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What to Watch for in Tonight's CNN Democratic Debate; Sanders' Campaign Manager Faiz Shakir Discusses Debate, Harris' Medicare-for- All Plan. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired July 30, 2019 - 11:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:00:21] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan, live in Detroit. Thank you so much for joining me.

It's a beautiful day here, and it is also when I get to say my favorite, favorite line, it is debate day in America once again, my friends. The first of two CNN Democratic presidential debates will kick off just nine hours from now. Ten candidates tonight, 10 more tomorrow. And after that, maybe, just maybe, a very different 2020 race.

For some, what happens here could be the launching pad that they need. For others, it could be the final stand on the national stage. Who will break out? Who will break down? So many questions. Let's look for some answers right here, right now.

Let's get to it. CNN's Phil Mattingly.

Taking center stage tonight are the two leading progressives, Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. What are you hearing about that matchup?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, it's a really interesting dynamic because the two have stated that they're friends and have had a long relationship with one another, and yet there are differences, even though it might not appear that way on the surface on the policy front, based on how they interact and operate.

What's going to be most interesting is if they come through. Both made clear they don't want to attack Democrats and one another. As you know, Kate, when the lights actually turn on and you're on that stage things tend to shift.

What will be interesting is the format tonight, Kate. We'll tick through how this is going to work. It's going to be a two-hour debate. Each candidate is going to have an opening and closing statement. When questions are asked, candidates will have about a minute to respond and they'll have 30 seconds if they want to have a rebuttal. There won't be any yes or no or raise your hand questions. That's the technical side of things.

Now comes the important side of things, is who actually comes out of this debate. Not only are the two leading progressives in the center, but if you go a little further down the stage, you see some top moderates, people like Amy Klobuchar, John Delaney, people who have made very clear they are not in line with what the progressives want to do. They believe there's a difference.

You'll see some attacks there on the progressives. How Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders handles that will be interesting to see.

The other thing to keep a very close eye on is who has a momentum moment, if you will. You have to the other side of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg, the South Bend mayor, and you also have Beto O'Rourke, the former Texas Congressman.

O'Rourke is looking to relaunch. He has made clear he wasn't happy with his first debate performance. Wants to improve this time around. Pete Buttigieg has all the money in the world right now. He needs to see if he can launch into the top three or four.

And the other, Kate, the make-or-break moments. For the folks on the ends of the stage, this could be it and they're keenly aware they won't meet the threshold for the next debate. They know if they want to have the money to keep their campaigns going, they need a moment tonight. How they're going to try to get into that moment will certainly be interesting to watch.

BOLDUAN: Great to see you, Phil. Thank you. Thank you so much.

So let's discuss more. Here with me now is former Democratic mayor of Tallahassee, Andrew Gillum, Democratic strategist, Hilary Rosen, and former executive director of the Congressional Black Caucus, Angela Rye. All three CNN political commentators.

It's great to have you here.

ANDREW GILLUM, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Great to be with you.

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: Let's have some fun. It's game day. Let's play some games.

Angela, you will end tonight after the debate saying it's a great debate if what one thing happens?

ANGELA RYE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: If I can remember three of their names.

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

RYE: If I can remember three of their names and attach with their names they said something meaningful. I don't want to see shade thrown tonight. I want to see people come forth with good policy prescriptions that makes people feel like there's hope. I think that the debate is not just about showing who is the best

wordsmith. It really is showing there's a path forward in the country. We are in a dire situation and I think it's up to the Democrats to show that things can be very different.

BOLDUAN: Three names.

What do you think the big headline is going to be tomorrow, Hilary? What do you hope the headline is out of tonight's debate?

HILARY ROSEN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think the headline is going to be Sanders and Warren dominate and half the field says good- bye. Because I agree with Angela that you want three names, but what you really want is for some of those other candidates who have spent a lot of time and energy and have actually raised some money to define and give us why are they still in this race, what does this mean?

And I'm looking forward to hearing a rational for Steve Bullock getting in late. I like Amy Klobuchar. I don't feel like she's caught on. Is she going to be able to define herself? And Beto O'Rourke, from day one I said this guy has been overrated in this presidential race. Is this kind of the final end?

BOLDUAN: And that's going to be another matchup, with Beto O'Rourke possibly.

Donald Trump, of course, will be part of the debate tonight?

[11:05:15] GILLUM: He'll insert himself. Certainly, if he isn't.

BOLDUAN: He's trying to insert himself in the conversation, maybe you could argue that already today. He was asked this morning who he thinks his biggest opponent is in the Democratic field right now and here's what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think right now it will be Sleepy Joe, I think. I feel he'll limp across the line. That's what I think. So what I think doesn't mean anything. But I know the other people. I know him. I think he's off his game by a lot. But I think, personally, I think it's going to be Sleepy Joe.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: The attempt at branding aside, polling still says that Joe Biden right now remains the front-runner and is the front-runner still.

If you could pick one of the following, do you want to see those on the stage tonight contrast, draw contrasts with someone else on the stage, draw a contrast with the front-runner, Joe Biden, who is not going to be on stage, or draw contrast with President Trump?

GILLUM: First of all, I hope we are not using President Trump as a primary source for anything that is fact-based, number one. But really tonight I think both Senators Sanders and Warren provide a

really good foil for any of the other candidates to define and draw a real line in the sand around their vision.

If what they're claiming is a more moderate vision, maybe they're frankly dismissing all of the labels and show themselves as the forward-thinking inspirational leader, I think they'll have a good opportunity to do that tonight, largely because there will be I think starker philosophical divides amongst the candidates that are on stage today.

BOLDUAN: Angela, when it comes to Warren and Sanders, leading up to the debate, they have been really projecting -- I don't think we can say --

(CROSSTALK)

RYE: It's a love fest.

BOLDUAN: And they should be -

RYE: Yes.

BOLDUAN: We fight with love.

GILLUM: I like her.

RYE: I think she should be the secretary of something that feels very good.

GILLUM: Peace.

RYE: Yes.

BOLDUAN: What you're going at. Basically, with Sanders and Warren, they're basically saying don't expect fireworks. But they can't be co-presidents, they are running against each other. There's one person who can win this nomination. Can they draw a contrast with each other and play nice?

RYE: Well, here's what I think you can expect. Elizabeth Warren is drawing a contrast with each and every day and how she's doing that is Bernie Sanders had sound bites. The last election, in 2016, he ran on his sound bites. He used those same things and he's doing that the same time this year. And people are like wait, that's not it.

And now Elizabeth Warren, the same woman who came up with the concept for CFPB under the Obama administration, is like, oh, no, I can do this on everything. And so they're seeing the contrast with substance. And that doesn't mean that Bernie Sanders doesn't have substance, but it just means her depth is there and people are starting to see it.

GILLUM: I think they're both really substantive candidates and I think they're offering something substantive. I think there's a stylistic difference, though. Voters are asking themselves who they can feel most comfortable with, who projects the vision they want for this country.

(CROSSTALK)

ROSEN: It's really more in Bernie Sanders' interest to go after Elizabeth Warren than Elizabeth Warren's interest in going after Bernie Sanders. She's ahead.

RYE: Yes.

ROSEN: She doesn't need him. She's already gaining his followers. She's the one picking up ground.

I expect to hear Elizabeth Warren tonight go after Joe Biden more than I expect her to go after Bernie Sanders, because she wants to move past that.

The other piece is you've got to say that there are some people who aren't going to go after anyone. My guess is Pete Buttigieg is not going to attack anyone. He wants to be number five, he wants to move up to number four. He's got to knock out a couple of people, but he's got to do that by offering something more than just his resources and charm.

GILLUM: This will be a breakout moment. I think that's pretty true for him and Beto --

(CROSSTALK)

GILLUM: -- that they're there but humming along.

BOLDUAN: You mentioned Beto. I think they both need to get a little mojo back. O'Rourke's team seems to be telegraphing that they would relish an opportunity to draw a contrast with Pete Buttigieg. I'm like is that how Beto O'Rourke gets his groove back?

GILLUM: No, no. You've got to punch up. But I kind of consider them in very similar places.

(CROSSTALK)

ROSEN: They're not nearly the same in polling in that respect. That is why they're calling out Mayor Pete, because it is like crabs in a barrel. You grab the one who is on the lowest rung above you and you pull them down.

[11:10:12] GILLUM: Castro in the last debate I thought did a really good job at frankly punching up in an unexpected way. He said, look, I'm the one that deserves to be on the stage, I've got a command of policy and a record I can stand on and you will find few contradictions in what my public service has been and he went after Beto. I thought it was an effective landing.

And I think Beto tonight, along with Pete Buttigieg, have to think about, what is that moment where I get to strike out.

BOLDUAN: Everyone keeping score at home, Julian Castro not on the stage tonight. He will be on the stage tomorrow.

(CROSSTALK)

GILLUM: Yes.

BOLDUAN: I'm not correcting at all. There's so many of them --

(CROSSTALK)

RYE: I hate to do this but tonight is white night. I want you to know there's not a single person of color.

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: It's all white folks. It's white night. This is debate night number one, it's white night.

(CROSSTALK)

ROSEN: Tonight's white night. There are no candidates on this stage who are really soaring rhetorical speakers.

(CROSSTALK)

RYE: Pete Buttigieg has got a mean Barack Obama.

(CROSSTALK)

ROSEN: But this is likely to be more policy heavy, a little more plodding, and a little more let me kill you with my ideas.

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: Lightening round. I'm going to ask a question and you all raise your hands. Kidding. Those questions will not be in the debate tonight.

GILLUM: Thank you very much.

BOLDUAN: Interrupting, good strategy or bad strategy? On the stage.

RYE: I think it depends. You have to have something really good to say. Like my Dr. Seuss rhyme just a couple of moments ago.

GILLUM: That was really good. Exactly.

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: There's like a rule.

(CROSSTALK)

ROSEN: It depends on what time in the debate this happens because we've got some smart moderators tonight who have good questions. And so whether or not interruption is successful is largely dependent on how the moderators handle it. I don't think they're going to take a wholesale let me finish my point action.

GILLUM: Yes.

BOLDUAN: Can I also say, I'm really interested because he's the only newcomer to the stage. You mentioned Steve Bullock. He is the one person who has won in 2016, in a state that Donald Trump took by 20 points. I feel like this is -- like this is the -- he's got the secret sauce, whatever it is. It seems that he's got it.

(CROSSTALK)

GILLUM: He has an opportunity to project it, right.

RYE: That's right.

GILLUM: This is what tonight does. And I don't mean to overstate this because it's CNN, but I think this is make or break for a number of people.

BOLDUAN: Do you think after tonight if there's a dismal performance by someone, do you think you could see some of those on the lower tier who have not made any break on the polling, do you see them dropping out after this?

GILLUM: I see that money can dry up and it becomes very difficult to run a national campaign if you can't travel.

ROSEN: We are going into the dog days of August and then we go into the next debate where the field will be cut almost in half. And so figuring out what's going to get you through August for these campaigns that are already struggling with resources, staff, and calendar, there's no question that this is going to end up moving some people off the stage.

BOLDUAN: The fun is only beginning. The Dr. Seuss puns continue throughout the day.

It's great to see you guys. Thank you so much.

(CROSSTALK)

Do not miss the big know, night one of the Democratic presidential debate, live from Detroit tonight at 8:00 eastern only on CNN.

Coming up, Senator Bernie Sanders, he says Kamala Harris's Medicare- for-All plan isn't Medicare-for-All at all. Harris says the Sanders campaign hasn't read the plan. Bernie Sanders campaign manager joins us next.

Plus, there's more than one reason that we are here in Michigan today. Try 10,704 reasons. That was President Trump's slimmest of slim margins of victory here in Michigan in 2016. Ahead, you're going to hear what voters in Michigan are saying about the presidential election this time around.

[11:14:25] We'll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BOLDUAN: Welcome back.

We are live in Detroit right outside the historic FOX theatre where the 2020 Democratic hopefuls will soon start arriving for the CNN Democratic debates. Center stage tonight Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, but the candidate Sanders is taking on today isn't even on the stage tonight. Sanders slamming Kamala Harris' Medicare-for-All saying what she is purposing isn't that at all.

Here is how Harris explains it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The existing plans that have been offered did not express what I wanted.

People wanted to know that there would be a longer transition period. The four years wasn't enough.

I've talked to too many families and the idea that folks under $29,000 -- or above $29,000 a year would have to pay a tax is just untenable.

[11:20:09] And then the third piece is as it relates to private insurance. People don't want government or anyone to take away their choices.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: Here with me how is the campaign manager for Bernie Sanders' campaign, Faiz Shakir.

FAIZ SHAKIR, CAMPAIGN MANAGER, BERNIE SANDERS PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN: Hey, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Nice to see you in the flesh.

SHAKIR: Yes.

BOLDUAN: It is debate day. How are you feeling?

SHAKIR: Positive. We're always positive.

BOLDUAN: Good canned answer.

SHAKIR: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: What is the Senator going to prepare? Does he prepare or is it a rest day?

SHAKIR: No, we talk about the issues that he wants to raise. And we know it's a lot of theatre, so you have to prepare for a little bit of the theatre, but you also want to try to make sure that you are focused on the issues that you think people want to hear from you about. So he's going to try to think about some of those things he's been highlighting in the Medicare-for-All differences and it will come up. And we're ready for that.

BOLDUAN: Let's talk about the differences on health care on Medicare- for-All. Harris put out the proposal yesterday and you were critical of the plan.

SHAKIR: Still am.

BOLDUAN: And still critical of the plan. And Harris' campaign was on my show yesterday and Sams came on.

(CROSSTALK)

And let me play you what he said about your criticism. Listen to this.

IAN SAMS, PRESS SECRETARY FOR KAMALA HARRIS PREIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN: I think that they were attacking the plan before they read the plan. It came out first thing this morning and within an hour they were already attacking it. It's unlikely they had a chance to dive into the details. I don't think Senator Sanders has probably had a chance to dive into the details.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: You've had 24 hours now. Do you feel differently about the details?

SHAKIR: So the plan was roughly a few paragraphs on a media post. That doesn't take more than five minutes to read. I read it not just once, but twice. And then I read the "New York Times" article and I understand the plan.

There's a couple of things going on with Kamala Harris's so-called plan. She's backtracking Medicare-for-All.

BOLDUAN: Why the air quotes on a so-called plan?

SHAKIR: Because there's no details to it or coherence and I'll explain why. So she has backed away from Medicare-for-All, Bernie's plan. And she says that she wants to introduce private options into traditional Medicare. She thinks people want more private options.

And if you read "the New York Times" in their discussion of this plan, they say Kamala Harris is offering a significant and major role for private insurers within Medicare. That is the plan. People want private health insurance companies? We don't think so. You can call that whatever the heck you want to call it. It's not Medicare-for- All.

BOLDUAN: What Harris' campaign says is they have been out the last six months and listening to concerns that have been raised from voters on how they have crafted their plan. And one of the sticking points that has been raised is the time frame. Her time frame for transition is 10 years and the time frame --

(CROSSTALK) SHAKIR: Ten years?

BOLDUAN: Ten years.

SHAKIR: Let's just sit around for 10 years, huh?

BOLDUAN: But your time frame is four years for all of our viewers.

SHAKIR: Yes.

BOLDUAN: They're calling the four-year time frame that you lay out an arbitrary deadline. Explain why it's not.

SHAKIR: Let me decode their answer for you when they say they've been listening to voters. They've been watching some poll numbers and they're moving their plan and trying to concoct something that meets whatever polling concerns they have. I get that. Fine. If that's what they want to do, it's not a plan based out of conviction. It's based on responding to polling concerns.

BOLDUAN: Polling can also be

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: -- is the voice of the people.

SHAKIR: That's not the way we craft the plan. It's based off of the problem with the current health system. It is governed by corporate greed. You have insurance companies who deny help to people. You can't go to certain hospitals that you want to go to.

God forbid, if I fall off this stage and it might be out of a network hospital, I have to own that cost. How crazy is that?

You go five minutes from here into Canada, if I fall off a chair and break my head and go to the hospital, I don't pay anything.

BOLDUAN: They say 10 years is allowing for it to happen --

SHAKIR: Ten-year transition.

BOLDUAN: -- in an appropriate fashion.

SHAKIR: It just feels like a lack of conviction about your own plan if you're going to wait 10 years for it to come to fruition. Not one term of your presidency, two terms of your presidency, you're going to wait 10 years?

There's a four-year transition for Medicare-for-All under Bernie's plan. It's very simple, you have an existing Medicare --

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: But is four years just a number that you guys came up with? Is there data behind it? Why four years instead of 10 years?

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: Could both of them be arbitrary?

SHAKIR: First of all, do you remember Obamacare, it took roughly four years to phase in. We believe we can do this in a gradual way where you expand benefits to people 18 and under in the first year and then continue on the path.

BOLDUAN: She's not onstage tonight with you. Elizabeth Warren and many others are on stage with Bernie Sanders tonight. Sanders and Warren have talked a lot in the lead-up to this debate about how they are friends, how they get along. And that is great. Everyone should be friends.

But they are running for the same job. They do need to draw contrasts. And there are a lot of Democratic voters out there who will say they don't know where the contrast is or the differences between Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. Why should someone support Bernie over Elizabeth Warren?

SHAKIR: Don't take this personally. I know that the media desperately wants a contrast between Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

BOLDUAN: Everyone has to draw a contrast.

(CROSSTALK)

SHAKIR: There's like six or seven months to go before Iowans literally vote. I mean there's going to be five more debates to go.

[11:25:09] BOLDUAN: Tell me right now, Faiz, why should someone support Bernie Sanders over Elizabeth Warren?

SHAKIR: So there's reasons to be for Bernie Sanders. He is a revolutionary who believes strongly on taking on the ruling class. He has been a person of conviction for his entire life.

It's not only who he fights, which is the ruling class, but how he fights. He builds movements that have been successful, taken on Amazon, raised the living wage. Seven states that have moved to $15 an hour. This is a person who has changed the debate on Medicare-for- All.

You can be for Bernie Sanders on the merits. You don't have to be against Elizabeth Warren or anybody else. You can be for Bernie Sanders.

BOLDUAN: Is that what we're going to hear on the debate stage tonight?

SHAKIR: Sure, yes. I'm very confident about it. And Bernie Sanders is confident about the case that he can make to the American public about himself. He doesn't have to put anybody else down.

BOLDUAN: In this moment, when you see a Quinnipiac poll asking voters who has the best chance of defeating Donald Trump and you see that Joe Biden is at 47 percent and Bernie Sanders is at 10 percent, how big of a problem is that for you guys right now?

SHAKIR: Look at the head-to-head, Kate. That's kind of an unfair characterization of that. Because

BOLDUAN: Why?

(CROSSTALK)

SHAKIR: No, no, no. Like what you're suggesting is somehow he's not able to defeat Donald Trump, if that's what I'm hearing you say. But if you look at the head-to-head --

BOLDUAN: No. The question is, who has the best chance of beating Donald Trump, 51 percent of respondents said Joe Biden --

SHAKIR: OK.

BOLDUAN: -- Ten percent said Bernie Sanders.

SHAKIR: And to help people understand this, you look at the head-to- head polls and the last 25 or 26 polls show that Bernie Sanders defeating Donald Trump head-to-head, not only nationally, but in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Michigan, the states you have to carry in order for a Democratic to sit in the White House. We feel confident about it. If we talk about it more, maybe those numbers will change.

BOLDUAN: Lots to talk about tonight, that is for sure. We'll talk about all the numbers.

SHAKIR: All right. Thank you, Kate.

BOLDUAN: The good, the bad and ugly and all the in between.

SHAKIR: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Appreciate it, Faiz. Thank you so much for being here.

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: Good luck tonight. We'll talk tomorrow, for sure.

Coming up for us, it was one of the biggest upsets of 2016, the slimmest margin of victory for President Trump. Less than half a percentage point. Do Democrats have a plan to win back Michigan in 2020? What voters in Michigan are saying about the state of the race, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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