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Dem Candidates Try to Break Through in First Debate. Aired 5- 5:30a ET

Aired June 27, 2019 - 05:00   ET


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: In the United States and all around the world, this is a special edition of NEW DAY.

[05:00:04] It's Thursday, June 27th. It's 5:00 here in New York.

And all of the audio works perfectly.


BERMAN: That's right. Good point.

All right. New this morning, the big moments and the big surprises for the first 2020 presidential debate. We're getting new data in about which candidate made the biggest splash and perhaps the biggest gain among the ten who were on the stage last night.

Going into the night, Senator Elizabeth Warren was the only candidate there polling above 5 percent. Might that be different now?

There were genuine clashes on health care, immigration, foreign policy. And some of the candidates who have been pulling, let's say, lower, let's just say they didn't wait their turn to try to break through.

CAMEROTA: What are you referring to?

BERMAN: Just saying.

CAMEROTA: The first group of Democratic hopefuls, the debate largely stayed away from attacking one another, and barely mentioned President Trump. Looking forward tonight, four of the leading candidates take the debate stage. Former Vice President Joe Biden, Senator Bernie Sanders, Senator Kamala Harris, and South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg.

CNN's MJ Lee was up late last night. She is live in Miami with highlights of the first debate -- MJ.

MJ LEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, guys.

Ten Democrats trying to maximize the very little time that they had to introduce themselves to voters, to talk about their policy ideas and to even try to have some break out moments. But we didn't hear a lot of personal insults, but there were a lot of disagreements when it came to policy. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LEE: Ten Democratic presidential hopefuls tried their best to be heard taking on a crowded stage in Miami.

Leading this field, Senator Elizabeth Warren, starting the night fighting off questions that her many plans could be risky to the economy.

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: When you've got an economy that does great for those with money and isn't doing great for everyone else, that is corruption, pure and simple. We need to call it out. We need to attack it head on.

LEE: The candidates focusing on the issues, barely mentioning President Trump.

JULIAN CASTRO (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We'll say adios to Donald Trump.

GOV. JAY INSLEE (D-WA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The biggest problem is Donald Trump.

LEE: But that unity quickly fizzled into several testy exchanges.

Former Housing Secretary Julian Castro emotional, delivering his plan for immigration reform, highlighting the father and daughter who drowned crossing the Rio Grande into the U.S. after waiting two months to get asylum.

CASTRO: Watching that image of Oscar and his daughter, Valeria, is heartbreaking. It should also piss us all off.


And it should spur us to action. If I were president today, I would sign an executive order that would get rid of Trump's zero-tolerance policy.

LEE: The humanitarian crisis at the border and the controversial policy of separating undocumented families igniting a Texas style showdown between Castro and Beto O'Rourke.

BETO O'ROURKE (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: But you're looking at just one small part of this. I'm talking about a comprehensive rewrite of our immigration laws.

CASTRO: That's not true.


CASTRO: But let me tell you what: Section 18, title 18 of the U.S. Code, title 21 and title 22, already cover human trafficking.

(CROSSTALK) CASTRO: I think that you should do your homework on this issue. If you did your homework on this issue, you would know that we should repeal this section.


LEE: New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio blasting O'Rourke on health care.

MODERATOR: Would you replace private insurance?

O'ROURKE: No. I think the choice is fundamental to our ability to get everybody cared for --

MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO (D-NYC), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Wait, wait, wait. Congressman O'Rourke, Congressman O'Rourke, private insurance is not working for tens of millions of Americans when you talk about the co-pays, the deductibles, the premiums, the out of pocket expenses. It's not working. How can you defend a system that's not working?

O'ROURKE: That's right. So for those for whom it's not working, they can choose Medicare. For the --


DE BLASIO: Congressman --

O'ROURKE: -- who I listen to --

DE BLASIO: -- you've got to start by acknowledging the system is not working for people.

O'ROURKE: -- they're able to keep them.

LEE: De Blasio and Warren, the only two raising their hands in support of eliminating private health insurance.

Warren endorsing the plan of another Democratic heavyweight who takes the debate stage tonight.

WARREN: I'm with Bernie on Medicare-for-All. Well, health care is a basic human right and I will fight for basic human rights.

LEE: Senator Cory Booker getting personal about the gun control debate.

SEN. CORY BOOKER (D-NJ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm tired of hearing people all, they have to offer is thoughts and prayers.


In my faith, people say faith without works is dead. So we will find a way. But the reason we have a problem right now is we've let the corporate gun lobby frame this debate. It is time that we have bold actions and a bold agenda. I LEE: Army veteran, Hawaii Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, slamming Tim Ryan on foreign policy.

REP. TULSI GABBARD (D-HI), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We cannot keep U.S. troops deployed to Afghanistan thinking that we're going to somehow squash this Taliban that's been there, that every other country that's tried has failed.

REP. TIM RYAN (D-OH), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I didn't say -- I didn't say squash them. I didn't say squash them. When we weren't in there, they started flying planes into our buildings. So I'm just saying right now --


GABBARD: The Taliban didn't attack us on 9/11. Al Qaeda did.

RYAN: Well, I -- I understand --

GABBARD: Al Qaeda attacked us on 9/11. That's why I and so many other people joined the military, to go after Al Qaeda, not the Taliban.

RYAN: I understand that.

[05:05:01] The Taliban --


LEE: On abortion, Senator Amy Klobuchar receiving a roaring round of applause after Governor Jay Inslee made this claim.

INSLEE: But we do have one candidate that's actually advanced the ball. And we've got to have access for everyone. I've done it as a public option.

MODERATOR: Your time --


MODERATOR: Senator Klobuchar, I want to get you --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's a false claim.

MODERATOR: I am fascinated by this. Senator -- Senator Klobuchar?

KLOBUCHAR: I just want to say, there's three women up here that have fought pretty hard for a woman's right to choose. I'll start with that.


LEE: Klobuchar winning over the crowd once again delivering this one- liner about President Trump's one-liner of the handling of Iran. KLOBUCAR: This president is literally every single day 10 minutes

away from going to war, one tweet away from going to war. And I don't think we should conduct --

MODERATOR: All right. Your time is up.

KLOBUCHAR: -- foreign policy in our bathrobe at 5:00 in the morning.


LEE: And, guys, we're going to do it all over again tonight with 10 other Democratic candidates, including Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris and Pete Buttigieg taking the stand.

And speaking about Bernie Sanders, his day is not going to be all about debate prep. We expect to see him visiting the Homestead detention facility here in south Florida. Just another reminder, guys, that immigration is going to be such a giant issue in the 2020 race -- guys.

CAMEROTA: OK, MJ, thank you. Stay with us if you would.

We're going to talk more about night one of these debates with Sarah Isgur. She advised multiple Republican political campaigns and is a CNN political analyst. John Avlon, he's our CNN senior political analyst. And Joe Lockhart, he was White House press secretary in the Clinton administration.

Sarah, let's start with you because you have been here before and seen all of this play out before. How did you think last night went?

SARAH ISGUR, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: When all you do when you watch these is you think back to the staff and what they are doing behind the scenes. And it's like dropping your kid off for the first day of school.

And you would do, you walk them out. They meet all the candidates behind stage --

CAMEROTA: They cry a little.

ISGUR: Awkward interaction, and then you kind of wave good-bye and you're like, you'll do great.

And then you wait and pick them up and you're worried about their bathroom breaks and did they get enough to eat? And did they like that snack you packed for them?

And, you know, you know what they're capable of and you want them to do your best and then you just have to watch.

And so, for me, you're reliving those moments behind the scenes. And so, when you watch Beto get beat up by other kids on the playground, oh, no, my kiddo. Like, what are they thinking? Like those parents --

CAMEROTA: Who did you think had a good first day of kindergarten?

ISGUR: You know, I didn't think anyone actually improved their standing. Like I don't think we'll see a huge bump in the polls for anyone, but if I had to pick a winner, it's Booker. It's Senator Booker.

I thought he introduced himself well, showcased that he was a little bit different in tone and message. I didn't think Warren did herself any harm and then there was sort of the what we will see as also-runs who some did very well.

Delaney did very well, for instance. Do I think he's going to rocket up to the top of the pack? No. But I think if you are looking for a cabinet spot or something like that, you may take a second look down the road.

BERMAN: Joe Lockhart, biggest night, your impression?

All right, Joe. Joe has not moved.

CAMEROTA: He's being very --



BERMAN: No, Joe, what do you think? Who do you think had the biggest night? What were your major impressions?

LOCKHART: I think Elizabeth Warren did what she needed to do to kind of cement being the adult in the room. She scored points early.

And I think the moderates at the table really didn't challenge her in any way. I think there was a lot of talk about Trump not being a big part of this. But in fact, I think he was, but just not by name. His policies were called out consistently.

And all of the candidates seem to want to tell their life's story in a way that is in stark contrast to Trump, you know, who inherited, you know, a lot of money from his dad. There were a lot of stories about hard scrabbled youth, and, you know, being from an immigrant family. So, you know, again, I think Warren did enough because I think the pressure was on her to do enough.

And, you know, otherwise, I'd say Julian Castro was the most animated on the issue that seemed to captivate the crowd, which was immigration. So, I think he probably more than anyone held himself last night.

CAMEROTA: John, your first take?

JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I think Booker had a strong night. Elizabeth Warren was treated as the front-runner. I think a lot of those 1 percenters, the folks who have trouble pulling away in the polls did themselves a favor last night, not just Julian Castro. But I even think the congressman from Youngstown, Ohio --


AVLON: Congressman Ryan, actually had a very impassioned argument rooted in personal experience about manufacturing, about the working class, about the Democratic Party's problem of being seen as too elite, which is hard to see from a sense of debate, and how they need to reach out to those workers.

[05:10:00] Beto really got beaten up.

CAMEROTA: Why? It was the moment with Julian Castro? What was --

AVLON: It wasn't just that moment. And, look, I think actually Beto was right on policy a lot of the night, but he did seem like a convenient punching bag for folks because he came into the race as such a star and he's had a tough time converting.

He had the policy chops, but very often couldn't get them out of his mouth. The key moment for me last night in terms of the style and the substance crushing together is he's given an answer about the public option. Remember, this is something Barack Obama wanted for his health care plan. It was considered too left to pass at the time.

It's insufficiently radical for folks who want to take away all private insurance, which is de Blasio and Warren. De Blasio interrupts pretty brutally and basically says, calls him an apostate for not supporting it enough. And then Rob Delaney sort of, you know, whittles in at the end of the conversation, says, we need to focus on what -- preserving what works and changing what doesn't, and let's not be radical, let's be practical.

That to me kind of summed a lot of the stakes of the debate in the policy stuff. But Beto I think had the worst night. And a lot of the folks who had been really obscure show they had a place on the stage.

BERMAN: Look, I'm a data guy, and we do have some data. It's not polling, but it's Google trend searches.

AVLON: Sure.

BERMAN: Who people were looking for on Google. And if you look at this, Cory Booker was the most searched candidate during the debate. Tulsi Gabbard was second. She is an Internet sensation already. I mean, she has a huge Internet presence that maybe outpaces her position in the polls. You see Beto O'Rourke in third. I'm not sure those were all good searches.

And then down at sixth, a lot of people thought Julian Castro had a good debate, HE'S sixth in Google searches, which on its first blush may not seem that great, but Google made sure to point out to us that searches on Julian Castro spiked 4,000 percent, MJ, 4,000 percent over the course of the debate.

So, if you are looking about improvement, it's hard to argue that Julian Castro did not have a huge improvement during that debate.

LEE: Well, I mean, if you look at someone like Julian Castro, I think he was one of the candidates going into this debate with so much at stake because his candidacy has really failed to take off so far, right? He has not had any momentum in the polls. He is not getting probably the kind of coverage that his campaign would like him to get.

And I think the fact that he seized on the issue of immigration to really make this forceful and powerful impression on voters who might be actually tuning in to exactly who he is for probably the first time last night, I think that was a really important moment for him.

And, guys, one of the biggest takeaways for me last night watching this debate was just actually how far away the general election feels right now because the point of last night and sort of the big thematics of last night was really about the primaries. We didn't hear Donald Trump's name being invoked very much. We didn't hear candidates going out of their way to try to attack the president, especially on issues like moral clarity, which I found surprising given the images of immigration and being separated from their families and Democrats pouncing on the Trump administration and his policies on that that over the last couple of weeks.

I'm surprised that that didn't come up more. And I think it showed how much the debate stage was set to draw for these many Democratic candidates to draw distinctions between themselves before they can really pivot and focus on President Trump and the general election.

CAMEROTA: Four hundred and ninety-four days to the election I'm being told in my ear. So, let's speed it up.

BERMAN: But that's a blink of an eye. But, look, that's a blink of an eye.

But MJ's point is they treated this as a primary debate and they have to beat each other. They have to get the most Democratic votes, which, you know, John, they're going for progressive votes here. I mean, I know you thought that Tim Ryan made an interesting pitch to the middle class here, but the other nine candidates, it's clear they don't think those are the voters that they need to win the primary right now.

AVLON: Yes, they may think that. But Ryan is making a point about the working class is not what it may seem to be if you're focusing on identity politics in an inclusive way.

This is obviously a primary debate but it's striking how few of them were reaching for the commander-in-chief test. And that's ultimately what this is about. Who's a credible candidate for president of the United States?

CAMEROTA: All right. Everyone --

ISGUR: Swing voters in Wisconsin yet.

AVLON: Yes. CAMEROTA: Hold those thoughts. Stick around. We want to let you

know you should also stick around.

We have three of the presidential candidates coming up on NEW DAY. We have Julian Castro, Beto O'Rourke and Jay Inslee.

BERMAN: Yes, all three of them were really central to some of these viral moments in the campaign. So, it will be interesting to get their take as they're waking up this morning.

We have much more to talk about, to chew on in this debate. What kind of avenue did they leave for tonight for the candidates who will take the stage tonight, candidates like, say, Joe Biden?

Stick around.


[05:19:32] BERMAN: All right. The first half of the first round of the Democratic president debates on the books.

CAMEROTA: It's fair.

BERMAN: Ten candidates on the stage last night. We're back with MJ Lee, Joe Lockhart, Sarah Isgur and John Avlon.

As I said, I'm a data guy. One other piece of data do we have from last night is speaking time, who talked the most? And this tells us something.

Look, Cory Booker spoke for, you can see it up there, 10 minutes and 55 seconds. He was number one. Way down at the bottom was Jay Inslee with 4 four minutes and 52 second.

Cory Booker spoke twice as much.

[05:20:00] CAMEROTA: What does that tell us? That he --

AVLON: He's a talker.

CAMEROTA: That he -- I mean, they all got the same amount of time. Did he interrupt or they directed more questions to him?

BERMAN: I don't think that's true first of all. I think they directed more questions, perhaps, and also that Booker did seize the moment.

Joe, what does it mean in terms of -- in terms of how the candidates chose to approach it versus how we perceived it?

LOCKHART: Well, I think there was an attempt by MSNBC to focus on the higher polling candidates, Elizabeth Warren really dominated the first hour. And I think it's not so much the amount of time, it's when they have that time. I think after about an hour I think most people, you know, it's sort of all blended in a little bit. And it's not just how much time you have, it's what you say. I mean,

Jay Inslee made two great points. One was climate change was his issue. And he had one of the better, if not the best line of the night, when he said Donald Trump is the greatest national security threat to the United States.

So people remember moments as opposed to, you know, this person spoke for six minutes, this person spoke for eight minutes. So, I wouldn't take too much meaning to that. Again, I think the timing of it with Warren dominating the beginning.

The beginning of the debate felt like, you know, Elizabeth Warren, what do you think? All of the other candidates needed to react to her.


LOCKHART: So, while she was only at around nine minutes, it really was dominated in the debate.

CAMEROTA: Some of the pundits believe that Julian Castro also had a very good night and he was able to move the needle somehow. So, let's play the moment that got a lot of attention where he really went after Beto O'Rourke about the immigration policies. So, listen to this.


CASTRO: But let me tell you what: Section 18, title 18 of the U.S. Code, title 21 and title 22, already cover human trafficking.


CASTRO: I think that you should do your homework on this issue. If you did your homework on this issue, you would know that we should repeal this section.


CAMEROTA: What did you see Julian Castro doing, Sarah, in that moment?

ISGUR: You know, I actually -- it was a -- it was a little hard to hear. I never like crosstalk in debates and I thought when de Blasio interrupted as well, I was curious watching it myself, whether in fact, there'd be sort of a gender divide.

I saw some people on Twitter saying that they really like it when some of the guys were more aggressive and interrupted. And for me, it was very cringe-worthy. And it reminds you of every time some guy takes your armrest on the plane. And so, for me, that was the immigration armrest moment --

CAMEROTA: But I felt like he was strategically going after Beto O'Rourke.

ISGUR: I did, too. What I actually thought he had a much stronger moment when he was talking about the photo, when he was talking about loss of life, and he said, and we should be pissed off. He didn't overplay it. You know, for a second, I thought he was going to try to do a moist eye thing, and he didn't. He actually pivoted, and I thought very nicely, worked for the audience in the room, and I thought it translated well on TV far more than the crosstalk.

BERMAN: And look, what he also did there was to prove or to try to prove that this is the original moment. Number one, he had the emotional connection when he said he was pissed up, and number two, when he started -- well, let's play that right there.


CASTRO: Watching that image of Oscar and his daughter, Valeria, is heartbreaking. It should also piss us all off.


If I were president today -- and it should spur us to action. If I were president today, I would sign an executive order that would get rid of Trump's zero-tolerance policy, the remain in Mexico policy, and the metering policy. This metering policy is basically what prompted Oscar and Valeria to make that risky swim across the river.


BERMAN: He's talking about emotion. He's talking about very specific things. And he's also, John, talking about a moment. Let's not forget when this debate happened. This debate was within 24 hours of Americans really seeing that photo for the very first time.

AVLON: That's right. I do think because he said we should have our hearts broken but we should be pissed. And that's also the way people talk, which is why it resonate, not always politicians.

And then he had the policy right. Here's what I would do to change that. Here's how Trump's policies possibly led to that moment. I think --

ISGUR: John, did you think by going after Beto, he made it look like he was running in a Texas Senate primary more than he wanted --

AVLON: I think that's exactly why it was so awkward. It wasn't just two folks sort of from the same state going after each other, it was the crosstalk that erupted. It was the fact that he wasn't listening to the argument that Beto I think was trying in good faith to make.

They have policy differences -- the issue of decriminalization of these folks is one that you can have. But so often, I mean, you saw the gravitational pull policy-wise that the Democratic Party was decidedly far left last night. I mean, you know, again, Beto getting attacked for even backing the public option. People being attacked for being sort of insufficiently radical.

When de Blasio reprised his line, you know, there's plenty of money, just in the wrong hands -- I mean, there's no specificity and there's no push back.

[05:25:04] A lot of the stuff plays into Donald Trump's playbook, whether they know or not, but they're utterly focused on the primary.

CAMEROTA: MJ, Elizabeth Warren, who you have covered and watched on the campaign trail. You know, she -- she came out of the gate strong. I mean, the first question went to her. She was ready with I guess her -- what she said on the stump. She has all of her policies and she lays it out the way she has.

And so, I think that, you know, here we're sort of downplaying it, like Elizabeth Warren didn't hurt herself. Do you think that she helped herself?

LEE: Look, I think because she was center stage and because she was a front-runner on that stage last night, clearly a lot of questions were more focused on her, especially in the first hour. She seized the moment in the beginning to lay out the big picture argument that we have heard her make out on the trail.

The big thematics, right, that she is for upending the system in Washington, that we have a system in Washington that doesn't work for the middle class or working families. This is a system that works for big corporations and the rich.

I think the one moment that stood out for me the most when it comes to Elizabeth Warren is how she handled Medicare-for-All question. You think about how, you know, folks might have been in the room preparing the senator for debate night. And you know that this is a question that has to come up because it's such a critical issue not just for her but in the primaries in general.

And the way the question was asked, do you support and do you agree with Bernie Sanders on the issue of Medicare-for-All? And it is not an accident that she answered that question by saying, I am with Bernie on Medicare-for-All.

She was clearly making the point that not only am I supportive of his bill. This is an issue that I am on the same page as him on. However, what she did say on private insurance I think is going to come back and raise a lot more questions because this is the strongest that I've heard her take a stance on that issue and she usually is a little bit more measured about it.

CAMEROTA: We'll play that moment for everybody. It was really interesting to hear why she says they are the villains.

OK, thank you all very much.

CAMEROTA: Up next, CNN goes inside a border facility that is overcrowded and some say filthy. It is very hard to get cameras inside this detention centers. We'll show you what our reporting found when he walked in.