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State of the Race with Kasie Hunt
Trump Walks Out Of Court In Middle Of Closing Arguments; Trump On Defamation Trial: "The Whole Thing Is A Scam"; RNC Drops Proposal To Name Trump As Nominee Amid Backlash. Aired 11a-12p ET
Aired January 26, 2024 - 11:00 ET
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KASIE HUNT, CNN HOST, STATE OF THE RACE: Donald Trump walking out of court. The former President was once again attending his civil defamation trial in
New York, but he up and left during closing arguments. This after telling the Republican National Committee not to name him the presumptive nominee,
not yet, at least, standing in the way, Nikki Haley, who is fundraising off of Trump's recent comments, threatening to blacklist anyone who donates to
her campaign. And in Wisconsin, Republicans in the State Assembly have proposed a referendum on a 14-week abortion ban. We're going to discuss how
this issue could affect President Biden's reelection campaign in that much win swing state.
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, Friday,
January 26. There are eight days until the South Carolina Democratic primary, 29 days until the Republican contest there. We have only 283 days
until Election Day. This is today's State of the Race.
Donald Trump once again campaigning from the courtroom after his party floated and then pulled a resolution to effectively crown him nominee
before the votes are all in. Trump briefly attended, then he actually walked out of his closing arguments this afternoon in the civil defamation
case that was brought against him by E. Jean Carroll. The former President was on the stand yesterday for less than five minutes, and he was
admonished by the judge after he repeated the claims that have already been deemed defamatory. Later, he posted this video, again trying to frame
himself as the victim in the case.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, 45TH U.S. PRESIDENT: I have no idea who she is, where she came from. This is another scam. It's a political witch hunt. And somehow
we're going to have to fight this up. The whole thing is a scam, and it's a shame and it's a disgrace to our country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUNT: Again, Trump has already been found liable for sexually assaulting and defaming Carroll. This trial is just about how much more money he owes
for continuing to defame her. As for the traditional campaign, the Republican National Committee is withdrawing a resolution declaring Trump
the party's presumptive nominee after it sparked backlash. Trump was on board with the idea at first, but now he says "I should do it the old
fashioned way and finish the process off at the ballot box. Thank you to the RNC for the respect and devotion you have shown me." OK, there is a lot
So, it's good we have today's all-star panel with us. CNN political Commentator, Ashley Allison. She is a former White House Senior Policy
Advisor; CNN Political Commentator Kristen Soltis Anderson, a Republican Strategist and Pollster; CNN Political Analyst Laura Barron-Lopez, a White
House Correspondent for the PBS NewsHour, and CNN Politics Reporter Alayna Treene. Welcome to all of you. Thank you for being here.
Alayna, let me start with you, because suddenly, elections are fair and not rigged or something, according to Donald Trump, who now says he has got to
go along with the RNC process. Can you take us kind of behind the scenes? Because he was on board with this. Then all of a sudden, he wasn't on board
with this. Clearly, there was some backlash at some place.
ALAYNA TREENE, CNN REPORTER: There was. First, I want to tell you why they were on board with this, because Donald Trump, of course, would benefit
from the RNC coming out and declaring that he is the presumptive nominee. Part of that is because he would benefit and be able to access the RNC's
ground game strategy, their data operation, but also benefit from fundraising that they would help them with and fundraise with the RNC on
the trail. But, the reason they backed off is because of that backlash. And we're told that Donald Trump had been talking to allies who raised concerns
about angering other Republicans for essentially stacking the deck against Nikki Haley.
And of course, this is -- I mean, we just have to be very clear here. This is so unusual --
HUNT: I was going to say --
TREENE: -- for the RNC. Right. They have a policy to remain neutral. Of course, this also comes after Ronna McDaniel went on Fox News and basically
said, we have to unite behind Donald Trump. There is still another Republican candidate in this primary, Nikki Haley. And so, this is very
unusual and really goes against their traditional nominating process of not --
TREENE: -- stacking the deck against somebody.
HUNT: I'm glad you mentioned Ronna McDaniel's comments. We have those. And again, this came right after the New Hampshire results were rolling in.
Take a look at what McDaniel said that sort of kicked off all of this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RONNA MCDANIEL, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE CHAIR: I'm just saying look at the path and the math, and I think you have to reflect tonight. If
you're on the Haley campaign and say if I'm not on the ballot in Nevada, if I'm not going to maybe win my home state, I just don't see the path and the
math. I hope she reflects tonight. I think it's time to move forward. And I think Donald Trump is going to be the nominee.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUNT: I mean, Kristen Soltis Anderson, that -- I mean, it almost doesn't surprise me in Trump world, but in any more normal world -- it is actually
kind of interesting to me that the reaction was normal and Trump decided, oh, actually, OK. Fine. I'm going to go along with the rules, because he
doesn't usually play by them. But, that was a pretty remarkable statement from her. I mean, what's your kind of view of why the politics of this
would have been bad for Trump?
KRISTEN SOLTIS ANDERSON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, & U.S. REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST AND POLLSTER: I think the politics of this would have been bad
for Trump, one, is it affirms that he is the Republican establishment. A big piece of his argument, as always, I'm fighting the establishment. I'm
the outsider. He is not. He is the establishment. He is for all intents and purposes, effectively, like a Republican incumbent. And this would have
just underlined that reality that he wants to continue to avoid.
The second problem is, as much as he and his allies are taking this, like, if you like Nikki Haley, you're out of the party, don't let the door hit
you on the way out type attitude, they need those voters in November. And if those voters do not turn out for Donald Trump, if they vote for Joe
Biden, there is going to be a lot of tears and recriminations, and oh, you guys didn't turn out for us and that's why we lost. And so, they are
foolish if they alienate these voters right now.
HUNT: Right. I mean, it is politics 101, addition, not subtraction.
HUNT: I feel like I said that same thing on the show yesterday, and it's likely for the next 10 months we're going to be saying the same thing about
Laura, what are -- let me show you something. Nikki Haley did her first interview since the primary. She had that event in North Charleston. But,
she did an interview with Fox News, and she really, actually, the way she described Donald Trump felt to me a little bit farther than she is even
gone in the last couple of weeks. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NIKKI HALEY, U.S. REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Then he goes and says that he is going to ban anyone from MAGA that donates to me. Think about
that. That's a President who is supposed to serve every person in America, and you're deciding that you're going to have a club and actually ban
people from being in and out of your club. I mean, he is totally unhinged. But, at the end of the day, our focus is still on the American people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUNT: So, she made that argument Kris was just making, which is like, what are you doing? Why are you excluding people from your club that want to be
in it? But, she also called him totally unhinged, which honestly sounds like -- the Democrats use those words.
LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST, & WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, "PBS NEWSHOUR": Yeah. She is starting to ratchet it up. I mean, starting
to. It's pretty late in the game to be doing it. But, she is ratcheting up her descriptors of him. She has talked more about the chaos that he brings,
the fact that he is unhinged, and just really zeroing in on what she sees as a potentially unsafe and unfit person who is running, although she
still, at the end of the day, says she would support him if he is the nominee.
So, I think that's her difficulty here is balancing the fact that she ultimately will support him if he is the nominee, but also trying to really
go for the jugular and say that he isn't necessarily good for the party and he is alienating a whole swath of voters.
HUNT: Yeah. We'll have to ask her again at the end of this process if she is the nominee. I'm interested. Ashley. I mean, this is -- the Donald Trump
that Nikki Haley seems to have brought out is kind of the one that you all in the Democratic Party want to run against. No?
ASHLEY ALLISON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, & FORMER OBAMA WHITE HOUSE SENIOR POLICY ADVISOR: Yeah. So, the longer Nikki Haley is staying in the
race, the more Donald Trump is being exposed for the true person he is. And it's interesting now that she is taking the bait. Again, I think everyone
feels like it's a long path and a hard path to the nomination for Nikki Haley. But, if -- he keeps taking the bait. He just can't help himself.
HUNT: Has he ever been able to help himself?
ALLISON: Right. That, to your point, and that is a candidate that Joe Biden is ready to take on, because the Biden campaign, whenever he goes on one of
his tantrums or says something like I'm the one who delivered abortion or overturning Roe, that's perfect for the Biden campaign to then clip that
ad, use it, sell it to not just the base of voters, but independents and folks who don't want to support Donald Trump. So, Nikki Haley is doing a
favor right now for the Democrats by staying in the race. But, it also is giving her some potential traction in this Republican nominee, because he
is exposing himself and she is able to continue to draw, well, perhaps start to draw the contrast now after New Hampshire.
TREENE: One thing I also just found really interesting about what Nikki Haley did around this is, Donald Trump did call or say after New Hampshire,
anyone who continues to support Nikki Haley will be barred permanently, right, donors and that sort of thing. She took a page. Yeah. She took a
page right out of Trump's playbook and it was like great, barred permanently. We're going to sell. We're going to fundraise off of it. And
again, it speaks to what you all are saying, which is that she is learning how to kind of use his playbook to go after him and needle him and that's
been very interesting to watch, even though it's, as you said, Laura, very late in the game.
HUNT: Yeah. Kristen, the fundamentals of the situation with Trump and Haley, I mean, I -- you could see in that interview she did. She is
planning on staying in the race. But, it doesn't change the reality that faced her coming out of New Hampshire. Like, it's still very difficult to
see where she puts a W on the board in the primary and she is going to need that.
If you're Nikki Haley, how are you thinking about the future for you in the party, and what that means, assuming Donald Trump does ultimately become
ANDERSON: I think it is very likely that Donald Trump will ultimately become the nominee. I don't think that Nikki Haley is staying in this
because there is a realistic path to her amassing the delegates necessary to defeat him at a convention. I think her reasons for staying in are
twofold. One is, if you have the money, if you have the support, why not? There is no reason necessarily to drop out. Keep making your case. And
maybe something strange does happen. I don't think that's the best reason. I think the best reason to stay in is you can say I'm giving voters a
choice. I don't believe that the entire Republican Party has captivated Donald Trump, maybe a majority. And certainly, it seems as though a
majority of Republican voters have clearly said this is what we want.
But, there is about 30 percent to 40 percent, depending on the state, that says, no, we do want a different direction. If Haley drops out, we won't
have a full accounting of what that looks like. So, staying in, even as a sort of symbolic exercise, think of it the way someone like a Bernie
Sanders. Even when the writing is on the wall stays in on the Democratic side, to make the case, hey, my wing of the party matters. We deserve to be
listened to. You can see a little bit of why that might be irrational for taking him.
HUNT: Yeah. Yeah. For sure. I mean, one of the things, Laura, that allowed Bernie Sanders to do that even when he was losing was that his people, this
army of small donors, he could send a fundraising email. The money would pour in. I mean, I remember flying around on a massive plane with him that
-- the seats were like mostly empty, but they were able to pay for it. It was like no problem at all, because all they had to do was push the button
and they'd get -- donors give them money. And it took a really, really long time for that to dry up. What's your sense of what kind of -- I mean, they
have said that about half of the 2.2 something million that they've raised, since New Hampshire has been from small donors, do you think they have
something there, an engine there?
BARRON-LOPEZ: I think that Haley clearly has a decent amount of donors, whether it's small or also large establishment donors, that want to see her
stay in the race. At least, they don't seem to be cowing to Trump's threats so far. And so, whether it's a mix of small and large, I think she has
enough there to, as Kristen says, stay in for a bit longer to see ultimately whether or not there is a different path for the party,
especially come future years, because again, Trump is the likely nominee. It seems really impossible for Haley to catch him at any point. Although I
will say that, of those swath of voters, those independent disenchanted Republicans who want a different path, you see in some of the entrance
polling, exit polling of the past two contests that a lot of them say that they don't necessarily think they'll support Trump if he is the nominee.
And so, those are voters that could potentially very well go to Biden, if not sit out the election.
HUNT: Yeah. I mean, Alayna, just to kind of button this up in terms of all of these dynamics and how Trump suddenly -- I mean, he backtracked, which
he very rarely does, right? He doesn't usually backtrack on things. There has to have been a reason why he thought that was going to be bad for him.
Is this an evidence of the team at the top of his campaign actually being able to exert some control over him, or like, what is the behind the scenes
TREENE: I do think to your point that Donald Trump's campaign is far more disciplined than any campaign he has had in the past. And of course, that's
comparing to his past campaigns. But, they are very disciplined, and he does listen to them more than he had, his advisors, in the past. But, I do
think Donald Trump is also in many ways political savvy. He understands when something is going to backfire on him, and he knew that this was going
to be one of those things. And he does not want this to look like, as Kristen pointed out, that this is the party establishment coming here and
saving him, not him winning this on his own, even though he recognizes the benefits of having the RNC coming out, declaring that he is presumptive
And I can tell you, from my conversations with Trump's campaign, they are very eager to wrap up this primary and just move on to the general. They
want to have everybody unified behind him. That's why you saw him parading all these former rivals and other congressmen, all their endorsements
because he wants to just say, the party is behind me. Let's do this. Let's go after Biden, and Nikki Haley is getting in the way. But, he also doesn't
want to have it be seen like this isn't him who is winning this himself. He wants it to be all about him winning the race on his own.
HUNT: Yeah, for sure.
All right. Alayna Treene, thank you very much for your reporting. I really appreciate it. The rest of our panel comes back in just a moment. Nikki
Haley, as we've been discussing, she is pulling in some serious campaign cash after Trump threatened to bar her donors from the MAGA camp. We're
going to have more on that just ahead.
HUNT: Nikki Haley is raking in a fresh haul of campaign cash, fundraising off of both Trump and the RNC. Her campaign says they brought in $2.6
million in donations just since the New Hampshire polls closed on Tuesday. That includes more than a million dollars from small donors after Trump's
threat to permanently bar her donors from MAGA world. She is using that as a fundraising opportunity, selling merchandise that reads "Barred
permanently". She is also fundraising off the RNC's draft resolution naming Trump the presumptive nominee, writing this in an email to supporters. "The
RNC is leveraging the establishment to try and crown Trump the presumptive nominee. Well, I have news for them. I'm in this to win it, and I'm not
Our panel is back with us. And Ashley, I just want to bring our viewers into a chat we were having off screen which are, sometimes the most
interesting and I always want to save it for the show. But, you're the Democrat at the table, obviously. But, you also have some experience with
people being written off --
HUNT: -- before they should be. So, what is your theory, the case here?
ALLISON: OK. I still think it's a long stop for Nikki Haley.
HUNT: Fair enough.
ALLISON: And Joe Biden did not win one primary until he got to South Carolina, and it shifted the trajectory of the race. And literally, after
he won that, everybody else dropped out except for Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, and they were soon to follow. So, it's not unheard of that
you have to wait a couple of states to have your breaking point to actually win a primary or a caucus. I also think that we are in just unprecedented
times for politics. And so, I always like to reference history, but we aren't operating in the same framework anymore.
And so, to Kristen's point, there are a significant amount of Republicans who want an alternative to Donald Trump, and I think that pool is getting
bigger, particularly when you have him -- the only news you have about him today is about him penetrating a woman and possibly being found out against
her will and possibly being found liable.
And that is something we haven't seen where a presidential race is also now going to be, in every intervention, having these court cases come up.
The final thing I will say is that she is not losing money. Most likely and in this instance, Nikki Haley would be -- her bank account would be
diminishing, diminishing, and people would be pulling out. And the exact opposite has happened. And I don't think we've actually seen that before.
And so, the indicator is that she is building something. The question is, is the clock going to run out too fast? And if she can get to Super Tuesday
and when one or two of those northern states, voters like a proof of concept, and if they find -- sense some blood in the water and a sense of
hope that there is an alternative, that day could actually be the day that shifts the trajectory. Still a long shot. But that's some of my thinking.
BARRON-LOPEZ: There is also just, I mean, some key differences between the Democratic base and then the Republican base. I mean --
BARRON-LOPEZ: -- Biden won South Carolina because of black voters --
HUNT: Voters. Yes.
BARRON-LOPEZ: -- which -- that's not going to happen for Nikki Haley in South Carolina. And that's why -- and also, in the states that came after
South Carolina for Biden, it was much more reflective of the overall Democratic base with Hispanic and black voters. And so, that's why he was
able to just bring --
BARRON-LOPEZ: -- home the nomination. And that --
BARRON-LOPEZ: -- type of diversity just doesn't exist in the Republican base. So, I think that, yes, well, clearly, Haley, I think, is sticking in
it because of the crazy dynamics that are occurring in this election cycle with Trump being on trial and all these trials that are about to start. I
still -- I am skeptical that she is going to be able to stick in it long enough for an actual change.
HUNT: Right. I mean, the thing about it is that I feel like every conversation I have, someone -- somebody called it the "magic
cheeseburger", which is a very dark way to put it. But, the question is, does something happen on the legal front? Does something happen on the
health front? Right? The people that don't want Trump are really -- I mean, we are in a different space.
I will say, one of the people, one of the Republicans who wants Haley to stay in, and it's not surprising, but she did sort of lay out a theory of
the case. It was Liz Cheney. She was on the "Pod Save America", a podcast, if that tells you what kind of audience Liz Cheney is, most appealing to
these days. That said, here is what she had to say about the Republican primary.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LIZ CHENEY, FORMER U.S. HOUSE REPUBLICAN: I hope she stays in the race as long as she has to. I think, certainly, through Super Tuesday. I think that
we're in a situation where only two states have voted, and you had something like over 35 percent, I believe, of the Republicans coming out of
the voting in New Hampshire said they would never vote for Donald Trump.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUNT: I mean, Kristen, that is, to her point, a significant number, 35 percent say they'd never vote for him.
ANDERSON: Yeah. And look, there is -- I wonder what the alternate timeline looks like, where the Nikki Haley, who is showing up right now on the
trail, is who shows up one year ago, who rolls --
ANDERSON: -- out a campaign and says --
ANDERSON: -- Donald Trump is totally unhinged. I think it is more likely than not that that Nikki Haley does not really go that far. Republican
voters rejected Chris Christie. They rejected other candidates, Asa Hutchison, and so on and so forth, who really ran on a message of, first
and foremost, Orange Man Bad. And so, I don't think that Nikki Haley running on a really aggressive message would be a guaranteed, oh, if only
she'd done that, she'd definitely be up.
But, it is interesting to watch this alternative timeline now play out. She is pivoting strategy. It is causing her to get more fundraising. You do
wonder what if, what if she had made this tougher turn going after him realizing this is not just a math problem of let's get everybody else out
of the race, because even getting everybody else out of the race still gives Trump 55, you 45. You've got to take some of Trump's 55. What's your
plan to do it? You have to prosecute the case against him. She has only just really started to do that in earnest, and it may be too late.
HUNT: Right. I mean, let's talk about South Carolina and Nikki Haley. Let's talk a little bit more what she had to say this morning first, because she
did acknowledge that she does have a long way to go. But, she said -- my question right out in New Hampshire was always, is she going to have the
stomach to keep going forward, considering what we knew is going to be a very likely ugly set of attacks that Donald Trump was going to throw at
her? And I will say, as I listened to her and as I listened to her to this interview, saw her on stage at the rally in Charleston, this is -- you can
sort of hear in her voice the determination. Take a look at what she said about acknowledging the long road, but still insisting she is going to take
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HALEY: There is a long way to go on this race and we're prepared to do that. I've got the money to keep the campaign going too, and that's the
thing that we've saved it. And you look at the fact that just yesterday since Trump said he was going to ban people who supported me and not MAGA,
we raised $1.6 million in this -- since he said that. I wanted to be strong in Iowa. We did that. I wanted to be even stronger in New Hampshire. We did
that. I want to be even stronger in South Carolina. We're going to do that, and then we're going I go on to Super Tuesday
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUNT: So, Laura, there you have it. I mean, she did sort of acknowledge also in the interview that if she doesn't show a stronger performance than
she did in New Hampshire, it kind of left me wondering, well, if she loses by more than she lost, she loses South Carolina more than she lost in New
Hampshire by what was she going to do. Is she going to step back? But, it doesn't -- it does seem like they're going to have what they need to keep
BARRON-LOPEZ: It does. I mean, she clearly got more infusion from small donors, in addition to the big donors that are behind her, because she is
confronting Trump on the fact that he is saying anyone who gives to Nikki Haley or is behind her at this point, you're not a part of my party. You're
not a part of MAGA. But -- so, she clearly is riding high on that. One thing that I think we haven't acknowledged when it comes to Haley's
difficulty with breaking through or trying to win over some of those Republican voters, that you were talking about, Kristen, that are in
Trump's camp, is also that Fox News ecosystem, because that Fox News ecosystem over and over has painted Joe Biden as this inept, not
competitive, just really old person who could be easily beatable by anyone on the Republican side.
And so, I think that's made Nikki Haley's argument that Trump is not electable a lot harder, because the Republican ecosystem, news media
ecosystem has really said anyone can beat Joe Biden, including Trump, even with all his 91 felony counts. And so, he is someone who could totally take
him on. And I think that's why the electability argument hasn't really worked with diehard Republicans.
HUNT: Yes. It's interesting. Kristen, last word to you in terms of the voters in South Carolina. I mean, there has been all kinds of money on the
airwaves, but actually most of it was from "Never Back Down", which is a Ron DeSantis super PAC. The next step is super PAC supporting Nikki Haley
with $3.4 million. The Trump campaign is way back in terms of spending there. But, the polling has showed him way out front. I mean, how do you
see this kind of breaking here in the last -- I mean, four weeks is an eternity in politics. Let's be honest.
HUNT: How do you see it moving?
ANDERSON: It is an eternity. They have the resources on the Trump campaign to turn on a vicious buzzsaw. I mean, South Carolina is a place that is
known for tough politics. Nikki Haley comes out of that world. This is not going to be new to her. But, there is -- this is where the Empire Strikes
Back. And so, I'm not optimistic that Haley is going to be able to win an air war against Donald Trump, especially when they now have this tested
strategy that they've developed in Iowa and New Hampshire of hitting her from the right on issues like, hey, you're too moderate, immigration, etc.
You like Hillary Clinton. And then from the left saying, you're going to get Social Security. Her chief strategist has called this the pincer
movement. They're going to try this on the air in South Carolina as well. I have no doubt.
HUNT: Right. And let's not remember, the second Death Star was intended to be much more powerful than the initial one. Love a good Star Wars reference
here. We'll take it anytime.
All right. Still ahead, a state vital to Joe Biden's reelection taking a step toward trying to tighten abortion restrictions. How that issue could
impact the race? That's ahead.
HUNT: Welcome back to State of the Race. I'm Kasie Hunt. We're live in Washington. With abortion rights already a central issue in the 2024
presidential race, Wisconsin has just taken a step toward trying to tighten abortion restrictions. Republicans who control the state assembly approved
a bill that requires a referendum on banning abortion after 14 weeks of pregnancy. That referendum could happen in April. It could also be vetoed
by the governor. Wisconsin is vital to the reelection campaign of President Joe Biden, who is, of course, a strong supporter of women's reproductive
rights, including abortion rights. He visited the state this week and so did Vice President Kamala Harris. She had this pointed message.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KAMALA HARRIS, VICE PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: Listen, Joe Biden, President Joe Biden has been very clear. When Congress puts the protections
of Roe back into the law, he will sign it. Similarly, President Joe Biden has been very clear, if these extremists get Y_" achieve their other goal,
which is to have a national ban, which means state by state by state, Joe Biden will veto that. The stakes are high.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUNT: Our panel is back with us. You guys are the perfect panel to have this conversation. So, thank you all. The debate about this particular
referendum is kind of what drew me to this today, because it unfolded on the floor of the legislature. And what I'm going to show you -- I mean,
this -- the fate of this person on -- in his electoral adventures is not relevant here. But, we have seen, over the years, comments made by usually
male legislators, candidates for House, candidates for Senate, who did not see their electoral fortunes sore after they made a comment that I would
consider to be similar to this one. But, I want to show you a little bit of the debate on the floor of the state legislature in Wisconsin over whether
or not there should be a referendum on a 14-week abortion ban. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOEL KITCHENS, WISCONSIN STATE ASSEMBLY REPUBLICAN: The question is whether abortion is healthcare, and if you believe that a fetus is a human life,
then abortion is not healthcare. You know, in my veterinary career, I did thousands of ultrasounds on animals, you know, determining pregnancy and
that kind of thing. So, I think I know mammalian fetal development better than probably anyone here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUNT: He did thousands of ultrasounds on animals, and he knows mammalian human developed -- fetal development better than anyone here. There were
some actual human women sitting in that legislature.
Kristen Soltis Anderson, does this comment not just demonstrate why it is that this issue is just a complete disaster for Republicans?
ANDERSON: It's one of many, and it's not first and sure will be the last. I mean, look, the first part of his statement where he says, look, if you
believe that a fetus is a human, an unborn life, and so terminating it just doesn't feel like healthcare to you, that's a statement that I bet you if I
pull tested it, you could get a reasonable number of people say, yeah --
ANDERSON: -- I kind of agree with that. And the minute you say, in my time in veterinary medicine, I was like, oh, no, no, no, no, no. Where is this
going? And that's the big problem here, right? You have something like a 14-week ban that in the abstract, in a vacuum, I bet you, I've seen lots of
data that shows there is a pretty sizable number of people that say, well, that seems reasonable. But, we don't live in a vacuum. We live in a world
where voters go, yeah, but is 14 weeks really where you want to stop? Yeah. 14 weeks and what else? And I think Republicans have lost the trust of
voters that they are willing to say 14 weeks with these exceptions because there is a piece of the pro-life movement that says, no, that is not good
ANDERSON: That is the problem. Democrats have a very unified message. It's between a woman and a doctor. And therefore, you can't get Democrats on
record really supporting any restrictions. That's not a position that in a vacuum is popular, but in practice is quite popular.
HUNT: Yeah. It was a problem for them when Roe v. Wade stood that you could get Democrats to say, oh, I don't support any restrictions. But, in the
absence, Ashley, I mean, the script has been completely flipped.
ALLISON: Yeah. I mean, look, I work for Democrats mostly, and progressives, but I want to help my Republican fellow Americans. You got to stay away
from the abortion issue this cycle, because it's losing for you. The general public, the overwhelming majority of folks, regardless of their
economic status, their racial makeup, their gender, support Democrats on this issue. And we have seen it when the red wave didn't manifest in 2023
when Kansas and Kentucky and Ohio and Virginia, and we may see it again in 2024 if Republicans can't let this issue go and really release it and say,
we got Roe overturned. It's not where most Americans are, but we should just leave it at that. But, if you want to pick this fight, I think it's a
fight Republicans will lose because they've been getting --
ALLISON: -- pummeled on it since Roe fell.
ANDERSON: And in red states.
ALLISON: And in red states. Yeah.
HUNT: Yes, just blue states. And look, let's talk about Wisconsin particularly, because it is one of the critical battleground states, part
of the blue wall for Democrats. The support for overturning Roe v. Wade, OK, let's put that up on the screen, Republicans favor it by 66 percent.
But, take a look at that number for independents. 60 percent of independent voters in Wisconsin in November said that they oppose the overturning of
Roe v. Wade. Obviously, Democrats, it's just massive, 89 percent oppose it.
We also can look at -- you always want to combine kind of where people feel on issues with who they trust to deal with the issues. That's kind of how
you can best illuminate how a race might shake out. Who is better on abortion? Joe Biden, 43 percent of voters. 34 percent of voters say Donald
Trump. Obviously, apparently, some people didn't answer that question because those numbers do not add up to 100. But, it's very clear who is
trusted on this issue, Laura.
BARRON-LOPEZ: It is. And like that number of also -- I know we look at the independents, 60 percent, striking. It's going to potentially be really
helpful for Democrats in those swing states. But, you also see the Democratic number, 89 percent. It just shows you how much of this rallying
effect abortion could have for Joe Biden, particularly with Democrats that might not be too happy with him right now, or young voters who aren't too
happy with him right now. This is a way for him to go to states like Wisconsin and get those key parts of his coalition to come back to the
party and say, look, like, it's either me, and I know you're mad at me, or it's a party that is trying to implement a number of restrictions across a
variety of different states.
And you've also seen the President trying to be much more explicit about exactly what he is willing to do. He said, if you also give me a named just
three more senators and a House majority, then I can actually codify Roe into law. And he has gotten much more explicit just repeating that promise
over and over and over again, and I think we're going to see him do that in the lead up to November.
HUNT: I mean, it is something it seems kind of big picture, Kristen, that - - the Biden campaign is kind of assembling, not necessarily all these reasons. I mean, Laura is right. In theory, they could codify Roe. I think
in reality, doing that in Congress is actually almost an impossible hill to climb. But, these are things that voters should be afraid of. Right? They
should be afraid of Donald Trump. They should be afraid of a national abortion ban. What is your sense of how that actually works once voters
start to realize, like, if Donald Trump, as we've discussed, is the likely nominee? I mean, does it work to convince somebody to vote against the
other guy that way, or is Biden -- what's the imperative?
ANDERSON: Convincing someone to vote against the other guy is often more powerful than convincing someone that your candidate is great and
wonderful, especially when we're looking at a matchup between two candidates, who are so deeply unpopular, persuading voters. Look, you may
not love Joe Biden --
ANDERSON: -- but you are really not going to like Trump 2.0. And Trump is going to make the same argument. Right? You may not love me. But, man, this
guy, the control room is empty. You can't go for him. So, abortion is one of the issues where when you say, which party do you trust more? Democrats
consistently have an advantage on it that they don't have on the economy. They don't have on immigration. They don't have on a bunch of other issues.
So, I firmly expect, one, for Democrats to push this because it's an issue where they win, but two, big pieces of their coalition like younger voters
are very activated by this issue. If those younger voters come to the conclusion in November, Joe Biden is old, Donald Trump is old. This all
seems terrible. I'm staying home. That's fatal to the Democrats' hopes in November.
So, persuading them there is something massive at stake for you, you have to turn out, is really, really, really important for Democrats.
ALLISON: I agree. It can't be the only issue, though. And so, when I'm engaging with young voters, and even in 2020 when we were trying to build
this robust coalition, they had a lot to ask. They wanted a lot of things. And so, they still do. And so, it will be -- abortion will be a leading
issue for many members of the coalition, but it can't be the only ones. And so -- and it can't just be -- the argument from the Biden campaign cannot
just be Donald Trump is the worse. I will be better. It has to be, this is what I'm going to do for you, and Roe and abortion can be framed and I will
protect. I will read in state your bodily autonomy, and I will continue to fight for it. That is an affirmative message that can be a counter but it
can't be the only one that Donald offers.
HUNT: Or -- and I will protect you from Republican efforts to make this worse --
ALLISON: Worse. Yeah.
HUNT: -- in your --
HUNT: -- mind.
All right. Coming up, I'm going to speak with former South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford. We're going to get his thoughts about Nikki Haley's
uphill battle in the Palmetto State.
HUNT: Welcome back. We're less than a month out from South Carolina's Republican primary. The Palmetto State is famous, infamous perhaps, for its
no holds barred knife fighting style of Republican politics.
And I'm joined now by someone who knows that all too well. Voters, they're apparently willing to forgive you, your personal transgressions as
governor, but they -- and after they sent you to Congress, they voted you out because you apparently committed the sin of crossing former President
Donald Trump. Former Governor and Congressman, Mark Sanford, thank you for being with us. I really appreciate it.
MARK SANFORD, FORMER SOUTH CAROLINA GOVERNOR, & FORMER HOUSE REPUBLICAN FROM SOUTH CAROLINA: My pleasure.
HUNT: Congressman, you learned firsthand the -- what it's like to be at the wrath of -- to meet the wrath of Trump supporters after you were willing to
step out and explain why you thought he was bad for the country. Do you think Nikki Haley is going to have more luck in winning over voters in your
shared home state?
SANFORD: Time will tell. I'd say, at this point, it's certainly a steep, steep, steep, uphill climb. Calm still (ph) has a very strong hold on South
Carolina. And so, I don't know it's the answer. But, what I do know is he is not at the apex of his power. The four of us who spoke out early against
Trump are all toast. I mean, Senator Corker and Flake in the Senate, me and Amash in the House, gone. That's no longer the case. The fact that you can
have as robust, at least for a little while, a primary as we've had says something, the fact that he has these different court cases against him
says something, the fact that he is no longer incumbent says something. But, again, leaving those things aside, he is awfully, awfully strong in
South Carolina. And at this point, it's going to take something right. I mean, Trump can beat Trump, or maybe the legal system beats Trump, but
after that, it looks pretty tough.
HUNT: Congressman, you know kind of the makeup of the electorate very well, having run statewide, and then also the district that you represented at
the time was -- after you lost that primary, voters there actually sent a Democrat because they didn't like the more aggressive pro-Trump message.
There are sort of -- there was a group of Republicans that kind of represent the old guard of the party. Right? How many of them are there now
in South Carolina? I mean, what do you think -- if Nikki Haley -- it's almost whiplash for me because when I covered her, Sarah Palin had endorsed
her. She was the Tea Party candidate. Now, she is kind of the candidate of independents and moderates in a Trump world. What is her ceiling, do you
think, with Republicans in South Carolina?
SANFORD: Well, I think for them was coming out of New Hampshire is telling, I mean, the fact that Trump could go with Republican voters and win 75
percent of the vote, leaving Nikki with 20 percent says a lot, and you had a lot more moderates and you had a lot more independence up in New
Hampshire than we have in South Carolina. So, I suspect that somewhere around 40 percent would be my guess. Again, a lot of time between here and
there. Nikki has the money to go the distance. She has clearly gotten under his skin, based on what we saw on Tuesday night. But, again, absent a
miracle, I'd say that your high watermark is somewhere around 40 percent, which is not something of my choosing, but it is what it is.
HUNT: Really interesting. Congressman, as we mentioned, I mean, you're no stranger to dealing with personal scandal yourself. Nikki Haley dealt with
allegations around her personal life when she ran for governor. And there are conversations about whether that's going to come up here in the next
couple of weeks. If people start doing what is honestly the history of the South Carolina presidential primary on the Republican side, which is to
start really digging into dirt and playing nasty, do you think Nikki Haley can weather that? Do you think there is a chance that that could backfire?
Or do you think it would hurt her?
SANFORD: I think there is probably more backfire potential than not, because the old saying is, if you live in a glass house, don't be throwing
stones. And Trump very much lives in a glass house on this front. So, it is one thing in the abstract to have charges against you, or to have
suggestions around you, which Nikki has and has had some time in South Carolina circles. But, she is, in this case, has the great fortune of
running against a guy who has just a tractor trailer load of stuff that so far hadn't stuck, but he is definitely living in a glass house on that
HUNT: I mean, we should probably note that he was attending closing arguments for a trial to determine how much money he needed to pay a woman
he defamed, who he was found liable for sexually assaulting. So, I do take your point in that regard. Congressman, can I ask you what's going on with
Nancy Mace who represents the first congressional district? It's a little - - it's drawn a little differently now than it was when you represented it, but she has really been all over the place in terms of Donald Trump. How do
you explain that?
SANFORD: Well, she is not alone, tragically. I mean, Nikki herself was for Trump and then against, and -- I mean, look at Lindsey and the way he has
sort of been a weathervane for the way in which these things turn and twist. And even Tim Scott, just a matter of days ago, was against Trump,
before he was for Trump. So, in the South Carolina water, based on the electorate, it is less certain in Nancy's case. I mean, in Nancy's case,
she is playing with real fire, because on the coast, it is not the Trump stronghold. You have many more independents and moderates here on the coast
and you find in the Midlands or the upstate of South Carolina. So, I think she has been topsy-turvy based on not wanting a challenge from the right,
which I suspect she'll get.
HUNT: Congressman, let me ask you personally about your views on Donald Trump, because there have been a number of Republicans, even Chris Sununu
up in New Hampshire, who has been one of Nikki Haley's top surrogates, who said that they'll vote for Trump even if he is the nominee. Is there any
world in which you could vote for Donald Trump for President?
SANFORD: Well, I haven't so far. So, I don't know that I want to break the President (ph) on that front. But, at the same time, the electoral ballot
is a sacred place, and I'll figure that out when I get there.
HUNT: What do you think it is about the Republicans, I mean, across the country, but particularly in South Carolina, that they are willing to
overlook all of the charges against Donald Trump? Is it just that he has been successful in making those arguments? Is it that they agree that the
system is rigged against him? I mean, how do you explain the loyalty that voters in the Republican base have to him?
SANFORD: I think it's a combinational thing. I think he has been, to his credit, forceful and loud on the immigration issue, which really resonates
with voters here in not just South Carolina, but a whole host of states across this country. So, I think immigration is part of it. I think at the
time that he came into the political system, when you were looking at the likes of Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio and others who had been long established
in political world, he was a fresh face, and so, this idea of a disrupter from the outside. I remember a group of older folks down in Sun City
saying, look, this is like chemotherapy to the political system. It may kill you. But, if it doesn't, we could get healed, and we are so sick of
the system as it is. So, I think that's it.
And then lastly, I'd say there is a victim element that Trump plays very, very well. And I think a lot of these voters, particularly when you look at
the sort of demographic profile of many of the Trump voters, which are lower socio economic, less educated, they say, wait a minute. I've been
killing myself. And there is some money center banker in New York who gets a bailout. My cousin's pizza shop didn't get the same bailout. And so --
SANFORD: -- there is a weirdness to the way in which the system at times feels rigged against them, and I get that.
HUNT: Yeah. All the way back to tarp, which started so much of what we're seeing today. Mark Sanford, thank you for joining us. I really appreciate
SANFORD: Yes ma'am.
HUNT: All right. It's time for a quick break here. But, don't go anywhere. Our panel will be back next with one more thing.
HUNT: Welcome back to State of the Race. Our panel rejoins, because before we go, we always want to ask for one more thing on the trail or in
Washington they're watching for in the coming days. 30 seconds each. Laura, what are you watching?
BARRON-LOPEZ: February 3, which is coming up, marks the derailment in East Palestine of the Northern Suffolk toxic chemical spill. And so, we're
keeping an eye on whether or not President Biden is actually going to visit, because he has -- the White House has said repeatedly that he plans
to, and that's the one-year anniversary.
HUNT: Really, really interesting. Kristen.
ANDERSON: Who says that nothing gets done in Washington? There is actually a potential of a child tax credit expansion making its way through Congress
right now. It has some support from Republican leaders on the House side, from Democrats on the Senate side. Now, this is contentious within
Republican politics. Right? Purist libertarians say, I don't like the idea of taxes. But, I also don't like the idea of using the tax code to tell
people whether you should have kids or you shouldn't have kids. But, there are a lot of social conservatives who are worried that people aren't
starting families. They think this is one way to help.
HUNT: Really interesting. I mean, when we saw that go up -- the child tax credits go up in the pandemic, it did really pull a lot of kids out of
ANDERSON: Yes. Very much.
HUNT: So, there is something really important to watch. Ashley.
ALLISON: OK. We know immigration is going to be a big issue this election cycle. Well, this week, the heat of Texas Governor Abbott and the White
House really bubbled up, and now the Supreme Court has entered.
The Supreme Court said, you need to take the wires down that the governor has put up. And not just Greg Abbott, but now 25 other Republican governors
are co-signing him and kind of almost feeling like they're bucking what the Supreme Court is saying, which is interesting, because it's a conservative
Supreme Court. I'm interested to see how over the next couple of weeks this will play out on the campaign trail, but also really on the border of
HUNT: Right. Yeah. No. And to that point, I mean, the one thing I'm watching here is what happens with aid to Ukraine, in particular, because
it seems like the immigration deal in Congress is heading absolutely nowhere. That's still going to leave a big question mark about what to do
to -- supporters say protect the Western order, as we know it. There is also potentially aid for Israel at risk there. So, I'm watching both of
Thank you all for joining us today. I am Kasie Hunt. That's the State of the Race for Friday, January 26. Happy Friday. Have a good weekend. You can
always follow me on Instagram, and the platform formerly known as Twitter. Don't go anywhere. "ONE WORLD" is up next.