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State of the Race with Kasie Hunt

U.S. And UK Strike Iran-Backed Houthi Targets In Yemen; Growing Alarm Over Houthi Attacks On Red Sea Shipping; Biden: U.S. Strikes On Iran- Backed Houthis Send "Clear Message". Aired 11a-12p ET

Aired January 12, 2024 - 11:00   ET




KASIE HUNT, CNN HOST, STATE OF THE RACE: Conflict in the Middle East escalates, massive protests today after the United States and the UK

launched numerous airstrikes on Houthi rebels in Yemen. Temperatures are plummeting across Iowa as the Republican caucuses approach with candidates

forced to cancel events due to dangerously cold weather. We're going to have a live report for Des Moines -- from Des Moines and we need a

forecast. So, that'll be just ahead. Plus, in just over an hour, President Biden heads to Pennsylvania where he is expected to tour Bidenomics. How

will the President's message land in the Keystone State? We'll discuss that ahead.

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 Friday,

January 11. There are just three days until the Iowa caucuses, 11 days until the New Hampshire primaries, and only 297 days until Election Day.

This is -- today is January 12, I'm sorry, State of the Race.

All right. We begin with breaking news. There are huge crowds turning out in Yemen. They're protesting airstrikes that targeted Houthi rebels in

retaliation for repeated attacks on shipping in the Red Sea. The U.S. and the UK launched dozens of strikes overnight backed by countries including

Bahrain and Canada. The U.S. says more than 60 targets in Yemen were hit, including Houthi weapons depots and launching systems. A Houthi spokesman

says five people were killed. The UK released this footage of the strikes, calling them an act of self-defense. The Pentagon says deterrence is also



MAJOR GEN. PATRICK RYDER, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: The United States working very closely with the international community are taking very

responsible, deliberate methods here to try to ensure that we can deter these kinds of attacks in the future, but doing it in a way that prevents

this from spiraling out of control into a broader regional conflict.


HUNT: All right. Let's bring in Priscilla Alvarez. She is live for us at the White House. Priscilla, good morning to you. What is the Biden

administration saying at this hour? They have come under some criticism from members of the President's own party.

PRISCILLA ALVAREZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, they're saying that this was an effort to de-escalate the situation by degrading the capabilities of

the Houthis. Leading up to this point, the White House had been warning about these attacks in the Southern Red Sea, calling them intolerable, and

again issuing a final warning before launching these attacks. Now, on Tuesday, that really marked the turning point, according to senior

administration officials, when there were additional attacks that were targeting U.S. commercial vessels alongside U.S. Military vessels. And that

prompted President Biden to convene his national security team where they reviewed a list of options. And then, eventually, the President directed

his Defense Secretary to carry out the response.

Now, in a statement, President Biden saying that these targeted strikes are a clear message that the United States and our partners will not tolerate

attacks on our personnel or allow hostile actors to imperil freedom of navigation in one of the world's most critical commercial routes. That's

the key here. This was a critical waterway where major shipping companies had to reroute their boats to go around the continent of Africa, adding

time, miles and affecting the global economy.

But, as you mentioned there, some progressive lawmakers have pushed back, saying that there should have been more notification to Congress before the

administration moved forward with this. Now, senior administration officials have said that there was some notification to leadership on

Thursday before this happened in the night hours. But also, Nancy Pelosi saying that the administration ultimately took the right step here, even if

she respects her colleagues' views.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): It was not a declaration of war that has to come from Congress. I respect those who have their view, but I don't agree with

them. And I think the President made the right decision.


ALVAREZ: Now, ultimately, the resounding message from the administration, from the White House says that they will take additional measures if need

be, but that there was a risk to the global economy here. And they also are making very clear that they do not want to see tensions escalate, and this

was not intended to do that.

HUNT: All right. Priscilla Alvarez for us at the White House, Priscilla, thank you.

We're going to discuss all this now with today's panel. CNN National Security Analyst Peter Bergen; CNN Global Affairs Analyst Kimberly Dozier,

and CNN Reporter Katie Bo Lillis. Actually, hold on. We've got to pause. We got to listen to the House Speaker Mike Johnson.


He is giving us an update on government funding and other attempts on the Hill to pass key legislation. Let's listen.

REP. MIKE JOHNSON (R-LA): It's an important part of keeping the government running. The top line agreement includes hard-won concessions to cut more

billions, as you know, from the IRS giveaway and the COVID-era slush funds. It replaces accounting gimmicks from the prior FRA agreement. And it brings

Congress much closer to regular order, which is our big commitment here. And keeping up with my commitment to bring members into the legislative

process, I've spoken and received feedback this week from many members, all across the Republican Conference. That's a very important part of this.

When I became Speaker, I committed to decentralizing the Speaker's office and making this a member-driven process. That's been part of this. Our top

line agreement remains. We are getting our next steps together, and we are working toward a robust appropriations process. So, stay tuned for all that

to develop.

HUNT: All right. That was the House Speaker Mike Johnson. He -- we are learning is a pretty brief communicator, which is a little different from

the speakers that preceded him. But, he is talking about a top line spending agreement for the U.S. government. He says that that top line

spending agreement remains. That's the one that's between House Republicans and Democrats led by Chuck Schumer in the Senate. The question, of course,

is whether or not the hardliners in Johnson's conference are going to allow that to go forward, or if we're facing a government shutdown here in the

U.S. in just a couple of weeks? He did not seem to really address the root of that particular issue.

So, we're going to continue our conversation here at with our panel about the strikes overnight on Yemen against the Houthi rebels. We were just

introducing our panel, Kim Dozier, Peter Bergen. Katie Bo Lillis are all here with us.

Peter Bergen, I read with interest your sort of column this morning or looking at kind of how we got here --


HUNT: -- in Yemen. Can you kind of walk us through why it is that the Houthis actually have the ability to launch 27 strikes and impede world

commerce basically in the Red Sea?

BERGEN: Yeah. I mean, it really begins in 2015 when the Saudis intervened in the Yemeni Civil War. And the Houthis at that time were kind of a ragtag

militia. They weren't particularly well armed. Suddenly, Iran is arming them with ballistic missiles which are capable of hitting commercial

shipping, armed drones, etc. So, I mean, it's really -- the background here is the competition between Saudi Arabia and Iran in Yemen. And this ragtag

militia which, by the way, is not ideologically that close to the Ayatollahs of Iran. They practice two different kinds of Shiism, is now

basically an arm of the Iranian government with the effects that we've seen.

HUNT: And of course, clearly they -- those pictures that we have, those mob -- that mob crowd, I mean, shows kind of the support that they have on the


Kim Dozier, I want to show -- we have a little map that can kind of show the impact of -- I know we have one that shows the strikes, but there is

another that shows shipping vessels and how they are rerouted when these attacks come. That's, of course, the attacks that we've seen from the

Houthis again, 27 at this counting. 20 percent Red Sea activity is down. And you and I were talking a little bit about this this morning. But, the

solution has been in part to route these vessels down around Cape Horn in Africa. I mean, that is like a significant -- there it is. It's a

significant, as you can see, departure for these ships.

And I'm curious kind of in your -- I know you were on a briefing from the NSC last night. How much of this is about -- concern about how much more

money in the inflation that could be generated by the disruption to commerce?

KIMBERLY DOZIER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, that's exactly the argument that the U.S. and British officials have been making about why

they had to do these strikes that this was about keeping commercial lanes open. Something like 15 percent of the world's global trade goes through

the Red Sea, and to reroute it around Africa adds 10 to 14 days to the journey, and adds hundreds of thousands of dollars to the costs. So, major

shipping companies have already started boycotting going through the Red Sea. The insurance costs alone are too high. And all of this is adding cost

to global goods, which eventually Americans are going to feel in their pocketbook.

This is an election year. And Biden was also taking a beating for being too weak. I was hearing rumblings in the military community that, when are we

going to do something to get the Houthis to stop harassing our trade? Well, they finally did something. Now, the question is, have they taken out

enough of the Houthis' capability to actually keep things quiet for a bit, or have we just kicked off what's going to be a tit for tat back and forth,

which could always escalate to something else?

HUNT: Yeah. Katie Bo Lillis, the politics of this are extraordinarily complicated. The -- President Donald Trump or former President Donald Trump

posted about this, and his framing on this was, let me get this straight.


We're dropping bombs all over the Middle East again, where I defeated ISIS. Now, he goes on to criticize various other foreign policy actions that the

President took. Now, he says, now we have wars in Ukraine, Israel and Yemen, but nowhere on our southern border. Again, that's a political

attack. But, this sort of flips what has been kind of the traditional way of thinking about foreign policy on its head, right? Like, to Kim's point,

the traditional Republican line and for many Republicans in Congress, it's the President is weak. He is not doing enough. We need to be taking more

action. But instead, you've got this from Trump. You've got, of course, progressives on Biden's left saying, well, Congress didn't authorize this.

That's not terribly surprising. But, of course, then people like Nikki Haley are saying, hey, this is too little, too late.

How do you think the dynamics of all of that are impacting how the national security community is making decisions and what the White House is doing?

KATIE BO LILLIS, CNN REPORTER: Well, look, certainly. I mean, the Biden administration has to be thinking about what the impact is going to be on

them in 2024 --

HUNT: Yeah.

LILLIS: -- if this whole situation sort of spirals beyond what we have already seen. Like, as you've mentioned, we've seen kind of the traditional

politics of this sort of turned on its head as the sort of mood of general Americans has sort of shifted on both sides of the aisle towards this kind

of more isolationist attitude. But, I think the big question is, what happens if this does become sort of a broader conflict? Right? And to Kim's

point, I think we, at this point, don't really know how effective these strikes are going to have been in actually deterring the Houthis from

taking further action against U.S. shipping.

And I think if you talk to some regional experts, there is a sense amongst analysts that there is some real skepticism that these U.S. strikes are

going to have made a significant sort of difference in trying to get the Houthis to sort of back off of these strikes. And so, I raised this because

the Houthis are not the only Iranian-backed group in the region that are launching attacks both on sort of U.S. interests, on international

interests. There is also these sort of Iran-backed groups in Iraq and Syria that have launched dozens and dozens of attacks against U.S. forces.

If an American service member is killed either in Iraq, Syria or by a Houthi missile strike in the Red Sea, how does that change the sort of

political mood, the domestic political mood here in the United States? I mean, we remember sort of what happened during the withdrawal -- after the

Afghanistan withdrawal when 13 American service members were killed. Obviously, that --

HUNT: Yeah.

LILLIS: -- immediately brought a tremendous amount of heat on Biden. And so, you have to think the White House is thinking, OK, how do we make sure

that doesn't happen?

HUNT: Yeah. I mean, that was arguably the central turning point for the Biden administration when the country kind of honestly turned against him

if you look at his approval numbers.

All right. Peter Bergen, Kim Dozier, Katie Bo Lillis, thank you very much for being here.

We've got just three days to the Iowa caucuses, but the candidates are running into a big issue, so are us reporters who are heading out there,

the weather. We're going to take a look at just how bad the cold could be. Let me tell you, it is going to be really bad, and what that means for the






VIVEK RAMASWAMY, U.S. REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If you can't handle the snow, you're not ready for Xi Jinping.


HUNT: Oh, yeah. That was Vivek Ramaswamy mocking Nikki Haley for canceling events due to weather, before he not only canceled some of his events but

also before he drove his car or someone did into a snow ditch. Just you can't handle the snow. Exactly. What is coming next in Iowa is much more

than just snow. Blizzard-like conditions are expected throughout Iowa today. And this weekend, just plain bitter cold is predicted beginning

Sunday and continuing through the caucus on Monday. How bitter is bitter cold? The high is forecast below zero with wind chills making it feel like

negative 30 to negative 40 degrees. That is over 30 degrees colder than it was during a recent Donald Trump event when he felt like a balmy 34 degrees

was rather difficult to endure.


DONALD TRUMP, 45TH U.S. PRESIDENT: People are waiting for three, four days, and they say that's cold out there. That's a long wait. Right? It's pretty

cold out there. I said, where is my coat? I had to walk 15 feet from the car to the -- I said, do you have a coat, and these people are waiting for

three days. So, that's good. That means you're hardy. You're hardy people. You're strong people. Thank you. Thank you very much.


HUNT: Good luck to Mr. Trump for his events this weekend. On the ground in Des Moines is Jessica Dean with that blizzard behind her and with the

latest on blizzard conditions. We have Elisa Raffa at CNN Weather Center.

Jessica, I want to start with you. How is it out there? And how is this impacting these final days? I mean, normally, they are some of the busiest

of any campaign.

JESSICA DEAN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's exactly right, Kasie. And you know, on the Friday before the caucuses, it's usually event after

event after event all across the state of Iowa. And listen, behind me, you really don't see any cars on the streets. So many restaurants are closed.

Coffee shops are closed. We've seen Nikki Haley cancel all of her events today. She is doing tele town halls. Ron DeSantis was able to get one of it

in early this morning, but he has postponed the events he had planned for later today.

And look, where we are in the timing of all of this is really impactful. These are these last days where people are really cluing in, really

participating, where the politicians really want to be in front of as many Iowa voters as possible. And right now, you can't really get everybody in a

room because it's just impossible to get around. Now, the snow is supposed to stop a little bit later today. So, that will help. But, the intense cold

as we look ahead to Monday when people will actually be gathering at caucus sites is starting to play into all the politics of this.

We're seeing the Trump campaign begin to lower expectations saying, listen, in all of these polls and so many of these polls, he has this commanding

lead. People may stay home. It may be a smaller margin than originally predicted because of this weather. We've seen the former President himself

encouraging people to come out. On the DeSantis front, they have been talking about this ground game. This organization that they have with the

super PAC that's aligned with his campaign, well, it's really going to be put to the test on Monday. We're going to find out just how good that

organization is. Nikki Haley has been talking to her supporters about getting out.

But, it is going to be rather difficult, a higher bar, let's say, to get people -- to convince people to leave their homes when the wind gusts are

up to negative, making it feel like -- or I'm sorry, the wind chill negative 40. So, Kasie, it remains to be seen exactly what kind of impact

this will have. But, the campaigns are already starting to talk about it.

HUNT: No. For sure. And I have to say, we've been admiring how pulled together you have been all day with all this unfolding behind you. If I can

do half as well as you have done when I get there on Sunday --

DEAN: You will do great.

HUNT: -- I will (inaudible).

DEAN: You will be amazing.


HUNT: Thanks, Jess. I'll see you soon.

All right. Let's turn now to CNN Meteorologist Elisa Raffa for the latest on the conditions in Iowa. Elisa, I have been trying to compile cold

weather gear for the last couple of days because it's just -- I've never experienced. I've covered many a caucus. They've always been cold. I have

always prepared for cold. It's never been anything like this, right?

ELISA RAFFA, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yeah. No, never. And if you are packing, layers are your friend. It's the air in between the layers that keeps you

warm. But, we've got a blizzard unfolding right now, blizzard warning in effect for most of Iowa. We're going to get up to eight inches of snow.

But, what really packs the punch is the 45 mile per hour wind gusts. That's what makes it a blizzard. It's the wind whipping around the snow, dropping

the visibility, winter storm warnings stretch up to the Great Lakes. Here is a look at that radar right now. You could see where we have some of that

heavy snow around Des Moines. Your wind chill right now is a whole two degrees. You have wind chills already about 25 degrees below zero from

Sioux City and then up into northwest Iowa.

Now, behind this is when that huge Arctic plunge comes in as we go into the weekend, and then on Monday while people are trying to head out to caucus

events. So, overnight, going into Monday morning, here is a look at the wind chills, minus 45 in Des Moines. We put on here how much time it takes

to get frostbite. We're talking 10 minutes or less. This is dangerous, life-threatening cold as we go into Monday, and it continues to stick

around. Looking at wind chills, again, minus 30 to minus 40.

Here is a look at the past caucuses where we've had temperatures in the 30s and 40s. The coldest so far was 2004, a temperature of 16. But then, if we

put the forecast temperature on here for this one, we're looking at a high temperature of minus four. That would be the warmest that it gets during

the day. So, it doesn't even look like we'll break zero as we go through the day, on Monday, minus four. They're in Des Moines. And like I

mentioned, once you factor in the wind chill, wind chills as cold as minus 40. So, please bundle up and stay safe.

HUNT: Yeah, for sure. And I will say the low that's being forecast that morning, according to my iPhone, is negative 20, which is the hour that --

between five and six, the hour that I'm going to be on television. So, well, looking forward to it. Elisa Raffa, thank you very much for that.

We're going to dive in all this with today's panel. Faiz Shakir, Bernie Sanders campaign manager in 2020. Matt Gorman was Communications Advisor

and Republican Senator Tim Scott's presidential campaign. And Tamara Keith, White House Correspondent for National Public Radio, and co-host of the NPR

Politics Podcast. Welcome all. Who else is going to Iowa? Anyone?

MATT GORMAN, FORMER SENIOR ADVISOR FOR TIM SCOTT CAMPAIGN: I wish. I think you got sliced a couple of months ago. But, I wish.

HUNT: Matt, what do you think this is going to do? I mean, look, like we can put up a map of what Trump was supposed to do this weekend to kind of

give you a sense of how this was supposed to be, Cherokee, Sioux City, Atlantic, Indianola. Obviously, you get to all these on Trump Force One, on

a private plane to hit them all in that amount of time. But now, we've got the blizzard. And then, the other thing about Trump events, it's even

different than the caucuses, giant lines of people standing out in the cold --


HUNT: -- and they can't do that in this kind of cold. What do you think the actual material impact of this is going to be?

GORMAN: Stepping back, if I'm running Trump (inaudible), right, because these events are like kind of massive bombs or there is a ton of coverage

in one area, it's not as nimble. If I'm DeSantis, I'm Nikki, they mentioned doing tele town halls, I'm blanketing local coverage. I'm over CNN, Fox and

all the cable news, I can almost be more efficient sitting in a hotel with a satellite camera than I -- and a phone, then I can be anywhere else.

You're just trying to blank. Because people are right. They are sitting at home. They're watching TV, and they're doing that.

I think it's going to really put a notice in the ground game really well. These things are, again, unlike say New Hampshire primary where you have 12

hours to go vote, you're there say at seven o'clock Central. It is an event. You need to be there. It will last an hour. So, it's a little bit

easier. You're not going for just for 10 minutes voting and leaving. But, it's going to really put an onus on folks like Bob Vander Plaats for Ron

DeSantis to get the Evangelicals out and AFP for Nikki Haley to get her supporters out.

HUNT: Yeah. Faiz, you obviously have done this on the Democratic side. But, you've worked on campaigns that have been here. I mean, how hard is it to

convince people to like, actually -- I mean, this is not -- this is a tough ask. It's a tall order.

FAIZ SHAKIR, BERNIE SANDERS 2020 CAMPAIGN MANAGER: I'm thankful I'm not a campaign manager for any of the races right now. If you're -- I think there

is two elements that I would be concerned about if you are challenging Donald Trump. These last periods of days before the caucus are persuasion

days, where you get lots of people in a room, and you might have a chance to have person-to-person conversations where people might change their

mind. I think -- using the metaphor, the race is now iced, right, in like literally on the ground. But, I think in some ways, like, I think people

are going to be locked in.

And so, now you're just -- as Matt was saying, you get into Tuesday. And now on Tuesday, the second major element is transportation. I mean, weather

is like, sure, weather is weather, and people are tough in Iowa. They're going to be fine.

HUNT: Fair.

SHAKIR: Transportation is the issue. So, for all of us who've managed -- you got to get volunteers on -- in cars. This is not an urban center. We're

getting on subways or moving around on bikes or anything. No. You're -- you got to get in a car and drive, and the transportation is just going to be

demonic out there and I -- it's --


HUNT: Yeah. My colleague Alayna Treene is reporting that the Trump campaign is talking about renting four by fours --

SHAKIR: Yeah. It should.

HUNT: -- driving people around. Let's talk a little bit about some of the final messages that we're getting as we head toward the last weekend before

the caucuses. We've got a couple interesting decisions from groups of people about what they -- how they were going to frame this. We've got --

first, let's start here. This is an ad from the super PAC that's supporting Nikki Haley. It's about Ron DeSantis. Watch it.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Make America Great Again. Build the wall. SFA Fund, Inc. is responsible for the content of this advertising.


HUNT: I mean, Tam, your face kind of says it all. Like, what is that?

TAMARA KEITH, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, NPR, & CO-HOST, NPR POLITICS PODCAST: Well -- I mean, that is Ron DeSantis' campaign ad when he was

running for governor the first time when he was like hugging Trump as close as he possibly could and building a wall with bricks with his kids. And it

got a lot of attention at the time. It is very much tied to his political win and very much plays into what Trump has been saying about DeSantis,

which is that Trump's claim is he wouldn't exist without me. I made him who he is. Well, Nikki Haley's campaign is doing Trump's work for him. And in

fact, Ron DeSantis' campaign is often doing Donald Trump's work for him too against Nikki Haley. They continue to beat each other up for second place.

HUNT: It's -- I mean, it's the way that they did that. It's just infantilizing to Ron DeSantis.


HUNT: Oh my god.

KEITH: Well, that was his ad, though.

HUNT: Fair enough. You're -- that's -- I'm really glad that you pointed that out. So, the other thing I wanted to show you, Matt and Faiz, is Ron

DeSantis. This is not an ad. This was a slip of the tongue or an intentional jab. You watch. You decide.


RON DESANTIS, U.S. REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: So, it was me versus Hillary. I mean, Nikki. I'm sorry. Well, you know, Nikki Haley did write in

her book that her inspiration to run for office was Hillary Clinton. Now, that's not my inspiration. I can tell you that.


HUNT: So, Matt, I mean, I don't know this for a fact. But, I'm going to go with that. That was planned.


HUNT: That was like a planned slip up.

GORMAN: It was about as planned as Christie's live bike moment, I think, before he dropped out.

HUNT: Oh, well, are you -- he did that on purpose?

GORMAN: I am naturally convinces that he did on purpose. There no coincidence.

HUNT: All right. To be --


HUNT: But, I think that's really interesting.


GORMAN: Yes. Absolutely right. That had been perkling (ph) around for a little while. I mean, I think -- if you're Ron DeSantis, you cannot come in

third. You have to come in second. And again, you have to have a relative (inaudible) space between you and Nikki in second place for a way to

survive and advance to not just New Hampshire, but I think really for him in South Carolina. That's going to be his Waterloo. But, he has to get

second place. So, he is going to pull out all the stops he can right now to able to do that. I think that's what you're seeing here.

HUNT: Yeah. Faiz, you've been in a situation also, or you've seen when Iowa -- there are typically three tickets out. But, the winner isn't always the

person that comes out on top in terms of the narrative.

SHAKIR: Right.

HUNT: What do you -- what are you looking for here?

SHAKIR: Well, I agree with -- the second and third is where it's at. I'm -- as a Biden -- likely Biden voter, I'm going to vote for Biden. I'm worried

about where it stands. I want Nikki to win. Yeah. I want Haley to win second place. I want this race to continue. I want to go into New

Hampshire. I want this Republican nomination to extend for as long as possible. I want Nikki Haley to continue to make a public argument that the

chaos of Donald Trump should be on the national stage again, and I welcome this extending as far as I can. So, I'm routing for Nikki Haley to be in

second place and overcome expectations.

HUNT: Overcome expectations. What do you think, Tam?

KEITH: Well, expectations are what Iowa is all about, which is why all of a sudden Trump's people are very much trying to set expectations --

HUNT: Well, it's interesting. Right?

KEITH: -- because, one, for caucus goers, like, are you going to go out in 30 degree --


KEITH: -- when you think he is going to win by a ton, and why does your vote even count? So, part of that is just trying to convince his people to

come out. But, the other part of it is, what if he only wins by 10 points? Well, then is he really the big winner in Iowa?

HUNT: Yeah.

KEITH: Or is -- or does it show weakness even though there is all this other and all this other stuff?

HUNT: My major question is, whether -- I mean, I do think that there is risk for Trump in any sort of event, the dense -- the sort of aura of an

inevitability that has surrounded him. And I think there are real question marks about what that could mean.

All right. Up next here, President Biden is heading out on the campaign trail today. He is paying a visit to a key battleground state, my home

state of Pennsylvania. We're going to have more on his economic message there. That's just ahead.




HUNT: Welcome back to the State of the Race. I'm Kasie Hunt. We're live in Washington where President Biden will soon depart the White House and head

to general election battleground Pennsylvania in just a few minutes. It's all about Bidenomics. He is visiting small businesses in and around

Allentown, PA. And Kevin Liptak is in Allentown for us today. Kevin, it's always lovely to see you. Allentown, of course, has a special meaning for

the President. What do we expect?

KEVIN LIPTAK, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Yeah. This is his 33rd visit to Pennsylvania since he took office, just kind of underscores the stakes

that the White House is placing on this Commonwealth in the coming year. And today, it's really all about Bidenomics. That's that collective term

that the White House has used to describe President Biden's economic message. Today, he is talking small business and what the White House calls

a small business boom, 16 million applications put into the small business administration since President Biden took office.

Now, the real challenge for President Biden, of course, is trying to get these good numbers to translate into people's households, into voters'

psyches, and that has been an uphill battle for him really for the last three years. Polls still show that voters feel negatively about the

economy. What he is trying to do today is really talk to individuals, individual business owners, really kind of localize his argument and make

them aware of all the things that he has done to try and improve the economy and try and improve their business stakes. And Allentown is really

a place where he thinks that that message will resonate. This is a city that was sort of ravaged by deindustrialization. It has bounced back. The

unemployment rate here is now 3.9 percent. And this is something that the White House really wants to highlight.

Now, that term Bidenomics is not necessarily the most popular one among Biden's fellow Democrats. There are a lot of members of Congress, a lot of

Biden's allies who think that that is not necessarily the correct approach to try and tie yourself to an economy that so many people still view so

negatively. But, what you're seeing today is the White House really sort of doubling down on that argument.


And their view is that, over time, as wages increase, as inflation eases, voters will come to associate an improved economy with some of the steps

that President Biden has taken, but for sure, it is a gamble. And the real hope among his aides is that over the coming year, over the coming 10

months that those economic indicators will eventually be known to voters, will be felt in their everyday lives, and key, of course, and that will be

prices coming down. And so, this is something that President Biden will remain focused on as he gears up for his own reelection in the coming year,


HUNT: Indeed. All right. Kevin Liptak for us in Allentown, PA, Kevin, thank you.

Our panel is back. Faiz, I want to ask you kind of what you think about the way that they make this argument, because I will say, I've talked to folks.

Honestly, some of them would be probably more considered establishment, honestly. But also, of course, progressives, people who have made some of

the arguments that Bernie Sanders, for example, makes on the regular, who say, like Biden has got to have a tougher, more populist message where he

goes after corporations. Like, he takes sort of a real aggressive forceful tack that way. He doesn't seem to be doing that. I mean, they're sticking

with this Bidenomics message. What do you -- what's your evaluation of how they're doing?

SHAKIR: I think they're going to ramp up here. What the thing that Biden is lacking and missing is a foil. And so, he is waiting essentially for Trump

to emerge, because now all your conversation on Medicare price negotiation, implementation dollars, taxation, taking on corporate monopolies, all of

those things start to get more real when you say, what's his plan? What's he going to do about it? And you can engage somebody. Right now, his

struggle is, Bidenomics is a one-way street right now where he is talking and everyone is just like listening. And people have a macroeconomic view

of, well, I don't know if I feel great about the economy.

The question is --

HUNT: And then he (inaudible) his fault. Right?

SHAKIR: Yeah. And also, like, the mood isn't great, right? So, yeah. But, like, how much do people blame him? And how many people are -- how much are

people invested in a long term view of this? That's what Biden is trying to convince them. Stick with me. Give me another four years. Let's stay on

this course. We don't know the answer to that one because we don't know what the alternative is. He has got to fight a different course. Do you

want to go in that direction, or do you want to stick with me?

So, we're going to see that play out, and that's where the populace fight of a corporate battle, I would argue, needs to be done, because has got to

say, I'm going to take on some of these corporate monopolies away. This guy isn't. I'm going to go drain the swamp and waste to the skies. And I'm

going to take on pharmaceutical companies away. This guy isn't. He talks a big game. I've done it, right? 3

HUNT: Yeah.

SHAKIR: So, that's where I think he is missing now, but it'll come.

HUNT: Interesting. So speaking of foils and Trump, we got this new little video from the Biden team of him reacting to Donald Trump making some

comments about the economy. Take a look at this.


TRUMP: When there is a crash, I hope it's going to be during this next 12 months, because I don't want to be Herbert Hoover.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: He is acknowledging that my economy is doing pretty darn well because he doesn't want that to continue.


HUNT: So, setting aside that Trump manages to make everything about himself, no matter what, because he doesn't want to be Herbert Hoover, is

the frame in which he thinks about this. What do you make of that, Matt? Do you think that's an effective way for the White House to be messaging on


GORMAN: They keep facing this problem where there is a delta between how -- they tell people the economy is doing by the numbers. Now, people actually

feel. And it's really -- it's going to be tough, because if you lose credibility, if you keep telling people over and over again that you're

actually doing fine, well, it's like, well, wait a minute. I just paid $6 for a box of cereal, like you -- and so, that is really the trouble they

seem to have. And you're right. Like, Biden needs a foil, and he needs to make it real for people. I think a lot of these esoteric type topics that

they like to talk about, it's hard for people to grasp. It's hard for people to really kind of localize and feel. If you're talking about gas

prices, food prices, Medicare and healthcare, that's where it gets real, and that's where there is effectiveness, no matter what candidate you may


HUNT: It's an interesting point, Tam, and I didn't have -- I don't have it as a graphic. But, Peggy Noonan had a really interesting column this

morning in The Wall Street Journal, and that's one of the things she said about Biden that he sort of -- his conversations are up here when people

are down here in their everyday lives, right, and that the words that he uses to talk about this just don't resonate. I mean, what's your view of

that? And what do you know when you are reporting about how they're thinking about that in the White House?

KEITH: Right. So, one of the challenges is you can talk about the unemployment rate being way down, historically down. It's been low for so

long. This is great news. But, if people are having trouble buying their groceries, if they go ring up and it's 60 bucks in the cart, that

immediately undoes any good feeling they might have about some number that isn't a number that is totally irrelevant to them. And unemployment rate is

about everyone. Your grocery cart is about you. And so, I think what we're going to see, President Biden has not made much of a case about what he

wants to do in his next term. I think what my sources are telling me is that we are going to be hearing more of that soon. Like, for instance, in

the State of the Union address, and all of that, a lot of what he is talking about wanting to do is very much pocket book issues.

That quote, finish the job that he had in the last State of the Union address, finish the job on making childcare more affordable, making drug

prices more affordable. Like, the most -- one of the most surprising things is this big applause line in his speeches that can sort of be long, boring

laundry list of economic policy.


He talks about $35 insulin, and people are cheering like he said --

HUNT: Yeah.

KEITH: -- something super exciting, because it's a big deal for a lot of people. So, I know that the Biden campaign, based on conversations I've

had, is going to be emphasizing that sort of thing, more $35 insulin, not just for people on Medicare, but for everybody. Those are the sorts of

promises that he'll be making, and as Faiz says, contrast.

HUNT: Very quick last word.

GORMAN: (Inaudible) he gave us kickoff speech on democracy, yet now trying to do packable issues, and the attention of his whole campaign, which

direction does he go?

HUNT: Yeah. No. This is why we have you, Matt Gorman. There you go.

GORMAN: No, no. I'm here.


HUNT: All right. We've got just three days left until the Iowa caucuses, that is, if voters can even get to any of them. I'm going to speak with a

Republican strategist. He spent more than three decades in campaign politics and is from the great state of Iowa. David Kochel is up next.


HUNT: Welcome back. We are -- as we've been saying, just three days away from the Iowa caucuses. Republican Strategist David Kochel has spent

decades in the trenches, the snow ditches of Iowa national campaigns. He joins me now from Des Moines. David, lovely to see you. Thanks for coming

back. This is insane. How cold it's been.


HUNT: Like --

KOCHEL: Yeah. It's insane. Kasie, usually, when people ask me about the weather in the caucuses, I've been through this a lot of times. It's been

cold out before. The difference between 15 degrees above zero and 15 below zero is a lot. You're talking about not just cold. You're talking about

risk, real risk. Your car might not start. Your battery goes dead. You get stranded on the road, and there is no cars out there to find you. We're

talking frostbite territory. This is a degrees of magnitude worse than I've ever seen, and it's really cold out.

HUNT: I hadn't even thought of that, like the cars not starting. I mean, my family is originally from the Midwest from Michigan. So, I mean, somewhere

in the deep recesses of my brain is all that information about how to get a car to start.


But, like, you're right that it's -- when you got to go and park your car in a parking lot and spend an hour inside a caucus, it's tough. What do you

-- how do you think this dynamic is going to impact the field? Like, is it Donald Trump who should be worried who is -- I mean, his supporters are

pretty diehard, but some of them aren't -- isn't regularly involved in politics and some of these other caucus goers --

KOCHEL: Right.

HUNT: -- maybe say are -- in the more traditional organizing ways of Ron DeSantis. Like, what do you -- how do you think that this is going to make

a difference?

KOCHEL: Well, he is relying on a lot more first-time caucus-goers. And the best prediction of whether or not you're actually going to brave the

weather and go out is if you've done it before. So, he has got all these new caucus-goers that he has brought into the party in 2016, and we're

seeing them still coming back here in 2024, if you look at the polling. He also indexes pretty well with older voters, which might be another bit of

risk. And it's a tired old talking point we always talked about. It's all about turnout.

Well, the truth is, this is one of those years where it really is all about turnout. It's all about organization, whether or not you can really get

people motivated, and in some cases, even help them get to the caucuses. If you got some vans handy in the large precincts, large counties, and you can

send people around and pick up people and get them there, that -- it's a small number of people you can probably impact that way. But, right now, at

this stage of the race, every vote is going to count. And the campaigns that are ready for this are really organized and really prepared and have

the most motivated followers. They're going to benefit on caucus night when -- if you do have some kind of fairweather friends, you might be running

into some risk.

HUNT: Yeah, for sure. David, what do you think is the bottom line for Ron DeSantis here? Like, if he doesn't come in second place in Iowa, what does

that mean?

KOCHEL: Well, it sure feels like he has got to be in second. Because what's the argument if you finish third? What's he going to say about -- I'm going

to bring it all back in New Hampshire where he is in -- was in fourth place until recently. He has got to explain, I think, to voters. First of all, he

has got to have a really good result that really looks like it is a surprise to what we're seeing in the polling right now. So, he has got to

really overperform, and then he has got to be able to tell us, what's next? Where is he going to go? How is he going to break through? Nikki Haley has

got a much easier story to tell. She has been surging in New Hampshire. A few of the polls have her even into second place right now. Some of them

have her tied or a little behind too.

So, they're really locked in a race for second place. DeSantis needs it, I think, a lot more than then Haley does, because he -- it doesn't look like

he has got much going on in New Hampshire --

HUNT: Yeah.

KOCHEL: -- and South Carolina, where she has got more potential. So, he is going to have to be able to tell a really compelling story coming out of

Iowa. And Iowa likes to surprise. It's looking pretty tough to beat Donald Trump at this point. But, DeSantis is looking to really turn it up and

really overperform here and have people just wake up on Tuesday morning and say, wow, I didn't see that coming. And that's what he really needs to


HUNT: Yeah. No. For sure. Yeah. It is interesting. I noticed. We don't put those -- the poll that that came out that shows Haley in second. We don't

typically show on screen here at CNN, but certainly it's affecting the conversation. I'm really interested to talk to Anne Selzer after this about

how she accounts for negative 20 degree temperatures in her Iowa poll that's set to come out --


HUNT: -- on Sunday mornings. Really interesting case. All right, David Kochel in Des Moines, Iowa, I really hope I get a chance to see you my

friend. Thank you so much for all your help. Actually, I'll see you.

KOCHEL: Pack your parker (ph). Pack your parker.

HUNT: You're going to be on with me on Monday morning. Yes. Amazing.

KOCHEL: Yes. I know.

HUNT: All right. Catch you then.

All right. Up next here, with Chris Christie out of the race, where will his voters in New Hampshire go? So far, the polls say that they are not

going to go to Trump. Omar Jimenez went and talked to some of those voters himself. Here is the story.


OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Chris Christie hasn't endorsed anyone yet. But, there is one candidate most likely to benefit

from his exit. A CNN poll from New Hampshire showed 65 percent of Christie voters surveyed said they would pick Nikki Haley as their second choice.

JIMENEZ: You are essentially one of those 65 percent --


JIMENEZ: -- who have supported Christie before, but now you're leaning Haley.


JIMENEZ: Why is that?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because she is the best pathway to helping the country move forwards from Trump.

JIMENEZ (voice-over): He was a dynamic. He raised that a Christie campaign event last month.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would it not be better to better serve the anti-Trump vote for you to suspend, but for Nikki to have you as a VP declared before

the January primary?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was particularly pleased yesterday when we had the Christie announcement, because the timing was right. The next best

candidate is clearly Haley. Now, she has an opportunity to gather and to speak with and to speak to that 65 percent of Christie supporters like

myself. Her needle has just moved by a big jump now in New Hampshire.


JIMENEZ (voice-over): Other Christie supporters like Tom Barton (ph) were ready to go all in for Christie. Now, he isn't sure what comes next.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm very saddened by this.

JIMENEZ (voice-over): He says he is open but needs to see more.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If there is one candidate that I would like if she would stand up to Trump more, it would be Haley.

JIMENEZ (voice-over): Katherine Johnson (ph), a Democrat who supported Christie, doesn't see it the same way with Haley.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm a New Hampshire Democrat volunteering for a Republican because he believes in the idea of working across the aisle. I'm

going to get work from the Democrats starting tomorrow, because I respect her. But, no. I will not vote for her.

JIMENEZ (voice-over): Others as young as 10-years-old liked Christie.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Let's say you weren't running --


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- and you had no idea that this could even happen --


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- who would you vote for?

JIMENEZ (voice-over): But, Hannah (ph) and her parents thought this was the right time for him to go. They attended many campaign events, and Hannah

helped encourage her parents to see more of the candidates. It even changed their minds.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'll give Chris Christie the credit for telling me the truth about Trump and helping me to see that it was time for somebody else

to take the reins. I was a Trump supporter two months ago, and I would have said that Trump is going to win the nomination. Now, I feel like there is

enough momentum behind Nikki Haley that she is going to win New Hampshire.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I wasn't really a full-on Trump supporter. I knew if I was at the general election, if that's what was on the ticket, I probably

would vote for him. But, I was kind of really undecided going in. Hannah encouraging us to go to these town halls opened my eyes. That's what kind

of made me decide who I really wanted to throw my vote behind.

JIMENEZ (voice-over): But, for some of Christie's now former supporters, this goes beyond the primary.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You want to choose that voice that a greater proportion of the country is going to resonate with them this bucket.

JIMENEZ: And to you that's Nikki Haley.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah. Absolutely.


HUNT: All right. Great reporting from Omar Jimenez. It's time for us to take a quick break, but do stay with us. Our panel is back with one more



HUNT: Welcome back to State of the Race. My panel rejoins me, because before we go, we always ask for one more thing on the campaign trail or in

Washington that you're watching for in the coming days. 30 seconds each. Faiz, what's your one more thing?

SHAKIR: Well, you started the show with a Republican Speaker Mike Johnson. Like his predecessors, all Republicans, they all faced internal revolts. On

the right, Mike is now facing it himself. The person we haven't heard from is Donald Trump. Mike Johnson was referred to as MAGA Mike. We don't know

where Donald Trump is on all this, and I'm anxious to see if he wades in.

HUNT: All right. Very interesting point. Matt, what's your one more thing?

GORMAN: We've heard a lot about so far, expectations going into Iowa. Does Trump make 50? Who is in second? If it's not Ron DeSantis, he is going to

have a very tough Tuesday morning. Ms. Nikki, if she goes in New Hampshire with a head of steam. And for folks like Vivek, who are kind of in that

lower tier five percent, six percent, with the weather being as it is, that can collapse into one percent, two percent very, very quickly. That's what

I'm watching.

HUNT: Yeah. No. For sure, Tam, what are you looking for?

KEITH: Loser. That is former President Trump's favorite insult. And now, President Biden in his two campaign speeches so far this year has referred

to the former President as a loser. I'm watching to see if Trump responds and also whether it works or not, but it's definitely a Trump-style troll.

HUNT: It sure is. I mean, it's -- I'm always was curious whether Trump is getting under people's skin, whether anything like this ever gets under

his. Briefly, Tam, I want to send this to you. We're learning just into CNN that the Oregon Supreme Court has said that they will not remove Trump from

the ballot and they're doing that because they are waiting for the U.S. Supreme Court. So, it does seem like there is maybe a little bit of a pause

on this one. What's your take on their decision?


KEITH: Right. Well, this is very much in the lap of the U.S. Supreme Court. In the year 2000, the Supreme Court weighed in after an election. It is

inevitable. It is a collision course the U.S. Supreme Court is going to be weighing in on something that will affect the outcome, or in some way,

affect the presidential election in 2024.

HUNT: Yeah.

KEITH: And we've seen mixed decisions in states all over the place. But, to borrow a phrase, this is on ice until the Supreme Court weighs in.

HUNT: Indeed. All right. Tamara Keith, Matt Gorman, Faiz Shakir, thank you, guys, very much for joining us on the show today.

And I will say, I want to add my one more thing that I am looking for as we head into Iowa, obviously, the cold is going to impact a lot of people.

But, one thing about the caucuses that's different is that you actually make your decision in front of all your friends, family, neighbors, people

who caucus with you. And we have seen that Donald Trump has a very interesting effect in those kinds of settings. People have very strong

feelings. Maybe they're embarrassed or maybe they're proud of where they stand on him. They don't necessarily want to be seen as showing their

cards. Perhaps that may have an impact on how he ultimately finishes in this race. That's what I'm watching for as we head into caucus weekend.

I'm Kasie Hunt. That is the State of the Race for today, Friday, January 12. You can catch me live from Iowa on CNN from 5 a.m. to 9 a.m. starting

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