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CNN TONIGHT

Awaiting Results in Arizona Special Election; Trump Signals Possible Breakthrough on Iran Deal During Macron Meeting; President Trump Praises Kim Jong-un as Honorable; Mulvaney's Advice to Bankers; Source: Only President. Trump Thinks Pruitt Should Stay at EPA; Trump Touts High Poll Numbers, But There's a Catch; Special Election in Arizona to Fill Open House Seat; Study: Trump Voters Driven by Fear of Losing Status, Not Economic Anxiety. Aired 11-12a ET

Aired April 24, 2018 - 23:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[23:00:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DON LEMON, CNN HOST: This is CNN TONIGHT. I'm Don Lemon. It's 11:00 p.m. here on the East Coast. Live with all the breaking news tonight. Results coming in a moment now in that special election in Arizona where Democrats are hoping to keep their recent momentum going in a state that went for Donald Trump by 21 points in 2016.

Plus the growing controversy over the White House physician, Dr. Ronny Jackson. President Trump's pick to head the Veterans Administration under fire tonight over allegations of drinking while on duty and improperly handing out prescription medication-like candy. That is a quote.

And there's more. Sources tell CNN, that Dr. Jackson drunkenly banged on a female employee's door during an overseas trip in 2015. Becoming so disruptive the secret service stopped him out of concern that he had wake then President Barack Obama. Much, much more on all of that in just a moment, but I want to bring in now, "The New York Times" Columnist, Nicholas Kristof, and we are expecting those results in any moment here in Arizona, Nick. So, I need to stop and we will have to go the breaking news and get to our reporter down in Arizona.

But thank you for joining us. What did you make of this first state visit?

NICHOLAS KRISTOF, COLUMNIST, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": It was fascinating, because President Macron was trying desperately to woo President Trump on the issue of the Iran deal, the Europeans and Angela Merkel will be here later this week. They desperately want the U.S. to remain in the Iran deal, because essentially there's no alternative if he blows it up on May 12th.

And President Trump left mixed messages. On the one hand he said it was an insane deal. On the other hand, he said that he seemed to give hints that he might be open to building something new which would probably be some kind of a face saving arrangement in which there are addenda that are agreed to or more time to reach an addenda, but the deal remains in place.

LEMON: How important do you think is this relationship, considering his relationship with Angela Merkel is not this cozy?

KRISTOF: So it's important, because our relations with Europe is important. And Angela Merkel, no longer, I mean, she is the real leader of Europe and she doesn't have that relationship with Washington now. And President Macron has figured out I think very well how to manage President Trump and how to flatter him with parades and pomp, and they had this kind of body talk exchange today.

And I think -- I know in talking with people around the globe in foreign capitals they're all watching President Macron and kind of taking lessons, this is how we manage our relationship with President Trump.

LEMON: Flatter. Flatter. Flatter. OK, again, we manage to break in and we get the results of the special election. But let us move on now and talk about North Korea. I want to get your take on these stunning comments from the President. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Kim Jong-un, he really has been very open, and I think very honorable from everything we're seeing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: So honorable, I mean this man is a brutal dictator. South Korean officials say he ordered the killing of his half-brother. He had his own uncle, his defense minister, top education official executed, and this according to the United Nations, 18 million people in his country don't get enough food and currently three American citizens are being held by his government, and then we know what happened to the U.S. -- Mr. Warmbier sadly. How can you describe him as honorable?

KRISTOF: You know, I'm all in favor of engaging North Korea and having talks, but, yes, I mean this is -- I've been to a lot of repressive countries. I was in the old Soviet Union, the old Eastern Europe. I've lived in China. There's no country in the history of the world who has been as totalitarian as North Korea.

There is a speaker on the wall of each home, piping in propaganda all day. Triplets are considered auspicious, so they're given to the state to raise by other people. There are extraordinary labor camps. You need permission to travel internally. No one can go abroad. Every home has portraits on the wall. If there's a fire in your home, your obligation is to go run in and not save your personal possessions, but save those portraits. And people die each year trying to save the portraits.

You know, and then of course we have the regimes that have used chemical weapons to assassinate some of the Malaysia's, you call the leader of this country very honorable at a time when judges, the FBI, journalists are enemies of people, he seem just bizarre.

LEMON: I'm glad you brought that up, because with Hillary Clinton, he said he is the devil, he called him the devil. James Comey a slime ball, he called Andrew McCabe a total disaster, he's called Joe Biden, crazy, he called Jeb Bush, and he said he is a loser, but Kim Jong-un is honorable?

[23:05:06] KRISTOF: Not only honorably, he is very honorable. You know, I think it speak to the degree in which the North Korean regime I think has played a poor hand exceptionally well indeed in managing President Trump. You get the sense in talking to the White House that there is some great hope that maybe he may even get the Nobel Peace Prize, he is going to pull this peace deal out of a hat. And I think they don't really -- I think they're being played by North Korea.

LEMON: They're working him, they are working him. You know that.

KRISTOF: They're flattering him in the same way that other people are. And I don't think the White House understands that so far the concessions have really been made by Washington and not by Pyongyang.

LEMON: This is a released when he called Kim Jong-un little rocket man. Take a look at this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Rocket man is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime. North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States. They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: He has called Kim Jong-un short and fat in a tweet. So what do you think is behind this 180? Do you think that he is underestimating Kim Jong-un? Do you think that he really thinks he is changed?

KRISTOF: I think that he has -- that President Trump is genuinely hopeful that they may be able to work out a deal involving a peace treaty, denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, he wins international respect, maybe gets his Nobel Peace Prize and how do you put it, this is delusional. This really is.

The North Korea, I think has managed expectations very well. Their idea of denuclearization is essentially that the U.S. pulls South Korea out of our nuclear umbrella and I think that what they are trying to do is have an agreement, move toward a real peace agreement and armistice that ended the Korean war and start a procession of discussions that lasts over the number of years and in the meantime North Korea is a de facto recognized as a nuclear state.

LEMON: So what do you think, because he wants sort of denuclearization. He wants them to get rid of their nuclear weapons. What are the possibilities of that?

KRISTOF: I find it, and I think almost anybody who follows North Korea finds it almost unimaginable that North Korea will anytime soon hand over all of its nuclear weapons and allow its inspections. We should point out that as we speak in the run up to this meeting -- so indeed they're not testing, but they are continuing as far we are told to produce plutonium at their site in Yongbyon and either they have a new light water reactor that apparently can produce plutonium there. So we haven't even got a suspension of their production of nuclear materials.

LEMON: Yes. Let's talk about Iran, because he start -- the President started the day, he railed against the Iran deal. He called it insane and ridiculous, but then later in the day at a news conference he said this. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: We can be flexible. You know, in life you have to be flexible. And as leaders of countries you have to show flexibility.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: What do you read into this? Could Macron have changed his mind on -- somehow on this deal?

KRISTOF: I find that heartening. I think there is an element of hope there. Essentially what Macron and the Europeans want to do is they are negotiating a series of addenda that would not be part of the nuclear deal as such, but that would promise restraints on Iran. And so they are hoping to persuade President Trump that this is in effect a new deal, and we're responding to your appeals. And so your input helped change the arrangements for Iran. They're very much trying to flatter him. And if it's done through addenda there's some possibility that it would indeed succeed. If it's done by pulling out of the Iran deal, then the deal is off.

LEMON: How much of his opposition is -- because it was put in place by --

KRISTOF: By President Obama.

LEMON: Yes. There you go.

KRISTOF: I think an awful lot of President Trump's foreign policy is explicable in terms of looking what President Obama did and doing the opposite.

LEMON: Do you think someone like Macron could broker a new deal with tweets that would satisfy President Trump?

KRISTOF: I think there's no way to do a new Iran deal. To negotiate a new Iran deal. And Javad Zarif, the Foreign Minister of Iran has told me and others that they are simply not going to re-negotiate a deal. You know, they're not going to give new concessions to us without demanding new concessions, China and Russia aren't going to enter in a new deal.

LEMON: So you don't think other partners would be --

KRISTOF: I think there's zero chance of a full new Iran deal. This notion of addenda of side deals between the U.S. and Europe, I think that is plausible. But it would be President Trump to some degree backing down from previous positions. I hope he will do that. I hope that will be the manifestation of the flexibility that he referred to.

[23:10:04] LEMON: As I said at the top of this, we're waiting on results from the Arizona special election. I mean this is -- President Trump won this by 21 points and now --

KRISTOF: I mean, the expectations are that the Republicans, they are still going to pull through, but everyone's watching to see what the margin is. And no it's not impossible that a Democrat would win.

LEMON: Yes. All right. We'll have the results, so stand by everyone. Thank you Nick Kristof.

KRISTOF: Good to be with you.

LEMON: We appreciate it. When we come back the White House doctor facing shocking allegations of drinking on duty and handing out prescription meds like candy as the administration sends out mixed messages about Dr. Ronny Jackson's nomination to head the Veterans Administration. So, does President Trump support his own nominee or not?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: We're getting results now in that special election in Arizona. I told you about at the beginning of this hour, where Democrats are hoping to keep their recent momentum going in a state that went for Trump by 21 points. So let's get down to Arizona now and Kyung Lah. She is live there for us. Kyung, what's going on?

KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you can see the stage is set. The governor of Arizona has just arrived. You can see some of the photographs as he is walking in. The anticipation was that she is going to win. That is everything that we've heard, that the Republican was going to take this. It was that margin that you've been talking about throughout all of this, Don. And what we've seen so far from the Arizona secretary of State is so far that margin is 6 percent.

[23:15:00] That 6 percent margin I'm getting from a Democratic source here in Arizona is quote, "A perfect scenario for the Democrats in this state." And the reason they say that is because this is district, a congressional district that Trump won by 21 points. The fact that right now with early vote counts, and this is the majority of the totals, that it is in the single digits, Democrats are feeling very good right now, Don.

LEMON: Yes.

LAH: So, you know, we still have to wait to see what happens with the rest of this race, but right now with these first numbers stumped the Democrats are feeling quite positive about what this says in the fall mid-terms. LEMON: So, listen, Debbie Lesko is expected to win, as you said in in

(inaudible) but, I mean, it is close. But I am wondering then, what does this mean for Democrats in Trump country?

LAH: You know, that is what this is all about. Because this is district that Trump won by 21 points, but yet Debbie Lesko is at least at this point of the vote count only ahead in the single digits. What Democrats are saying is that this portends some major pick up in these congressional districts.

Here in Arizona they're predicting that this is going to be very positive for Democrats down the line, because, Don, they didn't run a candidate. The Democrats didn't run. Democrats didn't run a candidate in the last two congressional cycles here, because that is how bright red this congressional district is.

If you look also at the early voting numbers, registered Republicans as far as ballots cast -- had a 20-point advantage of the ballots that were cast here so far just in the early vote. But, you know, again much more counting has to be done. We're still waiting for those final numbers from the Arizona Secretary of State. But we're already hearing a spin from Democrats that they feel that what this says about the so-called blue wave is that it, yes, they think it may be crashing in some part here in Arizona.

But the tea leaves here is that they do believe that there is no congressional district that isn't at least partially vulnerable given what they're seeing here in this particular district tonight.

LEMON: All right, Kyung Lah. Kyung, standing by in Arizona for us. Thank you Kyung, we appreciate it. When we get the final results we'll get back to Kyung Lah.

I want to bring in now CNN Political Commentator, Matt Lewis and Symone Sanders and also Republican Strategist, Rick Wilson. So, Rick, let's talk about this. What is your theory here? Is this a win but not a win for Democrats? Break this down for us.

RICK WILSON, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, look, this is a very deep Red State where the President performed very, very well. And it's one more sign that we're not talking about the usual nix in an off-year election where there would be 20 to 30 seats in play. We are talking about a year where there are 70 or 80 or maybe even more seats in play. And almost all of those places are where Republicans are either marginal, where Democrats are looking quite strong right now, because of Trump or that Republicans are going to have to put in an awful lot more effort than they expected in seats like this in Arizona where normally this should not be -- this should be a sleeper.

Normally this should be a race where the candidate more or less could spend their time in a hot tub for the rest of the campaign and come out on top. But in this year it's just quite evident that there's nowhere you can sleep as a Republican candidate unless you've got one eye open and you are raising money to compete. And frankly, given the amount of resources that the National Party had to put into this race, it should be a warning sign, you know, a flashing red light for the Republicans that Donald Trump has caused a big movement among Democrats and turned up their voter intensity to a level we haven't seen in a very, very long time.

LEMON: Symone, what's your take on the votes coming in?

SYMONE SANDERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: My take on the votes is that this bodes very well for Democrats when you look at the 2018 mid- term election. Folks keep talking about the United States senate is in play for Democrats. If in fact the Senate is in play, there is not a path for Democrats taking back the senate without Arizona.

And so what we also saw today, Don, in a poll -- a survey that came out locally by ABC 15, our local affiliate there in Phoenix and O.H. and another entity that the presumptive Democratic nominee Kirsten Gillibrand, let Kirsten Gillibrand is actually leading the Republican Senators, McSally and Joe Arpaio. And that now, it's still early. There's still a primary that has to be waived and won and then we go into a general election.

But the landscape is looking favorable for Democrats to play in this seat. So I think looking forward to 2018 you're going to see folks getting down there in Arizona and putting up some ads, doing some work and some organizing and knocking on a lot of doors, because we want the senate.

LEMON: OK. Matt, in the interest of time I want to move on now and talk about the V.A. nominee, OK? So, CNN is now learning that Dr. Ronny Jackson, according to secret service, they had to stop. Dr. Ronny Jackson from drunkenly banging on a hotel door with female employee while on an overseas trip for fear of waking up President Barack Obama.

[23:20:00] And that -- this was one of multiple drunken episodes on overseas trips. It's hard to see how this nomination isn't in serious trouble.

MATT LEWIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, well, it is in serious trouble. And in fact today it sounded like Donald Trump was trying to talk him into withdrawing the nomination himself. Look, a wise man has written a book we should all preorder about how everything Donald Trump touches dies. And I think there's a lot of truth to that. You know, Nikki Haley may be the only person --

LEMON: You stole Rick's line, by the way.

(LAUGHTER)

LEWIS: Nikki Haley may be the only person who actually prospered during the Trump era by being around Trump. Otherwise it's a disaster. And part of the problem actually is that Donald Trump has promoted people who are just not ready to be promoted and that is actually a disservice to those people, it is a thought of doing them a favor. And he is also called attention to people who frankly are better off not having attention called to them. Like, Michael Flynn, was a pretty respective guy, once upon a time. Paul Manafort was doing pretty well for himself before he got involved in a Presidential campaign, and this is the latest casualty now apparently.

LEMON: Yes. Well, Rick, you know, "The Washington Post" is reporting that Dr. Jackson offered to drop out. The President said, no, he wants him to fight on. I mean that is not the way the President sounded earlier.

WILSON: You know, that is just -- that is almost sadistic at this point. This guy's nomination is fundamentally -- it's dead, but he is too done to lay down quite yet. And I'm sorry to say that the bigger concern, although these accusations against him are lowery and pretty horrible, and I don't know what the whole truth of that is, we do know that Jackson is never prepared to run an organizations as large, complex, and consequential as the V.A.

We do know he wasn't ready for this job. And so now I think, you know, Trump publicly stating one thing, he could dropped out if he wants, he should stay if he wants, I love him, I hate him, I love him, that sort of whipsaw effect that doesn't do this guy's, you know, future prospects any great service in this situation.

And I think that, you know, it's unfortunate for Jackson, you know, who apparently had some other issues in his career. But the White House, they're never ready with these guys, because they don't pick people who are particularly knowledgeable or skillful or experienced. They pick people that Trump think look the part or that he is comfortable with for whatever reason. And look, I guess if some guy walks out and says, oh, you know, Donald Trump is 7 feet tall and has the body of an NFL athlete at the age of 25, then Trump's going to love that. And so, it is certainly, you know, the decisions he makes picking these people are not explicable by normal political terms.

LEMON: Does he have the body of a 25-year-old athlete? I thought, no, kidding.

(LAUGHTER)

WILSON: So Matt --

If the sport is eating Kentucky Fried Chicken and drinking magnums of gravy.

LEMON: Aw. OK, let's move on now. So, let's remember what the President said at a fund-raiser about why he nominated the White House doctor to run federal Government second largest agency, watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: he's like central casting, like a Hollywood star. He is going to leave now and go make a movie.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: So Symone, is President Trump more concerned with the way someone looks, if they look the part in the role rather than they can really perform in the role? SANDERS: Absolutely. We've seen the President time and time again

talk about central casting, talk about someone that looks like the idea of whatever the position is, because Donald Trump, the fact the matter is, he still thinks he is running a reality TV show. I am extremely concern that it seems it though the White House has not mastered the art of the deal, let alone the art of vetting, Don.

LEMON: This is really about the vetting process that there was not --

SANDERS: Yes.

LEMON: You know, whether he is, you know, accused of these things or is found guilty of these things, guilty of them or not, there was no vetting process. I'm sorry, go ahead, Symone.

SANDERS: No, I mean no vetting whatsoever. Vetting his own point, I mean this isn't rocket science. One could argue, OK, fine, Trump people are new, they don't know, but there are processes in place. You know, this isn't first time somebody has a nominated a V.A. secretary or a cabinet secretary for that matter. And so, you just basically vet people, do a Google search, do a little a background check. Do some internal research. I was on an e-mail chain the other day about a project I am working on and two people were in an ad for all of 20 seconds and we vetted them, because that is in fact what you do. So the fact that the White House can't get it together is extremely concerning.

LEMON: OK. All right I got --

LEWIS: And looks could be deceiving.

LEMON: I got to get to a break.

LEWIS: Tillerson look like a good Secretary of State, you know, Michael Cohen looks like a good consiglieri, but --

LEMON: Look, as far as 25 years old, I don't have that body so, you know, who am I to talk? So anyway, stay with me. When we come back another member of the Trump administration facing bad news tonight.

Sources tells CNN, essentially everyone, but Trump wants him gone.

[23:25:00] We are going to tell you who that is, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: So whatever happened to President Trump's claim that he is draining the swamp and his insistence to bring in only the best people? Back with me now, Matt Lewis, Symone Sanders, and Rick Wilson. So this is a case in point, Rick, "The New York Times" is reporting that Mick Mulvaney, the interim Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, told banking executives and lobbyists that they should increase their campaign donations to influence lawmakers.

Mulvaney reportedly said in a conference that we had a hierarchy in my office in Congress adding that if you're a lobbyist who never gave us money, I didn't talk to you. If you are a lobbyist who gave us money, I might talk to you. Did he say the quiet part out loud, do you think, here?

WILSON: He said the quiet parts out loud and unfortunately for Mulvaney, you know, this isn't -- this isn't exactly a secret of how Washington works for both parties. Mind you, this is an equal opportunity swamp in this case. But, you know, we try to at least have sort of the polite manners. We don't talk about the crazy uncle in the basement and we don't talk about how basically both -- members of both parties are members of this sort of crony capitalist handwashing group, where, you know, lobbyist who come in with the biggest checkbook, tend to get the best results. And we shouldn't be proud of that necessarily, but Mulvaney sort of laid it out on the table.

And he's frankly proposing to banking the targets of people he should be regulating how to avoid the regulatory things that he is required by law to execute on. So it's quite a moment. It's quite a naked moment there for him in terms of the explicit nature of what he said about something that we all know goes on but we shouldn't be proud of as a country.

LEMON: Yes. Matt, we talked about Scott Pruitt before, the EPA chief, also on thin ice after several weeks of drip, drip, drip of allegations regarding ethical lapses. The shoe seemed to drop weekly when it comes to Pruitt. First, do you think that he can continue on as the head of the EPA?

LEWIS: As long as Donald Trump likes him, that's what matters. This is a guy who had he been somebody else, he would have been gone a long time ago. And Donald Trump still supports him and so he's still there. What do you do? You throw your hands up.

Now we're even seeing conservative members of the Senate who are allies of his now turning against him. But as long as Donald Trump likes him -- and remember Pruitt, I felt the most dangerous point was when he went on Fox News against the White House's advice.

LEMON: And wasn't prepared.

LEWIS: And wasn't prepared.

LEMON: So why does the president keep him? A source is telling CNN that essentially everyone wants him gone but Trump.

LEWIS: I think that he probably flatters Trump and he is getting things done in terms of regulatory projects at the EPA. But, you know, Donald Trump is capricious. I mean, he could wake up tomorrow morning and be upset about something.

LEMON: Yes. So, Symone, the fact that the president is still keeping Pruitt around after everything he has done, what does that tell you about how the president views Pruitt's ethics?

SYMONE SANDERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think the president does not think these ethics violations matter. I think that says just as much about Scott Pruitt as it does about the president and the type of administration that he's running. Look, the fact of the matter here is that Donald Trump may still want to keep Scott Pruitt but the criticism on Capitol Hill is becoming louder and louder.

So much so that you have Scott Pruitt's, one of his political mentors is the person leading the -- calling for an investigation into the ethic violations that Scott Pruitt has been, you know, allegedly participating in. So I think it's going to come to a point where it's just not feasible for the White House to hold onto Scott Pruitt and he will in fact be let go.

It is again problematic that Scott Pruitt, someone who does not believe the EPA should be protecting the environment, is the administrator of the EPA. You can talk about regulations but I'd like to note that just today --

(LAUGHTER)

SANDERS: -- Scott Pruitt -- it's not funny, but you got a lot to keep from crying because Scott Pruitt in the EPA rolled back regulations on using science within the agency and scientists to do their work. So this is just a kerfuffle all over the place, Don.

And last thing I want to note about the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is that Mick Mulvaney, if folks remember, he fought to have this job. Donald Trump appointed Mick Mulvaney as the Consumer Financial Protections Bureau head when there was a woman that was already there, that according to the law was written, she was supposed to be the head.

He fought her for this job only to go in and undermine consumers and the job he is supposed to do at every single turn. So he should not be there. And I hope that folks on Capitol Hill call for his resignation.

LEMON: Rick, speaking of being prepared, we're talking about going on Fox News and doing an interview with Ed Henry. White House official tells CNN that Pruitt refused White House assistance to prepare for upcoming hearings in the House this week which baffled aides. Your thoughts on that.

WILSON: Scott Pruitt has gone rogue over there. He's enjoying -- he's got his own bunker apparently in the EPA now. And I think there's a reason that the White House staff has got agitated about it because guys like Marc Short and John Kelly, they're nervous about the way that the EPA interfaces with Congress and the Senate, and they recognize that Pruitt is kind of a gunslinger figure.

But I think that's what Trump loves about him. I think Matt is exactly right. Trump loves this guy in part because he's out there burning things down and triggering the rest of America into saying, well, wait did he really just undue this or that environmental regulation?

Most people are reasonably comfortable with even though there are things that the EPA over-regulates most certainly. He's taking a meat- ax to the place rather than a scalpel. And I think that's something Trump likes because it quote, triggers the leaves, and makes everyone else in the country go, what the hell is this guy up to?

[23:35:05] But his behavior and the sort of grand petty corruption stuff that we're seeing from him, I think the Congress will lose confidence in the guy. It will be harder and harder to get anything done outside of the regulatory space. And eventually even Trump gets bored with his toys and throws them off.

LEMON: Rick, Symone, Matt, thank you. Appreciate it. When we come back, the president boasting about his poll numbers, but there's a catch in that poll and he could be in more trouble than he thinks.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: Results coming in tonight in the special election in Arizona to fill an open seat. I want to bring in now Harry Enten, CNN politics senior writer and analyst, and CNN Political Commentator, Catherine Rampell, an opinion columnist for "The New York Post." I'm so glad to have both of you in the studio tonight.

So let's get some analysis here. What's your analysis on this special election in Arizona? Trump won this district by 21 points, but nationally Democrats have had a boost, do you think by this anti-Trump fervor?

HARRY ENTEN, CNN POLITICS SENIOR WRITER AND ANALYST: I think absolutely. I mean it's not just the Arizona 8th congressional district, right? We've had nine now.

[23:40:00] Nine congressional districts or congressional special elections and we've seen an average shift off the partisan baseline of 17 percentage points in the Democrat's favor and you're seeing that again this evening.

So, yes, I would say that it's a national wave that is occurring. It's not just about this individual district.

LEMON: What do you think?

CATHERINE RAMPELL, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think Democrats are getting a little ahead of their skis here. This is very good news certainly for the Democrats. This is district that went for Donald Trump by more than 20 points, went for Mitt Romney by more than 20 points. So it should not be won by the Republicans within single digits --

LEMON: But Democrats are looking at it through the lens (ph) of Alabama and Pennsylvania.

RAMPELL: Right. And the thing to keep in mind is that this is the second special election that we've had within six weeks that was prompted by a sexual misconduct scandal of the part of the outgoing Republican congressman, right? So you had that in Pennsylvania which the Democrat did ultimately win and you had that here in Arizona.

So it's a little bit hard to tell how much you can extrapolate from these specific races. And beyond that, you also have to keep in mind that even if there is a Democratic wave and I do think Democrats are going to do much better in this election than they did in the last election, you have to keep in mind that there's been so much gerrymandering that basically Democrats have to win the national popular vote by something like 11 percentage points to actually retake the House, according to (INAUDIBLE) NYU.

So they have to do so well, so unbelievably well, better than they done basically in the last 30 years. And so even if they do better than they have done recently, it still might not be enough.

LEMON: Harry, I want to put up this. This is new Gallup poll, OK? Here's the headline. Trump's re-elect figure similar to those of Obama and Clinton. Here it is. Thirty-seven percent of U.S. voters say Trump deserves re-election. Obama in 2010 was at 37 percent. Bill Clinton in 1994 was at 38 percent. But there is a catch here, right? What is it?

ENTEN: Take a look at that graph and you'll see that there's a slight difference in the time of which those polls were taken versus the Trump or Obama and Clinton, right? Instead of looking, let's say, October '94 and October 2010 numbers for Obama and Clinton, let's look back to about March of those particular cycles and you will see there is a large difference and there it is right on the screen right there.

LEMON: So what are you saying?

ENTEN: If you look at those numbers, you'll see Obama and Clinton are running well ahead of where Trump is at this particular point in their terms. Remember, when we get to October, there is going to be a lot of error that is going to be aired against Donald Trump going into the midterm cycle because he is a weak president, his approval ratings is low.

So let's see when we get to October if he's at that point comparable to both Obama and Clinton because right now where the numbers are standing at this point, he's in fact running far behind where they were at their particular points in their presidency.

LEMON: Very interesting. OK, your latest column from "The Washington Post" says tax cuts were supposed to save the GOP from Trump. You point out in recent poll from NBC and "The Wall Street Journal" that shows that just 27 percent of Americans think the tax plan was a good idea. And Republicans say let's talk about the great tax plan. I guess that's the president's signature accomplishment at this point.

RAMPELL: This is one and only legislative --

LEMON: What does that mean come November?

RAMPELL: It can't be good for Republicans, right? This was supposed to the thing that was going to save them, that was going to distract from all of this terrible scandals that you have coming out of this White House, not only from Trump himself, but from his many cabinet members, many of whom have been accused of various kinds of impropriety, wasting taxpayer funds, et cetera, on private jet.

This was supposed to distract from that. We're going to forget about the Russia investigation for a moment because we're going to be so excited having a little more pocket money coming from our paychecks, thanks to this tax cut, that we will all go out and rush to the polls and vote Republicans come November. And in fact, that's not what's happening.

And we saw this again in Pennsylvania where initially a lot of the ads in that special election were about tax cuts and as the election went on, those campaign ads dropped off because they were not resonating with voters. Trump himself was supposed to give a speech about a month ago in which he was going to be touting the miracle of this tax cut. When he got there, you may recall, he literally threw up his notes, right?

LEMON: He said I'm going to throw this out.

RAMPELL: He said forget it, this is boring. I'm going to talk about caravans and rapist immigrants and voter fraud. So this is not having the same kind of appeal that Republicans are desperate for it to have.

LEMON: Quickly, I want to talk you, guys, about the Dow Jones stock market. Dow Jones stumbling 425 points. Wow, is the Dow down? Because it happened so much. I think over the past five straight days, it has fallen. It's been on an upward trajectory for years now, but still how does this bode for the GOP and the president if the economy goes down south?

ENTEN: I would just say the only thing that's keeping Trump's numbers up right now is the state of the economy. That's where Trump is having the strongest numbers. And if say the economy goes up and voters feel it's going south, watch out. I don't think we have began to see the floor which Donald Trump would potentially hit. He could fall into the 30s, perhaps in the upper 20s if the economy really falls out and his approval ratings --

RAMPELL: And I'm obligated to say here, of course, the stock market is not the economy. They're two very different things.

LEMON: Right.

RAMPELL: But there are a lot of self-inflicted wounds that --

LEMON: He always says, look at the stock market.

RAMPELL: Well, he says that until the stock market goes down.

(LAUGHTER)

[23:45:02] RAMPELL: But the thing to keep in mind of course is that there are all of these self-inflicted wounds. We have a potential trade war. We have, you know, Trump lashing out at private companies on Twitter. There are a lot of things that he's doing that are making businesses a little skittish even if they're excited that they got this big tax cut.

LEMON: Yes. Catherine, thank you. Harry, thank you. I appreciate it. When we come back, what motivates a Trump voter? Well, it might be the economy after all. It might not be the economy after all. Just might be fear.

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LEMON: So the conventional wisdom about the 2016 election was that it was left behind voters struggling economically who voted Donald Trump into office. But a new study suggests it wasn't economic worries that got Trump elected. It was fear among white Christian male voters that they would lose their place at the top of the heap.

I want to bring in now the author of that study, her name is Diana Mutz, a professor of political science and communication at the University of Pennsylvania. Also, CNN Contributor, Salena Zito, a columnist for "The New York Post." Good evening to both of you. Thank you for joining us. Professor, I'm going to start with you.

DIANA MUTZ, PROFESSOR OF POLITICAL SCIENCE AND COMMUNICATION, UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA: Thank you.

LEMON: I would like to read a portion of your study which I think gets to the heart of it. Compared to other political uprisings where underrepresented groups demand better treatment, you write this.

[23:49:58] That the 2016 election was an effort by members of already dominant groups to assure their continued dominance. Explain that for us. Tell us a little bit more about your study.

MUTZ: Well, I think what's really changed in America in recent years, many people find threatening. And we have on one hand the rise of majority/minority America that happened already among school-aged children. But on top of that, we also have globalization and the interdependence of our economy with other economies around the world. And that is seen as a threat to the idea that America is a dominant economic superpower.

And those two forms of status threat really combine to make Americans insecure and far more so than they were in 2012, for example. And that's really what we're looking at, to what extent people feel like the American way of life is threatened, but by the American way of life, they have a more nostalgic version of the America way of life and change is very, very difficult. It makes the groups who were once dominant feel like they're no longer going to be dominant.

LEMON: You told the Times that, quote, it used to be a pretty good deal to be a white Christian male in America, but things have changed. What changed?

MUTZ: Yes, I don't think it's a bad deal, but the fact is white men held a very privileged position. And it was difficult for women as well as minorities to achieve those same positions. Now things are opening up and that's difficult. I think it's hard for people not to see one group doing better and think oh, that means my group must be doing less well.

And that's what we see. People tend to see it as a zero sum game where if minorities and women are doing better, well, men and whites must be doing worse. I don't think that's necessarily the case.

LEMON: How big of a role does race play in your findings?

MUTZ: Race plays a very important role, but it plays less of a role in a different kind of role than you might think in changing people's votes. The way we do this study is we asked the same people in 2012, a whole battery of different kinds of issue opinions, and we do that again right before the 2016 election.

And for the most part, Republicans vote Republican and Democrats vote for the Democratic candidate. There isn't really a lot to explain there. But if you look at what made people who were previously supporting the Democratic candidate switch to the Republican in 2016, that's where what we see this threat come in and it's an important force in what flipped people to support a different party than they had previously.

LEMON: OK. I want to bring Salena in now. Salena, you've been sitting by patiently. Do you agree with the study? Does it match what you saw on the ground in the campaign and sense?

SALENA ZITO, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, yeah. I wrote this in August of 2016. I had driven -- I wrote an article for The New York Post. I said look, what we're seeing with the typical vote -- trump voter or the stereotype wasn't matching up with what I was seeing in my reporting. And that they were middle class up to upper middle class.

They didn't -- they lived in suburban to exurban to rural areas. And part of their anguish with the status quo was that they felt a loss of power because they were -- you know, not power in the way we think of like Washington or in a board room, but power within the community.

That their children and their grandchildren and the family down the line was not going to be able to have the same opportunities in the community that their father's father's father lived in. And that was frustrating to them because these are people who were able to grow up in this community and be able to work their way up into whatever field that they chose and they exceeded that and they were able to have a home, to have a car, and to have the family live down the street.

LEMON: Yes.

ZITO: And they saw this eroding away. And they're also less mobile. And they didn't look at that as a disadvantage. They liked being rooted in the same area for generations.

LEMON: Let me jump in here, Salena. The Dr. Mutz makes an interesting point in the study when she points out that Trump's victory really was about helping those who had been left behind. There would be more support for strengthening the public safety net. Yet that's not something most Trump voters support. Do voters' fear motivate them to vote against their best interests, their own best interest?

[23:55:02] ZITO: Oh, voters vote against their own best interest all the time.

(LAUGHTER) ZITO: You know, a lot of it -- I mean, they just do.

LEMON: Yes.

ZITO: And they're always trying to send Washington a message. And ultimately, Washington always gets it wrong and misreads it and they just throw them out every midterm election. I mean, that's just been our pattern for a couple hundred years.

LEMON: Yes. I have just a couple seconds left. Go ahead, bottom line it for us, professor.

MUTZ: I was going to say that's exactly what we find. People don't want to move even when there are jobs available elsewhere. And the people who are really hurting the most -- and there are people out there hurting -- they're not the people who actually turned against -- I mean, turned in favor of Trump and against the Democratic Party. So it counters the whole narrative of the left behind being the motivation.

LEMON: Yes. Thank you both, I appreciate it. Thanks for much. That's it for us tonight. Thanks for watching. I'll see you right back here tomorrow. Good night.

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