Return to Transcripts main page

EARLY START

Smaller Democratic Field on Stage but Lots of Substance. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired December 20, 2019 - 04:30   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[04:31:27]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm the only guy who's not interrupted, all right? And I'm going to interrupt now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: Frontrunner Joe Biden showing more confidence on the debate stage in the final Democratic showdown of the year.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Billionaires in wine caves should not pick the next president.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Wine caves is now trending after the candidates trade shots about wealth and rich donors.

Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs. It is 4:31 Eastern Time. We start with that final debate of this year.

A strong night for the frontrunner, Joe Biden, at the sixth Democratic presidential debate last night in Los Angeles. The former vice president appeared in command, as did Pete Buttigieg. The South Bend, Indiana, mayor now more of a target with a sizeable campaign war chest and still holding on as frontrunner in most Iowa polls. This will also go down as the debate that made wine caves a political football.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WARREN: Billionaires in wine caves should not pick the next president.

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And I have never even been to a wine cave. I've been to the wind cave in South Dakota. ANDREW YANG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We don't have to go shake

the money tree in the wine cave.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: Having lived in South Dakota, they're both lovely.

Jeff Zeleny in Los Angeles with more.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Christine and Dave, the last Democratic presidential debate of the year ends with Joe Biden standing strong at the center of the stage, certainly having one of his strongest debate performances that he has had all year long. He of course struggled with debates throughout the summer and the fall. But appearing at ease, appearing strong.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BIDEN: I refuse to accept the notion, as some on this stage do, that we can never, never get to a place where we have cooperation again. If anyone has reason to be angry with the Republicans and not want to cooperate, it's me the way they've attacked me and my son and my family.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZELENY: Pete Buttigieg coming under fire from all directions, from Elizabeth Warren over his fundraising practices, from Amy Klobuchar over his experience. Now Pete Buttigieg, who would be the youngest president ever elected should he win the primary and defeat President Trump, he took it all in stride and certainly responded and held his own.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAYOR PETE BUTTIGIEG (D-IN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If you just go by vote totals, maybe what goes on in my city seems small to you. If you want to talk about the capacity to win, try putting together a coalition to bring you back to office with 80 percent of the vote as a gay dude in Mike Pence's Indiana.

(LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE)

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The mayor just recently had a fundraiser that was held in a wine cave full of crystals and served $900 a bottle wine. Think about who comes to that.

BUTTIGIEG: According to "Forbes" magazine I'm the literally the only person on this stage who's not a millionaire or a billionaire. So if --

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

BUTTIGIEG: This is important. This is the problem with issuing purity tests you cannot yourself pass. (END VIDEO CLIP)

ZELENY: It'll be up to voters to sort of determine, you know, the reaction to this. But Bernie Sanders also, if you were a Bernie Sanders fan before this debate you certainly are one after the debate. He's pure on his issues. He's calling for big revolutionary change.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Maybe an American president, i.e. Bernie Sanders, can lead the world. Instead of spending money to kill each other, maybe we pool our resources and fight our common enemy which is climate change.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZELENY: So when you break all this down, at the end of the day Amy Klobuchar probably gained the most because she had a lot of attention on her, a lot of time to make her case.

[04:35:02]

But now all the candidates head to Iowa for campaigning. We are 45 days before those Iowa caucuses. That starts the 2020 campaign -- Dave and Christine.

ROMANS: All right, Jeff, thanks for that.

No surprise the first question last night was about President Trump's impeachment. Here's what some of the candidates said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WARREN: Now in the Senate, he's taken a constitutional oath to uphold our Constitution, and that doesn't mean loyalty to an individual, it doesn't mean loyalty to a political party. It means loyalty to our country.

BUTTIGIEG: We cannot give in to that sense of helplessness, because that's what they want. They want us to be taken in by that cynicism, to where we give up on the process altogether.

YANG: What we have to do is we have to stop being obsessed over impeachment, which unfortunately strikes many Americans like a ball game where you know what the score is going to be, and start actually digging in and solving the problems that got Donald Trump elected in the first place.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: Former White House press secretary Sarah Sanders meanwhile now admitting she was disrespectful and apologizing to Biden after tweeting about this moment in the debate.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BIDEN: My wife and I have a call list of somewhere between 20 and a hundred people that we call at least every week or every month to tell them I'm here. I give them my private phone number, they keep in touch with me. The little kid who says I -- I can't -- I can't talk, what do I do?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: In a now-deleted tweet, Sanders appeared to mock stutterers. The backlash was immediate. First, Sanders tried to suggest her post was not about stuttering. But she eventually removed the tweet and apologized -- you see it there on the right -- after Biden tweeted back that stuttering is something he has worked his entire life to overcome.

ROMANS: Entrepreneur Andrew Yang lamented the fact he was the sole minority Democratic candidate to qualify for last night's debate.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

YANG: It's both an honor and disappointment to be the lone candidate of color on the stage tonight. I grew up the son of immigrants and I had many racial epithets used against me as a kid. But black and Latinos have something much more powerful working against them than words. They have numbers. The average net worth of a black household is only 10 percent that of a White household. For Latinos it's 12 percent. These are the numbers that define race in our country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Yang pivoted to a main focus of his political platform, the universal basic income. He wants to give each American 18 and older what he calls a freedom dividend of $1,000 a month. He says he guarantees that if it already existed he would not have been the only candidate of color on the stage.

BRIGGS: Senator Elizabeth Warren drew wild applause when she fired back at a question about her age during the debate when the moderator noted that she would be the oldest president ever inaugurated if she wins in 2020.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TIM ALBERTA, DEBATE MODERATOR: Senator Warren, you would be the oldest president ever inaugurated. I'd like you to weigh in as well.

WARREN: I'd also be the youngest woman ever inaugurated.

(LAUGHTER AND CHEERS)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: Touche. Warren would be 71 at the time of her inauguration if elected.

Tallying up who had the most speaking time, Senator Bernie Sanders led the pack at more than 20 minutes. Klobuchar, Warren and Buttigieg were close behind, each with more than 19 minutes of air time. Biden spoke for more than 15 minutes. Steyer and Yang trailed further back.

ROMANS: Health care a key issue on the campaign trail. During last night's debate, Senator Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden had this heated exchange over the cost of their health care plans.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SANDERS: Joe's plan, essentially, we retain the status quo.

BIDEN: That's not true.

KLOBUCHAR: No, that's not right.

SANDERS: That's exactly true. Thank you. And by the way, Joe, under your plan -- you know, you asked how we're going to pay for it? Under your plan, I'll tell your plan, I'll tell you how we're paying it right now. The average worker in America, their family makes $60,000 a year. That family is now paying $12,000 a year for health care, 20 percent of their income.

BIDEN: I'm the only guy who's not interrupted, all right? And I'm going to interrupt now. It cost $30 trillion. Let's get that straight. $30 trillion over 10 years. Some say it costs $20 trillion. Some say it costs $40 trillion. The idea that you're going to be able to save that person making $60,000 a year on Medicare for All is absolutely preposterous.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Fidelity Investments found that rising health care costs are one of the top financial concerns Americans have heading into the new year.

BRIGGS: All right. The term wine cave getting a lot of buzz after the debates. Will it continue to resonate, though, into the first primaries and caucuses? We discuss, next.

[04:40:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: So, if you're just tuning in, this was the debate of the wine cave. But what was that all about? Pete Buttigieg held a big fundraiser this month at a California winery in its so-called wine cave under a Swarovski crystal chandelier. Over the course of the debate, the term came to stand in for high-dollar campaign fundraising and the potential obligations to wealthy donors it can create.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WARREN: The mayor just recently had a fundraiser that was held in a wine cave full of crystals and served $900 a bottle wine.

[04:45:03] BUTTIGIEG: I am the literally the only person on this stage who's not a millionaire or a billionaire.

WARREN: I do not sell access to my time. I don't do call time with millionaires and billionaires. I don't --

BUTTIGIEG: Hold on, Senator. Sorry, as a -- Senator, your presidential campaign right now as we speak is funded in part by money you transferred having raised it at those exact same big-ticket fundraisers you now denounce.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Buttigieg said Democrats are in the fight of their lives and shouldn't try to beat President Trump with, quote, "one hand tied behind our back."

BRIGGS: All right, joining us now from Washington to talk about wine caves and wind caves, and whatever else he wants to discuss, the editor and publisher of "Inside Elections," Nathan Gonzales.

Good to see you, my friend.

NATHAN GONZALES, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Good to see you.

BRIGGS: So it's hard from even looking back throughout this entire Democratic debate process to think of one moment that's continued to resonate. That's been a game-changer. Was there anything last night that may have been?

GONZALES: Well, that wine cave moment reminded me of the critical point in the new "Star Wars" movie where -- I'm just kidding.

(LAUGHTER)

ROMANS: Please, do not do that to me.

GONZALES: You know, I think -- I think the voters ultimately -- Democratic voters ultimately decide on that exchange who won. I think Mayor Buttigieg made a good point. But one thing stuck out to me as I watch it more and more is that I think it's so awkward when candidates on a debate stage are addressing each other but not looking at other. Or when they're being addressed or talked about, they're not looking at the person.

ROMANS: Right.

GONZALES: You know, they're standing just a few feet apart. It just looks so awkward.

ROMANS: Well, isn't it a sign that he is the frontrunner in Iowa? I mean, that's why wine caves -- so that's why she had teed up this attack on his fundraising and that's why it's really resonating. And I mean this as a reminder that he is the frontrunner in Iowa.

GONZALES: Absolutely. And that's where, you know, I think it's a good reminder that in a multicandidate race, attacking a candidate can have different consequences. For example, if we look all the way back at 2004, the frontrunners going into Iowa were Vermont governor Howard Dean and House leader Dick Gephardt.

ROMANS: Wow.

GONZALES: And they kind of were going back and forth. And that allowed John Kerry and John Edwards to slip through the middle because if you attack a candidate, there's no guarantee that you're going to benefit. That you have six, seven, eight, 10 other choices if they end up, you know, pulling back from their original candidate.

One point that Mayor Buttigieg made that's on the debate loop is that he was talking about getting elected -- re-elected in Mike Pence's Indiana. The mayor did not get re-elected in Mike Pence's Indiana. He got elected in a Democratic town that is in the state of Indiana. So I think he was -- he wasn't quite being upfront with all of the details there.

BRIGGS: Did very well with Republican voters there, Nathan. He always did. And -- I mean, this guy was like at 80 percent. So, I think his point is, that he resonated across the political spectrum.

The dynamic right now looks like three, maybe even four winners in the first four states. So it might not take shape until Super Tuesday. Health care will certainly be an issue and there's an exchange on that. Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SANDERS: Under Joe's plan, essentially, we retain the status quo.

BIDEN: That's not true.

KLOBUCHAR: No, that's not right.

SANDERS: That's exactly true. Thank you. And by the way, Joe, under your plan -- you know, you asked how we're going to pay for it? Under your plan, I'll tell your plan, I'll tell you how we're paying it right now. The average worker in America, their family makes $60,000 a year. That family is now paying $12,000 a year for health care, 20 percent of their income.

BIDEN: I'm the only guy who's not interrupted, all right? And I'm going to interrupt now. It cost $30 trillion. Let's get that straight. $30 trillion over 10 years. Some say it costs $20 trillion. Some say it costs $40 trillion. The idea that you're going to be able to save that person making $60,000 a year on Medicare for All is absolutely preposterous.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: Maybe the deciding factor ultimately, who is with the sizable chunk of the Democratic base?

GONZALES: Yes. I think it is going to be a critical issue in the primary and general election.

BRIGGS: Yes.

GONZALES: But in the primary, I think all Democrats, virtually all Democrats agree, that everyone should have health care. And -- but the question is, not necessarily in the plans, but I think the question is, how many Democrats are nervous with Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders as the nominee, as they put forth their plans. Nervous not that the end is wrong but that it will give Republicans too much ammunition to attack in a general election setting.

ROMANS: Yes. Well, because Republicans at this point keep saying look, it's a Trump economy. It's a Trump economy. It's a Trump economy. The stock market is up. You know, it's grown at 2 percent. The economy is growing at 2 percent. Not the supercharge that the president promised. But it is growing. And the Democrats have had trouble kind of trying to, you know, to get in that argument. To get in that conversation. They tried to last night. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BIDEN: The middle class is not as behind the eight ball. We have to make sure that they have an even shot.

[04:50:03]

We have to eliminate a significant number of these god-awful tax cuts that were given to the very wealthy.

SANDERS: As Trump goes around saying the economy is doing great, you know what real inflation account for wages went up last year? 1.1 percent. That ain't great.

BUTTIGIEG: People are not getting paid enough. That is not the result of some mysterious cosmic force. It's the result of bad policy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: How do they do try to say that the Trump economy is for companies, investors and the super rich?

GONZALES: I wasn't sure, was Mayor Buttigieg trying to make a "Star Wars" reference with cosmic force? I wasn't sure. You know, I think Democrats have to walk a fine line here. They're running against an incumbent and they have to talk about the economy. But I think they can't look disconnected. I think majority of the people believe that the economy is headed in the right direction. They approve of the president and his work on the economy. And so they have to contrast.

ROMANS: Yes.

GONZALES: But they can't just look out of touch and say all things are terrible when the majority of Americans think things are going pretty well.

BRIGGS: All right. Nathan Gonzales, may the force be with you, sir. Thank you. Get some sleep.

GONZALES: May the force be with you.

BRIGGS: All right. A leading evangelical Christian magazine publishing an editorial Thursday calling for President Trump's removal from office. In Christianity Today, editor-in-chief Mark Galli says the Democrats have been after the president from day one, but he writes, quote, "The facts in this instance are unambiguous. The president of the United States attempted to use his political power to coerce a foreign leader to harass and discredit one of the president's political opponents. That is not only a violation of the Constitution, more importantly it is profoundly immoral."

He adds, "None of the president's positives can balance the moral and political danger we face under a leader of such grossly immoral character."

ROMANS: All right. It's been a tremendous year on Wall Street. But there is still risk heading into 2020. CNN Business has the details, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[04:56:26]

ROMANS: Let's get a check on CNN Business this morning. A quick look at markets around the world. And you can see that they're moving higher in European shares, mixed in Asian markets. On Wall Street, futures this morning, barely moving here.

Look, it was record highs Thursday. Stocks across the board in the U.S. Record highs there for the major averages. The Dow up 138 points. The Nasdaq and the S&P also up. Investors look at the final estimate of third quarter GDP. That comes today at 8:30 a.m. Eastern time. Dana shows the economy probably grew around 2.1 percent. We'll see if that number is changed.

The much-needed modernization of NAFTA, USMCA, found a rare show of bipartisanship passing in the House Thursday. President Trump has repeatedly criticized the old NAFTA from the '90s as our country's worst trade deal. The North American trade deal, the new one, is a lot like the old one with some key updates. It now addresses digital trade, there are stricter labor provisions, and includes funds to protect the environment. The Senate is expected to vote on the agreement next year after the president's impeachment trial.

It's been a tremendous year for investors. Optimism over a trade deal with China has pushed stocks to record high this week. The trade war with China still though the biggest risk to Wall Street. The two sides have only agreed to a phase one trade deal. Once that signed, a full deal still needs to be negotiated. Even though recession risks faded in the second half of the year, the longest-running expansion of U.S. economy will have to come to an end at some point. Economic growth is expected to slow further in 2020.

BRIGGS: And I expect to sleep further in 2020. Today is my last day here at CNN. So I want to say a couple of quick good-byes. Some are easier than others. Like good-bye to Excedrin. Good-bye to Visine. You've been instrumental in the 1:30 a.m. wakeup calls. And speaking of, Siri, please turn off my alarm.

ROMANS: Well played.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Which alarm would you like me to turn off? OK. You're 1:30 alarm is off.

BRIGGS: Thank you. And thank you to your audience for the West Coast, the up-all-night folks and the early risers in the East, and everyone in between. Team no sleep, you guys have been incredible. To my supportive family, I love you all. That grumpy, sleepy dad, for the most part, is gone, but I do look forward to watching Sunday, Monday and Thursday night football. So apologies for that.

To my partner here, to our incredible staff, talented professionals, wonderful people, come here in the middle of the night every night, I don't know how you do it. So hats off to all of you.

And lastly, to the bitter partisan divide in this country, just remember, that which unites us is far greater than that which divides us. I don't know entirely what I'm doing in 2020. But I know that I plan to seek common ground. And I hope all of you do the same. Please say hello to me if you see me in Colorado or Connecticut or California or whatever. If you don't, I'm right here on Twitter, on Instagram, Dave Briggs TV. I'm on Facebook, I'm on LinkedIn, just say hello. Good-bye for now.

ROMANS: You are a true professional and a friend after these three years. It's been great waking up with you.

BRIGGS: It's been a great pleasure. Love you, my friend.

ROMANS: All right. You too. All right. Thanks for joining us. I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs. Until next time.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: We will miss Dave Briggs. And that was a beautiful, classy way to say good-bye.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: He is a lovely, classy human being. And I know we are going to stay friends.

CAMEROTA: As are we, since he lives about a block away from me.

Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is NEW DAY. It is Friday, December 20th. 5:00 here in New York, for a special early edition of the program.

It was a smaller stage for the Democratic debate last night. But it delivered big moments and a lot of --

[05:00:00]