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State of the Race with Kasie Hunt

Trump Attacks Biden For Being "Weak," Warns We Are On The Brink Of World War III; Trump Admits To Trying To Block Border Deal In Congress; Biden Vows To Respond To Deadly Attacks On U.S. Forces. Aired 11a-12p ET

Aired January 29, 2024 - 11:00   ET




KASIE HUNT, CNN HOST, STATE OF THE RACE: Crises at home and abroad confront President Biden. Republican frontrunner Donald Trump blaming the President

for the deaths of three American soldiers in Jordan, trying to paint his opponent as weak in a moment of tragedy. This as Biden targets Trump with a

new line of attack zone, calling him a loser. Plus, with just a few weeks until the South Carolina Republican primary, Nikki Haley is calling on

Trump to debate her, saying "man up" Donald. I'll speak with one of Haley's former top aides about the challenges she faces in her home 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. It is Monday,

January 29. There are five days until the South Carolina Democratic primary, 26 days until the Republican contest there, and only 280 days

until Election Day. This is today's STATE OF THE RACE.

Donald Trump is stepping up his efforts to try and paint President Biden as weak, while presenting himself as the strong man that America needs. At a

Nevada campaign stop, he said that the chaos at the southern border along with a weekend attack on American troops in Jordan puts U.S. national

security at grave risk.


DONALD TRUMP, 45TH U.S. PRESIDENT: There is a 100 percent chance that there will be a major terrorist attack in the United States, so many attacks

maybe, and it's all because of what's happened over the last three years.


HUNT: But, let's remember, of course, the former president is compressing congressional Republicans right now not to accept any border deals because

he doesn't want to give Joe Biden a win or let him solve the problem in an election year. He posted this, "A bad border deal is far worse than no

border deal." He also posted this about that deadly attack in Jordan over the weekend, "This attack would NEVER have happened if I was president.

Instead, we are on the brink of World War III."

President Biden addressed the deaths of U.S. troops during his remarks at a church in South Carolina.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: We lost three brave souls in an attack at one of our bases. I'd ask for a moment of silence for all

the three of those fallen soldiers. And we shall respond.


HUNT: All right. Let's dive into all this with today's panel. Mark Longabaugh, a Democratic Strategist who worked on Bernie Sanders 2016

campaign; Alice Stewart, CNN Political Commentator and a Republican Strategist, and Farnoush Amiri. She is Congressional Reporter for the

Associated Press. Thank you all for being here.

Farnoush, let's start with what's going on in Congress and on the border, in particular, just because -- I think there is kind of really crystallizes

what we're talking about here in terms of the President -- the former President trying to level these attacks at President Biden on the one hand

and say he is not doing anything about it. Well, on the other hand, trying to prevent something from happening that would actually potentially fix the

problem, because solving said problem would remove a -- something that -- some leverage that Trump has in the general election. What are the current

dynamics on Capitol Hill as these negotiators press forward, even as the political conditions worsen for them?

FARNOUSH AMIRI, U.S. CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, AP: I mean, we've been waiting since the new year. We all expected to come back from the holiday break to

at least some details about a border deal. They are spending months and months in backdoor negotiations, in my time covering Congress, the least

amount of leaks about what actually the deal is. And then, we saw what happened in Iowa, what happened in New Hampshire, and the general election

shifted everything. And you saw that from the guy who is trying to get this the most, Mitch McConnell who wants Ukraine aid more than anything. It is

part of his legacy. And you saw him saying things are different. We need to reevaluate this.

And negotiators are moving forward. They are planning on putting something out as early as today or tomorrow. But, it is -- I mean, we can't pretend

that things haven't shifted, and that's what you're seeing in these dialect.

HUNT: Right. And, of course, that's all going on through the weekend, as suddenly we're confronted with these tragic deaths of U.S. troops in the

Middle East, and the administration now faced with having to figure out how to respond to this, as we're hearing increasingly intense rhetoric from

Republicans on the Hill. John Cornyn posted this on Twitter -- on X "Target Tehran", he says.


Lindsey Graham later used a pair of words to say something similar. But, he first wrote "The Biden Administration can take out all the Iranian proxies

they like, but it will not deter Iranian aggression. I am calling on the Biden Administration to strike targets of significance inside Iran."

So, this all, of course, is the frame through which the president, who is running for reelection, is having to grapple with this. This made me think

back to a conversation that we were having actually on election night in New Hampshire, because remember, the election is critical to all of this,

and David Axelrod put it in a very succinct way in terms of the challenges President Biden is facing, with the rhetoric coming from his opponents on

Capitol Hill, from the former president, and trying to deal with this as he is the one in the Oval Office. Take a look at what Axelrod had to say.


DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: His performance is a problem and that is reflected in the polls, and what it translates into is

an image of weakness. Whether that image is deserved or not, given all that he has dealt with, is a different question. But, that is the reality. There

is a sense that the world is out of control and he is not in command. And that is what Trump is going straight at. And that is what they have to

defeat in this campaign, and they need a counter-narrative.


HUNT: So, Mark Longabaugh, is Axelrod right about that? And what is the potential counter-narrative?


face in the world today is actually a selling point for President Biden because of his long experience in foreign policy and the stability that he

brings to the country in a crisis like this. I think -- I don't think the American public wants to go to war in the Middle East. And all of this

belligerent talk by the Republicans, this strong man act by Donald Trump, it doesn't reassure the public. So, I think Trump wants to act like a

strong man. Really what I think the American people see is an erratic man, and that's not the kind of individual that I think they're going to turn to

in a world in crisis.

HUNT: Well, I mean, we should also note, I think that there actually is some difference between the bellicose folks on Capitol Hill and Trump. Now,

he -- Trump will say like he is not going to involve America in wars in the Middle East, Alice. And he often invokes World War III to the point that

like when you talk to voters out there in the world, they'll talk about how they're afraid that we're going to get into World War III. I think it may

be important to acknowledge that he is kind of the only person putting it that way. What do you think, Alice? Because I take Mark's point, but I also

flashback to the withdrawal from Afghanistan --


HUNT: -- which was in fact chaotic and botched and was a critical moment in sort of the shift in public opinion around President Biden. How do you see

the president, like, what is the most effective way for him to navigate all of these waters?

STEWART: Look, I think the Afghanistan withdrawal is one of the cornerstones for what David Axelrod just said. President Biden's

performance is a problem when it comes to foreign policy, and that is one of the biggest weaknesses that he has. Before he came into office, under

President Trump, we were not in two, potentially three proxy wars. And we find ourselves in that situation right now. I think it is important for him

to show strength, not just talk about taking aggressive actions on our adversaries, but actually doing so.

And Mitch McConnell saying, look, when we're -- when U.S. forces are attacked, we can't reply with half-hearted measures. We need to show force

and show strength. Look, I disagree with President Trump that Biden is fully responsible for the attack that killed these three American service

members. Iran is 100 percent responsible for that, and we need to stop going after their proxy areas. We need to show full strength and opposition

against Iran, whether it is sanctions, and I don't disagree with the potential for going after Tehran, going after areas inside of Iran, that

will send a message to them that the American people are standing up to them and not going to tolerate their aggressive action.

HUNT: Farnoush, what is the dynamic among members of the president's own party on all of this on Capitol Hill? Because historically, he has also had

a challenge from progressives. I mean, what have you heard from them in the hours since this has happened?

AMIRI: Yeah. I mean, we saw last week before even these service members were killed, efforts to check Biden's role in the Middle East. And a group

of 30 Democrats and Republicans coming from the far right and the far left have said that, what authority are you taking, these actions against Yemen

Houthi rebels? And so, we're going to see now that this has escalated even more, we're going to see progressives, and those far right Freedom Caucus

members wanting to make sure that Congress is involved in any action that the president takes in the Middle East, especially if it involves more U.S.

service members on the ground.

HUNT: I mean, Mark, that's a very odd alliance.

LONGABAUGH: Well, I mean, look, I come from that progressive wing of the party. So, I agree with that perspective that the president needs to bring

Congress to the table on this.


But, I think some of these comments, these ideas that we're going to go to Tehran and bomb Tehran, I just think that's insanity. And again, I'll come

back to the main point I made it at the start. The American people don't want a war in the Middle East. And that's Donald Trump's problem. When they

look at Donald Trump, they see this erratic, crazy individual, who I just don't think they're going to want to turn to in a world that's under such -


HUNT: So, I mean, in theory, I absolutely agree with you. But, in sort of when the rubber meets the road, when you go out and talk to voters, when

you talk to Trump supporters, one of the reasons a lot of them say they support him is because they're convinced he is not going to get us involved

in these kinds of wars, that he is worried more about protecting kind of in this sort of blue collar way. Right?

LONGABAUGH: That's not the world he is going to inherit. Right? I mean, he was very lucky. The country was very lucky over the four years that he was

in office, that we didn't have these crises. The Russians had not invaded Ukraine. But, to your point about how great he was as a foreign policy

president, he damaged our relationships with NATO. He dissed our allies. He cozied up to Putin. I mean, I don't think that's a successful foreign

policy president.

STEWART: I think to disagree wholeheartedly. Look, we weren't in proxy wars under the Trump administration, and that in large part is due to the fact

that our enemies did fear us and did not want to get him to confrontation - -

HUNT: And you credit Trump with that.

STEWART: Look, he is erratic. He is bombastic. But, our adversaries were not confronting us. We certainly were not engaged in proxy wars because of

him. I don't agree with his tactics. How he did it? But, we were not engaged in complex like we are right now, and this is in large part because

of Biden does not show the strength that many people appear that Donald Trump shows.

LONGABAUGH: I think he has shown a lot of strength. I think he has handled the Ukraine crisis with great skill. I also think if you talk to our

European allies and NATO, they wouldn't have that perspective. So, I think the country has been lucky to have Joe Biden as president in this moment in


AMIRI: And I think we can go back to saying like it's easy for Donald Trump or anyone running for election who is not President of the United States --

HUNT: Yeah.

AMIRI: -- to say, under me, it would be different. Under me, there would be no war. So, he is inheriting a very lucky stance, have Joe Biden is having

to deal with the political ramifications --

HUNT: Right.

AMIRI: -- of decisions he makes as well as his duty as Commander in Chief. So, it's easy for him.

STEWART: But, Trump can also say, under me, it was different. And I think that's a difference that none of the others can. Look, I don't agree with

how he does things.


LONGABAUGH: If that's the case, I mean, we could go back to the immigration and border debate. I mean, he had four years to solve this problem as

president. He didn't solve it. So, the idea that Trump is about solving problems is just nonsense. He is about politicking all the time.

HUNT: That's a good place to pause, because we're going to come back after the break to continue this very discussion on Trump's efforts to use the

border crisis as a cudgel in the general election. Stay with us.




HUNT: Welcome back. Our panel is back with us to continue the conversation on this deadly drone attack in Jordan as well as the political border

battle here in the U.S. CNN National Correspondent Kristen Holmes also joins the panel.

Kristen, we are -- we've been talking about it, first, the strike against - - that killed three Americans in Jordan, but also about how it -- that's a crisis the President has to deal with abroad. There is also one here at

home on the border. And of course, Donald Trump is trying to make Joe Biden look weak. I want to show everybody kind of how Trump framed this and then

how Biden talked about it, both this weekend. This was Donald Trump in Las Vegas on Saturday.


TRUMP: Please blame it on me, please, because they were getting ready to pass a very bad bill. And I'll tell you what. A bad bill is -- I'd rather

have no bill than a bad bill.


HUNT: So, there you have Donald Trump saying he doesn't want to do a bill here. Here is what Joe Biden had to say about what he would do in the event

Congress did get something across the finish line.


BIDEN: If that bill were the law today, I'd shut down the border right now and fix it quickly. The bipartisan bill would be good for America and help

fix our broken immigration system.


HUNT: So, Kristen, in the middle of that soundbite, it's actually pretty Trumpian. I'd shut down the border right now.


HUNT: I mean, that's how Trump talks.

HOLMES: Well, because this is a key issue in the general election. I mean, if you're looking at what people care about right now, yes, the economy,

but there have been some upticks in the economy to immigration. People are focused on this. And one of the things that we saw these Republican

governors do was really bring this topic forefront by busing in migrants to liberal cities and then having Democratic mayors saying this is too much of

a stress on our infrastructure, making it a bigger issue, putting it on Joe Biden, also raising awareness as to what exactly was happening on the


And one of the things I continue to say about Donald Trump is that, well, sure, does he think it's a good deal or a bad deal? A lot of this is self-

preservation. It can't go through because he needs to run on immigration.

HUNT: That supporters actually fix.

HOLMES: That's part of this biggest talking point. Right. If things are getting better, then what is he going to run on? Because if the economy

gets better, likely, crime will get better. Immigration gets better. What are his key talking points in terms of running in 2024?

HUNT: Yeah. And Farnoush, we were kind of digging into, like, what the dynamics are with this on the Hill. But, there are like members in the

House that make the same argument that Trump is making, like who will say kind of out loud, it didn't used to be a thing you were supposed to say out

loud in Washington. Right? Donald Trump has kind of changed that. And they're like, yeah, like, why don't I help Joe Biden politically when -- I

mean, in theory, their job is to help the country.

AMIRI: Yeah. No. No. There is no whispering about this, which is astonishing. Even a lot of unprecedented things happen on the Hill, but now

that no one is whispering about the obvious things, it's still stunning. But, no. You're right. I mean, they're saying out loud, like why would we

take the most important thing off the table? And that's immigration and that's the border. Like they do not have the other things as strongly to

run on. And -- but, what's more interesting is how Senate Republicans, exclusively Senator Lankford, is trying to make the case of Democrats will

turn this on us. They will say that they're not doing anything about the border, specifically for an election issue, and how much worse that could

be for them in order to maintain the House, to regain the Senate.

HUNT: Right.

AMIRI: So, whether that works or not, but like they are trying to make this issue, Why would we so publicly say we're not going to do anything on this

just because it's the President?

HUNT: well, and Senator Lankford, by the way, the thanks he is getting for that, is going to be censured by his party back in Oklahoma.


I mean, Alice, I have to say, it's kind of like, are they going to actually walk the walk here, Republicans? Because they have been -- the policies

that are in this, and I want Mark to weigh in here too, the policies that are in this potential compromise are policies that progressives who have

been immigration -- immigrant advocates of horror. I mean, it is a very conservative deal. It would -- I mean, Biden is saying, I will use this to

shut down the border. And Republicans seem to be saying no to something that they've wanted all along.

STEWART: Wight. Well, you say --

HUNT: It seems screwed up.

STEWART: -- are they kind of walk the walk? They're going to walk the plank on this one right over the cliff because Donald Trump is telling them to

do. The problem is Donald Trump has been calling attention to the crisis at the border ever since he came down the escalator, saying that we need to

build a wall that Mexico will pay for. That never happened. He had the opportunity with Republicans in positions of power to make change. It

didn't happen. He has been calling attention to this. And it's getting even worse. The migrants at the border are even worse. There is no better time

like the present to make this happen.

For Donald Trump to encourage Republicans not to do so is a prurient and it is wrong. And he says, oh, we shouldn't do that because it's a win for

Democrats. No. If we get some kind of immigration crisis at the border, measures passed, that's a win for America. We have a crisis. We have a

problem. And the fact we have a bipartisan effort on the table, they should support this and screw the fact that Biden might have a win. Donald Trump

and Republicans can also win on the fact that, look, we came together and made this happen.

And what we're going to see, to your point, Democrats are going to be writing ads about Republicans were the ones that stood in the way of

meaningful reform at the border --

HUNT: Right.

STEWART: -- and they own it, and they have every right to say so. And shame on President Trump and the Republicans who are stopping the crisis that

they all acknowledge is existing and they're not doing anything about it.

HUNT: So, Mark, I do want to acknowledge, like, we've sort of set the premise that this is a political win to get this done for Biden. I mean, he

says he wants it. This is something in a general election seems that way. I do think it's worth talking about the fact that there are progressives who

would be very upset about what's in this deal. How do you think that impacts the way the White House is approaching this and thinking about it?

I mean, one of the things they're really worried about is Democratic turnout.

LONGABAUGH: Yeah. I mean, look, I mean, I think they've already made their decision here --

HUNT: Right.

LONGABAUGH: -- is they want to compromise. They want to get this done. We were just talking about whether Biden is strong enough to be President.

That was a pretty strong statement, I will shut the border down. So, I think the White House has made their decision on which way they want to go

on this. To the point about immigration being a top issue, every poll that you see across the country, it's either the number one or number two issue.

So, I think the White House has to deal with it. In terms of progressives wanting a much more humane bill, I mean, listen, there is a lot of things

progressives haven't gotten in this administration. I think they're going to look to try and get the best that they can.

HUNT: Yeah. The ship has kind of sailed --

LONGABAUGH: That's right.

HUNT: -- it sounds like.

All right. I want to show everyone how Nikki Haley, obviously, still running against Donald Trump in the primary as much as everyone is treating

Donald Trump as the presumptive nominee. And she took a more pragmatic and sort of national security hawkish approach to this, one that it does differ

from President Trump saying, I absolutely don't want this. But, listen to what Nikki Haley had to say.


NIKKI HALEY, U.S. REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If they pass this, don't leave it alone and they won't try and fix it more. We can't allow

people to come across the border. Period. You've got people on the terrorist watch lists. These are not people getting vetted. We can't be OK

with that. So, I know people are saying, oh, but you've got a little something.


HALEY: No. This is a national security threat. America is acting like it is September 10. We've got to remember what September 12 felt like.


HUNT: So, I'm actually a little confused about what she was saying based on that. She says, if they pass this, they'll leave it alone and they won't

try to fix it more. So, that is a little bit different from -- she has got another Sunday show quite directly, like they should actually get this

done. So, maybe she is feeling some heat here. I mean, what do you hear in those comments, Kristen?

HOLMES: I hear her running in a general election and still trying to get some of the Republican base. And what I wanted to ask, actually, Alice,

when you guys were just talking is, will voters actually believe the messaging that this is Democrats' and Biden's fault, I mean, given how

strongly Donald Trump and Republicans have run on immigration to then turn the tables and say this is their fault. When I talk to people at these

Trump rallies, I just can't get to the point where I can hear them saying, yes, this is Republicans that stopped this since they have made that such a

key issue.

And I think for Nikki Haley, I see what she is trying to say there. I think it's kind of convoluted, but it's that, oh, the Democrats will get this and

then they'll never do anything ever again. And I think, though, that this goes to where we are in terms of politics and the importance of immigration

as she is looking ahead at these various states.

HUNT: I think that --

AMIRI: I mean --

HUNT: -- I'm sorry.

AMIRI: Can I just say that, watching her, she clearly does not understand he has never been a member of Congress because --


HUNT: Well, that can be a good thing on the campaign trail.

AMIRI: Yes. I just mean that the -- as -- if you have covered the Hill, if you've worked on the Hill, you know that you never get the 100 percent. You

lay the groundwork --

HUNT: Yeah.

AMIRI: -- for climate change, for immigration, or whatever it is, and this is the best they could do right now --

HUNT: Right. But, she sort of --

AMIRI: -- and should never come again. Right?

HUNT: She is sort echoing Trump. Right? Like he is saying this is a bad bill. I'd rather have no bill than a bad bill.

AMIRI: Yes. Yeah.

HUNT: They're both kind of saying --


AMIRI: Not understanding how this plays.

STEWART: And he also has said, look, what I want is a perfect bill. Well, you're not going to get perfect. You're going to get -- it's better to get

80 percent of something than 100 percent of nothing, and we cannot let the perfect be the enemy of the good. And to your question about, how will

voters perceive this? How it is messaging? Look, Donald Trump's base in Republican voters in the primary are going to believe what he says.

Republicans want to do something and Democrats are coming up with not a good plan. Democrats are going to believe the Democrat message, we tried

something Republicans wouldn't listen.

The key in the general election, those people in the middle, the independents, the mushy middle, I would say they would be more inclined to

believe the messaging that Republicans had an option on the table and they did nothing about it.

HUNT: Running against the Republican Congress has not --


HUNT: -- has been relatively successful in that space.

All right. Kristen Holmes, thank you very much for joining us. I really appreciate having you.

All right. Up next, Nikki Haley still thinks she can win her race against Donald Trump. She is taking aim at his tough guy image to try to make a

dent. We'll talk about that next on STATE OF THE RACE.


HUNT: Welcome back to STATE OF THE RACE. I'm Kasie Hunt. We're live in Washington. Republican challenger Nikki Haley is sharpening her attacks on

the frontrunner Donald Trump, questioning his mental fitness and his toughness.


HALEY: Don't you think we need to have mental competency tests for anybody over the age of 75? He took offense to that and I think it hurt his

feelings. He can't hide behind the teleprompter at his rallies. He really needs to come face to face, man up Donald, I know you it. I think we're

getting under his skin.


Just saying. I don't know.


HUNT: Man up, she says. Trump has reportedly been furious with Haley for not dropping out after she lost both Iowa and New Hampshire by double

digits. President Biden, of course, is already treating Trump as though he is his general election opponent, and trying out this new line of attack in

South Carolina over the weekend.


BIDEN: And you're the reason Donald Trump is a defeated former President. You're the reason Donald Trump is a loser. And you're the reason we're

going to win and beat him again.


HUNT: The panel is back.

So, I will say, Alice, I've always thought that this was like probably the most effective line of attack against Donald Trump. The fact that he is a

loser, both himself on the ballot, also for Republicans, generally speaking, is that going to get under Trump's skin?

STEWART: It has, because you're seeing the things he is saying at his rallies and what he is putting out there on social media. Look, I'm glad

Nikki Haley is having a good time with this as she attacks him. She has called him unhinged. Like, he has been having temper tantrums. And look,

this does aggravate him. Somehow rather, Nikki Haley continues to raise tons of money. She has raised -- according to her campaign, she has raised

about $4 million in the last week after he went after her on New Hampshire night, even insulting her clothes. She got tremendous amount of fundraising

from that. She is continuing to do fundraising. She got a $4 million ad buy up in South Carolina. She is not going anywhere. And she is -- at least,

according to the campaign, and that's going to aggravate Donald Trump the longer she stays in.

But, she will stay in as long as she has the money and the fundraising to do so. And Donald Trump is just going to have to take it.

HUNT: Yeah. Well, so, we've seen also President Biden pick up on one of the attacks that Nikki Haley actually made against him, the confusion between

Nikki Haley and Nancy Pelosi. Watch.


BIDEN: By the way, have you noticed he is a little confused these days? He apparently can't tell the difference between Nikki Haley and Nancy Pelosi.


HUNT: So, Mark, risky at all for someone who -- I mean, President Biden has confused a thing or two on the trail.


HUNT: But, you know, we have got to given it to him.

LONGABAUGH: Listen, I thought he gave a good speech in South Carolina. But, if I can go back to Nikki Haley here for a second, Dan Balz wrote a really

interesting column in The Washington Post yesterday, which basically said, Nikki Haley is playing for the long game. And everybody who wants to -- in

the Republican Party who wants to drive her out of the race, I think she is thinking, delegates are power. I mean, we knew -- we learned this with

Bernie Sanders --

HUNT: Yeah.

LONGABAUGH: -- in 2016. Now, the Republicans have different rules. So, you have a winner take all. It's harder to accumulate those delegates. But,

that's power at the convention. That's power just in case something happens with these legal cases that face Trump. But, beyond that, there is four

years down the road in a post-Trump party. So, I think she is -- to pick up and agree with you, I think she is playing a much smarter game than a lot

of commentators have talked about.

In terms of the President, again, I think he gave a feisty speech. I mean, I think the only way to confront this age issue is for him to go out and

campaign vigorously. I mean, there really is no other answer other than to step out there and show us his vigor.

HUNT: To try to prove it. So, speaking of the speech, there was another moment that stood out to us from that speech, where he again was

criticizing Donald Trump, and this is particularly salient. This was before we learned that those three U.S. service members had been killed. But, it's

even more salient considering that was the news that unfolded in the wake of Biden giving this speech. He was criticizing Donald Trump about how

Trump approached American troops when Trump was their Commander in Chief. Watch.


BIDEN: Donald Trump, when he was Commander-in-Chief, refused to visit a cemetery, U.S. cemetery outside of Paris for fallen American soldiers. And

he referred to those heroes, and I quote, as "suckers" and "losers." How dare he say that? How dare he talk about my son and all officers like that?

The only loser I see is Donald Trump.


HUNT: I mean, Farnoush, that's -- I mean, it's a pretty -- it's as fired up as I've seen President Biden in a long time.

AMIRI: Yeah. I mean, and it's also interesting that like for Biden saying losers, the worst thing that he could call Donald Trump, comparing Donald

Trump's words to Biden's. But, no. I mean, I think he knows the moment that he is in. He has been waiting for Trump to be deemed by the Republican

Party and by the general public as the nominee for President for Republicans, and he knows better than, in his view, to waste his time

targeting Nikki Haley.


He sees her as an asset to the points that he is trying to make against Trump. So, it's -- I mean, it is fascinating that speech was, we had folks

there and everyone was like we have not seen Biden like this in a long time. And it just kind of seems like he is maybe rising to this moment of


HUNT: Interesting.

STEWART: And also using the word defeated. In one of his speeches, he said, Donald Trump is a loser who is defeated. That is kind of a double punch,

because, yes, Donald Trump lost the election, a free and fair election. But, that also goes to the heart of Donald Trump's big message that there

was widespread voter fraud. He should have stopped the certification of the election. I was actually the -- I got more votes than any President in

history. So, I think it's smart on Biden's part to go after him with a subtle message, you're a loser, but all of your nonsense about an election

integrity and the problems with election are absolutely not true.

HUNT: So, let's kind of expand this conversation out a little bit, because one of the other big pieces of news over the weekend was the verdict in the

E. Jean Carroll case, more than $80 million she was awarded by that jury, and we were able to hear from E. Jean Carroll directly this morning on

morning shows, including our own CNN This Morning. And she talked about how for Donald Trump that courtroom was a place for him to campaign, which is

obviously something we have been covering extensively. Watch a little bit of what E. Jean Carroll had to say.


E. JEAN CARROLL, WON SEXUAL ABUSE, DEFAMATION CASES AGAINST DONALD TRUMP: The courtroom was not a courtroom to him. It was a campaign stop. That was

clear. So, we had two different objectives. Ours was to win a case. His was to win voters. We'll see how that plays out. He is using me to win voters.

Sexual assault, a man found liable for sexual assault is using the woman he sexually assaulted to get votes.


HUNT: So, Mark Longabaugh, we've seen -- if you talk to the Republicans running against Trump, they will say these court cases made it harder for

them to make a case against him. But, they, of course, are running in a Republican nominating contest.


HUNT: Donald Trump is going to try to run this playbook in a general election. Do you think it's going to work with particularly independent

voters? I mean, should Democrats be worried about it working with independent voters? How do you see exactly what E. Jean Carroll was talking

about there, his campaign to win votes?

LONGABAUGH: well, I think you made a good point earlier. We oftentimes talk about Trump's base all the time --

HUNT: Yeah.

LONGABAUGH: -- as if that's a winning coalition. That's 46 percent of the vote. To get over the top, it's that piece in the middle. And I think this

is one of Trump's huge weaknesses, is his disgusting behavior against American service people. Three young men just died, and he is using it as a

political prop. He abuses women in multiple cases, and here is forced to pay $83 million for the abuse that he has infected here. Him running out of

the courtroom, it doesn't look like a strong man to me. So, I think these cases may not play out so much to his political advantage as some people

have thought. In fact, in this case, I think it was lose, lose, lose for Donald Trump.

STEWART: And again, has based believes what he says about all of these legal cases that this is a weaponization of the DoJ. This is overzealous

liberal prosecutors. This is a justice system that is out to get him because he is the main challenger to Joe Biden. And he is telling his base,

I'm taking this. So, you don't have to. And his base believes that. Again, the independent people in -- middle-of-the-road Americans that are going to

decide this election don't buy that.

And if you look at the key takeaway I got from this verdict in the E. Jean Carroll was not so much the legal aspect of what they found him guilty of,

but that punitive damage, over $60 million, they made him pay or ordering him to pay because he was so disrespectful to the victim here, the legal

system, the judge, the jury, the entire process, and those types of comments that he makes, that does not sit well with voters, and we saw that

plain and simple with this decision.

HUNT: Well, and one thing, Farnoush, to the extent that Donald Trump is a loser, he did lose in 2020, a big part of the reason he lost, because women



HUNT: -- women voters who said, I want to do this.

AMIRI: Yeah. And you see -- I mean, Nikki Haley is jumping on this verdict and trying to make the case. I think Republican candidates, before everyone

dropped out, Ron DeSantis, all of them were treading really carefully around the legal cases around Trump because they know that they need those

conservatives. They need those 46 percent. But, Nikki Haley is trying to get that in between. And so, she made the case about E. Jean Carroll about

how just today he got -- just the other day he was convicted and had to pay.


And so -- and she is a woman who has faced a lot of his commentary and assaults against her appearance and her livelihood. So, it's really

interesting to see now that he has considered the general election and how Nikki Haley or other Republican women maybe step and say (inaudible).

HUNT: Right. Very -- it's very interesting dynamic, shall we say.

All right. Up next here, what kind of challenges does Nikki Haley face in her home state of South Carolina? Up next, we're going to talk to a former

top aide when she was governor. Rob Godfrey joins us next.


HUNT: Welcome back. The South Carolina Republican primary, just a handful of weeks away. Nikki Haley is, of course, working hard there. But, she has

yet to show she can actually defeat Donald Trump in any of these states. And she says that she doesn't need to win in South Carolina, and that is

really an acknowledgement of just how tough it is for her in, a reminder, her home state.

Joining me now is Rob Godfrey. He is a former aide, top aide to Nikki Haley when she was Governor of South Carolina. Rob, it's wonderful to see you.

Thanks for being here.


HUNT: So, let's start with this list of friends, former friends of Nikki Haley's, the South Carolina congressional delegation. They're all with

Trump, except for Congressman Ralph Northam. And The New York Times had this front page story over the weekend on Sunday. Try to explain kind of

like what's going on here because you would expect in a home state for there to be more pictures on the other side for a former governor. It

usually provides plenty of cover. People can say, oh, well she is -- here she is from my home state. That's why I'm with them. Like, don't worry if

they're out of the race. I'm going to be with you. But, this is where it already stands.

And The Times piece, they wrote "The stories pile up one after another, of thanks not offered, allies antagonized, opponents not forgiven, a portrait

of a politician who climbed the ladder with speed and skill but failed to ensure that the people who helped her would have her back if she needed



Now, you were there through all of this. Do you think this is a fair portrait of her? And if it's not, how would you explain what's going on for

her in South Carolina.

GODFREY: So, right now, as you've acknowledged as some of the guests you've had acknowledged -- have had on acknowledge, Donald Trump is the

frontrunner in this race. And when you're the frontrunner in this race and he is running again, as for all intents and purposes, the incumbent for a

third straight time for the Republican nomination for the presidency, you're going to have made friends. You're going to have people who want to

be with you when you are seen as the frontrunner, and he is benefiting from that. And so, what Governor Haley faces in South Carolina are some strong

headwinds, for sure.

But, at the end of the day, the endorsements that you mentioned, while anyone would be fortunate to have the endorsement of someone like Governor

McMaster or Governor Scott, the endorsements that she has always courted are the endorsements of the voters. You remember that when you came in and

covered her very first race for governor in 2010 for POLITICO here on the ground.

HUNT: I do.

GODFREY: She is not someone who is ever -- that's right -- who has ever courted elected officials for her endorsements. She has gone straight to

the voters and made her case. That's what she is doing here. And that's why I'd say, the state of the race, while Donald Trump is without question the

prohibitive frontrunner, the state of the race is unsettled here, because, just since New Hampshire, Governor Haley has done three rallies. They've

drawn huge crowds. And she is doing the work she needs to do to try to challenge him on her home turf, despite the fact that it's been a decade

since she has been on the ballot here. She is on TV. She is in the mailbox. She is knocking doors.

HUNT: So, Rob, she kind of was actually more clear than I. I was little surprised how clear she was on Meet the Press over the weekend in terms of

setting a bar for herself, which is to say, she says she doesn't have to win, but she says she does have to do better against Trump than she did in

New Hampshire, that she has to keep closing that margin. What do you see as her ceiling of support in South Carolina based on the popularity of the

former President?

GODFREY: So, what I would say is this. I don't make predictions on races any more than I make predictions on the NCAA basketball tournament, and

I've liked basketball a lot longer than I've liked following campaigns. What she is -- what she has to do is continue to show increased strength on

each of these what amounts of statewide races.

But, let's be honest. In South Carolina, it's an important race to show more strength in because she is going to have to explain to voters beyond

South Carolina, if she can't win her own home state, how she is going to be able to find a path forward in states where people don't know her as well,

because she has -- she is coming from a posture here that she hasn't come from in New Hampshire and Iowa. And that's voters who already know her.

They trusted her. They took a gamble on her twice in two statewide races.

She is asking for him to take a gamble on her again, despite the fact that they've been comfortable voting for President Trump in three straight races

in the primary in 2016, in the general in 2016, in the general in 2020. And so, what she needs to do is come pretty close in South Carolina to continue

to be able to make an argument that voters are going to buy beyond South Carolina.

HUNT: Yeah. So, Rob, Nikki Haley, obviously, served in the Trump administration as the UN Ambassador. But, it does seem clear that in the

wake of that service, there was something that broke between her and Donald Trump that doesn't always break between -- among relationships with the

former President to the point that there have been sort of snubs, cataloged and a sense that there is not going to be a reconciliation between the two

of them. What is the root of that? And do you see any world in which Nikki Haley or do you believe Nikki Haley will endorse Donald Trump if she drops

out of the race?

GODFREY: Well, you have to take her at her word. She signed the same pledge that all of the other candidates signed in order to get on the stage at the

debates that should would support the Republican nominee for President. And so, I don't have any reason to believe that she wouldn't do that. But,

look, Donald Trump is unique, and there are a number of people who have worked with him, served with him or just endorsed him who have really

tortured relationships with him. And Governor Haley, Ambassador Haley is another one of those people. When you end up getting in a race against

somebody, that's a uniquely tough position to be in because campaigns are not just about service or knowing each other through service together, but

they're about drawing contrasts between one another.


And if she is going to peel off Trump voters from him, like she has to do, she has got to make a case to them that there is a reason to vote for her

over him. And the only way you do that is through some sharp contrasts. And in South Carolina, it's going to be a little bit tougher to make that case

than it is in a place like New Hampshire where there were enough independents and Dem leaders who were open to that. Now, South Carolina

does have an open primary. And so, there could be some people who were open to it here. But, it seems like the path here, like the path beyond South

Carolina, for Governor Haley or for any candidate would be steep and narrow and pitfall.

HUNT: Yeah. So, Rob, briefly, if this nomination fight doesn't work out for Nikki Haley, what's the long game? It's a 28?

GODFREY: The long game for Nikki Haley is what it always has been. She is an extraordinarily talented politician. She does extraordinarily well in

settings, just like debate settings, when she is making pitches to voters in big crowds. And so, I have no idea what the long game is beyond February

24th here in South Carolina, and then beyond that if she is able to continue to share a string. But, she is one of those folks that you can't

take your eye off of, because she is always going to be a voice for her party that people are interested in in the future. And I wouldn't expect

that to be any different regardless of the outcome of this election.

HUNT: All right. Rob Godfrey, Rob, thank you very much for joining us today. Hope to see you again soon.

GODFREY: Good to see you. Yeah. Absolutely.

HUNT: All right. It's time for a quick break for us, but do stay with us. Our panel is going to be back with one more thing.


HUNT: Welcome back to STATE OF THE RACE. My panel rejoins me. Before we go, we always ask for one more thing on the campaign trail or in Washington

you're watching for in the coming days. Your thoughts. 30 seconds each. Mark, what are you watching?

LONGABAUGH: Well, I think the biggest threat to Joe Biden's reelection probably is third-party candidacies.

HUNT: Yeah.

LONGABAUGH: And the thing to watch, there has been a lot of talk about Bobby Kennedy, No Labels, a little bit less on Jill Stein. But, the real

thing to watch is ballot access, and whether they're actually on the ballot. As of today, Bobby Kennedy is actually only on one ballot. No

Labels is only on 13 ballots, as I counted. Stein, because of the Green Party and legacy, is on 20 ballots. They'll probably be on many more. But,

that's the thing to watch is how effective those candidacies are if they're on the ballot.

HUNT: Very, very good point.

STEWART: I'm going to take a little veer off the campaign trail and talk about an issue that's bad here in Washington, D.C., in New York,

California, all across this country, and that is smash and grab burglaries at stores, and it's -- a small number of people committing a large amount

of crime is organized crime, and mayors and city councils across the country are doing something. The National Retail Federation says this

problem is costing $4.7 billion a year. And people breaking into stores, organized groups, and stealing things, they're creating more police forces.

They're providing tax breaks for businesses to increase safety at their stores. Also out in Los Angeles, they're creating a special committee that

will address, how can they address this problem? Because they need to make their community safer.

HUNT: Certainly something needs to be done about it. I mean, here in Washington, most things at CVS are now behind locked plastic shelves.

AMIRI: Yeah.

HUNT: Farnoush.

AMIRI: So, on the campaign trail over the weekend, Biden's campaign manager went to Michigan and met with some Arab American -- was supposed to meet

with --


HUNT: Yes.

AMIRI: -- a number of Arab American leaders, and a large group of them canceled last minute, and a larger group of them was not interested in

planning meetings at all. And I think as the Middle East conflict continues, as Biden continues to face criticism for how he is handling it,

we're going to see that really important Democratic base --

HUNT: Yeah.

AMIRI: -- and how he is able to reinvigorate that and how he is able to build their trust back.

HUNT: Yeah. No. Very, very important point, very important points all.

I'm going to take a point of personal privilege and take us in a lighter direction, because, well, when I watched the two football games last night,

my dad's Ravens lost, my grandfather's Lions lost. It was a rough night. But, we still had Taylor Swift at the Chiefs game on the field afterward. I

just love this so much. I'm sorry. I'm not a hater. I'm not one of those people who thinks we shouldn't be looking at this. I'm giving it to you

mostly because it's my television show. So, here you go. Enjoy. Happy Super Bowl to Taylor and to Travis.

And thanks to all of you. I'm Kasie Hunt. That's the STATE OF THE RACE for today, Monday, January 29. You can always follow me on Instagram and the

platform formerly known as Twitter. Don't go anywhere. One World is up next.