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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Beto's Big Numbers; Will Biden Announce Soon?. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired March 18, 2019 - 16:30   ET

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


[16:30:00]

DANA BASH, CNN ANCHOR: We're back with our 2020 lead and bragging rights for Beto O'Rourke.

The former Texas congressman announced that he raised more than $6 million in his first 24 hours as a presidential candidate, more than any of his opponents in their first day. Senator Bernie Sanders came really close, raising $5.9 million. Senator Kamala Harris raised $1.5 million, and in their first 48 hours, Senator Amy Klobuchar and John Hickenlooper raised a million dollars apiece.

But fund-raising numbers aside, O'Rourke's first weekend on the campaign trail has not been all smooth sailing.

CNN's Jessica Dean reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JESSICA DEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Beto O'Rourke breaking a fund-raising record in the early moments of his presidential run, stopping in Michigan today after his campaign announced it raised a staggering $6.1 million, with donations coming from all 50 states, in just the first 24 hours.

That makes it the largest first-day fund-raiser haul of any other candidates so far.

BETO O'ROURKE (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think this is a great sign than, in the first 24 hours, this many people were able to come...

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

DEAN: His fund-raising numbers the first proof that O'Rourke's campaign strategy that made him a viral hit in Texas.

O'ROURKE: Thank you, Iowa, for a tremendous first day of this campaign.

DEAN: ... could work on a national stage too.

But O'Rourke's performance as a candidate did suffer some early stumbles, apologizing for comments about his wife raising their three kids -- quote -- "Sometimes with my help."

O'ROURKE: I think the criticism is right on. And my ham-handed attempt to try to highlight the fact that Amy has the lion's share of the burden in our family should have also been a moment for me to acknowledge that that is far too often the case, not just in politics, but just in life in general.

DEAN: And for being part of an early computer hacking group as a teenager.

O'ROURKE: Some of the things you know connected to that I did, I'm embarrassed about, not proud of.

DEAN: But he also left audiences wanting more specifics on the policy front.

O'ROURKE: And also in listening to the suggestions and the solutions that are brought forward from the communities that I'm visiting, I mean, if you have all the answers, why show up?

DEAN: O'Rourke has not yet hired a campaign manager, but he is in talks with President Obama's former deputy campaign manager in 2012 Jen O'Malley Dillon.

Meanwhile, in Delaware, Joe Biden might have let his 2020 intentions slip during a weekend speech to Democrats.

JOSEPH BIDEN, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have the most progressive record of anybody running for the -- if -- anybody who would run.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

BIDEN: I didn't mean...

(LAUGHTER)

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

BIDEN: Of anybody who would run.

DEAN: Sources tell CNN Biden is preparing for an announcement in April and is hoping to seize command of the Democratic primary through major endorsements.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

DEAN: Sources also telling CNN that Biden's going to argue that the most pressing task for the Democratic Party in 2020 is beating President Donald Trump.

Now, back here in Cleveland, Ohio, Beto O'Rourke inside right over my shoulder, this crowd here overflow who couldn't fit inside. But we have noted over the last several days of O'Rourke has been really gravitating toward these smaller venues, where he can stand up, talk to people, get to know them. And, Dana, interesting, he actually drove himself up here in a minivan when he got here about 15, 20 minutes ago. He plans to then drive on to Pennsylvania. And then it's on to New Hampshire -- Dana.

BASH: I can see him behind you. He needs a higher ceiling, I think. He's a tall man.

Thank you so much, Jessica. Appreciate that.

Senator Bernie Sanders' campaign just sent out a fund-raising e-mail off the Beto O'Rourke news how big statement did -- what a big statement O'Rourke made on his fund-raising haul. That was what Bernie was trying to say, me too, me too, please send it my way, not -- which is not dumb, trying to create a healthy competition among their supporters.

What do you think, Paul?

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think it's great . This is a new model.

Actually, it began years ago with Howard Dean, Karen's old friend. Barack Obama then really took it to the next level. And now here certainly Beto, Kamala Harris and Bernie, this is great. If Democrats can raise huge amounts of money, like the $6 million man is Beto, do that in 24 hours, without having to go to lobbyists and PACs and special interests and corporate interests, this -- first off, just as a practical matter, it frees your candidate.

The two most important and precious commodities in the campaign are the candidate's time and the campaign's money. Well, they're getting money without using time. It puts -- I think it puts Bernie, Beto and Kamala in a really good position.

MIA LOVE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: The thing that comes to mind is that these people are raising this amount of money in a great economy and in a free economy.

(LAUGHTER)

LOVE: In a free economy. So they should be pushing that free economy out there.

(CROSSTALK)

[16:35:10]

BASH: The president needs a communications director. Maybe he should call you.

(CROSSTALK)

BASH: Maybe he should call you.

Let me just put up on the screen. It's kind of in keeping with what you said, what David Axelrod, of course, the CNN contributor who helped run President Obama's campaign, said.

In early 2007, "The early ability of Barack Obama to raise eye-popping funds, a bunch of it online, bought him the time to work out the kinks and become the candidate we all remember. Beto O'Rourke has the same opportunity because of his enthusiastic base."

Interesting, not just about not spending time fund-raising, but, more importantly, the point he's making is spending more time honing his campaigning skills. It's important.

KAREN FINNEY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: That's right.

And, obviously, he's got the energy and the excitement. At some point, it will be about can you turn all that into votes, right?

For now, yes, the more time that you have to test out your message, and -- which it clearly is the goal of this van trip. Paul and I were joking about the Scooby van, which was another little van trip across America.

But, yes, and he needs it. I mean, let's be honest, he had kind of a rough week last week, Beto did, not just on the substance, which is something that all of the candidates, who they are today is not who they're going to be six months from now, because all candidates should be getting better. All candidates should be honing their skills.

But, as you say, if you're not worried about raising money, you definitely have more time to be honing your message and spending more time with voters actually.

BASH: Yes, well, speaking of voters and on substance, some of the stumbles not having answers to a lot of questions that, by the way, the rest of this Democratic field is incredibly substantive. They have 10-point plans to the 10-point plans. A lot of them do.

Listen to what one voter told us about this notion of not answering questions on substance.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RYAN TURNER, VOTER: I feel like he really answered it honestly. And so I understand there's a lot of pressure and you're getting a ton of questions.

But you're asking to be the leader of the free world. And so I think you should be -- on either side, you should be called to the carpet and be able to back up what you say, if you're asking for that -- for that seat.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MARY KATHARINE HAM, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, first of all, if I could have made this money standing on bar tops in college, it would have been a lot more...

(CROSSTALK) (LAUGHTER)

BASH: Standing, not dancing. I just want to be precise.

(CROSSTALK)

(LAUGHTER)

HAM: No, but respect for that number, because he did -- Karen is right. He did have some stumbles out of the gate, but not in this respect.

And I think this may give him a cushion. This may give him time to get his feet under him, because I think a lot of -- a lot of the attention, a lot of him getting thrust here and the popularity comes from the fact that he got very, very, very friendly coverage in Texas, running against Senator Cruz, and now he's got to prove his mettle.

And the people of Iowa and New Hampshire, early states, are going to require that.

BASH: And yet as you -- I know you want to make a point, Karen.

But tell me if I'm totally wrong about this, that one of the lessons I think from Trump and certainly from the Democratic nominees of the past is people like the feels. That's the official political term. They like to feel the feels about candidates.

FINNEY: Sure.

BASH: Substance is important, but there's also something that's that sort of the inevitable connection. And the question is whether he can have both.

FINNEY: I was just going to say, you got to have both, right?

And particularly, Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada voters, these are -- because of their position in the calendar, they're going to be tougher. They actually will pull -- they know your 10-point plan a little bit better, and will raise issues that you don't always get when you are doing big rallies.

When you do these smaller events, you're more likely to get more substantive questions. I think the other thing that's really interesting, we were talking a little bit about the criticism he was getting about the comment he made about his wife, which I think is kind of an interesting flip, because usually it's female candidates -- you know this better than anybody -- who tend to get the, well, who's taking care of the kids, right?

And so for him to sort of make a joke, and for it to be taken the way it was, kind of says, well, how come you're not taking care of your kids as you're rolling around the campaign?

BASH: I want to quickly before we take a break talk about Joe Biden, because you heard Jessica talking about the fact that his strategy is to sort of make clear that he is going to run, roll out a string of endorsements once he finally does run.

This is what CNN is told. Campaign on a message of strength, make the argument that the party's most urgent tasks should be defeating President Trump.

But look at this poll released last month; 47 percent of Democratic- leaning voters said it was more important that a candidate shared their views on issues, compared to 43 percent who said the candidate should beat Donald Trump.

LOVE: I was just going to bring this up, because the problem that Beto O'Rourke is going to have is the fact that if this continues to be a narrative where he's not answering questions, it's not enough to be anti-Trump. It's not enough to say, I am so far away from Trump that you should vote for me.

You have to have a plan, because, at the end of the day, because at the end of the day, people are looking for solutions. They're looking at how you're going to make their life better for them and for their children.

[16:40:07]

So that's going to be an issue. And I think Joe Biden's actually -- if he jumps in the race, it's going to cause a lot of problems, because he's been in the arena.

HAM: Can I also just say that Biden accidentally announcing is the most Biden thing ever?

(LAUGHTER)

BASH: Yes. Yes.

HAM: Here I am, guys.

BASH: Paul, 10 seconds on Biden.

BEGALA: He's terrific. Everybody says, I love Joe, but he's going to have a formidable field if and when he gets in.

And I would worry, if I were him, that he's the big aircraft carrier that everybody else is going to fly over and strafe. He's going to have to be nimble, quick.

I don't think the answer lies in more 10-point plans. I think it lies in answer to the thing that you teased: Who could beat Trump?

BASH: Yes.

OK, everybody, stand by. There is another name popular in his party who also won't confirm if he's going to run. But this is a Republican. And he may have just dropped a big hint he's at least considering taking on Donald Trump.

Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:45:00] DANA BASH, CNN ANCHOR: Soon Senator Elizabeth Warren will face questions at a live CNN Town Hall. She's fighting to stand out as a fellow Liberal candidate. Senator Bernie Sanders is already raking in the cash and has the 2016 chances. Both candidates rollouts incredibly similar campaigns down to their proposed policies. CNN's MJ Lee has the story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MJ LEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders both New England senators, both champions of the progressive left, both running for the Democratic nomination. And on the stump, they're sounding strikingly similar in their rhetoric and their positions.

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm not in Washington to work for billionaires. I'm in Washington to help level the playing field so that everybody gets a chance to get out there and compete.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We will no longer tolerate the greed of Corporate America and the billionaire class.

LEE: But there is at least one notable distinction. Sanders a Democratic Socialist, Warren insisting she is not.

WARREN: I am a capitalist. Come on. I believe in Markets. What I don't believe in is theft. What I don't believe in is cheating.

LEE: The Senators also share similar fundraising strategies, only courting grassroots small dollar supporters.

WARREN: I want to run a campaign that's based on principles and ideas not on how much money I can scoop up from people who've already made it big.

SANDERS: We're going to win this election because we are putting together the strongest grassroots campaign in the history of American politics.

LEE: But Sanders' early hall appears tough to compete with. His campaign says it raised a stunning $10 million in just the first week of its second White House campaign.

SANDERS: Thank you, Iowa.

LEE: And in the crucial state of Iowa, Sanders is running near the top of the pack a 25 percent among likely Democratic caucus-goers with Warren in single digits at nine percent. Some voters who have supported both see they now have a tough choice to make.

BILL JORDAN, VOTER, NEW HAMPSHIRE: In 2016 she got in. So then I got behind Sanders and I canvassed for him really. I liked him a lot so I'm sort of torn now by who to support.

LEE: When it comes to her 2020 rival, Warren is sticking to her own script.

WARREN: It's not up to me to describe anybody else's position in the Democratic Party.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LEE: Now, one thing that Senator Warren's at earlier today was take a walking tour of an impoverished neighborhood in Cleveland, Mississippi, one way to remind voters that she has a housing plan to try to address the housing crisis. This is going to be one policy proposal, Dana, that you can bet audience members will choose to ask her about later tonight in the Town Hall. I think it begins in four hours.

BASH: It sure does and we look forward to it. Before we get there, we have what to discuss about Elizabeth Warren. M.J. just set it up so beautifully just first and foremost the notion that she is running in a crowded progressive field and you know she's trying to sort of you know, kill the progressive giant for lack of a better way to say it.

And yet she -- let me just look at the subjects, the policies that she's supporting. A wealth tax, universal child care, breaking up tech companies like Facebook, affordable housing, you know, those are all things that certainly appeal to the Progressives but they're not that different from what the original Progressive on the presidential campaign trail Bernie Sanders supports.

KAREN FINNEY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think a lot of those policies in fairness are -- have been Progressive policy for some time. And I would say that I think the idea about childcare, universal child care, that could be a game changer for Americans if you think about that.

If you think about the number of people who can't afford childcare or they -- so one person stays home and they or and or maybe they need both paychecks. I mean, if you sit down and think about it and talk about it with people, that could actually be something that really catches on because it's something that people talk about around their kitchen tables.

And that's what you want at this stage in the campaign is if you're going to be talking about ideas, you're right, we don't want to remember the ten specific points but you want like people talking about you know, that could be really interesting. That could really -- you want that head-shaking moment in addition to what we're talking about before that connectivity with people.

BASH: And there -- we talked about the fact that there's a new CNN poll out this hour. One of the things that was really fascinating was about her bid to break up the tech companies. And if you look at it, just 11 percent say they support the notion of more regulation and having the government be this involved. What do you think about that especially somebody who helped elect a moderate Democrat president?

[16:50:04] PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I'm stunned actually, because when she announces -- and I still believe that this is the one issue Democrats -- a Democrat is running on that has cross- cutting appeal. I know more conservative -- I guess I just live in a world with too many big Liberals and Conservatives, right, too polarized maybe my world here in D.C. because the Conservatives I know hate big tech far more than the Liberals do. And when she announced that, I thought that's exciting.

I don't know if I'm not smart enough to know who's right who's wrong but I know a lot of Conservatives who nod their head vigorously when Elizabeth Warren says I want to go after big tech.

BASH: That surprises me.

MARY KATHARINE HAM, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. I think there is -- there is some of that probably --

BASH: Do you hear that from fellow Conservatives?

HAM: Yes, it's partly because of some speech issues and feel -- the feeling that on Facebook or Twitter that Conservatives don't get a fair shake because of their beliefs so that's where some of that comes from. But like Bernie is in Warren's lane and she's got to swerve in there and try to make her mark.

And I can't express to Democrats enough how much it matters your name I.D. and your money at the beginning these things because you'll pop to the top of polling and it sort of snowballs as we saw with Donald Trump in a big field right? And so she's got to get in there and make noise and that's what she's attempting to do.

BASH: OK, I'm going to put this one to you because on the Republican side, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan is just returning from Iowa and here's how he responded to people asking about that visit.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. LARRY HOGAN (R), MARYLAND: I also thought it would just be great to spend 48 hours and sub-zero temperatures in Des Moines. I thought it would be fun, you know. But that doesn't mean I'm actually running for anything but we're going to -- we're going to keep talking about the things we think are important.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: You call for Republicans to speak out against Donald Trump. Is that something you encourage, somebody to not just speak out but try to primary him or is that --

MIA LOVE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It's not mainly about speaking out against Donald Trump. That's not -- the point is to speak for the principles that we believe in and call him out.

BASH: So should he -- should someone like Larry Hogan take it to the next level?

LOVE: Look, I am a big advocate of as many options as possible. I think it's good for America. I think it's good for us to have a choice. So he wants to jump into the race and has good ideas and some good thoughts and supports again free markets and the things that have made people -- that made this country so successful, then I'm willing to hear it.

I think that we need to have as many options as possible. And yes, I may -- you know, I may get some phone calls after this, but I think -- I think options are good for people. I really do.

BASH: I'm guessing you might get many phone calls after this.

LOVE: Well, that's OK. Bring it. I'm OK with that.

BEGALA: He should run.

BASH: There you go.

BEGALA: He should run.

BASH: All right, we'll talk about that in the break. Everybody stand by because we want to also make sure you know that Jake Tapper, the host of this program will host tonight's presidential Town Hall with 2020 candidates Senator Elizabeth Warren. It is live from Jackson Mississippi. That's at 9:00 o'clock Eastern right here on CNN.

And up next, more calls for change after another tragedy but there's something very different about the response happening right now in New Zealand.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:55:00] BASH: The "WORLD LEAD." Talk of change already turning into action just days after the horrific attack that killed 50 people in the city of Christchurch in New Zealand. The Prime Minister said today that her cabinet will announce a plan to change gun laws within days as CNN's Alexandra Field reports, that is incredibly fast.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JACINDA ARDERN, PRIME MINISTER, NEW ZEALAND: The time to act is now.

ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Within 72 hours of the worst mass shooting in New Zealand's history, the Prime Minister is poised to change gun laws fast.

ARDERN: The cabinet today made in-principle decisions around the reform of our gun laws. Within ten days of this horrific act of terrorism, we will have announced reforms which I believe make our communities safer.

FIELD: The terrorist in Friday's attacks killed 50 people at two separate mosques. With him at the time, five legally obtained weapons. The shooter was born in Australia where a 1996 mass shooting prompted tough new gun laws including a ban on shotguns and rapid-fire rifles.

ARDERN: They took 12 days to make the decision.

FIELD: Since then, Australians risk of dying by gunshot has fallen by 50 percent. By contrast, the United States has made few consequential changes to gun legislation despite recurring massacres including 17 people killed at Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, 11 people killed at a Pittsburg synagogue, and 58 people killed at a music festival in Las Vegas, all within the last two years.

The owner of the Christchurch gun shop that sold the arsenal used in the attacks says he supports change in his country.

DAVID TIPPLE, OWNER, GUN CITY STORE: I fully support the Prime Minister's swift and decisive actions following this tragedy.

FIELD: The pledges do little for Farid Ahmed whose wife was killed in Friday's massacre. It fell to him to tell their young daughter the news.

FARID AHMED, WIFE KILLED IN NEW ZEALAND ATTACK: She said are you telling me I don't have a mother? I said yes.

FIELD: New Zealand's next step are meant to ensure no other family will have to have such conversations due to gun violence.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FIELD: Dana, it all stands in such a sharp contrast to the common response to mass shootings in the United States, thoughts and prayers to of course. But here, the leader of the right-leaning party which has resisted gun reforms before has put it simply saying the reality has changed, the laws will too. Dana?

BASH: Alex Field, thank you for that report.