'This Week' Transcript 1-14-24: Gov. Ron DeSantis & Gov. JB Pritzker

This is a rush transcript of "This Week" airing Sunday, January14.

ByABC News
January 14, 2024, 9:44 AM

Gov. Ron DeSantis & Gov. JB Pritzker were on "This Week" Sunday, January 14. This is a rush transcript and may be updated.





DONALD TRUMP (R), FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT AND 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And I'm leading by more than any candidate has ever led in history.

NIKKI HALEY (R), 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If you will caucus for me, our best days are yet to come.

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL), 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Your vote matters a great deal on Monday night.

KARL: Just one day until Iowa Republicans cast the first votes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No other choice in my mind than President Trump.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She is the best chance to beat Trump.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't think there's anything that will change my mind.

KARL: As Donald Trump aims for a decisive victory, his chief critic drops out.

CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), FORMER 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There isn't a path for me to win the nomination.

KARL: President Biden rallies his base for four more years.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is a time of choosing. So let us choose the truth.

KARL: The race for the White House now in full swing. This morning, Rachel Scott is on the ground in Iowa. Republican presidential contender Ron DeSantis and key Biden ally Governor JB Pritzker join us live.

Plus, Rick Klein with our new poll. And analysis from our powerhouse roundtable.

It's your voice, your vote, one day to the Iowa caucuses.


ANNOUNCER: From ABC News it’s THIS WEEK. Here now, Jonathan Karl.

KARL: Good morning. Welcome to THIS WEEK.

The Iowa caucuses are now just hours away with the first votes finally about to be cast. Former President Trump still holds a commanding lead as neither indictments nor controversial statements, nor warnings about the threat to democracy seem to have done anything to derail Trump's status as the clear frontrunner, at least in Iowa and at least among Republicans.

"The Des Moines Register" has released its final poll of likely Republican caucus-goers, and the former president leads the field at 48 percent. That’s 28 points ahead of Nikki Haley, who has moved into second place. And our guest this morning, Ron DeSantis, who has staked his campaign heavily on the Hawkeye state, stands in third place.

And it's not just Iowa. On the national level, we have new numbers this morning from our own ABC News/IPSOS poll. It shows Trump in an even more dominant position nationally than he is in Iowa with 68 percent of Republican-leaning adults saying they believe Trump has the best chance of winning in November, compared to just 12 percent for Haley and 11 percent for DeSantis.

And spelling potential trouble on the Democratic side, just 57 percent of Democrats and independents who lean Democratic say they’d be satisfied with President Biden as the party's nominee. And Biden's approval rating stands at just 33 percent. That's the lowest for any president in the past 15 years.

We'll have much more on our new poll, but first, we turn to Iowa, where the final weekend of campaigning has been rocked by a historically frigid winter storm. And our Rachel Scott is there inside in Des Moines this morning.

Good morning, Rachel.


We have never seen Iowa caucuses like this before. The frontrunner in this race facing 91 criminal charges, still dominating in the polls and only holding one scheduled event this week. But perhaps the biggest curveball, that brutal weather.


SCOTT (voice over): It's far from the final stretch the Republican candidates were planning for. The campaign trail upended by a brutal blizzard, extreme cold, and life-threatening conditions. Impassable roads, blinding snow leading the candidates to cancel a slew of campaign events.

GOV. RON DESANTIS, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE & (R) FLORIDA: They can throw a blizzard at us, and we are going to fight.

NIKKI HALEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don't even know what negative 15 is.

I was complaining it was cold in Iowa in October.

SCOTT (voice over): Aside from the Fox News town hall, frontrunner Donald Trump didn't campaign here throughout the week. Instead choosing to spend his time in courtrooms in New York and D.C., making his legal turmoil the central part of his 2024 message.

DONALD TRUMP (R), FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT AND PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's a witch hunt in the truest sense of the word. It's election interference.

SCOTT (voice over): The former president calling off his in-person events Saturday, instead going online to urge his supporters not to let his commanding lead or the bitter cold to keep them from turning out.

TRUMP: So, we have record cold weather, record snowfall, record everything, but we will not miss it. We'll see you on Monday. I'm going to be helping you with the caucus, and I look forward to it.

SCOTT (voice over): Much of the focus in Iowa has been on the battle for second place. Voter Tammy Neimann is torn between Nikki Haley and Ron DeSantis.

TAMMY NEIMANN, IOWA CAUCUS-GOER: I think they're both strong candidates. Looking for an alternative to Trump. But I want somebody who can, in the end, beat Joe Biden and be a strong president.

SCOTT (voice over): Haley getting a new wave of momentum, now edging out DeSantis here in Iowa in the latest polls.

SCOTT: You feeling confident?

NIKKI HALEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm feeling great, thank you.

SCOTT (voice over): DeSantis has staked his entire campaign on this state, holding more events than Trump and Haley combined, pushing forward with his schedule this weekend when his rivals opted for virtual events.

GOV. RON DESANTIS, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE & (R) FLORIDA: I'm a Florida boy, born and bred, and yet here I am in negative temperatures. I am not going to be canceling -- if people are willing to come out and -- and hear from me, I'm going to show up, all the way until the end of this caucus.

SCOTT (voice over): Iowa rarely picks the GOP nominee. In fact, no non-incumbent winner has gone on to win the nomination in more than two decades. But the caucus does often help narrow the field. Though both DeSantis and Haley say, no matter the outcome, they plan to march on.

SCOTT: If you do not place first or second place, are you staying in this race?

DESANTIS: We're in it for the long haul.

SCOTT: In it for the long haul regardless?

DESANTIS: Yes. Absolutely.

SCOTT (voice over): Chris Christie wrote off Iowa completely, pinning his hopes on New Hampshire. But now he's out of the race and not backing anyone yet.

CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We have to decide in the next ten months, who do we want to be as a country?

SCOTT (voice over): The former New Jersey governor criticizing both Haley and DeSantis for not hitting Trump hard enough. At the debate, both sharpening their attacks on Trump but treading carefully.

DESANTIS: If Trump is the nominee, it's going to be about January 6th, legal issues, criminal trials.

HALEY: I think what happened on January 6th was a terrible thing, and I think President Trump will have to answer for it.

SCOTT (voice over): Trump going after Haley at a virtual rally last night.

TRUMP: I don't think Nikki’s strong enough to be president. I know her very well. I know her better than anybody.

SCOTT (voice over): And acknowledging the brutal conditions his supporters will have to face to caucus tomorrow.

TRUMP: I worry about that, but at the same time, I'm watching even the newscast today. They're saying the Trump voter has so much more spirit, dedication. They say they'll walk over glass. That the Trump voter’s coming to vote.


SCOTT (on camera): Despite those poll numbers, the DeSantis campaign is making it clear that he is not going anywhere. In fact, we were told the Florida governor plans to travel to South Carolina, then New Hampshire, after the Iowa caucuses, hoping to send a message to his supporters and his rivals that he's in this for the long haul, Jon.

KARL: Thank you, Rachel.

And we are joined now by -- from Iowa, from Bettendorf, Iowa, by Republican presidential candidate Governor Ron DeSantis.

Governor DeSantis, good morning, and thank you for joining us.

So, let me ask you, your closing argument now to those voters who -- those Republicans who plan to go tomorrow night and to caucus for Donald Trump, what is your closing argument to them to say, come vote for me instead?

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL), 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, Donald Trump's running for his issues. I'm running for your issues and your family's issues and solely to turn this country around. I've delivered on 100 percent of my promises. Donald Trump, obviously, didn't build the wall, didn't drain the swamp, and didn't reduce the debt. I've also taken on and beaten the Democrats and the left. And in reality, Donald Trump, as president, oftentimes got beat by the Democrats at the border. He got beat on debt. And so we have an opportunity to have a two-term president, someone that's going to be able to win decisively, and then actually bring all this stuff into fruition. And I'm the guy to do it.

KARL: You say Donald Trump is running for his issues. What do you mean by that? What are Donald Trump's issues?

DESANTIS: Well, he's focused a lot on things that concern him. Obviously, the distractions of everything that's going along with all these legal issues has been a huge thing for him. You're going to have criminal trials. You're going to have a lot of focus on things like January 6th by the media. And I think that ends up focusing the election on things that are going to be advantageous for Democrats because you're not going to be talking about the border, you're not going to be talking about the economy. You're going to be talking about all these things to make the election a referendum on Donald Trump.

And I think when Republicans have had those elections, whether it's 2018, 2020, 2021, 2022, the Democrats have -- have benefitted for that, whereas if I'm the nominee, we'll be solely focused on the issues that matter to the American people. I'll be able to hold Biden or whoever their nominee is accountable. And I think it will be a crisp opportunity for a crisp victory for Republicans. And so we have an opportunity to make that choice starting in Iowa, and then through this process, but the notion that somehow all this stuff that's swirling around him is going to be a positive in a general election, that's just not true.

KARL: You know, it's extraordinary. Our poll shows that a vast majority of Republican voters say that they believe that Donald Trump has the best chance of winning in November against Biden, against the Democrats. You, obviously, outperformed in 2022 in your re-election. Trump – Republicans, other than some exceptions like you, have vastly underperformed since 2016. Why are Republican voters thinking –saying, why are they wrong in saying that Donald Trump has the best chance of beating Biden?

DESANTIS: Well, I think it's a couple of things. I mean, I think, one, our voters understandably see Biden as a very feeble, weak, and poor president. And so, I think some of it is they think anyone can beat him.

You know, my argument on that is, is that would have been a case in 2022, in the midterms. We probably never had circumstances more favorable for the party. Biden was unpopular, inflation was hot, the border was a disaster, crime -- all these issues.

We should have been able -- every Republican with a pulse should have been able to won -- win, and yet the Democrats made it a referendum on Trump and his adjacent candidates, and there's just certain swing voters that just aren't going to go there at that point. And I think that's been the case over and over again.

But I think when people just look at Biden as Republicans, they're, like, well, obviously, this is not a strong candidate.

And then I think there's been an effort to talk about national polling a year in advance or even more, showing that Trump is winning. Now I do think they're starting to come -- poll showing the opposite that Biden wins these swing states. But I would imagine as the year goes on, and should Trump be the nominee, all those polls I think are going to show Biden with a lead over Trump. And so, there -- I think it's been somewhat of a mirage, but people see that, and I think that that does register with them.

KARL: So, you think Trump is likely to lose to Biden in a head to head matchup?

DESANTIS: Well, look -- one of the reasons I’m running, Jon, is because after the midterms of 2022, we saw very clearly the pathway forward for the party was like what we did in Florida, what Governor Reynolds who's endorsed me here in Iowa, what she did winning big. Governors and Republicans that had their own brand and focused on results performed extraordinarily well. The other Republicans who were more aligned with Trump and his issues, they underperformed. That's just the reality.

So my fear is, is doing 2024 with a rematch would have a lot of the same dynamics that we had in 2020, only Donald Trump won't be an incumbent. I mean, the advantages of incumbency are incredible, and yet we are where we are.

So I think we -- I have the best path forward for the party, to both unite the party because you've got to have somebody that can -- that can energize the base, and I think that Trump obviously has done that in the past. I’ve done that in Florida. I can do it nationally.

Haley cannot do that. I mean, she is not getting support from conservatives. She's relying on Democrat-leaning independents for her support in the primary, and that's just not the way you can win and galvanize support from the party faithful.

KARL: So, back to Iowa. You've actually spent a lot of time in Iowa, 99 counties. You've put a major effort in.

You’ve been asked many times over the last several months a very direct question about how you'll do in Iowa. I want to play some of your responses.


DESANTIS: Iowa, we have the best ground game by far right now.

INTERVIEWER: You expect to win in Iowa?

DESANTIS: We're going to win in Iowa.

We're going to win Iowa.

REPORTER: Governor, do you expect to win the Iowa caucuses with Governor Reynolds --

DESANTIS: I think so, yeah. Yeah, yeah, absolutely.

We're going to win the caucus. We're doing everything that we need to do it.

We're going to win Iowa.


KARL: So simple question, are you going to win Iowa?


DESANTIS: But you know what? Since then, I’ve learned that it's good to be an underdog. When folks want to count you out, when they want to say, oh, you know, this, when they want to cite these polls -- I mean, the -- our supporters here, and I think Iowans generally, I think they roll their eyes at some of these polls because how you can poll a caucus, much less one in negative 22?

So our voters are ready. They're going to turn out. We've built this great organization. We've got great enthusiasm on the ground. Yes, I visited all 99 counties. So, that's the -- that’s what you need to be able to do well.

So, we're going to do well, but I’d rather have people count us out. I'd rather have people lower expectations for us. I tend to perform better like that.

I think our vo -- our voters that we’ve lined up and we have tens of thousands that have committed to caucus for us. I’ve got thousands of people that have come in just to volunteer in Iowa. People that are just paying their own plane ticket from Washington state and Texas so they can trudge through snow in the middle of a blizzard and knock on doors and ask Iowans to support me in the caucus.

So, we’re really excited about what we put together here. Our voters have an opportunity to have their vote count in a really meaningful way because there was 186,000 people that came last time 2016 to participate. A lot of people thought it was going to be less anyways. But now with this weather, it could be significantly less.

So, any one of our voters who are out there bringing friends and family -- man, that's going to pack a punch. So we're going to do well, but I would -- I like the fact that they’re -- that they're viewing me as an underdog. I think that's better.

KARL: So let me ask you. In the debate in Iowa, you were asked a very direct question of whether you believe Donald Trump has the character to be president. I didn't hear you give a direct answer so let me try again.

Do you believe – I'm not talking about his fitness to serve in terms of his health, his age, any of that? Do you believe he has the character, the moral character to be president of the United States again?

DESANTIS: Well, I think I did answer it in just -- I just didn't answer it in the way the media wants me to.

KARL: Well, you --

DESANTIS: For me, leadership is not about yourself, it's not about showmanship or any of that, it’s about producing results. So, when you make promises, do you deliver? And if you break the promises, then that's not good leadership. So, he was -- he ran in 2016. You covered that campaign. He said he was going to build the wall and have Mexico pay for it, drain the swamp, hold Hillary accountable, eliminate the debt. None of that stuff came to fruition. And so the way I view it is simply, I make promises to people and I am fully intent on following through with it. And I'm going to be willing to sacrifice whatever's in my own personal/political interest to be able to deliver on those big promises.

And so he didn't deliver on those key promises the first time. So, the question is, even if he could get elected, you know, he's close to 80 years old. He’d be a lame duck president. He's got a lot of issues surrounding him personally that he's very concerned about. Is he going to be able to deliver on all those things? And so for me it's just -- the end of the day it's about results. You got to deliver on what you promised.

KARL: One – one of your supporters -- one of the five House members who have supported you, endorsed your campaign, had this to say about why so many others have lined up behind Donald Trump. This is Thomas Massie, Congressman Thomas Massie. He said, “I would say a good number of people who have endorsed Trump in Congress have done it because they genuinely want him to be president and prefer him. But a majority of them are scared of their own constituents, not necessarily scared of Trump, but that he would rile up their constituents and that they might lose a primary.”

Is that is that is – is that what's going on? Because we are now seeing this stampede of – of elected Republican officials endorsing Donald Trump.

DESANTIS: Well, you'll – you’ll have to ask them. I mean I can tell you this, I mean, I do know elected officials who encourage me to run and say they're going to vote for me in a primary, but yet have endorsed Donald Trump. That's just the reality of the situation. But here's the thing, what I would tell elected Republicans. You know, when you stand up and you're delivering on conservative issues, you know, Donald Trump's not going to be able to say you're bad if you've delivered on those issues. The voters are going to look at what you’ve done. I think Trump can be effective in a primary for people who are not delivering on conservative issues and who are going more wobbly or more left on things. But then that's always been the case that people can be exposed in these primaries.

So, we're doing it. I've got guys like Chip Roy, I've got guys like Tom (ph). I mean they guys are out there. They're fighting the good fight. You know, they've got a lot of incoming. But what we can't have as a party is that our movement is detached from the underlying principles and issues that we're trying to advocate on behalf of the American people. And I think Trump is trying to make it to where someone that kisses the ring, even if they're not faithful to the core conservative values, somehow they're a member in good standing just by doing that, whereas a Chip Roy, who's fighting on all these conservative issues that all the Republican base has always wanted to do, but the fact that he's endorsed me and hasn't kissed the ring that somehow he’s bad or he’s somehow a rhino, that is what you don’t want. You want it to be rooted in – in a larger principle and not an individual.

And, also, you’ve got to hold people accountable. I mean, I – you know, me as the nominee should be held accountable, Donald Trump, anybody. So, we're doing it, I think, the right way. The people that are attracted to us. Yes, they – they like what I've done in Florida, but – but I'm really just the vessel for the values that they believe in.

KARL: All right, Governor Ron DeSantis, thank you for joining us this morning.

DESANTIS: Thank you.

KARL: Coming up – coming up, more poll numbers -- troubling poll numbers for Democrats. What does President Biden need to do to turn things around? We'll talk to one of the president's top supporters, Illinois Governor JB Pritzker.

We'll be back in just two minutes.



PRESIDENT JOSEPH R. BIDEN, JR.: We all do well if every race and background, in small towns and big cities, is doing better. When our freedoms are protected, when we deny hate as a safe harbor, where everyone has a fair shot at a life of dignity and opportunity, I'm keeping my commitment to you. That's the America we're building together. Instead of erasing history, we're making history.


KARL: President Biden, on the campaign trail in South Carolina this week, as he makes the case for a second term.

We are joined now by Illinois Governor JB Pritzker, a member of the Biden-Harris campaign national advisory board.

Governor Pritzker, thank you for joining us.

As I understand it, you're going to be in Iowa tomorrow speaking on behalf of the Biden campaign, and I believe even colder than Chicago. So tell me, what's your -- what's your message tomorrow in Iowa?




PRITZKER: So I'm not sure how much colder it will be in Iowa...


PRITZKER: ... but I'll be there.

Look. here's the important thing for people to recognize, that, putting all the polls aside, the truth of the matter is this is going to be won among independents. And independents understand that -- as Democrats do -- that it's the Republicans that are trying to take your freedoms away. It's the Republicans that are trying to take away your Social Security and your Medicare. It's the Republicans that are basically fighting against the working families of America.

And it's Joe Biden who has been lifting up the economy. We now have incomes above inflation. Inflation is coming down significantly. Things are getting better in this country. And over the course of an election year. as the economy continues to improve, you're going to see poll numbers improve, too.

KARL: Well, let me ask you about those numbers because they -- they aren't improving. In fact, they seem to be going in the -- in the other direction. Our poll this morning has Biden's approval rating at 33 percent. That's historically low, low for him, low for an incumbent president. It's 15 years since we've seen numbers that low. And on the economy, it's even actually worse. Only 31 percent say that they approve of Biden's handling of the economy.

How does he turn that around?

PRITZKER: Well, I will say I think your poll is a bit of an outlier, but -- but here's what I'll tell you. This battle hasn't even been joined yet. You've got a bunch of Republicans, MAGA Republicans, espousing things that are not good for the American public, that are on the stage now. And not until they choose a nominee will we truly be in this battle.

And then it's a choice. It's a choice, again, between two visions for America. And Joe Biden has proven that he's the one standing up for working families. He's the one standing up for the rights that people view as fundamental in their lives, their voting rights, their reproductive rights, human rights. And so I -- I really believe that this hasn't, you know, seen the day yet where you've got a true contrast between a Republican on one side and a Democrat on the other.

KARL: I mean, obviously, aside from the issues and where people think the economy is, you have -- you have the question of the president's age. I mean, it's just there in poll after poll, not just ours.

Our poll, in fact, said 28 percent -- just 28 percent think that President Biden has the mental sharpness to effectively serve for another term. So how does he address those concerns, those very real concerns that voters have?

PRITZKER: Maybe we ought to start by just acknowledging that Joe Biden has years of experience, that when you talk about someone's age, you're also talking about the wisdom that they've gained over many years and how they've demonstrated their empathy that they've learned from so many experiences.

Joe Biden and Donald Trump are roughly the same age. Do you think Donald Trump has learned empathy in his life? He has not. Joe Biden has demonstrated it at every turn. Think about what he's accomplishedacross the aisle because of his years of experience, not in a partisan fashion, but a bipartisan fashion. Getting a serious bill passed to improve our infrastructure across the nation, to make sure to create jobs and bring manufacturing back to the United States.

That's what he's done, and again, working with Republicans. The majorities that he's gotten have had Republicans and Democrats voting together. That's who Joe Biden is, and that's what age and experience brings.

KARL: Is it your expectation that he'll be running against Trump?

PRITZKER: I -- you know, the polls certainly show that. If you'll look at the average of the polls out there, it doesn't look good for the people who are running against Donald Trump. Having said that, you know, I think, whatever happens in Iowa tomorrow will be somewhat determinative of who gets to move on to the states beyond Iowa.

And so, we’ll see. I think this battle will go on for perhaps another month or two before there is really a clear front-runner that's been established by actual voters going to the polls.

KARL: And what do you make of this effort to keep him off the ballot, citing the 14th Amendment, banning insurrectionists running? You know, obviously, you have Colorado. You have Maine. There's a movement in Illinois to do the same thing.

Is that something Democrats should be doing, or should they be focused on, you know, the campaign?

PRITZKER: Well, it's not just Democrats doing it. But let's face it -- this is going to go to the Supreme Court. They're the ones who are ultimately going to make the decision here, and we'll all abide by that decision.

KARL: And yet, there's an interesting issue in Illinois. You've got this -- this pledge that candidates have been asked to sign. It's a voluntary pledge, but it's saying that you will not advocate for overthrowing the government.

It actually has its roots in McCarthy -- in the McCarthy era, but candidates have been signing this, you know, for decades. Biden signed it.

We've learned that President Trump has not signed it. What do you make of that? He's not signing a pledge that he won’t participate in the overthrow of the government?

PRITZKER: Isn't that telling? That says all you need to know about Donald Trump, that, you know, truthfully, what Joe Biden has been saying about Donald Trump not really believing in democracy, you know, having Joe Biden call out the fact that Donald Trump is saying that he'll be a dictator, whether it's one day or his entire term, nobody really knows.

But the reality is that he's not signing that pledge, it's just another indicator of Donald Trump not wanting to abide by the Constitution of the United States of America, and we just can’t afford to have a president who is acting in unconstitutional fashion, and in his own self-interest.

KARL: Well, one thing we've seen in -- throughout this primary process is Trump has refused to debate. Do you expect that, assuming he is the nominee, are we going to see debates in the fall?

PRITZKER: I would think so. I mean, I have not seen a presidential election in my lifetime where there wasn't at least one debate between the two candidates. So I think we're going to see that.

But the debate is ongoing, as you know. And once a nominee is chosen on the Republican side, once again, I think you're going to start to see the real contrast, whether there's a debate or two in the fall. Every day, you're going to see the contrast between these two visions for a future for the American people, and it's Joe Biden that really stands with working families.

KARL: And we don't have much time left, but one issue that is clearly hurting Democrats is the situation at the border. A recent CBS poll found that 68 percent disapprove of the president's handling.

Whatever you think of that, there's clearly a problem at the border. I know you have advocated for a stronger action from the federal government on dealing with this crisis. How does -- how does the president address this going forward?

PRITZKER: Well, we need the Congress to act. There is discussion right now about comprehensive immigration reform, about border security, and this can be handled right now. They could vote on this and make sure that we're actually dealing with it.

But, you know, Democrats have been at the table for decades now, wanting immigration reform. Republicans refused. So, finally, they're at least in discussion. My hope is that they'll get something done.

But not enough has been done, there's no doubt about that. And I think that the president needs to do more. The Congress needs to do more.

Cities out here that are the target of this political game that Governor Abbott is playing, are suffering.

And here in Illinois, it's minus 29 degrees outside with the wind chill. We have migrants that arrive from Texas virtually every day, hundreds, and we don't have places to put them. We don't have enough shelter space here.

There are plenty of other cities where, you know, if he's going to send people, they could be sent, but no. He's choosing only Democratic states, Democratic cities. And when we've asked him to stop sending people because of the weather, because the dangerous nature of this winter storm that we're experiencing now, he's refused to stop sending them. So, he does not care about people. He doesn't care about the, the migrants, he doesn't care about the fact that they're going to suffer if they're sent to certainly the Upper Midwest, as he is doing now.

KARL: All right, Governor JB Pritzker of Illinois, thank you for joining us.

PRITZKER: Thank you very much, Jonathan.

KARL: Coming up, more results from our latest ABC News/Ipsos poll, and the latest numbers out of Iowa. Our political director Rick Klein has the breakdown.



BOB DOLE, (R) 1996 PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: I always stood with Bob Dole and I thank everybody for that. I thank the people of Iowa for that.

GEORGE W. BUSH, (R) 2000 PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: And I will never forget. I will never forget that it all started right here.

MIKE HUCKABEE, (R) 2008 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Tonight, I love Iowa a whole lot.

RICK SANTORUM, (R) 2012 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This has been an incredible journey, 99 counties, 381 townhall meetings.

SEN. TED CRUZ, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: God bless the great state of Iowa.


KARL: Nearly three decades worth of non-incumbent Republican winners of the Iowa caucuses. Of course, only two of them ended up with the nomination, and only one went on to win the White House.

Let's turn now to our political director Rick Klein with the breakdown on what we expect in Iowa tomorrow. And Rick, we all know that all signs point to a big Trump win. But what else are you looking for tomorrow night?

RICK KLEIN, ABC POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yes, Jon, the question really isn't who wins but by how much? And then who finishes in second and third? Take a look at the 538-polling average, and you see how Donald Trump is positioned very well for a blowout, for a historic victory, winning by even 13 points would beat any of the people we just saw on the screen that would set a record in the caucuses. The question now, his expectations and then what happens a little bit lower down on the ballot? Because if Trump wins by 30 points that's one thing.

But coming in second could be Nikki Haley. She has surged ahead both in the polling average and in that "Des Moines Register" poll.

And this is why that’s so stark. For the entire campaign, Ron DeSantis has been a strong second. That purple line. Just in the last couple of days, that's begun to change. And if Nikki Haley were to overperform in expectations in Iowa, she is very well positioned in the next state up, in New Hampshire. She's down only by about 10, 11 points behind Trump in the polling average. And that included Chris Christie, who just left the race last week. His supporters are probably more likely to be Nikki Haley supporters than anything else. And that would, of course, reset the race from there.

KARL: Of course, Rick, like every election, it comes down to turnout. But I’m looking at the forecast, 19 degrees below zero forecast for Des Moines tomorrow night?

KLEIN: Yes, and, look, Iowa Republicans set a turnout record eight years ago with Trump and Cruz and all those candidates on the ballot. That's unlikely to happen. It’s going to be hard to get to that number again given those frigid temperatures. But it does test the turnout operations. And Ron DeSantis has -- is boasting of a turnout operation around the state. He's hoping he overperforms expectations because he has proven precinct captains and people that are going to help shovel you out of the snow to get you to the polls.

And Donald Trump, look, he is well positioned in a situation where a lot of new voters show up. Those first-time caucusgoers are more likely to be Trump supporters. He is warning his supporters of both complacency and of turnout. He's just, last night, sending the message, we have to show up no matter what.

But even this is just about diehards, even if this is just about traditional Republicans, Trump is very well positioned. This again from our latest poll with IPSOS. A national poll. The question of who's the strongest leader, well, that's Donald trump by 50 points. Who best represents your values as Republicans, Trump again by 25 points. Similarly, on best understanding your problems. And this is a key question for primary voters always, who's the best positioned to actually win in November? Sixty-eight percent of Republicans say the answer to that question is Donald Trump. Despite all the baggage, Haley and DeSantis have not been able to make an electability argument that's penetrated at all.

And a big warning sign that I point out for Nikki Haley. We asked – we asked Republicans, how satisfied would you be with the following individuals as your nominee? Seventy-two percent of Republicans say they’d be satisfied with Donald Trump. That’s 10 points better than DeSantis. Nikki Haley, fewer than half of Republicans right now nationally say they’d be satisfied if she were the nominee.

KARL: I mean it’s quite a turnaround. Eight years ago Trump actually lost in Iowa. In fact, he came – he was almost in third place, barely eking out a second place over Marco Rubio.

KLEIN: Yes, Jon. And that's not going to happen again. These are those 2016 results. They are important to look at, even if it won't be replicated, because it gives you some window into the campaign strategy and how to watch the returns come in tomorrow night.

Ron DeSantis has visited all of 99 -- all of Iowa’s 99 counties, just like Ted Cruz did. Cruz was able to use that for victory. Up in the northwest corner of the state, counties like Sioux County, Donald Trump actually came in fourth place there. A heavily evangelical county. That’s the kind of map that Ron DeSantis is hoping helps him overperform the polls and overperform expectations.

Meanwhile, Nikki Haley, she has spent a lot of time in the cities and suburbs. Places like Des Moines and Iowa City and Davenport. That was Marco Rubio country last time around. She is hoping that this is where Nikki Haley’s momentum begins to kick in. And you get those kind of caucus-goers.

Now, look, Trump, he just has to kind of overperform what he did everywhere. And he’s well positioned to do that. And one big reason why, Jon, here's an interesting fact, there's 100,000 more Republicans in the state of Iowa than there were eight years ago. The Trump team is convince that many, if not most of them, are MAGA Republicans.

KARL: All right, Rick will make his way back to the studio to join the rest of the powerhouse roundtable.

We'll be right back.


KARL: All right. Let's bring in the powerhouse roundtable, former DNC Chair Donna Brazile; former RNC chair and Trump White House chief of staff Reince Priebus; NPR White House correspondent Asma Khalid; and Rick Klein joins us again.

So, Rick, we had the Iowa Register -- the Des Moines Register poll. It sure looks like Trump's dominance is continuing. What's the scenario that he still loses this nomination?

KLEIN: Well, it has to be New Hampshire, and then a lot of things have to go right for either Nikki Haley or Ron DeSantis or some other wild card here. The only scenario I can see right now is, if it gets down to a two-person race, then something suddenly changes.

But here's the thing, and it's so stark in our poll. Republicans really like Donald Trump. They have all along, and they still do now, on the eve of voting. And if Nikki Haley and Ron DeSantis can't make the core argument that he isn't electable, given the indictments, given the chaos, given everything that's said and done around him, if Republicans still think he's their best shot against Joe Biden, in addition to representing them in the best way, I just don't see how anyone gets into this conversation.

KARL: I mean, Asma, that's what really struck me, actually, in that poll, more than any other number in any of these polls today, is that Republicans overwhelmingly think that Trump has the best chance of winning.


KARL: That means an utter failure for his opponents to make the case that he's lost, and lost over and over again. This was the core of Christie's message, apart from the democracy stuff.

KHALID: But if you look at -- talk about it, I mean, Christie was a very lone voice throughout this Republican primary process. You never really saw Nikki Haley and DeSantis -- and I would say they still haven't really articulated a clear case for why they think Trump is not electable. And that has always been the very delicate dance that they have made.

I think I, you know, agree with Rick that the biggest thing, if, when you looked underneath the layer of that Des Moines Register poll, to me, that was interesting was how committed Donald Trump's support is. It's very enthusiastic. People talk about Nikki Haley seeing a bounce, but those, you know, top-line numbers may show a bounce; underneath there, Nikki Haley's support doesn't seem to be as enthusiastic. And that's important because, on a blistery, cold day, you need your people to show up.

KARL: And -- and, Reince, we're seeing Republican elected officials who did not come out to support Trump when he announced his campaign. I mean, he was -- he was -- he did not -- had precious few endorsements, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Elise Stefanik, and that was about it. Now they're all coming out, including Mike Lee, who was one of the last holdouts in 2016...


KARL: ... Mike Lee, the senator from Utah, full-hearted endorsement this week. But I want to play something that Mike Lee said back in 2016 after the "Access Hollywood" incident.


SEN. MIKE LEE, (R) UTAH: If anyone spoke to my wife or my daughter or my mother or any of my five sisters the way Mr. Trump has spoken to women, I wouldn't hire that person. I wouldn't hire that person, wouldn't want to be associated with that person.


KARL: I mean, he didn't want to be associated with him.


PRIEBUS: And he was in the White House pretty quickly after January 20th.

KARL: Yeah.


PRIEBUS: Look, politics is a market-driven system, and it's part of the reason why candidates are supporting Trump. It's part of the reason why, you know, people like -- and I like him a lot, but people like Governor Christie are mystified why, you know, people aren't gravitating toward the message. It's because the voters aren't buying it. And not only is there support across the board...

KARL: But why are they buying that Trump's a winner, when Republicans have lost over and over and over again since 2016?

PRIEBUS: Well, but hang on a second. They -- they kept the House. They added seats in the House. I don't disagree with you that there hasn't been a need for more winning. But the reality is, is that the voters out there across this country, in Iowa, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, they like the authenticity of Trump. They like the fact that he's not a plasticized Washington politician. He says what he says. They like it. I've said it before.

But -- but what you said is 100 percent true that the enthusiasm is the most important thing on the ballot to win a caucus in Iowa because it's different. You've got to show up at these places. And if you're enthusiastic and the enthusiasm is off the charts, Donald Trump's going to win.

Second thing is that he will likely be the largest winner of an Iowa caucus in the history of the Iowa caucus. So, he goes from that to New Hampshire and the pressure on the party to call him the presumptive nominee is going to be off the charts, and you know why as well, because they need the money. And the faster you get to a presumptive nominee, the faster you get to the money and a joint fund-raising agreement, this is where it's heading.


KARL: Donna?

BRAZILE: Well, first of all, Happy King holiday weekend to all of you. I know a little bit about the Iowa caucuses. I've actually won them twice on the Democratic side, so I'm very proud of that. I have winter clothes because of Iowa caucuses, but thank God I'm not there this weekend because I would need additional winter clothes.


BRAZILE: But, here's the thing. The word on the street is that Donald Trump learned the lesson from 2016 when he lost the caucuses to Ted Cruz. He learned early on that this was an organizing event, and while he has had lots of rallies, he used those rallies to -- to really focus on his base. So if this is an organizing event, he can get his people to the caucus. He can improve turnout. But the thing I saw on the The Des Moines Register/NBC Iowa polls, is that first-time caucus-goers, I mean that's the ball game, and they are overwhelmingly enthusiastic about supporting…

KARL: And there's 100,000 more Republicans in Iowa than there was eight years ago.

BRAZILE: I'm going to just say this, and some of my Democratic friends will not send me an email later. When you abandon a state, whether it's Iowa or Louisiana, then you let the Republicans in. We've abandoned too many states trying to focus on winning the battleground, and not looking at the future trends. And so, I'm not surprised that Republicans have taken over several counties in the state itself. It's much redder than it was when Barack Obama won the state, but you know what? At the end of the day, it is a ground game, and if you have the wherewithal to get your people to those caucuses, it's his to win.

PRIEBUS: Look, the part of this, and I'm not a Trump spokesman here, but we have to be honest about the truth. Those states have changed because of Trump. I can tell you as a former chairman of Wisconsin, northern Wisconsin is Trump country times 100. Iowa has changed because of Trump. Ohio has changed because of Trump. So I mean, he has changed the party. People want to talk about the negative of Trump. Well, there's a lot of positives too, and that's taking a lot of these mid-western states off the board for the Democratic Party, and that's just the reality.

BRAZILE: I wouldn't go so far to say you've taking it off the board. Look, Democrats flipped several gubernatorial seats in the 2022-cycle. Republicans had everything laid (ph) to have a red wave and they -- it didn't materialize. I think Democrats have to focus on the ground game. They've got to stop worrying about how much money they have in the bank, which is a lot, and focus really on reaching people where they are.

Look, DeSantis knocked on how many doors? 923,000, over 3 million overall, and that hasn't produced a lot. (inaudible).


PRIEBUS: DeSantis could have bought everyone a pickup truck in Iowa.



KARL: But Rick, we saw Donald Trump this week say something. Sometimes he is enormously transparent, basically acknowledging there is no distinction between the courtroom and the campaign trail.

KLEIN: Yeah. That's the whole strategy right now, and the fact that he got lucky…

KARL: Because in fact, he hasn't been in Iowa very much.

KLEIN: Well, that's right. The weather helped him out because the others had to cancel some events anyway. But yes, that is his strategy right now. And I am struck still by how much DeSantis and Haley have fueled that argument, even if inadvertently and not intentionally, by suggesting that he's justified in being angry about media portrayal or about a left-wing crusade to try to deny (ph) the ballot.

KARL: That was a miscalculation.

KLEIN: I think, at this point, look, I don't -- Christie tried the opposite. That didn't work either. And look, if you are going to have Republican voters choose the Republican nominee, as what happens in the Iowa caucuses, the fact that we're talking about a high turnout scenario that helps Trump, and a low turnout scenario that also helps Trump, he's got him boxed in because he is so popular. So maybe there wasn't a path (inaudible).


KARL: Or you're setting expectations which could hurt him, but...

KLEIN: That's right.

KARL: But this question in terms of the cases he has argued, Donna, absolute immunity for a president, which means in layman's terms that a president is above the law…


BRAZILE: (Inaudible).

KARL: …and a president cannot be prosecuted for anything tied to their office while president, even after they leave the White House. Is that a -- not -- I mean that's going to fail in the courts it seems.

BRAZILE: Well, look, I would say...

KARL: But, is that going to be a campaign issue that he's saying that a president is above the law?

BRAZILE: Absolutely. When it's become a choice between Joe Biden and Donald Trump, and when we're really talking about the economy that Donald Trump left behind in the economy, that, of course, Joe Biden has created, it is going to be a choice. But let me just say this, he is not above the law. He's not a king, and he should be held accountable.

ASMA KHALID, ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: But Donna, Democrats do keep saying that when this becomes a choice, I hear this a lot from -- from the Biden camp that that then voters will begin to tune in and potentially Joe Biden's numbers will change. But my hesitation on that is that voters have, you know, not been tuning in. but over time, and we saw the ABC poll, and over time, the perception of Joe Biden's mental sharpness has dipped.

I mean, there is a fundamental question that a lot of voters have about Biden's age and that's the one thing that he cannot change. And we see it in poll after poll after poll. And I don't really know how Democrats fundamentally answer that question.

BRAZILE: He needs to do a James Brown and when James Brown would come on say, watch me. I mean, he could just come out and tell the world that I am in command, and I'm doing a good job on behalf of the American (INAUDIBLE).

KARL: All right. We're going to take a quick break. We will be back don't go away. More with the Roundtable coming up tackling the battle over the budget on Capitol Hill, and Speaker Mike Johnson.

We'll be right back.


KARL: All right, the Roundtable is back. So, we added drama on Capitol Hill as well as Speaker of the House Mike Johnson looks like an overnight deal. It seems that shutdown at least for now was averted. But this puts him right at odds with the --


KARL: -- hardcore Republican.

KHALID: And puts him pretty much right back at odds is where his predecessor Kevin McCarthy was which is mind-boggling to me as to how Republicans went through this whole process and now, you're seeing the new speaker in the same tightrope where he's going to have to rely on Democratic votes most likely to get this deal through.

REINCE PRIEBUS, ABC NEWS POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, man it's a problem for the party. Three problems. Number one, division is pure profit and makes you popular so if you're dividing you make money and you're popular.

KARL: Donation, small donor and all that stuff.

PRIEBUS: And low majority, it makes it very tough to function and you've got a weak speakership by rule. So those three things combined very difficult.

BRAZILE: Well, they're going to have a conference call tonight and we should see some outline of what the laddered approach to government funding is. I never understood that, and I worked on Capitol Hill until this last fall. The good news is that they are going to agree to the deal that they set last year with President Biden, and Chuck Schumer and Mitch McConnell are moving ahead in the Senate, so the House must go along.

KARL: But then, there (ph) was enormous pressure, Rick, on Mike Johnson to back off that deal.

KLEIN: Yeah.

KARL: That deal that he made, Schumer, the White House, and the Republicans flipped out.

KLEIN: Yeah. And the biggest -- the biggest question in Washington is what makes Mike Johnson tick? Because this is a guy that five minutes ago could never (ph) House Speaker. He's put in a position of power, he knows the situation. He know the reason that he got the job and how Kevin McCarthy was ousted, and then he cut a deal, looks like everyone wants to cut him off for it. Sticking by it makes this a defining moment for him in his speakership.

And do the Republicans want to go through what they just did? Do they want to oust somebody else over this and not get much of a payback for it? Johnson's calculating that he has enough support to get this through with Democratic votes, which Kevin McCarthy thought the same thing.

KARL: Do you think his job is secure? Because, obviously, Trump is going to be lobbing bombs at this thing too.

PRIEBUS: I think his -- I think his job is secure for the reasons Rick just outlined, and I think you're going to see potentially some kind of, you know, some compromise here somewhere.

KARL: Compromise? OK. We'll take that to the bank. We'll be right back.



KARL: All right. That is all for us today. Thank you for sharing part of your Sunday with us. Tune into ABC News Live tomorrow night, starting at 7 p.m. Eastern for special coverage of the Iowa caucuses. And have a great start to your week as our nation celebrates Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday tomorrow.