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Biden, Trump Both Now In Georgia Ahead Of CNN Debate; CNN's Historic Presidential Debate Now Just Hours Away; Supreme Court Allows Emergency Abortions In Idaho; Now: Biden & Trump Making Final Preps For CNN Debate. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired June 27, 2024 - 18:00   ET



WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: This is debate night in America. Right now, we're closing in on the first ever faceoff between a current and former president of the United States. Joe Biden and Donald Trump now here in Atlanta after touching down just a short time ago as they ready themselves for a truly historic CNN presidential debate.

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

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN HOST: -- candidates will find themselves, preparations are now underway for the earliest general election debate that we've ever seen in U.S. history. It's a rare chance for both candidates to get to speak directly to voters and their concerns and also maybe land some attacks that could reset or at least shake up this race that has been relatively stable so far.

This hour, we are going to take you inside the campaigns as we are counting down to this unprecedented event. You are watching Debate Night Here in America.

BLITZER: First up this hour, President Biden's plans to take on former President Trump tonight on the debate stage. CNN's M.J. Lee is gathering some new information for us right now. What are you learning, M.J.? Well, Wolf, President Biden is here in Atlanta. We are waiting for him to make his way over here to the CNN studios. You know, we've been talking so much over the last week about the debate preparations at Camp David, but we should also talk a little bit about just how closely the Biden team over the last few days has been watching the Trump team and everything that they have been saying about their own preparations.

They've certainly taken note of the fact that the former president and allies of his have been talking about how little time that he is actually spending on debate prep, how there haven't even been formal debate prep sessions. And advisers have told us that they basically don't buy that argument, that they actually think that the former president has been doing a lot more debate prep than he has been letting on and that this could end up resulting in the president being more disciplined and more on message than some people might actually expect. They're also very keenly aware of the abrupt shift in tone that we have seen from President Trump and others close to him about the expectation setting for President Biden. You know, for months, the Trump team has been attacking President Biden for being physically not all there, mentally not all there. Can he even stand on the debate stage for 90 minutes? And they're aware, I think, the Biden team, that in some ways, the Trump team has helped to lower the bar for him.

But, of course, they are very much hoping tonight that all of the intensive debate preparations will really pay off and that he will do more than just clear the bar.

BLITZER: And, M.J., we heard directly from the first lady earlier this afternoon. What did she say about tonight's debate?

M.J. LEE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, Wolf. I mean, she will, of course, be the biggest cheerleader for President Biden tonight, and she will be one of the family members that will be joining him at the debate. We heard her earlier basically asking Americans and asking viewers to, yes, pay attention to the policy, pay attention to the substance, but also pay attention to the person that her husband is. Take a listen.


JILL BIDEN, U.S. FIRST LADY: I want you tonight, when you see them both debating, I want you to hear Joe's words, but most of all, I want you to listen to his heart. Because what you're going to hear is how much Joe cares about Americans.


LEE: And we know, Wolf, that the Biden team preparations at Camp David have included getting the president ready for potential attacks and insults against the members of the president's family. Of course, I should remind everyone that still very fresh for the Biden family is the news from earlier this month that the president's son, Hunter Biden, was convicted on three felony gun charges. Certainly, all of this just gets to the broader point that the Biden team has been trying to prepare for anything and everything that could be thrown the president's way tonight.

BLITZER: We'll see if Trump throws any of that his way. We'll be watching very closely. M.J. Lee, thank you very much.

I also want to check in with CNN's Kristen Holmes right now. She's covering the Trump campaign for us. Kristen, how is the former president preparing with less than, what, three hours to go until this debate?


KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Donald Trump just landed in Atlanta. He and his team, he was surrounded by some of his top advisers, Chris LaCivita, Susie Wiles, Jason Miller, who has been running point on the debate. They headed into the motorcade and they should be here at the debate site any minute.

Now, in terms of what they're doing to prepare, we are told they're going directly into the room that is designated for Trump and his team. They'll continue to watch the debate coverage, the lead-up, and they will maintain conversations about what to expect later tonight. According to one aid, it is now all on the former president's shoulders. There's not much else that they believe that they can do to drill into him ahead of this debate course, as we know from these senior advisers, they have spent an enormous amount of time focusing on things like immigration, like crime, like the economy and particularly inflation. They are hoping that Donald Trump will use that messaging when he takes the stage.

It was interesting to hear M.J. talking there about Jill and what a supporter and cheerleader that she has been for President Joe Biden. Notably, as he departed his plane that he'd flown up on from Florida, there was one person missing, Melania Trump, the former first lady.

Now, it's not that surprising when you think about the fact that in the entire time that Donald Trump has been running for president, which he announced back in 2022, that she has only appeared at one single campaign event, and that was the launch event at her Mar-a-Lago home. However, this is a significant moment. If you talk to anyone around former President Donald Trump, they will tell you that he understands how significant this moment and how the gravity of the time that we are in. So, interesting, of course, to see the contrast between Jill Biden and Melania Trump.

BLITZER: Kristen Holmes reporting for us, Kristen, thank you very much.

Joining us now, Ambassador Susan Rice, a former domestic policy adviser for President Biden, she also served as national security adviser under President Obama. She was the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations as well. Ambassador, thank you so much for joining us.

As you probably have heard, Trump will likely argue tonight that under President Biden, two wars broke out in Ukraine, as well as Israel and Hamas in Gaza. And the border, the U.S. border with Mexico is a mess. That's what we will hear, presumably, from former President Trump. How do you think President Biden can best counter those arguments?

SUSAN RICE, FORMER OBAMA NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Well, good to be with you, Wolf. President Biden will make the broad case that America's standing in the world is much stronger than it's been in a long time, and certainly much stronger than it was under Donald Trump. The reality is that NATO is expanded. We have two additional countries. We have more cohesion and strength in our alliances, both in Europe and in Asia, than ever before. And the United States is back and you hear our allies every day say how grateful they are to have President Biden as their partner.

Yes, the world is a dangerous place. Much of that is longstanding, but you want, when the world is a dangerous place, somebody who is steady, somebody who's committed to the United States and its interests rather than one's personal interests rather than somebody who is erratic, who embraces dictators, who gives Vladimir Putin the sort of praise and encouragement to go and do what the hell he wants to NATO countries. We need strong American leadership, and that's what Joe Biden has provided, and that's what he's going to continue to provide when he's re-elected.

BLITZER: As you know, Ambassador Rice, some younger Democrats in critical swing battleground states, like Michigan, for example, have been very vocal about their disagreement with President Biden over his support for Israel in the war against Hamas in Gaza. Should President Biden attempt to win back their votes tonight? And if so, how?

RICE: Well, President Biden is going to do what he has been doing, which is to make it clear that across the board, whether you're talking about foreign policy or domestic policy, he's fighting for American interests and for the interests of working families. He is committed to doing all he can to lower costs for American families. And we see great progress in health care costs coming down and prescription drug costs coming down. He's working to preserve the freedoms that Americans hold dear, from our voting rights to the ability of women to control what happens to their own bodies.

And on the international stage, yes, he's been clear that we will stand with our ally, Israel, but he's also been clear that we will that it is vitally important that this war come to an end, that it is time for a ceasefire, that there be adequate and much increased humanitarian assistance, the return of the hostages, and that the three-point -- three-phase plan that the president laid out, that the Israelis proposed to Hamas, needs to be the basis moving forward.


And it's now incumbent upon Hamas to accept that plan and the Israelis to embrace what they have committed to and put forward on the table. That is what is essential, Wolf, if we're to see this horrific war come to an end, Hamas degraded and defeated, as it must be, and the Palestinian people having the opportunity to chart a future that they deserve as well.

BLITZER: As you know, Ambassador Rice, Trump has often said, and he says it all the time, that he had a better relationship with some of the dictators out there, such as Vladimir Putin or Kim Jong-un, and that they would listen to him if he were president once again. What should President Biden's response to that argument, I suspect we will hear that from Trump later tonight, what should Biden's response be?

RICE: Well, if you want to be buddies with Kim Jong-un and Vladimir Putin, that is not the way to serve American interests. Vladimir Putin has indicated and demonstrated time and time again that his ambition is to not just take Ukraine, and as he tried to take Georgia years ago, and not just to take Crimea, but to take all of Ukraine and then move into Europe and NATO territory.

And the western alliance is united and clear that we cannot allow that to happen. We cannot coddle Putin. We cannot compromise with Putin. We cannot give Putin the green light that Donald Trump has given him to do whatever the hell he wants with NATO. That is reckless and dangerous. And it's characteristic of the kinds of erratic leadership that we've seen so much out of Donald Trump that we just cannot afford.

BLITZER: Ambassador Susan Rice, thanks so much for joining us.

RICE: Thanks for having me, Wolf.

BLITZER: And up next, how the battle over abortion in America could play a big role, potentially, in tonight's debate. Stay with us.



COLLINS: Tonight's debate is coming just as the Supreme Court today voted to allow emergency abortions in Idaho for now when a pregnant patient's health is at serious risk. Of course, we have looked at abortion ban there. Idaho has one of the nation's strictest abortion bans in the United States. This ruling, though, is temporary. It leaves a lot of unanswered questions as the case is now going to go back and work its way through the lower courts.

Here to talk about all of this and the dynamics that decision has on the debate stage tonight is Ralph Reed, who is the chairman of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, where we just saw former President Trump speaking over the weekend.

And it's great to have you because I just -- from your perspective, you know, we've been talking from the political aspect of what voters want to see, what they want to see. When it comes to evangelicals and seeing Donald Trump on that debate stage tonight, do you want to see him call for a national abortion ban? What are you hoping? He says about that on stage.

RALPH REED, FOUNDER, FAITH AND FREEDOM COALITION: Well, we support both federal and state protection for the innocent unborn. I mean, our position is that an unborn child is a member of the human family, and it has a right to life that cannot and should not be infringed. We also thank, Kaitlan, and this is in the Republican Party platform, and has been for over 40 years, that an unborn child is protected under the 14th Amendment's guarantee that no person can be denied or infringed life or liberty without due process of law. That's our position. It's in the party platform.

Now, we've had the Dobbs decision. Two years ago, almost, well, this week.

COLLINS: This week.

REED: So, that's changed everything, all right? And what the president has said, meaning Trump, what President Trump has said is, it was the liberals who federalized this. Roe federalized this. For most of American history, it was decided by the states. And by the Dobbs decision, states now have a right to do that again. And that's his position. I have no problem with that position, because I think the reality is, whether you're pro-choice or you're pro-life, that's where the action is. The pro-choice side is qualifying these initiatives and referendums and trying to get their way. We are passing pro-life bills. We've done it in 24 states. We're going to keep going. Kaitlan, it's called democracy. That's what democracy looks like.

COLLINS: Saying the voters in each state should make a decision?

REED: Right.

COLLINS: But we've seen how Democrats have talked about this and President Biden himself has talked about it a lot. And they've said if Donald Trump is reelected, he will sign a federal abortion ban into law because people who support him want to see that. But is that something that you believe is something he should call for on the debate stage?

REED: Well, it's something that we clearly support. I mean, as I said --

COLLINS: So, you would like to see him?

REED: We'd like to see protection of the unborn at the federal level and the state level. And we don't want to see states like California, Illinois, New York pass laws, and this is Joe Biden's position. Let's be clear about this. He supports a federal bill that would allow abortion on demand for any reason at any stage of pregnancy, including the eighth or ninth month, including after the child can feel pain, including after the child can survive outside the womb.

Now, there was a time, Kaitlan, when Democrats called that infanticide. People like Daniel Patrick Moynihan called it infanticide. He also wants to use tax dollars to pay for those abortions under Medicaid. So, his position is the radical and extreme position.

COLLINS: I know you don't agree with him at all. I don't expect you to. But I will note that that eight and nine month abortions are incredibly rare. I mean, we just spoke to Kate Cox about this, who had to leave Texas to go get an abortion. And she wanted to go to her family. She talked about how painful it actually was for her to have an abortion when she did, but she had a fetal anomaly that was going to have her baby survived maybe a week after it was born.


And so when you look at this, and we talk about the blowback politically for some Republicans and certain ballot measures that have been on the ballot after Roe v. Wade was overturned, that's been a difficult line for former President Trump to walk and how he talks about that because there are some states, my home state of Alabama, that don't have a lot of exceptions. Some of them have no exceptions, whatsoever. Some don't have it for incest, only for the life of the mother.

Politically, though, aren't you worried there's going to be blowback for a ticket for a Republican candidate this fall because of those? REED: No, I'm really not. Because the president has made it abundantly clear he takes the same position Ronald Reagan took, which is the three exceptions of rape, incest, and life of the mother.

COLLINS: But what about states that don't have those? And he says it should be up to the states. How do you square that?

REED: Well, he has his position, but he also said this is what democracy looks like. And I'm not worried about the initiatives and referendums, and I'll tell you why. You go back, Kaitlan, and look at the exit polling in Ohio, where they won what I think is a pyrrhic victory, I think ultimately will succeed in passing tougher pro-life restrictions in Ohio, but they won a ballot initiative.

COLLINS: Yes, it was quite surprising.

REED: And the exit polling shows that one out of every four Trump voters voted for the initiative. In Kansas, it was even higher than that.

So, let me tell you what's getting ready to happen. They're qualifying initiatives in Arizona, Nevada, and Florida at a minimum. They're trying to get these on the ballot. They're going to be turning out Trump voters who tend to be more pro-choice than, say, I am or my organization. They're going to vote for the initiative, and then they're going to vote for Donald Trump. It's not going to help Joe Biden at all.

And let me tell you what else is going to happen.

COLLINS: You think they'll come out to vote, but they'll still vote for Donald Trump, but they'll still vote for the measure, but they'll also vote for Donald Trump?

REED: The polling is clear on it. And not only that, Kaitlan, but Trump will be able to say when he goes into those states, I'm the one who gave you the right to vote on this. He wants to deny you the right to vote on this. He's the one who wants to pass a federal, radical, and extreme pro-abortion law that would repeal all state restrictions and set it at the federal level. So, you won't get to vote on it.

COLLINS: Yes, he wants to codify the federal right to an abortion, which was overturned by the Supreme Court. We'll see how these candidates talk about it. It's one of the issues that's nearly guaranteed to come up on stage tonight.

Ralph Reed, thank you for joining us.

REED: Thank you, Kaitlan.

COLLINS: Great to have you.

And also coming up, we're going to get more analysis from our top political reporters. We're now in the final moments before Donald Trump and Joe Biden will meet for the first time in four years.

This is Debate Night here in America. Stay tuned



BLITZER: All right. Take a look at this new video where we're getting of Trump's motorcade arriving here at the CNN debate site. This now just a few hours before our debate gets underway.

Our political experts are joining me right now with more analysis, and, Nia, let me start with you. This race has been stubbornly close for months and months and months. Our latest CNN poll of polls, I'll put it up on the screen. You can see Trump's at 49 percent, Biden 47 percent among likely voters out there. What needs to happen tonight to change that?

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Listen, they've got to have breakout moments and they've got to address their weaknesses. The primary weakness that Biden has is about age, but it is also about questions around the economy, questions around immigration and questions around crime. And you know that Donald Trump is going to go hard at that.

The questions that Donald Trump has to answer and address have to do with his character, his moral standing, January 6th, his authoritarian tendencies. He's got to figure out a way to get voters who were skeptical of him along those lines to come back to him in so many ways, the voters who left him in 2020, those sort of Trump to Biden voters. So, he's got to figure that out. We'll see.

And I think whoever has a breakout moment, can they capitalize on that in the weeks following the debate, right? Because we're going to have a, you know, 90-minute debate tonight and people are going to mostly ingest this through clips and analysis that come after, right? And it's going to be moments. So, they've got to figure out a way to not only have breakout moments, but then to capitalize on that going forward.

BLITZER: Both campaigns will be spending a lot of money with advertisements of highlights as they see him during the course of this debate.

Jamie, I want to play for you and our viewers, some of Biden's social media video that's coming out right now underscoring a key contrast that's going on. Listen to this. Watch this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dictator, tyrant.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Threat to democracy.

MIKE PENCE, FORMER U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: I cannot in good conscience endorse Donald Trump. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We don't take an oath to a king or queen or a tyrant or a dictator, and we don't take an oath to a wannabe dictator.

ALYSSA FARAH GRIFFIN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: We worked with him. We knew him. This man is unfit to be president. A second term would be more dangerous than a first.

JOHN BOLTON, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin, Kim Jong-un, they're fully prepared to take advantage of him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I do regard him as a threat to democracy.


BLITZER: These are all some of Trump's former advisers, and this is a Biden campaign video.

JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Right. So, the question is, to Nia's point, does this resonate? Does it keep getting played? And does it appeal just to Biden voters, or will it appeal to undecided voters? We've talked a lot about the double haters, people who don't want Trump or Biden. The question is, will that change someone's mind?


There is no question that Trump's behavior is baked in. It's become normalized. So, I think a big question for Joe Biden is, how does he persuade people that they need to remember that and that's what's coming, that it's not overstating it?

BLITZER: At the same time, Manu, the Trump campaign released an ad making fun of Biden's age and his fitness. I'm going to play a clip for you. Watch this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When you think about the Joe Biden you saw in the debate, ask yourself a question, do you think the guy who was defeated by the stairs, got taken down by his bike, lost a fight with his jacket, and regularly gets lost, makes it four more years in the White House? And you know who's waiting behind him, right? Vote Joe Biden today, get Kamala Harris tomorrow.


BLITZER: You think we're going to hear and see more of that from Trump today?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I mean, that is a brutal ad. I'm sure we're going to see a lot more of that along the airwaves over the next couple of several weeks. They're basically suggesting that Biden will not survive a second term at office. That is how this debate is going. But it really also shows that Trump has been -- the expectation setting. They're saying that Joe Biden can't string two sentences together, yet at the same time also calling him an effective debater. That is going to affect the perception of how Joe Biden ultimately does, and perhaps Joe Biden could benefit from that. Actually, more voters, according to polls, believe that Trump will do better tonight than Biden. So, if Biden exceeds those expectations, perhaps a lot of voters will think that he is capable of serving another four years. So, this expectation setting can cut both ways against Trump.

GANGEL: Can I just quickly add, that also has a dog whistle about Kamala Harris in it. You can't get past it. And also the production value, that music, that is social media. That is TikTok. That is from Trump's perspective, a brilliant, brutal, devastating but a brilliant ad for going viral on social media.

HENDERSON: That's right, yes. And I think you're going to see more of that. So, the Kamala Harris point, I think it's going to land with a certain segment of voters, this dog whistle that's very, very loud, but there are voters who really, really like Kamala Harris, right, and would love to see her be president. In some of these polls early on, she has high approval ratings then Joe Biden. So, it's sort of cut It's both ways. If you're a young voter, if you're an African-American voter, if you're a woman voter, maybe you say, huh, Kamala Harris wouldn't be so bad.

BLITZER: What do you think, Phil?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN ANCHOR AND CHIEF DOMESTIC CORRESPONDENT: What I think is interesting about it is I don't think the people that they're targeting and the things you hear from both people that are tied to the campaign and advisers, Republicans on the outside as well saying, talk about the economy, talk about immigration, talk about crime. Why? Like I get it.

And I think Jamie's point is actually critical here. The Trump operation from a social media perspective and their ability to use influencers, when we look at the subgroups that Joe Biden's coalition is lagging in right now, young voters is one of those coalitions. I don't know if these are the reasons why, but these are things that go viral on the places where people get their news. And so I think there's an effectiveness in that sense.

But I also don't think that for the seven states and 58,000 people that are going to decide, at least based on the 2020 numbers, who's going to win this election. When you talk to people around him, that's not necessarily where they want him to go.

The one thing I would say about that, though, is he's not going there. The campaign is, outside groups are, outside advisers are. And so there's some value there. I think if you look at the Biden campaign and what they're willing to say about Donald Trump, they've been much more aggressive than they were in 2020, they're much more aggressive on the types of platforms that are on, what they're saying, what they're willing to say, Joe Biden is not going to do that. A, it's not who he is and he wouldn't do it to begin with, but B, they have one level of separation. I think that's why you're seeing the way it's playing out. BLITZER: Important points. All right, everybody stand by. We have a lot more to discuss. Trump and Biden are already taking swipes at one another, as we just saw on social media today. Insights on how personal attacks might get tonight. We're watching all of this as we watch Debate Night in America.



COLLINS: We are now just about two hours away from CNN's presidential debate here. I have someone here who knows firsthand what it's like to debate former President Donald Trump. Ben Carson, did so in 2016, then became one of Trump's closest allies and also one of his cabinet secretaries. The former housing and urban development secretary and retired neurosurgeon joins me now.

So, Dr. Carson, it's great to have you here because you do have experience debating Donald Trump. You know what it's like to be up there on the stage with him. Everyone remembers the Republican primary in 2016. In the 2020 debate, the first one against President Biden, former President Trump became quite personal, he went after his family. I wonder if you think when you see Donald Trump on that stage tonight, you want to see him stay away from those personal attacks when he's debating Joe Biden.

DR. BEN CARSON, FORMER HUD SECRETARY: There's so many good things that he can talk about in terms of the economy during his administration crime during his administration, the border during his administration, interest rates, it was just a lot of good things to talk about. So, I don't think it'll be necessary to dwell upon those things.

COLLINS: So, you do believe it'd be more helpful if he talked more about the issues than, say, something that's more personal, President Biden's son, Hunter Biden, for example?

CARSON: Yes, I'm hopeful that they both will take advantage of this historic situation, in which we have the two administrations juxtaposed to each other. You don't have to think back many years. And you can compare the policies and see where they've taken us.


COLLINS: Yes. And obviously everyone remembers when you were on stage, when you were competing with him in the Republican primary, I mean, he even lobbed personal attacks against you as well. On the issues here, obviously abortion is expected to be a major one. This is the first time we've had a presidential debate since the Supreme Court overturned Roe versus Wade. Obviously, we saw that major decision from the Supreme Court today allowing those emergency abortions in Idaho.

When it comes to how Trump is talking about abortion, though, and the three Supreme Court justices that he put on the court, you know, he often says he's proud of them, but then sometimes distances himself from the decision to overturn Roe versus Wade. Do you think he'll take credit for that tonight? What is that going to look like on that debate stage?

CARSON: Well, obviously, we'll have to wait and see. But you know, what he has done is try to bring the situation back to the state level, to the level of the people and their representatives, which I think is what the intention was of our founders, rather than having mandates proclaimed nationally. So, I think that'll be good.

I suspect he will also pivot to the area of extremism, because there are some people who advocate abortion right up until birth. And as a pediatric neurosurgeon who operated on lots of premature babies, I can tell you, you know, 25, 26, 27-week gestation baby, they feel pain. And when you reach into the uterus and pull them apart, they feel that.

And I think we need to help people to understand what's actually going on and come to reasonable conclusions. And that's why it's better at the state level, because you can talk with the representatives and with the people who fashion the laws.

COLLINS: Yes. And we've obviously seen other states that are extreme in the other direction where there are no exceptions for rape or incest, for example. Obviously, we do know that will be a major topic tonight.

Dr. Ben Carson, thank you for joining us on what we do expect to see on the debate stage.

CARSON: A pleasure. Thank you so much.

COLLINS: And my panel is back here with me in the spin room, where all the surrogates and other people whose names are among those, including Dr. Ben Carson, potential vice presidential picks for Donald Trump. When it comes to what he wants to see on the debate stage tonight, Shermichael, he was saying that he believes there's so much for Donald Trump to talk about, whether it's his record or President Biden's, that he should stay away from the personal insults.

SHERMICHAEL SINGLETON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Dr. Carson's right. I'm biased. I worked for Dr. Carson. I love Dr. Carson. But Governor Kemp said the same thing in your interview with him yesterday, that there's a lot of potential for the president to make his case to the American people on issues of the economy, immigration, and including foreign policy.

I mean, I think some Americans are a bit concerned about Chinese aggressions. What will the United States' response be to China and their economic brick system and their attempts to devalue the dollar? Business leaders do care about stuff like that. So, there's an incredible opportunity to speak to the nuance of those issues and how they have implications for the American people at the lower level, all the way up to our wealthy CEOs.

COLLINS: Yes, I mean, and speaking of the, the personal attacks, I mean, he once compared Dr. Ben Carson to a child molester. I mean, that is how ugly the 2016 Republican primary fight got with Donald Trump. Also, we saw, you know, the National Enquirer publishing headlines about not just Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz that has gotten a lot of attention, but also, you know, Dr. Ben Carson as well, who is now, you know, one of his top surrogates.

JONAH GOLDBERG, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. So, look, I would think about this. I think there's very little chance that Biden is going to have the ability to really energize his own base in all of this. He can reassure them, right? He can make some wavering people come home. But I don't think he's gotten him to fire up the base. You know, who has the ability to fire up the base for the Democrats? It's Donald Trump. And he could have answers tonight where he gets personal, which would make a lot of Democrats rally to Biden, be defensive of Biden. You know, as Kristen will could tell you, he has all sorts of potential landmines on answers about abortion.

Abortion is an issue, is going to have coattails for Biden, not the other way around. And if they've been practicing as much as they claim, if he hasn't prepared a bunch of ways to try and get that out of Trump, then he's going to fail tonight anyway.

COLLINS: And for -- you know, it's not even just abortion. It's also IVF, it's access to medication, Mifepristone. Remember, Donald Trump told TIME Magazine in April that his plan for Mifepristone would be coming out. That announcement never came. I mean, these are big questions that voters of both political strides want answers.

KRISTEN SOLTIS ANDERSON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: And on the stage, he's not going to be able to wiggle out of it as easy as he may have been in past experiences. So, this is going to be a debate that I think is more about do people get reassured that Biden's all there, that Trump can be president again, those sorts of things, but that doesn't mean that no substance is going to be important.


And they're going to be ways that if candidates flubbed things like Donald Trump flubbing something on abortion, that that's going to turn into an ad that we are going to see over and over and over again from now until November.

ASHLEY ALLISON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It might not be a flub, but it will be hypocrisy.

BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Energy -- energy tonight to your point, energy, energy, energy. That's where we begin at 4:00. Joe Biden has to bring that energy on this stage tonight, even when he's talking about issues like abortion.

COLLINS: Luckily, you have brought the energy this entire panel. Everybody has. You guys have been amazing.

SELLERS: What I'm here for. I'm going to get the tequila out and we want to watch a good debate.

COLLINS: No tequila will be had here.

Ahead, though, the team Biden -- we're going to mute Bakari's mic -- so a team Biden surrogate is going to be coming up next with what they expect to see on the debate stage. That is Georgia Senator Raphael Warnock in here as we are inching closer and closer to that historic showdown.



COLLINS: And just a short time from now, you're going to see something that none of us have ever seen before, no longer -- no matter how long have you been watching politics, paying attention closely, paying attention to those presidential debates, we've never seen a former president and a current president go head-to-head on a debate stage. But that is all going to change tonight when we see the rematch of Donald Trump and Joe Biden on stage. They will be eight feet apart, as we know inside that debate hall, when all of this gets underway.

My panel is back here with me.

And, Kristen Soltis Anderson, as we are looking at what tonight's going to look like, there is a very small amount of voters that Donald Trump and Joe Biden are trying to appeal to. And I think its an a nuance of what they've been prepping and what that's going to look like in a moment of how they're reaching out to those voters.

I mean, we know Donald Trumps bases with him and Biden's base may not be energized for him, but they're still not going to vote for Joe Biden over -- for Donald Trump over him. How did they make that that outreach on issues like immigration, the economy, abortion, as you've been talking about.

ANDERSON: Well, you're right that tonight is going to be an opportunity for these two men to talk to the sort of voter who is not been following, say Trumps legal troubles very closely, who is not been following the news day in and day out. They've been out living their lives. And so, now, they're re-engaging as we get closer and closer to November with this big blockbuster moment.

And so, for those lower engagement voters, those are the types of folks that have actually been more in Donald Trumps camp. He does quite well with the type of folks that don't. All didn't watch the news, but know that Donald Trump has been good in business or those sorts of thing that's what I hear in focus groups from these lower engagement voters.

They're going to be tuning into night to see does Donald Trump show up and do something entertaining? And his Joe Biden show up and demonstrate that he's got it all together.

ALLISON: You know, I think when I was on the campaign in 2020, I ran the coalitions department and that's about like pat stitching together a quill of all the different communities in our country from seniors, to young Americans, to African-Americans, to immigrants, and that is a challenge Joe Biden has to speak to tonight.

I think that we are saying perhaps that there's a smaller group of voters that Joe Biden needs to speak to. And when I hear that and I shouldn't assume, but when I hear that, I hear like Nikki Haley voters. I think if that's the only people Joe Biden tries to speak to tonight, that's a mistake. He needs speak to his base.

They aren't going to vote for Joe Biden, but as Bakari always says, they could stay home on the couch. And so today is the day to start to get the people ready to make a plan to go vote in November, whether you're super excited about Joe Biden or not, you will do what you have to do to ensure Donald Trump --

COLLINS: And that's what the timing of this is. So interesting is that this is of one of -- this is the earliest presidential debate we've ever seen.

A lot of voters start paying attention closer to the election when they're like, oh, yeah, I've got to vote for whoever is going to be the next president. This is happening so much earlier for them to be tuning into paying attention to.

GOLDBERG: Yeah, that was smart of the Biden campaign to do that, they needed to change the narrative, change of the trajectory. Most -- there's never been presidential debate in the general election prior to the second week of September, I think. So, this is like telling people, hey, you got to pay attention now, get an aware about early voting.

COLLINS: And obviously, one of the states that Biden one in 2020 that Donald Trump lost, which was historic and of itself is the one were sitting in right now, the state of Georgia. And, Wolf, that's been a key part of what we've been paying attention to, Donald Trump's relationship with Republicans here, but also how the Biden campaign is using the representatives of this state as their surrogates this time around.

BLITZER: And Georgia obviously emerging as a battleground state itself.

I'm here, Kaitlan, now with Democratic Senator Raphael Warnock of Georgia. He's a national advisory board number for the Biden-Harris campaign.

Senator, thank you so much for joining us.

As you know, the Biden campaign is hoping that tonight's debate can reset the race in their favor.

What do you think the president needs to do to accomplish that tonight?

SEN. RAPHAEL WARNOCK (D-GA): Well, thank you so very much and welcome to battleground Georgia.

Listen, the president does not need my advice, but I'll tell you this, I've been moving all around my state and people of the people of Georgia understand that there's so much at stake here. The good news in this moment is that this is a binary choice. The

difference between these two men could not be more stark. The difference is between the man who has spent his whole life, I think in many ways informed by his own deep sense of loss and pain serving people. And another man whose only thinking about himself, and he's especially focused on himself now that he's living under this cloud of all of these criminal convictions and charges against him.

The American people going forward someone who will be focused on them and who will be focused on ordinary people. That man is Joe Biden.

BLITZER: Here in your home state, Senator, a new "Atlanta Journal Constitution" poll shows President Biden support among Black Georgians slipping to 69 percent compared to 88 percent back in 2020.


Why do you think President Biden support is falling among Black voters here in Georgia?

WARNOCK: Well, I can tell you as somebody whose name has been on the ballot some five times in less than three years, that the polls don't tell you as much as the people do. The only poll that really counts is November 5th and I think that the people of Georgia going to get it right, Black voters are going to get it right. After all, Black wealth is up some 60 percent since the pandemic. We've seen the narrowing of the racial wealth gap in part because this is a president who had the courage to cancel student debt.

I've been in rooms all across the state, Wolf, and every time I asked a question that I've been asking lately, have you had your student debt canceled or do you know someone who's had their student debt canceled? I haven't been in room yet, where hands have not gone up.

So what we've got to do between now and November is what I do every Sunday. I'm still the pastor of Ebenezer Church. Ive preached the gospel, which literally means good news, even though it was good news, you got to tell it Sunday after Sunday, at -- while at the same time continuing to build on the progress that we've already made.

BLITZER: So what you're saying, Senator, how should President Biden make that clear to voters, what should President Biden say on tonight's stage to make his case, and really try to solidify his support with Black voters?

WARNOCK: Well, first of all, he's running against a man who is an existential threat.

Donald Trump is a plague on the American conscience and the American nation, and Black voters in particular, ought to be concerned that the Oval Office could be occupied by a man who took out a full full-page ad condemning the Exonerated Five used to be the Central Park Five, these young teenagers of a terrible crime they did not commit.

And when they were proven to be not guilty, he's never apologized for that. He's never come around. Joe Biden is running on his record. He's running on a record of canceling student debt, of passing the largest tax cut for middle and working class families in American history. And Donald Trump is literally running on his criminal record as if that's a reason for Black voters to vote for him.

Nothing could be more insulting. And at the end of the day, not only our base, the people of Georgia, and I believe the American people are going to get this right because there's so much at stake.

BLITZER: I want you to listen to senator, to what a Republican senator, one of your colleagues, Republican Senator Tim Scott, said about the fact that he, Scott, is a top contender to be Trump's running mate. Listen to this.


SEN. TIM SCOTT (R-SC): And we Southerners get so little credit for the progress we've made. The whole notion of judging a person on the content of their character, not the color of their skin has happened. It's not going to happen. It's not around the corner. It's on the rearview mirror. We are living Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s dream.


BLITZER: You are the head pastor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s former church. What's your reaction to what that senator says?

WARNOCK: Well, as a pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church, where Dr. King preached, I know the progress that we have made as a result of this work, and of the sacrifice not only of him but people like Fannie Lou Hamer and so many others, who stood up. America is better because of the civil rights movement. We cannot rest on the laurels of those achievements we have to continue to build.

And I find that ironic, quite honestly that my colleague talks about ellipses as Republicans often do, Dr. Kings quote, that you ought to be judged not by the color of your skin, but the content of your character, when it came down to it, Donald Trump handpicked a football player who clearly was not qualified to be the senator from Georgia I think based on the color of his skin, it was a kind of cynical, racialized move.

At the end of the day, Black voters, the voters of Georgia saw straight through it and I'm the sitting junior senator representing the state of Georgia and we've seen this movie before. Donald Trump might try it again. He ought to remember what happened the last time.

BLITZER: One interesting note to do, "Atlanta Journal Constitution" poll, Senator, also shows only 12 percent of young voters aged 18 to 29 support President Biden in your home state of Georgia, is that a major alarm bell for President Biden? And what does he need to say tonight to try to turn that around?

WARNOCK: Well, listen, at the end of the day, we need a president who centers people rather than himself. And I think voters, regardless of their age, ought to ask themselves, well what vision is Donald Trump laying out? When we were focused on trying to cancel student debt, he chaired the fact that the Supreme Court, with many of his nominees canceled the president's original plan.

He's boasting about the fact that he that he canceled Roe v. Wade. I think we ought to give him credit for that and, we ought to send Joe Biden back to the White House.

BLITZER: Senator Raphael Warnock, thanks so much for joining us.

WARNOCK: Thank you.

BLITZER: And to our viewers, thanks very much for watching.

Our special coverage of DEBATE NIGHT IN AMERICA continues right here, right now on CNN with Anderson Cooper and Erin Burnett.