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State of the Race with Kasie Hunt
Lloyd Austin Holds First News Conference Since Hospitalization; Austin: I Should've Told President About My Cancer Diagnosis; Biden Tops Trump In New National Poll. Aired 11a-12p ET
Aired February 01, 2024 - 11:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have two things. Back in December in your speech at the Reagan Library, you told Israeli leaders they have to protect civilian
lives in Gaza. Since that speech, 12,000 more Palestinians have been killed. We're now at 27,000 killed. Why are you still supporting this war,
when this government that is the most extreme in the history of Israel, led by someone who refuses to recognize any political rights for the
Palestinians and with elements that are calling for ethnic cleansing and displacement of Palestinians? Do Palestinians have the right to dignity, as
you said in Angola when I was with you on the trip, you said the future belongs to those who could think dignity, not trembling?
LLOYD AUSTIN, U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY: Yeah. I said that in the speech at the Reagan forum. I've said that to my counterpart, Minister Gallant, every
time that I talk to him, and I talk to him every week. And I emphasize the importance of protecting civilian lives. I also emphasize the importance of
providing humanitarian assistance to the Palestinians. It's critical. It's really important. This is -- there is no question that this is a tough --
it's been a tough conflict.
But, we're -- as I've said earlier, we are starting to see the Israelis kind of shift their stance and change their approach to a more focused and
controlled -- control is probably not the right word, but a more focused effort focused on a discrete set of objectives.
And so, I think -- we talked to him about that weeks ago, and they said they were going to do that and they are doing that. But, I will continue to
emphasize, and I know Secretary Blinken and President Biden will continue to emphasize, the importance of addressing the issue of the Palestinian
people. It's critical. And we're doing more, but we're not doing enough.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Time for a few more. Let's go to CNN.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Secretary, allow me to join my colleagues in wishing you a speedy recovery. The 30-day review was due in a matter of days now, I
think less than a week, if I'm not mistaken. Do you commit to making that review public? And second question, has your Chief of Staff Kelly Magsamen
offered her resignation, or have there been discussions about her resignation in the wake of the failure to notify?
AUSTIN: I commit to being as transparent as possible and in sharing as much as possible. Oren, you understand that because this is a command and
control of policies of our government here, there'll be elements of this that are classified. But, we're committed to sharing as much as possible,
as soon as possible.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And your Chief of Staff, has she offered her resignation?
AUSTIN: She has not.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. Let's go to PBS, Nick.
NICK SCHIFRIN, FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND DEFENSE CORRESPONDENT, PBS NEWSHOUR: Mr. Secretary, I've seen what you're going through, of course, among loved
ones. So, again, we wish you for recovery, and I know it's possible. So, thank you. You described this as a gut punch, your instinct to privacy.
But, if I could just ask you bluntly, you had nearly a month between the time you learned of your cancer and the time that this came out to inform
the President, how could you possibly think that it was OK not to tell him, if I could be blunt? And just a small question on Iran and the Middle East.
What do you believe Iran knew operationally about the attack in Jordan, and how important is that when it comes to the U.S. response?
AUSTIN: So, the diagnosis was made. Doctor highlighted that you have a finite window of time to actually get this done. If you go beyond that,
that window, then you will have a problem. Christmas holidays coming up. For me to be a little impact on what we're doing in a department, Christmas
was a time for me to take a look at getting that done. It was a tough decision for me. And I did not decide until very close to when the
procedure was done to actually do the procedure.
In terms of informing the President, again, I admit that that was a mistake to not talk to him about that early on. When you're the President of the
United States, you got a lot of things on your plate. And so, putting my personal issue on, adding to his -- all the things that he has got on his
plate, I just didn't feel that that was -- that was a thing that I should do at the time. But, again, I recognize that that was a mistake, and I
should have done that differently.
SCHIFRIN: What Iran knew about the attack in Jordan, or how operationally it was involved?
AUSTIN: We believe that this was done by an element of what is known as the Axis of Resistance, and these are Iranian proxy groups. And how much Iran
knew or didn't know, we don't know. But, it really doesn't matter, because Iran sponsors these groups. It funds these groups. And in some cases, it
trains these groups on advanced conventional weapons. And so, again, I think, without that facilitation, these kinds of things don't happen.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. Let's go to FT and then POLITICO to close it up.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thanks, Mr. Secretary. Have you seen any sign that China has been successful in pressuring Iran to rein in the Houthis in the
AUSTIN: We have not. Again, what's happening in terms of close communications between leaders, we don't know. But, we've not seen any
visible evidence that they are encouraging or pressuring Iran to cause the Houthis to back off of what they've been doing.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Final question.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you. Good to see you, Mr. Secretary. I also hope that you make a speedy recovery. I have two questions. First of all, do you
regret not personally telling the deputy the details, the two times you were in the hospital, and the authorities were transferred to her? Do you
think that she had a right to know? And then, I have a question on the Middle East as well.
AUSTIN: As you heard me say in my opening statement, I apologize to all my colleagues and also the American people that I wasn't as transparent as I
probably should have been upfront.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And then my second question, is there any discussion right now of withdrawing troops from either Syria or Iraq, especially given
what has happened in the last couple of weeks?
AUSTIN: What's happened in the last couple of weeks is not driving us to consider withdrawing troops from Syria. There are ongoing discussions with
the Iraqi leadership about our future footprint in Iraq. And I think that's been fairly well publicized, the high military commission. We've taken the
first steps in conducting those meetings. And so, that will play out over time.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And does that include discussions about withdrawing troops from Iraq?
AUSTIN: It will include discussions about our footprint going forward, for sure.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary. Ladies and gentlemen, that's all the time we have for today. Thank you very much.
AUSTIN: We're still doing the forensics -- most of the drones in the region have a connection with Iran. So --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Secretary, why a multi-tier (ph) at this point? Why not wanting (inaudible)?
AUSTIN: I don't think the adversaries are -- have a one and done mindset. And so, they have a lot of capability. I have a lot more. And so, we -- as
I said earlier, we're going to do what's necessary to protect our troops and our interest. So --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you very much. Ladies and gentlemen, (inaudible). Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (inaudible) escalation?
KASIE HUNT, CNN HOST: All right. Breaking news here. You just heard Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin apologizing to President Biden and the American
people for how he handled his recent cancer diagnosis, saying that he should have told his boss about it. Here is what we heard from the Defense
Secretary just a short time ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AUSTIN: When in my first week back in the Pentagon, I did want to address my recent hospital stay and some of the issues around it. I'm recovering
well. But, as you can see, I'm still recovering. I am still having some leg pain and doing physical therapy and to get past it. I'm deeply grateful to
my doctors and the nursing staff at Walter Reed. And I very much appreciate all the good wishes. But, I want to be crystal clear. We did not handle
this right and I did not handle this right. I should have told the President about my cancer diagnosis. I should have also told my team and
the American public. And I take full responsibility. I apologize to my teammates and to the American people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUNT: All right. We're going to dive into all of this with today's panel. Brad Woodhouse is a Democratic Strategist; Alice Stewart, Republican
Strategist, Political Commentator for CNN, and Leigh Ann Caldwell is the co-author of The Washington Post's "Early 202" newsletter. Thank you all
for being here.
Leigh Ann, let me just start with you in terms of breaking down kind of what we heard here. Just as a reminder for everyone, Lloyd Austin, the
Defense Secretary, went in for this cancer surgery.
He later ended up back in the hospital, was basically incapacitated, and never did what you are supposed to do, which is devolve the authority to
someone who is capable of making these major decisions. And you reporters there questioning him about, OK. The United States was taking major actions
LEIGH ANN CALDWELL, THE EARLY 202 CO-AUTHOR, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yeah.
HUNT: Work, there are obviously many crises unfolding there. They were pressing him on kind of what was your role in these decision-making? He was
having to defend himself. I know you've talked to a lot of people up on Capitol Hill about how they feel about this, both Republicans and
Democrats. Do you think that's going to be enough to take the pressure off the Defense Secretary?
CALDWELL: I think it actually might, in the sense that those calls from Republicans and some Democrats on Capitol Hill have really slowed down in
the recent weeks. I think that maybe Secretary Austin has been massaging those relationships and talking to them. But, one thing that was really
striking that we knew then that Secretary Austin said today as well is that he apologized for also not telling the President --
CALDWELL: -- about even his cancer diagnosis. And so, that was something when obviously there are a lot of things happening in the world that is
really troubling. But, one of the things that I thought was interesting that he said that he is a very private person. He didn't understand in his
position that he had to let go some of that privacy. And he said as a black man especially with a cancer diagnosis that was hard for him. So, we'll
see. I think that it might satisfy enough people on Capitol Hill.
HUNT: Just one quick note. We should also, I think, point out that the Defense Secretary entered that news conference with a visible limp. One of
the reporters said he had been observed traveling by golf cart. So, this is clearly something that he is still dealing with. Alice, jump in.
ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, & REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: First and foremost, we can all agree we're glad to see he is doing better, and on
the mend, clearly still suffering from some side effects. Look, to Leigh Ann's point about this being a private matter, look, he is obviously a very
private person. We've heard from those on his staff. He is a private person. He made a point to say this is about privacy, not secrecy. I think
people will disagree. This was a secretive. This was unfortunate, the way that they handled it, and good thing he acknowledged.
The problem moving forward is his inability to transfer the authority, as you say, given these important decisions. The question is, his deputy, what
did she know and when did she know it? He wouldn't even answer that question today, when he was asked, when did you alert your subordinate
about this that could handle these responsibilities? He wouldn't answer that today. He said that will come out in the review. There were some key
questions that I think a lot of people still have that were not answered. And the question is -- also, one person asked, if this happened to anyone
else in the Defense Department, they would have been terminated. Why did this not happen to you? And he continued to say, we mishandled this. I
The good thing out of this is the White House is looking at steps to make sure other people in his position do follow the proper protocols.
HUNT: Yeah. I mean, Brad, I will say -- I mean, my guess is that the White House knew that this is what he was going to say. I mean, what is your
sense of the support inside the Biden administration around this? How angry were they that the President didn't know about this and that Secretary
Austin put them in this position?
BRAD WOODHOUSE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, all I know is what I've seen the President say, and that is that he has confidence in Secretary Austin
to continue. Look, I think that what he did today, he was very remorseful. He was very apologetic. I think he did say that there will be more details
that will come out in this review. And I think the other important thing he said, and this will be confirmed or denied in this review, is there were no
gaps in the command and control of the Defense Department during this period of time when he did not divulge his diagnosis and his trips to the
to the hospital.
I just want to add my voice to the voices of many reporters in the room, just to wish him a speedy recovery.
HUNT: Of course. Yeah.
WOODHOUSE: I think what's more important right now is that we have continuity of command and control at the Pentagon, while we're dealing with
all these crises around the world.
CALDWELL: I was just going to say, and one thing is -- that he said is there was a policy change because of this. Now, when something happens, you
have to put it in writing if there has to be a transfer of power as to the reason why. So, there has already some repercussions and some things that
did change because of it.
HUNT: Yeah. Leigh Ann, can I ask you to -- I mean, the big picture here, Lloyd Austin was under some -- the Defense Secretary was under some
pressure from Capitol Hill before this all unfolded in -- I had certainly heard from sources I was talking to, people who were questioning the job he
was doing in terms of handling his relationships up there. And obviously, Tommy Tuberville became the villain of the saga where all of these generals
didn't get confirmed. But, there also was reporting that suggests that, had Austin handled it differently in the beginning, we might not have ended up
in that situation. What do you know about how confident people are on the Hill in both parties in Austin, even absent this issue?
CALDWELL: Yeah. So, there is always a frustration on Capitol Hill that they are not informed enough of what's happening in the administration. So --
but, I think that more broadly speaking, I think that the more serious- minded members up there, yeah, they would have liked more communication from Austin, and they want more communication from Austin.
It's not his natural talent.
CALDWELL: And so -- but then, you have the other noisy part of Capitol Hill who -- some are calling for him to be impeached. Some are calling for him
to resign immediately. And that just becomes part of the noise, because there is so much bluster and anger at the Biden administration that if you
were to impeach everyone that they want to impeach, there would be no cabinet and no President.
HUNT: We have really gotten --
WOODHOUSE: Which they'd be fine with.
HUNT: Alice, what is your sense here of the next move for the serious Republicans on Capitol Hill, if there is one? Because Leigh Ann is right, I
mean, they are -- I mean, there has not been a cabinet official impeachment in 150 years. When it happened, it was for bribery. There is a lot of very
exaggerated rhetoric coming off the Hill.
STEWART: Look, I think this is an obvious area where they could point to and say, look, off of his head. But, the reality is, they just want
accountability. And Republicans that I'm speaking with want to make sure that this does not happen again. And there are protocols and procedures put
into place. I was encouraged to see the White House has taken action in terms of what's the protocol moving forward for Cabinet members and people
that are in his position to make sure there are no lapses in leadership.
But, look, Republicans need to understand, just because you have a different policy with someone in the administration, that's not grounds for
impeachment. And we're seeing that not just with Lloyd Austin, but with Mayorkas. So, the bar for impeachment needs to be reevaluated by some
Republicans, and serious Republicans realize, look, some of these issues we need to have serious conversations about. That doesn't mean we need to --
it rises to the level of impeachment.
WOODHOUSE: Well, I agree. And I think -- obviously --
HUNT: So much you are grieving at the table.
WOODHOUSE: -- and I think this whole notion that they're going to, as Leigh Ann said, just impeach people that they have differences of opinion with.
And I don't even think it's that. I think the impeachment of Mayorkas is not about policy differences. The impeachment of Mayorkas is about trying
to drive the immigration issue into the general election on behalf of Donald Trump, who has also killed the border deal, incidentally. And those
two things are colliding with one another. I do believe, as Alice said, that there are serious Republicans in respect to the Secretary Austin
WOODHOUSE: -- that want --
HUNT: And serious Democrats too. Right. I have to say.
WOODHOUSE: -- and Democrats too. The problem for Republicans is, when they do political stunts like Secretary Mayorkas, they're less likely to be
believed when they have genuine issues like Secretary Austin.
HUNT: I think there is a parable about that.
STEWART: Is it called the boy who'd cried wolf?
WOODHOUSE: The boy who'd cried wolf.
HUNT: OK. It's a great way --
WOODHOUSE: There we go.
HUNT: -- to button up this conversation.
All right. Coming up next here, a new poll shows Joe Biden with a six-point lead over Donald Trump, key to the President's improved standing. You
guessed it. Women. We're going to break down those numbers.
HUNT: Welcome back to STATE OF THE RACE. Some good news for President Biden. After months of sluggish poll numbers, he leads Donald Trump in a
hypothetical head-to-head matchup, one that also really highlights a widening gender gap among supporters of the President. A new Quinnipiac
poll shows Biden with a six-point edge over Trump, 50 percent to 44 percent. This is, again, it's national. It's with registered voters. It's
really just kind of a way to keep track of what's going on. It's not going to tell us who is exactly going to win the electoral college, but it's
helpful for us to know because this is an improvement for the President from December when there was no clear winner in that same poll. He was
The key to Biden's lead is pretty obvious. It is women voters. 58 percent of women are backing him. Just 36 percent are supporting Trump in this
poll. The Biden campaign's message that Trump is a threat to democracy also appears to be resonating. About one in four voters say that preserving
Democracy in America is the most urgent issue facing the country. Immigration is top of mind for 20 percent, and another 20 percent say it's
Our panel is back with us now. I want to start by digging into this question of women voters, because we can, I believe, put up what their
previous support was. Well, I guess, maybe we don't have that. It was 58 percent Biden, 36 percent Trump. If you go back to December, that number,
there we go. There it is. It's 53 percent, 41 percent. So, Brad, you can really see that a lot of this shift is driven by women. I think my also --
my big question here -- right. The Biden team has been under all kinds of pressure, right --
HUNT: -- for months, saying the President is not doing enough. Like, where is the urgency? This is a disaster waiting to happen. And their theory of
the case has always been, let's wait until the battle is joined. Let's wait until it's clear that Donald Trump is going to be the Republican nominee.
And people actually start to realize that. And I think my big question is, is that what is going on here?
WOODHOUSE: I think there are few things going on here. I think one, the gender gap here that we're seeing, which has grown since December, I think
it's partly because, if you were paying any attention to the Republican primary, you heard a lot about abortion. You heard Donald Trump brag about
overturning Roe v. Wade. You heard every major Republican candidate endorse a national abortion ban. And so, I think that's part of what's going on.
I think the other thing that is going on in this poll is that people are -- political reality is catching up with economic reality. And we've seen
that. Consumer confidence is up. Consumer spending is up. Employment is up. The stock market is up. Wages are up. Inflation and gas prices are coming
down. I mean, it would defy a political gravity at some point for the President not to get some credit in the polls. It may not be decisive. It
may not mean he is going to win, but to get some credit in the polls for the way the economy is going.
And then, I do think, probably I don't have not scientific judgment here, but I do think that probably women, probably related to freedoms like a
woman's right to choose, probably care about democracy, right? And the President, what do you do on January 6? He went out and he gave a major
speech about democracy, about his defense of it, and about Trump's threat to it. So, I think it's a mix of things, the economy, the abortion issue
and democracy that are driving these poll numbers.
WOODHOUSE: But, we're not -- look, we weren't slitting our wrists on the bad polls. We're not popping champagne corks on the good polls. We're just
running a campaign and the campaign to join now.
HUNT: The other thing that's been going on here, Alice, is the Republican primary has been unfolding, and it just so happens that the person that's
running against Donald Trump on the Republican side is a woman, and Donald Trump has availed himself of every opportunity to do what he does, which is
attack a woman in a very -- in very personal terms. Right? I mean, he talked about Nikki Haley's dress, like the level of nastiness. It seems
with Donald Trump and women is often, when we see it, we saw it in all the polls, and we saw the election results with suburban women in 2018. For
example, 2020, 2022, it started to become about abortion.
But, in the beginning, it was a lot about Trump himself. Do you think part of this is that women are again being reminded like, hey, this is what
Donald Trump is like?
STEWART: I think we have to look at the two different electorate here. Right? Right now, with Trump in the primary with his base, all the nasty
stuff he says about Nikki Haley, calling her a bird brain --
HUNT: Sure. Sure.
STEWART: -- his base is not deterred by that. They support him based on the fact that he represents their values. He is a fighter. And they believe his
nonsense about the widespread voter fraud. So, from the Republican base, that's -- that kind of language doesn't hurt.
HUNT: It's doesn't. But --
STEWART: But, the concern is the general election and what this means in November, what this means for the broader electorate. I do think, to Brad's
point, women are seeing Donald Trump is insulting a women, Donald Trump overturn Roe v. Wade, and I support reproductive rights. And I think for
that reason, women will be more inclined to ship their sport to Biden. The problem with that poll, it is -- it's a national poll, and we know
elections are won state by state. This is a snapshot in time.
STEWART: this is not a trend. And what we're seeing with the trend is that Joe Biden is -- has -- his approval ratings are -- continue to be below 40
percent, and that's a problem. And recent polling shows state by state, in the key battleground states, Donald Trump fares better than Biden in a
general election matchup --
STEWART: -- in the key states of Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Arizona, Georgia --
STEWART: -- North Carolina, and those are the states that matter.
HUNT: Yeah, for sure. I mean, we could even come up with a new name like barometer. I think these things are easy -- interesting as they show change
over time. Leigh Ann, you are going to jump in.
CALDWELL: So, Nikki Haley's team actually thinks exactly what posed your question. They think that even the anti-Trump Republican voters, the more
independent-leaning voters are finally realizing, oh, wow, Trump might be the nominee. This might be a Trump-Biden matchup. And that is a big reason
why she is determined to stay in the race. She thinks that she, with that new realization that she is able to get more women, she is able to get
those independent-minded voters. I wrote her about her this morning. And inside -- got some details inside a donor meeting that she attended -- she
hosted in New York on Tuesday night. And her message was similar to donors as well. She is like, don't back away now. The public is coming to realize
what is happening. So, stick with me, and we can do this. A big uphill battle, but it is --
CALDWELL: -- her message. And these polls, I think, especially with women, kind of --
HUNT: Yeah. Yeah.
CALDWELL: -- speaks to that a little bit.
HUNT: It's really interesting. Leigh Ann, let's dig into these issues a little bit. I mean, Brad mentioned abortion as being a key part of this.
But, one of the things that I think was interesting, if you look in -- Democratic voters in this poll, part of why that number around democracy is
so high is because a huge number of Democrats say that preserving democracy is the most important thing. The only other -- the economy is the only
other thing in double digits with Democrats, and none of these other things are even on the radar. What does it tell you that the issue of democracy is
so high on there, and then abortion isn't further up?
CALDWELL: I am actually quite surprised by that in the poll.
HUNT: I was too.
CALDWELL: The thing that was surprising to me, which was interesting, which Brad, you touched on, is that he also improved Biden dramatically in the
economic numbers as well. So, it's catching up to people. But, the fact that democracy win, the Biden campaign preview -- released that they were
going to focus on this, the thing that came to my mind was in -- leading into the midterm elections, Barack Obama spoke to House Democrats and Nancy
Pelosi previewed his --spoke before him and said, voters will not vote on democracy. Voters will vote on the economy. We are tasked with preserving
democracy, but we run on the economy. And abortion wasn't a thing yet. So, I was really surprised that voters actually are taking to this.
HUNT: Resonating with it.
HUNT: Brad, what do you think?
WOODHOUSE: Well -- I mean, look, I think President Biden has proved that people care about the economy, and he has stuck to that.
HUNT: The economy or democracy?
WOODHOUSE: I'm sorry. Democracy.
WOODHOUSE: He gave two big speeches in advance of the 2022 midterms. And I was working on a Democracy Project at the time around the January 6 Select
Committee, and everybody said the same thing. You got to talk about the economy. You got to talk about the economy. And they said that he was wrong
for doing it. We were wrong for focusing on it. And it turned out that that election turned a lot on democracy and it turned on all these elections in
ours, rather. I mean --
WOODHOUSE: -- it was fresh in people's mind what happened on January 6, and we're getting ready to have that fresh in people's minds again. We have
cases in D.C., a case in Georgia, all about that Trump is going to be involved in all around the January 6, and it's going to rekindle these
issues of democracy. And I think the President did that on January 6.
HUNT: Yeah. All right. Very good conversation. Thank you all. But, I am so excited about this next one.
Up next, Taylor Swift, the MAGA anti-hero, details ahead on how this year's Super Bowl is stirring up some bad blood.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JIMMY KIMMEL, HOST, JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE: Let me get this straight. OK? The same people who believe that Joe Biden has dementia and needs Kamala Harris
to feed him butterscotch tapioca every night also believe that he has somehow planned and executed a diabolically brilliant scheme to fix the NFL
playoffs so that the biggest pop star in the world can pop up on the jumbotron during the Super Bowl in between a Kia and a Tostitos commercial
to hypnotize her 11-year-old fans into voting for Joe Biden.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUNT: Welcome back to the STATE OF THE RACE. I am Kasie Hunt live in Washington. MAGA diehards, you may have noticed, are upset about Taylor
Swift and Travis Kelce, and they really can't seem to shake it off. I mean, tell me why these people now think the Super Bowl is going to be rigged?
Maybe this is why we can't have nice things. Here is former GOP presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy writing on the platform formerly
known as Twitter on Monday, "I wonder who's going to win the Super Bowl next month. And I wonder if there's a major presidential endorsement coming
from an artificially culturally propped-up couple this fall." An artificially culturally propped-up couple.
OK. Here. Are you ready for it? Well, Taylor and Travis on the field after the Ravens and Chiefs game, call what you want, but it does seem like a
love story to me. Travis opening up this week about how the sparks fly.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRAVIS KELCE, KANSAS CITY CHIEFS TIGHT END: We're just -- we're two people in a relationship, supporting each other and having fun with it, man. It's
nothing more than that. And how much the world wants to paint the picture and make us the enemy, we just have fun with it. And we enjoy every single
bit of it. And sure enough, I love when Taylor comes and supports me and enjoys the game with her fam and friends. It's been nothing but a -- but
just a wonderful event.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUNT: So, this will be the fourth out of the last five years that the Chiefs will play in the Super Bowl.
And I will just remind you, it will be the first time that Taylor Swift will be in attendance. Whatever happens, it seems like she can say, don't
Our panel is back with us now to talk about this bad blood between Taylor Swift and these far-right conspiracy theorists. Alice Stewart, Republicans,
why are they doing this? This is like a massive group of people. Like I -- politics, addition not subtraction.
STEWART: Maybe they hate Disney World so much. I'm old enough to remember when the end of the Super Bowl used to be the person saying, I'm going to
Disney World. Maybe they don't want that to happen. Look, only in a world of tin foil hat-wearing conspiracy theorists who are athlete wannabes,
where you find jocks, sniffers that are upset with the fact you have a world-renowned singer and a super football stud madly in love, they have a
problem with that. And they're trying to make this seem as though they are trying to sway the election in Joe Biden's favor. Look, if Taylor Swift, in
any way, shape, or form, is supportive of Donald Trump, they would love this attention. They would love the endorsement.
HUNT: That does seem correct. I'm impressed that that "J" word was just dropped on the show. I don't even want to repeat it because I don't want
you to keep putting it like props to you. I love it.
HUNT: Brad, what -- like, what on earth?
WOODHOUSE: Well, look, Taylor Swift is a national treasure. My wife is a Republican. I don't want to call her MAGA. She loves Taylor Swift. I don't
know anybody that doesn't love Taylor Swift. I will tell you what. We were just talking about the gender gap in the Quinnipiac poll. Look, if Donald
Trump and MAGA Republicans continue to attack Taylor Swift, that is going to be massively bigger than it is now. I cannot wrap my head around. I did
enjoy that, I think it was Charlie Kirk that said, you know what? They can have Taylor Swift. We have Jon Voight. We had --
STEWART: And Kid Rock.
HUNT: Kid Rock.
WOODHOUSE: -- Kid Rock.
HUNT: For him? Yeah.
WOODHOUSE: Yeah. And we have Ted Nugent. So, I'll take Taylor Swift although -- look, she hadn't endorsed anybody, in my knowledge. She is just
out there. Look, it is a love story. And I'm not -- look, I watch football every weekend and I've watched every Chiefs game that I've been able to
watch, and I've watched it with my daughter who is watching it because Taylor Swift might be spotted.
HUNT: There you go.
WOODHOUSE: And I think it's been great. I think it's been great for the NFL. I think it's been great for society. And you know what? It's great for
Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce.
HUNT: I know. Right? We're happy for them.
So, Ross Douthat, who is a conservative columnist, right, in "The New York Times", he put it this way. Right? He says that this really should be a
conservative story, "A story where the famous pop star abandons her country roots and spends years dating unsuccessfully in a pool of Hollywood creeps
and angsty musicians, only to find true love in the arms of a bearded heartland football star who runs a goofy podcast? I mean, this is a
Hallmark Christmas movie. This is an allegory of conservative Americana. This is itself a right-wing meme." It seems right to me.
CALDWELL: Yeah. Absolutely. One of the best things I saw on Twitter a "Daily Beast" reporter, had a picture of Travis's brother. What's his name?
HUNT: Jason, Philadelphia Eagle.
CALDWELL: Yeah, with beer with his shirt off.
HUNT: Amazing. Amazing. We're are chasing Kelce.
CALDWELL: Oh, and this tweet said, all those liberals are just making me angry. But, obviously, it was not an image of a liberal person. So, I mean,
I don't know what to say. But, yes, absolutely. Like, if you anger Taylor Swift fans, don't Republicans need women and young voters?
STEWART: And maybe I'll be -- I will also be the dork at the table too. There is a brand value that she brings to the table, which is very helpful
to Democrats. And I pulled some numbers. The NFL advertising people found $331.5 million brand value for the Chiefs in the NFL that she has brought
since she has been coming to the games and showing up and kissing him on the field. And she is also -- they're seeing the highest ratings of females
between key demographics, 18 to 34, watching because of her. So, there could be the fact that this could be a tremendous boon for Democrats, and
Democrats and Republicans have a problem with that. But, again, they --
WOODHOUSE: But, it's not a conspiracy.
STEWART: Yeah. It's not a conspiracy.
HUNT: It's absurd. It's absurd.
CALDWELL: Well, as Congressman Tim Burchett says, Taylor Swift has a very bad endorsement record in Tennessee. So --
HUNT: Not untrue. I'm glad you brought that up, because I do think it is interesting to look at how she has interacted with politics, because she is
also having, honestly, the biggest moment of her career. Right? I mean, she is doing something that I honestly thought wasn't even possible in our
culture anymore, given how fragmented it is. And she has cautiously waded into politics herself. Back in 2020, she did endorse Joe Biden. She said, I
will proudly vote for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris in this year's presidential election. Under their leadership, I believe America has a
chance to start the healing process it so desperately needs.
And then, earlier in her career, she endorsed a couple of candidates in Tennessee, both of whom lost -- or I'm sorry, the Democratic Senate
candidate that she endorsed lost. But, she also participated in a Netflix documentary where she talks a little bit about how she thinks about
politics. It's interesting. I don't -- we don't hear her talk this way very often. Take a look at what she had to say back then.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The other thing, just from a security standpoint --
TAYLOR SWIFT, SINGER & SONGWRITER: So, you think --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- Tylor Swift comes out against Trump.
SWIFT: I don't care if they write that. I'm sad that I did it two years ago, but I can't change that. I'm saying right now that this is something
that I know is right. And you guys, I need to be on the right side of history. And if he doesn't win, that at least I tried.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUNT: What do you make of that, Alice?
STEWART: Look, I think she has clearly thought this out. She is a very smart, savvy business person, and understands there might be some political
calculus or capital detrimental to her business if she makes this. But, she is doing this because this is what she believes. And for her to say, I'm
angry that I didn't do it sooner, it goes to show that she has thought about this for quite some time. And look, the person she endorsed in
Tennessee in the Senate race, he did not win, but it's not because of Taylor Swift. It's because he was running against Marsha Blackburn, a very
strong and popular senator in a very red state.
But, look, clearly, I think Taylor Swift wants to be a part of this. If she does nothing more than just encourage her fans and supporters to get out
and vote, that right there is going to be monumental in this election.
HUNT: Yeah. The White House, Leigh Ann, has said that -- well, Karine Kean- Pierre looked at the Hatch Act when she was asked about that.
WOODHOUSE: I can't say anything.
HUNT: She doesn't really talk about politics, which is amusing. But, should they be -- should the White House be kind of capitalizing on this from the
conspiracy theory perspective? I mean, like, let's just -- I'll just play - - this was weeks ago, right, before the kiss heard round the world and the off-the-charts ratings for the Chiefs-Ravens game. This was Jesse Watters
back -- at the beginning of January with this conspiracy theory. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JESSE WATTERS, FOX NEWS HOST: Have you ever wondered why or how she blew up like this? Well, around four years ago, the Pentagon Psychological
Operations Unit floated turning Taylor Swift into an asset during a NATO meeting.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUNT: Like what? So, the Pentagon has to put out this denial. Right? They say, "As for this conspiracy theory, we're going to shake it off." But,
that does highlight we still need Congress to approve our supplemental budget request as swiftly as possible so we can be out of the woods with
potential (inaudible) for concerns. In case you missed it, that's at least three Taylor Swift song references on the statement.
CALDWELL: I think a lot of this is people who are in a position to make money and improve their careers by creating -- saying crazy things. Right?
That was insane. Like, maybe we will all be proven wrong in 20 years.
WOODHOUSE: On brand for Jesse Watters.
CALDWELL: So, I mean, Jesse can do what he wants. But, I mean, I just have no words.
HUNT: All right.
WOODHOUSE: Hater is going to hate.
HUNT: Hater is going to hate. All I'll say is to Taylor and Travis, be fearless. Right? That's where we're going.
All right. Coming up next, with that new poll showing Nikki Haley way down in her home state, can she do anything to beat Donald Trump? We're going to
talk to Republican Strategist Chip Felkel live from the Palmetto State.
HUNT: Welcome back. We've got just a few weeks to go until the South Carolina Republican primary. A new poll gives Donald Trump a massive lead
in the Palmetto State, earning almost double Haley's support in, of course, her home state.
Joining me now to discuss, veteran South Carolina Republican Strategist Chip Felkel. Chip, it's wonderful to have you. It's great to see you again.
What does this poll tell you? What are Haley's chances in her home state?
CHIP FELKEL, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, I don't think she is pretty clear she is not going to win. But, again, she is playing a longer game. I think
it's very important to remember when people look at this s polling nationally that she got elected in 2010 and reelected in 2014, and the
dynamic has changed completely in South Carolina. So, I think, yes, she is from South Carolina. But, it's a completely different environment when she
was elected. So, she can -- it's her home turf, but it's not the same as when she won statewide before.
HUNT: So, Chip, what is the Trump campaign doing on the ground in South Carolina to kind of try and make sure that they don't give Haley an inch
here? Because it seems like -- I mean, we all know, we like to talk about how South Carolina is famous for dirty tricks in its politics. Like, what's
going on behind the scenes?
FELKEL: Lots of arm twisting, lots of, I wouldn't say threats, maybe that's extreme, but get on the train. They have a pretty good ground game in South
Carolina. They actually have a campaign this time around, made the rounds at statehouse to secure a number of endorsements there. I'm not sure how
much those matter anymore with kind of the change of the world we're in. But, they're putting a full court press on, and I don't think it would be
too much to say that they'd like to push her out and obliterate her in her home state and take credit for it. I don't think she is going to get out.
HUNT: How -- where do you think she needs to come in in South Carolina to keep going? I mean, the bar she set for herself was that she needs to do
better against Trump than she did in New Hampshire. Do you think that's possible for her?
FELKEL: I think it's going to be tough, just given the most recent numbers we saw over the last day or so. She is getting great crowds. She does have
support here, particularly business community types, which were in a real bind and trying to pick between she and Scott, and he was in still in the
race. I just don't know if it's going to be enough to close that gap. I think if she gets within 15, that's a win, given where she started.
HUNT: Chip, what do you think is up with the loyalty or lack thereof to Haley from some of these people who have gone on to back Donald Trump? I
mean, she appointed Tim Scott to his Senate seat, and yet he was willing to get out, stand behind Donald Trump on that stage in North Carolina,
obviously, put himself in a pretty awkward position. But, why was he willing to do that? And not just him, but kind of across the board. There
are other examples. Nancy Mace who was -- the campaign was saved because Nikki Haley endorsed her when Trump was endorsing her primary opponent. I
mean, the list kind of goes on. Why is that people are willing to do this to Haley?
FELKEL: Well, first, the two people you mentioned, Tim Scott and Nancy Mace, both have vice presidential aspirations. That's number one. Number
two, Mace is going to be in a pretty tough primary in Congressional District 1 in Charleston this time around. So, she is trying to shore up
the Trump support there. The other thing you have in South Carolina is we have state Senate and state House elections this next year. We have
primaries in June, and we have filing for those seats at the end of March. And nobody wants to get primaried by a Trump supporter. So, I think that's
part of it.
The other part is, we have a very weak constitutional -- constitutionally, we have a very weak governorship in South Carolina. And I think Haley
sometimes forgot that when she was in the governorship. She didn't play well with others, if you will, around the state House, and people have long
memories. She just didn't ever connect, and she would say that was because she was trying to upset the applecart. One of the interesting things about
that is Trump people were trying to label her as the establishment candidate. But yet, look at all the establishment Republicans who are now
She just doesn't have -- she has never had a huge operation ground game, if you will. And I think that that has affected particularly that since she
was at the UN and she hasn't been that active in Republican politics in South Carolina since she went to the event.
HUNT: Really, really interesting texture there. Chip, big picture, I know you obviously do a lot of work at the national level too, although, of
course, it's your home state. What do you think the future for her is broadly? It does seem like she is on track to lose this nomination, but she
is still raising money. They seem to have learned that they can get small donations from people who want to oppose Donald Trump that that's a place
that they -- a well that they can go to. She started to attack Trump more aggressively than she did before. I have to assume in part because of the
money that can come with that when it actually resonates. What do you think is her long game?
FELKEL: Well, I wish she'd started doing that. I think she should have done that sooner, much sooner, because it seems to be working, not as much as
some of the things -- some of the things she says is working. But, Trump's reaction to what she says is working. Obviously, we've seen the money she
has raised with his responses to her not getting out of the race. I don't think she gets out of the race here, no matter how she fares. I think she
is trying to catch her delegates through Super Tuesday. I think a couple more convictions could be on the way between now and the time they get to
Milwaukee, and anything can happen there. And the other thing is this. She may be playing the game for 28. If he loses to Biden, she can say I told
HUNT: All right. Chip Felkel, thank you so much for joining us.
FELKEL: Thanks, Kasie.
HUNT: Really appreciate it. Maybe I'll get down there this time if she is still making a race to this. We'll catch up. Thank you.
FELKEL: I hope you do.
HUNT: All right.
FELKEL: Thank you.
HUNT: Time for a quick break for us. But, do stay with us. Our panel will come back with one more thing.
HUNT: Welcome back to the STATE OF THE RACE. Our panel rejoins, because before we go, we always ask for one more thing on the trail or in
Washington you're watching in the coming days. Brad, what are you watching?
WOODHOUSE: I'm watching the RNC meeting in Las Vegas and the future of Ronna Romney McDaniel as chair of the Republican National Committee. MAGA
supporters have come out against her. Trump supporters are coming out against her. Haley supporters are coming out against her, and I think with
good reason. We learned last night the RNC finished 2023 with $8 million cash on hand --
HUNT: Which is like nothing in the broad picture. Right?
WOODHOUSE: Yeah, which is nothing. I mean, we have -- we probably have Senate campaigns. They haven't even got started yet. They probably have
that much cash on hand. It's the worst financial performance of the RNC in absolute dollar terms since 1993. And compound that -- compounding that is
just a string of losses. I mean, essentially, since she has been chair, she is in -- the RNC has never won, or they've always fallen short of
expectations, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2022 and 2023. 2021 that kind of split the difference between --
WOODHOUSE: -- Virginia and New Jersey. So, I think that either she is going to be ousted or she is going to be layered.
HUNT: Fascinating. OK. Alice.
STEWART: I'm watching my cell phone as we get further into the campaign season. We get robocalls one after the other after the other. 55 billion
robocalls were made last year. The FCC is now looking at one aspect of robocalls, the AI-generated robocalls --
STEWART: -- where they artificially use someone's name and image and sounds like --
STEWART: -- someone like Joe Biden, supposedly called people on a robocall. The FCC is now looking at these AI-generated robocalls and seeing -- trying
to declare, these are illegal. They should not happen. And it's misrepresenting a person, in their viewpoint. So, I'm anxious to see if
they actually take action on that.
HUNT: Yeah. Well, we need an agency with more teeth than the FCC to deal with this.
HUNT: Leigh Ann.
CALDWELL: So, I cover Congress, as you all know, and I am anxiously waiting for the text of this border security deal that we have been promised for
weeks and weeks and weeks.
HUNT: I was going to say, when did we first promise that?
CALDWELL: Yeah. So, it was supposed to be this week. It's like infrastructure week during the Trump administration, but with border
security in the Senate. And so, that will obviously be very telling on if they can pass this big supplemental border request for Ukraine and Israel
and the border.
HUNT: Or if it just all falls apart before we --
HUNT: You can even actually see the text.
HUNT: We've been promised for how many weeks.
All right. Thank you, guys. I really appreciate it. And thanks to all of you for watching, I'm Kasie Hunt. That's the STATE OF THE RACE for today,
Thursday, February 1. You can always follow me on Instagram and the platform formerly known as Twitter. Don't go anywhere. "ONE WORLD" is up