Return to Transcripts main page


Could Democrats Have A Lock On The 2020 Race?; How Did The Democratic Candidates Perform At New Hampshire Debate? Could Biden's Support From Black Democratic Voters Shift?; Can Buttigieg Win Support Of African-American Voters?; After Iowa Caucus Chaos, Is Bloomberg The Candidate To Beat?; Interview With Former Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick (D). Aired 9-10a ET

Aired February 08, 2020 - 09:00   ET



MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN ANCHOR: 'How Trump Wins Again.' I'm Michael Smerconish in Philadelphia. That headline might sound ill-timed given that it was published at the end of a week that brought finality to a process whereby Donald Trump, regardless of the Senate vote, joined just two predecessors who will forever be tarnished with having been impeached, but that was David Brooks' analysis in "The New York Times" yesterday, one in which he said politically speaking, this was probably Trump's most successful week and Brooks wasn't alone.


BILL MAHER, HOST, REAL TIME WITH BILL MAHER: Look, can't get around it. This was Trump's best week ever. If you see Trump on Fifth Avenue with a gun, walk the other way.


SMERCONISH: David Brooks pointed to the president's all-time high in the Gallup approval rating that the impeachment process never seemed to spark a groundswell for the president's removal, plus that in the aftermath of Iowa, no single Democratic candidate appears transcendent. Quote, Democrats may wind up in a position in which they can't nominate Bernie Sanders because he's too far left and they can't not nominate him because his followers would bolt from a Biden/Bloomberg/Buttigieg-led party.

David Brooks argued that Democrats will have a tough sell congregating around a message that capitalism is fundamentally broken and that the economy is bad and after he went to press with that column, the January job numbers came out. They were released and revealed more healthy growth, 225,000 jobs in January. That's 65,000 higher than economists expected.

Now, commonsensically, you might think this bodes well for the president because it will enhance his standing among swing voters. You know, the 15 or so percent of American voters who are not wedded to any party and who the candidates spend inordinate time and money to persuade, especially those in the Rust Belt swing states of Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin and Michigan, but not so fast according to my next guest.

She's a professor at Christopher Newport University in Virginia. She's earned a PhD in political science and in July of 2018, she correctly predicted the nature and size of the Democrats' midterm win in the House almost to the number, besting most veteran political pollsters and pundits. She believes that swing voters are overrated and today, her election model tells her that Democrats are a near lock for the presidency, are likely to gain House seats and have a decent shot at retaking the Senate.

Dr. Rachel Bitecofer joins me now. She's also a senior fellow at the Niskanen Center. That's a centrist think-tank. She's also the author of the book "The Unprecedented 2016 Presidential Election." OK. First, props. 2018, you nailed it. What did you see that others missed?

RACHEL BITECOFER, POLITICAL SCIENCE PROFESSOR, CHRISTOPHER NEWPORT UNIVERSITY: Well, you know, mainly I think the main crux of my election research is that this isn't your granddaddy's electorate anymore, you know, and I think that's one thing that the Brooks type, you know -- they're pundits masquerading as experts. They have no training in quantitative analysis. They missed this, right? They're still looking at the political theater in the same lens that they've been using since the 1980s and the electorate has changed.

And so what made my forecasting work so good at forecasting well in advance of election day, the big, big wave that was coming, was understanding how polarization had affected mass voter behavior and also how the two parties' coalitions had changed over time and shaped themselves into these two tribes in the polarized era.

So I was able to anticipate exactly where these turnout surges were going to manifest in exactly which House districts and some of them were obvious. The other analysts were able to pick up on the fact that Clinton districts, districts Clinton carried, were going to be hard for Republicans to hold, but there were another 20 beyond that that Romney overperformed Trump in and had latent suburban populations that were going to be motivated to vote because of Donald Trump backlash and those are the ones that my forecast was really zeroed in on.

SMERCONISH: Rachel, I've spent a fair amount of time both on radio and here looking at focus groups of swing voters, voters who've gone from Romney to Hillary Clinton, voters who've gone from Barack Obama to Donald Trump. You argue they are not the key and they are overrated. Why?

BITECOFER: Yes. So I want to make something really clear and, you know, I don't get to write articles about me, so the headline says there is no such thing as a swing voter. My research does not make that claim. It claims, though, that swing voters are, number one, overestimated in the effect that they have on election outcomes because just as important is turnout and the reason is that in the polarized era, you know, very few people in the Independent group are actually truly persuadable.

Most independents will admit that they lean towards one party or the other and they have their vote decided already. They're going with that party they lean towards, so that leaves those pure Independents.


And those are the people that you're talking to in those focus groups and yes, they exist, but if you ask them, many of them also voted for Bush, right? So what they are predominantly are lower information, they're very civically minded, but they're not particularly passionate about issues and they usually are unhappy with the status quo. So they're change voters and, you know, even ultimately they're going to break 60/40 or 55/45. So we're talking about, on the margins, just a few percentage points in the overall scheme of things.

On the other side, that turnout differential could be quite sharp and the reason my midterm model was able to predict so much in advance what was going to happen was it anticipated at least a 10 point turnout surge and that's exactly what manifested and we're going to see the same thing happen in this presidential election.

SMERCONISH: OK. Are you telling me that that right now your models show that regardless of the Democratic nominee, that the Democratic candidate will be heavily favored to win back the White House? Take my final 60 seconds and defend that.

BITECOFER: Yes. So I say in the forecast that released on July 1st of 2019 that the nominee doesn't matter, but there is of course variation of how much of a margin the Democrats want to win by and how much sweating out they want to do and I do point out that Bernie Sanders, because he would be an ideologue, he'd be the most ideological pick since Barry Goldwater, is certainly the riskiest pick. It's a path that no one has tried. It's a path that would be impossible, under the Chuck Todd electoral version of the electorate that is gone now.

You know, Trump -- I mean, think about it. Donald Trump is the president, guys. So if you don't think Bernie Sanders could win on a general election, I mean, just go look at the White House, right?

SMERCONISH: Well, Rachel, what occurs -- what occurs to me ...

BITECOFER: But certainly there's a path ...

SMERCONISH: ... what occurs to me is you are arguing -- your model, you say, shows that Democrats have a strong likelihood of winning the White House because, to simplify, it's turnout. It's not about persuasion.


SMERCONISH: and what occurs to me is that the person who follows your model is Donald Trump because, you know, you look at the way he comports himself ...

BITECOFER: Yes, he does and -- yes ...

SMERCONISH: ... the way that -- the way that he spoke in the White House this week, that's all about the base. Take my final 30 seconds and finish up. BITECOFER: And I'm literally -- I'm literally putting out an analysis in three weeks in "The New Republic" that is going to show everybody visually through voter file analysis of the 2018 House election exactly what I'm talking about in terms of the turnout about making districts, you know, reach parity in percent Democrat versus percent Republican and turning out a surge of Independents, different Independents than the ones that were voting for Republicans and also it's going to show that Donald Trump's base mobilization strategy bore fruit.

Republican turnout did not decline the way it did for Democrats under the Obama era. It went up. Donald Trump's efforts to stoke the base is definitely working for him.

SMERCONISH: Dr. Rachel Bitecofer, you'll come back after you publish. Thank you.

BITECOFER: Thank you so much.

SMERCONISH: What are your thoughts? Tweet me @Smerconish. Go to my Facebook page and I'll read some responses throughout the course of the program. Catherine, what do we have? Coming in from Facebook, "Swing or just Independent thinkers. Never up for grabs. Just like Blacks are not always Democrats. So many assumptions made by pompous fools."

Hey, Tony, is that directed toward me? Look, I think that her theory is really interesting, the theory being that the victory lies not so much with the persuadables however many they may be, but it's all about base mobilization and as I just said to my guest, the president certainly is following that model. You know, for all the condemnation of his remarks in the White House this week, think about who his intended audience really was, the people that he needs to keep in the tent.

One more if we have time for it. This comes from Twitter. "Smerconish, why don't you just say you're a Trump supporter or fan at this point?" Kayann, like what the hell? I just had a guest with a PhD in political science with a theory that she advances that says that right now the Democrats are pretty much a lock on the White House and you were paying half attention and your take away from that is that I'm carrying the president's water? Get it through your head. I'm not carrying anybody's water and by the end of the show, I'll hear from people who saw it exactly the other way.

I want to know what you think. Got to the website at Answer this week's survey question. I love this. It's nice and simple. Was impeachment worth it? Was impeachment worth it?

Up ahead, seven Democrats went head to head in last night's crucial New Hampshire primary debate. Who scored? Who faltered? A debate expert and I will share our respective report cards.


SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: As three of us were jurors in that impeachment hearing, you said it was exhausting to watch and that you wanted to turn the channel and watch cartoons.


It's popular to say and makes you look like a cool newcomer. I just -- I don't think that's what people want right now. We have a newcomer in the White House and look where it got us.



SMERCONISH: Last night's Democratic debate offered a final chance for the candidates to pitch themselves ahead of the New Hampshire primary on Tuesday. The night began with early attacks on Senator Bernie Sanders' electability, most notably from former South Bend mayor Pete Buttigieg.


PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The biggest risk we could take at a time like this would be to go up against that fundamentally new challenge by trying to fall back on the familiar or trying to unite this country at a moment when we need that kind of unification.


When our nominee is dividing people with the politics that says if you don't go all the way to the edge, it doesn't count, politics that says it's my way or the highway.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you talking about Senator Sanders?



SMERCONISH: Buttigieg then fielded attacks on his own electability lobbed his way by more than one of his opponents.


Now, Buttigieg is a great guy and a real patriot. He's a -- he's a mayor of a small city who has done some good things, but has not demonstrated his ability to -- and we'll soon find out to get a broad scope of support across the spectrum, including African-Americans and Latinos.

KLOBUCHAR: We have a newcomer in the White House and look where it got us. I think having some experience is a good thing.

TOM STEYER (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We need people with experience. That's why I'm worried about Mayor Pete.


SMERCONISH: So who came out on top? With me now is Dr. Todd Graham. He's the debate director at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. His debate teams have won five national championships. Three times he has been named National Debate Coach of the Year.

Great to have you back. Here's my report card from last night. I'm a tough grader. You know, C to me is average, B is above average, A was exceptional. I gave out four C's, one B and two A's. Now here's Dr. Graham's report card. Three C's, two B's, two A's. Can we look at it side-by-side so that we see the areas of commonality and difference? There you go.

All right. Dr. Graham, let's start with Amy Klobuchar. We each gave her an A. Go ahead and defend your grade.

TODD GRAHAM, THREE TIME NATIONAL DEBATE COACH OF THE YEAR: Well, Michael, because I know you and I will fight for you. So the reason I wanted to say that is because you got in a little trouble earlier with one of the viewers who said you were basically carrying Trump's water and I think you and I both know that I get this as well because when we grade debaters, sometimes we say they're good, sometimes we say they're bad, but we're not carrying anybody's water.

The reason I started with that quote, "I know you and I will fight for you," is because too many people don't watch the back half of the debates. They watch the first half and then they get busy with something else. Amy Klobuchar finished with saying that statement over and over again when she talked about how Donald Trump has no empathy for American citizens, for the typical Americans. Amy Klobuchar said I know you and I will fight for you and it was by far the most effective conclusion of anyone in the debate. So what I'm saying is Amy Klobuchar had a great back half of the debate. Remember to watch that half, everyone.

SMERCONISH: You and I part ways on former Vice President Joe Biden. I gave him a C grade. You gave him an A- grade. I just thought it was so-so. Dr. Graham, from my perspective, he came out trying to show vim and vigor, but my criticism of his performance is he's trying to convey too many thoughts. He ought to go with one theme. Why did you rate him so well last night?

GRAHAM: Because he did. This is the same criticism I've been making of him, Michael, for debate after debate after debate and as you know, I haven't given him any good grades yet because I think he's just been average, but I did believe that last night Joe Biden did simplify his answers. In fact, he was the better first half debater. In the first half, I thought he did come out with that, what I'm calling, energetic anger. He defended the policies of the past better than he has in any previous debate.

I'm afraid other people might be grading him based on, well, he needed a really great debate, he needed a knockout punch, but that's not Joe Biden. The question is how was Joe Biden in that one debate if you take away everything else? And he frankly was better than he'd been before. He defended Violence Against Women Act. He defended same-sex marriage. He defended all of the good things that he's done in the past while reminding us that, you know, Obama was just a start with him. He has more places to go. So yes, I did think that Joe Biden had his best debate yet.

SMERCONISH: Here's another one of disagreement. By the way, I love this because you have a trained, professional eye. You are America's debate coach. I was on the sofa with a beer in my hand last night. On Tom Steyer, we part company. I thought it was his strongest debate performance and, Dr. Graham, here's why I liked what he had to say last night. I thought he broke out of the impeachment climate change bubble for which he's known, but you were not taken with his performance. Why not?

GRAHAM: Well, the one thing that Steyer did I liked was he stuck with his criticism of you have to beat Trump on the economy. As you recall, he began that in the previous debate and I liked it then. Gave him a good grade in the last debate and I still like the idea that he knows Trump's offense will be I'm doing well with the economy and that you have to be able to debate and/or beat Trump at that argument.


So Steyer, in the first half of the debate, was doing really well. Now, while I dinged him was because he made a basic debating error. He brought up an issue without explaining it. He tried to attack Joe Biden because apparently one of Biden's surrogates had said something that was perhaps racist this last week, but over the course of two different questions, Steyer kept bringing it up without explaining it or without really making a point.

What was he expecting us to do? All the sudden think Joe Biden is racist? What did he want Joe Biden to do? Stop his campaign? But if you're going to bring up something like that, you have to explain it. I don't have time to Google what you're talking about and figure out who's right and who's wrong. It's a basic debating error. Complete your thought. He didn't complete that thought and I thought it made him look a little bit petty.

SMERCONISH: I have to say, I mean, now that you explain it, I know the moment, I know the two times that he went back to dwell on it and I have to agree with what you've just provided in terms of analysis. Thank you, Dr. Graham. That was excellent as always.

GRAHAM: Absolutely. Thank you, Michael.

SMERCONISH: I want to remind you to answer the survey question at this hour. Very simple question. Complicated answers I'm sure. Was impeachment worth it?

Up ahead, for the 2020 Democrats, there's no way to the White House without the support of African-American voters. For Joe Biden, that support has buoyed his candidacy, but for Pete Buttigieg, it's been his main weakness. What's behind that and what does it mean for the field at large? That's next.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you saying that he has a same-sex partner? Then I don't want anybody like that in the White House. So can I have my card back?





SMERCONISH: Pete Buttigieg and Bernie Sanders essentially tied for victory in the Iowa caucuses and according to the most recent polling data, they are again battling it out for top position in Tuesday's New Hampshire primary, this despite the fact that former Vice President Joe Biden continues to be regarded as the national frontrunner. But if Biden fails to come in first or second in New Hampshire, will there be a momentum shift? The bedrock of Biden's support according to polls has been his standing in the African-American community.

Take a look at this. This "Washington Post" "Ipsos" poll from January shows that he's polling more than 25 percentage points ahead of the next candidate among Black Democratic leaning voters. Now note that Mayor Pete is at just two percent. Does Biden risk losing that support among people of color and does Mayor Pete have a shot at winning Black voters?

Joining me now is "ESPN" host and sports and culture journalist at the "LA Times" L.Z. Granderson. He wrote this piece about Buttigieg in May of last year, "Democrats, America is ready for a gay president." L.Z., that's the $64,000 question. If Joe is not one or two on Tuesday, is there going to be a momentum shift? Is he going to lose support among people of color in Nevada and/or South Carolina? How do you see it?

L.Z. GRANDERSON, ESPN HOST, SPORTS & CULTURE COLUMNIST, L.A. TIMES: I see it as a reflection as one of the flaws of this process to begin with. I mean, you said it yourself. If you know that you need support of the African-American community, why are we dictating what the narrative is going to be on any candidate when African-Americans haven't had an opportunity to vote and have their say yet? It's a flaw in the way that we process this entire system.

SMERCONISH: Well, it's a flaw I think in terms of who gets to vote first because it's -- and this has been noted this week -- unrepresentative of the country at large and you stop and think about how a number of candidates of color are already out and we haven't even gotten to Nevada yet or South Carolina, but the question that I'm asking is one of will Black supporters of Joe Biden hang with him if he takes it on the chin on Tuesday?

GRANDERSON: Well, again, you know, you're looking at two states that are majority white. In South Carolina, the vast majority of the voters there are African-Americans. So it's hard to say that a group of voters are going to change their minds based upon someone who doesn't reflect their own community had to say about a particular candidate.

You know, Joe Biden gets the benefit of the doubt for a lot of reasons. You know, name recognition goes a long way, his relationship with President Obama goes a long way, but also the fact that he's proven and at this point, a lot of African-Americans are looking for something practical. They do not want to take a chance on anyone. They want something that's a known commodity and Joe Biden provides them that.

SMERCONISH: L.Z., if I put up on the screen the latest numbers from 538 for South Carolina, you'll see we're flipping ahead now by three weeks, Joe Biden with a commanding lead, Pete Buttigieg down at the bottom of that ranking. There was, in the summer, a revelation of a focus group commissioned by the Buttigieg campaign, we could put that up on the screen as well, which is pretty stunning.

"Being gay was a barrier for these voters particularly for the men who seemed deeply uncomfortable even discussing it. It was not necessarily a red line that they wouldn't cross, but their preference is for his sexuality to not be front and center." Is there a problem that he faces? Is this an explanation as to why his standing among voters of color is so low?

GRANDERSON: Well, I don't believe so. You know, you talked about the piece that I wrote back in May. Well, I wrote that piece. When you read it, you see that I'm actually talking about the internalized homophobia of LGBTQ people, not necessarily African-Americans or heterosexuals.


You know, I had been to a number of fundraisers in which they questioned whether or not Pete Buttigieg was a good candidate because he was gay. Again, these are gay lesbian trans people asking this question because aren't quite sure if America is ready to vote for it.

So this question of sexuality goes far beyond just heterosexuals. With that being said, Pete Buttigieg has a lot of problems at home. And just like what Bernie Sanders in 2016, if you can't get people to cosign you at home, it's going to be very difficult to get people to cosign you away who don't get an opportunity to know you who have not been around you for years.

The way that Pete Buttigieg handled the situation with his police chief was disturbing. And I asked Pete directly about that question. And I'll be honest with you, Michael. I like Pete. I think he's a smart guy. I think he's very brave. I appreciate his service to this country both as a serviceman as well as a local official.

I know some people discount him being a local official. As if it's not important. I will argue that being a local official whether a state or a municipal requires you to govern every single day which makes you even more qualified in my opinion. However, the way that he handled the situation with the police chief echoes of someone who can sympathize with the African American community but not emphasize with the African American community. No one who emphasizes with the African American community will see that situation, know the long history or criminal justice reform being needed to be done to help black people and then handle that situation the way that he did. SMERCONISH: That's the subject that came up, I'm sure you know, in last night's debate. So you are attributing -- bottom line is you are attributing his current poll number among people of color more to the policing issue, I'll describe it as, than to sexuality?

GRANDERSON: Absolutely. I mean, we just saw the viral video that went out from a voter in Iowa. A white woman in a predominantly white state demonstrate homophobia. So why are we blaming the black community for homophobia when homophobia is more dictated by geography, religion and education not necessarily race?

I'd say the reason why Pete Buttigieg has been dragging is simply because when you go back to South Bend, and I worked in South Bend. I was a freelance reporter for the "South Bend Tribune." I know the area relatively well. For him not to be cognizant of that -- of how him handling the police chief was going to play out, particularly the fact that he was trying to expose racism within his own police department it just rings of someone who has a prominent blind spot.

But I will add this, he has proven to be a highly intellectual curious individual. And I believe that he is sincere in trying to address his blind spot. The problem is he's trying to address it while running for president of the United States. And again, that reigns hollow.

SMERCONISH: L.Z., thank you as always.

GRANDERSON: No. Thank you, Michael.

SMERCONISH: Folks, don't forget to answer the survey question Very simply, "Was impeachment worth it?" Results at the end of the hour.

Still to come, there were seven contenders on stage last night in New Hampshire but is the candidate to beat actually the one who wasn't there? In the wake of the Iowa chaos Mike Bloomberg's strategy seems smarter than ever.



SMERCONISH: Is the Democratic candidate to beat the one who wasn't on the debate stage last night? Taking advantage of the Iowa caucus debacle, Mike Bloomberg has doubled his spending on television commercials. He's expanded his field staff to more than 2,000 people. And he's garnering endorsements from a wide range of folks including Trump's own former secretary of the Navy, Republican Richard Spencer, rock star John Mellencamp, the governor of Rhode Island and more than two dozen current and former U.S. mayors.

He has also released an ad touting a strong working relationship with President Obama in which Obama praises Bloomberg's pragmatic approach. As Bloomberg told a crowd here in Pennsylvania this week --

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And I think the results from underscore that we need a candidate who can build a coalition broad enough to unite the party and strong enough to go toe to toe with Donald Trump and beat him.


BLOOMBERG: That's the coalition we're building and that's the candidate that I will be.


SMERCONISH: Joining me now to discuss is Bloomberg campaign manager Kevin Sheekey. Hey, Kevin, last night Elizabeth Warren was asked about your candidate during the course of the debate. She said this.


SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don't think anyone ought to be able to buy their way into a nomination or to be president of the United States.

I don't think any billionaire ought to be able to do it. And I don't think people who suck up to billionaires in order to fund their campaign ought to do it.


SMERCONISH: After the debate, she was asked the follow-up question that elicited this response.


ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: He has said that if he's not the nominee he's willing to support whoever is.


BURNETT: If that's you would you take his money?

WARREN: Sure. Because, look, what I believe is that we should not be selling access to our time. You know, this isn't for special meetings and listen to my little issue. This is about how our democracy should work.


SMERCONISH: She doesn't want Mike Bloomberg buying his way into the election, but she'll take his check if she's the nominee. React. Kevin? He's not hearing us.

Kevin is not able to hear us. We're going to try and connect with him. Oh, sugar. We'll take a quick time-out. We'll come back in just a moment.


SMERCONISH; Joining me now to discuss Mike Bloomberg's role post-Iowa and the debate last night is Bloomberg campaign manager Kevin Sheekey. Sorry for the technical snafu.

I rolled some video of Elizabeth Warren in the debate last night saying she doesn't want Mike Bloomberg buying (AUDIO GAP) post debate we asked if you're (AUDIO GAP) Elizabeth Warren will you nevertheless take his check and she said, yes. Your reaction?

KEVIN SHEEKEY, BLOOMBERG 2020 CAMPAIGN MANAGER: Well, Michael is obviously not buying was on the stage. He wasn't on the stage last night obviously. He's around the country competing against Donald Trump in the states that are going to be competitive.

He has changed the rules going forward, to say that if you have 10 percent support among Democratic voters you should be on the stage. And I'm not sure who would suggest anyone who doesn't have the support of one in 10 supporters around the country, or more, 20 percent, 30 percent, shouldn't be on that stage. So Mike Bloomberg may well be on that stage in Nevada and South Carolina. But, I think, Senator Warren is exactly right. When it comes to November -- when it comes to November Democrats need to unite to defeat this president.


Mike Bloomberg is prosecuting that case now and has opened offices in all six battle ground states where we'll need to win and he has signed those leases through November. So the folks that work for him will be knocking on those doors and persecuting that case, trying to win that election, regardless whether he's the nominee or not.

SMERCONISH: So, a number of milestones are charting the campaign ascendancy. This is the questions that I have. Donald Trump is very rich yet he connects with people who feel betrayed by the system, who were part of his part of winning coalition, what evidence is there that 50 billionaire Mike Bloomberg can get the votes of coal miners in West Virginia, autoworkers in Michigan, gun owners in Pennsylvania?

SHEEKEY: Well, I think there are two reasons. Listen, Mike Bloomberg was the mayor of New York City for 12 years. He ran for election three times and won all three times. It is America's most diverse city. It is America's largest city.

And he took over New York City at its lowest point in its history when it was on its knees after 9/11 suffering the greatest attack on American soil and built it back by creating 400,000 jobs in New York. Not just jobs down on Wall Street but Mike Bloomberg came with a five borough economic plan and build jobs to bring the city back for immigrants, for people that moved to the city and for people that have lived here for generations.

What Americans want is they want someone who can create jobs, who can be a steady president and that's who Mike Bloomberg has always been in his life, and that's what Mike Bloomberg would bring to this country. And I think that is desperately what the type of people that you talked about want particularly in states that are important to this election like Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan, Florida, Arizona and elsewhere. And that's what Mike Bloomberg brings and I don't see anyone else on that debate stage last night that brings that.

SMERCONISH: Are you sure you're going to make the stage February 19, and are you certain you want to be on that debate stage?

SHEEKEY: Well, I'm not certain of anything in life. I am certain that Mike Bloomberg is probably one of the top three candidates nationally now. If you look at national polls I think he has taken the strategy that you saw very early. It's a unique strategy of saying, can we run a national election and ignore states that quite frankly are among the smallest states in the country, not particularly diverse and certainly not reflective of the electorate that we will necessarily have to win in some of those battleground states. Certainly not in terms of geography.

So there's no question in my mind that Mike Bloomberg is competitive. And there's little doubt in the polls, there's a new poll out this week that shows Mike Bloomberg beating Donald Trump by more than any candidate in this race. And, certainly, at least in that poll, which is the latest poll to come out in that regard, he's the strongest candidate against Donald Trump. And I think he'll be an incredibly strong candidate in the primary.

SMERCONISH: Kevin Sheekey, thank you for being here

SHEEKEY: Thank for having me, Michael.

SMERCONISH: Now what about other centrist candidates? Could Joe Biden's weakness in the early stage create and opening?

In the most recent Monmouth poll of New Hampshire late comer to the field, Deval Patrick, was below one percent but in the wake of Biden's poor showing in Iowa, a pro Patrick Super PAC has put $600,000 into South Carolina's media markets where the Democratic primary is dominated by black voters.

Could he make a dent in Biden's dominance there? Here's who Patrick describes himself on Twitter.

Former poor kid from the South Side of Chicago, civil rights attorney, two-term governor of Massachusetts, business leader and beekeeper. Democrat for president.

Governor Deval Patrick joins me now. By the way, from your Twitter intro --


SMERCONISH: -- which do you think I -- which do you think I find most intriguing?

PATRICK: Michael, I'm guessing beekeeper. SMERCONISH: Yes, I'm allergic to bees, by the way, I cannot hang out with you when you're up to that. But that is something I would like to see.

So, Governor, if you had been -- if you had been on that stage last night, how would you have distinguished yourself?

PATRICK: Well, look. All of the candidates in the race, on and off the stage, have great plans. I have results. I'm the only one in this field who has actually delivered health care to 99 percent of the people I was elected to serve. I'm the only one in the race who has actually developed a nation-leading model for responding to climate change. The only one in the race who has been responsible for lifting along in collaboration with many others, lifting our commonwealth out of recession to a 25-year employment high.

It's not about -- it's not about the differences in policy approach. Frankly, most of us have very, very similar ideas about what it is we want to do about particular kinds of challenges facing the American people. But the experience of building coalition to actually deliver change, that is different for me than any of the others in this race.


And those same coalitions are what get us success in November. And I've been making that case very, very individually with hundreds of thousands -- tens of thousands of voters all around -- al around New Hampshire.

SMERCONISH: OK. Game it out for me, what is the Deval Patrick lane? How do you pursue this to victory?

PATRICK: Well, the lane is a leadership lane. I'm not -- I'm not trying to talk to just one sort of voter or frankly even just Democrats. I'm not trying to be president of the Democrats. I'm trying to be president of the United States. And I'm trying to demonstrate that I can and do have very strong convictions around progressive goals and destinations. But I have enough confidence to let others in.

And so we need to make that case and make it effectively here in New Hampshire and have that reflected in the vote, not the polls but in the vote, and on the strength of that to move on to Nevada and South Carolina. And that's very much what our team has been focused on. We've got outreach now to 100,000 New Hampshire voters, direct contact that we have made and we're working very hard to get that vote out tomorrow -- excuse me, on Tuesday.

SMERCONISH: Governor, Godspeed to your wife. I know that she's well and she had a cancer fight. And that's the reason that you got in later. Politically speaking, is that more advantageous? In other words, had you gotten in when everybody else has gotten -- right -- that field has now faded. You're there potentially to pick up the chips if all of a sudden things crumble.

PATRICK: Well, that wasn't -- that wasn't the plan. I mean, these are really great people -- SMERCONISH: I know.

PATRICK: -- who have had to step away from the race and they contributed a lot.

Life is what happens while you're making plans. I will say I have not spent the last couple of years making myself famous, but I have made -- I spent the last 40 years making a difference. And that goes beyond my time as governor. It's my work in business, it's my work founding a business, my work as head of the civil rights division and as a civil rights lawyer. I can point to real people, real families, real communities who, because we've worked together, have a better path forward for themselves.

So for me policy is not that interesting in the abstract. It's interesting for me where it actually touches lives. And being able to point to that habit of practice and behavior, that style of leadership, that is a differentiator and I hope that the people of New Hampshire and elsewhere will have a chance to take a good, close look at that. Because if they want someone who knows their way around D.C., I'm not their guy. But if they want someone who knows their way around a business, around a family or a farm or a town, I am their guy and I can point to ways in which I have and will do my very best to make a difference in their future.

SMERCONISH: Do you make your own honey?

PATRICK: I do -- well, the bees do it.


PATRICK: Yes, it's an incredible stay to step away from the grind of the rest of life and just get on nature's clock, which is a pretty great way to relax and reflect.

SMERCONISH: Thank you, Gov.

PATRICK: Thank you, Michael. Thanks for having me.

SMERCONISH: Still to come, your best and worst tweets and Facebook comments. And we will give you the final results of the survey question from Simply, "Was impeachment worth it?"



SMERCONISH: Time to see how you responded to the survey question at "Was impeachment worth it?" Survey says, 70 percent yes. Wow. Look at this staggering number of votes cast, 19,279. Although, it's kind of like a Rorschach test. You can read into, well, why do people think it was worth it given how it ended?

Here's some of the social media reaction from this week.

Impeachment made him stronger. Andrew, that was always the -- quote -- unquote -- "risk" for Democrats. I remember talking about that six months ago and saying, you know, the line from -- I always attribute it to Omar in "The Wire." You come for the king, you best not miss. They came for the king, they missed.

Here's another one.

Smerconish, what elite media fails to understand as they sip $8.00 soy lattes at news desks while clicking an unaffordable college payment to the college kid who cheated his way into the middle -- Trump fights for the forgotten middle class.

J. Martin, I could analyze that. I can analyze that thing for the next hour. First of all, my soy latte was only $4.00 not $8.00. I'm joking. I don't drink soy lattes.

Yes, I get it. He is perceived as a fighter for the middle class and that's why I asked the question of Mike Bloomberg's campaign manager. He's ascendant right now but is he going to resonate with coal miners in West Virginia? Is he going to resonate with gun right activists in Pennsylvania? That remains to be seen.

Join me for my "American Life in Columns" tour.


Sold out shows this weekend in Manchester, New Hampshire; Raleigh, St. Louis. But tickets available Scottsdale, Arizona and Bellevue, Washington.

Thanks for watching. See you next week.