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Democratic Presidential Candidates Have Debate in Detroit; Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) is Interviewed About Last Night's Debate and Her Presidential Run; Second Round of Democratic Presidential Candidates Prepare for Debate in Detroit. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired July 31, 2019 - 08:00   ET

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


[08:00:00] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Exactly. Prince is going to be on, N Sync, they're all here. We are live in Detroit just 12 hours away now from the second CNN Democratic debate. Ten more candidates will take the stage. The focus for a lot of people is on the rematch between former vice president Joe Biden and Senator Kamala Harris. The former Vice President Biden has said he will not be as polite this time around. So what will that look like? What will he do (ph) differently? And what does that mean for his rivals, how will they take him on?

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: There was no lack of energy last night or substance on that debate stage. So the leading progressive candidates, Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, clashed with some of their rivals over lots of policy, including Medicare for all proposals. So CNN's Athena Jones is live for us on the debate stage with a preview of what we can expect tonight. Athena?

ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Alisyn. Another big night ahead, another 10 candidates duking it out on this stage. So who is going to be on stage tonight? Frontrunner Joe Biden will be at center stage. He'll be flanked by Kamala Harris and Cory Booker. Also on stage tonight, Julian Castro, John Yang, Jay Inslee, Kirsten Gillibrand, Tulsi Gabbard, Michael Bennett and Bill de Blasio. And if last night is any indication, we could see a lot of energy and fireworks tonight.

We know that Joe Biden is likely to be a big target for folks like Booker and Harris and probably several others on this stage. He has said he's going to be more aggressive fighting back. And so we'll see watching close to see just how well he defends himself, but also whether he's able to make a compelling, affirmative case for his candidacy, and have a bigger, more memorable presence on the stage. Of course, the stakes for Biden are high after the underwhelming performance at the Miami debate.

And speaking of memorable moments, remember, this is the last chance for several of the candidates on this stage tonight to get a boost in fundraising and polling so that they can qualify for the next debate in September. The criteria for entry are much tougher, two percent in four qualifying polls and 130,000 individual donors.

And so the big challenge for the lower tier candidates on the edges of the stage will be how to distinguish themselves, how do they have that all important break out moment so they can be part of the conversation this time tomorrow? Alisyn?

CAMEROTA: OK, Athena, thank you very much for that preview.

Joining us to talk about it, we have Paul Begala, CNN political commentator and Democratic strategist, and Karen Finney, former senior spokesperson for the Hillary Clinton campaign, Jen Psaki, former White House communications director and CNN political commentator, and Andrew Gillum, former mayor of Tallahassee, Florida, and CNN political commentator. Great to have all of you.

Let's look ahead. So Paul, what are you looking for tomorrow? What do you expect?

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Debates are about moments, and know the most important moment know the most important moment tonight, the sound check. If I'm working for Joe Biden, I'm not kidding, at the NBC debate, not to attack brand x, the sound wasn't very good. And I talked to people on that stage, some of the candidates, who said I couldn't really hear well when the questions were coming. They heard very well last night, that's a good thing. I'm not making light of it, but many people are concerned about Vice President Biden's age. If he as a Robert Mueller moment, like, wait, I can't hear you Jake, but I'm told from people who were debating last night that's not a problem, senior, I hate to make him so defensive, but he's got to make sure he shows the youthful vigor that Joe Biden still has. And I think that's the biggest risk.

BERMAN: Karen?

KAREN FINNEY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: To that point, his team has really been building this moment up. If you watch the paper they've been sending out for the last couple of days, they have been saying they are ready, they are loaded for bear, they did a conference call last night to say we're going to take this on, so he's got to deliver, because they have really raised the stakes for him.

I think a couple other things. Your right in terms of moments. And as you mentioned, I think we're look at Tulsi Gabbard, we're looking at Kirsten Gillibrand, we're looking at Bill de Blasio. Will they make it past tonight? I think it's a big question. Obviously a lot of folks looking for the rematch.

And I would suspect that Kamala Harris needs to not show -- she's already shown she can throw a punch, she's got a little blowback from that, but can you be presidential? We know Gabbard is probably going to try to go after her on national security credentials, so she's going to have to show. The commander in chief test is part of what we're looking for in these debates, so she's going to have to show up for that.

CAMEROTA: Jen, what do you think we should focus on?

JEN PSAKI, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: There's a huge benefit in going on the second night. I think we saw that in the first set of debate, and if I'm Joe Biden, one, I'm happy I didn't come up last night, but two, I would have watched some of the more moderate candidates. And I think the team is thinking to themselves, OK, they've presented something the public may find appealing, but they did it quite defensively at times. And I think he needs to go into tonight being much more proactive and really energized about what he's presenting to the American public. Be proud you're for building on Obamacare. Be proud you want to focus on helping workers who just lost their jobs at the GM plant. And I think the moderates last night got a little caught at times in being pushed back by the progressives, so Joe Biden needs to come in a little more proactive.

[08:05:04] Also tonight is much more of a diverse stage. What an amazing field the Democrats have. That I think is going to bring race and Donald Trump's tweets and what the country has been kind of reeling over the last few years in a much more proactive, engaged, and interesting way. And if I'm someone like Cory Booker who is at one percent among African-Americans we've seen in polls, I'm going to really introduce my bio, the fact that I was mayor of a city that was 85 percent Latino and African-American, nobody knows that. So there's a couple dynamics that I think I'll be watching on the stage tonight.

BERMAN: Mayor batting cleanup?

ANDREW GILLUM, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Picking up from where Jen left off as regards to the vice president, I think not only does he have to come off sharp, astute, in the moment, and energetic, but different from the moderates of last night who were actually very limited in scope. It was sort of what's realistic and what's practical. I get that, and that's part of governing. What I want to hear from Vice President Biden, I want to hear aspiration. We already know that he know what governing looks like, but can he set a vision, because what he's got to break out of is this impression that he's a throwback to yesterday and he's not in this moment.

And so be inspirational, be aspirational, yes, level it with the fact governing is difficult and it's hard. But people aren't voting for how hard it is for you to do your job. They're vote for what it is that you're going to do to improve upon their lives, their outcome, help them make more money, help them not be afraid of getting sick because they could be one illness away from bankruptcy.

The other thing that I would say is you've got a couple of people on this stage who actually have to make a break out moment. And so if you're Biden, if you're Harris, you've got to be looking out for the daggers that may be coming your way.

CAMEROTA: Who has to make a moment?

GILLUM: Frankly if you're not Biden and you're not Harris, everybody else. Last night I think the same was true for Sanders and for Warren, and to some extent for Buttigieg. And I think tonight you've got some folks who have got to be hung hungrier. Cory Booker has to be hungrier. If you're -- I'm missing --

BERMAN: That's a sign in and of itself.

(LAUGHTER)

CAMEROTA: Bill de Blasio perhaps.

GILLUM: So Gillibrand was one of them, Tulsi Gabbard I think is another one of them. We've got too many damn candidates.

(LAUGHTER)

CAMEROTA: But the point being if you're not one of those top tier two people, frankly, tonight, two or three people, you've got to show up, and you've got to show up in a real way.

BERMAN: Fall message guru here. Picking on what Karen said and Jen said and the mayor said, first of all, I think you're right, and it's fascinating. I hadn't quite thought of that. But they've set the bar, the Biden team has set the bar high for themselves. High risk, high reward with that. What's the message, Paul, that he should deliver?

BEGALA: I can defeat Donald Trump. This is the divide you were talking about with Tom Perez, right. Here's what I think and most Democrats think, there's a steaming pile of pop on my kitchen table, and you're telling me you're going to build me a big new house. Just get rid of the poop.

(LAUGHTER)

CAMEROTA: Really elevate.

BERMAN: He's giving me permission. That was very funny.

BEGALA: That's the message. His strongest, the reason he's leading, yes, some of it is we have great affection for him and for President Obama. I think a lot of it is Democrats see him as the person who can deliver them from Donald Trump. That's why his stumble is so risky for him. He's recovered after the first debate. I thought he'd not performed well. But he's got to keep bringing it back to Trump. Donald Trump last night got away with murder. Nobody mentioned that he wants to cut Medicare by hundreds of billions of dollars. Nobody mentioned that he's in court trying to take away people's rights to protect themselves against preexisting conditions in health insurance. I know they want to attack each other, but if I'm Biden, bring it back to Trump.

CAMEROTA: If that's the case, then maybe people don't need to be as worried, if they are, about the former V.P., because that's just a come on, man, you know I'm the one who can do it. That's not a team policy discussion. That's just bringing it back to we can do better.

GILLUM: I disagree that this can be just I'm better than Trump because, yes, there's a suppressive effect of trying to maybe tail off a couple of his folks, but there were 5 million people who were eligible to vote in 16 that didn't. And I think we've also got to do something for them. How do we bring some of those folks back into the fold? And it isn't just going to be that the other guy is bad, because the truth is for the constituencies that we're going to have to move, it was bad for them yesterday. They suspect it's going to be bad tomorrow. And so it's not good enough to just point out how bad it is. I want to know what you're going to do to make it better for me.

FINNEY: But to that point, Joe Biden has a great story to tell. Here in Detroit, we've been all enjoying so much progress that we've seen in this city, great restaurants, a lot of new construction, new shops. Where did that come from in part? The Recovery Act. Who was leading the Recovery Act? Joe Biden. So if he's smart, I don't mean to be giving him fre advice, but I would be talking about, we can do big things. When we work together, we can make a difference in people's lives. We can turn things around. We can move the poop.

(LAUGHTER)

CAMEROTA: That should be the slogan.

BEGALA: When a lot of people were saying let Detroit go bankrupt, let General Motors, Chrysler, and Ford go bankrupt. Joe Biden, President Obama's call, but Joe Biden was at the forefront of saving the auto industry. He needs to mention that tonight.

[08:10:09] PSAKI: I'm sure he will.

I was surprised. I think there were some missed opportunities last night that I think some candidates tonight can learn from, and certainly what Karen and Paul just touched on is one of them. We're in a state that a Democrat needs to win. So that's, yes, an electability argument, but you can tell through the story of what you're going to do for the auto industry and autoworkers, what you're going to do for people who don't have health care, what you're going to do for African-Americans in this city who feel disenfranchised. And I hope to hear more of that tonight.

CAMEROTA: What did they miss last night? Where was the moment where you go, oh?

PSAKI: The moderators brought up, our colleagues at CNN, they brought up some of these issues, but I didn't hear it a lot from the candidates proactively. Remembering where you are and the story you can tell from the city and the state you're in is an important part of what these candidates have an opportunity to do in states like Michigan.

BERMAN: Let's talk about winners from last night in the time we have left. Paul, did you see anyone stand out?

BEGALA: I thought Elizabeth Warren won in a route. I thought she was blazing talent last night. And I think won in part by being unfair of the critics of their health care plan. When John Delaney and Steve Bullock said you're going to outlaw private health care plans and people don't want that. That's not a Republican talking point, that's page eight of the bill. It's a fact. And it's the fallacy of origins.

It's literally a logical fallacy. Instead of saying here's why that's OK or here is why my plan is better, she just said you're using Republican talking points. And I have to say as a Democrat who has been in this fight since Elizabeth Warren was a Republican, her national health care, I really didn't like her saying that good Democrats like Steve Bullock and John Delaney are somehow Republicans. I thought that was a cheap shot. But she won.

GILLUM: I don't know that she was saying they're Republicans. There was a parroting of the Republican trope.

BEGALA: It's just a fact that.

GILLUM: It may be, but guess what, it almost doesn't matter who the nominee is, and Pete Buttigieg said this and I think cleverly last night. They're going to brand each one of the candidates. And whoever the nominee is as a socialist in extreme, they want to take away your this. Whether it has resonance or not, that is exactly the playbook, it's what they rolled out up to this point.

I don't think we want to make that easy for them. And sure there's got to be some clarification. But take it back to the fact there are far too many. In my state we didn't expand Medicaid and you've got folks who are getting health care through emergency rooms, and again are terrified of getting sick because when they get sick they don't to go work, when they don't go to work they don't get paid, and when they don't get paid they cannot pay their bills, and that's real.

And so we've got to make sure that we're speaking to that, and the nuance, we'll get to that when you legislate and when you win.

PSAKI: And it was such a good thing there was 45 minutes on health care. This is the issue that is on the hearts and minds in town halls, candidates are talking about proactively. There are differences. If you're not a health care expert, could you totally navigate that? Maybe not. But you saw a lot candidates who cared about it, who had different plans for it.

Watching that debate last night, there's only a old saying about Iowa, there's only a couple of tickets out of Iowa for us old grizzled veterans who have done this few times. And I think there's only a couple tickets out of the summer and the debates.

And if you look at Beto O'Rourke and Pete Buttigieg, Beto did better than the first debate, but Mayor Pete was a better generational change candidate last night. If you look at Warren and Sanders, if the progressive approach and Medicare for all and the Green New Deal is for you, why would you pick Sanders over Warren after last light? And I think Steve Bullock really emerged, I don't know if it will be enough to continue into the fall, as a good moderate mantle holder. He was better than I thought he was going to be, he was strong, he had a message. So I don't know, a lot of the others I'm not going to remember tomorrow what they said.

BERMAN: Karen, quick last word?

FINNEY: I agree. To this point that Paul was making about this issue, because we heard that phrase a lot. That's a Republican talking about, there was a lot of that on Twitter. Guess what, whoever the nominee is going to have to deal with that in the fall. So let's have that conversation now and let's lock down that message now, because you're going to hit it again.

BERMAN: Paul, Karen, Jen, Mr. Mayor, thank you very much. Great discussion this morning. Of course, 10 more candidates as we've been talking about, they will be on that stage tonight. It all starts at 8:00 p.m. eastern live from Detroit only on CNN.

CAMEROTA: We have some breaking news right now. Puerto Rico's Governor Ricardo Rossello has just announced his nominee to be the next secretary of state. It is Pedro Pierluisi could become the island's next governor if his nomination is confirmed at a special session of the legislature tomorrow. You know all the turmoil that has been happening in Puerto Rico right now.

Published reports say the Senate president is against his nomination. Governor Rossello steps down this Friday at 5:00 p.m. after weeks of those massive protests where people called for his resignation amid a corruption scandal and those leaked communications e-mails. So a lot is happening in Puerto Rico, and we will stay on it.

BERMAN: And again, it doesn't sound like that drama is anywhere close to over.

Up next, one of the candidates who was on the stage last night who may have had one of the most, I think, concise lines setting the stage. Amy Klobuchar is here with us, and then a little bit later from now, Governor Steve Bullock.

[08:15:04]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: What I don't like (ph) about this argument right now, what I don't like about it at all is that we are more worried about winning an argument than winning an election. And I think how we win an election is to bring everyone with us.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: That was Senator Amy Klobuchar urging her fellow Democrats to focus on beating President Trump in 2020 rather than arguing amongst themselves over policy.

And Senator Klobuchar joins us now.

Good morning.

KLOBUCHAR: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: I know you had a late night last night after the debate.

KLOBUCHAR: Yes. They were celebrating that nothing went wrong.

CAMEROTA: That was a good thing. There's not a lot of sleep that happens on these weeks here.

KLOBUCHAR: Yes.

CAMEROTA: But were you slightly irked last week about the internal squabbling that you were hearing on the stage?

[08:20:05] KLOBUCHAR: Well, you know, it's a debate and that's supposed to happen. And we have legitimate differences of policy when it comes to some of the health care proposals out there.

I personally think we should do harm and that I have a bold proposal to get people more covered and bring the cost down with the public option. And then there are others that want to kind of blow up the system has we have now and start new. And that's a legitimate argument.

But my point that I was making is we had that argument for a while, but it was time to move onto also talk about what united us. For instance, we completely disagreed with Donald Trump you should throw out the Affordable Care Act in getting rid of the protections for pre- existing conditions so that people are able to keep their insurance. Or we should bring down the cost of pharmaceuticals. He's been very ineffective at taking them on.

And one of the things I said after I've had a chance there, we were talking about Medicare for All, when he stands for Medicare cuts for all. And we should look for those things that unite us when we're taking him on, because the people watching the debate are not just base Democrats but also independents and moderate Republicans that are looking for a change in the White House.

BERMAN: I did notice your opening statement. And I like -- normally, I don't like opening statements. I did like opening statements last night because I got a sense of where each candidate wanted to come from.

You brought up Donald Trump right away, I believe was the first sentence --

KLOBUCHAR: Uh-huh.

BERMAN: -- of your opening statement there.

Did you believe he was not as much of a focus among your peers last night?

KLOBUCHAR: I think it should have been more, because you want to make your case for an optimistic agenda for this country and I did that. But you want to do more than that because you want to show people the contrast of what he's doing now.

You know, take what's happening right now for our farmers in places like Iowa where their soybeans are just mounting up, because they have nowhere to sell them and contracts are being given to other countries because of this trade war where he's treating them like poker chips in one of his bankrupt casinos, or what just happened with the -- which did get brought up, with North Korea now launching missiles again when he claims he's going to make this great deal by going and visiting the dictator next door with a hot dish, instead of actually having a plan for a summit and bringing other countries in with you instead of doing it alone.

All of these things go to the fact that there are a lot of promises he's made, I think over 10,000 lies now. They've been documented. And the American people want someone that's honest.

And so that's one of my concerns about these over-promises, that we should be standing for, yes, we're going to have differences. We're going to come together at the end, but let's not over-promise. Let's be very direct with people about what's wrong with (ph) this guy and what we have to offer instead.

CAMEROTA: Who do you think is over-promising?

KLOBUCHAR: Well, I don't believe the Congress will ever, no matter who's in charge, pass a bill that basically throws half of America off of their current insurance policies in four years. That's what it says on page eight of Senator Sanders bill.

I also don't think -- I think we'll pass if we can get the right president in like myself, we'll do extraordinary things when it comes to student loans, like doubling the Pell grants, closing the gap that we see with the buffer rule, that's $124 billion that could be spent making it easier for kids to afford college and to be able to pay back student loans.

OK, but do I think I also agree to pay for kids -- college for wealthy kids a taxpayer expense? No, and that is part of their plans because they're saying free college for every single person.

So, those are things -- examples of where I think, no, those things won't happen, so that in my mind, it's over-promising because you want to have a reality check with what you do.

BERMAN: So, over-promising. In that case, you're drawing distinctions between yourself and Senator Sanders and Senator Warren, just to be clear.

KLOBUCHAR: Correct, yes.

BERMAN: You said something that caught my attention. It was on the issue of race and racism, particularly what we often hear from the president himself. But you drew a distinction with some of his voters. I do want to listen to that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DON LEMON, CNN DEBATE MODERATOR: What do you say to those Trump voters who prioritize the economy over the president's bigotry?

KLOBUCHAR: Well, first of all, there are people that voted for Donald Trump before that aren't racist. They just wanted a better shake in the economy, so I would appeal to them. But I don't think anyone can justify what this president is doing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: Why did you think it was important to say that?

KLOBUCHAR: Well, it was a question. I tend to like that answer questions, and my answer is this, this president is racist. He has clearly -- just look at what he did this weekend, think of those kids waking up in Baltimore, to hear the president of the United States said you're a city that you love, that you grew up, your family lives in, it's nothing but a rat infested town. He said that.

Day after day, we hear these racist tropes from this president. That being said, you have to separate it out for some of the people that voted for him.

[08:25:02] Some of them -- yes, some of them are racist, right? But not all of them are.

And so, our goal here is to get at systemic racism, which is in our country, to put in a president and I believe that can do this, that doesn't act like that and then put in policies that promote economic opportunity and make it easier to vote. All of this voter suppression and one of the courts said that it was racism was surgical precision. They weren't trying to discriminate and not allowing people to vote in the state of North Carolina.

The African-American community right now it feels like they're under attack from this guy. And when it comes to his language, to a lot of the policies put out there. So, we've got to stand up to him, but at the same time, we know there's some people that voted for him that don't agree with him on that, and we've got to appeal to them and say you don't want to have this racist guy in the White House anymore. It's embarrassing. And, also, we got another plan for the economy.

CAMEROTA: One of the great things last night was how substantive it was and how much we got to hear about policy. And I was telling John, it gives us the freedom to be superficial this morning and to engage in a horserace.

KLOBUCHAR: Uh-oh.

CAMEROTA: And so, how do you think you did? What grade do you give yourself for last night?

KLOBUCHAR: Yes, I don't think I've given myself a grade since law school, but thank you.

CAMEROTA: You're passing --

(CROSSTALK)

KLOBUCHAR: But I talked (ph) about it because I did get to make the case on Trump. I did it several times because, again, I think you've got to use that moment and not everyone does to do that. I was glad I had this moment to talk about guns coming from a hunting

state like I do. I think it's really important to have someone talking about what's going on right now with these mass shootings and shootings every day in places like Detroit, like Chicago. We have to add that too in the mix. It's not discussed enough.

And the reason that we are where we are is this president won't allow us to pass these insensible background checks.

BERMAN: Very quickly, September, how is it looking for you in terms of qualifying for the next round of debates?

KLOBUCHAR: Well, I will be there. Hopefully we can make an announcement tomorrow that we're there with the donors. We've already crossed the poll threshold. I think it's under 10 people now that have qualified for the Houston debates, and I will be one of them.

We did very well yesterday in our online fund-raising and getting those what they call unique donors. So, we will be at the threshold. So, we're pretty excited about it.

BERMAN: So, you (INAUDIBLE) an announcement to make.

KLOBUCHAR: Maybe a smaller pool of candidates will allow me to answer every single question which I'd love to do.

BERMAN: All right. Senator Amy Klobuchar, thank you very much for that. A bit of news there and perhaps an announcement tomorrow that you have qualified for the next debate. Thanks for being here.

CAMEROTA: Great to talk to you. Thanks so much.

KLOBUCHAR: Thank you. Appreciate it.

BERMAN: All right. Montana Governor Steve Bullock made his debut on the debate stage last night. Did he have a break through moment? He's here with us walking up the debate stage steps. He joins us next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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