Sen. Elizabeth Warren Back In Media Spotlight After Nevada Debate Performance
MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
The Democratic race for president looks a little different today. Last night's debate left billionaire former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg looking less like a juggernaut, despite tens of millions he spent on advertising. Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar, who seemed to be the ascendant moderate after New Hampshire, does not look quite so ascendant. And Elizabeth Warren, the Massachusetts senator who had a poor showing in New Hampshire, reasserted herself last night. Here she is questioning Bloomberg about nondisclosure agreements signed by some women who worked for him.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
ELIZABETH WARREN: Some is how many? And when you say they signed them and they wanted them, if they wish now to speak out and tell their side of the story about what it is they allege, that's now OK with you? You're releasing them on television tonight?
MICHAEL BLOOMBERG: Senator...
WARREN: It that right?
KELLY: The exchange went on a couple more minutes. Other candidates piled on. Warren got the last word.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
WARREN: I'm sorry. You know, the question is...
BLOOMBERG: I heard your question.
WARREN: ...Are the women bound by being muzzled by you, and you could release them from that immediately? Because understand - this is not just a question of the mayor's character; this is also a question about electability.
KELLY: A moment there from the ninth Democratic debate last night in Nevada, and Nevada is where we find Elizabeth Warren. She joins me now from a car on the road between one campaign stop and the next.
Senator, welcome back to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.
WARREN: Thank you. It is good to be here.
KELLY: So you are behind in the delegate count coming out of Iowa and New Hampshire. A lot of folks are calling you a former front-runner. Talk me through what you felt like you had to do last night on the debate stage.
WARREN: My job is to get out there and fight for hardworking families who've been left behind for decades now. That's been my life's work forever. Of all the people on that stage, I've been a politician the shortest time. I really came to this about seeing how America's middle class is being hollowed out, how America's working families were just getting the short end of their stick, how the poor were just been crushed into the dirt. I have a lot of ideas for how to fix it.
WARREN: And if that's the part about running for president, is I get to talk about those ideas.
KELLY: What was the pep talk you gave yourself before you walked out on stage last night?
WARREN: You know, part of it was to say, we're going to make a decision as Democrats. Are we going to say that the only way to get the Democratic nomination is you either are a billionaire or you spend 70% of your time sucking up to billionaires and millionaires?
KELLY: Stay with the billionaire question because there was another memorable line last night. You said - and I'll quote you - "I'd like to talk about who we're running against - a billionaire who calls women fat broads and horse-faced lesbians." You were referring there to Mayor Bloomberg. How do you walk the line between going on the attack like that and trying to unify people, trying to bring people together?
WARREN: Look - bringing people together is not about we all just are going to hold hands and say nice things to each other. If that sounded harsh to you, remember whose mouth it came out of - Mike Bloomberg's - and how do you think it sounded to the women who heard it? My job last night was just to make sure that the rest of America got a chance to hear it.
KELLY: But does it risk alienating voters in the rest of America?
WARREN: I hope it alienates them against Mike Bloomberg, to know that that is the way he treats women. And I have no doubt - Mike Bloomberg has reached into his sock drawer and pulled out another hundred million dollars today to run ads to hope he can erase everyone's memory of exactly what I quoted him saying last night.
KELLY: You were not the only candidate who was on the offense last night. It was a very feisty debate. I'll go out on a limb and say it was the feistiest so far. It was also a lot of Democrats attacking each other on stage, which is prompting commentary that maybe the real winner last night was Donald Trump.
WARREN: Oh, I don't see it that way at all. What we need...
KELLY: But are you doing his work for him?
WARREN: No. We need a fighter against Donald Trump. And part of what people have to understand is we need somebody who's tough. That means somebody who can take a punch and somebody who can deliver a punch. That's what it will take.
KELLY: So what is your front-porch, knock-on-a-door unifying message to people? Because thus far, what you have been offering doesn't seem to have resonated, just according to voters in Iowa and New Hampshire.
WARREN: I'm Elizabeth Warren, and I'm running for president because I'm the gal who's going to beat Donald Trump.
KELLY: Which prompts this question - in interviews that we and other news organizations have done, voters - including a lot of women voters - say their top concern is beating Donald Trump and that they think a man might be the safest bet. Not that they are biased, not that they wouldn't vote for a woman, but they assume that other people might not. Take that on. How do you answer that?
WARREN: Sure. The world has changed since 2016. Take a look at what happened in 2018 - Democrats took back the House of Representatives. We took back statehouses across the country, right here in Nevada. We took back statewide seats. Women run; women win. Never...
KELLY: Although if you look at the delegate count right now, it's men who are - Pete Buttigieg, Bernie Sanders at 22 and 21 delegates. You have eight. Amy Klobuchar is below you.
WARREN: We have heard from 2% of the population. We got 98% to go. And here's the fun part. Since I didn't finance my campaign either by being a billionaire - that one was out of the question - or by spending 70% of my time sucking up to billionaires, I actually have been around this country. I've been to 29 states and Puerto Rico. I've held town halls. That's how we build a movement.
KELLY: I want to ask about one other thing that Mike Bloomberg said last night, which was that if Senator Sanders is the nominee, he will lose the election. On that point, is Mike Bloomberg right?
WARREN: Look - we're out there trying to show why we think we are the best candidates. I think I'm the best candidate...
KELLY: But can Bernie Sanders beat Donald Trump?
WARREN: I think I'm the best candidate because I fight for all parts of the party, and I think I am the best person to beat Donald Trump. Look - I think anybody on that stage last - and I mean this - I think anybody on that stage would make a better president than Donald Trump. And I'm going to support whoever our Democratic...
KELLY: That's a different question from whether they can beat Donald Trump.
WARREN: I understand that it is a different question. I think that anyone on that stage would make a better president. I think I have the best opportunity to beat him.
KELLY: Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, thank you for your time.
WARREN: Thank you.
KELLY: That's Senator Elizabeth Warren, Democratic presidential candidate, speaking to us from a car on the campaign trail in Nevada.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.