Return to Transcripts main page


Joe Biden Tops New Polling; Candidates All Vying To Beat President Trump; Race 2020: CNN Democratic Presidential Debates; California Mass Shooting. Aired 11p-12a ET

Aired July 29, 2019 - 23:00   ET



DON LEMON, CNN HOST: This is CNN TONIGHT. I'm Don Lemon live in Detroit where we are counting down to the start of our CNN two-night presidential debate beginning tomorrow night at 8 Eastern right here on CNN.

You can see the countdown clock it's right there on your screen right now. Take a look at this. The big debate stage where the candidates will each get a chance to answer -- I'm trying to look at it myself. Look at that, it's beautiful.

They'll get a chance to answer tough questions and make their case to you, the voters. Two nights, 20 candidates, every one of them vying for the nomination, for the chance to run against the president. And you'll hear the whole thing, live right here.

So, what is the state of the race right now? Let's get the big picture now from Laura Barron-Lopez, Chris Cillizza, Maeve Reston, Bakari Sellers, Jen Psaki, and Alexandra Rojas. They're all here.



CILLIZZA: Very impressive.

LEMON: Can we get a shot of the stage just one more time? Because that is where it's all going to happen to go down tomorrow. It gives me a little bit of angina because I'll be up there with all of those people.

But man, isn't it, it's a beautiful theater and it's a beautiful setting. And there are going to be some tough questions and some really tough and good answers happening there tomorrow night. Welcome, everybody.



LEMON: Detroit is beautiful.



LEMON: The architecture is so beautiful, it's such a beautiful city, everyone has been so welcoming. It's good to see all of you. Chris, I'm going to start with you.


LEMON: You heard me, Nina Turner was on in the last segment, on the last show and I was talking to her about the concern in the party about the party moving too left, that people are pulling the party too far to the left. What is the risk there?

CILLIZZA: The risk is that people who don't like Donald Trump will vote for the devil they know, Donald Trump, over the devil that he tells them they need to be afraid of, which is the looming cloud of socialism that he will say the Democratic Party represents.

Now some people say well that's only if you nominate Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders. I'm not totally convinced that's the case. I mean, it's a little bit harder to sell Joe Biden as a sort of socialist in waiting.

But this is Donald Trump we're talking about. I mean, I don't think we should eliminate the possibility he makes that argument anyway.

So the risk, Don, to answer your question is, people who want to vote against Donald Trump, when confronted with an alternative, decide not to.

LEMON: OK. Laura, I need -- well, not just Laura but everybody, look at your screen, Joe Biden is surging in the polls, the new Quinnipiac poll puts him at 34 percent, that's up 12 points since the last debate. Why do you think he's made such a jump?

LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, POLITICO: I think a big part of that is that he is still the most recognized candidate on that stage. But if you -- I think what can end up ultimately hurting him is if he has repeated poor performances in the debate.

LEMON: Are you surprised that he went back up basically to where he was and even a little bit higher after that last debate?

BARRON-LOPEZ: Not exactly.


BARRON-LOPEZ: No, not exactly. Because again, he was the vice president. Everyone knows who Joe Biden is. The vast majority of people in these polls are from my gathering, is older voters. And Biden has a core with older black voters.

LEMON: One more thing before I move on, in the same poll Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, have just 26 percent combined. I don't -- is this about electability, do you think? BARRON-LOPEZ: I think that that is definitely a debate the Democrats

are having. But it's one that candidates like Warren and Sanders and even Harris and Booker are arguing that the old way of thinking, the conventional ways shouldn't apply this time around, that candidates like them can win because they're going to expand the base with minorities.

They're going to make sure the black and brown voters that didn't turn out in 2016 will turn out this time around.


BARRON-LOPEZ: And that's partially why Clinton lost. And so, they're betting on that.

LEMON: Ms. Psaki, I want to bring you in as a strategist. Rahm Emanuel, the former Chicago mayor in the Obama White House --

SELLERS: Was that loud?

CILLIZZA: That was audible. In fact, we can hear you on TV.


SELLERS: No, I'm sorry.

LEMON: Can you hear me on TV?

CILLIZZA: That was that loud.

LEMON: That was out loud. What's wrong?

SELLERS: No, no, go ahead.




LEMON: He wrote a memo to the candidates and here's what he said. And I quote, "Before our party promises health care coverage to undocumented immigrants a position not even Ted Kennedy took, let's help the more than 30 million Americans who are a single illness away from financial ruin." Is he right, Jen?

[23:04:57] JEN PSAKI, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: This reflects a concern within the party that he's not the only one that has raised it, about going too quickly too progressive. You know, a lot of the candidates have similar goals. I mean, they all want to expand access to healthcare and make it more affordable.

It's just how you get there, the pace about -- you know, the pace you go. I think his concern though is reflecting what a lot of people are talking about, at least people that I talk to.

LEMON: Maeve, you've been talking to voters in key Michigan county, in a key Michigan county. What are they telling you?

MAEVE RESTON, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: It's so interesting, I think to Chris's point a moment ago, I was talking to a lot of Reagan Democrats in the precincts that went for Obama but flipped to Trump in Macomb County, which is, you know, the spiritual home of Reagan Democrats.

And so many of the voters that I talk to they felt really positive about the economy. While they have Trump fatigue, they just don't see a clear alternative yet, because they don't want people messing with their healthcare.

I mean, a lot of these people are union workers who worked for a long time to get those benefits and, you know, they are somewhat terrified of the far-left ideas --

LEMON: But --

RESTON: -- that are coming from Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

LEMON: Don't you think that is a very legitimate question for either someone on the right or the left or in the middle who say, why should undocumented, why should my taxes --


LEMON: -- go to undocumented immigrants?

RESTON: Exactly.

LEMON: Do you think that's a fair question?

RESTON: I think that's a totally fair question. And I ask that question. You know, when -- when -- you know, when all the candidates raised their hand and said that they wanted to pay for that healthcare, what was your reaction to that? And they would say things like, did you see the potholes down here on 12-mile?

LEMON: Right.

RESTON: Why would my tax dollars go to Medicare for undocumented immigrants when we have so many needs here that are not being met? And because of that, I think some of them are willing to overlook Trump's more xenophobic and racist rhetoric.

LEMON: Interesting. Bakari, you support Senator Harris. If the number one issue is who can beat Trump it seems Trump, at least from the polling, that Biden has a big advantage over Harris, over everyone, really.

SELLERS: Well, I mean, it's early. And I think that I remind -- I remind people all the time back in South Carolina at this time, Barack Obama was not only running behind Hillary Clinton, in some polls he was running John Edwards too. So, it's really early.

CILLIZZA: True. SELLERS: And I do believe that there is a question about whether or not Joe Biden can sustain throughout this race. And if he cannot, which I don't believe he can, I think Senator Harris is best positioned to fill that lane.

Let me go back to something that Laura said, because it ties into Rahm Emanuel in my audible gasp. Rahm Emanuel is not the correct messenger to be talking about issues within our party right now. I think that it goes to and it dampens the outlet that many African-Americans, many people of color, many young people have when Rahm Emanuel is the one beating the drum.

You know, when you think back to Laquan McDonald, when you think back to the coverup, when you think back to all of those things that happened under his watch in Chicago, Rahm Emanuel is not the one who should be lecturing us on anything.

And so, as a party, we have to be putting forth new voices. Because what has to happen is those four million voters that stayed at home, 33 percent of those four million voters who voted for Barack Obama did not vote for Hillary Clinton, are voters of color. Those voters have to come back out.

And one person that they aren't going to come out, if he is our messenger, if he is the one that is giving our memos to the candidates is Rahm Emanuel. I don't think --


LEMON: But Bakari, listen, I got to push back.


LEMON: And listen, I'm not defending Rahm Emanuel here. I'll let you guys in the political realm do that.

But because Rahm Emanuel is in the White House with President Obama, and in many ways, who is very instrumental in helping him get elected. Just because you may disagree with him or he may have been wrong on some issues it doesn't mean that he's wrong on this particular issue.

And Democrats, Republicans has said and independent feels the same way, that the Democratic Party is moving too far to the left. And when all of those people were on the stage and they said do you want to give healthcare to undocumented immigrants? Most people, even liberals were taken aback, saying, wait, what?

SELLERS: Yes. I don't mind the healthcare -- I don't mind the healthcare debate. I mean, let's have it. Let's have it out. Let's see who has the best plan.

All of us agree with Obamacare. The question that Democrats are having is how do we go forward, how do we become more progressive, how do we make sure that everyone in the land of milk and honey has access to quality care.


SELLERS: But what I am saying is that we have a larger problem in the party, and that larger problem is that making sure young people in that coalition that elected Barack Obama come out again to elect.

LEMON: Alexandra, I know you want to get in here. Thank you for being so patient. I got a lot of people here and you know, we got to get everyone in.

If the final nominee, considering what we're talking about, if they are too far left, could that impact turnout, do you think?

ALEXANDRA ROJAS, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, JUSTICE DEMOCRATS: No. I think that electability isn't just about moderation, it's also about motivation. And right to Bakari's point, there are four million people that did not turn out in the way that we needed them to in 2016.

You know, the definition of insanity I think is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. And the reality is we're trying to defeat Donald Trump in 2020 and the strategy that got us here isn't going to be catering to, you know, a small number of sort of, suburban swing voters.

[22:10:01] It's also going after the bedrock of the Democratic Party which is young people, it's people of color, it's women of color, and union households which again, did not turn out in 2016.

So, if we want to win in 2020, we need to make sure that we are presenting solutions that match the scale, scope, and urgency of the problems that we're facing because people, you know, are actually wanting Democrats to solve healthcare. And the reality is we have yet to do that. So.

LEMON: But women of color and more moderate and older voters turn out. Young people historically don't.


ROJAS: Well, actually, yes --

CILLIZZA: I think that is a little bit, a little bit dated. I always used to say that, which is young people never --


LEMON: I think a lot of people hope it is.

CILLIZZA: Young people never vote, old people always do. Old people definitely still do, there's no question.


CILLIZZA: Sixty-five plus, very reliable. But I will say, look, Maeve mention, look at 2018.

RESTON: Yes. CILLIZZA: And that's not for a presidential candidate. Typically, younger voters are ones who want to get involved in a presidential race, in a midterm.


LEMON: OK. Let me just say this.

CILLIZZA: So, I just think that Donald Trump has so recalculated political math and political assumptions. People like me said, look at these numbers, there's no way Donald Trump can win. He wins. So, something --


LEMON: All right. Chris, hold that thought. I've got to get to the break.


LEMON: Because we're going to have another segment here. But listen, I think everyone hopes that young people get involved --


CILLIZZA: More people get involved.

LEMON: -- no matter where they are in the political spectrum.


LEMON: The country would be in a lot different place, and it would be, young people would be more represented in the policies if they did turn out.


ROJAS: Yes. I think that we have to provide solutions that make them come out.

LEMON: OK. Stand by. We'll continue right after the break. We'll be right back. Don't go anywhere.


LEMON: So, the race is front and center ahead of the CNN Democratic debates. The candidates will be looking to appeal to voters of color.

Back with me now, Laura Barron-Lopez, Chris Cillizza, Maeve Reston, Bakari Sellers, Jen Psaki, and Alexandra Rojas.

So, you guys like the way I do that.

ROJAS: So, you get a great intro.

LEMON: Yes. I just like Rojas. It's good. If I spoke Spanish, well, I would actually say it the proper way but I don't want to embarrass myself.

So, Alexandra, listen, no candidate can win the Democratic nomination, obviously, without the black vote, and they've, you know, all been competing intensely to win it. The issue of Trump though, in this race, it keeps getting bigger and bigger that -- and race, I should say, in this race and race -- it keeps getting bigger and bigger.

ROJAS: Yes, that's absolutely right. I mean, I think that Donald Trump wants this on terms of race. I think that's exactly why he's targeting four congresswomen of color, that's why he's targeting even more Congress lawmakers of color.

And so, I think what he's trying to do is weaponize racism as a way to pit, you know, Americans against each other. And what we have to see I think as folks in the media and as, you know, spokespeople is call that out, contextualize that what he's trying to do is intentionally divide and distract from the reality that he's not improving the lives of working people in places like Michigan and Detroit which is absolutely key to winning in places like Michigan.

And so, as Democrats we have to present solutions that actually transform the lives of working people. And I think that's going big. We'll see that in the debate.

LEMON: You're agreeing with that?

PSAKI: Absolutely. And look, I think that, obviously, I think race will certainly come up in the debate. I would expect don't tell us anything inside there.

But given the debates that have been out there over the past couple of days, I'm really hopeful that the candidates use this as a moment not to call out things they've co-sponsored or call out being better than other candidates, but to use it as a moment to be unified and say, look, I believe every person on this stage would be better than Donald Trump, would be -- would bring the country together, would address racial issues in a more presidential way. I hope that's a moment that --


LEMON: You don't think it's going to be a Kumbaya from people who, because, you know, who are going to be on the stage.

PSAKI: I am not naive but I am hopeful that they use that as a moment I think it would be smart strategically to do that. There's lot of other disagreements.


LEMON: Well, speaking of that, speaking of that, because, Bakari, you're a supporter of Senator Kamala Harris. Right? Senator Kamala Harris, you know, she lost that polling bump that she gained after the last Democratic debate. Is she -- what is her strategy? Is she going to go after Biden in the past votes again? SELLERS: What? Let me call her. So, it's a bounce, Don. So that's why

I don't understand this whole -- the way that we're contextualizing this. It's a bounce. So, what happens? The polls go up after debates and then they settle.

And her poll numbers have settled higher than they were prior to the debate. And so that's a net gain. And so, since the debate, before the debate she went in, her numbers have settled slightly higher.

I do not anticipating -- anticipate her going after anyone or however you want to put it. I think that everyone's record is fair game. Her record as D.A., her record as attorney general in California is fair game just as Biden's 49-year record is fair game as well.

I do expect that there will be a little bit of tension between Congresswoman Gabbard and Senator Harris. And you will appreciate --


LEMON: Because?

SELLERS: She's already telegraphed that punch coming about her temperament as commander-in-chief.


SELELRS: And I've said this before but you will understand this.


SELLERS: I think that Congresswoman Gabbard will learn an old African-American proverb which is, don't come for me unless I send for you.

LEMON: Unless I send for you. OK.

So, listen, Chris, the new Quinnipiac poll that shows Joe Biden is at 53 percent on black Democratic voters, Sanders is, you know, next with eight percent. How do the others cut into that?

CILLIZZA: Well, what's fascinating about Sanders is, go back to the 2016 campaign. The reason that Bernie Sanders can't win that nomination is not because white liberals wouldn't vote for him, it's because black and brown people, he could never cut into Hillary Clinton's pace there.

It's the exact problem that Hillary Clinton had against Barack Obama in 2008. I don't see how Bernie Sanders transforms suddenly into a messenger that black and brown people will respond to.

Again, I'm not just saying this because Bakari is on the stage. I really do think that Kamala Harris right now is an undervalued stock.

[23:20:02] I know she's got a lot of attention after the last debate. But what you're seeing in those numbers effectively is, the question is who do you support, what you're really seeing is, whose name do you know now.

ROJAS: Yes, exactly.

CILLIZZA: And I think that - and that's why -- she was a Senator from California, yes, but she's just --


LEMON: But that's --

CILLIZZA: -- everybody knows Bernie Sanders' name, everybody knows Joe Biden's name. If I'm Bernie Sanders, that worries me. Because -- Joe Biden said --


LEMON: But that's what Laura just said. Laura, didn't you just said that he -- Joe Biden has name recognition?


LEMON: Then he plays on that. Let me ask you. He's making this, the president is making this about race, attacking elected officials of color. Do you think that's galvanizing the black vote, is he galvanizing the black vote by doing that?

BARRON-LOPEZ: I'm not sure if he's galvanizing the black vote by doing that, just because he did this in 2016. He also tweeted out racist comments in 2016, the build a wall chant was very much about racial identity.

In 2018, he tweeted -- he tweeted out an ad that was deemed so racist that Fox News wouldn't carry it in the lead-up to the 2018 midterms. So, I'm not sure that that's what directly --


LEMON: And they lost the midterms. Yes.

BARRON-LOPEZ: Yes, Republicans did lose the midterms, yes, they lost the House although they did keep the Senate. But in the voters that I've spoken to, you know, they're still very much focused, black and brown voters, on the other key issues, on healthcare, on their wages being stagnant.

But they are responding to the fact that Harris, and people, candidates like Harris and like Warren are running campaigns that are explicitly talking about race.


BARRON-LOPEZ: And that are saying that they are going to close things like the racial wealth gap, that they are going to address maternal mortality rates within the black community. And so that is definitely things that are resonating with voters that I've seen on the stamp. It just has not -- it's been a bit slow to translate I think to polls. LEMON: Maeve, I'm going to ask you. Do you want to weigh in on that?

And also talk about because I know that, you know, we're here in Michigan --

RESTON: Right.

LEMON: -- and you have been -- you've been talking to voters. How are voters reacting to the president's race baiting?

RESTON: You know, a lot of the voters that I talk to just were willing to look past it. These are, you know, white working-class suburbs. And the reason for that is because there still is this perception that Donald Trump is fighting for them on trade, even though, you know, the tariffs have hurt the auto industry and also, you know, agriculture, obviously.

But there's real disconnect. I feel like I keep getting slapped in the face by it every time I go out into America, between what they want to hear and what they're actually hearing from Democrats.

It's like that, you know, all of the ideas on the left seem so far left to those voters in the middle of the country, that they're looking at what the alternative is and saying, like, I don't want to vote for socialist ideas.

So, I really want to hear on the debate stage tomorrow night whether there is a Democrat in this field that can really connect with those voters from the industrial Midwest.


LEMON: Are they saying that they would vote for Democrat if they weren't so far left?

RESTON: Yes. And you know, to Laura's point, a lot of them say Joe Biden because he's the name that they know.


RESTON: But I feel like his support is so soft. Every state that I go to, it's about name recognition and then people go on to say, but I don't know if he's too old, and he seems kind of soft-spoken, and I don't know if he's going to be able to take the fight to Trump. And they want to see someone who can do that.


LEMON: He's just a couple of years older than the president of the United States. Not that far --


RESTON: But he comes off very differently.

LEMON: That's got to be the last word. Thank you all, I appreciate it. We'll be right back. [23:25:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: Twenty candidates will take the stage here in Detroit over two nights, every one of them jockeying to get their moment and make their case to voters. But what is it going to take to break through?

Let's discuss now. Terry McAuliffe is here. He is a former governor of Virginia and he is the author of the new book "Beyond Charlottesville: Taking a Stand against White Nationalism."

Governor, good to have you on. Thank you so much.

Let's get to the issues now. Joe Biden had a shaky first debate but he has bounced back, that's according to the Quinnipiac poll. Does he have the most to lose here in this debate do you think?

TERRY MCAULIFFE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think he does. It was not a great debate that he had before. I think there's a lot of pressure on him. He has held up in these polls because, Don, everybody thinks he has the best shot at beating Donald Trump.

So, he's got to show on that stage that he can take a punch and he can give a punch back twice as hard. And I think that's a lot of pressure on the vice president.

I listened to some of your panelists earlier who said they thought that the support, you know, was thin. But he can come through this debate, and if he shines in this debate, you know, he's in very good shape. I would rather be Joe Biden than anyone else running.

All the other candidates have to do something, half of these candidates will be gone after this debate because they won't make the next debate stage. But there's a lot.

You know, listen, Joe Biden has to rise to the occasion. He got knocked on his heels. Great opportunity for him to come back and say this is who I am, this is where I want to take the country.

LEMON: But listen, governor, you said that you would rather be Joe Biden on that stage than anyone else. I have to be honest with you, Senator Harris got a big boost or as Bakari Sellers says, she got a bounce from that last debate. But she's fallen off a little bit. But again, she got a bounce. What's the lesson here with that?

MCAULIFFE: Well, I think one of the lessons is that Joe Biden has such a deep well of support in the Democratic Party. Joe Biden has deep support in the African-American community, which is so critical in our primaries. And he has built that up through the years.

And you look at the number of CBC, Congressional Black Caucus members who have come out to support the vice president. The message is, you know, you may take a shot at him, people settle back down, see where he is going to go.

But, Don, I come back to the point. People want to beat Donald Trump. He has the best opportunity. There's a poll out today that showed him beating Trump in Ohio by 8 points. People see that and say, you know, we need to rally around Joe Biden because he has the best shot.

[23:29:56] Now, he can stumble, he can make a lot of mistakes going forward. And you know, he can't have two bad debates. That's why I think as I mentioned earlier, I think the most pressure is on him. We are going to beat Donald Trump.

You know, I make the point that 77,000 votes separated us in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania. Ninety-two million people didn't vote. They woke up the next day and said, holy cow, how did this happen? Many even said something else. But you know what, they are going --

LEMON: I don't think they said "cow."


MCAULIFFE: And you know that.


MCAULIFFE: And you saw it in Virginia in '17 when we had a record among the pickups, the biggest in 140 years. A huge pickup in '18, seven governors, eight chambers --

LEMON: Governor, what would you like to see the candidates focus on in this debate?

MCAULIFFE: What's that?

LEMON: What would you like to see the candidates focus on in this debate?

MCAULIFFE: Good question. I think this debate -- I would like to see the democratic candidates all talking about where they want to take this country. I think in the last debate, there was a lot of talking about issues that didn't affect people at home.

I didn't hear any discussion of K-12. I heard no discussion of infrastructure, cybersecurity, workforce development, how we train people, how we educate people for 21st century academy. All are chasing after these ideological litmus tests.

And I think for a lot of the folks who watched that last debate, there was not a lot in that for the voters. This debate, Democrats have to reach out. They also have to deal with the issues of race since Donald Trump has now doubled down or tripled down on his racist attacks.

You know, that's what I talk about in my book. I mean, Donald Trump came out in Charlottesville as an avowed racist. No question about it. He would not say anything against those neo-Nazis or those white supremacists.


MCAULIFFE: He said they were fine people.

LEMON: Governor -- MCAULIFFE: And now, he keeps doubling down again after Elijah Cummings and after the "squad". You know, this is going to mobilize our folks.

LEMON: Well, let me jump in there because I just want to continue on with this subject. I want to read an excerpt from your book, OK, from your new book, "Beyond Charlottesville: Taking a Stand Against White Nationalism."

Here is what you write. You said, "His staff had given him the words to sound presidential, the words to bring the country together. Instead, Donald Trump chose that day to come out as a white supremacist. He chose that day to come out as a dyed-in-the-wool, unapologetic racist. It was his coming-out party that day; no more room for any doubt that this man was at heart a racist and a hater."

Did you ever think that you would write those words about the president of the United States?

MCAULIFFE: No. I never thought I would ever have to write those words. But, you know, I talked to the president that day at Charlottesville. I explained to him that we have a thousand neo-Nazis and while supremacists screaming the most vile things I have ever heard about a fellow human being, about African-Americans and members of the Jewish faith, saying they're going to burn the synagogue like they burned people in Auschwitz.

This is what was going on. The president had an opportunity, Don, to come out that day and condemn these folks and say, you're not wanted here in this country, this behavior is unacceptable. But he didn't. He failed to do that. He said there were good people on both sides. There were not good people in the neo-Nazi movement.

I was there with their swastikas. Heather Heyer was killed that day, a 32-year-old woman protesting against hatred. Donald Trump had the opportunity to stand up as the moral leader of our country, just as Barack Obama had to do in Charlotte and Bill Clinton had to do in Oklahoma City, George Bush had to do in 9/11.

He had that opportunity. He failed. He failed America. He failed the world. He is -- this was his opportunity, and he came out, and as I say, said there were good people on both sides. I was there, I was the governor. There were not good people on both sides.

LEMON: Governor, thank you very much. I leave New York, you go to New York. I don't know, maybe it's me personally, but I hope to see you in person soon. Terry McAuliffe, thank you so much. I appreciate it.

MCAULIFFE: See you tomorrow in Detroit.

LEMON: The book again is -- absolutely. The book again is "Beyond Charlottesville: Taking a Stand Against White Nationalism."

A mass shooting at a popular food festival in Northern California leaves three dead and at least a dozen more injured. Everything we know, that's next. [23:35:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

0LEMON: Three people were killed and at least 12 people were injured yesterday in the latest mass shooting in this country. This time, the deadly violence erupted at a popular festival in Northern California, the Gilroy Garlic Festival. The dead is a 6-year-old boy, a 13-year- old girl, and a 2017 college graduate. The suspect armed with an AK- 47-style rifle was killed by police at the scene.

I want to bring in now Wesley Lowery and Josh Campbell.

Gentlemen, good evening. I wish we were speaking for a better reason, but this is awful. Josh, what can you tell us about the shooter and what can you tell us about a possible motive at this point?

JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Don, another week, another incident of mass violence here in the United States involving a weapon of war. As you mentioned, children were gunned down here in California. There is no way to say it other than that. They were children what were gunned down at the festival behind me.

Now, there's a very long multifaceted investigation that is underway here by authorities involving local authorities, involving the FBI, trying to determine the motive, as you mentioned. Now, there was some indication that this was possibly the suspect had an accomplice. That is currently under investigation thus far.

[23:39:58] We haven't received word that that has actually panned out, but that is something that authorities are looking at. Now, let's get to the actual motive evidence that authorities have now that they really been starting to dig into and that gets to the subject's social media account that was discovered, specifically an Instagram posting, two of them just before the attack.

One of which was disparaging this annual festival that was taking place behind me. The second posting was imploring this person's followers on Instagram to read a text which can only be described as a historical white supremacist text. And so that is obviously a key point for investigators.

We talked earlier today with the assistant special agent charged here from the FBI who indicated that their role is to try to get to that motive, try to determine how ideology play a role here, and was the suspect possibly involved in some type of hate group, were there other associates. Again, that aspect of the investigation is currently underway.

LEMON: Wesley, I want to bring you in, because just last week, the FBI director told Congress about a rise in attacks tied to white supremacist rhetoric. We don't have to play the sound bite but he said basically it was the number one domestic terror threat. Do you think that Americans are taking the threat seriously enough?

WESLEY LOWERY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: No. I mean, I think some Americans certainly are. Those of us who think we might be the target of white supremacist terrorists, but the powers that be, no, not necessarily. What we know is that since the election of Barack Obama, there has been a significant increase in far right wing white supremacist terror.

Very often these are lone actors who radicalize themselves on the internet. They erase message boards. They erase social media accounts. They share anti-Semitic, anti-refugee, anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim, anti-black memes and jokes and historic texts like this, and very often and increasingly are bringing themselves to carry out violent activity.

Now, what we know, one is that the FBI is aware of this increase. The director has just testified on the Hill about this, that this year so far, the majority of the attacks that have been committed or have been potentially stopped have been by potential white supremacist terrorists.

But also we know that there are difficulties federally in investigating this, right? That there is not a domestic terrorism statute to be investigated necessarily, that these networks of folks and the investigatory efforts to dismantle white supremacist terrorism networks largely were dismantled, as we shifted our focus from domestic terrorism and white guy terrorism after the Oklahoma City bombing towards Islamic terrorism after the 9/11 attacks.

And so what we know is that this is currently one of our major threats yet we're not spending a lot of resources tackling it.

LEMON: We don't -- I need to say we don't know there are still a lot of details to be learned about this particular incident.


LEMON: As Josh said, we're still learning. We need to learn more about what may have motivated him. There's a lot to learn here. Josh, the shooter used an AK-47-style rifle. Tell us more about this weapon and do we know how he got it? What do you know?

CAMPBELL: This is the exact type of weapon that we've seen in numerous instances in the United States over the years when people try to cause mass loss of life and carnage. Again, this has been described as a weapon of war, the same type of weapon that the military would use on the battlefield. It is now easily accessible here in the United States.

Don, to your question, this weapon was actually purchased legally in the nearby state of Nevada. The suspect purchased the weapon just before the attack and brought it here to California. So that is one aspect of the investigation. Authorities have ruled out whether this was purchased illegally.

Another aspect, Don, one question that we raised to our sources is, was this person known to law enforcement? Did anyone have any kind of encounter with him? We're told that he was not what they call a prohibited purchaser with this weapon, which means that he wasn't a violent felon.

LEMON: Josh --

CAMPBELL: And so there were no warning signs on the front end from the legal side in order to stop him. But again, the question will be whether there were others who knew him who could have come to authorities beforehand.

LEMON: That's got to be the last word. Josh, thank you. Wesley, I appreciate it as well.

Next, we are going to tell you everything to watch for in our CNN democratic presidential debates kicking off tomorrow night at 8:00 Eastern.


LEMON: We are counting down to the first of CNN's 2020 democratic presidential debates right here in Detroit. Back with me now to discuss: Laura Barron-Lopez, Maeve Reston, Bakari Sellers, Jen Psaki, and Alexandra Rojas.

OK, welcome back, everyone. We got rid of Chris.




LEMON: Laura, you say this is going to be about progressives versus moderates. Why do you say that?

BARRON-LOPEZ: Well, because you have Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren who aren't expected to attack each other. They have been friends for a long time, well before Warren even got into politics.

And from our reporting, they are going to try to present a unified front on the stage that is going to have a lot of moderates, a lot of people that are trying to push back against them from Delaney to Governor Steve Bullock, who by the way is on the stage for the first time, and you can expect someone like Bullock to show a different lane, which he'll be able to do without Biden on the stage.

LEMON: Alexandra, what about the generational divide?

ROJAS: Well, I think a lot of the framing of the debate is sort at the center, more moderate candidates are the ones that want to win, and progressives like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are about purity tests.

I think the reality is you have more centrist candidates on stage that are talking largely about not fundamentally changing the system, maintaining the status quo, when Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders and the more progressive wing of the party is talking about fundamentally transforming this country and bringing change.

[23:50:00] So I think, you know, the candidate that is clear on what they stand for, that remembers who their base is, is talking about going after, I think, the power structures that have been halting progress for so long is going to be the one that answers that generational divide that inspires the people who sat home in 2016 which are largely young people, people of color, and union households especially in states and cities like Detroit.

LEMON: Jen, you know, Joe Biden on the stage has the most to lose, right? He is the front-runner. Do you think he's going to come out swinging? He said I'm not going to be as nice or something to that effect.


LEMON: Do you think he is going to wait for the incoming? How do you see the dynamics playing out here?

PSAKI: They previewed that he's not going to punch people proactively, figuratively, not literally obviously, but that he will be prepared for a counterpunch. Watching the first debate which by all accounts he did not do well, I think that was a big wake-up call for Joe Biden.

And many members of the team have told me that they were almost happy that he had a wake-up call because he needed to come into the second debate and just campaigning in general a little more vibrant and energetic.

LEMON: The worst thing you think is the best thing to happen to you?

PSAKI: Listen, I mean, I worked for -- first of all, Barack Obama was a terrible debater in 2007.

LEMON: And he had a really bad first debate.

PSAKI: Yeah, he had a very bad, terrible first debate in 2012. I had to go to the spin room the next morning. It was cold and everybody was saying he was bad. I was saying, no, he was good. It is a hard job.


PSAKI: But, you know, those can be good moments because they can be wake-up calls for candidates. They are all competitive. I think Joe Biden wants to come out tomorrow night and really present kind of how -- why he is the guy that people think can beat Donald Trump.

LEMON: So Maeve, make or break, especially for some of the lesser candidates, like, you know, if you have high name recognition, you can still hold on, you got a lot of money, whatever. But it's make or break. Who is the real -- who needs to have a moment?

RESTON: I mean, all those guys at the edge of the stage need to have a moment because a lot of them are just going to drop off. I mean, people like Hickenlooper at this point are barely holding on in terms of raising enough money. But I still think that, you know, the four main candidates are the ones to watch.

LEMON: Who are you talking about?

RESTON: -- particularly Warren, Sanders, Biden and Harris. And particularly Kamala Harris because, you know, at the core of her argument is this idea that she can be prosecutor and chief and prosecute the case against Donald Trump.

She has to use every debate as kind of a proxy battle for what that would look like and prove to voters who are still not quite sure if, you know, a female candidate should go against Trump, that she can be tough enough. And so I think all eyes again will be on her.

LEMON: Bakari, some of the candidates are rolling out a new policy proposal. Do you think that is a smart strategy pre-debate?

SELLERS: I think it is. I think that, you know, one of the difficulties especially when you talk about Harris is that now she has a health care plan, she has to stand in it. That has been her weakest link throughout this entire campaign, being able to nail down and talk about it and be firm in your position and not have to clarify in this case on Thursday.

I'm also just looking for that fighter, as Maeve was talking about, because I think that there are a lot of people watching who are not going to get caught up in the intricacies of progressive policy. I mean, as much as we want this to be a policy debate --


SELLERS: Yeah, and it's a fight thing because people want to fight for this country. That's what we feel like this is. I'm looking for people like Kirsten Gillibrand to take the fight to Joe Biden. I'm looking for people like Julian Castro who has a very strong criminal justice plan to come out and address some of these issues. I'm also looking for Cory Booker to either have -- I mean, Cory has to make or break. I mean, this is his opportunity on Thursday night.

And then on the first night, you got Beto and Pete. I think that Beto is going to -- because we talked how bad Joe Biden's debate was. Beto had an awful performance.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They both need to have a coffee.

LEMON: Yeah.


PSAKI: Hopefully, you know, they are going to have one. You know, I think one of the --

LEMON: For disclosure, I just want to say you are a supporter of Senator Kamala Harris.

SELLERS: Yes, that is accurate.

LEMON: I just want to be sure.


PSAKI: One of the lessons, I think, hopefully a lot of the candidates learned from Kamala Harris is that it is also about telling your personal story and your own bio and who you are and why you are running because people came away from Googling her and looking for more information. I think a lot of the candidates including Cory Booker, including Kirsten Gillibrand could do a little bit of that tomorrow night. It's not about spinning out policies.

LEMON: I have a short time. If you can give me 10 seconds, how big do you think race is going to play among the candidates?

BARRON-LOPEZ: Oh, I think it's going to be a big deal. I mean, adding to what Bakari said, the way that people like Castro and like Booker are going to attack Biden is on racial issues. It is on his past, on race, and where his long lengthy record where he was on that. So, there's a bit of a reckoning happening right now, I think, within the Democratic Party on this.

LEMON: Thanks, everyone. Thanks to Barry.


[23:55:00] LEMON: That's Bakari's alter ego.

SELLERS: We are proud of you. I'm looking forward for you tomorrow. My mom is saying that you're going to do amazing job tomorrow --


SELLERS: -- and Wednesday. We are very proud of you.

LEMON: Thank you. She just texted me.

SELLERS: Yes, she is very proud of you.

LEMON: Thank you, guys. Have a great evening. I will see you later. And thanks for watching, everyone. Be sure to tune in tomorrow and Wednesday at 8:00 p.m. I will be moderating the CNN democratic presidential debates along with my colleagues, Dana Bash and Jake Tapper, live from Detroit right here on CNN.