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Florida Braces For Likely Impact From Major Hurricane; Interview With Tallahassee Mayor John Dailey About Impact Of Major Hurricane; Fears Mount Amid Stock Market Tumble And Rate Hikes; Interview With Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) About Inflation And The Midterm Election; Will Biden Run For Second Term? Aired 4-5p ET

Aired September 25, 2022 - 16:00   ET



JIM ACOSTA, CNN HOST: You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Jim Acosta in Washington.

Florida taking no chances right now preparing for a potential direct hit from a major storm. A state of emergency has been or could be coming in the coming days. An official there saying every resident will feel the impact. The exact path of Tropical Storm Ian is still uncertain but it's expected to become a major hurricane, a category 3 or higher by the time it makes a likely turn toward Florida.

Governor Ron DeSantis today activated the National Guard and urged residents to prepare for possible evacuation saying now is the time to stock up on sandbags, canned food, medication and water.

And CNN is covering the storm from every angle. Carlos Suarez is in Tampa, Florida, but I want to start off with CNN meteorologist Tom Sater in the CNN Weather Center.

Tom, I supposed if this happens, there will be state of emergencies I guess put up along the Gulf Coast as this gets closer. We're not there yet but my goodness, this looks like a big and potentially very scary storm.

TOM SATER, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, it will be the first hurricane to make landfall in mainland U.S. this year but it'll be a major hurricane and even if it doesn't make landfall as a category 3 or 4 it's going to carry all of those characteristics on land. And that's a big problem especially when it comes to the surge.

There's a lot of things we do not know, and I know everyone from Pensacola over to Cape Coral want to know, hey, is this going to be in my backyard? We just don't know yet. But here's what we do know. Satellite imagery, the visual imagery, looks good. I mean, you can see, it's something tropical. There is circulation. A little bit of a center here. Yucatan in Mexico. Hurricane hunters this morning had a tough time finding the center.

And if you look at the infrared imagery, I mean, you really wouldn't know that this is a tropical system. It's this organized. It doesn't look impressible. Only moving 12 miles per hour. But again even if the center moves about 15, 20 miles in either direction that's going to change the end goal and the track. So we're going to have to watch this for a while. But this is where it gets concerning.

The warmest waters in the Atlantic are here, northwest Caribbean Sea here. And it's not just the surface that's very warm. It's deep. This is rocket fuel. And the winds aloft are light so we expect this to really undergo rapid intensification. Now first let's get ahead toward western Cuba. They've got their warnings in place and for good reason because where this hits even though it's going to interact with a land mass we do not expect that to interrupt the strength. So it's going to plow right on through.

These are surface winds at 2:00 a.m. Tuesday. And the surge that's going to come in to the southern coast could be as high as 12, 14 feet. It will affect Havana as well because they flood in heavier rainfall. But if you look at the track and this is what's been concerning, anyone who's been following the last couple of days there has been some fluctuation in the end goal. Yesterday's more toward Tampa. Today is toward the panhandle.

So the cone of uncertainty from the National Hurricane Center really shows this pretty much covering that whole area still right now. Category 4 to a category 2. Do not pay attention to these numbers because all that water underneath a category 4 is going to be carried with it. Even though the winds may lighten up.

Two scenarios quickly for you, if I can, Jim, this is the European model. This is what we do not want to see. Catastrophic coming into Tampa Bay, points to the south, Sarasota, Bradenton. And then moves and kind of retrogrades back. The American model is what we want. This comes through and it weakens significantly but also moves to a less populated area of the Big Bend. Massive strength there but weakens quickly. Still a lot of uncertainty but we're going to have to follow this. Should be a hurricane by later this evening or overnight.

ACOSTA: Wow. OK. We'll keep an eye on it. We know you will as well. Thank you very much, Tom. We appreciate it.

Carlos is also watching the storm for us and he's in Tampa. And Carlos, Tom was just talking about this a few moments ago. If this heads towards Tampa a storm of this size as it looks like right now in the forecast, I mean, that could be big, big trouble for that area.

CARLOS SUAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. That would present a huge problem for this part of the state in large part because of the bay that sounds this part of Florida, and then you're also talking about the rest of the panhandle.

Now in anticipation of this track and the preparation that's now underway, the city of Tampa they opened three sand distribution sites today. And at least at one of these locations the line was pretty long. The mayor of Tampa, she echoed the governor's declaration earlier today that folks across Florida need to get prepared now in the event that they're going to have some sort of impact when it comes to Ian.


Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said that there are 2,500 members of the Florida National Guard that have been put on stand by and that the entire state is now under a disaster emergency declaration. He said folks need to make sure that they have everything that they need in the coming days as we figure out exactly where Ian ends ups going.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R), FLORIDA: Make preparations now and I know a lot of people have been doing it throughout the state of Florida, and the things that you should be prepared with, things like food, water, batteries, medicine, fuel. Anticipate particularly the closer you are to where the eye of the storm makes landfall. Anticipate power outages. That is something that will likely to happen with a hurricane of this magnitude.


SUAREZ: And down in the Florida Keys, officials with Monroe County have not made a final decision on whether or not they're going to ask visitors to leave the county. They have been meeting twice a day since yesterday, so far they do not have any evacuation orders in place but similar to Tampa and really along the entire state of Florida. They are leaving the possibility open that folks might be asked to leave -- Jim.

ACOSTA: All right, Carlos, as you just heard there from the governor declaring these emergency orders, people have to get ready there in Florida as all -- of course the entire gulf. We're going to have to keep an eye on that as well because you just don't know in these situations where these storms could turn.

All right, Tom Sater, Carlos Suarez, thank you so much.

With me now, the mayor of Tallahassee, Florida, John Dailey.

Mayor Dailey, thanks so much for being with us. How is your city preparing for this unpredictable storm right now? As our meteorologist Tom Sater was pointing out a few moments ago we just don't have a clear picture as to where it could head but it could be heading in your direction. What can you tell us?

MAYOR JOHN DAILEY, TALLAHASSEE, FLORIDA: Jim, thanks for having me on. No, you're absolutely correct. And so we are busily preparing up here in Tallahassee to make sure that we are ready for whatever may come our way. I believe your meteorologist mentioned earlier that the entire state of Florida is going to feel this. So the question is in what direction and to what impact.

So we've got the number one public utility in the nation here in Tallahassee. We're the largest utility provider in the panhandle. So it's very important that we are prepared and we are preparing. Working with our neighborhoods and with our citizens as well to make sure that everybody is prepared at home, checking on their neighbors, and we're going to be ready for whatever comes our way. ACOSTA: And so far are you getting the resources that you need from

the state? Do you know what you need at this point? What are your needs as a storm of this magnitude potentially is heading in your direction?

DAILEY: That's a great question, Jim. And yes, I have been on the phone consistently with the city manager. We work hand in hand with the county and our emergency operations center. I was very pleased to see the governor extend the state of emergency to the entire state of Florida. So all communities have access and can mobilize their resources as well. Of course we're in contact with FEMA.

We're activating our mutual aid agreements across the southeastern United States. So we are doing everything we can to be fully prepared and be able to protect the citizens of Tallahassee and the surrounding communities as well for whatever may come our way.

ACOSTA: And Tallahassee is not directly on the Gulf Coast. As you know, in your community, I have been there many times, there are huge trees everywhere making high winds a huge threat for you. When it comes to the threats facing your residents, what are you concerned about most at this point?

DAILEY: Well, Jim, you're absolutely correct. We are nationally known for our natural beauty and 55 percent of our city is under a tree canopy with beautiful live oaks. And when you have 4,000 miles of transmission and distribution lines for electricity and the storm comes through trees and power lines sometimes don't mix well. So we are preparing right now and we've got the great men and women for the city of Tallahassee out making sure that our power lines are clear.

Our storm water systems are clear. You know, removing any debris that could possibly cause blockage. We're doing everything we can on the front end of the storm to prepare and secure our infrastructure so that we can weather this together and then of course we will assess and move forward after the storm comes through, but we've been here before. We're preparing and we're going to make it.

ACOSTA: And more than one fifth of Florida's population is over the age of 65. I don't have to tell you, there are a lot of senior citizens in your state and your community. It makes it very, you know, crucial to have electricity and medical equipment, access to medication. What is the thing that you want residents to know at this point as they prepare for the storm? And I've covered a lot of storms down there. It's been a long time since I've done it. But I know Floridians, they always say, I can ride out these storms. I'm not worried about it. What's your message?

DAILEY: You're absolutely correct, Jim, and so we work hand in hand with our neighborhood associations, with the faith-based community, with the nonprofit community. We encourage every citizen, look, we've got a little bit of time to prepare but now is the time to prepare.


Check on your family, your friends, your elderly neighbors. Make sure that you have all of your arrangements in place now. Do not wait. You know, and Tallahassee, we're a university town as well. So we also remind our university students to make sure that they take the necessary precautions and that they are prepared as well. So we cover both ends of the spectrum here in Tallahassee, Jim.

ACOSTA: All right. Very good. I hope all the preparations go well and I hope the storm doesn't pack the punch that it looks like it's going to pack right now.

But, Mayor John Dailey, thanks so much for your time. Mayor of Tallahassee, John Dailey, thanks for the time. Appreciate it.

DAILEY: Thank you.

ACOSTA: All right. Coming up, we are just 44 days out from the November midterm and a big issue for Democrats is the economy, so what can Democrats do? We'll ask Democratic Senator Jon Tester, next.

You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.


ACOSTA: The Dow closing down nearly 500 points Friday to its lowest level since November 2020 ending another dismal week on Wall Street.


Investigators already worried about rising interest rates are increasingly concerned that a recession is right around the corner.

More now from CNN's Brian Todd.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The stock market tumbles. Gas prices on average start to tick up after dropping for more than three straight months. All coming with punishing interest rate hikes. The last one just announced this week by the Fed. Its chairman saying he understands Americans' sticker shock.

JEROME POWELL, FEDERAL RESERVE CHAIRMAN: We have got to get inflation behind us. I wish there were a painless way to do that.

TODD: But for many Americans, recession jitters have set in.

BILL SUPRENANT, NEW HAMPSHIRE RESIDENT: The cost of living, it'd be nice if it came a little more but that's not going to happen so let's see what happens.

DYLAN RATIGAN, ECONOMIC ANALYST: American anxiety is high obviously. It's also self-fulfilling. So the more you think about it the more you create it.

TODD: While no one knows for sure if there will be a recession some analysts believe if it comes it will likely happen sometime next year as the fallout from rising interest rates starts to affect American spending patterns. But for some it feels like recession is already here.

MARSHALL GOLDBERG, NEW HAMPSHIRE RESIDENT: My wife owns a small business that she bought from her father's estate and slammed by inflation and by supply chain issues. And we are worried about the economy, the general economy.

TODD: Analyst Dylan Ratigan says the housing market is the factor which could have the biggest psychological effect on Americans. And the news on that front isn't good. Mortgage rates continue to climb. More people are being priced out of the housing market and home sales are declining.

RATIGAN: That creates a slowdown in how people feel which changes their behavior relative to travel, restaurant, shopping, other expressions of economic confidence.

TODD: Another contributor to the recession jitters, prices at the pump.

MARK ZANDI, CHIEF ECONOMIST, MOODY'S ANALYTICS: Nothing is more important to the collective psyche and to our perceptions of our own finances and the economy's performance than how much it costs us to fill our gas every day.

TODD: Analysts say despite the recent slight uptick in gas prices they're generally at a decent level for the moment. And Ratigan says Americans should look at the potential for a recession as an opportunity.

RATIGAN: It's an opportunity for everybody to review how they deal with money. Do you really need a new car? Do you really need the extra subscriptions? Do you really need more travel?

TODD (on-camera): And on the overall recession jitters, analyst Mark Zandi has this advice for Americans. Be cautious but don't panic. Don't overspend. Don't draw down your savings. In fact he say try to save about three to six months' worth of cash in case you lose your job or suffer a pay cut.

Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.


ACOSTA: Let's dig deeper now with Senator Jon Tester, Democrat from Montana.

Senator, thanks so much for being with us and being here in person. We appreciate it. A big issue for your party is going to be the economy in these upcoming midterms. A brand new CBS-YouGov poll out today, we show this on our screen, 57 percent of likely voters say their financial well-being is at stake in the upcoming elections for Congress. Now gas price are going down and people are feeling some relief from that.

I guess they ticked up just slightly in recent days. But overall down. As a red state Democrat, a farmer, I'm sure you hear this all the time from your constituents, inflation and so on, what does the message need to be from the Democratic Party on the issue of the economy?

SEN. JON TESTER (D-MT): That we've done some great things over the last year and a half in particular to address the issues around inflation. Inflation is real. Everybody is concerned about it. And whether it's the Inflation Reduction Act which by the way is going to reduce inflation over the long haul, or whether it's the CHIP Act which will bring in manufacturing back and chips build here, we've done a lot of good things.

Are there some more things we could do, Jim? Absolutely. We could do some things to make child care more affordable, which would get more workforce in, which would reduce inflation. We could do some things with a comprehensive immigration package which would get more workers in, which would help reduce inflation. We could pass the two bills I have which by the way will hold the big meatpackers accountable and put more competition into that marketplace so capitalism can work again for the consumer and for the (INAUDIBLE).

So there is a number of things that we've done and there's a number of things we can do. And I think there's a number of things we will do potentially in the lame duck now to help with the inflation concerns.

ACOSTA: Yes. When people are seeing the sticker shock in the meat section of the supermarket and so on, so they would like to see some relief in that department. It's not just gas prices.

A new poll from "The Washington Post" and ABC News poll finds voters nationwide are closely divided between Democrats and Republicans on this generic congressional ballot question that we see from time to time. A lot of this changes depending on what district you talk about, what state you talk about, so on, but 47 percent support the Republicans in their district, 46 percent for the Democrat.

But, you know, with Donald Trump being the standard bearer for the Republican Party right now, he's going out and giving these wild rallies, you know, and Biden having these recent legislative wins, shouldn't Democrats be doing better at this point? Why is that not happening?


TESTER: I think you're going to see all these races tighten up as the election day comes. The ones that are very contested, whether the Democrats ahead or Republicans ahead, they're all going to tighten up. What I'd be doing if I was a candidate is I'd be talking about what we've accomplished, what we've gotten done to help business and working families and family farmer ranch and agriculture. And then I would also be looking to the other side that you're debating against to saying what are your solutions? Because I haven't seen a lot of solutions from the Republican side of the aisle.

The fact is, is that if you take a look at what's been accomplished this last Congress from the Inflation Reduction Act to the PACT Act, to the CHIPS bill to -- just keep going, there's half a dozen really, really good big bills that will make a difference for folks over time. Nothing happens overnight in politics. It takes a while to get these policies implemented but I think if they get implemented it puts the country in the right direction.

Do we have some tough times coming out of the pandemic? Absolutely we do, with supply chain, but if we continue to work and hopefully it'll be done in a bipartisan way we can continue to do good things.

ACOSTA: Want to ask you about something that came up on the Sunday talk shows today and it relates to where things might be heading if Republicans take control of at least the House. Republican Congresswoman Nancy Mace of South Carolina said today she believes there is pressure on Republicans to impeach President Biden if their party wins the White House.

Now nobody seems to be able to tell us what they would impeach him for but setting that aside, they potentially would have the numbers in the House if they wanted to, if they were to take the House, to try to go out there and impeach the president. What is your reaction to that when you hear that sort of thing?

TESTER: My reaction to that is we've got issues with inflation in this country, we should be focused on, and I think Democrats are. We've got issues worldwide. Take a look at what's going on in Ukraine. Take a look at what China has been doing that we need to focus on. I think there's very important issues that we need to be laser focused on in the Congress, whether it's just Congress or the next Congress, regardless who's in power. And if we don't we're not really doing the best for the American people.

ACOSTA: Do you like this idea that the president has been going after MAGA Republicans? Is that what you want to hear out in Montana? Is that what Montanans want to hear? I see when I ask these questions you seem to be going back to the more bread and butter type issues.

TESTER: So, look, I think bread and butter issues are what gets people elected. The issues that people talk around the breakfast table is what people get elected. Many of the folks around me, my neighbors where I live voted for Donald Trump. They're not a threat to the democracy. But all you have to do is go back to January 6th and see the folks who were invited to come to attack the Capitol. Those folks are a threat to our democracy.

So I think when the president talks about some of these folks, he's not talking about all of them. He's just talking about -- and I think he makes it clear. But look, politics are politics. People say whatever they want to say and folks trying to make a big issue out of this. The bottom line is if I'm running in this cycle, the 2022 cycle, I talk about what Democrats have gotten done over the last two years and how it impacts inflation, how it impacts the family, how it helps move this country forward and I think those are good grounds to run on.

ACOSTA: The January 6th Committee findings. There's been some discussion as to whether they will come out before the November midterm. Should they come out? I mean, you were just saying a few moments ago --

TESTER: Yes, I mean -- ACOSTA: People who attack the Capitol were a threat to democracy.

Donald Trump in many ways still represents a threat to American democracy. Would you like to see the voters get a clear and full picture of that before the midterm?

TESTER: Well, I think they need to get a full and clear picture of it, whether it's going to be before or after the election. I don't think it matters a heck of a lot, but I do absolutely think we need transparency in government on all issues and this should not be excluded.

ACOSTA: And we're about to get some new reporting here at CNN about growing optimism inside the Democratic Party, among party officials, about whether President Biden should run for a second term. There's new polling out that suggests that Democrats aren't so sure about that but the president's approval rating appears to be moving in the right direction for President Biden.

Let me ask you about that. Do you want to see President Biden run for a second term? And is there another Democrat out there who can beat Trump?

TESTER: So there's --

ACOSTA: That's what the Biden people will say is that name another Democrat who can beat Trump at this point.

TESTER: I think it's a gross understatement to say the president of the United States is a big job. It is a massive job. And it's an important and it's just so important you have the right person. I think Joe Biden is weighing those. Whether he is the right person to continue on. And he will make a decision. And whichever decision he makes, whether it's to run or to not run, I will support him in that because I think the leadership that he's provided, although not perfect in some cases, has been pretty good.


ACOSTA: And if I could press you, if you had to just say one way or another at this moment should he take another stab at winning the White House?

TESTER: So, Jim, I would love to say yes or no, but truly it is not my call. These jobs are so important and it requires more than just you. I mean, when I decided to run for the U.S. Senate it is going to be a family decision. It's not just going to be mine. Certainly it won't be yours. But the truth is, is that --

ACOSTA: But you know --

TESTER: You have to be bought in to do this job and you have to want to do this job, and Joe is the only one that knows that. Not me.

ACOSTA: And you know Democrats, some Democrats tear their hair out when folks like me ask these questions and say, well, why can't you answer that question? TESTER: Yes, yes.

ACOSTA: But it is sort of a -- why not say Joe Biden should run for another four years?

TESTER: Well, look, I think if Joe wants to run, he should run for another four years.


TESTER: Yes, I honestly do. But on the other side of the coin, you know, it's an issue and I think he made it clear here last week that this is an issue that he's not going to take lightly. He's going to think about it and do what's right, and go forward if it's the right thing to do for the country and I think that's the best way to approach it. And do I hope he runs again? Sure I do. I mean, I think that would be great but it's really not my call.

ACOSTA: All right. Senator Tester, thanks for letting me push you on that a little bit. Appreciate the time. Thanks for coming in.

TESTER: You bet.

ACOSTA: All right, coming up, is he in or out? CNN has new reporting that Democrats are warming up to a Biden 2024 campaign. You just heard the senator there speaking to this a few moments ago. We'll have some details on this coming up next.

You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.




ACOSTA: New CNN reporting today. There's a notable shift in how top Democrats feel about President Biden running for reelection in 2024. With the midterms fast approaching, many party leaders, operatives and other officials are having discussions weighing whether the President should run for a second term.

And CNN's Isaac Dovere joins me now. Isaac, interesting reporting here. We just heard the senator, a few moments ago, Senator Tester, speaking to this. And he was saying he thinks Biden shouldn't run. It took a little pushing and prodding, --


ACOSTA: -- but he eventually said it. But you're sort of running into some of the same kind of discussions. What are you finding out?

DOVERE: Yes. Discussions that are very similar to what we just heard out of Senator Tester from you. Eventually saying, yes, I hope he runs but with this feeling of, like, I'm not sure. Is he going to run? People are not convinced but they are feeling much better about the idea of him running than they were a couple months ago. Obviously, Biden's numbers are improving. There are a lot of successes that he can point to. Democrats are in a much better mood about a lot of things these days.

ACOSTA: Gas prices are way down.

DOVERE: But -- gas -- obviously, that's a big part of it. But is this going to lead to Joe Biden, who will turn 80 this November, and would turn 82 shortly after the 2024 election, to sign to run for reelection? It's a big, big question. And it really does come back to age more than anything, that people aren't quite sure he's going to do it.

ACOSTA: And -- but if you were to contrast what Democratic officials are saying to you now, versus six months ago?

DOVERE: Oh, it's -- I mean, it's night and day really on that.

ACOSTA: Yes. Yes.

DOVERE: And, you know, in this story, there's a -- part of the reporting is that at the meeting of the Democratic National Committee, these are party leaders, state party chairs from all over the country, they had one in March and they were all talking to each other. How do we get Joe Biden not to run for president? Right. Like, how do we stop this from happening?

They had another one just two weeks ago right outside of Washington, and they were all talking about how, hey, this is great. Maybe he should run. And they -- but even that was couched in this, as one member put it to me. If he wants to run, people will support him.


DOVERE: And those comments on "60 Minutes" last week, that made people think that he was really undecided about it, have really shaken through a lot of the Democratic Party establishment.

ACOSTA: Yes, it's jumpstarted those conversations again.


ACOSTA: All right, Isaac, we'll stay tuned on that. Thanks so much. We appreciate it.

Joining us now is CNN Senior Political Analyst John Avlon and host of PBS "Firing Line" and CNN Political Commentator Margaret Hoover. John and Margaret, first, let me get your reactions to what Isaac was just talking about a few moments ago.

And we were just talking to Senator Tester about this in the previous segment. And it took a little, you know, pushing and prodding but he eventually got there. He hopes that Joe Biden will run. But it does sound as though the conversations that Democrats are having now, around the dinner table or at the bar or whatever, are a lot different than six months ago when gas was five bucks a gallon and so on. What do you guys think?


JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Look, I think he's had a lot of objective wins. You know, bi-partisan wins but also Democratic Party wins through Congress. Gas prices are lower. People are feeling more bullish about the midterms, but they shouldn't get over their skis on that one.

Look, I think the problem is that Biden always ran, we forget this, as a candidate of someone who would -- who would get Trump out of office and then be a bridge to a new generation. Implicit was always the idea that he might very well be a one termer.

The question is who the Democrats have that's better than Joe Biden when it comes to head-to-head (ph) against Donald Trump? But I think those are the expectations that are colliding right now. But certainly the calculus is a lot different than it was six months ago.

HOOVER: I'll just quickly add that, to a certain degree, Jim, it doesn't actually matter what every Democrat around the kitchen table is saying. All that matters is whether Joe Biden thinks he's going to run, wants to run and decides to run. And Joe Biden is not taking a census of the Democrats in Congress or in the Senate as he makes his decision.


HOOVER: So, I understand, just anecdotally from Democrats that I talk to that have a sense of the White House, that he's moving forward and that he doesn't intend to step aside.

ACOSTA: Yes. And as Isaac both know, because we covered this back in 2016 and 2015. this is an intensely personal decision for Joe Biden. He makes it based on what is happening in his personal life. That's what happened in 2016 when his son, Beau, passed away. He decided not to run.

And in 2020, he saw what happened in Charlottesville and just had this very visceral reaction as he tells the story and decided, that's it. I'm running for president. And so, he may make a similar calculation this time around. A much more emotional one, I suppose.

Let me -- let me move onto Maggie Haberman's new book about Trump. She has this book coming out. In an excerpt she says that she heard that Trump had described Florida governor, Ron DeSantis, as, quote, "fat, phony and whiny." While, at the same time, claiming credit for helping DeSantis become the governor. There has been, sort of, this simmering tension between Trump and DeSantis. It seems to bubble up from time to time. Where do you guys see all of this, and how do you see that playing out?

HOOVER: So, I have been wondering for some time. Because, as we know, any Republican who goes toe to toe with Donald Trump gets a nickname, gets branded unfavorably by Donald Trump. And that tends to stick with the base of the Republican Party. And heretofore, we had not known what Donald Trump's kind of nickname insult would be for Ron DeSantis.

And we have, through Maggie's reporting, a much clearer sense of how Donald Trump would go after Ron DeSantis. Very few people, little Marco, tired Jeb, you know, all these others, have been able to get out from under.

ACOSTA: Lying Ted was one.

HOOVER: Lying Ted. Have been able to get out from under the characterization that Donald Trump gives them. And I have long believed that it is a matter of time and that Trump is holding his fire but will wait until the perfect moment to do the same thing to Ron DeSantis that he's done to every other Republican who dares test his mettle against him.

And, while Ron DeSantis' stock is hot right now, especially amongst the downer (ph) class, especially among Republican political class, it strikes me that Republicans have not learned the lesson of how Donald Trump treats people who dare to go up against him.

AVLON: When are Republicans going to stop tiptoeing around the school yard bully and realize that strong men are always weak? I mean, the degree to which everyone's afraid to take on Trump directly. Maybe DeSantis will be different. Maybe he won't. I don't know that he's actually got the charisma and the likability of people to run successfully for President.

But, you know, all the ambitious Republicans who are thinking about running for president need to understand that they are going to have to take the bull on -- bully on directly. That's how you defeat the school yard bully. You punch back. And until any of them get some spine and some stones and realize that truth, we're going to be stuck in this ridiculous insult sandbox politics land.

HOOVER: Well, the only one who has, right, Liz Cheney has done --


HOOVER: (INAUDIBLE) that kind of metal.

AVLON: Sure.

HOOVER: But she --

ACOSTA: Right.

HOOVER: -- can't win a 30 percent base of the Republican Party. I mean, that base --


HOOVER: -- is Donald Trump's.

ACOSTA: Well, and that -- and that leads me to my next question. And she said, at this Texas Tribune Festival over the weekend, you know, she said that she will no longer be a Republican if Donald Trump becomes the nominee for the party in 2024. What did you guys think of that?

HOOVER: I mean, I really understand those comments on a deep visceral level. I have a hard time. Right now, people like me hang their hats on the Republicans who voted for conviction and have lived to tell about it, of which there are very few.


HOOVER: We really need primary campaign reform, primary election reform. All sorts of reforms in the Republican Party in order to be able to have more diversity in the Republican Party, when it comes to this question of Donald Trump and other issues.

And so, it's hard to imagine. I mean, we know that the party really is -- the base of the party is really captured by Donald Trump. But if he is the nominee again, it's going to be very difficult to self identify as a Republican.

AVLON: I mean, look, if Republicans traditionally have been based around a sense of patriotism, fidelity of the Constitution. If they renominate someone who has tried to overturn an election, that's about the least patriotic, least, you know, faithful to the Constitution thing someone could conceivably do.

And I do think that, look, there's a reason that more and more Americans are identifying as independents. But this is really a gut check for the Republican Party. And if folks, again, keep enabling this -- playing this game that Mitch McConnell and other folks play where they secretly -- they know the truth. They feel strongly about it. But, in public, they say, well, if he gets the nomination, we'll support him. That's, definitionally, party over country. And that's unsustainable for a Democratic republic.

ACOSTA: And another person who would like to be president very badly is Senator Ted Cruz. He was also at the Texas Tribune Festival. He got into a heated exchange with some audience members while talking about school shootings.


ACOSTA: Let's take a look at that.


SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: The single best step to stop them is have armed officers on campus that can stop them before they kill our kids. But, look, instead, you guys can instead sing "Kumbaya" with them and hope they'll just stop. But what you're proposing doesn't work.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But 18-year-old boys don't need an AR-15.



ACOSTA: At the end there, we heard somebody shout, 18 year olds do not need an AR-15. I mean, quite an emotional moment there.

HOOVER: Yes. No, they're -- first of all, I watched the whole thing so that you didn't have to. And one of the -- I mean, honestly, halfway through, I just -- I stopped. I thought, Ted Cruz, the 1990s are calling you for their NRA talking points back. I mean, this is not anything new and it doesn't just -- it doesn't look at the reality of what's happened in Texas in the last two months.


HOOVER: Look at the other senator from Texas, John Cornyn. Who took to heart seriously what happened in Uvalde. Joined hands with Kris Murphy who's the senator from Newtown, Connecticut. Joined hands where the other children were slaughtered at the hands of a gunman, and they passed the first bipartisan gun legislation since 1994. Since the 1990s. OK?



HOOVER: OK. What they did was extraordinary. They got too little credit for it. But John Cornyn is actually not in bad shape in Texas. And Ted Cruz is way out of step with the electorate in Texas. You have mega Republican doners, Republican operatives who all recognize that reasonable restrictions around gun control is not an infringement on their rights.

ACOSTA: And that moment is just another example of how there is just so much emotion on this issue. And when you're dealing with people who have been impacted by a school shooting like this in a community, your heart just has to go out to them. End of story. That's the way you handle it.

I mean, and to get in a shouting match with somebody who's hurting over this, it just doesn't make any sense. All right, we've got to go. John Avlon, Margaret Hoover, we'll get this discussion going next time. Thanks so much, guys. I appreciate it. We'll be right back.

HOOVER: Thanks, Jim. Take care. Have a good one.

ACOSTA: Thank you. All right, we'll be right back.



ACOSTA: It sounds like something out of a science fiction movie. Tomorrow, a NASA spacecraft will deliberately slam into an asteroid, as part of a test mission, to see if this kind of impact can help deflect an asteroid that might be hurtling toward earth one day.

CNN's Kristin Fisher has more.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This comet is what we call a planet killer.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's what we call a global killer.

KRISTIN FISHER, CNN SPACE AND DEFENSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Hollywood's been scheming up ways to save the world from killer comets or asteroids for decades.

BRUCE WILLIS, ACTOR: The United States government just asked us to save the world. Anybody want to say, no?

FISHER: But instead of bringing in Bruce Willis, NASA has a different idea. And it's about to test it for the very first time.

ELENA ADAMS, MISSION SYSTEMS ENGINEER, DART: It's kind of what we all fear, right? What if there was an asteroid that was coming toward earth? Can you really stop it? Can you really do something about it? And for the first time, our technology allows us to actually do something about it.

FISHER: NASA is planning to ram a refrigerator-size spacecraft, called DART, into an asteroid named Dimorphos, which is roughly the size of the Pyramid of Giza, and poses no threat to planet earth. The goal is to see if the impact will push Dimorphos slightly off course. If it works, it means that this technique could be used to deflect a future killer asteroid that is headed to earth.

BOBBY BRAUN, APPLIED PHYSICS LABORATORY, JOHNS HOPKINS: This inaugural planetary defense test mission marks a major moment in human history. For the first time ever, we will measurably change the orbit of a celestial body in the universe.

FISHER: Mission control is inside the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Maryland.

(on camera): What is this place going to be like on impact day? Or impact night I should say.

ADAMS: Oh, my goodness, it's going to be filled to the brink with people. There's going to be people in every single seat in the whole mission operations center. About 44 people in here alone.

FISHER (voice-over): And they'll be able to watch the impact live, as will everyone on earth, thanks to a camera that's mounted on the spacecraft.

(on camera): These are live images.

ADAMS: Live images from DART right now.

FISHER (voice-over): One of the most tense moment for the team will happen at 50 minutes to impact, when the spacecraft will switch its sights from a bigger asteroid it's pointed at now to a smaller, second asteroid which is the real target.

EVAN SMITH, DEPUTY MISSION SYSTEMS ENGINEER, DART: That's a very, very sweaty time for us. So, we have a lot of contingencies built right around that 50-minute transition. We're going to be watching the telemetry like hawks. Very scared but excited.

ADAMS: And then, we're going to have it get closer and closer. And it'll fill the field of view (ph) of our imager. Then, we're going to hit it.

FISHER: It's a moment this team has been training for for months. But even the rehearsals have been tense.

ADAMS: We just all, one by one, stood up with all of our headsets and all of us were intently watching the screens. Just watching the asteroid get bigger and bigger. And my heart was actually palpitating. Because I was like, this is not normal. Right? It's the rehearsal, but, yet, you really felt like you were about to hit that asteroid for the first.

FISHER (on camera): You're really testing --

ADAMS: We're testing.

FISHER: -- the technology could potentially save all of humankind down the road.

ADAMS: Down the road, right.


ADAMS (live): Now, we should know almost immediately on Monday night if the DART spacecraft successfully hit its target. But NASA says it's going to take a few weeks before they're able to determine if DART was able to successfully bump that asteroid just a little bit off its current orbit -- Jim.

ACOSTA: All right, Kristin Fisher, thank you so much. And we'll be right back



ACOSTA: This week's CNN Hero is providing millions of kids across America with essential items. Meet Rabbi Amy Weiss.


RABBI AMY WEISS, FOUNDER, UNDIES FOR EVERYONE: Underwear is just an overlooked item and it's super expensive. So, the parents who are struggling financially tend to think, you can't see the underwear so it'll be OK. There is a crisis for this very essential need that really makes a big difference in their social and academic world.

Kids who need underwear don't want used underwear, right? That's gross, isn't it? We only give away new underwear.

Kids, they want what all of us want, security and dignity.

[16:55:03] WEISS: We want to increase these kids' self-esteem and confidence. That's really what it is all about, helping fill that gap when no one else is doing it. And to keep them in school. When they've got underwear, it's just easier to be a kid.


ACOSTA: And to find out more and to nominate someone you think should be a CNN Hero, go to

And speaking of heroes, I have to thank that Ukrainian special forces' soldier, who was with us earlier today. He gave me this coin made out of a destroyed Russian tank. I will treasure this always. It means so much.

That's the news. Reporting from Washington, I'm Jim Acosta. See you back here next weekend. Alex Marquart takes over right after a quick break. Good night.