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Now: Biden & Trump Making Final Preps For CNN Debate; Supreme Court Allows Emergency Abortions In Idaho; CNN's Historic Presidential Debate Now Just Hours Away. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired June 27, 2024 - 16:00   ET



WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: You're watching DEBATE NIGHT IN AMERICA. We're just a few hours away from history unfolding right here on CNN.

Tonight's unprecedented showdown between Joe Biden and Donald Trump is the first time a current and a former president have ever debated, and the first time two candidates have ever faced off before officially accepting their party's nomination, where the stubbornly close election, it could be a make or break moment for both men.

Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Atlanta.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN HOST: And I'm Kaitlin Collins from the CNN spin room just outside the debate hall, where these two candidates are going to go head-to-head tonight.

President Biden has just touched down here in Georgia and we are expecting former President Trump to arrive here in the Peach State shortly.

The stakes tonight, of course, could not be higher for both candidates after months of polling showing the race in a relative dead heat. Their performances tonight could alter the course of that race and maybe even American history.



BLITZER: Let's get straight to the final preparations inside both campaigns for tonight's high-stakes debate.

Our senior White House correspondent MJ Lee is joining us right now. She's got details on President Biden's plans for tonight.

MJ, I understand the president has just landed here in Atlanta where we are. What do we know about his final preparations?

MJ LEE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, after the last week of intense debate preparations, these final hours heading into tonight have really felt like the calm before the storm for President Biden, we know that he spent the morning at Camp David with only several of his advisers. They didn't do any mock debates and the reporters that finally saw him after a week of not seeing him in the last few hours as he has made his way here to Atlanta, he didn't say anything to them.

And I asked a Biden adviser what the general mood was like on Air Force One, as the team made its way to Atlanta. And this adviser said fueling good, we are ready to go. But, of course, as we know very well, that sort of buoyant message of optimism really doesn't capture the incredible herculean task that now lies ahead for President Biden then they have done their run-throughs.

They have refined their methods, their attack lines, the vision that he wants to present. He has prepared for every version of Donald Trump we were told that could come up tonight on the debate stage. But the preparations really end there.

It is now entirely on President Biden to try to execute on everything that he and his team have prepared for and practiced over the last week. And we are just getting images of the president making a pit stop before heading here to the CNN studios. He it was greeted by supporters. They were cheering. He was shaking hands with them.

Clearly, it seems like he wanted to get in a good headspace, get a good boost of energy, and one adviser said that Biden's state of mind over the last week heading up to tonight can be summarized by two words, and those two words, Wolf, are focused and determined.

BLITZER: MJ Lee, reporting for us, MJ, thank you very much.

Now to CNN's Kristen Holmes. She's been working her sources inside the Trump campaign.

Kristen, Trump is due to land here in Atlanta in the next hour or so. How has he been spending his final hours preparing?

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's right, Wolf. I just talked to senior advisers. He is wheels up on his way to Atlanta, Georgia, for this debate.

He is accompanied by some of his closest senior advisers. That includes his campaign managers, Chris LaCivita and Susie Wiles, as well as Jason Miller. Now, Miller has been a close ally of Donald Trump's four roughly last eight years. And he is running point on this debate preparation.

Of course, if you ask Donald Trump's advisers, there is no debate preparation. However, Miller has been in charge of arranging and sitting in on these various policy sessions as we have reported, they have ranged from anything from how to answer questions on abortion and democracy to how to pivot to the economy and immigration, as well as inflation.

Now, they are expected to land here, as you noted, around 5:30.


I've talked to people close to Donald Trump who say that he is in a good, confident mindset.

As MJ said, it's really up to Donald Trump and Joe Biden of who shows up here today and how that performance lands. Now, various allies have spoken to him say that Donald Trump knows the gravity of the situation tonight, that he knows what is on the table and that he will remain focused.

But if you talk to those who are close to them, they also acknowledged that you never know what version of Donald Trump you are going to get. They had been watching carefully what is coming out of Camp David, how Biden himself has been preparing and they have been preparing in reaction to that.

Again, they say that he is ready, that he is confident in tonight and that he's going to stay on message. However, again, you never know which version of Donald Trump is going to show up here and whether or not President Joe Biden is able to get under his skin.

BLITZER: Kristen Holmes reporting from the CNN spin room here in Atlanta, Kristen, thank you very much.

Right now, we want to bring you a behind the scenes, look at the stage where the two candidates are set to debate what just five hours or so from now.

CNN's Boris Sanchez is joining us from inside the debate hall.

Boris, walk us through how tonight will go.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR & CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the floors have been swept, the lighting has been tweaked, and the microphones have been laid out. The stage is set for a historic night.

A sitting president taking on a former president head-to-head right here on CNN at 9:00 p.m. at hallway. And then Donald Trump walk out through here and will approach these podiums, which are exactly eight feet apart.

Let's talk about the actual rules while they're here at the podium. They cannot sit. They cannot bring notes, and they cannot confer with campaign officials when we're in a commercial break. There are only allowed to have three things up here. That is pens. And we'll take a close look at them. The pens, the paper, and a glass of water, and maybe a towel as well in case they start sweating.

The most important component, the most important thing on this podium other than this microphone, is this set of lights right here. Remember the rules, Wolf, a candidate's microphone will be muted once their allotted time to speak is up.

This will be green when the microphone is on, it'll turn red once their time is expired.

Let's give you a view now of where the moderators are going to be sitting. This is what the candidates are going to be seeing tonight. You're going to have Dana Bash and Jake Tapper moderating this debate and asking questions of the candidates, how exactly is it going to work?

They will ask one candidate an overarching question. The candidate will then have two minutes to respond. His opponent will have one minute for a rebuttal and then the original candidate will have another minute to respond to the rebuttal.

Aside from that, the two moderators are going to opportunity to ask a follow-up question, and then the candidates will have a minute to respond to that follow.

How are they going to be able to tell time given all those cues, there is a light, a colored light on top of the cameras where the candidates are going to be facing, when they have 15 seconds left in their response. This is going to turn yellow when they have five seconds, it'll start flashing red. And then when their time has expired it'll be a steady red light on top of the cameras, so they will know and it'll be every camera in the studio. So they'll know exactly when they're time to talk is up.

Now, one question that has been lingering over this debate is about the muting of the microphones. You have to remember these podiums are only eight feet apart, so even if a candidates microphone is muted, we at home may not be able to distinguish exactly what they're saying, but there's no question that the other candidate standing only a few feet away is going to be able to hear them and potentially that may lead to interruptions. It may lead to responses to something that we haven't heard from the other candidate. It'll be potentially tricky. It'll be intense and it'll be right here on CNN at 9:00 p.m., Wolf.

BLITZER: And all of these rules for the debate tonight have been approved by both, both candidates. Boris Sanchez, thanks very, very much.

Just ahead, are details from our team of reporters on what's happening right now behind the scenes, and these -- the final hours before tonight's face off.

And Kaitlan Collins is set joined by an all-star panel, war-gaming the mission for both sides.

Stay right here.



COLLINS: The night that we have all been waiting for is finally here. We are live right now from the spin room. That's what you're looking at here on set. Soon, that red carpet that you see will be filled with politicos and surrogates after the debate spinning how their candidate did during this 90-minute historic debate here on CNN.

President Biden arrived here in Atlanta a short while ago and we do expect President Trump to be here on the ground soon ahead of that epic rematch between the two. That's the president climbing down from Air Force One, Trump on his plane shortly. I am lucky to be surrounded by a team of powerhouses. As we look ahead to this debate.

We have Republican strategist Shermichael Singleton, and four CNN political commentators here joining us, Jonah Goldberg, who was the editor and chief and co-founder of "The Dispatch", Ashley Allison, the former national coalitions director for the Biden 2020 campaign, Kristen Soltis Anderson, a Republican strategist and pollster, and Bakari Sellers, a former South Carolina state rep.

I think we have got the resume if every single political job that you've ever could have held on this panel.

So, obviously, that is why you're the experts.

And spin room for a lot of people who were like, what is the spin room? It's where all of the candidates' surrogates come after their allies. Reporters are also in here listening to them asking them how the debate went.

But, Bakari, looking at this -- I mean, these two men have not been in the same room, much less eight feet apart from each other in four years. And it's a striking to think -- they haven't been in a moment where they're debating each other in a sense like this since 2020.

BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: So this environment is palpable, and I think the word of the night I've been thinking about all this, this entire day. The word of the night is energy.

There's so much energy here in the spin room. There's so much energy in Atlanta. Everybody's talking about it. The streets have shut down. People are going in different directions.


And what we have to see from both of these candidates, one, because it's 9:00, two because of their age and three because like you said, they hadn't been together and so long as energy.

I expect to see more of a docile type of Donald Trump, trying to stay on message, low-energy Donald Trump is what we call them. But I expect Joe Biden to be somebody who brings a lot of energy, particularly in the first 15, 20 minutes, because that is when this debate is won.

Mike Tyson, the great American poet, once said that everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face. And so I want to see who's going to come out and throw the first punch. And I'm expected to see Joe Biden come out with that energy at 9:01, showing that he can serve another four years.

COLLINS: Yeah. Shermichael, I mean, we've been hearing -- I've been talking to people in both of these campaigns and I do think they're going to both come out of this gate, come out of the gate here ready to go?

SHERMICHAEL SINGLETON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I mean, I think so, but I just hope that President Biden is careful and doesn't trip over himself in the first 10 or 15 minutes because that isn't going to look good for him.

Look, I think Donald Trump has one key message here, Kaitlan, that is a showcase that he is capable to lead the country again for another four years, to showcase that despite what our opinions may be about him because of the rallies, because of some of the tweets that we saw on Truth Social, that he is principally concerned with the issues id impact everyday Americans, those kitchen table issues.

As James Carville once said, "it's the economy, stupid," 32 years ago, is still "the economy, stupid" today and Donald Trump needs to showcase that he's in the best position to improve the economic condition of hard work Americans, and I think that's his number one objective.

COLLINS: Jonah, what are you going to be looking for in the first 20 critical minutes that are -- that are going to be playing out here?

JONAH GOLDBERG, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Mostly looking forward to seeing how quickly their plans evaporate. You know, I mean, I agree with the energy thing.

I mean, it's a little like Brian Santana and anchorman, at panda watch, right? I mean, were, were into this. But I think that they're going to have -- I generally think the presidential debates don't really matter much.

I think this is different because in a lot of ways, for good reasons and bad, it's the vibes election and this is going to be vibes debate. We have two essentially literal or figurative incumbent candidates. We never had that before in a televised debate or really in an election at all.

And they're not here to introduce themselves to voters. Voters know who these people are. They have 100 percent name ID. They're here to reassure voters, and Trump needs to reassure people that he's not going to bring more chaos like you did last time.

And Biden needs to reassure people that he's up to the job for another four years and that's a weird debate strategy to have to implement when we other guys trying to trip you up at it.


ASHLEY COLLINS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yeah. You know, there's this push and pull of like is this about the past or this about the future? And I think it has to be the whole story. It has to be -- don't forget what type of president Donald Trump was. Don't forget what he has been doing the last four years since he hasn't been president, don't forget what happened a couple of weeks ago where he is the only person running for president that now has 34 felony convictions.

And looking at the camera, Joe Biden, I know what I can do for you of the American people. I know things are not perfect, but this is why I am ready for the job.

I do think that this debate will be won in the first 15 to 20 minutes, and then it will be one on TikTok, Twitter and Instagram, because if one of these candidates have a memorable moment or a clipable moment, that is what folks who still might not be paying close attention to the debate tonight will be paying attention to tomorrow.

So you win in the first 20 and then don't stumble for the rest of the race.

COLLINS: Well, I think one thing that's notable is that were even here, that we are sitting in a spin room right now because a few months ago, it was not guaranteed that we'd even have a presidential debate this election cycle.

KRISTEN SOLTIS ANDERSON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No, absolutely, and I think what's fascinating to me is that I always assumed that Donald Trump for all of his bluster about saying, I'll debate you anywhere anytime, he is currently leading very slightly in the polls. So in some ways he has the most to lose here, because any outcome of this debate that dramatically reshapes the race.

Sure, it could dramatically reshape it by causing Democrats to go, whoa, Biden was so bad, we need a new strategy, but there's also a chance that it goes just bad enough for Trump that suddenly he loses that edge that he's had over the last couple of months. So that's why I think, well, if you are a Biden fan, you have to be watching this debate, like through closed fingers like, oh, please, please, please pull it off. In some ways, it's actually Trump that may have slightly more to lose.

COLLINS: Yeah. Well, I mean, we've seen nothing shakeup this race. The conviction didn't do much to change the numbers that we were looking at. So that is a moment that both campaigns are hoping to avoid, one that's bad. But also hoping to strike one that does stick in voters' minds and could prove something that actually does make movement here, because the next debates, not for several months.

SELLERS: I oftentimes reject the premise that the race hasn't been shaken up, mainly because nobody's paying attention. Tonight is the first night that people will tune in and watch. Tonight is the first night that people will have an opportunity to see both of these men outside of the caricatures that everybody tries to make about them.


We've seen Trump come out of court, or you're seeing the clips of Biden tripping on X and you've seen those things, but this is the first time that the American public is really going to be able to lay eyes on both of them.

And I've spoken to Cedric Richmond and I spoken to Julie Rodriguez, two people who are very influential that I have a great deal of respect for in Biden world, and what they want to do is put a mirror up to Donald Trump and say, look, do not forget the chaos that was four years ago. This country -- voters in this country, we have a very, very, very

short memory. You know, it's so McDonaldize, we just -- we speak in tweets. We remember something that happened 30 minutes ago. We listened to podcasts. That's about it.

So there is a nostalgia for Donald Trump and sometimes people don't remember the chaos that surrounded it. Tonight, Joe Biden has to put that mirror up and say, look, this, do crazy. You want me or you want this dude who's crazy?

ALLISON: And you know what? I've been thinking a little bit today, there is an energy in the city --


ALLISON: OK, I co-sign it (ph).

SELLERS: Thank you.

ALLISON: There is an energy in the city and I can sometimes be a glass half empty type of person in this political environment. But this morning I woke up and I was reminded, we talk about democracy. This is democracy in action.

So, for voters who are like the system doesn't work for me, for voters who are like, I don't know if I want to go vote, there is a free press out here right now and we are covering it and you can say something I don't like, and I can say something you don't like, but we are allowed to say that in America because that is democracy.

Today, we have the Supreme Court come out with important decisions, some were for Democrats, some were for Republicans. That is democracy.

Tonight, we are going to see two candidates. It could not be more different, but that is democracy. And so when people are saying it doesn't matter, that is at stake, all of that is at stake.

The fact that you even get to decide whether you want on a vote or not is democracy. So tonight is really important, but I think there's also an opportunity for the surrogates in the room tonight in the spin room for everyone watching and having conversations at their kitchen table before after this debate to really understand what is at stake when we say Donald Trump could win this, am trying strip it all away because he's made threats about it. And I don't take him lightly with his threats.

COLLINS: Well, there are even Republicans who were looking at this and not sure who to vote for. I mean, right here in Georgia, 78,000 Georgians voted for Nikki Haley in the primary here. She wasn't even on the ballot, or she was on the ballot, but she dropped out of the race by then.

The Georgia governor, who was just here in the spin room being followed around by reporters, a few moments ago told me yesterday that he did not vote for Donald Trump. He will be voting for him this November, but he just loved his ballot blank. So there are those voters as well, Republicans will be watching to

see, you know, which candidate are they going to go with if they're undecided?

GOLDBERG: Yeah. I mean, like when you say there's a lot of differences between these candidates, there's a lot of differences between these candidates. But for voters right now, like a lot of issues don't seem to matter very much.

Biden very much wants to make democracy the issue of the election. Donald Trump is not losing on that issue according to the polls, like the Biden camp campaign is married to this idea of what ought to be rather than what is in terms of what divining people and I think there are a lot of voters, sadly, the voters who are going to decide this election, they don't think there's that much difference between these two guys. They see two old guys who look like they should be fighting over the check at an early bird dinner at Denny's.

I mean, like it's two old, cranky, grumpy old men are going to have a fight and that -- I don't know that it helps either of them.

COLLINS: That visual.

Jonah Goldberg, thanks, everyone.

Don't worry, they're all sticking around. We have much more to talk about because tonight's highly anticipated debate is coming, as Ashley just mentioned, on the same day of that major Supreme Court decision that does allow emergency abortions in Idaho, but there's a limit to that. I'll talk with Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar, who he said that today's ruling is, quote, far from a victory.



COLLINS: We are back live in the CNN spin room, on the site of tonight's historic presidential debate between President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump.

And just hours before that debate happened, the debate is happening. Supreme Court handed down a major decision in one of the most anticipated cases of the Supreme Court term the court is now voting to allow emergency abortions in Idaho when a pregnant patients health as at serious risk. Idaho as one of the strictest abortion bans in the nation, as we know.

And the 6-3 decision, which was briefly posted yesterday online by mistake, I should note, and was reflected in them. They officially released it today. It creates a temporary win for reproductive rights advocates while the case will continue to move to the lower courts.

Joining me on this ruling and much more, Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota.

And, Senator, it's great to have you here in the spin room. SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN): It's great to be here, Kaitlan.

COLLINS: And I know a place for you are deeply familiar with.

KLOBUCHAR: And there's a lot of energy and seeing this red carpet, seeing President Biden arrive with reminded me of how he was before those primary debates few years ago, just a lot of enthusiasm. He loves talking to people. Other candidates are burrowed down and he is just, hey, talking to people, which I think is him.

So it was fun to see that. And it is great to be here with you.

COLLINS: Well, and, you know, one of the things that -- he's been at Camp David for several days now, preparing for this moment for this arrival here in Atlanta, obviously, one of the things we know he is planning to hit former President Trump based on our reporting is reproductive rights, and what that looks like.

And so, I wonder how Supreme -- the Supreme Court ruling today on high to Idaho, how that affects his strategy or how you think he should utilize that on the stage?

KLOBUCHAR: Well, good question. And as you know, this Idaho law, like what we're seeing in other states as well, there are literally been women bleeding out in parking lot, to be close to the hospital, in the emergency room, because they've been told we can't give you the reproductive care you need.


We can't give you the abortion until you're near death. That's what this is about. So the court is basically punted. They are not ruling on this at this time, which allows the court decision out of the Idaho case to stand, but it isn't by no means a victory. And it is the point that President Biden will make. We need to codify Roe v. Wade into law.

And you have a clear difference in the visions of these two candidates. You have President Biden working to codify Roe v. Wade, standing up for women's rights. And then you have President Trump, who only recently very clearly said that he was proudly the person responsible for overturning Roe v. Wade because of the judges that he had appointed.

COLLINS: Yeah. But when -- President Biden, he does often talk about codifying Roe versus Wade. I mean, he can't do that obviously on his own. That has to do with the body that you serve it, with the House as well.

And I think -- so what about voters who look at that and say that doesn't seem realistic in this moment that that actually is going to happen on Capitol Hill? What can President Biden himself due on this issue?

KLOBUCHAR: I think it is completely realistic because many odds makers predict that were going to win the House of Representatives. And I think we can get this done. Right now, that House is run by Republicans.

And so I think it is a realistic point and its going to be on voters minds as it was in the prairies of Kansas when they came out in droves and voted on a referendum on this and Ohio and the Virginia legislative races in the Wisconsin Supreme Court races, women and the men that stood with them stood up and said, you know what? We may not agree with everything with the Democrats, but, man, we're not going to let our freedoms be taken away.

We don't like this. Donald Trump who says he wants to be a dictator from day one. All of this is going to be, I would predict on the debate stage tonight.

COLLINS: You are in that debate stage with President Biden when he was Vice President Biden. And when he comes out and speaking of Trump's criminal conviction, do you want to see hear him just flat out called Trump, a convicted felon. How do you think he should approach that on the stage tonight?

KLOBUCHAR: I think it's a fair point of debate. He is facing someone who has 91 federal and state felony indictments, someone who has been convicted over 30 times, four crimes that took big deal. You haven't seen that before in a presidential race. And President Biden believes in the rule of law. He's appointed judges that believe in the rule of law.

So I think it is fair game for him to talk about but in this debate, and I hope he does bring it up.

COLLINS: What about his age? That's another big concern that we've seen from voters. Obviously, neither of these candidates is exactly young.

Do you think its something that President Biden references directly or does a bigger as performance if that's what we see, like the state of the unit speaks for itself, how does a candidate handle something like that?

KLOBUCHAR: Well, first of all, they're very close in age, so let's not forget.

COLLINS: Seventy-eight and 81.

KLOBUCHAR: And I would take 81 over 91. That would be 91 indictments for criminal behavior which Trump has.

But I think that you are correct on this. The way President Biden showed up in a big way at the State of the Union, the way he was able to handle people yelling at them, hecklers. He just went, he was strong. But you see the same thing at Normandy. You see the same thing with a president shows up as a commander in chief.

He does it all the time. That's his job. And that's what I believe you're going to see tonight on that debate stage.

COLLINS: We will see. Senator Klobuchar, great to have you in the spin room.

KLOBUCHAR: It was fun.

COLLINS: Thank you for joining us.

KLOBUCHAR: Thanks, Kaitlan.

COLLINS: And just ahead, the candidates are going to be speaking to the American public tonight as the senator noted. They will be doing it though from one of the most crucial swing states in the 2020 election. We'll see the role it plays in the 2024 election.

We are here in Georgia, of course, and the Republican governor, Brian Kemp, will join Wolf right after a quick break.



BLITZER: The countdown is on, less than four hours and a half until the history is being made right here on CNN. And the location of tonight's debate is worth noting. Not only is it the birthplace of CNN, but also a crucial swing state, which President Biden narrowly won back in 2020 on his way to the White House.

Joining us now is Georgia's Republican governor, Brian Kemp.

Governor, thank you so much for joining us. We always love coming back to Georgia.

You told our colleague, Kaitlan Collins, yesterday that Trump should focus on the future and the issues in tonight's debate. Do you think Trump can stick to that script?

GOV. BRIAN KEMP (R), GEORGIA: I think he can. I mean, he has a great ability to contrast with the president's message and make the case to the American people that they can afford four more years of Joe Biden.

And that's what I'm hearing from people every day, Wolf, when they go to the grocery store, they're mad when they're going to the gas station, they're mad. They're mad where they're seeing stories of, you know, terrorists coming across the southern border and a lot of people that are here illegally and the crime that comes along with that, and just the tragic things that have happened.

And so I think there's a clear contrast. He's got to stay focused on making that and stay focused on the future and telling people you know why it's going to be better for you the next four years under my leadership versus the current administration.

BLITZER: You also revealed in that interview with Kaitlan that you did not vote for Trump in your state's Republican primary. Listen to how you're former lieutenant governor, Geoff Duncan, reacted to that. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GEOFF DUNCAN (R), FORMER LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR OF GEORGIA: Brian Kemp has earned the right to do whatever he wants when he walks in that ballot box. He's been a great governor. He certainly led the state through a bunch of difficult times, and he's used conservative principles to do it.


But I think it speaks to the broader sense of Republicans that they just have this angst amongst them. We know in our gut that Donald Trump is not the right person.


BLITZER: So how much did that broader angst in the Republican Party about Trump impact your choice not to vote for him in the Republican primary?

KEMP: Yeah, well, I'm not too worried about angst or things that happened in the past. Look the primary was over when it got here, he was the presumptive nominee at the time and I'm looking forward and I know he is too.

I mean, look, there's a lot of Republicans that had voted for a lot of different people over this process. But all that doesn't matter right now, Wolf. What matters is, is that, you know, we're focused on the future.

I've said all along won the primary started, when there was a lot of great Republicans running for president that I was going to support the nominee. That's what we're doing today. You know, we're focused on our ground game here in the state, making sure that we're holding our legislative majorities.

You know, I had a fundraiser this week for former Governor Larry Hogan from Maryland, hoping he can win a Senate seat and get control the Senate back. We're helping, you know, Speaker Johnson hold the House and we want to control the White House. And, you know, I'm all on board doing that. So that's why I'm staying focused on the future.

And that's really been my advice to former President Trump, too, to stay focused on the future, tell people why they should vote for us. And while the Republican agenda will be better for you over the next four years than the Biden agenda has been.

BLITZER: We're told governor that President Biden is going to paint Trump as a threat to democracy tonight. And January 6 has seismic watershed for American voters.

How should Trump handle that?

KEMP: Well, I think he should just turn that back on President Biden not get distracted by those type of accusations, not get bogged down and the politicize -- politicization that you've seen of the justice system from the other side and from the Democrats, and really stay focused on what the people that are undecided in this race, the people that, you know, he did not get in the last election, that he needs to get in this one, to be able to beat Joe Biden, and it is a pocketbook election.

A lot of people that voted for Joe Biden last time, they're worse off now than they were four years ago. And president -- former President Trump has a great opportunity to bring those folks back in the fold if he's talking about issues, as he's comparing records and speaking about the future.

And I believe he's going to focus on that tonight. And if he does, he's going to have a really good night. You know, if he doesn't and gets bogged down on the things that the president is trying to push him into, you know, he's not going to have a good night.

BLITZER: Georgia Governor Brian Kemp, thanks so much for joining us, and thanks for the hospitality here in Georgia.

And coming up, our political experts are standing by with more news and analysis just ahead of today's historic face-off between President Biden and former President Trump.




COLLINS: Right now, the final preparations are underway for a historic moment in American politics. Certainly this debate, it is the first- ever debate between a current and a former president. It is all happening just hours from now right here on CNN.

Our political team is back with us. We are inside the spin room where all the surrogates and allies of these candidates will be here with us after it.

And as you look at this debate, we talk about what the issues are going to be here. One thing that I've been thinking about is obviously these two men have a great disdain for one another if they're certainly not fans of one another, the first debate fate in 2020 between the two of them became very personal very quickly. And I don't think it's -- there's any doubt that that could certainly resurrect itself on that stage tonight.

SINGLETON: Well, most certainly could resurrect itself. I mean, Chris Wallace said he believes that it probably ultimately lead to Trump losing the election I think he fell four or five points, and Chris said he'd never recovered.

I mean, this is why I said the president -- former president really has to showcase stability in this moment. There is a serious level of disillusionment I would argue among the greater American populace, and they do remember a moment time the first two years of the Trump administration, where the economy was vibrant, where it was viable, where they did feel secure about their economic future. That is no longer the case. And so the former president has, I would

argue, Kaitlan and incredible -- incredible opportunity to articulate a vision of forward for the American people who are looking for an out, for what they see as a very chaotic and uncertain moment.

People want to feel security about their future with their children. They want to feel confident that they can build a family. We're seeing less American star families at earlier stages of their lives. We're seeing less Americans buy their first homes. We're seeing college students graduate with an inability to live in a major city comfortably.

And so, people are wondering which of these two men can build that future that provides security. And I think the person who articulates that the greatest were having advantage out of this debate.

ANDERSON: So I think you've got it right, that this is going to be a debate about who's going to provide security and stability and what's so interesting is that earlier in our discussion, there was a lot of talk about how Donald Trump is Mr. Chaos, and that there's going to be a lot of attempts by Joe Biden to bring that chaotic, unstable Donald Trump out.

But it is worth noting that Donald Trump is going to prior to make the same case about Joe Biden, the ad that his campaign released today included things like clips from the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan. You know, we in the political punditry world sometimes tried to separate out the personality from the issues, but voters don't really see it that way. And the personality of these two men is Joe Biden strong with it, able to be a leader?


Is Donald Trump, able to hold back the crazy for just a little bit?

That's critically tied to the way they think they would handle the economy, immigration and more.

COLLINS: Well, we're already seeing the talking points come out. I mean, obviously, every candidate prepares lines for this Donald Trump is actually posting the lines that were sent to him by a former EPA -- top EPA official when it comes to the climate, but we've also seen Trump previewing what his arguments are going to be on democracy. Obviously, that's a huge issue for President Biden, that he cares deeply about.

President Trumps saying today on Truth Social, you know, actually, it's Biden who is the greatest threat to democracy. He often takes threats or takes criticisms of him and turns it around on whoever is labeling him with that.

SELLERS: Two things. I would -- I would push back on my good friends and colleagues and say that while they may reminisce about the first two years of the Trump administration. We remember things like a Muslim ban. We remember things like the instability in the Department of Justice. I remember he had a guy who was the attorney general for about 13 seconds. I can't remember his name. Matt Whitaker was his name. And you just continue saw -- that you see the architect of January 6th. You remember Charlottesville, good people on both sides and that is kind of the chaos that people think about. Remember when they talk about Donald Trump.

And the flip side, this is what Joe Biden has to do, and this is where Democrats drive me crazy. You can not put your head in the sand on issues like crime, inflation, and immigration. And you cannot say, even though I can tell you right here, I can look dead in the camera and say luck in major cities, violent crime is decreasing. We know that. We know that -- we know that inflation is plateauing. We can see that.

But the problem is people don't feel that and we cannot ignore that and Democrats have put their head in the sand. For a very long period of time, particularly on those three issues in Joe Biden has to be able to answer it for that and then get out of it pivot and talk about what the future will look like.

Is he nimble enough to do that? I would argue, yes, but those are going to be three issues that can get him on the defensive. And if he does not answer them well, it's going to be -- it's going to be a hell of a knife at those people they put in the spin room. I will be at the bar, had to come in to the spin room, have go able to pay.

COLLINS: They might be like hiding on the corners of the spin room.

ASHLEY ALLISON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think it is -- issues are really important in this debate. But I guess I would say I wouldn't do it in a laundry list. I did this. I did this. I did this.

Now, the focus groups that I've observed when people actually hear what Joe Biden has done for them, not like, oh, I like that. I support that.

So it's not working to do a laundry list. We've tried that for three- and-a-half years and the poll numbers are still where they are. I recommend personalizing this, talk about the plant that Donald Trump couldn't keep open but Joe Biden kept open. Talk about how the Chips Act in Arizona is booming and money is going into the state, talk about how today we had a Supreme Court decision that just kick the can down and how -- we're actually having a debate of whether a doctor could provide emergency medical care for a woman, is that the country we live in?

Those -- and tell the story -- identify the person in the state, the -- connect the dots, make the American people see those stories as themselves. And when we do, we see those numbers move in Joe Biden's favor.

I'll say to your point shore Michael. Sure. Perhaps people remember that the economy two under the first two years of Donald Trump were good. But you know why? Because he inherited in economy that Barack Obama and Joe Biden built for him. And then when the COVID hit, he failed. He was a terrible leader. We

weren't even able to do things like this four years ago because Donald Trump told us to put bleach in our bodies.

And then Joe Biden got it. He's slowly -- he's passed more legislation to get our economy back on track. Are the American public feeling it now? No, not yet. But if we quit and we can revert back to Donald Trump, it will get worse.

SINGLETON: But if not now, then when will people feel it? I mean, there's a reason, Ashley --

ALLISON: You know how policies work.

SINGLETON: But there's a reason, Ashley, that people look at the former president and they do believe whether rightfully or not, and we can get into the semantics of this, but they do believe that under Donald Trump, he would do a better job restoring the economic conditions of this country. They do believe that Donald Trump would do a better job securing the border. They do believe that Donald Trump did a better job of avoiding some of the foreign conflicts that we now see under the Biden administration.

ALLISON: No, they believed that if Donald Trump gotten office, he were ripped families away a part again. That babies would be crying in cages without their mother that took months to reunite. That's what I remember.

COLLINS: And, Jonah --

SINGLETON: The majority of Americans actually agree with Donald Trump of removing illegal migrants out of the country.

ALLISON: And border crossings are down lower right now in this moment, under Joe Biden than they were under Donald Trump.

SINGLETON: So, they're lower for a week.

GOLDBERG: The people who agree with you are already going to vote for Joe Biden.

SELLERS: Correct.

GOLDBERG: The problem is the people who are left that are still persuadable and it's a small number of people.

And the problem that I think the Joe -- but look, it's a weird situation. In 2020, Joe Biden ran as a generic Democrat because Americans are like all we need is a generic Democrat to get rid of Donald Trump. That's all we want.

COLLINS: He distanced himself from the left in those debates.

GOLDBERG: He was he was he was vanilla. He was helped by COVID with the whole running from the basement thing. He was bland. You couldn't turn them into some sort of radical or anything like that kind of stuff because he'd been around for 50 years, people knew who he was.


Now he's got a record and the -- for incumbent presidents at the end of their first term running for reelection, the argument that they want to make is don't change horses in midstream. All the poles are screaming that a lot of people want to change horses in midstream. They just look at the other horse, and they're like, I know that horse -- and so it gives them an opening.

If a generic Republican, you know, if it had been Nikki Haley or, or Governor Kemp, who was on the ticket right now, I think you'd be looking at a blow out landslide for the Republicans.

COLLINS: Yeah, two presidents, two records that voters know very well and can judge, we'll see what they decide. Obviously, we'll see how they defend them tonight, at least stage.

Our countdown is continuing. We're going to take it inside look at the debate hall. What does it look like where Donald Trump and Joe Biden will be side-by-side in just a few hours from now.

We'll also remind you about what the debate rules that are there like, unlike anything we've seen at presidential debates before. All of that after a quick break.