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State of the Race with Kasie Hunt

Maine Joins Colorado In Disqualifying Trump From Ballot; Trump Campaign Lashes Out At Decision, Vows To Appeal; Trump's Rivals React To His Ballot Disqualifications. Aired 11a-12p ET

Aired December 29, 2023 - 11:00:00   ET




KASIE HUNT, CNN HOST: Stop me if you've heard this one, Donald Trump faces a set of legal challenges never before seen in a presidential election.

Maine becomes the second state to remove the former President from the ballot, finding like Colorado that he engaged in insurrection and is

therefore ineligible under the Constitution's 14th Amendment. Still, Trump remains the clear frontrunner in the Republican primary, and his opponents

are forced to fight for attention in the news cycles that he creates. Plus, as we close out what has been yet another wild year in American politics,

we're going to look back the good, the bad and the ugly in 2023.

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, Friday,

December 29, just 17 days until the Iowa caucuses, 311 days until Election Day. This is today's STATE OF THE RACE.

Welcome in. First Colorado, now Maine, they have become the second state to remove Donald Trump from the 2024 primary ballot. Maine's Secretary of

State disqualified Trump. Here is how she explained her reasoning to CNN.


SHENNA BELLOWS (D), MAINE SECRETARY OF STATE: I said this in my decision that it is unprecedented. No Secretary of State has ever deprived a

presidential candidate of ballot access based on Section 3 of the 14th Amendment. But, no presidential candidate has ever engaged in insurrection

and then disqualified under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment.


HUNT: Trump's campaign spokesperson lashed out at the decision, calling the Secretary of State, Shenna Bellows, a "virulent leftist", and vowing to

appeal. The Maine ruling is part of a flurry of activity as a handful of states decide whether to keep Trump on their ballots or disqualify him.

Let's dive into all of this with today's panel. We've Mo Elleithee, the Executive Director of the Georgetown Institute of Politics & Public

Service, also former Communications Director for the DNC, and spokesperson for Hillary Clinton back in 2008. Doug Heye is a Republican Strategist,

former Communications Director for the RNC. Seung Min Kim, CNN political Analyst, also White House Reporter for the AP, and CNN Justice

Correspondent Jessica Schneider joins us today as well. Thank you all for being here on what has been a less than quiet holiday week as we close this


Jessica, let me start with you, because let's try to focus on the legal situation here, although it's really hard, in my opinion, to separate it

from the political. Let me show everyone a little bit more of Shenna Bellows explaining why she did what she did, what the laws are like in

Maine. Take a look.


BELLOWS: We do not set the qualifications. But, under Maine law, the Secretary of State is tasked with assessing those qualifications when

presented with a challenge by any registered Maine voter. We looked at precedent in the Civil War. We looked at the law. We looked at the facts.

We looked at what was brought forward in this hearing that is specific to Maine law.


HUNT: So, Jessica, we have this patchwork system where every state gets to decide all of this. This is what she is talking about. This does, of

course, go back to the Civil War, which is where this insurrectionist clause came from. What are the next steps here in the State of Maine, and

is this a done deal there?

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, like you said, Kasie, I mean, we're seeing a patchwork here. We saw the Colorado Supreme Court step

in to take Trump off the ballot, even though that's not going to be in effect for the primary. We're seeing the Maine Secretary of State decide

pretty much the same thing. But, other states have said, no, this isn't in the purview of the Secretary of State. There isn't due process here. This

isn't for the courts to decide. So, guess what? A court is going to have to decide this. The Supreme Court is going to have to decide this. And they're

probably going to have to hear this pretty quickly.

We've already seen the appeal of the Colorado decision. We're probably going to see the Supreme Court decide maybe in the next week or two whether

or not they're going to hear this, and how quickly they're going to hear this. But, a lot of legal experts have looked at this, and they basically

said the Supreme Court probably isn't going to decide those key issues about whether it was an insurrection, whether Donald Trump engaged in the

insurrection. They're probably going to find a way to maybe scoot out of this and say this isn't for the courts to decide. This is more a political

decision, more for Congress. So, we're probably not going to see the Supreme Court get to the heart of this issue. But, they'll still have to

weigh in here.


HUNT: Jessica, how could -- I mean, one thing that struck me as I was watching the news of this unfold last night is that conservatives are

almost always the ones, and I want to get Doug weigh in on this in a second, but it's almost always conservatives who are saying we don't want

the feds intervening in state election procedure, right? We want our hands off as far as possible. But now, it's all these conservative groups. It's

the Republican -- it's the GOP in Colorado that's asking the Supreme Court, hey, like you federal government, please step in --


HUNT: -- and fix this. How does the -- if in fact the court wanted to restore Trump to the ballot without making it seem like this heavy handed

intervention where the federal government is deciding, I mean, do they have options?

SCHNEIDER: I mean, they're going to have to say that this is for Congress to decide that even though, sure, maintaining and running elections is a

state issue, because all of these states are really going haywire, and that's a lot of what these Republicans are saying. They're saying, you're

having these democratic-led states kind of take things off the ballot for the American people. So, yeah, the Supreme Court is going to have to step

in here, maybe to say, hey, look, Congress should be deciding this. Or if you're going to do this, there needs to be more due process, because what's

interesting is in the Maine case --

HUNT: OK. That's fair.

SCHNEIDER: -- this hearing just happened a --

HUNT: Right.

SCHNEIDER: -- a few weeks ago. She only had one witness talk to her about what went on. She relied on news reports, January 6 Committee, YouTube

clips. So, there is a lot of shaky ground on how even these hearings played out.

HUNT: Yeah. So, Doug, let's dig into the politics of this here, because I have to say, when I talking to democratic sources, even they -- a lot of

them think, and Mo, you weigh in here too, that this is a bad idea for Democrats to start pulling him off the ballot this way, because in the

event that they did beat him, it wouldn't give him a clean win.

DOUG HEYE, U.S. REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST, & FORMER RNC COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: No. And I think it does a few things, short term and long term.

In the short term, if there is one constant that we've seen from the 2024 primary, it's that when something that would be bad happens to Donald

Trump, the people running against him on the Republican side back him up. That's true whenever he gets indicted. That's true with Maine and Colorado,

and now with Maine. This is a constant. So, it shores Trump up politically in the primary, and comes at a time also, if you're Nikki Haley, this is

good news for Nikki Haley. It knocks her off the front page a little bit with her comments. But, if you're Ron DeSantis and you were charging

forcefully against Nikki Haley, you're yesterday's news as well.

So, there is a lot that happens that really sort of benefits Donald Trump here. That is the content of this primary. Everything that happens benefits


HUNT: Mo, what's your take on how this is all playing out, this ballot access question?


the people who want to go down this path, who are incredulous over the fact that a guy who is being accused of leading an insurrection could run for

President again, and are looking for justice, right, this notion that nobody is above the law. I get that. But, politically, it is the absolute

worst approach to this. If you want to beat Donald Trump, you have to beat Donald Trump. You have to make Donald Trump a two-time loser. And that's

the only way if you want to put an end to Trumpism.

If he does start getting, as you mentioned earlier, if you do start pulling him off the ballot, it's just going to be a rallying cry for his people. If

you thought that there was discontent amongst Trump supporters after the 2020 election, hold on to your hats if this is heading into 2024.

HUNT: Yeah. I mean --

HEYE: And it's also an unintended consequences here. Texas has already said, well, maybe because of what's happened at the border, we should

remove Joe Biden from the ballot. And who knows where this could go, local or national candidates in 2028 and moving forward.

HUNT: Yeah. I mean, the law of unintended consequences definitely applies, I think. Here is what Seung Min, Susan Collins had to say last night in a

post on the platform formerly known as Twitter. She said "Maine voters should decide who wins the election, not a Secretary of State chosen by the

legislature. The Secretary of State's decision would deny thousands of Mainers the opportunity to vote for the candidate of their choice, and it

should be overturned. Susan Collins, I think we should note, not a fan of Donald Trump.

SEUNG MIN KIM, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, ASSOCIATED PRESS, & CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yeah, not a fan of Donald Trump, voted to convict him in his

second impeachment. Also, I thought the reaction from Jared Golden of Maine, the Democrat who represents that Trump-leaning district, was also

interesting. He pointed out that I voted to impeach Trump at that second trial. I do not think he should be President. However, this decision was

wrong. And I think it goes a lot of to what Mo said, why you're hearing kind of this apprehension from Democrats and also from Republicans who do

not like Trump.

They don't think this is the way that he should be pushed out of public life or pushed out of public office this way. And I think it's a lot of the

reason why the Biden campaign has been very silent crickets on this issue, because they don't want to engage in this. They want to beat him cleanly.

SCHNEIDER: And I will say, there is this tension between the political and the legal here, because the Secretary of State is saying, and granted, she

is not a lawyer, she is brought to this in a political way, her position, but she is saying I have to follow the Constitution. And in her reading,

the Constitution says that this 14th Amendment provision applies to Donald Trump. So, you're right. Politically, people are saying let the voters

decide, but some of the legal side of this is, no, we have to follow the Constitution, at least the way they read it.


HUNT: Well, and isn't that fundamentally what the Supreme Court has to decide?


HUNT: They have to tell them this is how you actually need to read the Constitution.

SCHNEIDER: Exactly. And they'll weigh in on that supposedly --

HUNT: Super --

SCHNEIDER: -- probably

HUNT: -- super fun. OK. Mo, what do you think the White House should be doing around this?

ELLIETHEE: Staying out of it entirely. I think they should not weigh in to any of this stuff. They should be out there, one, making the case for the

President's reelection. And the one thing this does, and I would actually argue some of Trump's Republican opponents ought to do this as well. One

thing it does is it allows people to point to them and say, see, this is the chaos that this guy brings. If you want -- like Donald Trump is like a

character Pigpen from Peanuts, right, that constant swirl. There is just a constant swirl of chaos around him.

HUNT: I think we are going to have that image now.


ELLIETHEE: Just constant swirl of chaos surrounding the guy. And it's an opportunity to say, if that like -- that's what we were trying to get away

from back in 2020. We don't want to return to that level of chaos. And so, we were going to focus on the economy. We're going to focus on crime. We're

going to focus on protecting a woman's right to choose. That's what the White House ought to be talking about. And I think there is some things

there that Republicans could be saying, do you really want to go back to that level of chaos?

HUNT: Right. Jessica, before I let you go, what's your sense of how the court is thinking about this broadly? I mean, it's such a black box to most

Americans, but it's obvious. I mean, if you look at how John Roberts handled the abortion decision and Dobbs and how he has thought about

healthcare questions, they know that they're operating as a political actor, and it's going to be front and center more than ever in the next


SCHNEIDER: I mean, I think the Supreme Court saying, really, we have to deal with another Donald Trump problem? They have been confronted with so

many of these, and they've sort of dismissed them. I mean, look, it just -- was it earlier this week, I'm losing track of time, but the Supreme Court

said --

HUNT: That's fair.

SCHNEIDER: -- no, we're not going to weigh in on the Jack Smith case here in D.C. about the immunity question. I mean, they want to let the courts

run its course. But, yes, I mean, they are going to have to confront this head on. That's why I think John Roberts has always tried to strike

somewhat of a middle ground here, and they're probably just going to kind of toss this aside and say, this isn't for the courts to decide. This is

how Congress should be weighing in, and no Secretaries of State. In the states, you can't decide this unilaterally.

HUNT: Constitutional nightmare.


HUNT: Please make yourself at home. Come back. We're going to need a lot of you on the show over the next year. Jessica Schneider, thank you very much.

All right. Still ahead here, taking on Trump, it's hard for his GOP rivals to stand out when they're just constantly forced to react to his domination

of the new cycle.




HUNT: Welcome back. They are trying, trying to tell voters about their own platforms and priorities. But, Republican presidential candidates trying to

take on Donald Trump just can't quit him because voters in the news cycle won't let them. Now, it may not always be a bad thing. Nikki Haley was in

the headlines herself yesterday for the wrong reasons after she failed to cite slavery as the cause of the Civil War at a New Hampshire town hall.

That story quickly shoved out of the headlines and through the bottom of TV rundowns after Trump got thrown off the primary ballot in Maine, to the

inevitable, all Trump's rivals react to Trump.


CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), U.S. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It makes him a martyr. He is very good at playing poor me, poor me. He is always complaining, the

poor billionaire from New York who is spending everybody else's money to pay his legal fees, poor me. But, when stuff like this happens, this should

be decided by the voters of the United States.

RON DESANTIS (R), U.S. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, the idea that one bureaucrat in an executive position can simply unilaterally disqualify

someone from office that turns on its head every notion of constitutional due process that this country has always abided by for over 200 years.

VIVEK RAMASWAMY (R), U.S. REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I just want to make this really clear here. (Inaudible) But, this is the hard truth. They

will not let this man get anywhere near the White House again.


HUNT: OK. Back to our panel, and we're going to start with Doug Heye, who basically made this point earlier in the show, as we were talking about

this, which is that, inevitably -- and this - - I think this really tells the story in many ways of the entire Republican nominating contest --

HEYE: Yeah.

HUNT: -- that Donald Trump constantly sucks up all the oxygen, whether the news about him is good or bad, and it makes it almost impossible for others

to break through.

HEYE: Yeah. I think we saw that most -- specifically when the -- when we saw Trump get indicted, and we followed the car as it went to the

courthouse. We followed it like it was the O.J. Simpson car, and we're going to follow all of this like it's the O.J. Simpson trial. And what we -

- the words that we didn't hear during that process was Ron DeSantis, Nikki Haley, or anybody else who was really running, it made it that much harder

for them to get their message out.

And then, what they do to try and get in this is backup Donald Trump. I would say use this as an opportunity. If you're being shut out of the

headlines, take on Donald Trump, take on Darth Vader, you're a Star Wars fan, and confront him, because if you're --

HUNT: I appreciate you constantly reminding my viewers of that.

HEYE: -- unwilling to do so -- at Star Wars you get -- look, Luke Skywalker had to shoot it to the Death Star, right? If you don't blow up the Death

Star, nothing changes, and the candidates get shut out of the news cycle in part because of their own choosing by not doing that. And therefore,

nothing changes if you don't change anything.

HUNT: Mo, you've been nodding.

ELLIETHEE: Yeah. I mean, I couldn't agree more. If you want to beat the king, you got to beat the king. You can't dance around him. You can't back

him up every few minutes. And as we were talking about in the last segment, Trump's ability to dominate -- and here is what's interesting to me. Trump

is not dominating the news cycle because of anything he has done on the campaign trail. Right? He is running maybe one of the most lazy

presidential campaigns I have seen in a very long time. He does the occasional rally, but he is not out there campaigning. He is done in the

news cycle because of things he did in 2020.

And so, it's an opportunity for these other candidates to actually jump in and draw that contrast. They want to say, look, I think voters should

decide it, but here is what voters should be thinking about when they're watching this. They should be thinking about that chaos. They should be

thinking about the fact that Donald Trump is not out there talking about X, Y or Z. That at least begins to draw a contrast that voters can then pick

up on. Right now, they're not giving voters that contrast.

HUNT: Yeah. Well, I mean, one thing, Seung Min, that Donald Trump is doing is he is running a much darker campaign than he did previously. I mean, he

posted that word "cloud" earlier this week with revenge was the largest word on there. His Christmas message was "rot in hell", right? And then, we

haven't even touched on the language that he has been using that echoes the 1930s --


KIM: Right.

HUNT: -- in Nazi Germany and vermin, like --

KIM: Dictator on day one.

HUNT: Right. Dictator on day one. I almost forgot about that one, although at least that one was said with a little bit of humor in his voice. They

tried to argue it was a joke. But, the point being that -- like, there are still also things that are going on here that bring the focus back to

Donald Trump as he tries to win this race again.

KIM: Right. Right. And I think a lot of what we just discussed, aside from the legal problems, that is what Democrats and the Biden campaign really

want to focus on. If you look at where their messaging has been as it relates to Donald Trump, it's not on his legal troubles. Obviously, it's

not on the Colorado or the Maine decisions. It's what he would do in office if he were to be elected again. They've talked about his threats to repeal

the healthcare law, what he would do as the "dictator on day one", his reviving the hardline immigration policies, that's where they want that

contract to be focused on.

I know other Democrats want that contrast to be much more -- they want the Biden campaign to be much more aggressive and highlighting that contrast.

But, they feel that that is what's going to be, aside from touting Biden's accomplishments which we can argue whether that's effective or not, they

believe that contrast with Donald Trump. What he would actually do in office would be the most effective way to get voters out for Biden in 2024.

HUNT: Right. And to sort of pull it back to the primary before -- because I think the reality, Doug, would be that the easiest way to get rid of Donald

Trump for those people who want to get rid of him would be to beat him in a Republican primary --

HEYE: Yeah.

HUNT: -- right, because the general election, he has got a 50:50 shot, if not better to win, right? So, in the primary, you kept pointing to who is

and isn't willing to take on Trump. I want to show you a little bit first about from Ron DeSantis. And I want to talk about Chris Christie afterward.

But, take a look at what Ron DeSantis said earlier this month about what it's like to try to run against Donald Trump in this environment. Watch.


DESANTIS: I wish Trump hadn't been indicted on any of this stuff. It distorted the primary.

DAVID BRODY, CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST, CBN NEWS: Because it's helped him? Is that what you're saying?

DESANTIS: It's both that, but then also, it's just crowded out, I think, so much other stuff and it's sucked out a lot of oxygen.


HUNT: He says I wish Trump hadn't been indicted on any of this stuff. And I don't get the sense. He was talking about it in terms of thinking, well,

that was the wrong thing to do, but rather, indicting him meant it was harder for Ron DeSantis to run against Donald Trump.

HEYE: But, candidates in campaigns make choices. And what all of these candidates, say Christie and Asa Hutchinson, let's not forget, he is

technically still around, is they made a very conscious decision not just to not go after him. They said this is what Donald Trump is saying, and

we're going to use that same language, two-tiered system of justice, victimhood and all of that. What they could have done, without going after

Trump by saying he is guilty or whatever, you can say innocent until proven guilty. But, Donald Trump will be distracted. He will not be able to focus

like a laser on Joe Biden.

When Donald Trump was in front of a courthouse two weeks ago, he said I should be in Iowa and New Hampshire and South Carolina. Very easy, Ron

DeSantis, Nikki Haley, anybody else to say. And he won't be able to be in Arizona, Iowa, New Hampshire, North Carolina, South Carolina, Michigan,

these key primaries -- or general election states, Georgia.

HUNT: Georgia.

HEYE: He will be distracted. I won't be. They didn't even choose to do that. And so, what happens, Donald Trump gets indicted. 10 days later, we

see a poll that shows that his numbers have been shored up. And we're all sort of aghast that how could that happen? It's very easy. His opponents

gave voters no place to go. So, they didn't go anywhere.

HUNT: Right. Well, so, speaking of opponents giving him -- giving them no place to go, here is Chris Christie talking about what happened to Nikki

Haley, I shouldn't say what happened to Nikki Haley, what Nikki Haley did to herself when she did not answer a question about the Civil War by citing

slavery as the cause. He, of course, brings it back to the thing. He has been, as Doug has pointed out, repeatedly talked about throughout his

campaign, and that is Donald Trump. Watch what Chris Christie had to say.


CHRISTIE: What she has said over the last couple of days here in New Hampshire isn't because she doesn't get it. It isn't because she is not

smart. She is smart and she knows exactly what she is doing. And when she didn't bring that up, it's because she has had a history of being unwilling

to offend anyone by telling the truth, and it's just because some people in her home state are still fighting that war. And she has come accustomed to

not offending anyone. Well, that's the way you're going to be able to beat Donald Trump.


HUNT: So, I want to open this to the table. But, Doug, since you're from the south, you're not from South Carolina, but is he right about that that

people in her state are still fighting the war, and that's where this came from? And what do you think?

HEYE: Yeah. I was in North Carolina over the Christmas break. And you go to any county courthouse, and there is probably a Confederate statue there.

And you see it in almost every corner of the state. And look, when Chris Christie talks about Nikki Haley having a history, she sure does, the way

she pulled down the Confederate flag with such an acrimonious environment there. She showed strength and she showed grace that we do not see in

American politics.


That's in Nikki Haley that was presidential, and it's a Nikki Haley that should be able to campaign in that manner again, and campaign with the

sharp elbows that she had when she first ran for governor the first time. When nobody gave her a chance, she was running against a longtime

incumbent. And she used her sharp elbows. We don't see them unless it's against Vivek, and sometimes Ron. That's not the person she needs to use

them against.

HUNT: Yeah. Mo, what did you feel like you learned about Nikki Haley as a candidate? Because I think Democrats were concerned about -- more concerned

about running against her than Donald Trump, perhaps not that anyone necessarily thinks she is going to win, but in the unlikely event she

became the nominee. But, that was an unforced error.

ELLIETHEE: Oh, 100 percent it was. And look, history is littered, right? Political graveyards are littered with the tombstones of people who are

strong in their states. And once they stepped out onto a presidential stage --

HUNT: Yes.

ELLIETHEE: -- right, make all the wrong decisions. It's a completely different level. It's a completely different playing field. And you have to

worry about different things. And what this field has shown, and I think we saw that with Nikki Haley this week, who has looked strong in debates, but

against the wrong people, what we have seen is that they still don't know how to do this. They don't know how to run in this environment with this

electorate in a Republican primary with Donald Trump still a dominant figure. I suspect were Nikki Haley the nominee, she would run a very

different kind of campaign than she is running now.

HUNT: Yeah.

ELLIETHEE: It would still be edgy, right? But, she would be running a different kind of campaign. I don't think she knows how and I don't think

Ron DeSantis knows how, I don't think any of them really know how to do this. Chris Christie is saying the right things. But, politics is about

being the right person delivering the right message at the right time. And Christie was a flawed candidate from the beginning because of the

perception of the broader Republican electorate. The others were clean slate. They just didn't do it.

HEYE: And at most point about the right time, we're not talking about Nikki-mentum anymore because of that.

HUNT: It's good point.

All right. We're going to pause here, because we have only 25 days until the New Hampshire Republican primary. We're going to talk to a veteran GOP

strategist based in the Granite State, the Live Free or Die state, just ahead.




HUNT: Welcome back to STATE OF THE RACE. I'm Kasie Hunt. We're live in Washington. There are just 25 days remaining until the New Hampshire

primary, the first in the nation. A recent poll out of the Granite State shows Donald Trump still dominating with 44 percent among likely Republican

voters. But, Nikki Haley, you can see how she has gained traction, at 29 percent, followed by Ron DeSantis at 11 percent, Chris Christie at 10

percent, Vivek Ramaswamy trailing with five percent. There is no one better to talk about this than longtime New Hampshire Republican Strategist Dave

Carney, who joins me now from Hancock, New Hampshire. Dave, thank you so much for being on the program. It's so nice to see you.


HUNT: So, tell us what's really going on particularly with Nikki Haley here, because it does really feel like all eyes have turned to New

Hampshire. If somebody is going to make a dent in Donald Trump's armor, it's going to be there. Do you think there is any chance, and where does

she stand especially after what happened with her comments about the Civil War?

CARNEY: Well, it was a mistake, a misstep. It did something to her coverage, which was, as you sort of described, she is the only candidate

other than Donald Trump that has a shot. And it sort of was a huge road bump. I don't think it's going to infect voters who are with her. Haley has

spent probably in the last two and a half years maybe 150, 200 events in New Hampshire. She knows a lot of people. And she has met a lot of people.

She has done these town halls and events all over the states. So, I think there is a huge benefit of doubt from her supporters.

The difference is that all these undeclared voters, 40 percent of the voters in New Hampshire who are undeclared, they can vote in either

primary. Instance, President Biden is basically ignoring the New Hampshire primary. There is not really much action over there. So, they'll generally

come to the primary where there is more fun, and that's ours, on the Republican side. And they may be a little off putting for them. May be

they'll look around. The problem is there is no -- only two people are going to get delegates to make it 50 percent. It's going to be Donald Trump

and Nikki Haley. Everybody else is going to fall below 15 percent.

So, is there a big surge that these undeclared that go to Christie, where there is no chance Christie has another state to go to? He is not on the

ballot in most states. He is 00 has no infrastructure in other states. He is sort of a one state wonder. He is doing what he thinks is right. But, he

is not going to attract voters because he is going to be the nominee. And so --

HUNT: Yeah.

CARNEY: -- I think Trump is going to win. I mean, if we have, what, we had three weeks, four weeks, three more states to bounce him off the ballot,

he'll win in New Hampshire comfortably.

HUNT: Dave, do you think Christie should drop out? I mean, what would happen if he did?

CARNEY: Well, if he did drop out, I think a lot of his voters would go to Haley, Nikki Haley. There is no other alternative for him. They're not

going to go to -- Vivek (ph). They're not going to go to DeSantis. They are away to Trump like. And so, he is really the only -- she is the only

alternative for them.

HUNT: David, do you -- what threshold do you think Haley has to clear in New Hampshire to make it feel like -- I feel like I'm constantly joking.

There are a lot of people my age who think Bill Clinton won the New Hampshire primary when he didn't -- he actually came in second. A strong

second place for Nikki Haley could actually be really meaningful. What do you think would be meaningful? Like, what number does she have to hit?

CARNEY: At least she has to be within single digits of Trump. And if Trump gets to 50 percent, you just pack this little circus up and go home. But,

say he gets 48 percent of the vote and she gets 40 percent, there is a contest. The question is, where does she go next? And -- because Vivek's

guys are going to go to Trump. 40 percent of DeSantis voters say they vote for Haley, 60 percent for Trump. So, he just -- as they drop out, he picks

up support, and Christie has no support in the rest of the country. So, it becomes very difficult. But, she needs to be single digits, I think would

give her a chance.


I think (inaudible) came in third, not sure. But, I'm -- so, I recall it. But, yeah. There is -- it's not the end of the road. It's just a narrowing

down with one or two or three tickets out of New Hampshire.

HUNT: right.

CARNEY: This year, I think it'll be two tickets.

HUNT: Do you think she can get to that number within single digits of him if Chris Christie remains in the race?


HUNT: Yeah. All right. Republican Strategist Dave Carney, I really appreciate you joining us, sir, and I'm sure we'd love to hear from you

again as we get closer and closer to the story of New Hampshire primary. Maybe I'll get to see up there this year.

CARNEY: That'd be great.

HUNT: All right. Thanks.

CARNEY: We look forward to seeing you, guys. Thank you.

HUNT: Look forward to seeing you too.

All right. Coming up next, from the unusual purchases that George Santos made with campaign funds to Bob Menendez denying he was bribed with gold

bars, 2023 had a little bit for everybody. Still ahead, I look back at the good, the bad and the ugly over the past year.



STEPHEN COLBERT, CBS HOST, THE LATE SHOW WITH STEPHEN COLBERT: Happy 2023, everybody. I don't know. Let's go. Hope it's a good one. I don't know.

Louis, I don't know if you made any New Year's resolutions or anything like that.


COLBERT: I made two. I made two. One was to drink less, and the other was to not gloat when bad things happen to Kevin McCarthy. Oh, for two.


HUNT: That was the Late Show with Stephen Colbert all the way back in January of 2023. Remarkable how it still holds up here as we head in to

January of 2024. There were plenty of opportunities for comedians to poke fun at our politicians here in Washington. There were some bright moments

as well, I suppose.


I don't know if any of these were actually -- I couldn't come up with any in politics. We had Barbie. She brought back all things pink. There was the

new era of Taylor Swift, the Queen B, Beyonce, "Queen Bey".

The panel back with me for the good, the bad, and the ugly of 2023 since this is our last show of the year. And again, guys, I think we need to

start with the ugly, because I mean, I don't know, you guys can sit around and think about whether you have good moments in our politics from 2023

while we go through the rest of this. But, like, let's just start with George Santos who held a press conference on the Capitol steps right before

he was ousted from Congress for a variety of things, legal, illegal, definitely colorful and highly questionable, over the course of the year.



GEORGE SANTOS, FORMER UNITED STATES REPRESENTATIVE: I think we can all look back and say this is not how at least I thought this year would go. The

future is endless. I mean, you just never know. You can do whatever you want next. I'm just going to do whatever I want, whatever comes my way. I

have the desire to stay very much involved in public policy and advocacy for specific issues. And we also have an entire presidential campaign

coming up in 2024. And I think I've made this very clear, but I won't rest until I see Donald Trump back in the White House.


HUNT: Hoo (ph) boy, and of course, the Republicans were not the only ones dealing with scandal this year. Bob Menendez, the Senator from New Jersey,

let's just put up what the feds found at his house when they went looking around in there. Those are some gold bars that they allege he was bribed

with while he was serving as the Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee in the United States Senate. He was also later charged with

basically helping out the Egyptian government in a way that was not appropriate. But look, those things stuffed in the pockets of jackets with

the man's name on it.

John Fetterman, Senator from Pennsylvania, he is also a Democrat. Pennsylvania and New Jersey, we got a little bit of back and forth going

on. So, it's not entirely non-rivalry based, but Fetterman is one of the only Democrats willing to take on Menendez directly. And he hired the guy

we saw on the first clip, the one who was thrown out of Congress, to troll the guy who is not leaving Congress, even though the feds found the gold

bars and is now heading to trial. Take a look at what John Fetterman paid George Santos to say to Bob Menendez on Cameo.


SANTOS: Hey, Bobby. Look, I don't think I need to tell you but these people that want to make you get in trouble and want to kick you out and make you

run away, you make them put up or shut up. You stand your ground, sir. And don't get bogged down by all the haters out there. Stay strong. Merry



HUNT: Merry Christmas. And we haven't even gotten to Jamaal Bowman who pulled the fire alarm and had to plead that down to a misdemeanor. Is there

any wonder that America is a little disenchanted with its leaders, Doug?

HEYE: I sort of wonder, George Santos said this wasn't how we saw the year play out. I want to know how he actually saw it play out, because my guess

is, however he saw it, he didn't see as legal to find someone essentially being paid for by Democrats who wanted to send jokes to other people. He

has done very well. He has made a lot of money on Cameo. My guess, it's been from a lot of Democrats having fun than it is Republican voters.


ELLIETHEE: It's also dumb. And yeah, you're right. People look at this and they just shake their heads. There has always been, though, a history of

some level of corruption in this town.

HUNT: Sure.

ELLIETHEE: And so, the fact that it happened again in 2023 was, well, sad, it shouldn't be that surprising. To me, the bigger sign of dysfunction was

what we saw with the House Republican conference all year.

HUNT: Well, hold on, hold on, because --

ELLIETHEE: I don't want to skip ahead.

HUNT: We did the bad. Let's do the ugly, because Mo is right. It did actually get a lot uglier. Let's see. Let's start with -- I don't think I

have the audio of Tim Burchett actually getting elbowed in the hallway. But, I do have him telling the story of how Kevin McCarthy elbowed him in

the kidney. Let's watch that.


REP. TIM BURCHETT (R-TN): At that time, I got elbowed in the back, and it kind of caught me off guard because it was a clean shot to the kidneys, and

I turned back and there was Kevin. He is a bully with $17 million in a security detail. Now, he is the type of guy that when you're a kid would

throw a rock over the fence and run home and hide behind his mama's skirt.


HUNT: OK. So, let's hear from Kevin McCarthy trying to explain what actually happened.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): No. I didn't have to elbow him. No. I would not elbow him. I would not hit him in a kidney. I guess our shoulders hit

because Burchett runs up to answer. I didn't know what he was talking about. Some reporters asked me.


I did not run and hit the guy. I did not kidney punch him.


HUNT: I mean, Seung Min Kim, this man, I don't think he was Speaker of the House at that time that was made.

KIM: Right.

HUNT: He had just been thrown out as Speaker of the House. But, he was Speaker of the House of Representatives.

KIM: Right. Right. This is -- it's a kindergarten playground, and I think this was the same 24 hours or so, whether there was a standoff in a Senate

hearing between Markwayne Mullin --

HUNT: Well, hold on. We have that too. Play that, because it's even worse. Just watch that.


SEN. MARKWAYNE MULLIN (R-OK): So, this is a time. This is a place. You want to run your mouth, we can be two consenting adults. We can finish it here.


MULLIN: You want to do it now?

O'BRIEN: I'd love to do it right now.

MULLIN: Well, stand your butt up, then.

O'BRIEN: You stand your butt up.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT): Oh, hold on. Hold. Stop it.


SANDERS: No, no. Sit down. Sit down. No. You're a United States Senator. Sit down.


SANDERS: Sit down, please.


SANDERS: Hold it. Hold it. If we can -- no. I have the mic. I'm sorry.

MULLIN: This is what we said.

SANDERS: You'll have your time.


O'BRIEN: Can I respond?

SANDERS: Oh no. You can't.


HUNT: Can we hire Bernie Sanders as a referee for everything now on? Go ahead.

KIM: I mean, the best part was when Sanders was like you're a United States Senator. Please behave like the person you are.

HUNT: Sit down.

KIM: Yes. That was just a bizarre stretch. But, it's just -- I mean, it's all -- I mean, those are two very rare incidents. But, it's just Congress

has just gotten so caustic this year. I mean, they -- people do not get along. There is a lot of animosity stemming even from the January 21

insurrection, people across the aisle or even within the same party just do not trust each other. And I mean, all of us know Congress very well. And

even just from a few years ago, it's very different place.

HUNT: Yeah. I mean, Doug, you've spent a lot of time --

HEYE: Yeah.

HUNT: -- behind the scenes with these guys. I mean, I think the fact that we saw it spill into public view in the way that it did, it's much worse

behind the scenes.

HEYE: It is, and I think Seung Min deals with it every day now. It's become not just caustic, but a terrible workplace. Every member of Congress I talk

to, every staffer I talk to, essentially is miserable. And the real ugly of -- ugliness of this, this is not what we saw this year. It's the

ramifications. We're seeing a lot of retirements. And we're going to see more next week when members come back. And they're the good people. They're

the younger people who are leaving and their replacements will be worse. And I hate to be doom and gloom. But, if we think it's bad now, it's

probably going to get worse.

ELLIETHEE: Yeah. We've gone from life imitating art to life imitating Twitter. And that's not a good thing for us. Right? That is not where we

want it to be. It is - - it's become a Romper Room of dysfunction that's driven by cliques, that's driven by animosity, that's driven by the

polarization that is just becoming calcified by the filter bubbles that we're all living in. And I don't see how we break out of it unless we make

a conscious effort to break out of it. And the incentive structure right now is -- the incentive structure benefits those who want to stay in it.

HEYE: Here is how bad it is. Everything that you showed, that was terrible. We didn't see Jamaal Bowman. You didn't talk about Marjorie Taylor Greene.

You didn't talk Lauren Boebert. That's how bad it is.

HUNT: We could show Jamaal Bowman. Actually, we have that. Why don't we show that? We're going to show Jamaal Bowman. There he is pulling the fire

alarm, and then blaming it on -- Seung Min Kim, I can't remember. What did he blame it on?

KIM: He went --

HUNT: Anything but himself.

KIM: -- trying to get to a vote. He like didn't see the sign that was there.

HUNT: Yeah. Let's watch it.

KIM: It's all very confusing.

HUNT: I think we have his explanation. Take a look.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- folks who say just not believable that you would think a red fire alarm was an exit? How could you possibly get that mixed


REP. JAMAAL BOWMAN (D-NY): Yeah. I mean, it's all good. You know, they can have their opinion about. No, I was in a rush to get to my vote. And I

tried to go. It didn't work. So, I pulled the alarm thinking that would open. That didn't work. So, I went downstairs. It was a dumb choice. But,

you know, it is what it is. I take full responsibility for it, and now --


HEYE: And he didn't.

KIM: I mean, that's -- Yeah. You're right. You don't -- you have such great highlights of just the good, bad and the -- especially the ugly here, and

it doesn't even touch the surface of everything that we went through this year in politics.

HUNT: Well, so, one thing I do want to play and then -- this was the last ugly moment and then I want to get to a little bit of the good. But, this

is -- Mo, as you were talking, I was thinking about, we're heading into an election year in 2024. That's what this entire show is about. This was

Donald Trump at a rally in November talking about what he will do, if in fact he wins the nomination and reelection. Watch.


DONALD TRUMP, 45TH U.S. PRESIDENT: We will put America first. And today, especially in honor of our great Veterans on Veterans Day, we pledge to you

that we will root out the Communist, Marxist, fascist and the radical left thugs that live like vermin within the confines of our country that lie and

steal and cheat on elections and will do anything possible. They'll do anything, whether legally or illegally, to destroy America and to destroy

the American Dream.


HUNT: So again, we will route out the Communist, Marxist, fascist, the radical left thugs that live like vermin. This is the kind of language that

I think we're probably in for in 2024. So, you know what? I want to spend the last minute talking about what were the good things. Can we put some

Barbie up on the screen, please? Let's see some Margot Robbie in Barbie because I've loved Barbie. I think -- yeah, there she is. There she is. Hi,

Barbie. He is just 10. Let's also show -- I don't know if we have any of Taylor Swift music. I really wanted that clip where she said "Karma is the

man on the Chiefs coming right home to me." It all goes together. Beyonce, of course, also drew so many fans. Barbie, Taylor Swift, Beyonce, Seung Min

Kim, the good news, it's all good news for women from women.

KIM: I did think of one good in politics that we averted some catastrophes that could have happened. We didn't breach the debt ceiling. We didn't have

a government shutdown.

HUNT: We didn't have a government shutdown.

KIM: So, we --

HUNT: I have a sound bite about that too.

KIM: Yes.

HUNT: But, you know what? I decided it wasn't -- I don't -- that's just the job.

KIM: Yes. It is the bare minimum, but I will consider it good, because we did it.

HUNT: Because they could be worse.

KIM: That things didn't happen. Yes. And it could be worse.

HUNT: All right. That's fair.

ELLIETHEE: Our institutions helped. Right? I mean, our institutions --

HUNT: That is some good news.

ELLIETHEE: -- are facing some, like, major stress tests. They still are holding. We'll see for how much longer, but they're still holding.

HEYE: I didn't break my leg this year. That's great news. Right?


HUNT: I know. Right? The other good news we did have too is that Brittney Griner, gold medalist, is playing basketball again. And as we kind of head

into the New Year with Americans still held in detention in difficult states across the world, including Evan Gershkovich of The Wall Street

Journal. I think that's also a highlight of the year here in 2023.

All right. We're going to take a quick break. The panel is going to stay with us because we're going to have a special edition of one more thing.

That's up next.


HUNT: All right. Welcome back to STATE OF THE RACE. My panel rejoins me for a special edition of one more thing. This is our last show of 2023. We are

asking other than the election, what is one thing you're looking forward to in 2024? Your thoughts. 30 seconds each. Mo.

ELLIETHEE: We're just talking about hyperpolarization. It seems like everything divides us these days. So, one thing I'm looking forward to, the

2024 Summer Olympics.

KIM: Yes.

HUNT: Love it.

ELLIETHEE: Sports still has lots of controversy, as we know. But, maybe for those two weeks in July and between the Republican and Democratic

conventions, we can all come together and root for Team USA.

KIM: Right.

HUNT: In between the conventions. Right?

HEYE: It's more political. But, earlier this year, the American Free Enterprise Chamber of Commerce was formed and it's staffing up and moving

forward to 2024. They've hired Rob Engstrom, probably the smartest behind the scenes political operative I know, somebody from Kevin McCarthy's

office as well. Bill Barr behind -- is behind this as well. This is not what makes a lot of news outside the Beltway, but can really impact policy

within not just Congress but in the administration or pushing back on an administration as well.

HUNT: All right. I'll allow it. It's not exactly entirely on election related. But, that's fair. Seung Min.

KIM: Looking forward is not quite the right phrase, but something that we will definitely be watching for at least the first couple of months of

2024, the spending fights in Congress and in Congress and with the White House are not over. I know we talk a lot about the border and Ukraine over

the last several weeks. But, it's not just those issues. You have the whole government that's running out of money on January 19. February 2 expected

to be kind of the last train out of the station before the elections in terms of funding. So, that's going to be a fight.

HUNT: All right. So, mine, I'm looking forward to, first of all, I got the -- my Michigan Wolverines are in the Rose Bowl. And my Orioles won over 100

games last season, and they might be knock on. I don't have any wood.

HEYE: They're going to be good.


HUNT: I don't have any wood to knock on, but they better be good. This is what I'm looking forward to. I'm looking forward to -- I mean, the

selection is going to be, obviously, day in and day out a grind. But, anyone else, happy things you are looking forward to in 2024? No? OK.

HEYE: That's it. That's it.

HUNT: That sums it up. There you have it. Happy 2023, or was it -- but, in seriousness, Happy New Year to all of you. Thank you so much for joining us

on this journey. We hope you'll stick with us as we cover what is sure to be a roller coaster of a campaign. And stick with us here on CNN on New

Year's Eve. We're going to have coverage around the clock as the entire world rings in the New Year. The special coverage begins just before

midnight in Sydney, which is midday in London, morning in New York, and it carries on throughout the day and night. The only place you can find it

right here on CNN.

All right. I'm Kasie Hunt. That's the STATE OF THE RACE for today, Friday, December 29. It is going to be 2024 when I see you again. In the meantime,

you can always follow me on Instagram platform, formerly known as Twitter. Don't go anywhere. "One World" is up next.