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Biden Goes on Full Offensive, I'm Not Going Anywhere; Biden Downplays Poll Numbers as Calls Grow to Exit Race; Parts of Texas Now Facing Life-Threatening Floods. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired July 08, 2024 - 10:00   ET




JIM ACOSTA, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. You're live in the CNN Newsroom. I'm Jim Acosta in Washington.

We begin the hour with what may be the most important week of President Biden's political career. As support among his fellow Democrats is slipping, the president has fired off a letter to members of his party in Congress vowing to stay in the race. Biden just appeared on a morning talk show a few moments ago, attacking former President Donald Trump, accusing him of hiding out at Mar-a-Lago.

Sources tell CNN that six ranking members in the House now want Biden to drop his re-election bid that came during a call yesterday with Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries. And five House Democrats are publicly calling for the President to withdraw from the race. There is deep concern that among Democrats that Biden could cost tight races and is damaging their hopes of winning the House in November. But the president insists, as we said, just a few moments ago, he will stay in the race.

One big test gets underway tomorrow when he hosts dozens of world leaders at the NATO summit this week.


REPORTER: Mr. President, will you have to convince NATO that you're up for the job?

JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: I'm up for the job.


ACOSTA: Let's begin this hour at the White House with CNN's Kayla Tausche. Kayla, what's the president saying?

KAYLA TAUSCHE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: The president just moments ago, Jim, gave a forceful reiteration of his commitment to staying in the race, leaning heavily on the views expressed already in the nominating process by voters, 14 million of whom have cast ballots for him. And he said in his words, I'm more than presumptive. I'm going to be the Democratic nominee.

He also gave a full-throated rebuke of his Democratic colleagues expressing frustration with the widespread leaks in the party of their handwringing and their own frustration with where his campaign has gone in the last week since that disastrous debate. But here's a little bit of what the president said in his own words just a few moments ago.


BIDEN: The bottom line here is that we're not going anywhere. I am not going anywhere. I wouldn't be running if I didn't absolutely believe that I am the best candidate to beat Donald Trump in 2024.


TAUSCHE: He reiterated that he had a bad night at the debate and that he has not, in his words, had many of those nights in his career. He said he was feeling quite poorly and was even tested for COVID around the time of the debate because of the cold that White House officials at the time noted that he had.

Now, those comments echo nearly directly what the president said in a long letter to House Democrats, all of them that he pushed out earlier this morning just before calling into Morning Joe, where he closed with this. The question of how to move forward has been well aired for over a week now, and it's time for it to end. We have one job, and that is to beat Donald Trump. He says there are 42 days before the Democratic National Convention, 119 days before Election Day, he says there is not a path to nominate someone else and that he has already secured the hearts and minds of voters, and that should not be discounted, Jim.

But whether that message lands on deaf ears within the Democratic Party is what is going to be tested this week with Senate Democrats convening tomorrow, as well as House Democrats who have all privately raised some concerns about whether they believe an alternative should be explored. Jim?

ACOSTA: All right. Kayla Tausche, thank you very much over at the White House, I really appreciate it.

As uncertainty around Biden's political future grows, the president is downplaying polls that show him trailing former President Trump.

CNN's Harry Enten is breaking down the numbers. Harry, you know, the president was on the air this morning on one of the morning shows. He is sounding very feisty about his political chances. He's vowing to not drop out of this race. What do the numbers tell us?

HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR DATA REPORTER: Yes, what do those numbers tell you? And I think there's a lot of skepticism of President Joe Biden because of the polling right now, and you compare it to where it was four years ago.

Look at where we are right now. This is national polling. We see Donald Trump ahead by three percentage points in an aggregate of polls taken after the debate in early July 2024. I want to note how different this is from where we were four years ago at this point, when Joe Biden had a clear advantage, a nine-point advantage over Donald Trump in early July of 2020.

And you know, I keep hearing. Joe Biden say, well, the polls have underestimated me in the past, just like they're underestimating me right now. The polls in 2020 did not, in fact, underestimate him. In fact, Joe Biden's worst polling position against Donald Trump in the general election, he was still up, he was still up by four points, and that was in April of 2020.


Of course, Joe Biden won that election, at least in the popular vote, by four points.

So, the fact is, at this particular point, Donald Trump is in the best polling position he's ever been in against Joe Biden, and vice versa. Joe Biden's in the worst polling position he's ever been in against Donald Trump, Jim.

ACOSTA: And, Harry, how have Democrats fared in these polls during the Trump era? Because one of the things that we've heard the president say is, you know, talking about President Biden, of course, is that Democrats did well in 2018. Of course, they did well in 2020, they did well in 2022, they've done well in these off-year elections. And the president is basically saying, I don't believe these polls.

ENTE: He doesn't believe them. I do believe them. I know you -- what a surprise, right? I mean, why? Otherwise, what would I be doing here?

ACOSTA: That's it.

ENTEN: Exactly. Take a look. I just want to go back through history and say, okay, who outperformed their July national polls, and we'll talk about the midterms first, and then we'll talk about the presidential cycle, right? This is midterms, the House elections. This is a generic congressional ballot. Who outperformed their July polls? In fact, in 2022, the Republicans actually outperformed their July national polls by a point. They were actually ahead by two points in the national popular vote polls, they ended up winning by three.

How about July 2018? Democrats did outperform, but just by a point. Basically, those midterm national polls that we're looking at, you know, in terms of the presidential race right now, those were pretty spot on in the midterms. Look at that. Even in July.

How about the presidential race? It wasn't Joe Biden who outperformed his July polls. It was actually Donald Trump in 2020 by five points. He outperformed by five points. How about 2016, the exact same situation? Donald Trump outperformed his July polls, come the time of the election, by three points.

So, the fact is, this idea that you're seeing that Joe Biden's putting out there, that perhaps some Democrats are putting out there, that somehow the polls are underestimating Democrats. Maybe it's true, but at least when it comes to the national polls and past election cycles in July, whether it be the presidential or the midterms, it's simply put, Mr. Acosta, has not held water.

ACOSTA: Well, Mr. Enten, I mean, you know, one of the things that is unusual is for a Republican to be ahead at this point in a presidential race. I mean, that just doesn't happen every election cycle. It's happening this time.

ENTEN: It is happening this cycle. But I went all the way back through history, all right? We're going to go all the way back to the beginning of the century, all the way back to 2000. Right now, Donald Trump, a Republican, is ahead. Look at 2020, it was a Democrat, Biden, 2016, Hillary Clinton, another Democrat ahead, 2008, 2012, Barack Obama ahead. Even in 2004, when John Kerry, of course, lost the election to George W. Bush, he was ahead in the polls at this point. You have to go all the way to this side of the screen.

And George W. Bush, back in 2000, when you actually find a Republican ahead, it is very unusual, at least during a lot of, at least my lifetime, to see a Republican ahead in the presidential polls, nationally speaking at this point.

I will end on this point, Jim. There are voters in the electorate who have never seen a Republican presidential candidate leading in the polls at this point, but those voters, those young voters, are seeing one right now in Donald Trump.

ACOSTA: Very interesting. All right, Harry Enten, great job, as always. Thanks so much. I really appreciate it. Thank you.

Let's discuss more now with Democratic Strategist Chuck Rocha and former Trump Communications Director Marc Lotter.

Chuck, let me start with you first because the president, and this is breaking just in the last several minutes, the president was on one of the morning talk shows this morning sounding very feisty, basically digging in saying he's not getting out of this race. Here he is going after Trump just a few moments ago. This is the president just earlier this morning.


BIDEN: Look at his performance at debates. He lied over -- you know, Trump has 50 lies. I mean, look, this is a guy who says 10 percent of the universe, ah, yes, I want to get independent. He's just a liar. And he hasn't done a damn thing since the debate. He's been riding around in a golf cart for ten days and down in Mar-a-Lago talking with his wealthy friends.

I'm not running because of these guys, Joe. I'm running because, and you know me well enough to know this from the very beginning, I ran because I never bought on in the trickle down economic theory. I never bought into the notion that we have to walk away from the rest of the world and cave to Putin or anybody else. I've never believed any of that. And I'm confident that's what the American people are. (END VIDEO CLIP)

ACOSTA: Yes. I mean, Chuck, I mean, he's firing off this letter up to Democrats up on Capitol Hill. He's doing this full court press and the media obviously going on one of the morning talk shows. It doesn't sound like he's dropping out.


ACOSTA: But what do you think? And what are you hearing from folks?

ROCHA: I mean, I think our people are worried. You just show some polling that's out there.


ROCHA: He had a bad night. I was thinking about this coming into the thing when we keep talking about an episode and a bad episode that he had. I lived through a presidential campaign with you with lots of folks were my candidate had a heart attack. I would say we had an episode. We shut down the campaign. I wrote about this in my book five times.

I know that there's a way to come back.


We put Bernie on a stage in New York. Weeks later, he got some rest and there's a way to come back, but you've got to feel the gap. There's no football player. You got to go all in. You got to have everybody on the court. And that's what he's doing now, is he's got to be out there to show everybody, look, that was a bad night, I'm back, it's going to be okay. He's got to reassure everybody. And that's what he's trying to do right now.

MARC LOTTER, FORMER TRUMP COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: I think that oversimplifies it to a certain extent, though. Joe Biden was losing this election before the debate. He was down by 1.5 percent in the national polls, according to the RealClearPolitics average. All the swing states were going to Donald Trump, and then the debate made it worse.

The president brings up the point. Where has Donald Trump been?

LOTTER: No, he is at rallies. He's going to have two rallies this week. Okay. I think he's down in Florida again tomorrow. And so he'll continue --

ACOSTA: He's laying low. Why is he laying low so much?

LOTTER: Well, your opponent is self-destructing. Let them.

ACOSTA: Okay. Well, here's -- I mean, the president would take issue with that. Here he is earlier on one of the morning talk shows, and he was essentially saying, if these Democrats want to come after me, come after me at the convention. I mean, he basically said a few moments ago, challenge me at the convention. If we have that clip, we can play it. Let's play the clip that we have. We'll talk about it on the other side.


BIDEN: I'm getting so frustrated by the elite. No, I'm not talking about you guys but about the elite in the party who they know so much more. But then if these guys don't think I should run, run against me. Go ahead. Announce the president. Challenge me at the convention.


ACOSTA: Chuck, right there. I want to make sure we hit the pause button for a moment and just absorb what the president of the United States is saying. He is saying, challenge me at the convention.

ROCHA: We have not -- I've done this a long time.

ACOSTA: We're a little long in the tooth. We have not seen the president challenged at a convention in our lifetimes, I don't think. No?

ROCHA: I've been to every convention since 1996 when I was the youngest delegate from the great state of Texas. I've been to a few conventions.

ACOSTA: You're pretty old.

ROCHA: And I am old and I've never seen it done. But I'll also say something that is very -- I wouldn't say it's funny. I would say this very interesting, is the same elites that he talks about in my party with the same elites in 2020 -- I mean, sorry, in 2016 in the presidential primary that said, everybody had to come together behind him to beat Bernie Sanders when they demanded everybody drop out so that he could be the only person to beat Donald Trump.

So, I think it's ironic that he's telling people now those same people that said, we have to be with Joe Biden that they could challenge him at the convention.

ACOSTA: And, Marc, I mean, obviously, a broken convention, a fractured convention. I mean, you would have, obviously, perhaps an advantage on the Republican side of things.

LOTTER: You would think so, but I'm not 100 percent sure. I remember I was back in Indiana in my home state in 2008.

ACOSTA: It would suck up a lot of oxygen.

LOTTER: It sucks up a lot of oxygen. And I remember Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama battling it out in the state of Indiana during the 2008. Indiana reliably red, but so many people were watching all of those debates. The candidates were all over the place. Barack Obama turns the state by about a percentage point on the general election, because people who'd never paid attention before were actually now suddenly paying attention. So, be careful what you wish for. I mean, it's great to challenge him to, you know, challenge me at the convention when you know the delegates are required to vote for you and you've already won.

ROCHA: What you're going to see now is a contrast. There're two things going on here, as somebody runs campaigns every single day, is the Republicans want to make this a contrast around age, viability and how much -- he how he looks on stage or acts. Democrats are going to talk about choice. They're going to talk about health care. They're going to talk about issues. They want to draw a contrast now that's not about the appearance of Joe Biden while Republicans do. That's what they have. I think that's going to be the big difference.

ACOSTA: Should a Democrat, I mean, come out of the woodwork here and say, okay, President Biden, I accept your challenge, I'm going to challenge you at the convention? What do you think? Or do you think the Democrats have their candidate?

ROCHA: I think that we have our candidate because we have a process, right? What you're talking about when you led into this segment is unprecedented. If that was to happen, I think it would be turmoil. I think what you're going to see this week, the next five days are going to be the most important days of this election because of the U.N. Summit here and about all Congress and Senate coming back to. When you start seeing 20, 30, 40 people leaving his side and abandoning the president, then there's a problem, or they all come together, and I think that's what we'll end up, all coming together.

ACOSTA: Yes. And, Marc, I mean, one of the frustrations that you hear from Democrats is that, you know, the press is not covering Trump as much, that all the attentions on Joe Biden right now. And that one of the things that that the press is not covering enough is this thing called Project 2025. I mean, it would dramatically overhaul the government if Donald Trump wins. This is what the head of the group orchestrating the effort set. Let's listen to this.


KEVIN ROBERTS, PRESIDENT, HERITAGE FOUNDATION: In spite of all this nonsense from the left, we are going to win. We're in the process of taking this country back and we are in the process of the second American revolution, which will remain bloodless if the left allows it to be.


ACOSTA: And, Marc, as you know, Project 2025 is filled with longtime Trump allies, former officials in the administration, people like Stephen Miller, other folks have lent their names to it. What's your response to that one when Kevin Roberts with the Heritage Foundation said something like that?

LOTTER: Well, I think it's dangerous anytime somebody goes out there and tries to speak on behalf of the president of the United States other than the president or his campaign.


They've warned Heritage on multiple occasions not to do it, including going back late last year that only the president and his campaign speak for his agenda.

And I get it. You know, they're all the think tanks here in Washington, D.C., were all preparing for our side or their side and who wins, who doesn't, but don't go out there and portray it as this is what's going to happen when someone gets elected.

ACOSTA: This is a think tank though with a lot of Trump allies. A lot of folks who were in the previous administration would likely be in the next administration. But, again, so much as like, hey, you know, guys, knock it off. You don't speak for us. I mean, a lot of those guys will be in the next Trump administration.

LOTTER: There are a lot of think tanks out there that do that, but, again, it's how you phrase it. Getting ready for a potential administration, whether you're from the left or the right is what think tanks do. It's what drives their conversations (ph).

ACOSTA: It sounds like what you're saying though is that was a pretty dumb comment.

LOTTER: Well, I agree with that and I also agree that they'd been out there with their skis for a while and I think they got smacked back.

ROCHA: I think it's part of his contracts in that (INAUDIBLE). I think it's part of the conscience (ph) that we're going to see is Joe Biden wants to talk about his successes and he should talk about his successes. And then you pivot in the campaign and say, look at Project 2025. You believe what we've done is good or you believe this is where you want to go next. I think that's going to be a --

LOTTER: And the American people want to go back to where we were, because we had low inflation, a secured border and no world at war. That's a policy argument we will have every single day.

ROCHA: But we also want to look forward. That's what we want to do every single day, too.

ACOSTA: All right. Marc, Chuck, thanks a lot, you guys. I appreciate it.

All right, coming up. Hurricane Beryl bearing down on Texas. What started as wind and rain, it's ratcheting up. It's turned into flooding, as the storm moves in when we're tracking it, next.



ACOSTA: Right now, we're following breaking news out of Texas, where 7 million people are under life threatening flash flood warnings. Hurricane Beryl made landfall there just hours ago as a Category 1 storm. And as you can see here, water levels are rising at this hour. Look at this video showing powerful winds tearing down a sign at a local gas station. Local Texas law enforcement officials say at least one person has died during today's storm after a tree fell on a house.

But flooding isn't the only threat in Southeast Texas. Over 7 million people are under a tornado watches and widespread power outages are also a problem. More than a million customers impacted right now across the Houston area, according to Center Point Energy.

I want to go now to CNN Meteorologist Derek Van Dam, who's live in Port Lavaca, Texas. Derek, give us the latest.

DEREK VAN DAM, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, Jim, that's the reason for that over 1 million customers without power right now is because of the hurricane force winds that are making their way through a very populated part of Southeast Texas, that being the Houston Metropolitan. And this is actually the first time that a named tropical system has brought hurricane force winds to Houston since 2008. That was Hurricane Ike. People remember that.

Well, now we have a new storm. This is Beryl. And it looks like some of the strongest part of the storm that is still, by the way, a Category 1 hurricane is bringing the powerful winds. In fact, National Weather Service out of Houston tweeted that an elevated weather reporting station about 200 feet in the sky, so roughly 20 storeys up on a building reported a wind gust of 81 miles per hour. So, they're warning residents that to stay away from their balconies, stay away from windows, if you live in one of the high rises downtown Houston. We don't have to go back that far in history. Just a few weeks ago, when straight line winds crashed through some of the windows of the high rise buildings with similar type wind gusts.

Now, Hurricane Beryl has lost its energy source, that being the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico, which, by the way, are directly behind me. We're at Port Lavaca, along the South Central Texas coastline, but that means that the storm should be weakening. But, look, it's still a formidable hurricane. You can see a defined eye on the satellite and radar and the eastern eye wall. What's left of it is now moving through Houston. That's why they're getting such bad weather at this moment in time. And people are really just being bunkering down to make its way through.

So, let's look at some of the wind gusts because they have been significant. Look at that, 85 miles per hour in Brazoria, Galveston, 75 miles per hour, Houston Hobby International Airport, 71 miles per hour. That is nearly hurricane force, and that's what's toppled trees, taking down power lines. And that is why our current customers without power right now is well over 1 million, 1.5 million, and many of those customers in and around Houston all the way to the coastline.

Flash flood warning still in effect, tornado threat continues through this morning. We've got it all here across Southeast Texas as the first hurricane of the 2024 season makes landfall here in the U.S. Jim?

ACOSTA: All right. Derek, stay safe. Thanks so much. I really appreciate it. Coming up, the people have spoken. The far right falls short in France. The new political limbo the country faces, that's next.



ACOSTA: All right. Welcome back. President Biden on the offensive this morning, talking to a morning television show just a short while ago defending his right to run for a second term, even challenging members of his own party to a convention floor fight.

Let's bring in Vanity Fair Special Correspondent Brian Stelter. He's with us right now. Brian I'm guessing as a as a studious observer of morning television, that's an understatement on your part, you probably saw what the president said just a short while ago. How stunned are you that Joe Biden is saying to these nervous Democrats out there, hey, if you've got a problem, challenge me at the convention?

BRIAN STELTER, SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT, VANITY FAIR: Yes, I saw one reporter from Semafor saying Biden's offering a murder suicide pact. He's saying, if you try to take me out, you're going to take all of us out. And I think that is an accurate assessment of this incredible moment we're in, Jim. It does make a lot of sense, though, to have Biden working the phone, doing more interviews. This is what people were calling for a week ago. They were saying, why isn't he working the phones? Why isn't he calling into television and radio shows?

That NBC interview last Friday night, it was relatively low rated. It did not, you know, change the calculus, did not change the dynamic of this race or the situation for Biden, so he's being more aggressive today with this letter, with this phone call, maybe with other interviews in the coming hours, trying to change the dynamics.

ACOSTA: Yes. I mean, and it was -- I mean, it was a little bit of a page out of Donald Trump's playbook calling into a morning show this morning.

STELTER: Yes, I think we should recognize that. I don't want to use the phrase Trumpian and go down that path as an insult, because it's not meant always as an insult.


It's a recognition that certain political tactics that worked for Donald Trump.