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Dems Spar in Final Debate Before Super Tuesday. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired February 26, 2020 - 06:00   ET

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


(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHN VAUSE, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: The tenth Democratic debate. Stakes could not be higher.

[05:58:51]

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Pete has got funding from over 50 billionaires.

PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's just not true. Senator Sanders --

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE; I guess the only way to do this is jump in and speak twice as long as you should.

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE; Who funded Lindsey Graham's campaign for re-election last time? It was Mayor Bloomberg.

MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Forty Democrats, 21 of those were people that I spent $100 million to help elect. The new Democrats that came in gave the Congress the ability to control this president. I bought -- I got that.

TOM STEYER (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I am scared. If we cannot pull this party together, we take a terrible risk of re-electing Donald Trump.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is NEW DAY. It is Wednesday, February 26, 6 a.m. here in New York.

Messy, chaotic, embarrassing. Those are just some of the choice words the pundits are using to describe last night's Democratic debate in South Carolina. As predicted, Senator Bernie Sanders got the frontrunner treatment, most of his rivals claiming that a socialist will sink the Democratic ticket against Donald Trump. Their mission was clear: to make sure that Bernie Sanders does not own South Carolina and then Super Tuesday. JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: So did it work? That's always the most

important question after a debate. Did it change the status of the frontrunner?

Now, what's complicated this time is that Sanders might be the national frontrunner, but Joe Biden is leading in South Carolina. And a win there for him could shake up the race.

The former vice president is hoping to pick up one of the most coveted endorsements around later this morning. We're watching that very carefully.

And coming up this hour, next hour we're going to speak with Senator Amy Klobuchar and Tom Steyer. They were on that debate stage. What did they think?

Also this morning, we're keeping a very close eye on the markets. U.S. stock futures down about 173 points. You're looking at that live. This follows two horrific days in the market. Huge concern about the spread of coronavirus and concern about the mixed messages coming from the administration.

We'll begin with the debate. This was a very South Carolina debate.

CNN's Jessica Dean is live there with all the details -- Jessica.

JESSICA DEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. A lot of energy, a lot of yelling. You guys showed some of it there. We want to get to more of it, as well.

But it started, really, with everyone focusing in on frontrunner Bernie Sanders, a lot of those attacks. And then really kind of devolved into this circular firing squad of sorts, with everyone kind of yelling at everybody else.

There's a lot on the line, guys. We have the South Carolina primary on Saturday; Super Tuesday with all those delegates coming right around the corner next Tuesday. And this is the last time they'd all be on the stage before those two big events.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SANDERS: I'm hearing my name mentioned a little bit tonight. I wonder why.

DEAN (voice-over): With frontrunner status, Bernie Sanders took his turn in the hot seat in a tense and sometimes chaotic debate.

WARREN: Bernie and I agree on a lot of things, but I think I would make a better president than Bernie.

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You do something for the people of America instead of a bunch of broken promises that sound good on bumper stickers.

BIDEN: Bernie, in fact, hasn't passed much of anything. DEAN: After taking most of the heat last week, Michael Bloomberg was ready to strike against Sanders, questioning his electability.

BLOOMBERG: Vladimir Putin thinks that Donald Trump should be president of the United States. And that's why Russia is helping you get elected so you'll lose to him.

SANDERS: Hey, Mr. Putin. If I'm president of the United States, trust me, you're not going to interfere in any more American elections.

DEAN: Sanders once again defending his comments praising Cuban dictator Fidel Castro.

SANDERS: I have opposed authoritarianism all over the world. What I said is what Barack Obama said in terms of Cuba. That Cuba made progress on education. Yes, I think --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Boo!

SANDERS: Really? Really?

BIDEN: The fact of the matter is he, in fact, does not, did not, has never embraced an authoritarian regime and does not now.

DEAN: Pete Buttigieg warning a Sanders nomination could hurt Democrats' chances in Congress.

BUTTIGIEG: Look, if you want to keep the House in Democratic hands, you might want to check with the people who actually turned the House blue. Forty Democrat who are not running on your platform. They are running away from your platform as fast as they possibly can.

The truth is --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: One at a time.

BUTTIGIEG: The way you're talking about doing it is out of --

SANDERS: That is why I am beating Trump in virtually every poll that has gone. And why I will defeat him.

BUTTIGIEG: Joe Biden confident, heading into Saturday's primary.

BIDEN: I don't expect anything. I plan to earn the vote. I here -- I'm here to ask and will earn it. But folks, I intend to win South Carolina, and I will win the African-American vote here in South Carolina.

DEAN: The former vice president also taking aim at billionaire Tom Steyer.

BIDEN: You talk about you're concerned about race. Well, my good friend on the end of this platform, he, in fact, bought a system that was a private prison system after -- after he knew that, in fact, what happened was they hog-tied young men in prison here in this state. STEYER: -- buying in a prison company, thinking they'd do a better

job. And I investigated, and I sold it. Since then I've worked to end the use of private prisons in my home state, and we've ended it.

You wrote the crime bill that put --

BIDEN: Where we come from, that's called Johnny come lately.

STEYER: -- hundreds of thousands of young black and Latino men --

BIDEN: Not true.

DEAN: Elizabeth Warren offering rare attacks against her fellow progressive.

WARREN: Bernie and I both want to see universal health care, but Bernie's plan doesn't explain how to get there. I dug in, I did the work, and then Bernie's team trashed me for it.

DEAN: But saved some ammunition for Bloomberg.

WARREN: The fact that he cannot earn the trust of the core of the Democratic Party means he is the riskiest candidate standing on this stage.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All right, Senator.

DEAN: Amy Klobuchar calling for some civility.

KLOBUCHAR: If we spend the next four months tearing our party apart, we're going to watch Donald Trump spend the next four years tearing our country apart.

BIDEN: Look --

(END VIDEOTAPE)

[06:05:07]

DEAN: And there is another full day of campaigning here in South Carolina. We're expecting a number of the candidates here at this North Charleston church for a minister's breakfast hosted by the Reverend Al Sharpton.

John, as you mentioned, also watching for Jim Clyburn's endorsement to come out today, which we are expecting this morning. And then we've got a full night of town halls right here on CNN. They get started at 7 p.m. with Michael Bloomberg, Joe Biden, Amy Klobuchar, and Elizabeth Warren -- Alisyn and John.

BERMAN: That is a big, big day, Jessica. Thanks so much for being with us.

The question coming out of the debate, who gained ground? Who lost ground? And everyone in between there.

CAMEROTA: What are the answers?

BERMAN: We have some of the answers next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: So Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, he received the frontrunner treatment last night in the debate in South Carolina.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[06:10:05]

WARREN: I think I would make a better president than Bernie.

BUTTIGIEG: Imagine spending the better part of 2020 with Bernie Sanders versus Donald Trump. Think about what that will be like for this country.

STEYER: Bernie Sanders' analysis is right. The difference is I don't like his solutions.

BIDEN: Bernie, in fact, hasn't passed much of anything.

KLOBUCHAR: I do not think that this is the best person to lead the ticket.

BLOOMBERG: Should he keep on going, we will elect Bernie. Bernie will lose to Donald Trump.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: All right. Joining us now is CNN political commentator Karen Finney; Krystal Ball, co-host of "Rising" on Hill TV; and CNN political commentator and former New Orleans mayor, Mitch Landrieu.

And Mayor, I want to start with you, not just because you're the senior elected official here, but also because how are you awake? I mean, how can the former mayor of New Orleans even be awake today, the day after Fat Tuesday in New Orleans?

MITCH LANDRIEU, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It's truly an amazing thing. I want props for that.

BERMAN: All right.

LANDRIEU: No question.

BERMAN: This is a Mardi Gras miracle. What was your main takeaway from last night? Who did you see emerging with the biggest gains?

LANDRIEU: Well, it was a WWE cage match last night. I mean, they were on each other like gravy on rice. I mean, there's no question about it.

You know, it was interesting. I thought Joe Biden acquitted himself fairly well last night when everybody kind of counted him out. Bernie Sanders did a great job of playing rope-a-dope. I don't think anybody laid a significant glove on him.

The thing that was most curious to me about the debate last night is why Elizabeth Warren, who was really strong, spent any time with Mike Bloomberg last night rather than on Bernie Sanders, because he's the one that seems to be in her way. And I thought that was just one of the most interesting things of the night.

CAMEROTA: Karen, your takeaways?

KAREN FINNEY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, yes. The -- you could feel the explosion right when it started.

I thought all the candidates did well last night. Certainly, Mayor Bloomberg did better than he has. I certainly thought, though, Senator Warren landed a very strong punch when she talked about the disparities in, you know -- she was doing housing hearings and trying to create the CFPB while he was, you know, out there being a banker, essentially.

He also had a couple of moments that were pretty sexist and misogynist when he referred to her as "that senator," and it was something he did in the last debate that I noticed online and in talking to people afterwards just stylistically hit people the wrong way.

BERMAN: So Krystal, one of the big questions entering or exiting any debate is has the status of the frontrunner changed? Now, what's interesting here is that Bernie Sanders is clearly the national frontrunner, but in South Carolina, Joe Biden is the frontrunner.

So I guess my question to you about Senator Sanders is, did anything happen to shake his frontrunner status? But the flip side of that is, did he do anything that increases his chances of beating Joe Biden in South Carolina?

KRYSTAL BALL, CO-HOST, HILL TV'S "RISING": The answer is no. I mean, I think that debate was such a mess, right? -- Every candidate yelling at each other, moderators lose control audience of DNC donors who were also sort of out of control --

FINNEY: That's not true, Krystal.

BALL: -- that nobody came out looking really good. And no one came out looking particularly bad.

So I don't think it really shook up the race at all.

Now, in South Carolina, it remains to be seen whether that's good or bad for Joe Biden. We've had polling that's been mixed. We have had several national polls that show Bernie Sanders taking the lead among black voters. And we also have seen a narrowing of the race there.

So I think Mitch's analysis is basically right. It's probably good for Joe Biden and South Carolina, probably good for Bernie Sanders overall.

The one other thing that I would say here, it was almost like a metaphor for the entire race last night. Because it would have been more effective, rather than everybody trying to pile on Bernie Sanders, which he was able to parry relatively well, if you'd had one or two people who were able to make a strong case against him. It probably would have landed more effectively and not just looked like one big train wreck.

But most of the candidates on that stage haven't really done the work to understand Bernie Sanders's appeal and why he has this movement behind him. And so it's going to be very hard for them to launch effective attacks when they don't really understand the candidate to start with.

CAMEROTA: Karen, what part do you disagree with?

FINNEY: I absolutely 1,000 percent disagree -- and I know Krystal knows this isn't true -- that this was not -- that was not a room full of DNC donors. When I was at the DNC many years ago and ever since, basically, the way it works is everybody gets the same amount of tickets. Each campaign got the same amount of tickets. The Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, as one of the sponsors, got the same amount of tickets. The DNC, the South Carolina Democratic Party, as well as Twitter. And then they invited the local elected officials.

BALL: That wasn't the -- that wasn't the reporting on the ground.

FINNEY: Hold on, Krystal. I -- well, I'm here, so -- and I've talked to -- I mean, I've talked to the DNC; and I know that's exactly how they do their tickets.

What I did -- but here's why I think that is such a cheap shot. It doesn't help Senator Sanders to whine about whether or not he was booed or not booed, because actually, Elizabeth Warren got booed at one point last night. Mike Bloomberg got booed at one point last night. And Senator Sanders thought that it was a good idea to try to argue communism and Nicaragua, for heaven's sakes, with the audience, which just seemed bizarre.

[06:15:17]

It was the -- I think what you saw was this audience is part of why South Carolina was added to this early part of the process. It's not -- you know, black voters, a lot of black voters, particularly older black voters, they're moderates. They're not liberals.

CAMEROTA: Yes.

FINNEY: And we saw this dynamic in 2016, where Senator Sanders does very well with younger African-Americans and communities of color. But those older African-Americans, they are with Joe.

BALL: Let me just respond to that because I'm getting accused of whining about something --

CAMEROTA: First, hold on -- hold on.

BALL: -- which I don't think is fair at all. CAMEROTA: I hear you, and we will let you do that, Krystal. But let's just play for the viewers the moments that we're talking about. So let's just give them this illustration.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SANDERS: What I said is what Barack Obama said in terms of Cuba. That Cuba made progress on education. Yes, I think --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Boo!

SANDERS: Really? Really?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAMEROTA: That was just one of the moments, Krystal. OK.

BALL: Yes.

CAMEROTA: Your response?

BALL: Which is a fair statement. I mean, Barack Obama did say almost exactly the same thing.

Look, I think it speaks to the fundamental endemic corruption of the Democratic Party establishment that you had to pay -- and this is according to to reporting, local reporting on the ground -- multiple thousands of dollars to get into that room.

I can't think of a better case to be made for Bernie Sanders and his desire to be an existential threat to that established order that you have a party that claims to be the party of the people, party that claims they want to get money out of politics, and yet on something to trivial, they stack the room with their donors. I think that that's disgusting, and I think it's important. And it's not whining.

FINNEY: Krystal, that's just not true.

BALL: It's just pointing out -- it's pointing out --

FINNEY: And you cannot use the airwaves to lie. You're lying.

BALL: -- why Bernie Sanders is so appealing to so many people. Look at the reporting. That's the reporting on the ground.

BERMAN: I'll say this. I will say this. I'll say this, is that most pf the people who watched that debate were not in the room. You had probably millions and millions of viewers around the country --

LANDRIEU: That's a bigger point.

BERMAN: -- who were listening to what was said. And there are more people in South Carolina who watched that debate who weren't in the room. And it's their opinions that are going to matter on Saturday. And it's the people of the Super Tuesday states that are going to matter. And Mayor, you brought up Joe Biden.

LANDRIEU: Yes.

BERMAN: And there have been questions about Joe Biden. He had terrible results in Iowa and New Hampshire. And better, but not great results in Nevada. So people have been looking for signs of political life, which is why some people are pointing to moments like this, where he at a minimum, at least, seized the stage last night. So watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BIDEN: Bernie. Bernie, in fact, hasn't passed much of anything. The fact of the matter is -- no, no, no. I get to answer that. The fact is --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're out of time.

BIDEN: I'm not out of time. He spoke over time, and I'm going to talk. Here's the deal.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: All right. What did you see from him last night that might get Biden supporters excited? And what's his path? If he is able to win South Carolina, what next?

LANDRIEU: Well, a couple of things. First of all, many people have been arguing, and I think correctly, that when you start off with Iowa and New Hampshire, as wonderful as those folks are, they don't really represent the Democratic Party nationwide. And if South Carolina were the first primary, we'd be having a different discussion today about who the No. 1 and No. 2 frontrunners are in the race.

Somebody hit Joe Biden with a cattle prod last night, because I think he understood that he was facing an existential threat, and that if he had a bad night and he does poorly in South Carolina, he doesn't have a pathway forward.

However, if Joe Biden does well in South Carolina, which he expects to do and the polls indicate that he will do, he still has life into Super Tuesday. And the question then gets to be who are the other candidates, and what is their pathway forward?

So my guess is -- this is just a guess -- of course we don't know -- that there are three candidates who today continue to be viable. One of them is clearly Bernie Sanders. He's the frontrunner. Then Joe Biden, then Mike Bloomberg.

Elizabeth Warren, of course, continues to have very strong performances, but her pathway as Amy's and Pete's, looks really kind of questionable.

And who the heck knows why Tom Steyer is still hanging around. I don't -- I don't really get that and understand that post-South Carolina. And we'll see what the results are soon enough. CAMEROTA: We might be able to pose that very question to him directly,

since he will be on our program.

BERMAN: I'm sure he's going to love it if you phrase it like that.

CAMEROTA: If he hasn't canceled just now, he will be on our program in the next hour.

You guys stick around. We have more issues to get to with you.

How will African-American voters shape this weekend's vote and Super Tuesday? More coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CAMEROTA: Back by popular demand, we have Karen Finney, Krystal Ball, and Mitch Landrieu. We have so many more issues to talk to about. Mayor, I know that you wanted to talk about coronavirus and that what's happening, people are very nervous waking up this morning. The markets are nervous. And last night, the candidates spoke about that. So listen to this moment.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BLOOMBERG: One of the great problems today, you read about the virus. What's really happening here is the president fired the pandemic specialist in this country two years ago. So there's nobody here to figure out what the hell we should be doing.

KLOBUCHAR: This president has not invested like he should have in his budget. He tried to cut back on the CDC. He tried to cut back on the international organization that would coordinate with the rest of the world.

BIDEN: We increased the budget of the CDC. We increased the NIH budget. We should -- and our president today, he's wiped all that out.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAMEROTA: One of the moments that they sort of came together to attack President Trump, you know, rather than going at each other. Mayor Landrieu, what were your impressions?

LANDRIEU: Well, when you run for office you have all these plans. The best-laid plans are just destroyed when you have massive either public health threats or terrorist threats. And it's really a matter of good leadership to be prepared for that.

[06:25:10]

I think the country right now is a little bit concerned, because the president seems to think that somehow, when it gets hot, the coronavirus is going to go away, as though he thinks it's a bee or something like that.

Larry Kudlow says that the virus is contained. There's no scientific evidence for that.

And yesterday, the director of homeland security couldn't answer the basic questions from Senator Kennedy. That is going a sow a lot of discord and concern.

When you have a major virus like this or a major public health threat, you have to prepare for the worst and hope for the best. And there's an indication that the country is not as ready as we could possibly be.

Now, the candidates tried to address the issue of why we're not. But more importantly, as a country, we really have to be thinking about this because it is a very serious public health threat. And if you just blow it off, if you're not transparent, if you don't address it forthrightly, you could cause panic. You don't have to panic, but you do have to be prepared. And there's a lot of evidence that we're not as well prepared as we should be.

BERMAN: We're going to talk to Dr. Anthony Fauci coming up in a little bit.

LANDRIEU: He's a great guy.

BERMAN: But there are officials at the CDC suggesting that parents call their children's schools to figure out what the contingency plans are if those schools need to close down. So there's concern this morning, which we'll get to more coming up in just a moment.

Karen, I do want to address something that Mayor Landrieu said before, which he thought it was odd that Elizabeth Warren focused fire more on Mayor Bloomberg than on Bernie Sanders. She did bring up Bernie Sanders, and I know this is something that Krystal will mention, as well. But primarily on Mayor Bloomberg.

And it also strikes me as fascinating that Bernie Sanders just scheduled a trip to Massachusetts before Super Tuesday. What's that about?

FINNEY: Yes. Well, that's about let's go right to her back yard and take the fight right to her.

Look, we're in this period, this -- things are getting intense. Super Tuesday is potentially going to really weed out some people. You could tell last night folks were feeling the heat.

I think she decided, you know, she raised quite a bit of money last week off the last debate, so she kind of came back at him quite hard.

And I will say, I don't know if we played this moment yet, but you know, when she was talking, you could tell, the room was kind of with her when she initially was talking about those nondisclosures. Sort of ironic on the day when, you know, for Harvey Weinstein, you know, is the #MeToo generation or #MeToo movement really, you know, had a big victory, that we're having this conversation.

But then when she, you know, I thought she -- I thought a lot of people thought she had it there and she was winning. And then this is a great example of what happens when you just go too far. She went too far in making the comment about what Mayor Bloomberg had said, allegedly, to a pregnant woman. And that's when, actually, the arena -- people started booing.

And they were booing her, because they felt like, you know, that's out of bounds. You went too far. And it was a very awkward moment.

And she did, though, also try to distinguish herself from Senator Sanders more so than I think we've seen her do in previous debates.

CAMEROTA: And yet, Krystal, you know, when we sit down with voters. You'll see some coming up, as well as Gary Tuchman sat down with South Carolina voters. You know, you do hear people who have a lot of support for Elizabeth Warren. They think that Amy Klobuchar continues to win in these debates and that she acquits herself really well. Tom Steyer is doing really well in South Carolina.

And so the idea that some people need to get off the stage, what are your thoughts on that?

BALL: Well, I think things are going to become very clear coming out of South Carolina, because Elizabeth Warren, but especially Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar, have not been able to find any support among voters of color. They've all been drawing from the same pool of college-educated white people.

And so I thought it was really interesting. Yes, Elizabeth Warren came after Bernie Sanders, trying to argue she'd be more effective, et cetera. Certainly, her more aggressive fire was trained at Mike Bloomberg.

But she also did something that was very helpful for Bernie Sanders. She made the case, and I thought very effectively, that progressive ideas are winning ideas. And in fact, the risky choice would be to go with, you know, a corporatist like Bloomberg, who's been a Republican, who's not going to excite the base, who progressives and young people and voters of color, working-class voters of color who are being brought into the Democratic Party may not show up for. I thought that was really important. I thought she did that particularly well.

BERMAN: You know, Mayor, Krystal brings up a really interesting subject which is the idea of race. Mayor Pete Buttigieg brought this up. Seven white candidates on stage last night in a state where African-Americans make up 60 percent of the voting population of the Democratic primary.

You have some experience in this area, being a white guy your whole life like me. But also --

LANDRIEU: From the south.

BERMAN: -- being mayor of New Orleans. This is something, an issue that you have really embraced your whole career.

LANDRIEU: Well, I represented a city that was 65 percent African- American and got -- got re-elected twice. And of course, I would never have been elected any time in Louisiana if any of the jobs that I heled were not for the support of the African-American community.

And the African-American community demands and has -- needs to be paid attention to.

END