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Dems Spar in Final Debate Before Super Tuesday. Aired 5-5:30a ET
Aired February 26, 2020 - 05:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Clash of the candidates in Charleston, South Carolina.
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Medicare-for-All will save money. Ours will cost about $45 billion, not $60 trillion.
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 Bernie Sanders versus Donald Trump.
SANDERS: I've been hearing my name mentioned a little bit tonight. I wonder why.
SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If we spend the next four months tearing our party apart, we're going to watch Donald Trump spend the next four years tearing our country apart.
ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is a special edition of NEW DAY. It is Wednesday, February 26th. It is 5:00 here in New York.
It's also 5:00 in South Carolina where for the Democratic presidential candidates this morning, it sure feels like South Carolina.
What exactly does that feel like, you ask? In politics, it can feel like yikes.
It was really the first debate where Senator Bernie Sanders, now the front-runner, was the center of action. His opponents flat-out said that he wouldn't be able to beat Donald Trump in November, but they went even further saying the Democrats across the board would lose with Sanders as nominee. They question his partial praise of the Castro regime of Cuba and other policies that were branded as socialist or radical.
Now, this morning, you're hearing complaints from campaigns about the moderators and the crowd or the questions. But you know what? It's not supposed to be easy. It's supposed to be South Carolina.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: But you supposed to be able to hear them talk?
CAMEROTA: I mean, there were a few different complaints.
BERMAN: I heard that they were talking. I could tell they're talking.
CAMEROTA: I could tell they're talking. That part we did know.
So, this was the last debate been Super Tuesday next week. Former Vice President Joe Biden is hoping for a win in South Carolina this weekend to resurrect his campaign. The other moderates on the stage made sure to attack each other, as well, with former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg trying to rebounds from that disastrous first debate performance.
For the others on the stage, the goal is still to continue the one standing one week from today.
We're also keeping a close eye on the markets. U.S. stock futures are down sharply after a monster two-day slide. It looks like Wall Street is in for another wild day as coronavirus fears grip these global markets.
So let's begin with CNN's Jessica Dean. She is live for us in South Carolina with the highlights and maybe low lights of last night's debate -- Jessica.
JESSICA DEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to both of you. South Carolina, yikes, yes. Good morning.
We had a lot of back and forth, a lot of energy on that stage last night, a lot of yelling. It started out, you saw, with a lot of attacks trained right at Bernie Sanders and then devolved into this circular firing squad on that debate stage. Look, these candidates have a lot on the line here in South Carolina. It's the last time they're all going to be on the stage together before Saturday's primary. Then, of course, Super Tuesday's contest.
SANDERS: I'm hearing my name mentioned a little bit tonight.
SANDERS: I wonder why.
DEAN (voice-over): With front-runner status, Bernie Sanders took his turn in the hot seat in a tense and sometimes chaotic debate. WARREN: Bernie and I agree on a lot of things, but I think I would
make a better president than Bernie.
KLOBUCHAR: You do something for the people of America instead of a bunch of broken promises that sound good on bumper stickers.
JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Bernie, in fact, hasn't passed much of anything.
DEAN: After taking most of the heat last week, Michael Bloomberg was ready to strike against Sanders, questioning his electability.
MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Vladimir Putin thinks that Donald Trump should be president of the United States. And that's why Russia is helping you get elected so you'll lose to him.
Hey, Mr. Putin, if I'm president of the United States, trust me, you're not going to interfere in any more American elections.
DEAN: Sanders once again defending his comments, praising Cuban dictator Fidel Castro.
SANDERS: I have opposed authoritarianism all over the world. What I said is what Barack Obama said, in terms of Cuba, and that Cuba made progress on education. Yes, I think --
SANDERS: Really? Really?
BIDEN: The fact of the matter is, he, in fact, does not, did not, has never embraced an authoritarian regime and does not know.
DEAN: Pete Buttigieg warning a Sanders nomination could hurt Democrats' chances in Congress.
BUTTIGIEG: Look, if you want to keep the House in Democratic hands, you might want to check with the people who turned the House blue. Forty Democrats who are not running on your platform, they are running away from your platform as fast as they possibly can.
WARREN: The truth is, we --
WARREN: The America people support my agenda, that is why I am beating Trump in virtually every poll.
DEAN: Joe Biden confident heading into Saturday's primary.
BIDEN: I don't expect anything. I plan to earn the vote. I'm here to ask and earn it. But, folks, I intend to win South Carolina, and I will win the African-American vote here in South Carolina.
DEAN: The former vice president also taking aim at billionaire Tom Steyer.
BIDEN: You talk about concerned about race, well, my good friend at the end of this platform, he, in fact, bought a system that was a private prison system, after -- after he knew that, in fact, what happened was they hog-tied young men in prison here in this state.
STEYER: I bought stock in a prison company, thinking they'd do a better job. And I investigated and I sold it. Since then I've worked to end the use of private prisons in my home state, and we've ended it.
You wrote the crime bill --
BIDEN: Where we come from, that's called Johnny come lately --
STEYER: Put hundreds of thousands of young black and Latino men --
BIDEN: Not true.
DEAN: Elizabeth Warren offering rare attacks against her fellow progressive.
WARREN: Bernie and I both want to see universal health care, but Bernie's plan doesn't explain how to get there. I dug in, I did the work, and then Bernie's team trashed me for it.
DEAN: But saved some ammunition for Bloomberg.
WARREN: The fact that he cannot earn the trust of the core of the Democratic Party means he is the riskiest candidate standing on this stage.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All right, Senator --
DEAN: Amy Klobuchar calling for some civility.
WARREN: If we spend the next four months tearing our party apart, we're going to watch Donald Trump spend the next four years tearing our country apart.
DEAN: Another full day of campaigning for the Democratic hopefuls here in South Carolina. And another full night of CNN town halls, those get started at 7:00 with Michael Bloomberg, Joe Biden, Amy Klobuchar, and Elizabeth Warren tonight -- John and Alisyn.
CAMEROTA: Yes, another very interesting 24 hours ahead. Thank you so much.
So Joe Biden is ahead in the polls in South Carolina, as he has been for weeks, maybe months now. But Bernie Sanders took the most heat last night. How did last night shake up the race?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BLOOMBERG: Change hopefully the corporate landscape all across America.
BUTTIGIEG: If you get nominated, we'll be relitigating this all year --
WARREN: Did not do what I asked --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Senator Warren --
SANDERS: Ours will cost about $45 billion, not $60 trillion.
KLOBUCHAR: Bernie, I was talking about --
BUTTIGIEG: I want to send those Democrats back to the United States House, but listen to them when they say that they don't want to be out there defending --
BIDEN: OK. Whoa, whoa, whoa!
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Vice President Biden, please.
BIDEN: I guess the only way to do this is jump in and speak as long as you should. Here's the deal --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAMEROTA: I guess that is the way to do it.
BERMAN: Yes, I notice that's what you do here on NEW DAY, which is why my segments are always so short.
CAMEROTA: I'm going to speak over you any time you speak like this right now.
It was raucous debate in South Carolina. Front-runner Bernie Sanders taking the brunt of the attacks from his rivals. So has the deck been reshuffled this morning?
Joining us now is CNN political commentator and former South Carolina House member Bakari Sellers, and CNN political commentator Alexandra Rojas. She's the executive director of Justice Democrats.
Thank you both for getting up extra early for this special edition of NEW DAY.
Bakari, give us your take.
BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, it hasn't been reshuffled just yet. I mean, Saturday has come. The election has to come. I think that Joe Biden would do extremely well. I think last night was the first time, you know, in Bernie Sanders history of running for the president of the United States which stresses back four years, that's he's been actually the front-runner.
And so, he had to take that heat. I thought last night was an amazing night for Democrats. We got a chance to exchange ideas.
But I do think there are people who should not be on that stage anymore. I think that you'll start to see the Pete Buttigieges of the world, the Amy Klobuchars of the world, even to the certain extent the Elizabeth Warrens of the world, understand that if they don't do well Saturday, and especially on Tuesday, they have to find another way to affect the outcome of the race. It's not running for president --
CAMEROTA: Pete Buttigieg won some of the first -- or, you know, tied some of the early contests. Why doesn't he deserve a place on that stage?
SELLERS: Well, I mean, he won the first race. That's fair to say. I also think you have to build a diverse coalition. There were people last night who were running to win South Carolina, and there were others who were just running because this was the next stop in South Carolina.
And I think that when you saw somebody like Joe Biden, for example, I think you saw somebody like Tom Steyer trying to win South Carolina, there were others who were just here because it was a stop on the map. And I think that what you're realizing is if you cannot win in South Carolina, if you cannot do well in South Carolina which is indicative of the rest of the way, then you cannot build the coalition necessary to be the Democratic nominee.
BERMAN: Alexandra, I'm going to quote something that I heard Bakari say, which was last night was the first away game that Bernie Sanders had to play on the debate stage. It was the first time where he wasn't commanding with maybe a home crowd audience there. And you heard it. Here's one example actually, literally where you heard the not hometown audience like Bernie Sanders. This had to do with the Castro issue.
(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 --
SANDERS: Really? Really?
(END VIDEO CLIP) BERMAN: So that's atmospherics right there. There was more than that some of the other candidates including for Michael Bloomberg who raised the issue that a lot of establishment for lack of a word Democrats have been raising the last few days which is they say Bernie Sanders simply can't beat Donald Trump, and only that, it means doom for the whole party.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BLOOMBERG: If you keep on going, we will elect Bernie, Bernie will lose to Donald Trump, and Donald Trump and the House and the Senate and some of the statehouses will all go red, and then be -- between gerrymandering and appointing judges for the next 20 or 30 years, we're going to live with this catastrophe.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: So, Alexandra, how did Senator Sanders emerge from this away game?
ALEXANDRA ROJAS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think that he emerged pretty -- pretty still as the front-runner. I think as he was on stage, he was the clear Democratic front-runner. He took hits from all sides alongside Mayor Bloomberg.
And I think the thing that, you know, is -- I think we're consistently surprised about in the media or as pundits is, you know, the appearance of Bernie Sanders maybe being angry or this debate being raucous.
But I actually think that a lot of people respond to him constantly centering the fact that 500,000 Americans are sleeping on the street right now, 30,000 of which are veterans.
When he talks about legalizing marijuana and expunging the records of thousands of black and brown young men that have been, you know, incarcerated unfairly in our criminal justice system, that those ideas are popular and he's been able to really talk about those.
I also think that Senator Warren had a really great debate. Again being able to focus on someone like Mayor Bloomberg who I think is the real risk of a general election candidate on stage when it comes to being able to defeat Donald Trump.
CAMEROTA: Bakari, let me ask about how Joe Biden did. A lot of people were watching to see if he can maintain his front-runner status in South Carolina. As you point out, he brought up a lot of issues that are near and dear to South Carolinians. And he fought for -- he fought for the microphone in a way that he had been a little bit deferential.
I mean, we've talked about how maybe a crowded stage is not his format. He doesn't love to big foot I think other people. But last night, he dove in. So, listen to this moment --
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIDEN: Bernie, Bernie, in fact, hasn't passed much of anything. The fact of the matter is --
STEYER: OK, but I --
BIDEN: No, no.
STEYER: I get to answer that --
BIDEN: Look, the fact is --
STEYER: You're -- you're out of time.
BIDEN: I'm not out time. You spoke overtime, I'm going to talk. Here's a deal.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAMEROTA: Crowd liked that. How did you think his entire night was?
SELLERS: Well, I think a lot of people going into the debate rightfully so had the question about the vitality of Joe Biden and whether or not he could, you know, undergo the rigors of not just running for president but being the president of the United States. I think last night, you know, I saw Kate Bedingfield last night, I saw Symone Sanders last night, T.J. Duckworth, I think is his name, last night.
And it's somebody the rest of us got to see. Somebody fighting for the time, who would fight for the country, who would fight to be the nominee.
So I think that there was a question going into the debate last night that many South Carolinians had. That many people had going into Super Tuesday, whether or not Joe Biden could, you know, withstand the rigor. And I think Joe Biden proved that.
Let me also comment just briefly because this has been driving me completely insane. Bernie Sanders as president of the United States, he cannot expunge the records of those individuals charged with marijuana crimes. Can he stop saying that and everyone else?
Marijuana crimes are state crimes. The president of the United States cannot expunge those records. So, with all due respect to everyone who keeps saying that, that is something that cannot happen.
And individual know that. People in South Carolina, Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, North Carolina, know that that is not something that's realistic. But it feeds into narrative that Bernie Sanders is promising things that cannot happen. The president of the United States is not going to expunge records from marijuana crimes. It simply cannot happen. BERMAN: I will say, though, if you go to a Bernie Sanders event near
a college campus, which I have, he mentions the word "marijuana" and the crowd goes wild. It is -- it is --
SELLERS: I'm not mad at that problem. Marijuana is good for us all. I'm saying that you cannot, you cannot expunge records for that. That's all I'm saying.
BERMAN: I think what we should do -- I think what we should do is take a quick break.
CAMEROTA: Four out of five doctors --
BERMAN: For a lot of the reasons.
CAMEROTA: -- named Bakari.
BERMAN: No, we have a lot more to talk about in the debate last night. I am curious as to what happens, the sequence of events that happens after South Carolina. If for instance Joe Biden manages to win South Carolina, what happens before next week? Before Super Tuesday? We'll discuss, next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUTTIGIEG: I come to this with some humility because I'm conscious of the fact that there's seven white people on this stage talking about racial justice. None of us --
None of us have the experience, the lived experience of for example walking down the street or in a mall and feeling eyes on us regarding us as dangerous without knowing the first thing about us just because of the color of our skin.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: I think all you can say to that is yes. Mayor Pete Buttigieg from South Bend, Indiana, speaking the truth. Every candidate on that stage --
CAMEROTA: Yes, I mean, certainly about empathy. But that doesn't mean that they can't be president and can't come to understand --
BERMAN: I don't think he say that. I think he is nothing that it is notable that at this stage of the Democratic primary, there's not a single person of color on the debate stage.
CAMEROTA: Right, but where does that leave us? I mean, they have to elect one of those -- vote for one --
BERMAN: That's for the voters to decide. That is for the voters to decide.
Back with us, CNN political commentators, Bakari Sellers and Alexandra Rojas.
And, Bakari, practically speaking, where does that leave us is an interesting question. You have the South Carolina primary on Saturday. Up to 60 percent of the Democratic primary voters could be African- American.
Then I want to put up the map of Super Tuesday so people can see the states that vote just three days after South Carolina. You will see that some of those states are Alabama, you have North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia. Big proportions of the Democratic primary voters will be African-Americans.
So, game this out for me, if Joe Biden can win in South Carolina, like you believe, with a commanding victory there, he might go into Super Tuesday with some momentum and be able to do well in those states.
SELLERS: I mean, I think that's what Joe Biden's counting on. That's all he has to count on. I mean, you come into South Carolina, you do well, you win by 8, 10, 12 points. You deal well, I mean, can't have a two, three-point victory, that's not doing well in South Carolina. That's not the expectation for Joe Biden.
But if you're able to well, win by 8, 10, 12, you catapult yourself into Super Tuesday. You go into Super Tuesday and you have Tennessee and you have Alabama and you have North Carolina, you have Virginia, you have these large swaths of the Democratic party which are the base of the party. You have particularly black female voters.
That's something that we just haven't discussed a lot because we haven't had the input into this electoral process. And people want to look into that and with all due respect to Nevada, Nevada had 6,000 to 8,000 African-American voters. In South Carolina, you're going to have close to a quarter million African-American voters. It's vastly different.
Let me also acknowledge something that I've been very critical of. I've been critical of p Pete Buttigieg for -- throughout this campaign. I believe he has a blind spot when it comes to race the size of Antarctica.
However, Pete Buttigieg especially when compared to Amy Klobuchar, Pete Buttigieg is trying, he's listening. He's getting better on issues of race. So, my hat's off to Pete Buttigieg because I thought last night he did extremely well.
CAMEROTA: How is Amy Klobuchar not trying?
SELLERS: Well, you have to ask Amy Klobuchar why she's not trying.
CAMEROTA: Well, I mean, what are you seeing? SELLERS: The fact that she has no presence -- she has absolutely no
presence in South Carolina. Absolutely none. She has not about a presence in South Carolina.
When you look at Super Tuesday, she's not in Tennessee, she's not in Virginia, she's not in North Carolina -- yes, she went to Little Rock and she needs kudos for that. If she's spending the majority of her time in Oklahoma, the Dakotas, and Minnesota, that's not someone who wants to try to win the African-American vote.
I know she's riding a wave from New Hampshire, but I've spoken to Amy Klobuchar staffers, I've spoken to people who support Amy Klobuchar, and all I begged her to do, because she's been one of the -- if not the most effective United States senator who's running for president, is to try, like act like you care about the black voters, just simply act like you care, and Bakari will be happy.
I spoke about myself in the third person. I'm sorry about that.
But act like you care about the way black voters tend to think and want to vote. And give us a chance to love you. She won't even do that.
CAMEROTA: That's interesting, Alexandra. What do you think? Amy Klobuchar's wheelhouse is Middle America.
She talks about that a lot, that she understands people in the heartland. She's from there. They're her neighbors. That's -- those are the people whose language she speaks. She talks about how she will be able to beat President Trump on that note.
So what do you think about what Bakari said?
ROJAS: I completely agree. When it comes to the Latino community, I think that she has a similar situation going on. I think most recently she had given that interview with Telemundo where she couldn't -- and I don't knock people for not knowing the name of the Mexican president. When you sit on the committee for border security and Mexico being one of our strongest allies on the southern border, when you have human rights abuses committed by this administration, children being separated from their families, it does feel important to be able to do that outreach with obviously black voters but obviously Latino voters and especially Mexican Americans who feel increasingly under attack by this administration.
So, I completely agree. But again, I think the bigger question for Amy Klobuchar is what is her path to victory right now. I don't understand -- I think the question of that comes out after I think even before South Carolina is, does she even have the resources to be able to compete regardless of how you feel about her? We're at the stage where if you want to defeat Donald Trump you have to be competitive. That is the electability argument.
And I think even Joe Biden kind set himself up to really have to perform really strongly in South Carolina even though he's starting to dip -- this is looking like his first state. So, it could catapult him for Super Tuesday. But he has to do really, really well, and he set the bar for himself pretty high last night at the debate.
BERMAN: You know, you both bring this up, and I want your takes. Sometimes you lose sight of the big picture coming out of the debates.
BERMAN: What changed? And going into the debate, Bernie Sanders was the front-runner. And I know that only three states have voted, but he was the front-runner. Did anything happen to change that in your mind, Alexandra?
ROJAS: No, I don't think so. I think that when you look at the folks at least responding to what their reaction was after the debate, Bernie Sanders is still coming out on top. I think that he's also someone that like Elizabeth Warren head been sort of battling these -- people attacking his ideas for obviously the past year, but really has entire career.