IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

MSNBC Post Democratic Debate Analysis. TRANSCRIPT: 9/12/19, The 11th Hour w/ Brian Williams.

Guests: Amy Klobuchar, Pete Buttigieg, Beto O’Rourke, Cory Booker, KamalaHarris, Claire McCaskill, Eugene Robinson

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST:  And this is an ideological debate in many ways especially in the Democratic left against Trump.  What you talked about, you didn’t want to be president of half the country.  To other candidates risk that of getting in there and having Trump turn in the right of the country and being center right against him and the same divide from another perspective?

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  That’s my concern and I want to make a point because I’m someone from the middle of the country.  I’ve been able to get things done because of the fact that I have worked down things that matter to people and listen to the constituents, listen to the people of this country.

But what I wanted to make a point, also point, I’d like made more of it is that these ideas are fine.  But some of them are up ivory tower.  Some of them would maybe get 100 percent score in a college faculty lunch (ph).  But they’re not going to be able to get done and they may not even be the right policy.

As I was pointing out, throwing 149 million people off their healthcare in four years, I don’t think that’s bold.  I think it’s a bad idea when you can do the public option and take on pharmaceuticals.  I don’t support giving free college to wealthy kids, you know, which by the way --

MATTHEWS:  Well, Bernie said 100 percent.

KLOBUCHAR:  I know.  I heard that.  And I -- that would --

MATTHEWS:  Senator Warren said 95 percent.

KLOBUCHAR:  OK.  That would include the kids, by the way, of people that cheated to get them into colleges.  OK?  So, I have about had it with this, because I think what we need to do is start uniting our party, uniting our country. 

And you do that by reaching out not just to our base which is fired up, but also to Independents, moderate Republicans who may have voted for Donald Trump and now are having big second thoughts.  And I think what you saw there was a number of us talking about the fact that a house divided as I noted the Abraham Lincoln quote, "house divided doesn’t stand."

MATTHEWS:  What’s the risk of a candidate like Warren or Bernie Sanders who are strong who are strong ideological in the issue of structural change in this country.  If they get in there and they’re up against Mitch McConnell and he’s got 47 senators, or maybe 50.  That frustration, what will that do to the American people?

KLOBUCHAR:  I think our main point is not to have Mitch McConnell as majority leader.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Let’s hope ideally.

KLOBUCHAR:  No, I’m really serious about that.  And the way you do that is putting someone at the top of the ticket that can bring in, in clear noses, can bring in Independents, moderate Republicans, and by the way helps and at least doesn’t hurt in the states that we need to win like Colorado, Arizona, right?


KLOBUCHAR:  This is what we need to bring back the majority in the United States.

MATTHEWS:  Well, Beto is going to come here in a few minutes.  But what do you think of his call about a mandatory buyback of assault rifles?  Was -- is that going to scare the middle of the country as a confiscation proposal?

KLOBUCHAR:  You know, I don’t look at it politically.  I just look at what makes sense.  And what makes sense to me is, first of all, getting the things done.  We have to now.  The universal background check.


KLOBUCHAR:  But then moving to an assault weapon ban and a limit on magazines, and looking at this as voluntary.  So that is what I think makes sense.  And I think most candidates up --

MATTHEWS:  Can you get rid of assault weapons with an E.O. by executive order under the constitution?

KLOBUCHAR:  What you can do with executive order is get my bill done.  Actually without Congress to close boy friend loophole you can start the research on gun violence.  I think those would be the things you can do on your own.

MATTHEWS:  Senator, I think you had a big night tonight.

KLOBUCHAR:  Thank you.

MATTHEWS:  Back to you, Brian.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, THE 11TH HOUR, HOST:  Thanks to Chris.  Thanks to the senator from Minnesota.

Over to Steve Kornacki.

Steve, specifically on the advanced billing of tonight by some as Biden versus Warren, because debates have a funny way of deciding what their personality is going to be.

STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC NATL. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT:  Yes, I mean, you know, this is the match-up everybody had been waiting for or most people, I’d say, had been waiting for after those first two debates.  We finally saw Biden, finally saw Warren together.  They would probably be together in the subsequent debate.

Why it’s so interesting, not just the fact that Warren has kind of been surging that Biden obviously is the front-runner.  The coalitions that each of them represent very opposite sides of the Democratic Party.  We can say this is going to be a big story, I think, going forward.

Look, some of the big differences between them.  First of all, among white voters, this is the most recent CNN poll.  Joe Biden’s polling at 21 percent, Warren’s polling at 23 percent.  That’s about the same.

Where there is a big difference between them, though, it’s black voters.  This for Joe Biden, one of his biggest sources of strength in the Democratic race, 42 percent nationally, he’s polling right now with black voters.  Elizabeth Warren at 10 percent right now.  And in fact, 10 percent, in fact, one of the best numbers that Warren has had with black voters.

How about white college educated voters?  Right here Elizabeth Warren is in first place among Democrats.  College educated white voters, she’s running at 29 percent, almost doubling up Joe Biden.  You go down to more blue collar white voters, non-college white voters, they’re Biden much stronger than Warren.

Take a look at this one, the age divide.  Democrats under 45, they’re tied, 17 percent each.  But how about this, 45 and older, Biden’s support explodes.  First place among Democrats, again, 30 percent.  Warren, she is about the same.  So Biden strength with older voters.

And then there’s this, the ideological divide we always talk about among liberal voters, there is Warren, she and Bernie Sanders right there, near the top among liberals, Biden back at 17 percent.

Then you go to folks who call themselves moderates and conservatives.  Look at this, no big surprise.  Joe Biden in first place, Warren falls all the way back to 12 percent.  So, very clear fault lines between Warren and Biden.  They mixed it up for the first 10 minutes or so in the debate tonight.  I don’t know that the default lines changed.  But these are going to defining, I think, in the weeks and months ahead the Democratic race.

WILLIAMS:  Steve Kornacki, thanks.  I’m told Robert Costa is prepared to talk to us, National Political Reporter for "The Washington Post."

And Bob, you’ve been in touch with the Mayor Pete campaign because the consensus here in this studio is apparently shared by them that their guy had a good outing.

ROBERT COSTA, THE WASHINGTON POST NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER:  Talking to strategists for the South Bend mayor and top allies, they believe he tried to avoid enemy fire tonight to keep him in a position where he can make the case that he is elevated away from the acrimony.  And should some of the top tier contenders fall away, for whatever reason politically, whether it’s Vice President Biden or someone else, that he’s in a position to win over the center left coalition inside the Democratic Party.

WILLIAMS:  And what are the folks around Joe Biden saying about what we watched transpire tonight?

COSTA:  Biden allies are texting and calling and they’re saying they feel good about tonight because he emerged with some nixed to be sure, but relatively unscathed.  He apologized for one of his top problems on the campaign trail, his vote to authorize the use of force in Iraq.  But he didn’t get really pulled down into that hour after hour.  He was able to make the case that he was the representative of the Obama legacy.

NICOLE WALLACE, DEADLINE: WHITE HOUSE, ANCHOR:  Robert Costa, I worked in 2004 on the Bush campaign when everyone of the more than dozen Democrats came after Bush every time they were together on a stage like that.  And it took a toll.  That didn’t happen.  I mean there was a pointed attack from Senator Harris.  I think there were about 24 attacks on Donald Trump.  Still more attacks at Joe Biden.

Is that what Democrats want?  And is the Trump White House breathing a sigh of relief tonight?

COSTA:  Inside of the White House they do feel that at the moment they’re getting pot shots but not a wholesale case against this administration.

When you talk to the Democratic campaigns, the reason they are not spending so much time going after Senator Warren or Senator -- Vice President Biden, the people at the top, is so many of these candidates, they say are lingering in the single digits and they need to introduce themselves in this beginning of the fall campaign season if they want to have a shot to hang around in Iowa, in New Hampshire to go from five percent to seven percent up into the double digits.

WILLIAMS:  Robert Costa, do you promise when news come in your phone you will alert our producers and join us again before we’re off the air tonight.

COSTA:  It’s charged all night.  I went from texting Ambassador Bolton earlier this week to Democratic strategist tonight.

WILLIAMS:  That’s what we love about Robert Costa of "The Washington Post" --

WALLACE:  Thank you.

WILLIAMS:  -- and "Washington Week" on PBS, thank you.  Always a pleasure.

Nicole Wallace, let’s talk about guns and let’s talk about the way Democrats talk about guns.  I also note we have a former senator from the State of Missouri here with us.

Guns, red meat, Ford F-150s, if they’re looking to get back that Democratic voter that might have voted for Obama and then went for Donald Trump, the blue collar voters who are insulted when Democrats come to town and say don’t worry, "you are all going to get green jobs," no they’re not.  Where are the green jobs?  That’s not going to happen.

WALLACE:  I’m not going to take on everything, green jobs and ford.  But let me take on the gun question.

The gun debate is changing.

WILLIAMS:  It is changing.

WALLACE:  And it started changing with some folks that you’ve done some incredible research with the Parkland kids.  And guns are not -- gun control isn’t the political third route for Democrats that it used to be.  It just isn’t.  And that’s why you see Walmart and other big retailers --

WILLIAMS:  Walgreens taking on gun controls

WALLACE:  -- who need -- yes, the Trump voter and the pick-up (ph) driver to shop in their stores.  It’s just isn’t.  That’s the good news for Democrats.

The bad news I think for Democrats or the danger is that the positions -- and the same goes for both sides.  The positions that are most popular that speak to their hearts and their guts and they give voice to the rage that any parent with a kid younger than 7 that comes home and tells them about the drills they did --


WALLACE:  -- where they have to be quiet and how they’re different from the fire drills because they have to pretend that there is no one in the classroom weeps and they are hungry for the kind of red meat that was in front of them tonight.  But I think as much as the gun debate has changed, it may not have changed that much.

WILLIAMS:  Claire McCaskill, it is interesting that corporate America embarks on their own form of gun control in open carry states saying if you are going to be in our store, we’d appreciate very much if you’d leave your weapon at home or in your truck.

CLAIRE MCCASKILL, (D) MISSOURI FMR. SENATOR:  Yes.  I think the confiscation issue is still close to that third rail.


MCCASKILL:  But, things have changed.  And one of the things that’s really changed is the suburbs.

Republican women in the suburbs have had enough.  They kind of look the other way on the NRA and didn’t really -- now Republican women in the suburbs are going, "are you kidding me?"  My kindergartner is doing drills for shooters.  We can’t even do universal background checks.

The surprise to me on guns tonight is none of the moderators asked Bernie.  Bernie voted against the Brady Bill --


MCCASKILL:  -- five times.



MCCASKILL:  That, in this environment, in Texas, I was shocked that he was not taken to task for a very -- you know, you want to talk about authorizing force in Iraq.  Right now voting against the Brady Bill five times is a tough thing for Bernie Sanders.

WALLACE:  And you know what, so -- interesting, I think we want to add to this conversation the Beto sound.  But what’s so interesting is to the degree that he tried to paint Joe Biden as out of step on some of the biggest foreign policy questions.  Bernie Sanders is out of step on the biggest sort of cultural issue on the country right now, and that’s guns.  And I think a lot of people feel --

ROBINSON:  He made a claim that he, you know, I’ve been graded F by the NRA and I’m so proud of that.  And I was like, you know, and, you know, follow- up question, follow-up question because you voted against the Brady Bill.

JOY REID, MSNBC HOST:  Yes.  And if you think about, you know, play a -- Steve Kornacki for a moment.  If you look at where Donald Trump is with working class white women, he is barely breaking even or slightly underwater depending on the poll.  And this, you know, if you want to think of the voter, those suburban moms -- because look, it’s not even people with kindergartners.  My kids did it.  My youngest child is 19.  They were doing them in Florida and having lived in two states where a lot of people have guns, Colorado and Florida.  I can tell you that the way the gun debate has changed is that moms have had it.

Those Parkland kids had such a profound effect on this debate.  And that effect is lingering.  And a lot of Democrats are going to vote specifically on gun reforms.  So even though Beto, people may be alarmed at the things he was saying, the passion and the sincerity of saying no more --


REID:  -- no more having our kids afraid to go -- and have kids afraid to go to the movies, and I have experienced that.

WALLACE:  (INAUDIBLE), let’s watch that Beto moment.

REID:  Yes.


BETO O’ROURKE, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  If it’s a weapon that was designed to kill people on a battlefield.  If the high impact, high velocity round when it hits shreds everything inside of your body because it was designed to do that so that you would bleed to death on a battlefield, not be able to get up and kill one of our soldiers.  When we see that being used against children, and in Odessa, I met the mother of a 15-year-old girl shot by an AR-15 and that mother watched her bleed to death over the course of an hour because so many other people were shot by that AR-15 in Odessa.  And there weren’t enough ambulances to get to them in time.

Hell, yes, we’re going to take your AR-15, your AK-47.  We’re not going to allow it to be used against fellow Americans anymore.


WILLIAMS:  That is the gun issue in a nut shell.

WALLACE:  And that’s where their hearts are.  And just to your point, much of this where their heads are.

MCCASKILL:  Well, it’s -- I mean, for the base that is so frustrated.  And part of it is the frustration over Mitch McConnell.


MCCASKILL:  I mean, the notion that these Republicans -- it’s political malpractice that they are, you know, just lingering over this bill and not bringing something up for a vote, waiting for the President to bless it.


REID:  Six people are dead.  They’re willing to ban Juul --

ROBINSON:  Yes, exactly.  They want to ban Juul immediately.

REID:  -- but they’re not willing to ban guns, right?  And look, we -- I mean, where you lived or I lived everybody had guns.  Nobody had AK-47s.

MCCASKILL:  Or I still lives.

REID:  Nobody had --

ROBINSON:  I actually think it’s --

REID:  No one hunts with those guns.  Everybody knows that.

ROBINSON:  And I think it’s actually useful to have Beto stake out that position, we’re going to take your guns.  It may not be great for his campaign, may or may not, but that makes a voluntary buy-back sort of the middle of the road moderate position that we can all come together on.

WALLACE:  And he is standing to say that.

ROBINSON:  Absolutely.

WALLACE:  He was in Odessa.

REID:  Yes.

WALLACE:  The most recent mass shooting in Texas.

ROBINSON:  Absolutely.

WALLACE:  He was in El Paso.  And I think -- you know, and I said this before, I think this is the mood not just at the base.

REID:  Yes.

WALLACE:  Not just with people --


WALLACE:  I think this is becoming the mood.  And the idea that any Democrat or the party would suffer because of position on guns seems ludicrous when the facts are it’s Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump --

REID:  Right.

WALLACE:  -- holding up gun control.

MCCASKILL:  That’s exactly right.

REID:  Well, and not only that, but you had Beto go to a gun show and sit there and talk to people.

The people that I have known that have AR-15s are mainly collectors.  They’re not normally people who are out there shooting deer with them.  And so the idea that you’re not -- I mean, unless there are people who are extremists, who are stocking them up in their apartments, which is a whole another matter, most reasonable gun owners who may even be collectors with those kinds of weapons can have a conversation about the fact that they don’t want any Tom, Dick and Harry stock piling them in their apartment and then carting them off to Walmart because they’re angry at an employee or they just don’t like brown people.  So I think, we -- the whole gun debate has changed.  It’s about Mitch McConnell and Republicans refusing to have even a sane, normal discussion about guns.  That’s move the gun debate.

WILLIAMS:  And as I always say on guns and the environment, it could be what we saw with gay marriage.  The most fast -- the fastest moving issue of our adult lives because the American people have a funny way of deciding what is important to them.

WALLACE:  And then when they decide, it sort of builds and builds and builds, and then we they’re done.  And I don’t know that we’re there, but I think we’re certainly getting there.


WILLIAMS:  On that, we’re going to take the first break in our coverage.  When we come back, yet another entrance from the stage tonight.  We’ll be with our own Chris Matthews in Houston, Texas.  Our live continuing post debate coverage will be back after this.


JOE BIDEN, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Look, this is the United States of America.  There’s never been a single solitary time where we’ve set our mind in something we are not able to do it or walking around our heads down like, well, it was me or the best equipped nation in the world to take this on.  It’s no longer time to postpone, we should get moving.  There’s an enormous, enormous opportunity once we get rid of Donald Trump.




MAYOR PETE BUTTIGIEG, (D) SOUTH BEND PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  The President clearly has no strategy.  You know, when I first got into this race, I remember President Trump coughed (ph) and said he like to see me making a deal with Xi Jinping.  I like to see him making a deal with Xi Jinping.

Is it just me or was that supposed to happen in, like, April?


WILLIAMS:  One of the better moments from Mayor Pete on the stage tonight.  He is standing by with Chris Matthews in Houston.  Chris.

MATTHEWS:  Thank you, Brian.

And Pete -- Mayor Pete, you I think you’re a -- and I’m allowed to raise people.  I think you’re great tonight.

BUTTIGIEG:  Thank you.

MATTHEWS:  I think Klobuchar was good.  I thought you both made a very strong in opening appeal for unity and certainly (ph) quite admonition.  Let’s not go so far that even if we win, we divide the country.

BUTTIGIEG:  Yes.  I’m not have to scold anybody, but when I talk about plans that can bring us together, I’m not just talking about how we can win an election.  I’m talking about how we can govern the country.  We are dangerously divided, polarized as a nation.

And bold progressive reforms can be done one of two ways.  We’ve go to do it in a way that actually brings people together.  It’s the central idea, but behind my strategy of Medicare for all who want it, be the biggest thing we done to healthcare in America since Medicare itself was created.  But, it doesn’t order people off of their plans when they’re not necessarily ready to do that.

And it’s my approach on education, which is more balance, to make sure that we only make promises we can keep.  We’ve got to make sure that we prepare for the fact that in a post-Trump world, Trumpism is still going to be going on.  And a lot of Americans, especially as the Republican Party figures out what it’s going to be are going to look to the presidency for leadership.  This has to be a presidency capable of bringing Americas together, not by watering down our values, but by advocating for them in a way that more people can hear, from rural Americans to voters of faith.  People in my part of the country, who absolutely should be supporting progressive policies but aren’t going to if we keep shaking our finger at them and tell them they’re voting against their interest anytime they don’t do it our way.

MATTHEWS:  The healthcare issue was huge in ‘18.  And now it seems like we may find -- the Republicans are empty handed, they don’t have a replacement for Obamacare.  The Supreme Court may knockdown Obamacare.  Does that create an opening for compromise to restore a better Obamacare?

BUTTIGIEG:  I mean --

MATTHEWS:  The Republicans, they’re left empty handed right now.

BUTTIGIEG:  Yes.  I think what we’ve learned is that if you actually take the perspective of how this effects people’s lives they couldn’t dismantle Obamacare openly because the American people didn’t want that.  But the American people right now want more.  They want to know they’re going to be OK.  They don’t care about the technical specs of our plans.  They don’t know how it is going to affect them.

And too many people are under insured or they’re paying too much out of pocket.  Maybe they’re OK on coverage overall, but the prescription drugs are out of control.  If we don’t have a comprehensive answer for that, then I think both parties could be rejected in the future.

MATTHEWS:  You know, a very successful governor of New York, George Pataki, once said, "Don’t get so far ahead of the parade that you can’t hear the music."  And I wonder if the Democrats did that tonight on guns, because I don’t think -- I think the country is totally aboard with background checks.  Would you go ahead to confiscation or mandatory buy-backs?  Has that going too far tonight, what Beto was talking about, Beto O’Rourke?

BUTTIGIEG:  Yes.  We have a chance.  Finally, we have an opportunity to actually have this be different.  And I was watching --

MATTHEWS:  With background checks?

BUTTIGIEG:  -- that conversation.

Not just background checks, red flag laws, doing something to disarm domestic abusers, even an assault weapons ban on new sales.  That is huge.  Because even though we’ve been talking about it for years, it’s just been talks since I was in high school when the Columbine shooting happen.  This time we can actually do it.

Even here in Texas, the lieutenant governor who is pretty nutty on these issues has come out of --

MATTHEWS:  And Patrick (ph).

BUTTIGIEG:  Yes.  I mean, and for somebody like him to support some of these measures means we really do --

MATTHEWS:  Well, he wants to be governor.

BUTTIGIEG:  Well, we got to act fast, because if -- even the President had to release temporarily pretend to be for common sense gun laws, that means that we’ve got an opening.  Let’s jump through that opening.  Get something done.  Save lives.  And if there’s more we can do later, let’s have that debate later.

MATTHEWS:  You’re the only guy running for probably -- person running for president on the Democratic side or either side that has military background.  You were in Afghanistan.

Now, tonight, I thought they didn’t quite get to.  When you said we got -- was your position -- what is your position on pulling out all the troops?

BUTTIGIEG:  I think we have to put an end to this conflict.  Look, we may - -

MATTHEWS:  Does that mean, bring all the troops home?

BUTTIGIEG:  The bottom line in the north star of this thing has to be keeping Americans safe.  I think we can do that without an open ended ground commitment.

Now, that doesn’t mean that we completely zero out any kind of special operations presence or intelligence.  We have that in any number of places around the world.  What it does mean is, we’ve got to work our way out of this conflict before it gets into its 20th year.

MATTHEWS:  How many troops do you need in that country?  Just think of factual here to stop them from engaging in terrorism, supporting Al-Qaeda again?  How many troops do you need nearby or in country to stop that kind of support for terrorism which is what got us into that part of the world?

BUTTIGIEG:  I think a minimal special ops and intelligence presence will allow us to do that.  Once we have worked our way out to a beautiful settlement --

MATTHEWS:  How many people?  How many troops?

BUTTIGIEG:  I’m not going to give you a number tonight.  I’m going to tell you that it’s dramatically less than what we have now.  I thought I was one of the last guys when I left and that was years ago.


BUTTIGIEG:  Now we still have numbers that are comparable to what we had then.

MATTHEWS:  But ground troops basically out?

BUTTIGIEG:  That’s right.

MATTHEWS:  Thank you.  Back to you, Brian.

Mayor Pete, great night tonight.  I mean it.

BUTTIGIEG:  Thank you.

MATTHEWS:  I think it was a good night.  Thank you.  Brian.

WILLIAMS:  Gentlemen, thank you very much.

Here’s what we’re going to do, on our way to Steve Kornacki, we’re going to stop and talk to Senator McCaskill.

Senator, it strikes me that that’s a unique politician because of two things on his bio.  Oh, yes, he’s a road scholar and, oh, yes, he is a military veteran.  Both of which were kind of combined on display tonight.

MCCASKILL:  And he is really kind of the only candidate on that stage that -- other than Yang, who can legitimately claim outsider status.


MCCASKILL:  And that’s a big deal.  You know, you notice he got in there a couple of times.  Well, that’s why people are so frustrated with Washington.

I also think his line in the healthcare, the opening of this debate around healthcare, I think crystallized the healthcare debate unlike it had been crystallized before.  And I think when he said -- it really helped Joe Biden when he said "I trust Americans to make a choice."  That’s the essence of this debate.  Are you going to give Americans a choice?  Are you going to say the government is going to decide for you and you cannot have insurance at work?

I think as this goes along, Bernie and Elizabeth are going to have problems because there is a whole lot of Americans out there, in both parties, that want to hear that their government trusts them to make a choice.

WILLIAMS:  Absolutely.

Steve Kornacki, as promised, a little something about Joe Biden the front- runner.

KORNACKI:  Yes, we just thought we would take a look, you know, Biden, of course, entered tonight’s debate.  He is the leader on the Democratic side.  Likely still will be when the polling comes out after this we will see.

We’re asking here, though, is he a fragile front-runner?  It’s for two reason, one, you know, his national poll numbers, he’s a leader in the high 20s, maybe low 30s.  We’ve seen front-runners in the past that are higher.  But the other big challenge for Biden that we’re starting to see with polling.

Now, it has to do with the calendar.  Remember, of course, there are four contest, four standalone contest in the first month of the Democratic race, they start in Iowa, they have that very quick turn around, eight days between Iowa and New Hampshire, then they go Nevada, South Carolina.  In those first four contests are all about winning the field.

You get those results from Iowa.  The national polls change overnight.  The New Hampshire polls change overnight.  The winner rockets off.  The loser is in trouble.  And this is the challenge for Joe Biden.

And this is why we ask if he is a fragile front-runner.  Check out the latest polling we have, the CBS YouGov poll here in Iowa.  Biden is leading right now.  His margin over Sanders in this poll, just three points, single digit get deficit there down to Elizabeth Warren.  You’ve got three candidates there popping in the double digits.  You think of the type of electric you have in Iowa, more activists, more liberal, the types of candidates who have done well there before.

Sanders/Warren can pose a real challenge to Biden there in Iowa.  And then think about that, if a Warren or if a Sanders knocked off Biden in Iowa, normally the winner gets to bounce, I say, normally losers starts to have some issues there in the polling.  And think about that eight-day gap and what comes next, New Hampshire.

And who are next door neighbors in New Hampshire?  Elizabeth Warren, Massachusetts senator, Boston media market, Southern New Hampshire.  Bernie Sanders, Vermont.  Next door neighbor got 61 percent in the 2016 New Hampshire primary.  The prospect exists.

And by the way the polling in New Hampshire, look at that.  One point here in this poll.  Warren, Biden, Sanders.  And so the issue there is if you are Biden and yet don’t win Iowa and -- especially if you lose it to Warren or you lose it to Sanders, you are in danger of going 0 for 2.

And with the exception of Bill Clinton in ‘92, and that’s a big exception, because Iowa didn’t really count that year, no Democratic nominee has ever gotten the nomination without winning one of the first two.

And continue that, Nevada, after that also not a guarantee.

I’ll go back to you, Brian.

WILLIAMS:  All right.

WALLACE:  Steve Kornacki --

REID:  Well, and then, you know what happens is then your black vote collapsing (ph) because --


REID:  -- African-American -- older African-American voters are just watching.  There is not a lot of trust in the general electorate, in white voters right now among a lot of African-Americans.


REID:  So they’re waiting to see who wins those two states.  And if Biden loses one of those, that support is paper thin.

WALLACE:  You -- we’ve got Chris Matthews standing by with Beto O’Rourke.  But you had a physical reaction to Steve Kornacki’s question.  I want to let you get on the record.

MCCASKILL:  Well, yes, I just think this idea


MCCASKILL:  -- that everyone is just going on and on.  Well, if Biden collapses, when Biden collapses, fragile fragment.  I mean, all of this stuff.  He has been the one in the cross hairs from the beginning of this race.  And he has with stood all of these attacks.

And I don’t think tonight -- I think what Castro did to him will help him.  I think he seemed presidential.  I don’t think he’s going to move after tonight.  So we’ll see.  Maybe I’ll be wrong.

WALLACE:  And all I would add is that I worked for a president who said, "is our children learning in (INAUDIBLE)?"  So, I’m with you.

WILLIAMS:  Forgetting the farmer but include on his family.

WALLACE:  We got to elevate.  We got to elevate.  Let’s watch a little bit of Beto O’Rourke tonight and then we’ll go to Chris Matthews who has him.  Let’s watch.


O’ROURKE:  The bitterness, the pettiness, the smallness of the moment, the incentives to attack one another and try to make differences without distinctions, mountains out of mole hills, we have to be bigger, we have to see clearly, we have to speak honestly and we have to act decisively.  That’s what I want to do for you as president of the United States.  Thank you.


MATTHEWS:  Well, here we are with Beto O’Rourke.  Do you think tonight was an example of Democrats with the engagement of a positive way or was it nasty?

O’ROURKE:  I didn’t think it was particularly nasty.  I think we got to talk about the issues that matter most to those whom we want to serve.  We talked about climate, we talked about guns, we talk about race in America, racism in America.


O’ROURKE: The wars without end that we want to bring to a close.  I thought it was a good conversation --

MATTHEWS:  Do you think your colleague from Texas Julian Castro, do you think it was fair to suggest of Joe Biden lost?


MATTHEWS:  That wasn’t fair.

O’ROURKE:  No.  I didn’t like that.

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about guns.  You know, the consensus in the country seems to be good on background checks.  You, and further, no, somebody has to go further.  In fact, Jim Robinson (ph) just said he gets your credit for this.  He’s on a panel tonight.

He says, maybe by pushing for mandatory buybacks of assault weapons which you are very graphic about describe the harm of what they do to the human body.  I thought that was very powerful.  He says that might move the center of gravity towards maybe something close.  Do you think there’s a chance that we can have a Supreme Court ruling after Heller that said you have an individual right to a gun.

Forget about militias and all that stuff in the Constitution.  Then you could actually have a Supreme Court allowing the government of the United States, the federal government to demand the selling of assault rifles back to the government?


MATTHEWS:  Did you get feasible illegally?

O’ROURKE:  Yes.  I do.  I think the precedent and common sense is pretty clear on this, that none of our rights are absolute, that there are some common sense limitations to them.  You can’t own a grenade launcher.

MATTHEWS:  Or a bazooka or a tank.

O’ROURKE:  Or a bazooka or drive a tank down the street.  I think we now understand that these AR-15s and AK-47s not only have been used as weapons of war in our communities.  But as long as they exist in our communities, they are instruments of terror.  Our kids are afraid of them.

Talk to my fellow residents in El Paso, many of whom feel like they have a target on their back right now.  We finished one of these march for our lives that these students had organized in El Paso.  I had Henry, my 8-year old on my shoulders.  And we get to San Jacinto Plaza and there are two guys with an AR-15 each waiting for us there.  And my son is like, Dad, what gives.  I thought we were just marching against this.  And I said, don’t pay him any mind.  Don’t give him any attention.

But what I should have said, no Henry that’s absolutely wrong.  No one should be able to come here and try to intimidate you and scare you.  And so we got to end that.

MATTHEWS:  Two weeks ago the "New York Times" led.  There’s a right in liberal paper of course in the senatorial page saying there are too many, too many assault weapons in the American -- in the hands of the American people right now.  to try to stop this with bans on sales.  It’s hopeless basically, your view?  There just too many of them.

O’ROURKE:  They’re absolutely right.

MATTHEWS:  Right or wrong?

O’ROURKE:  They are right that there are too many of those weapons out there.

MATTHEWS:  But they say it’s hopeless to stop the traffic.

O’ROURKE:  No, not now.  When we’re hopeless and we’re not going to make progress.  And we’ve given up on our --

MATTHEWS:  Going to say even stopping the sale of them wouldn’t be enough to stop the danger of them because there’s so many in the hands of the bad people.

O’ROURKE:  Well, there’s where we agree.  I think if you think the AR-15s and AK-47s are inherently dangerous, should not be sold, then you would also have to agree that there are more than 10 million of them out there in United States and they are going to be used some of them against us.  Take our kids, take our families, threaten people in the Walmart or in a church or in a mosque or in a synagogue.  And so you’ve got to take that next loss --

MATTHEWS:  Are you going to carry on this fight no matter what happens to this?

O’ROURKE:  Absolutely.  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  This is a cause for you, Beto.

O’ROURKE:  Yes, yes.  And I’m inspired like, a lot of folks talked about the NRA tonight.  And they’re a big problem.  But the NRA is no match for Moms Demand Action or March for Our Lives.

MATTHEWS:  They have been.

O’ROURKE:  Not anymore.  No.  The power is with people, as my friend Cory (ph) will say.  The power is with people and those people are rising up right now.  It’s powerful.  Hope.


O’ROURKE:  Hope.

MATTHEWS:  Open doors.

O’ROURKE:  That’s right.

MATTHEWS:  Very strong supporter here by this former congressman for buying back the weapons of mass destruction basically of these AR-17s, AR-15s.  And I think it’s going to be one hot issue in the papers tomorrow, Brian.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST:  Gentlemen, thank you both.  You have given us a lot to talk about which we will do right after we take a quick break.  Our live coverage continues right after this.


SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE, MASSACHUSETTS:  As long as Washington is paying more attention to money than it is to our future, we can’t make the changes we need to make.  We have to attack the corruption head on so that we can save our planet.



SEN. CORY BOOKER (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE, NEW JERSEY:  If I am president of the United States, we will create an office in the White House to deal with the problem of white supremacy and hate crimes.  And we will make sure that systemic racism is dealt with in substantive plans.


WILLIAMS:  The only resident of Newark, New Jersey in the race for president, one of two New Jersey Senators Cory Booker standing by with Chris Matthews.


MATTHEWS:  Senator, it’s great to have you on.  And I ruminate about this election.  And you guys and women and you’re on the front lines.  And I sometimes wonder arguing point by point with Trump may not be the way.  I think you’re close to the way which is the moral question.  Who are we in our souls in this country?

BOOKER:  Yes, I couldn’t agree more.

MATTHEWS:  What’s your thoughts?  I know.

BOOKER:  Yes.  Yes.  That this is a referendum on not a one guy and one office but on who we are and who we’re going to be to each other.  And even cast us in a partisan light.  I know we’re getting more and more into tribalism in this country but the values of this nation we have to admit from how we deal with the stranger to how we deal with the poor who does work have dignity.  These are larger questions should you be able to go out and buy a weapon of war --


BOOKER:  -- without a background check?  These are things that actually -- when you pole Americans, independent party, we’re all together on but we’re not manifesting it in our politics.  And that’s to me a problem right now.  And that’s what we have to face.

MATTHEWS:  You and I know -- you’re younger than me but you know the kids today -- I mean, the people of 20s, early 20s, my daughters, my kids, they have gotten so far along on race.  So far, they don’t even to have a change this person (ph) of color.  They would come home, hey mom, my things is color or black.  They don’t spoke like that.


MATTHEWS:  In my day, it would be like a big deal --


MATTHEWS:  -- or you find your kids -- their parents come home and then there’s some African-American kids in the group, no deal, no surprise.

BOOKER:  Yes, yes.

MATTHEWS:  And that has really changed.  Is Trump getting rid of that?  Is he taking us back to where it was an issue of race all the time?

BOOKER:  I don’t think he can, because young people are too strong, but he is definitely trying to.  He is definitely praying upon divisiveness, pitting us against each other and degrading people because of how they stand.

MATTHEWS:  I think that’s rinse (ph) the white to be -- so the way we talk about South Africans like --


MATTHEWS:  -- whites and the burbs (ph).  They seem to be turned off to the language of this President.

BOOKER:  You know, I --

MATTHEWS:  Do you think enough to turn this election?

BOOKER:  I was just saying -- I think hope if the active conviction that despair will never have the last word.  The most inspiring thing for me in this election time and time again is to meet Americans who reject him.  Ans when Republicans come to saw my town halls and say I’m here because you’re talking about love, you’re talking about what binds us, you’re not demonizing people because of political party.  I know people think love is not a political strategy.

MATTHEWS:  No, I’m with you.  I’m poisonous.

BOOKER:  I really think it is.  And I think it’s the most fearsome tough strong emotion that we can talk about.  Patriotism is love of country.  You cannot love your country unless you love your country men and women.  And that’s now the sentiment.  It’s not sentimentality, it says, hey, if you have injustice in your family, it’s a threat to the justice of my family.  That’s what we going to get back --

MATTHEWS:  I also works the other way because I was in North Philly Prospect part --


MATTHEWS:  -- on North Broad, a tough neighborhood, so where all the poor people came up in south.


MATTHEWS:  You know, in the --

BOOKER:  Yes, Yes, Yes.

MATTHEWS:  And all that they cheered for when Obama spoke to them back he was running in ‘08 was unity.  Let’s get together.


MATTHEWS:  This people -- Well, they didn’t want anything.  They just want to accept us and let’s be together.  It was so powerful.

BOOKER:  I’m a guy who lives in -- I’m the only person this race in the Senate who lives in a low income black and brown community.  And one of the thing you come to my community and you come from a different background, but a working class area, you’re going to find more common --

MATTHEWS:  Northeast feeling.

BOOKER:  Yes.  You’re going to find common cause.


BOOKER:  You know, people don’t want to hand out.  They want to fair.  They want a job that pays --

MATTHEWS:  So you’re a figure man as working class.  Thank you.


MATTHEWS:  OK, well we’ll talk about that.  Really middle, middle really but that’s all right.  Thank you.

BOOKER:  Yes, yes.

MATTHEWS:  Senator Booker, you’re great tonight.

BOOKER:  Thank you.

MATTHEWS:  Thank you.  Brian?  We got somebody else coming up in a minute.

WILLIAMS:  Thank you, Chris.  Thank you, Senator.  And to Nicole Wallace, a question that Buttigieg raised, what about Trumpism post Trump?

NICOLE WALLACE, MSNBC HOST:  Look, it’s a question for both parties.  I mean, I think the Republicans have been asked and answered.  But it should be part of these conversations.  And I think that’s why he is such an important figure in this race.  I think that’s why Beto pushing the envelope on guns and sort of getting to, you know, these debates as you’ve said with the same-sex marriage, they always move solely for a while.  They feel intractable for a while and then they move really quickly.  And I think it’s reassuring.

I think that -- you know, I know Democrats have been really eager to see this field contract.  I think there’s a purpose for just about everyone on that stage tonight to still be there.



WILLIAMS:  He goes out, takes the left-hand side.

ROBINSON:  Exactly, exactly.  I think the range of views is really interesting.  They do agree on more than they disagree on.  But it’s like a policy seminar now.  Is that riveting to people to watch?  But I think it’s very useful for the party.

JOY REID, NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, MSNBC:  And, you know, this is a point in which it bring back up Kamala Harris.  And, by the way, we have to do a shout out to TSU, home of Beyonce’s marching band.  And she’s the only who owns marching bands and apparently no one else do it.  But, I mean, she really was the one person who, from her opening to the end, was really focussed on Donald Trump.  And that is one of the things that I think has been lacking a bit in these debates is that they are focussing on each other and fighting each other.

But she was actually very intentional about saying, no, my opponent is him.  And then I’m going to keep calling him out.  I think the challenge for Cory Booker is that the love argument might work in the general.  But in the primary Democratic voters want to fight.  Democratic voters don’t want to love the Republican base.  They want to fight them and they want to fight Trumpism.

And Trumpism I think as explained, I think, by Beto very well and I think as explained by Kamala Harris very well is dangerous, it’s dangerous to people who look like us.  It’s certainly dangerous to people who look like Julian Castro.  And I think they were the one who were able because they are people of color.  They’re in the -- we -- the Eye of Sauron is focused on us.

And so I think if you’re talking about Trumpism as something that you can love away, I think you’re losing a lot of the base.  And by the way, the base, you just saw Steve say, is black women.  And so I think about this is the first debate with a black woman on the moderating table.  What are those voters going to take out of tonight?  And I think that -- I thought it was smart for Kamala Harris to say my focus is him and on ending Trumpism.  I think Beto did that, I think Julian did that.

WALLACE:  You always give me so many things I want to follow-up with you on.  Kamala Harris also told a story.

REID:  Yes.

WALLACE:  From the beginning to the end, and I don’t know -- I’m not dissing men here.  But women prepare differently --

REID:  Yes.

WALLACE:  -- for big moments on the presidential stage.

REID:  Yes.

WALLACE:  Elizabeth Warren prepares differently than Joe Biden.  Kamala Harris prepared differently than any of the men of on the stage.  She told -- she had a story from the first time she opened her mouth to even some of the funnier moments about the guy behind the curtain is really, really, really, really, really small.


WALLACE:  I mean, she told a story.

MCCASKILL:  Which do you think was more effective?  The fact that Kamala went after Trump over and over again or that Biden -- I mean, Barack Obama had a great debate tonight.


MCCASKILL:  Barack Obama had a very good debate tonight.

REID:  Yes.


REID:  Yes.

MCCASKILL:  And standing center stage --

REID:  Yes.

MCCASKILL:  -- was, in fact, Barack Obama, I’m going to talk about him a lot.  I’m going to defend him.  I’m going to say I stood with him.  Who is more -- Is it better for that base -- I totally agree with you.

REID:  Yes.

MCCASKILL:  Black women are the base of the Democratic Party.  For black women, is it better to be all about Obama, or is it better to be against Trump?

REID:  I think it’s both.  There was just a poll that was commissioned by Essence magazine with the black woman’s round table.  And the number one issues that black women signed in that poll, it’s a poll that 1,200 people racism and racial violence was at the very top.  Health care was not the top thing.  and so there’s a lot of fear out there that this country is dangerous to live in for our kids, for ourselves, for our husbands.  It’s a dangerous place.

So, listen, defending President Obama should be the minimum requirement.  Everyone out there did it tonight.  But I think what Kamala Harris did going after Trump I think it’s much more important right now.

WILLIAMS:  Because I’m super plugged in, I happen to know Kamala Harris can hear us.  Let’s share a moment from her on stage before we hear from her live with Chris Matthews.


SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE, CALIFORNIA:  Let’s talk about the fact that Donald Trump came into office and spent almost the entire first year of his term trying to get rid of the Affordable Care Act.  We all fought against it, and then the late, great John McCain at that moment at about 2:00 in the morning killed his attempt to take health care from millions of people in this country.  But let’s focus on the end goal.  If we don’t get Donald Trump out of office, he’s going to get rid of all of it.


WILLIAMS:  Chris Matthews with Kamala Harris in Houston.  Chris?

MATTHEWS:  We’ve got our Senator Kamala Harris.  You did set the key notes tonight I thought with your correcting of the focus of the night morally on Trump.

HARRIS:  That is what this election is about.

MATTHEWS:  Why did you decide to do that to say instead of debating your opponents about who’s got this, who’s got that to say, no, Trump is the bad guy?

HARRIS:  Because he is.  And that’s why I’m in the race.  And that’s why everyone on the stage I believe is in the race.  There is so much that has yet in this campaign to be explored, to discuss, analyzed and really articulated about just all of the details of the failures of the Trump administration.  There is so much there, Chris.

And, you know, part of the frustration that I hear when I’m out on the road, be it in Iowa or Nevada or California or Michigan is that people know that there is so much wrong that is happening with this administration from, you know, what just happened recently in terms of deregulation of chemical and fossil fuel industries and what that relates to pollution.  That is not being discussed.  And I hope to help encourage us to have that conversation.  The American people have a right to know.  And we, to be responsible in this campaign, I think must discuss what is wrong with the status quo which is why we are asking for change.

MATTHEWS:  I liked it so much.  A couple of things.  You said, we’re a trading state form (ph).  We believe in trade.  But when you said how the sky has changed in Los Angeles, because I used to write about this.  I was writing about it 20 years ago going into Los Angeles.

HARRIS:  Great.

MATTHEWS:  And this sort of Martian atmosphere.  It was yellowish.  It was not a -- where you said brown, it was not a sky and I said even these rich Hollywood stars, they in front and sit to their swimming pools and they’re looking up at this crap in the sky.

HARRIS:  That’s right.

MATTHEWS:  And you said we the American people got rid of that.

HARRIS:  That’s right.  And this is why I have so much optimism, to be honest with you.  We have to be honest.  We have to be truthful.  We have to be clear eyed about what’s wrong.  But there is so much -- in terms of good reason to know what we are capable of achieving.

And, for me, this election is about, you know, the obvious point that we need to not have another four years of Donald Trump.  We need to turn the page.  But so much of this campaign for me and the election is about them writing the next chapter --


HARRIS:  -- of our country based on an America we believe in and America where we do have blue skies and America where we’re not worried about our children going to school and enduring a drill when they learn about how to hide in a closet because of a mass shooter.  There is so much work that is achievable.  And that’s how I think about the task before us.  But I do with a sense of optimism.  Clear eyed with the problems, but optimistic about what we’ll capable of.

MATTHEWS:  Somethings amazed me.  I’m surprised that you haven’t gone up.  You went very up -- that’s not good English -- you went up quickly -- you went after Biden in the first debate.  Then you settled back.  You didn’t go after him in the second or this one.  I think your performance tonight is going to be much more positive.  But you still took a question from one of the moderators about basically it seemed to me a shot of why aren’t you getting support among the black community?  That seemed to be the absence of it.  You were too much the prosecutor in California.  And you came back with a lot of facts.


MATTHEWS:  Is that going to work?  A factual argument against that resistance from the black community?

HARRIS:  Well, the black community like every community wants to hear the facts.  And so -- and I have a responsibility to certainly clear the record especially when there are distortions.  But the bottom --

MATTHEWS:  A good and a bad press on that?

HARRIS:  Look, I’m running for president.  It’s not going to be given to me.  I got to earn it.  And I’m going to have to take the hits.  And --

MATTHEWS:  But you’re the only African-American in the top four or five.


MATTHEWS:  And so you should be doing better.

HARRIS:  I’m still introducing myself to the American people.  You want to talk about --

MATTHEWS:  I’m urging you to be better.  I’m not knocking you.  But I’m trying to figure out why it’s not happening?

HARRIS:  But Chris, look, those of us who are in the top tier have been -- two of them run for president before won many times, the others have been on the national state for quite some time.  So if you want to believe the polls, though, you should also know that the polls have been very clear that on a head to head match, I win against Donald Trump.

MATTHEWS:  Yes, I know.

HARRIS:  By a significant margin.  So -- But listen, this is an election, and this is the beauty of our democracy.  You have to earn it.

MATTHEWS:  When you have the breakthrough?

HARRIS:  You have to earn it.

MATTHEWS:  When you have the breakthrough?

HARRIS:  You have to earn it.  You to travel --

MATTHEWS:  You have break through in South Carolina, is that it?

HARRIS:  I intend to break through in every state of this nation.  I intend to compete.  I intend to earn the vote of people.  It will not be given.  They’ll going to know about my plans as well as my record.  And that’s why I am working as hard as possible to cover as much ground and let the American people know that honestly, this is where I think it’s so critically important that I intend not only to be a leader that is going to accomplish great things in terms of the challenges that face us.  But I intend to be a leader who unifies our country.


HARRIS:  And I really -- I can’t stress that enough, you know.  I started tonight’s debate talking about this.  This guy has been sowing hate and division among us.  And I travel our country.  And regardless of where people live and even regardless of the party which they’re registered to vote, they want to know that we can unify around our common goals and our common problems and our common hopes.

MATTHEWS:  Please come on "Hardball" many times.

HARRIS:  I will.

MATTHEWS:  I want you on.

HARRIS:  OK, all right.

MATTHEWS:  Thank you, I just want to hear that message.

HARRIS:  OK, good.

MATTHEWS:  Thank you so much.  Kamala Harris who did really well tonight.  I sit about two other candidates, but I think she did really well tonight.  Back to you Brian.

WILLIAMS:  All right, Chris Matthews and to the Senator, thank you very much.

WALLACE:  I got to say something about the polls, because I worked for more than three presidential campaigns, and there is a difference.  And in that top tier, she is right, there are five Democrats who beat Donald Trump in head to heads.


WALLACE:  Set polls to our Donald Trump so berserk in tweeting more wildly than usual this week.  I believe on 9/11.  That’s another story for another day.  But she is of that top tier, other than Mayor Pete Buttigieg.  And she is ahead of him.  She is the least known nationally.  And if you look at the size of her crowd on the day she announced in Oakland where she is from, she had 20,000 people there.

WILLIAMS:  Enormous.

WALLACE:  So where she is known.  She really does build support and build enthusiasm.  And so I take her point.  And I’ve been part of spinning polls.  That’s not spin.  I mean, she really is in a different position in the better known Democratic candidates in that top tier.

WILLIAMS:  And hoping for a firewall in South Carolina.

ROBINSON:  Well, firewall in South Carolina.  She really if she could, you know, finished respectably in Iowa.  That would be a big help.  I mean I’m really think she needs to spend time.

REID:  And if Biden doesn’t do well in Iowa and Hampshire --

ROBINSON:  Exactly.

REID:  -- the field is wide open for not Biden.  And I really am convinced that not Biden will be a woman because I think the hungry constituents your women.  And I can tell you, black women will think about her very differently if Biden does not seem viable.

ROBINSON:  If Biden does not seem viable.  And then if she could do well in Iowa --

REID:  That’s right.

ROBINSON:  -- then you could see her bill --

REID:  Whole different race.

ROBINSON:  -- pick up momentum in South Carolina.  And then final thing on her, I think it’s very smart of her to pick up sort of the environmental mantle of California.

REID:  Yes.

ROBINSON:  Associate herself with California.  Now she was the Attorney General.  She wasn’t really responsible for the environment.  But California is sort of leading the crusade --

REID:  Yes.

ROBINSON:  -- against Trumpism on the environment.

REID:  And younger voters care a lot.

ROBINSON:  Exactly.

REID:  My kids, it’s their number one issue.


WALLACE:  Robert Costa has come back.  We asked him to -- I think we all had phoned him.  We wanted to know what he knew.  He has some breaking news from his sources up on Capitol Hill.  Robert Costa?

ROBERT COSTA, MSNBC NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER:  Here on Capitol Hill, the inside view tonight among top dramatic lawmakers and their aides is that they’re pleased with this Democratic field.  But they have some quiet concerns and discontent about the message coming out of this debate.  They’re talking here on Capitol Hill about impeachment possibly moving forward with impeachment proceedings.

They’re looking for a more enthusiastic response from these candidates who are leading the party, want to lead the party as the nominee next year.  And on the issue of gun control, they want to be in control here in the Congress.  They don’t want the Presidential field leading the discussion in terms of buybacks.  They want to talk about background checks and red flag laws.  And so there’s a bit of a quiet disconnect tonight here on Capitol Hill among some of the top Democrats as they try to make sure the party is all on the same page.

WILLIAMS:  Robert, let’s talk about something that is featured on my broadcast and Nicole’s broadcast.  Not so much impeachment, but how Democrats, no two are alike, talk about impeachment.

COSTA:  Democrats are talking about this impeachment issue in a confusing way.  And that’s according to most Democrats you speak with.  They say they want to be seen as moving forward with the process because the base in the Democratic Party is yearning for that.  But at the same time, they know the suburban voters.  They won in 2018.  Don’t want to see a major movement on impeachment until the process plays out.  So speaker Pelosi, as ever, holding this party together, but it’s a fragile peace.

WILLIAMS:  Robert, anything else from Democrats as far as what they were hoping to hear as opposed to mistakes made on the stage in their view?

COSTA:  The most interesting thing I picked up in the last few minutes is that some of the rival camps are saying Vice President Biden had a chance tonight to not only escape major scrutiny in some of these issues but to go after Senator Warren.  And you saw some of his allies this week like former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell attack Senator Warren on the fundraising front.  Vice President Biden avoided that kind of confrontation tonight, but that kind of confrontation, Biden allies and other top Democrats say that still looms on the horizon.  What is he going to do to confront his chief rival at this time in the coming months?

WILLIAMS:  Robert Costa, worth his weight in gold as a guest on this or any broadcast.  Thank you so much, as always.

A quick note to our viewers.  When we come back, we’re going to hear from former Housing Secretary Julian Castro.  He, of tonight’s deeply uncomfortable moment according to some on stage when we took a kind of a round house at --

WALLACE:  He called him a skunk.

WILLIAMS:  -- at Joe Biden.  So we’ll have that when we come back.  Otherwise, this is our live continuing post-debate coverage.  The first stage with all the 10 Democratic front-runners on it tonight.  More of that when we come back.