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Arkansas cases climb TRANSCRIPT: 5/26/20, MSNBC Live

Guests: Yasmeen Abutaleb, Irwin Redlener, Asa Hutchinson, Jon Meacham, Rich Lowry


ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: You`re right there on T.V., yes, we do see you, Junie, and we see all the other people coming up right now. I want to thank Teyana Taylor and the family for stopping by. And that fourth coming project of her, the album comes out in June.

Thanks for watching THE BEAT and keep it right here right now on MSNBC.

STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC HOST: Good evening from New York. I`m Steve Kornacki.

At this hour, the United States is approaching a grim milestone. Right now, just under 100,000 Americans have lost their lives from the coronavirus. And more than 1.6 million cases have been confirmed in this country.

This news comes after the traditional kickoff of the summer, the Memorial Day weekend. And this one was marked by crowds that were generally far smaller than in past years but also much larger than in the past few weeks, and with some public health experts warning that there could be another spike in new cases.

Today, the World Health Organization warned that countries around the world could see a second peak of coronavirus infections in countries that ease restrictions too soon, even before an expected second wave this fall.

he organization`s Director of Emergency Programs, Dr. Michael Ryan, told reporters, quote, we cannot make assumptions that just because the disease is on the way down now, it is going to keep going down. He urged that public health and social measure to continue -- the social distancing measures continue, to continue that downward trajectory.

And meanwhile, today in New York, which has been the epicenter of the United States outbreak, the state`s Governor, Andrew Cuomo, said that New Yorkers have bent their curve. Cuomo rang in the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange as it reopened for the first day of in-person trading since March 23rd.

Nationally now, re-openings are under way in all 50 states. They, of course, are progressing at varying speeds and there are varying restrictions in place in all states with some positive news though when it comes to the overall numbers, the number of new cases in this country slowly but steadily dropping. For the current 14-day period, the number of new cases is down 12 percent compared to the previous two weeks and the new testing is up 39 percent.

And for more, I am joined by Yasmeen Abutaleb, Healthcare Reporter for The Washington Post, and Dr. Irwin Redlener, Director of the National Health Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University. Thanks to both of you for being with us.

Yasmeen, let me start with you. We are approaching 100,000, that grim, terrible number. We weren`t sure for a period if we`ve reached it, we are certainly are going to now. Inside the White House, we`re coming up on that number, were also in the middle of this, we just said states beginning to reopen. How are they looking at this moment right now inside the White House?

YASMEEN ABUTALEB, THE WASHINGTON POST, HEALTH CARE REPORTER: I think they really think this is on the states, for the states to decide how to manage local outbreaks, to watch the case counts, to decide how they should reopen and how quickly.

I think the president has made clear the things he wants to see. He announced guidance on religious centers, like churches and synagogues and mosques last week and said that he didn`t want restrictions on those, that people should be able to go back to religious congregations.

But other than that, I think, generally, the White House has ceded this issue to the states. They want to focus on reopening the economy. They want to focus on the president`s re-election. You saw today that the president was making health care announcements unrelated to coronavirus.

So I think they`re actually not discussing this as much. A lot of the work has moved to the health agencies to do their individual work. But the White House is sort of right now, at least, ready to move on to other issues.

KORNACKI: Doctor, let me bring you in. You have that warning from the World Health Organization about the risk of going too fast with re-openings, keeping social distancing measures in place. I`m curious, we are now several weeks into reopening in a lot of states in terms of easing these restrictions. As we mentioned, to varying degrees, all of these states, they`re doing reopening, are keeping some restrictions in place, are keeping some social distancing restrictions in place.

Given the numbers that you`re seeing overall, nationally, there is still a small but steady decrease in the number of new cases, testing up, positive rate down, all these things. How do you assess the success of reopening so far? Do you think it`s been successful on the whole or has it gone too fast?

DR. IRWIN REDLENER, DIRECTOR, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY, NATIONAL CENTER FOR DISASTER PREPAREDNESS: So, Steve, yes, I think it`s going way too fast and the problem is we don`t have really the tools that we need to open safely, in my opinion. That would include a more point of care testing, where you could get a rapid test done immediately, and the ability to do contact tracing. We just don`t have that. Then, of course, we don`t have the vaccine and we don`t have the medications to treat the disease.

I think we`re playing a risky game, Steve. And I think we`re going to see, unfortunately, upticks. Not every state is actually diminishing or even flattening. We have lots of new cases that are still evolving. And like you said, this landmark of 100,000 is not going to stop there. I wouldn`t be surprised if we get to 150 or 200,000.

But, look, I understand the pressure for people to get back to work. But, really, it boils down to this now, which is, would you be comfortable taking your family to a local restaurant if you don`t know that the kitchen staff, the servers, and everyone else, is negative and was negative that morning? Would you go to the barbershop or anything else that might be now so-called open?

Yes, we need to keep social distancing but people are not doing that very well. Plenty of people walking around without the face coverings, a lot of people gathering at beaches and so on, I really think it was too much, too soon, but we`ll see. We`ll hope for the best. But I wish we would have waited a little bit more.

KORNACKI: Well, yes, I guess that`s the question. Where do you think this should go going forward then? Do you think we should be -- in your view, should we be moving to roll back these and to go back to a situation where folks are urged to stay home under pretty much all non-emergency circumstances or do you see a way to -- you know, with some changes, perhaps, do you see a way to make this work going forward?

REDLENER: Well, Steve, I think the problem is if we don`t have a test that`s available rapidly and onsite, being given like every day to whatever store you`re going into and especially at restaurants and barbershops and so on, how are we supposed to know?

I think just from my point of view, we should have waited. We`re rushing too fast. And what happens now, when we get surges in Georgia or Texas or other places that have already really moved ahead aggressively with the reopening, are we going then to put people back into severe restrictions and so on? I mean, I`m hoping it`s not going to happen, but there`s no real particular indications that we`re anywhere close to being out of the woods yet, Steve.

KORNACKI: All right. Dr. Irwin Redlener and Yasmeen Abutaleb, thank you both for being with us.

And as states continue, as we`re talking about here, continue to reopen, officials are keeping a close eye for any new outbreaks of this pandemic. In the State of Arkansas, which began a phased reopening at the beginning of the month saw its biggest single-day increase in coronavirus cases at the beginning of last week. Governor Asa Hutchinson acknowledged today that new cases are on the rise.


GOV. ASA HUTCHINSON (R-AR): The seven-day rolling average, and I want you to make a note of this, as to the peak that we had in April, and then we`ve come back, we dipped down, we`ve come up to what could be another peak, or it could be a way to a higher peak.


KORNACKI: And the governor of Arkansas, Governor Asa Hutchinson, joins me now. Governor, thank you for joining us, I appreciate it.

And your state is, as you said, in the midst of an increase here in cases. Now, I want you to pick up that point we just played you making at the press conference. You said, the recent increase could be reaching peak right now or it could still be going up towards a new higher peak. Do you have a sense which one of those it is?

HUTCHINSON: Well, first of all, we`re doing a great deal more testing. And so as you do more testing, you`re going to see your cases go up some. We`ve seen that at Arkansas. And the way that you can make sure that you control that from being a broader contagion is to do the contract tracing, to make sure that you run it down to its roots and find out where the problem is, but also to do your social distancing.

And I wanted to alert Arkansans today that this is all up to us. It`s about whether we are disciplined. It`s about whether we can bend that curve down. And the testing that we`re doing leads to more cases, and so that`s understandable.

And whenever we look at opening up our economy, it`s not lifting the restrictions that`s caused an increase in the cases, it`s the fact that we`re doing more testing and that we`re learning more that`s out there. And as long as we keep going in the right direction, then I`m comfortable. But it`s not something that you can take lightly, and we`ve continued to take this very seriously.

KORNACKI: I think you make a very important point when it comes to testing, because, certainly, yes, as states are doing more and more testing, you are going to obviously get more positive results. I want to run through these numbers for your state though, because they do, I think, raise a question, if it`s not just the testing that`s happening here.

So you`ve got over the last two weeks, the last 14-day period here, you`re going from having 74 new cases a day to 144, basically doubling there. You have added about a thousand tests a day. That`s a significant increase, nearly a 50 percent increase in testing, as you say. But I think this is the key number, at least when I always look at these, the rate of positivity, the positive test rate.

And two weeks ago, it was at 3.5 percent, 3.5 percent of tests in that two- week period were coming back positive. Now, it`s up to 4.6 percent. Does that speak to -- does the rise in the positive rate, I`m curious, does that speak to you to an effective loosening of restrictions, of having people out moving around more and maybe not adhering to the social distancing guidelines?

HUTCHINSON: Well, it`s certainly something we look at every day very carefully. But the national standard by CDC is to keep it below the 10 percent positivity rate. You`re talking about the difference between 3.5 percent and 4.4 percent. We`re below 5 percent, half the rate of the national standard that has been set today. It was actually 3.3 percent positivity in Arkansas. So, absolutely, we watch that, but that`s one of the encouraging points.

Now, to your larger question though as to whether there is anything more here than simply testing more, scattered across the state, we have a lot in one prison, a federal prison. But we alerted today that we do have cases in Northwest Arkansas that we`re going to continue to watch. And the key, as has been pointed out by the doctor before, is being able to trace these down to its roots, its cause, and to make sure we can stop any of that spread.

So we`re doing the tough blocking and tackling that`s critical to this for a state to manage it. And this is something that we`re not in it just for a month but it`s going to go into next fall as well.

KORNACKI: So how do you look at the statistics as this plays out? That`s right, the positivity rate is in the single digits. If you continue to see the cases rising, the second peak you`re talking about, it is a little further off in the distance, is that number the positivity rate, is that one if that continues to creep up and gets near 10 percent, is that -- I guess what I`m asking is, what are the numbers you`re looking at when it comes to reassessing what you`re doing?

HUTCHINSON: Two things. One would be the hospitalizations that we have. We know that they`re going to go up some. But right now, our hospitalizations are in the area of 100 and we have more than ample hospital space to take care of our COVID patients. We look at the positivity rate to see if it does edge up. And those are the key factors.

We also, though, what we learn by contact tracing, is this an outbreak in a nursing home, is it an outbreak in a confined facility, like a prison, or is it in a food processing facility. So those are things we learn and watch as well.

Right now, it`s just broadly scattered across the state without any great concentrations. But we`ve got to be disciplined about this. And the key difference is whether we`re going to take this seriously from a disciplined standpoint, wearing masks, social distancing.

KORNACKI: You talked in your press conference about moving to the next phase in reopening. Do you have a sense -- you`re talking about some of the statistical targets you`re looking at here. In terms of a timeline, when do you think you might move to the next phase and what might that next phase look like?

HUTCHINSON: I certainly hope we can, because whenever you`re looking at restaurants doing at one-third capacity, whenever you`re looking at restrictions on other businesses, this is not a good -- the best business model. But we`re going to have to make more progress based upon the national guidelines of consecutive days of lower positivity rate, of decline in cases, the decline in the growth of cases. There is some flexibility as you interpreted this information, but those are things we look at.

As you pointed out, 50 states are opening up and lifting restrictions. The American people have to go with their spirit and character. We just have to do it with more discipline. And so that`s what we`re looking at in Arkansas, is let`s don`t bottom out our economy, let`s grow our economy, but be disciplined about it and understand the risk that we`re playing with here and dealing with, and the potential expansion of this virus.

KORNACKI: All right. Asa Hutchinson, the governor of Arkansas, thank you for joining us. I appreciate it.

And President Trump meanwhile -- coming up, President Trump mocking Joe Biden for wearing a face mask. Trump also tweeting repeatedly an unfounded murder allegation. Why is the president doing this?

Plus, breaking news tonight in the death of a Minneapolis man after a police officer pressed his knee into the man`s neck for at least seven minutes. Stay with us.


KORNACKI: Welcome back. The practice of wearing a mask to slow the spread of the coronavirus has increasingly become a political football. President Trump added fuel to that fire late yesterday when he re-tweeted a post from Brit Hume of Fox News, which criticized Joe Biden for wearing one, referring to a photo of Biden with a mask. The tweet remarked, quote, this might help explain why Trump doesn`t like to wear a mask in public.

Guidelines from the CDC state that, quote, every should wear a cloth face mask when they have to go out in public. Biden responded this afternoon.


JOE BIDEN; DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I watched the president yesterday wearing no mask, you know, and so making fun of the fact that I wore a mask. The truth of the matter is that I think you`re supposed to lead by example.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: He re-tweeted a photo of you wearing it. He`s trying to belittle you for wearing a mask, making it seem like it`s a sign of weakness. Is it?

BIDEN: He`s a fool, an absolute fool to talk that way. I mean, every leading doc in the world is saying we should wear a mask when you`re in a crowd.


KORNACKI: The president, of course, has not been wearing a mask during his public appearances. He was spotted without one at his golf course last weekend. And today, in the rose garden, Trump likened a face mask to being politically correct.


TRUMP: And your second question was? I couldn`t hear you. Can you take it off because I cannot hear you?

REPORTER: I`ll just speak louder, sir.

TRUMP: Okay, because you want to be politically correct. Go ahead.

REPORTER: No, sir, I just want to wear the mask.

TRUMP: Go ahead.


KORNACKI: And I`m joined now by Peter Baker, Chief White House Correspondent for The New York Times, and Jon Meacham is a presidential historian. Thanks to both of you for being with us.

Well, Peter, let me start with you. Is that a window, that clip we just showed there, is that a window into what is motivating the president here? Is this, he feels the press is trying to force this on him, he`s going to stick it to the press, is that what`s going on here?

PETER BAKER, CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Yes. Look, this is a president who is defiant of convention to start with, right? If the establishment says this is what ought to be done, he has national inclination to disbelieve it. And he is particularly suspicious, of course, of the press.

He thinks that the press has been out to embarrass him by getting him to wear a mask, goading him into it, in effect, so that he looks foolish and that they could then play the photos again and again on T.V. or allow Democrats to use them in ads and so forth.

So he definitely finds -- he thinks of it as something like a trap. And the argument that they used is, look, this is a president that`s tested every day, he`s testing negative. The point of a mask is not to protect the wearer but to protect the other people if the wearer happens to be sick. Since he is not sick, he doesn`t need to wear it.

But, of course, what that diminishes is the value of leadership, right, the value of a president showing, by the example of his own behavior, how other people should act.

And there`s no question that he sets a tone that at least a number of Americans follow, because they support him and believe in him.


I guess, Jon, it does get to that question, too, of the message the president is sending the message, the president desires to send there. There is -- I suppose here, there`s the public health message that is sent by wearing the face mask.

This is also a president, obviously, who has made no secret that he would like to get this economy going. He would like to get these states reopened, and perhaps sees a mask as delivering a message that, well, we`re not really ready for that yet.

JON MEACHAM, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Well, to quote the former vice president, that`s foolish. It just doesn`t track in any logical, rational sense.

America was founded to at least be something of a political expression of the enlightenment, of the idea that we could take on data, we could make decisions based not on superstition, or partisanship or geography or economics, but could make decisions based on facts themselves.

And this is a man, the president from -- it is remarkable, which is the nicest way to put it. He has managed to weaponize the deaths of 100,000 people. Think about that for a second. He is -- this is a political weaponization of very basic public safety, public health guidance from the government he was elected to lead.

And I remember thinking at the very beginning of this that God help us if this becomes a partisan pandemic. And that`s what he`s attempting to turn this into.

The good news is, Americans have a chance very soon in November to register what we think about people who are more interested in their self-interest than the health of the nation.

KORNACKI: Meanwhile, there`s also this.

Twitter is hearing calls today from some to remove some of the president`s tweets, after he used the platform to spread a baseless insinuation about a prominent critic.

The president has been implying, without evidence, that MSNBC`s Joe Scarborough was responsible for the death of Lori Klausutis almost 20 years ago. That`s when she worked in his congressional office.

Klausutis` widower, Tim Klausutis, wrote Twitter`s CEO, Jack Dorsey, a letter last week, asking that they remove Trump`s tweets exploiting her accidental death.

According to "The New York Times," which obtained the letter, he wrote this -- quote -- "I`m asking you to intervene in this instance because the president of the United States has taken something that does not belong to him, the memory of my dead wife, and perverted it for perceived political gain."

NBC News reports that -- quote -- "A Twitter spokesperson said in an e-mail today that the company was working on making changes, though it did not agree to remove the tweets."

And, Peter Baker, there`s also a follow-up here were some of the president`s other tweets tonight on the issue of mail-in ballots in California, Twitter has upended a bit of a fact-check. You can click on it and get more information to those tweets.

But, again, the ones we`re referring to here, those tweets stand.

Talk a little bit, if you will, about this -- this battle that Twitter now finds itself a part of, where the president likes to use this platform for purposes like we`re describing, and there`s this pressure to say, hey, he shouldn`t be able to do that.

BAKER: Yes, that`s exactly right.

Jon Meacham could describe this better than I can, but, of course, Teddy Roosevelt talked about the bully pulpit. Twitter has been this president`s bully pulpit, with a lot of bully.

And one of the things that Twitter has been under fire for, for three years is not policing what the president says in these messages.

And so, today, for the first time -- and it`s rather extraordinary -- they said that these messages about fraud and election ballots in California deserve more information. They say, get more facts. You click on it, it`s kind of a fact-checking thing saying what the president just said here in this tweet -- in this tweet is not true.

That`s an extraordinary statement by a leading technology company that the president cannot be trusted. Of course, that will then set off the president`s supporters, saying that this is now censorship of the president. They don`t like his message. They`re trying to weigh in a political way, a partisan way.

Twitter, of course, will deny it.

But they`re now in a really interesting position, because they have chosen these two messages to put those -- those -- get the facts appendages to, but then not to the Scarborough ones and not to many others that would also be questioned in terms of facts and truth.

So now we`re in a position where, the next few months, everybody`s going to be watching to see which messages they decide to tag and which ones they don`t.

KORNACKI: Jon Meacham, I`m curious.

Twitter as a platform has been around now for two presidencies, Barack Obama`s presidency and Donald Trump`s presidency. We have had many more presidents than that. None of them had the opportunity to just fire off whatever impulse they had, which is what we have seen this president do.

I`m just curious. Somebody who has a great sense of past presidents, can you look back in our history and think of a president who, if he had had the opportunity, might have used the platform the way Trump does?

Or would this be really the first time in history somebody would choose to communicate this way?

MEACHAM: Well, if I may, let me pull the question apart, because there are any number of presidents who would be wired to use it.

That is, they would have the impulses, they would have the pettiness, they would have the ambiguous relationship with the truth that the incumbent has.

Most -- and we know that, for sure, for instance, in President Nixon. We have the tapes, right? So that was an early technology where we actually heard the worst parts of a president`s private moments.

What`s so remarkable about this president is that he doesn`t seem to have private moments. He -- everything is for public consumption. He treats the country like a reality show. The difference is, this is our reality.

And it`s not this kind of "New York Post", Midtown Manhattan tabloid warfare, which is what he knows. That`s what`s important to remember here. He believes in winning the hour. It used to be in the old days, you would win the morning because of the New York tabloids. That was during the divorce years and all that.

Now it`s just winning the moment by firing this off. So we have certainly had presidents before who have had the impulses, the dark thoughts to express.

I think even President Nixon, though, would not abuse this in this way. There was a kind of respect for the institution that even our most troubled presidents had that is simply missing in this presidency.


Certainly, maybe a test of that is Nixon, in his speeches, could censor himself if he had those thoughts in a way Trump doesn`t do.

Jon Meacham, Peter Baker, though, thank you both for being with us. Appreciate that.

And coming up: The FBI is called in to investigate the death of a Minneapolis man in police custody. There is disturbing video from the scene. It shows an officer kneeling on the man`s neck as he pleads for air.

Now the officers involved have been fired. We`re going to get the latest.

That`s next.


KORNACKI: Welcome back.

Four officers from the Minneapolis Police Department were fired today after their involvement in the death of a black man named George Floyd last night.

The video from last night, which we want to warn viewers is disturbing, depicts a white police officer pinning Floyd to the ground with his knee on Floyd`s neck. Floyd said multiple times that he couldn`t breathe, and several bystanders urged the police officer to release him.

The officer kept his knee on Floyd`s neck, even as he became unresponsive for a total of about eight minutes, until paramedics arrived.

The events before the camera began to roll are not clear. A statement from the Minneapolis Police Department said, the officers had responded to a report of a forgery in progress and found the suspect in his car.

He stepped out of the car when he was ordered to, police said, but then physically resisted officers. According to the statement -- quote -- "Officers were able to get the suspect into handcuffs and noted he appeared to be suffering medical distress. Officers called for ambulance. He was transported to Hennepin County Medical Center by ambulance, where he died a short time later."

The FBI, as well as the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, are independently investigating this incident.

Earlier today, the police officers association cautioned the public not to rush to judgment.

And I`m joined now by NBC correspondent Kevin Tibbles, who has been covering protests tonight that are calling for justice in this case.

Kevin, what can you tell us about what`s going on in Minneapolis right now?

KEVIN TIBBLES, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Well, very shortly after this incident, one that was recorded by a bystander -- and that is the video that everyone has been watching today -- a vigil, a small vigil started at the site where this incident took place.

And, of course, now this evening, despite the pandemic and the situation that we`re in here in the United States, despite all of that, many people have decided to take to the streets in Minneapolis because of what happened to Mr. Floyd last night.

As you mentioned, Steve, it went on for some seven to eight minutes. And many of the bystanders started to point out to the police that Mr. Floyd seemed to be getting into some difficulty. As the video says, you can hear Mr. Floyd saying that he could no longer breathe.

And many of the people started asking the officers, look, you have got to let up on this fellow because he says that he`s in distress.

That was part of what really upset the mayor, Jacob Frey, in Minneapolis, in that he said that being black in America is not a death sentence, and despite whatever crime or not Mr. Floyd might have been involved in, he said that the officers went too far.

And it really didn`t take very long for Minneapolis to fire the four officers that were involved in this incident last night. Yes, they say that there was an incident. They went to check out this forgery. But how it ended up, with a man dead, obviously is going to be a source of the investigation.

The attorney general there says the reason the officers were fired so quickly is because they have to clean the wound. And those are his words. That is how he described what took place on the streets of Minneapolis last night, Steve.

KORNACKI: All right, NBC`s rMDNM_Kevin Tibbles, who is following this story for us.

Kevin, thank you for joining us. Appreciate it.

All right, and up next, back to the presidential race.

We have been talking about it. Joe Biden leads Donald Trump in the polling. You know that. But one of the big reasons why Biden leads Trump, we`re getting some new information on what`s been one of the big mysteries of polling this year.

I`m going over to the Big Board to reveal it right after this.


KORNACKI: All right, well, I have been up here at the board a couple times in the last few weeks.

And I have been showing you polling in the presidential race that shows Joe Biden leading Donald Trump. And the margin of Biden`s lead has varied, but he`s led in every poll we have shown you recently. He`s led in every poll that`s been conducted since this pandemic began against Trump, and going back a little further.

And there is -- there are several reasons why Biden`s ahead in the polling, but there is one specific group of voters who, at least for now, when you look at the polling, it appears Joe Biden has flipped away from Donald Trump.

Let me take you through that. This is the exit poll from 2016. This is the national exit poll. These are voters who are 65 years and older. So we`re talking senior citizens here. And this was a solid victory for Donald Trump among senior citizens over Hillary Clinton, a seven-point margin there, 52- 45, an outright majority for Trump.

Remember, in the national popular vote in 2016, Trump actually lost to Hillary Clinton by a few points. It makes it even more significant that he won seniors by seven points over Hillary Clinton.

And yet now, if you look at the recent polling in the last few weeks, this same demographic, 65-plus, average them all together, what does it look like? Complete opposite. All of a sudden, it`s Joe Biden 52 percent, Donald Trump 44 percent.

Now, these polls have been getting a lot of attention, polling like this over the last few weeks. There`s a lot of theories out there about what`s going on. One of the most popular theories, this is a coronavirus effect. The pandemic has taken hold, disproportionately affects senior citizens. They`re the most at risk, the most vulnerable in this.

They perhaps don`t like Donald Trump`s handling of it. Is that why Biden leads among senior citizens, which makes this interesting?

In "The Washington Post" today, a couple political scientists, pollsters took a look. They said their data shows that the problem for Donald Trump with senior citizens goes back long before the coronavirus. Their polling, they say, has been showing this for a while.

And, in fact, we went and looked. Our polling does too. Check this out.

NBC News/"Wall Street Journal" poll, look at the date on that, July of 2019, last summer, our national poll, 65-plus, Biden 55, Trump 43. We have been showing this for -- we have been showing a Biden lead over Trump among senior citizens for a while. Other polls have been showing this too.

This is not just a coronavirus effect. In fact, Biden against Trump, if you had had Sanders against Trump, another possible Democratic nominee for the last year, same demographic, Sanders wasn`t doing as well. So Biden, perhaps, it seems, brings some new strengths to this question.

This would be a big change, and this is why. We showed you 2016. Trump, 52. Clinton, 45. Senior citizens. 2012, 2008, 2004,

Republicans in modern times, majority of senior citizens. You have to go back to 2000 to find the last time they didn`t. Al Gore over George W. Bush, Al Gore the last Democrat, Great Depression era voters were now senior citizens. It would be very significant if Biden can do that.

Still ahead, the Trump reelection campaign pinning its hopes on a strong economic rebound. Will the election be about the economy?

Stay with us.


KORNACKI: Welcome back.

With the election only 160 days away now, the pandemic has forced both campaigns to rethink their strategies. President Trump had been banking on winning a second term on the strength of a booming economy. But now, with depression-level unemployment, he`s pitching the idea of a rapid recovery and pleading with states to reopen quickly.

Joe Biden is making a different calculation. According to "The Wall Street Journal," quote, Mr. Biden`s team contends Americans will yearn for competence and responsibility and the election will be a referendum on what his aides view as the president`s halting response to the virus at the start of the year.

And for more, I`m joined by Zerlina Maxwell, senior director of progressive programming for SiriusXM, Zerlina.

Zerlina, I`m curious about that. Let me start by putting some poll numbers up on the screen.

This really jumped out at me. This is from Fox News, last week, their national poll. They looked at a whole hosts of issues, and they asked folks, who would you rather have here, who would you trust, Biden or Trump, women`s rights, health care, coronavirus, perhaps most crucially, relations with China. Biden beats Trump on all of those.

And yet when they asked about the economy, Trump still -- it`s close -- but Trump still outpolls Biden on that question.

What do you make of that?

ZERLINA MAXWELL, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Well, I think that Donald Trump has benefitted from the economy that he inherited from Barack Obama and obviously for the first three years of his presidency, he had a strong economy, he had the stock market booming.

But the economy is not -- the stock market is not the economy, Steve. And I think one of the things you`re seeing unfolding right now, as we sit in the emergency that I think a lot of us feared in terms of a crisis that would require competence, detail-oriented behavior and management skills that Donald Trump as of yet had not demonstrated that he had. And I think that people who are looking at their choices, you have the choice between Joe Biden and Donald Trump, the status quo, and you see someone who is saying inject disinfectant versus somebody who has been through many crises while during -- while he was vice president, during the Obama administration, and he`s also listening to experts.

I don`t think we are going to be able to solve this economic crisis until we get a handle on the public health aspects of this crisis, Steve. And that requires a president who believes in science. It`s really that simple.

KORNACKI:  And joining us now also, these are the perils of trying to put on a TV show during the pandemic. Rich Lowry, the editor of "National Review," was going to join us with a home cam. I don`t think that`s worked. I believe we have Rich on the phone.

Assuming that is the case, Rich, welcome to the show, I don`t know if you`ve heard what we`ve been talking about, but we`re discussing the strategy of each campaign in the midst of the pandemic. Zerlina was just making the argument here that Donald Trump`s handling of this pandemic is going to be the overriding issue this fall, not the economy, as he hoped.

What do you make of that? The impact of Trump`s handling of this and what it will have on his reelection chances?

RICH LOWRY, NATIONAL REVIEW (via telephone):  Well, I think both are going to matter a lot. It`s a little hard to predict what conditions will be. What the Trump campaign is banking on is the trajectory. If you told anyone, Steve, obviously, a year ago, unemployment would likely be 10 percent or more in November, everyone would assume the president is a goner. But they`re counting on the trajectory being upward and people feeling better about this and not directly blaming him for global pandemic.

So I would say a pretty sharp recovery is a necessary condition for Trump`s reelection but probably is not sufficient in itself.

KORNACKI:  Yes, and on that point, Rich, an economist who worked for president Obama made a little bit of news today in "Politico", talking about the prospects for this, they call it the V-shaped recovery. It went down very quickly, it goes back u

Obviously, you hear from a lot of economists, they say that that seems unlikely.  But do you think that is that`s an essentially ingredient for Trump. It`s going to be quick and sharp if he`s going -- for him to win this fall?

LOWRY:  Yes. Look, the -- by the third quarter, unless we experience some other debacle, we should have really good economic numbers because what happened here was not underlying economic conditions, it wasn`t financial crisis, it was an external event that caused us basically to slam the brakes on our economy. And when we start hitting the accelerator again, we should have some really good looking numbers.

But experiences in past recessions that unemployment is kind of sticky. You know, it`s much easier -- people get unemployed much faster than they reengage with the labor force. So, that`s why, even I think in the best condition, you`re still going to have elevated unemployment and a troubled labor market. Obviously, that is not a condition that the president was counting on or anyone was counting on three or four months ago.

KORNACKI:  Zerlina, let me ask you about that, again, this article here, Jason Furman, he was a former economist for the Obama administration, he told both Republicans and Democratic officials that the fall could provide some of the best economic data in the history of this country.

Furman spoke to "Politico" to explain it this way: The way to think about the current economic drop-off at least in the first two phases is more like what happens to a thriving economy during and after a natural disaster, a quick and steep decline in economic activity followed by a quick and steep rebound.

Again, that`s what one former economist for the Obama administration. I wonder, how do you think about that? We showed that poll earlier, by a small margin, voters said they preferred Trump to Biden, if there is some momentum in the economy in the second half of this year, what would that do to the general is momentum in this economy in the second half of this year, what would that do to the general election picture, do you think?

MAXWELL:  Well, I think the first thing I do is listen to the scientists. So the scientists are doing their assessments of what is going to happen with the health care piece of the pandemic, because as I said, Steve, the economy and the public health crisis are interlocked items, that you can`t have a successful rebound in the economy until you are able to make sure that the workers that actually make this economy function are safe.

You cannot reopen anything until the people that are actually going to be giving us haircuts are safe. And so, I think that we`re skipping ahead a little bit too much, when we should all take a step back and listen to the scientists. So that`s where I base my analysis, Steve.

I think what`s really important as we head into the fall, Biden can be very aggressive here. He can show what competent leadership actually looks like. He`s already convening all the scientific experts, and putting out plans to let the American public and the voters know what he would do in this particular situation, and what he will do on day one if he`s elected.

So I think that basing this in the science and being able to message to all constituencies, going back to your previous segments about older voters, what Biden needs to do is bridge that generational divide between the senior voters that he`s so strong with, and the millennial and voters of color in particular that he`s particularly weak with. But again, it all goes back to the science.

KORNACKI:  Yes. Rich, let`s pick up on that point, and that Zerlina mentions the polling data there with Trump and senior citizen voters.

There is a theory out there that simply having Joe Biden as the nominee and not Hillary Clinton for Democrats makes all the difference. It is essentially the ball game. That there were some negatives that Hillary Clinton had with certain voters, certainly 65-plus that Biden just doesn`t have. And without a foil like Hillary Clinton, Trump doesn`t have the formula he had in 2016.

What do you think of that?

LOWRY:  Yeah, I think that`s the best case for Biden`s political prospects. And look, he -- this is the game -- this is the hand that he has. He`s not the head of an inspired movement, he`s not a charismatic figure, he`s not an exceptional performer.

He just has to say, I`m going to be a conventional president and return a sense of normality. Now, whether that`s enough or not, I don`t know.

You know, in 2008, any Democrat probably would have won in the teeth of the financial crisis, but Barack Obama was not just a default candidate. He was incredibly charismatic politician, the leader of a movement, and that`s -- Biden is just not capable of that.

So, I would argue, even though he`s showed a great resiliency in the primaries, he read the Democratic electorate better than a lot of the other candidates, especially early on, he was kind of the last man standing, sort of a default which is better than the alternative. And I think that will be his theory of the case in the general as well.

KORNACKI:  All right. Rich Lowry from "National Review", I`m glad we got you even by phone, I appreciate you rolling with us there.

And, Zerlina Maxwell, thank you as always for joining us as well. Appreciate that.

And up next, we`re just talking about it there, this campaign cycle unlike any we`ve ever seen, so we still have a few months to go. We`ve got a campaign -- what is it going to look like?

Stay with us.


KORNACKI:  There`s still going to be a presidential election this year, but so much of what we take for granted when it comes to campaigning for president has been on hold for almost three months now. Not since early March have we seen any rallies or face-to-face encounters between candidates and voters.

And it raises the question, is this how it`s going to be for the next five months? Are we going to have a campaign without campaigning?

Well, the president certainly hopes not. There`s new controversy over the Republican National Convention. It`s scheduled for late August in Charlotte, North Carolina. But is it realistic to hold a major national political convention with thousands of delegates descending on one venue?

President Trump says he wants the convention to go on planned, full attendance in the arena, he says. The state of North Carolina isn`t so sure, though, so President Trump is threatening to move the convention elsewhere.

Strategically, you can see why Trump wants this. Mega rallies are part of his brand. Packing arenas with thousands of fans fires him up, and he sees it as a display of force. It`s a key tool in his arsenal.

Plus, going on with the conventions as planned fits his broader message, the idea that we are in a reopening mode and life is getting back to some semblance of normal.

But what about Trump`s opponent, though?

Well, Joe Biden doesn`t seem nearly as eager as Trump for conventions and for rallies and for a lot of the traditional aspects of campaign. Democrats have already postponed their convention from July to August. And even then, it may not be much of a convention. The DNC has already approved a rules change that could clear the way for a virtual convention. No need for all those delegates to head to Milwaukee and gather in person.

And if that happens, then Biden may miss out on what every nominee before him has had, an acceptance speech in front of tens of thousands. But strategically, Biden may be fine with that. He`s been holed up in his Wilmington house for months now, using a home cam to communicate with the world, no crowds, no rallies, no major events, and guess what? He`s led Trump in every poll taken the past few months.

They used to call it a front porch campaign. Warren Harding ran one exactly a century ago. Warren stayed home in Ohio and he talked to voters from his front porch. And his big promise to him, what he called, quote, a return to normalcy. And by the way, Warren Harding won that race. Maybe something to think about as the Biden/Trump campaign continues.

Thank you for being with us. Don`t go anywhere.

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" is up next. And he`s going to be joined by the speaker of the house, Nancy Pelosi. You don`t want to miss it.