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Haley Staying In The Race Despite Losing In South Carolina; House Under Pressure To Deliver Aid To Ukraine On Anniversary; Zelenskyy Holds Press Conference To Mark Two Years Of War; Republican Congressmen Air Anger At Gaetz Primary Antics; Biden Facing Major Tests In Michigan Primary Tuesday; Steve Bannon Repeats Election Lie At CPAC. Aired 11a-12p ET

Aired February 25, 2024 - 11:00   ET






DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have never seen the Republican Party so unified as it is right now.

RAJU: Nikki Haley vows to stay in.


RAJU: While Trump turns dark.

TRUMP: I am a dissident. Success will be our revenge.

RAJU: And 11th hour.

JAKE SULLIVAN, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR OF THE UNITED STATES: Putin gains every day that Ukraine does not get the resources it needs.

RAJU: Speaker Johnson feels the heat as a shutdown looms.

REP. BYRON RONALDS (R-FL): You either secure the border or you get no money from the government.

RAJU: Plus.

REP. MATT GAETZ (R-FL): I'm on a mission to change Congress.

RAJU: Exclusive reporting on what Johnson and Trump discussed at Mar- a-Lago.

And IVF on the ballot.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was shocked. IVF is so personal.

RAJU: Democrats lean in.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Abortion isn't just on the ballot in a handful of states this year. It is on the ballot for every person in this country this year.

RAJU: As Republicans scramble.

Inside Politics the best reporting from inside the cores of power starts now.

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

Donald Trump, once again, trounced Nikki Haley. But, once again, Haley says she's not going anywhere.

Now the former two-term South Carolina governor just lost by more than 20 points in our home state. And this is the fourth state where Trump has won by double digits. And this time doing so despite being outspent by $15 million on air.

Yet, in speaking to cheering supporters last night, Haley continued to offer this warning to her party.


HALEY: We need to beat Joe Biden in November.


I don't believe Donald Trump can beat Joe Biden.

Nearly every day Trump drives people away.


RAJU: Could she be right?

Now despite Trump running the table with very conservative voters in this conservative state, there are warning signs for his likely general election candidacy. That's the race Trump is now focused on as he tries to paint a dark vision of President Biden's America.

Now, CNN's Kristen Holmes has been traveling with the former president. And she's in Columbia, South Carolina.

Kristen, how is Trump world dealing with Nikki Haley staying in this race?

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well Manu, it depends if you mean privately or publicly. Because privately, they're all still very annoyed that Nikki Haley is staying in this race. But internally as well as publicly, the messaging is the same.

As you said, it is time to start focusing on the general election. They've had four resounding wins. Almost every contest on the horizon for the primary season has Trump as the favorite. They need a campaign reset looking ahead to November.

Now before I get excoriated for talking about some sort of Trump presidential pivot. That is not at all what I am talking about. His team is very aware of who he is. He is going to continue to say and do whatever he wants.

I am talking about a campaign restructure in terms of building out infrastructure and in terms of building out messaging.

Now infrastructure, that means building out their teams in critical battleground states like Michigan, like Arizona, like Georgia. Messaging, it means focusing more on President Joe Biden than anything else.

Now you saw a little bit of that from the former president last night in his speech when he didn't mention Nikki Haley once, focusing those attacks on the president. But even his senior advisor said, they had no idea if he was going to go after Haley and not when he got up on that stage. All they could do was tell him please don't go after Nikki Haley and just focus on the general.

Now you mentioned this. There are certainly warning signs ahead of a general election for Donald Trump. Despite all of these resounding wins, that is why his team believes they have to focus on the general election now.

They have to get into these communities. They have to get every single vote that they possibly can. They are very aware that Donald Trump is a polarizing figure and that this is going to be a long road ahead of them if they want to win in November.

RAJU: Yes. And one reason why he didn't say anything about Nikki Haley, he came up before her almost immediately after the race was called. She waited until later in the eight o'clock hour. I tend to guess if she went first, he would have responded to her, but that's just maybe just an educated guess.


And thank you, Kristen Holmes, for that report.

We're going to break this all down with my great panel this morning that's Seung Min Kim, White House reporter for the Associated Press. John Bresnahan, the co-founder of Punchbowl News, and CNN's national political reporter, Steve Contorno.

Good morning to you guys all. It's been a busy morning late night.


RAJU: For those of us who are covering the race.

Steve, you know, despite Trump's win, we did learn a lot about his vulnerabilities, his standing, his viability as a general election candidate. We're going to dig a little bit into the numbers here. So -- because there were interesting exit poll numbers about what this means going forward. Trump -- I'm like Haley supporters. Seventy-six of Haley supporters would be dissatisfied if Trump were the nominee. And same question to the same Haley supporters. Eighty-two percent would not believe he's fit for the presidency if you were convicted of a crime.

Now, she took almost 40 percent in her home state, but that is not a majority, but still clearly a concern for Trump's team, realizing that there's a sizable amount of people who aren't really to vote for.

STEVE CONTORNO, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: Absolutely. And 74 percent said that he would not be mentally fit to serve as well. So, clearly, you have, in every state so far where Republicans have weighed in, you have seen a sizable number of them say, look, we don't want Trump.

And especially interesting in South Carolina because coming into yesterday, there's so much the narrative was that, what is her path to victory? Is she actually still competitive in this race? And yet 40 percent of people still felt compelled enough to come out and vote for someone other than Donald Trump.

And now she obviously, these are great signs for Nikki Haley. She's got to explain to her supporters in these upcoming states as well as her donors what her path is. But there are some warning signs for Donald Trump as well.

RAJU: Yes. It is interesting. Just the different universe of Republican voters that are out there. That --

KIM: Right.

RAJU: -- exist in who Trump goes for and the people that he -- are not supporting him.

Just look at how the South Carolina electorate, Republican electorate about, we're asked a question, do you think Biden legitimately won in 2020? Of course, he did. Haley supporters said, 76 percent yes, just 11 percent of Trump supporters believe Joe Biden legitimately won.

KIM: Right, right. And if you're someone, if you're a Republican voter or someone who participated in the primary last night who believed that Joe Biden did win the election as he did, you're more likely to vote for Haley.

So you're seeing all of these in the data last night that CNN did as well as the AP, you're seeing all of these ways where Haley still has -- you -- basically you see why Nikki Haley is still staying in the race. She sees a big part of the -- or at least a sizable part of the Republican Party who cannot support Trump in any way, who is turned off by his rhetoric, his criminal liabilities, his -- any other issues that he has.

And if you're looking for something, if you're looking for something that's been consistent across a lot of the early contests, one in five primary, one of five Republican primary voters, according to AP vote cast are survey of voters in these early states, say they would not support Trump in a general election.

That is a huge warning sign for Trump. And he has to figure out a way to make that appeal across to moderate voters to swing voters, which Nikki Haley has done a good job on, but Trump certainly hasn't.

RAJU: And you talked to Republicans all the time, how concerned are they about his general election viability?

JOHN BRESNAHAN, FOUNDER, PUNCHBOWL NEWS: On the Hill, they're very concerned. They've got -- look, they have a great Senate map in 2024 for -- to win back the Senate.

RAJU: Which we'll talk about later in the show. So make sure you stay tuned in.

BRESNAHAN: And but, you know, There are going to be places, you know, Michigan, Pennsylvania, where their Senate races, where they're tough races for Republicans. But these are presidential states, states Trump needs. Can he appeal to voters in those states and then help their candidates?

And, of course, they've got the house, you know, houses up for grabs. And that's a national election -- it's a series of, you know, 435 national races. And, you know, they're very comparing at a certain point Trump bringing.

RAJU: Yes. And, you know, and it's how would his message is going to be in the general election and how that -- whether the party's going to embrace that message, you were at CPAC yesterday, Trump would painting the rather dark vision of America as he tried to rile up his base.


TRUMP: I stand before you today, not only as your past and hopefully future president. But as a proud political dissident. I am a dissident.

November 5th will be our new liberation day. But for the liars and cheaters and fraudsters and censors and imposters who have commandeered our government, it will be their judgment day.


RAJU: They were eating that up yesterday. But that's the very hardcore base. But how does that translate in the general?


CONTORNO: Exactly. And that's gonna be the question. And he said -- you know, last year he said at CPAC, I am your retribution. This year, he said, success will be our revenge.

So, you know, sort of changing the terms a little bit. But when you say judgment day for our opponents is coming, that's how you're going to cast the November election. How does -- what does that mean about reaching toward the middle in some of these moderate voters?

And even some Republicans, I was in talking to folks in Nevada ahead of that caucus there. And there are long-time Republicans there who don't fit in with that magnification of the party who are looking for alternatives.

They're considering RFK Jr. because they don't feel like the MAGA part of this party represents them anymore.

RAJU: And, of course, there's always things that Trump says that he has to clean up or just his party has to clean up.

KIM: Right. I don't think he cleans it up ever.

RAJU: He doesn't -- exactly. And this is what he said about when he was speaking to black supporters about his own criminal charges and why he thinks they support him because of it.


TRUMP: We've all seen the mugshot. And you know who embraced it more than anybody else? The black population. It's incredible.

I got indicted for nothing. Then I got indicted a second time and a third time and a fourth time. And a lot of people said that that's why the black people like me because they have been hurt so badly and discriminated against.

And they actually viewed me as I'm being discriminated against.


RAJU: That's something else. Now look at the -- look at the South Carolina exit polls. I just want to just point to this point though because it's been about a fight about electability.

KIM: Right.

RAJU: Is he electable or not? South Carolina exit poll voters believe that Trump is more electable than Haley. Even though she had been making -- she's outspent by 15 million bucks in her own state. She cannot convince her of own voters that he was unelectable.

KIM: Right. Right. And if you're looking at just sort of the national head-to-head polling where you're looking at Nikki Haley versus Joe Biden and Donald Trump versus Joe Biden, obviously, way too far out or way too early.

But it is not a question that Nikki Haley has done better in the head- to-head against Joe Biden than Donald Trump, which is why electability has been sort of her calling card throughout the campaign.

She hasn't been able to -- she hasn't been able to persuade Republican primary voters of that just yet. We were all remembering when Republicans would fall in line where Democrats would fall in love.

It's been the reverse Republicans are the ones who are falling in love with their candidates even though they don't really -- even though there are so many signals that this could be really problematic in a November election.

RAJU: Yes. And I just want to put on her screen so viewers know what is next in the primary since Haley is not getting our first next Haley's next week that she's still -- she says she's not getting out. She's in Michigan today. She's going to be trying to campaign their ahead of Tuesday.

You see also Trump's court issues as well, but also the primaries. Look, February 27th is the next primary all the way to March 25th. Super Tuesday is going to be obviously the big question for her. Can she win any state in Super Tuesday?

But the delegate map may be too much for her come mid-March.

CONTORNO: Yes. And, you know, this was something that the DeSantis camp when I was covering them was confronting over and over again, which is this question of there are so many unknowns about Donald Trump.

And as long as you have money, why not stand the race and give yourself a chance? So if there is something that happens to him, if suddenly it's one of these legal issues sticks in the minds of voters in a way that it hasn't yet, does that give you a chance? And --

RAJU: Yes.

CONTORNO: -- obviously, they made the calculation that that wasn't enough for them. But I know that Haley folks must be considering that as well.

RAJU: Yes. It's a money game. We'll see if she decide how long she does to stay in the map. Maybe just too much for her so we have to get out. We'll see.

OK. Up next, my exclusive new reporting in the Mar-a-Lago meeting between Donald Trump and Speaker Johnson.

But, first, pleas for Ukraine aid are falling on deaf ears of GOP. And SNL points the finger at Donald Trump.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've been pushing for Ukraine funding for the past six months. It's essential to American security and Trump just killed it with one phone call. The man doesn't care about this country one iota. Sometimes I think he's downright dangerous.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And you just endorsed him, right?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. Big time. Big time.




RAJU: This morning, as Ukraine enters the third year of Russia's invasion, Ukraine's president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, issuing a dire warning.


VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, PRESIDENT OF UKRAINE (through translator): We don't accept the finale to fight for our life. If Ukraine will lose, and it will be very difficult for us if there'll be a big amount of victim depends on you, on our partners, on the Western world.

If we'll be strong enough with weapons, we won't lose this war. We will win this war.

I have hope about the U.S. Congress. And I'm sure that it will be a positive solution. Otherwise, I don't understand which world we're living.


Raju: So what will Speaker Johnson do? He has said he won't take up the Senate's $95 billion aid package that includes money for Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan, slamming that plan because it lacks border security provisions.

Yet, he killed a bipartisan border deal because he and Trump, said it did not go far enough.

And this is also Johnson's reality. If he puts a bill on the floor to send billions to Ukraine, conservative hardliners already warning, they will force a vote to oust him from a job he has held for just four months.

And now there's this. Some top Republicans are calling on Johnson to put a Ukraine aid package on the floor, keeping open the option of signing on to a Democratic led effort to force a vote and circumvent the leadership, known on Capitol Hill is a discharge petition.


REP. PATRICK MCHENRY (R-NC): My hope is that my Republican leadership will make the right decision, put it on the floor for a vote. And when they do that, it will pass and it'll pass by a wide majority.

RAJU: Will you sign a discharge petition, Mr. McHenry?


MCHENRY: I've not seen one presented, Manu. I've not seen one.

(END VIDEO CLIP) RAJU: Not ruling that out. John Bresnahan, we're in the halls talking to members all the time, House Republicans. How does Johnson play this? Because he has indicated he is in no concern to move ahead. He is facing pressure on both sides. Does he ignore it? Or ultimately, he's going to get jammed by those members in his own party?

BRESNAHAN: It's very hard to get a discharge petition through. You have to buck your leadership.

When I -- people talk about it all the time and I'm like, yes --

RAJU: One time I can remember that. Yes.

BRESNAHAN: One in McCain-Feingold.

RAJU: Yes.

BRESNAHAN: And that was 18 years ago --

RAJU: Yes.

BRESNAHAN: -- or something. Johnson says, you know, he wants border security stuff and he's also focused on making sure the government doesn't shut down, which is going to happen soon, unless they pass spending bills.

I -- look, I think it's -- I think there's a lot of emotional support for Ukraine. Is there a lot of political support? Those are two different things. Enough Republicans. I don't know.

And especially now, Trump is clearly the nominee.

RAJU: Mm-hmm.

BRESNAHAN: Or you're going to be the nominee for the Republicans. He's against more Ukraine funding.

If he comes out and says something now, it just makes it harder for members who are -- who want to support Ukraine, but can't afford to cross Trump to do it.

CONTORNO: That CPAC, the only subject that was criticizing food more than Joe Biden perhaps was funding for Ukraine. And you saw leaders like Senator J.D. Vance, who have very anti-Ukraine funding positions celebrated there.

So that just shows you where the base is. There's no appetite there for more Ukraine funding.

RAJU: But in the meantime, there's been all this frustration within the House GOP conference about Speaker Johnson's decision making. You know --

KIM: Right.

RAJU: He is dealing with -- he's got a whole long list of agenda items. By the way, there is another government shutdown deadline this Friday. This will be the fourth time. If they to extend government funding, they would have to do that.

Remember, they were supposed to do this on October 1st. They have now been able to do that, but they have faced two more deadlines. March 1st, March 8th to keep the government open.

Then they have all these other issues. And people don't really quite know how he's going to deal with this as he deals with these pressures internally. And there's so much frustration. You talk to any member about it, especially the ones who are aligned with Kevin McCarthy. Many of them will give you this kind of response as Garret Graves gave to me recently.


RAJU: How do you think Speaker Johnson is doing in this job right now, given all the challenges he's had on the floor?

REP. GARRETT GRAVES (R-LA): Getting tired of winning.


RAJU: He's getting tired of winning. Hey, look, Kat Cammack was a Congressman in the Republican Conference told our colleague Haley Talbot on the Hill on Friday asked about government funding. She said that she's been a little bit in the dark.

She says -- she was asked, do you feel you have been left in the dark? She said, absolutely. The members just don't know how Johnson's going to deal with these issues.

KIM: Right, right. And I think while -- you know, while you do hear a lot from the loud voices of the party who kind of want this bottom up process who want to dictate what the leadership actually decides, I think it's fair to say that the vast majority of House Republicans kind of want to be led by their speaker. They want to know what the strategy is and they're not getting that from a Speaker Johnson just yet.

I think a lot of it. A, it's his leadership style, which he's still kind of creating with his four months on the job. I think he's a lawyer. He speaks in a very sort of precise way. A lot of times, Republicans are left, having a different impression than maybe what Johnson meant to give during private meetings.

But certainly Speaker Johnson is facing a really difficult week. You're talking about two government shutdown, deadlines coming up. You're talking about this continued tussle with Ukraine aid.

And he's also made it pretty clear that Ukraine aid, in terms of priority, comes after these government shutdowns. And you're hearing all of these warnings coming from abroad about ammunition running out, about the capabilities of Ukraine's military being affected.

And you've also seen the rhetoric from the White House become much, much more strong on this, including from President Biden. He's basically said this borderline criminal --

RAJU: Yes.

KIM: -- to not aid Ukraine -- not continue to aid Ukraine.

RAJU: Jake Sullivan on every Sunday show this morning --

KIM: Right.

RAJU: -- making the case against Speaker Johnson. Now, it's also is the pressure internally within his own conference. You heard from Patrick McHenry, as a congressman, he's a retiring chairman, he was a temporary speaker, you'll recall, after Kevin McCarthy was ousted.

And he is making very clear. I talked to him a little bit more in depth about Johnson's challenges and his handling of all these issues. And this is how he responded.


MCHENRY: We need to get into the mode of getting things done, not punting things and pushing it off in the future.

RAJU: What were you do about the shutdown and the fact that you guys are coming back here with only three days to avoid one?

MCHENRY: We can avoid it, but it's time to get on with the deal rather than dither. And we can do it.

RAJU: The problem is he been just too indecisive? Is that your view of things?

MCHENRY: We need the speaker to be better. As a House Republican, I want him to succeed.

RAJU: Was it a good idea for him to kill the bipartisan Senate border deal?

MCHENRY: Look, I think you have to bank policy wherever and whenever you can get it.



RAJU: I think you bank policy wherever and wherever you can get it. He's not -- you suggest perhaps you should have taken a different approach on all these issues.

BRESNAHAN: Yes. But it's easy for him now because he's retiring, right? It's easy for him to say.

RAJU: Sure.

BRESNAHAN: Johnson is not retiring.

RAJU: He still has a vote.

BRESNAHAN: Well, he still has a vote. Listen, they punted something again today. Punted FAA. They look like they're going to punt that. They're supposed to reauthorize that by the federal aviation industry, supposed to reauthorize it by the end of two weeks. They're going to punt into May.

Now, look, Johnson is isolated in some ways in his own leadership. He doesn't -- he doesn't go to them for advice. It's hard to figure out who he's actually talking to. But I think -- and then -- and then he's got Trump whispering in his ear. He just was spent time with Trump the other day.

So like -- I think it's a very difficult -- I think Johnson is the personification of the split in the Republican Party and the whole House Republican Conference and they're torn. They're torn between this Trump element and the old Republican Party and they don't know which way to go.

And that's why, you know, 14 months in this Congress, the House has been a disaster the whole time and it's going to -- and it feels like it's going to keep that --

RAJU: And, of course, one of the big questions which is about how -- what are they going to do with Biden's impeachment, right? Like this is -- that is still hovering. They don't have the votes for that. Hunter Biden is coming behind closed doors, but there's pressure to impeach.

How does he deal? Does he keep this looming over the president, this investigation? They actually call for a vote that could fail, which could be a disastrous political consequence for them. All complicated calculations for the speaker. We'll see how he deals with it.

All right. That news conference with Ukrainian president, Zelenskyy, is still continuing and as you saw our Kaitlin Collins is there. So more on that coming up on CNN.

Up next, how did a yelling match between Matt Gaetz and a fellow Republican lead to this meeting between Mike Johnson and Donald Trump? My exclusive reporting on what went down in Mar-a-Lago last week.



RAJU: Speaker Mike Johnson was on a mission when he arrived in Mar-a- Lago last week, convinced former President Trump to endorse Illinois Congressman Mike Bost in his re-election bid. One day later, Johnson got his wish.

Trump backed Bost in that race, instead of his MAGA-aligned challenger, Darren Bailey, who was endorsed by Matt Gaetz. My new reporting with Melanie Zanona, dives inside that meeting. How the Speaker is leveraging his relationship with Trump as the former president maintains his tight grip on the House GOP and on congressional primaries across the country.

Now, the case also illustrates the continued anger it met Gaetz from his move to oust Kevin McCarthy from the speakership in the fall. In fact, his vendetta against Bost seems to step back to that time when, according to sources, Bost lunged at Gaetz in a closed-door meeting after Gaetz was shouting at McCarthy and GOP members were yelling back at Gaetz. And so just before Trump endorsed Bost, Gaetz flew to Illinois to rally for Bost's challenger.


REP. MIKE BOST (R-IL): Well, I'm sure it was the argument we had during the speaker's day. And you know what? He's not liked in my district. Matter of fact, it may gain me votes by coming there. As Matt does, he wants to be the center of attention and that's why he does the things like he's doing right now to me.

REP. MATT GAETZ, (R-FL): If Mike Bost thinks I was speaking too loudly in a Republican conference in Washington, wait 'till he hears me in Herrin, Illinois. I'll be speaking a lot more loudly then, but this isn't personal. It's about the policy issues upon which we disagree, and if someone else has a personal issue. You know, I don't fight those things out with my fists and some sort of strange brawl. I fight with my words.


RAJU: He says it's not personal, you know, it is really about tactics, which there's been this increasing divide within the GOP about how to pursue their objectives here. Gaetz is part of the wing that does not necessarily hold the line with the leadership, to say the least. But this is how he further explained his mission, as he says, trying to change Congress.


GAETZ: I'm on a mission to change Congress, and I can't do it with the people who are currently here. I've come to that conclusion, so I need new people, I need better people, I need better options in a lot of these Republican primaries, and I'll be traveling the country to try to get more people elected.


RAJU: You're a Florida man, what do you think of Matt Gaetz' efforts here?

CONTORNO: Well, it's funny because I also covered the Illinois State House, so I've covered Representative Bost there. And, you know, he was known there as a bit of a hothead. And Matt Gaetz is an instigator. So I guess it's not surprising that they're clashing here.

But, you know, it's these inter-party fights. There's always been policy differences in the Republican Party, right? It's a big 10 party. But this -- the way that these personality fights have come out into the open, it's got to be distracting for the Republican Party now, especially in an election year. And I can't imagine this is anything that the RNC or Republicans who are trying to get Trump in the White House want to see.

RAJU: I mean, look, you're talking about the distraction that members are concerned about. In fact, I asked them about that, and you can imagine they weren't too thrilled about Matt Gaetz' efforts.


REP. CARLOS GIMENEZ (R-FL): I don't like it, you know, it's a, you know, it's a colleague campaigning against another colleague and that's -- that's to me, not a very smart move.

I think the ouster McCarthy, like I said, didn't help anything and it hasn't been productive and so I've been very critical of the people that ousted him, I think that that was a really dumb move.

REP. DON BACON (R-NE): The norm since I've been here, you don't get involved in someone else's primary. And that should be the norm. Because it creates long-term divisions in the conference. So I'm going to support Mike Bost, we'll stick with that.


RAJU: Some were even more harsh. Max Miller, the Ohio freshman, told me that Matt wants more chaos, he says. He has mommy and daddy issues to work out. I mean, have you ever seen the House GOP conference devolve like this in your time?


BRESNAHAN: I mean, there's nothing. I mean, it started at the beginning of this Congress, but McCarthy couldn't get elected. You know, the 15 vote which we're going to be speaker, and that was all personal.


RAJU: I mean, this is all intraparty fighting --


RAJU: -- which is the most amazing thing about it. It's all public. It's been going on all Congress.

BRESNAHAN: But the issue here, there's two issues here. One, Gaetz is under investigation by the Ethics Committee. He was under investigation by the Justice Department. They didn't charge him criminally, but he's under investigation over his personal behavior.

He's still -- he's attacking the Ethics Committee because Kevin McCarthy appointed all those people and he's trying to get rid of the Ethics Committee. Set Gaetz aside, the real issue here is that by going down to Mar-a-Lago and seeking -- seeking Trump's endorsement, it shows you, it's all about Trump. It's -- the reason why they were scared is because Gaetz has a relationship with Trump and he could somehow, and then Trump could come out of the blue and endorsed Bailey, which was endorsed in the past when he ran for governor.

So that's really the subtext here is that it's all about one guy trying to, you know, they're worried about what he may do and in the insanity of what his choices are, or not the insanity, the irrationality of his choices. And then, you know, that's the subtext here is really about Trump and that he could just -- the lightning bolt from Trump could change a race in the House.

RAJU: And this is a ruby red district and it's not going to change the outcome of the House majority. But it could change the makeup of the members and that is also something that is so significant. And you mentioned about the Trump impact on the primaries. I mean, we scoured Republican ads in these Republican primaries and lo and behold again, this is about a loyalty test, one trying to out trump each other as they appeal to the base.


BERNIE MORENO: President Trump says the election was stolen and he's right.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Trump calls Sheehy an American hero.

Donald Trump says Gary Palmer is fighting to secure the border.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mark Walker and President Trump are fighting to shut down Bidens open border.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On my first day in Congress, I work with President Trump to shut down our southern border.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To secure the border, President Trump and Senator Cruz trust Brandon Gill.


RAJU: I mean, you don't see this on the Democratic side with Biden, but Trump is still so dominant within the base, even though, as we talked about earlier, he's got some serious issues.

KIM: Right.

RAJU: Not to mention four criminal cases against him.

KIM: Right, because they have to get through the primary first. I'm also thinking of a candidate in the Ohio primaries for the ninth congressional district, Craig Riedel, I believe, who had his endorsement by Elise Stefanik withdrawn, because he was remotely critical of President Trump in a radio interview.

So that shows just how much of a lock he has on the party and just how much strategists, Republican leaders who are running these campaign committees, have to really maneuver around Trump to make sure their favorite candidates get through the primaries.

You mentioned in your reporting that Richard Hudson was also one of the people making this appeal to Donald Trump. And you saw all the maneuvering that we saw with Steve Daines when it come to that Montana Senate primary.

Republicans were afraid for the longest time that Matt Rosendale would get in. And Trump would back him. Obviously, Trump did not. Matt Rosendale got out. I think Republicans are breathing a little easier there. But they have to work with Donald Trump, at least in the primary phase, to make sure that they can get electable candidates.

RAJU: And that was actually interesting about Steve Daines and just the way that the GOP leaders are trying to move in harmony. Mitch McConnell doesn't talk to Donald Trump.


RAJU: Steve Daines has made the concerted decisions ahead of the Senate GOP campaign committee. And right now they are mostly on the same page in some of these key primary races and that could potentially bode well for them come November.

BRESNAHAN: Yeah, because they're on the same time because they don't do anything until Trump makes a decision what he's going to do.

RAJU: And they convinced him to get behind Sheehy in Montana. That was this --

BRESNAHAN: Right, at first Johnson was going to endorse Rosendale, and then he backed away from that game.

KIM: Yeah, very messy.

BRESNAHAN: That was very messy. So, like, look, it is about Trump in a lot of the -- you said, in the primaries, and then he's clearly going to be the nominee, or he's clearly on the path to be the nominee.

So, you know, Daines took a completely different path than they did in the last cycle, which shows you how they -- know you, how they're trying to change things. So, look, I just think everything from Trump is so unpredictable. It's unpredictable in the primaries. It's unpredictable policy-wise. It's unpredictable. Everything in the Republican Party is unpredictable.

RAJU: And look, you remember what happened last cycle. He got crosswise with those candidates. He picked candidates that GOP leaders didn't like, and they didn't take the Senate.

So anyways, all right, next. Joe Biden facing new concerns about his coalition ahead of Michigan's primary on Tuesday, but could the Alabama Supreme Court actually help him in the general?



RAJU: President Biden is poised to skate to victory in Tuesday's Michigan primary, but that doesn't mean Democrats won't be scrutinizing the results for signs of weakness in his coalition headed into November.

Progressive Democrats, including prominent Muslim Americans, are urging voters to cast an uncommitted ballot to protest Biden's handling of the Israel-Hamas War. All is Biden and his supporters are trying to turn the race into a referendum on Trump and the aftermath of the Dobbs decision.


GOV. GRETCHEN WHITMER, (D) MICHIGAN: The prospect of another four years of Donald Trump or a Biden administration that's going to do everything they can to protect women's rights and science I think is a very stark difference that is very real for people now seeing what happened in Alabama.


RAJU: I mean just to get a sense of where things are headed into Michigan, Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib calling for voters to vote uncommitted on Tuesday, of course, she's a Muslim American from the Michigan, from the Detroit area represents that.

Also just a coalition of voters from the "Fox News" poll that just came out for Biden. Black voters, he does have 68% of support from black voters. But that is down substantially. And suburban women, he's winning like he's losing in Michigan to voters under 45 years old. How concerned is the Biden campaign about his coalition?


KIM: Right, which is why seeing that margin, particularly those who go to those uncommitted voters on Tuesday in Michigan among Democratic voters will be really interesting and a telling point for the Biden campaign.

You've seen both White House officials and campaign officials really try to work to make inroads and try to communicate with that community, particularly the Arab American community. But they haven't been so receptive. They're really angry about the administration's ongoing -- the positions on the ongoing war in Gaza. And there really hasn't been anything that has been able to change their minds.

And the Biden campaign is hoping that once the choice is clear, once it's November, once it's time to actually vote, that these people would actually go and pull the lever for Joe Biden, not stay home. But it's a bet that they can't count on just yet.

RAJU: They're hoping that, of course, the issue of abortion, post- Dobbs will help energize the base. The aftermath of the Alabama Supreme Court ruling restricting access to IVF, of course, has become an issue that Republicans are trying to scramble and trying to clean up their positions.

Trump himself weighed in on this just in the aftermath of that ruling.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I said, wait a minute, these people are helping women with babies, which is what they want. They may be unable to have them without. And I came down in favor of it. And it's been met really in a very popular way. We want to help women. We don't want to hurt women.


RAJU: I mean, and the scrambling was remarkable Friday. Just look at all the tweets that Republicans put out saying that, you know, they don't support the Supreme Court in Alabama's decision. The Biden campaign tried to tie this all to Trump, saying he proudly overturned Roe. He brags about it on the campaign trail.

You know, clearly Republicans realize this is a problem. Still, they have not figured out how to deal with the post-Roe world.

CONTORNO: Yeah, it was interesting that Trump spoke to a group of Christian broadcasters in Nashville on Thursday and at this event he embraced what he did to overturn Roe v. Wade. He talked about the Supreme Court justices that he put in place and the fact that they've had.

But I did think it was interesting in that interview that Dana had this morning with Governor Whitmer that she was not dismissive of the energy behind this effort and the concerns to move away from Biden.

And she actually said it's important not to lose sight of the fact that any vote that's not cast for Joe Biden supports a second Trump turn. So clearly a very urgent call to Democrats there.

RAJU: Yeah, I mean, you were talking to Democrats all the time. What are they most concerned about, about the President as they head into November? And, you know, is it age? Is it about the base? Is it about the -- his handling of Israel and the Hamas war? Is it all of the above?

BRESNAHAN: It's all the above, inflation, economic issues. It's all the above. I think the problem for both sides here is this. This is a rerun of the 2020 race. And, you know, we're not going to, you know, Trump doesn't have to introduce himself to America.

America knows who Trump is and everyone knows who Joe Biden is. And they're fighting over such a small margin. I think that, you know, they're fighting over yards and inches here. I mean, it's going to be so difficult.

And I do think when you'll see in Michigan, there is a real concern about from the White House and from Democrats about what Biden's results are there. And I think, you know, with younger voters, it's a huge problem. This is a huge that the groups Joe Biden needs to be reelected. President are the ones he's most in trouble with right now, in a lot of ways, yeah.

RAJU: I mean, and that's really the big question. Can just being anti- Trump be enough to win here, and this is a much different electorate than 2020. You'll have third party candidates, things that they're just going to have to contend with, figure out how to deal with that. One big question will be, we'll see what happens Tuesday and whether there are holes in that coalition.

All right, coming up. What do the My Pillow CEO and January 6th Pinball Machine have in common? Trump's Republican Party comes to Washington, next.




STEVE BANNON, FORMER TRUMP ADVISER: You lost in 2020, Donald Trump is the legitimate president of the United States.


BANNON: Trump won. Trump won. Trump won.


RAJU: And that was Steve Bannon, Donald Trump's one-time chief strategist, falsely claiming Trump won the 2020 election. And he was speaking at this year's conservative political action conference, known as CPAC.

And today, that storied gathering has transformed from a place where Ronald Reagan came to warn of the dangers of the Soviet Union to one co-opted by Donald Trump's supporters, a four-day celebration of the former president.

Now, with Trump's CPAC, election denialism is gospel. And people like Mike Lindell, the My Pillow CEO, got a prominent speaking role.


MIKE LINDELL, CEO, MY PILLOW: By the way, anybody that tells you to vote early is wrong. You vote same day, I'm telling you, that it's harder for them to cheat.


RAJU: Attendees could sing along to a tune called Trump won and you know it, filled with those same discredited lies about voting.


RAJU: And the violent January 6th insurrection is actually celebrated with attendees calling for the rioters to be released. And there was even a pinball machine that went viral for its glorification of that violent day. And one prominent Trump supporter called for the overthrow of democracy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JACK POSOBIEC, CONSERVATIVE COMMENTATOR: I just wanted to say, welcome to the end of democracy. We're here to overthrow it completely. We didn't get all the way there on January 6th, but we will -- we will endeavor to get rid of it and replace it with this, right here. We'll replace it with this right here.




RAJU: It's all fraud cry from decades ago when Reagan projected optimism and warned CPAC of the dangers of dictatorship.


RONALD REAGAN, U.S. FORMER PRESIDENT: We accept no moral equivalency between the cause of freedom and the rule of totalitarianism.


RAJU: What a change in a generation. All right, that's it for Inside Politics Sunday. You can follow me on X, formerly known as Twitter, @mkraju. You can follow the show @insidepolitics. And of course, if you ever miss a show, you can catch up wherever you get your podcast, just search for Inside Politics.

Up next, State of the Union with Jake Tapper and Dana Bash. Dana's guests include Jake Sullivan, Michigan Governor, Gretchen Whitmer, and Texas Governor Greg Abbott.

Thanks again for sharing your Sunday morning with us, and we'll see you next time.