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Source: Several House Dems Told Jeffries Biden Should Quit Race; Trump Leads Biden 49 Percent-44 Percent In New CNN Poll Of Polls; Biden: "No One's Pushing Me Out. I'm In This Race To The End"; Biden Vows To Stay In Race Despite Pressure From Fellow Dems; Person Close To Trump Tells CNN: "Chaos Is Our Friend"; Trump Campaign Ramps Up Attacks On VP Harris. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired July 04, 2024 - 12:00   ET




DANA BASH, CNN HOST, INSIDE POLITICS: Today on Inside Politics, a campaign at a crossroads. Joe Biden is pushing back against calls to drop out of the race as Democratic governors insists at least publicly that the president is, quote, in it to win it. And they're still behind him. But behind the scenes, that's not what my colleagues and I are hearing from concerned Democrats.

Plus, chaos is our friend. That's the message from the Trump campaign as the former president makes the rare move to see the spotlight to the current president as his uncertain political future. And Happy Birthday America. On this Independence Day, we'll hear from West Point cadets about their choice to serve the nation and what they believe makes the United States of America so special.

I'm Dana Bash. Let's go behind the headlines at Inside Politics.

We start on this Independence Day with a whole lot at stake for our nation, as members of the president's own party question whether he's up for four more years as commander in chief. But Joe Biden is digging in. A fundraising email last night had the subject line quote, I'm running. The president is also trying to ease concerns about the debate in a new radio interview.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voiceover): Is there any reason for the American people to be concerned?

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES OF AMERICA (voiceover): No, I had a bad debate.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voiceover): Yeah.

BIDEN (voiceover): I had a bad debate. But 90 minutes on stages does not erase what I've done for three and a half years. I'm proud of the record and we just got to keep moving. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: But some of his fellow Democrats are truly concerned and aren't so sure it's best to keep moving. I'm told that in a call last night that House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries held with senior Democratic lawmakers. Several said, they would like Jeffries to tell the president he needs to go. Although, Jeffries himself we are told is still in listening mode. But to be clear, not everyone we talked to feels that way. Many Democratic lawmakers say they are genuinely torn about the best path forward.

CNN's Arlette Saenz is at the White House. Arlette, what are you hearing at this hour?

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Dana, it's been one week since President Biden's debate and so far, it appears he has not fully assuaged the concerns of those in his party about the future of his candidacy and his ability to serve in a second term.

As you noted, there's a mixed reaction amongst House Democrats with some privately saying, they want to see the president step aside, and others indicating that they're worried about the frenzy that could emerge if Biden were to leave the race and leave a vacuum at the top of the Democratic ticket.

Now, President Biden publicly and privately has tried to assure some of his allies that he wants to remain in this race. He held a call with campaign staff yesterday, saying he plans to stay in this till the end. And he hosted governors here at the White House about 20 Democrats, some joining virtually, some in person to lay out how he wants to stay in this race, but also hear some of those concerns from these Democratic governors. Afterwards a few of them did emerge and say that they fully support the president at this moment.

But concerns were raised in that meeting. For instance, Maine's Governor Janet Mills, raised in that meeting some of the anxiety that voters in her state have about Biden's ability to win after his halting debate performance. But Biden privately even as he is saying that he's publicly going to remain in this race, he has privately told at least one key ally that he is aware of how critical the coming days will be to his campaign.

The campaign in many ways has set up many key tests for Biden's playing out in the next three days. Tomorrow, he will sit for that major interview with ABC News. He has many allies who have encouraged him to conduct -- participate in more interviews, to hold news conferences, have more impromptu sessions, so that will be a chance for voters to watch what he has to say.


He's also hitting the battleground states of Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. And then today here at the White House, he's hosting those big fourth of July festivities. He will be here with his family, while I'm told remains all in on this race. In a letter to -- in an email to supporters just a short while ago the president said, I give you my word as a Biden as long as I'm president, we're not walking away from our ideals, our alliances or our democracy.

BASH: Arlette, thank you so much for all that reporting. Appreciate it. I want to talk to more reporters who are here around the table to help us understand exactly what is happening inside the Democratic Party and beyond. CNN's Priscilla Alvarez, CNN's Kristen Holmes, Catherine Lucey of The Wall Street Journal, and Molly Ball also the Wall Street Journal. Hi, everybody. Happy fourth? Can you tell it's a fourth of July? I like to lean into these moments.

OK. So, let's start with where we are on this July 4, which is, as I said at the beginning, this is definitely a campaign and a president at a crossroads. And I want to set the table with the CNN Poll of Polls. But there have been some polls that have come out since the debate and what CNN does is put them all together. And here's what it shows.

Pre debate, trump 49, Biden 47. Post debate, you can see that Biden has gone down a few points. It is so close, but not as close as it was. Priscilla, you cover the White House for us. Obviously, these are the public polls. I am very confident that the Biden campaign and the White House are looking at internal data as well.

PRISCILLA ALVAREZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Internal data that they've also shared with donors. They took that extraordinary step shortly after the debate to show what other Democratic candidates would look like against foreign President Donald Trump. So, this is top of mind. Oftentimes, when these polls have come out, the campaign will quickly dismiss them, and say, look, we know it's going to be a tight race. And that's what these polls show.

But what you also showed there is that after the debate, the president lost some support. And even if this is going to be a tight race, that is not promising polling for them in this very moment. When they are trying to convince their donors and they're trying to convince the Democratic Party, that the president is the one that is still best suited to go up against former President Donald Trump.

Now, another takeaway from those polls was how Vice President Kamala Harris was slightly outpacing President Biden in a hypothetical matchup with Donald Trump, that perhaps in some ways, especially for her allies is comforting. But that doesn't mean that she's suddenly going to try to undercut him and try to take the lead here.

What it does say is that at least some part of the ticket is showing promise. But in this very moment, President Biden is not delivering in these polls the way that they wanted to, and they are still looking. And they are aware that it's very critical. What these polls continue to say for him to make his case with Democrats.

BASH: What are you hearing from your sources?

CATHERINE LUCEY, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: Another key thing that I think everyone is waiting for inside and outside is battleground state polling. So, a lot of the polling that's made so far -- yeah, is national polling. Well, journal has a new poll showing a rise in the number of people who think that Biden is too old, you know, again showing this the Trump's lead expanding.

But really what we need to see is how is he performing in Pennsylvania and Michigan and Wisconsin and Arizona. And we haven't seen that yet. The campaign, I think, is really trying to sort of front end those polls, telling donors and calls this week that, you know, polls go up and down -- you know, that they -- but the reality is, I think that's going to be the next key polling test.

BASH: I want you to listen to another part of the interview that the president did on the radio this morning.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voiceover): What do you say to the people who plan on sitting this election out?

BIDEN (voiceover): The same thing that was said to me when I was a young kid getting out of school during the civil rights movement. If you don't do something about it, you're to blame. You're responsible.


BASH: What do you think of that, Molly?

MOLLY BALL, SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: Well, that has been the message, right? And many Democrats feel that very acutely. They do think that their country and the democracy -- our democracy are in danger if Donald Trump returns to the White House. But that is part of the angst that they are feeling right now. Because when they see these polls taking a turn for the worse, and you know, the line from the White House in the campaign has been well, look, the bottom is not falling out. This is all sort of margin of error could even be noise, the direction is consistent.

Our journal poll that Catherine mentioned, has Trump with a six-point lead. The Times polls showed the same thing. And there's a big difference between a six-point race and a two-point race. And so, what a lot of donors and top party officials are feeling is maybe the bottom hasn't fallen out, but we were losing before and now we're losing by more. And they're starting to lose hope that there's any way of recovering this as long as Joe Biden is the candidate.

And they're frustrated with the strategy that they're seeing out of the White House in the campaign where there has not been a massive proactive mobilization in response to this. Instead, it's been the same tactics and rhetoric that we've heard from them for the past year plus, which is we're just going to ride this out and everything's going to be fine. People are do not believe that.


BASH: Well, let me give one example of a person who wants to see more, somebody who really loves Joe Biden, Debbie Dingell of Michigan from the critical, critical state of Michigan. Listen to what she told CNN this morning.


REP. DEBBIE DINGELL (D-MI): There's only one person that can show, he is up to the job, has the stamina to do the job, that he will do the job. And that is Joe Biden. And he needs to get out there on a sustained basis and do things spontaneously. One interview is not going to reassure folks, that is where time is not on his side. The White House staff can't wrap them in bubble. They got to put them out there.


BASH: Kristen?

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah. I think that's accurate. I mean, I think we've heard from a number of people who have said, particularly at the White House, look, he's getting out there. Now he's doing these interviews. One thing I will mention is that not most -- most of America does not pay attention to every rally that these candidates do. In fact, they don't really like or interested in either of these candidates.

And so, the one moment that Donald Trump and Joe Biden had to really showcase themselves was this debate that we know millions of people watch. Now, Joe Biden has to basically piece together various events to try and get the traction back that was lost during that debate.

I mean, as somebody who has covered Donald Trump for two years, I can tell you that most of America are not watching his rallies. They're not listening. They're seeing a few clips online, but they don't pay attention. Because a lot of America doesn't actually like Donald Trump. It's the same thing with both candidates. They're not watching these candidates. So now he has a harder road to go down to try to fix this.

ALVAREZ: Well, the White House in that campaign have been very methodical in the way that they present Biden and where he's going, what he's doing. And a lot of that too is sometimes adjusting for his age. This is an older president. And these polls have also shown that voters have become more concerned about his age, since the debate, and that is something you just can't change.

The campaign says that this -- these moments -- and Debbie Dingell saying that if he does want scripted moments, he can show that energy. I've been to his rallies, many of them, and yes, he does feed off the people. But it still doesn't change the little clips that people see online, have a president who was frankly elderly.

LUCEY: And it wasn't like people weren't concerned about his age (inaudible). Polling has consistently shown for years that the public was very, very concerned about his age and now it's gotten higher.

HOLMES: And the Democrats were saying that that's what they wanted him to prove on the stage. It wasn't going to talk about policy, it was show that you're up for the job. So that's also plays into your point.

LUCEY: One that I'm sure other folks have heard too, is that when Biden was meeting with these governors and giving his phone calls, he says he acknowledges this. He told he is -- what I was told about the governor meeting is that he was clear eyed about what he had to do, that this was going to be hard, that he had to be out there more, that he had to do more impromptu things, he had to do more off the cuff events. And so, we have to see if he does that.

BASH: I'm glad that you brought up the governors meeting because it was really striking to see the way that each one of them, all the Democratic governors was -- that were singing from the same hymnal. And we'll just give you an example.

Kathy Hochul of New York. Joe Biden is in it to win it. The stakes this November could not be higher. Gavin Newsom. I heard three words from the President. Tonight, he's all in, and so am I. Joe Biden's had our back. Now it's time to have his. Gretchen Whitmer. Joe Biden is our nominee. He's in it to win it. And I support him.

BALL: And they're all in present tense. They all say he is our nominee at this moment. And none of them really project forward into the future to guarantee that he is going to be the nominee come November, for example. There's a lot of uncertainty behind the scenes, right. And we heard that the conversation in that governors meeting was pretty frank behind the scenes.

I don't think we know everything that was said. But these are -- you know, governors, many of them out there in battleground states or even states that we don't necessarily consider battlegrounds. And they're now looking at those states suddenly being put in play by an unexpectedly volatile race. So, their political lives are on the line as well.

BASH: Yeah. I know, you're very astute as always, Molly Ball, that it was in present tense. And it does reflect, I'm sure what we're all hearing. And I heard in so many of my conversations, and that is that there is true -- people feel truly torn. There's a true dilemma because they love Joe Biden. They really do. They also really want to beat Donald Trump. And they're worried that those two feelings are colliding right now. So, you know, we'll see. We'll definitely see what happens when he gives the interview on ABC News.

And much, much more. Don't go anywhere because up next. How Donald Trump really feels about President Biden's debate performance. New video straight from the golf course, next. And later we have a special guest in studio to help kick off CNN's The Fourth in America show. We're coming back right after a quick break.



BASH: Chaos is our friend. That's what a person close to Donald Trump told CNN about the turmoil inside the Democratic Party over the past week. Republicans are happy for the attention to be on Democrats. And Trump has stayed uncharacteristically silent this week, except he was caught on video obtained by The Daily Beast and then posted by Trump on his social media platform. [12:20:00]


DONALD TRUMP (R), FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT AND 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: How did I do with the debate the other night. I kicked that old broken-down pile of crap.


BASH: He went on to say, he thinks Kamala Harris would be an easier opponent saying quote, she is just so effing bad. Back with our panel. Kristen, this is your reporting. Take it away. What else should we know?

HOLMES: Well, Donald Trump's team is really trying to assess right now what exactly this means for the future of their campaign and the election. It seems as though they didn't quite realize how bad that this was for President Joe Biden until Monday afternoon, when this information from Democrats kind of leaking out what had happened with debate prep.

What had happened with Joe Biden behind the scenes, started escalating, and they really saw the spiral that was happening within the Democratic Party. And that's when it really appeared to them that this could mean something, something could happen next.

Now, I will note, they have spent millions of dollars on data modelling, trying to figure out the best pathway to beat President Joe Biden. So, whether or not Joe Biden is on the ticket actually does really matter to them.

But what's interesting to me is that they've really spent the last year kind of floating this conspiracy theory that Joe Biden wasn't going to be the nominee, that at some last moment he was going to step down was going to be someone else. But now that that reality is here, they actually have to grapple with what that looks like. It is not something that they prepared for.

BASH: And another part if I may of your reporting, along with our colleagues, Steve Contorno and Alayna Treene is the following. Trump's team is scrambling to prepare for any outcome, including whether may need to mount a new campaign focused on a different opponent. Well, they have already been somewhat lightly doing that as part of their anti Joe Biden strategy that you were talking about. Let me just give our viewers an example of part of an ad that they ran last week in anticipation of the debate.


BASH: Now, the fact that she has a sense of humor. I'm not sure how that's a big negative, but you know, maybe they have data that I don't see that people aren't supposed to laugh.

LUCEY: It's certainly been trolling her for a long time.

BASH: Yeah.

LUCEY: I mean, Trump has been critical of her for a long time. They've also -- this sort of coded like, vote for Biden as a vote for Harris. They've been doing this --

HOLMES: And part of this was they don't think that she's popular, which I don't think anyone has any idea what would happen if she was actually at the top of the ticket. But they have escalated those attacks. Those were, as you said, kind of poking at her. I think just in the last couple of days, we've seen a memo from campaign managers going after Harris. We've seen the Super PAC going out and calling her names, taking an attack on her stances, immigration czar --

BASH: Trump's.

HOLMES: Trump's, yes. Going after Harris. So, they've clearly seen some kind of escalation here. I am told that they're not going to have any kind of big pivot in their attacks or their research or their data or where they're spending their money until they see this play out because they really have no idea what's going to happen next, like many of us.

BASH: You mentioned, your poll, the Wall Street Journal's poll, and we have -- of course, been focused on Joe Biden, but let's look at what it said about Donald Trump. First question, what's a bigger concern, Biden's age. People said 46 percent. Trump's behavior is virtually the same, 45 percent. And there's one other data point that we want to show our viewers. How well does authoritarian describe Trump? 66 percent said yes. So that's pretty much two thirds of the American electorate.

BALL: Well, I mean, one thing that this all underscores is, how much of this was already baked in before that debate performance, right? Certainly, there are a lot more people now saying that they believe that Joe Biden is too old to serve. But a lot of people believe that beforehand. A lot of people questioned his capabilities.

And one thing I do want to say explicitly, just because so many people believe so many kooky things is this is not a conspiracy that we are watching unfold. This is not a secret plot that the DNC had to replace Joe Biden and has been, you know, choreographing this whole time. There are people who really believe that.

BASH: Well, that's one that I missed on. Thank for ruling it in us.

BALL: This really is the, you know, chaotic and unprecedented situation that we've all been describing. This is not something that Democrats wanted to have happen. But because, you know, Kamala Harris was viewed as a liability for the campaign and was the focus of Republican attacks even before that debate and this whole conversation took place. There are a lot of Democrats who believe look, we're going to take the hit for her no matter what.

So having her be the running mate versus the nominee, it doesn't really matter. People whose main objection is to Kamala Harris are already being presented with that choice, with that potential liability for the campaign.

Last thing I'd say is just, you know, the sort of campaign one to one instructions in this situation for Trump's campaign would be just lie low, let them light themselves on fire and stay as far away from it is possible. Never before have we really seen Trump capable of following that kind of campaign advice, but they do seem to be doing it now and --


BASH: It's almost like a brief moment in the fall of late summer of 2016 where it happened. It was brief.

ALVAREZ: Well, I would say with the vice president, you know, right now, a lot of her allies say that the last several months were an example of who she is on the campaign trail. Remember, there was a long time when people said, where is she. What is she doing? She got a lot of heat for taking on the portfolio with the root causes of migration, et cetera.

But then on the campaign trail, people started to get to know her, and that sort of prosecutor side of her came out, especially on abortion. I mean, this was one of their key issues. And they launched her into that in January. So, there is some data points that they can point to, to say that they are trying -- that she has been elevated in this moment that voters are getting to know her more.

But oftentimes, the folks I talked to you say, they still don't know her enough. And that's why this is all so unknown. But at the very least, her allies are certainly feeling pretty good about the fact that they're noticing what they've said was there all along, but perhaps over the last three years, we didn't see as often.

BASH: Fascinating. OK. Thank you so much. Before we go, I just want to look at your button. Hashtag, I stand with Evan. This is about your colleague, both of your colleagues. Our fellow journalist Evan Gershkovich, who has been in a Russian prison unfairly for -- this is the second July 4.

LUCEY: That's right. Yeah. He's -- the second July 4, he is in there wrongfully detained. Obviously, his family, his friends, his colleagues really want to see him set free. And we all stand with him today as we will continue to do.

BASH: Yeah, yeah.

BALL: And on this Independence Day, especially, just need everyone to support him and to understand that journalism is not a crime.

BASH: Journalism is not a crime. And you know, we wish him well. We can't even imagine what he's going through. Thank you so much for wearing that. Thank you so much. Happy July 4. Don't go anywhere though. Because coming up on this fourth of July holiday, West Point cadets reflect on why they serve the country.