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Post-Debate Coverage; Analysis of the First Democratic Primary Debate. Aired 11-12a ET

Aired October 13, 2015 - 23:00   ET


[23:00:00] HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think what you did see is that in this debate, we tried to deal with some of the very tough issues facing our country. That's in stark contrast to the Republicans, who are currently running for president.

What you have to ask yourself is who amongst us has the vision for actually making the changes that are going to improve the lives of the American people, who has the tenacity and the ability and the proven track record of getting that done.

Now, I revere my late mother and she gave me a lot of good advice, but one of the best pieces of advice she gave me was, you know, the issue is not whether or not you get knocked down, it's whether you get back up. America's been knocked down. That great recession nine million people lost their jobs, five million lost their homes, $13 trillion in wealth disappeared. And although we've made progress, we're standing but not running the way America needs to.

My mission as president will be to raise incomes for hard working middle-class families and make sure we get back to the basic bargains I was raised with. If you work hard and do your part, you should be able to get ahead and stay ahead.

Please join me in this campaign. Please come and make it clear that America's best days are still ahead. Thank you very much.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN MODERATOR: Well that, does it for this Democratic presidential debate. On behalf of everyone at CNN, we want to thank the candidates, our partners at Facebook, the Wynn Resort, and the Democratic National Committee. Thanks also to Dana Bash, Juan Carlos Lopez and Don Lemon.

We'll be back in Las Vegas December 15th from CNN host our next Republican presidential debate that will be moderated by my colleague Wolf Blitzer. Wolf picks up our coverage our debate tonight right now -- Wolf.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Anderson, thanks very much.

We've just seen the Democratic candidates go all out in this their first presidential debate. They're still up there on the stage as we begin our special edition of "AC360." The excitement can still be felt here in the debate hall. There's Hillary Clinton. He is still up there. She's obviously going

to go meet with some of her supporters out there. The other candidates are going to do the same thing. Bernie Sanders is there with Chris Cuomo. He is going to be speaking with some of the candidates themselves.

Jake Tapper, our chief Washington correspondent, you have been watching and you have been listening, what do you think, Jake? Do you have think this changed the race, this debate?

JAKE TAPPER, CNN CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: I doubt that we'll see much in terms of numbers changing in the polls. I think Hillary Clinton showed this evening that she is indeed the most experienced debater and that practice and preparation for debates does indeed matter. She was very polished. She had answers ready for all of the charges coming her way. She was also given a big assist by Bernie Sanders, who said that he was sick and tired -- I'm not quoting him directly -- but sick and tired of discussing Hillary Clinton's emails, which kind of put an abrupt end of that topic of conversation. Bernie Sanders as I understand it is already sending out fund-raising emails on that issue, on that moment.

But I think Sanders obviously showing his fans out there the issues that he has been fighting for for decades. Both of them had good nights but I don't think it's going to shake the race up too much.

I thought Martin O'Malley had a decent night as well. But the question is, is there a reason for majority or at least plurality of Democrats who support Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders, I guess, to jump to him. Chafee and Webb I did not think were tremendous factor and I would be surprised if both of them were around for much longer in terms of their candidacies.

BLITZER: Doesn't look like these candidates are anxious to get out of this room. There you see Bernie Sanders. He is going to go speak with some of his supporters who are clearly out here. You saw Hillary Clinton. She is speaking with some of hers. The other candidates still up there on the stage trying to assess what is going on. She looks pretty happy right now, Hillary Clinton, after these two hours. There you see Bernie Sanders and his wife. They see relatively pleased as well.

John King is with us. John, did Hillary Clinton do tonight what she needed to do?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I'll say first and foremost her team is ecstatic. They believe that she showed the poise that she needed to show. That she look more presidential than her rivals. And what they like the most they say that she had a sense of humor at times but she was also not afraid to mix it up. I think the ones surprises this debate is very early on that she and senator Sanders did get into it over guns as one of the issues, others as well. Not personal in any way but it got a little feisty there for a little bit. They feel very happy about it.

You see from the Republicans, they think she made some mistakes on some issues. But in terms of first of foremost, the goal tonight, Democratic primary, they're very happy.

[23:05:15] BLITZER: Chris Cuomo is up there with Bernie Sanders.

Chris, if you can hear me, go ahead. Talk to the Vermont senator.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Senator Sanders, how are you? I saw you back stage right before the closing statements. You seed like you were in a quiet moment. You were getting your thoughts together. Where was your head in that moment?

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, my head was trying to make the case in the short period of time that we have. That if the middle class of this country is going to survive, if we're going to deal with income and health inequality, we need some very profound changes about the way we do business in this country.

CUOMO: You harp on substance from the beginning about what you wanted this debate to be about. There was a lot of substance in it I think by all accounts. But the line of the night probably came from you and what people are calling a gift to Hillary Clinton, "enough with your damn email." what motivated that?

SANDERS: Well, what motivated is that I think the American people want substantive discussion on substantive issues. Look. The middle class in this country is disappearing. We have 27 million people living in poverty. We have a campaign finance system which is corrupt. The rich are getting richer, everybody else is getting poorer. Those are the issues that the American people want discuss. There is a process in plays for the email situation that Hillary Clinton is dealing for. Let it play itself out. But as a nation, let us start focusing on why it is that so few have so much and so many have so little.

CUOMO: Others would have chosen to play to advantage. Did you not because --

SANDERS: Because I think it was the right thing to do. I think the American people want substantive debate on the real issues that are affecting their families.

CUOMO: Do you think you overcame questions that people have as to the how with some of your plans and to the what when it comes to how you described yourself politically, Democrat socialist?

SANDERS: Absolutely. I mean, I hope I did. I can't say that I did. We are paying for every public policy idea that we have brought forth. I think overwhelmingly the American people do believe that we have to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure and create millions of jobs doing that and that we pay for that by doing away with outrageous tax breaks that corporate America is getting. The American people do understand that we have got to treat public colleges and universities tuition free so all of our young people have an opportunity to go to college regardless of their income. People are disgusted; I can't tell you whether they're Republicans, Democrats, moderates, progressives, people are disgusted with the campaign finance system that allows billionaires to buy elections. CUOMO: What do you tell people t convince them that you can create

the kind of large scale, sweeping change you're asking to. Nobody is asking to do as much as you are. What do you tell them about how you get it done?

SANDERS: What I tell them is that tonight there are probably 100,000 people at house parties as part of the Bernie Sanders campaign. We have brought out some of the largest crowds that people have seen in many, many years, that there is a level of energy and enthusiasm in our campaign that we're not seeing elsewhere. People are ready for a political revolution. They're ready to transform America and that's what our campaign is about.

CUOMO: This is going to be a tough question for you but the word is the crowd is actually coming out to see Jane. Are you OK with that? She's here now. A lot of times where it started on you the camera then went to Jane, are you comfortable with that? But more importantly, I'd rather hear from Jane. How do you think your man did tonight?

JANE SANDERS, BERNIE SANDER'S WIFE: I think he did great. And you know, he speaks the truth. He comes from principle. He knows what he believes and he just put it out there.

CUOMO: I grew up in situations watching a wife worry about what the husband would do to help and hurt his situation on stage in situations like this. How do you feel before? How do you feel now?

J. SANDERS: I felt nervous before. I'm surprised how quickly it went tonight. I turned to my son and said, wait, it's closing arguments already? So, it was great.

CUOMO: Did go quickly for you, Senator? This was probably the biggest night so far in the campaign for you and everybody up there.

B. SANDERS: It did go quickly. And I think the point needs to be made is that while there were differences of opinion up here, there was a serious, substantive debate on the major crises facing our country, unlike the Republican debate which was name calling and you know, it seemed like a food fight rather than a substantive debate.

CUOMO: Biggest thing that got left on the table tonight that you still want to address with the American people?

SANDERS: Income and wealth inequality. I don't think we spent enough time on that. To my mind, this is the great moral issue. It is the great economic issue. It is the great political issue. We should not be living in a country, Chris, where the top one tenth of one percent owns as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent. That is not just right.

[23:10:08] CUOMO: Senator Sanders, thank you very much. I know it is a long night. Always great to speak to you. Congratulations to you. One down, many to go.

All right, Wolf, back to you. Senator Sanders said he wanted it to be about policy. All of them

did, but you know how did these debates go, Wolf. You never know what's going to happen once it starts to fly around among them about whom is better than whom. But it seemed to be substantive. To see him backstage right before the closing, his eyes were shut, he was deep in thought, he was right by his friend Jim Webb, but they weren't talking. Those are the moments that really wind up defining how you're going to perform in a debate. And the senator seems like he feels he did well tonight.

BLITZER: Yes. I'm sure he does. All right, Chris, stand by.

I want to get some more impressions about what happened here tonight here in Las Vegas. David Axelrod, senior political commentator for CNN, former Obama adviser.

Some are already suggesting, David, this may have been Hillary Clinton's best debate. You organized a lot of help for Barack Obama 2007, 2008 against Hillary Clinton. How did she do?

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR COMMENTATOR: I think she did very, very well. I said before the debate that if president elections were decathlons, this was her event. Think she showed why. She was poised. She was passionate. And I think she was in command. I think -- if I were her campaign, I would be thrilled with what she did here tonight.

BLITZER: Gloria Borger, what about Bernie Sanders? Did he achieve what he hoped to achieved?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: He did in a way. He spoke to his supporters. He spoke to the base to the Democratic Party. I'm not so sure he made the case as to why he's electable as a candidate. I think he had a rough moment when Hillary Clinton surprisingly to me took him on gun control, an issue on which she's been consistent and he has been inconsistent. And I don't think he was kind of ready for that attack from her and I think she did extraordinarily well. I agree with David. She was so adept at making herself the candidate of both experience and change. It's kind of hard to do that.

BLITZER: She clearly, Michael Smerconish, was prepared. She had gone through rehearsal after rehearsal getting ready for this. She anticipated clearly these questions that were sent to her and the criticism she would get from some of the candidates.

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN HOST, SMERCONISH: Well, let's give Anderson credit because I thought that the questions were focused. I thought that they were appropriate. Most importantly tonight, I think this was an adult debate. No name calling, plenty of substance, and yet, Wolf, thoroughly entertaining. Two hours of really great substance for American voters, a credit.

BLITZER: And Nia, I want to play a clip for you. Nia-Malika Henderson, our senior political reporter is with us as well. Because she has been accused of flip-flopping, especially on this new trade agreement in the pacific. The president supports it strongly. She -- when she was secretary of state, she seemed to be supporting it. Now she says it not such good deal. She was asked to explain the flip flop. Listen to this.


CLINTON: I do absorb new information. I do look at what's happening in the world. You know, take the trade deal. I did say when I was secretary of state three years ago that I hoped it would be the gold standard. It was just finally negotiated last week. And in looking at it, it didn't meet my standard.


BLITZER: All right, Nia, satisfactory answer?

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: I think she's doing a little fudging here in terms of what she actually said. I believe she actually called it the gold standard rather than saying she hoped it would be the gold standard. But I do think this is going to be the template for her answer. This idea that you can evolved on answers.

She said later at some point who among us on this stage hasn't changed our minds on a thing or two. But she's got some work to do I think on this answer. I think we've talked about this before. I mean, I think it's going to be to her political benefit that she has flipped to the side where unions are and much of the Democratic Party is and certainly where Bernie Sanders is. So in the way, I think she does herself some good. But this is going to dog her, this issue of flip- flopping.

AXELROD: I think one of her best moments actually was on a flip-flop attack from Lincoln Chafee on here both for the war on Iraq questioning her judgment. And her answer was Barack Obama and I debated this in 2008. He knew what my vote was and he appointed me secretary of state because he had confidence in my judgment. That was a brilliant answer.

BLITZER: She was right. She clearly was prepared with that one.

BORGER: I thought her brilliant answer was the single word to Lincoln Chafee when he was challenging her credibility, right? Or she just said -- Anderson said do you want to respond to that? And she said, "no."

AXELROD: You know, she was well-prepared, Wolf. She was well- prepared. But what was different here was she didn't - to me, she seem prepared. She didn't seem prefabricated. She was -- her tone was good. She seemed very fluid and that's not always the case. That's why I think this night was so successful.

HENDERSON: She seemed very relaxed. She was consistent throughout the whole thing. I thought in the beginning Bernie Sanders clearly sort of was off his game, not used to kind of being questioned, particularly on guns. So he was I think in some ways, you know, a little unprepared for that. But I thought she was consistent and comfortable throughout the whole time.

And also, I thought played the gender card, if you can call it that, in a pretty clever way. Not on in her opening answer but also in her closing statement. And also using it as an argument for why she is an outsider.

[23:15:20] BLITZER: She did a lot on the debates from 2007 and 2008. She really hasn't been on the debate stage since then. She practiced. She got into it. She clearly knew what she was doing tonight.

Bernie Sanders, he was asked to explain to the American public why he thinks it's a good idea to declare he's a so-called Democratic socialist as opposed to a capitalist. Here's what he said.


SANDERS: We're going to win because first we're going to explain what Democratic socialism is. And what Democratic socialism is about is saying that it is immoral and wrong that the top one-tenth of one percent in this country own almost as 90 percent, almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent.


BLITZER: All right, John, is that going to work? Is that going to be a satisfactory answer to the American public?

KING: It going to be a satisfactory answer to Bernie Sanders supporters and to anyone who thinks that way who is liberal, the Democratic socialist or very liberal voter who maybe just didn't know Senator Sanders that they live in the state where you not have an early primary campaign. They may well be impressed by that.

This is where -- remember, this is a debate in a Democratic primary. Republicans are seizing on that saying senator Sanders and everybody else followed him, the Democratic Party is lurching even more to the left, how are you going to pay for all this? Where is the money for this? So there is a general election conversation that at some point we will have.

But in terms of keeping his base, which is a surprisingly good slice of this race right now, Senator Sanders, I don't think there's anything you'll find tonight except for perhaps the gun control argument where he did not play to his people. And his people right now is a pretty interesting and good size slice. One of his goals tonight was not just to contrast with Hillary Clinton, it was to keep Governor Martin O'Malley and anybody else from getting into his lane. I think if you're the Sanders campaign, you think you did your job.

BLITZER: He said he want United States have this like Denmark, for example, to which Hillary Clinton said, well, you know, Denmark is a lovely country. I love the pain and all of that but that is small country. This is United States of America and we're not ready for that kind of socialism.

Very quickly, Michael. SMERCONISH: he had a good night. I don't think that he necessarily

grew the tent. I looked at Jim Webb tonight. I was wondering, what kind of a wild card would he be? And I jotted myself and know he revealed himself to be a very intelligent, very thoughtful Republican. This is a guy who I think could play better on the other party stage.

BLITZER: Let's go to Jake Tapper. He has a special guest where you are. Jake, talk to us.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Thanks, Wolf. We're here in the spin room. I want to bring in right now Tad Devine. He was the senior media adviser for Senator Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign. We also have with us Democratic strategist and CNN political commentator Paul Begala. He is a senior adviser to a super PAC supporting Hillary Clinton. Also with us CNN political commentator S.E. Cupp and CNN political commentator Van Jones.

But gentlemen, with who have picked candidates, I want to start with you.

Ted, the big question, the big challenge for Bernie Sanders I think is he has his supporters, die hard supporters, much enthusiasm, very excited about Bernie Sanders and his ideas. Can he expand beyond that? Do you think he did that tonight?

TED DEVINE, SANDERS SENIOR ADVISER: Yes. I think America is going to begin to see someone who is deeply committed to taking on the biggest problem in this country right now, which is the gross inequality of wealth and income in America. And also a political system, a fund- raising system in America which is keeping that rigged economy in place. He delivered that message. I think he's setting the agenda, not just in this debate but on the election on that issue.

TAPPER: I think it's fair to say, Paul, you saw the influence this evening of Bernie Sanders crowds and the Black Lives Matter activists, which is a separate issue, but you saw their influence on the candidates. Hillary Clinton coming into this campaign, coming into this debate this evening with the challenge can she excite her supporters? She winning in a lot of polls nationally in Iowa and other states, but can she get them excited? Did she do that tonight?

PAUL BEGALA, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I do. First of all, we saw the Obama coalition, OK. And everybody out there who had a brain name check President Obama and they did so favorably. Big difference from the Republicans who hate their leaders. They stand up there attacking John Boehner in the Republican debate. So I think that was not worthy.

But within that Obama coalition, you know, Hillary got about half of it in the primaries. The president got about half of it. Now, she is going to try to reach out. And I thought she did a terrific job for doing that stylistically.

David Axelrod mentioned this and David sometimes is critical of my friend Hillary. She's often accused of being too scripted, too programmed. She actually was enjoying herself. I know it. She was relishing this. She had a good time. And even when she went after Bernie Sanders, I had a principle disagreement about the gun safety issue, there was no animus. And she actually looked like she was having fun up there.

[23:20:05] TAPPER: One of the I think key moments of the evening as oppose to the previous two debates, the Republican debates by CNN and by FOX News, one of the key moments this evening I think came when Bernie Sanders kind did a solid for Hillary Clinton when it came to a question about the email scandal, which is or, you know, controversy which is about not just emails, of course, it's about national security. But let take a look at that moment from the debate.


CLINTON: If this committee is basically an arm of the Republican National Committee, it is a partisan vehicle, as admitted by the house Republican majority leader, McCarthy, to drive down my poll numbers, big surprise. And that's what they have attempted to do. I am still standing. I am happy to be part of this debate and I intend to keep talking about the issues that matter to the American people.

SANDERS: The American people are sick and tired of hearing about your damn emails.

CLINTON: Thank you. Me, too, me too!

SANDERS: The middle class, Anderson -- and let me say something about the media as well. I go around the country, talk to a whole lot of people, middle class of this country is collapsing. We have 27 million people living in poverty, we have massive wealth and income inequality, our trade policies have cost us millions of decent jobs. The American people want to know whether we're going to have a democracy or an oligarchy of citizens united. Enough of the emails. Let's talk about the issues of the citizens of America.

CLINTON: Thank you, Bernie.


TAPPER: So these last two weeks, Hillary Clinton and her campaign have been given two very important in-kind contributions, one from House majority leader Kevin McCarthy and then the other one from Senator Bernie Sanders. Senator Bernie Sanders basically saying this is an issue he wants to discuss and debate, even though there are legitimate investigations going on by the Obama administration about this email. Were you expecting Bernie Sanders to do that?

BEGALA: No, it was a very smart move. He's a personal friend of mine. But yes, very smart. Because Hillary's favorable in this morning's ABC News/"Washington Post" poll is 79 percent among Democrats. So how did that -- if you draw a principle contrast. But if you take a shot at her, especially about something that Democrats, any fair-minded person who is committed now become partisan, one of the investigators has now come forward and said the investigation is partisan. So I thought Bernie did a brilliant thing. He was speaking for everybody I run into when I travel, too. It's like enough with the damn emails. Talk about what matters.

TAPPER: Was this planned?

DEVINE: No. And when I heard of that I was thrilled. I mean, listen. Bernie has not been making an issue of this and he wasn't going to make an issue of it tonight. Was that line planned? No it wasn't. He came up with it right there.

TAPPER: It easy to imagine him saying it from behind closed doors.

DEVINE: Enough with the damn email. I'm not doing my Bernie Sanders voice. It's not going to happen.

TAPPER: But it's easy to imagine him just expressing what he feels behind closed doors on the stage.

DEVINE: Listen. One of the things we practiced for is let Bernie be Bernie, OK. He's real, he's raw. It is connecting with people. And the reason we're not going to attack Hillary Clinton on emails and stuff like that is we actually believe he has the strongest message. And if we deliver it to enough people, and if we are heard by them, we can win this thing. So that's what we're going to focus on.

TAPPER: We are going to come back and we are going to come bring you guys. And believe I want to hear what you guys think of this debate.

Up next, we are going to talk to the debate moderators. We are going to talk to Anderson Cooper and Dana Bash and, of course, Juan Carlos Lopez. Plus, our focus group participants will also weigh in on what we all saw. Who do they think are the winners and losers of tonight's contest? What did they make of it all? We will be back after this very quick break.


[23:28:04] BLITZER: We're back here live at the Wynn hotel in Las Vegas, the site of the Democratic presidential debate.

Joining us now the moderators, CNN's Anderson Cooper is with us, Dana Bash, our chief political correspondent and Juan Carlos Lopez, the anchor for CNN En Espanol.

Anderson, firstly, you did a great job. You were clearly prepared. You are at the top of your game. I have seen you in some other debates. This is I think was excellent. I say that as not only as your friend but as a critic as well. But I think the viewers here in the United States will agree, you really came in well prepared. A lot of the attacks seemed to be at Hillary Clinton. You were there on the stage. How did she do?

COOPER: Yes. You know, I think - I mean, look, I leave it up to other people. And as you know, when you're moderating this, it's very hard to get a sense of how it's all going. I mean, you are so focus on, you know, the - there are three dimensional chest (ph) that is a debate like this that it's often until later on until you actually watch the whole thing that you say, OK, you know, this candidate did really well.

I think clearly, you know, look, secretary Clinton shows she's an accomplished debater. You know, Bernie Sanders, I think, you know, for his supporter did very well. I think, you know, Governor Martin O'Malley certainly made a mark and for a lot of people who had no idea who he is. You know, I think senator Webb struggled somewhat and Governor Chafee as well.

But I think, you know, I'm happy with how the debate turned out. I mean, I think for me the whole thing is being fair, being tough and being prepared and when you have people like Dana Bash and Juan Carlos and Don Lemon, it was a great team.

BLITZER: It was really well done. And I think the viewers, the voters out there who were watching know a little bit more about these candidates now than they did a couple hours ago. And that was the main purpose, get them educated who these people are. You had a really interesting exchange with Lincoln Chafee, the former governor of Rhode Island. I'm going to play the exchange and then we will discuss.



COOPER: Governor Chafee, you've attacked Secretary Clinton for being too close to Wall Street backs. In 1999, you voted for the very bill that made banks bigger.

[23:30:07] LINCOLN CHAFEE (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The Glass Seagall (ph) was my very first poll. I just arrive. My dad that died in office. I was appointed the office with my very first poll.

COOPER: Are you saying you don't know what you were voting for?

CHAFEE: I just arrived the Senate. I think we get some takeover. That was one of my very first vote and it was 90-5.

COOPER: With all due respect, what does it say about to you that you're casting a vote for something that you weren't sure about?

CHAFEE: I think you're being a little rough. I just arrived at the United States Senate. I have been mayor of my city. My daddy died. I have been appointed by the governor. It was the first vote and it was 90-5.


BLITZER: Totally fair question, you pressed him, you did a good a job. You were polite, to the point. What was your reaction when you saw that exchange?

COOPER: No, I'm sad that his dad died and he's a human being and, you know, there's the human side of me which obviously feels bad. But you're on a debate stage, you're running for president of the United States and you cast a vote that the people you voted for should know what was in your mind. And if you knew about what you're actually voting for.

So I thought his response, I was actually pretty startled by his description and sort of it's one thing to say I regret that vote. It's another thing to say I'm not really sure what I was doing at the time.

BLITZER: Yes, I've just been in the Senate for a few weeks. I didn't really know anything. My dad had died and I voted for it. I covered politics in Washington for a long time and I never heard that.

COOPER: You were surprised by that?

BLITZER: I was very surprised by that as well.

Dana, take us a little bit behind the scenes. For example, this from commercial breaks, some are longer, some are shorter. What was going on?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Trips to the rest room. I don't know if viewers could tell what Anderson was joking about, that when we came to the third block, Hillary Clinton was a little bit late to getting back to the stage. And we were all kind of thinking, oh, my goodness, is she going to make it back, you did a good job of joking about it.

But no, look. The candidates go out. They kind of have a couple of moments with their family members, with their aides, they take a breath and I didn't notice a lot of interaction between them. One thing I did notice, I'm not sure if the camera got it, was a lot of interaction between Webb and Sanders. Webb, as you know, Anderson, wanted to get in a lot. And I saw Sanders kind of whispering to Webb I'll do my best to help do you that. So those kinds of moments that I don't think the cameras got.

BLITZER: Was there a breakout moment for you, Juan Carlos? Do you see anything there that really surprised you?

JUAN CARLOS LOPEZ, CNN EN ESPANOL ANCHOR: I was surprised at how they were working together, even though Hillary Clinton was dominating the conversation. Just the way, the demeanor, you could see that senator Webb and Governor Chafee weren't looking at her when she was speaking but Governor Martin O'Malley and Senator Sanders were looking at her all the time.

BLITZER: I want to show our viewers some pictures, Juan Carlos, interrupting, Hillary Clinton was speaking with some of her supporters out there. She's not necessarily leaving yet. These are pictures we're showing our viewers right now. I guess she just wrapped up in one of the rooms over there with some of her supporters out there. And I think she is -- Anderson, I'm sure you agree, she's pretty pleased with what happened tonight.

COOPER: Yes. I mean, I haven't talked to her, but, nor have I think rarely ever talked to her other than an interview setting or on a stage like this. But I think her campaign must feel she did pretty well. I mean, there were no major gaffes from her standpoint. It was interesting to watch Governor Martin O'Malley's body language.

He was very much turned to what Hillary Clinton. He was very much turned to Bernie Sanders. And he really didn't see that from Jim Webb, you really didn't see that from Governor Chafee. He clearly wanted, you know, to come, wanted to engage. He's been doing that on the campaign trail.

Our question going into this was, look, when you're coming up with question and Juan Carlos and Dana were intricately involved in this and you're trying to plan out this three dimensional chest that are in this kind of a debate, you look to see, OK, are these candidates going to go engage with one another? And we could never be sure if they were going to engage with one another, which is why we sort of designed the questions to be very much frontal from us to them about their records.

BLITZER: Because you don't, Dana as you well know, you don't want just them to hear their talking point. You want to hear them exchange ideas. This is a debate after all.

BASH: Absolutely. And I think that they did change ideas on the issues where there really are disagreements. But one thing I thought was really fascinating on the topic is that Hillary Clinton clearly went into this determined to be perceived as the front-runner and perceived as the person who has it locked up. And she did it not just in her demeanor, but in some of her answers.

For example, on paid leave, which is something I asked her about. She gave a very, very sort of hard core Democratic answer, not just about that but about sort of big government and so forth. That obviously played very well to the crowd here of Democrats and will serve her well in the Democratic primary, but it could be a flash point, a major flash point if she does get the Democratic nomination with whomever her Republican rival is.

[23:35:06] BLITZER: Because a lot of things that all of these candidates said tonight very pleasing to Democrats but in general election, maybe not so much. And we will have much more on the coming up.

Up next, also some high-tech feedback we are getting from members of our focus group. Their reaction to what they heard from the candidates tonight. But first, one of the highlights of tonight 's debate.


CLINTON: I'm a progressive, but I'm a progressive who likes to get things done. And I know how to find common ground and I know how to stand my ground.


[23:39:50] TAPPER: Welcome back to CNN's post-debate show. We have some real-time, high-tech feedback on what we heard the candidates say tonight and a moment that drew huge applause here when Bernie Sanders sided with Hillary Clinton over the issue of the controversy about her private email server.

CNN's Randi Kaye is with a focus group just outside Las Vegas.

Randi, what was the reaction? What did they respond to?

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, they responded to a whole lot of things. It was a really interesting group. We have 20 undecided voters her here, Jake. And you can see them seated behind me. They are Democrats and independents. And they all had one of these in their hands. If is for our dial testing. And they were able to move the dial up and down to see whether or not they responded to every word these candidate said. If they like something, they moved it up, if they didn't liked it they moved it down.

So there are a lot of high points and a lot of low points based on what they saw on TV. And one of the high points during our debate for these group was when Bernie Sanders showed some support for Hillary Clinton as she was being questioned about her private email server. So I want you to watch this clip and play very close attention to the lines. The blue lines are the men in our group, the yellow lines are the women. So take a look.


SANDERS: Let me say something that might not be great politics. But I think the secretary is right. And that is that the American people are sick and tired of hearing about your damn emails.

CLINTON: Thank you. Me, too, me, too.

SANDERS: The middle class, Anderson and let me say something. I go around the country, talk to a whole lot of people, middle class in this country is collapsing. We have 27 million living in poverty. We have massive wealth and income inequality. Our trade policies have cost us millions of decent jobs. The American people want to know whether we're going to have a democracy or an oligarchy as a result of citizens united. Enough of the emails. Let's talk about the real issues facing America.


KAYE: That was a great moment. On our screen here when we are watching it, the women were yellow. So just to be clear, the women on your screen at home, they were in pink. So let me ask you. He made a big deal about -- Bernie Sanders made a big deal about not wanting to hear about scandal anymore. How many of you, you give me show of your hands, are tired about hearing about all of these scandals and you want to get back to the issues?

Oh, all of you. How many of you again, raise your hands, think that Bernie Sanders won this debate?

Most of you. OK.

And how many think Hillary Clinton won this debate?

All right. OK.

Let me ask you here because you had an interesting thought for a ticket that you would like to see.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My dream team would definitely be a Hillary Clinton/Bernie Sanders ticket. Definitely. I think Hillary Clinton is very presidential but Bernie Sanders really hits home when it comes to what matters, regular folks. A lot of our politicians are just disconnected.

KAYE: OK. And let me ask you. We're having a little trouble with this microphone. But hopefully we'll get this fixed. Tell me again what you're looking for in a presidential candidate?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think Hillary more knowledgeable and came off more presidential than any of the other candidates who all did a great job. First of all, I want to say everybody was remarkable. And just black and white compared to the Republican debates. But yes, I think Hillary look most presidential. She is more knowledgeable than anybody else. Bernie is more passionate. They'd make a great team.

KAYE: And as a woman, what do you think of Hillary showing tonight on stage with all these guys.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was very proud of Hillary. She really brought it out for the women. But I kind of liked Bernie after this whole debate. He really pushed me to his side with his passion and speaking for average person.

KAYE: You know, Bernie Sanders is a self-described Democratic socialist. Do you have a problem with that or are you OK with that?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Absolutely not. I think this country need as little bit of socialism into its system, especially with healthcare and the disparity between the one percent and the people -- the working poor and the poor. I think there's more working poor now in this country than there are middle class. And I think he wants to remedy that as well.

KAYE: So income inequality is very, very important to this group and also the whole issue of Black Lives Matter. The Sanders campaign that come out before the debate tonight saying that they would plan to reintroduce Bernie Sanders to the black community. So let me ask you, did you hear, sir, what you wanted to hear from Bernie Sanders tonight?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I did. He spoke right out and he was saying how the Republicans have been so just rude and unprofessional with Obama - President Obama. And I totally agree. I think it's more of a racial thing than anything else because it has been Democrats and Republican presidents. And none of them have been treated and disrespected like they have him. And he goes to show you the (INAUDIBLE) goes all the way to politics and government.

[23:45:10] KAYE: He says he certainly says he's going to fix that. But let me just say, Jake, as I toss it back to you one interesting

note. Our group was asked if you were going to vote tonight, even though they're undecided, who would you vote for. And it was evenly split between Clinton and Sanders. But then they said they were asked regardless of who you may now support, who do you think will most likely win the primary. And overwhelmingly, Jake, it was Hillary Clinton.

TAPPER: Fascinating. Randi Kaye with the focus group, just outside of Las Vegas.

Let's talk more about this with Democratic strategist and CNN political commentator Paul Begala. He is a senior advisor to a super PAC supporting Hillary Clinton. We also have with us Bernie Sanders' senior media advisor Ted Devine and CNN political commentator S.E. Cupp and CNN political commentator Van Jones.

Can, let me start with you. You heard the reference to Black Lives Matter and the fact that Bernie Sanders was this evening going to attempt to address the issue more. He has struggled with African- American audience. He has struggled to talk about the Black Lives Matter movement. He is polling horrendously in South Carolina with African-Americans. What did you hear?

VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Two big winners tonight. First of all, class won tonight and not just class issues but class as dignity. This is a dignified debate. You actually get saw people who don't agree, treating other with great respect. I think that's very important for the country because class has been losing in this up until now. The other thing is that Black Lives Matter won this debate. This is the first time that I have seen the entire Democratic Party speak this forthrightly about the issue of anti-black racism and that is a direct result of these young activist who is have felt so hopeless and so frustrated. They marched after Ferguson. They marched after Charleston, Baltimore, all these things and they have had an effect.

And so, I hope that the young people are noticing that the top people in the world -- Hillary Clinton is one of the top people in the world are listening to them. They should stay engaged, stay involved. They are having a tremendous impact on the body politics.

TAPPER: I have to say one of the reasons I think it is fair to say, S.E., that it was a more collegial feel on the stage, is because there's much more agreement on that stage than there is on the Republican side. The Republican side there are some very strong conservatives and others. Do you think that the Democratic debate is going to be able to continue to be this relatively friendly and collegial?

S.E. CUPP, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, and there are also fewer people to contend with for Democrats. They almost seemed to make a fetish tonight out of how friendly and civil they can be. And that is great. It is refreshing as a Republican, I'll say, but it is not -- you can't maintain that if you want to usurp the front-runner, who at the moment is Hillary Clinton. So Bernie Sanders is going to have to get I think a lot more, you

know, significant in terms of the amount of criticism he is willing to levy at Hillary Clinton. I also thought it was interesting, you know, Republicans are usually criticized for running far to the right during a primary and then having to do an unconvincing course correct during the general. I thought the Democrats set themselves up very badly for a general in this debate.

At the end of the debate you actually had the Democratic candidates naming enemies, NRA, you know, the NRA and gun owners, insurance companies, coal miners, Republicans. I mean, you know, half the country is essentially the enemy of the Democratic Party and the Democratic candidate. They're going to have to speak to half the country.

JONES: The one mistake, I will agree with you. Basically tonight Hillary Clinton was Beyonce. She was flawless. I mean, Hillary Clinton did an extraordinary job. The one mistake she made was to say her favorite were Republicans. I think that was a bridge too far.

So listen. The big losers tonight, Martin O'Malley, he had an opportunity. Look, he would make a great secretary of the treasury. He talked about banking the whole time. He'd make a great subject of HUD but he did not come across as commander in chief. I think he missed his moment. And if I'm Biden, I don't see any way to get on the stage between Sanders' performance, certainly near the end, and Hillary Clinton's domination, I don't see a road in for Biden. The Black Lives Matter won this debate.

CUPP: I think Martin O'Malley helped himself. I don't know that he helped himself enough. But I think his constant drum beat of you like that policy? I did it in Maryland. You like that? I did it. I think that actually worked very well.

JONES: That was effective.

CUPP: He's got 15 years of executive experience, he likes to say. There were moments where I thought he was good. There were others where I thought he was a little waxy and sort of polemic. But I think you will see a small bump for him.

TAPPER: All right. S.E., Van, coming up next, a closer look at some of the claims that the candidates made throughout this debate. We have a CNN debate reality check. But first another key moment from the debate.


[23:50:10] COOPER: Secretary Clinton, is Bernie Sanders tough enough on guns?

CLINTON: No, not at all. I think that we have to look at the fact that we lose 90 people a day from gun violence. This has gone on too long and it's time the entire country stood up against the NRA.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [23:54:04] BLITZER: We're back here. We're following the reaction to this first Democratic presidential debate.

Gloria Borger, a lot of commentators are already suggesting Joe Biden, the vice president, may have missed his chance. Hillary Clinton they say did well, Bernie Sanders did well. If he was going to jump in, he probably should have jumped in before this debate. That's what you're hearing.

BORGER: I think Joe Biden was probably at home watching this debate. And I don't see where his different lane is to run. I think there are a lot of people, including Joe Biden, who believe that he deserves to run, that he spent a lifetime in politics and elected office and this is what he knows how to do and is certainly qualified. But it would be interesting to see where his lane would be given the fact that a lot of those candidates up there were very supportive of President Obama. Hillary Clinton has outlined her differences but nobody up there was particularly attacking the president and Joe Biden is a big supporter of the president.

[23:55:01] AXELROD: When you look at the polls going in. He was running a distant third behind Sanders and Hillary at the top. Nothing that happened tonight would have changed those numbers or given him more encouragement. So I would have to think this would give him some pause.

BORGER: Or not.

BLITZER: All right, guys. We're going to continue to assess the Joe Biden factors and all of this, all of the other factors. Stand by.

Just ahead you are going to hear from the candidates directly as we take a look back at some of the best moment in this, the first Democratic presidential debate.

ANNOUNCER: the Democratic presidential debate is brought to you by "Suffragette," starring Kerry (INAUDIBLE) and Meryl Trip in select theaters October 23rd.


[23:59:43] BLITZER: I'm Wolf Blitzer in Las Vegas, and this is a special edition of AC 360 as we continue our look at the extraordinary first debate by the Democratic presidential candidates and it was quite a stunt. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CLINTON: I'm a progressive. But I'm a progressive who likes to get things done.

SANDERS: We're going to win because first we are going to explain what Democratic socialism is. And what Democratic socialism is about is saying that is immoral and wrong that the top one-tenth of one percent in this country or almost 90 percent.