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Dem Candidates Hit Campaign Trail Today After CNN Debates; Dems Hit Surprising Target During Debate: Obama's Policies; Biden Fended Off Attacks From Harris, Booker, Castro. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired August 1, 2019 - 11:00   ET



KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. Thank you so much for joining me.

Welcome to the 1st of August which is amazing in of itself and also the first day of the rest of the 2020 race. Democratic candidates are back on the campaign trail today after they faced off in the CNN debates. Round two last night of round two made it clear the gloves are off. From the first minute of the debate the current front-runner Joe Biden was taking hits from pretty much everywhere on the stage, on everything from health care, to climate change, to criminal justice. Listen.


SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Your plan, by contrast, leaves out almost 10 million Americans. So I think that you should really think about what you're saying.

GOV. JAY INSLEE (D-WA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Mr. Vice President, your argument is not with me, it's with science. And unfortunately your plan is just too late.

SEN. CORY BOOKER (D-NJ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We have a system right now that's broken. And if you want to compare records and frankly, I'm shocked that you do, I am happy to do that.


BOLDUAN: This time Biden fought back often throwing down what you would think would be a Trump card or in this case his Obama card.


JOE BIDEN (D-PA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I find it fascinating. Everybody is talking about how terrible I am on these issues. Barack Obama knew exactly who I was. He had 10 lawyers do a background check. And everything about me about civil rights and civil liberties and he chose me and he said it was the best session he made.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BOLDUAN: But it's a surprising twist last night. It became clear that even the Obama legacy doesn't seem safe from attacks on - from that stage -- attacks from the Democrats on the stage. We're going to have much more of that - on that in just a moment.

But let's first get to CNN's Arlette Saenz. She's in Detroit where Joe Biden is about to take part in his first campaign event -- since the big debate. What are you hearing this morning, Arlette?

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, Kate, Joe Biden did what he needed to do going into this debate and that's to survive, after that first rocky debate that exchange with Kamala Harris on school bussing. Biden was taking incoming side on issues like immigration, health care and criminal justice. But he also showed that he was able to push back. He came back calling out elements of other people's records when they criticized him.

And one area of that where you saw the fight play out was over criminal justice between Cory Booker and Joe Biden. The two of them had been critical of each other really over the past week.

Booker calling Biden the architect of mass incarceration and Biden pushed back saying -- calling out Booker's record as mayor of Newark, New Jersey. And I want you to take a listen to one of those exchanges last night about criminal justice between Booker and Biden.


BIDEN: There was nothing done for the entire eight years he was mayor, there was nothing done to deal with the police department that was corrupt. Why did you announce on the first day a zero tolerance policy of stop and frisk and hire Rudy Giuliani's guy in 2007, when I was trying to get rid of the crack cocaine disparity?

BOOKER: Mr. Vice President, there's a saying in my community, you're dipping into the Kool-Aid and you don't even know the flavor. You need to come to the city of Newark and see the reforms that we put in place.


SAENZ: That was one of Cory Booker's more effective lines of the night. The New Jersey senator really had a solid night showing that he's able to punch back at other candidates, but also maintaining that happy warrior mantra that embodies so much of his campaign. The question for Booker going forward is, can he capitalize on his debate performance last night.

And for Joe Biden, he still has some convincing to do for Democrats to show that he has a solid front-runner and show that he is - they're -- should be their pick to be the nominee to defeat - to take on President Trump. They are still months away from the Iowa caucus and primaries and Biden still has a lot of work to do.

BOLDUAN: Yes, months away but it still seems that we have to be in the moment and they have no moment to lose. Joe Biden will be on the campaign trail once again. We'll see if we can see him this hour. Arlette, thank you so much.

Joining me right now is Co-founder and Managing Editor for "The Beat DC" Tiffany Cross and New York - soon will be joining us, "New York Times" National Political Reporter and CNN Political Analyst, Astead Herndon.

Tiffany, thank you so much for being here.


It's great to have you here.

Let's first talk about Joe Biden. (INAUDIBLE) - giving us kind of the rundown. Biden survived. What kind of front-runner is Joe Biden though this morning after last night, do you think?

TIFFANY CROSS, CO-FOUNDER AND MANAGING EDITOR, "THE BEAT DC": Well, I don't know that he's ever really the front-runner. I know that something we in the chatter class but we're still months away from any first-round of voting.


BOLDUAN: If you're looking at the poll, he's the front-runner right now.

CROSS: Yes, but even when you look at the polls you have to consider how the polling works. Who they're polling? Who's answering an unknown landline at home at the middle of the day. And I think when you consider there - you know 3.5 million young voters who will be eligible to vote in November 2020. I don't know among those people that he's the front-runner.

[17:05:06] Now listen. That doesn't mean that he doesn't resonate with certain people. I think older black people, like the South Carolina voters, I call them. He definitely resonates with that crowd. People with Obama nostalgia, he definitely resonates with that crowd. But I just think that's not going to be enough -

BOLDUAN: He was trying to lean on that last night.

CROSS: Exactly. It's not going to be enough to say that Obama chose me. I think he has to offer people something more.

Listen. I think he looked a bit off his game again and this -- look we all have affection for the vice president. He has quite a testimony. No one can question his patriotism. But when he was on that stage there were times where he you know fumbled a few times. He wasn't as sharp. He didn't seem right with (INAUDIBLE). He did get a few punches in there but I just think there might be a little bit of room for growth. He kind of (INAUDIBLE) his own Web site at the end there.



BOLDUAN: -- looking back to that (INAUDIBLE)

CROSS: Some challenges -

BOLDUAN: Astead. Astead is joining us now. Astead, can you hear me and see me? One of the big questions going in for Harris was has she finally once and for all clarified what her health care plan would do? It definitely -- the plan came under quite a bit of attack last night. Just listen to this one.


BIDEN: This idea is a bunch of malarkey, what we're talking about here.


The fact of the matter is -- the fact of the matter is that there will be a deductible. It will be a deductible on their paycheck. Bernie acknowledges it. Bernie acknowledges it. Thirty trillion dollars has to ultimately be paid. And I don't know what math you do in New York, I don't know what math you do in California, but I tell you that's a lot of money, and there will be a deductible. The deductible will be out of your paycheck


BOLDUAN: So that was just one of the - one of the attacks on Harris' plan. When it came to her Medicare for All plan, Astead, how did Harris do here? Is it all cleared up?

I don't think Astead can hear us right now.

Tiffany, what do you think?

CROSS: So I think so - there is some concern, I think again among what the inside beltway people. Those of us like you and I who consume the minutia of this where you do wonder -- the senator didn't seem as comfortable with her own plan. However, think about all of the people across the country and those fly over states, the people who aren't waking up reading eight papers and watching analysis every day and if you don't - because most people don't really know the minutia of health care policy.

BOLDUAN: Honestly a lot of people don't even know the candidates still.

CROSS: Exactly.

BOLDUAN: People don't remember. We consume this and still getting introduced.

CROSS: Most people are going to the grocery store, dropping their kids off, paying their mortgage. They're not consuming this like we do. And so, for those people, if you're just watching that exchange it did sound like Senator Harris knew exactly what she was talking about. For those of us who study health care policy and take it apart, she didn't seem as comfortable with it.

And this is something that's really personal to people across the country. And there are a lot of people who you know look at that signature legislation that Obama got passed - ACA. And it is very personal for them and they do want to hold on to it. It frightens a lot of people when you start saying you're going to lose private insurance.

So, for Senator Harris to come in that ideological middle and say I'm going to you know handle things for you and both faction of this party. I think she won with most of the average people who were watching last night.

BOLDUAN: Still that point of the employer insurance. Am I going to lose my employer based insurance? She's explaining it still today. But that's still is a point that she's going to continue face questions on. Let's try this one more time, Tiffany. Astead, can you hear us?


BOLDUAN: I hope you can hear us. OK.

One person who took comparatively - I guess I'm going to say to comparatively less incoming maybe from the 10 people on the stage last night. It seemed to be President Trump. It got to the point so much so that even Cory Booker had to call it out on the stage. Let me play that moment for us.


BOOKER: The person that's enjoying this debate most right now is Donald Trump as we pit Democrats against each other while he's working right now to take away America's health care.

I just want to say again, tonight we're playing into Republican hands. We have a very different view and they are trying to divide us against each other.


BOLDUAN: Booker was also right there with most of the stage focus, less on Trump and more on fellow Democrats. But wasn't that surprising that it seemed that -- I don't know -- that Trump got off somewhat easy last night?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you hear now?

HERNDON: Yes. I don't think President Trump got off easy. I think the Democrats are trying to create differences between the candidates on stage. Now, Cory Booker very much fits into the kind of political persona he's trying to create one, that creates unity, one that projects the kind of love message. But there's a political incentive to go after your fellow Democrats to create distinctions rather than the president because frankly they mostly agree on the areas in which they disagree with the president. [17:10:00] So, if you want an issue like health care, if you want an issue like immigration, it is certainly very politically popular among Democrats to say I disagree with the president. It doesn't create distinction. So, if you're a candidate who's looking to break out of the pack you're looking sideways and not necessarily ahead to President Trump.

CROSS: Can I also say though --


CROSS: I think - you know this is a Democratic debate. So, they are starting from the premise that most people who are voting Democrat already know what a travesty the president is. So they don't need to convince the American people. Why waste time talking about issues that are obvious instead of talking about issues that are relevant to the American people. And look, they are not running against Donald Trump right now. They are running against each other, to Astead's point. So I think they have to talk about issues that are relevant to people.

I think there actually was missed opportunity to do that last night. I think you know it's kind of the way it was set up there was a lot of fighting. You know Kamala Harris. You know Joe Biden was talking about your mama, what you got to say about that, you know.

And it's like look we -- there were issues that didn't get covered. Foreign policy is a big issue. They only touched on that briefly. Education, they are in Michigan, Betsy DeVos' backyard -- secretary of Education. She has obliterated education in that state and a lot of families across the country.

Education is a huge deal. Voters of color over index during the midterms -- I anticipate that will happen in 2020. Education certainly resonates with a lot of families particularly black families in gentrified neighborhoods when you talk about charter schools and over taking Betsy DeVos' family funded that by billions of dollars.

So I think there were some moments and again we have to - you know it's so hard. I know how this -- I've been a producer and working in this business for 20 years. It's hard when we are talking amongst ourselves because we are all excited about these huge, you know, things and somebody tweeted something. It's great. Let's talk about this. For the voters out there they want to hear from these candidates, how will you make my life better tomorrow.

BOLDUAN: And I wonder if that did come out last night though? Because there -


It was somewhat negative. I mean there was -- it did get personal -- even if you compare night one to night two.

CROSS: Right.

BOLDUAN: Night one, there was more talking about the future than I would argue that there was in night two. I want to get your take, Tiffany, on the -- maybe the biggest discussions since last night is about Cory Booker's Kool-Aid moment.


BOLDUAN: Did it land? Did it delivery? And some folks saying, what exactly did it mean? Let me play that.


BOOKER: I get torn up by my fellow black people. Just like Booker T. Washington's barrel of crabs. They are pulling me hit down for not explicitly stating it like one might do up in the hood. And then I get points about Cory is code-switching.

Come on, I mean, even at a debate, you get up there in front of millions of Americans, have the vice president of the United States distorting your record, do it with a smile and come back with him with a colloquialism that we use in our communities.


BOLDUAN: That was Booker's morning on "NEW DAY" defending the moment. What do you think?

CROSS: I thought it landed. I mean, obviously, you know, it's something that's very familiar, family phrase. I mean, people got it. But listen, I think Senator Booker's challenge is he has been one to preach this message of love and we can overcome everything with love. And I just - you know by any measure of history wars are not won with love. They are won with fight.

And I think voters want to hear from him a fight. And I think we're seeing that on this debate stage. I thought it was a great moment to kind of throw a punch and still keep a smile on your face and do it with dignity. But I think a lot of voters are looking at this as who can I see standing across Donald Trump. Like, who can fight with somebody who fights dirty, who hits below the belt, who is going to be ready to take him on and I don't know that everybody feels Cory Booker can do that because he's had that message. But, again, last night he's been showing no, I can you know -- if I need to.

BOLDUAN: A lot of it is not just what happened on stage but how do you capitalize on momentum.

CROSS: Right.

BOLDUAN: And the days - and weeks after.

CROSS: Right. We will see together.

BOLDUAN: Great to see you. Tiffany and Astead, thank you very much. I really appreciate it.

So also last night we saw a new and somewhat surprising target for the Democratic candidates taking on the he legacy of the last Democratic President Barack Obama.


MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO (D), NEW YORK CITY, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I asked the vice president point blank, did he use his power to stop those deportations. He went right around the question.

BOOKER: Mr. Vice President, you can't have it both ways. You invoke President Obama more than anybody in this campaign. You can't do it when it's convenient and then dodge it when it's not.

JULIAN CASTRO(D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Mr. Vice President, it looks like one of us has learned the lessons of the past, and one of us hasn't.


BOLDUAN: Asked about this on "CNN Today." Senator Booker said the Democrats are having a quote and quote, "honest conversation about the Obama legacy." What does that really mean right now?

Joining me now is a former communications director for President Obama, Jen Psaki. It's great to see you, Jen.


BOLDUAN: I'm doing great.

What did you think when you heard this - it came kind of a drumbeat of criticism at some points in the evening with regard to the Obama administration and policies -- Obama era policies throughout the night.

PSAKI: I can promise you that President Obama is a pretty tough cookie and it's not really worrying about people attacking his policies neither anyone who work for him.

[17:15:00] But here's the deal. I mean his rating among Democrats -- 65 percent among independents. He shouldn't be the target here. So, you know I think you can do both things. And some of the candidates did this better than others. You can build on his legacy.

You can present -- project a forward looking vision. Some of that did better than others and move forward from how you run on 2008. It's different than 2008. No one's going to run on the 2008 platform. That would be completely outdated and stale. There's no reason focus on him as the attack. We have a bigger target to focus on. And that's where I think some of the candidates missed it a little bit last night.

BOLDUAN: Are people wrong to be asking this morning from few places that if Obama isn't liberal enough for the current Democratic field where does that leave them?

PSAKI: I honestly don't know that that's the right question because in 2008, when Barack Obama ran, gay marriage wasn't in the platform of the Democratic Party. People weren't having a pre-existing conditions covered on health care. Climate change wasn't seen as a global crisis.

And if you are running today, he probably be running on different things as well because when you're running for president, you're running to lead the country, you're responding to what people's concerns and those are the concerns in the conversations the country had changed. But at the same time, you know if you're trying to reassure the Democratic Party that you're somebody who is going to continue the mantel, build on it, you know, do better -- do better than Barack Obama. Everybody -- of all people, he probably wants these candidates to do that more than anyone else.

BOLDUAN: Yes. Do you think that the Democratic Party, the Democrats on the stage over the last two nights, do you think the Democrats are in a better position to beat President Trump after the last two nights of the debate?

PSAKI: I'm an optimist by nature, Kate.

BOLDUAN: I bet you are.

PSAKI: So what I'll say is I think most of them -- most of them were better last night than the night before than they were in the first debate and that's the trajectory that I think any Democrat should look for -- people who are Joe Biden supporters which there are many in the country who are breathing in to a paper bag after the last debate. I think they feel a little bit better. You know they feel a little bit better. He did well enough. Was he amazing? Was he perfect? Was he entirely consistent, no?

And there were moments of brilliance from a number of the candidates. I mean, I thought Cory Booker was great last night. I thought Mayor Pete was great. That Elizabeth Warren was really strong. That's good.

But I think they all have a long way to go. I still don't really know what their kind of big overarching forward looking message is and what the Democratic Party is going to say that is and hopefully in the next debate and if it start to narrow that will be an easier conversation to have. It's difficult to have that debate within 60 seconds or 30 seconds which are understandable rules. But as it narrows and these candidates are face-to-face with each other, it may make it a little bit easier and the contrast a little bit easier.

BOLDUAN: Yes. That's certainly a great point. It's great to see you, Jen. Thanks so much.

PSAKI: Great to be here.

BOLDUAN: All over the stage last night. That's for sure. So how do the top contenders, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, how are they feeling about the debate today? The Biden and Harris campaigns will be joining us.

Plus the Eric Garner case. It was another big point of debate on the Detroit debate stage, putting New York Mayor Bill de Blasio on the defense. Now, new reports of how the city is planning to respond, coming up. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:22:40] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BIDEN: Mr. President, this is America. And we are strong and great because of this diversity, Mr. President. Not in spite of it, Mr. President. So, Mr. President, let's get something straight. We love it. We are not leaving it. We are here to stay. And we're certainly not going to leave it to you.


BOLDUAN: That was how Joe Biden began the night. But he then spent most of the rest of the evening defending his record. Senator Kamala Harris hammering Joe Biden over health care. Julian Castro accusing him of living in the past with immigration policy. Senator Cory Booker saying that Biden support of the 1994 crime bill destroyed communities.

With me now, her review of the debate, communications director for the Biden campaign. Kate Bedingfield. Kate thanks for being here.


BOLDUAN: What's your feeling on last night? What did you all think of the night?

BEDINGFIELD: It was a great night. I mean, look, poll after poll after poll shows that Democrats want somebody who can beat Donald Trump and that they think that Joe Biden is that person and last night we saw why. He was taking fire from some of the best debaters in the Democratic Party. Coming at him I think it may have been the most hostile Democratic debate in primary history. And he handled attacks. He gave as good as he got frankly where he needed to.

But most importantly, he turned to a clear and concise case against Donald Trump. I mean I think you heard - you know you referenced it there as we were coming in to the segment. He made an incredibly compelling case against the president taking it directly to him. He got one of the biggest applause moments in the night actually, in the room there for the line about you know, we're not going to leave it to you, Mr. President.

So I think you heard him make a very clear case for a future for this country that's dramatically different from the one that we're currently seeing. And I think on a night when everybody was looking to have their T-shirt moment and score and you know and get a little attention for their campaign I think he handled it deftly. But most importantly, took the case directly to the American people that why he's the best person, the best fighter to take on Donald Trump next --

BOLDUAN: He did face incoming - as you've mentioned from pretty much everyone on the stage. And he did fight back.

[17:25:00] He took on Harris' record with desegregating schools back when she was attorney general of California. He also took on Booker's record over police tactics back when he was mayor of Newark. When he was doing that, I remember him saying and it was just on July 4th that he wasn't going to be the one that's looking back in other's records in this race. For our viewers, listen to this.


BIDEN: Here's what I'm not going to do. I'm not going to go back and use the same tactic they're trying to use.

I'm not going to go back and talk about the record of anyone from 10, 20, 30 years ago.


BOLDUAN: That's not exactly what he's now doing from the debate stage. I mean he was doing looking back years to cut down - to cut his opponents down?

BEDINGFIELD: Well, look. They both took very big swings at him. And you know he made it clear. Look, if we're going to talk about records then other folks on this stage have a record too. But I think for most of the debate, you saw him make a really clear case about what kind of vision he is offering the country. You know for example, there was a lot of talk about health care. And you heard him talk about building on the hard won, hard fought progress of Obamacare, protecting the peace of mind for people who have pre-existing conditions.


BOLDUAN: I actually really want to ask you about that.


BOLDUAN: Pre-existing conditions because he found himself defending Obamacare on the stage. And one thing that was barely mentioned in the whole debate was the one thing that is most effective for Democrats, was most effective for Democrats in the midterms, protecting coverage for people with pre-existing conditions. I heard Biden mentioned it once. Is it a huge missed opportunity for everyone on the debate stage that that wasn't more of a focus?

BEDINGFIELD: Well, I think there's an interesting dynamic where Democrats, some Democrats have decided that attacking the Obama legacy is more important than attacking Donald Trump and being clear about the fact that Donald Trump is doing things to the moral fabric of this country that are unacceptable. Now, on health care, Vice President Biden is incredibly proud of the Affordable Care Act and always going to defend it. And I think you know he was in 2018, went around the country in the midterms, making the case for the Affordable Care Act and it is important. It's a big reason why the Democrats won the House back in 2018.

So, it's something that Democratic voters care about that they want to hear about. And I think you know what you heard from him last night was a very clear aggressive defense of a program, a piece of legislation that fundamentally reformed health care in this country, extended the peace of mind of health insurance to 20 million Americans. Again, you know, ensured the people with pre-existing conditions didn't have to be - you know could be covered, ensured that young people could stay on their parents' insurance until they were 26.

Those are hard fought games. That was a tough fight. I mean I think most people watching remember this fight in 2009 and 2010. This is a huge transformational change. And I Vice President Biden is always going to defend and wants to build on that progress rather than starting over, taking away employer sponsored insurance. One thing that people have, these protections that we fought hard to get done without a single Republican vote by the way.

BOLDUAN: Another part of the legacy that he was defending last night was he was pressed on deportation during the Obama administration and asked what advice he offered Obama then because Obama has been criticized for the number of deportations that happened during the administration. He refused to answer that question saying that he kept those recommendations private.

But that has not always been the case. He has talked in the past on the advice that he has given the president in private on some of the most sensitive decisions. So when it comes to deportations that happened when he was vice president, did he just not want to answer the question?

BEDINGFIELD: One of the most important things about Joe Biden and Barack Obama's relationship is that Joe Biden was always the last person in the room on major decisions and always gave the president candid advice and has protected the confidentiality of those conversations. And - but most importantly -


BOLDUAN: But he hasn't.

BEDINGFIELD: I mean in 2015 -

BOLDUAN: He always talked about what his advice was, Kate, to Obama with regard to the bin Laden raid. He talked about that publicly.

BEDINGFIELD: But he is always going to defend. I think the most important thing here is he's always going to defend the Biden record - excuse me, the Obama record. And look, we right now have a president who is ripping children away from their families. Who is arguing in court against children being able to have toothbrush -- toothbrushes and soap.


BEDINGFIELD: I mean it's sort of outrageous.


BOLDUAN: But talk to me about - BEDINGFIELD: Wait, wait, this is important though. It is sort of outrageous that Democrats are choosing at this time to attack Barack Obama on immigration rather than Donald Trump who is using immigration as a wedge, who is using it to divide people and whose policies are inhumane --


BOLDUAN: But that was part of the discussion -

BEDINGFIELD: --and you know the Vice President Biden stage.

BOLDUAN: And that was part of the discussion on the stage was we should be focusing more on Trump less on attacking each other but the primary is about drawing contrast and can you hear some Democrats doing both.