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Interview With Kamala Harris Campaign National Press Secretary Ian Sams; Democrats Set to Debate; Interview With Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms; Will Sen. Kamala Harris (D) California Take On Former Vice President Joe Biden Tonight; Candidates Arrive At Debate Hall; Moments Away: CNN Democratic Debate, Round Two. Aired on 6-7p ET

Aired July 31, 2019 - 18:00   ET



ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: And good evening from Detroit, where round two of the CNN Democratic debates is almost here.

I'm Anderson Cooper. Thanks for joining us.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: And I'm Erin Burnett.

And here we are in Detroit. In the spirit of hometown hero Joe Louis, there is a heavyweight here tonight, as well as a lot of challengers who are ready to go. They have landed punches on him the last time they met.

So the question tonight for Democrats is, which Joe Biden will show up, the one that Senators Kamala Harris and Cory Booker knocked around the debate stage in Miami, or the one who made his bones under pressure so many times before that?

That is, of course, the big question and just one of many things we will learn tonight on that debate stage. We also will see how Senator Harris defends for new health care plan just rolling out this week.

And we will also find out whether Vice President Biden's message, his message of moderation still resonates, especially after last night. Progressives Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders dominated proceedings last night. Biden, after all, of course, is, according to polls, the overwhelming front-runner when you look at those polls, both against fellow Democrats and when you look at the one-on-ones against President Trump, even after his performance last time.

But a second shaky debate appearance could change that. So it is no overstatement to say that the stakes tonight are very, very high, as we count down to this crucial debate and what will be a another pivotal night tonight -- Anderson.

COOPER: Yes, certainly Erin, so much to watch for.

I'm here right now with a Biden supporter and his guest tonight, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms.

Mayor Bottoms, thanks so much for being with us. KEISHA LANCE BOTTOMS (D), MAYOR OF ATLANTA, GEORGIA: Thank you.

COOPER: David Axelrod framed the importance for the vice president tonight. He said the big question he has to resolve is if he's up to this thing, if he's vigorous, and if he is engaged.

That was the knock on him really in the last debate. Is he going to do that tonight?

BOTTOMS: I think he will definitely do that tonight.

Immediately after the last debate, we saw the Joe Biden that we know. We saw Joe Biden push back hard. I think what happened during the first debate was, it caught him by surprise. He's a statesman. So he didn't expect a friend to attack him.

That being said, he came back stronger. He's been strong. And it's the Joe that we know. And I think the more he speaks about his policies, and not focus on the attacks, I think the more he will continue to resonate with voters.

COOPER: How much do you expect him to try to focus on President Trump, which is -- in his address in his video coming into the race announcing his determination to run, it really was focused on President Trump and what he believes President Trump has done to the country and how Joe Biden wants to change that?

BOTTOMS: Trump is the enemy. It won't be the other people standing on the stage.

This is about winning in 2020. And we have talked about this circular firing squad and to be very careful that we don't kill each other off in the same way that we sent Hillary Clinton into the election in November of 2016 limping. She was damaged.

So I hope that will not happen tonight. I think we can talk about policies. I think that we can be strong and be forceful without tearing each other down and doing the party and the country harm.

COOPER: But, certainly, as you know, for some of these folks, this is their last night on this debate stage. Some of them are not going to make it to the next debate.

And a lot of those people are going to do whatever they can get to that next debate stage. And if that means going after the perceived front-runner, they're going to do it.

BOTTOMS: I understand. But you have to remember Joe Biden has been a presidential candidate before.

And so for anyone who's hoping to be president, it doesn't end here tonight, if that's your destiny. I think that it's important that we consider the future of this country, the future of this world. We need the strongest candidate that we have to go up against Donald Trump, a candidate who can take Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio, even Georgia and North Carolina. COOPER: Let me play that moment that you talked about with Kamala

Harris in the last debate for our viewers. Let's just watch it.


SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It was hurtful to hear you talk about the reputations of two United States senators who built their reputations and career on segregation of race in this country.

And it was not only that, but you also worked with them to oppose busing. And, you know, there was a little girl in California who was part of the second class to integrate her public schools. And she was bused to school every day. And that little girl was me.

JOSEPH BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: That's a mischaracterization of my position across the board. I did not praise racists. That is not true.

The busing, I never -- you would have been able to go to school the same exact way, because it was a local decision made by your city council.


I did not oppose busing in America. What I opposed is ordered by the Department of Education. That's what I opposed.


COOPER: And, obviously, it went on from there.

You said that he was surprised, that he didn't expect somebody he considered a friend to do this.

In the world of politics, obviously, there's friendships and then there's politics. And running for the president is the most intense thing there is.

I guess the criticism of -- one of the criticisms of Vice President Biden, and that is, if he wasn't prepared for what was probably a pretty predictable line of attack from Kamala Harris, how can he be prepared to deal with Donald Trump on the stage?

BOTTOMS: Even as we just watched that clip, that's a moment. It's a very small moment, a very short period of time.

I wouldn't judge someone on a 30-second exchange. That was a great debate. Kamala Harris is a great debater, but we're not looking for a great debater. We're looking for someone who can beat Donald Trump in November of 2020.

And that's Joe Biden.

COOPER: Mayor Bottoms, I appreciate it. A lot to watch for tonight. Thank you very much. BOTTOMS: Thank you. Thank you for having me.

COOPER: Always good to talk to you.

We're going to take -- obviously, a lot to look for over the next two hours.

Let's go back to Erin right now.

BURNETT: All right, and we are going to be here with our panel in just a couple of moments, as we are getting ready to watch for this crucial debate and what will be coming in just a moment.

We will be right back.



BURNETT: And the debate venue is filling up right here in Detroit. Anticipation is building for the second CNN Democratic debate.

Now, just before the break, you heard Anderson speak to a supporter of Vice President Biden.

And, look, the reality of it is, when you're the front-runner, all eyes are on you, and you have got a big target on your back.

Here to talk about what we might see and what to watch for, Jess McIntosh, former director of communications outreach for the Clinton campaign, also Van Jones, former special adviser to President Obama and host of CNN's "VAN JONES SHOW." Van and Jess are political commentators.

And also you see political analyst, "USA Today" columnist Kirsten Powers along with me, and two former Democratic governors who have been on these stages before.


BURNETT: The gov corner.


BURNETT: Jennifer Granholm of Michigan, Terry McAuliffe of the state of Virginia.

OK, so thanks to all of you.

So, look, we were here last night getting ready for what was a pretty amazing night. And now here we are.

Joe Biden, there is a lot on the line for Joe Biden tonight.

KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN COMMENTATOR: Yes, I mean, it's a very big night for him, because, in the first debate, he had a lackluster debate. And I think everybody's waiting to see if he's going to be able to

come back and be a little stronger. And I think that probably the expectation is that the attacks are going to be coming at him just as hard, if not harder, than they were coming at him last time.

We can expect Kamala Harris to go after him again. Cory Booker has been sort of making it clear that he's planning on going after him. And I think one of the things last night that was very lackluster was the case being made by the moderate lane.

And I think, for Biden, he needs to be able to make a better argument tonight, to basically say, we can do this in a way that is going to excite the base. And vs. last night, what we were hearing a lot from the moderates was, we can't be too bold, because we're going to scare people.

And so I think it's -- a lot is on Biden to really make that case tonight.

BURNETT: That is a really hard case to make, Van. That is a really hard case to make.

VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: He's going to have to be like Neo from "The Matrix" dodging these bullets, man,

He's going to have every bullet coming at him from every single person. So, listen, I mean, it's all on the line for Joe Biden tonight.

Part of the thing I think that he has to wrestle with is that he's fighting off two opponents at the same time. He's trying to deal with the Trump phenomenon. He's trying to deal with this rising tide of hatred.

He wants to have the banner against that, but he's got a movement to his left that says, listen, the way to take that on is to be bold, to be aggressive. So now he's in the middle. Now, in his day...

BURNETT: And he is arriving as we are speaking right now.

JONES: There he is.

BURNETT: Yes, there he is with Jill Biden, yes, yes.

JONES: Welcome to the Terrordome.


JONES: Anyway, but, in his day, being in the middle meant you were triangulating, so you were being very, very wise. You're taking the best from the middle.

That was because the strength in both parties was in the center. The strength in both parties now is in the wings. And so he's got a very strong left wing he's got to deal with, as well as the right-wing movement. How he deals with that tonight is going to be defining not just for

him, but for this party.

BURNETT: And his team is being more aggressive. Right? You just heard the mayor of Atlanta also being -- preparing. Oh, Kamala Harris is a good debater, as Kirsten is pointing out, preparing the stage for others to be strong.


BURNETT: And Senator Gillibrand is arriving. Literally, they are all coming in as we're speaking, Jess.

But Joe Biden's team is saying others on stage will not stick to the facts tonight. And he is prepared for flat-out lies.

Those are aggressive words before they even start.

MCINTOSH: Yes, it sounds like they're -- they know what's on the line. They know they need to do this.

Joe Biden has not had an easy run, period, aside from his last debate. And I think there are a number of Democrats who are genuinely concerned that this idea that he is the front-runner, safe choice. He was a wonderful vice president for our favorite president, Barack Obama.


But, before that, he was a guy who had run for president twice and lost. And since he announced this time, he has had to weather a series of gaffes of his own making, from mistreatment of women, to the things he said about segregationists, to, he didn't call me boy, to the way he talks to 10-year-old girls on the trail.

It has just been one thing after another.

BURNETT: Senator Booker is arriving.

MCINTOSH: So this idea that like this is the safe choice makes a lot of us really nervous.

And I want him to come out today and reassure me that he's OK.

BURNETT: All right, so he doesn't have any room for error, Governor Granholm.

And I know, in the last debate, you were helping prepare him. You were -- I mean, but does the pressure get to him tonight?

GRANHOLM: OK, first of all, I think he does have some room for error, for humanity.

I mean, he's like way ahead in the polls, right?

BURNETT: Right. Yes. GRANHOLM: But you're right that this is a fundamental moment for him.

And I think he gets it. I haven't talked to the team, because, of course, I work here at CNN. And I didn't want there to be any conflicts.

But I just know that he gets it, that he saw what happened before, that he's coming in jabbing Joe, and that he is not going to allow anybody to misrepresent. But he's also got this moment where he's going to take us to the higher ground.

That whole notion of, he's fighting for the soul of America, that is a really important thing in an era where Trump is so divisive.

BURNETT: Andrew Yang is arriving. And, obviously, he has a passionate base as well. You got 10 on the stage, Governor McAuliffe, tonight, but, obviously, a lot of eyes are going to be on the specific conversation, right, between Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, Cory Booker.

Race is going to be central tonight.

TERRY MCAULIFFE (D), FORMER VIRGINIA GOVERNOR: Sure it's going to be central, as it was in the last debate.


MCAULIFFE: He's got to be able to deal with this issue. He's got to put it to bed.

And there's a reason why, today, he's leading with the African- American community all over the country, very strong support.

He has to show tonight he has to shore that support up this. Listen, he's come to this debate as the front-runner. He's leading in the polls. He also today is the one who can beat Trump the easiest. He can't lose that mantle. And he knows it.

So he's got to have a strong debate performance tonight. The last, was that a strong performance? And they said, well, if you can't handle these candidates, how the heck are you going to handle old butter bean in the fall of 2020, when he's got old Trump on stage.

BURNETT: Butter bean?


MCAULIFFE: I mean, that's a heavyweight match. He's got to show. He's got to show he can take old Trump on, he can beat him.

But, listen, he's got a different health care plan than we heard about last night. So does Kamala Harris. Tonight's a time they got to talk about and say, well, maybe Medicare for all isn't the right way to go. This is the best way to go. And he has to show that.

(CROSSTALK) BURNETT: So, look, health care is going to come on. He's made it clear, Van, he wants to talk about health care and call out Kamala Harris for, how are you going to pay for it?

There are going to be sparks there. But on the issue of race, you have a lot of African-American voters here. They are loyal to him. But does he have something to prove?

JONES: I think that he does.

It's interesting, because the African-American community increasingly seems to be split between older black voters, who are very comfortable with Joe Biden. They understand some of the decisions that were made in the '90s. Whether they liked them or not, they have a context for them.

But you have got a new generation of black voters. All they know is the chaos and destruction of mass incarceration. All they know is that white kids do drugs on college campuses, and don't even get sent to the principal's office, and black kids go to prison, and it's wrong.

And they lay that at the feet of the Clintons and the Bidens and that whole generation, and they put Biden right in the middle of that.

And when you dig up those old speeches, and you dig up those old votes, it's hard for those young voters to be forgiving.

So he's got to come forward. Fortunately, his criminal justice plan going forward...

BURNETT: It's very good.

JONES: ... is very good. It's actually probably better on paper than Kamala's or Cory's.

But he's got to be able to say, listen, I did some good things. I did some bad things. There were unintended consequences.

And then he's got a pivot to what Obama did and what he wants to do next. If he gets stuck trying to defend that horrible 1994 criminal justice bill, he is going to lose support of young black voters. And that's critical.

BURNETT: All right. All right. And that is crucial and -- Anderson.


COOPER: Erin, forget butter bean.

I'm here with some of our own heavyweights, CNN senior political analyst, "AXE FILES" host, and former top adviser to President Obama David Axelrod, CNN senior political reporter Nia-Malika Henderson, also CNN's chief political analyst, Gloria Borger, and CNN political director David Chalian.

David Axelrod...

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Thanks for not calling me butter bean.



After the first debate, you said that you felt like Biden wasn't really prepared for the attacks.


COOPER: I mean, he's got to know now there's going to be more attacks, not only with his positioning, but his position in the race.

If he's not prepared tonight, is this it?

AXELROD: Major -- well, I think -- I don't think it's it.

COOPER: He has plenty of money.

AXELROD: But major -- oh, yes. No, I think he's going to be around through the -- certainly through the early primaries. And he's expected to win the caucus -- the Iowa caucus, expected to win the New Hampshire primary

But I think there will be a lot of anxiety if he has a second bad performance. He is in part the front-runner because he's viewed as the least risky choice to take on Donald Trump.


If he has two bad performances, he becomes a much riskier choice and much more vulnerable.



I do think -- and I have been talking to African-American voters over the last couple of days, and particularly today, going into this. There is this reservoir of goodwill that they have towards him. And some of it is baked in, in the sense that they're -- I don't necessarily think that they are expecting him to be an A-plus debater tonight.

They know that he's older. They're sort of fine with that. So, in some ways, I think even if he gets sort of a C, that some of that support among African voters, those older voters who are moderate see him as the less risky choice, see him as somebody who's experienced.

I think they're -- they're still going to be fine with -- his base of support among African-Americans is really, really solid. I'm sort of surprised by it, as I talk to African-Americans, how -- I mean, they almost sound like the same person giving the reasons why they are continuing to support Joe Biden.

COOPER: Yes, the argument -- the counterargument to that is, Hillary Clinton had solid support among African-American voters early on.

HENDERSON: Yes. That's right. Yes. And the difference was when Obama was able to show that he was strong among white voters.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, Biden is going to take It from everybody tonight.

He's going to get incoming from the New Yorkers. He's going to get incoming from Cory Booker. He's going to get incoming from Kamala Harris maybe.

And I think that the challenge for Biden, as David is saying, is not only to take it, but he also has to turn it around to Donald Trump, and say, why are you criticizing me? There's that guy in the White House. Why are we talking about my policies on busing? What about the guy in the White House?

And I was told that he was very surprised and personally hurt by Kamala Harris an attack on him on busing, and that kind of shook him up a little bit. And maybe, for the rest of the debate, he didn't do so well.

So I think now he needs to be prepared. You know, when you're vice president, people don't generally come in and attack you to your face.



COOPER: But if you're shook up by Kamala Harris in one attack, are you then capable of going toe to toe with Donald Trump, not just on a debate stage, but for the next year-and-a-half?


I mean, that's, to David's point, why today is so important for Joe Biden. I think every Democrat tuning in that watched that first debate and saw a lackluster performance, in addition to wanting a substantive debate here and listening to the candidates, they want to see Joe Biden's performance.

Does he have the fortitude? Does he have the ability to go the distance with Joe Biden? The moment that gets pierced, even with base African-American support, if that notion gets pierced, the rationale for his candidacy begins to crumble.

But I'm sure he has the ability to do it. We just need to see it. And that's what I think a lot of Democrats are looking for.

AXELROD: One of the things with Biden is that he doesn't have a really finely calibrated dial.

So he can hang around a one and two, as he did in the last debate. And he can do nine and 10, where he's blasting people back. But, sometimes, he doesn't land in the middle. And you can over-torque yourself in this. You don't want to be -- he doesn't want to get punked by any of the candidates.

CHALIAN: Exactly.

AXELROD: But he also doesn't want to overshoot, because I think what Gloria said is so important.

At the end of the day, he wants to look big. He wants to look like the front-runner, like the commanding figure in the race.

COOPER: And also above not just policies, but also kind of vision, which is what some of the other candidates...

BORGER: Exactly.

AXELROD: Yes, unifying figure.


Stick around. We -- things are about to start here in the hall. It's going to start happening on stage. We're going to bring you some of that.

Also, the national press secretary for Kamala Harris' campaign is going to join us to talk about the anticipation building around Harris' matchup vs. Joe Biden and others tonight.



COOPER: And it is going to be a very exciting night here in Detroit.

Senator Kamala Harris has just come into the hall. She arrives having clearly bested the former vice president in the first debate.

The latest national poll from Quinnipiac University shows Biden bouncing back and erasing some of Harris' post-debate surge. There, you see the numbers, Biden at 34 percent, Warren 15, Harris right underneath that.

Joining me now is the national -- 12 percent.

Joining me now is national press secretary for the Harris campaign, Ian Sams.

Thanks for so much for being with us.


COOPER: So you have been in town for a couple of days. What are you anticipating tonight? What is the mind-set going into this?

SAMS: Yes, there's a lot of candidates.

And I think we saw last night a lot more engagement in this debate.

COOPER: Right.

SAMS: So, it's probably going to be a robust, lively discussion.

And I think that our challenge, and I think any candidate's challenge is, how are you going to break through that to the American people? And one of the things that Kamala is going to do is, she's going to say, the issues that are keeping you up at night, I talk about them. I have plans that actually address those.

Too often, things get drawn into ideological kerfuffles or the theoretical sort of debates and dialogues. But if you're an American family right now, you're worrying about getting by each month. You're worrying about paying your health care bills. You're worrying if your kid might get shot in school tomorrow from a mass shooter.

And she's got direct plans that are going to speak to each of those things.

COOPER: I thought...

SAMS: So, trying to cut through the noise and get that out is the goal.


COOPER: One of the things I thought she did quite masterfully in the last debate was cut through literally the noise at times when people are yelling over each other, said a great line that not only got the whole audience behind her but also stopped all the kerfuffle.

But she also seemed to pick her moments of whether it was an attack against somebody else or against Vice President Biden, in one case. Even if she didn't speak the most, she used her time well. How much do you expect this to be some sort of round two of her and Joe Biden?

SAMS: Well, look, she's a courtroom prosecutor, so she knows how to make a case. And so she can get up and use her time to effectively communicate her point. That's just one of her real strengths and it's going to be one of her real strengths against Donald Trump in a general election.

But in a race like this, look, you can't be afraid to draw contrasts with other candidates because, ultimately, it is a choice among the candidates on stage of who is going to be the democratic nominee, and you can't shy away from that. But you also have to be focused on getting your point across to people, and that's one of the things she's going to do.

COOPER: Joe Biden seemed -- word has spread that Joe Biden was personally hurt by this, surprised by it. Has there been any conversation, can you say, between the Vice President and Kamala Harris since then? SAMS: I don't think so. I mean, I think they'll see each other for a few minutes on stage tonight. They'll get to hangout while you do the festivities that are opening up.

COOPER: He says what she knew was a mischaracterization. Do you expect him to kind of bring it up and re-debate that moment?

SAMS: I guess that will be up to him. I mean, look, I think that it was on him to prepare for the debate and this is not a surprising issue. I mean, he had spoken fondly of segregationists in a fundraiser two weeks before that it dominated the news.

COOPER: But he should have anticipated that.

SAMS: And he wrote about this busing issue in his memoir. I mean, this has been something that has been a real part of his record and legacy for his entire career. So to say it is a surprise is a little bit off.

COOPER: One of the criticisms of Kamala Harris has been that she's been imprecise on her insurance plan, on her healthcare plan. And she raised her hand, it seemed, to indicate at one point that she was willing to get rid of private insurance. She said the same thing at another event.

She has now released her healthcare plan. It's essentially Medicare for all but keeping private insurance.

SAMS: But like the current Medicare system. In fact, there was an expert who wrote in The Washington Post and said, honestly, of all the plans, this is the most like actual Medicare for all. Medicare, as you know right now, two-thirds of seniors are in the public Medicare program and a third seniors are in the Medicare advantage program which is administered by private insurers.

What Kamala is saying in this plan is, look, I'm going to set some new really tough rules of (INAUDIBLE) for private insurers. You can't keep bilking people out of money. But we're not going to proactively abolish private insurers from trying to compete within that system.

COOPER: As far as you're concerned, is the Warren, Sanders, talking about eliminating private insurance from more than 100 million Americans, is that political suicide for the Democratic Party?

SAMS: I mean, they're going to have to answer for their plan. What Kamala did over the last six months was listened to voters who had real concerns about some of these issues within Medicare for all and took those concerns to experts, like Kathleen Sebelius, who wrote the Affordable Care Act, and other experts in the Democratic Party and the think tanks and said, how can we make Medicare for all better? And we think we've done that.

COOPER: All right. Ian Sams, I appreciate it. Thanks very much.

SAMS: Absolutely, yes. COOPER: A lot to watch for. We're going to take it on the party's growing ideological divide when we return, which if actually they win that battle, next/



ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: And more candidates are arriving here at the debate site in Detroit. Mayor Bill de Blasio made his entrance just a moment ago. And the audience is settling in. Events on stage are about to get underway and, of course, you're going to see them all, all of it right here. We're going to let you hear all of those speeches with this big night here in Detroit as the fight goes on for truly the soul of the Democratic Party.

Last night, moderates did not hold back on the two most progressive candidates, of course, Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, on the stage


GOV. STEVE BULLOCK (D-MT): You are playing into Donald Trump's hands.

He's saying immigration system needs a sane leader.

REP. TIM RYAN (D-OH): I think if we're going to force Americans to make these radical changes, they are not going to go along.

FMR. GOV. JOHN HICKENLOOPER (D-OH): But we don't have to be the party of subtraction and telling half the country who has private health insurance that their health insurance is illegal.

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA): Let's be clear about this. We are the democrats. We are not about trying to take away healthcare from anyone.

HICKENLOOPER: That is a disaster at the ballot box. You might as well FedEx the election to Donald Trump.

You can't just spring a plan on the world and expect it to succeed.


BURNETT: So the question, which is just one of many that we will see tonight, is who will win the widening ideological war in the party. And, Governor Granholm, that is what it is, right? There is this, you know, that people that believe in being moderate is not thinking small, it's thinking practically, and let's get it done and make changes and those who say, no, you got to go big. I mean, you saw the moderates going after the progressive, Warren and Sanders' --

JENNIFER GRANHOLM, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, I just hate these labels, Erin. I really do. I mean, here you've got every single candidate on the democratic stage who wants healthcare for all. They have different ways of getting there. [18:40:00]

But every single one of them, every single one of them has a climate plan that is more robust than anything we have ever seen, trillions of dollars being investment, every single one has -- well, I don't know if everyone. But almost everyone right now has a criminal justice plan that remedies a lot of what has been ailing us.

I think -- you know, I'm glad that this is a primary right now because I do think that this question about how big, how far, et cetera, you go, but the bottom line is that the democrats are united in the ends. It's just the how they get there that is causing division, which gets to the point about the end of beating Donald Trump so we can get there.

BURNETT: And I understand that point you're making. But yet, when you're hook at healthcare, there is a difference between a $34 trillion bill and a $10 trillion bill over ten years.

VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. Listen, I really appreciate you keeping that context. I think it's an important context. I think a lot of people want to us keep that can you context as democrats. But we are in a primary and those differences matter.

And, you know, e had Kamala Harris, you know, finally come out with a plan. She has been fishtailing on such an important issue. We can't figure out, are you on the moderate side, the progressive side, are you trying to split the difference? And there is a danger.

Kamala Harris has the opportunity tonight. If she knocks Joe Biden off his pedestal once and for all, she might be the leading, quote, unquote, moderate in this race. The question is though that will she have the confidence of people, that she's got the conviction and not just calculation. In other words, it's taken her so long to get her legs under her on such an important issue.

Some people started to ask the question, is this all calculation, is there a conviction? And that's a bigger difference than left versus right.


GRANHOLM: I agree with you.

BURNETT: So, Kirsten, what I'm curious though is when you look at Kamala Harris last time, obviously, she did land a devastating blow against Joe Biden. You see it in the polls temporarily, she surged, right? She went up to 20. He fell from 30 to 22. But now, here we are and he is by far the leader again, 34 percent, and she's cut her numbers almost in half.

Now, again, it's one poll. But still, what accounts for that?

KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think when you have a real sudden rise, it's not sustainable. I don't think -- you know, you are going to usually have an overcorrection. People get very excited about you in a moment but it's not necessarily something, you know, slow and steady, I think, probably like what you're seeing with Elizabeth Warren, is a little more reliable.

I think the reason people responded to what she said or what she did wasn't just about what she was saying. It was how she did it and how she knocked him kind of off center. And so it wasn't just that people were liking her. They were looking at him and saying, oh, I don't know about that, because is that going to work when it's Donald Trump throwing punches? And that is one thing that people are really thinking about.

JESS MCINTOSH, CNN CONTIBUTOR: I think that also the moment gave us a glimpse into her personally and her story, how she grew up, what she went through, which we don't get a lot from Kamala because she is so poised and so polished.

I think it's important to remember that people are not electing a healthcare plan. Most Americans are not reading the fine print and deciding which kind of proposal they want, the best. They are looking for a leader who they trust on this issue. At this country right now, we don't even agree that healthcare is a right. So the fact that we have all of these candidates on the stage trying to get us there, those values that people are going to relate to way more than the fine print. --

BURNETT: But when you say, Governor, McAuliffe, and I know -- not saying you all agree, when you said it's about, you know, finding --- it's a person that you believe in, right, and what their point of view is. Is it enough to have the person that you don't believe in be Donald Trump?


BURNETT: So you're going to vote for whomever? Or does Joe Biden need to excite people?

MCAULIFFE: I don't care who the nominee is. They have to excite people. Donald Trump is going to drive a lot of turnout because people are disgusted at everything he's done from the time he took office. But on the other hand, you've got to lead. And that's why I keep saying to these debates, it's very important for these candidates.

And I thought Anderson's interview with Ian was very instructive, where Kamala wants to go tonight to talk to Americans specifically what she wants to do on issues. And she needs to do that tonight. And I think it's important.

We learned last night, it will be interesting tonight, so everybody is going to -- I think, Biden is going to be the punching bag. They tried to do it last night to Warren and to Sanders. It didn't help the folks who actually tried to do it. And Warren was able to deflect it. Why? Big vision, happy warrior, we can get these things done.

BURNETT: Happy warrior.

MCAULIFFE: And that that is what Joe Biden -- he is a glass half full kind of guy. That's what he has to show tonight.

BURNETT: All right. We hit pause there and a lot more coming up right after this. We'll be back for the second night of the Detroit Democratic Debate right there, what will it hold for those candidates trying to breakthrough tonight?


[18:49:37] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: And welcome back now from Detroit. What a city it is, for the second round of the Democratic debates. We are here. It is time for "America the Beautiful" sung tonight by the Flint City Wide Choir and multi-Grammy-winning jazz Didi Bridgewater.

ANNOUNCER: The Flint City Wide Choir to sing "American the Beautiful", with Grammy and Tony Award-winning artist, Dee Dee Bridgewater, who was raised in Flint, Michigan.




[18:53:11] COOPER: Beautiful rendition of "America the Beautiful". That was the Flint City Wide Choir and multi-Grammy winning jazz singer Dee Dee Bridgewater.

We are getting closer to the start at tonight's debate. There is so much anticipation here. The big question, how hard will Joe Biden go after rivals who are trying to knock him out of first place? How hard will he go after President Trump and everybody else on stage? What strategies will they try to execute tonight?

We're right -- coming right back from Detroit with more.


[18:58:18] ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: Joe Biden says his primary goal is taking on President Trump. That's what he wants to do tonight.

But first, Anderson, he has to win the primary. And, of course, that means winning the debates, which means contrasting himself with everyone else on stage, including on this crucial debate that is now less than an hour away.

Hello again to all from Detroit. I'm Erin Burnett.

COOPER: And I'm Anderson Cooper.

Round two of the CNN Democratic debates. It is almost here. Events are underway on the stage. We're going to bring them to you throughout this next hour. The anticipation, expectations, they're certainly building.

Joe Biden has still not arrived yet. He will be the last and safe to say the Democratic front runner as the one to beat. He may also be the one to beat up on for others tonight on the stage, Erin.

BURNETT: That's right. Certainly, they're looking for someone to do that to. And, of course, when you got someone running at 34 percent in the polls head and shoulders above everybody else, that's who they're all going to be looking at.

Back with me with now, Jess McIntosh, Van Jones, Kirsten Powers, Jennifer Granholm and Terry McAuliffe.

OK, thank to all.

I want to tackle one of the big elephants in the room, OK, Kirsten, and that is age. It came up last night, all right? It's an issue for everyone. Joe Biden himself has said it's a fair issue. I'm ready to address it. He will be 78 years old on Inauguration Day.

How big an issue and how will he address it tonight?

KRISTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, I don't actually think that the age, the number is the problem. I think the issue is whether or not you seem old or out of step.

So I think the problem with Biden and the last debate wasn't necessarily that he is the age that he is. It's that he just didn't seem as quick, wasn't responding as quick as he should. I think if he -- if he can respond quickly and be on top of things, then I don't think people are as bothered by that. And I think you see, especially with Bernie Sanders, I mean, his biggest supporters are young people, right? I mean, young people


POWERS: -- are not at all --