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State of the Race with Kasie Hunt

Tonight: Iowa Caucus To Pick GOP Presidential Candidate; Trump, Haley, DeSantis Make Final Pitches To Iowa Voters; Americans Honor Civil Rights Leader Martin Luther King, Jr.. Aired 11a-12p ET

Aired January 15, 2024 - 11:00   ET




JOHN AVLON, CNN HOST, STATE OF THE RACE: Today is the day. The Iowa Republican caucuses are finally here. Donald Trump once again dominating

the latest polling, but will his lead hold? Meanwhile, Nikki Haley and Ron DeSantis are hoping for a surprise in the nation's first contest. Can they

pull off a better-than-expected finish in the Hawkeye State? And America observes Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. President Biden will mark the day,

volunteering in Philadelphia. We'll have a look at King's words and legacy ahead.

Good day, everyone. I'm John Avalon, in for Kasie Hunt, to our viewers watching in the United States and around the world. It is 11 a.m. here in

New York, Monday, January 15, 2024. Today is the day of the Iowa caucuses. There are eight days until the New Hampshire primaries and only 294 days

until Election Day. This is today's State of the Race.

We are now just hours away from the first votes of the 2024 election. It's a sprint to the finish for the three top Republican candidates ahead of the

caucuses in the great state of Iowa. So, what to look out for? Well, Shane Goldmacher, National Political Correspondent for The New York Times, laid

it out really well, writing that there are "Seven numbers that tell the tale of the GOP primary." Those numbers, well, is number one. 28 percentage

points. It refers Mr. Trump's lead in the Iowa poll. "The bar has been set." Now, Trump has consistently held a commanding lead in Iowa, but will

it hold at that threshold? Next, three million. That's "The number of doors a pro-DeSantis super PAC has knocked on nationwide." DeSantis has gone all

in on Iowa, but the latest polling has him slipping into third place behind Nikki Haley.

Now, three, negative 33 Fahrenheit. You heard that right. That's "The projected minimum windshield forecast in Des Moines on Monday evening." It

is dangerously cold across Iowa and that could have real world impact on the caucus process. Next, three percent. That's "Nikki Haley's share of the

vote among Republicans who didn't graduate from college in the most recent New York Times/Siena College Poll." And that is at odds with the Republican

Party's base which overwhelmingly supports Trump. At five, $46,499,124.63. That's "The amount of spending from super PACs opposing Ron DeSantis." Now,

that's more than the spending against Trump and Haley combined, the sign of the strength of these attempts to knock DeSantis out number.

Six, $5,865. That's "The DeSantis campaign's TV ad spending this week in Iowa in the conservative Sioux City market" which is in the northwest

quadrant, the sign perhaps that the DeSantis campaign is under financial strain and having to spend its dollars quite carefully. And finally, zero,

goose egg. That's "The former President's total debate appearances." A reminder that Donald Trump has been a no-show at debates and essentially

ghosted Iowa for the most part while holding on to his commanding lead. Another reminder that he plays by his own rules. Democratic norms be


All right. Let's bring in CNN's Alayna Treene joining us from Des Moines. Alayna, what is the state of the race on the ground today?

ALAYNA TREENE, CNN REPORTER: Right. Well, good morning from a very chilly Des Moines, Iowa. We are seeing sub-zero temperatures, record temperatures

here for an Iowa caucus today. And I think a lot of the candidates are worried about how that could impact turnout. I've spoken with Donald

Trump's team and advisors about this, and they've told me that over the past week, they have grown increasingly concerned about how the freezing

weather could really impact how many people come out tonight for the Iowa caucuses.

And the other point about that as well that I just want to point out is, I know that Trump's team is also concerned because of his commanding lead in

the poll, that maybe some people will be deterred to brave the weather and to go vote for him, because they might assume that Donald Trump has Iowa

locked up and has this in the bag. And so, really, we've heard a lot of that rhetoric from his campaign over the weekend, urging his supporters not

to get complacent and not to assume that he is going to win.

Now, I think for the other candidates, it's similar messaging. We've heard from both DeSantis and Nikki Haley as well as Vivek Ramaswamy over the

weekend, having similar get out the vote messages, really urging their supporters to show up today and not to allow the weather to hold them back.

And again, this is Iowa. A lot of the voters I talked to on the ground, they said that they are used to extreme cold weather. However, for many

people, they have no added that this is colder than even Iowans have been prepared for.


And so, it's unclear how this weather is going to impact that turnout, and we'll see what happens at 7 p.m. tonight when caucusing begins.

AVLON: We sure will. This is indeed unprecedented cold. Thanks for braving it for us, Alayna Treene. Thank you very much.


AVLON: All right. Let's dive into all of this with today's great panel, Ashley Allison, CNN Senior Political Commentator and former Senior Policy

Advisor to the Obama White House; Republican Strategist Alice Stewart, also a CNN political commentator and former Communications Director for Senator

Ted Cruz, and Susan Page, Washington Bureau Chief for USA Today.

Susan, I will start with you. Put this in perspective for us. I mean, Iowa, Jimmy Carter put it on the map. In general, with only two exceptions, it

hasn't been a good predictor of who wins the Republican nomination. But, all the rules seem to be thrown out this time around.

SUSAN PAGE, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, USA TODAY: Yeah. That's right. On the Republican side, in particular, Iowa has not done very well in picking who

the ultimate nominee would be. New Hampshire has done a better job than that. But, it does tend to narrow the field. The standard line is that

there are only three tickets out of Iowa. And the fact is, if DeSantis finishes third today, that might be just two tickets. So --

AVLON: Yeah.

PAGE: -- we don't -- we shouldn't look at this as -- going to tell us who is going to be nominated. But, it does -- will tell us perhaps who will not

be nominated.

AVLON: Well, listen, Alice, that map, the little graph historic graph that we just threw up there, shows Rick Santorum and Ted Cruz winning in 2012

and 2016 respectively. You worked on those campaigns. Those upset the conventional wisdom polls at the time, albeit much closer polls than we're

seeing today. What's the key to pulling off an upset or beating expectations in Iowa? What kind of districts are you looking for turnout


ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, & REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, organization is the key. And look, here is the thing is to identify where

your key base of support is. And for, as we just saw on that graph, Ted Cruz, Santorum and also my boss, Huckabee in 2008, the evangelicals were a

tremendous part of the campaign. And here is what we did is, you -- a couple of things, first and foremost, fundraising. Some of his campaigns

had tremendous funds. But, what you're also doing is you are recruiting county chairs in each county, all of the 99 counties. You want to identify

a person or people that can organize for caucus turnout that commit to caucus operation.

And then you also work to shore up evangelical support, because people that go to church will tell their friends and they'll tell two friends and

they'll tell two friends and they will come out and commit to caucus, and then you message to them saying, look, we need to coalesce early behind our

candidate, be it Ted Cruz, be it DeSantis, be it Donald Trump, coalesce early behind the non-establishment candidate. So, that's the messaging

going forward.

And look, there are key pockets of the state, much in northwest corner of the state where Ted Cruz did very well. You reach out to those people that

you really know will come out and commit to caucus. And if you notice, we see so much with Donald Trump with some of the bombastic things he says.

But, the white cap that he has been wearing, it says "Trump caucus captain." This is a thing that the campaign is doing to get people

involved, to get them signed up, to be a caucus captain. And that right there, they are using that as kind of a novelty kind of way to encourage


Well, we get distracted by what some of what Donald Trump is doing. His team is doing all of those checking off all the boxes and what to do to

commit to caucus. DeSantis is doing it as well too. But, some of the team that put that train on the tracks have left. So, the goal right now is

DeSantis, who has really put his flag in Iowa. How he will be able to move forward with a lot of those people that put this in place no longer there?

So, he is the one really to watch, potentially, with the most at stake here.

AVLON: No question about it. I mean, -- and he has got the governor support and Bob Vander Plaats support, but he seems to be in third in that most

recent Des Moines Register poll.

Ashley, I want to turn to you. You are Democrat, obviously, worked in the Obama White House. So, you don't have a rooting interest in this particular

race. But, I think -- tell me if I'm wrong, but if you look at the polling, it's certainly clear that Nikki Haley, former South Carolina Governor, UN

Ambassador, performs best against Joe Biden by a really wide margin. Is it fair to say that the White House would not rather run against Nikki Haley

given that delta?


against Nikki Haley, but they definitely are developing their message to focus on Donald Trump, because even though you see those polls with Nikki

Haley doing better than Donald Trump, against Joe Biden, Donald Trump still nationally is the frontrunner.


What I will say, though, when I've talked to the folks at the Biden campaign and even in the White House, is that whether it is Nikki Haley,

whether it is Ron DeSantis or whether it is Donald Trump, all three of them still have yet to really qualify the election results of 2020,

Nikki Haley's position on abortion. Sure, she is presenting someone of a more moderate position on abortion, but has been pretty extreme today. So,

I mean --

AVLON: I hear you. But, there are dramatic differences between these kinds of candidates. You're trying to blur the distinction. I think the reason

that polls show Nikki Haley far and away the most competitive against Joe Biden is because she is not perceived as extreme. I mean, grant that.

ALLISON: Well, I think that in the Republican Party, I think a lot of people see Donald Trump as a threat to democracy. I don't think they are

identical, but they do have some similarities. Look, Nikki Haley won't even really throw a hard punch at Donald Trump. And he is her opponent right

now. And so, whether or not you support Nikki Haley or Donald Trump, that is what the Biden campaign is going to do. They are going to say it doesn't

really matter. This is an extreme party who -- when you ask the question about slavery, she can't even say -- or Civil War, she can't even say

slavery. So --

AVLON: I hear you on that.


AVLON: I do think there is a distinction that reads to most folks. But, politics be politics.

Susan, let me ask you this. For a lot of time, people thought that if you could present yourself as a "MAGA mini-me", that was a safe place to be.

Well, Vivek Ramaswamy just discovered that's not the case with Donald Trump, really laying into him. Why? Why would Donald Trump with the

commanding lead be really smacking -- doing a lot of smack talk around Ramaswamy at this late date?

PAGE: Well, because almost all of Ramaswamy's voters are voters who the Trump people think would go to Trump if they weren't with Ramaswamy, and

that would give Trump more of a -- the kind of formidable showing tonight that settles all doubt. There is some thought, can Trump get to 50 percent?

Well, no one in the uncontested caucuses has ever gotten to 50 percent. If he did that, that would be an extremely impressive showing. Ramaswamy

drains away at least some votes for him. He is now in the high-single digits. That's not nobody. So, I think the Trump people see him as an

annoying drain to people who would otherwise be in Trump's corner.

AVLON: Interesting. All right. Alice, before we go, we're going to come back to you all. But, I'm interested in this dynamic. We're seeing Marco

Rubio, who was savaged by Trump, endorsing him yesterday, Joni Ernst saying incredibly positive things about Nikki Haley. I quote by one reporter

saying she is an inspirational leader, different kind of candidate. No one else has that kind of experience and yet declining to endorse her. What's

that about?

STEWART: Look, I think a lot of people -- I know a lot of people are facing the peer pressure, if you want to call them a peer from the Trump campaign

to put their name on the dotted line to show they support Donald Trump. At the end of the day, whether or not an endorsement from Marco Rubio is going

to sway any farmers to come out in the Tundras of Iowa, I seriously doubt it. But, it's more of an optics for down the road and having a relationship

with Donald Trump than to move voters.

Look, I think all three candidates have a good base of support. Look at Ron DeSantis. He has a very popular Governor Kim Reynolds in Iowa. Bob Vander

Plaats is a key faith leader. That is helping him to some degree, but he is still very far behind. Nikki Haley, I think one of her best aces in the

hole, she says she doesn't like or care about endorsements, but her endorsement of Governor Sununu in New Hampshire is going to benefit her

greatly. He has been a tremendous surrogate for her and has really helped move the vote. So, I think that endorsement will be one to watch for her in

New Hampshire.

AVLON: I agree, and certainly New Hampshire is up next.

All right. Stick around, guys. We're going to get back to you next section. But, before we kick over to the break, in light of all the discord in

today's politics, I want to remind everyone that today is MLK Day in the United States, and while his legacy is much more than his "I Have a Dream"

speech, I personally recommend reading his book of "Sermons from Strength to Love". One less celebrated quote from that march on Washington stands

out today. He said "With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith, we will be able to

transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood." Here is a look at the memorial in Washington. King, of

course, was assassinated in 1968. But, his dream lives on.

Still to come, despite the sub-zero temperatures, Ron DeSantis is feeling the heat. He is fighting for his political survival. We're going to go live

to the campaign headquarters in Des Moines. That's next.




AVLON: He likes to say that he has visited all 99 counties in the state, which is also known as the "full Grassley". It's a way of reminding Iowa

voters that he has put in the time to earn their support. But, now of course, it's up to the voters to decide not just his fate in Iowa, but the

trajectory of his presidential dreams going forward. I am talking, of course, about Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who is hoping for a stronger

than expected showing in the caucuses tonight, but he is also tempering expectations as he fights for his political life. DeSantis battling Nikki

Haley for second place, both trailing Donald Trump in the polls. As you can see, his support has actually been slipping in Iowa since December.

DeSantis talked to our Dana Bash a short time ago about this.


RON DESANTIS, U.S. REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Some people have underestimated the extent where there is fluidity with this. Someone is

like, yeah, you know, I like Trump, but -- so give them a reason to support me, and that could be the difference. So, I think you're going to see some

fluidity in the caucus sites itself, and that's why this is kind of an interesting process.


AVLON: All right. Our Steve Contorno is live in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where DeSantis will appear later today. Steve, I hope you're enjoying all that

Cedar Rapids has to offer. Give us a deep dive on where you see the DeSantis campaign, because I don't know I've ever seen somebody roll in

with the amount of money that he spent through his super PAC, at least, over $200 million, to get the endorsement of a popular governor and the

evangelical leader, and yet to be struggling in these late innings as he is. What's your read on it?

STEVE CONTORNO, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Yeah, John. It's certainly not the position they thought they were going to be in when they first put this

commitment into doing the full Grassley. They -- I'm at a sports bar in Cedar Rapids, and he has done events like this all throughout the state. He

has visited sports bars and coffee shops and Main Street and rural areas, all over the state. And they thought that by showing up, by proving that

they were the candidate that was going to work -- outwork everyone, that that itself would give them a boost. And they certainly have done a lot to

change the minds here. As you said, they've also gotten the endorsements of key faith leaders and from the governor here.


But, they do come into Iowa with many, many questions about what success looks like for them. Six months ago, they were saying they were going to

win Iowa. More recently, they say that we're going to perform well. So, he has really redefined the expectations for tonight, and he has -- Haley,

who, in that most recent Iowa -- Des Moines Register poll, is now potentially coming up from behind him, catching him. If that happens, there

is going to be a lot of questions about his campaign going forward, and whether or not he has enough momentum behind him to carry him into New

Hampshire, South Carolina, and beyond that, John.

So, a lot of questions for him to answer tonight. They believe that they have worked every one, that they have this ground game that's really going

to give them a boost. They have knocked on nearly a million doors here. Will that pay off tonight, or have they just not done? It is just a party

that just remains entrenched in Donald Trump's popularity here that is just going to be too hard for any candidate, no matter how much they -- time

they put in here and how much they work that they just can't overcome.

AVLON: That is indeed the state of the race on the ground, Steve Contorno. Thank you very much. Stay safe out there.

All right. Let's go back to our panel. Susan, you just heard, Steve. I mean, this is an unprecedented situation. DeSantis had it all lined up on

paper. He had all the key endorsements he would want. The vaunted GOTV, Jeff Roe, more money than -- $200 million, my God. And here he is

struggling to keep his nose above water. Is he toast (ph)?

PAGE: He has done one thing really smart. He has really lowered expectations for --

AVLON: Yeah.

PAGE: -- how he is going to do tonight. There was once the expectation he would beat Trump in Iowa, and that would be the start of a real upset

campaign. That's clearly not going to happen. However, there are some reasons to think he is going to do better tonight than his standing in the

polls, because he does have an organization. He has strong loyalty among those who say they're going to caucus for him in that Des Moines Register

poll. So, I think 62 percent of his supporters said they were definitely going to show up tonight.

Nikki Haley does not have that kind of organization. She does not have that kind of loyalty among -- an enthusiasm among her supporters. So, at this

point, if DeSantis comes in second, that may look like a pretty good finish that gives him a path to moving forward. But, that is certainly not where

he hoped to be when this campaign began.

AVLON: It's a great point because it really is. I mean, I'm not a big fan of horse race politics, but it's all judged against expectations. So,

you're 100 percent right about that.

Alice, I just -- Bob Vander Plaats is a big evangelical leader in the state, and is often seen as a proxy for that community, which is really

sort of the heartbeat of Iowa caucus goers, historically. And yet, Donald Trump, who I don't think many folks would say exemplifies many of the

principles in the New Testament, seems to have a really strong hold on evangelical leaders. Here is the Des Moines Register polls, and 51 percent

of evangelicals support him. A couple of pastors blanched when he put out a ad on his Truth Social, calling "God made Trump" which was sort of

idolatrous to many eyes. But, how do you understand, stay committed to Iowa, nice, people have deep faith, gravitating away from evangelical

leaders towards this celebrity candidate?

STEWART: Look, DeSantis was wise to get the support of Bob Vander Plaats, who is the kingmaker really for evangelicals in Iowa, has worked -- had

supported every candidate I've worked for. And he really does coalesce the faith community behind him and has done a good job to get their support

behind Ron DeSantis. And that's critical. But, I was shocked, John, the other day when I saw Donald Trump roll out his faith leaders. These were

from every county. I printed it up. It was 14 pages of evangelical leaders from across the state, and he has really galvanized them, and those people

will commit to caucus.

And look, here is the reason why these evangelicals support Trump. Look, Donald Trump doesn't talk and act very much like your typical Christian.

But, evangelicals stand behind him for a couple of reasons. One, his Supreme Court nominees that helped lead to overturning Roe v. Wade, and his

unwavering support for Israel. They also see him as someone who makes a promise and delivers. So, you're not going to get these evangelicals that

have -- are on board with Trump. It's going to be hard to change their mind at this point because they look at him as someone who promised certain

things and delivered, and they remain loyal.

AVLON: And we should be clear, that's about judges, not about a general pattern of truth telling. It's about --


AVLON: -- delivering the policy, the priorities that --

STEWART: Exactly.

AVLON: -- they wish to see. And I want to just dig into this, because I think Joe Biden is evidently a person of faith. Raphael Warnock, Senator

from -- the pulpit of Ebenezer Baptist Church.


And yet, there still is this partisan divide over faith in American politics. Do you see any sign of that winnowing, or really, frankly,

Democrats trying to compete for that community?

ALLISON: Well, Democrats should compete for that community. I think for some time now, it has been the moral high ground for whatever reason has

been going to the Republican Party. But, it's interesting, because it's Martin Luther King Day. Right? And Martin Luther -- you mentioned Raphael

Warnock, who is the pastor of Martin Luther King's church. And when you really look at what Dr. King stood for, we'll have so many people talking

about Dr. King today. And yet, their policies won't be supportive of ending poverty and having peace in our world.

And so, I think Democrats have a real story to tell, that is a story that is rooted in faith and in inclusivity. But, it's interesting, because for

so long, Republicans have touted that they are the party of faith because of the conversation around -- of abortion. But, what we're actually seeing

is that as an issue that people, whether you are a Christian or not, I am a Christian, and I am also pro-choice, and you can have those two things be

true and not have to question your faith. And I think that story is actually starting to change. And I hope, I started my organizing as a

Democrat in the church. The black church is so, so important to the Democratic Party, and is where so many civil rights organizers came out of.

And so, one of the things that you are usually successful if you're a Democratic candidate is that you do rely on the black faith community. So,

we should not yield that to the Republican Party because their policies don't really align with biblical teachings of Jesus Christ.

AVLON: It's important point about the nature of a Big 10, and also that when often the term evangelicals is used in politics, we should say white


ALLISON: That's right.

AVLON: The partisanship is different. We've taken the totality of the community.

All right. Stick around you all. We've got breaking news just in to CNN. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has been released from the hospital. That's

according to the Pentagon. He was hospitalized following complications from prostate cancer treatment. That made news when it emerged that it took

three and a half days for the Pentagon to notify the Biden White House about the hospitalization. We're going to bring you more details on this as

we get them.

Meanwhile, in Washington, congressional leaders coming together for a spending deal, but a small group of lawmakers is trying to make the House

Speaker back out. That's next.




AVLON: Welcome back to State of the Race. I'm John Avlon live in New York. President Joe Biden is visiting Philadelphia today to go to a hunger relief

organization in observance for Martin Luther King Day. And moments from now, Vice President Kamala Harris is scheduled to mark the occasion at an

address in South Carolina.

Meanwhile, back in Washington, a government funding deadline is just five days away. Congressional leaders have announced a deal to push that

deadline back to March. But, Republican hardliners in the House are not on board. The Freedom Caucus sent this message on X, the platform formerly

known as Twitter, calling the proposal "surrender". But, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer hits back at that idea.


SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): A majority of Democrats and Republicans don't want to a shutdown. But, there is a group, a hard right group, particularly

in the House, some in the Senate, who want to bully their way into forcing a shutdown. That cannot happen.


AVLON: Joining us now, CNN Congressional Correspondent, Lauren Fox. Lauren, what's the prognosis for this kicking the can back a month? Is the far

right going to hold Johnson hostage? Or are we going to get a deal at least for a few more weeks?

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, John. It's very likely that this deal is going to get through how quickly it can move, of course,

in the Senate remains to be a major question. But, the deadline, like you noted, is coming up on Friday. And I think a really important piece of

context to keep in mind here is these Freedom Caucus members, those on the hard right who have repeatedly denounced deals announced by former Speaker

Kevin McCarthy, now Speaker Mike Johnson, they typically don't vote for spending deals anyway.

So, despite the fact that they are saying they don't like this deal, the reality is their votes aren't typically needed to get these across the

finish line. In fact, even if some of those members blocked the rule, even if some of those members blocked the rule from coming out of the Committee,

what Johnson could do is a move that he has done before, which is pass these bills under a suspension of the rules with a two thirds majority in

the House of Representatives.

Now, that does mean you need more democratic votes. But, because we're talking about a simple spending bill that is just short term, that is the

levels that we have been funding government at for the last several months, the reality is that can get across the finish line pretty quickly. It just

remains to be seen how quickly the Senate is going to process this, especially given the fact that we have this weather pattern moving across

the United States right now, which does add a little bit of unpredictability to the Senate and House schedules.

AVLON: For sure. But, I mean, it is kicking the can but it is stasis. I doubt the Senate won't show up for this. It is ironic, though, because it's

a deal not dissimilar to the one that got Kevin McCarthy defenestrated a few months ago.

I want to ask you about the ongoing negotiations around border security. This is something that Senator Schumer and Senator Lankford from Oklahoma

had been working on. What's the current status and the details that are emerging that might be able to get balanced support in the Senate?

FOX: Yeah. This border negotiation is really essential to ensuring that the supplemental funding passes through the House and through the Senate. This

is a criteria that a lot of Republicans have argued it has to be part of ensuring that more money goes to Ukraine and Israel. And without a border

deal, that money remains in a holding pattern, John. The reality is that despite the fact that these negotiators in the Senate have been working for

weeks, for months now, to try to find a deal, one remains elusive. Everyone you talk to says that progress is being made. But, the underlying issue is,

once you close out one issue, they sort of realize that there is three or four others that they still have to come to terms with. And that's really

what's taking so long right now.

This is complicated. And as Senator Chris Murphy says, every time reporters talk to him, this is the most difficult issue he has ever worked on in the

United States Senate. And it's a good reminder, Chris Murphy actually passed the gun bill last year.

AVLON: I was about to say. But, if there is real urgency, this has got to get done despite the fact it's opposite an election. But, before I let you

go, you mentioned Ukraine and Israel talk about moral urgency, both those countries facing real fights for their life in some respects. What's the

status of passing additional funding to support their efforts?

FOX: Yeah. It really all hinges on that border deal.


And we should know that even if the Senate were to come to an agreement on the border security provisions, so many House Republicans are signaling

that they would be opposed to it, that there is no way that whatever the Senate comes up with along with Democrats and Republicans is going to pass

muster in their chamber. They want just a clear passage of the House-passed border bill from last year. That bill, of course, dead on arrival in the

United States Senate.

So, you really get into this circular issue where nothing that can pass the Senate can pass the House and vice versa. That really does mean that, is

there more funding that's ever going to pass for Ukraine? I think it remains to be a very open question right now, despite the fact that you do

have a lot of Republicans in both the House and the Senate who are supportive of Ukraine funding, but have now muddled these two issues of

border security and Ukraine in the same bill. That just makes it really hard to see how this gets through. Again, things happen in Congress. Deals

can be made. But, it's really hard to imagine whatever gets out of the Senate is going to be able to pass muster in the House of Representatives.

AVLON: Lauren Fox, a lot hangs in the balance. Thank you very much for your reporting on the business of governing as well as politics in Iowa.

All right. Back to our panel now. Susan, look, the foreign policy of Ronald Reagan, the foreign policy of Bush 41, Bush 43, you just heard Lauren Fox

there, there has been an entire repudiation, a resurgence of a neo- isolationist tradition that's happening as Russia is continuing its invasion of Ukraine with an eye towards the outcome of this election. Are

you surprised that on such a basic article of faith is standing up to Russian aggression, which animated ideologies throughout the Cold War,

could be discarded in the face of an actual invasion in real time so completely within the Republican Party?

PAGE: Yeah. It's such a surprise. You remember, Ronald Reagan talked about the three stools of the Republican Party, and one of those was kind of

muscular leadership around the globe on behalf of democracy. But, this is not exactly a Republican Party anymore. This is a populist party with the

fate -- shaped by Donald Trump. And that is something very different. It's an America First sort of foreign policy. It's not seeing the U.S. role as

aggressively around the world. And Donald Trump's attitude toward Russia, and Putin in particular, have been surprising and sometimes hard to

understand. But, clearly, he has a different attitude toward Russia than American foreign policy, really not just in the Republican Party, among

Democrats as well, for a generation.

AVLON: Alice, I mean, we've talked a lot about how a lot of the articles of faith within the Republican coalition, as you experienced them, you are

talking a leadership role on campaigns, have been discarded. One of the canaries in that coal mine, you had a front seat too, which is, when in

2016 when Ted Cruz surprised the polls and beat Donald Trump, Donald Trump's first impulse was to a series of tweets saying that Ted Cruz had

stolen the Iowa caucuses, that they were rigged, that there ought to be a redo. What was your reaction to that at the time?

STEWART: Well, at first, I thought it was obviously outlandish, because we knew that we had won. But then, in hindsight, that's what he does every

time he loses. Right? If he doesn't win, then there is widespread voter fraud. And if he wins, then there is nothing to see here. And that's a

problem. And the problem also is that that has permeated through the ranks of his support in the Republican base.

But, I do want to say this on the issue of this aid to Ukraine. One of the cornerstones of the Republicans' foreign policy position is peace through

strength. And when we have two proxy wars going on, that we can help to try and avert, we need to flex our muscles with regard to that. And I'm really

frustrated with those in the Freedom Caucus. Look, they say that they want to see more transparency in this funding that goes to the Ukraine, and I

think they have done -- Ukraine has done a good job of doing that. I think it's important to make sure that we maybe just provide arsenal and weaponry

as opposed to just writing a blank check. But, the answer to that is not to just turn our backs and walk away.

We need to make sure we continue to find Ukraine as well as Israel, because that is an investment in democracy, and I think that's important. And the

Freedom Caucus doesn't seem to be able to take yes for an answer. The suggestion is, let's "kick the can down the road for a little bit and have

more conversations." That's much better than leaving the field and shutting the government down. And shame on the Freedom Caucus for obviously always

averting to let's shut the government down instead of having meaningful bipartisan conversations.

AVLON: And I'll say, there is a special irony to Donald Trump calling Nikki Haley, saying that she is not tough enough beyond the obvious --


AVLON: -- sexism of it because she is presenting the most muscular foreign policy of any of the Republican candidate.



AVLON: Traditionally, that would be associated with toughness.

Alice, I want to ask you about outreach. I spoke to Adam Kinzinger on this program a few weeks ago, and he said that he hadn't gotten outreach from

the Biden campaign, and not just him, other leading Republicans who have been strong about standing up against Trump because they feel he represents

a threat to democracy.

I want to show you two things. There is a poll The New York Times did over the summer, I found very interesting, because it shows a breakdown of the

Republican Party, saying that 37 percent is the MAGA base. They love Donald Trump, not going anywhere. 37 percent, persuadable, 25 percent, not open to

Trump, presumably pick up opportunities for Democrats if they played their cards right. In Iowa, Nikki Haley supporters, interestingly, 43 percent say

that they would vote for Biden if Nikki Haley were not the nominee. Do you think the Biden campaign has a strategy to actually actively reach out to

these voters who are Republicans, what's left or moderate Republicans? Or - - because to date it looks like they're defaulting to kind of an insularity which isn't probably going to be sufficient to the task they've got ahead

of them.

ALLISON: Well, in the 2020 campaign, I ran the coalition's department for Joe Biden, and part of building a coalition is that you want to definitely

secure your base so that you know you're going out strong, and I think that's the work that the Biden campaign is focusing on right now. But, in

addition, we also had folks who worked on reaching out to independents, reaching out to people who were Never Trumpers. It was a part of us getting

Cindy McCain's endorsement to help us win the state of Arizona. So, I think that the Biden campaign is going to start this outreach. There has been

news stories that they're staffing up in battleground states. The general election is -- has yet to really get started because we're still waiting to

see who the Republican nominee is, even though most likely it will probably be Donald Trump.

But, they are going to have to push this -- put this patch stitch quilt together that is very, very delicate right now and will be throughout the

year because there are competing interests within the Biden coalition. And so, I think that there is an opportunity here to talk to Never Trumpers, to

talk to independents, but not do it at the risk of isolating your base. And so, it's going to be tough, but I think the campaign is up to the


AVLON: That is indeed the challenge. All right. We're going to leave it there for now. Thanks to you all.

All right. Coming up next, the icy campaign trail is heating up in Iowa, caucus goers shaping the future of this presidential election, and frankly,

this nation, just hours from now. We're going to dive deep into the latest polls with a local reporter. That's next.




AVLON: President Joe Biden is in Philadelphia right now, spending Martha King Jr. Day, volunteering the local hunger relief organization. Welcome

back. We return to our coverage of the ice cold Iowa caucuses. Donald Trump consistently holding a commanding lead in the Hawkeye State. But, political

results are judged against expectations. And we're going to find out later today if that lead will hold at its current levels. Here is a look at the

latest Des Moines Register poll. Nikki Haley could secure that second place spot, giving her campaign some needed momentum heading into New Hampshire

where she has been spending a lot of time. Ron DeSantis going all in in Iowa, latest polling now shows him slipping into third.

Now, braving that cold in Des Moines to chat with us is Political Reporter Galen Bacharier with the Des Moines Register. Galen, good to see you. I

want to dig into some of the data and get your sense of what you're seeing on the ground. First of all, we just showed, the momentum shifts a little

bit in the last month or so. Biden -- Trump down slightly, DeSantis down slightly, Nikki Haley picking up slightly. Is that reflecting the kind of

energy you're seeing on the ground?

GALEN BACHARIER, POLITICS REPORTER, THE DES MOINES REGISTER: Yeah. Heading into these last couple of months, I think it was apparent that Nikki Haley

had picked up a national bump, certainly an attention from certainly the political class. But, I think the polling reflects that she has had a lot

of attention brought upon her as sort of emerging as one of the leading alternative to Donald Trump in this state, albeit still trailing in by

quite a bit. But, reporters, myself and my colleagues who have been on the ground, have seen that at recent Haley events, she'll often ask, are you

here seeing me for the first time, and a lot of these people raised their hands. So, there has been a lot of attention brought upon her.

AVLON: That's a sign of something. Do you think -- as you look at this unprecedented freezing weather, I mean, it -- by the way, I mean, negative

30. I mean, this is freezing. I've spoken to folks in Iowa. They -- on the one hand, they say we're hardy, and these are precinct folks, particularly

in the eastern end of the state. We're going to come out. Other folks saying, look, I can't leave my house. How do you think the weather will

impact turnout? We've got Donald Trump's core supporters very dedicated. How do you see it reading rural versus urban, and all the different

dynamics the weather could bring to bear?

BACHARIER: Yeah, certainly. It's a complicated situation, and it really is very cold. I mean, when you get wind chills like this, it starts to become

a risk to some groups here in the state. So, I think it's certainly reasonable to expect a dip in turnout because of that. I think there are

certain things to watch for, particularly in rural areas. Those folks are going to have to travel a little further to get to their precinct sites.

So, I would not be surprised if -- when you noticed that the most come tonight is in those rural areas. I think all these candidates to a certain

extent have -- certainly have something to lose given lower turnout.

Like you said, this is a managing expectations game. And I think the last couple days we've really seen them start to tamp down a little bit and

bring supporters in and say you have to show up still. Be safe out there. But, we've got to show up, and then we've got to perform according to


AVLON: One of the basic pillars of Iowa caucus turnout is the evangelical vote, and Ron DeSantis surprised a lot of people by getting Bob Vander

Plaats, a local evangelical leader with real sway in the state on board early on. And yet, your own Des Moines Register poll showing Trump with 51

percent support among evangelicals, DeSantis a distant 22 percent. Is this a case where Vander Plaats and even Governor Kim Reynolds, very popular,

they just don't have the juice to convert that endorsement into votes in the face of Donald Trump? Where do you think they might outperform

expectations because of the organization?

BACHARIER: Yeah. It's difficult. And I think that's been one of the core issues for Governor DeSantis this time around, right, is he has earned the

support of the prominent Iowan leaders on paper that if you're running a campaign or supporting a campaign, you'd like to see Governor Kim Reynolds,

Bob Vander Plaats. These are big names to have rallying behind you to come up on stage and introduce you. Tight? But, the base has not necessarily

followed them in the way that I think DeSantis and his allies would have liked. Our polling throughout this cycle has shown that evangelical Iowan

voters, when it comes down to it, a majority of them are still supporting Donald Trump.


So, DeSantis can pry away like Vander Plaats or maybe some local pastors, but the base is not necessarily following them.

AVLON: The mechanics of the caucus are complicated to folks not familiar, particularly our international viewers. But, unlike the Democrats, this

isn't necessarily people staying in a corner, persuading people to come over, and if you hit below a certain threshold, you don't get reallocated,

a second chance to vote. But, one of the X factors is that independent voters, undeclared voters, can go in and register Republican that night.

And there is some talk about independents supporting Nikki Haley.

Now, this year, Des Moines Register poll, I should say, shows that independent voters -- actually, Trump has a narrow lead within -- just

outside the margin of error, followed by Haley, then DeSantis. How -- you've been hearing independent voters and read certain stories about folks

caucusing for Nikki Haley. How do you think that X factor is likely to play out, or will it not be much of a factor again?

BACHARIER: Yeah. Yeah. I will say anecdotally, what we've seen on the trail has matched with this recent poll shows you run into more independents and

maybe moderate Democrats who are either curious in casting a vote against Trump or maybe participating in the process, who are leaning more toward

Haley than these other candidates. I will say, this is another area where weather could be a factor, right? If you're a little hesitant, maybe you

usually vote Democrat, or maybe you're an independent who is not super bought into any of these candidates. If you're not all the way in, maybe

the weather is just the thing that is the straw that breaks the camel's back, and you end up staying home.

But, I think if anyone has something to gain between those crossover voters, those independents and Democrats who come and register as

Republicans and participate in the caucus, it is most likely Nikki Haley.

AVLON: Well, look, there are 1001 dynamics to watch tonight. It's going to be fascinating. I see you're in Des Moines and you'll be covering it

closely. Des Moines folks doing great work as always. Look, I mean --

BACHARIER: Thank you.

AVLON: -- Ted Cruz and other folks have shocked the world, Rick Santorum in the past. This seems to be a different kind of race, but unprecedented

circumstances all around, not least the weather. Galen Bacharier, thank you for joining us. Be well.

All right. It's time for a quick break. But, stick with us. Our panel is going to be back with one more thing.


AVLON: Welcome back to State of the Race. Our panel rejoins us. Before we go, I want to ask for one more thing. What's one thing on the campaign

trail or in Washington that you're watching for in the coming days? Your thoughts. All right. Susan, kick it off.

PAGE: OK. Let's say that Donald Trump wins decisively tonight by double digits and then does the same thing in New Hampshire next week, both those

things are entirely possible given the state of the polls. I think that makes him effectively the presumptive Republican nominee. Joe Biden is not

really challenged for the Democratic nomination. That means we would have the earliest start of the general election between the two presumptive

nominees in American history. So, brace yourself.

AVLON: That's good perspective. I dig it. Alice.

STEWART: I'll give our international audience, John, a brief break from the campaign trail and look ahead to what's expected tomorrow. A large group of

federal employees are expected to walk off the job to protest the U.S. policy with regard to Israel and Gaza. They are frustrated with the current

administration's policy. Republicans are saying that the federal agencies need to hold them accountable by taking a day off work at taxpayer expense

for such an adventure is inappropriate, and they are expecting to see disciplinary action taken against those workers.

AVLON: There you go. Ashley, what you got?


ALLISON: Well, on Twitter, Reverend Bernice King, who is the youngest daughter of Dr, Martin Luther King who we are honoring today, writes this.

"Dear politicians and political influencers, when you invoke my father's name this MLK Day, remember that he was resolute about eradicating racism,

poverty and militarism, and about corrective justice work. Don't just quote him, encourage, and enact policies that reflect his teaching." So, I'm

curious to see how many politicians quote Dr. King and yet have voting records that are in the exact opposite of his policy positions. And I'm

curious to see if any of the Republicans that are vying for these final caucus goers tonight have the courage to lead in a way that Dr. King would.

I am hopeful, but I'm not going to hold my breath.

AVLON: It's such an important point. Don't just quote the heroes from history. Try to emulate their actions. That's the soul of it all.

All right. Thank you all. It's Iowa caucus day. I'm John Avlon. That's the State of the Race, Monday, January 15, 2024. Stick with CNN. One World is

up next.