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Inside Politics

New Biden Strategy: Unscripted Events, Aggressive Travel Schedule; Biden Ramps Up Campaign Schedule To Show He's Fit For Second Term; Biden Post-Debate Strategy: Visit Every Battleground State In July; Democrats Start Moving To Harris As Biden Digs In; Maryland Senate Candidates Hug It Out At July 4 Parade; Trump Team Laying Low, Wants Biden Uncertainty To Remain The Story; Trump Could Announce Running Mate Next Week; Among Trump's Top Choices: Burgum, Rubio, Vance. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired July 05, 2024 - 12:00   ET



PAUL DE GELDER, SHARK ATTACK SURVIVOR: So, what do you do when you get on the road? You try and mitigate that. You put on your seat belt. You drive the safe car. You follow the road rules. Waiting to do that when we enter the ocean as well, because this is a wild place. There are wild and dangerous animals in there, but we're the most intelligence species. So, we are the ones that need to take the action to make sure that we're safe.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: Paul de Gelder, thanks so much for joining. We're glad you're well. Don't forget the shark week starts Sunday on our sister network discovery. You can also stream it anytime on Max. Thanks so much to all of you for joining me today. In the CNN Newsroom. I'm Jim Sciutto. Do stay with us. Inside Politics with Dana Bash starts right now.

DANA BASH, CNN HOST, INSIDE POLITICS: Today on Inside Politics, more travel, less teleprompter. The Biden campaign says that's their plan for the rest of this month. They want to prove the president's fitness for office by sending him to all the battleground states, putting him in less scripted situations and having him sit later today for a critical TV interview.

Plus, we could be just a few days away from Donald Trump picking a running mate. We'll break down each of the leading contenders what they bring to the ticket and how they could also hurt it. And grow the bums out. Voters in the U.K. sent the ruling conservative party packing. It's just the latest example of voters all over the world saying, they've had enough, and they want new blood in charge.

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

As of today, we are four months out from election day, and just two months from the first vote by mail ballots going out. The question is, will Joe Biden be on those ballots? By the end of the weekend, we could have an answer.

As we speak, President Biden is on his way to Madison, Wisconsin for a campaign rally. He is also going to sit down there with ABC's George Stephanopoulos for his first on camera interview since the debate.

It will be fair to say the most important interview of his very long career because if he's going to stay in the race, he must convince voters, donors and Democratic lawmakers that he can handle not just the next four months, but the next four years. The campaign says, of course he can, and he does not sound like a man about to bow out of the race.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: You got me man. I'm not going anywhere.


BASH: CNN's Priscilla Alvarez joins us now live from the White House. Priscilla, what are you hearing?

PRISCILLA ALVAREZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Dana, in some ways, this is the cleanup tour really started in earnest with the president going to Wisconsin today to talk to voters, and also participating in that primetime interview. Campaign officials that I've been talking to say, look, we acknowledge this is a high stakes moment for the president. But they're also aware that the president is sometimes prone to those verbal missteps.

And so, this isn't just about the substance of what the president says during this interview, but also how he delivers it. And then of course, the president will go to Pennsylvania on Sunday. Now, we are now learning from the campaign that his original event in Pennsylvania to speak with the National Education Association will not occur because of an employee strike. And the campaign says, he will not cross the picket line, but he will still have stops in that battleground state.

But look, all of this is to say that over the last week, a very challenging week for the Biden campaign. Allies have repeatedly said, they want to see more candid moments from the president, more unscripted moments. And they're hoping that that is what he can display over the next few days.

So, this July campaign memo that was released today, in some ways, is them saying, we hear you. In addition to all of these stops, the president also expected to go to Nevada in mid-July to attend two conferences where he'll speak directly to black and Latino voters. It also includes a $50 million paid blitz.

So, the campaign is certainly trying to build up momentum, especially as they face pressing questions about the president and whether he is the most viable candidate going up against former President Donald Trump in this very heated election season.

I will know because you played the soundbite there earlier of the president at the barbecue. Just yesterday here at the White House that while the president observed the fireworks from the White House balcony, he was joined by Vice President Kamala Harris. She has not been there before for that presentation. In the past, he often engages in other July 4, fireworks engagements. So, this was an opportunity to show unity at a time when they are both coming under increased scrutiny. Dana?

BASH: Yeah. Sure was. Priscilla, thank you so much for that. I want to bring in a group here of talented and well source reporters to break down what is happening right now. David Weigel of Semafor, Seung Min Kim of the Associated Press, and Alex Thompson of Axios. Hello, everybody. Happy Friday to those who celebrate, I like to say. I think it's fair to say of any week this is just a day that ends and why because who knows what's going to be happening over the next several days.


Alex, I want to start with you. You have done a lot of reporting about questions leading up to the debate -- well before the debate about questions being asked by Democrats and others about Joe Biden's not just his age, because there are lots of people who are older than him serving, who don't get questioned about fitness and beyond, but about his ability to lead -- nevermind to campaign. What is the latest that you are hearing right now?

ALEX THOMPSON, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, AXIOS: I mean, this is a White House in crisis and in turmoil both on the campaign side and inside the building. Now, at the very top, you know, they finally started stop -- trying to stop the bleeding on Wednesday. You saw Jeff Zients convene a conference call with staff. You saw Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, do sort of -- you know, it seemed like pre rehearsed remarks for the campaign.

And, you know, some people did -- you know, were buoyed by that, but I talked to a lot of people afterward. And there's still real frustration. I talked to a high-ranking DNC official that basically said, the only way that concerns can be allayed is if Joe Biden is actually getting out there because they don't date people within the DNC and the White House, no longer believes senior leadership, because they feel that senior leadership wasn't candid with him about Biden's limitations.

So, the only way to get out there -- and they even brought up something that, you know, right wing -- media has been bringing up for years like this hierarchy, DNC officials said, it has weakened that Bernie vibes right now.

BASH: Oh, wow. Well, I just want to read a little bit of your story this morning, as we move on. You said, you just sort of summed up that Biden staff is miserable and alarmed. As pressure builds, they said Biden's remarks to campaign and DNC officials, which you were just talking about, on Wednesday seemed stilted and scripted, raising further questions among staffers who've wondered whether his tight inner circle is being honest about his abilities. You covered the White House as well, what are you hearing?

SEUNG MIN KIM, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, ASSOCIATED PRESS & CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right, right. I mean, I think we're just all hearing kind of this broad mass panic among the Democratic Party. Right now, whether it's within the White House is -- you know, among -- you know, most ranks of aides, whether it's among Democratic lawmakers, Democratic donor, strategists, and it's hard to overstate how crucial this interview is tonight.

And he has to knock it out of the park in the Democrats view. Just at a minimum, you know, he can't -- you know, that is kind of just the bare minimum for -- to help restore the confidence that -- for the president will help restore the confidence that he has lost among his party since the debate. Certainly, the events are -- the campaign events will also be closely watched.

But I will also point out that even just in the last 24 hours or so from Wednesday, when they really did start to do this damage control, especially with the president himself, he has made some couple of slip ups. And in this context, every little bit matters, whether it's sort of stumbling over words in his radio interviews or telling governors that he needs to have a shortened schedule, whether that was said in jest or not, that's probably not the image that you want to project in front of the public right now.

BASH: And so, as I come to you, one of the things that I'm hearing and I don't know why it didn't occur to me because it showed because I've been covering campaigns for ever is, yesterday was July 4, and that is a critical day for lawmakers, for elected officials, for candidates to be out with their constituents. They are at barbecues. They're at parades all day long.

And I've heard from some in critical battlegrounds that they heard from Democrats, not that they don't love Joe Biden, but they're really scared about losing to Donald Trump.

DAVID WEIGEL, POLITICAL REPORTER, SEMAFOR: That's what I saw. I was with Bernie Sanders, who was campaigning for Biden and for local Democrats last week. And each event had sort of a therapy session five. They remind me a lot of the mood I'd find from Democrats after 2016, and the shell shock they had after losing to Donald Trump.

It really was comparable to that, where people wanted solace. They wanted confidence that Biden could bounce back from some people. They wanted -- Bernie was approached by people who were asking him to unendorsed Biden, were to run -- one man I talk to at a run Bernie run sign. But a real panic at the grassroots that every Democrat is having to lay hands on and deal with right now.

And from the people who've been organizing the grassroots. I talked to a lot of them who said, they were ready. They were ready for what the Biden campaign told them be ready for on Friday, which was, we went toe to toe with Trump. We solved all the problems we had about the age question, and now go to it and win voters. And they said they couldn't do it. So day-by-day, people who've been organizing Democrats for this whole resistance era are saying, they're losing confidence, and they need more assurance from Biden himself -- if all their conversations are about this.

BASH: Yeah. And I should say, on the flip side of what I just said about Democrats being scared. It's a both and. I'm also hearing that there are lots of constituencies, lots of grassroots groups, who might be scared, but they also perhaps are more scared of an alternative to Joe Biden than just keeping him on the ticket. Are you hearing that as well?


THOMPSON: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, the thing is, there are no good options for the Democratic Party right now. I mean if you get rid of Joe Biden and you could have an open convention, which let's say, we do the open convention that's only four weeks before early voting starts.

So, whoever comes out of that convention, maybe stumbles out if it's a really vicious fight, is only going to have four weeks to stand up for an entire campaign. Now, obviously, they could probably inherit some of what Joe Biden has, but you know, they can only inherit part that is with the Democratic National Committee. They can't inherit everything that's part of the Biden campaign.

And then you could also have Kamala Harris, who -- you know, I think you can make an argument as more electable than Joe Biden right now, but she also has, you know, polling shows that she's not the most popular Democrat either.

BASH: Yeah. And so, when you talk about the concept and the possibility of a very tough convention of stumbling out of Chicago. That is one of the reasons why -- I'm sure we're all hearing that people are suggesting that it would be hard to imagine anybody other than the vice president taking the top of the ticket. And that is why part of the conversations that we are all having, and we know that people are having with one another inside the party at all levels, is what about Kamala Harris?

Isaac Dovere, our colleague here wrote the following. Democrats start moving to Harris as Biden digs in. Biden always says not to compare him to the almighty, but to the alternative. That's exactly what a growing number of Democrats looking at Harris are doing.

WEIGEL: They are in, and the conversations also moved in the last 72 hours, 96 hours to who would be her running mate. That's what I've heard from a lot more Democrats that it is seen as just impossible to say that somebody who was in the room with Joe Biden and vouched for him. And somebody we all said as Democrats is ready to this job can be kicked aside, beyond the campaign problems which I think are surmountable. Just that storyline.

Sorry that we had a presidency that we can't defend at the ballot box. And they're starting to talk about which governors would complement her well? Who could have a good introduction? All they want to get back to is the theory of the election of a week ago, which was if we just build a contrast with Donald Trump, if we're able to compare his record, his promises to a blunt naive and a blank slate, just to the normal Democratic Party that's been winning in states. We can win this election. How do they do that with a new running candidate? BASH: Which leads me to show our viewers some of what Kamala Harris has been doing already prior to -- way prior to the debate. She tried to prosecute that case on the stump.


KAMALA HARRIS, VICE PRESIDENT, THE UNITED STATES: Donald Trump openly tried to overturn the last election. And now he openly attacks the foundations of our justice system. Cheaters don't like getting caught. In the case of the stealing of reproductive freedom from the women of America, Donald Trump is guilty. Because of Donald Trump, more than 20 states have abortion bans, more than 20 Trump abortion bans.


KIM: Right, right. Well, it's interesting, because obviously, we know the well documented political problems that the vice president has had over the last a couple of years. But the Democrats I've talked to say, she's actually looking like a better alternative to President Joe Biden, particularly because of a couple of things. First, we just saw in that clip, the abortion issue.

She has been by far the leading messenger among -- from the White House and in the broader Democratic Party about reproductive rights and no activist. You know, the pro-abortion rights groups, women have been really energized by her advocacy on that issue. And they -- and she talks about it in a way that Joe Biden obviously can't.

And also, for -- you know, on the issue of Gaza, you know, even though she is part of the administration, clearly that has its policy. She doesn't get blamed as much as President Joe Biden does on that issue. So, you really have to bolster the support among your own party first. You know, obviously, there's an open question as to how she fares among independent swing voters. But you got to look at -- you got to shore up your party first. And some Democrats I've talked with think Harris does that over Biden at this point.

BASH: I want to make a very hard turn before we go to break to something that was brought to my attention. On Twitter, we talked about yesterday, of course being July 4, and that means that candidates are out with their constituents, and they're also out and they bump into their opponents.

This is a tweet by Larry Hogan, former governor, now candidate for Senate in Maryland. With several pictures of him hugging his Democratic opponent. The county executive, Alsobrooks, and he says great to catch up with her before this morning's Independence Day Parade walk in Dundalk. What unites us as Marylanders and Americans is always greater than what divides us.

Now, I have been made fun of by somebody on our staff who I will not name for being gullible because we all know Maryland is a very specific state, and it certainly is helpful for a Republican in the blue state of Maryland to actually -- physically look like they are moving across the aisle. That doesn't take away from the fact that this is not something that we're seeing a lot these days and it's great to show it to our viewers and to voters.


THOMPSON: I mean, both things can be true that this is good politics, but also this is who Larry Hogan is. This is how Larry Hogan, Republican was elected governor and then re-elected governor in deep blue Maryland, is because this is his persona. It can both be a good tactic, but also authentic to who he is.

BASH: Yeah. I don't think that Alsobrooks put that on her social. Maybe we missed it. Maybe we missed it. All right, everybody, coming up. Donald Trump's apprentice style auditions for VP, will one of these men be his running mate. Stay tuned.




BASH: Former President Trump has mostly ceded the spotlight to President Biden in the week since CNN presidential debate. Expect that to change next week when Trump could make the biggest announcement of the year, the identity of Trump's running mate. The finalists have made their interests known.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Anybody who has a chance to serve in a position like that at a time like this in our country should be honored by that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's got so many good choices that he can pick for this job. He can probably win the election without a vice president.

SEN. J. D. VANCE (R-OH): My attitude on the (audio blip) thing, Margaret is look, if he asked me, I want to help them, and of course I will be very interesting the job.


BASH: Joining me now are my two colleagues, CNN's Alayna Treene and Jeff Zeleny. Hello. It's been such a slow week and to write some nice time off. I want to start with you about where Donald Trump and his campaign is right now as they are approaching a potential change, potential -- like underline potential question mark.

This is what he has said on social media. The meanest and most vicious interviewer out there is George, I'm not even going to say that of fake news, ABC, one of the worst and most vile broadcasters in the business, just for the record. That's not true. Happy fourth of July to all including our highly incapable, "president." Also respects to our potentially new Democratic challenger Laffin, Kamala Harris. Someday somebody will explain to me why laughing is a negative but go ahead. ALAYNA TREENE, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: I mean, look, it is interesting because this -- really in the last 24 hours, we've seen Donald Trump ramp up his attacks. For the most part, he's tried to lay low this week at his club in Bedminster and let Biden and the Democratic hand wringing over whether he's fit to serve for another four years be the story. But these attacks on George Stephanopoulos is exactly what we saw him do in the lead up to the debate.

They are trying -- I'm aware. Yeah, exactly. They are trying to hedge their own bets in case Joe Biden does perform well in this interview. They're trying to claim that George Stephanopoulos is a liberal hack. That they're trying to claim that this interview is meant to be favorable to Joe Biden, obviously things that are not true. And so that's what they're doing here.

And I will tell you, just from my conversations with the Trump campaign, they are very much watching all of this unfold in real time, like the rest of America. They have no idea what is going to happen. The problem for them is, whatever does happen if Joe Biden ultimately does choose to step aside or even if he stays on, it greatly impacts his own campaign.

And what they've been telling me -- even though you've heard Donald Trump and his team for months now claim that, oh, Joe Biden is going to have to drop out before the convention. He's not -- he's going to be replaced by somebody else. Now, they're actually arguing many people on his campaign that they think Joe Biden is the best person for him to run again. So, they're dealing with this on their own as well.

BASH: It's interesting, though, given where we are probably not surprising. I just want to underscore George Stephanopoulos is one of the best interviewers out there --


BASH: And toughest, not mean tough, big difference. Let's talk about something that the Trump campaign can control -- that he can control, which is who is going to be on the ticket with him. Let's look at the people who have appeared to be made -- have made the short shortlist.

Governor Doug Burgum of North Carolina, the pros, he is very wealthy. He's a businessman. He's very mild mannered. Some of the cons he signed a strict anti-abortion law, a con when you're looking and trying to get suburban women and stricter certainly than Donald Trump has said that he supports, and he doesn't have any foreign policy experience.

Marco Rubio, fluent in Spanish, appeals to traditional Republicans has foreign policy experience, given the committee's that he has sat on and sits on right now. But he lives in Florida, and so does Donald Trump. That's not allowed. So, let's see how that would work out. And of course, remember, how can we forget the nasty 2016 primary fight.

And then J. D. Vance. We heard from him in those clips as well. He is very persuasive as a MAGA messenger. He certainly has a rags to riches story. He's close to the Trump family. People say that Donald Trump Jr. in particular loves him. He doesn't have a lot of experience. And he has also been very critical of Donald Trump.

ZELENY: Look, I mean, those are the three top contenders as it is explained to most of us and every caveat should apply that former President Donald Trump who's made a vice presidential pick before could deliver a surprise.


However, if we look at these three. Doug Burgum, so interesting. You mentioned the abortion thing is a con. He signed one of the most restrictive anti-abortion laws in the country with few exceptions, right around the time he was running for president. He was seeking the Republican nomination and trying to appeal to Iowa voters, evangelical social conservatives, strong antiabortion votes.

Now, this is coming to be viewed. I'm told as a negative in the Trump world who has tried to balance this abortion question and does not want to make his candidacy or the Republican ticket about abortion. So that is a big con for a Burgum.

But look, the wealthy thing is a big thing. He's spent a lot of money on his own campaign. And every reason to believe he would spend a lot of money on a presidential race as well. So, he's interesting, but Marco Rubio, despite the Florida thing, so many people I talked to think boy, he sure has a lot more on the pro side than the con side.

BASH: Yeah. Well, I'm glad you brought that up because Florida Republican and potential vice-presidential pick Senator Marco Rubio is going to be among my guests this Sunday on State of the Union. Join me at 9 am eastern right here on CNN. Don't go anywhere. Coming up. A new era begins in the United Kingdom. What the shift to the left signals to the rest of the world.


KEIR STARMER, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: We did it. You can pay for it. You fought for it. You voted for it. And now it has arrived. Change begins now.