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Final Midterm Sprint Begins; Search for Missing Teacher; Back to School Season Numbers. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired September 06, 2022 - 08:30   ET



JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: There's so many conflicting data points right now that it's a, who knows. Who knows. There are some Democrats, be a little skeptical about this, but there are some Democrats who think they can still even keep the House. That would be historic.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, one of the things you can do is instead of following what they say, follow what they do and where they go. And all of a sudden, Joe Biden, the president of the United States, his approval rating is still low. You know, two months ago you would have thought, are any Democratic candidates going to invite President Biden to come campaign with them. Well, now he's showing up at key races, John. What does that tell you?

KING: It tells you, number one, it's a - it's a midterm election. So, challenge number one is turn out your base. And if you run from your president, sometimes that sends mixed signals to your base voters. So, most Democrats are saying, you know, I'm not quite sure where the president is, but he's much better standing now than he was back in March or April, right? So it's less of a risk to be with him. And I don't want Democrats thinking, what is this about here? You need the Democratic family to come out first. And then you have to get independents and moderate Republicans in these big state wide races. House races are different because of the way the lines are drawn. In the big statewide races.

House races are a little bit different because of the way the lines are drawn. But in the big, statewide races, John, you know this, the suburbs decide close statewide elections. Just a couple of months ago, the suburbs were going to turn on the Democrats and Joe Biden because of Republicans highlighting inflation and the crime issue. Then the Dobbs decision came along and then Donald Trump decided to come back. Two things that do not play well for Republicans in the suburbs, the abortion decision and Donald J. Trump.

So, now you have this competition. Who -- how -- what's - what's number one to you? Swing voter, important voter out there in Pennsylvania, in Wisconsin, in Georgia, in Arizona, in Nevada, who's going to decide the governor's race, who's going to decide the Senate race, are you voting on crime and inflation? If that's your decision nine weeks from today, Republicans probably eek it out. But are you voting on abortion rights and the return of Trump, then the Democrats think they have a shot. We have nine weeks of fascination ahead of us. BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: As you look at the messaging from

President Biden and, look, this is tailor made to the fact that polls are showing people are concerned about threats to democracy. Do you see any vulnerabilities in the message that he's putting out there?

KING: Well, if you talk to smart Democrats, number one, they think the Democratic Party still does not have a consistent, coherent message on crime. Track Republican ads. Republicans are trying to play this up because, go back to, why did George H.W. Bush get elected president, why did George W. Bush get elected president in close elections? They won the suburbs. They won the suburbs on crime and taxes and smaller government and getting the government lout of your way. Those issues, inflation and crime, right now, still play in Republicans' favor.

The economic stuff's a little bit more murky as gas price go down and people start to feel a little better, which is why if you look through some of the key battleground states, you see a lot of Republican ads on crime. Can Democrats answer those effectively? If they can do that, if they can answer the crime message effectively, maybe they can shift people back over. To abortion, to tolerance, to threats on democracy, that's much more favorable ground for the Democrats.

The tug of war right now is convincing people what should matter most to you, because you have a number of big issues in front of you. Some parents are still thinking about Covid in school. Inflation is still an issue. You know, crime is a worry for a lot of people. The border is a worry for a lot of people. Border crime, inflation, are not good issues for the Democrats, but some things are getting better. The president's approval rating is. He's got a cabinet meeting today to try to say we're trying to do things relevant for you. Who can win the tug of war over what matters most?

BERMAN: You know, it's interesting, our friend Scott Jennings was with me last night and he said, there are two people who really want to be talking about Donald Trump right now, Joe Biden and Donald Trump.

KING: Right.

BERMAN: And to an extent, you know, Joe Biden has created this - this opening for Donald Trump to walk in. And it's just what Biden wants.

KING: And the combination of that with the Dobbs decision where -- and, you know, Democrats don't make this case that often, they just talk about the Dobbs decision, you know, three of the Supreme Court justices involved in that were appointed by Donald Trump. That's less of the issue, though.

When Trump pops up, we saw this, we saw this in the 2018 midterm, when Donald Trump got shellacked by the Democrats in the 2018 midterms, suburban America, and we saw this, Donald Trump just barely won the suburbs in 2016. That's why he was president. They turned on him in 2020. That's why Joe Biden is president.

So, when you see these issues, Pennsylvania Senate race, that the Wisconsin Senate race and the Ohio Senate race, that the Ohio Senate race and the Wisconsin Senate race are still in play, nine weeks out, tells you everything you need to know about the climate turning back toward the Democrats. That doesn't mean it's the Democrats - you know, the Democrats are going to win, but it means they have a shot.

So, watch those key Senate races. Is Ohio and Wisconsin, are they still competitive, you know, within a point or three a month from now? That will tell you something huge.

And I watch -- one of the other things I want to watch in the House is these - what I call the crossover districts. You know, the Democrats who are in House districts carried by Donald Trump, the Republicans who are in House districts carried by Joe Biden. The House is such a narrow swing back and forth, if you watch those 15 or 16 districts there, that's sort of the first line. Watch those. Where are they?

Democrats actually think they can pick a few of those up, especially out in California, because they say voter registration among women is up because of the Dobbs decision. And those districts, the California piece of those districts tend to be suburban.


KEILAR: Yes, this is where we are for the next two months. We can call it the battle for the soul of the suburbs perhaps. And we'll see what the outcome is.

KING: A lot of - a lot of big questions, fun, ahead.

KEILAR: Yes, a lot of -

KING: Fun for a guy like me. I know it's stressful.


KING: For people who are partisans, when I say it's fun, they get mad at me because they, you know, each - everybody has their side and the - and the stakes, the stakes are enormous. The -- sorry to take a little bit more time, but the stakes are enormous in your state. Whatever your view on abortion rights, for example, whatever your view. Your governor or your legislature probably going to have to make big decisions. Democracy is under threat. You just saw the Drew Griffin report you guys had on just a few minutes ago. There were giant issues. And right now the terrain, the competitive nature of this is just beyond fascinating.

KEILAR: Yes, real things at stake here.

John King, thank you so much.

KING: Thank you.

KEILAR: And, of course, you can catch John on "INSIDE POLITICS " at noon.

Where is Fat Leonard? Investigators say the mastermind behind the largest corruption scandal in Navy history is now on the run. BERMAN: And soon the man charged in connection with the abduction of a

missing Memphis teacher will face a judge. That as officials work to identify a body near where she was taken.



BERMAN: This morning, a manhunt is underway for the former military contractor known for orchestrating the largest corruption scandal in U.S. Navy history. Officials say Leonard Francis, also known as Fat Leonard, is on the run after cutting off his house arrest ankle bracelet. It comes just three weeks before he was set to be sentenced. Neighbors told authorities they recently saw several U-Haul trucks at his house. Francis, who got his nickname when he weighed 400 pounds, pleaded guilty to bribery and fraud charges in 2015. He offered $500,000 in bribes to Navy officers to steer work to his shipyards.

KEILAR: Updates this morning in the case of Eliza Fletcher, the Tennessee teacher who was abducted Friday morning while she was out for a jog. Police say Cleotha Abston, the man charged in connection with the abduction, has been hit with three additional charges, including identity theft, property theft, and illegal use of a credit or debit card. Police tweeting last night that a body has been found about 20 minutes from where Eliza was abducted in Memphis. Officials were careful to note that the identity of the person and the cause of death is unconfirmed at this point.

Joining us now is Callahan Walsh, child advocate at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and co-host of Investigation Discovery's "In Pursuit with John Walsh."

Can you just react to this news right now of the fact that they have found a body and we're awaiting confirmation of its identity and details about it?

CALLAHAN WALSH, CO-HOST, ID "IN PURSUIT WITH JOHN WALSH": You know, it's very unfortunate that we get this news. I know the family has been waiting desperately. We always say the not knowing is the hardest part, but knowing that a body has been recovered that hasn't been ID'ed yet, it's tough, it's really tough because the family now can - can really start to - to start thinking about the next steps in - in their - in their mourning process.

So, we're waiting by to see if - if this truly is -- if this is Eliza, who we've been looking for. It's really an unfortunate case. It goes to show that, you know, we're not all safe here in America. We live in the greatest country in the world. It's still a dangerous one. And things like this can still happen to women out on the streets. It's really unfortunate.

KEILAR: There are some charges here but they don't relate to this crime, right? The identity theft, theft of property, $1,000 or less, fraudulent use of a credit or debit card, there are a lot of clues at this point in time when it comes -

WALSH: Absolutely.

KEILAR: There's a lot of evidence, video, et cetera. Why do you think there haven't been any charges related to this?

WALSH: Well, I think law enforcement has been waiting to find a body. And this guy has also been waiting to see what the D.A. is going to offer him. You know, he spent 20 years in prison for kidnapping already. He knows how the system works. He's a career criminal. We saw he's already got charges with identity theft and fraud that he was using these cash apps and another woman's identity at various convenience stores in the area. So, we know this guy's a career criminal. And he was waiting out to see if law enforcement was going to find the body and hoping that the D.A. would offer him a plea deal before that.

So, law enforcement is taking their time. They know they've got the right guy. There's so much evidence between the DNA collected from his sandals, his slides at the scene, to the surveillance footage. They know they've got their guy. They're just doing their due diligence to make sure that nothing goes wrong, that they can make sure they charge this guy with everything.

KEILAR: Eliza Fletcher is a junior kindergarten teacher. She's a wife. She's a mother of two. She's also an heiress to a fortune. The Orgill Incorporated fortune, which is worth billions. Do you think that this was -- do you think that had anything to do with this or do you think that this was just a crime of opportunity?

WALSH: I think it was absolutely a crime of opportunity. And that's what makes it so tragic. It was so senseless. This guy just picked her right off the street, saw her running and, on a whim, took her life. As you said, she's a mother. She has a loving husband, a loving family, and she's a kindergarten teacher. This was a loving woman who was an heiress to a large fortune and still wanted to give back to the world, still wanted to teach young children. And this dirtbag took her life. It's just so tragic and so unfortunate.

KEILAR: It certainly is.

And we're waiting details on this finding there in the Memphis area of a body.

Callahan, we appreciate you being with us as we wait to find out more information.

WALSH: Thank you for having me.

KEILAR: And you can catch the new season of "In Pursuit with John Walsh" on Wednesdays at 9:00, 8:00 Central, on Investigation Discovery.

Liz Truss formally taking over as prime minister after meeting with the queen. We have new pictures, next.

BERMAN: And one of the biggest strikes in U.S. history could be brewing, and it would affect nearly every household in the country. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


BERMAN: "5 Things to Know for Your New Day."

Students in Uvalde, Texas, are returning to school for the first time since an 18-year-old gunman killed 19 students and two teachers. Many parents there still have safety concerns despite beefed up law enforcement and other measures, including eight-foot fences, cameras and bullet resistant sheeting on windows.

KEILAR: New pictures just in of Britain's new prime minister, Liz Truss, meeting privately with the queen just before heading to 10 Downing Street to officially start her new job. She'll be addressing the nation later today. In the meantime, Boris Johnson left office after speaking with the queen and compared himself to a booster rocket.

BERMAN: UPS and the teamsters could be headed for one of the biggest strikes in U.S. history. The union represents about 350,000 UPS drivers and package handlers. Their contract expires in July. Labor experts say right now it's not a question of if, but how long a strike would last.


KEILAR: Canadian authorities are still searching for the second suspect wanted for a stabbing massacre at a Saskatchewan indigenous reserve that left 10 people dead and 18 injured. Officials say the suspects are two brothers. One was found dead on Monday. The other, seen on the right, is on the run.

BERMAN: Pakistan is seeing the worst flooding in its history. One- third of the country is said to be under water. More than 1,300 people have died in the floods since the middle of June.

KEILAR: Those are "5 Things to Know for Your New Day." More on these stories all day on CNN and And don't forget to download the "5 Things" podcast every morning.

BERMAN: So, students across the country are headed back - or -- or they've actually been in school for a month already, which is what you're about to learn from Mr. Harry Enten when he looks at the return to school by the numbers.



BERMAN: So why is Harry Enten wearing this very snazzy back to school outfit today? Back to school for Harry Enten. You're looking very sharp.

HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR DATA REPORTER: You know, I used to wear a bow tie on Tuesdays. I had bow tie Tuesdays. And the reason why is, you know, I was with my friend Norm last night and he told me his kids were going back to school. And it turns out there are a lot of folks in this part of the country going back to school. But it actually differs a lot across the country.

So, take a look here at this map. What percentage of public schools open before today? In most of the south, those schools are open. In most of the mountain west, most of those schools were open. In much of the Great Plains, those schools were open. It's only really here where the schools haven't been open.

BERMAN: It's like such an East Coast bias in this thing. Northeastern bias. People talk back to school after Labor Day. The rest of the country is like, we've been here this whole time.

ENTEN: There are some school in - I know a school in Indiana, I know a school in Arizona that have been back since, get this, July, late July.

BERMAN: All right.

ENTEN: That's a little nuts, though.

BERMAN: All right. more serious issues here.

How do people feel right now about their public schools after everything we've been through?

ENTEN: Yes, so, this is a Gallup poll. They ask this very - quite frequently, great deal or quite a lot of confidence in public schools, just 28 percent have a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in public schools. Perhaps not surprisingly there is a partisan gap here, right, where Democrats are the most confident at 43 percent, Republicans, the least confident, at 14 percent.

I'll note this 28 percent is the second lowest ever recorded. The highest ever was 62 percent of Americans had a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in public schools, but that was all the way back in 1975. There's just not a lot of confidence in public schools right now among Americans.

BERMAN: One of the reasons is because of everything that was lost by students during the pandemic when they were virtual or when it was restricted in the classroom. How can you measure that achievement gap and how long it will take to come back from it?

ENTEN: Yes, so they do some testing, and they do this quite frequently. This is a quite reliable testing. You can see it right here, where's our source. And take a look at the years that it will take to catch up for pandemic learning losses. And we go by grade. This is their grade back in the spring of 2019, kindergarten, first, second, third, fourth and fifth. In reading, look at how many years the estimate is right now based upon what we've already gained back. Five years in kindergarten, one to two. Who start off in first, three to five, three to five, five plus, five plus. You go to math, it's basically the same thing, three to five years, three to five years, three to five years, one to two, five plus, five plus. There's just a lot of learning that was lost, unfortunately, during the pandemic. And it's going to take a lot of years to get it back.

BERMAN: Can you just explain one more time how you came up with this number? What you've done is you've taken the most recent round of testing after the pandemic, after they've been back, to see how much they gain back from when they were gone?

ENTEN: Correct, that's exactly what we did. And we compared it to essentially a baseline of performance prior to the pandemic. And we can see, wait a minute, you know, you did that reporting last week which showed that the testing, they just -- the score drop was so large, and essentially saying, how long is it going to be back until we can get those scores back to where they were based upon where we were prior to the pandemic starting.

BERMAN: So you extrapolate out based on what we've seen, how much longer it will take. There are not enough teachers, harry.


BERMAN: There aren't enough teachers, Harry.

ENTEN: There are not enough teachers. So, this is one thing that, you know, this question of, how bad is the teacher shortage. And the thing I want to emphasize here is it's really hard to gauge this. You know, we have these anecdotal stories and the numbers do back up these anecdotal stories.

One estimate that we have is that employment in the K-12 labor market is down 4 percent from pre-pandemic. You might say 4 percent, that's not that large. But given how many people that there are, these are thousands, tens of thousands of folks who have decided to leave that. And here's the real problem, right? The real problem is that the shortages are highest in the high poverty and high minority district, which is where we've tended to have those, you know, problems in the labor market before, but that's also where there was the most learning loss during the pandemic. So now you have fewer teachers in those areas to teach those kids who have already fallen behind so much because of the pandemic, John.

BERMAN: One of the thing we used to talk about a lot, Harry, over the last two years, or really last year and a half, was, how many kids were getting vaccinated. So, what are we seeing now in terms of the vaccination rates for kids in schools?

ENTEN: Yes, so, you know, I essentially broke this down here, 12 to 17, 5 to 11. Just 58 percent of those 12 to 17, their parents say they have or will immediately get their kids vaccinated. Among those, five to 11, look at that, just 41 percent. And look at this definitely won't category. 28 percent, 12 to 17. Among 5 to 11, look at this, 37 percent say they will definitely not get their children vaccinated.

BERMAN: And that number doesn't seem to be going up.

All right, Harry, let's end with something fun here. What do people like to do at school? What are their favorite activities? ENTEN: One of their favorite activities, this is based upon what they

actually did, track and field number one at 1.2 million. That combines indoor and outdoor track. Orchestra and band, the nerds, 1.2 million. Football, 1.1 million. And 860,000 baseball, softball, barely beating out soccer.


BERMAN: All right, first of all, I'm going to defend the orchestra and band kids.

KEILAR: Yes, me too.

BERMAN: I was in it.


BERMAN: And this was coming from a kid who was wearing bow ties every Tuesday.

KEILAR: Yes, come on.

BERMAN: You got to recuse yourself.

KEILAR: Who's hitting the nerds here?

ENTEN: I am a nerd, so I can hit them.

BERMAN: All right, Harry Enten, thank you very much for that.

And CNN's coverage continues right now.