Return to Transcripts main page


Candidates Prepare for Debates; Marianne Williamson at CNN's Debate; Elizabeth Warren at CNN's Debate; Bernie Sanders at CNN's Debate. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired July 30, 2019 - 13:00   ET



[13:00:29] BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Brianna Keilar, and we are just hours away from the big showdown in Motown. It is debate day in Detroit, part one of a two-night CNN event. And the stage is set.

There will be ten Democratic candidates appearing on each night, and multiple matchups to watch. But, tonight, all eyes are going to be on center stage. This is going to be a fight for the spotlight as two of the top tier candidates, Senator Bernie Sanders and Senator Elizabeth Warren put their progressive policies and their friendship to the test. And for a number of these candidates, tonight is do or die. How they perform will determine if this is their last debate or if they'll stay in the race.

Ana Cabrera is live for us at the debate hall in Detroit.

And tell us, Ana, where some of the candidates are starting to arrive there for their walk-throughs, what can we expect?

ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: Well, we have Marianne Williamson here. She is the first candidate to arrive for her walk-through. She'll be on the debate stage left tonight. And you can see, she's already getting a little bit acquainted with her podium and the debate space.

She's somebody who's actually been on this stage before. She lived in the Detroit area for about eight years in the late '90s and early 2000s. She was a faith leader in this community. And she has spoken several times, given lectures in this theater we are told, so that gives her a little bit of a comfort level even going into these debates.

Every candidate tonight will get their walk-through at some point this afternoon to become more acquainted and get the final logistics.

Earlier we went behind the scenes to give you an up close look. Here it is.


CABRERA: So this is where all the action will happen tonight. Ten candidates, ten podiums each night. But before the candidates come and debate, they'll get a chance to visit the theater, to get a real sense of the venue.

Take a look around. This place is gorgeous. This theater was built in the 1920s. When it opened in 1928, it was believed to be the second largest theater in the world.

Amanda, go ahead and take a seat so our viewers at home can get a sense of what the live audience will see tonight.

You get a real feel for how grand this theater is. This is the flagship venue of the Fox Theater chain. Can you imagine seeing a show on that stage? So many big names have taken that stage.

Big names like Stevie Nicks and Bill and Hillary Clinton have signed the walls here just backstage. Somewhere in here you'll finding the signatures of Frank Sinatra, Smokey Robinson, Jay Leno and countless others who have had their time in the Fox Theater spotlight.

Let's head onstage.

As the candidates do their walk-throughs today, they'll have a chance to stand behind their podium to take a look out at this empty sea of seats, which come debate time there will be about 2,000 live audience member, all people invited by the Democratic National Committee from local colleges and elsewhere. Candidates will be talking to them and to those cameras up there, hoping their message connects with you.


CABRERA: OK. So, again, Marianne Williamson is up first. Within the next hour we expect to see Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, the two candidates who will be center stage tonight. And they will be joined by several others. We've got Williamson, Tim Ryan, Amy Klobuchar, Pete Buttigieg, Beto O'Rourke, John Hickenlooper, John Delaney and Steve Bullock.

Brianna, that is the lineup for debate night one here in these presidential Democratic debates from Detroit.

Back to you.

KEILAR: All right, we are looking forward to that, Ana. Thank you so much for that lovely tour.

And we're tracking a number of key matchups in this first of two debates tonight. Arlette Saenz is in Detroit.

Arlette, take us through some of the candidates who might be going one-on-one tonight.

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, Brianna, we're just a few hours away from this first round of ten candidates getting ready to battle it out. And there are going to be some major face-offs, not just based on personality, but also on policy. And that starts off with Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. This is going to be the first time those two candidates are sharing the debate stage. They are in sync with each other ideologically and they're also appealing to that same type of progressive voter.

Now, the Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren camps point out that they are long-time friends and say not to expect any fireworks between the two. But you are going to hear them try to make those small policy differences clear that they have with each other.

Now, next up, a possible matchup is Mayor Pete Buttigieg versus former Congressman Beto O'Rourke. Beto O'Rourke entered this race after the enthusiasm of his close Senate race down in Texas, but he's really floundered in recent weeks and so he's looking for ways to get back into this -- the heat of this primary debate. And one way he can do that is potentially by going after South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who also needs to make a mark tonight.

[13:05:12] Buttigieg has a lot of money. He's raised a lot of cash. But he is in the lower tier right now of the polls. So he is also looking for moments to move up.

Now, there's also this policy debate that you're going see play out between the moderates and progressives. One issue that is likely going to be highlighted tonight is health care and Medicare for all. And you're going to have candidates like Amy Klobuchar, John Delaney, pushing back on that Medicare for all argument that's being made by Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

And then finally, there's that group of candidates kind of on the outskirts of the stage who really need to have a defining moment in this debate in order to continue on in the Democratic primary. So you're going to have people like Marianne Williamson, Tim Ryan, Governor Steve Bullock, who's appearing on the debate stage for the first time. So there's so much at stake for these candidates, Brianna, and we're going to see how all of this plays out in just a few hours.

KEILAR: All right, Arlette Saenz in Detroit, thank you.

And right now you're looking at live pictures coming to us from the debate hall. Marianne Williamson is doing her walk-through of the CNN debate stage. She's probably the candidate who has the biggest uphill climb to break through on tonight's stage. But if the last debate is any indication, she will likely have some colorful moments.

Let's bring in Jeff Zeleny and Kyung Lah from Detroit.

And let's start with Marianne Williamson, as we're watching her here. She is going to be on the edge of the stage. She's getting acclimated for what is a different -- different setting for sure than the last debate. Always important for these candidates to have these moments to acquaint themselves with the stage.

But let's take a look at one of her notable moments from the last debate.


MARIANNE WILLIAMSON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: My first call is to prime minister of New Zealand, who said that her goal is to make New Zealand the place where it's the best place in the world for a child to grow up. And I will tell her, girlfriend, you are so wrong because the United States of America is going to be the best place in the world for a child to grow up.


KEILAR: Now, Jeff, she did actually kind of break through last debate, but maybe not for exactly the right reasons or for what you would expect from a candidate.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brianna, she certainly did. I mean she was the -- I would say the freshest candidate in terms of her voice and what she had to say in terms of, you know, she wasn't spouting policies. In fact, I remember at that Miami debate she, you know, sort of praised President Trump by saying his slogan of make America great again was something that resonated with voters. It wasn't something that, you know, a 10-point policy plan.

So, look, she is a best-selling author. She is a motivational speaker. So she is going to have her voice up there tonight. But it may also, Brianna, be her last debate that she has. She is not, you know, essentially raising much money or polling as strongly as some of the others. But we will see. I certainly look for her to perhaps bring a bit of levity to the evening and she, you know, brings out something that the other candidates don't necessarily have.

KEILAR: And, Kyung, there are a number of candidates like her who are lower tier, they're trying to separate themselves from the rest of the candidates. What do they need to do tonight?

KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, you know, some of these guys still suffer from who's that guy? You know, people at home turn on their TV tonight, they still don't recognize who some of these candidates are. They don't exactly know which one Delaney is. So they need to try to have a moment where they break through. But they want to break through for the right reasons. They want to make sure that they have something substantive to say and that lasts.

The way I'll put this is, you want to keep this into context. Kamala Harris is still trying to get her name known. She's one of the top tier candidates. She's still in the phase of trying to introduce herself to people. Someone like Marianne Williamson may have some name recognition, but is she someone who is going to be remembered and remembered in a substantive way? So some of these low tier candidates like Tim Ryan, like John Hickenlooper, they want to be remembered for what they believe and have it last.

KEILAR: And just to remind our viewers, we're looking at live pictures here. That is Marianne Williamson behind the podium as she does her walk-through ahead of tonight's first night of debating.

And, Jeff, Joe Biden, he's not going to be on the stage tonight, but do you think he's going to be there in spirit? Will candidates be focusing on him? ZELENY: I think there's no question, Brianna. I mean he is still the

leader in this race. He's not, of course, the frontrunner that he was going into Miami, just based on his performance there, but he is the leader in this field. So I think, you know, as of now, he may be a place holder or he may be a firm leader. We'll know more after this debate.

But, you're right, he will be on tomorrow evening. But there's no question that Joe Biden presents himself as the strongest candidate to defeat President Trump. Others may be raising questions about that tonight. So he definitely will be there in spirit as well as in policy. The best way to get attention is for a candidate, a lower tear candidate, to go after the frontrunner. But I do believe that the conversation tonight will be about the ideological divides inside this Democratic Party. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren at the center of the stage, but certainly more moderate candidates filling out to either side of them.

[13:10:17] KEILAR: And, Kyung, Kamala Harris had this big moment during the last debates. Is that something that will make her a target tonight? Or do you think that she will be very separate from what the candidates are talking about this evening?

LAH: Well, when -- perhaps not tonight, but certainly tomorrow the campaign is expecting that. And I think that's why you saw her really --

KEILAR: But I mean -- I mean tonight considering she's not -- she's not going to be on the stage tonight, but she is someone who had the best moment at the last debate. So even though she's not onstage tonight, do you think that we'll see anyone trying to differentiate themselves from her, especially with this new -- she has a new health care plan out.

LAH: Yes, exactly. Because of the specificity of her health care plan, because it has been released just before this, health care is absolutely something that is going to be on the stage tonight. I think we all know what an impact it had on Democratic voters in the midterms. And so absolutely.

It may inform the debate tonight more than anything because Harris has put herself ideologically between Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders. And she's taking it from all sides. While you saw her campaign today release a number of experts who are beefing up her argument, saying that it is a legitimate plan, that this is where the Democrats are going to be heading. That's what we're hearing from the campaign.

But I -- certainly it's -- I believe it's going to inform the debate this evening, Brianna.

KEILAR: All right, Kyung and Jeff, thank you so much to both of you.

You're watching Marianne Williamson there in the debate hall in Detroit walking off the stage. She is going through her run-through so that she can have a sense of what the space is like. All of the candidates are going to be doing this, all ten candidates ahead of the debate tonight.

We're going to keep watching. We'll be back in a moment.


[13:16:53] KEILAR: All right. Let's look at these live pictures coming to us from inside the debate hall in Detroit. Senator Elizabeth Warren in the middle of her walk-through getting a sense of the space there. She is going to be in the middle of the stage. There is going to be a lot of focus on her and on Senator Bernie Sanders.

I want to talk now to the co-founder and managing editor at "The Beat D.C.," Tiffany Cross, here with us to discuss really what we're going to be seeing when it comes to center stage. You have Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. And, you know, you could argue that they're in the same lane, right?


KEILAR: They're to the left. They're progressive. They're also friends.

CROSS: Right.

KEILAR: So how do they differentiate from one another?

CROSS: Well, they're -- I don't think there's a lot of space there between the two ideologically, but I do think it's a misnomer to say that she's only pulling votes away from Bernie Sanders. I think that's very beltway -- inside the beltway chatter class talk.

Elizabeth Warren also resonates very well with black women, which pulls away from Kamala Harris. I mean she's an HBCU graduate. Part of a black sorority. People assume that black women who vote 90 percent Democrat, who are active, who organize not only themselves but communities, they assume that would be a camp that Harris would win. But Warren has been speaking specifically to that voting bloc, chipping away at that. So I don't know that these like rematch analogies that we keep giving, I don't know that that's necessarily accurate once you get out of this space.

KEILAR: But -- and tonight -- that's a very interesting point that she can probably try to differentiate herself from a number of candidates. But doing so next to Bernie Sanders, considering they're cordial. They have a friendship. How do they do that tonight and remain true to that?

CROSS: I think -- so, look, I think that's a really good question. They can do that. The problem is America tends to want a sound bite. They tend to want to see this moment. And really this is an opportunity for the candidates to speak directly to the American people. They're not competing with each other, they're competing with 20 candidates and they're competing with the false ideology that Trump has created this great economy, that Trump is looking out for health care, that Trump has this, you know, great economic plan for people of color. You can look at the data and see that that's not true and it's up to the candidates to tell that story to the American people.

I think one thing that people want to see, even -- let's just say there's some -- a moment of discord between Warren and Sanders. People want to see, can you throw a Trump at -- or can you throw a punch at Trump? Can you -- that's the person they want to see can you battle. So I think it's OK if they have this intellectual discussion on policy tonight while also showing we can be cordial and more intellectual and also take these Twitter fingers to throw a punch at somebody who really we all know and can see can fight dirty.

KEILAR: I'll actually be really surprised if they get into it with each other, would you --

CROSS: I don't -- yes, I don't think they --


CROSS: I don't think they will. Listen, there are a lot of issues that are impacting the American people. They need to focus on those. They're in Education -- or they're in Detroit. Education is a huge issue there. That's Betsy Devos' backyard. She -- her family has bankrolled the charter school industry with billions of dollars. This is something they should focus on and talk about because there are a lot of families who were negatively impacted by those policies. That's what the American people want to hear. They don't want to see them fight with each other, they want to hear, who is speaking to me.

And, you know, it's interesting, Senator Harris had a moment like that during the last debate where a lot of the people were fighting and she said, guys, the American people don't want to see a food fight. She ended up looking like the adult on the stage that night. So I think Democrats will run a risk if there is too much back and forth and insulting with each other.

[13:20:13] KEILAR: They may want to see a food fight and they may want to see the adult, you know, Tiffany?

CROSS: Well, we -- I think we have to get out of that.


CROSS: But, you know, and I think this is one of the challenges having an audience in the room because of course they're speaking to people with Midwest values and issues, et cetera, but they're also talking to the entire country. And there are a lot of world leaders across the globe focusing on this as well. And when you have the audience in there, it can look like you're trying to sing for your supper, you're trying to tap dance for a sound bite.

And when you lose the audience and you just focus on what the candidates are saying, they're not trying to fight for an applause, I think it better informs the audience at home, voters at home who don't necessarily want to see a viral sound bite but want to hear how their lives will be impacted by the next election.

KEILAR: Tiffany Cross, thank you so, so much. You are watching live pictures here from the debate hall in Detroit. Senator Elizabeth Warren is there at the podium that she will be taking tonight in the first of two nights of this debate. This is a very important moment. Some of this may seem to be, I don't know, superficial you could say, but there are a lot of lights on these candidates. They need to understand the physicality of the stage they're going to be on so that they can move forward with the message that they have been practicing now since the last debate and that they want to get out there to Democratic voters.

We're also waiting now for Senator Bernie Sanders. He's going to be having a walk-through before he takes the stage next to Senator Elizabeth Warren tonight. And do they try to differentiate themselves? Do we see their friendship on display? Do we see differences on display?

Also, black lawmakers in Virginia are boycotting the president's event today. We're going to talk to one of them.


[13:26:35] KEILAR: All right, you're looking at a live picture there inside of the debate hall in Detroit. We are awaiting Senator Bernie Sanders. He is in the building. So it's just a matter of time here as he comes onto the stage to do his walk-through. All of the candidates are doing this, taking the moment behind the podium that they will be standing behind this evening so that they can get acclimated physically to the space that they will be in.

All right, and here we have senator -- is this Senator Sanders? No, that's Jeff Weaver, that's his former campaign chairman. And now you see Senator Sanders, who is there onstage inside the debate hall in Detroit as he is getting ready and gearing up for tonight.

I want to bring in Wolf Blitzer. He is there in Detroit.

And this is -- we just saw Senator Elizabeth Warren, Wolf, and now we're seeing Senator Bernie Sanders. And I think this is the pair that most observers are looking at tonight, because they operate somewhat in the same lane ideologically and yet they really have a friendship, right?

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR, "THE SITUATION ROOM": They do have a good friendship, Brianna. They've been friends all these years in the Senate. They agree on many, many issues. They describe themselves a bit differently, but clearly they're both going after the more progressive elements in the Democratic Party. They're competing for that progressive base in the Democratic Party. So let's see what happens later tonight.

They'll be standing right in the middle of the stage, the two of them. And I suspect it will be very cordial. It will be very pleasant. It's not going to be very divisive or anything like that. They both have to work together, although while they agree on so many issues, they disagree on some substantive issues as well. KEILAR: And that's -- that's what I'm expecting as well, that we're

not going to see any testy exchange between these two people who have a very friendly relationship. So then how do they differentiate themselves? Is it that they show that they can fight when it comes to President Trump but not to each other?

BLITZER: Well, they will -- there will be some significant contrasts not necessarily between the two of them at the center of the stage but some of the other Democratic presidential candidates. There will be a total of ten each night, as you know. And several of the others have made it clear they don't necessarily support Medicare for all, which is Bernie Sanders -- one of his main, main policy points. And so there will be differences.

For example, I'm looking at some of the other Democratic candidates. I suspect John Delaney, for example, he's going to -- one of the candidates, maybe Tim Ryan, Beto O'Rourke, maybe Pete Buttigieg, there will be some substantive differences that will go forward tonight.

You know, Biden, obviously, is not in the debate tonight. He's in the debate tomorrow night. If he had been there, then there could have been a bit more fireworks. But I suspect that Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders will try to be as cordial to each other as possible, even though on some of the substantive issues they disagree. She still calls herself a capitalist, as you know. He calls himself a Democratic socialist.

KEILAR: And, again, we are watching live pictures there from inside the debate hall in Detroit. Bernie Sanders and he's joined there to his right, to our left, by his wife, Jane, as he is doing this walk- through ahead of this first of two nights. He'll be there in the center of the stage among ten candidates who are debating tonight.

[13:30:01] And, Wolf, it's -- it is interesting to picture Senator Sanders and Senator Warren in the center of this stage and, as you said, make taking