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2020 Dems in Fundraising Frenzy Ahead of Reporting Deadline; Massive Brexit Protests in London; Voters Colorfully Compares Buttigieg and O'Rourke; Trump Reverses Course on Special Olympics Funding Cuts. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired March 29, 2019 - 12:30   ET



[12:30:02] SEN. CORY BOOKER (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I will not take over PAC money.

SEN. KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm not taking corporate PAC money in this campaign.

MAYOR PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Since we're not taking corporate PAC money.

JULIAN CASTRO (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I won't be accepting a dime of PAC money.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Not having a super PAC and being dependent on millionaires to get elected, too radical!


PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: CNN's Jeff Zeleny joins our discussion now. Jeff, it seems some breaking news, Democrats don't want to take corporate PAC money. But -- this is important, I think people -- some people scoff and say 580 days away, calm the heck down. But why? Explain to me why this matters?



ZELENY: I mean, a lot of people will have much shorter of a timeframe, and I think it matters because it is the first metric. And it's not just the media that's making the metric, it's the measure of the candidates. The DNC for the first time ever is saying that to reach the debate stage, to qualify for that first debate in June, you have to have 65,000 donors from 20 some different states.

So that is a benchmark that not every candidate might be able to make. Most, I think, will. But it matters because it's a sign of strength. There are big donors among smaller donors. I'm thinking back 12 years ago to Barack Obama, the first time he was really taken seriously was the end of the first quarter when he had an eye-popping, outraising Hillary Clinton number. So that's what this allows someone to sort of come up.

We've seen a lot of expectation setting, a lot of desperation landing in our e-mailboxes saying, I just need a dollar. It's about actually the number of donors now as well as that bottom line.


MOLLY BALL, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, TIME: Well, it is about the bottom line to the extent that at some point, if you don't have money, you can't run a campaign. And these candidates are deliberately hobbling themselves by refusing that corporate PAC because that's a lot of money. And if you don't have enough money from small donors to run your campaign like that's it, that's goodbye.

So, it is an important metric of strength that in some ways a more pure metric of strength than it used to be because of that refusal of corporate PAC money. You could have -- if they were taking PAC money, you could have a Jeb Bush-like candidate who has a lot of money but from relatively few sort of elite, rich donors. These candidates aren't getting that big donor money so they have to get it from small donors, so it is a sign of grassroots support, but they can't all have it.


BALL: It limits the pool of money and makes -- it means that there are going to be fewer viable campaigns down the stretch when they start running on fumes.

MATTINGLY: But it's also in near time an interesting thing in terms of how candidates frame this. We were talking about fundraising e- mails, Kamala Harris put out a fundraising e-mail that said, "When this deadline passes, our fundraising numbers will be made public for the first time in this race, as each of our primary opponents." She goes on to compliment the other Democrats running. "We know that some of them will have outraised us. That's OK because I can guarantee you, we won't be outworked."

And that's true. Obviously, what Beto O'Rourke and Bernie Sanders posted on the first 24 hours is insane to some degree, but what do the candidates do who are going to fall far below that, even if there is a decent amount of money?

JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS, CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Well, what you're hearing from Kamala Harris and others I think a little bit in their campaigns as well is a little bit of expectation setting. Saying, you know, this is a metric but it's not the only metric. But when you have a feeling that is this huge and diverse, differentiation matters. You know, people need to figure out who to pay attention to. People need to figure out who to, you know, do some research into. And one of the ways that they do that is by saying, oh, wow, look at how much money that person raised who I never heard of? Or look at how many people are interested enough in that candidate to give some money, even it might be a small amount of money. But again, as Molly said, you know, that's actually a more reliable indicator of intensity. It's like, who is willing to actually reach into their checkbook, a regular person, and give this person some money at this early stage of the game?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I mean, I think it's a definitely a proxy for intensity, a proxy for interest in candidates, and it's a correction from the last cycle in which -- I think a lot of Democrats felt like there was a candidate who was anointed at the beginning and it didn't really matter what happened. And that person raised money in a very traditional way, and there was actually nothing wrong with the way that Hillary Clinton raised money. But then you had Bernie Sanders kind of like coming out of nowhere with these small-dollar donations so the Democratic Party is trying to correct for that.

And it will be interesting to see how people like Kamala Harris, how people like Joe Biden deal with this new reality. The world is a little different now for Democrats. I think the party wants to know that whoever they put up there has an intensity of support that can be -- that can match what's there for President Trump. I think that's what this is also about.

We tried to say -- you know, a lot of people tried to say, well, crowds don't matter, street signs don't matter. Maybe they do matter. Maybe they show you that people actually, when they are excited about a candidate, that that actually does matter at the end of the day.

MATTINGLY: Yes. Now, it's a good point. Keep in mind, there's also another way to raise some money, and that's candidate merchandise. It's always fun to look through some of those things.

We're going to pull up a couple right now. You have the John Delaney memory eraser to forget what the president says. That's old school, right there. John Hickenlooper beer koozie. I don't know if you've heard about John Hickenlooper, but if you have, you know about beer, craft beer in particular. And Elizabeth Warren with dog handkerchiefs.

[12:35:01] Obviously, this in relation to Bailey, the first dog who's probably gotten more social access than just about any pet in the history of the world.

Keep an eye on all of those things.

All right, up next, a massive protest in London over Brexit on the day the U.K. was supposed to leave the E.U.


MATTINGLY: Let's take another look at those dramatic protest pictures coming in right now to CNN. Demonstrators in London have descended on the Houses of Parliament. Now, this comes after a major blow for Prime Minister Theresa May today when U.K. lawmakers rejected her Brexit deal for the third time. [12:40:01] CNN International Diplomatic Editor Nic Robertson is now joining us live from Downing Street. Nic, I guess the question everybody has had now for weeks, what happens next?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Sure. And that's what the prime minister is going to have to figure out this weekend. There's a number of things that we know for sure, that she has to tell the European Union by the 10th of April precisely what she's going to do next. Is she going to try and leave without a deal? She says there isn't support for. Or is she going to ask for an extension to negotiate Brexit over a much longer period, either to the end of the year or the end of the following year? That's where she seems to be.

However, there are other options and it's hard to be declarative with this Brexit issue because there are many options. One of those could be that she tries to push her vote through again later next week, having tried to bring in something that might tempt more support from MPs and the opposition party. The risk is if she tries to do that, does she loses support from some of the MPs from her own party?

So, every which way is fraught but she absolutely has to tell the E.U. which way she's going to go. No deal, leave, or long extension when she attends the European leaders emergency summit on the 10th of April in Brussels that was called immediately after she lost the vote today so significantly again.


MATTINGLY: Nic Robertson live at Downing Street. The clock is ticking, Nic, earning his overtime.

All right, are we nearing at this moment in time pick, Mayor Pete? How Buttigieg is distinguishing himself in a crowded field?


BUTTIGIEG: What you want to do is you want to nominate a really kind of forward-thinking inclusive, new generation, young good-looking mayor.



[12:46:03] MATTINGLY: Is the Buttigieg buzz real? Mayor Pete would say so, and there are some data points that back that up. First, his campaign has raised more than $600,000 in the 24 hours after his CNN town hall on March 10th. A few days later, the South Bend, Indianan mayor announced he had met the DNC's 65,000 donor threshold to qualify for debates. He's since seen as crowd sizes grow and more people have Googled his name in the past two weeks and the prior 93 weeks combined.

And just this week, the 37-year-old mayor had his best showing in a Democratic primary national poll to date. Jumping from one percent to a statistically significant four percent. But as you see here in this early poll of the field, the top contenders are still the big B's, the Biden, the Bernie, the Beto.

An interview with the New York Times, David Axelrod said it's the battle of young guns that will be especially key to watch. And, quote, one of the realities is Buttigieg is a new-generation candidate and now Beto O'Rourke is in the race, and Beto fills a lot of space. They're fishing in the same pond and Beto has a larger fishing pole.

That's true, I think. And you can just look at the money, we talked about that a couple of blocks ago. So I guess one of the questions I have, are they in the same lane at this point? Do we -- is that how we read them?

BALL: That's how voters appear to be looking at them. They have a lot of the same appeal, and I think that's what Ax was saying in that quote, is that if you're looking for, you know, a relatively fresh face, younger generation candidate. But also a candidate who is inspirational, right? A candidate who people feel sort swept up by on an emotional level, rather than, you know, a list of policy priorities or some other calculation or some measurement of, you know, how liberal versus how far at the center are they. And I think it's pure sort of curb appeal if you will, that voters just enjoy listening to these guys talk.

KAROUN DEMIRJIAN, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: They both have a character that you weren't really expecting to see come into the fray this time. I mean, Beto surprises everybody during his Senate race but he was still kind of a breath of fresh air. Buttigieg is the same sort of thing in a different way. I mean, this is terrible and to (INAUDIBLE) to this but -- and (INAUDIBLE) see the two of them compare, I always think about like what if there was like a high school buddy comedy with the two of them, because, you know, Beto is more like the cool kid and Buttigieg is the geeky one who speaks Norwegian. And yet both of them are like -- but they're interesting and compelling figures.

I'm sorry to make a joke in a way, but you don't know which one you're going to gravitate towards the end. They are not actually the same person even though they are similarish in age and similarish in, you know, the way that they look.


DEMIRJIAN: And that's all the stuff that's going to kind of come out as this campaign goes on down the line. You could say that of any of the people that are in the younger generation. But these are the two that seem to have captured the public attention because they do have a measure of charisma. It's just that we're going to learn what's behind that opening in the months ahead.

MATTINGLY: Yes. And it's actually it's a great point you're making because this is what (INAUDIBLE) and Trip Gabriel, your colleague in the New York Times had a piece on Mayor Pete Buttigieg. And in that, he talked to a voter and always talk to voters at rallies, people. They give great quotes even if you don't like the man on the street stuff. " Aaron Olson, a voter who heard Mr. O'Rourke the day before attending a Buttigieg appearance in Columbia, said, quote, I think Pete Buttigieg is more down to brass tacks. He's more calm and reasoned. I think Beto has a dance track going in his head when he's speaking."

DAVIS: Well, you know, it's interesting to read that, it was a great piece, a great quote, and I think it does capture something important which is the difference between the two of them. They do have sort of a similar look about them, a certain similar appeal in the way they talk, in the way that they come across. I won't make the comparison to Barack Obama, but some people have, obviously, for both of them. But, you know, there has been a bit of a common thread in some of Beto's campaign appearances, both when he was running for Senate and since he has been running for president, that, you know, he likes to talk in grand terms about big principles and inspirational ideals.

[12:50:00] We have actually heard Pete Buttigieg at some of his events get really technical into detail about policies he would want to pursue and why and how they would work and how they are a viable alternative to what Republicans are proposing. Those are things that as we get down the line in this race, voters are going to want to hear.

So I think, you know, there is some differentiation still to take place, and even though they may look the same on paper, they may not even be the -- coming from the same sort of political lean, if you look, you know, between left and center and, you know, moderate. I think they may be positioning themselves a little bit differently.

PHILLIP: And I think Buttigieg's argument is that he was a mayor. He actually had a job in which he was doing things, in which he was an executive in that sense, and he understands that part of the job. I think that's going to become a big thing for Beto O'Rourke because even while people -- there is a lot of curb appeal with Beto, he has a much shorter track record. He has a track record of running for things but the question is does he have a track record of running things. And I think that's one of the many ways -- that's one of the many ways that they're going to start to diverge as we go along this path.

It's interesting also to see that Buttigieg is rising. He's getting people's attention from complete obscurity, and that's going to be a big factor as we go forward, too.

MATTINGLY: Yes. No question about it. And the usual caveat, it's early. It's very early. We'll see. That's what Jeff Zeleny said. Not as long a lane for as many as we might think.

All right, up next, how is Education Secretary Betsy DeVos feeling about her cabinet job at this moment?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm glad you're education secretary, are you?


DEVOS: Yes. Most days I am.



[12:56:13] MATTINGLY: After days of bipartisan outrage over proposed funding cuts for the Special Olympics, President Trump is pulling an abrupt about-face.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The Special Olympics will be funded. I just told my people, I want to fund the Special Olympics. And I just authorized a funding of the Special Olympics.

I heard about it this morning, I have overridden my people. We're funding the Special Olympics.


MATTINGLY: Now that may have sounded like the president's voice but it was also the sound of the president throwing his education secretary essentially under the bus. For two days on Capitol Hill, Betsy DeVos defended the proposed cuts and received a grilling from lawmakers.


DEVOS: Let's not use disabled children in a twisted way for your political narrative. It's -- that is just disgusting and it's shameful. And I think we should --

SEN. DICK DURBIN (D), APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE: Well, Madam Secretary, let me tell you what. Eliminating $18 million out of an $80 billion -- $70 or $80 billion budget, I think, is shameful, too. I'm not twisting it.


MATTINGLY: Now following the president's reversal, DeVos says in a statement, I am pleased and grateful the president and I see eye to eye on this issue and that he has decided to fund our Special Olympics grant. This is funding I have fought for behind the scenes over the last several years.

So it's not always easy to be a cabinet secretary, particularly with this president sometimes. What happened?

BALL: It looks like exactly what it looked like happened happen which is that this budget proposal, which was never going to go anywhere, but is an important symbolic document, it's a laying out of the administration's values and what they would do if they were -- if they had control of everything,. And if you think about it, I mean, this is always what happens is you have -- people say, well, we could just balance the budget by making little trims here and there, right? We'll just eliminate waste fraud abuse, and we'll balance the budget. But oh, well, you can't cut that thing. I mean, you can't cut that other thing, too.

Oh, and I don't know -- no, that's just $18 million out of a big budget. It all adds up. So if you are going to try to balance the budget, you do have to make cuts that are going to be painful, and that is what Betsy DeVos was trying to defend --

MATTINGLY: On the administration's behalf.

BALL: -- on the administration's behalf, but there's a little bit of a dagger in her statement as well, right? You hear her all but saying, I didn't want to do this, don't look at me.

DAVIS: I mean, she said that.

MATTINGLY: Yes, she quite literally said that.

DAVIS: I think what you have here is you have, you know, the folks at the Office of Management and Budget who are trying to be good, you know, fiscal conservatives and trim all the fat that they can find, all the money that they are willing to sacrifice, and you have a president who in theory wants to have that approach but who hates to be seen as the bad guy, particularly where children are concerned, particularly if he's getting any pushback from anywhere, and in this case he was getting bipartisan pushback. And so he was willing quite literally to just throw his education secretary under the bus. She was making it clear that she didn't agree with those cuts, either.

And it doesn't really matter that they were never going to take effect in the first place. I think it's just an extraordinary example of the ways in which this president is just not willing to go to bat for the positions of his administration when they are personally a problem for him.

PHILLIP: Yes. It also shows how much he hates bad press. When the press is bad, he's the first person to say, actually, I didn't even know anything about that. I'm just going to tell my people not to do it anymore.

MATTINGLY: Ten seconds.

DEMIRJIAN: Just going to say that, you know, when you're talking about kids at the border, that's actually a hot button issue, that's a hot potato. Politically, disabled children, there is really no partisan split on that one so there was no good side of this one for him.

MATTINGLY: Yes, he reversed on Great Lakes funding last night too because of political issues, because of that pushback you're talking about.

Also, just a quick reminder, the president can't authorize spending. A budget proposal is dead on arrival and inspirational. That's what the Appropriations Committee does, so he didn't say OK to the spending, he just changed his mind on the budget proposal.


MATTINGLY: Anyway, I like appropriations.

All right, guys, thanks for joining us on the INSIDE POLITICS.