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INSIDE POLITICS

WHO: Coronavirus Outbreak Is A Pandemic; Sanders to Deliver Campaign Update; Capitol Hill Prepares to Take Coronavirus Precautions. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired March 11, 2020 - 12:30   ET

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


[12:30:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JOHN KING, CNN HOST: A grim announcement just moments ago from the World Health Organization. Our CNN Health Reporter Jacqueline Howard joins us now. The WHO now saying what?

JACQUELINE HOWARD, CNN HEALTH REPORTER: The WHO has now declared that this outbreak is a pandemic. And this is a major, major announcement.

[12:35:02]

It's a decision that the World Health Organization has not made lightly. And the fact that they are calling this a pandemic really shows that this outbreak has hit all continents, except for Antarctica. It's spread across so many countries. The World Health Organization Director General Tedros said that this outbreak has hit a number of countries that has tripled recently.

So, the number of countries that have been hit by this outbreak has tripled. And again, a pandemic declaration is pretty serious. This is a major moment, John.

KING: A major moment, and we'll watch now to see how it intensifies the world's response. Jacqueline, really appreciate you coming here with that breaking news right there.

When we come back, Bernie Sanders has a decision to make because Joe Biden is building a remarkable coalition.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:40:15]

KING: We're waiting to hear from Senator Bernie Sanders at the top of the hour. CNN is told through our Correspondent Ryan Nobles, the Vermont senator is expected to stay in the Democratic race for president and attend this Sunday's debate, a CNN debate. It would be just two candidates, Sanders and Joe Biden in Phoenix, Arizona.

We are, again, expecting to hear from Senator Sanders at the top of the hour, but Ryan Nobles being told by a source familiar with Senator Sanders' plans that he plans to stay in the Democratic race.

Let's bring the conversation in the room. It's a big decision for the senator. We talked a little bit about this earlier, he views himself as the leader of a movement, he views himself as someone who's trying to challenge what he calls the establishment of the Democratic Party, to move more aggressively on Medicare for All, climate change, other trade issues as well. But, he also can do the math and he understands that it is not impossible but it is beyond improbable that he can make up Joe Biden's delegate lead.

What does it tell us that he's decided I'm going to have this debate? We assume that means he's going to go on through next week's contest. The map is not favorable to him, Ohio, Florida, Illinois, Arizona. What does it tell us?

MOLLY BALL, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: And let's remember, he probably can't campaign, right? Both of the candidates have been canceling campaign events because of the coronavirus. And so, if Bernie Sanders can't hold these big stadium rallies that he's used to doing, what is the campaign going to consist of. A series of, you know, video-taped statements that are released on YouTube or Twitter?

So, you know, my question would be, if -- just because Bernie Sanders wants to debate on Sunday, does Joe Biden decide to debate on Sunday if they're both in the race? Or does Joe Biden say, I consider myself all but to have wrapped up the nomination in all but name, and so, I am going to ignore this and focus on Trump? That's what he was doing in that speech last night. A lot of shout outs to Sanders' supporters, but basically saying, from now on, the opponent we're focused on is Trump.

KING: Well, that adds an interesting wrinkle because that would be an interesting bit of defiance by Biden, but at the same time, he needs those Sanders voters, so what would the reaction be? That would be an interesting moment to play out.

I just want to do the math. Again, Senator Sanders ran last time, he has a great base of support across the country. It's not turning into wins right now, but it's a strong base of support. But the math is just overwhelming. He has won 42 percent of the pledged delegates so far, 42 percent. Which means you would have to win 55 percent of those remaining to get there. You just figure this out at home.

If you have been winning 42 percent, the odds of you suddenly flipping and winning 55 percent against the same opponent, especially as we move into states where the demographics are not as favorable to you, sorry.

ERRIN HAINES, EDITOR-AT-LARGE, THE 19TH: Well, to your point, maybe it's not exactly about the math. Maybe it is about the movement for him and his supporters who want to feel like this is a fair process for him, want to feel like he has gone through this, and even if he does not win, even if they know that he's not going to be able to win, push any insinuation that he's being pushed out or urged to get out before he makes that decision is not something that's going to help get those supporters on board for a general election to vote for Joe Biden should he become the eventual nominee.

And so, you know, that could also be part of Senator Sanders' calculation in staying in and letting this process play out, not just for himself, but for his supporters who may be skeptical about how he is being treated as this process continues.

KING: That's an interesting point. Let's go up to Burlington, Vermont, CNN'S Ryan Nobles is back with us now. Ryan, we're going to hear momentarily from the senator. Your reporting says to expect him in Arizona, correct?

RYAN NOBLES, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that is right, John. A source with direct knowledge of Senator Sanders' plans here at his press conference that's scheduled to begin at the top of the hour tells me that Senator Sanders has every intention of staying in the race for the time being. And most specifically as we told you the last time we talked, that he's looking forward to that one-on-one debate with Joe Biden.

And, you know, despite what happened on Tuesday night, I don't think this comes as that big of a surprise. You know, Senator Sanders has been very consistent in his desire to see that one-on-one debate with Joe Biden. And also, his campaign believes that no matter what, this is good for the Democratic primary and the Democratic process going forward.

So, this is definitely something, though, that did require some deliberation from Sanders and his team. I know he spent a lot of time with his wife, Jane Sanders and his other advisers over the past 24 hours, assessing what the path forward should be. But the news here, John, is that when Senator Sanders comes out here at the top of the hour, that is what we expect him to tell us.

Now, these plans are always fluid, and until it comes out of Senator Sanders' mouth himself, we are not going to know for sure. But the plan right now is that he is going to tell everyone that he is staying in the race and that he will be in that debate on Sunday.

John?

KING: We'll look forward to what he is saying around the table here. This is an interesting moment if Senator Sanders does as what Ryan's reporting and stays in the race.

Congressman Jim Clyburn, who was absolutely critical to Joe Biden's win in South Carolina was saying it's time to shut this down. My understanding is that senior people in the Biden campaign this morning relayed to Congressman Clyburn, please, don't do that. We don't want to alienate the Sanders supporters. But it will be a conversation in the Democratic Party about at least

what is his tone. What Senator Sanders says is as important as what he decides in terms of staying in.

[12:45:07]

Again, just look at the Michigan exit polls. Women, Joe Biden gets 58 percent. Black voters, 66 percent. White college voters, 55 percent. Union households, 55 percent. Urban voters, 57 percent. Suburban voters, 53 percent. This is Biden winning everywhere.

And so, if you're Sanders, again, I get he views his responsibility as the leader of a movement, but as someone who's also said goal number one is to defeat Donald Trump, where's the sweet spot?

LISA LERER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think it's going to be a fascinating debate, right? Because in some ways, you could see Joe Biden feeling the need to be really kind to Bernie Sanders, because he needs to keep his supporters in the fold. So, you could actually see him praising his opponent quite a lot.

And Bernie Sanders also, you imagine, would be kind of delicate about this. He knows what the numbers are. That's why there was this discussion. That's why we didn't hear from him last night. But I just heard the same thing that Ryan Nobles heard from Bernie Sanders, one of his top campaign guys, that he's staying in, he's going to debate.

But it's going to be a really delicate dance going forward. Bernie Sanders at this point is really waging his campaign for his side of the Democratic Party, for his ideology, rather than in any realistic view for the nomination. So, how this happens and how Democrats stay together through this process is going to be rough.

HAINES: But not to mention that people do like Bernie Sanders' ideas even if they are not voting for him. And I think that that is something that Vice President Biden is also aware of.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: And one of the things that was most striking from these numbers from Michigan is you saw just how much 2016 was about a dislike for Hillary Clinton. And a lot of the issue with that was the Bernie Sanders supporters did not only go and vote for Hillary Clinton, a lot of them voted for Donald Trump.

I don't think that's likely something that you'll see again, because what it seemed to be is that there are these college-educated white voters or not college-educated white voters who are voting for Joe Biden and going out and turning out for him. That was what helped boost Donald Trump so much in 2016, is instead of voting for Hillary Clinton, they wanted to vote for Donald Trump.

So, it will be interesting to see how that factor plays into all of this. But it's also really hard to see how it's just going to be this love fest between Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden on Sunday night. They disagree on a lot. The Trump campaign is trying to say they're really similar, they're two sides of the same coin. They disagree on a lot of things, so it's hard to see how -- if they're pressed on that, how Bernie Sanders is all of a sudden going to, like, not hit Joe Biden over his support for the Iraq war.

KING: Well, we're going to hear from Senator Sanders in just few moments. We're going to take a quick break. When we come back, we're waiting on Senator Sanders, we're also waiting on any reaction from not only the Biden campaign but his surrogates. A very delicate moment in the Democratic race. Stay with us.

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[12:52:11]

KING: 194. That's the number of senators and congressmen now in the CDC-declared zone of extra precautions when it comes to the coronavirus. It's not because of exposure, it's age. 194 members of Congress are over the age of 65.

Get this from the New York Times, "When a reporter in the Capitol asked Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma, 85, what precautions he was taking, he extended his arm with confidence, want to shake hands."

Meanwhile, 79-year-old Senator Patrick Leahy told the Times he had already canceled travel plans and was preparing his staff to work remotely, if necessary. Saying, quote, I'm married to a registered nurse. I probably get told 10 times a day what to do, and she's right.

CNN's Lauren Fox is us up for us live on Capitol Hill. Lauren, different members, different responses.

LAUREN FOX, CNN CAPITOL HILL CORRESPONDENT: Exactly right, John. I'll tell you, I've seen a lot more Purell stations up here on Capitol Hill than ever before in my time covering Washington. But, you know, I was riding the train yesterday with Pat Roberts who is 83, he's the chairman of the Senate Agricultural Committee.

He was literally just using his elbows to try to hold on because he's been told by his staff to try not to touch surfaces, try not to touch his face. He said, you know, that's really hard. There are some gestures I've had my entire life that now I really find myself trying not to do because I'm too scared to touch my face.

Meanwhile, he's carrying around wet wipes, and that's something that a lot of lawmakers are doing. Here's what a couple other Republicans said about how they're dealing with the threat of coronavirus.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R-TX): One of my colleagues said she just decided to put her hand over her heart, and that replaced the traditional handshake.

SEN. JAMES LANKFORD (R-TX): My schedule is not changed at all. My structure, what I'm doing. Still shaking hands, still meeting people, still going through the process. I'm not fist-bumping or giving a chicken wing or whatever it is that we're doing nowadays.

FOX: How you're changing what you're doing when you go back to your district during this spring break?

SEN. LINDSAY GRAHAM (R-SC): Pretty not what I was going to do.

(END VIDEO CLIP) FOX: And, of course, next week is recess and already a lot of the CODELs have been canceled. I talked to Senator Dick Shelby, the chairman of the Appropriations Committee, he's 86-years-old. I said, are you nervous to be up here on Capitol Hill? And he said, well, I'm here, as he slowly backed away from the scrum of reporters surrounding him.

John?

KING: Lauren Fox on the Hill. I guess different strokes for different folks. We'll watch as this one plays out.

A very quick programming note for us here. A lot of questions about the coronavirus, right? Join Anderson Cooper and Dr. Sanjay Gupta for a second CNN town hall, Coronavirus Facts and Fears. That's tomorrow night at 10 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN.

Remember, we're waiting to hear from Senator Bernie Sanders at the top of the hour. Thanks for joining us at the INSIDE POLITICS today. We'll see you back here this time tomorrow.

Brianna Keilar will bring you that Bernie Sanders news. She's up after a quick break. Have a good day.

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[12:59:30]

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: I am Brianna Keilar. And moments from now, Senator Bernie Sanders will be speaking publicly, and we could learn the direction of his campaign just hours after Joe Biden racked up some major wins, leaving Bernie Sanders a distant second in the race for the Democratic nomination for president.

Biden winning in Michigan, a state that Bernie Sanders was hoping would be key to his candidacy, but a source with knowledge of his plan tell CNN's Ryan Nobles that Sanders is expected to stay in the race. So, we will be bringing you his comments live as soon as he begins there in Burlington, Vermont.