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INSIDE POLITICS

Voters Rebuke Trump in Off-Year Elections; Republicans Pledge to Pass Tax Plan by End of Year. Aired 8-9a ET

Aired November 12, 2017 - 08:00   ET

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


(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

[08:00:04] JOHN KING, CNN HOST (voice-over): Alabama's Bible-quoting Senate candidate is accused of pursuing teenaged girls. It's a moral crisis for the Republican Party. But somehow, a rallying cry for the alt-right.

STEVE BANNON, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF STRATEGIST: They're coming after Judge Moore. This was the politics of personal destruction.

KING: Plus, a big off-year Democratic sweep. Nancy Pelosi eyes the speaker's gavel. And Republicans promise tax cuts soon.

REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Trust me. We're going to get this over the finish line.

KING: And the big Asia trip. Cozy with China's leader, and then this -- first, the president says he believes Vladimir Putin. Then he pulls it back.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What he believes is what he believes. What I believe is that we have to get to work.

KING: INSIDE POLITICS, the biggest stories sourced by the best reporters, now.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KING: Welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm John King.

To our viewers in the United States and around the world, thank you for sharing your Sunday.

A lot to talk about. The Republican Party torn apart by a morals crisis. Its Christian conservative Senate candidate in Alabama is accused of pursuing girls when they were in their teens and molesting one of them. But Roy Moore is ignoring calls to step aside.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROY MOORE (R), ALABAMA SENATE CANDIDATE: My opponent is 11 points behind. That came out just days before this article came out. They're desperate. This article is a prime example of fake news. We do not intend to let the Democrats or the established Republicans or anybody else behind this story stop this campaign.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Plus, the Republicans were already a bit of a mess. Racing now to pass a tax cut plan after a stunning off-year election rebuke that proved Democrats are energized and that President Trump is a big drag on Republican candidates.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. SCOTT TAYLOR (R), VIRGINIA: I think that last night was a referendum. I don't think there's any way that you can look at it in a different way, to be honest with you, and be intellectually consistent.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Up first, though, President Trump is in the Philippines today, winding down his Asia trip with flashes of anger and walking back words critics labeled not only as unpresidential, but some called un- American. On Air Force One, the president called former intelligence agency chiefs hacks, and said he believed Vladimir Putin when the Russian president denied meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

But hours later in Vietnam, after pushback from his own national security team, the president changed his tune.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I believe that he feels that he and Russia did not meddle in the election. As to whether I believe it or not, I'm with our agencies, especially as currently constituted with their leadership. I believe in our intel agencies, our intelligence agencies. I've worked with them very strongly.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: With us this Sunday to share their reporting and their insights, Abby Phillip of CNN, "TIME's" Molly Ball, Michael Warren of "The Weekly Standard", and Margaret Talev of Bloomberg.

Here's the question this Sunday morning, which President Trump do you believe?

On Air Force One Saturday, this was how the president characterized his Asia trip chat with Russia's president. Quote: He said he didn't meddle. He said he didn't meddle, the president told reporters. That was on Air Force One.

I asked him again. You can only ask so many times. Every time he sees me, he says, I didn't do that. And I believe -- I really believe that when he tells me that, he means it. I think he is very insulted by it.

In that same conversation, the president labeled as hacks the men who led the intelligence agencies that concluded Russia mounted an unprecedented effort to intervene in the 2016 campaign with the goal of helping Mr. Trump. But hours later, and after his own CIA put out a statement saying there's no doubt Russia did meddle, the president retreated. Sort of.

He said he agrees with the current leaders of the intelligence community, you just heard him, but he made clear, listen here, he sees little value in holding Putin's Russia accountable.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I'm not looking to stand and start arguing with somebody when there's reporters all around and cameras recording and seeing our conversation. I think it was very obvious to everybody. I believe that President Putin really feels, and he feels strongly, that he did not meddle in our election. What he believes is what he believes. What I believe is that we have to get to work.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: By getting to work, it's very clear the president thinks the sanctions that Congress demanded are an impediment to him doing his work. Where are we here?

If you look at the president's Twitter feed in the last 24 hours, if you take what he said on Air Force One, when he was himself, unscripted, talking with reporters, take that and then take what he said when he got on the ground in Vietnam after his own national security team said, sir? Where are we?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I mean, the -- he always needs to be, I think, under duress to kind of get to the place where the rest of the government is. And it's worth noting here that it isn't just that Trump's CIA director and Trump's intelligence officials believe this. Current officials believe what the former officials that Russia meddled in the election.

[08:05:02] And the only person that doesn't seem to believe that is President Trump. So, I think there are some issues with getting Trump to the right place. But clearly, he did a little bit of a 180-turn on this one. And I think that there is a secondary problem, which is going overseas as a president and essentially slamming the institution -- slamming the intelligence community as an institution, the credibility of the people who have held roles in the past.

It's just really -- I think that that's very unusual for a president to be overseas and to do something like that, especially on an issue of whether or not a foreign government tried to intervene in our elections. I think it sets really a different precedent for him to do that in this moment.

KING: And to add to that point, unusual for an American president, any American president, to criticize his own government, even prior administrations went overseas. On this trip, this president of the United States has also been in China, Vietnam and now the Philippines, and at least as of when we came on the air, not one public word about the human rights records in any of those places. So, he's giving them a pass, criticizing the United States. I didn't

mean to interrupt. But this is what John McCain said about that very point: There is nothing America first about taking the word of a KGB colonel over that of the American intelligence community. Vladimir Putin does not have America's interests at heart. To believe otherwise is not only naive, but also places our national security at risk.

MICHAEL WARREN, REPORTER, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: Well, this is the problem with the type of language, the way that the president speaks, which is you can't really be sure of what exactly he means. I mean, if you read actually the words that he said in that initial Air Force One discussion, he says that he believes that Putin believes this.

Well, what are we supposed to do with that? Are we supposed to -- is the president saying he accepts Putin's view of these things? Well, now, he says no. I think we should back up, though, a little bit and say that the intelligence community and sort of different intelligence agencies are not above criticism.

In fact, you know, just a couple of weeks ago that we found out fully that, for instance, the bin Laden documents that were received from his compound in Pakistan, there was an effort in some in the intelligence community to keep those under locks and key.

And this is something that the president is well aware of. The problem is, is that it's everybody in the administration, everybody in the intelligence community. There is nobody in the White House, even, no disagrees with the view that Russia did something, except for the president. And that's a problem.

KING: Except for the president. I want to jump in on this point, because he's ten months in office now. This is not a fact of dispute anymore.

Here's what we know: The FBI and other intelligence agencies say there is no question Russia was involved in the DNC hack and the Clinton e- mail hacks. There were 80,000 Facebook posts that have been linked back -- 80,000 Facebook posts seen by as many as 126 million people linked back to Russian accounts. Two hundred Twitter accounts linked back to Russia. Eighteen YouTube channels linked back to Russia, 170 Instagram accounts linked back to Russia during the campaign.

This is not an "if" anymore, except apparently to one man.

MOLL BALL, REPORTER, TIME: Well, and it's because, ironically, his insistence on taking everything personally, makes everything a story about him. It would have -- it would be, you know, conceivable or you could imagine a different president, perhaps, who could say that they accept these conclusions and it's not about them. This is a story about Russia. This is a story about our institutions.

But the fact that Trump believes this is about him, believes it is an attack on him and accusation against him and attempt to delegitimize him, that he is unable not to make it a story that's just about Trump and his victory and his relationships and so on. I mean, I think the second statement that he made about wanting to move past this issue to have a productive relationship with Russia, had he started there, it still would have been controversial. But it would not necessarily have just been a story about Trump.

KING: You can say -- you can say, Putin says he didn't do it. Of course, he did it. But he's not going to publicly admit it. So, my job now is to enforce the sanctions and try to do constructive business on other areas.

That's what Ronald Reagan did when he stared down the then Soviet Union. He said some tough things. He called them out. Called them what they were. But also did business with them. This president won't call them what they are.

MARGARET TALEV, BLOOMBERG POLITICS: There are many Republicans, both in Congress and inside the White House, who would like the president to start separating these issues. To talk about what needs to be done going forward in terms of what the Russians did and what they could do heading into the next election cycle and find a way to surgically remove the president from that process.

And the problem with what happened yesterday is that regardless of what he said second, we all heard what he said first. And what he said first is, in his mind, the way the situation should be viewed, the lens through which it should be cast. Everything that he says publicly is also material for the Mueller investigation as it moves forward.

And this is just very -- it's complicated for him to talk about it. And so his reluctance to talk about it is understandable. But he has to talk about it, because he's the leader of the United States and the free world and needs to send really clear, public signals.

[08:10:06] And it's understandable that he sees that if he really goes full bore on this, it will complicate Russian cooperation in Syria and Korea. He's got to find a way to talk about it without giving Russians a pass for what everybody else understands --

KING: Without doing exactly what the Russians want him to do. What he said on Air Force One is exactly what the Russians want him to say. It's not -- it's no not just he doesn't think it's a big issue, he is channeling their own lines, when he says this.

Let's step back. Does this become -- does this become sort of the legacy of his first big Asia trip, that he talked about in the sense we have seen him at the table and the president has talked about how well-received by the other leaders, the president has talked about how well received he has been.

But what do we have? The president has said he believes President Xi will increase the sanctions on North Korea. We'll keep an eye on that one. Are there any other deliverables for this president?

He has been talking about trade -- but he's been in office for ten months -- in China, in Vietnam, now in the Philippines. No trade deals with any of these countries. No single one-offs. What does he have?

PHILLIP: I mean, I think it's a little bit -- the challenge for this White House is that they want to be successful in some really tough areas. Trade, I think, is actually really difficult for them to kind of maneuver here, because Trump wants to go his own way and separate from the ethos of past presidents. He wants to have a little bit more of a strong arm on trade. I think that's going to take time to do.

And also, the North Korea issue is really the most vexing of them all. And it's really literally not one that he's going to resolve as a result of a ten-day trip. So, it is possible.

I mean, I think we should put the possibility out there that over time, there might be results of a strategy that basically says, we are going to put the goals of cooperation first, and, you know, minor disputes second. And if that brings China closer to where the administration wants them to be, if it brings Russia closer to where the administration wants them to be, then maybe we'll see results. We just haven't yet.

And I think that there are a lot of people who are smarter than me about foreign policy who say that it's not that easy, that on some level, you have to walk and chew gum at the same time. You have to uphold certain values, defend the United States against intervention while also demanding cooperation on issues where, you know, mutual agreement is necessary.

BALL: And I think particularly with regard to China, right? Because China was such a focus of the campaign. The idea that the Chinese are taking advantage of us. And then, you know, on day one he pulls out of the TPP, which, if anything, empowers China economically, and the administration has not then moved to, as you said, replace that with other bilateral agreements that might undercut China's economic dominance.

And so, you know, the Trump campaign said we have all this economic leverage over China, we're going to crack the whip and make them help us with problems on North Korea, that has not been a successful approach so far and in part because of these conflicting objectives. And so, but it's also possible that that's still coming. Something came out of this trip, and that we will see more pressure.

KING: We'll keep an eye on that. Up next, a shift to politics here at home, Roy Moore says allegations of sexual misconduct with teenagers are false and he says they're politically motivated. And he tells the Republican establishment, back off. He isn't quitting the race.

First, though, politicians say the darndest things. "SNL's" Vice President Mike Pence offers advice to Alabama's Roy Moore.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Alabama is a quite place. But we can't take chances. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mike, look, it's all guys. I'm not that guy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Perhaps, Roy. Perhaps. But it's hard to convince people that you're not into young girls when you're just like Woody from "Toy Story".

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Come on, sir, do we have to do it this way? I mean, can't you call the boss?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sorry, I'm not going to call Vladimir Putin about this.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[08:17:53] KING: Welcome back. Alabama's special Senate election is in a month, and Roy Moore says he isn't going anywhere.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MOORE: These attacks involve a minor, and they're completely false and untrue. I have not been guilty of sexual misconduct with anyone. These allegations came only four and a half weeks before the general election on December 12th. Why now?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Four women have come forward to say Moore pursued them years ago when he was in his 30s and they were in their teens. One of the four, Leigh Corfman, told "The Washington Post" she was 14, when Moore helped her undress and touched her through her bra and her underwear. Alabama's age of consent is 16.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

MOORE: I don't know Ms. Corfman from anybody. I've never talked to her. Never had any contact with her. Allegations of sexual misconduct with her are completely false. I believe they're politically motivated. I believe they're brought only to stop a very successful campaign, and that's what they're doing. I have never known this woman or anything.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

KING: Roy Moore, quite emphatic there. The women say they stand by their accounts, which leaves us where, with a month to go?

One of the interesting questions is the Republicans, number one, the National Republican Senatorial Committee has pulled its money from the race. Number two, the Republican establishment wants Roy Moore to get out. He made clear over the weekend that he's not getting out.

I think -- is this now on the president in that a lot of Republicans want the president, when he comes home from Asia to, A, try to get on the phone with Roy Moore, will the president do that and say get out, and if not, maybe give the governor some cover to move the election. That would be controversial.

WARREN: The White House is saying they want Roy Moore to have a chance to defend himself. This is what they said before the Sean Hannity interview in a statement. Well, now, Roy Moore has defended himself. And it's at this point now where the question is, initially these Republican senators when being asked about it, the White House being asked about it -- well, if the allegations are true.

Now, we have Roy Moore denying them. We have just taking the one case, we have the then 14-year-old girl, now woman, telling us this. Her mother, and two friends she told contemporaneously.

[08:20:01] Who do you believe?

And I think that's the question right now for the White House. This is something that the president is going to have to address when he gets home. And I think it's an open question right now of whether or not he's going to be willing to believe and remember, he has an out here politically, which is he never endorsed Roy Moore until after he won that primary runoff.

TALEV: And certainly these women's allegations are very credible when you look at them en masse. The problem for the White House, other than the fact that this isn't really President Trump's brand to call out social injustice and eject people from elections, is that Roy Moore will appear on the ballot anyway and that the Republicans certainly have the ability to try to throw in a spoiler candidate or something on the side or up the middle. But ultimately, the control of the Senate does hang at a certain point in the balance and that explains what all -- not immediately, but chipping away towards it. So that explains sort of the conundrum for the entire party.

But the risk for the Republican Party, set aside the obvious kind of point that it maybe doesn't matter what the risk for any party is, matters to do something about this, is that the problem for the Republican Party is that this could translate beyond the Alabama race, beyond control of a chamber and affect the entire impression that American voters have about Republicans. And a lot of folks are concerned, both personally about it, they feel very uncomfortable standing beside him, given where these allegations are at this point. But also in terms of the political implications.

KING: Right. And you see that just in terms of politics here. You have a Christian conservative candidate whose whole career in politics has been about putting morality and the bible ahead of anything, even law, even orders from federal courts on occasion, now accused of reprehensible personal conduct that could take the whole Republican brand, playing out in the context of the national conversation now about sexual harassment, from Harvey Weinstein to everything else.

BALL: Well, and it's women voters that the Republican Party is so worried about. We're going to talk about the election results this week, particularly in Virginia. There was a surge in turnout among women voters.

Those are the voters that Republicans are very worried that their brand could be damaged with and that could have a real impact beyond this one Senate race, that these are the voters who have been the most sort of galvanized since 2016, where we see a surge in enthusiasm, and if they're looking at the Republican brand nationally -- and that's why you do have so many national Republicans running screaming in the other direction from Roy Moore, not equivocating, not calling it fake news, giving him a chance to defend himself.

But then a lot of Republicans in the Senate have called on him to drop out. They have tried to make this a clean break, not wanting to associate with him in any way, because they know the entire party brand risks being tainted by this.

PHILLIP: I think it's wishful thinking, though, that Republicans want to put this on Trump, or even that their lack of endorsement will matter in this case. I mean, remember, Roy Moore ran this race really because, in spite of Mitch McConnell saying I don't want this guy to win, in spite --

KING: Right, the president going there.

PHILLIP: -- the president not endorsing him. And you already have Steve Bannon coming out and saying, I'm going to stand by Roy Moore in this case.

And I think that it's important to just keep in mind that Roy Moore is not a candidate who cares about these kinds of endorsements, or whose candidacy was successful because of it. And so, I don't think it's -- it's not intellectually honest to expect that the lack of endorsement will make a difference one way or another, or that the president suddenly is going to signal to Republicans in Alabama. I'm just talking about regular old voters.

When Trump endorsed Roy Moore's opponent, he gave a wink and a nod to Roy Moore, saying, hey, this guy will be OK, anyway, even if I don't endorse him right now. If Trump comes back home and says, hey, I think this is reprehensible, don't be surprised if there is also a wink and a nod, saying, but we'll keep control of the Senate.

You know, Trump has been willing to sort of make those kinds of signals to his base, and they have paid attention to them.

WARREN: Well, let's not rule out the possibility that Roy Moore could lose the election. I mean, it's sort of an outside chance, but who knows? There's still a month.

PHILLIP: There is a Democratic candidate who Democrats might actually put some effort behind.

WARREN: Exactly. Now, I talked to a Republican campaign strategist this weekend who's had big concern for this, and speaking of women voters, would be if this story remains on local TV news, in places like Birmingham and Mobile. It's a sex story. So it's something that could lead, if you hear more allegations, more women come out, we haven't seen that yet.

But if that happens, that keeps the story going. This is the kind of thing you could really see a sort of reversal of the 2010 Massachusetts special election where Scott Brown surprised everybody and won.

TALEV: And a law and order Democrat as an alternative.

WARREN: That's right.

KING: So, we'll keep an eye on that Democratic money going in. The president when he gets back and behind the scenes Republicans are checking with lawyers to figure out if they have any options, ranging from moving the election to perhaps not seating Roy Moore, if he wins the election.

[08:25:07] We'll keep an eye on this sort of big week ahead.

Up next, the most unusual thing about last week's big elections, they followed the old rules, not the Trump rules.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Welcome back.

An odd thing happened this past Tuesday. The election, the off-year election, followed the normal rules of politics. Something that hasn't happened much since Donald Trump switched from businessman to politician.

Mr. Trump bent, broke, rewrote the rules of politics on the path to the presidency. But he has historically horrible poll numbers as he approaches the ten-month mark. And the voters' message this Tuesday was a stunning rebuke of the president and his party.

Let's just look a little bit at Virginia. The Democrat won the governor's race in a blowout. Now, Virginia's blue, Democrats are supposed to win Virginia. But look at that margin. That is not normal.

Here's another thing to look at. Let's just come up here to the Washington, D.C., suburbs. That's Fairfax. This is Arlington. Yes, the Democrats are supposed to win in blue Arlington.

But what does that tell you? Eighty to 19. That tells you Democrats are swarming to the polls; huge Democratic turnout and very low Republican performance in a suburb.

That's one reason Democrats are very happy. Their voters are energized.

Let's come over here. Suburban Loudoun County, fast-growing county outside of Washington, D.C. -- a blowout; the Democrat winning with nearly 60 percent of the vote.

Let's go back just three years. Ed Gillespie, the same Republican candidate, ran in a senate race. Now, it's a different climate, but still, he won Loudoun County, just barely. But he won it just three years ago. Another warning sign for the Republicans; something that makes Democrats happy.

I just want to drop one more down here -- south of Richmond, Chesterfield County. This is Republican territory. Look how Ed Gillespie won big there three years ago. Now look now -- just barely winning -- just barely winning, essentially a dead heat.

Add all this up, Republicans underperforming in the suburbs, underperforming in the ex-urban areas that are traditionally good for Republicans.

Democrats flooding the polls, especially those women voters Molly talked about a few moments ago. The results caused an overnight shift in the 2018 landscape.

Just weeks ago -- Democratic hopes of retaking control of the House, a long shot at best. Now, some smart money puts the odds at even, maybe better.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: The door is certainly open for us. In '05 right now we had President Bush down to 38 percent. That's approximately where President Trump is now.

That opens the door. That means we get the fresh recruits and they get the retirements.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: A fair read by Nancy Pelosi, or an over read?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I think that she's actually kind of measured there. She's saying the door is open. The question mark is, are Democrats going to walk through the door, or are they going to trip at the doorstep. It's unclear.

I think there is a real opportunity here. I was really surprised after Tuesday by just the degree to which the numbers were so huge in -- just to the point that you just made. They were so huge in some of these Democratic counties and districts.

And it really -- highlighted to me how Hillary Clinton, even though she beat Donald Trump in Virginia, actually kind of underperformed to what the potential was there, given all of the kind of dynamics going on in northern Virginia.

And so, you know, there are a lot of Democratic candidates out there who are probably looking at the map and saying, you know, we can probably over-perform Hillary Clinton.

And if Republicans perform like Ed Gillespie, who was actually a pretty good candidate for the state of Virginia, and if you have another candidate in another state where there are pretty good candidates for the state, you might be able to edge them out and I think that's a real possibility in places where after last year Democrats were holding their hands, saying what happened here? There was a lot of underperforming from the Democratic side. And not necessarily over-performing from Trump in some of these swing district swing states.

MOLLY BALL, "TIME": I think Democrats are also breathing a sigh of relief that the culture war didn't work for Ed Gillespie. That he had tried to turn this into a campaign about the kinds of issues that Trump talks about instead of his more natural, I think, bailiwick of economic development and so on. Things he talked about in the primary and almost lost.

This became a campaign that was about MS-13 and confederate statues and NFL players taking a knee and felons being allowed to vote. And I think there was a lot of worry on the Democratic side that that -- as despicable as they found that, that it would be effective.

KING: Right.

BALL: That it would have this galvanizing effect on the electorate, and they would come out to vote and they would overcome whatever edge the Democrats had.

Instead, the opposite happened. You had, according to the exit polls, a large amount of voters coming out specifically to send a message to the President. That helped the Democrats.

And then you had a lot of people voting on issues like health care, which is an issue that Trump had said we're not going to own it, right? People just still blame the Democrats and think it's Obamacare that's a disaster. This is a sign that Republicans are starting to own that issue and it's not a good thing.

KING: Right. It was not a big battle between Ralph Northam and Ed Gillespie but it was the number one issue for Virginia voters. So clearly the national debate -- I just want to put these numbers up because the point I made is that since Donald Trump came down that escalator and ran for president, forget the rules, right?

He wasn't supposed to win the Republican primary. He wasn't supposed to get Christian conservative votes. No way he could beat Hillary Clinton. But he did all that.

But look at this. This was a normal election. If the President has bad polling numbers, the other party does well.

This is the President's approval rating. Back at his inauguration his approval rating was 44 percent. That was low to begin with. Now it is 36 percent.

Here's the part I wonder if Democrats can take advantage of. Look at the drop among non-white college graduates. This was a big part of the Trump base.

If you look at the President's drop, he had a 59 percent approval rating when he took office. That is down now to 46 percent. It's still one of the President's stronger groups, his still stronger group, but that was the big part of the Trump base.

[08:34:58] You can see Democrats winning House seats in the suburbs even the ex-urbs. If they're going to get to the magic number they need to turn the House, they're going to have to win some Midwest seats, some seats in places that President Trump did quite well.

MARGARET TALEV, BLOOMBERG POLITICS: So turnout has been this persistent question for the Democrats, right, which is can Democrats turn out voters with establishment, mainstream, quasi centrist candidates? Or does it need to be kind of a more progressive, edgier, on the edge of the Democratic Party?

And what you saw in Virginia with Ralph Northam, who is not a particularly dynamic candidate, kind of a goofy candidate, right? But I mean sort of establishment, you could be an independent voter or a conservative Democrat or maybe a Republican and vote for him anyway if you wanted to send a signal.

Potentially what you see in Alabama with their nominee there -- law and order, you know, law enforcement background -- these are establishment doctors, lawyers. These are establishment jobs, right?

If Democrats are motivated to turn out just to turn out, and swing voters can be turned out for Republicans, maybe it's a different model, at least in these senate and congressional races, than works in a presidential nominating context.

KING: And one thing the Democrats breathe a deep sigh of relieve about Virginia is they did have a contested primary and there was worry that their family wouldn't come together because they have a lot of candidates running next year.

There are going to be a lot of Democratic primaries. Some people worry about that. Nancy Pelosi thinks it's a good thing.

MICHAEL WARREN, "THE WEEKLY STANDARD": Yes, and turns out sometimes that conflict can be galvanizing.

I was struck by when you were at the board and you went back to the 2014 Senate race and said it was a different environment. It was also a different Republican Party.

KING: Right.

WARREN: This was a party that had not quite decided it wanted to go to a white working class as -- and sort of recognize that is its base. Well, it's an important part of the base.

But another important part of the Republican base since the Reagan era has been white college-educated suburbanites. This Tuesday showed they are at real risk of losing them for a long time.

KING: Yes, and the 80s and the 90s, the Republican strength in the suburbs is why they were so strong in presidential politics --

(CROSSTALK) WARREN: Right.

KING: -- everything in America. Now you see those suburbs turning more and more blue. The Loudoun County, Fauquier County, the Stafford County -- those numbers stunned me in the sense that Democrats are coming to play and they've turned on the President.

Up next, Republicans say the election was proof they need to pass tax cuts and fast. But it's complicated.

[08:37:13] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Welcome back.

Republican leaders hope that big loss will give them focus to deliver a big win, meaning they hope the message key lawmakers take from Tuesday's election route is that they will get punished even more next year if they don't pass tax cuts in the remaining weeks of this year.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: We have a promise to keep. We've got to get on with keeping our promise. And one of the chief promises we made when we ran for office, all of us, whether it's the President or Congress in 2016, was that we would do tax reform and tax cuts for families, for people.

If anything, this just puts more pressure on making sure we follow through.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Now, you did see a jolt to act this past week. The key House committee on tax matters passed its version. Senate Republicans unveiled their plan.

The House slashes corporate taxes immediately. The Senate has a one year phase in.

The House keeps and an adoption tax credit, but ends deductions for medical expenses and student loans. The Senate plan keeps all three of those.

The House reduces to $10,000 max the amount of state and local taxes you can deduct from your federal tax burden. The Senate fully repeals those state and local tax deductions.

Now, most families would see a tax cut -- most. Not all.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SENATOR TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: The business side is terrific. But there are some taxpayers who are losing exemptions, particularly in some high-tax states like New York or California that could conceivably be paying higher taxes. I think that is a mistake. I think tax reform needs to cut taxes for everybody. (END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Senator Cruz there just one example of Republicans who say I'm glad we're doing this, but I don't like where we are right now.

Can they get to a place where -- remember the Obamacare debate -- they can only lose two in the Senate and they have some issues in the house, as well. Can they get to the finish line here?

PHILLIP: They may be able to, but maybe not before Christmas. I mean I'm hearing a lot of pushback on this idea that this is going to magically get done in December before everybody goes away, just because there's a will from the administration and maybe from Congressional leaders to do it.

And I've also heard that -- that a lot of Republicans are really worried about the PR rollout for this bill. It is a disaster. I mean you have Republicans out there saying some people are going to pay more taxes.

That is not the way that you sell a tax bill especially not one that will increase the deficit, no matter which way you slice it.

So you can't go out there and say, oh, businesses are going to be really happy. Our donors are really pushing us to do this. But some middle class families, you might pay more in taxes.

There are a lot of people holding their hands in Washington right now saying, if you guys actually want to get this done, you need to tighten up the ship in how you sell this to the American people.

TALEV: This is the problem with the time line also because the longer that the legislation, and right now it's too separate in sometimes committing this to legislation but the longer this is out, the more kind of sunshine gets put on this.

And for middle class families, the pitch has been you're going to get like $1,100 back. But that's in the opening years of this. In the out years, the projections do show that for some middle class and upper middle class income groups, your taxes may actually go up.

There's also offsets, and right now in some of the -- you know, depending on the House and Senate bill, some versions of the legislation, your ability to deduct things like student expenses or medical expenses go away.

So you get the money up front, the debt in the long-term, and the inability to write off things that you've been able to write off before. So --

KING: But the politicians say they'll come back in five years and fix all that. You don't trust them?

TALEV: I think this is problematic. It's problematic for President Trump who has promised to be looking out for the little guys. It's problematic for a lot of the coastal Republicans who are in states where people will be disproportionately impacted by this.

[08:45:03] And so when your margins are this tight, and when the reason for doing it is ostensibly not just to spike, you know, the GDP by helping companies, but to actually give tangible relief to people, if -- most voters say, yes, I'll take the cash now and pay more later. It's complicated.

WARREN: But going back to that interview with Paul Ryan, and with all due respect to the Speaker, we're -- was this kind of tax relief or this kind of tax reform really what voters picked in November of 2016? Or were they actually voting for -- they're actually voting for making America great again for some kind of probably big infrastructure for building a wall?

I mean, this is the kind of proposal that maybe you can get through at the end of a first year after you've had a lot of successes previously for some of those big-ticket items that the President ran on.

But now this -- just limping across the finish line, there's just no political will. And except in the sense of we've got to get some kind of something to pass.

BALL: And there is a lot of political will for that. Republicans really do see this as do or die to do something. So Paul Ryan is exactly right about that.

But the Republicans are in a sort of worst of both worlds situation where on the one hand, if you want to do big things you have to be willing to upset people.

KING: Right.

BALL: You have to be willing to gore some sacred cows or whatever. But this isn't a big thing. They have dialed it back so far that it's this incremental bill that doesn't really simplify the tax system in a big way. And yet it's also tough for them.

KING: And if they can't get it done by the end of this year, choices get harder in the actual election year.

Sit tight, everybody. Our reporters share from their notebooks next, including a new emerging alliance between the President's chief of staff and his attorney general.

[08:46:42] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Let's close by heading one last time around the INSIDE POLITICS table, ask our great reports to share a little something from their notebooks to help you get you out ahead of the big political news just around the corner.

Abby Phillip.

PHILLIP: Well, this week we learned something really interesting about White House chief of staff, John Kelly. He made some calls from Asia on the President's trip to the acting department of Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke, on the issue of protective status for Hondurans. And he pushed her to make a decision to expel, you know, a large group of Hondurans who have been in the country for about two decades.

What's interesting about this is that Kelly often stays on the margins of big decisions like this. And this was one of those key moments where he didn't just moderate the debate. He was involved in it in some meetings at the White House in the last couple of weeks.

So another big opponent of keeping Hondurans in the United States under this status was Attorney-General Jeff Sessions. So those two men are in some ways on the same page about some key immigration- related issues, and it will be interesting to see how much further that kind of potential alliance goes between Jeff Sessions, John Kelly -- especially when it comes to immigration.

We know Kelly is putting his former deputy over DHS if she is confirmed and that will be another key lever of power for him.

KING: Evolution for the chief.

Molly.

BALL: Will Mike Flynn be indicted? And if not, why not? We have known for a while that the Mueller investigation has been looking at the former national security adviser and gathering evidence. And since the Manafort indictment two weeks ago, a lot of people are wondering if he's the next domino to fall.

And it was reported this week that they do have enough evidence to indict him if they wanted to. However, if he doesn't get indicted that raises the possibility that there is some cooperation going on with investigators, which could definitely scare the White House as the investigation threatens to move closer to the President's inner circle.

KING: It's a big one to keep an eye on.

Michael.

WARREN: Well, we've been talking about tax reform now for days, weeks. A small change, but I think a big and significant sort of political change to the House tax bill was the restoration --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Testing 1, 2, 3 -- testing 1, 2, 3 --

WARREN: A lot of conservatives, a lot of pro-life groups were sort of up in arms about when the Republicans took that out. I asked the White House what kind of role did the White House have? Did they have a view on this tax credit? Did they push House tax writers to keep it back in?

They said -- what I was told was we encouraged this idea of keeping this in. It sort of shows you what the White House has been doing behind the scenes. Not publicly, you know, making their views known on the details of tax reform, but instead sort of urging quietly or if somebody brings up an idea that they support, just saying, yes, that sounds good to us.

It will be interesting to see how that changes once President Trump is back in the United States and is a little more directly engaged in these tax reform talks as we go to the next week.

KING: Watching the calendar.

Margaret.

TALEV: Jim Comey is back, although he was never really gone. But in the next week, I'm certainly going to be watching his Twitter feed. He's out now tweeting as himself, instead of this alias of Reinhold Niebuhr, the theologian who he was hiding behind for all these months.

But we saw him emerge over the weekend, of course, when President Trump suggested that, you know, Comey and Clapper, so-and-so, were hacks.

Comey tweeting another philosopher, religious philosopher, when he says, if you want truth to go around the world, you have to have an express train to pull it. And if you want a lie to go around the world, it will fly because it's as light as a feather.

So he's about a week into his official Twitter feed now. Keep watching for more.

KING: Shakespeare Comey on Twitter. Hope they got that.

I'll close with this. Both parties -- both political parties fired up their maps in modeling software after Tuesday's big election and both see obvious improved Democratic odds now of retaking the house in 2018. Most of us, of course, don't have access to that software. So here's a good way to keep score at home.

Pollsters ask what is called a generic ballot question. It goes like this. If the election were today, would you vote Democratic or Republican for congress?

Republicans expect to stay on the losing side of that question throughout the next year, because Congress is unpopular and because it's President Trump's first midterm election. It is the margin that matters.

[08:55:07] If the national lead for Democrats is in single digits next October, most Republican strategists think they'll lose seats but keep their House majority. If though the Democratic lead next fall is in low double digits, then the majority is at clear risk.

Now most strategists view 15 as the magic number, meaning if the Democratic edge hits 15 points, any remaining Speaker Ryan stationery becomes a collector's item.

Our new CNN poll this week had it Democrats plus 12. That's the danger zone for the GOP which tells you all you need to know about Nancy Pelosi's smile and Paul Ryan's tax cut urgency. We'll keep an eye on that one. That's it for INSIDE POLITICS. Again, thanks for sharing your Sunday.

Up next: the former director of National Intelligence and the former CIA director on CNN's "STATE OF THE UNION".

Have a great Sunday.

[08:55:50] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)