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Democratic Candidates Fight to Stand Out at CNN Debates; Intel Chief Dan Coats Stepping Down, Trump to Nominate John Ratcliffe as Replacement; Interview with Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD). Aired 7-8p ET

Aired July 28, 2019 - 19:00   ET


[19:00:00] ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: And for many of them, this is make- or-break time as candidates still struggling in the polls hope for that breakout moment to help them qualify for the next debates. One of the marquee matchups, we'll see former Vice President Joe Biden take the podium directly between two of his most recent critics, Senators Kamala Harris and Cory Booker.

With us here at this debate site in Detroit, Democratic strategist, Angela Rye; former Obama White House communications director, Jen Psaki; former Clinton White House press secretary, Joe Lockhart; Democratic strategist on the '92 Clinton/Gore campaign, Paul Begala; former communications director for the Hillary Clinton campaign, Karen Finney; and former South Carolina Democratic House member, Bakari Sellers.

Welcome, everybody. So many candidates, so many dividing lines right now. Let's start with age because three of those Democrats -- Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren -- they will be over the age of 70 come election day in November. Should that be an issue, Angela?

ANGELA RYE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think that we can't say it's an issue now. We have an older President in the White House right now. I think that the reality that we have to face is that there are some divides from a policy standpoint, but age also isn't dictating that. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are among some of the most progressive folks resonating very well with millennials, and age is not a factor in that. So, I think it really, more or less, depends on policy and what people want to see differently going into the next election.

CABRERA: Let me remind everybody because this did become an issue in the first debate. You all recall Congressman Eric Swalwell. We discussed a little bit earlier, he had that famous pass the torch line. He called out the age of the former Vice President Joe Biden. And Bernie Sanders, he wasn't having it, either. Listen.


REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D), CALIFORNIA: I was 6 years old when the presidential candidate came to the California Democratic Convention and said, it's time to pass the torch to a new generation of Americans. That candidate was then-Senator Joe Biden. Joe Biden was right when he said it was time to pass the torch to a new generation of Americans 32 years ago. He's still right today. SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If I were to say

to a younger person, you know, you're not qualified because you're only 35 or 36 or something like that, you don't have the experience, that's not right. I don't think so. Judge people on the totality of who they are, what their ideas are, what their experience is, what their record is. That's what I think we should do.


CABRERA: Swalwell's no longer in the race, Karen.


RYE: That's my point.

CABRERA: Do you think we'll see any candidates bring up age in this debate?

KAREN FINNEY, FORMER STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS ADVISER AND SENIOR SPOKESPERSON FOR HILLARY CLINTON: I don't think you have to bring up age in this debate. I mean, just think about on that first night. You've got, you know, Senator Sanders and Senator Warren and then you've got Pete Buttigieg and Beto O'Rourke, and so you've already got the contrast -- in the second night, as well -- of sort of older and younger.

And so, I think what we're going to see, in the way they talk about policy, maybe some generational differences. Particularly on the first night, I think we will also see, because we've got Governor Bullock on the stage for the first time, a little bit of left versus right, capitalism versus socialism, and maybe a little bit of the generational gap as well.

CABRERA: Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden will not be on the same stage this time around, but --


CABRERA: But, Paul, you say they better both show up wearing flak jackets because --

BEGALA: Right.

CABRERA: -- combined, they have, what is it, 82 years in service?

BEGALA: Eighty-two years in public office. And God bless them, 82 years. Now, the two leading women candidates, Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren, combined only have 21. Now, that's a lot. I mean, they're fully qualified. But you can do a lot combing through 82 years of somebody's --

CABRERA: So, it makes them more vulnerable, you think?

BEGALA: Very vulnerable. It is what the military people call a target-rich environment. You feel like a mosquito in a nudist colony, you just don't know where you'll land, but you're going to hit pay dirt wherever you land.



CABRERA: Our minds just went into --

RYE: Wow!

CABRERA: What a statement.


BEGALA: And you spend a lot of time in nudist colonies, I know.

SELLERS: Our mind just went everywhere.


SELLERS: Let me also say this and just to throw it out there, I do think that if you go into preparation, you have to make sure that your candidates are well-rested, and your candidates are sharp. And one of the things that we saw this week was, we saw Robert Mueller who is 74 years old and we saw the difficulty he had just from a pure appearance standard. Now, I don't think that's a standard by which you should judge his testimony because I thought it was very good, but, you know, there was a lot of question about whether or not, you know, he -- whether or not he was as agile as he should be.

But you look at Bernie Sanders, for example, and Elizabeth Warren. They have proved, time and time again, that they can stand toe-to-toe with the best of them. I just know that viewers will have that juxtaposition in their head when they're watching that debate. And to Karen's point, a lot of what goes unsaid, what Pete Buttigieg would like, what Kamala Harris would like, what Julian Castro would like, are those split images on the screen --

FINNEY: Right.

SELLERS: -- where you have an image of a Pete Buttigieg and a Bernie Sanders, or you have an image of a Joe Biden and a Julian Castro. Because sometimes you don't have to say anything to say that we're looking for generational change. The images state -- they speak for themselves.

[19:04:53] FINNEY: But I think people have to also think about, as they're preparing, how much of their time -- particularly for those who know they're going to get less time, how much of your time are you going to spend attacking a front-runner or trying to say something positive about yourself and breakthrough in a positive way, not just because you were able to take somebody down in the way that we saw Kamala go after Joe Biden last time.

I mean, I think she got a lot of credit for style in that she showed she could throw a punch. Some people had some different feelings about the substance of it, as to whether or not that was fair. And I do think there's an element of this that says how much time do we want to spend talking about the past versus the future when we know that's what people vote on. Black, White, Brown, you name it, men, women, we -- I want to hear, what are you going to do for me now?

RYE: I just --


CABRERA: Let me swing to the right as I talk about the conversation of -- among many of the candidates being more and more to the left of the political divide. I am wondering, Joe, who do you think is speaking to the middle the best?

JOE LOCKHART, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Well, listen, I think Biden has done a good job of framing this as a moral case for the country, that battle for the soul of the country. I think others have been sporadic. I mean, Amy Klobuchar has had a moment here or there in a town hall, and we talked about Kirsten Gillibrand before.

But I think, you know, it's -- this is really interesting. I want to push back a little bit on Paul because one of the other things about the Iowa -- CNN poll in Iowa was, for the first time since I can remember, people were valuing -- more than 50 percent of the caucus- goers wanted people with D.C. experience. Trump has changed the dynamic in ways that I don't know that we all fully understand yet, but the idea -- and I think most Democrats will --

CABRERA: We're all experiencing the changes of dynamic every day, right?

LOCKHART: Yes, yes. But I think most Democrats will tell you they might have different prescriptions for it --


LOCKHART: -- but the absolute priority is someone who can beat Trump and someone who's different from Trump and someone who knows stuff and can run the government and isn't going to be crazy. So that does open up --


LOCKHART: So that --

FINNEY: That's a low bar.


CABRERA: That's a very low bar.

LOCKHART: No, so that does open --

RYE: That isn't a real bar (ph).

LOCKHART: That opens up the possibility for some candidates to say, like Amy Klobuchar, who isn't the most dynamic person in the world, but who -- if she can make the case, for example, that, you know, she has a plan and she's going to restore sanity to the White House, that's a big plus. If you had -- four years ago, if someone had said D.C. experience --

RYE: Yes.

LOCKHART: -- every consultant in the room would have walked out and quit.


FINNEY: Yes, we kept running away from that, let me tell you.



JENNIFER PSAKI, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: I think the one thing, though, just to pick up on a point Karen made, is that it can't just be about who's going to punch Trump. It has to be about somebody who is presenting a forward-looking vision. That is not defined by 500 pages of policy proposals. It is defined by who has an optimistic vision for the future.

You've seen a couple of the candidates do that well. I think that's why Mayor Pete has risen as he has. Beto tried to do that, obviously hasn't been successful. We probably need to see more of that from Joe Biden. I don't think it's an age thing. I think it's about somebody who is presenting not just I can punch Trump, but I have a better option if you open my door.

RYE: Can I just say --

CABRERA: You mentioned Pete --

RYE: Sorry.

CABRERA: Yes, go ahead.

RYE: Sorry. I wanted to say, also, and to push back on your point a little bit, is I don't think that it's just someone who can present a better vision for the future in absence of what they've done in the past. I think that, now, you have even a new group of voters that didn't vote the last election or the election before who had parents who were incarcerated because of that crime bill, who had uncles, cousins, big brothers, big sisters incarcerated. They have personally been impacted by policy that Joe Biden was at the forefront of leading. That makes it so that your future prescriptions have to align somewhat with the person you have become up to this point.

SELLERS: And I -- can I -- I agree with Angela. And one of the things that is driving me mad in this presidential primary is that when you talk about somebody's record, oh, my God, it's an attack, it's a circular firing squad; or when you talk about somebody's policy proposals, oh my God, let's not do this, we saw what happened in 2016. Well, the fact is there was no bitter primary than in 2008 between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

RYE: That's right.

BEGALA: Right.

RYE: That's right.

SELLERS: That primary was light years more bitter than what we saw in 2016. The fact is Barack Obama, to this day, will tell you that that primary made him a better candidate.

RYE: Yes.

LOCKHART: Actually.

SELLERS: I think the best example of this is on health care. Every single person in this race agrees with Obamacare. Now, the question is, how do we go a step further? It's not as if we are trying to say that individuals do not need access to quality care. And so, look, if -- Joe Biden's record stretches back 40 years, 50 years -- 40 years. And it's OK for him to have to reconcile that record just as Kamala Harris has to reconcile her record when she was D.A., Attorney General.

RYE: A hundred percent.

BEGALA: Right.

SELLERS: I mean, you have to do those things for people to give you any credit.

FINNEY: But I'm -- let me just be clear, I'm not suggesting that your previous record doesn't matter.

PSAKI: Right, neither am I.

SELLERS: Yes, yes.

FINNEY: You just have to decide how much time are you going to spend on that when we know, to what Joe just said, the majority of people watching want to beat Trump.


FINNEY: So, and if we're going to look at the past, we got to look at the whole record.

SELLERS: Well --

FINNEY: And, look, Biden's going to --

[19:10:02] SELLERS: You're right about that because one of the things that we all know --

FINNEY: Biden is the one who's going to have to defend himself on this one, obviously. CABRERA: And, again, I don't think it's all about the record.

FINNEY: Correct.

CABRERA: A lot of it has to do with, like, the vision going forward, right? And also, where do they, you know, plant their flag on this scale of, you know, being more moderate, being more liberal, and who are they talking to in terms of the voters?

Guys, I'm going to end on my last word on this just for a moment.

RYE: Yes, whenever (ph).


CABRERA: Stay with me because we have more to discuss, but I got to squeeze in a break.

Coming up, reality show standards. If there was any doubt that Donald Trump was going to be a very different candidate to run against, there was this moment.


MEGYN KELLY, FOX NEWS HOST: You've called women you don't like fat pigs, dogs, slobs, and disgusting animals. Your Twitter account has several --





CABRERA: One thing is undeniable. Donald Trump changed the way we think about presidential debate performances. Do you need another reminder?


TRUMP: The one thing you have over me is experience, but it's bad experience.

With Jeb's attitude, we will never be great again, that I can tell you. Am I allowed to finish?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, one at a time. Go ahead, Mr. --

TRUMP: Excuse me, am I allowed to finish?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Go ahead, Mr. Trump.

TRUMP: So, again, I know --

GOV. JEB BUSH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: A little bit of your own medicine there.

TRUMP: I know --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One at a -- Governor Bush --

TRUMP: I know you're trying to build up your energy, Jeb, but it's not working very well.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- please, one at a time.

TRUMP: This little guy has lied so much about my record.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Here we go. Here we go, the personal stuff.


TRUMP: He has lied so much about my record.

[19:14:59] SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He supports federal taxpayer funding for Planned Parenthood. I disagree with him on that. That's a matter of principle, and I'll tell you -

TRUMP: You are the single biggest liar. You probably are worse than Jeb Bush. You are the single biggest liar.


TRUMP: First of all, Rand Paul shouldn't even be on this stage. He's number 11. He's got one percent in the polls and how he got up here -- there's far too many people, anyway.


CABRERA: The question now, how much pressure is there on a presidential candidate to be an entertainer or to emulate Trump's brash or blunt debate posturing, in other words, to not be boring, as Trump would say? Everyone on our panel is back with us. It is a lightning round as we try to keep the lightning at bay literally outside.


CABRERA: And that's the question. Angela, I'll start with you.

RYE: Yes. I think that I'm at a place, if -- more so now than I've ever been before, where it is so important that you are built on character and substance, and we see what happens when you're not and you get to the White House. Like, I do not want to see that ever again. So, if you're entertaining, that's cool; just make sure there's some policy behind it, you know how the federal government works. You might have taken civics or at least you took a civics crash course on the Internet.

PSAKI: Look, if the winner was somebody who was trying to kind of have an entertaining moment, Eric Swalwell would be leading in the polls.

FINNEY: Right.

PSAKI: And he is, again, great on television --

SELLERS: Leave Eric alone.


PSAKI: I know, but he's great on television. I like him a great deal, personally. You know, I think, though, this is a tough question for people who it's not natural to be bombastic and still could be excellent presidents.

RYE: Yes.

PSAKI: And I personally think that's a great quality, for somebody to be steady and calm. That's not what debates support and that's what's tricky -- goes tricky.

LOCKHART: I think when we get to the general election, again, Trump has changed things so much that being the anti-Trump will be OK. Being a little bit boring, being serious, not having to react to every crazy tweet or every crazy, you know, like the Republicans did in 2016, of trying to go after him, of just sort of delivering the goods and saying, voters, it's up to you to decide. So, I think boring might be in.

CABRERA: Boring is back.


BEGALA: Well, not bombastic -- these are Democrats, we do not like Triumph the Insult Comic President -- but humor. We had very little -- I think no humor in the last debate. Somebody over there better make me laugh. It doesn't mean you have to be, like, stupid and ridiculous, but, you know, the Scripture says a soft word turneth away wrath. Well, but a funny word also really helps to open people up.

FINNEY: Agreed, a little bit of humor would be fine. A little bit of humanity would be fine. I'm going to agree with Joe, though, also, because the difference this time than in 2016 is we've now seen what Trump is like as President, and we know what a disaster it is.

There was a Pew study -- as the rain comes. There was a Pew study in June that showed a majority of Democrats and Independents and a good percentage of Republicans, they feel embarrassed. They feel ashamed. They feel anxiety. That was before Trump went after the squad, by the way. So, people are already feeling that, so I don't think they want to see that again in the debates.

SELLERS: Well, Donald Trump, right now, has the highest approval ratings of his presidency. I mean, that's just a fact. That's where we are. And I don't want to disagree with everybody but --

FINNEY: But you will. SELLERS: But I am.


SELLER: It's always that preface, you always set it up.

BEGALA: I think it's more because the last debate was really bad for the Democratic Party.


SELLERS: I didn't even disagree yet, Paul.



SELLERS: How -- you can't analyze my disagreement when I didn't disagree yet.

CABRERA: Everyone gets a word. I'm like, now, you can go.


SELLERS: No, but I just think you have to be a fighter, and I just think that you have to be willing to go in there and slug it out with Donald Trump because this, for a lot of people, is -- I mean, he is picking on people. He is not only using his systems that he has in the White House to oppress people, but he's doing it and dividing us every single day with the words that come out of his mouth.

And so, yes, it's good in theory to be able to allow him to talk about Baltimore and then sit back and say, well, I'm going to be a statesman, and I'm going to say that we're -- but, no, you got to go out there and say that he's full of shit. I mean, you've got to be willing to do that --

LOCKHART: Oh, dear.

CABRERA: Oh, boy.

SELLERS: I'm sorry.


SELLERS: But you've got to be willing to do that. You've got to be will to go out and punch him in the face.

RYE: Bakari was quoting someone just now when he said that.



SELLERS: There you go.

LOCKHART: But really, Trump has changed --

CABRERA: Thank you, guys, I'm saved.


BEGALA: Right. You're talking about spit, right? A spittle.

FINNEY: No wonder.

PSAKI: Yes, yes. That's what it was.


CABRERA: My thanks to all of you. I really appreciate it.

SELLERS: Wrap it up.


CABRERA: Gee, thanks, Bakari.


CABRERA: As we head to break, a famous debate line that became part of the political lexicon and serves as a warning against hubris on the campaign trail.


SEN. DAN QUAYLE (R-IN), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I have as much experience in the Congress as Jack Kennedy did when he sought the presidency.

SEN. LLOYD BENTSEN (D-TX), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you're no Jack Kennedy.



CABRERA: We have breaking news. The President just tweeted the Director of National Intelligence, Dan Coats, will leave office August 15th. Trump also says he will nominate Texas Republican Congressman John Ratcliffe to be the next intel chief. Representative Ratcliffe is a member of the House Judiciary Committee and had some fiery words, Wednesday, during the Robert Mueller hearing.


REP. JOHN RATCLIFFE (R-TX), MINORITY MEMBER, HOUSE COMMITTEE ON THE JUDICIARY: I agree with the Chairman this morning when he said Donald Trump is not above the law. He's not, but he damn sure shouldn't be below the law which is where Volume 2 of this report puts him.

(END VIDEO CLIP) CABRERA: I want to bring in Maryland Democrat congressman Jamie

Raskin who serves on the Judiciary Committee with Congressman Ratcliffe.

Congressman, thanks for being here. You were in the room. Do you feel like he was auditioning for the President there?

REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD), MAJORITY MEMBER, HOUSE COMMITTEE ON THE JUDICIARY: Well, like a lot of his colleagues on the Republican side of the aisle, he's working very hard to impress the President and to toe the party line as Michael Cohen put it. You know, everything is meant to please the boss.

And, you know, our GOP colleagues have become something like a cult of personality. You know, if the President says the North Korean dictator is our celestial savior, then he is. If we're going to nuclear war against him, then we're doing that. They've suspended critical thought.

CABRERA: Do you think he would make a good Director of National Intelligence?

RASKIN: Well, in terms of what President Trump is looking for, undoubtedly. I mean, he will essentially follow whatever the President tells him to do and justify and rationalize everything the President has done.

[19:24:55] I mean, the idea that he can read the Mueller report and say that Donald Trump has somehow been mistreated is just appalling. I mean, anybody else in the country would've been indicted for 10 episodes of -- of obstruction of justice, but President Trump got off because of the DOJ policy that a sitting president can't be indicted. That's the only reason why.

CABRERA: Congressman, a lot of people are saying the book was better than the movie when it came to Robert Mueller. Do you have any regrets about his testimony?

RASKIN: I don't. I mean, I'm amazed at the number of people who, you know, went there looking for some kind of Broadway show or something. You know, this is an attempt for us to have the Special Counsel enunciate the principal findings of the report after they were repeatedly obscured and, you know, confused by the Attorney General and by President Trump.

So, I think that we told a very clear story. Vladimir Putin and the Russian government engaged in a sweeping and systemic campaign to subvert and to undermine the American presidential election. Donald Trump and his campaign welcomed them with open arms, threw open the doors and the windows. And then when it was discovered, he proceeded to obstruct justice and to interfere 10 different times to try to get people to lie, to suppress evidence, to conceal his involvement with the Russians.

CABRERA: But the Mueller hearing --

RASKIN: So, I think that came through loud and clear.

CABRERA: But the Mueller hearing did not convince a lot of your colleagues that it was time to move forward with an impeachment inquiry.

RASKIN: Oh, I think it did. I think --

CABRERA: Did Democrats put too much on his testimony being the linchpin on impeachment support?

RASKIN: Actually, I think -- somebody will get me the exact numbers now, but I think seven or eight members have come forward to say that they endorse the impeachment investigation.


RASKIN: Ever since Mueller came --

CABRERA: Our latest account is 105, so that's not -- that's not even half of your Democratic caucus in the House.

RASKIN: Yes, but it's the overwhelming number of people on the investigative committees and every day, more and more are joining on. It's very clear the direction in which things are moving. Look, we're in the middle of an impeachment investigation. We've been overwhelmed by evidence of high crimes and misdemeanors. It's staring everybody in the face, and so our job on the Judiciary Committee is to collect and to catalog and inventory these high crimes and misdemeanors.

But also, we need to expand the scope of what we're looking at. I mean, this is a President who has been collecting money from at least 24 different foreign governments through the Trump Hotel, through the Office Tower, through the golf courses, through different business enterprises. That's in direct violation of Article 1, Section 9, of the Constitution, which says that none of us can, without the consent of Congress, collect a present, an emolument, which means a payment in office or a title from a prince, a king, or foreign government of any kind, whatever.

And this President gave the game away when he paid $350,000 into the U.S. Treasury saying that that represented the profits on the foreign government business he's been doing. Of course, the constitution --


RASKIN: -- doesn't ban profits, it bans any payments at all.

CABRERA: I do want to ask you because you represent the state of Maryland about your thoughts on the President's attacks this weekend against Congressman Elijah Cummings and his district, calling it a disgusting rat and rodent-infested mess and saying no human being would want to live there. Here's how the President's Acting Chief of Staff is defending the attacks today.


that children were sleeping or sitting in their own feces, that's just not -- that's not right. It's not accurate. When the President hears lies like that, he is going to fight back, and that's what you saw in those tweets. It has absolutely zero to do with race.


CABRERA: Congressman, what's your response?

RASKIN: Well, we've seen six, and now, I think it's seven, children who've died in the custody, in the care, of the U.S. government, which represents the people so that goes way beyond just a dirty diaper. No child had died in our custody for a decade before that, as I understand it, so we're talking about retched conditions that they have allowed to grow up in these different detention centers.

I'm going to be going down there in a couple of days with a group of colleagues to inspect because we're trying to be present as much as possible to let them know that we're watching. But there is severe overcrowding, there have been outbreaks of lice, of chickenpox of influenza. Really, cruel, bitter conditions there. So, the President, apparently, didn't like the criticism and decided to lash out at Elijah Cummings.

The irony here, of course, is the President of the United States, at least we all thoughts, was supposed to be president of the whole country. And so, if there are problems in Donald Trump's native New York or in Baltimore, presumably, they're all of our problems, and we should all be committed to trying to improve conditions.

[19:29:55] One way we can improve conditions is not to waste $30 billion or $40 billion on a border wall but to invest right here in America. So, we thought that his attack on Elijah Cummings was scandalous and outrageous even if predictable at this point.

ANA CABRERA CNN HOST: Congressman Jamie Raskin, I really appreciate your time tonight. Thank you for joining us.

RASKIN: And thanks so much for having me.

CABRERA: Coming up, new reporting about the dynamic we can expect between Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders on the debate stage.

But first, the debate that included this backhanded compliment.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What can you say to the voters of New Hampshire on this stage tonight who see a resume and like it but are hesitating on the likability issue, where they seem to like Barack Obama more?

CLINTON: Well, that hurts my feelings.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm sorry, senator. I'm sorry.

CLINTON: But I'll try to go on. He is very likable. I -- I agree with that. I don't think I'm that bad.

OBAMA: You are likable enough.

CLINTON: Thank you.

OBAMA: Hillary, no doubt.



[19:34:37] CABRERA: Hoping for a big clash of progressives ss when senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren take our debate stage Tuesday night? Both are facing pressure to be back the Democratic Party's moderate wing and both helped forge the current progressive movement to the left. So the question is, will they take measures to distinguish themselves from each other at the other's expense?

I want to bring in CNN political correspondent M.J. Lee. I know you have been digging in on the campaigns and what the strategy is. What are they telling you?

[19:35:06] M.J. LEE, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's really interesting, Ana, both Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren over the last couple of days, every time that they have been asked about the other candidate, they have really emphasized the fact that they are friends, that they have worked together a lot, that they actually see eye to eye on a lot of different issues which happens to be true.

We have been talking also to the various campaign aides that work for both Sanders and Warren, and this is what a Warren spokesperson said. They said, Elizabeth considers Bernie a close friend and is looking forward to sharing the stage with him and others and basically added that she is going to keep her head down and continue talking about the issues that she cares about.

Similarly, a Bernie campaign aide saying that there are no plans right now for Bernie Sanders to go out of his way to draw those distinctions, though he is not going to shy away if he is explicitly asked about some of the differences.

So, really interesting that they're both trying to sort of downplay the possibility of fireworks, but I have to say, obviously, these debate stages are really unpredictable in terms of what kinds of questions they might get, not to mention, there are eight other candidates who are going to try to throw some punches probably at the two front-runners that are center stage.

CABRERA: And try to get them to mix it up.

LEE: Exactly.

CABRERA: I actually asked Bernie Sanders a couple weeks ago or not even two weeks ago, how he and Elizabeth Warren differentiate on the issue of health care, and he completely side stepped it. He said, let me tell you about my plan. LEE: Right.

CABRERA: So it will be interesting to see where he goes with that.

They are very similar in their fund-raising numbers which is interesting, right, because neither of them are holding these big high-dollar fund-raiser.

LEE: That's right. The second-quarter fund-raiser numbers I thought were so fascinating because it basically showed that for both Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, even though they're not doing the traditional high-dollar fund-raisers, they were able to raise a lot of money, almost $20 million for each of them, actually. So they were able to show they can have that kind of sort of firepower in terms of fund-raising even without doing those fund-raisers, asking for money from these wealthy donors. So I think the third quarter is going to be really revealing because it will show us can they keep up that kind of momentum when it comes to money?

And then for the other top-tier candidates like Joe Biden, like Pete Buttigieg, Kamala Harris. I think they are going to be tested in a different way because, remember, some of the big donors that have already written sort of maxed out their checks the last quarter or earlier this year, they can't give to them again. So I think they are going to be tested in a different way. Then for everybody else, if they can't raise the money, they can't --

CABRERA: They don't get to go on the debate stage, either.

Thank you, M.J. Good to have you with us.

Coming up, ready to rumble as we count down to the CNN debates, we take you behind the scenes to see what it takes to stand out and gain ground in the crowded 2020 field.


[19:41:51] CABRERA: We are just a little over 48 hours away now from first of two democratic CNN presidential debates. So what does it take to stand out?

Here's CNN's chief political analyst Gloria Borger.


GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST (voice-over): At his kickoff rally, California congressman Eric Swalwell was center stage, but at the first primary debate, he was nearly off the stage.

REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D), CALIFORNIA: Walking out is, that is really intimidating. You are just pointing at people. You are like I don't know if I know you or not, I'm pointing, I'm waving. Then you feel like you are completely, you know, vulnerable and just everyone's looking at you.

BORGER: That debate would be his last. SWALWELL: Today ends our presidential campaign. Our polling just

stayed flat. It didn't -- it didn't go anywhere.

BORGER: Remaining at less than one percent. And as the field lines up for the two CNN debates, the pressure is really on because in the fall, securing podium spots will be twice as hard so Detroit could be the end of the trail.

ROBBY MOOK, 2016 HILLARY CLINTON CAMPAIGN MANAGER: Maybe 12, 13, of these candidates, there's not going to be another shot after this. To some extent, not qualifying for the next debate is a death sentence.

STUART STEVENS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: There's a lot of ways to screw up a debate. What is essential is to think about what can I do so that there won't be a total disaster here?

BORGER: McCain attack phrases. Bradley attack phrases.

Stuart Stevens has prepped Republican candidates from George W. Bush and Dick Cheney to Mitt Romney.

STEVENS: Ideally before a debate you look at your polling and you say, who do I need to talk to? You would never make an ad that just says, well, I don't know, I'm not sure who it's going to be apply to. Be like shooting a shotgun in the air and hoping ducks fly by.

MOOK: What really drives coverage in these debates is friction. It is taking someone on.

BORGER: As Kamala Harris did attacking Joe Biden's record on busing.

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There was a little girl in California who was part of the second class to integrate her public schools, and she was bused to school every day. And that little girl was me.

STEVENS: She's won when she's said that because she's defined herself and she got her bio in. You like that person and you are pulling that for person.

BORGER: So it didn't seem contrived.

STEVENS: There's a difference between prepared and contrived. I think prepared is you've thought about it. She's comfortable talking about race and it shows.

BORGER: Biden was uncomfortable being challenged in that way, and that showed, too.

STEVENS: I mean, you are president of the United States, you're vice president, you walk in the room, people usually applaud. And you're not used to having somebody get in your face.

BORGER: If you were advising Joe Biden right now, what would you tell him to do?

MOOK: Be on offense.

BORGER: Offense.

MOOK: Be on offense. You are there to win votes. You're not there to defend your lead.

BORGER: That's fine if you are Biden or if you are Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders fighting over many of the same voters. But if you are not a name-brand candidate, breaking out can be hard to do.

STEVENS: This other alternatives up there that's acceptable. There's always this question of, like, why are you on the shelf? I mean, do we really need, like, eight variations of barbecue potato chips?

[19:45:07] SWALWELL: When you're speaking you just, like, feel the glare of the moderators looking at you like you're not a top-tier person. Stop speaking.

BORGER: What are you doing here?

SWALWELL: Yes, yes. You can just, like, feel that.

BORGER: So you had, like, five minutes.


BORGER: But who is counting? Who is counting. What can you do, really, in that amount of time?

SWALWELL: Have a moment that gets replayed. We are going to solve the issues of climate chaos, pass the torch. If we're going to solve the issue of student loan debt, pass the torch. If we are going to end gun violence for families who are fearful of sending their kids to school, pass the torch.

BORGER: Do you think you got a little too torchy there?

SWALWELL: Again, you know, I thought all of these issues, as someone who has worked on, you know, gun violence and student loan debt, that many of them are generational.

BORGER: Did it look a little contrived, though? Too many torches.

SWALWELL: Yes, maybe I could have done one fewer torch.

BORGER: In these debates, preparation can be everything.

MOOK: You can't do it for five minutes here or there. They get no lifeline. It's them. It's the camera. The audience.

BORGER: No phone a friend?

MOOK: There's to phone a friend. And they are going to sink or swim. And that is where, you know, this is an important test in the process.

BORGER: And after all that studying and all those rehearsals, how does it feel backstage when your candidate goes off script?

MOOK: It's a very special feeling when you are standing, you know, you're standing there watching the television. And you are thinking, what are they doing? That is not what we said. Right? On the other hand, I will say as a campaign manager, there is no way for you to know what it is like.

BORGER: Public failure is never easy, but with 20 candidates, it's more than likely.

STEVENS: You have to be willing, first of all, to admit that you are probably going to lose and be willing to lose and stand for something. You can try too hard running for president and it will always come back and bite you.


BORGER: So it's a fine line for every candidate onstage, press but don't look like you're trying too hard. You know, Ana, just be yourself.

CABRERA: Thanks, Gloria.

Our live coverage from Detroit resumes in just a moment.


[19:50:52] CABRERA: From "the godfather" to "jaws," "Chan Town" and "Saturday Night Fever," the 1907s saw the rise of a new generation of directors and actors that ushered in a completely new era of filmmaking in Hollywood. It's the subject of tonight's brand new episode at "the Movies."


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The queen to me of the 1970s was Pam Greer when she was playing a back (INAUDIBLE). I mean, there were never black women who got to be assertive and had guns and took on villains. And as a black girl, as I was at the time, seeing this larger than life, beautiful woman coming out triumphant at the end was amazing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What I love about Pam Greer is that she is bad ass but she's sexy at the same time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She was really a unique presence at that time. Guys interested in her as a sex symbol, people interested in her as a feminist symbol, as a movie star. She was that present in the culture.


CABRERA: Joining us now, Alicia Malone, HOST OF Turner Classic Movies.

Alicia, the 1970s are considered golden age for American movies. What was happening in Hollywood that led to this new era of groundbreaking filmmaking?

ALICIA MALONE, HOST, TURNER CLASSIC MOVIES: Well, at the end of the 1960s, CDR (ph) films have big budgets. But they weren't making their money back because they just didn't connect with modern audiences. So that really opened the door and paved the way for these new young, hungry filmmakers making riskier films with smaller budgets that were part of the counter culture that they were catering to.

CABRERA: A lot of the movies in the '70s pushed the envelope. Do you think a movie like "Blazing Saddles" or "Cabaret" could get made today?

MALONE: Definitely not and least not in the same way because both of those films are vey much products of what was happening in America at the time. "Cabaret" it's about politics and corruption. "Blazing Saddles" very subversive, humorous about racist. I think Mel Brooks had a tough enough time making it back then. I don't think it could be made today when comedies on its typical and definitely not as new ones.

CABRERA: Do you have a favorite movie from the 70s?

MALONE: Yes. I know it's sacrilegious to not say "the Godfather" but mine is "Taxi Driver." Because (INAUDIBLE) DEFINES THE 1970s. I don't think that could have been made in any other era. It's so dark and gritty. I love it.

CABRERA: I love "Grease." That's one of my favorite. I watch it over and over. I could recite all the lines and sing all the songs along with it. That is a favorite.


CABRERA: Thank you, Alicia Malone. Good to see you.

MALONE: Thank you.

CABRERA: Brand new episodes of "the Movies" airs tonight at 9:00 right here on CNN.

Coming up, why presidential debates are perfect fodder for satire.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The slot that the Obamacare approach was to take. And like I say, 20 million people now have health insurance. Number two, no lifetime limits, which is a big deal if you have serious health problems. And number three --.


[19:57:33] CABRERA: With the next 2020 Democratic presidential debates now is just over 48 hours away right here in Detroit, "Saturday Night Live" will have fresh material, of course, for their famous debate spoofs. Remember these moments?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We will begin with our national anthem.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can name that tune in four notes.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, "the star spangles banner." how about "I got to be me."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are almost out of time so I will instead ask each candidate to sum up in a single word the best argument for his candidacy. Governor Bush?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I own one pair of underwear. That's it. Some of these billionaires, they got three, four pairs. I don't have a drier. I have to put my clothes on the radiator. So who do you want as president? One of these Washington insiders or a guy who has one pair of clean underwear that he dries on a radiator? Check it out. It's a mess.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My microphone is broken. She broke it with Obama. She and Obama stole my microphone. They took my microphone and they broke it. Now it's broken. It's picking up somebody sniffing here. I think she sniff. She's been sniffing all night. Testing. Testing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Secretary Clinton, what do you think about that?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think I'm going to be president.


CABRERA: So what moments will inspire future parodies? Be sure to tune in. The CNN Democrat Presidential Debates air Tuesday and Wednesday night. Ten candidates each night starting at 8:00 eastern only here on CNN. You don't want to miss it.

Thank you so much for joining me. Great to have you with us the past few hours. That does it for us tonight. I'm Ana Cabrera in Detroit.

Up next, it's the CNN original series "the movies" followed by the best of the '70s at 9:00 p.m.

Good night.