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Inside Politics

Biden Directs Campaign Aides To Get More Aggressive On Trump; Michigan Focus Group Shows Concerns About Biden's Mental Fitness; Alabama Supreme Court Rules Frozen Embryos Are Children; One-On-On With Former U.S. Senator, NBA Champion Bill Bradley. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired February 20, 2024 - 12:30   ET



MJ LEE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: This is sort of the rose-colored glasses effect that they are concerned about, and they are determined to try to fix that heading into November by highlighting all of these examples.

DANA BASH, CNN HOST: Forgotten or maybe become numb to. Thank you so much, MJ. Great reporting. Appreciate it.

My panel is back here. And let's just use one example of the execution it looks like of what the president told his team to do. Just yesterday, the Biden campaign Twitter account said, "After days of silence, Trump finally responds to Alexey Navalny's death by comparing Navalny himself in deranged -- to himself in a deranged social media post."

LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, every chance that they have, they are going to try to show that contrast. And they have, you know, this is something that they did during his run in 2020. I mean, he launched his campaign about Trump's comments and response to the neo-Nazi march in Charlottesville.

So it was about striking that contrast repeatedly about the direction of the country. And President Biden has more material to work with now because President Trump, along with allies, have been laying out a blueprint, Project 2025, for what they would necessarily try to walk in doing on day one. I mean, former President Trump has said he would be a dictator just on day one.

He has floated the idea of using the Insurrection Act to use military in U.S. cities to crackdown on protests, to also round up undocumented migrants. So there's a lot of material for former President Biden to work with, that his campaign thinks a lot of voters aren't really aware of just yet.

BASH: And let's listen to another example. This is Mitch Landrieu, who worked in the Biden administration, and now is the Biden campaign co- chair.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MITCH LANDRIEU, BIDEN CAMPAIGN CO-CHAIR: I understand the concern about the polls. You see this actually for both candidates. But essentially, as this campaign heats up, you're going to have to make a choice between two very, very different people.

Donald Trump wakes up every day thinking about himself. He thinks about oppression. He thinks about revenge. He thinks about how to hurt other people. He thinks about how to get back at them. He thinks about how to do things that helps himself. Joe Biden wakes up every day thinking about how to fight for the American people.


AYESHA RASCOE, NPR HOST: You know, the thing about this this campaign and what will likely be the matchup between Biden and Trump is that they are both deeply unpopular. Like voters do not like either of them a lot. And so, for Biden, if he can make the focus on Trump and make it a referendum on Trump, that is much better on him because the voters really aren't liking Biden all that much.

So if he can make it about all the things that Trump says, all the wild things that he says, and try to remind people of that chaos that Nikki Haley is often talking about, he thinks that will work in his favor.

BASH: Yes, I mean, and the unsaid part of this strategy to keep pushing out the bad things or the controversial things that Donald Trump says, is even if you don't love Joe Biden --


BASH: -- if you are worried about Donald Trump, not unlike 2020 --



BASH: -- vote to protest Donald Trump, meaning vote for Joe Biden. And you know what? Biden and his campaign, they've got a lot of money. There were a lot of questions about whether or not they would do OK on the fundraising front. And the answer is, they have. They have $42 million that was raised just in January. $130 million cash on hand. That's, I believe, the combined for the campaign and the party.

HENDERSON: Yes. And these are a lot of small dollar donors, right? I mean, it gives a different image of this campaign because people like to say, oh, well, people aren't really engaged or energized around this campaign. Well, you know, to the tune of $42 million, there are obviously some people who want to give to this campaign.

I think this message around Donald Trump and sort of highlighting the crazy part of Donald Trump, it really works with those Trump to Biden voters, right? They are very much invested and the idea that they have turned away from Donald Trump, they almost see it as part of their identity. And so highlighting the crazy things about Donald Trump really, I think, reinforces the stickiness factor that Biden has with some of those crucial voters.

BASH: You know, you mentioned the Trump to Biden voters. Those are really critical voters. We of course are talking about people who voted for Trump in 2016, voted for Donald -- for Joe Biden in 2020 because they were disappointed with Donald Trump.

Richard Tao, who is somebody who we use all the time to show the focus groups that he does in swing states, he went to Michigan and talked to those exact voters, Trump to Biden voters. And one of the things that he found was that some of these voters were -- when they heard clips from the president, from President Biden, full clips, they were surprised at how cogent and coherent he sounded.

Listen to one example.



DAVID S., MICHIGAN VOTER, VOTED FOR TRUMP IN 2016, BIDEN IN 2020: He doesn't necessarily seem like he's like, not mentally there. So yes, I'm kind of conflicted.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Meaning what you expect him to be in worse condition?

DAVID S.: Yes. As far as the amount -- just thinking of all them reporters and everybody around them, I would think at that point with them hammering them with that many questions, you'd think he would like, kind of like mentally break, even with -- if it was like that advanced of like dementia or anything of that nature.


BASH: So again, this was a reaction to the press conference that was played for these voters. I don't know, maybe the bar isn't that high for Biden and I don't know if this is something that the Biden campaign could take to heart, like, just get him out there and have him talk.

HENDERSON: Yes. I mean, Biden is a smart guy. I mean --


HENDERSON: -- even in this press conference where he was seeming to confuse the presidents of Mexico and Egypt, he gave very detailed, nuanced answers on any number of topics, particularly in the Israel- Gaza conflict. So, listen, they hope the State of the Union will go a long --

BASH: Yes.

HENDERSON: -- way in addressing some of these issues.

BASH: That's key.

BARRON-LOPEZ: Every Democratic strategist I talk to says he just needs to be out there more.

BASH: Yes.

BARRON-LOPEZ: He needs to be flooding the zone on all fronts. I mean, tiny clips go viral. I was talking to a Gen Z voter who said that they saw the clips where Biden mixed up foreign leaders. And I asked if they had seen the clips where former President Donald Trump had mixed up foreign leaders. And they said no, they didn't know he had done that.

So that's another part of it, which is whether striking the contrast --

RASCOE: It's really interesting because it seems like for Biden, it's the ideas like get him out there more. Whereas, the more that people hear from Trump, you often see the opposite where they get turned off and they say, look, you know, I didn't know he was saying all that. So it's interesting that they both seem to have like the opposite problem.

BASH: Yes, it is all very interesting.

Up next, Alabama Supreme Court says a frozen embryo is a person and that could have a huge consequence for women who rely on IVF treatment to have a baby.



BASH: An unprecedented ruling is sparking worries about the future of in vitro fertilization treatment. The Alabama Supreme Court ruled that frozen embryos are children, thus protected under Alabama's wrongful death of a minor act. No other state has ruled this way, but it puts the future of IVF in jeopardy.

There's a lot to unpack here. CNN's Dianne Gallagher joins us to break it all down. Dianne?

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, Dana, that uncertainty I've been fielding messages from frightened and worried women and families who are undergoing IVF or have undergone IVF, both in Alabama and across the nation today after this seismic ruling from the high court in Alabama, for those families who are trying to grow their families through IVF technology there.

Now, again, there was a lot of uncertainty about what this means. But the state Supreme Court ruled that frozen embryos created using in vitro fertilization or IVF are people and therefore, they would be protected under Alabama's wrongful death of a minor act.

They overturned a lower court ruling in a case that involves couples whose lawsuit says that a patient somehow got into their cryopreservation freezer and dropped their embryos on the ground, thus destroying them. The high court held that the person who dropped those embryos could be held liable in a wrongful death lawsuit. Now the chief justice, in a concurring majority opinion, quoted the bible and said these three to five-day-old frozen embryos are the same as any child. Quote, "Carving out an exception for the people, in this case, small as they were, would be unacceptable to the people of this state who have required us to treat every human being in accordance with the fear of a holy god who made him -- who made them in his image."

Now it was an 8-1 ruling, the lone dissenting justice noted, quote, "No court anywhere in the country has reached the conclusion the main opinion reaches. And the main opinion's holding almost certainly ends the creation of frozen embryos through in vitro fertilization in Alabama."

So why does he come to that conclusion? Look, fertility advocacy groups point out that IVF is already an expensive procedure. At best, this would make an already nearly cost prohibitive procedure more expensive, but at worst, Dana, it undercuts often the root goal of IVF, which is to get as many embryos as possible to give these families a better chance at live births.

The Alabama Medical Association argued that this could potentially result in the closure of all five fertility clinics in the state of Alabama.

BASH: Incredibly, incredibly consequential ruling there in Alabama and complicated, of course. Thank you so much for that reporting, Dianne.


BASH: My next guest has quite the resume. NBA champion, senator, presidential candidate, prolific author, and now filmmaker. Bill Bradley will be my guest after the break.



BASH: You might know him as a two-time NBA champion, or perhaps an Olympic gold medalist. Maybe you remember his 18 years in the U.S. Senate from the great state of New Jersey. I got to know him covering his presidential race in 2000.

There's only one man I could be describing, of course, and that is Bill Bradley, whose impressive career and poignant reflections are featured in the new film, "Rolling Along." Here's a preview.


BILL BRADLEY, FORMER U.S. SENATOR: I wanted to know America like I once knew the seams of a basketball. I challenged Al Gore for the Democratic nomination. I know it would be tough, but as the button in our campaign said, Bradley, he's hit the long shots before.



BASH: And Bill Bradley joins me now. Thank you so much for being here. There is a great moment in the film where you talk about being asked, which is a bigger thrill, winning two NBA championships or being elected to the Senate three times? I want our viewers to hear what your answer was.

BRADLEY: Well, being elected --


Being elected to the Senate three times, all I did was -- this is the greatest honor, but all I did was give me an opportunity to work 14 hours a day for six years to prove that the people weren't wrong in electing me. But, standing at center court with your fists raised in the air, chills going up and down your spine, a smile frozen on your face, knowing you're the best in the world. Now, that's a thrill.


BASH: That sounds just like what it's like in the well of the Senate, I'm sure. But senator, you were there, here in Washington for 18 years, 1979 to 1997. Things relative to now worked pretty well then. You got a lot of bipartisan legislation done. Is it possible to get back to that?

BRADLEY: Well, I think that the first two years of the Biden administration shows that it is possible to do that. There was bipartisan cooperation on any number of bills, infrastructure being the best example of that.

So, yes, I do think it's possible to get to a time where people relate to each other on the level of their common humanity as opposed to the brittleness of party designation. And I think that that's there. It's happening now. I mean, Cory Booker asked me when he went to Senate, what he should do. And I said, we'll make five good Republican friends.

He did. And there was one point where he had a foster care bill, and Senator Inhofe, who he knew had an adopted child, helped him, supported him, got Republicans to back him. So yes, I do think it's possible.

BASH: Yes. No question that infrastructure was kind of the shining light on bipartisan legislation in the past couple of years. Democrats still ran the House. I'm thinking more about what happened with the immigration bill, where your guidance, having relationships across party lines, Senator Lankford of Oklahoma, Senator Sinema and others that did help to get a bipartisan legislation through and then it got stopped because the extremes mostly on the Republican side stopped it.

I want to fast forward to your presidential run. I was a cub producer back then, 24 years ago, when you were running. You, right now, are eight months younger than Joe Biden is right now, which is pretty remarkable. He, of course, is 81 years old. When you hear voters and political opponents hitting him on his age, what do you think? BRADLEY: I think that we -- when we elect the president, we elect somebody to make decisions and get things done. Joe has seen -- has shown he could make things -- do both those things. Make decisions and get things done. Infrastructure, CHIPS, next year, seniors won't have to pay more than $2,000 for their medical, for drugs because of what he's done.

So, that's what we have to look at. We have to look at how someone has performed and what they want to do in the future. And the age thing is an issue to the extent that he feels that he doesn't feel it, and I believe that we can -- I mean, I believe the people will see that there's a significant choice here. And the choice is between someone who, in my view, is weak and vengeful and someone who is competent and strong.

BASH: I remember back in 2000, a regular on the trail with you. He was always on the Bradley campaign playing with us was Cornel West. He is a good friend of yours still, I believe, but you said you can't figure out his third party presidential run. Are you worried he could be a spoiler, a la Ralph Nader in the 2000 general election?

BRADLEY: No, I don't think so. I think -- I don't know what reasons Cornel is running. But I do think that African Americans people who are concerned on the left will come home to Joe Biden because he's delivered on the things that are important to them.

BASH: Before I let you go, I have to ask about -- more about this film. You had a one man show. You turned it into this film. Why'd you want to do it? I think we might have lost Senator Bradley. OK. OK, I think we lost Senator Bradley.


I'm just going to tell everybody that you can watch "Rolling Along: Bill Bradley" now available on Max, which is owned by CNN's parent company, Warner Brothers Discovery. We're going to take a quick break. There you go. You see his book there as well.

Thank you so much for joining Inside Politics. Sorry about that to the senator. We'll get him back on soon. CNN News Central starts after the break.