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INSIDE POLITICS

2020 Dems Campaign Ahead Of High-Stakes Super Tuesday Contests; Israeli's Voting In Unprecedented Third Election In A Year; Alabama Republicans Run On Trump Loyalty For Senate Primary. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired March 2, 2020 - 12:30   ET

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


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[12:31:26]

JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Back now to the Super Tuesday steaks for the 2020 Democrats. We talked about Bernie Sanders and former Vice President Joe Biden. The last block out in California today is Senator Elizabeth Warren. We can show you on the map up there. She's campaigning out there 14 states up tomorrow more than 1,300 delegates, so why California for Elizabeth Warren?

Well, let's just show you where she is in the race right now. She has only eight pledged delegates at the moment. A candidate who owned the summer has had a struggling early primary season. She was third in Iowa, fourth in New Hampshire, fourth in Nevada, and fifth in South Carolina. She has spent $2 million. That's a relatively modest amount of money in seven states up on Super Tuesday.

But Alex, you've been reporting on this her campaign beliefs. There's some skepticism about this. You have to start performing at some point. But her campaign believes California is a place where she could possibly play second, because it has more than 400 delegates, get a big hall of delegates, and then rack up some other even if you don't get a win. She's hoping for one at home in Massachusetts. But get -- hopefully get a win there and rack up a bunch of second place. So on Wednesday morning, she can make a credible case. I'm in the hunt.

ALEX THOMPSON, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, POLITICO: Exactly. I mean, she's just focused on delegates, delegates, delegates in sort of a war of attrition is the hope that maybe the front runner scrutiny of Bernie Sanders, Joe Biden's you know, other problems, whether or not you know, in debates or everything else will make people wary, and that she doesn't -- her campaign doesn't believe that anybody is going to get the majority of the delegates going into the convention.

And so her play now is to win in Milwaukee. Now you mentioned the $2 million. Now the other thing that we have to remember is that she has over $12 million on the air from this shadowy Super PAC. And we don't know the donors of, that she was opposed to dark money for most of this campaign. But it is now the biggest Super PAC on Super Tuesday. It is lapping Joe Biden's Super PAC. And so we don't know the effect of that either.

KING: Right. And again, yes, and Senator Sanders just start to poke her on that. The two candidates who have been mostly nice to each other along the way, are getting a little bit more prickly there. Now, I just want to go back to the map, though, in the sense that if you look at this for Elizabeth Warren, because, you know, you hold out hope, this could be a long protracted fight. But at some point, after coming in, third, fourth, fourth, and fifth, at some point, she could desperately use that, a win at home in Massachusetts would help.

Bernie Sanders went in there with two big rallies to try to essentially take away her win on Super Tuesday. You try to get some here. And then is there a particular place somewhere else? Where do we think Elizabeth Warren can run? Is it Texas? Is it North Carolina, Virginia?

THOMPSON: Yes. I think what at least she's -- her campaign has been focused on Texas, California, where she's right on that viability threshold. If she gets 15 percent and no one else is viable, that is a ton of delegates for her. And she also sees Denver as a huge potential opportunity. And then next week you're going to see Washington, Michigan where she's already in advertising. It is a long shot. But there are places where she thinks that she can stay in the delegate hunt.

KING: Stay in the delegate hunt. That will be it. She has -- her campaign has underperformed so far. The question is, can you produce what makes tomorrow fascinating? It's the first time Michael Bloomberg is on the ballot. He skipped the first four contests which is why he has a big zero when it comes to pledged delegates and we have N.A. meaning he didn't compete in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina.

However, look at the bottom of the screen there, $173.8 million in T.V. ad spending in all 14 of the states that are up tomorrow. And yet, I have not seen a poll that shows me Michael Bloomberg is leading anywhere. What -- how does one define success for Mayor Bloomberg or if he's a no, meaning no wins, is he done?

MARGARET TALEV, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Delegates is the way you define success. It is the only way to define success at this point and the challenge for Michael Bloomberg is that the paid media has been great for him. They're good ads. People watch them. They're always on T.V. They have women and people of color and all the groups he needs to gain ground.

[12:35:13]

But the problem for him has been earned media. And it's been those debates have been terrible for him and that there's so much coverage of them, that people who are just watching the news are reading negative things about him. And it's clearly eaten into some of the bump that he would have gotten from the ads.

So we will see. We will see whether people have been paying more attention to ads or whether people have been paying more attention to debate coverage and critical things that all the other Democratic candidates have said or piled on him about, particularly the issues surrounding some of his past statements about women, you know, 20, 30 years ago and the whole issue of the nondisclosure agreements, but also with black voters. You saw some group of voters turn away from him or criticize him in Selma yesterday.

There -- some of the southern states were African-American vote is really. That could hurt him.

KING: His whole rationale was a Biden collapse, the big --

TALEV: Yes.

KING: -- Biden win, right, before Bloomberg was first on the ballot. That could not have been -- that is the worst thing that could happen to Michael Bloomberg.

MELANIE ZANONA, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, POLITICO: That throws a complete wrench in his plan.

TALEV: There is a question of, if he underperforms in Super Tuesday, does he nevertheless stay in for that sort of second Super Tuesday because he's invested a lot in that 15 percent strategy in that group of states also. And that's a lot of states also.

THOMPSON: He said he's going to, he said in 16 minutes yesterday. He's going to stay in. The problem is that he's eating into Joe Biden's campaign. And ironically for the guy that came in to stop Bernie Sanders, he going to making Bernie Sanders nominee.

ZANONA: Spending a whole lot of money to do that.

KING: They make the case of the Bloomberg campaign that because Biden is not competitive in California, that their help -- that they're hurting Sanders by staying in through Tuesday. That will be interesting conversation if Bloomberg disappoints across the board Tuesday night, Wednesday morning, whether he decides, I'm out of here. But we'll see.

Let's focus on Senator Klobuchar. Seven pledged delegates so far, 15 Iowa, disappointing from neighboring Minnesota, third in New Hampshire, which was a surprise performance for her probably cost Pete Buttigieg a win there, then but then felt sixth in Nevada and sixth in South Carolina. So you're a candidate, you're always an underdog. You had that boost in New Hampshire with that showing. But then the question now is where do you go on the map?

Her State of Minnesota, obviously, is one place but Senator Sanders is going in there again. Senator Sanders being aggressive, he went into Massachusetts to try to take home base away from Senator Warren. He's going into Minnesota today to try to take home base away from Senator Klobuchar. She's also been out in Colorado and Utah, trying to get some -- trying to reach viability, is that the standard there, the test?

TOLUSE OLORUNNIPA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think she wants to do as well as possible in Minnesota, try to make the case that I'm the middle Midwestern candidate who can win in places like Wisconsin and Pennsylvania and Ohio by showing that she's can do well in the Midwest and then trying to reach viability and some of the other states.

It's not a strong path. There are a lot of states where she's likely to be fifth or fourth, and not really up in the top tier. But doing well in Minnesota could help her make the case that I can -- I should stay in the race because I can do well in the Midwest and we need the Midwest in order to win in November. That's her strongest argument at this point. We'll have to wait and see Tuesday night and Wednesday in how she does.

KING: With Buttigieg out of the race, maybe she has a clearer path to make that case, but she has to make it by performance. I just want to quickly note the candidate who's often forgotten, Tulsi Gabbard, because she does not make the debates as of right now. She has zero pledged delegates. She didn't really compete in Iowa. She was seventh in New Hampshire. She didn't really compete in Nevada. And she was seventh in South Carolina. She spent about $148,000 on Super Tuesday states.

I will note this. She's from Hawaii. She's a Congresswoman from Hawaii, American Samoa votes on Super Tuesday. The rules as they now stand, say, if you get a delegate, you're back in the debates as of now, correct?

THOMPSON: Yes. They haven't, I mean, that's been the rule for every single debate. And they have not -- the DNC has not released their official guidance for the March 15th debate in Phoenix. But it would be very obvious that they are trying to cancel Tulsi who they're scared of a party run. If they didn't change the rules prevent her to join -- rejoined the debate stage.

KING: We'll count every last delegate tomorrow night including American Samoa.

[12:39:09]

When we come back Israeli is back at the polls today. Yes. Israelis back at the polls today. It's the third time really the charm. Will they clearly pick a Prime Minister?

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KING: Topping our Political Radar today, two major decisions by the United States Supreme Court. First, the justice is agreeing to decide the fate of the Affordable Care Act. The court says the case will be heard sometime next term, meaning the decision will likely come after the presidential election.

Supreme Court also leaving in place President Trump's ban on so called bump stocks, denying and appeal from gun rights groups and bump stock owners.

The Pentagon setting expectations now after the United States signed a deal with the Taliban over the weekend, saying, do not expect violence in Afghanistan to come to a complete stop right away. But the defense secretary Mark Esper, striking a cautious but optimistic tone, saying, he plans to start bringing the number of troops in Afghanistan down to 8,600 and then assess the situation.

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MARK ESPER, DEFENSE SECRETARY: I don't know if it actually physically began but General Mueller had my OK, my approval to begin at his pace, certainly within 10 days because the requirements said the agreement says that within 10 days, it should begin. As I've said over and over, it's all conditions based. But we are going to show good faith and begin withdrawing our troops. And we can stop that at any moment. We can pause it based on again, changing circumstances.

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KING: Right now the polls are open in Israel for the third time in 11 months. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has failed twice to form a new government. His main opponent, Benny Gantz, failed after the last vote as well. Also hanging over this election, Netanyahu's corruption trial, which scheduled to start in 15 days.

CNN, Oren Liebermann is in Tel Aviv. Oren, are they going to break the deadlock this time?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, it's worth noting when we answer this that every election poll from the last election in September to this one predicted that answer would be, no. But Israel's political deadlock, its stalemate that has gripped this country for more than a year now would continue.

[12:44:59]

But of course, election polls are one thing. Election Day is something very different. It's important to note on this day that as of 6:00 p.m., so just about an hour and a half ago, voter turnout was up 56.3 percent as opposed to 2.8 percentage points lower in September.

What does that mean? Well, first, it means that Israelis care about their politics. But it also means that Israelis have defied expectations. For everything this election had going against it, voter apathy, some fears over coronavirus, and all of those election polls predicting political deadlock. More Israelis have come out to vote. The question is for who?

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was the crux of his campaign was based on getting out 300,000 more Likud voters to win this election. Although that 2.8 percentage points doesn't cover 300,000 if these votes aren't favorably coded, will certainly be a very good showing a strong showing for Benjamin Netanyahu enough to get them over the line. We'll see what the exit polls in a couple of hours and actual results.

But that is one of the key trends we're watching as election polls are open for two more hours here, John. KING: Oren Liebermann, appreciate it. We'll count the votes and check back in tomorrow to see if you're going to get a fourth election or whether we're done. Appreciate it, Oren.

Let's come back to the conversation here in this country, the Supreme Court case, deciding to hear this challenge to Obamacare, arguments likely in the fall, decision likely then kicks over until after the presidential election. But if the arguments are in a regular session in the fall, then the Trump administration which supports this challenge, will they go into court with the group's, file a front of the court brief, and argue right before the election, blow up Obamacare?

ZANONA: Right. This is going to be a huge issue for the GOP. Remember, Democrats ran in 2018. On the issue of health care, raising concerns the GOP was going to get protections for pre existing conditions. And they won back to the House in that year.

So this is going to renew pressure on the GOP if they are going to go to court and support this, that they need to show what their vision would be, what their alternative would be. Obviously in 2017, they were unable to do that. But I do think the fact that we won't get a ruling until after the election year or after the election couldn't be a potential dodging of the bullet for the GOP.

KING: We'll watch this one play out, fascinating case. Up next Super Tuesday means presidential primaries, but also other primaries as well, including a fascinating Senate Republican primary in Alabama.

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[12:51:56]

KING: Alabama Democratic Senator Doug Jones, one of the down ballot candidates, concerned if Senator Bernie Sanders takes the Democratic nomination is predicting Joe Biden will win Alabama's primary tomorrow. This morning, he told CNN, his fears about Sanders are very real.

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SEN. DOUG JONES (D-AL): I'm going to run on my record, regardless of who the nominee is, but there are any number of people who see the top of the ticket and that's going to influence their vote for the down ballot races. They either want to support the top of the ticket or they're not. Moderate voices that are out there that want to heal people, that want to bring this country together with civility, respect, they just don't want an extreme candidate.

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KING: Now, you might remember Jones won his seat by just two points back in 2017. And he is considered the most vulnerable Senate incumbent on the ballot this year. He is awaiting Tuesday's primary to find out who Republicans will choose as his opponent. Three of the seven candidates are considered to be leading the pack, Congressman Bradley Byrne, former Auburn University head football coach Tommy Tuberville, and the former Attorney General Jeff Sessions who was looking, of course to reclaim his old Senate seat.

Jeff Sessions, I think thought getting into this that they'll remember me back home. Maybe the President won't tweet against me, and I'll be OK here. It looks like a cluster at the top.

OLORUNNIPA: President Trump actually has stayed out of this race for the most part. He hasn't been --

KING: It's only Monday.

OLORUNNIPA: Knock on wood. He hasn't been tweeting against his former attorney general who he very much dislikes. But it'll be very interesting to see how President Trump responds to the vote tomorrow, whether or not Jeff Sessions is able to eke out a win and whether or not President Trump rallies behind him or if he continues to hold that grudge from 2017 and 2018, where he said that his attorney general by recusing himself really let him down and did not protect him from all of the investigations that have plagued his in his administration.

THOMPSON: This Republican primary has been such an interesting look at the current Republican base because this primary has been all about Trump. Jeff Sessions has been running ads about his loyalty to Trump. His opponents have been running at least one opponent has been running ads against Jeff Sessions attacking him for not prosecuting Hillary Clinton.

And so you are just seeing that Trump is at the center, not just like, you know, obviously the country media discourse but of the Republican.

KING: Let me jump in on that point. Let's hear it because you're right. You're right. They're awesome. Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JEFF SESSIONS, FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL: -- 100 United States senators, I was the very first one to stand with Donald Trump. I'm Jeff Sessions approve this ad.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: God sent us Donald Trump, because God knew we were in trouble. I'm not looking for a career. I'm looking to help save this country with Donald J. Trump.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Jeff Sessions.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He met the President down and got fired.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And Hillary still ain't in jail. What about you, Bradley?

REP. BRADLEY BYRNE (R-AL): Ninety-seven percent Pro-Trump voting record.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZANONA: It's a Trump off, I mean.

KING: Yes. Trump off.

TALEV: But it's, you know, like, I know we're talking about Republican voters here. But to Doug Jones's point, that's also true that who the Democratic nominee is in the state like Alabama is going to have applications across the ticket and I think not just Alabama but Florida which we haven't been talking about that much because it's not in tomorrow's wave, but it's not far behind.

[12:55:12]

And when you look at how the Democrats are spending their time in Florida, people like Bloomberg, we're going to see Biden there a lot more now. And the whole Bernie Sanders, kind of fidel, you know, comments from the past all that stuff. That is really going to come to bear in places like Florida and in some of the southern states where there are Democrats a little bit lower on this ticket on the presidential race and could have down by one.

KING: One day at a time, Margaret. One day at a time. Super Tuesday tomorrow, we'll get the Florida I promise you. Thanks for joining us Inside Politics. We'll see you back here for Super Tuesday tomorrow.

Brianna Keilar starts after a quick break. Have a good afternoon.

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