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The Numbers Driving the Democrats' Debate Attacks; Sanders Defends Past Praise of Cuba's Social Programs; Rivals Take Direct Aim at Front-Runner Bernie Sanders; Biden Hits Steyer for Buying Stake in Private Prison System; The Numbers Driving the Democrats' Debate Attacks. Aired 12-1a ET
Aired February 26, 2020 - 12:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: Welcome to a special midnight edition of PRIME TIME. We're going to keep this going because the 2020 stakes keep getting higher and higher.
This was absolutely the last opportunity for the Democratic presidential candidate as a field to vie for votes on a national stage before the contest blitz on Super Tuesday. And before South Carolina's primary, of course, on Saturday.
Really, Saturday matters especially with Sanders. No surprise; most of the daggers were going at the front-runner.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think I would make a better president than Bernie.
PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Imagine spending the better part of 2020 with Sanders versus Trump. Think about what that will be like for the country.
TOM STEYER (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Sanders' analysis is right. The difference is, I don't like the solutions.
JOE BIDEN, FORMER U.S. VICE PRESIDENT AND PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Bernie hasn't passed much of anything.
SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I do not think this is the best person to lead the ticket.
MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (D-NY), FORMER MAYOR OF NYC AND PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Keep on going, we will elect Bernie, Bernie will lose to Donald Trump.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CUOMO: All right. Let's unpack the fight night with Hilary Rosen, Philip Bump, Bakari Sellers and John Iadarola.
Thanks everybody for being with us.
Bakari, you were in the room, help us understand something better. Bump was writing about it earlier. We were guessing about it. When we heard an unusually loud crowd response tonight, let's say, when Warren and Bloomberg were going at it. She was going at him.
What was your take on the divisions in the room?
Did it seem like some campaigns had more people or just louder than usual?
BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Welcome to South Carolina politics. This is the home of Lee Atwater and bare knuckle politics. We were in Charleston having a good time and I think you heard that in the room. Some people were maybe agitated by it.
This was Sanders' first away game to say the least. But it was a jovial environment. People were excited about choosing who would be the best nominee. But there were no plants in the audience, no plants from Bloomberg or Biden. No one else. And I know a lot of my friends who support Sanders were a bit antagonistic to the crowd.
My point is, welcome to South Carolina, where Sanders wins less than one out of every five voters. So you heard the other four out of the five in the audience. That's the way it is. He's going to have to 25 percent or 30 percent his way to victory. Tonight you heard the audience, for better or for worse, voice their displeasure.
SELLERS: Welcome to South Carolina.
CUOMO: Appreciate it. I was there yesterday and will be there tomorrow. Always happy to see it unfold. Appreciate the perspective.
That's helpful to us in making the analysis. With that in mind, what you thought was the defining moment earlier for Warren wasn't the Bloomberg attack; it was turning towards Bernie and saying, there's a real difference.
What's your take?
HILARY ROSEN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: All week long, Elizabeth Warren had -- was riding high on her attack on Bloomberg in the last debate. She raised a lot of money. But people were saying Bernie is ahead, when is she doing to look up instead of down?
And with her attack on Bernie I feel like she is the one that has the most credible attack on policy, the best chance of getting to Bernie supporters to say, I agree with you on policy. But I'm going to implement the policy better. She did that effectively tonight. She put herself back in the game, not with a gimmick but with some substance.
CUOMO: A reflection of the state of play in the party. With all due respect on the West Coast it's about 9:00. Here it's later. I'll be a little more edgy with the comment. The famous song, "Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right, here
I am," this Democratic Party, we sometimes say battle for the soul. It's kind of more trite than true. It's true this time. It seems to be the fringes that are attacking its very core.
What's your take?
CUOMO: You wrote about this. That's why I'm bringing it up.
PHILIP BUMP, "THE WASHINGTON POST": No, no, no, it's a fair point. We were talking earlier about how we have two of the most prominent actors on the stage, Michael Bloomberg, by virtue of having billions of dollars to spend, running an ad in the middle of the debate, and then Sanders, who has this fervent core base of support, which really has helped propel him into the fight. Obviously carried over from 2016 somewhat.
But the party itself is seeing its own institutional power threatened by the fact that the former mayor of New York, who has only been a Democrat for a year or two and this independent, who wasn't a Democrat at all who are really the ones jockeying for position. And obviously they would prefer probably a lot of the Democrats to have former Vice President Joe Biden be the person --
CUOMO: It is bizarre. You have Bloomberg who was a Democrat and then became a Republican/independent. Warren was a Republican, is now a Democrat.
CUOMO: It's really bizarre.
Iadarola, you like this. You like to see the party being tested and redefined with more progressive policies. Let's tee up what Warren tried to do to the front-runner tonight.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WARREN: I think I would make a better president than Bernie. And the reason for that is that getting a progressive agenda enacted is going to be really hard. It's going to take someone who digs into the details to make it happen.
Bernie and I both want to see universal healthcare. But his plan doesn't explain how to get there. It doesn't show how we'll get enough allies into it and not enough about how we're going to pay for it. I dug in, I did the work. Then his team trashed me for it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CUOMO: Now it's not looking at Bloomberg and saying you're as much of a menace to women as Trump is and you're the biggest threat on this stage for Democrats. But this was different for her.
What's the plus/minus you want to play?
JOHN IADAROLA, YOUTUBE TV HOST: I think it makes a lot of sense. She needs to regain some of the support she's lost over the past couple months. And I don't begrudge her trying to differentiate herself from Sanders, particularly on policy grounds.
I disagree with her read. She's not necessarily laid out a path to passing her legislation that is substantially different from Sanders. But those sorts of attacks, I think that is exactly what the debate stage is for. I don't have a problem with it whatsoever.
CUOMO: Bakari, part of the future of the party.
How does it look on the stage tonight?
SELLERS: It looks bold, beautiful. The only thing I wish is we had more diversity. In South Carolina, people are weighing the fact that this is the first time the base of the party gets an opportunity to vote.
With all due respect to Iowa and New Hampshire and Nevada, the results from Nevada, you had 100,000 people to vote. Break it down to the numbers. You had between 6,000 and 10,000 African Americans, 10,000- 20,000 Hispanic vote.
In South Carolina, you'll have way more than that. This is the base of the party. We're here now. With all due respect to the Sanders supporters, I'm with you, I think he's expanded his base. But now I want you to keep that same energy.
When we come to South Carolina on Saturday, Sanders has to prove he can expand his base. He has to prove he can win over African American voters, my mom and her friends, black voters of a certain age, especially black female voters.
If he continues the path that he kept in 2016, of getting swept in the South, that is not going to be the nominee for the party.
I actually feel like this the healthiest we have been in a long time. I know people want to say the establishment, you have this trepidation. Tonight and the last debate were very good debates. I wish there was more diversity and more people of color and more perspectives.
But we're going to beat Trump in November. I'm confident, whoever it is, I'll put up a yard sign.
CUOMO: We'll pick up the points after. There's a lot on the table to discuss. We'll do just that after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIDEN: My good friend on the end of this platform in fact bought a system that was a private prison system. After he knew that in fact what happened was, they hogtied young men in prison here in this state.
TOM STEYER (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I bought stock, thinking they would do a better job. And I investigated and I sold it.
BIDEN: You knew when you bought it, they'd done it.
STEYER: (INAUDIBLE) this question. And in fact, since then, I have worked to end the use of private prisons in my own state. And we've ended it.
STEYER: I have worked for racial justice completely. And that is an absolute unfair statement.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CUOMO: All right.
You want a little behind the scenes action?
This is two great things going on behind what's going on. The first thing that is no coincidence. Biden felt he had to do this. Why?
We'll explain in a second.
Second thing, most dangerous words in politics, "my friend," but" and "with all due respect."
When you hear one of those three things, duck. Let's get more reaction from our power players.
Biden going after Steyer; all you need to do is see the numbers in South Carolina. Steyer has been outsized there in spending and organizing. He's in the teens.
What did Biden need to do?
ROSEN: Very deliberate from the Biden campaign. For weeks now, Steyer has been a thorn in their side in South Carolina, preventing them from running away with this from Bernie. So Biden felt like the only choice he had tonight was to discount Steyer so he could have this as being a one on one with Bernie.
CUOMO: What's the Bump plus/minus?
BUMP: That's exactly right. Biden has to win South Carolina. He has to win. He's been expected to and keeps predicting he'll win. Steyer, people forget, Steyer-Bloomberg South Carolina before Bloomberg was in the race. He dumped a ton of money and ran a ton of ads and people on the ground to build up his numbers in the state.
NBC Marist poll just came out and he's pulling about a fifth of the black vote. Biden needs that vote. He needs that vote in order to beat Sanders. That's his entire value proposition in this fight. If he doesn't win South Carolina, he's doomed. He had to engage in the fight.
CUOMO: If you're giving Bloomberg a verb, should it be Bloomberged or Bloomed?
That's something you would write about it.
CUOMO: Let me ask you a question, what is winning for Joe Biden?
One points, two points, three points?
What's the message he needs to send?
SELLERS: Winning is winning. First of all, I have won races in South Carolina. And I have lost in South Carolina. Trust me, if I could have beat Henry McMaster by 50 percent plus one vote, I would not be a CNN commentator right now. I would be in the lieutenant governor's house or the governor's mansion.
Trust me, winning is winning. So I don't want to go down that path. With Joe Biden, with all due respect to my good friend, Philip --
SELLERS: Joe Biden is going to -- with all due respect to my friend.
CUOMO: This is going to be terrible.
SELLERS: Joe Biden will win South Carolina. Folks, this is not a question. With all due respect to everyone watching and waiting, the polls, we're not really buying those. Joe Biden is going to win South Carolina. The question is, how much is he going to win South Carolina by?
To your question, I think that a win for Joe Biden at 5-7 points is good. I think he'll eclipse that. I think he'll be in the 10-15 point range, which will catapult him. I'm a Kamala Harris supporter and fan. So I'm not in the Joe Biden camp. But I know South Carolina well.
My daddy called me today and said, what are they doing for Joe Biden today?
He's taking people to the polls tomorrow for Joe Biden. That's just the way it is because of the familiarity with who he is. And with all due respect to Steyer and Sanders and everyone else, it's difficult to come in the black communities late and say you're going to be the champion. We worked too hard for the rights we have to trust an unknown.
CUOMO: John, let's flip it a second.
For Sanders, all right, what's the margin where you would feel like, Biden didn't get it done, Bernie is good to go for Super Tuesday?
IADAROLA: If he pulls out the win, I disagree with Bakari; I don't think it's a guarantee that Biden will win. But he's doing well. Bernie could well end up in second place. I'll grant that.
The thing is, looking forward from South Carolina, Super Tuesday is already looking amazing for Sanders. I have no doubt if Biden wins, he'll have a great Saturday night.
But what is Monday and Tuesday?
Looking to California, to Texas and across the map, the polls are looking great for Sanders. So it would be great to go four for four. And we should acknowledge he pulled off a record three out of three. But Super Tuesday is coming up soon. There's not a lot of time to transition from South Carolina.
CUOMO: That's exactly the point. You don't have time. What you need is the win. It's going to make a big deal for Biden.
SELLERS: Really quickly. First of all I love this, Sanders has won three states in a row thing. That's cool. But Nevada started in 2008. So it's like a red herring. The fact is, what people want Sanders to do is be able -- I notice you said California and Texas.
Actually Joe Biden is up in Texas and California, takes them until Kwanza and Hanukkah and Christmas to count ballots. So I think that's not an issue on Super Tuesday.
But Sanders has to do well in Tennessee and North Carolina. He has to do well in Georgia, Arkansas, in the Super Tuesday states, where black people vote. That's my only point. I want Sanders to do well in these places to prove he can be the torch bearer for the Democratic Party. Until he does that, it's nothing more --
CUOMO: Hilary, you're right to point out --
SELLERS: I'm sorry.
CUOMO: Don't apologize. You're great.
Pete Buttigieg, we believe from the latest recount, won in Iowa. But point stands, Bernie is doing well.
ROSEN: It was so interesting it was Buttigieg who talked about the seven white people on the stage tonight, talking about racial justice in South Carolina. I think that what we have with Sanders is a fundamental difference as a politician. He doesn't think in identity politics. He talks in class politics.
And I think that breeds a level of distrust among voters, like African Americans, like women. Because there's not -- the one thing he hasn't really done in the four years he's been running for president since 2016 is he hasn't expanded his communication. He hasn't expanded his involvement, his engagement.
He's just done more of what he's always done. Bakari's right; the challenge for him going forward is, can he show more empathy with a larger part of the Democratic primary audience?
CUOMO: Similar to Trump. Expand the base.
ROSEN: Even though I think he might feel that way, he sure doesn't express it.
CUOMO: The idea of him doing better, we have seen -- and again to Bakari's big point. You want racial justice in the Democratic Party, change your schedule. Get Nevada and South Carolina up in the front at least with New Hampshire and Iowa.
And he's still backing Kamala Harris in the race. She would still be in it. With African American voters we do see Bernie making a move he didn't make in 2016, at least incrementally.
BUMP: The reason he lost in 2016 is he didn't have black support. One of the things underrecognized from Nevada is Sanders has fared worse in each of the contests since 2016 in large part because it's a bigger field. In Nevada, if you look at the exit polls, where he didn't lose support
is among non-whites and black voters and Hispanics. He held that base in Nevada, which is a good sign.
CUOMO: That's why this is going to be a big, big contest.
Let's take a quick break. Moments from the night that start defining state of the play for the campaigns. We'll have it. The wizard of odds will help us put some data to the decisions -- next.
CUOMO: If you need to know how tight the race is, look at the heat tonight in the debate.
Why did you want to see what was going on?
Because they know the desperation is real.
How do they know?
The numbers. And that's where we get the wizard of odds.
Why were they so hot and bothered tonight?
HARRY ENTEN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Maybe because the moderator lost track of everything. But they were hot and bothered because we are very close in on South Carolina and Super Tuesday. I want to focus in on some of the more interesting matchups. You were mentioning Biden going after Steyer.
Voters are going, what the heck is going on there?
But I think this is key. This is South Carolina's top choice for nominee among black voters. Between September 2019 and the February 2020 poll, first thing to notice is Biden dropping from 46 percent to 31 percent. Look at where that's going. Sanders has picked up 9 points.
Look at Steyer, just at 2 percent in September 2019, up to 18 percent now in a second place among African American voters. So Biden sees a threat and that was the threat he was attacking.
CUOMO: How much is about this and how much is about this, the money that he's putting into it?
And how much is that Biden keeps losing to Sanders?
ENTEN: I think it's both. We have obviously seen the impact of money so far in the primary, not just in South Carolina with Steyer but obviously nationally with Bloomberg. And also Biden's numbers nationally have been going down. And it shouldn't be surprising it's transferring to South Carolina.
What I will say is that I think that this support that Steyer has may be a little soft. It may be soft and that might be why Biden is going after him. He thinks he can get it back.
CUOMO: This is actually supposed to be a U.
CUOMO: Next point.
ENTEN: What about this one? Sanders and Warren. Warren for the first time decided to at least somewhat go after Sanders. I think this gets it. In Massachusetts, this is a poll -- nice circle there, out this week in the primary, look at this.
In Elizabeth Warren's home state she is actually in a statistical dead heat with Sanders. Up by a point here. But he's going to Massachusetts to rally. He wants to kick her out of the race. And Warren can go after Bloomberg. But the fact is she has to beat Sanders if she wants to be the nominee. And certainly has to win her home state.
CUOMO: What happens to those who don't win their home state?
ENTEN: They go adios, amigos; goodbye, see you later. Remember Marco Rubio left the race after losing Florida to Donald Trump.
CUOMO: South Carolina.
ENTEN: Hold on.
CUOMO: What do you see with Warren?
ENTEN: I want to go to Warren.
CUOMO: I don't want to rush you.
ENTEN: We're after dark. Warren's campaign money raised, this is why she went after Bloomberg. In the entire month she raised $11 million. A day after the Nevada debate when she went after Bloomberg, she raised $5 million. She realized, in order to keep the campaign alive, she has to go after Bloomberg. That money is the juice of politics.
CUOMO: How did it feel tonight versus last time?
ENTEN: A little weaker. But I think she was able to rev up the base a little bit. But the days after with the money raised will be the true story.
CUOMO: South Carolina.
ENTEN: Just in terms of Buttigieg and Klobuchar, especially Buttigieg perhaps didn't seem as active as you might have expected, otherwise in the past. He seems to have been a little bit ill but it's also the fact that other candidates weren't engaging with him.
The fact is, nationally he's 11 percent. And South Carolina, look at this, just 9 percent. He's just not simply the player he was in Iowa and New Hampshire.
CUOMO: This is what I don't understand. Well, many things. But if Biden is at 17 nationally and the theory of the case, you get out of the very limited demographic states, he will grow.
Why is it so outsized in South Carolina versus nationally?
You have a distribution of Democrats who are African American across the country.
ENTEN: But nationally it's about a fifth to a quarter; in South Carolina they probably will make up somewhere near 60 percent of the electorate.
CUOMO: That's the point. This is not just a must-win for him. It is a best-case scenario state for Biden's theory of the case, which is, as soon as you see diversity, they will come to me. That's why a win is not a win for Biden. It has to be big.
Wiz, thank you. Appreciate it.
ENTEN: Be well.
CUOMO: Bernie Sanders, did he do anything to settle the storm over his Castro comments? Look, the answer to that objectively is no. The question is, does it matter? We'll get into it next.
CUOMO: Politics is perception, and Sanders has an issue for doubling down on this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: When Fidel Castro first came to power, which was when? Fifty-nine? Does that sound right?
CUOMO: Fifty-nine, '60.
SANDERS: OK. Do you know what he did? He initiated a major literacy program. I think teaching people to read and write is a good thing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CUOMO: Now, Sanders is in a pickle here, because you don't give a Pat on the back to a despot. His new argument is, Hey, President Obama made similar comments. Biden was not having it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SANDERS: What I said is what Barack Obama said, in terms of Cuba, that Cuba made progress on education. Yes, I think --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Boo.
SANDERS: Really? Really? Literacy programs are bad?
SANDERS: What Barack Obama said is they made great progress on education and health care. That was Barack Obama.
JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Barack Obama was abroad. He was in a town meeting. He did not, in any way, suggest that there was anything positive about the Cuban government.
I never say (UNINTELLIGIBLE) my private conversations, but the fact of the matter is, he in fact, does not, did not, has never embraced an authoritarian regime, and does not now.
SANDERS: Look, authoritarianism of any stripe is bad, period. That is different than saying that governments occasionally do things that are good.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CUOMO: Did that help? Let's discuss with our political all-stars. Hilary Rosen, Phil Bump, they're back. Joining us Patrick Healy, Wajahat Ali, and Karen Finney. Let's get some new people into the mix here.
What did you think, Patrick? Did he clean it up?
PATRICK HEALY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I don't think he cleaned it up. And I think Joe Biden, we're reporting, Joe Biden and Barack Obama talked today. Joe Biden wanted to go over this pretty clearly with Obama so that he was framing it right. And I think that was one of Biden's strongest answers here.
It's -- it's a hard place for all the Democrats to be in, because in a way, yes, it's an easy hit to criticize Castro in Cuba. But then you're also somehow, by extension, possibly criticizing universal health care, free education goals that many Democrats have.
So it can be a little hard -- it can be a little hard to skate this for liberals in the party who might see it a certain way. But I think Biden -- but I think in a lot of ways, Biden pushed back very effectively.
CUOMO: I'll give it to you policy-wise, but the dividing line is despot, right? You can have the policy without having the despot.
Go ahead, Finney. I hear you.
KAREN FINNEY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, OK. Having been to Cuba, I'm sorry, Patrick, you're completely out of line. That is a ridiculous statement.
There is no comparison between saying we want single-payer health care or we want a system where everybody gets health care, and saying, Hey, Castro did a good thing.
And here's the piece that he -- that Bernie leaves out every single time. The reason that Castro did that was to indoctrinate people into their communist propaganda. That's why they did it. And it's not like they then built libraries so people could read whatever they wanted. No, they had a full shutdown on any outside information other than the propaganda coming from the government. That's part of the problem.
HEALY: No, I think -- I think that that's true, Karen. I'm not -- I wasn't disagreeing with you. I was saying that, essentially, for Biden -- for Biden to get into this with Bernie, to make this hit as cleanly as possible, it gets -- it gets -- Bernie is able to do a pivot. That's the reality, the issues that he wants to be able to talk about. But I think, again, I think it was a very strong comment by Biden on it.
CUOMO: Let's bring Waja --
HILARY ROSEN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Biden did this for another reason.
CUOMO: Go ahead. Let's hear.
ROSEN: Biden did this for another reason, which is that Joe Biden actually does put Florida in play in a general election. And this issue kills Bernie in Florida.
And so I think trying to convey to Democrats that Florida is in play if Biden is -- is the nominee actually has some value.
CUOMO: Certainly in South Florida. And you're going to see people now carving up the state to show how much --
ROSEN: And -- right. You know, we saw Shalala, the congresswoman, new congresswoman from Miami, the other day make this exact point.
CUOMO: Right. Especially South Florida.
Now Waj, tell us why this is the wrong analysis, and that it's OK that Bernie says, Hey, it's good to read, even if it comes from Fidel.
WAJAHAT ALI, CONTRIBUTING OP-ED WRITER, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Yes. I'm going to make a Keanu Reeves reference, right?
CUOMO: That always helps your case.
ALI: It's going to help. OK, so Bernie was like Neo from the end of "Matrix" one, right? Everyone was dodging bullets, and he thought he could dodge them off. Some of the bullets went through him, so he's like John Wick from the end of the last John Wick, bruised but still alive. Bernie Sanders is consistent for better or worse. They have attacked him for five years. Everyone knows he's a democratic socialist. It has affected or blunted his momentum. Young people do not care. And I think it allowed him to pivot.
Today, he was very strong. He says, I'm against all authoritarianism, said it twice. Then he also brought up U.S. foreign policy and U.S. interventionism in Central America.
And if he really wants to dig at Obama, which I don't think he will, but if he wants to dig at Obama and Reagan and Bush, he'll say, Hey, we cozied up to Saudi Arabia. I'm going to be different.
So it does allow him to talk about universal health care. It allows him to talk about universal education. I do not think it will hurt his base.
But Biden did make a strong point. He's going to say, Hey, I'm going to be the guy who's with Obama. He didn't say that, and by the way, I'll get you Florida. Bernie is too risky.
So it was a win for both, I think, because Bernie is going to be Bernie, for better or for worse, consistent. He's a democratic socialist. Guys, it has not hurt him so far yet. That's why he has his base.
FINNEY: Well, but --
CUOMO: Go ahead. I want to bring in Bump. Hold on. Karen I'm going to come back to.
CUOMO: What do you say, Phil?
PHIL BUMP, NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, "THE WASHINGTON POST": I saw a couple things. The first thing is that, yes, people understand he's a democratic socialist. This is a different issue.
I keep thinking back to that woman. You probably saw this clip, who was a Pete Buttigieg supporter until she learned he was gay. And somehow, going to that Iowa caucus, that was when she learned that he was gay.
A lot of people don't pay close attention to what's going on with these candidates. A lot of people are probably, for the first time, learning how Bernie Sanders felt about this.
Now, look, I was a kid in the 1980s. I grew up in upstate New York. Bernie Sanders is a very familiar sort of liberal to me in that context, in the Reagan era. I understand what that sort of reaction
Looks like. So I get where there is sort of an ingrained sense of how he responds to these issues. But this has not been adjudicated broadly, either within the primary
or nationally. It's probably good for him that it's coming out now. So he has some months to sort of deal with it and see how these responses go, but it certainly is not the case the Democrats have already baked this into their assessment of who he is.
FINNEY: Yes, I also just don't think -- I think any time you're arguing with the audience in a debate, that's just not a good look.
But, look, you know, I think the other piece that came up here, part of the reason we added South Carolina -- I was at the DNC when we added Nevada and South Carolina. Yes, the African-American community and the emerging Latino community in this region of the country. But also remember, there are a lot of moderates. And so I think part of the reason Sanders got some pushback from the audience is he's got to show that he can expand this base -- this growing base and movement to bring in some of these moderates, because --
CUOMO: You guys should've put all four of those states on the first day, Finney, and you'd have different candidates up there today.
FINNEY: Can I just tell you? It was such a fight to just get the two in.
CUOMO: You'd have had them on the same day. How can you guys have diversity among your candidates when you don't have any diversity in the field of the first two states?
ROSEN: Hard to believe that this would --
CUOMO: What were you doing, Finney? What were you doing?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's all Finney's fault. It's all Finney's fault.
FINNEY: Come on.
CUOMO: You and Waj. Waj probably had something to do with it also.
ALI: Hey, I'm the one that keep saying why the hell is Iowa and New Hampshire leading the primary season when it's two of the whitest states? No offense to Iowa. No offense to New Hampshire. No offense to the whitest states. But listen, you win the Democratic nomination through people of color, black people in particular. And Biden made his strong play today. Biden played for his life. If he does not win South Carolina decisively, it's over.
CUOMO: By how much? By how much? Let's do this. Let's do this. Before we end, I want a number from everybody. What is winning for Biden? What is losing for Bernie? Waj, start.
ALI: Biden should win by at least eight points.
CUOMO: Eight. And Bernie, so if he's within eight, he's good.
FINNEY: Biden by six. I'll go -- no, 10. I'll go up.
CUOMO: Wow. That was a 40 percent jump there in a mere pause.
FINNEY: I don't know. But I also think Senator Sanders is going to be very well with younger African Americans as you did in 2016.
CUOMO: All right. So six slash ten. What does he have to win by?
BUMP: Yes, I mean, I'd say five. You can't have one of these nonsense, like ties like we saw in Iowa.
CUOMO: Five is not enough, but I hear you. You're the smartest guy here.
Go ahead. What have you got?
ROSEN: I think six to eight. But, one big thing happened tonight, which is all of a sudden, Super Tuesday feels wider open again. I think that --
CUOMO: Based on this?
ROSEN: Based on tonight. Some punches were landed on Sanders. I think Biden got himself back in the game. Tuesday -- Saturday, you know, is likely to show that. I think this is -- feels more open than it did a few days ago.
CUOMO: It is open, because you guys don't know who you are and what you want.
HEALY: The East Coast primaries and the southern primaries do feel more open. I think he needs momentum, Chris. And so I think it's ten points. He needs a strong win. It gives him some momentum.
CUOMO: Yes, I think -- I think if it's, like, five points, four points, did he win? Of course he won. We'll look the delegates split. Of course we will. But two days later, you'll have all these states. Winning matters, I know. Trite but true. But you've seen all the narrative changes every damn time we have a contest.
ROSEN: And the delegates.
CUOMO: That's right. The delegates are building up, but the media starts talking about people and not how much have you heard about Buttigieg tonight. Why? Because that's the dynamic in the media right now.
All of you are beautiful and thank.
One of the sharpest clashes from the last debate spilled over into this one. That was Warren and Bloomberg. The rematch. Better, worse? Next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
CUOMO: Look, this is the time. If you didn't do tonight, it's not going to happen. Do you know who heard that? Elizabeth Warren. And do you know how she raised a lot of money in that last one? By beating up Bloomberg. So tonight --
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The Bloomberg corporations and Mayor Bloomberg himself have been accused of discrimination. They are bound by nondisclosures so that they cannot speak.
If he says there is nothing to hide here, then sign a blanket release and let those women speak out.
I don't care how much money Senate -- Mayor Bloomberg has. The core of the Democratic Party will never trust him.
Mayor Bloomberg has been doing business with China for a long time, and he is the only one on this stage who has not released his taxes.
While Mayor Bloomberg was blaming the housing crash of 2008 on African-Americans and on Latinos, in fact, I was out there fighting for a consumer agency to make sure people never get cheated again on their mortgages.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CUOMO: Now, there was one point where there was a pocket of boos. It's hard to know where they were coming from or even why. But let's process it with our political experts. So what's your take on this?
HEALY: So Warren is a lot more comfortable hitting Bloomberg, clearly, then Sanders, but it's Sanders who still is giving her a bigger problem even in places like her home state of Massachusetts.
So it wasn't the vivisection that we saw in the Nevada debate, but I still think there's -- you know, she's got a strong message with Bloomberg, especially on the NDAs. It makes a lot of people uncomfortable. On Stop and Frisk, you know, sort of messing him up as a potential, you know, good Democrat, Democratic Party member.
But still, you look at the path for Warren on Super Tuesday, and it still just feels like the states where she needs to do well, I'm not sure that her looking strong against Bloomberg is the kind of really sort of direct benefit that she needs to get. It still feels like it's --
CUOMO: Maybe not great for her, but the question is how bad for him? You made a great point, Hilary, when we were watching it together, processing it together, where you were like, No, it was the Lindsey Graham punch that may -- may do the most damage. Why?
ROSEN: Well, you know, at one point, she talked about -- first of all, I should just say, the issues around how he has responded on women is deeply disturbing to me. I don't -- He doesn't seem contrite. He -- he has done some good things this week on the NDAs, but he still needs to really think about it and talk about it differently, as many -- as many people in his position do.
But I felt like the thing that landed the biggest tonight was announcing his contribution, financial contributions to Lindsey Graham, and to Pat Toomey, the Republican senator in Pennsylvania.
But Democrats across the country know who Lindsey Graham is, and we hate him. Right? And so, you know, when you talk about this moment where people don't know this about Bernie Sanders and Cuba, I felt like that was one of those moments where people are like, Oh, Mike Bloomberg gives to Lindsey Graham. And so -- and he didn't jump on explaining why he did that or what he's done over the years.
CUOMO: What's the good answer?
ROSEN: Giving to Republicans.
CUOMO: What does he say?
HEALY: Well, he could pivot that he's the biggest benefactor to the Democratic Party. You know --
ROSEN: Right. And he gave to Toomey because Toomey was the only Republican willing to go out there on guns. Right? It's not that -- so he has an answer to it.
CUOMO: But he didn't say anything.
ROSEN: He didn't say -- he didn't respond to it.
CUOMO: Go on. What do you have?
HILARY: I felt like he landed.
CUOMO: All right. So here is Bloomberg's response.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I really am surprised at all of these -- my fellow contestants up here, I guess, would be the right word for it, given nobody pays attention to the clock. I'm surprised they show up, because I would have thought after I did such a good job in beating them last week that they'd be a little bit afraid to do that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CUOMO: Wah-wah. All right. So that's not going to be the best answer. The question is how damaging? Who's laughing? Is that Finney laughing? BUMP: The fundamental question that you're asking, really, is how much of an effect this debate's going to have broadly? You know, last week we saw that Bloomberg had a terrible performance.
I'm not clear the extent to which it actually did damage. We don't have poll numbers that really give us a sense of that.
You know, I think that Mike Bloomberg's strategy is put up as many ads as you possibly can, including, as I said earlier in the middle of this debate, and that's going to be the impression he leaves with people.
I think that's broadly accurate. We've seen him rise in the polls on the strength of his ads. Yes, it certainly is the case that, by raising some of these issues, that probably is going to impede some of that momentum. But his strategy all along has simply been to dump as much money in as he can.
And I think that's why Elizabeth Warren finds him sort of distasteful. He is exactly who Elizabeth Warren has spent a lot of time fighting. It's a billionaire from Wall Street. Like, of course, she did.
ROSEN: I was just going to say. It's obvious she has a long-term personal antipathy to this rich guy. Right? And I think that that's sort of what ended up coming across tonight, as much as anything else.
I think he looked like a candidate on the stage tonight, whereas, you know, last week he looked like a deer in the headlights. And I think that that probably is the ultimate impression.
CUOMO: A little bit of the nice upside of low -- low expectations. Who did I hear over here? Was that Finney?
ALI: That was me.
CUOMO: Waj? OK. Let's hear from you guys. You know I love you, Finney. There's no one I like to see get upset at my questions more than you.
Waj, go ahead. What was your take?
ALI: I feel like Elizabeth Warren, when it comes to Bloomberg, she's like Arya Stark. She's coming for his soul.
ALI: She's --
CUOMO: That's much better than a Keanu Reeves double play, by the way.
ALI: I think -- I think my Keanu reference was on point, my friend.
But no, she's bringing the receipts. And I believe it's fundamental for her. I think she sincerely believes that a billionaire should not buy his way in. I believe -- she says, If I don't get the nomination -- I'm going for everything, but I'm going to make sure this guy, who hasn't released his taxes, who has these NDAs, who has Stop and Frisk, who supported Republicans, I'm going to make sure I take out this man.
And last time, it gave her a huge boost. Strategically, does it give her a path towards a nomination, especially when Bernie is commanding the progressive vote? Probably not. But I do believe that's sincerity there with Warren. She is not going to relent when it comes to Bloomberg. She's going to make sure Americans know that this man does not belong on the stage with the other Democratic nominees. She has all the receipts.
And listen, she was accurate in all her points, and he fails to answer. And he's just a smug and arrogant and money can't buy love. And money can't buy charisma on that -- on that debate stage.
And let's not forget. He's just doing Super Tuesday. He did not have to come on these debate stages. He did himself no favor, and women are paying attention.
CUOMO: It can't buy -- it can't buy charisma. It can buy you ads, Waj. And it can buy a message. It's got him at 15 percent in all polls across the country.
Finney, what do you got?
FINNEY: So two things. One, I'm going to put a theory out there.
FINNEY: Which is, to some degree, watching Warren go after Bloomberg is a little bit like, I can see, envision her going after Donald Trump on a stage. I wonder if that is part of their strategy. I haven't confirmed that. That's just my own theory, because there are some similarities.
Secondly, I think it wasn't just -- you know, he continues to be very misogynist and sexist towards her. He keeps calling her "that senator," or "that" -- you know, "that person."
And you know, she did get him. I completely agree with Hillary. That it's not just that he gave to Lindsey Graham. She was also reminding people, as we're now just starting to really vet Bloomberg, he was a Democrat, right? We all know him from New York is a Democrat.
Then he became a Republican, and he had to show that he was a Republican. Then he was an independent. Then he was -- Now he's back to being a Democrat. That political expediency, sure. Politicians do politics.
CUOMO: He's going to have to deal with it.
FINNEY: This is different -- this --
CUOMO: He's going to have to deal with it. Karen Finney, I love you and thank you. You get the last word.
Waj Ali, thank you very much.
Patrick Healy, it's great to see again.
Hilary Rosen, as always, thank you.
Philip Bump, tallest and smartest man in the room. Good to have you.
Only compared to me. Healy's like, give me a break. Waj is like, never on his best day.
ROSEN: We're short and smart.
CUOMO: Thanks to all. I said man. I not -- I know it's no contest if I include you two.
All right. Thank you for watching. Look, tonight had huge implications, and you're going to see it reverberate tomorrow, through the rest of the week. And then Saturday will change the course of the Democrats' game.
Thank you for watching. Stay tuned. The news continues on CNN.