Key takeaways from night one of the Democratic primary debate

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," June 27, 2019. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LETITIA JAMES, D-N.Y. ATTORNEY GENERAL: Despite the Trump administration's attempt to politicize the census and divide our nation, we, the people prevailed.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, R-S.C.: When sanctuary cities are created, you're asking people to come to your city, I don't think you should get a benefit from the Federal government for doing that. And that's what happens when you count illegal immigrants.

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BRET BAIER, HOST: Two big cases on the final day of U.S. Supreme Court session one on the census, that the administration has not made the case that they should put the census question and the citizenship question on the census form.

The President reacting to that saying, "Seems totally ridiculous that our government and indeed country cannot ask a basic question of citizenship in a very expensive, detailed and important census, in this case for 2020. I've asked the lawyers if they can delay the census, no matter how long until the United States Supreme Court is given additional information from which it can make a final and decisive decision on this very critical matter. Can anyone really believe that as a great country, we are not able to ask whether or not someone is a citizen. Only in America." From President Trump overseas.

Let's bring in our panel here in Miami. Tom Bevan, Real Clear Politics, cofounder and president; Mo Elleithee, the Executive Director of the Georgetown Institute of Politics and in Washington, Byron York, chief political correspondent of "The Washington Examiner."

Byron, let me start with you. Thoughts on this ruling both the census question and also gerrymandering?

BYRON YORK, CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER: Well, it's kind of an odd ruling -- the census ruling -- in the sense that the Trump administration didn't really lose it in the sense that the Supreme Court rejected its argument for the census question now, but gave it a chance to come up with another argument.

And the administration actually had some reasonable arguments. I think the Commerce Secretary has enormous discretion over what's in the census and the census has long asked questions about citizenship between 1820 and 2000, all but one census asked at least some Americans about citizenship or place of birth.

Citizenship is a part of many statutes, like the laws that allow Americans to be eligible for benefits or not. And it's not a crazy idea for the U.S. government to know how many U.S. citizens are in the U.S. Nevertheless, they've got to go back and try to find some other reason.

As far as the gerrymandering case is concerned. Look, the founders of the country knew that state legislators were partisan, and they gave them the power to draw districts. And I think that's the basic fact that determined this ruling.

BAIER: Yes, Mo, the interesting thing about the census, going back to that ruling, was that the court was essentially saying, you know what, we don't buy it. We don't buy what you told us. The reason why you are asking for this question.

MO ELLEITHEE, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, GEORGETOWN INSTITUTE OF POLITICS: Well, it didn't help, but there's paper trail, right, that there's e-mails from Republican operatives that got out that showed that they were talking about adding this question for political benefit in order to hurt Democrats and help Republicans.

And so there was a pretty big disconnect there when you've got serious party operatives conspiring with folks to actually create that kind of an environment.

But look, ultimately, Byron is right. Like the President has got another shot at this. If you're a Democrat, this fight isn't over. Celebrate today, the fight is not over, we're going to have to be vigilant as Democrats.

BAIER: Explain for people though, Tom, why this is important. Why the census is important for how things are measured in each state?

TOM BEVAN, COFOUNDER AND PRESIDENT, REAL CLEAR POLITICS: Right, it's how they draw congressional lines. It's how they draw electoral votes, right, to allocate the electoral votes. It also accounts for Federal grants to states, how many people live in different areas and different states.

Look conservative see this as a John Roberts special, right? He sided with a liberal -- four liberal justices on the court.

BAIER: He is becoming sort of the swing vote. I mean, he's becoming the new Kennedy.

BEVAN: Much to conservatives' chagrin, and this was -- they even found that asking the question itself was constitutional. That was not the violation. But to your point, John Roberts sided with liberals in saying, "Look, I don't buy why you did this, you've got to go back and give us more -- give us more details."

BAIER: How much of a loss, Byron is it for Democrats on the gerrymandering case?

YORK: I don't think it's a really big one. I mean, it was a big win for Republicans, but only for right now because they control all of these legislators and can continue to shape them.

But when Democrats get their act together, and win a lot of state legislators, they will benefit from this. I think that even though the court split along partisan lines, Republican-appointed judges versus Democrat-appointed judges, it was not really a partisan decision, because it will apply in the future when it's going to happen, Democrats control a majority of state legislatures.

BAIER: Yes, we're going to wrap it up there to save us more time for the next panel, because the next up is Democratic Debates Number Two. Stay with us.

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(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN DELANEY, D-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: China, the biggest geopolitical threat remains nuclear weapons.

MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO, D-N.Y., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The biggest threat to the security of the United States is Donald Trump.

REP. TULSI GABBARD, D-HI, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The fact that we are at a greater risk of nuclear war today than ever before --

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR, D-MINN., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Economic threat China, but our major threat right now is what's going on in the Mideast with Iran.

BETO O'ROURKE, D-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Our existential threat is climate change.

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN, D-MASS., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Climate change.

SEN. CORY BOOKER, D-N.J., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Nuclear proliferation and climate change.

JULIAN CASTRO, D-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: China and climate change.

REP. TIM RYAN, D-OH, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: China without a question.

MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO, D-N.Y., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Russia because they're trying to undermine our democracy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BAIER: The biggest threat was the question. Those were last night's contenders. Another round tonight with 10 other Democratic candidates. Most times on debate night, the candidates are not making a lot of news.

One from last night did make a little news today, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio was at a rally at the Miami Airport talking to striking workers there. He used a quote that was picked up by Senator Marco Rubio who tweeted, "Bill de Blasio went to a rally at the Miami Airport today and ended his speech by quoting from the murderous Che Guevara's farewell letter to Fidel Castro. But how dare anyone call him or any Democrat candidate a socialist."

Late today, de Blasio apologized, saying he didn't realize that his words were associated with a man viewed by so many in South Florida as a mass murderer. We're back with our panel. Mo, that's not the best bounce from last night's debate for the mayor.

ELLEITHEE: Yes, no, that's exactly right. The best thing Bill de Blasio has going for him is that there's another debate in a couple of hours. That's going to then take all of the headlines away, yes.

BAIER: Your thoughts on tonight?

ELLEITHEE: Look, I think last night was a good night for a lot of the candidates on that stage and a bad night for a couple of the others.

But for the whole field, it was a problem because again, as we were just saying, a new debate starts tonight. One of the biggest winners last night, honestly, was Joe Biden, because no one touched him.

And while Warren had some good moments, Booker had some good moments. Castro had a really good night. They helped themselves a bit. They didn't really change the overall contours of this race. Biden is still front runner, and no one challenged him last night.

So the big question tonight is what will the folks sharing the stage with the former Vice President do? Will they try to go after him? And how does he handle it? Especially if he is taking it from several different directions?

BAIER: Remember that Bernie Sanders has been through this once. He has been on the debate stage with Hillary Clinton. Now, he is shoulder to shoulder with the guy he is trailing, which is part of the establishment Democratic Party, Joe Biden, that dynamic is going to be interesting to watch tonight.

BEVAN: It is going to be interesting. And obviously, where everyone is sort of looking at Joe Biden wondering if he is going to make a mistake, right?

When you're a solidified top tier candidate in this race, you don't want to do something that's going to hurt you. Meanwhile, it presents huge opportunities for some of those lower tier candidates in particular, focused on Kamala Harris, right? She is languishing in about five, five to six or seven percent in the polls. This is a huge opportunity for her off the back of the fish fry, where she electrified the crowd to come up and have that kind of moment, which could change the dynamic in this race, at least for her.

BAIER: We've seen, Byron, Pete Buttigieg, the mayor from South Bend have good Town Halls. He needs something good after the past week in South Bend.

YORK: Yes. Well, he has a very specific issue that doesn't apply to any other candidate, which is the problems in his city of South Bend and what he is going to do about it. I am not sure how he will handle that.

I'm going to be looking to see if the centrism shows up tonight. Joe Biden is obviously not just the leading candidate, but thought to be the centrist candidate, but centrism didn't really show up much last night, when you look at issues like guns and taxes and healthcare and immigration. There just wasn't a whole lot of it.

I thought of the really low tier candidates, John Delaney made an excellent point when they were talking about taking away people's healthcare for a national single payer system. And he said, "I don't think we should be in the business of taking things away from people." There wasn't a lot of common sense like that on the stage last night.

BAIER: Well, that was a big moment for Delaney, who obviously is trying to have big moments. Here's the reference to the Castro, Beto O'Rourke moments. Take a listen.

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CASTRO: I just think it's a mistake. I think it's a mistake. And I think that if you truly want to change the system, then we've got to repeal that section, if not, then it might as well be the same policies.

O'ROURKE: As a Member of Congress, I helped to introduce legislation that would ensure that we don't criminalize those who are seeking asylum and refuge in this country.

CASTRO: I am not talking about everybody else.

O'ROURKE: But you're looking at just one small part of this. I'm talking about a comprehensive rewrite of our immigration laws.

CASTRO: I don't think he's done his homework.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BAIER: Mo, were you surprised how many candidates went after Beto considering he has dropped in the polls significantly, but he seemed to be the punching bag for a lot of these candidates on the stage.

ELLEITHEE: Well, you know, particularly some of the lower tier candidates, right, who you know, even for them, Beto was punching above their weight class a little bit. And then I get it, I mean, Beto O'Rourke came into this race with so much fanfare and such high expectations, and he has struggled to live up to those expectations throughout the entire campaign.

Last night was a very important night for him, and he teetered, he teetered quite a bit. And so --

BAIER: A loser last night?

ELLEITHEE: I think he probably -- look, in these debates, the question is always about expectations, right? Do you meet expectations? Or do you exceed them or fall below them? He fell far short of expectations last night and the candidates who are ganging up on him. I think we're hoping to sort of claim his spot in that sort of middle of the pack.

BAIER: Right. The other thing tonight, we don't -- haven't factored in are these other candidates who we haven't heard a lot about. For example, Marianne Williamson, the author, who has a different approach to a lot of things. She tweeted out after watching last night, "I need to learn Spanish by tomorrow at nine," after seeing the last debate. What about Marianne Williamson and Andrew Yang? And how they are factored in.

BEVAN: These are the sort of wild cards and these are the folks that again, they're looking at this as they need to have a moment. So they're going to be I think, extra risky in maybe some of the chances that it takes to try and garner attention, because they're languishing. And if they don't perform here, they may not make the next debate or the fall debate.

So back to Beto though. I mean, if you looked at the media narratives, part of this is about the narrative, the media narratives that comes out of this. There's not a single Democrat or liberal or even media organization that I could find this morning that said he did well.

In fact, the only person who thought he did well was him. He gave himself an A minus.

BAIER: Yes. All right. Byron, wrap it up. 30,000 feet, are we looking more tonight at the battle inside of the Democratic Party between the two sides of the party and whether it goes more progressive or it goes more centrist?

YORK: Oh, absolutely. That is if Joe Biden really, really shows up. Just one thing, you mentioned his name, Andrew Yang is a really interesting guy. He'll be the person to watch.

Now, the Biden-Bernie dynamic is going to be huge, but I would also pay a lot of attention to Kamala Harris. She's a very strong candidate, she has not been really shining lately. She had a big start.

Pete Buttigieg will be polished because that's what he is. But I think Harris may really be somebody to watch.

BAIER: All right panel, thank you very much. When we come back a different look at the Democratic debates. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BAIER: Welcome back to the Adrienne Arsht Performing Arts Center here in Miami. Finally, tonight some late night laughs about the first 2020 Democratic debate.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SETH MYERS, TALK SHOW HOST: Tonight was the first Democratic presidential debate between Elizabeth Warren, Beto O'Rourke, Cory Booker, your middle school Vice Principal, the lady who kept your Frisbee, the guy your mom dated after the divorce.

JIMMY FALLON, TALK SHOW HOST: Trump tweeted and called the debate boring, but he still watched even though he also said it was a quote "very unexciting group of people" as opposed to the rock stars he usually hangs out with like Mike Pence and Steve Mnuchin.

STEPHEN COLBERT, TALK SHOW HOST: It is an Espanol off or as they say in Spanish, grupo de idiotas.

TREVOR NOAH, TALK SHOW HOST: An epic showdown between nine normal sized people and Bill de Blasio.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BAIER: Yes and Peter Doocy Spanish. Spectacular. Thanks for inviting us into your homes tonight. That's it for the “Special Report.” Fair balanced, and still unafraid. Don't forget the post-debate analysis 11:00 p.m., Shannon Bream. I'll be here as well. And we will have the DNC Chair Tom Perez on. Martha MacCallum has "The Story" from New York right now.

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