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Inside Politics

Haley Blitzes New Hampshire With Four Days To Go; Haley's New Hampshire Goal: "Do Better Than We Did In Iowa"; Trump Returning To NH Tonight For Third Rally This Week; Countdown To New Hampshire Primary; Trump, Haley Sharpen Attacks On Each Other; Trump: Haley "Has No Chance MAGA's Not Going To Be With Her"; Trump Includes Presidential Immunity In Closing Message To Voters; Poll: Most NH GOP Voters Say Trump Should Have Immunity; Potential Trump VP Candidates Campaign For Trump. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired January 19, 2024 - 12:00   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN CO-HOST, NEWS CENTER: So, let me get this right. The Moon Sniper right now is in the Sea of Nectar, which to me sounds like something out of some Greek myth where there're like our sea names (Ph). They're like tempting the Moon Sniper, come to us Moon Sniper, come, come over here. What's going on there?


KRISTIN FISHER, CNN SPACE AND DEFENSE CORRESPONDENT: I love what Kate said earlier about it being an all inclusive. I don't know guys. I didn't come out with the name, OK.


BERMAN: It sounds lovely. Fisher, thank you very much for this. Keep us posted.


BERMAN: Inside Politics going to start right now.

DANA BASH, CNN HOST, INSIDE POLITICS: Today on Inside Politics, a big bet on New Hampshire. Nikki Haley is crisscrossing the Granite State, making her case to as many voters as possible. Stakes for the first in the nation primary are incredibly high, but she's now trying to keep expectations low.

Plus, chaos and bedlam. Donald Trump is warning that's what we can expect if the U.S. Supreme Court says, states like Colorado can rule that he's ineligible to run for president. It's one of Trumps multiple legal battles. We're watching over the next few weeks.

And less time at the podium, more time ordering milkshakes. That's what to expect from President Biden on the trail. We have new reporting on his campaigns attempt to highlight what they think is the president's best attribute connecting with voters. I'm Dana Bash. Let's go behind the headlines at Inside Politics.

We start in New Hampshire, where Nikki Haley is all over the map, literally. She's holding six events in that state today and doing some TV interviews along the way. Here's just part of her busy morning.


NIKKI HALEY (R) 2024 GOP PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There are multiple instances that we need to start asking Donald Trump the questions and stopped taking what he's saying to be golden. We had a very low turnout in Iowa. We're going to have a really good turnout in New Hampshire.

I am not going to do anything that's not going to be tough on the border because I passed the toughest illegal immigration law in the country. I'm in favor of anything and everything that will empower parents and empower students at the federal level and at the state level.


BASH: CNN's Kylie Atwood is following Nikki Haley today. So, Kylie, give us a sense of the feel. What it feels like on the trail up there in the Granite State with Nikki Haley?

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, urgency indeed. And there's two reasons for that. The first of which is time. The clock is running out here. We're just four days from the New Hampshire. Primary the other part of it is the campaign and Haley herself predict that they will do quite well in New Hampshire. And the stakes are incredibly high for her because she came in third in Iowa, more than 30 points behind former President Trump.

And they see New Hampshire as a place where it is one-on-one with Trump, Haley versus Trump because, of course, we should note DeSantis is here in New Hampshire today, but he hasn't been really aggressively competing in the state. He put more of his eggs into the Iowa basket. Nikki Haley's team feels like she can do better here.

And I've privately talked to sources close to the campaign who say that she really needs a victory in New Hampshire. But she's trying to tamp down those expectations, saying she wants a strong showing. Listen to our conversation last night with Jake Tapper as part of that CNN town hall.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Governor Sununu is predicting a win for you here in New Hampshire. But he's also saying a strong second place finish would be in his words, great. Would a strong second place finish be great for you?

HALEY: What I want to do is be strong. We're not going to know what strong looks like until those numbers come in. But you guys will all say whether it's strong or not. So, I'm sure that you'll do that. But look -- I mean, we want to do better than we did in Iowa. That's my personal goal.


ATWOOD: Now, there's a few pieces to Nikki Haley's campaigning here. Their strategy here in New Hampshire, of course, the first of which is that they feel like Nikki Haley can go after independent voters and that's a key voting bloc here. Because as you know, Dana, it makes up almost 40 percent of the electorate in New Hampshire. She's not going to get all of those voters, but even getting a large portion of that bucket could be crucial for her on Tuesday.

And then the other part of it is she has been responding to attacks from former President Trump really more aggressively in recent days. And she has said that he's going after her simply because he feels threatened. So, she's on the campaign trail today. As you said barnstorming the state and trying to really just get in front of as many voters as she can, so that she can encourage them to go out and primary for her -- vote for her on Tuesday. Dana?

BASH: Kylie, thank you so much. See you up there this weekend. And now over to Concord, New Hampshire where Donald Trump will be tonight. It'll be his third rally there in four days. CNN's Alayna Treene is following it all. He clearly sees Haley as a threat -- the threat and their goal. It seems -- correct me if I'm wrong, is to try to finish -- by finishing off her campaign. Try to maybe finish off the entire election primary campaign at the end of New Hampshire.


ALAYNA TREENE, CNN REPORTER: That's exactly right. They see New Hampshire as potentially, you know, if Donald Trump can do as well as they're hoping he will do, virtually the place where this primary season will end, but we'll see. We're still four days away from the primary and they still have a lot of work to do. And that's why Donald Trump is here this weekend, aggressively campaigning ahead of Tuesday's primary.

But look about the threat. He does see Nikki Haley as a threat. There's a couple of reasons for that, Dana. One is that he and his team have been closely watching Haley rise in the polls in recent weeks and really narrow the gap with Donald Trump here and the state. And I know from my conversations with Trump's advisors, that that is a real concern for them.

But the other concern is the complicating factor of the way that the New Hampshire primary is set up. Unlike in Iowa, independent voters, undeclared voters are able to vote in this primary. And we've seen in poll after poll that those are the type of voters that Nikki Haley does very well with and that's why her campaign is very confident.

And so, Trump's team is also a bit concerned about that. And in response to those concerns, we have seen Donald Trump aggressively escalate his attacks on Haley. The virtually on every campaign stop and in every interview over the past several weeks now. Just last night, he told Fox News that he doesn't think Haley has what it takes to be president. Take a listen to what he said. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, 45TH U.S. PRESIDENT: I know Nikki very well. She worked for me for a long time. She would not be able to handle that position. She would not be able to handle the onslaught. With all of that being said, within the Republican Party, I want to bring unity and within the nation, I want to bring unity. And you know, unity is going to come from success.


TREENE: Now, Dana, I do want to just take a moment to address that last line from Trump. It's a similar line that he made actually on stage on Monday night, when he declared victory during the Iowa caucuses. He's virtually arguing that he wants to unify the Republican Party and unify the country while simultaneously trashing Nikki Haley in the same sentence.

And I know you know this as well. But covering Donald Trump for years, it's kind of an absurd notion because he's very effectively used divisive rhetoric of repeatedly to try to grip onto power and try to rise to power.

But it is an argument from my conversations with his campaign, that they think that not necessarily will play as well in the primary but would play very well in a general election. You're starting to see some of that rhetoric shift as well, as they continue to think he's going to be very successful in these remaining early voting states.

BASH: Until he changes his rhetoric in the general if he gets there as well. And you and I both know that from covering him so many years. Thank you so much for that great reporting. Appreciate it. Let's talk to more great reporters here at the table. CNET's Kasie Hunt, The New York Times is Zolan Kanno-Youngs and Aaron Blake of The Washington Post.

Nice to see you all. Happy Friday. But in this season, Friday is -- literally a day that ends in why right? For all of you celebrating Friday, congratulations. I saw you nodding when Kylie was talking about the undeclared voters. We call them undeclared voters in New Hampshire, not independent voters.

40 percent. It's a pretty big number. But they are -- they come in all shapes and sizes and flavors on the spectrum of politics.

ZOLAN KANNO-YOUNGS, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: This is such a kind of high stakes moment for Nikki Haley here. If you have any hope at this point of actually competing with the former president with Donald Trump than you know, New Hampshire is a place where you really need to make a mark, particularly when it comes to these independents.

I think it's interesting as well, that you are seeing this week are sort of ratchet up some of the actual direct sort of attacks on the former president as well as the current President Biden as well, trying to link them as well saying, look, the way that I am a stark difference from these two is one age. I mean two, certain different generation of politician as well.

I do think it's noteworthy as well, that recent polling also says many of those undecided voters are concerned about the state of democracy. And I'll be looking to see in the days ahead if she actually as she attacks the former president, also in a forthright blunt way goes to actually calling out how we attached judiciary systems and the courts as well. Although, that can be doubtful.

BASH: Kasie, let's give our viewers a little bit more of a sense of what's happening on the trail between and on TV -- between Nikki Haley and Donald Trump right now.


TRUMP: She's not going to make it. She has no chance. She's got no way. The MAGA is not going to be with us.

HALEY: He does tend to throw a temper tantrum.

TRUMP: So, Democrats are allowed to vote which they're going to vote for her because they don't want to run against me. They want to run against her.


HALEY: That's what he does when he feels threatened. That's what he does when he feels insecure. I don't take these things personally. It doesn't bother me. I know him very well and this is what he does. I know that I am a threat.


BASH: We should just note Donald Trump said Democrats are allowed to vote, they're not, only undeclared voters are. But there is as we were mentioning, a pretty big share of the electorate art.

KASIE HUNT, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, you can. I mean, you can check it the same day registration capture. So you can pull a different ----


HUNT: If you are currently registered as a Democrat and you have no intention of changing that, you're not voting Republican primary in New Hampshire. Look, I look at all of this. And I feel like we may be looking back on this as the what if primary for people who didn't want to see Donald Trump become president again.

What if Nikki Haley had started saying those things about Donald Trump months ago, right? I mean, she did in the last week after she came in third in Iowa. And what if Ron DeSantis had run a better campaign from the outset?

What if he had done when he now says -- he regrets he was on a radio show yesterday saying, I should have talked to the media. I should have talked to anyone that would talk to me. And I regret not doing that. He really does sound like -- by the way, he's in the postmortem phase of a campaign that's officially still going.

But telling them suddenly, what if all these things had been different because now -- even if Nikki Haley does pull off a victory in New Hampshire, still not outside the realm of possibility --that still means if she has any hope of winning the nomination, there has to be some part of the Republican Party that is longing for someone who is not named Donald Trump. And I think what we learned from Iowa is that those -- that appetite is simply not there.

BASH: Yeah. And just sticking in New Hampshire. First of all, you're right. And we'll talk about that in a second. But sticking to New Hampshire because the electorate is such that it is probably the best chance for Nikki Haley to show that she does well. That is part of why she is lumping in Donald Trump and Joe Biden. When she started to do in Iowa and even before, but even more aggressively when she's talking to voters. Let's listen.


HALEY: This is the similarities you're seeing with Trump and Biden. Neither one of them will debate their opponents. The majority of Americans have very low disk -- have very high disapproval numbers for both Trump and Biden. If Trump and Biden both spent trillions of dollars that put us in debt.


BASH: And Aaron, before you jump in just to underline what Kylie was saying, there's a new Marist poll out today, which is actually looking at the more general election prospects. But the question is about New Hampshire Republicans and Republican leaning independents. What they're looking for stands on conservative principles. 59 percent best chance to defeat Biden 39 percent.

AARON BLAKE, SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yeah. And what that poll also showed is that -- and I think it really reflects what we saw in the Iowa entrance polls was that the issues that voters are most caring about are the issues that tend to favor Donald Trump. In Iowa, you had an issue, like temperament where Nikki Haley actually won a very large victory over Donald Trump on voters who were concerned about a candidate having the right temperament.

But that was a very, very small chunk of the electorate. What we have in New Hampshire is a very unusually favorable electorate for somebody like Nikki Haley to win. But this is a very necessary but insufficient race for her. She needs to win this in order to actually change the race and other states.

Most other states do not have an electric like this that has lots of independents who are showing up that can allow Democrats to actually change their registration on Election Day and vote for her.

And so really -- in order to make this a race she needs to have a win or a very close second in New Hampshire, shy of that, and she can lower expectations, all she wants to there's just not really much of a path after that. BASH: Lower expectations and I should note that it wasn't that long ago that her biggest advocate up there, Chris Sununu was saying that she could win and will win. She's going to win in a landslide. And that's not an exaggeration. They've changed that tune quite clearly, after what happened in Iowa.

HUNT: They have. And they're basically saying, well, we're going to do well. I mean, it's similar to what Ron DeSantis did, right? I mean, he said he was going to win Iowa, and -- over the summer, and then all of a sudden, in the weeks leading up to Iowa.

We're going to do well in Iowa. We're not going to win Iowa, and you know, they're trying to reset expectations. But we must be realistic. It would take something massive to kind of derail. You know, it's like he's a massive ship sailing toward he'd have to hit an iceberg, right?

And Nikki Haley barely winning in New Hampshire, which is what she would do if she did win, right, is nowhere close enough. I don't think to doing what -- you know, Aaron was talking about in the context of a Republican primary where it's very clear. People have made -- they've made their -- their loyalty is to Donald Trump.

KANNO-YOUNGS: You're totally right to for these candidates. Throughout this sort of campaign, the concern around alienating Trump supporters really and Trump's base has completely dominated the strategy thus far for both of these candidates.


And it has led to a hesitancy to attack him and also when answering direct questions whether it be about the history of the civil war, whether it be other questions that have to do with race relations in America. That's when you've had some of these sprawling, unclear, you know, answers that I think do frustrated, undeclared voters in New Hampshire as well.

BASH: And on the flip side of that you have -- what you always have no matter who's running at this point in the election, things start to get even uglier than they were before. But when there's Donald Trump in the race, and he is trying to make his supporters, get off the couch and make clear you should not be complacent. What he does is he throws out dog whistles. It's like dog megaphones. How you think not even a dog.

HUNT: You don't have to be a dog to hear them.

BASH: You don't, you know. And this is one example. He had a Truth Social post where he used the word Nimbra three times, referring to Nikki Haley. It's a clearly intentionally shifted changed version of what her birth name is, which is Nimarata. Her middle name is Nikki. She always has gone by her middle name like many people do. But this is trying to get people, oh, yeah, she's not -- she doesn't look like us. Let's go vote against her.

BLAKE: It's an attempt to authorize her to cast her as something different. And the reason that, you know that is because this is something that Donald Trump has done over and over again, almost the exact same playbook. It was with Obama, where he did the birther campaign against him, then started introducing his middle name Hussein.

When it was Kamala Harris. It was a birther claim when she was picked as the VP. And then it was drawing out her name on the campaign trail in a very suggestive way. And then with Nikki Haley, it's -- you know, surfacing this birther claim last week on Truth Social. And now suddenly for the very first time in his political career, including when she was his U.N. ambassador, suddenly invoking her given name.

So, I think it's pretty clear you can try to explain the way he says these things in ways that he's trying to get plausible deniability. But when you look at the way that he's handled these things over time, it's pretty abundantly clear exactly what he's trying to do.

BASH: It could not be more clear and it doesn't seem like he's trying to hide it. It's not like he put it in a secret.

HUNT: He has no choice.

BASH: It sounds like he -- yeah, he didn't put it in a secret post on the dark web. It's just there. Everybody standby. We have a lot more to talk about, including Donald Trump's closing message to New Hampshire voters. It is not the economy. Its immunity. That's next.




BASH: And the presidential candidate is asked what their message is to voters? You might expect them to talk about the economy, immigration, how they would make your lives better every day. But when former President Trump was asked for his closing message to New Hampshire voters, he first said Make America Great Again, of course. And then he said this.


TRUMP: A president has to have immunity because if you take immunity away from the president so important, you will have -- you have a president that's not going to be able to do anything. Because when he leaves office, the opposing party president -- if it's the opposing party will indict the president.


BASH: Our panel is back with me. Make America immune again, make a president immune again. What would that -- what would the letters be on that? Doesn't have the same ring.

HUNT: You can't quite put that on a hat. No. I mean, it shows you a lot about why our Donald Trump -- his state of mind, right? And also, you know how he's going to continue to run this race as he becomes closer and he's not that far away from becoming the Republican presidential nominee at this point, right?

And, you know, one of the things we learned and, Dana, I know we talked about this on the night in Iowa. But that entrance poll that showed that 32 percent of what is -- one of the most conservative electorates in all of America. The Iowa caucus goers said that they think that Trump would be unfit to be president if he was convicted. And that presents an enormous problem for the president, if he wants to -- the former president, if he wants to win a general election.

When I listen to that, I'm hearing what I'm sure that the rest of the campaign is going to be, which is Trump attempting to tear down institutions in order to convince people that he is in fact fit because it's the system, that's the problem, right? And it's an even darker version of kind of what we've been covering with him all the way.

BASH: That's such a succinct way of putting it that it's not me. It's a system that's probably, which has been a version of what the Trump campaign has been since June of 2015. But even more so now that he's got all this legal incoming -- largely because of the alleged actions that he took over and over again in office and since leaving office.

We're going to talk about that a little bit later. But you mentioned the entrance poll in Iowa. And there's a new -- I've mentioned the Marist poll that's out and it really kind of mirrors generally speaking were in New Hampshire where the voters in Iowa are on the question of Donald Trump and his legal issues.

And this particular question was whether or not he should have immunity as president. These are New Hampshire Republicans and Republican leaning independents. 65 percent say he should have immunity, but again that 30 percent say he should not have immunity.

BLAKE: And if you look at Republican primary polls, there have been a number that have asked a question along the lines of should we have a president that's willing to break some rules or willing to even break some laws in order to get the country back on track because that's what required -- what's required at this moment in time.


It's not necessarily a majority view in the Republican Party right now. But it is a very distinct minority view. A lot of Republicans buy into that argument. And so, what we have is -- what we often have with Donald Trump which is he latches on to something that has some appeal to a very animated and often extreme part of the Republican Party that can win him a nomination, but it may work against him the general election.

If the rest of the country is 60 plus percent against the idea that a president should have immunity. The idea that they're going to be on board with him, you know, taking his authorities to new levels seems pretty unlikely. And this seems to be something that, you know, Democrats can really play off of in the general election. KANNO-YOUNGS: This does remind me of something that you would hear often from Republicans. We really gotten back to the most recent midterms, though, which was almost pleading for the former president to hone-in on the current issues in the country. Immigration, the economy, inflation, the political vulnerabilities of the current White House, rather than continuing to look back retroactively whether it be at the 2020 election or at your own personal grievances.

You know, the time that answer could have been spent about talking about inflation, talking about the current deal on the negotiations on the Hill right now over the border. Things that really -- folks around the White House are worried about here instead, once again, there's this repetitive nature of almost mastering victimhood, you know, for the former president.

BASH: I want to quickly turn while we can to another thing that's happening on the ground in New Hampshire, which is people who are hoping that they get picked for or at least maybe hoping in private, not in public that they get picked for the running mate for Donald Trump are campaigning for him in New Hampshire.

You have J.D. Vance, the senator from Ohio, who I'm told Don Jr, really, really likes, among other people. And of course, Elise Stefanik, who is -- maybe his number one supporter and outspoken fan in Congress also campaigning out. What does that tell you?

HUNT: It tells you that they all think that the primaries over and you're seeing this across the board, I think in Washington with more and more senators, trying to get on board before it's suddenly viewed as being too late. And now they will have sunk themselves in the event that Donald Trump is the next president of the United States.

And I do think that -- especially in Stefanik case, I mean, I think she's probably one I would really zero in on. I think the thinking is they would like to choose a woman for the role if they can find the right one. And she has worked really hard to elevate her own profile as someone who is an attack dog, a megaphone you use -- you pick your word for Donald Trump explicitly.

She did it, you know, in a high-profile appearance on meet the press, which was something that she hadn't been doing a lot of before. We've seen a lot of other kind of indications along those lines. And you're also on the flip side, starting to see MAGA world, so to speak, to start to push back against the idea that Nikki Haley might be (Inaudible) in a pretty strict strong way.

BASH: Yeah. Steve Bannon has been railing against that for a while. I should also mention Kristi Noem, the governor of South Dakota, who has a good relationship -- very good relationship with Donald Trump has always -- already been out there. We're going to talk a lot more about that.

But we also want to talk about the sitting president, the incumbent president, because he is hitting the campaign trail. We've got brand new reporting on how his campaign wants him out with voters and not behind the podium.