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Mass Shooting In Philly And Forth Worth Leave Eight Dead; Russia Says, Five Ukrainian Drones Downed Near Moscow; Israel Says One Soldier Killed During Raid In Jenin; Four GOP Hopefuls On The Trail In New Hampshire; Severe Storms & Record Heat Could Impact Holiday Plans. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired July 04, 2023 - 18:00   ET




ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, the July 4th holiday marred by mass shootings in two American cities. Philadelphia authorities captured a suspect they say wore body armor and a ski mask as he shot and killed five people and injured two children. While just a few hours later, in Fort Worth, Texas, a gunman indiscriminately fired into a crowd, killing three.

Also tonight, the Kremlin claims it foiled a Ukrainian drone attack on Moscow, calling the attempted strike a, quote, terrorist attack. This as Russia's relentless shelling kills two in the southern Ukrainian city of Kherson. CNN is live on the ground in Ukraine.

Plus, today is not a holiday for Republicans hoping to move into the White House in 2024. They're hitting the campaign trail and parade routes in the key early states of Iowa and New Hampshire.

Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. Wolf Blitzer is off. I'm Alex Marquardt, and this is a Situation Room special report.

We begin this hour with the two deadly mass shootings, bringing the U.S. total for the year to 346. Philadelphia officials announced the suspect there will be arraigned on murder charges on Wednesday at a press conference a short while ago.

CNN's Senior National Correspondent Ed Lavandera has the details.


ED LAVANDERA, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Police say a 40-year-old man moved through a Philadelphia neighborhood, shooting randomly at people Monday night.

ERNEST RANSOM, STAFF INSPECTOR, PHILADELPHIA POLICE: The suspect, while wearing body armor, a ski mask, and holding an AR-15 assault rifle, was observed at several locations. The suspect then began shooting aimlessly at occupied vehicles and individuals on the street as they walked. None of the victims engaged the suspect or were aware the suspect was going to inflict this act of violence upon them.

LAVANDERA: The shooter has not been identified, and investigators say he will be arraigned on Wednesday and face murder charges. Police arrested the gunman after he was cornered in an alley. The attack spanned several neighborhood blocks.

Philadelphia authorities expressed outrage with the senseless violence on the eve of the 4th of July holiday.

MAYOR JIM KENNEY, PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA: This country needs to re-examine its conscience and find out how to get guns out of dangerous people's hands.

LAVANDERA: Hundreds of people took over Horn Street in Southwest Fort Worth for an impromptu and chaotic 4th of July street party that turned deadly. Mike Valle says he heard 30 to 40 shots as he ran from the scene to take cover.

MIKE VALLE, SHOOTING WITNESS: Everybody was right here and there was a -- there was just popping up fireworks, like doing fire nuts (ph) and stuff. And then there was a lot of gunfire that just started ringing out. And then everybody just started running everywhere.

LAVANDERA: Fort Worth Police say three people were killed and eight wounded in the shooting after several unknown men started firing indiscriminately into the crowd. No arrests have been made and it's not clear what caused the shooting to start.

CAPT. SHAWN MURRAY, FORTH WORTH POLICE DEPARTMENT: We don't know if this is domestic related, if it's gang related. It's too early to tell at this point. We just know somebody shot multiple times and a bunch of people were injured in reference to that.

LAVANDERA: A year after a 4th of July mass shooting in the Chicago suburb of Highland Park last year, the community returned. The city sponsored a walk to reclaim the space where a gunman killed seven parade watchers and wounded nearly 50 others.

MAYOR NANCY ROTERING, HIGHLAND PARK, ILLINOIS: Nobody wanted a parade. It was inappropriate. But it was important for us to say that evil doesn't win. And this is our parade route. And this is our community that we are taking back.

LAVANDERA: Back on Horn Street, families returned to enjoy the Como Neighborhood 4th of July parade. The route cut through the very spot where the deadly shooting kicked off this national holiday. And they watched balloons released into the sky honoring Monday night's victims.


LAVANDERA (on camera): And, Alex, what is striking about these mass shootings of the last few days is the number of young people inflicted and hurt by these shootings.

[18:05:03] In Philadelphia, victims were 15 and in their 20s. Two-year-old twin boys were also wounded. Here in Fort Worth, there was an 18-year-old who had dreams of joining the U.S. Air Force. And in Indianapolis, there was a 16-year-old girl who was shot and killed at a block party. All of these mass shootings inflicting scars, Alex, that will last a lifetime.

MARQUARDT: So, important to remember that these are people and not statistics. Ed Lavandera in Fort Worth, Texas, thank you so much for that report.

Let's discuss with our analysts and contributors. Thank you all for joining me on this 4th of July, obviously an extremely sad series of events.

Chief Ramsey, I want to start with you. You were the Philadelphia police commissioner. Ed just described what happened there. What stands out to you from that Philadelphia shooting?

CHARLES RAMSEY, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, one, the age of the suspect, 40 years old, wearing body armor, obviously very heavily armed. But I also want to mention something else that stands out to me, and that is the fact that the police were able to take him into custody without firing a single shot.

We talk all the time about police use of deadly force. This is a case here where deadly force could have been used and officers were able to find a way to avoid it. And I think that's something that ought to be acknowledged.

MARQUARDT: And, hopefully, they'll be able to get some answers from this suspect.

Jennifer Mascia, of course, no one has forgotten that last year, a gunman killed seven people at a 4th of July parade in Highland Park, in Illinois. What trends do you see around gun violence this time of year?

JENNIFER MASCIA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: So, gun violence does traditionally have an uptick in the U.S. in the summer months. Last year, over the July 4th weekend, there were 17 mass shootings, one of which was Highland Park. You have several factors that converge in the summer. You have a lot of people off from work and school. You have the heat. Alcohol is a factor. But most importantly, you have easy access to guns. And that one really makes a difference, because this is a distinctly American phenomenon. It's also a recent phenomenon.

So, I was looking through Gun Violence Archive, and we've actually had 348 mass shootings this year so far. We've had two since I've been sitting here. A decade ago, we had by the end of the July 4th weekend, 118. So, that's a 200 percent increase in ten years. We have now three times more mass shootings than we did a decade ago.

And it's not really a mystery why this is happening. Gun production is ramping up to record levels. Just since the first year of the pandemic alone, we've had 50 million guns produced for the domestic market, which means guns purchased for protection, for self-defense, are now readily accessible in times of conflict and crisis.

MARQUARDT: That's just an incredible spike this year.

Abane Clayton, I want to ask about the communities. I mean, we focus on the shooter and the victims, as we should focus on the victims. But how do the communities respond in wakes of shootings like this?

ABANE CLAYTON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Absolutely. I think it's a mix, depending on which community you're talking about. If you're looking at a place like Baltimore or even Philadelphia, I think there are people who have been dealing with this issue for so many years and decades that, unfortunately, they know to spring into action. There are moms across the country who have lost children to gun violence, who when they see this sort of news, they know it's time to mobilize.

Now, in places where this, quote/unquote, isn't supposed to happen or doesn't happen as frequently, you know, which is code for like a white suburban area, like a Highland Park or something, the reaction -- I think people are more likely to look to law enforcement for answers, to really call for assault weapon bans in the immediate aftermath. So, it's certainly a mix.

But one thing that remains a constant throughout these situations is just the devastation, as Ed said. It lasts for years and decades. And I'm particularly concerned about the impact this is going to have on children and teenagers. They're constantly exposed to gun violence. And during the summertime, we know that young people don't always have the ability to go to the recreation center every day. If they have some sort of school-based program, that's only in the morning and early afternoon.

So, I really think it's incumbent on our state leaders to make sure when these kids get back to school, they are able to talk about these things in a professional and safe environment to process what they have seen early in the summer, and, unfortunately, based on the way the U.S. has been set up lately, what they'll likely see over the next few months before they return to school.

So, each community is utterly devastated, but the responses will vary and are on state leaders to ensure that they happen.

MARQUARDT: Right. Chief Ramsey, because of all those factors mentioned, how much harder is it getting for law enforcement to police holidays like the 4th of July?


RAMSEY: Well, I mean, we have staffing shortages across the country, which certainly doesn't help. Baltimore, for example, they weren't even alerted of this block party until the day of the event. So, you can't preplan, you can't use overtime, you can't do a lot of things that you would normally do without pulling resources from neighborhoods that still need coverage. And so it makes it more difficult.

But despite all that, we have a problem with just people, just violence, the violent nature of some people who would just take a firearm, AR-15, semiautomatic, and just randomly spray a crowd of people. Just -- I mean, it is totally ridiculous what's going on now. I mean, there are so many guns out there, but part of the problem, also the people that don't hesitate to use a gun to commit a violent crime.

So, this is something that has to be addressed. We haven't done a good job. We talk about it. We pray about it. But we don't do anything about it. And it's not going to stop. It's going to continue, and the numbers are going to continue to rise until finally we wake up as a nation and realize this is not normal. We cannot accept it. And we have to figure out a way to do something about it.

MARQUARDT: Yes, it's just so sad and infuriating that we have to have this conversation and on this day of all days. Thank you all for joining me, and happy 4th of July to you all.

RAMSEY: Thank you, you too.

MARQUARDT: And just ahead, we will go live to Ukraine on the latest developments in Russia's war there, and then to Israel, where eight were wounded in an attack in Tel Aviv. This is a Situation Room special report.



MARQUARDT: In Ukraine, officials in the city of Kharkiv say that more than 40 people have been wounded in an attack there. Meanwhile in Russia, defense officials are claiming that they intercepted five Ukrainian drones near the capital, Moscow.

CNN's Ben Wedeman has the details from Eastern Ukraine.


BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): A tiny plume of smoke rises above Moscow as blood seeps into Ukrainian soil near an apartment block. Two people were killed by Russian shelling in the southern city of Kherson Tuesday. Dozens of civilians also injured in an attack in the Kharkiv region with medics wrapping bandages around the heads of those wounded.

I was lying on the sofa, says this woman. There was an explosion. The balcony was blown off. Everything was blown apart.

The relentless targeting of Ukrainian civilian structures by Russia comes as the Kremlin says it intercepted five drones near civilian buildings in Moscow.

DMITRY PESKOV, KREMLIN SPOKESPERSON: All these drones were either destroyed or neutralized using the appropriate systems.

WEDEMAN: The Defense Ministry says there were no casualties or damage, but the Foreign Ministry spokeswoman called the attack an act of international terrorism.

An adviser to Ukrainian President Zelenskyy quick to point out the irony, writing, a terrorist attack is when you have been deliberately firing cruise and ballistic missiles at residential areas and crowded pizzerias for 16 months. Terrorism is the main attribute of Russia today.

President Putin attempting to project a different image, one of strength and stability, while addressing his allies for the first time since facing an armed insurrection by the Wagner Group.

VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT: The Russian people are consolidated as never before.

I would like to thank my colleagues from the SCO countries who expressed the support for the actions of the Russian leadership to protect the constitutional order, the life and security of Russian citizens. We highly appreciate it.

WEDEMAN: Putin's gratitude, a sign of his questionable grip on power. His fate being tested as Ukraine makes slow progress on the frontlines.

Zelenskyy, meanwhile, acknowledging difficulties on the battlefield but claiming his military is retaking territory, championing the fight ahead by drawing inspiration from Ukraine's strongest backer, the United States, on their Independence Day.

VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT: Only the brave gain independence, and only the best of the brave are able to pass the freedom from generation to generation.


WEDEMAN (on camera): And what we're hearing is a lot of talk about the situation at the Zaporizhzhia power plant, the biggest nuclear power plant in all of Europe. This evening, President Zelenskyy had a phone call with his French counterpart in which he said the Russians are preparing a dangerous provocation there. An adviser to the president said there's a 50/50 possibility of something happening there. And we got a statement from the army saying that they have observed foreign items similar to explosive devices being put on the roof of two of the plant's power units.

Now, we've heard previous talk from the head of Ukrainian intelligence that some of the cooling ponds at that plant are mined and that the Russians have deployed explosive-laden trucks outside of four of the power plant's six reactors. So, there's concern something could happen there soon, but the Russians are saying that they're planning nothing, that it's the Ukrainians who are going to do something soon at that power plant. Alex?

MARQUARDT: Those are some of the last things you want to hear around a nuclear power plant. Ben Wedeman in Eastern Ukraine, thank you so much for that reporting.

Let's get right to Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi. Congressman, thank you so much for joining us on this 4th of July.

I want to ask you about Vladimir Putin and the message he is trying to send. He appeared today with other global leaders, including those of China and India. So, what's he saying here?

REP. RAJA KRISHNAMOORTHI (D-IL): Well, he's trying to project strength. He's trying to project calm. But, obviously, all of those global leaders, not the least of which is Xi Jinping of China, know that Vladimir Putin is not the same leader now that he was weeks or months ago.


I think the revolt by the Wagner Group and Prigozhin really cast doubts on the stability of the regime in Russia, and his decision not to eliminate Prigozhin but to give him, I guess, a chance to go to Belarus also encourages potentially others within the regime to consider doing similarly what Prigozhin did. And that obviously gives people around Mr. Putin jitters and probably gives people like Xi Jinping pause in rethinking their investments and the relationship.

MARQUARDT: We did hear today from the NATO secretary-general announcing that he will extend his leadership by a year. He's been serving for more than a decade. There are real divisions, however, ahead of this NATO summit next week on whether to offer Ukraine a timeline to becoming a NATO member. That would be after a war is over. So, why is there reluctance, and how much of that reluctance has to do with Russia?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Well, I think that certainly having Ukraine part of NATO would then involve an Article 5 commitment to Ukraine's defense. And I think that, you know -- I think there's going to be consensus necessary to admit any new entrant, such as Ukraine. I think that consensus is not going to be there, especially given what's happening right now with regard to Ukraine.

All that being said, there could be an arrangement involving other security guarantees with a subset of NATO members in any future peace agreement, and, of course, the Ukrainians have taken such a toll on the Russians, on the battlefield, maybe more than 220,000 casualties, 2,500 battle tanks destroyed, and so they certainly are worthy of being perhaps rated as among the best militaries in Europe at this point. MARQUARDT: Are you seeing support for Ukraine faltering in the House

of Representatives? We heard from the Ukrainian president saying over the weekend that he's afraid of losing that bipartisan support. He cited dangerous messages from some Republicans. Is he right to be afraid?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Well, I think we're all concerned about what we're hearing from certain members of the Republican caucus. But at the end of the day, I think there's still broad support for the Ukrainians, because Ukrainians are fighting so that we don't have to, Alex. As you know, they're fighting valiantly and they're fighting for the cause of democracy, and making sure that these criminal invasions by dictators, like Putin, don't recur certainly going forward after Ukraine. MARQUARDT: All right. Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi, thank you so much for joining us, and happy 4th of July to you.


MARQUARDT: Coming up, Israel launches a second night of military operations in the West Bank. We're live in the region with the very latest.

Plus, a powdery substance discovered at the White House, and it has been sent for further testing after an initial evaluation found it was possibly cocaine. This is a Situation Room special report.



MARQUARDT: And this just coming in to The Situation Room. Israel says one of its soldiers was killed in Jenin, in the West Bank. That was tonight during the second straight day of military operations in that occupied West Bank city a day after Israeli incursions there killed at least 12 Palestinians and wounded more than 100 others.

CNN's Hadas Gold is in Jerusalem with the very latest. Hadas, what more are you learning about this?

HADAS GOLD, CNN JERUSALEM CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Well, the Israeli military does say that it's winding down this operation in Jenin, that their forces are starting to leave the refugee camp, but that it's not over yet. And we are seeing some military vehicles leaving, although we are also seeing reports of clashes continuing.

And we are now hearing in the last hour or so from the IDF that one of its soldiers was killed by gunfire today in Jenin, this coming after a day when the violence in Jenin seemingly spilled over into Tel Aviv.


GOLD (voice over): A car ramming attack on the streets of Tel Aviv, the attacker shot by an armed civilian. Militant group Hamas taking credit for the attack, calling it a response to Israel's military raid in the occupied West Bank city of Jenin, the largest incursion into the West Bank since the days of the second intifada more than 20 years ago.

Israel says its aim is to dismantle the hornet's nest Jenin has become for militants. Overnight, targeting underground tunnels used to store explosive devices in the camp.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They were focused mainly on dismantling terrorist infrastructure and handling and seizing guns that are in this camp.

GOLD: Scenes of destruction as bulldozers ripped up roads to disable IEDs, damaged cars and homes. Inside the camp, streets are empty. Thousands of residents evacuating their homes overnight. International aid groups accused Israeli forces of blocking access to medical care in Jenin and firing tear gas near hospitals. The IDF refuting those claims, saying ambulances have a free pass.

Palestinian officials condemning the raid, calling it a new war crime, and saying they will suspend contact with Israel.


A general strike in solidarity with Jenin has been called in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Meanwhile, Palestinian militant groups calling for action to strike Israel by all available means.

As night fell on Tuesday, Israeli forces began withdrawing from Jenin as the cycle of violence goes on.


GOLD (on camera): Now, Alex, even if the operation is over and residents will be able to return to the Jenin refugee camp potentially in the coming hours or in the coming days, the question is, of course, what are they returning to? What kind of damages will there be? What kind of help would they need to rebuild? And also what has this operation achieved? Because even if they've managed to disrupt militant activity in Jenin, there are other militants, of course, across the occupied west bank. This may have just only further spurred them on into further action.

Will we see more IDF operations elsewhere in the West Bank and will we see more attacks like what we saw in Tel Aviv today? Alex?

MARQUARDT: Yes, major questions. Hadas Gold in Jerusalem, thank you very much.

Joining me is the head of the Palestinian Mission to the United Kingdom, Ambassador Husam Zomlot. Ambassador, thank you so much for being with us this evening.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, he has said that this operation in Jenin is not that he called a one-off. Do you fear more Israeli action in the West Bank?

HUSAM ZOMLOT, HEAD OF PALESTINIAN MISSION TO THE U.K.: I don't only fear, it's actually happening, this is not the first of such an aggression. Nablus has seen the same fate only a couple of weeks ago, Jerusalem before it, the bombardment of Gaza in May, this is constant. Netanyahu and his far-right coalition are on an onslaught against the Palestinian people. The very goal of all this is to crush any Palestinian resemblance of survival, resistance that (INAUDIBLE) protest against Israel's illegality, Alex.

Therefore, this has gone ongoing for a long, long time. The case your reporter just reported 20 years ago. Unfortunately, neither Israel learned the lesson nor the international community nor the U.S. administration. Bullets and rockets and drones would not really solve the issues, only answering people's legitimate rights that will do so, Alex.

And this is very unfortunate to see more war crimes, more collective punishment, destroying the infrastructure of a refugee camp. And those people are already refugees. They have already been ethnically cleansed by Israel 70 years ago. And they go after them again and again and again, targeting their schools and their hospitals and their medics and their journalists, I mean, crimes against humanity right in front of the CNN and the rest of the world. It is extremely, extremely regrettable.

MARQUARDT: And we have been emphasizing the extraordinary level of that military operation by Israel. In the wake of that, we have heard Hamas call on cells in the West Bank to rise up. They today called the car ramming attack in Tel Aviv a heroic operation. Are you expecting more Palestinian violence in the wake of this operation in Jenin?

ZOMLOT: I really reject the term Palestinian violence, Alex. Let's establish the following undisputed fact. The first, Israel is the occupying part for 56 years now, and since 1948, a power that was established on the skulls of the Palestinian nation, the ethnic cleansing of refugee camps such as in Jenin. Such Israeli practices war crimes, like the settlement expansion, the colonial settlement expansion apartheid as per Human Rights Watch, and the rest of the human rights organization, amnesty, thus Israel is in a constant state of aggression.

And, therefore, the Palestinian people are in a constant state of self-defense, of resisting these illegalities, not the other way around. Because we're hearing the U.S. administration all the time talking about Israel's right of self-defense. What about our right for self-defense, Alex?

And the U.S. and the west holds completely different standards to the Palestinians than the rest of the world. Think of Ukraine. Think what is happening now. Can you imagine the U.S. president, for instance, coming out and saying that Russia has a right to self-defense in Ukraine? Can you imagine the American president saying that the Ukrainian resistance fighters are terrorists? Can you imagine a scenario where the U.S. administration would block the Ukrainians from taking Russia to the International Criminal Court or the International Court of Justice as they're doing with us?

I'm saying this because the issue is not what Israel is doing, because it has been doing this for 75 years. The issue is the impunity and the issue is the double standards of the international community. The crimes are being reported, including in Jenin, by the United Nations. One health organization just released a damning report of Israel deliberate targeting of hospitals, of medics, of ambulances. These are war crimes.


And when we go to the ICC, wanting the ICC to come and be our judge and investigate the situation, it's Israel that blocks it, it's the U.S. that supports Israel blocking us, because both the U.S. and Israel know there is a lot that Israel hides there.

MARQUARDT: All right. Ambassador Husam Zomlot, we have to leave it there. Thank you so much for joining us this evening. I really appreciate it.

ZOMLOT: Thank you.

MARQUARDT: And just ahead, we are learning new information about the powdery substance found at the White House over the weekend. Coming up, we'll tell you what's next in that investigation.


MARQUARDT: The U.S. Secret Service says the powdery substance found at the White House over the weekend will now be sent out for further testing. The discovery of the powder triggered a brief evacuation on Sunday night.

CNN's Jeremy Diamond has been covering this story. Jeremy, what do we know so far?


JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Alex, this powdery substance was discovered at the White House on Sunday evening and it prompted a brief evacuation of the White House complex. That's the Secret Service just following protocol in these instances.

Now, what we've since learned, according to two sources familiar with the matter, is that that powdery substance tested positive for cocaine. Now, that positive test came back in a field test, which can sometimes be not totally conclusive.

So, the substance was sent out for additional testing. We haven't yet gotten the results of that. One source describing it as a white, powdery substance found in a Ziploc bag.

Now, the Secret Service's spokesman, Anthony Guglielmi, he says that this powdery substance was found in a work area inside the west wing of the White House, where, of course, White House staffers would have access to that area. But over the weekend, we should note that, typically, there are tourists sometimes, visitors who come through the White House accompanied by White House staff and get tours of the west wing. So, that's also something to note here.

Now, the secret service says that it is still investigating exactly how this white powdery substance made its way into White House, and the White House, for its part, they declined to comment, referring comment to the Secret Service. And as you noted, Alex, the president, he was not in town this weekend. He was at Camp David. He's now returned, of course, for 4th of July celebrations. Alex?

MARQUARDT: Just got back in time for those fireworks. Jeremy Diamond live at the White House, thank you very much.

Coming up, we will go live to New Hampshire where Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and other GOP presidential hopefuls are campaigning this holiday. How do they stand out in a crowded field? That's next.


ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN HOST: On the 2024 campaign trail, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and several Republican presidential hopefuls are spending Independence Day with voters in New Hampshire, all of them stopping by Fourth of July parade in Merrimack earlier today.

CNN's Omar Jimenez is there for us.

Omar, so what are you seeing and hearing from these candidates?

OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, for starters, it's a lot drier now than it was during the parade. It literally rained on the parade but it didn't dampen the spirits of everyone who was there watching. And, of course, a lot of these GOP presidential hopefuls who were marching, among them Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who made multiple stops across the state here in New Hampshire over the course of today, meeting folks on the ground, hand shaking, doing what a lot of these candidates do in stops like these, trying to make truly on-the-ground inroads into what has been a large shadow over the GOP field at this point.

By that I mean polling has shown former President Trump far and away the leader by choice, at least so far in this early contention field. And it's even why a spokesperson for the pro-DeSantis super PAC never back down acknowledged that they feel they are way behind when it comes to polling. Not that they feel this race is unwinnable, but they clearly have their work set out for them. It may be why we saw DeSantis over the course of today with his wife, First Lady Casey DeSantis in Florida, and his family as well, trying to maybe make inroads there as opposed to the stark contrast of President Trump, which for him approaching 80 years old.

So, trying to paint potentially a contrasting picture there. But DeSantis wasn't the only one out and about. We also saw South Carolina Senator Tim Scott, North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum, former Texas Congressman Will Hurd trying to do the same things, again build on what has been or cut into what has been a pretty sizable deficit in the polling. But also just to make some name recognition, likely for a lot of these voters who are getting to know these candidates for the first time.

And when you look at tent poles, the first tent pole that really everyone seems to be gravitating around is trying to make it on to the debate stage in August. They hope any performance this can propel them into when voters here in New Hampshire actually vote in early 2024. But you've got to get on the ground here, and these are some of the first steps that we've seen from these candidates, at least here in New Hampshire. Plus, what's more American than running for president and campaigning on the Fourth of July?

MARQUARDT: Yep, introducing themselves to those New Hampshire voters, extremely important in that first in the nation primary state.

Omar Jimenez in Merrimack, New Hampshire, thank you very much.

Well, now, I want to bring in CNN's Eva McKend and CNN senior political analyst Ron Brownstein.

Thank you both for being back with me.

Ron, to you first. And that question about shaking hands, kissing babies, the more personal retail politics side of this. How important is it for someone like DeSantis to be out there doing that?

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, New Hampshire guards its status as the first in the nation primary very assiduously. And so showing respect for that is important. But then actual person- to-person campaigning is probably more important in Iowa than in New Hampshire, where the total turnout is smaller. New Hampshire is a primary, it's bigger. Ultimately, it is moved by national currents and kind of national developments.

We have had, you know, in Republican primaries going back to 1980, which is really the modern era of the primary system, the front-runner has always been defeated in either Iowa or New Hampshire. It's happened every time back to 1980. Then South Carolina picks one of those two winners of those first two states, but one has then won South Carolina, and that's the nominee.

Front-runner has almost always come back and succeeded if that way, but there is traditionally an opening in these early states. Could be more likely in Iowa than New Hampshire, given that Iowa is so heavily tilted toward evangelicals where there might be room for an alternative to Trump. But this is what you see, if you're one of those other candidates, you have to break through in one of those first two states to have any chance at dethroning Trump.

MARQUARDT: And, Eva, DeSantis is -- he's within closest reach of Trump. What's he -- what's he doing to try to turn his campaign around? We did hear an adviser just admit that they are, in his words, way behind.


EVA MCKEND, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Alex, these retail politics are important. Meeting as many voters as possible in these early states is vital. These states that hold the early nominating contests, they aren't that big.

And when you speak to Republicans in Iowa, they expect to meet these candidates not once but multiple times to get to know them, to get to know their families. Governor DeSantis' wife is going to be campaigning in Iowa later this week with the governor. These are helpful to him.

But I will say that even though he's clung to the cultural battles, red meat, and that is really going to help him in this Republican primary, he's already taken positions on abortion, a number of other issues alienating to a general election audience. I was speaking to a Republican donor, for instance, who was supporting Governor DeSantis, abandoned DeSantis, now supports Senator Tim Scott, and says to me that he thinks that Senator Scott has a better chance of winning in a general election if he clears this Republican primary. MARQUARDT: And Trump does have, as we've been saying, such a

commanding lead, double digits in this race, Ron. So, how much does the president, the former president rather, really need to get out there and join the rest of the Republican field for events like this in Iowa and New Hampshire?

BROWNSTEIN: Yeah, look, his lead in the Republican primary is as big as we've seen any frontrunner have this far from the voting in either party. And he, in particular, is recreating and even enhancing the coalition he had in 2016 when he won the nomination. Once again, he's only winning a third of Republicans with a college degree, about what he got last time. The rest of them are not unifying behind one alternative as happened last time.

And he's winning even more Republicans without a college degree than last time, over 50 percent, incredible number in a field this big. And partly because of the way Trump has reconfigured the party, may be even bigger share of the primary electorate in 2024 than they were in 2016. So, he is in a very strong position and the onus is clearly on the others to find a rationale and argument to dislodge him. I think DeSantis has taken steps, running at him mostly from the right, which could be a problematic strategy if he succeeds to the general election.

I think the others, other than Chris Christie, they're just milling around. Donald Trump is in position you have to give Republican voters a clear reason to move past him despite all the red flags about him as a candidate again in light of all the indictments.

MARQUARDT: Eva, at events like the campaign stops we saw today, those messages from the candidates trailing in single digits, will the messages break through for those candidates on days like today?

MCKEND: It could, Alex. We are still six months out. We know polling at this stage is notoriously unreliable. And long shot candidates have a history of pulling off upsets in places like Iowa and New Hampshire.

So, that is why we see these candidates doing so much work in these states. Not only retail politics but investing on the airwaves, pouring money into fundraising and being really aggressive on that front in these early states because there's still time here, Alex.

MARQUARDT: All right. Well, it's a busy day on the campaign trail. Eva McKend, Ron Brownstein, thanks to you both.

And just ahead, we're monitoring the weather across the country and how it might impact your Fourth of July plans. This is a SITUATION ROOM special report.



MARQUARDT: Right now, millions of Americans are under severe weather threat. Record heat also causing misery all across a lot of this country. Let's get more now from CNN's Chad Myers who is in the CNN weather


So, Chad, how are these conditions looking for Fourth of July celebrations tonight?

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: You know, the Northeast is calming down, all the storms from today moving offshore, flooding going down. We had flash flood warnings across parts of Connecticut, all the way through Rhode Island. But we still have a lot of lightning across the Deep South even at this hour, and the potential for severe weather, Minnesota, Nebraska and Kansas.

Look at the number here on the screen, 724. That's the number of lightning strikes from clouds to the ground in the last minute. One minute's worth of lightning. That's going to change, it's a rolling total. But that's how much lightning is striking the ground, mainly across the Deep South. Things have moved away from the Northeast, going to dry up for Fourth of July.

Pretty decent across Philadelphia, had one big storm earlier here. Camden County, a severe storm and flash flooding going on, but D.C., Baltimore, Richmond, Virginia, much, much better.

One little storm just popped around Atlanta, especially on the south side. But across parts of Mississippi, Alabama and even almost to Memphis, we have all of this lightning still flashing out here. You have to be very careful with this.

The true severe weather tonight is actually happening across parts of Nebraska, probably Omaha in a couple of hours. Columbus, Nebraska, all the way down into Kansas. Some of these hailstones has been as big as tennis balls. So, you don't want to look at fireworks and have to run to your car.

Keep that in mind as this weather moves off to the east. And then Omaha, 9:00, that's your bogey, that's your sunset time. So, you're going to have to be careful with the weather from the west. It's going to take a while for this to go away. But the Southeast, it goes away as well. It's just going to take a few hours. Take your time, stay safe -- Alex.

MARQUARDT: Certainly stay safe, and best of luck to everybody traveling home tomorrow after the Fourth of July holiday.

Chad Myers in the CNN Weather Center, thank you very much.

I'm Alex Marquardt here in THE SITUATION ROOM, to our viewers in the United States, we wish you a very happy Fourth of July.

Thank you so much for watching.

CNN's "THE FOURTH IN AMERICA" starts right now.