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SMERCONISH

If Swing Voters Favor Trump, How Can Biden Be Winning?; Swing Voter Focus Groups Reveal Preference For Trump; Pentagon's UFO Unit Will Make Some Findings Public; Should Biden Debate Trump?; Should Biden Debate Trump?; Who Should Get The Coronavirus Vaccine First? Aired 9-10a ET

Aired August 1, 2020 - 09:00   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN ANCHOR: How can Joe Biden be so far ahead of Donald Trump if swing voters favor the President? I'm Michael Smerconish in Philadelphia. Consider the following. There is a mountain of polling data that suggests that if the election were held today, Joe Biden would be elected the nation's 46th president and probably by a landslide.

Take your pick. The latest "Ipsos Reuters" poll of registered voters has Biden up by 9 percentage points, "CBS YouGov" poll of likely voters, Biden by 10, the "Fox News" poll of registered voters, Biden by 8, the "RealClearPolitics" average has Biden ahead by 8 percentage points and with regard to the all-important battleground states, here are some of the latest results.

A "Franklin & Marshall College Poll" of Pennsylvania voters has Biden up by 9, a "New York Times Siena" poll of Wisconsin voters, Biden by 11 and in three other swing states, a "CNN SSRS" poll tells the same story. Biden leads Trump by 4 in Arizona, 5 in Florida, 12 points in Michigan.

So you might be thinking that means swing voters decidedly favor Joe Biden, but that may not be true, at least according to data from a firm that for more than a year has conducted 17 focus groups with swing voters in seven swing states. That nonpartisan firm is called Engagious. They've assembled small groups of swing voters in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio, Iowa, Minnesota and Florida.

These swing voters are people who voted for Romney in 2012, then Clinton in 2016 or they voted for Obama in 2012 and then Trump in 2016. Focus groups don't yield quantitative data, but they do generate significant qualitative information. They're often seen as early detection systems of shifting public opinions that polls can be slower to capture and in all but one of these focus groups, one in Erie, Pennsylvania, the swing voters said they are favoring Donald Trump.

For example, last week in Macomb County, Michigan, swing voters told Engagious they had questions about Joe Biden.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't think that Biden IS going to be running our country. Whoever his vice president is is going to be running the country. The vice president or whoever, you know, the puppet people are, you know, telling him what to say.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He just never has his own ideas. He just -- he doesn't have his own ideas.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think Biden wouldn't really be the person controlling the country, whereas Trump is, I believe, is actually the person actually running the country.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Biden has been in there forever. You know, what? Fifty years in politics and doing all this stuff and he's never done anything.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SMERCONISH: So how can both of these things be true, that Biden is winning the race handily, but swing voters favor Donald Trump? Joining me now is Rich Thau, the president of Engagious who has personally conducted all 17 focus groups, and Dr. Rachel Bitecofer, election forecaster at the Niskanen Center, host of "The Election Whisperer." In November of 2018, she predicted the Democrats would take 45 seats in the House. They ultimately had a net gain of 40, making her prediction one of the most accurate of that cycle.

OK, Rich. Where have you been and what have you learned?

RICH THAU, MODERATOR, SWING VOTER PROJECT/PRESIDENT, ENGAGIOUS: Well, I've been to those seven states that you mentioned over the last 17 months and the bottom line is that -- you know, the old quote from Margaret Thatcher, first you win the argument and then you win the vote?

Well right now, Donald Trump is winning the argument with two-thirds of the people that I'm talking to and I think from a perspective of the people who will determine or could determine the outcome of this election that the energy is still with President Trump.

SMERCONISH: Rich, if you had found that in half the focus groups, I don't think you'd be booked on the program today. It's the fact that you tell me 16 of the 17 have reached a similar consensus. What was different about Erie, Pennsylvania?

THAU: Well, what was different is that Erie was done in June and right after, we had all the social unrest, there was still a fit of peak that a lot of people felt and I think they were still sorting out their emotions and at that point, some of them were more frustrated with President Trump than they typically would be, but this past month in Macomb County, it reverted to form and seven of the nine people in a choice between Trump and Biden would take Trump.

SMERCONISH: Is there selection bias in the way that you're going about this? THAU: I don't think there's selection bias and in fact, the professor had conducted research that I recently came across which basically validated in quant form what I found qualitatively.

[09:05:07]

Which is that roughly two-thirds of the Obama/Trump voters, when given the choice between Trump and Biden, would take President Trump and one-third would take Biden and this is very, very consistent across the country, again with that one exception last month or in June in Erie.

SMERCONISH: Dr. Bitecofer, can both things be true, that Rich's data is accurate and yet that Joe Biden is handily ahead?

RACHEL BITECOFER, ELECTION FORECASTER, THE NISKANEN CENTER & HOST, THE ELECTION WHISPERER: Yes, this is fascinating data to hear. You know, I get a little preview for the show, but this is the first that I'm hearing about the dates and the hearing that there's a focus group in June that swung the other way and that he's seeing a reversion to the mean in the new data. I mean, I'm just dying to hear what the new focus group data will show.

And I've been arguing, look, you know, I just put out an article in "MarketWatch" and I'm talking about how my forecasting model is based on something called negative partisanship and how it has guaranteed basically like a four-point advantage for the Democrats and now that nominee is Biden coming into this presidential election based on awoken demographic giants that didn't flex its muscle in 2018 and that's Democrats, but it's also Independents that lean left, OK?

And so these focus groups might -- like to me, the two-third, one- third is there's this two-third that are right-leaning Independents and now what we've seen with the pandemic mismanagement is erosion of right-leaning Independents who have hung with Trump through all of these things that have happened in the last four years. The last time they broke with him was when the "Access Hollywood" video was released before the election and then they broke with him and then returned for the election.

And they've stuck with him through it all until this pandemic mismanagement and the quant data is still showing that they are swinging away, at least in the generic -- or on the head-to-head ballot stuff. So it'll be interesting to see if you're right in this -- and the quant -- and the qualitative data is a leading indicator, then what we will expect to see is this expected re-narrowing of that head-to-head ballot as these right-leaning Indies begin to return.

Now, the one thing I will say is usually a stimulus happens and it disappears. The pandemic is not something that's disappearing. You know, it's becoming -- it's pretty stable in its severity and probably going to become worse as we head through the fall. So that's one thing that I think is a little bit different.

SMERCONISH: Rachel, is it possible that the way to read your conclusions and Rich's conclusions together and not as -- not being at odds?

BITECOFER: Right.

SMERCONISH: I know from our prior conversations and my reading of your work that you are very big on turnout, not swing voters. Is it that Rich's analysis doesn't take into full consideration the passion that exists among anti-Trump voters? "Pew Research," for example, said two- thirds of those who are for Joe Biden are for Joe Biden because they want to get rid of Donald Trump.

BITECOFER: Right, which is exactly my model, right? No, I mean, I don't think Rich -- I mean, I just think Rich is in a different research area, right? I mean he's talking about -- he's really -- he's really trying to delve qualitatively into what, you know, swing voters -- I mean -- I mean Rich is discounting, I mean not in a -- in a prerogatively way, but, you know, he's not focused on this new model that I'm advocating for that argues, look, it's the ultimate partisan including Independent-leaners partisan composition of the electorate and the pure Indies are going to break heavily against the Republicans in this cycle.

So if he -- I don't know that he's advocating that Trump is going to win the election. I would if -- if that's the case, then I would strongly disagree. I don't think there's any signs in the election data right now that are positive for Trump, but I do think -- you know, and I think other analysts have been arguing this, that these large leads that we're seeing for Biden now may not hold.

And that's why I've said, you know, on my election analysis that it would be probably folly to completely go all in on the idea that you can win over these Trump voters and ignore the other part of your electoral strategy because that's what the Clinton campaign did too. They were thinking, oh, these Trump, you know, leaning Independents will break and then they ended up, you know, leaving them at the altar. So it really is ...

SMERCONISH: Sure.

BITECOFER: ... I think a risky strategy.

SMERCONISH: Rich, one final note. I just want to make this clear. You did 15 of these focus groups with swing voters in swing states. They pretty much told you the same thing.

[09:10:01]

Number 16, you get to Erie and there's a reversal and it makes you think, hey, maybe the pandemic has caught up to Donald Trump ...

BITECOFER: Right.

SMERCONISH: ... but let's underscore this. Number 17 which you just did was Macomb County, Michigan, home of, you know, the famous Democrats for Reagan and there'd been a reversal back to what you'd been getting previously. Is that accurate? THAU: That's accurate and I just want to stress, I am not saying that Trump is going to win the election and I am not saying that Biden is going to win the election. What I'm saying is that we have to have tremendous amounts of humility after what happened in 2016 and know that there are so many outside events.

Will people be comfortable voting during a pandemic in person? What outside events that we can't foresee will happen between now and November 3rd? So those are the things I have in my mind as I think about projections about what's going to happen. We just have to be really, really humble.

SMERCONISH: A quick final question for Dr. Bitecofer if I might. You've seen the commercial, we've all seen the commercial of the woman dialing 911. She's looking for a response because somebody's about to break into her house. In fact, Catherine, just show a couple of seconds of that so that everybody knows what I'm -- what I'm talking about.

This has been a big part of the Trump campaign, although oddly they've gone dark in the last couple of days. My question, Rachel, is this. In a commercial like this, who are they trying to reach -- swing voters like Rich is talking about or the base?

BITECOFER: Are you going to show the commercial?

SMERCONISH: Oh, you must not have seen it.

BITECOFER: OK. Sorry. That's OK.

SMERCONISH: We did show it already. Yes.

BITECOFER: So they're trying to reach both, but I mean I think the Trump strategy, which by the way they are pulling off the air and are going to retool because it's obviously not working, is it's about trying to -- it's really out of date and it's trying to people that, you know, racial minorities are coming to disrupt their peaceful, suburban lifestyles and hedge off that suburban loss.

It's a total misread of like what the mentality of these suburban, college educated voters is about and that's why they're having to end it and pull it. But, you know, here's what I will tell you. I will tell you this.

The Trump campaign is not a campaign that has been tooled for addition which is how traditional campaigns are tooled. It has been one that has been tooled for subtraction from the Biden campaign and it was a dubious strategy from the get-go and I think they're starting to realize how ineffective it is.

SMERCONISH: To be continued. This is a fascinating dichotomy, if it is one, and I thank Dr. Rachel Bitecofer and Rich Thau. Appreciate it.

BITECOFER: Thanks for having me.

THAU: Thank you. SMERCONISH: What are your thoughts? Tweet me @Smerconish or go to my Facebook page. I will read some throughout the course of the program. This comes from Twitter I believe. What do we have? "Smerconish, starting the show with an attempt to shore up Trump. You are so transparent." Ducky, are you blanking me? There's a disconnect in information here that I want to illuminate, I want to shine a spotlight on.

I rattled off -- now I'm going to have to respond to you in a substantive way. I rattled off all the data that says Biden is winning handily, gave you national data, gave you swing state data. That's all the information that's known to people.

But I've been interviewing Rich Thau throughout the course of almost every one of his 17 focus groups and I think that there's something odd going on here where he's learning from focus swing voters that they're going one way and all the other data says something else. Your interpretation is that I'm in the tank for Trump because I'm bringing you data? No.

Up ahead, turns out that this infamous video of an encounter between a navy pilot with an object he couldn't identify is being analyzed by the Pentagon. So does the government believe we're not alone?

And if and when Operation Warp Speed actually produces an approved coronavirus vaccine, who should be first in line? Should income be a factor?

Plus, should Joe Biden participate in the three scheduled presidential debates this fall? Former Clinton press secretary Joe Lockhart says no and he's here to explain and that brings me to today's survey question at Smerconish.com. Is Joe Biden obligated? Does he have an obligation to debate Donald Trump? Go vote.

[09:15:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SMERCONISH: It's probably time to stop calling people who believe in UFOs "crackpots" after the recent revelation that there's actually a Pentagon task force looking into them. One astrophysicist who has worked for the Pentagon's UFO program since 2007 told "The New York Times" that he gave a classified briefing to a Defense Department agency about retrievals from, quote, "Off-world vehicles not made on this earth." Are we on the brink of full disclosure about visitors from outer space?

Joining me now is Christopher Mellon. He served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Intelligence during the Bill Clinton and George W. Bush administrations. He also co-hosts "Unidentified: Inside America's UFO Investigation" on the "History Channel." So Chris, I sense that there has been a sea change recently in the way in which these reports are being carried and covered. What accounts for it? What has gone on recently?

CHRISTOPHER MELLON, FMR. DEP. ASST. SECY. OF DEFENSE FOR INTELLIGENCE: Yes. Thank you very much. You're absolutely right and a good example of the sea change is the fact that none other than "Scientific American" itself has published an article saying the subject ought to be taken seriously and investigated by the scientific community.

[09:20:07]

I think this change is largely a result, primarily a result of the fact that the Defense Department and the Navy themselves have stood up and publicly acknowledged that this phenomenon is real, that this is happening, that our Navy pilots are encountering these vehicles and so that imparts a credibility that simply did not exist prior to -- prior to that time.

SMERCONISH: I was quoting Eric Davis -- I know you're familiar with his work -- when I read that "New York Times" paragraph a moment ago. Do you believe that there are objects in our possession, broadly defined our possession, that are from something other than this earth?

MELLON: What I will say about that is that I think that assertion should be taken seriously. I'm aware -- I know Eric very well. I understand his arguments. I was present in his briefings on the Hill and he tried to provide some leads for them to follow to enable them potentially to confirm this. It is an issue that should be taken seriously.

In fact, curiously, President Trump himself on Father's day indicated on air while being filmed that he did have classified information about Roswell, New Mexico, which as most people know is the legendary site of an alleged crash of a -- of a UFO and when asked by his son about that, about declassifying it, he said I'll have to think about it. I don't know what there is about Roswell that could be classified or interesting other than that one particular issue.

So there is a lot of new press and new information coming forward and again, as I said, I think this is a topic that the oversight communities should take seriously and investigate.

SMERCONISH: It's the only thing missing from this election. Who knows what the next 90 days brings. This is a ... this is a global issue. This is not a ...

MELLON: Just when you thought it couldn't get any crazier (ph), right?

SMERCONISH: Right. This is not a United States issue. Are there other countries that have taken a lead in the exploration of this subject?

MELLON: Absolutely. In fact, we're behind several other countries. France, for many years, has had an official process involving their national security forces and police forces. Every year, they examine a number of cases and bring in outside scientists.

A lot of that information is public. My colleague, Lue Elizondo, has made trips both to Italy and South America and we present a lot of this information on our show as well as a lot of information from current and former U.S. military personnel and their experiences. But you're absolutely right, this is not unique to the United States and further, our military personnel have similar experiences when they're deployed abroad in the Middle East and Afghanistan and elsewhere. So by all accounts, it is definitely a worldwide phenomenon.

SMERCONISH: Final question. Can technology alone account for what you and I are discussing? It occurs to me that by day, I make my living by speaking on "Sirius XM" and my voice is bouncing across the United States on a satellite. I assume right now this conversation is doing likewise. There's a lot of stuff up in the atmosphere that didn't used to be there. Can that be an explanation or is that too simplistic?

MELLON: I do believe it's too simplistic and the reason I say that is because in the -- in some of these cases, we have information from multiple radar systems, infrared systems, multiple naval personnel on the ground and in the air and we're tracking these objects, performing maneuvers that clearly indicate they're under intelligent control. They're responding to our aircraft, they're outmaneuvering them and they're doing things that are far beyond any capability we possess.

So that's certainly a hypothesis to consider. We have to keep an open mind going forward, but I don't think we're going to find, at the end of the day, that that kind of explanation can explain cases like that.

SMERCONISH: Chris Mellon, thank you so much.

MELLON: Absolutely. My pleasure. Thank you.

SMERCONISH: What are you saying via social media? I think this comes from the world of Facebook. What do we got? "UFOs are not alien. No such thing." Hey, there's something out there that hasn't been identified and UFO is no longer the acronym that is favored by those who study it.

[09:25:00]

For the benefit of those who are watching and wondering, my God, how are you on this on a show that's news-oriented and topical and every week gives us the four or five hottest things? I would suggest you're not read in. There's been a lot of developments and a lot of videotape that just can't be explained. Take a look at it.

Up ahead, presidential debates are woven into the fabric of American politics, but candidates are not required to participate. I'll talk to a former White House press secretary who says Joe Biden should sit this one out. Would that be lose-lose scenario for the former vice president? Well, that's up for debate. And what do you think? Go to my website at Smerconish.com this hour. Is Joe Biden obligated to debate Donald Trump?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:30:00]

SMERCONISH: We're just 59 days away from the first presidential debate between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden. But for weeks some political experts have been raising the question would Biden be better off skipping the debates?

Former Clinton White House Press Secretary Joe Lockhart wrote an op-ed for CNN.com titled "Joe Biden could still lose this election." And as I read it I was struck by this provocative paragraph -- quote -- "Whatever you do, don't debate Trump. Trump has now made more than 20,000 misleading or false statements according to the Washington Post.

It's a fool's errand to enter the ring with someone who can't follow the rules or the truth. Biden will undoubtedly take heat from Republicans and the media for skipping the debates. But it's worth the risk as trying to debate someone incapable of telling the truth is an impossible contest to win."

Joining me now to discuss his piece is CNN political analyst Joe Lockhart. Joe, if the president is watching this right now, I could see him rubbing his hands together and saying, oh, my God. That would be perfect because then I, of course, get to say he's afraid to get on the stage with me. It has to do with his cognitive abilities.

JOE LOCKHART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. Well, he will say that. And I think as I wrote in the article it's worth the risk.

This is a president who as I said in the article is incapable of telling the truth. He spins these conspiracy theories out there. And up until now most of those theories are broadcast by FOX News and, you know, on his Twitter feed. You know, most Americans don't see that.

The debates are very different. This is the one thing, now that we're not really going to have conventions where the public will tune in, you know, 50, 60 million people. And they will -- they will see all of this nonsense from him.

He will take the truth and destroy it. And Biden will be in the position of correcting him over and over and over again. I don't think he should give him that platform.

SMERCONISH: If you were contacted by the former vice president's campaign staff, hey, Joe, we read your piece and we're really intrigued, how do we execute this? What would you say?

LOCKHART: Well, I'd say, you know, look at what I wrote. It's not really a debate if only one side is willing to tell the truth.

And we saw in the debates in 2016, Hillary Clinton showed a mastery of the issues. I think she on every point was more honest and bested Trump. But Trump came out of the debates, I think, doing better because he just kept repeating the same old lies.

We're going to build a wall and Mexico is going to pay for it. We're going to keep all of those Mexican rapists out of the country. We're going to make great trade deals.

None of these things have come to pass. And giving him that sort of national forum to continue to spout, you know, get to 21,000 or 22,000 lies, I think just isn't worth it for the Democrats or for Biden.

SMERCONISH: Here's another strategy for Joe Biden. I'm just spitballing here and trying to be political adviser to both campaigns.

It is to say, let Donald Trump continue to say all those things that he is saying about Joe having lost a step. The Joe that I saw last, I think it was Wednesday in Wilmington, when he faced the media responded to questions, questions weren't too hard but responding to questions. He was fine.

And if Trump goes out and constantly bangs the drum about Biden. Then Joe goes and he performs in that first debate, the bar has been set so low that he exceeds it and people say, well, there was nothing to Trump's charges. What about that?

LOCKHART: Well, you know, my guess is they probably will debate. And that is -- that is a factor, I think, you know, Trump is setting the bar so low for Biden that it will be impossible for him to not reach it. But more than anything, the debate will be a spectacle. A circus.

SMERCONISH: Right. Right.

LOCKHART: Trump is unable to do anything but that. And the circus atmosphere, we know more than anything, helps Trump. He's better at being the circus clown than any other politician we've ever seen. And I just don't think that Biden gets anything from entering that the circus ring.

SMERCONISH: One last thing, Joe, if I may, I want to put on the screen a map of where in the country people can begin voting before the first debate. It's really stunning and so many -- I mean, look at that. If you're able to see on the screen it's like two-thirds of the nation, ballots will be mailed out before the first presidential debate takes place on September 29. I wonder if by the time you get to debates two and three if this thing isn't already over.

[09:35:01]

LOCKHART: Yes, you know, it's something that people don't speak about a lot but is a very important development, particularly this year, where I think you're going to see a lot more mail-in ballots despite whatever Trump says about voter fraud. I mean, which is another issue on the debate.

Trump in the debate will try to degrade the legitimacy of the election. And that's the worst thing that could happen for our democracy. But we're looking at, if you look at the last 30 or 40 years, the debates really haven't moved the election one way or the other. And in this case, I think by the second debate, you may have had more than half the country already voted. So they're not as important this year, I think, as they have been in other years.

And Trump is a unique candidate. And we need to treat him as a unique candidate who shattered all the norms. Not like, you know, the sort of standard candidate that you'd want to get up on the stage with. SMERCONISH: Final question, 10-second answer if you can. You're totally wired especially on the Democratic side of the aisle. What kind of reaction did you get to this part of your CNN op-ed?

LOCKHART: You know, listen, I think a lot of people are worried about what you started with, that Trump -- that Biden will get beaten across the head on this. I think they have to take the longer view. And that's why I think he shouldn't get on stage.

SMERCONISH: Thank you, Joe. Appreciate it.

LOCKHART: Thank you.

SMERCONISH: Joe Lockhart has inspired today's survey question, by the way, at Smerconish.com. Make sure you're voting.

This comes from Twitter. What do we have?

Hell yes. The debates are not optional. The citizenry demands such head to head confrontations in order to test their metal.

There is some precedent for a candidate opting out of a debate. In fact for a president -- fact check me on this. Wasn't it Jimmy Carter who said, I'm not going to get on the debate stage if John Anderson is given a platform? I think I am in 1980.

I want to remind you answer the survey question that Joe Lockhart has inspired. This is the way that I worded it. Is Joe Biden obligated, is he obligated to debate Donald Trump? Go to Smerconish.com and cast your ballot.

Still to come, America is desperate for a coronavirus vaccine, but when one gets approved who will be first in line and who gets to decide?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:41:32]

SMERCONISH: When the first coronavirus vaccine is approved and manufactured, who should get access to it first? That's the pressing question for health officials as some trials enter their final stages. It's generally agreed that the highest priority should go to health care and essential workers, and high-risk populations including older adults and people with underlying medical conditions. But what about the question of say race and ethnicity?

COVID-19 has had a disproportionate effect on communities of color. Black Americans have the highest rate, 2.3 times as high as whites or Asian-Americans. Then there's the question of financial circumstances.

Look at the antiviral drug remdesivir which has proved effective in reducing the risk of death for severely ill patients, but it's also in short supply. So Pennsylvania, for instance, has implemented a -- quote -- "weighted lottery," a system giving extra attention to financial need, essential workers and those most likely to die. Is that how the vaccine should be distributed?

Joining me now to discuss is Art Caplan, the founding head of the division of Medical Ethics at the NYU School of Medicine. Look at you. All of your classroom hypotheticals all coming true in one example, right?

ART CAPLAN, FOUNDING HEAD, DIVISION OF MEDICAL ETHICS AT NYU SCHOOL OF MEDICINE: That's right. We used to debate this as if it would never happen but was theoretically interesting and here we are.

SMERCONISH: So, what thoughts do you have as to who should be first in line?

CAPLAN: Let me set the stage. We'll probably going to get a vaccine that's about 50 percent effective, that's what they're shooting for. We're not going to vaccinate our way out of this pandemic right away. We're still going to have to live with the virus. So, partially effective. Let's be clear about that. And there are folks out there who say, I don't want to take it. And we can come back to that if you want, Michael, in a minute.

But, I think the right way to go is you got to address need and protect lives. So, you just started a list. And I think that list makes sense. We want to make sure that we not only protect health care workers but people who are likely to die, who will be severely impacted.

That means folks who are prisoners, as well as people who are health care workers. It means extra attention to poorer minorities, native- Americans on reservations. They just show huge risk of dying from this COVID virus.

SMERCONISH: I can't imagine a debate in the country if policymakers say we need to protect the elderly. Because they're at risk let's make sure that they have access to the vaccine.

But one of the risk factors is also, say, obesity. I can imagine --

CAPLAN: Yes.

SMERCONISH: -- if you said, well, obese folks are going to get it then you're going to have people say, well, I'm at the gym every day and I'm working out and why are they prioritized. There are any number of those kind of debates coming our way, right?

CAPLAN: There are. And certainly, people are going to say, well, if you didn't wear a mask maybe you should be at the end of the vaccine line. But I'm going to say from the health care point of view, the public health point of view, we don't really sort out the saints and the sinners when we're figuring out who to care for in the hospital. You try to save lives. And I think that's the reasonable thing to do with the vaccine policy.

But I'll tell you another source of debate, Michael, are we doing go America first and what about the rest of the world? Let's say we get the vaccine and we have it. A lot of international groups Gates Foundation, WHO, were saying, well, you got to share it right away from the start.

[09:45:03]

I don't agree with that. I don't think that's going to happen. I think we're going to take care of people in need in America first. And I don't think that's just selfish. I think that's what a community does. You sort of look to your own first.

That's like if when you're on the airplane they tell you, you know, put your own mask on and then help your child who's next to you. Then I'll say, pick a random stranger and help them next.

SMERCONISH: You made reference to, if you build it will they come? I can put on the screen a slide of some CBS survey data recently that showed -- I think, the number is 20 percent who say -- yes, there it is. I'll never get one. Thirty percent say, I'll get it as soon as a can. Fifty percent say, well, I'll consider it.

I've made the point before, Dr. Caplan, that that 20 percent is not just an anti-vaxxer crew. I hear from people on my radio show who say, it's all happening so fast, I'm uncomfortable.

CAPLAN: Yes and it's a real worry, Michael, with the president, the White House keeps saying warp speed and a race and we're doing all we can to go fast. What they're doing is undermining trust. You've got to say warp speed to a safe vaccine. Safe should always be there because that's what we want. We don't just want a vaccine. We want a safe vaccine.

So, what I believe will happen is there will be large numbers of Americans who say I don't want to do this. We're going to have another debate and that's about mandates. And I'll answer that question this way and say, I don't know that the public is going to put up with government-issued mandates to take a vaccine.

But I'll predict what we'll see is private enterprise, your boss, your sports team, your bar, your tattoo parlor, they're all going to want to see proof of vaccination before they let you come in. I think we're going to see mandates but I think it's going to be through the private sector.

SMERCONISH: My fear is that like the masks this too becomes a red state/blue state issue. I sure hope I'm wrong in that regard. You get the final word.

CAPLAN: Well, I hope you're wrong. But I think it is going to be politicized. Everything else has been about this pandemic. What I hope is that people will see the vaccine works, see that it's effective, and then begin to line up and take it. And then we'll have to have that debate about who goes next.

SMERCONISH: Look at that background. How are your ratings?

CAPLAN: You know, I'm strong, Michael. And this -- I have to give some credit to my lovely wife. The setup here has got nine out of 10 on (INAUDIBLE). So, (INAUDIBLE) they say, I don't know what that guy is talking about but he's got good bookshelves.

(LAUGHTER)

SMERCONISH: Thank you, Dr. Caplan.

CAPLAN: Thanks, Michael.

SMERCONISH: Still to come, your worst and best tweets and Facebook comments. And the finals results of this week's survey question. You still have the chance to go and vote.

"Is Joe Biden obligated to debate Donald Trump?"

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[09:52:24]

SMERCONISH: All right. Time to see how you responded to the survey question at Smerconish.com inspired by Joe Lockhart.

"Is Joe Biden obligated to debate Donald Trump?"

Survey says -- 67 percent say no. Wow. Look at the voting on that. More than 18,000 people since I've been on air have cast ballots and two thirds plus say, you know, Joe, you're not obligated to do it. Wouldn't that play -- I said this to Joe Lockhart, wouldn't that play right into President Trump's hands?

I mean, I can just envision him saying, oh, that would be ideal because then it will give heft to my argument that he can't withstand, you know, the grilling that he would get from me or from Chris Wallace in a Sunday interview. That sort of thing.

One other observation, if I may. I don't think that Vice President Biden makes his pick for a veep in the next few days. And I say that because, and you might think this persnickety, when he had that presser in Wilmington last week he was asked, when are going to pick your veep?

And he said, the first week of August. And I thought, that's an odd word choice. Today is August 1. And if he meant the next few calendar days he just said, next week. Not the first week in August.

So I may be wrong. It has got to be within the next two weeks, but I don't think it will be this week.

Here's some of the reaction that came in from social media. What do we have, Catherine?

Are there really people who are waiting for the debates to decide who they will vote for?

Stacey, there are. And, you know, Rich Thau has interviewed many of them over the course of 17 different focus groups. You're referring, of course, to the lead segment of the program today where I expressed curiosity about this disconnect where you've got data that says swing voters like and are sticking with Trump, but a mountain of data that says right now Joe Biden is winning this thing handily.

Can both be true? I think they probably can. There's a lot of passion involved in this race and passion will call the shot.

Also, what do we have, social media? Appreciate getting your tweets and Facebook comments.

Anyone, I mean, anyone that swings on an opinion of Trump is a Trump supporter. It's impossible to be wishy-washy on such a polarizing figure.

Paul, you saw the results of the most recent Macomb County focus group that Engagious had -- I know that this seems foreign to many of us who are political junkies, totally read in and paying attention to the news each and every day. The people that Rich interviews are low information voters.

[09:55:04]

That doesn't mean low intelligence. It just means they're not as caught up and engaged in all of this as are the rest of us. So, they exist among us and, yes, some of them went from, you know, Romney to Hillary. Or they went from Obama to Trump. And their vote matters as much as the rest of us.

All right. Have a great weekend. Be safe. Wear a mask. See you next week.

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