Return to Transcripts main page

CNN This Morning

Biden Still Facings Doubts As He Hosts NATO Summit; Democrats Divided Over Biden's Re-election Bid; Sen. Bennet: Trump On Track To Win This Election. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired July 10, 2024 - 05:30   ET




KASIE HUNT, CNN ANCHOR: All right, 5:29 -- just before 5:30 a.m. here in Washington. A live look at Capitol Hill on this Wednesday morning. Good morning, everyone. I'm Kasie Hunt. It's wonderful to have you with us.

President Biden facing mounting pressure to try to save his re- election campaign. He is looking to the world stage where he is trying to deliver his every move under scrutiny this week as Washington hosts the NATO summit.

The president spoke last night during the summit's opening ceremony.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Let's remember the fact that NATO remains the bulwark of global security did not happen by accident. It wasn't inevitable. Again and again at critical moments we chose unity over disunion, progress over retreat, freedom over tyranny, hope over fear. Again and again we stood behind our shared vision of a peaceful and prosperous transatlantic community.


HUNT: Of course, Biden's every word, his delivery, his walks to the podium being closely monitored. So are comments from members of his own party and White House staffers. One unnamed official telling The New York Times the president should not seek re-election. Those kinds of leaks to the press are angering White House staffers who, according to Politico, are now saying to doubters, "Take a stand, or shut up."

Joining me to talk about this Democratic Party infighting, Eli Stokols. He is the co-author of Politico's West Wing Playbook. Eli, good morning to you. Always wonderful to see you.


HUNT: So, talk to me a little bit about how this is all playing out inside the White House. I mean, this White House has been known for being locked down. Obviously, they've been very defensive of the president but they -- in the wake of the Trump administration, they didn't want leaks. A lot of that has changed in the wake of the debate performance.

What are you hearing from inside the White House about how all of this is going down?

STOKOLS: Well, if you go back to the debate performance it was shocking even to people who worked in the White House and are close to this president. They don't maybe see him every day, but they have a pretty good sense of how he is doing. And I think that seeing him on the debate stage falter to that degree was shocking and I think unnerved a lot of people about what do we not know. What is the senior team keeping from us?

You know, generally, it's been a pretty buttoned-up, leak-free, focused White House, especially compared to the last one.

HUNT: Um-hum.

STOKOLS: But, you know, any time something like this happens you have people start to get nervous, frustrated. They have relationships with reporters. They do talk to the press. I think generally, they have kind of -- inside the White House and the campaign -- rallied around the president. Some people have more doubts -- more reservations about his viability than others.

But I think that one senior administration official who spoke to The New York Times and said the president should seek re-election -- I'm told there hasn't been that much conversation internally about who that is, but sort of universal frustration with that person for sort of not being on the team.

HUNT: For stepping out of line --


HUNT: -- so to speak.


HUNT: Yeah, yeah.

The way that you guys put in Playbook was that "Some current and former White House staffers said the flood of leaks have shifted the vibe on campus, creating a sense of uneasiness and distrust that did not exist before the debate. 'It leads to a very uncomfortable dynamic,' said a former Biden official, who is still in talks (sic) [touch] with current staffers."

Eli, do you get the sense that this question about what Biden is going to do has been asked and answered? I mean, sort of, my sense from kind of looking at what's coming off Capitol Hill is that basically, there are a lot of people that are still really unhappy about this. They really want him to step aside but there seems to be an acknowledgment setting in that Biden is refusing to go anywhere and that basically, they have to -- they have to now deal with that.

STOKOLS: I don't think there's any consensus in the Democratic Party -- at least the elected officials -- the Democrats -- and, sort of, the donor class. The people who might have the ability to put some pressure on the president to reconsider.

As you know, if there's no collective action -- similar to, like, Republicans under Trump, right, and there was -- there are a lot of concerns, but no one really wanted to be the one to go -- stick their neck out there.

We saw Sen. Bennet last night come out more forcefully than any other Senate Democrat and say he doesn't think the president can win.

I'm sure you know this, too. That seems to be privately where a lot of Democrats are right now. They see the debate, they see the polls, and they just don't really see a path for the president. But there is also a lot of resignation.

And I think part of the inaction and the status quo that we're seeing is because people are just not sure what plan B is. They're not all that certain that Kamala Harris would be that much of an improvement. No one is really sure if there should be a primary.


And so I think there's frustration on the Hill with the president and his senior team for coming out so strongly and laying a marker down saying I'm not going anywhere. I'm not going to listen. The time to talk about this is over. Because a lot of people on the Hill do not think they're done talking about this. They're just beginning to look at the president's performance to try to figure this thing out.

But obviously, time is ticking away. The virtual roll call on his nomination could come this month, in fact --

HUNT: Right.

STOKOLS: -- not next month at the convention. They're still working that out. So people do have to figure this out right now.

I think inside the White House -- you know, the president went out on the campaign trail and went to a Black church this weekend. He's going to go to the AFL-CIO today, right? He's going to these sort of safe spaces where he knows he'll feel support.

And I'm told that the support that he felt on the rope line over the weekend, the support he felt from Black women at a church sort of hardened his resolve and made him feel like oh, no, no, no -- people do want me. I'm the duly elected nominee or presumptive nominee of this party. I'm staying in this race.

And absent any kind of bigger movement I think from Democrats in Congress, he may -- he may stay in that position and ride this out.

HUNT: All right. So briefly, Eli, I mean, the other person that's been in the spotlight here has been the White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, who has really --


HUNT: -- struggled to answer questions about President Biden's health. And my understanding is she had to correct something else that she had said from the podium yesterday.

How is that impacting how the White House is handling all of this?

STOKOLS: Well, I just think if there was a sort of clear, more upfront communication about the president's health -- I mean, obviously, that is kind of the topic that at the center of the campaign. That is the dominant story not just in national news but international news with so many world leaders here this week.

Having to kind of -- you know, not knowing -- not being able to state that the president saw a doctor after the debate, which was the case last week. Not being able to explain after a report by The New York Times that a neurologist had been to the White House multiple times over the past year. Not having an explanation ready for that. Then putting out the doc.

It just has not been -- it has not been, sort of, a great example of crisis communications and that has -- you know, obviously, the president's problems start with the debate but the White House has not helped in terms of how it has been unable to answer the questions and, sort of, adjusted its explanations on the fly.

And the president's explanations for the debate -- oh, I had a bad night. Oh, it was the travel, right? That seemed to kind of bounce around to different things --

HUNT: Yeah.

STOKOLS: -- and that frustrated people who felt like are they really acknowledging the actual thing. The fact of his age. The increasing frailty.

And this is another thing that I think has frustrated some Democrats who look at this White House and say, you know, how are they going to rebound? How are they going to steady this campaign when they can't even kind of get in front of the news?

HUNT: Yeah. A lot of the backlash, honestly -- I mean, obviously, there was shock in the wake of the debate performance but then the six or seven days that went by before --


HUNT: -- there was really a full-court press from the White House. I know it certainly frustrated a lot of the sources I've talked to.

STOKOLS: And that's not just the press secretary but, certainly, what's happened in the briefing room has not been great.

HUNT: Right, of course.

All right, Eli Stokols for us this morning. Very grateful to have you. I hope you'll come back.

STOKOLS: Nice to see you -- yeah.

HUNT: Thank you so much.

All right, let's turn now to Capitol Hill where Democratic senators spent yesterday talking about the president's future.


SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): As I've said before, I'm with Joe. As I've said before, I'm with Joe. I'm with Joe.

SEN. CHRIS COONS (D-DE): He is the only Democrat I believe who could have beaten Trump in 2020. He is our best candidate now.

SEN. JOHN FETTERMAN (D-PA): I don't know why Democrats are still talking about this, if there are any ones. But Joe Biden is our guy.


HUNT: All right. The caucus does remain divided in spite of those comments you just heard.


SEN. MICHAEL BENNET (D-CO): It's true that I said that, and I did say that behind closed doors. I think it's critically important for us to come to grips with what we face if together we put this country on the path of electing Donald Trump again.


HUNT: All right. Joining me now is the co-founder of Punchbowl News, John Bresnahan. Brez, so grateful to see you. Always wonderful to have you.

That -- those words from Bennet -- I mean, he was very stark there. He was talking about the fact that he did say that he thinks that Joe Biden is going to lose to Donald Trump, and he went on to say it would be possibly by a landslide.

What did you make of his comments, and do they reflect the broad conventional wisdom inside the Democratic Caucus in the Senate?

JOHN BRESNAHAM, CO-FOUNDER, PUNCHBOWL NEWS (via Skype): Yeah. I mean, and the other part of that is that the reports are that Jon Tester, who is running in Montana, and Sherry (sic) Brown -- and Sherrod Brown, who is running in Ohio -- two red states -- also said behind closed doors that Biden can't win. And they haven't come out and said that publicly, but Bennet confirmed that he did. I do think there's a huge gap in, right now, what's being said publicly and what's being said privately to us -- like, members and senators pull us aside and say Biden looks terrible. The White House is doing a terrible job. I don't think he can win. And what they're saying publicly.

And you see it in the House, too, as well. You have members -- I mean last night, I'm -- you know, I'm getting calls at 10:00, 11:00 p.m. saying this member is coming out, that member is coming out. No one is sure what's going on but it's a disaster right now on the Hill for Democrats.


HUNT: Yeah. I mean, it's funny, Brez, because -- I mean, I'm used to covering Republicans saying one thing in private and another thing in public. And now, you have Democrats engaged in this dynamic.

And that actually plays into some of this reporting you guys have out this morning. You write this. "We're now just short of two weeks since President Biden's disastrous presidential debate performance in Atlanta. Biden has succeeded where no other politician has these last few years making Republicans look both competent and unified. Biden's catastrophic showing and the ensuing drama have turned the Democratic Party on Capitol Hill completely upside down."

And it is -- it is true. I mean, we -- the conversation before this had been squarely on Donald Trump and many of the divisions in the Republican Party around that, and that is just not the relevant conversation right now.

BRESNAHAN: No. If you want to make this election a referendum on Donald Trump and his presidency, and what he did on January 6, and how he handled COVID-19, and how he acted as the president -- his four years as president -- you -- the thing we're talking about is -- for two weeks now -- this is almost two weeks now since the June 27 debate -- is whether Biden is competent enough to do this job and whether he can do it for another four years. And if it is not Biden, who is it?

And it's just -- you know, look, the White House has worked hard to try to project this image behind the scenes. They've really tried to -- not only the president but top officials have reached out to members -- rank-and-file Democrats -- being, like, come on, we're with you. Stay with us. And, you know -- and there's still -- there's still this debate going on. There's a lot of fear in Democratic ranks about what's going to happen.

We saw that Wisconsin poll from AARP. This Wisconsin poll that's saying Biden is losing Wisconsin. If Biden doesn't win Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania he can't be president again.

And the question is: Democrats, do we let the president -- do we go down with the president, OK? Can they -- can they save the House or win the House as some kind of check on Trump if the Senate is gone and the presidency is gone? That's the debate that's going on right now. Four months out from the election this is not where Democrats needs to be.

HUNT: Yeah.

Brez, do you think that this is basically -- I mean, the bottom line is what even can they do at this point? I mean, they seem reluctant to come out in public because it seems like they're being jammed by the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue with the president's stubborn insistence that he is staying in even though many of these people are privately saying they want him to get out. I mean, it doesn't seem like they really have a way out if Biden is insisting on staying in.

BRESNAHAN: No. That's the -- that's the mess that they're in right now and that's what we wrote about this morning. If Biden is not going anywhere and you're not going to force him out as a party, and you're not going to publicly say we need to replace the president on the ticket, then where do you go?

At some point the administration figures this will run its course. They'll just -- Democrats will be like well, Biden's our guy and we have to stick with him for better or worse. That's it, you know.

I mean, the early part of the week was what if Biden stepped aside -- Kamala Harris. What's the kind of war gaming that out? What would it mean --

HUNT: Yeah.

BRESNAHAM: -- if we rally around her for 100 days and get her into the White House.

But now, the look is that Biden's here. What does that mean? Do I want to openly break with the president to save my own political future? Does that help me more or does sticking together as a party help me more? I mean, every member and every Democratic senator -- they're going to have to make -- who is up for re-election this year is going to have to make this decision. And it's really -- it is a terrible choice for them -- and it really is right now for Democrats.

HUNT: Yeah, for real.

All right, John Bresnahan. Always grateful to have you. Thank you so much for being here. See you soon, I hope.

All right. Coming up next, why Democrats are worried, as we were just discussing, that they could lose more than the White House in November. We're going to dig into those numbers.

Plus, in sports, one the of greatest soccer players of all time makes a little more magic.



HUNT: All right, welcome back. Fears of a red wave this November are growing in the ranks of Democrats on Capitol Hill after President Biden's debate disaster. Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet telling CNN he thinks the race may be slipping away.


BENNET: Donald Trump is on track I think to win this election, and maybe win it by a landslide, and take with him the Senate and the House. So, for me, this isn't a question about polling. It's not a question about politics. It's a moral question about the future of our country.


HUNT: All right. Joining me now is CNN senior political analyst Ron Brownstein. Ron, good morning. Always wonderful to see you.

So --


HUNT: -- this is your analysis. You say, "A decisive loss at the top of the ticket could cost Democrats control of the U.S. Senate for the remainder of this decade and cement Republican dominance of the Supreme Court for a generation."

Now, obviously, Sen. Bennet there agrees with you.

But help us understand why the stakes may be --


HUNT: -- so much higher for Democrats than just the White House.

BROWNSTEIN: Yeah. I think -- I think the stakes are higher than most people have been talking about.

I mean, the core -- the core dynamic here is it has become extremely difficult for either party to win Senate seats in states that vote the other way for president. In the 2016 and 2020 election years combined, exactly one senator out of 69 Senate races won in a state that voted the other way for president.


And now, on this -- in this year, you have Democrats defending three Senate seats in states that Biden is almost certain to lose -- is certain to lose -- West Virginia, Ohio, and Montana. Five more in swing states where he is now losing. And several others in states that were not on the radar earlier but now are polling unexpectedly close, including New Mexico and New Jersey.

If the election goes badly for Democrats, the deficit they could face in the Senate would be extremely difficult to make up in 2026 and 2028 given the seats in the states that are up then. In fact, it would be difficult for Democrats to get back to a Senate majority until they can compete again for the same seats they might lose this year in swing states like Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Arizona, and Nevada.

And if Republicans have the White House and the Senate for the rest of the decade they would have ample time to confirm 50-something successors to Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas -- the two oldest conservative justices in their mid-70s, as well as possibly Sonya Sotomayor, and lock -- and thus, lock in a Supreme Court majority for another 20 years or so.

Those are the stakes that Democratic leaders are gambling with as they rally around Biden despite all the ominous signals in the polls.

HUNT: A really remarkable way to put it.

Ron, I want to play just a little bit of what James Carville had to say on our air about President Biden last night -- watch.


JAMES CARVILLE, VETERAN DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I still think I'll stand by my thing that he won't run. But if he does, we're just making an idiotic choice for the future of our country.


HUNT: That's not a message that President Biden seems to be hearing.

BROWNSTEIN: Yeah. Look, the people around Biden -- you know, the inner circle -- have a completely different view of this. I've never seen a gap as wide, really -- I didn't cover the 1980 race but that might be the only other one -- between the view of kind of the palace guard and the White House and the broad range of Democratic consultants.

I mean, I think the overwhelming -- not universal, but the overwhelming view among Democratic consultants is that the debate performance is not something that Biden can recover from -- in particular, because he went into the debate trailing, right? I mean, he was the one who needed to change the trajectory of the race. He was the one who needed to kind of shift the focus to Trump.

As one Democratic consultant said to me this week, now you're in a position where what seemed to be the ace in the hole that sooner or later voters would kind of focus on Trump and say do I really want to live in the world -- in the country that he is sketching out? You may never get to that. You may never get to that point given how many voters have deep concerns about Biden.

And again, one out of 69 Senate races in the last two presidential years went the other way than the presidential result in that state. The stakes go far beyond. Biden is gambling with much more than his own future. He's really gambling with the future of the Senate -- and with that, the future of the Supreme Court, potentially, for decades. HUNT: Really remarkable.

Ron Brownstein for us this morning. Ron, so grateful to have you. Thank you. Come back soon.

BROWNSTEIN: Thanks for having me.

HUNT: All right, time now for sports.

Canada's surprising run at the Copa America tournament comes to an end thanks to Lionel Messi and Argentina.

Carolyn Manno has more in this morning's Bleacher Report. Carolyn, good morning.


Before the game, Canada's head coach Jesse Marsch said that his team needed an almost perfect match to beat the defending World Cup champions. And unfortunately, that's lasted about 22 minutes.

Julian Alvarez just making things look way too easy, leaving a defender on the grass here as his shot finds the back of the net. And then you mentioned Messi. In the 51st minute, Lionel Messi finally notching his first goal of the tournament and his 109th in his storied international career to seal the result.

Argentina now looks to defend its title and claim the Copa America crown for a record 16th time when they play either Uruguay or Colombia on Sunday.

Meantime, Spain will play for a record-extending fourth European Championship after beating France 2-1 in their semi-final clash yesterday. France led after just nine minutes, but that lead wouldn't last for long. Sixteen-year-old Lamine Yamal delivering a spectacular long-range strike in the 21st minute. That equalizer makes him the youngest goal scorer in men's Euro history.

Spain going to face either the Netherlands or England in Sunday's final in Berlin.

And it's anyone's guess who will win today's semi-final, but one Dortmund Zoo resident taking the Dutch all the way. Given a choice between two identical bags hanging from a rope, Walter the Orangutan Oracle, as he's known, decisively choosing the one carrying the flag of the Netherlands. Walter has a decent track record, by the way, picking Spain to beat host nation Germany in the quarterfinals. So we shall see if Walter knows best.


It was a tough day for the Americans at Wimbledon. Emma Navarro's Cinderella run, which included wins over Naomi Osaka and Coco Gauff, ending with a straight sets loss to Jasmine Paolini in the quarterfinals. Paolini, the first Italian woman to make the semis at the All England Club. And Navarro can now set her sights on the Olympics. She is

representing the U.S. alongside Gauff, Jessica Pegula, and Danielle Collins in singles.

American Tommy Paul started his quarterfinal match against world number three Carlos Alcaraz strong, topping the defending Wimbledon champ 5-7 in the first set. But then it was all Alcaraz from there. The Spaniard taking the next three sets to win his 12th consecutive match.

So he is going to face Daniil Medvedev in the semi-finals on Friday. The Russian upsetting world number one Jannik Sinner in a 5-set thriller. Medvedev had actually lost his previous five matches against Sinner, including the Australian Open Final back in January.

And another day, another home run for Reds' rookie Rece Hinds, Kasie. We told you about this yesterday. One day after hitting that towering shot in his Major League debut, the 23-year-old sent another one into the stands in the 12-6 win over the Rockies last night.

He also had a double and a triple, making him the first player with at least five extra base hits in his first two career games since at least 1901. That is all the math we could do at five in the morning. But still, an incredible start for this kid coming up from the minors -- really impressing.

HUNT: Yeah. I have a -- I have a personal rule to never do math on television, so I appreciate that very much. And it's an awesome start for him.

Carolyn, thank you. I really appreciate it.

Coming up next here, Donald Trump leveling this challenge at President Biden.


DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm also officially challenging Crooked Joe to an 18-hole golf match right here.


HUNT: Plus, NATO leaders in Washington as President Biden tries to reset his campaign.


JIMMY FALLON, HOST, NBC "THE TONIGHT SHOW STARRING JIMMY FALLON": And Biden walked into the room with 31 leaders. He wasn't sure if it was a NATO summit or an intervention.