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Are Superdelegates Really Undemocratic?; If Sanders Wins Most Delegates, Will He Get The Nomination?; Will Nevada Crown Sanders The Dem Frontrunner?; Will Higher Voter Turnout Help Trump Win Re- Election?; Trump's Movie Preferences And His View Of America; The Spread Of Coronavirus. Aired 9-10a ET

Aired February 22, 2020 - 09:00   ET



MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN ANCHOR: So are superdelegates really undemocratic? I'm Michael Smerconish in Philadelphia. Five out of six of the Democratic candidates were able to agree on one thing at Wednesday night's debate, that the winner should obtain the required 1,991 delegates to secure the nomination, not just a plurality.

Only Bernie Sanders disagreed. With so many candidates still competing after Iowa and New Hampshire, the prospect of any of them securing the nomination on the first ballot is increasingly unlikely and "Politico" is now reporting this.

"Mike Bloomberg is privately lobbying Democratic Party officials and donors allied with his moderate opponents to flip their allegiance to him and block Bernie Sanders in the event of a brokered national convention. The effort, largely executed by Bloomberg's senior state- level advisers in recent weeks, attempts to prime Bloomberg for a second-ballot contest at the Democratic National Convention in July by poaching supporters of Joe Biden and other moderate Democrats, according to two Democratic strategists familiar with the talks and unaffiliated with Bloomberg."

So get ready to hear a lot about superdelegates, an informal term for the position by which party leaders and elected officials are guaranteed an unbound delegate role at their convention. It's a uniquely Democratic Party phenomenon and its origins lie in trying to offset populist nominations that can't win general elections. The intent is candidate quality control through a form of peer review.

Use of superdelegates follows a tremendous shift from the nomination being an affair strictly controlled by party elites to one predominantly decided by public participation and the understanding that an inherent risk was being taken. Party leaders fear their own voters nominating a disastrous general election choice and so superdelegates were created to mitigate this risk as a hedge against a populist surge that would not survive a general election.

The thinking was that with more political experience, understanding of the competition and concern for the long-term success of the party, elected officials and party leaders, the two forms of superdelegates, should maintain a say in the nomination. The debate moved from the theoretical to the practical after grassroots nominee George McGovern was blown out in the 1972 election, winning only 17 of the 538 electoral votes against Richard Nixon.

An often repeated criticism of superdelegates is that their participation is undemocratic, but is that really the case? Thought of one way, these unpledged delegates actually function as a means of preserving maximum voter participation and enhancing the level of competition in the general election. The majority of superdelegates are themselves elected. Most are current or former members of Congress. They're senators, they are governors, they are mayors who were selected based on their elected position.

Those who were not have instead served in some significant leadership role within the Democratic Party to warrant the position. Superdelegates themselves have succeeded in mass elections. They've served diverse constituencies. They've been with the Democratic Party for an extended period of time or some combination of these traits. It's as a result of these positions that they represent the nomination choice of constituents.

This year, superdelegates won't have a say until the second ballot. That's a change instituted after the last convention which followed a primary in which superdelegates overwhelmingly sided with Hillary Clinton and against Bernie Sanders. Now there are concerns over Bernie's prospects in a general election against Trump that is placing renewed emphasis on what superdelegates might do on a second ballot in Milwaukee.

But here's something else to consider. Sometimes the collective wisdom of the party establishment is wrong. As Nate Silver pointed out in the last cycle, if 2016's "Republican nomination were contested under Democratic delegate rules, Donald Trump would have found it almost impossible to get a majority of delegates and a floor fight in Cleveland would have been inevitable." Instead, he won an improbable victory. Donald Trump may be Bernie Sanders' best argument.

I want to know what you think. Go to the website at Answer today's survey question which asks should Democrats nominate the candidate who arrives at the July convention with the most delegates even if it's not the required majority?

Joining me now is Ron Brownstein, senior editor at "The Atlantic" where he recently wrote this piece, "Democrats Went After the Wrong Guy. Bernie Sanders is the frontrunner. But his opponents still aren't treating him like one." Hey, Ron. I read the piece with interest. What explains why they avoided Sanders and trained all their political weaponry on Mike Bloomberg?

RON BROWNSTEIN, SENIOR EDITOR, "THE ATLANTIC": By the way, first of all, good morning, Michael. I wrote also last week exactly your question.


I believe that is going to be the central question facing democrats in the weeks ahead, do they have to nominate someone who arrives with a plurality, but not a majority? Look, I think this goes all the way back to 2016. I mean, you had a view in the Democratic Party that Bernie Sanders' support is capped, that it's ultimately too small to win and that as a result, their principal goal is to maneuver to be the last person standing against him on the theory that then you would have a majority of the party with him.

The problem with that theory was demonstrated both by Trump in 2016 and by what we are seeing now which is that it is not guaranteed that even if a candidate has a majority of the party that is skeptical of him that majority will ever coalesce behind a single candidate and even though the Democratic rules are not as favorable to a frontrunner as the Republican rules, the reality remains that you can win a higher share of delegates than your share of the vote as long as -- as long as your opposition is divided and many of those candidates don't reach the 15 percent threshold of the vote you need to obtain any delegates.

SMERCONISH: That's a really important point. Let's make sure that everybody understands it. In other words, that vote, that lower than threshold vote, then gets folded in with that which exceeded the threshold and could, in this instance, err (ph) to Sanders benefit.

BROWNSTEIN: Right. So Democrats allocate delegates based on the results in individual congressional districts as well as statewide and only people who reach 15 percent of the vote are counted in the way those delegates are allocated both at the district and state level. So if you just take one example, if you have a congressional district where Bernie Sanders gets 30 percent of the vote, Joe Biden gets 20 and nobody else gets 15, it's only that 30 and 20 that go in. So with 30 percent of the vote, Bernie Sanders would get 60 percent of the delegates.

And so, you know, that is why many Democrats fear that if Sanders kind of goes into Super Tuesday with a head of steam and the center does not consolidate, the muddle in the middle does not resolve more, he could emerge with a lead that is in Super Bowl (ph) on delegates all the way through Milwaukee. What he may not be able to do, however, is obtain a majority of delegates without expanding his support beyond the roughly one-quarter to one-third that we are -- we have seen in the results so far and in polling of the upcoming states.

SMERCONISH: I recognize that we're only two states in. Today Nevada becomes the third, but in Ron Brownstein's crystal ball, does Bernie appear headed for a plurality, a majority, maybe neither?

BROWNSTEIN: You know, I'm kind of in the conventional wisdom here. I think he's headed for a plurality absent, you know, just something very hard to imagine that the center quickly consolidates around an alternative candidate. The big question is can he expand his reach beyond what we have seen so far? As I said, he's somewhere to a quarter of a third of the vote. He is doing very well with young people, as he did in 2016. He's doing -- he's leading among blue- collar whites in the Democratic primary, as he did in 2016. He's leading among the most liberal.

The thing he has added, Michael, from 2016 is that while Hillary Clinton was the dominant candidate among Latinos last time, Sanders does seem to be the strongest candidate among Latinos in this race and that's going to provide him a lot of benefit in the next few weeks because almost all of the states with big Latino populations, including Texas, California, Florida, Arizona and Colorado, are all voting between now and March 17.

So it is entirely possible he will come out of these next few weeks with a substantial lead in delegates, but again, absent expanding his support beyond the coalition that he has so far, he's got a very uphill climb, I think, to get to a majority of delegates and then you get to the issue not only of superdelegates, but whether the other candidates who are trailing, if they cumulatively have a majority, can come together at the convention in a way to deny him the nomination and whether the party could sustain that kind of turmoil.

SMERCONISH: So on that subject, which was also the focus of my opening commentary --


SMERCONISH: -- let's put up on the screen what Senator Sanders tweeted and let everybody take a look at this because from his perspective, it's a rather simplistic analysis. "Here's a radical idea, the person with the most votes should be the Democratic nominee." Is it that simple, Ron?

BROWNSTEIN: Well, he didn't say that in 2016, as you'll recall, right? I mean, you know, when he said that -- he said that the superdelegates should pick him because Hillary Clinton could not win the general election. Look, the rules are the rules. You know, and all the other candidates, you know, said at the debate stage the rules are that someone has to get to a majority.

Now, if Sanders gets close to a majority through the primary process, it's almost inevitable that support will drift toward him and that he will, you know, end up as the nominee with all of the kind of roll of the dice that that represents.

The real question is is there some sort of cutoff? I mean, you know, in the mind of -- but not only superdelegates, but the other candidates. If Sanders is at 40 percent, say, of the delegates, do you have to nominate him? If Buttigieg, Biden and Bloomberg, say, combine for 55 percent, could they come together? I think it would be especially explosive to pick a nominee, however, who finished below the person with the most delegates.


I think it's kind of harder to make that case. You do wonder, if we get into this scenario where the Democrats will look towards someone who could be seen as possibly a unity candidate of some sort who is not part of the whole process, understanding how difficult it is to parachute someone in, but you kind of wonder whether names like --

SMERCONISH: Who could that be? Who has not been part of the -- who has not been part of the process other than --

BROWNSTEIN: There are a few names --

SMERCONISH: -- other than her, right?

BROWNSTEIN: Sherrod Brown. Sherrod Brown from Ohio --


BROWNSTEIN: -- is someone who's kind of bridge between the moderates and the -- and the left --

SMERCONISH: I thought you were thinking -- I thought you were thinking Hillary.

BROWNSTEIN: No, I'm not thinking Hillary, but look, I mean all of that is very speculative. I think the core question Democrats are going to face is one they have not faced since 1952 which is what do you do if someone arrives with a plurality, but not --


BROWNSTEIN: -- a majority. Again, now, one other point that's worth noting. Donald Trump showed this in 2016. We saw it with Bill Clinton in '92, Dukakis in '88, Kerry in '04. If you are ahead, often the opposition collapses in the final third of the primary season.

So it is possible that, you know, if Sanders has a big enough lead, he could get to a majority, but right now, the trajectory -- he is -- you know, if you look at all the polling that came out this week, he's still in the 25 percent range in many of these states that are coming up on Super Tuesday and that, again, because of the rules we talked about, might be enough to give him a delegate lead, but it doesn't show that the -- that the resistance in the party, the concern in the party is breaking down.

But again, as in 2016, Trump was in a very similar situation for a while. Unless that resistance coalesces to a greater extent than it has so far, he will have kind of the upper hand in the -- in the delegate race.

SMERCONISH: Ron, that was excellent. You have framed exactly where this thing stands. Thank you.

BROWNSTEIN: Thank you, Michael.

SMERCONISH: Today's Nevada caucus could be where Bernie Sanders establishes himself as the clear 2020 Democratic frontrunner. Back with me is Megan Messerly, political reporter for "The Nevada Independent." Megan, thanks for being here. Is Nevada ready to tally this vote?

MEGAN MESSERLY, POLITICAL REPORTER, "THE NEVADA INDEPENDENT": That is the big question heading into today. I've been talking with volunteers and campaigns and I think it's fair to say that tensions are high. You know, folks are cautiously optimistic. They want the process to work. They're hopeful the process will work and that we will have results today, but there's still a lot of questions. I was talking with some campaigns late last night. The campaigns have been sending -- or the party has been sending, rather, early vote data to them, just the names of folks that have early voted so they could kind of check them off their lists and not have to do their, you know, last-minute phone banking to them and the campaigns had still not received that data as of about 11:00 P.M. last night. They were promised that data yesterday --


MESSERLY: -- and so, you know, we have concerns about, you know, is the data processed? Is it ready to go? Are we going to have those early vote totals at the caucus sites in order to have them counted the way they're supposed to be? So, you know, folks are hopeful, but a little nervous I would say.

SMERCONISH: This is a bit of a hybrid system insofar as you've had four days of early voting, then today is the caucus. What if someone who voted early -- I know there's been confusion about this -- wrote, say, Bernie Sanders as there one, two and third choice?

MESSERLY: Right. So that was actually a subject of much confusion through the caucus process or the early vote process. Folks were not sure if they had to choose three different candidates or if they could vote, say, Bernie across the ballot. A memo released by the party made it clear that those ballots where you chose the same candidate three times would still be counted, but essentially you can all -- it would -- it would be the same as if you left the caucus, right?

This happens in the actual caucus room process where you align in support of one candidate and then you ultimately do not stick around to realign in support of a second candidate if your first choice is not viable. So it would essentially be counted the same way in the process. So it's not like your vote goes somewhere else or goes to another candidate or gets automatically selected. It just means that those folks who chose to early vote for the same candidate three times, their second choice vote won't go anywhere.

SMERCONISH: Senator Sanders lost to Secretary Clinton by 5.4 percent of the vote in the last cycle. That was viewed as a victory of sorts because he was expected to lose by double digits. You correct me if I'm wrong. So he's the presumptive frontrunner today, tonight. Is this a battle for number two as you see it from the ground?

MESSERLY: Oh, it definitely is. Like you mentioned, you know, Bernie Sanders had, you know, so much momentum behind him here in 2016, I think more than anyone anticipated him to have. He was 20, 30, 40 points behind Hillary Clinton in the polls in 2016 and the months leading up to Nevada's caucus.

Then, as you mentioned, you know, only finished about 5 points behind her. So that was a victory for him and he's had that grassroots energy and enthusiasm going into this caucus. He has a strong team on the ground, 250 plus staffers, much bigger than any other campaign staffers. As far as second place, I think you're right there, Michael. This is a battle for second. Stakes are high for some of the candidates. For instance, Joe Biden who did not finish well in Iowa and New Hampshire really needs a second-place victory today in order to show that he can stay in this race, but a lot of other folks are clamoring for that as well.


Pete Buttigieg obviously did well in Iowa AND New Hampshire, would love to see a second place victory in Nevada to prove that he has support among voters of color. Elizabeth Warren who had a middling performance in the first two states would love that second place as well to prove that she has the staying power in this race, but we really have no idea how that -- how that's going to shape up today.

SMERCONISH: The only thing we know for sure is that you have a long day ahead of you. Thank you so much for coming back.

MESSERLY: I do. Thank you, Michael.

SMERCONISH: Thanks, Megan. What are your thoughts? Tweet me @Smerconish. Go to my Facebook page. I will read some responses throughout the course of the program. From Twitter, "Smerconish, stop trying -- stop trying to justify superdelegates. You are a corporate puppet. You don't even realize" -- all right. I shouldn't be so dismissive, but come on. Look, how nasty that is. I'm a corporate puppet? Put that camera on me.

I just want to make the point that there's an argument that superdelegates are undemocratic that doesn't recognize who they are and what they come from. You know, there's some -- there's some street smarts inherent in this. Hey, let's put in a secret sauce and the secret sauce will be people who've actually won elections because they know a little something about it and so if you've got this populist movement in the country that nominates someone who can't win a general election, we've got the wisdom of the party elders whose own names have been on the line to hold back the masses and say wait a minute, this may -- this may go the way of McGovern.

And if you were paying close attention to my opening commentary, what I also said is sometimes the party wisdom is wrong because if Republicans -- I'll say it flat-out. If Republicans had superdelegates in 2016, I don't think Donald Trump would have been the nomination, would have been the nominee and obviously we know how that ended. He upset the whole apple cart and won the White House.

I want to remind you to go to my website at and answer this question. Should Democrats nominate the candidate who arrives at the July convention with the most delegates, even if it's not the required majority?

Up ahead, the coronavirus has already infected more than 77,000 people, killed more than 2,300. We still don't know all that much about it. So what can we do to stay safe? I will talk to America's point man on infectious diseases. And the conventional wisdom says that large turnout helps the Democrats, harms the GOP. A new study suggests that may not be the case.

Plus, the president trashed the Oscars for awarding Best Picture to "Parasite." He says he misses movies like "Sunset Boulevard" and "Gone with the Wind." How come?


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And the winner is a movie from South Korea? What the hell was that all about?





SMERCONISH: So what happens if more voters show up in 2020? Conventional wisdom has held that lower turnout would help Republicans, but a new study suggests that turnout could actually help the president. In 2016, 43 percent of people who were eligible to vote stayed home. That's about 100 million prospective voters and according to data aggregated by "Politico," those numbers included 2.5 million in Michigan, 3.5 million in Pennsylvania, 1 million in Wisconsin.

You'll recall that President Trump won those three states by only 77,774, thus clinching the presidency, but a new study from the Knight Foundation suggests it's all about which non-voters you get to the polls.

Joining me now to discuss is the man whose company Knight hired to do the study. Fernand Amandi is president of Bendixen & Amandi International. Fernand, it's pretty amazing that up until now, there has not been this kind of study of the non-voter.

FERNAND AMANDI, PRESIDENT, BENDIXEN & AMANDI INTERNATIONAL: Michael, it is remarkable and I think credit to the Knight Foundation for recognizing that this isn't a fringe group of the American electorate or potential electorate. This is 100 million people that are out there.

It's one out of every three Americans. So the fact that we now have this comprehensive, authoritative look at it from a data perspective, I think it demystifies a lot of the conventional wisdom that you signal is out there about who these people are and more importantly, what their preferences are when it comes to candidates for office.

SMERCONISH: OK. I think there's a perception that they are largely dormant Democrats. Is that true? Who are they and why haven't they voted?

AMANDI: Well, that certainly is the perception. I'll confess to having thought that as well, but again, the beauty of doing such an authoritative study like this is it reveals what the science says and it's not the case. What we found is that nationally, of these 100 million non-voters, if given the opportunity to vote in the 2020 election, 33 percent said yes, they would support the Democratic nominee, but 30 percent actually indicated they would vote for President Trump, with the balance being what you might call persuadable or undecided.

So I think it does demystify that idea that this is a pool of Democrats and it presents an opportunity for either side to really engage on a group that a lot of political consultants and others would say, look, don't waste your time, don't go after non-voters. The fact of the matter is there is a potentially decisive pool here should the campaigns engage and a first mover advantage at that as well.

SMERCONISH: Let's take a look at what happens in battleground states if the non-voters show up. Arizona, Florida, Pennsylvania, Virginia, it actually helps President Trump.


Arizona, 34-25, Florida, 36-31, Pennsylvania, 36-28, Virginia, 35-31. I should point out for completeness that Michigan and Wisconsin is within the margin of error, but the point -- the point here is -- you correct me if I'm wrong -- if the non-voters come out, we may be left with a scenario where the popular vote margin for the generic Democrat grows, but President Trump is reelected because of his success in battleground states.

AMANDI: That's certainly a scenario that the data indicates may very well happen, but one caveat to that. Like anything, we know that a poll, even a poll as authoritative and as large as this one, is a snapshot of a moment in time. Variables and circumstances could of course impact that, but all things being equal based on what we learned, just like you cited, in those battleground states like Arizona and Florida, the Trump campaign, if they engage that group of non-voters, suggests that there may be a hidden potential advantage there that might defy what the popular vote ends up being and certainly, again, what the conventional wisdom says about who these voters are supporting.

SMERCONISH: Well, I want to put on the screen, Brad Parscale who's running the Trump campaign just tweeted something very interesting about the most recent Trump rally. I don't know if you can see this, Fernand, but he makes the point that at this recent Vegas rally, they're obviously gathering data. Thirty-two percent of the attendees didn't vote in 2016. So, you know, they're tracking these folks and obviously getting ready to try and drive them to the polls. You get the final word.

AMANDI: Well, look, I think the most interesting stat for me is if you were to repeat exactly the conditions of the 2016 election again, Donald Trump would get 2 percentage points less now based on all of the voter changes and demographic changes. So his campaign is looking for a way to make up for that deficit. Non-voters could very well potentially be that margin of difference if they get to them early and first.

SMERCONISH: Fernand Amandi, thanks so much for being here.

AMANDI: Thank you, Michael.

SMERCONISH: Let's see what you're saying on my Smerconish Twitter and Facebook pages. This comes from Facebook. "Dems win with higher turnout hands down. They need to concentrate on battleground states." Arnold, dare I say that maybe you fired that off on Facebook before hearing the entire segment. The conventional wisdom is simplistic. Just get more people to vote, it'll be a rising tide for the Democrats. Not necessarily.

If you rise the non-voter participation in the battleground states as per the data that we just showed, you're actually potentially increasing President Trump's margin in certain of those critical states and thus may leave the scenario where the generic Democrat wins the popular vote by even more than Hillary did, but loses the electoral college.

A reminder, go to the website at Please answer this question this hour. Should Democrats nominate the candidate who arrives at the July convention with the most elegance, even if it's not the required majority?

Up ahead, what should we make of the latest cultural uproar triggered by the president attacking the Oscars for naming the South Korean film "Parasite" best picture?



SMERCONISH: President Trump debuted a new rally line Thursday in Colorado Springs where he slammed the South Korean movie "Parasite" for winning best picture at the Oscars.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And the winner is a movie from South Korea. What the hell was that all about? We've got enough problems with South Korea with trade. On top of it they give them the best movie of the year? Was it good? I don't know.

You know, I'm looking for like -- let's get "Gone with the Wind." Can we get like "Gone with the Wind" back again please? "Sunset Boulevard."


SMERCONISH: The studio behind "Parasite" which was the first movie not in English to win best picture tweeted in response, "Understandable, had can't read."

The two movies Trump refers to "Parasite" "Gone with the Wind" which hit theaters in 1939 picked up eight Oscars including the award for best picture. "Sunset Boulevard" released in 1950. The film won three Oscars but didn't take home the title of best picture.

So what do the president's movie preferences say about him, say about his base? With me now senior writer for "Vulture" Nate Jones who covers the Oscars and the film industry. Hey, Nate, I feel like an outcast because I loved "Parasite," loved "Gone with the Wind." "Sunset Boulevard" I saw Glenn Close on Broadway do that show twice because I loved it so much. Like what's wrong with me?

NATE JONES, SENIOR WRITER, "VULTURE": There's nothing wrong with you. You can -- you can like all three movies. It's not a sign of bad character or bad taste or anything. You don't really need to choose between them unless you're Donald Trump in which case, life is all about sort of dividing up the world between two camps, us and them.

So clearly this was sort of his way of saying, you know, marking his base -- forward his base. This is who he thinks his base is. The idea that anybody who would vote for him would be -- would maybe speak Korean or have Korean heritage, that kind of doesn't cross his mind. In his mind, his base is a bunch of people who really love a movie that romanticizes the confederacy.

SMERCONISH: Well, I wonder. I mean, I've heard that criticism. And I know that some say, oh, look at the themes of these movies.

Look, when I go to the movies with my wife, I'm there for gratuitous sex and violence. She gets the messages. Do you think he was really tapping into the messages of putting on a pedestal, a civil war south?


Or was he simply saying to the same base that he went to NASCAR with, that he went to the college football championship with, I'm on your side and let's trash Hollywood?

JONES: Yes, I think that is a little bit. I think that's sort of -- it is sort of cultural signifier, right? It's like the way that Barack Obama got in trouble for talking about arugula. It's -- you're sort of talking to people and you kind of assume -- you know of assume that this the movie that I didn't even heard of so they haven't heard of it either. And all of these people who have say it's good, they're this sort of decadent coastal elitists. And us who haven't heart this movie we're sort of the real people. We're the real Americans.

Was he trying to make a racial point with his "Gone with the Wind" thing? I don't think explicitly, but I think it is sort of an interesting subtext when you get Donald Trump. And sort of what goes on in his mind.

SMERCONISH: How about "Sunset Boulevard"? I mean, was there something that you read into him wanting to talk about Norma Desmond's flick?

JONES: Yes "Sunset Boulevard" is kind of funny, right? It didn't actually win best picture. So his track record as an Oscar historian is maybe a little bit dicey. But, no, I think it's a sign. You know, Donald Trump is not a farmer, he's not a factory worker, he's a rich kid from New York who dreamt of being a Broadway producer. In his mind, he loves the glitz and glamour of Hollywood. As much as he wants to sort of pretend that this is -- you know, that he's sort of real America is -- he's not a man of this world. He's a man of Broadway, of Times Square, of 42nd Street. A man who, you know, loves that kind of elitist lifestyle. Yes. It is kind of -- it's sort of --


SMERCONISH: One final -- one final thought, if he -- if he were to see "Parasite" he might actually enjoy some of the conflict that's inherent in that movie?

JONES: Yes, exactly. Yes. This is a movie, I don't want to give too much of it away, but it's a movie in which case, sort of decadent probably liberal elites are revealed for this sort of shallow nincompoops, and the real heroes are these kind of salt of the earth working class people who are just trying to struggle to make a buck. And, yes, I mean, he would probably like it. Everybody I know who've seen it likes it. Maybe he would, too.

SMERCONISH: Yes. I'm not giving it away. Let's just say it takes some turns that I surely did not see coming. Thank you, Nate. I really appreciate your insight.

JONES: Thank you for having me.

SMERCONISH: What do we have from Twitter and Facebook? I think from Twitter initially.

Smerconish, Oscar win. Trump is saying what others are thinking but are afraid to say.

I think he's simply saying, hey, my base is not going to go watch a South Korean movie with subtitles. So just let me hammer that and talk about when America was great and we recognize "Gone with the Wind" or "Sunset Boulevard." He should have come up with some more contemporary movies.

I think this comes from Facebook. What do we have? Maybe not. There we go.

Trump supporters don't like subtitles.

OK. Maybe it's that simple. I like your last name, Write. Right? Subtitles write -- w-r-i-t-e.

I want to remind you to answer question at

"Should Democrats nominate the candidate who arrives at the July convention with the most delegates, even if it's not the required majority?"

Results on that soon to come.

Also ahead, an unprecedented crisis. That's how the World Health Organization is describing the spread of the coronavirus. Should we be concerned? I'll ask the doctor who has been America's infectious disease leader for more than three decades.



SMERCONISH: As the novel coronavirus continues to spread worldwide from its starting point in Wuhan, China, there's now increased scrutiny on the public health response and the handling of those infected including concern about whether the information coming out of China can be trusted.

With me now is America's point man on infectious diseases, Dr. Anthony Fauci. He's been the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease since 1984.

Dr. Fauci, thank you so much for being here. I've got a -- about a half dozen straightforward questions that are all beneath your pay grade so indulge me. What is a pandemic? And how do we know when we're in the midst of one?

ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASE: Well, a pandemic is when you have an infectious disease that is being consistently and sustained transmission from person to person, through a wide range of regions, countries and areas of the globe. So, for example, in China, it's epidemic because it's concentrated in China. But once you start to get other countries in which you have sustained transmissibility, then you really have the makings of a pandemic. "Pan" meaning wide. It's widely distributed.

SMERCONISH: Do we have that on our hands now?

FAUCI: I think, Michael, that we are clearly at the brink of that. Let me explain briefly why. Because our fate is going to be determined by the ability of countries outside of the China that have travel-related cases. And now they're starting to develop sustained transmission from person to person to person. So that right now, it's not just travel- related cases, so when you get countries like Japan and South Korea that have these cases that are person to person to person without any real ability to point to where it came from, that's the makings of a pandemic. And if you have multiple countries like that, then the horse is out the barn. And it's going to be very difficult to prevent more cases from coming here to our own country.

SMERCONISH: Do you think that these cases all originated in the same place?

FAUCI: Well, the original nidus of where they came from unquestionably, as you mentioned, Michael, is Wuhan, China. And when individuals left Wuhan and seeded in other countries then it takes off with a momentum of its own which is what's going on now in certain countries.


But the original evolution of this unquestionably was from Wuhan, in China. SMERCONISH: How much of a problem is transparency?

FAUCI: Transparency is absolutely critical. I mean, whenever you have information that's being held back, there always are negative consequences. Nothing good can come of that. And we have multiple examples, historically, when information was not fully available and transparent which really slowed down the response. So, that's something we would hope we continue to have as much transparency as possible.

SMERCONISH: Should the known infected ever be flying with those who are not infected?

FAUCI: Well, Michael, I think you're referring to the difficult decision that had to be made when the "Diamond Princess" was, you know, evacuating individuals. We needed to get our people off that vessel which was just a hot spot of infection.

Yes, those individuals when they got on the bus, we found out after the fact that they were infected. But the difficult decision was made and, Michael, I believe it was without a doubt the correct decision was to bring those people back to the United States. We had on the plane the capability of segregating them so that they don't infect other people on the plane and we successfully brought them back to the United States where they're being cared for, and more appropriate, they're being quarantined.

SMERCONISH: Two more and thanks for playing along. I really appreciate this. What is the means of transmission of coronavirus?

FAUCI: It's a respiratory infection, Michael, so it's very similar to what you see with influenza. Respiratory droplets, perhaps even some aerosol, people touching their face, sneezing and coughing. You shake hands with them, you touch a doorknob or what have you. Which is the reason why washing one's hands as often as possible is probably the best thing that you can do to avoid influenza, and if and when we have the opportunity or the unfortunate challenge of coronavirus, it's the same thing.

SMERCONISH: And final question, Dr. Fauci, how much of a risk do those of us at home in the United States face now?

FAUCI: At this particular moment, Michael, the risk is very low. But, and I have to underline but, this could change and it could change rapidly. Getting back to what you said about a pandemic, if this evolves into a pandemic there's no way we in the United States are going to escape having more infections in this country.

SMERCONISH: That was excellent. Thank you so much.

FAUCI: Good to be with you, Michael.

SMERCONISH: Dr. Anthony Fauci.

Still to come, your best and worst tweets and Facebook comments. And we'll give you the final results of the survey question. Go vote right now at

"Should Democrats nominate the candidate who arrives at the July convention with the most delegates, even if it's not the required majority?"



SMERCONISH: Time to see how you responded to the survey question at this hour.

"Should Democrats nominate the candidate who arrives at the July convention with the most delegates, even if it's not the required majority?"

Survey says, what do we got? Nearly 12,000 votes cast as of this minute, 76 percent say no. No. They should not give the nominee -- the nomination to he or she with the most, they've got to play by the rules essentially. Let the process play out. That was the answer given by five of six who were on that stage Wednesday night. Only Bernie will be disappointed in that result.

What came in, Catherine (ph), during the course of the program, social media?

I'm a lifelong Dem but I will quit the party forever and never vote for Dems again if super delegates deny the leader the nomination.

But, Kaycee, then guess what? Change the rules. Then simply change the rules. The rules should then say whoever arrives at the convention with the most, right, not a majority but the most, a plurality could win, but that's not what the rules say. If that's the fix the Democrats want then they should institute that change. It's just not what the rules say.

And, by the way, one other thought. Wait. Hold on. What if you had 15 candidates and what if the leader among the 15 were somebody with, I don't know, 22 percent of the vote, would you say, well, that has to be our nominee? I don't think you would.

OK. Hit me with another one. What do we got?

If Bernie would have supported Hillary in 2016 and got his supporters to vote, Trump would not be president. If Bernie would have supported Hillary and got his supporters to vote, Trump would not be president.

I thought you were going to make an observation about Bernie having a different position on the delegate issue four years ago versus today, but you make a good observation nonetheless.

One more if I've got time. What do we have?

We need good movies to win, like "Caddyshack," "Stripes," "Back to School." Let me just think about that for a moment. You're leaving off a few, Frank, and I would say off the top of my head what about "Animal House"? What about "Slap Shot"? What else is on that short list of sophomore films that I still watch as much as I can?


I agree with your point. But "Parasite" was great. "Parasite" was great. "Gone with the Wind" is great. "Sunset Boulevard," tremendous.

Join me for my "American Life in Columns" tour. Sold out shows up coming in Raleigh and Scottsdale, Arizona, but you have tickets available in Bellevue, Washington.

Thank you for watching this week. We will see you next Saturday.



CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to you on this Saturday.