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Poll: 81 Percent Of Voters Say They Are Closely Following Election; Democratic Super PAC Announces $100M Abortion Ad Campaign; Poll: 60 Percent Of FL Voters Say They'll Vote For Abortion Rights But In Same Poll, Just 45 Percent Florida Voters Support Biden; Celebrities Wrestle With 2024 Endorsements In Polarized Climate; WSJ: Trump Muses About Future White House Role For Musk. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired May 30, 2024 - 12:30   ET




DANA BASH, CNN ANCHOR: The election is now 159 days away. President Biden's campaign says the reason he's still trailing in most national and battleground state polls is that people aren't paying attention yet.


JILL BIDEN, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: Those polls are going to turn, I'm confident of it, because as time goes on and as people start to focus a little bit more about what's at stake and start to become educated on the issues and the differences between the two men, I believe that Americans are going to choose good over evil.


BASH: Now, on the question of whether or not people are paying attention, you can see on your screen, there's a new poll out from Marist and PBS that shows that 81 percent of registered voters say that they are very closely following the campaign, 79 percent of independents.

Joining me now to talk about this and much more, Democratic pollster Anna Greenberg and Republican pollster Kristen Soltis Anderson. Nice to see you both. What do you make of that argument?

KRISTEN SOLTIS ANDERSON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It's true that people feel like right now politics is just awful, and so they don't want to consume a lot of information about it. At the same time, it is very possible for people's attitudes about an election to be set pretty early. Recall back in 2012, when the Obama campaign went hard about Mitt Romney's private equity past.

I mean, that cake was baked early on, and that didn't change as you got closer to the election. So I think even though people do feel like this election is they don't really want to consume a ton about it, that doesn't mean that their views will be hugely malleable as we get closer to election today. BASH: You're nodding your head.

ANNA GREENBERG, DEMOCRATIC POLLSTER: Yes, no, I think that's right. I mean, I think that this election has been going on for so long, and not very much has happened. I mean, really, Trump and Biden have been the presumptive nominees for a year and a half, for two years. And so it feels endless.


And people are much more focused on what's going on in their daily lives. I did focus groups for the last five weeks in frontline congressional districts, and not one person has mentioned the Trump trial, and not one person has mentioned student protests on campuses.

And so sometimes I think when we're in the bubble, we think everybody is seeing all this stuff, but they really aren't. It's not that interesting to them.

BASH: but they're paying attention to the presidential race or?

GREENBERG: Not really. I think that it is sort of -- people tend to engage later, especially low information voters. This timing of this presidential election is very strange, like nothing has happened for like a year and a half.

And unlike, say, the primary in 2016 or COVID in the primary in 2020, where there were lots of different things happening with lots of different people, like nothing has happened in this race.

BASH: Well, one of the questions is whether or not one of the big issues that drove 2022, the midterms, which is abortion after Roe was overturned, is going to play out. The Democrats are hoping, of course, the answer is yes. House Majority PAC, which is a leading Democratic Super PAC, plans to spend 100 million on an ad campaign focused on abortion.

I want you to just focus on one particular state, and that is Florida, which has not exactly been a swing state in the past couple of presidential cycles, but on the issue of abortion, 60 percent say they support a right to abortion amendment, 45 percent say they support Joe Biden.

So Kristen, it's not necessarily good news for Donald Trump. But do you believe that the abortion issue is as potent as it was two years ago?

ANDERSON: So I think that in statewide races, it very well could be. So a state like Florida, for instance, has a six-week abortion limit going either into effect very soon or perhaps it already isn't affected. And this is the sort of thing where as the effect of it is felt in the state, you can imagine it rising up in importance in viewers' minds, or -- so it may -- pardon me, voters' minds.

So it may change on a state to state basis as we approach the election. I can also imagine it being more potent in Senate races because they have the critical role of confirming judges playing a big role in this. So it may be that there are certain types of races where this issue plays a bigger effect than others.

And I know you were saying, and you do a lot of work with what we call front line congressional races --


BASH: -- those who are going to -- Democrats of course you work with.


BASH: Who are going to win or lose and determine the majority or not in the House. In these cases, in those focus groups you're talking about, is abortion still a top issue?

GREENBERG: Yes, I mean, what happens is, is that women bring it up --

BASH: Yes.

GREENBERG: -- in the focus groups. And when you ask, you know, voters what the most important issue is, women are much more likely to put abortion higher on their list than men. Now, women are the majority of the electorate, and they tend to be the majority of, you know, target voters, swing voters, persuadable, however you want to define it.

I think you're going to see it play out in every congressional race. I promise you, if it's a state where there isn't abortion on the ballot and abortion is legal, it'll be all about what could happen if control changes in Congress.

If it's a state like Arizona, where there's a ballot initiative and a restrictive law, it's going to be as much about what's happening in the state as what's happening nationally. But I guarantee you that 150 million is only one slice of the advertising that's going to be about abortion this cycle.

BASH: What about the other side of the coin, the other side of the issue, people who are going to go out to vote for Donald Trump because they're against abortion? How, I mean, how does that square with the kind of voters you're talking about? What are you seeing?

ANDERSON: So I think the folks that are Donald Trump's base, abortion is generally not as big of a driving issue. One thing that's been really fascinating for the Trump era of the Republican Party is that abortion as a sort of social, cultural issue that drove voters has almost been downplayed by other things like fights over gender identity, et cetera.

So the mix of issues that constitute sort of social, conservative, animating issues has changed a little bit over the last decade, and I think abortion's become slightly less a piece of that puzzle.

GREENBERG: Oh, I'd agree. I mean I think the things that drive Republicans are immigration and crime much more than abortion, certainly drive Trump voters. And I also think in some ways this shift to things like dealing with transgender issues or gender identity issues really animates their voters.

But the way it gets executed creatively is so over the top and so inconsistent with people's lived experience that they tend to see the ads and say, I don't really understand. I don't see that happening in my community. And so you have a place like Kentucky where they ran seven transgender ads against Andy Beshear. It didn't affect his vote one point.

BASH: So fascinating. Always learn something from each of you, both of you.

Anna, Kristen, thank you so much.

Coming up, Joe Biden's Zendaya problem. That's right, you heard that right. New CNN reporting on how Hollywood, especially young Hollywood, is hesitating to come out fully behind the president in his fight against Donald Trump. Don't go anywhere.



BASH: Politicians relying on Hollywood for votes is as American as apple pie. From high hopes --




BASH: -- to hope and change.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: For the very first time in my life, I feel compelled to stand up and to speak out for the man who I believe has a new vision for America.



BASH: Presidential races, specifically, Democrats have banked on the biggest stars to come out and help them. But a new CNN report finds that despite a splashy rollout of some support from megawatt stars, the Biden campaign is struggling to get much of Hollywood to publicly put themselves in his corner.

We're back with our panel. Priscilla, I want to start with you. This is your reporting. Is there concern in the Biden campaign? Is there bewilderment? How are they feeling about this? And specifically, who are they upset that they haven't gotten to come out?

PRISCILLA ALVAREZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: There's a lot of discussion happening behind the scenes. And when you talk to the Biden campaign, they say, look, wait, wait until between the Democratic National Convention and Election Day, because that's when the bulk of them would come out.

It's when it makes sense for them to come out as people tune in. But in talking to political consultants, strategists, all folks who consult celebrities, they say, look, there's a lot of wariness and trepidation because of the hyper polarized political landscape and because of the disapproval over the Israel-Hamas war.

I mean, in December, Mariah Carey, who just had a pit stop at the White House for a Christmas celebration, her post was flooded with comments on the Israel-Hamas war and the fact that she was even affiliated with the president at all. And it is that type of risk that some celebrities just don't want to take.

Now, will they mobilize around issues? Many of them say sure they're going to mobilize around abortion and climate change. But in a time when enthusiasm is lacking for either candidate, they really want to get these celebrities out there to build that up and especially for the younger generations, the Zendayas, the Taylor Swifts --

BASH: Yes, well --

ALVAREZ: -- to come out and get those younger voters going.

BASH: So, Laura, this is a quote from this reporting. The dream would be to get someone like Zendaya, who is the biggest Gen Z star, or Taylor Swift, who covers every rubric for mass appeal.

LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right, or Beyonce. I mean, all -- right now, Biden is having issues with young voters, as Priscilla said. And black voters and Hispanic voters. So if he's able to get that type of permission structure created by getting these celebrities out, it could influence some of them.

I think that some of that influence is a bit overstated when it comes to, you know, these voters. I mean, when you talk to them, I don't think that, any of the young voters that I spoke to in Michigan recently would be totally persuaded if one of these celebrities backed Biden.

You know, they are very focused on specific issues. Some of it, Israel-Hamas war, but also abortion and economy they bring up as well.

BASH: And it's not -- I was just going to say, as I bring you in, it's not as if no stars have been out there. Julia Roberts, George Clooney, Robert De Niro, as we know, Jimmy Kimmel, Stephen Colbert, they're not Gen Z.

MARGARET TALEV, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. And Biden is, by the way, a return guest on the SmartLess podcast. I think the celebrity podcast adds a new kind of twist to the age old endorsement thing. Even if it's not an explicit endorsement if you're getting airtime with celebrities, that's an affiliation.

But, like, do celebrity endorsements make a difference? There's actually been a number of academic like longitudinal studies on this believe it or not. And like the answer is, nobody really does. Celebrity endorsements make a big difference we know in brands like for products, for consumer products, they do make a difference on issues advocacy, if you're talking about climate change, if you're talking about abortion, if you're talking about AI.

The whole thing with a candidate is a little bit murkier. So you have two trends. One, not clear it works. Trend number two, these celebrities are really worried about their own brands --

BASH: Yes, exactly.

TALEV: -- and splitting their brands.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: As are, like, corporations. I -- you have to think of these celebrities like businesses. Why do corporations not love to buy advertising around political programming or be involved in -- the polarization thing that you discuss in the story, it's their own brand that they're trying to protect.

I, you know, obviously, Michael Jordan, famously, you know, was all about saying, hey, Republicans buy sneakers just like Democrats do. And so politics has been a realm that celebrities don't want to delve into. I think the list you just ticked through there, there are politically active celebrities --

BASH: Right.

CHALIAN: -- that are going to remain politically active no matter what. But in terms of getting new players on the field, there's just a lot of risk in that.

BASH: But then I think about Mrs. Americana, which I know you've seen many times, the Taylor Swift documentary from -- before the Eras Tour.


TALEV: But that's another segment, yes.

BASH: But she -- in that documentary, she talks to her team about going public for the first time really being political. And they were saying, don't do it. And she was saying, I have to. I mean, now she's like, you know, bigger than anybody and certainly bigger than she was there. It's hard to imagine that not moving the bell (ph).

ALVAREZ: Well, and she came around. But I think that ends up sort of being the bottom line, and actually is the bottom line of the piece, which is that they're banking on them coming around and seeing, oh my gosh, Trump could win. We need to get involved now.

We need to endorse the president. So maybe they're holding off now, but there's also a thinking of like, come October, they're going to come around anyways, because Hollywood, or some in Hollywood, don't want to see the former president win a second term. But is that enough? I mean, it's unclear.

TALEV: You showed Oprah. That Oprah endorsement did make a difference in 2000 --

BASH: But that was at a Democratic primary.


TALEV: And it was with a lesser known, less tested person. Everybody in the world knows who the two rivals running for the general election are. So having a validator on an unknown personality is not the issue. But there just aren't that many Oprahs or Beyonces or Taylor Swifts.

One of these endorsements could make a difference. Most of them probably won't.

CHALIAN: You may have just named them all.


BASH: All right, guys, thank you so much.

Donald Trump flirts with another billionaire. We're going to tell you who and why it matters next.


BASH: Donald Trump loves a star and he also loves people who make a lot of money. Now, he reportedly has somebody who fits both descriptions in his sights for a gig inside a potential second administration.


The Wall Street Journal says Donald Trump and Elon Musk have had multiple conversations about folding the Tesla and ex-owner into the government as a special adviser. The journal says Musk has signaled he's not interested in running a check but will use his cloud and connections to help Trump beat Biden. Musk and the Trump campaign did not respond to CNN's request for a comment.

Thank you so much for joining INSIDE POLITICS today. "CNN NEWS CENTRAL" starts after the break.