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Julian Castro Takes Jab at Joe Biden's Memory; Julian Castro (D) is Interviewed after Third Democratic Debate; Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) is Interviewed about Debate; Andrew Yang (D) is Interviewed on Debate Performance. Aired 12-2a ET

Aired September 13, 2019 - 00:00   ET


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Compelling conversations. Let's have them continue.


I am Chris Cuomo. Welcome to a special late-night edition of CUOMO PRIME TIME after this highly-anticipated third Democratic debate. The top ten Democrats came to play. Did any of them prove they are the clear choice to beat this president at the polls? Does the head of the party see a clear conqueror emerging?

Mr. Tom Perez is about to join us. And so are some of the candidate who are on that stage just a short while ago. So what do you say? Let's get after it.

Well, it looks like the former V.P., Joe Biden, learned from his past debates. The Democratic frontrunner didn't let anyone walk over him. He didn't worry about time cues too much. And he did make a point to take the game to other candidates. And he also was balancing defense and offense differently tonight, especially from the lowest-polling candidate on the stage who had the lowest blow of the night, Julian Castro.


JULIAN CASTRO (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Are you forgetting what you said two minutes ago? Are you forgetting already what you said two minutes ago? I can't believe that you said two minutes ago that they had to buy in, and now you're saying they don't have to buy. You're forgetting that.

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I said anyone and their grandmother who has no money.

CASTRO: The healthcare system --

BIDEN: You are automatically in.

CASTRO: -- automatically enrolls people, regardless of whether they choose to opt in or not. If you lose their job, for instance, his -- his healthcare plan would not automatically enroll you. You would have to opt in. My health care plan would. That's a big difference. I'm fulfilling the legacy of Barack Obama, and you're not.

BIDEN: That would be a surprise to him.


MAYOR PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This is why presidential debates are becoming unwatchable. This reminds everybody of what they cannot stand about Washington. Scoring points against each other, poking at each other, and telling each other that my plan, your plan -- look, we all --

CASTRO: That's called the Democratic primary election. That's an election. You know, this is over here for, it's an election.

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Yes, but a house divided cannot stand.


CUOMO: Reaction now from DNC chair Tom Perez. Good to see you.

TOM PEREZ, DNC CHRIS: Chris, it's always great to be with you.

CUOMO: You know, that was an interesting moment. There's no question -- I mean, if Julian Castro wants to come on tonight, we welcome the secretary to explain a situation for us personally, but he said it three times. It was clearly a jab, and it was clearly rejected by the rest of the debate stage. What was your take on that moment?

PEREZ: Well, that was one moment in a really spirited debate. I mean, you've seen a lot of debate over the years, Chris, and they get spirited. And -- and then the voters have to decide who did best, who didn't, who stands for my values.

And what I like about the discussion about health care is I think it crystallized the issue for all the voters. Because every Democrat wants to get the universal health care. We're 85, 90 percent of the way there, and there are undeniable differences in people's approach to how to get to the mountain top. And I think the vice president said at one point that it's going to be up to the voters to decide which one works best for you.

CUOMO: You think this election --

PEREZ: That's what I loved about this debate overall.

CUOMO: Tom, you think this election is going to -- you think this general election is going to be about what health care plan the voters like best?

PEREZ: I think health care is one of the top issues that voters are looking at right now. And -- and the beauty of that issue, Chris, for us is all the Democrats want to make sure, if you've got a pre- existing condition you can get health care. And the Republicans want to do the opposite. But on a broader level, Chris, I think this is implicit in your

question. Voters want to know who has their back on the issues that matter most. Voters want to know who can stand up to Trump so that you can win, because if we have -- if we want to govern, the first thing we have to do is win.

CUOMO: Do you get how I feel?

PEREZ: I think in these debates, people are --

CUOMO: You know these questions. I've talked to you about -- I talked to you about this, if you may remember, during the debates, the chair of the party. Do you know how I feel? Do you get how I think? And will you do what I want? Those are two of the three, at least, are visceral connections. You guys are in the weeds on these granular plans. When does that end?

PEREZ: Well, actually, think about the end of the night, Chris. I mean, I -- the -- What you heard from all the folks in response to the last question of the night was it was an opportunity, I think, for voters to get a window into their soul, you know. And talking about, you know, overcoming adversity. What if I had to confront my life that was a big fork in the road or an unexpected setback.

And would -- would it transform me into, and how does that play and how is that relevant to being president of the United States.

CUOMO: I agree.

PEREZ: Moments like that gave people an opportunity to really look at that window. And, you know, Senator Klobuchar said at one point, and she's right, what unites is far exceeds what our differences are.

And I understand your point about, and I agree that we've had -- we've been in raging agreement about, you know, people want to get that window and the people souls, who's looking out for me, you know, who's fighting for me. That's what people want to get a handle on.

CUOMO: Let me ask you something.

PEREZ: People do want to know who can take the fight to Trump.

CUOMO: That's true, and that's why I'm saying I don't think the fight you're going to have with this president is about what the best way is to fix health care. He's just going to call you a socialist and say that his plan will be better. You know, he doesn't have specifics. He's made it clear he won't even have a plan until after this election.

Let me ask you about what we saw on that stage tonight and why we saw it. There's such a desperate competition to make the stage. Is any of that a reflection of the party's rules about how tough it is to get on there and how much you've got to make noise so you can stay above the fray.

PEREZ: Well, I think our rules have been exceedingly fair and transparent. The first two months, you had to get 1 percent and 65,000 -- or 65,000 grassroots donors of at least a dollar.

We raised it to 2 percent. Two percent is, respectfully, Chris, not a high bar. That means if you have a sample size of about 400, that means you've got maybe, I don't know, eight to ten people who are hitting the lever for you. And we gave people 21 different polls to hit 2 percent four times. So you had to bat a little bit under -- I'm still a baseball coach. You had to bat a little under 200 to make the debate stage, and I think it's eminently fair.

And if you look at the history over the last 40 years or so, nobody under 2 percent in the fall has won even a primary or a caucus. And so we want to make sure that we're fair to everyone and transparent, but they also have to demonstrate progress. I think that what we're hearing from voters and -- and ten people did it for this debate. And we'll see what happens for the next.

CUOMO: As a baseball coach, you are embracing the Mendoza Line, as they call it in baseball.

PEREZ: You've got it.

CUOMO: The 200 batting average mark.

PEREZ: And, Chris, you don't -- you don't have to hit the Mendoza Line to make the debate stage. Four out of 21, I think you're batting about 186.

CUOMO: All right. So let me ask you this. There seems to be two paths, two narratives, you know, two -- the battle of the head and the heart in your party, there seems to be an existential fear of four more years of Trump. Can't happen. I'll vote for anybody in the party. You hear so many Democrats say, I'll take any of them, as long as they can beat Trump.

And then it becomes a what is electability? Is electability that you are the best man or woman to go toe to toe with a kind of race this will be? Or will you have to show certain policy acquittal in order to get the rank-and-file and the young and the diverse to come out? Which one of those wins out. Because I don't think you can have both.

PEREZ: Well, I mean, I look at today that Chris and, if you want to win the election for President Trump, they have to do a few things. You've got to have a very energized base and you have to win moderate voters, and you have to win moderate voters by a lot, because moderate voters are the largest subset of voters in a presidential election.

We did this in 2018. We had spectacular candidates who were listening to their voters. Each candidate was the best candidate for their district. Connor Lamb was a great candidate in Pennsylvania. Lauren Underwood in Illinois, a perfect candidate for the district and, as a result of that --

CUOMO: Most of whom are moderates.

PEREZ: And as a result of that, Chris. CUOMO: Most of them are moderates, though, Tom. You had a lot of

women, which was great. But they were moderates. They weren't as far left as what we're hearing on this stage.

PEREZ: But Chris, I don't -- I don't know what -- I honestly don't know what labels are anymore. If you -- every candidate on the stage wants to get to universal health care.

Every candidate on this stage wants to get to universal healthcare. Every candidate on this stage wants a 15-an-hour minimum wage. Every candidate on this stage wants comprehensive immigration reform.

I think what -- what we missed in this discussion, Chris, is what's happening on the right, the radical right of the Republican Party, that's really the story that I think is one of the lost stories.

I mean, 90 percent of the American people want background checks and other common-sense gun safety measures. Ninety percent of the American people want to help DREAMers. The overwhelming numbers of people want to support the notion that, if you have diabetes, another preexisting condition, you should be able to keep your health care.


The Affordable Care Act was a heavy lift. It wasn't the renaming of a post office. You know, we don't have a public option, because the politics couldn't support it, it was too much of a heavy lift. And so I, frankly, have a lot of trouble in today's world with what labels mean.

I'm -- I think we have -- every candidate has a bold vision for America that works for everyone, an America in which we judge success by shared prosperity for everyone and not just prosperity for a few.


PEREZ: I think that's a tremendously bold vision.

CUOMO: I hear about it, Tom Perez. We'll see how it manifests within your parties, continuing debates and the hustings, and all that follows. Thank you for being with us.

PEREZ: Great. Chris, always great to be with you.

CUOMO: The pleasure is mine. Thanks for taking the invitation. So one of the candidates that was just on the stage that you just watched had a big moment tonight. How does he think it played? How does he feel about it? Julian Castro, up next.



CUOMO: You know, people say they want it to be about policy, and getting along and being nice, but more often than not, what resonates is something rough. Something combative, when two people seem to get at it. That happened tonight. I'm just not sure what the impact was, so I want to ask one of the participants.

Former Secretary Julian Castro was on tonight. And he went at Joe Biden, and it made a moment on the stage. And the secretary joins us now.

Thank you, sir.

CASTRO: Good to be with, you Chris.

CUOMO: So, for the seven people in this country who didn't watch the debate, let me play the moment that resonated early on with you for them at home.

Oh, we don't. So, I don't have it, I have no idea. But the idea was, you said to Joe Biden several different times, did you forget what you just said? And the crowd went, "Ohhh."

And then he said to Bernie, "What did he say I said?"

And Bernie said, "He said that you forgot what you said."

And then people on the stage came at you recently and was basically giving you the message you went too low on that. Do you regret it?

CASTRO: No, because we had a disagreement about health care. When we were on the debate stage in Detroit, Senator Harris -- As I pointed out tonight, Senator Harris said on Vice President Biden's healthcare plan that it left 10 million people uncovered.

At that time, on the debate stage in Detroit, the vice president said no, it didn't. The media fact checkers went, and they looked at it, and said, actually, it does leave millions of people uncovered.

So, tonight, I pointed that out. And when he was explaining his health care plan, one of the things that he said -- folks will look at the transcript -- is that, if you lose your job, that you would automatically get to buy into his plan. That's important language, because when he says that you have to buy in, what he means is you have to opt in.

The approach to health care that I believe in -- is that he would automatically be enrolled. You would have to opt out, not opt in. His opt-in approach means that millions of people, 10 million people would be left uncovered. So, then he said --

CUOMO: Without a getting too in the weeds, I don't think that that's the way he articulated it, but we can look at the transcript anyway, any time you want. I think that what he was saying was that it was need based, so I don't think that you had it on the substance. But I'm asking you about the style of it. You can disagree about health care a lot of different ways. You made a crack about him not having a good memory about it.

CASTRO: No, what I said was that he had just said the words "buy in," and then he denied saying the words "buy in," so I said, look, did you forget that two minutes ago you just said that you would have to buy in.

CUOMO: Why do you think the crowd went, "Oooh"?

CASTRO: I think that's perfectly legitimate.

CUOMO: Why do you think they said that?

CASTRO: Look, this is a disagreement about health care policy. I respect the vice president. I think that he's, you know, obviously an accomplished and fine candidate and a fine man. I was pointing out a disagreement.

I will say, though, Chris, that I'm also there to debate. This is a debate. And when we're talking about health care policy, we're talking about a policy that impacts every single person in this country.

CUOMO: I hear you. I hear you. But this shows --

CASTRO: And one other thing, --

CUOMO: -- all about the debate. It's just also decency, and that seemed like a cheap shot, that's why I'm asking.

CASTRO: Not at all. Not at all. This is about what happened in that moment. And --

CUOMO: The stage didn't agree with you. The stage didn't agree with you. Pete Buttigieg came at you, Amy Klobuchar came at you about it, saying this is a house divided. We've got to be better than this. Andrew Yang said it.

CASTRO: Not at all, in fact, I actually felt like this debate went very well and that, you know, my campaign has been resonating with this young diverse coalition of people across the country. I'll also say that Americans want someone, Democrats want someone who can go up against Donald Trump on a debate stage in October 2020.

And they've seen, in three different debates now, that I'm respectful, that I have disagreements on the policy but that I will defeat Donald Trump if I go on that debate stage against him in October 2020.

CUOMO: You think you can trade shots with Donald Trump? The way you did tonight with Joe Biden?

CASTRO: I absolutely know that I can do that.

CUOMO: Donald Trump is a cheap shot master. He will have five nicknames for you. Are you sure you want to get into that mud?

CASTRO: I'm more than willing to go toe to toe against Donald Trump and come out on top.

CUOMO: Don't you guys have to be better than that? Isn't that what your party's demanding? That we've had enough? We've got one vulgarian in chief? CASTRO: Well, look, I wasn't vulgar tonight. I was focused on health

care policy and the difference between Vice President Biden's plan that would leave 10 million people uncovered, and my approach that would cover everybody.

We had a disagreement about whether he had said the words "buy in." It was not intended as a personal, you know, attack or a front, but there is a disagreement. And we are there to debate, and I think that people want to know what the differences are when it comes to such an important policy like health care that impacts families across this nation.


CUOMO: I agree. I just think how you disagree matters. Let me ask you, because of how it resonated, do you think the V.P. is too old for the job?

CASTRO: No, I've never said that. You know, I believe that he's a fantastic candidate, but I have my disagreements with Vice President Biden. We disagreed on health care. We disagreed on immigration. And I pointed that out last tie about immigration in Detroit. I pointed out disagreements about health care tonight. We were there to debate. This is a debate. This is what I said in the -- on the stage tonight. I'm not bashful about debating people. You know, that's what we're here for.

We're not running for student council president. We're running for president, and we're going to have to run against Donald Trump, who's a very tough debater. So, I'm going to be prepared to go in in October 2020 and to defeat Donald Trump in that debate.

CUOMO: Secretary, I appreciate you explaining the moment tonight, giving us your views on the debate, you're always welcome on the show. Thank you, sir.

CASTRO: Thank you.

CUOMO: All right. Be well and good luck going forward.

Right back, we have another candidate, Senator Elizabeth Warren. How did she think it went up there tonight for her and the rest of the field, next.



CUOMO: All right. So we just had former Secretary Castro on. He made a moment tonight. He didn't see it the way other people on the stage saw it.

Let's expand to some better minds. We have Chris Cillizza. We have Wajahat Ali, and we have Sabrina Siddiqui.

So I wasn't trying to mess with Castro too much, but I think if you're going to do something like that, you have to own it for what it is.


CUOMO: Just in case -- just in case you don't know what we're talking about, he said to Biden three different times, "Did you just forget what you said two minutes ago? Did you forget it?"

And the crowd went, "Oooh." And it obviously seemed to be a play about his capacity.

CILLIZZA: Yes. I wonder, and we'll probably never know the answer to this. I wonder if that's what he meant the first time. He repeated it a couple of times. The crowd kind of went bananas, and Biden couldn't total -- it's loud in there. You can't hear.

I wonder if that's what he meant. What I would have done if I were him in the interview with you afterwards is say, "Look, what I meant to say was, 'In the last debate, Joe Biden said something about health care that I don't believe is accurate.'" It's important that we litigate the differences. You and I, I know, agree with Castro that debates are about -- primary's about differences.

But the way in which it came off was not the way in which I intended it. I respect --

CUOMO: He did the opposite. He said, "This is a debate. I'm ready to go. I'll go toe-to-toe with Trump, too."

CILLIZZA: And again, I'm not sure that he goes into that exchange, thinking, "I'm going to raise this," and people are not going to -- people -- every rational person is going to think this is about --

CUOMO: He doesn't want to wind up where Rugo (ph) was, with the he'd be a watch salesman on 34th Street, which was a calculated thing. But let's do this. Hold on.

Let's hold for a second, because we've got Senator Warren, and she's had a long night already. So let's bring her in, standing by in Houston.

Senator, good to have you. Thank you for joining us.


CUOMO: How are you?

WARREN: It's good to be here.

CUOMO: So one of the things --

WARREN: Great.

CUOMO: One of the things that many are saying about your performance tonight was tone. Strong when you needed to be, but there was an amicability to you with V.P. Biden. A lot of us thought that that was going to be blood sport tonight, but that you had good tone throughout the night.

We were just talking with Secretary Castro, and I was asking him about what I saw and I think the stage saw as a cheap shot at Biden and a reflection of what kind of tone you guys want. What was your take on that moment?

WARREN: Look, I was so happy to be there tonight and to have a chance to talk to millions of people across this country about what I think is wrong in America. A country, a government that's working great for those at the top and not for everyone else. But I'm not here to criticize anybody else on that stage.

CUOMO: You know what? I'll take that by implication as you don't want that to be to tone on the stage. And we heard that from several people tonight.

So in terms of the points of comparison, the challenge for you seems to be you want to engage the left, you've got them. You want to move down the ideological spectrum and show that the senator can take on Trump, can capture the imagination of the left but also the enthusiasm of the moderates. Do you think you moved that way tonight?

WARREN: So, you know, that's really what this campaign has been all about. About reaching out and rebuilding our democracy.

When I made the decision that I was not going to spend a big hunk of my time with bazillionaires and with corporate executives, it really freed up the time to go out and meet with people all around the country.

I've now been to 27 states in Puerto Rico. I've done 130 town halls. I've taken literally thousands of unfiltered questions, and in the key measure of democracy, I've done more than 50,000 selfies with people. But it's been a chance to be able to talk with people about the things that touched their hearts.

I think the old ways of thinking about this -- you know, there's this left, right and the center. No, that's not is what it is.

People across this country, when I talk about how we've got a government that works great for those at the top and how much people know. And it's not working for everyone else. I watch people nod. When I talk about about a 2-cent wealth task that -- on the top one- tenth of 1 percent, and that with that, we can do universal childcare, universal pre-K, raise the wages of every childcare worker and grade- school teacher, universal college, put $50 billion into our historically black colleges and universities, like where we are tonight, and cancel student loan debt for 95 percent of the folks who've got it.


People say and said, "Yes, we could do that together." And everyone who wants to do the naysaying says, "No, the rich will never let it happen." Well, that's what 2020 is about. Can we make our democracy work? And the way we're going to make it work is we're going to build it person to person across this country. Ten-dollar donations and one hour of volunteering, that's how we'll make it work.

CUOMO: A little bit of it is you're right. There's naysaying. The dreams are too big. And you've -- you counter that point effectively every time it comes up. You say, "Don't tell me what we can't do. Show me how we can do."

Now, on the can-do side, the criticism will be it's too expensive what you want to do. It's scary. You want to do too much. Too much big government. We want smaller government. I don't want an equal opposite to Trump. I don't want to go from rabid right to radical left.

WARREN: This is not about doing that. I just think you've got the wrong frame about this. They give it this way. A budget, most people say it's all numbers. Please. You know, too hard to understand or too boring.

CUOMO: True, true.

WARREN: It's not at all. It's a statement of our values. So here it is. Two cents. We can leave at two cents on the great fortunes in this country. That is fortunes above 50 million dollars. I said you get to keep your first 50 million free and clear. I know that makes you feel better.

But on your 50 millionth and first dollar, pitch in two cents. And two cents on every dollar after that.

We could say, "No, we're not going to do that. Let those guys keep the two cents," or make them pitch in the two cents and that's what we'll invest in every single one of our babies, every single one of our young people who's trying to get an education. Every single one of our people who are being crushed by student loan debt.

We have a choice to make as a country. We can say, we're just going to be a country that keeps working better and better for those at the top or we can make it work for everyone else. I'm in this fight because I believe we can do this, and -- and that's what this moment is about.

CUOMO: The 2 percent on the top, I hear you about that. But what about the middle class? Could you do what you want to do with all your plans and not have a tax on the middle class?


CUOMO: Really?

WARREN: Yes. Look, I've got a housing -- I've got a housing bill that will build 1.2 million new housing units, fully paid for --

CUOMO: No tax on the middle class?

WARREN: -- with a corporate investment, agreeing -- No, no. And I just came out with a Social Security plans today. Two-hundred-dollar increase across the board from everyone who gets Social Security and everybody who gets disability payments. It will literally lift millions of people out of poverty. And you know who's going to pay for it? The top 2 percent.

This is about our country. We need to get some balance back. You know, let me just make one small pitch. We know from the data that the 99 percent last year paid about 7.2 percent of their total wealth in taxes. The top 1 percent, they paid about 3.2 percent.

If we call on them to pay a little more and then take that money and invest it in the rest of America, we can make this economy work for everyone. Not just some, but for everyone. And we're going to make this democracy work for everyone.

CUOMO: Senator Elizabeth Warren, I appreciate it very much. Thank you for taking time tonight. Good luck going forward.

WARREN: Thank you for having me. I appreciate it.

CUOMO: I'll right. I'll see you soon. Be well.

We have back-to-back candidates. We had Castro. We had Warren, and now we will have Andrew Yang next. Stay with our coverage.



CUOMO: All right. We're waiting on Andrew Yang from Houston. He had a good night on the debate stage. And there he is.

The Yang gang very active online. I saw one set of reporting, one metric on Twitter about who had gotten the most followers during and after the debate. You were right up there, if not at the top. How did you think it went?

ANDREW YANG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I thought it went great, Chris. People can now feel the Freedom Dividend, because they're going to see their friends and neighbors, hopefully, get it. And I cannot wait to pick the winners of people that can see that $1,000 a month actually makes a stronger, healthier, less-stressed-out. It's going to improve relationships. It's going to improve our entire country.

CUOMO: So to those who say, "Man, these people in the Democratic Party, they just can't give away my money fast enough," what's your answer?

YANG: Well, first, a study just came out that said that our data is now more valuable than oil. And so I'd ask them to reflect, did you get your data check in the mail? Because there are companies that are profiting to the tune of billions of dollars off of our information, and that's the nature of the 21st Century economy.

This is not us getting something for nothing. This is actually our getting what we should be getting as the owners and shareholders of the richest country in the history the world. CUOMO: So you're saying that the money that give each of us $1,000 a

month doesn't come from tax rolls? It comes from where?

YANG: Well, it comes from the biggest winners of the 21st Century economy. You have a trillion-dollar tech company, Amazon, closing 30 percent of America's stores and malls and literally paying zero in taxes.

So if we give the American people our fair share of every Amazon sale, every Google search, every Facebook ad, every robot truck mile, we can easily afford a dividend of $1,000 a month for every American.


Because we're going to end up taking this money and spend it in our communities anyway.

CUOMO: Why doesn't that offend capitalism?

YANG: This is capitalism where income doesn't start at zero. And it's not just me. Jamie Diamond, CEO of JPMorgan Chase, recently came out and said we should declare a national emergency around the economy and have a negative income tax, which is very, very similar to my dividend.

So this is the most capitalist thing in the world, because our consumer economy and our markets function much, much better when we have money to spend. It's going to be great for business.

CUOMO: The idea of what happened on the debate stage tonight with Castro. I just had him on the show, and I said, "It seemed to me that you took a cheap shot at Biden. You said it three times."

He said, "No, no, no, I had a disagreement over policy, and I am here to debate."

And I said, "Yes, but how you debate matters."

And he says, "No, I didn't mean it in any other kind of way."

I said, "Well, everybody went 'Oooh', and people came after you on the debate stage." He wouldn't own it that way. What was your take?

YANG: Well, you know, I was standing right between the two of them. And I'll certainly leave it to Americans watching at home how they interpreted it. I have a feeling I interpreted it the same way most people at home did.

CUOMO: What does that mean? Why are you guys -- why are you learning these politics games about not answering a question I just asked you? You were one of the straightest shooters up there.

YANG: I'm sorry, Chris. I'm a quick study.

CUOMO: Well, you -- I know. You're too smart. Damn it. When you were up there, you said, "Come on, guys. Come on, guys." What was that about?

YANG: Well, it is literally -- Julian and Joe both worked in the same administration.

CUOMO: Right.

YANG: And the truth of it is that, when you are in a tough spot and you're, let's say, lower in the polls, then you feel like you don't have a choice but to be aggressive. But I don't think that aggression is what the American people want to see on the debate stage when it comes to people that are, frankly, aligned on very many things.

CUOMO: Yes. I think it's -- I think it's a tricky situation for you Democrats, and here's why.

As you know, you hear it more than I do, because you're out there on the hustings. Democrats see this president as an existential threat. They consistently tell me in every forum I have, "I'll vote for any of them are as long as they can beat Trump. I don't care who it is."

And how you go against him, though, will matter to Democrats. See, that's the difference between your party and that party. If you check certain boxes in the Republican Party, you'll get the vote. They don't care how you get there. The conservatives just showed that by standing next to somebody who doesn't inculcate any of the values that they've preached for decades.

You guys aren't like that. So when Julian Castro says, "I'm here to debate. This is how I'll take it to Trump, too," you think that wins for Democrats?

YANG: Well, no, I'm on board with the fact that Democrats are laser- focused on trying to beat Donald Trump. I'm one of only two candidates who was on that stage tonight that 10 percent or more of Trump voters said that they would support.

So if I'm the Democratic nominee, we will win. That is the math. And that is the case I'm looking forward to making to Democrats around the country.

CUOMO: You is your acronym for MATH again?

YANG: It's "Make America Think Harder."

CUOMO: That's it.

YANG: We have to focus on the real problems and start solving them.

CUOMO: Yes. I mean, you have a tall task. I couldn't even remember the acronym.

Let me ask you one other thing before you let you go. Are you sure you want this job? You see what happens to a president of the United States. You've made it your own way. You've got a beautiful family that you love taking care of. You've been successful a hundred different ways. You're a young man. Do you really want jackals like me coming at you on a 24-seven basis about everything you do and eat?

YANG: Well, one of the lessons in entrepreneurship is there are two approaches to a problem. Someone else will take care of it or you're going to take care of yourself. And unfortunately, the first one doesn't work.

So we're facing some of the biggest problems for your kids and mind, and if no one else is going to take care of them, then I'm very happy to step up and do all I can.

CUOMO: Andrew Yang, I appreciate you taking the opportunity tonight. Good luck going forward. You're always welcome on PRIMETIME to talk about what matters.

YANG: Thank you. I'll see you soon, Chris.

CUOMO: All right.

YANG: All the best.

CUOMO: Be well.

All right. We just heard from three of the candidates on the big stage tonight. Let's unpack who said what and what does it mean and what is at play and what happens next. Next.



CUOMO: All right, we're back with the A-team, with the addition of Paul Begala. Now Chris Cillizza, Sabrina Siddiqui and Wajahat Ali.

I just said to Raj, "I don't think that you're going to be wrong overall about what might happen. You're just wrong tonight." That's the kind of thing.

CILLIZZA: That's good news.

WAJAHAT ALI, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: You could be a politician. I like that.

CUOMO: Here's why. You look at the stage tonight, Begala. You're the first -- you're the new one on the team here. You see one reality. Biden finally came to play in a way where he was literally one on two at points tonight with the people who we thought were going to make mincemeat out of him, potentially. So good for him.

Tonight, he seemed to be justifying the lead. But what happens when you get into the primaries if he drops one or both of Iowa and New Hampshire, which is not an likely.

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: That's what we don't know. Joe's run twice before, didn't do very well. So the fear has been, well, does he have a glass jaw?

You know, it's easy when you're in first, although for the Democrats, we hate frontrunners. How's he going to recover?

Well, he has taken shots --

CUOMO: He has.

BEGALA: Look, I don't have a favorite in this race, but a lot of Democrats, myself included, have been really concerned. Can Joe take the fight to Trump?

Tonight, he took the fight to both Bernie and Elizabeth, who are ten times smarter than Trump. They're not as vicious, but they're ten times smarter. And he did fine. He did great. I think he did better, actually, than Bernie and Elizabeth combined, which is pretty amazing.


CUOMO: What about the vicious point, though? Sabrina, let me bounce to you on this. It's not going to be, "Well, three trillion doesn't get us." He gets his trillions and billions wrong. It's not that kind of thing. It's "You're old, you're tired, and your party's a bunch of socialists. You had your chances; you're a failure."

That's the nature of back and forth. Do you think that what you saw on the stage tonight from Joe Biden translates into that type of toe to toe?

SABRINA SIDDIQUI, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think the reason why it's so hard to assess Joe Biden's prospects is because we know that voters prioritize electability. It's come at the top of many polls, and they want someone who is best positioned to defeat Donald Trump.

We don't necessarily know what they mean by electability and how you actually ensure that Trump's presidency is limited to one term.

So if you're Joe Biden and you saw a continuation of that tonight, it's about a steady hand, a return to normalcy, about experience and incremental change.

If you're Elizabeth Warren, if you're Bernie Sanders, it's about advocating for sweeping reforms and really rallying people behind changing, transforming a political system that has benefitted a privileged few. And which one of those arguments is going to win and prevail when voters go to the polls? I think that's the open-ended question.

CUOMO: Well, look, I mean, you're the one with the encyclopedic memory about all this stuff that has happened, what plays and how in elections. But you know, Sabrina is right about which argument. But it's got to be manifested in the appropriate agent. You know, aren't these mostly beauty contests at the end of the day about who they like better and why?

CILLIZZA: Well, the thing that I always struggle with with Trump is you go into it like, OK, we're going to have a gentleman's boxing match, and then he, like, pokes you in the eye and, like, picks salt and throws it on you. Or, like you know -- or is like "What's that over there?" And then he knees you. You know what I mean?

That's what's hard with him, is -- Sabrina's exactly right about the two theories of electability. It's just so hard when it comes to Trump, because he is such a -- whether you like him, hate him, nobody feels in between -- he is an asymmetrical opponent to your point, that you could say, "Mr. Trump, you -- you said that Mexico is going to pay for the wall, didn't pay for the wall."

"Oh, yes? Well, you're a big stupid."


CILLIZZA: Like I mean, what -- what do you do? What is the response to be like, "Oh, yes? You have a low I.Q." Or is the best response to say, "This isn't about name calling, this is" -- like, that's the problem. What's the best way that you push back? Do you try to out- Trump Trump? Do you try to go in the opposite direction? Who best does that? That is what's the problem is.

ALI: If you're Biden, you just mention Obama about 1,000 times.

CILLIZZA: Yes, yes.

ALI: Look, if Biden can't last for a two-hour debate, because the first hour was fantastic. He had his Red Bull; he came out to play.

But that second hour, those two questions on Afghanistan and on race, my God, like a long, rambling incoherent answer.

Also also said this, I hate the term electability, because it's coded language for straight white male for the ordinary voter, which is coded language for truck (ph), the white guy in the Rust Belt.

I'll say this. I'm old enough to remember when Barack Hussein Obama, our Muslim brother, the radical flaming socialist, who would make us, you know, pray towards Mecca, 2008, people were excited about him. But so many voters said there's no way this country is going to vote for a black man.

He won a primary. Then he won another primary. Then people are like, "Oh my God. This guy could actually do it." They were enthused. They came out for him.

Look, Warren is rising. There are people in the single digits who I think will rise. Right now Biden's got the black vote at 40. You will not win the candidacy without the black vote. But I think with each subsequent week, people are saying, "Am I really excited about Biden? Is he really the guy that's going to take me out."

And if they see someone like a Warren or a Harris or a Booker actually win a primary -- probably not Booker -- they will -- I see they will shift. They're going to shift.

CILLIZZA: To his point in '08, very quickly, that did happen in some ways. That's why it was so critical Obama won Iowa. Because it became suddenly, well, it's not just we like him and he makes us excited. It's well, he won.

ALI: He is electable.

CILLIZZA: He can win so. That is 100 percent true. You don't look like you're a winner until you win something.

SIDDIQUI: And by that same token, I'm old enough to remember when everyone thought that Donald Trump was fundamentally unelectable.

CILLIZZA: That's right.

SIDDIQUI: And then New Hampshire and even placing second in Iowa changes the course of the Republican primary.

And so if you're looking at Elizabeth Warren and the big attack on her is going to be -- or on someone like Bernie Sanders, "Oh, well, they're socialists." That's the scare tactic you're going to hear from their political opponents. They might turn around and say, "Well, we don't actually know. Maybe Americans actually do believe that a socialist is electable in the United States of America."

BEGALA: I think that Joe tonight did go a long way, though, towards saying, "I'm electable," that he can take the fight to Trump, right? The way he handled Bernie and Elizabeth at the same time.

But I thought even more interesting was Kamala Harris's strategy. Previous debate, she tore into Joe. This time she tore into Trump. And I get sick of all these guys and gals just flyspecking each other's phony-baloney position papers. I'm sorry. None of them are ever going to become laws.

CUOMO: Let me ask you something.

[00:55:03] BEGALA: Instead, she took the fight to Donald Trump, which every Democrat hates. And she did it, I thought, with a real passion.

CUOMO: White male stereotype to the side for a minute, if William Jefferson Clinton were on that stage, I think that he would wipe the floor with Donald Trump in an election. Why?

BEGALA: Because his first law of politics was always campaigns are about them, not us.

The problem I and others have about Trump is I'm always distracted by him and by his racism, xenophobia, Islamophobia. That's all awful but what Clinton would do -- by the way, what Obama would do, same thing, is he'd objectify that. They'd hold it up and they'd say, "Now, why is he doing this?" Not, "Oh, he's a racist." Like, "Why is he dividing white folks from black folks, right? From -- Muslims from Christians. Because he thinks by dividing us, he can roll over us."

In other words, the two of them, I think, why they were so successful is they could take attacks like that, personal attacks -- nobody had worse personal attacks than Barack Obama. Clinton, too, had his share. But they would objectify them. And that's the thing. I think when the president says these horrible

things, Democrats shouldn't simply say, "Oh, it's horrible." They should explain to the audience why he's doing it, because it distracts them.

Nobody tonight mentioned that Donald Trump proposed the largest cuts in Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security in American history. It is the No. 1 tested, all tested attack on Donald Trump. Never mentioned. Why? Because we get so distracted, understandably. Obama would not follow that.

CUOMO: It's also, you know, on the same day that he also slammed the door shut on Bahamians' faces who want to come here for protection.

Let's take a quick break. Thank you very much for all of you. You, I think have to run. Right? Because you'll be on NEW DAY in about five. You are the best. Thank you for being here.

All right. Much more to come on what went down at the third Democratic debate. In the commercial, I will get Paul Begala's bedtime routine, and I'll tell you about it, because I heard it's very intricate.



CUOMO: We're back for our live post-debate coverage. I'm Chris Cuomo, welcome to Cuomo Prime Time. The top Democratic contenders share the stage for the first time in this 2020 race.

The main target, you had to believe was Joe Biden but he came ready this time -- it was a different debate for him, it was a long debate -- there was a lot to discuss. So we have time to test their performance, what do you say? Let's get after it.

All right, it is beyond conjecture that Democrats believe healthcare is their big topic, this was the third debate where they were big in on healthcare. Certainly at the top, and yes some of that was the moderators but it was also clearly the inclination of the people on the stage.

So Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden clashed in Houston, things went beyond policy -- take a listen.


SEN BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You've got to defend the fact that 500,000 Americans are going bankrupt. You know why they're going bankrupt? Because they suffered a terrible disease -- cancer, or heart disease. Under my legislation people will not go in to financial ruin because they suffered with a diagnosis of cancer, and our program is the only one that does that.

JOE BIDEN, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I know a lot about cancer, let me tell you something -- it's personal to me, let me tell you something. Every single person whose diagnosed with cancer, or any other disease can automatically become part of this plan. They will not go bankrupt because of that -- I've been there, you've been there. You know what it's like. People need help now, hope now, and do something now.


CUOMO: Told you, it was a different Joe Biden tonight. I've got three key Democratic insiders here -- Alexandra Rojas, Aisha Moodie- Mills and Joe Lockhart. Now, I've got to tell you, Joe as somebody who was in the advice game (ph) for people what they're going to say, what they're not going to say. Bringing up cancer patients to Joe Biden was not the best use of ammunition for Bernie Sanders on an issue that he generally owns.

JOE LOCKHART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yeah he has a personal story, and I think he told it there -- he told it in the end, the resilience question which I think was -- were strong answers across the board from all the candidates. But I think there's a -- everyone will talk about Joe Biden was attacked tonight.

I think what really happened was there was a much clearer distinction between there's two schools of thought among Democrats -- Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren believe that we have to force ourselves in to Medicare for all, where private insurance is abolished. And the rest of the field is not there. The public opinion polls are very clear, it is very unpopular and very controversial to eliminate private insurance.

So I think we saw, really for the first time Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders a bit on the defensive there, and that's -- this is going to be a critical issue.

CUOMO: And they talk about the profits, not getting rid of insurance which is just a finesse point (ph) -- but Elizabeth Warren, we had her on the show earlier tonight, she's all talking Aisha about 2 percent, 2 percent, 2 percent tax that'll take care of it. She doesn't lean on getting rid of private insurance, is that an adjustment, does it work?

AISHA MOODIE-MILLS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well I think that the line of the night actually around healthcare was hers, and I think it does work because she reminded us all that she hasn't met one person that actually loves their insurance company.

Now, so many of us can talk to you about the providers that we really care about, and appreciate it -- Dr. So-and-So or Therapist So-and-So (ph). And I think that what she did there, is she differentiated this conversation around the insurance companies and how much it costs you out of pocket, versus how much it's going to cost -- and a little bit of tax increase, maybe that will be negligible at the end of the day, $300, $400, $500 a month you'll feel -- $500 a year, maybe less so.

And I think that she made a really good point in reminding us that we keep having this conversation, no one in America is hugging their insurance company and loving them, but let's figure out how we get better care and make sure that we're doing this business in a way that we have better relationships with our doctors.

CUOMO: But don't you have to be a little price tag sensitive? I mean, one of the push-backs that you hear all night long -- and you know, we don't do it as much now because it's primary season and you guys are competing amongst yourselves. But most independent types that you talk to they're like, this is expensive stuff -- I mean, this is really, big, huge government programs. How do you allay fears?


ALEXANDRA ROJAS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think that, you know, the question of what can I afford to do today is one that every American asks themselves. So I think that understandably that is a concern, but at the same time what have we been currently spending our resources on as a nation? What have we been prioritizing? Because currently it's been trillions of dollars to wars that are never ending, it's gone to bailing out really big banks on Wall Street and not holding people accountable, not even being able to hold the President of the United States accountable.

So when we want to prioritize every single man, woman, and child in this country to have health care as a guaranteed human right, I think that is definitely the end goal that we should always be striving for and even for the great achievement that we've had with something like Obamacare, there are still millions of people that are left off of that. And so, our goal must be to have a system that puts people before profit and ultimately makes sure that every single American has coverage. And I think there's one plan to do that, and that's single- payer Medicare for all.

CUOMO: Why isn't that popular? Why isn't it popular with the component of getting rid of insurance?

LOCKHART: Well it's, you know, I don't know why people think what they think, but the polls -


ROJAS: It is popular.

LOCKHART: Well, it's not if you look at the electorate as a whole.

CUOMO: Single-payer is popular.


LOCKHART: And single-payer when you -

CUOMO: Single-payer private insurance changes your calculations (ph).

LOCKHART: When you ask people do you believe in, say, what Mayor Pete is for - Medicare for those who want it - that remains popular, but when you throw that extra step and you force people to give up private insurance - and yes, people don't love companies. They don't love their banks, they - but, you know, there are people who like the coverage they have. That doesn't mean we shouldn't worry about the people who don't have coverage.

And it's - you know, when you add in all the information here, it's down in the 20 percent range among Democrats, so not even Democrats support this. And that's why when Elizabeth Warren was pushed she wouldn't answer the questions, so like would it raise taxes and would it eliminate private insurance.

CUOMO: She said it to me tonight.

ROJAS: Well, and -


CUOMO: Said she will not raise taxes on the middle class for any of her plans. We'll see if that comes back to bother her.

MOODIE-MILLS: She's taxing, what'd she say, rich people like two cents on a dollar, something like that?

LOCKHART: After your first $50 million.

MOODIE-MILLS: Here's the thing, though, is I think that when the conversation keeps getting pushed into you not being able to choose something -


CUOMO: That's right.

MOODIE-MILLS: - that's when people get fearful.

CUOMO: Correct.

MOODIE-MILLS: So why do you see the poll numbers as they are is because the narrative is we're going to take something away from you and we're going to limit your ability to make choices. I think that the conversation could go a different way if it was more about, look, this is what you're paying out of your pocket right now. Here's what you could be paying for something different. You could be paying far less because we have a way to offset your personal cost, and that's going to be better for you all across the board. So I think the way that the conversation's had about the money matters.

LOCKHART: That's possible, but to ask why is it not a popular (inaudible). Why did eight candidates come out and oppose what Warren centers (ph) is for the reason that you are taking away choice, and that's always a difficult thing. Sometimes you have to do it, but right now the way they're articulating it, it is not a popular idea. It may be a good idea. I don't know. That's -

ROJAS: Well, it's clearly a popular idea. This is the third debate where we've had the same exact conversation about healthcare, and that's because there is a contingent of not just young people like myself but thousands of people across the country that are part of those statistics of 60 percent of people going bankrupt because of healthcare related costs or I don't have to even tell you, right, all of the things associated with how broken our healthcare system is, but the only reason why Medicare for all or even public option is on the table right now is because we've pushed the Medicare for all debate -


LOCKHART: And I'm - I'm not arguing the -

ROJAS: -- so I do think that it's popular to (inaudible) and the frontrunners.

LOCKHART: I'm not arguing the policy of whether, you know, Sanders has the right program or Warrne has the right program or Biden -


ROJAS: No, it's popularity. I'm saying it's popular.

LOCKHART: -- has the right program, but this is a question of popularity and the polls don't lie.


CUOMO: Well, here's - I'll argue the point.

LOCKHART: It is - yes.

ROJAS: Polls lie.

CUOMO: Joe (inaudible), I'll argue the point.


CUOMO: Here's the argument that you - I don't like the insurance. It's expensive. They always bang me in ways they say they're not going to bang. They say if you go in network, you're good. Nothing's in network. Nobody likes it. I don't like the company. I like some of the providers to the extent that I know them, but they're all involved with billing it seems, and when I put in a claim, it takes twice as long. When they want the money, they're coming after me in 15 seconds.

All right, let's say everybody's in that place, OK? What I don't want is more confusion, more government, and potential price tags that I don't see coming because I don't trust you is the answer for moriphization (ph) of politicians, OK?

So I hear big price tag, I hear better from a long run. I don't think long run. I think now because I need help now because it's killing me now. So transition costs scare me. Time and lag scare me. Change scares me. Help me.

[01:10:00] ROJAS: I think this country has gone through - the greatest moments of American history have been through when we make massive systemic change. If we think about how we electrified the nation, how we went to the moon, how we've built the systems that we currently have today, we did them as America. I believe that every - you know, that in the greatest country on

Earth, which is our nation here, and, you know, that we can rise to whatever challenge that we meet. And so, if the - if the challenge is we need to provide healthcare for every single man, woman, and child in this country and we still haven't been able to do it with the measures that we've taken now, I don't think that offering -


CUOMO: You got close.

ROJAS: -- similar position -

CUOMO: You got close, and that's Biden's pitch. A little bit Buttigieg also is listen, we got close, we're going to add another piece which they wouldn't give us last time, but now we know better which is we're going to give you this Medicare option. You're going to have an option - a public option in there on top of it. So you want - you like your insurance? Keep it. We're not blowing up capitalism. We're not blowing up what you have. We're going to add a piece to cover the people who aren't covered now. Why isn't that the accommodation for you guys?

MOODIE-MILLS: And I think that the point that you're making is really a messaging one, right? I wonder how this conversation would go if we were talking about an evolutionary system to your point, right, evolving Obamacare to all of these other pieces to get us to Medicare for all versus we're going to scrap this, throw it away, and start from new -


CUOMO: I think - yes, because I think people fear change a little bit.

MOODIE-MILLS: -- and at the end of the day, I mean, I believe that if messaged well, people will say, "oh, Medicare for all makes a whole lot of sense for all of our families. I do believe that there's a messaging challenge still to get through, and that's what --


LOCKHART: And it think what -

MOODIE-MILLS: -- we're seeing playing out with Warren.

LOCKHART: I think what gets lost a little bit, and it's really important, is in the fight between Medicare for those who want it, Medicare for all, we forget to say and the Republicans want to take away Obamacare.

CUOMO: Right.

LOCKHART: And I give Kamala Harris credit tonight for pointing that out. That was one of the most powerful lines when she said, hold on a second. Like we have different ideas of how to do this, but those guys are in court right now -

MOODIE-MILLS: Literally.

LOCKHART: -- trying to take away what you already have. So it's not a bad fight for Democrats because that highlights the issue - the single-best issue for Democrats -

CUOMO: Right.

LOCKHART: -- in 2018 and I think in 2020.

CUOMO: I think we're in the right place now. I want to take a break because now the table is properly set which is you got the right issue. Are the Democrats talking about it the right way for the fight that is to come? I promise you we will never have a debate in the general election where I am having this kind of granular discussion about the plans that were offered up on the stage. So when we come back, we'll talk about what was said up there by Beto O'Rourke about the gun issue. No F bombs, although they can sometime be appropriate, but he did make a controversial vow. How is it playing? We'll talk about that next.



CUOMO: All right. More post debate covers. There was a lot to work with tonight, all right? There's another portable (ph) -- I know they all seem like they're about healthcare but they weren't, all right? Beto O'Rourke went big about what he wanted to do in terms of gun control further than anyone else. Listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you proposing taking away their guns and how would this work?

BETO O'ROURKE, FORMER U.S. REP. (D): I am if it's a weapon that was designed to kill people on a battlefield.


The high impact high velocity round when it hits your body shreds everything inside of your body because it was designed to do that so that you would bleed to death on a battlefield. Not be able to get up and kill one of our soldiers.

When we see that being used against children -- and in Odessa, I met the mother of a 15 year old girl who was shot by an AR-15. And that mother watched her bleed to death over the course of an hour because so many other people were shot by that AR-15 in Odessa and Midland.

There weren't enough ambulances to get to them in time. Hell yes, we're going to take your AR-15, your AK-47.

(APPLAUSE) We're not going to allow it to be used against fellow Americans anymore.


CUOMO: All right. Crowd there in Houston loved it. We're back with Alexandra Rojas, Aisha Moodie-Mills and Joe Lockhart. Now, two things are going to happen with that argument.

The first one is, is that the gun lobby will make a thousand fine distinctions about what is a weapon of war and what isn't and how the AR-15 is misunderstood and what you call. That you all have to push to the side, it's a fringe argument.

In the main, it will be, so you are going to come take our guns. And look how all the Democrats cheered in there. Winning proposition?

MOODIE-MILLS: Here's the thing. It is not a majority of America that wants to cling to their AK whatever they are, right? And so I don't think that it's a winning proposition for the Democrats to be overly concerned about that 30 percent that they're not going to win anyway.

I think it is the middle that really deeply gets frustrated. It's mothers in the suburbs who are literally in tears because their seven year olds just started back to school and are learning drills of what to do incase there's an active shooter.

There are a lot of people in this country, the majority who are like yes; I don't really know why you need an assault weapon. And at minimum we need to have background checks. And that's who the Democrats need to appeal to.

They're not going to win it back and forth in a debate with folks who want to hoard and hug their rifles. And that's fine because I don't believe those folks are the majority. Sensible gun owners even say yes, I legally have my gun, that's fine. But I believe that we should have something--

CUOMO: 80 percent.


CUOMO: 80 plus percent do. It's interesting because it's the reverse messaging that they're trying to use on Trump about having reasonable gun reform is that he'll never lose his base anyway.

They have nowhere else to go. They didn't leave you on bum stocks. They won't leave you on hundred round drums. They won't leave you on any of these things, they got nowhere else to go.

But in terms of a messaging point, you agree with Aisha that you mine as well say you're going to take things back?

LOCKHART: I think that -- let me talk about Beto first, which is this is a winning issue for him for a couple reasons. One is he needed to stand out because he kind of got lost in the shuffle. Second is because it's authentic. It's from his hometown. You can't look at him and not (ph) think that he's feeling pain and his emotions are real.


So I think this puts him, in some respects back on the map. As far as the overall debate, I do believe that the gun debate in this country is changing. I liken it to gay marriage, where we weren't really sure that it changed until like, the dominos all fell so quickly that it was amazing we thought, how did we get all this done in two years?

So -- and I do think the presidential election will be decided in the suburbs and will be decided among women, and they look at this differently. Now, can a Democrat message this in a way that isn't as hot and threatening to gun owners? Of course they could. But does the strong, authentic voice help move the debate? I think you can have both of those things.

CUOMO: Yeah, I just think you need to be careful with confiscation. Not only do I not think it would pass legal muster, I think you have some tricks there. But I don't think it's what your necessary fix is, I think your fix is about -- on this level of how do you control who gets what? OK. And then it's how do you control who gets what on the level of capacity? Red flag laws, I think go to that.

And I wouldn't be surprised if Blumenthal and Graham can work a deal that this president decides to get behind, because I think someone could convince him, you're not going to lose your people anyway -- you won't lose your people. They may not like this, but a lot of people will like it that don't like you now, and the ones who won't like it will still like you -- what do you think of that?

ROJAS: I don't --

CUOMO: Is it too much -- is it too much in all one thing?

ROJAS: Yeah -- I --

MOODIE-MILLS: It's a lot (ph) --

ROJAS: I just think that's -- yeah, I don't think that's really (inaudible). I agree that Beto, I think had one of the strongest performances of the night from, I think the gun issue in particular just because he was able to sort of be the tip of the spear on that issue.

CUOMO: But he did give a point to your opponents, because they hit you guys with you're going to take our guns all the time and people always say on the left, we're not going to take your guns -- he just did.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yeah but to the point --

LOCKHART: But here's -- here's the thing -- on this whole weapon ban was passed in 1994 by President Clinton, and then he lost -- the Democrats lost the midterms elections. So it wasn't that the -- that every politician decided that that was the worst vote they ever made on policy, it was on politics.

So all that needs to change is for someone to step forward, propose something and then show that the politics have changed. And I think on guns we are nearing a tipping point where the Democrats should be testing whether the politics have changed --

MOODIE-MILLS: Well Bernie Sanders is a great example of this already -- Bernie Sanders was a guy who voted against the Brady Act like five times. In 2016 he had to be called in to account for the fact that he was in good standing with the NRA and he's like, oh he's Independent, he's from Vermont, there are a lot of people there who own guns -- he had a lot of excuses around it.

Here we are now, fast-forward three years later and he is very clear about where he stands on gun safety and gun reform. And so the politics have shifted -- the politics have shifted, certainly he as acknowledged and admitted. And also we're in an interesting place where the presidential -- this may be very, very important but you've still got to contend with the Senate. With folks who actually, they're voters -- they're not losing their seat over this issue just yet.

The Democrats in the House though, the tides have changed for sure, and so you're seeing fewer Democrats who are saying I've got to still be in good standing with the NRA because they know that that's politically just intolerable for their own base, for their party.

And so I think that so much of this has shifted, what I am concerned about though is that the movement on the policy action I'm not so -- I'm not so optimistic that folks can convince Trump to sign anything because he's not going to lose people. I think he's going to need to be told, you know what we're going to lose three Senate seats if you don't do this and it needs to matter to the balance of power. That would probably (inaudible) --

CUOMO: That's the missing piece. The missing piece has never been the logic, it's never even been the polls -- I mean you've had the polls for a while. It hasn't been made manifest at the polls -- you know, 90 percent more background checks but they don't come and hunt (ph) you, no pun intended -- in primaries where if you don't vote for background checks we're coming for you the way 2A (ph) voters in to certain primaries in areas where that lifestyle is more abundant and say if you're not for us we're against you -- that's what needs to change, do you think there's a chance of that this time?

ROJAS: I think that there is. We saw an uptick in 2018 --

CUOMO: Right, you did a little bit --

ROJAS: Yeah, yeah on people voting specifically on that issue. And I think to Joe's point, part of leadership is showing the American people the way, and I think in a lot of cases that's what we have to do with guns.

MOODIE-MILLS: And there are (ph) organizations who are invested in this right, so Bloomberg has been really invested in organizing in this work. I actually just did the keynote address for the March for Our Lives conference, their first summit that the young people from Parkland did was great -- it was like 500 people came to this event.

They're organized, they're actually organized around voting and getting people engaged. You have former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords that's been investing in like, mobilizing people around this issue.


So you see your point about the ballot box, I also think that that's starting to happen and we'll probably see some results (inaudible) --

CUOMO: And we just had our first two election cycles where the non- baby-boomer generation is a bigger part of the voting block than they are, let's see if changing attitudes make a difference. Alexandra, Aisha, Joe -- thank you very much to each and all, appreciate it.

Question for you, so did Castro's jab to Joe Biden help or hurt? You know who we should ask? The Wizard of Odds, I'll wake him up, get him off my couch and he'll tell us what kind of tool that kind of attack can and cannot be. Next.




CUOMO: With all due respect to Secretary Castro, and I mean that, it did come off to me and a lot of people like he took a shot at former - VP Joe Biden about his age. The question is does the age matter? Was it worth the price of entry for Castro? Let's bring in the Wizard of Oz, Harry Enten, here. It's good to have you with us. But first, I throw you a curve ball.


CUOMO: This discussion that I was kind of getting beat up about with healthcare tonight, this idea that I have never met anybody who likes their health insurance company, all right, we may not love companies that we work with, but I like my health insurance. I'm afraid of change. I don't know that I want to go through change. What do we know?

ENTEN: Well, I think there are a number of things that we know. We have one thing in the wall, but one thing I'll point out, you know, Gallup asked a question at the end of last year. Are you satisfied with your healthcare costs? About 60 percent of Democrats, three- fifths of Democrats said they were satisfied with their healthcare costs. I just don't understand this entire thing. If you look at the polls, Democrats tend to like the Affordable Care Act, they tend to like their healthcare more than not. And so, those on the left side of the party that are trying to argue otherwise are simply put not looking at the Democratic electorate at large.

CUOMO: Everybody wants better -


ENTEN: Yes, sure.

CUOMO: -- cheaper, more efficient. That would be great, but it's how you get there, and you do have a number about that.

ENTEN: Yes, we do have a number about that, and take a look at this. Democratic nominee preference - would you rather vote for somebody who builds on Obamacare? Yes is the answer. A majority, 55 percent say yes, they want someone who builds on Obamacare versus just 40 percent who say they want to replace Obamacare with Medicare for all.

So when you look at this, you understand that Joe Biden has the majority position within the Democratic primary electorate, and that's also why he was joined on that stage by the seven other Democrats.

CUOMO: So Castro going after him at all on the issue you're saying isn't that high percentage, but then in terms of making that point, like, Joe, you're old, does that work?

ENTEN: No, I don't think it works, and I'll tell you a number of reasons why I don't think it works. First off, Joe Biden isn't doing well with young voters anyway. He's just at 8 percent among 18 to 29- year-olds. His base is those specifically 65 and older, but as well as 45 to 64. And so, they make up the majority of the Democratic electorate. That's why he's leading. He's not leading because of young voters. He's leading because older voters in the electorate like him, and you see it right here clearly in the numbers.

CUOMO: And what do we see form CBS?

ENTEN: Yes, and this is the other thing. Candidate Joe Biden's age, do you think he's too old? Only 31 percent in the early primary state said yes, he was too old. 66 percent, two-thirds say age is not a concern with Joe Biden. And so, to me, I just don't under - really understand this Castro attack to be perfectly honest because he was wrong on the healthcare part. He was also wrong on the substance. He had - Castro - Biden did not say what Castro claimed he said, and more than that it just doesn't really go after Biden's base. It just came off bad and I think it's dominating the press coverage right now.

CUOMO: Castro says - well, that's self-serving as we are the press coverage right now and we're saying it, so -


ENTEN: Well, we're not the only ones.

CUOMO: -- it we must be right, but with Castro, the idea of when I interviewed him about it, he wouldn't own it.

ENTEN: Yes. No. (inaudible)

CUOMO: And how does that work as a political dynamic in your mind that it was clearly his intention, so either you could say, well I didn't mean it that way.

ENTEN: Right.

CUOMO: It came out that way. But he said it three times.

ENTEN: Right.

CUOMO: So it's hard to say you didn't mean it that way when you repeated it twice after you said it.

ENTEN: Right, right.

CUOMO: And the other one is, well, he must think it's going to hurt him. Does it?

ENTEN: Well, I mean, look. The fact of the matter is pooling (ph) Castro's polling at, what, 2 percent of the national Democratic primary. He wasn't going to come out of this. You know, even if he doubled his support, he'd only be at 4 percent. The real question I think is whether or not it helps or hurts Joe Biden.

And the fact is remember Eric Swalwell made that comment about passing the torch in the first debate? You know where Eric Swalwell is right now?

CUOMO: Watching us at home?

ENTEN: That's exactly right. He's no longer in the presidential race. The fact is that the attacks of Joe Biden are so obvious such as this, it just comes across as uncouth. And that, my friends, is not something good when you're running in a primary where most of the voters like all of the candidates.

CUOMO: Did you just use the word uncouth?

ENTEN: I did use the word uncouth. My mind is working quite well despite the late hour.

CUOMO: Have you ever used the word "couth"?

ENTEN: I have used the word "couth". I believe I've used - I actually used it in a reference to an email to your executive producer just a few days ago.

CUOMO: Couth?

ENTEN: yes.

CUOMO: I don't think it's a word.

ENTEN: Well you know what, I would take a look at it. I'm fairly sure it is., we'll look at it in the break -

CUOMO: In the break.

ENTEN: -- and then we'll come back. (LAUGHTER)

CUOMO: Thank you, Wiz.

ENTEN: Thank you.

CUOMO: Good to see you on the show. Goodbye. Shalom.

ENTEN: Shalom.

CUOMO: Shalom is the (inaudible) goodbye. Not the wave.

ENTEN: I - well, in the morning I do the wave, and with you I do Shalom.

CUOMO: All right, when we come back he's got a nighttime and a morning -

ENTEN: And we're in the morning, that's why I did the wave.

CUOMO: That is true, yes, there. All right. So we have this primetime, late night style which warrants the harriant (ph) and early-morning and we'll give you more of it right back after this.


All right, we saw some fireworks at this third debate. We saw some humor, but we also saw something that I think counts the most and we saw the least of and I think it should be a point of instruction for the Democratic field.

So Mayor Pete Buttigieg at the end of the debate talk about his life- changing moment. Listen to this.


PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You know, as a military officer serving under don't ask, don't tell and as an elected official in the State of Indiana when Mike Pence was governor, at a certain point when it came to professional setbacks, I had to wonder whether just acknowledging who I was was going to be the ultimate career- ending professional setback.

I came back from the deployment and realized that you only get to live one life, and I was not interested in not knowing what it was like to be in love any longer, so I just came out. I had no idea what kind of professional setback it would be, especially because inconveniently it was an election year in my socially conservative community.

What happened was that when I trusted voters to trust me based don the job that I did for them, they decided to trust me and reelected me with 80 percent of the vote. And what I learned was that trust can be reciprocated, and that part of how you can win and deserve to win is to know what's worth more to you than winning.

[01:40:00] And I think that's what we need in the presidency right now. We have to know what we are about, and this election is not about any of us up here, it is not about this president even though it's hard to talk of anything else some days.

It's about the people who trust us with their lives.


CUOMO: All right, let's come back now with Wajahat Ali, Sabrina Siddiqui, and Chris Cillizza. Now I think that the substance is very poignant, but I think the connection is more instructive of what matters most in politics. People vote for you because of how you make them feel. About how you connect with what matters to them, and what they read in you as authentic. That was certainly his biggest moment of the night --

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: No question, and it's hard because it came at 10:42 eastern. Ideally you want to have your bigger moments earlier before a lot of folks go to bed, shouts to people who are still up watching this.

But yeah, I think that's especially true Chris when it comes to a presidential primary because for as much fighting as you saw there -- and they do disagree on things. The truth of the matter is 98-1/2 percent might even be higher than that, they agree on these things.

So really what you're looking for is, yes there are different approaches. Biden is a different approach and tact than Sanders and Warren, and Harris or Buttigieg, they're different approaches.

Broadly speaking they agree about the direction of the country in its different, wildly so than what Donald Trump has done. But what you're really voting for is who is this person --


CILLIZZA: Right? And the politicians that we have seen really succeed Republican or Democrat -- you know, Barack Obama was able to tell the story of his life in a way that connected with people who weren't -- didn't have a white mom from Kansas and a father from Africa, and grew up with their grandparents in Kenya -- in Hawaii rather.

It was a powerful American story. Bill Clinton up from his bootstraps -- that kind of -- so, I think that is hugely important. I think we underplay it. There are people who vote on single issues, without question you don't oppose abortion I'm not voting for you -- there are those people. But the people who decide elections often vote unto (ph) as opposed to the head.

ALI: Yeah, I mean when it came to that answer, right -- it was the final question about resilience and I think the most powerful answers came from the three individuals who are deemed unelectable -- the gay man, Pete Buttigieg -- Elizabeth Warren, and Kamala Harris. Three individuals who come from marginalized communities. And when it comes to authenticity and narratives, people forget Barack

Hussein Obama, very deliberately tied his narrative -- his story, being a biracial man, a son of a Kenyan-Muslim and a white woman, and saying, I too can become president -- this is the vision of America that I'm showing to you.

And that's where Pete Buttigieg, and I think even Elizabeth Warren -- she did it very strategically tonight. It's not enough just to attack Trump, then you pivot and share your vision of America, connecting it to your personal story.

What Pete Buttigieg says is, look I'm a man whose a gay man, I served in the military, I went to Harvard, I'm from the Midwest, I speak 87 languages, I'm married to another man -- I mean, this was the biggest risks of my career but I'm going to be authentic. This is an America where I can live, and maybe I'm the vice presidential candidate, can you imagine him as a man of faith going up against Mike Pence?

And Elizabeth Warren herself, this is where she differentiates herself from Sanders and I think she's better. She always pivots to her personal story, and today she did that again, and again, and again.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Raised in Oklahoma --

ALI: I came from Oklahoma, I had struggles, I was a woman, I was pregnant, I had to leave. If I can make it, I want to give you the opportunity in America to make it as well -- and that's the vision of America I have compared to Trump whose only about Trump.

CUOMO: Right, but you know what though? There is a lesson in that too, Trump is all about the personal -- it happens to be what people resonate with most. They may not like him, or they'll like him -- but that he's playing on the level of judgment for most people.

Elizabeth Warren does do that, I would argue though it is the rice and peas beside the steak on the plate, and I think to be effective in that general you've got to flip it. And the main course is here's who I am, I feel your pain, I get where you are, I've been where you were -- I got here because of how we can achieve things in this country, I get you -- I've got your back. That's the most important currency they've been light on it in these debates so far.

SIDDIQUI: And it's not just about the personal story that many of these candidates bring to the table, it's about whether or not they're going to show empathy as President of the United States because that has been something that has been dogging this president for a very long time and it's part of why I think someone like Beto O'Rourke had a really strong night in part, drawing from that very raw emotion of a mass shooting in his hometown, in El Paso -- taking that break from the campaign trail.


You saw him talk a lot about issues like gun violence, about white nationalism, and speak very candidly -- and it wasn't rehearsed it was the real life experience of being tested in that moment, and he was able to draw a sharp contrast with the president without making it about you know, the policy specifics and really just (inaudible) --

CUOMO: Although he did sound like he came out for confiscation (ph) --

SIDDIQUI: He definitely came out --

CUOMO: Which I think he's going to wind up walking back (inaudible) --

SIDDIQUI: Right -- and he definitely did come out for some very aggressive gun control measures, but the reason I think it resonated with a lot of people is it spoke to their frustrations about the epidemic of gun violence, and just where we are in this country in terms of race relations.

CUOMO: Look, I'll tell you a story and it should just stay among the three of us.


ALI: No one's watching.

CILLIZZA: Wait, are these cameras on?

CUOMO: So -- my father, 1984 had the two defining moments of his political life on the national spectrum. When I wanted to mess with him, when he was messing with me -- which was all the time I'd say, you know those are big words for a guy who gave two good speeches in his whole career.

The -- his 1984 address at the Democratic National Convention and his speech at Notre Dame -- which was -- that was the most important -- Notre Dame is the church. Notre Dame the University, that was the most important speech he ever felt he gave.

Anyway, here's my point -- he said to me later in life, you know, I had a choice with that speech that I was going to go one way about polices and what works, and the problem with debt and deficit. And I decided that, no I'm just going to go with my story about how I got where I was, and that that'll never happen if we do what Reagan wants to do.

And I'll tell you what, to this day -- now my father has passed obviously, so people are nice generally and I appreciate that. But they say, you know, I didn't agree with your father on the death penalty. And I thought your father was a little too tax and spendy (ph) for me, but I love where he came from, I loved what he was about and I knew that he got people like me.

That's the currency in politics --

CILLIZZA: Yes, authenticity.

CUOMO: And I just believe that this -- my single player (ph) gets you there in eight years, and yours in five and you opt in and you opt out (ph). And you're getting in to a general election where your best chance is to say this man is not an American president, and I am -- and here's why, person-versus-person -- heart-versus-heart and they're not doing that.

CILLIZZA: In a weird way, Donald Trump's greatest appeal is his authenticity.


CILLIZZA: In that you would never act the way he acted as a candidate, or as president in order to curry (ph) political favor, right? I mean, I heard over and over again people in the campaign they'd say, well why would he lie about that? Or, why would he talk like that? He's clearly not trying to get our vote -- this must be how he really is.

So I think you have to -- now, no one is going to counter -- I don't think it is smart to counter Donald Trump by trying to out Donald Trump him, but I do think there is an authenticity appeal to him, even though he is a billionaire who somehow has cast himself as the voice of the working person, who never -- (inaudible) --

CUOMO: Because -- because he hates the same people.

CILLIZZA: Right --

CUOMO: And they believe he's (inaudible) --

CILLIZZA: But -- but -- authenticity does --

CUOMO: 100 percent --

CILLIZZA: Especially with him, because that's his strength in the weirdest way --

CUOMO: 100 percent --

CILLIZZA: Because people believe he's -- who he is when you're on camera is who he is when you're off camera --

ALI: It's like the dark side of the narrative, right? Because he did what Obama did, art of the deal but his narrative is built on B.S. as we know -- but that narrative of Trump as the self-made made even though he inherited millions. The man with the Midas touch even though everything he touches dies -- that appealed to so many, right?

It was a B.S. myth and narrative, but that story sold endless charisma (ph). Obama and Clinton, some of the most charismatic storytellers that have emerged from the Democratic party and I agree with you -- I've kept saying this, this is the strategy for all the Democratic candidates.

You attack Trump, you pivot, you give your vision of America which is so much better than Trump's hateful vision. You tie it to your personal story, to connect to the heartstrings, and then you drill down on policy. You saw Warren trying to do it today, you saw Beto trying to do it

today and this is why I've always said it's Sanders' weakness because he goes policy, policy, policy and with Harris, we were saying this earlier during the break -- she was great at attacking Trump tonight but she falters when it comes to the personal narrative because we still don't' know what's her authentic self. It's shaky, she hasn't found a rhythm.

CILLIZZA: People don't vote on policy white papers, they just don't.

SIDDIQUI: And you saw Former Vice President Joe Biden speak once again about the unimaginable grief that has kind of bookended his political career early on with the loss of his wife and infant daughter, more recently with his late son. He's got a lot of people that (ph) think that that's one of the strengths he has, his ability to really empathize with people who have experienced loss, and that is something that also helps him at a time when the country is in need of healing.

I think all of these candidates have the ability to show that authentic self, the problem right now is also there are just too many candidates and the field is so wide, and it's really difficult for the public to really fix it on how these candidates are distinguishing themselves from one another and that's part of why they're doing it more-so on policy, you know -- on the nuances on healthcare, on guns, on immigration --


CUOMO: And I know it'll change, but every day that you stay stuck on the policy and the granular level of it, you're missing where people's heads and hearts are going to be in this election. That would be my suggestion, but what I know for a fact is you guys are great and thank you -


ALI: Well done. That was a great transition there.

SIDDIQUI: Thank you.


CILLIZZA: Let's cut that and use that -

SIDDIQUI: (inaudible)

CUOMO: Wajahat, Sabrina, Chris, you guys did me right. Thank you very much.

ALI: Thank you.

CUOMO: I appreciate it. All right, you heard the talk about gun control in the debate. All right, some of the most powerful people in America just made their voices heard. What'd they say? That's next.


[01:50:00] It's a good test of people versus power. 90 percent of you say you want background checks. Almost as many of say you want red flag laws. Business leaders, let's see if they'll have more of an effect.

145 of then signed onto a new letter demanding the government take action. This is one of the strongest statements yet from corporate America after the tragedies in Odessa, Dayton, and El Paso.

Now, speaking of El Paso, strange twist, and what was told to me is a story of heroism. The man telling the story was shot twice. He then got invited to the White House but then was arrested by the Secret Service Monday on and outstanding warrant not long before he was supposed to be honored by the president.

You might remember him. His name was Christopher Grant, and he told me this story from his El Paso ICU bed.


CHRISTOPHER GRANT: To deter him, I started just chucking bottles. I just started throwing bottles - random bottles at him. And I'm not a baseball player, so one went this way and one went that way.


CUOMO: The fraud deal that he was arrested on his bed, what may be worse is that authorities are now disputing what you just heard him say. They say it's an inaccurate account. El Paso police say Grant's version did not match what they have seen on surveillance video. They describe his actions as, quote, "and act of self preservation. Nothing above that."

I don't know exactly what that means. We'll probably learn more, and I'm not exactly sure about what the warrant is about that led to his arrest, the two separate matters. But what we do know for sure is that Grant was shot twice inside the Walmart where 22 people died. His story about being a hero, though, is now in question at the least.

Thank you for watching. The news, of course, continues here on CNN.