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Inside Politics

Biden, Trump Clinch Nominations to Set Up White House Rematch; Polls Say More Voters Believe Trump's Policies Have Helped Them Compared to How Many Believe Biden's Policies Have Helped; RFK Jr. Says He's Picked Running Mate, Will Announce It This Month; Less Than Half the Republican Conference Expected to Attend This Week's Annual Retreat; Ken Buck to Resign Next Week; Paralyzed Congress, Historically Few Laws Passed Last Year. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired March 13, 2024 - 12:30   ET




DANA BASH, CNN ANCHOR: Presidential rematch is on, but both President Biden and Former President Trump are facing headwinds in their bids to recapture the White House. For President Biden, it is maintaining his 2020 coalition. For President Trump, it is winning back the Republican voters who abandoned him in this year's primaries. And then there are the independent candidates.

Joining me to discuss is Democratic Pollster Celinda Lake and Republican Pollster Ed Goeas. They are co-authors of the book, "A Question of RESPECT: Bringing Us Together in a Deeply Divided Nation." Here it is. You see it there, here it is. Nice to see both. I'm so glad that you can come on.


BASH: I want to talk with kind of the big picture as we head into the next eight months. What do you think, based on the data that you have, based on the surveys that you're doing, that voters are really going to care the most about, particularly in these key swing states? I'll start with you.

CELINDA LAKE, DEMOCRATIC POLLSTER: I think three things. I think they're going to care about the character of the people. And the more that people get exposed, particularly women get exposed to Donald Trump, the less they like him. So he has actually benefited from being off of Twitter and being less than the limelight. And I think this exposure is going to work to Biden's advantage. They're going to care about the economy and we are fighting hard to get people's perceptions about the economy better and they are improving. But, we got to keep on that. And they're going to care about abortion and that's going to work in our favor with a lot of key swing votes.

BASH: I was waiting to see if you were going to mention that, I was to ask you that.

LAKE: Absolutely. BASH: Now, you think, Ed, that Republicans need to be a bit concerned -- your fellow Republicans seem to be a bit wary of leaning too far into campaigning on the economy.

ED GOEAS, REPUBLICAN POLLSTER: I think they have to be careful. What we have traditionally seen in other campaigns is it takes about eight months of solid, good economic news coming in before the bulk of the electorate say the economy is doing well.


GOEAS: We are already beginning to see some signs of moving in that direction. And you see the jobs number is good, you see inflation down some, but more importantly, you see other parts of the economy that's thriving and doing very well. And if that comes to a head in eight months, it is coming to a head just as the two conventions are going on this summer, which means that the messaging may not be there for Republicans and may be there in a big way for Democrats.

BASH: Yeah.

GOEAS: A month later.

BASH: Well, they've been trying to message the Democrats, but people aren't actually feeling that. You think that they would actually, based on your experience, start to --

GOEAS: It is going to take till summer before all that kind of sinks in, if it sinks in.

BASH: OK. Let's do something I know you all love to do. Look at the cross tabs --

LAKE: Excellent.


BASH: -- at the demographics and how each -- many of them are looking at these two candidates. This is in New York Times and the question is about whether or not the president's policies have helped you personally. On men, Donald Trump is winning. On women, Donald Trump is winning. White, Donald Trump is winning. Black, Donald Trump is winning. Hispanic, Donald Trump is winning. Interesting, these are registered voters.

Now, let's look at the question of age. Donald Trump is winning on the young people, on 30 to 44, on 45 to 64, and also on 65. What do the margins there tell you and just the fact that across the board he seems to be doing well? I mean, it kind of matches up with the head- to-head which does show, even though it is margin of error, Donald Trump doing better than Joe Biden right now?

LAKE: Yeah. So basically, even Donald Trump voters are more energized, which is common when you have a primary, but there's nothing like Donald Trump to energize Joe Biden voters. What is really interesting about those numbers though, Dana, I think is how many people refused to make a choice. I think both are a problem. And I think the key voting groups are going to be the people that dislike both of these candidates. 17 percent to 21 percent of the electorate right now, when pushed, they vote for Joe Biden. That's the secret sauce for the election.

BASH: Or they could stay home.

LAKE: Or they could stay home or vote third party.

GOEAS: And I get very nervous looking at one poll because (inaudible).

BASH: Yeah, of course, so do we. But we just wanted to give a snapshot.

GOEAS: But if you look at the average --

BASH: Yeah.

GOEAS: -- of -- really since the beginning of the year, that Trump has never had more than a four-point lead. And at some points, Biden spin up to a two-point lead. But it is basically, one point one way or the other within the margin of error. I think you have to take a step back here and say, over 70 percent of voters wish this was not happening --

BASH: Well --

GOEAS: -- in terms of the two candidates.

BASH: OK, so on that. You both have kind of brought up in your own ways questions of alternatives. Let's talk about Robert F. Kennedy Jr. He put out a potential running mate list, includes Aaron Rodgers, NFL quarterback; Jesse Ventura, Former Minnesota Governor; Tulsi Gabbard, Former Congresswoman; Rand Paul Kentucky Senator -- I'm not sure he is so interested though -- Andrew Yang, former presidential candidate; Mike Rowe, Tony Robbins, and Trisha Lindsey.

I guess, the first question as we talk about potential running mates to see if that will sway anybody, are Democrats adequately worried about the RFK factor, especially if he gets on the ballot in some of these key swing states?

LAKE: I think so. I think Democrats are very worried about third-party candidates in general because they pull from Joe Biden. What we found though is people are reading into RFK, the old Kennedy name and in fact, half the voters confused him with his father. Democratic primary voters are revealing when they found out that he was an anti-vaxxer, his checkered past on abortion, his choice of running mates, those are not Democrats. I think that his numbers will fall, but it is very formidable, very concerning, particularly among young people.

GOEAS: I think they're going to be a factor in terms of getting the vote higher. But I think what I'm saying with the third party and I think this is true who ever kind of comes forward in the next couple of months or weeks, is that what they're doing is bringing out voters that has pretty much decided they're going to sit at home and not vote any way. BASH: Oh, interesting.

GOEAS: So, it doesn't really change anything. I think the bigger question is, those voters, as you mentioned earlier, for example, who voted against Donald Trump in the primary, are they going to stay home? Are they going to turn out and vote for Biden? And that is one of the key questions, even more so than third-party candidates.

BASH: So interesting. Well, there is no question of the respect between the two of you, Republican and Democrat, great conversation. Please come back.

LAKE: Thank you for having us.

GOEAS: Thank you so much.

LAKE: And great respect for you.

BASH: Oh, thank you. Bickering and nonsense, that's what one Republican lawmaker told me Congress is all about these days. His parting words, well, one word, bye.



BASH: It is a team-building getaway to a vacation resort that doesn't sound very relaxing. The annual House GOP retreat starts today, but less than half the conference plans to show up. Some complained about the location, others are a lot more candid. With tensions inside the GOP running high, they just don't want to spend that much time with one another.

My great panel is back. I mean, it is really remarkable how much tension there is inside the House GOP.


BASH: And before we kick off this conversation, I just want to play for our viewers, who might have missed, my conversation with Ken Buck. This is as he was making the announcement that surprised his own leadership, that he was going to not just retire at the end of the Congress, but he was going to resign at the end of next week. Here's why he said he is doing that.


REP. KEN BUCK (R-CO): But a lot of this is personal and that's the problem, instead of having decorum, instead of operating in a professional manner, this place has just devolved into this bickering and nonsense and not really doing the job for the American people.

BASH: Is it that bad that you're saying I'm done?

BUCK: It is the worst year of the nine years and three months that I've been in Congress. And having talked to former members, it is the worst year in 40, 50 years to be in Congress.


BASH: And I said, do have anything else to add? He said bye.


JACKIE KUCINICH, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, THE BOSTON GLOBE: So, I haven't seen anything that encapsulates what is going on at the Republican retreat quite as much as what Olivia Beavers from POLITICO tweeted yesterday. I'd rather sit down with Hannibal Lecter and eat my own liver.


KUCINICH: Said one House Republican when asked if they were attending the House GOP retreat.

BASH: Oh my God.

KUCINICH: Thank you, Olivia, for that. But I think the -- we've seen this throughout the year, right? I mean, there is a tendency to blame Speaker Johnson for not having fostered a lot of unity, but let's not forget how this year started out with all of the Kevin McCarthy drama. So, was that last year?


KUCINICH: That was last year, I'm sorry, this Congress -- forgive me -- started out with the Kevin McCarthy drama. They've never really been able to work as a team here. And we are just seeing it play out with smaller and smaller and smaller numbers at this point, which is (ph) harder.

BASH: And I just want to underscore, what we are talking about isn't sort of the House. We are talking about Republicans --


BASH: -- who are in charge of the House. And they are really the people who are talking about the liver eating situation.


BASH: After Ken Buck leaves next Friday, this is what the breakdown is going to be. 218 Republicans, 213 Democrats, four vacancies. So, this is just an example of how the tensions are made even worse --


BASH: -- when it comes to how Mike Johnson, the speaker, and other members of leadership, can manage these guys and women because they have such a narrow margin. It is almost non-existent.

LEIGH ANN CALDWELL, EARLY 202 CO-AUTHOR, THE WASHINGTON POST: It is pretty much non-existent and that is why Speaker Johnson isn't able to manage these guys. He's a person -- leader with little experience leading, but he has lost control of the majority. He's not able to pass anything with Republican votes. Now, they have to what they do, suspend the rules and everything, even messaging bills that are supposed to be good and easy for Republicans, half to -- can't pass unless it involves Democratic votes.

And so, it is, you have the faction of the party who is mad at people for ousting Kevin McCarthy. You have the people who have no relationship with Mike Johnson. You have someone like Patrick McHenry who has been in Congress for a long time, and he is ready to burn it all down on his way out as well, and he's very much lately -- had been --

BASH: Yeah.

ANN CALDWELL: -- a member of the establishment.

BASH: I mean, I could see watching this and saying, well, that's so bad that because the majority is so narrow, they have to work together in a bipartisan way. I mean, TikTok that happened this morning. I mean, we've never seen anything like that or we haven't seen anything like that in recent -- in recent times. That -- but that is definitely the exception, not the rule.

And Isaac, I just want you to look at this graph which shows you how little the House Republican majority has gotten done when it comes to bills into law. Only 27 in the first year of this session -- 27, that is the lowest by far in almost 30 years, three times lower than the next highest. And I think that includes like post offices.


BASH: Yeah.

DOVERE: This is a hard argument to make for more time in the majority for the Republicans, which is the argument they're going to be making going into the fall. And it is something that members of the Republican conference are saying, Chip Roy, who is very conservative member of the House from Texas, over and over has said, we are not getting anything done. What are we doing here? What is this?

And like, when you see these retirements, Ken Buck, Democrats sometimes spin it as, oh, the Republicans know they are going to lose the majority. They don't want to live in the minority. They clearly don't want to be here no matter what at this point, because they're getting so little done and it's not like there aren't big things to get done. Yes, the TikTok bill passed but what about the immigration bill, which is a bipartisan bill, right, that couldn't get a vote.


DOVERE: Ukraine funding, Israel funding, government funding --


BASH: Oh, that, yeah. DOVERE: We were talking about this during the break. After next week, they are about to go home for two weeks on recess.

BASH: Well, they've been working really hard to (inaudible).

DOVERE: Really?

BASH: Yeah.

DOVERE: And -- but with this kind of margin, it's a question of what is even the point of coming back.

BASH: We got to take a break. Thanks, guys. Great conversation. Up next, Steph Curry for president. What the Golden State Warriors star said about a career in politics.



BASH: Four-time NBA champion Steph Curry is considering his future after basketball. The 35-year-old told CBS he could be open to a future in politics when his playing days are over.



STEPHEN CURRY, GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS POINT GUARD: Thank you all for welcoming us here.

DUNCAN: Yay? Nay? Maybe?

CURRY: Maybe.

DUNCAN: You have an interest in politics?

CURRY: I have an interest in leveraging every part of my influence for good in the way that I can, so if that's the way to do it, then I'm not saying the presidency, but if that's --

DUNCAN: You said maybe.

CURRY: -- if that's politics, that's maybe is what I'm saying. If politics is the way that you can create meaningful change, or if there's another way outside of politics that we can do --

DUNCAN: You're not ruling it out.


DUNCAN: 2028, you never know.


CURRY: Not that soon.

DUNCAN: Not that soon, OK.


BASH: Not that soon, OK. Thank you so much for joining "Inside Politics." "CNN News Central" starts after the break.