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Clinton, Sanders Face off in Flint, Michigan. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired March 6, 2016 - 19:00   ET



[19:00:11] NARRATOR: In the heart of Michigan, a city in crisis. A community suffering.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We want to understand what happened to us.

NARRATOR: And the government under fire.

HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The city's children were poisoned by toxic water because their governor wanted to save a little money.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The federal government better get in and do the right thing.

NARRATOR: Tonight the presidential race shines a spotlight on Flint. Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders speaking out on the failures of leadership.

CLINTON: Let's make sure that no city ever suffers what Flint, Michigan, has suffered.

NARRATOR: And debating what should come next for the issues facing this country, this state and this city.

SANDERS: We can rebuild infrastructure in Iraq and Afghanistan, we damn well can rebuild Flint, Michigan.

NARRATOR: Now the stage is set for the Democrats' latest primary push.

SANDERS: All of us together have the right to determine the future of this country.

CLINTON: I will be your partner as well as your president. We will make progress together.

NARRATOR: The fight for the nomination is heating up. The presidential race is taking shape and this debate turns to Flint right now.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer reporting live from Flint, Michigan. We're bringing you live coverage just ahead of tonight's Democratic presidential debate.

The showdown is about to start. Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, they're coming face-to-face in a bid to win minority and working class voters among others.

The host city's devastating toxic water crisis will be center stage tonight. Residents here in Flint, guess what, they still cannot drink water. They cannot drink what comes out of their faucets, only bottled water can they drink.

My first guest this hour is Ben Jealous. He's a Bernie Sanders campaign surrogate, a former president and CEO of the NAACP.

Ben Jealous, thanks very much for joining us. You support Bernie Sanders. What is the most important thing you want to hear from both of these candidates tonight?

BEN JEALOUS, FORMER PRESIDENT AND CEO, NAACP: Well, I think folks want to hear how we're going to move our country forward. Working families are hurting. This is a state that has been hollowed out by bad trade deals. Folks want to know how we can build the economy of the nation and lift working people up.

BLITZER: The beginning of the activities we can hear the announcers beginning to talk about it. But let's talk about this difference on this one issue. Flint, Michigan, the water crisis. Are there significant differences between these two Democratic candidates?

JEALOUS: Both of them I think have been very clear that there is a need for the government to act and if the state government doesn't act the federal government should act. What's different is that Bernie has said that the governor should resign. Period.

What's also different is that we have a campaign office here. We've had one for weeks. It is a trusted water distribution center, but I'd say both candidates truly care about Flint. This is a crisis. It is impossible to be in this town for five minutes to talk to families, to hear how young people's brains have been affected by lead poisoning and not feel it in your heart.


JEALOUS: And I believe both candidates feel in their heart.

BLITZER: But you know, I have no doubt that Hillary Clinton wants to do whatever she can to help with people here in Flint.

JEALOUS: Absolutely. Absolutely. We are all Democrats and that's what our party is about.

BLITZER: Why do you want Bernie Sanders to be the next president of the United States, the most important issue from your perspective?

JEALOUS: Most important issue from my perspective quite frankly are our young people. They are coming out of college frequently frankly indentured servants. We need a president who will put their -- expanding their opportunity,

making the American dream real for them first, and Bernie has been the clearest about frankly we need a new, new deal for the people of this country.

BLITZER: And Hillary Clinton, you don't think has that in her motivation?

JEALOUS: I think it's in her motivation but quite frankly her ambitions have been tempered. And when you see in a city like Detroit we need somebody who's really clear about what a good trade deal is and what a good trade deal is and she's been very confused on the TPP. She called it the gold standard. Now she's not for it.

We need to know that if you're going to do trade you're going to do it in a way that lifts working people up.

BLITZER: You're a former president of the NAACP.


BLITZER: She is doing overwhelmingly great with minority voters, African-Americans. We saw what happened yesterday, for example, in Louisiana. All these southern states. Why isn't he connecting?

JEALOUS: You know, that's actually beginning to shift. I mean, let's be real. She has been part of four presidential campaigns.

[19:05:03] Their brand is an old brand. If you look at Kansas last night, and we will have won three out of four states this weekend. Look at Kansas last night and the six blackest Senate districts we got 60 percent or more of the vote. So what you're starting to see as our campaign becomes more mature, we get to Iowa and New Hampshire, voters in the field get to know us better we are winning more and more support including more and more black supporters.

BLITZER: The polls here in Michigan show she is going to win decisively on Tuesday. Is that what you're seeing, as well?

JEALOUS: The polls in Michigan I've seen -- we've seen everything. The gap is 10, the gap is 20, the gap is 17. You know, we've seen polls that's in the single digits. We don't know what's going to happen until Tuesday.


BLITZER: She's ahead --

JEALOUS: These folks can either turn out.

BLITZER: She is ahead on pledge delegates, she's way ahead when you include the so-called super delegates.

JEALOUS: And quite frankly, you know, as Democrats we should be truly democratic. The super delegates are the establishment's way to maintain control over our party. They understand quite frankly two things. They don't actually vote until late this summer and if they try to vote in a way that's not in accordance with the popular vote they will have a rebellion inside the party. So I think we need to stop talking about the super delegates and let's just talk about the delegates that have earned and we are much closer in that respect.

BLITZER: Ben Jealous, thanks very much for coming in.

JEALOUS: All right. Thank you.

BLITZER: Look forward to continuing this conversation. Don't leave yet.

Up next the Clinton campaign gets to respond. We have a top official from the Clinton campaign standing by live. So stay with us for that.

Also, on a night when one former first lady is vying to become president of the United States, we are going to bring you news of the death of another former first lady, Nancy Reagan, the beloved wife of the nation's 40th president. She passed away today of congestive heart failure. President Obama says Nancy Reagan redefined the role of first lady here in the United States.

And former president George W. Bush issued a statement saying, quote, Mrs. Reagan was fiercely loyal to her beloved husband and that devotion was matched only by your devotion to our country.

She was known as the "Just Say No" spokeswoman of the anti-drug campaign. Later she became a voice for the millions of families with loved ones stricken with Alzheimer's.

Nancy Reagan will be buried next to her husband, the former president Ronald Reagan at this presidential library in Simi Valley, California.

Our deepest condolences to the family. We'll be right back.


[19:12:04] BLITZER: We're back here in Flint, Michigan. We're getting ready for the Democratic presidential debate. It's going to begin in about 50 minutes right at the top of the hour. We heard from a supporter for Bernie Sanders. Now let's bring in a top official with the Hillary Clinton campaign.

Brian Fallon is the spokesman for the Hillary Clinton campaign. Former spokesman for the Department of Justice as well.

Brian, thanks very much for joining us. Is your candidate Hillary Clinton, is she ready for tonight's debate?

BRIAN FALLON, PRESS SECRETARY, HILLARY FOR AMERICA: I think she is, Wolf. You know, this is going to be an opportunity for both candidates to talk about a crisis that we have seen on the ground here in Flint talking about the water contamination crisis.

Hillary Clinton was one of the first people nationally to speak out about this crisis and it was actually at our request that we even contemplated hosting a debate here in Flint. In the last several weeks, you've seen her really roll up her sleeves and get to work, trying to make a real difference.

And just today we were able to announce a public-private partnership between the mayor's office here in Flint and with the help of Hillary Clinton herself putting $500,000 behind a new effort that will help put 100 young people to work, helping deliver water and also helping take care of the pipes that are corroded and are leading to continued contamination, even now that they've switched the water supply over to the Detroit water source.

BLITZER: We just heard from Ben Jealous, former head of the NAACP, supporter of Bernie Sanders. He says they basically agree, these two candidates, on what needs to be done here in Flint. But he, Bernie Sanders, wants the governor to step down and Hillary Clinton doesn't. He says that's a significant difference. Your reaction.

FALLON: I think that in a nut shell shows the difference in their two approaches. If the governor stepped down tomorrow, would that make a difference in the everyday lives of the people who are drinking contaminated water, who can't take showers, who can't brush their teeth?

What Hillary Clinton is doing is figuring out a way to make a difference. So Senator Sanders put out a very nice press release calling for Governor Snyder to step down. Hillary Clinton is not going around defending Governor Snyder. She thinks he's fallen down on the job, too. But what she's caring about is what would make difference for people so at the same time Senator Sanders is blasting out press releases a couple of months ago, she was actually deploying staff here to Flint, saying what can I do, and to this day, Mayor Weaver will tell you Senator Sanders has never once reached out to the mayor's office.

BLITZER: If she were president of the United States right now what would she do, not only here in Flint to deal with this lead crisis in the water but all over the country? Because the nation's infrastructure is not just in Flint, there are problems all over the country right now.

FALLON: That's absolutely right. She's put out a plan to leverage up to $500 billion in funds to repair our crumbling infrastructure across the country.

BLITZER: Where is that money going to come from? $500 billion?

FALLON: Taxing Wall Street institutions that make risky bets. But if you look at what she would do specifically on the ground here in Flint it's not theoretical. You don't have to wait until she's president to know what she would do. She' s already doing it.

Another thing just today the Clinton Foundation took the important step they had a couple of years ago started suggesting to labor organizations, how about using your pension funds to create loans for municipal governments? And just today the Flint mayor's office was able to announce a historic step in that regard, too, to bring more crucial aid to Flint.

[19:15:01] And I think what you're going to hear from Hillary Clinton tonight is we need to get the federal legislation $600 million that are stalled in Congress because of Senator Mike Lee of Utah and she's the type of person that can get those results when we see that in Republican intransigents on the floor of the United States Senate.

BLITZER: Is Hillary Clinton already looking ahead to the general election assuming she's got this Democratic nomination locked up?

FALLON: Not at all. We have an important contest here in Michigan which is going to be tight. I saw there was a poll by NBC News today suggesting that the margin is 17 points. We don't think that's right.

BLITZER: What do you think it is?

FALLON: We think this contest is going to be down to the wire. We actually think it's going to be a very tight affair. Senator Sanders has put all his chips here in Michigan. He is in it to win it. We have a strong organization here. We have local support, support from Senator Stabenow and Peters. A lot of grassroots volunteers so we are fighting here as well. Senator Clinton has been here. Her husband President Clinton has been here.

BLITZER: But he says Bernie Sanders --

FALLON: And this is going to be --

BLITZER: This is going to go all the way to the convention. You hear him say that repeatedly.

FALLON: This is going to be a tight race here in Michigan and we know that. He's also going to be very competitive in the states to come and he's probably by all indications going to be able to continue to raise money. That's his right.

I think what Democrats will be asking of him is not to get out of the race but to watch the tone because increasingly in the aftermath of Super Tuesday he's gone even more harshly negative on Secretary Clinton.

BLITZER: He wants her to release the transcript of all the speeches. She was paid a lot of money at Goldman Sachs. Why not release the transcripts of those speeches? He avoids talking about the e-mail controversy.

FALLON: Well, that actually goes to my point. You know, the idea of the Wall Street speeches is something that Karl Rove introduced as an attack line against Hillary Clinton and literally the next day Bernie Sanders adopted it and started parodying it as an attack line of his. That's the kind of stuff that I think if he continues in this race, which is his absolute right, I think that that type of stuff, making Republican style attacks on Hillary Clinton, is something that will not wear well over time.

BLITZER: She's not going to release the transcripts? FALLON: She has said that she will but there shouldn't be one

standard for her and one for everybody else. You look across the aisle, you have multiple Republican candidates who commanded far more in the fees that they received in exchange for those speeches who are not even so much as releasing their tax returns let along speeches.

BLITZER: So expect that issue is going to come up here later tonight.

Brian Fallon, thanks very much for coming in.

FALLON: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank you very much. Brian Fallon is the press secretary for Hillary for America, for the campaign.

We're just moments away from Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton. They'll take the stage behind me. They're about to go toe-to-toe.

Let's talk about what we could expect from tonight's debate. Joining us our senior Washington correspondent Jeff Zeleny and our chief political analyst Gloria Borger.

So what do you think? Is it going to be fireworks or going to be very civil? At least in the beginning I suspect because we are in Flint, it's going to be very civil.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: I think it's going to be civil in the beginning because of the Flint issue is certainly -- how they hope to solve the problem is slightly different that they will both acknowledge the problem. There is no dispute that the contaminated water is indeed a crisis here. But beyond that it's going to go to some hard cutting issues here. Trade is a slightly new issue here in Michigan and also the moment is different.

For Bernie Sanders the moment is running out for him to make his case to these Democrats here. And I was with him, as he travelled across the state on Friday. The crowds really responded to what you just said, the Goldman Sachs speech issue. I expect him to raise that again, he'll raise the super PACs again.

We do not believe he'll talk about the e-mail controversy. If he does that would signal a new moment for him because of course he has so famously said at the CNN debate last fall enough about the damn e- mails. So if he raises that that would be a different moment.

BLITZER: Because there's a lot of Democrats who like Bernie Sanders and think that's a missed opportunity that he is avoiding.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: There are but, you know, it would go against his narrative as the kind of candidate that he wants to portray himself as. And I think he came out in that first Democratic debate and I said I don't care -- he said I don't care about your damn e-mails. I don't see how he can reverse himself on that.

This state is a very important state for Bernie Sanders. He's got to show that he's got the strength in the industrial Midwest and this is the state that's not as heavily minority as the states we saw in the south where Hillary Clinton has a huge advantage.

I think if Bernie Sanders does not do well in this state it's not going to bode well for his campaign. So I think they have a lot riding on doing well in Michigan.

BLITZER: You just heard Brian Fallon say that it's going to probably be closer on Tuesday here in Michigan than this latest NBC poll suggests.

ZELENY: Right. That's what the -- a lot of Democrats on the ground here in Michigan say. They believe that 17 points is too high. We'll see. The Clinton campaign is also doing a bit of lowering of expectations here. They believe that on Tuesday night that they will win the number of delegates. In Mississippi also. And Michigan is an essential state.

Hillary Clinton can go on if she doesn't win here but boy, that would be a huge moment for Bernie Sanders if he would win here. We'll see how that goes. But the reality here is Michigan can well be a general election battle ground which we've not seen since the beginning of the 2000 campaign. Donald Trump could well put -- if he becomes the nominee, can well put Michigan into play. All those union workers out there. The unions haven't endorsed. That's unusual. So that is something that makes Michigan even more important here.

[19:20:02] BLITZER: And she does have a huge advantage with African- American voters. We've seen that so far.

BORGER: Yes. Well, we've seen that, you know, she's in Louisiana which was like, what, 60 points or something. I mean, she's got a huge advantage.

Somebody was pointing out the other day that Bernie Sanders in order to win some of these states, if she keeps her advantage with minorities at 60 percent he has to win white voters by 20 percent and that isn't happening anywhere. This was a statistician, I believe, it was Nate Cohen of the "Times" have pointed this out. So it's a tough haul for Bernie Sanders.


BORGER: Given her advantage.

BLITZER: You heard Ben Jealous, the former head of the NAACP who is a Bernie Sanders supporter, say it's really unfair to add in the super delegates when you're taking a look at pledge delegates because it's relatively close in the pledge delegates. She is ahead significantly. But when you add the super delegates she's way ahead and he says that's unfair to add in those super delegates. Explain to our viewers what's going on there.

ZELENY: Well, the pledge delegates she has a lead of about 200 or so. These are all projections. But she has a lead of about 200 pledge delegates which is significant. When you add the super delegates who are party officials, members of Congress and others who will vote at the end of this process. And he is right in the sense that super delegates can change their votes. We saw that in the -- 2008 campaign. John Lewis famously was supporting Hillary Clinton and then he supported Barack Obama.

But I do not expect as many super delegates to change this time. And the reality is, as the voting goes on those super delegates are at least morally bound to how their states voted here. So he's right in the sense that she does not have this massive lead. But she has a pledge delegate lead which the Clinton campaign believes she will hold on to solidly as this process goes on.

BORGER: Let's not forget that Hillary Clinton is hugely popular in the Democratic Party. I don't know what, she's 75 percent, 80 percent popularity. Bernie Sanders is popular, too, but it's not as if super delegates who are party officials would flip on a dime this time around with Hillary Clinton. They're really with her. And she is popular with the base of the party.

ZELENY: Well, one difference here is the California primary is in June. New York is in April. There are big states that are at the end this time. In 2008 the California primary was February 5th.

BORGER: Right. Exactly.

ZELENY: So that is one reason that Bernie Sanders believes he can and should stay in this race because the big prize comes months to come here.

BLITZER: And he also has this message he is trying to deliver and he thinks he's influencing her in the process by getting that message out.


BLITZER: All right. Guys, thanks very, very much. Gloria Borger, Jeff Zeleny. Stand by.

Once again we're only minutes away from the start of this debate. It's an historic moment in this race for the White House. The Democratic presidential debate here in Flint, Michigan. This is a devastated city right now because of the toxic water.

Bernie Sanders heading into tonight's debate with some major morale boosting wins on Super Saturday and Hillary Clinton has a long lead as far as the delegates are concerned. She says she is not looking past Bernie Sanders right now. Some are suggesting, though, she is focusing already on a Republican general election.

So what strategies will Clinton and Sanders unleash tonight? Stand by.


[19:27:31] BLITZER: Take a look at this. You are looking at live pictures coming in from Maine right now. Today's Democratic caucuses in that state.

One story of this election has been the tremendous turnout on the Republican side. But look at this. New lines for the caucuses in Portland, Maine, stretch at least a quarter mile. A sign of enthusiasm among Democrats at the same time.

Once we get the results we'll of course let you know when we can project a winner in the Democratic causes in the state of Maine. Big, big turnout there.

Welcome back. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Flint, Michigan, right now. This is the site of tonight's Democratic presidential debate. We are only moments away from that debate. Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton will take the stage behind me. They will go toe-to-toe. The crowd is already in this beautiful auditorium.

Let's talk about what we can expect from tonight's debate. Joining us our CNN political commentator, the former Obama administration official, Van Jones. Also with us our political commentator, the Democratic strategist Donna Brazile. Our CNN political commentator Buck Sexton is joining us as well is our chief political analyst Gloria Borger. Also joining us our senior Washington correspondent Jeff Zeleny.

Gloria, we're only moments away from the start of the debate. What are you looking for tonight?

BORGER: I'm looking to see really first of all how these candidates address the problem that is sitting right in front of us today here in Flint, Michigan. I don't think quite frankly there's going to be a lot of difference between them on these. They both believe that the government needs to solve the problem. They both believe that there ought to be federal funding for this because it is an emergency like a hurricane or a tornado and that's where they have differences with Republicans on this.

A question I have is how Bernie Sanders is going to take on Hillary Clinton this time. As Jeff has said, he is not going to do anything on the e-mails but the question is, how aggressively before this audience is he going to start talking about her releasing those transcripts of her speeches to Goldman Sachs.

I don't know how it will play here. Seems like different kind of issue. I know Van feels that way, than this audience wants to hear about. And I think they are both going to probably talk about Donald Trump, their differences compared to the way the Republicans have conducted themselves.

BLITZER: Very enthusiastic audience already has gathered here. What are you looking for, Jeff?

ZELENY: I think what I'm looking for, again as Gloria said, how Bernie Sanders conducts himself. I think he'll have a sharp tone on the issues and draw contrasts.

[19:30:03] We have asked him if he is going to tone it down as some democrats worry if he would damage her should she become the nominee. They said no way.

I'm in this to win this. I think he will be pointed tonight. We have seen sort of a crescendo of his sharpening of his contrast with Hillary Clinton. I think he will continue that tonight. But I also think it's an opportunity for Hillary Clinton to begin broadening her base well. I mean she's done very well among African-American voters but Michigan is a different electorate.

It's a different kind of state. So I think it is a good laboratory for economic messages here. I think it is a big opportunity for her to begin reminding democrats that maybe it is time to start closing this down and start looking at the big prize at the end. She can't do that too much but ever so skillfully she has to be on this dual track strategy here tonight.

BLITZER: She got a deal with the issue of trust because she's got a problem here if you listen to the exit polls that we've had in all these earlier contests. Democrats at least seem to trust Bernie Sanders more than they trust Hillary Clinton.

DONNA BRAZILE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: We have see in some states, of course, her numbers have gone up on trust. People who know her better they trust her to handle all these difficult issues. I don't think Hillary tonight is going to be able to resolve some of these gaps that she had, whether it's the young people or it's a trust gap.

What she will be able to do tonight is to talk about the rising equality gap and how to close that. The disparity in wages. Here is a state rebounded from the great recession of 2007, 2008. Still millions of people are unemployed or under employed. I think tonight, Hillary can talk about the economy. Still, the economy. If she is able to do that she will close some of the other gaps.

BLITZER: There are differences on their respective positions on the economy. As you well know them but here it is a unique situation. You have been in this community now for the past couple of days, you see what is going on. It's going to hover over this.

VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: On the politics of it of course he is going to push hard especially on NAFTA, on trade. She has to learn how to defend herself on that. This community has been through hell. Sometimes you have a break down that creates a break through. You see a level of community and seriousness here. There is a Latino community here we don't talk about. They were last to find out because there was not enough Spanish language translation. There's a Muslim community here, disproportionately doctors that stood up early.

So you're seeing a completely different kind of pain and need here. They need to speak to this community coming together and to our community coming together like this to come together under their leadership. If they only make it about point scoring they miss a huge opportunity tonight. Huge opportunity.

BLITZER: How do you think Republicans are going to be watching this debate tonight? BUCK SEXTON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, from a conservative

point of view this is a situation where we assume that Hillary Clinton is going to be the nominee if you jut look at the map the way the superdelegates are lining up in a way the delegates are being awarded in the contest to come, Hillary is almost certainly going to be it.

And so you look at what role really does this debate play at this point and I think it is an opportunity if I were advising the Hillary campaign, (INAUDIBLE) for me to suggest to do that -- it's an opportunity for her to try to allow -- one, the base to have a voice here essentially and that is what Bernie Sanders really is.

Bernie Sanders gives the base a voice, the progressive base. So Hillary can try to sort of take some of that and actually use it to her advantage. She can agree with Bernie Sanders on a lot of things without having trouble and I also think that she can sort of try to ride on some of Bernie Sanders' enthusiasm to a degree because at some point this is going to end. It's going to end relatively soon, I think and Hillary will be the nominee for the democrats.

So Bernie Sanders and Hillary don't have a tremendous amount of differences on policy issues. We know that some of them are free college versus perhaps more federal dollars for college. There are some differences on health care, continuation of Obamacare versus Bernie Sanders' single payor system. We are all familiar with what those are.

Tonight I think you're going to see a lot of agreement and you're going to see Hillary trying to harness the integrity, enthusiasm and earnestness of her opponent for her own purposes going forward because that is what she's going to need for the progressive base to come along with her when she does in fact secure the nomination.

BLITZER: Gloria, is it smart for these two candidates Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton tonight to not direct their attacks on each other but to look ahead and go after the Republicans especially Donald Trump?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: If I'm Hillary Clinton I'm not going to attack Bernie Sanders. She doesn't feel that she has a need to do that. But if I'm Bernie Sanders --

BLITZER: If she gets the nomination she needs Bernie Sanders' enthusiastic supporters as well.

BORGER: She does. But if I'm Bernie Sanders I feel like I need to continue to draw these contrasts with Hillary Clinton on issues like trade as Jeff was talking about. And I think on economic issues and I think that she is going to -- she needs to say his ideas are great but how are you going to get it done.


Bernie Sanders is going to continue to draw contrast on I want to make sure that we can pay for college tuition for every person in this country. So they have different -- they really have different jobs tonight but both of them will say look at us, we are behaving. We are not like those Republicans at that last debate. So you will hear a lot of that tonight, too. Wolf

BLITZER: It's a moment though that Bernie Sanders could exploit tonight because he needs to get his campaign on to new momentum right now given the lead she has.

ZELENY: He does. And I think you are right, Gloria. But if you do see Hillary Clinton going after Bernie Sanders aggressively we'll know that the race is tighter in Michigan than we think. I mean that's always (INAUDIBLE). Look, Bernie Sanders has been talking about I can beat Donald Trump, too. He started reading poll numbers. That is the general part of his rallying speech.

The problem for democrats is all of them are looking at the turnout at the polls. The enthusiasm is on the Republican side and a little bit on Bernie Sanders. Hillary Clinton may have an enthusiasm gap here and Donald Trump eventually will help fill that in as democrats will run out there. I think she knows this race is not over yet. She knows better than anything this is not a night to let the foot off the gas. She needs to keep going forward. She has not won this nomination yet. She knows that better than anyone, better than any of us.

BLITZER: Tonight is a critically important night. I want everybody to standby. Because we have a lot more to assess. As we have seen already this election season one bad night can spell the end of a campaign. One of the themes exploring in the new CNN series "Race for the White House," a very revealing look at six of the most heated and ruthless presidential races in U.S. history. Here is a sneak peek.


UNIDENTIFED MALE: They are asked if they want makeup and Jack Kennedy says no. Nixon who wants to be manly says "well, I don't need it either." Meanwhile Kennedy goes back and gets some Max Factor applied to him and Nixon sends somebody down to Michigan Avenue to buy some hideous thing called Shave Stick, Which he rubs on like grease across his face.

UNIDENTIFED MALE: Nixon was pacing around the studio. He was asking people questions.

RICHARD NIXON: I think I better shave.

UNIDENTIFED MALE: Well, it was past time for all of those questions.

UNIDENTIFED MALE: Thirty seconds to air.

UNIDENTIFED MALE: Kennedy did not present himself until he was fully ready. He wasn't going to stand around with Richard Nixon and chat before the main event. He was going to come in like the prize fighter he was.

UNIDENTIFED MALE: Nixon made every mistake you can think of in that debate.

UNIDENTIFED MALE: Look at the faces of the two candidates in this debate. And ask yourself who is presidential and who is scared?

UNIDENTIFED MALE: The contrast is dramatic.


BLITZER: Tune in later tonight 10:00 p.m. Eastern for the CNN original series "Race for the White House," narrated by Oscar winner Kevin Spacey. That airs right after this democratic presidential debate. Stay with us. We'll be back in a moment.



BLITZER: Welcome back. We are back with live coverage from here in Flint, Michigan where in just a few minutes Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton will go head to head in this the democratic presidential debate. You will see it. You will hear it, right here on CNN.

A new NBC "Wall Street Journal" poll, a Marist poll, shows that Hillary Clinton has a wide lead here in Michigan. The primary in Michigan coming up this Tuesday. Joining us now, the former Michigan governor, Jennifer Granholm. She is a Hillary Clinton supporter, also joining us once again, Ben Jealous. He is a Bernie Sanders supporter.

What is the most important point you think Hillary Clinton needs to make tonight here in Flint, Michigan, and you were the governor of this state, that will get support for her among the people, the democrats in Michigan as opposed to Bernie Sanders?

JENNIFER GRANHOLM, FORMER MICHIGAN GOVERNOR: Well, I do think that she needs to emphasize that she is going to carry on and advance Barack Obama's policies, that she was here first in Flint and that she's got a comprehensive plan to invest in communities like Flint, that it is not just a single issue. That it's her plan is very deep and broad and it involves attracting employers to communities like Flint.

She has $125 billion commitment to communities that are underserved, to be able to get those jobs here. I think that her being strong about her experience and her comprehensive plan is really important. And honestly, people want to hear where she is from the heart and the kids who have been affected here in Flint she has been fighting for kids like these all of her life. So, I think she will be able to make a very persuasive case.

BLITZER: How does Bernie Sanders, the man you want to be the next president of the United States, differentiate himself from Hillary Clinton?

BEN JEALOUS, FORMER PRESIDENT AND CEO, NAACP: One of the things that's different about Bernie is he has been an activist his entire life. It's easy for people to trust him, there's a sense of integrity. He stays very focussed quite frankly on lifting up working people. This city is in a state that has been hollowed out by bad trade deals. Bernie has been a consistent voice that in trade we have to put workers first.

BLITZER: And you say Hillary Clinton supports those trade deals in contrast to Bernie Sanders?


JEALOUS: Often has, on the TPP, she has recently switch. She calls it the gold standard before she switched. The same time we had a campaign office here for a very long time. It's his trusted water distribution center. Bernie has been very clear that the governor needs to be held fully accountable and the campaign is a bottom up campaign of organizers who are saying we need to make sure that when it comes to making sure that this can't happen again anywhere that we actually toughen up with regards to clean water, that we make sure that we invest in rebuilding our country, and that here we move as quickly as possible.

BLITZER: How is Hillary Clinton going to deal with the clear difference on the issue of free trade, international trade agreements. Many of them supposedly have hurt job opportunities here in Michigan.

GRANHOLM: Yes, there is no doubt that she would say that NAFTA has not borne out the promise of creating jobs in America and that she would renegotiate that, to be tougher. But her standard on trade is that she would not sign off on any trade agreement that doesn't create jobs in America.

The bottom line is the United States is only five percent of the world's population. We have to interact with the other 95 percent. If you don't have people her who are making things stamped in America that could be exported if you don't have trade agreements that allow that to happen then you will hurt jobs here, you want to create good paying middle class jobs in America building products stamped made in America through tough trade agreements that are enforced. She wants to put a trade prosecutor in place, triple the enforcement of the agreement. So she wants to trade but it has to be fair trade.

BLITZER: Is Bernie Sanders going to raise or deal with the issue of the e-mail controversy that she has hovering over her now for these months? Is he going to go there at all tonight?

JEALOUS: No, I don't think we will see him go there. I think we will see him stay on the issues. The issue of trade will be very big, it's a big issue in this state and frankly, it's a good issue for our campaign. Bernie has been very consistent about saying that NAFTA would do what it did and that the TPP would take us backward very fast from the very beginning. I think you will see him put his judgement forward, he is somebody who frankly voted against the war in Iraq for all the right reasons. And what you'll see from Bernie making the argument that good judgment on the front end saves us a lot of expense on the back end.

BLITZER: You know he is going to say as he always does, he opposed the war in Iraq. She voted for the war in Iraq which he says was a mistake.

GRANHOLM: Right. And he changed positions, for example, on guns over time, too. We are all human beings and we all evolve. No, I'm saying, we all evolved. It's a human being. If you don't evolve when you get more information then you are not reacting well.

So bottom line is I think that you will see this debate show the other side, the Republicans, how you can have a civil conversation without insult and have an honest disagreement on some issues. Democrats both sides really like the other candidate, as well. Our people, our democrats are proud of our two candidates and I think you will see a debate that reflects that.

BLITZER: She probably will go after him on guns, right?

JEALOUS: And this is the thing, quite frankly, somebody whose family has been killed by gun violence that frustrates because she ran to the left on guns in 2000 and she ran to the right of President Obama in 2008. Now she's running back to the left and taking money from the National Rifle Association. She's a lobbyist. That (INAUDIBLE) flip-flopping that drives a lot of people into our campaign.

BLITZER: But you think it's going to come up presumably?

JEALOUS: I suspect that it will.

BLITZER: It's going to be a little bit more civil, you think, than the Republican debate?

JEALOUS: It will always be more civil.

GRANHOLM: Always. Really you can't get much more uncivil. You can't get much more embarrassing.

JEALOUS: All of us are friends.

BLITZER: Yes, as a governor here in Michigan -- you were the governor here. Let's get back to this issue why we are here in Flint right now. This is devastating what has happened to this community and what is so heartbreaking and I've only been here today. What's so heartbreaking to think this could happen anywhere in the United States given the crumbling infrastructure.

GRANHOLM: Well, the infrastructure issue is very real. We have seen numbers out of Cleveland, for example, where you got crumbling infrastructure and lead in the pipes. We have to invest in both above ground and below ground infrastructure. You will hear democrats talk about that. Republicans all they wan to do is cut, cut, cut.

There are certain things that government provides. Government is not a business. We are there to provide basic services for people. And what is more basic than clean water, fresh air, safe food and shelter.

BLITZER: Since you've been here in Flint, just seeing what is going on. JEALOUS: I have been moved for a month. When you're president of

the NAACP, you get calls. I got calls about Flint. And when you listen to parents talk about "I had a child who was a top performer and I watched their brain rust for two years as they become poisoned by lead and now they are in special ed" and you know that the governor knew that that same water was corroding parts of GM and he switched the water for the factory but not for the children and the people, you can only be enraged. You can't make it an issue in a campaign or a partisan issue or as democrats were outraged and we are the party people trust to get action on this issue.


GRANHOLM: People heard the government say go ahead, the water is OK. They were assuring people it was OK to feed, to bathe your children, to give your children this water to drink. Can you imagine being a parent here having given your child water and the government told you and you found out (INAUDIBLE).

BLITZER: A modest gesture on our part, but I am very proud that CNN, this weekend, we distributed half a million bottles of water to the people of Flint.

GRANHOLM: And thank you for coming here to show people what this is about.

BLITZER: Governor Granholm, Ben Jealous, thanks very much.

We are going to take a quick break. I just want to remind our viewers when we come back, we will be seeing the democratic candidates for president on stage, right behind me. We will have the start of the seventh democratic presidential debate.

Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders live from Flint, michigan. Anderson cooper will moderate. And immediately following the debate, a special program.



ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: And welcome to the (INAUDIBLE) on the campus of Flint Cultural Center in Flint, Michigan for a special CNN democratic presidential debate.

I'm Anderson Cooper and I want to welcome our viewers from the United States and around the world. Tonight's debate will be seen on CNN, CNN International, CNN Espanol and by American soldiers, sailors and air men on the American Forces Network nationwide on the (INAUDIBLE) Radio Network.

Now we want to welcome the democratic candidates for president of the United States, please welcome Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont.

Please welcome former secretary of state, Hillary Clinton.

Ladies and gentlemen, the democratic candidates for president of the United States!

Before we begin tonight, we want to take a moment to remember former first lady Nancy Reagan. As you probably know she passed away this morning at the age of 94. Her grace and elegance in the White House, her deep love for President Reagan and her strength and advocacy in the fight against Alzheimer's and drug abuse will always be remembered.

We would like to pause for a moment of silence in honor of Mrs. Reagan.

Now will you please rise for the national anthem performed by the Flint Citywide Choir, conducted by Darnel Ishmael (ph).


COOPER: Our thanks to the Flint Citywide Choir.

Candidates take your position behind the podium.

Before we begin as the candidates take their positions, I want to set out some ground rules. As moderator, I will ask questions , I'll ask follow-ups and guide the discussion.

The candidates will have 1:15 to answer questions. They will have 30 seconds for follow-ups. CNN's Don Lemon will join me in the questioning as well members of our audience here tonight.

The members of our audience are democrats and independents from Flint and elsewhere in Michigan. We reviewed questions just so they don't overlap.

We came to Flint because this is a city in crisis, where as you probably know the tap water is toxic.

Public servants, public institutions, not only failed to prevent the crisis, their decisions created this crisis. The state of Michigan in an effort to save money, switch Flint's water source to a cheaper but riskier alternative, the Flint River. Safeguards were ignored.