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Voters In 14 States Hit Polls On High-Stakes Super Tuesday; Feds Slash Rates In First Emergency Cut Since 2008; Nine Now Dead In Tennesee Tornadoes, Several Still Missing. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired March 3, 2020 - 10:00   ET

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


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[10:00:00]

POPPY HARLOW, CNN NEWSROOM: Good morning, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN NEWSROOM: And I'm Jim Sciutto.

This Super Tuesday, it's all on the line and the candidates know it. 14 states go into the polls, more than 1,300 delegates at stake, dwarfing the numbers taken so far. That is a third of all of the delegates in the entire race.

HARLOW: And this morning, it's a different race than it was 24 hours ago. Former rivals lining up to support Joe Biden. Bernie Sanders fighting back, framing those endorsements at yet another sign that the establishment is, he thinks, trying to stop him.

We have reporters spread out across the country on this critical voting day. Let's begin this hour in Burlington, Vermont. Our National Correspondent, Athena Jones, is there. Of course, that's where Bernie Sanders' home state is set to vote very soon.

ATHENA JONES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Poppy. That's right. We're waiting for Senator Sanders to show up any minute now. This is, of course, his home state. Last time around, he won 86 percent of the delegates, that's 86 percent of the vote, all 16 delegates. No reason to think he won't do so again. But, of course, a lot of the focus in the last couple of days has been on moderates coalescing around Joe Biden.

And Sanders was asked about this yesterday, and whether he was concerned about that consolidation, he didn't say he was concerned about that. He instead used the question to talk about his own agenda for real change, saying, look, there is no secret, there is a massive effort to stop Bernie Sanders. He said the corporate establishment, the political establishment are coming together, they're getting nervous about working people standing up for things like decent wages and standing up for healthcare as a human right and not a privilege.

But, of course, what Sanders does not acknowledge when he answers the question like this is that actually a lot of the concern among the Democratic establishment among moderates and the party is what effect a Sanders candidacy, presidential candidacy, would have down ballot, especially in some of those House districts, those moderate House districts that Democrats were able to flip in 2018.

So Sanders projecting a lot of confidence as he heads into this day, Super Tuesday. Poppy?

SCIUTTO: Athena Jones there, thanks very much.

Joining us from the State of California, crucial state, of course, 415 delegates at stake, more than anywhere else, CNN Washington Correspondent Jessica Dean.

And a big factor there. Listen, a lot of early voters there in California, how does that affect things today?

JESSICA DEAN, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Yes, a lot of early voters, right? So we have these really high number of early voters, we'll see kind of what the turnout is today on actual election day. But the facts remain this is a huge prize tonight with over 400 delegates at stake in California. Joe Biden knows that. He will be in the state today and into the evening. He plans to watch -- or celebrate the election returns in Los Angeles.

And, look, it has been a huge 24 hours for the Biden campaign. Those endorsements yesterday from his former rivals, Amy Klobuchar, Pete Buttigieg and Beto O'Rourke. The campaign really hoping that this is sending a message to voters that the party is aligning behind Joe Biden, that the moderate lane of this party is aligning behind Joe Biden and really sees him as the alternative to Bernie Sanders.

Here in California, of course, Bernie Sanders looking for a knockout punch. If he can run up the score here, that can make a huge difference in this delegates game. Joe Biden hoping to keep those margins lower and stay as close as he can to Bernie Sanders tonight, Jim and Poppy.

But we're going to see what the voters decide. The campaign certainly hopes that this incredible number of endorsements that we have seen, not just the big ones that we saw last night from his former rivals, but Congressional endorsements and money could make a difference. We'll let the voters decide. We'll find out the results or at least some of them. It takes a while for California tonight.

HARLOW: Jess, thank you. Big night, a lot of delegates there.

To Alabama now, our friend, Victor Blackwell, joining us in Birmingham. Good morning, Victor.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to you, Poppy. I spoke with secretary of state and he says that he expects that voter turnout here could reach 1.3 million. Now, that's on the high end. Rain is intermittent in Birmingham. There's a tornado watch around Montgomery, so that could challenge that prediction. But his prediction is so high because in addition to the Democratic primary, there is also the Republican Senate primary here with Jeff Sessions, he's fighting to reclaim his Senate seat.

But let's start with the Democrats. I'm here at a precinct that is heavily African-American, heavily Democratic, and I went to a get out the vote event for the Biden campaign, and they are very optimistic about Alabama, and here's why.

In 2016, 54 percent of Democratic primary voters were African- American. If you extrapolate from what the campaign saw in South Carolina, winning 61 percent of African-American voters, they think that bears well for them here.

They also had the endorsement of both Democratic members of the Senate -- via the Congressional delegation, Doug Jones in the Senate, Terri Sewell in the House, the endorsement of the mayor of Birmingham, the mayor of Selma, where Biden was on Bloody Sunday. There is also Michael Bloomberg who spent a lot of money here, 82 cents of every dollar spent by a campaign on T.V. ads in Alabama came from the Bloomberg campaign. So we'll see where everything falls out. Polls close at 7:00 P.M. Central Time.

SCIUTTO: Yes. If you spend half a billion dollars, you know, that adds up. Victor Blackwell, thanks very much.

Let's talk to a couple of folks who know something about politics, Harry Enten, CNN Senior Political Writer and Analyst, and Chris Cillizza, CNN Politics Reporter and Editor at Large. Thanks to both of you.

So a lot has changed in South Carolina but a lot hasn't changed, let's be frank. Sanders goes in to California with enormous leads in big states like that. How big a change, I suppose, is the question from 72 hours ago to where we are now?

HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICS WRITER AND ANALYST: I just think that there are a few things that I'd sort of point out. Number one, you're talking about what has occurred with Buttigieg and Klobuchar getting out. And those two were really sort of cannibalizing the moderate vote along with Joe Biden. You see, this is the average support across the four primaries ideologically. Biden, Buttigieg and Klobuchar with three of the main five who are doing better in the moderate than the very liberal lane. Warren and Sanders, of course, doing better in the liberal than the moderate lane.

So what we really see here is that Biden is going to be able to coalesce probably that moderate lane and obviously Bloomberg --

SCIUTTO: I mean, I'm just curious. Historically, does this automatically jump here if you're a moderate voter?

ENTEN: It doesn't necessarily. But given the endorsements, we're talking about these endorsements, I do think there's a higher probability of normal, especially given the South Carolina results, I really think there is a chance to sort of jump up.

And just in terms of these endorsements, quickly, look at this. Since Saturday, since South Carolina, the endorsements of senators, reps, governors and major city mayors, Biden has got 15. Sanders only has 12 for the entire campaign. So that really gives you an idea

HARLOW: I just wonder how much it all matters when, Cillizza, you compare the ground game that Bernie Sanders has had had on the ground in California, in Texas, not to mention what Bloomberg has done in those states in terms of money and field offices, et cetera. Do those endorsements matter as much as maybe they think they do?

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN EDITOR AT LARGE: I think they don't matter a ton. But to Harry's point, I think they provide a sense of momentum and a safe home for people who are waiting to see if Joe Biden was actually going to win anything and be credible.

That said, to your point about how much has changed, I think what's changed is, yes, Joe Biden now appears nearly certain, we'll see what happens today, but nearly certain to be the Bernie alternative in this race.

But what hasn't changed, at least in my opinion, interesting what Harry thinks, but what hasn't changed, I still think Bernie Sanders is the most likely candidate to wind up with the most delegates, whether that's 1991, the number you need to clinch the nomination or not, but to wind up with the most delegates at the end of this process. Some of that is because of today, look, a lot of early vote in California, a lot of people not subject to what we expect to be some momentum for Joe Biden. Remember, it's all about that 15 percent.

Bernie Sanders is going to win California. The issue is does Joe Biden get 15 percent or above, that qualifies him for delegates, and more importantly, does anybody else, Elizabeth Warren, Michael Bloomberg, does anybody else get 15 percent? Because that means they also get delegates, it means Sanders gets less.

SCIUTTO: Harry Enten, you've been the numbers. Do you agree with Chris, that Sanders still is the favorite here, even less favorite than he was two days ago?

ENTEN: I've been looking at some late breaking numbers and I will tell you there seems really to be massive movement towards Biden. I was expecting perhaps a five-point bounce out of South Carolina. I've seen some numbers suggesting 10 to 15 points. And if it's on that end of the scale, I'm just not sure any of us really understand what might exactly be happening.

But I will say, you know, one group I'm really interested in keeping an eye in tonight to understand sort of the scale is white women with a college degree. They were the major part of the resistance. They've really been splitting these early states, as you see up here. If Biden is to do well tonight, he won 40 percent of this group in South Carolina, if he's to do well tonight, he's going to have to do well with this bloc. That may well be the answer.

HARLOW: We've got to jump, Cillizza. We've got some breaking news to get to.

CILLIZZA: No sweat, I got you.

HARLOW: On the economic front, a huge development.

SCIUTTO: That's right. The Federal Reserve has just cut interest rates, an emergency step in response to the coronavirus. This is the first emergency rate cut since the 2008 Financial Crisis.

HARLOW: You can't overstate how significant this is, Christine Romans. Again, the Fed has not done this between meetings since the depths of the Great Recession.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: And before that, it was after September 11th when global travel had been halted and they were worried about a global recession because of international terrorism. Look, it was a 50 basis point rate cut. What does that mean? It means the Fed lowered its fed funds rate to 1 to 1.25 percent.

[10:10:00]

It's a low interest rate, right? They'd already had been low, now, they're going to be 1 percent to 1.25 percentage point.

And what that means, those are the rates that banks charge for short- term lending. A lot of different interest rates are based on that. So, basically, it makes money cheaper to borrow, makes money cheaper to borrow, and that's supposed to be oxygen in an economy.

The Fed is saying, the coronavirus poses evolving risks to economic activity. But the first five or six words of the statement from the Federal Reserve, the fundamentals of the U.S. economy remain strong, but they are guarding against these evolving risks because of the coronavirus.

Look, interest rates are so low. We're watching Futures here, watching the markets here. This is what the markets have been baking in, this is why markets rallied yesterday on this idea that the central banks around the world would come to the rescue and lower interest rates, would do other kinds of stimulus to try to keep the economies strong and functioning properly if you have some sort of a mounting risk from the coronavirus.

But this is rare. It runs the risk of actually sending a scary message that coronavirus -- we don't know how it is all going to play out, right? It is slowly playing out in front of us. Is it as dangerous as the Great Recession or is it as dangerous as 9/11? That remains to be seen.

SCIUTTO: Yes. Is there -- are they seeing data right that should concerns folks. It comes the same morning as the G7, of course, big economies announced they would commit to unspecified tools. Are we looking at possible global coordination here on interest rates?

ROMANS: It's what the markets would like to see. And what you got from the G7 this morning was essentially a statement saying that they're all on guard and they will do their jobs. But here is the risk, and Paul Krugman, the Nobel laureate, said this on CNN yesterday, interest rates are already so low that you lose some of the bang for your buck, right? You don't have as much firepower as you used to. For ten years, they have been cutting interest rates and ballooning their balance sheets, as we call it.

So they've already been propping up the economy for a decade, or helping prop up the economy for a decade. How much more firepower do they have? We shall see. And you can see that the markets are actually saying, okay, that's what we expected, but not enough to drive another big rally.

SCIUTTO: Good point to see it there. It boomed a bit a couple of hundred points, now it's 80 points. Yes.

HARLOW: Romans, you're on top --

ROMANS: Expect low mortgage rates. I will tell you, the winner here is anybody buying or refinancing a mortgage, low rates there, I mean, that's going to be consumer rates, a little bit of savers, people who put your money in a bank account, you've really lost over the past decade. So savers lose, borrowers win.

HARLOW: Romans, thank you very, very much. Huge move. We'll get back to this in a minute.

The State of New York also this morning confirming a new coronavirus case. This as six people have died in the U.S. from the outbreak. We're on top of that.

SCIUTTO: And rescue crews are right now searching for people still missing after a deadly tornado hit Nashville while most people were sound asleep. We're going to take you there next.

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SCIUTTO: As we speak, emergency responders are going door to door in the Nashville area looking for survivors who may still be trapped in debris after a deadly tornado there. Just look at the pictures of how powerful this was. At least nine people killed so far when the tornado ripped through the central part of the state overnight. This was while most people were sleeping.

HARLOW: Authorities say more than 150 people were taken to hospitals, many are still missing this morning. More than 40 buildings in Nashville destroyed or damaged.

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CHIEF WILLIAM SWANN, NASHVILLE FIRE DEPARTMENT: We're just trying to map it out so that we can actually put more boots on the grounds to make sure that we're taking care of people that we may not even know that is injured or hurt.

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HARLOW: Let's get straight to our Amara Walker. She's in Nashville. Amara, what is it like for you on the ground? What are you seeing and hearing?

AMARA WALKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Poppy, I've been talking to the people here on the ground and they're telling me they're utterly devastated. They're in complete shock, not just about the scenes they're seeing in their neighborhoods with the damaged homes but also here in this business district called Five Points in East Nashville.

You can see the utter devastation. I mean, these storefronts, the windows have been blown in, the water pipes have burst, I talked to some of the business owners who were walking by in tears telling me the owner of the juicer here had opened about a year ago and he is saying he doesn't know what he's going to do. But they're obviously grateful that they do have their lives.

On the second floor here as well, there was a business, that has been hollowed out. So just a lot of damage, power lines down, the roads have been closed off as well. There is a smell of gas in the air. And just people coming out, taking a look, surveying the destruction and just telling me that they had never experienced this in their lives.

I did talk to one woman at a local convenience store and she told me that she didn't hear an alarm or any kind of signal that a tornado was coming, but she and her husband, while they were in bed, they heard the swirling of the winds outside and they had a bad feeling about it. They ran downstairs to their basement, and that is when the tornado hit their home and they said that is when the tornado lifted the home off of its foundation. And they're excited or grateful, I should say is a better, that they have their lives.

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HARLOW: Amara, grateful indeed. Thank you very much. Thinking about everyone there right now.

SCIUTTO: Yes, just those pictures are alarming.

Well, other story we're following this morning, of course, the coronavirus outbreak now here in New York State, second case confirmed. Joining us now, Brynn Gingras. What seems to be key here, right, is how this case was transmitted.

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Exactly right. So what we know from the governor who just gave a news conference, it was that he's a 50-year-old man at Westchester County, New York, but he travels into Manhattan as an attorney for every day. And the concern is that he has not gone to China, he has not gone to one of those high risk countries. So it's very likely that this is the first confirmed, you know, community spread type of case that we're seeing here in New York City.

Now, it's important to also note that the governor juxtaposed those two confirmed cases that we have here. The 39-year-old that we were talking about yesterday, healthcare worker that travelled to Iran recently, and this gentleman who right now is currently hospitalized, but he had underlying respiratory issues. He's being hospitalized here in New York City.

So he wanted to make it clear, you know, yes, this is concerning to everyone because it might be the first community spread, but also these are two very different cases as far as how they're being quarantined, how they're being handled because of those underlying issues. You know, the governor is saying, and I think it's important to point out that, you know, 80 percent of people may get this and not even know they have it, so, you know, let's just calm down.

But important also to note that two schools, private schools, where this gentleman's kids went to, closed today. So there are schools now taking precautions. And we're likely going to see more of that.

SCIUTTO: That might be the next step. Brynn Gingras, we know you're going to stay on top of that.

There's a lot of news this morning, more now on this breaking news, the Federal Reserve has just cut interest rates. This is an emergency step in between meetings of the Federal Reserve Board in response to economic fears of the coronavirus.

HARLOW: I just want people to understand how big this is. This doesn't normally happen, okay? They cut rates when they plan to have meetings. This happens between meetings, that's what happened this morning. This has not happened since the depths of the Financial Crisis in 2008. Before that, it was right after 9/11 when the market reopened.

The president's former Head of the Council of Economic of Advisers, Kevin Hassett, is on the phone with us. Kevin, I appreciate your calling in, because this is huge for the markets, it's huge for Americans. You told me last week the Fed shouldn't do this. It was not the right response. So what is this going to mean for everyone?

KEVIN HASSETT, FORMER CHAIRMAN OF THE COUNCIL OF ECONOMIC ADVISERS: Right. Well, you know, the Fed has moved, they've lowered their target range to -- from 1 percent to 1.25 percent. You know, markets were expecting it to do maybe three moves for the rest of the year because everybody was getting so pessimistic about the economic impact of the coronavirus.

And so, I think that -- if it were me, I would think that I would try to coordinate a fiscal policy response, but, you know, that doesn't seem to be moving right now and maybe it broke in Washington and so the Fed decided to move.

You know, the Fed is not alone. We also saw the Australian Central Bank move. And so I think that what we're seeing is sort of a coordinated global monetary policy to try to keep the economy from falling into the kind of global recession that you and I talked about, Poppy, last week, when we said, yes, if this coronavirus is sustained, then the odds of recession get very close to 100 percent.

SCIUTTO: Let me ask you this, Kevin. Because somewhat, unusually here, the Fed has been cutting into a strong economy for years now, right? Even as the economy has come up and bounced back for a number of years. And now you're down to 1 percent, 1.25 percent interest rate. Is the concern here if they cut so much before that it dampens the impact of cuts down, but also doesn't give much leeway? And if you're down at 1 percent, not many more cuts before you get to zero or negative interest rates if there is a real global economic slowdown.

HASSETT: Right. You know, you're right. And I think that's one reason why, you know, some kind of stimulus package right now would be probably a better move. But I think that the Fed has decided to get out ahead of the curve, this and cut rates. They surprised, you know, as Poppy said, between a meeting move is something that generally only happens at a crisis.

And I think that if you look at Chinese GDP, which is probably down 10 percent in the first quarter, and the global slowing that's likely to affect places like, you know, even Italy and Korea now, that I think probably is sensible for Central Banks to get ahead of the curve a little bit. But, again, I think the fiscal policy would be a better move right now, but it doesn't look like Washington is ready for that.

HARLOW: Not to mention what a supply shock could mean for an inflationary pressure and how this is all going to play out, as you've laid out as well. Kevin, we appreciate you calling in. We'll see what this does to the market big picture here. We appreciate it.

HASSETT: Thanks, guys. Bye-bye.

HARLOW: Yes.

SCIUTTO: Of course, today is a big voting day, it's Super Tuesday. Just moments ago, Bernie Sanders arriving at a polling place in his home state of Vermont to cast his vote on Super Tuesday. This as Moderate Democrats uniting very quickly behind the Biden campaign. Our special election coverage continues next.

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SCIUTTO: As we said, there's Bernie Sanders, he's just voted in his home state of Vermont. All the candidates will be doing this today. We'll bring you all the latest as it comes.

HARLOW: Okay, let's get to our experts. David Gergen is with us, former adviser to four presidents, and David Axelrod, served as top campaign strategist for both President Obama's campaigns. Of course, he hosts the fantastic podcast, The X Files. Good to have you, gentlemen.

David, what do you make of what's happened in the last 24 hours, those three major endorsements for Biden coming from his competitors last night and Bernie Sanders is essentially saying, you know, like, they're trying to take this thing away from me?

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DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Poppy, this isn't going to work unless you say which David. But I'll be aggressive and leap in.

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