Warren becomes debate target as moderates vie for breakout

AMNA NAWAZ: We turn now to the Democratic
presidential race. Twelve candidates faced off in a sometimes
heated debate last night in Westerville, Ohio. Yamiche Alcindor was there and is back now
with this report. SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN), Presidential Candidate:
I want to give a reality check here to Elizabeth. YAMICHE ALCINDOR: The attacks on Senator Elizabeth
Warren started early and came from all sides. SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR: You can’t say you’re for corporate
responsibility if it doesn’t apply to everyone. JOSEPH BIDEN (D), Presidential Candidate:
Senator Warren said we can’t be running any vague campaigns. We have got to level with people. BETO O’ROURKE (D), Presidential Candidate:
Sometimes, I think that senator Warren is more focused on being punitive or pitting
some part of the country against the other, instead of lifting people up and making sure
that this country comes together around those solutions. SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), Presidential Candidate:
I’m really shocked at the notion that anyone thinks I’m punitive. YAMICHE ALCINDOR: For months, the Massachusetts
senator has been gradually rising in the polls. So when she again declined to go into detail
about the cost of her Medicare for all plan: SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN: So, let me be clear on this. Costs will go up for the wealthy. They will go up for big corporations. And for middle-class families, they will go
down. YAMICHE ALCINDOR: Some of the more moderate
voices on the stage pounced. That included Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar. SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR: The difference between a plan
and a pipe dream is something that you can actually get done. YAMICHE ALCINDOR: And South Bend, Indiana,
Mayor Pete Buttigieg. PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), Presidential Candidate:
Your signature, Senator, is to have a plan for everything, except this. YAMICHE ALCINDOR: In past debates, Buttigieg
mostly stayed away from direct confrontation. But, last night, he launched to several sharp
back-and forths. REP. TULSI GABBARD (D-HI), Presidential Candidate:
What is an endless war if it’s not a regime change war? ANDERSON COOPER, CNN: Allow him to respond. PETE BUTTIGIEG: Respectfully, Congresswoman,
I think that is dead wrong. YAMICHE ALCINDOR: That included exchanges
with Hawaii Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard over U.S. policy in Syria. He also sparked on gun policy with former
Texas Congressman Beto O’Rourke. BETO O’ROURKE: To do what’s right. PETE BUTTIGIEG: I don’t need lessons from
you on courage, political or personal. Everyone on the stage is determined to get
something done. YAMICHE ALCINDOR: The candidates did agree
on one critical issue. ANDREW YANG (D), Presidential Candidate: I
support impeachment. YAMICHE ALCINDOR: Their support for the impeachment
inquiry facing President Trump. SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), Presidential Candidate:
He has committed crimes in plain sight. JULIAN CASTRO (D), Presidential Candidate:
He should be removed. YAMICHE ALCINDOR: Last night also marked included
billionaire Tom Steyer’s first time on the debate stage. He has been pushing to impeach President Trump
for the past two years. TOM STEYER (D), Presidential Candidate: Impeaching
and removing this president is something that the American people are demanding. DONALD TRUMP, President of the United States:
Tremendous corruption with Biden. YAMICHE ALCINDOR: Also a big topic, President
Trump accusing former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter of corrupt business dealings
in Ukraine. Those unproven claims helped spark the impeachment
inquiry. JOSEPH BIDEN: My son did nothing wrong. I did nothing wrong. YAMICHE ALCINDOR: Biden defended his family,
and went on the offensive. JOSEPH BIDEN: The president and his thugs
have already proven that they, in fact, are flat lying. What we have to do now is focus on Donald
Trump. YAMICHE ALCINDOR: Biden also criticized the
president’s decision to withdraw U.S. forces from Northern Syria. That decision allowed Turkey to launch an
attack against the Kurds, who helped the U.S. fight ISIS. JOSEPH BIDEN: We have an erratic, crazy president
who knows not a damn thing about foreign policy and operates out of fear for his own reelection. (APPLAUSE) YAMICHE ALCINDOR: New Jersey Senator Cory
Booker joined in. SEN. CORY BOOKER (D-NJ), Presidential Candidate:
So, first of all, understand that this president is turning the moral leadership of this country
into a dumpster fire. YAMICHE ALCINDOR: It was also the first debate
since Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders suffered a heart attack two weeks ago. SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), Presidential Candidate:
We are going to be mounting a vigorous campaign all over this country. YAMICHE ALCINDOR: Sanders announced a rally
in New York this coming weekend. SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: We’re going to have a special
guest at that event. YAMICHE ALCINDOR: That special guest is New
York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. She’s a member of the so-called Squad of four
liberal congresswomen. She and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan are expected
to join Ilhan Omar of Minnesota in endorsing Sanders. An aide to the senator told “NewsHour” Sanders
hopes to also get the endorsement of the last member of the Squad, Congresswoman Ayanna
Pressley of Massachusetts. For the “PBS NewsHour,” I’m Yamiche Alcindor. AMNA NAWAZ: So, will last night’s debate change
the presidential race? For some post-game analysis, I’m here with
two “NewsHour” regulars, Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report and host of public radio’s
“Politics With Amy Walter,” and Stu Rothenberg, senior editor for Inside Elections. And welcome to you both. Three hours of debate last night. If there was one candidate, Amy, who everyone
else had their sights trained on, it was Senator Elizabeth Warren. AMY WALTER, The Cook Political Report: It
was. AMNA NAWAZ: How did that go for her? AMY WALTER: Well, she was, I think, every
— she was the target, I think, of every single person on that stage. We saw the clips about Medicare for all, which
was a big component of the attacks, on how her plan would get paid for, which is — her
plan is actually Bernie Sanders’ plan. But she was also attacked for sort of her
my way or the highway approach, that her plan to — even her plan to break up big tech was
criticized by Andrea Yang. So it was pretty clear that she’s seen now
as, if not the front-runner, at least a co-front-runner, with Joe Biden. But I think she handled it pretty well. There wasn’t a moment in which you thought,
boy, that was a pretty terrible answer or she looks really rattled. There’s no doubt that her opponents and press
coverage is going to continue to focus on her answer on how to pay for this Medicare
for all plan. That’s not going away. How she responds to it over time, I think,
may change. So that was probably her least impressive
moment. But, overall, I thought it was pretty good. AMNA NAWAZ: Stu, what did you make of that? STUART ROTHENBERG, Inside Elections: Same. AMNA NAWAZ: That Medicare for all moment,
that — she took a lot of heat for that, not really answering the question. (CROSSTALK) STU ROTHENBERG: Yes, she did. She ducked the question. And it was asked of her two or three times. And she kept ducking. I kind of felt like she fell off the horse,
but she got back on it pretty quickly, unlike Kamala Harris. If you remember, in the second debate, when
Harris was attacked very early in the debate, she kind of disappeared for the rest of the
debate. Not in this case with Elizabeth martin. She was as feisty as ever, as aggressive as
ever, as ever defending herself. AMY WALTER: Yes. AMNA NAWAZ: That whole fight over Medicare
for all and some of the differences that were obvious in that conversation last night, you
have talked about this before, some of the fundamental choices that are within the Democratic
Party right now. STU ROTHENBERG: Yes. AMNA NAWAZ: Were any of those reconciled last
night? STU ROTHENBERG: No, but I kind of feel like
we’re coming to a head here, a critical point, an inflection point maybe, whereby Democrats
are going to have to choose. Do they want a populist progressive, like
Sanders, or more likely Warren, or do they want somebody who’s progressive, but isn’t
so — isn’t so — is pragmatic, it’s not my way or the highway? And this is a decision I think we have been
waiting for, for months already. And it kind of felt like last night like we’re
getting to the point where Democrats are going to start making those choices, other choices
too. Do they want an older candidate or a younger
candidate? Do they want somebody with D.C. experience
or more of an outsider? These are the critical choices we have been
waiting for them to make. I think they’re on the cusp of starting to
make those choices. AMY WALTER: That’s right, now that we’re getting
closer and closer to the fall, right? STU ROTHENBERG: Yes. AMY WALTER: Or we’re in the fall. (CROSSTALK) AMY WALTER: To the end of the fall now. I’m not admitting it yet. (LAUGHTER) AMY WALTER: But, yes, now that we’re getting
closer and closer to when people actually start voting. And I think Stu is right. There’s always been these two lanes right
now, this sort of pragmatic, in the form of Joe Biden, which is the return to normalcy,
right? Let’s just kind of go back to where we were
with Obama, get rid of Trump, that’s our first priority, vs. the big structural change of
Warren and Sanders. But what Pete Buttigieg did yesterday was
— and he’s been building this case for a while — is, he said, well, there’s actually
a third way. You don’t have to buy into just this or just
that. You can pick me. I am going to be more — because I’m younger
and I’m more of a visionary. I’m not a Washington insider. I’m going to be different from Joe Biden. I’m not all about returning to normalcy. I don’t think there’s such a thing as a pre-Trump
normalcy. At the same time, I don’t have an interest
in getting into these protracted all-or-nothing fights on policy, whether it’s on guns or
Medicare for all or on immigration, that some of the other people on this stage want. And so really setting up a way for voters
who may not feel like they’re comfortable in either one of those lanes to have a place
to go. AMNA NAWAZ: You mentioned you were going to
watch Pete Buttigieg in that debate. And since the debate, his campaign actually
announced he’s raised a million dollars since that performance. You have also been following the money, which
is an interesting place to look. The FEC deadline for those third-quarter fund-raising
numbers was yesterday. Do we know anything about what that… (CROSSTALK) AMY WALTER: Well, I do think that more than
— more than this debate performance, the money is going to be really the story going
forward, and the fact that Pete Buttigieg did have a breakout night. But he also raised a lot of money in that
third quarter. And he’s sitting on $20 million — $23 million. Joe Biden, the front-runner, at least in the
polling, has only $9 million in the bank. That is not a very good place to be as we’re
headed to where we’re getting to big spending time, getting into December especially. STU ROTHENBERG: I mean, isn’t that also, though,
a problem for Elizabeth Warren, in that Bernie Sanders has a boatload of cash sitting on? AMY WALTER: That’s right. STU ROTHENBERG: He’s not the kind of person
to just go away. AMY WALTER: That’s a good point. STU ROTHENBERG: As long as he has the money,
as long as he gets some endorsements that he thinks are useful to him, whether I think
they’re quite as — like AOC, I’m not quite so sure that is as useful to he thinks. AMY WALTER: Right. STU ROTHENBERG: But as long as he thinks they’re
useful, isn’t he likely to stay in the race? And isn’t that a problem for Warren, because
they are — they’re not competing for identical groups of voters, but similar sorts of supporters. AMY WALTER: Right. That’s right. AMNA NAWAZ: There is some overlap there. There’s also — you saw from the outside some
of those lower polling candidates. We always say these debates are a great opportunity
for them to try to punch up, try to break through. Stu, did you notice anyone else — Amy mentioned
Pete Buttigieg — kind of really standing out to her. Did you notice anyone else breaking away? STU ROTHENBERG: Well, I thought obviously
Amy Klobuchar did. I thought she did a good job. She was very aggressive, again went after
Warren and really positioned herself as someone who is realistic, pragmatic and can work with
Republicans, or at least put forward policy proposals that are reasonable. And she’s willing to compromise. Having said that, I don’t know if there’s
any way for her to go as long as Joe Biden is in the race. And nobody else stood out to me. I don’t know if I would say that’s a missed
opportunity. I keep waiting for Kamala Harris to bust out
again. But she didn’t. And Booker was fine. But it’s just hard to stand out when you have
a crowd, and when you have the focus on three or four people at the top of the list. AMY WALTER: That’s right. And they all seem to, though, be positioning
themselves, even Buttigieg, for what happens if one of those three front-runners is no
longer in the contest, in other words, that they have slipped. STU ROTHENBERG: But it’s not just one of the
three front-runners, right? AMY WALTER: Well, specifically Joe Biden… STU ROTHENBERG: Specifically Joe Biden. AMY WALTER: … if you’re Pete Buttigieg. And if you’re Elizabeth Warren, you’re hoping
that it’s Bernie Sanders is unable to turn that money into actual votes, and that there
we go. STU ROTHENBERG: Right. AMNA NAWAZ: Well, over the course of the night
— really quickly — too, I want to mention President Trump’s name was introduced again
and again and again into the conversation. One of the main questions for Democratic primary
voters out there is, who can beat Donald Trump one day? Did anyone, you think, set themselves up as
the man or the woman who can stand up to President Trump? AMY WALTER: Listen, Joe Biden, on polls, still
leads on that question. It’s been dropping, the percent of Democrats
who believe he can beat Donald Trump. Elizabeth Warren is the one who really has
to break through that ceiling of electability. And I think the fact that she was the target
last night should stand her well in making the case that I know what it’s like to take
incoming, and I know how to be able to deflect that and also punch back, and, as Stu said,
to stick with my message. I’m not going to get distracted by all the
different attacks that I’m going to get in the campaign. AMNA NAWAZ: Stu, just 30 seconds. STU ROTHENBERG: I guess I don’t think that
the electability argument will be decided until early 2020, after the Iowa caucuses. Let’s see who does well. Let’s see who improves or fails over the next
couple of months. Electability will be important, but we really
don’t know what it’s going to look like in the late winter, early spring. AMNA NAWAZ: Still a long way to go. AMY WALTER: Yes, long way to go. AMNA NAWAZ: And another debate just a month
away. AMY WALTER: Yay. (LAUGHTER) AMNA NAWAZ: Amy Walter and Stu Rothenberg. STU ROTHENBERG: I can’t take another one. (LAUGHTER) AMNA NAWAZ: Thanks to you both. STU ROTHENBERG: Thanks. AMY WALTER: Thanks.

Author Since: Mar 11, 2019

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