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INSIDE POLITICS

Senator Bernie Sanders Tops Field In New National Poll, Michael Bloomberg Claims Second; Senator Bernie Sanders Repeatedly Going After Michael Bloomberg At Rallies; Michael Bloomberg Is Qualified For Tomorrow's Nevada Debate; Senator Bernie Sanders: Democratic Establishment Is "Nervous" About Us Winning; Senator Bernie Sanders Opens Up Double-Digit Lead In New Poll. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired February 18, 2020 - 12:00   ET

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


[12:00:00]

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JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm John King. Thank you for sharing your day with us.

A new face on the 2020 debate stage Mike Bloomberg qualifies for a Wednesday night showdown in Nevada, a test for his ability to mix it up and to test for moderate rivals who are being drowned out by Bloomberg's staggering ad spending.

Plus, Bernie Sanders is the candidate of the moment. The Vermont Senator leading big in a new national poll and he hopes now for a win in Nevada this weekend to cement him as the Democratic frontrunner.

And some Trump shade today from Barack Obama, the Former Presidents sends a remainder that the longest expansion in American history began on his watch. That is a fact plain and simple unless you work in the Trump White House.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PETER NAVARRO, WHITE HOUSE TRADE AVISER: We have a really solid economy here. The economy is doing great. If you lived through the Obama years, which everybody watching this show did, they remember what it was like.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's a good economy now. It's a great economy now. All I'm asking you is, wasn't it a good economy then as well? That's all I'm asking you.

NAVARRO: No, it wasn't. It was a poor economy during the Obama years.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Okay.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Back to that a little bit later, but we begin the hour with a slightly more crowded debate stage in Nevada. This morning the Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg qualifying for his first democratic debate a new poll from NPR, PBS New Hour and Marist shows Bloomberg now polling at 19 percent nationally second only to Senator Bernie Sanders who is leading the Democratic pack by double digits.

Tomorrow night now looms as a key test for Bloomberg, his first debate in eleven years and the first from his rivals to challenge Mayor Bloomberg directly about his massive spending in this campaign and about his record on race and women's issues in business

And as Mayor, the Bloomberg campaign sounding quite upbeat saying in a statement "Our crowds continue to grow and our coalition continues to broaden. There's a desire in every corner of this country for a proven leader, for someone who will stand up to bullies and special interests and get things done".

That person from the campaign says is Mike Bloomberg and we looking forward to more Americans seeing that on Wednesday night. CNN's Jeff Zeleny now for us live in Las Vegas. Jeff this without a doubt is going to change the complexion of that debate stage.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: John it certainly is. I mean, Michael Bloomberg has been a big part of this campaign really for the last several weeks. He's been shaping his own narrative. He's been introducing himself largely through an unprecedented amount of ad spending, more than $400 million alone into finding his narrative.

Well, that is going to change tomorrow evening here in Las Vegas. We're already seeing what the other candidates are doing. Bernie Sanders is taking great delight in this as well. He is using Mayor Bloomberg as something of a foil to point out what he views as being wrong with billionaires, what he views as being wrong with this policy.

So the question here for Mayor Bloomberg, yes, he has been planning for this debate for quite some time, but can he execute it? This is something that we see in cycle after cycle. It takes a while for most candidates to get used to the debating format.

It takes a while for most candidates to get in the rhythm of Presidential debates. By now most of them are practiced they have had nine under his belt. So for Mayor Bloomberg this is his first one, but how certainly he - how he chooses to engage, how others choose to engage him will be certainly defining here going forward.

But it also potential trouble for others because it means there is less time for Pete Buttigieg, less time for Amy Klobuchar or Joe Biden. So the dynamics of this John are actually quite uncertain here you know no question all of the incoming is going to be directed at Michael Bloomberg, but he's not a novice at politics or policy as well.

So going forward, this is going to be, a, a determining factor into how much of a presence he will be with Bernie Sanders. Are they going head to head here, or are others going to get a lick in as well? So john certainly a bit of a surprise development that most people expected, but it will make that debate here in Las Vegas tomorrow evening even more exciting.

KING: Exciting is an understatement I think. Jeff Zeleny live for us in Vegas we appreciate it Jeff. With me here in studio to share their reporting and their insights, Julie Pace with "The Associated Press" Michael Bender with "The Wall Street Journal" Asma Khalid with "NPR" and Melanie Zanona with "POLITICO".

It is a new phase after spending more than $300 million the supports of that is approaching $400 million I think on television advertising. Now he has to stand there. Now he has to stand there and take it from his rivals. What are the stakes for Michael Bloomberg?

ASMA KHALID, POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, NPR: I mean there is a lot at stake, in major part because thus far he's been able to present his views without any competition. He's not a candidate who does a lot of open town halls with Q&As from voters.

So I am curious to the degree to which he has to engage with his rivals and engage with them in a kind of limited format, right? I mean, these are not extemporaneous long form speeches that he can deliver.

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KHALID: But I mean to some degree also, it's also a chance for voters to actually get a glimpse of him. Beyond the television advertisements, most folks don't have a clear sense of who he is.

KING: And so the test for most Democrats when they meet them traveling the country is who can best Trump? Some of them might come down say I think Sanders, some might thing Biden, some might think Buttigieg. They may think the candidate Bloomberg gets a chance to say that is me. Bernie Sanders Anti-establishment, anti-wall street, anti-big money loves this.

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SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D-VT) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Mr. Bloomberg, like anybody else has a right to run for President. He does that have the right to buy the Presidency.

We say to Mr. Bloomberg, you are certainly not going to win when you have a record in New York City that included racist policies like stop and frisk.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: You can see two of the many tracks that are going to come at Michael Bloomberg on this debate stage. Sanders is going to say, you're trying to buy it, we don't like that in the Democratic Party, and I think, more importantly, to try to get to the substance of the record as Mayor. Stop and frisk other issues as Mayor, to try to make the case. Now you say you're sorry. Now you have learned your lesson but this is your record our record.

JULIE PACE, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, ASSOCIATED PRESS: And that is coming at a particularly important time of the Democratic Primary cycle where we're starting to see more minority voters, particularly black voters in South Carolina and in Super Tuesday states we're going to get to have their say after these early contests in these largely white states.

You know for a Bernie Sanders though Michael Bloomberg's money is just cap to it. Where Bernie Sanders has pealed his whole political career and going after the gone after all the millionaires and the billionaires and now he's got one on stage.

I also think it's going to be interesting to see what Elizabeth Warren does. She steps on to that debate stage needing a breakup performance. She was chosen in a lot of these debates to be more restrained, she hasn't been comfortable, really, going after her rivals. But this is somebody who represents everything she is arguing against. Will she use this as an opportunity to try to make a last stand for her own campaign?

KING: And hint of that today a tweet not long before we came on the air from Senator Elizabeth Warren saying, Mike Bloomberg's expansion of stop and frisk devastated black and brown communities. For years, he used racial justifications to defend the practice and more comments are already resurfacing. We need a nominee that Democratic voters can trust.

MICHAEL BENDER, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: That's the word I want to see on the debate stage. I want to see some of these candidates Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders challenging Mike Bloomberg on some of these policies.

I know Bernie Sanders likes to talks about you shouldn't be able to buy this race. I'm not sure how much how much voters care about that, because he's spending his money to beat Donald Trump, right?

I think that argument falls short. We saw that argument fall short when Bloomberg was attacked on that in New York. There was a similar line of attack his opponents took on him in those races. It didn't make a difference.

But one of the underreported things I think in this Bloomberg campaign so far is that he really doesn't like to get pushed around. When he's challenged by reporters, Mike Bloomberg sort of has the data for his answers and there is sort of no challenge in that.

And it's easy to push him off a script or - and he doesn't follow his handlers, and on some of the stop and frisk issues and the racism questions that came up over the last week, he strayed very quickly from the statement his campaign put out.

So if they push him a little bit that may be - where we see some fireworks because his stump speech is very short, and might that part might actually translate well on a debate stage unless he's pushed by some of his challengers.

KING: And the question is good. MELANIE ZANONA, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, POLITICO: I was going to say his Democratic rivals; actually their campaigns are telling us that they're going to try to get under his skin that they're going to try to rattle him. I think the question for Bloomberg is can he keep his cool?

Does he get irritated at some of these questions and may be losing his temper? That's going to be the big challenge I think for Bloomberg because he wants to show that he can fight Trump and he can take it to Trump, but there is a risk at being too aggressive lashing out at some of these Democratic candidates.

Because voters yes they want to see their candidates fight against Trump, but they don't necessarily want to see them pummeling each other.

KING: And the question is how do you explain your past? In the case of Bernie Sanders, he was once an NRA guy, he was in anti-gun control. And he says I'm - was from Rural Vermont, I was voting in the interest of constituent then I learned my lesson.

Joe Biden talks about the 1994 crime bill. His views on force bussing he says that was then this is now. Michael Bloomberg is trying to make the same case saying I've learned my lesson; it was different when I was Mayor. And now traveling the country and I understand you can't do these things nationally.

But he has a lot to answer for, essentially bragging about stop and frisk, saying you send the cops in the neighborhoods and you push the kids up against the wall and you frisk them. The tone of that was hard to explain.

And then another one here this has been moving around. These things happened people find your record you kept us moving on. This is on the so-called practice of redlining, which is whether or not to loan money into poor communities.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Redlining, if you remember, was the term where banks took hold of neighborhoods and said, people in these neighborhoods are poor, they're not going to be able to pay off their mortgages, tell them you're salesmen, don't go into those areas.

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BLOOMBERG: And then Congress got involved, local elected officials as well, and they said, that's not fair, these people should be able to get credit. Once you started pushing in that direction, banks started making more and more loans where the credit of the person buying the house wasn't as good as you would like.

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KING: He goes on to make the case that that was part of the 2008 financial collapse. It sounds like a very clinical answer there. To some people it also sounds incredibly insensitive.

KHALID: I mean his whole theory of his electability is the notion that he is the only candidate besides Joe Biden who could theoretically do real well with voters of color. I think some of these past statements really poke holes in that theory.

There are questions of around Muslim spy surveillance program that he had when he was the Former Mayor of New York City. There are a whole slew of tactics that he had when he was Mayor of New York City. I think do poked substantive holes into the idea that he could really do well with black and brown voters.

PACE: And one of his issues on stop and frisk is that he was defending stop and frisk into last year. He only decided to apologize as he decided he was looking again to run for President, so you have to question how genuine that apology is, certainly knowing that it's not going to be popular with black voters.

His campaign will point to the fact, and this is true, that in some of the polls that we've seen recently, his numbers are looking pretty good with black voters. One of the challenges for his rivals is going to be when he is up on stage and those stories about Michael Bloomberg are not in kind of glossy ads and not backed by millions of dollars how do those numbers shift if they do at all?

KING: And I think to your point about the motivations it was just last year. This not you changed your mind five years ago, ten years ago you changed your mind a couple months ago as you're running for President.

But he does have all those ads. So even if he makes a debate mistake he can recover unlike other candidates who several of whom right cross rows including Joe Biden who did not do well in Iowa, did not do well in New Hampshire, keep saying, okay, it's only two states, everybody calm down.

But Biden is now - knows going in this is going to be Bloomberg's unveiling, if you will. A lot of attention on Senator Sanders because of his rise we're going to talk more about those numbers in a few minutes, and Joe Biden is trying to gain traction back in the race. So he too going after Bloomberg.

This is last night at a fundraiser in Denver. By the way Mayor Bloomberg says the healthcare bill was a disaster, it was a lousy bill. But he has $60 billion to explain that essentially trying to say that hey Democrats Mayor Bloomberg not only goes for stop and frisk, he not only goes against minority communities, he was against Obamacare.

BLENDER: Yes, I think that is I mean all eyes are going to - there is a lot of curiosity to see how Bloomberg performs in this debate, but Biden needs a strong debate here, too. I mean, it's a fair question of what he needs to do in South Carolina here to make clear what his path forward is, because right now there are a lot of questions on how he goes forward even with a strong showing in South Carolina.

ZANONA: There is also a risk of other candidates getting overshadowed with all these tensions on Bloomberg tomorrow who is not even really on the ballot in Nevada. Do these candidates get drowned out? They're already being drowned out by Bloomberg's ads and so there is the risk if they all really try to focus on Bloomberg and go after him, but then they don't get as much attention coming on this debate and get the momentum that they need.

KING: The strategy of picking to talk about you or take a shot at him is going to be fascinating as we watch. I suspect this will drive up interest in the debate. There is quick programming note for us; it's a very big week here on CNN.

Five Presidential Town Halls, Sanders, Buttigieg, Klobuchar, Biden and Warren all live in Las Vegas trying to make their case ahead of this weekend Nevada Caucuses the first three are up tonight you see at right there starting at 8:00 pm eastern that is only here on CNN. Up next for us looking 2020 race in one key Super Tuesday state.

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KING: Ignore or underestimate Bernie Sanders at your peril. He has momentum in Nevada, has the resources to play when the primary calendar gets more crowded in March. And now a new national poll shows Senator Sanders leading the 2020 Democratic Pack.

Let's take a look at the numbers, and they're wow numbers when you think about Bernie Sanders. 31 percent now in this NPR, PBS News and Marist poll 31 percent nationally a big lead over the second place Michael Bloomberg Joe Biden down to third at 15 percent, Warren at 12, Klobuchar at 9 and Buttigieg at 8.

A wow factor for Senator Sanders and watch how the race has changed since December. Sanders gaining nine points Bloomberg again almost $400 million in spending, up 15 points Biden down nine, Warren down five, Klobuchar up five and Buttigieg down two moderates down and this moderate up progressive down and Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders jumping up in the race.

Bloomberg does have some strength in this race and they're coming at Joe Biden's expense. Voters 45 and older like Mayor Bloomberg moderates like Mayor Bloomberg. This is the constituencies these are the constituencies Joe Biden thought would be his when he got in this race, now he has fierce competition.

Sanders is consolidating the left and impressively so. He is very strong with voters under 45, with progressives, with male voters, with voters without college degrees and in urban areas. Senator Sanders expanding at just the right moment and you know what he says? Everyone is nervous.

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SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The Democratic establishment is getting nervous. You know what? They should be getting nervous and they're trying to figure out all kinds of ways, how do we stop Bernie and the movement? But they are not going to succeed.

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KING: It is, if you look at the national numbers, again, I think too often people say, oh, yes, Sanders. He's got this group over here but he can't get anywhere. I forgot to introduce Nathan is with us. I'm sorry Nathan. I can't ask you a question without saying hello.

Nathan Gonzalez, publisher for "Inside Elections" joins the conversation. There is just this tendency. We did it in 2016 and people now say, oh yes, Bernie has got his group, but. We better drop the "But."

NATHAN GONZALES, EDITOR & PUBLISHER, INSIDE ELECTIONS: Well, I think looking back last year; two of the most consistent polling numbers were Biden and Sanders. They were consistently one and two. What we're seeing now is what we thought it was going to happen in that Biden was going to struggle in early states.

[12:20:00]

GONZALES: But what we're figuring out is what the real life impact of that is? And that is Biden going down and Sanders increasing. I think there are some comparisons to 2016 where candidate Donald Trump didn't have a majority of the vote until well into the process, but he had a hard-core 25, 30 percent.

The key difference from 2016 in the Republican race is that because of the proportional allocation of delegates, it's going to be hard for Bernie to get a majority when you're only getting a certain percentage. If he is going to be in this race if he doesn't win the nomination, he's going to be in this race for a very long time.

KING: Rightly said and in an odd way, it's an arguments for other candidates to stay in if you think if you get out, Sanders goes up. You have more candidates stay in to keep him in 20s and the 30s. But then the issue then is he's still getting the most delegates.

PACE: It's a real dilemma. I actually talked to a couple people who worked for Jeb Bush's campaign in 2016 because they were living the same issues with Trump, and they said you know at that time the moderates sort of figured, maybe one of us will take off Trump's numbers won't go up, but they also found is actually winning begets momentum.

And momentum begets more people wanting to be on your team and that's what I would watch with Senator Sanders right now. We've worked under this assumption that his group of voters may be loyal but he can't grow. If you win people want to be on your team. I think he does have the potential to keep growing if his results continue to keep look good.

BENDER: That's been the other issue for Bernie Sanders is we all talk about how much more difficult it will be for Bernie to beat Trump. But this poll, as other national polls have shown, Sanders is beating Trump pretty close to what the other candidates are. Biden is plus 6, Bloomberg is plus 4 over Trump, but Biden is plus 3.

KING: And so Sanders is competitive, without a doubt. Now let's take it from the national poll into the state polling. We should be careful, I'm going to be a broken record on this, we pick Presidents state-by-state.

National polls tell you about the trends in the race, they don't tell you who is going to win. But Sanders won New Hampshire. Most people think he's leading in Nevada, there hasn't been new polling, but a lot of people on the ground say he has momentum there. Then we'll see what happens in South Carolina and then you come to Super Tuesday.

Among the states on Super Tuesday, Virginia which is a diverse Democratic Party increasingly a blue state that used to be a purple state and a red state, Bloomberg and Sanders on top here with Biden in the top tier if you want to do these three candidates there. Again everywhere you look, Sanders there, competitive everywhere.

KHALID: And there is a couple reasons. I did some reporting I remember last summer on how so much thought was that the progressive movement would splinter between Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and maybe Julian Castro.

Now you look at some of those same progressive groups and they've largely aligned behind Bernie Sanders. To me that's been amazing shift overtime. To your point I think that a lot of folks thought Bernie Sanders had a ceiling.

I think time and time again what we've seen is actually that ceiling seems to be a lot higher than many journalists thought initially. I would argue that his campaign, his base of voters is a lot more diverse than what we saw in 2016.

I mean, you talked about Joe Biden doing well with voters of color. He seems to do well with older African-American voters. If you look at the cross tabs its Bernie Sanders winning with Latinos often its Bernie Sanders doing better with Asian-American voters often and even younger African-American voters.

KING: And to that point I just want to bring in some polling here. If you look at this is Virginia Monmouth University Poll among those who describes themselves as liberals Bernie Sanders on top with 32 percent no surprise.

But look at Warren has dropped down to 11. But look over here among those who were say they are moderates to conservatives Bloomberg has the lead among Virginia Democrats but Bernie Sanders is at 18 percent among those who call themselves as moderate or conservatives.

So I think we use - because we're used to them we use these same ideological labels that I think a lot of them need to be flushed in today's politics. It's not how people are aligning themselves. They're doing it by issues or by personal affinity.

GONZALES: And I think one of the things we're may be aren't talking about is the anti-establishment threat that I think is running in the Democratic Party. When I go back again to 2016 I think Ted Cruz was running the best - he ran the best campaign for what we thought the Republican Party was and then candidate Trump just came and swept up all this anti-establishment.

I think in this race, maybe Senator Elizabeth Warren is running the best campaign for what we thought the Democratic Party really was, but this anti-establishment threat is really powerful and having not just the ceiling but a high floor in a crowded race. That's a good place to be.

KING: And I would take the anti-establishment called lack of trust and actually open distrust if traditional politicians. It's hard it's just as Trump turned on the Governors and the Senators, he didn't have a title. Somehow Sanders has managed, even though he's a career politician, he has somehow managed, I don't say that critically - it's a gift if you will to be a career politician and somehow people view you as not like them.

PACE: Absolutely and I think you are - I think that is right you're seeing a very similar dynamic in the Democratic electorate right now. Whether it is just a feeling like elected leaders in their own party didn't do enough for that and haven't paid attention to what's really going on with health care, with education, with college debt.

And that's why I think for young voters in particular, they just look at Washington and they just don't see anyone that represents them. It is an amazing thing that they look at 78-year-old career politician and think that he would. But he has managed to make that case to them very effectively.

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KING: And again to your point in the Virginia numbers among younger votes, the challenge is can you turn them out, can you excite them? There is some questions after the first couple of contest of whether Sanders is actually brining out new and voters.

We will see as move on. 35 percent of those of those 18 to 49 he owns. I mean, if you come over here, it's a little bit more of a competition when you get to voters 65 and older a little bit more of a competition. But those younger voters, if they turn out, they are overwhelmingly for Sanders.

KHALID: And we have got to look at like California and Texas, some of these massive states voting on Super Tuesday. The electorate, I mean if you're really honest, seems to be really favorable to a candidate like Bernie Sanders.

You have young voters you've got a lot of Latino voters, a lot of diverse voters. I mean, I just look at the map and it is you know as unclear as it looks to me for candidate like Amy Klobuchar and Elizabeth Warren, it looks pretty clear favorable for Bernie Sanders.

KING: Right and if you can put the calendar up I'm not going to get into the calendar because it is so complicated. This goes from Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, South Carolina into the blur those three Tuesdays in March. It's going to be amazing test for organization and energy and enthusiasm more on that in the days ahead.

Up next, for us though a judge says Roger Stone's sentencing will go ahead as scheduled. As the President, he's sending some new tweets attacking that very same judge.

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