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Biden Makes Fresh Appeal To Black Voters Amid Sagging Polls; This Week: Closing Arguments Possible In Trump's NY Trial. Aired 8-9a ET

Aired May 19, 2024 - 08:00   ET





MANU RAJU, CNN HOST (voice-over): Courting controversy.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My predecessor and his extreme MAGA friends are now going after diversity, equity and inclusion all across America.

RAJU: This morning, President Biden takes the stage in a historically Black college, as he struggles with young and Black voters.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There are no -- no words, no campaign stop that is going to heal this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Black people always vote their interests.

RAJU: And debating the debates.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): I myself would never recommend going on with stage with Donald Trump.

RAJU: Biden and Trump agreed to go head-to-head.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT & 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He can't talk, he can't walk, he can't put two sentences together.

RAJU: How the historic face-offs could shake up the race.

Plus, final hours --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I wouldn't be surprised if he is convicted. Trump's trial nears its end as Republicans flocked to Manhattan.

SEN. MITT ROMNEY (R-UT): It's really very difficult to watch.

RAJU: And Democrats dodge when it comes to their own.

If your colleague, Bob Menendez, gets convicted, should he be expelled by the Senate?

INSIDE POLITICS, the best reporting from inside the corridors of power, starts now.


RAJU: Good morning and welcome to INSIDE POLITICS SUNDAY. I'm Manu Raju.

We're standing by for President Biden to deliver a commencement address at Morehouse College, a historically black men's college in Atlanta, and the alma mater of MLK Jr.

Now, Biden speech in the battleground state of Georgia comes in a fraught time for the president, lagging behind Trump in pulling and struggling with key parts of his 2020 coalition, Black and young voters, all amid protests over the Israel-Hamas war, that have roiled college campuses across the country.

Now, behind the scenes, Biden and his team had been deliberating with prominent Black leaders as they craft his message for this morning speech, where it's expected highlight, triumph over adversity, and the lasting impact of peaceful protest.

Now, Georgia provides a snapshot of Biden's challenges four years after he narrowly carry the state. In 2020, Biden won the state's Black voters by 77 percent and voters ages 18 to 29, by 13 percent. A new Georgia polling from this month shows how his margin with Black voters has shrunk to 46 percent and is actually losing those young voters by 18 percent according to that poll.

Now, keenly aware of his challenges with this critical bloc of his coalition, Biden has spent the week speaking directly to Black voters.


BIDEN: It's clear, HBCUs are vital to our nation's progress.

Children that go to pre-school are nearly 50 percent more likely to finish high school and go on to earn a two-year or four-year degree no matter what their background is. That's why my administration is working to support Black children. My predecessor and his extreme MAGA friends are now going after diversity, equity and inclusion all across America. They want a country for some, not for all.


RAJU: A lot to unpack this morning. And joining me, here are to talk about all of this, Tia Mitchell with "The Atlanta Journal Constitution", CNN political director David Chalian, "The Daily Beast's" Joanna Coles, and Amy Walter from "The Cook Political Report".

Good morning. A busy morning with a lot to unpack and digest.

It has been interesting to see the Biden campaign's strategy and how it's really trying to intensify its focus to court Black voters.

Just look at things at the Biden campaign is done over the past week, several interviews targeted direct ugly at Black voters, whether it's from Tuesday with Kamala Harris, all the way up until Friday going to the National Museum of American history, speaking to the NAACP dinner tonight is after the Morehouse College address. It all comes after a major investment they made in May for Black media.

The question is, Tia, put this in perspective of how important of the moment this is for the president. And as -- is this ever been -- is it a successful so far in trying to shore up this key constituency.

TIA MITCHELL, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION: So, it's very important because Black voters are such a key part of the Democratic coalition in so many states. Particularly states like Georgia, we know Biden carry Georgia.


He would like to carry it again, but there are other states that he needs Black voters if he's going to carry many of the swing states. And that's why it's so important, not just this weekend, but this speech to see how he talks to Black people, to see if he can address some of the concerns young black voters have which goes beyond the economic concerns and the concerns about whether the Biden administration has done enough for them.

We know these young voters are also concerned about the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. So, it is important to see if he can speak to them but the polling is showing that voters -- voters are getting a lot of messages thrown at them. We don't know how much they're hearing them.

RAJU: Yeah. And, look, you talked about the Israel-Hamas war. That's obviously the subtext to all this, the pre-college protests have been happening across countries. So how is Biden handling this according to the views of the American public, this is a Fox News poll among registered voters not good. Of course four, 64 percent, he is underwater overall, but then you break it down even further, under 30, that is even a little bit even higher, 69 percent disapprove . Black voters, not as high, but still he is a negative territory there.

I put the question to a Georgia Democrat who is very familiar about what's happening on the ground in his date with these voters. And I asked him, what does Biden need to do in this speech today? And this is what Hank Johnson told me.


REP. HANK JOHNSON (D-GA): They see that war as unjust and that is the issue. It's the policies of the Netanyahu government, which President Biden has largely supported.

RAJU: Should he be more forceful about his concerns with the Netanyahu government?

JOHNSON: He may choose this opportunity to do just that.

RAJU: And that would go over while you think?

JOHNSON: I think it would -- it would fall upon ears that would be receptive.


RAJU: So, how -- I mean, how does Biden navigate this moment? Because he gets certainly speak to this proud who may view this in one way. But of course doing that would anger a different part of his party.

JOANNA COLES, CHIEF CONTENT OFFICER, THE DAILY BEAST: Well, I think what one has to bear in mind find is that the may be less enthusiasm in the Black community now, but that doesn't necessarily mean that they're swapping all their support to Donald Trump. This may be a battle between Biden and the sofa and the issues do want to stay on the sofa or do you actually want to get out to the ballot box?

So I think that's sort of what we're seeing playing out here. What is that? A hundred seventy-five days to the election? We're obsessed by it, but I'm not sure that the regular voter is as obsessed as everybody is down here on the beltway.

RAJU: Yeah, I'm sure they're not.


COLES: How could they? We're obsessed at "The Beast" about it. And in fact, we have our new Washington bureau chief starting tomorrow, and he was the guy that released the Kristi Noem book of the world.

RAJU: And, look, of course, INSIDE POLITICS viewers are also obsessed about politics. But, look, the -- part of this, too, is, you know, how this impacts, of course, his handling of the war, what it means in November. One of -- some of -- one of the concerns about you hear from folks on the left leaders of progressive leaders, is that if Biden, their view doesn't change his handling of what happens in the Gaza war, that essentially these voters, lot of the vote is on the left will tune out all the things that they believe they can sell their agenda on. That's what Pramila Jayapal, the leader of the Congressional Progressive Caucus told me on Friday


REP. PRAMILA JAYAPAL (D-WA): I told the president this, this weekend, myself. He is the most progressive president we've had on domestic economic policy. We just cannot let Netanyahu drag us into a war that ends up losing the election for us here. We're very aligned in firms of what Black voters are looking for, what independents are looking for, what progressives are looking for. It is the president's agenda they're looking for. We just need to get this war in the Middle East, you know, we need a shift in policy there so that people can listen to us about what we're going to do here domestically.


RAJU: So, she -- we need a shift in policy here so people can listen to us about what we're going to do here domestically. Is that the right analysis? DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Well, I would argue that you

heard Joe Biden in his interview with Erin Burnett about a week-and-a- half ago shift in policy a little bit. I mean --

RAJU: Of course, not far enough to force some --

CHALIAN: No, no, no, I know but I'm saying its not as if its falling on deaf ears, right? I mean, you can track Biden's language from October 7 through last week, and see the movement and although we are nowhere near a ceasefire, it seems which is really what the call is here. I just think it's important -- you brought up those poll numbers. His numbers on this issue are as bad as they are on immigration. I mean, it's really one of his worst issues.

Here's the only silver lining if there's anything politically for Biden, is that in terms of salience of the issue where the issue ranks in terms of importance for voters, it's not very high.


Even among young voters, the economy far outpaces for young voters as a top issue, then does this issue.

Now, this election is all about margins. We understand that. I mean, some, you know, tens of thousands of people in four or five, six states are going to decide the outcome here. So everything matters.

As Tia was saying to the Black vote -- yes, he needs the Black vote in these -- I would add one word, he needs the Black vote overwhelmingly in these states. I mean, every, every little bit is going to matter in an election that's going to be so closely divided. So even a less important issue, like Israel-Gaza versus the economy for young voters is still very meaningful politically.

AMY WALTER, PUBLISHER & EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, COOK POLITCAL REPORT: Yeah, it is notable where these protests are happening and where they're not. This does not feel like issue where on every college campus across the country you're having encampments and huge protests. There are certain places in the country which I think gets to David's point about. This is an important issue for younger voters. I don't know that it is a driving issue in the same way.

And so the challenge I think for Biden is winning over as well independent voters who are not maybe a younger voters who feel like they don't understand where his consistent policy is. He has been moving a lot. He says he's going to do this. And then now he's in the middle where he's were going to stop sending certain weapons, but actually were still sending weapons. It's a no win situation.

RAJU: Yeah. I mean, just look at these guys -- speaks to Morehouse College just how he has come down among Black voters are with this is obviously historically black college and in 2020, he had a massive victory with Black voters, 75 points. Polls show recent one, just 49 points he is up in that number, young voters tied with young voters. So this is a key moment, this is a major moment for him. MITCHELL: It's a major moment. You know, we got to have all the normal caveats about polling and things like that. I do think some of the polling is probably overplaying or maybe people are over assuming that Black voters may really turn on Biden to Trump. I don't think that's the case as much as the risks of them staying home on election day, that apathy, the voters who say, you know, I don't think either one of them is serving my interests, so I'm just not going to vote. We saw rapper Cardi B saying that just this just this week, and that is a concern for both candidates.

RAJU: Yeah. All right. Well, we'll see what he says in just a matter of minutes.

All right. Coming up, the debate over the debates unprecedented in the modern era, and it could be Trump's last week in court and last week of press conferences outside the courtroom, which "SNL" spoofed last night.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Really enjoying these post-court press conferences and this very weird and depressing hallway. I don't like being in court because they say very mean things about me while I am trying to sleep.





SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): I think that there's two really solid cases, January 6 and Georgia. Everything else doesn't make sense.


RAJU: That was Democratic Senator Joe Manchin weighing in on Trump's numerous criminal cases.

This time next week, we could already have a verdict in his first criminal trial with a jury deciding whether to make former President Donald Trump a convicted felon, or to acquit him. Closing arguments in New York hush money cover-up trial are expected as soon as Tuesday.

But this weekend, Trump took advantage of his time away from the courtroom to hit the trail, although he had his legal issues on his mind, yesterday's NRA convention in Dallas.


TRUMP: There's probably no judge may be in history that's been as conflicted as this guy and he refuses to recuse himself. But I'm able to talk about things, although I do have a gag order. If I say the truth, so I can't talk about certain things. It says you

can't talk about this. You can't talk about that. You can't talk -- but those are the best things. But we talk about the things I can talk about. It has to be unconstitutional.


RAJU: And in his speech in Minnesota on Friday, he falsely claimed to have won this state in 2020.


TRUMP: I thought we won it in 2016. I thought we won it -- I know we won it in 2020. We got to be -- we got to be careful.

We got to watch those votes. You know, we don't need the votes. We've got to watch the votes. That's the big danger.


RAJU: And, of course, Trump did in fact lose Minnesota in 2020 by an even larger margin then he lost in 2016.

Our panel is back.

What's been remarkable about this, Trump has had obviously a four criminal indictments. We've been through this trial there have been two wars, has been such a tumultuous period in American politics.

But this race has been so stable, just look at how the polls have gone really since last August, up until the end of April. It's pretty much a similar race. There's been no clear leader all the way around.

Yes. Trump has been not narrowly had oftentimes within the margin of error. There has been so much stability as well.

WALTER: Yeah. Well, this is our politics now. It's both incredibly calcified and volatile all at once, because so many people are locked into opinions about these two and you're not going to change them no matter what the events are, and volatile because as we've all been talking about, it takes 10,000 votes in one state to shift and suddenly, you have a different president or you have a majority of one party flipped for the majority of another in the Congress.

I think you've got a couple of factors here. There are -- first, there are still a lot of people out there who can't believe that this is ultimately going to happen.

RAJU: It is -- it is.

WALTER: And then you go around the country and you talk to people, they will -- one of the questions will say, look, really, is this really happening?

[08:20:00] Joe Biden's really going to be the nominee. Donald Trump is really going to be the nominee, couldn't something happened before the election, and they would be replaced.

So I do think there's that. I think we've also been discussing the people who are just checked out of this election. They are exhausted by it and they are going to check back in after the summer when it's an appropriate time to check in on politics.

And then finally, you've got at least 20 percent, if not more, of the electorate that says, I don't like either of these guys and I don't want to think about it at all.

RAJU: Yeah, but they'll have to, unless they decide to sit out.

WALKER: Or they sit out.

CHALIAN: The first two points that Amy made though, I just -- that is why the Biden campaign wanted an early debate for the first two points because they want to show the country physically the representation on stage. This is it, this is the choice. It's Biden versus Trump.

And the second point about those that are checked out, a jolt into its actually time right now.

So for those two factors, that's why it was so important to the Biden folks to get a debate early.

RAJU: So --

COLES: And I think -- I was just going to add that I think people underestimated the extent to which Donald Trump has been able to use his trial as a campaign stop. And what you saw this week and I was talking to Jose Pagliery, who's been covering it for "The Beast", is this sudden realization that it's not that he's stuck there. It's that the Republicans have to go to the trial.

So you suddenly saw J.D. Vance turn up. You saw Mike Johnson, then you saw the MAGA kind of extremists suddenly think, oh, this is a bandwagon we should hop on. And so the courtroom itself or the courthouse has become this new staging ground.

And I think people underestimated Trump's feral genius at turning these moments into a campaign moment.

RAJU: And there has been a bit of a divide among the Republicans about those people who are been rushing up to the New York courthouse, defend the former president. Mitt Romney, made some pointed remarks about this and got some push from J.D. Vance.


ROMNEY: Really very difficult to watch.

RAJU: Why is it difficult to watch? ROMNEY: Well, you know, there's a level of dignity and decorum that you expect to people who are running for the highest station in the land. And going out and prostrating themselves in front of the public to try and apparently curry favor with the person who's our nominee. It's a little embarrassing.

SEN. J.D. VANCE (R-OH): Mitt's on sort of three sides of every issue in public policy in this country the last 20 years. I just -- I think that he should stick to being a legislator and try to do good job for the people of Utah. When he attacks his colleagues, I think it's counterproductive.


RAJU: Mitt has been on three sides of every issue in public policy in this country for the last 20 years, someone who could be a vice presidential pick for Donald Trump.

CHALIAN: J.D. Vance, not Mitt Romney.

RAJU: Yes, just for the record.


RAJU: Although that would be news.

WALTER: But, look, this is the divide that we've seen in the Republican Party now for the last seven years, this vestige of the old Republican Party that you never would have seen a John McCain, a Mitt Romney, a George W. Bush in that situation that Donald Trump is in. And yet, here we are.

But the voices -- the Mitt Romney voices are fewer and fewer, and the J.D. Vance's are more and more.

RAJU: And, of course, he is retiring. Now, of course, we're getting into potential verdict wait. We'll see what happens. There's no way of knowing if he's going to be convicted or maybe acquitted in this hush money criminal trial.

And I put that question to Republicans. Just what if he is convicted? How will you deal with it? And the answers span the gamut a bit.


RAJU: A verdict in the Trump trial could come next week if he's convicted, could you support them still?

SEN. JOHN THUNE (R-SD): I'm not -- we'll see how the trial comes out. I'm not weighing in on that.

SEN. STEVE DAINES (R-MT): I wouldn't be surprised if he is convicted. I mean, that's probably going to happen. But that's going to get most likely thrown out. I mean, these charges, frankly, I mean, talk about election interference. That's what's going on right now in that New York courtroom. RAJU: Would you rethink your support for him?

SEN. JAMES LANKFORD (R-OK): Yeah. I mean, we're still dealing with the policy issues here today at the end of the day. We're still dealing with what's best for our economy. How do we deal with immigration, and all the policies still matter on this.

RAJU: Well, what about character, being convicted felon, et cetera?

LANKFORD: A hundred percent. I mean, I've said often that I want to be able to have people that are role models and leaders and all those things as well. For me, the policy issues are going to matter significantly.


RAJU: Policy over character.

COLES: I think, present company excepted, that actually Trump is on trial for, I know it's financial shenanigans, but actually most people in their minds have, he was at a golfing weekend, he slept with a porn star and then she left immediately afterwards, present company excepted, I think that might be a lot of men's fantasies. And so I don't think this is playing out with the public in the way that it's playing out again with the media, actually.


And you heard the senator there talking about character and they just want to get back to policy, but actually people aren't paying attention to that. And this is -- we ran a piece by Nell Scovell saying why is Trump denying this? This is most men's, again, present company excepted, fantasy and it was the most read piece for two days.

And if you think 60 percent of the web is spent on porn, actually, there's something going on here that speaks to people and I know were not supposed to talk about it. I know were supposed to talk about policy, but its interesting what's going on here.

RAJU: Yeah, and we'll see. This could be the only case that reaches a verdict before November, how it impacts November election? No one knows.

All right. Coming up, Biden and Trump are brushing up on the debate skills for round three. Will their first rematch be just as vicious as 2020?



TRUMP: -- just as rational left --

BIDEN: Will you shut up, man?

TRUMP: Listen, who is -- (END VIDEO CLIP)



RAJU: Now that the two campaigns have agreed to the earliest general election debate in modern times, the Biden and Trump teams are plotting their strategy to potentially shake up a race that has been incredibly stable for months.

Not only is it historically quite early, it's also the first televised debate between an ex-president and the sitting president both vying for a second term in office.

In 2020 these two candidates held just to televise debates thanks in part to the pandemic and that was the fewest since 1996. But those debates were certainly memorable and could give us clues to what to expect this time around.





BIDEN: Would you shut up, man. It's hard to get any word in with this clown.


CHRIS WALLACE, CNN HOST: White supremacist and right-wing --

TRUMP: Proud Boys, stand back and standby.

BIDEN: He's a racist.

You're the worst president America's ever had.

TRUMP: We can't lock ourselves up in a basement like Joe does.

BIDEN: release your tax return or stop talking about corruption. we did not (INAUDIBLE) the cages --

TRUMP: Who built the cages Joe.

I'm the least racist person in this room.

You know, Joe, I ran because of you. I ran because of Barack Obama because you did a poor job.


RAJU: All right. So I feel like this one could be somewhat similar. We'll see.

The last time two presidents ran against each other was 1892, and that was former president Grover Cleveland defeated incumbent president Benjamin Harrison. I was -- and we were not around for that.

CHALIAN: I thought you were going to play a sound bite.

RAJU: Exactly. That's right David, roll the tape.


RAJU: That's right. David, what is your sense that that's going to be a powerful image, right?

I mean, two former -- one former, one current president vying for the same office. What do you -- what should we expect in that debate?

CHALIAN: Yes. I mean, first of all, just watching those clips it reminds me of the unprecedented nature of this because we don't normally have game film of an actual debate between two presidential candidates to revisit, to look at what our next presidential debate between those two maybe.

So this is clearly unique circumstances, hopefully one of the candidates won't be raging with COVID at the time as he was there in the debate but they'll be older, right. So I think one of the first things everyone's going to watch and is look back to that film. How have each of them changed since that debate four years ago.

But obviously, the country's circumstances are entirely changed as well. And so how that gets incorporated into the debate, we know both campaigns agreed to debate without an audience in front of them this time. So that's also going to be a different dynamic in the space as well.

But as we were talking about the last segment, you mentioned at the top here. Because this race has been so stable, I think these debates are seismic events in this election potentially that can actually be a destabilizing force in the race?

AMY WALTER, PUBLISHER & EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, THE COOK POLITICAL REPORT: Yes. And if you think back to that debate that you just showed that was at a time when the Trump campaign needed to shake things up, right?

Biden was ahead. It felt like a race that was sort of stuck with Trump trying to get back up on top. Now, it's the opposite problem. Trump is the one who can sort of sit back and not be as aggressive.

It's Biden now who needs to be much more aggressive. He's the one who really does need to shake up the race and make it about Donald Trump

RAJU: And the hope among Biden, is that Trump will say something, get himself in trouble and may not be the way he was in the past or maybe he will be the way he was in the past debates. And that will be good for them, they believe politically. Just a snippet of what Donald Trump has been like over the year since 2016 up until now on the debate stage.


SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX): Donald, Donald, relax.

TRUMP: Go ahead. I'm relaxed. You're the basket case.

Don't worry about it, Little Marco.

JEB BUSH, FORMER FLORIDA GOVERNOR: This is a tough business to run for president.

TRUMP: I know. You're a tough guy, Jeb. I know.

BUSH: And we need to have a leader that is real tough.

TRUMP: Such a nasty one. But we have some bad hombres here and were going to get them out.

Excuse me, my turn.

HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: It's just awfully good that someone with the temperament of Donald Trump is not in charge of the law in our country.

TRUMP: Because you'd be in jail.


RAJU: I mean look, one of the things that's different also is that Trump didn't participate in any of those primary debates, of course this time. He also has not done many interviews and has gone to friendly audiences and the like. So is he ready for this moment?

JOANNA COLES, CHIEF CONTENT OFFICER, THE DAILY BEAST: This is going to be fantastic television. I'm already, you know, ordering the pop, and drawing up the sofas. Everybody is going to be having screening parties all over America.

Of course, the thing I'm interested in is how they managed to convince both CNN and ABC who are hosting the two debates, not to include Robert Kennedy Jr. because he is polling somewhere between 10 and 15 percent.


COLES: And he's definitely going to be a -- given how tight the margins are in this election, he's definitely going to be a potential player.

And to your point, this is exceptional already. We have a sense of deja vu because we've already seen these two debating to add a Kennedy to the mix would be even better television. WALER: Yes. And we've talked a lot about, you know, Trump in this. But

remember Biden there is a risk reward here, right? He could come out, have a poor debate. He's already behind that we haven't even had the conventions yet.

He goes into conventions sort of in a hole that is a terrible place to be this far out from an election. If this is going to be the game change that were going to shake things up, it actually can make things worse.

RAJU: It's a huge risk and so one of the things though is that Trump has been saying the (INAUDIBLE) bar is so low for Biden. He's saying that as he said, listen from Friday, you can't put two sentences together.


TRUMP: Can't talk, he can't walk, can't find his way off the stage, can't put two sentences together.

I just wanted to debate this guy but, you know, and I'm going to, I'm going to demand a drug test here, by the way. I am. No, I really am.

Yes I don't want him coming in like the State of the Union. He was high as a kite.


RAJU: Of course, there's no evidence at all to suggest that, and that's -- that's one of the questions about how he deals with Joe Biden.

I asked -- put that question to one of his top supporters on Capitol Hill about what Donald Trump should do when it comes time to the debate.


SENATOR KEVIN CRAMER (R-ND): My advice to the former president would be -- be himself, but not so much of himself. You know, let Joe Biden talk, the greatest thing you can do in a debate IS let Joe Biden talk. He will talk you out of voting for him every time if you're even inclined to.

RAJU: But Trump may have a hard time doing that.

CRAMER: It won't be easy, it will require some discipline, but Donald Trump likes to win.


RAJU: It will require some discipline with Donald Trump. Not necessarily his strong suit, yes.

CHALIAN: Yes. But I do think you are right to note what he's saying about the expectation setting. This is exactly what his advisors felt sort of blew up in their face with the State of the Union address, like the bar was set so low for Joe Biden that he showed up and had a good speech and became this big moment for him.

I do think we may hear Donald Trump alter that language a little bit between now and the end.

RAJU: We will, we shall see.

All right. Coming up, holding onto the Senate majority looks a lot more difficult for Democrats now than it did a week ago. Major warning signs for them and President Biden in key battleground states.



RAJU: If Republicans regained the Senate in November, last Tuesday's primaries could be a big reason why.

In West Virginia, the seat being vacated by retiring Senator Joe Manchin is now likely to be picked up by the new GOP nominee, Governor Jim Justice.

And in the blue state of Maryland, former Republican governor Larry Hogan has a chance to flip a crucial seat expanding a map when Democrats are already playing defense across the country.

Democrats are endangered in no small part due to the president's standing in several purple states with Democratic-held seats. Meaning the candidates will have to -- likely have to output former president this fall.

And in two red states, Montana and Ohio, Democrats are trying to hang on to their seats by going after the character of their opponents all while avoid being tied to the top of their tickets.

Still, Senator Gary Peters who chairs the Senate Democratic Campaign arm, told me he is confident that the Democrats will indeed keep the majority.

My panels back. So Amy, you have a -- your "Cook Political Report" laid out the ratings, race ratings, and how this is looking right now. Lean Democrat versus toss-up season (ph) likely Republican seats. There's two pick up opportunities still that the Democrats hope can pick up or still likely to stay in the Democratic hands -- Republican hands.

What are the chances that the Democrats can hang onto the Senate?

WALTER: This is a very, very difficult thing. First of all, as you pointed out, West Virginia likely to be picked up by Republicans, almost assuredly picked up by Republicans. So this -- think about this as a 50-50 Senate going into the election.

Democrats can't afford to lose any more seats. They've got seven more vulnerable seats on the tables. They have to win seven of seven, including two, and those red states of Ohio and Montana.

RAJU: And Tia -- one thing that's been interesting is that there's been a shift among Larry -- Larry Hogan. He is of course, the new Republican nominee in Maryland and has a chance to pick up a seat in a very blue state.

His shift on abortion this past week, he told "The New York Times" that he supports restoring Roe as the law of the land. You know, this comes after the 2022. He vetoed a bill that would have broadened Maryland's abortion access by allowing more medical professionals to perform abortions.

It speaks to the issue though, right. Democrats are hoping this critically -- the ballot initiatives dealing with abortion in some of these states, that could keep them at least close to gain the majority, if not in the majority.

MITCHELL: Yes. Think it's so interesting because in Maryland, Larry Hogan is so popular even among Democrats as he's kind of the only Republican who is feasible on the ballot, a great recruit by Mitch McConnell, but his one weakness was abortion.


MITCHELL: And of course, it's bigger than just Larry Hogan, the candidate it's about the Senate majority. It's about what could be accomplished if Donald Trump becomes president, if he gets Republican majorities in Congress.

And you have to bank on voters trusting that Larry Hogan, even though he says he will caucus with the GOP, won't go as far to the right as he may be pulled in a Republican majority. And I think that will be a salient point for Alsobrooks to make this like, do you want to trust that? Do you want to leave that up to chance?

CHALIAN: I still think it was really interesting that, you know, Larry Hogan, great recruit as soon as it happened, we were like, oh wow, Maryland may actually be in play here.

And yet it likely wasn't to be in play as much with Larry Hogan as nominee, if he didn't give that interview to the New York Times. I mean, this was for him to run even in this state, he needed to move away from his party's position on this issue substantially to actually make it competitive.

The other thing about the map that I think is so interesting to me was saying, so go into this race, assuming Manchin's seat flips right to Justice, and it's 50-50. Well, 50, 50 --

WALTER: Right.

CHALIAN: I mean, they've lost control already if they lost the presidential.

RAJU: Yes. Yes. CHALIAN: So like that is the kind of deficit Democrats are entering the cycle in and why it is so much more likely at this point, at this vantage point that Republicans think --


RAJU: It's so interesting because some of this -- part of this is nationalizing the race versus running a local race.

Republicans want to nationalize this in those red states. That's the question that I've put the Montana Senator Joe Manchin about what -- sorry Jon Tester, not Joe Manchin -- Jon Tester about being tied to the top of his ticket.


SEN. JON TESTER (D-MT): The president's race is going to be the president's race. My race is going to be my race. I honestly don't think it has any impact.

RAJU: Will you have to align yourself more with Trump than Biden heading into November.

TESTER: I'm going to align myself with Jon Tester. I've got my own brand.

SEN. STEVE DAINES (R-MT): President Trump pulls some of these low propensity voters out to vote. That will vote for President Trump that normally aren't showing up for elections.

Look president Biden is the most unpopular U.S. president in 70 years.

Jon Tester can't run away from that.

Ask if Jon Tester wants to see Joe Biden come to Montana. He's going to stay thousands of miles away from Joe Biden.


RAJU: Meantime, Jon Tester's attacking his opponent, Shady Sheehy.

WALTER: Which he absolutely needs to be doing. Listen, Jon Tester has outrun the top of the ticket before in 2012, obviously President Obama didn't win that state, but he's got to win it by an even bigger margin this time around.

Only one senate candidate has done it. And that's Susan Collins in these last two presidential election.

RAJU: Spread ticket (ph) voters, less likely in recent cycles.

All righ.t Coming up an explosive week and a pair of bribery cases leaves Democrats fretting and dodging.


RAJU: Are you supporting Henry Cuellar's reelection bid?




RAJU: A pair of bribery cases are causing continued headaches for Democratic leaders on both sides of Capitol Hill these days as members dodged questions about whether to kick out their colleagues, New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez and Texas Congressman Henry Cuellar.

Menendez had an explosive first few days in court this past week, charged with acting on behalf of Egypt and Qatar. His lawyer cast blame on Menendez's wife, who's also been charged, and both have pleaded not guilty.

But if Menendez is convicted, Democrats have a decision to make.


RAJU: Bob Menendez facing this corruption trial. If he's convicted, should he' be expelled from the Senate.

SENATOR MICHAEL BENNET (D-CO): I haven't thought about that or spent one second on it, but I guess if he's convicted, he should be.

TESTER: We'll cross that bridge when we get to it. We'll let the -- let the legal system do what it needs to do. If he is found to be guilty, that does change the equation.


RAJU: Others refuse to say.


SENATOR ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA): Look, my view is he should have resigned long ago and I said that repeatedly.

RAJU: But what about expulsion?

WARREN: Right now, I said he should resign. He does not belong here.

RAJU: If he's convicted, should he be expelled from the Senate.

SENATOR MARK WARNER (D-VA): Let's wait and see what happens. Everybody deserves a day in court, that's what happens.

RAJU: What about expulsion from the Senate.

SENATOR BEN CARDIN (D-MD): that's an issue that's up to the caucus. We'll see how the trial goes.

(END VIDEO CLIP) RAJU: over in the house, Henry Cuellar and his wife, were charged with accepting nearly $600,000 in bribes from entities in Mexico and Azerbaijan. They both pleaded not guilty.

But now three people have pleaded guilty in connection to the case, including Cuellar's former campaign manager. But with a razor-thin margin and Cuellar's Texas district at risk of turning red, Democratic leaders are holding their fire. Like Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries.


RAJU: You've not called on him to resign. Do you support his reelection.

REP. HAKEEM JEFFRIES (D-NY), HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: I support Henry Cuellar's right to a trial by a jury. He is innocent until proven guilty.

RAJU: But would you support him in his bid to run again?

I think it would be irresponsible for me at this moment to wade into the politics and we want to give him the space to work out his legal situation.


RAJU: Now, Jeffries later said he was not rescinding his Cuellar endorsement. And some are taking pains to draw distinctions with the case of George Santos, who of course was expelled from the House last year after a damning ethics report, but before any conviction.


RAJU: Why the difference?

REP. DAN GOLDMAN (D-NY): Because George Santos -- George Santos had admitted to enough misconduct but to show that he should not have been a member of congress.


RAJU: You led the charge to oust George Santos, but you are not calling for the resignation of Henry Cuellar. What is the discrepancy there?

REP. ROBERT GARCIA (D-CA): Let's be very clear. I think George Santos also admitted to actually a crime. He actually was indicted of a crime. And so that was a trigger for us.

But I think what's going on with Henry Cuellar is very serious. I think it's very disturbing. I am very disturbed and I think that Democrats will and should and will react appropriately.


RAJU: I tried to ask Pete Aguilar, the number three Democrat in the House about this as well.


RAJU: Are you supporting Henry Cuellar's reelection bid after these three people pleaded guilty in his bribery.

REP. PETE AGUILAR (D-CA): I've talked about this already. I'm sorry.

RAJU: But there were three people since then who pleaded guilty.

AGUILAR: I'm talking about this in the press conference next week.



You can follow me on X, formerly known as Twitter @mkraju. Follow the show at INSIDE POLITICS and if you ever miss an episode, you can of course, catch-up wherever you get your podcast.

Up next "STATE OF THE UNION" with Jake Tapper and Dana Bash.

Jake's guests include Senator John Fetterman, Dr. Ben Carson and Congresswoman Jasmine Crockett.

And before we go I want to report some very sad news. Our longtime colleague and friend Alice Stewart died suddenly yesterday at the age of 58.

She was a longtime Republican strategist working on multiple presidential campaigns. And of course, a voice on CNN for many years.

She was someone that I knew back in my days as a front reporter. She was always kind to me here at CNN. And, of course, she will be greatly, greatly missed.

Thanks again for sharing your Sunday morning with us. See you next time.