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State of the Race with Kasie Hunt

Haley, DeSantis, Ramaswamy And Christie Square Off Sans Trump In Fourth Republican Presidential Debate; Christie Slams Rivals For Treating Trump Like "Voldemort"; Donald Trump Skips Fourth Republican Presidential Debate. Aired 11a-12p ET

Aired December 07, 2023 - 11:00   ET




KASIE HUNT, CNN HOST, STATE OF THE RACE: Nikki Haley under pressure onstage in Tuscaloosa. She was attacked like a frontrunner while the real

frontrunner raised money in Florida. And today, Donald Trump is in court. What we learned from last night's debate about the race for second place.

Plus, I'll speak live with Independent Senator Kyrsten Sinema about the border crisis and Congress's failure to pass aid to Israel, Ukraine and

Taiwan. And later, antisemitism on campus, several university presidents under fire after dodging questions from Congress. How they're handling the


Good day, everyone. I'm Kasie Hunt to our viewers watching in the United States and around the world. It's 11 a.m. here in Washington, Thursday,

December 7. There are just 39 days until the Iowa caucuses, 333 days until Election Day. This is today's state of the Race.

Welcome, and we begin in Alabama where the four top GOP candidates, who aren't Donald Trump, squared off at the fourth Republican presidential

debate, the last before the Iowa caucuses, Chris Christie, Nikki Haley, Ron DeSantis, Vivek Ramaswamy, still in a race for second place far behind

frontrunner Donald Trump. The former President, of course, skipped the debates, and he has been in New York today appearing at his civil fraud

trial. Here is a little taste of what he missed on stage last night.


RON DESANTIS, U.S. REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I have delivered results. That's what we need for this country.

NIKKI HALEY, U.S. REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We passed pro-life bills. We moved in unemployment from 11 percent to three percent.

VIVEK RAMASWAMY, U.S. REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think I can reach that next generation.


HUNT: Three of the candidates running against Trump, they barely mentioned him on stage. And Chris Christie, the fourth, called them out for it.


CHRIS CHRISTIE, U.S. REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The fifth guy who doesn't have the guts to show up and stand here, he is the one who, as you

just put it his way, ahead in the polls. And yet, I've got these three guys who are all seemingly to compete with Voldemort, he who shall not be named.


HUNT: All right. Let's dive into all of this with today's panel. Ashley Etienne is a former Communications Director for Vice President Kamala

Harris, and was Senior Advisor to then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi; Charlie Dent, former House Republican from Pennsylvania, my home state, Executive

Director of the Aspen Institute Congressional Program, and Margaret Talev, Senior Contributor at Axios. She is also the Director of the Democracy

Journalism and Citizenship Institute at Syracuse University. Welcome to all of you.

Margaret, let's sort of talk big picture a little bit from this debate. There were kind of -- there are two things going on. One is Haley as the

frontrunner and her role in that place in the race for second place, right --


HUNT: -- being the one on debate stage taking the slings and arrows, and the other is -- was Donald Trump and his lack of presence there and how

that played out on the stage. How do you view this debate in the context of whether or not it matters to the outcome of this race?

TALEV: All of these debates, Kasie, have been about not just finding who is the frontrunner for number two, which is a weird construct of what we've

been doing.

HUNT: Who is number one? And the race for number two, yes.

TALEV: But also trying to figure out whether that person or those people, if it was close, can fundamentally close the gap between themselves and

Donald Trump, who at least according to all of the polling very consistently is like leaps and bounds ahead of everyone else. So, I view it

like we're all kind of watching this from 30,000 feet, trying to see whether the race shrinks, trying to see whether voters, primary voters,

base voters are captivated by any of these folks, or whether they are getting second thoughts about Donald Trump, who are beginning to question

his role on January 6, or any of these --

HUNT: Right.

TALEV: -- various things that may or may not be disqualifying for the next President. And so far, none of these have upset the applecart, and the

closer you get to Iowa, the more it matters, and this felt like the same.

HUNT: Yeah. Well -- and so let's take a little bit of a look at -- Chris Christie did seem to really come into, I don't want to even say come into

his own because this is who he is, but it's really the first time I felt like we got to on the debate stage see Chris Christie for the person for

the candidate that he is. And here he was talking to Ron DeSantis, pressuring him to say that Trump -- or whether or not Donald Trump is fit

or unfit for office. Watch.


CHRISTIE: No. Is he fit or isn't --

DESANTIS: You are the thing.

CHRISTIE: I don't have my thing.

DESANTIS: We don't --

CHRISTIE: He is the thing. Is he fit or isn't --

DESANTIS: We do not want to do someone that's almost 80-years-old.

CHRISTIE: You're talking about him being 80-years-old.


CHRISTIE: He won't answer.


DESANTIS: (Inaudible) who is almost 80-years-old.

CHRISTIE: He is afraid to answer.


HUNT: I mean, Charlie Dent, you can hardly hear what they're actually saying there. But, I think the meaning of the exchange is quite clear.


question, is Donald Trump fit for office?


I think for most people, I think about 60 -- over 60 percent of Americans, they probably say he is not fit. This as they say that Joe Biden is too

old. So, I think Chris Christie is right to press this point about this contest that -- it's not about the four people on that stage. I mean, this

is just an undercard fight. It's an exhibition for the big fight that doesn't seem to be occurring. And so, I think that Chris Christie is right

to make this about Trump. I get it. That's not helping him with some of the Trump MAGA base. But, they have to beat the guy up top. I mean, I've run so

many campaigns. I was always attacked because I was always in front. I expected it. And if they didn't attack me, they weren't serious. And that's

what I feel what's happening right now. Three of the four candidates aren't serious about taking down Trump.

HUNT: That's a very interesting way to think about it. And I think for observers and people who run campaigns --

DENT: Yeah.

HUNT: -- like yourself, who participate in them know that you're -- you're re absolutely right. If you were getting attacked, it is because you are

leading in some way. You are a threat in some way. You could see this on stage toward Nikki Haley. We have some examples of the attacks that were

thrown at her last night and a little bit of how she responded, or in this case, decided not really to respond. Pulled her punches a little bit.



RAMASWAMY: The only person more fascist than the Biden regime now is Nikki Haley.

HALEY: I love all the attention, fellas. Thank you for that.

DESANTIS: Her donors, these Wall Street liberal donors, they make money in China. They are not going to let her be tough on China, and she will cave

to the donor. She will not stand up for you.


HALEY: First of all, he is mad because those Wall Street donors used to support him and now they support me.

RAMASWAMY: Nikki, I don't have a woman problem. You have a corruption problem. And I think that that's what people need to know. Nikki is


ELIANA JOHNSON, EDITOR IN CHIEF, THE FREE BEACON: Governor Haley, would you like to respond?

HALEY: No. It's not worth my time to respond to him.


HUNT: Ashley Etienne, what do you think of that?


has been studying a playbook for how women operate and function on the national stage. And she is clearly redefining, I think, the paradigm on how

to respond, and how to come across as effective. She was the only one I thought looked like the adult. She was the only one who looked

presidential. My old boss, Speaker Pelosi, used to say that women leaders have to bring all of their assets to bear. And she actually did that last

night. Not only was she strong, she was brilliant. She threw the punches as great as she took them. She knew when to backup, and she let Chris Christie

do her bidding for her and defending her. And I thought that was absolutely brilliant.

So, right now, I think she of all of those -- all of the candidates on stage looks like the one who is most presidential, and I think it's going

to contribute to her growing this new coalition that she is building from, democratic donors giving money to her campaign, and disaffected

Republicans. I just wonder though, too. I was talking to one of my Republican friends, and he said, it feels like Groundhog Day. But, I'm

like, who is Bill Murray in this dynamic that's just going to change their own actions, to change the dynamics around them?

And so, I just wonder this is a little provocative. But, whether or not Nikki Haley would try to get Democrats a caucus for her in Iowa or New

Hampshire, there are no more rules and politics, I believe, post Donald Trump. Why not would do you have to lose? I mean, that's the only dynamic

that's going to shift and change this thing. Otherwise, it's going to be more of the same.

TALEV: It's really interesting that you made the Nancy Pelosi kind of analogy, because -- and I want to be clear, I'm not comparing them from a

policy perspective, lest anyone decide to cut in Nikki Haley as Nancy Pelosi ad. But, I think from a political instinct perspective, if they're

very much the same about sort of remaining dignified and above the fray, but sharpen and they need sharp --

ETIENNE: Absolutely. Yeah.

TALEV: -- it's a really similar playbook. To me, the question is -- here is the Catch-22 for Nikki Haley. Can you beat Donald Trump if you overtly

campaign against him? But, can you beat him if you don't? And that's everybody's problem. But --


ETIENNE: She is running ads that are saying that chaos follows him. But yet, she didn't say that on the stage last night. So, she is towing this

really fine line that I think is really smart to some respect.

TALEV: And she has got a 45 point gap.

ETIENNE: She is going to take the gloves off. Right?

HUNT: Is there any Republican (inaudible)?

DENT: I learned a long time ago in politics. If I had to take down my opponent, I couldn't rely on others to do it. I was the most effective

messenger. It's always nice when you have somebody else take a jab. But, I have to do that.

HUNT: You got to throw your own punches.

DENT: She does. She is running a very good campaign. She has grown as a candidate. She is ascending. DeSantis is descending. Ramaswamy is a total

grifter. They ought to cancel him, frankly, within these days. And Christie is trying to fight a good fight. But, I think -- but she is probably of the

four in the catbird seat. And she has played, I think, pretty well so far. But, I don't think she is going to be able to beat Trump unless she attacks

frontally and directly and aggressively.

TALEV: Do you think it is timing? Do you she will and she has to?

DENT: She has to. I mean, the polls aren't moving that much. She is moving relative to the other candidates.


But, to Trump, she is still, well, double digits down.

HUNT: Do you think we could see some sort of surprise in Iowa or New Hampshire that would -- I mean -- because, sometimes the polls are static

until suddenly voters start voting and then they're not. Do you see that as a possibility or not?

DENT: Well, look, DeSantis is hoping to catch lightning in Iowa, and Christie and Haley, I think -- she is playing in Iowa and New Hampshire.

Christie is playing hard in New Hampshire. So, that's what she is hoping for. Sure. If she were somehow to surprise everybody in Iowa or New

Hampshire, she get a massive jolt of energy that would I think propel her then into Super Tuesday in South Carolina or other places.

HUNT: Yeah. I mean, New Hampshire might depend on Chris Christie. I don't - - we don't have time in this block unfortunately to play his -- I mean, he aggressively defended Nikki Haley last night on the stage from attacks,

from specifically Vivek Ramaswamy, who had compared her mind to that of a three-year-old in terms of thinking about the map of Ukraine. It led some

people to speculate, oh, is he ready to get out and endorse her? I cannot imagine that that would happen. But, he might still be there. That could

stand in the way of picking one person that mostly takes on Trump.

TALEV: Right. He wants to compete in New Hampshire. I don't see him going anywhere before than either, at least not by anything that has indicated so

far. I think that was sort of instinct and brand. I mean, the attacks against Nikki Haley were pretty sexist. It wasn't that thinly veiled, and I

think it was Christie saying, come on, we're not going to do that.

HUNT: Yeah. No. And he even talked today about it.

ETIENNE: I was just thinking -- I bet if I'm Chris Christie, I'm thinking, if not me, that her. So, to some degree, defending her kind of bolsters her

as the alternative to Trump. I don't think he anticipates he'll get past New Hampshire, but Nikki could. And so, I think that's part of the strategy

on his part is like I'm going to bolster her as this strongest alternative to Trump.

HUNT: And also try to maybe convince her to take those gloves off, so to speak, with Donald Trump.

All right. We've got a lot more to come here. My conversation with Senator Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, we're going to talk about the crisis on the

southern border, and how both political parties are handling it.




HUNT: Welcome back to STATE OF THE RACE. With the migrant crisis exploding on the U.S. border with Mexico, the Biden administration has closed a key

port of entry in Arizona, sending border agents working there to process undocumented migrants instead.

Kyrsten Sinema is Arizona's independent Senator. She left the Democratic Party last year. She joins me now. Senator Sinema, thanks very much for

being with us today.

SEN. KYRSTEN SINEMA (I-AZ): Good to be with you today.

HUNT: So, I want to start with the Lukeville crossing, the Port of Entry in Arizona. The Biden administration has closed. It is that helping or hurting

the migrant crisis?

SINEMA: Well, the reality is the Lukeville port of entry is a very important port of entry for Arizona tourism and for commerce. And we're

already seeing the negative effects of this closure. I can't say that it's helping the crisis, because like me, you've seen the video and the photos

that are coming out of Lukeville every single day. And while the administration has shut down the Lukeville port of entry to utilize it as a

place to process migrants, the number of migrants who are literally crawling through holes in our border fences and walking through the desert

to enter Arizona is increasing by the hundreds every single day. There are literally thousands of folks lying in the desert, waiting for their

opportunity to be interviewed and processed by Border Patrol agents and then released into the interior.

To say that this is an unmitigated crisis, Kasie, is to understate the issue. It is overwhelming for Arizona. And unfortunately, the

administration is not using its full tools to address the situation and ensure that Arizona communities are kept safe and secure.

HUNT: Do you blame President Biden for this crisis?

SINEMA: The administration absolutely bears responsibility for this. But, I want to be clear, Congress also bears responsibility, because we should be

passing legislation that provides more tools and funding and changes in policy so that we can more effectively control our border. The reality is,

Kasie, as you have seen, that partisans have long used the issue of border security as a cudgel against each other, rather than taking this

opportunity, this crisis to actually solve the problem.

Now, I won't surprise you when I tell you that I'm leading the bipartisan effort in the Senate to negotiate a solution to this border crisis with

Senator Lankford and Senator Murphy, and I'm urging my colleagues every day with photos and videos from Lukeville to show them how bad this crisis is,

and encourage them to compromise.

HUNT: Yeah. So, the national security supplemental that would include this border policy change that you are discussing here, it failed to advance on

the floor of the Senate yesterday in the face of largely Republican opposition to it. They say that the border policy in there does not go far

enough to address the crisis. Are Republicans right here?

SINEMA: Well, the package that we voted on yesterday did not involve any border policy, Kasie. It appropriated millions of dollars to help manage

the flow of migrants into the country. But, it did not engage in any policy at all to change the situation on the border, or to provide the

administration with greater tools to actually turn folks away or create an orderly process, or really do anything other than increase the dollars to

manage the flow. So, it's not a solution. What's on the table right now is not a solution to the border crisis.

HUNT: So, is the administration being a productive partner in trying to find and make changes to border policy, in your view?

SINEMA: Well, this is really a question for Congress. This is our job to do to solve this problem, and then give requirements to the administration to

implement. So, the Biden administration should absolutely be held accountable for its lack of implementation of existing laws. They should do

a better job actually managing this crisis. But, Congress must pass new authorities, change the laws so that the administration can actually change

the situation of who is approaching the border, who is getting access into the country, and whether or not they get to remain in the country.

HUNT: Do you think that you could vote for President Biden for reelection if the border crisis in Arizona is as bad in November of 2024 as it is

right now?

SINEMA: Oh, gosh. I mean, Kasie, to be honest with you, I'm barely thinking pass next week. No way next year. I am 100 percent focused on solving this

crisis. For many people here in Washington, the border debate matters to them. It matters to their constituents, and they see what's happening on

the border and they get frustrated. But, I'm in Arizonan, born and raised in Southern Arizona.


This is my state that is facing this unmitigated crisis. And so, for me, it's not about the partisanship of, do you like this guy or that guy, or

would you support this guy or that guy? This is about my state. This is about the communities that are being absolutely ravaged by this unmitigated

disaster. So, I'm 100 percent focused on solving the problem. I know that doesn't surprise you. So, you can ask me about politics after we've solved


HUNT: Well, speaking of needing to solve it and having the right people in place to try to solve it, you have a decision coming up about whether you

are going to run for reelection. Does the reality of this crisis mean that you feel more strongly that your voice is an important one to have in the

U.S. Congress?

SINEMA: OK. So, I know you have to ask that question, and it won't surprise you when I (TECHNICAL DIFFICULTY), because I'm 100 percent focused on doing

my job. And I know that the residents of Arizona near Lukeville want me to do that job. They want me to help solve this crisis. And that's what I'm

100 percent focused on.

HUNT: Can I ask you, Senator John McCain, who -- the late Senator John McCain, you frequently talk about how he was an example to you, and what

that sort of means to you and your kind of political future, your conception of your state, and how you function. Do you think that John

McCain would recognize the way the U.S. Congress functions today?

SINEMA: I think that Senator McCain was often frustrated with the dysfunction of the United States Congress. If your question is, has it

gotten worse since Senator McCain passed away? I think the answer is an unqualified yes. Partisanship is at an all-time high in Congress. And

unfortunately, there are partisans on both sides of the aisle who are more interested in ensuring that they get clicks on the internet, and that their

base cheers for them, than actually solving the real problems that we face in our country.

But, like Senator McCain, I -- just I'm going to keep putting my head down and doing the work. He was a master of the Senate. He knew how to work with

people to solve problems and get things done. And that's what I try to do every single day.

HUNT: Yeah. Senator McCain also called Donald Trump dangerous to our national security. And he, unfortunately -- I mean, he didn't live to see

the insurrection. Do you agree with his assessment of Donald Trump as dangerous?

SINEMA: Kasie, I appreciate your job. But, I feel like you're doing exactly what I just said that it was really bad about our country, and I don't mean

to say that disrespectfully, Kasie. But, what I'm trying to do here is bring people together to solve problems. And questions like that are why

people keep pulling farther to the edges. It's why we don't see people come together to solve problems in our country. So --

HUNT: They are John McCain's words, not mine. That's all.

SINEMA: I keep focused on the work that I have to do. And when I say I have to do this work, it's because my state depends. They depend on having an

adult in the room who is focused on solving problems. And look, I understand the media wants to spend their time on stories about who is good

and who is bad. But, the reality is, is that most Arizonans just want their problems solved. They want to know that they can get up and go to work

every day and come home and take care of their family and feel secure. And that's when I stay focused on. So, I will leave the punditry to others, and

I'll stay focused on the work.

HUNT: I mean, I guess I think, I just wonder, do you see any difference between Donald Trump and say, Nikki Haley, in terms of what kind of

politician they are, and what they represent for our country?

SINEMA: Kasie, you've got to find someone else to interview with these questions, because I am the Senator who comes to work to get things done. I

am not the Senator who comes to work to postulate on the political punditry of the day. But, the good news is, for you, Kasie, is there are plenty of

Senators who would love to have that conversation with you. So, feel free to go talk to them. But, I'm here talking about the actual solutions that

need to happen. And that's why I'm calling on my colleagues on both the left and the right to come closer to the middle to find a solution to the

very real crisis that we're experiencing in southern Arizona every single day. And that's what I'm going to stay focused on.

HUNT: Why do people feel -- we talked quite a bit about the border policy in your home state of Arizona which, as you know, we have been reporting

extensively here at CNN, is in fact a crisis, and I do really appreciate you coming on to share your perspective on that.

SINEMA: Thanks so much, Kasie.

HUNT: All right. Kyrsten Sinema, Senator from Arizona, thanks very much for joining us.

We're going to get reaction from our panel coming up next.




HUNT: Welcome back to the STATE OF THE RACE. I'm Kasie Hunt live in Washington. We will get our panel's reaction to what we just heard from

Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema. We, of course, have Ashley Etienne; Democrat Charlie Dent, former Republican Congressman, Margaret Talev, a

longtime reporter, now at Syracuse University.

Margaret, there was a lot there in that interview with Sinema. She wasn't obviously happy with some of the questions I was asking her. And I think we

should explain what that means in terms of the dynamics of the race that she is thinking about. She is deciding whether or not she wants to run for

reelection in Arizona in a 50:50 Senate as an independent.

TALEV: Yes. So, there are two points that stood out to me. She wouldn't say that she would vote to reelect Joe Biden, and she wouldn't agree with the

late Senator John McCain's conclusion that Donald Trump would be dangerous for democracy, not because she doesn't believe in either of those two

statements or positions, we don't know what she believes, but because she is -- wants to preserve as many Republican votes as possible, and made a

conscious decision in this interview not to serve in the role of educating the public from a perspective of a credible bipartisan person about the

differences between Republican candidates, but instead to try to preserve as many votes as possible. And we see this dynamic played out a lot among

Republican contenders in primaries in the debate last night --

HUNT: Yeah.

TALEV: -- hedging your bets. How much do you go after Trump versus how much do you just try to hold as much of that base together? You don't expect to

see it with Democrats. But, of course, now we're seeing her through the lens of an independent. And I think that interview told you everything. And

when it got really hot, she just attacked you for asking her questions. So --

HUNT: Right. Charlie.

DENT: I will state it in another way. If she -- if Kyrsten Sinema decides to run as an independent for Senate, she is going to need Biden voters and

Trump voters. And so, she is trying to do this dance. She is not saying how she is going to vote on Biden. She didn't want to say Trump was unfit. She

is speaking to people in both camps. And I think that's why she is very carefully avoiding entering into the presidential discussion, because she

is in a little bit of a political no man's land right now where she is not really part of the Democratic Party. She is not a Republican. And so, how

does she assemble a coalition? I think she is struggling with that point.

HUNT: Ashley, what's your assessment?

ETIENNE: I mean, you asked her about her predecessor, John McCain, and like that response she gave you was not at all mavericky (ph) at all.


I mean, there is nothing about it that compels anyone to like her, love her or either want to back her.

HUNT: I am so sorry --


HUNT: -- to interrupt you. We have to go to Donald Trump who is speaking live. Let's listen him.

DONALD TRUMP, 45TH U.S. PRESIDENT, & U.S. REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: -- -- that this horrendous attorney general has put forward, and

he found absolutely no fraud, accounting fraud of any kind. This is a highly respected man. I don't know him. But, he is a expert witness, and he

found no fraud whatsoever. He found no accounting whatsoever. And like everyone else, you said, what are we doing here? What are we doing here?

This is a political witch-hunt. This is meant to influence an election. This also comes from the White House. This is not just the state matter,

because the White House is controlling the district attorneys.

In fact, in the District Attorney's Office, they put one of their top people. DoJ put one of their top people right under the Attorney General,

put him into the District Attorney's Office. Also put a man into the State Attorney General's Office, Letitia James office. It happened to be the same

man. This is coming right from the White House. This is a disgraceful situation. The country has never seen anything like it. But, this expert

witness is highly respected by everybody, with a resume that a few people have ever seen before. He said there was no fraud. There was no accounting

fraud. There was nothing. And this is what we're doing here while people are being murdered right outside on the sidewalks and the streets of New

York, while people are experiencing horrible violent crime at levels that nobody has ever seen in the city before.

This is what the attorney general is spending all the time on. So, just to put it (inaudible) and continue to testify. My attorney is going to be

changing his basic statement. His finding is that there was no accounting fraud whatsoever. The statements that we put in were very conservative.

They were the opposite of what they said. The accounting fraud and the fraud was on behalf of the judge and the attorney general who took assets

and made them -- numbers that were fraudulent. As an example, Mar-a-Lago, as an example Doral in Miami.


HUNT: All right. We are going to push pause on that. We're going to keep monitoring the President's remarks there. He is again calling this trial

political witch-hunt, but he seems to be mixing his grievances that are political in -- with attacks on someone who was testifying today, an expert

witness and his testimony around the accounting. Again, this is the New York civil fraud trial that Donald Trump -- it really risks all of the

Trump Organization, Trump Tower, everything that made Donald Trump the person that was ultimately elected President, is at risk in this civil

trial, obviously, not Donald Trump's freedom, which is at stake in the four criminal indictments that he faces.

Let's return back to this conversation. And Ashley, I interrupted you. You were talking about Kyrsten Sinema and you mentioned --

ETIENNE: I don't know if there was going to be any good.

HUNT: It was great. Fascinating. You were saying that you didn't think what she said was terribly mavericky in the vein of John McCain.

ETIENNE: Yeah. But, the other thing that I did notice and hear from her was her point that Congress needs to act. And the President said yesterday he

is willing to make some concessions, significant concessions --

HUNT: Yeah.

ETIENNE: -- on the border if Congress can deliver a bill to him. So, I mean, really, she is right. The onus is on Congress. It has been on

Congress. Joe Biden is taking as much action as he can from the Executive Branch. Now, it's on Congress to act. And she has now got the

responsibility of trying to deliver a bill or a package that'll pass both the House and Senate, which is tough on this issue.

HUNT: Yeah. Margaret, let's talk a little bit about the dynamics of the Arizona race and kind of what she is contemplating doing, just to kind of

lay it out. A lot of our viewers won't be really paying attention to Senate races the way we are here. But, you've got Kari Lake on the right, the

likely Republican nominee, who, of course is Donald Trump through and through. Democrats are honestly probably pretty happy that she is the one

that's running, that she is -- when you talk to smart ones, they say everyone has gotten a little bit more moderate in Arizona. There is more

moderate Republicans. There is more moderate Democrats. She is viewed in some ways as -- she is viewed by many as extreme. Then you've got Ruben

Gallego, who is running as a Democrat. Sinema has yet to decide if she is going to run as an independent.

Do you think it's plausible that she can pull together a coalition to hang on to the seat if she gets in?

TALEV: I think it's really tough. Right?

HUNT: (Inaudible) seems to underscore to me that it was tough and that it was almost impossible, frankly.

TALEV: It's tough for obvious reasons. And we've spent a lot of time talking about what impact a third-party candidate could have on the

presidential race. But, for Kyrsten Sinema, she doesn't want to be a spoiler. She only wants to run in this race if it's in the capacity to hang

on to the seat. Right? And so, what function -- like how would it play out?


How would it actually work? How do you know who she would take votes away from or who would go to her? Like I think all these calculations are very,

very complicated. And you're seeing her work through some of the machinations in real time.

HUNT: I mean, Charlie, do you think there is room for -- I mean, the way she was kind of presenting what the world could look like and should look

like in Washington, isn't -- it's kind of a nice painting. It was an idealistic painting. Certainly, when I first covered -- started covering

this town, that was what voters told us that they wanted. They wanted people to work together. They wanted us -- people to work across the aisle.

That just feels less and less true.

DENT: Yes, it does. But, we should also keep looking at this polling that we see all the time, that somewhere close to two thirds of the American

public don't like either of the two major presidential candidates. They think, one, Joe Biden --

HUNT: Yeah.

DENT: -- is too old, and they think Donald Trump is too crazy. And they want somebody else. And so, I think the ground is actually fertile for some

type of an independent movement, at least for President. I'm not saying for Senator in Arizona. But, for President because of this level of

dissatisfaction. I think that the ground is much more fertile than it was for Ross Perot in 1992 or John Anderson in 1980. So, I think there is

something happening out there, and that's why this whole No Labels movement is driving many of the Democrats crazy, because they sense it too. The

problem is, we have weak candidates for President.

HUNT: You get the last word, Ashley.

ETIENNE: I think -- I will say this, though, to the Senator's credit, big things have gotten done in Congress in a bipartisan fashion, from the

infrastructure bill, which we've been talking about for 30 years, to guns. I mean, there is big pieces of legislation that have happened. So, I

wouldn't rule out the possibility of some transformational legislation on the border, especially when you have the President of the Democratic Party

saying I'm willing to make concessions. I mean, that is quite remarkable. I don't you know any other Democratic President that's gone as far as Joe

Biden has to say, listen, I'm willing to make these compromises to get a deal.

DENT: But, that happened in the context, though --

ETIENNE: Ukraine.

DENT: -- of Ukraine --

ETIENNE: Absolutely.

DENT: -- and Israel.

HUNT: Right.

DENT: That's the question. And a lot of Republicans need the border bill to justify their vote for Ukraine money.


HUNT: Well, and it also honestly just underscores that the border is a massive political problem for Democrats. Like let's be real about that as


All right. Still to come, damage control. One University President is clarifying remarks on antisemitism that caused an uproar.




HUNT: Welcome back. The University of Pennsylvania's Board of Trustees is holding an emergency meeting today as school President Liz Magill faces

scathing backlash over her testimony at a congressional hearing on antisemitism. We don't know if the meeting is related, but it was scheduled

at the very last minute. Magill and the presidents of other Ivy League schools -- well, of Harvard and other Ivy League school, as well as the

Massachusetts Institute of Technology, are under pressure over their refusal to say calls for genocide against Jews amounted to harassment and

bullying, and were therefore prohibited by their codes of conduct. Here is some of what they said at the hearing, starting with Magill.


LIZ MAGILL, PRESIDENT, UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA: This is a context dependent decision, Congresswoman.

REP. ELISE STEFANIK (R-NY): It's a context dependent decision. That's your testimony today, calling for the genocide of Jews is depending upon the

context? That is not bullying or harassment? This is the easiest question to answer, yes, Ms. Magill. Yes or no?

CLAUDINE GAY, PRESIDENT, HARVARD UNIVERSITY: It can be, depending on the context.

STEFANIK: What's the context?

GAY: Targeted as an individual. Targeted at an individual.

STEFANIK: It's targeted at Jewish students, Jewish individuals. Do you understand your testimony is dehumanizing them? Do you understand that

dehumanization is part of antisemitism?


HUNT: So, this is what Penn's president is saying now.


MAGILL: A call for genocide of Jewish people is threatening deeply so. It is intentionally meant to terrify up people who have been subjected to

pogroms and hatred for centuries, and were the victims of mass genocide in the Holocaust. Policies need to be clarified and evaluated.


HUNT: CNN's Athena Jones is live in New York for us with more. Athena, very difficult trajectory here. We know that the Penn trustees called an

emergency meeting. What's the latest?

ATHENA JONES, CNN U.S. NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi Kasie. We are also waiting to find out what comes out of that meeting. But, we know that

Pennsylvania's Democratic governor was one of many people adding his voice to the backlash at the testimony by these three college presidents,

focusing a lot on President Liz Magill at the University of Pennsylvania there in his home state, and he called on the board of trustees to have a

meeting to discuss whether her testimony was in line with the board's values, represents the board's values and the school's values. So, you can

only imagine that this is something that's being discussed there.

But, this is, as you mentioned, has gotten a lot of blowback from all quarters, from alumni, from current students, from donors, from politicians

on both sides of the aisle. Listen to what White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre had to say about this.


KARINE JEAN-PIERRE, PRESS SECRETARY, WHITE HOUSE: Calls for genocide are unacceptable. It's vile, and it is counter to everything this country

stands for. I can't believe I even have to say that. I can't believe I even have to say that. I shouldn't have to.


JONES: And so, you heard there -- you played in the intro the video that President Magill from Penn put out. Harvard's President Claudine Gay also

put out a statement. Here is what she said. "There are some who have confused a right to free expression with the idea that Harvard will condone

calls for violence against Jewish students. Let me be clear. Calls for violence or genocide against the Jewish community or any religious or

ethnic group are vile. They have no place at Harvard, and those who threaten our Jewish students will be held to account."

So, this essentially came down to an argument over language, over speech, and whether speech alone, speech itself should or is punishable under the

school's codes of conduct. And these three presidents were unable to directly answer whether calling for genocide of Jews would amount to

bullying or harassment. That is what angered so many people. These presidents focus a lot on the free speech aspect. People wanted to hear

them make a definitive declaration that these kinds of comments should be punished.

HUNT; All right. Athena Jones, thanks very much for your reporting.

My panel is back with me. Charlie Dent, what's going on here?

DENT: Well, look, many people in this country don't feel that our universities permit much ideological diversity there. There is a rush to

conformity. A lot of folks don't feel comfortable and welcome. And I thought what happened in that hearing yesterday was really very bad for

these universities. I mean, how hard is it to condemn genocide unequivocally without qualification?


It wasn't about context. Had somebody has been advocating for the lynching of African Americans, I suspect there would be no context discussed. They

would absolutely talk about condemning that forcefully, as they should. But, with antisemitism, it seems there was a little bit of an equivocation

there. And it's costing these universities money at the University of Pennsylvania. The Huntsman Foundation has pulled back. Marc Rowan has

pulled back. And also, here is some context, just several blocks from the University of Pennsylvania, a falafel shop owner was protested for being a

Jewish Israeli. I mean, I don't know what he has to do with the conflict in Gaza. But people are standing outside his store and screaming about him.

So, there is a lot of sensitivity in the city of Philadelphia right now.

HUNT: Ashley, how do you see this, and your response to it?

ETIENNE: Yeah. No. I mean, love you, Congressman. But, I just -- I'm not for sort of comparing. If they were black, then let's just stay focused

very much on the offense towards Jewish students. I think we should just stay there and hold the universities accountable for their inaction on that

particular issue, and not bring any other sort of racial group into the conversation.

But, here is the other thing. I was recently talking to the White House about this, and this is obviously public knowledge. But, they're hyper

focused on this. They filed seven -- the Department of Education has filed seven lawsuits against these universities for discrimination. The

universities that testified yesterday are among them. So, they're not letting go of this particular issue, as they shouldn't. So, that's just

sort of my reaction. I think, regrettably, the university presidents didn't have a more fulsome affirming answer that I think would satisfy the

students. And I think that's regrettable. And maybe that means they need to readjust, go back to the drawing board on the policies, and we need to give

them the space to actually do that. And I hope that they actually will.

But, the administration and the president said they're going to keep their eye on this ball, and they're being very aggressive about going after these

universities for not protecting Jewish students.

HUNT: So, the question here seems to be, and Athena got at this in her reporting, at what point does speech --


HUNT -- actually amount to action, right? Does speaking mean that you are harassing or bullying someone? Right? And that's what would be against the

university's code of conduct. Right? They seem to come down on the side of defending free speech at the expense of -- defending free speech as opposed

to saying -- they were trying to argue, this is speech. This is not action. I think for a lot of kind of casual observers, we've spent a lot of time

looking at college campuses where they talk a lot about microaggressions. There have been a lot of conservative -- groups have risen up and said

conservative speakers cannot come here and talk because it amounts to harm to our community.

How would these two things the same? I mean, how can they say we don't want to conservative speaker on campus because it will harm our communities, and

also it's not bullying and harassment for people on our campus to call for the genocide of Jews? I mean, I don't understand it.

ETIENNE: No, and I agree with you. I don't think they clearly understand. I think you're also going to have to go to the drawing board and talk about

what actually constitutes speech. Right? If I put a noose on your door, does that constitute speech?

HUNT: I mean, certainly no. Right? I mean, clearly that's harassment.

ETIENNE: Well, I mean -- but -- I mean, I think that's something they're going to have to evaluate and determine.

DENT: Well, they have to be able to determine the difference between hate speech and legitimate First Amendment issues. I mean, when they're talking

about genocide or lynching, that's hate speech. When they're --

HUNT: Because it's about a group.

DENT: Yeah. They're going --

HUNT: It's about specific people --

DENT: -- because of what they look over their characteristics.

HUNT: Yeah.

DENT: Correct. But, there - it's true, though, that did you just pointed out, Kasie, there are people who are right of center who are shouted on.

They are bullied and harassed. Their views are not welcome. And these universities have to be able to be much more tolerant. I always said of

this ideological diversity with -- on their campus within norms, and we don't want hate speech from the left or from the right. And what is so hard

about this to call out the hate speech, but then permit divergent views on other issues.

HUNT: So, Margaret, I know you are -- you work now in part of a university and this is a really fraught and difficult topic. I mean, how do you see

these conversations? How do you take some of this in from the students that you interact with daily?

TALEV: I'm going to answer this in two parts. A small group of my students, shortly after Hamas attacks on Israel, we were talking about how they were

feeling and processing it. They felt a number of things. Obviously, they were completely against killing of innocent civilians. They -- but they

also were really struggling with feeling the pressure that they were supposed to make a statement, like on Instagram or TikTok or something,

that they were supposed to take some kind of a side that was crystal clear, and they were worried about saying the wrong thing, inadvertently being

judged, their friend groups splitting, how to straddle all of these things, and how to contextualize what they were feeling against centuries of

history that they don't completely understand.


I think university leaders, there is a higher expectation that they would make some kind of a statement.

HUNT: Yeah.

TALEV: But, I think in some way, what those students are feeling is kind of a trickle down from watching everybody make a statement, and this

expectation now in our society that there is a statement that is the right statement, that is the perfect statement, and that anything else is the

wrong statement. I am not speaking for either of the two universities --

HUNT: Of course.

TALEV: -- where I teach right now. But, I will say, I don't believe that any of this university leadership, any of these folks are antisemitic. I

believe they are striving to figure out how to balance interests, including the interests of academic freedom. And I believe that they are all going to

be now and going forward taking a lot of instruction in crisis communications, because part of the challenge when you are under fire in

Congress is messaging and --

HUNT: It's almost the whole thing.

TALEV: -- the way you become a university president has not traditionally been that you're --

HUNT: Yeah.

TALEV: -- as great as Nikki Haley, as pushing back attacks and answering the question the way you intended to. I think that -- I think this is

really complicated stuff. And obviously, genocide is not OK. And universities, I guess, need to make that clear now. That's not OK. But, if

you are a university, you -- there is a difference between the physical safety of your students and being able to have difficult conversations of

any kind in any classroom. I think they're trying to preserve their space to do that --

HUNT: Yeah.

TALEV: -- and not be driven by news events or politics of the moment. They need to be more clear in their language to avoid problems like this, and to

ensure every student, no matter their religion or ethnic background, that they are safe --

HUNT: Right.

TALEV: -- on campus.

HUNT: -- of course. All right. We're going to push pause here because we have to take a break. We'll be right back.


HUNT: Welcome back. A little bit more on the Republican debate last night. CNN's Gary Tuchman spoke to potential Iowa voters to get their reactions.


GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The fourth debate is over, but our fourth debate watch party with Republicans in Story County,

Iowa, isn't finished yet. In the first three debates, the majority thought a different candidate win each time, Ramaswamy in the first, DeSantis in a

second, Haley in the third, and this time --

TUCHMAN: So, I'm going to ask an alphabetical order. Who thinks Christie won the debate? Zero of the eight. Who thinks DeSantis won the debate? One

of the eight. Who thinks Haley won the debate? One, two, three, four, five, six. Who thinks Ramaswamy won the debate? Zero. One person didn't vote.

That's Jim in the upper left. How come you're not voting there, Jim?

JIM: I think Trump won.

TUCHMAN: And my guess is you think Trump won because he wasn't here.

JIM: That's right.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): But, it was Nikki Haley who had a decisive victory among this group in Story County.

TUCHMAN: Why do you think Haley won?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, clearly, lately, she has been the one with the momentum. So, I expected her to take a lot of hits tonight. And it's -- the

debate started with them coming after her. And I think she handled it really well. I think she also just is strong on policy. And she just is

strong in these debates. And I think that's been a consistent part of her momentum. And she has been a strong debater.


JUDY: I agree with Brett that she had to dodge a lot of bullets tonight, and she stood up to each one of them.

TUCHMAN: What do you think, Greg?

GREG: I think people shoot arrows at the people that are winning. I think she is winning.


TRAY: Yeah. I think that every hit that she took, she had a response back.

TUCHMAN: Megan, what do you think?

MEGAN: I agree with everyone else that everyone was after her tonight in the debate, and I think she handled that with grace and charisma. It was

the most level headed.

TUCHMAN: And Jeff, what's your opinion?

JEFF: Well, like everybody else, she weathered the storm.


It was obvious they will come after her because she has got an edge on the polls of at least of that group. And again, her foreign policy experience

really shone through strong tonight.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Deborah Stoner had a different take.

TUCHMAN: Why do you think DeSantis won?

DEBORAH STONER: I think he has got executive experience and a record of winning, and that's going to be the most important thing in primary and

then in a general election. We have to beat Joe Biden.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): So, regarding the Iowa caucuses less than six weeks from now --

TUCHMAN: Most of you were undecided. I want to know, out of the eight of you, how many of you have made a decision about who you will caucus for?

Please raise your hand if you have. So, four of you have now decided.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): The three people on the bottom row who've decided, from left to right, say they will caucus for Haley, DeSantis, and Haley.

The men on the upper left, as expected, says it will be Trump.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He has done it. He has been the President. He has made the tough decisions.

TUCHMAN: Only one person who at this point is positive whole caucus for Donald Trump. But, notably, I asked all eight people in our group who do

you predict will win the Iowa caucuses, and the consensus was Trump. Gary Tuchman, CNN, Nevada, Iowa.


HUNT: All right. Our thanks to Gary for that report. I am Kasie Hunt. That's the STATE OF THE RACE for today, Thursday, December 7. You can

always follow me on Instagram or the platform formerly known as Twitter. Don't go anywhere. "ONE WORLD" is up next.