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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Coronavirus Deaths in U.S. Rising; Bloomberg Drops Out, Endorses Biden. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired March 4, 2020 - 16:00   ET

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


[16:00:09]

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Just for the record, Lieberman came up with Joementum six years ago.

THE LEAD starts right now.

Joe Biden adding another state to the win column, as Michael Bloomberg joins that long list of brand-new Biden endorsers. But is the Bernie Sanders' promise of a revolution enough to keep this battle for the nomination going all the way to the convention?

And as the White House attacks Democrats for politicizing failures in responding to the coronavirus outbreak, President Trump now tries to blame Obama for the delay in testing.

It's another day where the administration seems to be struggling to clear up confusion and mixed signals on responding to the virus.

Then, a state of emergency in Tennessee, after its deadliest tornado day in seven years. At least 24 are dead, more than a dozen more missing, the search for survivors and the stories of heroism.

Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

We begin with breaking news in the 2020 lead.

CNN now projecting Vice President Biden has won the state of Maine. This pushes his delegate lead even further. The former vice president taking 10 states last night, in a dramatic, monumental shift in the Democratic race for president.

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is now out and has endorsed Biden. Bloomberg saying moments ago that his focus will turn to helping Biden in defeating President Trump.

Sources also telling CNN that Senator Elizabeth Warren is assessing her path forward after losing her home state, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and underperforming across the board yesterday. Her campaign had said they expected to finish in top two in at least eight contests yesterday.

They did not achieve second place anywhere, even coming in a distant third in her home state of Massachusetts. So, while Warren and Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard are still running,

the serious competition for delegates and thus the nomination is between just two candidates, both of them white men in their late 70s, Joe Biden and Senator Bernie Sanders, the clear front-runner just days ago.

Sanders won three Super Tuesday states and is currently ahead in the delegate-rich state of California. But while Sanders days ago appeared on a clear trajectory to attain an insurmountable delegate lead this month, Biden has managed a Lazarus-like resurrection for a campaign all but recently counted out.

As CNN's Arlette Saenz reports, the race for delegates is now so close, there is an increasing chance this race could go all the way to a floor fight in a contested Democratic Convention.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOSEPH BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: They call it Super Tuesday for nothing!

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: (voice-over): Joe Biden basking in a historic political comeback.

BIDEN: And we were told, well, when you got to Super Tuesday, it would be over. Well, it may be over for the other guy!

SAENZ: In the wake of Super Tuesday, a major jolt to the race coming as billionaire Michael Bloomberg dropped his presidential bid and officially endorsed Biden.

MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm glad to say I endorse Joe Biden. And I hope you will join me in working to make him the next president of the United States of America!

SAENZ: This after Bloomberg poured more than a half-a-billion dollars of his own fortune into the race, and only came up with one victory in American Samoa.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's do it for Joe!

SAENZ: It's the latest sign of the more moderate candidates coalescing around the former vice president.

After a rocky start to his campaign, Biden racking up wins in 10 Super Tuesday states, with a sweep across the South, overtaking Bernie Sanders in the fight for delegates, with California still up for grabs.

BIDEN: I'm here to report we are very much alive!

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

SAENZ: Sanders' victories came in his home state of Vermont, Colorado and Utah, and he's leading in California, where the campaign hopes to rack up delegates. But there are questions if Sanders can expand the electorate, as the

contest has quickly turned into a two-person race.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Joe has his ideas, his record, his vision for the future. I have mine. And I look forward to a serious debate.

SAENZ: Sanders already looking to the contest ahead, running new TV ads targeting Biden and attempting to tie himself to President Obama.

BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Great authenticity, great passion, and is fearless.

SAENZ: One candidate's fate up in the air, Elizabeth Warren, who had a disappointing showing on Tuesday, including a brutal loss in her home state of Massachusetts, Warren assessing the state of her campaign.

But one of her adviser says her biggest decision isn't whether to end her campaign, but whether to throw her support behind Biden or Sanders.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SAENZ: Now, Bloomberg spoke with Biden today and offered to help in any way that he can.

And Bloomberg not only has a massive amount of money, but he already has existing field operations across the country, including in many states in those contests to come. The Bloomberg team is working to figure out how they can leverage that to help Biden -- Jake.

[16:05:04]

TAPPER: All right, Arlette Saenz with the Biden campaign in Los Angeles, thanks.

Let's chew over all this.

Mehdi, let me start with you. You know, this is a two-person race. And I think it's fair to say that Biden has momentum, and Sanders has grassroots supports and organization. What does Sanders need to do to go the distance?

MEHDI HASAN, THE INTERCEPT: The number one thing Bernie Sanders needs to do is to basically fulfill his campaign pledge and strategy, which is, I'm the guy who's going to turn out young people, people of color, people who've never voted before.

That's why you should vote for me in the general, not just in the primary. That's his strategy against Trump.

If he can't do in the primaries -- and he's been failing to do in the primaries, even in the states he was winning -- in Nevada, in Iowa and New Hampshire, we weren't seeing big boosts in turnout among young people. And now, on Super Tuesday, it was disastrously bad for him. In a lot

of the states he won and lost, the turnout was lower this time around than it was in 2016. I don't know how you explain that. I mean, there's a massive disconnect between the amazing rallies he's holding and the energy we clearly see everywhere and the actual turnout on the day.

And the other thing he needs to do is go up head to head with Joe Biden, because he knows he can take Joe Biden on his record. The problem is there's not another debate until March the 15th. I never thought we'd all be crying for another TV debate after the last one. But...

TAPPER: Well, it's a CNN debate, so you I know you're crying -- I know you want there to be one.

(CROSSTALK)

HASAN: The CBS one wasn't so great, the last one -- outing.

But he has to wait until March 15. And there's a bunch of primaries before then, including crucial state of Michigan, which he really can't afford to lose. He won that one against Hillary Clinton in 2016.

TAPPER: But Mehdi makes a good point, Karen, which is, the theory of the case for Sanders, that he can bring out all these new voters, alienated, disaffected voters, working class voters, young people, it has not -- and he conceded this today -- he said -- Sanders admitted this. It has not really happened.

I mean, he's -- look, he's doing great. He's still might be the nominee. Who knows. But the theory of the case is being really tested.

KAREN FINNEY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Right. Absolutely.

And, look, I think he was trying to also do the Obama strategy. It's what Stacey Abrams tried to do in Georgia when she ran for governor, which is, we're going to expand the electorate. We're not just going to -- we're going to turn people out and we're going to grow this electorate.

And he hasn't been able to do that. You're right. And these younger voters -- it reminds me a bit of Howard Dean in 2004, right, where everybody thought he was going to do so well, because he was having such a great turnout.

TAPPER: Yes, people loved him, the rallies, yes.

FINNEY: But you have got to turn -- that has to shift to voters. You have got to get those people to the polls.

And, look, I think the other thing that we have to acknowledge is that, I mean, we had tremendous turnout yesterday. You have got to give the vice president his due here. And I think part of what was happening is almost the reverse of what Sanders wanted. He did motivate -- or something was motivating people to come out and

say, we are going to come together and coalesce around someone that we think can beat Donald Trump. I think the test for Joe Biden is, he's had a good five days. He's got to prove he can keep it up.

TAPPER: That's right.

FINNEY: Because we haven't seen that yet.

TAPPER: He's still a rather fragile establishment candidate.

Let's talk about Bloomberg for a second, Scott, because he has a lot of money, determination. His organization is not going away. And after Trump attacked him on Twitter, Bloomberg wrote back to him: "See you soon, Donald."

And he included this clip from the "Star Wars" films.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "STAR WARS: A NEW HOPE")

JAMES EARL JONES, ACTOR: Your powers are weak, old man.

ALEC GUINNESS, ACTOR: You can't win, Darth. If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you could possibly imagine.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Spoiler alert, he strikes him down. And Obi-Wan actually becomes more powerful than you could possibly imagine.

Now, it's probably Elizabeth Warren who struck down Mike Bloomberg, not Trump.

But there is an argument to be made that actually he is now going to be more potent, because all the money, the billions of dollars, the organization, the data, that's all still going to be used against Trump, but you won't have the NDA issues, stop and frisk, spying on Muslims, et cetera.

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I never thought the Democrats were going to hurt for money in this election.

I mean...

TAPPER: Really? OK.

JENNINGS: No.

I mean, look, Donald Trump's going to have plenty of money. Look at what the Democrats' candidates for senator are raising around the country. I mean, once there's a nominee, I have just assumed Democrats would have plenty of money to run whatever campaign they wanted.

Yes, Bloomberg has this apparatus. It's not as simple, by the way, as just handing it over. It can't -- because of campaign finance law.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: No, no, but he can do a super PAC. He can turn the Bloomberg organization into a super PAC for Biden.

JENNINGS: Sure.

But, again, I don't think there's any -- I don't think there was ever going to be any shortage of fuel for the Democratic campaign. So I don't -- I guess I don't worry about this as much.

Also, all the places where Bloomberg had this amazing operation totally failed. All the places where Biden had nothing, he won. And so everybody says, this is an amazing apparatus. They did great work.

I mean, did it?

TAPPER: OK, fair enough.

Let me ask you, Alice. Elizabeth Warren is facing a lot of pressure to drop out. Obviously, she didn't do well. She obviously -- there are progressives, Sanders supporters, who think she needs to drop out so we can consolidate the Sanders progressive wing, just the way that the non-Sanders moderates, or whatever you want to call them, did.

Here is Senator Sanders asked about that earlier today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SANDERS: We did speak up the phone a few hours ago.

[16:10:03]

And what Senator Warren told me is that she is assessing her campaign. She has not made any decisions as of this point.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: What do you think she should do?

ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: If she wants to do what's best for the progressive movement, she would get out and certainly throw all of her support, not just her -- she herself, but her lists and her data and her supporters and endorsers, behind Bernie Sanders.

But here's the thing. That's hard. When you're out there 24/7 for months on end fighting for yourself, and you being the vessel for, whether it is the progressive movement, or the moderate or the Republican or conservative, it's really hard, first of all, to make that tough decision to get out.

I have been in the room when candidates have had to make that call to get out. And that's hard. And to immediately throw your...

TAPPER: With Ted Cruz most recently, yes.

STEWART: Absolutely, with Ted Cruz, and certainly with Santorum and with Huckabee in '08.

It's a tough decision. But to immediately, as soon as you pull off that Band-Aid, to put your support behind someone else, it's a tough call. I think that would be the best thing.

And let me just say, I commend all of the other Democratic candidates, Buttigieg, Klobuchar, Beto O'Rourke, and Bloomberg, for being able to take themselves out of this and do what's best for the party, because the only way they will galvanize the Democratic Party and stop Bernie Sanders is for them to get together.

It all started with Jim Clyburn. And that just really helped set off what I think was smart for the Democratic Party, to stop Sanders.

TAPPER: Everyone, stick around.

We got more to talk about. We're going to continue this conversation.

Coming up, Bernie Sanders promised he was the candidate to expand the Democratic Party. It's not clear that's the case, if you look at voter turnout. We're going to dive into the numbers.

Then, new guidelines for coronavirus testing, as the number of cases rises in the U.S., the disruptions we're already seeing in day-to-day life and what you need to know. That's next.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:15:53]

TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD.

Today, Bernie Sanders embracing former President Barack Obama for the first time in a campaign ad as he tries to rebound from Super Tuesday where he lost 10 out of 14 states to Joe Biden.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, BERNIE FOR PRESIDENT)

BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT: Bernie is somebody who has the virtue of saying exactly what he believes, great authenticity, great passion and is fearless.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Some exit polls show some warning signs for Sanders when you compare the results from last night to his result in the 2016.

David Chalian is at the magic wall.

David, when you look at some of the key groups that Sanders needed support from, how did he do?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yes. Well, take a look at some of the those key demographics. This is the state of play right now, Joe Biden with a 54 delegate lead over Bernie Sanders. It's still getting counted.

But, Jake, we looked at non-college educated whites in a couple of key states. Take a look in 2016, this is a key part of Bernie Sanders' argument of why he thinks he is best to defeat Donald Trump. It's a group that Trump performs well with, and in a Democratic primary context, it was a Sanders strength.

Hillary Clinton won North Carolina four years ago, but with these non- college educated white, Sanders trounced Clinton. Take a look at non- college educated whites in North Carolina last night. Look at that, Sanders went from 57 support four years ago to 32 percent. Joe Biden actually edged him out by one point.

I want to show you the same group in Massachusetts. Four years ago, 60/40 he wins non-college educated whites against Hillary Clinton.

Take a look last night. There's Joe Biden, 42 percent to 34 percent for Bernie Sanders. This is clear erosion among a key group.

Same thing that we see with independent voters, yet another calling card for Sanders when he says why he is best equipped to beat Trump. Take a look at North Carolina again. Independent voters four years ago, he was way up, 58-34 over Hillary Clinton. North Carolina independent voters last night, look at that, he still wins them, but only by five points. He's down to 34 percent.

I'll show you the same thing in Oklahoma. Four year ago, Oklahoma independent voters, 69 percent to 21 percent, Sanders versus Clinton. Take a look at Oklahoma last night, again, he still wins them, but only by 11 points, and he went from 69 percent down to 33 percent.

TAPPER: And that's fascinating. And we know that the main results just came in, David, and he lost Maine this year. I know four years ago he won. Compare the states that he performed strongly four years ago to how he did last night.

CHALIAN: Yes, I'll show you Maine in just a moment. But I just want to go back to 2016 and let's start in Minnesota here. It was a caucus state last time, it was a primary now. Bernie Sanders, by the way, was part of those reforms and didn't want more primaries, but that is how it sorted itself out.

Look at all of this Sanders territory: 61.7 percent. Take a look at all of that dark Biden blue. Last night, 38.6 percent.

Let me show you in Oklahoma, I'll show you the same thing here. Primary four years ago, look at that, that was Sanders territory, 51.9 percent. Oklahoma last night, entirely Joe Biden. Not a single county for Bernie Sanders.

And you mentioned Maine. Maine four years ago, here it was, all Sanders territory. Last night, you see as the math is still filling in and we projected it, a lot more Biden dark blue, 34 percent to 32.9 percent, Jake.

TAPPER: It's fascinating. A real erosion with non-college educated white voters and independents.

Thank you, David Chalian.

Let's talk about this.

And, Karen, we should point out and I heard you chuckling a little bit, when Sanders has this new ad in Florida talking with him and Barack Obama looking rather chummy, the truth is that they have had a tense relationship, I think some of the clips are from 2006 when Barack Obama, you know, was a state senator possibly, I think, or maybe even before then. But in any case, there -- this is an attempt of Sanders, we should give him credit, for trying to expand his base.

FINNEY: Yes, but here's the thing: black voters aren't buying it, right?

[16:20:02]

They know that Joe Biden was the guy who had Barack Obama's back for eight years, and that was not Bernie Sanders.

What I was sort of chuckling at, though, is interesting. You know, one of the things that we saw in the exit polls in South Carolina was the number of black voters who said they want a return to Obama era policies.

Clearly, they do not seek -- so everybody knows that Obama is an important factor in terms of the black vote. But you can -- Biden can own that legacy in a way that Sanders just can't. And so, I just was chuckling at because it's similar to what I think Bloomberg was trying to do.

It's like you can put whatever you want in an advertisement, but it is whether voters think you are credible or not, as to whether or not it's going to work, and I just don't think people are going to buy it.

TAPPER: Mehdi, we're talking about this in the break. Sanders needs to expand his base. I mean, that's one of the things that he needs to do. And look, his politics is -- rigid is one word for it, determined and consistent would be a nicer way to look at it.

But like if you assess that all the other Democrats are corrupt and tools of the establishment, how do you expand your base?

MEHDI HASAN, FORMER OBAMA WHITE HOUSE HEALTH POLICY ADVISER: I think it was impressive, by the way, that Barack Obama went from endorsing Bloomberg to Sanders --

(LAUGHTER)

HASAN: He's always been a bold politician, Barack.

On the base issue, it is not just the base and voter we talk about when, you know, how do you go beyond young people, Latino voters. Although to be fair, a lot of those are conservative southern black voters, black voters are not monolith as we know, like any other community.

But I would say this, it's also about winning over people in the party. Can Clyburn in South Carolina help give Biden that push and Clyburn saying today Bernie Sanders never reached out to me, never even tried to get my vote.

TAPPER: Which is stunning.

HASAN: Which I think is a mistake. And I get it, Bernie Sanders has been this insurgent for so long, but for a few weeks he was the frontrunner and he didn't behave as a frontrunner. And I think now, he's back to being insurgent again. He has to find the right balance. I hope he works hard on Elizabeth Warren because if Elizabeth Warren pulls out and does not endorse him, I think that it would be a huge blow.

TAPPER: And, Alice, in most cases, Democratic turnout last night exceeded 2016 levels, 200,000 votes more in North Carolina, 700,000 in Texas, more than 500,000 in Virginia. Something of a warning sign for the Trump campaign, this is going to be a tough fight.

ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Certainly, there is a lot of enthusiasm amongst -- in the Democratic Party and they are very engaged. And a lot of that is because there are two diametrically opposed lanes in the Democratic Party, certainly the progressive lane and the more moderate lane.

I might have suggested to Bernie Sanders if he was going to engage in an Obama bromance, he may have done that before Super Tuesday and not after the fact.

TAPPER: Right, before South Carolina would have been good.

STEWART: Right. And there's a little difference and obviously, 2016, there was a bilateral choice between Sanders and Hillary Clinton. Now, there is a multicandidate slugfest. But what we do see, Sanders' big calling card is free college tuition, college debt forgiveness. And those younger voters did not come out for him. They did not come out in the numbers that he anticipated and promised and many expected, which goes to show he is not building his base.

Joe Biden is. Just simply by being the more moderate candidate and the ability to bring on the other candidates and certainly the minority vote and the younger vote. He is building his base. And that's going to be a tremendous advantage for him as he moves through the primary and the general.

TAPPER: Scott, Joe Biden has a lot of weaknesses as a candidate and this race is not over. But do you think of the two left that Biden will be a stronger opponent for President Trump than Sanders?

JENNINGS: Yes, look, I think in some ways he is stronger, in some ways he may be a little weaker. I'm not sure it is a total tradeoff. I mean, the one thing Trump had that I thought Sanders had was this ability to move people maybe nontraditional. It didn't manifest itself in greater turnout, so maybe we're not right about that. I do think the one weakness for Biden having had run against Sanders,

if Biden goes and gets it, he has been pulled to the left. I mean, there is no question at this point based on the positions that he's taken in the primary he would have to govern to the left of where the Obama administration was on immigration and a number of different issues. Trump and the Republicans will use that as Biden says, hey, I'm a moderate, let's return to the old days, they're going to say, not so fast, you can't whitewash what happened in the primary.

TAPPER: All right, thanks, everyone. Appreciate it.

Coming up, mixed signals over coronavirus testing. Why the Trump administration is attempting to clean up confusion after announcing 1 million people could get tested for the virus. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:29:23]

TAPPER: We have breaking news for you in our health lead. California just reported its first coronavirus death. That brings the total to 11 people who have died from the virus in the United States, including 10 deaths in Washington state alone.

There are now at least 149 confirmed coronavirus cases in this country, the House of Representatives is set to vote today on an $8.3 billion funding bill aimed at battling the coronavirus.

As CNN's Stephanie Elam reports, the deadly outbreak is only expected to get worse.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): New Yorkers are preparing, the iconic New York City subway system is getting scrubbed. This after the state has confirmed six cases of coronavirus, including a 50-year-old attorney.

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D), NEW YORK: His wife has also tested positive, his 20-year-old --

[16:30:00]