon.

And even when we get to the evening hours, as most folks are heading out to the caucuses, those temperatures are still going to be incredibly freezing. RAJU: Absolutely brutal. Everybody stay safe out there, minus 30.

Unbelievable. All right, Allison Chinchar, thanks. And thank you. That's it for "Inside Politics" Sunday.

Up next, CNN's "State of the Union." Jake speaks with Governor Ron DeSantis and Senator Bernie Sanders. Be sure to tune in tomorrow to our coverage of the Iowa caucuses, starting at 4 p.m. Eastern, right here on CNN. Thanks, again, see you next time.