Return to Transcripts main page

State of the Race with Kasie Hunt

Biden Struggles In Polls Despite Strong U.S. Economy; U.S. Economy Starts 2024 With Strong Job Numbers; CNN Poll: Voters' View Of U.S Economy Improves Slightly. Aired 11a-12p ET

Aired February 02, 2024 - 11:00:00   ET



AUDIE CORNISH, CNN HOST: A tale of two numbers for Joe Biden and the economy. First, the strong jobs numbers with no sign yet of a downturn.

Next, a new poll showing that the majority of voters are still feeling the sticker shock of the last few years. Also, President faces doubts about his

handling of foreign policy, especially on the divisive issue of Israel's war in Gaza. We'll look at how that could factor in for Biden and the

Republicans. And we'll speak to his South Carolina State Representative who has known Nikki Haley for decades, and ask why she still struggles to

overtake Trump in a state she used to govern.

Good day, everyone. I'm Audie Cornish, in for Kasie Hunt, to our viewers watching around the world. It is 11 a.m. here in Washington, Friday,

February 2, and there are just 22 days until the South Carolina Republican primary, and 276 days until Election Day. So, this is today's STATE OF THE


So, the new jobs numbers show the U.S. economy is strong. So, why do so many voters feel the opposite? Well, in a brand new CNN poll, we do this

hypothetical matchup, and find Donald Trump has the edge over President Biden, 49 percent to 45 percent. The other number we're watching, the 26

percent of Americans surveyed who say, yes, the economy is starting to recover, and that might not sound like much, but it's actually an

improvement over the 20 percent who said the same last summer. And no one is hearing more about America's bleak view of the economy than the Biden

campaign. So, the question is, what do they do about it?

With more on those job numbers, we've got CNN Matt Egan, who joins us now from New York. So, walk us through what do we mean when we say by good. How

does it compare?

MATT EGAN, CNN REPORTER: Well, Audie, these jobs numbers really were blockbuster, just blowing away expectations. The economy added 353,000 jobs

in January alone. That is pretty amazing given everything going on, between high inflation, the Fed's war on inflation, the war in the Middle East.

This economy and this jobs market just keeps chugging along. When you look at the unemployment rate, it went down to three point -- I'm sorry, it

stayed at 3.7 percent. It was supposed to go up. It didn't. It stayed where it is.

This now marks 24 consecutive months of sub-four percent unemployment. That is the longest stretch since the late 1960s when Richard Nixon was in the

White House. And remember, it wasn't supposed to be this way. A lot of economists, even ones at the Fed, they expected the unemployment rate to go

up because of the impact of high borrowing costs. But, that has not happened.

And just to put a little bit more context around the job gains today, this 353,000 jobs that were added, this is more than twice what economists were

expecting. It's actually 60,000 jobs more than even the most optimistic forecasts that are out there. So, again, this really blew expectations out

of the water. And there are a lot of other positives out there when you look at the economy. First of all, inflation. Right? Inflation has cooled

off dramatically. That is huge. And because inflation has cooled off, we now have a situation where paychecks are beating prices. And that played

out again in today's jobs report where wages were up more than prices were.

Another big positive is blockbuster GDP. It was very strong in the third quarter, surprisingly strong in the fourth, and early signs of the first

quarter will be positive as well. And then, you have the stock market, which is at record highs, great news for everyone who has money in the

stock market, and also because it reflects optimism in the economy.

Now, none of this is to say that the economy is perfect. Right? It's not. Even White House officials will acknowledge that there are real

affordability challenges out there. I know a lot of the families that I talked to, they were upset about the cost of childcare, of housing, the

cost to try to get a new car, and those are real issues out there. If anything, today's numbers kind of raise the question about whether or not

the economy might be running too hot, because a lot of people have been hoping for the Fed to be able to start lower borrowing costs. There was

some talk about a rate cut in March. But, this jobs market remains really strong. And so, the prospects of rate cuts is probably being pushed out,

maybe until May or June or even later in the summer. So, that's something we have to keep an eye on as well.

But, all in all, this economy looks to be in a much better place than a lot of people anticipated it would be.


CORNISH: All right. Matt, thanks for breaking it down for us.

EGAN: Thanks.

CORNISH: I want to dive into all of this with today's panel. We've got Maria Cardona, CNN Political Commentator and Democratic Strategist; Matt

Gorman, former Communications Advisor for Tim Scott's Presidential Campaign, and Jackie Kucinich, CNN political Analyst. She is also the

Washington Bureau Chief for The Boston Globe. Welcome, guys.



CORNISH: All right. Maria, I want to start with you, because you were so cheerful when you heard these numbers. And I don't want to rain on your

parade. But, people are still feeling it when it comes to say childcare, when it comes to say being able to afford a home, right, because the Fed's

interest rates were supposed to cool things down.


CORNISH: So, what are Democrats saying about how they should and can be talking about the economy?

CARDONA: Yeah. There is always that big but, Audie. So, this is something that the campaign understands well. They are going to be focused on

continuing to talk about what Biden has done in these last three years to boost the economy. They should continue to talk about these great numbers

because that's also a way that it starts integrating into people's psyche.

CORNISH: But, is there a particular thing, you think, they can push forward?

CARDONA: Yes. There are several particular things, Audie, and thank you for that question, because when you talk to voters about the very specific

things that the Biden administration has done, they start getting a lot more positive about their own situation, for example, the $35 insulin cap,

the prescription drug negotiation that has made them be able to afford prescription drugs. The student loan is huge for younger voters, and we

know that that is a very particularly important coalition that President Biden needs to continue to have support him. Right? Black voters, Latino

voters are all focused on that. The issue of choice is also huge for young voters and young voters of color. And so, all of those --

CORNISH: A choice, you're talking about reproductive rights.

CARDONA: -- yes. Reproductive rights.


CARDONA: Exactly. Yes.

CORNISH: So, why here is what -- has been -

GORMAN: Our economy in that.

CORNISH: Right. Exactly.

GORMAN: Clearly about the economy.

CORNISH: no, no. But, it's like going for the strong points.

CARDONA: Don't tell women that reproductive choice has nothing to do with - -

GORMAN: There are questions about the economy.


CORNISH: But, I don't hear you saying, you didn't lead with the --

CARDONA: Everything --

CORNISH: -- Reduction Act. Right? That's a lot less sexy to talk about.

CARDONA: -- everything that I talked about is absolutely to do with people's economy, of people's pocketbooks. If you're a senior and you

haven't been able to afford insulin, and now you can, that changes your life.

CORNISH: But, that's not reproductive rights. And I think this is where I want to bring Jackie in as an analyst here. It is one thing as you're kind

of using your -- the numbers that best fits you, right --


CORNISH: -- as partisans go out and make their case. But, when you and your reporters are talking about what they're hearing on the ground, is there

something in particular that is bothering them, a particular number applied to the grocery store cost? What is it?

KUCINICH: Yes. Grocery store costs, you hear a lot about that. You hear about these just everyday things that -- they're looking at their bank

account at the end of the month, and it's just not -- there is not as much money there, housing costs, childcare. I mean, what Matt was talking about

there, these are real things that we all know weigh on people's minds and budgets. And here is the thing. They remember, just a couple of years ago,

when things were cheaper. And yes, there has been many, many things that happened. There is all sorts of things that happen in the world and COVID

and all of those things.

However, when you're looking at -- when this person was President versus this person was President, it's kind of like they really are saying, OK,

well, a couple years ago, I put money in my bank account. And so, even though on paper, yes, the economy is looking up. It's not being felt yet.

CORNISH: But, we point to something that Biden is talking about, because he has been blaming corporations for inflation. We're starting to see him use

stronger language there. And so, at this dinner in South Carolina, he basically had this message, I think, about grocery stores. Let me see what

he said.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: But for all we've done to bring prices down, there are still too many corporations in America ripping

people off: price gouging, junk fees, greedflation, shrinkflation. You see that article about the Snickers bars? Well, it's going to stop. Americans,

we're tired of being played for suckers.


CORNISH: This is way stronger language than what we heard before of like, well, the supply chain, well, this, well, that. So, how do you hear it? Is

this -- going after corporations seems like a pretty easy fell.

GORMAN: It's good for a base when you're in a South Carolina democratic dinner. We'll see how it actually resonates with voters. But, I think what

this will come down to is the delta. I think what we were hearing right now is the delta between how people feel and how people -- what they see in the

news of what the actual economic indicators are.

CORNISH: Wouldn't people respond to an argument of like you're getting ripped off?

GORMAN: Again --

CORNISH: Like, they're looking at TikToks about shrinkflation.


CORNISH: They are looking at like their mascara and their chocolate bar is smaller for the same money. Like --

GORMAN: Sure. I think people aren't going to vote on Snickers bars. Right? It's a broader economic argument about, I think, as we said, with the

aggregate things, they look at the -- they go to a grocery bill and they see at the end of month their money isn't going as far as it once did. And

they also look at, again, whether it's trying to buy a house, trying to buy a car.


Those markets are far more liquid than they were just a few years ago. It's this delta between how people feel and what the economic indicators make

them think they should feel.

KUCINICH: I do think, to your point, we're talking about reproductive rights. We've seen that when abortion is actually on the ballot, when there

is a -- when there is an actual ballot initiative, people go out and they vote. They have a perfect record right now. That is when --

CORNISH: Meaning that overtakes the economy (inaudible).

KUCINICH: It could.

CARDONA: It has.

GORMAN: One of the key things --

KUCINICH: Well, it brings out --

CARDONA: It has.

KUCINICH: -- who might be voting a certain --

CARDONA: That's right.

KUCINICH: -- with a certain part party.

GORMAN: One of the key points is, again, if we look at -- say the economy is number one but say abortion might be number three or four, what's been

proven in these last couple of elections, being a Republican I can say that even might be third in the polls, fourth in the polls, the people who are

motivated --


CARDONA: You're right.

GORMAN: -- by that third or fourth issue is more than the economy. At least that's what we've seen in the past, and you can't deny that.

CARDONA: Well, and voters also can bring to issues to -- with them to the ballot box. Right? And if you're a woman, and I had this conversation in

2022 with Republican women who were saying, you know what, the economy will come back. My rights won't. And that I think is a very particular sentiment

all across the board. But, the economy is still clearly a hugely important point.


CARDONA: And I think one of the numbers that Matt talked about, that I think is really important, and there is still time for this to sink in, and

this is where the Biden administration is going to bet and they're going to continue to talk about all the positive things, the wage numbers. The wages

are growing faster than prices, meaning --

CORNISH: But, it has taken some time to get there.

CARDONA: Right. But, we still have some more time for this to continue to sink in. And the numbers are going in the right direction. We even saw in

the CNN poll that people are feeling better about the economy. We need those numbers to continue to grow, but they're going in the right


CORNISH: So, Donald Trump left office, I think unemployment was up at almost seven percent because of the pandemic. But, what is his argument now

other than saying it was great when I was there? Is he talking about the Fed? Is he talking about like prices? Like what's the actual message?

GORMAN: It won't be that sophisticated. I could promise. I can try. But -- look, I think what it boils down to is, the first time in almost about 100

years, we've had two former presidents likely to face off against each other. It's going to boil down to a very simple argument. I think Jackie

kind of hit it. Right? This was what when I was President. This is what it was now. And I think on a lot of respects, that's what this is race is

going to boil down to. It's going to be four years versus four years. And we'll see how it turns out. But, I think you're going to be hearing a lot

about the Trump record on the economy.

CORNISH: But, the perception is meaningful. Right? People are talking about younger voters who are more likely to say that economic conditions are bad.


CORNISH: Sometimes people think that's because of social media. Right? Or they're like doing a TikTok of being laid off. I mean, is that the kind of

thing that can have resonance when you least expect it?

KUCINICH: Yes. I think -- but I think it's going to matter as we get closer. Right now, I don't know that that's what they're going to be going

to the polls for, because younger people also, reproductive rights --


KUCINICH: -- are something that's important. LGBTQ rights --

CARDONA: Climate change. Climate change, a huge issue that the Republicans --


CORNISH: You guys sound very less worried about the vibe session.


GORMAN: Vibes absolutely matter. Right? Yeah. I'm sorry.

KUCINICH: But, it depends on what it's going to be. Like, I don't think we can call --

CARDONA: That's exactly right.

KUCINICH: -- and say what it's going to be like now.

CARDONA: That's why --

GORMAN: Absolutely not. Absolutely not.

CARDONA: -- that's why I am not worried about it now.


GORMAN: Like, let's see what gas prices are in the summer. Right? They're going to be --

KUCINICH: They will go up.

GORMAN: They will go up. Right? But, like, I think -- again, 26 percent feel better about the economy. I think that was an approval rating of a

politician. We would not be very bullish about that right now.

CORNISH: Yeah. That's not a great number.


CORNISH: OK. Coming up, Nikki Haley is stressing her foreign policy experience as she goes after both Donald Trump and President Joe Biden.

But, is that issue really resonating with voters? I'll be back with our panel, up ahead.




CORNISH: President Joe Biden has always touted his foreign policy experience. But, is he getting hit from the left and the right for his

handling of the Middle East and Ukraine? It seems so. And how about the party of America First? How are they faring on foreign policy questions on

the campaign trail?

Well, a new CNN poll just out today finds 41 percent of Americans support Mr. Biden's handling of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, while just 34 percent

support the way he has responded to Israel's war with Hamas. Donald Trump's challenger for the Republican nomination is a former UN Ambassador. So,

Nikki Haley capitalizes on that by talking up her own foreign policy chops, even though in CNN polls in Iowa and New Hampshire found that less than 15

percent of Republican voters listed foreign policy is their most important concern.

So, our panel is back with us to talk more.

So, Matt, I want to start with you, because I have always found the sort of what the policies are that follow America First, to be confusing in terms

of like, where do you push for democracy? Where do you not? Where do you spend money? Where do you not? So, what is the conversation you think with

voters that a Republican nominee would have to have?

GORMAN: I think it's interesting, because in a lot of respects, unless there is a historic turnaround, Nikki Haley is very unlikely to even have

this conversation with President Joe Biden, because right now she is on track to lose in South Carolina, and we'll see what happens. Maybe. Maybe

not. But, look, I think one of the biggest things you see is that, again, there is an anger I think in this country that -- when I was in the

campaign trail with Tim, you kind of felt a little bit in Iowa and New Hampshire where they feel like the border is insecure, fentanyl is ravaging

their communities and we're sending money overseas. And I think that was -- it was a -- it was almost a visceral anger. And I think Israel is a little

different. I think there is a story. If you look at the breakdown, it breaks down even across party. It's far more via age that anything else.

CORNISH: But, it's interesting because Biden has often tried to tie the two together, right, like, let's say the funding packages, etc. And yet, when -

- there are polls looking at his ratings, right, trying to understand, do people approve or disapprove of his handling. It's not just America at

large. The Democratic base also is not happy. The younger generation, which has always had a divide across the board on Israel, is unhappy with his


And Maria, every time he sets foot outside of Washington to give a speech, etcetera, it will most likely be interrupted by people calling for a

ceasefire or using the term Genocide Joe, which I see online.

CARDONA: Yeah. I think that's going to be one of the biggest challenges for this campaign moving forward, because we are at a point right now where he

started out this -- the situation with Israel in a huge hug of Israel and Netanyahu. I actually think that can benefit him now if he pivots to

actually holding Netanyahu accountable for all of the things, some of the things that are going on in Gaza. I think you're going to see that. You

have kind of started to see that. He announced yesterday that he is going to do something against the settlers on the violence that's going on in the

West Bank. I think you understand this administration is looking at how young people and Americans writ large are responding to this. I do think --

CORNISH: And trying to find a path --


CORNISH: -- because fundamentally he supports Israel.

CARDONA: No. And that won't change.


CARDONA: And I don't think it should change. I think this is a situation where you can have a fine line.


You can support Israel, but yet demand that they do better in trying to figure out how they go forward with this war.

CORNISH: Meanwhile, on the Republican side, John Bolton was coming out, speaking about Donald Trump, saying that leaders -- world leaders consider

him a fool, and also saying that Trump doesn't understand national security issues.


JOHN BOLTON, FMR. NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR TO DONALD TRUMP: It's not the personality of Donald Trump that's the problem. It's his lack of competence

to do the job. The personality is unpleasant. But, many people say, oh, we can deal with the personality. I like something else. It's not the

personality that's the problem. He doesn't understand the job, particularly in the national security space. He didn't learn much in the first four

years. He certainly hasn't learned anything since then.


KUCINICH: I get a sense he isn't liking him.

CORNISH: Yeah. He seemed like a bit of a beef there. I don't know why.


CORNISH: But, I mean, I don't -- it feels like so many people in the foreign policy establishment came out against Trump over those four years.

But, does that matter to Republican Party primary voters who don't seem as compelled by kind of neoconservative politics?

KUCINICH: No. I mean, most members of his cabinet who had anything to do with foreign policy have come out and said, this is a bad call. Don't do

this. But, primary voters, Republican primary voters, particularly Trump's fans, are making up the bulk of primary voters these days, they dismiss

this because what they hear is that he is pulling resources from overseas and putting it into, that's what he is saying, putting it in -- back into

this country. They like how he is selling this. And I don't think foreign policy. I think it's much more of the economy than foreign policy.

CORNISH: Right. In our poll -- we polled New Hampshire Republicans, asking them, who do they trust when it comes to foreign policy? And even in this

matchup with Trump v. Haley, Haley's numbers are lower. You were speaking with a lot of primary voters over the last couple of months. How do they

think about foreign policy?

GORMAN: Really what the way they think of it is very much in a way a domestic sense. Right? How are we using resources that we're getting? We're

getting abroad -- we're getting away abroad, in their mind. We got to bring them back home.

CORNISH: Are they also angry at the foreign policy establishment that came out against Trump? Like they don't look at Bolton and think, oh, well --

GORMAN: I think they just -- they don't -- I think it's "establishment", whether its foreign policy, economic, they kind of lump them all together.

I mean, John Bolton worked for the guy. Right? So, I think that was also a part of it too. Wait a minute. He joins another cacophony of folks who work

for the guy and don't like him. They kind of dismiss a lot of that. I think they look at it as more of a worldview is, we have a lot of problems here

at home. Why are we taking care of them here at home? Why are we doing it abroad? That's how they feel. And I think that's the permeating philosophy

how they view a lot of this stuff.

KUCINICH: I mean, look no further and how they're attacking Nikki Haley right now. They are calling her a warmonger. They're really going after

that interventionist strain --


KUCINICH: -- that is kind of the old Republican Party.

GORMAN: The one that Bolton is a part of.

KUCINICH: Exactly.

CORNISH: Right. And a lot of Never Trumpers too also have that kind of foreign policy experience.

CARDONA: I think the whole America First, which is what Trump's policy is on foreign policy, lands very well with this group, because they do see so

many problems that they're facing, and they see it as a zero-sum game, which is how Donald Trump has presented it to them, right, the zero-sum

game in terms of the pie that we have available for resources in this country. Look, you're not getting what you deserve because the leaders want

to send it to Ukraine. I'm not going to do that. I'm going to make sure that you get the money for you, your family, your community, and that's why



CORNISH: The border issue is getting drawn into it, right --

CARDONA: Exactly.

CORNISH: -- as Democrat leaders and cities in the north who have been seeing migrant inflows from states for one reason or another are starting

to raise their voices.

CARDONA: But, I also think that that message is also one that is going to be difficult for him to get independence and to get the old school folks

who understand foreign policy that he is going to need in the general election. And this is where I think the contrast with Biden is an important


GORMAN: I think just if stated plainly, if we're talking about foreign policy, he would visit actual motivating issue for any more than a small

group of voters --

CARDONA: Yeah. I don't think that it is. Yeah.

GORMAN: -- I'd be shocked.

CARDONA: Yeah. Well, I agree with that.

CORNISH: Well, there is sometimes things that happen. Right?

GORMAN: Of course.


CORNISH: You can ask John McCain. You can ask a lot of other people. Things happen out of your control, and then you've got to reckon with them in your

performance matters.

All right. Well, the Biden campaign is facing its greatest test, how to rebuild its 2020 coalition. Details ahead about the President's fraying

support in the key battleground state of Michigan.




CORNISH: Welcome back to STATE OF THE RACE. I'm Audie Cornish live in Washington. Now, President Joe Biden is due to arrive soon at Dover Air

Force Base. He is going to attend what's known as a dignified transfer. It is a solemn movement to transfer the remains of the three U.S. soldiers

killed on Sunday in the drone strike on a U.S. military outpost in Jordan. The fallen service members are Sgt. William Jerome Rivers, Specialist

Kennedy Sanders and Breonna Moffett, both of whom have now been promoted to the rank of sergeant.

CNN's Arlette Saenz joins us live from the White House. And Arlette, just tell us about how they're carrying out this day.

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Audie, this really is the most somber and solemn of duties a President has as Commander in Chief,

and President Biden will be on hand for the dignified transfer of those three U.S. service members who were killed in that attack in Jordan. The

President and First Lady just departed a little while ago their home in Wilmington, Delaware. They are making that short flight to Dover Air Force

Base where the dignified transfer will take place a little bit later this afternoon, around 1:30. But, right before the dignified transfer, the

President will have some time to meet privately with the families of those three fallen U.S. service members. He has a little bit over an hour on his

schedule for that meeting. It would give him an opportunity to hear their personal stories and concerns about the death of their loved ones.

Now, the President did place a phone call to the families of Sergeant William Rivers as well as those two specialists, Kennedy Sanders and

Breonna Moffett, on Tuesday. And one thing the White House said was that the President gauged whether they would be interested in having him on hand

for these dignified transfers, and all three families supported him being there. And in one of those phone calls, we got some very rare footage,

insight into how these phone calls take place. And President Biden informed the family of Kennedy Sanders personally himself that they were promoting

their daughter from specialist posthumously to the rank of sergeant. Take a listen and watch that moment here.


BIDEN: We are promoting her posthumously to sergeant.

ONEIDA OLIVER-SANDERS, MOTHER OF SGT. KENNEDY SANDERS: Oh, wow. That is the best news I've heard today. Thank you so much. You don't know how much that

means to us.


BIDEN: Well, I will tell you what. It means a lot to me. Look, I know a day will come, a day will come when you walk by a park she used to play --

Kennedy played in, or you open a closet and you smell the fragrance of her clothing or something like that, and you'll smile before you cry. That's

when you know you're going to make it. It takes a hell of a long time to get there, but I promise you'll get there.


SAENZ: An emotional moment there, and this will certainly be an emotional moment when he once again meets with the families in person. The President

has often used these types of meetings to talk about his own experience with grief, not only the death of his baby daughter and wife in a car

accident when he was a young, just elected Senator, but also the death of his son, Beau Biden, who had served for a year in Iraq and then later had

brain cancer, which he eventually succumbed to.

Now, this will be the second time President Biden is attending a dignified transfer. Back in 2021, he was at Dover Air Force Base when the remains of

those 13 U.S. servicemembers who were killed in a terrorist attack in Afghanistan returned back to the United States. That was a meeting that he

had with families at the time that was quite raw with emotion and anger. There were a lot of families frustrated with the President's handling of

the drawdown in Afghanistan. But, the President today is on hand at Dover Air Force Base with the support of the families who have said that they

would like for him to be there.

I'll also note that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff CQ Brown will also be on hand for both that meeting

and for the dignified transfer. And this all comes as the U.S. has already made a decision, the President told me earlier in the week, about how it

will respond to that attack that led to the death of these three U.S. service members in Jordan. There is just a big question of when exactly

that U.S. response will begin. But, all will be on hand today with the focus being on the families of those fallen service members.

CORNISH: Arlette, thanks so much. President Biden has always been very forthcoming about his grief and his ability to help others get through it.

Thanks so much for the wonderful kind of explanation of what he is doing today.

Now, I want to talk to you guys about something that will seem unrelated but is which is this story kind of talks a little bit about the escalating

tensions in the Middle East as our lens left us with what will happen next. A lot of people have an eye on that, particularly Arab American communities

and progressives who are very upset with how the President is supporting Israel. So, when we look at a state like Michigan, a key part of that

coalition is that group, and I want to start with you, the Dearborn Mayor deciding not to meet with Biden's campaign people. And I listened to an

interview where he said, look, I'm telling you, I want a ceasefire. I'm telling you, your communities care about this, and you send campaign guys.

CARDONA: Yeah. I think that's exactly why I mentioned in the earlier segment, this is going to be a big challenge for the administration, and

they're going to have to find a way to pivot in some form so that this community feels like they're being listened to. I know for a fact, because

I'm in touch with the campaign and the White House that they are reaching out the policy folks to talk to these groups, to talk to these communities

about what it is that they're doing about moving forward --

CORNISH: With campaign people or with White House people?

CARDONA: Policy folks.


CARDONA: Policy folks to figure out what can be done to make sure that they are heard. The White House, the policy folks and the campaign understands

that they -- this President cannot win reelection without that coalition, and that this is an incredibly important group to be able to bring into the

fore in November --


CARDONA: -- of this year.

CORNISH: Now, one example of some actions taken, the President's executive order yesterday targeting violent Jewish settlers --


CORNISH: -- in the West Bank. That was an unprecedented move. And we got the view from a Michigan Congressman, Dan Kildee, when he was asked about

the administration's handling of the crisis.


REP. DAN KILDEE (D-MI): Well, I'd like if they do more. I would like the President -- it's up to them to decide how they want to handle this. But,

to not view it as a political question, not view it as it needs to be resolved between the Arab American community and the Biden campaign, this

is a question the Arab American community has in Michigan with the administration itself.


CORNISH: All right. That's Congressman Dan Kildee there, saying not enough.

KUCINICH: Right. And they really do have a -- they have a really tough job here because Biden is not going to change, as Maria said. He is a big

supporter of Israel. He was very out front when this started, and I don't know that short of calling for a ceasefire, particularly with some of these

communities is going to be enough, and that just doesn't seem to be on the table.

CARDONA: Yet, at least.

KUCINICH: Yeah, at least. Well, right.

CARDONA: You never know. You never know --


CORNISH: Is that you'd be -- is this wishful thinking on your part, or you get the sense people are starting to say how can we acknowledge the deaths

of Palestinians in a more substantial way?


CARDONA: There is a sense that something needs to change. I have no knowledge that that's where they're going. But, if there is a sense that

something needs to change, they're going to be listening to this community as to what it is that they want, and what is it they want is a ceasefire.

CORNISH: Now, Trump won this state back in 2016. Biden takes it back in 2020, in part by bringing together these coalitions. Right? It's not just

like here is an identity voter here. Here is an identity voter there. Right? Like, it's significant. So, how does he come in and have this

conversation, if at all, or is he still focusing on rural voters, white voters, etc.?

GORMAN: I think it is a couple things. I think, number one, when it comes to kind of this situation, look, I think there'll be a lot of talk about --

a lot of the left voters or the progressive voters staying home because of this issue. Look, I think it's easy to make that case in February when it's

laid --


GORMAN: -- wherein it's Trump versus Biden. I have a hard time believing the University of Michigan guy who was marching the resistance marches.

It's going to all of a sudden side shrug and stay home, personally. But, look, I think it's also one of those things, though, too where Trump more

than anybody else in the primary field did make an outsized effort to union voters. Let's remember where he was the week of that first debate when the

union auto strike was going on. He was the one visiting the union workers.

CORNISH: Telling them not to listen to their leaders.

GORMAN: I mean, look, I think in a lot of respects, we see this, whether it is teachers unions --


GORMAN: -- or auto workers, where the leadership of say a union might be a little less persuadable or a lot less persuadable in some of them than the

actual transparency.


KUCINICH: Whatever, Biden did win union workers.

CARDONA: Exactly.

GORMAN: He did.


CORNISH: And I want to jump in here. Biden did visit Michigan for the first time yesterday. This was a week after getting that endorsement. And Shawn

Fain himself has been out, actually, talking up the former President. Given that last year -- talking about the President, given that in the last year,

we didn't see greater union membership but we saw greater labor actions, right, hundreds of small hotel workers, the special effects guys, the

writers, the actors. So, people think about labor differently. No. I mean, you're saying there is a division between the leadership and labor. But,

this isn't just about the Big Three anymore.

GORMAN: I mean, I think in some ways, labor is very high. You characterize very different. I don't think Trump will win the actors union personally --


GORMAN: -- which is me.

CORNISH: Hotel workers of California. Hotel maids in Nevada.

GORMAN: I think California might be a write-off.


GORMAN: But, yes. I think in some respects, there is often a differentiation between the grass tops of a union organization, the actual


CORNISH: But, even in the era when Starbucks workers are unionizing?

GORMAN: Again, it depends on, I think, the state. Yeah.


GORMAN: And also, again, you need more auto workers, probably more (inaudible) than to say a Starbucks worker.

CARDONA: I think you're going to see President Biden win the union vote pretty handily again, because he is the one who has the history with these


CORNISH: But, he has struggled with white male voters in the last couple of years.

GORMAN: Again, again, again.

CARDONA: But -- yes. But, if you look at historically, Democratic presidential candidates, he actually grew that vote in a way that past

candidates were not able to do.

GORMAN: You can't make the mistake that unions are all right. I think you're not going to see a lot of white male Trump voters making your lattes

behind the Starbucks. You might see them making some of your cars in Michigan. I think it's a little bit tough to paint with a broad brush when

it comes to union voters. Trump needs to narrow the margins on some of the demographics around union voters that are already predisposed to his camp.


CORNISH: Are you hearing anything from the candidates from your reporters that shows that there is some repositioning of the messages there when it

comes to union voters?

KUCINICH: I think -- I mean --

CORNISH: Or even any of the coalition in Michigan.

KUCINICH: Yeah. But, I think of late when you -- Biden showing up on that picket line did make a difference. It's the first the President has ever

done that. So --

CORNISH: And Shawn Fain, I think, sending out a statement just a few weeks ago, calling Trump a scab.




CORNISH: Just fighting words, the old school Big Three.

KUCINICH: 100 percent. But also, you have electric vehicle standards. That is also a concern for a lot of -- we're just talking about auto workers.

That's also a point of concern. So, I do think that --

CORNISH: So, here is where it feels topsy-turvy.

KUCINICH: Yeah. It does.

CORNISH: But, down in the south, people are fighting, like EV factories, right, that there is a part of the Republican Party that's like, we don't

want this anyway.

GORMAN: They don't want the mandate to run, and we (inaudible) to support it. So --

CORNISH: But, if you fight the factories, that doesn't help the workers.

GORMAN: Again -- it's broader. They don't want to have to be forced to buy this, like so many states have had Sanders in place. California,

Connecticut, just postponed theirs, where all of a sudden are going to stop making gas-powered vehicles in 2032.

CORNISH: Yeah. But, you can see how it gets weird, where you are basically saying to the voter, we support the workers. The workers want this. We

don't want that. Like, it just gets --

GORMAN: Again, the unifying thing is that they don't want to be mandated to buy electric vehicles. I think that is a big part of that, and you see it

rural areas too. We have to retrofit farm equipment. That was a big issue in the primary as well.

CORNISH: Interesting.

CARDONA: At the end of the day, in -- for November, this is going to come down to a choice. And the choice both for union workers, auto workers, as

well as for the Muslim community is going to be, who do you want?


Do you want a President who has fought for you, fought for all of your communities, for your economic ability to make ends meet and for your

freedoms versus somebody who has not had a history of working for you, who wants to instill another Muslim ban --


CARDONA: -- and who has wanted to come in and not do anything?

CORNISH: What I am here is an appeal to various constituencies. Right? And when it comes to the blue wall, when it comes to the Rust Belt, you have a

working class voter. You have a lot of white male voters. You have a lot of rural voters. I spent a lot of time there reporting on the rural community.

And then you have these like urban demographics where there is a lot of Arab Americans, etc. So, there is a lot of different constituencies that

one of these guys has to say, please show up.

KUCINICH: Or hit enough of the points, because what we're talking about are a lot of different issues that people that drive why people go to the

polls, and whoever has them -- I mean, this is obvious, but whoever hits the most checks --



KUCINICH: -- in people's minds -- when we're talking to October, November - -

CARDONA: That's right.

KUCINICH: -- that's where we're going to be able at.

CORNISH: So, do we still think the blue walls is a region to watch, show of hands?


CARDONA: Yes. Absolutely.

CORNISH: Yeah. OK. So, we still pay attention to it. No, I don't know. Sometimes, it's like the moves in the southwest. But, you're saying --


CORNISH: -- this is going to tell us something.

CARDONA: I mean, there is no question that other places will matter. And I think what's great about what President Biden is doing is he has multiple

paths to 270. It's not just the one that happened last time. They're looking at flipping North Carolina, for example. So, there are other places

where the focus is going to be like a laser to make sure that all of the coalition of voters are going to show up for him.

CORNISH: All right.

Well, still ahead, South Carolina's Republican primary is just weeks away. State Representative Nathan Ballentine will join us with insight on that

and on Nikki Haley chances.


CORNISH: Welcome back. We're just a few weeks out to the South Carolina Republican primary, and a new poll gives Donald Trump a huge lead in the

Palmetto State, earning almost double Haley support in her home state. Haley supporters, however, are not giving up.

Joining us now with someone who knows her well, South Carolina State Representative Nathan Ballentine. Welcome to the program.


NATHAN BALLENTINE, SOUTH CAROLINA STATE HOUSE REPUBLICAN: Happy to be here. Thanks for having me today.

CORNISH: I feel like there might be no lonelier place than being the elected official in South Carolina who is supporting Haley over Trump.

BALLENTINE: There is a fine group of us, senators and House members, who are not the establishment, who -- we understand what's at stake, and we're

definitely beside her.

CORNISH: I'll get to that keyword "establishment" you just said in a second. But, first, I want to play you a bit of tape from a voter, because

one of our reporters, Gary Tuchman, he actually spoke to some voters. This was shortly after the New Hampshire primaries, and he actually asked them

like, look, she was your governor. Why do you prefer Trump? So, here is a bit of that.


GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Almost everybody here, I think, except for one person, thought that Nikki Haley was a good governor here in

South Carolina. Why don't you think she'd be a good President?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just think Donald Trump has made a presence in our world. He has made hard decisions with other leaders all across the world,

and he has proven that already. I mean, he was the only one who has kept us out of wars.


CORNISH: Congressman, help me understand this, because Nikki Haley ostensibly (ph) helped Donald Trump with those things, right, at the UN.

What do you hear in a voter who is still -- who doesn't seem to have that connection to her as former governor?

BALLENTINE: Well, what I tell people, and I certainly get it. Under the Biden administration, Republicans are just fed up and they want what we

once had. And so, what we once had was President Trump, and that's before everybody knew who would be in the running, if you will. The race started

out with 14 people on the Republican side. It's down to two. And we've only been through two states.

And so, just now, people are getting to know about Nikki Haley. There are a lot of people here who remember her as that lady did as governor and she

served us well, and lots of lists and accomplishments for people here. But, there is several in South Carolina who still don't know her. And that's why

she is here continuing every day. She has got rallies, like you see on TV right now. And every day they're at those rallies. It's people for the

first time getting involved in politics.


BALLENTINE: So, what we're looking to do is we're looking to reach out to those voters who had not been a part of voting in the years past, the

people that are disenfranchised and feel like they just sit around and come November, they just have this choice or that choice. Instead, in this

primary, they can pick who they want. And we're looking forward to that February 24 here in South Carolina.

CORNISH: We heard from Republican Strategist Chip Felkel who says that South Carolina has actually changed a fair amount, right, talking about the

demographics, etc. I want you to give this a listen.


CHIP FELKEL, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I think it's very important to remember when people look at this polling nationally, that she got elected in 2010,

and then 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 than when she was elected. So, it's a home turf, but it's not the same as when she won statewide before.


CORNISH: I've done a lot of reporting in the Carolinas, and North Carolina people talk about those exiles from New York or people who have moved and

change the nature of the state. But, in South Carolina, what does he mean? What's different from 2014?

BALLENTINE: Well, I mean, what's interesting is Nikki was Tea {arty before I'd even heard those two words. But yet, now, the way the Republican Party

is, that's not enough. They're trying to say that Nikki is not conservative. She is the only conservative in the race. People forget,

Donald Trump was a registered Democrat for years. He gave money to Hillary. But yet, the narrative is Nikki is not Republican enough, and that's just

unbelievable, because all the people that were here before that hated her, to include my colleagues in the House and Senate, realize that she shook

things up. She was very conservative and she wouldn't let the good old boys get by with what they've always done.

That's the message that we need to break through. Cult, I mean, excuse me with a slip there with cult. Trump has a stranglehold. It's like a cult

with his individuals. He has got strong support. We're just having to reach out to them and explain to them, look, do you want it to be a revenge tour

for the next four years, or you want it to be about what America is about, how we can move forward and have it for eight years under Nikki Haley?

CORNISH: She also has a new ad airing in South Carolina, where she is trying to be very specific about what she sees the differences are.


NIKKI HALEY, U.S. REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's a great day in South Carolina. When we get to South Carolina, Donald Trump is going to

have a harder time falsely attacking me. The great people of South Carolina know I cut their taxes. They know I signed the toughest illegal immigration

bill in the country.


CORNISH: These are issues that Donald Trump talks about ad nauseam. So, how is she actually different, right? I mean, how can you really look a voter

in the eye and say policy-wise, this is going to feel different than the guy who already had, whose record you now can go off of?

BALLENTINE: Well, first of all, Nikki gets things done. I mean, she turned South Carolina and the beast in the southeast. So, we had great employment

during that time. Immigration, she signed the toughest law in the country at that time. These are things she did here in little, rural South

Carolina. When given the opportunity --


CORNISH: But, Congressman, can I just jump in here?


CORNISH: It's hard to -- like, who is -- who can you say did more than build the wall guy, right, or the person who had a travel ban or the person

who was willing to orphan children? Like, it seems like these are sort of harder -- it's a harder argument to make that she is going to be tougher

than that.

BALLENTINE: Yeah. Well -- so, here is the difference. And you know this well. You've been in this game. There is politics and there is policy. So,

the Muslim ban, we realized that was against religion. You cannot do that. So, Trump had to soften on that. Building the wall and making Mexico pay

for it, you got to do more than that. He didn't even get that done. Nikki understands there is policy that's involved. She is not out there doing the

sound bites that other candidates do. But, apparently, that resonates here in politics and in South Carolina.

I'd like to say this, and you know this as well, but a consultant years ago told me, a South Carolina consultant can take a choirboy and make him look

like a crack at it. So, the ads, the hits that you see currently going around Trump and his surrogates, (inaudible), he has got other things to do

than be in South Carolina, but his surrogates are there with all these talking points, and it's ridiculous. And it's just pulling out half-truths

and distortions and things like that, saying that Hillary Clinton was someone that Nikki Haley admired. I mean, it's the farthest thing from the

truth. But, welcome to South Carolina politics. It is brass knuckles down here.

CORNISH: I want to add one more thing, which was her appearance on "The Breakfast Club" radio show where she was asked about America's founding and

whether or not it's a racist country. Here is what she had to say.


HALEY: And this also was about a general election. This is about who can win. He can't win moderates. He can't win independents. He can't win

suburban women. He lost in 2018. He lost in 2020. He lost in 2022. How many more times do you have to lose before you say, you know what, maybe that's

not the guy?


CORNISH: Now, one thing about this argument, there you heard her talking about what Trump can't win, but we don't actually hear what her say she

can. And when you look at what's happened in Iowa, in New Hampshire, are you guys waiting for like a great rising up of moderates, or like kind of

what's the -- who is the person she is going for here?

BALLENTINE: What we're hoping for and what I'm hoping for, starting here in South Carolina, and you've seen it a little bit already, is people when

they get to the ballot box finally thinking and realizing, look, we have got to win if we want to govern. Look at all the polls out there. The

majority of the polls have Nikki crashing Biden. I don't want to go to sleep at night not knowing who our President is and get dragged into court

battles and things like that. We are looking to stay in this race. Would it be great if she won her home state? Absolutely. Is it necessary? No, it's

not. This is a long battle.

And as I mentioned earlier, more and more people are getting to know Nikki Haley. A few people know her as ambassador. A lot of us here know her as

governor. Everybody knew President Trump. He had four years here, and he lost. We don't want to lose again as Republicans. We won't lose when it's

Nikki Haley on the ballot in November.

CORNISH: Nathan Ballentine, thanks so much. Best of luck.

BALLENTINE: Thank you, Audie. I appreciate the time.

CORNISH: It's time for a quick break. We want you to stay with us, because my panel will be back with one more thing.


CORNISH: Welcome back to STATE OF THE RACE for literally one more thing. Jackie Kucinich, what are you thinking about this week?

KUCINICH: So, Nikki Haley is probably going to win a primary next week in Nevada. The bad news is, it doesn't matter, because there is also,

Republicans are holding a caucus, which Donald Trump is likely to win, and that's what's allocating the delegates. And what this all means effectively

is that Nevada has made themselves more of a sideshow than the next primary state (inaudible).

CORNISH: I went down the rabbit hole on this on Google and it was a lot for you.

GORMAN: I am so sorry. But, 10 days away from a special election just outside the New York City, NY-3, Tom Suozzi versus Mazi Pilip. It's Biden

plus eight districts, Suozzi's reputation for moderate. If the Republican can close the gap there a little bit, it could be OK for us down


CORNISH: And after the saga of George Santos, we know it can matter, right --

GORMAN: It can. Absolutely.

CORNISH: -- even a state like New York. Maria,


What about you?

CARDONA: Something nonpolitical, the Agency for Toxic Substances under the CDC came out with a massive study this week that essentially supports the

veterans from Camp Lejeune. We've all heard about --


CARDONA: -- right, the commercials, saying that in fact that water caused all of the massive cancers at a much higher rate than anywhere else. And

so, hopefully, this will spur the government to give the claims to these veterans and their families that they so deserve. And if they can't do it,

then to go through the courts to finally give these veterans the justice that they've been waiting for so long to have.

CORNISH: Thank you for choosing something that was not political. I don't mind. I don't mind. We all need a break.

I want to thank you guys. It was a great conversation. I'm Audie Cornish, and that's the STATE OF THE RACE today, Friday, February 2. Stick with CNN

because "ONE WORLD" is up next.