tv Situation Room With Wolf Blitzer CNN April 14, 2016 2:00pm-4:01pm PDT
so the fact that this is front and center is certainly fortuitous i think for everybody. >> break a leg tonight. i'm very excited. it's going to be a great debate. a reminder, tonight's clinton-sanders debate starts at 9:00 p.m. eastern right here on cnn. that's 6:00 for all you folks in california, washington and oregon. turning it over to wolf blitzer in "the situation room." mr. blitzer, take it away. >> happening now, breaking news showdown. hillary clinton versus bernie sanders. tonight's cnn presidential debate is the final face-off before the absolutely crucial new york primary. he has the momentum, she has the math. the stakes are high and the stage is set. fight for new york. he was born here, she was elected here. sanders has proved he can draw big crowds in new york, but clinton leads in the polls. can tonight's debate determine who wins most of the state's 247
delegates? bern moment. since hillary clinton swept the early voting south, bernie sanders claims the election calendar, quote, distorts reality while his wife tells cnn the process isn't democratic at all. is this sanders' last chance to break through hillary clinton's firewall? and no charges. a sigh of relief for donald trump's campaign as his campaign manager won't be prosecuted for grabbing a reporter. while all three republican candidates will appear at a gop gala in manhattan across the river from our democratic debate. i'm wolf blitzer inside the debate hall. you're in "the situation room." the breaking news, the battle of brooklyn now just four hours away. we're live from the brooklyn navy yard in new york where hillary clinton and bernie sanders will face off in tonight's critical democratic
presidential debate on cnn. it's the final showdown before tuesday's new york primary. sanders still carries the accent of his brooklyn youth. hillary clinton's campaign is headquartered here. the stakes clearly are enormous. a clinton victory could break sanders' recent momentum and put the nomination in her grasp. a sanders win could shake her campaign to its core. amid the rhetoric and big rallies, the race has been getting nasty as the two sides hammer one another on policy and qualifications. will tonight's showdown boil down to insults or issues? and the insults are flying among republican candidates. all three will appear tonight at a black tie gop gala. ted cruz, accusing donald trump's campaign of threatening violence even as prosecutors decide not to charge trump's campaign manager for grabbing a reporter. i'll speak with clinton campaign press secretary brian fallon. our correspondents, analysts and
guests, they will have full coverage of all the day's top stories. let's begin with our senior washington correspondent joe johns. set the stage, what's the latest? >> that's true, wolf. quite frankly here in new york and across the state. it's been a week of acrimony, sometimes rivaling the republicans, a tone of bitterness right up until last night. it shows how much bernie sanders wants to change the dynamic here in new york and what the clinton campaign will do to stop him. tonight the battle lines are drawn. >> you elect me president, you're going to have a president who is prepared to take on the billionaire class, not take their money. >> reporter: sanders speaking today to reverend al sharpton's national action network, the same group clinton addressed a day earlier, appealing to african-american voters in new
york. >> we are going to invest in education and jobs for our kids, not jails and incarceration. >> sanders also holding a rally with thousands of supporters last night in lower manhattan. >> when i look at an unbelievable crowd like this, i believe we're going to win here in new york next tuesday. >> but he wound up having to do some cleanup after one of his supporters made this comment on stage. >> medicare for all will never happen if we continue to elect corporate democratic whores who are beholden to big pharma. >> dr. paul song, a health care activist and the husband of cnn's lossa ling, later apologizing on twitter saying it was insensitive and sanders disavowing the comments tweeting there's no room for language like that in our political discourse. the clinton campaign firing back on cnn. >> i'm glad that senator sanders finally decided to disavow it. i think what's troubling overall has been his campaign strategy
in new york to launch these kinds of personal attacks against hillary. >> while sanders filled washington square park, clinton was holding a much smaller rally in the bronx. >> vote not just for me. my name will be on the ballot. but vote for yourselves. vote for your families. vote for your children, your grandchildren. vote for the future of the bronx. >> and turning her focus once again to the republicans. >> one of them denigrates new york values. one of them, mr. trump, wants to set americans against each other. >> and as the democratic fight reaches a critical moment, sanders is complaining that the primary process has made his path to the nomination more challenging. >> there are people that say why does iowa go first, why does new hampshire go first. but i think that having so many southern states go first kind of distorts reality as well. >> sanders wife, jane, echoing
that point today on cnn. >> i think it is designed badly. i don't like the fact -- i don't think it's rigged. i don't think it's designed in anybody's favor. i just don't think it's very democratic. >> though hillary clinton has led by double digits in the polls here in new york for weeks, campaign aides for clinton are seeking to lower expectations about what the final vote margins will be. they are fully aware of bernie sanders' unique ability to close late in the race, wolf. >> all right, joe, thanks very much. joe johns reporting. as bernie sanders and hillary clinton make their final preparations for tonight's debate, let's turn to our senior washington correspondent, jeff zeleny. what's the latest from the two campaigns? specifically what do we know about what they'll be looking for tonight? >> well, wolf, this is debate number nine but it's certainly a different moment in time in this race, largely because the calendar is moving so much forward here. we are near the end of this, that's why it is such an
important moment here. a couple of things to look for. judgment versus tested. senator sanders is going to be raising questions specifically about the judgment of secretary clinton. going through all of those votes that she has taken, you know, from the iraq war to other things. but at the same time she'll be raising new and tougher questions about is he tested, can he handle the job as president. really asking some questions about his qualifications. now, moving on, location always matters in politics. it's location, location, location. tonight new york actually does matter. the issues of this state will be front and center in this race, from fracking upstate to wall street, of course, to income inequality. but senator sanders has been moving beyond his attacks just on wall street. a lot of people here in new york make their living on wall street so he's trying to broaden that out a little bit. watch for how those wall street attacks actually play tonight. and finally sanders' growth. does he have growth appeal tonight. one of his biggest challenges that he's trying to do is expand
his support level and really bring in some of those people who aren't quite sure about him. they might like what he says and aren't sure if he can be elected, try to bring those people home here in new york. he knows this is his best shot here to up-end this race. if he doesn't win next week, it's hard for him mathematically to do that with all the delegate lead she has. wolf. >> jeff zeleny, thanks very much. joining us now is hillary clinton press secretary brian fallon. thanks very much for joining us. >> thanks for having me. >> he apparently had some trouble in that new york daily news editorial board interview getting specifics on some of his core issues. i assume he's prepared and coming in with a lot of specifics tonight. what's going to be her strategy? >> i think that we want to tell the story that that "new york daily news" editorial board revealed and it's really the core argument we've been making in this primary all along, which is that hillary clinton is the one that's studied on the details. she has the specifics to go
along with her plans. she can tell you exactly how she'll pursue change as president. she'll tell you how she'll deliver and get results. that's how you can trust her to deliver on the job that she says she's going to perform. >> don't you think he'll have specific answers tonight? because he -- i assume he knows he's going to be asked a lot of specific questions. >> well, we've seen in all the debates up till now some unstable performances from senator sanders, especially when it comes to details on foreign policy, how he's going to combat isis. that has been a lingering problem for him. he doesn't veer off his stump speech in many of these debate appearances. i think that that "daily news" interview really shown a spotlight on that sound bite style approach. in new york, the scrutiny here is much tougher, the spotlight shines brighter. i think that's now been exposed the last few days and that combined with the increasingly negative tone from his campaign explains why hillary clinton's lead here has proven to be a lot more durable than people expected. >> but he is getting these huge
crowds of young supporters, a lot of young -- yesterday at washington square park, thousands and thousands of people. he's getting -- he's getting bigger crowds than hillary clinton is. how do you explain that? >> well, he had a great outpouring of support at that rally last night. you know, it is a very good thing for our party, the enthusiasm that his campaign is generating. it's a credit to the campaign that he is running, that he is inspiring so many young people especially. and so we tip our cap to him on that. i do think that what matters most in terms of the numbers is not crowd size, but who turns out to vote. and when you accumulate all the results of the primaries that have happened so far, hillary clinton's lead among the voters, the electorate that has shown up at all of these primaries is more than 2.4 million people over senator sanders. that's how many more votes that she's collected. she leads in the popular vote, she leads in the pledged delegate total. she's won my states. by every measure, she is ahead. that's why new york has been a -- this man a marathon.
new york is a critical mile marker. if he doesn't catch up at this point, it's hard to see where that's going to happen. >> but if there is this enthusiasm gap among younger people, what is she going to need to do to shrink that gap? >> this is something we've been working on consistently. even if they're not for her now, she's always going to be for them. i think we have proposals that young people will gravitate towards. making college more affordable, letting people refinance their loans at lower interest rates. and looking ahead to a general election, once this nomination process concludes, when the two campaigns coming together with the stakes being so high, i think all of the polls that show potential general election matchups show those young people come home and support the democratic nominee against donald trump or ted cruz. >> and you're convinced that bernie sanders and his supporters will be there for her and actively go ahead, raise money, get out there and raise support? are you confident of that? >> we're hopeful, wolf.
that is what hillary clinton did in 2008 after a very spirited contest between her and barack obama. she not only endorsed him, gave a stirring convention speech, campaigned for him, urged all of her supporters to support him in the general election. we're hopeful that's what senator sanders will do too. i think the tone we've heard in the last week or so only impairs that. >> you're hopeful but not confident. is that what i'm hearing? >> i think it is the responsibility of the candidates to conduct their campaigns in these closing weeks in a way that does not inhibit the unity that we will need to pursue when this nomination fight is over. >> i've noticed in recent days she's really pivoted a lot and she's going after donald trump and ted cruz, looking ahead potentially to a general election. are we going to hear more of that tonight, you think? >> i wouldn't be surprised if you heard donald trump's name past her lips this evening. you're right that she has been talking about donald trump and ted cruz, calling them out on some of their more outrageous statements and positions. wolf, that is not her looking past this primary.
that is a very deliberate strategy in terms of how we appeal to democratic primary voters here in new york and in the states that are still left to vote. we believe that it is an important front of mind consideration for democratic primary voters to think about who is the tested candidate that can go up against either donald trump or ted cruz in a general election. so that is a direct appeal to democratic primary voters even as we make those arguments. >> listen to what senator sanders said last night on the larry willmore show when he asked senator sanders if the system, the democratic system was rigged. listen to this. >> one can argue, people say why does iowa go first, why does new hampshire go first. >> yeah. >> but i think that having so many southern states go first kind of distorts reality as well. >> just a reminder, she won all those southern contests basically because she had enormous support in the african-american community. he doesn't like that. your reaction.
>> well, a few quick points. number one, if you think of two of the earliest states that go in this process, one is iowa, the other is nevada. both of them are caucuses. most of the success senator sanders has had of been caucuses so we outperformed him in the format where he is best suited to compete and win at those two states that are at the front of the calendar. number two, i don't think states like massachusetts and ohio, states where we racked up important victories count as southern states. thirdly, i'm not sure what point he's making when he suggests that there has been too many, quote unquote, southern states at the front of the calendar. states like florida, states like texas, these are very diverse states that are a true test of your appeal to a diverse electorate and so i'm not sure if senator sanders is making some kind of commentary that's based on his inability to appeal to diverse electorates in some of those states that voted earlier in the calendar. i think he needs to explain himself a little bit more than what we heard in that sound bite. >> and the -- and she won those states, florida and texas.
that's the point you're trying to make. >> right. and she's proven time again that her appeal is very broad in terms of the broad-based winning coalition that we've been able to put together over the course of this primary calendar. what you've seen from senator sanders is an inability to compete in the biggest, most diverse states. that's why a state like new york and california, it's so hard to believe that he's going to mount a comeback there. >> brian, i want you to stay with us. we are here at the grown house at the brooklyn navy yard. much more coming up. we're going to continue this conversation. lots of news happening. we're getting ready for the democratic presidential debate right here in brookbrooklyn. much more after this.
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we're counting down to tonight's crucial democratic debate right here in brooklyn. we're at the dugall greenhouse and waiting for the debate to start. we're back with clinton press secretary brian fallon. lovely setting, by the way, isn't it? they have really done an amazing job. >> cnn has done a great job putting this together. >> let's talk about an ugly incident that occurred. a sanders supporter, we heard it earlier, dr. paul song who happens to be married to lisa ling, one of our cnn reporters, used the term "corporate democratic whores" after criticizing hillary clinton at a rally for bernie sanders last night at washington square park. he disavowed it later and apologized for that and bernie
sanders said dr. song's comment was inappropriate and insensitive. there's no room for language like that in our political discourse. do you accept that tweet, that apology? >> yes. it was clearly an insensitive comment, but the gentleman apologi apologized, the sanders campaign disavowed it so i don't think we will dwell on that incident. in general it's a reminder that both campaigns need to be mindful of the tone that they set in thamerms of what the candidates are saying. increasingly the sanders campaign and senator sanders has gotten increasingly nasty and personal with respect to the rhetoric he's using on the stump and that has had a trickledown effect to some of the surrogates. we'd like to see the discourse elevated across the board. >> you're ready to move on from that? >> yes. >> the secretary i'm sure would have loved to have had this whole thing wrapped up by now, but do you believe that she can wrap up the pledged delegate count, the necessary number of delegates she will need by the end of this month, next month,
california, when do you think she'll have that? forget about the superdelegates for now. >> sure. all along we've been stressing our lead with respect to the pledged delegates. the appropriate role of superdelegates is to come in and ratify the choice that has emerged in terms of who leads among the pledged delegates. as of now we have a lead, significant lead of about 220 or so pledged delegates, which already far exceeds the largest lead that then senator obama ever had over hillary clinton in 2008. and we expect to build on that lead here in new york next tuesday. we expect to further add to that lead with the five states that vote on april 26th. as a result of the outcomes in these six states that are coming up, i think that by the end of the month of april we'll be somewhere in the neighborhood of 90% of the way towards the necessary threshold to gain the nomination. i think that senator sanders' climb is very steep right now. if it's going to begin any, where it pretty much needs to begin here in new york. i've seen the sanders campaign
downtalk the significance of the new york primary. that contradicts the narrative that they have been spinning out there for the last several weeks where they were encouraging people to look ahead to new york as the place where they were going to make their stand. >> if he upsets hillary clinton in new york next tuesday, that would be a huge moment. >> well, they have all along been trying to tell a story that is very much based on momentum. at some point they need to tell a story that's based on math. to be honest, even a victory here, a small victory for the sanders campaign would not fundamentally alter the math. they need to not just win, but win big. they need to start winning with 60% of the delegates in each of the big states. >> psychologically, a win would be significant. >> we think we're going to win. when we do win, it will further set him back and make clear that he is not going to be able to erase this deficit that he faces in the delegate count. hillary clinton, i think it will be clear by the end of april, that she will have a pledged delegate lead that cannot be overtaken, irrespective of the superdelegates, and the prospect
of an open convention, i think that that is never going to happen. there's a zero percent chance to that. she's going to have an insurmountable pledged delegate lead and clinch the nomination before the convention. >> brian fallon, thanks very much for joining us. >> thanks, wolf. >> by the way, coming up i'll also be speaking with a top bernie sanders supporter, the former naacp president ben jealous, he'll be joining me here as well at the brooklyn navy yard. much more coming up. our coverage continues right after this.
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we're just a few hours away from the cnn democratic presidential debate. you're looking at live pictures from inside the dugall greenhouse getting ready for this historically critically important presidential debate in new york. let's discuss what's going on with our political experts s joining us gloria borger, david chalian and nia malika henderson. very exciting, getting ready for this debate. there's going to be a big crowd inside as well. senator sanders seemed to stumble a little bit in that interview -- >> a little? >> how important will it be for him to get into specifics tonight? >> i think it's going to be very important because you'll press him and hillary clinton will press him on specifics. because, you know, she says that he's not experienced enough to
be president of the united states, that he hasn't put meat on the bones when it comes to his policy development. i think that's what we saw in that "daily news" interview. i think she'll continue to go after him on that to make the case that she actually has the credibility on policy to become the president of the united states. >> if he does get specific and show us how he can provide the finances for all of his important ideas and they're very significant revolutionary, he would call it, would he ever get that through the congress if there's a republican majority, even if there's a democratic majority, a lot of democrats are not necessarily going to want to raise taxes as much as he wants to. >> well, i think hillary clinton will make that exact point. she'll also try and press him on how much he's actually gotten through the congress on a bipartisan basis. he has done a couple of things on veterans affairs, for example. but she's going to make the point that if you want somebody who can work with both sides of the aisle, don't go with a
democratic socialist who hasn't actually been able to do it and by. way isn't even a real democrat. >> david, how do you think hillary clinton will go after him because a lot of his ideas to the liberal base here in new york sound great to them. how is she able to counter that? >> she doesn't want to do anything to offend his base of supporters. this is the fuel of the democratic party are the folks that showed up in the washington square park last night. she doesn't want to do anything to push them away, which is why i don't think her mission tonight in talking to people in her campaign is to sort of knock him off at the knees and just try to end his candidacy. she'll respond and she'll draw the contrast that gloria is talking about, but my sense is that she's going to try to lower the temperature a little bit and that she's going to set her sights towards november a bit more than just next tuesday's primary. >> you know he's going to raise the issue of wall street. he's going to say she's beholden to wall street. how does she handle that? >> listen, this is one of her
vulnerabilities, and you've seen -- by the way, she's aware of that because look at her movement on it throughout the course of this campaign. she has embraced the sanders rhetoric in many ways, the elizabeth rhetoric in many ways throughout the course of this campaign so she understands where the party is and she's adapted. what she's not going to do is sort of join his call, i would imagine, to instantly break up the banks because that would be against everything she's been saying all along. she believes her wall street plan is more politically achievable and more practical from a policy point of view. he says this is what the status quo is. this is what we need to break. that is their divide and we're going to see that on display tonight. >> you heard brian fallon just now, the campaign press secretary for the hillary clinton campaign say they accept the apology about the use of that ugly phrase, corporate democratic whores at that bernie sanders rally at washington
square park last night. is that issue over with now? can both campaigns really move on, or will that linger? >> you know, i think in some ways they'll be able to move on. i think the clinton campaign i think is going to argue, as they have been arguing for the last couple of weeks that the sanders candidate and the campaign is getting nastier and getting more negative, and this goes against the sanders brand. so that's one of the things i think they'll continue to try to point to with this as an excuse. i think one of the reasons that broke through is because you have had, i think, this kind of bernie bro atmosphere around the bernie sanders campaign with a lot of his supporters, particularly online, going after hillary clinton supporters and some people have thought they were sexist attacks. i think that was just another example of some of the things that you've heard from the hillary clinton campaign. >> it was a huge turnout at that washington square park for bernie. >> he's got a lot of passion. >> especially among younger people. >> and there is a passion gap here. he's got a lot of passionate
younger supporters. as david points out, she doesn't want to turn them off. but bernie sanders wants to get them riled up and so that's why i think tonight if i had to bet who's going to go after somebody, it will be bernie sanders being more aggressive and we've started to see that obviously in their last debate, also on the campaign trail. i remember the days when if you interviewed bernie sanders, as i did, and he'd say don't try to get me to argue with hillary clinton. >> don't even ask me about hillary clinton. >> all you in the media want us to do is get me to take on hillary clinton. now we don't even have to ask. so it's a different -- it's a different bernie sanders we're seeing out there because he understands the stakes of new york. >> let's not forget this is a debate where they will debate and we want to know where they agree but we also want to know where they disagree, critically important issues for the voters out there. guys, stand by. we have a lot more to assess. much more from brooklyn right after this.
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executive editor, mark preston and donna brazile, a democratic strategist. also joining us, ana navarro. mark, the tone of hillary clinton and bernie sanders really seems to have sharpened in the past few weeks. do you expect that to continue tonight? >> you know, i can't imagine that we're not going to see some clashes on the stage behind us. it has gotten to the point where i think there's a level of frustration from hillary clinton. she wants this primary race over with, she wants to get on to the general election. at the same time, you have bernie sanders who at a rally last night has 27,000 people cheering him on. he feels that he has a real shot at this. look, there's no reason for him to get out of the race right now at this point. and i think what we're going to see onstage tonight is perhaps hillary clinton try to turn the race towards donald trump, but i think that she's going to have to engage bernie sanders on some big issues, such as trade, such as minimum wage, and some of the other big issues that are
facing -- dividing them up. >> senator sanders has raised a lot of questions about her judgment on a whole bunch of issues, but he's deliberately avoided any raising of judgment as far as her e-mail server. that he's stayed away from. do you think he'll continue that? >> i do, because he's been asked about it time and again, since six months ago when we were in las vegas for the first democratic debate. he removed it. he just took it off the table as an issue. donald trump always criticizes him for doing so, it's not smart politics, but he removed that as an issue. but his judgment argument is one that he has been making throughout the course of this campaign, whether it's on trade or super pac money that she receives or on the iraq war vote. he does stick with that argument. he just doesn't put the e-mail controversy in that. and i think that that was too great delight of many democrats like donna, who were not looking to have the general election vulnerability of hillary clinton be litigated throughout this long democratic nomination process. >> donna, you're a vice chair of the democratic national
committee. are you surprised that bernie sanders and his wife, jane sanders, they're not raising issues about the entire democratic presidential process. you heard them complaining that the southern states are early on. you heard her complaining about the caucuses and the primaries. she's not very happy with it. do you think there will be an effort under way -- by the way, we hear similar stuff from donald trump on the republican side. will there be an effort after this election to revise, reform, change the process? >> you know, i first met senator sanders back in 1984, the jackson campaign. i know i don't look a day over 12, but 1984. and back then reverend jackson complained about the democratic party process. it was winner take all. we had primaries where people could not access the ballot. there are real issues that we take a look at after every election. we'll take a look at the caucuses, we'll take a look at these states where people stood in line for five hours. you probably heard the dnc is suing the state of arizona because of the long lines.
so, yes, we will take a look at all of these issues. but all of these rules that are in place today, they were in place almost a year and a half ago. i sound like the chair of the republican national committee. they were available online for everybody to look at them. so i am sad that senator sanders and jane sanders are not comfortable with the rules, but they're the best we could come up with at the time. we'll change them in the future if we have to, but they are the rules. you shouldn't change the rules in the middle of the game because that's called cheating. >> ana, you're a republican. how are the republicans going to be watching this important debate tonight? >> first, let me tell you, wochwochlf, i can't believe you left us here in the situation room alone and orphaned with no supervision. the temp takes to bring in a couple of kegs and invite all our friends is very, very big but we'll try to resist. how will we be watching this? with a vat of popcorn and a little soda, maybe something in the soda. you've got to watch the opponent
debates for what mistakes they make, what could possibly harm them come a general election. style, temperament, how do you get under their skin, what do they say, what do they do, how do they interact with each other. you know, we're going to watch it for entertainment. the truth is that, look, even though donald trump has sucked up all the oxygen in the room, the intensity of the democratic race is almost equal to what's going on on the republican side. and there's so many parallels between establishment versus base, superdelegates versus elected delegates. i don't like to criticize superdelegates because my super friend, donna brazile, is one and, yeah, i don't want her taking it out on me afterwards. but i -- >> i will. >> but it's a great, great parallel. >> stand by for a moment. mark, you know, senator sanders right after the debate tonight he's getting on a plane, flying
to rome to attend a conference at the vatican on income inequality. this is only a few days before tuesday's primary. politically speaking, is that smart? >> look, if i was senator sanders, i don't think i would get on the airplane and go over to the vatican. while he has run basically a traditional campaign in many y ways, he's not a traditional politician. i think it's curiosity to go where they'll talk about the ills of capitalism. in the end will it hurt him in new york? no. but will he be better off had he stayed here? perhaps, but we'll never know. we have seen hillary clinton leave the state and raise money elsewhere during this primary season, so we'll see what happens. >> she's going to be spending this weekend out in california at a big george clooney fund-raiser for democrats. not only for her campaign but also for the dnc, the dccc. she's leaving the campaign trail to head out west. >> she is, but she's got a double-digit lead here. if i was the guy that was behind
by double digits, i'd be scrapping for every single vote. now listen, trip to rome. he's going to get a ton of coverage, not just in new york but nationally and beyond. and so this will certainly align him with a very popular figure, the pope's message has been something that the democratic party has really been embracing and talking about. so it will help him probably down the road. >> but he's not going to meet with the pontiff. >> no, i understand. but he's going to align himself with that messaging and he'll get a ton of coverage for it, wolf. but right now he's locked in a battle. the thing about the sanders campaign and what bernie sanders -- he can't just keep doing what he's doing. he's having a very successful campaign. but if he keeps doing what he's doing and achieving the success at this rate, it's not enough. so he actually needs a trajectory-changing kind of big come-from-behind surprise victory here to really start altering the landscape of the democratic -- >> senator sanders will be back on saturday morning. he's going to the vatican for 24 hours. i applaud what he's doing. i'm catholic. the social justice principles of
our church are very, very important. so god bless him. we'll see him back on saturday morning. >> we will indeed. guys, stand by. coming up, we'll have much more news and analysis ahead of tonight's crucial democratic presidential debate here in brooklyn. also, there's breaking news on the republican side we're watching. pru prosecutors in florida decide to drop the misdemeanor battery charge against donald trump's campaign manager. we'll have details on that and a whole lot more, right after this.
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we're inside the greenhouse at the brooklyn navy yards counting down to cnn's presidential debate. you are looking at live pictures from inside. bernie sanders and hillary clinton are preparing to face off live from here in brooklyn, 9:00 p.m. eastern tonight. stand by for that. we're also following important developments in the republican race for the white house. let's get an update from our correspondent sunlen serfaty. there were some important developments today. what's the latest? >> reporter: first all three republican candidates will be here across town in midtown manhattan tonight at a black tie dinner hosted by the new york state republican party. there are some stop trump protests that are starting to form here outside the event. this as donald trump keeps up his own protest of sorts railing against the republican nominating system and the rnc. >> just a rigged system, folks. the republican system is a rigged system. >> reporter: donald trump versus
the republican national committee. both sides are digging in. >> after i got in, they changed the rules. >> reporter: as trump shows more outrage over the gop's nominating system, the head of the rnc intensifies his pushback telling wolf -- >> the rules are not being changed in order to injure or benefit anybody. they are what they are. they are in writing. >> reporter: senator ted cruz also rejecting trump's complaints. >> the rules are simple. the way you get elected is that you win a majority of the delegates in elections. >> reporter: at the town hall accusing the trump campaign of encouraging violence. >> that's like behaving like democrats in 1968 in chicago. we're not democrats and aren't interested in behaving like union thugs and donald trump needs to learn. >> reporter: doubling down on trump's turf in new york today. >> it's very simple. violence is unacceptable. threatening violence is
unacceptable. >> reporter: meantime the trump campaign is trying to hit the reset button signaling they are taking steps toward playing the inside game, beefing up their staff, taking on a veteran gop operative as their political director and hitting capitol hill today for meetings to broaden support among lawmakers. >> this meeting was sort of step one as we begin to transition from our primary focus to becoming the nominee toward the general election. >> reporter: the trump campaign also receiving a welcome break today. florida prosecutors announcing they have decided not to prosecute trump's campaign manager corey lewandowski for battery charges. >> while the evidence in this case is legally sufficient for the police voto have charged mr lewandowski, it is not strong enough to meet the legal burden of a reasonable likelihood. >> reporter: stemming from this incident where he allegedly grabs brightbart reporter
melissa fields. >> reporter: on that matter the trump cam main putting out a statement saying corey lewandowski is gratified by the decision and the trump campaign making it very clear they want to move on from this controversy and that statement they put out was a kurt message saying, quote, the matter is now concluded. wolf? >> sunlen, thanks very much. coming up -- the stakes are high. the stage is now set for the final face-off before the crucial new york primary. hillary clinton versus bernie sanders. we're counting down to tonight's cnn democratic presidential debate.
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happening now -- breaking news. big apple brawl escalating attacks between hillary clinton and bernie sanders leading up to tonight's cnn brooklyn debate. their civil campaign giving way to questioning each other's judgment and preparedness. will they come out swinging tonight? going too far. sanders condemning jaw-dropping remarks by a supporter who unleashed a blistering attack at sanders' massive new york rally. the doctor and health care advocate railing against what's he called corporate democratic whores. make or break. clinton and sanders needing to prove themselves tonight. her challenge, clichb the nomination. his challenge, keep enough momentum to say in the race. will tonight be a game changer for either of them?
campaign confidence. a top donald trump adviser telling house republicans the billionaire businessman will lock up the party's presidential nomination by june predicting trump will have more than enough delegates before the republican convention. will trump's capitol hill outreach program win over skeptical lawmakers? we want to welcome our viewers in the united states and around the world. i'm wolf blitzer inside the debate hall. you're in "the situation room." this is cnn breaking news. >> the breaking news, hillary clinton and bernie sanders trading sharp jabs ahead of tonight's cnn democratic presidential debate here in brooklyn's navy yard. in less than three hours they'll take the stage for what could be their feistiest face-off yet. rhetoric between the two candidates and their campaigns has been heating up all week.
sanders questioning hillary clinton's judgment and credibility while clinton has painted him as inexperienced and unrealistic. while clinton leads in the polls, sanders comes into tonight on a winning streak after the last several contests. now they are fighting for a state both of them have called home. the primary here just five days away. the 247 democratic delegates at stake could push clinton closer to lock up the democratic presidential nomination, or they could help sanders shrink that delegate gap. while all of this unfolds in new york, the republican candidates will also be together across town. donald trump, ted cruz, john kasich, they are all speaking tonight at the annual new york state republican gala in manhattan. we're covering all of this, much more this hour with our guests, including the former head of the naacp, the bernie sanders supporter ben jealous. he's here with me. and our correspondents and expert analysts are also all
standing by. let's begin with cnn's jeff zeleny inside the debate hall. there's quite a night ahead for all of us. >> quite a night indeed. you can see the crowd is already filling in to watch this debate. we are less than three hours away now. senator sanders is trying to build on his momentum he's been capturing and carrying along. hillary clinton for her part is trying to keep her front-runners position in this race. there have been debates before, of course, but never one quite like this. the stage is set for a battle in brooklyn tonight. hillary clinton and bernie sanders face to face for their ninth democratic debate. but their fight for new york makes this meeting unlike all others. >> i was honored to be your senator for eight years. and if you will give me the honor of your vote on tuesday, we will continue to make life
better. >> jane and i left new york city when we were kids. it is great to be back. >> reporter: five days before the new york primary, sanders is trying to shake up the race. tonight is one of his last best chances to make the case against clinton on wall street, trade and money in politics. >> you elect me president, you're going to have a president who is prepared to take on the billionaire class, not take their money. >> reporter: clinton is trying to move obut not before winning here. she spent all week raising questions about whether sanders has a firm grasp on actually fixing problems from financial reform to foreign policy. >> under the bright spotlight and scrutiny here in new york, senator sanders has had trouble answering questions. >> reporter: those dueling arguments tonight will be made at close range. sanders is working to cut into clinton's lead by expanding his appeal to a diverse coalition of
voters. stopping by al sharptson the national action network conference earlier today. >> what does it matter if you desegregate a lunch counter but you don't havy to the money to buy the hamburger. >> reporter: sanders has been drawing one big crowd after another, including last night's massive rally in washington square park. a sanders supporter, dr. paul song, sparked controversy as he warmed up the crowd. >> medicare for all will never happen if we continue to elect corporate democratic whores who are beholden to big pharma. >> reporter: he's married to lisa ling. he later apologized for using the word whores. the clinton campaign seized on the remark scalling on sanders to denounce it, which he did saying there's no room for language like that in our political discourse. these big sanders crowds are something of a sore subject for clinton. hers are small further but she
holds a huge lead in pledge delegates and has a share of the popular vote. in the 34 states that have already had their say, clinton has won about 9.4 million votes. sanders, about 7 million. sanders took issue with last night on comedy central. >> i think that having so many southern states go first distorts reality as well. >> reporter: but the political reality tonight is that this is a new moment. she has a lead in delegates but i'm told by one senior adviser to the clinton campaign that she's trying to approach this as the first debate. the most important debate that she's still fighting to win this going forward. the reality here is tonight the burden is more on senator sanders to make his case to show his growth potential here. a lot of questions have been asked over these many, many months but a new moment, a new night here in new york. wolf? >> jeff zeleny with me here
inside the greenhouse in brook lunn, new york at the navy yard. tonight our senior washington correspondent joe johns is also here at the brooklyn navy yard. it's a critical night in the clinton/sanders battle for new york. what else are you picking up? >> that's very true. hillary clinton spent most of the day in chappaqua, new york, preparing for this debate while bernie sanders did one event. he was appearing before reverend al sharpton's national network. now it's a very big night for him as we just heard in the jeff zeleny piece. his last best chance perhaps to try to change the dynamic of this race because the mathematics of the primaries could, in fact, change as we begin the long, slow march out to the california primary. bernie sanders has taken a number of calculated shots against hillary clinton asking questions about her judgment, asking questions about her
qualifications. she, for the most part, has been deflecting many of those claims and charges. she's tried to take the high road at the same time taking a few shots of her own about whether he has the policy chops to back up the promises he's made on the campaign trail. so you can expect a lot of that as we go forward tonight. also very important to say both of these candidates but especially hillary clinton have been trying to speak to two audiences. the primary audience here in new york and some other states as well as the general election audience, if they get past the primary. so look for some more of that tonight, wolf. >> joe, thank you. joe johns reporting for us. let's get more on all of this. joining us, the naacp president, ben jealous. a bernie sanders supporter. thanks for coming in. bernie sanders was pushing for this debate for a long time. he's behind in new york state by
double digits if you believe the polls. what's his strategy? how can he turn this around between now and tuesday? >> when we drive up turnout, we win. so you saw about 48,000 people show up. 27,000 in the park and the cops say 21,000 more outside of the park. that suggests we still have a real shot here. >> there was an ugly moment when dr. song, we just heard it, mentioned, he said medicare for all will never happen if we continue to elect corporate democratic q ii iic whores beho. but does that kind of rhetoric hurt the sanders campaign? >> that type of rhetoric hurts our politics and our party. and there's no place for it. i think it was right for bernie to come out. he did. we also heard bill de blasio apologize this week for the cp time joke. we've not heard candidate
clinton to apologize for her role in that. we need to deal with all sorts of racial sleights and gender based sleights in our party if we're going to unite and be able to win next fall. >> that's joke was sort of satire. they were making fun -- >> it was scripted, vetted by the campaign. there's no place -- don't try to tell me there's a place for raushl stereotypes in our campaigns. >> you aren't suggesting the mayor of new york is a racist. >> i'm saying he took a -- he made a poor choice and he apologized for it. candidate clinton whose campaign ve vetted that, also needs to apologize. >> you want her to apologize for participating in that. >> he does amazing with young people. we saw those huge crowds at washington square park last night as you correctly point out. but look at the actual vote so far. take a look. all of the races, primaries,
caucuses so far, she has 9,365,000. he has 6,974,000. she's up by almost 2.4 million. she's got 56%. he's got 42%. how do you explain that because he does generate enormous support and he has much bigger rallies than she does. >> quite frankly often when we win, we win by much bigger margins. we've won 8 of the last 9 states. this thing is front-loaded and it's hard for a challenger who is going up against the most powerful dynasty in our country to get traction until you get into some of the states that we're -- until this point. as you know, it goes -- you bear down in iowa and new hampshire for a year. and you come out the gate and you have a whole bunch of states in front of you for super tuesday. with more time, more focus on trade we've begun to get traction.
and the biggest divide in who votes for whom isn't black and white. it's young versus old. voters under 30, voters over 60. we need to be asking, why do so many young people under 30 think he's the best hope for their future? >> new york is going to be critical. a week later maryland, pennsylvania. a lot of contests coming up that's are make or break in this contest for the democratic presidential nomination. people are wondering why he's decided to go to rome to participate in a vatican conference. is that politically smart? >> it's very smart. this is a very catholic state. huge number of catholics in pennsylvania as well. maryland was our only catholic colony. and the fact the vatican wants hum to come, has asked him to come is a big deal. >> are you suggesting he's going there for political purposes to appeal to catholic voters? >> in this very, you know, in this context, i think any candidate who was invited by the
pope would have thought seriously about going. you have to think what would happen if you disrespected the pope and said, no, i'm not going to go. >> you think this san important decision for human aim and he's to come back. >> and all of us who feel the bern will be out there campaigning every single day. >> ben jealous, we have more to discuss. we're near brooklyn getting ready for the democratic presidential debate. much more right after this.
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the duggal greenhouse, the brooklyn navy yard for the cnn presidential debate. in recent days they've been taking serious digs at each other. will the negativity spill over into tonight's contest. ben jealous is still with us. he's a major bernie sanders supporter. will it get tense up there? will it be laid back? what do you expect? >> this is a rough and tumble town for politics and both these candidates claim this is home. that can make tonight a tense night. the reality is we have two big movements here. we have an historical push for the first female president and a burgeioning progressive movement responding to this moment in time saying we have to do something about the inequality in our country. and for our party, the trick is for all of us to stay together in this moment and not split. >> you're really helping him in maryland which is a week after new york, april 26th. he's behind in the polls in maryland as well.
why is that? >> we are the challenger here. and the reality is we surge in the polls in each state as we get closer. we saw about a month ago we were down 31 points last week. down 15 points. we have two weeks left. we feel very good. >> it's significant african-american democrats out there. she does enormously well. >> the trick is the young people. what we saw in the university of maryland poll last week is we were polling up 38% among -- >> young people tend not to necessarily show up as older people. >> we were ahead amongst young black voters -- >> under what age? >> 38% was all black voters. teens to the 30s in the midwest. and east of the mississippi. and what you are seeing is black voters get more time they think about issues of trade and cruminal justice and trust. they see this as a guy they can trust to lead change. >> it's personal for bernie sanders. you know him. he was born here in brooklyn.
raised in brooklyn. >> he sounds like it whenever he talks. >> still a brooklynite, if you will. have you had a chance to talk to him about what it means to come back to his roots and participate in a debate like this for president of the united states? >> absolutely. this has been a big deal. when we were back in the midwest, we were focused on making sure this debate happened. the more people know about bernie sanders, the more people who support him. that's why the clinton campaign and fierce negotiations always try to push us out of primetime. what's bigger is that we're in new york in primetime. >> 9:00 p.m. is primetime. i'm sure there will be a large audience watching. what was the single biggest reason as former president of the naacp you decided to go out and work for bernie sanders? >> i decided to go out and volunteer for him, the same reasons i did for jesse jackson. if you look at the test of issues dr. king gave us, the three big evils are racism, militarism and greed.
and by those three, he is the best candidate. he's very, very clear. long, consistent fighter for raushl justi racial justice. and i don't think there's anybody that those on wall street fear being president than bernie sanders. >> we had brian fallon from the clinton campaign on last hour. you are a good spokesperson for the bernie sanders campaign. >> when this dies down, we should break bread down home. much more from inside the debate hall at the brooklyn navy yard, the duggal greenhouse where hillary clinton and bernie sanders are preparing to spar in the cnn debate tonight. people are beginning to arrive. given this week's mutual attacks, everyone is wondering if the heated rhetoric will boil over on stage later tonight.
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calling into question bernie sanders' preparedness to be president of the united states. our senior washington correspondent jeff zeleny is here with us inside the debate hall. the question is, will they come out swinging tonight? what are you hearing? >> both campaigns are definitely preparing for that's moment. they know each other's lines as well as they know their own by this point after eight democratic debates already. a few different ways they are looking at tonight. let's start with judgment versus tested. the sanders campaign is going to raise questions, keep raising questions about hillary clinton's judgment. a lot of the votes she took in the senate. some of her other positions she held as secretary of state. the clinton campaign will be raising questions about is bernie sanders ready for the oval office? is he tested for this? do all of his ideas really make sense? can they work? a second thing is new york matters. wolf, in politics like real stae estate, it's all about location. there are so many specific
issues playing out from fracking in upstate to wall street to income inequality to immigration, to criminal justice reform. these are front and center issues on the minds of voters here. perhaps much more so than some other primary states and debates we've seen. they both have a strong connection to new york. she was twice elected here as a senator. and bernie sanders was born n raised right here in brooklyn. he's now coming back for a presidential debate. and finally here, the growth of sanders. can he grow? can he expand his appeal here? we know he attracts large crowds. we saw that large rally last night in greenwich village in manhattan. he attracts young and old voters. will they turn out and vote for him? tonight is a key chance to make his argument, perhaps his last best chance to make the argument he has growth appeal and he can in order to reach out some of those democrats who frankly aren't sure about the clinton campaign. those are a few things we're
watching. both campaigns preparing so aggressively for this all-important debate in just a few hours. >> jeff zeleny reporting for us. lease dig deeper into all of this. joining us gloria borger, nia-malika henderson and ron brownstein, the senior editor at "the atlantic." that was an impressive crowd at washington square park near nyu last night. 27,000 people showed up. you heard ben jealous say a lot of others not too far away. he's won ought eight of the las contests. should hillary clinton be worried? >> it was quite a crowd. they were still feeling the bern when i wasn't feeling my toes as the temperature dropped. hillary clinton is ahead. she's ahead in the popular vote, she's ahead in the pledge delegates. she's won almost all of the big states except for michigan but hasn't been able to put him away. bernie sanders has been getting stronger. he's now essentially even with
her in national polling which is almost unprecedented for the candidate trailing in delegates at this point of the race. if you look forward, the next medicine part immediate part of the race is closed primaries where only democrats can vote and with a lot of african-american voters. those two things have been the toughest for him. the next ten days is a difficult period for him. then the worm turns again and you're into may in states he could do well. it's hard for either of them to move very far from the patterns of support we've seen. >> he makes a good point. tuesday is new york but the following tuesday you have pennsylvania, connecticut, maryland. you have states potentially where she could do really well. >> this is why brian fallon, who is hillary clinton's communications director said to you earlier that they believe that mathematically that they should have this pretty much wrapped up by the end of april. what does that mean?
who knows because bernie sanders is not going to stop running. just like hillary clinton didn't stop running in 2008. bernie sanders has a lot of money. you saw the numbers of people out there the other night. his average donation is $27. and so these people are -- who are his supporters are passionate and they're not going to stop giving. the worry, i would have, if i were clinton is that polls show that sanders' supporters are not, you know, so easily translatable. and she's got to figure out a way to fight with bernie sanders on that stage tonight without alienating those people who are so passionate. >> she's going to need them if she gets the nomination. >> absolutely. >> if bernie sanders on tuesday were to stun everyone and actually win in new york, a very narrow win, but that would be an enormous win. >> it would be a huge political upset. and even when he decided to really put stakes down in new
york, it was something of a surprise because this is obviously hillary clinton's home state. it looks like the polls have been pretty consistent. 12, 14, 10 points or so with hillary clinton getting that edge. and i also think bernie sanders has had a tough go of it recently. slipped up in calling her unqualified. had to kind of walk that back. we'll see what's he does with that tonight. and it wasn't his fault but the surrogate at the big rally talking about corporate whores. that didn't help him either. >> how much will that hurt the campaign? bernie sanders has obviously apologized for that. dr. song has said he regrets making corporate democratic whores a reference because it was coming out of a sentence in which he was very critical of hillary clinton. he said he wasn't referring to her specifically, but that's could hurt. >> and one of the things you see is the two sides hardening in some ways their antipathy towards each other. the supporters of the pro-clinton folks and pro-sanders folks.
and that just feeds into it. as gloria said, the onus going forward, if sanders doesn't win, will be on hillary clinton. >> do you think for women voters, that reference -- >> i think it was a bad reference. brian fallon accepted the apology when you asked him about it earlier. >> he said the campaign is ready to move on. >> it doesn't help either hillary or bernie to keep talking about it. i think they are both -- they are both going to drop it. >> people talk about momentum in the race. demography trumps momentum. there are certain states better for bernie sanders that tend to be more white. fewer african-americans and tend to be open. there are states better for hillary clinton that toeend to closed, allowing only democrats to partic putt and also larger african-american populations. the way to change the dynamics of the race is to break serve. win some place you aren't supposed to win. if everybody holds serve the
rest of the way, even if bernie sanders gets over the top in california, which is possible, he loses. he does well, but he loses. he has to break serve somewhere. pennsylvania, new jersey, probably several somewheres nrd to -- >> these are close contests, only registered democrats can vote. and they are primaries, not caucuses. >> he does well with independent voters. she does well with democrats. you can't win the democratic nomination unless you start doing well with democratic voters. >> they've tended to be open primaries. wisconsin, michigan, new hampshire, et cetera. caucuses and open primaries have been his strength. now closed primaries in the northeast with the added hurdle of a big african-american population which hie struggled o reach. >> you saw him trying to make inroads, going before al sharpton's group but we'll see how that plays. >> you heard ben jealous, the former has of the naacp saying he's making inroads but has to make a lot more. >> it's like 30%.
>> democrats are so democratic that the delegates are distributed proportionally. even if you don't win you still get an "a" for effort. so what ron was saying, to ron's point, bernie sanders needs to win somewhere by a large margin if he's going to make any dent in the math without talking about superdelegates. let's just talk about delegates. and that hasn't happened. >> she presumably will continue to go after him. supposedly he struggled with the new york daily news editorial board. didn't offer specifics on his core issues. how are you going to break up the banks? i assume he's got his talking points ready to go? >> you've got to think so. that was a tough moment for him. we talked about before, this may be the first state where he's had a chance to dig in in one place with nothing else on the calendar and he hasn't improved his vote. most places he's been able to
spend that huge amount to hold those large rallies. in new york he hasn't. he's had more stumbles than elsewhere between the daily news editorial calling her unqualified, what happened last night. it's got to be frustrating for him coming back decades after leaving new york to have that's rally one of the highlights of your life and the next day we're talking about somebody who talked an hour and a half before you were on stage and that's just the reality of politics. >> she's a popular former senator. >> twice elected. >> twice elected. so this is her home turf. she lives in chappaqua, new york. bernie sanders may have been born here, but he's a senator from vermont. and so, you know, i think hillary clinton comes in with a head of steam. and she just hasn't lost it. >> having said all that, the fact he's now ascended in polling to essentially be even with her in national polls -- >> among democrats. >> broadly. democrats and independents. it's remarkable.
it does give him a stronger base from which to contest alm these states. in may you get to kentucky, west virginia, oregon. indiana looks like it's even. there may be a real clash of strengths. but the problem again is if that -- if the distribution goes the way it's been going and she holds though four big states or evenhree of them, new york, pennsylvania, new jersey. even if he wins california, that's probably not going to be enough. >> and they keep saying they feel like hillary clinton isn't going to have the necessary delegates going in. they clearly won't either. superdelegates at some point will come into play. >> but you're not going to convince a superdelegate to change his mind unless you are -- >> super delegates are 20% of the total. you have to win 60% of everything else. that's a high bar to set. >> stakes are enormous tonight, shall we say. >> good luck, wolf. stand by. much more from brooklyn right after this.
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navy yard for the cnn democratic presidential debate. hillary clinton and bernie sanders have been preparing to brawl potentially here in brooklyn tonight. let's get some analysis. what's going on. joining us ron brownstein. he's still back with us along with cnn political commentators donna brazile and s.e. cupp. it's been a combative week for these two candidates. how heated do you think it could get tonight? >> debates are about moments. i'm sure secretary clinton and senator sanders are preparing for those moments where they can show what i call the deepest contrast. the vast majority of democrats would like to see our candidates continue to conduct themselves with civility. i don't think they'll become too aggressive but they will get their points across. >> he had a huge crowd at washington square park in new york last night. young people showing up. a lot of enthusiasm. but the math isn't there. it's not that easy for him right now. he needs at least 56% of the
remaining delegates in order to capture the nomination? >> took the "a" train to the event for the ffrts time in 24 hours. took the subway to a presidenti presidential primary. the last time they had a new york primary that mattered was bill clinton. obama had a big rally there in '08. sanders has a strong coalition. he's expanded far from beyond. he is competsative now with blue collar white voters and that has served him well in the midwest. in indiana, kentucky and west virginia. the problem, he's struggled with democrats and continuing to struggle with african-americans and new york and the states that's follow next week, pennsylvania, maryland in particular are states where those voters dominate. and he has to get over that hill if he's going to catch her and truly threaten her for the nomination. >> do you think, s.e., we've heard him complaining about the
nominating process in recent days. jane sanders h erers his wife h complaining about it. do you think we'll hear him go after the democratic standard? >> i don't think so. i think he's going to play nice with democrats. i think he knows that having a process debate at a debate isn't really helpful. i think bernie is going to spend tonight defending his record and defending his integrity which have both been impugned by the hillary camp over the past few weeks calling him out on gun control and calling him out on all kinds of measures. i think he's going to want to hammer home defending his record in congress and his character. >> the core of his message has been about income inequality and the system is rigged against oo ordinary people. this san opportunity for bernie sanders who grew up in this neighborhood. i'm sure it's somewhere around here to say i'm home. here's why i want to bring, you
know, i just think this is a very emotional moment for him. he's home. but hillary has represented this state. she's been elected twice to the united states senate and won the primary in 2008. she's someone who can say, i've taken on wall street and the big bachk banks. we're democrats. we're not going to -- >> i assume, ron, they'll both be personal in talking about new york. i'm sure he will say something along the lines, from brooklyn. i grew up here. rent control apartment. we didn't have any money. the thought that i'm even here -- >> it was a very powerful moment last night. him and his wife left here as children and to return to washington square park with that many people was -- and correct something i says before. having talks to a real expert. superdelegates are only 15%, not 20% of the total. i don't think they'll talk about that, but i think the end game between sanders and clinton will
involve some debate about the role of superdelegates in the democratic primary process. >> we've had that debate many, many times. in 2009 we had it after president obama. as a superdelegate, we've never overturned the will of the voters or will of the people. it's like making gumbo. there's a roux and all the ingredients. we're 14.8% and by the way, we don't have any interest -- >> you think it will go down after this election? >> it probably will. >> that smart conversation is what you will not hear from the candidates, just because it's so inside and not what either of them want to spend their precious moments on that stage talking about. >> bernie sanders has received something like 42% of the raw vote but 46% of the actual delegates. and so the republicans may enjoy talking about rules but the democrats, you want to talk about the rules that are rigged against the people who are trying to get jobs to take care of their families.
>> you are a superdelegate, a vice chair of the dnc. let's say neither of these candidates shows up in philadelphia in july with enough pledge delegates on the first round to get it. her firewall, are those 700-plus superdelegates. many more of them will want her to be the democratic nominee thinking she has a better chance of winning the presidency than bernie sanders might have. >> well, first of all, you can't separate the supers from the pledge delegates because we're all part of the system. the difference is a pledge delegate going in and they have to pledge on the first ballot to select the candidate they selected. >> these are party leaders, elected officials. >> you tell the mayor reed of atlanta, you tell mayor bowser of d.c., you tell these mayors
that their voices do not matter in the democratic party. they'll not like that. >> the challenge sander s faced is the superdelegates were created as a firewall against the kind of candidacy he represents. they came out of the 1980 campaign and the idea was the process was not producing nominees who could either win or govern. they wanted someone more from the heart of the party. 30 years later there's going to be a debate about whether they have too much influence. if it's only 85% of the delegates are pledge you have to win close to 60% of those to win the majority on the pledge delegates alone. it's unrealistic if you haven't reached the majority in pledge delegates you aren't the real front-runner. >> but a superdelegate's vote on the convention floor, s.e., is equal to a pledge delegate's vote on the floor. and these elected officials, party establishment, looking
ahead to november, presumably they're going to say, hillary clinton has a better chance of >> well, yes. and you want people to think about electability. that should be a priority. one of the frustrations in my party is it seems there are a lot of voters who don't seem to think electability is a priority, and that's been a frustration. >> having said that, donna, you've looked closely at the polls. bernie sanders does remarkably well. sometimes even better than hillary clinton. >> in fairness, the case has not been defined against him or john kasich. his agenda raises federal spending by 40% overnight. it's hard to know what to make of those numbers for him in the general election, but there's no question he has built a big, broad coalition within the democratic party. however this ends, if hillary clinton is the nominee, she has to figure out how to deal with
it, in particular his overwhelming advantage with young people. he's won 70% of voters under 30. >> you think we're going to hear the names donald trump, ted cruz mentioned tonight? >> i absolutely do. >> yeah? >> these are both candidates who are not only trying to draw distinctions between themselves, but repeatedly draw distinctions between them and the republicans. democrats, of course, will say the republicans, even though there is great differences between a ted cruz and a john kasich. you're going to hear a lot about our candidates and the fights that we're having. some of those fights are deeply embarrassing to a lot of us conservatives, but i would be disappointed if they didn't exploit those weaknesses. >> punishing women alone will take up a lot of the time.
good luck tonight, wolf. thank you for hosting it. >> thank you very much. >> two suny alum. >> i'm in a new york state of mind. >> yes, absolutely. >> thank you. we have much more coverage coming up. we're live here in new york's brooklyn navy yard, the sight of tonight's democratic presidential debate. we'll be right back. red lobster's lobsterfest is a party... ...on every plate - and we're about to keep it going. yeah, you've got two more weeks to try the largest variety of lobster dishes of the year... ...like lobster lover's dream... and new dueling lobster tails. this party can't last so hurry in. in new york state, we believe tomorrow starts today.
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presidential debate. joining us now the dnc communications director. lots at stake for these two candidates, but a lot is at stake for the democratic party as well. what are you expecting? >> there is a lot at stake. we're down the stretch. we want the candidates to show that they want this because the voters are going to recognize that. for us, this has been an actual good process to have an extended primary because people are engaged. we want them to do what they've been doing, which is to be substantive, to be serious. republicans are refusing to debate. we're here at a democratic debate. >> you want them to debate. you want democratic voters whether in new york this coming tuesday or pennsylvania and maryland, connecticut a week from tuesday. you want the voters to have a better knowledge of where they agree or disagree. if it gets a little heated,
you're not going to be upset about that? >> i think it needs to be a little heated because voters need to know they want this, so they've got to have that passion. but at the same time we want them to focus on the bigger picture too. they have to do both. they have to draw those differences. there's a bigger picture. just today we saw something very good, which is that both campaigns are expressing interest in a lawsuit that the democratic national committee over the voting irregularities in arizona. it's a stronger reminder that there are bigger issues. >> what do you say to bernie sanders who says this process that the democrats organize early on distorts the system? jane saying it should be one person, one vote. it's not really democratic. they want major changes. is the democratic party open to that? >> the democratic party is
always open to that. after 2008, there was a commissioner that recommended and reduced the number of what you guys call the superdelegates. the unpledged delegates went from 50% to 20%. >> 700-plus superdelegates. these are party leaders, elected officials. they'll have an enormous say. >> there are more than 4,000 delegates at the convention and only 15% are superdelegates. the primaries and caucuses make the biggest difference. the voters going out and participating is by far the biggest factor. superdelegates, i think media organizations make a mistake when they report the results and throw in the superdelegates. they're going to change their minds tomorrow, the next day, leading up to the convention. we saw it in 08. we could see it again.
>> you'll be watching very closely. you'll be with the press in the spin room i'm sure. >> yes. >> it will be exciting for all. i'm getting ready myself. i'll be back in two hours to moderate this democratic presidential debate. a very special night. historic in a sense. welcome to a very special edition of "outfront." good evening, i'm erin burnett. countdown to the cnn democratic debate tonight. i'm live in brooklyn new york. for sanders, it is a make or break night just five days before the new york primary. tonight is his last best chance