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THE SITUATION ROOM

GOP to Reveal Their Provisions of Next Stimulus Bill; Coronavirus Testing Czar Says Turnaround Times Still Too Long in the U.S.; Trump's Disapproval Rating is 61 Percent with 100 Days to Election; Interview with Governor Asa Hutchinson (R) about Coronavirus in Arkansas; Remembering Civil Rights Icon John Lewis. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired July 26, 2020 - 21:00   ET

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


[21:00:12]

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. This is a special edition of THE SITUATION ROOM.

Right now the United States still far surpassing all other countries in confirmed coronavirus cases. But there are some emerging spots of optimistic news along with the very, very bad. Case in point the state of New York, the former epicenter of COVID-19 infections in the United States, the Governor Andrew Cuomo's office releasing what he is now calling really great news that the number of people being hospitalized with the virus statewide is the lowest in months.

But at the same time new infections and death are sharply on the rise elsewhere the United States. Health officials in Texas, for example, reported a record high number of people died from the virus last week. The same happened in Florida. But as I speak more people are known to have the virus in California than in any other state.

Also happening now, millions of Americans who lost their jobs because of this devastating pandemic are eager to see if the next economic stimulus bill will send more desperately needed money their way or change their unemployment benefits. Senate Republicans are set to unveil what they want to see on the bill. For so many Americans, they need to feed their families and in some cases avoid eviction. So much is hanging in the balance right now.

All of this happening at a notable day. 100 days from today, November 3rd, that's Election Day in the United States. We'll discuss the state of the race and the impact of the pandemic on the contest later this hour with our reporters and our analysts.

First, let's go to the White House right now for the very latest on the work that's needed to finalize the next round of help for millions of out-of-work Americans. CNN's Jeremy Diamond is joining us right now.

So, Jeremy, Republicans are still trying to finalize their own coronavirus relief proposals. But now the White House is also pushing for a scaled back bill. Update our viewers on the very latest.

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. Senate Republicans are expected to finally release their $1 trillion phase four coronavirus relief bill tomorrow. But today as those negotiations continued with the White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and the Treasury secretary Steve Mnuchin both on Capitol Hill doing those finishing touches on that legislation, both of those men also floated a different approach going forward. And that is to do a scaled down bill that would focus on those unemployment benefits, perhaps as well a liability protections for businesses.

That's because at the end of this coming week, Wolf, those supplemental unemployment benefits, $600 additional per week that millions of Americans have been benefitting from during this coronavirus pandemic, those additional unemployment benefits are expiring. And so there is a very, very tight deadline in order to extend those so that Americans don't experience a lapse in those benefits.

But, Wolf, that proposal appears to be dead on arrival. The House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, she has already said quite clearly that this should not be done piecemeal. It should be done as a total package because beyond of course the financial aspects of this bill for Americans in terms of unemployment benefits, those $1200 stimulus payments that are also expected to be included, there's also billions of dollars for testing, contact tracing, things that are directly related to alleviating the coronavirus pandemic, as well as billions of dollars for schools to help them reopen.

So, Wolf, this is certainly going to be an interesting week on Pennsylvania Avenue on both ends between the White House and Capitol Hill as they try and hammer this out. And as I expect, we will also begin to see a potential blame game between both sides as those unemployment benefits are expected to expire.

BLITZER: Yes, for millions and millions of Americans, so much is at stake right now.

Jeremy, there was some news involving the president today. A few days ago, as you remember, he announced that he would throw out the first ceremonial pitch at a New York Yankees game in mid-August. But all of a sudden today those plans have been scrapped. Tell us what happened.

DIAMOND: This went away almost as quickly as it came about, Wolf. The president on Thursday said that he was going to be throwing out the ceremonial first pitch at Yankee Stadium on August 15th. And today, just three days later, the president is cancelling those plans, tweeting today, "Because of my strong focus on the China virus," which is how he refers to the coronavirus, "including scheduled meetings on vaccines, our economy and much else, I won't be able to be in New York to throw out the opening pitch for the Yankees on August 15th."

But he says he'll make it later in the season is. It's not clear what exactly popped up in the president's schedule in those three days to make it not possible. Of course there has been some backlash in New York to the idea of the president throwing out the first pitch. It's certainly not area where he enjoys a lot of support.

But, Wolf, if it came later in the season, perhaps when fans would be allow, I find it hard to believe that President Trump would go out there given the boos that likely would follow him in a place like New York at Yankee Stadium -- Wolf.

[21:05:05]

BLITZER: Yes. You're right. Jeremy Diamond at the White House, thank you very much.

We also saw this from the president today just outside his New Jersey golf course. We're still in New Jersey at the time the president tossed hats to a crowd of supporters. He was not wearing a mask as you can see. And we also saw the president golfing this weekend with NFL Hall of Famer Brett Favre. Once again, no masks.

It's only been six days since the president tweeted this. "Many people say that it is patriotic to wear a face mask when you can't socially distance. There is nobody more patriotic than me, your favorite president."

Let's discuss this with former New York City assistant commissioner of health and CNN medical analyst, Dr. Celine Gounder. Also with us Michael Osterholm, who's the director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota.

Professor Osterholm, thanks very much, to both of you for joining us. Let me start with you. Do Americans need to see their president wearing a mask more often? He doesn't do it very often. If they are going to change their own behavior, wouldn't that set an example from the top?

MICHAEL OSTERHOLM, DIRECTOR OF THE CENTER FOR INFECTIOUS DISEASE RESEARCH AND POLICY, UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA: Yes, in fact, it's important we should be wearing masks. We want to not use as the only means for protecting ourselves because we know that distancing is by far the best thing we can do, but we should all be wearing masks right now.

BLITZER: What do you think, Dr. Gounder? He needs to set an example because there's a whole bunch of people out there who don't believe in wearing a mask. They don't see the president wearing a mask and they think it's not necessary.

DR. CELINE GOUNDER, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: I agree with Michael. I think aside from a complete shelter-in-place lockdown kind of situation, masks are the number one, two, and three most important things we can do right now. And I think unfortunately, masks have become symbols. Symbols of your partisanship as opposed to what they really are, which are hygienic measures.

It would be like saying, I'm not going to wash my hands because I belong to this or that political party. It's just not a scientific perspective. BLITZER: Professor Osterholm, testing certainly continues to be a

critically important issue in this country. I want you to watch what the White House's coronavirus testing czar told our own Jake Tapper earlier today. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ADM. BRETT GIROIR MD, ASSISTANT SECRETARY FOR HEALTH, HHS: We are never going to be happy with testing until we get turnaround times within 24 hours and I would be happy with point of care testing everywhere. We are not there yet. We are doing everything we can to do that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: We're hearing a lot of reports, as you know, Professor Osterholm, of some people waiting a week, 10 days, even longer to get their results. How do these delays impact the spread of this deadly virus?

OSTERHOLM: Well, a test that comes back eight to 10 days later really has no impact whatsoever. Largely, either from a clinical standpoint or from a public health standpoint. We issued a document several months ago about smart testing. You wanted to test the right people at the right time with the right test to get the right result to have the right outcome. And that means all those have to be in place for the test to be effective, and right now we're failing desperately in that regard.

And I worry that as a nation we don't have a plan for how to correct that or to, in a sense, allow us to move forward in a more effective way.

BLITZER: Admiral Giroir, Brett Giroir, also told Jake, Professor Osterholm, that the White House is conducting a Manhattan like Project to deal with this.

Do you see that kind of evidence on the ground?

OSTERHOLM: Well, you know, we'll have to wait and see. If there's something that's great. But we've been calling for a national planning and intervention for the better part of four months. We knew the supply chains were going to be a problem. I talked about it in this very show back in April that we knew that this was going to happen. And we've just not been able to basically manage the testing expectations by either reagents, the number of tests available, the machines to run them, the personnel to run them, and you're seeing what's happening now because of that.

BLITZER: Dr. Gounder, more than 150 very prominent medical experts, scientists, teachers, nurses, other experts, they signed a letter urging leaders to simply shut the country down once again, start over to contain the rapid spread of the virus. Do you think it will take another shutdown to slow or stop this virus?

GOUNDER: Look, Wolf, we're on the very steep end of an exponential curve where rates of transmission, rates of new cases of hospitalizations and deaths are shooting up in many parts of the country. And I do think in much of the country that is probably what it's going to take. Fortunately, we are starting to see things starting to level off in Arizona. We may be approaching the peak in Florida.

But there are other states that are very concerning right now. States like Missouri and Mississippi that threaten to be the next hotspots. And so basically what you're dealing with is one massive game of whack-a-mole. And so you're going to keep seeing this resurge one place after another after another if we don't have a concerted national approach to this.

[21:10:08]

BLITZER: Dr. Celine Gounder, thank you so much for joining us. Professor Michael Osterholm, as usual, thanks to you as well.

OSTERHOLM: Thank you.

BLITZER: Thank you. Today marks 100 days until Election Day 2020 here in the United States. And the big question is, can a president win reelection amid a devastating pandemic and more than a 60 percent disapproval rating right now?

We'll take a closer look at the state of the presidential contest and a whole lot more when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Today we can say marks the beginning of the end of the presidential campaign here in the United States. Only 100 days remain until Election Day 2020. However, get this, many votes will be cast well before that. In fact, the first states begin to vote in only 54 days. In the middle of the coronavirus pandemic, a huge question hangs over the race.

[21:15:02]

Can a president win reelection with a more than 60 percent disapproval rating from the American public? The United States, people here in the U.S. they are about to find out.

According to a new poll, look at this, 61 percent of Americans say they disapprove of the way President Trump is handling his job. 38 percent say they approve.

It's become a famous reelection mantra for incumbent presidents coined by Ronald Reagan. Are you better off now than you were four years ago? For many voters in 2020 the answer at least right now appears to be no. Just 20 percent of Americans, by the way, say the country is heading in the right direction. Right direction, wrong direction, only 20 percent say it's heading in the right direction. That's the lowest percentage than any time during President Trump's term of office.

So let's talk about the state of the race right now and the impact of the coronavirus with our top campaign reporters. CNN's Ryan Nobles is following the Trump campaign for us. MJ Lee is covering the Biden camp.

Ryan, these are pretty bleak poll numbers for the Trump campaign right now with only 100 days to go. So what's their strategy? What are you hearing from your sources?

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, it's pretty clear every time you present these bleak poll numbers to the Trump campaign, both those national numbers and the state-by-state battleground numbers, what the Trump campaign immediately does is take you back to 2016 and show you the long list of polls that showed Hillary Clinton with the lead and the long list of prognosticators that said that she was going to win the election, and then they point you to the results, saying that Donald Trump ended up winning the presidency.

But there is no doubt that the Trump campaign understands just the position that they're in right now. That's why you saw them shake some things up. They removed their campaign manager, Brad Parscale, replaced him with Bill Stepien, an old political hand who understands how to navigate a political campaign, especially with the stakes this high.

And you also start to see a bit of a change in tone from President Trump. He seems much more focused on combatting the coronavirus. He's talking about it in much calmer terms. The question, of course, Wolf, when dealing with President Trump is how long can this tone last? And of course, you know, it was kind of the bombastic tone that got him elected four years ago.

So definitely an unsteady situation now for the Trump campaign, but they remain confident they still believe that there's a enough time for the president to turn things around and win reelection.

BLITZER: I think it would help his campaign if he started wearing a mask in public. I think that would be a political gain for him.

As you know, Ryan, no Republican has won the presidency without carrying the state of Florida since 1924. And President Trump has not led in the poll in Florida since early March. Is the Trump campaign planning on putting a whole lot more resources there? And we know they have tons of cash.

NOBLES: Well, listen, there's no doubt that Florida is a must-win for the Trump campaign. In fact Bill Stepien held a conference call with reporters on Friday. He said they must Florida in order to win the election.

And the other thing that we need to keep in mind, Wolf, is that you'd be very hard pressed to find someone that knows Florida politics, both Republican or Democrat, that believes the gap there is 10 points. Everyone knows that it is going to be a tight race at the end of the day. But we do see the Trump campaign making moves there. The most significant being bringing back Susie Whiles, who oversaw their effort in 2016. She came on late in the game last time around. Many in the Trump world give her credit for his victory last time. She

also helped steer Ron DeSantis' victory in 2018. She's back in charge. That calms a lot of nerves in the Trump campaign. They already have a robust staff there. They've invested heavily on the air and on the ground. They believe they can win in Florida but so do Democrats. There is no doubt that that is going to be one of the most important states to watch on election night.

BLITZER: And right now it's a coronavirus hotspot as we all know.

Ryan, stand by. The campaign of the presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden is next. And CNN's MJ Lee is joining us.

MJ, Biden has been seeing some very encouraging poll numbers for him recently, especially in those three key battleground states that President Trump won in 2016. So what are they showing? Update our viewers on that.

MJ LEE, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, as Ryan just laid out, there's no question that the coronavirus pandemic has taken a political toll on Donald Trump. Recent polls have consistently shown that his national approval ratings have taken a hit. We know that this has happened as the pandemic continues to hurt the economy and continues to kill thousands of Americans across the country.

Now when you look at some of these state-by-state polls, there's more good news for the Joe Biden campaign right now. I just want to walk you through three new polls from CNN that came out today quickly. Look in the state of Florida. Biden is up 51 percent to Donald Trump's 46 percent. And in Arizona, Biden is at 49 percent to Donald Trump's 45 percent. And then finally in Michigan, Biden is at 52 percent to Donald Trump's 40 percent.

Now the reason that both the Donald Trump campaign and the Joe Biden campaign are going to be looking at these three polls really closely is because these are three states that Donald Trump won in 2016.

[21:20:11]

So this certainly doesn't bode well for the Donald Trump campaign right now. Now I should add the big caveat that polls only capture a snapshot in time. So this is where things stand right now. Obviously, a lot can change. But I will just note that in all three of those polls that I just pointed out, the CNN polls, Donald Trump's approval rating when it comes to the coronavirus pandemic, they were all under water -- Wolf.

BLITZER: So what else is in Biden's campaign strategy right now to try to keep this momentum going in the midst of this pandemic 100 days until Election Day?

LEE: Well, you know, the strategy right now really appears to be continue talking about the coronavirus pandemic and more specifically continue hammering away at what the campaign feels like has been a big failure from both Donald Trump and his administration in managing this pandemic. You know, every single in-person Biden campaign event that we have seen in recent weeks you see Joe Biden directly quoting Donald Trump.

Some of his statements about how he wants to slow down testing and other sort of misstatements that they believe have been harmful to this effort to contain the pandemic. We also see Joe Biden pointing out certain behaviors coming from the president himself. His refusal, for example, to wear a mask. His decision to hold an indoor campaign rally.

And on top of all that, Joe Biden is also rolling out his own campaign policy proposal plans. So last week, for example, we saw him go to Delaware and roll out a plan aimed at the people in America who are taken care of children, the elderly, people who are sick.

So clearly for the time being, Wolf, the Joe Biden campaign believes that talking about the coronavirus pandemic and really hammering away at what they see as failed leadership from Donald Trump, they see that as a winning message right now -- Wolf.

BLITZER: MJ Lee, thank you. Ryan Nobles, thanks to you as well. You guys are going to be very busy, very busy over the next 100 days. Appreciate it very much.

We'll have more on the election and the coronavirus. That's coming up. Amidst to all of these, there are new cases of the coronavirus that are spiking across the country. And now one hard hit state, we're talking about Arkansas, is mandating the use of face masks statewide. The governor, Asa Hutchinson, he's standing by live. We'll discuss, when we come become.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[21:26:57]

BLITZER: Arkansas finds itself in the same situation as so many other states. Struggling to control the coronavirus pandemic and reopen its schools safely. The state reported more than 700 new cases on Saturday pushing the state's total case load to nearly 38,000. The state also this week reporting a new high in COVID hospitalizations.

The Arkansas governor Asa Hutchinson is joining us right now.

Governor, thanks so much for joining us. Are you considering taking further measures to try to bring down the number of new daily cases?

GOV. ASA HUTCHINSON (R), ARKANSAS: Thank you, Wolf. And it's good to be with you. And absolutely every day we look at what more we can do to bring down the cases, to bring down our positivity rate because we do want to have school in about four weeks. And so we're trying to set the stage so we can reenter school safely.

The steps we're taking of course is trying to increase our testing, but in fact our testing through our commercial labs has declined a little bit over the last couple of weeks. We hope that can increase again because that is so critical to set the stage for our contact tracing. And as you know, if there's a delay in getting the test results back, then the contact tracing is not as effective. In addition, of course, we have our mask mandate. That's something I

didn't want to do, but had to do whenever you see the increase in cases, the increase in hospitalizations. We had to take that step and Arkansans have responded well to that.

BLITZER: They certainly have. And you recently enacted, as you point out, that statewide mask mandate. Everyone has to wear a mask in Arkansas if they're going outside. Do you believe the death toll would be lower, and we see the death toll rising not just in Arkansas, but in so many states around the country, if that order to wear a mask had been put in place earlier?

HUTCHINSON: Well, you know, that's a question I'm sure everybody is going to debate six months, in a year and two years from now. And my approach was that we wanted to have everybody wear a mask. We went through education, voluntary compliance that had a high level of success, but we finally got to the point we did need to put in the mandatory provision. And I think it was the right time for it.

We still -- it's been in place for a week. We probably won't see results of that for another week. So we can argue about when it should have started, but we really pushed for compliance even before the actual mandate was in place.

BLITZER: As you know, President Trump has in recent days started to encourage people to wear a mask. But recently we've seen him in various places with a bunch of people playing baseball with a bunch of kids, let's say, on the South Lawn of the White House or outside his country club in New Jersey without a mask. How far would it go in Arkansas, for example, where he has a lot of popularity as all of us know, if the president were to set that example and regularly wear a mask?

[21:30:00]

HUTCHINSON: Well, obviously, setting an example is important. And I really try to be careful to make sure that I'm setting the right example now. But if you go into a restaurant that we have in Arkansas, we're supposed to wear a mask until you're served, after you're served, you have to eat. So there's pictures of me without a mask at a restaurant. People can jump to conclusions, but we're following the guidelines.

And so I think you have to look at social distancing, the context the president, but it absolutely is important for me to set the example, all the leaders to do that. And I do believe that we're really unified right now as a nation. It took us awhile to get there, but unified now as to this is important. Let's move down this path together because that's the one tool that each individual can do something about.

BLITZER: And it's so easy to put on a mask. Almost 147,000 Americans have died over these past five months from coronavirus. Almost 147,000 Americans, hundreds of Americans are dying every single day.

What's your message, Governor, to other -- your Republicans, other Republican governors, shall we say, Ron DeSantis in Florida, for example, which is a real hotspot right now, who refuse to mandate masks despite the soaring cases, for example, there?

HUTCHINSON: Well, I'm not going to second guess fellow governors. Everybody has to make a decision for their state. They have to determine what works and what doesn't work. I have made those decisions for Arkansas. And we're all going to be second guessed about it. But that's the flexibility and the leadership role that has fallen upon us.

It's not easy. And it's not easy when here in my state. I have friends that have contracted the virus. I have had friends that have died from it. This is not an easy time. And if you're around very long, you understand to take it seriously because this can come back and bite you real quick if you don't take it seriously every day.

BLITZER: Are schools going to reopen on schedule with in-class learning in Arkansas?

HUTCHINSON: That's the plan and we're going to do everything we can to make that accomplished. The kids just need this. I talked to school administrators. I talked to teachers as well. Parents, you know, there's always a divided opinion, but by and large, they understand the importance of school and kids are so resilient.

They can wear a mask. They can socially distance. They can deal with these circumstances. Sure, they might grow up a little bit quicker, but they can deal with that. And we're going to make it safe for the teachers. That's what we're really working toward doing. And supporting our local school districts and getting the PPE that they need. And I expect probably that Congress is going to put some more money to help us to get there, which will be welcomed because this is fundamentally very important for our country that our education continues and that our children have that access to in-classroom instruction.

BLITZER: Yes. The only downside is that a lot of these kids, they might not get it. They may be totally asymptomatic, but if they're 10 and older, according to recent studies, they can pass on, they can transmit this virus to their parents, their grandparents and others, just as adults can. And that's something you clearly have to worry about yourself.

Governor Hutchinson, as usual, thanks so much for joining us.

HUTCHINSON: Thank you, Wolf. Good to be with you.

BLITZER: All right. Be safe out there. Stay safe. Stay careful. Very careful.

So it's 100 days before the U.S. presidential election. And amid a pandemic that has claimed more than 146,000 American lives, almost 147,000 American lives, the president finds himself behind his likely Democratic opponent Joe Biden in several key states that he won four years ago.

We're going to take a closer look at the numbers. What it could mean for the race for the White House, the impact of the coronavirus pandemic when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[21:38:07]

BLITZER: So with just 100 days to go until Election Day 2020, poll after poll after poll indicates President Trump has a lot of ground to cover for a reelection victory. In Florida, for example, presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden leads President Trump by five points. By four points in Arizona, and in Michigan by 12 points. All three of those states were key to President Trump's victory in 2016.

Joining us now is CNN national political reporter Maeve Reston and CNN senior political analyst Ron Brownstein.

Ron, you're an expert when it comes to these polls. What do you read in these latest polls?

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, when you look -- first of all, I think if you look at these three polls today, one thing that's becoming clear in survey after survey, Michigan, a state that Trump won very narrowly in 2016, is essentially off the board for him at this point. I think you can almost call that here in July.

The president during the height of the pandemic stood in front of the White House podium and said to the vice president, I don't know why you're calling back the governor of Michigan because she's not being nice enough to us. And that has had an impact. I mean, you have 60 percent or more in Michigan in this poll saying they disapprove of his handling of the coronavirus.

In the other two states, Arizona and Florida, those results are pretty consistent with about a 10-point national lead for Joe Biden, which is what we're seeing in the national surveys. Biden up four points in Arizona. Arizona was about five or six points more Republican in the country in 2016. He's up five points in Florida. Florida was four or five points more Republican in the country.

So if you're a Republican, you say, OK, the news is as bad as it can be. The president is still within range in Arizona and Florida. He's not done in those places. But I think if you're a Democrat or kind of an independent analyst, you're saying Joe Biden is right at 50 percent. The president is already pushing up his vote as high as his approval rating. And that says to me that unless more people conclude that he's doing an OK job on the coronavirus, it's going to be very hard for him to make up the difference in those states.

BLITZER: Yes. This is the dominant issue right now. The coronavirus pandemic.

[21:40:03]

And Maeve, the president has been using a lot of rhetoric to try to woo women voters, especially white suburban women voters. Tell us about that. MAEVE RESTON, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: So over the last week,

we have President Trump really try to lean in on that. You know, he announced an initiative, Operation Legend, which is very controversial obviously. But by bringing a woman up who had lost her 4-year-old son to gun violence, and saying he was sending federal agents into cities like Chicago and Kansas City, to try to tamp down the violence there, he's been doing things like that to try to reach out to women.

And obviously, this is incredibly important because his numbers are so terrible with women right now. He was already operating at a deficit. We saw women power Democrats to flip the House in 2018. But Donald Trump's numbers have just continued to sink among women. And if you look at exit polls going back to 1972, no Democrat -- I'm sorry, no Republican or Democrat has been able to win without getting those women behind them. Without -- Democrats have never won a majority of white women in any exit poll back into 1972.

And so you can see how that group is just incredibly important to him and he keeps making all these self-inflicted mistakes, particularly on the coronavirus. They don't like his tone. They don't think he's keeping them safe. And Biden is just running away with it on those issues, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes. And that's an important point. And Ron, as you know, no Republican has won the presidency without winning Florida since 1924. And yet President Trump hasn't led a poll in Florida since early March. Do you think he'll be able to turn things around in that state especially given the fact that Florida right now is a hotspot and there's a lot of concern about coronavirus escalating in that state?

BROWNSTEIN: You know, Florida really, Wolf, is a micro of the macro question that many people are asking themselves. As I said, these state polls are consistent with the national lead of about 10 points for Joe Biden. And on the one hand, a lot of people look at that and say, look, we are such a closely divided and polarized country. There is no way that kind of lead can endure all the way to the finish line in the modern America that's been much more like trench warfare than kind of a blitz free for either side for, you know, the last many years.

On the other hand, if you go back and look through the 20th century, not many incumbent presidents were defeated for reelection. But when they were, it was decisive. William Howard Taft, Herbert Hoover, Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush. They lost big when they lost. And so Florida I think is a really good example of that. Obviously, if Donald Trump loses Florida, he is almost certainly not going to be the president.

And there you see the kind of familiar problems in 2018, the movement away among college educated white voters. He's only running about even with them in a CNN poll after winning by about 30. And you see the new problem for 2020 that has really put him in a precarious position which is that he is losing seniors in Florida, which is, you know, almost unimaginable. No Democrat has won seniors on a national basis since Al Gore in 2000.

So when you combine the weakness for 2018, the poor numbers with college educated white voters, the big numbers against him among young voters, with this new weakness among seniors, it leaves him with a very precarious path. But I would just add, if there's any audience for his kind of hard line message on crime and the cities are out of control, and they're coming to get you, it would be some of those older white voters. So it's something that the Democrats are going to have to watch between now and November.

BLITZER: You're absolutely right. All right. Ron Brownstein, thank you. Maeve, thanks to you as well.

RESTON: Thank you.

BLITZER: And as I said before, you guys are going to be very busy over the next 100 days.

We're continuing to follow other big stories here in THE SITUATION ROOM. The governor of Hawaii is urging residents this hour to shelter in place as Hurricane Douglas passes over the islands. Take a look at some of the images coming in from Maui right now. They are also feeling the effects of the storm elsewhere. Oahu and Kawai. They are making final preps and will essentially shut down until tomorrow.

We're going to keep you updated on how the storm progresses. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[21:48:40]

BLITZER: In a few minutes, right at the top of the hour, W. Kamau Bell is back with an all-new episode of "UNITED SHADES OF AMERICA." This week, he's taking a close look at farming in America and all the forces making it harder for independent firms to survive. Here's a preview.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's like chasing my kids trying to give them a bath. That's what this is.

W. KAMAU BELL, CNN HOST, "UNITED SHADES OF AMERICA": Yes, man.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

BELL: You have any special problems being a black farmer out here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, man. I'm the only black farmer out here. So I have all kinds of problems.

(LAUGHTER)

BELL: Well, that's one problem.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right there.

BELL: You're the only one. At the meetings of black farmers, it's just you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, sir. It's just me. And that's where we're at now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: And W. Kamau Bell is joining us right now.

Nice moves over there, I must say. What are some of the biggest challenges that family farmers, especially farmers of color, are facing right now as they simply try to survive and pass their farms on to the next generation?

BELL: I mean, the big problem is holding on to the land. From 1910 to 1997, black farmers lost 90 percent of their land in that same period white farmers lost 2 percent of their land.

[21:50:04]

And a lot of that is because banks will not loan money to black farmers. We had a guy in the episode named John Boyd (PH) who said black farmers have a 378-day wait period for their loan to get approved and white farmers have a 30-day wait period.

BLITZER: One black farmer you spoke to said farming is a white man's game. What have you learned about the different barriers facing black farmers?

BELL: It's just the idea that like there, even though we were brought to this country, we learned how to farm because being slaves, we had to learn how to farm. We're not able to profit off of it because of structural institutes like racism. Basically it's the sequel of the last week's episode, just about farming.

BLITZER: Yes. Last week, it was an amazing episode. I'm sure this week will be as good if not better. You also look back at the destruction of black Wall Street in Tulsa, Oklahoma. What was lost when black people were violently forced out of Tulsa? So many of them sadly were killed. What did you find out about that?

BELL: Well, you know, we had this sort of mythical image of a place called Wakanda where black people sort of like live -- can live for ourselves and have money and resources. Well, black Wall Street in Tulsa was kind of that. Like there was a black middle class, a black upper class, black people owned businesses. And so the part about segregation that works is the part where black people were able to do for themselves and take care of themselves but the white folks of Tulsa did not like that and destroyed the town. Destroyed the area of town.

BLITZER: A historic low point, I must say. W. Kamau Bell, thanks for everything you're doing.

And to our viewers, be sure to tune in right at the top of the hour, an all-new episode of "UNITED SHADES OF AMERICA". That's coming up. You'll want to see it. Also coming up here in THE SITUATION ROOM, a tribute to a civil rights

icon and a tremendous leader, Congressman John Lewis, that's right after a quick break.

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[21:56:40]

BLITZER: An image that is now written forever in U.S. history. An American fighter who devoted his life to human equality and the iconic bridge where he nearly died for the cause.

This is the casket holding the body of Congressman John Lewis, crossing in Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, earlier today. It's a place of deep meaning in the storied life of John Lewis and an important part of the journey to his final resting place.

Right now he's being honored by the state of Alabama and the city of Montgomery where he will lie in state at the state capitol until tomorrow. Then he'll be transported to the rotunda of the U.S. capital to lie in state before being laid to rest in Atlanta.

One of John Lewis' colleagues has found a fitting way to honor the civil rights here. Tomorrow the House majority whip Jim Clyburn will offer legislation to rename a House passed Voting Rights Bill after Lewis. The measure would restore a key part of the historic Voting Rights Act that the U.S. Supreme Court struck down in 2013.

I spoke with Congressman Lewis here in THE SITUATION ROOM when that decision was handed down. He was understandably furious, but as always, so eloquent in his defense of why this was wrong.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JOHN LEWIS (D-AL): I never thought that I would see the day when the United States Supreme Court would put a dagger in the heart of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. I watched across that bridge on Bloody Sunday in Selma, Alabama, when people stood an immovable line. When people had on pass a so-called literacy test. People were asked to count the number of bubbles in a bar soap, the number of jelly beans from a jar. My own mother, my own father, my grandparents could not register to vote simply because of the color of their skin.

BLITZER: But those five justices who said that was then, this is now. It's been 50 years. Times have changed. And basically their argument is that all 50 states should be held to the same federal standards.

LEWIS: We have made a lot of progress. We've come a distance. But the question of race is deeply embedded in the American society and we cannot sweep it under a rug in some dark corner. The state of Alabama, the state of Mississippi, the state of Georgia, the 11 states of the old confederacy, several other states, they selected themselves. They made a decision to, in a systematic, deliberate way, to make it hard, to make it difficult for African-American and other minorities to participate in the democratic process.

BLITZER: Where do you go from here? So how do you fix this?

LEWIS: I think we need to meet with our leadership on the Democratic side as well as on the Republicans side, and say let's do what we did in 2006. Let's reauthorize the act.

BLITZER: You have the votes in the House, for example? You have the Republican majority there.

LEWIS: Well, in '06 we came together, Republicans and Democrats, and we passed it. Only 33 members of the House voted against the reauthorization of the act. On the Senate side, not a single senator voted against the reauthorization of the act. Maybe we can do it again.

BLITZER: You think you can.

LEWIS: We can.

BLITZER: In this current Congress?

LEWIS: We can and we must. The vote is powerful. It's the most powerful nonviolent tool that we have in a democratic society. We have to do it. We have --

(END)