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State of the Race with Kasie Hunt
ABC/Ipsos Poll: 76 Percent Believe Country Headed In Wrong Direction; Poll: Voters Don't Want Biden-Trump Rematch; Trump & Biden Accuse Each Other Of Threatening Democracy. Aired 11a-12p ET
Aired January 02, 2024 - 11:00 ET
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KASIE HUNT, CNN HOST, STATE OF THE RACE: It is now 2024. Like it or not, the election is taking a familiar shape. A rematch between Joe Biden and
Donald Trump seems all but inevitable, with the current and former presidents each accusing the other of posing an existential threat to
American democracy. Plus, with the Iowa caucuses less than two weeks away, Nikki Haley and Ron DeSantis are fighting with each other for second place
behind Trump's massive polling lead. We're going to get a live report from Des Moines ahead. And Chris Christie is of course betting it all on New
Hampshire, rebuffing pressure from that state's Republican Governor to drop out of the race.
Good day, everyone. I'm Kasie Hunt to our viewers watching in the United States and around the world. It is 11 a.m. here in Washington. It's
Tuesday, January 2. There are just 13 days until the Iowa caucuses, 307 days until Election Day. This is today's State of the Race.
Happy New Year. Happy New Year. Welcome to the presidential election year. Do you feel the doom? We start the year with more than three quarters of
Americans believing the country is headed in the wrong direction, according to an ABC News/Ipsos poll, and the choice we're facing who -- for who is to
lead us, is likely to be more of the same with polls showing Donald Trump running away with the Republican nomination and no serious challengers for
President Biden. That puts this, of course, on track for a 2020 rematch. Voters are not happy about that.
In an AP poll, more than half said they'd be dissatisfied with either candidate becoming his party's nominee. One independent voter it "the most
uniquely horrible choice I have had in my life." What everyone can agree on, it seems, are the stakes, higher than they have ever been, possibly in
the history of the Republic. Trump who will spend the year on trial for inciting insurrection and trying to subvert the last election, he puts it
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, 45TH U.S. PRESIDENT: This is the final battle. They know it. I know it, you know it, and everybody knows it. This is it. Either they win
or we win. And if they win, we no longer have a country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUNT: President Biden puts it this way.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Today's Republican Party is driven and intimidated by MAGA Republican extremists. Their extreme agenda,
if carried out, would fundamentally alter the institutions of American democracy as we know it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUNT: Looming over this election is the specter of political violence with the third anniversary of January 6, the insurrection just days away, so-
called swatting attacks, calling the Police and causing a SWAT team to descend on a private home on politicians in both parties are on the rise,
the latest against Maine Secretary of State Shenna Bellows, a day after she removed Donald Trump from the state's primary ballot. That attack came just
a day after Donald Trump put this on his Truth Social platform. It's nothing but a link to her biographical information on the official Maine
Let's dive into all of this with today's panel. Molly Ball, Senior Political Correspondent for The Wall Street Journal; Chris Kofinis,
Democratic Strategist and the former Chief of Staff for Senator Joe Manchin, and Republican Strategist Sarah Longwell, also the Publisher of
On that cheerful note, welcome to 2024. I mean, yeah, you're -- the rueful look you have in your face, Sarah, kind of captures it for me. I mean, how
are you viewing this year?
SARAH LONGWELL, PUBLISHER, THE BULWARK, & U.S. REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: For me, what's been interesting is that I've been -- I do focus groups every
week with voters across the political spectrum. And what's been crazy about the last few months is how voters do not seem to realize yet that we are
facing a Trump-Biden rematch. Like, the voters have not grapped that this is where we are heading. And so, they kind of hold out hope that something
is coming to change the dynamics, but it is not. And I think for those of us who follow politics closely, we know that for a long time this is what
we're facing, and that's why there is so much talk of third parties and all these other options.
But, it is going to be a Trump-Biden rematch, and it is going to be a contrast between two candidates we have seen before. And so, on one hand,
it seems like it could be boring, but so much remains to be seen about how the dynamics could shape up between legal troubles, health troubles, the
world and chaos. And so, it is going to be both on one hand, something we've seen before and then like nothing we've ever seen before.
HUNT: Right. I was going to say I'm with you on the -- it sounds like it's the same, but boring, I don't think it's going to be one of the --
HUNT: -- words that describes this year.
Chris, what's your view of all this?
CHRIS KOFINIS, U.S. DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST, & FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF FOR U.S. SENATOR JOE MANCHIN: Well, when you talk to voters, it's obvious that
they're frustrated and almost saddened by the choices that --
KOFINIS: -- they face. It's beginning of the year. I'm trying to be positive. I'm trying --
HUNT: Me too. I was trying. I sat down and just like I don't -- actually, I think too many --
KOFINIS: I woke up this morning, and say I am going to be optimistic, right? So, yes. The chance, the opportunity, there is going to be a pretty
negative, nasty election. I think the odds on that are pretty high. I think the challenge, and this is probably more so for Biden, the Democrats than
Trump is because I don't think Trump is going to change one iota of how he runs, is whether you kind of fall in the trap of going into this negative
back and forth, and almost kind of feeding into it. And there is a danger to that, right? Because when people are already negative, right, and all
you do is become even more negative, even because the other guy is negative, it doesn't create a real positive view of your outlook for the
country, or where you're going to take the country if you get reelected.
I actually think, ironically, this is the part that I think is going to be strange to say is -- I think the candidate that actually portrays a
positive, hopeful, optimistic vision for the country is the one that's going to have the advantage. I just don't know if either two -- either of
these candidates or the campaigns will allow that to happen.
KOFINIS: I know that Trump won't.
HUNT: I mean, I didn't pull the word cloud that has revenge in the middle of (inaudible). Sorry. Molly, go ahead.
MOLLY BALL, SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: But, I know if the voters will allow it to happen. I mean, this is just not an
electorate that is in an optimistic mood, as you said. You talk to people and they just feel so negative and down on the state of absolutely
everything. They look at a world that's on fire. They look at a government that they feel is not responsive. They look at two candidates that they do
not want, and yet it is still their fault. It is the voters who are making these candidates the nominees. That's the reason.
But, I think it's been -- I think particularly for the President, he finds himself in this kind of trap where when he has tried to sound optimistic
notes, whether he has tried to talk about what he believes are his accomplishments and his record, people just say, not hearing it. Don't want
to hear it.
HUNT: It doesn't line up how they feel.
BALL: Yeah. It doesn't line with how they feel, and it risks being seen as out of touch. So, although I think, hypothetically, the idea of a positive
optimistic vision is something a lot of people are hungry for, in practice, it's very difficult for anyone to pull that.
KOFINIS: Yeah. The only thing I would say to counter that is, if you look at -- it's tough to find parallels to this election, obviously.
KOFINIS: Maybe the Carter reelect is probably the most maybe apropos.
HUNT: So, we're going back to 1980.
KOFINIS: Yeah, exactly. Right. So, if you look at the 1980 election, Reagan had an optimistic vision. You mean -- obviously, I didn't agree with it. A
lot of Democrats probably wouldn't agree with it. But, he had a vision. At the same time, he was being critical. It's not an either/or. You don't have
to be Pollyannaish. You don't have to be naive. But, you have to have some vision of where you're going to take the country, because what's different
about this election than any other is that these two candidates are running essentially as incumbents, right? They're running as defending their term
in office. Trump is going to defend how great he was. Biden is going to say look at all I've accomplished. That is really rare. Usually, you have one
who is basically the incumbent and the other one is the challenger. This is different in that sense.
LONGWELL: If they're both going to run, this is the reason it can't be positive. They're both going to run campaigns that are contrast to the
other one. Right? So, Trump's campaign is going to be --
HUNT: Contrast, political speak for negative.
LONGWELL: Biden -- look, you see where Biden's numbers are. Biden is not going to win an election under normal circumstances.
HUNT: You can put Biden's numbers up on the screen.
LONGWELL: Yeah. How does he win? He wins by saying Donald Trump is the biggest existential threat to our democracy that we've faced. He is
enormously extreme. He fomented political violence. He tried not to leave last time and have a coup. That's the reason you pick me. You don't pick me
because I'm Joe Biden, and I'm the best and you love me. That's why he says his line is, don't compare me to the Almighty. Compare me to the
LONGWELL: He is literally saying, just compare me to Trump. That's why you --
HUNT: That's why they've been waiting to start the campaign in earnest. No?
KOFINIS: Yeah, maybe so. But, I'm not sure it's going to be enough to say hate the other guy more.
HUNT: Yeah. But, that's -- that is -- I mean, Molly, that is honestly -- like, you talk to White House advisors. That is basically the strategy. I
mean, they won't say hate the other guy more.
KOFINIS: Yeah. I know.
HUNT: But, they will say --
HUNT: -- he is going to be so much worse. They're relying on fear to motivate Democratic voters.
KOFINIS: Yeah. And I think there is no question that's going to be a part of it. Every campaign, every election is going to be contrast.
KOFINIS: The question is the balance. And I'm not sure you could be 100 percent negative because then it will be the doom elect.
HUNT: Well, so, speaking of doom, The Washington Post -- the word doom, I should note, is not just mine. The Washington Post put this headline up
this morning. "Doom dominates 2024 messaging as Trump and Biden trade dire warnings." And then, this was Frank Bruni in The New York Times in the
opinion section, we should note. He says, "This isn't your usual negative partisanship, in which you try to win by stoking hatred of your opponent.
It is apocalyptic partisanship, in which your opponent is the agent of something like the End of Days."
And that is kind of how this seems to feel.
BALL: Yeah. And you know, talking to people, it is always interesting how many. And you know, I think it's common among partisans to view things as
existential. But, I think even outside of partisan bubbles, people really feel like anything could happen. And maybe it's an after effect of COVID.
Right? Something happened that nobody really anticipated, and that changed our entire worlds overnight. And so, now there is a feeling like, yeah,
maybe America will just be over. There are things that were that ought to be --
HUNT: Shouldn't laugh.
BALL: -- unspeakable in normal times or at least unthinkable. And then, people are now open to, because they do feel like, well, this is just nuts.
We're living in a simulation and anything can happen. And so, I think that amplifies, because most people are living normal lives. Most people are
going about their lives day to day and not paralyzed by fear of clutching themselves under the covers. And yet, they do feel like it could all be
over at the drop of a hat.
HUNT: How much of this, Sarah, when you talk to voters and to your focus groups, I mean, how much of it is a COVID hangover? How much of the misery
is that, and how much of it is our political system and how it's changed?
LONGWELL: I think some of it's a COVID hangover. Honestly, I think a lot of it is just the Trump years. Like, it changed the way voters process
politics. Like, they live up here with politics now. Everything is fraught and on 10 (ph). And everything is really extreme. I think one of Biden's
big communications challenges is simply that people got really attached to the idea of a President who talked to them all the time on Twitter, who was
front and center all the time. And so, Biden trying to be this more regular, normal politician, people are like, why don't hear from Biden? I
don't see Biden. This is what I hear from voters all the time. They're just like, what is he even doing? Is Kamala Harris even there?
And it's not that they're invisible. It's that the rhythms of politics have changed. They are faster. This is why Biden not starting the campaign seems
a little insane. Like, he has got to get out there because the rhythms are different now. Everything is different. And so, for the voters, I just
think they're very amped up on this new sort of social media everything. And I - can I use -- I want to make a pivot to the optimism for one second
LONGWELL: -- which is, look, 2023, bad year, bad year. But, a whole bunch of things right at the end there, we saw -- the voters are a lagging
indicator on a lot of the economics, but the Fed is talking about lowering interest rates going forward. We're seeing inflation finally start to come
down. Like, Biden can -- I think before it seemed like Biden couldn't have a positive message and have it jive with people's realities. I think it is
possible as we move into 2024 that he could start to have a positive message that does feel more like where people are as long as the price of
eggs come down. It's going to be really important eggs to come down.
KOFINIS: I'm hopeful already. Look at this. Look at -- the sea of optimism --
HUNT: This is like the smiley as person at the dates (ph).
KOFINIS: -- the sea of optimism has just changed. I think the part that's going to be interesting to watch is, do the voters change when it comes to
Trump and others going to sound absolutely crazy, given that we've seen very little change happen when it comes to Trump? But, I keep wondering, is
there going to be a breaking point, maybe around the convictions? If there isn't, then I think we are definitely in a new era of politics.
HUNT: You're saying like if he gets convicted --
HUNT: -- he still gets elected.
KOFINIS: Yeah. If he gets convicted of the numerous charges he is facing, and his numbers don't fall by some measure, that tells you how incredibly
done so many Americans are with the current state of politics, right --
KOFINIS: -- and the current state of candidates. And so, to me, that's going to be a real defining point. And it's going to happen. We're going to
have some decisions probably before the summer. And then, we'll have to figure out, OK, what does that actually mean one way or the other, because
that will change the election in a dramatic way.
KOFINIS: You're not running against another candidate now. You're running against something completely different that the country has never seen
before. And that is something that's going to be, I think, incredibly shocking to a lot of people.
HUNT: All right. Well, we're going to get to all of those legal developments coming up in the next block, because President Trump is
fighting to stay on the ballot in two states, as his rivals are trying to kick their campaign messaging into high gear. We'll be right back.
HUNT: Welcome back. Today, former President Trump is expected to file appeals to the decisions in Colorado and Maine, disqualifying him from the
Republican primary ballot. It comes after both states ruled Trump is ineligible under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment that bars insurrectionists
from holding office. The Colorado decision could make its way to the Supreme Court here in the nation's capital, placing Trump's legal and
political future in the hands of, among others, three justices that he appointed.
Joining us now, CNN's Chief Legal Affairs Correspondent Paula Reid. Paula, thanks for being here. What is the outlook here for these appeals being
one? And is this going to be something we see out play out in every state individually, one at a time? Or are we going to possibly see something that
would address all of these questions?
PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: The first question is whether the Supreme Court will actually take up this case. And Kasie, this
seems tailor made for what the Supreme Court is designed to do, which is clarify constitutional issues and settle disputes across the states,
because if the Supreme Court weighs in here, even if it just weighs in, for example, on the Colorado appeal, what they say will apply to the entire
country when it comes to interpreting Section 3 of the 14th Amendment. Now, I think most legal experts agree it is highly likely that the Supreme Court
will take this up. They are mindful of the time constraints here.
But, we're also still waiting for Trump to file his appeal. Kasie, it's been two weeks since the Colorado Supreme Court removed him from the
ballot. Well, that decision is on hold. Well, his appeals play out. Two weeks is a long time to get your petition before the Supreme Court. So, I
was speaking with sources close to the situation over the morning. It is still expected that they will file today. But, I want to caveat. We also
thought they were going to do this on Friday. We do still anticipate he will appeal.
But, even if for some reason he didn't, the Republican Party of Colorado has already filed its appeal that lays out these key constitutional
questions, right? Does the 14th Amendment, does it apply to presidents? If it does, are the states the ones who should be executing this? Should they
be the ones carrying out this process? Or is there a role for Congress? And then, the Republican Party also has a question about its own First
Amendment right to list the candidate of their choosing.
Kasie, I think it's highly likely the Supreme Court will take this up. Most folks seem to think that Trump will prevail on this larger question of
whether he has a right to appear on the ballot. But, it's unclear exactly how the justices will rule. And Kasie, I think it's always a dangerous game
to predict what those justices will say. But, here it appears safe to expect they'll at least take up the issue.
HUNT: All right. Paula Reid, I'm with you on the risk of making predictions in politics anymore. So, thanks for that caveat and thanks for your
We're going to bring our panel back now. Chris, my question for you is, what you think, from a democratic perspective, about these fights and the
attempts to strip Trump from the ballot? Because I have talked to some people who seem to think that this is a dangerous game, regardless. I mean,
most of the people that I talked to actually do believe Trump incited an insurrection, and they don't think he should be President. But, they also
think that the voters should get a chance to decide this. What is your view?
KOFINIS: I mean, I think it is a dangerous game. And as much as I understand the emotion and the logic of wanting to remove him from the
ballot, doing so, I think, without some conviction, I think is a dangerous precedent. And to me, it's not even so much about Trump, although
obviously, this is the issue. This is the reason why we're talking about this. The idea of the Secretary of State, Republican or Democrat, so,
what's going to stop a Republican Secretary State waking up tomorrow and saying, I think Trump -- sorry, I think Biden is going to be impeached? I
think he is a terrible President. I'm kicking him off the ballot. You'd have chaos, absolute chaos.
So, I think the Supreme Court -- I mean, I guess I will make a prediction. I think Supreme Court will take this up -- up this case. There is no
possible way in my mind that they won't. And I do not see a scenario where they're going to rule that you can take someone off the ballot without some
type of clear standing, meaning, a conviction or something else. And I -- again, I struggle with it because I understand the emotion that's driving
it. I think we are going to have to accept, I mean, Democrats, that voters are the ones who are going to have to decide this election if Trump is the
HUNT: Sarah, do you agree with that?
LONGWELL: Yeah. I do. And I think -- look, sometimes people say that this move is anti-democratic, taking him off the ballot. I don't really agree
with that. We're a constitutional republic. And if the Constitution was clear and a court agreed that Trump should be off the ballot, like, there -
- that's the world we live in. It's not just a direct democracy.
That being said, I'm not a legal scholar. I'm not a constitutional scholar. The one thing I am is somebody who talks to voters all of the time. And
there is a hard and fast rule around Trump when Trump gets in trouble, which is that there is a rally around Trump effect that makes him stronger
in a Republican primary, where people feel like he is a victim and they are being victimized on his behalf. And that creates a weird political dynamic
that is nothing, like, nothing we've ever seen before people rush to his aid, and it makes him stronger, not weaker.
And now, in a general election, those dynamics are a little bit different. But, at least for the next few months, I think it's one of the things
choking out the oxygen for any other Republican challenger because Trump looks like a victim. People don't like --
LONGWELL: -- the idea of him just being taken off of that the ballot. Voters won't like it.
HUNT: Yeah. I mean, DeSantis basically said that out loud --
HUNT: -- like if Trump hadn't been indicted, maybe he would be in a better place.
I want to talk, though, about the general election because Chris brought this up at the end of our last block. And Senator Lindsey Graham was on the
Sunday shows over the weekend, talking about how he views Donald Trump who, of course, he very loyally supports. Take a look at what he had to say
about January 6 and its associated challenges being "baked into the cake". Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): I think January 6 is baked into the cake. I think the Jack Smith cases are not changing the political outcome at
bowling. We'll see what the court does. At the end of the day, Donald Trump is in a good position to win the Republican primary because Republicans
believe he had a good presidency. And I think he can win the general election.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUNT: Molly Ball, what's your reporting suggest about these dynamics in a general election? Because, obviously, Lindsey Graham says he thinks he can
win. And frankly, polling would suggest that Lindsey Graham is right about that at this writing. But again, there has been no conviction.
BALL: Yeah. Well, look, I think that soundbite is correct, both as a matter of political and analysis based on what we know today, and also as a window
into the mind of sort of your median Republican voter. Right? I mean, here is Lindsey Graham. He was a Republican before Trump came along. He sort of
was able to bend and --
BALL: -- and evolve along the lines of Trump's transformation of the Republican Party, even when it meant letting go of a lot of things that he
believed in for a long time. And immediately after January 6, he said, that's it. I'm out. I can't do this anymore, but has slowly tacked his way
back and now says, well, this is all just in the past, and we're not going to think about it anymore. I think that is the evolution that a lot of
Republicans have gone through, and that is why Senator Graham is right about where a lot of Republicans are today, is they think this is stuff
we've already talked about. This is not about -- it shouldn't be about the past. That's already been baked in the cake, as he said. So, for general
election voters, this is going to be a close race. There is a divided country, yada, yada, yada.
But, in terms of all of that stuff being sort of baked into how people now see Trump as a candidate, I mean, this is why people are so annoyed by the
rematch because they feel like we've just -- we've already been through all of this.
HUNT: I thought we answered this question.
BALL: I thought we've -- didn't we have a year's worth of hearings right before the midterms, and a lot of people voted on that basis in 2022. But,
it's still not over. We're still in a lot of ways in the sort of Groundhog Day of 2016.
HUNT: Gosh. It's been a while --
BALL: A never ending election.
HUNT: Almost eight years. All right. We do have, though, less than two weeks ago until -- to go until the 2024 Iowa caucuses. We're going to tell
you where things stand in the Hawkeye State. That's just ahead.
HUNT: Welcome back to the State of the Race. I'm Kasie Hunt. We're live in Washington. We are just 13 days away from the first in the nation caucuses
in Iowa. Polling shows Donald Trump with a massive lead over his rivals who are in their final stretch to try to persuade voters. By massive, we mean
58 percent to the 22 percent of his next rival, Ron DeSantis. Nikki Haley, they're the only ones polling in double digits behind Trump. Both of them
are going to sit down with CNN for separate town halls this Thursday in Des Moines. They're also the only two candidates expected to qualify for and
attend the CNN debate next Wednesday.
CNN' Steve Contorno joins me now from Des Moines, Iowa, for a look at what's happening on the ground. Steve, it's wonderful to have you. For
viewers who aren't as familiar with your work, you've been a Florida reporter for a long time covering Governor Ron DeSantis. You've been
following his campaign every step of the way. And this really is the stand that he is making where you are in Des Moines. I love your live shot, by
the way. I've stood in that exact spot many a time with the Iowa Capitol dome behind me.
What is your sense of how the campaign is feeling? They had some rough weeks there. Has -- have they gotten any sort of fresh optimism going in
here, or does this really feel like a death march?
STEVE CONTORNO, CNN REPORTER: Well, look, Kasie, the optimism is that the Iowa caucuses are somewhat unpredictable. Right? It's a tough way to get
people to weigh in in democracy to have them go out in the middle of January. There could be snow. There could be other elements at play.
Getting them to participate is difficult. And that is one of the areas where they feel like they have an advantage. They have been here in this
state virtually longer than any other campaign. They have been building out a ground operation here that they feel like could give them an advantage
and ability to organize and mobilize their people to get to the caucuses on January 15.
But, of course, that is easier said than done. And that doesn't mean necessarily that is good for a 30-point bump, which is what the poll
suggests Donald Trump is leading by in the states. So, he is here on the ground almost every day in Iowa. He will be here tomorrow through our town
hall on Thursday, and through the weekend, holding events in the state where he is trying to just manufacture as much momentum as he can going
into that caucus.
HUNT: Steve, where do they think that they need to come in to make this more than just a situation where Donald Trump has clearly run away with it?
Like what do they need for the narrative to say something other than Donald Trump is on track to win the nomination?
CONTORNO: Well, six months ago, they thought they had a chance to win this thing. And that was what they were telling people publicly and privately
that they were polling well in the state that they believe that the number of Republicans who are looking to move on from Trump was growing, and that
they could capitalize on that. Now, there has been some resetting of expectations. Second place doesn't look too bad to them anymore now,
especially since Haley is surging from behind. And so, I think if there is a close second place finish, they will be able to turn that into a message
that they did not do as bad as they said that they didn't kill the baby in the cradle, and therefore they have a chance going in New Hampshire to
reset this thing.
But, more and more I'm hearing that they are concerned about just how much Nikki Haley's lead is or momentum is growing in this state. And while I
don't think that they believe that third place is a likely outcome, it is something they are being forced more and more to confront when they're
having conversations of what they do after Iowa.
HUNT: Well, that says it all. Doesn't it? Steve Contorno in Des Moines, Iowa, Steve, thank you very much. Have fun out there. See you soon, I hope.
Sarah Longwell, I mean, that really does say it all. Right. I mean --
LONGWELL: Yeah. And also, I mean, Nikki Haley and Ron DeSantis right now, they're running ads against each other. And I don't know if they can't read
the polling that shows that actually the frontrunner is 30 points up and that -- but, they are trying to win a narrative around a pretty distant
second place, right, if Nikki Haley gets second place in Iowa. She is polling much better than Ron DeSantis in New Hampshire. She could -- she
has to win New Hampshire in order to shift the narrative enough that she could potentially win her own state of South Carolina, which is also a
super big lift, and very, very unlikely. I have not understood this primary from the beginning. Everybody failed to take on Donald Trump from the jump.
They have been all fighting, I guess now, for second place for some time.
And the idea that they are calibrating the DeSantis team is not calibrating for third place. Like what DeSantis is team is calibrating for is a
political future of any kind. That involves Ron DeSantis, and not Kasie DeSantis, because Ron DeSantis -- I mean, then this is the thing. So, the
point he was just making, right, he is saying, OK, well, they think they've got a ground game. They can turn people out if it's cold and it's snowy.
Has Ron DeSantis created enough enthusiasm that you would walk out in the snow for him? Because you know who does have an enthusiastic base that will
walk through hot coals or a snowstorm? It's Donald Trump. That has a -- he has an enthusiastic base.
So, this has just been so brutal to watch it play out exactly like it played out in 2016 up to the point of Chris Christie still being in the
race, right, until the end. Like just beat for beat. Times is a flat circle. And it's all happening again.
HUNT: This is why we started out the show with the doom loops --
LONGWELL: I know. I know.
HUNT: -- because you just went through it again.
HUNT And look, I just want to underscore the points that you have made because this is our latest reporting on Trump ads. So, "Not once during the
Citrus Bowl", which Iowa played, during the broadcast, "did an ad air targeting the front-runner in the race, Donald Trump, a recurring theme of
the ad wars this presidential cycle. The former President is rarely the subject of the millions of dollars being spent to sway Republicans, nor is
he lately the focal point of his rivals on the campaign trail." And notably, Ron DeSantis did go out to a sports bar in Iowa to watch this game
when he would have not seen any ads targeting Donald Trump. Instead, these guys are going after each other.
Let's start with the Nikki Haley ad. She may have more reason to go after DeSantis particularly in Iowa just because she is coming from behind here.
But, this is the Haley's super PAC ad that's up in Iowa right now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ron DeSantis is lying because he is losing. DeSantis called China Florida's most important trading partner. DeSantis even
allowed a Chinese Military contractor to expand just miles from a U.S. Naval Base. Phony Ron DeSantis. Too lame to lead. Too weak to win.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUNT: So, just -- I mean, that's what it looks like when you actually go after someone. You say their name, Chris. You like -- you lay out the best
you've got against them, and no one is doing that against Trump. No one has.
KOFINIS: It tells you all you need to know about the Republican nomination race, that they're this terrified of going after Trump. If you're that
terrified of going after Trump, because the logic is you're worried about alienating the base, if you become the nominee, right, how could you ever
become the nominee because you can't beat him in the primary? It doesn't make any strategic sense. I mean, this is truly bizarre. We -- when we talk
about elections, and someone who loves elections, right --
KOFINIS: -- it's exciting.
HUNT: I count myself along those lines.
KOFINIS: Right. It's fun to watch, right? I mean, I know that sounds crazy to some people.
HUNT: No. it's like the -- doom is the opposite --
HUNT: -- of how I wanted to start the show.
KOFINIS: I love an election.
KOFINIS: Yeah. Right. And it's exciting, right? The battle, especially when you've done elections, I have --
KOFINIS: -- you see the strategies. You try to figure out, OK, how are they doing it? What are they doing right or wrong? This makes no bloody sense at
all. None, zero.
BALL: It does make sense because they haven't found a way to go after him that works. They have tried and they have failed. And over the course of
this year, outside groups have spent millions of dollars. They've tested all these ads. There was one that even made a bunch of ads and then ended
up not airing them, because by attacking Trump, they found that they only made him stronger. So, outside groups, they tried this sort of like soft
approach where they would try to sort of sidle up to voters and say, hey, I'm just like you. I thought Trump was a great President. But now, I think
it's time to move on and turn the page. Nope. It didn't work. Tested horribly, only moved more voters into Trump's camp.
Going hard against Trump, doing some of the ads, like Sarah's groups have done where they really attack him as a danger to democracy and say he was a
failure. That moves Republican voters into Trump's camp. It only makes him stronger. So, the reason they're not attacking him is because they haven't
found any way to do it. That doesn't just increase his vote share.
Now, maybe it's just a reverse psychology thing, and they should be airing ads saying, go vote for Donald Trump. I want you to. And then maybe these -
- but that doesn't work either, obviously.
BALL: So, the reason -- I mean, there is -- I'm not -- there is a logical reason that these candidates have all taken this approach, and it's because
the soft targets are the proximate ones.
KOFINIS: Yeah, except here is the problem with that logic, right? You can't win the nomination by being second. You can't win the nomination by being -
BALL: Maybe the answer is you can't win the nomination.
KOFINIS: Well, no, that actually probably is the answer. And if that's the answer, then the real question is, why are you running? Right? And if you
can't win, you shouldn't be running. And if you're like -- when you're 30 points, 40 points, 50 points behind, what is the logic? If it's ego, it's
great. But, I think this is the opportunity, I think, for the Republicans is they didn't -- for those who didn't want Trump, they had to coalesce
against one, around one candidate. And in a multi- person race against Trump, you're not going to beat him. It's impossible.
LONGWELL: Yeah. I mean, this -- to me, the question comes down much more around political talent. So, when I was doing focus groups at the beginning
of 2023, there was a pretty big appetite to move on from Trump. It was really there. And there was a ton of DeSantis curiosity. And DeSantis' drop
has to do with DeSantis --
LONGWELL: -- as much as anyone else. Like Trump has an always Trump faction. They were going to be there. But, DeSantis did make a real
strategic error, which was he decided to wrestle Trump for his always Trump base. He decided to run as a proto-Trump. And those people weren't leaving
Trump. They're always Trump for a reason. And he failed to consolidate the move on from Trump's, that maybe Trump is the kind of actually could have
built a coalition for him and he didn't, because he is not a politically talented guy. He is bad at this. He does a bad personality. And he is not
good at it.
Nikki Haley is slightly better at it, which is why she is now the one who was becoming the frontrunner. But, even she is looking at this saying,
because you know what, there is one candidate who is attacking Donald Trump relentlessly. His name is Chris Christie, and his negatives with the
Republican Party are extremely high, and he has no chance to win the nomination, right? That's why people want him to drop out, because all he
is doing is pulling some of the Never Trump vote away from Nikki Haley.
And so, I think you -- there was a time where these guys could have attacked him. Again, it goes back to that question of rhythms. DeSantis
needed to be a different candidate that started running much earlier than he did with a different campaign strategy, and he did. But, I think it's
been baked for a long time now. We're all excited, at least in my world of sad Republicans. We're all excited for a little Nikki Haley surge. But, I
don't know that analytically we can look at it and be like, boy, the Republican Party has really been looking for one of these like 2014 hawkish
Republicans of yesteryear.
We know they're not.
HUNT: Maybe I'll get some bumper stickers put up for you, "Sad republicans".
LONGWELL: "Sad Republicans".
HUNT: Capital S, Capital R.
LONGWELL: That's right. That's right.
HUNT: All right. This is actually a perfect segue, because up next, we are going to talk about Chris Christie, who is still going all in on New
Hampshire. Still ahead, the Republican candidate says he is not dropping out of the race. We'll show you who says that he should.
HUNT: Welcome back. Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie says he has a singular mission in the Republican nomination fight, defeat Donald Trump.
And the one place that that argument has some traction is in New Hampshire, where he is up with a seven figure ad buy and where he is polling at 10
percent. But, in that poll, nearly three times as many likely Republican voters are backing Nikki Haley. She stands just 15 points behind Trump, who
is the frontrunner at 44 percent. That 29:44 split is the closest anyone comes to Trump in early state polling. Trump is above 50 percent in Iowa
and in Haley's home state of South Carolina. That has put Christie, anti- Trump Crusader, in a vise. Is he going to spoil Nikki Haley's best shot at derailing the man that Christie says is too dangerous to be President? New
Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu put it this way over the weekend.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS SUNUNU, GOVERNOR, NEW HAMPSHIRE: This is a two person race, right? It's between Trump and Nikki Haley. Everybody understands that. He knows
his voters who want to see Trump defeated, are all coming over to Nikki Haley. In fact, the only person that wants Chris Christie to stay in the
race is Donald Trump. Right? I mean, think about the irony of that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUNT: The irony of that. The panel is back with us to talk more about this. Molly Ball, Sununu was pretty clear there saying, look, this is the one
shot that you have here. I mean, if Christie -- I mean, I get it.
It's a tough position for Chris Christie who has worked really, really hard on this race, and has been the only one who is been willing to stand up
with this message that we were just talking about so much. But, I think there is also an argument to be made that this is what played out in 2016,
which was that nobody's ego was willing to get out of the way of the other egos, and therefore, no one was able to actually take on Trump.
BALL: Well, and on Super Tuesday in 2016, I was at Mar-a-Lago watching Chris Christie endorse Donald Trump. So, perhaps we will also get a replay
of that incident from eight years ago, because it does seem like exactly the same dynamic where he punched him in the face as hard as he could. And
then, when he didn't win New Hampshire, he came back into the fold. So, it's a very similar dynamic. His critique of Haley has been that she is not
anti-Trump enough. And so, if what you are looking for, if you're a New Hampshire Republican or an independent voter, right, independents can vote
in the New Hampshire primary, and a lot of them probably will, particularly on the Republican side, it is a much more liberal to moderate Republican
A lot of them are probably looking for a forceful anti-Trump message, like Chris Christie is offering. But, for him to say, I'm the only one who can
do this right, it is clearly going to split the anti-Trump vote, and potentially dent Nikki Haley's chances.
HUNT: Sarah Longwell, I mean, you sort of touched on this in our -- earlier in the show. I mean, what does it say to you that Christie seems as though
he is not going to get out here? What is the meaning of that reality? And is there anything going on behind the scenes to try to -- I mean, it get
Sununu is saying this in public. But, is there a behind-the-scenes effort to try to get him to change course?
LONGWELL: Yeah. Look, where you stand on Chris Christie really comes down to whether or not you think there is, like, that Nikki Haley stands a
chance against Donald Trump, because if you think that Nikki Haley has any chance in the world, then you need Chris Christie to drop out, because
everybody who is doing private polling, it shows that his votes go to her. That gives her a much better chance at winning in New Hampshire, and
shifting the dynamic, shifting the narrative. And that's what I think donors and other people want to see.
But, if you think that Nikki Haley has no chance, and that this is all just -- basically, there is a pretend second primary, then Christie staying in
and telling the truth to Republican primary voters about Donald Trump actually has some value in utility, right, because he is making the case
and speaking clearly against Donald Trump. And I think -- look, it's tough. There is -- I would say, for me, I really appreciate what Chris Christie is
doing. But, even if there is a five percent chance of Nikki Haley being able to change the dynamic of this primary, then I do think you have to
give her that shot, and that does require Chris Christie dropping out. But, it's kind of a coin flip. I can see it both ways.
HUNT: So, let me show you a little bit more of what Chris Sununu had to say about this very possibility, this idea that New Hampshire might be the one
place where somebody, anybody, in this case, Haley, could dent Donald Trump. Watch what Sununu had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SUNUNU: His race is at an absolute dead end. This is a two person race, right? It's between Trump and Nikki Haley. Everyone understands that. Chris
Christie isn't going to make up 30 points in the next few weeks, right? Nikki Haley can make up five or 10 points and kind of give Trump that
defeat that no one thought was possible.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUNT: Chris, do you agree with Sununu?
KOFINIS: I mean, in normal times, if you win New Hampshire or you come in close, I'm thinking back to the 1992 race with Clinton where he came in a
surprising, I think was second, and got momentum.
HUNT: Yes, the comeback kid. Who was that?
KOFINIS: Tight. Yeah. The comeback kid, right? I think those days in politics is probably over. I mean, remember, on the Democratic side, Joe
Biden didn't do well until South Carolina. And so, I think this notion that if somehow Donald Trump gets cracked in New Hampshire, his entire candidacy
kind of collapses. If he had a weaker base of support, maybe, but absent that, I don't think it's going to happen. Now, as for what Christie should
or should not do, I don't understand the logic of staying in to be basically fourth. I think he is staying in for a variety of reasons,
primarily, because I think he just wants to punch Trump in the face as much as he can.
But, if he really wanted to help the Republican Party, he would drop out. I just don't think that's going to happen.
HUNT: Sarah, do you -- what do you think about that supposition that Chris just made that it's no longer possible for one of these events to be
narrative changing the way that it used to be? I mean, I guess the thing I wonder about is whether denting -- I mean, there is this sort of sense of
inevitability around Trump's path, march to the Republican nomination, And I think the question I have is, whether denting that, making people wonder,
oh, maybe somebody actually could beat him, could actually change things?
What is your sense around that?
LONGWELL: Look, I think there is a little bit of a chance of that. And the fact is the threat of Donald Trump is so high that you should take any
chance that you can get. You're only going to get two shots at him, once in the primary, and once in the general. And so, if there is some kind of shot
to take in the primary, I think it's worth taking. And right now, Nikki Haley looks like that only shot. And so, here is what would happen. If she
won in New Hampshire, she does go in next to her home state. And then, when I talked to voters about Nikki Haley, they all like her. OK. The big thing
is that they don't think she can win. Like they do not think she is a viable challenger to Trump. And what it would do is change that narrative.
People would suddenly take a look at her.
The problem is, is that everything that I know about Republican voters is that they don't want a politician like Nikki Haley. They don't want a pre-
Trump type politician. And so, yeah, it would dent his inevitability. But, I do think his base of support is so strong. But, I also think that it is
the only chance to change the dynamic of this race. And so, we should take that shot if it's available to us, because the threat of Trump and the
danger he presents is so high.
HUNT: And of course, I mean, you touched on this idea too that Nikki Haley, she has had a couple minutes, I guess, in election time on the front part
of the stage, and she -- you could see she made a mistake earlier or late last month talking about slavery, and she has only begun to be kind of
attacked for real as a frontrunner. This is what Chris Christie had to say. And Molly, I want to put this to you because you mentioned this as well at
the top of this conversation. This is how Christie kind of talks about how Haley has been running her campaign, and what she would do around pardoning
Donald Trump and why that's dangerous. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS CHRISTIE, U.S. REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I saw a new TV ad today out from Governor Haley, and this is what she says. We have to leave
behind the chaos and drama of the past. What? What does that mean exactly, Governor? Why not say it? He is not Voldemort from the Harry Potter books.
He is not he who shall not be named. No. This is trying to have it both ways. If you want Trump, then vote for him, or Nikki, because she is not
going to say a bad word about him. As she becomes President, she is going to pardon him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUNT: Molly, quickly to you, tough words, and also it seems to be like Christie doesn't think Haley can beat Trump.
BALL: Well, I mean, this is exactly the dynamic that we were talking about in the last segment. Nikki Haley has gotten to this point by soft pedaling
any direct attack on Trump, by allowing voters to feel like you can't have it both ways, because Republican voters, base voters are so intensely loyal
to Trump. They don't want to hear him named in that way. And that's why most of the candidates aren't doing it. And as Sarah pointed out earlier,
Christie has the highest negatives with Republican voters of any candidate in this race.
HUNT: All right. On that note, it is good place for us to take a quick break. But, don't go anywhere. Our panel is going to be back with one more
thing, up next.
HUNT: Welcome back to the State of the Race. Our panel rejoins. Before we go, we always ask for one more thing on the campaign trail or in Washington
that they are watching for in the coming days. 30 seconds each. Molly, what are you watching?
BALL: One of the big unknowns in this year's -- this year, now, not next year's, presidential race is the role that abortion is going to play. And I
have an article in The Wall Street Journal about the new messaging strategies being used by activists for abortion rights, the way that
they've been framing this in order to be as successful as they've been, abortion rights could be on ballots in more states come November.
It's an unpredictable factor, and we don't know. But, whether it's going to give Democrats a boost, but so far, that appears to be the effect.
HUNT: Chris, what's your one more thing?
KOFINIS: It's a long way away. But, debates. Will there be any? Will this be the first modern presidential election without any debates? I think
we're headed towards that possibility. And I think that will be an enormous event. And the question is going to be, who is going to blink first? Who is
going to say they're not going to debate the other, whoever the nominees are?
HUNT: I'm not sure Trump is afraid of saying that. But, we shall see. Sarah, what's your -- what are you watching?
LONGWELL: I'm waiting for the next poll out of New Hampshire, because I am wondering whether or not Nikki Haley's inability to say that the cause of
the Civil War was slavery, whether or not that's going to dent her, because the fact is, what she needs are Dems and independents. That's who is making
up her margins. And so, if she starts losing them because of that bad answer, that could doom her in New Hampshire.
HUNT: Very interesting to watch. And we just have a handful of days left. Everybody, thank you so much for being here today. And thanks to you as
well for watching. I'm Kasie Hunt. That's the State of the Race for today, Tuesday, January 2. Don't go anywhere. One World is up next.