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State of the Race with Kasie Hunt
Chris Christie Drops Out of 2024 Race; Haley and DeSantis Spar at CNN Debate; Trump on Fox News Town Hall; Trump Campaign from Courtroom; Interview with Inside Elections Editor and Publisher Nathan Gonzales; DeSantis Zeroes in on Iowa; Trump Attends New York Civil Trial; Interview with Governor Chris Sununu (R-NH). Aired 11-12p ET
Aired January 11, 2024 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KASIE HUNT, CNN ANCHOR AND CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Nikki Haley has her clearest shot yet at Republican frontrunner Donald Trump, who campaigns
from court today.
Four days before Iowa, Trump is in New York for his civil fraud trial, barred from speaking because he wouldn't agree to the rules. This as the
race's top Trump critic, Chris Christie, drops out, consolidating the field.
Can Nikki Haley rise to the occasion? We're going to talk to New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu, who backs Haley. I'll ask him, can she get it done?
Good day, everyone. I'm Kasie Hunt. To our viewers watching in the United States and around the world, it's 11:00 a.m. here in Washington, Thursday,
There are just four days until the Iowa caucuses, 12 days until the New Hampshire primaries, 298 days until Election Day. This is today's "State of
Welcome in. We come on the air after perhaps the most consequential 24 hours yet in this presidential campaign. Nikki Haley now has the clearest
shot of any Republican to take on Donald Trump after Chris Christie dropped out of the race.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FMR. GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R-NJ), FORMER U.S. REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I am going to make sure that in no way do I enable Donald Trump
to ever be president of the United States again. And that's more important than my own personal ambition. I would rather lose by telling the truth
than lie in order to win.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUNT: Christie's decision received this way by the conservative "Wall Street Journal" editorial page. They called his dropping out "a good deed
for the GOP."
Christie's decision came just days after a CNN poll showed Haley coming within single digits of Donald Trump in New Hampshire with Christie in
third. And if you dig into those numbers, you'll see Christie's voters definitely will not go to Trump. Instead, they go overwhelmingly to Nikki
But of course, before Haley can get to New Hampshire, Iowa votes in just four days. And on-stage last night in Des Moines, Haley wasn't focused on
the man she really needs to beat, fighting instead with Ron DeSantis.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NIKKI HALEY, U.S. REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Because I've said it again, Ron, so stop lying.
GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL), U.S. REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And then, she said she never said it, of course you're lying.
HALEY: It doesn't change the fact that Ron's lying because Ron's losing.
DESANTIS: I thought he lied a lot. Man, Nikki Haley gives him a run for his money.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUNT: Remember when we didn't say politicians lied in politics? We're past that.
Haley's toughest words for Trump, meanwhile?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HALEY: When you look at Donald Trump, I have said, I think he was the right president at the right time. I agree with a lot of his policies, but
his way is not my way.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUNT: And as all of that was going on, Trump was on a different stage, talking like he's already won the nomination.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARTHA MACCALLUM, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Who would be in the running for vice president?
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT AND U.S. REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, I can't tell you that, really. I mean, I know who it's
going to be. But --
BRET BAIER, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: You give us a hint.
TRUMP: I'll give you -- we'll do another show sometime.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUNT: Still, Trump's campaign is fighting on the airwaves in early primary states, and they're attacking Haley like she is a threat.
And today, Trump is doing the exact thing that has made it so hard for Republicans to beat him. He is grabbing the spotlight, attending his New
York City civil fraud trial, even though he is definitely not required to be there.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: We're going to have a news conference today around -- we don't know the time. We'll notify you, but sometime in the early afternoon at 40 Wall
So, we'll give a news conference where we can actually speak and have a microphone here, because even then they don't want us to have it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUNT: So, we'll stay tuned for that. But the new question today, with Christie out, does Haley have what it takes to take on Trump, or at least
to put a dent in the perceived inevitability of Trump's march to the nomination?
Christie himself doesn't seem to think so. He was caught on a hot mic just before he took the stage, saying this, presumably, about Haley.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRISTIE: She's going to get smoked, and you and I both know it. She's not up to this.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUNT: She's going to get smoked. Let's dive into all of this with today's panel. CNN political commentator and Democratic Party strategist, Maria
Cardona. Jeff Duncan, former Republican lieutenant governor of Georgia, also a CNN political commentator. And Nathan Gonzales, editor and publisher
of Inside Elections. Thank you all for being here.
Jeff Duncan, I want to put this to you, as someone who's been very outspoken about what it would mean to have another Trump presidency. Does
Nikki Haley have what it takes to take him on?
JEFF DUNCAN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR AND FORMER REPUBLICAN GEORGIA LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR: She does. She just has to point to the facts that
he's lied and he was a horrible Republican in office. He grew our national debt by $8 trillion dollars. He didn't actually build a wall. He mismanaged
COVID. He lied about the 2020 election and he still tries to justify January 6th. If she sticks to that script, she can beat Donald Trump.
HUNT: She won't really say a lot of those things though. She'll only say some of them.
DUNCAN: Well, it's time to put the throttle full forward. She's had a good lead up to this point. She's certainly gaining momentum as opposed to Ron
DeSantis, who seems to be losing some momentum. Last night was a good articulate debate, that often sounded a lot like a high school debate,
right? It got into the small weeds of cafeteria food fighting.
But the reality is, they got to go right through Donald Trump. If you want to be in the White House, you're going to have to mow through Donald Trump
to get there, and that includes Joe Biden, and that includes Nikki Haley or Ron DeSantis.
NATHAN GONZALES, EDITOR AND PUBLISHER, INSIDE ELECTIONS: And maybe we'll know that Haley's serious about taking on Trump if she has a website,
TrumpLies.com. I don't know if she's created a website about DeSantis.
DUNCAN: I think that's the whole internet.
HUNT: I heard many times last night that there was some website out there called DeSantisLies.com.
GONZALES: Yes, maybe a little. You know, and I think, you know, whether she has the ability to take on Trump, whether she can actually beat him or
two different things, right?
I mean, I think she has stylistically a personality, there's -- that's there, but she's going to lose in Iowa. She can get second. New Hampshire
might be the peak for the Nikki Haley campaign, but the Trump campaign is built for the long haul. I mean, the calendar, South Carolina, it only gets
better for Trump as you move in, unless there's some sort of fundamental change in the race.
HUNT: I mean, I guess my question for you, Nathan, I mean, you're -- you've -- I can't argue with anything that you laid out there. But if Nikki
Haley were to come in second in Iowa, let's be real, questions would be asked of DeSantis the next day about whether he's going to drop out.
And then, if she were to actually win New Hampshire, I mean, I do think there is a sense around Trump that he can't lose, and I wonder if voters
might look up if he, in fact, does have this significant challenge from her, and that it may shake up the race in ways that we're not anticipating.
Do you think that's plausible or not?
GONZALES: I think for a more casual person, if a closer margin in New Hampshire could make the difference, but if DeSantis gets out after Iowa,
which I think is a reasonable expectation, hit -- the top hit -- the second choice for DeSantis supporters is usually Trump.
And so, some of those, he's -- DeSantis isn't doing well in New Hampshire, but over the long haul, again, those DeSantis folks are more likely to go
to Trump, or let's take Ramaswamy, that message resonates probably more with Trump supporters than it is to Nikki Haley. And so, if Ramaswamy drops
out, that probably helps Trump, too. So, the consolidation one-on-one does not necessarily mean that Trump's going to lose.
HUNT: Maria, I want to show you there is an ad that a Haley supporting Super PAC has on the air in New Hampshire that has like some of these
attacks. Let's take a look at the ad and I'll -- we'll talk about it.
MARIA CARDONA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR AND U.S. DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: OK.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Trump can't stop lying about Nikki Haley. One temper tantrum after another. His entire campaign based on revenge. Trump is lying
about Haley because he knows she's the only one who can beat him. The choice is clear. More chaos and drama with Donald Trump, or a new
generation of leadership with Nikki Haley.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUNT: So, I got to say, I mean, that's not coming from the Haley campaign, but that is actually an attack. That is an attack ad for Donald Trump.
CARDONA: And that's the problem, that it's not coming from the Haley campaign. And she could have repeated that last night, and it would have
been a lot stronger than her performance that we saw.
The fact, Kasie, that you have to ask this question, does she have what it takes to go after Trump? Trump means to me that she doesn't because if she
had, we would have had an answer to that question months ago because that's what it would have taken to actually overtake Trump. It's too late.
And I agree with you. I think that if she does -- comes in second in Iowa, you know, when's New Hampshire, which I think is a big, if.
HUNT: Huge if. Huge.
CARDONA: Huge if. Exactly.
HUNT: Yes. That was definitely a hypothetical.
CARDONA: That's right. Huge if.
HUNT: To be clear.
CARDONA: There's no other state where we're talking about the possibility of Nikki Haley coming in even a close second, including South Carolina,
Kasie. Let's remember, this is her home state. Is she going to be embarrassed in South Carolina by coming in a distant, like 10, 20, 30
points from Donald Trump?
So, to me, the question is, if she doesn't do what she needs to do in Iowa, if she doesn't win New Hampshire, does she drop out before being
embarrassed in her own home state in South Carolina?
HUNT: Jeff, can I ask you? I mean, you're from the South, obviously, but Georgia has -- Georgia Republicans specifically, have behaved very
differently in recent elections than South Carolina Republicans than many other red Southern states, I mean, Georgia has rejected Republican
candidates, they really seem to turn on Trump in a way, you know, it went blue for Joe Biden in a way that, you know, certainly surprised me on
election night, I think surprised a lot of people.
What is your kind of take on why it is that voters in your party are just so attached here and that it creates this conundrum where, I mean, Nikki
Haley -- you know, any -- if you talk to any of these guys, they'll say, like, well, you can't take Trump on because then you're just going to piss
off all the people that love him to death?
DUNCAN: Yes, it's certainly a conundrum. And Georgia specifically, I point to Brian Kemp's most recent race. He ran against David Perdue, who was
handpicked by Donald Trump. Obviously, Brian Kemp pushed back on the 2020 rigged election narrative and he won convincing 52 points and then he beat
And so, I think Georgia voters had got a front row seat for the chaos that Donald Trump created. But at the end of the day, Donald Trump has a grasp
on the Republican Party because of his personality, not because of his leadership. There's nothing about his leadership.
I mean, I don't know of a single Republican that would hire Donald Trump to do anything. I wouldn't hire him to cut my grass, watch my kids, you know,
run my business, certainly manage my money. But yet, we're thinking about electing him as president. And so, we've become addicted to his personality
instead of his leadership capabilities. And that's the golden moment that we sit as Republicans.
If we could just get out of our own way right now and move past Donald Trump, we would have this perfect opportunity to beat the brakes off Joe
Biden, who, statistically, even on the Democratic side, isn't a strong candidate at this point in the race. Only against Donald Trump is he a
GONZALES: But one of the -- I think one of the problems on the electability argument that Haley and maybe DeSantis is trying to make is
that when voters look at the polls, Trump is beating Biden in many of the key states.
And so, when Nikki Haley last night was saying, well, we -- we're winning by 17, we can win the House and the Senate. I think some Republicans are
looking and say, hey, well, Trump, he's winning too, or you told us last time that Trump wasn't going to win and he won.
And so, I just don't think Nikki Haley --
DUNCAN: I think that lead is a mirage, right? I think when we have nine plus months or eight months or seven months of just complete carpet bombing
of Donald Trump's record by the Biden campaign, when we watch him continue to unpack himself in the courtroom and continue to grab on to crazy, I just
can't imagine he beats even Joe Biden.
CARDONA: Yes. I think that's true.
HUNT: Can you imagine? I mean, I will say that is one attack line that -- I mean, we've heard a little bit of it in this race, but the idea that
Donald Trump is a loser, that he is going to lose the election for Republicans, I mean, call Mitch McConnell, you know, the most experienced
Republican in Washington, and he will say those two seats -- and Jeff Duncan is Georgia -- are blue because of Donald Trump.
And obviously, Trump lost to Biden as much as, you know, obviously Trump is trying to convince the world that that's not the case.
CARDONA: That that's exactly right. And those are arguments I think that frankly Ron DeSantis has been making. He's the one who still says that he
doesn't think Donald Trump can win the general election.
And so, I think writ large though, that argument has not been made, wasn't made early enough with the facts and evidence to back it up for the
Republican electorate to really understand it.
And to go back to Georgia, I think one of the reasons why Brian Kemp was so successful is because he never gave in to Donald Trump. He never tried to
whitewash what he said. He never tried to thread the needle or, you know, walk the tightrope, which is exactly what Ron DeSantis and Nikki Haley have
been doing up until now. That's why they have been failing at it and that's why Brian Kemp did not.
HUNT: I mean, again, I go back to this question. I mean, there's something about Republicans in Georgia that is just like it's a different -- it's a
slightly different group.
All right. We got a lot more to talk about. We're going to pick up on these Ron DeSantis threads, because if DeSantis wants to be a contender, he needs
a second-place finish in Iowa. Can he do it? Our panel weighs in next.
HUNT: Welcome back to "State of the Race." As we noted at the top, we are just four days away from Iowa and Ron DeSantis' reckoning there. He badly
needs to finish second to stay in any form of contention.
On the CNN debate stage last night, he aggressively attacked Nikki Haley, and he said this about frontrunner Donald Trump.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DESANTIS: Donald Trump should be on this stage. He owes it to you, here in Iowa, to explain this change he's had and his positioning, to explain why
he has a tough time saying whether a man can become a woman or not, to explain why he wants to build a billion dollar plus big beautiful new FBI
building right in the heart of the swamp in Washington, D.C. He needs to explain why he didn't build the wall and why he added $7.8 trillion to the
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUNT: All right. The panel is back with me now. An interesting kind of frame here from DeSantis because obviously Donald Trump has not come to
these debates because he doesn't feel as though he needs to. And I want to show you a couple of things that DeSantis has said about how Donald Trump
makes it so that all that is talked about is Donald Trump.
The first is from back in December, and it's actually about Trump's legal issues, where DeSantis, you know, you'd think that that would be a
liability for a presidential candidate, DeSantis disagrees. Take a look at what he said in December.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DESANTIS: I wish Trump hadn't been indicted on any of this stuff. I think it distorted the primary.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because it's helped him? Is that what you're saying?
DESANTIS: It's both that, but then it also has just crowded out, I think, so much other stuff, and it sucked out a lot of oxygen.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUNT: Sucked out a lot of oxygen. I -- you know, honestly, in some ways, it's really hard to argue with that. Now, here's what Ron DeSantis had to
say about trying to break through, particularly in the conservative media that usually, or that, frankly, always plays a significant role in the
Republican nominating process. Take a look at what he said earlier this morning.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DESANTIS: So much of this stuff is how media is portraying. I mean, for example, you know, Donald Trump's got a Praetorian Guard with the
conservative media. And I think that if he had been debating these times, you know, it would have put us in a great position to be able to do a
national narrative that was a little bit different.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUNT: Jeff Duncan, you probably know a lot of people who spend a lot of time in the conservative media. Is Ron DeSantis right about the Praetorian
DUNCAN: Who knows at this point. I mean, everybody wants to spin Donald Trump's words, and he uses -- day to day he changes his opinion as to which
media group he's going to try to use as a pawn.
At the end of the day, Donald Trump is a performer and I think Ron DeSantis is missing a golden opportunity. Once again, we talked about this on the
last segment, is just to call balls and strikes. Just call balls and strikes. I think that 60 percent of the Republican Party that doesn't want
Donald Trump to be the next president would love that and support that.
HUNT: Yes. I think the problem is the whole country can't agree on where the hell his strike zone is, right?
GONZALES: And where -- and what would be interesting is what if we rewound and took Ron DeSantis, -- what if DeSantis used the message that he has
now, from the beginning, right, from -- in May or June when he got into the race.
HUNT: I wonder that a lot. Yes.
GONZALES: Because now, this is different DeSantis messaging over the last few weeks than what we saw for most of the campaign.
DUNCAN: His fatal flaw out of the gates was he tried to be Donald Trump light, right? He tried to think Donald Trump Jr. or Donald Trump watered
down slightly. Nobody's going to beat Donald Trump at his game.
And quite honestly, I hope we don't try to beat Donald Trump at his game as Republicans because we don't get our way. We elect people like Joe Biden to
be president instead of a true conservative.
CARDONA: I think that's the fatal flaw of all of the candidates because, let's be honest, to have taken down Donald Trump from the very beginning,
it would have taken every single other one of those candidates to do exactly what Chris Christie did. And no one had the backbone to do it
because they didn't want to lose the MAGA base.
I go back to Brian Kemp. Brian Kemp actually demonstrated how you can lead your own voters, your own base, into a situation where they understand the
difference between real leadership and somebody who's in it for just themselves, which is Donald Trump.
CARDONA: And no one else has been able to copy that model.
HUNT: All right. So, let's talk about Trump for a second because he was on stage last night as well. And there were a lot of headlines this morning
about what he had to say on abortion that, to me, was aimed at the Republican primary electorate. He still has to win with them. But then, he
sort of sang a different tune as well, just a few minutes apart from the original Republican primary oriented answer.
Let's start with the one that was for conservatives. This is him saying he was proud that he terminated Roe v. Wade.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: For 54 years they were trying to get Roe v. Wade terminated, and I did it, and I'm proud to have done it. There was no chance that that was
going to happen. For 54 years, they campaigned on that issue, and nobody pulled it off but me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUNT: So, before we get to the next one, which I'm going to play, just briefly, Maria, I mean, that's a Democratic ad.
CARDONA: Oh, yes.
CARDONA: Yes, absolutely. And you can bet any money you want to the fact that Democrats are not going to let him get away with what he's trying to
do, soften his stance, say that he thinks that, you know, Republicans aren't doing on the --
HUNT: Before we get into that, let's play that part where he attempts --
CARDONA: OK. Yes.
HUNT: -- to soften his stance or really --
HUNT: -- I mean, honestly says kind of the reverse of what he just said in that clip I played. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Well, I happen to be for the exceptions like Ronald Reagan, with the life of the mother, rape, incest. Well, if you talk five or six weeks,
a lot of women don't know if they're pregnant in five or six weeks. We still have to win elections. And they've used this -- you know, we have
some great Republicans, and they're great on the issue, and you would love them on the issue and a lot of them have just been decimated in the
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUNT: So, I suppose I should amend my previous remarks. He didn't say the opposite of what he had said before, but on the one hand he says he's proud
that he terminated Roe v. Wade. And on the other hand, he notes correctly that Republicans are losing elections on this, Nathan.
GONZALES: Yes. I mean, without the overturning of Roe v. Wade, the 2022 elections probably would have been a red wave. I think that that decision
and subsequent action by state legislatures to go even further on restricting access to abortion energized the Democratic base, and it turned
off independent voters.
So, if Democrats can replicate that in 2024 energized Democratic base, getting independent covers, that is the pathway to Biden winning re-
CARDONA: And I think that's exactly what we're going to do, and I think that's exactly what's going to happen because the Republicans in so many
states have doubled down on making it a lot harder for women to have this innate choice that they should have regardless, and that no one should be a
part of it except themselves, their family, their doctors and their faith, if that's what they choose.
And it's going to be something that Democrats will be putting for -- you know, front and center. Joe Biden, Kamala Harris is going to be a huge part
of this, the whole Democratic Party base, to make the argument in terms of the larger context that this is something that Republicans are going to try
and do, take away your rights, your freedom, your privacy, and it really dovetails nicely with Joe Biden's overall theme about how this is threat to
democracy writ large.
DUNCAN: All things come back to Georgia. So, we tackle this issue.
HUNT: Yes, they do.
DUNCAN: We actually passed a heartbeat bill, right? So, while we were in - - Governor Kemp and I, I was the lieutenant governor, we passed a heartbeat bill and yet, we still have majorities in the House and the Senate and
Governor Kemp won, and everybody but those two Senate seats that Donald Trump lost for us are Republicans.
But I think it's important how we did it. We didn't do it with this political overtone like what you hear Donald Trump talking about. We did it
with a lot of empathy. We talked about foster care. We talked about adoption. We talked about ways to improve services, the way to walk into
that 16-year old's life and understand and be better prepared to help her in that moment of crisis.
And so, I think there's better ways to do it. Certainly, there's going to be two different political perspectives on this. But the reality is, if
Republicans talked about this issue, as to almost everybody is pro-life and pro-choice, it's just about where on the calendar it comes in at, and you
shrink the argument from being a polar opposites of pro-life, pro-choice, and you shrink the conversation down to where on the clock or the calendar
-- the realities come in, then I think it's a more cordial conversation to have in a committee roomo or on a House or Senate floor.
GONZALES: And we saw some of that softer messaging, though it didn't work in Virginia, right, in the most recent elections. To me, if this election -
- we get to the fall and this election is about abortion access, Democrats should be excited. But if it's about is Biden too old or not, or the
economy, you know, we'll see where the economy is. It gets it. But if it's about abortion in general, I think Democrats are winning.
CARDONA: Which I think it will be because I think it's changed.
HUNT: And I will say, I mean, I think the pushback is, this shouldn't be a commit from Democrats. This shouldn't be about people in committee rooms
making decisions about it.
HUNT: And I do take your point about the legislature. I wonder if abortion ultimately doesn't make it much more likely that Georgia goes for Biden.
CARDONA: I think it will.
HUNT: All right. We got to go to this next story, because Trump is back in court today, in New York. How he's leveraging his legal troubles to try to
boost his presidential campaign. What a sentence. That's up next.
HUNT: Welcome back to "State of the Race." I'm Kasie Hunt. We are live in Washington.
Donald Trump is once again campaigning from the courtroom today. The former president is back in New York for the closing arguments in his civil fraud
trial. He will not be speaking in court as Trump's lawyers chose not to agree to standard terms on what Trump could discuss while on the stand. But
he says he'll be holding a news conference after the closing arguments.
Kristen Holmes is with us. She is in New York. Kristen, we've been talking a lot about how Trump is just using this to grab the spotlight and that,
honestly, it's kind of been working for him from a political perspective.
KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN U.S. NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Kasie absolutely has been working for him. Just a reminder, he was in court Tuesday and he's in
court today, neither of which were mandatory appearances. He chose to show up in court.
Now, part of this is that we are just days away from Iowa and he wants to suck all the oxygen out of the race away from these other opponents. We
know Nikki Haley and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis are duking it out for second place. We've seen a rise in Nikki Haley's poll numbers. He doesn't
want to give them any of that oxygen, and it does work. He is a former president who is sitting in court.
Now, whether or not he was ever actually going to deliver his closing remarks, it does seem crazy that he would do so, that his lawyers would
allow him to do so. That's literally why you hire lawyers. It worked in terms of a media stunt because he was out there, his team was filing all of
the legal paperwork to make this happen, and then at the end, they said, well, we're not going to agree to any of these restrictions.
And by the way, the restrictions that you mentioned that the judge was listening was essentially not attacking him or courtroom staff, it was to
say -- it was to not make a campaign speech, to make this just about the legal findings in the case. It wasn't some kind of you can't speak, but of
course, Donald Trump already managed to turn that around saying that the judge was trying to silence him. That he wasn't allowed to speak, even
though again, he did not agree to the restrictions. The judge himself said that it was OK, that he was inclined to let him speak because Donald Trump
himself is the one who has the most at stake in this trial.
Now, the other thing to point out, Kasie, is that he does care very much about this specific trial, more so than really any of the others that he is
facing, because it goes to the heart of who he is as a politician and as a human. And he's built an entire brand on being this wealthy, successful
businessman, and this essentially is saying that he lied, that he made a lot of it up, and that is something that he feels that he cannot really
have. So, he is -- has been appearing in this. And when you talk to people around him, you know that he is engaged in this case.
But overall, yes, using this as a campaign stop. As you said, he will be delivering remarks. We don't know exactly in news conference, who is going
to have access, what it's going to look like, but he is going to, again, try to seize the spotlight, turning this into a campaign stop rather than
just a court proceeding.
HUNT: Busy day for you, Kristen Holmes. Busy year for you. Thank you very much for that report.
Our panel is back with us. I mean, Jeff Duncan, the reality is that this has been working for him. I mean, the two biggest campaign fundraising days
he -- Donald Trump has had, let's put this up on the screen, April 4th, that was the day that Trump was arraigned in a court in Manhattan. So, it
was the beginning of all of this. I would say that indictment on that front was probably the least consequential of the things that he ultimately ended
up facing, but clearly, it was one that galvanized his supporters. Second one was mugshot day, the day that Trump was booked into the Fulton County
Why are -- why do people respond to this stuff?
DUNCAN: Donald Trump could not have scripted the last 24 hours any better than what he has, right? His two biggest Republican opponents just went on
stage yesterday and essentially didn't say a single bad thing about him other than just kind of tap, tap. And now, he walks in and he's got the
spotlight in New York.
I can't explain it. It's a personality gravitational pull. Donald Trump has tapped in and confused Republicans around the country that the angrier you
are, the louder you are, the more conservative you are, and that could be no further from the truth.
I mean, I just look at the evangelical crowd. I was going to be driven by a huge evangelical turnout. For some reason, they have allowed somebody that,
you know, the -- at least the book I read about, this Jesus guy, doesn't talk a whole lot about what I get to see play out on TV in courtrooms and
sexual issues and, you know, love, joy, peace, patience. You know, all of that really seems to matter to evangelicals, or at least it should. I think
there will be a regretful period of time for that group. But, yes, he's got a spell on Republicans.
HUNT: I really enjoy, I've been -- I'm in the middle of Tim Alberta longtime friends' book about the very types of voters you talk about. And
one of the things he's -- he wonders is, what's with all the reading of the Old Testament? And, you know, where -- what's with the lack of focus on
Jesus and the way he approached the world?
Nathan, I do want to show you one clip from what we heard from Trump last night where -- and I took this as part of Trump's focus on the general
election because it's a little bit of a change of course from something that got a lot of attention when he said it, and that's around this
question and his statement that he would be a dictator only on day one, but he would be a dictator on day one. That was in a town hall with Sean
Hannity. Here's what he had to say last night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BAIER: So, can you say tonight that political violence is never acceptable?
TRUMP: Well, of course that's right, and of course I'm the one that had very little of it. The new narrative they have, as you know, is I'm going
to be a dictator. No, no. I am not going to be a dictator. I'm going to manage like we did.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUNT: So, let's take two pieces there, because the first thing is that I'm the one that had very little of it, political violence. I would just like
to -- as someone that was at the Capitol on January 6th, firmly dispute that. I think you have been the target of violence that has been
perpetrated by people who support Donald Trump, Lieutenant Governor.
And then, the second piece of it is, I'm not going to be a dictator, I'm going to manage like we did. He means like we did in the previous -- in his
We also, I should say, there was a bomb threat called in on the judge today. It didn't turn out to be anything, I don't want to focus on it. But
people are inspired by Donald Trump to commit acts of violence and he's not taking responsibility for that here.
GONZALES: And some of the violence that he decries, the -- after the killing of George Floyd, you know, those happened also while he was
president. I think this is not -- if Trump was comfortable with being called a dictator or relished that, he wouldn't have tried to backtrack
like he did last night. So, someone is telling him that this is not the way you want to go.
And I think a key for Trump is if this election is about looking backward about Trump's four years in office, I don't think that's what voters really
want. What Republicans and Trump should want is focus on Biden. Do you think Biden's doing a good job? Is he too old? Is he up for another four
years? But the more they're getting -- the more Trump focuses on, hey, look at what I did in the past. I don't think that's --
DUNCAN: If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, it's probably a duck, right? I don't think history shows us that people
just walk on stage and say, I'm a dictator, but they act like a dictator. And to your point --
HUNT: Trump did walk on stage at one point and say, I am going to be a dictator.
DUNCAN: And to your point --
HUNT: But yes. I take your point.
DUNCAN: And to you point about the cycle, I mean, Donald Trump knows exactly what he's doing. I mean, here was what -- how it played out with
our family. Donald Trump would say something completely unhinged and tweet about it. And then, within minutes, my wife would call me crying because
she got some sort of crazy call that came in that knew our kids names, right? Like -- and that happens over and over and over again.
So, this guy knows exactly what he's doing, and he knows what he's tapping into, and it's people's worst, not people's best.
HUNT: All right. That's actually a really good, good place to put a punctuation mark on this conversation. So, thank you all very much for
Up next, the governor of New Hampshire hopes that Chris Christie's voters will pour into Nikki Haley's camp. Just ahead, we're going to speak to
Governor Chris Sununu.
HUNT: Welcome back. As we've discussed today, a new CNN poll shows Nikki Haley within single digits of Donald Trump in New Hampshire. And she owes
no small part of that momentum to our next guest. Let's go now to the governor of New Hampshire, Chris Sununu.
Governor, thanks so much for being here.
GOV. CHRIS SUNUNU (R-NH): You bet.
HUNT: So, Chris Christie obviously dropped out of the race in New -- yesterday, ahead of New Hampshire. He had some pretty tough words for you
right before that happened after there was a suggestion that, you know, you thought perhaps he was going to drop out. He called you a liar.
What -- when did you last talk to Chris Christie?
SUNUNU: Oh, I haven't talked to Chris in a few weeks. You know, probably right before -- we kind of exchanged some messages right around the time I
But look, Chris is a great guy. He ran a tough race. You know, obviously, you know, not that we -- folks are pushing him out per se, that was really
-- it had to be his call, but he's smart. He knew kind of the writing on the wall. His ability to deliver Trump a loss had kind of hit its maximum
saturation point, if you will.
Nikki is the one that has the chance to deliver Trump the loss. It's really become a one-on-one race between Nikki Haley and Donald Trump. She's very
close in a lot of these polls. I mean, you got to work hard. You got to do the retail politics. That's exactly what Nikki is doing. So, no, I haven't
talked to Chris in a little while.
And look, anyone -- anytime you have to get out of a race, that's a tough situation. You know, I'm sure they're disappointed. I'm sure a lot of the
voters are disappointed. So, you know, I'm sure things will cool down a little bit. And in the meantime, Nikki and I are just going to keep going
out there town to town, person to person trying to earn the votes to deliver Trump the loss that really nobody thought was possible, right? That
would exceed all expectations if she were able to do that.
HUNT: What's your sense being on the ground there about where things are moving here?
SUNUNU: It's all behind Nikki. I mean, there's no question. I mean, the polls say that, the feeling says that, the momentum says that. You know,
she has been on the ground here spending money, spending her time interacting with folks in the right way. Not just like flying in and doing
a rally and flying out. She really engages with voters the way you're supposed to do it. She's earning it.
HUNT: Who does that? Does Donald Trump do that?
SUNUNU: No, no, I mean, yes, like Donald does his big rallies, right? He'll get a couple thousand people every month, but Nikki will literally
get five to seven hundred people, you know, three times a day. So, you know, and most of Trump's people are from out of state.
So, I get there's a lot of hype and all that around the frontrunner. He is the former president, of course, people are going to come in and see him,
but he's not earning it on the ground. And that's really the difference maker and why she's skyrocketing and everyone else is either going down or
HUNT: What do you think Nikki Haley has to do in Iowa to make sure that the trajectory that you've just described doesn't change?
SUNUNU: Well, I'd say this. You know, Nikki didn't lay out any expectations for Iowa. Trump and DeSantis both said they were going to win
Iowa, right? They have set the bar pretty high for themselves. Nikki hasn't really set any expectations. I think as long as she works hard, she has a
strong showing. I think that's great. But really, we're, we're focused on New Hampshire.
I've been with her in Iowa. I think she does great. People are still coming out the doors, you know, packed houses with all these town halls that she's
doing. She's going to breweries. She's going to people's living rooms. She's going to the town halls and all that.
Here in New Hampshire, she's doing the exact same thing. And as this gets closer to election day, isn't just a couple town halls, I mean, you'll see
her be doing seven to 10 events a day minimum, right? Just a lot of this little retail politics stuff, making that connection with individual voters
and not just in the southern tier of New Hampshire, all across, right, all 10 counties, really making sure that she's kind of touching everyone all
across the state so they get a sense of who she is and how she can deliver.
We all have a lot of the same policies as Republicans, right? Trump and Nikki and I and Ron, we all share a lot of those same policies, but it's
who gets it done, who actually delivers on securing the border, who actually delivers on fiscal responsibility, who actually delivers on
healthcare reform, who -- these are all really important things, Nikki knows how to do it, and that's why people are getting behind her, because
at the end of the day, government has to get results.
HUNT: Governor, what is different about the Republican electorate in New Hampshire from elsewhere that Nikki Haley's argument -- other Republicans'
arguments are resonating? Because the reality is Trump is very close and often over 50 percent whether it's in national polls, whether it's in, you
know, other state polls, certainly in Iowa, but not in New Hampshire.
Why is it? What is it about Donald Trump? And what is it about the New Hampshire electorate that makes that true?
SUNUNU: Well, two things. Understand that nationally, the conversation isn't happening nationally, guys. The only national -- the national polls
are only a reflection of basically earned media and name ID off of national media.
Where the conversation is happening in Iowa, New Hampshire, Trump's under 50 percent, right? People realize there's a much better alternative. And
that's of the Republican base, never mind the general electorate.
So, where the conversation is happening, where folks are connecting, that's what the voters demand. I'm not going to pick the winner of this, the media
isn't, the pundits aren't, only the voters are going to decide. So, when you engage them, they see there's great alternatives out there, and that's
why they do so well.
Nobody in Nebraska is interacting with a presidential candidate, no one in Kansas, no one -- even in Florida. I mean, there's virtually none of the
candidates are going down to Florida to do the retail politics. So, that's the fundamental difference.
This is where the action, the conversations are happening, and when you have that conversation, people realize there's much better alternatives to
HUNT: And you still think that that's enough to change the rest of that national conversation? Because, I mean, I get it. In New Hampshire, you're
HUNT: I've been there. I've covered, you know, plenty of primary up there. But, honestly, the rest of the election is national.
SUNUNU: That's right. So, a third of Trump voters say that they would consider somebody else. And the number one reason our Trump voter stays
with Trump, they -- all the polls say this, is, well, he's got to win anyway, right? So, people are getting behind him because they assume he's
going to win, not necessarily because he's the best option or candidate.
So, when you kind of break that -- when you shatter the glass on that, when you show that Trump -- deliver Trump a loss here in New Hampshire and then
be able to go to South Carolina and possibly do the same thing in our home state of South Carolina, well now you've shattered the national narrative.
You've shattered all those presumptions that are just wrong, right? And now, you've really built momentum.
I mean, to have the potential, and it's a long shot, it's tough, but to have two primaries and Trump delivered a loss, in both those primaries
where no one thought that was possible, that would completely shatter the national discussion in a really positive way, and allow people to say, OK,
it's now a binary choice, it's a one-on-one race, it's Haley versus Trump, we go into Super Tuesday and anything's possible.
HUNT: But it is a long shot, you acknowledge?
SUNUNU: Well, yes. Look, Trump is the former president of the United States, the standard bearer of the party, if you will, for the last seven
years, he hasn't done a very good job with it in the last few years. We keep losing elections with him at the top. But yes, folks shouldn't be
surprised that he's been leading in the polls 20, 30 points.
Now, in New Hampshire, everything's tightening, everything's closing where the conversation. And what -- and as you -- we always wanted to narrow the
field, right? And that's exactly what New Hampshire's primary job is. Get it to a one-on-one race.
Even if Nikki doesn't win here. That's still going to be a victory because, again, it's going to be narrowed to a one-on-one race going into her home
HUNT: I see your expectation setting. I see that.
SUNUNU: That's it. That's it. Well, look, Trump is the one that -- and the media has set the expectations on Trump. If he doesn't deliver with
monstrous wins, all of a sudden that narrative falls apart.
HUNT: That's fair. So, Governor, I have to ask you, you have said that you would vote for Donald Trump if he's the Republican nominee. You would vote
for him even if he's a convicted felon, even if he's convicted of subverting the election?
SUNUNU: Well, look, so I understand the comment from last night. My point is -- that's a massive hypothetical, right? That's a year away. It's a huge
hypothetical. My point is this, I know the national media tries to keep things --
HUNT: I mean, it's -- with all things you've just laid out. He's a former president. He's the standard bearer of your party. I'm asking you, if he
gets convicted, are you going to vote for him?
SUNUNU: Yes. So, the point is this, with all the -- with all of the court cases going on, every time there's something against Trump, the media says,
well this'll be it, this'll be the deciding maker. None of that has actually affected his ability to garner votes and win elections, none of
HUNT: That's in no small part because of Republican --
SUNUNU: So, whether it's on the local stuff or the national stuff --
HUNT: -- leadership who doesn't say things like, no, I won't vote for him if he's a convicted felon. No?
SUNUNU: Well, look, again, I'm trying to make the point on this wild hypothetical that if you think that just, if there's just a conviction
here, Trump is over, that's not going to happen, guys.
HUNT: That's not the hypothetical I'm putting to you.
SUNUNU: It's not going to affect the vote.
HUNT: I'm asking you as a person.
HUNT: As a person. I mean, you watch what happened on January 6th. Can you vote for him if he's the Republican nominee?
SUNUNU: Sure. It was awful. It was awful.
HUNT: And he's been convicted for that.
SUNUNU: Look, I'm not going to jump onto -- I'm not going to jump -- you know, get swamped into that hypothetical again. The point is really about,
don't think that he's just going to be stopped because of what happens in a court case. That is a huge fallacy. It really is.
So, a lot of folks are going to get behind him no matter what. And that just -- that's just the reality of the situation. This is how bad Joe Biden
is. This is how bad he has screwed up this economy. This is how bad he has driven us on international issues where they will -- the -- not even the
Republican base, the general electorate of America would likely take Donald Trump, in a lot of different circumstances, over Joe Biden. Because
inflation is real, Bidenomics, or whatever you call it, is an absolute joke. The border security stuff is extremely real, and folks are getting
crushed financially, as much as Joe Biden doesn't want to look at it.
HUNT: All right.
SUNUNU: This is how bad your -- the Democrats candidate is. That's really the point I'm trying to make. And if you think that just, oh, one
conviction, we're one conviction away of not having any more Trump drama, no.
HUNT: Yes, that -- I mean, that wasn't my -- that's not my hypothetical. I --
SUNUNU: You're one election away, and only Nikki Haley can deliver that.
HUNT: I take -- look, I actually absolutely take your point. I'm not trying to argue with you in terms of what would take Donald Trump down or
not. I mean, I think every piece of evidence that we all have points to that exact hypothesis.
Do you think that if Republican leaders had stepped up after January 6th, if Kevin McCarthy hadn't gone down to Mar-a-Lago, that things would be
different today, or do you think it would have made no difference?
SUNUNU: No. It wouldn't have really made much of a difference because Trump's going to do what Trump's going to do, right? I mean, that's just
it. I mean, the court cases were going to come, whether they're legitimate or not, whether they're politically driven or not, some are, some aren't,
they were going to come no matter what. So, that narrative really wasn't going to change.
HUNT: All right. Governor Chris Sununu, I hope, you know, at some point -- I mean, I guess depending on what happens with Nikki Haley, but in the
event she doesn't and you come back speaking just on your own behalf, I do want to ask you the same question again, for what it's worth.
SUNUNU: But understand, this isn't about me, right? It's about Trump, Haley, the election, the primary, New Hampshire's role in it. This isn't
about Chris Sununu. This is about who's going to be president --
HUNT: I know.
SUNUNU: -- and lead this country forward.
HUNT: But you're still -- you still are the governor of New Hampshire.
SUNUNU: I'm an outgoing governor. I don't matter.
HUNT: I want to know what you're going to do. Like, come on.
SUNUNU: Yes. Look, I'm an outgoing governor. I don't matter. Don't worry about that. It's all about Nikki and Trump going forward. That's what it's
HUNT: All right. New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu, thank you very much for joining us. I always really enjoy talking to you.
SUNUNU: You bet. Thanks.
HUNT: All right. Our panel is back to talk about that. Jeff Duncan, obviously Chris Sununu -- Governor Sununu is a good-natured guy. But I
think underneath that a lot of the themes we've been talking about all day that are -- are serious ones are on display. I mean, he would not say one
way or the other, and in fact insisted it was strictly hypothetical, and that, you know, he didn't even want to talk about whether or not he as a
Republican governor of one of our 50 states would vote for a convicted felon if Donald Trump were, in fact, a Republican nominee.
DUNCAN: Yes. The first half of that interview, I wanted to run for a -- run through a brick wall with his optimism. It was awesome. And certainly
he's a great governor. Has a conservative track record. But then I went -- the whole I would vote for Donald Trump even though he's a convicted felon,
I just hit the ultimate pause. And to your point, I think we have to be willing to say that as leaders inside the Republican Party so that we give
that confidence to those voters that are just voting with the momentum of the party.
And secondly, I disagree with the fact that leadership -- Kevin McCarthy and leaders are all across the state or the country would have stepped up
and said Donald Trump's lying about the election. There is no proof and just moved on, he would have had no oxygen to quote a daily famous phrase.
HUNT: Yes. All right. Maria, we got like 30 seconds. What was your takeaway?
CARDONA: I love that question, and it's still jaw dropping, Kasie, that he was not able to answer it. And I agree that that's going to be the
underlying reason why I don't think Nikki Haley's going to be successful. She hasn't really given a choice.
A lot of people in New Hampshire could be never Trumpers, could be Republicans who really want somebody who's going to show up and have
convictions. And if you can't say you're not going to vote for somebody who has been convicted, then you don't have convictions, and your candidate
doesn't have convictions.
HUNT: All right. It's time for us to take a quick break, but stay with us. The panel is going to be right back with one more thing.
HUNT: Welcome back to "State of the Race." The panel rejoins because, before we go, we always ask for one more thing on the campaign trail in
Washington. Anything you're watching for in the coming days. 30 seconds each.
Nathan, I'll start with you first. What's your one more thing?
GONZALES: Amidst all the presidential talk, we're looking at the special election in New York's 3rd District coming up on February 13th. This is the
election to replace --
HUNT: George Santos.
GONZALEZ: This is the election to replace George Santos. It's important not just because it is a seat in Congress and that it could narrow the
Democrat, narrow the Republican majority, but it also impacts the legislative ability of Republicans this year.
They're already -- they're going to be down a vote because of a Democrat replacing George Santos. They're already down a vote with Kevin McCarthy
leaving the House. Congressman Bill Johnson of Ohio is resigning on the 21st. And so, the Republican majority is about to get much more narrow in
the weeks and months ahead.
HUNT: Mike Johnson's job is going to get a lot harder. All right. Jeff Duncan, what's your one more thing?
DUNCAN: You teed me up, my one more thing is how messy this Speaker Mike Johnson situation gets for Republicans and how messy this Secretary of
Defense Lloyd Austin situation gets for Democrats.
Mike Johnson, you know, he has got an impossible job right now and it's been impossible since the moment he took office. Republicans can't figure
out which way they want to go and every time we show dysfunction and can't pass a budget and can't keep government open, it gives even more pause to
those voters in the middle that are trying to figure out if they can still hold their nose and vote for a Republican.
And then secondly, on the Democratic side, what's happening with Lloyd Austin feels a lot like dysfunction at the White House. And if they're not
telling their president that something serious is going on, then is there a connectivity through some of the most serious agencies in our in our
HUNT: Yes. Yes, it's a fair point. All right. Maria?
CARDONA: So, all the talks since Chris Christie bowed out of the race yesterday with that incredibly compelling speech is, would he endorse
either Nikki Haley or Ron DeSantis? My question is, how long is it going to take him to endorse Joe Biden and help him during the general election?
Why? Because during Chris Christie's speech yesterday and frankly all throughout this campaign, but last night very specifically, he said that he
is going to do everything that he can not to keep Donald Trump from being the nominee of the Republican Party, because I think that he knows that's
going to happen, but to keep him from the White House. And in doing that, he's going to have to help Joe Biden.
HUNT: He also used the phrase, soul of America. Thank you all --
HUNT: -- very much for being here. My one more thing, I'm going to Iowa. It's going to be negative 20 degrees. If you have recommendations for warm
socks in particular, but anything, find me on Twitter, on Instagram, I'm always there.
I am Kasie Hunt. That is the "State of the Race" for today, Thursday, January 11th. Don't go anywhere. "One World" is up next.