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Laura Coates Live

CNN Covers Super Tuesday; RFK, Jr. Considers Aaron Rodgers And Jesse Ventura As Potential Running Mates. Aired 11p-12a ET

Aired March 12, 2024 - 23:00   ET



LAURA COATES, CNN HOST: The critical number that will say if Joe Biden and Donald Trump will end up locking in their nominations.

David, CNN predicted that President Biden clinched the democratic nomination early in the evening, but we're still actually waiting on Trump. So where does that stand?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yes, we're waiting for some votes to come in from Washington State. I don't see any yet as I check the latest tallies here, but that will likely put Donald Trump over the top.

Look at where we are, Laura. Donald Trump needs 1,215 delegates to secure the Republican Party nomination. There's no mystery. We know Donald Trump is going to be the Republican nominee. He's currently at 1,188. He's 27 delegates away.

Let's take a look at what that means in terms of percentages because this is really an astonishing number. Donald Trump has won 92% of the delegates already awarded in this republican nomination contest.

Ninety-two percent, a former president who is on trial across four criminal cases dominating this republican nomination season, the party overwhelmingly selecting him to be their standard bearer going forward.

What does that mean in terms of what Donald Trump needs? He only needs 2.4% of all the remaining delegates this nomination season to secure the party's nomination. He's going to get that in these next few moments, probably, as we await vote from Washington State.

And because it is a quasi-winner-take-all, if the candidate is more than 50 -- gets more than 50% of the vote, roughly, they're going to get all the delegates. And so, we expect in Washington State Donald Trump to cross that threshold and hit a real pivot moment as he becomes the presumptive Republican nominee, Laura.

COATES: On the democratic side, David, Joe Biden did get nomination, I guess, clinched for delegates not long ago. What is the latest for him?

CHALIAN: Yeah, he's well over that 1,968 needed to secure the democratic nomination. He's at 2,011. He'll continue to add to his delegate total tonight. But Joe Biden who, as you know, is on his fourth campaign for the presidency in his life, has secured the Democratic Party nomination for re-election here. The delegates will make it official in Chicago this summer at the Democratic National Convention.

But it is astonishing to see that with all the concerns many Democrats had about Joe Biden as their standard bearer this cycle, given his age, the vitality questions and whatnot, that he really didn't have much competition.

So whatever that hand-wringing had been, it didn't materialize into any substantial candidacy to threaten his nomination in any way this entire season, and tonight, he crossed the threshold and is the presumptive Democratic nominee.

COATES: David Chalian, thank you so much. You know, John King is at the magic wall for us with the latest on what we're seeing. John, what can you tell us?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Laura, now, as David notes, we move on, right? It's not official yet, but Joe Biden is the presumptive Democratic nominee. Donald Trump, in a matter of minutes, should be the presumptive Republican nominee.

This is the democratic map. I'll show you the republican map, just waiting to see. Watch as I'm talking to see if any votes come in up in Washington State. There, the polls are now closed.

So, what do you do now if you're the candidates? There's a lot you can't control. But Donald Trump has something he can control. He has to pick a running mate, right? When's he going to get on that decision? He has to deal with his trials that you know better than most coming up. When are they scheduled? How do they affect the campaign? Those are things he has to deal with.

Joe Biden has to address weaknesses from the primary. So, let's start with him because he's going to be on the road the next few days, right? Where's he going? You know, he's got a schedule in Michigan. Remember, uncommitted, got 13% of the vote there. Younger voters, Arab-Americans in the state of Michigan, especially mad over the president's Israel-Hamas policies. He has to deal with that.

He's also moving on to Wisconsin soon. We haven't had a primary there yet, but this was a battleground state, 11,000 votes last time. I was out there a couple months ago. Joe Biden has a morale problem, a motivation, an excitement problem, especially in the Black community in Milwaukee. That's where he's going to be for an infrastructure event.

So, you see that. So, address your weaknesses. Now you have eight months to November with the conventions in between. For Donald Trump, we're seeing more evidence of that tonight. Again, waiting for Washington State. That will put him over the top.

But, Laura, you look at Atlanta. And again, if you just look at this, right, that's all Donald Trump, and it's 855. So, if you're a Trump Republican, you're saying, wow, big win, that's great, that's awesome, and he's going to clinch tonight. That's all true. That's big. If you're a Republican and you're a Trump fan, that's awesome, and he's going to clinch tonight.

But when you look in here, Nikki Haley is out of the race still, right? Remember, Georgia was 11,000 votes in 2020 in the general election. Joe Biden won. This is DeKalb County. Nikki Haley is getting 40%. She's not in the race anymore.

Donald Trump's problem in the suburbs continues. Move up a little bit over here to Gwinnett County. Donald Trump getting 77% there,that's better, but still 20% in the suburbs for Nikki Haley. Fulton County, Atlanta and the suburbs run an overwhelmingly democratic area. It will be blue in November.

However, if you're Donald Trump, you need to cut into the margins by getting some of those suburban votes. Nikki Haley getting 38% there.


Just move over and look here at Cobb County, 22% there. So throughout this, right, in Georgia, Laura, and throughout this, only Vermont going for Nikki Haley, an overwhelmingly strong performance for Donald Trump in the primaries.

As David noted, 92% of the delegates so far, that percentage is likely to go up when Washington State comes in and the states that have yet to vote. But, but even as you see strength, if you're a smart campaign, you're starting your weaknesses. For Donald Trump, that is in the suburbs.

COATES: John King, thank you so much. Stand by. Again, we are minutes away from seeing the first results out of Washington State, where the polls have just closed.

Kristen Holmes has been speaking with her sources inside the Trump campaign. Kristen, what are you hearing from them?

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Laura, about tonight, not really much because if you think about it, Donald Trump has really been acting as though he is the presumptive nominee for several weeks. Even before Nikki Haley dropped out, they were starting to pivot to the general election, looking at these key battleground states.

And I do want to address something that John was just talking about in terms of these suburban voters. This is something that Donald Trump's campaign knows that they have to work on. They see a weakness there. What they're trying to do now is find other voting blocs, particularly Democratic voting blocs, in which they see cracks in the system in terms of people who maybe are disinterested in Biden, who don't want to vote for the president, and they want to try to siphon those voters off.

One key demographic in Georgia, Black male voters, they see an opening there. Now, part of that is that they want to actively recruit Black voters. They have seen a small uptick in polls between the exit polls in 2016 and 2020 in terms of black support.

They also think that Donald Trump could bring in some of those voters. They do not think that they're going to change the entire demographic or voting bloc. This is just about getting enough voters to offset those suburban voters, to offset those independent voters.

In Michigan, you're looking at working-class voters. That's what Donald Trump's team is trying to do, to drive a wedge between Biden and that traditionally Democratic voting bloc, which is labor unions. We have seen that time and time again.

Donald Trump has been courting the Teamsters, trying to get any rank- and-file members he can. Now, what they're really working on now is the strategy to take over the RNC and take over the party and use that infrastructure in these key battleground states.

And I was told by a number of advisers that there are really seven states that they're the most focused on. That includes Michigan, Georgia, Arizona, Pennsylvania, states that they believe are going to be very competitive, that they believe some of them, which Donald Trump won in 2016 and lost in 2020, and they believe that they could take again, and they are necessary to take again, on the path to the White House.

So, what you're going to start seeing in the upcoming weeks is Donald Trump building out the not only ground game in these states, using the RNC and the infrastructure they already have, but also honing in on the strategy they want for these particular battleground states because, again, Donald Trump is going to have his voters turn out. They are motivated to turn out in these southern states, in these red states.

It's all about the critical purple states. Can he drive turnout and can they try to depress turnout for Biden enough to get him into the White House?

COATES: The great offset. Kristen Holmes, thank you so much. Abby?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: And as we talk tonight about the presidential matchup, there is also suspense in Congress in Washington. The Republicans, they have a razor-thin majority in the House, and it just got a little thinner.

Colorado Republican Congressman Ken Buck, he made a surprise announcement today that he is resigning at the end of next week. Buck had already said that he wasn't going to run for reelection in November, but he told CNN's Dana Bash that he couldn't wait any longer.


REP. KEN BUCK (R-CO): But a lot of this is personal, and that's the problem. Instead of having decorum, instead of operating in a professional manner, this place has just devolved into this bickering and nonsense, and not really doing the job for the American people.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Is it that bad that you're saying, I'm done?

Buck: It is the worst year of the nine years and three months that I have been in Congress. And having talked to former members, it's the worst year in 40, 50 years to be in Congress.


PHILLIP: Well, tell us how you really feel. Buck's decision will trim the Republican's slim edge in the House to 218 seats, compared to 213 for the Democrats. That means Speaker Mike Johnson can only afford to lose two Republicans on any given party line vote.

Let's get back to our panel here in New York. Scott, wow. But he's not wrong. It does suck to be in Congress in general. But it seems like for Republicans --


PHILLIP: I mean, in the House --


PHILLIP: -- all you do is spend your time raising money. When you're a Republican, you're spending time -- all your time raising money and taking votes on things that don't seem to matter all that much.

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: You know, call me old- fashioned, but I'm still on the opinion that if you go to the voters of a congressional district and ask them to send you to Congress for two years, you should do your job.

I mean, I appreciate that he is having a bad experience, and I appreciate that he personally feels like he's inconvenienced by being in the United States Congress.


But, you know, I think for most people who get up and go to work for a living every day, not every day is a lot of fun. Now, does it suck to be in Congress? I don't know. It's better than other jobs you could have, I guess.

CUPP: Name them (ph).


PHILLIP: All right. Everyone, stand by just one second. We have a major projection to make right here on CNN. CNN can now officially project that Donald Trump has eclipsed the delegate threshold to officially clinch the Republican nomination for president of the United States. We can say that because CNN can project that the former president has won Washington State. That milestone puts the country on a path toward a 2020 rematch.

David Chalian is back with us here. David, give us an update on where we stand now in this delegate watch. CHALIAN: Yeah, you just said it, Abby, Donald Trump has crossed the threshold. The former president has yet again secured the Republican Party nomination for the third presidential election cycle in a row.

One thousand two hundred and fifteen delegates are needed to win. Look at that Donald Trump number. He is now at one thousand two hundred and nineteen delegates.

This is after we were able to allocate 31 delegates from Washington State into Donald Trump's column. He's going to win Washington State tonight. We still have 12 delegates from Washington State to assign, but we have enough in Donald Trump's column to put him over the edge.

Look at where we are at Donald Trump's trajectory overall in this race, 1,219. And if you look at it by percentages, you will see Donald Trump has won overwhelmingly the vast majority. North of 92% of the delegates up for grabs in this nomination season so far. A big percentage to close it out. He makes it look as if it was really never in doubt for the former president, Abby.

PHILLIP: If you look at that disparity there, it's huge. And this also makes Donald Trump one of the earliest to clinch the nominations at this point in a primary process.

I want to go now to John King, who's over at the magic wall still. John, what more are we learning now that we have Washington State officially projected in Donald Trump's column? How did he get here?

KING: Abby, I think David just laid out the numbers. Sometimes, you don't need words. Just look. Just look. One state, Vermont, for Nikki Haley, coast to coast, for Maine and South Carolina and Georgia along the east coast, all the way over to California. Alaska is not really there on your map. You all know that, folks. It's up here. That's where we put it so you can see it. But coast to coast, a Donald Trump march with one exception, the state of Vermont.

And in Washington State tonight, putting him over the top, right now, he's at 73% of the vote. Again, conversation we've been having throughout the primary campaign, Abby, great strengths for Donald Trump, big wins for Donald Trump, more than 90 percent of the delegates for Donald Trump, but you are seeing some weaknesses in the sense especially in suburban areas.

Let's just go to King County right here where Seattle is, the biggest population center in the state of Washington. Nikki Haley at the moment getting 34 percent of the vote. Donald Trump is getting 61% -- 61% percent wins. This is a blue Democratic area. So, a lot of Republicans at home are saying, so what? You're not going to win Washington State if you're Donald Trump.

But if you want to win the suburbs in other places, you have to learn the lessons everywhere. So, you're seeing a bit of it here, even though Washington State has put Donald Trump over the top. You see he needs 1215. He's going to have at least 1219. That number is going to go up. He'll get more of the delegates from Washington when we allocate them. He'll get Hawaii later on tonight. But from Washington, Atlanta also came in tonight. Georgia, forgive me. And in the suburbs around Georgia, again, you see the same problem. Nikki Haley in DeKalb County getting 40 percent, if you round up.

In Fulton County, yes, I know, Republicans, it's a huge Democratic area, but you can't get -- you can't let your Republican opponent get that. That means you're weak among suburban moderates who could go for Joe Biden in a key battleground state in the fall.

So, for both of these candidates, here's your map for Donald Trump. Here's your map for Joe Biden. It is March 12th. We officially have presumptive nominees. Now the many, many more questions, Abby, between now and the conventions, the conventions in November, including a running mate for Donald Trump, and how many third-party candidates make the ballots in what states?

PHILLIP: Yeah, exactly right. John King, thank you very much. And back here in New York with our panel. Scott, after all of this, it's Trump and Biden again.

JENNINGS: Yeah. Boy, America, you can hear the cheering outside. It's deafening, the people who are so excited about what we're about to --

SIMMONS: Taking down the --



PHILLIP: And yet -- and yet, it is -- and yet, it is overwhelming. I mean, look at those maps. It's all blue and pretty much all red. It may not be hugely exciting, but the voters spoke in a resounding fashion.

JENNINGS: I actually think it is exciting because I have no idea who's going to win. I mean, some days I wake up and think Trump has the advantage. Some days, I think, you know, incumbent president would have the advantage.

I know this. Since the State of the Union, the polling hasn't looked very good for Joe Biden. Right now, in the national polling average, he is at his lowest job approval of his presidency. And Donald Trump looks like he just rolled up a really easy victory in the Republican Party.

So, right now, I'd have to say Trump is ahead. We've got a long way to go but Trump -- Trump looks like he's got the momentum right now to me.


S.E. CUPP, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: He also has a really interesting advantage, Trump, for all of his problems. The bar by his voters is set very low, right? I mean, he can be a liar. He can be a loser, a literal loser who lost it all for the White House, the House, the Senate. He could be a convicted criminal and they would still vote for him. He could be a rapist. He can be all the things. He can flub policy. He can change his mind on policy.

For Joe Biden, his voters hold him to a much higher standard. You have key constituencies and Black voters, Hispanic voters, young voters who are telling Joe Biden, do better, be better for us.

Israel is a big issue he is having to deal with his own party. When he flubs, Democrats are worried about his age, about his fitness. So, Trump has this advantage of having an entirely loyal voter base for whom the bar is set incredibly low, and Biden has to deal with a very high bar set by his voters. Meanwhile, we're all looking for the bar to drown our sorrow --


-- the state of affairs.

PHILLIP: And you can hear --

MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Currently, they're open, unlike New York.


CUPP: You see there --

PHILLIP: The frustration, that is exactly what S.E. is talking about. The frustration I hear from Democrats right now is exactly that. They think that Biden is being held to a higher standard. Democrat --

CUPP: He should be.


PHILLIP: But it's also Democrats holding him to --

CUPP: Yes.

PHILLIP: -- that standard, too.

PRESTON: They are. No, no, no. And S.E. is absolutely right. I mean, what did Donald Trump say? I could walk out on Fifth Avenue, shoot somebody, and I would get away with it. I mean, the fact of the matter was we laughed at him at the time, and the reality is he probably could get away with it nowadays.

Right now, what Democrats need to do, and look, there's still so much road ahead of us. Democrats really need to stop attacking their guy if they want him to win in November.

Now, Congresswoman Omar, who you interviewed last hour, she said that she was behind Joe Biden and that she was going to be behind him. Well, all her friends better get behind Joe Biden because what I certainly have seen with the Gaza and the Israel situation is that it's spreading beyond the Muslim communities. It is spreading to young people who weren't necessarily engaged and now are becoming engaged. I do think that that is problematic for the Democratic Party.

PHILLIP: This is another differentiation that we do see in the polls.

The New York Times-Siena poll from a couple of weeks ago showed something similar. Donald Trump, when you ask people who voted for him in 2020, 97 percent of them say they're coming right back. Joe Biden, that same question, he's at mid-80s. So, he's got some consolidating to do. Are Democrats acknowledging that?

SIMMONS: Of course, he's got some consolidating to do. The polls are obvious that this is not a great poll position for him to be in. The difference here is, though, mostly Donald Trump's vote hasn't really changed that much. This is all about Joe Biden voters who have fallen away and they've got to get them to come back.

And as my friends, some other friends of mine would say, it's a lot easier to get a lapsed Baptist to come back to church than it is to convince somebody to convert to your religion, right? So, you've got to just go back out there and go and proselytize, right, to these folks who have said, I'm not so happy, the people that S.E. just talking about, who are kind of on the fence about Joe Biden.

But here's the thing. We gave Donald Trump a field test, right? Everybody was nervous in 2016, and we thought, boy, we're really taking a gamble. We picked Donald Trump. We'll see what happens. We gave him a field test.

When the crisis struck, when the biggest crisis of the American experience probably in 100 years happened, he failed it miserably, failed it miserably with the pandemic, right? We were all in a horrible place.

Then he loses the election. Time for him to have a peaceful transfer of power. Every president going back to George Washington has done this well. He not just flubbed it, he took in the exact opposite position of a peaceful transfer of power and helped foment an insurrection, right? So we have seen this.

And then Joe Biden's field test, we have an economy that's growing, we're getting back to where we were supposed to be, he's like a normal person, you may not agree with him on all the policy, but he's not screwing it up.

PHILLIP: Well, Scott, I'm seeing your brow is furrowed.


I'm going to give you the last word to explain that.

JENNINGS: More people died from COVID on Joe Biden's watch than Donald Trump. That's number one. Number two, if you want to talk about why people are coming off, it's not just the Israel-Hamas war. It's the economy and its inflation.

There are core Democrat, working class, union, non-college educated, multiracial coalition-type voters who are pissed. They can't buy a house. They can't buy a car. They're running in place at best. And they are not in line with the Democratic Party culturally. And they're looking for somebody who even speaks a language they understand.

That's why Biden is having trouble, and that's why they're shopping around for Donald Trump.


SIMMONS: I know you said the last word for Scott, but I just have to say this. There is a cultural moment that people do agree with, which is that they are pro-democracy, and they also think women should have abortion rights. And we have seen those two issues in election after election matter for Democrats.

PHILLIP: We can't forget about that. That's not a side note. It was good that you stepped into that.


PHILLIP: That's a central issue in this election. So, we got to remember that that's what's coming down the pike for Democrats and Republicans. Laura, back to you.

COATES: Thank you. You know, there's so much to unpack. First of all, you guys, we have now officially the official rematch. And I see all of you excited, especially you, Ashley Allison. What's your reaction? It's official. I mean, it's not the nomination of the actual conventions, but you've got the Trump-Biden rematch. And voters, here's a time to lean in.

ASHLEY ALLISON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yeah. So, you know, I think on the Republican side, it's clear that it's going to be Donald Trump that sets the narrative for the entire race, for his voters. I think on the Democratic side, it will be Joe Biden doing the umbrella, like top 30,000-foot approach.

But I think actually part of building the coalition is building a coalition of people also running for office and being able to carry out a message to say, from the top of the ticket all the way down, we are trying to make sure on the state level, we're protecting women's rights to choose. Nationally, we'll protect women's right to choose.

We want to protect democracy so we can elect city council members and governors on off-cycle races. And on presidential, when a result comes in, we get it certified and we don't have an insurrection.

And I think that if the Democrats can actually weave those narratives together, I understand the whole coalition is not there yet. And, you know, Jamal said earlier, it's like it's easier to get somebody to come back to church than to get to them to convert.

It's also easier to win an argument when you don't yell at people and tell them they're stupid for believing something. Instead, you listen to them. You come in dialogue and you have conversation. You find your commonalities. That's the whole point of building a coalition. You don't always get your way. You don't always get your way. The Republicans aren't acting like that in the House right now. But that's how you build a coalition. And eventually, you are able to weave the numbers together to win the race.

SHERMICHAEL SINGLETON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I mean, a lot of Republican voters feel that they're being talked down to and disrespected and discarded by many people in your party. But look, I think this is going to be a very, very tight race.

And you talked about the abortion issue. We know that Democrats are attempting to get abortion on ballots across the country. Republicans should be concerned about that. That's likely going to drive up turnout.

Scott mentioned the economy. That is a pivotal issue that the former president is leading compared to the current president. People trust him more. They believe the economy was better then than it is now.

So, you're looking at on the margins. So as a strategist, I'm looking at variability here. What's my range and what's my variance from the individuals in the middle that I know where they are? But the other individuals that their number two or the number three issue, how can I communicate to them to ultimately move them, not to get into all the math? But that's what strategists, that's what both of these campaigns need to absolutely focus on going into November.

EVA MCKEND, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: I think now that it's somewhat official, that we shouldn't underestimate the degree to which so many Americans are really resisting this inevitability.

I have spent the last several months traveling the country to some of these battleground states, speaking to voters, and they were really resisting this. We're seeing, I think, a large appetite this cycle for third party candidates, people flirting with third party candidates in a way that maybe previously they didn't. There were a lot of Republican voters hanging on with Nikki Haley until the bitter end.

And so that really is of concern. And then when you listen to the messages from the campaigns, a lot of it isn't an affirmative argument for why they should be the ones voters should choose. A lot of it is the alternative is so much worse. That is not really an inspiring message to new voters, to first-time voters.

COATES: Not vote for, vote against.

MCKEND: Exactly. And so, I'm curious to see how they bring, especially young people, into the fold, because you have to inspire millennials and Gen X -- Gen Z rather to vote for something.

ELLIOT WILLIAMS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: You know, to your point, Eva, about this idea of the inevitability, I think was the word you used, that this is now happening, I'm genuinely curious about whether people have really confronted the idea of Trump the candidate.

Now, there's Trump the idea, still sort of frozen in amber from 2020. But for the most part, for the last several years, he has been an outside agitator but not a candidate for office. He has not debated another Republican. He has not debated the president of the United States.

And now that people are starting to tune in -- now, look, everybody knows Donald Trump. Everybody knows Joe Biden. But I'm really curious, now that he's actually a candidate, how does that change things? It might not at all. As Scott was saying just a moment ago, certainly people might stay with him, stay on the team or not.


But I think that this next couple months with the reality of Trump, not the idea of Trump, I really want to see where it goes.

ALLISON: You know, I don't think that every voter is going to vote for the same reason.


ALLISON: So, I do think some people will go to the polls because the alternative of Donald Trump is so scary that they just cannot imagine it. And those may be some of those Nikki Haley voters. And that's the message you continue to drive for them.

But for the young folks, I think you can do -- look at the alternative. Somebody who wants to continue to destroy our environment. Joe Biden has done more for climate, to stop climate change than any president in its history.

And people were surprised. And before and during the midterms, people really credited for him. And I think that he's hit a patch where he's going to have to figure out how to tell people this is not an election on one issue. People live complex lives. And so, we need to talk to voters as though they're not going to vote on one issue. They're going to vote about the totality of circumstances that really will impact our lives.

And I think when you come down to it, to Scott's point about working class voters, when union folks hear how Donald Trump feels about right to work versus union protections, there needs to be some conversations with those members and say, like, he is not trying to protect your job, he is not fighting for you, he may say some of the things in the rally that make you feel warm and tingly inside. But when it comes down to it, you won't have a job or protecting your job because of that. I think Joe Biden can win those voters.

SINGLETON: But yet you do see the Republican Party sort of changing, becoming a working-class voter party, predominantly white working- class individuals. There's clearly some resonance with Donald Trump, that they no longer see that resemblance within a Democratic Party or President Biden.

You also have to look at the relative enthusiasm gap. Republicans, for the most part, are excited about voting for Donald Trump. Many Democratic voters are not excited about voting for Joe Biden. That's a very, very serious problem for the president who in 2020 had the reality of people staying home. They voted by mail because of COVID. That's not a reality this time around.

ALLISON: You think those Nikki Haley voters are excited to vote for Donald Trump?

SINGLETON: I bet 80% of them will vote for Donald Trump.

ALLISON: Are they excited about it?

SINGLETON: They may not have to be excited. All they have to do is go vote for Trump.

ALLISON: Well, the, you know --

COATES: What's the over -- Oh, sorry. March Madness. I have a different March Madness bracket. I may add that one next time. Everyone, stick around. Abby?

PHILLIP: Laura, thank you. And stand by for another major projection. CNN can now officially project that Joe Biden will win the state of Washington. It adds to his delegate count in the democratic primary fight that he just ended hours ago. Ninety-two percent of the vote is in there, and the president will clear well ahead of the field there.

And up next, one worry for Democrats, RFK, Jr. And tonight, he says that he's considering Aaron Rodgers as a running mate. Are Democrats taking this candidacy seriously enough? We'll be back in a moment.



PHILLIP: And more on our breaking news. Donald Trump and President Biden both clinching their party's nominations tonight. It sets up a general election rematch starting, wow, in March. And tonight, the speaker of the House is trying to make Biden's age an issue.


JESSE WATTERS, FOX NEWS HOST: Do you think the president is mentally fit?

MIKE JOHNSON, SPEAKER OF THE UNITED STATES HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES: Jesse, I've spent a little bit of time with him, and I'm sad to tell you that I don't think he is. I don't mean to be uncharitable here. Look, we respect the office, right? And people can't -- they can't change how they age. Everybody ages differently. I'm just telling you that President Biden is not on his A-game. Can I say it that way? In person, he's rather slow. And, obviously, his staff handles him very carefully.


PHILLIP: I want to get back to my panel here on set. Well --

SIMMONS: Abby --


SIMMONS: Can I -- can I start? Can I start?


SIMMONS: Listen, he is the first mainstream Republican leader to come out of a meeting with Joe Biden, really, and start to make this case. And it's amazing that he's starting to make this case as we pivot into the general election. I've been wondering when someone was going to do it. But it is also true that foreign leaders meet with the president, and they say he's fine. I was in the White House. I've seen the president up close. I've watched him interact with my old boss, vice president. He has a give and take.

And in America, saw it at the State of the Union. So, I feel like this is a question that has been asked and has now been answered. The president will continue to go back out and show people week after week that he's up to doing the job.

CUPP: Come on.


CUPP: I mean, listen, this isn't --


CUPP: This isn't --

SIMMONS: Give me an alternative fact.

CUPP: People's eyes are not partisan here. And you have a good chunk of Democrats, half of them, concerned about his age and fitness. Voters -- I don't mean Biden's inner circle and people that used to work for him. I mean, voters who can see he's lost a step. And I don't understand the embarrassment over that. You can admit it. He's lost a step, but he's not crazy like the alternative.

SIMMONS: I didn't say that he was Joe Biden.

CUPP: Just denialism.

SIMMONS: He was a 40-year-old Joe Biden.

CUPP: No --

SIMMONS: I said people watched him at the State of the Union and they saw him able to have a conversation.

CUPP: For an hour and a half. I'm telling you, listen, I'm not -- I'm going to vote for Joe Biden if this is the matchup. Absolutely. But I don't think it does any service to him or his candidacy to say, look, he proved it all wrong, this question is answered, shut up about it anymore. We've got till November. I guarantee you, he's going to have a moment, at least one or two.

SIMMONS: The last thing. Let's look at the president's schedule over the last few days. And the schedule coming up. Look at Donald Trump's schedule. Donald Trump is not really campaigning as hard as Joe Biden.

CUPP: He's in courts.

SIMMONS: Exactly.


CUPP: Well, I know. I know.

SIMMONS: So, what are we talking about?

CUPP: That's why I'm not going to vote for him either. But I don't think you can make that comparison. Look, Joe Biden is doing the job of running for president. Congratulations. That's a pretty low bar. He wants to be president again.

SIMMONS: Don't move the bar, though, because two weeks ago, people were saying, can the president, can Joe Biden even go out in America and campaign? Will we ever really see him? Can he hold a conversation? Is he like dribbling on himself?

PHILLIP: That seems like a fair point. I mean, people were really raising the question whether Joe Biden was going to be in a basement for this entire presidential cycle. And he's not.

CUPP: I mean, those are conspiracy theorists, Jesse Watters.


I mean, real people are saying, it looks like he's lost a step, he is not as agile as he used to be, he will be closer to 90 at the end of his second term than 80, and are we really about to elect, you know, nominate and elect two people that are this old and obviously losing steps? It's obvious.

PRESTON: Just two quick things. One is for the Speaker of the House to go out and say something like that when he has to negotiate with the president over the next couple of months over, you know, spending bills. I know they don't always get done.

PHILLIP: He has negotiated with the president as well. He has already been at the White House to talk to him.

PRESTON: Exactly. So, I mean -- I don't know if -- look, I'm not surprised that he said it. You would have expected to hear that in August when there's no more negotiating to do, you know, across the board. I do find this interesting, though, because this has become, you know, the big topic of age. And I do find it interesting that we do have these two very older men, older because I am probably closer to them in age than I am some of you folks, right? But regardless of that, that are making decisions for my 18 and 19-year-old. It is amazing. I mean, they are -- you know, if you look at actuary tables, neither are going to be around very much longer, you know. And it is -- well, it is amazing that they are making decisions based upon their worldview when the worldview of 20-year-olds right now is not the same as the worldview of an 80-year-old Joe Biden or Donald Trump.

PHILLIP: A really important ideological point for sure.

JENNINGS: The idea that you're going to be able to change public opinion about Biden's age. I mean, I know what you're saying. I know what you got to do. It's like pushing a boulder.

CUPP: Am I going to get younger?

JENNINGS: You're pushing a boulder up a hill, and at any given time, you know, the boulder could get away from you and roll all the way back down to the bottom. When you've got polling that's showing 86% of Americans think he can't get through another term or he's not up to it, and as Essie pointed out, lots of Democrats, it just, it strikes me you'll never drag that number closer to something that's manageable.

So, the only thing you can do with it is what the campaign actually already tried to do. They put out this ad where he kind of leaned into a little bit. I mean, I don't think they're ever going to be able to fix it, but I don't know what other choice strategically they have except to say, okay, fine, I'm old, but it's okay for these reasons.

PHILLIP: And the other choice that they have, which they are also doing, is pointing out correctly that Donald Trump is also 77 years old. And, I mean, you can call them gaffes. You can say he's lost his step. He makes all kinds of wild mistakes every single day.

CUPP: Yes. And people do point that out. And they should point it out. You know, Donald Trump's issues are far more nefarious to me than Joe Biden's age. I'm worried about Joe Biden's age.

PHILLIP: And I think that is the strategy, is to say exactly that. They're more nefarious.

CUPP: It's your only choice. It's your only option because they're men of a similar age. You can't say, well, he's slightly older, I'm slightly young. That doesn't work either.


CUPP: They're men of a certain age. And I think you have to draw the contrast and the stakes. And the stakes are, yes, I'm old, but this guy is crazy, absolutely crazy and telling you to your face that he's crazy and he wants to become a dictator on the first day of office. That should be the strategy.

JENNINGS: The age debate, though, is about something, in my opinion, different than just the numeric age. It really is a question of strength versus weakness. And I think that's how people -- that's what I see in the polling. People are perceiving it. One of these guys is strong enough to solve a problem, whatever a major problem is. And one of them looks like they're so weak that they've let problems get away from them. I don't think he would ever be strong enough to reel them back in.

So, you know, when you think about narratives about campaigns, about candidates and, you know, just the average voter, one looks strong. I know he's older, but he looks strong and vigorous. And Biden does not, and I don't know if he'll ever be able to change that dynamic.

CUPP: I can't think of a weaker man than Donald Trump.

SIMMONS: The one way you start to get at it is strong in pursuit of what, right? There's a real question on the table about in pursuit of what, and what we do know is Donald Trump put the Supreme Court in place that got rid of Roe v. Wade, right? And American women have decided they are not happy. And the men who love them, they are not happy about the fact that we have lost the right to abortion.

We have Republicans who are now in Republican courts that are going after IVF. You have people who aren't willing to support contraception in the United States Congress, right?

So, all these questions about how -- you know, the Republicans who are interfering in our bedrooms, instead of thinking about how it is we're going to help protect America around the world, I think this is the problem for the Republican Party.

CUPP: But to that exact point, Donald Trump has changed his opinion on abortion and IVF several times. No one looks at Donald Trump and thinks that's a policy leader.



PHILLIP: We'll leave it there, guys. Everyone, stick around for us. Laura?


COATES: That made me laugh. Thank you so much. Next, Donald Trump is responding to clinching the Republican nomination.

Plus, RFK Jr. is floating, you won't believe it, Aaron Rodgers and Jesse Ventura as a potential running mate as Democrats fear Kennedy is playing the spoiler in this election. This is a special edition of "Laura Coates Live."



COATES: All right, here we go. Tonight, the general election gets away and underway in earnest. In both, Joe Biden and Donald Trump clinching their party's nominations, assuring now a 2020 rematch. Kristen Holmes is monitoring the former president's campaign for us on this very important night. Kristen, we heard from Trump just moments ago. What did he say?

HOLMES: Well, Laura, he responded with about as much enthusiasm and excitement as you would expect from someone who's already acting like the presumptive nominee for several weeks now.

In a pre-recorded video that he clearly recorded during the day today, he actually just thanked supporters, saying it was time to move on to the general election. It's really quite striking when you think about where we are right now. It is March.


Donald Trump is not an incumbent president, and yet he has secured the nomination so early in the process with so many delegate votes. But yet, no party, no speech, no event even, just this pre-recorded video. Take a listen to part of what he said.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's your favorite president speaking to you on a really great day of victory. The Republican National Committee has just declared us the official nominee. And so, we're the official nominee of the Republican Party, which is a big deal.


HOLMES: And as I've said, they have already started working towards the general election. A big part of this is trying to build out their strategy, trying to build out their ground game in those critical battleground states.

One thing that Donald Trump and his team know is that it is not going to be an easy fight to November. We talk about these missing voter groups that Donald Trump is struggling with when we see these primary numbers, when John breaks it down on the wall. They are going to try to offset that, and they're coming up with their strategies now on how to do that.

The other part of this has been their absolute takeover of the Republican National Committee, which we have seen in the last week. They have been firing staffers left and right, replacing them with Trump loyalists, and they plan on continuing to do so as they head into November and try to build out, again, this critical infrastructure so that they can get the ground they need, or they believe that they need, to, again, re-control the White House in November.

COATES: Kristen Holmes, thank you so much. I appreciate it. Look, your November choice is Donald Trump versus Joe Biden. But could there be more? I mean, don't discount the impact of a potential third-party candidate who's got the most famous last name in America, especially in politics.

I'm talking about independent candidate Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., telling CNN tonight he has selected a running mate and will announce his decision within two weeks. Kennedy says he chose from a short list, including New York Jets quarterback and fellow vaccine skeptic, Aaron Rodgers. The Jets may have a little something to say about that because he is supposed to start for them in the fall after recovering from the Achilles heel injury.

Also, on his short list, the former pro wrestler and one-time Minnesota governor Jesse the Body Ventura. With Kennedy's campaign going ahead with the VP pick and working to get on general election ballots across multiple states, are Democrats taking his candidacy seriously enough?

I'm back with my panel. Ava, let me start with you because you have been on the campaign trail with him. You've recently spoken to RFK Jr. What do you think? Is he not being taken seriously as a third-party contender?

MCKEND: Yeah, I just got off the phone with him about two hours ago. He wouldn't say who he ultimately selected.

COATES: Did he lead in, though? Did he have a Minnesota accent? Did he have a jersey on? What's going on?

MCKEND: No, no. He's just trying to create some buzz and excitement, I think, around this announcement. Listen, I think Democrats are taking this seriously. They are investing here outside of his events. You see the DNC mobile billboards tying Kennedy to Trump.

You know, I don't know what impact this will have because he draws such a diverse pool of voters, both people that I think you could characterize as on the right and the left. A lot of his message centers on anti-war. He says Democrats and Republicans are equally addicted to the war machine. You get a lot of people that that really resonates with.

I would also say his environmentalism background. You know, for a long time, he was this environmental advocate. You have those voters as well. And so, I think Biden and Trump both have reasons for concern because there is some interest in Kennedy and, of course, the family name helps as well.

COATES: So, most people think about him, obviously, in terms of the anti-vaccine stance that he has. Aaron Rodgers, by the way, famously has a similar background recently on these points. But to Eva's point, you're thinking about who is most concerned with a so-called spoiler or third-party candidate.

When you look at it, Shermichael, is he even likely to pull from maybe both Biden and Kennedy? And Trump, excuse me.

SINGLETON: Maybe a few from Trump, but I would argue more from Biden. And if you're the Biden campaign, you've got to be worried. If you're Trump, you're probably pretty happy. I mean, you're looking at him getting on the ballot in Georgia, a state that the former president lost by give or take 12,000 votes. Nevada, you're talking about maybe 10,000 to 11,000 votes. I mean, you're talking very, very slim margins. Wisconsin, 20,000. Michigan, we know the math there.

And so, if you're Trump, you're looking for any disruptor to potentially pull votes away from Joe Biden because you're pretty confident that you're going to be able to maximize your turnout, similarly to what you did in 2020.

I would also add Jill Stein is another individual that we should be worried about. Now, I know we don't talk a lot about Cornel West, but let's say he gets on the ballot in one or two of these states, then again, you have another individual likely pulling voters away from the Democrat versus the Republican.

COATES: Are you concerned when you think about -- I mean, the short list of people who are in the VP, by the way, I mean, Jesse Ventura, I'm from Minnesota. He was not taken seriously until he was, and he was the governor of Minnesota.


Aaron Rodgers, obviously a different career entirely. But -- I mean, I think we've learned in American politics, looking down our noses ends up cutting our own noses off to spite our face.

ALLISON: Yeah. And you didn't mention, but also the no labels effort. They could also be running. I think this can cut both ways, to Eva's point. But my question for all of these third-party candidates, but particularly for RFK, is what are you doing and are you actually trying to win the presidency?

Because in order to win, you have to get to 270. And if you're just in battleground states, let's say you want to say 8 to 10 battleground states, that's only about 125, 130 electoral college votes. So, you're actually not trying to be the president. You are trying to be a disruptor.

And I think you need to -- look, I am all for if you want to run for president and represent the people, but run a real race, get on the ballot in every state, set up an actual party that's not, you know, just six weeks out from the election or a year out from the election and try and mobilize folks, really engage with folks and voters.

But that's not what these third-party candidates are doing. I think that is the thing that really scares me as they are showing up as disruptors. And in past elections, Hillary Clinton, specifically in 2016, they were detrimental to the Democrats.

WILLIAMS: Showing up as disruptors in a public that is hungry for disruption. And to Laura's point about Jesse Ventura not being taken seriously. One of my favorite stats from the Pew Research Center last fall, and it's 25% of Democratic voters believe that government will always do the right thing. Eight percent of Republican voters believe to trust government to do the right thing. There's a crisis of faith in government right now. And for a country that has already elected a reality television host as a president, the idea of an anti-vax football star or a former pro wrestler is actually quite attractive to many people who are disillusioned with how our government works.

And so, yes, it cuts off these different ways but -- and even if these aren't serious races, these are really tapping into something that is a part of the public --

COATES: To be fair, I just named a couple of people. Look at this, look at the screen, everyone. Bring that back up for everyone to see. I mean, the shortlist does include others. Obviously, Tulsi Gabbard, Senator Rand Paul, Andrew Yang. You know the most about his campaign, Eva. Tell me about why -- why do you think he is being called a disruptor?

MCKEND: Well, I think he probably very much enjoys that because he would argue that our politics needs some disruption. I will say though, on the vaccine issue, the voters that are showing up to his events, they don't raise that as their number one issue.

Actually, I went to some of his Black focused voter outreach events recently in New York, and a lot of voters showed up with concerns about immigration, about resources.

And I think this is a real challenge for Democrats. What we see are marginalized groups, as the immigration conversation becomes front and center, being pitted against one another. And Democrats aren't doing enough to really talk about this issue, I think, in a humane way. Some of the rhetoric sometimes mirrors Republicans.

And then you have these Black voters showing up to his events, raising those concerns about immigration. So that is something, I think, a space to really watch. Yes, I think that the dominant narrative about Kennedy is that he's anti-vax, but we shouldn't get so caught up in that issue that we don't pay attention to all the other reasons why voters across the country might be attracted to his campaign.

SINGLETON: I'm curious to see what Black men would do. We know that the Trump campaign is going to target Black men. They're hoping to maybe pull a percentage or two. That may not sound substantial to most of the viewers, but mathematically, that will potentially make a difference.

But if there are Black male voters who are saying, you know, we like some of Trump's rhetoric on immigration, but we don't like his position on various racial issues, here comes RFK, who is certainly someone who's spoken about race. He has now spoken about his family's history with the race. That is certainly a more comfortable candidate.

I would argue, for a male of color to say, hey, I don't want Biden. I certainly can't vote for Trump because he's on the wrong side on these particular issues. And here's RFK, I'll give him my vote. WILLIAMS: Has he come out with gold sneakers yet, though?



WILLIAMS: That's the question.


SINGLETON: I hope not, Elliott.

ALLISON: I think that the Biden campaign is going to have to run against both of these individuals if he actually gets on the ballot. I think that would be smart. I think they should talk to voters about why RFK is not a safe or good choice. Not in the same way as Donald Trump. But they should not take it for granted. I don't think they are. But it is an important thing because we know the margins are going to be so slim in this election.


COATES: Really great point.

COATES: Everyone, thank you so much for your insight tonight. Abby, the general election is now set. What are you going to be watching for going forward in the coming weeks ahead besides your bedtime?

PHILLIP: Definitely that. But, I mean, look, Laura, tonight, the voters have spoken, and they've spoken in a resounding fashion. I mean, when you look at that map that John King was showing us earlier tonight, it's pretty much all blue for Joe Biden and almost all red for Donald Trump.


If there was any resistance to these two candidates, certainly was not strong enough to stop them.

COATES: I mean, I'm going to be looking at what's happening, especially in places like Georgia with that 11,800 or so votes. And of course, a place where we're waiting to see if Fani Willis will be disqualified or not for an election subversion case and RICO charges. I mean, these legal issues may have been thrust as a potential third- party candidate in all of this as well.

I mean, you got the couch, you got third party candidates, you got the legal matters, and you got these two who are set. It's really going to be a fascinating run until November.

PHILLIP: I would -- I would advise no one to place their bets right now. There's a long way between now and November. Lots for us to watch for, Laura.

COATES: Yeah, there is. Everyone, she said it. Hold your bets. Thank you for watching a special edition of "Laura Coates Live." Donald Trump and Joe Biden are your nominees.

PHILLIP: And CNN's continuing coverage of the pivot to the general election continues next.