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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees

The State Of The Union; WH Official: Biden Will Not Mention Trump By Name In Speech; Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) Discusses About Biden Talking Point For The American People; Sen. Bernie Sanders (D- VT) Talks About Frustration On Humanitarian Aid In Gaza; Soon: Biden Heads To Capitol For Presidential Address. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired March 07, 2024 - 20:00   ET


ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: I hope that from this darkness will come a dawn and she will be the symbol of that forevermore.

Thank you both so much.




BURNETT: And thanks so much to all of you for joining us. I'll be live here on Capitol Hill throughout the evening as our special coverage of the State of the Union continues. AC 360 starts now.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: At the White House right now, President Joe Biden preparing to face Congress and the American people and deliver a speech that could have huge consequences for his re-election campaign. He'll soon leave for the U.S. Capitol to give his State of the Union address. Less than 48 hours after his long anticipated rematch with Donald Trump became a reality.

Welcome to a special edition of AC 360. I'm Anderson Cooper.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: And I'm Jake Tapper.

About an hour from now, President Biden will walk into the House Chamber under enormous pressure to forcefully and successfully sell his vision for America and his argument for a second term. Mr. President Biden needs to take advantage of this opportunity with 10s of millions of Americans watching to make his case and perhaps the most important speech of his decades-long career in public life.

This will be a critical test of the 81-year-old commander-in-chief. He will try to convince skeptical voters that they have benefited from his presidency and that he is ready and able to serve four more years, despite widespread public concerns about his age and about his stamina. The President's battle with Donald Trump, of course, looms over it all. In newly released excerpts of his speech, the President takes swipes at Trump while not mentioning him by name, hitting Trump on some of the most potent issues that divide the two men, the defense of democracy and the threat to reproductive rights across the country, perhaps foremost among them.

We're also told the President will draw a contrast with President Trump - former President Trump, and Republicans on the economy as well, calling for higher taxes on corporations and the wealthy. President Biden also will address an issue causing dissent within his party, the Israel-Hamas war. Administration officials say he will announce an emergency U.S. military mission to establish a port off the coast of Gaza in the Mediterranean to provide life-saving humanitarian aid.

We're covering all of it, of course, with our team of correspondents at the Capitol, at the White House and in a battleground state that could very well decide the November election.

First, let's go to MJ Lee who's at the White House.

And MJ, as President Biden gets ready to head to the Capitol, what more are you learning about his speech?

MJ LEE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Jake, any minute now, President Biden will get into his motorcade and make that short ride over to Capitol Hill, where he will deliver one of the most consequential speeches of his presidency. One word that I'm learning he - we do not expect to hear from the President tonight is the word Trump.

A White House official who reviewed his prepared remarks earlier this evening tells me that the former president is not named. But aides have made very clear that it is going to be abundantly clear throughout the course of the speech that President Trump is exactly who President Biden is talking about and referencing in his speech tonight.

Now, this speech, of course, Jake, has been months in the making. We know that the President did a full run-through this afternoon at the White House with his aides who were fueled, I'm told, by boxes of Andy's Pizza. And we know, of course, with any major President Biden speech, that there could be last-minute edits that are made to this speech. But I'm also told that, for the most part, this speech was finalized at least by this afternoon.

One White House official telling me that that is simply because he knows what he wants to say. One just final thing I would note, too, from my position here, Jake, at the White House North Lawn, I can hear right now sounds of protesters that are near the White House. They are calling for a ceasefire in Gaza. This is just one more reminder of one of the toughest issues that President Biden will have to address tonight. We are told that it looks like these protesters are trying to get in the way of the President's motorcade.

Again, he should be getting in that motorcade any minute now. Jake. TAPPER: All right. MJ Lee at the White House for us.

Let's go to Capitol Hill now on the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, where my colleague, Dana Bash, is in Statuary Hall. Dana?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Jake. And I am here with the indefatigable, Manu Raju.

You can feel the tension here outside the chamber. The question is, what is going to be happening inside. I know you have some great new reporting about the concerns.

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. There's going to be a lot of tension inside the chamber. In fact, the House Republican leadership has counseled their members not to have any outbursts, not to heckle the President. Something that we saw last year, and Joe Biden turned it around against Republicans viewed in large parts, perhaps his most effective part of the speech. They're trying to avoid that tonight.

But not just the House Republican leaders are urging the hardliners not to do that, also some other fellow like-minded hardliners, like Congressman Matt Gaetz has told his like-minded colleagues not to go that far.


BASH: Wow.

RAJU: Saying it actually makes the President look more vigorous. He told me - he's told his colleagues, "Be best."

And - but Dana, that is not going to be the only possible signs of a spectacle in the audience tonight. The former expelled congressman, George Santos, is using his floor privileges. He's going to be actually in the House Chamber tonight.

And also, we saw those pro-Palestinian demonstrators. There is some expectation that perhaps this speech there could be interrupted by some pro-Palestinian demonstrators. We don't know that for sure, but that is the belief as we go into this critical moment for the President. But how does he deal with that, how does he deal with the outburst that could still be coming from Republicans, some Republican hardliners, like, Marjorie Taylor Greene and Lauren Boebert, told me that they may yell back at the President. So there's a lot to digest tonight. We'll see how the President deals with it.

BASH: It's always crackling in here on a night like tonight, but it is next level tonight, Jake.

TAPPER: Manu Raju on Capitol Hill, thanks so much.

And let's talk with our panel. Kasie Hunt, what are you hearing from Democrats on Capitol Hill about any possible anxiety they have? I mean, this is - it's not overstating it to say this could very well be the most important speech of Joe Biden's long career. KASIE HUNT, CNN ANCHOR AND CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: I mean, you're absolutely right about that. And I think we'd be ignoring the obvious and I think all the people I've been talking to on the Hill would be ignoring the obvious if they didn't acknowledge that, yes, there are some nerves here. I mean, there is going to be a sense of being on pins and needles a little bit that they acknowledge, hoping that the President doesn't make a mistake tonight. Because I do think they also acknowledge just how high the stakes are. They are - you're absolutely right about that.

I mean, this - I mean, Jamie, I think there's a sense it's even more important than the 2020 election for the President.

JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. According to a source familiar with the speech, I was told that democracy in peril is back and they see this as the launch of 2024 and that this campaign, we have to, from their perspective, is more important, more dangerous than 2020.

Remember, January 6th came after 2020, the 91 indictments. So I actually went back after I talked to the source and I looked at Joe Biden's convention speech. And remember those themes, soul of America, lightness and dark, character and decency, I'm told we'll hear more on those themes tonight.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: It's - it reset the narrative around his age, around his stamina and then it's refocused. They just have to turn the ship to a whole different topic. It's going to be all of those things that Jamie talked about, but also the bread and butter issues. They understand that the economy is such a huge part of the American psyche right now, perhaps more so even than some of the loftier concepts that they're going to be talking about around democracy, whether they like that or not, people are paying attention to what's going on in their homes.

They need to refocus the American attention at this particular moment, now that there's a real campaign underway, on the issues that they want it to be about, not what the narrative has been up until this moment.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR, THE SOURCE: I also think to know Joe Biden and to have covered Joe Biden is to know how meticulously he prepares for a moment like this. Obviously, every president rehearses for a State of the Union or the annual address to Congress. Biden dedicates hours to rehearsing the speech, time and time again, word for word, because he knows that public speaking is not always his strong suit, and they really want him to get it right. He's done it for his January 6th anniversary speech. I'm told that he's done it for this.

And so he does prepare so carefully for this, knowing what it's going to look like. And the one thing with the State of the Union, everyone's always trying to jam their talking points in it to get their issues in it. By the end, it's kind of just a wish list by the end.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A laundry list, really.


COLLINS: But what they know about this one is it's not even just substance. It's style over substance, style before substance and the White House has readily acknowledged that today.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: He has 242 days to do the political equivalent of bending a steel bar. He's underwater on every major issue, on the economy, on immigration, on vigor to be the President of the United States, mental capacity to be president of the United States. So the optics matter a lot. Is he vigorous? Is he making the case? Does he respond if he gets heckled or just somehow booed in the crowd, does he show that he's in the game and fighting?

But the democracy part plays with some voters. He has to deal. His biggest problem right now is immigration and cost of living, immigration and cost of living. He has to convince people that it's going to get better and soon.

TAPPER: One of the best things about being a Congressional correspondent is that lawmakers come to you. They're all over the place. And Dana Bash is in Statuary Hall, and she's got one of them. Dana?

BASH: Thank you so much, I do, Sen. Elizabeth Warren of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. We understand that the President is going to be talking a lot about corporate greed ...


BASH: And about how to help people who are affected by corporate greed.


BASH: He's going to be singing from your hymnal, Senator. How do you want him to specifically talk about it to really get through to the American people?

WARREN: I want to say it this way, he is singing from the American people's hymnal because while I've been talking about corporate greed for a long time, the American people were way ahead of both of us.


So for example, talking about now shrinkflation, the idea that companies think they can just kind of sneak it past us to keep prices the same, but give us fewer Dorito chips, fewer Oreos, fewer pieces of paper in the toilet paper roll. And American people are really sick of this.

So I think what this is about is Joe Biden being Joe Biden. He gets out there and talks directly to the people he's fighting for. And he talks about using all the tools of government to come back and say, predatory pricing is predatory pricing and it's illegal. So they're going to start the investigations. They're going to stay after these companies and they're not going to try to give them a free pass. They're actually going to dog them on this and I think that's good.

BASH: So there's the policy, the message ...


BASH: And the way that a leader communicates that message.

WARREN: Exactly.

BASH: What does he need to do, given the obvious? I mean, I don't even need to say it, we know that the American people are concerned about his age and they want to see a performance that shows that he can push the policies that you are talking about.

WARREN: So, look, I think all we have to do is just turning loose and let Joe Biden be Joe Biden. Because when he winds up on the issues he really cares about, and those are the issues that hit American families in their pocketbooks, he's ready. He's off and going, because that's his whole life.

I think voters are entitled to ask about anything they want to ask. But at the end of the day, every one of those questions strives toward, can you do the job, can that person do the job. I know that Joe Biden can do this job. And the way I know it is he is doing it and he's doing it so effectively on behalf of the people who need him.

BASH: Senator, thank you so much for stopping by.

WARREN: Thank you.

BASH: Appreciate it. Jake, back to you.

TAPPER: Thanks, Dana. And as we get closer to President Biden's actual speech, we're going to go back to Capitol Hill to speak with another prominent ally of President Biden. That's Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and we're going to go live to that anti-Gaza war protest happening near the Capitol right now. Protesters apparently hoping to cut off the President's motorcade route. There's much more ahead on CNN's State of the Union coverage. Stay with us. We'll be right back.



TAPPER: You're looking at a live view of Capitol Hill where anticipation is building for President Biden's State of the Union address, which should take place less than an hour from now. Let's go back to Dana Bash, who's inside the Capitol, with another special guest. Dana?

BASH: Thank you. That's right, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, thank you so much for being here.

The President is going to announce tonight that the U.S. military is going to build an emergency port to help get humanitarian aid inside Gaza. There are protests right now outside the White House, outside the Capitol. Do you think that this kind of move will help to quell that frustration?

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D-VT): Well, it's not a question of quelling frustration, Dana. It's a question of feeding starving children. We are looking at one of the great humanitarian crises in modern history. Hundreds of thousands of children are facing starvation. The United States, sadly, because we are arming the Israelis, is complicit in what's happening. It's got to stop.

So I think when the President talks about airlifts, I think that's a step forward. When he talks about a pier and providing aid through the sea, that's a step forward. But at the end of the day, the way you get aid into northern Gaza is by demanding that the water restrictions be lifted, the convoys come in, and we start feeding people.

BASH: Are you satisfied with what the President has done on that so far?

SANDERS: No, I'm not. It's a step forward. But we have a long way to go. But the bottom line is, right now, Israel, in my view, certainly had a right to defend itself from the terrible Hamas attack on October 7th. They do not have a right to go to war against the entire Palestinian people. It is a mistake, to my mind, to be thinking about giving Netanyahu and his right-wing government another $10 billion. That's wrong. I oppose it. I hope the President will eventually oppose it.

BASH: The President tonight, according to excerpts given to us by the White House, is going to say, my lifetime has taught me to embrace freedom and democracy. Some other people my age see a different story, an American story of resentment, revenge and retribution. He's not saying the name Donald Trump.

SANDERS: You think it might be Donald Trump?

BASH: I mean, what do you think?

SANDERS: Is that what you think?

BASH: I don't know ...

SANDERS: I don't know.

BASH: Just a guess.

SANDERS: Might be, good guess. Yes, I think it is.

BASH: But what do you think about that message?

SANDERS: I think it's an important message. Look, we as Americans are going to have different points of view, political points of view. But I would hope that every American appreciates that hundreds of thousands of men and women who put their lives on the line died to defend democracy and to defend freedom. And you have a former president whose name I will not mention, begins with a T, I won't mention it, though, who really is trying to undermine democracy. And I hope that we can come together and say, look, you disagree with me, fine. But elections are elections, somebody wins, you respect it. You call up that person. You don't try to make it harder for people to vote, you try to expand our democracy. So I think the President's point is a - an important one.

BASH: Senator, thank you so much. Appreciate you stopping by.

SANDERS: Thank you.

BASH: Jake, back to you.

TAPPER: Thanks, Dana.

Let's get more now on those protests against President Biden, specifically against his handling of the Israel-Hamas war and his support for Prime Minister Netanyahu.

CNN's Gabe Cohen is right now at a demonstration near the Capitol.

Gabe, tell us what's going on.

GABE COHEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So Jake, what you're seeing behind me are dozens of ceasefire protesters standing just a block or two away from the Capitol. They have shut down Pennsylvania Avenue, this major road. What they believe could be the motorcade route for President Biden as he makes his way from the White House to the Capitol for the State of the Union speech.

Now, of course, they know it is unlikely that they would actually stop the motorcade. They considered this more of a symbolic protest. They wanted to block this road to, again, keep up that pressure campaign against the President. As those uncommitted votes are happening across the country, they felt like this was the biggest platform where they could make a statement to the President and actually block his route to come and speak in front of Congress.


But as we turn the camera around, you can see what's waiting for them here, Jake. There is a huge police presence, a line of officers. We haven't seen any arrests yet, but it looks like they are getting ready to start taking people into custody. It would likely be a misdemeanor charge.

But look, Jake, these are people who have said they are ready to be arrested. They are here to make a statement. Some of them have been arrested several times throughout these protests that we've seen here in D.C. and around the country.

TAPPER: All right. Gabe, thanks so much. We're going to keep tabs on these protests as they continue.

Let's go now to John King, however, right now at the Magic Wall.

And John, tell us what hurdles President Biden faces with voters who might be tuning in to watch him tonight.

KING: It's a very long list, Jake. The President delivers this speech at a historic low if you look at it. Number one, this is the map from 2020. The President, 244 days from now, wants to recreate this map. He wants to win a second term. Let's walk through, as you mentioned, though, some of the obstacles.

Here's one of them right here, the President's approval rating, personal approval rating. Often the north star, you judge an incumbent president seeking re-election, what's the approval rating? He's below 40 right now. That's near his all-time low at 38 percent. When he gave that first address to Congress, not technically a State of the Union, right after the inauguration, he was at 57. So he is nearly 20 points down from when he began his term and it's a huge problem for the President.

So let's put that into historical context for you. Forgive me for turning my back. I just want to stretch this out.

Look at these recent past presidents, where they were at this point, heading into the re-election year. Ronald Reagan was at 55 percent, he won. George W. Bush at 51 percent, he won. George H.W. Bush at 43 percent. He was a one-term president. He was at 43 percent. Joe Biden's at 38 percent. Barack Obama was at 45 percent and he won. Clinton at 56 percent and he won. Donald Trump, 10 points higher than Joe Biden is right now and he lost.

So you look at that 38 percent. Most political pros tell you, you at least need to get close to Obama. Get into the mid-40s, and you have a chance to win. At 38, it's incredibly bleak and that's where the President is at the moment. Why?

Because people simply do not believe they have been helped by the Biden agenda. Look at this stunning number in the New York Times Siena College poll from the weekend, fewer than 20 percent. Eighteen percent of the American people, registered voters, think Joe Biden's policies have helped them personally. That has to be a gut punch to the President. Forty-three percent think it hurt them. That's a huge challenge tonight. Try to convince the American people what he's doing has actually helped them.

Again, the economy. There are a lot of great statistics when it comes to the economy. Joe Biden will say tonight he's a record job creator. That's a fact. He will say that the stock market's doing pretty well. That's a fact. But this is what people feel, cost of living. Food and goods, are you very concerned about the cost of food and consumer goods? A year ago, 75 percent said yes. It's down a bit, Jake, but only to 72 percent now.

Housing, this is hurting the President. A year ago, 60 percent said they were very concerned about the cost of housing. That's up a bit to 64 percent. If there's one silver lining, look at the drop in concerns, very concerned about the cost of gas and energy. That is down a bit from a year ago. One bright spot, but here, these cost of living concerns still are hurting the President. And another issue that is just crushing him is this, the immigration issue. Again, these numbers are stunning when you look at them. How's the government doing with migrants at the southern border? Eighteen percent of Americans say a good job. Eighty percent say a bad job and this is where it's hard for the President. Seventy-three percent of Democrats say he's doing a bad job. Even his own party doubts about his leadership, 89 percent of Republicans say that.

So Jake, if you look at this map, and if the President wants to have any hope - any hope of recreating this map, this number here and this line has to start going up and that journey has to start tonight.

TAPPER: It's a big challenge. John King, thanks so much.

We're going to get our very first look inside the House Chamber in minutes as dignitaries start to take their seats.

And we're standing by for President Biden to leave the White House for the Capitol if he can make it through the protests.

Coming up, we're going to get insights into the President's mindset at this pivotal moment from two insiders who know him quite well. Our live coverage of the State of the Union continues after this quick break.



COOPER: Welcome back. Right now, the spotlight is on Capitol Hill and one of President Biden's most important speeches ever, raising the curtain on his historic rematch with Donald Trump. We are standing by for the President to leave the White House for the Capitol, where he will deliver his State of the Union address.

You see the protesters there. His motorcade will have to navigate around them against his - they're protesting, obviously, against his handling of the Israel-Hamas war and all of that is happening near the Capitol tonight.

Let's go to Erin Burnett on Capitol Hill. Erin?

BURNETT: All right. Anderson, thank you. And I am here with two people who know the President very well. Have - recently, Evan spent a lot of time with him reporting. And so when we sit here tonight, Kate Bedingfield, you were the communications director for three State of the Unions with President Biden, so you've seen his preparation. You've seen what he does.

I was with him today at that off-the-record lunch. Obviously, I can't talk about the substance of it. But he knows every word in the speech. That's clear to me. How involved is he in this? I mean, does he get nervous as he's approaching and coming in a moment like this?

KATE BEDINGFIELD: I don't - he doesn't get nervous. He is extremely - he's extremely involved in every detail of the speech. BURNETT: Mm-hm.

BEDINGFIELD: He is somebody who cares tremendously about detail. He talks a lot about, as a young man, when he first came to the Senate, he had a couple of experiences where he was on the Senate floor and felt like he didn't have all the information he needed. He tells a story about having a debate about stripper wells - the wells that use a small - that draw out a small ...

BURNETT: For a second, I thought you were going to be talking about something else.

BEDINGFIELD: ... draws - no, no, draw out a small amount of energy and he was challenged by a senator who questioned him on details that he didn't have. And that was a really formative experience for him. And so he is very, very focused on detail, makes sure he knows everything cold.

But he also loves this night. He loves - remember, he served in the Congress for 36 years. He loves the Congress. He believes in institutions in this country. And so the significance of a president standing up, delivering the State of the Union is something that's important to him.


So this is a night that he really enjoys.

BURNETT: You know, you spent an extensive amount of time with him for your recent extensive article that I hope everyone will read who has in Joe Biden's last campaign. But as we sit here tonight, look at that Capitol where he's going to speak. You're remembering January 6th.


BURNETT: And the conversation that you had with him. So as he approaches here, any moment, his motorcade, he leaves the White House, he's going to come here and he's going to approach this Capitol with thoughts in his head. What did he tell you?

OSNOS: You know, it was fascinating. I didn't expect him to do this. First thing he did when I got to the Oval Office was he said, let me take you and show you where, as he put it, Trump sat and watched the revolution, by which he meant where did Trump sit during those fateful hours on the afternoon of January 6th.

He was in that Oval Office dining room. And the message from President Biden was fairly explicit, fairly clear, which was he, in some deep way, thinks that Donald Trump defiled the presidency. I mean, that is his visceral response. And over and over, when we talked over the course of this interview, he returned to this idea, kept calling him a loser over and over again.

There is a degree to which this resonates for Joe Biden on the deepest personal level. I think there's also a way in which -- let's be honest, he spent 36 years in this building. For him, it is very much a part of his identity. As one of his aides said to me, you know, he loved being a senator, he misses being a senator.

BURNETT: And I'm just the beast, obviously. The car that he's going to get in is in front of the White House, we see the motorcade waiting. And, by the way, I should say, that's over at the White House, just near where we are.

Where we are, Kate, we've seen motorcades go by, we've seen the vice president's -- Kate, obviously, having been there, knew exactly whose motorcade it was, as Vice President Harris was coming. But, you know, obviously, age is front and center. And that was clear, even in the off the record that he had with all of us today.

It seems to me he'll probably bring it up tonight in some way, shape or form. He certainly will be judged on it. And that judgment is on how he looks and how he moves and how he talks. How much has he internalized this?

BEDINGFIELD: I think he has internalized it. I mean, he certainly looked, he is a political animal. He loves politics. He knows politics inside and out. He knows campaigns. He's not under the impression. That age is not going to be a factor in this campaign. I think, you know, he's somebody who, again, he came into the Senate when he was 29.

You know, he was always the young guy who was, you know, up and coming. And I think he has fundamentally viewed himself that way for a very long time. And, you know, you speak to, you know, his gait and his physical presence, maybe not being as strong as it was when he was 35 or 40. But, you know, there is no doubt that his mental capacity is very much there.

I can promise you that every aide who worked on this speech, who went through the lengthy and torturous process of putting this speech together and answering his every question --

BURNETT: Said by someone who has been there.

OSNOS: Who've been on that end.

BEDINGFIELD: Said by somebody who was on the end of that very torturous and yet, you know, greatest honor of my life process but, you know, very torturous. And he is demanding and he is exacting and everybody who was part of putting this speech together, I promise you, was feeling that.

BURNETT: So Evan, you write of him on this issue of age after the extensive time that you spent with him. You write, "His voice is thin and clotted and his gestures have slowed, but in our conversation, his mind seemed unchanged. He never bungled a name or a date."

And I will say my impression of being with him for 90 minutes at this lunch today was he had plenty of stats and stories and quotes, and none of them were bungled, none of them. A lot of back and forth. But it's interesting when you read this. Nobody wants to read that their voice is thin and clotted.

OSNOS: You know?

BURNETT: But it's nice that your mind is unchanged. But it just shows the stakes tonight.

OSNOS: Yes, it really does. And I think a lot of Americans, when they turn on that TV tonight, this is one of the things they're looking to see. Look, we all know when we get older, it's going to change our bodies in some ways. The question before us is, does it change your mind?

And are you able to make decisions? Are you able to land the point? Are you precise in your thinking? Are you sharp? Are you fiery when you need to be? We're going to see some of that or we won't. And that is really a key thing, I think, to be looking for.

There's probably going to be moments tonight that he doesn't plan for. And as you've seen, as others who have been on the other side of the negotiating table with him have seen, he can get feisty in those moments. And part of the challenge and the task is to stay in command of the evening --


OSNOS: -- but also make people --

BURNETT: When feisty maybe good.

OSNOS: It can be very effective.



OSNOS: It can be very much the goal.

BEDINGFIELD: Absolutely. I think feisty is great. I think it gets to kind of what people -- what I would imagine Joe Biden wants people to come away with.


BEDINGFIELD: And I sense that he is fighting for them. And so for them to see some feistiness from him, that's a good thing.

BURNETT: All right. We'll be here all night and we'll see what happens here. Anderson?

ANDERSON COPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Erin, thanks. We want to hear from a key player in Capitol Hill as we get closer to the President's speech. Dana Bash is on Capitol Hill right now. Dana, who'd you just talk to?


DANA BASH, CNN ANCHOR: Well, I just talked to Steve Scalise, the House Majority Leader. But before I talk about that, I want to tell you that a lot of key players are walking by me right now. Members of the United States Senate -- hi Senator -- are coming by. They're making -- hi senator, you want to come talk?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, I've got to go here, speech.

BASH: OK, that was Senator Kennedy, who doesn't want to come talk because he says he's got a speech to hear, but you see all of the senators coming in. This is what they do. They come -- hi senator -- from the Senate side of the chamber.


BASH: Thank you, Senator. Thank you. Hey, Senator, come say hi for one sec.


BASH: OK. What do you expect to see tonight and hear? What do you hope to hear? You're in a very important race in Pennsylvania, Senator Kasich (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think he'll focus, among other things, on border security, in terms of domestic issues, and lowering costs. And I hope he mentions something about greedflation and shrinkflation.

BASH: That's important for your constituents?


BASH: And your voters?


BASH: OK. Thanks, Senator. So I think most of the most of the U.S. Senate now has gone past me as they head into the House chamber, Anderson. You know, this is one of those traditions, even though so much of the institutional norms we have seen here on Capitol Hill get busted in various times for various reasons.

But this is one of those traditions that continue, that the members of the Senate line up really in a bipartisan way and make their way over to the House for this momentous evening. Anderson?

COOPER: And Dana, you were talking to -- you talked to Steve Scalise just a moment ago, yes?

BASH: That's right, and I believe we can play some of that. I should mention before we go to that, that he is, the number two Republican in the House of Representatives, is suffering from blood cancer, and he has just recently returned from his home state of Louisiana, where he was getting treatment, back to the Capitol.


BASH: How are you feeling?

REP. STEVE SCALISE (R), MAJORITY LEADER: I'm feeling great. Thanks. Really good to be back. And in remission from cancer. So God has answered a lot of prayers.

BASH: Sure sounds like it. When he -- the chamber, when you're thinking about the chamber and the people in the conference, have you talked to them about decorum and about how to react and how not to react to the president?

SCALISE: Well, I think you'll see both sides, you know, really looking to hear what the president has to say. And any State of the Union, you got a lot of, you know, standing up and applauding and a lot of you know, people just listening and sometimes there's some lines that maybe our side might not be as excited about as the other side and vice versa.

But, you know, we'll see what the president has to say. We're going to be eagerly listening.

BASH: Thank you for stopping. I'm glad you're well.

SCALISE: Thanks a lot.


BASH: And Anderson, now you're seeing photos of, excuse me, live pictures of the vice president of the United States, who is also the president of the U.S. Senate, making her way through the house chamber, obviously greeting some of the House members and her former colleagues. She too was a, not certainly didn't serve anywhere near as long as the president, but she too was a member of Congress before -- with the U.S. Senate before she was tapped by Joe Biden to be his running mate, Anderson.

COOPER: Yes, Dana, as we continue to watch the senators come in, I want to talk to our team here in New York. Everybody here on this panel has either served in the White House or served on campaigns. So let's start David Axelrod with you. What would you be advising President Biden to be doing tonight? There's Senator Manchin, Romney as well.

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, look, I think he's got two big missions here. One has to do with what he has to say, because there are a lot of people who are hungering to know what is the message? What is the central argument for you in this contest with Donald Trump, and it has to include an economic narrative that people are willing to absorb, and it has to be value laden and future oriented.

But the second piece is how he says it, because the central Republican argument is that things are out of control and Biden isn't in command, that he's somehow not able to take command. He needs to command this room tonight.

COOPER: Which one is more important? Because a lot of people are going to be watching this tonight, but a lot of people are going to be seeing excerpts of it over the next several days on, you know, social media. AXELROD: Yes. Look, I think the first part is a long-term project. I mean, they both are, but the theater of this moment is very, very important. And that's why I think the Speaker of the House told his Republican colleagues, do not try and heckle, do not challenge because Joe Biden will take that challenge.

And remember, someone said it earlier. He worked in this building for 36 years. He's very comfortable in that kind of environment. And in terms of the heckling and so on, I have to believe his team. I certainly would have been prepared him for this and they thought through how are you going to deal with it if it comes on this issue, if it comes from that person, if there are hecklers in the gallery around the Israeli-Gaza issue.

COOPER: Yes. Senator Mitch McConnell, Scott Jennings, obviously you're an ally of the senator, worked with him for a long time. What are you looking for tonight?


SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I agree with Axe. I think basic image is the issue here because I think the narrative of this campaign as we've talked about on some of our election nights is strength versus weakness. And I think the words are going to matter less than what he looks like, what he sounds like.

Does he look like, does he have the vigor to serve another term as president of the United States? You already see the Trump team out. The larger Trump organization out with an ad ahead of this speech today showing him at a podium looking confused and then showing sort of an overlay of Kamala Harris over his shoulder.

She's going to be right over his shoulder tonight. And I think you're going to continue to see the Republicans go at that. So, the image here, can he get through this? I mean, it's not like you have to go up and do feats of strength. He's not going to be juggling bowling balls or anything. He should be able to do it. But if he has a blip, if he has a senior moment, the downside possibilities of this speech are a lot different greater than the absolute (ph).

COOPER: Manu Raju, is there. Manu, talk about why so many of the Democratic members in the chamber are wearing white tonight.

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, a lot of the Democratic women are really to represent reproductive rights, abortion rights. This is a point that they have been making in several consecutive State of the Union addresses, especially taking in greater importance now in the aftermath of the overturning of Roe v. Wade.

You're seeing members really making their points on the Republican side as well. There were a lot of Republicans, Anderson, wearing white ribbons in support of so called angel families. Of course, those are the families who have had family members killed by undocumented immigrants. And also many Republicans wearing buttons representing their calls for greater demands on border security. Inside the chamber here, Anderson, members are pretty -- it's a pretty -- almost like a cocktail reception that people greeting each other pretty warmly right now. But mostly the Democrats and Republicans keeping to themselves on their own respective sides of the aisle.

Not a ton of bipartisan mingling right now, as we expect a pretty tense moment when the president enters here and delivers a speech, Anderson.

COOPER: Back here with the teams. We continue to watch. Ashley Allison, you work with Biden- Harris, the National Coalition director back in 2020. What do you hope to see from the president here?

ASHLEY ALLISON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: You know, I think he has to be honest with how the American people are feeling both Republicans and Democrats. And I think that honesty will give him some credit. But then he has to lead with his heart. He has to talk to his coalition.

He has a really big job because there are a lot of issues that people are feeling unsettled about and he needs to be able to tell young voters there is a future and I see it and I want to help transition you into this future. But then he has to talk to the Nikki Haley voters that are going to be tuning in and they're saying, what am I going to do now?

And so he can't go too far to the left, but he also can't go too far to the center because his coalition is so fragile right now. It was very hard to build it in 2020 and it's going to be even harder this year. So we -- I agree with both Axe and Scott, is that it's how he presents the information.

It's not so much what he says, but how, and people have to believe. I know things don't feel great right now, but it will get better with me.

COOPER: Yes. We see Lindsey Graham there, Senator Tuberville as well.

ALYSSA FARAH GRIFFIN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: And I would just note, Mike Johnson's first day of the union as speaker. I think watching a year ago, all of us assumed Kevin McCarthy would probably be up there. So just major changes, seismic changes that happen very quickly in American politics.

But listen, he's got a huge uphill battle to Ashley's point. There's some ground he can gain with moderates who feel politically displaced with Donald Trump as the nominee. They're going to be listening for what's his plan on getting aid to Ukraine. Is he going to continue to support Israel? And wanting to hear him talk about the border.

This has to be a big theme tonight. It's the number one policy issue for voters across the board. I think he's going to start to sound much like a Republican on some of these things border issues. But on the flip side, he does have this issue with progressives and he can't risk alienating them. I also think it's interesting that Republicans chose to put up Katie Britt to get the response, 42-year-old senator, just a generational juxtaposition. Somebody who's about the age of how long Joe Biden served in the Senate, to just point to the juxtaposition of his age.

VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. That was Hakeem Jeffries. I hope someday I think he'll be up there as a speaker. I hope. But, look, I think he's going to look like a grandpa. And the question is, is he going to be a fighting grandpa? And I think he should be a fighting grandpa tonight.

Look, whatever he says about overseas and this, that, everything he's done, groceries cost too much and the rent is too high. That is the bottom line. And if he can explain how he is going to go after these rip off grocery stores that are jacking the prices up too much, now he's going to push down on interest rates so he can get a house, you can rent a house, you can get a car, you can walk out the grocery store without having a heart attack, I think people are going to say, look, that's an old grandpa.

That grandpa is fighting for me. And I think if he spends too much time bragging on himself, it's not going to work.

COOPER: Often these things do become a long laundry list.

JONES: Yes. No. Hey, listen, he's got stuff to be proud of.


Look, gas prices are low. Unemployment is down. Stock market is up. Student loans have been cut. All that stuff is good. But the groceries cost too much and rent is too high. If he's a fighting grandpa, he'll be alright.

DAVID URBAN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I would say this. I think Joe Biden's going to do a good job tonight. This is his 51st State of the Union. He got elected in 1973. 51st time he's been in this chamber for the State of the Union. If he screws it up, shame on him. He's got a chance to practice it. So the bar is pretty low on reading the script and doing a good job.

AXELROD: I think you just raised it actually.

URBAN: So I think that he was listening to John King earlier in the broadcast. He's probably in the bathroom of the White House throwing up right now. Because what John King said was true. He's going to go out here and he's got to bend the steel bar across his head because the New York Times/Siena poll 38 percent approval.

18 percent of Americans think that Joe Biden has helped them. No matter what he says tonight, the next two hours, those numbers aren't changing.

AXELROD: Yes, but this is a long term project. He needs to lay down the argument and I agree with much of what was said here. He needs to be Joe from Scranton tonight -- URBAN: That's right.

AXELROD: -- not President Biden from the White House. He needs to talk about the day to day struggles that people are having and fit the things he's done and the things he wants to do into the fight to make it work for them, make the economy work for them. And I think that's going to be -- I hope that's the essence of what he does to them.

ALLISON: And he can build that contrast because then he can talk about -- Donald Trump has never struggled for anything. He doesn't know your struggle. He pretends like he does, but he's not being honest. I have, and he can also talk about -- he doesn't have to build that -- bend that lead bar by himself.

You have women in the chamber wearing white because their reproductive rights have been taken away. He has the most diverse cabinet ever. He's going to talk about housing tonight. Get Secretary Fudge out there talking about going into battleground states, talking to black women, talking to black men about how you can build generational wealth in your community because of the work Joe Biden has done.


URBAN: If you can afford a house.

AXELROD: Fundamentally, what his message should be is I am fighting for your future. The other guy is absorbed by his past and vengeance. And that's not going to get you, that's not going to help you with your rent, it's not going to help you with your grocery bill.

COOPER: We're waiting for the president to be leaving the White House. Let's go back to Jake in Washington.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: That's right, Anderson, we are waiting for the president to leave the White House. Normally, we would have expected him to have left by now. There are massive protests in Washington, D.C. We're watching some people walk out of the White House right now, and the president is not among them yet.

And we're wondering, obviously, if there are an alternate route for the motorcade needs to be planned out by the Secret Service. Jamie Gangel has some news on one of the surprise attendees of tonight's State of the Union Address. Former New York Republican Congressman George Santos, who was expelled from Congress in a very rare act, still apparently has floor privileges and is there. Jamie, what more can you tell us?

JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Once a member, always a member, so on. I guess, a lighter note, George Santos is back. You're right. It turns out, even if you're expelled.

TAPPER: There is the -- I'm sorry to interrupt, but there is the first couple, First Lady Jill Biden.

How are you feeling, sir, he was asked. And he said, good.


TAPPER: Did a little muscle flex of some sort. The President appearing to be in good spirits as he gets into the Beast, the nickname for that vehicle.

And Jamie, I have rudely interrupted you to narrate the president leaving the building. Please continue. Tell us again about George Santos in the background scene, because I cannot imagine he was welcomed back to the Capitol.

GANGEL: Well, it turns out that even if you're expelled, even if you're indicted, you still have floor privileges. And George Santos is back. I'm told that he was sitting in some seats and the GOP floor staff politely asked him to move from the seats to the back so that current members would have a seat and that he much to one person surprised that he politely complied with that, and he's now standing in the back.

But it's -- there is just no end with George Santos.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Thirsty George Santa. You know, Jake, in listening to our colleagues in New York with Anderson and listening to everyone here, the list of what Joe Biden apparently has to accomplish tonight is never ending. I mean, that to me is the toughest task for him.

Yes, everyone's going to want to see the performance. But if you take what the White House sort of put out today and listen to what we all have been saying, he needs to tout his achievements to date. He needs to express like that he feels America's pain on high costs.


He needs to set forth a vision of a second term and focus on that economic populism. He has to draw a sharp contrast with Trump and the MAGA Republicans on things like democracy. Yet he also has to tout his ability to work across the aisle and rallying his base that has some appeal to the middle as well on things like abortion rights all while in total command.

So like the -- it is a very tall order of all the things on his checklist that --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The thing that's super long.

CHALIAN: -- he's trying to come. He has all the time in the world to do it. There's no doubt about that.

TAPPER: Yes. But the good news is last year, he went for 80 minutes. So --


CHALIAN: The measure is to what end if he does all of that. You know, we've seen presidents be able to get a little bit of bump out of a State of the Union, but it seems to me that there's much more risk here if somehow there's a disastrous performance of him doing damage, then there is the upside of really catapulting and instantly changing his fortunes.

One of the reasons that Kasie and everyone else that we're talking to our sources are nervous, it's not just about his age, it's about the fact that he's behind in this race against Donald Trump.


KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Can I just say one thing, just to say who is getting in the car with him? You saw the senior staff come out before him, Steve Ricchetti, Bruce Reed, the others who've been preparing with him. Those were his grandkids who got in the car with him, Naomi and Finnegan and Naomi, Biden's husband, who are often always with the president on really big moments.

And something that you've see covering the White House, he's often surrounded by his family when he does have such a high stakes moment is this. And I'll say one thing that the White House that you hear from his advisers and his allies, as this moment, you know, expectations were also high last year, and they believe President Biden over delivered when he sparred with the Republicans, when he had those quick responses on Social Security and Medicare.

So kind of, they see him as a victim of his own success of last year, that he's going up against that this year.

TAPPER: So we see the motorcade making its way through Capitol Hill. Apparently Secret Service was able to plan an alternate route. There are big protests --

HUNT: Yes.

TAPPER: -- in Washington, D.C. tonight. People who are demanding a ceasefire, which the president has, by the way, been trying to get done. The hurdle so far has been Hamas has refused to the terms. But John King you were going to say?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Just to follow up on Kaitlan's point and David's point. There's a huge debate in the Democratic Party. The Biden team is convinced that having the democracy element at the top. They know they have to deal with the other issues, but that having the democracy element, Trump is a threat to democracy.

Speaker Johnson over my shoulder is a threat to democracy. The Republicans are a threat to democracy. They believe that that's their lead, right? That that should be the first punch they throw. And they believe that's the umbrella under which everything else falls.

There are a lot of Democrats are saying no, especially Democrats in the Midwestern battleground states saying, no, the economic part has to be first. You have to come with the cost of living first. To David Axelrod's point, you have to go back to Joe Biden, the scrappy kid from Scranton who struggled through life.

And it's a huge debate, the team around Biden. Remember most of the people on Biden, they've been with him for a long time. They've been with him through the defeats and they've been with him through the huge comeback in the 2020 primaries.

And what they always say is that you're the same people who keep telling us we're going to lose. We're president. We're right. You're wrong. But we find out in eight months who's right, who's wrong this time, or we'll see if the president, you know, modulates and moderates over the course of the campaign.

But it's a big debate. The more populous, the Elizabeth Warrens, the Bernie Sanders, the Debbie Dingles, they want economy first.

HUNT: It's where the president himself is, right? And to a certain extent, a campaign, any successful campaign has to reflect the heart of the candidate at its center. And this is clearly what animates President Biden. I mean, he has talked about it explicitly, even saying, you know, he wouldn't probably be running if Trump wasn't running.

Much to the chagrin of said long-time staffers for whatever that's worth. I just -- the one thing I do want to touch on, Jake, as we kind of watch this motorcade, try to wind its way. I mean having covered a number of these, you know, going back to the George W. Bush administration I've never seen pictures like the ones were, you know, protests in the streets.

I do think it is worth noting them. And I also think it's worth noting that we expect Rashida to leave, who is the only Palestinian American member of Congress to be there on the floor today. And you'll remember she made a video standing in Michigan urging people to vote uncommitted in the Michigan primary. I think it's worth watching what she does tonight.

TAPPER: And 100,000 of them, more than 100,000 Michigan Democrats voted uncommitted. A huge number numerically. We are used to 20,000 or so Michigan Democrats voting uncommitted in primaries, but not 100,000.

Are we listening in to the House chamber now? What are we -- let's listen in.

KAMALA HARRIS, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: -- of the United States into the House chamber. The Senator from New York, Mr. Schumer, the Senator from Illinois, Mr. Durbin, the Senator from Washington, Mrs. Murray --

TAPPER: So there are procedural motions going on right now that the Vice President who is the president of the Senate is calling the Senate leadership to order.


Abby Phillip, when you talk to Democrats on Capitol Hill, when you talk to Democrats in the Biden administration, what are they telling you about how they think the president who has really been experiencing very low approval ratings from the American people and in polling is trailing Donald Trump in many key battleground states. How do they think he's going to turn it around?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Look, especially in the president's orbit and inside of the campaign, they don't see this as any one, you know, one solution that's going to turn the whole thing around. They see that they have multiple things that they have to do simultaneously.

One of them is about turnout among Democrats, which I think they believe the democracy element is a super potent argument for tried and true people on the left who are very concerned about that. But the reason he is talking about the economic issues is for the reason that Bob Casey, who stopped and talked to Dana earlier today, said, that's what his constituents in Pennsylvania want to hear about because they know that for the voters who are going to decide this election in states like Pennsylvania and in the Midwestern states and elsewhere in this country, it's going to be those pocketbook issues, and they understand.

They've got to do them simultaneously. On President Biden's age, which is a continuous problem, their view is that it is what it is. They have to work around it. They don't expect that that's going to be something that they can just turn around by flipping a switch and suddenly people think about him as not old.

TAPPER: And this is the diplomatic who are walking in right now. Kaitlan Collins, Speaker Johnson, Mike Johnson, who is from Louisiana, this is his first State of the Union. He was not trying to become speaker of the House. He kind of was like after five or six different attempts after the coup against Kevin McCarthy became speaker. Tell us more about him.

COLLINS: Well, just one interesting thing about what you're going to see tonight with -- him staying over President Biden's shoulder, this is the third House speaker. As President Biden has addressed joint -- a joint session of Congress that he's been there.

It was, first, Nancy Pelosi, then Kevin McCarthy, and now Mike Johnson. And, I mean, that's obviously not a typical thing. One thing, Jake, is you'll remember when Nancy Pelosi ripped up Donald Trump's speech. That is not likely to happen tonight, is that from Speaker Mike Johnson, he actually wrote a memo back in 2020 alleging that it was a felony for her to rip up that speech.

Legal experts later doubted that and said it wasn't likely, but it is just remarkable to the sense of what has happened in the House. The fact that President Biden, in his third address, is now on his third House speaker to stand behind him as he delivers and addresses Congress.

KING: And we talk about Trump as a foil tonight. Just quickly, the House Republicans will be a foil for the president tonight, too. It's just the idea, and this is how he tries to swing back on immigration. I was about to do something, I cut a bipartisan deal to do something very tough at the border, and Donald Trump told you guys to walk away from it, and you put Donald Trump ahead of the country.

PHILLIP: I mean, if the White House could have written that script, they would have written that script of a House unable to do things. That was a gift to them in this last year.

TAPPER: All right, and we're still seeing images of the motorcade making its way through Washington as various dignitaries are welcomed into the House chamber. Kasie Hunt, remind our viewers as we watch the U.S. Supreme Court justices walk in.

HUNT: Yes.

TAPPER: There are six justices that are here tonight. They are the Chief Justice of the United States, John Roberts, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, and Ketanji Brown Jackson, who are the three Democratic appointees on the bench. And then, in addition to them, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, who were two of Donald Trump's three justices appointed to the Supreme Court.

It is obviously typical for the Supreme Court to come. Not every justice is there. Amy Coney Barrett, Clarence Thomas, and Samuel Alito are not there. Clarence Thomas has not been there -- has not attended the State of the Union since 2006.

Kasie, remind our viewers who see the sea of white of congressional women --

HUNT: Yes.

TAPPER: -- Democrats in the House and Senate, why they are all wearing white.

HUNT: It's about reproductive rights. And that, of course, has become the central issue, frankly, that Democrats want to promote for all of the discussions that we're having around this table about the President's challenges on immigration and the economy.

Democrats are going to plan to answer those challenges with abortion. I mean, that is going to be something that we are going to be hearing over and over and over again throughout this election. And, frankly, you know, it's exploded into IVF, right?

This big part of why what's going on with in vitro fertilization in Alabama is so important to this election is because it really casts the Dobbs decision as one that has an incredible range of unintended consequences in many cases.