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Too Close To Call In Mississippi; Obama Under Water In New Polls; New Video Of Taliban Releasing Bergdahl; California Chrome Attempting Triple Crown

Aired June 4, 2014 - 07:30   ET


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: All right, a lot of politics on the table today, especially with this new video showing Bowe Bergdahl being handed over. Let's get to "Inside Politics" on NEW DAY with Mr. John King -- John.

JOHN KING, CNN HOST, "INSIDE POLITICS": Good morning to you both and to Michaela as well. Be back to you in just a few minutes. You're right. A lot of ground to cover inside politics this morning. With me to share their reporting and their insights, Nia-Malika Henderson of "The Washington Post" and Ron Fournier of "National Journal."

Let's start with Mississippi. We don't have winner this morning, but boy, do we have a fascinating race. The incumbent Senator Thad Cochran is facing a Tea Party challenger from Chris McDaniel, a state senator there. We can't call this one yet, 99 percent of the vote in. McDaniel slightly ahead, but the law is you need 50 percent to win a primary.

So it looks like, again, we have to count the final votes. It looked like we're headed for a runoff here. Listen to Chris McDaniel last night saying that, he may not have won yet, but he is confident. If he doesn't win in the final vote count, he will win in the runoff.


CHRIS MCDANIEL (R), SENATE CANDIDATE: This is a historic moment in this state's history and because of your hard work, because of your dedication, we sit here tonight leading a 42-year incumbent. But our fight is not over. Remember, it is about the people.


KING: This would be and, again, the conditional would be the trophy the Tea Party has wanted. They've been targeting a number of Senate incumbents. They thought Cochran was the most vulnerable. What happens if there is a runoff? Again, we have to count these final votes. In the runoff, does the energy of the Tea Party just blow out the establishment incumbent?

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, "THE WASHINGTON POST": You know, I mean, I think the key word you heard McDaniel was 42-year incumbent. That's how he's been able to be successful so far. Obviously had a few missteps about the whole nursing home fiasco. It's less important he is a Tea Party guy. More important that Cochran has been in the Senate for 42 years. Hasn't had a challenger since 1996 and when you see him out there on the stump, it shows.

KING: He is rusty. That used to be a virtue in politics. I can bring home the bacon. If they take the Senate, he would be the chairman of the Appropriations Committee, which is the cash committee. But Ron, both of these guys are about out of money. Running out of fumes. Is there a chance that the establishment could flood the zone with money and help Cochran or is this now just going to be we got a chance --

RON FOURNIER, "NATIONAL JOURNAL": The establishment has the think do we really want to fight a guy who could be our standard bearer. I think this is bad news for Cochran. Anytime an incumbent is in a low turnout run off as you know they usually lose. It's bad news for the Republican Party because now they have to spend another three weeks fighting each other.

KING: Unlikely but not impossible a Democrat could win this race. The Republicans have to think about that, too. They want to a Republican seat in the end. They prefer Cochran, the establishment, but they want to keep that seat in Republican hands so that's part of that calculation.

Let's move on to two other races. Very different where the Republican establishment got exactly what it wanted and yet look how different these people are. In Iowa last night, Joni Ernst, you might remember here, her first ad was about castrating on a farm when she was a child.

Her second ad, she shot the affordable care act, the Obamacare. She won and she cracked the barrier in Iowa to be the nominee. She will not have a runoff in the Senate race. The Republicans think they have a chance to pick up a Democratic seat in Iowa.

Then in California, this is not a primary, under California system. The top two people in the primary, not the nominee officially, but the top two people make it. He will challenge the incumbent governor there, governor for life almost, Jerry Brown.

I raise the point two very different people, Ron, because Neel Kashkari under George W. Bush, was head of TARP, the troubled asset relief program, the bailout program. That was the birth of the Tea Party. If he was running in Iowa or Mississippi or Alabama as a Republican, he would be antichrist and yet he is viewed as the great hope of the California Republican Party.

FOURNIER: This shows you the difference between California politics and Iowa politics. Bottom line here is what's happening is whether the Tea Party wins or losses, each of these individual races. They've won the big game. They have turned the Republican Party far to the right. Even establishment Republican candidates now are further to the right than they were two years ago.

KING: I don't think anyone in California thinks that Neel Kashkari has much of a chance against Jerry Brown, but California Republican reboot 27.0. They've been trying for most of the past decade to restart what used to be a viable Republican Party in the nation's largest state. Is he the answer or at least stop the bleeding?

HENDERSON: Probably not. Condoleezza Rice talked about this, too, as well. She gave a speech a couple months ago where she talked about rebranding the party, being a party that's more welcoming, more open to immigration reform and things like that. But I think this race in California goes to show that Republicans are being very practical this go around. They want to have as many contenders in as many states as possible to rebrand the party.

And I think Joni Ernst in Iowa, very competitive race there. I think they've got a real chance in that race. She has brought a lot of Republicans together from the left side of the -- or from all spectrums of the party.

KING: If she wins she will be the first woman sent by Iowa to Congress. Not just to Senate, but to Congress, period. So we'll watch that. I want to know this was mostly for the record, I want to say the president's approval rating is the north star of a midterm election year. Brand new poll released just yesterday. The president's approval rating at 43. His disapproval at 55.

We went through 12 different issues on the president's approval rating and he didn't crack 50. He could not crack 50 on any of those, on most of those issues he is underwater. Also if you want to note. There is an ABC/"Washington Post" poll who had the president at 46 percent. So let's watch this.

The president is trying to get closer to 50. We at CNN has had him stuck in a rut at 43. But Ron, on those issues where he's underwater, he fairs well on the environment. He fairs OK on terrorism, on a lot of the other issues it's largely people don't think the economy has anything.

FOURNIER: Yes, it's the economy and credibility. I think we'll be talking about in the story here in a few minutes is another example of the White House hurting its credibility. The president losing the trust of the public.

HENDERSON: This idea whether or not he's a good manager and people seem to think that he increasingly is not.

KING: And I think weeks if not months driving this debate will be this political controversy now over the Bowe Bergdahl exchange, prisoner swap. Listen to the president. He is overseas in Europe and he says when you have a chance to free a captive American, it's a no brainer.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Regardless of the circumstances, whatever those circumstances may turn out to be, we still get an American soldier back if he's held in captivity. Period. Full stop. We don't condition that.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KING: Period, full stop, we don't condition that, is how the president calls it, but John McCain once himself a prisoner of war, prisoner of war who turned down his own release because he didn't think it would send the right message says the president on this one is dead wrong.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: This is the first time I've discussed it in this fashion. I'm appalled to think that everything that the United States and its national interests is submerged and lower priority at the release of one soldier. That's not how war works and not how national security is addressed. My heart goes out to Sergeant Bergdahl, whether he is innocent or guilty. I'm glad he's home. But in exchange for that you cannot put American's lives in danger.


KING: Where does this debate heading? Because you not only have John McCain and a lot of Republicans say the president paid way too high of a price here in freeing these five men blamed for killing Americans and killing others. Even Hillary Clinton through senior aides leaking word that she wanted a tough ever deal when she was in office. Is this going to dog the president?

HENDERSON: Well, it will. I mean, it looks like the House, they want hearings. Perhaps the same thing will happen on the Senate side. I think the question is whether or not this is the new Benghazi, right, where there's going to be all sorts of conversation around this and attacks around this president all for his decision around this issue.

FOURNIER: Both sides are playing politics with this, treating it like a campaign, not a foreign policy issue. Whether or not the swap is a good deal depends on a three things. Whether or not these five terrorists back in the battlefield, in retirement, or in a grave. We shall wait and see what happens.

KING: Wait and see what happens, but this one is not going to go away. Ron Fournier and Nia-Malika Henderson, appreciate you coming.

As we get back to you guys in New York this morning, it is just dead clear. I think everybody is happy Bowe Bergdahl is on his way home, but I do think there are going to be some serious questions about this including whether the president could have found a way to if he couldn't notify all of Congress, at least notify some key leaders.

So he's not getting the heat he's getting now about essentially they think he went around the law and around them to pull this off because he knew, Kate and Chris, it was going to be quite controversial.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Those key leaders are making that absolutely clear of their -- that they think they've been -- that he went around them. That's not sitting well with them. That's for sure.

CUOMO: It's also the politics of it is also confusing the issue that's really at the root of it, which is who makes these calls. You know, everybody always says, well, if you look at the constitution, it's very clear where the executive, where the legislative, but it's not clear. Congress has given presidents a lot of power that they weren't supposed to have.

Presidents in turn have done things they shouldn't have done with respect to Congress. That really has to be just thoroughly debated and put out in the open once and for all. Otherwise you're going to keep having politics like this.

BOLDUAN: Thanks, John. Coming up next on NEW DAY, we're going to be breaking down the dramatic new video that we're talking about. The moment Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl was released by his Taliban captors.

CUOMO: Remember, this is only half of the equation. The other half is this part, the five bad guys given up by the U.S. in return. There was a time we could have given up fewer, lower-level guys, why didn't we? We're going to tell you about the deal that was missed, straight ahead.


MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: Good to have you back with us here on NEW DAY. We are covering breaking news. The moment Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl became a free man captured on video for all the world to see released overnight. It shows the former POW being turned over to the U.S., being flown to freedom on a waiting helicopter. That video was filmed by the Taliban.

Joining us now is retired U.S. Air Force colonel and former deputy director for Training at the NSA, Cedric Leighton. Colonel, really a pleasure to have you here. I cannot tell you how compelling we all feel this video is and I know you feel the same way. Really a rare glimpse of a hostage exchange. I'm curious, to you, what stands out the most.

COLONEL CEDRIC LEIGHTON, U.S. AIR FORCE (RET.): Well, Michaela, it's one of those videos where you can see the operations at work. You look at the way in which the handoff took place. You look at the fact that the Blackhawk helicopters came down and landing on the landing strip and they were looking very carefully at the surrounding area. So the Taliban, of course, were raid with their weapons.

Even had shoulder fired missiles at the ready just in case things went wrong from their standpoint. It was a very tense, very dramatic moment. And it was one of those moments where the public has gotten a glimpse of these exchanges, these exchanges have happened throughout history.

But this particular one is particularly poignant because it occurs in an environment in which the Taliban, which is not a country, has released somebody that, you know, of course, is a member of the U.S. Armed forces.

And it shows how these procedures have worked, at least on the outside. And it is very compelling to see how they've been able to do that and really all the work that went into releasing him comes out, to me at least.

PEREIRA: What's interesting, too, is all that we don't see. We know there were drones. There were other aircraft in the area monitoring the situation. What also struck me, colonel, is how matter of fact is. It is very much like transaction, very much like an everyday business affair.

LEIGHTON: Absolutely. And Michaela, you're right. What it boiled down to us getting together with the Taliban people that in theory we're not supposed to talk to. Get somebody like Bergdahl released. It was very matter of fact, very business like. It was interesting to note that the Taliban looked at this and they were -- it almost seemed disappointed in the fact that they didn't get to spend more time with the American soldiers who were coming to take Sergeant Bergdahl from captivity.

It's almost as if they wanted to have a little bit more of a discussion about things. Shake hands for a longer period, things like that. It was very interesting to note their commentary which was, they're here, they took him, they left, and now they're gone. And so of course the Taliban are looking at this as a great victory for them.

And it's clear that they wanted to exploit this for propaganda purposes. But you can look through it and see, OK, here are the mechanics of the situation as well.

PEREIRA: Well, as you said, you know, they didn't waste any time. U.S. special operations force there's getting in and out. Obviously, they don't know the unpredictable nature of the people they're dealing with. Do you think there's any security concerns that arise from this being made so public?

LEIGHTON: Yes. Because when you look at how these operations work and any time you're sitting in a situation like this or you find yourself in a situation like this. You want to make sure that the security measures that you put in place can be used the next time something like this happens.


LEIGHTON: So, yes, there are some concerns there that some techniques might be revealed. But by and large, you know, this is how these things work and you see a lot of coordination that went into this and real effort on the part of the intelligence community as well as Special Forces to make this happen.

PEREIRA: Colonel, a lot of controversies swirling around this. The fact negotiating with terrorists, could the potential release of this man that they are seeing as -- some are viewing as a deserter, potentially increase kidnappings or other hostage takings? I'm curious what your thought is on all of this. Do you think this is a test case for future negotiations?

LEIGHTON: I do. Because this is the first time that we have publicly entered into negotiations with a terrorist group to this extent. Obviously, we've done it before, you know, you have Iran-contra and all the different things that are associated with getting varied prisoners, whether they were spy or military people, released, you know, all of the way back to the cold war.

But when you look at this for the future I would say, Michaela, the risk for the future is that there are, you know, certain temptations that groups like the Taliban will now have that can probably, you know, exploit to their ends. I think the Taliban themselves are going to be focused more on internal struggles within Afghanistan so we may not see things from them but maybe from other groups.

PERIERA: Really compelling video. A delight to be able to walk through it with you. Retired Colonel Cedric Leighton, a pleasure to have you here with us on NEW DAY.

LEIGHTON: Thank you so much, Michaela. It's been a pleasure to be with you.


BOLDUAN: All right, coming up next on NEW DAY, California Chrome will be racing for history in Saturday's Belmont Stakes looking to become the first Triple Crown winner since 1978. Is he ready for the toughest test in racing? We're going to talk to his trainers about it next.


CUOMO: Got to let the boss sing it out, right? On Saturday California Chrome is hoping to become the boss, the first horse to take the Triple Crown in almost 40 years. Affirmed was the last one to do it. For all the talk about the horse and the jockey, the real truth is it's all about the trainers.

The men behind this great colt, California Chrome are trainers, Art and Alan Sherman, and they join us now from Belmont, New York, the site of the Belmont Stakes. Isn't it true it's all about the trainers, guys?

ART SHERMAN, TRAINER, CALIFORNIA CHROME: I hope so. It has a lot to do with the horse, too.

CUOMO: I guess the horse has something to do with it. Let me ask you an interesting question before we get into how Chrome's feeling. Sketchers hats. We hear that you deal with Sketchers. How does a horse get a shoe deal? Just like a Sketcher's horse shoe, I mean, how does it work?

ART SHERMAN: He just has to wear the apparel.

CUOMO: I've never heard of that. Have you ever heard of a deal like this? Do you think we'll see Nike deals with race horses?

ART SHERMAN: Hopefully they'll get into it.

CUOMO: Who is that laughing in the background?

ART SHERMAN: That's me.

CUOMO: All right, so let's talk about the horse. Is it true that building up to big races you actually see it in the thoroughbreds, that their disposition is different, their energy is different. Do you sense that?

ART SHERMAN: Very much so. I think he looks really great right now. He trained about a half hour ago, had a beautiful gallop, almost two miles. Really looks good.

CUOMO: The jockey, Victor Espinosa, Alan, said that the horse has a little more weight on him. Was that intentional?

ALAN SHERMAN, ASSISTANT TRAINER, CALIFORNIA CHROME: No. He's just growing. They're 3 years old. He's getting stronger, eating great. It's amazing how he's bounced out of these races and keeps getting stronger.

CUOMO: Two main issues, the first one is the race itself. The big reason they say the Triple Crown isn't easy to achieve is obviously the margin between the different thoroughbreds is very small, but that three races is a lot and they're very different. How does California Chrome size up the Belmont race and what makes it special?

ART SHERMAN: Well, I think sizing up to the Belmont it's an endurance race. Being a former jockey as I was for 23 years, I think it's a jockey race to win or lose and you really have to realize that when you think you're at the 3-8 pole, you're at the 4.5. You have to be heads up when you ride a race for a mile and a half.

CUOMO: More of an endurance race? You think that plays to California Chrome's strength, Alan?

ALAN SHERMAN: I don't think the distance will be a problem with him. He's got such a high cruising speed. He hasn't shown that distance will be a problem. Obviously you never know until you run a mile and a half. I have no reason to think he won't.

CUOMO: Do you think he needs the nasal strip? Obviously there was some controversy about it. Belmont had to consider the New York State requirements and wound up going with it. But do you really think he needs it? Do you think he would be the same without it, Art?

ART SHERMAN: Well, I really think that, you know, we don't breeze him with a nasal strip. When we started putting it on him back in December when he won the first state pretty handily. You don't want to change anything. A lot of athletes increase the air passage. When you think of going a mile and a half, you might need a little extra air.

I'm happy that New York Racing Association did give permission to wear that and everybody else that wants to wear it. I'm sure there will be a few trainers that run a nasal strip this weekend.

CUOMO: So, guys, what do you think? Where is the confidence going into the race this weekend? Al and Art, is your horse going to do it? Are we looking at a Triple Crown winner here, Alan?

ALAN SHERMAN: I sure hope so. I don't want to get ahead of myself. I know he'll try hard. The jock will try hard and we're trying hard. I think e he'll do it, but so does everybody else with a horse in the race think they are going to do it.

CUOMO: Art, what's your heart telling you?

ART SHERMAN: I feel more confident coming into this race than any race he's won. He's been on the six-race winning streak. I have good vibes about it. I think they better worry about California Chrome instead of me worrying about anybody else.

CUOMO: I hear that. Certainly he's getting the most play coming into this. I've got my kid's college money on the line here. I'm counting on you. Don't let that Sketchers deal go to your heads. Stay hungry. If you win this one -- you should be looking for the nasal strip deal, not the sneaker deal. I'm not going to buy Sketchers because of the horse. He's not even wearing them. Art, Alan Sherman, the best to both of you. Good luck. We'll be watching. Thanks for joining us on NEW DAY.

ALAN SHERMAN: Thank you so much.

CUOMO: The horse has got a shoe deal, Kate. What's next, Levis?

BOLDUAN: I'm just thinking what am I? The horse gets a shoe deal.

CUOMO: You're way better looking than that horse.

BOLDUAN: Well -- coming up next on NEW DAY, we're going to get back to a big breaking news this morning, Bowe Bergdahl walking freely to U.S. Special Forces in a helicopter taking off. In a new video released by the Taliban, what the Pentagon is saying about that video and what the investigation will say about whether Bergdahl deserted his post.