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State of the Race with Kasie Hunt

Democrats Flip Santos' Seat, Shrink Republican Majority; Haley Slams Trump For Recent Republican Losses; Biden Slams Trump Over Threat To Abandon NATO Allies. Aired 11a-12p ET

Aired February 14, 2024 - 11:00   ET




JESSICA DEAN, CNN INT HOST: Democrats feeling a new burst of momentum, Tom Suozzi handily won Tuesday's special election in New York, Joe Biden

happily blaming Donald Trump for Republican Mazi Pilip's defeat. We have a live report from Long Island, coming up. Plus, the President pulled no

punches in his response to Donald Trump's comments about NATO. Biden calling his likely 2024 opponent "Dumb, shameful and un-American."

And House Republicans impeach Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. The Democrat-led Senate is likely to quickly dismiss those

charges. But still, immigration and the border are key issues for a lot of Americans in this election. We'll discuss ahead.

Good day everyone. I'm Jessica Dean to our viewers watching all around the world. It is 11 a.m. here in Washington. It is Wednesday, February 14.

Happy Valentine's Day. And there are just 10 days until the South Carolina Republican primary, only 264 days until Election Day. This is today's

"State of the Race."

Democrats flip the seat once held by George Santos and give President Biden a much needed boost ahead of the November election. Democrat Tom Suozzi

cruised to a surprisingly easy win over Republican candidate Mazi Pilip by almost eight points. He won the special election in New York's 3rd

congressional district by running on the theme of bipartisan cooperation, especially on the issue of immigration. House Speaker Mike Johnson's

already razor-thin majority grew even more narrow with Suozzi's victory. That's what it looks like now, Republicans controlling 219 seats to

Democrats' 213.

The Biden campaign trying to pin the loss on the frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination, saying "Donald Trump lost again

tonight. When Republicans run on Trump's extreme agenda, even in a Republican-held seat, voters reject them." Trump, who did not in to endorse

Pilip wasted no time, lashing out at her, calling her "a foolish woman who didn't endorse him and who tried to straddle the fence."

Miguel Marquez is joining us now from Glen Cove, New York, on Long Island. Miguel, what does it look like one day later?

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN SENIOR U.S. NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think there is, at least in the Democratic ranks, great relief at how this thing turned

out. Nobody expected it would be this close. I've been covering this race for two months now, the very quick two months that this race took place.

And everybody thought this would be a squeaker. Many people thought it would not be called on election night. But, to have such a decisive vote,

to have such a big turnout, most people expected in the 25 percent turnout range. It looks like it's going to be 30 percent, maybe 32 percent turnout

for this race despite a very heavy snowstorm here.

So, Democrats are basically saying, look, this was a winner. Tom Suozzi, always as a centrist Democrat in the sort of purple district outside of New

York City, he ran on essentially Republican issues, immigration, crime, taxes, and did not shy away from them, and said that he was the guy to make

things better and to work toward compromise and end sort of the bipartisanship and the rancor and the anger that we see on some of these


Mazi Pilip was in a difficult position. She is a very, very attractive candidate, but she couldn't say for almost the entire campaign whether she

had voted for Trump or not, finally, belatedly said she had voted for him, but it wasn't very clear, if it was a -- that she really endorsed Donald

Trump. So, that was part of it as well. But, at the end of the day, her voters just did not come out in enough numbers and his came out in massive

numbers. Jessica.

DEAN: And that'll do it. Miguel Marquez in Glen Cove, New York --


DEAN: -- thanks so much for that update.

And we also just heard from the House Speaker Mike Johnson on this. Here was his reaction to last night's outcome.


REP. MIKE JOHNSON (R-LA): Their candidate ran like a Republican. He sounded like a Republican, talking about the border and immigration because

everybody knows that's the top issue. There is on the concern in the hearts and minds of everybody. There was a weather event that affected turnout.

There are a lot of factors there. That is in no way a bellwether of what's going to happen this fall.


DEAN: So, let's dive into all of this with today's panel. Paul Begala is a CNN Political Commentator and served as an Advisor in the Clinton

Administration. Maura Gillespie is a Republican Strategist and former Advisor to former House Speaker John Boehner, and Tamara Keith is White

House Correspondent for NPR. Wonderful to have all of you here. We just heard from the House Speaker there, who kind of tried to explain away the

results from last night, and I think it's a fair assessment.


We'll see if you all agree. Maybe you just learned lessons from last night. It's not necessarily a bellwether for things to come.

Maura, let's start with you. As a Republican --


DEAN: -- what did you make of last night, and then the House Speaker's reaction to it?

GILLESPIE: Yeah. I agree that I don't think it's going to be a bellwether for -- there is a lot of things that can happen between now and Election

Day, as you just put on the screen, 264 days to go. A lot can happen between now and then. But, I do think what Tom Suozzi represented to that

district is a sense of calm and assuredness that a district like that needed after George Santos. I think they really were just tired of the

chaos. And I think that's a theme that we may see throughout this cycle, is that they're -- people -- American people are not happy with the choices

they have at the top of the ticket, assuming it is Trump and Biden.

So, they're looking for something to get them some calm, some action, somebody who wants to work bipartisan, who wants to work across the aisle

to get things done. That's going to matter to them.

DEAN: Yeah. And Paul, it was notable that neither President Biden nor Donald Trump really took part in this race at all. And we saw Suozzi really

go against Biden in some situations, especially on the issue of the border. Do you think we will see more of that heading into November in some of

these swing districts?

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think Democrats are going to learn from this. I had to say, I -- it's not a good look for the Speaker.

The sun was in my eyes. The wind was in my face. When you lose, and I've lost a lot, you bear down and learn from it. I would not want my leader, he

is not my party, but I would not want my leader saying, oh, it's no big deal. It's really nothing. It is like -- if you're getting chest pains,

maybe you should cut back on a bacon. And the Republicans just lost a race in a seat they held on an issue they owned, immigration. So, what's the

lessons for Democrats and for Joe Biden? Lean in.

President Biden said last week that he is going to talk about the Republicans killing the border security bill every day between now and

November. I want to hold him to that promise. They need -- and I think Suozzi did a great job of this. He talked about order versus chaos. And I

think that's a rubric. Democrats can run on. And for a long time, if you talked about the border, the left in the Democratic Party said, shut up,

racist. There are a lot of Americans. It turns out, when you tell people to shut up and that they're racist, they don't like it. Tom Suozzi said,

actually, this is a real issue. It's an important issue. It's hurting New York as well as the rest of the country. I'm going to toughen up on this.

That's a much better position. By the way, that's the issue Barack Obama had a decade ago, and he got reelected comfortably.

So, I think there is really important lessons for Democrats here and how Suozzi --

DEAN: To really trying to glean from that. And then, of course, Nikki Haley, who is the last remaining challenger to Donald Trump in that

primary, took this opportunity to take a swipe at him. So, we can listen to that.


NIKKI HALEY, U.S. REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He lost it for Republicans in 2018. He lost it for Republicans in 2020. He lost it for

Republicans in 2022. But, even look at last week. He lost it for Republicans on a border issue. He lost it for Republicans on the Israel

issue. He lost his own immunity and the party chair lost her job. I mean, everything that he is involved with, with Republicans, we lose, and I don't

know how many more times we have to lose before everybody realizes that he is actually part of the problem.


DEAN: So, Tamara, you have what she just laid out, which is factually accurate in terms of 2018, 2020, 2022. But, what continues to happen when

people vote in this primary is that they so far really want to stick with Donald Trump.

TAMARA KEITH, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, NPR, & CO-HOST, NPR POLITICS PODCAST: Yeah. That message is at the core of her campaign. It has been at

the core of her campaign the entire time she has been running, that and Trump is a chaos agent. Just look at what he is doing on foreign policy.

That is also another key part of her campaign message. And he keeps feeding her tasty morsels of opportunities to continue to go after him in exactly

the same way.

However, it is a Republican primary and the Republican Party has been reshaped in former President Trump's image. Just look at what he was able

to do with the bipartisan immigration deal on the Senate. He made it a loyalty test to Republicans, and has been quite successful at that. We'll

see that tested with the national security supplemental as it moves from the Senate over to the House, if the House even takes it up.

But, the reality is that Nikki Haley has sort of maxed out at about 30 percent in a best case scenario of Republican primary voters. She might be

making a very lovely argument that makes sense for a general election. But, that's not what people in the Republican primary are motivated by. They --

when asked about electability, they don't think Nikki Haley is the electable one. They think Donald Trump is the electable one.

DEAN: Paul, I feel like you want to say something.

BEGALA: Yeah. Well, it's hard to run if you run. I will just say, Tamara, this is why she is smart. We have a Governor Haley running on electability

and losing everywhere, and she is right now 30 points behind in her home state --


DEAN: 30. I know over 30.

BEGALA: in the polling.

DEAN: Yeah. Yeah.

BEGALA: And that's -- so it's hard to gain traction when you're saying -- I think she is factually accurate, everything she said. I mean, Trump has

lost for his party, the first President since Herbert Hoover to lose the House, the Senate, and the White House, in one term. It's hard to do. It's

been 90 years since that's happened. And yet, the party, just the party faithful, the base of the party, they just love him, and they're going to

nominate. And this thing is over. And I admire Governor Haley's tenacity and her talent. But, right now, they're not looking for that. They're

looking for Mr. Trump.

DEAN: And I -- I'm thinking back to our discussion about immigration, what you just brought up about the former President really making that a loyalty

pledge and killing that bipartisan legislation that Republicans had asked for, that was the most conservative aggressive border bill they'd had in

front of them. And I'm -- I was listening to my colleagues last night during their coverage, Dana Bash, Lauren Fox, who've been talking to

voters, and sometimes these things don't break through with voters, and then sometimes they do. And it seemed like people did have that on their

mind, Maura, that they were paying attention to that.

GILLESPIE: I think that Republicans have really failed in a lot of ways to own the messaging, and this is one example, a huge example of their failure

to own the messaging. And McConnell has brought it up. This is our best chance. Lindsey Graham, three weeks ago, had said, this is our best chance

of getting something done on the border, and it won't be a better chance should President Trump, who he wants to win, should he become President.

They've turned their messages around.

But really what Republicans could have done was owned to this issue in a positive way and rode this into 2024. Instead, they are pledging their

loyalty to Donald Trump in exchange for what? Because -- I don't understand what they're getting in return for it. They're not getting money towards

their campaigns. He has taken all the money, all the oxygen, and it goes to his legal bills. So, it's a real problem.

DEAN: Yeah. On the note of everyone just kind of signing their loyalty, there is the loyalty pledge within the Republican candidates. And so, Nikki

Haley was asked about supporting Donald Trump that she has agreed to that pledge. Here is what she said.


HALEY: There is no way that the American people are going to vote for a convicted criminal. They're not.

CRAIG MELVIN, NBC NEWS HOST: But you said you would.

HALEY: They're not.

MELVIN: But you said you would.

HALEY: No. That is not the question. Every Republican nominee signed a pledge before they could even get on the debate stage that said if that we

were not the nominee, would we support the nominee? And I said yes, and I stand by that.


DEAN: So, there you have it. I said -- but Paul, she wasn't -- look, there was a lot of hedging there.

BEGALA: Pretty simple question.

DEAN: Yeah.

BEGALA: And it was not a very simple answer. She is click and you might -- that's a woman who is going to support Donald Trump. OK? If she weren't,

she would say so now, and she is going to fight. Remember, though, when 2016, Mr. Trump accused Ted Cruz, the Senator from Texas, his opponent at

the time, of -- he insulted his wife's appearance. And then he said his father was complicit in the JFK assassination. OK? And Cruz at the time

called Trump a sniffling coward for attacking his wife and his dad. Guess who is Trump's biggest friend now in the Senate? Ted Cruz. So, I do think

sometimes these politicians decide, you have to rise above principle. And I think he is going to be there.

DEAN: And Tamara, from the White House's perspective, is this -- is the party really has just continued to show that it's coalescing around the

former President? That is, it seems, the opponent that they want to run against.

KEITH: And it's not like they have a choice. It's the opponent they have. But, it also certainly -- negative feelings about Donald Trump are a very

strong motivator for Democratic voters, probably the strongest motivator that they have. And so, certainly, the Biden campaign is ready for this,

wants this. It was talking about a rematch before anybody else was willing to accept that there was going to be a rematch.

And you saw yesterday, I was in the East Room when President Biden delivered those remarks. And walking away from it, I thought, wow, the

campaign has entered the East Room. His -- he clearly disagrees with former President Trump on his willingness to abandon NATO allies, asking

Republican House members to choose between America and Donald Trump. That is some very stark language coming from the President of the United States,

the kind of thing I've seen him say in campaign fundraiser speeches and the occasional campaign rally, but he said that at the White House yesterday,

and when he walked out, he said, I don't want to take your questions today because I don't want to step on this message. I want this message to be


DEAN: And it was. And in fact --

KEITH: He was quite transparent about that.

DEAN: Well, we're going to take that bait because we're going to talk about it in the next block. As a matter of fact, dumb, shameful and un-American,

it's what President Biden called Donald Trump's eyebrow-raising remarks about Russia and NATO.


So, we will discuss when we come back.


DEAN: Well, you could say no more Mr. Nice Guy. President Joe Biden taking off the gloves and slamming Donald Trump for remarks that once would have

been unthinkable, even political suicide for a serious presidential contender. Here is Biden reacting to Trump's comment, he would encourage

Russia to attack NATO allies that do not meet defense spending guidelines.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Can you imagine a former President of the United States saying that? The whole world heard it. And

the worst thing is he means it. For God's sake, it's dumb. It's shameful. It's dangerous. It's un-American.


DEAN: And at the very heart of NATO is an agreement for member countries to defend one another if attacked. But, if Trump has his way, the United

States decades-long commitment could be upended.


DONALD TRUMP (R), FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT AND 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: One of the presidents of a big country stood up and said, well, sir, if we

don't pay, and we're attacked by Russia, will you protect us? No, I would not protect you. In fact, I would encourage them to do whatever the hell

they want.


DEAN: All right. My panel is back with me. There is a lot to get in to hear, because I don't think it's hyperbole to say, previously, if a

presidential candidate were to say that, it would just -- it would be political suicide, but we are living in a very different time.

Let's put up some polling first to kind of show people where Americans are on this. So, we have apparent Americans' opinions of NATO. 62 percent find

it favorable. And then, if we go to Ukraine aid, you can see that 31 percent say it's too much, 29 percent about right, 18 percent not enough.

And then, finally, this is a lot, but I think it's important. Ukraine aid by party, and you see there that that's where things get a little lopsided.


And I think, Paul, when you kind of take all of those together, generally, we're kind -- Americans seem to be about where -- even on a lot of things,

but it's when you divide it by party that you really start to see the differences.

BEGALA: Right. And the Biden administration needs to make the case that a strong America requires a strong NATO. And they can have a lot of things

going on. And I'm sorry to criticize them, but they have to make the case. You can't take the American people's money. By the way. I mean, you all

know this, but like nobody out in America knows that this money is all being spent in America.

DEAN: That is an important point --

BEGALA: And I --

DEAN: -- that people -- I tried -- you do try to -- want to remind people. Yeah.

BEGALA: Long Island where they had this special election, it has a bunch of military factories there. And so, basically what we're doing is building a

lot of new stuff, and then giving Ukraine all the old stuff. And we're keeping a dictator from invading our ally. So, anyway, Biden needs to make

the case much more strongly. But, actually, given that it's been two years, that's pretty impressive level of support that American people have. It's

better than I would have perhaps guessed.

DEAN: Tamara, do you think that the American people who, look, are trying to get through the day. Take their kids to school. Pay their mortgage.

Like, we get all of that. And foreign policy isn't always front and center, because it's not right in your face. It's not in your backyard all the

time. Do you think the Biden administration has been effective in making that case that Paul says they need to continue to make and maybe make a

stronger one?

KEITH: Yeah. Think about the words that we all use to describe this legislation, this funding. It's aid to Ukraine. It's aid to Israel. It's

foreign aid. It's national security supplemental. It's -- it is the language that makes it sound like it is money being put in a plane and

flown to another part of the world.

DEAN: Just here is a gift. Yeah.

KEITH: Here is a gift from America.

DEAN: Yeah.

KEITH: President Biden, in his remarks yesterday, did mention this idea, that Paul talks about, that, in fact, this is restocking the American

stockpile, sending the old stuff off to Ukraine to use against an American adversary where no U.S. troops are actually involved. But, I think he is

right. President Biden has not been hammering that case every single day, often, the message coming from the White House, is more about this thinky

concept of American security in the world is helped by having our European allies be secure, and by not allowing Russia to run roughshod over a U.S.

ally. That is a concept that is a little bit harder to sell than, hey, we get new stuff for America. And yet, they often don't make that case as


DEAN: Yeah. And I want to play a clip now from the Secretary General of NATO on the funding. Let's listen to that.


JENS STOLTENBERG, NATO SECRETARY GENERAL: The criticism that you hear is not primarily about NATO. It's about NATO allies not spending enough on

NATO. And that's a valid point. And it's the point and the message that has been conveyed by successive U.S. administrations that European allies and

Canada have to spend more, because we haven't seen fair burden-sharing in the alliance.


DEAN: And so, Maura, again, I continue to be struck by the fact that Republicans for so long, what we're seeing is so strong on national

security. The Democrats were really the ones that had to prove their bona fides there. To hear this whole conversation that's going on and be a

Republican, what do you think about that? And then, what do you think about the Secretary General's comments just then?

GILLESPIE: I do think that Republicans feel that other countries could chip in more. Sure. I think we could all agree with that. It is a wholly

different thing to encourage an adversary to attack our allies, free willy- nilly, just because some aren't paying the same that we pay. First of all, they're not supposed to pay the same amount we pay. It is based on the

percentage. But, I also just find that we have really lost our ability to message on things that are important to us, and are what I thought with

Republican voters, because the economy is number one issue people are going to be looking at. Number two is safety and security. This issue touches on

both of them.

As you mentioned, manufacturing is up because of our Ukraine spending. And that means jobs here in America. That's a boon to our economy. It's a net

positive. And for our national security, we don't want our adversaries coming here more than they already are. And so, to beef up our security, we

need to be supporting our allies. They helped us. NATO has helped us in the past, and to abandon ship just because Donald Trump says so is a terrible

look for us. It also sends shockwaves around the world, rightfully so for him to even suggest such a thing.

DEAN: And it has been interesting to see more broadly to bring in the foreign aid bill, the words we all use, that has passed the Senate after

all of the -- many weeks of hours and days that that unfolded, and it's now big question mark as it heads over to the House.


But, as I was passing you, Donald Trump then came out again against any sort of foreign aid, saying that he wants it to be a loan. And within 24

hours, we saw somebody like Senator Lindsey Graham, who said, yeah, you know, maybe it should be a loan. Maybe he is right. Are you surprised,

Paul? You've been asked this a while.

BEGALA: Yeah. No.

DEAN: Is there somebody like him to kind of come around on that?

BEGALA: Lindsey Graham has had a long career in the Senate. When he retires, they can put them up on a flagpole at the airport because he is a

windsock. He just goes whichever way the wind is blowing. And when John McCain was leading the Republican Party, a strong hawk, Lindsey was just a

straw hawk at Senator McCain. Now, Mr. Trump, who is, I think, an isolationist, Lindsey is in the place. But, I do think -- I think Maura is

right. I think that who people support this aid need to explain. This is rearming America. This is not aid to some foreign country you couldn't find

them at. This is rearming. By the way, not to be an assignment editor. But, if I ran an ad --

DEAN: Which you could. I want.

BEGALA: Yes. I would send journalists to those factories that Maura talked about, and I will bet you five bucks, a lot of the women and men who make

those munitions would say, well, I don't want that, because we haven't made the case to them. I don't fault them. But, I would really be curious, the

people making the very munitions that are going to be replacing those that we ship off to Ukraine, I wonder how many of them oppose the bill that's

actually funding their job?

DEAN: Yeah. Yeah. Now, there is a lot of that in my home state of Arkansas too, and they aren't -- they are kind of throughout the country.

All right. Stay with us. We're going to come back. President Joe Biden is blasting House Republicans for impeaching his Homeland Security Secretary.

So, what happens now in the Senate? We'll talk about it.


DEAN: And welcome back to State of the Race. I'm Jessica Dean live in Washington. After Tuesday's House vote to impeach Homeland Security

Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, his fate now lies with the Senate. But, Senate sources, which remember is Democratically-controlled, tells CNN the

chamber is unlikely to spend much time on a trial.


It remains to be seen how Democrats will deal with the charges. They could dismiss them on a simple majority vote before each side argues its case.

House Majority Leader Steve Scalise is defending the House's efforts to impeach Mayorkas.


REP. STEVE SCALISE (R-LA): The Senate really ought to take seriously the message that was sent, is that we're serious about securing the border and

the Secretary has failed to do his job, and the American people are disgusted by it. The American people don't like him. I have a wide open

border where people from -- on the terrorist watch list are coming over. Human trafficking is going on. Drugs are being brought in to the point

where we're losing 150 people who are dying every single day from fentanyl. I mean, it's a major crisis.


DEAN: President Biden is criticizing the impeachment, stating "Instead of staging political stunts like this, Republicans with genuine concerns about

the border should want Congress to deliver more border resources and stronger border security."

Our panel is back. And we will once again remind everyone, there was bipartisan border legislation which the Republican -- which Senate

Republicans killed. And now, the House leadership is saying it doesn't want to move forward with other things because it doesn't have border

legislation. So, that's kind of the situation up on the Hill.

And look, Steve Scalise is right about people caring. Let's look at the polling at CBS News when asked the situation at the U.S.-Mexico border is,

a crisis, 45 percent, 45 percent say it is a crisis, and 30 percent say it's very serious. So, a combined 75 percent of people seem to be quite

focused on this. And yet, nothing, it seems, is going to get done, Tamara, on this. It's going to be a campaign issue.

KEITH: It obviously already is a campaign issue, and it's going to continue to be a campaign issue. The fascinating thing was that the Senate

Republicans killed the bipartisan deal that had been negotiated with the blessing of leadership, that it was negotiated. They killed it in part

because former President Trump said, you should kill it. And also, because Speaker Mike Johnson in the House said, this won't get a vote over here.

It's dead on arrival. So then, they're like, alright, fine. We'll do what we wanted to do all along. We won't even deal with immigration. We'll just

do the rest of this national security stuff, send it over. And he is like, but wait, it doesn't have immigration.

So, there is a lot of like spinning top situations and a lot of inconsistency, though, I guess, in defense of the Speaker, his argument is,

this has never been tough enough. He wants something tougher. And he also thinks that the President could do something unilaterally. And I think

eventually the White House probably will end up doing something unilaterally. But, there are great limits to that, and legal challenges

will come the second the ink is dry.

DEAN: Yeah. And so, the thing they did decide to do was this impeachment vote, which they tried once, didn't have the votes for, and then were

successful on the second time. Here is Congressman Ken Buck, a Republican, on why he did not support that.


REP. KEN BUCK (R-CO): I've been a prosecutor for 25 years. I know what a high crime and misdemeanor are, and I know that this doesn't qualify. This

is a policy difference. You can try to put lipstick on this pig, it is still a pig. And this is a terrible impeachment. It sets a terrible



DEAN: And -- so, Paul, it is an interesting precedent that it's setting. It's been over 100 years since this has happened. And now, it falls into

the lap of Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. What does he want to do with it? We laid out some of the options. What do you think should come


BEGALA: I think the Senate will dismiss it out of hand because of the reasons Congressman Buck stated. It is high -- treason, bribery or other

high crimes and misdemeanors, a very, very high bar. The last one was William Belknap. We all remember him.

DEAN: Of course. Clearly.

GILLESPIE: Who doesn't?

BEGALA: He was Secretary of War under Ulysses Grant. So, it's been a minute, as the kids say. And by the way, he was still in a country blind.

That was a very justified. He had already resigned and they impeached him anyway. But, that was a completely different thing. And the problem with

this is, even if they're right, that's not going to fix the border. The President needs tools. He needs laws, and he needs money. And Congress

controls all of that. And they just don't want to seem to take yes for an answer.

The Holy Grail was always, Democrats wanted liberalized immigration laws to protect dreamers who were brought here as children to have a path to

citizenship for undocumented. In exchange for that, Democrats would give Republicans what they wanted, which is stricter border security. Democrats

abandoned everything they wanted, everything, all of the liberal side of it and said, OK, we'll give you the strictest border control that we've ever

had in America --

DEAN: I mean, some of the more liberal --

BEGALA: -- since the Chinese Exclusion Act.

DEAN: -- Democrat senators weren't even going to support it --

BEGALA: Right.

DEAN: -- because of that.

BEGALA: Right. But, it seemed to me that was -- almost everything the Republicans had said they wanted and nothing the Democrats said they

wanted, they still couldn't take yes for an answer. So, forgive me if I think they're kind of -- their brand is chaos and they want chaos on the

border because they think it advantages Mr. Trump in the election.


DEAN: And Maura, as we're talking through this, I begin to wonder, do you think Republicans have fumbled this issue?

GILLESPIE: I mean, entirely. But, as somebody who worked for Speaker John Boehner and watched the far right flank move the goalpost time and time

again, I'm not surprised by this. This is what you -- this is what happens when you have a Freedom Caucus member as a Speaker of the House who does

not have a -- the experience needed to be in this position in the first place. He doesn't have a team around him that has leadership experience,

institutional knowledge. And we're seeing that unfold display.

And yes, they got this vote through. But, is that the success that you want to say you had this year? Is that all you're going to have? Because the

reality is, if you're upset in America about the border crisis and you want to hold the Biden-Harris administration accountable, you do that on

Election Day. You don't do it by asking your members of Congress to circumvent and go against the oath they took for the constitution. So, this

isn't the way to do it. And Ken Buck is completely correct. This sets a dangerous precedent, and also creates an opportunity for -- down the road

for this to be used against Republicans and Democrats alike. But, by changing the rules in this way and by downplaying the severity of an

impeachment, it damages us as a country.

DEAN: And listen, the House Minority Leader, Hakeem Jeffries, said something -- somewhat similar. We'll listen to what he said.


REP. HAKEEM JEFFRIES (D-NY): We have a broken immigration system. We do need to address the challenges at the border, and it should be done in a

manner that is comprehensive and bipartisan. That will be the only way to solve this problem. The only question is whether members of Congress on the

other side of the aisle will recognize that their 'my way of the highway -- or the highway approach' is not an effective strategy at this moment. It's

just designed to score political points.


DEAN: And so, to that end, Tamara, I'm curious -- look, I -- in the end, I think it probably comes down to a very small amount of voters in this few

select states that will decide this election, and they're probably swing voters and independent voters generally. How do you think they're -- to the

extent that they are plugged in at this point, it's still early, metabolizing what's going on with the impeachment of Mayorkas, the collapse

of this bipartisan legislation? Does that begin to start a narrative maybe for a voter that is open to kind of assessing both sides?

KEITH: So, I think that what you saw in that Hakeem Jeffries clip and what you are seeing coming from the White House and more and more is they are

leaning in on immigration, just like the newly-elected congressman from New York. Democrats, for a long time, ran away from immigration as an issue.

They didn't want to talk about it. They hid from it because they knew it was a political liability at this moment, and I don't know whether it's

going to work, I don't know if it's going to stick, and I don't know if they're going to stick with it. But, at this moment, they are seeing an

opportunity to say, hey, we're actually the ones that want to try to solve this, and the other guys are the ones that don't want to try to solve it.

They just want the issue and the chaos.

I don't know if they'll succeed. But, certainly, voters are right to see this issue discussed. The poll you showed earlier, voters are concerned

about the border. They are concerned about big liberal cities dealing with large populations of people who have been bussed up from Texas. It's a real

issue that real voters in the suburbs and in the cities and everywhere else care about. And Democrats seem to be at the point of saying, well, I guess

we can't run from it. Let's lean in.

GILLESPIE: Now, they can own it. Republicans used to own this issue. And now, Democrats have. We've -- Republican Party has given it over and said,

here you go. Here is the honest silver platter. We just ruined every chance we had to message.

DEAN: And like -- but, Biden does have some work to do because they're -- in that same CBS poll, people said -- 63 percent of people said his

policies on the border should be tougher. So, they are holding him accountable.


BEGALA: As they should. Here is what's going on Biden land, I promise. He has got a lot of aided saying, it's a loser issue for us. It's a Republican

issue. Stay away from it. Run on our issues, abortion rights and civil rights. He has got others, which the camp I would be in, to do what more

saying, lean into this. Do what Tom Suozzi did. Call for stricter security. I helped the Obama reelected in 2012, and Barack Obama, no right winger he,

always said to the team, begin by saying we have to control the border. We have to have order on the border. And only when you have that order, do

people's minds and hearts open up to the immigrants that all Americans love.

DEAN: And he is a little bit. Yeah.

BEGALA: He is up, but you can't begin with the liberal stuff. You got to begin with the order. That's what President Obama believed, and I think he

is right. And I think Biden is getting there now. But, he has got to lean into this. I watched Bill Clinton take the crime issue away from the

Republicans. I watched George W. Bush take the education issue away from the Democrats. You can do it, but it takes enormous will and enormous

consistency. And we will see if team Biden has that.

DEAN: Consistency of message --


DEAN: -- again and again and again. All right. Thanks, you guys.

The heat is on in South Carolina as Nikki Haley ramps up her attacks on Donald Trump.


And coming up, we're going to look at whether her sharp words can do anything to deflate Trump's commanding lead ahead of that state's primary.


DEAN: In just 10 days, voters in South Carolina will head to the polls to pick their choice for the Republican presidential nomination. It looks like

Nikki Haley has some work to do in her home state. Donald Trump's lead, look at that, some 35 points. While the former President is expected to

hold a rally in North Charleston today, Haley is looking to make a dent, sharpening her attacks on the party frontrunner during the TODAY show.


HALEY: The reality is, he has never been anywhere near a military uniform. He has never had to sleep on the ground. He has never known how to

sacrifice. And the most harm he has ever possibly had is getting hit by a golf ball when he is sitting in a golf cart. That's the truth.


DEAN: Our Kylie Atwood just got back from South Carolina where she was following Nikki Haley's campaign. She joins us with more. Kylie, what was

the sense that you were getting when you're on the ground there?

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, listen, Jessica, when you watched Nikki Haley out on the stump in South Carolina recently, what you see her

do is really seizing on every comment that former President Trump is making or every action that he is taking, and really going there and challenging

him and questioning his capability to be President when it comes to him going after -- mocking her husband, who is overseas in the U.S. Military.

She said that she doesn't trust him any longer, former President Trump, to protect American service members because of that. She said, former

President Trump isn't qualified to be President. She is really going after him on a number of issues, including trying to put his allies into

leadership roles in the RNC right now. That's something that we have seen recently evolve.

So, she is really going after him. But, simultaneously, she also said in that TODAY show interview that she stands by her pledge to support the

Republican nominee for President. So, we see her challenging him on the campaign trail.


But, we also see her very steadfastly saying that she is going to stay with the Republican Party no matter if she is the nominee or if former President

Trump is. One other thing that I want to mention is that she always tells the voters in South Carolina, we've seen her do this in other states as

well, that she is the best option for them when it comes to defeating President Biden in a general election. She points to polls that show her

doing better than former President Trump in those matchups with Biden in November. But, there was a CBS poll out earlier this week that showed that

the majority of South Carolinians actually think that Trump has the better odds when it comes to defeating Biden in November. 55 percent said that he

would definitely defeat Biden. Only 33 percent said that Haley would definitely defeat Biden.

So, it just demonstrates that she has a lot of talking points. She has a lot of issues she is trying to drive home, but not all of them are

necessarily being well received by South Carolinian voters that she is going to have to gain support from leading up to that primary in about 10


DEAN: Yeah. And Kylie, we saw that latest polling from CBS just before you came on with Trump at some 35 points ahead. Does her team acknowledge that

they are at a significant deficit? And what are they -- how do you possibly catch up?

ATWOOD: Well, listen, they are looking at these polls. They can't ignore them. But, one of the things that they say privately is that they believe

that there are factions of the Republican Party, factions of the electorate in South Carolina, who are actually going to show up for Nikki Haley. And

they think that certain factions are hard to actually get to in these polls, because they believe that people who have recently moved to South

Carolina, whether they're retirees or they relocated to South Carolina during the COVID pandemic, they believe that those are folks who are likely

to support Nikki Haley.

They also believe that folks who typically only vote in a general election might actually show up for this primary and vote for Nikki Haley. And they

just think that those people aren't actually being reached in these polls. And those are folks that they really want to turn out. The question is, can

they actually turn out those voters? That is the real test that they're facing.

DEAN: For sure. All right. Kylie Atwood for us, thanks so much for that reporting.

Former Congressman Gresham Barrett was once Nikki Haley's Republican rival in a South Carolina Governor's race. Now, he is a Haley supporter, and he

is joining us from Westminster, South Carolina. It's wonderful to have you on. Thanks so much for making time for us today.

I want to start by asking you a similar question to what I just asked Kylie, which is, you look at this polling from the CBS/YouGov poll. It has

Trump leading 65 percent to 30 percent. And then they break down additionally, how committed people are to those votes, and the vast

majority of people they are polling say they're pretty locked in to who they want to support. How does Nikki Haley catch Donald Trump in her home


GRESHAM BARRETT, FORMER U.S. HOUSE REPUBLICAN: Well, Jessica, first of all, it's great to be with you this morning. Thank you. There is a couple of

things. I ran against Governor Haley in 2010 -- I guess it was 2009-2010. Nobody knows this leader better than I do. And I'll tell you one thing.

Don't underestimate Nikki Haley. Never say never, never say never. Part of the problem, and I hate to say this to you, but part of the problem is the

national media. When you look at the national media or when you hear the national media, you hear the Battle of the Titans. I remember that movie

when I was growing up. It's these two old guys or two big Titans going at it. And you would think that it's only a two-person race when she is

working her rear end off.

One of the ways you said to break that ceiling, it's to meet as many people in South Carolina as you can. And that's what she is doing with this 'Beast

of the Southeast' bus tour that she is taking across South Carolina, trying to press the flesh. People want to see her. They want to touch her. They

want to hear her in person. And the more people she gets in front of, the more winners she has. And that's why we, at the team, have been pushing a

debate. Look, the President -- the former president is so far ahead. What has he got to lose? Let's put them both on the stage. Let's hear what they

have to say. And let's let the voters make up their mind.

DEAN: I want to play a clip from a new ad. It's from the super PAC that is supporting Governor Haley, and it's targeted, obviously, at the former

President's comments around her husband who is serving the nation in a deployment right now, and then more generally around our armed forces. So,

let's listen to that.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Donald Trump did it again, this time attacking Nikki Haley's husband.

TRUMP: What happened to her husband? Where is he? He is gone.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a sick pattern visiting military graves and saying, I don't get it. What was in it for them, calling dead soldiers suckers and

losers. Donald Trump, sick or clueless. It's time to turn the page.


DEAN: And look, I'm not telling you anything you don't know. South Carolina is home to a number of military bases. They are spread out kind of all over

that state.


And oftentimes, they may not vote there, but sometimes they do. Why do you think -- first of all, do you think this is going to cut through and

connect with people? And also, why do you think the former President, though, continues to do well, generally, with that demographic despite all

the comments he makes?

BARRETT: Yeah. Let me say, you're talking to the wrong person here. I graduated from a military college in South Carolina called The Citadel. I

served in the United States Army Field Artillery 1st Cavalry Division, and I'm proud of my service. My dad, his brothers, my mother's brothers have

served. South Carolina is a military state. And when you attack anybody that's in the military, you're attacking me. You're attacking all of these

retired people that have come into South Carolina. You're attacking men and women that are on the front lines every day supporting and defending this

Constitution with their lives.

So, yeah, I do think this is going to resonate. And I think, unfortunately, it speaks to the President that he is not exactly sure what's going on out

there. I mean, it's been in the news for weeks where Governor Haley's husband is, He is deployed in Africa. And for him to even mention that, I

think it's a sad day, not only for him, but for all the Veterans, not only in South Carolina, but across this nation.

DEAN: And we are seeing -- I mean, it has become increasingly personal, to that end, what you're talking about, and we're seeing former Governor Haley

going after Trump in even a more direct tone than we've heard from her in the past. It continues to get more direct, more sharp. Do you think that

that's what it's going to take to defeat him?

BARRETT: I hate politics like that. I hate the politics of personal destruction. But, unfortunately, it does work. And I know she is trying to,

again, break that ceiling that is so hard, especially with the national media. But, I will tell you this. She has a tremendous respect, not only

for her folks that have always been with her, but a former opponent. I mean, I'm a former opponent, and she welcomed me onto the campaign. She has

respect for the highest of the high, of the lowest of the low. She has respect for the born and the unborn. And whether you agree with her or

disagree with her, at the end of the day, it's all about America. It's moving forward, and it's about making the difference, and she can do that.

DEAN: All right. Former Gresham Barrett in South Carolina, thank you again for making time. Nice to have you on.

BARRETT: Thank you so much.

DEAN: It's time for a quick break. Stay with us. My panel is back with one more thing.


DEAN: Welcome back to State of the Race. My panel rejoins me. And before we go, I want to ask for one more thing. What's the one thing on the campaign

trail or in Washington you're watching for in the coming days? Your thoughts in 30 seconds each. Tamara.

KEITH: Monmouth University is out with a new poll today clearly designed to get my attention. It asks voters about their views of whether Taylor Swift

is part of a conspiracy SIOP to endorse Joe Biden and help Joe Biden win the election. And 18 percent of those surveyed do believe that there is --

that the conspiracy is true. Now, I think more interesting is that the poll also finds that people who love Taylor Swift's music are not Democrats or

Republicans. They're everyone. She has bipartisan popularity, and she isn't one party's musician.

DEAN: Person.


DEAN: Sorry. Paul.

BEGALA: The story of 2024 could well be decided in the third, fourth and fifth parties. And we're all talking about Trump. We're all talking about

Biden. The reason Trump won in 2016 is that third-party candidates got about seven percent.


The reason he lost in 2020 is that seven percent down to less than two percent. So, Robert Kennedy Jr., Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is running as an

independent, and in polling, very well. And has is got money and he has got charisma, and he has got the best name he could have in politics. But,

according to Mediaite, he has got a campaign in disarray. He has only got 25 staffers in the field. 12 have resigned. It's going to be very hard for

him to get on the ballot if he doesn't have staffers going and getting him on the ballot. So, trouble in Kennedy winning.

DEAN: Yeah. Maura.

GILLESPIE: Looking at the GOP and what's not happening on the floor this week with Ukraine aid and Israel aid, begs the question of, where does the

Republican Party go when Trump is no longer around? He will not live forever. And the party that I subscribed to was really strong on foreign

policy. We were huge supporters and defenders of the Constitution. We were big advocates of a smaller and more accountable government. And Donald

Trump has single handedly flipped that around. So, where are they left? What do these people who support him believe in?

DEAN: Yeah. What comes next?

All right. Thanks to all of you. Always great to see you. I'm Jessica Dean. That is State of the Race today, Wednesday, February 14. Stick with CNN.

One World is up next.