tv Debate Night in America CNN September 29, 2020 4:00pm-6:00pm PDT
her sister says patricia was the protector of the family. her sister misses talking to her every day on the phone. may they rest in peace and may their memories being a blessing. i'm wolf blitzer. thanks very much for watching cnn's special coverage of this historic first debate starts historic first debate starts right now. -- captions by vitac -- www.vitac.com on this stage and on this night, president donald trump and former vice president joe biden are facing off in their first debate. it is a high-risk test with enormous consequences for a nation in crisis. it is debate in america on a special edition of "outfront." so glad to be with you. i'm erin burnett. the public has never seen a presidentiate like the one we are about to watch on the
campus of the cleveland clinic on ohio. the candidates going head to head under unprecedented circumstances, the midst of a deadly pandemic. obviously we've got an interest in early voting, breaking records right now. days after a bombshell, "new york times" report exposing the president's tax avoidance and massive indeadedness. we expect to hear about all that tonight in about two hours. behind the stage, the final preparations. and because of the coronavirus, they will not shake hands, and everyone in the very scaled back audience is required to take a covid-19 test. and tonight, of course, i'm here with anderson cooper. and anderson, what more can we expect otonight? >> the debate is going to be 90 minutes without commercial breaks. viewers will see president trump on the left standing at a podium. this is the first time he's debated since 2016. vice president biden will stand to the podium on the right. we know opening statements by
the candidates. the moderator is chris wallace of fox news. his first question will go to president trump. that was decided by coin toss. the bedate will be divided into 15 minute segments covering covid-19, the economy and race. the other debate topics are the trump and biden records, the supreme court and the integrity of the election. we are covering this momentous night with daniel dale fact checking every words. david chalian will have the first glimpse of who won from a cnn instant poll. erin, back to you. >> all of that of course. let's check in with our correspondents who have been with the candidates. kaitlan collins and arlette tines are inside the debate hall. kaitlan, first i want to go to you. when are you learning about president trump's strategy. i know he's there on the ground already. >> reporter: yes, he is. he's already done his walk through here tonight.
and what will be interesting, erin, is that for two years we have seen the president try to paint joe biden as weak and unfit for office, basically saying he wouldn't last a minute on the debate stage with him. tonight that's going to come into question. and you've seen advisers fear that that strategy could backfire in recent weeks. they try to say joe biden is a strong debater, we shouldn't expect anything less of him, but that is not the message the president is selling since 2018 since he started calling him sleepy joe biden. they are going to come face to face on the stage. in the hours leading up to this, we saw the trump campaign going after biden already, trying to claim they were going to do an ear piece check beforehand -- yes, an ear piece check -- before the debate, but the biden campaign decided they were no longer going to go through with that. the trump campaign also tried to say joe biden and his team asked
for several breaks during the 90 minutes on stage. the biden campaign denied that as well. the president said he believed joe biden needed to take a drug trust because they believe joe biden is on performance enhancing drugs. they are trying to muddy the waters ahead of the debate before it even kicks off. it will in two hours. >> i want to go to arlette signs now. arlette, kaitlan giving context into the back and forth between the campaigns tonight. what are you learning about joe biden's preparations? >> reporter: joe biden has participated in dozenens of debates over his career. tonight's might be the most consequential as he plans to take on president trump face to face. joe biden is a meticulous debate preparer. he has had a mix of mock debates and rapid fire question and answer sessions with his a
advisers heading into this. he's been reviewing briefing materials heading into tonight. he spent about 20 minutes here at the debate hall doing his walk through this evening. and he has his top advisers on hand including ron clwho helped hillary clinton prepare in 2016, bringing an understanding of what it is like to face off on the debate stage. biden's advisers said tonight he is going to try to display and promote his vision for the country. you hear joe biden talk about unity. he's expected to talk about what he would do related to the coronavirus, two areas he believes the president has failed. >> thank you very much arlette. as we continue our coverage here, socially distanced, here be our panel. david gregory, our contributor, maggie haberman of the "new york
times", and michael smerconish of the smerconish -- >> it's a mouthful. you only have to say it once tonight, erin, don't worry. >> all right. so, thanks to all. this is going to be, david, the stakes are extremely high. this is the debate that you could argue in any setting which debate matters the most. people have already started to vote this time in a way that has never happened before. >> well, there's very few big moments in a campaign, and this is one of them because this is a time when a lot of people tune in to check out what's going on. maybe they checked out the conventions. they're going to check out at least one of these debates and then they're going to go vote. they may not be paying attention to every outrage of the day. but they know one thing. the country's in crisis, that there is a pandemic, that there's racial strife, that there's economic ruin because of the pandemic, and there's a real tear, i think in the social fabric of the country that we're all feeling this isolation.
so, that's a big moment. i think what makes it big tonight is both these, the president and the contender, biden, are looking not only to create a moment against the other, but they're trying to reassure voter who is have not made up their mind -- not a lot left presumably -- trying to reassure them about them. you know, so what are those things that voters are worried about with regard to joe biden? what are those things that persuade able voters are worried about with trump? that's what they want to do try to do and they want to try to disqualify the other and look for those moments tonight. >> so, trump, as kaitlan was pointing out, this was his first debate since 2016. but we all saw those debates. i remember being in a texas airport hotel when he did the little hands thing, and you think to yourself oh, my goodness. but you don't know what he is going to do. and that is what joe biden has to be prepared for. >> and i think the biden campaign is prepared for that.
unlike hillary clinton's campaign which didn't put as much stock in watching those primary debates where it was very clear what donald trump was going to do and because he doesn't follow rules that ends up being an edge. the moderators never feel they're in a position to call that out, that ends up being an edge. i think they are prepared for that. i think the concern for the biden campaign is not letting trump get under biden's skin. trump has been telegraphing punches for weeks at this point that he's going to try to use to aggravate joe biden. i think this is a chance for a big moment but for a slightly different moment. i don't think there are a ton of undecided voters out there. >> really small group. >> it's a pretty calcified electorate. >> yeah. >> if you are president trump, what you are looking for is moments that change the dynamics and structure of this campaign. and he is running out of time. he is running out of moments in which to do that. and i don't know that attacking joe biden frankly works in his favor the same way attacking hillary clinton did. i think joe biden is seen by the
public, fairly or unfairly, very differently. >> you look at the polling -- and there's all this polling coming in -- you do see biden ahead. that's what you see in the polls. >> sure. >> that doesn't mean that's what we're going to see. just that's the dynamic coming into tonight. what does that mean for how they act on the stage? >> i think something counterintuitive. all the data suggests donald trump is losing this race and losing this race badly right now. you might therefore think the pressure is on him tonight. i happen to think that it's on joe biden because of all the claims that trump has made about biden's acuity. the good news for biden -- vice president biden -- that bar has been set so low that he ought to easily be able to step over it. the other thing is i don't think that vice president biden needs to win this debate. i think of this right back rocky i and he's rocky and the president is the showman at
apollo creed. rocky didn't win that fight. he went the distance. all joe biden needs to do is be standing there at the end so people can take a look at him in the face of all the crazy claims and say he did pretty well tonight. >> the bar is so low, number one. but number two, one of the things that the trump folks have been looking at -- and the president has prepared for this debate. they like to pretend he's done nothing, it's all on the fly, but he ahas spent time in debate prep sessions. one of the things they have been focusing on is the idea they have that biden does best in the first 30 minutes or so. that is where they think they have to take on biden because they believe it will get quieter. when they got the president to realize joe biden did well in a debate against bernie sanders when it was one on one as opposed to when it was ten candidates on stage, their argument is sanders was not trying to get under biden's skin. so, they think they can do
something the more time goes on. while i think he does have to go the distance, i think it's somewhat of a complicated calculation. >> i would like to employ "rocky" references throughout the hour. >> who among us? >> i agree. i think the vulnerability with biden is twofold. one, he has to protect himself against the wrap that he's some kind of foil for the extreme left of the party. there are voters that worry about that. two, is he up for the job. >> right. >> this is not -- i've been doing a lot of reading about the 1980 race. ragen had a similar thing. there was age but also is he up for the job, even though carter was so vulnerable. in this case, i think those are two areas he's got to play defense on. he's thinking one thing. this is trump and it's about the pandemic. it's about covid. i have to take him down on that and remind voters, however many are out there thinking, yeah, it's been kind of bad on the virus but i like other things. no, this guy is not up for the job.
that's what biden's trying to do. >> i like the reference to the reagan '80s. i go with '84 and reagan was holding in the line, i'm not going to allow my opponent to x exploit the youth and experience of my opponent -- i bumbled it but he did it well. you've got to believe he's got a line to deal tonight when something is dealt about his mental fitness. we'll see what it is. >> stay with me as we count down to tonight's debate in cleveland. we have new numbers and how many voters have cast ballots in this crucial election and why this makes the first trump-biden face-off even more important. much more special coverage ahead. - 15 or more headache days a month, ...each lasting 4 hours or more. botox® prevents headaches in adults with chronic migraine. so, if you haven't tried botox® for your chronic migraine,
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of color, and lgbtq people. and i'm making corporations like pg&e and insurance companies play by our rules. we need experienced leadership to wipe away trump's stain on america for good. we are back with our special coverage of the first debate between president trump and former vice president joe biden. they are facing off tonight as so many americans already are casting ballots. pamela brown has new information on that. where does early voting stand right now. >> early voting interests continue to skyrocket. take a look at the numbers here. more than 1.2 million americans have cast their ballot. we have a little over a month to go until election day. this is coming from publicly available data from 20 states. 800,000 ballots have been cast
in the most competitive states. to take a little bit closer look at one of the bahtal ground states, north carolina, democrats have a big advantage over republicans. 147,000 democrats versus 46,000 republicans have cast their ballots. but we should note that cnn polling shows that trump supporters are more likely to go in person to the polls on election day. so, these numbers don't necessarily determine the outcome of the election. but let's look at wisconsin, another battleground state. already 308,000 voters have cast their ballots. and what the numbers are showing us that people are returning their ballots quickly. they're receiving and returning quickly seemingly heeding advice to return ballots early. go to cnn.com/vote and you can learn more about how voting works where you are. >> coming in quickly and the debate more important, people
making their decision. can you show us how it works? >> absolutely. in fact people in 32 states have already voted by the debate tonight, but look at how the number jumps up from tonight. you look at the vice presidential debate and then by the second presidential debate, all states but two and the last one early voting. that just shows you how high the stakes are for both the candidates to make their case. >> those early votes, pamela, thanks. tonight's debate figure into the bottom line of the election, who can get the electoral votes needed to win. take us through the potential path to victory. >> let's start with the underdog joe biden because he is knocking at the door entering the first debate. we have joe biden right now in our calculation ahead solid or leaning 269 electoral votes, the dark blue. that's solid biden. that's leaning biden.
joe biden is already at 269 electoral votes. if nothing changed on this map, if he turns in strong debates and holds what he has right now, think about this, if joe biden could win this congressional district in nebraska, democrats have one it before, joe biden could get to 270, the magic number, win the presidency. joe biden could win the presidency without winning ohio, without winning pennsylvania, without win georgia. democrats know joe biden is well ahead in pennsylvania right now. they believe they can hold on that and run it up and block president trump. joe biden is competitive. north carolina is tight but joe biden is tight. big african-american turnout, big suburban turnout, joe biden could be the turnout. democrats have a dream of a route. they believe they're in play even in georgia or ohio. some democrats want the biden campaign to spend money in
places like iowa and places like texas leaning red right now. the biden campaign has to make a decision into the final weeks where do we spend resources? do we play it like we think it is? or do you try to venture out and help other candidates? the challenge is that this map, the 2016 map looks like a distant dream. he flipped wisconsin, michigan, pennsylvania. the president enters tonight's debate needing to change the race in a dramatic way. solid trump, leaning trump. very conceivable. very, very conceivable to see president winning ohio. it's a republican-leaning state. florida has republican dna. georgia republican dna. conceivable to see the president win. he's competitive. same with north carolina. he's competitive. even he won all those he's 247. and even winning pennsylvania he's at 267. that would make it interesting if the president could win the
challenge. the trump campaign is short cashed. he has to win ohio, pennsylvania, north carolina, georgia and florida and still have to do more, get both of those congressional districts there. i hit this, come back to this. can the president flip a state? we like to first debate looking at this map. we remember 2016. the president has proven he can surprise us. the president has proven when he flipped these states four years ago. when joe biden walks on that stage he knows he's knocking at the door to 270. >> i'm sure there are a lot of people watching at home thinking back to 2016, you had the wall and it seemed like there wasn't a path for donald trump in electoral votes and suddenly there was. >> very late. the trump campaign likes to say the polls were wrong. if you go back late to the last campaign. yes, he was trailing. yes, he was trailing. but he was coming back in
michigan, in wisconsin, moving in pennsylvania. the polls at the state level were moving his way and the national brace was down to a clinton lead. biden is up about 8 points. if he stays up 8 points, it's hard to see trump pulling it. if the lead shrinks to five, start going to the state by state calculations. donald trump is in play. he's competitive in florida, ohio. but it's a much tougher map last time. he was the outsider. he was the insurgent. anderson, the biggest difference is he's the embattled incumbent in the middle of a pandemic. much harder to change the race. >> what are you looking for tonight, van, because i think back to those debates the last time around between secretary clinton and vice president donald trump, i moderated one of them, i thought it couldn't get any more tense than the debate. >> it's all the marbles and
that's why. for them it's a really big deal. for us, we are tired. we are tired of the funerals. we're tired of all the nonsense and the comedian type of stuff from the white house. i think what you're going to see is joe biden come out and show his biggest asset, which is that big heart. he understands this country is grieving, this country is hurting, this country needs leadership. he's going to be the comedian and you going to see a statesman capable of bringing the country together tonight. >> i think what joe biden has to do is make those voters, the voters you're talking about, feel really good about their vote because a lot of othem don't really feel good about their vote and they've got to be motivated. what biden has to do is motivate them. what donald trump has to do is say to those conservatives who are leaning towards him bupt don't like the way he handled the virus, he needs to say to them trust men to economy. you can trust me. i'm the one who's going to bring
it back. >> that would make sense. that would be the right strategy. isn't necessarily the one that he is going to follow because he does, as everyone has pointed out, this race has been remarkably stable. it's like an earthquake-proof building. there are seismic explosions going on all the time, yet the race continues to be a seven- or eight-point race. that's an enormous margin at this stage in the race against an encoincumbent. the challenge for biden is to not chase the rabbits down the hole because he wants to be that person that you suggest, van, but he's going to have to do it in a very noisy environment. and he is provoked at times. >> i would say that number one joe biden has the most illusive -- he's ahead. he's ahead by every measure. and he's still the question mark
in a lot of people's minds. i think we have to accept the fact that a lot of people are still just tuning in to watch this, and there is a question as to whether joe biden is up to this or not. and i don't think the bar is that low for them. it may be for the folks commenting because everyone's going to say biden did fine. and they're going to look and see whether joe biden has what it takes to be the leader of the free world. it's not just he can put sentences together or he's coherent. >> a lot of people, this is the beginning of the electoral season for a bunch of people. for a lot of people, this is the -- they're going to be looking who is joe biden, who is trump. they know who trump is. they don't know joe biden. i think joe biden, nancy, has an opportunity though while still being a statesman to do something to trump that has not been done to him before. trump has kryptonite. the one thing he seems to be afraid of is someone laughing at him. he's also saying they're laughing at us here and there. that's his kryptonite.
joe biden can say you're not only a tax dodger and a draft dodger, you are a weak, broke loser who has been exposed as being desperate for cash. if he -- i don't know that that is a punch that trump knows how to take. >> that's not the warm and -- >> i'm just saying. >> -- thing you were saying earlier. >> i think he can turn. >> he needs to hit and pivot. >> hit and pivot. >> i was talking to somebody in the biden campaign who was working with him, and i think their intent -- without giving too much away because they're certainly not giving anything away to me -- is a flick of the wrist is what i would call it, what you're talking about. give him a flick of the wrist. you've seen biden respond to trump lately say, oh, he's a fool, he's just a fool. give him a flick of the wrist. don't go down rabbit holes and then move on and pivot to what he wants to talk about which is more than 200,000 dead. this is how you mismanaged it. >> i'm sorry. >> you guys talked about it
being people just tuning in and so on. that's not what the polling suggests. 90% of people say they've made up their mind. there will be an enormous audience tonight. most of those people have said they've made up their mind. i agree this is the test for biden. i think if he has a good night tonight he can really slam the door here. i'm not sure the last two debates are going to mean that much if biden has a good night tonight. >> i won't say the race could be over tonight, but if joe biden does what most challengers do, which is to do well -- >> the incumbent has people saying nice things around them every day. there are damagers for biden though. because he's got the big map to protect, he has such a big coalition, he's vulnerable to not just trump but chris wallace pushing him. are you with the left of your
party or are you not? he's going to -- biden has to deal with the fact he's got such a big coalition, is he willing to offend the left to hold on to the middle? >> that's the part i think he could show he's not up to it. because if he can't -- if he can't stand for what he believes in, i think that's going to -- that will open up the socialism card and make it really difficult. >> it's easier now that he is the nominee. the party is very eager to defeat trump. and i think he is going to be speaking a lot to the folks back in your backyard. he's going to be talking scranton versus park avenue. he's going to be uses the taxes as a kick off. that'll be a kick off point for him. in terms of your question, i still have mitt romney's tire tracks on my back from the first presidential debate in 2012. presidents aren't used to having
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it is debate night in america. as we get closer to the main event we're learning more about how president trump and former vice president biden have been getting ready for this crucial moment. dana bash goes behind the scenes. dana, it's obviously two very different people, very different candidates with very different styles on stage and in their preparations off stage. >> it's true. but the preparations do have one big thing in common, erin, according to sources i've spoken to today in both camps, biden and trump have spent the last few days taking a lot of incoming from their own allies and aides pretending to be the other guy in hopes they're ready for anything that happens on stage tonight. >> we had a little debate prep
before we came here. a little time, not a lot. >> he's barely preparing, but he has inside the white house math room with a small group of advisers including chris christie and kellyanne conway. >> theic are the is to lay out his record of accomplishments on any series of policies, and visionaries, and number three, put joe biden on the defense. >> cnn is told that christi played the role of biden in recent sessions. trump has been watching videos of biden debating and also his own debates against hillary clinton. >> is there a 2016 debate moment that you hope the president trump uses as a cautionary tale to not repeat? >> to the extent he got overly personal. >> such a nasty woman. >> trump advisers understand that polls show biden is well liked compared to clinton in
2016. >> she doesn't have the look. she doesn't have the stamina. >> and are warning him that getting too personal could backfire. still, the president is planning to press biden on his son's lucrative business dealings when his father was vp. >> how has your family benefitted from you being vp. >> biden's prep has been more intense and traditional with mock debates with veteran democratic lawyer plays trump. they are bracing for anything. >> what would you recommend to joe biden when donald trump starts to go there on the name calling? >> i think that he can sort of break the third wall, if you will, talk to the people about what this -- you know, you see what he's doing. he is being your schoolyard bully again. >> jennifer helped biden in debate prep over the years, playing sarah palin in 2008 and
elizabeth warren during this year's primaries. >> you have to find the hardest things, go after them again and again and again. get them used to the fact this attack is coming and that you have to prepare an answer for it. so that it's not a surprise. >> one of debate quirks is stopping mid-sentence when i see my timing light has changed. >> i hope he avoids the oh, my time is up because you know trump is just going to go over the time. the time limits are completely irrelevant for trump. >> it's a fine line for biden being tough on the president but maintaining his trademark compassion. >> joe biden's secret sauce is his empathy with real people. and the fact so many people have lost people, 30 million people are unemployed.
>> but he knows how to deliver memorable one line r. >> there's only three things he mentions in a sentence, a noun, a sesh, and 9/11. >> this is a crisis. we're at war with a virus. >> trump's advisers are pushing him to talk about promises kept like on trade. >> nafta is the worst trade deal maybe ever signed anywhere but certainly ever signed in this country. >> stick to the issues because there is where president trump will shine. >> i'm told that those around the president have been preparing him and warning him that he will likely be on defense a lot but that he must try as much as he can to pivot whether it is on covid or on race or on taxes, especially his taxes. sources familiar with the president's prep tell me he is armed with tools to back the offensive questions. >> the big question, what happens on the fly.
dana, thank you so much. i want to bring in a staunch conservative ally of president trump's, republican senator tom cotton of arkansas joins us. thank you very much for your time. tonight when we go through these topics there's a lot on the table. anything can come up on the parameters. one of the key ones is going to be the record of the president and joe biden. "the new york times" of course this week reports president trump paid $750 in federal income taxes in 2016 and 2017. senator, you obviously know the numbers. the average american household pays much more than that, well over $1,000 in income tax. do you think it is a problem that the president says he's a billionaire, paid only $750? >> well, erin, i want to point out that i don't necessarily credit "the new york times" reporting on this topic since they claim to have obtained documents. it's not even clear they obtained them in a legal matter,
without revealing the content of the documents. i will say that i think most americans carele less about the past of donald trump's business than the future of their family and job and community. oen that front, the record is clear, donald trump has been a far superior president than joe biden would be in the next four years. >> i understand you don't want to talk about hypotheticals, but it does seam lukeem like a way avoiding the question. i imagine when you saw it, your jaw dropped, $750. >> my jaw didn't drop. that's an unsubstantiated claims. they said they are not releasing the records. obviously the real estate business is a volatile business. some years you do well, some years you do poorly. the bottom line is that most americans care about the future than past of donald trump's businesses. that's why the debate is going to be settled on topics like the
economy, the coronavirus and the supreme court. >> yes, of course the president though, as we all know one of the biggest part of his platform when he ran for office was i'm going to run this country the way i ran my businesses. i'm an outsider but i can run a business. don't you want someone who can do that? when you look at the situation with chronic losses year after year after year, no income in ten out of 15 years, that does not add up to someone who's running a business well. on that basis, it questions the entire premise, right, of his presidency? so, doesn't that worry you? >> so, erin, i don't think we have to look at his prediction anymore. we can look at his record. look at where this economy was in february before the economy got knocked on its back. we had record low unemployment. wages growing much faster than
wealthy persons wages. obviously we're still recovering from the coronavirus recession just like the rest of the world. there's no country that escaped this severe recession. the real question for americans tonight is going to be who do you trust to build back our economy? the president who helped you build the strongest economy in our lifetime or joe biden who helped barack obama keep the economy stuck in neutral for eight years. >> i know everyone hopes you're right that we're in recovery. disney announced another 28,000 layoffs. the big question for all americans. i want to ask you about the debt. i think this is significant given your expertise. you know a lot about this. the president, more than $400 million in debt according to that report. and obviously we know most of that is due over the next four years. just to ask you with your expertise, if someone asked for a security clearance with that sort of debt, would you ever give it if you did not know to
whom that debt was due? >> erin, again, you're speculating based on records "the new york times" per ports to have and purports to have analyzed correctly. i'm not going to engage in that kind of speculation. the american people were presented with these same questions four years ago and they reelected donald trump. >> he's never put his taxes out. >> not on his past but their future. he's filed the required financial disclosure statements that any president or any federal office holder has to disclose every year for the last four years. he'll keep doing that the next four years. that's why i believe the american people are more concerned about their future, about their finances than they are about the finances of donald trump's businesses. >> i do think though it's extremely relevant when you talk about someone who has a security clearance and can know every secret in this country and $400 million, he owes this to somebody, right? i understand you want to
question the report itself. my question is if someone is in that sort of debt, would you be okay giving security clearance to that person not knowing to whom they owe that money? >> erin, the president, any president, holds security clearance obviously at the highest permissible because of his election to the office. and again this report is speculative. we don't know what the real records are. one thing we do know is that there was no evidence of any kind of significant debt to rush russia or russia being behind any financing. i suspect if it was that would have been the lead paragraph and your network would have been running with it frequently the last two days. for all those saying donald trump was beholden to russia, this report suggests that's not the case. >> it doesn't explain at all because we don't know who he owes that money to. why shouldn't he put out that information, the tax returns and the information that would show who he owes the money.
we have no idea to whom he owes that money. >> erin, the president has repeatedly filed the financial disclosures required by law. he did not disclose taxes four years ago. he's still being audited. the american people elected him nonetheless because they wanted a president who would help working class american, who would turn around some of the terrible trade deals joe biden brought into being, finally standing up for working class americans as opposed to rich americans on wall street. that's what donald trump has done for the last four years. joe biden is not going to do that for the next four years. that's why this debate tonight is going to focus on the future. >> the president has suggested for months that biden's mental acuity makes him unfit for office. he's done his basement beat there. now his campaign says in a memo that went out to his allies, quote, do not underestimate his abilities in a debate, referring to biden, saying he's had
decades of experience of this. do you think it was a mistake for the president to lower expectations so much for joe biden tonight? >> well, erin, joe biden has a pretty good record when it comes to one on one debates. last year in a multi-candidate debate and debated the current vice presidential nominee, he didn't do very well. i thought he beat bernie sanders pretty handedly. he held his own against sarah palin in 2008. he's been in washington for 47 years. he should do good. if he has to defend his record, might not do so well. but i think he'll be prepared to debate. but i believe donald trump is going to beat him because of his superior record on the issues and the fact that donald trump will be better for working americans over these next four years than joe biden would be. >> senator cotton, i appreciate your time. thank you very much. >> thank you. >> and there is much more ahead on tonight's high stakes debate
in cleveland. how will a key topic tonight, the coronavirus, impact the battleground states. we'll also set the stage for a busy night of fact checking, the candidates and their claims. time ever, include fort disney+, hulu, and espn+. we're a big soccer family. "handmaid's tale ." i love "frozen." then give families plans to mix and match, so you only pay for what you need. and offer it at a price built for everyone. plus, buy the samsung galaxy s20+ 5g for less than $5 per month, and get another on us. the network more people rely on gives you more. that's verizon.
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we're a little over an hour away from the start of the first debate between president trump and former vice president biden. we expect the handling of the coronavirus to be front and center. we want to go back to john king and the magic >> anderson, it is the number one, number two, number three issues. you ask voters what they care about the most, the final five weeks of the campaign no question coronavirus right now making a resurgence. if you look back in the rearview mirror, the debate night final five weeks of the campaign. 23 states trending in the wrong direction including battle ground michigan and wisconsin. they include competitive states like colorado and nevada. trending in the wrong direction right now. meaning more new infections now than the data a week ago. 23 states including five states trending up 50% more. new infections this week. if you look at the case curve, remember, this is the
president's presiden president's al bar troz. three clear teams for states to reopen, cautious steps but within days, the president said forget about them. blow the red light, please reopen. many states did like florida, texas, georgia, arizona. there was the summer surge. we have come down somewhat from that. look here, the president heading into deb date nigate night you t the trajectory of new cases going up. that's what they are doing at the moment. right now 40,000 new infections a day across the country. the president likes to say the blue states cause this problem. he likes to say that. we're americans. i don't like to say that. he does. let's see if that comes up in the debate tonight. it's true. the blue states went up the hill first, washington state, california, democratic governors, new york, connecticut, new jersey. they have come down. you see them and they have largely stayed down with democratic governors. look at the states with republican governors. most carry by trump in 2016. they were the summer surge come down some but still above the
blue states when you go through this. now as we look through where do we go into the final weeks of the campaign? the deeper the shading, the higher the positivity rate. michigan in double digits, florida in double digits. more cases today means more infections spread tomorrow and more death down the road. this is a troubling sign for the president. anderson, want to look at a couple more things. the top five if we go back to monday, this week texas, wisconsin, michigan. three presidential battle grounds in the top five states. go back to the middle of the summer surge. it was texas, florida, georgia and arizona. all battle ground states who suffered badly throughout this crisis. one problem for the president is the model a lot of people look at, the ihme model today 789 deaths so far. ihme projects by election day, 1200 americans will be dying every day. 1200 americans every day by election day and by january 1st, 3,000. the dynamic is not working in the president's favor. he has a lot of questions to answer what he did in the
rearview mirror and what he might do to stop that. >> that modelling is doubling in deaths by the end of the year. michael, this is of course, the crucial question, right? you have the president who is pushed reopen, reopen, reopen. right? they are in florida in swing states. and yet, this is what we're seeing with the numbers. that is the gamble he's taking. >> i think the perception of his handling for better or worse is baked in. you're a mask wearer or you're not and persuasion is not going to occur tonight on his handling of the covid-19. i don't think it's a night for persuasion generally. i think they have different objectives. the president, it's about motivating his base. it has always been about motivating his base and for joe biden, it's an opportunity to look into that camera and to give solace and comfort to someone inclined to vote for him according to the polls and needs to make sure he's not a tool of the far left and has the physical stamina to get the job done. >> i would say on the virus,
biden has a real opportunity. he can tell americans this is how it could have been handled. how did you like how the president handled the biggest crisis of our generation? this is what i would have done and he needs to say that. this campaign has been different. he has been under ground, it's not like a normal campaign. he can come out and say, this is what it would have been under a biden administration and by the way, this is what i'm going to do because this isn't over yet. >> david is right. this is actually something where biden made the case repeatedly that the president failed at this. that his administration's response failed on the coronavirus. i think as michael said, there is generally an agreement whether you like it or don't on what the president has done with the coronavirus. public polling suggests people don't like it, the majority of people but i think biden needs to sell his story. >> there is a lot that's baked in in terms of how people feel but if you read bob woodward's
boo k, wh book, what does the president say over and over again about the virus? it's not my fault. the commander in chief, the president of the united states says it's not my fault. he said anybody would have had a hard time with this. that's where biden has to go on the attack. >> despite all the craziness that has gone on for four years for better or worse, it's a remarkably stable race. there hasn't been much move 789. >> every election is persuasion and turnout. >> i think it will take something monumental by the end of the night we're saying wow, the race changed. >> back to your original point, i think biden has a lot to lose because he's got so much to gain. he could do really well when trump is on the ropes here and maybe that was my "rocky 2" reference. maybe this is almost over. trump is losing, biden has more at risk. >> all right. all of you, thank you. while many voters already have
made their minds up, right, as you're talking here, right? most people have. very few are undecided. there are some and what happens tonight could sway them one way or another and they will have the ability to vote one way or another. anna cabrera is in ohio tonight. you found them. you found the undecided voters. you'll watch the debate with them and getting realtime reaction. >> reporter: that's right, erin. i'm joining you just outside of columbus, ohio and joining me are 14 undecided voters from the surrounding area including the all important suburbs. nine of the voters who are here with us tonight identify as independent. three as republicans. two as democrats. and they include a police officer, a firefighter, a retired teacher, a few students who will be voting for the very first time this election, a couple stay at home moms among others. a very diverse group and they say they haven't made up their
mind. they are persuadable. they want to hear more from joe biden and donald trump on issues like the economy, on the coronavirus, on health care, on race relations. all topics we know will be covered tonight. and they will be reacting in realtime. we'll be watching with them. they have each been given a device like this and they will be using an app. let me explain how this will work. when they feel strongly that they agree with something a candidate is saying, they swipe up. if they strongly disagree with what they're hearing, they swipe down. now all that data will be loaded into a system and you'll be able to watch along because at home, you will see a line graph at the bottom of your screen that is recording the responses from our focus group tonight. so you'll get a sense of how they're feeling throughout the debate. and of course, afterwards is when we'll be able to bring their responses to you from here and in the moment, let me just talk really quick with a couple of our participants to see how they're feeling about things
going into the debate. you are here you said you still weren't exactly sure where you're going but because you're a police officer, you're interested about hearing about law and order, is that correct? >> that is correct. >> reporter: where is your head at? are you listening for? >> i feel like as a nation there is a lot of separation going on. my main concern is i want to see who is going to be the one unifying us that says something that maybe we're talking about bringing people together, everyone is concerned how we're different. i think we could -- we need to be concerned more about what we have in common. >> reporter: i know that's something that is important to you, as well. tell me why you feel undecided still in this moment. >> well, i think i've had some interactions with a lot of different friends and it's very polarized. some are on this side, that side. i listen to what everybody says and i agree with what they say but yet, i go back and forth,
i'm kind of looking for some serious information about issues, concrete information, especially on medicare because i'm about to retire and i just hope that the time is spent constructively and not bantering but truly addressing the issues. >> reporter: a lot of people shaking their heads here. we're taking extra precautions with the coronavirus. we're doing this outside with social distancing. we'll be hunkered down for the next several hours with blankets and space heaters as we watch the debate and bring you reaction following the debate and see if anybody makes up their mind based on what they hear tonight. >> anna, i think everyone will be looking at her group because there are so few undecided and you got to get your base to turnout and win over the undecide undecideds. they will be a crucial group. thanks so much to her and now "debate night in america" continues.
welcome. we are about an hour away from the first debate between president donald trump and former vice president joe biden at a grave moment for the health of this nation, for the economy and american democracy. it is debate night in america. we're likely to see an epic clash between an income bent seeking a reelection and a democratic leader looking to seal his fate in the polls. western reserve university and the cleveland clinic in the battle ground state of ohio. we're told both men are preparing for their changes to turn personal as they spar over the pandemic, supreme court, mail in voting and new revelations about the president's taxes and debt. there is certainly a lot to debate during these unprecedented times. debate planners have made some changes inside the hall because of coronavirus concerns. president trump and vice president biden will not shake
hands. members of a very limited audience are required to take covid-19 tests. we're joined tonight by wolf blitzer. what more are we expecting? >> anderson, i want to give viewer as sense of what they will see as this debate plays out. president trump will be on the left of your tv screen. both candidates will stand at podiums throughout the 90-minute debate. vice president biden to the right. there won't be any opening statements between the candidates, chris wallace of fox news will be seat in front of them. the first question to president trump based on the results of a coin toss. the debate will be divided into 15-minute segments covering these topics. covid-19, the economy, and race, the moderator says this segment also will focus on violence in u.s. cities. also up for debate, the trump and biden records, the supreme court and the integrity of the election. we're covering every moment of this historic debate as well as voter reaction seen as daniel will fact check the candidates,
k cnn's anna cabrera are with ohio voters that will watch the debate closely and david will bring us the first word of who won from a cnn instant poll. right now let's check in with jake, dana and abby for more, this is going to be a lively debate. >> it certainly will, wolf. absolutely as i sit here with my colleagues, dana and abby and one thing that i keep thinking about is with joe biden in the lead in polls and in so many battle ground states, this reminds me so much of 1980 when there was a very unpopular incoi incumbent president jimmy carter, was he up for the job or too old and ronald reagan had a bad first debate but good second debate and seemed to run away with it. that's one of the things biden has. it's a similar dynamic tonight. people looking is he up for it? can he do it?
the income bekucumbent i'm not about. >> i was speaking to a very close ally of donald trump that said the same thing. they are seeing it the same way for a lot of reasons. one of which is because of covid, because they haven't seen their condition dates campai campaignicampaig -- candidates campaigning like usual, this will be more important. when it comes to joe biden, they have such a high expectation that donald trump is going to go after him in a big way, and a big part of his debate prep has been not taking the bait. >> biden? >> biden not taking the bait. thank you. biden not taking the bait and, you know, not playing on trump's turf, which is his whole point and, you know, what a biden advisor said to me, abby, if they can stay there and say okay, that's really nice mr. president but why don't we talk about what matters to the american people, they will feel like he had a great night. >> that's why this will be tough. if you watch donald trump in
debates, it really as he goes about his day to day life, he dominates every moment and tries to dominate on the debate stage the other candidates' moments. it's difficult to get him out of your time and i think that if biden is going to have to try to stay on message, i'm not sure donald trump is going to let him. that's one of the real challenges of this type of debate. i think biden, this is a moment where he has to show the american people that yes, he is ready to be president. that he can hold his own in that setting, but he also has to stick to people's minds. he has to have them come away from this debate with something and one of the pitfalls that hillary clinton fell into back in 2016 was approaching the debate as a typical debater, sort of classic politician giving, you know, paragraphs when people are remembering tweets and that's one of the things that trump does very, very well. >> it's very interesting because i've covered biden now since
1999 and he does lose his cool. he does get upset, especially when his family is attacked. >> exactly. >> and donald trump will attack your family. he went after ted cruz' wife. he went after ted cruz' dad and jeb bush's wife. >> he'll attack biden's character which is something that gets him, you know, gets his back up. the idea that trump could start to attack what kind of person he is, i think is something we can do. >> that is probably going to happen. i'm told by a source familiar with donald trump's debate prep that he is really ready to go after hunter biden, and that is why probably is not a surprise to people in biden world because they have been really trying to steal him to avoid exactly what you said, jake. to avoid as one source set not taking the bait and saying nice you want to talk about my son, but let's talk about how i'm going to bring the country back from this crisis that we're in right now with this pandemic. whether or not he can avoid, you
know, jumping in and going after the president on, let's say, his children who are working in the white house and asking whether they're qualified, we'll see. >> yeah, no, it's the difference between a debate between his head and his heart, right? he knows i should say that's not true what you said about hunter. you're going to lie all night about him but i want to talk what the american people care about, covid and the economy but at the end of the day, that's not where his kishnas are. >> technical term. let's check in with correspondents covering both of them. caitlyn collins and arlet signs. you've been doing reporting on this. what are you learning? >> reporter: wolf, what is personal to donald trump is finances and the campaign and his advisors he's been preparing with today and yesterday ever
since that "new york times" investigation came out know that is likely to be a big subject and they're even expecting it to potentially be the first question directed donald trump's way. wolf, he has not really analyzed questions raised by that reporting by "the new york times." he talked about it a little bit right after it broke on sunday but other than that, he has not analyzed questions about it and tonight, he won't be able to avoid questions. so what advisors have been doing with the president over the last two days is basically saying, here is a good defense strategy because you're going to be asked about this. you're going to have to answer. what their fear is the president will not take their advice and instead rely on his own instincts off the cuff measures he's done so many times in the past. that's really anyone's question how he actually handles that tonight but wolf, the president has been dealing with questions about his finances for four years now. aids know -- >> the biden -- >> i want to say these are live pictures of the biden motorcade arriving at the debate.
but go ahead. >> reporter: yeah, so you see they are arriving. the president is expected to be here shortly, as well. the question tonight when it does come to those questions about his finances is does he deflect like he did four years ago when anderson cooper asked him about finances and he turned it on hillary clinton's donors instead of directly answering the question. that's something advisors are not sure what it is the president is going to say tonight. >> stand by. i want to bring in arlett arlette saenz. >> reporter: he is prepared for things to turn personal tonight. one thing advisors prepared him for are possible attacks on hunter 3w50hunt hunter biden. we've seen the president try to turn hunter biden and business dealings with china and ukraine into a campaign you shall shiss
run through possible lines of attack so the former vice president is prepared. one advisor i spoke with noted he may address it and quickly try to turn the focus back to the issues at hand. one of biden's advisors today told reporters americans don't want to hear about biden's family they want to hear what these two candidates will do for their families. one thing biden's advisors, they have a singular focus of debating president trump. you'll remember those primary debates were a bit unwhelding at times. tonight, biden has that focus of squarely focussing on president trump who he has real fundamental differences on. you've heard biden repeatedly talk about how he believes the president failed when it comes to his handling of the coronavirus pandemic. also, the economy. you've heard biden trying to frame this campaign as one between scranton and park avenue
saying that the president's only looking out for his own interest and those of the wealthy and not average americans like biden would do in office and you've heard biden talk about unity. one other thing coming a short while ago is biden did a little trolling of the trump campaign. tweeting out after the trump campaign has launched these baseless acquisitions he's on performance enhancers heading into the debate, biden tweeted this photo saying i have my ear piece and performance enhancers ready and that's a tub of ice cream. >> cute. jeff zeleny is working his sources. what are the candidates targeting with their performance tonight? specifically. >> reporter: with all the demographics of voters, women are at the center of both strategies, in particular white women. four years ago donald trump defeated hillary clinton among white women. he won a majority of white women
voters. that's something the biden campaign is trying to win back. it a key part of their strategy. despite all the personal attacks and the family matters, they are indeed also speaking directly to women voters particularly on these issues. president trump knows he's not necessarily liked. he's not going to change that strategy by winning those who don't like him but i'm told he'll powe cfocus on the supremt appointment and what he believes is one of his biggest legacies, appointing conservative judges on the bench. he'll hammer home the anti abortion record and try to paint joe biden as extreme. paint him as extreme and part of the liberal democratic party establishment here, he's trying to keep some other white voters who do not like some other women voters who do not like him necessarily to avoid going to joe biden. joe biden will try to present a sense of calm and he is in control here and he would change the direction of this country. he knows people are exhausted and he's going to be talking to
women, as well, particularly on obamacare and link himself to a former president, the obama administration on obamacare and talk about that specifically. not going after necessarily the supreme court appointment of judge amy coney barrett but talking about why it matters with obamacare. for all of this here, wolf, the back and forth, women are a pivotal vote here and both sides are going after them. donald trump knows he does not need to get people to like him but he's trying to keep the slide from continuing to joe biden. >> very good point. jeff zeleny, thank you. as we head into tonight's debate, cnn is committed to putting facts first. our fact checker daniel dale will be skrcrutinizing every wo. you've been warming up and looking at claims that are likely probably most certainly going to come up including this one by president trump about biden's health care plan. listen to this. >> the biden plan would destroy social security and destroy
protection for people with preexisting conditions. we will always protect patients with preexisting conditions, always, always. >> so daniel, what do you make of that claim by the president? >> wolf, these claims about preexisting conditions are not only false but up is down reversal of reality. these protections for preexisting conditions were created by obamacare when of course, vice president biden was vice president. biden is now running on preserving and strengthening that law, the affordable care act. trump has reported republican bills that would have significantly weakened those protections in obamacare and his administration is in court trying to get the judges to strike down the entirety of obamacare. wolf, that's one of the things i'm looking for. number one, the disparity tonight. the substance of the false claims is important but so is the count. is one candidate making far more false claims than the other? number two from trump, does he go down the conspiracy rabbit
holes that play well with fox news but a general audience may not be familiar with and make false claims on subjects he's most frequently dishonest with. number one is the coronavirus pandemic, number two is voting by mail and number three is biden's record as we saw in the clip, he has positions to biden if biden does not hold. from biden, well, when he talks about his senate record, he denies things that are on the record that he did during his past political career. for example, he'll claim he always opposed the iraq war from the moment it started. that's not true. biden is sometimes fuzzy on numbers and he'll exaggerate intentionally or unintentionally and occasionally make up a story. we had a story during the democratic primary he claims he got arrested trying to visit nelson mandela in prison. that didn't happen. >> he'll be fact checking every word and here with us on cnn, as well. as we close in on the debate in
hall as president trump and former vice president biden prepare to take the stage for their first debate. let's bring in somebody that debated joe biden and sparred with donald trump in other venues, elizabeth warren of massachusetts, thanks for joining us. appreciate it. >> thank you. i'm delighted to be with you. >> president trump and vice president biden's records are one of the key topics in tonight's debate. "the new york times" reported president trump paid just $750 in federal income taxes in 2016 and then again in 2017. you've accused the president of tax scams, but are you actually accusing the president of committing a crime or is what he did -- i mean, i haven't seen evidence what he did was illegal. >> we don't know at this point. not enough detail has come out. but you know, here is the thing, yeah, it shows just how skeezy donald trump is and tells us something else and that is how badly broken our tax system is. notice you make the assumption
this may be perfectly legal. yeah, it may be legal because the tax system itself is broken. and remember, what is donald trump's signature achievement over the time that he has been president? and that is a trillion and a half dollar tax cut, a break that went to billionaires, went to giant corporations. his tax scandal is the reminder of exactly what's broken in america, why donald trump needs to go and why we need joe biden as president. >> know, i heard a trump suchri christie. >> have it at, chris christie. are you kidding me? joe biden was out of the white
house, out of the senate when the republicans, can i say that again? the republicans all of them made their major signature this is what we're going for is we're going to cut taxes for the richest and most powerful people in this country. by the way, should i say they followed it up with their second big, big effort and that is let's take away health care from tens of millions of americans and take away protection for people with preexisting conditions only that one failed ultimately in the senate by a single vote. that's been it. they want to cut taxes for the rich and powerful and take away health care from everyone else. that's the republican plan. >> let's talk about what we're going to see in just a few minutes. the debate donald trump is fair to say both an unpredictable and combative debater. you have debated with joe biden. how is he on the stage?
>> joe is going to do fine. he's going to do great. what he's going to show us is what he's been showing us for the whole campaign. he's going to show us that he really has a plan. he believes in government on the side of the people and that means in this case, a plan for dealing with covid. a plan for dealing with an economy that just keeps tumbling further and further down. a plan to deal with racial injustice in this country and a plan to bring some basic decency and fairness back to the white house. >> what do you think joe biden should do when president trump says something about him that is not true? whether a run of the mill political lie or a more devious smear? we've been told that the moderator chris wallace of fox does not intend to serve as any sort of truth squad. do you think that joe biden should try to truth squad the president or should he -- is
that a trap and he should focus instead on what he wants to do for the american people? >> joe biden doesn't need my advice. i know he will give his vision for what needs to be done in this country. and that's what americans want to hear. they want to hear someone can be president who cares. who actually cares about them and who is invested in making our government work competently. i never would have thought that we would turn an entire presidency on this but look where we are. 200,000 americans have died from covid-19. and here we are seven months into this pandemic and donald trump and his administration still don't have a plan for dealing with it. they said to the rest of america, you're on your own hope you can figure this out.
we need someone like joe biden who has a good heart and wants to have a government that is basically competent and will run a strong competent government. >> in addition to the constituents that you've lost, massachusetts lost to the coronavirus, i should note that you also lost your beloved brother to the virus. there are millions of americans out there who on the subject of the virus think the president is doing a good job. they have faith and hope for the therapeutics and vaccine and blame china for the virus and they think that the human loss is tragic but not president trump's fault. what would you say to them? >> the way i see this is we asked for our government to be on the side of the people. you know what that would have meant last january, last february? it would have meant getting masks and ordering tests and getting people ready. it would mean always talking
about the science. it would mean always putting the lives of our people first. but no, that isn't how donald trump has done this. it's always been all about donald trump. he got up at those press conferences over and over and over and he touted false science and worried about his own ratings. not about the fact that we were losing brothers and sisters, moms and dads, children. people have died because donald trump refused, refused to put in place a plan for our nation. that is fund mentally wrong and on november 3rd, people across this country are going to hold that man accountable. >> senator elizabeth warren, thanks so much and again, our deepest condolences on the loss of your brother and may his memory be a blessing. we'll take a quick break before the first trump, biden presidential debate begins. back in a moment.
in the tubbs fire. the flames, the ash, it was terrifying. thousands of family homes are destroyed in wildfires. families are forced to move and higher property taxes are a huge problem. prop 19 limits taxes on wildfire victims so families can move without a tax penalty. nineteen will help rebuild lives. vote 'yes' on 19. and welcome back. you're looking inside the debate hall in cleveland,
ohio. we're about 30 minutes away from
a truly potentially epic battle debate. who knows exactly what it is going to be. david axelrod, you've been with president obama predebate. what are the candidates doing right now do you think? >> well, they're collecting themselves and probably with aids who are not prepping them but just kind of encouraging them and, you know -- >> that time is done. >> yeah, you're not going to be -- if you're prepping now, you got some deep problems, whatever they are going to do, they are going to do. you want to get them in the right frame of mind. i don't know what it's like to prep donald trump for a debate because he approaches this in a different way. he's an entertainer. >> is there a danger? joe biden is used to debates that, you know, he talks about a record, someone else talks about their record, they attack each other's records. donald trump is -- can
be playing a different game. >> that's a big issue. you know, we heard elizabeth
warren talk about him talking about his vision and the president he'll be. jeff zeleny wants to project calm. it's really hard to do when you have the guy six feet away in your grill all the time and interrupting you and -- >> if he remains six feet away. >> he will. think of it this way. it's like you're joe biden and playing a nice folk song on your guitar and here comes this guy with a chainsaw coming at you. that will be the difference. there are biden rules that he has ocabided by during 47 yearsf debates and those are the rules he's used to. he knows donald trump. he watched the hillary clinton debates, obviously, probably over and over again but he's never experienced anything like this. >> listen, i wouldn't be surprised because the rules say you can't walk over and shake hands, trump might just walk over. you have no idea what trump is
going to do and i think that's going to be incumbent upon biden to know why he's there and for whom he's there. that's the thing. if it becomes i'm feeling insulted and i want to have my 1973 vote -- if it is biden down a rabbit hole. >> he can't. >> there are two bidens. there is a biden deeply offended to what is happening to ordinary people. what he stands and delivers for that. when he speaks from that, he is powerful but he could go either way. >> yeah, by the way, we're watching president trump's motorcade arriving at the hall. sorry. >> i did 30 presidential debates. of usualyoul obviously, not as a nominating party. several things if i'm in the biden camp, this is what i worry about. number one, an hour and a half continual debate. and most presidential debates, you know, primary debates, you have commercial breaks and have a chance to go to the bathroom or talk to somebody and get a
sense of how you're doing and get a little feedback. you're out there. you're on the island. you have no idea. i know david mentioned that president obama after the first break, i thought i did pretty good. when you're out there, you don't know. you think, you think, you're in the moment. you're not looking at like how am i doing? that never -- so what happens particularly an hour and a half continuing with no break, you can get into completely away from all the things that you were briefed on because you just become in the moment and it's survival. you're out there on the island and you're surviving so all of this stuff -- my point is, he's 77 years old. he's been doing this for a long, long, long time and you can train him and train him and train him but once you're on that island for a long period of time, you snap back to things you feel comfortable doing. >> the same for president trump, frankly. >> yeah. >> in a different way. >> we know he's going to do
that. >> president trump doesn't prep. >> one of the final debates in the last time around, the second one, the intensity on that stage. >> it's debilitating. >> i've done primaries where it's 16 people but to have it be down to two, it's like the -- >> when you're preparing for these things, what you want to do is you want to reduce the guesswork. you want to anticipate what is going to happen and if you've prepared well, your team knows what you're going to say when a subject comes up when the line comes that you expect to hear from the president for example. your team will know because you've practiced it and you've rehearsed it and that's what you got to hope for. >> what does each need to do tonight? >> if i'm joe biden, i'll take everything donald trump says and turn it to covid. do you care about these 200,000 people that died? would it be like to have a
president who believes in science? talk to the american public. don't talk to donald trump. give him a flick of the wrist as we were talking about. let him insult you and go to the american public. there he does it again. let's talk about your family. >> what does joe biden convincing the american public of and what is president trump trying to convince the public of? >> trump will say you've been in office forever and never did anything, you suck. he'll try to make it seem like joe biden is the establishment and the failed establishment. i think biden has to point out he has a record. he has -- when you talk about inheriting a complete disaster, that's a record. when you have a broken health care system and getting health care to millions of people, that's a record. when you talk about the violence against women, you have -- your opponent is bleeding women, you've done something for women. he has got to remember what he has done and deliver on that and be ready for trump to throw punches he's not expecting. trump will come after biden on the question of race.
trump is going to say listen, i did more than you guys did on black colleges and criminal justice and opportunity zones and i don't think biden has ever been challenged in that way. so he's going to have to say listen, he's got to come back and say listen, covid hurt more people black. your recovery didn't help. this is going to be something i think you'll see biden having to defend himself on race and what he's never had to do from the republicans. >> what is interesting, he'll bring up, i expect the president will bring up the '94 crime bill which is an interesting thing to attack biden being weak on crime and for a bill you think too zealo zealous. that is likely to happen. i think that is true but if the night is dealing with a record, that would be file your and the pivots he has to make. the supreme court comes up, it should be about people with
preexisting conditions. trufr trump's taxes come up, it should be who he benefitted. he has to project a sense here is a better way here. >> trump -- >> trump never talks about the future. >> yeah. >> so, you know, he never talks about what he's going to do for the next four years. that's what biden needs to do. >> that's his weak point. that's where donald trump is going to turn him into a socialist. is he for fracking or against? that will be a big issue. on the issue of the courts, is he for stacking the court or against stacking the court? joe biden has tried to walk this razor's edge of being a cheerleader for the socialist and at the same time saying i'm the reasonable guy here and i'm not going to do crazy things and answer these questions clearly and if he doesn't, then you come into the question is he up to it? if he dodges, which he's done so far, is he up to it?
>> i see it differently. you have created a real trap for yourse yourself. he seems like a socialist and he's done it against bernie over and over again. think that's going to be to biden's benefit. >> to your point, rick, the question of is he up to it, you know, on fox news it's all over he's not up to being president. joe biden isn't up to being president. joe biden has to be commander in chief tonight. and. >> i agree. he has to be strong. >> but he has to be as strong as donald trump. what does that say honestly? so, you know, joe biden during this campaign has been out there. he has done a bunch of interviews, answered -- >> he has not done a lot of campaigning for the past six months. let's be honest. >> he's on a different campaign. >> i think, rick, on the
socialist point, one of the most effective lines on the campaign is when biden turned to the camera and said look at me. do i look like a mob loving? it made the whole thing seem absurd. this is the big problem donald trump has because joe biden is culturally inconvenient. he's an old, white catholic working class guy who does not -- who is moderate and does not look and does not look like -- >> over the years. >> over the last six, eight, over the last year. he's changed -- >> listen, we watch the primary. he almost lost the primaries because he wasn't left enough. the left was not happy about him winning the primaries. i had a conversation the other day and bernie sanders said look, i'm way to the left of joe on a bunch of stuff and we'll fight about it after election day. so i understand the tactic. >> if joe -- that's what republicans are looking at.
is joe going to be able to stand up to the socialist and, you know, tonight we'll see. >> the question if biden frames it right is not who is going to be driving the car but what about the car that this guy just crashed? >> yeah. >> you can't -- donald trump did not create the coronavirus. >> no. you -- >> he's vulnerable on it. >> worse than every other global leader period. and so no, he didn't create it but he mismanaged it so badly that we have almost a quarter of the cases and only 4% of the world population. there is one more thing i want to get to. i think that this question around the economy is a jump ball. because i think that trump created enough of himself he was doing great on the economy and then this knocked him off course. >> it's the lowest rate of black unemployment in history. i mean, let's face it -- >> the conversation, first of all, obama was moving things in a better direction and then it slowed down under trump -- >> let's get back into the
debate -- >> let's not bring up the past. >> what does trump have to do tonight on the economy? >> well, my point is simply this. i think if biden can take away from trump this mythology he was doing great, going into the ditch before corona, i think that the jump ball on the economy, if he can -- if biden can make the case for himself, i'm not only going to handle this pandemic better, i'm going to handle the economy better. that's essentially what he's got to be able to do. if he can pull those off, that's great for him. >> that's where he uses the recovery. he put obama in charge of the recovery. >> black people got a lot out of the recovery act under obama. what was done under this president when it came time to recover from this covid virus, african americans got left out. latinos got left out. that's a true fact. if we want to have a conversation, biden has the
case. >> you look at polling on the tax cut and you pause it should we have used that money for $1.5 trillion in tax cuts skewed to the wealthy or on health care and education and medicare and social security, that is a dead bang winner for -- >> it's not a dead bang winner when you propose close to $4 trillion biden has to defend a record of having voted for 116 tax increases while he was in the united states senate. he is someone that is for bigger and bigger government, which most americans i think are convinced that higher taxes and more regulation don't lead to better jobs. >> who has the deficit grown under? >> both administrations, unfortunately. >> let's check in with jake and wolf. >> thanks. appreciate it. abby and dana, one of the things i'm wondering about right now is so let's say that i'm an undecided voter in pennsylvania in middle pennsylvania and i like trump's policies but i'm
concerned about his tweets and maybe i'm unsure about the covid response and really undecided. does going after hunter biden, does going after joe biden in a nasty and personal way beyond just normal political combat, does that win me over? i don't know that it does, right? if you already kind of like don't like the tweets? >> the temperament issue is a problem with donald trump but, you know, prologue looking back at 2016, this was true then, too. he never shied aafrway from the antics and the bringing of bill clinton's accusers to a debate. i mean, he really leaned into the very things people thought made him unpresidential. i would not put it past him to go in that same direction tonight. the question really is whether biden is able to make a case that he's more presidential than trump and that it matters to them.
it has to matter to people because a lot of these same undecided voters will say i don't like his personality but i like my tax bill or i like the economy. >> you're absolutely right. you're on to something, jake. advisors are very well aware that hillary clinton is not joe biden. that if you look at just when the question of whether or not they're likable, hillary clinton was about the same level as donald trump was then and is now but joe biden isn't. people like him better than they like both of the other candidates and that does matter when they perceive how donald trump goes after him. the trump campaign, people around him think he doesn't have a choice because right now it is completely a referendum on donald trump and he needs to make it a contrast debate whether it's not just me, it's about whether you want me or this guy and that's why they're going to be as aggressive as possible. i was told for the first 30
minutes, he has been prepped to be as aggressive and on the offense as much as he possibly can. >> i could see that definitely. that's just also who he is but i also think like this entire campaign is a contrast. that is -- right? isn't that what joe biden is trying to do calling a lid early in the day so reporters understand he's not going to be in the news that day. he's trying to be a president you don't have to think about every minute of the day. >> right. you know this, the term contrast when you're the incumbent, this isn't just me. do you want me or the person who is on the other side of the stage because you think you don't like me, but if you don't have me, it will be me or him. so the whole goal of any income be bent especially this one to make the guy that wants his job undesirable. >> one of the things you said about that level of energy that donald trump brings to a stage like this is really important. not for all of the reasons that the trump campaign wants to make it important. the sort of falsehoods about
performance enhancing drugs but i do think that as biden is trying to sort of be the adult in the room, he can't be so boring that he puts people to sleep. i really do think that it's got to be -- he has to match trump energy for energy on the stage. that's easier said than done when you try not to get into it, trying not to get into the gutter. that is one of the big challenges for biden. how do you find a happy middle ground when you're the adult but you're not, you know, the boring guy or you don't seem like you have, you know, as much sort of enthusiasm for the job as -- i mean, trump makes the stage and everything about him. >> sure. >> and makes everything that he says about himself seem really great. >> absolutely. look, he does have a certain -- both men have charisma and donald trump is certainly a much more vigorous person and try to draw that contrast all the time. what if president trump is asked a question and he does what he normally does, which is kind of
just a word salad and pivots and attacks joe biden and then chris wallace goes to joe biden and what if joe biden were to say as the aud ddult in the room, he dt answer your question. i'm willing to give my time to him so he answers your question because he doesn't have an answer, chris. >> that could be a very good tactic. the downside, i think, from the biden prospective and the way they prepped him is to own the stage. and it's hard to own the stage if you're giving up your time to somebody that proved they don't have an answer and the other thing is, if passed the prologue, donald trump didn't have a lot of answers in 2016, hillary clinton did. >> now he has a record. now he has a record. >> sometimes this brings up a very important point about tonight. we're going into a debate in which everybody wants to say i'm not the fact checker when donald trump is given his two minutes or however long he's given to speak, often times, the answers are just not true. it's an asemimet tri asemimet t
situation where president trump says things that are not true and that's more often than people in the political spear. there is a challenge where biden has to manage somebody who is a much more prolific liar and teller of falsehoods and particular issue, the economy. there is nothing the president likes to inflate more than his misstatements of the obama biden record and his own record on the economy. biden will be hard to let that slide. >> you're exactly right. there is a fine line from the perspective of the biden campaign. again, how i'm told they prepped him, which is you can't be fact checking all night long because by definition, you are going to be playing on donald trump's turf. there will be moments, though, where he's not going to have a choice but to jump in and say mr. president, you're just wrong. he has to pick his moments because he doesn't want to be the fact checker. >> there are facts -- i mean,
the run of the mill lies that politicians tell, there is the abundance of run of the mill lies president trump tells and then there are just the vile smears that we've heard from this campaign at which we've never had before in american history. let's go to wolf blitzer now. >> jake, i want to bring in cnn political director david. set the stage for us on tonight's debate specifically cnn's exclusive instant poll that will give us a quick read on who won. >> setting the stage of the mission for donald trump, i want to pick up on something you just heard. dana bash mentioning. this is the entire mission. making this election about joe biden as much as it is about donald trump. donald trump has failed to do that wolf, the entirety of this campaign. he couldn't do it across the four nights of his republican national convention. we're five weeks away from election day. he has to follow the successful reelection models of president bush in 2004 against john kerry,
of president obama in 2012, against mitt romney. they successfully made what is inherently a referendum, incumbent going before the american people saying this is why you should rehire me. donald trump has failed to do that with joe biden to date. tonight, is one of the last best chances for him to do so. people are voting. so those are the stakes tonight for the president who enters this as the underdog. you mentioned the poll. one of the things i'm fascinated to see coming out of tonight's debate in our instant poll, wolf, not only will we learn from debate watchers who they think won the debate, but we're also going to see if opinions on the candidates changed from going into the debate before the debate started and then did anything change coming out of the debate in terms of their opinion of joe biden or donald trump? another thing, wolf, we'll check in with on folks is who they think can better handle the
issues. you've gone through the big six topics, we'll learn on major issues, who the debate watchers think trump or biden will do a better job handling those key issues. >> i want to check in on what is happening now on the stage as we await the >> i want to check in on what's happening right now on the stage. take a look. people are talking up there, we're only a few minutes away from the start of this debate. it's going to need a significant moment.
in moments, we expect first lady melania trump and vice president joe biden's wife to be coming into the room chris wallace. both candidates will come out, they will not shake hands for the regulations. because of covid 19. that has not occurred. he did not shake hands with hillary clinton given the tensions. just in the last couple minutes for folks who are tuning in. what are the key flags you're going to be looking for in this. >> i think the one that's been mentioned around the table. how does biden navigate trump's antics, and his -- if he says something that's untrue, what does he do? if he says something provocative and personal, how does he handle it, and still maintain that presidential demeanor and talk
to the country about the future he envisions and the change he would bring? >> you know, trump is going to be relentlessly asymmetrical. he's going to attack from every angle. and the question is, how does biden handle that. how does he pivot from these insults and attacks, what he would lead the country in the future and not go down those rabbit holes that david was talking about before and get locked into a you're a liar, you're a liar, you're a liar kind of debate. >> show man versus statesman is what you're going to see. you're going to have someone do a bunch of comedic high jinx. trump is going to try to get those viral moments. biden has to stand there long enough to lock it in with his character and empathy. >> if that happens, trump won't be the president after this. i don't think that's going to
happen. i think don ald trump will be for the first minute be on attack and whether they ask a question about him, he will turn it and attack. this will be an hour and a half of joe biden just getting beat up, because i think they believe that they have to make this race about joe biden number one, and they don't believe he can stand up under the pressure. >> can't biden turn back and say, where was your leadership during covid? >> i'm just saying, prepare for an hour and a half street fight. >> if it becomes a scum, and biden is standing at the end of it, he has done what he needs to do. >> it's one of the reasonings this president hasn't been able to define joe biden for a variety of reasons. >> when you're running a campaign. you want to make that challenger as much of an issue as you. they have not been able to do that. with biden they've tried many
different avenues and they haven't been able to make one stick. now we're 34 days out. it's getting late to do that, this debate is really crucial. if they're going to open up some wounds here that are going to mean something. 24 debate is going to have to produce that. >> i think what i've seen, every time people attack joe biden it backfires. castro went after biden and he disappeared. kamala went after biden and she got out of the race. there's something about joe biden, he has testify lone, i don't think -- beat up joe biden. beat up one of the most beloved people in the country. someone who's buried half his family. i don't think this is going to go the way they think it's going to go. if they do what you just said, that may help biden more than it hurts him. >> you know the old reagan line, there you go again. joe biden can use that against donald trump if he continues to
attack him, joe biden can smile at him and say, okay, that's a lie and go on. i think -- i am sure actually, that they have responses ready made for him to just flick something back at the president and then turn and take it back to him. >> republicans believe that joe biden has lost more than just a step. and they believe that an hour and a half of a smackdown will tell -- that will come -- become evident. that's what i think -- >> that is a gamble that if they're willing to take -- >> i'm not saying they're -- they need more than republicans. >> they're in a position that they have to take. >> you need more than republicans, you have to persuade others. if you look at this polling and ask, who has the mental acuity to be president, they're pretty even in this regard, they have a lot of ground to make up here. >> last thing -- >> if they're playing to your base, that's fine. >> i think you do have people
who are in the democratic coalition right now, who they want to vote, because they want to vote against donald trump, they also need some reassurance tonight. it's not just republicans who need that reassurance. democrats need that reassurance too that he's tough enough, he's strong enough. if you remember, when he was in that big old mix of all the other democrats, he's looking lost and cut himself off. once it got down to he and bernie, i think joe has a lot to say, and wants to say it and will say it tonight. >> don't forget, one thing i'm thinking of, look at the debates in 2016, the old trump thing, what do i have to lose. not as much as he has to lose now. he has a lot to lose now. it's going to be tough. >> how do you see the debates starting just in terms of topics. >> isn't it hard for the tax thing not to be high up in this -- >> as a occasional moderator.
>> those are two most recent news, the court nomination and taxes. you would lead with -- >> sometimes, something so obvious, the taxes, for instance, you might go covid with the -- the interrupt family entering. >> the only reason wallace doesn't lead with the attacks, it's leading with an antagonistic topic, and i think coming out of the box. that may look -- i think we'll look -- i think we'll make chris look like he's taking sides. >> you can make the argument as a moderator he doesn't need to be introduced first. biden is going to mention it. >> you're not setting the table picking one side's weak point. >> you know, your point, rick about whether biden can execute on what gloria suggests, which is to hit and pivot. hit and pivot. we're going to know very quickly
i think because of what you said, because the president is going to be attacking him from the start, and we'll know if he has a strategy to deal with that, i think we'll get a sense early in the -- >> here's the point again -- hour and a half, no breaks, nobody to talk to, not getting any feedback, whether that strategy is actually working. because he may stick to that strategy, whether it's working or not. that's what he was trained to do, he may be sticking to it, and the fact that trump keeps hammering him, he's thinking, it's not working, i have to change. unless you're out there on that stage, you have to live that. you have no idea what's going on. >> in debates, if you look at the ones with clinton -- donald trump is doing a jazz performance. he's riffing on what's happening. >> yeah, he's commenting. >> it's annoying. he's enjoying it, and the other person is not enjoying the experience.
>> the point is, it's debilit e debilitating. it's over time, an hour and a half. >> i want to say one thing we haven't talked about, the families are both there, and these are two very -- these are two men who love their families, they're very very committed. i'm curious what's going to happen. hey, listen, i have to tell you, listen. i -- trump is proud to be a trump. biden is proud to be a biden. when the family issues hit, and they will hit. there will be issues raised about hunter. we're going to see, how does he handle that. also, some of this family stuff is now fair game because of this tax stuff. you may be in a situation where you have two dads proud of their families and proud of themselves, in a kind of a family feud which is apart of national life. >> we're talking about biden getting hit and then pivoting. but i think biden's going to hit back a little bit too. i do.
i don't know if it's on family per say, van. but i do think there are going to be issues that biden's going to go right back at him. >> we're just minutes away. let's go back to jake. >> it's a huge night, and we're minutes away from it, dana, closing thoughts as we prepare for this big moment? >> this is really one of the most important moments we've seen in politics, certainly since we've all been covering it, definitely for me. because of the reason that we were talking about, we are in a pandemic, and people haven't really been able to see these candidates in the traditional ways that we usually see candidates, especially at this late stage of the game. this is a high stakes moment no matter what year, but especially now. >> that's first lady melania trump walking in with a mask. all of her family walked in with masks. >> you can't forget the fact that we are aou