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Interview With Bernie Sanders Campaign Manager Faiz Shakir; Soon: Candidates Take Stage for First Round of CNN Debates; How Hard Should Democrats Go After President Trump?; Interview With Tom Perez, DNC Chairman. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired July 30, 2019 - 18:00   ET



ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: And hello from Detroit, where the first of two CNN Democratic debates is fast approaching.

I'm Anderson Cooper. Thanks for joining us.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: And I'm Erin Burnett.

Thrilled to be with you, Anderson.

And, tonight, 10 candidates with a lot to prove, especially the two in the middle that you see on your screen and on the debate stage tonight, progressive Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, both here tonight, in the top tier of the polls.

They are close colleagues. They are old friends, but, tonight, they are facing off for the first time. And theirs is only one of many big storylines tonight.

It's getting down to do or die. Who will have a breakout moment in what may be the last chance for some? Who will try and stumble? And how big of a role will President Trump play?

All that and more, as we are getting closer to what really is a make- or-break debate for so many, Anderson.


Erin, I want to tackle the Sanders-Warren face-off first and some of the other key themes to watch for tonight.

Joining us right here is CNN senior political analyst, "AXE FILES" host, former top adviser to President Obama David Axelrod, chief political analyst Gloria Borger, CNN chief political reporter named Nia-Malika Henderson, and CNN political director David Chalian.

Do you expect, Gloria, Sanders and Warren to actually come to -- I mean, have...




COOPER: But they're pretty close in terms of policy issues, and they're surrounded on either side by more moderate people.

BORGER: That's why I don't expect them to go at each other, quite frankly.

I think what you're going to see -- and it's -- I hesitate to project because we're so close to the debate. But I think you're going to see the moderates saying to Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, how are you guys going to pay for everything you want to do?

And they're going to try and differentiate themselves that way, the moderates, who are maybe at 1 percent in the polls, from the liberals, saying, I also don't think you are the people who can beat Donald Trump.

And that's the friction I really expect tonight.

COOPER: David Chalian, do you do think that, too? Because, I mean, Warren and Sanders are supposedly actually friends.


And they do agree on most areas. I mean, the differences between them are really tiny and narrow than between them and the rest of the stage. As Gloria was saying, yes, the outside folks, the more moderate folks, may make policy differences, but I actually think it's that electability piece that is going to be so much more.

I think, they're stepping on this debate stage as the Democratic Party is sort of having a conversation after the last round of the debates with itself, which is, are we talking about stuff and presenting an image of the party to the American people that is not going to be where we need to be you need to defeat Donald Trump?

COOPER: You mean like giving away everybody's private health insurance?

CHALIAN: That may be one example, yes, yes.

And so I would imagine that you are going to see some people, like an Amy Klobuchar, like a John Hickenlooper, really try and make the case that where Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren want to lead the party is not the place that they think they are best positioned to defeat Donald Trump.

And, by the way, Warren and Sanders will push back on that. They will say, no, no, we have got to change this entire system. And they have powerful grassroots who believe that.

COOPER: David, what do you think?

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I do think that part of the storyline is going to be the moderates pushing back on the last debates.

The last debates were like a -- it was a big liberal party, and then everybody woke up the next day, and there were broken bottles and cans all around. And they said, gee, maybe we had a little too much fun.

COOPER: The wallet was empty.

AXELROD: Exactly.


BORGER: Literally.

AXELROD: So I think there's going to be some of that.

One of the interesting things about Warren and Sanders -- and I tend to agree they're not going to look for confrontations with each other. But she has tried to differentiate herself from Bernie Sanders. She said, he's a socialist, I believe in markets.

And so, in her own way, she has made a little bit of a tilt to the left -- to the center, even as her policies are quite progressive. So that will be an interesting thing to watch as well.

COOPER: You also have Governor Bullock. For the first time, he's actually in a debate.


And look for him to make that electability argument, right? He's somebody who's been able to win in Trump country.

COOPER: Right. He's the governor of Montana.

HENDERSON: He's the governor of Montana.

So I think him being the governor. You have got Governor Hickenlooper up there as well, people like Amy Klobuchar, as you said.

But Bullock -- interesting, because this is his first chance to make a first impression, and it might be his last chance to make a first impression, given that the debate rules going forward get a little bit more strict.


But I agree with the idea about this sort of moderate vs. progressive debate. The interesting thing, though, is, you have got those two people who are going to be in the center, Warren, as well as Sanders.

One is kind of pulling away from Bernie Sanders. She's number two in the polls. She's about 15 percent. Last poll I saw, I think Sanders was something at like 11 percent. So she's got the momentum in many ways, in terms of being the voice of the progressive movement, which is probably a shock to Bernie Sanders, right? He was the big face of it in 2016. So, in some ways, he sort of created this movement that maybe he's not in the position anymore to actually lead.

COOPER: But, David, Elizabeth Warren in the first debate, she was on the first night as well, didn't really have anybody in -- sort of in her tier. She kind of had the stage to herself in some regards, in terms of not being challenged by other people on the stage.


COOPER: It may be a different strategy of some of these other folks tonight.

AXELROD: Well, I think there's no question about it.

As Nia-Malika said, there is a "Hunger Games" quality to this. Of the next two days, probably 10 or 11 of the candidates you're going to see will not be back in September, and they're all looking at each other, saying, not me, how about you?

And the best way -- we know that the best way to make a point is to go after the people in front of you. Mario Cuomo, the late Mario Cuomo, used to say, only in cowboy movies do people shoot backwards.

So they're going to go after the people who are in front. And in this case, for moderates, what better thing than to have the two people who are on the left in the center of the stage?

BORGER: You know, that can backfire, though.

I mean, I think we saw that with Eric Swalwell in the last debate. He had one line that he thought was going to be played over and over again. And it was. It was about passing the torch to Joe Biden, but it became a negative, instead of a positive.

AXELROD: He's not here tonight.

BORGER: He's not here tonight.

HENDERSON: You're right. He has dropped out.

BORGER: And that -- they have to be careful with that, because they're all looking for a moment. These debates are about moments, and they're about friction.

And these candidates who are at 1 percent or less are looking for that. And they have to be very delicate about it, because it can be a bad moment too if you're picking on some of the people that folks in the party really like.

HENDERSON: Yes, which would be Bernie and Elizabeth Warren.

CHALIAN: About Elizabeth Warren, back to your point about her being sort of solo in that first debate for her tier, therefore, she didn't actually face much pressure, right? And so having -- as Nia was pointing out, she's taken a slice of that Sanders vote. She's not just rising in the polls on her own. She's actually digging into some of his core support. And to have them standing next to each other, even though I doubt they're going to go after each other, I do think she's ascendant at the moment.

And so there's a bit more pressure on her being with one of her top- tier competitors to continue to carve out the differences, because she's got a move that momentum forward.

AXELROD: And one of the things that's interesting to me is, she is taking vote from him among progressive voters. She is competing for votes among the young.

She hasn't really broken through with working-class white voters, with African-American voters. So one of the tests, in addition to this back and forth, is going to be to burnish a message that reaches those constituencies that she hasn't reached before.

One thing I would say about -- I think we can overblow this thing about how friendly they are. The fact of the matter is that, four years ago, Bernie Sanders was quite aggravated that Elizabeth Warren didn't endorse him.

And she went to him at the beginning of this race. And they tried to negotiate who was going to run and who wasn't going to run. And they both came out running.

So I'm sure there's history that's friendly and so on, but this is a rivalry right now. And I don't think anybody should make the mistake of thinking otherwise.

BORGER: She has grabbed those college-educated liberal voters that he would like to -- that he would like to get back.

And his big question is, can he do it again? Can a souffle rise twice, right? I don't know.

HENDERSON: And he's also competing for Biden voters too, right? There's some overlap between Sanders and Bernie world, which is surprising, but he's got a task ahead of him.


COOPER: Continuing the Sanders-Warren thread, let's go to Erin Burnett -- Erin.

BURNETT: All right, Anderson.

And you know what? I'm sitting here listening to that conversation with Faiz Shakir, Bernie Sanders' campaign manager.

So you hear that conversation. You hear David Axelrod there just say, look, Bernie Sanders was aggravated when she didn't endorse them last time around. They tried to decide which one was going to run. They both got in. So, sure, there's friendship, but there's a lot of rivalry.

FAIZ SHAKIR, BERNIE SANDERS 2020 PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN MANAGER: They're running for president right now. That is what's most important to each of them. They're spending a lot of time thinking about the best case they can make before voters.

And I will be honest with you, Erin. Whether they like each other, and even if they didn't like each other, it doesn't matter a whit to American people who are struggling with health care.

And if you don't have a plan to address what they're struggling with, it doesn't matter. Like, I think people get caught up in the media a little bit about, oh, does he like so and so, does he not like so and so?

It just doesn't matter to people who are really struggling. If you don't have a solution for them, none of that theater matters.

BURNETT: So this point, though, about voters and how they see the progressive side, right, that they -- a lot of people do see it as a choice, right?


You have got Bernie Sanders, you have got Elizabeth Warren. Certainly, since before the last debate, Quinnipiac, you have seen the latest poll, right?


BURNETT: It was 19 percent before that last debate. And now here we are at 11 percent for Bernie Sanders.


BURNETT: So does he see this as a crucial moment, where he's got to turn that around, the momentum?

SHAKIR: So, I -- right before I came on set, I was just reading an Emerson poll that has him up at 20 percent, adding five points to the highest gain of any candidate. So I think we are showing momentum.

I think part of the reason is because Medicare for all has become a critical issue in this race. We have elevated it. We have got a lot of different views on it. And I think he's been very clear that he's the only one who's willing to take on the powerful interests who currently control our health care system and depriving 34 million people of health care, 34 other million who cannot afford it.

And he's got the only plan who's going to help solve that.

BURNETT: So, look, I know he's going to make a point about his plan. Obviously, right now, behind us, we happen to have a lot of Warren supporters.

What would you say to them? What does she -- does she, in your view, have a full health care plan or no at this point?

SHAKIR: In the last debate, I believe she said she agreed with Bernie Sanders on Medicare for all. So we will look forward to hearing what she says tonight.

But what we know so far is, she agrees with Senator Sanders. So that that's great to have an ally in this fight. And they can help both explain why you have got to take on powerful pharma interests, powerful health insurance interests, if you're going to have any success in truly solving the problem for working-class Americans.

BURNETT: And I know you focus in -- a lot in on pharmaceutical pricing, OK.

But when it comes to Warren and Sanders, look, because last time, as they were just talking about, Elizabeth Warren was sort of in a tier of her own in terms of the polls on the stage, and now she's not, they're side by side, people are looking, voters are looking for what does distinguish them.

Why would I choose one over the other. Here's what we have seen of how they have interacted or talked about each other in the past, Faiz.


SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Bernie and I have been friends forever. And long before I ever got involved in politics, I went out to Vermont and did town halls with Bernie.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think Elizabeth Warren is a wonderful, good, dear friend of mine.


WARREN: Bernie and I have been friends forever.

SANDERS: Well, Senator Warren is a friend of mine.

WARREN: So, I am delighted. Bernie and I have been friends for a long, long time. We have worked on a lot of issues together.


BURNETT: OK, but that doesn't give people anything to understand what is different about them.

And at some point, people have to choose. Tonight is a night they can make that choice, Faiz.

SHAKIR: They can like each other and they can each make the case for why they should be president of the United States without denigrating the other.

I believe Bernie Sanders, you can make the argument of a lifetime of consistency of fighting on these things, who he fights against. The billionaire class, the corporate executive class have identified him as the one that they are seriously concerned about, must be stopped at all costs.

Why is that? It's how he fights. He has built movements across this country. Why do we have a $15 minimum wage in seven states right now? Why have Amazon workers gotten an increase in their minimum wage? Bernie Sanders has led movements that have been successful in changing the dialogue in this country and the impacts on real people's lives.

BURNETT: Is he going to call out the president tonight?

SHAKIR: Oh, of course. The president has called him out, I mean, in the most ridiculous of manner, suggesting that the poverty in Baltimore, that Donald Trump is trying to suggest, in the most racist ways, putting down people for living in terrible conditions.

Bernie Sanders is a -- this is literally what animates the man. He is trying to fight for them, basic affordable housing, basic decent- paying jobs, health care. Bernie Sanders is saying, let's lift them out of poverty. Donald Trump has been looking at them and saying, hah-hah, you silly, little, terrible people. I got no plan for you. And you're the reason that America sucks.

BURNETT: All right, well, Faiz, I appreciate your time. And I know, obviously, it's a big night for your campaign tonight. Thank you.

SHAKIR: Thank you.

BURNETT: And, next, I'm going to continue the conversation.

We have got a whole lot more people who have been in the arena before, including the former Governor of Michigan Jennifer Granholm, and Terry McAuliffe, former DNC chairman, and, of course, the former governor of Virginia.

Their take on what you just heard and what they think needs to be done tonight for a breakout moment for a real winner in the debate.



BURNETT: Senator Elizabeth Warren has just arrived here in Detroit at the debate hall, 10 candidates on stage here tonight in Detroit.

Two, including her, will be at the center.

And years ago -- I mean, this theater, by the way, it is an absolutely stunning thing. It's like you would imagine such a thing would be in, I don't know, some beautiful palace in Europe. It's unbelievable.

Clark Gable, Vivien Leigh, their names might have been up on the marquee at this historic and truly magnificent theater. Tonight, Warren and Sanders vying for top billing, and, of course, others trying not to end up, oh, gone with the wind.



The stakes are that high. It's really they are. They are.

OK, joining me now, Jess McIntosh, former director of communications outreach for the Clinton campaign, also former special adviser to President Obama and host of CNN's "VAN JONES SHOW," the Van Jones. And Van and Jess are also political commentators here.

Also with us, political analyst, "USA Today" columnist Kirsten Powers, and two former Democratic governors who have been on debate stages like the one tonight, Jennifer Granholm of Michigan and Terry McAuliffe of Virginia.

JENNIFER GRANHOLM, CNN COMMENTATOR: Oh, yes, don't leave me hanging.



BURNETT: All right, thanks so much.


BURNETT: Thanks so much to all of you.

OK, so, Van, Bernie Sanders' campaign manager was just on here and, of course, doing what he should be doing, which is saying, I don't like the Quinnipiac poll. I have another one that shows that the momentum is now behind Bernie Sanders.


BURNETT: But there is a lot of pressure on him tonight.

JONES: There is.

It's so crazy, because Bernie Sanders, without ever joining the Democratic Party, has transformed this party. And ideas that were off the table before he ran are on the table, Medicare for all, the whole deal.

And yet the air is coming out of his tires. And pulling alongside and pulling ahead now is Elizabeth Warren. And so he's got to figure out tonight, does he have that common cause with her and defend the progressive agenda?

But, at some point, he's got to say, guys, this is my stuff, man. It's going to be interesting tonight.

JESS MCINTOSH, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think I think that the Democratic Party is and has been more progressive than the media has given us credit for.

And that meant when Bernie Sanders showed up with a lot of these ideas, a lot of people sat there saying, that sounds really great to me. I have actually been waiting to hear something like that. But he's not necessarily the perfect messenger for those ideas. So

now that you have got somebody like Elizabeth Warren, who seems a little warmer, a little easier to engage with, especially when it comes to issues of race and gender, which are front and center right now, she's really taking that momentum.

And I'm not seeing him reach out to anybody who wasn't already a die- hard Bernie supporter from 2016.

BURNETT: And that is what has to happen here, because she is. She is taking some of his votes.

Sure, there's differences demographically in their support, Kirsten, but...

KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN COMMENTATOR: Well, I mean, I think the biggest thing that she has going for her compared to him is the fact that she's not a socialist.

And that's one of the biggest...

BURNETT: Right. She's a pragmatic capitalist, as she says.

POWERS: She's a pragmatic capitalist. And she doesn't have the socialist label.

And I think that, as Jess is saying, a lot of Bernie's policies are things that Democrats really relate to and are seen as being Democratic policies.

But there is this fear -- and we can have a conversation later about whether this fear is founded, because I'm not sure what it is. But there is a fear that the socialist label will sink him, and that the Democrats are afraid to have somebody running with that label, because it's particularly scary to older voters.

BURNETT: Right. And certainly polls show that, but maybe not to younger voters, to your point.

OK, so on -- you two have been on stages like this. How do you navigate this, Governor Granholm? How does Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren -- she was sort of without competition last time, but, tonight, she's got to distinguish yourself from him.


I mean, she does have a natural distinction. And it is really her platform is about -- it's not just progressive capitalism. It's patriotic capitalism, meaning that she is crafting, shaping a system through her plans that ensures that there's jobs in America for Americans.

Yesterday, she came out with a trade plan which will resonate here. I love all of these great Michiganders behind us. But they care deeply about this issue of trade and jobs. She was very smart in bringing that out. Nobody else has done that yet. Of course, Bernie Sanders voted against NAFTA and has been against trade agreements. But because he labels himself as a socialist, and she says she's a capitalist to her bones, that is an interesting distinction.

BURNETT: All right, so what needs to happen here in terms of breakout moments for some of the others, Governor? Because this a -- you have got Steve Bullock on stage, right, who wasn't there last time.

But this is sort of the moment, right? If you can't catapult yourself from that 1, 2 percent to the next tier, you're essentially gone after these debates.

TERRY MCAULIFFE, CNN COMMENTATOR: Yes, it's either do or die for a lot of candidates tonight.

Having done some debates against candidates running for governor, I can tell you, at this stage, you just want to get it over with.

JONES: Really?


POWERS: Oh, my God.

MCAULIFFE: You have done the prep. You have spent weeks getting ready for it. You're going into this debate. You just want to get it on.

But you know, for most of them, they got to have a breakout moment. They got to do something. I think for some of them on the stage tonight, they didn't probably have the best debate last time. They got to show, A, that they can beat Trump.

They got to show toughness, I think for a presidential debate and a gubernatorial debate. It's different than a Senate debate. You just talk policy and get to talk these nice ideas.

At the end of the day, they expect your governor or your president is going to face a crisis while you're in office, let it be like I had Charlottesville, let it be a hurricane or whatever it may be.

Executives face different challenges. And I think they have to show -- I think Beto O'Rourke has to show that he has the toughness. They want to see that these candidates have a toughness to be president and be a chief executive officer.

GRANHOLM: There's a logistical issue around debating as well. And I know you will agree with this, which is, they have got 60 seconds to answer and 30 seconds to respond.

So the response is to an attack. So you have got 30 seconds to respond to an attack in some way, to pivot to your forward-looking thing, and perhaps then to offer a punch back at someone. That's 10 seconds to respond, 10 seconds to offer the future, and 10 seconds to knock somebody back. BURNETT: And no seconds to think.


GRANHOLM: That is a lot for them to think about.


MCAULIFFE: ... researched every line. You know exactly every line you're going to say, what line of attack you're going to go after.


MCAULIFFE: And if they say this, what I know, you have practiced. You have rehearsed all of it. This is it.


BURNETT: Right. And then your moment may come in the moment that you just didn't expect, I guess, I suppose.



BURNETT: All right, all of you, please stay with me.

When we come back, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee joins Anderson on stage there to talk about what he is hoping for tonight's debate.

We will be right back, as we get ready for the big Democratic debates here in Detroit.



COOPER: And welcome back. A very exciting night here in Detroit tonight. The democratic debate isn't just about who becomes the democratic candidate for president or which vision for the party wins the day. It's also about whether they can maintain unity no matter what kind of punches we see thrown tonight.

Joining me now is Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez. Tom, thanks very much for being with us.


COOPER: I want to read something that Rahm Emanuel said. He said before a party promises healthcare coverage to undocumented immigrants, let's help the more than 30 million Americans who are single illness away from financial ruin before we start worrying about whether the Boston Marathon bomber can vote, let's stop states that are actively trying to curtail voting rights of citizens. There are a lot of democrats who were concerned by some of the things that were talked about at the last debate and might be too far to to left. Does that worry you?

PEREZ: Well, you know, I look back at the history of democratic primaries and I think Mayor Emanuel is familiar with the primary in 2007 that he was involved in. And the question presented was was Barack Obama too far to the left for the American people. And we know the answer to that question.

And I keep coming back to our values alignment. We're having a discussion about how to get from 90 percent coverage of healthcare to 100. Are there differences of opinion on how to get there among candidates? Absolutely. But there's no difference of opinion on the imperative of getting there.

And from my perspective, then voters have to make a choice. What do they think is the best pathway? And the other side, by contrast, as you know, wants to take us backward on healthcare.

And so, you know, we're --

COOPER: But it's not. But this is to the left of what, you know, Candidate Obama was talking about in 2007. Bernie Sanders is talking about, you know, basically eliminating private health insurance for many people. I mean, that's a big, big thing to consider.

PEREZ: And that's going to be up to the voters. I mean, we have a number of different approaches to get to universal healthcare. Senator Sanders and others have advocated for the elimination of private health insurance. There's Vice President Biden and others who advocate building off of the Affordable Care Act, introducing what we often call a public option that was actually something that Barack Obama tried to get. But the politics didn't get there back in 2010.

COOPER: So to someone watching who is watching tonight who may not like President Trump but is worried about the Democratic Party, you know, being socialists or going so far to the left, what do you say to that viewer?

PEREZ: What I would say to that viewer is today is the 54th anniversary of Medicare and Medicaid signed by LBJ. And what did Ronald Reagan say about Medicare? He said that, and I quote, Medicare will lead to socialized medicine. Medicare will lead to socialism in America, Ronald Reagan during that debate on Medicare and Medicaid.

So I would say to that listener, that voter, study the proposals of candidates. Figure out what you think is best for you, your family and for your community and for America and then don't be distracted by the efforts of the other side. The 2018 distraction was caravans. They will try to call everything they don't like, socialism, that didn't work for us. It's not going to work now.

COOPER: How much do you want to hear about Donald Trump and how much do you want to hear other issues? Because, clearly, these candidates -- you know, it's very easy to focus on Donald Trump. PEREZ: Well, I think you're going to see a lot of focus on the vision of each candidate, because this is the opportunity for differentiation. We want to know. We've got a bumper crop of candidates. We've got 20 people on the stage tonight, tomorrow, a few other people still running.

And voters want to know, okay, the issues I care about most, whether it's healthcare, whether it's immigration, whether it's the right to form a union.

And, you know, I think voters ask the following questions. You know, who has my back on the issues that matter most to me? Who is looking out for me and people like me? These are the types of questions that I think that voters ask. And that's why I think candidates are going to focus less on Donald Trump and more on articulating their vision for building an America that works for everyone.

COOPER: Tom Perez, I appreciate it. Thank you very much.

PEREZ: Always a pleasure, Anderson.

COOPER: A lot to watch for tonight. The ultimate goal, of course, for democrats, to defeat President Trump.

Coming up, the question, who will take him on hardest tonight and how should they, right back as countdown to debate night continues right here on CNN.



BURNETT: And we are back live from Detroit. When the candidates are not sparring from one another or pushing their platforms tonight, we will likely be hearing them take on President Trump. He certainly, of course, has provided a lot for them to talk about in the past few days.

Here were some of the lines of attack at the last debate.


JOE BIDEN, FORMER U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: Donald Trump thinks Wall Street built America.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D-VT): The American people understand that Trump is a phony.

SEN. KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND (D-NY): One of the worst things about President Trump that he's done to this country is he's torn apart the moral a fabric of who we are.

BIDEN: Donald Trump has put us in a horrible situation.

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA): What is the greatest national security threat to the United States? It's Donald Trump. GILLIBRAND: Women's reproductive rights are under assault by President Trump.

HARRIS: Donald Trump.


SANDERS: Donald Trump.

REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D-CA): Donald Trump.

HARRIS: Donald Trump.

SANDERS: President Trump.

HARRIS: President Trump.

GILLIBRAND: When we beat president Trump.

SANDERS: And we'll rescind every damn thing on this issue that Trump has done.

BIDEN: The first thing I would do is make sure that we defeat Donald Trump, period.


BURNETT: And I'm back with my political team.

All right, as Donald Trump would say, the more the better, just keep saying it. But are they going to -- is that going to be what we hear tonight?

POWERS: Yes. I mean, obviously, the Donald Trump is the person that they ultimately have to beat. And if you want a good applause line, say something, you know, negative about Donald Trump, so they have to do that.

But I think what's important for them is they have got to start breaking out and become the person who can go up against Donald Trump. And in order to do that, they're going to have to make their case for themselves about their lane, for lack after a better word. You know, is it make their case for why we need somebody who is more moderate or why we need somebody who's more disruptive and then why am I the person to do that?

BURNETT: Right. I mean, the people, they are looking, Van, voters to say, okay, who could beat Donald Trump first and foremost. But how do you show you're that person?

JONES: There's a special opportunity because of what's been going on this week on race, for Beto.

BURNETT: For Beto?

JONES: Beto who has sort of been knocked off his sort of throne, he's sort of been wandering around. What's wrong with the guy? Nobody's heard from him. Pete took his glory, Mayor Pete. But Mayor Pete has slipped on a banana peel when it comes to race. In Mayor Pete's hometown, there're racial issues, black support for him is very law. There is an opening for Beto on this question now that Trump is stirring the racial pot.

Beto came on the scene as the white guy who was going to race. He came on the scene as the white guy who wanted to stick up for Colin Kaepernick. If decides to take a stand tonight in the face of all these Trump nonsense and be that white guy again, he might start to become relevant again and cut it on Pete.

So I'm just watching how these different people are going to -- you have to play off of Trump. But you can't -- everybody is against Trump. That's not interesting. How do you play off of Trump in a way that gives you some oxygen? Beto might pull that card tonight.

BURNETT: Right, because you have to show --

JONES: The woke card.

BURNETT: Right, you've got -- the woke card. Well, you have to show -- people are looking to say, is Donald Trump going to eat this person alive on the debate stage. So you can't just say he's a bad guy. You have to show somebody else that you can rough him up.

MCINTOSH: Yes. I mean, you have to do two things. One, you have to put forward a positive, inclusive vision of a post-Trump America, which is what democrats and lots of other Americans are desperately waiting to see. And you have to prove that you can stand up to him on the stage, you can stand up to the presidency, you can stand up to the White House and you can stand up to taking him on in order to get there.

And those are two kind of separate things that -- the candidates have to do both. And especially being here in Michigan, I saw a poll today from The Immigration Hub that 54 percent of Michigan independents disapprove of the job that Donald Trump is doing. So taking shots at him here, especially on the issues that they care about the most and the economy, on trade, et cetera, that's just a really smart campaign strategy regardless of primary general messaging. I think they should all take advantage of that.

BURNETT: Do independents though, and a lot of them will be watching, I'm sure, do they say -- do they get scared about too much progressiveness, too much socialism?

GRANHOLM: Yes. You know, it's funny, the Governor -- current Governor of Michigan had an interesting quote today. She said, when I was running, number one, I just stuck to issues that people cared about. She said, I never talked about the President's Twitter feet. I talked about what people needed to feed their families. And that basic stuff, no nonsense, she said, I never even spoke about Washington, D.C.

So all of that is to say that I do think that there is a fear among not just independents but moderates democrats that abolishing ICE, no criminalization of crossing the border, you know, the healthcare for undocumented, all of those things that have been raised, I think people, you know, pragmatists are nervous about.

BURNETT: Right. I mean, certainly, that -- I know we know Donald Trump thinks all hands in the air for free healthcare for undocumented immigrants is going to be a winning line. Is the moment though that's a breakout moment, if one happens, Governor, going to come from something that's planned or not?

MCAULIFFE: Most everything tonight is planned. As I say, you've rehearsed every line, you know every question, you know how to respond.

And, listen, I agree with Governor Granholm. I mean, Gretchen Whitmer won here because her slogan was, fix the damn roads. We talk about -- to me, it's about electability. And I hate it when we talk about, well, we've got the moderates and then we've got the left. We need a candidate who can appeal to the middle and can excite the base. This should not be mutually exclusive. To me, that's about electability.

BURNETT: You don't think that's mutually exclusive?

MCAULIFFE: It isn't. I can tell you as governor, I was a very progressive governor, I was a pro-jobs governor. They are not mutually exclusive. We've got to quit putting these people in these boxes.

BURNETT: I totally agree.

MCAULIFFE: Talk about how do you go with prescription drug prices? I mean, fix the damn roads. What are you doing about education?


That scene was fine 40 years ago with that discussion. I don't want to hear it.

BURNETT: All right. And we'll be back in just a moment. Stay with us. A lot more -


BURNETT: All right. We'll be back in just a moment. Stay with us.

A lot more, a lot more ahead. All the candidates on tonight's stage, of course, hoping for the break out moment. It's going to get the attention of voters and just as importantly, donors. Just ahead, why that is far more important for some on that stage than others.


[18:50:10] COOPER: Welcome back.

As we have said -- as we have said, in debates as packed as tonight, and tomorrow will be just getting noticed amid the clamor, certainly a key. One way to do that, of course, is to interrupt, hoping that how you do it and what you have to say will actually break through and make an impact. Here is how that played out in last month's Democratic debate.


DEBATE MODERATOR: Senator Bennet, we're going to get to everybody, I promise you.


DEBATE MODERATOR: Senator Harris -- Senator Harris, I'm sorry, we will let all of you speak. Senator Harris?

Senator Harris, we'll let you all speak. Senator Harris?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can't afraid to wait for evolution on this issue.

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Hey, guys, you know what, America does not want to witness a food fight. They want to know how we are putting food on the table.


COOPER: The rules are different this time around. The candidate who consistently interrupts will have his or her time reduced, but still it's especially important for those -- those lower tier candidates to try to get noticed any way they can.

Back now with our team.

It is a fine line for many of the conditions. I mean many will no longer be on a debate stage after tonight, or after tomorrow night. And this is do or die for them.

AXELROD: Well, we saw the debate last time the right way and the wrong way to do it. The right way to do is to use the time you have to create a moment.

So, Julian Castro, for example, attacking Beto O'Rourke on an immigration issue became a moment in that debate, and actually helped him. Kamala Harris obviously had a moment in her exchange with Joe Biden. I don't think the candidates who interrupted and who were -- I don't think you get rewarded for decibel levels here, and when it kind of descent into a trading hit environment, nobody looks good.

So, if I were prepping a candidate, I would not -- I would say be aggressive if you are attacked. Demand your time to respond. But do not try and shout over everybody because it doesn't look good.

BORGER: You know, you want viewers to like you. If you are no the one of the top tier, most of the people watching don't even know hue are, may be seeing you for the first or second time. If you continually interrupt, they're going to think you are rude. I think that was a problem for some candidates last time.

On the other hand, Eric Swalwell told me he got in four minutes and 45 seconds last time. But who is counting. He was.

And so, you have to find some way, because if you are lower tier, nobody really is going to attack you. You have to insert yourself into the conversation. So it's very delicate, particularly for people who haven't done this before.

COOPER: The moderator is trying to give questions to -- copy of equal number of questions frankly if possible to everyone. But by debate rules, if one person goes after another person by name, that person has the right to respond.

CHALIAN: Exactly.

COOPER: With front runner, it can often end up pinging back and forth --

CHALIAN: Which is why when you see the time spent talking for each of the candidates be again, you always see the front runners get the most time because they are the most attacked. Then they get the rebuttal time. So, it's not exact equal time. But all debates try to give fair time.

And, like you said, Anderson, the goal is you want everyone to participate, especially on the big major issues. That's what this whole thing is about is give the voters a sense of where each stand on the big issues that impact their lives.

HENDERSON: One of the things interesting is who the target of the moderates, right? Is it going to be Sanders or is it going to be Warren? Or will it be equal?

We saw I think in the last debate Warren sort of faded down the stretch, even though it was her debate to win. She probably did win the debate but got a little quiet down the stretch. You wonder if that's something she thought was good. Maybe it didn't matter because she did well anyway.

It's interesting to see if she becomes a target or if they feel Sanders is the bigger target for being --

BORGER: But the moderates have to distinguish themselves from each other.

COOPER: Right.


BORGER: So, will you have Pete Buttigieg and Beto O'Rourke going after each other because O'Rourke's -- a lot of O'Rourke's support he is he probably would argue have gone to Mayor Pete. So, they have to figure out their targets of opportunity are, which voters they think they can get. COOPER: And in the case of tonight, you've got the governor of

Montana on the debate stage for the first time, and name clearly is going to want to make an impact for potential voters. I want to thank, everybody.

Stay with us. We are coming right back with more here, special edition of ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT as we countdown to tonight's debate. We'll be right back. We know Joe Biden will be watching from his home in Delaware. We'll look at what you can expect as two of the best known progressives take on eight of the rivals in just over an hour. That's ahead.


BURNETT: CNN debate night in Detroit. Welcome to a special edition of OUTFRONT. I'm Erin Burnett.

COOPER: I'm Anderson Cooper.

The first of two CNN Democratic debates almost here. A lot happening tonight. When this night is over, we could be looking at a very different campaign.

Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, two top tier candidates with similar positions, are set to face off. Eight others looking to make their mark. A lot is about to happen on stage in this hour -- Erin.

BURNETT: Yes, it's going to be pretty exciting inside where Anderson is, that beautiful theater. And we, of course, are going to take you through it all, as it happens, as the program begins just moments from now.

And kicking off is our excellent group of analysts and experts. All of you here with me.

OK. So, look, you have the focus tonight, Van, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren side by side.