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Outside Advisers Urge Biden To Focus On Attacking Trump Rather Than Defending First-Term Record; Trump: I'm Preparing By Taking Questions, Attending Events; Two Days To Go Until Biden, Trump Face Off On CNN; Trump, Biden Pitch Voters On Distinct Economic Visions; Fox Poll: Biden Still Trails Trump On Economy; Today: New Yorkers Vote In Most Expensive House Primary Ever; Rep. Bowman Could Be First Squad Member To Lose Re-Election. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired June 25, 2024 - 12:00   ET




MANU RAJU, CNN ANCHOR: Today on Inside Politics, the final countdown. We're two days away from Joe Biden and Donald Trump face-to-face on the CNN debate stage. We'll bring you new reporting and how the candidates are preparing for the momentous event that could define the entire race.

Plus, the most expensive House primary ever. Voters are choosing today between liberal Congressman Jamaal Bowman and his more moderate opponent. What will the results say about the democratic divide over Israel?

And the supreme weight. The court has nearly a dozen pieces left and just a few days left until the term ends. Among them is an opinion that impacts not just Donald Trump, but every president that will ever sit in the Oval Office.

I'm Manu Raju in for Dana Bash. Let's go behind the headlines at Inside Politics.

First up, 57 hours that's when the current president and the former president will meet for a historic debate at CNN headquarters in Atlanta. While Donald Trump does interviews and attends fundraisers, Joe Biden stay behind closed doors at Camp David and prepping with a large team of advisers.

And we've got reporters covering them both. Kristen Holmes is in West Palm Beach, Florida. Kayla Tausche at the White House. And Kayla, let's start with you first, because you've got new reporting this morning about the advice that Biden is getting from some top Democrats. What are you hearing?

KAYLA TAUSCHE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Manu, several senior Democrats who have the Biden camps ear have in recent weeks been urging them to change tack on the economy, instead going directly after Trump's economy, instead of taking credit for Biden's own. Now they say as a lifelong politician that Biden is naturally inclined to see credit where it's due, but they say that it's currently at odds with the way voters feel. As so long as the cost of living is so high, no amount of good data would be able to sway them otherwise. In the words of one senior Democrat I spoke with, he said Biden -- he wants the credit, he needs to stop.

And while it's true, Manu, that everyone in Washington has advice. What was so striking about these conversations was the synchrony of them. And that there seemed to be a widely held view among Democrats, that Biden's economic messaging simply was not working.

Now that tide began to turn just a few weeks ago. Earlier this month, the Biden campaign was out with an ad in English and Spanish, talking directly to voters and saying he understands the plight of the working class.

And just today he has a new ad out, taking aim at Trump saying that Trump is out for himself. And it's Biden, who is trying to make life more affordable for voters. I would say far cry from the Bidenomics banner of 2023, as the president tries to refocus and reframe an issue that is so critical for the homestretch of the campaign. Manu?

RAJU: All right, thanks Kayla Tausche at the White House. And now to Kristen Holmes. Kristen, what are you hearing from Trump allies today?

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Look, I've talked to a number of Trump allies, and they say that they are hoping that Donald Trump stays on message. Now that message is really focusing on three things, the economy, crime and immigration. These are all things that Donald Trump pulls ahead of Joe Biden on.

Now they are still going over answers on abortion, on a democracy, particularly what Donald Trump has said around January 6, and the insurrection itself on Capitol Hill. But what they are prepping him on and really trying to get him to focus on is pivoting these answers to go back to the things that again, he pulls higher on then Joe Biden. They believe if he can just stay on message with the economy, with immigration, that he can come out successful on Thursday night.

Now remember, he is not doing any kind of regular preparation. A lot of what he is doing is calling his allies, calling advisers, having conversations about what they think is going to happen on the stage. What I'm doing is I'm talking to several of these allies who are on the phone with him, getting a read on where his head is at. And right now, they say that he -- says that he is focused that he knows what he has to do when he gets onto that stage.

Now, one thing that was interesting we've had a lot of conversations about is this fact that there is no audience when it comes to the debate. Now that was perceived by many close to Donald Trump originally as something that might hurt the former president, that he feeds off the energy of an audience.

However, I spoke to a number of allies today who said that they're actually starting to believe that that could help the former president because when he is feeding off of those audiences, that is when you start to see him rant, obviously, we all saw that rally in Nevada where he went on about getting electrocuted and talking about sharks, feeding off of the crowds energy. They do not want to see that on Thursday. So, they are hoping that this actual lack of an audience is going to help Donald Trump stay focused.


RAJU: Yeah. We shall say, so many questions ahead of Thursday. Kristen Holmes from West Palm Beach, Florida, thank you so much. And my panel is here with me in studio to break down all this. CNN's Eva McKend, Josh Dawsey of The Washington Post, and The Cook Political Report's Amy Walter. Good to see you all. Thanks for being with me. Stay on message, that's what --


RAJU: You know, is that pause? What are you hearing from the Trump team as we head into Thursday about their strategy and whether that actually is something that they actually expect Donald Trump staying on message?

JOSH DAWSEY, POLITICAL INVESTIGATIONS REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, I don't think they -- anyone who's been around him for any stretch of time and expects him to say exactly what he's told to say. I mean, he's his own sort of strategist and comms director and proudly said, right. So, he's going to do what he wants to do up there.

But I will say what they're giving him is lots of -- sort of facts and on immigration, on the economy and how they want him to attack Biden and giving him planting seeds in his head. I mean, they've had several informal sessions. He's not -- you know, Biden is out at Camp David. He's doing extensive work, where he's bringing all these people in, and you know, sort of playing these things out.

Trump is not going to do that. Trump will do informal sessions, policy sessions, where they talk about things with him. As Kristen said, I think he's doing a lot of calls with folks that are sort of informal. But they're just trying to put germs in his head of things that they want him to say when he's on stage --

RAJU: And will he do that, right?

DAWSEY: And I think what she said, I'll say it was important, is they want him to not, you know, necessarily take the debate on the terms that Biden wants it to be on right, to quickly pivot answers back to topics that are friendly or do not, you know, what most of the conversation be about abortion and J6, and other places where he polls unfavorably. But you know, reminding him just to pivot and go back to being on the offense. And, you know, we'll see if he does that.

RAJU: And that's how the Biden's team wants a similar --

DAWSEY: Right.

RAJU: As they try to be on the offensive. And as Kayla reported, not to lay out all of his accomplishments in office, now the laundry list. They want to contrast. Is what -- is it to reiterate what one thing that Kayla pointed out in her reporting from an outside. One top Democrat, she said, she had these concerns. He wants credit, but it's not working. Referring to Biden, he needs to stop.


RAJU: I mean, it's so gentle, you know, these candidates, especially incumbents, like to have a long reverse (Ph) of everything that I've done, but that's not necessarily what voters want to hear.

AMY WALTER, PUBLISHER & EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, COOK POLITICAL REPORT: Well, they aren't necessarily believing it right now, because it's not their lived experience. So, to talk about how great the economy is, is not landing because people believe that the cost of stuff is still too much. So, regardless of what the unemployment rate is, regardless of how well the stock market is doing. That's not how they're gauging their own economic circumstances.

So, it's important to do that for that purpose. The other is, as Josh said, this has to be a contrast. I mean, the entire theory of the Biden campaign is, we win if this election is about Donald Trump, if this is a contrast with Donald Trump. I'm just talking to, you know, Democrats, they appreciate that. If this is a referendum on the economy and on Joe Biden, he's not going to win.

RAJU: Yeah.

WALTER: Right. But Trump wins that every time. So, this is -- I mean, he's putting it really all on the line here in terms of changing the focus of this campaign from one that's about the incumbent to one that's about the (inaudible).

RAJU: You know, so many voters have not seen Trump in last four years, it's been the first time to reengage with him and just see how he behaves under the spotlight with millions and millions of voters watching -- Biden got some unsolicited advice, maybe were solicited, but appears to be unsolicited advice from Hillary Clinton. In writing in today's New York Times about how she dealt with Trump back in 2016.

It is nearly impossible, she said, to focus on substance when Mr. Trump is involved. In all three debates in 2016, he unleashed a blizzard of interruptions, insults and lies. Is a waste of time to refute Mr. Trump's arguments, like in a normal debate is nearly impossible to identify what his arguments even are. These ploys will fall flat if President Biden is as direct and forceful as he was when he engaged Republican headquarters at the State of the Union address in March.

Now, (inaudible) State of the Union, it was on teleprompter. He was reading it for profit. Yes, he had a head cold. He had a moment back and forth. But this is 90 minutes without a prompt.

EVA MCKEND, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS CORRESPONDENT: Right, right. But although Secretary Clinton in that op-ed also says that she thinks when the two of them are up there together, that the contrast will really be clear. I would say President Biden does have an economic argument to make. He can talk about capping the cost of insulin, allowing Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices for the first time. So that he does have an affirmative argument to make.

And I do think Americans will want to hear that, maybe not in a sort of esoteric and academic long-winded way, but he does have to make an affirmative case for why he should be president again. It can't all be attacking President Trump. And then of course, he can also needle Republicans for not going as far as he wants to go. You know, Democrats want to raise the federal minimum wage. They want to extend the child tax credit for instance and that is a Biden policy that Republicans stood in the way.


RAJU: You mentioned the Biden economy, unemployment was 6.4 percent when Biden took office, 4.4 percent now the unemployment. He does have some numbers. He can certainly point to. 50 million jobs created. There were -- 15 million jobs created, 3.3 percent inflation rate, of course, inflation got much higher. 9 percent in the summer of 2020 is down now. But the question is -- summer of 2022 I should say.

The question is, how do voters feel about that? Yes, sir, there are good things here. On the economy, job -- Biden's job approval 41 percent on the economy, and inflation 37 percent. And voters tend to trust Trump more over the recovery, May versus June, Trump was up 13 points in May, June five points. This is according to Fox News poll. If you believe there's some movement there, there's a moment, but nevertheless, Trump is still winning. If you're the Biden, what do you take away from them --

WALTER: Yeah. I mean, it was point is a really good one, which is you have to make a proactive argument. But it has to be about costs. This is what is making people really frustrated. That stuff costs more, and it is true. If you look at first term presidents, compare this president with any other going back 30, 40 years, the only person who has had costs increase this dramatically during their tenure was Jimmy Carter.

And so, from the time that Biden started till now, the cost of stuff has gone up 20 percent. With Carter, it was close to 40 percent. That's a -- that's a lot. And it felt -- and it was very dramatic. So, to make the case for one, how am I going to bring prices down? And two, the one opportunity that Biden has, I think, in contrast on the economy is -- and we saw this in our own battleground state polling, voters do trust Biden to look out for them.

So, if the question is, who's going to do a better job on the economy? Trump wins that argument. Who understands me and my concerns? Biden does have an advantage with swing voters on that question. So, to say, he doesn't get where you're coming from. This is why you see his ads. Biden's ads are all about, Trump's looking out for himself. I'm looking out for you. We'll see if that resonates.

RAJU: Yeah. And speaking of the way they've been talking about these issues, about the economy. Just take a listen to how these two candidates have been talking about the economy over the last several weeks.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: It's clear, we have the strongest economy in the world. That's a fact. 15 million new jobs created in three and a half years. Unemployment hasn't been this low for this long for 50 years. Wages are rising faster than prices. And now we have among the lowest inflation rates of any country in America and still -- we're still fighting to lower it even further.

We're fighting to lower healthcare cost, education cost to give just a little more breathing room. We're just getting started in the second term. I want to keep it going to level of playing field we're making the wealthy, began to pay their fair tax.

DONALD TRUMP (R), FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT AND 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The minute crooked Joe Biden, you shuffles out the door. I will rapidly rebuild the greatest economy, the history of the world. Look, we had the greatest economy in history. Everybody here, will you have a small business or if you had a job, you were getting more than you ever made and we had no inflation.

But I will give you low taxes, low inflation, low interest rates, rising wages, growing incomes and fair trade for the American worker. And we will make energy affordable again, by saying drill baby drill.


RAJU: I mean, the challenge too, is that voters tend to have looked at Trump's handling the economy better than they did when he was in office. He's been benefiting that one poll hit him up 64 percent approval on that issue. He's been benefiting from time since been out of office.

MCKEND: He certainly has, people have short memories. But this economy issue is just a persistent one from Democrats -- for Democrats. And it is a messaging and branding problem more than anything else. Because the economic policies that Democrats champion are popular and some of the Republican policies that -- economic policies that Republican champion are not.

RAJU: Raju.

MCKEND: Yet, yet. If you ask the average American, they still want to hand their pocketbook and their budgets over to Republicans to handle, and Democrats just have to figure that out.

RAJU: What do you think?

DAWSEY: Well, I think Trump certainly is going to talk about the economy a lot on Thursday night. I mean, the core attacks that he wants to make on Biden are on the economy and on immigration, right. And that's sort of his dream wishes. I think if you're the Biden's folks, the ones I've talked to and you guys probably talked about them, but I do. But, you know, want to talk about abortion. And they want to talk about what he did on January 6, and about democracy. They sort of have totally different playbooks where they think the other candidate has a weaknesses and where they want to take the debate.


I think Biden's argument is to show in his mind as my colleague Michael Shear wrote this week. Trump is more extreme than he used to be. He's more outlast touch than he used to be. He's lost his staff. He's not the Trump, but you remember he's got worse. And I think obviously the Trump argument is they want to make Biden seem feeble. They want to make him seem senile. They want to make him seem older. He doesn't know what he's doing for the country, right.

And I think it really is a debate. Amy and I were talking about this in the green room before we came. That actually I feel like could have real impact. You know, a lot of these debates don't ever move the race, but I think this is one where people are watching and they really are, you know, half high stakes for both candidates.

RAJU: Question, the race has been stable for months, but really deadlocked for months. This could change things. All right. Reminder, we're just two days away from the CNN presidential debate. Moderated of course, by Dana Bash and Jake Tapper. Don't miss President Joe Biden and former President Trump go head-to-head Thursday at 9:00 pm. Coming up. It's the most expensive House primary race in U.S. history. And it could mark the end of the road for an outspoken member of the squad.





RAJU: Mr. Bowman, why did you plead guilty to knowingly pulling that fire alarm? And you said that you didn't know it. Initially you told all of us you didn't know there's a fire alarm.

BOWMAN: Why are you still talking about this man. That's behind me. That's been adjudicated. We're done. Pay the fine, move forward. In three months, it'll be dismissed.

RAJU: But you weren't -- you didn't -- you weren't straight about what happened initially?

BOWMAN: I was very straight. I was straight from the very beginning.

RAJU: So, you said you didn't know though.

BOWMAN: I was straight from the beginning.

(END VIDEO CLIP) RAJU: All right. That was back in the fall when things were starting to move in the wrong direction for Congressman Jamaal Bowman. After he pulled a fire alarm in a House office building. Today he's fighting for political survival in a bitter primary against a more moderate democratic candidate, George Latimer.

The race is amplifying deep divides in the party over the war in Gaza, and it is also the most expensive House primary race in U.S. history. More than $25 million have been spent on ads alone, and that includes nearly $15 million from a Super PAC tie to the pro-Israel group AIPAC.

My panel is back. So, Bowman is in real trouble here. You know, you don't really see very rare to knock off an incumbent in a primary, but this is much different. How do you see it?

WALTER: Yeah, it is. You need a whole bunch of things to go right to beat an incumbent in a primary. The first is that incumbent has to have some liability. And in this case, as you pointed out in the opening, there was all the controversy around pulling the fire alarm. He's not particularly well known. He was just elected in 2020. So, he doesn't have a real deep base in that district. The district has changed because we had redistricting after he won in 2022.

So, a lot of his core base is no longer in that district. And the fourth thing is you pointed out that you have an issue like Israel, which is a dividing line within the Democratic party and AIPAC saw these vulnerabilities of Bowman, and as a candidate, I know, that's the other thing you need., You need one candidate. And it's helpful to have one candidate who's as well-known as his opponent.

He represents Westchester County, which is basically the entire district. So, you have all those things that are working against Bowman and the money that's coming in, makes this really, really challenging for Bowman to survive. At the same time, there are plenty of other progressives who have similar views, who voted similarly on Israel, who are not going to lose their prize.

RAJU: Yeah. I guess that's my question for you. Like, if Bowman loses, what are the implications for the Democratic debate over Israel?

MCKEND: Well, That's -- that is the big question, but I think that's the question that the pro-Israel lobby sort of wants to be in the back of mind of Democrats at all times. It was always going to be a challenge for Congressman Bowman. Someone like him who's a fierce critic of Israel, you talked about the level of spending being unprecedented.

I think the message though for Democrats is walking away from this, is that, you have, you know, 21-year-old volunteers from organizations like Protect Our Power, working in support of him. If he does ultimately lose, what message does that say to those young people inspired by his brand of politics and his campaign? I think the challenge for the party is that those voices have become increasingly marginalized. And this race really, I think, puts that in front view.

RAJU: You know, what's interesting is that the ads that AIPAC has run, they have not always been --


MCKEND: But that's a strategic choice. That's a cynical strategic choice because they know that many Democrats might agree with Congressman Bowman's position on Israel.

RAJU: Well, Let's weigh in after we take a listen to those ads.


RAJU: I mean, this is an AIPAC ad related to a Super PAC ad that says, George Latimer will take on MAGA extremists and he'll work with President Biden to keep delivering progressive results. That's tied to AIPAC. They're not talking about Israel about a year.


DAWSEY: Yeah. That's a pretty clear choice. And they know what the Democrats because it's a different district, but I think the Tom Suozzi race in New York was particularly interesting in how he won and trying to find moderate Democrats and where they are in New York on various issues, right.

And I think in that race show that a lot of the Democratic Party in New York -- I used to cover New York politics is not as too far to the left as you might think. I mean, there are some real divides there that are -- that are interesting that are playing out here. And I think what Latimer is doing -- they're trying to do in Westchester, getting supportive establishment, you know, folks -- prominent Democrats across the country is playing to where he thinks the Democratic Party in New York is closer to be.

WALTER: Yeah. And it is pretty divided. Even Bowman's ads and those supporting him, don't talk about the Palestinian cause either. So, this is an issue that is dividing the electorate. I don't know that one or the other wants to lean in entirely on that issue. And instead, when you see Bowman's ads, they're talking a lot more about MAGA extremists, right that conservatives are supporting Latimer, i.e., they doesn't come out and say, that it is AIPAC in his ads.

RAJU: In a view, you're talking about the energy on the left behind Bowman. Listen to how this rally from Saturday that included Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Bernie Sanders stomping with Bowman.


REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D-NY): Jamaal Bowman dared to speak up for Palestinians. AIPAC doesn't give a damn about us. AIPAC doesn't give a damn about the Bronx.

REP. JAMAAL BOWMAN (D-NY): New York in a show -- AIPAC. The power of the -- south Bronx.


RAJU: But I guess to your point, if he loses, it will deflate those very people that the president and Democrats want to energize come November.

MCKEND: It very well could. But I mean, they want them out the way not only for the Israel Gaza issue, because they push from the left on a whole number of policy issues. You will rather have an AIPAC Democrat, you know, Congressman of a future House Speaker Hakeem Jeffries would much rather an AIPAC corporate Democrat than someone like Jamaal Bowman who's going to challenge and push him to the left on every turn.

RAJU: I should note that Jeffries is endorsing Bowman. I love that (inaudible), yes, exactly. So, let's quickly turn to other primaries that are on the calendar. There are actually two that were -- others are watching one the seek to effort to replace Mitt Romney in Utah. There's an establishment candidate, Trump bad candidate. We'll see how that plays out.

And also Congresswoman Lauren Gilbert. She is a member of the -- of the far-right of the House Republican conference. She is endorsed by Donald Trump. And she has had a number of controversies, shall we say, in her time in office. Just see some of the headlines there on your screen. She moved to another district --

WALTER: Right. I mean, not just close by -- entirely across the state.

RAJU: Exactly. Because of the fact that she could have been vulnerable in a general election against a Democrat in our current district.

WALTER: And what she has going for her is what Jamaal Bowman does not, which is -- it's a crowded primary. And so whatever anti-incumbent vote there is, gets divided among that multi-candidate race. The polling shows she's ahead, which is, you know, again, notoriety is for some professions is not good for politics, any -- what did they say, like, any --

RAJU: Any news is good news.

WALTER: Any news is good news or any public --

RAJU: I don't know if I agree with that.


WALTER: In this case, it seems to be working in her favor.

RAJU: Yeah. As is the Trump endorsement. So honestly, I get multiple candidates that can help her out. We'll say big, big night tonight. All right, coming up. Democratic Congresswoman and Biden campaign coach Veronica Escobar is here. I'll ask her about the president's strategy for Thursday night. And what he's doing to shore up the Latino vote.