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CNN Live Event/Special
Mayor Pete Buttigieg (D-FL) Was Interviewed About His Performance in Tonight's Debate; Elizabeth Warren Stood Out Among the Rest in the Democratic Field. Aired 11p-12a ET
Aired January 14, 2020 - 23:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening. I'm Anderson Cooper live from the Democratic debate in Des Moines, Iowa.
This was it. The last time Americans will hear the Democratic candidates all on stage together, hearing them debate before the first votes are cast 20 days from now, caucuses in 20 days.
Six candidates on stage, laser focused on policy, Iran, health care, jobs, the topics that matter most to voters, plus Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders confronting that conversation, that they had a private conversation that's now become very public, a woman can win the White House.
A lot to dissect here, Chris Cuomo and I will be breaking it down with our top team of political minds. We'll be talking to the candidates who were up on that stage as well tonight. I want to go to a quick roundup with our folks right here. Gloria, who stood out to you?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think that Amy Klobuchar tried her hardest to distinguish herself as a pragmatist who can tell the rest of the Democrats to get real.
I thought Biden seemed OK, maybe a little over prepped. I think his closing statement was the best thing we heard from him and that is what his campaign is all about, a fight for character and the soul of America.
DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I thought that this was Elizabeth Warren's best debate in several debates. She was consistent, strong, emphatic. I think she did what she came there to do.
As for the vice president his closing was very, very strong. You wonder where that energy is throughout the debate. There were times when he seemed, you know, very much sort of low energy. And the debate itself we expected some fiery moments.
There were some confrontations but for whatever reason and it may be that people are uneasy in a set, in a race where people are well liked, generally, to take on folks that might drive second choices away, drive the undecided away.
NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Warren seemed to be the one person on stage who came in with a plan and executed it. She had, I thought, the best energy. She had the best moment in the debate when she talked about all the men on the stage losing, I think 10 elections and the women are the only ones who won all of their elections. I thought that was a good moment, arguing for electability and wrapping gender into it.
I thought Biden had a terrible debate. This is a moment where he is coming into this debate saying that he is the one who can take on Donald Trump, that he is steady and strong and he seemed none of those things in that debate, certainly not through the whole way through. His closing statement was good.
But many people I think watching this debate may not have watched it all the way through to see his strongest moment.
COOPER: Folks, at this point 20 days to go, I got to get off the fence pretty soon. Van, how are you?
VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look, I thought Pete missed an opportunity. Tonight, he needed to do something extraordinary. You had Iran hanging out there. He's a veteran. He missed the opportunity I think to really stand out. Though he was solid and beautiful.
This was Elizabeth Warren's night, she needed to do something. And there was a banana peel sent out there for Bernie to step on when he came with his comments about women. I think Bernie stepped on and slid around. She knocked that moment out of the park.
And I think that the only thing that's going to be remembered with how she handled that tonight. I also felt a little sorry for Amy Klobuchar, this is, I think, was a chance where she could have done really well. She was -- she was unfocussed, she was looking at her notes.
JESS MCINTOSH, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Right.
JONES: She tried. But I think Elizabeth Warren won the night. I thought there were tremendous opportunities for Pete tonight because it was a such low energy night, he could have come on and being the old Pete, I didn't see it tonight.
MCINTOSH: Yes. I couldn't agree more. I think that the moment between Warren and Bernie is obviously the one that's going to be replayed the most.
JONES: Just a bit. MCINTOSH: I think what Bernie forgot was that this isn't a he said/she said story. This is a reported-out story that CNN was part of breaking. So, to have him just flat out say no, I think wasn't -- wasn't nearly enough to address that for the women watching.
I think Buttigieg and Biden both closed really strong. And if they had brought that energy at the beginning of the debate all the way through, we'd be having a very different conversation. But only one person really kept up that optimistic, positive, excited to be here energy, which frankly, she's done through the majority of this campaign, and that was Warren.
COOPER: Just in fairness, it is essentially he said/she said. I mean, it's two people in a room, so we only know --
MCINTOSH: But it started with reporters finding other sources about --
COOPER: Yes, it was people from what I understand it was four sources. Two of them or have been or spoken to about it by Warren.
MCINTOSH: All right.
COOPER: Anyway, we know only the two in the room know.
MCINTOSH: That's true, entirely.
TERRY MCAULIFFE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: You know, I'm a little surprised. I thought it would be a much more aggressive debate tonight. I mean, this is the last shot you've got until the Iowa caucus in three weeks. The four front runners, nobody went after each other. I was really surprised at that.
You know, Joe Biden has been leading this race since he got into it, nobody touched him tonight, nobody went after him. I mean, it was just shocking to me that this is your last shot to make an impression before we go in it.
You know, I thought Pete was strong tonight. I thought he had a very good debate. I was very impressed with Tom Steyer. You know, I think there was something for everybody here tonight. But would you walk away with does this change the dynamic of the caucus in three weeks?
BORGER: No, not at all.
MCAULIFFE: Absolutely not. And for the people who need to move, if I'm Joe Biden and I'm Bernie Sanders, it was a good night here because not much change.
And I do think Warren should have come back at Bernie on the issue did he say it or didn't say it. Steyer are going after the same voters, and this was an opportunity for her to hit it hard and she missed that opportunity.
COOPER: I want to check in with our Chris Cuomo, he's standing by, Chris?
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: All right, of course we're listening to you all here, Anderson, it's so interesting to get all of these different perspectives on what happened.
I think the consensus, though, is that this was not the type of night of ambition we expected. So, then the big question becomes, well, why? You have two possibilities. One is the adage in politics scared money never wins, which is that you hold your fire, everybody up there is popular and you don't want to hurt yourself this close before the caucuses. OK.
But the second perspective is you have to go for it at a certain point to distinguish yourself from your competitors and remember what every Democrat is looking for and why you see this bottleneck up at the top and people moving back and forth, three, four people within the margin of error, who is the right one to beat Trump?
That speaks to a big ambition. To a boldness. Someone who can take on, arguably, the most fierce campaigner we've seen in a generation. So, the question becomes why did they play it this way tonight?
I have Dana Bash and David Chalian, can't get better minds than this. First of all, am I totally off and that this was a chance tonight?
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: It's a loaded question, Chris.
CUOMO: Yes, I know. The easy answer is always yes. But the idea that this was a chance, this was your last swing --
CUOMO: -- before the caucus, we saw no one swing big.
BASH: Absolutely. I do think that you were dead on about the stakes being so high but I actually -- was it fiery? did, you know, could you feel the crackling in here? No. But if you are a caucus goer thinking who do I like, I'm a little torn, I just want to hear what they believe on the issues I care about, you've got that tonight, particularly on an issue that we have heard almost nothing about until tonight and that is foreign policy, given the fact that things are so different now with what happened in Iran than they were just a couple of weeks ago.
CUOMO: And that's the beauty of having you here, David, is that you can help us weave in the what people want to hear at this stage, what they heard tonight, what did you see? DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yes. I agree. I don't think
anything really changed tonight in this race and I agree that caution was the most active participant on the stage and I think there's a reason why. And it is those rules that are particular here in Iowa, where that second choice can really matter. And so, it's a calculation, if you go after somebody you may be rolling out their supporters if it's in the precinct where they don't --
CUOMO: Now remind us why. What's the difference between the straight vote and a caucus?
CHALIAN: Well, because you gather for a meeting in your community at a local school or library and you have to get 15 percent of the participants in that caucus to earn delegates and stay viable in the race. If you do not get 15 percent in that precinct, and there are over, you know, a thousand precincts in the state, more than that, you -- your supporters then have the opportunity in a second round of alignment and preference to go to someone else.
So, it's a very careful consideration about sort of going after an opponent whose supporters you very well may need to woo if they fall short of that threshold. So, I think that had something to do with it, the specificity of Iowa. But also, there is a concern that, as you noted, the party is looking for a Trump defeater at all costs. And so, they're not all that eager in seeing these folks try to take each other's face off.
CHALIAN: That's not what Democrats are eager to see.
CUOMO: Although I think only Senator Klobuchar spoke very directly to the task of the president and what he presents.
Sure, everybody touches on it tangentially with some now kind of canned lines that they have, stock and trade lines, but the moment of the night had nothing to do with any of that. It had to do with Elizabeth Warren anticipating how to deal with Bernie Sanders and their wires crossed as the Sanders campaign says. She took the moment, how and what did it mean for her?
BASH: It was -- look, it was an out of the park moment for her. Because she clearly had it planned, probably almost to the word. And she delivered it. She executed it. And the it is what they clearly inside the Warren campaign had in mind for the past probably 24 or 48 hours, which is the fact that she is the most viable woman in that list of the top four, particularly here in Iowa. She's the most viable, she's the only woman in the top four.
And so she is trying to use that moment and explain why, not just -- not just a woman, but her as the woman in that position should be really seriously considered and it was a clever way of doing it because she also brought in the other woman on the stage, almost -- a sister in solidarity.
CUOMO: Klobuchar thanked her.
BASH: And saying -- and saying that they, with the people who in the past 30 years have beaten an incumbent Republican.
CUOMO: And she wound up getting sideways with Bernie again and it was unintended.
CUOMO: She said no -- none of these guys --
BASH: Well he didn't let it go. He could have just let it go and been done but he didn't.
CUOMO: -- have beaten an incumbent in 30 years. Right after it was her way of saying I'm moving past Bernie onto the main proposition here --
BASH: He's --
CUOMO: -- which politically it's going to be whether people think it was a setup from the Warren campaign all along or was it a good faith discussion that came up organically, which is kind of weird because this happened a while ago.
But she does it that way and Bernie get in there and says, I did beat an incumbent Republican in 1990. And Warren says, yes, that was 30 years ago.
BASH: That's what he said.
CUOMO: And he goes, right. So, then I'm right. And it was kind of weird, David. He did not need to say that.
CHALIAN: It was weird. I didn't catch it. We made some video of it. But I see some Twitter commentary right now and what you, that they exchanged words at the end of the debate, Sanders and Warren.
CUOMO: But nice words or not nice words?
CHALIAN: Well, I don't think we know. It looked like it could be -- we'll take a closer look at the video put it looked like they had some exchange there once the debate was over. It will be interesting to learn what that is. Because I'm curious to see if they're really ready to move on. They clearly didn't want to battle tonight about it.
CHALIAN: But perhaps there is something unresolved there.
BASH: And apparently no handshake.
CHALIAN: And no handshake.
CUOMO: Well, look, that is an interesting thing because, again, Anderson, they're in the same lane. So, what was the nature of that discussion? Was it good natured and let's move forward, or is it, you know, what Dana tends to say as you know, if you get in my key light, I'll throw you right over the railing, if that was that kind of discussion at the end of the debate. It's a very different meaning.
COOPER: I think I also may have told you that a couple times a lot of (Inaudible). Chris, we'll come back to you shortly. Back now with the folks here. David Axelrod, interesting to see that exchange at the end.
AXELROD: Well, you know, one thing --
COOPER: We'll play the video shortly --
AXELROD: Yes, one thing that was left unresolved in their exchange, you know, was this what actually happened and I actually thought -- Terry, I disagree with you -- I thought in the debate she handled it well because there was really nothing to be gained by saying no, you're lying, you did say it and she turned it to her advantage.
AXELROD: So, I thought that was fine. But clearly --
COOPER: Let's play that video just to --
AXELROD: -- very, very hard feelings about the whole thing.
COOPER: This occurred.
AXELROD: This is not warm and cuddly.
BORGER: Poor Tom Steyer. He's standing there.
BORGER: Look, it seems to me that first of all they didn't shake hands.
BORGER: She clearly had a point she wanted to make. She had a point she wanted to make tonight, which was about gender and people in Iowa, all around the state, and of course all around the country are saying can a woman beat Donald Trump? But it seems to me that they didn't resolve what was said at their meeting. And she wasn't happy about it.
BORGER: And you can see that, and clearly, she wanted to do it during the debate but after the debate, this was not friendly.
MCAULIFFE: Well, she should -- I'll go back to she should have done it during the debate.
MCAULIFFE: You are running for president of the United States of America. This is the last shot you have. You take every opportunity to fire everything you have. People are paying attention. They're not following this day-to-day.
MCAULIFFE: Many --
AXELROD: So, Terry, she says --
MCAULIFFE: They tuned into this debate this might have been the first time they heard about it. And I also disagree that, well, people didn't go after each other because they wanted the people to move over for second place. Come on.
People have to win this caucus because if you don't win then you may not be going on. And if you win --
BORGER: So, are they afraid of Joe Biden?
BORGER: What is it? Are they afraid of Joe Biden? They didn't attack Joe Biden.
MCAULIFFE: I think the top four, we're figuring where the top four were only a point apart, so Biden didn't want to get into it, Bernie was fine with it.
BORGER: On the back --
MCAULIFFE: The one who needed to go after it was Amy Klobuchar, and she did.
MCAULIFFE: Tom Steyer is not going to do it. So, I think the top four felt that they were very close and we don't need to get into it and come out with a draw on the top four, let's see how our field operation works and that's what to win the caucus for.
MCINTOSH: I think Warren has been really careful in the way that she has emphasized the gender up until this point. She tends to couch it in terms of other women in American history who have broken through against challenges rather than talking about herself.
So, in this case, I don't think that the appeal to women is Bernie Sanders said a bad thing. I think the appeal to women is, women win elections, despite this widespread idea that we somehow can't win elections.
BORGER: Well, and don't forget Sanders was criticized for how he treated Hillary Clinton.
AXELROD: Well that was the whole point.
AXELROD: Listen, Elizabeth Warren hurled a grenade --
AXELROD: -- into Bernie Sanders when that story leaked and she confirmed it. Because it stirred the embering -- the smoldering embers of what happened four years ago.
AXELROD: There are still bitter feelings about whether he was adequately supportive of Hillary Clinton and all the damage that he had done to her leading into the election.
JONES: I think --
AXELROD: Fair enough. And this brought all that back. And let's not kid ourselves. Terry, you're talking about how people should play hardball, that was a hardball move.
JONES: And also, women get punished --
JONES: -- if they play hardball all the way that way that --
JONES: So, I think that what she did was extraordinary. But what I love about Elizabeth Warren in those moments, she never stopped being the educator in chief. She didn't just say, hey, listen, I'm a woman, I can do it, rah, rah, rah.
She made the case that women have been winning in the Trump era and have been leading this movement. And so, I think that she used the moment well. But that was as a progressive to see those two have that level of vitriol was very dispiriting.
And I want to say that tonight for me was dispiriting. Democrats have to do better what we saw tonight. There was nothing I saw tonight that would be able to take Donald Trump out. And I want to see a Democrat in the White House as soon as possible.
There was nothing tonight that if you're looking at this thing you'll say, did any of these people have prepared for what Donald Trump is going to do to us? And to see further division tonight is very dispiriting.
COOPER: I want to go Chris Cuomo, standing by with Mayor Pete Buttigieg.
MAYOR PETE BUTTIGIEG (D-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: -- so I called here or something like that.
CUOMO: All right. A lot of intrigue. Anderson, thank you very much. But we're with one of the participants up there, Mayor Pete Buttigieg. Good to see you, Mr. Mayor. Happy new year.
BUTTIGIEG: Good to be with you. happy New Year.
CUOMO: What did you think of the feel on the stage tonight?
BUTTIGIEG: Well, I thought it was an opportunity to get our message out with just three weeks to go before caucus goers make their decisions. My focus was not relitigating debates from the past, but talking about the future, how do we turn the page in order to win in order to beat Donald Trump and in order to govern? Those two things go hand in hand.
And what lights up rooms when I'm talking to voters across Iowa and everywhere we go, is asking them to envision that first day after we send Donald Trump into history and actually have to bring this country together and get big things done.
This is a chance to talk about that for a lot of issues, a lot of issues I wish we could have gotten to that hopefully we'll touch in other debates but I really valued the opportunity to get out there and share that future oriented vision.
CUOMO: I expected there to be more friction on the stage, not nastiness but points of comparison. Because this is it, as you said, 20 days until go time at the caucus.
What was the calculation in terms of now is my movement, I have to make a move on her or him or both of them now?
BUTTIGIEG: My focus was to make sure that my message was coming through. And ours is a winning message. It's brought us to this point. It is clearly resonating with voters who are our improbable campaign over the course of the last year would never have been able to get here. And so, this was an opportunity, especially in contrast that anybody
who felt pressure to refight old battles from Washington to talk about where we're headed going forward.
CUOMO: Two quick points and then I want to bring in Dana and David to you so you can get some more intelligent questions ask to you.
The -- Iran is a new variable.
CUOMO: We did not see this coming in. You have a perceived strength and weakness. The strength is, you're the only veteran up there, you worked in intelligence, you understand the region. How do you sell people on the idea that your strength outweighs your weakness, which is you're young, you haven't been in the position of whether or not to pull that type of mission that we just saw with Soleimani. How do you sell that you have more strength than weakness and experience?
BUTTIGIEG: It's this. When it comes to national security the next president is going to face completely new challenges from the kinds of proxy wars that are accelerating at the hand of Iran to cybersecurity threats and climate security threats.
Yes, I bring a perspective from having served in uniform and that will never leave me in the situation room. I also bring a focus on what lies ahead in terms of the threats and the opportunities for United States.
I'm ready to engage our partners. Many important countries led by relatively -
MAYOR PETE BUTTIGIEG, SOUTH BEND, INDIANA: I also bring a focus on what lies ahead in terms of the threats and the opportunities for the United States. I'm ready to engage our partners, many important countries led by relatively new leaders, who we need to form new connections with, in order to move past this moment that Donald Trump has brought us to, restore American credibility and keep this country safe.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: A theory about why you see so much changing at the top now that you've entered in, which is very ambitious for you and your campaign, wasn't expected obviously, so that's a good storyline for you. But the reason you see the movement is that no one is sold on which one of you beats Trump.
And I know that starts to sound like a tired question. But obviously nobody has answered it to the satisfaction of the party. Otherwise, you would see more of a gap in polling. What is the answer to that question and why do you think it hasn't been a satisfactory answer thus far?
BUTTIGIEG: Part of what I had the opportunity to discuss tonight, that as our nominee, I would be able to confront Trump on the economy because I actually belong to the middle class and I'm from the communities that he talks about and then lets down again and again and again.
CUOMO: When he says something to you that rhymes with Pete, I don't know what he's going to come up with, but you know, he finds something --
CUOMO: That is a relevant thing. I get, I'm not going to be like him --
CUOMO: -- but, you know, he's the only guy I've ever seen. Bernie Sanders -- it makes Bernie Sanders laugh. You know, when he has told what Bernie -- Bernie hears what the president has said about him, ha, ha, ha! There is a charisma that gets conveyed even when it is crass, even when it is crude and ugly. And it's something that has to be combatted so that you are more persuasive than he to this same group of people.
BUTTIGIEG: The key is to realize that we can't meet him on equal and opposite terms. We have to be doing something different. I think that his power, I'm not sure I'd call it a charisma, but certainly a power that he has is to change the subject, often to change the subject to himself by doing something outrageous or disgusting.
What we have to do is be ready to confront his behavior and correct his lies but always, always come back to the question that I believe every election is actually about, it's the voter's question, how is my life going to be different if it's you, president, instead of you?
We have the better answers on those questions, on everything for making sure people get paid more, to long-term care to making sure we get paid family leave to keeping this country safe. We have the better answers. We got to make sure the president can't deny us the opportunity to talk about that even as we confront his wrongdoing, too.
CUOMO: Dana and David. Hear Dana.
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: You just told Chris that you were happy to be able to talk about things on foreign policy, in particular that weren't fighting the battles of the past. But considering the fact that you and Joe Biden are likely going after similar kinds of voters here in Iowa, do you think it's OK how he voted on the Iraq war and more importantly how he explained it tonight?
BUTTIGIEG: I disagreed with the Iraq war, and I think that that vote was a mistake. I've been clear on that.
BASH: Does it disqualify him?
BUTTIGIEG: I think it's an example of a difference between experience and judgment. Voters have to decide. Look, the reality is if you're looking for the candidate with the most years in Washington, the most time spent on Capitol Hill, you got a clear choice and I'm not going to be your candidate.
I also think we are where we are partly because of a sense of frustration with the inability of Washington to solve our problems, and that's where I'm offering a different perspective, whether it's the perspective that I have on national security partly because I was sent to war by one of those decisions made in the White House, or the perspective of the kind of community that I belong to.
BASH: I just want to ask you one question on the woman issue that came up with Elizabeth Warren and it is because I remember after the last debate, you were kind of the guy who understood that the two women said when they were asked about would you give a gift or what did you do wrong, what do you apologize for, the women who said they'd apologize, you have a good sensibility of that.
Given that, what was your take on what happened with Elizabeth Warren and how she kind of tried to take the conversation that she says she had with Bernie Sanders and take it to another level?
BUTTIGIEG: I think that the right point to make and many candidates made it tonight is that a woman should be president of the United States right now and got far more votes than Donald Trump. Of course, a woman can win the presidency. Of course, it is also true that sexism has been a force in our politics that needs to be fought.
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Mayor Buttigieg, you may disagree with me and feel free to do so, but it seems to me you need Iowa perhaps more than anyone else. I'm wondering, just because of what you're saying, the proof point that Chris is asking about about telling Democratic voters, showing them I can win, I can be the Trump defeater, one way to do that is to actually win in Iowa because you are lesser known.
That truth may not be for Biden or Sanders. So, do you feel you have to come in first place in this state in order to catapult your candidacy forward?
BUTTIGIEG: It was certainly have to do well here in Iowa. Look, to find the best way that you can demonstrate that you can win is to do well, to win.
BUTTIGIEG: And what we see here in Iowa is the opportunity to do that. Look, this election is just different from every other election. So, of course, each of us will point to our records for evidence that we can win, but we've also got to look forward and think about the unique, I mean, historically unique, first ever, kind of president that we're dealing with now. Think about what it's going to take to compete with him.
And we need to demonstrate. Iowa is our first chance to do it, that we can pull together enough voters to come along with us, who share that vision of a better day, turning the page and not getting stuck into that endless loop that has so many people, especially as we watch this exhausting process in Washington right now, switching it all off.
Now is our chance to do the reverse, taking it into our own hands. And the Iowa caucuses are, of course, the first moment on the calendar when we get to do that.
CHALIAN: Does doing well mean coming in first?
BUTTIGIEG: I'm not going to say our goalpost right now. I mean to say, we need to do very well and that's exactly what we're working toward doing.
CUOMO: If coming in first isn't doing very well, I don't know what is.
CUOMO: Maybe second, depending on who is around you, but certainly you want to do as well. You don't want to set up a bar either that you don't make. I think that's very reflective of what we saw tonight. Everybody got an ambition. Everybody knows they have to make a move. But it's close enough where there's such an interesting calculus going on of I don't want to offend, I don't want to get her people or his people upset at me because they may wind up being my people, and it is such an interesting contrast and theory from our president.
Our president has never done that. He has never chosen nice as a way to win. It is going to be such a study in contrast. Mr. Mayor, that's why it's interesting to watch you, interesting to talk to you, but what's going through your mind as you're making the positions you are. Thank you for joining us tonight.
BUTTIGIEG: Thanks for having me.
CUOMO: Happy new year to you and your husband. Good luck going forward.
BUTTIGIEG: Same to you. Thank you.
CUOMO: I appreciate it. All right, there is a lot more to talk about. Anderson is going to have Senator Amy Klobuchar next, and we'll go through all the players and all the implications. Stay with CNN.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: We are back, just after CNN's democratic debate, the last one before the Iowa caucuses begin 20 days from now. We're joined right now by Senator Amy Klobuchar. How did you feel about how you did and how the whole debate went?
SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It was good. I got to really address some of the whirl issues, Iowa issues that I want to talk about. We haven't had much discussion about things like soybeans and trade. I thought that was really good.
I also had that chance which I have been waiting a long time for to explain why I think there's a problem with the free college for wealthy kids, which is what Bernie and Elizabeth are putting forward, I don't think is a good idea.
I think we are much better off putting the money to help people with the dignity of work so they get the benefits they need. And also, we got to look bigger at our whole economy. Finally, I would like to make the electability argument more.
COOPER: This is the last debate obviously before Iowa goes to caucus. Did you feel the pressure of that? Did you feel that -- did you go into this wanting to engage more? Did you feel like you had the opportunity to? Because I think a lot of people were expecting more --
KLOBUCHAR: Yes. I wanted to engage more actually, yes. One of the things I didn't get to talk about was the fact that while a lot of people have talking points about how they can win, I actually have the receipt. I actually have done it time and time again with highest voter turnout in the country when I lead the ticket, including in the cities, plus winning the counties that are just like these 31 counties in Iowa that Barack Obama won and then Donald Trump turned out to win.
I think we need a candidate that actually can bring in independents, moderate Republicans, as well as a fired-up democratic base. I didn't really get the chance to debate that with Mayor Pete or anyone else, but I think it's not just talking points. You should be able to show your receipts.
COOPER: The question between Senator Warren and Senator Sanders about what occurred in the room which is you -- they asked you --
KLOBUCHAR: They didn't invite me.
COOPER: You weren't in the room but did you -- did you want to challenge -- did you think about challenging Senator Sanders at all? I think you were --
KLOBUCHAR: I don't know what happened in that room. And they are disputing it. I'm not going to get involved in that fight. But I've got my own to wage. But I have made this point before is that a woman can win the White House. A woman can beat Donald Trump. And I think that's the fundamental issue that I was -- that we should talk about.
And the fact that I have won overwhelmingly with men in my own state, I think that's a lot of what people think. Will these guys that voted for Donald Trump vote for a woman? I've got the receipts. I've done it. They want to know, well, is a woman tough enough to take on Donald Trump on the debate stage? They always have that image in their heads. They've told me of that moment in the debate with Hillary Clinton -- and by the way, in my mind, she won every one of those debates. I was at a number of them. But when he was hulking over her, what are you going to do in that moment? They think about that all the time.
And so I think it is the fact that we have two women up there on the stage, both of us showing that we can debate, that we're strong, that we're not going to take any grief from these guys. I think that's really important. And if anything, we accomplished that.
COOPER: Senator Warren has backed away from her I'm with Bernie on Medicare for All.
KLOBUCHAR: Yes. Well, I pointed that out, yes.
KLOBUCHAR: I mean, she has -- she's on the bill. And as I pointed out, it kicks 149 million people off their current insurance. She's on the bill. But yet now, she says she doesn't want to do it in four years. She wants to wait a little longer than that. I would love to gone back and forth. We just didn't have that opportunity. Maybe we will at the next debate. Or at a town hall meeting, you can ask me about it.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Do you think it has hurt Democrats at all to be focused so much during this campaign so far on this Medicare for All issue, which I know you don't support, rather than talking about Donald Trump and pre-existing conditions?
KLOBUCHAR: I agree, yes.
BORGER: So, why didn't anybody talk about that tonight?
KLOBUCHAR: I tried -- no, no, no. I actually said this isn't real. You have to point it out because they won't stop asking about it. It's not real when two-thirds of the Democrats in the Senate are not on his bill. It's not real when you have a bunch of those new congressional members that put Nancy Pelosi and the speaker are not for Medicare for All.
What we should be talking about is the damage Donald Trump is doing to our country's health care, yes, and that was pointed out by a number of people. But also people -- what they're really interested: mental health care, addiction, long-term care that I brought up at length. I'm telling you, they want to build on the Affordable Care Act, they don't want to tear it down.
DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Do you think Medicare for All -- I'm sorry.
NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: In the last debate, you went after Pete Buttigieg. I thought it was a pretty effective attack. You have not gone after Biden. Of course, you and Biden are sort of occupying the same space with centrist voters and those are voters you need if you're going to win in Iowa.
KLOBUCHAR: Well, I have made it clear that he and I are not the same. He and I differed on the Iraq war. I was against it. Also, I'm from the Midwest. The vice president is not from the Midwest. That's where we need to win in states like Wisconsin, Michigan, Iowa, Ohio, and Minnesota which was so close last time. And also, I'm in a new generation. You know, I am not as young as Mayor Pete. I will give you that.
KLOBUCHAR: But I am -- and besides 59 is the new 37.
KLOBUCHAR: That was something I wanted to say on the debate stage if there was a time.
KLOBUCHAR: But I'm in a new --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's a good line.
KLOBUCHAR: -- generation of leaders. I think that that's important as well because people are tired of this guy in the White House. They want something new, a fresh face, a new leader.
AXELROD: Biden would argue that he is the guy who is running strongest in these Midwestern states. But let me ask you this, just getting back to your point before --
KLOBUCHAR: In the one state where they know me, and I will acknowledge they don't know me like they know Joe Biden, but when they do know me, I beat Donald Trump more in my own state. I beat him by 17 points.
AXELROD: When you ran for the Senate.
KLOBUCHAR: No, I beat him in a poll --
AXELROD: But you ran for Senate.
KLOBUCHAR: -- a month ago more than Joe Biden.
AXELROD: Oh, I see.
KLOBUCHAR: And I do better with men against Donald Trump.
AXELROD: That maybe goes to my question. But do you not believe -- first of all, is it different when someone is running for president and running for the Senate, and do you not believe that there is a problem with gender bias in this country?
KLOBUCHAR: I think that it has changed over time. You've had women governors in Texas like Ann Richards. You've had women governors in Michigan, as I pointed out, and Governor Kelly in Kansas. You've had women lead things all the time -- mayors, police chiefs. And I think it has changed. There is something about the presidency. I keep pointing out the height issue. I don't know what it is.
But there's something about it where people have to step back and realize that around the world women have legs and women can do this. And if fact, if you want to think about Donald Trump, who beats him every day? Nancy Pelosi.
KLOBUCHAR: So I just think that a woman is actually the best candidate to run against him.
AXELROD: Hillary Clinton lost to Donald Trump among non-college educated white women by 27 points in 2016. Why do you think that is?
KLOBUCHAR: I think a lot of it had to do with a campaign that at the end, he literally -- and I don't hold her responsible for this at all -- he literally dominated everything. He distracted people with his tweets. He went after people. And everyone kept going down the rabbit hole with him at every moment. I'm not going to do that.
I'm going to stand an optimistic economic agenda for this country. And we've learned that. I also think you have to ignore him at times. You can't be distracted by him. And you have to use some humor. You have to make fun of him because he makes fun of everyone around him.
AXELROD: You've got 20 days left. You've got jury duty now.
KLOBUCHAR: Yeah, jury duty. That's the next thing.
AXELROD: And you're going to be in Washington quite a bit over the next 20 days. You're obviously not in the top tier yet. Do you think you did enough?
KLOBUCHAR: I'm strongly number five, as everyone has left the race.
KLOBUCHAR: They are not in there. In fact, we are on the rise. There is no doubt about it.
AXELROD: But are you concerned about this trial being an ultimately a great impediment to your ability to move up?
KLOBUCHAR: I am going to be here any moment that I can. I will figure out a way. I've got my husband, our daughter. I've got more legislators and former legislators in Iowa supporting me than any other candidate in the race. That is going to matter because they're going to be in the room speaking for me.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Where do you have to finish in Iowa, so you move on?
KLOBUCHAR: I have to be in a top roof. (LAUGHTER)
KLOBUCHAR: Let us remember, we started --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE) group.
KLOBUCHAR: -- with 25 people there. I was on the stage. I'm still standing.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So if you're number four of five --
KLOBUCHAR: There are -- well, there are a lot of tickets out to Iowa in this race. And also, in New Hampshire, I went up to eight percentage points in the state that is bordering Bernie state and Elizabeth state.
KLOBUCHAR: So let us not forget that we had -- our town halls were huge in the last group of seven town halls. We had over 500 people on New Year's Eve at 5:00 in Keene, New Hampshire. Yes --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Free alcohol or what?
COOPER: Senator Klobuchar, thank you.
KLOBUCHAR: OK, very good.
COOPER: Appreciate it.
KLOBUCHAR: Thank you, Anderson.
COOPER: Thank you very much. Much more to come on who made the best case for the White House tonight. Our coverage continues in a moment.
CUOMO: All right, so, the Democratic candidates for president of the United States had their last moment together on the stage, 20 days out from the first voting, what you could call the official start of the 2020 election with the Iowa caucus.
I have Dana Bash and David Chalian. So, David, the quantifiable thing here is when you do the polling next, did anything change because what was said in contrast on the stage tonight?
CHALIAN: I think we'll see polling change when we do it next, but I don't think it's going to be necessarily because of this debate. Remember, in our last poll, right, before this debate, 60 percent of the democratic caucus going electorate here said they could change their mind or they haven't decided at all yet.
[23:55:02] CHALIAN: That other way is the largest share of movable voters at this stage that we have seen in many cycles. So the fluidity is there. I would imagine we will see things change. But I just don't think anything that occurred tonight is going to actually move the needle for anyone of them.
In fact, I think it sort of raised the bar on them now to be a bit more aggressive in these final few weeks to really make the closing sales pitch to voters. I don't think they seized the opportunity necessarily to do that tonight on the stage.
CUOMO: Tip of the hat to David Axelrod for greatly capturing what we are about to move into with impeachment. He called it "jury duty."
CUOMO: How big a deal is jury duty for Klobuchar, Sanders and Warren, which will obviously leave Buttigieg, Mr. Steyer, Yang and, you know, who also was on the stage tonight, and Joe Biden? Is it a bigger opportunity for them because the others will be sequestered a lot of the time or is it more chance to screw up or both, I guess?
BASH: Well, it could be both. But look -- I mean, no matter how you spin it -- I mean, I heard Senator Klobuchar saying, well, my husband will be on the trail, my daughter, I have all these people who have endorsed me. Maybe, maybe that's true.
But it is not the same as having the candidate, especially someone like her who -- you talk about to the mayor about how important Iowa is to him. It's really important to somebody like her to stay in the race because she is the senator next door. She is somebody who has made up some ground here from being really low in the polls.
CUOMO: She said I'm a solid fifth.
BASH: By being here and by really making personal connections, the old fashion way, for Senator Sanders and Senator Warren, it might be a bit different because they have such huge campaigns. They are such national figures. It might not hurt them as much. On the flip side, it really could help someone like Pete Buttigieg who is going to be here, never mind the former vice president.
CUOMO: One of the interesting things that we're seeing happen in this democratic primary is this kind of tension, not so much so among these candidates or at least not enough in terms of seeing one distinguish themselves from the other definitively, but what do you want out of this process?
Early on, it was the purity test, granular health care up against a president who said I will give you my plan after the election, who is now saying he is the one who saved pre-existing conditions. He seems to get it --
CHALIAN: Which is not true.
(LAUGHTER) CUOMO: They're suing right now in federal government to get rid of the ACA and thereby pre-existing conditions. And the GOP asked that court not to try the case until after the vote. I mean, it's so obvious what they want to do even though they know they have to conceal their true intentions.
Truth aside, people think it's too crass to say this is all about beating Trump. But it is. Having grown up in politics and seeing so many campaigns playing out, a lot of them unsuccessfully, by the way, that's the ultimate question.
At the end of the day, for all the talk about policy and the message, the metric has to be this will win. It has to be. Tonight, Joe Biden's best moment, according to hearing all the people that I respect here, was his closing. Here's some of it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Character is on the ballot this time around. The American character is on the ballot. Not what Donald Trump is spewing out -- the hate, the xenophobia, and the racism. That is not who we are as a nation. Everyone in this country is entitled to be treated with respect and dignity. Every single solitary person has to have in a position that we treat them with decency. It's about fundamental basic decency.
We in the United States of America can put up with -- we can overcome four years of Donald Trump. But eight years of Donald Trump will be an absolute disaster and fundamentally change this nation. We have to restore America's soul as I have said from the moment I announced. It is in jeopardy under this president of the United States. We lead the world when we lead by example, not by our power.
We, in fact, have to regain the respect of the world in order to be able to change things. Ladies and gentlemen, we are in a position right now. We have to remember who we are. This is the United States of America. There's not a single thing beyond our capacity to do if we do it together. Let's go do it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CUOMO: Now, why play Biden? He's the frontrunner most of the time. Not in Iowa right now but overwhelmingly when you look at the polls most often. They say this is his best moment. Does that win?
BASH: Well, it is potentially because this is why Joe Biden has been steadily at the top. Nationally, I mean, it has gone, you know, there are -- other people have gone in and out. But he has been there.