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CNN NewsNight with Abby Phillip

Biden Defiant Against Calls For Him To Quit Race; White House Releases Letter From Biden's Doc On Parkinson's Questions; Trump Says, Won't Matter To Me If Biden Drops Out Of Race; "NewsNight" Discusses Biden Presidency And Democrats' Support; Trump Says He Will Likely Face Vice President Kamala Harris In November. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired July 08, 2024 - 22:00   ET



ABBY PHILLIP, CNN HOST: A counterpunch as the president races to save his campaign. That's tonight on NewsNight.

Good evening. I'm Abby Philip in New York.

And I want to get right to it tonight. In just a few moments, the head of the Congressional Black Caucus will join me live on his group's critical meeting with the president just a short time ago.

But here is the backdrop that we face as a country. The president is now defiant. He's launching an all-out offensive as conversations intensify among Democrats about replacing him over conversations about questions about his mental fitness.

Now, today alone, he called into a morning show, he sent a letter to House Democrats, he spoke with his donors, he chatted with black lawmakers, and Biden's message is that he's not going anywhere. He says that he's fine, there's nothing to see here. And he continues to insist that he is the only one who can beat Donald Trump. He's even daring Democrats to challenge him at the convention.

But what is interesting about how this is playing out are the sides in this fight. He's getting support from progressives. These are the very same people who preferred someone else in the last Democratic primary. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, she says today she's all in. Ditto for Ayanna Pressley, who says Democrats have lost the plot here. And even Ilhan Omar, who says it is vital that Biden is re-elected.

But the ones who aren't so sure are the moderates. These are Biden's go-to people in the halls of his old stomping ground. Senator Mark Warner says Biden needs to do more to be more aggressive. Patty Murray says Biden must consider his legacy in the steps that are ahead. Brian Schatz says there should be an open debate. The vulnerable Jon Tester, he's essentially saying, don't tell me, show me. And so far, it's a tough go for Biden and his White House.

Just moments ago, the White House released a letter from the president's doctor trying to put to bed a press conference dust up over why a Parkinson's expert was on the White House grounds eight times in a span of eight months. Basically, the letter says that there is nothing to see here in those visits and that the president did not see a neurologist outside of his normal annual physical. The White House would not say that earlier this afternoon during a press briefing that became incredibly combative with reporters.


KARINE JEAN-PIERRE, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Has the president been treated for Parkinson's? No. Is he being treated for Parkinson's? No, he's not. Is he taking medication for Parkinson's? No.

I'm not going to confirm a specialist, any specialist that comes to the White House.

I am not sharing, confirming names from here. It is a security reason. I am not going to do that, Ed. It doesn't matter how hard you push me. It doesn't matter how angry you get with me. I'm not going to confirm a name. It doesn't matter if it's even in the log. I am not going to do that from here. But I am telling you that he has seen a neurologist three times while he has been in his presidency. That's what I'm saying.


PHILLIP: For more on this letter that just came out moments ago, I'm joined by CNN's Senior White House Correspondent M.J. Lee. M.J., that briefing today was fireworks, and the question that faced the press secretary, Karine Jean-Pierre is, did the President see this doctor? She couldn't say yes or no. Now we have this letter from the president's primary physician about what this neurologist was doing on the White House grounds.

M.J. LEE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Abby. This is a new letter that the White House just released from the president's doctor, Dr. Kevin O'Connor, answering a question that the White House press secretary would not answer at today's briefing. Dr. O'Connor saying in this letter, quote, President Biden has not seen a neurologist outside of his annual physical.

And as this letter explains, Abby, the president, as a part of his annual physical, sees a team of specialists and doctors, including a doctor, Kevin Cannard, who is a neurological specialist, but, again, Dr. O'Connor saying in this letter that the president has not seen this specialist or any other neurologist outside of his annual physical, his last physical, remember, was back in February.


And at the time, Dr. O'Connor had said in summary that the president did go through an extremely detailed neurologic exam, and there were no findings consistent with disorders like a stroke or multiple sclerosis or Parkinson's.

But, Abby, just to remind everyone, the reason that there's been such a focus on this specialist is because, according to White House visitors' logs, we were able to confirm that this doctor, Dr. Cannard, had come to the White House multiple times over the course of the last year, including earlier this year to meet with the president's doctor. So, a key question had been whether this neurologist was visiting the White House to examine or consult about President Biden's health. And we finally have that clarity from the president's doctor.

Now, I have to tell you, you know, the White House would have known going into today's press briefing that this was certainly going to be a line of questioning that it was going to receive. It could have had this answer prepared and frankly saved itself an entire new cycle of questions. But, again, there we have it, the president's doctor saying in this new letter, the president has not seen a neurologist outside of his annual physical.

PHILLIP: Yes, M.J., you raise an important point. I mean, the story has been floating around for some time. Those visitor records are out there. It is a little surprising that the White House would wait until it becomes a firestorm to release what seems to be pretty basic information about what this neurological specialist was doing there. M.J., thank you for joining us on all of that.

I want to get straight to CNN's Medical Analyst, Dr. Jonathan Reiner. He is a professor of medicine at George Washington University. Dr. Reiner what do you make of this explanation both in the letter that was released from the White House tonight and also just how we even got here. Why they couldn't simply say that Dr. Cannard was there to consult about all the other hundreds of military service members who support the White House on a daily basis?

DR. JONATHAN REINER, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Right. It shows how I think defensive the White House has become about the health of the president. We know that the president has been seen by a neurologist, presumably Dr. Cannard, but, certainly, not definitely, at least once this year, because Dr O'Connor described the visit in his annual report in February, in which he basically stated that they did not think the president had evidence of Parkinson's disease.

But this whole, you know, story over the last day about Parkinson's disease is kind of a distraction in one way, but it's also emblematic of a perception that there's a lack of transparency in the White House as it pertains to the president's health.

And I think the best way for the White House to move forward and, you know, create some trust perhaps with the public and the press perhaps about the health of the president would be just to basically have a press conference with some of the medical staff, let the reporters with the president's permission ask questions to his healthcare providers and just move on. I mean, this is this is a presidential election, but yet we're focusing on the president's health rather than on the policy. It's a gigantic distraction.

PHILLIP: So, based on what we have heard so far, these explanations, what's been in this medical report, the denials, do you think that this is case closed on the core question, which is that are there things that we still need to know about President Biden's neurological condition? Are you satisfied with what you've heard so far?

REINER: No. The note today from Dr. O'Connor basically just states that the president has only seen an expert on movement disorders once this year. It doesn't really do anything to add any kind of clarity to the question of whether or not the president has had any kind of progressive cognitive decline over the last several months.

So, you know, the Parkinson's and the cognitive decline, you know, they can be interrelated, but they don't have to be. And so, in other words, a patient can have Parkinson's disease and also have some cognitive decline as a result of that process.


But cognitive decline, entities like Alzheimer's, dementia, can occur certainly without Parkinson's. So, I think the Parkinson's is just a distraction.

PHILLIP: Do you think that he should, at this point, have some other kind of evaluation to answer some of those questions raised?

REINER: So, you know, if a patient came to the office, and, in fact, I've had a patient come to the office after an open heart surgery, complaining that he was having trouble focusing during lectures that he gave. You know, he's accustomed to giving very high-powered, very nuanced talks, and he was having trouble crafting those kind of lectures, and I sent him for a full set of neurocognitive testing and that's the kind of situation when you do that, when a patient notes some sort of change in their pattern of functioning. And one can argue that what was witnessed by the country ten days ago does constitute sort of a constellation of symptoms, and that would be worthy of at least some kind of evaluation.

And, again, it's one thing for, for a, you know, sort of a random patient to suggest that to me. It's another thing entirely for the current president and candidate for another term of presidency of the United States to demonstrate symptoms like that certainly should be evaluated in a formal setting, at least once and then put that to rest.

PHILLIP: All right. Dr. Jonathan Reiner, thank you very much for joining us on that breaking news.

REINER: My pleasure. Thanks.

PHILLIP: And joining me now for an exclusive CNN interview tonight is Congressman Steve Horsford. He's the chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, who just met with President Biden earlier tonight. Congressman, thank you for joining us.

What was President Biden's message to you tonight at the CBC meeting?

REP. STEVEN HORSFORD (D-NV): Well, thank you for having me on, Abby, and, you know, first it, it was necessary and appropriate for the President to address members of the Congressional Black Caucus. We have 60 members, the largest in our history. We represent a third of the U.S. population collectively, more than 120 million Americans, some 20 million Black Americans. And the president was clear that he is in this race. We have one objective and that is to win, because it's about a choice between the chaos and extremism of Donald Trump and Republicans in Congress versus civility and experience with President Biden and Vice President Harris and Democrats who are focused on lifting up the American people, protecting our freedoms, our rights, and our opportunities that would be eroded under a second term of Donald Trump.

PHILLIP: So, my understanding, based on the reporting from our team on the Hill, is that there were really no -- there was no pushback. There were no questions about the president and the concerns about his health. Why is that? Are there no members in the CBC who are concerned about whether President Biden physically can carry out the duties of the presidency for another four years?

HORSFORD: What people are most concerned about right now is the fact that it was President Biden and Democrats in Congress that capped the cost of insulin that helped expand health care for people on the Affordable Care Act that Donald Trump wants to roll back. What people are focused on is the ability that we need to make sure our constituents can afford to pay the rent at the first of the month. They're more concerned about their own performance and not the performance of any presidential candidate in the last debate.

Clearly, this president is fit to serve. He has been fighting for the American people. I know more than 14 million Americans have already voted for him, including those in my state of Nevada. We need to honor and respect the will of the voters who have selected him as our Democratic nominee.

PHILLIP: You just heard Dr. Reiner say that he thinks there are still questions that are unanswered. Do you think that President Biden should take a neurological exam, if only to address these concerns, not just of members on Capitol Hill or donors, but concerns that actual voters have?

HORSFORD: Well, again, I've not actually heard that concern from voters. What I've heard is their concern about the affordability of housing and the fact that corporate landlords are buying up 30 percent.

PHILLIP: I apologize, Congressman. Just to be clear, what I'm referring to is there's a lot of polling out there, the recent one after the debate showing more than 70 percent of voters think that President Biden is not demonstrating the capacity to be president.


56 percent of Democrats say that they would be better off with another nominee. Those are the concerns that I'm talking about that are showing up in the numbers and that are affecting his approval rating.

HORSFORD: What I find interesting is the issue is more around ageism and ableism and not what this president, President Biden, has done. His age didn't keep him from lifting 50 percent of children out of poverty. His age did not prevent him from passing a bipartisan infrastructure law. His age didn't prevent him from passing the bipartisan Safer Communities Act in order to keep our community safe from gun violence. It is his experience and his civility because he actually cares about the American people while Donald Trump only cares about himself or the billionaires and big corporations that he wants to give tax cuts to. He's now new tax proposal would cost the American people $5 trillion. How are we supposed to pay for that? He will come after seniors, their Social Security, and their Medicare. We cannot let that happen. And that's the choice in this upcoming election.

PHILLIP: And I hear you, certainly, about the choice between President Biden and Donald Trump. However, voters have been hearing that argument from the president, from you and your colleagues on Capitol Hill, and they still say that this issue -- the issue that most concerns them about President Biden is actually his stamina and his fitness to do the job. And on top of that there is a concern among your colleagues that if President Biden doesn't completely change the trajectory of the race, which right now he is losing to Donald Trump, that could wipe out vulnerable Democrats in House races, in Senate races. Are you concerned about the down ballot effect of all of this?

HORSFORD: Absolutely. I'm a front line member in a battleground state of Nevada. I've been a frontline member for the last three cycles. I know how tough it is to run and win in difficult races. But that is why I've talked to the president directly about the need to focus on economic progress, on the issues that actually will help drive economic participation, full economic participation, to help close the racial wealth gap in this country, through ownership and housing and entrepreneurship, helping our young people have the skills to compete in the 21st century economy, but particularly with A.I. and all of the new automation that's happening in our economy. These are the issues that matter.

And this president is and prepared to continue to serve. He's civil and he's experienced, that the opposite side offers us nothing but chaos and extremism. And we cannot allow that to happen another four years.

PHILLIP: I wonder what you think about this, because Congressman Jim Clyburn, I know he spoke tonight at the meeting, but he's also said recently that he would be open to some kind of mini primary should President Biden decide to step aside for whatever reason. But he also said that he thinks it would be unfair to hopscotch over the vice president, Kamala Harris. Do you agree with that? Do you think that Vice President Harris would really be the only acceptable choice to replace President Biden if he decided to pass the torch in this process?

HORSFORD: To be clear, President Biden is our nominee. The vice president, Kamala Harris, is his running mate. They are the team that will ensure that we move America forward and there will be no other nominee than President Biden.

PHILLIP: Do you think that President Biden needs to do more in unscripted settings, in settings where people can see what he can do without the benefit of notes, without the benefit of teleprompters, to show Americans that he can actually communicate. Because I mean, the communication part of this, Congressman, is not an ancillary part of the presidency. That's part of the leadership part of being president of the United States.

HORSFORD: You're absolutely right, Abby. And I've seen the president in my district in Nevada, talk and relate directly to constituents about their concerns. And I'm looking forward to having him back in Nevada to have those conversations with hospitality workers, with nurses, with seniors, with young people who are concerned about student loan forgiveness and so many other important issues.

And the more that the president does that, I am confident, not only will we win a second term of a Biden-Harris administration, but we will elect a Democratic majority in the House led by Hakeem Jeffries as our speaker to ensure that on day one, we are ready to advance an agenda for the next four years. This is not only about what we've done, but it's what we will do.

Under Donald Trump, it will be more extremism. It will be tax cuts for the very wealthy, ultra wealthy and big corporations.


He only cares about himself. He wants to take away a woman's right to make her own health care decisions about her body. They want to eliminate protections for civil rights and diversity, equity and inclusion. We're not going back to the days where women don't have full protections, or people of color are not fully included in the workplace. We're moving forward. That's what we get with the Biden- Harris administration and Democrats in control of the Congress. Because we put people first, not Donald Trump who puts himself first.

PHILLIP: Congressman Stephen Horsford, thank you very much for joining us tonight. I appreciate it.

HORSFORD: Thank you, Abby.

PHILLIP: And just in, Donald Trump revealing his thoughts on the calls to oust President Biden and who he thinks he'll ultimately face in November.

Plus, are critics underestimating support from Democrats for Biden? We've got new numbers from Harry Enten to paint a surprising picture.

This is NewsNight.



PHILLIP: Tonight, the opponent Donald Trump wants to face versus the opponents that he thinks he'll face. Moments ago on Fox, Trump was asked directly about whether or not Joe Biden should quit the race.


SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: Do you, Mr. President, do you want Joe Biden to step aside? Do you care?

DONALD TRUMP (R), FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT, 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, we've prepared for him, but I don't think it's going to matter.


PHILLIP: Notice he didn't say yes, but when he was prodded a little further by Sean Hannity about who he thinks will actually be on the ballot opposite him in November, this was his answer.


TRUMP: I think that it will be her. I think they are very concerned about the vote. If it's not her, they are very, very -- I mean, they're gun shy. They don't want to do it any other way. I've actually come to believe that's what they're going to do.


PHILLIP: Let's discuss this. We've got contributing editor for the National Review, Reihan Salam, former National Coalition's director for the Biden Harris 2020 campaign, Ashley Allison, and co-host of the Serious Trouble podcast, Josh Barro.

Ashley, he wants to run against Kamala Harris?

ASHLEY ALLISON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, I mean, I think we have seen the Republican Party do this thing and this trope with Kamala Harris where they, they will dangle debate and I think I saw a post the other day talking about she could be a DEI candidate. They think that they can rile their base around this dislike for black women and really use her as a target to get their base energized.

I think that is a misstep. Attacking a black woman in that way is not smart. You see her polling is going up more and more. And so this is Donald Trump just saying like, I think I can win right now. And actually more so than I've ever seen Donald Trump in his entire professional career, and definitely political career, I think he is trying to stay as disciplined as possible right now and not make any news. Because right now, the story is, and it has been for some long time, that the Democrats are trying to figure their stuff out, where for a long time when the during the Republican Party, it was Republicans attacking one another and even attacking Donald Trump.

PHILLIP: Yes. And I think that's totally true. He's been trying to recede into the background, even kind of holding back on attacking President Biden. I mean, do you think that he would prefer Biden on the ballot at this point?

JOSH BARRO, CO-HOST, SERIOUS TROUBLE PODCAST: Absolutely. I mean, we all saw that debate, right? Biden is not in a position to run an effective campaign for the next four months. If I'm Donald Trump, I'm really afraid that Joe Biden will get out. I mean, a theme through the four years of this administration has been that Kamala Harris' polling had been worse than the president's going through. You would have a poll with a horse race with Trump and Biden and the one with Trump and Harris and Harris would run worse. I don't think that's true anymore. I think it's clear now from what polling we've seen after the after the debates that the Democrats will be stronger if they replace Biden, whether with Harris or with a different candidate.

And I think, you know, in a way, it would be the best possible introduction of Kamala Harris as the candidate for Democrats, because attention would be drawn to her contrast with Joe Biden. There's all this focus on Joe Biden as old and declining, and the first thing people would see and think about Kamala Harris is she's young, she's energetic, she seems like she's in appropriate age to be president. It's a good comparison with Biden, and it's also a good comparison with Trump. And so I think at this point, At this point, it's clear that she's a better candidate. And so if I were Trump, I would be very much hoping that Biden stays in.

PHILLIP: Let me play this -- this is an ad that's just out from a pro- Trump group, and it's using the debate to really make a case against Biden and the Democrats generally.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Joe Biden's debate was a joke.

TRUMP: I really don't know what he said at the end of that sentence. I don't think he knows what he said either.

JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: I told you before, I'm happy to play golf if you carry on batting.

TRUMP: Let's not act like children.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But there's one thing Joe Biden did get right.

BIDEN: We finally beat Medicare.

TRUMP: Well, he's right. He did beat Medicare. He beat it to death.


PHILLIP: That is going to live on, I mean, not just in the minds of the 50 million people who watched it, but in those ads. And, I mean, you heard the interview that we just did with the chair of the CBC. There is a desire to just sort of say, this will just get wiped away, but will it?

REIHAN SALAM, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: There's a larger conversation unfolding right now about who knew about the president's state of mind, when did they know it, and how open and honest were they with the American people about it. I actually agree with my fellow panelists that if Kamala Harris were to come in, she would be able to wipe the slate clean, she would be able to make it a different race, that would be great.


However, Kamala Harris is someone who has defended, championed, celebrated Joe Biden's mental acuity. And I think that the argument could be made by Donald Trump and by his allies that wait a second, she's someone who is very much part of the problem.

The real issue with the Biden presidency, the real line of attack that's been most potent is this idea that, hey, Joe Biden might be relatively moderate. He might be relatively pragmatic. But is he actually in charge of his administration?

And what we've been hearing out of the White House, a ton of reporting, not just about the events of the past two weeks, but about the events of the past six months, is of a small, clannish group around the president that's been cossetting him, protecting him. And Kamala Harris, did she know? Was she aware? What was her role in all this?

PHILLIP: Look, I mean, her job as the vice president is not to throw her boss under the bus.

SALAM: Absolutely not. Absolutely not. But it does raise questions.

PHILLIP: I do -- look, I mean, I do wonder, for the Republicans, highlighting and attacking Joe Biden, I mean, it seems to only encourage Democrats to do exactly what Reihan is suggesting. Or do you think that this is case closed, that Joe Biden is really dug in and is really not going anywhere?

ALLISON: I can only take the president at his word. And he is saying he is staying on the ticket, and so he is on the ticket. My focus is beating Donald Trump. If it is Joe Biden, I think we have to fight very, very hard to ensure that Donald Trump does not become the president.

You know, coming out of Memorial Day, I was telling everyone things are about to get crazy because you know what? It's a general election. We didn't have a traditional general election in 2020 because it was COVID. This is what happens in campaigns. People run attack ads against one another.


ALLISON: But one thing I would just push back on is that I have not been interacting with the president whatsoever. I know the people that work at this White House, and I find them to be truthful people. This thinking that there is some conspiracy going on in the White House, I think, is not accurate because there is no proof.

Yes, we saw a bad debate, but all of us have bad nights. I am not willing to jump down on this conspiracy theory that there is this whole debate or this -- 2000 political appointees are lying to the American public to protect Joe Biden. We don't have proof of that, and I'm taking the president at his word.

PHILLIP: I mean, we do have a lot -- look, and to your point, some of this is not on the record, but there are a lot of people voicing concerns about the way that they've seen the president operating recently. Josh, the way that President Biden is defending himself right now, which is to say it's me or nothing, is that going to work for the American people?

BARRO: It's a threat. It's a Trump-style threat. He's pointing a gun at the head of the party and saying he'll shoot if he doesn't get his way. This is what Trump has done to Republicans over and over for nine years, and we've laughed at them.

This ridiculous position they've gotten themselves in where their party's been hijacked and the person leading it is doing things that are harmful to their electoral interests, and how did they allow this to happen to them? And now it's happening to us. The president, you know, he's out there. He's not made a convincing case that he's with it enough to run an effective campaign.

I don't think he's sold people on that with the George Stephanopoulos interview. I don't think he's been effective in sending that message. I don't think, you know, Trump is bad is not an effective message for that, because Trump will still be bad if Kamala or somebody else is the nominee.

The only thing that he's done that's looked effective over the last week and a half is this implicit threat, basically saying I'm not going anywhere, and if you keep talking about how I'm too old and clearly declined and not the right person to be the candidate, that's only going to hurt all of us in November. It's a threat. He's basically saying, if you try to take me down, I'm going to take the whole ship down with me. I find it outrageous, personally.

PHILLIP: Can they make a credible argument to take voters out of the picture at this point and just pick someone else?

SALAM: I don't think they can, and I think that Joe Biden is going to make that extremely painful, and he's not alone in being someone who's going to make that extremely painful. He needs to, in a fulsome way, decide on his terms that he wants to step aside.

I also think, from the perspective of Democrats waiting in the wings, I hate to sound cynical, but there are a lot of them who will be thinking, hey, look, if there's a Trump presidency, 2026, those midterms will look great. 2028, you'll have an open shot if you're someone who's other than Kamala Harris.

PHILLIP: Well, considering that the other part of the argument is that a second Trump term would be the end of American democracy, I'm not sure that they can afford to wait that long.

SALAM: Well, that's the question. The question is how cynical are these folks?

PHILLIP: Yeah, that is the central question, I suppose, at this point. Everyone, thank you very much for being here with us. And up next, as Biden stands defiant against these calls to step down, we're going to speak with two Democrats who say that they have a plan to bring the party together around a new candidate. And fast. It involves Taylor Swift, of all people. That's next.


PHILLIP: What could the search for a new Democratic presidential candidate look like if President Biden decides to step down from the race? Well, my next guests are two influential Democrats who wrote a memo to donors and officials with a detailed plan for that exact scenario. They are calling it the, quote, "Blitz Primary".

And delegates in that scenario would narrow down the interested candidates. And in the lead up to the DNC, the top five to eight candidates would participate in a series of town halls moderated by celebrities like Oprah or Taylor Swift. And delegates would then rank their choices with a winner announced at the convention. Now, they argue in this memo, our current crisis is a gift if we choose to take it.


Joining me now are the authors of that memo, Democratic donor and venture capitalist Ted Dintersmith. Also with us, Georgetown University law professor Rosa Brooks. She served in the Clinton and Obama administrations and was a volunteer policy advisor for Biden's 2020 campaign.

Rosa, in your memo, you write that this proposal is entirely contingent on President Biden stepping down soon. He has made it pretty clear that that isn't happening. And so, what now?

ROSA BROOKS, LAW PROFESSOR, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY: I don't know that that's the final answer, Abby. I mean, this is something politicians do, right? They test the waters, they throw something out. They then sometimes end up contradicting themselves a few days later.

So, I think it's too early to conclude that Biden himself has definitively decided that he's staying in. I think he's waiting to see how strong the opposition is within his own party. And I suspect that within his own party, members of Congress are waiting for the next batch of polls to come out.

PHILLIP: So, an important part of this proposal, Ted, is the suspense factor. You say the process is going to build interest that leads up to the convention. The party wouldn't even know who the candidate is until the convention in mid-August. That seems to leave exactly no time for Democrats to coalesce around one person who's going to lead them to victory, presumptively, in November?

TED DINTERSMITH, DEMOCRATIC DONOR: Well, there will be no shortage of coalition around a winning candidate. So, if we were to do something and designate a new nominee, there will be an outpouring of support, donations, people knocking on doors. I think the macro point here is that people are desperately hungry for a change in the equation.

You know, we have a campaign with two candidates, both way too old to do the job, one a criminal, one inarticulate. We, of course, will support the inarticulate candidate over the criminal. But this process, this whole debate aftermath, we just stood back and looked at it and said that everybody's debating which is the least bad option.

And I think there's a real opportunity here, if we choose to pursue it, and it really is Joe Biden's decision, to showcase a deep bench of talent that has a future perspective, young, dynamic, up-and-coming talent that can paint a picture of a better future. I think that's why our proposal has resonated so substantially, is that it begs people to imagine what could be. And people just say, oh my gosh, why are we doing that?

PHILLIP: Well, okay, Rosa, I mean, the what could be part of this, I think, may be appealing when people are sending it around to their friends online. I also think part of the memo mentions having celebrities like Oprah, Taylor Swift, Michelle Obama host town halls. That also seems somewhat fantastical. So, I mean, is some of this just, you know, out of an Aaron Sorkin movie and it's not real life?

BROOKS: I mean, if you want to do a fundraiser for your favorite charity, you don't ask Wolf Blitzer to be your headliner, right? You see if you can get some pop culture icon because that's going to sell tickets.

PHILLIP: Wait, wait, to be fair, plenty of people ask Wolf Blitzer to be a headliner at fundraisers, but go ahead.

BROOKS: I mean, look, you know, I like Wolf Blitzer, too, but let's face it, this party is struggling and politics in general, we're struggling to get the attention of a younger generation of voters. I think that anything that shines a spotlight on the fact, as Ted said, there's a deep bench of fantastic potential candidates, the Democratic Party, and they include people who range from Kamala Harris to Gretchen Whitmer, Raphael Warnock, Gavin Newsom. You know, we could go on.

There are lots of people out there. Anything that helps get people to tune in and listen to them would be fantastic. And I have two Taylor Swiftie fanatical daughters, so they'll kill me for saying this. I don't care about Taylor Swift. It doesn't have to be her. It could be, you know, there are lots of people who could do it.

But I think the fundamental point, you know, here is that, as Ted said, this is an opportunity, you know, that if Biden will step aside, pass the torch, bless an orderly process to come up with a successor, we could do it in a way that would be suspenseful, that would pull people in, that would make people think, wow, this is really interesting and exciting, rather than doing what they're doing right now, which is thinking, oh, my God, we are doomed.

And that's what we don't want. We don't have to have that. I mean, the latest polling for President Biden, I absolutely admire President Biden. I worked on his 2020 campaign. I think he's been a very good president. But the polling is just devastating. He's saying to all of us, I am the only person, I'm the best person, the only person who can beat Donald Trump. That's just manifestly not true if you look at the polling. You know, he is making people sort of clutch their heads in despair. We can do better. PHILLIP: So, Ted, last word to you here. President Biden today

basically called this conversation one of elites. He's basically saying that a plan like this is just chatter among elites like you. What do you say to that?


DINTERSMITH: I'm flattered to be called an elite. Nobody else has called me that. But I would say -- I want to go back to what you said before, is that when we talk to people about this initially, they do say fantastical. And then when they think about it, they come back and say, no, no, no, fantastic. And you know, it's Biden's opportunity. It's his decision.

I think he could go down in history right alongside George Washington. He could do what he said he was going to do, which is to be a bridge to the next generation. And he could push the party and the country to do so much more than we do today and move past a really dismal, dispiriting set of discussions where we are locked in on whose past is worse than whose past and whose golf game is worse.

I mean, it's -- it's there's the country's hungry for a proposal that pushes us to think ahead instead of quibble about the past. And, you know, the stakes couldn't be higher. So, we're hoping that Jill and Joe Biden are watching this. They call us tomorrow and say, tell us more. Oh, my gosh, I could be a hero. They won't do that. It's probably not going to happen. But boy, it's -- it's heartbreaking that we don't look at this seriously.

PHILLIP: All right. Ted Dintersmith, Rosa Brooks, thank you both very much for joining us tonight.


PHILLIP: And is Joe Biden right when he says that he's got the Democratic support to win? Harry Enten has some surprising numbers for us. He'll have that next.



PHILLIP: Is President Biden right when he says that he's got the backing of the voters? CNN's Harry Enten has some overlooked numbers for us tonight. Harry is at the magic wall to show us. What does it tell us? Is there any proof of what President Biden is saying?

HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR DATA REPORTER: You know, we oftentimes talk about the general electorate, but let's focus in on Democratic voters, Abby, all right? So, take a look here. How do Democrats feel about Joe Biden when it comes to staying in the 2024 presidential race? Look at this. A majority of Democrats, 54 percent, say, yes, he should, in fact, stay in.

Now, there is this substantial minority here, 39 percent, who say he should quit. But again, the clear majority of Democratic voters say that Joe Biden should stay in this race. And I want us to look back at a little bit of history, right, of other incumbents who actually quit the presidential race, all right?

So, let's take a look at choice for nominee when incumbents quit, 1952, Harry S. Truman quit. Look at this. He was getting just 31 percent of the vote and a potential Democratic primer against Estes Kefauver, who is, in fact, leading that race with 35 percent of the vote. How about in 1968, Lyndon Baines Johnson quit that race? Look at this. He was trailing with just 41 percent of the vote. RFK, Sr. is getting 44 percent of the vote.

At this point, the majority of Democrats want Joe Biden to stay in the race. And when we look back to the past, when incumbents quit, in fact, the majority of Democrats were not for them. In fact, the plurality were voting for different candidates, Abby.

PHILLIP: Kefauver does not ring a bell for me.

ENTEN: I'm sorry. He was off the time.

PHILLIP: Harry, what about the history of incumbents dropping out really late in a campaign? Does that even happen?

ENTEN: Yeah. So, again, look back to history in this particular case. You know, Harry S. Truman, Lyndon Baines Johnson, when they dropped out, there was 114 days when Harry S. Truman dropped out. There was 148 days when Lyndon Baines Johnson dropped out. Look at how many days there are now. There are just 42 days until the Democratic National Convention. There is nothing like this in history with either Harry S. Truman or Lyndon Baines Johnson. This is very, very different.

Of course, the thing I will note, Democratic primary electorate is one thing. But in terms of the general election, look at this point. Donald Trump is ahead by three points. That's very different than what we saw in either early July of 2020 or even Biden's worst polling position in 2020. Fact is, Joe Biden may be liked by Democrats. But with voters overall, Abby, he is not well-liked.

PHILLIP: All right. Harry Enten, that's the final word on that. Thank you very much.

ENTEN: Thank you.

PHILLIP: And one analyst says the White House made a blunder with Vice President Kamala Harris. Hear why and whether she will be ready to be the next president. That's next.



PHILLIP: Donald Trump tonight says that he'll likely face Vice President Kamala Harris in November. But if Biden were to drop out, would she be ready? In a piece for "The Atlantic", Elaina Plott Calabro examines whether or not the administration ever took Harris and the preparation that she may have needed to take over the last three years seriously. Elaina, thank you for joining us. So, what did--

ELAINA CALABRO, STAFF WRITER, "THE ATLANTIC": Thank you for having me, Abby.

PHILLIP: What did the White House fail to do, in your view, to actually prepare Vice President Harris for this moment?

CALABRO: I think it's helpful to try to envision a counterfactual in a situation like this. So, when I first started covering Vice President Harris, I was really influenced by the writings of Jeffrey Frank, who covered extensively the relationship between Eisenhower and Nixon.

And what he sort of laid out, I think, really effectively is that Eisenhower, who was pretty disturbed by Truman's unpreparedness after FDR's death to come into the office of the presidency, decided that he would give Nixon essentially a crash course in the presidency pretty early on in their administration.

So, what did he do? He sent Richard Nixon and Pat Nixon off on an Asia and Middle East tour for 68 days, which immediately kind of, you know, allowed the media to classify him as a diplomat in training, somebody who was getting to know world leaders.

What did Joe Biden do? He immediately hands Kamala Harris for her first assignment, you know, fixing the conditions such as poverty and violence that lead migrants to flee north to America from countries like Guatemala to begin with.

And so, you're left with then what is the benchmark of success for something like that? The reality is you wouldn't know 10 to 15 years. But is Kamala Harris fixing El Salvador in her vice presidency? I don't think so.


I don't think anybody would.

PHILLIP: It's interesting, also, you point out that her supporters were a little miffed by how she's been sort of praised for how she responded to President Biden afterward. Real quick, why are they upset that she's being praised now?

CALABRO: Because what they saw on television, giving interviews on networks like CNN, where she was so widely, you know, revered for those interviews, they say this is what she's been doing the entire time.


CALABRO: And they don't understand why Americans haven't seen it until now.

PHILLIP: All right. Elaina Plott Calabro, thank you very much for joining us. And thank you for watching "NewsNight" tonight. "Laura Coates Live" starts right now.