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Biden In First Interview Since Debate: Will Only Drop Out If "The Lord Almighty" Tells Me; Biden Sidesteps Questions On Dem Fears Of Losing House, Senate; Fourth House Democrat Joins Call For Biden To Step Aside. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired July 05, 2024 - 21:00   ET



STEVE CONTORNO, CNN REPORTER: In fact, many of the people, who are involved in putting together this playbook, used to work for his administration.

But they have increasingly a focal point of the attacks from the Biden administration, the Biden campaign, linking Trump to some of the more controversial policies that they say that they would hope that a President Trump would pursue, in a second term, including things like restricting abortion and contraceptive medication, banning pornography, a lot of culture-war type issues.

But today's announcement from President Trump -- former President Trump comes after Kevin Roberts, the head of Heritage, said quote, the country was "In the process of the second American Revolution, which will remain" a bloodless revolution, "if the left allows it to be." That quote, obviously getting a lot of attention, for the--


CONTORNO: --violence that it predicts.

SCIUTTO: Well, as you say, the fact is the Trump campaign, Trump himself have been aligned quite closely with The Heritage Foundation and that project, prior.

Steve Contorno, thanks so much.

And the next hour of CNN NEWSROOM starts now.

You are in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Jim Sciutto.

The breaking news tonight. President Biden responding to growing pressure, for him to step aside, tonight. With more elected Democratic lawmakers, calling for him to drop out of the race, Biden says it would take divine intervention, for him to leave the race.

This is what he told ABC News Anchor, George Stephanopoulos.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: If the Lord Almighty came down and said Joe, get out of the race, I'd get out of the race. The Lord Almighty is not coming down. I mean, these hypotheticals, George, if, I mean, and if all--

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ANCHOR, ABC NEWS: But it's not that hypothetical anymore. I grant that they have not requested the meeting. But it's been reported--

BIDEN: But they -- I've met with them. I've met with a lot of these people. I've talked with them regularly. I had an hour conversation with Hakeem. I had more time than that with Jim Clyburn. I spent time with, many hours, off and on in the last little bit, with Chuck Schumer. It's not like -- I had all the governors. All the governors.


SCIUTTO: Biden also dismissed any suggestion that he is not the most qualified candidate to beat former President Donald Trump. He slammed his critics. He slammed the polling.

He also took the blame himself, for his disastrous debate performance.


STEPHANOPOULOS: Did you ever watch the debate afterwards?

BIDEN: I don't think I did. No.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, what I'm try -- what I want to get at is that, what were you experiencing as you were going through the debate? Did you know how badly it was going?

BIDEN: Yes, look. The whole way I prepared, nobody's fault, mine. Nobody's fault but mine. I, uh -- I prepared what I usually would do sitting down as I did come back with foreign leaders, or National Security Council, for explicit detail. And I realized, about partway through that, you know, all -- I get quoted, The New York Times had me down, at 10 points before the debate, nine now, or whatever the hell it is.

The fact of the matter is that, what I looked at is that he also lied 28 times. I couldn't -- I mean, the way the debate ran, not -- my fault, no one else's fault, no one else's fault.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But it seemed like you were having trouble from the first question in, even before he spoke.

BIDEN: Well, I just had a bad night.


SCIUTTO: "A bad night." That's been his explanation throughout.

Tonight's interview is a high-stakes gamble, in effect to regain control of his campaign, convince his party and the public, he is the right guy to win in November.

Joining me now is the first Democrat in Congress to call on President Biden to step aside. He is Representative Lloyd Doggett from Texas.

Congressman, thanks so much for taking the time tonight.

REP. LLOYD DOGGETT (D-TX): So good to join you, Jim.

SCIUTTO: Was there anything you heard from President Biden, tonight, that makes you second-guess your call for him to step aside?

DOGGETT: Nothing. Joe Biden is a good man. He's an American patriot. Yet the need for him to step aside is more urgent tonight than when I first called for it on Tuesday.

He doesn't need to convince me or any member of our Democratic caucus, or probably any Democratic elected official, that he is a much better, more qualified person, to be our president again, than a convicted criminal, who tried to overthrow the government, and has engaged in appalling conduct.

But despite that difference, he has trailed in state after state.


DOGGETT: And The New York Times poll this week, it's the worst that he's done.

Now, we have a call, not because we dislike Joe Biden. I don't think he would be a qualified president.


We may not be the Lord Almighty calling from all high. But from Maine to Washington, tonight, from Chicago, from Arizona, for people all over the country, saying, Mr. President, the risk of a Trump presidency, to destroy our democracy, to give us -- to take over the government, and never give it back again is so great that we have to have our strongest candidate.

Now I know they're -- I hear from some of the Biden supporters there, like a constituent, who sent me a one-line message that I loved, and treasured for a decade. He said, you're my horse, and I'm with you, if you never win another race. And Biden has some supporters like that.

But we can't afford to lose this race. And that's why we have to pick the strongest candidate possible. And every day he delays, in making that decision, makes it more difficult. We're wasting our time defending him, when we should be pointing out the shortcomings, the failures, the wrongdoing of Donald Trump.


DOGGETT: And every day he delays, it makes it more difficult for a new person to come on board, who can defeat Donald Trump.

SCIUTTO: You are not alone in the Democratic caucus. Tonight, another Democrat, Mike Quigley of Illinois, joined--


SCIUTTO: --in calling for President Biden to step aside.

I wonder when you have private conversations, with others, in the House, others in the Democratic Party, do you expect more of them to do the same, to call for him to drop out?

DOGGETT: I've heard from so many members, right today. And I think there will be more calls, next week. It's just that delaying this into next week. A president who says the polls don't show what they show, don't accept reality?


DOGGETT: That is a real problem for us. And the longer he delays, the bigger problem.

And someone for whom I have such respect, and who I still hope will see through what is around him, the people that are insisting that he has to run again, and will recognize that he can make that sacrifice, as hard as it is, and that he does not want his legacy--


DOGGETT: --to be that he's the one, who turned over our country to a tyrant.

SCIUTTO: Are you saying that Biden is not aware of how bad the situation is? And that he is, in your view -- and let's be frank, I've spoken to pollsters who believe the same thing. That he doesn't recognize that he's losing?

DOGGETT: Well, I think his words to George Stephanopoulos, tonight, could not have been clearer that he rejected the notion that he was not behind. Doesn't believe the polls.

And we all know there been problems with polls in recent years. And there still are. But this is poll after poll. It's not just one or two, showing this. And a very comprehensive Times poll, this week.

Other polls that are out there in the battleground states, where as George pointed out in his questions, our Senate candidates are way out ahead. In Nevada, way out ahead. And yet, Biden cannot seem to convince people that he's the best candidate for president, despite the atrocious record of his opponent.


DOGGETT: I don't know what it is. I frankly, I don't fully understand it.

Certainly, the debate made it much worse. And the problem is we can never take that debate away. No matter even if he'd had a perfect presentation tonight, that debate, those comments, that mumbling and fumbling that the President did, in that debate, we will see over and over again, in Republican ads, reminding people of that. SCIUTTO: Yes.

DOGGETT: And it's really difficult to overcome that, and the situation.

SCIUTTO: You've met with the President, personally, many times, over a number of years. Have you personally seen a decline, in his cognitive capability, his sharpness, his communications?

DOGGETT: I can't really say that I've met with him -- you know, a large number of times, and I can't comment on that. But I do visit with people, who say they have seen some marked changes in recent months.

SCIUTTO: The Washington Post is reporting that Democratic senator, Mark Warner, is attempting to assemble Senate Democrats, to meet with Biden face-to-face, and ask him to exit the race.

Do you believe that kind of meeting might move the President? Because frankly, when you -- when you hear the President, on ABC, tonight. You heard him in Wisconsin today, and speaking to reporters. He doesn't sound at all like he's considering leaving the race.

But do you believe a private meeting, from lawmakers, he knows well, might change his mind, if they communicate to him directly what you're communicating here?

DOGGETT: I'm hopeful that it will.

Mark Warner is one of the most respected senators, the Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, in the entire Capitol. And he recognizes, as some of my Virginia colleagues have told me since the debate, now Virginia, which looked like a solid Democratic state, now it's in play.

And we begin to have concern that Mark Warner will no longer be Chair, because we won't be able to hold the Senate, and maybe even the House, if we don't have a stronger offensive against Donald Trump.


SCIUTTO: I've spoken to a lot of people, who speak to voters, right, that their pollsters, their folks on the campaign, and their lawmakers. And I'm always interested in what folks on the frontlines hear from voters.

When you speak to voters, in your district, do you notice them raising the same questions you're raising now, and saying, I like the man, but I don't think he's the right man for the job?

DOGGETT: Well, yesterday, July 4th, we're all out seeing constituents. And I hope that's happening with my colleagues all over the country. And I can't tell you how many people sought me out, at neighborhood parades, to say they have -- they supported the statement I made, and that they -- they think it's really important that we get another choice. They want Trump out. They fear what Trump would do to destroy our democracy. But they're worried that President Biden is not the strongest candidate that we can put forward.

SCIUTTO: Who would be a stronger candidate, in your view, if you had the choice?

DOGGETT: Well, my feeling is, it's not time for me to name another candidate. And I'm not sure tonight, which one I think would be the best.

But I think we have a number of governors, who are strong. We have a strong bench. Certainly, the Vice President will be in play, perhaps some members of the Cabinet. There are a couple of senators, who could be involved.

What we need is a fair, open democratic process. I think Jim Clyburn once suggested the possibility of a -- of a primary, national or regional. It's a short time.

But if we expose the American people, who've been out there, saying they don't like either choice that the parties are offering, that we have a new generation, new candidate, who can appeal to them, we will come out as winners in the fall. And we could well get both a Democratic House, and a Democratic Senate, to support a new president, and put down this Trump nonsense.

SCIUTTO: We're with the proviso that we're not there yet. Because, again, President Biden has said repeatedly, he is not leaving the race.

But again, if he were to leave the race, should President Biden say I pass my delegates, I fully support the Vice President to be the candidate?

Or would you prefer, as you suggested, whether it's a small primary, a series of debates? Others have suggested a series of debates among a number of potential Democratic replacements.

Which do you think would be better for the party and for the country?

DOGGETT: He absolutely should not pass the torch to the Vice President. He may choose to endorse her. I don't think she has a free hand at all the funds that have been raised, for the various victory funds. She is a talented person, who I think will be perhaps the front-runner in this competition.

But we need to present the American people, with a number of choices, and let these individuals who could participate, in this race, let them make their case for what they have to offer.

And if we do that and it's not viewed as some kind of backroom deal--


DOGGETT: --or a person that was selected by a handful of political figures, including the President, I think we'll be much better- positioned.

We certainly need the President's support, in the fall, as he operates the government, and does the important work ahead of us. But I think it's very important to have an open democratic process.

SCIUTTO: Congressman Lloyd Doggett, of Texas, thanks so much for joining us, tonight.

DOGGETT: Jim, thank you so much on this important evening.

SCIUTTO: No question.

And still ahead. More reaction to President Biden's television interview. Our political panel will weigh in again.

And did Biden have his facts straight, during the sit-down with ABC News? Our experts are now going over his answers.



SCIUTTO: Ever since President Biden's disappointing debate performance, Democrats have raised concerns his reelection campaign could jeopardize their own chances of flipping the House and keeping the Senate.

Listen to how President Biden responded to those concerns, in his interview with ABC.


STEPHANOPOULOS: If you are told reliably from your allies, from your friends and supporters, in the Democratic Party, in the House and the Senate, that they are concerned you're going to lose the House and the Senate if you stay in, what will you do?

BIDEN: I'm not going to answer that question. It's not going to happen.

STEPHANOPOULOS: What's your plan to turn the campaign around?

BIDEN: You saw it today. How many -- how many people draw crowds, like I did today? Find me more enthusiastic than today? Huh?

STEPHANOPOULOS: I mean, have -- I don't think you want to play the crowd game. Donald Trump can draw big crowds. There's no question about that.

BIDEN: He can draw a big crowd. But what does he say? Who -- who does he have? I'm the guy supposedly in trouble.

We raised $38 million within four days after this. Over -- we have over a million individual contributors. Individual contributors. That -- that's less than 200 bucks. We have -- I mean, I've not seen what you're -- you're proposing. (END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: Perspective now from our top political minds. And we have a lot of them.

David Axelrod, I want to go to you first.

Did you see anything tonight, enough tonight, to change the view that he doesn't have it, to run this race and win this election?

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, the question is did he change the minds of voters, who were watching that. I don't really think so.

You know, he -- Jim, I think that -- and some of it, I found sad. But he -- he seems not to be able to compute the fact that people have these questions about him. He said, I have a -- you know, when George Stephanopoulos asked him if you'd be willing to take a cognitive test. He said, I take a cognitive test, every day.

Well, the fact is, that may be true. But 75 percent of the American people think he failed that he failed. So I mean, they're -- they've lot -- and so, this is a real problem for him. And it's something that shows up in every poll.

And in terms of where he stands in the race. That -- no politician out there will tell -- has the same perception that the President does, that this is a tied race, and he's right in the hunt, right now. He was 10 points ahead, four years ago. He's six points behind now, worsens in most of the battleground states, and now in danger of losing states that weren't thought to be in contention.


So, what you see, Jim, you saw it in Wisconsin, today. Tammy Baldwin, the Senator from Wisconsin, wasn't at this event. Why? Because she's up for reelection. And it's not helpful to her, to be seen with the President. This is what's going to happen.

And somebody really needs to be honest with him about it. It's not -- it can't be the good Lord. But it should be the people who love and care for him, and his closest advisers. His portrait of where he is in this race doesn't comport with reality.

SCIUTTO: Yes. I mean, listen, he didn't want to answer the question about vulnerability in the House, in the Senate. But I've spoken to a number of lawmakers, closer to those races than he is, frankly. And they certainly feel the vulnerability.

Scott Jennings is with us as well, tonight.

Scott, you've been watching the President's performance, back to the debate, but also tonight. From a Republican perspective, do you look at him having gained ground, this evening? Or gained no ground? Or lost ground?

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think he lost ground, this evening.

Honestly, I think most Republicans are going to look at this and say, this is a man in decline, and a man in denial. And a lot of Republicans, me included, are going to say that it's sad, what's being done to him.

I mean, nobody with a straight face can watch this interview, tonight, and think that this is a person, who's capable of fulfilling the duties of the Office of President, for the next four years. They may not even think he can do it for the next four months.

I agree with Axe, by the way, about his not having a clear-eyed view of where he sits in this race. I'm wondering what is he being told, on a daily basis, by his staff?


JENNINGS: Are they lying to him about the polls?

And he also said one thing, Jim, that really jumped off the page to me.

When George Stephanopoulos asked him, if you run, and you lose, and all the terrible things that you say about Trump come to pass, will you feel good about that?

And he said, oh, well, yes, you know, I gave it my all. That's all you can do.

That totally and completely undercut everything he says about democracy being on the ballot.


JENNINGS: And the stakes of this election.

If I were a Democrat, who is all worried about what Donald Trump's going to do, and democracy, and I heard Joe Biden say, well, as long as we gave it the old college try? I would be mortified, right now, at what I heard him say, tonight.

SCIUTTO: Yes, if it's truly an existential battle for the republic, the college try should not suffice.

David Chalian, this is -- to hear from Axe, and others, this question about not just the President's denial, apparent denial of the state of the race, but his inner circles. Is that, that they don't know the state of the race? They have a different view of it? They think we're reading the numbers wrong or the dynamic's wrong?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: My sense is they do know the state of the race. They believe they are putting the pieces together, for a plan, to get through this moment. They understand -- yes, they've set up the whole contest to America as an existential crisis to the country.


CHALIAN: They understand that they are in a moment about an existential crisis to this campaign, and his candidacy. And they're trying to solve that in the -- in the very short-term.

I will say this. I have -- the only people -- the only Democrats I've yet heard from tonight, are connected to this campaign, that thinks this helped him, and they have like turned the page here.

Several Democrats I have already heard from, their best rosiest scenario is this is not going to stop people from coming out--


CHALIAN: --and speaking publicly, about their concerns, inside the Democratic Party.

What I do think he did tonight, if this interview had been a disaster, if this had been a repeat of the debate last week--


CHALIAN: --I think we'd be having a very different conversation, right now. You already would have had 40 Democrats from the Hill, come out, in the last hour. That's not happening.

So, what did he do tonight? Maybe he bought him a little more time. But time for what? Time for this--

SCIUTTO: There's not much time.

CHALIAN: --very painful, damaging episode, in his candidacy, to continue.

SCIUTTO: And there's not much time to change course.

So, Maria, you hear what David Chalian is hearing, from his Democratic context. You disagree with that read?

MARIA CARDONA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I, again, I think we need to wait and see what the voters think, right?

I've also heard from the campaign exactly what you said, David.

I've also heard from voters, out in the state, who said, look, he did too well. He is somebody, who's going to fight for me. He fought for me, the last four years. He has given my family the tools to succeed. I am afraid of what Donald Trump represents.

Donald Trump, by the way, is also not well. If we're going to start comparing cognitive issues, The New York Times piece had in it some very concerning paragraphs about the decline of Donald Trump. But no one's talking about that.

And so, that I think is where a lot of the voters that I'm hearing from, granted they are Joe Biden supporters. [21:25:00]

But I've even heard from some who were Independents and non-decided. And they're like, look, this election is way too important, for me to sit on the sidelines, and to worry about a president, who is accomplished, and who understands what else needs to be done, who might be a little bit slower now, versus somebody, who is an existential threat to me and my family. I'm going to back Joe Biden.

SCIUTTO: Listen, elections, as we always say, are about choices.


SCIUTTO: Van Jones, you told me on the air, two nights ago, that the public discussion of the future of this campaign is very different from the private discussion, which you described as panicked.

And I wonder if that has changed at all, in these last 48 hours, or following what we've seen from the ABC interview so far.

VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No, I mean, everybody's sloshing back and forth, you know? And they've learned this thing, oh, well, you got to give all the money back, if it's not Joe. And then people figure out, some of whom maybe you could, I mean, it's still the same, panic, and again, pieces of the iceberg falling off.

But let me give Joe Biden a little bit of credit. Because before, we said, this dude is hiding. He can't do an unscripted moment. You got to hide him behind a teleprompter.


JONES: Biden was mad about that. So, he came out.


JONES: And he did the interview, and he did not hurt himself tonight, which I think you got to give him credit. He also did a big rally. He talked to some reporters. So, the idea that is hiding-Biden, you got to retire that.

Now the question is, now he's not hiding, what you see, is it good enough to beat Donald Trump? What you see, is it good enough to reverse the six-point deficit? Or is there somebody else, in the party that might be able to do that for you? That is an honest conversation.

I do not think that he put those concerns to bed tonight. I think that people are looking at a six points down, where you need to be two points up, as Democrats, to win, because we can win the popular vote--


JONES: --by gazillion points, and still lose electorally. So, you got to be up, up, up. But we're down, down, down.

But the hiding-Biden criticism has to be put away, give him some credit. I just don't think it's enough yet to stop this panic inside the party.

SCIUTTO: It's a fair point. Today, you have a rally. You have unscripted interactions with reporters. And you have an interview with George Stephanopoulos.

Jeff Zeleny, can you describe to me? And David referenced this earlier. That the Biden campaign's hope is a number of things they're going to do, over the coming days. This interview, you've got the NATO summit next week, rallies planned et cetera.

Can you walk us through exactly what that plan is, as we know it, to push back against this sense that he's not up to the job?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, he's going to -- he's already back home, in Delaware, where he spends most weekends.

He'll be going to Pennsylvania, on Sunday, for a couple stops.

And then, you're right. Next week is a very big week for his day job, for the presidency. The NATO leaders -- the NATO summit is here. And that is going to -- once upon a time, that was one of his biggest strengths.

For a variety of reasons now, just where this campaign is, foreign affairs are not at the forefront of this election. But for him, they could be. It could be a moment for him to show that he is in command and in control. He has said that he will have a press conference, next week. So, that offers another opportunity.

SCIUTTO: Thursday, yes.

ZELENY: Or it could be a moment to show the opposite. There have been concerns. We've all talked with officials, who have said privately, in meetings, he's not as sharp as he was. So, next week will be an example and a way, to see that.

And it's pretty -- there are going to be a lot of opinions, next week, in Washington, from Capitol Hill, to NATO leaders. So, it will be a good chance to sort of size things up.


ZELENY: At the same time, Donald Trump is likely to announce his running mate, potentially next week. He'll be holding rallies -- or a rally, on Tuesday, I believe, in Doral.

So, a lot is happening next week.

One thing I wonder is at the end of the day here, President Biden, he completed this interview. He didn't, you know, whiff like he did at the debate. But that's just barely getting him back up to zero now.

SCIUTTO: Because if he has to go from here.

ZELENY: He is behind. SCIUTTO: He is what--

ZELENY: He is behind in this race.

SCIUTTO: If he is behind, he has got to gain ground, not--

ZELENY: And --

SCIUTTO: --just not lose ground.

ZELENY: And what his campaign is going to be sort of tasked with is that now they face a new landscape, a new battleground map, that the race is much more difficult than it was just 10 days ago. I'm talking Minnesota. I am talking potentially New Hampshire. I'm talking potentially New Mexico. So, these states are challenging. All the while Democrats are calling for him to reassess.

Next week is a huge week--


ZELENY: --in the life of President Joe Biden.

SCIUTTO: Just as tonight was.

David Axelrod, before we go, how much time does the President, does the campaign, does the White House, have, to make a decision, if they were to decide to leave the race? I mean, listen, you might say -- some might say it's already too late.

But how much time do they have, to then allow for the selection, of a viable alternative, in time for November?


AXELROD: Well, obviously it's very, very late now. And for there to be any kind of orderly process, you'd really need to act quickly. I mean they also could try and just run out the clock, to where there's no time--


AXELROD: --to do it. And that -- you know, that would be -- that would be unfortunate.

I just have to say, Jim. I hear what Van has to say. And there's no doubt the President was more animated and engaged, tonight. He wasn't hiding from the public. He wasn't hiding behind a teleprompter. But he seemed to be hiding from reality. And I think that that needs to change.

Because the reality is grim, right now, in terms of his ability, to win. Not -- his record, as he recited it tonight, is a great record. And I honor him for it. And I appreciate him for it. That's not the question on the table. And he doesn't want to entertain the question on the table. And that is, how -- is he set and fit to serve until he's closer to 90 than 80?


AXELROD: And I think the verdict right now is very negative on that.

SCIUTTO: Everyone, thanks so much.

So much to digest tonight. When we do come back, we're going to ask a Democrat, who urged the President to step aside, to, quote, prevent an "Utter catastrophe." We're going to ask him if tonight's interview changed his mind, or further cemented his position. That's next.



SCIUTTO: Tonight, a fourth House Democrat is calling for President Biden to step aside, arguing it is needed to quote, prevent an "Utter catastrophe."

That lawmaker is Congressman Mike Quigley of Illinois. And he joins me now.

Congressman, thanks so much for taking the time, this evening.

REP. MIKE QUIGLEY (D-IL): Thank you.

SCIUTTO: You've been watching some of Biden's interview, tonight. Has he said anything to convince you to think differently that he should stay in the race?

QUIGLEY: Yes, it's a good question. But my first reaction is I'm not the one that needs convincing. It's the American public. And obviously, they're going in the opposite direction in polling, in all the critical states and beyond.

Two of the disturbing points, tonight, is when the President was asked if he had watched the debate, and he had to think about it, and wasn't sure he had, didn't think so.

And then the other one was something that was just mentioned that he felt, as long as he gave it, his best effort, that's all that really matters.

With the greatest respect, all that really matters is avoiding a second Trump presidency, for all the reasons he stated.

So, it's been a difficult week and a process for me. But I felt it's necessary. This is not the time, for lack of better word, cheerleading. It's about pragmatic politics.

SCIUTTO: Is that what you mean by an utter catastrophe? That if he stays in, that he might very well lose the race, and bring a second term of Donald Trump?

QUIGLEY: It's worse than that. As you know, both houses are controlled by single digits, a handful of votes in both House, and such critical issues that come from it. But those frontline races are also really close. Every vote counts. So, the top of the ticket is critical, every presidential year.

And at this point in time, the polling I've seen, in some of those frontline races, is those local candidates are doing better than -- outperforming the President of the United States. That's not a formula, for winning back the House and keeping the Senate.

SCIUTTO: Yes. You will hear people say there's potential ticket split -- or ballot splitting, right, that they might vote say for the Democratic candidate for the Senate, but not vote for the Democratic candidate for the President.

But I wonder, in your experience, your long experience of running campaigns, whether that is a false hope, some -- to some degree, right, that with -- with if you believe, the top of the ticket's going to lose? Does that mean you lose the House? Does that mean you lose the Senate?

QUIGLEY: It's not a formula for winning the hope -- hoping for split tickets, right? You don't have a bumper sticker that says--


QUIGLEY: --Trump and then some Democratic senator. It's just not going to be successful. I mean, there are people who split their tickets. It does happen. But not nearly enough to be a recipe for victory.

SCIUTTO: John Fetterman was on this broadcast, earlier tonight. He still stands by President Biden. And he had some criticism for his party, including members of the party, who have come out and called the President -- called for the President to step aside. He said that the party needs to grow a spine, in his words.

What's your reaction to that argument?

QUIGLEY: Yes. It's a recipe for disaster. It's also a call for cheerleading.

What we need right now, and I think what takes a spine, is to step aside and recognize the President of the United States doesn't have the vigor, necessary, to overcome the deficit here. And it's going to affect us all.

So, I think -- I think the opposite is involved here. It takes some courage to respectfully stand out, and disagree, and point out that the President of the United States is in absolute denial about -- seeming to deny that the polls have any validity at all, when they're in such great uniformity, and the numbers are fairly consistent.

So look, I want to avoid going back and forth with anybody else in my party. I think it's time for us to face the realities, and speak the truth.

SCIUTTO: If the President were to step aside, is Vice President Kamala Harris, the candidate? Should she be the candidate? Or do you like to see a mini-primary, a series of debates, in other words, more choices, before deciding who the nominee is?

QUIGLEY: Yes, look, one step at a time. And I don't want to get ahead of ourselves. And I have the greatest respect for the Vice President. I think she's an extraordinarily underrated candidate.

We're not going to have primaries. You're going to have a process, which I think will be legitimate to the -- to the public.

You asked previously, in the earlier segment, about the timing here.



QUIGLEY: There's going to be a vote taken, on a remote basis. It would help if it happened before then. But at the very least, it would help a great deal if it happened before the convention. Because again, there's a built-in process, and I think the American people have seen before that at least has a historical background.

SCIUTTO: Congressman Mike Quigley, thanks so much for joining us tonight.

QUIGLEY: Thank you.

SCIUTTO: Coming up next. We're going to fact-check the accuracy of the President's statements, during tonight's primetime interview. Please do stay with us.


SCIUTTO: Breaking news. President Biden, in a fight for his political life, he struck a defiant tone, in a 22-minute interview with ABC News' George Stephanopoulos, amid persistent questions about his mental fitness, even among those in his own party.

Biden answering flatly, quote, no, when asked if he's become more frail, saying nobody is asking him to take a cognitive test, and emphatically stating that he is the best and most qualified candidate, to challenge and beat former President Donald Trump, in November.

I want to bring in CNN's Daniel Dale, to fact-check some of what we heard from Biden, tonight.

Daniel, always good to have you.

Biden, he got into an extended back-and-forth with Stephanopoulos, specifically over a polling, what it says about his candidacy, and how he measures up against Donald Trump in that polling.

I want to play some of what he said and get you to fact-check.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BIDEN: Nobody's fault but mine. I, uh -- I prepared what I usually would do sitting down as I did come back with foreign leaders, or National Security Council, for explicit detail. And I realized, about partway through that, you know, all -- I get quoted, The New York Times had me down, at 10 points before the debate, nine now, or whatever the hell it is.



SCIUTTO: How would you rate that claim? Does he have the numbers right?

DANIEL DALE, CNN REPORTER: He does not have the numbers right. I'd call that claim, false.

So, he said he gained ground in New York Times polling, pre-debate to post-debate.


DALE: He actually lost ground.

So, let's look at the actual numbers. In the final pre-debate New York Times/Siena College poll, he was down three points to Donald Trump, with likely voters. In the post-debate poll, he was down six points. So, lost three.

And then, with registered voters, same story. A pre-debate poll, he was down six. Post-debate poll, down nine.

So, he did concede there, he was like whatever the hell the numbers are.


DALE: He conceded he may not have a handle on these specific numbers.

But look, this is the time, where people are looking for precision, from this particular president. And this is a key matter, how is he doing in the polls. And he got it wrong here.

SCIUTTO: Yes, a fairly basic one there.

He was also asked to respond to some major news, tonight. That is that Democratic senator, Mark Warner, of Virginia, is attempting to assemble a group of fellow Senate Democrats that in effect, go to Biden, have a come-to-Jesus moment, perhaps ask him to leave the race.

Let me play that moment, and get your thoughts.


BIDEN: Well, Mark is a good man. We've never had that. He also tried to get the nomination too. Mark's not -- Mark and I have a different perspective. I respect him.


SCIUTTO: How do you rate that?

DALE: I'd say it needs context, at least. So, Senator Warner has never run for the Democratic presidential nomination, certainly not this year, certainly not in the last election.

Now, this claim is not completely fictional, because in advance of the 2008 race, there was widespread talk that he might seek the nomination. He did make extensive preparations for it.


DALE: He hired staff, raised millions of dollars for a PAC. But two years before that election, in October 2006, he announced that he was not going to launch a candidacy after all. So, never once been an actual candidate for the Democratic presidential nod.

SCIUTTO: That's true. Although I suppose candidates, they sometimes do preparation without saying that they're a candidate.

DALE: They -- they do.


DALE: So, it's not made-up. But no, he's never been a candidate. Certainly not a candidate now, or anytime recently.

SCIUTTO: Daniel Dale, always good to have you and your fact-checking. Thanks so much.

Still to come. While the President shows his defiance to the nation, morale inside the White House, we're told, is tanking. Two reporters share what insiders are telling them. That's when we come back.



SCIUTTO: Welcome back. The breaking news. A defiant President Biden has finished his high-stakes interview with ABC. But was it enough to stop the panic, within his own party, change the narrative somewhat?

Joining us now Alex Thompson, and Sara Fischer, both of Axios. Sara is also a CNN Media Analyst.

So Sara, the President, he's raising doubt that he's actually losing to Trump in the polls, which I mean, we just fact-checked, it is not true, based on the data that we have. The polls could be wrong. And they've been wrong before. But in the polls, at least he is losing, and was losing before, and is losing more now.

What does this say about his read on the election, and what his own people are telling him about the state of the election? SARA FISCHER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Yes. So, he said in that interview, that it's a toss-up, when clearly it's not a toss-up, and he's far behind.

And remember, Democrats need to be more than--


FISCHER: --just above Democrat -- Republicans, because of the way that the Electoral College works.

SCIUTTO: Perhaps 3 to 4 percent, right?

FISCHER: Exactly. So, he's actually far behind.

There's two things that could be here. One is that his staff is not preparing him for to answer this question in honesty, and for a reason. And then two is that he genuinely believes it, and that he's just misinformed.

The President is not somebody, who I think is misinformed. I think he's probably read in on a communications strategy, to just sort of quell any sort of concern from Democratic voters. But being misleading about where you're at in polls, I don't think is the right communication strategy, from my opinion.

You want to come out in this interview, and be energized and be strong. But if your biggest hit, on Donald Trump, is that he lies? It's time for you to be grounded in reality as well.

SCIUTTO: Yes, makes sense.

Alex, you've been talking to people inside the Biden White House. One official telling you, quote, "Everyone is miserable, and senior advisers are a total black hole."

I mean, speaks to what Sara and I were speaking about here, which is not a good place to be, right, if you have issues to address in the midst of a hard-fought campaign.


And I would also say one thing. Within the Biden-world, there's sort of polling denialism. It takes two different forms.

There are some people on the campaign, that their internal polls, they do show the race, they -- they're still behind. But they think it's closer than a lot of these public polls.

But then there are some people, there is some worries within Biden- world, that the people the closest to the President, the closest political advisers are too often telling the President, what he wants to hear, which is why he is going out and saying, oh, the race is a toss-up. The race is whatever. What you saw tonight, though, strikingly, was a President completely defiant, in the face of a lot of doubters, and making clear to everybody that he's not going to willingly step aside.

And we have to remember. There's been some reports, Senator Mark Warner is going to sort of hold like a Senate intervention--


THOMPSON: --of some sorts or try to, or maybe. I don't know. I have not confirmed this reporting.

But the thing is, we have to remember. The Senate doesn't get to vote on this. The only person, who gets to vote on whether or not Joe Biden is the nominee of the Democrat Party, is Joe Biden. And if he wants to be the nominee, he's going to be the nominee.

SCIUTTO: And you wonder if his reaction, to some of the public commentary, even from say, a Mike Quigley, we just had on, makes him dig his heels in more, rather than -- rather than consider that point of view.

Sara, you've been reporting that President Biden's been losing support in -- support in Hollywood, which is important support for a Democratic candidate, right, just in terms of public platform, of some of those folks, but also their checkbooks. How many folks? And how significant?

FISCHER: It's pretty significant. So, you've had some of the biggest heavy-hitters in Hollywood. Ari Emanuel, the CEO of Endeavor, Reed Hastings, the Co-founder of Netflix, these are people who themselves donated a lot, but they also host fundraisers, bringing people together, within the Hollywood community, to raise money.

If you think about the last two months, $26 million raised, in that Hollywood fundraiser that featured Julia Roberts and George Clooney. Then last month, $30 million raised in the Jimmy Kimmel fundraiser. I mean, having Hollywood's support is critical.

And also worth noting, Jim, in the final months of the campaign, it's really important. Remember Hillary Clinton, that night before the general election, having Bruce Springsteen, in the streets of Philadelphia, singing?


FISCHER: If you lose Hollywood, you lose a ton of visibility, a ton of credibility amongst general voters, who don't know about the ins and outs of fundraising.


FISCHER: It's a huge problem.

SCIUTTO: Yes. Might show out for Bruce Springsteen, not for a typical event, and they get caught up in the spirit. Lot of this dynamic of that tight group at the top, and perhaps a tight bubble around the President.


Alex, a former Biden aide told you, the President is very reliant on his team saying, quote, "POTUS relies on staff to nudge him with reminders of who he's meeting, including former staffers... advisers who Biden" could "easily remember without a reminder."

That speaks to not just an insular group, right, but one that knows the President needs a little extra help.

THOMPSON: Yes, exactly.

SCIUTTO: Is that what you're saying?

THOMPSON: Yes. It's certainly what former Biden aides are saying.

In retrospect of the debate -- so, some of those things are sort of normal in politics, right? You have an aide be like, oh, remember that you've met this person, so and so.


THOMPSON: And so, some of these things, at the time, felt like normal, maybe a little excessive, maybe a little bit like micromanaging but like, fine.

In retrospect of the debate, former Biden aides are coming out of the woodwork, to basically say what we thought was maybe just like a one- off or something like a little bit odd?


THOMPSON: Now looks actually like a -- like a bunch of aides trying to conceal a significant slippage, in the President's abilities.

SCIUTTO: That would be alarming.

Alex Thompson, Sara Fischer, thanks so much to both of you. I'm sure it's not the last time we talk about it.

Still ahead. New signs tonight, the Biden campaign is feeling good about the President's primetime interview. That's coming up next.


SCIUTTO: Just in. President Biden's campaign is already fundraising off his performance, in tonight's interview with ABC News' George Stephanopoulos. It is his signal, the campaign is happy with how it went.

In that interview, Biden defended his presidency, and explained why he is the right pick in 2024.


BIDEN: I'm the guy that put NATO together, the future. No one thought I could expand it. I'm the guy that shut Putin down. No one thought could happen. I'm the guy that put together a South Pacific initiative with AUKUS. I'm the guy that got 50 nations out -- not only in Europe, outside of Europe as well to help Ukraine.



SCIUTTO: We're going to have more from that interview, right now, on CNN NEWSROOM.

This is CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Jim Sciutto.

The breaking news. President Biden on the defensive, tonight, during a critical interview with ABC News.