Return to Transcripts main page


Bernie Sanders Projected to Win Nevada Caucuses. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired February 22, 2020 - 22:00   ET



GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: And who knows what the Russians are doing.

PHILLIP: Everyone gets to declare themselves a winner, and I think what we saw in Iowa --

BORGER: Right.


PHILLIP: Yes. What we saw out of Iowa is that instead of Iowa being a calling force in the party, which it has been in the past, everyone walked out of Iowa with no declared winner and everyone declaring that they had a mandate to continue forward. And I think that's one of the reasons why we're seeing this still very lengthy list of candidates still in this race despite the fact that it's clear that a lot of them probably don't have a viable path to the actual nomination and they're staying in the race for a lot of other reasons, including to have influence in the convention potentially.

ALEXANDRA ROJAS, FORMER 2016 BERNIE SANDERS CAMPAIGN ORGANIZER: I think to play devil's advocate a little bit and stick up for Nevada, you know, I completely agree that caucuses in general, they leave a lot of working-class people out. But they also show the organizing strength. And I think that you talked about this earlier. And I think when we have a billionaire in the race who is literally spending in primary states, right? Purposely avoiding caucuses. They've already spent $400 million.

And what do you get to do in primary states? You get to spend unlimited amounts of airwaves that are really going to -- and are showing to have a huge impact on the states to follow. So I think that as we move forward --



BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Caucuses are patently undemocratic. I mean --

MCINTOSH: Well, I completely agree. I'm just pointing out that --

SELLERS: Yes. And I think that Abby's point is correct. I mean, many of the processes that we're going through, this is not some establishment versus Bernie Sanders. In fact, Bernie Sanders was brought into the fold to help lay out some of these new rules that we're seeing, preserve the caucuses. I mean, myself and Governor Granholm, she came up with the idea. I wholeheartedly agree, that you should have Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Nevada vote on the same day.

They're very cheap states. You can make it from one side to another. Cheap in terms of advertising. And you get the cross-section of diversity you need but you also have to abolish the caucuses and let it be a primary and let everybody show up and vote. I think that Iowa, this is the second year in a row, is a disservice to Bernie Sanders.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Elizabeth Warren is about to speak I believe in Seattle. Let's listen in.

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Wow. I think Seattle is ready for some big structural change.


WARREN: And before we get started, I've gotten word tonight from Nevada. Thank you for keeping me in the fight.


WARREN: The race has been called. Bernie has won. Congratulations, Bernie. Come on. But I want to tell you something else that's going on. Since Wednesday night --


WARREN: Since Wednesday night our support has been growing everywhere. Since I stepped on that stage a quarter of a million people have gone to and pitched in their 25 bucks. In three days people have contributed $9 million to this campaign. This fight is counterpunch.


WARREN: So join them. Go to, be part of this fight. That's how we're going to get this done.


WARREN: We have a lot of states to go, and right now I can feel the momentum. So let's stay in this fight. You know, because I'm here in Washington I want to talk specifically for just a minute at the top about a threat that is coming our way. And it's a big threat. Not a tall one but a big one. Michael Bloomberg.

(CROWD BOOS) WARREN: Well, this is important to pay attention to now because he has skipped the first four states and he plans to come in on Super Tuesday and immediately afterwards here in Washington, drop hundreds of millions of dollars, and buy this election.


WARREN: He argues that he is the safest bet to beat Donald Trump. He's not safe. He's just rich. And here's the problem. He's hiding his taxes. He doesn't want you to see them until after the election. Who knows what lurks there?


He has a history now of harassing women and of gender discrimination. And he has defended racist policies like redlining and stop and frisk. So let's think about that. Billionaire who hides his taxes, has a bad history with women, and defends racist policies.

Let me just put it this way. We're not substituting one arrogant billionaire for another in 2020.


WARREN: Because here's the thing. Michael Bloomberg is not the safest candidate. Michael Bloomberg is the riskiest candidate for the Democrats because he cannot win against Donald Trump. This election is not for sale. We are going to make this election about democracy, about you. That's what this is about.


WARREN: So understand this. You bet. Why I am in this fight. Now, look, I am not a lifelong politician. But I am a lifelong fighter. I come by it naturally. I was born and raised in Oklahoma. I have three much older brothers. I learned early fight for your place in a family like that. But I'm a kid who watched early on as our family had a lot of ups and downs. And when my daddy got sick and we went a long, long time without money coming in, I watched when the family station wagon, we lost it.

I listened to my mother cry at night. And I remember when we were right on the edge of losing our home. You know what I remember best about that? I remember the day I stood in the doorway and watched as my mother paced back and forth. She had her slip on, her stocking feet, best dress laid out on the bed. She was 50 years old. She'd never worked outside the home. And she was terrified.

But we were about on the edge of losing our house. And my mother stood there. She looked at me. She looked at that dress. She looked back at me. She walked over, pulled that dress on, and walked to the Sears Roebuck and got a minimum wage job answering phones. My mother saved our home. And more importantly, she saved our family. She taught me how to fight from an early age, fight for the people you love.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE) COOPER: Elizabeth Warren in Seattle.

Back now with the panel. Interesting, Van, that Senator Warren continues to go after Michael Bloomberg.

VAN JONES, FORMER OBAMA ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Hey, listen, in a weird way Bloomberg is a gift to Elizabeth Warren. This is what she does best. This is how she became a household name. She would eviscerate these bankers at these hearings and stuff like that. She -- you know, and it's real. In an age where authenticity matters she is authentically offended by people like Bloomberg who are trying to use their money to have unjust and unfair advantage in our country.

And I think it works for her. I think what you see tonight, you know, she's making a bet. She can't go up against the front-runner.

COOPER: She can't go against Sanders.

JONES: She can't go against Sanders. I mean, that's --

PHILLIP: She has to. She needs to. She should.

MCINTOSH: She did a little bit in the debate. She drew a -- and then again in the CNN town hall. She drew a sort of effectiveness contrast. We both agree on Medicare for All but I have a plan that would actually get it done, whereas, you know, he hasn't been as clear.

JONES: But I think -- I think she is right to direct her main fire against Bloomberg because the contrast there, the reason that she is an important person in our country is because she is willing to effectively challenge the rule of the rich. And she actually can then point back to her record in doing so. So tonight she didn't mention Bernie at all.

MCINTOSH: Yes. I think that's a more comfortable place for her.

COOPER: We're learning about some behind-the-scenes anxiety inside Michael Bloomberg's campaign after Bernie Sanders' Nevada victory. Details on that.



WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: All right. We've got a key race alert. All of a sudden 23 percent of the precincts are now reporting as far as county delegates in Nevada are concerned, and Bernie Sanders maintains his lead. We've already projected he will win the Nevada Democratic presidential caucus. He's got 46.3 percent. Biden is in second place, more than 20 points behind with 23.7 percent. Buttigieg 13.8 percent. Warren 8.9 percent. Steyer 3.7 percent. Klobuchar 3.3 percent. Tulsi Gabbard 0.1 percent.

After Nevada the presidential race heads to South Carolina and then it gets very, very busy on Super Tuesday, 14 states March 3rd. Could Bernie Sanders' primary rivals stop him? Harry Enten is with us once again. He's crunching the numbers.

Harry, so what are the odds of someone getting in Sanders' way?

HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL WRITER AND ANALYST: Shalom, Wolf. Look, I think we have to be honest with ourselves and just say that Bernie Sanders is the clear favorite to win a plurality of delegates at the end of this contest. I mean, right now he has a 7 in 10 shot of winning that plurality of delegates. That's way up from before Iowa. And more than that, Bernie Sanders is benefitting from a very divided competition.

I mean, we can go through the candidates here and take a look here. You know, someone like a Joe Biden, right? If you look at -- he is only at a 1 in 10 shot of winning the most amount of delegates. That's down from 4.5 in 10 shots. He was the favorite or at least the front- runner before Iowa. Now he's just a 1 in 10 shot. Look where Bloomberg, right? Look where Bloomberg is.

He's at a 1 in 10 shot. That's a little bit up from before Iowa but again not a very large shot. We can just keep the list going here and what you see here is just that the rest of the candidates -- look at someone like Elizabeth Warren. She is now a .5 in 10 shot. She's actually down from before Iowa. So even though she's rallying her troops in Washington the fact is the chance of her winning a plurality is quite low at this point.

Or look at someone like a Pete Buttigieg. Right? Look at this. He's at a .5 in 10 shot, another candidate with not a very good shot at winning a plurality of delegates. And finally take a look here. Look at Amy Klobuchar. Right?


A .1 in 10 shot. That is a 1 in 100. That might even be high. And you know, she can claim all this about unexpected finishes. But the fact is her chance of winning a plurality of delegates at the end of the day not very good -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Disappointing numbers for her especially in Nevada.

Harry, we're what, 10 days out from Super Tuesday? One-third of the total delegates will be decided. Does that partly at least partially explain why there are still so many candidates in the race?

ENTEN: I think it does. You know, they're all holding out hope that on Super Tuesday they can have this big glorious sort of momentous occasion. They can grab all these delegates. But the fact of the matter is by having all those candidates in there it's actually benefiting Bernie Sanders. And he is the one also if you look at the money that's being spent right now, look at this. Look, Michael Bloomberg is the one far and away spending the most money. Right? $160 million.

But if those candidates like Klobuchar, Warren, Gabbard, Biden, Buttigieg, they're all at basically -- Klobuchar's the most at $2 million. But the rest of them all at $500,000 or less. And the fact is unless they can somehow garner momentum in the next 10 days it's going to be very, very difficult to stop Bernie Sanders.

BLITZER: All right, Harry, thanks very much. We're going to continue our special coverage. Much more ahead. We're looking ahead to the next presidential debate. We're looking ahead a week from today to South Carolina. We'll be right back.




SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think all of you know, we won the popular vote in Iowa.


SANDERS: We won the New Hampshire primary.


SANDERS: And according to three networks and the AP, we have now the Nevada caucus.



COOPER: Bernie Sanders speaking tonight a little bit earlier. It is now onto South Carolina. Let's talk about what the candidates face there.

Bakari Sellers --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It finally comes home.

SELLERS: I'm so excited about this. About 60 percent of the electorate are going to be African-American voters. The electorate is going to skew older. And it's going to be a heavy lift. The majority of the voters are going to be the people who are going to move the polls are going to be African-American women.

We always refer to black women as being the base voters of the party. They're the super voters. They're the ones who come out throughout the south and in a lot of these swing states that are necessary to beat Trump. And so this is the first time in which they will have a huge impact on this race.

I mean, you know, does Bernie Sanders' momentum take him through? And I think when we're -- when we're analyzing, when the media and everyone else are looking at South Carolina next week my only advice is keep that same energy. Like, if Joe Biden is going to be the front- runner, if he's going to be the person who carries the banner, he has to do well with African-American voters. Period.

The electorate tonight was 10 percent black. It was his first test. But next week is going to be 50 percent to 60 percent black. If he's still polling at 15 percent, at 12 percent, below 20 percent --

JONES: You mean Bernie.

SELLERS: Bernie. I'm sorry. Bernie. If he's still polling below 20 percent, that's going to be a problem. And Joe Biden, you can't win this race next week by three or four points. You can't.

BORGER: Well, they've been calling it their firewall for months and months. And now they kind of have to prove it. I think the question is not only black voters but also the problem Joe Biden has is that he can't get anybody under 65 to vote for him. And that's -- I mean, it's almost true. And that's going to be a real issue for him even in South Carolina whereas you were saying the voting population skews older.

SELLERS: And the other -- just the other small point is that -- it's not small because it's a lot of money, but Tom Steyer's already dumped $17 million into South Carolina.

BORGER: That's -- exactly.

SELLERS: All right? And so, you know, there are two things. One, does Tom Steyer siphon any votes from Joe Biden? It's a possibility. I'm not sure that's going to happen. But if Tom Steyer beats Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar and Elizabeth Warren, these known names, that is another narrative that says wait a minute, these people may not be viable going into Super Tuesday.

PHILLIP: Or does Tom Steyer crater?

SELLERS: Which he might.


BORGER: Which he did tonight.

PHILLIP: I mean, if you look at what happened tonight, he was expected to do -- I mean, I don't know that I believe the polls showing him -- you know, there were some polls showing him doing really, really well. But I think people were expecting him to do a little bit better than he's doing now. And so it's a real question how durable his support is. Especially now that we have a train of events that have shown one person to basically be at the top of the pack.

I want to see when we get to South Carolina what does the electorate do now that they start to see people winning? How does that affect how people perceive some of the other candidates, how they perceive their electability or lack thereof? And that's a Joe Biden question but it's also a big Bernie Sanders question. Winning begets winning. And I think for Bernie Sanders he stands to benefit a lot from this narrative coming out of Nevada.

YANG: One thing to watch out for, Abby, and this happened to me in Iowa, I got 5 percent of the popular vote and then the graphic showed 1 percent. And I was very like, err. So with Tom it shows 3.7 but he got 8 or 9 of the popular. It's just the caucus dynamics. He was below viability and he got compressed as a result. So I think that his numbers in South Carolina may be closer to his polling.

BORGER: So if Steyer doesn't do well, though, next week and he is running for president of South Carolina with all those ads, if he doesn't do well, don't you think that's the end of the world?

SELLERS: He spent $15 million tonight. And I think that's the point. I think he spent $15 million tonight in Nevada.

BORGER: Right.

SELLERS: And he came out with the result that has him fifth. I mean, so the question is, is there a ceiling on money? And I think the answer to that is yes.

JONES: And this is something -- you're obviously the expert on South Carolina.

SELLERS: I lost my last election.


JONES: Well, I will be back for (INAUDIBLE) there.


JONES: What I will say is that my family's from Tennessee. I talk to a lot of African-American voters in the south. I think there's a quest -- I think there's jump ball on the black vote. You're very confident that Biden is going to be able to pull it down and maybe he will. I do think that Biden losing again and again has opened up some space between him and black voters. Had Bloomberg done better, I think you'd have seen -- in the debate you'd have seen a whole, you know, train of people running away from Biden. I think Bloomberg did badly enough to actually help -- Bloomberg did badly enough to help Biden.


Here's what I think if you're a black voter you're looking at. And you jump if you think I'm wrong. I think you're trying to figure out first of all who can beat Trump. That's going to be the key. You're probably thinking it needs to be somebody who white folks will be comfortable with. And you're beginning to see a way that Bernie looks more like that. All my African-American male cousins have gone from Biden to Bernie.

Do you think in South Carolina because it's such an older electorate that that may happen? Or -- because I'm seeing a lot of momentum toward Bernie even in the black community.

SELLERS: I do think that -- Bernie has done better than he did in 2016.


SELLERS: I still don't think Bernie's doing extremely well. I mean, when you're talking about how well Bernie's doing with African- American voters, he's still in -- between 20 percent and 28 percent I think is where he was tonight depending on what exit poll you're looking at.


SELLERS: So, I mean --

JONES: He's right up there with anybody else.

SELLERS: But what I'm also saying -- well, and I think that has to do a lot with the coalescing. But when you go to South Carolina it is going to be an older electorate.

JONES: And that's going to help Biden a lot.

SELLERS: It's going to be an older electorate. It's going to be an electorate that is skewing -- it's going to be majority African- American women. And so Biden's going to -- I mean, Bernie's going to have to prove he can win that. And there's been no evidence --

BORGER: Or get out young voters.

SELLERS: There's been no evidence that he can win that. And that's the only point. He has to cross this hurdle. This is a big test for Bernie Sanders as well as a big test for Joe Biden next week.

COOPER: Up next, the new hand wringing inside the Bloomberg campaign after they watched Bernie Sanders win big in Nevada.



WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: We're covering the latest developments. The big winner tonight, Senator Bernie Sanders, in Nevada. He wins the Nevada Democratic caucus. He's well on his way to becoming clearly the front-runner right now. Did well in Iowa and New Hampshire, now in Nevada as well.

Let's check in with CNN's MJ Lee. She's joining us now from Seattle, Washington. That's where Elizabeth Warren has her campaign headquarters tonight.

But you have some news, MJ, on Mike Bloomberg, what he's up to, how he's reacting to the Bernie Sanders win.

MJ LEE, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. Elizabeth Warren is still speaking behind me here in Seattle. And after congratulating Bernie Sanders she immediately went after Michael Bloomberg. A clear sign that her campaign thinks that going on the attack against Bloomberg is a winning strategy for them. But yes, we have also been checking in with Michael Bloomberg's campaign and a senior adviser to the former mayor tells CNN that at the current pace that Bernie Sanders appears to be amassing delegates that they fear that there is nobody else in the Democratic race that can potentially catch up to Bernie Sanders in the delegate race, and this includes Michael Bloomberg, that they worry that even Michael Bloomberg, if Bernie Sanders continues at this current pace, barring any changes, that nobody else can catch up to Bernie Sanders in the delegates race.

One senior adviser that I spoke with saying that this prospect is scary to them. So some blunt assessments coming from Michael Bloomberg's campaign. And as you know, Wolf, there have been a lot of concerns that we have been hearing from sort of party establishment types and a moderate candidate. And I think this is just one more strong reminder that after tonight those concerns are only going to grow -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, MJ, thanks very much for that report.

Let's go over to David Chalian. He's monitoring the all-important delegate count in Nevada right now. What are you seeing?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yes. So this is now the national convention delegates, Wolf. The actual keep-your-eye-on-the- prize. There are 36 delegates at stake tonight in the Nevada caucuses. We've been able to award nine of them to Bernie Sanders. So you see there Bernie Sanders gets nine delegates. You see at the bottom it says 27 unassigned. So we have 27 other delegates. We have to wait for the vote to come in and then award them proportionally.

As you know, you need at least 15 percent statewide, 15 percent in a congressional district to get a national convention delegate. Sanders gets nine tonight. So what does that mean for the overall picture? For the race to 1,991. There's the number needed to win up in the upper right-hand corner. We've got a long way to go before anyone is in range of that. But you have Bernie Sanders with 30 delegates now, Pete Buttigieg with 23. Warren with 8. Klobuchar with 7. Biden with 6.

Now, remember, only Sanders has won delegates so far tonight. Others will win who are above that 15 percent threshold. But now Bernie Sanders has pulled ahead of Pete Buttigieg in this national delegate estimate. This is how you win the Democratic nomination, getting to 1,991.

BLITZER: And we'll know a lot more not only next Saturday in South Carolina, where there are a bunch of delegates at stake, but the following Tuesday, March 3rd. 14 states including the largest ones, California and Texas. There are a lot of delegates at stake on March 3rd.

CHALIAN: A third of the delegates are at stake on Super Tuesday. When Super Tuesday is done and we've counted, add in the first four states, 37 percent of the delegates will have been allocated and awarded. It's getting late early.

BLITZER: So when you say it's getting late early, explain.

CHALIAN: I'm just saying we are 10 days away from some of the biggest delegate prizes, from a third of the delegates being awarded. I know it feels very early in this process for folks. But the reason why you hear MJ Lee reporting about a Michael Bloomberg adviser saying that Sanders may be on path here to build an impenetrable delegate lead is because we are right on it. We are 10 days away from that big prize. Then add in March 10th, the next Super Tuesday. March 17th.

I mean, by the end of March you're going to have north of 60 percent of the delegates awarded. So that's what I mean by it's getting late early. It's only the beginning of this process. But massive amounts of delegates are about to be awarded.

BLITZER: We're going to discuss that. That's coming up. Can anyone beat Bernie Sanders right now? Much more of our coverage right after this.




JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I ain't a socialist. I ain't a plutocrat. I'm a Democrat.


BIDEN: I was proud to have and run with Barack Obama.


BIDEN: And I'm proud to still be his friend. And I tell you what. I promise you I wasn't talking about running in the Democratic primary against him in 2012.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Joe Biden earlier this evening. On to South Carolina, where he clearly is hanging a lot of hopes on that state. Just some key takeaways from tonight. Van?

VAN JONES, FORMER OBAMA ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, I think one thing we haven't talked about enough is that the Latino community stood up and they stood up with and for Bernie Sanders in Nevada. And I think that's extraordinary. It's not a given that someone with his politics and his commitments would be able to pull on, you know, this particular group. But he put in the work, as my colleague said. He put in the work for years and years. And I think that -- you know, we talk a lot about the African-American vote. It has been the traditional core vote of the Democratic Party.

The Latino vote, you know, splits a little bit more Republican sometimes. But I think it's significant. And I think that other politicians should follow his lead.

[22:40:05] He didn't just show up with a Spanish ad and expect to get votes. He put the work in on the ground for a long period of time. He's rewarded for that tonight.

COOPER: And he's continuing to do that. He was I think in Bakersfield, California, I don't know if it was yesterday, the day before that. Looking to speak to --

ALEXANDRA ROJAS, FORMER 2016 BERNIE SANDERS CAMPAIGN ORGANIZER: He is really speaking to all voters, not just the ones that typically turn out to vote. He is trying to -- even though it's really hard and a lot of people get worried about doing that, he's trying to actively bring new people in. And that is huge when we talk about building infrastructure long term for our Democratic Party.

But I think the other thing that I thought was interesting from tonight is that Bernie Sanders is the first time in history to have won the popular vote in the first three states. And I think that their vote, the votes of the Democratic electorate in these three states matter. They're changing history. And so I think it's going to be interesting to see how that, you know, obviously carries into South Carolina where he's also increasing support, where there was a lot of doubt before amongst the African-American --

COOPER: I mean, one of the things that Senator Sanders says is, you know, this has to be the biggest voter turnout in any election in American history and not just for him to be elected but also for him to get Medicare for All, to get these things through Congress. I mean, that's part and parcel of his plan to get it through Congress, is to have that mobilization and people who stay involved and pressure those on Capitol Hill.

JESS MCINTOSH, FORMER DIRECTOR OF COMMUNICATIONS OUTREACH, HILLARY CLINTON CAMPAIGN: Even before we get to the governing part, we got three million more votes in 2016 and it was not enough to win. It's got to be the electoral college. We know that Russia is interfering in our election again. We have to win so big that the cheating won't matter and the undemocratic electoral college won't matter and we can get this done anyway, and that's going to take a movement.

I worked for Hillary Clinton in 2016. I was not a Bernie Sanders supporter, although I'm pretty far to the left and I really liked the agenda that he was talking about. I have reservations about the campaign he was running. The campaign that I have seen in 2020 has been a very different one, a much more inclusive one. The way that he talks about race and gender has really made me feel like this is a candidate who gets it in a way that I didn't feel -- I didn't feel comfortable with before.

And it's been really nice to see that happening. It's been a great relief to see that happen. And I'm glad that those ideas are, you know, catching on as much as they are.

BAKARI SELLERS (D), FORMER SOUTH CAROLINA STATE REPRESENTATIVE: Bernie Sanders deserves a lot of credit for tonight. I don't think anyone can take away anything from you when you have, you know, 40-some-odd percent of the vote. And I think that one of the highlights of this campaign and the difference between Bernie Sanders today versus Bernie Sanders in 2016 is the outreach that you were talking about and how he laid the groundwork in the Hispanic community, especially with the young Hispanic voters.

You saw them come out in large numbers and he got 50 percent plus with them. But the question is now how do we move forward? Because we've only had three states to vote. We have 50 more states and territories remaining to cast delegates. And so when we go to South Carolina it shifts into another gear. And so, you know, all of these candidates campaigning in black churches, et cetera. But even on Super Tuesday.

You think about Tennessee. You think about North Carolina, Virginia, Alabama, Arkansas, it's not just California and it's not just Texas. And the question is, can Bernie Sanders' campaign -- can it continue to grow and expand the base? That's a question that he still has to answer. And for Joe Biden to be a candidate who was, you know, walking dead by many in the media tonight, you know, he is the second place -- well, as of the results now, I mean, he is second place by and outperforming his own numbers by a good margin.

So hopefully for him there's some momentum. If not then the middle of the party has not coalesced. And the longer they don't coalesce and the addition of Michael Bloomberg, Bernie Sanders is on track to be --


ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I think the biggest thing coming out of tonight is what does everybody else do now that it's clear that Bernie Sanders is the front-runner, that he can potentially have these massive leads over the entire field of the rest of candidates? I mean, I think just even seeing that dynamic where he is maybe 20 points ahead of everyone else is something that probably ought to be a wake-up call for the other candidates and how they approach him as we go into another debate where in the last debate virtually no one, with one exception, with the exception of Pete Buttigieg, wanted to really take on Sanders.

I think the other candidates have to kind of make a choice. Do they think that they need to put up an opposition to Sanders? And if they do what are they going to actually do about it? Do they leave the race and coalesce? Do they take a more aggressive stance? I think that there's got to be a point in this campaign where those candidates start to make those choices. Otherwise, I think we could see Bernie Sanders really running away with it, as soon as we hit Super Tuesday because nobody else, you know, is willing to kind of make these hard choices, risk potentially alienating his voters, which has been a concern in the past.

BORGER: Well, I think after North Carolina there's going to be some kind of reckoning and --

SELLERS: South Carolina?

[22:45:02] BORGER: I mean, sorry, South Carolina. There's going to be some kind of reckoning. And somebody like Tom Steyer may decide, OK, it's not working for me, I have to get out. Maybe Amy Klobuchar. What you're going to see from Pete Buttigieg and Joe Biden is attacks, direct attacks on Bernie Sanders. We heard it a lot -- a little bit from Joe Biden tonight, saying that he's a real Democrat, implying that Bernie Sanders of course is not. And then more directly from Buttigieg.

We'll see whether that works coming up. But then they're going to have to figure out what to do inside the party. There's a great contingent of course that doesn't like Bernie Sanders and doesn't think that he can beat Donald Trump and thinks that he's going to hurt the party down ballot and all of that. And so you're going to start hearing from those people. They're going to start screaming. And we're going to have to see if they have a candidate to coalesce behind who can win. Go find one.

ANDREW YANG, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Right now it feels like the most likely scenario is a contested convention in Milwaukee because none of the candidates including Bernie is on track to get a majority. And if there's one thing I've learned about Democrats is Democrats really like to follow the rulebook. And you saw it at the end of the last debate where they asked the candidates, hey, if someone comes in with a plurality what do you do? And like, every other candidate was like follow the rulebook. Let the convention take its course, which means the super delegates will come out, they will come out in force, probably not for Bernie, and then you're going to have this journalistic dream come true of a contested -- or a nightmare depending upon where you sit.

But that strikes me as the most likely scenario because I do not think other Democrats are going to fall in line just because Bernie ends up with more delegates than any other candidate.

COOPER: Yes. Up next we're going to go live to South Carolina one week before the primary. Will Bernie Sanders crack Joe Biden's firewall? Take a look ahead.



BLITZER: Jeff Zeleny is already in South Carolina. A week from today, the South Carolina Democratic presidential primary.

Jeff, we heard the former vice president Joe Biden predict he will win South Carolina. This could be in his quest for the Democratic nomination the most important week of his effort.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, there's no question. He says he will win. Well, he'll have to win if he wants to stay in this race. The next six days for Joe Biden are the most important of his political life. That is not an exaggeration, that is not hyperbole as you might say. That is reality. He knows that he needs to win in South Carolina, and perhaps win convincingly. I was talking to one of his top supporters here in South Carolina, who

was watching those results in Las Vegas, in Nevada. And he knows that he needs to win here. He believes that Joe Biden does have a path to winning here. The Biden campaign believes that they do have an argument here. Sixty percent of the electorate here next week is African-American, at least that's what it was four years ago and before that. So Joe Biden believes that is his path.

But, Wolf, it is far -- it's an uncertain fact if the races change or not. Firewalls are stagnant -- are not necessarily stagnant things. They're movable forces. This race has moved considerably through Iowa, New Hampshire, and in Nevada. So are voters still going to be as open to Joe Biden? That is his challenge when he comes here.

And Wolf, he will be here tomorrow morning. He's flying overnight from Nevada to here in South Carolina. He'll be attending a church service here in the morning. And he'll be, you know, beginning to make his case there. So no question, this is a big challenge for Joe Biden. His campaign says he's up to it. He'll have to be, if he wants to stay in this race, Wolf.

BLITZER: That's an important point. Stand by.

You know, Dana, there's going to be a Democratic presidential debate in South Carolina Tuesday night.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. And, you know, the whole discussion is going to change. Maybe temporarily. But maybe not. As the voters and the candidates gear up for South Carolina. But I just want to mention something that hasn't been talked about, maybe rightly so, because Bernie Sanders appears to have had a big win tonight, and the conversation has been about that and what it took, and, you know, giving him his props.

But the other conversation that is going on, very real conversation, and I'm sure you both have heard it, we've all heard it from our sources, is the technical term is freaking out among moderates. I mean, they are freaking out at the notion that Bernie Sanders could be the Democratic nominee. You kind of heard it in MJ Lee's reporting from the Bloomberg campaign saying that even they're worried that even he couldn't beat Bernie Sanders now.

I mean, there's an effort to -- and a discussion about whether the moderates or the people who aren't in the Bernie Sanders lane can get together. But regardless, the concern is that not just that it's Bernie Sanders, but the concern is beating Donald Trump. And the feeling that not only that they do not think that he can beat Donald Trump, but it's the down ballot, it's potentially taking back the Senate, it's keeping the House.

And those are the conversations going out. They may not be right. Bernie Sanders could defy all those low expectations for him but it's happening.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They might not be right. They're looking at past history. BASH: Right.

KING: And they're saying this has never been done. And if you listen to Bernie Sanders' speech tonight with all those promises, you know, you can almost hear, how much is that going to cost, how much is that going to cost, how much is it going to cost if I'm a moderate Democrat running in a purple area? Can I run on that? That's what their fear is. Again that does not mean it cannot be done. That does not mean Bernie Sanders can't win the nomination. It does not mean he can't beat Donald Trump.

But Democrats have nothing in the rearview mirror to look at and say, aha, there's the path for that to work. It would be a brave new risk. Doesn't mean it wouldn't work. But that is the panic. The thing for the Bloomberg campaign I took is a -- you know, we need to guilt the moderates out of the race.

BASH: Right.

KING: You know, we're starting to do the math now. And nobody can catch him so the rest of you better get out of the race. You know, that's -- every campaign is going to have its elbow out, but back to Jeff Zeleny's point, which is why this is an absolutely critical decisive, defining week for Joe Biden.

BLITZER: And nobody has the money that Mike Bloomberg has.

CHALIAN: Well, not even close. I mean, Mike Bloomberg has spent more than all that Barack Obama spent in his re-elect campaign in a general election. I mean, this is -- the unprecedented levels that we haven't seen before, there's no doubt about that. Now that's not going to impact the South Carolina results, he's not on the ballot in South Carolina. He will be on that debate stage. I think some of that MJ reporting also was that trying to incite that freak out among moderates.

KING: Right.


CHALIAN: But just listening to you, guys, it's so reminiscent of 2016 in many ways on the other side.

BASH: It is.

CHALIAN: I mean, all our sources, the party establishment on the Republican side in 2016, everyone we talked to in politics who feared what a Donald Trump at the top of the ballot would do down ballot for them and thinking that, oh, my god, look at all the non-Trump vote that's out there on the Republican side, this can't be the guy that's going to represent us.

BASH: And they were wrong.

CHALIAN: They were wrong. It was. He won the presidency. Obviously Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders are very different people. Different appeals across the country. I'm not suggesting that's the same. I'm just saying we are in this era of American politics where the establishment set of what all their past history teaches them, a lot of that is out the window of where the voters and the energy in these parties are.

KING: Washington is wrong a lot. Washington is not America. And in recent years we have learned that. Washington -- you know, Washington gets it wrong a lot.

BLITZER: You guys are the best. These last nine hours have been fabulous.


BLITZER: Enjoy working --

BASH: Who's counting?

BLITZER: Stay with CNN for a new presidential townhall just ahead of the South Carolina primary. Monday, Michael Bloomberg makes his town hall debut at 8:00 p.m. Eastern, followed by Bernie Sanders and Pete Buttigieg. Wednesday, it's Joe Biden, Amy Klobuchar and Elizabeth Warren.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in the CNN Election Center. The CNN original series "THE RACE FOR THE WHITE HOUSE" is next.