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Joe Biden (D) is Interviewed about his Campaign; Democrats Final Push for South Carolina. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired February 28, 2020 - 08:30   ET

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


[08:30:00]

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Administration handles the concern and the reality of the virus. That's what it will depend on. And I think what you're seeing is -- and, look, even talk to your colleagues, talk to anybody who knows anything about this, the concern is, do they have any idea what they're doing? Is this all being run as a political gambit and how this is going to affect my election? That's not the focus. It's not about the president, it's about the people. It's about the country.

This can be handled. There's no reason to panic if you let the experts go.

Look, the idea that we don't have serious experts in China, in the parts of China where the disease has -- where this virus has spread is just not correct. It's not the way to do business. We should -- if I were president, I'd be insisting China let us come in with our experts. We can help them and we can help ourselves. We can help the world.

So I just think this whole idea about us gaming the political impact of this, it's about people's lives. It's about the reality that this could get very much worse. But it could also be handled with the right people.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Tomorrow happens to be the South Carolina primary. I don't have to tell you. You're very aware of that fact.

We had Jim Clyburn on a short time ago. He says that you need more than a one or two-point win to propel you forward. He says you need a big win to propel you to Super Tuesday and beyond.

My question to you is, how big?

BIDEN: Look, I'll let you guys be the pundits. I'm the candidate. I've been confident about South Carolina because I've worked so hard over 30 or more years here in South Carolina, not to run for president, but to have a relationship with the community. I start off with not just Jim Clyburn, but there's -- before that, Fritz Hollings (ph).

And I've been deeply involved in this community, in this state. And I feel very good about it. I felt good about it from the beginning. It's been the launching pad for Barack. And I believe it will be the launching pad for me.

We'll see how many -- how much I have to win by. I don't want to jinx myself along the line here. I feel very good. I've worked hard to earn these votes, and I think I'll do well. We'll see.

BERMAN: Obviously, South Carolina is about 60 percent -- 60 percent of the people who may show up to vote will be African-American. If you look to the Super Tuesday map, there are a number of states that have high African-American voting populations. Are you hoping -- or what are you hoping as you move forward? Are there states after South Carolina that you think you need to do well in, and what states are they?

BIDEN: I'm not going to do that. I'm not going to lay out my strategy on television here. But I'll tell you what, I'm confident that we can do well in a number of states, particularly in states that we're going to have to help bring along Democratic senators and keep Democratic members of the House. From North Carolina to Georgia, to Florida, to Texas, as well as Midwestern and far west states. I feel good about where we're going here.

As I said from the beginning, John, this is a marathon. This is a marathon. I'm in it for the whole -- the whole ride here. I feel good about it.

BERMAN: Yes, my knee hurts. That's what a marathon it is already.

Listen, Mr. Vice President, we had Jim Clyburn on moments ago --

BIDEN: Yes.

BERMAN: And he said he has concerns about possible down ballot carnage if someone like Bernie Sanders is the Democratic Party nominee. And he brought up George McGovern. He says he's concerned of another George McGovern situation, which was 1972. He was the Democratic Party nominee and won just one state, Massachusetts.

Do you think that's an apt comparison or what do you think of the comparison between George McGovern and Bernie Sanders?

BIDEN: Look, I ran at the same time George McGovern ran in the state of Delaware against a popular incumbent. George McGovern only got 34 percent of the vote in there. And I won only by 3,000 votes. And I was one of those rare people who won that time in terms of a state that was a toss-up state.

And, look, all I know is what the people, John, who I've -- I went into 24 states in '18, 2018. Twenty four states. They were purple states. I campaigned for over 65 candidates in these so-called -- these areas that are purple districts. We won 41 of them. I know everyone asked me to come in and campaign for them. And I don't know whether they asked Bernie to come in and campaign for them.

Look, Bernie's not a bad guy, but Bernie's got a record, too. Now that, in fact, he has become a frontrunner, everybody's now focusing on things Bernie said and did, like they've justifiably been doing for me for the past six months. And the fact that someone lists himself as an official independent, not even a Democrat, except to run for the office of president, and then lists himself as a socialist, that doesn't fly very well.

I'll just ask a rhetorical question. Do you think running as a socialist would help you in Georgia, help you in North Carolina, help you in South Carolina, help you in Texas? I'll let everybody else make that decision. All I know is I'm going to run hard to help down ballot folks win. I was able to do that in 2018 and, God willing, I'll be able to do that now.

BERMAN: Listen, I'll tell you what, we're going to take a quick break. When we come back, I'm going to ask you that same type of question, but it's not going to be rhetorical. I'm going to look for an answer.

And I'm also going to ask you, which of your opponents has surprised you the most during this election?

[08:35:01]

So we'll be right back after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: Back now with former Vice President Joe Biden, on the ballot tomorrow in South Carolina, the first in the south primary.

Mr. Vice President, we were talking about concerns that have been raised by Jim Clyburn, who has supported you and others, about having Bernie Sanders at the top of the ticket. But there some are Democrats, including Van Jones, CNN commentator, who did work in the Obama administration, who are raising concerns about your campaign. I want you to listen to what Van said earlier on this show.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

VAN JONES, CNN COMMENTATOR: A former vice president, two-term vice president, Obama's guy, should be just sucking in money. He's broke. He doesn't have the grassroots enthusiasm. He's not filling stadiums like a Bernie Sanders. He's not vacuuming in money from the top. He doesn't have a grassroots operation. So it's like a dead man walking campaign for a long time. But it could come back.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: So you're laughing. What's your response to that?

BIDEN: Well, I -- look, I know why I'm running. Just since the election -- since the debate, we've raised over $2 million.

[08:40:02]

I got in this thing late. I didn't have a fundraising base. I've been out of office for three years. It's just beginning to build. I've said from the beginning, it takes time to build this. And, look, I know why I'm running. I'm running to make sure everyone

has adequate health care and their taxes don't go up exponentially. I'm making sure that we're going to deal with climate change and do it quickly. I'm -- and Van will tell you, I helped put together the climate accord in Paris. I'm very engaged in foreign policy, making sure we make -- have a -- have a plan that, in fact, gets us back into the game and doesn't -- that doesn't alienate our allies. I know why I'm running.

And unlike other candidates who are running, Bernie thought we should primary Barack in 2012, thought he's -- basically doing -- he was weak, he was disappointing. You have, you know, Mike Bloomberg. I love all these ads these folks are running. I wonder where they were when we really needed them. So this is about --

BERMAN: Well, are you envious, though, that they're running all these ads? Are you envious that they have the capability to run these ads?

BIDEN: I'm not envious. I've never been -- I've never been envious of anybody, ever. I'm Joe Biden. I'm running against Donald Trump. He's the guy I'm running against. And now what you guys are doing is you're doing your homework and finding out bought all these other folks who are now beginning to move. So I'm -- I feel good.

Look, John, I'm not -- I'm not a -- I'm not a pundit. I'm a candidate. I know why I'm running. I know what this country needs. And I think I'm best equipped to do it. I think I have the most experience. The issues that are at stake or in my wheelhouse, international relations, foreign policy, as well as uniting the country. Those two things I've done very well, better than anybody else that's running.

BERMAN: Which -- which of your opponents -- this has now been several months. I mean you've been in this now for a while. Who has surprised you the most?

BIDEN: Well, what surprised me is the amount of money being spent. And it's enormous. You have the two billionaires spending I guess over a half a billion dollars already together. Maybe more.

But, look, you can -- you can spend all the money in the world but it can't ultimately hide your record. And so, you know, Mike's a good guy. Mike worked on gun issues. And I'm proud that he did that. But, you know, Mike's policies with African-Americans and throwing up, you know, 5 million people up against the wall, quote/unquote, his stop and frisk policy, his insisting that when they passed the minimum wage in his city they -- he decided that he's going to challenge that in court. I mean these aren't Democrat Democrats.

You know, I'm involved in this for two reasons. One, and first and foremost, is giving people a fighting chance. Everyone's entitled to a chance. And that means working class folks, black and white, Hispanic. That means people who are down and out on their life, as well as making sure that you give the middle class the opportunity to succeed. And it's getting hurt and it's getting hurt very badly.

BERMAN: I do want to ask you about one thing that you've said repeatedly on the trail. I think it's three times now. You said that during your visit to South Africa, to visit Nelson Mandela, which I know was a very memorable visit for you, that you were arrested when you were there. Your campaign has come out since said, no, no, no, you were separated from other people at the airport, but you did say arrest three times.

BIDEN: Yes.

BERMAN: Why?

BIDEN: Well, what I meant to say was, I got off that -- look, I strongly, strongly, strongly opposed apartheid. I was one of the leaders. And if you doubt it, go on JoeBiden.com and look at the exchange between George Schultz and me in the Foreign Relations Committee.

And here's the deal, I was with a black delegation, the CBC, the Congressional Black Caucus. They had me get off a plane. The Africaners (ph) got on in their shot pants and their guns, let me off for -- led me off first and moved me in a direction totally different. I turned around and everybody -- the entire black delegation was going another way. I said, I'm not going to go in that door that says white only. I'm going with them. They said, you're not. You can't move.

You can't go with them. And they -- and they kept me there until finally I decided they were clear I wasn't going to move. And so what they finally did, they said, OK, they'll not going to make the congressional delegation go through the black door. They're not going to make me go through the white door. They went -- took us out -- if my memory serves me, through a baggage claim area up to a restaurant and they cleared out a restaurant.

I felt strongly about apartheid. One of the reasons we were there. And after -- long after this, when Nelson Mandela was freed and came to the United States, he came in my office. He was one of the most incredible men I ever met. He sat down in my office and thanked me -- thanked me for trying to -- all the work I did on apartheid.

And so that's -- that's the context of it. When I said arrested, I mean I was not able to -- I was not able to move. Cops, Africaners (ph), would not let me go with them. Made me stay where I was. I guess I wasn't arrested, I was stopped. I was not able to move where I wanted to go.

BERMAN: So I do have one question, when this is all said and done, this whole campaign, if Donald Trump is re-elected as president of the United States, what will it tell you about America?

BIDEN: Well, it would tell me that we're in real trouble. I'm not being facetious when I say that. I think eight years of Donald Trump will change the country, the nature of who we are. That's why we can't shoot and miss in terms of politically.

[08:45:02]

We have to be able to win. And it requires us to be able to help people, as Jim Clyburn said, win down ballot.

And, you know, and, look, it's one thing to say -- all -- have all the plans in the world. Who has followed through on their plans? Who has gotten big things done in the United States Congress? Who has gotten big things done from the perspective of a vice president as it relates to the Congress?

I've been deeply involved on this for a long time. And I've been very successful in getting legislation passed and getting major initiatives moved.

If you notice, every time we got in trouble and had trouble up on Capitol Hill, who got sent up to fix it? Me, because of my relationships on The Hill. These aren't my, quote, personal good buddies, but I never question a person's motive, I question their judgment.

And I think it's really important we have enough senators that we have a 51 majority in the United States Senate, and we can do that. We can win in North Carolina. We can win in Georgia. We can win in a number of places, but you have to have a team that, in fact, is going to work on the down ballot folks as well. At least that's my view.

BERMAN: Mr. Vice President Joe Biden, thank you for being with us this morning. We look forward to having you back on NEW DAY in the coming weeks and months.

BIDEN: Thanks, John.

BERMAN: Good luck, sir.

BIDEN: Thank you very much, man. Appreciate it.

BERMAN: Erica.

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Next week we reveal our first CNN hero of 2020. First, though, we do want to give you an update on last year's CNN Hero of the Year, Freweini Mebrahtu. She was honored for taking on the stigma surrounding menstruation in Ethiopia. And Freweini says when she got a hero's welcome when she returned home and that CNN's recognition helped her not only open minds but open doors a little wider.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON COOPER, HOST, "CNN HEROES: AN ALL-STAR TRIBUTE": The 2019 CNN Hero of the Year is --

KELLY RIPA, HOST, "CNN HEROES: AN ALL-STAR TRIBUTE": Freweini Mebrahtu.

FREWEINI MEBRAHTU, CNN HERO OF THE YEAR: I just could not believe it. To work so hard for this moment, I felt like, oh, it is really important.

Almost the entire town was waiting for me at the airport. I don't deserve it, but the cause deserve it.

The Ethiopian president, she's been wonderful. It's like, wow, I'm in the national palace to talk about periods.

We have a lot of work to do, but the silence has been broken.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HILL: So important. You can see Anderson Cooper's full update and also nominate someone you think should be a CNN Hero at cnnheroes.com.

BERMAN: So we just heard from the former vice president, Joe Biden. What's going to happen tomorrow in South Carolina? And what does it mean for Super Tuesday? We'll get "The Bottom Line" with David Gregory, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[08:51:47]

HILL: We just heard from former Vice President Joe Biden making his case as voters head to the polls in South Carolina tomorrow. And then, of course, Super Tuesday, three days later.

Let's get "The Bottom Line" now with CNN political analyst David Gregory.

David, good morning.

So one of the things -- you know John tried hard to get a number out of him, and he said, you know, Mr. Vice President, how big does your margin need to be in South Carolina? He would not give a specific number. But, David, he did say, he really believes South Carolina will be a launching pad for him.

What does he need to make it a successful launching pad?

DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, because if it's not, then it -- then there's no success --

HILL: Well, then, yes, there's that.

GREGORY: And he's got a pretty short road ahead. Yes, he's not going to commit to a number.

I think it's obvious he needs a big margin. There's a couple of reasons.

One of the reasons is, he'd like it to be an early night in South Carolina. So there's plenty of time, if it's called early, he's got a big margin of victory, then a lot of people on TV can be talking about how, hey, you know, don't count out Joe Biden. Maybe this race is changing. Maybe he's going to be the one to really confront Bernie Sanders.

And then he can start earning some money. He's got a very short window between tomorrow and Super Tuesday to try to build momentum and get some money in the coffers.

I still think Biden's got a lot to prove. I mean I think the sound you played from Van Jones is still on target in terms of his strength as a candidate, the strength of his ideas in the marketplace of the Democratic voters.

But one thing, you know, when we're going through coronavirus and a financial market collapse, I think Biden benefits because you look at him in the interview with him, John, you can imagine him doing the job. You can imagine him doing the job with competence. That matters to people. That matters to voters.

BERMAN: This is a moment for him. There's no question that this is -- this is the moment. He has to do really well in South Carolina. The coronavirus thing, David, I think is the perfect framing, I think, for his candidacy. And this, in some ways, is the referendum on Joe Biden. And we will know, I think, within 36 hours the -- you know, the fate of the candidacy one way or the other.

GREGORY: Yes, I agree with that. And I think -- but I think it's bigger than just Biden, although, you know, not for him. I mean the question of his candidacy, right.

But I think the bigger point is, the marketplace of ideas. There needs -- the Democratic Party is fighting about what are the most important ideas? And so one part of it is, who can beat Trump? What can beat Trump? And the other part is, what is the future of the Democratic Party actually look like? And I think it would behoove the party to have a moderate versus a more progressive voice, to have that debate as we move forward to see who's going to be the nominee.

And, therefore, the complication is, let's say Biden does well. Then you go into Super Tuesday, everybody's going to wait out Super Tuesday. But here's Mike Bloomberg who gets in the race because Biden looked like he was collapsing. If he's resurgent, now it's Bloomberg who's very much standing in the way.

HILL: It's interesting, too, you say, you know, that they needs to get to the point where they're sort of -- really where the party's figuring out who it is because Joe Biden, in one of his answers to you, in talking about some of his rivals, were saying, well, they're not Democrat Democrats. But the reality is, today, you know, who and what is a Democrat? And that has not been established as you move forward into 2020.

Just picking up on coronavirus, too. You were saying, you know, Joe Biden is really a good messenger and sort of a reminder. How heavily is coronavirus, in your mind at this point, David, starting to weigh on 2020?

[08:55:01]

GREGORY: I -- you know, I don't know. Maybe the entrance polls will give us some indication of that. But I feel very strongly, and John and I know, having covered President Bush, I think what hurt him so badly at the end of the administration was the overhang from Iraq and Katrina because it became a question, not just of credibility, but of competence.

Can the government handle something that only the government can take care of? A global pandemic is only something that the federal government has the scale to be able to address. And I'm very concerned. You know, as a parent and as a citizen, I get concerned about how politicized it gets, especially in an election year.

I don't think we ought to amplify it. We should be careful in the media not to amplify the political infighting over this to support an administration that needs to put health and science first in its response. But I think this is a bare bones thing. This is the one thing the government does. You look to the leaders. Are they competent for the job?

BERMAN: David Gregory, we appreciate you being with us. Mentioning the impact of an early night tomorrow night, so we can all, you know, go to sleep -- go to sleep early potentially.

HILL: There's that.

BERMAN: I appreciate it. No, but it's a great point you bring up about that as well.

David, thanks so much for being with us.

GREGORY: Thanks. Appreciate it.

BERMAN: So there are concerns now. The WHO raising specific concerns that the coronavirus situation could turn into a pandemic. The stock market futures have been down all morning long. Down -- oh, wow, actually, that's taken a decided turn for the worse over the last few minutes, down now 376 points. Market open in just a half an hour.

CNN, our coverage continues right after this.