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New Polls on Democratic Race; Trump Impeached in the House; Democrats Take Debate Stage Tonight; Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired December 19, 2019 - 06:30   ET




JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: We do have breaking news.

A brand new poll on the 2020 Democratic primary. The numbers just out. And I do want to note, they are out on the morning of the last Democratic debate of 2019.

Harry Enten here with those numbers.



Okeydokey, numbers, here they are.

It's the same old story, Joe Biden at 26 percent, Bernie Sanders at 20 percent, Elizabeth Warren, 16, Buttigieg, 8, Bloomberg, 5, rounding out all of the -- those who are at least 5 percent or higher.

We also have this column. Cory Booker, who's been trying to make more of a noise for himself, he's at 3 percent. Klobuchar, 3. Yang, 3. Castro, 2. All the other candidates at 1 percent or below.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: OK, so -- so you would say not a surprise. These poll numbers are not a surprise to you?

ENTEN: Not a huge surprise. So what I essentially did was I took a look at our numbers now and then I looked at them since September. And what do we see? Basically everyone is within a few percentage points of where they've been in our average poll since September. Biden was at 28 percent since September. He's at 26 percent now. Bernie's at 20 percent. He was at 18 percent in an average of polls since September, the CNN polls.

I will note, that is Sanders' best poll of any CNN poll taken this cycle. So that's, I think, a little bit notable.

And then the other thing I just kind of note right here, which is, Michael Bloomberg at 5 percent despite the fact that he spent a hundred million dollars on television advertisements. Not exactly moving the numbers. He -- he, in the prior polls at 3 percent, his average of polls so far this year, 4 percent. So not massive movement for him.

BERMAN: $20 million per percentage point.

ENTEN: $20 million per percentage point. He's just simply put, at this point, not in the top tier with these two gentlemen.

BERMAN: All right, let's talk about favorability here because there is some interesting stuff going on there.

ENTEN: Yes. So I think it's rather notable that in this poll, despite the fact that Biden is out ahead, Bernie Sanders is actually the best liked Democrat of the group. His net favorability rating, favorable minus unfavorable, plus 54 percentage points. Joe Biden's at plus 42 percentage points. So he's actually doing significantly better on this measure. And, in fact, Elizabeth Warren's also doing better than Joe Biden is on this measure.


CAMEROTA: And what about when you compare Biden and Sanders?

ENTEN: Yes, so the question is, why is that? How could it possibly be that Bernie Sanders is the best liked Democrat, yet he's trailing Joe Biden in the horse race? And that is because the majority of voters actually have a favorable view of both of them. Look at this, 52 percent have a favorable view of both of them.

And on that measure, among those who have a favorable view of both, look at this, Joe Biden is beating Bernie Sanders by 20 points. In a primary, it's not just about being liked, it's about being loved. And the voters who like both Biden and Sanders really love Biden and they're going with him.

BERMAN: That's really interesting.

ENTEN: Yes. And, you know, another thing that I'll sort of point out here. You know, we're talking about the favorable ratings. And this is just among all registered voters. Like, let's broaden it out. Let's look at the electorate at large. And this, to me, is a troubling trend for Democrats.

All of the Democrats here, not a single one of them has a net positive favorability rating. For all of them except Buttigieg, who's even, their favorable rating is higher than their unfavorable ratings. And when we compare it over time, all of their favorable ratings are pretty much dropping. Sanders, 49 to 44. Biden, 47 to 41 from back in October. Warren from 40 to 37. Even Buttigieg from 31 to 29.

So what we have seen is that the Democrats -- the Democratic candidates are not as well liked as they used to be.

BERMAN: And that's even before the Republicans start sinking their teeth into them. So that's very interesting.

ENTEN: That's -- that's exactly right.

CAMEROTA: But is that -- is this -- do you think this is the stink of impeachment, that it's just a pox on everybody's house?

ENTEN: It could be. It could also be the fact that politicians these days, it's very difficult to become a well-liked politician in our world.

BERMAN: Electability has been seen as Joe Biden's strength. Where do things sit there?

ENTEN: Right. So if you were to look, has the best chance of beating Trump, we'll go back to among potential Democratic primary voters here. Forty percent say Biden has the best chance of beating Trump. And you go, wait a minute, how can that be if his net favorability rating is minus nine and Bernie Sanders is minus three? Sanders is actually better liked.

But I think this is rather important. Take a look at this. This is the favorability ratings among potential Republican voters. That is, you're able to go over and get some Republican votes. Joe Biden's favorable rating among them, although not particularly higher at 15 percent, is actually higher than Sanders at 13 percent. So these numbers may, in fact, make some sense if you're looking for someone to win perhaps voters from the other side.

BERMAN: My cousin Vinny, what about enthusiasm?

ENTEN: Well, last -- last thing here.

CAMEROTA: There's one thing you, it's enthusiasm.

ENTEN: Enthusiasm. I've got a lot of enthusiasm!

CAMEROTA: See what I mean.

ENTEN: Look at this, extremely enthusiastic. Fifty percent of voters at this point. That is the highest in any CNN poll ever. Voters are very excited to vote next year. And I'm very excited to be with you two this morning.

CAMEROTA: We can tell. Harry, thank you.

ENTEN: Whoo, wow!

CAMEROTA: It's infectious, or something is.

BERMAN: Way to work yourself up there. I like it.

ENTEN: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: Thank you. Thank you very much.

All right, it has never happened in history. But will Speaker Nancy Pelosi's delayed hand-off of the articles of impeachment have some effect on the Senate trial? Will it postpone it indefinitely? We have an impeachment expert who testified before Congress in this case who joins us talking about this power play.



BERMAN: The president of the United States, Donald J. Trump, has been impeached. That in and of itself historic, dramatic, just the third president ever to be impeached. That happened before 9:00.

But then even more drama and uncertainty. The House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, indicated she will not immediately send the approved articles of impeachment to the Senate. What that means is, at least for now, a Senate trial is in limbo.

Joining us is Michael Gerhardt, University of North Carolina law professor and a CNN legal analyst. He testified as a constitutional expert in both the Clinton and Trump impeachment proceedings. He is one of the preeminent experts on impeachment.

I want to focus on the law hear, OK? What does the Constitution say about impeachment? It says the House has?

MICHAEL GERHARDT, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It has the sole power of impeachment.

BERMAN: And it says the Senate has?

GERHARDT: The sole power to try impeachments.

BERMAN: What does it say about the transfer of authority from the House to the Senate?

GERHARDT: It says nothing explicit about it. It leaves the procedure in the House as it leaves the procedure in the Senate to each of those chambers respectively. So the House has complete control to decide how it wants to send over the impeachment articles.

BERMAN: So, to be clear, the Constitution itself says nothing about how this process works beyond that.

The Senate gets to set its own rules, though. And what do the current Senate rules say about the begin the Senate trial?

GERHARDT: The first -- one of the first things the Senate rules talks about is the reception of the articles. But it doesn't have any timetable on it? It just says when the articles -- if the House managers, which will be appointed by the House, will come to the Senate and deliver the articles. And then, at that point, the clock starts ticking in the Senate.

But as to when those House managers go over, that's up to the House.

BERMAN: So the Senate rules stipulate that it doesn't begin -- the clock doesn't start ticking until they get the articles of impeachment and the House managers. That is what Nancy Pelosi is holding up.

So, with all that history and explanation, professor, what now?

GERHARDT: Well, we're -- we're seeing the Constitution at work now, as well as the rules of each of those different chambers in operation. And that, at least for me as a professor, is pretty exciting to see, very interesting to see, because we've never seen anything like this before.

The House is, obviously, trying to create some leverage in the Senate to help produce what it considers to be a fairer trial. The Senate, however, has clearly indicated through the majority leader that it's going to try and rush this through. So you're seeing, in some sense, a conflict now between the House and the Senate.

BERMAN: Now, in terms of the trail and the fairness of the trial, what does the Constitution say about the trial itself? Do you need to have witnesses according to the Constitution?


GERHARDT: No, the Senate -- so the Senate, given its sole power to try impeachments, is entitled to structure the trial any way it sees fit. It doesn't have to have witnesses. But the Senate will pass a resolution early on in its procedure that will give the framework for the entire process.

BERMAN: And we said the move by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to delay the transmission of the articles is unprecedented. It is. But it's not like there's a tremendous amount of opportunity for precedent here. We're talking about twice before with Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton. In both those instances, the articles were transmitted immediately, correct?

GERHARDT: That is correct.

We have some judicial impeachments where the process is less visible to the public and things move pretty fast between the House and the Senate. But in this situation, we obviously have a conflict between the House and the Senate just in terms of the political parties controlling each of them. Now we're seeing a conflict over the process relating to impeachment.

BERMAN: One of the things we will hear, I think no doubt from Mitch McConnell when he speaks at 9:30 today, is there's no precedent for this.

At the same time, there's no precedent for not having witness in a Senate trial, correct?

GERHARDT: There's no precedent for that, but we had -- Johnson had roughly about 40 witnesses. Clinton's impeachment allowed for a few people to be interviewed off camera, so to speak, and behind closed doors with three senators present. So we're -- we're in a new situation if it turns out we have no witnesses.

BERMAN: The precedent -- I guess my point is, is that precedent isn't going to guide us here because the precedent says conflicting things. Because the Democrats will say, well, if you're going to look at precedent, we have to have witnesses. Mitch McConnell could say, well, if you look at precedent, you have to submit the articles and we have to have a trial.

GERHARDT: That's correct. And -- and so what we're also seeing here is that the precedent could also be interpreted a different way, which is simply each chamber decides for itself what to do. That seems to be what controls here.

BERMAN: Well, let me put it this way, if the Senate -- if Nancy Pelosi doesn't walk over -- physically walk over the articles of impeachment, which is what happened in 1998, they were physically walked over to the Senate side, if that doesn't happen, can Mitch McConnell and the Republicans in the Senate change the rules?

GERHARDT: They will have a hard time changing the rules if they follow the rules. Typically you need at least two-thirds agreement in the Senate to change its own rules. That would be itself historic but difficult. And the way the process typically works, and should work, is at some point the House managers appointed by the House will walk those articles over, but it looks increasingly like that won't happen any time soon.

BERMAN: All right, so we've been talking about the law here and I think we've reached the conclusion we're sort of in a twilight zone.

GERHARDT: That's right.

BERMAN: Which is interesting and exciting, I think, for a law professor like you.


BERMAN: As a political matter now, you will hear people today say, this is an interesting statement now from Nancy Pelosi, who's talked about the need and the urgency of this given that she thinks that President Trump is a threat to the democracy. Now she's saying we're just going to hit pause on that threat.

GERHARDT: That seems to be what she's saying. That could be interpreted as a political move. But it's also a move to protect the institutional integrity of the House, and in an interpretation of the speaker, the institutional integrity of the trial in the Senate. Make no mistake, and I get this, this is a very serious business. The stakes could not be higher in terms of the conflict between the House and Senate. So not just the president's future's at stake, the future of each of those chambers is.

BERMAN: That's exactly right. And just remember the motivations of everyone involved here. If Mitch McConnell's not going to allow witnesses, ask yourself why. It's a reasonable thing to ask.

Professor Michael Gerhardt, I've got to say, if you teach classes on this, your classes are going to get more and more interesting every day. Really appreciate you being here with us.

GERHARDT: Thank you. Thank you.

BERMAN: Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: I feel like I've just audited a class. Thank you for that.

GERHARDT: I'll give you credit.

CAMEROTA: Thank you. Thank you very much. OK, I'll --

BERMAN: Take it pass/fail.

CAMEROTA: OK, meanwhile, the top seven Democrats will debate tonight. So what should we look for? Who will try to make the biggest splash? All of that, next.



BERMAN: As if today wasn't big enough already, the last Democratic primary debate of 2019 is tonight. And this is going to be different. Just seven candidates qualified to be on the debate stage. So, by far, this will be the smallest stage. We will hear from more of each of the candidates.

Joining us now to discuss what we can expect, MJ Lee, CNN political correspondent. She has been on the road with Senator Elizabeth Warren. Arlette Saenz, CNN political correspondent, who has been following the Joe Biden campaign.

I guess, Arlette, let's start at the top here. If you're Joe Biden, you've been at the top of the polls. You've also gone to a number of debates where the reviews have been universally poor, I think, at least from the chattering class.

What does the Biden campaign want to get out of tonight?

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, Joe Biden has had a pretty good few weeks. As we saw a little bit earlier, he's still at the top of national polls. Earlier states like Iowa and New Hampshire is a bit of a different picture. But Biden certainly has been a punching bag for many candidates at these past debates. But it's notable that Kamala Harris and Cory Booker, two of the candidates who have criticized Biden in the past, aren't going to be on that debate stage.

So, is anyone actually going to be able to land a punch to knock Biden off of his frontrunner status? You could have Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders really trying to make the ideological arguments, trying to present those differences of -- with Biden. Biden also making those in return. You could have Pete Buttigieg trying to make a generational argument.

But certainly Biden needs to have a steadier debate performance than he has in the past as he tries to maintain that frontrunner status, but also try to make some movement in those polls in Iowa and New Hampshire.

CAMEROTA: Do we know what Elizabeth Warren is planning?

MJ LEE, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, she has indicated over the last couple of weeks that she's a little bit more willing to go on the offense, right? This is a candidate who, for the majority of this year, has refused to attack her other rivals by name or directly. But in the last couple of weeks, she has particularly gone after Pete Buttigieg, whether it's on the issue of campaign finance, calling out the fact that he is holding fundraisers on the issue of Medicare for all. We are seeing sort of a different side of her and a different strategy. And I think if she does really go on the offense tonight, that's a performance and a debate performance from Elizabeth Warren that we haven't seen before.

CAMEROTA: But, I mean, given that Pete Buttigieg is so much further -- farther down in the polls, why would she punch down instead of going after Biden?

LEE: Because there is overlap between Pete Buttigieg supporters and Elizabeth Warren supporters. I think we so often make the mistake of prescribing this race as though there were just ideological lanes, right? Well, we have Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders on the left going after the liberal vote, and then we have Pete Buttigieg, maybe a Joe Biden in the middle. But it is definitely the case that there is overlap between people who are inclined to like an Elizabeth Warren and are interested in Pete Buttigieg as well.


I mean talking to voters in states like Iowa and New Hampshire, it is very, very clear that similar voters are drawn to these two candidates.

BERMAN: White, college educated voters. The base of both Elizabeth Warren and Pete Buttigieg.

Arlette, in addition to the Joe Biden candidacy, what are you looking for tonight? What will be different tonight, do you think?

SAENZ: Well, I think one other person that we need to keep an eye on tonight is Amy Klobuchar. She has been spending a lot of time in Iowa doing OK and decently in the polls there and she is really someone who needs a breakout moment from this debate in order to try to propel her candidacy.

Also, for all of the senators who are going to be on stage, they're heading into a January where a lot of their time is going to be taken up by impeachment, a trial in the Senate. So this -- for those senators is also very important to get that face time and that time for their messaging on this national stage as we get closer to the caucuses.

BERMAN: It's interesting, we had Chuck Schumer, the Senate minority leader, on the other day and I asked him what he was going to do to help protect those senators running for president in the case of a Senate trial and his answer was nothing. Nothing. He said, their priority has to be the Senate trial. And he's not going to do anything to make it easier for them to run for president in this case.

CAMEROTA: That's interesting.

BERMAN: He's not -- yes.

CAMEROTA: Particularly since it's currently in limbo at the moment -- at this hour.

BERMAN: Right.

CAMEROTA: And so, MJ, you're expecting a more somber tone of the debate tonight because of impeachment, because this is such an historic moment that we're waking up to?

LEE: That's right. I think especially given the fact that thee of the senators will actually be serving on the Senate trial, I assume there will be questions about, you know, what they think the parameters of that Senate trial should be, what they would see as a fair trial. But in addition to that, and sort of in the bigger picture, right, the fact that we had such a historic day yesterday with the president being impeached, I think puts more of a spotlight on some of these Democratic candidates who are running to replace him, right?

All year voters have told us that the thing that they care the most about is getting this president out of office. And I think for these candidates that are on stage tonight, they will sort of have to show that they are the candidates who can best do that. I think the impeachment process will actually be a reminder to a lot of voters, yes, he was impeached in the House, but in the Senate he's not going to be convicted or removed from office. And I think that will sort of propel voters to want that thing that they've wanted all year even more.

BERMAN: MJ Lee, Arlette Saenz, thank you so much for being with us. We know you will be watching along with us tonight.

The PBS "Newshour"/"Politico" Democratic Presidential Debate live from Los Angeles. You can watch it on CNN and your local PBS station. Coverage begins at 8:00 Eastern Time.

CAMEROTA: All right, late night hosts delivering sharp punchlines about the impeachment. Here are your "Late Night Laughs."


JIMMY FALLON, HOST, "THE TONIGHT SHOW STARRING JIMMY FALLON": Today the House of Representatives officially voted to impeach President Trump. Of course it's a dark stain on his legacy. But, on the bright side, Trump finally managed to win a popular vote.

TREVOR NOAH, HOST, "THE DAILY SHOW WITH TREVOR NOAH": Trump is only the third president ever to be impeached. Yes, they're going to carve his face on impeachment Mount Rushmore, right, which, just to be clear, will be appropriately located in the worst place imaginable, the Port Authority bathroom. That's where it is.


REP. BARRY LOUDERMILK (R-GA): Before you take this historic vote today, one week before Christmas, I want you to keep this in mind, when Jesus was falsely accused of treason, Pontus Pilot gave Jesus the opportunity to face his accusers. During that sham trial, Pontus Pilot afforded more rights to Jesus than the Democrats have afforded this president.

COLBERT: Really? You're going to compare Donald Trump to Jesus Christ? May I remand you, Jesus never had to cut a check to keep Mary Magdalene quiet.


BERMAN: I didn't see that coming.

CAMEROTA: And a, woop.

BERMAN: I didn't see that coming.

CAMEROTA: All right, more on all of that.

Also, what's going to happen next? There is uncertainty about the next step in impeachment. And, of course, we're going to speak to Congresswoman Debbie Dingell about the president's attack on her last night and her late husband.

NEW DAY continues right now.


REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): In America, no one is above the law.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The House has voted to make Donald Trump the third president to be impeached.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The do nothing Democrats are declaring their deep hatred for the American voter.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): We cannot name managers until we see what the process is on the Senate side.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Speaker Pelosi has decided to hold the articles of impeachment. That was never an issue before. It was a procedural matter. It's now a political matter.

TRUMP: Debbie Dingell, that's a real beauty.


MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: The president is reacting, as we expected, emotionally, denigrating rivals, using abusive language.