Warren 'the biggest threat' to Sanders, not Biden: National Review editor

The Powerhouse Roundtable talks politics and Sharpie-gate on "This Week."
22:14 | 09/08/19

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Transcript for Warren 'the biggest threat' to Sanders, not Biden: National Review editor
Round table is up next. We're joined by Chris Christie the former governor of New Jersey, the former mayor of Chicago Rahm Emanuel, Mary Bruce and the editor of the national review rich Lowry. Let's talk about the debate. It's the first time we'll see Joe Biden flanked by Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. Who has the most to gain and most to lose? The debate gets close and personal. Everyone in the debate is going to have that bubble that's going to say jokers to the left of me. Clowns to the right. I'm stuck in the middle with you. That's going to be Biden when he looked across the spectrum. I think it will get to the point where the candidates and the voters have a chance to measure people not on a split screen. They're going to see each other and take their temperature, take their character, lift the hood up, check the oil, check the tires. This is that process where it's not on two nights. Single night. One stage. You get the measure of the candidates. We learned this and this was similar to the dynamic in 2016. The person taking the shot at the front runner doesn't benefit. No. That's why there's the most pressure in this debate and the person under the most pressure is senator Harris. She had a quick rise because she took a shot at Biden. She recognized in the second debate if you do that, there's going to be incoming. Now she's in no man's land. You see it in the poll. She's gone nowhere. She's gone backwards since she had that moment. She has to figure out what's my strategy. Is it to go back at Biden and reprise that or do I do something different? I think she's the person who has the most pressure on her because her donors are going to be looking at her saying are we going anywhere or aren't we? We know Biden, Warren and Sanders are solid. They'll be in the race for a long time. It's who makes up the rest of the stage. Don't forget it's still ten people up there. It's still a lot. Believe me I've been thinking We used to assume eight minutes, eight minutes total is what you're going to get to you better know what the hell you want to say. And you want the 30 seconds Yes. That's a question for Elizabeth Warren. First time she's going to be face-to-face with Joe Biden. First time for him. It will be interesting to see if they go after each other. They both, especially Joe Biden has been trying to rise above it. He'll counter punch if you come after him, but he's been directing fire at the president with Warren having the successful summer will he be directing more attacks against her. To the governor's point, you have people on the wings, who haven't been on the wings before. How are they going to react? Everyone is going to have to create some kind -- try to create a break out moment. They are. I've been told by Julio Castro's campaign that he's going to be focusing on the case that he's best positioned to draw on the so-called Obama coalition to inspire younger voters, who Joe Biden's campaign admits they're struggling with, to inspire voters of color who we know support Joe Biden, black voters. They're mostly older black voters. One of his aides told "The New York Times" he's going to have to go after one candidate. That's Joe Biden. Julio Castro? Yes. Yes. The one thing about Elizabeth Warren though that's interesting to me is she established herself through polling as a front runner, maybe on equal footing with Joe Biden. Other candidates haven't figured out how to attack her. I'm going to watch whether that comes out. It seemed like this week that mayor Pete is saying he could go after Joe Biden or Bernie and Warren as well. Yes. Stakes are high for Biden in any event like this. The question still is does he have the ability to match his electability. If you look at the polls the last four or five months, you see one thing happen. Elizabeth Warren has risen. Does anyone else go after her? The biggest threat she represents is not to Biden. It's to Bernie Sanders. They have this nonaggression pact that will eventually break down. I think it will break down, maybe not this week. How that plays out is going to affect the dynamic of this race. Here's what I think is wrong with our analysis. The person that goes after the voters rather than somebody else on stage is going to sign. That's what Elizabeth Warren is signaling she's going to do. I participated it in a few minutes ago. I would like to have a reset. There will be a dynamic because candidates are saying they're going to go after so and so. They're going to take one person. I think if you look at the polling, the person that appreciates, understands and puts themselves based on their history where the voters have lived their lives, that's the candidate that will shine. Not only in this debate, but in the long term. That was the problem with Harris in the last debate. She came off like a one-trick pony because she went so hard after Biden and didn't focus enough on her own policy. She missed the next morning. What she proved in the debate is she can deliver a punch and can't take a punch. If Elizabeth Warren is determined to tell her side of the story, will any of the candidates see she's doing well in Iowa. She shined at the New Hampshire democratic convention yesterday. Will they do something to stop her momentum? They'll try. You saw with booker he got generally good reviews with the way he went after vice president Biden and the way he carried himself. What did it amount to? Nothing. I agree with Rahm, we make too much of these things. Break out moments -- Harris had a break out moment, she's in single digits. Booker had a break out moment, she's at 1% this morning. There's no moments that lasted. No. Buttigieg had a moment that led to a lot of fund-raising. It hasn't led to sustained poling. I don't think that's been a debate issue. Because of the debates or what she's doing on the ground? I think both. When she's talking to folks at the rallies, she's not just proposing these big bold proposals, she's connecting them to lived experiences that connect with people on a personal level. There's two Elizabeth Warrens. The Elizabeth Warren in Oklahoma is unbelievably powerful. The Elizabeth Warren about policy is like we're studying for a midterm every day. If she can do more Oklahoma and what motivates her, that's a powerful person. That's separate from the question is are those ideas she's putting out there taking the Democrats out of the center? They are. There's no question about that. They are taking the Democrats out of the center. That's the bigger problem. That's why it's going to come down to Biden and Warren. It's electability very purity. That happens on the Republican side all the time, George. Until it was smashed by president trump. When we're out of power that happens all the time too. The risk you said which is appropriate and it measures up, health care is the single issue that Democrats have a 35-point advantage on. President trump is trying to do everything he can to narrow that down. We've taken a position through thprocess about basically medicare for all which is we'll eliminate 150 million people's health care and provide health care for people that come over the border. That's untenable for the election. I just biked around lake Michigan. It was nearly 1,000 miles through Michigan and Minnesota. Nobody at a diner said to me take my health care away. Nobody. You don't have to take the position to win the primary -- you're hindering yourself for the general election. There's a question about whether this comes down to electability and this return to stability that Biden is riding on or whether voters want somebody like Warren that shakes up the whole system. Our poll shows there's this boost for Biden because of the electability argument. The polls show there's a lot of potential movement here because Biden has 23% that think he can be the best president. There's one thing that will affect the electability argument. Who wins Iowa and who wins new Hampshire? Elizabeth Warren is out there on positions that are meant to cater to part of the primary electorate. If she wins Iowa, that changes. I was in central Pennsylvania and walked into a diner -- There's no diners in new Jersey? Diners, we got I promise you. I could see you in a diner. It was three hours away and it was worth the drive. The woman came up to me and said, governor, please tell the president to tell these Democrats to leave my health care alone. Now, you know, this was the only thing she said to me. She said thank you and walked away. Unsolicited. That part of Pennsylvania is going to be key to what's going to happen in Pennsylvania and if the president holds that coalition and wins Pennsylvania this election is over. Did you respond and say but the president wants to repeal your health care with a replacement? No. I was ordering my omelette. I got to tell you the truth. I wasn't worried about that. It showed you what people are I'm sending a crew to see if you tipped well. I'm from Jersey we always tip well. The key point is the president's budget is the largest cut in medicare by a we'll talk about medicare for all in Houston. Nobody mentions the fact that the president of the united States has a medicare cut for all. That's his greatest vulnerability. He pledged in 2016 he would never touch medicare and medicaid. That's what his budget did. The president told me in June he would have a new health care plan in a couple weeks. It's now September. Don't keep turning on the computer to see it. One of the things we saw is that constant talk about hurricane Dorian and whether it would hit Alabama. Alabama could even be in for at least some very strong winds and something more that than that. That was the original chart. You see it was going to hit not only Florida but Georgia, was going toward the gulf. That's what was originally projected. That map that you put up today looked like it was a sharpie. I don't know. I don't know. I don't know. Chris Christie, it's entirely possible that first briefing the president had ten days ago said it might hit Alabama. No question when he tweeted last Sunday Alabama is going to get hit harder than anticipated, that's flatly just not true. What I don't understand is sticking with it for seven days after that. What is that about? This president has shown over and over again that he believes that admitting mistakes is admitting weakness. I don't think it's hard to understand to him -- people seem mystified by this. I'm mystified by them. This is who the president of the United States is. I've known him for -- Why would he want this to be the dialogue for seven days? Because it drives you guys crazy and the media focuses on this instead of what Rahm was talking about or other issues, we're talking about this before we talk about Afghanistan. We led with Afghanistan. My point is this is what lots of folks in the media talk about. It's a distraction. I don't think the president thinks the distraction is bad for him. We're talking about it because he's talking about it. He was relentless. Exactly. It wasn't just that he wouldn't let this go. He was deploying government resources to help in his argument. When you're facing a hurricane of significant consequence, you have to think about how much time and effort was spent defending the president's argument. He's talking about it because you're talking about it. It's a circle that never ends. He never allows himself the escape route. It was old information. I revise my remarks. The media was analyzing this in a way that was completely absurd. It was lost the major story was a category 5 hurricane. We should not forget in addition to him not wanting to admit he was wrong is that president trump loves being his own spokesman. Stephanie Grisham who is the white house communication director has not held one single press conference. President trump has been left to his own devices. He's choosing that. That's right and we see his insecurities, his bias and this misinformation being given to the public because of him being his own spokesperson because that's what he wants. This is where the American people think all of us are crazy. We should stop this. You have kids dying with vaping. You have a major health care crisis in the United States. You have a major rebuilding. We're obsessed. He is wrong. Full stop. Move on. I will also say that's who the American people elected. It wasn't like there were a ton of people talking for him in the 2016. He was. That's part of what they love about him. He's his best and his worse. This is the worst. He tells them what he thinks. Sometimes they agree and sometimes they don't. They love the fact that -- It's never boring. Never boring. That gets to a big question. Does this hurt him, this fatigue? Yes. That same person in middle Pennsylvania thinks given the economy that things are okay. They think he's worse than bad. They think he's driving the distraction. They see an opoid crisis. They see a vaping crisis. They're not -- Here's the -- you bring up the opoid crisis. Look at what the president and the administration has done. I was chairman of the opoid commission. $1.8 billion in grants went out to every state to deal with this issue. You have a 17% drop in overdose deaths. The president has been focusing on this. He did another event this week Rahm, we're talking about the it's ridiculous. I'm with you. For that voter who has seen her neighborhood, her community devastated by this, that sharpie is ridiculous and that opoid crisis is serious. It soaks the oxygen out of other conversations and takes conversations away from the Democrats. They were having a conversation about their plans on climate change and the president is able to keep focus on him. That's my point, Mary. If you think this is accidental, it's not. It combines both. He likes to fight back. That's impulsive. When he sees you react to it, it drowns out climate change, the hurricane and everything else. He's willing to live with that. Why? Because he's president. The question is does it help him. You said the American people love he does this. Right now he's stuck at around 40%. There's got to be an opportunity lost. It hurts in the suburbs. Suburban Republican women have turned away from the party. At least for the moment. They did in 2018. Winning back some of those voters is important to the president. He's overstaying their welcome. The Pennsylvania voter is not alone. When I talk to Obama trump voters in rural parts of the midwest they talk about this fatigue over and over. They feel he's chaotic and tweeting all the time. They feel like he's not addressing issues they care about, a social security plan, health care plan, opoid crisis. They feel the president is not talking about the issues they care about. Instead of talking about things like that, he's talking about the sharpie. Let me tell you why that makes no difference. They're voting. It makes no difference to him and to 2020. Right now you can analyze the president in a vacuum. When it becomes a binary choice and we have Elizabeth Warren with medicare for all and huge new taxes, they'll look at Donald Trump and say I may be exhausted, but my wallet isn't exhausted and I'm going to vote for him. Two things. I don't agree with you, Chris. When it comes to the binary choice, the fact is his exhaustion level is taking them to where they can't take four the suburban voters that left are exhausted. They're not going to come back. You can see it in the poll. Yes. Would Biden be a great probably not. Can he get elected? Yes. That's probably what's driving his campaign. I want to talk about Afghanistan. I was struck, Mary, that secretary Pompeo didn't say the collapse of the peace talks would necessarily stop the president's plans to withdraw troops from Afghanistan. Yeah. There are a lot of questions about what comes next. The president put this out there and it's unclear what is the next move, what comes after this. Is this the end of the peace talks? There will be a lot of questions on capitol hill tomorrow. Announcements never mean it's the end of anything. This guy is a public negotiator. That's what he did in Korea. That's what he's done in China. I think the bigger question -- He's taking charge of himself. As he always does. As a guy who was a prosecutor post 9/11 and understands this as a terrorism fight -- we've forgotten that a little bit. I don't think it's tenable to withdraw troops without having some kind of agreement. Yet we watched the administration Rahm was a part of and an administration that started this, no one has the answer. You have to put this in the context of Donald Trump. The Iranians said we're not talking to you. North Korea, nothing has come from that. Here you have another break down of every process. The fact is he leaves more carnage and damage then when you started. One thing we have to figure out is why were the talks first point on the schedule and why were they canceled. As I pointed out to secretary Pompeo, there were Taliban attacks all throughout the process. Ambassador Bolton has been against this peace agreement. There must be a lot going on behind the scenes. I think going down makes sense and I think everyone in the white house agrees 8,600 is going to 0, that would be a huge mistake. Having the Taliban to camp David, maybe you need to talk to them, but you don't need to do that. It goes to his instincts and the theater of it. That's a gesture that would grab the headlines and the news coverage. You shouldn't have a group that's trying to kill Americans. He has been willing to take that heat in the past. That speaks to his negotiating style. He takes this maximalist approach as the initial negotiating strategy and always was it back or they unfold from that point. Because he's so used to negotiating in that style he's used to the heat that comes with that and he says we'll figure it out in two weeks. One of my son's best friends is an army ranger deployed to Afghanistan. He was just deployed two months ago. I talked to his parents this week. What they don't want is to think their son's presence is useless and meaningless. They don't want to see us back away. Even though their son is at risk, they don't want us to back away from making sure the country is not attacked again. Do you think that's what the president feels? I think that's where he is. I talked to him this week about I think he is there. He sees 18 years of this and nothing has worked. He's trying to find a third way. I credit him for that. We have to keep in mind that soldier and his family. They want a meaningful role. Important place for us to end. Thank you very much. Great discussion. We'll all be heading to Houston for Thursday's debate. Tune in at 8:00 P.M. Eastern here on ABC. You see the stage.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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