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Democratic Rivals Attack Bloomberg, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) At Nevada Debate; Democrats Spar In The Most Contentious Debate Of 2020 Race. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired February 20, 2020 - 07:00   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN NEW DAY: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is New Day.

An urgent two-hour free for all that sizzled with animosity.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN NEW DAY: And it wasn't just our first two hours.

BERMAN: No, no. That was the lead for The Washington Post this morning describing the Democratic debate in Las Vegas. And it actually might be underselling the tension on that stage.

For Michael Bloomberg, it was his first debate and it looked like it. He struggled to answer questions that nearly every political consultant in America could have told him were coming, including questions in broad size over his stop-and-frisk policy in New York City, and also his treatment of women.


SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He has gotten some number of women, dozens, who knows, to sign nondisclosure agreements.

So Mr. Mayor, are you willing to release all of those women from those nondisclosure agreements so we can hear their side of the story?

MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: None of them accused me of doing anything other than maybe they didn't like the joke I told. And let me just --


CAMEROTA: Well, there was a lot happening between those two. Also the frontrunner at the moment, Bernie Sanders, faced questions about his health and his wealth. But it was Elizabeth Warren, as you saw, who got the lion's share there of speaking time, when you look at your screen. She came out swinging after the polls have showed her lagging behind the field.

And while Sanders and Joe Biden largely escaped unscathed, two moderates were fighting each other. That was Amy Klobuchar and Pete Buttigieg. They engaged in this -- here is one bitter exchange.


PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: But you're staking your candidacy on your Washington experience. You're on the committee that oversees border security. You're on the committee that does trade. You're literally part of the committee that's overseeing these things and were not able to speak to literally the first thing about the politics of the country to ourselves.

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Are you trying to say that I'm dumb? Are you mocking me here, Pete? I said I made an error. People sometimes forget names.


BERMAN: All right. Joining us now from Las Vegas, CNN Political Reporter Arlette Saenz, CNN Political Analyst David Gregory and CNN Political Commentator and Paul Begala. Friends, I have been waiting to hear from the three of you.

Paul, I want to start with you. Explain to me what we saw last night and what it means.

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It's -- I don't know if we'll ever see a debate again where the frontrunner does not bear the brunt of the attacks. This is -- and it's a burden I bear. This is what I predicted. You should change the Karen Baloney (ph) to the Amazing Kreskin.

CAMEROTA: We remember.

BEGALA: Because it was obvious, that's why I saw it. This was a gift to Bernie Sanders. It was a rough night for Mike Bloomberg. Man, Elizabeth Warren just gutted him like a flounder on island sound. It was rough for him.

But Bernie -- we are two days away from the voting in Nevada and they attacked a guy who's not on the ballot in Nevada. It was, I thought, tactically really dumb for the Democrats. I'm not for any of these particular candidates. Bloomberg, really, I thought performed terribly. I thought Senator Warren really just clocked him.

But Bernie is the frontrunner. Bernie is very likely to win in Nevada. This was your one chance, other Democrats competing against Bernie, to stop him from winning Nevada and I think they missed that chance. So Bernie the big winner, and then, of course, strategically, Donald Trump has got to be happy with a Democratic demolition derby.

CAMEROTA: I want to play another moment from Elizabeth Warren going after Bloomberg, because it sounded familiar to me. It reminded me of a debate in which Megyn Kelly asked Donald Trump a question very similar to this. So listen to this moment.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) WARREN: I'd like to talk about who we're running against. A billionaire who calls women fat broads and horse-faced lesbians. And no, I'm not talking about Donald Trump. I'm talking about Mayor Bloomberg. Democrats are not going to win if we have a nominee who has a history of hiding his tax returns, of harassing women and of supporting racist policies like redlining and stop-and-frisk.

Look, I'll support whoever the Democratic nominee is.


But understand this. Democrats take a huge risk if we just substitute one arrogant billionaire for another.


CAMEROTA: David Gregory, do Democrats also take a huge risk if they compare anyone on that stage, any of their alleged allies or at some point they'll need them to President Trump? Is that kind of moral equivalence helpful or hurtful for Democrats?

DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I don't know on that position. What I'm thinking about is I thought that was a very good attack by Elizabeth Warren, but I question it. Donald Trump was elected president. So if Bernie Sanders is taking a page from Donald Trump and by not releasing all his medical records, he's understood that certain things have not led to political. So I'm not sure that's the answer.

But I think the overall argument was an important one, which is if his -- the rationale from Bloomberg's candidacy is electability. Number one, he didn't perform very well on the debate stage. How is he going to do against Donald Trump and how is he going to face off if he faces some of the similar issues if her point was that Democrats won't be enthusiastic enough about voting.

But I think the overall take -- I mean, I'm with Paul on this, two points, which is Bernie Sanders, who believes that being a billionaire is immoral, which a lot of people may agree with that, but that's something to sit with. Because a lot of voters are going to sit back and go, really? Because I'd like to be a billionaire, what's wrong with being successful in this country? And they like that about Donald Trump. That's a real contrast.

And Elizabeth Warren, who did a great takedown of Bloomberg, he's not the immediate threat to her. It's Bernie Sanders. That's the one who's in the way of her path to a nomination. So I don't understand why he got off scot-free.

And I'm with Paul too on this one. I think President Trump comes out well after last night because it got so nasty. And because you do have a frontrunner, who that is a socialist. That's not a recycled knock against him. It is a fundamental issue of the direction of our country and of our economy that people are going to really debate.

BERMAN: We'll let Paul just sit here and wallow more in the praise that's being thrown his way. Arlette, it is striking. I was watching social media during the debate and then watching T,V, and then hearing from people that I talk to regularly. It seemed very important to Trump supporters and conservatives to talk about what a bad debate performance Michael Bloomberg had. And I'm not saying he was good last night. I think any objective analysis, including from the Bloomberg campaign, was that his debate performance needs improvement. But for Trump supporters, they were dying to point it out. It was super important to them to point out how bad Michael Bloomberg was.

And my question is why? What does that tell you about how they perceive Michael Bloomberg?

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, it's clear from President Trump's tweets and comments that he is paying attention to Michael Bloomberg and that perhaps Bloomberg has gotten under his skin a bit in this Democratic primary that's playing out. So it's not entirely surprising that President Trump supporters might be basking in the fact that Bloomberg had a lackluster performance last night.

And I agree with both David and Paul that Bernie Sanders really emerged from this debate unscathed since the moderates on that stage really focused their attention and their fire right at Michael Bloomberg. And it's kind of emblematic of what we've seen play out in this Democratic primary process as that moderate establishment wing is still pretty splintered and it's preventing any one candidate right now from getting all of those supporters in the moderate wing to coalesce someone to potentially position a challenge against Bernie Sanders.

And I think one question also going forward is whether Bloomberg's shaky performance last night, whether that is any benefit to Joe Biden. Bloomberg has been eating into Biden's support, particularly when it comes to black voters. And you saw the candidates on that stage really try to make a dent into the two key constituencies of the Democratic Party, both women and black voters with their attacks on Michael Bloomberg.

So I think one person to watch in the coming days and weeks is how that Bloomberg performance might potentially affect Joe Biden.

CAMEROTA: So, Paul, what has changed?

GREGORY: Can I just say about --

CAMEROTA: Yes, go ahead quickly, David.

GREGORY: No, go ahead. Go ahead. I'll wait for Paul.

CAMEROTA: Well, I just want to know in terms of the equation, where are we this morning? What has changed given between even for Biden or Bloomberg? What looks different, if anything, this morning to you?

BEGALA: Well, Bernie came in strong and he came out strong. The one shot he took, I thought, was pretty effective, like what Bloomberg pointed out, that you're a socialist millionaire with three homes. I don't know that many Sanders supporters know that.


BERMAN: Let's have those played out, actually, Paul, because it's interesting. That was the most tweeted about moment in the debate. So let's play that.


BLOOMBERG: What a wonderful country we have. The best known socialist in the country happens to be a millionaire with three Houses. What did I miss here?


BERMAN: I yield back to the gentleman from Texas.

BEGALA: That was the one good moment Bloomberg has, one, I think, moment Bernie took on some incoming. But here is what didn't happen. They're standing in Las Vegas. Elizabeth Warren pointed this out in the conclusion, site of one of the worst mass shootings in American history. Bernie Sanders back in the day, when I was working for President Clinton, we're passing the Brady Bill.

Bernie Sanders opposed all the gun safety bills. Biden mentioned it for half a second. Bernie even supported a law that exempts gun manufacturers from being sued. So that is a huge problem for him in Nevada, except nobody raised it. So he skated on perhaps one of his greatest vulnerabilities, especially in Nevada.

To me, that's so weird. They weren't acting like the Nevada caucuses are Saturday. They weren't talking specifically about Nevada and those issues there and they weren't going after the frontrunner in Nevada.


GREGORY: Well, I think just they weren't taking on what makes him so effective is that he's creating a very clear Ideological choice. I think it's important to remember about Bernie Sanders that it's an ideological argument that he's making about President Trump, who he will cast as a conservative, as an oligarch, as someone who is contributing to the income inequality in the country and who's getting in the way of meaningful healthcare delivery for millions of Americans who don't have insurance.

And nobody is taking on his progressive vision within the party. He says what he believes. He's consistent. He's a very good debater. I have a hard time picturing him as president, but I have a hard time picturing Donald Trump as president. But I can certainly picture Bernie Sanders taking on Trump in a debate and knowing what he's talking about and not backing down. And I think that's what his supporters see in him. And so I think that's what comes out of this debate.

And it's striking that Bloomberg is saying essentially, look, everybody else should clear out of the way to make room for me to take on Bernie Sanders. He didn't make that case last night. He didn't inspire that confidence. And here, Bernie Sanders is just a couple of steps away from locking up the lion's share of the delegates, if he does well in Nevada and then, of course, in the Super Tuesday states like California and Texas.

BERMAN: All right. Friends, stand by. You guys have answered almost all of my Bernie questions from last night's debate. The one that I have remaining, and this was referred too obliquely there, is Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar, and to a lesser extent, Elizabeth Warren. The attacks that they made, the uncomfortable moments that they had, what should that tell us about the path they still see to winning the nomination? That's next.




KLOBUCHAR: I wish everyone was as perfect as you, Pete. But let me tell you what it's like to be in the arena.

I'm actually so proud of the work I've done on immigration reform. And you know what? You have not been in the arena doing that work. You've memorized a bunch of talking points and a bunch of things, but I can tell you one thing. What the people of this country want, they want a leader that has the heart for the immigrants of this country and that is me.


CAMEROTA: Pete Buttigieg and Senator Amy Klobuchar went after each other at last night's debate. We only played one side of it. But trust me, there was more. How does this help either of them?

We're back with Arlette Saenz, Paul Begala and CNN Political Commentator Bakari Sellers.

So Pete Buttigieg went after Senator Klobuchar for being on the actual committees that he says are not effective and not doing anything in terms of immigration, he felt, he used. But I guess, Bakari, my question is how does this help either of them, that kind of vitriol and did each other?

BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, don't want to say it's vitriol. I thought it was a good debate. But I'm not sure it helps either one of them. I think that although I -- from my opinion, Pete Buttigieg got the best of that back and forth.

The problem that they both have is they have a ceiling on their support because of their lack of diverse support. And so when you leave Nevada, you go to South Carolina and Super Tuesday, and I'm not sure where either one of them can hope to do well. I think that after last night in Nevada, you'll probably have -- with all the people who voted, you'll probably have Sanders, Biden and Warren in some -- one, two and three in some area. And then you go to South Carolina where Pete nor Amy are going to do well.

I know people want to focus on California and Texas. There are a lot of delegates there. But the fact is there are going to be a lot of people who get shut out in Tennessee, North Carolina, Virginia, Arkansas, throughout the south, where Biden and Bloomberg will likely pick up a lot of delegates.

I just don't see the path for Amy or Pete regardless of whether or not they knock each other out. I mean, it was it was good T.V. But I'm still uncertain to answer John Berman's question he asked me at 3:30 this morning about the path. I'm not sure that either of them have a path going out of this but they do kind of sit in the same lane together.

BERMAN: But they see a path there. There's a reason things happen on a debate stage, particularly things where the candidates were that prepared. And both Klobuchar and Buttigieg were prepared for that moment. Who got the best of it, I'll leave it to you to determine, Paul. But they were both prepared for That moment, likewise, Elizabeth Warren with the attacks she chose to make. She was prepared for that. So she sees some path forward. And with the three -- Joe Biden, I know what he thinks his path is. But for Warren, Buttigieg and Klobuchar, I'm trying to figure out this morning what they think they will get, where they think they will gain a path to the nomination from last night.

BEGALA: Well, I think Warren had a strategy, attack Bloomberg to show that she's the real progressive alternative to the billionaire.


BERMAN: So through to Bernie? So that was to beat Bernie?

BEGALA: I think so, yes. And I think that was wise. I think it was unwise for Senator Warren to turn an attack Amy and Pete and everybody else on the stage.

The Amy/Pete spat, that was really dumb. They're going after the same pool of voters. Again, they should -- one of them should have shown that they're the one that can take on Bernie Sanders, the frontrunner. And the subject matter that Pete chose that Senator Klobuchar, who is a brilliant woman, forgot the name of the president of Mexico, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.

Okay. Look, anybody can forget a name, Jake. You know? You can get it wrong. Alexandria, we all do that. I just thought that was a lame attack. Pete otherwise had a terrific debate because he kept his cool and he was strategic. But I thought -- and, by the way, I thought Amy's comeback was too snarky when she said, well, I guess everybody can't be perfect like you, Pete. I thought neither of them helped each other on that.

Somebody in the middle lane should have attacked the guy frontrunner who is in the left lane, and nobody did that except Bloomberg for one minute.

BERMAN: Wasn't the perfect comment, one you came up with, for Bill Clinton against Paul Tsongas in 1992? Weren't you ripped off?

BEGALA: Bill Clinton came up with all his own stuff. Believe me. I don't claim any credit for his genius.

CAMEROTA: One person who wasn't on the stage, as much as he has been in previous debates, was President Trump, Arlette. I mean, they were going after each other for forgetting a name of a foreign leader when certainly there are criticisms that, you know, President Trump could take for handling a foreign policy, et cetera. We all know those.

And so, you know, obviously, this is what happens in a primary. We get it. They go after each other. Somebody needs to emerge victorious. But there is a question of at what point is too much damage done and are they all sort of tarnished by this process?

SAENZ: Yes. And that's what President Obama warned of just a few months ago, that these Democrats would start engaging in a circular firing squad. And that is something that we certainly saw play out last night. And while they were attacking each other and trying to get the best of each other, their focus was taken away from their target at the end -- over in November, which is President Trump.

And there were only a few moments in the debate where you heard these candidates trying to make contrast with him. You know, Joe Biden said that President Trump is trying to rip Obamacare apart. And I think going forward, these candidates may need to kind of re-center their focus because if they continue going after each other and trying to knock each other down, it takes the focus off of their main goal, which is getting President Trump out of the White House.

BERMAN: So, Bakari, and I'm asking you this as a resident of South Carolina, because I think it's pertinent. Let's talk a little bit about Joe Biden, because he didn't do well in Iowa, didn't do well at all in New Hampshire. But after last night, do you see a path forward for him? Explain to me what the Biden campaign wants to do the next two weeks.

SELLERS: Well, first of all, I'm not a part of the Biden campaign.

BERMAN: I understand. I'm asking you as someone from South Carolina with the South Carolina where Biden needs to win.

SELLERS: He has a path to be the last person standing with Bernie Sanders. The path is narrow, but it's there. He has to do well, first, second, third in Nevada. And then he comes to South Carolina where, by all accounts, he's going to win South Carolina.

The biggest question that Joe Biden has in South Carolina is not winning it, but it's by how much does he win it. If he's able to get a little momentum out of South Carolina -- out of Nevada, he'll do extremely well in South Carolina.

This is where the calendar puts Joe Biden at an advantage over Michael Bloomberg. Because Super Tuesday is only three days after South Carolina, if Joe Biden is able to have that momentum and come out of South Carolina with an 8, 10, 12-point victory over the rest of the field, and not a one or two-point squeaker but an 8, 10, 12-point victory, he'll go into Super Tuesday with momentum. And there's nothing that anyone can do in those three days to blunt that momentum.

Now, the only thing that all the candidates have to watch out for, I know that the primary will run through the south on Super Tuesday where Bloomberg and particularly Joe Biden will do extremely well. What they cannot allow to happen is if Bernie Sanders wins California and locks the rest of them out of delegates, then Bernie Sanders, in all likelihood, is going to be the nominee for the Democratic Party.

If they're able to reach that 15 percent threshold, if Biden or Bloomberg or Buttigieg are able to reach that 15 percent threshold and able to siphon some of those delegates, then you'll have a race that goes on for a long time. You'll get to states like Florida, which is winner take all.

Biden definitely has a chance. He helped himself last night. He didn't hurt himself. And, boy, oh, boy, did Bloomberg help Joe Biden more than probably anybody else on that stage.


CAMEROTA: These next two weeks are going to be obviously nail-biters and fascinating. Thank you all for the analysis on this.

BERMAN: All right. It's not over yet in Nevada. Tonight, two back-to- back CNN presidential town halls. Joe Biden is at 8:00 P.M., Elizabeth Warren's at 9:00 P.M. Eastern live from Las Vegas right here on CNN.

CAMEROTA: All right. There was another billionaire candidate who was not on the debate stage last night. So, up next, we're going to speak with Tom Steyer about what he saw and his chances now.



BLOOMBERG: I've been very lucky, made a lot of money, and I'm giving it all away to make this country better. And a good chunk of it goes to the Democratic Party as well.

CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST: Is it too much? Have you earned too much? Has it been an obscene amount? Should you have earned that much money?

BLOOMBERG: Yes. I work very hard for it. And I'm giving it away.


CAMEROTA: Well, Democratic candidates came out swinging last night. Billionaire Mike Bloomberg made his debate debut and he was the primary target of the other Democratic candidates.

[07:30:00] He had to defend among other things his wealth.