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State of the Union

Interview With Gov. Doug Burgum (R-ND); Interview With Fmr. Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI); Interview With Gov. Kathy Hochul (D-NY). Aired 9-10a ET

Aired June 23, 2024 - 09:00   ET




KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN HOST (voice-over): Showdown, four days until CNN's historic presidential debate. How will Thursday night change the race?

GOV. DOUG BURGUM (R-ND): There's never been a better politician, a better debater.

COLLINS: One of Trump's top V.P. contenders, North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum, is next.

And rallying cry. Two years after the Dobbs decision, Democrats rally around abortion access.

GOV. KATHY HOCHUL (D-NY): We have never stopped marching.

COLLINS: But a new poll raises questions about Biden's support among women. Can the president count on them in November? New York Governor Kathy Hochul is here exclusively.

Plus: dress rehearsal, Biden huddling with debate advisers...

QUESTION: How is debate prep going?

COLLINS: ... while Trump plays the expectations game out on the trail.


COLLINS: What should you expect when they go head to head Thursday night? Former Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and former Obama senior adviser David Axelrod are here to break it down.


COLLINS: Good morning. I'm Kaitlan Collins, in for Jake Tapper and Dana Bash, here in New York, where the state of our union is in debate prep.

In just four days, President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump are going to meet for a historic CNN presidential debate with the potential to dramatically reshape what has been a remarkably stable race for the White House.

President Biden at Camp David, where he's huddling with his full debate team of advisers leading up to Thursday night, as he is looking to shake off Trump's attacks on his age and his abilities and also trying to turn the focus back on his opponent's felony conviction and also his proposals for a second term.

Meanwhile, Donald Trump is foregoing formal debate prep and instead holding more informal meetings with his senior advisers,as sources tell me that he is soliciting advice from pretty much everybody in his inner circle. Trump is also trying to lower expectations and suggesting that President Biden could prove to be more formidable than expected.


TRUMP: They want to get him good and strong. So, a little before debate time, he gets a shot in the ass. I say he will come out all jacked up, right?


COLLINS: To note, that is a baseless claim.

It comes after Trump spent months effectively lowering expectations for Biden. Trump also said yesterday that he does expect his upcoming vice presidential pick to be with him in Atlanta on Thursday. It's been a who's-who of V.P. contenders that are going to be tuning in together at a debate watch party in Atlanta.

That includes my next guest, one of Trump's top contenders to be his vice president, Republican Governor of North Dakota Doug Burgum.

And, Doug -- Governor, it's great to have you here.

Obviously, this debate is going to be huge. It's in four days from now. How critical do you believe it is for Donald Trump to have a strong performance?

BURGUM: Well, I think it's something that America is very excited to look forward to, and I'm sure it's going to be a very good debate. And congratulations to CNN for having this historic debate.

But I think, again, there has been a real effort on the Biden team to try to lower expectations. But I think we have to look at the guy's run for office more than a dozen times. He's run for president four times. He's been campaigning since President Nixon was in office.

This guy has got the ability. And we have seen it. We have seen him in debate four years ago. We have seen him in the State of -- the State of the Union this year, that, when he needs to, he can step up.

But I think this is a real opportunity for CNN, most trusted name in news, to ask some tough questions, including -- because this is a rematch. And when we had this debate just before the election four years ago, Joe Biden looked into the camera and said that Hunter Biden's laptop was a smear campaign, Russian disinformation, called it garbage.

And now we know that none of that is true. And I think this is an opportunity. I think America is waiting. I mean, CNN's got an opportunity to ask tough questions of both these candidates.

COLLINS: Yes, I think there will -- safe to say there will be tough questions for everybody.

But it's interesting that you say Biden is lowering expectations, because, I mean, Trump has also been doing that. You yourself have called Biden infirm. I mean, you have been setting the bar pretty low for President Biden. Is that a mistake?

BURGUM: Well, I don't know if it's a mistake or not. I mean, I think there's a -- I think America sort of looks at the State of the State (sic). He stood up and he spoke strongly for over an hour.

And then, when we're with a group of governors with them at the -- back in February, we were limited to two questions. One Republican governor and one Democrat each got to ask a question, 40 governors. We had two questions with the president. Questions had to be submitted two days in advance.


That's a far cry from standing in a debate for 90 minutes. So I think we're all anxious to see which Joe Biden is going to show up.

COLLINS: But you think that Biden will be formidable?

BURGUM: Well, I think he really knows how to do this.

And, like I said, he's -- he convinced America that that laptop was fake so strongly at that last debate that then the -- the news agencies and social media then started shutting down even the ability to post about that story.

And if he's that -- if he was that good that about lying about that four years ago, I guess the question be, when did he know that the laptop was real, and what might he do this time that would convince the American people...

COLLINS: Well, he was citing that letter from the intelligence officials. I mean, we have asked them about that since. And, obviously, the whole issue of social media was before the debate.

But I want to ask you about something that you have been saying repeatedly about President Biden. Take a listen to this.


BURGUM: Let's talk about being a dictatorship, that this is the -- this is what's happening under Biden. Under Joe Biden, we're actually living under a dictatorship today.

If you want to find out what it's like to live in a dictatorship, we're living in one now.

Well, we know what it's like under dictatorship, and that dictatorship right now is Joe Biden.


COLLINS: I understand you don't like President Biden's policies on immigration or student loans. But, respectfully, I mean, you're calling the democratically elected president a dictator?

BURGUM: Well, we have got three branches of government.

And this president, more like any other, has bypassed Congress, because, as a governor of a natural resources state, a big ag state, we're facing over 30 rules and mandates. Each one of those could be 800 pages to 1,400 pages' long. None of them have come from Congress, and all of them could literally kill the industries that we have in our state, including baseload electricity, which we need to be competitive in the arms race around A.I. with China, who's building baseload electricity plants, like two a month.

So that's happening without Congress. And then, of course, on the student loan thing, when the Supreme Court ruled against him, then he just said, hey, we will figure a different way to do it.

So I just think that there's, again, a double standard here. He is bypassing the other two branches of government to push an ideological view, whether it's on economics or whether it's on climate extremism. He's doing that without using the other branches. And I think...

COLLINS: You don't like his executive orders and you don't like his policies. I understand that. I don't think anyone expects the Republican governor to agree with President Biden on that.

But that's not a dictatorship.

BURGUM: Well, I think again, part of where this word has come from has been a nonstop media attack on President Trump saying that, oh, that he might use executive orders when he takes office.

And I'm just -- was trying to make -- again, make the point here that, under this current administration, most of the changes that are driving inflation in our country, the stuff he's not doing on the border, which he could be doing with executive orders -- I mean, the open borders and the inflation are things that he's doing by himself alone, ignoring the other branches of government.

COLLINS: Well, I counted. Trump signed 220 executive orders when he was in office. President Biden so far has only signed 139, the same time span.

And on executive action, on immigration, it was Speaker Mike Johnson who was calling on President Biden to take executive action, saying it wasn't Congress' responsibility. It was his.

But let me move on, because, as I mentioned, you are one of Donald Trump's top contenders to be vice president. I have heard from sources that, really, they believe it's down to you and to Senator J.D. Vance of Ohio. Of course, the caveat, Trump could change his mind.

But when you look at the ticket and we look at vice presidential selections in the past, Joe Biden helped Barack Obama with foreign policy and experience. Mike Pence helped Donald Trump with evangelicals, Kamala Harris, black voters, women voters for President Biden.

What would you bring to a Trump ticket specifically?

BURGUM: Well, I think we have to just look at the fact that President Trump can win this race regardless of who is vice president. He's got the luxury of not having to pick someone.

And I think, if we actually look in political history, the last time a vice president will pick actually helped swing an election was when Kennedy picked Lyndon Johnson and Lyndon Johnson helped Kennedy win that race.

And with President Trump right now, where he is with Hispanics, with blacks, with people under age 30 and with independents, I mean, he's very strong across the board. So he can pick someone that you can focus on, like, hey, let's get someone who get stuff done. Let's get someone who helps him govern.

He doesn't have to make a choice like some of the other names that you cited, where maybe they needed a blend to actually get the electoral bloc.

COLLINS: But what would you bring to the ticket specifically if you're on it? Would it be your business experience? You talk about governing. What is it specifically? Why should he pick you, basically?

BURGUM: Well, I think that's up to President Trump. President Trump understands the criteria that he wants. He's going to make that choice at the time he makes it. He's got a lot of great choices.

And I think everybody -- everything, the whole country maybe knows my background, which is both success in business and success as -- in the executive branch as governing. But that's his choice on what criteria that he wants.


And, again, when we have got this big week and the big debate going this week, nobody's really thinking about the V.P. thing this week. And we should really be focusing on, how is Joe Biden going to defend his record on an open border?

I mean, we take a look at what's happening in our country with the migrant crime that's happening, whether it's teenage girls, whether it's mother of five, or whether it's young college-age women, we have got an issue with an open border. And Joe Biden needs to answer why he keeps insisting on having this open border policy.

COLLINS: But you're one of Trump's busiest surrogates. I mean, you make arguments like that right there multiple times on cable news. Obviously, you do a lot of the Sunday shows. You're here today.

Do you think that you're best positioned to serve on his ticket?

BURGUM: I think that question is up to President Trump.

What we decided when we decided...

COLLINS: But if he's watching right now, what's your argument to him, I guess, for why you would be a good choice?

BURGUM: Well, that could be a -- that's a conversation between President Trump and myself.

But I think, right now, I'm doing what I think that everybody that cares about the future of this country should be doing, which is understanding that, if you care about inflation, which is hurting income, producing low-income people the most, because it's affecting food, price of energy, the price of electricity -- the American dream is being killed by high interest rates.

Housing costs have gone up by over 30 percent. If you care about that stuff, then you should be out campaigning for President Trump. And there is no expectation that Kathryn and I have on this thing about some job at the administration or anything else. We're doing this because I know that our state of North Dakota can't take four more years of Joe Biden.

And that translates to the rest of the country, because...

COLLINS: Thank you. And that's your -- the first lady of North Dakota that you're referring to there.


COLLINS: Have you -- you said that conversation is between the two of you. Have you had that conversation with President Trump?

BURGUM: That's -- that process is up to President Trump. And that's where that conversation should stay.

COLLINS: The other -- if you are selected to be on the ticket, would you be willing to go into your own personal wealth to help fund the campaign, like you did with your presidential run?

BURGUM: Again, I think all of that is -- if we're asked, we will see what happens.

But, right now, there's something that's -- I think that everybody knows. Anybody that's out there knocking on doors, volunteering and making phone calls, like the people I have met in Michigan and Minnesota and Virginia and North Carolina and Nevada, there's something more important than writing a check. There's people that are actually out there talking to their neighbors

and saying, here's why I'm supporting President Trump. They're giving of their time. That's their irrevocable gift that they're doing. And we have been giving a lot of our time the last six months. And I think that's what we're seeing.

The energy we see on the ground is people that maybe don't have a dime to give. They don't have 10 bucks to give. But they -- some of these people are donating to President Trump, which is terrific, but they're also giving out and volunteering their time.

COLLINS: Now, you have been...

BURGUM: And that's how this race is the -- this race is going to be won and lost by the energy of the voters. And they see...

COLLINS: Yes, we have watched the numbers and seen that...


COLLINS: ... especially the fund-raising. We have been tracking that.

But you mentioned any other jobs. If you're not offered the vice presidential selection, would you accept a Cabinet position?

BURGUM: I -- I -- again, there's a -- that's a conversation for the president. But, right now, I think I have been really clear with everybody along.

I was a private sector guy. I was in the private sector up until the day that President Trump got elected. We got elected on the same night back in November of 2016. And there's lots of ways in the private sector that you can have an impact to move this country forward, particularly with A.I. right now, because there's an opportunity for us to take 20 percent of the cost out of government across the whole nation, but only if we have got the power base to run A.I.

We're killing our electrical base at a time when we're in an arms race with China. And, if we want -- the future of our country, the future of our economy depends on us being great at innovation. Innovation greatness has always driven our country forward.


BURGUM: And now we're at risk of destroying that because of the climate extremists that are -- that want to shut down our power grid in America.

COLLINS: OK, that sounds like a no to a Cabinet position, but we will see how this plays out.

Governor, it's great to have you. Thank you for joining us here on set.

BURGUM: Thank you, Kaitlan.

COLLINS: Up next: Is President Biden losing enthusiasm from women voters?

We have the New York Democratic governor, Kathy Hochul, here to talk about those latest numbers.

Plus: both sides playing the expectations game ahead of Thursday's debate. We will talk about it with our top political experts right after a quick break.




With President Biden also focused on debate prep at Camp David, his party is calling attention to a key election issue, the two-year anniversary of the overturning of Roe v. Wade.

Joining me now, Democratic New York Governor Kathy Hochul.

And, Governor, it's great to have you.

We were just talking about the debate and the Trump aspect of it with Governor Burgum. For President Biden, how much do you believe is at stake for him on Thursday night? What do you want to see him do on that stage Thursday?

HOCHUL: I want to see him recreate the magic that we all saw unfold during the State of the Union address. I was there. I could not believe the electricity, way overperforming expectations, and because he has such a clear vision for this country, where he wants to take us in the next term, building on what he's done already, investing in families and infrastructure, and standing up for women's rights.

I mean, we just -- as you mentioned, the anniversary. He should lean hard into the fact that now one out of three American women live with an abortion ban. That is directly correlated to Donald Trump's promise. One of the few promises he kept was to overturn Roe v. Wade.

And, as a result, we have women that are suffering, that are driving hundreds of miles for an abortion, that are in emergencies being denied health care when their own lives are on the line. That's what we have now.

So, President Biden should remind everybody who did this to American women.


COLLINS: Yes, we just talked to Kate Cox last week, obviously, the woman who had to flee Texas to get an abortion.

But when you talk about how women voters are looking at this race overall, there's a new Kaiser Family Foundation poll that shows six in 10 women are not satisfied with their choices for president. Roughly three in 10 independent women and black women say that they are less motivated to vote than usual.

I mean, if those women don't turn out in November, are you worried that it's going to hurt President Biden?

HOCHUL: They're going to turn out, and here's why.

There's still a long way before that voting takes place in November. This is when the Biden campaign has a chance to build the campaign, have constant reminders, mostly in the fall. Let's admit this. People are focused right now on heat waves and the Olympics are coming. And there's a lot of other things going on.

The American people, and women, in particular, will be really focused after the kids get back to school. They will be focused on this and who's going to take care of the future for their children. What kind of future do they want for their little children today and their young adult children? What are we leaving them, chaos, or are we going to have a stable democracy?

Are we going to descend into a dictatorship or uphold the values that have always defined us for over 250 years? So, that's the choice that women will be coming to. And they will be deciding what Joe Biden in the end.

COLLINS: Do you think he's being explicit enough on abortion, though?

I mean, he often doesn't even say the word abortion. He's a lifelong devout Catholic whose own views on the issue have changed? Should he be saying the word abortion? Should he be speaking about it more explicitly, in your view?

HOCHUL: I think the -- I mean, Donald Trump, all he can say about is -- abortion is, I took away the woman's right to choose.

That is his talking point. He can't go anywhere else. I stacked the Supreme Court with people I knew were hostile to women's rights, that my mother's generation fought for, that are not there for my daughter's generation, and I want them back for my granddaughter's generation.

So he doesn't have to say a lot about it, because everybody knows who stole that right from American women. But that's part of his agenda, talking about how we protect women's rights. But there's a lot of other family issues as well.


And, obviously, this all goes back to the Supreme Court. And we have seen a raft of decisions coming from them in recent days. Just on Friday, they upheld a law, a federal law, that bans domestic abusers from owning firearms.

And it came after -- right after -- and I know that's a very personal issue for you. Your mom worked a lot when it came to domestic abuse and awareness and fighting that.


COLLINS: But it came after -- then we saw them strike down a ruling on banning bump stocks.

And, after that, President Biden said the Supreme Court was out of kilter. When you look at those two different rulings, I wonder how you view it. Is the Supreme Court out of kilter?

HOCHUL: Oh, absolutely. I mean, they are so out of touch. They're literally living in the 1700s.

I mean, they go back to what our founding fathers said about guns, at a time when we had muskets. We didn't have bump stocks. We didn't have machine guns. We didn't have the capacity to have a mass shooting that steals the lives of people in my hometown of Buffalo or that killed so many at a gathering of young people out West at a concert.

So the world has changed since the 1700s. I know the Supreme Court doesn't want to believe that. They're trapped in the past. But this is what Donald Trump gave us.

But American people, they will -- the fever's going to break. I really feel this. They're going to realize what's at stake when they realize Donald Trump is cozying up the dictators. He is envious of them. He wants that ability to amass power. And we have fought so hard to preserve our democracy.

I mean, think about what Benjamin Franklin said back in 1787. He was asked, is this a monarchy or a republic going forward as we build this young nation. He said, "It's a republic if you can keep it."

This November election will determine whether we're able to keep this republic and not have it descend into a dictatorship, as has befallen so many other countries. That's what's on the line. It's everything. It's everything we stand for as Americans.


HOCHUL: So, people will understand. Women will understand it. They will be reminded of rights that their moms had, they don't have anymore.

COLLINS: Well, those are quite grave stakes.

But I want to ask you about something you have done here in New York that is notable, because it's the first-in-the-nation kind of a law that we have seen regulating social media algorithms. And, essentially, you want to make social media platforms less addictive and to expand privacy protections, display content chronologically to children who are under 18.

And when you look at that, some opponents of that have said that it violates the First Amendment. What's your response to that?

HOCHUL: Our children come first. I'm sorry. You can be a parent or a grandparent or a aunt or uncle. You cannot

turn a blind eye to trauma that is being inflicted on our children, especially young teenagers today, a seminal point in their lives. And it's -- they're being bombarded with intentionally addictive algorithms to pull them into a dark space and hold them captive.

COLLINS: And you think it'll hold up in court?

HOCHUL: Absolutely. We're defining this in a way that we know will be upheld, that our children -- we're not saying children can't go to social media sites. They can.


This simply says that parents have a right to say, number one, you cannot be collecting personal data about my child and selling it to other people, so they can then develop these algorithms that hit them with something they're interested in.

But it is -- I have to tell you, I have had so many forums with young people, sitting with them. A young woman once said to me: "You have to save us from ourselves. We can't stop."

And I thought, it's not her fault. These companies are monetizing our children's mental health. They're taking it away from them. And if we don't stand up as a government and as parents, the first mom governor of New York, I'm going to make sure that we fight for our kids.

COLLINS: Well, and it's interesting to hear you say you do believe it'll stand up in court.

The other thing happening here in New York on Tuesday, one of the most hotly contested Democratic primaries in the nation that I think we have seen it. It's the Squad member Jamaal Bowman, a progressive, against his opponent, Latimer, who is seen as a much more-middle-of- the-road -- and, obviously, AIPAC has been super funding this campaign. It's been so much money poured into it.

And I want you to listen to Jamaal Bowman lashing out at AIPAC yesterday and all of those millions of dollars that they have spent against him.


REP. JAMAAL BOWMAN (D-NY): We are going to show (EXPLETIVE DELETED) AIPAC the power of the mother (EXPLETIVE DELETED) South Bronx!


COLLINS: He also accused his opponent of supporting genocide. Do you support that kind of language? Are you OK with that?

HOCHUL: Let me say this. As the leader of the Democratic Party in the state of New York, I am not weighing in on primaries intentionally, but what I'm very focused on is, number one, I stand strongly with Israel. I went to Israel after October 7. It is traumatizing still to see the

images of women who were raped and just the -- what that country endured. We can move forward after this election and fight to save the House of Representatives, take it from the hands of Republicans this November, so I will be focusing all my energy on our six battleground seats here in the state of New York, Long Island, Hudson Valley, over to Syracuse.

This is for all the stakes. We need that count. Number one, we need them to support Joe Biden. We need them to support the comprehensive immigration plan that funds more resources at the border.


HOCHUL: We need that, and we need a Democratic Congress with Hakeem Jeffries as speaker to get that done.

COLLINS: Without endorsing anyone, the language itself, he's saying that he's supporting a genocide in Gaza. That's quite strong language.

HOCHUL: We have heard this all over. I mean, I think the tone of discourse in many elections has been -- far exceeds what I think is appropriate on all sides, so I will just put that out there.

COLLINS: So you think that's inappropriate language?

HOCHUL: I think that we should stop calling names. I think we should talk about the issues that people here in the state of New York care about. They want us to stand strong and have a sensible, commonsense immigration bill.

They want us to pass a ban on bump stocks. They want to make sure that we can do whatever we can to protect women's rights. They want to do what we can on affordability. Those are the issues that in all the districts where congressional races are being held, that's what people care about.

We should not be tone-deaf to what's actually happening at people's kitchen tables, at their social gatherings. Stop being tone-deaf as a party overall to those issues. And that's what Joe Biden his -- is his strength. He understands innately. He comes from working-class people, as do I.

Donald Trump is so out of touch, siding with billionaires over the working men and women who put their faith in him. They thought he was one of them, that he understood them. And, my gosh, they understand now that they were fooled at the time, and they will not be fooled again.

COLLINS: Governor Hochul, thank you for joining us this morning.

HOCHUL: Thanks. Thank you, Kaitlan.

COLLINS: Great to have you.

My next guest has experience debating Donald Trump. It's former Governor Scott Walker, along with David Axelrod. What do they expect? What are they watching for on Thursday?

We will talk about that next.




TRUMP: Maybe I'm better off losing the debate. I will make sure he stays. I will lose the debate on purpose. Maybe I will do something like that.

I assume he's going to be somebody that will be a worthy debater.

Should I be tough and nasty and just say, you're the worst president in history? Or should I be nice and calm and let him speak?


COLLINS: We will find out which tack he takes on Thursday night.

Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION.

That is Donald Trump setting expectations ahead of the debate.

I want to talk about that now with former Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and also CNN senior political commentator David Axelrod.

David, I mean, just after what we have seen from people like Doug Burgum, who have described Biden as infirm and as a weak debater from others, and Donald Trump himself saying he can't put two sentences together, what do you make of how Trump is changing his tune and trying to say maybe Biden will be better than I think?

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, it's been fun to watch, because he's spent two -- really more than two years, really the last five, describing Biden as utterly incompetent, to the point where, if Biden arrives and leaves under his own power, that would be a triumph, given the definition that Trump has put and his followers have put on him.

And I think they have recognized in the last couple of weeks, whoa, this guy is going to -- he's going to exceed those expectations and we'd better start creating a rationale for him having a decent night.



And, Governor, when you look at that, I mean, you were on the debate stage with Trump back in 2015.


COLLINS: And when you hear him saying, asking the crowd, should he be tough and nasty, in his words, or nice and calm, I mean, what do you -- what Donald Trump do you think we will see on Thursday night?

WALKER: Well, Donald Trump's a fighter. I saw that firsthand. There's no doubt about it.

But if he's a fighter for you, it makes a difference. So the best thing he can do -- and I think it's particularly good under the CNN format. He gets to talk. President Biden gets to talk. They can't interrupt each other. I think that was a big mistake he made four years ago.

President Trump should just look into the camera and talk about what he's going to do to fight for everyday Americans, to make life more affordable, secure again and safe again. Contrast that with the failures of President Biden, and just ignore President Biden when it comes to that physically being in the debate.

I think that would go a long way for him. And we will see if he can do that.

COLLINS: Well, and, David Axelrod, when it comes to President Biden, he prepares so intensively for big moments. I mean, he did it with the State of the Union. He's done it for big addresses like on the anniversary of January 6.

And he's been in debate prep now for a few days at Camp David. What about for him? Which President Biden do we see on Thursday night, or which President Biden do we need to see on Thursday?

AXELROD: Listen, Kaitlan, let's just take a step back and ask, why is this a close race? And it is a close race, and the governor sitting in the -- one of the very toughest of battleground states.

It's a close race because there are a large number of people who have questions about both of them. The questions about the president go to his age and does he have the stamina and the acuity to control events? The question about Trump is whether he can control himself and whether he can be controlled.

And each of them have something to prove on that debate stage. It's obvious the president has to come out and has to be aggressive and engaged and energetic and take every opportunity to create a contrast between himself and Trump on the issues that people care about that go to their future, and because no president in the modern age can win a referendum.

And you have to turn it into a choice. Trump would like it to be a referendum on Biden. For Trump, the governor is quite right. It was a disaster last election. And you remember this well, Kaitlan, that first debate, when he came across as a kind of petulant, mean-spirited child.


AXELROD: And I'm sure he's getting advice from his advisers, saying, do not be that guy. Try and reassure people that you have the self- control and decency to be president. The question is, can he do it under the provocation of the president's

comments, questions that will be tough for both of them, I'm sure. It'll be really interesting to see.

COLLINS: Well, and, Governor, Trump is not doing formal debate prep, in the sense where someone is playing Biden and he's at a lectern. And we know President Biden is doing that. He did it in 2020, we were told.

Is that a mistake if Trump doesn't switch and actually start doing formal debate prep, not just kind of talking about policy meetings and such that he's having?

WALKER: Well, I certainly did it when I was governor preparing for some of these other debates in the primaries. But I think he's a natural.

The most important thing, though, to remember, I think all the media or overwhelming amounts of media will come out and say that President Biden exceeded expectations. They will talk about energy he had, the well-rehearsed answers.

But in the end, Young America's Foundation, for example, we just came out of the field with a poll, and college students, not just everyday American voters, but college students specifically said their number one issue is the economy.

No matter how well-rehearsed the answers are, if Joe Biden can't answer for why prices have gone up 20 percent during his presidency, he's going to have real troubles. And the best thing that President Trump can do is talk about what he's going to do to make America affordable again, as well as securing the border and making our communities, particularly our big cities, safe again.

If he does that, it won't matter what the spin is after the debate. He will win over swing voters in states like mine in Wisconsin.

COLLINS: Well, what about -- I mean, you mentioned the economy. It is a top issue. But that FOX News poll this week also said democracy was a top issue, David.

And, obviously, that's one of the weaker points for former President Trump, given what happened with the 2020 election.

AXELROD: Yes, listen, I think elections are about the future. And I think that the president needs to paint a picture of what the future would like -- be like under him, and specifically on cost of living issues, on health care, on pharmaceuticals, on others, where President Trump has a pretty negative record that can be attacked, but also on abortion rights, on democracy issues.

It's really a question of what kind of country you want. And I think they're onto the right question when they say, do you want a president who is going to work for you every single day and fight for you every single day, or a president wakes up every day thinking about how he's going to fight for himself? [09:40:08]

I think that's a real vulnerability for Trump.

But, Kaitlan, let me just say a couple of things. One is, one of the traps for incumbent presidents -- and these first debates are always, always hard for presidents -- is, there is an instinct to want to defend and extol their own records. That is a waste of time here.

Obviously, he should talk about what he's done. But history will judge his presidency. Right now, he's going after voters. And I think being very much in the moment on the issues, creating contrasts is what he has to do.

The second is, not everybody -- the voters who are up for grabs here are the least engaged voters.


AXELROD: It's not clear they're going to watch the debate. More likely they're going to get it from social media.

So there has to be an awareness of creating moments that can go viral.

COLLINS: Yes, it will be interesting to see, and if you see the full picture of the debate.

Governor, what are your -- your final thoughts on what to watch for Thursday night?

WALKER: Yes, I think David's right about people want to talk about the future. They want a fighter. That's the key.

The advice I have given to President Trump is, just look right into the camera. Remember, there's no audience in place there. The audience is just the people watching at home and those that watch subsequently, as David said, on social media. Tell the American people why you're going to fight for them. Spell out how you're going to make things more affordable, more safe, and more secure.

If he does those things and gives answers, and then let President Biden try to defend his failed record, but talk about how things are going to be better in the future, then the fighter in him actually is a benefit.

COLLINS: Did you say you have given him that advice or you're just giving it to him right now on TV?

WALKER: No, I actually wrote a column, saw him the other day. I'm his co-chair of the Wisconsin leadership team, along with Governor Thompson and Senator Johnson.


WALKER: So, my hope is that he will do just that. And if he does, it'll be a success. COLLINS: We will see what it looks like.

Thanks to you both, David Axelrod, Governor Scott Walker.

It is the earliest presidential debate ever. The question is, how could it shake up the race, if it does?

We have a team of political experts here right after this.




JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You're the worst president America has ever had. Come on.

TRUMP: Hey, Joe, let me just tell you, Joe, I have done more in -- in 47 months, I've done more than you've done in 47 years, Joe.

BIDEN: Proud Boys.

TRUMP: Proud Boys, stand back and stand by.


TRUMP: ... new Supreme Court Justices, radical left.

BIDEN: Will you shut up, man?


COLLINS: Who wouldn't want to relive that moment? It was so much fun, the flashbacks of the first presidential debate of 2020.

The first one of 2024 might look a little bit different, or it could look just like that. We will see.

My panel of experts joins me now.

And, David Urban, I mean, what do you think Thursday's going to look like?


DAVID URBAN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Listen, I hope it looks a lot like the second debate, which we're not highlighting here, where President Trump really did well and, by all accounts, won that debate handily.

But the problem was, nobody was watching the second debate, because, the first debate, President Trump was talking over Biden, wasn't letting him make his points. I think, if President -- if former President Trump were smart, he would just say to the crowd, are you better off now than you were four years ago, and then just let Joe Biden talk.

Just let him talk. Don't try to overstep. Let him try to make his case, because he has a record of defend of four years. So, if I was Trump, that's what I'd do here.

We will see. No mics.


BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I mean, he acts like Donald Trump is disciplined.


SELLERS: Like, that's not going to happen.

Donald Trump is not going to stay on message. He's going to be decently wayward. What we know about this debate, though, is that the expectation level for Joe Biden is extremely low. It's extremely low because Republicans set the bar in hell for him day in and day out when they call him infirm, when they...

COLLINS: In hell?

SELLERS: In hell. That's as low as the bar can be.


SELLERS: And so, when they talk about the fact he has tennis balls on his walkers and things like this.


SELLERS: Look, the fact is, if he comes out and presents himself as presidential, and not worry about defending your record as much -- I have always told anybody who would listen at the White House, the biggest issue people have with Joe Biden when I'm out in the streets is that he doesn't articulate a vision for the future.

And that actually is being captive in age, because it's hard for someone 81 years old to articulate a vision for a future they may not be a part of. If he's able to do that well, then we will see what happens.

COLLINS: Jamal, I mean, you worked in the White House. What is -- is that do they know that? Do they recognize that while they're huddling at Camp David right now?

JAMAL SIMMONS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: You know, they are talking about the future. What I'm worried about is, they're not talking specifically enough about the future.

I can't tell you exactly which policy to finish the agenda that they are really kind of basing this on. But my sense about the debate is, the first 30 minutes is really what matters right here, right, because if you think about what happened last time, "Will you shut up, man?" happened in the first 20 minutes.

And in the second debate, Biden went after Trump on him shirking responsibility for COVID, talked about turning a crisis into a tragedy. That was in the first 10 minutes, right? I think, after that, people will start to tune out.

And for President Biden, one more piece of advice, because this is still a visual medium, right? He's kind of got a resting old face, right?

SIMMONS: So you need him to...



COLLINS: I'm learning so much. The bar is in hell, resting old face.


SIMMONS: And so he needs to smile. And when he smiles, it goes away a little bit. Because, when he smiles, his face comes alive.

I would just say, they're practicing this. Practice smiling as he's doing this.


COLLINS: You basically just said, smile more.


SIMMONS: I did, to an 80-year-old man.


ALYSSA FARAH GRIFFIN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I'm curious to see how much of this -- and this will be a lot on the moderators, but again, these aren't necessarily the two most disciplined candidates -- is actually on substance, because there's a world in which this turns into relitigating January 6, talking about a weaponized DOJ, Donald Trump rehashing the things that he's enraged about.

And there is an undecided portion of the public that wants to hear, what is that vision for the future, why should I be with you and not the other guy, for the six in 10 Americans who didn't want this rematch. So I think that's going to be a big thing to lean into.

But, also, we know this. I think there actually will be a lot of eyeballs on this debate, because there are people who are just, like, in it for the spectacle. But we will be watching for the zeitgeist moments. Like, what lives on TikTok? What lives on Facebook afterward?

That's where young people, especially, like, young undecided voters, are going to make up their mind. URBAN: Look, President Trump last night -- former President Trump in

Philadelphia was on message, was energized. It wasn't -- he wasn't relitigating the past.

He was talking about his record, about immigration, about crime, about things that matter...

FARAH GRIFFIN: No sharks this time?


URBAN: ... about things that matter -- about things that matter to the electorate...

COLLINS: I think he did bring up the sharks.


URBAN: But, no, about things that matter to the electorate at large, right?

He was in North Philadelphia. Only 5 percent of people within like five miles of that arena last night voted for Trump, 5 percent. He was in enemy territory asking for votes. I mean, he's going to campaign. He's going to campaign for every vote in America, brown votes, black votes, and he's not going to win the day.

But if he wins a little bit, if he wins 20 percent of African- Americans in Pennsylvania, Hispanics, right...


SELLERS: He's not doing that.

URBAN: Listen, don't -- OK. That's what you're hoping for, Bakari. That's what you're hoping for.

SELLERS: And he was not in enemy territory. It's also called, like, black neighborhoods.


URBAN: No, I'm saying, Bakari, in terms of vote -- the voter turnout. When 95 percent of the people vote against you, those aren't your friends.

SELLERS: I just think, look, this debate is in Atlanta, Georgia. It's a spectacle. People are like -- they are hoping to see the combativeness.

And I think the format of this is going to be something that breeds substance -- substance. The format of this and the moderators are going to have a substantive debate.

Now, also, I think we all know -- I think we're fooling ourselves if we believe this debate is going to move the needle one way or another. COLLINS: Really?

SELLERS: People -- I think people already are -- I think people feel a way about Donald Trump. They feel a way about Joe Biden. People want to -- they're looking at this debate for affirmation bias.

They want to see -- they want to see if Donald Trump can be presidential. They want to see if Joe Biden can meet that standard.

The other thing that -- I mean, to your point about the age of both candidates, because people act like Donald Trump ain't 70-something years old too -- is, it's at 9:00. This debate is really late.


SELLERS: And I think...

COLLINS: Nine o'clock is a great hour. I don't know what you're talking about.


SELLERS: First of all, the best TV is on at 9:00.


SIMMONS: ... what they're doing is, they're prepping him at game time, right?

So you need him...


SELLERS: You got to. I mean, you got to change your whole sleep schedule.


SIMMONS: ... the candidates at game time, so that they're in, like, a cycle of knowing what this looks like for 90 minutes at 9:00 p.m.

And there's one thing that we haven't talked about. We might have a Supreme Court decision on Thursday, right, a couple of them.

SELLERS: And I think they're going to do that too.

SIMMONS: And that might blow the entire debate coverage, like, really up.

You have a water balloon full of kerosene that lands on this debate that could either happen Thursday, and now they have extended to Friday. Could happen Friday. So we...

COLLINS: Yes, the decision on immunity, which would be huge.

What about the audience, the lack of an audience? Trump was complaining about the rules, which he agreed, to yesterday in Philadelphia. Does it help him? Does it hurt him? For either candidate?

FARAH GRIFFIN: So I oddly think no audience helps Trump. I think he feeds off of an audience and plays to it and gets into the more bombastic mind-set, where he's bound to shout out a domestic terrorist organization, like he did in the past.


FARAH GRIFFIN: So I actually think this could benefit him in terms of trying to be a little bit more presidential and structured.

I do worry for Biden on the energy. He got through the State of the Union, but that was a hometown crowd cheering for him. It's right off of a teleprompter. This is quiet. Nobody's telling, you did a good job. No one's applauding for you. And to keep the energy going for 90 minutes is -- it's a lot.

COLLINS: Yes, it's going to be a test.

URBAN: Interestingly, last night at the rally, to Bakari's point, so Trump asked the crowd, should I behave?

And people were like, boo. He said, should I be nice to Joe Biden? Should I behave or should I be bombastic? Yay! The crowd was saying, go at Joe Biden. Bring it hard, right?

So it's going to be interesting to see who shows up.

COLLINS: It will be interesting to see who shows up. We will all be watching.

URBAN: We will be there. We're showing up.


COLLINS: Thank you so much to the political experts here.

We will be right back just after a quick break.



COLLINS: President Joe Biden, former President Donald Trump, in just four days, those two will face off right here on CNN in a historic presidential debate.

Join us this Thursday night right here beginning at 9:00 p.m. Eastern. And it'll stream on Max. It will be hosted by Jake Tapper and Dana Bash and will be a can't-miss moment of this election.

Thank you for spending your Sunday morning with us.

Don't go away, though, because "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS" starts next.