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CNN This Morning

Joe Biden, Donald Trump Face off in Debate. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired June 28, 2024 - 06:00   ET


KASIE HUNT, CNN ANCHOR: It's the morning after CNN's historic presidential debate between Joe Biden and Donald Trump. And last night, one candidate's performance sent his party scrambling.


Good morning, everyone. CNN THIS MORNING is live here in Atlanta, where it is 6 a.m. I'm Kasie Hunt. It's wonderful to have you with us this morning.

"We are 'F'-ed." That reaction from a Democratic source after watching President Biden's performance in last night's CNN debate. Other Democratic insiders telling me, "Biden looks and sounds terrible," that he was simply, quote, "horrific."

All those comments coming from party operatives who found moments like this incredibly difficult to watch.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Making sure they were able to make every single solitary person eligible for what I've been able to do with the COVID. Excuse me, with dealing with everything we have to do with.

Look, if we finally beat Medicare.


HUNT: With so much on the line last night, the president's performance was alarming to many who support him. His cadence was halting, his voice nearly inaudible at times as he struggled to finish some of his thoughts.


BIDEN: And continue to move until we get the total ban -- the total initiative relative to what we're going to do with more Border Patrol and more asylum officers.


DONALD TRUMP (R), FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT, 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I really don't know what he said at the end of the sentence. I don't think he knows what he said either. (END VIDEO CLIP)

HUNT: The debate went so poorly for the president there are already breathless, though still mostly private conversations, among insiders about whether he should step down as the party's presumptive nominee. A notion that we just weren't talking about 24 hours ago.


VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: There's a lot of people who are going to want to see him consider taking a different course now. We're still far from our convention. And there is time for this party to figure out a different way forward, if he will allow us to do that.

But that was not what we needed from Joe Biden, and it's personally painful for a lot of people. It's not just panic. It's pain.


HUNT: It's something that a lot of my Democratic sources are echoing over the course of the last 12 hours.

The president himself, he stopped at a Waffle House after the debate. Here's how he graded his own performance.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, how do you think you did tonight?

BIDEN: I think we did well.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you have any concerns about your performance?

BIDEN: No, it's hard -- hard to debate live.


HUNT: One Democratic source emailed me last night: quote, "It's hard to argue that Biden should be our nominee."

And this was longtime Democratic strategist David Axelrod on this network last night.


DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: There was a sense of shock, actually, on how he came out at the beginning of this debate, how his voice sounded, about, you know, he seemed a little disoriented.

He did get stronger as the debate went on, but by that time, I think the panic had set in. And I think you're going to hear discussions that I don't know will lead to anything. But you know, there is -- there are going to be discussion about whether he should continue.

(END VIDEO CLIP) HUNT: Our panel is here as we wake up to a new reality in this presidential race. Let's bring in CNN chief national affairs correspondent Jeff Zeleny. Jamal Simmons is former communications director for Vice President Harris. Republican strategist and pollster Kristen Soltis Anderson is here. We are also joined by Axios reporter Alex Thompson and the lieutenant governor -- former lieutenant governor of Georgia, Geoff Duncan. Good morning to all of you.


HUNT: Jeff Zeleny, I just --


HUNT: Is it?

SIMMONS: You tell me.

HUNT: Well, a lot of people on your side of the aisle I -- I don't know.


SIMMONS: Listen, I think the president obviously had a rough night last night, right?

The debate was not one that any of us were expecting to see him do. But it's still clear; the choice between the president and the former president is still very clear. We have one person on the stage who wants -- Joe Biden, who wants to maintain people's freedoms and wants to make sure that they still have choices to make in their own lives.

And we have Donald Trump, who wants to take those choices away, like most MAGA Republicans. I think when people pay attention to the choice on the ballot, I think they'll still find that, you know, Joe Biden is the one that they want.

HUNT: Are you confident the ballot is going to look like we expect it to look like in November?

SIMMONS: As far as I know, that it's going to be. The only person who's going to make that choice is going to be Joe Biden.

I think -- here's the question that we all are going to have to figure out. Was last night a bad night? Or is the president in a bad way? And I think that's one of the things that they're going to have to convey.

If I were them, perhaps this is time for Joe Biden to go out there and give his version of Barack Obama's race speech, right, and talk about his age, and talk about the fact that he's got arthritis in his legs, and talk about the fact that maybe he's moving a little slowly.

But he's got to own it in a way that will give people confidence that he understands what's going on. Let them in on it with him. And then he can start to change the narrative to talk more about the other things that it is he wants. KRISTEN SOLTIS ANDERSON, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST AND POLLSTER: The problem is not that Americans think his legs moving slowly. The problem is that they looked at last night, and they think his mind is moving slowly. And it's too slow to be the president of the United States.

This is an election where I agree with you. The choice is clear; the contrast is very clear. And this was an election where voters are looking for someone to give them stability.

Donald Trump has always been Mr. Chaos. So this should have been a lay-up for Joe Biden. But he sent the message last night that the control room is empty. If you want stability, Joe Biden did not convey anything along those lines last night.

SIMMONS: Which is why is it is going to be up to the president and the president's team to convey that in a way that gives everybody more confidence that there is somebody at home.

Listen, I was in the White House for a year. It's been a couple of years now, but that was -- I was there for a year. That was not the president that I saw working in the White House every day.

But that was the end of 2022. He's going to have to convey that more going into the rest of 2024.

HUNT: Well, and that's the problem, right? Is that they have been out there, people in the White House saying that he's still that -- that same guy that you saw in 2022.

Jeff Zeleny, I want to kind of look big picture here, get your latest reporting as we wake up this morning. Because I mean, I was talking to dozens of people last night, and the panic was at an all-time high.

I woke up this morning to a couple notes about groups of Democratic members of Congress, unlikely to come out and say anything publicly at this point but wondering who else can they put at the top of the ticket?

These are some of the quotes from people that I, you know, collected last night as this debate -- that I'd be taking calls tonight. That's about Gretchen Whitmer and Gavin Newsom. Now, Newsom, of course, came out and was staunchly behind the president. But what are you hearing at this hour about what's next?

ZELENY: Look, I didn't save my text messages, but they're similar to yours, and some of them can't be printed.

This goes beyond Democratic --

HUNT: Well, this started with, it couldn't be printed.

ZELENY: Right. This goes beyond Democratic bed-wetting. This is a very different thing. And it was more sense of concern, alarm, pain.

I was in the spin room last night after the debate, sort of looking around. And boy, talk about not a single Biden person could be found for quite a while.

Finally, Governor Gavin Newsom came in. Senator Rafael Warnock came in. And yes, they did, you know, talk about the policy, but very little talk about the performance.

So look, today's a new day. The president has to address this when he speaks in North Carolina today. It's -- it would be unthinkable for him not to.

But going forward from that, I think we need a few days to settle into what is he personally -- what is his family personally thinking about this?

To me, he was over -- he looked over-prepared, completely tired, and he may have had a cold. That's probably the most charitable thing. But Biden advisers know how to reach everyone. Why didn't they alert people to his cold at, say, 5 p.m., as opposed to 9:45 during the debate?

HUNT: I told -- I got a text from someone who said they should have lied and said he had COVID. If this -- if they knew that this was the guy that was going to show up.

ZELENY: I mean, perhaps he does. Who knows?

But I think I was struck by, also, we've talked all week here in Atlanta about the curse of the first term president at the debate. It wouldn't happen to Joe Biden, because he has, you know, so practiced and whatever.

It was more than that, as well. So not having his notecards, not having advisors, I think it was clear he had a bad night. Is it more than that? He'll have to answer that question.

GEOFF DUNCAN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I, too, had a few text messages as being one of the only Republicans that has endorsed Joe Biden. I won't read mine online either.

SIMMONS: I'm sure your Republican friends were very generous.

DUNCAN: They were not. They were generous with their words.

But I think it's interesting, right? Both of these guys were sitting at the edge of the cliff, right, with their parties. If Donald Trump would have had a horrible night last night, there would've been some wrangling here with Republicans talking about what maybe it would look like to have somebody else be the nominee. But he didn't. He had a great night as far as delivery.

Now the content was full of lies and riddles and innuendoes.


But I think the interesting part to this is -- all good analogies are baseball analogies, right? So this is like your starting pitcher just went out and gave up five runs in the first inning before he got an out.

And the question is, do you pull him, or do you just think he had a bad inning?

Jamal, to your point, is it -- is it a system -- is it a systemic problem or is it just one episode? I think America has got to figure that out.

ALEX THOMPSON, REPORTER, AXIOS: There is one good piece for Democrats is that there are still tens of millions of people in this country that would take Joe Biden at 110-years-old, than vote for Donald Trump.

The problem is there's probably not enough of those millions of people. And part of the problem is, as someone that's covered Joe Biden's age for the last three and a half years is they deflect a gaslight at times. They have not told the truth about the limitations of his age: that he gets up late in the morning, that he does not appear on camera, usually, late at night. That he does not do interviews more than -- he's done less interviews than any president in decades. There are limitations on this present, because he is old. And he has not been forthright in addressing those in a way that Jamal was saying.

And so that's why you have this collective freak-out, because now it's four months to election day. And you realize that maybe he does have some bad moments.

SIMMONS: Well, look, it raises the question, why did he go to Europe twice, right? It seemed like they were sort of over-working him to show this mode -- this movement, and what you're talking about that somebody is at home, and it's working.

But he is 81 years old. Let the man, you know, stay home on one of those trips. Let the vice president go to one of those trips so that he could be focused on his job.

And it does raise questions about staffing. If he had a cold, I would've liked to have known, as somebody who's been out talking about about it for Democrats. Because at least that way when we heard the raspy voice in the beginning of -- in the beginning of the debate, we would have had a moment to say, oh, he's got a cold. Like, let's give him a chance, like, to gain his footing. But that's not what happened.

ZELENY: What about the stare? It wasn't just the cold, though. Let's be honest. If you watched the debate, it was more than just his voice. It was how he carried himself.

And it was almost like he wasn't sure which camera to look through. But again, he was so prepared. Was he over-prepared? Just look at that.

And, you know, this is not the first time this has happened, necessarily. We have covered many events with him. You know, this is actually the Joe Biden we see on most days.

The State of the Union address was the outlier here, at least according to last night.

HUNT: Well, and of course, the reason that President Biden has said that he ran for reelection in the first place is because Donald Trump was running for president again, and that he had no option.

And the reason why Democrats are so upset and concerned this morning is because they view beating Donald Trump as much more than just another political contest, but rather an existential one that really will determine the future of our democracy.

That's the reality that we face this morning.

Up next here, more on the morning after. President Biden waking up in North Carolina for a campaign rally. Will he address his debate performance?

Plus, Biden campaign co-chair Mitch Landrieu joins us live to discuss the president's next steps.


TRUMP: We brought it back to the states, and the country is now coming together on this issue. It's been a great thing.

BIDEN: It's been a terrible thing, what you've done.





GAV. GAVIN NEWSOM (D-CA): I would never turn my back on President Biden. Never turn my back on President Biden. I don't know a Democrat in my party that would do so, and especially after tonight.

We have his back. We run not the 90-yard dash. We are all in. We're going to double down in the next few months. We're going to win this election. I will never turn my back on President Biden.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you ready to take on?


HUNT: California Governor Gavin Newsom there, defending President Biden after his lackluster debate performance. Why does that matter? Newsom, one of the names that's on Democratic -- all throughout private Democratic conversations this morning about the top of their ticket.

Now, Biden today is returning to the campaign trail in just a few hours. He's set to participate in a campaign event in North Carolina.

He was greeted by supporters at the airport when he arrived following last night's high-stakes debate.

Joining me now, CNN senior White House correspondent Kayla Tausche. She is live from Raleigh, North Carolina, with the president.

Kayla, what is your latest reporting from inside the Biden campaign after last night?

KAYLA TAUSCHE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kasie, it's clear that there are many frustrations, but President Biden himself attempting to defy some of that criticism and course-correct late last night into the evening, visiting a Waffle House in Atlanta, talking with patrons and saying that he thought he did well. And defending himself and saying that it's hard to debate someone like Donald Trump who lies so much.

And then when he arrived on the tarmac, close to 2 a.m. here in Raleigh, he was greeted by hundreds of supporters, spent more than 30 minutes shaking hands and flashing thumbs-up from the Beast, which is of course, the car that he rides in in his motorcade, before delivering that speech that he will give in North Carolina today.

That, of course, on the back of a forceful defense from Vice President Kamala Harris last night, who in what appeared to be some coordinating messaging, she, too, defended Biden and what she described as a slow start to the debate.

But then she said voters are ultimately going to have to make a decision based on the past three-and-a-half years, not based on an hour-and-a-half. Here's what she said.


KAMALA HARRIS, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Yes, there was a slow start, but it was a strong finish.

People can debate on style points, but ultimately, this election and who is the president of the United States has to be about substance. And the contrast is clear.



TAUSCHE: Despite the performance of the president, which was at times meandering, and he appeared confused on stage, the Biden camp did feel that on substance, there were some moments that stood out to voters. Namely, the president's response on January 6, his going on the attack about Trump's myriad legal issues, and then some exchanges on climate change, as well.

But they are frustrated on a few points. One, they're frustrated that Biden, in their view, had to spend a lot of time fact-checking. And also that he spent the majority of the time on stage on the defensive, not using the attack messaging that they had developed so carefully over the last few days. When I talked to other Democrats crowds, Kasie, I mean, the -- the

reactions are wide-ranging. As you guys have been discussing for the last 12 hours, some are saying that the president and the first lady need to stop denying what's been true for the last several years and step aside.

But another that I spoke with said that's why you do these things in June, because there's going to be 1,000 more news cycles before November, Kasie.

HUNT: And there is also -- I don't think it's lost anyone time to replace someone at the top of the ticket before the convention, which is an unusual reality, of course.

Kayla Tausche for us this morning. Kayla, thank you very much.

All right. Coming up next here --


BIDEN: Having sex with a porn star on the night -- when your wife is pregnant, what were you talking about? You have the morals of an alley cat.


HUNT: More of the highs and lows from last night's presidential debate.

Plus, Senator Marco Rubio joins us live to talk about Trump's performance last night and being in the running to be Trump's vice president.



HUNT: All right, in one of the more eyebrow-raising moments of the debate, Donald Trump and Joe Biden went off-topic for some trash talking about, of all things -- this is honestly the bro-iest thing ever -- their golf handicaps. Watch.


TRUMP: I just won two club championships, not even senior. Two regular love championships. To do that, you have to be quite smart, and you have to be able to hit the ball a long way. And I do it.

He doesn't do it. He can't hit a ball 50 yards.

BIDEN: Look, I'd be happy to have a driving contest with him. I got my handicap, which -- when I was vice president, down to a six. And by the way, I told you before, I'm happy to play golf, if you carry your own bag. Think you can do it?

TRUMP: That's the biggest lie, that he's a six handicap of all. BIDEN: I was eight handicap. Eight. But I had, you know how many --

TRUMP: I've seen you swing. I know your swing.


HUNT: OK, boys. Geoff Duncan.

DUNCAN: I felt like I was watching a clip of "Caddyshack" or something. And apparently, these guys don't count all their shots, because neither one of those guys are those handicaps.

I've got a son who's a scratch golfer. And anyways, yes, that was a tough moment.

SIMMONS: Yes. I just thought make it stop. I can't -- I can't -- I can't get out of his cul-du-sac of golf. What are we doing here?

ZELENY: And in terms of the substance of that, like, that was on age. I was stunned that President Biden did not come to this debate with a a one-liner or something about age.

I mean, he's been much -- he's used it. He's been humorous about it, like at the White House Correspondents' Dinner, at the Gridiron Dinner. He's talked about it.

It's almost like he didn't want to address it. As you've been talking about. It's one of sort of like the third rails for him.

But yes, I was surprised he didn't come with a ready response. A modern-day, like, Reagan response to age would be.

THOMPSON: He doesn't want to joke about it, though. They -- like, the thing is, whenever he's joked about his age, he has done so unwillingly. He does not like to make fun of it.

ZELENY: Under duress.

THOMPSON: He doesn't like to --

HUNT: His campaign is making him do it.

THOMPSON: I mean, they're telling him he should, and he's finally agreed. But he only did that one ad. Remember, in that grandpa sweater. And he was like, I'm an old guy. I know it.

But then, like, we really haven't seen that since. He does not want to address the -- address. He has been unwilling to go and address it, which is why Jamal earlier was saying maybe you need some sort of speech.

One last thing about the golfing. There's extensive reporting on both these guys. And they are both classic cheats at golf. Like, there has been -- there has been --

SIMMONS: All presidents are cheating at golf. THOMPSON: Yes, exactly. John Boehner golfed with Joe Biden and was

dubious about his handicap. So I'm just saying that that was the only two people in America, the only two voters in America that care about their golf game were two. And they were both on that stage last night.

HUNT: I have a sister with a handicap lower than both of what those men claimed on stage, and the number of times that men cannot handle whenever it is, she beats them at golf is where my kind of thing take on this is coming from.

Kristen, I want to get -- get your take.

ANDERSON: So when I'm thinking about, like, should Biden have come with a line that addresses this, I think no. I don't think there would have been any benefit to him trying to lean into this. He just needed to seem vigorous, and he didn't.

What fascinated me was there's a chance, because Donald Trump loves to stick the knife in, that he was going to kind of try to beat Joe Biden up on this. And he really didn't. He, for the most part, let Biden's performance speak for itself.

There was one moment where he said, you know, I don't understand. I don't understand what he just said, and I don't think he does either. But then he kind of let it go. And it just -- that was a moment where Biden -- or Trump could have, rather, been too much of a bully, could have probably squandered what I think was a pretty decisive debate win for him last night, if he'd gone too far.

ZELENY: He was far more gentle than the commercials that his camp ran.

ANDERSON: Very much.

ZELENY: His campaign yesterday was airing commercials of him tripping up the stairs.


ZELENY: President Trump didn't go there, which was really interesting.

DUNCAN: I propose a pay-per-view 18-hole match between the two of them. I guarantee you we'll at least one watch the first three holes.

HUNT: Last word.

SIMMONS: The one thing I'll say about Donald Trump's performance, we've been on Joe Biden a lot this hour. Donald Trump did not have a great debate performance.

If Joe Biden had shown up and been the Joe Biden that we saw at the State of the Union, I think we'd all be talking about the fact that he was a January 6 denier, and he's still claiming fraud in the 2020 election. And he said he didn't have sex with a porn star when everybody had a long-time conversation about that in court.

You know, there are all these things that he went after -- he said that Joe Biden was the person who called super predator. And we know that was Hillary Clinton. That was an attack on Hilary Clinton from a long time ago.

So he didn't have a great debate performance. It's just that he's being overshadowed.