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State of the Race with Kasie Hunt
Trump Focuses Attacks On Haley Days Before NH Primary; New Hampshire A Make-Or-Break Contest For Haley Campaign; JPMorgan CEO: Bashing MAGA Will Hurt Biden's Election Campaign. Aired 11a-12p ET
Aired January 18, 2024 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KASIE HUNT, CNN HOST: Donald Trump throwing everything he has at Nikki Haley, the Republican frontrunner making a concerted effort to prevent
Haley from finding a foothold in New Hampshire and threatening his dominance. His new line of attack, tying her to Democrats. And with a
Republican base still firmly in Trump's Make America Great Again camp, how can Democrats talk about and talk to MAGA voters? We will discuss. Plus,
with just over one day left until a partial government shutdown, House Speaker Mike Johnson is under immense pressure to compromise. Can he pass a
spending bill that includes changes to border policy without facing a revolt from inside his own party?
Good day, everyone. I'm Kasie Hunt to our viewers watching in the United States and around the world. It's 11 a.m. here in Washington, Thursday,
January 18. There are just five days until the New Hampshire primaries, 291 days until Election Day. This is today's STATE OF THE RACE.
Welcome in. We've got just five days to go until the critical Republican primary in New Hampshire. Donald Trump is going for the knockout punch,
throwing everything at Nikki Haley, as she tries to derail his seemingly inevitable march to the nomination. Here is just a little sample of his
attacks on Haley last night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, 45TH U.S. PRESIDENT: Nikki Haley is counting on Democrats and liberals to infiltrate your Republican primary. A vote for Nikki Haley this
Tuesday is a vote for Joe Biden and a Democrat Congress. I actually think she might go to the Democrat Party. I don't know that she is a Democrat,
but she is very close. She is far too close for you. In 2016, she stabbed the Republican Party in the back by siding with Barack Hussein Obama
against the Trump travel ban.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUNT: Did you hear those whistles? Don't need a -- well, you can hear those whistles. Haley, meanwhile, not responding in kind. She has yet to address
the clearly racist overtones in Trump's attacks. Here is what she said last night instead.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NIKKI HALEY, U.S. REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Now, I know Trump threw a temper tantrum about me last night. We have to win in November
head-to-head. Trump and Biden, it's going to be another nail-biter of an election.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUNT: New Hampshire is the whole ballgame for Haley where undeclared voters will be able to vote in the primary. After that, the road gets much
tougher. Even in our home state of South Carolina, Trump's polling average there is near 50 percent. Here you can see in New Hampshire, he is up -- he
is down at 39. America, meanwhile, is starting to come to terms with the emerging reality that Trump is going to be the nominee and that he is
possibly going to be President again.
Here is what Republican Senator Mitt Romney told our Manu Raju yesterday. He said "I think a lot of people in this country are out of touch with
reality and will accept anything Donald Trump tells them. You had a jury that said Donald Trump raped a woman. And that doesn't seem to be moving
the needle. There is a lot of things about today's electorate that I have a hard time understanding." It's all, of course, because Trump voters have
become more and more loyal to him over the past four years. Here is just a glimpse of how far those most loyal supporters are willing to go, courtesy
of CNN's Elle Reeve.
WHITEY TAYLOR, OWNER, TRUMP TOWN USA: The mug shot was really hot, and this stuff lasts is probably about two months. It stays really hot. But the
first week that we -- the mug shot came out, was sold like 2,000 t-shirts.
ELLE REEVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: What's that?
TAYLOR: That's a Trump's balls.
REEVE (voice-over): Whitey Taylor runs a busy Trump store in Boone's Mill, a town of fewer than 500 people in southwestern Virginia. The merch is not
just simple campaign slogans. It's defiant, even vulgar, aimed at buyers who enjoy being mad at the state of America and think there is one guy who
will fix it.
REEVE: When Trump was indicted for all these different things, did people stop buying his merchandise?
TAYLOR: No. They bought it more.
TAYLOR: Because they knew it was like Russia collusion. This is all (BEEP). Made up (BEEP). Now, he has gained a lot of people because of this
administration that we have now. Yeah.
REEVE: You get people coming in and saying that?
TAYLOR: Oh, yeah, definitely. Yeah. They'll just come in and say, never again will I be that stupid, you know.
MELINDA WILLIAMS, EMPLOYEE, TRUMP TOWN USA: Hi. Welcome to the Trump store.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi.
REEVE: What have you observed about what people are looking for?
MELINDA WILLIAMS, EMPLOYEE, TRUMP TOWN USA: People who want our economy better. They're very scared, I think, because of the way things are going.
They feel like where we're at right now is not -- is like stagnant.
REEVE: Were you interested in politics before Trump?
WILLIAMS: Yes, and you know it's strange because I've always been Democrat.
WILLIAMS: Yes. So, I am a firm believer in believing in a person and system that is going to make positive changes.
HUNT: There is a lot there. Let's dive into all of this with today's panel.
Democratic Strategist Brad Woodhouse. We already got a laugh out of him. Thank you for that. CNN Political Commentator, Republican Strategist, Alice
Stewart, and Andrew Desiderio, Senior Congressional Reporter for Punchbowl News.
Brad, Trump's balls, (inaudible) purchase?
BRAD WOODHOUSE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, Trump's balls. I mean, what a way to start the morning. Yeah. It's -- it is really interesting. And I
think this approach of Trump's in New Hampshire is really interesting.
WOODHOUSE: For every action, there is a reaction. And New Hampshire is not Iowa. It's unique and that it has undeclared voters or plurality. People
can register same day. So, if you're a registered Democrat today, on Tuesday, you can register undeclared or Republican. And so, attacking her
as a Democrat in a electorate that has got that many options for voters, they can come in and they can pull a Democratic ballot. They can pull
Republican ballot. Who knows what it will mean in the end? I mean, right now, I think there are a couple of polls this week that have her down more
than the poll --
WOODHOUSE: -- that you showed.
HUNT: It honestly depends on how many undeclared you put in the sample.
WOODHOUSE: Yeah. Yeah. Absolutely.
HUNT: Right? So, it's-- in the last time -- last time we faced a situation where -- I love New Hampshire voters for this reason, right, because if
you've got competitive contests on both sides, you're more likely to see a lower percentage of undeclared in each, right, because they split. But,
this time, there is no real competitive Democratic primary, Alice. And so, the last time that happened with Romney in 2012, it was about 45 percent.
That would put her -- that's what we had in our CNN poll as well, that put her within eight points of Donald Trump. What do you -- what -- I mean,
what's your assessment of how -- I mean, Trump really has thrown everything at her. I'm not necessarily sure these were the kinds of attacks that New
Hampshire voters are really going to hang on to, but I'm curious what your take is.
ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, & REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, just when we think he has thrown everything at her, we're getting ready to
see a lot more. It's going to continue for the next five days, without a doubt.
HUNT: Every time I think it's as ugly as it can be to --
HUNT: -- it gets uglier.
STEWART: It gets uglier. And look, like you, I love the whole -- each state is different. Like Brad said, Iowa is different from New Hampshire. The
thing about New Hampshire that's great is they will kick the tires and window shop until the very last minute. And the current governor, Chris
Sununu, his father, another former governor, he was famous for saying "The people of Iowa pick corn. The people of New Hampshire pick presidents."
They wear that as a badge of honor. So, they look at this next few days as an opportunity to show we can take our time. We can do the research,
educate ourselves on the best person that can be -- actually be the next President. And they do have a higher percentage rate of picking
That being said, Donald Trump has a huge lead on the candidates.
STEWART: Nikki Haley in our poll is within striking distance. But, her challenge and DeSantis, who is actually not even going to be there --
STEWART: -- but her challenge with current governor at her side is to really appeal to those independent voters, the moderate voters of New
Hampshire, and making the case that, look, majority of Americans don't want a Biden-Trump rematch. I'm a new fresh generation.
STEWART: I am optimistic, and I am Live Free or Die candidate. And I'm the best choice for you not just for the primary, but for the general election.
It's going to be a tough sell. But, that's the case she is trying to make.
HUNT: Right. And we can show you a little bit of Haley making that case for herself. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HALEY: Do we want more of the same, or do we want to go forward in a new direction? And more of the same is not just Joe Biden. More of the same is
also Donald Trump. Everybody wants to talk about how good the economy was under Trump. He put us $8 trillion in debt in four years.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUNT: Andrew, she is not wrong. She is true. She is correct about all those things that she just said.
ANDREW DESIDERIO, SR. CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, PUNCHBOWL NEWS: Yep.
HUNT: But, she has been saying this for a handful of days since she left Iowa. What is going on there? I mean, I know you've covered this every day,
kind of from the Hill angle. But, you see that same phenomenon play out every day with Republicans who have no idea. I mean, how many times have we
put microphones in their face saying, hey, like that thing that Donald Trump did today? And they're like, I didn't see it.
HUNT: Talk to me about it.
DESIDERIO: Yeah. Didn't see the tweet. That's what they say. Right? But, I think a lot of this speaks to the inevitability of the presidential
nomination of Donald Trump, the sense within the Republican Party on the Hill that that's going to happen. You do have Republican leaders,
particularly in the Senate, who are still publicly, openly -- they're not shying away from this. They're saying that Donald Trump has an electability
DESIDERIO: I talked to Senate Minority Whip John Thune, the number two Senate Republican the other day, who said, yes, I still have concerns about
his electability. For general elections, you have to appeal to the middle. You have to appeal to those voters in suburban Philadelphia, suburban
Atlanta. And he said that also translates --
DESIDERIO: -- to Senate races as well, which is his -- one of his big focuses as well trying to retake the Senate majority, and he might be the
next Senate Republican leader, of course, which would be very fascinating if you send a Republican leader with Donald Trump as President --
DESIDERIO: -- that's a conversation for another day, but we're not --
HUNT: Oh man, Andrew. OK.
DESIDERIO: I think what's happening here is you're not seeing -- yes, you're seeing Senate Republican leaders support some of these arguments
that Nikki Haley is putting forward in terms of electability and the best way to beat Joe Biden. But, you're not seeing that translate into an
avalanche of endorsements for her or like any sort of concerted effort to get her the nomination.
HUNT: I mean, if anything (inaudible) afraid of not endorsing Trump in time.
DESIDERIO: Exactly. Yeah.
HUNT: Yeah. It's really --
DESIDERIO: You got 25 out of 49 Senate Republicans who have endorsed him. That's obviously a majority now.
DESIDERIO: It'll be interesting to see how many more of the Senate Republican leadership eventually get behind him if he continues to win
these consecutive states.
HUNT: Right. So, Brad, speaking of Senate Republicans, I thought Mitt Romney's comments to Manu Raju were very illuminating. It's not the first
time -- I mean, I've talked with him privately about this, but he was responding in particular to the entrance poll data out of Iowa that showed
that -- remember, these were the most conservative voters in the Republican Party. They voted overwhelmingly for Trump. They were asked, did Joe Biden
legitimately win the 2020 election? Only 29 percent said that, yes, he did, and 66 percent said that, no, he didn't. And that's where you get Mitt
Romney saying I don't understand the electorate now.
I mean, Romney was the Republican nominee for President. I'm pretty sure you would have told me at one point that it was going to be the most
important election in our lifetime, and that you should vote against Mitt Romney.
WOODHOUSE: Well, it was. It was.
HUNT: And at the time, it might have been.
HUNT: But, the stakes are much higher now. What do you make of Romney's comments? And also, like, as someone who thinks about how do you run
against someone like Donald Trump when you have people who are hanging replicas of his balls off the backs of their --
HUNT: -- pickup trucks, like, how do you do that?
WOODHOUSE: Well, I think I understand the Trump electorate better than Mitt Romney does. I mean, they have been fed a diet of disinformation from Trump
and from the conservative media. I mean, Fox had to have that massive settlement for the disinformation that they sowed after the 2020 election.
So, they --
HUNT: And which, you note, even Fox was not going far enough for the Trump people.
WOODHOUSE: Right, not far enough for the Trump people. And so, they have been fed this steady diet of misinformation. They've cloistered themselves
into this conservative media ecosystem, and they believe what Donald Trump is selling them. And so, I'm not as surprised about where the electorate
is, as Mitt Romney is, because -- and they've deified. I'm here to add -- and I was saying he was gift of God or whatever it was.
And so, they've deified Donald Trump. They have accepted a politics that win at all cost. That's what the insurrection was about. And so, I'm not
surprised where the politics is. I'm certainly disappointed. But, I do think you saw some results there. There were about 30 percent that said a
conviction would make them feel uncomfortable --
WOODHOUSE: -- about him as the nominee.
STEWART: I am wondering the other cross tabs out of the entry polls that were similar numbers to what Romney was talking about was the question of,
do you think Donald Trump would be fit to be President if he were to be convicted in some of these many issues?
HUNT: That's what Brad was just talking about. Yeah. Yeah.
STEWART: And more than 60 percent of them said, yes, sure. He is fit to be President. That speaks a lot to the base. We know that his base is going to
feel that way. But, let's look to the general election. That means 30 percent -- 32 percent of his base doesn't think he is fit. Lord knows what
that means for the writ large independent voters and certainly the Democrats. The question is, will those people show up to the polls and say
this person is not fit to be President?
STEWART: Where are the balls of those voters when it comes to, alright, it's time to stand up to Donald Trump?
WOODHOUSE: It sounds like John Thune might be in that 30 percent, 31 percent category.
HUNT: It might. Indeed. Andrew, briefly here, the vice presidential chatter is already starting, right --
HUNT: -- which also tells you a little bit about what people are assuming in terms of trumping on the glide path here. But, Jonathan Martin is out
today in POLITICO with a long piece about all of the behind the scenes chatter, and he got an on the record quote from Matt Gaetz about Nikki
Haley, because obviously, there has been all this speculation, is Nikki Haley just running for vice president? This is what Matt Gaetz said about
Nikki Haley. "Nikki Haley as VP would be an establishment neocon fantasy and a MAGA nightmare. On Day One, she would convert the Naval Observatory
into an anti-Trump resistance headquarters, undermining him at every step."
So, the no Nikki is also out there in force. I got to tell you, I can't imagine a world where Donald Trump chooses a vice presidential nominee in
someone who actually ran against him. What's your take on what Gaetz says here?
DESIDERIO: Well, I tend to agree with that. Many Republicans you talked to on the Hill expect that Donald Trump is going to choose a loyalist as his
vice presidential nominee. There is chatter recently about Elise Stefanik, the Congresswoman from New York. She is now the House Republican Conference
Chair. She has morphed into this ultra-Trump loyalists. I mean, she came into Congress as someone who was a more moderate voice, came from a part of
New York that is, yes, more conservative than the rest of the state, but still on the more moderate track of things.
And when Donald Trump came into office when she was on the House Judiciary Committee and the House Intelligence Committee during the impeachment of
Donald Trump, she was out there defending him more than anyone in public, and Donald Trump sees that and he likes that, obviously.
And with the reports we are seeing this week about his interest in having her potentially as his vice presidential nominee I think reflects that. And
Republicans you talk to on the Hill, again, those for him, those against him, will say the same thing, that they expect a loyalist will be the vice
HUNT: It's hard any other reality.
All right. We've got so much more to talk about here. So, coming up, Vice President Kamala Harris has a -- is warning Americans about another Trump
presidency. We'll also hear the advice from one of the world's leading CEOs he has, perhaps for her, and definitely for other Democrats.
HUNT: Welcome back. We've been talking about Donald Trump's MAGA following and just how loyal his supporters have become. For President Joe Biden's
campaign, is it even possible to win any of them over or at least not offend them repeatedly in a way that energizes them? The influential CEO of
JPMorgan Chase says that it's time for Democrats to ease up on the negative MAGA attacks.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAMIE DIMON, CEO, JPMORGAN CHASE: I wish the Democrats would think a little more carefully when they talk about MAGA. The Democrats have done a pretty
good job with the deplorables, logging onto their Bibles and their beer and their guns. I mean, really, could you just stop that stuff and actually
grow up and treat other people who respect and listen to a little bit? And I think this negative talk about MAGA is going to hurt Biden's electoral
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUNT: Now, could this be an example of what Jamie Dimon is talking about? Vice President Kamala Harris was asked about Trump and MAGA on "The View"
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOY BEHAR, CO-HOST, "THE VIEW": Are you scared, first of all, what could happen if Trump ever became, God forbid, President again? And what are you
going to do to stop the crazies?
KAMALA HARRIS, VICE PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: I am scared as heck --
HARRIS: -- which is why I'm traveling our country. There is an old saying that there are only two ways to run for office, either without an opponent
So, on all of those points, yes, we should all be scared.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUNT: So, Brad Woodhouse, this one is for you.
WOODHOUSE: I will do that.
HUNT: What is the right balance here? Because -- I mean, the deplorables reference in here -- let me just play that one too before we get to Brad,
the Jamie Dimon reference. He is talking about when Hillary Clinton was running against Donald Trump in 2016, and this was something that people
said after, well, did this make a difference in the outcome of the election? Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY CLINTON, THEN-U.S. DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: To just be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump's supporters into what I
call the basket of deplorables. Right? The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic, you name it. And unfortunately there are people
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUNT: So, Brad, that was kind of a more -- she was much more specific, shall we say, than what Kamala Harris was doing right there. But, there is
this big question. How should Democrats handle this?
WOODHOUSE: Well, I would just remind Jamie Dimon, MAGA attacked the Capitol. MAGA set up gallows to hang Mike Pence. MAGA was looking to hunt
down Nancy Pelosi. And so -- and MAGA has 26 percent support in this country as a political movement or as an ideology, and Joe Biden ran
against MAGA in 2022, and Democrats overperformed. He ran against selection deniers who were MAGA. In every key state where they were running for
statewide office, they all lost. Donald Trump's MAGA endorsees lost. So, what I think the difference is, is talk about an ideology and talk about
the person that is at the head of that ideology, Donald Trump. Everything Hillary Clinton said there, xenophobic, homophobic, racist, all those
things apply to Donald Trump. They don't apply to every American who supports Donald Trump. So, I think --
HUNT: I think that's the --
WOODHOUSE: -- the balance is to talk about the ideology, to talk about the extremism, the win at all cost, the threat to democracy, and associate that
with Donald Trump. That's the key there. But, MAGA is -- MAGA works. MAGA works.
STEWART: Well, that --
HUNT: Hold on one second, Alice. I just want to show you what President Biden -- he gave a speech that some Republicans afterward were sort of
bristled at because -- and I kind of wonder, Brad, to your point, he talks about MAGA Republicans and not just about Donald Trump. Watch what Biden
had to say. This is in Philadelphia, September 1, 2022.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans represent an extremism that threatens the very foundations of
our republic. There is no question that the Republican Party today is dominated, driven, and intimidated by Donald Trump and the MAGA
Republicans, and that is a threat to this country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUNT: Alice, when you hear that, how do you think that plays? Look, the reality is Biden needs to energize Democrats, right, in a general election,
but he also needs to win over enough independent voters and disaffected Republicans to get himself over the finish line. Is this -- are they
striking the right balance here?
STEWART: Well, if they're trying to energize the Democratic base, obviously, they heat that up. The mistake is, to -- the Brad alluded to,
Republican Party is several buckets. There are rational Republicans. There are MAGA Republicans, and then there are extreme MAGA Republicans. And
Democrats make a huge mistake painting everyone with the same brush, saying they're deplorable. They're crazy. They're stupid. What that does right
there? That just energizes Republicans even more to fight for Donald Trump and stand behind him.
And if you look at what motivates Republicans, it's not necessarily Trump's tone and tenor. It is what he is doing, his policies, the fact that he
reflects their values, the fact that he stands up, not for himself, but for them, and the fact that they see him as someone that's going to go and do
away with the status quo in Washington, D.C. And I think a big part of why Democrats are making this argument, to be honest, is they don't want to
talk about what this administration is not doing. They would rather call the other side deplorables or crazy than talk about what they're doing.
They don't want to talk about Bidenomics anymore because the economy is not successful. American people --
HUNT: Well, by the numbers -- I mean, he is going to North Carolina to tout Bidenomics, whether there is wisdom in that. I mean --
STEWART: Well --
HUNT: -- maybe we should put that question to Brag because I do have some questions about that.
HUNT: But, I'm sorry. Alice, continue.
STEWART: The numbers are one thing but the perception amongst the people of this country are completely different --
HUNT: Right. Completely different. You're correct. Yes.
STEWART: -- and the perception is --
STEWART: -- is reality when it comes to voting. And also, we cannot deny and ignore the crisis at the border. And Andrew is going to be covering
quite a bit of Congress trying to come together and trying to find a solution to the crisis at the border.
But, economy and immigration are key issues for voters. Democrats would certainly rather talk about bad Republicans than this bad administration.
HUNT: Andrew, what do you hear on the Hill when you talk to Democrats, in particular, about the President's campaign and his messaging, especially
around this? How does it cut?
DESIDERIO: It's focused on kind of what Brad said, attack the candidate. Don't attack the voters. You've got this, as Brad alluded to, the 26
percent of the MAGA movement who are never going to vote for Democrats anyway.
But, you do have a, I would say, a gettable number of independents, Republican-leaning independents, who could vote for Joe Biden in the
general election just because they can't stomach Donald Trump. And the problem you have is that even the Republicans on Capitol Hill who are
skeptical of Donald Trump, who will never endorse him even in the end when he -- if he becomes the nominee, they're forced to defend him sometimes
when Democrats pull out these types of attacks against him. And you can tell they really don't want to, but they feel like they have to. And that
is, I think, what Democrats risk at this point is alienating the people in the middle who could put Joe Biden over the top again in 2024.
To Democrats on the Hill, there is not a lot of public chatter about this. But, privately, they are concerned about the issues that Alice raised. They
are concerned about the way in which President Biden has been talking about Republicans more generally, especially these more they call them the
frontline members from Democrats from districts that are more conservative than not. And one of the things that they have to worry about is not
alienating people who might vote for Donald Trump at the top of the ballot, but like might vote for them, the Democrat, in their race.
DESIDERIO: And so --
HUNT: Sure it's not in Ohio.
DESIDERIO: That's another --
HUNT: Not from (inaudible) member. But --
DESIDERIO: -- another good example of split ticket voting.
HUNT: Right. Yeah.
DESIDERIO: Right. So, a lot of this comes down. It's a presidential year too. It's not just a midterm year. So, it's sort of the top down system
that they're emphasizing behind closed doors.
HUNT: Brad, last word here.
WOODHOUSE: Well, to distinguish deplorables, I mean, what I find interesting about this whole thing is that no one, no one is using that
WOODHOUSE: Hillary Clinton used way back. When? And the idea that MAGA is a smear is pretty interesting when so many of them embrace it.
HUNT: Yeah. Well, they all do. Yeah.
WOODHOUSE: I mean, they all do. They embrace that. So, if we're calling them MAGA and they're embracing MAGA, I'm not sure. I'm not sure. I'm not -
- there is a disconnect there. Right? I mean-- but, so many of them embrace it. Trump embraces it. Several of the candidates, when we started using it,
say, I'm MAGA. I'm MAGA. And so, look, we're not going to -- and one thing that's interesting, that clip notwithstanding your show to the President,
I've been to plenty of speeches where he talked about MAGA Republicans, and then he immediately says, but not all Republicans are MAGA.
HUNT: Yes. He seems to have added that answer.
WOODHOUSE: He has added that.
HUNT: After it. There was some backlash after that Philadelphia speech, and then he gave another one that was not -- that was pretty similar out in
Phoenix, but then we were hearing exactly what you're talking about --
WOODHOUSE: Yeah. Yeah. Exactly.
HUNT: -- which is that, hey, those of you out there who don't identify this way, we don't want to alienate you. It sounds important.
All right. Coming up next, how deep divides over border security are complicating just about everything on Capitol Hill? That's up next.
HUNT: Welcome back to the STATE OF THE RACE. I'm Kasie Hunt. We're live in Washington. Senators in the White House are closing in on a bipartisan deal
to aid Ukraine and Israel while also making major changes to border policy and spending millions more on border security. But, what will House Speaker
Mike Johnson do? President Joe Biden met with congressional leaders yesterday, and you see Johnson across the table from him there. Johnson is
under fierce pressure from his own right. They are demanding even stricter border policies. But, Johnson will have to decide whether to even put a
bipartisan border and Ukraine bill on the floor at all. Here is what Johnson told CNN last night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MIKE JOHNSON (R-LA): I think we had productive discussion today at the White House, because I told them, it doesn't matter to me what you label
it. I don't care if you call it H.R. 2. But, those elements are really important. If the bill looks like some of the things that have been
rumored, of course, it's dead in the House because it wouldn't solve the problem. If the best we can get does not solve the problem and not stem the
flow, then it will not be acceptable on the House side. And I have said that very clearly from day one.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUNT: So, some far-right Republicans are already threatening Johnson's job over this if he tries to pass a border deal.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE (R-GA) (VIA TELEPHONE): If he moves forward with a separate deal trading our border security, weakening H.R. 2 in
exchange for $60 billion to Ukraine, I told him, yesterday in his office, that I would vacate the chair.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUNT: That, of course, is a threat to do to him what they did to Kevin McCarthy. Let's bring in Lauren Fox who is live for us on Capitol Hill.
Lauren, this is a cheerful situation. What exactly is Mike Johnson going to do here, and what are the dynamics at play?
LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah. I mean, there really is no winning in this situation for Speaker Mike Johnson when he is faced with
the reality that he could potentially lose his job if he moves forward with a bipartisan immigration deal in the House. But, we should know, Kasie,
there isn't an agreement yet. Senate negotiators have been working for months. They are trying to get an agreement. They are close. They are
making progress. They're right up against that deadline. And yet, even if they do find some kind of consensus, which a lot of Republicans are warning
is very possible in the next couple of days here, the reality is that, does that bill go anywhere in the House of Representatives? Ultimately, it's up
to Mike Johnson to decide if he is going to put it on the floor. That is the power of the speaker.
Just because the Senate passes something does not mean the Speaker is obligated to actually make the decision to have his members vote on it. You
actually saw this back in 2013, if you remember. The Senate passed this massive immigration agreement by the Gang of Eight. And then, at the time,
Speaker John Boehner never put it on the floor of the House because there were threats coming from members of his hard right flank. And I think that
Mike Johnson finds himself in that position with additional pressure because of what's on the line.
Yesterday's meeting at the White House was brought together in part to emphasize to Republican members, Speaker Johnson specifically, that Ukraine
is on the battlefield, that they need U.S. support. They needed it yesterday, and that this funding that has now become burdened by this
immigration debate is essential in this time. And I think that that is what Johnson is going to have to weigh, the reality of the fact that he believes
that Ukraine potentially should get more money with the other reality that doing so bringing it forward could potentially cost him his job.
Now, I do think that there are questions about whether or not House Republicans really want to go through the rigmarole of another Speaker's
race after what it did accomplish just a couple of months ago. But, I think there are some members who don't consider the broader dynamics of the party
at this point.
HUNT: No, for sure. No, you're absolutely right, Lauren Fox. I'm not sure if I could -- well, we'll cross that bridge when we come to it.
Thank you very much for your report. See you soon.
Our panel is back with us now. Andrew, this one is for you. This is honestly why being Speaker of the House is kind of the worst job in America
right now, a tough one to get.
DESIDERIO: In the world. Maybe.
HUNT: Very tough one to keep. But, I do want to play something that John Cornyn said just earlier today, because, well, Lauren is absolutely right
there. They have not finalized this deal. We are starting to get the sense that it is rolling and it is not out of the realm of possibility it could
pass the Senate as soon as next week, maybe. This is what John Cornyn had to say, pushing back against House Republicans' complaints and talking
about hard choices.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R-TX): You have to make hard choices sometimes in politics and in life. And here, the question is, do you want to get
something that will help us stem the tide of humanity coming across the border and drugs, or do you want to get nothing?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUNT: So, again, top Senate Republicans setting up the stakes here.
DESIDERIO: The differences in legislative strategy between Senate Republicans and House Republicans right now are starker than they have ever
been, to be honest with you. You have House Republicans saying it has to be H.R. 2, which is their hardline border security bill that got zero
Democratic votes, by the way. And you have Senate Republicans saying, well, our whole argument is that the border is an emergency situation. It's in a
crisis, and we have to do something about it. So, even if we get something modest, why would we say no to it?
And McConnell has been telling Senate Republicans behind closed doors that this is the moment to address border security. We need to take the deal,
I'm told, is what he has been telling Senate Republicans during their private lunches. And he has been saying that under a Donald Trump
presidency in the future, do you think Democrats would give Republicans the necessary votes to pass a border security bill? Obviously not, right, even
with a Republican majority. And that's why you see people like Cornyn, John Thune, the number two Senate Republican, and other Senate Republican
leaders saying there is no chance passed right now that we could get a border deal, especially not with Donald Trump in the White House.
But, you have Speaker Johnson telling House Republicans, we're not going to get real border security until Donald Trump is back in the White House.
Senate Republicans look at that, and frankly, they laugh, and they're airing their grievances quite open -- quite openly at Speaker Johnson right
now over this.
HUNT: Jump in.
WOODHOUSE: Well -- so, this dynamic was alluded to in this package. I mean, this dynamic is really similar to what John Boehner faced. And John Boehner
with 68 votes coming out of the Senate for comprehensive immigration reform and border security, and Boehner could never --never decided to take it to
the floor because of the backlash against him. And then eventually, he left.
HUNT: Right. He is -- couldn't do.
WOODHOUSE: He walked away. He said, I'm done with this. But, the two things motivating, I think, Republicans in the House, one is that Trump has told
them he doesn't want this deal, and others believe that it will help Joe Biden if they cut this deal.
WOODHOUSE: And they explicitly said, let's not help Joe Biden, but then they're trying to impeach baselessly the Secretary of the Department of
Homeland Security because of the border, and then they said they don't want to solve it.
STEWART: I think what we're seeing right now is Republicans that actually have been honest all along on the fact that they want to see some type of
immigration reform and address the crisis at the border, fortunately, we have some grown-ups in the Hill, the senior -- the Republicans in the
Senate who say, here is the deal. It's not everything we want. But, here is the deal. I would much rather get 80 percent of something than 100 percent
of nothing. And it doesn't matter who gets credit. Joe Biden is the President right now. He might get credit for this. But, this was our
opportunity to get something done.
The problem is, over on the House side, we have the Freedom Caucus, a very far-right wing of the Republicans --
STEWART: -- that have an opportunity to be a force for good. Right now, they are a force for stalemate. And they, as we've mentioned, would much
rather hold their line on this and push for the full sweeping H.R. 2 provisions.
STEWART: They didn't get anything done, and they're fine with the shutdown. What is the problem?
WOODHOUSE: There was a time when Republicans recognized that given a win to a Democratic President, but also getting a win for themselves.
DESIDERIO: Yeah. And they have their own races.
WOODHOUSE: In their own races.
WOODHOUSE: I delivered border security.
WOODHOUSE: You can -- a Republican go out, I delivered border security.
STEWART: That's true.
WOODHOUSE: Democrat go outside and say --
WOODHOUSE: -- I delivered reform.
DESIDERIO: Another important element of this is the fact that it's tied to Ukraine aid, right? $60 billion was the President's request. You have a
group of Republicans in both chambers, frankly, who will never vote for any piece of legislation that has that money on it, right? It could be H.R. 2.
It could be the most severe border restriction since the beginning of time. Right? And they still would not vote for it. And that is the challenge
right now is that you have Senate Republican leaders who are very much more traditional Republicans on foreign policy, people like Mitch McConnell who
recognized the importance of aiding Ukraine and sending money to Israel, Taiwan, trying to push back against these Iranian proxy attacks in the
Middle East as well, and he is making an effective case for that.
He has basically joined at the hip with Chuck Schumer in that, by the -- which I think is fascinating in this whole ordeal. But, you still have a
sizable chunk of Republicans in both chambers who will be a no, no matter what. And so, it's a numbers game.
HUNT: Yeah. So, we've got some interesting quotes coming in from our Hill team, actually, right now that I just want to pull in to this conversation,
from Mike Braun, Republican Senator who does back Trump, and he says that Trump's, to your point, Brad, Trump wrote on Truth Social that he opposes
any border deal, and he thinks that's going to weigh heavily. He says, "You can see increasing number of senators that are endorsing President Trump,
and it's not that far away in the discussion in six to eight months, the election. That's going to weigh more heavily as well." Mitt Romney says,
"There are some folks without question that don't want to get any solution to a problem because they think that it might help the other side."
Do you think Donald Trump has influence on politics? Question mark. Yeah. I mean, people used to say this out loud in Washington even though it was
always a reality. But now, it seems very on the surface. I guess like it.
WOODHOUSE: It's totally on the surface. We've had several members who have come out and said that they don't want to deal because it will help Biden.
But, they're not even thinking about the reality that it could help them. I mean, they are battling.
HUNT: It's like they're more scared that Trump is going to attack them --
WOODHOUSE: They're more scared that Trump is going to attack them. Some of them are probably still potentially in primaries for their own races. But,
this could help them delivering border security. They say it's the biggest crisis since the beginning of time, but they don't want to solve it. And
some of them are actually saying it out loud.
HUNT: Oh, what a world we live in. We have -- we've been on, like, I guess what is going to be the roller coaster of our politics for the next year,
all in the first half an hour of our show.
All right. Up next, he has been called the Granite State guru. Senior Advisor for late Senator John McCain's 2008 presidential campaign is going
to join us, Mike Dennehy. He has got the polls for New Hampshire, just ahead.
HUNT: Welcome back. Five days out from the New Hampshire Republican primary. Let's bring in our Granite State guru, GOP Strategist Michael
Dennehy. He served as Senior Advisor to the late Senator John McCain's 2008 presidential campaign. Mike, it's wonderful to have you on the show. Great
to see you from afar. Some beautiful snow behind you.
MICHAEL DENNEHY, SR. ADVISOR, SEN. JOHN MCCAIN'S 2008 PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN, & REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Good to be with you.
HUNT: Let's start from the bottom up here, just because we've talked a lot about Trump and Haley. I want to ask you, let's start with Ron DeSantis,
who has essentially bailed on the Granite State. What is it going to look like for him on Tuesday next week?
DENNEHY: Oh, well, I think it's probably a smart move for DeSantis to move to South Carolina at this point. The die has been cast. He has been
struggling for a long time. So, he needs to go where he thinks he can make an impact, and that's clearly not New Hampshire anymore.
HUNT: So, Nikki Haley, who is the person it seems like has obviously the -- this is her best shot, right, to take on Donald Trump. How do you feel in
your conversations and deep understanding of the electorate and how these things move, how do you think what happened in Iowa affected things in New
Hampshire, if at all? I mean, did it change voters' perceptions there of what she offers and of her -- their perception of her ability to beat
Donald Trump and whether that matters?
DENNEHY: I would say it had two impacts. First, for Donald Trump, it solidified his base. So, for all intents and purposes, the race for the
Republican vote is over. And he is -- it's on his side in the neighborhood of 60 percent to 65 percent. I don't think it had a big impact on Nikki
Haley. I'm sure she wanted to finish second. It maybe would have given her a little bit more of a boost. But, the fact is, she is the only candidate
who can appeal to independent voters right now, and that's where she needs to focus. That's where she should be spending every moment of every day,
connecting with independent voters, figuring out a way to connect with them, town hall meetings, diners, living rooms, whatever it takes to
connect with independent voters, that's what she needs to do.
HUNT: Do you see her doing that? I mean, do you think anything has changed about her strategy in New Hampshire since Iowa?
DENNEHY: I don't think it's changed. I think it should change. We've heard --
HUNT: Changed now. Yeah.
DENNEHY: -- a lot this morning about -- Yeah. We've heard a lot this morning about how she has been walking a very fine line. And frankly, this
five days left, this race for her is, it is do or die in New Hampshire. She needs to get off that fine line and she needs to appeal entirely to
independence at this point. As I said, the race for the Republican vote is over. Donald Trump has won it, but the independents are totally up for
HUNT: So, Mike, let me show you a little bit. We know that Donald Trump obviously has thrown everything he has got at Nikki Haley. He has used her
given name and he has invoked her immigrant parents and raised a birther conspiracy theory around it. He put out a very -- an image merging her face
with Hillary Clinton. It's extraordinarily unflattering to her. Among other things, also attacked her from the stump. Nikki Haley reacted to all of
that with -- this way when she was addressing a crowd of New Hampshire voters, calling it a temper tantrum. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HALEY: I know Trump threw a temper tantrum about me last night. We have to win in November, head-to-head. Trump and Biden, it's going to be another
nail-biter of an election.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUNT: Is that what independent voters are looking for, or does she need to be more aggressive in going after the former President?
DENNEHY: Well, she needs to be more aggressive. How she does it is still a question. I think what she needs to do is talk about change, and she can do
that without being too aggressive on Donald Trump. But, really, the change that needs to take place in the White House from Trump and Biden. That's
where she needs to be more aggressive, not just mentioning Trump by name and forgetting about him, but talking constantly over the next five days
about how independent voters -- they have a chance right now to change the country, change the way the country is moving, and that they are the only
ones who can stop it by putting Nikki Haley in and voting for her next Tuesday. That's the only change that I think will work for her to recruit
and motivate and get these independents out to vote.
HUNT: How many -- what percentage of the electorate in the Republican primaries needs to be undeclared for her to actually pull this out?
DENNEHY: Yeah. Typically, it's about 40 percent to 45 percent. Modeling has been up around 47 percent. She needs to have record-breaking turnout for
independent voters, and she needs to win 65 percent minimum among those independent voters to offset Donald Trump's strength among Republican
voters. It can be done. But, time is running out. The window is closing for her.
HUNT: So, Mike, you -- I absolutely take all of your excellent points about what she needs to do in New Hampshire. The problem is, once she leaves New
Hampshire, I mean, you remember what happened to your guy back when he first ran in 2000. You run headlong into places where it's Republican
voters who were making all the decisions, including Nikki Haley's home state of South Carolina, where polls show she is likely to lose. Do you see
any realistic way for her to actually beat Trump for the nomination?
DENNEHY: Well, of course, I have thought a lot about that because it is a similar situation. It's going to be tough. As I said, the Republicans are
very supportive of Donald Trump. But, the fact is you don't know what can happen. So, you have to move one contest at a time. She has the ability to
win in New Hampshire by driving out independents. That's her only chance to win in New Hampshire. And then, you go to South Carolina. You don't know
what's going to happen. Donald Trump could stumble. Ron DeSantis could get out of the race and endorse her. You just don't know. And it's important to
just take that one contest at a time. It's going to be an uphill battle, for sure, because many of the contests after New Hampshire are closed to
HUNT: Yeah. No. It's very true. And I absolutely -- look, I absolutely take your point. My favorite thing about covering New Hampshire is that
unpredictable things happen. You never know how they might knock the race one way or the other. This one seems extraordinarily hard to knock. And I
will say, if DeSantis -- we will see Ron DeSantis endorse Nikki Haley when pigs fly, is my opinion. But, I guess you never know. Mike Dennehy, thanks
so much for joining us. I hope to catch you in New Hampshire on there early next week.
DENNEHY: Thanks very much.
HUNT: All right. It's time for a quick break for us. But, don't go anywhere. Our panel is going to be back with one more thing.
HUNT: Welcome back to the STATE OF THE RACE. My panel rejoins. Before we go, we always ask for one more thing on the trail or in Washington you're
watching for in the coming days. Your thoughts, Brad.
WOODHOUSE: OK. So, sometime late next week, the administration is going to come out with open enrollment numbers for the Affordable Care Act. And it's
important for two reasons. One, it's going to blow the doors off. It's going to be a massive record. Over 20 million people will have enrolled in
this most recent period. And the upswing of enrollment is coming in red states and red areas of swing states. And this impinges upon politics,
because Donald Trump has put healthcare back in the mix as an issue. He wants to repeal the Affordable Care Act, just as his own voters are signing
up for him.
HUNT: I have to say I was really confused when he started doing that. Then I realized he didn't like to be attacked on it by his Republican rivals,
but it's a definitely a general election loser. No small perhaps --
HUNT: -- is what you're talking about. Alice.
STEWART: My one more thing is a potential for one more ticket, right? Polls show that no -- most Americans are not super thrilled about a rematch
between Biden and Trump, and the No Labels movement is working behind the scenes to -- they have tons of money. They've been in operation for many
years. They're working to get what they call a unity ticket, which brings together the political homeless out there in America. They are working to
get on the ballot. Right now, they're on over 12 ballots. They're working to get more. They're talking about potential candidates to --
WOODHOUSE: Are you flying?
STEWART: Nope. No. I am not. It's certainly a long shot.
HUNT: We can say Nancy loves this pitch.
STEWART: Just trying to show. Look, if you feel homeless, here is a place to come up.
HUNT: Yeah. The only thing is I think a lot of critics say that if they actually succeeded that all, it's going to do is put Donald Trump back in
the White House.
HUNT: That's the challenge. Andrew.
DESIDERIO: A majority of the Senate Republican Conference has now endorsed Donald Trump, but notably just one of the three potential successors to
Mitch McConnell, a Senate Republican leader, has done. So, that being John Barrasso of Wyoming. The other two John's, we call them the three John's,
the potential McConnell successors, John Thune and John Cornyn are staying out of it for now. They have both publicly questioned Trump's viability in
a general election. In Thune's case, Trump has even tried to recruit a primary challenger against him. This is a guy who could be leading the
Senate Republican Conference when and if Donald Trump is back in the White House. So, it'll be fascinating to see how this race shakes up with only
John Barrasso being the one to endorse Donald Trump.
HUNT: Oh, boy. All right. This is going to be quite an election year. Thank you guys so much for your time, and thanks to all of you for being with us.
Don't forget, Nikki Haley is going to join Jake Tapper for a Republican presidential town hall. It's tonight at the New England College in
Henniker, New Hampshire, 9 p.m. Eastern. Don't miss it. I am Kasie Hunt, and that is the STATE OF THE RACE for today, Thursday, January 18. You can
always follow me on Instagram and the platform formerly known as Twitter. Don't go anywhere. "ONE WORLD" is up next.