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Coverage of the Democratic Debate in Milwaukee; Trump in Louisiana Campaigning; Ted Cruz Rally in Ft. Mills, South Carolina; Can Bernie Sanders get African-American voters in South Carolina?; Civil Rights Leader "Never Met, Never Saw" Sanders; Democratic Debate Less than 30 Minutes Away; Democratic Debate Less Than 20 Minutes Away; Democratic Debate Moments Away. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired February 11, 2016 - 20:00   ET


[20:00:15] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN: Good evening. Thanks for joining us. Just an hour from now, Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton will step on to that stage down there in Milwaukee for what is being seen as the first debate of a brand-new primary campaign. For him, the opportunity to show his victory in New Hampshire was no fluke in geography or demographics. For her a chance to show it wasn't fatal. And because that stage comes to the backdraft of complicated, volatile and dangerous world, tonight's debate will be a chance for voters to see how each candidate sees that world and would deal with it as president.

Today along, we saw Wall Street tumble, oil prices tank, new warnings on ISIS and more. So tonight, a former secretary of state who says she has been tested under fire will square off against the senator who says she has made the right decisions on war and peace and the economy. More now our Jeff Zeleny who joins us from the debate site in Milwaukee.

Jeff, the race for the Democratic nomination closer than any other candidate probably had expected. How do you think that's going to play out tonight in the debate?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: No doubt, Anderson. I mean, there a few new issues but this is a brand-new moment as you said. And that is a chance for Bernie Sanders' advisers to believe to open himself up and introduce himself and make the possibility of resonating with voters who may not have taken him seriously up until this point. That win in New Hampshire reset this Democratic race without a question here.

So tonight we are going to see the Clinton campaign, Hillary Clinton try and tie herself closely to President Obama. We have seen that happen before but tonight in particular. As this race begins to spread out to Nevada, South Carolina, a diverse electorate, she is going to say that she is the true keeper of his flame, the true keeper of his legacy. But Bernie Sanders has so far been aligned with the party, the core part of the party on issues. And I don't thinks he will change much at all tonight because the party, at least a lot of the party is agreeing with him, Anderson.

COOPER: It's been a huge fund-raising week for the Sanders campaign in the wake of New Hampshire. How worried is the Clinton camp or are they worried about keeping (INAUDIBLE) pace?

ZELENY: Anderson, they are worried about keeping pace. And this has been one of the biggest surprises to the Clinton campaign. They are seldom at a financial disadvantage and they believe they will be now heading into the end of this month and all those contests in March when this campaign heads into overdrive. And you can tell how worried they are. The Clinton campaign manager sent out a fund-raising appeal telling people how much Bernie Sanders is raising. He said they raised $6 million. We need to do more. This is what's the campaign manager says. He said we cannot allow our team to be outraised and outspent. Our team is more diverse and energetic. It's time for us to show it. That was a call to arms to all of their fund-raisers.

But this is one of their big worries here. It is one thing having a rival. It's a difference thing having a rival who can outspend you. And that's the situation the Clinton campaign is in tonight.

COOPER: Fascinating staff, Jeff Zeleny. Jeff, thank you.

Now the men and women that will be helping make sense of it all for us all night, but only if, as always, I can make it through the introduction. CNN senior political analyst David Gergen, Michael Smerconish who anchors a nationally syndicated radio show as well at "SMERCONISH" show on CNN, CNN chief political analyst Gloria Borger, CNN chief national correspondent John King, host of CNN's "INSIDE POLITICS." By the way, is CNN is part of your drinking game, please by all mean, reconsider and drink responsibly. Also with us, CNN political commentator Paul Begala, Donna Brazile, Ana Navarro and Bill Press. Bill is a Sanders supporter. Ana is a Bush supporter and a Rubio friend, we think. Donna is a senior Democratic Party official and Paul advises a pro-Clinton super PAC.

John, let's start with you, in fact let's start with all our reporters and our analysts over here on the right-hand side. In terms of tonight, how important is this for Hillary Clinton to try to kind of change the message from New Hampshire?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it is a couple of things. Psychologically, she wants any voters out there in state that are about to come especially Nevada and South Carolina to see an optimistic candidate, not someone who has beaten. She just got trounced. You don't want to look like you are soaking. You want to look like you're optimistic.

The question for me is, does she continue to press the argument she's been making on the campaign trail which has not been working. That I'm pragmatic and that he's trying to sell you something he can't pay for. That I'm electable. You have electability versus authenticity in this race.

COOPER: And electability rated pretty low in the exit polls.

KING: Right. She is trying to make the case, I can win the general election and that I can get things done with Congress. Bernie Sanders can't win a general election. He has his high in the sky. This idea you have to raise your taxes. He couldn't get Congress to go along and pay for it.

But the base of the Democratic Party is more locked into Sanders right now. Now, she is moving at the places where we get Latino voters, where we get African-American voters. And so, this is this pivot, this hard moment for her comes at the right time in the calendar. The question is can she take advantage of it?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, I think she is going to hug Barack Obama as tight as she can and she's going to ask Bernie Sanders, where were you? Where were you when I was doing all of these things, when I was marching? You know, we heard that a little bit from congressman Lewis today when the political arm of the congressional black caucus endorsed Hillary Clinton. So she will talk about her accomplishments and her long record. And then I also think she is going to go after Bernie Sanders on the commander in-chief issue. She's going to say I was secretary of state. I'm ready to be commander in-chief, and you're not. And I'm very interested to see how Bernie Sanders plays on that terrain of foreign policy.

[20:05:17] COOPER: We know from past experience what Bernie Sanders has said always to that is, well, there's experience and there's judgment. And when it came to the war in Iraq, I had the right judgment, Michael.

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN HOST, MICHAEL SMERCONISH SHOW: I think she has problems with trust and honesty. I keep looking and thinking about those exit survey numbers that we had the other night from New Hampshire. She has got to deal with that. And we are having this conversation and this debate is going to take place on an evening where he learn today that the Clinton foundation received a subpoena from investigators of the state department. He probably won't go there thus far it's worked well for him not to go there. You have to think that he is re-evaluating that strategy and wondering if he can further exacerbate it. But she has got to somehow to deal with that tonight.

COOPER: Well, the question also is does he - he doesn't really need to go there because probably the moderators will bring that up.

BORGER: Right, exactly.

COOPER: And that does his work for him.

SMERCONISH: But really punt when they do.

COOPER: Right. That's a good point - David?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: There are a lot of people saying that she ought to attack tonight and tear down Bernie Sanders. I think that's the wrong advice. I think what she needs to do is build herself up. She needs to inspire people the way she hasn't yet, especially millennials. That's a critically important part of the Democratic coalition that Barack Obama put together in one so successfully. If they start to float away from her and they won't show up in the general, that's a really problematic situation for her. So it seems to me she --- what I'm looking for is how she recasts the argument. Paul Begala spent a lot of time with these kinds of questions. And that is a challenge you face in the campaign. How do you reach people in a different way than how you've reached them before?

COOPER: Let's turn to Paul.

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think exactly right. Hillary's challenge is she's actually got a narrow her message. I mean, she is great at debates in part because if there's part of her that's like 20 questions. Ask her about campaign finance reform. She has a good plan. Ask her about Syria, she has a good plan. Ask her about pollution in Flint, she has a good plan.

But what's the overarching message? Bernie has the equal opposite problem. He has a great overarching message. The billionaire class on Wall Street are screwing. But he's got to broaden it because if I were advising him, and I'm not. I'm not allowed to talk to her or her campaign. But I have been like playing this in my rift in my head all night where at some point she says I'm tough on Wall Street and my plan actually was endorsed by Paul Krugman. I want to get tough on Wall Street but Bernie, there are more challenges. Wall Street is not poisoning the children of Flint, Michigan. Billionaires didn't kill Trayvon Martin. You know, the big corporations aren't what's disenfranchising.

COOPER: Are you hoping someone from the campaign is listening to you?

BEGALA: She watches. She's a huge Anderson Cooper fan.

COOPER: Right before the debate.

DONNA BRAZILE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, you know what, Anderson? I would tell both candidates, don't focus on the audience. Don't focus on the national audience. Don't focus on the audience in the hall. Focus to Nevada and South Carolina. Those voters are now eager to hear what's these two candidates have to offer. And for Hillary Clinton, clearly she wants to galvanize the people, whether it's minorities, whether it is union members, whether, of course, those Latinos.

She understands that this race is different now. Not only because we're out of New Hampshire and the diversity, but also because many of these voters have not had an opportunity like in some of the other states to really touch and feel the candidates. So tonight treat it like the first opportunity. Go out there and make your pitch to those voters.

COOPER: I mean, added to Donna's point, though, Hillary Clinton is a known commodity. I mean, she has been certainly around, which, obviously, you can say is great for her. She has experience. But in terms of trying to reintroduce yourself, haven't we heard that before?

ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, very hard to, you know, rebrand and reinvent yourself at this point if you are Hillary Clinton who has been on the national stage now for decades and decades. We saw it in New Hampshire. The Clinton family, the Clinton machinery has campaigned in primaries in New Hampshire four times and she just got trounced. So it's not for lack of not knowing Hillary Clinton. It's for lack of not trust, not liking, not wanting to support her.

I think at this point she, frankly, we know she knows stuff, OK. At this point we want to know her. She needs to come across as authentic. Show some emotion. Don't be such a cardboard cutout. We remember when she won in New Hampshire in 2008, look what she did show emotion. Show authenticity. I think we know she is an experienced person. We know her resume. Peep want to see her heart now. And I also think she needs to be very careful, very subtle on the gender issue.

I suspect she's going to get asked the question because of the remarks Madeleine Albright and Gloria Steinem made regarding women. She has got to hit that one out of the ballpark because it is an important issue for millennials, for younger women who just feel those two ladies sounded like dinosaurs.

COOPER: Bill, you are a Sanders supporter.

BILL PRESS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I just -- if I were giving Bernie any advice today, and like Paul I don't talk the campaign. I have no connection to them. I would tell Bernie, first thing is smile. I think Bernie has got to lighten up and just show a little human side. Haven't seen that much.

[20:10:05] BEGALA: Right on "Saturday night live" he was great.

PRESS: He was. We haven't seen that in these kind of settings, I don't think. And the other thing is, you know, Bernie, people may ask me all day, what Bernie going to say that's new tonight? Bernie is not going to say anything new, I don't think. Bernie has been saying the same thing for 40 years. That's his message. And I think he sees it as the first opportunity to pick up on Donna's point for the people of South Carolina and the people of Nevada to hear that economic populous message, the criminal justice reform, the sentencing reform for the first time. See how it applies to them.

COOPER: And he is certainly going to be appealing to African- Americans, to Latinos, as much as he can I mean, to the point of not speaking just to the people in the room.

BRAZILE: Of course he has to appeal to them. And that's the simple arithmetic of trying to get delegates as well as trying to get the support. But I would hope tonight that the moderator, we have two female moderators. And no offense to all of you other great people over there. But I --

KING: By that you mean men?

BRAZILE: Yes. But I would hope we go beyond criminal justice reform and reaching minority voters. That's a very important issue, just like immigrations are very important issues for like channels. But there's education, there's, of course, housing. There's jobs. Job creation. So I would hope the candidates go beyond what I call the cookie cutter kind of campaigns they have run in these the first two states and give them to the broad issues that (INAUDIBLE).

NAVARRO: And since, you know, since Donna and I are like the, you know, resident spice girls.

BRAZILE: Yes. I'm tabasco.

NAVARRO: You're chocolate, I'm caramel. There's a big difference --

BEGALA: Vanilla.

NAVARRO: Yes, you are vanilla.

There is a big difference between appealing and pandering. And I think they have to be very careful not to cross into the line.

BORGER: I wanted to ask Paul a question since you're so good at this, OK. How would you have Hillary Clinton answer the question about the Wall Street speeches? The $600,000 in Wall Street speeches?

BEGALA: It's caused her enormous grief.

COOPER: You know what? Hold that answer because we actually have to take a break. But wait for that because I want to hear that as well.

And also I want to talk about money problems. How serious they are for the Clinton campaign. We will be talking with all of you again throughout the evening, including after tonight's PBS debate from Milwaukee which we are, of course, simulcasting it right after this broadcast at 9:00 eastern. That's when the debate starts. And then right after that, a late live extended edition of "360" with complete analysis.

Coming up next tonight, the Republican Ted Cruz, Donald Trump both holding live events right now which are turning into a real slugfest.

And more of the two Democrats battling for African-American voters and others. Secretary Clinton picking up a key endorsement including from a congressman and a hero of the civil rights movement who is questioning senator Sanders' account of his role in the cause.

We will be right back.


[20:16:20] COOPER: A quick reminder. The Democratic debate begins right here at the top of the hour. High stakes, high drama. Words that could just easily describe the Republican campaign right now. A busy day which is capping off at a Trump rally in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and a Cruz event in Ft. Mills, South Carolina.

Home depot billionaire Ken Langone just through his way behind John Kasich. We learned that former president George W. Bush will make his first campaign appearance stumping for his brother Jeb at a rally on Monday. Ted Cruz is launching a new ad attacking Donald Trump accusing him of influence buying and quote "a pattern of sleaze stretching back decades." Former candidate Mike Huckabee called sleazy and that is only heating up.

Sara Murray is at the Trump event right now in Baton Rouge.

So the primary is only nine days away. Why is Trump in Louisiana?

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: Well, Louisiana votes on March 5th. So it is not too far away. But you would think that he would be like every other candidate doubling down on South Carolina. That is not how the Trump campaign does things. They stick with this fly around strategy where they are hitting states that don't vote until they are further down the map and they really wait until the last couple of days to hone in on the state. They did it in Iowa. They did it in New Hampshire.

But also, he says this is a sign of how confident they feel in South Carolina where Trump has events like the one tonight, he draws thousands. And that's still way ahead of his rivals in the state.

COOPER: And I understand, Trump pulled a negative ad about Cruz today in South Carolina and replaced it kind of with a more hopeful one about himself. Is that sort of a lesson they think they learned in New Hampshire?

MURRAY: It is absolutely. In the end in New Hampshire, you may remember, we didn't get, you know, quite as tough of a Donald Trump. He wasn't so forceful. And his attacks to some of rival candidates. And they felt like that gave them this added boost near the end.

Now, he says he is going to keep that up. They pulled a negative ad against Ted Cruz in South Carolina. They are running a positive ad. They were running in New Hampshire. But it's an interesting shift because if you look at South Carolina, this is a state that likes rough and tumble politics. It is like a candidate to be able to throw a punch and take one back. And it's a big state with upset. It is really in favor of big rallies and candidates flying around. So this sort of old traditional Trump politics I think plays really well there. So it will be interesting to see if he does stick with his positive message or he reverts back to, you know, the candidate who wants to mix it up with other candidates.

COOPER: All right. We will watch. Sara, thanks.

Ted Cruz has a rally on tap for right now in Ft. Mills, South Carolina. As I mentioned, he is running a bit late. You can see he has got a fair size crowd of supporters waiting for him. Earlier, he had an event in South Carolina, town of Rock Hill, which is just down the road from Charlotte, North Carolina.

Our Sunlen Serfaty is there and joins us now.

How has he been selling himself to South Carolina voters?

SUNLEN SERFATY, NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the big prize here in South Carolina, Anderson, is really the evangelical voters. So the pitch that we are seeing from Ted Cruz largely mirrors the pitch that we saw him make to evangelicals in Iowa. Heavy on emphasizing his religion. Heavy on emphasizing his good conservative credentials. You know, pitching himself as the conservative candidate on fiscal issues, on social issues, on national security. And really using that to draw contrast with his rivals. He has called his rivals out here on the campaign trail. Campaign conservatives, of course, the allegation behind that being that they are phony conservatives that are only casting themselves as conservatives to win this race.

COOPER: Is that what he was using against Marco Rubio? Because I understand he went on the offensive against Rubio today.

SERFATY: He did. And this was significant because as we have talked about before, recently the Cruz campaign are really trying to frame this race as a two-man race between Ted Cruz and Donald Trump. So the fact that they are going after Rubio certainly indicates that they still see Rubio as a threat on some level.

And they did release a new TV ad today here in South Carolina. A little tongue and cheek, it was entitled conservatives anonymous featuring something of self-help therapy group. Someone was wearing a Marco Rubio t-shirt. They talk about how they have been lied to by Republicans in the past just to get to Washington and they make deals with Democrats. One woman in the ad says, well, we should make sure not to vote for just a pretty face next time. So that was a big hit on Rubio.

Also the Cruz campaign unleashing another negative ad tomorrow. They are set to debut that on the airwaves here in South Carolina. It will be going after Donald Trump in that ad. They say that Trump uses power for personal gain and point blank asks South Carolina voters to imagine the damage that Trump could do as president. You know, South Carolina is known for rough politics at this point in the race. I think the Cruz campaign not letting anything up for grabs on the airwaves. They're bringing those tough ads -- Anderson.

[20:20:56] COOPER: All right. Sunlen, thanks very much.

Just a reminder, the Democrats are going to take the stage there shortly in Milwaukee. Their first debate since New Hampshire. We will bring it to you live at the top of the hour and then we will have a complete analysis afterwards.

Just ahead, quoting the African-American voter in South Carolina, black women in the state overwhelmingly chose Barack Obama in the 2008 primary. The question, can Bernie Sanders get the same kind of support? We are going to go to Charleston to hear what voters there are thinking.


[20:25:14] COOPER: Welcome back. The candidates look ahead to South Carolina, the African-American vote will factor heavily in their campaign. That, of course, would be the debate stage, Democratic debate, about 35 minutes away. We are going to be broadcasting it live here, simulcasting it.

In 2008, African-Americans made up just over half of the South Carolina Democratic primary electorate. Also that year, according to CNN exit polls, African-American women made up 35 percent of Democratic primary voters. And among them, 78 percent went for candidate Obama, 20 percent for Hillary Clinton. Now there were, of course, issues of race and gender in that choice. So how is breaking down this time around in South Carolina between Clinton and Bernie Sanders?

Randi Kaye went to find out.


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: At this beauty salon in Charleston, South Carolina, not even the hair dryer can drown out this political debate.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She has all these big businesses in her back pocket.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hillary the only one that's got --

KAYE: All but one of these women voted for then senator Barack Obama over Hillary Clinton back in 2008.

ANDREA STEVENSON, SOUTH CAROLINA VOTER: I'll take black over a woman any day. I mean, you know, I am black. That's what's it is.

KAYE: In that race, many African-American women struggled between voting their race or voting their gender.

ALISA LOCKE, SOUTH CAROLINA VOTER: Wow, we have an opportunity to possibly have in the history of my lifetime the first female president. So that --

KAYE: And you went for Obama.

LOCKE: Then I went for Obama.

KAYE: Eight years later, will African-American women now support Hillary Clinton? This woman says absolutely.

Are you truly supporting Hillary Clinton or is it by default because Obama isn't in the race?

J. DENISE CROMWELL, VOTING FOR HILLARY CLINTON: Oh, no, no, no. Obama is my guy. I love you, Obama, you know I do, but my girl Hillary, even if Obama was running this time, Hillary would have my vote.

KAYE: She likes Clinton's views on prison reforms.

CROMWELL: So she will be able to meet us where we are wither mother instinct. Our concerns about our children, particularly black mothers with black sons.

KAYE: This voter is also choosing Clinton this time around. LOCKE: She has a proven track record. She's experienced. And not

only experience, she's a woman. And I would love to see her as our first woman president.

KAYE: Not everyone is in Clinton's camp, though.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'll say Hillary got everybody's vote in here, right?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All right. I'm going to be right behind you.

TIFFANY BONAPARTE, VOTING FOR BERNIE SANDERS: I don't identify with her. It's hard for me to give her my vote.

KAYE: Tiffany Bonaparte is voting Sanders.

BONAPARTE: He's been able to capture a lot of the young vote because he is offering that same type of hope to younger voters, millennials. He is, you know, preaching about topics that we're really concerned about.

KAYE: We showed this new Hillary Clinton ad aimed at African-American voters to our group and got mixed opinions.

HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: When African-Americans are more likely to be arrested by police and sentenced to longer prison terms.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That connects with me and should connect with all black mothers.


CLINTON: The same thing that whites do.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Of course she's going to say that now. It's time to say it. Where has it been? What are you going to really do? I'd have to see some substance.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She's always been saying that. And she was doing something about it. She was working with the pipeline to prison. I mean, I'm going to help you do your homework sister girl because my girl been doing her thing.


KAYE: The debate continues.

Randi Kaye, CNN, Charleston, South Carolina.


COOPER: It certainly does and it's about to start. Today the political arm of the congressional black caucus endorsed Hillary Clinton. And at a press conference, civil rights leader and Georgia congressman John Lewis said he doesn't remember Bernie Sanders involvement in the student nonviolent coordinating committee. Take a look.


REP. JOHN LEWIS (D), GEORGIA: Well, to be very frank, I don't want to cut you off but I never saw him. I never met him. I would chair the student nonviolent coordinating community for three years from 1963 to 1966. Was involved in sit-ins, the freedom ride, the march on Washington, the march on Selma to Montgomery and directed a voter education project for six years. But I met Hillary Clinton. I met President Clinton.


COOPER: Well, joining me now CNN political commentator and former Obama administration official Van Jones, CNN political commentator and "New York Times" op-ed columnist Charles Blow, who had an appeal for people to stop quote Bernie explaining to black voters.

[20:30:03] And with us again CNN political commentator and democratic strategist Donna Brazile, vice chair of DNC voter registration and participation.

Van, let's start with you. What do you make of Congressman Lewis saying he never saw Bernie Sanders, never met Bernie Sanders during the Civil Rights Movement? How much should that matter? How relevant is it?

VAN JONES, FORMER OBAMA ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, you know, I thought it was very interesting. I was talking to Keith Ellison, an African-American civil rights leader and congressman who has a photograph of them together. He's going to put it out online later tonight.

Listen, obviously, John Lewis is a legend. The reality is he was with SNCC. CORE is the group that Bernie Sanders was with. He's never claimed to be a part of SNCC. He was part of CORE. And frankly there were not that many, unfortunately, white men who were taking on those issues at that time.

You have two legends, two icons. I don't think we should get into that. What I am very excited about is that no matter who wins between Bernie and Hillary, African-Americans are winning this week as our issues become something that both sides now are fighting to articulate.

For too long Democrats ran away from black issues. Now both of them are running toward black issues. That's a positive for both of them.

COOPER: Donna, what do you make of this, and Charles as well. I mean Bernie sanders supporters say at 20 years old he was arrested for leading efforts to desegregate housing at the university -- student housing at the University of Chicago.

DONNA BRAZILE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: You know, Anderson, I worked on the Jackson campaign in 1984, and back then, Charles, you probably recall because it was a generational fight. You had to quote/unquote, "the icons of the civil rights movement", the big city black males supporting Walter Mondale because they had deep ties to Carter- Mondale.

And you have Reverend Jackson with all this energy and excitement and hope and enthusiasm out there generating a whole new grassroots of black leaders and activists to get on board for voter registration and to change the Democratic Party, which we did. This is a great fight.

Look, if you are going to be in some street fights, why not be on the fight over people who love you. They both want to help ...

COOPER: Sanders endorsed Jesse Jackson. Is that right?

BRAZILE: In '88.

COOPER: In '88?

BRAZILE: I was '84. There's a whole other conversation. By then I started working for white male candidates. A whole another conversation. All right.

So here I am watching two great candidates. Hillary Clinton has deep ties, emotional ties, within the black community. And Bernie Sanders also has ties. They may not be emotionally deep and strong as Hillary Clinton, but they are still very legitimate ties to the black community. So this is a great fight.

COOPER: But it's -- I mean, you know, Charles, just as we heard from Congressman Lewis, there was a writer Michelle Alexander who just wrote this piece in "The Nation", entitled "Why Hillary Clinton Doesn't Deserve the Black Vote". She's (inaudible) saying that President Clinton did more harm to black communities ultimately than Ronald Reagan did by signing a $30 billion Crime Bill which had huge repercussions for black community prison populations.

CHARLES BLOW, NEW YORK TIMES OP-ED COLUMNIST: Right. So let me just say right at the top, I know Michelle, I like Michelle. She's a friend of mine. So there.

Michelle is right on this point that '94 Crime Bill was an absolute disaster for the black community and President Clinton did sign it. But there are no clean hands on that 1994 Crime Bill. Biden helped to write it. Hillary Clinton advocated for it and Bernie Sanders voted for it. There are no clean hands.

And it goes even further than just the field now. If you ask your congressional black caucus members then, many of them voted for it as well. In fact, Democrats snuck in a provision at the last minute on that bill that turned Republicans off. So the majority of the votes on that bill were democratic votes.

In addition to that, black preachers ...


BLOW: ... advocated for that bill. Black mayors advocated for that bill. And when Gallup conducted a poll in 1994 about that bill, the support for it among Democrats outnumbers support for it among Republicans, two to one, it was 60 to 31.

And that was -- that's not politicians. That's the voters. That is us.

So I think when we start talking about ...

JONES: I want to say something ...

BLOW: ... the context around the 1994 Crime Bill, you have to look at the entire community, entire country and entire Democratic Party and see what you all did to the black community. They set out to damage the black community?

Some people might have had the forethought to say this might have been damaging. Some of these provisions are obviously damaging. But you must say that we all made a horrible mistake.

JONES: That's not true.

COOPER: Van, hold on, go ahead.

JONES: That's not true. That's not true. And that's part of why i think it's important to have this. There were a large number of urban activists, including myself at that time Michelle Alexander had just gotten out of Stanford Law School including her who were saying from the very beginning this was a bad idea.

And there was a split. You are correct, sir, that the congressional black caucus a lot of the older established leadership was saying yes.

[20:35:00] But you had a big fight back in the black community saying please don't do this. And also as much as I love Bill Clinton, I love the big dog. When he talks, I love to listen to him.

But let's not forget. He played some of these politics around distancing himself from black leadership the whole third way. In some ways was saying; "I'm not Jesse Jackson, I'll be tough on black criminals." All of this is now has to come back to the service who was to work it through it. Just like Bernie has to deal with his NRA votes. We have to deal with these Crime Bill votes.

BLOW: Right. But you -- but no part of what you said means that's what I said wasn't true, number one. And number two, it's really important to understand that this is what happens in America when America panics.


BLOW: America was panicking about crime, there were panics about the drug wars, they were panicking about gang violence and America panicked. This is how we got the Iraq war is America panicked. And America panicked and ...

(CROSSTALK) COOPER: I do want to ask you about -- you talk about Bernie 'explaining to African-American voters. What does that mean?

BLOW: Well, I think -- there is a phenomenon. I think Bernie himself is the best advocate for Bernie Sanders.


BLOW: He is clear, sincere, compassionate. He makes a lot of sense. I think a lot of the people who support him cannot quite understand why other groups do not support him. And that lack of understanding can sometimes lead to frustration and it leads to a condescension about why you may not be able to support the candidate who I see as better. And that, I think, it really turns a lot of black voters off. I think it turns a lot of women off. I think it turns a lot of ...

JONES: Can I counter that question, Charles?

COOPER: We have to leave it there. We're just up against this deadline for the debate. Van, thank you, Charles, Donna Brazile.

Just ahead now, the Sanders campaign responds to critics on this and how they plan to grow their support in the African-American community. I'll talk to Senator Sanders' campaign manager next.


[20:40:50] COOPER: Welcome back. In about 20 minutes, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders is going to take the stage in Milwaukee. The PBS "NewsHour" debate starts at the top of the hour. We are simulcasting right here in CNN right after" 360." Just stick around for that in 20 minutes.

Tonight's face-off comes on the heels of Senator Sanders' 22-point win in New Hampshire. A drubbing that is raised the stakes for Secretary Clinton. She has kept a low profile for the past two days, presumably regrouping. As we said, the battlefields in the presidential race are about to get more diverse.

As we said today Mrs. Clinton got a key endorsement from the congressional black caucus pac. And Senator Sanders came under attack by some of the caucuses members.

Joining me now, Jeff Weaver, Bernie Sanders campaign manager. Jeff, good to have you in the program. I want to get your reaction to one of the big headlines today. We just played the sound by before the break from Democratic Congressman John Lewis, obviously to civil rights icon, who questioned the extent of Senator Sanders involvement in the Civil Rights Movement back in the 60's saying he never saw Bernie Sanders and never met him but he did meet the Clintons.

We know certainly we talked about this with Senator Sanders at the Townhall. He was arrested at age of 20 when he was in the forefront of trying to desegregate school housing at the University of Chicago. How do you respond to what Lewis said? JEFF WEAVER, BERNIE SANDERS' CAMPAIGN MANAGER: Well, Congressman Sanders was clearly active in the civil rights movement when he was arrested in Chicago in an attempt to desegregate schools there. But he was on the March on Washington. But his activity was in the north clearly and so it's not surprising in the movement with hundreds of thousands and millions of people involved that two individuals did not meet one another.

COOPER: What do you expect to happen at tonight's debate? I mean the last time, there was, you know, increasingly tense between Sanders and Clinton. There's obviously back and forth between Sanders and Clinton. There's obviously tension between the campaigns. The stakes are getting higher by the day. You know, Secretary Clinton took a real drubbing obviously in New Hampshire. How do you expect things to play out on stage tonight?

WEAVER: Well, I think Senator Sanders is going to continue doing what he has been doing to which is to speak about the issues facing American people. Obviously the voters in New Hampshire responded as did the voters in Iowa. People understand we have a rigged economy held up by a corrupt system of campaign finance. And that has to change.

COOPER: So we're not going to see a new Bernie Sanders on the stage tonight. And Bill Press early was saying look Senator Sanders has been saying the same stuff for 40-plus years. We're going to hear that tonight, you think?

WEAVER: Well look, Senator Sanders has consistently stood up against injustice, whether it's economic injustice or racial injustice and other kinds of injustice his entire political career. So he's not going to stop talking about these issues, no. That's exactly what he wants to talk about and I think that's what the American people want him to talk about.

COOPER: Jeff Weaver I know it's a busy night ahead. Thanks very much for talking to us. We'll be having full analysis after the debate.

We asked the Clinton campaign to come on the program tonight. We wanted to talk to them as well as the Sanders team. We're sorry to say they declined our invitation. Back with the panel, now we're just over 15 minutes away from the debate so I just want to go around the table, ask them what the candidates need to do tonight. Let's start with our reporters and our analysts. David Gergen, what do you think they need to do?

DAVID GERGEN, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER: I think that Bernie sanders must reintroduce himself to a lot of people they watching him with new lies. After his convincing win, people think, well maybe this can catch fire and I think they're going to be listening to him and taking it more seriously.

She I think needs to refresh her message. I think she needs be as more inspirational. I think to Paul Begala's point, it needs to have an arc, at least have a theme about the future, not about the past but about the future. COOPER: Do you agree with Van Jones who was made the point at several times that when she talks it's I, I, I, not so much about we which he believes, Senator Sanders talks more about we as a movement?

GERGEN: I haven't noticed that that much. So I do have a question about whether it's smart. I think she see in embodiment of the establishment and an anti-establishment electorate. Is she smart? She's got to somehow - I don't -- I think she's got to become herself. And I wonder whether she should wrap herself in Barack Obama as tightly as she is. Because he's part of today's establishment too. How does she break loose from that? I think that's a real thought.

COOPER: You Michael, you hear David said, she's got to become herself. At the Town hall we did I guess it was last week, it almost seems to all blend together, one of the thing she said which I don't was sort of point in and I haven't heard her say before is "This doesn't really come naturally to me. My husband it comes naturally for".

[20:45:00] I don't want exactly misquote her but that was the general tone of what she was saying. Can she sort of get in touch with who she actually is and project that in an event like this?

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN HOST, "SMERCONISH": Well, I thought that was a powerful moment for her and I think that self deprecation works in settings like this. Thematically to David's point, I really don't know what this campaign represents. I respect their resume. I think that any fair person would have to respect the resume that she's assembled over many, many years.

But Bernie owns the focal point of where he's going and she needs to take a page out of his book on that score tonight. With regard to Sanders, if I were a Sanders advocate I'd hold my breath every time he's asked a foreign policy question and he needs to give Americans somehow a better level of comfort.

Potentially there's a Syrian cessation of violence that's being negotiated as we speak. How does he handle issues like that?

COOPER: Right.

SMERCONISH: He needs to do a better job.

COOPER: Gloria?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Here's Bernie Sanders' challenge to me going into South Carolina. You can't call for a revolution if you support the guy who is now in charge, OK? Yet in South Carolina, Barack Obama is incredibly popular with the democratic electorate there.

So he's got to navigate a very fine line here between sort of not discounting President Obama totally but saying, "Look, I need to change from what he's done because he hasn't succeeded", and make that play well there. And that's tough.


JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR, "INSIDE POLITICS": I think a lot of people, we've been following this for months and talk about it almost every day. A lot of people are just tuning in. And for them, Bernie Sanders just did something in New Hampshire.

So if they thought he was a message candidate, and they thought he was a protest candidate, his challenge tonight is convince those people he's the president, that he's ready for President of the United States because he is getting a second look by a lot of people whites, blacks, Latinos, people all across the country.

Even Republicans that would never vote for him are now looking at this kind like whoa, he might be somebody.

For Hillary Clinton, she got the poll but as I spent a lot of my life covering the Clintons. And there DNA went back to the corner is the machine gun.

BORGER: Right.

KING: Right if they just take out and attack the opposition, she can't do that. If you were -- if you -- I remember the days back in 1991 in the back of the Clinton plane, the Bill Clinton plane, she's very conversationalist. She can be very funny. She has a midwestern sense of humor. That has disappeared.

COOPER: Right.

KING: If she could somehow find that, I think she could make the connection that is been missing in this campaign so far.

COOPER: We're going to take a quick break and then we're going to talk to our political contributors to get their analysis of what needs to happen tonight for both sides and move to the other side of the room. Right after this.


[20:5114] COOPER: We are moments away from the start of the Democratic debate which will air on CNN, where simulcast at the top of the hour, just nine minutes from now. Back with the panel though for some final thoughts before the debate begins.

Let's talk to our political contributors. We heard from our analyst and reporters. Paul, what do you expect to see? What do you want to see as a Hillary Clinton supporter?

PAUL BEGALA, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: What I want to see, actually from both of them, the Democrat, I want to see Hillary keep trying to get young people's votes. She got smoked. She can't be 83 to 16 in New Hampshire, and 84 to 14 in Iowa. She's got to do better with young people.

A key to that, I think, is talking more about reform. And she did that in election night New Hampshire. Bernie has got to do better with people of color. And he hasn't campaigned with them yet in fairness to him. But in polling, he has been terrible there.

He's got to get into game with communities of color. Going to Nevada with lots of Latinos and some African Americans and then in South Carolina where the majority of the voters likely to be minority.

COOPER: Bill, you're a Sanders support, what do you want to hear from your candidate and from ...

BILL PRESS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: First of, I got from someone -- so much good stuff that's been said. This is so important for both of these candidates, I think.

And as you have said at the very top of the hour, Bernie, for a lot of people, it's the first time they're going to hear his message or this is the first time they're really going to listen to it seriously because, oh my God, look what he did in New Hampshire.

So I think Bernie, to take that message, his combined message again of economic justice and social justice and criminal justice reform, the police reform, the sentencing reform, whatever they want to call it. Articulate it well and show how it applies and it's important to all Americans, especially pick up your point, Paul, people of color who are, by the way, most impacted by all these issues. And that's a message that I think will resonate in Nevada and in South Carolina as well.

For Hillary, and for both of them, I would say, I would hope that they would be, as we said before, positive, positive, positive. Stick to your message. Stop this sniping about, you know, how much money, who took from whatever. I think people are sick of it.

COOPER: Donna Brazile, what do you want to hear tonight?

BRAZILE: Well, I'm liberal Democrat. I actually belong to two unions, which means I'm poor.

But the fact is, is that this is -- Wisconsin is a state where they ask me, the state and local municipal worker. We know that under Scott Walker, they have suffered in Wisconsin.

I would hope that they -- they're able to talk to workers across this country to the people who are working the double shift tonight. Now, to Americans who are still struggling to raise their wages and for those Americans who live on all sorts of hope and want to get back into the circle of opportunity.

So don't talk about yourself. Don't talk about your poll numbers. Don't pander but really talk to the heart and soul of what this country is really about. And that's working people.

COOPER: Ana, you're a Republican, so I'm not sure what you want to hear tonight. What are going to be listening for? ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: A lot of fighting would be good for me, you know. Look, I'm just glad that there's debate on a weeknight. And we can actually all watch and be -- not -- and I have to fight with date night.

But, from -- I would say to both of them. You know, remember that women, remember that Hispanics, remember that African-Americans are not monolithic groups that do group think. Remember that there's geographic differences, economic difference, experience differences. So be careful not to pander. Be careful to address the concerns without, you know, going into stereotypical pandering.

COOPER: All right. Well, you're moments away from this very important debate. Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton taking the stage in tonight's Democratic debate.

We're going to have one more quick break then go to the hall for a live report just before the start of the main event which will be broadcast live right here. Stay with us.


[20:58:15] COOPER: And we're just minutes away until the Democratic presidential debate in Milwaukee. Let's check in one last time with CNN's Jeff Zeleny who's in the debate hall.

Jeff, this race is certainly different than it was when these two candidates met the last time.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: It certainly is, Anderson, a different moment in this race.

For Bernie Sanders, he's going to try and show that he can expand his appeal. That he can reach out to people, to Democrats beyond Iowa and New Hampshire.

And that's been an open question for him. But he's going to try to show that New Hampshire victory was not a fluke.

For Hillary Clinton, she's going to try and show that she is the keeper of the Obama flame, of the legacy. Look for her to tie herself tightly to the President on all kinds of issues across the board beginning with health care.

Now, President Obama will not be on stage tonight. As you can see it's a stage with only two podiums, two electorates tonight. But he will be the person hanging over all these conversations.

There's some questions if Senator Sanders is aligned with the President, with the Obama administration in agenda. That's one of the divisions here that's going to be playing out tonight

Anderson, this is a pivotal moment to see how this race goes forward. If this is a new chapter in this entire campaign or if Iowa, New Hampshire was simply a blip and this campaign will continue as it would, so an interesting two hours ahead here tonight. Anderson? COOPER: Certainly that, obviously, Bernie Sanders has been fund- raising successfully in the wake of his victory in New Hampshire. He's raised millions of dollars just over the last several days since he won in New Hampshire.

That, obviously, is going to put him in good stead for the battles beyond now coming up in Nevada then, of course, in South Carolina. But first, a Democratic battle, as you know, is in Nevada, in -- for the Republicans, it's in South Carolina.

I want to thank everyone. Get ready. We'll all be watching the debate, right here, we'll reconvene immediately afterwards for the best highlights and analysis around full two hours of coverage post- debate.

[21:00:06] Right now, from Milwaukee, time for the debate.