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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Democratic Front-Runners Face Off In Third Primary Debate; Gloves Come Off In Third Democratic Debate; Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) Is Interviewed About Her Overall View Of The Debate; Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) Is Interviewed About His Debate Performance And His View On Joe Biden; Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT) Is Interviewed About The Third Democratic Presidential Debate And Health Care; One-On-One With Mayor Pete Buttigieg. Aired 10:30p-12a ET

Aired September 12, 2019 - 22:30   ET

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


[22:30:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: Where does this leave the Democrats? You know, what did they figure out for themselves tonight? Let's discuss that. We got David here with Elaina and Sabrina. The idea of it's got to be one or two things.

Either you want somebody who can go toe to toe with Donald Trump, whatever that means, or you want to return to normal. Or do you think it's in the Malcolm of those two interests? You know, Twitter ain't the Democratic Party. These far-left voices that are amplified, 80 percent-plus of the party identifies itself as center left. What are they going to want?

DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I do think the party recognizes this is not about going big in the sense of the whole map. It's about where could you win that Clinton couldn't? So, that is a part of the fight about who can take it to Trump. That's true, but there's too much activism on the left right now to say it can't just be about Trump. We've got to figure out who we are and the bolder we are, the more progressive we are. That is the shot to the future.

You know, that is what Barry Goldwater talked about in 1964. He knew he really didn't have a shot to win, but he's like, conservatives, grow up, we got to get our act together. It took him until 1980 before it happened. I think progressives are making the argument that that is how we actually change things is find our voice. And I think, that's -- there's a lot of agreement on that stage tonight. And a lot of that agreement is about cementing what that progressive path is.

ELAINA PLOTT, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE ATLANTIC: I do love that Goldwater analogy that he lost in '64 and it took him until Reagan for kind of his ideology to be embodied within the Oval Office. But I think there are large portion of Americans right now who are so exhausted by this presidency that they don't want to wait, and you know, 10, 15 years, however long it is, for the platonic ideal of progressivism to materialize and take the Oval Office. You know, it's why I do think that Senator Michael Bennet, he didn't

make the stage tonight, but he did have a message, like, a month ago and said, I kind of want to make America boring again, I promise if you elect me, you will not hear about me for two weeks at a time, what I'm doing, what I'm tweeting, who I'm talking to. And I do think that there are people that can resonate within this country. And that is what I think Joe Biden succeeds in communicating. That he might help make America boring again.

CUOMO: What's the difference between Goldwater and Reagan, to your point, and thank you for setting the table with that, Reagan did, to use your word, of his idea, embody it, he made you feel it.

[22:35:07]

You know, my father, wherever he is right now, he is hating that I'm talking about Reagan that way, because he didn't like the policies. He thought it was a tale of two cities that he was portraying. Rich versus poor, but he made people feel that he believed in the country and he connected with their needs and wants. That is the Democratic task as well.

SABRINA SIDDIQUI, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: And there's been a lot of focus tonight on the top three. Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, and Bernie Sanders. Which reinforces that perhaps this debate didn't do a lot to change the status quo, but those three also really embody both the ideological divide within the party as well as these conflict between whether or not you want to start a movement, whether or not this is a Warren/Sanders sour grassroots movement or is it Joe Biden.

CUOMO: You seem to (inaudible) person who could push through in the next five, six months?

SIDDIQUI: Well, there are a lot of people, you've seen Kamala Harris come in --

CUOMO: You think she is going to come back?

SIDDIQUI: I think it's possible. It's so early. There's so much time until voters actually go to the polls. Beto O'Rourke had a very strong night. And if you think about it, for a lot of these candidates it's about making the next debate stage.

(CROSSTALK)

CUOMO: You've got a few hundred days before voting, right. Sabrina, you're exactly right. Because what happens? Who wins Iowa, let's say it's not Biden. Now, it's a whole new narrative. Let's be very honest about ourselves. What we want is new narratives.

So, you know, when Iowa happens, you're going to have a new story, the statement of the case about the election. Then you're going to go to next state, and the next state. And if you pull off a win, you're second or third, Kamala Harris is second or third in one of those first couple races, here she comes. So, you're right, this matters, but it doesn't matter as much as that will. GREGORY: Well, that is right. And we also are going to start

dissecting voting groups and who's showing up to such a degree and the candidates are going to start doing that as well, they are going to start tailoring their message to appeal to those particular groups.

But, you know, in the end, there's a lot of fear here. You know, Trump got into power based on fear. He didn't have big, bold, ideas, it was American carnage, and here, there's fear of Trump and there's also, you know, make no mistake, where there was such agreement tonight was that government can and must alter the playing field for Americans, can change behavior. Can change the course of people's lives.

There's not really a conservative in the race, because Donald Trump is not that. So, you know, what conservatives are fighting about is conserving a different role for government, which is what Reagan embodied was that idea of the conservation of first principles. That is not really -- that is not what's being debated here, but where there was consensus tonight is how much government can and should do.

And there's the fight. There's Biden saying, whoa, you know, I mean, I align myself with a progressive in Barack Obama, now we want to go so much farther than that in the Democratic Party. They're going to spend a lot of time fighting about that and to your point, Trump's just going to be waiting and saying, great, you're all socialists as far as I'm concerned. You fight it out and whoever wins is going to be bloodied by that and here I come.

CUOMO: Also, you know what's important to know, that we're going to have to start doing more reporting on, is who is tooling up for what races? For all we know, Yang is putting his money behind having an amazing infrastructure in New Hampshire. And let's say he pops the numbers there and winds up pulling off a fourth. All of a sudden, he is in the top four for the entire time until that next primary, maybe even after that. That is why the state of play matters so much in terms of organizing and figuring out how to connect --

PLOTT: Are you still convinced that that is even true, though, after 2016? I mean, take Rubio. His infrastructure in Nevada, for instance, was phenomenal. I mean, I remember being on the ground there and just, in the early days when everyone thought Trump was a joke, there was no question that Rubio was winning that state. He came in third to Trump and Cruz. I mean, the whole joke about Trump was that he had no infrastructure. That this was so haphazard.

CUOMO: You're a 100 percent right. I'm making the case that there's only one way that the outside of this field gets inside.

PLOTT: I see you, OK.

CUOMO: And they have to pull off -- they have to pull a rabbit out of the hat because they have to make you care about it. You know, what I mean, the people who are writing about you, you know, we were talking earlier about why Klobuchar hasn't gotten more run, because we don't give her a run. Because she hasn't said things to distinguish her.

I mean, I had her on the show numerous time. We've gone town halls with her. But she hasn't done enough to get the media to start pushing the cause.

You know, how do people find out who Beto O'Rourke was? Well, the Democrats threw a ton of money at him in infrastructure, because they wanted him to beat Cruz. He lost. But he became a golden boy. Then he got put on the cover of "Vanity Fair." Now, he is a golden boy again. And everybody talks him up. He raises money. Then he falls down. The media leaves him alone. And that is where he stays.

Kamala Harris, same thing. Buttigieg, same thing. Warren, now, you know, if the media is giving you energy because you're resonating and you're getting the headlines from being in the debate, you start to make your own luck.

SIDDIQUI: Right and to your point, by the time we got to Nevada in 2016, Marco Rubio's ground game was almost irrelevant because he was already losing. And to the point you made earlier, Ted Cruz through his infrastructure in Iowa that is where he finished first to the surprise of many and that really changed the narrative around the race.

I think had it not been for Donald Trump, Ted Cruz very likely would have been the Republican nominee. And so that is where the ground game very much still does matter. And Elizabeth Warren actually had a very formidable ground game in the early states. That is why the Trump campaign is internally somewhat concerned about her prospects and just kind of to the point you made about the rust belt and this tension in the Democratic Party.

[22:40:18]

Donald Trump won those states by maybe 20,000 to 22,000 votes. So, the margins are really, really tight. So, the question for Democrats is are they going to make a really big play for those independent-minded voters through this approach of incrementalism or are they going to try and put together that Obama coalition of voters and really double down on the base --

CUOMO: That is what they need.

SIDDIQUI: --which is people of color, young voters and women.

PLOTT: They don't have to be mutually exclusive, either. I mean, remember, Cruz who had, you know, by all accounts a brilliant team of strategists based their voter models off a 6 million people turnout in Texas. How many turned out, 8 million. That is why Beto O'Rourke actually came as close as he did to beating Ted Cruz. And if that kind of model is replicated in 2020, that sort of focus on young people, on minority voters, that is where that matters.

GREGORY: You know, something that we kicked around, I think, a few times is sitting with me now which is, you know, a lot of this debate was about winning the progressive primary. Winning the big progressive idea. That is really where the fight is. Biden, who catapulted his campaign with the idea that it was a rejection of Donald Trump.

And this was the fight for the soul of America, he is not spending a lot of his time talking about that. That is right. He is on the defensive. He is trying to sound hip and with it. He can take on his opponents, he can remember facts. He's trying much too hard in my judgment because he can't command all these facts and he sounds like he's stumbling over words.

PLOTT: Like he crams the night before --

GREGORY: Right. Because he is trying to remember facts that his advisers prepped with him. Only Kamala Harris tonight at the point that I saw for the first hour and a half was really saying, bringing it back to who are we up against? You know, Barack Obama was really -- this was -- his candidacy was a really about Iraq and it was about rejecting Iraq. This is only going to be about rejecting Trump, but right now, they're fighting two things at once. The progressive ideas and the future and taking on Trump.

SIDDIQUI: And think about it, Kamala Harris spent the first two debates really going after Joe Biden and so it's been quite a striking turnaround to see her sort of congratulating her opponents and, you know, really giving them their credit.

GREGORY: I think she is looking for a way in here. The inner circle.

SIDDIQUI: And turning the voters back to Trump, because I think that increasingly the field is realizing that Democratic voters are much more concerned with how you're going to take on Donald Trump. And Joe Biden, you know, the polls only tell you so much, but he still has such a commanding lead. His campaign has been singularly focused.

PLOTT: Because on electability, the polling in terms of the primary focus of the Democratic electorate being about electability, that polling has been there from the get-go. So, it's interesting to me that, you know somebody like Kamala Harris, for instance, is only just now kind of trying to bring it back.

And that was a stunning moment vis-a-vis health care when she said remember who we're up against, you know, Donald Trump, we will, you know, campaign against Obamacare with no replacement in mind. Let's talk about that for a moment. And the fact that she is doing that just now, I mean, I have to wonder if it's too late.

CUOMO: So, then why -- let's figure out who's telling them what, because we've all seen the same numbers. Every time you ask the Democrats, they have an existential --

PLOTT: Exactly.

CUOMO: -- fear about this president. And even if it's not fear, it's outrage. You know, that they want him out. And they say, I heard it on my radio show, I have this Sirius radio show, two hours every day, everybody who doesn't want Trump says they'll vote for anybody else.

You know, it's only once you get into the Democratic parties and you start -- you start messing with them about it, now they start talking about the gradation. So who's telling them what that they're not focusing on what we all see as obvious. GREGORY: Well, you know, the two conversations about -- that as much

as Democrats want the election to just be a referendum on him, it's going to be a choice between two people and they are going to have to defend their policies not just against Trump, against naysayers and they are going to persuade those who were persuadable that they can actually speaks to their paint.

I think that is what Elizabeth Warren and what they're all trying to do especially the progressives saying these are big ideas that are actually going to move people in a way that Donald Trump has not been able to help them and it will go beyond where Barack Obama has been, but that -- the fundamental bet is still that there are enough voters who are open because they're tired of the Trump show.

They're really, they're turned off or they think he hasn't delivered and I think that is still a primary message that they're getting, that they're campaigning on, but they've got to be about something more. Look, you have AOC in congress. I mean, she is full of big, bold, progressive ideas. And she is taking on Trump. And I think this is where the candidates are trying to mirror some of that progressive --

CUOMO: Here's the thing, though, everything's case by case. She won against a no-show Crowley.

GREGORY: I get it.

[22:45:00]

CUOMO: And she got the attention now of the (inaudible) of the party. Yes, he did a lot of good things according to his party, but he was a no-show there. I don't know how much traction she is getting there. The media loves her. OK? She is got a nickname.

We call her by three initials. You know, now she is got the whole group with her that they call the squad. That is about us. I don't know how it resonates to the American people let alone on the next level.

So this debate tonight was supposed to be a big showdown debate. Didn't really happen. Although, it does seem that we've had the best Biden to date. The question is, is the best Biden good enough at this point?

PLOTT: Well, I think intellectually speaking, a lot of these campaigns understand that yes, this is an existential fight against Donald Trump. What I love coming -- why I love coming on your show, Chris, because we talk about the human elements so much.

And just like you were saying, when you get -- you know, you can talk a big game against an opponent. When you get on the stage and they're right there, it's harder. Same thing with talking about Trump. (Inaudible) it gets harder.

CUOMO: You're right. You're all right. That is why I love having you. Thank you so much. This is so much fun. I'll be back at midnight, but right now, post-debate coverage begins with Anderson Cooper. Anderson? ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Chris, thanks very much. Good evening,

everybody. Moments ago the third presidential debate wrapped up. A number of standout moments and performances, many of them involving Joe Biden who gave about good as he got on the stage and he got from quite a few of the candidates tonight.

Overall a heated night with all the candidates sparring over a number of the big issues. The big issue, who is best suited, of course, to take on President Trump. Going right now to the folks -- right here with me for some reactions. David Chalian, we could start with you.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Well, you know, I think Joe Biden have the best debate performance of the cycle so far for him tonight.

COOPER: Is it because he was more focused or --

CHALIAN: Yeah, he was just sharper and he seemed as you said in your intro, he seemed to be able to do the give and take with a lot more ease than he did in the first couple debates. He just seemed more confident up there, more on his game.

So I think he had a pretty strong night which means the debate probably didn't change much in the race. I mean, I think there wasn't a lot of new policy ground broken in the debate tonight. So, I don't know that this is going to dramatically change the race.

The other thing I would note, overall, Anderson, it was sort of, I thought, especially in the health care conversation in the beginning. Sort of the center strikes back with Biden and Klobuchar and Buttigieg sort of taking on Sanders and Warren with not going to the whole Medicare for all kit and caboodle.

Their argument wasn't getting as much play in the previous debates. The left was sort of driving that debate and it caused a lot of concern in more moderate Democratic circles. And tonight, I thought you saw some of those more centrist candidates really push through a bit more than we had seen previously.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Yeah, I think that is right, and in some ways, I think Bernie was Bernie times 100 tonight. Very yelly, angry. There was this moment the camera captured him sort of just yelling at Biden around health care and Biden just kind of standing there smiling at him which I thought was a good moment for Biden.

I agree with David, Biden I think had his best of the cycle. His best debate. He was energetic. He was quick on his feet. Warren, I thought kind of faded down the stretch which in some ways was OK, because Bernie was sort of taking all the heat and making the case for progressive which I think was a bad contrast. Because Biden I thought was going to kind of calm and cool and collected. And made a pretty strong case for the moderates.

Warren didn't quite answer the question, right, about how she would actually pay for this. Would it be a middle class tax cut? She didn't quite answer that. She essentially said overall costs would be lower. At some point I think Biden said there will be a deductible, but it will be from your paycheck. He also I think at some point called Bernie a socialist which was also a moment. Also I think Beto had a fantastic night. If there's sort of an overall winner, I think it would be him.

I've been critical of Beto in the past. I think he is really found his footing. He is fantastic on the gun debate, obviously a huge tragedy happened in his backyard as well as immigration. There was a humanity there to him and a passion. And he spoke with real hurt and was really compelling. So, it will be interesting to see what this means for him going forward.

COOPER: David?

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: First of all, I say these was a more -- you know, these were the 10 top candidates and it was a more coherent debate it seemed to me than the ones we've seen before. But I agree with what's been said. I don't think much has changed, particularly at the top, Joe Biden had his best performance.

And as long as he performs he's going to stay where he is, because so much of it is a question as to whether he is the guy who can beat Trump and everybody is watching to see if he can stand up to these kinds of pressures and he did. I think Elizabeth Warren had a better night, perhaps, than you did. I think she is very consistent.

That's been the hallmark of her entire campaign. She is unflappable. She is consistent. I think she was here, I thought she navigated the health care question pretty well.

[22:50:00]

It's interesting to me, everybody attacks Bernie, and you know, inferentially attacking Warren. And then she kind of navigates around it and lets Bernie, you know, do the heavy -- but the action was -- interesting stuff to me was below the leaders. I think Beto had an outstanding night. Passionate, commanding in a way that he hasn't been before. Is as if, he finally figured out why he is in this race.

COOPER: He did at one point say, you know, if you have an AK-47, AR- 15, we'll take it away.

AXELROD: Right.

COOPER: Which is the nightmare of everybody who owns an AR-15.

AXELROD: There's no doubt. And look, he was for reparations. That's a very controversial position. I'm not suggesting that what happened in tonight means he's going to be president of the United States. But he didn't look like he belonged on that stage in the last debates.

Tonight he knew why he was there and he performed well. I though Cory Booker who was very good in the last debate was good again tonight. Amy Klobuchar, this was her best debate and she finally confronted Sander and Warren on the healthcare issue. Which was something she was reluctant to do. The only person I had thought had a disappointing night was Julian Castro. Primarily because he overreached in a way -- when he attack Biden.

COOPER: He went for Biden suggesting.

AXELROD: Essentially saying, you forgot what you said two minutes ago? It was such an overt kind of shot. Ageist sort of shot at Biden. And you remember, these are well liked people. Joe Biden is a well- liked person in the Democratic Party.

COOPER: Beloved. You can also argue, I mean, if Julian Castro is going to be saying that, there's no telling what Donald Trump would say. If he is on the stage with Joe Biden. Biden has to be ready for --

AXELROD: For sure.

CHALIAN: Democratic voters have many more options. So, Julian Castro just let him blows himself up by attacking someone that all the voters watching have pretty good feelings about the guy Joe Biden. And so --

AXELROD: It was a risk. But he is at 1 percent and he's trying to stay in this race. I think it was a calculated risk. I think he lost on that.

COOPER: Kirsten?

KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: So, I think pretty much I heard everybody had their moments, right. Almost everybody at some point sort of popped and did a good job on something. I actually think it was with Warren did a great job.

I think that she came in with really high expectations and she met the expectations. And she didn't get as many questions. So, she wasn't in the mix as much, but I felt like she delivered on every question that she got and was able to parlay, you know, the sort of attacks that were coming from the moderates.

And, you know, I think that Cory had another great night. Last time I thought he had a great night. It didn't translate in the poll. And I don't know if that would translate in the polls. Beto, the same thing. But he is becoming a bet of a niche candidate. You know, it's really around gun safety. And so he is getting a lot of attention for that. And the question is, can he sort of, you know, build that into something bigger.

I think, Klobuchar this was definitely her best performance. No question. And I thought Kamala was a little unsteady compared to how she's been in the past. I didn't feel like she, you know, really did anything to change the trajectory of where she is right now. And yes, so, I think Biden actually something I would disagree on.

I actually don't -- I think Biden looked unsteady at many points. I think, he had good moments and then I think other points he looked kind of unsteady and almost deer in the headlights. When things are going on and he gave some answers like when he was talking about Afghanistan. That sound like he was talking about his Iraq plan.

So, there's things that I think when you have the fact checkers come back, of the things he was saying. I just -- I didn't feel like he was that strong and I feel like, he's still running on the fact that he is -- he was Barack Obama's vice president. Honestly and the people feel like he's the best person who can win and everyone has a lot of affection for him. But I didn't think it was as strong as other people.

COOPER: Let's bring in some of our partisans. Mitch, you have been on the debate stages, what would you --

MITCH LANDRIEU, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I have been. It's very hard. Sometimes we get lost in the weeds. I think the mission is to beat Donald Trump and to restore American values. It gets pretty clear to most people in the country who are really exhausted by President Trump. And he has misused the power of the presidency. And abused it to hurt people and to divide us a country. And to isolate us as a nation.

And I think people in America have this intuitive sense that we're heading in the wrong direction. And my sense was it was a great debate tonight. Almost everybody that was there. And you can see that almost every one of those people would be a better president for American values than President Trump. So, I think writ large it was really a good night. I thought it was a good debate. I thought the questions were good. I thought the answers were good.

They covered the whole (inaudible). They talked about healthcare, they talked about immigration, they talked about foreign policy. They got into the weeds on segregation and reparations. They talked about tax policy. And actually I thought everybody performed well.

You know, the big debate tonight for me was between vice president Biden and Elizabeth Warren. On the big issue of are we going to go deep, you know, or are we really going to stay steady? Are we trying to hit a single or are we trying to hit the ball over the fence?

And I think, Joe Biden answered that questioned tonight pretty well by saying, you know, you can believe in big things but you have to have the realistic plan to get there. And I think that the engagement of that debate started and I think that is going to continue.

[22:55:20]

COOPER: We really haven't heard that debate on stage.

LANDRIEU: We haven't really even saw that teased out before because of they never stood on the stage together. I though, I agree with you. I though Elizabeth Warren had a really good night. She's smart. She has got a lot of great plans, except the challenge is though, does she have a plan to beat Trump?

She clearly articulates Bernie's position better than he articulates and so your best guess is that maybe she's going to outpace him in at some point in time. But I thought the under card was really good tonight.

I thought Corry Booker did a spectacular job of Beto did. I agree with you David that I think Secretary Castro had a couple of weak moments. And I thought Amy Klobuchar really looked good. She usually doesn't get a lot of air time, but thought tonight she really kind of brought it home.

COOPER: Personal in a way that and I think --

LANDRIEU: And of course, I think, Senator Booker did an excellent job tonight of trying to bring back what his vision is for America to how he grew up and how he govern. And I actually thought they all did pretty well. I was pretty proud of them.

COOPER: Jennifer Granholm, you should point out, you were involved in prep for vice president Biden in this debate.

JENNIFER GRANHOLM, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. And so I'm really happy. You know, I thought, you know, he -- we anticipated a lot. I think of what was discussed tonight and I think he felt comfortable going in and being able to rely both on his experience.

But also not feeling, I mean, in the past he's been a little bit uncomfortable in talking about his personal like the losses of his kids. Which is he doesn't want to make it look like he's using them. You know, for some other reason. But I thought his closing was just really who he is.

COOPER: Beautiful.

GRIFFIN: So, you know, obviously I'm bias. In this assessment, but I --

COOPER: Was it were others tougher against him than you anticipated?

GRIFFIN: Castro. I mean, I thought that was a really bad move of him. Even the audience booed when he said, you know, don't you remember what you said two minutes ago? I thought that was really a low blow. And I don't think it's going to help him.

I do think though, it makes me proud to be a Democrat too, because I think they -- just made me feel good. The whole evening. Even though there was percussiveness. It wasn't -- other than that Castro piece, it wasn't personal. There were arguments about policy back and forth. I felt bad for Bernie, because he looked like he was getting over a cold and I think his, I mean, he looked a little red and I felt bad for him. I wanted him to get a drink of water or cough drop.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He needs healthcare.

COOPER: It seemed like vice president Biden had plenty of cough drops.

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK) GRIFFIN: The whole campaign getting over a cold. So Biden was chewing

some cough drops and I was hoping that they would share because --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The women would have shared the cough drops.

GRIFFIN: I'm not saying it is.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The socialists would have as well.

(LAUGHTER)

AXELROD: They would have shared a cough drop.

GRIFFIN: Tonight everybody embraced Obama. Right? Nobody --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was a great night of Obama.

GRIFFIN: Obama had a perfect night.

VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: The big winner of the debate tonight was Barack Obama. And everybody had to give him his credit and I was proud to be a Democrat tonight. On this tough discussion on guns. Criminal justice and war. Those are the issues that people have tried to dance around and get away with in our party for too long. Just honest. Just honest. It was beautiful.

Also, first hour, Biden ate his Wheaties. And he was good. I'm on the left lane in this party. I'm going to tell you, Biden that first hour, you can say that guy could deal with Donald Trump. He was good. It's just as you get forward with the night he starts making those mistakes and that's what Twitter wants to talk about.

But I thought -- if you are a moderate looking for a reason to support Biden. You saw it in that first hour. That first hour and a half. Booker and Beto are growing. They're growing and they're finding their gear. They are finding themselves. Beautiful. Tonight I thought Pete -- Mayor Pete, shrank a little bit. I thought he shrank a little bit. He wasn't the Pete that I use to -- at the end.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The close was --

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Fantastic.

JONES: But you would expect that from him every single time at that. More singles fewer homeruns from Pete.

This maybe the last for some of them and we should point for some of these, this may be the last (inaudible).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're all in the next debate.

COOPER: So, when does the DNC start to toughen the rules?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: After that. November. JONES: Let me say one last thing about Cory Booker. Listen, Cory

Booker is a -- Why do you laugh?

[23:00:00]

GRIFFIN: No, I'm laughing because I'm like -- take me to church.

(LAUGHTER)

JONES: I know.

GRANHOLM: Amazing.

JONES: Exactly. He -- we're not talking about healthcare. And they're all fighting each other and beating each other up. He came in as a healing presence in the health care debate. He is trying to do something that I think a lot of people want to see Democrats do.

We don' have to tear each other down to build up a vision for a better country. So, Cory Booker who I think looked like yesterday's man in the first debate. He's growing. Beto had a great night.

And I'm -- like I say, I'm proud to see a straight white guy take on the issues of some of these issues of racial justice with a kind of passion that he does. It's good to see. I don't think he's going to make the president of the United States. But he has found his gear and I thought he had a great night tonight.

JESS MCINTOSH, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: And going off the Cory Booker moment, I think a lot of the second tier, tier two, tier three candidates look for moments in a debate like this where they know the top tier is going to start sniping at each other and they want to step in like the adult in the room and say the calming thing that everybody in the audience wants to do.

Cory Booker taught a master class in that tonight. You saw Pete Buttigieg tried to do it. You saw Amy tried to do it a couple of time. Cory just came in and was like, let me show you how it's done. And played it out perfectly.

I also want to completely agree about Democrats saying what they mean this year. Like, that was my take away watching this. We are just watching Democrats say what they mean because out ideas are not of the mainstream. Our ideas are actually widely popular. Even about things that we have been told are controversial for years. Like guns.

But I thought one of the things that Elizabeth Warren did so strongly was talked about the healthcare debate and pretty much every issue. In a way that people understand. People are not thinking about their taxes versus their premiums. They are thinking about costs.

And the no one likes their insurance company line is a universal crowd pleaser because it's 100 percent true. So, I thought she did an excellent job there. I thought this was really Biden's best for Biden. I want the bar to be higher for our front runner. I don't like that he seems to get lost in questions. I think answering an economic segregation question with Venezuela is

an odd choice and the flubs get to me. But this was -- this was more reassuring. I've been saying that I wanted Biden to reassure me. This was closer than he has been before.

But I think the bottom line of this debate is that I would sleep better at night with any single person on that stage in the White House. I can't imagine being an undecided American watching that and coming to a different conclusion. These are people who have really good ideas.

AXELROD: But you acknowledge that you're probably not representative of the undecided American.

MCINTOSH: I am an undecided Democratic voter.

AXELROD: I know. Yes. Couple things. One is just a small strategic point on Elizabeth Warren. At the front and back she got a lot of biography in. She was in Houston. Houston played a big role in her life. I think that was really important.

If you look at the polling, she's doing very well with college educated whites, liberals and kids. But not breaking through with working class voters, black or white. And partly it's because I think she's very much the professor at times. And she needs to -- and her biography it seems to me is very, very important in terms of conveying a message of connection with people that they might not -- so I thought that was -- I thought that was very valuable.

(CROSSTALK)

MCINTOSH: It's definitely --

AXELROD: The thing that I miss, you know, is you get caught up in these issues. And I understand that it's exhilarating to hear people articulate Democratic positions on these issues. But there's something bigger going on right now.

We're going through a period in our history that is unlike anything that we've seen. And nobody really spoke to the sort of the highest level or consistently to the highest level issue, which is, we go through a mix master every day in this country right now. And it is -- it is -- you know, driving us to the breaking point. And that is a concern to people not just Democrats. But to others as well.

And, you know, Booker touched on it. I think Kamala did at points. But nobody sort of made that a central focus throughout. And part of what you want to do is drive a message throughout. I think that's a big message. And if I were a Democratic campaign or candidate, I want to seize that message because it has a broad base.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want to say, on this point, this is I just don't think we can miss this. The country has a profound sense that we are in a period of great loss. That we're losing American values. That we're heading in the wrong direction. That the last four years has made us worse off. And that four more years the country maybe unrecognizable.

And this election may not be about plans at all. Although plans are always important with the vision, is that maybe who about we are as a country. And I think that's going to be the biggest challenge going forward. We have to win. And I think the American people have a lot of common sense. I think they are exhausted. We're seeing this from time to time and it really matters.

JONES: Speaking of exhausted. I might be the only person. Do we have to have the same healthcare debate every time? Like, I know that the moderates got in a few more punches. But whoever has the next debate, can you just look at the last three. Every single time.

(CROSSTALK)

AXELROD: No, no. It's different on every night.

[23:05:03]

COOPER: I want to quick go to Houston. Our Chief Political Correspondent, Dana Bash and CNN Anchor, Erin Burnett there with Senator Amy Klobuchar. Dana, Erin?

ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: We are here in Houston. Dana and I we're sitting together and watching you, Senator. So how do you feel?

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think it went very well. I had that opportunity to make the strong case that I don't want to be for half of the country but all the country. And the way you do that is not just by firing up our base, which we can do and they are fired up. But it's also by bringing in independents and moderate Republicans.

People, some of whom voted for Donald Trump. That we need not only to win the president but also the U.S. Senate. And you do that by making sure that you are winning in those states of Colorado, and Arizona and Alabama with Doug Jones.

So, my argument is that while I was on that right side of the stage and many of my colleagues were to my left, I'm in the middle of the country, in the middle of our party, and I think that's what we need to do to lead our ticket.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Senator, aside from geography which you mentioned a lot tonight that you're from the middle of the country. How is that message different from Joe Biden's?

KLOBUCHAR: First of all, I actually live in the middle of the country. Secondly, I'm one of only three women that was on that stage. I think that's important. Obviously, I'm in a new generation of leaders that had to deal with Donald Trump and be in power then and both try to work through it.

But also, I've have seen the horrors of the effects of this guy that he has on regular people. In the promises that he hasn't kept.

I'm from a rural state that has both the metropolitan area and rural. And I certainly see this in Iowa. We didn't get into all of it. But the effects of his trade policy, the effects of the secret waivers that he'd been giving to oil companies.

Those are things where I can speak from the heart for rural America, as well as having a strong argument to make for bringing in suburban voters. That's the pundits work. But I think what else that matters, is that, I come from the heart and I close with that. Talking about where I come and why I can lead.

BURNETT: Do you feel -- you know, there was also, obviously in healthcare, right? There was a big debate tonight.

KLOBUCHAR: Yes.

BURNETT: And there was sort of the Medicare for all. And Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren being painted as part of that, not fighting back. And then there's the rest of you who don't fully support that.

KLOBUCHAR: Yes. Well, I mean, let's make this clear. If someone wants a $16 trillion package when our economy is $20 trillion when it comes to what we need to do about climate change. Which I think I have a very smart proposal. Then I'm probably not your candidate.

If you want to have thrown off 149 million people in four years off their current insurance, then I'm not your candidate. If you want to give free college to rich kids, then I'm not your candidate.

But I think people want something different. They want someone who is going to bring us together and lead and win big. They want someone who gets that the work doesn't end on election day, that it starts on inauguration day. So that is this clear case that I'm making to people. And the more I get out there the better it is and that what I'm going to keep doing.

BASH: When you were on that stage, I'm just curious, and you heard Julian Castro go after Joe Biden about his memory. It wasn't that -- it was pretty obvious what he was getting at. What was going through your mind?

KLOBUCHAR: I just thought, this is not cool. Just because I think you can have policy differences, and I was one of the few ones up there that was willing to take on Bernie and some of these things even though we work together all the time. But I would never do it personally.

And I thought that was personal and so unnecessary. When in fact, we've got to unite and we've done this in 2018. That's why we took back the House. We united behind candidates and we didn't treat each other like Donald Trump.

And one of the things that's really bothered me is how he has coarsened the rhetoric. And I believe we don't just have to change policies; we have to change the tone in our politics. And when a statement like that is made, it doesn't feel like that. It feels like something like a Donald Trump might tweet.

(CROSSTALK)

BURNETT: Like a Donald Trump.

You know, you just brought up many times out there tonight that you want -- there's more that unites us than divides us. Right? And that was something important.

There was a lot of disagreement. I mentioned healthcare. But also, on things like guns. You have people with some really stark points of view out there. And then you have you. And you're much more moderate. Right? Much more like Joe Biden. What makes you exactly different.

One of those moments came from Beto O'Rourke. Talking about guns. Just an issue you've talked about. Hunters in your family. You've been much more moderate on guns. He said, hell, yes, I'll take back those AK- 47's.

I just want to play that moment for you, Senator.

I think it's -- do we have it?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FMR. REP. BETO O'ROURKE (D-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Impact high velocity round when it hits your body shreds everything inside of your body. Because it was designed to do that. So that you would bleed to death on the battlefield. Not be able to get up and kill one of our soldiers.

[23:10:03]

When we see that being used against children, hell, yes. We're going to take your AR-15, your AK-47.

(APPLAUSE)

O'ROURKE: We're not going to allow to be used against our fellow Americans anymore.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Does that go too far? That he's going to say I'm going to come, if you own it, we're going to take it back?

KLOBUCHAR: I made it clear today. I think we should start with voluntary buy back. So, you can do that with some from the government and the private sector. But you're not going to be able to do any of this if you don't pass the assault weapon ban.

And we are not even close to doing that with Donald Trump in the White House. I sat across from him after Parkland because I have been a leader on gun bills. I have led the bill to go after domestic abusers so that they can't go out there and get an AK-47. That's on Mitch McConnell's desk.

I sat across from Trump and I watched nine times he said he wanted universal background check. I still have the piece of paper where I wrote down those hash marks. He never got it done. He met with the NRA and he folded. I won't fold.

And as I pointed out today, what unites us so much stronger than what divides us up there.

We don't think that we should have assault weapons in the hands of those murders like in El Paso and in Dayton. We think that we should do magazine limits and that we should do something on the universal background checks. And the closing of the Charleston loophole.

Donald Trump, I wanted him on the stage today. Because I would have said to him, why did you fold after you told that to me to my face? That's why I can't wait to debate him to say that, and why when the majority of Trump voters, the majority of hunters and over 90 percent of the people in this country want universal background check won't you do it? We know the answer. Because he's in with the NRA.

BURNETT: All right. Well, thank you very much. We thank --

KLOBUCHAR: OK.

(CROSSTALK)

BASH: Thank you, Senator.

KLOBUCHAR: And I'll send it back to New York. Anderson.

COOPER: Erin, thanks very much. Van, as you were listening to that.

JONES: Yes.

COOPER: I mean, it's interesting.

JONES: That was great. She was great. That -- why didn't you do that before?

(CROSSTALK)

AXELROD: That has been the habit here. She was very good in the debate. OK? She was --

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: What you're referring to in a very succinct is she went after the left wing party.

AXELROD: But she -- it was like she dumped her debate prep. All her best lines in the after show. And it's easy. I mean, Mitch can tell you, and Jennifer can tell you it's hard to stand on the stage, you know, it's easy for us to sit here and comment and critic.

(CROSSTALK) JONES: But that line that she had -- no. But that line that she had is the perfect response from a moderate to the progressive wing. My wing of the party. She says, if you want to take away insurance from people.

AXELROD: Right.

JONES: I am not your candidate.

AXELROD: Right. Right.

JONES: That was tough. It was clear.

AXELROD: Right.

JONES: And she obliterated our position after the debate.

AXELROD: But you know what, one of the tests -- one of the tests --

JONES: Thank you.

AXELROD: -- one of the tests of being a candidate for president of the United States is can you these things in the moment?

JONES: Yes.

AXELROD: That is it. And you know -- and so she --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She couldn't tonight.

HENDERSON: She did have --

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: I got to get to a quick break. And we're going to have more debate analysis come up in just a moment, including conversation with Senator Cory Booker. We'll get his take on the big night in Houston. We'll be right back.

[23:15:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: We're expecting to see and talk to more of the candidates tonight. A lot of disagreements tonight obviously in terms of policy. But as you heard Senator Amy Klobuchar said moments ago here on CNN, there's a lot more that unites the party than divides it.

Back now with our political team. Who move -- I mean, did anybody significantly move the needle tonight? Obviously, the needle is getting, kind of, more difficult to move.

MCINTOSH: I want to see whether Kamala's strategies pay off.

COOPER: What was her strategy. MCINTOSH: Because she was the one who kept taking it to Trump. All night. There were these little jabs all throughout the -- and they seemed calculated to hit him where he is most likely to respond.

She took her first answer directly to him and then told him he could go back to Fox News. And then she had that great little man behind the curtain Wizard of Oz moment where she pretty exquisitely questioned the man's masculinity, which we know is a sensitive area for him.

So, if he comes back at her, tonight or tomorrow, then I think we can say hey, maybe Kamala moved the needle tonight. But I think that was what she was trying to get done and I think she --

(CROSSTALK)

HENDERSON: And that's her argument. Right?

MCINTOSH: Yes.

HENDERSON: That she is the best to prosecute Donald Trump. It's the way she uses her background in a most positive way.

I did also think she probably had the best answer to her prosecutor's record. It's a very tough question that Linsey Davis asked her in terms of what do you make of your evolution on any number of issues. And why do you think we should trust you now given that you were on the wrong side of some of these issues before.

So, I thought she had a good answer. She talked about wanting to work from the inside, that's why she was inspired to be a president or prosecutor and as president because she knows the system. She's the best person to change the system. So, yes, we'll see.

CHALIAN: I think she adjusted the answer she has been giving us. Normally she gets so defensive.

(CROSSTALK)

HENDERSON: Defensive. That's right. Yes.

CHALIAN: And immediately attacks the questioner as you got that wrong and that wrong and you. And here she did say that's not my record but she said --

JONES: She has a story.

CHALIAN: -- she appreciated the question. She -- it was a different approach --

JONES: Yes.

AXELROD: Yes.

CHALIAN -- to this answer tonight. That was not nearly as defensive --

HENDERSON: Yes. CHALIAN: -- as it has been.

AXELROD: The history of her in this race has been that she has great moments. But she hasn't had a consistent message. And I'm not sure that she solved that problem tonight. She had great -- she had some good moments in this debate. She had one really bad moment which was this yes, we can line to --

(CROSSTALK)

GRANHOLM: Yes. That's really --

COOPER: Yes.

JONES: Right. Right.

AXELROD: -- to Joe Biden about guns. It was just an inappropriate line and the laugh was inappropriate. But she also had some very, very good moments including, I think the last answer she gave. But what is missing is that sort of coherent message that she drives throughout. And you see it in Elizabeth Warren. You don't see it in Kamala yet.

COOPER: I just want to go back to |Chief Political Correspondent, Dana Bach, and CNN Anchor, Erin Burnett with Senator Cory Booker. Erin?

BASH: Yes. Thank you. Thank you so much, Senator Booker. Thanks for being here.

SEN. CORY BOOKER (D-NJ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's always great to be on with you.

BASH: Thank you.

BOOKER: Thank you for having me.

BASH: So, you definitely had a different approach.

BOOKER: Yes.

BASH: Than the last time. There were no Kool-Aid moments.

BOOKER: I think the spirit was the same. And I'm trying to drive the message as much as I can. But the differences between us as Democrats are important. But even more important than that is our ability to unify as a party. And any kind of demeaning and degrading between candidates that's something I'm going to stand up against. Because I've seen this movie before in the last election.

[23:20:05]

BASH: You were pretty tough on your fellow Democrat Joe Biden in our debate a month ago.

BOOKER: I thought -- absolutely. But you saw the way I did it. It wasn't a cheap shot. It was me smiling with him and going back and forth on what is an issue of differences between us around criminal justice reform.

But my theme in that debate which was my same theme I returned to at least twice or three times, was that we need to be a party that can unify after this primary fight. And if we can't, our chances of taking back the House -- excuse me -- taking back the Senate and the presidency are diminished.

And the person that must emerge from this party is not somebody that can just stand their grounds but help Democrats come together in common ground. And that's why I'm running in this election and that's what I tried to push tonight.

BURNETT: So, as you were sitting down, you were talking to us and saying all right, at the beginning of the debate it was sort of three people getting a lot of time. Talking about healthcare.

BOOKER: Yes.

BURNETT: And then you then start to get t in a lot more.

What do you think was the most important moment that you had?

BOOKER: I think it's the spirit. I ended with it and I began with it. Which is, we are facing just unprecedented times. And as a senator I hear Republican senators and off -- unfortunately, away from the public talking about the moral vandalism that's going on in our country.

I don't care left or right. So many of the things we're seeing right now on our front door are common ideas and our common purposes. Whether it's putting children in cages or having 90 percent of Americans agree on hey, let's do something about gun violence. That we have so much more common ground than we've have that divides us.

And so, this is I think a moral moment in our country. As I said in the end of my remarks, I don't think this is a referendum on just one guy or one office. I think it's a referendum on who we are and who are we going to be to each other.

Because on so many issues that really matter, we're actually falling behind from life expectancy to even how well our children do. We lead industrial nations on infant mortality and maternal mortality.

BURNETT: Yes.

BOOKER: So, I think this call of our country right now is to be able to find a way after this time of divisiveness to unify into common purpose and a common vision. And that's the kind of leader we need to fill our nation now.

BURNETT: You know, we were -- we have been talking about Julian Castro when he called out Joe Biden, saying well, you don't remember what you said two minutes ago.

Senator Klobuchar was just here telling us she thought it was a very uncool moment and rather Trump-like. What did you think in that moment?

BOOKER: Well, if you saw Senator Klobuchar. We were on the end. I think a lot of the debate she and I just stepping towards each other and just talking about these notes.

BASH: Is that the cheap shot you were referring to?

BOOKER: I think that -- look, I think that we are at a tough point right now because there's a lot of people who are concerned about Joe Biden's ability to carry the ball all away across the end line without fumbling.

And I think that Castro had some really legitimate concerns about can he be someone in a long grueling campaign that he can get the ball over the line and he has every right to call that out.

I do think the tone and tenor is really important. And we can respect President Biden and disagree with him. I tried to show that in the CNN debate where he and I have strong different disagreements. But we shouldn't do things that at the end of this when you demonize somebody and create bad blood it's hard to unify afterwards.

BURNETT: Do you think that Senator -- that Biden did a better job tonight? I mean, do you think that he --

(CROSSTALK)

BOOKER: Look, there were moments --

BURNETT: -- so that he could take the ball over the line. I mean, people are saying look, he was stronger with --

BOOKER: Look, I think there was a lot of moments where a number of us who were looking on us who are on stage when he tends to go on sometimes. At one point he's talking about people in communities like mine listening to record players. I don't remember the last time I saw a record player in my --

(CROSSTALK)

BASH: They're back in, you know.

BOOKER: They're back in. The vinyl is hot right now.

BASH: It is hot. I just want to let you know.

BOOKER: Maybe he's cooler than I am. But there are definitely moments where you listen to Joe Biden and you just wonder. But I don't know -- look --

BASH: Senator, are you saying he's just too old to be president?

BOOKER: No, I'm definitely not saying that. Because I have listened to Joe Biden over the years. And often felt like there were times that he is going on or meandering in his speech. Look, I want someone that can excite and energize and call us to a

campaign like we saw back in '08 and '12 where we had that record turnout. And somebody who can speak to the fullness of the Democratic Party.

If I believe Joe Biden was that person I wouldn't be sitting here. I believe the people who win in our party who actually going to be president, first of all, they're never the ones that are polling ahead this far out.

The people that win in our party are often people like Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, Barack Obama. Considered underdogs. But they have, they show the ability to inspire, to ignite. And you see this incredible almost movement-like elections.

I'm not sure if Joe Biden can do that. I believe that I am the person that can. And that's why I'm in this primary.

Criticisms of him are not in any way demeaning or diminishing. An extraordinary statesman in America who has been at this for decades and decades. I have such reverence for him. But this moment, we don't need a safe bet. We need a person that can inspire and engage.

[23:24:59]

And most importantly, at a time where a lot of these different voices in our party who can unify us to common cause and common purpose.

BURNETT: All right. Senator, thank you very much. We appreciate you taking --

(CROSSTALK)

BOOKER: I'm so grateful. Always to sit down with you. I think you're going to feel the Bern in a few minutes.

BASH: The Bern is right there.

BOOKER: Yes. Yes. All right.

BURNETT: All right. We'll reset. Senator, we're looking forward to see you in a moment here.

BOOKER: All right.

(OFF-MIKE)

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D-VT) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: -- has been stalking me.

BASH: You can't hear. The senator, Anderson, is saying that Cory Booker is stalking us.

COOPER: Yes.

BOOKER: Yes, yes. BASH: And with that you can take it back. Take it back while we sat over here.

COOPER: All right. We're going to take it. By the way, a lot to unpack from that Cory Booker interview that the panel wants to talk about. We're going to take a short break. And Bernie Sanders is going to talk about his intense back and forth with Joe Biden. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Ten Democratic presidential hopefuls took the stage in Houston tonight. Got tense at times. Some jabs.

With me now is Senator Bernie Sanders. Senator Sanders, thanks for being with us. First of all, just how do you think it went for you tonight?

[23:29:54]

SANDERS: I think it was good. What I tried to do is to make the case that we go to move beyond a dysfunctional health care system in which we are spending twice as much per person as the people of any other country while 87 million Americans are uninsured or underinsured and we pay by far the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs.

So I think -- I hope I made the point that over a four-year period, we should expand Medicare to cover every men, women, and child in this country, and at the end of the day, it will save the average American a lot of money in terms of their health care costs.

COOPER: I want to ask you about that because there was a moment where Vice President Biden contradicted you or went after you on that plan. I just want to play that for our viewers then talk about it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The fact of the matter is we're in a situation where -- if you noticed, he hasn't answered the question. This is about candor, honesty, big ideas. Let's have a big idea. The tax of two percent the senator is talking about, that raises about $3 billion. Guess what? That leaves you about $28 billion short.

The senator said before it is going to cost you in your -- there will be a deductible in your paycheck. The middle class persons, some are making 60 grand with three kids. They're going to end up paying $5,000 more. They're going to end up paying four percent more on their income tax. That's reality. It's not a bad idea if you like it, I don't like it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: I think he meant trillion when he was saying billion. What's your response to that?

SANDERS: I think Joe doesn't know what he's talking about. I mean, I just -- I like Joe. Joe is a friend of mine. I just don't think he knows what he's talking about. He said we're spending $30 billion -- $30 trillion over 10 years on health care. Wow, yeah, it's a lot of money. It is.

If we maintain the status quo, according to a study done by (INAUDIBLE) of Medicare and Medicaid studies, we'll spend $50 trillion. Hey, Joe, we're now spending twice as much per person on health care as the people of any other nation. We are paying by far the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs.

The current system is incredibly expensive. Every study that I have seen shows that Medicare for All, which eliminates $100 billion in profits made by the health care industry, which ends the incredible bureaucracy and administrative nightmares, inherent in the system which has hundreds of different insurance programs that have to be dealt with by administrators.

We can save many, many hundreds of billions of dollars, provide health care to every man, woman and child, and save the average person significant sums of money on their health care costs.

COOPER: Mayor Buttigieg said tonight that your Medicare for All plan doesn't trust the American people to do what makes the most sense for them.

SANDERS: I'm sorry, I didn't hear that.

COOPER: Mayor Buttigieg said that your plan doesn't -- the Medicare for All doesn't trust the American people to do what makes the most sense for them.

SANDERS: No, that's wrong. Look, what the American people want is to be able to go to any doctor that they choose to. By the way, under the current system advocated by Biden and others, many people do not have the doctor they want within their insurance network, and they have to pay out of pocket to get the doctor they want.

We trust the American people to choose the doctor they want, the hospital that they want, the medial procedures that they want. That's what Medicare for All is about, freedom of choice regarding doctors and hospitals, which we don't have right now.

I think the question that the American people got to ask themselves is why we are the only major country on earth not to guarantee health care to all and why we spend so much more than other countries, and whether it is appropriate that the drug companies and the insurance companies make tens of billions of dollars while so many of our people are uninsured or underinsured, and 500,000 Americans go bankrupt every single year in this system.

COOPER: Maybe nobody likes the health insurance they have, but you are telling voters essentially, trust the government, we're going to have a better health care system for you, and you're going to have to give up your private insurance. I mean, you're asking people to give up something for something they don't know themselves. They have not seen.

SANDERS: That's what Medicare does right now. That's what Medicaid does right now. Medicare is the most popular health insurance program in America. All we want to do is expand it over four-year period to cover every man, woman and child.

We are talking -- we are talking about comprehensive health care including home health care. It will be a very, very strong program. And I think that is the direction that the American people want us to move into.

COOPER: You were standing right next to Vice President Biden when Julian Castro went after him saying, you know, have you just forgotten what you said two minutes ago?

[23:35:02]

COOPER: You forgot, you said two minutes ago. He was actually wrong about that. There wasn't a disparity in what the vice president said. But I wonder what you thought of the people in the audience who clearly thought it went too far. Senator Klobuchar was out saying she thought the tone of that was unnecessary.

SANDERS: Well, all I can say is during this debate and tonight and forever, I will be contrasting my views and my positions and my record with Joe Biden. As I said tonight, Joe voted for the disastrous war in Iraq. Joe voted for very bad trade policies which cost us millions of dollars, billions of good paying jobs. Joe voted for a bad bankruptcy bill, voted for the bail out of Wall Street.

I voted the other direction on all of those issues. I think my vote was the right vote. So I will disagree with Joe on our record and our vision for the future. I'm not going to go after him personally. That's not right.

COOPER: Senator Sanders, appreciate your time. Thank you.

SANDERS: Thank you.

COOPER: Back now with our political team. Wow!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That was a stout defense of Biden there.

(LAUGHTER)

GRANHOLM: But that's what everybody should be saying, is that I'm not going to go after people personally. I mean, it was so wild. Cory Booker, who I was just in the middle of praising just went and kneecapped Joe Biden.

COOPER: Do we have the tape?

GRANHOLM: -- in the after --

COOPER: Do we have the -- no, the Booker? Do we have it? Yes. Let's play just what Booker said just now in the after show.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CORY BOOKER (D-NJ) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think that we are at a tough point right now because there are a lot of people who are concerned about Joe Biden's ability to carry the ball all the way across the end line without fumbling. And I think that Castro had some really legitimate concerns about, can he be someone in a long gruelling campaign, that he gets the ball over the line and he has every right to call that out.

I do think that tone and tenor is really important, and we can respect a president Biden and disagree with him. I tried to show that in the CNN debate where he and I have strong different disagreements. We shouldn't do things that at the end of this, when you demonize somebody, it creates bad blood. It's hard to unify afterwards.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GRANHOLM: That's true. It is hard to unify afterwards. Don't go out and say can he carry the ball. Over the finish line. That is suggesting a personal attack and i i don't know -- i'm biassed. I was in this debate prep with him and spent days. The guy is utterly sharp. He is. He knows his facts. He's strong and -- gl

Booker went on saying the democratic party the front runner doesn't usually win.

That maybe technically true. What he said that was insidious. You don't go out and then say can he carry the ball over the finish line? That is suggesting a personal attack. I just -- I don't know. Obviously, I'm biased because -- I know you want to go, but I was just in this debate prep with him and spent days. The guy is sharp. He really is. I mean, he knows his facts. He is strong and --

COOPER: Booker then also went on to point out that, you know, Democratic Party, usually people -- it is not the front runner he usually --

MITCH LANDRIEU, FORMER NEW ORLEANS MAYOR: Well, that may be technically true but what Cory just said, and I love Cory, but that was insidious and that's an insidious argument. That's testing the vice president's mental acuity.

I think the guy is sharp. He showed up. He has been at every debate. Everybody is throwing the book at him and he's still standing. I don't think that dog haunts and I thought that was a little bit inauthentic from Cory based on how we conduct during the campaign.

CHALIAN: It's odd. If your whole message all night long was about unifying the party and -- when this primary season comes to an end, we have to -- the party has to be some unified force --

COOPER: Even with the old guy.

CHALIAN: -- and within minutes of saying that.

COOPER: Kirsten, you disagree with that. POWERS: I don't think that's what he was saying. He actually was asked towards the end -- if he was talking about his age, and he said I always said this about him, this is something that I felt about him for a long time.

COOPER: I got to get a quick break in. Stand by. We are going to continue this reaction, also tonight's debate from Mayor Pete Buttigieg, when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[23:40:00]

COOPER: A number of strong performances tonight by various candidates. I want to go back to Houston again. CNN's Dana Bash and Erin Burnett are with Mayor Pete Buttigieg.

BURNETT: Anderson, thank you. Mayor Pete Buttigieg is with us. We are just reflecting here. You have had a few minutes. You just come out in the spin room. How do you feel?

MAYOR PETE BUTTIGIEG, SOUTH BEND, INDIANA: It feels great. I think we had a real opportunity to explain why my vision for America is different, ideas that are bold enough to meet colossal challenges in front of us, but also to do it in a way that's unifying when our country is dangerously polarized.

Sometimes, the boldest idea isn't the left most idea. It's just something ambitious enough to meet the challenge in front of us. I think there's a strong American majority. I know there is, for action on everything from gun violence to immigration to wages to climate. We got to activate that American majority. That's not just a question on how to win the election. It's how to govern when we do.

BASH: A lot of the debate -- two of them so far, so much of the focus has been on whether the party because of the very strong voices of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren is moving too far to the left. You have been trying to pull it back to the middle. Do you feel like you were heard more on that tonight? You had more voices singing from that song sheet tonight.

BUTTIGIEG: I think there was an opportunity to challenge some of the ideas that are out there, that we can just deliver, for example, in a matter of a few years flip a switch and just change the entire American health care system, when we can meet the same goal in a different way.

This isn't about dialling down our aspirations. This is about what I am trying to do with Medicare for All, who want it, for example, giving everybody the choice, creating that public alternative, biggest reform to American health care since Medicare itself. But if we do it that way, it doesn't divide the American people.

I think on issue after issue, we have to think about how to make sure that we can unify a polarized American people around getting something done. It's not always about the left center thing. I think that's the useful framework for folks who are trying to cover politics.

But less and less, I think people are really thinking in those terms. Most folks at home, definitely in my neighborhood in the middle South Bend, the industrial Midwest, just want to know how their lives are going to be different --

BASH: That's true.

BUTTIGIEG: -- if one of us gets elected versus anybody else.

BASH: But the left center thing is very stark on issue like health care and their lives would be changed potentially dramatically if, you know, something like Medicare for All actually --

[23:45:05]

BUTTIGIEG: Well, that's where we are going to focus on. What is our core principle here? To me, the principle -- it's not important in principle that the government be in charge. I just think that the government ought to be part of creating a solution. What's important in principle is everybody gets health care. We will challenge the private sector by competing them either out of business or daring them to come up with something better than they ever had.

We can't come at this from an ideological frame and expect to be able to govern well, let alone to win. What we can do right now is not about watering down our values. We have to focus on what we can actually get done because there is so much that need urgent attention. It can't wait four more years or 10 more years.

BURNETT: There was a moment, obviously, you know, Julian Castro was referring to Joe Biden's memory and soon after that moment, you and others, you reacted. You said this is why presidential debates are becoming unwatchable. This reminds people of what they cannot stand, scores points against each other. Is that referring directly to what Castro said?

BUTTIGIEG: It was also just starting to feel like a scrum up there. Look, it's a competition. We come in, you know, prepared to talk about why our vision is better than the others. But sometimes I think the debate framework has candidates and certainly their advisers thinking that the only way to get anywhere is to just poke a hole in a fellow Democrat.

We got to make sure that we are competing over the best position for America and that the most important thing we're talking about, the most important person we're talking about is not us, one of the others on the stage or this president, it's the person at home watching, wondering what any of this is going to mean to them.

BASH: You know, for people who weren't watching or unable to see it, let's play what Erin was just referring to.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUTTIGIEG: This is why presidential debates are becoming unwatchable. This reminds everybody of what they cannot stand about Washington, scoring points against each other, poking at each other, and telling each other that my plan, your plan -- look, we all --

JULIAN CASTRO, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: That's called a democratic primary election. That's called an election.

(APPLAUSE)

CASTRO: That's an election. This is what we're here for. It's an election.

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Yeah, but a house divided cannot stand. That is not --

ANDREW YANG, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Everyone, we know we're on the same team. We know we're in the same team.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Do you think that you were able to differentiate? I mean, I know, certainly, we may see things differently than you all see these candidates, right, because, you know, we like some of the heat, we like the back and forth, but also on health care.

BUTTIGIEG: Right.

BURNETT: You call it a scrum but it was a moment where we were able to see Joe Biden saying, you only get $3 billion, Senator Warren, and your plan would cost more than 30.

BUTTIGIEG: Yeah, I know. I think that part is very healthy. I appreciated the opportunity to demonstrate how my vision would deliver health care in a way that could also unify the American people. I think the important thing is we make sure the focus is always the person at home.

Whether we're talking about how we are going to make college more affordable or what it will actually it is going to take to keep your kids safe in school, any of the extremely strong and serious challenges that our country is faced with, we can rise to meet them.

We should be talking about how. It's a contest. It's a competition. It's supposed to be competitive. We can do that without tearing each other up so there's nothing left by the time we go to the general against this president.

BASH: Thank you. All right, Mayor Buttigieg, appreciate it.

BUTTIGIEG: Appreciate it.

BURNETT: Thank you.

BASH: Back to you, Anderson.

COOPER: Back with the panel in New York. David, do you think it is -- we were talking about the back and forth before. Do you think it is too much?

AXELROD: You know, I have to tell you that I'm not like an (INAUDIBLE) with this and there are plenty of other veterans of politics. No, this strike me as particularly -- you know, I thought the Castro line was personal in a way that was off putting. Is it going to rip the Democratic Party apart? I don't think so.

COOPER: Let's play the sound that you're talking about.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CASTRO: Barack Obama's vision was not to leave 10 million people uncovered. He wanted every single person in this country covered. My plan would that. Your plan would not.

BIDEN: They do not have to buy in.

(APPLAUSE)

BIDEN: They do not have to buy in.

CASTRO: You just said that. You just said that two minutes ago. You just said two minutes ago that they would have to buy in. You said they would have to buy in.

BIDEN: They don't have to buy in.

CASTRO: Are you forgetting what you said two minutes ago?

(APPLAUSE)

CASTRO: Are you forgetting already what you said just two minutes ago? I can't believe that you said two minutes ago that they had to buy in. Now, you're saying they don't have to. You're forgetting that.

BIDEN: I said anyone with a grandmother who has no money, you're automatically enrolled.

CASTRO: I'm fulfilling the legacy of Barack Obama and you're not.

BIDEN: I'll be surprised to him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: That was actually wrong about Biden.

AXELROD: He was. In the sense that he was touching on -- he was trying to exploit this issue of Biden's, you know, preparedness or his --

[23:50:00]

COOPER: Steadiness.

AXELROD: -- his age, really. This is what it was about. That was -- but -- COOPER: Which is clearly something, if he is on the stage one-on-one with President Trump.

AXELROD: Let me say if he gets to be on that stage, it means that he has fought his way through this primaries and he has proven himself capable of doing it. That's the nature of these campaigns. I mean, they expose who you are.

I said years ago that there are MRIs for the soul. Whoever you are, people know by the end of it. Either Biden can handle it or he can't. If he can handle, he is going to get nominated, I suspect. If he can't, someone else will.

JONES: One of the reasons that we're having this conversation right now is because the lead up all day was Warren versus Biden. It's gonna be big. It's gonna be amazing.

AXELROD: I think you said that.

(LAUGHTER)

AXELROD: I heard you said that.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You were the hype man.

JONES: But actually, the two big, you know, titanic, you know, forces, really talked about policies and numbers and then they just left each other alone. Castro jumps in, he tries to score some punches. I think he was wrong on the facts. In fact, he was wrong about what Biden said. I think he was also probably wrong tonally. I think he's going to regret that.

However, it's tough for these undercard candidates. If they just sit there and play nice all the time, it's very hard to have a moment unless you have the skills of a Cory booker. So, getting scrappy has paid off, at least the sugar high for some of these guys.

I think that there's a concern about the disunity. The people who are speaking to it best, we just heard one of them, Pete Buttigieg. He has a magic to him. He is able to make the moderate position, which he ultimately comes to, seem somehow inspiring.

And I do think he's right. I don't think it's always left versus right. I think it's boring versus inspiring. Like, you know, cool versus stale. There's other ways that people process this stuff, and I don't think that Pete had the night he usually has, but he is a blessing to this party.

And I thought his closing statement, I just want to say, his closing statement talking about coming out was a beautiful moment in the campaign, not just tonight, in the campaign.

AXELROD: And about the fact that there's -- there are things more important than winning --

JONES: Yes.

AXELROD: -- which is so often lost in politics.

LANDRIEU: And he didn't do it tonight, but throughout the campaign. He has also been the Democrat who talked about faith in a different way. So when he said tonight it's really not just left versus right, it's a different kind of thing, he's been showing how to do that.

GRANHOLM: He's got so many unique characteristics. I mean, he is the only veteran up there. Obviously, he's gay, which is totally different. He's -- you know, he's a mayor and comes from the Midwest. He's young and he's got the whole generational thing.

He's got so many pieces that could really shine. His message on unity is -- this is what Democrats want to be bathed in. They want to hear people saying, we're going to come together in the end.

COOPER: Let's take a quick break. Everybody, stick around. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[23:55:00]

COOPER: We talked a lot tonight about the candidates going after one another. There are also moments of unity. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BIDEN: The way Beto -- excuse me for saying Beto.

REP. BETO O'ROURKE (D-TX) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: That's all right. Beto is good.

(LAUGHTER)

BIDEN: The way he handled what happened in his hometown is meaningful. To look in the eyes of those people, to see those kids, to understand you understand the heartache.

O'ROURKE: But this is the -

BIDEN: We are ready to do this.

O'ROURKE: Mr. Vice President, thank you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Back now with our political team and their final thoughts. Mitch?

LANDRIEU: I thought it was a good night. The focus was to beat Trump. I think there was a unifying message. I know they got after each other, but I thought, you know, notwithstanding a couple of moments, everything was in emotionally inbounds --

COOPER: Who comes away stronger tonight?

LANDRIEU: I think Biden and Warren came across stronger. I think they both did well. So, therefore, it was harder for everybody else to come up. But as I said earlier, I mean, everybody on that stage had a pretty good night.

COOPER: Governor?

GRANHOLM: I think Biden, Klobuchar. I think she could see a few point bump. I do think that Beto could see a little bit of a bump. And I do think that Booker -- Booker sort of did what he did last time. He didn't get that much of a bump last time. He is still at two percent. So, it will be interesting to see whether he gets a bump. And obviously, Warren was strong.

JONES: Let me correct -- I think Castro may have actually been right on the facts. People are still trying to argue about that. But I think Beto really found his gear tonight. Kamala has not yet found her gear. She has those moments. It sputters, it stutters. You can see the potential there. Not there yet.

I felt, for some reason, Yang is blowing up online, so even though I don't think he had a strong night tonight, he's still killing it online. So, Yang gang, and that's it.

(LAUGHTER)

MCINTOSH: If any democratic front runner could hire the Yang gang to be their social media manager, digital strategist, I would highly recommend it. I think Elizabeth Warren is going to see the most out of tonight. She got personal and she did it really well. That is something that doesn't happen very often. I hope we see more of it.

CHALIAN: I would -- I would just say that -- I don't think the race changed much tonight at all. I think the dynamics of the race are pretty much fixed there. I would say, you just played Joe Biden on Beto O'Rourke, O'Rourke campaign can put together a montage of almost all of his opponents on that stage --

COOPER: Giving him credit.

CHALIAN: -- praising him tonight and that's part of why he had such a good night is because everyone around him was praising him.

HENDERSON: And is he able to jump up, right? He's never really been consistently part of that top five.

AXELROD: Well, if he does jump up, they probably won't embrace him as much.

(LAUGHTER)

COOPER: We're going to leave it there. Thank you, everybody, appreciate it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you. COOPER: A lot to talk about. No doubt we'll be talking about this all throughout the evening. I want to thank the panel, also to Erin Burnett and Dana Bash in Houston. Our coverage of the third democratic presidential debate continues now with Chris Cuomo. Chris?

CUOMO: All right. Thank you very much, Anderson. Compelling conversations, let's have them continue. I am Chris Cuomo.