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Trump Doubles Down On Dark Rhetoric In Ohio Rally; Trump Makes Last-Minute Rally Push For Moreno In Ohio; Speaker Johnson Tells House GOP To Knock It Off With Primary Antics; Biden Trump Face Persistent Threat from RFK JR.; Britt Dodges Reporters Following State Of The Union Response. Aired 8-9a ET

Aired March 17, 2024 - 08:00   ET



AMARA WALKER, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Thanks for joining us today.


DANNY FREEMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Have a great day. Happy St. Patrick's Day.

WALKER: St. Patty's.



MANU RAJU, CNN HOST (voice-over): Day split-screen.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT & 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The fastest way to reverse every single Biden disaster is two very simply just put me back in office.

RAJU: Trump's legal delays pay off, while Biden storms the battleground states.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My predecessor who failed the most basic of any duty a president owes the American people.

RAJU: And primary fights.

REP. MATT GAETZ (R-FL): I cannot save the country with the current Congress we have.

RAJU: New reporting speaker's attempts to rein in Republicans while Trump wades into key Senate races.

SEN. RAND PAUL (R-KY): He should've stayed out of it.

RAJU: Plus, long-shot.

SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): I don't know if anything in Washington, D.C. is 100 percent.

RAJU: Will Joe Manchin actually run again? And new reaction after that widely panned speech.

SEN. TOMMY TUBERVILLE (R-AL): That obviously didn't go over too well.

RAJU: INSIDE POLITICS, the best reporting from inside the corridors of power, starts now.


RAJU (on camera): Good morning. Welcome to INSIDE POLITICS SUNDAY. I'm Manu Raju.

As we head into a new phase in the presidential race, that Trump campaign is scrambling to catch up to the Biden team's fundraising machine.

Just this morning, Biden's camp announced bringing in an eye-popping $53 million in February alone, with a staggering $155 million in the bank. They say that's the most of any Democratic presidential campaign at this stage of the election cycle. Plus, the Biden team says an additional $10 million was brought in in the aftermath of the president's State of the Union Address earlier this month.

Now, meantime, Trump is purging the RNC in trying to rebuild the organization, all as he faces mounting legal bills.

Now, yesterday, Trump was back on the campaign trail in Ohio, where he was throwing red meat to his base, including some dark rhetoric about migrants.


TRUMP: If I had prisons that were teeming with MS-13 and all sorts of people that they've got to take care of for the next 50 years, right? Young people that are in jail for years, if you call him people, I don't know if you call people. In some cases, they're not people in my opinion. These are animals, okay?


RAJU: Now, Trump also accused Biden of being a threat to democracy. All the offer dire warnings about what would happen if he loses in November.

And that brings us to Alayna Treene, who is live in Dayton, Ohio, and was at the Trump rally.

So, Alayna, when Trump was speaking, did eat moderate his message at all to a general election audience? Or was he really catering to the MAGA base as he tends to do in these rallies?

ALAYNA TREENE, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, look, Manu, Donald Trump is very much in full general election campaign mode. However, Trump is Trump, and he's going to continue to use that type of rhetoric that we heard yesterday throughout his time on the campaign and as we look to November. But here, you know, Donald Trump wasn't necessarily in Ohio for his own campaign. Both Trump and his team believed that he will handily win the state come November, according to my conversations with Trump's advisers. Instead, he was here to stomp for his endorsed candidate in the Ohio Senate primary, and that's a businessman, Bernie Moreno.

But his trip was very -- his speech was very much a general election campaign speech and he went heavily after Joe Biden. And as you mentioned, Manu, we heard a lot of dark rhetoric from the former president as he tried to paint a doomsday picture of what the country would look like if he were to lose the election at one point while talking about the auto industry, he warned that there would be in a bloodbath if he did not win and reclaim the White House come November. Take a listen to how he put it.


TRUMP: We're going to a 100 percent tariff on every single car that comes across the line. And you're not going to be able to sell those guys, if I get elected. Now, if I don't get elected, it's going to be a bloodbath for the whole -- that's going to be the least of it. It's going to be a bloodbath for the country. That'll be the least of it.


TREENE: Now, Manu, it was unclear exactly what Donald Trump was referring to when he made those comments. However, the Trump campaign later tried to clarify those remarks, telling us that he was referring to the auto industry and he was warning of an economic blood bath.

But we did see the Biden campaign immediately jump up onto those remarks. We heard this from one of their spokespeople. They said, quote, he wants another January 6, but the American people are going to give him another electoral defeat this November because they continue to reject his extremism, his affection for violence, and his thirst for revenge.


Now, the Trump campaign argued that the Biden campaign statement was being a bit deceptive and we heard this from Steven Truong, one of his top advisers. They told us, quote, crooked Joe Biden and his campaign are engaging in deceptively out of context editing that puts Roman Polanski to shame.

So, clearly, different takes on those remarks. But as you mentioned, a very dark speech from the former president here in Ohio -- Manu.

RAJU: Alayna Treene from Dayton, Ohio -- thank you for that report.

And now, we're back here in the studio with a great panel this morning, who will break this all down with us -- CNN'S Priscilla Alvarez, Aaron Blake from "The Washington Post", and Marianna Sotomayor also from "The Washington Post".

Thank you, guys. Good morning for -- thanks for being here.

You know, the thing about Trump is that every single election cycle, it's been similar strategy. You might be in a general election, but in messaging is not geared towards suburban voters. It's not geared towards more moderate voters. It is that riling up the base strategy and he's doing it again. It looked -- worked in 2016, didn't quite work in 2020. He's obviously gambling that will work again in 2024.

AARON BLAKE, SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER, WASHINGTON POST: Yeah. And I think if you look at 2016, the concede -- and this is the big Steve Bannon thing like you can't let your base go. You always need to have this as your building block.

But, you know, stuff like, you know, the January 6 pardons, stuff like talking about violence if he loses or alluding to violence if he loses -- these are the kinds of things that made him an unpopular present in the first place. He won in 2016, but it wasn't -- you know, he won 45, 46 percent of the vote. These are not things that are going to expand his base and making him a broadly acceptable candidate.

But he may not need that in this election because of the third party candidates that could dilute the vote and maybe make the winner need only 45 percent of the vote.

RAJU: Yeah, and third-party candidates, which we will talk about later in the show. Thank you, Aaron Blake, for teasing that segment for later.

But you mentioned January 6 and just how the rhetoric about January 6. And you've seen this -- there's been a common theme, actually throughout former President Trump's own campaign, he brings it up himself and even began his -- his rally yesterday with a pledge of allegiance that was said by the January 6 prisoners, and defended them as well.


TRUMP: We're not going to take it any longer. The radical left Democrats rig the presidential election in 2020, and we're not going to allow them to rig the presidential election in 2024.

We're going to work with the people to treat those unbelievable patriots -- and they were unbelievable patriots and are.


RAJU: And he calls them, he called them unbelievable patriots and interesting reporting from our colleagues here at CNN, who reported about Biden. Why Biden's bring this up?

Of course, Biden is going to make this a big theme coming -- come 2020. Come -- sorry, come November because Trump keeps bringing it up. That's what -- that's what our colleagues are reporting.

It's almost -- it's almost giving him an opening to bring back January 6. PRISCILLA ALVAREZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Cue one of the

defining themes of the Biden campaign, which is talking about protecting democracy. This is what he launched his reelection to bid on, and what he keeps bringing up in rallies.

I've been to some of the presidents rallies across the country and he often kicks off his remarks, talking about January 6 and democracy and part of the strategy there is to remind voters who former President Donald Trump is, what happened in those four years.

That's the concern among campaign officials, that people forgot what happened over those years. They forgot what happened institutions, what happened with the president's -- the former president's policies. And so this all plays into what President Biden is trying to do on the trail. And these moments, like the former -- like Trump's rally yesterday really crystallizes the general election for them.

There -- he's essentially doing the work for them by using terms like bloodbath by talking about January 6, which then leads the Biden campaign to do their rapid response and to point to that as here are the dangers, if you were to reelect him again. It's not easy. This is going to be a tight race, but that's what they're banking on.

RAJU: Yeah. The question is, does -- how much does that move voters who are undecided? The economy will dominate. The pocketbook issues will dominate.

Last night at the Gridiron Dinner, Biden tried to tie all these things together. He talked about his -- he spoke to, you know, that this is a dinner of insiders, journalists, politicians is obviously an annual event here in Washington. He talked about how they got the country, he says, through the pandemic, turn around the economy.

This is what he said. He said about Trump. He said, all without encouraging the people to inject bleach -- referring to the Trump, of course. Or without destroying the economy and embarrassing us around the world, or itching for an insurrection.

Look, Trump has gone, as we said, he has riled up. He has energized the base.


Biden has not, and he's trying to energize -- juice the base by essentially scaring them about Trump and the dangers of another presidency because there's so many voters were just not sold on Biden yet within his own party.

MARIANNA SOTOMAYOR, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, WASHINGTON POST: Yeah, I mean, if you talk to congressional Republicans on the Trump front that you mentioned, they say, yeah, Trump is only talking to his base, but they are so energetic. It could enthuse a number of Republicans who, for example, didn't turn out in the midterms, or a little bit turned off in 2020 to vote for him.

Biden still has to do the same with his own base, which is a big one, and we have been seeing, for example, minorities being a little bit more open to the Republican Party. We've also seen the younger base that typically turns out for Democrats. Biden has to work with them.

And it is true and it's something that obviously the campaign and the White House, and we're seeing in Biden's remarks, people even something that I noticed during the midterm election, a lot of voters, though, they agreed with Republican policies when it came to the questions of January 6th, Trump's own rhetoric, that turned off a lot of people, really did give them pause to vote Republican.

RAJU: Yeah.

And, Aaron, you wrote about Mike Pence not getting in line with Donald Trump. You know, vice president saying that he would not endorse him.

What is -- I mean beyond just endorsements, let's see if they actually matter, but this is a significant one. Why do you think that?

BLAKE: I mean, look, we seen a number of members of Donald Trump's cabinet, not come on board with reelecting him. We've seen people like Jim Mattis, John Kelly, Mark Esper be very critical of Donald Trump in recent months.

But this is his vice president, this is his number two. This is the guy who kind of gave these evangelical, very conservative Republicans the permission structure to come on board with Trump during his presidency and in the 2016 campaign.

I also think it's important to look at a lot of these other Republicans who were reluctant to go with Trump and then came around -- the McConnells, the Thunes, the Chris Sununu. They said, well, I have to endorse him now because he's the nominee and he's better than Joe Biden.

Pence took a very different approach to that. He's saying no, I don't have to endorse him because I'm a Republican. I'm a conservative first and he's not conservative.

RAJU: And, look, there are people who are in that camp. One of them is Senator Mitt Romney, who I caught up with this week about the fact that Donald Trump met recently with a Hungarian leaders strongman, Viktor Orban, praised Orban and it's that kind of thing that concerns Republicans like Romney.


SEN. MITT ROMNEY (R-UT): Well, Viktor Orban is an authoritarian ruler and the practices that he's engaged in his nation are not ones we want to emulate here. President Trump has over the years have written love letters that to Kim Jong Un, has praised Vladimir Putin and welcomes Viktor Orban, authoritarians.

We are the leader of the free world. We're not the leader of the authoritarian world.

RAJU: Where -- I mean, what do you get the fact that so many people in you party essentially eat up -- eat that up when he talks about those strongmen?

ROMNEY: You know, I know there's some people that think it'd be great to have a president that doesn't have to live by the rule of law.


RAJU: All right. More coming up next, why are top Republicans nervous about the Ohio Republican Senate candidate that Trump is trying to prop up?




TRUMP: Bernie Moreno, who's a fantastic guy. You got to win, Bernie, don't leave me alone. Don't leave me alone, Bernie!


RAJU: Now, as Donald Trump was trying to prop up Ohio's Senate candidate, Bernie Moreno, in a three-way GOP battle for the crucial Tuesday primary, there are new fears brewing privately among top Republicans that Trump is actually elevating the weakest candidate in a marquee Senate race.

Moreno, a businessman with no experience in office, has been embroiled in a vicious campaign against Republicans Frank Larose and Matt Dolan, the latter of whom is boasting endorsements from the parties establishment like Governor Mike DeWine and former Senator Rob Portman.

Now, but Trump's not the only one hoping for a Moreno victory on Tuesday, so are Democratic leaders who were betting his candidacy could give their incumbent Democrat Sherrod Brown a much better chance at hanging onto his seat and help their party cling to power in the Senate.

Now, one senior Senate Republican told me this was a, quote, bizarre situation in which a J.D. Vance, Donald Trump, and Chuck Schumer are all on the same side.

My panel is back.

So, I mean, Marianna, Trump had last cycle, didn't have the batch track or occurred, it endorsing candidates, you list of the candidates there on the street and several of them did not win, like Dr. Oz, Blake Masters, Herschel Walker. JD Vance, Ted Budd, they did in those states, but didn't take the Senate, which is obviously a big problem for the GOP.

You know, there have been cycles past year where bad candidates, lackluster candidates, won in the primaries, then they collapse in the general election. Just a handful of them are on your screen there. I've been hearing about concerns that Moreno could be the same from

some of those top Republicans, that same Republican that I mentioned in the intro said it is illustrative of some of the problems we've had in recent years with Trump dictating the nominations -- referring specifically to Moreno.

What are you sensing? What are you going from people you talked to?

SOTOMAYOR: Yeah. You know, it's an interesting play. It's not that surprising that Democrats are getting involved in this way because it has worked at least on the House side during the midterms. We saw the DCCC do this, play in the primary, just boost up and say, hey, look at this Republican super, super MAGA, bad for us, right?


Just so that voters know who is the most Trumpian. And obviously Trump going out of his way to endorse and campaign for Moreno is also probably going to turn out that base. The reason why Democrats do this is because they do see it as just an easier almost -- well, not guarantee, guarantee might be too word, but almost guaranteed way to win and Sherrod Brown is obviously super interesting in Ohio politics. Every single time he runs, because we have seen Ohio turn more and more reliably Republican.

And he has made and its just still keep a constituency as a Democrat there. So Democrats seeing it as it easier ploy, trying to make sure that they can shore up their guy, and Republican leaders, they don't like that.

RAJU: Yeah, look, this has been a bit a different cycle of how Trump has handled Senate races than in past cycles, at least in the last cycle. He's actually been in line with the Senate Republican leaders for the most part, you can see on your screen there. He actually angered some folks on the right.

Some of them, even Senator Rand Paul, told me that he has said that it makes no sense for him to be supporting Mike Rodgers. You see that, that's the Michigan Senate Republican candidate there. And that's been interesting, this cycle.

You know, one of the things I'm -- back to Ohio is as you're mentioning, Democrats trying to prop up Bernie Moreno. This is different. Republican leaders had stayed neutral in this primary. Trump has decided to get involved and Democrats are happy about it. You can tell by just the money they're spending on the airwaves.


AD ANNOUNCER: MAGA Republican Bernie Moreno is too conservative for Ohio. In Washington, Moreno would do Donald Trump's bidding. That's why Trump endorsed Moreno, calling him exactly the type of MAGA fighter that we need in the United States Senate.

(END VIDEO CLIP) RAJU: Not so subtle there. The money is really been spent on the Republican side. They've been passing each other on the airways in Ohio, $34 million in the Republican Senate primary compared to eight for the Democrats.

Just the hope of the Democrats, they bloodied each other up and that they can somehow managed to get away with victory here.

I asked both Sherrod Brown and Gary Peters, who's the top campaign chairman on the Senate Democratic side, about Bernie Moreno and about this strategy by this outside group, the Chuck Schumer super PAC that prop up Moreno.


RAJU: What do you think of the Senate Majority PAC is trying to prop up, Bernie Moreno?

SEN. SHERROD BROWN (D-OH): I'm not -- I'm not a pundit. And let the two rich guys fight it out.

RAJU: I mean, they obviously thinking he's the weakest. Do you think he's the weakest?

BROWN: You make an assumption? I'm not a pundit.

SEN. GARY PETERS (D-MI): There's a really spirit at primary going on in Ohio and we expect that its going to be hard hitting and the weakest candidate will come out.

RAJU: Is that Moreno?

PETERS: So, we'll wait to see who comes out. We'll see who ends up surviving, but it's likely to be a brutal primary.


RAJU: That's the hope, brutal primary. Its a terrible map for them, but maybe they hang on because its a brutal.

BLAKE: It is a terrible map. And so they need to think outside the box a little bit. Look, this is a strategy that didn't just in 2022 at worked as Marianna mentioned, it goes back a lot further than that. I'm thinking about Claire McCaskill and her campaign to elevate Todd Akin with his comments about legitimate rape, and then she beat him very easily in the general election.

So this is something that Democrats are employing a lot more. And in this case, I think it makes some sense but there is a danger here. Bernie Moreno, they may see him as the less electable candidate. This is Ohio.

RAJU: Yeah, he could win.

BLAKE: This is a state that Donald Trump carried by eight points. This is a candidate who is talking about January 6 defendants as political prisoners. You know --

RAJU: Just like Trump.

BLAKE: It worked in 2022. None of the candidates that Democrats elevated, actually won the general election. They were easier to beat the general election. But the downside is you put people like this potentially in the Senate and that's why we see a very thorough debate in the Democratic Party about whether they should be doing these kinds of things.

RAJU: It's a challenge. Go ahead.

ALVAREZ: In a presidential election year, right, and that's what's different about 2022 to now where former President Donald Trump is front and center. I mean, you have him rallying his base.

And so his backing could have a different effect. And you're like this one compared to where we were in the midterms. Yeah.

RAJU: Yeah, and a lot of these candidates, like as you see the map here on your screen, there really Democrats will have to pick up she's Texas and Florida, and they're defending so many difficult states, Ohio being one of them, West Virginia being one of them, Montana being another one. West Virginia is an open Senate seat or does it?

I had a chance to talk to Senator Joe Manchin about his decision to retire. Now, there is some talk happening in the Democratic side that maybe Manchin can make a last-ditch run because there's a controversial candidate, a convicted felon, in fact, Don Blankenship, who went to jail for a year over his handling of the coal mine disaster that happened several years ago in West Virginia. He's a Democratic candidate.

Perhaps he could win the nomination there on the Republican side, there's a governor, the Governor Jim Justice, expected to be the nominee.


This is the front runner for the nomination there.

Chuck Schumer brought up the idea to Joe Manchin that consider running again, consider designed not to entire, especially if this primary turns out the way that they fear and the Democratic side and Manchin would point -- I asked him about it. He didn't quite rule it out.


SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): I don't think that's going to happen. I think that's a long, long, long-shot scenario.

RAJU: There's -- I've heard that then you've had conversations with Chuck Schumer, about.

MANCHIN: We -- you know, Chuck and I have conversations about everything. And I understand the scenario. We'll just have to see what unfolds. This primary, after the primary in May, I think the second Tuesday of May is our primary. I'll tell you a lot more.

It's just -- it's been brought up to me many times on that. Yeah. But I have no -- I haven't given serious thought. Let's put it that way.

RAJU: So, it sounds like it's a highly unlikely but not 100 percent now, is that fair?

MANCHIN: I don't know if anything in Washington, D.C. is 100 percent.


RAJU: Joe Manchin can never close the door.


RAJU: They have a lot of conversations.

SOTOMAYOR: Yes, exactly, what I was going to say, if there's anything he loves, it's keeping us on our toes. Just don't know what movie is going to do next. So we can keep pursuing him and asking them, asking him the same question. What are you going to do?

RAJU: Right, and look -- go ahead.

ALVAREZ: Well, I was just going to say that it was interesting when he announced that he was going to leave it as President Biden put out a statement and he took a moment to acknowledge all of the things that asunder helped him with his biggest legislative accomplishments are setting up or whatever happens next. There was help that was provided to the Biden administration, again, what they wanted to pass.

RAJU: And, look, it's -- the reason why this is being bought up just shows you how difficult was Senate map it is for Democrats, they'll take any opportunity to improve their chances, which are moment, not so good.

All right. Coming up, the Republican and Republicans squabbling that a speaker Johnson telling his members to, quote, knock it off.

And the Texas contest that's in the spotlight


REP. TONY GONZALES (R-TX): The best thing about runoffs is you find out who your enemies are and you find out who your allies are. You can never do that in politics.




RAJU: One of the big storylines in the 118th congress has been the seemingly endless feuding among the House Republican majority. Now they're adding fuel to the fire. Sitting Republicans are actively

campaigning to take out their own colleagues in primaries -- a major breach of protocol but one that underscores the bad blood within the House GOP conference.

Now in at least four primary elections, Republican lawmakers are maneuvering to defeat their own colleagues and Speaker Johnson has had enough. He told my colleague Melanie Zanona at this past week's GOP retreat that he's told his members to cool it. It's not productive and causes division for obvious reasons.

But as my new reporting with Melanie reveals, Johnson's warnings haven't changed the tide yet, especially with Florida firebrand, Matt Gaetz, who led the charge to oust Kevin McCarthy from the speakership in the fall.

He skipped the retreat this past week and instead flew to Texas to rally (INAUDIBLE) candidate challenging incumbent Republican Congressman Tony Gonzales. It's the second primary that Gaetz has tried to meddle with in this past year.

My panel is back. So I've talked to -- you know, Gaetz is not the only one. There are several others that are trying to knock other colleagues. I did talk to Gaetz about why he's doing this and why is targeting Congressman Gonzales?


RAJU: So why Tony Gonzales?

REP. MATT GAETZ (R-FL): I cannot save the country with the current congress we have. We're going to need new members and better members.

I would love nothing more than to just go after Democrats. but if Republicans are going to dress up like Democrats in drag, I'm going to go after them too, because at the end of the day, we're not judged by how many Republicans we have in Congress. We're judged on whether or not we saved the country.


RAJU: I mean so much as it's a fight about tactics and how to achieve their objective, no compromise versus some incremental progress but Gaetz, obviously enjoys stirring the pot.

SOTOMAYOR: Absolutely not surprising. I have to say it is a question about governing, right, and how its defined by House Republicans. You have this pragmatic, more pragmatic wing who is willing to compromise among Republicans and sometimes with Democrats.

And then you have that MAGA wing who just wants to keep pushing policies further and the way that they like to see it. So they're both arguing I need my kind of Republican to make up the House Republican conference so that we can pass whatever kind of legislation each group thinks is best. That's why we're seeing a lot of far-right members trying to oust more

of those compromising Republicans, if you want to call them that way, like Tony Gonzales who did back gun reform because he represents Uvalde.

But we're also now seeing more of those pragmatic Republicans, the Main Street partnership who represents this Main Street caucus, one of the five ideological families in the conference also start to go after Freedom Caucus Chair Bob Good because they want more quote, unquote, "governing Republicans" to make up the Congress.

RAJU: Yes, and that's one of the four Republicans who actually are going -- Bob Good. There's, we have, the people who are attending a fundraiser for Bob Good's challenge. There are several of these conservative, some more moderate members, some more establishment members, people who are aligned with the leadership, trying to oust the leader of the Freedom Caucus, that hard-right block.

But just getting back to Texas because I think one of the things that's revealing about all this as you alluded to here, is the issue of compromise and how that creates problems in primaries.


RAJU: Tony Gonzales represents Uvalde. He voted for this change in gun laws in the last Congress. Also, he voted to codify same-sex marriage, that has caused him some problems on the right as well. I asked him if he stood by those two votes


RAJU: Those votes -- you stand by those two votes.

REP. TONY GONZALES (R-TX): Of course, yes.

Look, what happened in Uvalde should have never happened, not because he was 18 years old, not because it was an AR, because he was (EXPLETIVE DELETED) crazy, right? So crazy people should not have access to kill innocent people.

I'm a father of six. Whatever he is, I'm about a further away, as far away from that as possible. But I've served with all different kinds of people in the military. You name it, and I look, I look, you know, the merit of an individual.


RAJU: But look, run-offs are very difficult, especially when you're facing people who are planning to vote to the right of you. In a low turnout election, he could be double.

BLAKE: Yes. And the gun vote, I think especially is an issue here. These are these are -- we're seeing a situation which with these members coming out against Tony Gonzales targeting him for these kinds of votes. You know, we're already seeing the Republican party kind of coalesce

around a vision that is Donald Trump's, were going to see less and less of votes like that.

So this is a guy who comes from a district that had a very localized experience on this issue and he voted according to the district.

What we're seeing from Gaetz and others is they're basically trying to push him into a different direction, vote more along the party lines, not kind of step outside of the norm of your party. And it's going to be really interested to see whether he can survive in the primary.

RAJU: Yes. And look, this is not just Gaetz. There are others as well. Congressman Ralph Norman, targeting a fellow South Carolina Republican Will Timmons and other House Freedom Caucus members also going after the sitting Congressman.


REP. RALPH NORMAN (R-SC): As I told him, I think he's -- to change this place. We have to make some drastic changes. We're losing a country. We're going bankrupt.

He just hadn't taken a leadership role in my opinion. And we've got man now that heading the Freedom Caucus in South Carolina, he will fight for freedom and he will be one of us.


REID: He'll be one of us. That's what he said about this challenge. Now I spent last week also talking about a lot of Republicans about all of intraparty warfare. And it just speaks to just the low morale within the House Republican conference right now.


REP. DON BACON (R-NE): It is depressing when you had your own team turning on each other because you don't want when that happens, teams -- we've undermined the norms of what we've had going back really a couple of centuries, frankly.

Now we're campaigning in other -- in other districts, that undermines the team. So I think it's wrong.

REP. CARLOS GIMENEZ (R-FL): We're not going to get much involved in their stuff. They shouldn't get involved in ours.

REP. TROY NEHIS, (R-TX). That's not a healthy situation when you start targeting other members and especially when the Republican conference does it -- can't do that.


RAJU: You've covered the White House. How did they view all this GOP- on-GOP infighting? ALVAREZ: Well, they have to be a little careful here because it does

undermine governing, which is what they want. They want to see legislation pass. And this stops or at least creates a massive hurdle for them to do that.

But then they can also use it to their advantage. We saw that so clearly with the Senate border bill that the House Republicans wouldn't take up. Now that had been reached through bipartisan compromise and including with the help of White House and administration officials. And then it was completely tanked.

And so now you hear the president using now the campaign trail to say, look, House Republicans don't want to work with us. They're not doing their job.

But then within the White House, they want them to do their jobs so that they can make sure that the government is funded so they can try to get other legislation passed. They can also tout on the campaign trail. So it's all pretty delicate.

But if anything, in an election year, it does help them boost their campaign messaging by saying House Republicans are so tied up amongst themselves that they can't get anything done and Democrats can.

BLAKE: Look, a lot of these districts that there's in fighting the incumbents are endorsing some other incumbents. These are not terribly competitive districts, so it's not like getting a more extreme candidate through the primary is going to cost the party in the general election.

But on the margins, the fact that the conferences is going after each other like this it's not the only example of this kind of infighting. We're seeing rules fail on the floor. We're seeing measures supported by the Speaker fell on the floor.

It's a very close House majority heading into the 2024 election, even on the margins, you know, hurting them in a few of these districts potentially could matter greatly.

RAJU: Yes. And as the makeup of the members does matter -- you've seen in a narrow majority we want to compromise, not compromise. You've seen a lot of them not compromising.

All right. Coming up spoiler alert who some Democrats or why some Democrats are worried, RFK, Jr. Jr. could potentially cause Joe Biden the White House, next.



RAJU: Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is trying to build momentum in his independent bid for the White House. And both Biden and Trump may have reasons to worry.

He plans to announce his pick for VP and just over a week as his campaign starts to get his name on ballots in swings states across the country.

My panel is back. Just to get a sense on the impact that RFK Jr. could have in some states, look at this Fox News poll in Pennsylvania just recently.

9 percent that is what RFK Jr. polls. In a general head-to-head matchup, there's really no clear leader there.


RAJU: It's down 42-42. Also no clear leader between Biden and Trump if RFK Jr. is there getting 9 percent.

You talked to the Biden campaign, you cover the Biden campaign. How are they dealing with the threat of RFK Jr.?

ALVAREZ: Well, it's very real that in 2016, millions of votes went to third party candidates. They don't want to see that play out again in battleground states.

And so the way they're dealing with it is sending the president, the vice president out on the road. they know they have to shore up these votes because otherwise, it's A very real possibility they're going to go to third party candidates or not go to vote at all.

And so just look at what The president's doing since the State of the Union he is hitting multiple battleground states. Just being on the road.

RAJU: Yes. And look, if you look at your map there on the screen, there's -- that's where RFK Jr. has a number of swing states.

Priscilla also mentioned the fact that the third-party candidates, it was obviously a big issue. Jill Stein in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania in 2016 pulling always some key vote, probably would have many of those to Hillary Clinton,

I asked Democrats how Trump -- now Biden should deal with it. Should he go after RFK Jr. or not? Have a real clear sense, but there is concern


RAJU: Senator I'm wondering, do you have any concerns about threats that RFK Jr. may pose to Joe Biden by siphoning off key votes, including in Michigan?

SEN. DEBBIE STABENOW (D-MI): I really don't. I think that the stance he's taken are really radical and I don't think in the end he poses much of a threat.

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D-CT): I'm deeply concerned about the threat of a third candidate. I think the danger of a third party is in some of the battleground states where the votes could be very close and what he ought to be doing is directly confronting the issues that are raised. (END VIDEO CLIP)

RAJU: So a difference in strategy -- to confront or not confront.

SOTOMAYOR: Yes. Well, at least the DNC, they're trying to confront. Unlike 2016, they actually have an entire staff devoted to trying to turn people off from third-party candidates.

So they're arguing that they are not taking this for granted. And we have also seen a number of different Democratic groups try and sue a super PAC that RFK's affiliated with trying to get his name off of a number of ballots.

RAJU: And Aaron, you wrote about the RFK Jr. impact. They have mine (ph) here. Could anti-vaccine Republicans ditch Trump for RFK Jr., how do you see it?

BLAKE: Yes. I mean, this is also about persuasion. This is not just about diminishing their vote totals. RFK Jr., they could credibly make a case that he is more aligned with some of these Trumps supporters. And the vaccines are an issue on which that could be the case.

Right now, RFK Jr. is drawing about evenly between the two candidates. He's taking a lot more from Independents. Third party candidates are whole seemed to be pulling more from Biden, but not RFK. But he's a lot more popular among Republicans than he is Democrats.

So if Democrats can message this correctly and maybe push some of those Trump supporters who maybe feel very strongly about a vaccine issue into RFK Jr.'s camp. They may not necessarily want him to do that poorly.

RAJU: And look, I wouldn't be surprised if Democratic super PAC emerges and such that RFK Jr. Maybe the Biden campaign doesn't want to spend its money and resources.

But as Marianan said, the DNC is starting to make some noise about it and maybe some third-party group has done as well.

SOTOMAYOR: Yes, very much so. I mean, that's why you build the infrastructure and shore up the funds to do exactly that.

RAJU: Yes. I mean, when you're talking to members, just generally, I mean, how concerned are today about RFK Jr. right now or about any of these any other third party?

SOTOMAYOR: Yes. I mean, it is absolutely concerning, especially since the Democrats have to turn out their base its right, especially when you talk to House Democrats, they kind of feel like it's on them to even shore up Biden.

RAJU: Yes.

SOTOMAYOR: So if they're also having to compete with others, it can get a little tricky there.

RAJU: Absolutely. All right.

Coming up more after Senator Katie Britt's widely-panned response to the State of the Union, some praise and criticism from her fellow Republican senator from Alabama.


SEN. TOMMY TUBERVILLE (R-AL): If I had done it, would I have done from a football field?




RAJU: The junior senator from Alabama, Katie Britt, has had a long week since she delivered the Republican response to the State of the Union.

After she attacked President Biden's border policies by telling the story about sex trafficking, it emerged that the anecdote she had seemed to described hadn't actually taken place in the United States or during Biden's time in office?

"Saturday Night Live" parodied her -- parodied her, and she spent the week dodging reporters on Capitol Hill. But Britt did take time to join a friendly fellow Republican Senator Ted Cruz on his podcast, where she chastised the journalists who fact-checked her.


SEN. KATIE BRIETT (R-AL): they want to silence a conservative woman for speaking out on this topic. They don't want to bring light and help the women who are actually being trafficked.


RAJU: Now when I caught up with the other Republican Senator from Alabama, Senator Tommy Tuberville, he largely praised her, but also acknowledged there were some discrepancies in her story.


RAJU: attacking Biden over his border policies by citing something that happened in the bush administration and in Mexico.

TUBERVILLE: Yes. Well, that obviously didn't go over too well. I would think that our leadership would have vetted that a little bit more because I'm -- I would imagine they helped her with that. And that's again, that's a mistake made, but it was a good point of emphasis of what really goes on from the border.

And I think that's what she was trying to get over more than anything.

(END VIDEO CLIP) [08:54:52]

RAJU: And Tuberville, a former football coach shared his thoughts on Britt's tone.


RAJU: Would do you think about her delivery.

TUBERVILLE: I thought it was good. You know, she really expressed -- she's the type, you know, she gets emotional. It's not like, that wasn't something that was just brought up.

I mean -- it was -- she's really emotional about being a mom.

RAJU: And then delivering it from the kitchen.

TUBERVILLE: I mean -- if I had done it, would I have done it from a football field, you know. Who knows?

You know you just got to make your decisions, you think is the best the for you.

And she obviously was up there because she was a mom.


RAJU: And that's just what some are saying publicly about Britt's speech.

That's it for INSIDE POLITICS SUNDAY, You can follow me on X, formerly known as Twitter at MKRaju, follow the show at INSIDE POLITICS. And if you ever miss an episode, you can of course catch that wherever you get your podcasts. Just search for Inside Politics.

Now up next State of the Union with Jake Tapper and Dana Bash. Dana's guests include Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Speaker Emerita, Nancy Pelosi.

And thank you for sharing your with Sunday morning with us. Go Badgers, beat those (INAUDIBLE) this afternoon. See you next time.