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CNN Poll: Biden Tops Democratic Field, Tight Race for 2nd Place; Democrat Hopefuls Descend on Iowa, Take Aim at Biden; Poll: 52 Percent of Iowa Democrats Favor Experienced Nominee to Beat Trump; Poll: Abortion, Climate Change & Guns Top Issues for Iowa Democrats; Former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack (D) Discusses Democrat 2020 Race, Iowa Polls, Trump's Tariffs/Migrant Deal with Mexico; Red Sox Legend David Ortiz Recovering from Gunshot Wound; Trump Defends Mexico Deal as Criticism Intensifies. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired June 10, 2019 - 11:00   ET


[11:00:00] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. Thank you so much for joining me.

You can call it a cattle call. You can call it presidential primary speed dating. You can call it whatever you like. But it definitely was the largest gathering of presidential candidates so far.

And it's all happening in Iowa just as a new Iowa poll tells us that Joe Biden is still in the lead. But now Elizabeth Warren and Pete Buttigieg are surging to compete for second place in the first-in-the- nation state.

The new CNN/"Des Moines Register" poll has Biden at 24 percent. Bernie Sanders at 16 percent, you see there. We have seen that ranking before. But here is what we haven't seen. Elizabeth Warren and Pete Buttigieg now within the margin of error, basically, tied with Sanders for second place. There's more in those numbers you're going to want to see. And we'll get to that in just a second.

But back to that big event, those in Cedar Rapids. Nineteen candidates made their pitch, each only with five minutes to make the case.

The front-runner, Joe Biden, was notably absent, though, as he attended his granddaughter's graduation. But he was a popular target of fellow Democrats who did take the stage. Listen.


PETE BUTTIGIEG, (D), SOUTH BEND MAYOR & PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We're not going to win by playing it safe or promising a return to normal. We are where we are because normal broke.

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA): There are people who are ready for big structural change in this country.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT); I understand that there are some well- intentioned Democrats and candidates who believe that the best way forward is a middle-ground strategy that antagonizes no one, that stands up to nobody, and that changes nothing. In my view, that approach is not just bad public policy, but it is a failed political strategy.


BOLDUAN: All right. CNN's Jeff Zeleny is back in his second home, Des Moines, Iowa, this morning.

I was just thinking this morning, this is literally the best birthday gift imaginably for a political reporter like you, my friend. Happy birthday.

What are you hearing on the ground?


BOLDUAN: So many candidates are there. Joe Biden is not. How is his front-runner strategy that we're seeing play out, how is it going over right now?

ZELENY: Kate, such an interesting topic here because Joe Biden, yes, is leading in our new poll. Yes, he is the nominal front-runner. But talking to so many voters and other Democrats here, he's getting to the point where he has to prove he is the front-runner.

He's going to be here in Iowa tomorrow and Wednesday. He's going to be campaigning. But he has not built the type of organization that several others of his rivals have. He has, of course, been trying to take a Rose Garden strategy, if you will. That kind of approach.

And President Trump is going to be here tomorrow as well. So that gives the former vice president a chance to say, look at me, I'm the most electable. But this is the chance and time when he has to show that he has new ideas and other things.

One other number, Kate, that jumped out to me in our poll was this, 52 percent of likely caucus-goers say they do like Washington experience. They view that as an attribute, a positive trait. So that is a good thing for Joe Biden. Of course, no one has more Washington experience than him.

But Mayor Pete Buttigieg, from South Bend, Indiana, your home state, had a different argument to voters yesterday when he called for a new generation of leadership.


BUTTIGIEG: We're not going to win by playing it safe or promising a return to normal. We are where we are because normal broke.

The only thing we can do is look at that show that the president has created, whatever you want to call it, reality show, horror show, game show, and we're going to change the channel to something completely different.



ZELENY: So that is Mayor Buttigieg there making the argument that it is time for something different. And, Kate, he is rising in the polls here. He had probably the strongest last few months. He's been raising a lot of money as well.

So when those debates happen at the end of June, when that gives the vice president a chance to sort of prove he is a front-runner, one of his obviously big competitors is Pete Buttigieg, and that argument for a new generation of leadership. That's one of the many things that voters here are weighing -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: Great to see you, Jeff. Happy birthday again.

ZELENY: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: All right, so beyond the birthday wishes, let's dig into the poll numbers. Someone whose birthday is not today, actually, I don't know when your birthday is, but we'll get to it, what are Iowa caucus- goers saying right now?

CNN senior political writer and analyst, Harry Enten --

HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL WRITER & ANALYST: How do you know it's not my birthday? That's the question. It could be.

BOLDUAN: Statistically, I'm guessing it's not.

ENTEN: It is not my birthday, but it could have been.

BOLDUAN: OK. Now we have wasted more time.


OK, what are your big takeaways from the poll?

ENTEN: So let's look at this. Beyond the horse race, who is your top choice. Look at who likely in-person caucus-goers are either actively considering, have as a first choice or second choice. This gives you an understanding of how volatile this race could possibly be.

When you look at this metric, you see a tie at the top with Biden and Warren at 61 percent. Sanders right behind at 56 percent, and Buttigieg and Harris at 52 percent each. I think this gives you an understanding that things maybe very well shift. And remember, you have this 15 percent threshold, which a lot of candidates won't be able to meet.

[11:05:14] So I think this type of number gives you a better understanding of where the race is. That is Biden may be atop, but it's a really not a clear top.

BOLDUAN: And people are really interested in other candidates.

ENTEN: People are very, very interested in these other candidates. And Joe Biden's front-runner status is not secure by any stretch.

BOLDUAN: Also, I found really interesting is what some of the driving issues are turning out to be right now for Iowa caucus-goers.

ENTEN: Take a look right here. This is -- and this is why Joe Biden struggled so much with the Hyde Amendment discussion last week. Look at this. Right to an abortion, candidate must support that. Climate change is the greatest threat, 75 percent. Again, that was an issue which Joe Biden ran into trouble with the last few weeks where he was --


BOLDUAN: Funny that the Green New Deal is so much lower when you talk about climate change --


ENTEN: Remember, there's more to this than just the environment. This is specifically about the environment.


ENTEN: This is also part of the reason why Jay Inslee wanted an entire debate around climate change, which doesn't look like it's going to happen.

But these are the two issues that Joe Biden has sort of struggled with the most in the last month. And this gives you an understanding of why he had to come back to the left because voters aren't going to put up with anything else.

BOLDUAN: Really interesting how some of maybe the biggest talking points on the trail are not the top, top, too issues we're seeing that are going to be turning people out at this moment.

ENTEN: Right here, right? Free public college tuition, which is something that's being spoken about a lot.


ENTEN: Not really a big issue with them.

BOLDUAN: Really quickly, Iowa is trying something new this time around. Not just caucusing in person, which we're all familiar with, but also offering a virtual option right now. What exactly does it mean?

ENTEN: Yes, I mean, so, normally, right, you have to go in, go to those kitchens, raise your hand, move to the corner. This time around, there's going to be 10 percent of the delegates who going to be determined by a virtual caucus, which could be a teleconference, which could be a line.

What's so interesting here, I was pointing out the slides of in-person caucus-goers. Right now, they're only accounting for 10 percent of the delegates. But in our poll, they found closer to 30 percent would do a virtual caucus, which means what you could end up having is a weird thing where the votes don't necessarily translate to the delegates.

That's going to be tough for pollsters. And I'm not sure exactly what's going to happen. We're going to do the best we can, but it's going to be a crazy, crazy ride -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: We're still going to put it all on your shoulders, no matter how --


ENTEN: You know what? I'm going to get my exercise and lift everybody up.

BOLDUAN: Yes, you always lift everybody up with your --


ENTEN: My wit and my wonderful hair.

BOLDUAN: OK. I'm going now.

ENTEN: Good-bye.

BOLDUAN: Thank you, Harry. I really appreciate it.

Joining me is right now is Tom Vilsack. He's former Democratic governor of Ohio (sic). He's also the former secretary of agriculture under President Obama, and now the president and CEO of the U.S. Dairy Export Council.

Governor and Secretary, thank you for being here.

TOM VILSACK, (D), PRESIDENT & CEO, U.S. DAIRY EXPORT COUNCIL & FORMER IOWA GOVERNOR: You bet, Kate. I want to make sure your listeners and viewers understand, I was the governor of Iowa, not Ohio?

BOLDUAN: Did I say Ohio? All right.

VILSACK: You did.

BOLDUAN: It's Monday. I'm so -- I'm very sorry. Thank you so much for, one, correcting me, and --

VILSACK: No problem

BOLDUAN: -- two, for sticking around.

OK. What are Iowa Democrats telling us right now with what you see in this poll? Joe Biden is in the lead. You have Elizabeth Warren and Pete Buttigieg basically tying Sanders in second place. What do you see in this?

VILSACK: Well, I think it's very early. I think a lot of Iowans are interested in all of the candidates. That's why so many people showed up yesterday. Christie and I were in attendance to listen to all 19 speeches.

There's a wide array of opportunities and views and policy initiatives which I think excite people.

I think most of all, people are excited. They're interested. They're vested. They're contributing. They're volunteering. They're getting involved.

But it is a bit early. So I don't think I would put a lot of stock in polls at this point. Maybe later in the fall, those polls will give you a better indication of who's in and who might be out.

BOLDUAN: Right now, it seems there's a clear top tier, and then there's so many other candidates. There are 18 candidates at 2 percent support or less in Iowa in this poll.

You seem to have answered it, but do you think there's time for those candidates that are at the 2 percent or less to break through, or do you see it as time to start narrowing this field?

VILSACK: I think everybody has got a lot at stake with the first debate.


VILSACK: If you're on that stage, then you might have that viral moment that basically catapults you into a different tier, into the public psyche, if you will.

So for a lot of those candidates, that debate is going to be very important. That's going to determine whether or not they can get enough support to be able to be in subsequent debates. That's really what's going to essentially narrow this down.

And the 15 percent threshold that was mentioned earlier is absolutely correct. You have to know who the second and third choice is of a lot of these caucus-goers because their person may not be viable when it's all said and done.

[11:10:06] BOLDUAN: You were there at the Hall of Fame. You know it very well. Nineteen candidates there. Was it a mistake that Joe Biden was not there?

VILSACK: I don't think so. I think Vice President Biden now has the stage pretty much to himself on Tuesday and Wednesday, and especially the opportunity for him to sort of counterbalance the president's visit to Iowa. It puts him in a position where it re-enforces the notion he's the best candidate, at least in his view, in his campaign's view, to take on President Trump.

I don't think it was necessarily a mistake on the part of the Biden campaign or an unfortunate circumstance. I think the reality is he may have benefitted from not being on the stage. But Iowans are going to expect him to work for this. BOLDUAN: Yes.

VILSACK: It's not something that's guaranteed.

BOLDUAN: Yes. Because what we see from Biden is that he's running a strategy of not engaging other Democrats. Running, instead, a national campaign against President Trump. And we are, though, hearing from folks in Iowa complain that they're not seeing him enough, if you will, on the ground. You know Iowans. How risky is that?

VILSACK: Well, you have to be there. You have to spend time. You have to basically create the connection.

But the reality is the vice president has been connected to our state for a number of years and he has a lot of deep relationships with people. So in that sense, he's a little different than the other candidates who are coming for the first time to the state. Obviously, Senator Sanders has that same kind of contact.

But at the end of the day, the vice president has got to lay out his vision for the country, and Iowans are going to decide whether it's compelling. And they're also going to decide who, in all of these 23 candidates, is the best person to take on President Trump, because that, I think, is the central issue, people want to make sure that Democrats win this election.

BOLDUAN: That's up there, definitely the top issue right now that they care about with their nominee.

I want to ask you about trade. You now represent the dairy industry. Mexico, number-one market when it comes to the folks you represent. There are a lot of questions still over this deal the president made with Mexico over immigration to avoid tariffs on goods coming from Mexico.

How much of a win is it, really, for the president? Are dairy farmers you represent breathing a sigh of relief this morning?

VILSACK: Not necessarily. I think they will breathe a sigh of relief when three things happen. The USMCA trade agreement is ratified by Congress. The administration complete negotiations with Japan and gets a free trade agreement. And we somehow resolve our dispute with China. Until those three things are resolved, our dairy producers are going to continue to be concerned about the market and concerned about exports.

Roughly 16 percent of all dairy production goes out of the country. It's incredibly important to the incomes of dairy farmers and the processors and companies that produce all these products. Those three are the big issues here.

I think what the president potentially could have done with the Mexican deal was to buy a little more time and a little more patience on the part of farmers. They have been patient. They have trusted this administration. But patience is not infinite. It's limited. BOLDUAN: Yes.

Secretary, Governor, you have been a great governor of Ohio as well, but I really appreciate you coming on. Thank you very much.


VILSACK: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Still ahead for us, a baseball legend ambushed. And so many questions right now. First among them, why would someone want to shoot World Series champion, David Ortiz? The latest on how he is doing this morning, and the investigation. That is next.

Also coming up, President Trump declares victory over a deal with Mexico, but big questions do remain on how new this deal really is.

We'll be right back.


[11:18:25] BOLDUAN: Now the story that has shocked the world of baseball and far beyond. David Ortiz, former Red Sox superstar, three-time World Series champion, 10-time all star, and beloved figure in Boston, he was shot yesterday in the back in his native Dominican Republic.

His agent confirming what you see in this surveillance video, that a man approached Ortiz from behind at a nightclub in Santa Domingo, shooting him at point-blank range. Police say Ortiz is out of surgery, out of danger now, in stable condition.

They also say they have detained several people, including one who was beaten up by bystanders after the shooting.

CNN's Alexandra Field has been following all the details for us. She's joins me now.

Alex, what everyone is wondering is, why would someone shoot David Ortiz? What are you hearing about all this?

ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Totally unclear why someone would target David Ortiz, who is such a legendary player for his skills in baseball, also a heroic figure for people across the city of Boston and for so many across the country that have revered him.

The video you saw there is shocking. You can see that it appears he was targeted, but police have not said why anyone would be targeting Ortiz.

Again, in this shocking video, you do see him take the bullet and fall to the ground. The bullet traveling through his back and into his stomach, sending him into emergency surgery. Doctors say he's out of danger. That's a relief for everyone who was up all night closely following the developments here. An outpouring of support from Major League Baseball, from the mayor of

Boston, from his former teammates, from the Boston Red Sox. So many people sending their love. But the questions have not been answered.

A number of people have been taken into custody who are suspected to have ties to the shooting. Police, of course, speaking to him. They also want to speak to Ortiz himself now that he's through the surgery.

[11:20:07] BOLDUAN: You can see in the video, the point-blank range he was shot at, it's really amazing that he's already considered in stable condition and doing well.

FIELD: Absolutely.

BOLDUAN: Really amazing.

Thank you so much, Alex.

There's so many questions still on this one.

Joining me right now is Michael McCann. He's a writer and legal analyst with "Sports Illustrated." He's joining me now.

Michael, thanks for being here.

What did you think when you saw this and you heard this?

MICHAEL MCCANN, WRITER & LEGAL ANALYST, SPORTS ILLUSTRATED: Well, Kate, initially, it was reported as a robbery gone wrong. But as we know, the video shows something else.

The video depicted, as you and Alex just discussed, what looks like an assassination attempt or an attempted murder. This would suggest there are more than one person involved. There's, of course, the shooter, but there would also be other persons.

For instance, how did they know David Ortiz was there? The fact that the shooter has been apprehended suggests his phone has been retrieved possibly and there's electronic evidence on that.

What police will want to do is go through -- certainly, question him, probe him as to why this happened, but also look at where he's from. His house, his place of business, any electronic evidence, and try to piece together what was the motive, what was the purpose of this.

BOLDUAN: You really can't overstate what a beloved figure that he is in the D.R. and around Boston, New England. Why is he so loved?

MCCANN: Well, Kate, I'm from Boston, so I can speak almost on a more local level as to why he's so beloved. He's, of course, one of the greatest players in Red Sox history. He led them to a World Series.

But he also played a really instrumental role after the marathon bombings where he rallied the city. He used an expletive to rally the city during a well-noted event. That he's sort of taken on this crusader role on behalf of the city, a leader, so personable. Does a ton of charity work.

Everyone likes him. You never heard anything bad about David Ortiz.


MCCANN: So for this to happen is extra shocking.

BOLDUAN: I'm just wondering this, what we know about David Ortiz, what you see in the video, you wonder if there's any chance at all this was a random shooting.

MCCANN: Yes, it's possible. Or maybe there's something else. Maybe this is a personal relationship gone awry. We don't know, right? It looks like he was the target. He is a well-known figure. He's recognizable. He stands out.


MCCANN: It is possible it's random, but I also think the fact that he's so notable suggests it was intentional.

BOLDUAN: He's a national figure in the D.R., and he stands out physically. He's such a large presence. This is not someone that you miss. Because the question then is, how do you square these two things, how loved he is and then him being targeted? Why would someone want to target such a beloved figure like him?

Has there ever been any reporting that he's, I don't know, ever been mixed up in anything? I haven't seen anything.

MCCANN: No, nothing. He's someone who has been revered, and there's never been any taint in terms of links to criminals or anything like that. That would suggest that maybe there's a piece of the story we don't know yet. This was -- assuming it was an intentional act, there must be an element to the story. Whether it's some personal issue, we'll find out.

BOLDUAN: Yes. We sure will.

Michael, thank you for coming on. I really appreciate it. Thanks so much.

MCCANN: Thank you, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Still ahead for us, Donald Trump says he got everything that he wanted from Mexico, but what exactly did he get? That is still a big question. That is next.


[11:28:18] BOLDUAN: Things we know. President Trump is declaring victory after reaching a deal with Mexico on immigration. And he says his threats of tariffs forced Mexico to cave. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES (voice-over): This is something the U.S. has been trying to get for over 20 years with Mexico. They have never been able to do it. As soon as I put tariffs on the table, it was done. It took two days.


BOLDUAN: Things we don't know, though, what exactly did Mexico agree to, and how new is any of it? The "New York Times" is reporting that parts of the Mexico deal were actually hammered out months ago.

CNN's Abby Phillip is at the White House following all this.

Abby, what are you hearing about this?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Kate, it seems that much of what they agreed to with Mexico last week was a codifying of many of the agreements they have been working on for several months. In some cases, the timeline had been sped up for the implementation of these agreements.

But in at least one case, for example, when the Mexicans agreed to keep asylum seekers in Mexico while they wait for their cases to by adjudicated, that was announced by the former Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen months ago. And Mexico had agreed to deploy their National Guard troops to stop these migrants as they were making their way up from Central America to the U.S. southern border, also a deal worked out months ago.

But President Trump is apparently very sensitive about this and insisted this morning in an interview with CNBC that this would never have happened had he not threatened them a week ago with tariffs.


TRUMP (voice-over): If we didn't have tariffs, we wouldn't have made a deal with Mexico. We got everything we wanted. And we're going to be a great partner to Mexico now because now they respect us. They didn't even respect us.

They couldn't believe how stupid we were with what's going on, where somebody comes in from Mexico and just walks right into our country and we're powerless to do anything.

Whereas, they have very strong immigration laws. They don't have to take anybody.