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State of the Union

Interview With Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT); Interview With Gov. Chris Sununu (R-NH); Interview With Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD). Aired 9- 10a ET

Aired December 31, 2023 - 09:00   ET




DANA BASH, CNN HOST (voice-over): Ballot bombshell. The special counsel argues former President Trump does not have immunity, as another state moves to strike him from the ballot.

SHENNA BELLOWS (D), MAINE SECRETARY OF STATE: Mr. Trump is engaged in that insurrection.

BASH: Could the Supreme Court buy that argument?

REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD): The Constitution could not be any clearer.

BASH: Former January 6 Committee member Jamie Raskin is here exclusively.

And closing in. Two weeks until Iowa, and Nikki Haley is still cleaning up comments about the Civil War. Her allies say:

GOV. CHRIS SUNUNU (R-NH): She acknowledged it, and moving on.

BASH: Her opponents disagree.

FMR. GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R-NJ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: New Hampshire is seeing the slippery, slick Nikki Haley.

BASH: How will she fare in New Hampshire? Governor Chris Sununu joins me exclusively.

Plus: American epidemic. This holiday season, there's a new public health crisis: isolation.

SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D-CT): People are feeling more lonely.

BASH: Why and how can we fix it? Senator Chris Murphy is here ahead.


BASH: Hello. I'm Dana Bash in Washington, where the state of our union is finishing a wild 2023 and looking ahead to a pivotal 2024.

We are 15 days from the Iowa caucuses, closing out a seismic week in an already extraordinary Republican primary. In a new filing last night, special counsel Jack Smith argued that former President Donald Trump is not immune from prosecution over his actions leading up to January 6, just two days after a second state moved to strike Trump's name from the ballot, citing a 14th Amendment clause that bars someone who tried to engage in insurrection from holding any office.

Trump's legal team is expected to appeal those ballot decisions by Colorado and Maine on Tuesday, a source tells CNN, though it's not clear whether any of it has dampened his appeal with primary voters. Even his rivals say they don't think he should be disqualified.

Instead, this week, the Republican candidates turned their fire on Nikki Haley, who is still cleaning up her comments at a New Hampshire town hall about the causes of the Civil War.

Here with me now is New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu, who is back in Nikki Haley.

Governor, I want to -- first of all, happy new year. Thanks for coming on.

I want to start with what happened in your neighboring state of Maine. The secretary of state there said it was her duty to remove Donald Trump from the 2024 ballot because he engaged in an insurrection. You have been very critical of Trump's actions on January 6.

What do you make of that decision?

SUNUNU: Look, if there was any validity about keeping Trump off a ballot, you would see 48 other states trying to do the same thing.

This -- personally, I think this is very politically motivated by the Maine secretary of state. Trump should be on the ballot. Everybody understands that. This is a politician who I think has political aspirations down the road and trying to make a little bit of a name for herself.

Everybody just hopes that the Supreme -- U.S. Supreme Court gets involved, overturns what Maine and Colorado are trying to do, make sure Trump's on the ballot in 50 states, and we move on.

BASH: Do you agree with some of the Republicans, even Chris Christie, for example, who argue that taking him off the ballot or at least trying to makes Donald Trump a martyr?

SUNUNU: Of course.

No, Donald Trump has played this victim card wonderfully over the past year, nothing on policy, nothing on the future of America, but being -- that victimization thing, which is -- the irony there is just incredible, frankly.

But, yes, this would only booster -- boost his opportunity to play that victim card down the road as we hit the primaries. It's not helpful at all, and I just don't think it's right. I think, again, the U.S. Supreme Court will likely overturn both of these challenges, and we can all move on with him on the ballot on all 50 states, so Nikki Haley can beat him in all 50 states.

BASH: Let me ask about another issue brewing on the legal front for Donald Trump, and that is special counsel Jack Smith.

He filed a new legal filing in a D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals yesterday, and he's trying to push back against Trump's claim that, as a former president, he has prosecutorial immunity.


Do you think that Donald Trump should be granted immunity from any potential crimes?

SUNUNU: I will tell you, I'm not a lawyer. I don't know. I really don't.

When you're -- I will say this. On the political side of all this, I have always said most of America can't follow it. They're not following it. They can't keep track of this case versus that case, Georgia versus the federal cases. So I'm looking at the politics of this and how, again, as you brought up, Trump will play the victimization card a little more.

So I'm not a lawyer. I can't tell you exactly where that's all going to go, but I can tell you, at the end of the day, as far as the Republican Party, they're not looking at it. They're not looking at the cases right now. They're not looking at the January 6, the election denial.

They're really looking at what kind of moves America forward. So, I mean, we will see where it all goes, but, at the end of the day, I don't think it's going to have an impact on the Republican primary.

BASH: Nikki Haley, who, as you reminded us, you are backing, said this week that she would pardon Donald Trump if he -- if she's elected and, of course, if she needs to, if he's convicted of any crimes.

Ron DeSantis made the same promise. When I asked you about potential pardons for January 6 rioters last year, you told me you opposed that because everybody needs to be held a fairly accountable and that there is a rule of law. Would you be OK with a pardon for Donald Trump?

SUNUNU: Yes, look, I understand Nikki's argument, in that, look, everybody wants to move on from the drama and the chaos of Donald Trump. We are all so tired of it. We're all so worn out of it as Americans.

So, the idea that, look, having a former president sitting in jail, that just allows the drama and the victimization to go on, the divide of the country to go on. So, again, just speaking to her answer is that, look, it's a way to kind of move on from it all, right, to just make the pardon happen, move on from it all, so the country can heal itself.

And I think there's a lot of validity to that, to be sure, yes. BASH: So you think, because he is a politician, he should be treated

differently with regard to a pardon than the people who are actually already in jail who were at the Capitol?

SUNUNU: No, no, not because he's a politician.

I think, look, when you look at pardons as a governor, as a president, when you look at pardons, you can -- you pardon people for a whole variety of different reasons potentially. And I think Nikki's answer on that is, look, there's a huge help to healing the country in terms of putting this thing behind us...

BASH: Got it.

SUNUNU: ... and not letting him be that divider...


SUNUNU: ... that he continues to be, that he wants to be, that keeps him in the headlines.

BASH: Let me ask you about what happened this week in your state, Nikki Haley coming under fire.

When she was asked about the cause of the Civil War, she talked about how government was going to run and the rights and freedoms of the people, did not mention slavery.

Yesterday, she said -- quote -- "Of course the first thing I should have said was slavery."

Was her original response a mistake?

SUNUNU: Well, look, she cleared it up quickly, right? Obviously, if something needs to be cleared up a little bit, you wish you had said it a little differently the first time, but it was quickly cleared up.

It's an absolute nonissue. She said, like you said, of course it was slavery. I think she was talking more to the freedoms and liberties that we want for every American and the lessons that come out of that going forward. So, yes, I think she just kind of skipped right over the obvious.

And, yes, I guess the press and folks wanted to hear her come back to the obvious on slavery. She cleared it right up and everyone's moving on.

BASH: So, it was a mistake?

SUNUNU: Oh, look, yes -- I mean, yes. If you have to clear up an answer, you go, gee, I guess I should have answered that differently. Let's go clear it up, so, yes, sure.

BASH: Nikki Haley also walked a line on this issue when she was running for governor in 2010. We have seen some of her opponents bring this up, described the Civil War as two sides fighting for tradition and change.

She said she believed that states have the right to secede from the United States. You know your state in New Hampshire better than anyone. How do you think the people in New Hampshire react to views like this when they hear it from her opponents?

SUNUNU: Look, Nikki Haley is the first female minority governor in the country's history. She's the one that stood up and insisted, didn't take compromises, insisted that the Confederate Flag get removed from the statehouse lawn.

I don't think anyone's questioning her credibility and credentials when it comes to race and equity and equality in this country. So, folks understand that. They know what she's about. It's a nonissue.

BASH: This is the way that one of her opponents, Chris Christie, the former New Jersey governor, is saying on the ground in your state, as he criticizes her question -- or her answer on the Civil War question.

He says that she's trying to be everything to everybody. Listen to what he told voters in New Hampshire.


CHRISTIE: She didn't say what she said last night and today about this because she's dumb. She's not. She's smart, and she knows better.

The reason she did it is just as bad, if not worse, and should get everybody concerned about her candidacy. She did it because she's unwilling to offend anyone by telling the truth.



BASH: He says she's slippery. What do you say in response?

SUNUNU: Yes, look, Chris Christie's a friend, but his race is at an absolute dead end. He's going to say anything he can.

This is a two-person race, right? It's between Trump and Nikki Haley. Everybody understands that. He knows his voters, who want to see Trump defeated, are all coming over to Nikki Haley. In fact, the only person that wants Chris Christie to stay in the race is Donald Trump, right? I mean, think about the irony of that.

So the fact that Chris is out there trying to attack or trying to make ways, that's not surprising. But, at the end of the day, this is a two-person race. And if -- people are not just moving on from that issue. They're really engaging with Nikki on where America goes, on what is about the future.

Chris is only talking about Trump. That's it.

BASH: Well... SUNUNU: That's -- he's kind of a one-man show. And I know he says he wants to stay in the race to speak the truth about Trump, but that translating to votes in a primary is a very different thing.

And he's hit a ceiling. And, right now, he probably won't even get any delegates in the state of New Hampshire if the race were today. So, if Chris is true to his message about defeating Trump, he will understand that the voters are coming. I think he's going to make the right decision eventually and ensure that this is a two-person race, where, if Trump can't get 50 percent of the vote, which he cannot in New Hampshire, then he's in trouble.

And, finally, we can start moving forward as a party, bringing everyone together.

BASH: Are you saying that he should drop out before the votes come?

Because, as -- you say it's a two-person race, but, of course, it's not. And there's a question about whether Nikki Haley can beat Trump if Christie is in the race.

SUNUNU: There's no doubt that, if Christie stays in the race, the risk is that he takes her margin of the win, right?

And so I think Chris is going to make a quick calculation. He's really -- obviously really upset all the pro-Trump people, right? I think he's a smart guy. He wants to have a voice in this party. He doesn't want to go forward upsetting all the anti-Trump people too because he kind of overstayed his welcome, put his ego first.

So I just think he's going to make the right decision in the end. He wants to make sure this party comes together. He -- I think all these candidates know it's always kind of a long shot. And at the end of the day, he's -- he's -- the only person moving is Nikki Haley. Chris Christie isn't going to make up 30 points in the next three weeks, right?

Nikki Haley can make up five or 10 points and kind of give Trump that defeat that no one thought was possible in the next few weeks. And I think that's very likely to happen. So, again, I think the voters are going to come Nikki's way. I think, ultimately, hopefully, Chris comes Nikki's way. But that's really a decision for Chris to make.

BASH: Governor Chris Sununu of New Hampshire, thank you so much. Again, happy new year.

SUNUNU: You bet. Happy new year.

BASH: Up next: Will the Supreme Court weigh in on efforts to remove Donald Trump from the ballot? And what might they decide? Constitutional law scholar and Democratic Congressman Jamie Raskin is here next.

And could our political problems be caused by Americans' failure to simply connect with one another? I will talk to Senator Chris Murphy about the epidemic of loneliness in America coming up. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)



BELLOWS: The weight of evidence that I reviewed indicated that it was, in fact, an insurrection, and Mr. Trump engaged in that insurrection under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment.


BASH: That was Maine's secretary of state explaining her decision to remove Donald Trump from the ballot following a similar decision in Colorado. Now all eyes are on the Supreme Court.

Here with me now to discuss is a constitutional expert, top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee, Congressman Jamie Raskin of Maryland.

Thank you for coming in. Again, happy new year to you.

You have heard Chris Sununu saying it's just politics. It's not just Republicans, though, coming out against this. We have heard Democrats and independents as well saying that they're not comfortable with this. Are you comfortable with one state official making a unilateral decision to take a presidential candidate off the ballot?

RASKIN: Well, the Constitution is the supreme law of the land, so we're all governed in our democracy under the rules of the Constitution.

And it was actually two very conservative legal scholars who wrote the best, most authoritative law review article on the whole thing, saying that Donald Trump is clearly disqualified from being on the ballot because he participated in insurrection.

So, this becomes a test for the originalists and the textualists on the Supreme Court. And I think all of the justices from left to right call themselves textualists and originalists. The language of Section 3 of the 14th Amendment is very clear.

It says, if you have sworn an oath to support the Constitution and violated the oath by engaging in insurrection or rebellion, you can never hold public office again. And the original purposes of it are equally clear, because, actually, when the language was first authored by the radical Republicans in Congress, it was very broad.

And it said, if you have participated in secession or insurrection, you can never vote again. And when it got over to the Senate, they said, that's way too broad. Let's focus in on the worst offenders, people who'd actually sworn an oath to the Constitution and then breached the oath by trying to overthrow the government, and we will make sure those people never serve in office again.

They can vote again. Donald Trump can vote forever as long as he lives. But he has disqualified himself. And we have a number of disqualifications in the Constitution for serving as president, for example, age. I mean, I have got a colleague who's a great young politician, Maxwell Frost. He's 26.

He can't run for president. Now, would we say that that's undemocratic? Well, that's the rules of the Constitution. If you don't like the rules, of the Constitution, change the Constitution.

BASH: Three of the sitting justices were appointed by Donald Trump. And, in addition to that, Justice Clarence Thomas' wife, Ginni, texted with Mark Meadows about the 2020 election in the lead-up to January 6, as you well know.

Should any of the justices recuse themselves if they take this up?

RASKIN: Well, finally, the Supreme Court has developed what they're describing as a code of ethics.


It's not binding, in the sense that they're not going to anyone else. They could have gone to, for example, circuit court justices. You could have had state Supreme Court justices on a panel. But -- so they're deciding for themselves again whether they're in violation of their code of ethics.

But I think anybody looking at this in any kind of dispassionate, reasonable way would say, if your wife was involved in the big lie and claiming that Donald Trump had actually won the presidential election and had been agitating for that and participating in the events leading up to January 6, that you shouldn't be participating in...

BASH: So, he should recuse himself?


RASKIN: He should. Oh, he absolutely should recuse himself. The question is, what do we do if he doesn't recuse himself?

BASH: How quickly do you think that the Supreme Court will weigh in on this, if they will at all? But I will -- you assume that they will, right?


I mean, under constitutional federalism, every state is ultimately going to control its own ballot access and access to candidates for the ballot. And that is obviously difficult when we're talking about electing the president, who is the one official we have got in America who is supposed to represent the entire country, represent everybody.

And so I think that the urgency is for the Supreme Court to act. But I think it's going to be tough for some of them, if they want to keep Trump on the ballot, if they're falling for the argument that this is undemocratic. I mean, is it undemocratic that Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jennifer

Granholm can't run for president because they weren't born in the country? If you think about it, of all the forms of disqualification we have, the one that disqualifies people for engaging in insurrection is the most democratic, because it's the one where people choose themselves to be disqualified.

In terms of your age or where you were born, that's not up to you. But Donald Trump is in that tiny, tiny number of people who've essentially disqualified themselves.

BASH: You're a constitutional scholar. You're also a politician. What about the argument that this is just going to make him a martyr?

RASKIN: It may or may not. The question is, what does the Constitution say? Donald Trump can strike the pose of the martyr in any given context.

If he's allowed to stay on the ballot, despite his clear incitement of an insurrection and attempt to overturn the results in the 2020 election, and he loses to Joe Biden, as he almost certainly would -- Biden beat him by more than seven million votes last time, and we just have millions of young new voters who've joined the rolls, and they can't stand Donald Trump and the Republican Party.

If he loses, he will feel himself a martyr there, and he will try to overturn the election result again. So I don't think we can run scared from Donald Trump. We have got to enforce our Constitution. And that certainly was the design of the framers, and that's what they would have us do.

BASH: You're far more bullish about Biden beating Trump than other Democrats I have talked to.

But I want to move on to something that's going on in your committee. You are ranking Democrat in the Oversight Committee. Your chairman is asking the White House for any documents that President Biden played a role in his son Hunter's decision to defy a subpoena from the Republicans on your committee.

They point to the White House press secretary saying that the president was -- quote -- "certainly familiar with what his son was going to say."

Should the White House comply?

RASKIN: The White House has been complying. Unlike, of course, the Trump White House, the Biden White House has been complying all along.

And we have looked at, for 11 months now, thousands and thousands of documents. We have had testimony from all kinds of people in the government, Treasury, IRS, you name it.

BASH: So they should comply?

RASKIN: They don't have anything on Joe Biden. So I assume they should continue to participate in the charade, because the Biden administration is a law-abiding administration, unlike the Trump administration, which collected millions of dollars from foreign governments, in violation of the foreign Emoluments Clause.

And we're going to be having a report coming out about that at the beginning of the year, Dana. And that, I think, is going to be a shock to a lot of people, the documented receipts we have from foreign governments that were giving money directly to the Trump hotel, the Trump Tower. Donald Trump in a whole bunch of different ways, millions and millions of dollars.

BASH: On that note, or an adjacent note, I should say, the special counsel, Jack Smith, is trying to convince the courts to move quickly on the notion of whether or not Donald Trump has immunity from any crimes because he served as president.

Obviously, Jack Smith does not think he does. How likely is this to move quickly? And the question is whether the March trial date that is now set for this January 6 trial will happen or whether there will be a delay.

RASKIN: I mean, it's hard to think of a more un-American or anti- constitutional argument than the idea that the president can commit crimes while in office with impunity, murder, rape, insurrection, conspiracy to sabotage the election, overthrow the government.


I mean, it's just completely antithetical to the idea of having the rule of law and a constitutional democracy. It's also explicitly rejected by the text of the Constitution. If you look at Article 1, Section 3, Clause 7, it says that, even if somebody is being impeached, still, later, they can be the subject of indictment, trial, decision, and punishment.

So it's right there in black and white in the Constitution. There's no presidential immunity for crimes that you commit while you're in office. And, in fact, one of the arguments that Trump's defenders were making during the impeachment in the trial was, well, he's subject to criminal prosecution later, so let's not complete it by convicting him.

BASH: Yes.

RASKIN: Now, we did have an impeachment in the House. He was impeached for inciting insurrection. And then there was a 57-to-43 vote finding that he had actually engaged in incitement to insurrection.

But he beat the constitutional spread by 10 votes there. And yet even McConnell was saying, well, you can go ahead and prosecute him later.

BASH: Congressman, thank you so much for coming in today.

I know it's a tough day for you. It was three years ago today that your beloved son Tommy passed away. And we just want you to know that we're thinking of you and your family.

RASKIN: Well, thank you very much. I appreciate that.

BASH: OK. Thank you so much.

And up next, we will talk about the politics of Iowa. The political panel will be here to break down all the big news this week and whether that's changing the dynamics in these key early states.

Stay with us.




GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: She's asked a very simple question and responded with just a really incomprehensible word salad. This is not a candidate that's ready for prime time.


BASH: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis there weighing in on Nikki Haley's comments on the cause of the Civil War, where she failed to mention slavery.

My panel joins me now.

She is still cleaning it up even this weekend. Yesterday, she said, and in an interview: "It was slavery. Yes, I should have said slavery."



Well, here's the problem. It wasn't a good answer the first time around. I think it shows a vulnerability, when we talk about her as being overly prepped for -- like, now she's getting it right, because she's got the piece of paper that says what to say. That was the first indication to me, at least, that, in a general election, she would have a lot of trouble, because you get a lot of questions that you can't always predict.

But the other thing that struck me is, clearly, this is -- the tension in the Republican primary around this issue and how to talk about slavery is very different than on the Democratic side, right? And the fact that she got attacked, but then they defended Donald Trump, they kind of defended DeSantis -- he didn't really get a lot of heat from within on that.

And it just shows, as someone who is a descendant of Robert E. Lee and grew up hearing about the war of northern aggression and the lie of the Confederacy, her answer, the other problem with it is, it sounded exactly like what I heard from my grandmother who was trying to convince me...

BASH: Like, who is the descendant of Robert E. Lee?


BASH: What?

FINNEY: He is my great-great-great-great grandfather on my mom's side.

BASH: Did you know that?



BASH: That's incredible.



SOLTIS ANDERSON: One of the things that's so frustrating to me, as someone who has been a fan of Nikki Haley for quite some time, is that she actually has a great answer to that question.

I mean, in the last Republican debate, she picked Lincoln as her favorite president.


SOLTIS ANDERSON: You don't pick Lincoln if you're worried about alienating voters who aren't quite happy with how the Civil War turned out.

And I just feel like it was such a missed opportunity, because here she was, somebody who helped South Carolina get through the incredible tragedy after the shooting, after nine black lives were lost at the Mother Emanuel Church. She helped shepherd the state through that difficult time, take the Confederate Flag off the state grounds.

She had an opportunity to just hit that answer out of the park. And it's just such a missed opportunity.

KATE BEDINGFIELD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: And I think, in addition to Karen's point about her kind of inability to clean this up, showing that maybe she's not going to be, she wouldn't be a stellar general election candidate.

The other thing I think this says, though, about her as a potential general election candidate is the fact that the politics around this in the Republican primary are such that you believe, that she believed the getting asked what caused the Civil War was a trick question, which was her first response, that tells you how co-opted the Republican base is on issues of race, on -- in terms of extremism.

Like, this isn't just a Trump thing. They're all going to -- whoever emerges from this primary is going to have a problem speaking to moderate, independent, certainly Democratic voters in a general election.

JENNINGS: DeSantis didn't have a problem talking about this.

He -- when asked about it later, I thought I'd give a terrific answer about the history of the Republican Party on -- to your point, on ending slavery, over the objections of Democrats at the time. I think the real political strategic question here is not how the Republicans are reacting, but how are the independents in New Hampshire reacting?

BASH: Yes.

JENNINGS: Because, obviously, it's a semi-open primary. She needs some of those people to show up.

And my guess is -- you can ask the pollster, but I would think that some of them don't want her to sound like what they would expect maybe Donald Trump to sound like. And she probably failed...


BASH: Well, you know who's trying to capitalize this -- on this in New Hampshire, of course, is Chris Christie.

You just heard Governor Sununu say that she can't win, it's very hard for her to win and beat Donald Trump in New Hampshire with Chris Christie on the ballot. He has said he's not going anywhere.


He has a new ad that we are showing part of for the first time today that's airing in New Hampshire where he asks, who do we want to be as a country?


CHRISTIE: The country I choose, one with love in our hearts for every American, our differences are a strength, not a weakness, where the president cares more about you than he does about himself.

Donald Trump, he will sell the soul of this country. I'm not perfect. I have made mistakes. But I will always tell you the truth.


FINNEY: So Chris Christie agrees with Joe Biden that this is about the soul of the nation. That's what I think. That messaging sounds familiar, yes.


FINNEY: No, I mean, look, again, it shows -- there's a great piece in "The Post" today that actually talked to some of the voters in New Hampshire and got their reaction.

And they were mixed, honestly. But, again, it's that lack of comfort with the topic and the wanting to not talk about it that I think shows, as a country, we haven't fully dealt with it. But her answer sounded like, what I was trying to say before, rhetoric I heard from my own grandmother.

BASH: That's so interesting.


BASH: The Chris Christie ad and just the notion of what he's trying to do here, knowing what you do about the electorate in the primaries, particularly in New Hampshire, is that going to fly?

SOLTIS ANDERSON: The math is very, very hard for Nikki Haley if Chris Christie remains in this race, because he retains about, I don't know, one in eight New Hampshire voters.

And the reality is that those voters, if he were to drop out tomorrow, a lot of them, not all of them, but a lot of them would go to Nikki Haley and almost none of them would go to Donald Trump. That's what makes him dropping out different from, say, Ron DeSantis, where his voters would -- some of them would go to Donald Trump. That doesn't necessarily help Nikki Haley.

The math around this is just so challenging for Haley to be able to knock off Trump, because he is such a strong incumbent, effectively an incumbent, in this primary right now, that I get Chris Christie thinking, I have got to stay in this on principle.

But the reality is, the longer he stays in, the more likely it is Donald Trump is the Republican...


BASH: You're no fan of Donald Trump. What are your thoughts on that?


JENNINGS: Well, I'm just -- I'm trying to figure out what he's doing. I mean, his stated goal is to rid the party and rid the country of Donald Trump.

I agree that it makes it difficult to do that if he remains in the race. I wonder if Iowa will change his calculation. Let me just paint a picture where Donald Trump crushes everyone in Iowa, which I think is likely, and, I don't know, maybe DeSantis doesn't continue, and, to your point, some of those people go to Trump.

Does that change his calculation? I don't know the answer to that. But for a guy whose entire campaign theory is, I have to rid the country of Trump, I have to wash this off of myself, staying in the race seems to be counterproductive or counterintuitive to that idea.

BEDINGFIELD: Yes, I agree. And that was -- I mean, that was a general election argument that we

heard. That is so far not an argument that has appealed to Republican primary voters. I say that as somebody who worked on Joe Biden's primary and general election campaign in 2019 and 2020, when we were trying to rid the country of Donald Trump.

And those are a lot of the arguments that Joe Biden was making about the fundamental threat to the soul of the country. It is absolutely true that that's appealing in a general election. I don't know that we have seen any evidence that that's appealing in a Republican primary. And the longer Chris Christie stays in, as my colleagues here have said, the more votes he saps from...



So it is New Year's Eve. Thank you for getting up early on New Year's Eve.


BASH: Let's have a little fun and look ahead. We know the obvious things to look for in 2024.

One thing that Kate that we thought was noteworthy was that the president, your former boss, was on his way back from vacation this morning, and he was asked what his New Year's resolution was, and he said, "To be back next year."


BEDINGFIELD: Well, we love a New Year's resolution we can keep, right?


BEDINGFIELD: That's -- the best resolutions are the ones you can keep.

Look, it is absolutely going to be a rocky and challenging and close campaign. I don't think there's any doubt about that. I certainly don't think anybody in the Biden operation has any doubt about that. It's going to be a challenging campaign.

But I do think it is true that voters really have not dialed in, in the way that they're going to over the coming 10 months as we get into the summer and then, of course, into the fall. So there's an enormous amount of opportunity for the president and his team to chart a course for this race that puts it on ground that is beneficial to him.

And I think that's what he's going to do.

BASH: We only have a couple more seconds. 2024.

JENNINGS: I don't bet on politicians, only horses. I'm from Kentucky. (LAUGHTER)

JENNINGS: I have to say -- I have to say, this one -- that the president's not looking too good in the barn, so I don't...


JENNINGS: I don't know if I would bet on it or not.



BASH: All right, well, we're going to have to leave it there. That was -- that was rough.


BASH: Thanks, everybody, and happy new year.

Up next: Senator Chris Murphy says there is a growing problem of loneliness in America. He's here with me to discuss that next.



BASH: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION.

It's the holidays, and many Americans are struggling right now with a problem that is becoming an American epidemic, loneliness.


BASH: Joining me now is Democratic Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut.

Thank you so much for being here.

This is something I have been wanting to talk to you about for some time. We are in the holiday season, and there's all kinds of joy around, which can make people who are already feeling lonely even more lonely.

You think that there is a real problem, an epidemic with this concept of loneliness and isolation in the country. You say that there is a -- quote -- "real spiritual sickness in the U.S."


What do you mean by that?

MURPHY: Well, I think you see it playing out in all sorts of different ways.

Last year, we had more suicides in the United States than in any year in our lifetime, rising rates of violence, more people taking withdrawal drugs and overdosing. It feels like people are having a hard time finding purpose and meaning than ever before.

And part of the reason for that is that a lot more people are lonely and feeling alone. You know, 20 years ago, only 3 percent of Americans reported having no friends. Today, 12 percent of Americans say they have not a single friend. We report spending half as much time as we used to on a daily basis with family and friends.

We're withdrawing into ourselves. And with that comes a real sickness, emotionally, spiritually, physically. And it's something that I think political leaders need to start talking about, because it impacts everybody in this country on the right and the left. It's actually a wonderfully unifying conversation, because everyone in this country is feeling alone.

BASH: What got you so interested in this topic?

MURPHY: Part of it is having kids. So I have got a teenager and a preteen, and I watch this generation really struggle with loneliness and depression and suicidal thoughts.

These smartphones, social media is just toxic for a lot of these kids. And so I think it's probably my new role as a father of teenagers that has made me care a lot about the way in which this younger generation is withdrawing into themselves. And then I have seen this amongst my peers and my friends as well.

BASH: Because you mentioned social media, I want to ask you about that, because it was created to help bring people together around the world.

And you're right. I mean, there's no question that you see not just teenagers, but adults interacting with other humans on their phone, as opposed to doing it in person, like you and I are right now.

How much of what is happening with technology is contributing? And that's not something you can legislate.

MURPHY: Well, I don't...

BASH: Or is it?

MURPHY: Yes, I think it is.

So, I think what we have learned, especially through the pandemic, is that there is something fundamentally different about in-person, real connection versus virtual connection. When you can see and touch and feel and smell someone, right, it sort of creates a flow of endorphins that is different than texting them or seeing them on Zoom.

And I think we thought that we could replace in-person connection with virtual connection. And it turns out that doesn't make us as happy or as fulfilled. I do think that you can legislate this, because these social media platforms are smarter than humans. They are able to capture and addict kids in a way that makes it very hard for the kids to ever spin out of.

And so if you make those platforms less addictive, especially for children, then those kids have a chance to set their lives in a way where they aren't addicted to social media. They have a better chance to be less addicted when they're adults. So that's a conversation I think we can have.

BASH: How receptive are social media companies to this? I mean, it seems to be pretty hard to get them to do anything that maybe would potentially not benefit their bottom line, but could benefit society and human beings.

MURPHY: The social media companies absolutely are determined to protect their addictive technology.

Their entire business model is centered around trying to get us to look at our phones six to eight hours a day. They make less money if we are talking to each other, rather than looking at our phones. But the good news is, this conversation about social media regulation is one that actually brings Republicans and Democrats, the right and the left, together.

You talk to parents out there, it really has nothing to do with their ideology as to whether or not they want more help in trying to keep their kids off of TikTok, off of Instagram, especially when they see those sites really taking their children into a dark rabbit hole.

BASH: To what extent do you think that the crisis of loneliness is being driven by a sense among many Americans, I would even say most Americans, that the country's politics, its institutions are broken and getting worse, and government dysfunction, partisan divisions are causing all kinds of problems?

How much does that play into the sense of loneliness that people feel?

MURPHY: I think it's a big part of this.

I mean, I think, when you don't have leaders that are sticking up for you and plugging into the things that matter most to you, that makes you feel alone, right? You want a champion. You want somebody that understands what you're going through and is fighting for you.


That's why I think we have to talk about the emotional state of America, because that's a way for political leaders to directly plug in to the actual things that people are feeling. And so, when we just sort of talk about the price of health care, right, or the unemployment rate, like, that isn't directly connected to the spiritual and emotional state of the country in a way a conversation about loneliness or purpose or meaning would be.

I know that those are topics that feel very unfamiliar and distant to political leadership.

BASH: Yes. MURPHY: But it actually, I think, would scratch the American public where they itch and make them feel less alone if they thought political leaders were actually talking about the way that they feel.

BASH: It's funny that you said that, because, as you're talking, I'm thinking, what a breath of fresh air to hear an elected official, whose job it is to make sure that the data is in the right place on economics and everything else for the American people and to try to legislate to make it better, but to talk about something that is sort of intangible.

MURPHY: But our best political leaders have had this conversation with America.

Maybe I pay most attention to leaders on the left, but if you think about Martin Luther King Jr. or RFK, they talked in these spiritual terms, right? They talked about the soul of America and the sickness of that soul. And so I think Americans do respond when we talk about their emotional state.

You have got to connect it to policy. You can't just have a conversation simply about how people are feeling. You have got to say, how are you feeling, and then what can government do to make it better? If you talk about loneliness, part of the policy is social media regulation, but it's also free time and leisure time, right, giving people the space where they can go join a church or a social club.

It's about connection and...

BASH: Yes, you want a four-day workweek.

MURPHY: I want a four-day workweek. I want more functional third places, right? I want more community pools and I want more vibrant churches.

I want places where people can meet. You have to start the conversation around purpose and meaning and connection, but then I think you need to move pretty quickly to policy, but make sure that that's one conversation.

BASH: Senator Chris Murphy, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

MURPHY: Thank you.


BASH: The under-the-radar political stories coming up next year -- that's next.



BASH: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION. It is New Year's Eve. So we want to talk about the important political

stories you might not be thinking about that could be coming down the pike for 2024.

Karen Finney, I will start with you.


How COVID impacted our politics, and what does that tell us about where the electorate is in 2024? One of the things we know is, it really deepened polarization. And I think it's part of why we're seeing it kind of created actually a pathway for RFK Jr., because you had -- in particular, the far right and the far left kind of came together around some of the conspiracy theories.

But, also, it really hardened support for Donald Trump among the right wing of the party.

BASH: That's interesting.

SOLTIS ANDERSON: So I think, in 2024, there's going to be a real instinct for everybody to focus on this presidential race or, secondarily, the race for Congress, Senate, House.

But I would encourage people, in the coming year, keep your eye on these governor's races. There are a number of states where they are, frankly, purple to blue states where Republicans have the opportunity to hang on to governor's mansions.

Take a place like New Hampshire, for instance. You had Chris Sununu on earlier. There's a chance that he could be succeeded by former Senator Kelly Ayotte. There's a lot of races like that that I think are going to fly way under the radar, but are really interesting to tell us about sort of the potential future of the, I don't want to say normal wing of the Republican Party, but, certainly, there are a lot that are very popular in places you might not expect Republican...


BASH: And we know, although it wouldn't have any impact in -- until the next presidential election, but we now know, based on 2020, how important that governor -- who is governor is to how some of these federal elections play out.

BEDINGFIELD: So, I think one underdiscussed dynamic, as everybody is sort of anticipating the primary process starting in just a couple of weeks now, is what happens if somebody does make a real run for the nomination and knocks Donald Trump aside?

Does Donald Trump start propagating the big lie, Republican primary version 2024? Is he out saying, Nikki Haley stole the New Hampshire primary for me?

What does that mean for the following -- the contests that come after? Does that rile up his base? I think we have seen evidence it does. But as everybody is kind of anticipating what's going to happen in the next couple of months, I think that is a huge dynamic that isn't really being discussed that will have a profound impact on the outcome.

JENNINGS: A couple of things for me.

One is the continued realignment inside the two parties, the migration of working-class voters, even racial minorities, towards the Republican Party and maybe college-educated voters towards the Democrats. We want to see how that progresses this year, as we have seen that during the Trump years.

The other thing is the new and the old of Donald Trump. On the new, I think his campaign actually has been incredibly well-run so far. I think Chris LaCivita and Susie Wiles and -- they run a very disciplined operation. I think it's the best campaign they have had in three tries.

The old of Trump, though, is that he reserves the right to pull the rug out at any time.

BASH: Is that he's still Donald Trump.


JENNINGS: Well, he's out floating Nikki Haley as possible vice president, which has all the MAGA people raging.

And then he's come out this weekend for a new FBI headquarters in Washington.

BASH: Yes, what was that about?

JENNINGS: And all of his influencers have been, of course, raging against the FBI headquarters for so long.

So, no matter how disciplined and well-run it ever is, just remember, he's the decider.


JENNINGS: At the end of the day, he reserves the right to change it if he feels like it.



BASH: I mean, that was -- just to pick up on that FBI thing, this was a post by -- on his social media platform last night where he's calling for -- this is like the abolish the FBI, the FBI did all these horrible things that he says over and over again.


BASH: And now he wants the headquarters to be refurbished downtown.

Does he think he's going to get the Trump Hotel back, which is right next door? I mean, I don't know.

JENNINGS: Well, I will tell you, members of Congress were hearing from the Republican grassroots about this. They had a vote on it not too long ago.

And so there were members who were getting hammered by some of their base over this. And I heard from a few of them over the weekend that said, wow, I wish I had -- I wish I had known Trump's position just a few weeks ago when I was meeting with my constituents. Now that I have this in my back pocket, though, it'll be -- it'll be good to have.


BASH: That was not on my bingo card for 2024, I have to say, definitely not.

Guys, thank you. Thank you for everything this year. Happy, happy new year.

FINNEY: Happy new year.


JENNINGS: Happy new year.

BASH: Appreciate it. Appreciate everything.

And, this week, my co-host, Jake Tapper, will sit down with House Speaker Mike Johnson. Be sure to watch that on "THE LEAD." It's this Wednesday at 4:00 p.m. Eastern.

Thank you so much for spending your Sunday morning with us. Happy new year to you.

The news continues next.