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State of the Union
Interview With Fmr. Gov. Chris Christie (D-NJ); Interview With Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV). Aired 9-10a ET
Aired December 17, 2023 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST (voice-over): Head to head. Polls flash more warning signs for President Biden as he makes his case for reelection.
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Just a little more breathing room, that's what's Bidenomics is all about.
TAPPER: Could a potential new compromising Congress on the border hurt him even more with his party? Democratic Senator Joe Manchin is considering challenging Biden next year and joins me next.
Plus: with friends like these. A month until the Iowa caucuses and on the trail, Donald Trump is quoting dictators such as Vladimir Putin.
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES (R) AND CURRENT U.S. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It shows the rottenness of the American political system.
TAPPER: In a month, will he be his party's de facto nominee?
FMR. GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R-NJ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm not going anywhere.
TAPPER: Republican presidential candidate Chris Christie is coming up.
And deadly mistake. Israel reels after its troops mistakenly kill three of its own hostages waving a white flag. Will that change the way Israel is waging war in Gaza and affect crucial support from the United States?
TAPPER: Hello. I'm Jake Tapper in Washington, where the state of our union is, frankly, stunned watching the leading Republican presidential candidate, Donald Trump, quote one of our nation's foremost adversaries, Vladimir Putin, as a sort of character witness while on the stump in New Hampshire last night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Vladimir Putin of Russia says that Biden's -- and this is a quote -- politically motivated persecution of his political rival is very good for Russia because it shows the rottenness of the American political system, which cannot pretend to teach others about democracy."
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: One might think such a point need not be made, but Vladimir Putin, a former KGB official with blood on his hands, who regularly sides with American adversaries, both rhetorically and with arms, and who right now has at least two Americans, Evan Gershkovich and Paul Whelan, unjustly detained, Vladimir Putin is not a credible source of information about American democracy, much less American jurisprudence.
Vladimir Putin seeks to undermine the United States and its allies, whether in Europe or Asia or the Middle East. And yet, despite this, or maybe by now because of it -- I can no longer tell -- Mr. Trump stands poised to do very well in the Republican Iowa caucuses on January 15, in less than a month.
He has only expanded his lead, where his campaign is taking a more disciplined and unexpected approach to the caucuses. He's hoping a decisive victory there will help him consolidate support in the primary contests that follow it.
Joining us now to discuss is presidential candidate and former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.
Governor Christie, you just heard Donald Trump approvingly quoting Vladimir Putin about American democracy, about the American legal system, attacking the criminal charges against him and the "rottenness" of the American political system -- quote, unquote.
What's your reaction?
CHRISTIE: My reaction is that he gets worse and worse by the day, Jake, and voters better start paying attention to exactly what he's saying.
He has always been approving of Putin right from the beginning of his presidency. That was something that he and I had regular arguments about going all the way back to 2017. And the fact is that Vladimir Putin as an expert on democracy?
This is a guy who doesn't even know what democracy is and, quite frankly, spent most of his life trying to undercut democracy all over the world. And Donald Trump citing him as his expert witness that he's being persecuted and is innocent, look, this is a guy who just believes: Woe is me, woe is me. I can't believe I got caught.
But let's remember something. And everyone needs to know this. It's not going to be Vladimir Putin on the witness stand in Washington, D.C., this spring. It's not going to be some left-wing prosecutor making the case.
Mark Meadows, his former chief of staff, has accepted immunity. I did this for seven years, Jake. The reason he's accepted immunity is because he's admitted he has committed crimes himself, or he wouldn't need immunity. And he's going to testify that Donald Trump committed crimes on his watch, a founder of the Freedom Caucus, the -- his former chief of staff who he called the next James Baker.
Donald Trump realizes the walls are closing in. He's becoming crazier. And now he's citing Vladimir Putin as a character witness, a guy who is a murderous thug all around the world. It's time to send Donald Trump back to Mar-a-Lago permanently.
TAPPER: I want you to take a listen to something else that Donald Trump said about immigrants last night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: They're poisoning the blood of our country. That's what they have done. They poison.
Mental institutions and prisons all over the world, not just in South America, not just the three or four countries that we think about, but all over the world, they're coming into our country, from Africa, from Asia, all over the world. They're pouring into our country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: South America, Africa, Asia, immigrants poisoning the blood of our country, the words of the leading Republican presidential candidate.
CHRISTIE: He's disgusting.
And what he's doing is dog-whistling to Americans who feel absolutely under stress and strain from the economy and from the conflicts around the world. And he's dog-whistling to blame it on people from areas that don't look like us.
And, look, Jake, the other problem with this is the Republicans who are saying this is OK, almost 100 members of Congress who have endorsed him, Nikki Haley, who this week said he is fit to be president.
You're telling me that someone who says that immigrants are poisoning the blood of this country, someone who says Vladimir Putin is a character witness is fit to be president of the United States, was the right president at the right time?
Nikki Haley should be ashamed of herself. And she's part of the problem, because she's enabling him. She's enabling him by saying to people, it's OK.
Let me be really clear. I'm in this race to let people know it's not OK. It's not OK for an American president to be saying these things. And she should be ashamed of herself. These members of Congress who just sit there and compliantly nod their head like a dog in the back of a car just nodding away when he says all these things, because all they care about is their own political future and their own primary in their own district.
This is why American leadership is falling down. This is why I'm in the race to stay. And we're going to take Donald Trump out by telling the truth, because the truth matters.
TAPPER: We have to acknowledge, though, that he is far and away leading in the polls in Iowa, New Hampshire and across the country.
And I guess I now have a question for you that's not an easy question. Do you think Donald Trump is doing so well among Republican voters despite rhetoric like that or because of rhetoric like that?
CHRISTIE: I think despite rhetoric like that, Jake. I think they make excuses for him.
I have interacted with voters who are supporting Donald Trump. And they acknowledge to me: Yes. No, that's a terrible thing to say. Yes, I don't like that. But, you know, he's under a lot of pressure. You know, he's just a straight-talking guy. He says what he really feels and believes, and, sometimes, he goes overboard.
So I think it's despite that. And I do think that when voters start to vote, particularly in New Hampshire, if the results in Iowa are as you say they will be, and he wins a decisive victory in Iowa, I think the people in New Hampshire are going to say, no, enough.
And I think they're going to send a real message to Donald Trump on January 23. And they can't do it, Jake, they cannot do it by voting for Trump -- Trump sycophants like Ron DeSantis, Nikki Haley, and Vivek Ramaswamy.
Remember, Jake, at the first debate, all three of those people raised their hand and said, even if he was a convicted felon, they would support him. I'm the only one left in this race who did not. And the fact is that that is the most important issue in this race, because we can't beat Joe Biden with a convicted felon.
We can't beat Joe Biden with someone who talks that way about immigrants to this country. And we can't beat Joe Biden by someone who is in bed with Vladimir Putin.
TAPPER: Let's turn to the Middle East, because the Biden administration has made it clear that they're so disapproving of how Israel is conducting its war against Hamas, not only with so many Palestinian civilians killed, but also this tragedy that happened Friday where the IDF soldiers accidentally killed three of their own hostages who were attempting to signal that they were hostages.
They were waving a white flag, and they were making it very clear that they were not Hamas. The Biden administration says it's so alarmed that they're now dispatching the secretary of defense, Lloyd Austin, and even the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Air Force General C.Q. Brown.
They're headed to Israel on Monday to urge Israel to start a more limited, narrow phase of the war, where Hamas is more specifically targeted.
I know that you say Israel has the right of self-defense and that you want Israel to be able to eliminate Hamas, but, beyond that, do you have any concerns about how the IDF is conducting this war?
CHRISTIE: Well, look, Jake, when you hear that three of the hostages themselves were killed while holding up a white flag, how could you not be concerned about that?
Now, look, I can't imagine in a million years that IDF soldiers would intentionally do that. I believe that they made a mistake. That's the fog of war. Mistakes are made under this type of pressure. It doesn't make them acceptable, but it makes them a real, unfortunate consequence of war.
But, look, the Biden administration should be having these conversations privately with Israel. Every time they do something like this so blatantly and publicly, what they do is give aid and comfort to Hamas.
Joe Biden and his administration are giving aid and comfort to Hamas. And it's wrong. The fact is that it was Hamas that started this war. The fact is, I have watched that 43-minute video, as I know you have. The absolute inhumanity and joy in that inhumanity that Hamas took makes it clear this won't be the last time they will do it if they're able.
So Israel's got to get focused on killing as many Hamas soldiers as they can to decrease that likelihood that Hamas could effectively pull off another October 7. So, I'm concerned about particularly those hostage killings and the mistake that was made. They need to lower the temperature inside the IDF, if they can, in the middle of a war.
But, in the end, Biden and his administration are giving aid and comfort to Hamas when they say these things publicly. And I think it's wrong.
TAPPER: Lastly, before you go, I just want to get your response to former Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani being ordered to pay $148 million to those two Georgia election workers that he helped smear, Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss, in their defamation trial.
You know the smears he made that were completely false, completely -- really pathetic, rather, and ruined these women's lives. He's now been ordered to pay $148 million. Your response?
CHRISTIE: Look, I think $148 million is a wild amount of money. And I never thought it would be that high. I thought it would be in the millions. I never thought $148 million. But, look, the problem is what Rudy said when he left the courtroom,
that he doesn't regret one thing he said. And this is what Donald Trump does to people. He turns them into people who become these kind of robot true believers, who just will say whatever he wants them to say.
But I would note something to my old friend Rudy Giuliani. It's not Donald Trump who's going to be forced to pay the $148 million and live the rest of his natural life in debt. It's Rudy Giuliani. This is what Donald Trump does. It's not Donald Trump who's in jail at the moment. It's all those people he encouraged to run up to Capitol Hill on January 6 and try to interfere with the peaceful transfer of power.
It's not Donald Trump who went to jail for all the lying he did in his business. It's Michael Cohen, his lawyer and fixer at the time, who went to jail for that. Donald Trump is a poison on our political system. And anyone who stays close enough to him either has to run away like their clothes on fire, or they're going to wind up in much more trouble than he's ever been in.
But, Jake, the clock is ticking. His time is coming, and Donald Trump, I absolutely believe, will be convicted of crimes that are worthy of jail come this spring, and he knows it, and that's why he's getting crazier every day.
TAPPER: New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, thank you so much for your time today. Really appreciate it.
Coming up: He's considering a third-party presidential run. How might that work? Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia joins me exclusively next.
And a whole lot of Republicans were ducking questions about abortion rights this week. That's coming up.
TAPPER: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Jake Tapper.
This weekend, there is growing concern about President Biden's standing among progressives, concern among Democrats, as the president considers striking a deal with Senate Republicans in exchange for foreign aid to Israel and Ukraine.
Biden would be acquiescing to Republican demands for tighter asylum rules and restrictions at the border, where a flood of migrants is straining U.S. border facilities and creating a political headache for Democrats across the nation.
Joining us now to discuss is Democratic Senator Joe Manchin.
Senator, thanks so much for joining us.
SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): Thanks for having me, Jake. TAPPER: So, senators are still here in Washington trying to strike an
agreement on foreign aid and immigration.
I know you have been part of this. How close is the Senate to any sort of deal on the border that would then also allow Israel and Ukraine funding to pass?
MANCHIN: Well, let me just say this, that I have been communicating with the negotiators, my colleagues and friends on the Democrat and Republican side, also with the White House too.
And I'm very encouraged. I'm very optimistic. They're moving in a very positive way. They understand that the border is broken. That glass ceiling has been broken. And we have got to stop this dangerous immigration that we have coming to our country from all over the world, Jake, things that we have never seen, numbers that we have never seen like this.
The whole world is in a flux, and they're taking advantage of a system that truly is broken. And this is not immigration reform. They're basically working diligently on just securing the border. It must be done. It must be shut down.
TAPPER: So you mentioned the Biden administration being involved in the negotiations. Do you wish that they'd gotten involved sooner? Did they get involved too late?
MANCHIN: Well, you always wish that you always start negotiations as quickly as I can, but there's an awful lot of moving parts. I'm not going to second-guess them. I'm glad they're involved now. They're very diligently involved, and very much in a productive way.
I think you're going to find that we're going to find a piece of legislation that we can work. We have to understand it won't be perfect. There will be people on the extreme right and extreme left, as always, that it won't be good enough. It'll be too much and not good enough. And there are going to be some people that won't vote for it no matter what we do.
But if we have 60, which is going to be, let's say, 35-25, or kind of an even split, if you will, between Democrats and Republicans in the Senate, that's the proper balance to find, and then hopefully send it over to the House. And I know the House has been resistant, but I can assure you the House will not get anything accomplished unless they start working together in a bipartisan way on these very, very troubling and challenging pieces of legislation.
They have got to come to agreement that we're in this as Americans, not in this as the Democrat or Republican Party.
TAPPER: So, let's talk about some of the details.
Senate negotiators are considering stricter requirements for individuals who come into this country and want to claim asylum, limits on what's called humanitarian parole, which allows individuals like Afghans and Ukrainians to come to the U.S....
TAPPER: ... and also a new way to expel migrants more quickly.
Are all three of those provisions on the table, and do you support all three of them?
MANCHIN: I think -- I -- everything you mentioned I support, but that -- I'm only one person.
But, with that being said, they will find a balance here, because everything you said is extremely important. You have to raise the threshold as far as on the definition of asylum. You just can't come and say: Someone threatened me. I have got to come into your country.
You have to show me proof, have proof that this type of threat to you and your family is basically untenable, and you cannot live in those conditions. That's going to change things. Even under the lower bar right now, Jack -- Jake, when everything has been adjudicated -- let's say there's 100 people adjudicated -- less than 15 qualify with the lower definition of just saying: Someone threatened me.
Can you imagine if we raise it to a more credible, higher level, that it will really be more difficult and do the job that the asylum is supposed to do and what it's done in the past? That's what we're working towards.
And, basically, thousands and thousands of people have been dispersed throughout the country. It'll give us time to basically make sure we can adjudicate them faster, and those who came for the wrong reason or just came in for -- basically because of the relaxed rules that we had, we can be more stringent and enforce that too.
But you have to stop the influx of people coming and the incentive for people coming from all over the world to this country. It's very, very dangerous, very dangerous. And I think you have seen the numbers and the countries they're coming from. I have seen them. I'm very much concerned. It has to stop now.
TAPPER: So, as you know, some progressives are really pushing back on comments like you made and the immigration provisions that Senate negotiators are discussing.
They say that, first of all, you're demonizing immigrants who are trying to come to this country for a better way of life. Beyond that, the head of the House Progressive Caucus, Pramila Jayapal of Washington, said -- quote -- "In exchange for Ukraine funding, Republicans are demanding the most exclusionary immigration legislation since racial quota laws of the 1920s. We must say no, no to Trump era anti-immigrant policies, no to destroying the asylum system. No trading immigrant lives for foreign aid" -- unquote.
Now, Congresswoman Jayapal's in the House, but there are a lot of Democrats in the Senate, as you note, who agree with her. What is your response to those concerns? And are you going to be able to win over their votes, or are you just going to focus on the lawmakers, the 60 in the center that you mentioned?
MANCHIN: I respectfully disagree with the congresswoman. And I respect her position. She's very progressive, comes from the left. I respect that. I just don't agree.
And I think it's dangerous to our country what's happening right now. And I think a majority of people who are sensible, reasonable, and responsible understand that to be so. So, we're going to basically work as the United States of America, working together, and not working as a political tool and basically weaponizing it and blaming somebody else for not being perfect.
The perfect should not be the enemy of the good here. The good would be stopping the flow of people coming to our country for the wrong reasons or people coming more than what we can handle.
Jake, every one of us have gone to a sporting event or to a concert event or some other activity, and, sometimes, we found out they're sold out. I'm sorry. Then you have to plan better. Go back the next time, make sure that you're able to get a seat. That's kind of the simplistic way of where we are today.
We are sold out. We are over capacity right now, and we have to control this.
TAPPER: When you say it's dangerous, what do you mean by dangerous? I mean, most of the people coming to this country do not pose a danger to Americans.
MANCHIN: Jake, we're letting people come in and not adjudicating them through the parole system that you said, and also basically just not having the means and having that much personnel to basically go through why you came, how you came, the purpose of your coming, this and that.
We're going to basically say, OK, you don't seem to be a threat. Maybe. They don't know, because they're not doing, I think, proper screening. When you have 10,000 and 12,000 people coming a day, and you're only able to basically really adjudicate maybe 500, no more than 1,000 a day, but 500 normally, Jake, you're overrun.
MANCHIN: And you just turn them loose and basically disperse them within and says, we will get to you later, there could be very dangerous people coming for whatever nefarious reasons they're coming for.
I don't want to take that chance. I don't think we should take that chance. And I think that our negotiators right now, from our Republican and Democrat negotiators, who are very diligent, doing a great job, and then basically with the White House involved, committed to getting this border under control, that's what I'm really very hopeful for.
And I think we're going to see something next week, and we will stay there until we get it done.
TAPPER: You're considering running for president as a third-party candidate in 2024.
You said that you're launching a two-month tour to mobilize voters who feel -- quote -- "politically homeless." A two-month tour, does that mean that you will have made a decision whether or not you're going to run for president by, say, March?
MANCHIN: Jake, I haven't said I'm going to run for president. I have said that, basically, this country doesn't work from the extremes.
You can't have the extreme right and extreme left with all these extreme ideas, and you can't weaponize our system to make -- thinking that anybody on the other side that you're not on is your enemy and you treat them as an enemy.
They might be a competitor, Jake, but they're not your enemy, OK? And for this system to get the way it is today, the only people who are going to bring it back, it's not going to be in Washington. It's a pretty good business model in Washington. The Democrat national party and the Republican national party is pretty satisfied with the way the system works. It's very profitable for them.
The bottom line is, is, America is going to change when the people, when the moderate centrists, people center-right, center-left, people that feel homeless, people that feel helpless that this system, can't anything be any better than this, if they get involved and start demanding more from those who are seeking office, we're going to find out and give them the strength and basically ammunition they need to weaponize -- basically stop weaponizing the system and start using the strength they have as a voter.
TAPPER: Right, but you said you're launching a two-month tour to mobilize voters who feel politically homeless. So I'm just trying to get some sort of timeline.
MANCHIN: Well, we're going to start.
TAPPER: Did you -- do you think, by March, you will have an idea?
MANCHIN: There is no timeline, Jake.
TAPPER: There's no timeline? It's -- OK.
TAPPER: Are you leaning towards running? It sounds like -- it sounds like you're leaning towards running. I mean, that's what it sounds like to me. MANCHIN: Jake, here's the thing, what I would say to any American
that feels they have the ability and have the experience and have had that opportunity to see it up close and personal to see the things that are wrong and be able to communicate how changes and what changes need to be made.
And, with that -- and if you don't put yourself in a position to help your country, then God help you. Why are you involved in public service? And the people that are depending on a representative form of government to truly represent them are not getting represented.
So, I can't tell you what time frame. I can't tell you if there is a movement or people really care or not. And even if they could work with the -- with these candidates that we have right now that have been announced, to let them know that they expect them to make responsible, reasonable decisions, and not weaponizing and calling names and villainizing and this spewing hatred, and making that feel normal, that's not normal.
Enough's enough, Jake. You can't continue. Words mean something. And they're being used against us.
TAPPER: Right. But...
MANCHIN: They're being used against us.
And when you hear all the rhetoric coming, it's horrible.
TAPPER: Can you explain to me how you envision potentially a third- party candidate winning and not just playing spoiler?
Because I know enough of history to know that even Teddy Roosevelt, the great Teddy Roosevelt...
TAPPER: ... wasn't able to win as a third-party candidate when he ran as a Bull Moose candidate.
TAPPER: How can a third-party candidate run and actually win, or at least not be a spoiler?
I mean, do you think that this third-party discussion that you're having, would they try to draw equally from Democrats and Republicans and win with the voters in the middle? Is that the idea?
MANCHIN: Well, I think, basically, we have never seen the voters this displeased with the candidates they think they're going to be receiving right now. We have to see how that plays out too, and that's going to be a few months, two or three months from now, before exactly what we have -- going to be offered to the American voters as the leader of our country.
With that, in that period of time, can we move some of these candidates back towards the middle, where they make some sensible, reasonable decisions, not being worried about their base? The base is the American democracy that we have. That's the base.
And the base basically is people in the middle, centrist people that have had to make decisions. Jake, you can't go 21 years in deficit spending. You can't accumulate $34 trillion of debt and say we're in a right trajectory. Both Democrats and Republicans and the parties that support basically the traditional candidates are not saying anything about how we're going to get our debt under control.
MANCHIN: It will be the greatest challenge we have. It won't be another military might take us down, the debt -- weight of the debt of our nation. People can't go 21 paychecks without balancing, let alone 21 years, and there's no one talking about that.
TAPPER: So, new...
MANCHIN: And, here, we have all trying to prevent from going into two wars around the world.
MANCHIN: And people now are saying, well, you shouldn't be doing this or that or don't support. It's unbelievable.
TAPPER: New polls from CNN out this week show President Biden trailing Donald Trump in Michigan and Georgia. How worried do you think Democrats should be about President Biden's reelection bid?
And do you think it's time for the Democrats to take a serious look at maybe putting somebody else up to run against Donald Trump, assuming he's the nominee?
MANCHIN: Well, I think we all should be concerned about the support that Donald Trump has. And, basically, he's told us who he is.
And when a person tells you who they are, you ought to believe him, and tells you what he's going to do. It's not democracy as we know it. It's not how the country has been able to survive through this experiment of ours for over 230-plus years.
And here we are today now being threatened. Can democracy survive? We have come through some tough times, Jake. In my lifetime, I remember the late '60s, how horrific that was, and the assassinations we had of political leaders and the unrest we had in the streets and burning America. We came back together. We were able to pull together.
We have been through difficult times, and we can make it as long as we understand the freedoms, democracy that we have, the opportunities that we have, and the disparity that people are having right now. I look around the world and see basically where the trouble spots are is where people have given up hope. They're just -- they can't get out of this quagmire of poverty.
And we can't let that happen in this country either, Jake. And that's the thing that I'm concerned about.
TAPPER: Senator Joe Manchin, Democrat of West Virginia, thanks for your time this morning. Appreciate it, sir, as always.
MANCHIN: It's always good to be with you, Jake. Thank you.
Merry Christmas to all.
TAPPER: Thank you, sir.
Would Republican voters change their minds about Trump if he were a convicted felon? We're going to take a look at some new polling and discuss Trump echoing America's adversaries with my panel next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Vladimir Putin of Russia says that Biden's -- and this is a quote -- politically motivated persecution of his political rival is very good for Russia because it shows the rottenness of the American political system, which cannot pretend to teach others about democracy."
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: I mean, who needs Pravda? You have Donald Trump right there repeating Russian propaganda.
Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION.
Self-proclaimed defender of democracy Donald Trump admiringly quoting Russia's Vladimir Putin to attack both the sitting U.S. president and American democracy itself.
My panel is here to discuss.
Doug, I mean, I'm sorry, but that's just empirically stunning for any major presidential candidate to be quoting approvingly Vladimir Putin smearing American democracy. I don't care if it's Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. It's absolutely stunning.
DOUG HEYE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It's stunning, but it's not surprising, because we have seen Trump do this time and time again.
This isn't new news what Donald Trump. It's just the latest iteration of what strongman he wants to connect him to. But while this is Trump echoing Putin, it's not clear that this is really echoing throughout the country. We see these clips, people absorb them, and then they go out and they buy a sandwich. And that sandwich is $15 now, when it used to be $9.75 before COVID. Everything that Americans are spending money on is more expensive
today, or they're not spending money because they can't afford the financing for a car or a house. And at the same time, we have the CBS poll that shows that just 7 percent think that Joe Biden has the strength and stamina to be president.
I think that's what voters are reacting to. It's why Trump is leading in these polls, despite what he's been saying in campaign rallies throughout the country.
TAPPER: Reality check there from Doug, Karen.
KAREN FINNEY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, OK, but I think it's a bit un-American for a former president to be lauding a dictator who is holding two Americans...
HEYE: Don't disagree.
FINNEY: ... and in the context of a presidential contest, A, when we are seeing actually economic numbers moving in a more positive direction.
We will see how that -- if that holds. I do think this matters to Americans. I do think people would question, particularly when it is a binary choice, who is it? I mean, that kind of talk is actually also bad for the American economy. That's not going to make markets feel particularly confident. That's not going to help bring costs down.
That's not a person who has an agenda for trying to bring costs down. So I completely agree with the economic concerns. But, again, the presidential election becomes, who of these two men cares about me and is actually going to try to make my life better? I don't think the guy quoting Putin is the one who...
HEYE: All of that means that Joe Biden should be up by 15 points then, and he's not.
And you look at -- you drill down in the states, Michigan, North Carolina, Arizona. Trump's doing very well.
TAPPER: But let's show -- he is, but let's show this brand-new CBS News poll out of New Hampshire, which actually has some good news for one of Donald Trump's challengers, Nikki Haley, Donald Trump at 44 percent, Nikki Haley, the ambassador and former South Carolina governor, 29 percent, DeSantis 11, Christie 10, Ramaswamy 5, Hutchinson 1.
And, as you know, David Urban, in polling, it's not necessarily where your numbers are, but where they're going. And Donald Trump is basically flat. And Nikki Haley is ascendant. I mean, 15 points is surmount -- I mean, she can overcome that, theoretically.
DAVID URBAN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It's huge, but it's where she's going to have to finish, right?
She's not going to be able to finish in the mid-teens or high teens. You have got to get in these 20s and 30s -- yes, high 20s.
TAPPER: But she's at 29, yes.
URBAN: Yes, that's what I'm saying. So, high 20s, all of a sudden, you become credible, right?
URBAN: People start paying attention. They will start tuning into your point; 15 is a number you can close on moving forward.
But you're going to have to see that also. What's going to happen in Iowa before that, right? Are those numbers going to then change again? Because, if she gets crushed in Iowa and is buried in Iowa, are those numbers going to go back down again, right, in New Hampshire.
So this is -- it's like a three-dimensional game of chess here, right? So we have to see what's going to happen on the 15th. She may do well. She may not do well. I mean, we saw yesterday the DeSantis team continues to kind of unravel at the seams, right? Jeff Roe left and they're having...
TAPPER: The pro-DeSantis super PAC.
URBAN: They're having this tumult inside the campaign. And so they're kind of on a downward spiral, it seems. So maybe she's ascendant in Iowa, outkicks her coverage there.
And then that would be really good for her moving into New Hampshire. If she loses badly in Iowa, not so sure it's going to matter much in New Hampshire.
TAPPER: So it's not just the media and Trump's rivals like Nikki Haley and Chris Christie that are criticizing him.
Former Speaker of the House Paul Ryan said something, some very stark criticism of Donald Trump that I have never heard him say publicly quite as starkly before.
Let's roll that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FMR. REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI): Trump's not a conservative. He's an authoritarian narcissist. He's a populist authoritarian narcissist.
So, historically speaking, all of his tendencies are basically where narcissism takes him, which is whatever makes him popular, makes him feel good at any given moment. He thinks in an authoritarian way, and he's been able to get a big chunk of the Republican base to follow him because he's the culture warrior.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ASHLEY ALLISON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look, I mean, I'm glad -- welcome to the party, Paul Ryan. Where have you been for so long?
ALLISON: Before, it was, Donald Trump shouldn't run because he wasn't electable, not because he was an authoritarian, even after January 6.
So, good. I'm glad more Republicans, including Paul Ryan, are starting to see the threat, as we just were discussing him quoting Vladimir Putin. I guess my question, though, is, I don't actually know if the Putin comments are going to impact Donald Trump or not, because I think we're seeing more and more Americans become more and more extreme, particularly on the right.
And the Republican Party...
TAPPER: And some on the left too.
ALLISON: Some on the left, yes. But we're talking about Trump now. So...
TAPPER: OK, OK.
ALLISON: But Republicans used to be against Russia, and now they're the party that doesn't even want to support Ukraine in the war to fight against a dictator.
So I hear you, Doug, about, why isn't Joe Biden 15 points ahead? I don't think it's a comparison right now to Joe Biden and Donald Trump. Right now, we're talking -- we just talked about Nikki Haley. He's still up over Nikki Haley, over Ron DeSantis, over Vivek Ramaswamy, over Chris Christie.
So the party is moving in such a way that it's...
URBAN: You guys just keep telling yourselves that. Keep whistling past the graveyard like this.
ALLISON: I'm not saying -- no, first of all, I'm not saying that...
FINNEY: Hold up, David.
ALLISON: OK, I'm not -- let me just be real clear. I'm not saying, in a general election, if it's Trump against Trump, there will be some comparisons.
But I'm saying, right now, your party's actually having a primary, and the comparison is people who want to stand up against Russia, want to stand up for democracy, and someone who doesn't.
ALLISON: And your front-runner is someone who doesn't.
TAPPER: I think we all agree that Donald Trump, A, is likely to get the nomination, although anything could happen, and, B, could very well be elected.
I don't think there's anybody on this panel who disagrees with that.
TAPPER: Everyone, stick around. We have a lot more to talk about next.
Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CORNEL WEST, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This is a very, very fluid moment. I'm not convinced that brother Biden is even going to be the candidate for the Democratic Party.
I think he's going to have a LBJ moment. I think he's going to end up pulling out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: One of President Biden's third-party challengers, Cornel West, perhaps sapping -- wants to sap some votes away from him on the left for his progressive agenda.
And it does actually get to the point that Joe Biden, one of the reasons he's so vulnerable is that coalition that came and delivered for him in 2020 is not with him right now. They're not. Progressives are -- and it's -- we should note this is before October 7, before Hamas attacked Israel and Israel responded.
Like, before that, he already was in trouble with progressives.
ALLISON: He was shaky.
But what I will say is, when I do talk to progressives, who -- from the beginning of the Biden administration, their feeling is that he has governed and had an agenda that is aligned with what they were doing, whether it's the child tax credit, whether it's gun reform, whether it's minimum wage. Whatever it is, he has been pushing an agenda that they are aligned with.
But, again, that feels like a very D.C. feeling. When you go outside of Washington, D.C., it is not -- the Biden agenda is not resonating with people. And I think one of the things that they are going to have to do is connect the dots. The facts are saying that the economy is getting better, but people
aren't feeling it. And so why? How can you connect that dot and really help people understand that they are fighting for you?
And I think it has to be bigger than the alternative. It's -- the argument of 2024 is not going to be, Donald Trump is the worst, so vote for me. They are -- people are going to really have to feel like their lives are improving.
In addition, after October 7, part of the coalition...
ALLISON: ... is very fractured because of what is happening. There is disapproval of where the Biden administration is on the Israel and Hamas war.
And I think it is going to have to be something that they really do wrestle with. I will just also say, it's not just progressives right now that are feeling like that. The overwhelming -- like 80 percent of the country right now isn't really aligned with where the Biden administration is.
And it's -- and I feel like we're drawing false contrast on this issue, where it's like if you are not wanting innocent Palestinians to die, you are not supportive, antisemitism -- you want to stop antisemitism, and Israel has...
TAPPER: Well, that's -- no one -- that's not a reasonable argument.
ALLISON: But I think people are putting that, and so -- and making it feel like, if Biden changes his position, then he's cowering to the left, which isn't a fair analysis of the situation or how people are feeling about that issue.
TAPPER: And, meanwhile, he's about to enter into some sort of compromise with Republicans on the border.
URBAN: He's in a very tough spot.
TAPPER: And that's going to hurt him.
Listen to Congresswoman Jayapal talking to Manu about like if Biden signs this bigger deal that has funding for Ukraine, funding for Israel and these border changes, what that will do to the coalition.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: How much backlash will he get from the left if he does agree to these changes? REP. PRAMILA JAYAPAL (D-WA): He's going to -- there's going to be a
lot. We have to put together a coalition that is the same coalition we delivered in 2020 for him to win the White House, for us to win the Senate and for us to take back the House.
And that coalition involves a lot of young voters. It involves a lot of immigrant voters. It involves a lot of folks of color.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: And a lot of them are going to be very disappointed with this border bill.
URBAN: Yes, they will be terrified about the border bill.
Listen, my colleague makes a very -- very, very sound points on her -- trying to find the right descriptive word. Biden's in a tough spot. The economy may be improving. All this may be happening, but people in America don't feel that, right?
So the feelings are really more important than the facts here. What he's going to need to do is, he's going to need to convert lots these things. He's had student debt forgiveness, five billion-plus dollars, but yet his numbers still tank in that young demographic. They're doing all these things to try to win these people over, and they're not getting any.
What he's going to have to do here with the border, he's going to have to kind of deal, because there is no border right now. The border is wide open. And it has to happen, not just for Republicans, but for America. He's trying to make it happen. And it's going to be a stinky deal.
TAPPER: This is a problem coming down the line for Joe Biden.
FINNEY: Let's just take a step back. The border is not wide open.
FINNEY: Part of the reason that we are -- the fact that we are intersecting people suggest that the folks at the border are doing their job. Let's give them a little credit.
URBAN: No, absolutely. They're overwhelmed.
FINNEY: At the same time though, look, it is a problem. We don't know what would be in the final deal. And it could end up being a major problem for this administration.
We do know that young voters in particular around -- since October 7, as we have seen on college campuses, that is a very real issue that this administration is going to also have to deal with, and, in the context of a campaign, aggressively try to, as the congresswoman said, bring together a winning coalition. And it is not going to be easy. And -- but, look, having gone through this against Trump in 2016, we're already seeing Trump sort of seem to run in very much the same way. And so I think, again, when you make the arguments to people on the issues that they care about, abortion as one example, which is also an economic issue for a lot of people, that does start to shift the dynamics of the conversation.
I think that's going to be the way we're going to have to do it.
HEYE: Well, there's a problem legislatively. And we deal with this almost every December.
And that's you -- it's sort of a chicken-and-the-egg issue. You can't whip the vote until you have a bill text of what's in that bill. But you also can't write the bill text until you have whipped the vote. And so this is why we see, whether it's a Republican speaker or Democratic speaker, certainly on either side, on the Senate as well, we get stuck like this, because you're having conversations, but nothing really counts until you have legislative bill text.
Process is not sexy. And this is what we're seeing right now. It's why they're stuck, and they're probably going to continue through the rest of the year.
All right. Thank you, one and all, for being here. And merry Christmas ahead of time. Great to see all of you.
And we will be right back.
TAPPER: Tonight, a CNN special report.
Black women in the United States are three times, three times more likely to die in childbirth than white women. Why is that? My friend and colleague Abby Phillip reports on black maternal health and mortality and the rising trend of home births on a brand-new episode of "THE WHOLE STORY WITH ANDERSON COOPER."
That's tonight at 9:00 p.m. Eastern and Pacific only on CNN.
Thank you for spending your Sunday morning with us.
"FAREED ZAKARIA GPS" starts next.
I will see you tomorrow on "THE LEAD."