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President Joe Biden Fights For His Political Future After Debate Debacle; Election Forecaster Downgrades Joe Biden In Key Two Key States; Joe Biden To Black Voters: "Your Voice Has To Be Heard"; President Joe Biden Tells Democratic Governors He Needs More Sleep, Plans To Stop Scheduling Events After 8:00 p.m. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired July 04, 2024 - 14:00   ET




BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN HOST: A fighting chance. President Biden with just days to save his campaign, as skeptical lawmakers are in wait and see mode, withholding judgment at least publicly, until a prime time interview tomorrow night.

And Israel returning to the negotiating table with Hamas. The two sides potentially on the brink of a framework agreement for a cease fire and hostage release deal, as President Biden speaks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu about the state of the conflict.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: And a new lawsuit filed against Sean Diddy Combs in the ninth suit against Combs and the eighth accusing him of sexual assault.

We're following these developing stories and many more, all coming in right here to CNN NEWS CENTRAL.

The Biden campaign is really at a difficult crossroads this Independence Day, still fighting back questions on whether the president can or should seek a second term after last week's disastrous debate.

The next 48 hours could be critical for saving his reelection bid, and the push to win back voters' confidence is already in full swing.

SANCHEZ: Yes, tomorrow, President Biden will sit for his first televised interview since the debate during a prime time special on ABC News.

And today, during a radio interview aimed at a predominantly Black audience in battleground Pennsylvania, the president, once again, tried to diminish concerns.


ANDREA LAWFUL-SANDERS, HOST OF THE SOURCE WITH ANDREA LAWFUL-SANDERS, WURD RADIO: Is there any reason for the American people to be concerned? JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No, I had a bad debate.


BIDEN: I had a bad debate. But 90 minutes on stages is -- does not erase what I've done for 3-1/2 years.

I'm proud of the record. And we just got to keep moving.


SANCHEZ: CNN's Senior Political Analyst Mark Preston joins us now. And Mark, sources say that Biden has privately acknowledged that the next few days are going to be critical for his campaign. What does his schedule look like?

MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: All right, so, you know, let's take a look at the next 48 hours. Tonight, you know, he's hosting a gathering at the White House. This is traditional for military families. It'd be interesting if he is able to get some energy, he's able to draw off of that. It's supposed to be very patriotic. It's a very nice event.

However, he goes into that interview tomorrow with George Stephanopoulos on ABC, and really that is the focus. He is scheduled to go to Wisconsin on Saturday, Pennsylvania on Sunday, but let's see how he gets through this interview tomorrow.

KEILAR: And the White House is really not in a place, nor is the campaign where they can make mistakes.

And yet, this question of Biden had a cold, did he see a doctor? Did he not? It keeps going back and forth with the White House.

PRESTON: Isn't it -- isn't the concern moved now to it's not necessarily, "the crime." It is the cover up. They misrepresented what the doctor's visit he had, the checkup that he had with the doctor, you know, misrepresented, you know, in the past couple days, they've now had to come back and acknowledge that. In fact, it was more serious.

KEILAR: Well, also that, perhaps he should have seen a doctor, right, after the debate? And that there are so many concerns that they might be assuaged by that.

PRESTON: Yes, no question about that. Because again, now the question is, are people trying to cover things up? Has he always been, you know, in the same kind of level that we saw him during the debate?

SANCHEZ: Mark Preston, appreciate the analysis.

PRESTON: Thanks.

SANCHEZ: Thank you so much.

So, Democrat sources have repeatedly said that bad polling would be one of the factors that might force Biden to reconsider staying in the race, and an important institute has just changed the rating of two must win states based solely on the president's debate performance.

Larry Sabato is the director of the Center for politics at the University of Virginia. The group behind this ratings change.


Larry, thanks so much for being with us and happy Fourth of July. Tell us about these downgrades.

LARRY SABATO, DIRECTOR OF THE CENTER FOR POLITICS, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA: Yes, happy Fourth to everyone despite the downgrades.

But it's Michigan and Minnesota, and we were able to send them more in the Republican direction, because we had fresher public and private data to use.

To be honest with you, we probably would have downgraded from a Democratic perspective other states had we had fresher data. You know, it's difficult to get the kind of data you need for individual states that either are swing states or might be swing states if there's a substantial change taking place in the -- in the campaign.

And I think what we saw in the debate, at least potentially could be a substantial change and the early polls suggested it probably was.

SANCHEZ: So, you see a link between the debate performance and at least early polling that indicates voters are responding to Biden's performance?

SABATO: Well, yes. I mean, I don't know that we needed polling data for that. It was incredibly obvious and disturbing.

Look, Biden was behind before the debate. Now, he was behind in a close race, close enough so that you wouldn't want to edge it strongly in Trump's direction, or anybody's direction.

But now, with now, it's a total of four pretty well done national surveys that all show, every one of them showing that Trump is ahead by six points.

Well, you know, being ahead by two points is bad enough for a Democrat, because given the Electoral College, the Democrat probably needs to be ahead two or three points in order to win the election, because of the way the electoral college is structured.

But to be behind by six points, that is a lot of territory to make up. That's millions and millions and millions of votes.

And to me, that's the key question, is this a temporary setback? Is Biden going to bounce back in these surveys when the next wave is taken maybe right before -- right after the Republican Convention, or is this now part of the permanent landscape for the 2024, presidential election?

If it is, Democrats have a lot more to worry about.

SANCHEZ: Let's talk about the blue wall, that trio that includes Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan. You're predicting that Michigan will be the bluest of those states. How is Biden faring in those battlegrounds?

SABATO: Well, charitably, you could describe them as toss ups, and we do, given the lack of state's specific data in a couple of cases.

But uncharitably, you could say that all three of them are more inclined today toward Trump than they are Biden. Now, again, it's July, July 4th, and the election -- the voting doesn't start until late September, going through November.

So, is there time to change? Well, of course, we don't know who the V.P. candidate is going to be for Trump. We don't know what's going to happen at the Republican convention. Maybe more to the point, we don't know what's going to happen at the Democratic convention.

So, there's a lot of territory to cover, and you don't want to draw premature conclusions, which I think some people have.

Look, the president seems determined to bounce back. He's done it before in his career.

On the other hand, if there's another incident of any sort that we see and have on film, I think some of his support would collapse overnight.

SANCHEZ: Considering the way that Democrats in Congress have responded to the debate performance, it seems like there is real concern about how his slipping poll numbers could potentially impact down ballot races. Is that a fair anxiety for these lawmakers to have?

SABATO: Oh, absolutely. Now, I know that a lot of the surveys for six months have shown that Democratic candidates for the Senate and some for the House are doing better than Biden is that is there -- they're at a higher percentage than Biden is when polls have been taken of their state or their district.

But, and that may hold, we don't know yet, but I'll tell you, in this era of partisanship, extreme partisanship, very polarized partisanship.

Normally, over time, you have an alignment on the ballot. That is, the candidates lower down on the ballot tend to take about the same percentage as the presidential candidate.

Now, if that happens, that means that other Democrats who think they are, if not safe, than at least leading may not be. And of course, that's one of the reasons why they're worrying.


But Boris, they all talk to you privately, and they say, this is terrible. This is awful. I really think the president should drop out, etcetera. And then you read their statements in public, and they're either supportive or non-committal. There have only been several current and former congressmen and even donors who said publicly that Biden needs to drop out.

So, if that doesn't become generally true, if more elected officials who are sharing the ballot with Biden, or donors who have given or will give a lot of money, don't speak up, it's certainly not going to happen that Biden would drop off the ticket.

SANCHEZ: It seems like a lot of folks are eager to wait and see how the next few days play out, specifically that big prime time interview tomorrow night.

Larry Sabato, fascinating perspective as always. Thanks for being with us.

SABATO: Thank you, Boris.

KEILAR: You just heard that there. Larry Sabato officially downgrading Biden's chances in Michigan. It's now a toss-up after it previously leaned democratic in his calculus.

Let's bring in congressional Democrat from that state. We have Congresswoman Haley Stevens with us now.

Congresswoman, what are you hearing from Michigan voters, and do you recognize that things may have shifted in your state?

REP. HALEY STEVENS (D-MI): Well, let me be really clear, because I am a hundred percent with the Biden-Harris ticket, and I'm standing by our president, who has called off any question that he might be thinking of suspending his presidential campaign.

Earlier today, I'm in the heart of Oakland County, Michigan, with hundreds and hundreds of people in a neighborhood parade, talking with them, talking with people as much as I could. And they are standing with President Biden.

And people want this side conversation and this side part in a high state's election to stop. They want to stand up for women's rights. They want to stand up for an economic policy agenda that is truly putting the American worker at the forefront.

And I'm not just puffing you, right, like I have worked on a presidential campaign in a headquarters, right there, you know what we call the War Room. And this is just not how it works.

I mean, if something majorly dire happens, fine, you know, maybe there's a switch, of course, we're not at that moment.

KEILAR: Congresswoman, something -- Congresswoman, something majorly -- Congresswoman, something majorly dire happened, and it was the debate last Thursday. Do you recognize the effect that that may have on the minds of some voters?

The CBS post-debate polling shows Trump leading battleground states, including Michigan, 51 to 48 and there are voters out there who have concerns about this president's ability to lead certainly for another four years.

STEVENS: Well, Brianna, in Michigan, we've always considered this election type. I didn't know there was a rating change. I'm glad Mr. Sabato is sharing on behalf of my state. I do know it's tight. I do know our Democrats are fired up, operations that have been built up since 2016.

And not everyone took the debate like that, a lot of the talking heads, a lot of the pundits, a lot of the elites. I understand that. I'm on the ground, I'm in field offices, I'm in small businesses.

Yes, it was a gaff. Yes, it was a mistake. It was one big mistake in 3-1/2 years of an incredible administration that's rolled out a Rescue Act, an infrastructure bill, a CHIPS Act, a cabinet that has been flawless, senior staff that have been impeccable. We don't have people resigning, going to jail, resigning in protest like they did under Donald Trump.

So, look, this is healthy. I'm not calling people who disagree with me and ripping their head off. That's not how we do it in the Democratic Party. That's what the Republicans do. Donald Trump will primary you.

We have four Republicans in Michigan who either impeached him or left the Republican Party who were serving in Congress. That's not what's happening here. We're a healthy party. We're a Democratic Party, as in, we're inclusive.

And fine, I understand that some of my colleagues have called for this. Some of these people are raising these questions. We want to win. We know these stakes are high, but you don't take a major presidential operation about a hundred days out and reverse course, we've got our guy, we've got our ticket, and it's not just him, it's the team.

So, I'm on the ground, I've been in these field offices (ph) --

KEILAR: I hear -- I know and I hear you -- I hear you saying that, and you say it's a healthy party. People want to know that this is a healthy president, and you lean on his record, but there are voters who -- and also, members of Congress, I've spoken with them, allies of the president who are concerned and disagree with you.


And while they recognize his record, his accomplishments of the last 3-1/2 years. They are also concerned that he's not fit to lead for another four. They also don't have the luxury that you have, which is being in a very safe district. What do you say to them?

STEVENS: I would say that I flipped a Trump seat in 2018, I held it in 2020. President Biden in that election outperformed me. I know what this is like.

Look, my objective here is to be reasonable. Like I've said, I've worked on a presidential campaign. I've -- my field director from 2022 is in Wilmington right now. I've talked to her, they don't have low morale. People have to understand that we are -- we are listening to a president who I trust, who has said that he is in this to win this.

His wife, our first lady was in Michigan. My governor has spent time with the president and has validated his reelection just as of yesterday, saying he's the one to do this. This is the campaign to do this, and it's not just him. This is a team. We've got a head of state. We've got head of governance with this cabinet, with people like myself and Hakeem Jeffries and our whole democratic operation in the Congress.

I get you got to ask me tough questions, and I get that people are nervous, but I am -- I am talking to our independent voters. I am talking to our party activists here, and sleeves are rolled up. People are ready to take this over the finish line, and they trust our president when he says he had a bad night, like you just played, and he's ready to move forward. Give the guy a little grace.

Listen, I'm half his age and honestly, I've had moments where, you know, it's off, or I'm not speaking as well as I should. I've been in committee hearings where frog got my throat.

And look, I do want to take his word, and I trust it, and I have, because that's the person who I've known my entire career.

KEILAR: Would Kamala Harris be able to beat Trump in your opinion if Biden stepped aside?

STEVENS: I think any Democrat who is qualified is willing, and, you know, is able to beat Donald Trump. I think we have a phenomenal vice president who has been ready since day one to fulfill that ultimate duty should something happen to our president. I certainly believe that she would win this election. I believe this ticket is going to win this election. I don't have any doubts about that.

And I also know with, you know, about a hundred days out, the Biden- Harris ticket is going to win in November.

KEILAR: Congresswoman Haley Stevens, thank you so much for being with us. We appreciate your time.

And ahead this hour on CNN NEWS CENTRAL, we're following all of the developments surrounding President Biden's candidacy. One of our next guests says pollsters are telling him that no one tracking the numbers thinks Democrats can hold on to the White House.

Plus, cautious optimism in the Middle East as Israel and Hamas enter a new phase of negotiations that we're told could lead to a cease fire and hostage deal within a matter of weeks. We'll head live to Jerusalem for the latest on that.

And a new lawsuit accusing Sean Diddy Combs of sex trafficking and sexual assault, and the victim says some of the incidents happened at Diddy's infamous white parties.




BIDEN: The vote of the Black community matters intensely. Intensely. Look, it makes up a significant portion of American population. Who's going to represent you but folks like me?

And we're not going to be able to represent you if you're not showing up, in fact, to vote. It matters. Your voice has to be heard. Lots of close elections the last couple of years, and every vote counts.


SANCHEZ: President Biden there making an appeal to Black voters on a Wisconsin radio station as his campaign is fighting to convince members of his own party that he can do the job.

KEILAR: Yes, let's talk about this more and about what the stakes are with Ron Brownstein, our CNN Senior Political Analyst and senior editor for The Atlantic and Tia Mitchell, Washington correspondent for the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

What did you think hearing the president say that who is going to represent you except folks like me?

TIA MITCHELL, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, ATLANTA JOURNAL CONSTITUTION: I think, number one, I think it's smart that the Biden administration is speaking to Black voters specifically. They have been throughout the campaign, but they know Black voters are the backbone of their coalition. And so, it's a good starting point as they try to rebuild from what happened on Thursday.

I think their messaging, as far as policy right now is not the issue, though. It's about Biden and not necessarily that his thinking and his understanding of what his voters want from him, I think they're all in alignment. Now, it's convincing voters that he can do the job and do the job for four years, and that's very different than just convincing them that his -- has the right ideology for the job.

SANCHEZ: Ron, I want to get your thoughts on some new reporting that we just got from Edward-Isaac Dovere. Apparently during his meeting with Democratic governors, President Biden, according to three sources, told them that he wanted to stop scheduling events after 8:00 p.m. so he can get more sleep. He complained that he wasn't getting enough sleep. What do you make of this reporting?

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: It really, you know, kind of underlines the problem they have going forward.


I mean, you know, this -- the most dangerous thing in politics. You know, political professionals have long said is to reaffirm or confirm an existing concern of the electorate, and it wasn't as if the debate happened out of nowhere.

I mean, for months, years, a significant majority of voters have been saying they're concerned that Biden is too old to do the job effectively.

And then, over 90 minutes, he really underscored that, he gave them every reason to have those concerns. You know, so we come out of it with 74 percent in that New York Times Sienna poll saying they think he's too old to do the job, 84 percent of voters under 45, 84 percent of people who did not vote in 2020, over 80 percent of third party voters. All voters that he needs if he's going to kind of, you know, deal with the other problem going into debate, which was that he was trailing. He was the one who needed to improve the trajectory of his campaign, not so much Trump.

So, when you say something like that, you are essentially acknowledging that, you know, you are a somewhat diminished president. And it goes to, I think the fear of Democrats who are kind of watching this gulf widen between the concern among the political professionals and now this increasing determination of the White House and the campaign to move forward is what happens if something else happens between now and November, you know?

And so, I think those kinds of comments really go to the sense of vulnerability and even kind of helplessness that many Democrats feel about their ability to influence a decision that many, many are worried about.

KEILAR: Yes, and look, lots of unscheduled stuff just happens after 8:00 when you're president. That's just the nature of the job. But that's a remark that Tia left a lot -- left several of the governors in the room frustrated, according to the sources who spoke to CNN, what do you think about that comment?

MITCHELL: Yes, I think the comment is probably not helpful for the current conversation about his fitness from a mental and physical standpoint to do the job.

I think it's understandable that someone who is 81 years old wants their rest, wants to get to bed early, you know, but that's a different standard than president of the United States, that also is called the leader of the free world.

And just for practical purposes, when you're talking about perhaps having to deal with something of a foreign ally or a foreign adversary in different time zones. You're talking about Congress with an emergency late at night or early in the morning, just the everyday demands, the information coming at you, the need to review briefings and to attend fundraisers and events.

You know, this is a job that is very demanding, and it ages. It has aged the men who have served in the role. We look at Barack Obama, who is a relatively young president and the way he looked in 2008, much different than the way he looked in 2016 when he left the job. It does age you. It's a demanding job. And I think the current conversation is, is it even fair to ask Joe

Biden to do this for another four years, and is it practical to think he can do the job for another four years?

And ultimately, that's a decision for Joe Biden to make. Nobody right now is even indicating they will make that decision for him. But I think when he makes comments like this, it concerns people that maybe he should be thinking about whether it's time to say, I've done what I have been able to do in one term, and now it's time to pass it on to another person.

SANCHEZ: It does tell you something that of what we said in that meeting, this is what came out, and this is sort of what's being shaped in the press by the people who were in that room, right?

I'm curious what you think of the way that certain lawmakers are talking about the potential for Biden to drop out, because many of them, James Clyburn included, essentially said, if he does, I'm backing Kamala Harris. Many of them are very quick to back the vice president, even when there's this question of process of a course correction, what might the convention even look like.

How do you think her place in all of this is being figured out?

MITCHELL: Well, I think if I'm the vice president, you're really walking a very fine line, because on one hand, every day, you're aware that you could be tapped and could become the person.

But you're also aware that for right now, not only is Joe Biden president, but Joe Biden is the candidate for another four years, so I think she and her staff are working really hard to support Biden in the current situation. But they know it could be her. I think Democrats are talking about the rules, talking about what's possible, talking about what's feasible, and talking about the other -- the big thing is talking about what they can sell to their party now that the state primaries are over, because they don't want to disenfranchise voters.

Again, we talked about Black voters in general and I think that they want to, because even Clyburn, initially, he said, you know, I'm with Kamala, but he expressed an openness to a more open type of mini primary.