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Bloomberg & Steyer Hit $200 Million in Ad Spending; Biden Leads in Endorsements from Governors & Congress Members; Top 9 Political Stories of 2019. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired December 26, 2019 - 13:30   ET



BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: All right. Kylie, thank you so much for that report.

Just a little over a month to go until the Iowa caucuses. Are the 2020 Democratic candidates running out of time to get their messages across to voters? And what's the ground game heading into Iowa?

Plus, it might be difficult to think back and recall some of the big political stories of 2019 besides impeachment but, coming up, we'll reveal the top nine stories captivating Washington this year.



KEILAR: They may have had a late start in the 2020 race, but presidential candidates, Michael Bloomberg and Tom Steyer, are making up for it with their personal fortunes. Or are they?

With just 39 days until the Iowa caucuses, these two billionaires have spent nearly $200 million in TV and digital advertising. Bloomberg alone spent $120 million since he joined the presidential race about a month ago.

Joining us now is A.B. Stoddard. She's an associate editor and columnist for "Real Clear Politics." And Francesca Chambers is here as well. She covers the White House for "McClatchy, D.C."

So is this money well spent are they just lighting it on fire? What do you guys think?

A.B. STODDARD, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think, first, we've learned that TV ads do not break through the way they once did. President Trump and his campaign are carpet-bombing Facebook. And the better investment seems to be in digital ads. That's just a start about how they spend their money.

I don't think either one of is going to be the nominee. I don't know if they want to be a cabinet secretary. I don't know what the end goal is.

Michael Bloomberg seems to be very generous towards the eventual nominee and this effort to beat Trump is not entirely clear. After studying this for decades, why he chose to get in late and burn off all this money.

KEILAR: So dumb move to buy all these TV ads? What do you think?

FRANCESCA CHAMBERS, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, "MCCLATCHY": Well, the ads he's buying are directed against Donald Trump. So to the point about the eventual nominee, he says he also plans to keep offices open in some of these crucial states for whoever the nominee is.

I'm curious, if that's not him, how that would work, whether or not that's considered some sort of donation or whether the DNC would take these offices over, whether or not he's consulted with them on that.

But as far as the money goes, I've heard from strategists, both Republican and Democrats, they don't think that money gets you as far as it once did.

When you had Hillary Clinton, you had a lot of money, or Jeb Bush, who had quite a lot of money, and they still weren't able to win the presidency just because they had a lot of money they could burn on advertising.

KEILAR: Does it give candidates like Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, these two liberal Senators, who have taken on billionaires and banks in their rhetoric, does it give them an advantage, do you think?

STODDARD: I think what 2016 taught us is that the message wins, not the machine, not all the money. I think you'll hear Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders complain about Bloomberg and Steyer trying to buy the nomination. That appeals to their part of the coalition.

It turns out, we though three months ago they would be ascendant. It turns out the ascendant, more durable part of the Democratic primary electorate coalition is the afraid Democratic primary voter. That's why Joe Biden hangs onto his frontrunner status. We don't know how things will end up once voting starts.

But why does he, with not as much money and not as exciting a message, but a powerful that says this is a terrible time when the only one who can step in and right the ship right away.

I think the reason he's on top is because people are afraid. And they're not really aren't caught up in the wine cave fundraiser and all of the rules about who you get your money from and that kind of stuff.

CHAMBERS: Bernie Sanders and I think Elizabeth Warren's voters are slightly more caught up in where you get the money from. But --


CHAMBERS: The reason they're supporting them is because they're anti- millionaire or anti-billionaire, so to speak. I was going to say about whether or not it puts in you the front of

the race, if you look at the state-based polls and not just the national polling, in states like Iowa, it's Bernie Sanders who, depending on which poll it is, is in first and second right now, not necessarily the Joe Bidens, even though all four of them are running pretty closely together.


CHAMBERS: I think as you get closer to Iowa, that's something to pay attention to, is Bernie Sanders.

KEILAR: Let's talk about Joe Biden because he is leading right now on endorsements. These are endorsements from governors, from sitting members of Congress. I wonder, does it really help with voters, and if not, what does it signify?

STODDARD: Well, we have been -- we've concluded many times that endorsements don't matter. I think the reason he's bringing them out right now and usually kind deploy them when you need them is because it's close to voting, the end of the campaign. It's time for the candidates who shop to step up to the register and make a decision.

It's a feeling that if he brings out these endorsements, the wise people know better and it's just time to come around.

The establishment is definitely for Joe Biden, there's no question. They're just keeping their power dry.

So as he brings out these crusty politicians from days gone by, a lot of progressives turn their nose and say this is exactly what we don't want. To them, it's repellant.

This is a very fluid situation. I think Bernie Sanders is a very ominous wild card for the establishment. We don't know where that's going.


But if Biden finishes well enough in Iowa and well enough in New Hampshire, I do believe I'll will look back on these endorsements and I wouldn't be surprised if they did nudge some people who were shopping and say, you know, it's the safest self-check.

KEILAR: Francesca, impeachment is taking up so much of the oxygen in Washington, for sure. It's taken resources from Congress. But a surrogate from Pete Buttigieg's campaign told "The Hill" that impeachment is not top of mind for most voters, calling it a Washington story. What do you think?

CHAMBERS: Well, on the campaign trail, certainly voters are interested in that topic, but I also think we're obviously spending --


KEILAR: So you think they may be more interested than this person may indicate?

CHAMBERS: Well, they're also interested in topics like health care, which, again, these candidates are spending a lot of their time talking about and about the economy and about all those issues.

I do want to touch on something you said, though, about the endorsements and how that will play out. We talked about Bernie Sanders a moment ago. He's had congressional endorsements. He's been endorsed by most of the Squad, by AOC and he's campaigning with her around.

So it's not just that Joe Biden is the only person who has had significant endorsements. Elizabeth Warren has also collected one from a Squad member as well.

As we get down to this point in the race where some of them are campaigning for them and it helps these candidates spread out more of their time, you're talking about Bernie Sanders as a wild card, I would look at places like Iowa where he's competed before and use that as an indicator.

KEILAR: The type of endorsements might matter more. Maybe it's more advantageous to Bernie Sanders.

A.B., thank you so much, Francesca. Happy holidays you guys.

STODDARD: Thank you.

CHAMBERS: Thank you.

KEILAR: When you hear the word "politics," you probably think impeachment. Well, impeachment is actually not the only major political story that we've covered in 2019, even if it seems like it. Coming up, we're going to show you what else made our top nine list.



KEILAR: The NASDAQ crossed a milestone today and that is due, in part, to Amazon. Amazon was the most-traded stock in the index, rising 3 percent, after reporting that this holiday shopping season broke records. That news helped bush the tech heavy index above 9,000 points for the first time in its history. And this is the longest winning streak in more than two years.

Impeachment may have been hanging over our heads for most of the year, but it's not the only political story to headline 2019.

CNN's chief political correspondent, Dana Bash, has the top nine political stories of the year.


DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: It has been quite the year in politics. Here are the top nine political stories of 2019.

It didn't get as many headlines as other big political stories but make no mistake about it --



BASH: -- the president's success in getting his judges on the bench will have implications for years to come.

Thanks to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who was focused like a laser on this, the Senate confirmed a record 50 circuit court judges.

McConnell took to Twitter boasting that is already the most in any president's whole first term since 1980.

TRUMP: -- the Constitution of the United States.

BASH: President Trump announced his reelection campaign the day he was inaugurated, a historically early start that his team took advantage of, raising more than $165 million, nearly $100 million in this year alone.

BRAD PARSCALE, TRUMP CAMPAIGN MANAGER: It's much more efficient two years out to try to find a possible voter, possible donor. It's just a considerable advantage that the other side won't have, because you just can't replace time.

BASH: Control of those big coffers, not only his reelection campaign, but the Republican Party's, contributed to the president's firm grip on the GOP, which, in various ways, became even more clearly the party of Donald Trump in 2019.

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN): You take back our democracy.

BASH: The Democrats' 2020 presidential field took shape early in the year as the most diverse ever.


BASH: More women and candidates of color running for a single party than ever before.


BASH: The first openly gay candidate a major contender.

UNIDENTIFIED DEBATE MODERATOR: The top-12 Democratic presidential candidates are at their positions --

BASH: It was also the biggest.

CNN's October debate was the most crowded stage in the history of presidential primaries.

KLOBUCHAR: I want to give a reality check here to Elizabeth, because no one on this stage wants to protect billionaires. Not even the billionaire wants to protect billionaires.


KLOBUCHAR: We just have different approaches.

Your idea is not the only idea.

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA): I think, as Democrats, we are going to succeed when we dream big and fight hard, not when we dream small and quit before we get started.

BASH: That shrunk to seven in December, thanks to the party's increasing fundraising and polling thresholds.

No question defined the Democratic primary fight this year more than this: Do voters want an ideological revolution or a candidate focused on relief from Donald Trump?

At the top of the field, Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are the revolutionaries, promising sweeping change, while former Vice President Joe Biden, Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Senator Amy Klobuchar say incremental change is more realistic.

Nowhere was this more on display than health care.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Build on Obamacare. Add a public option.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT): Seventy-one percent of Democrats support Medicare For All.


BASH: Stay tuned for the answer in 2020.

And 2019 started with a historic new class of House Democrats, a record number of women sworn in and many more firsts. The first Muslim-American women, the first Native American women.

And the first female House speaker in history reclaimed the gavel.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): I'm particularly proud to be a woman speaker of the House of this Congress, which marks the 100th year of women having the right to vote.



BASH: Speaking of Nancy Pelosi, going head to head with President Trump is one of the 2019 storylines, starting with the longest government shutdown in U.S. history. PELOSI: Federal workers will not be receiving their paychecks. The

president seems to be insensitive to that. He thinks maybe they could just ask their father for more money. But they can't.

TRUMP: The State of the Union speech has been canceled by Nancy Pelosi because she doesn't want to hear the truth.

BASH: In October, a clash over the president deciding to pull troops out of Syria ended in a Pelosi walkout.

The president tweeted a photo of Pelosi having what he called an "unhinged meltdown." She owned the image, making it her social media cover photo.

PELOSI: Article one is adopted.

BASH: The year ended with the speaker reluctantly leading the House and making Trump only the third president in history to be impeached.

PELOSI: I pray for the president all the time.

BASH: After nearly two years, Robert Mueller concluded his Russia investigation with a 448-page report.

On the key question of collusion, Mueller's probe did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in the election interference activities.

It noted 10 instances where the president may have obstructed justice, writing: "While this report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him."

Much to the outrage of Democrats, Attorney General William Barr tried to play it as exoneration.

WILLIAM BARR, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: The evidence developed by the special counsel is not sufficient to establish that the president committed an obstruction of justice offense.

BASH: Democrats were hoping Mueller would clear it up. But his nearly-seven-hour testimony, slow-moving and drama-free, did not.

Then a whistleblower complaint that Trump urged the Ukrainian president to investigate Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, in exchange for nearly $400 million in U.S. military aid.

TRUMP: That call was perfect.

BASH: Moderate vulnerable House Democrats, who had resisted impeachment before, changed their minds and called for an inquiry.

An equally reluctant House speaker announced the House would do just that.

PELOSI: The actions taken to date by the president have seriously violated the Constitution. BASH: A day later, the White House released a rough transcript of

that July conversation. In it was what Democrats would focus their impeachment inquiry on, an apparent quid pro quo.

The impeachment inquiry would make its way through the House Intelligence Committee with closed-door witness testimonies, followed by several days of notable public testimony.

GORDON SONDLAND, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE EUROPEAN UNION: Was there a quid pro quo? As I testified previously, with regard to the requested White House call and the White House meeting, the answer is yes.

BASH: Former Trump Russia adviser, Fiona Hill, called out some of the president's team for carrying out a, quote, "domestic political errand" and sent a warning.

FIONA HILL, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL OFFICIAL: Russia's security services and their proxies have geared up to repeat their interference in the 2020 election. We're running out of time to stop them.

BASH: Republicans attacked the process, generally sidestepping the facts.

REP. DOUG COLLINS (R-GA): You can't make your case against the president because nothing happened.

BASH: Democrats drafted two articles of impeachment, abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, which passed the committee and later the full House on party-line votes.

The year ending with Donald J. Trump, the third president in history to be impeached.

So, how does it all end? You're going to have to wait until 2020.

Dana Bash, CNN, Washington.


KEILAR: On New Year's Day, be sure to check out the new CNN film on the life and career of pop icon, Linda Ronstadt.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She came to Los Angeles.

ANNOUNCER: Ladies and gentlemen, Miss Linda Ronstadt.


LINDA RONSTADT, SINGER: I was 18 years old and we formed a little band called the Stone Ponies.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The whole damn thing broke loose.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was rock music, folk music commingling.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How can we define what this is going to be?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Linda was the queen, like what Beyonce is now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She was the only female artist to have five platinum albums in a row.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: "I Can't Help Falling in Love with You" was a hit on the country charts. "You're No Good" was a hit on the R&B and pop chart. She became the first artist to have a hit on three charts.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She was the first female rock 'n' roll star.






KEILAR: A winter storm is complicating travel plans for millions.