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Is The U.S. Edging Closer To War With Russia? Trump Endorses Doug Mastriano P.A. Governor; Trump Endorses Doug Mastriano For Pennsylvania Governor; Biden's Impossible Situation As Midterms Approach. Aired 9-10a ET

Aired May 14, 2022 - 09:00   ET



MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Michael Smerconish in Philadelphia.

A new report from Newsweek says a Russian lawmaker and top member of Vladimir Putin's political party has suggested attacking Poland next. Using the same language Russia has used to justify invading Ukraine, Russian State Duma Deputy Oleg Morozov said that Poland is quote, "first place in the queue for denazification after Ukraine." This after Poland's Prime Minister wrote a column in Britain's Telegraph newspaper criticizing Putin and propaganda that he's spreading about the war.

That exchange coming after NATO is set to double its border with Russia with the inclusion of Finland in the military alliance. In response, Putin told Finland's president just moments ago during a phone call that joining would be a mistake. That conversation taking place after Russia cut electricity to the Nordic country.

Here in the U.S., the House overwhelmingly approved an additional 40 billion in military aid and humanitarian aid for Ukraine, bringing America's support for the effort to nearly 54 billion with no other country having that large of a financial or military or humanitarian commitment. It's expected to pass the Senate early next week before heading to the President's desk for signing.

That bill, along with leaks from the Biden administration in recent days, seems to underscore just how embroiled the United States has become in the war in Ukraine. On May 4, "The New York Times" reported senior American officials said the U.S. provided intelligence that allowed Ukrainians to take out as many as 12 Russian generals. The next day, an NBC report cited anonymous U.S. officials who said U.S. Intel also helped Ukraine sink the flagship of Russia's Black Sea Fleet, the Moskva. There's growing concern, the -- A, the U.S. is providing Ukraine could trigger an all-out conflict with Russia.

My next guest reinforced that fear in a recent column in the "New York Times," quote, "The staggering takeaway from these leaks is that they suggest we are no longer in an indirect war with Russia but rather are edging toward a direct war and no one has prepared the American people or Congress for that." With me now to discuss is Thomas Friedman, Foreign Affairs Columnist, three-time Pulitzer Prize winner for the "New York Times" and author most recently of the best seller, "Thank You for Being Late, An Optimist Guide to Thriving in the Age of Accelerations."

Tom, thank you for coming back. You wrote that column on May 6, has anything altered your thinking in the last week or so?


In a way, yes. I think that the Biden administration people certainly rhetorically have understood that it was a great mistake to be boasting about U.S. intelligence helping to sink Russian ships or kill Russian generals. I think they've understood it's really important in a war to have very tight focused objectives. Our objective in this war is to help Ukraine liberate its country and defend its borders. Nothing more, nothing less.

As long as we stick to that, Michael, we have a good chance of maintaining both the domestic support for the war and the NATO alliance and even more globally. The minute you start to drift away from that, talk about taking down Putin, et cetera, you start to, I think, free the Alliance.

SMERCONISH: OK. So, I'm glad you said that because I struggle to understand the guardrails. The guardrail, meaning that the MIGs (ph) are too much, but providing the Intel for taking out Russian generals apparently is acceptable. On Thursday, I'm going to put something on the screen and I'll read it to you, Tom. "The Washington Post" --


SMERCONISH: -- said the following, they said this, "The administration has drawn up guidance around intelligence sharing that is calibrated to avoid heightening tensions between Washington and Moscow. Given to intelligence personnel at the working level, the guidance has placed two broad prohibitions on the kinds of information that the United States can share with Ukraine. First, the United States cannot provide detailed information that would help Ukraine kill Russian leadership figures such as the most senior military officers or ministers. The second category of prohibited intelligence sharing is any information that would help Ukraine attack Russian targets outside Ukraine's borders."

Are those guardrails well defined in your view?

FRIEDMAN: Yes. I think their response might go to those leaks, and to make it -- to make everyone stay focused on what our objectives are, which is, again, helping the Ukrainians restore their sovereignty, and should they choose to negotiate with the Russians to make some kind of dirty deal if necessary, in order to simply save the country from being ravaged by war to support them in that and not going anywhere beyond that. And I think the administration got that message. And that story, seemed to me to be the response. SMERCONISH: Well, I mean, the administration may have gotten the message about loose sink ships, but nevertheless, our policy is still one of being -- I mean, look at the 40 billion, so long as Rand Paul can be dealt. Look at the 40 billion in, A, that's now going to be forthcoming. Like what more could we do other than troops on the ground?


FRIEDMAN: Yes. I would agree with you that number is staggering, and it took me a little bit by surprise. And I sure would like to know exactly what goes in it. What are we actually promising here? I don't think the administration has done a particularly good job of breaking that down.

But I think we have to ask ourselves every day or remind ourselves every day what are the objectives. They have to be very focused, very tight, and you don't stray from them. Because when you're trying to hurt all these cats together of this kind of alliance, the minute you step out of defending Ukraine, helping it restore its border, nothing more, nothing less, you invite trouble.

SMERCONISH: Another subject about which you write extensively, China, is there some solace to be taken by Americans that the China has thus far sat it out. And does the President deserve credit in that regard?

FRIEDMAN: Yes, President Biden called President Xi early in the war and made it very clear that if he hadn't done the math, Biden would do it for him. The European Union and the United States are China's two largest export markets.

And should China provide military aid to Russia? That was going to affect its two biggest markets. And I think the Chinese did the math. I think also, as it became quickly apparent to the Chinese that Putin was losing. I think they also, you know, didn't care to be on his side, either.

You know, the Chinese have enough trouble at home. They're fighting their own war with Mother Nature over the Omicron virus. And I think they understood that the last thing they needed was to get embroiled in this actual military conflict in Europe.

SMERCONISH: Tom, at the outset, I mentioned some Russian saber rattling toward Poland. Poland, in my view, has carried the laboring or with regard to the refugee situation thus far. What thoughts might you have about Poland's role?

FRIEDMAN: Well, I was glad you raised that, Michael, it's a very, very important point. Poland has been a key NATO ally in this war, basically providing the bridge into Ukraine for all the -- for a lot of the military equipment, not all

If I were Putin, and I'd written this earlier, and I was looking for a Hail Mary right now, I would attack Poland, and basically challenged NATO to actually live up to its Article Five part of the agreement that says every member has to help defend another member if it's attacked. And I think there's a lot of countries that are happy to provide material support to Ukraine, but not military support.

And so, I worry very much that Putin's escalatory move would not be a nuclear use of a tactical nuclear weapon, God forbid. But it would be to actually attack Poland and say to the American people, are you now ready to fight me directly? Are you ready to put troops into Poland that would be embroiled in a war in Central Europe?

I'd watch that. I'm glad you raised it.

SMERCONISH: OK. Well, that makes me nervous. Let's go back to where we begin about your level of concern and Americans and the Congress not being totally focused. I mean, I think we're eagerly awaiting the return of Amber Heard and Johnny Depp. How concerned should we be today?

FRIEDMAN: I think we should be very concerned. And I think -- I took some solace this morning, Michael, reading that Secretary of Defense Austin had called his Russian counterpart and said, we need to start talking about a ceasefire. And I think this is really getting to a point where, you know, you don't want to walk away from the battle now that the Russians appear to be losing. I think it's important that be driven back to the border that the one country cannot just go rape another country in Europe, which is what Putin has done. But at the same time, there's only one thing more dangerous than a victorious Russia, and that's a losing possibly even disintegrating Russia.

SMERCONISH: Sobering thoughts. Thomas Friedman, thank you as always. We really appreciate your time.

FRIEDMAN: My pleasure, Michael. Thank you.

SMERCONISH: What are all of you thinking? Tweet me @smerconish, go to my Facebook page, YouTube, wherever, I'll read some responses throughout the course of the program.

Catherine (ph), what do we have from YouTube? No, you're not edging toward war. We're all helping Ukraine defend itself.

Maja, obviously you sent that via YouTube before hearing from Tom Friedman. When you hear him rattle off his list of concerns, including the situation visa vie Poland, I wonder if you'd be saying the same thing. I share his concern, which leads me to this week's survey question.

I want you to go to my website, it's this hour. Do you agree with Thomas Friedman that the U.S. is edging toward a direct war and no one has prepared the American people or Congress for that?

Up ahead, before Tuesday's Pennsylvania primary, President Trump has made another big endorsement. This has just happened. That's in the gubernatorial race.


And in the Senate race, both parties seem on the verge of nominating, I'll say, extreme candidates abandoning the majority in the middle like me.



SMERCONISH: To my radio audience on Sirius XM, I've been saying I told you so for months. I've said all eyes across the country should be on the Pennsylvania Senate and gubernatorial elections. And while I knew that things would get interesting, I never envisioned the many twists and turns in the home stretch but here we are.

This morning, former President Trump just made his endorsement in the gubernatorial race. This to replace outgoing Democratic Governor Tom Wolf who was term limited. The State's Attorney General Josh Shapiro is running unopposed for the Democratic nomination.

Among the Republican contenders, the findings of a poll released Monday by the Austin Kenny (ph) Trafalgar group, who's Robert Cahaly will be here in a moment, says State Senator Doug Mastriano is at 28 percent. Former U.S. Representative Lou Barletta in second at 18 percent. Delaware County businessman Dave White at 15 percent. And former U.S. attorney Bill McSwain at 14 percent with 11 percent still undecided.


The GOP regulars have been tried to combine forces to derail Mastriano, who was seen as too extreme to win in November. In an unusual move, Shapiro, the Democrat released an ad that anoints Mastriano, the Republican, as his likely opponent, apparently thinking that might make Shapiro's path to victory in November easier. Here's an excerpt.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's Mastriano who wrote the Heartbeat bill in Pennsylvania, and he's one of Donald Trump's strongest supporters. He wants to end vote by mail, and he led the fight to audit the 2020 election. If Mastriano wins, it's a win for what Donald Trump stands for. Is that what we want in Pennsylvania?


SMERCONISH: In other words, Shapiro has tried to handpick his opponent. Could it backfire? Maybe.

Just this hour, Trump endorsed Mastriano calling him "a man who will never let you down."

Meanwhile, in the fight for the Senate seat being vacated by retiring Republican Pat Toomey, the Democrats have three main contenders Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman, Congressman Conor lamb and State Representative Malcolm Kenyatta. On the Republican side most of the attention and money spent has been on businessman David McCormick and T.V.'s Dr. Mehmet Oz, the latter of whom got President Trump's endorsement. But there's been a late surge in the polls by an underdog, Kathy Barnette, described on her website as veteran, former adjunct professor of corporate finance a sought after conference speaker and conservative political commentator.

In the final week of the campaign, Barnette got an endorsement of $2 million in T.V. ads from a Club for Growth pack, a conservative pack that in the Ohio Senate primary had opposed J.D. Vance, only to have Vance get Trump's endorsement and win. Barnette has put abortion at the center of her candidacy, calling herself the quote, byproduct of her mother being raped at 11." Despite not having 40 fives endorsement, she said in a debate last month, MAGA does not belong to the President.

The most recent Trafalgar group poll has this race at this percent, Oz 25, Barnette 23, McCormick 22. Regardless of who wins, I think there are already lessons to be learned from Pennsylvania.

Last week I tweeted this, among my pre-election takeaways from the upcoming Pennsylvania primary number one, this is who you get when we lack investigative journalists. Two, it shows the decreasing importance of paid for television ads. And three closed primaries suck.

Every time you read that another local newsroom has been eviscerated, please realize what society loses in terms of government oversight, your local school board, the county commissioners, and yes, statewide candidates are getting too much of a free pass. In a bygone era, all these Pennsylvania candidates would have been fully vetted by the local media. Instead, there's now a scramble underway to educate the public in the 11th hour when many have already returned their ballots.

On Thursday, former President Trump released this statement about Barnette. He said, "Kathy Barnette will never be able to win the general election against the radical left Democrats. She has many things in her past which have not been properly explained or vetted. But if she's able to do so she will have a wonderful future in the Republican Party and I will be behind her all the way."

There's some real Pretzel Logic in that. But let me make this observation. It's ironic that Trump and those who don't want to see Barnette win are now speaking about her lack of vetting. They themselves are partly to blame.

In having so denigrated the media, they've limited the impact of any investigative journalism that might be done about Barnette or any other candidate. To wit (ph), CNN's KFILE dropped a serious look at Barnette this week.

It began this way. "Surging Pennsylvania GOP Senate candidate Kathy Barnette has a history of anti-Muslim, anti-gay statements." In many tweets, Barnette also spread the false conspiracy theory that former President Obama is a Muslim.

In one speech uploaded to YouTube in 2015, Barnette forcefully argued it was OK to discriminate against Muslims and compared rejecting Islam to quote, "rejecting Hitler's or Stalin's world views." And comments on her radio show, she said accepting homosexuality would lead to the accepting of incest and pedophilia.

One post that she wrote called a transgender person, deformed and demonic. One of her tweets discovered from 2015 was this, "Pedophilia is a cornerstone of Islam."

Recently confronted about this by an NBC reporter, Barnette had this remarkable response.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This tweet says pedophilia is a cornerstone of Islam.

KATHY BARNETTE, P.A. SENATE CANDIDATE: Yes, no, I don't think that's me. I would never have said that.


SMERCONISH: That's some joy read stuff there. All this is pretty strong, all documented. Where Trump derives the dominant media as fake news, how can he now expect his followers to believe it?

Republicans who don't want Mastriano or Barnette because they can't win a general election can't count on the media to do its dirty work. Second observation, were up until a week ago, nearly 50 million had been spent on McCormick and Oz as compared to 137,000 for Barnette. T.V. outlets and media buyers better beware the outcome of this race might cause reconsideration of whether you can still buy an election with T.V. advertising alone. Never in the history of Pennsylvania politics has so much been spent by so many for such meager results.

Third observation from me, Pennsylvania is now a textbook example of what is wrong with closed primaries. There are nine closed primary states in the nation. Notwithstanding that my tax dollars or funding Tuesday's primaries, I have no vote, where I'm registered as an independent.

There are nearly 1.3 million people like me in Pennsylvania. On Tuesday, we have no say. We have to sit back and wait for the parties to nominate.

In the Senate, that looks like Democrat John Fetterman and one of the three Republicans who tried to outdo one another laying claim to the MAGA movement. Fetterman is a Democrat in the mold of Bernie Sanders. And despite the stakes in the race, I argue he wasn't fully vetted for a 2013 incident in which he brandished a shotgun on an unarmed black jogger.

Moreover, as the Philadelphia Inquirer noted this week, despite his role as president of the State Senate, not a single member of that body is supporting his candidacy, nor any member of the State House. The stronger general election candidate among the Dems, it's Conor Lamb, Marine veteran, former prosecutor, moderate member of Congress who already won in Trump territory.

But here's the thing, just like the Republicans, the Democrats who vote in primaries, they're at the end of the ideological spectrum. So Lamb will probably come up short in the primary despite the fact that, I think, he'd be invincible in a general election. And Fetterman will face one of the three Trump acolytes, which means the citizens of the Commonwealth are going to have a choice of a far left and far right candidate to represent a state that is a deep shade of purple. And that's a shame.

Stay with me right after the break. We're going to discuss all of this with my fabulous panel, Holly Otterbein from Politico, CNN Political Commentator David Urban and chief pollster for the Trafalgar group Robert Cahaly are here.



SMERCONISH: Just this morning, President Trump endorsed Doug Mastriano for Pennsylvania governor. Will hardliners win Tuesday's crucial primary races for Senate and governor, and where does that leave voters?

Joining me now to discuss is Holly Otterbein, National Political Reporter for Politico. She's been all over the Pennsylvania races. She just wrote this piece "Ultra-MAGA longshot roars into contention in key Senate race. CNN political commentator David Urban, a senior adviser on Trump's 2016 presidential campaign. Heck, he ran the Trump campaign in Pennsylvania in 2016, was on Trump's 2020 Advisory Committee. And Robert K. Cahaly, the Chief Pollster for the Trafalgar group, which has a history of showing up the traditional posters.

Remember in 2016, Trafalgar correctly had Trump beating Clinton in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Florida and North Carolina, and accurately predicted the final Electoral College result in the 2018 midterms. Trafalgar was the only firm to call Ron DeSantis and Rick Scott's victories in Florida in 2o20. Cahaly and Trafalgar outperform the competition. Again, named winner by the Hill.

Holly, I'm starting with you. I'm giving you props. You told me in the greenroom that Trump had just done this. Why did he do it?

HOLLY OTTERBEIN, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, POLITICO: This is huge. I can't believe that this happened right as we were going on T.V. And, you know, Trump, look, he's looking at a Senate race in which he endorsed Dr. Oz, came out, you know, early enough for him, really put a lot of effort behind him, did a rally for him. And Oz on the last poll that we saw is in a three way statistical tie with David McCormack and Kathy Barnette, this major underdog who has spent virtually no money on T.V.

So what does he get out of a Mastriano endorsement? A likely victory on Tuesday. Mastriano was up 10 plus points. But the big question for me is, does this actually hurt his endorsement of Oz? Because Kathy Barnette has been a top ally of Doug Mastriano. She's actually going to appear at a rally with him later today in Bucks County.

SMERCONISH: David Urban, you ran the Trump campaign, one in 2016, is Mastriano too MAGA for Pennsylvania?

DAVID URBAN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Michael, I don't think there's such a thing in the primary. And I wasn't shocked by the President's endorsement of Doug Mastriano here at all. I thought that was coming.

I was just surprised that it came so late.

I think this is about the President's win loss record. The president likes to tout how his record is, you know, lots and lots of victories of people who supported.


I think he's very concerned about losing on Tuesday, Dr. Oz losing, and so he wanted a winning. It's clear from all the polling as Robert has said and Holly has reported that Doug Mastriano is going to win. It's not even a close -- not even a close shot that Lou Barletta or anyone else is going to catch him. So I think the president's endorsement here was (INAUDIBLE) he's looking to bolster his record.

SMERCONISH: OK. I'm not letting you off the hook though, David Urban. Can Mastriano win a general in Pennsylvania?

URBAN: No. No, I don't think he can. I think he's -- you know, Michael, you and I go way back and we've been doing this stuff far long time. You know, Pennsylvania has a very long history of electing moderates, right? Whether it's Dick Thornburgh or, you know, Tom Ridge, Arlen Specter. You know, they're -- it's very purple state, as you said, originally. And I think Mastriano is too hot, too conservative, too far out, too far right for the Pennsylvania general electorate.

I think Josh Shapiro will be the victor in that race. And I think that's why you saw "The Wall Street Journal" and many mainstream Republicans kind of wringing their hands about Doug Mastriano at the top of the ticket. I think they fear he'll be a big drag on the ticket and will weigh down -- weigh down the race. And I think that's why many Republicans are very hopeful that David McCormick will win on Tuesday because they believe he is the strongest candidate to win with Mastriano at the top of the ticket. I think it's a clear -- a clear shot for McCormick against Fetterman. I think it's less clear Oz and even less, less clear Barnette against Fetterman. So I think the only shot Pennsylvanians have is McCormick in the Senate race if they do want to continue to have some Republican representation in the state at the highest levels.

SMERCONISH: Robert Cahaly, you've got that Cheshire cat grin like you knew this was coming. To David Urban's point, Josh Shapiro, the attorney general, the Democratic nominee, has just tweeted. Catherine, can you put it up on the screen so I can read it?

I mean, "Trump just endorsed one of the most extreme and dangerous GOP candidates in the country for governor of Pennsylvania. He wants to ban abortion, undermine the elections, attended the 1/6 insurrection and crossed police barricades."

He's got to be the happiest guy in the commonwealth, Robert. How do you see the gubernatorial race in Pennsylvania?

ROBERT CAHALY, CHIEF POLLSTER, THE TRAFALGAR GROUP: Well, you know, our polls showed that Mastriano had a significant lead, but what some people have missed is in -- this last week two of the lower candidates dropped out and endorsed Barletta. So I can tell you from what we have observed that race had tightened significantly.

So I think this was not a situation where Mastriano was on his way without -- this endorsement is very helpful to Mastriano. Barletta had gained some real steam with these two endorsements. And, you know, there is -- there is inertia in politics.

Also with -- considering that as a nominee, he's certainly going to be more to the right. But 2022 is shaping up to be the kind of year -- I mean, these guys aren't running against Democrats. They're running against Joe Biden and a record that even Mastriano might be able to be governor based on. So I wouldn't write -- I wouldn't write him off just because I think this year is going to be a significant amount of votes that are -- people aren't going to see this coming.

SMERCONISH: Hey, Robert --

URBAN: Michael, you know --

SMERCONISH -- if you're the -- if you're the type of person -- let me just finish this one thought with Robert. Robert, if you're the type of person who says, I'm for Mastriano or I'm for Barnette, it seems to me, you're not changing your mind. Like you're passionate. You're hard core. And you're not all of a sudden between now and Tuesday going to flip. Is that fair, Robert?

CAHALY: I think -- I think it's fair, but you made a very good point about the lack of vetting. And what we have seen in the last few days is both McCormick and Oz, whether it's their campaign or their Super PACs, have kind of focused on putting a lot of information out there about Kathy Barnette. And there comes a point where people are hearing things and going, oh, I didn't know that. I didn't know this. I didn't know that.

And there is a real Republican concern about viability in the fall. Certainly I think it is probably a bigger concern than you might realize. They want to control the Senate and they really can't afford to lose this seat.

So I can see where people might be moved off if they find out something they had no idea about. But it takes a lot of money and a lot of attention to do it. And two campaigns -- Super PACs spending the money is the way to get the message done. And I think they're doing it.

SMERCONISH: Holly -- Holly, fifth year reporting, 50 mil spent for Oz and McCormick up until last week on 137,000 for Barnette. Now, on one hand you say, wow, all that money was ineffectual. On the other hand you say, no, it was very effectual. Mutually assured destruction is what left her a path. Your comment?

OTTERBEIN: Yes. I mean, look, Kathy Barnette no doubt has benefitted from that the fact that Oz and McCormick went nuclear on each other.


And a lot of Republican primary voters were looking for an alternative. Why then did Kathy Barnette benefit? You know, why wasn't it Carla Sands or Jeff Bartos? I mean, I think a few reasons. First of all her partnership with Doug Mastriano has obviously been very beneficial. Her story is very compelling. You know, she's talked on the trail about how she is a -- quote-- this is how she puts it, "by- product of a rape," and how that has influenced her views on abortion. She says that her mother was 11 years old when she was conceived.

A lot of voters that I've talked to have brought up that bio, have brought up her pro life positions. And she also, you know, made a name for herself within the Republican grass roots leading this hunt for, you know, baseless voter fraud after her 2020 House race that she lost.

SMERCONISH: David Urban, what do you make of your former boss, President Trump's statement, relative to Barnette? I quoted see the Steely Dan. I said, "It's some real pretzel logic to say she's not been vetted." But if she is vetted and she wins then I'll be supporting her.

URBAN: Well, you know, the president is trying to have it both ways there, Michael. Clearly, you know, as Robert and you pointed out, there is the lack of, you know, journalism -- investigative journalism in this instance is just kind of, you know, demonstrating itself in terms of, you know, today or yesterday "The Daily Caller," you know, had a piece out saying that, you know, her record -- the "Army Times" -- "Military Times" saying her military record has been misrepresented. Her record on Wall Street has been misrepresented. Her record -- basically her entire record has been misrepresented. And nobody really, you know, caught on to that or reported on that until just the past 72 hours.

You know, maybe that's too late, Robert. You know, Robert was alluding to, you know, how is it already baked in. I think -- you know, I was out -- I've been in Pennsylvania the past couple days. I think the tide is turning. I'm on the ground there talking to voters. And you get a sense that people are, you know, kind of -- that rise has been blunted. And I think it's back down to two-person race.

I think that, you know, she does have some support. Her ties to Mastriano are definitely going to help her. But, I think, at the end of the day when people go in there and realize how incredibly serious this is they're going to take pause.

You know, Ted Cruz had a line. It was on the front page of the "Pittsburgh Post-Gazette" the other morning. It says, you know, I'm for the most conservative candidate that can win, right. And, you know, Cruz is obviously endorsing Dave McCormick. And I think a lot of -- a lot of Republican voters are thinking about that. And they'll think about that as they head in and -- who could be the most -- who can win in the fall? And that's very important.


SMERCONISH: I got you. Listen -- and I got to --

URBAN: -- his voters go in there. Yes.

SMERCONISH: I have to point out, David Urban, you have got a dog in this fight. I mean, you know, West Point connection to McCormick. And you're -- I just want everybody to know that.

URBAN: Yes. Listen --

SMERCONISH: Yes. All right. Robert -- Robert --

URBAN: -- so, Michael, 100 percent --


SMERCONISH: -- sum it up.

URBAN: -- David McCormick fan.

SMERCONISH: Yes. Robert, sum it up. What is going to happen Tuesday in Pennsylvania?

CAHALY: Sure. That's great. Well, I think that there's -- I would say Mastriano has the momentum he needs to win. I would give the edge on the Senate race to Oz.

At this point, I would agree that with what David Urban said that we have seen Barnette kind of hit that high threshold and kind of working their way down with all the attacks and all the revelations. I think it's a very good chance that what we continue to see as we track this is that Oz has that little edge.

And then when you consider there's just a certain amount of people who are going to turn out and vote for who Trump wants I would give that edge to Oz. And I also think that Oz probably has a good shot in the general election because his crossover appeal is significantly strong with a lot of folks in the middle who just kind of like the guy's TV show.

SMERCONISH: OK. And I get the final two cents on this. I think I would have believed that the ascendance of Barnette was going to wane, but now I have to say, is Mastriano's endorsement by Trump going to give her, as you've noted, some heft she would otherwise not have had?

All I know is I'm left the middle and I'm not liking the choices that I'll be facing in November. Conversation for another day. Thank you to the three of you. You were excellent.

URBAN: Thanks, Michael. Thanks for having me.

SMERCONISH: See you guys. Checking in on your tweets and Facebook comments. Catherine, what do we have from the world of Twitter? By the way, do you get the impression I could sit here and talk about that election from now until the "NEW DAY" show on Monday?

I believe in closed primaries. Why should Democrats or Republicans let outsiders pick their candidates? It doesn't cost a dime to join a party. Stop complaining and pick a side.

Hey, David, you know, I'm like Ronald Reagan in New Hampshire, I paid for this microphone, Mr. Green. I'm paying for that primary. Why shouldn't I have a say? I'm going to be left with this and with this -- and me and 1.3 million of my brethren.


By the way, according to Gallup, 42 percent of the country are independents. And we get shut out of the process. You want to know why we have the quality of representation that we do? It's because independents and centrists don't get enough of a say. Just saying.

Still to come, inflation, crime, immigration, Putin's unpredictable war and divided country. Can Joe Biden dig himself out of all these accumulating crises? Who better to ask than David Gergen, adviser to, count them, four presidents.

And don't forget to answer this week's survey question at Do you agree with Thomas Freidman that the U.S. is edging toward a direct war and no one has prepared the American people or Congress for that?



SMERCONISH: As President Biden approaches the midterms that his historically don't go well for a sitting president anyway he faces a daunting list of challenges, inflation, the chaotic stock market, a stalled domestic agenda, Putin's war, crime, immigration, holding a divided party together. What's a leader to do?

Joining me now, CNN's senior political analyst David Gergen, former adviser to Presidents Nixon, Ford, Reagan and Clinton, and author of the brand new book "Hearts Touched with Fire: How Great Leaders are Made." David, so much on his plate. Is there a historical analog that comes to your mind?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: No, Michael. Basically this is the most consequential midterm elections we have seen in my memory. They could heavily shape the course of this country for at least the next six years. So a lot is at stake. And as you say that his plate is piled high with crises that he's been unable to resolve here in the past.

If you're asking basically what advice would I give this president and I can just tell you I think what he needs to do is to plan for the best but prepare for the worst. That's often true in presidential life, but it's particularly true here.

As you say, if things come out really, really well, I think then he can look -- he can look upon a period of governance that will be good for the next couple years. If he pulls off a big surprise, and they would be surprises if the Democrats kept the House and the Senate and increased their margins. And that's possible in the Senate particularly, that would -- that would really give him a lift going into the next two years. On the other hand, if it goes badly, you know, then he's going to be under a lot of pressure himself about whether he's going to continue after the next two years.

So, first of all, sort of get that in place, the governance plan in place. But secondly, plan how you're going to govern if you win or lose. Are you going to call the leadership of both parties to Camp David for two or three days to figure it out, what can you get done together? Or are you going to simply face a lot of hostility over the next couple years and have paralysis in Washington which is probably the likely outcome?

But beyond that, I think he has to think about his team. Who is the team going forward, starting with himself? Is he going to run -- is he serious about running again or he is going to take this opportunity to step aside? What does he do? How does he support Kamala Harris? I think that he has to give her more credit and help her strengthen herself.

He'll be under pressure to reshuffle his team if he loses badly. His own team in the White House. So he has to figure that out.

But then he has to go to these priorities that you listed. And it does seem to me he ought to narrow the list of things he's focus on. Do two three things on the domestic side, a couple of things on the international side, and not do 25 things. Because his messaging has been garbled because there have been so many things that he's trying -- been trying. He's got so many balls in the air. It's hard not to be distracted. So I think that's really, really important.

And in terms of the priorities, domestically, he's got to get the inflation -- he got to get the economy back on track with much lower inflation. And he's got to -- he's got to stick with Powell just as Ronald Reagan stuck with Paul Volcker back in the 1980s. It made a huge difference. We went through terrible times for a while but we came out the other side, you know, a much stronger country and haven't had an inflation problem since until today.

So, you get that. You got climate. You got equity and fairness to low income and people of color and those issues. But he's also now got two towering issues on the international side. One is Ukraine, obviously. And we don't seem to have a strategy.

I agreed with Tom Friedman earlier in your show on Ukraine. The critical thing is keep it contained. Keep the fight contained within Ukraine itself.

But the one that I'm even more worried about, though, Michael, is the relationship with China and Russia. You alluded to this in talking to Tom about the question of whether we are edging toward a war.

There's a lot of drum beat that you hear out there. And he needs to get that turned off. We do not want a war with Russia or China. And we should not be trying to drive them together in hostility to the United States. So there's a lot there. He has a big agenda ahead.

SMERCONISH: David, Ron Klain should get a CNN transcript of your commentary and show that to the president of the United States. And, by the way, the only thing we didn't discuss was baby formula, and I think those type of issues are the ones that resonate the most with the public.


SMERCONISH: Good luck on your book.


SMERCONISH: And thank you for coming back to the program.

GERGEN: Thank you, sir.

SMERCONISH: David Gergen. Still to come, more of your best and worst tweets and Facebook comments.


By the way, did you go to yet and vote on the survey question? And might I invite you to register for the newsletter while you're there? Daily, it's free and it's worthy.

Here's the question. Do you agree with Thomas Friedman that the U.S. is edging toward a direct war and no one has prepared the American people or Congress for that?


SMERCONISH: Time to see how you responded to the survey question at Do you agree with Thomas Friedman that the U.S. is edging toward a direct war and no one has prepared the American people or Congress for that? Here comes the result.


Pretty close. Pretty close, 17,000 and change, 53-47. Yes, I agree with Tom Friedman. We're getting close and we're not ready.

Social media reaction. What do we have? Twitter, Facebook, YouTube.

Smerconish, even Putin is not stupid enough to attack Poland. Europe would unite and push his troops back before the U.S. would get there.

Randy, that makes intuitive sense to me but wouldn't you have said not long ago, maybe two months ago, Putin is not stupid enough to invade Ukraine and yet he did? Nothing is beyond the realm of possibility. I thought that was really an interesting conversation that I had with Tom Friedman not only about Poland but also about Finland and, of course, Ukraine. And I worry that Americans will soon take their eye off the ball. That is my chief concern that we're going to get back to other interests and pursuits.

Thank you for watching. I'll see you next week.