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Meghan McCain's Eulogy for her Father Examined for Possible References to President Trump; New Polls Indicates Low Approval Ratings for President Trump; Midterm Elections; Tropical Storm Gordon. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired September 3, 2018 - 8:00   ET


[08:00:00] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He is irreplaceable to the United States Senate.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's really no good news for the president in this poll.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Over the next two months, Republicans have to point out the success.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When you run with an outlier poll, you're warming up for the same kind of disappointment that you got on November 8th, 2016.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People want to see Mueller and his investigation play out.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The conservative movement is not dead. But it is on life support.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota on John Berman.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to a special holiday edition of NEW DAY. It is Labor Day of course, Monday, September 3rd, 8:00 in the east. John Berman is off enjoying the holiday with his family. You are skipping a breakfast barbeque to be with me, which I really appreciate it.

JOHN AVLON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: You know what, it's a good time.

CAMEROTA: Thanks, it's good to have you here.

So let's talk about what has just happened. There were these five days of national mourning, and it ended with a final salute to Senator John McCain. The war hero was laid to rest Sunday next to his best friends at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. The McCain family released this photo of Cindy McCain weeping over her husband's casket.

On Saturday, former presidents, family, friends and political leaders honored McCain's lifetime of service at the memorial at Washington's National Cathedral.

AVLON: McCain's daughter Meghan remembering her father as a hero in a touching eulogy while taking a swipe at President Trump.


MEGHAN MCCAIN, JOHN MCCAIN'S DAUGHTER: We gather here to mourn the passing of American greatness, the real thing, not cheap rhetoric from men who will never come near the sacrifice he gave so willingly, nor the opportunistic appropriation of those who live lives of comfort and privilege while he suffered and served.


AVLON: Following McCain's death there's been a lot of talk about bipartisanship and the lack of civility in politics today. But what, if anything, will change in Washington? The political bickering will certainly be put to the test when confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh begin tomorrow, and as the country turns its attention to midterm elections less than 70 days in November.

Let's bring in Seong Min Kim, our White House reporter for "The Washington Post," and Susan Glasser, CNN global affairs analyst and staff writer for "The New Yorker."

CAMEROTA: Ladies, great to have you here. Thank you so much for being with us. Happy Labor Day to you. Susan, I want to start with you and the headline and gist of your piece which is that what we saw on Saturday with all the former presidents and all of the people lauding John McCain was the biggest resistance meeting to date. What does that mean?

SUSAN GLASSER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, look, certainly John McCain had a year to orchestrate this funeral service in the cathedral, and he seemed determined to from the grave push every button. He asked the two presidents he had run against, George W. Bush and Barack Obama, to appear at his funeral service. He meant to show a united front in effect against Trumpism, and the idea that there were core American values shared by leaders in both parties regardless of their policy differences.

I think it was a majestic display of that. Was the room filled with hypocrites, sinners more than saints? Of course it was. It's been fascinating to see the reaction over the last couple days. I spoke with Jeff Flake who, like McCain, was one of the few remaining public Republican critics of President Trump on Capitol Hill. And just his mere speaking out these days makes people on both sides crazy. He said to me, I think the fever will break, it must somehow.

It didn't sound super convincing, and it's amazing to see Democrats on the one hand are furious with him for not doing more, and, of course, fellow Republicans have not joined him in speaking out against the president. So right now, does the funeral change anything? No, of course it doesn't change anything in some lightning strike. But I think it did effectively show what John McCain wanted it to show, which is that there's another way of doing politics in America. AVLON: But a core bit of optimism you heard somewhere in that Flake

comment that the fever will break with perhaps this maverick memorial being a catalyst. I want to play a clip of President Obama's remarks because they really did touch on that with a sense of perspective.


BARACK OBAMA, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: So much of our politics, our public life, our public discourse can seem small and mean and petty, trafficking in bombast and insult and phony controversies and manufactured outrage. It's a politics that pretends to be brave and tough but in fact is born of fear. John called on us to be bigger than that.


[08:05:09] AVLON: That is such a line that is really resonating with people, but as we go into the Brett Kavanaugh hearings, it's likely that that aspiration of bipartisanship is going to fall away to those politics that are mean and petty and bitter and small. Tell me where I'm wrong.

SEUNG MIN KIM, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER "WASHINGTON POST": I don't think you're wrong in this sense, and neither is Susan in the fact that there will be no lightning strike. The politics and the bitter partisan politics that we've seen over the last however long is not going to change just because of McCain's funeral. And you're going to see that contention throughout the midterms and with the president's rhetoric, with the Kavanaugh hearings this week.

But also it's really interesting just how -- because if you look at these words on their own with what was said during the funeral, essentially if you just look at the words themselves, it's a basic restatement of American values, but as with anything, you can't look at these words in a vacuum and contrast it with the president's new brand of politics that he has brought in under his campaign and under his presidency. And the fact that those words were seen as a rebuke, a basic restatement of values was seen as a rebuke to the president was pretty remarkable, and I think that's something we should remember.

CAMEROTA: Let's listen for a moment also to former president George W. Bush eulogizing John McCain.


GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: Those in political power were not exempt. At various points throughout his long career John confronted policies and practices that he believed were unworthy of his country. To the face of those in authority, John McCain would insist we are better than this. America is better than this.


CAMEROTA: Susan, it was so interesting to me as I listened to that, whether you are a fan of President Trump or a critic of President Trump, it is impossible to imagine him eulogizing John McCain. So John McCain didn't want him there, but it is impossible to imagine him saying poignant words about John McCain who he basically made it his platform that he didn't like and that he was against.

GLASSER: Well, that's right, and he continued, by the way, to criticize McCain in the most personal terms even just days before his death. And I think -- I was in the room at the cathedral for this service, and it was a very, very powerful restatement of a core way of doing politics. What does it say about America that civility is now controversial? I mean, really, that's the thing that I keep coming back to is what is wrong with people.

You should see, even just writing -- you guys know it well, but just writing an article restating, quoting those quotes from Barack Obama and George W. Bush, I made a tweet from the cathedral and I said isn't it something, a reminder of the past in American politics to see Hillary Clinton and Dick Cheney sitting next to each other. My goodness, the Internet exploded.

CAMEROTA: Don't read that stuff.

GLASSER: They don't even want people to sit next to each other.

CAMEROTA: No, they don't. Don't read that. Don't read Twitter. Don't read it. Just say no. Just say no.


AVLON: But given this consensus that everyone in the room at the cathedral understands, any student of American history understands, where civility does seem idealistic, how do we help it find some spine in Congress where it counts?

KIM: Congress really is a reflection of where the voters are and where the broader politics of America is, so as the country becomes more polarized, so does Congress itself. It really does reflect the will of the voters. So I think once member of Congress hear from their constituent change, that might break the fever. I think one major test we'll see is the midterm elections. How much of November's results will be a rebuke of the president and his brand of politics, and will that mark a turning point for members of Congress? That's yet to be seen but that would be one of the first major tests.

And this is well before Trump's presidency, but members of Congress tell me that they rarely hear from their constituents begging them to compromise. Democrats are hearing from their base to go as progressive as they can. Republicans hear from their voters to stand their ground and to be as conservative -- firm in their conservative values as they can. So it really does reflect what their constituents tell them, and I think that's something that voters should think about in the coming weeks, in the coming months.

CAMEROTA: That's a really important point, and I think you're right. I think that is the old style versus substance issue, stylistically people might want people to be more civil, and stylistically and rhetorically they might want to see people attempt compromise, but substantively people are very dug in on their positions of what they want to see.

[08:10:16] AVLON: Or we've got a moderate majority of folks who aren't as agitated as the extremes, and so they're not taking to the streets and yelling be reasonable. And maybe they need to start doing that.

CAMEROTA: Susan, let's look at the latest ABC News poll that shows a high disapproval rating for President Trump, 60 percent. His approval rating at the moment is only 36 percent. We'll see what other polls suggest. This is obviously just one. But the fact that this has spiked over the course of just since last month, why is that? What do we think is causing the high negatives right now for President Trump?

GLASSER: Well, look, first of all, you have a sense of a certain legal walls closing in on the president. You have that remarkable hour just a couple weeks ago when Paul Manafort was convicted and the president's own personal lawyer and fixer entered into federal court and entered his plea agreement, agreeing to testify against President Trump. We still don't know the extent of the damage that that could cause to the president. The Mueller investigation continues to build toward whatever outcome is unclear. So you have on the one hand a sense that the president has the first campaign manager, campaign chairman of a presidential campaign since Nixon's has been convicted of a crime.

On the one hand you have that. You have a sense that Trump has sort of broken the bounds that constrained him through much of the first year of his presidency and is really operating in a way that is outside the lines of American politics. And again, that's what I come back to with this funeral and this moment of contrasting, as you said, the style of his politics, the character, and also the nature of many of his attacks on institutions of American democracy. For example, his repeated attacks on the independent press, just one example of the ways in which President Trump is outside the lines of his own party as well as that of the other party.

And so that's where I think we do have something different. Seung Min is absolutely right, this is a polarized moment in American politics, and both parties are pulling to the extreme ideologically. But that doesn't mean that the Republican Party fundamentally or even those Republican politicians who sat in that cathedral who have basically bowed down to Trump, doesn't mean that they share his fundamental attacks on the institutions of democracy and I think that's where we could see things get interesting.

AVLON: And speaking of that, Seung Min, I want to bring back to that poll for a second, because it's really stark. You're talking about historic levels of unpopularity, 36 percent approval, 60 percent disapproval. Normally people in Congress pay attention to polls as a proxy. So that is a sign of weakness on the president, not strength. And we get that he's popular among Republicans, but Charlie Dent was on our air an hour ago saying the Republicans in swing districts need to separate from the president to survive the coming midterms. So at what point will you see the realities of his unpopular presidency begin to embolden people in Congress to act like a co-equal branch of government? KIM: I think what's interesting about the poll, too, is that it does

indicate, you just mentioned that he does enjoy massive support among Republican voters, but that poll, our poll also indicated that his support among Republican voters is actually dropping, and that's actually a really significant development because Republicans in Congress have clung to the president through so many of the controversies because they know it makes their constituents back home very happy in that there is deep support among the president.

So if you see that trend continue, if you do see his numbers drop even with Republican voters, I think you're going to see members of Congress really distance themselves, and not just those Republicans in the swing districts but Republicans writ large. They know that the president's popularity will speak volumes about how they act in Congress and how they act in the campaign trail.

But the difficulties with whether you cling to the president or distance yourself is also a reflection of the two separate congressional maps that we see. Obviously in the House you do have so many swing districts as Congressman Dent pointed out earlier on your show where they do have to separate themselves from the president and his actions.

But look at the Senate map. This is being largely fought on conservative territory. You have 10 Senate Democrats who are up in states where President Trump won in 2016. That is largely favorable to Republicans, and that's why you see Democrats trying to work -- trying to bend over backwards to show that they are working with President Trump, that they don't necessarily rebuke his policies or his brand of politics. And you have Republicans embracing that.

AVLON: And that is a great segue way to our next segment. Thank you both, Seung Min and Susan, very much. Mid-term elections now just two months away. CNN is seeing a shift in the battle for control of the House. We will break it down next.



AVLON: We are just a little over two months away from the November midterm elections and CNN has a new map showing Democrats making gains towards taking control of the house. Eleven seats currently held by Republicans are now in the leaning Democratic or better columns.

Democrats need 23 seats to take back control of the house and 11 puts them nearly halfway. Three seats are moving towards the GOP. Here to break it all down CNN Politics Senior Writer, Analyst, and our numbers guru Harry Enten.

Don't need a hat or beard for guru status?

HARRY ENTEN, CNN ANALYST: I actually shaved last night. My mom doesn't like what I have a beard on television. She runs me in terms of that.

CAMEROTA: I understand. But if you had like a really, really long one and a really pointy hat with stars on it -

AVLON: That was making Gandalf.

CAMEROTA: That would be a wizard.

ENTEN: Or Harry Potter, you know, so, wizard works out well there.

CAMEROTA: Thank you. Great point.

AVLON: Look into your crystal ball. See what I did there? And tell us what you see in this new shifting map that CNN is projecting? (CROSSTALK)

ENTEN: I mean, look, compared to the beginning of the year, right, what we have seen consistently throughout the year is that seats - individual seats are moving towards the Democratic column. And that's a sign of the national environment that is very friendly towards Democrats. The president has an approval rating that's at 40 percent or below. Even lower if you believe that ABC News Washington Post poll.

[08:20:00] The generic congressional ballot has consistently shown a Democratic edge in the high single digits. And when you put all of that together it's no wonder that we are seeing individual seats shift towards the Democratic column.

CAMEROTA: All right. Let's talk about some of those individual seats. So, you want us to focus on Pennsylvania one. What is that?

ENTEN: So, the reason I'm interested in that seat is that the seat - actually, we have it up on the screen right now - where Brian Fitzpatrick is running for reelection. We actually shifted that seat towards the lean Republican column. And the reason I am fascinated there is Fitzpatrick has a huge money edge. He is also very moderate. His Democratic opponent is not a great fit for the district in Scottwall. If Democrats can win their on election night, to me, that would be the sign of the ultimate wave, right?

Because, I think, we are not just looking can they get to 23, can they get to 35, can they get to 45? If the president's approval rating is down in the mid-30s, then that's a seat that I am watching because it's a seat that's a clear indication that Democrats are having a very, very good night.

AVLON: Fascinating. Scott Wallace, the Democrat is the, I believe, grandson of FDR's vice president.

ENTEN: Yes. Henry Wallace, of course, who was very, very liberal just like his grandson is.

AVLON: Very, very. Fascinating. All right. How about Kentucky?

ENTEN: Yes. So, Kentucky six is a great seat for me. Because this is a seat that is ancestrally Democratic. If you look at statewide elections in Kentucky six you see that Democrats actually do very well in statewide elections, while in the presidential level, as you see, voted for Donald Trump by double digits.

Amy McGrath is running a very, very strong campaign against Andy Barr. Amy McGrath is a former fighter pilot and pulling actually indicates that she's ahead. This is going to be an early poll closing. 6:00 in the East, so if we are looking for a seat early on election night to tell us where exactly the map is heading this is the seat I'd look at.

AVLON: It really highlights two trends. First of all, women doing incredibly well in Democratic primaries, and military veterans. Here you have both in Amy McGrath.

ENTEN: Exactly. She defeated Jim Graves, the former Lexington Mayor, in the primary which was a big surprise for a lot of people. And, so, you know, if I was looking for a seat that kind of encapsulates a lot of the different trends this year this is the seat I would be looking at.

CAMEROTA: Okay. I am laughing because only you two know the entire family tree, three generations down, of various presidents and politicians.

BERMAN:: This is political nerd - this is good.

CAMEROTA: I know that. No, I'm watching.

ENTEN: What do you think I am doing in my free time? Do you think I'm actually -

CAMEROTA: On the weekends? On a holiday weekend?

ENTEN: On a holiday weekend do you think I'm going to the beach? Look at this pale skin. I mean, makeup is doing a pretty good job.

CAMEROTA: No, I am doing that.

ENTEN: I am not seeing a lot of son. It's because my head's in the computer going -

CAMEROTA: I'm - yes, I'm seeing the nerd passion happening right here. Harry -

ENTEN: Feeling the nerd passion.

CAMEROTA: I feel the nerd passion. Harry, are you at all gun shy about making - crunching these numbers and making these predictions when you know that the viewers and Americans are skeptical, given 2016, of all pollsters and pundits given how long most people got it for 2016?

ENTEN: Sure. Obviously, we talk about all of this stuff with a margin of error. And that is what I think is so - So, you know, if I was to come out with an infographics that was saying where I expect Democrats - Democratic gains to go there would be a wide margin of error around that. So, it might be, okay, I expect Democrats to gain 32 seats. But it's plus or minus 20 or 25 now.

CAMEROTA: That's a lot.

ENTEN: It's a very wide range, but we are still two months away from the election and we have a most likely scenario. But that's not definitely the scenario that will happen. I mean, if you look back at the 2016 campaign and the final day. I worked at 538 at the time. And we had Hillary Clinton at like a 50 - a 71 percent chance of winning. But 71 percent chance of winning is not 100 percent chance.

I mean, if you were to flip a coin twice in the air the chance that it would land on heads twice is a 25 percent, which was actually less than the chance that we gave Donald Trump of winning at about 29 percent.

CAMEROTA: I see what you're doing here. I see how you are trying to convince us.

AVLON: It statistics. It's -

CAMEROTA: You are using your fancy statistics.

ENTEN: I'm trying my best. You know, I am drawing of the formulas. Maybe we will bring a blackboard out and I can write on it. Or the magic wall and I will put something in some computer ink and maybe then. I mean, look, yes, we need to be cautious. And we need to be - you know, say, hey, Republicans still have a real shot of maintaining control. But I would be on the set lying to you if I said it was a true tossup. It is not that. It is something in between a tossup and solidly Democratic. It is leaning Democratic you might say.


AVLON: All right. Instead of drilling down with skepticism I want to ask you which - because the moderates are the ones who tend to get killed off -

ENTEN: Absolutely.

AVLON: - in Congress in these polarized times. But they are the ones who are most positioned to kind of continue those politics the people are morning with the loss of McCain. What moderates, particularly the Republicans - all the Democrats seem to be well-positioned where, you know, the wave election would suggest there doing.

ENTEN: Carlos Curbelo down in Florida's 26 district, to me, is a fascinating district. A Cuban-American district. Donald Trump lost there. But the Democrats came out the poll - the Democrats with the pole that had Carlos Curbelo ahead by seven points.


ENTEN: And usually, if anything, Democrats only put out polls when they show their candidates ahead. And Curbelo was actually up by seven points there. So, that to me is a fascinating district where a moderate may win. Another one, which is not on our list that I submitted beforehand, was in New York's 24th district John Katko. A poll from CNN there actually had him up double digits. And that was a district that Donald Trump lost.

So, I think both of those guys if you are looking for two moderates who are well-positioned going into the 2018 elections, those are two I would be looking at.

AVLON: Fascinating.

CAMEROTA: Harry, you do the math so we don't have to. Thank you very much.

[08:25:00] AVLON: We've got 70 more days of fun to go. Just under.

CAMEROTA: I can't wait. I can't wait to watch more of this. Harry -

ENTEN: I'll bring the nerds and you just bring the listening ears and I'd be happy to supply it.

CAMEROTA: Thank you. Done. Done and done. Thank you.

AVLON: Excellent.

CAMEROTA: All right. We need to get to the breaking news right now. Because a tropical storm has just formed right near the Florida Keys. Chad Myers joined us next with the latest forecast tracks, so stay tuned for that.


AVLON: Breaking news. The national hurricane center says that tropical storm Gordon has formed near the Florida Keys. CNN meteorologist Chad Myers joins us with the latest.

CHAD MYERS, CNN WEATHER CORRESPONDENT: Yes, John, that escalated quickly, didn't it? This morning we were 30, then 35, and now 45. And it's easy to see why. I am going to zoom you into the center of this storm right now. It is wrapping around North and West of North Key Largo. Right over Everglades national Park. And I even saw all the Doppler a wind gust to 65 mph about 20 minutes ago. Now, the forecast is still for it to move right towards New Orleans, maybe Bay St. Louis, that area, Slidell.