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Joe Biden Faces Uncertain Future After Iowa And New Hampshire Losses; Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE) Discusses Biden's Future After Primary Losses; Pete Buttigieg Leads Delegate Race After First Contests. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired February 12, 2020 - 07:30   ET

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


[07:30:00]

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you so much for being here.

HOWARD DEAN, FORMER DNC CHAIRMAN, (D) FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: Let's start with Biden. So, he's making the argument that his sights were always set on South Carolina and we don't know what South Carolina's going to do yet. We still have two weeks to get there.

What do you think of his argument?

DEAN: I think it's actually correct. You know, he -- it's surprising he didn't do better because he was the vice president of the United States under one of the most popular presidents in history.

But, South Carolina and North Carolina -- and Nevada are totally different. There are virtually no minority voters in Iowa and New Hampshire and minority voters are the core of the Democratic constituency. If they don't come out, we don't win. So, this is -- these next two states have Asian-Americans, Latinos, and African- Americans in large numbers and so it's a very different approach.

Having said that, not a good look for people coming in fourth and fifth if you're the vice -- former vice president of the United States. But, Joe is fundamentally right on this argument, I think.

CAMEROTA: I mean, we just had Paul Begala on who reminded us that Bill Clinton didn't win his first four states. So, I mean, how -- you know, that, of course, begs the question of how relevant are Iowa and New Hampshire?

DEAN: Well, they're pretty relevant. Ask Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar. Without Iowa and New Hampshire they don't go anywhere. And now, they're -- Pete Buttigieg is one of the two front-runners and Amy Klobuchar has just shocked the establishment.

So I think they do matter. It's why there's a big argument about having them come first because they're so unrepresentative. But certainly, they -- I like the idea of small states coming first because they do give opportunities for people -- for people you don't know to get into the national spotlight. And some of those people turn out to be great candidates and Bill Clinton was one of them.

CAMEROTA: Yes.

Let's talk about Pete Buttigieg and -- well, Amy Klobuchar -- however you'd like to break it down because they impressed people in New Hampshire. And so, what do you think is next for them as it gets -- the road for them gets tougher now?

DEAN: Well, you know, you have to say Bernie is the front-runner because he's got a much better organization and more money, but Buttigieg actually has more delegates right now. So in terms of numbers he's actually, technically, the front-runner.

Now he's got to go on and -- into these two states with large minority populations of the three largest minorities in the country and do well. And that's going to be critical to him mostly because of the money because a lot of people have made the point here -- and particularly, Paul Begala -- that if you don't have a ton of money in California it's almost impossible to win. And I guarantee you, having spent a lot of time in California recently, they're not paying any attention to this race.

CAMEROTA: In terms of -- I mean, I know that you're saying with delegates, Pete Buttigieg is the front-runner, true -- but in terms of money and --

DEAN: Right.

CAMEROTA: -- momentum and polling -- you know, Bernie Sanders is the front-runner. And are you surprised?

DEAN: Well, I would disagree with you on momentum. I mean, Buttigieg has just come from no place to be second with more delegates. That's a lot of momentum. But definitely in terms of money and organization and experience, Sanders has an organization throughout most of the country.

But it was inevitable -- I mean, this -- look, this is the early testing period for interesting ideas and interesting new candidates who nobody knows anything about. Amy Klobuchar is one of those, Buttigieg is another. And there were a number of others who didn't make it, like Andrew Yang, for example. So that's what these primaries -- early primaries are about.

Look, we're at the beginning of a very long process and I know we have to breathlessly report the news every week on this stuff. But we're just not going to know what happens until at least after Super Tuesday, and I don't think it's going to be over by then.

CAMEROTA: We're just not going to know what happens until it happens. I mean --

DEAN: Right.

CAMEROTA: -- that is -- I sound like Yogi Berra.

But let's look at the polling averages of what is to come, OK? So, Nevada and South Carolina now might be irrelevant but here's where they stood before the voting took place. This is before Iowa, this is before New Hampshire.

Here is Nevada. This was Harry Enten's polling averages of all the Nevada polls. And at that time, Joe Biden was at 22 percent. At that time, Bernie Sanders was at 20 and Elizabeth Warren was at 13. Tom Steyer was at eight.

Let's look at South Carolina, right now, at the polling averages. That's where Joe Biden has -- you know, was running away with it at 32 percent. Bernie Sanders had half that at 16 percent. And then, Tom Steyer at 12 percent.

So, do these still tell us anything today -- those numbers?

DEAN: No, they don't. Here's what's going to happen -- exactly what happened after Iowa.

Pete Buttigieg was no place particular in Iowa -- I mean, in New Hampshire when he won Iowa or came in second or whatever he did. I mean, tied Iowa for -- with Bernie, let's just say, as they tied last night if you want to say that because Buttigieg actually got more delegates -- or the same number of delegates, I guess. So, whatever. They're all going to spin it their own way.

[07:35:04]

But here's what happened. All of a sudden, Amy Klobuchar is now a serious candidate. All of a sudden, Buttigieg, who was a hardworking candidate and was making a good impression, is now a serious candidate.

Voters in South Carolina are going to look at that. Voters in New Hampshire gave Buttigieg and Klobuchar a second look because of what happened in Iowa. And now, they're all going to get another look in South Carolina. And then whatever happens there is going to have an influence on Nevada.

So, the polls that happened before those two events really are not terribly helpful right now.

CAMEROTA: Yes, understood.

Governor, thank you very much. Howard Dean, it was great to have you on.

DEAN: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: John.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right.

So, how far will the Justice Department go to get leniency for a convicted felon who happens to be the president's friend? That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:40:05]

CAMEROTA: The late-night comics are getting into the Valentine's Day spirit.

BERMAN: At least someone is.

CAMEROTA: Oh, do you not observe?

BERMAN: No, I observe.

CAMEROTA: Oh.

BERMAN: I'm blaming you.

CAMEROTA: Oh, no, no -- I observe. I mean, look at me. I'm already celebrating Valentine's Day.

But they're also taking jabs at former vice president Biden over his performance. Here are your late-night laughs.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHEN COLBERT, HOST, CBS "THE LATE SHOW WITH STEPHEN COLBERT": The vice president is not doing all that well in the Granite State. Before the votes were even counted tonight, Biden and his wife flew out to a South Carolina launch party.

Doesn't exactly sound confident. That's like a guy at his wedding saying to love, honor and cherish till death do us part. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a date.

JIMMY FALLON, HOST, NBC "THE TONIGHT SHOW STARRING JIMMY FALLON": Since Valentine's Day is this week, some of the Democratic candidates decided to take a break from negative campaigning in order to write some Valentine's Day poems from the campaign trail. Isn't that nice?

For example, Mike Bloomberg wrote a poem that goes:

Roses are red, Violets are blue.

I bought a Super Bowl ad. Can I buy your vote, too?

Joe Biden's poem goes:

I don't run for glory, Nor praise nor applause. I run to give America A nice neck massage.

And finally, Bernie Sanders poem goes:

Medicare for All! College should be free! Every night at 4:00 a.m. I wake up to pee.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAMEROTA: Ooh.

BERMAN: And those are your late-night laughs.

Look, you heard Joe Biden being the target of the late-night comics. The reason, he finished fifth in New Hampshire. This, after finishing fourth in Iowa. This was not the way that he wanted his campaign to go.

Joining me now is Democratic Sen. Chris Coons, a supporter of Joe Biden who also sits on the Judiciary Committee.

And, Senator, we'll talk to you about some matters of law and justice in a moment. But I do want to ask you, since we just heard from the comics about the vice president's performance, if you can give us a sense of how his spirits are after a fifth-place finish in New Hampshire.

SEN. CHRIS COONS (D-DE): Well, John, his spirits are good. Being with Joe, it always lifts his spirits being back in South Carolina. It always gives him a boost.

As you know well, Joe Biden is someone who is no stranger to being knocked down in life -- to having to readjust himself to tough circumstances and to disappointing issues confronting him. But the thing about Joe that we know over his decades of public service is he always gets up. He gets up for his family, he gets up for our country, and he gets going again.

And his friends and supporters in organized labor and the African- American community are not fair-weather friends. They aren't folks who the next day are looking for a new partner or a new shiny candidate who they might move to. I think they are folks who know Joe -- who know his character and his heart and are going to stick by him.

So, I'm optimistic about his chances in South Carolina. I'll remind you that back in '92, Bill Clinton, who went on to be our nominee and the president -- out of the first 11 primaries and caucuses he only won one of them. And in most of the others, he wasn't even in second place.

So, we've got a previous example of someone who ran very well in diverse states and in southern states and I'm quite optimistic that Joe's got another round in him because he's certainly got the fight in him to get up and keep going.

BERMAN: It is absolutely true about Bill Clinton. There were some extenuating circumstances -- Tom Harkin, Paul Tsongas -- the presence of home-state senators and the fact that Super Tuesday was predominantly southern and everyone expected Bill Clinton -- COONS: Right.

BERMAN: -- to do well there. But I get your point on that.

Is South Carolina a must-win? At which -- at what point will it be decision time for Joe Biden? When does he have to win by?

COONS: Super Tuesday. He's going to have to win a couple of states in Super Tuesday.

But frankly, I'd also take a look at the message coming out of New Hampshire for Bernie Sanders. Sen. Sanders, four years ago, got 60 percent of the vote in New Hampshire. Last night, he got less than half of that and he's had four years to organize. And he is the senator from the adjacent state, just as Paul Tsongas was back in '92.

So, you had two senators, Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, from the states right next to New Hampshire who've had free advertising into that state for the last four years, who've had lots of time to organize on the ground.

That they didn't do better suggests to me that there is a significant number of Democratic voters in the primary looking for a seasoned, moderate alternative. And right now, they're looking between my colleague, Amy Klobuchar, Mayor Pete, and Joe Biden.

I think in the end, they'll come back to Joe Biden, realizing that he's got not just the heart and the compassion, but the experience and the ability to lead our country going forward and to move us past this divisive and difficult period with President Trump.

BERMAN: When you talk about New Hampshire, just a last question on this. You talk about how Elizabeth Warren was next door, Bernie Sanders next door. They've been campaigning for four years.

Joe Biden was the vice president of the United States for eight years. He's certainly not unknown --

COONS: True.

BERMAN: -- to the people of New Hampshire. So how do you know that the people of New Hampshire didn't take a good look at him and say you know what, the moderate alternative I want is Amy Klobuchar or Pete Buttigieg?

[07:45:08]

COONS: Well, John, that's what we'll see in the races that are coming up -- in the caucuses and primaries that will unfold in the next couple of weeks.

I'll remind you a very small percentage of the total delegates are already assigned. I think -- and forgive me, I don't have it -- I think it's 28 delegates out of, like, 1,800 so far. These two very early states -- one caucus, one primary -- are not representative of the Democratic electorate nationally. And I think we need to give Joe a chance to show that his experience as vice president is what will win out in the end.

BERMAN: Minority voters are the backbone of the Democratic Party and by and large --

COONS: Absolutely.

BERMAN: -- they have yet to participate yet.

I do want to ask you a question that deals with your role as a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The president, moments ago, congratulated the attorney general --

COONS: Right.

BERMAN: -- of the United States, William Barr, for intervening in the case of Roger Stone. Stone has been convicted by a jury of his peers for lying to Congress and witness tampering -- convicted.

The Justice Department intervened and said that the sentencing guidelines proposed by prosecutors was just too much. All the prosecutors quit.

What does this tell you about how the president is willing to use his power?

COONS: What we've seen since the impeachment vote last week is simply shocking actions by President Trump and silence, sadly, by many of my colleagues who should be speaking up on behalf of the independence of the Department of Justice and rule of law. This is the sort of thing that happens in other countries, not in the United States.

Where the president, after coming through what, for him, was a challenging political moment, but rather than apologizing for putting the country through it -- as President Clinton did, as President Nixon did -- President Trump is taking out vengeance on those who spoke up against him and trying to exercise his role -- his power to protect those who spoke for him, even a convicted criminal like Roger Stone.

To reach in and interfere in a sentencing recommendation is so unprecedented that all four of the Department of Justice professionals involved in prosecuting this case have withdrawn from the case. In one case, resigned altogether in protest.

Bill Barr is demonstrating that he is not the attorney general for the people of the United States. He swore allegiance to the Constitution, not to one president. And I suspect it's a tough day for a lot of career prosecutors in the U.S. Department of Justice. This is a critical moment for rule of law in our country.

BERMAN: Sen. Chris Coons, we do appreciate you being with us this morning. Thank you.

COONS: Thank you, John. CAMEROTA: OK, we want to get now to Mayor Pete Buttigieg. He is riding high after his strong finish in New Hampshire and he joins us now. Good morning, Mayor.

PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Good morning. Good to be with you.

CAMEROTA: Good to have you.

Is this what you expected? You came in second in New Hampshire -- I think 24.4 percent of the vote. Is that what you expected?

BUTTIGIEG: Well, we came in with high hopes and we are thrilled with the outcome. Now, top-two finishes in both of the first two states demonstrating that we have been able to reach out across urban, rural, and suburban areas and do well with different age groups -- people with different educational backgrounds.

This is how we show, not just tell that our campaign has the vision to call more and more people into the majority that will one day defeat Donald Trump.

And I'm so proud of our organizers and our volunteers, but also mindful that this is just the beginning. We are not going to write off one vote and we're not going to take one vote for granted.

So it's on to Nevada, on to South Carolina and the states beyond to demonstrate in new ways that we can broaden our coalition, earn that win, and make this president a one-term president with a big enough majority that Trumpism goes into the history books along with the Trump presidency.

CAMEROTA: Let's talk about that new strategy because the -- this is just the beginning message is also what former vice president Joe Biden was saying last night. He left New Hampshire, he headed to South Carolina. And let me just play a snippet for you of what his message was when he landed there.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We just heard from the first two of 50 states -- two of them. Not all of the nation, not half the nation, not a quarter of the nation, not 10 percent -- two -- two. Now, where I come from that's the opening bell, not the closing bell. And the fight to end Donald Trump's presidency is just beginning -- just beginning.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAMEROTA: Mayor, does he have a point that we're just at the opening bell?

BUTTIGIEG: Well, he's not wrong. But it's also true that over the course of the last year, every campaign, every candidate has been here in New Hampshire and in Iowa campaigning, getting to know voters, presenting our message. Putting together the organization in order to prove -- in order to show, not just tell our capability to have a good finish at the polls.

[07:50:15]

And after all these conversations about who's best to -- who's in the best position to go out and win elections, now we're actually having elections. So, these first two states are very meaningful.

But, he's right. The competition moves on now to different states -- new states with different makeups, different experiences.

And we will be competing, making sure that our message reaches every voter and earning that support, especially mindful that we are moving into more racially-diverse states. Making sure that our outreach to Latino voters, to black voters who are among those who have experienced most the pain of living under this presidency, and are laser-focused on ensuring that we put together the campaign that will decisively defeat Donald Trump in the fall.

CAMEROTA: Is it fair to say that the road ahead gets harder for you?

BUTTIGIEG: Well, certainly, there is another hill to climb each time and we've got more work to do to demonstrate the breadth of our support. But just as we came from zero to top-two finishes in the first two states, we believe we will be able to develop, build, and grow a fantastic base of support in states like Nevada and South Carolina. And, of course, Super Tuesday is not far behind.

CAMEROTA: Let's talk about your strategy, OK, because last night, a senior aide to Bernie Sanders talked a little bit about their strategy, though it wasn't in specific terms. But here's what he said and I want to know if you see this as a warning.

He says, "Pay attention to Nevada. I've got some tricks in my little back of tricks that you haven't seen yet. Nevada's going to be great."

What are the tricks you have up your sleeve that you're planning?

BUTTIGIEG: I'm not interested in tricks.

I am interested in health care. And when you're in Nevada, you talk to a lot of folks, including workers in organizations like the culinary workers union and other labor organizations that have fought hard for good health care plans. And, Sen. Sanders' message that he's going to erase those plans and replace them with a single government plan for everybody is going to be, I think, a very tough sell among voters who want to have that choice.

So we're going to continue to engage on that issue and so many other issues where we share the same goals and share the same values and ideals, but have a very different approach.

My approach is to build a majority of Americans who are actually ready for big, bold progressive changes not just on health care but on affordability of college, on making sure that we hold corporations accountable, insist that the wealthy pay their fair share, and empower workers with higher wages. And yet, there's a way to do it right now that can actually serve to unify, not further polarize and divide this country.

And if they're going to continue advancing this message that says you're either for a revolution or you must be for the status quo, I think a lot of voters are going to be looking somewhere else.

CAMEROTA: OK, forget the term "tricks." How about tactics? In terms of tactics, are you adding a significant portion of staffers to Nevada to hit the ground there now? Have you just decided to do that? And what about ad spending?

BUTTIGIEG: Well, we've been organizing on the ground in Nevada from very early on. And, of course, we'll be doubling down on that ground game because a strong ground organization and grassroots support is a big part of how we were able to shock the pundits in the first two states.

We're also investing in media, including Latino outreach and Spanish- language media. And making sure that we address folks in the north of the state as well as in Las Vegas where the bulk of the population is, and across the state as a whole. We are going to work to earn every vote, taking no one for granted and writing nobody off.

CAMEROTA: Are you worried at all about Mayor -- former Mayor Michael Bloomberg and all the money he can spend?

BUTTIGIEG: Well, it's certainly a challenge when you see the millions and millions and millions of personal money being put onto the airwaves.

But if there's one thing that our success, so far, has shown, being the least-wealthy candidate in this race, somebody who had no personal fortune to lean on and no national name recognition, to come to where we've come to demonstrates that in this process of American democracy when voters look you in the eye, when they get to kick the tires on your ideas, when they see you debating your competitors, anything is possible.

And we continue to believe that what I have is the winning message to put together the majority that will both earn this nomination and go on and defeat Donald Trump.

CAMEROTA: Will you continue to show your dance moves on the campaign trail?

BUTTIGIEG: I think the less people see me dancing, the better -- but we definitely bring a lot of joy to the campaign trail. And, you know, part of this -- sometimes a sense of grim determination sets in because you're working so hard.

[07:55:05]

But it's also a joyful process because you're engaging with supporters -- with fellow Americans in this extraordinary experience of American democracy. And you never know what moments that can lead to on the campaign trail.

CAMEROTA: Do you think your dance moves cost you the win in New Hampshire?

BUTTIGIEG: Well, I doubt that they played a big role in bringing a majority together, but you never know how things -- how things are received among voters.

CAMEROTA: Mayor Pete Buttigieg, we really appreciate you taking time to talk to NEW DAY. We will speak to you again.

BUTTIGIEG: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: Thanks to our international viewers for watching. For you, "CNN NEWSROOM" is next. For our U.S. viewers, NEW DAY continues after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CAMEROTA: It doesn't get more majestic than this.

BERMAN: No, I just keep waiting.

CAMEROTA: I don't know what you're waiting for.

BERMAN: I just keep waiting -- wait for it.

END