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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT

Moments Away: CNN/New York Times Democratic Debate; Chairman Of Ohio Democratic Party Speaks In Debate Hall. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired October 15, 2019 - 19:00   ET

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


JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Good evening and welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. We're just moments away from the CNN/New York Times Democratic Presidential Debate. I'm Jake Tapper along with Chris Cuomo. This is a special edition of OUTFRONT.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: It's great to be here. Erin Burnett getting ready to co moderate what is quite literally the biggest field of candidates on a debate stage ever in American political history here in Otterbein University in Westerville, Ohio, just outside Columbus, Jake. Great to be here with you.

TAPPER: A dozen Democratic presidential candidates are here. They've been streaming in over the last hour or so, some with their closest friends and advisors in tow. I'm coming to you from the proverbial spin room as the candidates and their teams put the finishing touches on their game plans for this critical night in the 2020 race.

Chris, this is it. There's no night two, no undercard debate, no second stage.

CUOMO: That's true and we'll probably never see this again in this election. It's likely that up to three of these people that you see out of 12, a dozen democrats up there, they may not make the next round. But the big story is going to be center stage, Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren.

Sure, they're going to be flanked by other candidates. This may be that last chance to make an impact but when you watch those two, there can only be one number one. So how are they going to deal with attacks on them, whom will they target, and how.

And, of course, there's a lot of news since the last debated, Jake. Obviously, we have a formal impeachment inquiry into the President, his personal attorney is under criminal investigation stemming from that White House release of a rough transcript of a call between our president and Ukraine's leader where the President asked for a favor and talks about investigating his political rival who, of course, is on the stage, Jake.

So it's a big deal and there are big stakes, especially in the middle of that stage.

TAPPER: Also the first time that they'll be a debate since the President decided to pull troops out of northern Syria, but there's a lot to talk about. Let's discuss it right now with my team. What are you looking for tonight, Nia Malika? What is the most important thing for viewers tuning in to keep an eye on?

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Yes. A lot of folks on that stage, the dynamics of this race has changed. You've seen Warren be ascendant. She's essentially the co-frontrunner here. I think she's going to have a lot of folks coming at her, who comes at her? Is it going to be Biden?

His folks are suggesting that maybe or maybe not they're not going to necessarily attack her. They do want to draw the contrast in terms of what he would do with healthcare, what she would do with healthcare and then Oval's undercard folks who might not make it to the next stage.

Somebody like Tulsi Gabbard who's proven to be a bit of a wild card in some of the previous debates, what does she do? How did they get in the mix? How do they break through this pack of 12 and what is Warren look like at the center.

Also Joe Biden, he's been sort of average at these debates. Warren is a much better debater, how does he bring his a game. Something we haven't quite seen from him yet. Maybe he doesn't. He's obviously under a lot of scrutiny because of what happened with Ukraine and seen Warren, in some ways, a lapham at this point in some of these polls.

TAPPER: And David, Hunter Biden, the former Vice President's son is almost like the 13th person on the stage. And to be clear, President Trump and his team have lied significantly about Joe Biden and the son, Hunter Biden. The President's conduct in terms of pushing, asking other countries to investigate the Bidens has been deemed impeachable or at least enough for an impeachment inquiry.

But beyond that, there is also this question ...

DAVID AXELROD, FORMER OBAMA SENIOR ADVISER: There is a question.

TAPPER: ... about Hunter Biden and what he was doing.

AXELROD: And whether it was appropriate for him to be on the payroll of this Ukrainian energy company while his father was a vice president and had the Ukraine portfolio for the administration. He said this morning that he thought maybe he made an error in judgment about ...

TAPPER: Hunter Biden, yes.

AXELROD: ... yes, Hunter Biden. Joe Biden hasn't given any quarter on this. He said, "My son did nothing wrong. But in my administration, he won't have any -" so the point, I guess, is he's done nothing wrong but he won't do it again.

TAPPER: Right. And one of the things when I asked Mayor Pete Buttigieg about this on Sunday, Gloria Borger, the first thing he did was defend Joe Biden and start going after President Trump and President Trump's children.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. And I think you're going to hear a lot of that on the stage. I mean, some of them on the campaign trail have said we won't have our children serving in our administration. But Joe Biden has said that as well now and I think given the opportunity to take on Trump versus Joe Biden on this issue and the conspiracy theories that are being fed by the Trump campaign, yes, I think they're going to do that.

One thing I want to say also is I think we need to look at Bernie Sanders tonight, because Elizabeth Warren has risen and he's declined.

[19:05:04]

He's had a heart attack. I think he has to look as vigorous as he's looked at the last debates and show voters that he's OK. And I'm wondering whether, in fact, he will take on Warren. He did it a little bit earlier this week where he said - she said she's a capitalist through and through.

TAPPER: Yes.

BORGER: If that was going to hurt her, I don't think so.

TAPPER: She probably urge him to do it again.

BORGER: Exactly.

TAPPER: Well, let's talk about that because this is it. It's 12 candidates, more candidates than have appeared on debate stage in the history of man.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

TAPPER: As far as we know. We had 11 in 2015. This is 12, one more. Three hours, that's a long time for a 20-year-old to stand on a stage and be deaf and answer questions, much less somebody who just had a heart procedure because he suffered a heart attack.

JESS MCINTOSH, FORMER DIRECTOR OF COMMUNICATIONS OUTREACH, HILLARY CLINTON CAMPAIGN: Absolutely. And you have a lot of candidates who might be trying to make breakout moments. It's a very stressful situation. I wouldn't want to be Bernie Sanders' wife right now watching this. She's got to just hope that he's doing what we all hope he does tonight.

The other new thing about tonight is that we are having a debate while a president is under an impeachment inquiry, that has also never happened before in the history of man. And a lot of these candidates came out really strong on impeachment very early. They were prescient, they were bold, they understood ...

TAPPER: I think Castro was first, Warren second, yes.

MCINTOSH: ... yes, Kamala was out there, Booker was out there.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Biden was last.

MCINTOSH: This week - so my question is do the other candidates use that against Biden, he waited until Congress public opinion 50% of independence and like a quarter of Republicans said it was OK before he said the president ought to be impeached. So do they use that as a wedge issue against him.

TAPPER: And Van, the fact that an impeachment inquiry is going on right now, does that mean, do you think, that Democrats should talk a lot about that and a lot about Donald Trump in their view he's unsuitable or should they follow the example that you were telling me about which is you go out and talk to voters all the time and they don't bring up impeachment with you.

VAN JONES, CNN HOST, THE VAN JONES SHOW: Right. It really doesn't come up. They've got to talk about it. They've got to deal with it. But I think that if they are thinking about the voters at home who are not watching cable news all day, they're checking in, they should be talking about what voters care about.

Look, there are two people I'm looking at. You got the oldest person on the stage, you also got the youngest. Look, the question is does Bernie still have his bark and does Pete have a bite? Is Pete going to do anything to separate himself? This should be his night, Syria, he is a veteran. He can own that issue. Tulsi Gabbard can't but he can.

Also, he has a big difference of opinion, Elizabeth Warren on Medicare for All. He said Medicare for All who want it, don't make people don't want it. If he does not find a way tonight to stop being the puppy dog and become the attack dog, I don't understand this strategy.

TAPPER: Do you agree with that, Kirsten? Do you think that Pete Buttigieg needs to step it up and be more aggressive?

KIRSTEN POWERS, FORMER CLINTON ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yes. I think he could stand to be a lot more aggressive and this is really his opportunity to do it, I think, and if he doesn't do it tonight, it's probably not going to happen.

And so, I would expect to see a lot of fighting around the Medicare for All. That's really where the disagreement is going to come between Warren and Sanders and the rest of the people on the stage. And that's where they can have a clarifying moment with them, especially go after Warren who now really - a lot of people weren't going after her.

I think everyone understood that she was ascendant, but now she really is a top two candidate. And so I think it'll be interesting to see if anybody can land a punch on her.

TAPPER: Yes.

POWERS: Because she is just so deft, such a deft debater.

TAPPER: How do you go after her, because this is a difficult thing in the dynamics of politics. How do you go after a woman candidate that can be dicey for a male candidate? He comes across - remember Rick Lazio going after Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump going after Hillary Clinton. There's a risk of ...

AXELROD: Yes. Well, let me tell you, John Delaney went after Elizabeth Warren and she left him by the roadside dead.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

AXELROD: So I think she's equipped to deal with.

TAPPER: She's a knife fighter ...

(CROSSTALK)

AXELROD: But she is the deft debater on the stage. And one of the reasons people haven't gone after her is because they're a little worried about tangling with her. But she's the front runner now and unless they want to just spew - strewn rose petals in front of her towards the nomination, they better start drawing those distinctions. Medicare for All would be part it.

Listen, on Medicare for All she has played a cagey game. She said, "I'm with Bernie." She has a plan for every single problem, but the one that's most paramount in people's minds, health care. My view is she's holding back trying to consolidate the left and then she will have a more nuanced health care plan, but she's going to be pressed on that tonight, I think.

HENDERSON: Yes. Who doesn't, obviously, I mean, Sanders has been doing that a bit. Pete Buttigieg has been doing that a bit as well. Can he actually bring it? The other thing is who kind of comes to her aid, are there sort of wing men and wing women on the stage?

Maybe Castro sort of gets in there, gets in the way between somebody like Warren and Buttigieg because there's this whole thing going on between those folks, so it'll be really interesting (inaudible) ...

[19:10:09]

BORGER: I think Biden could take her on.

TAPPER: Let's turn our attention right now back to the stage where the debate is going to be playing out at the top of the hour.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And ladies and gentlemen, please rise for the national anthem performed by Broadway store, Jordan Donica. A 2016 graduate of Otterbein University.

TAPPER: Jordan Donica with the national anthem. We're going to squeeze in a quick break. Up next, it's a whole new world and a whole new race since the last time these candidates met. Our experts are going to tell us what to watch for tonight. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:17:02] CUOMO: All right. Big night. Welcome back. We're live at Otterbein

University in Westerville, Ohio. Just a little bit outside Columbus, the excitement, tension, building and with good reason. We're just a few minutes away from the CNN/New York Times Democratic presidential debate.

The headliners at this moment in the race, Joe Biden and Senator Elizabeth Warren. They are what we're calling, I guess, co-leaders. We have David Chalian here. He's in charge of telling me how I depict what the state of the race is.

It is fair to say the fight tonight is in the middle of the state, yes.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yes, without a doubt. And I would just say, Elizabeth Warren is the dominant force in this race right now. And so what I am looking forward to tonight is how she handles the incoming come in her way.

I mean, some candidates are really clear in telegraphing like Pete Buttigieg has made clear. He wants a fight with her over Medicare for All versus has Medicare for everyone who wants it. This is not a night, I think, of where we are in this race for you to shy away, if you're a candidate not named Elizabeth Warren about trying to block some of the momentum that she's had over these last couple of months.

CUOMO: Yes, the reporting Dana suggests that people are much more aware of the dynamic of sword and shield tonight.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes.

CUOMO: What are you hearing from some of the players?

BASH: No, that's exactly right and just to pick up on what David was saying, Pete Buttigieg has telegraphed what he wants to do tonight with the paid ad that they've released this morning. It was certainly not an accident.

CUOMO: Yes.

BASH: But also behind the scenes, his campaign is saying that he does plan if given the opportunity to go after Elizabeth Warren on where our colleagues were talking about before the break which is the fact that she has a plan for everything, not Medicare for All, she just says I'm with Bernie. And to press her on, not just the specifics of the plan, but one particular issue which is how is she going to pay for it and will she raise taxes.

On the flip side, I'm told that the Warren campaign has prepared her for that exact thing, how is she going to respond to that. She's ready for it. She's waiting for it and apparently she has a response plan.

CUOMO: Look, and I don't mean it as an insult. We've talked about this before, Senator Warren is not easy to hit and that's a part of the political skill. I'm not saying that cynically. So what are you hearing about how people are kind of making adjustments, because tonight is going to be the last shot at the title for about at least a third of the people up there.

ASTEAD HERNDON, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: For months, we've seen the rivals of Senator Warren try to get to media and journalists say, "Oh, she's had an easy ride during this kind of climb." Now it's their turn when they're on that stage to be able to try to press her on some of these issues.

But as Dana said, the Warren campaign has prepared for this. We know in the previous debates, John Delaney and others, even Joe Biden on Medicare for All have tried to comment there 1915[00:04:46] at some of these issues. She's ready for it. She thinks that doing those town halls continuously has prepared her for any of the questions that she can get and I'm going to see tonight if someone can try to land one of those punches. It's going to be tough.

CUOMO: Well, look, I mean, first they got to throw them.

HERNDON: Yes.

[19:20:01]

CUOMO: I do think that we haven't seen her be a target and I think the person who's taken the biggest toll from that inactivity is Bernie Sanders. I do not believe first the reports are his health is good. Thank God, Bernie Sanders is full strength from what we understand and we hope that that is the situation.

But he's been too nice for too long and she's eating his lunch. She got the young people. She got that center left perspective. They took it from her to his pie.

CHALIAN: There's no doubt. She has carved out some of his vote share that is part of what is fueling her rise. Young people liberals, there's no doubt about that, Chris. Bernie Sanders, as you know, has been totally reluctant to take her on directly. Everything is always like, we're friends.

He did not see, he didn't believe from the beginning of this race, that she was the mortal threat to his candidacy. He thought he was going to be able to create what he had last time around and grow from there. But she's a huge blockade to that.

The other person (inaudible) ...

CUOMO: Do you see who we see? The former VP, Joe Biden is arriving. Big night for him. I actually heard in the depicting of tonight what you said, I've never heard before, that Elizabeth Warren is the dominant force in the race right now.

This is the first time in a performance setting where Biden has to show that he is better than she is because she is edging in front of him. I know in the poll of polls, he's still up a few.

CHALIAN: Yes. Yes. Yes. CUOMO: But he's been at the same number for months, Dana, and she's

coming on.

BASH: And even he has articulated like he's wanted to do, say it out loud what he is planning to do in a fundraiser earlier this week that he has to get more aggressive. He knows that. He understands that in his heart of hearts.

CHALIAN: The question is ...

BASH: The big question is can he deliver?

CHALIAN: Exactly.

BASH: Right?

CHALIAN: I didn't mean to cut you off.

BASH: ....we'll finish each other's sentences.

HERNDON: And it's about this - oh, I'm sorry, go ahead.

BASH: No, you please.

CUOMO: You got to fight for space, same thing here. Same thing.

HERNDON: It is about sustaining those moments. You can have a debate moment, but it's about continuing it all the way through the campaign to make sure you have a vision that voters are coming to. My mom used to say this phrase, you can't go to sleep a blunder and wake up a wonder, like this campaign isn't going to be made in one night, you have to have a moment now and try to continue that through the next couple of months.

BASH: But for her, I don't know if that's true. I mean, what she has been able to do is sustain this ascension without getting knocked off very much. One of the interesting thing we mentioned Bernie Sanders and his illness, the fact that he's back, it's the first time we're going to see him in a very intense setting.

The Warren campaign, I am told, they are preparing to take all incoming on progressive questions, because people on the stage particularly on the wings, who want to make the point that the race is to focus on oppressive ideals. They're not going to want to hit Bernie Sanders. It also just so happens that Elizabeth Warren is the person to hit because she's ascended in the polls, but just in terms of the human dynamic, I found that very interesting.

CUOMO: Yes. I think you're right. That'll be something to watch. Although, Bernie Sanders, what did he say about Senator Warren last week, that I guess was some tempt to distinguish (inaudible) ...

CHALIAN: She's a capitalist to her bones. He quoted her that she's the capitalist (inaudible) ...

BASH: She sent him flowers saying thank you. CUOMO: Yes. I don't think that's helpful of ...

CHALIAN: To Elizabeth Warren, it is.

CUOMO: No. For Senator Sanders, I don't think that's the way that he shows I'm the one who can win for this party. I think that the word socialist is a death sentence for them. You can define it any way you want.

BASH: But remember he's been trying to pull back his supporters from Warren's camp. That's what that was about. And also, whether it was on purpose or not, the Warren campaign says they don't think it was. It was giving her a gift if she does get to the general election situation.

CUOMO: Yes. I mean, I don't know how else to see it. I mean, of all of the terrible things that could be called, it's like saying, "And you're tall."

HERNDON: The policy discussions are still Warren's turf. If you're going to hit her on Medicare for All, if you're going to try to attack her on one of the plan, she's comfortable having that discussion. What you hear in the Democratic side guys, the establishment, is questions about electability, questions about general election and whether those positions are sustainable.

The problem is can those candidates make that argument on the debate stage? Can you say the kind of Delaney-esque vision that, oh, that will scare people off. That's a kind of minimalist view. It's a hard argument to make on the debate stage, you're going to hit on the policy front, she welcomes those attacks.

CUOMO: Look, I've seen interviewing her, trying to test her, seen her on the stage in town halls, she's got the look in her eyes she's battle ready. I'm interested to see what the VP does tonight. I know Mr. Biden very well. He's a tough guy. He's got a big heart.

His son was on TV today. He's not happy about it. He can't be happy about it. How does he handle it when it comes up? It should come up if somebody wants to make some points tonight. I know they've all been nice but they have teams who are telling them we need something. We have to distinguish. Will someone go there? We'll see.

All right. Plenty to talk about. Let's take a quick break. We're just about half an hour away from the big debate. You will never see this again in this race. And by the way, we've never seen it before, a dozen Democrats are assembled. How are they getting ready? Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:28:46]

CUOMO: Welcome back for the big event. We're live at Otterbein University in Westerville, Ohio just minutes away from the CNN/New York Times democratic debate. You're about to hear from the leader of the Ohio Democratic Party and the Chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

This is a very big night for them, 12 candidates out there. We've never seen it before and we'll probably never see it again. So let's turn our attention to the big stage.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And ladies and gentlemen, please welcome to the stage, Ohio Democratic Party Chairman, Mr. David Pepper.

DAVID PEPPER, CHAIRMAN, OHIO DEMOCRATIC PARTY: Hello, Ohio. Now, the nation is watching so give me an OH.

CROWD: Ohio.

PEPPER: OH.

CROWD: Ohio.

PEPPER: Now, here's a fun fact for our audience tonight. Donald Trump has traveled to Ohio more in the past year than any state in the country where he doesn't own a golf course. Now, why is that? It's not that he's golfing here. No. It's because he said scared. He's underwater.

[19:30:02]

And he knows that when Ohio turns blue, that's the end of his presidency.

[19:30:01]

That's it.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

And guess what? He's right. He is in trouble here. Deep trouble, and we agree with him, don't we? We will be the state that ends the Trump presidency.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

And communities like where we're standing right here, sitting here in Westerville are precisely why that's the case. A decade ago this was a solid red community. John Kasich won here. Mitt Romney and George W. Bush won here.

Well, guess what, America and Ohio? Westerville is now blue. In 2016, and even more in 2018, this committee turned blue and is getting a deeper blue every single year.

And Westerville, you're not the only one. All across Ohio, communities like Westerville are turning blue, near Cincinnati, near Columbus and near Akron, communities that used to be the base of the Republican Party are turning blue. Large communities and by the way, driven largely by women.

Thank you very much, women, for making that happen.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

And voters and women are shifting and getting energized in these areas because they see a party that used to vote for lurching further and further to the extreme on every issue. The Westerville's alone presents a big threat to the GOP grasp on Ohio.

But the second threat to Trump is that he made a lot of promises here in Ohio. He told -- you heard it earlier, he told folks in the valley that all of the jobs were coming back. He said don't sell your home. He said he'd make health care better. He told farmers he'd go to bat for them.

Well, guess what? He broke those promises and his policies, it's hard to call them that, they're more like a tweet storm nonstop, they've had a bigger impact on Ohio than almost any other state. Talk to soybean farmers and talk to autoworkers. If you know much about Ohio's economy, when you go after soybean farms and auto manufacturing you're hitting us in our gut, in our core.

And the third factor that leads us to scare Donald Trump is if you've been a longtime Democrat as many of you here, you're more fired up than ever, aren't you? Aren't you?

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

The reason Sherrod Brown won 100,000 voters last year that Donald Trump didn't win is because of the energy we talked about, the switching in the suburbs and those broken promises. These folks around the state, we talked to a lot of them over the last few day, are paying for the price for those broken promises.

Folks, on a serious note, we are two years and 10 months in to a horrible era. If the Trump presidency ended tomorrow, it would take us years to undo the damage, but if we re-elect this man, knowing all we know the damage -- I have a 2-year-old and a 5-year-old. It will take -- almost their entire lives to undo it.

Think about it. Two or three more Justice Kavanaughs. Nothing on climate change, nothing on gun violence, for years.

We can undo the damage if we start next year, but it would take time. If we let this man get re-elected, it would be lifetimes and some of the damage may never be undone.

Let's get it done, folks. There's no better reason to turn to Ohio blue than to save this country for our kids and our grand kids. Can I get a witness on that, please?

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

Now -- please welcome a great friend of Ohio, a great friend of mine, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, Chairman Tom Perez.

Welcome, Chairman Perez. (CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

TOM PEREZ, DNC CHAIRMAN: Thank you so much. Take care.

All right. Good evening, Democrats! Give it up for David Pepper. Thank you, David. Thank you for your work.

Welcome to the fourth Democratic presidential debate here in the great battleground state of Ohio!

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

Folks, as you know, Democrats won the Buckeye State in 2008, again in 2012 and I'm here to tell you, we're going to do it again in 2020!

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

Yes, we fell short in 2016, but we came right back in 2018 and re- elected the great Senator Sherrod Brown!

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

One of the most effective members of the United States Senate.

[19:35:03]

And now, folks, we've got 385 days until the most important election of our lifetime, 385 days until the weekend, and we are organizing and we are investing everywhere.

You know, I come to you tonight not simply as chair of the DNC, but I come to you as a proud alum under the Department of Justice. I served under Republican and Democratic leadership.

You know, back then, independence was our currency. Our attorney general was the people's lawyer. He wasn't the president's lawyer.

And now, I'm watching this president poison our democracy. He was elected to shake things up, but he's just shaking down the American people. He practices the politics of division and distraction, and he's chronically ineffective. He makes matters worse all the time.

His call to Ukraine was all about himself because his North Star is himself. He was looking out for himself, not you. Not America.

Mr. President, our democracy is not a bargaining chip! Our security is not for sale!

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

And then he has the audacity to say that a sitting president can't be investigated. That's not democracy. That's a disgrace.

Nobody is above the law. Nobody. No footnotes. Now it's up to Congress to hold him accountable. Thank you, Speaker Pelosi. Thank you, Chairman Schiff and other House

members and thank you to the dedicated career professionals at the State Department and the intelligence community who are speaking truth to power and putting our country first.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

Folks, this isn't about left versus right. This is about right versus wrong. Folks, let me assure you, Democrats know how to walk and chew gum.

They can continue to hold this president accountable. Hold the necessary hearings while delivering on our promise to address the critical day to day issues that matter most to people here in Ohio and across America. That's because Democrats are always looking out for you and Donald Trump is just looking in the mirror.

I just saw a headline a few days ago, it was the "Cincinnati Examiner" that said: New Ohio poll has bad news for Trump, and David and others explained why. Voters are asking themselves hare and elsewhere, did this president keep his promises. Does he have my back?

Well, folks, all we have to do is check the record because right here in the Columbus area, he promised to make healthcare less expensive, and he has no plan than killing protections with people with pre- existing conditions. He promised to attack the opioid epidemic, but he's trying to cut millions from Medicaid and other critical programs that help people suffering from opioid addiction. He went to Canton and said, I'm going to lower your taxes. Turns out he was only going to lower the taxes of his rich friends.

And now, the income gap is greater than ever. He promised to help farmers and now they're facing a once in a generation crisis because of his reckless tariffs. In Dayton, he promised to take action on gun violence and that he left the NRA in charge. In Toledo and elsewhere, as you heard before, he said there would not be a plant closure on his watch. And then you see the layoffs in Lordstown and elsewhere.

You know, yesterday, I walked the picket line with UAW members and I was proud to do so. It wasn't the first time I did it and it won't be the last time I'll do it. Thank you for your remarkable testimony.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

They were cold, folks, yesterday, but they were determined because they know this fight isn't simply about dollars. It's about dignity. It's about fairness.

And my message, respectfully, to our GM CEO Mary Barra is simple. Your workforce is your most precious asset. Your workforce had your back and they made sacrifices when you were on life support and now you need to have their back, and that's what you're doing. I am so inspired by the work that you're doing.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE) And I have to tell you, I can't help, but wonder about this president who talks about the forgotten man. He can walk 18 holes. Why can't he walk a picket line? Or maybe his feet are too sore from the bone spurs.

So Mr. President, you know, actions speak louder than words, and your actions have demonstrated time and time again that you're no friend to the American workers.

And now you compare that to the Democratic Party. Don't forget, Democrats led by Barack Obama saved the auto industry! Republicans said let them die.

Democrats created Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, the Affordable Care Act, Democrats are leading the fight against climate change, Democrats are protecting a woman's right to choose, Democrats are fighting for civil rights, immigrant rights, and they're fighting in short, for an America that works for everyone. They're fighting for the union movement. We have your back, folks.

And every single depend at on this debate stage, every single candidate running for president would make a hell of a better president than this Donald Trump.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

This is, indeed, folks. This is, my friend, this is a where were you moment because history has its eyes on us and our grandchildren will be asking us where were we during this critical moment and we must remember our unity is indeed our greatest strength, and Donald Trump's worst nightmare.

So let us unite together. Let's seize this moment. Let's unite around our values of inclusion, and if you believe in this cause, come with us. Text UNIFY to 63347 -- 43367, my dyslexia sometimes gets best of me, 43367, text UNIFY, let's work together and let's win and let's take back the White House! Thank you very much!

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:45:40]

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Welcome back to debate night on CNN.

Just moments ago, the Democratic presidential hopefuls headed toward the debate stage here at Otterbein University in Westerville, Ohio, outside Columbus. Twelve Democratic candidates will soon take their podiums, the most ever on stage at once in the history of mankind.

The focus tonight will be on Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren in all likelihood, but it may also be the last chance for other candidates to get a moment and propel their candidacies.

Let's talk more about this with our experts. And, Kristen, somebody we haven't really spoken about yet is the woman on the right side of the screen there, Senator Kamala Harris, who had a good first debate showing, and has kind of stuck at 4 percent in the polls.

KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, she's kind of faded, and I think she came out with a big bang. She had that moment with Biden and she seemed like she was on the rise, and she's -- she sort of sputtered out. So, I think, you know, tonight is an opportunity for her to try to get back in the game.

She's already qualified for the November debate so she doesn't have to do anything too radical because it will get whittled down. There are people on the stage in a more desperate position who haven't qualified who may go for the sort of kamikaze attacks because it's their only chance. But I think that she needs to have a good, strong, debate performance tonight.

TAPPER: And, Van, just -- because people are probably wondering, who are the four that haven't qualified and they are Senator Amy Klobuchar, Beto O'Rourke, Secretary Julian Castro and Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard. They have not qualified for the November debate, according to the rules and regulations set up by the Democratic Party.

VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: This to them is the biggest musical chairs game of their life. Somebody is not going to be sitting there next time and what they have to figure out is some way to make a difference, and you do have this opportunity.

You know, Kamala Harris is a great prosecutor. What happened to her in one of the debates was she got some incoming that she didn't know how to handle.

TAPPER: Tulsi Gabbard.

JONES: Tulsi Gabbard brought the incoming, Biden brought the incoming, and it looked like she maybe had a glass jaw. If she's going to be able to both be on offense and defense, we'll see.

The rest of the folks have really, really struggled and I don't know if I see a way for them forward.

TAPPER: Is there anybody that you think, you're surprised they're not doing better?

JESS MCINTOSH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I'm surprised that Kamala isn't doing better. I think she's run a very strong campaign. She's run into some really odd news cycle headwinds and she spent a week answering for something at her husband's law firms that he wasn't involved in, I don't think a lot of male candidates have to deal with things like that.

I'm worried about some of these things backfiring. I saw something from Pete Buttigieg just this week, where he said Elizabeth Warren can't win based on pocket change. And that struck me, if you want to go after her for Medicare for all that's one thing, and pocket change -- those are real people.

This Democratic debate, this campaign is being fueled by independent, individual donors, and we're still at the point where people are donating to multiple candidates just to keep them in the race. He might be insulting his own donors with that.

So I think if he comes at it especially on a day that she released her get big money out of politics plan, which was not an accident that that happened today, I think she's hoping that he comes for her on that front.

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: She's already though acknowledged his point because she said she will take large donations in the general election. So, in a sense, she has confirmed his theory on this.

MCINTOSH: I think with being as dismissive as he was I think can really be a big mistake and if he does it on this stage in front of everybody, I don't know if it's --

(CROSSTALK)

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: I think there was something a little petty about his remarks there. I think this was in an interview that he was in with Peter Hamby. I think the problem that Pete has is --

TAPPER: Pete Buttigieg.

HENDERSON: Pete Buttigieg is having is he's trying to define himself now vis-a-vis Elizabeth Warren. What is he bringing to the stage on his own? Elizabeth Warren has been successful by defining what her issues are and giving people a sense of what an Elizabeth Warren presidency would be and it's a big, bold vision for the country.

Pete Buttigieg is running on his personality and I feel like he's got to add more than --

(CROSSTALK)

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Veteran, veteran, veteran. And he can talk about -- you know, we haven't talked about foreign policy. That's something that will be raised tonight. Pete Buttigieg has a story to tell as a veteran. And he has a lot of credibility on that front.

One more thing, Tom Steyer is on this stage.

TAPPER: The multimillionaire.

[19:50:01]

BORGER: The multimillionaire.

JONES: Billionaire. BORGER: Billionaire. On this stage for the first time. We haven't

heard from him. Will he come out of the box going on the attack against Joe Biden? Why not?

AXELROD: He may, by the way, be a multimillionaire by the time he stops spending.

(LAUGHTER)

TAPPER: I was projecting in the future.

Let's talk about the foreign policy angle for one second because it hasn't been a major part of any debates. It's not on the forefront of voters' mind. But with what's going on right now in northern Syria and Turkey, it might be a big topic tonight.

JONES: As this slaughter goes on, as things get worse and worse, but Tulsi Gabbard and Mayor Peter Buttigieg have a unique perspective. They are the generation that's carried that weight of the --

TAPPER: Both of them veterans.

JONES: Both veterans, but they would never have handled it this way. And so, I think there's something he can say for himself on that.

And also, I agree with you, anybody who comes at Elizabeth Warren, you better be ready to see your head coming back at you. However, he has a principled difference with her if she's going to continue to hug Bernie Sanders' Medicare for All position, which is you cannot have private insurance, you have to be on the government program.

I don't think that's a good place for the Democratic Party. I think that Pete has been brilliant -- we want Medicare for All who want it. I think tonight Pete could flush her out.

Hey, listen, you can't have it both ways. You can't keep tap dancing and kind of be with Bernie when you want to and not -- are you going to force everybody or not? Now, that is a confrontation I would love to see because then you have an extraordinary moderate, an extraordinarily progressive on the issue that matters.

AXELROD: Let me say this, if he doesn't do it, he is cooked. He has signaled so profoundly that this was an exchange he was eager to have. If he can't find it in himself to have that exchange, then he is not the alpha that you have to be to be a candidate. It's a big test for him.

TAPPER: And, Kirsten, one thing that's also interesting is Tulsi Gabbard, I suspect, will talk how she wants to end forever wars. She's not in favorite of regime change wars. She will try to distinguish herself that way from the rest of the Democratic pack which has supported the war in Afghanistan, has supported other was. Joe Biden voted for the war in Iraq.

POWERS: Yes. But also, she has to be careful about drawing too much to her position on Syria, because it's actually somewhat problematic. Her, you know, how she --

TAPPER: She met with Assad.

POWERS: She met with Assad. She has a fringe view of the situation, I think. I think it's a needle she's going to have to thread.

TAPPER: What do you think about Tulsi Gabbard on foreign policy? Is she going to be able to thread that needle?

MCINTOSH: No. This is the worst possible foreign policy conflict for her to be dealing with. Yes, as a veteran, she should be able to talk about other things. But when you're talking about Syria, she's met with Assad against U.S. advice. It's hard to get at.

TAPPER: We will see what happens. I'm sure it's going to come up, because obviously what's going on right now in Syria.

Let's go down now to the stage where my colleague Anderson Cooper is about 3to introduce the candidates.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: We are just minutes away from the top of the hour and the start of this fourth Democratic presidential debate for the 2020 election cycle. The CNN/New York Times Democratic Presidential Debate will feature the largest field of presidential candidates ever on one stage.

So, let's bring them out. From Delaware, please welcome former Vice President Joe Biden.

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From Massachusetts, Senator Elizabeth Warren.

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From Vermont, Senator Bernie Sanders.

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From Indiana, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg.

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From California, Senator Kamala Harris.

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From New York, businessman Andrew Yang.

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From New Jersey, Senator Cory Booker.

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From Texas, former Congressman Beto O'Rourke. 33 (APPLAUSE)

[19:55:13]

From California, businessman Tom Steyer.

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From Minnesota, Senator Amy Klobuchar.

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From Hawaii, Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard.

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From Texas, former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro.

Ladies and gentlemen, the Democratic candidates for president of the United States.

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(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: We are seconds away from the big debate. A little bit of time for some final thoughts.

David Axelrod, let me bring you in.

You have coached a candidate before a debate like this, with former -- then-Senator Barack Obama. What do you say to a candidate right before they go on stage? Get that zinger ready or -- what are you saying to them?

AXELROD: We have been through everything for weeks. We have practiced this. You know the points you need to hit. Make sure you hit them.

And then the last thing you say, and go have fun. They look at you like that you're nuts. Because there's nothing but pressure on that platform. And for some of these candidates, it really is a matter of survival as it has been mentioned.

I mean, this is a -- this is an important juncture in the campaign. And it is very hard on a stage of 12 people to score in a meaningful way. So you have to make every intervention count.

If I were one of the strategists, I would say, whatever you do, make sure we have this intervention that we have practiced, that we have rehearsed.

TAPPER: What do you mean by intervention?

AXELROD: With another candidate, with the questioner. You know, you rehearse these things. Debates are not -- they're not like a trial of law. They are performances.

And candidates go in knowing where -- what they want to land and the question is, can they land it in the right way, does it come out awkwardly. You know, you said musical chairs for the ones who aren't necessarily in the next debate. Does your music sound like the Texas chainsaw massacre or does did come out harmoniously and work for you?

I mean, so you know what a successful debate is going to look like for you. And it requires you doing what you rehearsed and practiced to do.

TAPPER: I also expect, especially if one of the questioners brings up something that the Democratic audience doesn't want to hear, that you will hear candidates go after the media. That's entirely possible. That happened during my debate.

AXELROD: Well, certainly around this Biden question, amplifying some of the charges that the president has made will not be greeted well by this audience.

But -- and other candidates -- there's a free applause line here for defending Joe Biden. 3

TAPPER: All right. David Axelrod, thank you so much. The CNN/"New York Times" Democratic debate starts right now.