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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Six Coronavirus Deaths in United States; Buttigieg, Klobuchar to Endorse Biden; Bloomberg on the Ballot for the First Time As Democrat Tomorrow. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired March 2, 2020 - 16:00   ET

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


[16:00:02]

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: How about that to start your week?

I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thanks so much for being with me.

Let's go to Washington. "THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER" starts right now.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: It is the biggest day in the race before the biggest day in the race.

THE LEAD starts right now.

Breaking today, hours before the most critical day of the presidential Democratic primary so far, another candidate bows out. Two former contenders expected to both back Joe Biden tonight. Could that stop Bernie Sanders and his movement from steamrolling on Super Tuesday?

Also breaking today, coronavirus cases jumping in the U.S., at least 100 infected, six now dead, as concerns grow about a hidden cluster of the virus and as President Trump turns less rosy about the situation and pushes pharmaceutical companies for a vaccine. The mixed messages coming from the administration that might be adding to confusion.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

TAPPER: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

We begin with two breaking stories, the Dow Jones closing right now up almost 1,300 points, rebounding in a major way after last week's plunge.

And in the 2020 lead today, and then there were five, Senator Amy Klobuchar the latest Democratic candidate to drop out of the 2020 race.

And, according to sources, this evening, both Klobuchar and former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg will offer their endorsements for one man, former Vice President Joe Biden, at a Biden rally in Dallas, Texas.

It is not just Klobuchar and Buttigieg backing Biden since his South Carolina win. It's a whole bunch of Democratic establishment figures, ranging from Harry Reid to Susan Rice, all of them coalescing behind Biden, which Sanders was asked about today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

QUESTION: Are you concerned about the moderates consolidating behind Joe Biden?

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Look, it is no secret -- I mean, "The Washington Post" has 16 articles a day on this -- that there is a massive epic trying to stop Bernie Sanders. That's not a secret anybody in this room.

The corporate establishment is coming together. The political establishment is coming together. And they will do everything. They are really getting nervous that working people are standing up.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: The culling of the candidate herd comes ahead of the biggest test yet for the Democratic presidential candidates, with 14 states, plus American Samoa, all voting in the primaries tomorrow, as CNN's Ryan Nobles reports from Klobuchar's home state of Minnesota.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): With only a few hours until Super Tuesday, another shakeup in the Democratic primary race.

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Remember that what unites us is bigger than what divides us.

NOBLES: Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar to end her 2020 campaign and endorse former Vice President Joe Biden tonight at a rally in Dallas, Texas. Also showing up in Dallas to throw his support behind Biden, former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who dropped his bed Sunday night.

PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Our goal has always been to help unify Americans to defeat Donald Trump and to win the era for our values.

And so we must recognize that, at this point in the race, the best way to keep faith with those goals and ideals is to step aside and help bring our party and our country together.

NOBLES: As the moderate lane in the primary shrinks, Sanders saying he is ready for the challenge.

SANDERS: The political establishment is coming together, and they will do everything. They are really getting nervous.

NOBLES: The Vermont senator is hoping for a strong showing tomorrow night to build an insurmountable delegate advantage.

SANDERS: We are going to defeat the most dangerous president in modern American history.

NOBLES: With 14 states and more than 1,300 delegates up for grabs, the 2020 contenders fanning out across the country today, Biden in Texas, Sanders making stops in Utah and Minnesota, Elizabeth Warren in California, and Mike Bloomberg in Virginia.

The former mayor remains a wild card, having spent more than half-a- billion dollars of his own money on the race.

MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If they say, why vote for Bloomberg, two reasons. One, he can do the job. And, two, he can beat Trump.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

NOBLES: And more now on Amy Klobuchar's calculation and the reason she decided to get out of the race now.

Sources telling our Kyung Lah that she felt that it was time for the Democratic Party to unify and unify specifically against Bernie Sanders. And while there is certainly an argument to be made that there is a long-term disadvantage to that, there's a short-term advantage for Sanders. He now has a real shot at winning here in Minnesota, Jake, one of the reasons he will be here behind me tonight.

TAPPER: All right, Ryan Nobles in the Land of 10,000 lakes, thanks so much. Appreciate it.

Let's chat about all this.

Let me start with you, Governor Granholm. We should point out you have not endorsed, but you did work with Joe Biden on debate prep.

JENNIFER GRANHOLM, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: That's right.

TAPPER: Do you see South Carolina and this huge raft of endorsements -- obviously, the Democratic establishment really coming behind Biden -- as boosting his chances on Super Tuesday?

[16:05:01]

GRANHOLM: Yes, for sure. I mean, how could it not be?

And it's not just the Democratic establishment, which I know Bernie Sanders kind of says with a tinge of class warfare. It's really just Democrats who are perhaps in the moderate lane, perhaps moderately progressive, who feel like they just want to beat Trump.

And they're concerned about having somebody who is self-described as a socialist not having the ability to beat him. So that's what it's all about.

What are you laughing at? It's true.

(CROSSTALK)

DAVID URBAN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I love it.

(CROSSTALK)

GRANHOLM: No, no, but it's true, so it's going to help.

URBAN: Sure.

TAPPER: You were praising how Sanders was spinning or reacting to the news.

URBAN: Listen, listen, I participated in a similar campaign, right, in 2016

You know how many -- those were called never-Trumpers, right? And you guys now have never Bernie-ers right? Like, anybody but Bernie. We will have anyone but Bernie. It's going to be the end of our party.

TAPPER: Well, that's not true, because you will support -- if he's the nominee, you will support him.

GRANHOLM: Of course. Of course. I would never be in a never-Bernie camp.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: But you thought it was effectively done.

URBAN: Right. It was very effectively done, right?

It seemed a little truthful hyperbole what Bernie was doing there. There was 18 articles today in "The Washington Post" against me, right? I mean, I have heard somebody else talk like that.

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: There are a couple of differences between now and 2016 on the Republican side.

One is the coalescence that we're seeing is pretty rapid behind--

TAPPER: Yes. It's only March 2.

URBAN: Well, because political capital has a shelf life, and the two candidates who just got out, theirs was dated, right? Wednesday. Theirs expired on Wednesday.

(CROSSTALK)

URBAN: Self-interest.

AXELROD: Well, there were some dated candidates in your race who hung around quite a while. So, I don't know.

(CROSSTALK)

AXELROD: The other are the rules of the Democratic Party.

So, this -- the way delegates are awarded, where everybody gets some, everybody gets a participation ribbon in the Democratic Party if they get 15 percent, that makes it harder to get to a majority.

And I think that's the whole game right now is, how many delegates can Bernie Sanders amass? How close will Joe Biden be to him? If the race is close, I think you will see a convention at which Biden could emerge as the nominee.

If Bernie Sanders racks up a big number and comes very close to that 1,991, it's going to be very difficult to take that nomination away from him.

TAPPER: And, Nia-Malika, there's obviously two different theories of the case as to why Sanders is more electable vs. why Biden is more electable.

Sanders will get out -- this is what he says. He will get out the young people, he will get out working-class voters, he will get out alienated people who traditionally don't vote. And his crowds are huge, the biggest on the Democratic side.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: Biden's argument is, they will keep the suburbs, they will win over disaffected Republicans.

I'm not sure that any one case is stronger than the other.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: That's right. And who the heck knows, I mean, what the electorate would actually do come November 2020?

But you do see the moderates obviously betting on Biden. His poll numbers are stronger if you look at the head-to-head matchup between him and Donald Trump. Most of the polls show both Sanders and Biden beating Donald Trump, but Biden tends to do a little better.

And there is worry that this labeled Democratic socialist does push away people in the middle, the college-educated white women, for instance, that would be key to any Democrat trying to win.

The other thing is, Sanders hasn't necessarily made good on what he said he could do with the electorate, which is to draw out huge numbers of additional voters in a lot of these different states. So that is weakening his case a bit

GRANHOLM: Can I just jump on this point?

Because I think this is really important. There was a 40,000-person study that was released a couple of weeks ago. It was an academic study out of Yale and Berkeley. And what those academics found was that if you nominate somebody who is closer to the fringe, to the further left, or to the further right, obviously, the people in the middle don't come up that much.

That means you have to make up a huge amount of young people or this burgeoning amount of turnout. And what they predict is that young people would have to turn out 54 percent. It has never happened in history, 54 youthful turnout. Barack Obama had the highest in history, and his was 48 percent.

That kind of number is what people on the Democratic side look like -- look at when they say, let's consolidate.

TAPPER: Talk to George McGovern about relying on those young voters.

URBAN: Let me just say, also, one's really talking about Bloomberg, right?

I heard that clip the two reasons that he articulated. None of them was excitement about his candidacy. But what happens with Bloomberg? Does he stay in? Does he get out? I think that will clarify things as well.

AXELROD: That's a big deal tomorrow. I think that if Bloomberg is significantly behind Biden, he's going to have to have a conversation with his team on Wednesday about what the point is in moving forward.

If they're closer, we're into a murkier area, and it may be harder for him to pull out or to persuade himself that it's time to go.

TAPPER: Everyone, stick around. We're going to keep up this conversation.

Be sure to tune into a CNN special this evening, a prime-time special. All of the remaining Democratic presidential candidates sit down exclusively with CNN less than 24 hours before Super Tuesday.

So far, the ones that are left, Senator Bernie Sanders, former vice president Biden Senator, Elizabeth Warren, and former Mayor Michael Bloomberg. That starts at 8:00 p.m. Eastern only on CNN.

[16:10:07]

As we have been discussing, Michael Bloomberg is betting big on tomorrow Super Tuesday. Who will he help, who might be hurt tomorrow?

Then, now there are six confirmed deaths in Washington state from the novel coronavirus. What the government is doing to try to contain it.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:15:00]

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Michael Bloomberg is still standing as his Democratic rivals fall one by one.

MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I felt sorry for them, but I'm in it to win it, and we are going to go out and we're going to go get them.

ZELENY: On the eve of Super Tuesday, Bloomberg is hours away from his first test, not only the presidential campaign, but whether Democrats accept him as one of their own.

BLOOMBERG: We can disagree with specific polity (ph) positions of presidents from both sides of the aisle without resorting to personal attacks.

ZELENY: That was Bloomberg today at a pro-Israel lobbying convention, a major gathering featuring Democrats and Republicans, and Bloomberg has been both.

Of all the many questions facing Bloomberg's candidacy, this is the basic one, can a one-time Democrat turned Republican, then turned independent mayor of New York be trusted as a Democrat?

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If the Democrats want a nominee who's a Democrat, a life long Democrat, then join us.

ZELENY: Joe Biden was talking about Bernie Sanders, a Vermont independent, who was also lumping Bloomberg into the Democrat come lately past.

Bloomberg has explained his past.

BLOOMBERG: I come from Massachusetts where there are no Republicans so I was a Democrat there for sure. I moved to New York City where there are no Republicans, so I was a Democrat there.

ZELENY: And he's defended his Democratic credentials.

BLOOMBERG: I spoke for Hillary Clinton at the DNC convention in Philadelphia in 2016.

ZELENY: That is true.

BLOOMBERG: I am not here as a member of any party.

ZELENY: But he also spoke at the Republican convention in 2004 and endorsed President George W. Bush a year earlier.

BLOOMBERG: You may rest assured, we along with you, will make George W. Bush have a second term.

ZELENY: Following his third term as mayor, Bloomberg has invested heavily on Democratic friendly issues like gun legislation, climate change and in 2018, helping the party win control of the House. But that has not raised suspicion from some rivals about whether Bloomberg is a Democrat inspired by conviction or opportunity.

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The core of the Democratic Party will never trust him.

ZELENY: Bloomberg brushes aside that criticism, saying he's put his money behind his beliefs.

BLOOMBERG: I gave away all my company profits, which is $800 million, into causes that you would think all Democrats and basically all liberal Democratic policies. (END VIDEOTAPE)

ZELENY: So Democratic voters will have the final say in this starting tomorrow Super Tuesday where Mayor Bloomberg will be in Florida campaigning at three stops. Of course, he's looking ahead down the calendar. The Florida primary in two weeks from tomorrow.

Jake, it's an open question if he'll still be in the race by then. His aides say they'll reanalyze all this the day after Super Tuesday -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Jeff Zeleny, thanks so much.

Let's chew over all this.

And, Nia-Malika, here's what Bloomberg said on "60 Minutes" about the possibility of dropping out of the race if he does not do well tomorrow, Super Tuesday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you don't finish top three on Super Tuesday, is that it for you?

BLOOMBERG: No, of course not.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You'll keep going on?

BLOOMBERG: Yes, sure, there's elections seven or so days later, there's another one 14 days later. There's a number of elections after that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: It's true that there are three Super Tuesdays in a row starting tomorrow, but if he doesn't finish in the top three, what is the reason to stay in the race?

HENDERSON: Yes, he's been banking $400 million all on Super Tuesday and he was also -- he was banking on the idea that Joe Biden would be weak, right? That is why he got into this race and Joe Biden had a very, very strong showing out of South Carolina. You see moderates coalescing around him.

The idea that he's going to come out of Super Tuesday, we'll see how many delegates he gets, where he's able to get the 15 percent in any of these 14 states. I think there's 16 contests all together. But, you know, sort of the rationale for moving forward doesn't seem like it would be there.

And his ultimate rationale is to beat Donald Trump, right?

TAPPER: Right.

URBAN: Allegedly. HENDERSON: Does he think he can beat Donald Trump or does he see

someone else in the field, like a Joe Biden, that might be more likely to beat Donald Trump and is he in the way staying in the race? All the data I have seen, it seems like the Bloomberg support is coming right from Biden -- white voters. And so, you know, staying in only hurts Biden.

AXELROD: No, I think you put your finger right on it. They had a strategy. And that strategy was Biden, who was looking very weak at the time they got in the race would not make it through these four primaries, that the South Carolina firewall would not hold and that Bloomberg could pick up the pieces on Super Tuesday and become the challenger to Bernie Sanders in this race.

Obviously that didn't work, because Joe Biden came roaring out of South Carolina. He's going to get some kind of bounce out of this. It could be a big bounce. And just as those votes that Bloomberg is getting -- come from Biden, the votes that Biden is getting are going come from Bloomberg.

And Bloomberg could find himself doing much less well on Super Tuesday that his plans had called for.

GRANHOLM: You know what would make him enormously popular among Democrats like he would be a total hero is if he gets out after Super Tuesday and continues to spend, because he makes $107 million a day just by breathing.

[16:20:13]

He's got so much money. Democrats would treat him --

TAPPER: Spending money on anti-Trump ads.

GRANHOLM: Yes, of course. Of course.

TAPPER: And President Trump is afraid of that.

URBAN: Listen, I had a good fortune -- I talked to the president today about the candidates in the race, right? The president is ready for all comers. Obviously, $50 billion is something to be concerned about if you're any political operative, right?

TAPPER: Sure.

URBAN: It's going to buy a lot of TV. Can't buy you love, can't buy you charisma, things we talked about.

Look, I think what's important tonight is not only the delta between Bernie and Biden in delegates, but also the Biden Bloomberg delta. It's not that big, there isn't a case for Bloomberg. I think Bloomberg thinks, if there's going to be a brokered convention, why not me? I got enough money. I'll make the argument I should be the candidate, not Biden. That's my take on it.

TAPPER: And we should point out, that there was this event in Selma, Alabama, commemoration of Bloody Sunday. And Bloomberg spoke there and a number of African-Americans turned their backs on him as he spoke at this church.

Take a listen to what Bloomberg said about his record in New York, Nia.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BLOOMBERG: When I left, I think it's fair to say, most people, women, minorities, they would say it was the best 12 years the city has had in modern memory.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Now, stop and frisk remains a huge and potent issue, but it is true also -- I saw one polled that him with a 60 percent approval rating with African-Americans in New York City.

HENDERSON: In New York City, right. And, listen, he has done himself a lot of good with ads featuring a lot of African-Americans, criminal justice activists in some of these ads, small business owners as well, but he also ran into Elizabeth Warren in these debates and didn't do so well in terms of his record on strop and frisk.

He essentially lied about his record on stop and frisk, said he moved to stop it. He was essentially forced to stop it, and then he has defended it until very recently, essentially before he got into this race he was defending it. His record on women -- lots of lawsuits against him.

So, listen, we'll see. I think he came in as somebody who was very interesting to African-Americans. Seemed to be a different person presenting all these ads, and then I think the information has come out.

AXELROD: I'll tell you something as someone who made ads for many, many years. There's a limit to them. They can create interest and maybe even support, but that support is fragile, and people are going to resolve their questions based on what they see with their own two eyes.

When Michael Bloomberg stepped out on the stage in the first debate and had such a horrific first debate, and took the kind of beating he took, particularly from senator warren, a lot of effect of those ads was reduced, because people saw him in real life. He has a formidable record in many different realms, but he's not a very good performer and some of those issues are bad issues in the Democratic Party.

To your point, David, you're right that that's what Bloomberg will think, but he'd be a hard guy to sell to a Democratic convention.

TAPPER: Everyone, stick around. We got more to talk about.

The coronavirus is spreading in the United States. We're going to talk to one doctor on the front lines of the fight right now about what is being done to contain the virus. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:28:17]

TAPPER: We have some breaking news in our health lead.

Six people have now died from the coronavirus in the United States, all of them in Washington state, and as CNN's Stephanie Elam reports for us now, health officials fully expect to see more cases but they're also trying to bring more some perspective by emphasizing that the risk of death for most members of the American public remains very low.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The number of coronavirus cases in the U.S. surging to now at least 100 people.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: It's always dangerous to make predictions, definitive predictions, but I'm concerned that you're going to see a lot more cases.

ELAM: The first case in New York, a 45-year-old woman who travelled to Iran.

DR. ANDREW CUOMO (D), NEW YORK: She wasn't symptomatic on the plane and she didn't take public transportation.

ELAM: Two confirmed cases in Florida, in Rhode Island, a man and woman a teenage girl both diagnosed with the virus. They had recently travelled the Europe together. In Oregon, two cases, and in Washington state, which appears to have the highest person to person transmission rate in the country right now, six people have now died. Some had underlying health conditions, including a resident at a life care nursing facility in Kirkland.

ALEX AZAR, HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES SECRETARY: Right now, there's a large investigation going on in the nursing home, the hospital, contact tracing to try to determine where that disease was introduced and how it might have spread.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's hard for me is the -- her feeling alone.

ELAM: Cam Fry's (ph) mother has been at Life Care Center for a few weeks now. Fry made this sign with messages for her 89-year-old mom.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just -- we love you. We can't come in, but Jesus can. So, you're not alone. Figure out what room she's in, and hold up my sign up at the window and just, you know, say hi.

ELAM: Public health officials warning the number of coronavirus victims would likely to increase this week because testing across the country is ramping up.