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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
Stakes High after Final Debate before First Votes; Tom Steyer (D), Presidential Candidate, Promises He Can Beat Trump; Stakes High After Final Debate Before First Votes. Aired 12-1a ET
Aired January 15, 2020 - 00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
(JOINED IN PROGRESS)
DANA BASH, CNN SR. U.S. CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Other people have gone in and out but he's been there. And a top Democrat said to me recently about Joe Biden has the chicken soup appeal, that he has what's going to make everybody who feels sick feel better.
And that was the chicken soup speech right there at the end there. And that is really what he is banking on. If he can do that and people really listen to that and take that in, that's what he's going for.
And if electability and beating Trump and feeling better about the country is what these Democrats say they want, that's it.
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: One of the big surprises about the Biden candidacy in the political class is his resiliency throughout the entire process. This is why.
You said you grew up with politics; you understand this better than most, Chris. But the most successful candidates are the ones that are closing their campaign with the same message that they opened it with, consistently through.
He just delivered a closing statement on the eve of the vote that eight months ago he launched his campaign with. And it has been consistent all the way through which I think is why he's proven to be resilient in this campaign because it gets to the key, core, fundamental desire among Democrats, having some assurance the person they choose has the best shot at defeating Trump.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: At the end of the day, for all the different metrics, Anderson, that's the only one that matters, which man or woman gives this party the best chance of getting out this president, whom they all describe as an existential threat.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: And 20 days before the caucus. Chris, we'll come back to you shortly. I'm joined by Tom Steyer.
David Chalian was talking about consistency. You have been consistent in your message throughout the entire time you have been running.
First of all, how did you feel tonight went for you and for the Democrats?
TOM STEYER (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I thought it was a good debate. I thought I got a chance to actually answer the question that Chris Cuomo just posed, which is who can beat Donald Trump.
I think you all know, Mr. Trump is running on the economy; he really has nothing else. And he said last week -- I'm sure everybody here knows that he said at the American Israeli conference, amazingly, you don't like me and I don't like you. But you're all going to vote for me because you know if the Democrats get control they'll destroy the economy in 15 minutes.
And whoever is going to be the Democratic nominee and is going to beat Trump is going to have to go after him on the economy. He's a fake. He was a fake business person, he was a business person on a reality TV show.
COOPER: That argument, aren't you making an argument for Mayor Bloomberg?
STEYER: I'm very different from Mike Bloomberg. I really am. I'm a progressive. I have said, if Mike wants to represent the Democratic Party, he's got to embrace a wealth tax. There's something really unequal that has happened in this country that is unacceptable.
If you want to lead the Democratic Party, the party of the people, you have to address that inequality aggressively, particularly if you're really rich. So my point is I built a business from scratch.
Mr. Trump beat 16 conventional Republican candidates in the primary pretty easily. And then he beat the best prepared Democrat in history who had been first lady., U.S. senator and secretary of state.
COOPER: He has been tweeting about you tonight. I think he said that you ran out of money.
"Steyer is running low on cash. Nobody knows him. Made his money on coal. So funny!"
I don't know if it's a genius or talents of the president is to zero in on perceived weaknesses of candidates.
I don't think weakness is your money. You're OK with that. You did make money in fossil fuels. And that is the base of a lot of the money you made.
STEYER: That's not true, Anderson. We invested in every part of the economy, including fossil fuels, less as a percentage in fossil fuels than --
COOPER: You made a lot of money in fossil fuels.
STEYER: -- and I divested from those over a decade ago. I took the giving pledge.
(CROSSTALK) COOPER: -- essentially what he's saying, you made money in fossil fuels, then you cashed out. And now you're --
STEYER: Look. Everybody in the United States has to move away from a fossil fuel-based economy. That's really what we're talking about. I did that over a decade ago. I'm asking everybody --
COOPER: You moved away after making a buttload of money. It's a little hypocritical.
STEYER: I divested. I took the giving pledge.
STEYER: Actually every single person in the country grew up in a fossil fuel economy, including me.
COOPER: But not everybody invested in it and promoted it and tried to reap the benefits of it.
STEYER: Look, every single person did and every single person needs to move away.
STEYER: I have spent a decade fighting on climate. I think it's amazing Trump would go after me. This is about the fourth time; he doesn't know me. I actually view that as --
STEYER: I don't take Trump seriously. I say, if he's paying attention, he's scared. And he should be scared.
COOPER: I want to show the video at the end of the debate. You were in the middle of this by chance or what.
What was that like?
What occurred there?
It's already being talked about a lot.
STEYER: I was just going up to say good night.
STEYER: And I felt like OK, there's something going on here. Good night. I'm out of here.
COOPER: What they were arguing about?
STEYER: I really wasn't listening.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What?
How can you not hear Bernie Sanders?
STEYER: They were talking about getting together or something. I didn't really listen.
COOPER: -- last year when they were -- ?
DAVID AXELROD, CNN HOST: They looked like they were getting together.
STEYER: I really -- it was one of those awkward moments where I felt like, you know, I need to move on --
COOPER: I felt that for you.
STEYER: -- as far as possible.
STEYER: Look, you could see it's awkward moment. And that's what I could see. So my goal was simply to say good night to two people who I respect. So the last thing I wanted to do was get in between the two of them and try and listen in. That was not my goal and I didn't do it.
COOPER: I want to open it up --
AXELROD: You know, a lot can happen in 20 days. But here in Iowa, you have made great progress; according to some polls in Nevada and South Carolina but not so much here in Iowa, where you're in the single digits.
Is there any point at which you will get out of the race if you're not successful in succeeding races?
Or are you in this to the end?
STEYER: Again, I think I can win this. And I think --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In Iowa?
STEYER: I think I can win this race. And my goal is simply to get in front of as many people and tell them that I'm different from everybody else, I have a different message. I can take on Mr. Trump and beat him on the economy, that he's a fake.
I think these polls -- I think you know from history these polls can really move: 60 percent of early primary voters don't know who they're voting for. And it will move a lot.
AXELROD: So you're expecting to do well in Iowa?
STEYER: I expect the polls to move a lot and from the beginning my polls have moved up. If you look at today's or yesterday's it moved a lot and it moved in my favor.
VAN JONES, CNN HOST: I'm curious, why do you think you're doing well in South Carolina?
You're in double digits now and rising.
You're not doing as well in Iowa but what do you think you have as a business guy or whatever it is that has you doing so well in South Carolina?
STEYER: Van, I'm giving the exact same message wherever I go. In South Carolina, we have a lot of people on the ground. I'm a grassroots person. We have the most people on the ground in South Carolina.
But my message of broken government bought by corporations that I have been fighting for 10 years as an outsider. Climate is my number one priority and I'll do it from the standpoint of environment justice.
And then I have the economic experience and expertise to beat Trump and talk about growth and prosperity. It's the same message everywhere I go. And it actually resonates everywhere.
TERRY MCAULIFFE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Let me ask you, I thought you had a great debate. Congratulations. You have been out on climate change for a long time. Full disclosure, you were helpful to me when I ran for governor, really raised the issue in Hampton Roads, Virginia.
People say, well, he came in late and just wants to buy this thing.
How do you answer the question about a billionaire coming in late into the race like Bloomberg, what do you say to the Democratic activists, he's coming in, trying to buy the race?
STEYER: I think this comes down to message. I think everybody is sitting here, listening to see who is going to tell the truth about what's going on, who is credible, who can win and who is trustworthy.
To me, it's a question of, anyone who can do that, that is the hurdle to jump over. I'm not a famous person. I don't have a famous name. But I think when people hear what I have to say and who I am, I think they can see I really am different from every single other person on the stage.
MCAULIFFE: But you are infamous. You did run millions of ads on impeachment in fairness. Trump knows who you are.
(CROSSTALK) MCAULIFFE: -- TV every night whacking him.
STEYER: Listen, I wasn't whacking him. I was getting 8.5 million Americans to whack him.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Can I ask you about your core message?
You're saying I'll take on Trump on the economy. Every poll you look at, it's the one area where Trump actually does well overwhelmingly.
BORGER: It's the one area in which polls show he has a lot of credibility, not on foreign policy. So people say the economy is going great. We're doing well.
You're saying to them, no, it's not?
STEYER: Actually if you -- you know, the old saying, lies, damned lies and statistics.
BORGER: Right. But if they feel good --
STEYER: Actually, I don't think that's true. I look at this economy. Let's go through statistics.
GDP growth: is it a successful economy if the GDP grows but all the increased income goes to a slim sliver of the richest Americans?
That's not success to me.
He talks about unemployment. And we have very, very low employment.
Is it a success if you have a job but you can't afford to live on that job?
Which is actually what's going on now.
BORGER: Why are people saying they feel OK?
STEYER: Let me just go through this. The last one is this.
Is it a success when we have a booming stock market because he has cut taxes so that -- I saw these numbers. The biggest corporations paid an average of 11 percent. That's a ridiculous number. That is a ridiculously low number.
The top 10 percent of Americans own 85 percent of stocks. So it does help 10 percent of Americans a lot. But really there's been 90 percent of Americans left behind for 40 years.
It's time for us. I go around America and I go door to door. I have been doing this full-time for seven years.
That's what I was trying to say tonight. This is not complicated. This is cruelty for money. This guy's a fraud.
COOPER: To David's question earlier, what is the pathway for you, you expect to win.
How do you see a win coming?
Where do you see actually starting to win?
STEYER: Anderson, it's going to have to be -- I keep telling people, this is not a national election. David knows this better than anybody in the world. This is a series of state elections. How you do in every state impacts the next state.
There's a huge factor about momentum here. So a lot will change. The one thing I'm sure of is a lot will change between now and February 3rd and even --
AXELROD: -- I do know the process.
STEYER: I know you do.
AXELROD: Generally if you get in the single digits and no delegates in Iowa and New Hampshire, you kind of spin off the track. You're different because you are a billionaire. You can self-fund.
How long are you willing to do that?
STEYER: I'm going stay in this as long as I think I can win. And I really think I can. Ad I think there's something wrong here. I'm not in this race because it's a career move for me. I'm in this because there's something terribly wrong in the United States.
We need to take back the government. I'm talking about term limits. Take back the government and arrest the climate crisis.
STEYER: Do those two things, we'll get the policies that people are talking about. We have to do them and people aren't talking honestly about how to do that.
COOPER: We've got time for one more.
NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: If you don't win, how do you imagine you'll play in the general election?
Are you going to spend money to help elect Senate Democrats?
Run ads against Trump?
STEYER: I have started one of the largest grassroots organizations in the United States NextGen America. In 2018, it did the largest youth voter mobilization in American history. It's out there now working. I'm not running it because that would be illegal while I'm running for president.
But I have committed to that kind of grassroots support, which I have done for years, including going door to door with seven national union partners, knocking on 25 million doors in the last two election cycles. We're going to keep doing that.
I'm saying this isn't a career move for me. I think we're in a crisis. I'm doing every single thing I can to do what's right. And I won't stop because I'm not the candidate. I'll do what's right because I'm determined on it and you can look at my record and see whether I do it.
COOPER: Tom Steyer, appreciate it.
STEYER: Anderson Cooper.
COOPER: All right. We'll be right back.
CUOMO: I'm going to bring you in to a very big conversation. Sometimes the best thing that's happened in coverage happens in the commercial. We're having a big debate about the difference between a journalist and a politician.
When it comes to Senators Warren and Sanders tonight and what happened at the end of the debate, which was a follow-through from the biggest moment of the debate, where Senator Warren really owned the moment about this back and forth about whether or not the absurd idea that women can't win for president.
Warren turned it into a huge plus by showing how she and Senator Klobuchar were the only two real winners up on the stage, saying they had never lost to an incumbent Republican.
I have Mayor Mitch Landrieu with me, Mayor Andrew Gillum and former governor Jennifer Granholm.
This discussion we're having is Tom Steyer, at the end, when Warren and Sanders were talking to each other.
As a reporter, I know that he knows what they said. And I said I would want to know what he said. And I wouldn't let him say I don't want to talk about it. You had said, Mitch, I'd never tell you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I wouldn't tell you, either.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why not?
JENNIFER GRANHOLM, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes.
MITCH LANDRIEU, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, because it was a private conversation they were having --
CUOMO: Private conversation. Go backstage.
LANDRIEU: But I would not have lied to you if you said, did you hear what they said?
I would have said yes but I'm not going to tell you because if they intended for you to hear, they would have said it over the microphone.
CUOMO: A reporter wants to know. So in terms of what the moment meant. I thought the genius of it, Governor, was Senator Warren saying, I know what you want me to talk about. I'll turn it into a way bigger point that speaks to the truth of the proposition about women in politics and distinguished her and Klobuchar.
What did you think of the play?
GRANHOLM: Best moment of the night clearly.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I agree.
GRANHOLM: Yes, it really was. I think that it gave for women watching, it was this big moment of feeling of pride, that, that's right, these two women are winners. And the other guys have been losers. So it made us feel, as women, feel like yes, that was great. It was a brilliant move. I was kind of surprised.
GRANHOLM: I knew there would be a question about it. I was surprised she went as far as she did. And on Twitter, the Bernie folks are just like really, really not happy.
LANDRIEU: But if you think about it, she was so smart with how to handle it. She didn't come back and say you're a liar. She was very gracious. But then the talking point that I think you'll see all day tomorrow.
CUOMO: Let's talk about it. Also let's speak to it. Here's the moment that we're talking about.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Anybody knows me knows that it's incomprehensible that I would think that a woman could not be President of the United States. If any of the women on this stage or any of the men on this stage win the nomination, I hope that's not the case, I hope it's me.
SANDERS: But if they do, I will do everything in my power to make sure that they are elected in order to defeat the most dangerous president in the history of our country.
SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Can a woman beat Donald Trump?
Look at the men on this stage. Collectively they have lost 10 elections. The only people on this stage who have won every single election that they have been in are the women, Amy and me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CUOMO: All right. Small problem, big problem, Andrew. Small problem somebody is not telling the truth because either Elizabeth Warren misheard or misremembers -- what's the chance of that? Or Senator Sanders said something in a different context that he doesn't want to now own. Small problem.
Big problem is, the senator is right. And to the governor's point. They don't have any huge winner up on the stage. And the guy who has been at the head of the polls the longest has run for the president unsuccessfully multiple times.
What does that tell you about the main metric.
We have someone who can beat the president as Democrats?
ANDREW GILLUM, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: One, they will have to figure out what was truth and what wasn't.
CUOMO: Or would they leave it alone and then when we ask they'll say stop asking these questions.
GILLUM: The exchange at the end will cause all of us to wonder what is still lingering. The good thing is that she leapfrogged the small part and said I know this is in the ether. People are saying and making the argument -- it's the big argument against her which is whether or not this country will elect a woman president.
And she went straight to the point. Use the facts, as is often her riff, to rely on the facts and the history to make a case. I thought it was very persuasive. Unfortunately, this evening, if you were a viewer and an Iowan or an undecided American, you probably are going to resort back to the question of who is best positioned and aligned to beat Trump, this question of electability.
The problem with the question for a woman is electability relies on what has already happened before. Always before, we have elected a white male with one exception. That means it closes down the opportunity for a Klobuchar and a Warren.
CUOMO: The popular win for Secretary Clinton doesn't matter?
GILLUM: It didn't result in an electoral win. She's not President of the United States.
CUOMO: The bigger point of electability.
Do you check enough boxes to be president?
You can say at least three of the five up there do.
But then it's can you beat this specific opponent?
Where do you think the Democrats are in terms of having found their warrior to go against maybe the most fearsome campaigner in a generation?
LANDRIEU: First of all, the question of who won the debate and then does that make a difference?
Did anything tonight move the numbers?
CUOMO: Who won?
LANDRIEU: Elizabeth Warren won the night. She looked calm and in command. She had the most succinct answers. I think she did better than anybody else.
But at the same time, nobody put a hand on Joe Biden. He was ahead when he went in.
Did it change the numbers?
I don't know that it did. The issue continues to be, because the clear average in all the polls is Biden seems to be the one on the stage that seems like, no matter how well or poor his debate performance is, his numbers continue to do well, much to the surprise of people three months ago who thought he was going to be gone.
I think Warren kind of lifted her game tonight and will get the biggest bump.
GRANHOLM: If you think about this, you want a president who is going to -- you want a candidate to make you feel. You need to walk away from the debate going, I feel like I like this person. He understands or she understands me.
There were three moments tonight I thought that really went there. One was the Elizabeth Warren for women and for allied men. It was strong. I think Joe Biden when he talked about child care and talked about being a single parent after his wife and daughter were lost. [00:25:00]
GRANHOLM: I think that caused people to feel something. And I think Amy Klobuchar had a good moment talking about the story where the worker in the trade discussion showed the uniforms. And she listed the names of the people who had lost their jobs.
Those moments are moments that Iowans and everybody can walk away remembering. And I think Joe Biden, despite the fact maybe he didn't soar to the top or whatever, he had a lot of those little moments like that, that make people realize, you know what, he gets me. He is solid.
And he has experienced more pain in his life than almost -- than anybody on stage for sure and certainly than Donald Trump. And that empathy will be a winner for him in the general if he makes it.
LANDRIEU: But Governor, doesn't it frustrate you?
It frustrates me when they talk about healthcare they get so much into the weeds and they don't personalize it. They forget to make the case that it's Trump who is trying to take away everybody's healthcare and they don't use personalized stories to talk about how incredibly significant the Affordable Care Act and the extension of health care has been to all of us.
Because everybody has a story. And I think they missed that opportunity --
CUOMO: Preexisting conditions alone.
So the president has the opposite strategy of the people in your party, in all due respect, which is what do I need to do to win or to say?
How many times do I have to say it and to whom?
So healthcare, he said, I'm the who kept your preexisting conditions. That's a big fat lie.
CUOMO: So they're suing right now in federal court. In fact, the GOP asked the court to not hear the case until after the election so that they conceal their true intentions. But you do not hear Democrats saying that.
And when one of them gives a -- so the question, which is an intelligent question, so what's your price tag?
And you give the price tag and here's why it's worth it over time -- I think that you should have heard someone there today say that's a great answer. Doesn't beat the president. Your price tag, you're not going to get that plan done. We don't know what we're going to get done. You don't know what package you'll get. We don't know.
And anybody who asks the question hasn't been in the process. This is what beats the president. He's a liar about preexisting conditions. They're not fighting the fight.
GILLUM: But they have to win the race that they're in first. And unfortunately, amongst the Democratic primary voters, we do -- a lot of us want to know the answers to some of the complicated questions.
What you're getting to and I think a lot of us are also thinking about it, what does it look like to have a Democratic candidate on the same stage as Trump?
And the truth is it is asymmetrical warfare. This guy will not play by any rules that are acceptable to any norms in politics whatsoever. But I don't think you don't answer that by also being the person who doesn't play by any normal rules --
GILLUM: -- the American people are sick of the chaos. And I think we have to have someone who will offer an answer, that gives us more calm and a lot less stress from the moments that we get every time we hear this president.
CUOMO: You guys are from different parts of the country; you guys are similar but you talk to different constituencies all the time. I bet you all the question you get asked most is often, Governor, do you think she/he can beat Trump?
GRANHOLM: Oh, sure. Absolutely, 100 percent.
CUOMO: You have to win the race you're in first. That is the race.
GILLUM: But when they're on the stage, which one will pop off and flip off and then the next one -- ?
CUOMO: You know who it would have been?
The winner of the debate tonight.
CUOMO: Here's how to beat Trump.
GRANHOLM: They're doing this on the campaign trail. They're calling him out.
CUOMO: This is the biggest stage.
GRANHOLM: Maybe six of them missed an opportunity. But they are doing it in Iowa. His two tweets yesterday about I'm protecting preexisting conditions. They were all tweeting about that. They should have said it on the stage. If buts were candy, we would all have a merry Christmas.
GILLUM: Tonight's debate didn't meet the moment. This didn't feel like we only got 20 days left for the first election in this thing, which may whittle field down to I don't know, 3-4 people possibly.
I do feel like Elizabeth performed exceptionally well. But I think like most viewers out there, we're waiting for who is going to be the one to show up on the stage and say that's the person that can take him.
CUOMO: -- analysis does anybody a favor by missing the true expectation.
CUOMO: We were together the night the state polls came out. "Oh, everybody beats Trump."
And the states by states came out. He was dead even or up in all the big states. And you said, "I told you this was going to be a race."
LANDRIEU: Definitely going to be a race. I give the president a 50- 50 chance today of getting reelected. He's an incumbent and the economy is good. The stock market today is fairly good --
GRANHOLM: And Russians are in for him. So, just saying.
LANDRIEU: And incumbents tend to get reelected. But having said that, there a reason why his numbers are at 41. And I think the American public has his number.
GRANHOLM: Because they can't stand him.
LANDRIEU: And I think the Democrats are going to show up, and if we show up, we're going to beat him.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: You've got to win in the right places. You've got to figure out the right way. We'll see if that happens. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
CUOMO: You guys are much smarter than I am.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE; Thank you.
CUOMO: That's why I appreciate you taking all this. You should have seen how they came after me in the break.
We're going to take a quick break here. Now, when we come back, look, everything that happens tonight fits into this puzzle about what happens in the next 20 days and why. We'll help you figure it out. Stay with CNN.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: We are back here in Des Moines, Iowa, talking about the debate that -- the debate that was. Van, was it different than you -- it was much different than you expected?
VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It was. I have to just say, you know, I came away feeling worried for the Democratic Party. I felt like tonight was the night that they were going to all put the fireworks out there, you were going to see the best of the best, and it just felt like a big bowl of cold oatmeal.
And I missed -- I've got to say this. I missed Andrew Yang tonight.
DAVID AXELROD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: All right.
JONES: And I missed Cory Booker.
AXELROD: All right. Who wins the drinking game?
JONES: And I missed Cory Booker. And I missed Kamala Harris. And I missed Castro. I missed some of those voices and some of those issues of immigration and criminal justice. There's something that this party has got to figure out. How can it light that fire again? This felt like drudgery tonight. It shouldn't feel this way close to one of the most important elections in the country.
That said, there were some beautiful moments, and I've got to say for Joe Biden, who I thought had mostly a rough night. He did, at moments, remind you of why so many people, including a lot of black voters, love him. I don't think he has to be a good debater. He just has to be a good Joe Biden most of the time. At the end of this thing, it was a good Joe Biden. But I tell you, I missed some of those other votes tonight.
COOPER: From your vantage point, watching that, no one on that stage, in your mind, walked away as, that's the person who can go toe-to-toe?
JONES: I'm thinking about people -- I'm thinking about every day places like Oakland and Philadelphia, whatever. Can any those people get excited about what I saw tonight? And I don't see it. And I have to be honest about it. I don't see it. You've got to do better.
JESS MCINTOSH, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think Elizabeth Warren had a very exciting night. I think she had a really good energy all the way through. I thought Joe Biden was very shaky throughout most of the debate, but in the end, he really came in with -- he had a couple of moments where I was like, ah, yes, that's the Joe Biden that I absolutely used to love. He's back. Keep that energy.
When he talked about childcare and -- and his caring for his own sons while being a newly-elected senator, it was -- it was not just a great moment for him. It was an important moment for the issue, because we always talk about that issue as a woman's issue, and it's not. It's a family issue. And families are made up of all men and women and all kinds of folks. And Joe Biden seems to get that in that moment.
I think we put too much emphasis on who can go toe to toe on the debate stage with Donald Trump. I think it's very unlikely that Donald Trump makes a debate stage with any of these folks. I want to see who's making the case to the American public that will fit next to his case, even if that's made from separate rallies on separate air dates.
AXELROD: We have to make the question, you say you are unhappy. You missed all these voices, but the fact is that we've had multiple debates now. People have had a chance to look at these people over and over again. So maybe people don't share your excitement about it. I mean --
JONES: And again, here's the deal. We have a party that's 25 percent African-American.
JONES: If any of those candidates that I just mentioned were riding a big wave of people of color's support, they would've been on the state. I'm not blaming anybody. I'm not saying -- I'm saying that there was something missing tonight that had been missing before, and I don't think it's unrelated to the fact that some of those voices were not there.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: And you were saying that Elizabeth Warren had this great night. It's interesting to me, though, because I think it's a different Elizabeth Warren.
The Elizabeth Warren we saw at the beginning of the campaign was somebody who was chock-a-block, details. These are my policy proposals. This is what I'm going to talk about.
Then she got challenged on Medicare for all. How are you going to pay for it? And she backed off. She backed away. She's backing away from Bernie.
And what was her closing argument tonight? It wasn't about her policy proposals. It was I'm electable. Please like me. Look at what happened to Jack Kennedy. People didn't like him. You know, they didn't like him, because he was a Catholic. And so it's -- it's been a transformation of Elizabeth Warren, and I
don't know whether you like her more now or then, or when she began, but it's totally different.
MCINTOSH: She's definitely been through a wringer. She has been through a wringer that I think probably only Kamala Harris could've stood on stage and said, yes, I've experienced the same.
BORGER: But she's not the candidate that's --
MCINTOSH: No. No. She didn't just get challenged on Medicare for all. She got challenged on whether or not she got fired because she was pregnant, as she said she did. I mean, she's getting challenged pretty much on every -- every faction of her plan and bio.
MCINTOSH: And now you've got Bernie Sanders's campaign going really negative in several different ways on her.
AXELROD: But you know what? That is -- that is actually --
MCINTOSH: Of course, it makes you a different candidate.
AXELROD: Not -- I'm not endorsing any of those things, but the fact, is, you know, it's always fun to have the ride up to the top.
MCINTOSH: Oh, for sure.
AXELROD: That's the exhilarating part of the campaign. Staying there is really tough, because once you get there, you're a target, and you've got to deal with that. And you know, she's learned that. Buttigieg has learned that.
My feeling about this whole thing is, I really do you think this race is going to be defined very much by what happens in Iowa. If Joe Biden wins the Iowa caucuses, he's in a very good position to win the nomination.
JONES: Game over.
AXELROD: If Pete Buttigieg --
COOPER: Really? You think game over?
MCINTOSH: Yes. Pretty close, yes.
BORGER: Pretty close.
JONES: If he wins Iowa?
BORGER: But that's a big "if."
AXELROD: If -- But if Pete Buttigieg finishes ahead of him, or if Biden should slip down --
MCINTOSH: Biden's at fourth, yes.
AXELROD: -- to fourth, it's a completely different race. If Elizabeth Warren beat Bernie Sanders, she's very much in this race. If she doesn't, and if she doesn't finish force to the top here, if she's down the line, both she and Buttigieg have a lot on the line.
The question is, did this debate --
MCINTOSH: Change any -- yes.
AXELROD: -- change any of those dynamics? I'm not sure that it did.
NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: You heard, I think, Biden going back to the same argument, that he is the one with the coalition. Right? He's got African-American voters. He's got Latino voters, doing pretty well with those voters. He's got white working- class voters, even though he's sort of splitting that with Sanders.
So we'll see. He -- it's not clear that any of those candidates, even if they win in these white states, that they can grow and get a more multicultural.
COOPER: Isn't that the argument that Sanders and Warren are making, which is -- which we talked about earlier, which is you need a movement in order to battle a movement?
JONES: Yes. The danger of Biden -- the danger with Biden is, for all those beautiful moments or whatever, two things.
No. 1, he is not building the kind of machine --
JONES: -- and the kind of movement that you see a Warren building or you see a Bernie Sanders building. He's just going on who is. That's not going to be enough.
The other thing is, he will -- everybody is scared of the guy. Everybody who attacks him disappears, like you hit a bug zapper. You never hear from that again. Which means he hasn't been vetted on the questions.
Listen, his stuff on the Iraq War is terrible. The trade stuff is terrible. He's got -- he's got real weaknesses where he says he's strong. He says he's strong in the industrial heartland. I don't think NAFTA and that kinds of stuff makes you strong there.
So my concern about Biden, there's a Biden bubble now. You can't attack him, because otherwise you get bug-zapped out of the race. But he is -- he's weak in some places here. He has not been tested.
TERRY MCAULIFFE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Biden did well. You've got to give him credit on the health care, because I think most people agree they don't want to lose their private insurance.
I think as it relates to national security, I think most Democrats would agree, we ought to keep a small force there to fight terrorism. They don't believe that we ought to take everybody out. I mean, goodness gracious, we've got 50,000 troops in Japan. We've got 26,000 in Korea, which we've had since 1957.
I think he hit the buttons he needed to hit tonight, for a lot of the majority of the Democrats who are out there. I don't think the debate changed anyone's mind tonight. I'm still shocked --
AXELROD: But Terry, you know what? To win a caucus, particularly one where the prediction is that the turnout is going to be quite large, you have to excite people. You have to excite people and encourage them to come out. You have to have a good organization, as well.
The question here in Iowa -- and it will be answered in 20 days. And I don't know the answer to this -- is can he excite enough people to win a high-turnout caucus? And does he have the organization necessary to help in that?
And, you know, Warren has a great organization here, everyone seems to agree. Buttigieg has built a strong organization here. People seem to agree Sanders has his own sort of cult-like following.
JONES: And strong organization.
AXELROD: And -- no, no, no. But it is -- there is an organization. No question.
BORGER: Well --
AXELROD: I think Bernie Sanders has as good a chance as anyone to win the caucuses. But for Biden, the question is -- and it's sort of related to what you're saying -- can he generate the enthusiasm? So yes, I think he did OK tonight.
MCINTOSH: But isn't the -- isn't the --
MCAULIFFE: I don't think Biden thought he was going to win Iowa. He never thought he was going to win Iowa. I don't think that was their strategy.
BORGER: He's been downplaying expectations. And --
MCAULIFFE: They've been downplaying. I think the same thing for New Hampshire. I think their strategy, Nevada, South Carolina.
The key issue, I think, is going to come out of these first four contests. Does someone come out strong heading into March 3? Because I'll go back to the point I said earlier.
AXELROD: Yes, Bloomberg's sitting on the other side.
MCAULIFFE: There is Michael Bloomberg, sitting there with 16 contests and a billion dollars. Someone has to come out with a head of steam after these.
AXELROD: I think if Biden wins -- if Biden wins on the 20th, I saw on the third of February, I think the Bloomberg -- the Bloomberg experiment is not in good shape. If he finishes fourth, it's a whole different --
BORGER: Here's the big question. The big question for Democrats is, if you want a revolution movement, then you're not going to vote for Joe Biden. Because he's not going to give you the revolution.
But if you want relief from --
BORGER: Tums from Donald Trump, and you think you can beat him, and you think he's kind of a Band-Aid to a degree or a bridge to get you over the next four years or whatever it is, then you'll go for him if you think you can win.
Now, I don't know if that's what voters in Iowa are thinking, because they're very motivated, committed.
JONES: The people who have that --
AXELROD: No, but I wouldn't underestimate.
JONES: The people --
AXELROD: I think they care very much about beating Trump
JONES: The people who have that view are betting a lot on the mythology of Joe Biden.
JONES: He's strong in the industrial heartland, and that has not been tested.
And I'm going to tell you what. He -- I get the Hillary Clinton, you know, jitters here, because they told us how electable she was, and how she was going to.
JONES: And you have a lot of working-class people who are going to look at his record as put through the Trump prism, and he is not as tough there, possible.
AXELROD: Yes, but you know what? He is culturally -- he is culturally akin to those voters in a way that Hillary Clinton was not.
JONES: Fair enough.
AXELROD: And I wouldn't underestimate. BORGER: He provides -- you know, it's the comfort candidacy.
COOPER: But has he been challenged, as you said --
BORGER: Not enough.
COOPER: -- on a debate stage by other candidates, because that is what Trump's expertise is?
HENDERSON: No, no.
MCINTOSH: My concern about Biden going up against Trump is that he seems to want to meet Trump on his level, but Biden is a decent human being. Biden is a good guy. Biden is never going to make it to Trump's level. But when he says stuff like, you know, the pushup contest, or taking him out behind the bleachers, it makes me feel like he's going to want to have a tough guy match-up with Trump.
AXELROD: Yes. Well, decency --
MCINTOSH: I think he's going to lose.
HENDERSON: But it was also true last time, I think, Hillary Clinton probably did better in most of those debates --
HENDERSON: -- than Donald Trump, and people didn't really care then.
BORGER: But when he talks about restoring America's soul?
MCINTOSH: That speaks to me. I got that.
MCAULIFFE: Just remember: No one will go as low as Donald Trump.
MCAULIFFE: He will go as low as low can be. And we better be prepared to get in that arena.
COOPER: And Joe Biden sticks to time on those debate stages.
HENDERSON: He does.
COOPER: He stops himself.
MCAULIFFE: Quit talking about the time.
COOPER: All the time. He does it all the time.
MCAULIFFE: Just talk and finish and stop talking about --
AXELROD: I get the feeling he's reaching for the rope.
HENDERSON: Yes. Yes, yes.
AXELROD: The round is over.
JONES: When he says you've got to -- you've got to fight but you've got to heal, I think that's Joe Biden. He's a fighter, but he's a fighter that wants to heal. I think that a big part of this country will resonate with that.
COOPER: Half the people on that -- on that stage tonight have impeachment trials to get to, jury duty. Back to Washington for the impeachment trial. Now, how will that play, with just 20 -- I guess it's 19 days now, since we're over midnight here in -- in Des Moines? We're coming right back from Des Moines with more.
CUOMO: All right. We are 20 days out until the first votes are cast in Iowa. What's the state of play? Very hard to read in this particular state.
But there have been two recent samples. One was a regular poll, Monmouth poll, and we'll put it up for you. It has Biden at the top. You've got to look at the MOE here, right? It's the margin of error is about five points. What does that mean? Well, look, it means that your top three, four people could all have a real shot.
It was a straw poll, which some like better in Iowa. That was last week. Let's put up what that one had.
Wait for it. This was a CNN straw poll that had come out. You've got Bernie there. But again, so now this time Biden is back five, but again, you look at the MOE, which is about four points this time. And, again, it's anybody's race.
What is the read, Gov, on why it's anybody's race, when these people are very different candidates, even within Bernie and Warren?
GRANHOLM: I think it speaks about what's happening in our Democratic party. We have polls in the party. We've got people who want a revolution. We have people who are more moderate. I mean, it just speaks to it.
You've got the older folks who are more on the Biden side. You've got the younger folks who are more with Bernie or Elizabeth. I mean, that's just what happened. It's what's happening.
It's going to be super interesting on the turnout side, in these caucuses to see which of those polls actually shows up. We know that young people often don't show up, but these are caucuses. So it's a different thing. And they are organized. It's -- that's what's going on.
ANDREW GILLUM, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It would also be very interesting to see their level of intensity behind those polls, right? So with this caucus process, you actually have got to get in these things and demonstrate some stamina. It's not a process of going in and choosing your guy and then walking back out. You've got to be in there, go over to the next group, negotiate for second position, third position. Your guy didn't get there, or your candidate didn't make it. Come over to our side.
So I'd be interested with those numbers. I mean, they tell us something, but they don't tell us everything. I'd be interested in knowing where is the intensity behind these candidates? Who do you feel most passionate about? If I had to bet on it, my guess would be Bernie's folks are probably at the top of that list, maybe followed by Elizabeth's folks. And then obviously --
GRANHOLM: Now you've got a rift. It's really interesting is --
GILLUM: There is a rift.
GRANHOLM: -- who are the second choice voters going to go to? So --
CUOMO: Wait, what rift?
GRANHOLM: The rift between Bernie and Elizabeth.
CUOMO: You believe it's a real rift?
GRANHOLM: Well, all I'm saying is it was hot tonight on Twitter. People who were angry, the Bernie folks were very angry about what was happening with Elizabeth. So I don't know how long that lasts, but it was a risk for her to raise this issue in the way that it was raised, because I think it really got people angry that the suggestion was that he was a sexist in some ways.
LANDRIEU: I think voters are really smart, especially the voters in Iowa, who they take -- they take their job really seriously, and start thinking about, well, who -- who really can win?
So if you think about a month ago, everyone was counting Joe Biden out in Iowa and New Hampshire. As a matter of fact, his campaign started downplaying that. But all of a sudden now, he's looking a little bit better than he has in the past.
And I think David Axelrod is right. If Joe Biden somehow wins in Iowa, I think it changes the calculus.
LANDRIEU: Because Joe Biden is going to do really well in South Carolina. And then, of course, Super Tuesday comes around. So you were asking about Bloomberg before, about when does that change his calculus?
If Biden comes out of the first four contests as a winner or three of them, it could very well change it. And if he doesn't, it could actually force the Bloomberg folks to put the -- the foot on the accelerator.
And of course, he's carpet-bombing America right now in states that these candidates are not able to play with.
CUOMO: With ads you're talking about. A lot of different ads.
LANDRIEU: And advertising matters.
GRANHOLM: And there's a lot of southern states in Super Tuesday, too --
GRANHOLM: -- which will tend to go toward Biden, because there's a lot of --
CUOMO: Biden has gotten so much hype about how he's going to do in South Carolina.
LANDRIEU: But if he doesn't --
CUOMO: And if he doesn't perform the way he's expected --
GRANHOLM: No, I totally agree.
CUOMO: -- media narratives start mattering a lot, too, with these votes.
Low moment of the night?
GRANHOLM: I think the a hard moment of the night -- this is for me, because I come from Michigan. We've seen a lot of job losses, obviously, in the automotive sector.
When -- when Bernie Sanders was asked the question about Des Moines being an insurance -- insurance city, and what are you going to do for the people whose jobs are lost? Now, he's doing well in Iowa, so maybe it's not going to be an issue. But it is a really hard question to answer. And I don't know that he answered in a way that would satisfy those whose jobs were going to be lost. And I think that was --
CUOMO: How about you?
GILLUM: Well, I thought that there were some issues, particularly, that could have been of import to black and brown voters that went unaddressed.
GILLUM: This was an opportunity, especially given the absence of diversity on the stage this evening, to say, you know what? We see you. We hear you. And we have a plan to speak to those issues, as well.
And then I -- if I had an extra credit, it didn't happen during the debate, but the after footage that we've seen. We don't know what was said between Senator Sanders and Senator Warren. As a progressive, I felt a little deflated to see some crack there. I realize that they are opponents of each other in this race, or rather aspirants to the same office. But most of us want to see them sort of come out of this thing whole.
LANDRIEU: I'll speak to both of those issues. I completely agree with Andrew on this. That diversity is a -- is a great plus for our country, and I thought every candidate missed a wonderful opportunity to speak to the African-American, the Latin community on health care, on climate change, on national security --
CUOMO: Criminal justice.
LANDRIEU: -- criminal justice.
GRANHOLM: Pete Buttigieg did talk about environment.
LANDRIEU: Well, just a little bit. But if you were -- if you were listening with those other ears, you went, I'm absent tonight.
GRANHOLM: I agree.
LANDRIEU: And again, you know, we were teasing a little bit earlier about what Bernie and Elizabeth said to each other, but they should be smart enough to know you take that off the stage, because everybody is watching, and everybody is listening on a hot mic. And it's just going to exacerbate what I think they think they put down tonight. But you guys are thirsty to know exactly what's said, and you'll keep talking about that.
GILLUM: And so will people.
GRANHOLM: I can't believe that this was not asked, because there have been a lot of discussion about the -- the fact that it was the debate's so white, right? We didn't have -- we lost all the diversity.
CUOMO: So what was it?
GRANHOLM: So why not put them on the spot and say, what would you do about it for next time? Because I think it's a moment to say, look, we cannot just have just Iowa and New Hampshire be the top two.
CUOMO: Well, there won't be next time for the next 20 days. I'll leave it there. That's right. Always leave them hanging.
GRANHOLM: I'm just saying, all four states should be on one day. That's all.
CUOMO: Thank you very much for watching. Stay tuned. An encore presentation of the CNN Democratic presidential debate is next.