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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Michelle Obama, Bernie Sanders and John Kasich Make the Case for Biden on Night One of DNC; Kasich on Voting for Biden: Party Takes Second Place to Responsibility; UNC-Chapel Hill Pivots to Online Learning after COVID-19 Outbreak; CNN Poll: Biden and Trump Matchup Tightens. Aired 12-1a ET

Aired August 18, 2020 - 00:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[00:00:00]

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DAVID AXELROD, CNN HOST: Activities as a public official link up to his commitments to people and that's a great contrast with Trump.

So I think you're going to watch for the rest of this next week then fleshing out the portrait of Biden culminating in his own speech on Thursday night. And that will be a great accomplishment going into next week, when the Republicans will try to take him apart.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: That's it for us, "The Brady Bunch." (INAUDIBLE) reference. We've got much more ahead. Chris Cuomo, Don Lemon pick up our coverage right now.

(MUSIC PLAYING)

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: Opening night of the 2020 Democratic National Convention. Our special live coverage continues now on CNN. Hey, everybody, Chris Cuomo and Don Lemon coming at you.

And, boy, did we get a reminder of the strange times we are living in tonight. A convention with no convening. A virtual convention for the Democrats, of course, because of the crippling pandemic.

The question is, did they make it work?

Not just in terms of its translation of programming but its message.

Will it be effective enough to widen the vice president's lead over Trump?

Is there even a real lead?

Everything is questions. Tonight, they had to start to answer, Don.

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: And speaking of strange times, look at what time we're on.

CUOMO: I know. LEMON: I overslept.

And still, we almost didn't make it to the set on time.

It's been a fascinating night in the sense, Chris, that it's -- this is different. I know everyone has been saying -- it's a cliche -- an unconventional convention. And it has been an unconventional convention.

Imagine trying to do this for the first time, Chris, put this together, no audience, social distancing, no reaction to your speeches.

I mean, it was -- the one who had the most -- probably, the most energy was, what?

Bernie Sanders, right?

And then, there was Michelle Obama. They both helped to kick off night one of this convention. The former first lady, directly, taking on the man who succeeded her husband, in a way that we haven't really seen, before. Check this out.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHELLE OBAMA, FORMER FIRST LADY: Let's be clear. Going high does not mean putting on a smile and saying nice things when confronted by viciousness and cruelty. Going high means unlocking the shackles of lies and mistrust with the only thing that can truly set us free: the cold, hard truth.

So let me be as honest and clear as I possibly can. Donald Trump is the wrong president for our country. If you take one thing from my words tonight, it is this. If you think things cannot possibly get worse, trust me, they can and they will if we don't make a change in this election.

If we have any hope of ending this chaos, we have got to vote for Joe Biden like our lives depend on it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: You know, it's very interesting. The whole thing, of course, Don, feels a little bit like an infomercial, right?

It can't avoid that. It's just like something you see at this time of night on the East Coast, where someone's going to say, you know "and that's why this insurance is the best for my" -- they couldn't get away from that. It's one on one with the camera. Bernie Sanders.

What was his job?

His job was, listen, if you like me, like Biden. Don't stay home. Don't do what happened last time. I'm all in, in a different way this time.

LEMON: That was a lot more than we got last time, don't you think?

CUOMO: Absolutely -- well, we'll see. I mean, he'd say no, right?

He'd say I did everything they asked me to do. There was a whole story. Everybody's got a lot of excuses for failure.

Michelle Obama, now that we're not used to. All the lefties are patting on the back.

Oh, she's so good.

No kidding. No kidding, she's your best communicator. She just happens to not be your candidate.

So was she able to communicate a message tonight, other than Trump stinks, that will motivate people to want to come out and be part of something better?

You think she made it or not?

LEMON: I think she did. But here's -- here's the thing. I think you do need as much as you can get, right?

You need as much ammo, especially with this particular candidate, who is the most unusual and unorthodox candidate for president I think that we have ever seen. And the most unorthodox president, yes.

But Chris, as you know, don't underestimate the power of people not liking the opponent. Democrats, a lot of people don't like this president. Several Republicans spoke out tonight. I think that was unprecedented, in some ways, to see so many on the first night.

[00:05:00]

LEMON: Will there be more in the coming days?

I don't know. I expect there will be. But yes, I think they need a lot more. You are absolutely 100 percent right. Well, Trump stinks but don't underestimate that, as well.

CUOMO: Let's see. Let's see what the big brains say. We got the political team, the power team. Mitch Landrieu, Karen Finney and Dr. Abdul El-Sayed.

Good to have you all. God bless your families.

Finney, let me start with you. We know what Trump is not, in the opinion of the Democrats.

The question is what are you that's better?

How do you feel this night went, in terms of answering that all- important question?

KAREN FINNEY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think this night was about starting the conversation with the American people, that's going to unfold over these four nights. And starting with the premise.

I think we heard a lot about how Joe Biden is a good, decent human being. And there was a real contrast in the -- in terms of the character of Joe Biden versus Donald Trump and the character of the kind of country that we want to be, that we're trying to become in -- as we recover from the Trump presidency and the kind of America that Trump has led us to.

And, look, the other big message from tonight was to build a bridge, frankly, to folks who may have voted for Trump in 2016 and are thinking about voting for Joe Biden, to give them a bridge message to come on over to Joe Biden as well as to start to rally the troops.

I mean, this is an unprecedented election and we need people to be excited and enthusiastic. And as Senator Sanders and Michelle Obama reminded us, do not take it for granted. Do not try to vote for people, you don't even know who they are, because you think you can. As we saw in 2016, you can't take it for granted.

So I think it was a good first night.

CUOMO: All right. Karen, very smart. Right?

Mitch Landrieu, we all know that. But the idea of starting the conversation tonight, it's too late for the start of the conversation. The question becomes, let's say, I think Joe Biden's a good guy. He's a better guy than Donald Trump. Now that's a low bar in terms of basic character and decency.

And why does the president get such forgiveness on a lack of character?

Because they don't expect it from politicians.

So the fact that Biden's a better guy, so what, Mitch?

Isn't this about, well, who do we think will do a better job in this snake pit of Washington politics?

MITCH LANDRIEU, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think to a certain extent that's true. But I think what was driven home tonight is character matters because character's going to drive a better policy. Character believes in diversity. Let's show you what it looks like.

Tonight was explosive in the -- in the breadth of diversity, not only African American and white people of color, but you have Republicans talking tonight, primary -- prime Republicans, who talked about, you know, being able to work.

Then, you jump to Bernie Sanders on the progressive side, who said, yes, I don't agree with him but I can work with him.

And then you had Michelle Obama bring it home. And I think she just stole the president's lunch money today with his own line, when she said he's not up to the job. It is what it is. So I think character really matters in terms of trying to make sure

the American people are going to be safe and secure. And Donald Trump's lack of character has made you less safe. It's made us more sick. And it's made us much more susceptible to being hurt.

Joe Biden's a good guy but he's smart, he's been around. He can bring people in. He could bring a big tent and he is going to make your life better. And I thought they did a pretty good job of that tonight.

CUOMO: So, Doc, Michelle Obama, is obviously someone who's going to deliver a compelling message but, again, that's not the measure of the moment. Her being able to deliver a speech, a message and be cogent and compelling, of course, she can. She's very talented.

Does it help Joe Biden win, though, in terms of what they need to communicate, what they need to get people who are on the fence, who are not sure they trust the system anymore, That they can get anything better out of it?

Where do they go there?

DR. ABDUL EL-SAYED, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: So I want to step back and focus on the context. One of the unique aspects of this unconventional convention was you didn't have the rafters and the bunting.

They were able to meet this moment, in terms of the tone. This is a somber moment. It is a sad moment. We've lost 170,000 people. And what I think the combination of Bernie Sanders and Michelle Obama, in particular, did was to deliver the head and the heart.

The idea that this is a somber moment because of the incompetence and the failure of political leadership of this man and the reason why is because he's a profane human being. And that contrast between his profanity and the decency of somebody like Joe Biden, I think, was hit directly. And I actually think that's going to move a lot of people.

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EL-SAYED: Because the fact of the matter is, you know, you talk to suburban moms and they're asking, do I send my kid to school this year?

The fact is, they don't want to have to explain somebody like the president to their kids. And so, you are looking at this moment. I think they delivered that message beautifully by taking the context on and showing what it meant for this moment.

CUOMO: But, you know, Karen, when we talk about politics, what resonates?

We all have different quotes, you know, it's about feel. I've been using Stanley Kubrick. When you are telling a compelling story, it's not the think of it, it's the feel of it.

And when you had that young woman come out and talk about the pre- existing condition for her father was trusting Donald Trump, that emotion, the conveyance of the human reality of COVID.

Maybe you're not going to get it. Maybe you'll be asymptomatic. Maybe eight months from now we'll all be learning things about how we're all sick and we wish we hadn't gotten. But I lost my father and I didn't have to. That's what moves minds in politics, where you connect with somebody.

How big is that, in this campaign, for Biden?

FINNEY: Oh, it's huge. It's everything, because, you know, this is a man who is running on the premise that he's trying to heal the soul of America. So touching into those soul moments like that young woman.

And I'll tell you, Chris, one of the things I thought actually worked better on television, as we all watched and weren't able to be together. You know, if you are in the hall. It's big and up on the screen. And maybe you hear this young woman and you kind of catch her story.

We were all watching, together, as that young woman told that story. And it was so powerful. And I think that was part of what they were trying to do with the production tonight.

And I think we will see over the next several nights is, how do you see the decency of the American people, of the American journey in this moment?

Of the struggles that we are facing but the goodness of people and remind people in that feeling, that's what we want to get back to.

CUOMO: Mitch, I am going to come to you for last word.

But let me just ask something, Doc, real quick.

If you are feeling the Bern, are you feeling the Biden?

al-sayed: I think you are. I think Bernie Sanders put a nail on that. And there is a couple things that have been different this time around. The fact of the matter is that Joe Biden reached out to Bernie Sanders and said, how can we shape policy together?

I happen to sit on the Health Care Unity Task Force. And I think, with that shaping of the platform together, his ability, then, to say, look, this is the moment where we cannot ignore the clear and present danger to our democracy, that is Donald Trump, that really resonates because there really is some forging of unity there, rather than just papering it over.

CUOMO: Now, I'm with you on that.

But Mitch, I'm also wondering if this is a little bit of a hoisted on your own petard move for Biden because, while you got to make the progressives happy because they're so loud, overwhelmingly, your party's not that. And including the minority vote, is not that.

So how does Biden walk that line? He's got to walk it.

But how does he walk it?

LANDRIEU: Well, the -- his big pitch to the American people is he is going to be the big tent candidate. And today, you had people from all walks of life. You know, one of the questions, you asked about this, the feel.

How many American people watched tonight and can see themselves in the pictures and the words that were spoken tonight, whether they were coming from a politician, the ex-first lady or just the individuals? The farmer, the young lady who lost her father. I think a lot of people could see themselves and a yearning for the day when America could be decent and good and find a way back.

And so, tonight, overall, I thought it was a positive night for the Democrats. Of course, it's up to the president, to the vice president, to bring it home when he gives his speech. He is going to have to tie it all together. That's going to be his job. And I think he's going to be up to it. So we'll see.

CUOMO: Well, look. I mean, we've never seen, in our history, that when you have a dominant issue, that is problematic, right, war, famine, economic decline, that's what a presidency is judged on.

It is the first time in our history, not just modern history, history, where we have had a major crisis that the sitting president denied. If that is not a head start for your party, I don't know what is. The fact that this race is even close starts to raise questions about where this country is and what it wants.

Mitch, Karen, Doctor, thank you all three. I'll be talking to you plenty. God bless. Thank you for being with us on night one.

Now you heard it and it's all correct. There is nothing conventional about this election year. And yet -- and yet, the oldest questions about our elections are more true than ever.

Who's offering something better?

What do you actually believe in and how is that made manifest in an election?

That's the tough task for Democrats. How did they do on that?

Delivering something that will really matter -- not sell, matter -- next.

(MUSIC PLAYING)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[00:15:00]

(MUSIC PLAYING) CUOMO: So here we go. Night one. The Democratic Party just wrapping

up the first night of its virtual convention, first one, ever, really. And it was unlike any convention that we have seen before.

Let's discuss with our big brains, the smart folks here. Mr. Mark Preston, Chris Cillizza, Kirsten Powers, at least one big brain on the panel and that would be the woman, of course.

But we'll take the rest of you.

(LAUGHTER)

LEMON: Good evening or good morning, depending on where you are. Thank you so much. So listen. It's fascinating, what we saw tonight. We weren't sure what to expect.

Mark, I'm going to ask you, first. You have been to countless conventions. You've helped plan them. You know, we have done all this together before. Give me your take.

How would you rate tonight?

MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Well, you know, this is one of those instances, Don, where I think it's just very difficult to try to compare this to anything in the past. It didn't have the energy, didn't have the excitement. But that's because of the situation we're in right now.

COVID has sapped that all away. We are going to see the same thing happen next week. But what we did see, though, tonight, is that some people can push right through that. Michelle Obama is unbelievable. She is, clearly, one of the most talented political minds of our time right now.

[00:20:00]

PRESTON: The ability to deliver a message, like she was able to do tonight, is really remarkable.

And also Bernie Sanders as well, really gave an argument in a way that showed that he had sincerity about what he was saying about trying to get his supporters to back Joe Biden.

And look, John Kasich as well. I think when you add him into the mix, what all three brought to tonight was sincerity. And I think sincerity is what's going to shine through, no matter who's on stage speaking for the rest of the week or next week, Don.

LEMON: All right. I'm glad you said that because, listen, my -- my friend and co-anchor here, Chris, I think he's under -- Chris is not under the impression because he feels the way he feels about it. And he thinks that you've got to do more than just say how bad President Trump is and wondering if, tonight, they were able to go beyond that.

So I want to talk more about the people who spoke. And I have my ideas about what I thought about it. But Kirsten, let me just bring you in and talk about, before we get to

the speakers directly, what did you think of these pre-produced videos?

Did you think they were effective or like a long DNC infomercial?

KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Look. I think it's a very difficult format. Right?

So you have to count the -- you have to factor that into it. And based on the difficulty of the format, I think that it was, overall, very well done. I think that it didn't just talk about what was wrong with Donald Trump.

I think it sort of showed a -- it -- it harkened back, to a time, I think for a lot of people, where, you know, character and decency and coming together and being unified, you know, was -- was -- was something that was -- was part of our country.

Now granted, there's always been disagreements. But it hasn't been in the way it's been the last four years under the current president.

And so, I think that -- I think that it did a good job showing that. Obviously, Michelle Obama was the star of the night. It would be great if she could talk every single night.

(LAUGHTER)

POWERS: You know but I also -- but I think the other speeches were effective. You know, I heard some people saying they were cringing at some of the other parts of it with Biden talking, you know, talking to the different people about systemic racism.

I thought that was very effective. I liked it. I thought you could see -- you know, a lot of this was about, you know, Biden just being a good man. A decent man.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: They didn't have to -- they didn't really have to work that hard to contrast the two people.

But listen, listen to what you are saying, though. I'm wondering -- I use my -- you can bring the rest of the panel back in here because I want them to weigh in on this, too.

I use my 20-something and 30-something-year-old nieces, black women, as my focus group -- and my mother as my focus group, very motivated by Michelle Obama.

Kirsten, I'm going to let you finish this.

But I'm wondering if people were sitting at home, rather than being distracted, you know, by the crowd and the yelling and then, the broadcasters going back to it, you know, or speakers that we didn't necessarily think warranted the moment. Go back into a panel and then come back to the big speakers.

Listen, I'm wondering if you think people at home paid more attention and thought that this was more serious because of the time that we're in and because we didn't have all those distractions?

POWERS: Well, I mean, I hope so. I want to hear what your nieces and your mother thought about it, for sure. I have to say, I tend to have a very short attention span for these kinds of things. I don't tend to like conventions. I find them overly produced and they go on too long.

And this really did keep my attention. So I think that -- but like I say, I actually like to know what a real person thinks about it.

LEMON: OK. So here is the thing because we were talking about Michelle Obama, the former first lady, and what she -- if she convinced anybody otherwise.

I think, Chris, Democrats can use whatever motivation they can get, especially from younger people, right?

And from people who -- who may be on the more progressive side. Here is what my niece says, who is 30-something.

"I think the Dems brought their A game. I am looking forward to the rest of the convention."

I was actually surprised to hear her say that. I was expecting her to go, oh, it was a snooze fest, I was bored. She said the exact opposite, Chris.

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS EDITOR AT LARGE: Well (INAUDIBLE), right, that's exactly what you want to hear. I'd be interested --and obviously, you can't go back and reengineer this. But I would be fascinated to see what people (INAUDIBLE).

LEMON: Chris, we're having a tough time hearing you. Sorry about that. Yes.

Can -- can you get closer to the microphone, possibly?

Is that -- oh, your microphone is in your ear.

CILLIZZA: Yes, it's in my ear.

Any better, Don?

LEMON: Yes, it's better now. No, it's not. It's not better now.

So Mark, I'll give you that.

What do you think of what I just said?

PRESTON: Think that this is -- this is just an interesting situation that we're in right now, Don.

[00:25:00] PRESTON: We're at the expectation level that we're -- we're trying to compare this night to -- to other nights is very, very, very difficult. I just think that to do that -- however, I do think that when you put your A game at the end and you say the Democrats brought their A game, tonight is going to be remembered about Michelle Obama.

It's not going to be remembered for some of the slower parts of the night. And, look, let's give the Democrats and the Republicans next week, a little bit of rope here where they can take the situation and try to do the best that they can with it. And I think we saw Michelle Obama do that tonight and several others.

LEMON: Yes, and it was the first night. So let's see what happens the -- the rest of the convention. We still have three nights or, really, four up until Friday.

So listen, Chris, you're back, right?

CILLIZZA: I'm back.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: All right. There you go. So I want to play some of what we heard tonight. This is a woman named Kristin Urquiza, who recently lost her father to COVID-19. Take a listen to this. And then, we'll talk.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KRISTIN URQUIZA, DAUGHTER OF COVID-19 VICTIM: Late May, after the stay-at-home order was lifted in Arizona, my dad went to a karaoke bar with his friends. A few weeks later, he was put on a ventilator. And after five agonizing days, he died alone in the ICU with a nurse holding his hand.

My dad was a healthy 65-year old. His only pre-existing condition was believing Donald Trump. And for that, he paid with his life.

The coronavirus has made it clear that there are two Americas, the America that Donald Trump lives in and the America that my father died in. Enough is enough.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Very powerful. I don't know if that'll convince any of the -- the majority of Republican men who don't believe that this is serious, according to a recent poll.

But will moments like that stick from this convention?

CILLIZZA: Yes, it's interesting, Don. I think best speech of the night, Michelle Obama. Most powerful moment of the night, that could actually, to Cuomo's point, could actually sort of resonate.

I think that's -- that speech, that sort of testimonial, is it. That line, the only pre-existing condition he had was believing Donald Trump, that's a line that I think is powerful, someone speaking from a moment of personal tragedy, to the issue of the moment, to say, this election is about coronavirus and Donald Trump's handling of it.

This is a woman saying, my father trusted Donald Trump. He's dead now because of it.

And it's not a politician, right?

I think everyone tends to turn politicians out a little bit, even Michelle Obama. I know she's not a politician but a first lady. That testimonial, to me, was probably the emotional high point of the night.

I do think Obama's speech was quite good and she will get a lot of rightly deserved praise for it. That's the moment I think I'll remember the most out of the first night.

LEMON: Kirsten, is this what people will take in to those of us who are actually going into the office tomorrow, the few of us, or even talking on Zoom conversations, is this the takeaway, the former first lady?

POWERS: I think it was the first lady. I think that was a very, very powerful moment with the woman talking about her father dying. But I do think that Michelle Obama's -- she was -- it was like a mother talking to the country, basically, more in sorrow, almost, right?

It wasn't nasty. It wasn't, you know, people were sort of saying she was getting digs in. But I don't really think that's what she was doing. I think she was really just trying to say, look, this person cannot run the country and really, making it very clear how it only would have taken just a few people to turn out in -- in different districts, you know, in order, you know, for -- for the election to have gone differently.

And so, I think that those things, together, I think are very powerful.

LEMON: Yes.

(CROSSTALK)

CILLIZZA: And she spoke, Don -- she spoke like a normal person. She's not a politician. To add to Kirsten's point, she SAIFI: ,d I hate politics. You know me. I hate politics. That's powerful. I think it's very important.

She can connect in ways a politician -- I'll give you an example. Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer, I didn't think she was as effective, too political, too color by numbers. Michelle Obama, not like that, very direct, very normal human being,, which is harder to do that you might think in a setting like that.

LEMON: Yes, I got to get to a break but listen. One person I thought was very effective was John Kasich, who is also now a CNN contributor/analyst. I actually thought -- and I sent John a note tonight, just moments ago.

I thought his post analysis was, actually, better -- not that his speech wasn't good -- but I thought his post analysis and why he said he did what he did and where this country is and where Donald Trump stands with all of that, I thought he was spot on. This is the best that he's ever been.

So I hope that moment is online, and maybe we can play for you guys a little bit later on.

[00:30:12]

But thank you. I'm glad we got the technical difficulty worked out with you, Chris.

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS CORRESPONDENT AND EDITOR AT LARGE: Thank you.

LEMON: Thank you, guys. I'll see you soon.

You know who else is going virtual? Students at one of America's major universities, just one week after in-person classes began, due to a mass COVID outbreak. And other colleges have been taking a note.

Look at this. This is some very concerning video, scenes around campuses right now. This is Georgia, where masks not mandatory. What is this going to mean for our fight to crush this virus?

A former health commissioner for one of America's biggest cities, Dr. Leana Wen, she's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[00:35:03]

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Boy, oh, boy. You know, for me, this convention should be all about coronavirus. Why? Because it's a metaphor.

You know, as Kristin Urquiza is talking about her father and the pain of a loss, and his only pre-existing condition was believing Donald Trump. But it's the economic implications. It's the two Americas. It's how we take care of some people better than others. It's leadership. It's everything.

And we're seeing it, Don -- you know, Don and I talk about this stuff all the time when we're not on camera, how we can't believe that people don't get that COVID's real. And here we are, one week of in- person classes down in Georgia. We want to show you this video. Don showed it right before the break. But here they are, going back to school. Show the video.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(CROWD NOISES)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: University of North Georgia, Chris. I mean, look at that.

CUOMO: How can you do this? How can you think that this is going to be OK?

LEMON: OK, so we were both in college, right? That's in Dahlonega in Georgia, the University of North Georgia. We've both been in college.

CUOMO: That was the dream for me in college.

LEMON: I was going to say, we were -- and I'm not calling these kids knuckleheads. I'm talking about me. I was a knucklehead in college. I was -- you know, 18, 19, 20 year old, and you know, did -- we did crazy things.

I actually -- I put the onus on this for the adults.

CUOMO: Oh, sure.

LEMON: And for the people who believe that, in this moment, that -- listen, I don't have kids. You do. They can send our kids back to a college or high school or junior high, whoever, and they haven't seen their friends in six months and to expect them to social distance and always put on a mask.

Listen, I run out of the house and forget my mask sometimes, right? I've got to go back and grab it out of the car, ask the -- the proprietor of the business, I'm sorry, do you have a mask? I ran out and forgot it.

But, you know, these kids are -- they're going to do that, but think about that and now UNC. You know, the Tarheels saying, Look, we're going to go to all virtual classes. And I think many colleges and universities and schools are going to be doing this.

And I think to think in this moment, again, me that you can -- everybody, look -- let me just -- just preface this by saying, everyone wants kids to be back in school. Kids are missing out on a whole lot of learning, especially at certain ages. You've got to get certain things or it becomes --

CUOMO: I just want them out of the house.

LEMON: I know, you --

CUOMO: I don't care what they learn. I want them somewhere else.

LEMON: But think about it, I just think we're wasting our time thinking that we're going to send students back to school safely by the end of August or September, or even October. I think we've got to wait to see --

CUOMO: But we could've.

LEMON: Absolutely.

CUOMO: We could've. And that's why it's a metaphor for everything. Had we had a leadership, had we done it right. And now, look, it gets frustrating, because here in New York, you know, we have been doing a better job than other places. Well, then why aren't we in a better position?

LEMON: We took it seriously.

CUOMO: Because it's tough.

LEMON: We definitely took it seriously. Your brother helped shut it down, and we shut things down. We told people to wear a mask. We told people it was real. There was no waffling on what was real and what wasn't, should you wear a mask, should you not. We took it very seriously.

CUOMO: Andrew sent the right message, but you had to heed it. See, the difference in this state is, wearing a mask or not wearing a mask is not a political position.

LEMON: Right.

CUOMO: See, in Georgia, it's a political position.

LEMON: Yes.

CUOMO: That governor made it a political position, because he was echoing this president.

And look, you know, two things could be true at the same time. This president is not to blame for coronavirus. I don't know who or what is. But I'll tell you what: He owns the slow, inadequate and unsatisfying response.

And those kids being down there, I'm telling you, if we were down there with a camera, they wouldn't be saying, just I don't think there's any such thing as COVID, they would have a righteousness to their resistance. That is on Trump.

And the administrators of that school better get public, and they better get public real fast, because even though we're covering the conventions, we're going to be asking for their answer every night.

LEMON: Yes, you are right on. Listen, you say he's not to blame for it. He wasn't to blame for it in the beginning. He's to blame for what happened now. I guess we're saying the same thing. But you said he owns what's happened.

CUOMO: Yes, what I said it, it was more direct, a little bit more focused. But I was on vacation.

LEMON: Yes.

CUOMO: And you look good with the glasses.

LEMON: Thank you. I just want to get to -- I'm going to let you go for a second. I'm going to let you finish.

CUOMO: I'll take a nap.

LEMON: But I want to bring in a guest who -- a guest who can talk about this, because as we mentioned, we saw the University of North Georgia. We saw the University of North Carolina, where COVID is expected to infect 130 students -- excuse me, 130 students at the -- at North Carolina, Chapel hill. Can you believe that?

In this moment, we have all of this going on. We have Georgia. That's a hot spot. We have other places that are hotspots. And then we have, again, UNC saying, We're not going to do it. It's going to be virtual.

Let's bring in Dr. Leana Wen, CNN medical analyst and former Baltimore health commissioner.

Thank you. Before I got to you, I called you Lee-anna Wen. My apologies. As much as I've interviewed you on this network, I should know better, but thank you for joining us. Let's talk about this.

What did you think about what we just talked about? The editors at the UNC student newspaper, "The Daily Tarheel," responded to the university's decision to go to a fully remote system after one week, and the headline speaks for itself. I'm not going to read it, but there it is. A cluster-whatever; 130 students positive, hundreds more now exposed and in quarantine. How bad is this, Doctor?

[00:40:21]

DR. LEANA WEN, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: It's bad, Don, but I'm not surprised because, frankly, this is something that we anticipated all along. We knew that when there is this high of a level of community spread in so many parts of the country. And you bring students from all over to one place, and they're going to be exposed to the community, also.

So this is a very contagious disease. When people are getting together in large groups, no matter their age, no matter why they're there, we are going to see these outbreaks. And actually, I'm glad that they had the testing and the surveillance that's necessary to detect these clusters before they become huge outbreaks.

Because imagine if they didn't detect it in time. Imagine if this were a week later or two weeks later, how many more people would be infected?

So I think other universities and institutions, K through 12 schools also should take heed and should be prepared to switch to virtual. They should absolutely prepare for not if, but when there is an outbreak and just be ready to pivot and take quick action rapidly.

LEMON: I wonder if you agree with me because, listen, again, maybe I'm wrong -- is that we're giving people, especially parents, and students, false hope about the idea of returning to school in full, and it won't be virtual coming, you know, late August or September.

Do you expect to see more schools do the same thing in the coming days or weeks?

WEN: I think that would be the responsible thing to do if there are large clusters that are detected, but I'm actually worried about the rivers. I'm afraid that because we don't have adequate testing, that it's going to take a long time for these clusters to be discovered.

And by then, I also fear that administrators might throw up their hands and say, well, this was going to happen anyway. I mean, we've heard some of these excuses already: Kids don't get that sick; they don't transmit that much disease.

And I actually hope that we take more action faster, rather than continue waiting, as some might be willing to do.

LEMON: All right. Some encouraging news now. A new saliva test developed by the researchers from Yale received emergency use authorization. That happened on Saturday. We're told it can produce results in less than three hours. It's also cheaper.

How much of a difference could this make for schools and other reopenings? Is it a game-changer?

WEN: Well, I think it could make a big difference, because we want to get to the point where we have widespread testing that's available to anyone, and the saliva test is one way there. It doesn't take that pretty uncomfortable nasal swab that somebody else has to do. You can spit into a test tube yourself. And within three hours is certainly much better than waiting five, seven, 10 days, as is the case with some of these tests that are currently out there.

Still, though, this is not the panacea. We need to have a national testing strategy, because even if we have this one test that's readily available, it's still not something that could be processed at the point of care, where people are at home. And that's what we need to get to the point of. That everybody can take a test, ideally before they even leave their house to go to school or go to work. That would be the true game-changer.

LEMON: All right. Thank you, Dr. Leana Wen. I appreciate it. Thanks so much.

WEN: Of course. Thank you.

LEMON: This is Joe Biden's big week, but he'll need every bit of whatever bounce may come out of this DNC. Harry Enten shows us how a new poll, a CNN poll, is giving President Trump's struggling campaign some hope, and what history tells us about the real impact of these conventions.

Chris calls him what? What's his nickname? Well, there we go.

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[00:47:42]

CUOMO: The latest CNN poll shows this race is far from over. Tight, just 4 points difference, which is exactly the margin of error. What does that mean? Well, it means it could be neck and neck. And why wouldn't it be?

We talk about polls being a snapshot. The question is what this picture tells us. And that's why we have the wizard of odds. We pulled away his blankie, took his thumb out of the mouth and said, Get up and do some TV. And here he is.

Let me ask you. You know, we've had this discussion many times, but to fill in our brothers and sisters who are up late or on the West Coast, my sentiment is, Boy, the Democrats should be nervous if, after months of ignoring a pandemic, this sitting president is just a few points away from Joe Biden. Scary times. What do you see, Wiz?

HARRY ENTEN, CNN POLITICS SENIOR WRITER AND ANALYST: Well, I would say your face is scarier than any poll number, but look, here's the deal, right? Look, if you look at the average of polls, and that's the thing I always stress, right, the average of polls, and we have the CNN poll of polls which is essentially that, right? It shows that Joe Biden has a nine-point edge.

And when you have a nine-point edge and you have a margin of error surrounding the polls, sometimes you'll come in on the lower end -- you know, a CNN poll at 4 points. Sometimes you might come at the higher end -- ABC News/"Washington Post" poll. That was at 12-point edge for Joe Biden. And that doesn't mean that any of the polls are wrong. It just means that you're going to have this range.

I will say that there has been some slight tightening over the last month, and that is consistent with the CNN poll showing some tightening.

But of course, the one other thing I will point out which gets the point, perhaps, of why this race is a little bit tighter than the national polls would indicate is the Electoral College. Right? That's the name of the game that really matters in this situation.

CUOMO: Took you 55 seconds, but you got to the only point of substance that you've made thus far. It's all about the Electoral College. It's all about the swing states. And in fact, it's really all about a handful of counties within the swing states. So let's go state by state. What is the story you see here?

ENTEN: Yes. This, I think, is rather important, right? If you look at the nationwide average, it's Biden by 9, right? But then you look at Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Florida, Arizona. These are the five closest states that Trump won in 2016, and Biden needs to win at least two of them. And if he doesn't win Florida, he needs to win at least three of them.

And what you see right now is a state like Wisconsin, Florida, those are the two most important states, because he needs to win one -- Michigan and Pennsylvania together don't add up to enough electoral votes.

So the race nationally, in my mind, is actually closer to, say, a six- point margin then necessarily the nine-point margin. And so in that way, the CNN poll is generally representative of the fact that I do think that this race is closer than folks think it might be, just based upon the national polls.

CUOMO: Well, I'm glad you've come around to that way of thinking, Harry Enten. It's better late than never. The question is why is it so close? What do you see within what we call in the business the cross tabs? Looking at the specifics of the polls and different demographic groups. Why is it as close as it is right now?

ENTEN: I think there are a few reasons why it's as close as it is. No. 1, you have this fight within white voters, right, between those with a college degree and those without a college degree. Those with a college degree overwhelming for Biden, those without overwhelmingly for Trump, although perhaps by not the same margin as they were four years ago.

And the other thing that I think is important to point out is that non-white voters, specifically African-Americans, while they're giving Biden a substantial margin at this point, it's not the same margin that Hillary Clinton was earning four years ago, and I think that's going to be something to watch as the convention sort of unfolds, whether or not Biden tries to bring back these traditionally Democratic voters.

But the other thing I'll note, just Chris, is that Joe Biden is in a much better position than Hillary Clinton was four years ago at this point, right? He is still way out ahead, 9 points versus she was only up by 4. And more than that, he's over 50 percent. So he is in a much better shape than, say, Clinton was four years ago.

CUOMO: Well, what's up with the minority vote? Why would they be for Trump?

ENTEN: I think that there are a few things, not the least of which is that non-white voters overall tend to be lower educated as a percentage, and that, of course, is playing a big role in our politics right now, is education is a big deal.

And more than that, younger black voters who were so strongly for Barack Obama in 2012, specifically younger black male voters, are not necessarily on board with Biden at this particular point. And you saw that throughout the primary, right, where Biden was running up these huge margins among older African-Americans, while actually, Bernie Sanders was winning those under the age of 30.

CUOMO: Strong point. Preconvention margins, do we have that to put in? And this is the -- the context is incumbents who were in trouble, how they looked in the conventions and how that carried through to the election. Can we put that up, Vaughn (ph), for Harry to explain it to us? Tell us the story of this.

ENTEN: Yes, I think that this is also key, right? This is so odd, the fact that you have an incumbent who is trailing by more than, say, a few points. There have only been three dating back to 1940, and the three of them are on your screen right now: Carter, Ford and Truman. Two of those guys lost. Truman came all the way back and won, but interestingly enough with the Ford notion right there, right, Ford actually was able to close the gap.

So to me, look, Trump at this point is the underdog. I think we have to nail that in. But this race is far from over, as these poll numbers to election results indicate.

CUOMO: D. Lemon, come in here for a second and talk at Harry Enten.

LEMON: What do you want to know?

CUOMO: What do you think about Ford, Carter, Truman? You were alive for all those presidencies. What do you think is different today with Trump? Why might he be a different story than they?

LEMON: I know you're joking, but the only one I wasn't alive for was Truman. Why might Trump be a different story in what sense, you mean, then today? What do you mean?

CUOMO: I don't think it's the right way to compare it. Harry's right to give us the historical perspective. But we are in a different place than we were as a country in any of those elections.

Although Truman is probably the best comp. You did have a postwar society there that was trying to figure out who it was and where it was coming, and he wound up making a comeback in that election.

But we weren't where we are right now, Don, in terms of the kind of cultural cataclysm we're dealing with right now. A president bringing us to each other's faces, creating conflict and becoming an agent of conflict. Carter never did that, and frankly, Ford never did that.

LEMON: Well, not in -- not in the way that we are now. But we were pretty divided when -- when Bill Clinton ran for president. And I think this is the first time that the polling for an incumbent has been pretty much the same as it was, or similar -- and Harry can correct me if I'm wrong -- as it was with Bill Clinton and George Bush.

And so I think that I -- I would not underestimate this president. Certainly, you can't compare George Bush, the first George Bush and Donald Trump in the way that they conducted themselves. The first was a very classy man, mostly a traditional politician and didn't, you know, demonize people in the way that this president does. And polarize to the extent, even, you know, all elections are polarizing.

[00:55:04]

But I do think that there is a good comparison between Bill Clinton and -- and George Bush in this one, when you look at President Trump's polling.

And I have to agree with Harry. I do think that our -- our polling may be a bit of an outlier when you look at all of the polls together. But I still think, whether you are Donald Trump or you are Joe Biden, you need to run as if you're 20 points behind in this race. Because you can -- you know, one never knows.

But I do have to say, in this particular race, Chris, I do not think you should underestimate the dislike of this particular president. People going out to vote, not necessarily for Joe Biden but against Donald Trump, considering the situation that we're in now with the intersection of race, COVID and politics.

I think many more people are going to be voting, at least Democrats, against Donald Trump rather than for Joe Biden.

CUOMO: Harry agrees with. He said it to me many times. But you both also know elections are more often about what people are for than what they're against. But we'll see. This is an unusual time.

LEMON: Uh-oh. Harry --

CUOMO: You can make funny -- he can make faces. I'm just saying, if you look at the elections where we've had pivot points, generally, people find a reason to believe in somebody that they believe is transcendent; it's going to take them to a different place, captures their emotion.

LEMON: But Chris, you can't have it both ways. You can't say that we can't look at this -- this is a different time, right? You can't say this is a different time, but yet we should be looking at it traditionally.

CUOMO: That's true.

ENTEN: It's a referendum. It's a referendum, gentlemen. It's a referendum.

CUOMO: If it's a referendum, then why is it so close? If it's a referendum.

ENTEN: It's not that close. You just saw it on the slide right there. He's doing worse than most -- most of the presidents.

CUOMO: Yelling doesn't make your point better.

LEMON: An average -- Chris, look.

CUOMO: Go ahead.

LEMON: He's talking about an average of the polling, right? I mean, listen, yes, we have great pollsters, but we're also not the only game in town.

CUOMO: Biden's not up double digits in any --

ENTEN: There it is.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: -- news organizations. CUOMO: I know, this is the poll of polls, but he's not up 10 points in any state that mattresses. That's all I'm saying. This president has had the worst six months I've ever seen, and he's still within striking distance. I've got to go.

LEMON: That's true.

CUOMO: I've got to go.

LEMON: Let him finish his point first and then go. What did you want to say, Harry?

ENTEN: Look, all I'll say is the last president who was facing multiple crises, Jimmy Carter, who was also facing a very rough six months, ended up losing by 10. And that to me is a pretty good analogy for this election. Will it turn out the same way? I don't know, but there it is in the history books.

LEMON: What about my Clinton point?

CUOMO: It wasn't that good. In fact, it made no sense in context.

ENTEN: I loved that Clinton point, because it's the last president who was in as much trouble with his net approval rating as low as Trump's is at this point. So I think it was pretty good, Don.

Chris, you can go to bed right now. I'll stay on with Don and do the rest of the hours.

CUOMO: It's apples -- it's apples to lemons. It's apples to lemons. Clinton was in a totally different situation then Trump is in right now.

But I appreciate both of your take. It's time for commercial. We'll be right back.

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