Meet the Press - February 9, 2020

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CHUCK TODD:

This Sunday, primary colors. Despite the Iowa caucus muddle --

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS:

Our campaign is off to a great start.

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN:

It's our chance to make real change.

PETE BUTTIGIEG:

We can feel how close we are, we can feel the wind at our back.

CHUCK TODD:

-- Pete Buttigieg surges into a virtual tie with Bernie Sanders in New Hampshire polls -- while Joe Biden's fourth-place finish now has him on the attack:

JOE BIDEN:

When you get attacked you've got to respond. I've kept my mouth shut for a long time.

CHUCK TODD:

At Friday's debate, Buttigieg took on Sanders --

PETE BUTTIGIEG:

A politics that says it's my way or the highway.

MODERATOR:

Are you talking about Senator Sanders?

PETE BUTTIGIEG:

Yes.

CHUCK TODD:

-- while many took on Buttigieg.

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR:

We have a newcomer in the white house and look where that got us.

CHUCK TODD:

My guests this morning: the two Democratic front-runners: Former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg of Indiana and Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont. Plus, President Trump acquitted --

PRES. DONALD TRUMP:

I never thought a word would sound so good. It's called "total acquittal.”

CHUCK TODD:

-- and vindictive.

PRES. DONALD TRUMP:

Adam Schiff is a vicious, horrible person. Nancy Pelosi is a horrible person.

CHUCK TODD:

As he ousts two officials who testified at the House impeachment hearings. Republicans say they hope the president learned a lesson from impeachment. But what lesson did he learn in the end? Joining me for insight and analysis are: NBC News Capitol Hill Correspondent Kasie Hunt, MSNBC host Joshua Johnson, Former Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri and former Republican Senator John Sununu of New Hampshire. Welcome to Sunday, and a special edition of Meet the Press.

ANNOUNCER:

From NBC News in Manchester, New Hampshire for the New Hampshire Democratic presidential primary, this is a special edition of Meet the Press with Chuck Todd.

CHUCK TODD:

And a good Sunday morning from Manchester, New Hampshire. We're back again at our better-than-ever headquarters in New Hampshire where two days from now voters will either untangle the mess created in Iowa or more likely further complicate the Democrats' path to the White House. One thing we did learn this week: Iowa may not be able to count, but it still counts. Pete Buttigieg's strong showing and Joe Biden's fourth-place Iowa finish have sent their candidacies in opposite trajectories. The latest WBZ - Boston Globe - Suffolk tracking poll out this morning shows Bernie Sanders with just a two-point lead over Buttigieg, who has surged this week -- 24 to 22 -- with Elizabeth Warren, Joe Biden and Amy Klobuchar trailing. Of note, Klobuchar picked up the most overnight, perhaps she is seeing a bit of a bump from the debate. Since Tuesday, Buttigieg has gained seven points overall while Biden has lost five overall in that poll. The other thing we learned is that matters could hardly be worse right now for Democrats. The Iowa vote count fiasco is a national embarrassment. The Democratic Party is divided against itself, left versus center-left. The candidate once seen as having the best chance of beating President Trump is in a polling free fall and low on money. The party establishment is terrified of a Sanders nomination, but at a loss for how to stop him. And through it all, President Trump was acquitted of impeachment charges, his poll numbers are improving and he's feeling as confident as ever. So Tuesday's primary may be among the state's most consequential in quite some time, as voters clarify the direction of the Democratic race or not.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS:

Billionaires by the dozens are contributing to Pete Buttigieg.

CHUCK TODD:

The two front-runners now taking each other on, on the trail --

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS:

You're going to have to take on these people, not take money from them.

PETE BUTTIGIEG:

We cannot risk dividing Americans' future further, saying that you must either be for a revolution or you must be for the status quo.

CHUCK TODD:

-- and on stage.

PETE BUTTIGIEG:

A politics that says it's my way or the highway.

MODERATOR:

Are you talking about Senator Sanders?

PETE BUTTIGIEG:

Yes.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS:

I don't have 40 billionaires, Pete, contributing to my campaign.

CHUCK TODD:

After a fourth place finish in Iowa and now polling fourth in New Hampshire and leaking support --

JOE BIDEN:

I took a hit in Iowa and I'll probably take a hit here.

CHUCK TODD:

-- the Biden campaign announced a limited shake-up on Friday, elevating top aide Anita Dunn to an "expanded role." Now, the fire once trained on Biden --

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS:

Joe Biden is a friend of mine and I'm not here to attack him.

CHUCK TODD:

-- is turning on Buttigieg instead. On Friday night, Buttigieg faced his most direct attacks from opponents eager to challenge him as the leading alternative to Sanders.

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR:

We have a newcomer in the White House, and look where it got us.

JOE BIDEN:

He's the mayor of a small city.

MODERATOR:

Senator Warren, is that a substantial answer from Mayor Buttigieg?

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN:

No.

CHUCK TODD:

On Saturday, the Biden campaign released a digital ad mocking Buttigieg's experience and calling his record into question:

VOICEOVER:

Even when public pressure mounted against him, former Mayor Pete fired the first African-American police chief of South Bend and then he forced out the African-American fire chief too.

JOE BIDEN:

This guy's not a “Barack Obama."

CHUCK TODD:

Buttigieg is leaning in to his lack of experience.

BUTTIGIEG:

“You don't have decades of experience in the establishment, the city you are the mayor of isn't even the biggest city in the country. It is more like Manchester, New Hampshire,” to which I say, “That is very much the point.”

CHUCK TODD:

Waiting in the wings, billionaire Mike Bloomberg, who has already spent more than 273 million dollars on ads, dwarfing the field. After Iowa, his campaign says he is doubling his spending.

MICHAEL BLOOMBERG:

The President seems to view the Republican party as a cult that will defend anything he does or says.

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN:

I don't think anyone ought to be able to buy their way into a nomination.

CHUCK TODD:

And Tom Steyer going negative on the air and raising what may be the real test for both front-runners after New Hampshire:

TOM STEYER:

Unless you can appeal to the diverse parts of the Democratic party, including specifically the black community, including specifically Latinos, if you can't do that, then we can't beat Donald Trump.

CHUCK TODD:

And joining me now is the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg. Welcome back to Meet the Press.

PETE BUTTIGIEG:

Good to be with you.

CHUCK TODD:

Two weeks in a row. Last week, I think you surprised a lot of people by a virtual tie in Iowa, given that we still don't have 100%. But everybody's coming at you now.

PETE BUTTIGIEG:

Yeah.

CHUCK TODD:

Looking at your record in South Bend, concerned that no matter what the history of the Democratic party is, this is a different time. Donald Trump is a different candidate. And there is a lot of concern that, that you won't be able to beat him. How do you alleviate this concern?

PETE BUTTIGIEG:

Well the way to beat Donald Trump is certainly not to rely on the familiar playbook. And it's also in my view, not to say that we need either a revolution or you must be for the status quo. The reason my campaign was so effective, especially in places that supported Barack Obama and then Donald Trump, in the caucuses, is that we are reaching out to everybody, putting together a majority that is prepared not only to stand up for replacing this president and unified in what we're against, but even more so unified in what we're for. The need for economic empowerment, the need for higher wages, the need to support workers, the need for healthcare, dealing with climate change and gun violence. There is a powerful American majority right now ready not only to win, but to govern. And my campaign is about how to galvanize and not polarize that majority. That's how we're going to beat Donald Trump.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me play another clip from this digital attack ad from the Biden campaign. Here it is.

(BEGIN TAPE)

VOICEOVER:

Joe Biden helped lead the passage of the Affordable Care Act, which gave healthcare to 20 million people. And when parkgoers called on Pete Buttigieg, he installed decorative lights under bridges, giving citizens of South Bend colorfully illuminated rivers.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

There's a lot of subtext in this ad in various ways. I think the biggest simply is: Can your South Bend record withstand the scrutiny that's going to come? You have painted a very positive picture, but when you start peeling back some of the layers here there are some questionable things on your record, particularly in your dealings with the African American community.

PETE BUTTIGIEG:

Well our story and the story of our city, is that of a city facing tremendous challenges. And when you're a mayor, you don't just get to opine on things or vote on things or call for things to change. You have to roll your sleeves up and do them. And I think the question is: Why is it that most -- the voters who know me best in the African American community, those in South Bend, are backing me? And it's not because we --

CHUCK TODD:

Not everybody.

PETE BUTTIGIEG:

-- got everything perfect.

CHUCK TODD:

There's some leading --

PETE BUTTIGIEG:

Well, of course --

CHUCK TODD:

There's a member of the city council in South Bend who's not just not backing you --

PETE BUTTIGIEG:

Yeah.

CHUCK TODD:

-- but really calling into question your leadership in the African American community.

PETE BUTTIGIEG:

Well he was one of my political rivals throughout my time as mayor. He ran for mayor and I think he came in fifth. But most black elected officials who are involved in this campaign at all are supporting me. And it's not because it's been perfect. This is my point. We actually have to deal with these issues on the ground, from racial justice in policing, to economic empowerment. Actually one of the things the VP made fun of, an infrastructure investment, was an investment in minority-owned businesses on corridors in our city's west side because on the ground you actually have to do these things. And we faced these issues, rolled up our sleeves, and gotten a real measurable track record of results: cutting black unemployment, cutting black poverty. Our city was nationally recognized for race-informed work on economic empowerment. It's not that we solved all these issues in South Bend, just like no one has solved these issues for the country, but I will stack up my record against anybody else who is running for president, all of whom, all of whom are implicated in the realities that our country faces, especially when it comes to racial and economic inequality.

CHUCK TODD:

I guess the question comes with, when did you see these inequities in the African American community and how quickly did you address them. I think about during your tenure, Ferguson happened.

PETE BUTTIGIEG:

Yeah.

CHUCK TODD:

Okay, outside of St. Louis. And when Ferguson happened, many mayors said, "We've got to look at our policing practices. We've got to make sure our police departments look like the community --

PETE BUTTIGIEG:

Yeah.

CHUCK TODD:

-- that they're policing." The evidence in South Bend is questionable whether it looks like -- I think you make the argument that you did respond. The results don't look like that.

PETE BUTTIGIEG:

Well why do you think that we implemented implicit bias training? Why do you think that we led the region in transparency in reporting cases of the use of force, seeing what had happened in Ferguson? Why do you think I appointed an African American majority on the civilian board overseeing our police department? And you know what? In terms of results, use-of-force incidents went down. In my second term, arrest rates for black residents on drug charges were lower than they were across the state and across the country. Is the record mixed? Of course it is, because the reality is so tough and so complex. And we had a lot of issues to deal with in my eighth year, just as we did in my first year, but no one can say that we were not intentional and that we do not have results to show for it.

CHUCK TODD:

Can you point to a mistake that you'll admit now that you wish you handled an incident differently, whether it's the firing of the police chief, the fire chief. Is there any of these incidents you wish you could have handled differently?

PETE BUTTIGIEG:

Yeah, certainly in the way in my first few weeks, when I was presented with the situation that led me to part ways with the police chief, I would have handled that differently. It was the last time I've ever fired somebody who reported to me without sitting down for a face-to-face conversation. That was a lesson I learned the hard way.

CHUCK TODD:

You're running against some folks that have made mistakes. You've jumped on those mistakes. Should their mistakes be forgiven the way you're asking your mistakes to be forgiven?

PETE BUTTIGIEG:

Well this is how it works when each of us comes forward running for president. Look at what we've done, look at what we've learned, and look at what we're proposing for the road ahead. None of us presents ourselves making the case that we're perfect. We present ourselves with a vision and with an idea about where America needs to go. And I am working in particular to earn the support of voters of color, many of whom I think didn't think we had much of a change to begin with, to make sure I'm communicating who I am as well as what it is I propose to do.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me put it in these terms. These first four primaries are designed, I've always believed, in different ways, to test do you have all the pieces of this puzzle for the Democratic coalition. If you can't finish in the top two in Nevada and South Carolina, doesn't that send a message that you cannot be the candidate that brings this party together?

PETE BUTTIGIEG:

I'll let pundits set the goalposts, but it's certainly the case that we need to do well in different parts of the country, in different states. Every state is different. New Hampshire is very independent minded, thinks differently than Iowa. Nevada, and South Carolina have a very different demographic makeup. And that's part of what this process will bring out.

CHUCK TODD:

The vice president is hitting you hard by implying that you're attacking the Obama presidency. Let me ask the question this way. In the second term of the Obama presidency, what do you think they did -- what do you think they could have done differently that might have prevented the rise of Donald Trump?

PETE BUTTIGIEG:

Look, I had the Obama White House's back time and time again because they were doing the right thing. And that wasn't always easy as a mayor in Indiana. You know, in fact, my first campaign statewide was on a platform of defending the Obama administration's decision to rescue the auto industry because I knew what that meant to my state. But those achievements were important because they met the moment. Now we're in a different moment. This is 2020 --

CHUCK TODD:

No, I understand that, but if you look, I mean, why did we get Donald Trump, in your view? And could this have been prevented by the Obama-Biden administration in your view?

PETE BUTTIGIEG:

No, I don't think you can pin this on any one administration, but it's certainly the case that people are frustrated by a reality that they feel has left them out for 40 years. And we felt it in my community, you know, an industrial community in the heart of the so-called Rust Belt that didn't feel like Washington was hearing what we had to say. And I am seeing so many communities, rural, industrial, even parts of some of our biggest cities, where people of different backgrounds are questioning whether the economic and political realities are responding to what we need in our lives. Now, in a victory cynical and very divisive way, Donald Trump took advantage of that. Now is our chance to put together the majority that will win big enough against Donald Trump that Trumpism itself goes into the history books.

CHUCK TODD:

I want to play what was frankly an uncomfortable moment to watch. And this was a potential supporter of yours that, when they found out you were married to a man, they backed off. Let me play the moment and I want to ask you about it.

(BEGIN TAPE)

CAUCUSGOER:

So are you saying that he has a same-sex partner?

PRECINCT CAPTAIN:

Pete? Yes.

CAUCUSGOER:

Are you kidding?

PRECINCT CAPTAIN:

He's married to him, yes.

CAUCUSGOER:

Well then I don't want anybody like that in the White House. So can I have my card back?

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

It may not be fair, but there's going to be voters like that. There's going to be some Democrat -- Democratic operatives who are sitting there nervous going ‘do you lose the White House because there's some voter who walks into the booth and just doesn't pull the lever simply because they have an issue with your private life?’ What do you say to those concerns?

PETE BUTTIGIEG:

Well the first is what I have to say to that voter, which is I'm saddened that she sees things that way, but I'm running to be her president too. And no matter who she votes for, as president, I'm going to get up in the morning and try to do a good job for her and for every American. And the other thing I was very struck by in that exchange was how well our volunteer handled the situation, reflecting the values of this campaign. Look, the reality is prejudice is still out there and you've got to deal with it. But I would not have been able to get re-elected the way I did in Mike Pence's Indiana if people were not able to look past that. And every time somebody seeks to break a barrier, pundits try to make it about electability.

CHUCK TODD:

But I was just going to say let's, instead of being a pundit here, have you taken a moment to appreciate the history you've made?

PETE BUTTIGIEG:

There's not a lot of time for reflection --

CHUCK TODD:

I understand that.

PETE BUTTIGIEG:

-- in a campaign, but yes, there was a moment before we went out, when Chasten pulled me in and just reminded me what this means for some kid peeking around the closet door, wondering if this country has a place for them. And you know, I didn't set out to be the gay president, but certainly seeing what this means is really meaningful and really powerful.

CHUCK TODD:

If you come out of here with a shot of momentum, first or second place, you may have a shot of momentum. You're staring at Michael Bloomberg's $273 million -- I saw your eyes widen when you saw it in our spot there. You and him are vying for the same voter. That's a big impediment in front of you. How do you deal with it?

PETE BUTTIGIEG:

Well it's about our vision. I have a vision for this country that is about moving us forward. It's about ensuring that we draw together the energies of Democrats and independents, and even some Republicans who want to cross over. And one thing we have learned is that money alone can't buy elections or Ross Perot would be the president of the United States right now. Yes, of course, fundraising matters and being on the airwaves matters, but part of what's so important about this process in the early states is I don't think you can skip having voters look you in the eye and ask you what you're going to do for them, challenge you, question you, and as the campaign goes on, in terms of voters and reporters, seriously asking tough questions of all of the candidates. It has a leveling effect where money alone can't be the decisive factor.

CHUCK TODD:

Pete Buttigieg, I'm going to have to leave it there. Thanks for coming on and sharing your views. And be safe on the trail.

PETE BUTTIGIEG:

Good to be with you.

CHUCK TODD:

Thank you, sir. When we come back, the New Hampshire Primary frontrunner. Senator Bernie Sanders joins me next. And as we go to break, some of what we've been hearing from New Hampshire voters.

(BEGIN TAPE)

FEMALE VOICE:

I know there's a big Bernie wave, but I'm really not sure how much he can unite the party.

MALE VOICE:

I just worry about the electability questions.

FEMALE VOICE:

Elizabeth Warren all the way, but I will vote for whoever the Democratic nominee is.

MALE VOICE:

Bernie has an amazing following of young people.

(END TAPE)

(BEGIN TAPE)

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS:

What began last week in Iowa, what voters here in New Hampshire confirmed tonight, is nothing short of the beginning of a political revolution.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back. That was exactly four years ago to the day, if you saw the little date stamp up there, after Bernie Sanders defeated Hillary Clinton by a whopping 22 points in the 2016 New Hampshire primary. There aren't going to be any 22 point wins this year, as this year's primary has become a real tossup between Sanders, Buttigieg, and perhaps even more in this field. And Senator Bernie Sanders joins me now. Welcome back to Meet the Press, sir.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS:

Good to be with you.

CHUCK TODD:

I wanna talk about a little bit of Iowa and '16 a little bit. You are a believer that your candidacy is about turning people out. At the end of the day turnout was disappointing. You have admitted that in Iowa. If we don't see record-breaking turnout here, does this undermine the -- sort of the biggest point you make on electability, which is nobody else can bring out the young vote but you.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS:

Well --

CHUCK TODD:

But if you can't get other voters, isn't that an issue?

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS:

Well, you know what? You're right. The voter turnout in Iowa was not what I wanted, and I think other candidates were not able to bring out their voters as well.

CHUCK TODD:

That's right.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS:

But at the end of the day, we won the Iowa vote by 6,000. We won the realignment vote by 2,500. And from where I come, by the way, that's a victory. But here's something really important, not talked at a whole lot. The young vote, of people under 29 years of age, increased by 33% over where it was four years ago, and was even higher than Obama's extraordinary victory in 2008. So young people did come out in very big numbers, which I think is a great omen for the 2020 campaign.

CHUCK TODD:

Except you can't win voters outside of that very well. I mean, you were in single digits among older voters. And I say this because older voters vote.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS:

The answer is yes and no. The answer is we are having -- and we have got to work on this issue, because my record for senior citizens is a very strong record, and we're going to work on that. I'm the strongest defender you could see in defending Social Security and so forth. But in terms of Democrats, in terms of running against Trump, we do just fine with senior citizens. They'll vote for me against Trump if they're Democrats.

CHUCK TODD:

You have been railing in the different ways other people raise money.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS:

Yes.

CHUCK TODD:

If you're the nominee, Michael Bloomberg has said if he's not the nominee, he still wants to spend all his money defeating Donald Trump. Are you going to refuse that help?

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS:

No, look. Let's talk about money in politics. Right now, our campaign, as you know, at this moment, has received more campaign contributions from more Americans, averaging $18.50, than any candidate in the history of American politics. That's extraordinary. We are funded by the working families of America. Teachers are the profession that is contributing most. We get a lot of contributions from Amazon workers and so forth. We have, unlike my opponents -- you know, Pete Buttigieg who was just here, really nice guy. I like Pete. He has received I believe over -- contributions from over 40 billionaires. Joe Biden, the same.

CHUCK TODD:

Can a billionaire not have an issue about income inequality? Can a billionaire not be wanting --

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS:

Here's the problem --

CHUCK TODD:

-- to see expanded healthcare? I mean, these are individuals too.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS:

They are. And Mike Bloomberg has every right in the world to run. He was mayor of New York City. He has a right to defend his record. But I think it speaks to a corrupt political system when billionaires can buy elections. You want to run for president? That's fine, but you should not be able to, you know, spend hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars. Now, by the way, to answer your question, because of the broad base of support that we have from working families, now, they may only contribute $25 or $50, we will be able to raise the money we need to defeat Trump. And I believe we are the strongest candidate --

CHUCK TODD:

So you don't --

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS:

-- to defeat Trump.

CHUCK TODD:

-- you don't want this help? Or do you think it undermines --

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS:

Look, right now --

CHUCK TODD:

Do you think a wealthy -- I mean, look, you have some -- you have PACs helping you. They're not necessarily super PACs, but you have some outside groups that are helping you. Maybe you don't want them to help you right now --

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS:

I don't want them, that's right.

CHUCK TODD:

But you know they are.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS:

Yeah.

CHUCK TODD:

And there's people, there's half a million dollar --

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS:

Some of them are nurses --

CHUCK TODD:

-- some would call it dark money, yeah.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS:

Some of them are nurses and some of them are immigration activists and some of them are civil rights activists.

CHUCK TODD:

I understand that. Do you not want their help?

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS:

We have a system which is broken.

CHUCK TODD:

I understand that.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS:

You know, and yeah, I'm saying right now if my opponents say they don't want that third party help, I'm all for that right now. Let's end it.

CHUCK TODD:

But right now you'll accept the help, as long as they're going to get it?

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS:

It's legal. What can I do? You know, people have a right to participate in the political process. But again, getting back to the fundamental issue, the reason we have so much income inequality, the reason we are the only major country on earth not to guarantee healthcare to all people, the reason that almost all new income and wealth goes to the top 1% is precisely because of a corrupt political system which allows billionaires to have inordinate influence of the economic and political life of the country.

CHUCK TODD:

All right. The other issue that has the Democratic establishment, and you're sort of, you revel in this --

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS:

Are they nervous? Do you think --

CHUCK TODD:

-- you revel in this.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS:

-- they're getting nervous?

CHUCK TODD

They get nervous.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS:

Okay.

CHUCK TODD:

And there's one word that gets them nervous. It's the word socialism.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS:

Democratic socialism.

CHUCK TODD:

Democratic -- I understand. Democratic socialism. Do you acknowledge that in an economy that, on its surface, and I understand it is not working for everybody, but on its surface looks pretty good to quite a few people. This is a fairly low unemployment rate. Do you acknowledge it's tougher to sell your economic ideas in this perceived good economy?

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS:

I don't think so. I mean, I think Trump is a fraud. I think under Trump the top 1% -- the top 1% have seen hundreds of billions of dollars increase in their wealth. Do you know what real inflation accounted for increase in wages last year was for the average worker, worker? It was less than 1%.

CHUCK TODD:

And it's the first time it had gone up in a while.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS:

Seventeen cents an hour.

CHUCK TODD:

It hadn't been going up for over a decade --

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS:

Well, but you know, how do you talk about an economy that's working when the people on top are making hundreds of billions of dollars more, and the average worker's making seventeen cents? We need an economy that works for working people.

CHUCK TODD:

Yeah, and if --

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS:

And my agenda is that agenda. That's raising the minimum wage. That's healthcare for all. That's making sure that all of our kids, regardless of their income, can get to college or to trade school by imposing a modest tax on Wall Street speculation.

CHUCK TODD:

Somebody that likes their 401K right now but doesn't like the character of Donald Trump, how do you convince them to vote for you?

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS:

I convince them to vote for us because we are going to create an economy that works for the middle class, and working --

CHUCK TODD:

But they think their economy works well for them.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS:

Well, for some of them it may. But --

CHUCK TODD:

Yeah, it's been working well. That's my point --

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS:

Chuck, look here is the reality. Half of the American people today are living paycheck to paycheck. Today you got a half a million people sleeping out on the streets when you got three people owning more wealth than the bottom half of America. We're the only country in the world, major country in the world, not to guarantee healthcare to all people. We've got 45 million people struggling with student debt. Please don't tell me that this economy is working well for all people. It is working phenomenally well for Trump's billionaire friends, not for working classes --

CHUCK TODD:

The reason I bring up the S-word, democratic socialism, is because let's just take the swing state of Florida. I grew up in Miami, and I know what they're going to do to you. They're going to tie socialism to Venezuela. They're going to tie comments you made about Evo Morales and Bolivia. And --

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS:

Yeah, what about Evo Morales? I mean --

CHUCK TODD:

-- you know, they're going to say you will appease socialists in Latin America. You have not condemned them the way others have condemned them, and use that to try get -- to wedge people. You know that is what they're going to do.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS:

Well, they may -- look, we're dealing with a president who is a pathological liar. So what are we going to do? I mean, he's going to say anything he wants about me --

CHUCK TODD:

Right, but Evo Morales --

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS:

-- about Joe Biden, about Pete Buttigieg --

CHUCK TODD:

You stood behind Evo Morales when he clearly went, you know --

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS:

No. I stood about Evo -- I stood with Evo Morales in condemning a coup. I do not like military coups.

CHUCK TODD:

He tried to read -- he tried to violate his country's --

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS:

No, there's a big debate --

CHUCK TODD:

-- constitution.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS:

There was, well, that's another discussion. I don't know that everybody's interested in Ecuador, but he was overthrown by the military. Not a particularly good president. We got a president of the United States who's cozying up to the autocrat, Putin, who says nice things about Kim Jong-un. You know, so you want to talk about cozying up to communists around the world --

CHUCK TODD:

No, I --

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS:

-- it ain't me, it is Donald Trump.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me ask you a few quotes here from some members of congress who are concerned about your electability. Here's Ami Bera, Democrat in California: "If Bernie Sanders is our nominee it will make a lot of these Trump districts that we picked up extremely competitive, and probably does put our House majority in jeopardy." Conor Lamb: "I don't think I'd be doing my job as a representative to these people," in Western Pennsylvania he's referring to, "If I supported someone who wanted to destroy their livelihood." Specifically he's talking about fracking. Whether fair or not, this is the concern out there among a lot of elected Democrats.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS:

Look, this is part of the establishment Democrats. And what I am suggesting is that we are going to bring -- you know, in 2016 and we'll see what happens in 2020, but I think the story will be the same. In a lot of districts which Trump ended up winning, we won during the primary process. Okay, I think a lot of working people understand that Trump is a fraud, that our campaign is in fact prepared to take on the billionaire class when Trump is part of the billionaire class. And I think we're going to win a lot of those districts. I think we're going to increase voter turnout among young people very, very successfully --

CHUCK TODD:

Will it hurt your candidacy if these candidates say, "I don't support his agenda" --

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS:

Well, I think at --

CHUCK TODD:

-- "but I'm running for reelection."

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS:

-- the end of the day, you're gonna see, you know, and I have said this and repeat it right now. I think I can speak for all of the Democratic candidates, and that is we will come together to defeat Donald Trump. I hope I am the nominee, I will come behind somebody else if they are the nominee.

CHUCK TODD:

In September of 2019, before your heart incident, you had said the following about your medical records. Take a listen.

[BEGIN TAPE]

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS:

I think it's the right thing to do. The American people have the right know whether the person they're going to be voting for for president is healthy, and we will certainly release our medical records before the primaries. It will certainly be before the first votes are cast.

[END TAPE]

CHUCK TODD:

The first votes have already been cast, you did not release your medical records. You released a few letters. Nobody interviewed your doctors. You did have a heart attack, apparently. Shouldn't voters see your medical records --

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS:

We have released as much --

CHUCK TODD:

-- before Super Tuesday?

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS:

-- documentation, I think, as any other candidate.

CHUCK TODD:

But no other candidate has had a heart attack.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS:

Well, look, I am -- yeah, no other candidate's doing four or five events a day, running all over this country --

CHUCK TODD:

I hear you. No, you have proven --

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS:

We are --

CHUCK TODD:

-- I mean, no doubt, you've proven your mettle here. But voters, you heard voters have been concerned about your age.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS:

I mean, you can start releasing medical records and it never ends. We have released a substantive part -- all of our background. We have doctors who have -- cardiologists who are confirming that I am in good health. I am in good health.

CHUCK TODD:

What changes have you -- did the doctors ask you to make that you've made?

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS:

I'm trying to walk a little bit more, but the schedule doesn't allow me. They didn’t say -- I'm trying to sleep a little bit better, sometimes that's hard. But I'm feeling great. Thanks.

CHUCK TODD:

My guess is winning will help you sleep a little bit better?

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS:

Winning will make me sleep a lot better, and I think we're going to do just that.

CHUCK TODD:

All right, Senator Bernie Sanders, Democrat -- the independent Democrat from Vermont. Thanks for coming on and sharing your views. Be safe on the trail, sir --

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS:

Good, nice to see you --

CHUCK TODD:

Glad to see you --

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS:

-- thank you.

CHUCK TODD:

By the way, we did ask both Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren to join us, as we have every week this year, and both declined. When we come back, New Hampshire is known for surprises. Remember Hillary Clinton shocking Barack Obama here in 2008? So what surprises may be in store for us on Tuesday? Panel is next.

[BEGIN TAPE]

PETE BUTTIGIEG:

Thank you New Hampshire for welcoming us to this state over the course of the last year.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS:

With your help we're going to win here in New Hampshire.

JOE BIDEN:

And I'm counting on New Hampshire.

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR:

Thank you New Hampshire Democrats.

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN:

This is our moment to dream big, fight hard, and win.

[END TAPE]

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back, the panel is here. The former host of NPR's 1A and the new host on MSNBC, Joshua Johnson. Former Democratic senator, Claire McCaskill of Missouri. NBC News Capitol Hill correspondent Kasie Hunt. And former Republican senator, John E. Sununu of New Hampshire. Welcome, welcome. I want to start by taking a closer look at that Boston Globe tracking poll. Since Tuesday, the day after Iowa, Bernie Sanders has held very steady, and in fact regained the lead, though barely, as you can see here in this line graph. Pete Buttigieg has soared from 15 when the week began to 22 now, though his momentum appears to have ebbed a bit. Elizabeth Warren has gained a little, but she's still well behind both Buttigieg and Sanders. Then there's Joe Biden, who has dropped sharply and fallen into fourth place. And then Amy Klobuchar had the biggest post-debate bump yet, three points just in this poll today. So New Hampshire is delivering perhaps, Kasie Hunt, a photo finish. First time, frankly, this century that New Hampshire and the Democratic Party primary may matter.

KASIE HUNT:

It's remarkable, Chuck. And I think you're seeing this in how, you know, your interview with Pete Buttigieg, interesting for this reason. He potentially the person who stands to gain the most from a strong, possibly second place finish to Bernie Sanders, who's obviously a local and won big here before. But I think that explains why you're suddenly seeing the former vice president go on the attack against Buttigieg in the way that he has in the last 24 hours.

CHUCK TODD:

John Sununu, you know these quirky New Hampshire voters better than most, and you've been the victim and you've been the beneficiary at times, depending --

JOHN E. SUNUNU:

Inconsistent is strong, well-informed --

CHUCK TODD:

-- on the mood they’re in --

JOHN E. SUNUNU:

--New Hampshire voters.

CHUCK TODD:

What do you expect from these independents? Could they be a problem for Sanders and Buttigieg? Or will it launch one of them?

JOHN E. SUNUNU:

Well, I think both are going to draw off fairly effectively from the undeclared spectrum. And it's a very broad spectrum. Undeclared voters are on the left, on the right, on the middle. They'll both do very well. You know, and it'll be a story about who can claim victory. And we'll know. We'll have the votes counted. I think you've got to give the edge to Bernie Sanders, he's going to do so well in the Connecticut River Valley and so well on college campuses. To me, the other question or story is, who else can get above 15%? Because this is, after all, a race for delegates. And, And Joe Biden is close. Elizabeth Warren is close. It's going to be important for both of them to come out of here at least being able to say, "We won delegates. We're still in the mix."

CHUCK TODD:

Claire McCaskill, Joshua Johnson, I want to show you a couple of quotes that were in, the hand wringing quotes, if you will, from some Democrats. Here's former presidential candidate, Beto O'Rourke: "There's a school of thought that you shouldn't talk about impeachment and instead talk about infrastructure and healthcare, as if they're mutually exclusive. You can't shy away from the most obvious threat to this country." Jennifer Palmieri, Democratic strategist: "The obsession with concocting the Frankenstein to take on Trump has confined us all." It was really about this, that the muddled picture we have here is really this hand wringing, isn't it?

CLAIRE MCCASKILL:

Well, I think once the Democratic Party is more certain about who the nominee is, you're going to see a real coming together of everyone. I really do believe that Trump represents the best unifier the Democratic Party could ever hope for. I think one of the things that's going to be interesting Tuesday night, Chuck, is how does Elizabeth Warren do? You know, this is next-door for her, just like Iowa was next-door for Amy. Amy didn't get in the top four in Iowa. The question is will Elizabeth not get in the top four in New Hampshire? And what does that mean for both of them? It is -- I think if Elizabeth doesn't get into the top four in New Hampshire, then there's going to be a lot of people trying to poach her voters.

CHUCK TODD:

You know, Joshua, I look at every resume. If you looked at it through the electability lens, they all have a fatal flaw. And obviously somebody's got to get the nomination. And I'm counting Michael Bloomberg. They all seem to have something you're like, "Oof, I don't know if that's going to work," but one of them is going to have to become the nominee.

JOSHUA JOHNSON:

One of them's going to have to become the nominee, and I think one of the things that Democrats are going to remember from 2016 is this whole question of a narrative. I mean, that's exactly why a lot of Bernie Sanders supporters came out of 2016 ticked off, because they felt like the DNC told them, "No, no, no, you're kind of supporting the wrong person. You can vote for who you want, but shouldn't you be voting for--" So one of the things I'm interested to see in 2020 is how much we will allow Democrats to make their own choice. The story of who the party is supposed to support is not up to us, it's up to Democrats. And the fact that this process is murky is fine. Let them vote. It's okay for voters to make this decision. It's not comfortable. It makes it hard for us to prognosticate. But if there's one thing that at least the people I talked to came out of 2016 feeling, it's that they were told what the narrative was supposed to be, and they felt like votes were kind of being whipped from the top down. I don't know who Democrats are going to pick, but I would, I would presume they'd like to pick for themselves.

KASIE HUNT:

So I hear you on that, and there's a lot of theories as to why Hillary Clinton lost in 2016.

JOSHUA JOHNSON:

For sure --

KASIE HUNT:

But I covered the entirety of the Bernie Sanders campaign, and it was very clear way before that process was over that he was not going to be the nominee, mostly because African American voters in the South said, "We're not going to vote for you." And that was known. And he stayed in it anyway. And some of the anger is on the Clinton side, because they feel like he did damage to her in a nominating process that stretched out for months when it didn't have to. So, you know, I think my question for Democrats is, you know, are they going to feel that is an imperative? Or are we going to end up in the same place where, like, all the millions of dollars, all the anger is playing out into July while Trump is trying, you know, doing a victory party?

JOHN E. SUNUNU:

Well, right now, though, it's the exact opposite. Because if you just look at a glide path you would say, "Well, Bernie Sanders is probably the most likely nominee." And some people would say that's the biggest risk for the Democrat Party.

KASIE HUNT:

Yeah.

JOHN E. SUNUNU:

Others would say, "No, the biggest risk is that Bernie won't be the nominee, and what does that mean to his voters" --

CHUCK TODD:

Where to his voters go --

JOHN E. SUNUNU:

-- "his supporters? Where are they going to go?" Because to the question of are Democrats going to be unified, I would agree with Claire. Democrats will unify behind the nominee, whoever it is. I mean, I never thought it would be as easy for Trump to unify Republicans going into the general election after that primary. The real question, though, is can that Democratic nominee appeal to the middle, to the center, to those voters in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin and Michigan?

CHUCK TODD:

Well, that's the question --

CLAIRE MCCASKILL:

Whoever the nominee is going to appeal to a lot of women who think that the guy in the White House is just a mess.

JOHN E. SUNUNU:

But that's not who elected Trump --

CLAIRE MCCASKILL:

And they're tired of the chaos and the drama --

JOHN E. SUNUNU:

But the voter, generally speaking, that elected Donald Trump were those voters in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin and Michigan --

CHUCK TODD:

Well, then you're making an --

CLAIRE MCCASKILL:

I know those voters --

CHUCK TODD:

By the way, you're making a Bernie case. In some ways these folks did want the disruption, Claire. They like -- I mean, I will say this with the Bernie. When you look at the numbers of Bernie general election matchups with Trump, right, you always see it on the surface. It all looks the same. The swing voter with Bernie is much different than the swing voter with everybody else --

CLAIRE MCCASKILL:

That's true. But I believe the anti-Trump is stronger in the swing voter at least in my state. I believe the swing voter in my state is more anti-Trump than they are for or against any potential nominee in the Democratic Party.

JOSHUA JOHNSON:

One other aspect, Kasie, since you brought up African-American voters, I was interested this week that so much was said about black voters and the plight of black people in the debate on Friday, which just kind of historically to have this stage of mostly white candidates talking very strongly and rhapsodically about the need to support the black community historically is something. At the same time, I can hear black voters saying, "If we're so important, why aren't we there? You're talking about us without us." --

CHUCK TODD:

What'd you make of --

JOSHUA JOHNSON:

-- "Cory Booker's gone. Kamala Harris is gone. Julian Castro's gone. You got one Asian guy on the stage and six well-meaning white people telling us what you're going to do for us when we weren't on the stage anymore.”

CHUCK TODD:

Can Pete survive his South Bend record with African-American voters?

JOSHUA JOHNSON:

I think he can. I think if he, look, we ain't stupid, all right? We know how to google like everybody else. And I think if you have perceived wrongs with the black community, you need to go talk to black people. And I don't just mean talking to, like, one or two black exemplars. Like, go to a church. Go to a community group and just take questions and take the heat and let people hear you say, "Look, mea culpa, this is the sword, I'm falling on it, here's what I did wrong, here's what I have learned that will make me a better president to meet the needs of African-Americans as it relates to equal justice." But you have to talk to us directly.

CHUCK TODD:

I'll be very curious what he does post-New Hampshire. That probably becomes a one track focus for that campaign. When we come back, despite its problems, why Iowa may still tell us a lot about what could happen right here in New Hampshire and beyond. Stick around.

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back. Data Download time. What happens Tuesday night right here in New Hampshire will either confirm what we learned a week ago in Iowa, or it could hint that this race is far from over. But if we choose to believe what Iowa taught us, there may be one clear beneficiary: Pete Buttigieg. And you can see it when you look at what happened between the first and second vote tallies last Monday night. As voters realigned, Buttigieg saw his vote total go up by more than 5,600 votes. It looks as if he took his votes from the other two moderates in the field, Joe Biden and Amy Klobuchar, both of whom lost votes from the first and second realignment. But that ideological consolidation did not happen on the progressive side of the spectrum. Instead, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren both gained by roughly equal amounts, drawing off votes from lower-tier candidates like Andrew Yang and Tom Steyer, rather than from each other. In fact, for all the talk about their similar positions, their supporters are pretty different from each other. Warren's supporters at the caucuses were made up of more women. But most of all, she did 54 points better among people who caucused for Hillary Clinton in 2016 and only reasonably well among caucus-goers age 17-44, the big Sanders stronghold. Sanders, of course, did pretty well among women. But while he gets wiped out among Clinton voters, he dominates among those younger voters. 82% of his supporters were in that younger age bracket. And that may make it particularly difficult for either to pull votes away from the other here in New Hampshire, which then leaves who, Buttigieg, in an enviable position. First, unlike 2016, there's no competitive Republican primary to woo those moderate and independent voters, people who may now go for Buttigieg. Second, if Buttigieg can continue to take votes from Biden and Klobuchar, as he did in Iowa, while Sanders is unable to win over Warren voters, he may be positioned for an upset with over two of New Hampshire's neighboring senators. When we come back, End Game. Some Republicans said they hope President Trump would learn a lesson from impeachment. And he may have. But what lesson was it?

CHUCK TODD:

Back now with End Game. This was the week that the president was acquitted. And he is pretty fired up about that. But what's interesting is what many of the senators who are uncomfortable with what he did but decided to acquit him all hoped or claimed he would learn a lesson. We know he's learned a lesson, but let's see what lesson he's learned. Take a listen to this.

(BEGIN TAPE)

SENATOR SUSAN COLLINS:

I believe that the president has learned from this case.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP:

They're vicious and mean. Vicious. These people are vicious. Adam Schiff is a vicious, horrible person.

SENATOR LAMAR ALEXANDER:

I would think he would think twice before he did it again.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP:

We went through hell, unfairly. Did nothing wrong. It's called total acquittal.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

John Sununu, while I ask you about what lesson he learned, I also want to put this Donald Trump Jr. tweet where he says, "Allow me a moment to thank, and this may be a bit of a surprise, Adam Schiff. Were it not for his crack investigation skills, @realDonaldTrump might have had a tougher time unearthing who all needed to be fired. Thanks, Adam." What lesson did the president learn?

JOHN E. SUNUNU:

I don't know. And I don't know if he learned a lesson or not. I think Lamar Alexander said it well. You'd hope that he did. Maybe in his dealing and communication with foreign leaders, that he separates his, you know, personal thoughts and personal or political thoughts from the issue at hand. But anyone who thinks his behavior or general tone is going to change is probably mistaken. Think about it four years ago, people said, "Well, Donald Trump is an unusual person. But once he's running for president, his behavior will probably change." And then during the primaries, we said, "Well, we've never seen a primary like this. But if he were to get the nomination, you know his behavior and his tone would change." And then they said, "Well, if he somehow manages to win the general election, he'll sort of take a different approach." I mean, how many times do we have to fool ourselves? He is who he is.

CHUCK TODD:

Lucy will always pull the football.

JOHN E. SUNUNU:

--his approach, his tone. And, and at the same time, it enabled him to win a general election, to win states Republicans haven't won in a long time, and to pass legislation on taxes, and trade, and criminal justice reform that most people would have said were impossible when he first assumed office.

KASIE HUNT:

I mean, Chuck, all this did was reinforce the lesson that Donald Trump, the reality television star, has learned and relearned his entire life. What did we hear on the campaign trail? "I could walk down 5th Avenue shooting people and they would still support me." What did we hear in that Access Hollywood tape? "If you're famous, they let you do anything." Now, it turns out you can make a call like this, you can do these things, try to get a foreign power to investigate a political rival. And you know what? You can step all over the Republican Party. They will go right ahead and let you do it. I mean, that is ultimately the lesson that has been sent by this Republican Senate, whether they like it or not.

CLAIRE MCCASKILL:

Well you know, I'm just struck by the things that supposedly he's gotten done. He did a trade deal that's basically a little bit different than NAFTA and pleased all the unions. He did a tax cut with only Republican votes that pleased mostly the 1%-ers. And, you know, he did a criminal justice reform that had 99 senators for it before it even hit the White House. There's no infrastructure. There's nothing on prescription drug prices. There's nothing on protecting pre-existing conditions. This president is a marketer, and he's done it well. But I will tell you this. His market skills failed him when he frog walked that Purple Heart recipient out of the White House. His numbers with the military have been steadily going down, and I guarantee you that didn't help him.

JOSHUA JOHNSON:

I think that is going to be the most illuminating part of all of this. I mean, I didn't learn anything about President Trump. This is of a piece with who he-- I mean, there's a Bible verse that says, "Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks." We know what's in the abundance of President Trump's heart. So there's nothing new in this. What I thought was interesting was the optics from Colonel Vindman being walked out and the reaction of some people, including those who interacted with me on social, saying, "Oh my god. Our democracy's at stake." I was taken by the fact that Adam Schiff and Mitt Romney gave two sides of the same speech at the end of the trial. Adam Schiff was talking about the long lens of history in a secular sense, how history, how your grandchildren will judge what you do today. Mitt Romney was talking about who your allegiance is really to. Is it to Donald Trump, or is it to God, to the rock of your salvation? There's a Bible verse in Matthew says, "You cannot serve God and money." And that was the point of what Mitt Romney said. "You can't serve others and yourself." So what I learned this week is that this trial has kind of crystallized for people across the political spectrum, "Oh, this is not a drill. This is actually a pivot point."

JOHN E. SUNUNU:

So I'm not a big fan of the way these firings were handled with Sondland and Vindman. But let's sort of be clear. They were political appointees. They were-- they served at the pleasure of the president. And they're gone. The emotion and the drama that the media puts behind these firings is very typical--

(OVERTALK)

CLAIRE MCCASKILL:

But it's the way he did it--

(OVERTALK)

CLAIRE MCCASKILL:

It's the way he did it. He could have moved them. He didn't just move them--

JOHN E. SUNUNU:

I said, I agreed they didn't do it well. But, again, this is so inside baseball. This is Washington--

CHUCK TODD:

Let me ask you a bigger question--

JOHN E. SUNUNU:

This doesn't matter--

CHUCK TODD:

--because you had a--

JOHN E. SUNUNU:

It's a political arc that we've been talking about--

CHUCK TODD:

John, you have a New Hampshire neighbor--

JOHN E. SUNUNU:

--for the last 30 minutes.

CHUCK TODD:

--named Mitt Romney--

JOHN E. SUNUNU:

Sure.

CHUCK TODD:

--who does spend some time here in the summers. What's your party going to do to him?

JOHN E. SUNUNU:

Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Look, Mitt Romney--

CHUCK TODD:

You don't think Trump will lead a vengeance campaign against--

JOHN E. SUNUNU:

No.

CHUCK TODD:

--the Romneys?

JOHN E. SUNUNU:

No. And it's not as if they were close friends to start with.

CHUCK TODD:

True.

JOHN E. SUNUNU:

Mitt voted his conscience. But let's also be clear--

(OVERTALK)

JOHN E. SUNUNU:

--just because one person stands up and says, "I voted my conscience," does not mean that everyone who disagrees with him didn't vote theirs. And, again, this is where the Washington media becomes very self-absorbed in assuming that anyone who voted to acquit Donald Trump wasn't voting their conscience. That's just ridiculous.

CHUCK TODD:

It's a fair point there. I will leave it there. That is all for today. A pretty busy New Hampshire morning here. Thank you for watching. Thank you for coming to us again. We'll be back next week. Because if it's Sunday, it's Meet the Press.