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Top 10 Dem Hopefuls Debate Policy & Trade Barbs. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired September 13, 2019 - 06:00   ET

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


(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Americans don't want to pay twice as much as other countries. What people want is cost-effective health care.

[05:59:43]

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There will be a deductible, in your paycheck. Now, that's not a bad idea if you like it. And I like it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Julian Castro just blows himself up attacking someone that all the voters watching had pretty good feelings about.

JULIAN CASTRO (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This was a disagreement about health care policy. I respect the vice president.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Previous debates she tore into him. This time, she tore into Trump.

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He reminds me of that guy in "The Wizard of Oz," you know. When you pull back the curtain, it's a really small dude.

SEN. CORY BOOKER (D-NJ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The differences amongst us Democrats on the stage are not as great as the urgency for us to unite as a party.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is NEW DAY. A special edition of NEW DAY. It is Friday, September 13, 6 a.m. here in New York. And here is the big question this morning.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: What is it?

BERMAN: Who won? Who won? Who got the most out of the Democratic debate overnight in Houston?

This was the first time that Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren shared a stage and, yes, there was something of a face-off, but it materialized in a bit of a different way than people might have expected. You will see that in a moment.

The most talked about moment this morning, though, didn't involve Elizabeth Warren at all. It was former Housing Secretary Julian Castro, who seemed to directly confront Joe Biden about his memory.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CASTRO: But the difference between what I support and what you support, Vice President Biden, is that you require them to opt in, and I would not require them to opt in.

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

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAMEROTA: That crowd heard it right there, and he pressed on with it anyway, a not so -- not at all a thinly-veiled barb about the former vice president's age and memory.

And that's a blow that may have backfired. Mostly, the candidates focused their attacks on President Trump. They avoided criticizing President Obama, as they had in past debates. So who came out on top, and what does this do to the Democratic field?

Let's discuss it. We want to bring in David Gregory, CNN political analyst; Nia-Malika Henderson, CNN senior political reporter; Andrew Gillum, 2018 Democratic nominee for governor of Florida and CNN political commentator; and Aisha Moodie-Mills, Democratic strategist. Great to have all of you at the table.

David, your takeaways from last night.

DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I thought Biden was strong. People in the party were waiting to see if he could, you know, stand up, hold his ground, show some fight, be steadier, frankly, and I thought he was.

I thought Elizabeth Warren was very strong. I don't think the race moved a whole lot. I thought you had those who were on the outside looking in, trying to get inside, Julian Castro being one of them. I don't think that worked.

But I think you had a pretty impassioned debate about the progressive future of the party, which is important. I thought it was a little thin going after Donald Trump. And I think that's a conversation that they've got to always join together in these debates.

BERMAN: Nia. NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And

Kamala Harris, I think, tried to do that. Right? In previous debates, she went after Biden. This one in her opening statement, she went after Donald Trump basically made a joke about him watching FOX News all the time. Made that other joke that really was about his masculinity. Talking -- comparing him to the Wizard of Oz, and saying was a small dude. She delivered that line well.

I thought Beto had a really good night, as well. He's someone who I thought in previous debates kind of just shrank, hadn't really found himself and who he was. And this terrible tragedy in his hometown of El Paso, I think, really has given him something to be passionate. You heard him on stage last night, essentially saying that the American government under a Beto O'Rourke administration would go in and confiscate people's guns. It got a huge applause --

CAMEROTA: Well, their AK-47s and AR-15s.

HENDERSON: Yes, specific guns. Exactly, exactly. Buy them back. But a mandated buy-back, sort of a nightmare of the NRA and the way they like to play on Democrats anyway.

So yes, I mean, it probably doesn't move anything. We'll see if Beto is able to jump ahead of Pete Buttigieg in the sort of top five. Because in many ways, I think Pete Buttigieg had supplanted Beto as the sort of young, fresh white guy who could possibly win over swing -- swing state voters. And we'll see if there's any movement with him.

CAMEROTA: Aisha, was there a clear winner in your mind?

AISHA MOODIE MILLS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: No, not at all. I agree. I don't think that this changed much for most people. I think the top three are going to be the top three for a while now.

What's interesting to me is that, if we're going into this, Elizabeth Warren is the only person who's really been on an upward trajectory. Everyone else has kind of stayed the same or had a decline. Kamala had a drop from earlier in the summer.

And so to me what was interesting is that I think that Elizabeth Warren held her position, as still being very strong. She didn't do anything to exaggerate her position, but I think that she's still kind of coasting up.

I think Biden was strong enough. I think he's going to stay where he is. What is interesting, though, is that race, or essentially the bottom five. Beto, to me, really came out kicking, because for the first time, he did less mansplaining and more emoting. And I thought that that was extremely powerful.

I also think that we need to be watching Pete. Because Mayor Pete is doing a really good job at being outside of the fray and above the fray. And that's great and fine and very dignified, but at some point, he's going to have to actually compete and have real critique of the people on the stage, and they're going to have to come for him, too.

[06:05:15]

ANDREW GILLUM, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: And they don't do that, obviously, until they consider himself a big enough factor to, frankly, punch down at. And that's no reflection of what I think of him, simply that the top three candidates, I think, remain the top three candidates moving forward.

I will tell you, I found it refreshing that we had a debate that extended as long as it did and mostly stayed heavily focused on public policy. The reason why we didn't hear a lot of Donald Trump is because these folks are still trying to differentiate between each other and to show where they are different and why one of them deserves to be the standard bearer for the Democratic Party.

Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders did not shrink from their progressive bone fides. I don't think Joe Biden -- in fact, I think he came prepared to double down, as did Amy Klobuchar on their philosophical bend. Not much shifted there, but it was really refreshing to hear an adult conversation being had between candidates for president.

OK, you said most focused on policy. Let's talk about the one moment that was most clearly wasn't, at least most people didn't perceive it to be about policy. And let's play that again. Because it was Julian Castro questioning the memory of Joe Biden.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CASTRO: But the difference between what I support and what you support, Vice President Biden, is that you require them to opt in, and I would not require them to opt in.

BIDEN: They do not have to buy in. 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. Are you forgetting what you said two minutes ago? Are you forgetting already what you said just two minutes ago? I mean, I can't believe that you said two minutes ago that they had to buy in; and now you're saying they don't have to buy in. You're forgetting that!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GREGORY: Hmm. As President Trump would say, nasty. What a nasty man.

CAMEROTA: I think that part of it -- well, to me, part of the problem was that it felt rehearsed. And he wasn't reading the crowd. So with that -- that opening trial balloon, "Are you forgetting?" the crowd went, "Oooh." They didn't like it. And then he doubled down, and then he tripled down.

HENDERSON: And the crowd is Democrats. And that's everywhere. They like Joe Biden. When Kamala Harris attacked Joe Biden in that first debate, seemed like a good idea at the time.

But if you talked to actual voters, they didn't like Joe -- they didn't like that she went after Joe Biden, who people like. People think he's a decent guy, a good person who has his heart in the right place. I think for Castro, it just looked cheap. And then he couldn't really admit later on it was really about age, which everybody knows it was.

MOODIE-MILLES: Yes. It wasn't tied to substance. And at least with Kamala, she came out with a personal narrative and story, why busing mattered to her, and then led with that.

This was interesting, because of all the people on the stage, I find Julian Castro to be extremely substantive. He does a great job by calling into the room the names of people who are affected by the policies that are being talked about. He has a very strong ideological bend. He cares deeply about policy.

And so in this moment, I thought he could have done a better job at trying to make the point, which I think was generational. Pete has done this. He has done this, trying to say, "Look, do we as a party want to keep recycling the same old guise over and over with the same old stale ideas who have led us for 30 years? Or do we want to try something fresh and new?" I think that's where he wanted to go, but he didn't do that.

(CROSSTALK)

GREGORY: He made that out in a much deeper way. Obviously, this was snarky, and I think it played poorly, and everybody is going to be talking about that moment, which is not what he wants, because he is so substantive. And he has made particular waves.

I mean, I think what was striking about the debate was the absence of that. As you said, there was -- you know, it was an adult -- the adults in the room talking about major policy differences. And you do have this break.

I mean, I think the reason why Elizabeth Warren is so strong and keeps getting stronger is that I think she's probably the best up there at distilling what the progressive vision is for the future and how that goes beyond the Obama years. And there's a big constituency for that.

GILLUM: And for her, I think, she does a great job at helping everyday average people sort of find themselves in the public policy discourse.

As for Castro, and I didn't personally like it. And I think he is a good person. I think I find him very, very substantive and have in the previous debates.

The truth is, the clutching of the pearls on the Democratic side, we need to be careful about. The truth is, whoever faces off with Donald Trump will deal that but far, far, far worse. In fact, they may be on alternative stages while all of us, the American people are looking at that and trying to diagnose it. So I'm in the spirit of iron sharpens iron. And if you think that was

a little bit of a turnoff, and I think for a lot of people, it will be a turnoff, you just wait until what happens on that stage. And I want to see a Democrat who can pivot away from something like that and put us squarely back in the center of the -- of the public policy conversation we care about.

BERMAN: Cory Booker said something similar, I think, to what you just said, after the debate last night. After going out of his way to say, we all have to get together, no degrading, no demeaning. After the debate --

[06:10:08]

HENDERSON: Degrading and debating.

BERMAN: He seemed to get demeaning and degrading about Joe Biden. Listen to what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BOOKER: 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 the way across the end line without fumbling. And I think that Castro has some really legitimate concerns about can he be someone in a long, grueling campaign that can get the ball over the line? And he has every right to call that out.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: Fumbling. I mean, he -- He used the word "fumbling."

GILLUM: Which, by the way, I wouldn't share, necessarily, that part of the critique. My critique is simply that we can't sit here and be hands and gloves off and the worst thing said about our candidate are said in the general election.

I think we can be substantive. I think we can hit people on their records, but I don't think that we can take a kid glove approach. Donald Trump will not take a kid glove approach to our nominee. And I think our nominee has to be prepared to be an adult, to do what really matters.

HENDERSON: I think what matters is Cory himself said in the debate that we certainly -- that Democrats, essentially, should take a kid glove approach to each other, right? He said, you know, no personal attacks, no degrading and demeaning comments. And so for him to come out with pretty degrading and demeaning comments --

BERMAN: Fumbling's a very precise word.

HENDERSON: And then he talked about him being meandering, and he can't take, you know, sort of the pressure of a long and grueling campaign.

MOODIE-MILLS: I don't want to lose the point, though, that he's making that is a good one, is that Joe Biden is actually coming across in a way that he is similar to Trump in the way that he fumbles and kind of speaks off the cuff.

He says things sometimes that don't land well with certain communities. He doesn't quite dial it back. He just kind of Chucks it off to, well, I'm a guy of a certain era and it's charming. That is problematic. And I think it's OK to acknowledge that his style doesn't necessarily reflect the current state of America. And like what we feel --

CAMEROTA: You should be writing for Cory Booker and Castro.

GREGORY: I think, Andrew, what you say is right. Obviously, everybody has to be prepared to go against Donald Trump. And I don't think it's entirely clear how to deal with that.

David Axelrod wrote about that in "The Times" yesterday, but I do agree with Aisha on this point, which is, there is a general argument to be made. You know, I mean, it's 2019. There are so many Democrats.

First of all, there's so many Democrats looking at this field going, really, this is it? And then the second piece is, you know, so we've got a guy who's so old, who's really -- who's the established frontrunner. Is that really moving forward?

CAMEROTA: And aren't Democrats being a little fickle if they don't like these 20?

MOODIE-MILLS: Did you see "the New York times" comparison and what Trump said versus what --

GILLUM: We've got a lot of options, and I don't think that the age thing is necessarily going to be -- The top three front-runners, what -- Everybody is 70 and over. So our voters are already speaking that that isn't going to be necessarily their issue.

If you want to go at Biden on whether or not this is memory or age or whether he has stamina, then go straight through the front door and don't back away from it.

GREGORY: By the way, what is an end line on the football field? I've never seen that. Where is the end line?

CAMEROTA: I'll explain it to you.

GREGORY: Oh, good. During the break. I want to know where the end line is.

CAMEROTA: All right. We have so much more to talk about with you guys. Much more on the big moments from the debate, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[06:17:49] BETO O'ROURKE (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I am, if it's a weapon that was designed to kill people on a battlefield. When we see that being used against children, hell, yes, we're going to take your AR- 15, your AK-47. We're not going to allow it to be used against our fellow Americans anymore.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAMEROTA: All right. That was Beto O'Rourke, defending his proposal for mandatory buybacks for certain guns considered weapons of war.

We have more to talk about with David Gregory, Nia-Malika Henderson, Aisha Moodie-Mills and Andrew Gillum.

Aisha, let me talk to you, because you're a Democratic strategist.

He's gone. That's the boldest position that any Democrat has taken. Because they know that that smacks of confiscation. And the NRA, you know, gets fired up, and the base, Trump's base gets fired up because they hear that a certain way.

How did you hear it? How did -- I mean, in the room, people really appreciated that bold position. But we've heard from many pundits, it's unwinnable in the general.

MOODIE-MILLES: Here's the thing. I am of the belief that we need to play to our own base. I could care less what Donald Trump's base is going to do, because we're not going to pull his 30 and 40 percent.

So I think that Beto is saying, "Look, I know what my people want, and I need us to be fired up. We care deeply about this." And so I think that he's trying to play to a segment that he thinks that he can pull.

I also think that he's right, because that's fundamentally what I believe. There's a whole lot of details under there that he's going to need to figure out, including the Constitution.

But I think that, you know, to me, Beto came across really strong, because he came across principled. And sometimes, you've got to figure out how you put your principles into practice. But we need conviction, and we need people who stand for something. And he showed up, and he did.

BERMAN: That may be a different discussion than the actual policy.

But David, a generation, several generations of Democrats have gone out their way to say, "We are not going to come confiscate your guns." And then Beto O'Rourke just told them that we are going to come take away some of your guns.

GREGORY: And Chuck Schumer in the past five years said this was a mistake the Democrats made. That they did want to take away handguns at one point, and they were paying the price for that in trying to moderate a position.

But that's out the window now. I mean, I think this is a Democratic Party and -- and a base of progressives who are frustrated, who are angry, and this is the debate that we're having. Who look at a Biden and say, enough with, you know, the Washington rules and what we have to accept and what the realities are.

[06:20:14]

We're going to show conviction. This is going to be a statement of progressive conviction. And we're not going to focus on what can be achieved or not.

BERMAN: He banned assault weapons. Joe Biden, it was his bill that banned assault weapons.

GREGORY: Right. And they paid a huge price for that in -- in the '90s. And that's -- at that time. And that's a reason why Democrats, since then, have been relatively timid on going that far. I think that's changing.

And I think this statement of progressive principle is what was on stage last night. That is what is going to be fought out. Because I think there's a feeling, let's not just focus on who can beat Trump. Let's focus on being --

It's like Barry Goldwater in 1964, who said, come on, conservatives, grow up. What are we going to be? It took until 1980 for those principles --

BERMAN: How did it go for Barry Goldwater in 1964?

GREGORY: But my point is, is that was a statement of conservative principle. And it took a while. But it was still galvanizing --

(CROSSTALK)

BERMAN: Ronald Reagan won the election, the Barry Goldwater.

GREGORY: Yes, exactly.

BERMAN: But it was 16 years later.

HENDERSON: The whole idea of, are you going to sort of paint in bold colors or pastels. And I think if you're Beto O'Rourke, he hasn't been doing that well. Right? He kind of busted onto the scene. He did really well, raised a bunch of money.

Now he's at the bottom of the pack, and he needed something, I think, to distinguish himself. And I also think I saw -- he saw what Elizabeth Warren did, right?

Elizabeth Warren, when she first announced, she was sort of flailing, right? People thought she had made a big mistake with the DNA test, but she came out with all of these big, bold plans and, I think, really outlined this progressive ambition. We'll see if --

GREGORY: And they were a lot more impatient with Barry Goldwater. I know you covered that campaign. But it was -- my point is that that's --

(CROSSTALK)

GREGORY: Right, right. It's not enough to say, this is how we beat the opposition. We have to get back to who we really want to be.

GILLUM: I think the time that he took away, off the campaign trail to pay attention to his community, to grieve with the people of El Paso, to look into their eyes, to hear their stories, to go through that trauma right alongside them has well served him, quite frankly.

And last night's debate and, quite frankly, and the turn that his campaign has seemed to have made sense. Because the truth is, if all of us are going to be intellectually honest around how we're going to deal with weapons of war on our city streets, there's no way to have that conversation without talking about how it is that we're going to get rid of what is already there.

And there are a lot of public policy solutions to get to it. He offered one that was bold, aggressive. I think it will come with consequences.

But he's willing to take that risk for the sake of our children. And this is not just a base play, in my opinion. This is also a play for suburban moms who are terrified for their children who they send off to school every day, who go to grocery stores, who go to malls, who go to synagogues and churches and elsewhere and are having to worry about their kids coming home in body bags. That's what he tapped into last night, and I thought it was powerful.

BERMAN: This entire debate was billed beforehand by some -- not you -- but by some as Joe Biden versus Elizabeth Warren. The first time we saw them on the stage together. And it was not three hours of that, by any means.

However, we did see the vice president, former vice president, draw some clear distinctions on the health care issue. So let's just play one of those moments.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BIDEN: I know that the senator says she's for Bernie. Well, I'm for Barack. I think the Obamacare worked. I think the way that we add to it, replace everything that's been cut, add a public option, guarantee that everyone will be able to have affordable assurance.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: So this was at the beginning of the debate, which is not insignificant, Nia. Do you think that the vice president was successful?

CAMEROTA: I think he was very successful in, basically, the contrast between Bernie Sanders and of course, Elizabeth Warren, and Barack Obama, right? I mean, in some ways, he's campaigning the whole, you know, sort of

noun/verb in Barack Obama. And we see it there with his real strong defense of Obama.

And you saw throughout the debate, everyone basically, a shout-out to Barack Obama, shout-out to Barack Obama, very different from the last debate. Folks got a lot of blowback from critiquing Obama.

GREGORY: Right.

HENDERSON: I thought that was a really strong moment for him. That whole section. And listen, Elizabeth Warren still doesn't have a very good answer about how to pay for it, right? Is this really a middle--- middle-class tax cut? She sort of says, well, overall, costs will be down. But you know, are you --

GILLUM: I think she, though, is trying to avoid this argument that everybody is starting at zero, are paying zero today with health care. And then when you get her reform, that all of a sudden, you'll be paying extraordinarily more.

What she's saying is everybody is paying right now, and that is the truth. And they're terrified, and many people can't afford it. And so she's saying, we're not starting at zero. There is a cost, and by the way, with my plan, we'll bring down that cost for everyday Americans much more consistently than we have.

GREGORY: This is still a proxy fight, though. Because people aren't going to remember this detailed fight about health care. This is about, do you want Obama plus or something more progressive? And that's what the fight was, I think.

[06:25:04]

CAMEROTA: Well said, everyone. Thank you all very much for the analysis.

So coming up on NEW DAY, we will speak with not one, not two, five of the Democratic candidates who were on the debate stage last night.

GREGORY: That won't take long.

CAMEROTA: There they are. Exactly.

BERMAN: All right, a new tropical system posing a threat to the Bahamas and parts of Florida this morning. Chad Myers and the forecast, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CAMEROTA: OK. Breaking weather news overnight. The northwestern Bahamas, that's the area ravaged by Hurricane Dorian, now faces a new threat. A tropical storm is forecast to impact the islands tomorrow. And it also poses a threat to Florida.

So CNN meteorologist Chad Myers has been tracking the storm. What now, Chad?

[06:30:00]