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SC primary TRANSCRIPT: 2/28/20, The Beat w/ Ari Melber

Guests: Jonathan Capehart, Justin Bamberg, Amanda Loveday, Anika Noni Rose, Benjamin Dixon, Mook, Niall Stanage, Thomas Bollyky


Good evening, Ari.


ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST:  Good evening, Chuck.

Thank you very much.

And thanks for joining THE BEAT live tonight from South Carolina on election eve. As you can see, we have voters gathered here at Lizard`s Thicket restaurant in Columbia, and they`re pretty energized.

Thanks, you guys.


MELBER:  Now, we have been doing something here on THE BEAT that we`re going to do again later tonight, which is go listen directly to what`s on the minds of just some of these voters.

Now, our top story is, of course, tomorrow`s primary. And it arrives at a pivotal moment in this race. Sanders taking a delegate lead, Biden fighting for a comeback, and Donald Trump under new pressure with this plunging stock market and concerns about the coronavirus, as well as his handling of it.

So we have the latest on that this hour as well, a full edition of THE BEAT.

We are also tracking news the Donald Trump is planning to nominate a staunch Trump-allied congressman -- and a controversial one, at that -- John Ratcliffe, to be the next director of national intelligence.

Top senator Republicans had previously warned against this very pick. So that news also breaking, and we have that this hour.

Now, today, in South Carolina, the candidates and their surrogates out in full force here, Sanders campaigning with local leaders, as well as the rapper Killer Mike. And that was about a mile away from where we are right now. We will get into that tonight.

Joe Biden, meanwhile, benefiting from the ultimate endorsement you can get in South Carolina, James Clyburn, who`s also warning quite bluntly of what he sees as the risk of a Bernie Sanders ticket to the Democratic House.

New polling showing Biden up here. He`s also drawing more fund-raising, which could be a key lifeline for a national race, which we all know really begins in earnest on Super Tuesday.

Tomorrow could determine whether some candidates like Biden, Klobuchar, and Tom Steyer, can provide the proof that they still have a path to this nomination. A slumping finish here for some of them could doom their quest to try to prove to Democrats they are the alternative to Bernie Sanders.

A strong finish, though, for any of those might change the shape of this race. We should also note that Sanders still is the person holding that delegate lead.

So with 54 delegates up for grabs here, he could finish second and still have the bigger overall lead in the whole race bigger than he has today.

We`re going to get into all this right now with my panel, Pulitzer Prize- winning journalist Jonathan Capehart, South Carolina State Representative Justin Bamberg, a Sanders supporter, and former executive director of the South Carolina Democratic Party, Amanda Loveday. She`s a senior adviser to a super PAC that is a supporter of Joe Biden


MELBER:  Thanks to all you being here.


MELBER:  We`re going to get to the surrogates, but starting with a journalist who`s followed so many of these races.

What do you see in this pivotal homestretch right now?

JONATHAN CAPEHART, "THE WASHINGTON POST":  Well, what`s interesting is the poll numbers.

Before Congressman Clyburn`s endorsement of Vice President Biden, we started seeing polls come out, Clemson University and others, showing that the gap between Vice President Biden and Bernie Sanders, Senator Sanders, isn`t five points, isn`t in single digits, it`s in double digits.

It`s in a range that people had come to expect to happen between Biden and Sanders. Then the Clyburn endorsement hits. It`s emotional. It`s powerful. And it`s -- we will find out tomorrow whether it`s effective.

And then the other thing that`s happened, I think, that is probably wind underneath the vice president sails was a story that came out that talked about the difference between the polls and the actual win.

And the winds have always been much greater than the final poll. And so, if you`re Vice President Biden, you`re hoping that past is prologue, that that happens to him, that the vote total he gets is bigger than the latest polls that have come out, that Congressman Clyburn, the legendary Congressman Clyburn, his endorsement will be that push that he needs for not just South Carolina, but also Super Tuesday, because as much as we talked about the importance of the African-American vote here in South Carolina -- and it is super important, since African-Americans are 60 percent of the Democratic electorate.

There are other states on Super Tuesday that also have significant African- American voting populations that could stand -- they -- their votes could inure to the vice president.

MELBER:  Well, and you`re pointing out that Biden has evidence of doing better here. And yet it was doing worse -- when he was doing worse when people said they finally heard some fight from him.

Everyone knows Barack Obama`s style. He is chill. And he does well when he`s chilling. There`s a lot of people who feel, Amanda, that Biden when he was chilling it wasn`t working. And they like the fight.

And I talked to voters today who said it seems like he`s getting back up off the mat. Take a quick listen to Joe Biden hitting Bernie Sanders.


JOSEPH BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  The fact that someone lists themselves as an official independent, not even a Democrat, except to run for the office of president, and then lists himself as a socialist, that doesn`t fly.

All I know is I`m going to run hard to help down-ballot folks win.


MELBER:  Is he looking better with voters here as he actually doesn`t take anything for granted and fights for his political life?


There`s two pieces that are going to give him the momentum he needs to win big tomorrow. First is this continuous effort of his. He did well in Nevada. He did well at the debate. He did well at his town hall and he got Jim Clyburn`s endorsement. I mean, that is a list that any politician would dream of.

Second is, he is continuously going out there and showing confidence. He is steady, he`s on message. It`s something that South Carolina voters and voters across the country have been waiting for.

And it`s here and he`s the candidate that we have been hoping to see for months.

MELBER:  Justin?

JUSTIN BAMBERG (D), SOUTH CAROLINA STATE REPRESENTATIVE:  I think Bernie Sanders is making way, way, way, way, way big ground here, OK?

This isn`t 2016. There are African-American voters in particular in South Carolina who understand that Vice President Joe Biden is not Barack Obama. Obviously, Barack Obama can`t win the presidency if he picks a vice president that is exactly like him.

African-American voters, voters in general in the Democratic Party are fired up about Senator Sanders. Joe Biden seems to have lost a step, so to speak. I think we have seen it. As the vice president of the United States, he should be performing better in every state than he has been doing.

Think about it, right? 2016, we were talking Hillary and Bernie and the talk was, oh, Hillary`s going to hit 70 percent of the vote. Bernie`s going to get 30. We`re talking about, what, 10 points at this point? Joe Biden is the only candidate who could -- quote, unquote -- "win" in South Carolina and still lose at the same time.

Bernie Sanders is going to perform extremely well here. He`s going to be competitive, and I think that the numbers are going to surprise a lot of people in this state.

MELBER:  And we are seeing the outlines of a debate at times between Sanders and Biden, and we have brand-new reporting I want to share.

This was, as mentioned, just about a mile from where we are right now at the Bernie Sanders rally. And I spoke to several voters. I want to play one voter in particular, a young voter who was telling us about discussing with his parents their vote here in South Carolina and about voting for Biden or Sanders.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  My parents live in South Carolina, so I came to visit them

MELBER:  Are they going to vote tomorrow?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes, they are going to vote tomorrow.

MELBER:  Have you had the conversation?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I had the conversation with them months ago.

They were more Biden in the beginning, but they weren`t really following the race. I mean, they just know Biden, Obama. And that`s what it was.

But I kind of had to pull them along, tug them along into knowing, hey, guys, this is what Bernie stands for. This is why this is going to be important.

My mother is battling with M.S. She`s doing OK right...

MELBER:  I`m sorry.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  No, thank you. She`s doing OK right now.

It was two. It was the education health care together.

I`m like, hey, mom, you always talked about -- now, I`m going through student loans right now. You have always talked about the student loans and how unaffordable college is for so many people. This is our time to make a difference, to say -- to help people, especially people from a lot of our community.

We want to help everyone, but people from our community, we have struggled so much.

MELBER:  Do you know who they`re voting for tomorrow?






MELBER:  That`s one that your side won. What do you think of that conversation with his own parents?

BAMBERG:  Well, that`s what you`re seeing in this state, right?

A lot of the, say, older African-Americans are more inclined to maybe lean towards Joe Biden, because that`s what they`re familiar with. But the younger generation, they are rocking extra hard with Bernie Sanders right now, including in the black community.

And the younger people are talking to their grandparents, talking to their parents, and the parents are inclined to listen to their kids, because their kids are the future.

We`re going to see people turn out for Bernie Sanders unlike what people are expecting. It`s not going to be anything like 2016.


Well, Amanda, let me -- I want to get your counterargument, because that`s one story, obviously.


MELBER:  That`s -- you just heard the argument from one -- South Carolina parents there that he`s trying to basically lobby.

And he made the case, pulling them from Biden to Sanders.

What would your counterargument be? Because, by the way, they could be watching. The vote is tomorrow. What would you say?

LOVEDAY:  Well, first, I want to mention something that Justin said. And, obviously, we`re friends before we are foes.

So to the difference between the Hillary Clinton and the Bernie Sanders primary and what`s happening tomorrow is there were two candidates on the ballot in 2016. So the 100 percent of the vote had to be split between two.

Now you have numerous candidates on the ballot and so you have to have a number of votes going to other moderates who are appearing on the ballot in South Carolina and also on Super Tuesday and into March.

So you`re never going to see the spread you saw from a Hillary Clinton- Bernie Sanders primary in 2020. But what you are going to see is all of the moderates` numbers adding up to look more like a Hillary Clinton number, showing that the Democratic Party is hoping to get a moderate on the ticket, rather than Democratic socialist.

CAPEHART:  And I would just say this, that we cannot have this conversation in a vacuum.

President Trump is the person who African-American voters and all voters are looking at defeating. If there`s one thing that unites Democrats, it`s getting rid of Donald Trump.

And talking to my own black family...


MELBER:  Go ahead. You can do that.

CAPEHART:  And I`m going to throw this to the black people here in the audience.

After watching that, I`m thinking, yes, he`s lobbying his parents. But those parents and particularly my relatives, they are focused on getting rid of Trump. They look at all the candidates and they`re looking at the person, who`s the one who can beat him?

It`s not just familiarity. Yes, my aunt Gloria loves Joe Biden. My mom is leaning to Mike Bloomberg. They are wide-eyed about the racial implications and everything, but they want him gone.

And so I`m looking at -- there are old -- to your point about older African-Americans listening to their kids, there are some older African- Americans who look at their kids and say, yes, baby, that`s -- I hear what they`re saying.


CAPEHART:  And then they`re not going to go into the voting booth and vote their conscience, vote their fears, vote their hopes and aspirations.

And so that`s why I think what will be fascinating to see is the generational divide. Is it really there? Will the younger, the younger voters who are tending towards Senator Sanders, are they going to come out in the numbers that make their voices heard that swamps the older generation who they`re trying to persuade?

MELBER:  Well, you tee it up. It`s such a big question. And, luckily, we`re going to hear from some of the people in the room in reaction later this hour.

And that really also goes to whether South Carolina and the more diverse states, which is the path to Democrats winning the presidency -- it cannot be done without the diverse coalition, what is sometimes called the Obama coalition.

Does the turnout on Saturday show those paths or not, which is what you`re laying out?

I also want to play for everyone the candidates themselves in these closing arguments over the last 24 hours in South Carolina.


PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  We have to invite everybody we can into the tent. I will assist on being a president for everybody.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  We are building a movement that cannot be stopped. And when millions of people stand up and fight back, nothing on earth can stop us.

BIDEN:  Folks, it`s matters who we elect and what they stand for. So let`s start by getting rid of Donald Trump.

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Look, I`m here because my name is Elizabeth Warren, and I`m the woman who`s going to beat Donald Trump. And I think South Carolina is ready for some big structural change.


MELBER:  Jonathan Capehart, that brings us to some of these other players.

We obviously have some candidate leaders here. And we have more later this hour, including a Warren surrogate.

But Tom Steyer, Elizabeth Warren, Amy Klobuchar, Where do they fit in? And is this really pressure on them now, if they don`t do well tomorrow?

CAPEHART:  Oh, if they don`t do well tomorrow, some of them can make the argument -- all of them actually can make the argument that they have to stay in the race past Super Tuesday.

Massachusetts is on Super Tuesday, Minnesota Super Tuesday, California Super Tuesday, Steyer, Warren, Klobuchar. But once those results come in, those three and some of the others are going to have to have a serious conversation with themselves about how possible, how feasible and how -- are their campaigns -- and how viable are they?

And I would argue that some of them would need to get out of the race, if only to make it possible for someone to counter Senator Sanders if there is truly the moderate wing with all these candidates, and then Senator Sanders, if they really want to one who to overcome Senator Sanders.

Who is that going to be? They`re all going to make the argument that it`s - - they are the one. I interviewed Tom Steyer today. He thinks he`s the one. I interviewed Mayor Pete in Charleston on Monday. He thinks he`s the one, because he`s actually beaten Bernie Sanders, delegate-wise, in Iowa.

So I wouldn`t want to be any of these candidates because it`s going to be look in the mirror time. And what`s more important, your political future, or the future of the party and the country?

MELBER:  Well, and that`s the other thing that goes well beyond tomorrow, right, but is so important to the point you raised earlier.

We hear it over and over. People say, look, get it together. A lot of Democrats telling us they see Donald Trump as a threat that only gets worse if he`s reelected, given how far he`s pushed, and that he basically admitted to trying to extort foreign election help, that he is blowing up the Justice Department, something we cover here.

But when you mentioned the path, the Massachusetts story is a fascinating one. Elizabeth Warren has always been very popular there, and people may still see her as a very popular figure to lead in the Senate.


MELBER:  But look at these new numbers which I want to flag. Some people here -- brand-new -- may not have seen them.

There in Massachusetts, now state polling has Sanders at 25 percent. Warren trailing at 17. That`s not where you want to be in your home state.


MELBER:  And then you mentioned the block Sanders movement. I want to get to the representative on this.

"New York Times" saying, in interviews with dozens of Democratic officials, including 93 superdelegates, and you know they think they`re super, overwhelming opposition to handing Mr. Sanders the nomination -- quote -- "if he falls short of the majority of delegates."

Is that something that the campaign here and elsewhere is thinking about, or it`s not time for that?

BAMBERG:  You know, I think there`s a problem here, right? And there`s a problem with the Democratic Party. I will say it.

We`re supposed to be a party of the people. It`s obvious. Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, we`re going to see South Carolina Saturday, the people are with Bernie Sanders. I have never seen a champion lose in the first round of the playoffs and run around and say, I need to be the NBA champion.

MELBER:  So what`s the Sanders campaign message to these superdelegates who are out in the press now putting this shade on the campaign and saying, we might stop you at the convention? What`s your message back?

BAMBERG:  Well, the message is this, is, are you there to listen to yourself or are you there to listen to the people of the United States of America, right?

This isn`t the Republican Party. The GOP in South Carolina, people wanted to challenge Trump. They canceled their primary. We don`t do that in the Democratic Party. So, no, let the people decide.

MELBER:  Yes. And I think we might hear more and more about that.

I have got a lot more in the show. So I want to thank Jonathan Capehart, Representative Justin Bamberg, and Amanda Loveday, supporting Joe Biden. Thank you so much.


MELBER:  Coming out, there is a new alert on the coronavirus. We`re going to get into that and what Mike Pence is doing.

We have a lot more in this show, including Donald Trump`s new nominee to potentially be the intelligence chief of the United States.

And new surprises from voters we have been speaking to all here.

Stay with us. You`re watching THE BEAT live from South Carolina.


MELBER:  Breaking news tonight on the coronavirus outbreak.

There`s a second case, this one of unknown origin, and it`s confirmed in California. That obviously is an indication the virus is spreading. The World Health Organization has raised its global risk alert to its highest power level.

Stocks continuing to slump today. The market has now had officially its worst week since the financial crisis. If you count it up on paper, it`s a $3.4 trillion drop in value, although it could rebound.

Meanwhile, Vice President Mike Pence, who is basically in charge of all government information being released about this virus and the government response, he could go anywhere. He could give any interview. He could give any press coverage.

But he chose to take his case in this new world to "The Rush Limbaugh Show" to try to reassure Americans.


MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  We`re going to give the American people the facts. I really do believe that we would not be where we are but for the decisive action that President Trump took in January.


MELBER:  The interview obviously raising eyebrows, since Limbaugh has been a major source of misinformation many issues, including this potential public health crisis.


RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  The coronavirus is being weaponized as yet another element to bring down Donald Trump.

The coronavirus is the common cold, folks. It is probably is a Chicom laboratory experiment that is in the process of being weaponized.

To scare people into leaving, cashing out in the stock market.


MELBER:  I`m joined now by Thomas Bollyky, director of the Global Health Program at the Council on Foreign Relations. He`s the author of the book "Plagues and the Paradox of Progress."

Thanks for being here.

THOMAS BOLLYKY, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS:  My great pleasure. Thanks for having me.

MELBER:  This is obviously quite important. We are out covering 2020 and we will continue to do that later this hour.

But this is a story on many people`s minds. What is the most important thing for people to understand about the nature of the threat right now and what individuals and their families can do to protect themselves?

BOLLYKY:  Great.

So the major thing for people to understand is, first, don`t panic. There is definitely cause for concern. This is a scenario where you want to be preparing for the worst, hoping for the best, but preparing for the worst, but there`s a lot we still don`t know about this virus.

What we have learned over this last week is one piece of information, which is that it does appear that this virus spreads rapidly; 27 countries announced their first cases of this virus just alone this week. As you mentioned, we now have two, potentially, cases of community spread in the United States.

So, we have a good sense that it`s spreading fast. We don`t know how deadly this virus is yet, and that`s quite important, but there is certainly cause for people to prepare themselves.


I want to play a one doctor who has spoken about this. We have been trying to focus on experts like yourselves and medical experts. Take a listen to this analysis.


DR. DEAN BLUMBERG, U.C. DAVIS MEDICAL CENTER:  This is probably the tip of the iceberg. There`s probably other patients who are getting this disease who are more mildly affected who have not been come to medical attention who are out there in the community.

And that means that everybody in the community is at risk.


MELBER:  What are people supposed to do with that information, that this may be hard to detect, that there are people walking around with it, they don`t know they have it?

What do we do with that?

BOLLYKY:  Yes, so this is a virus that in many ways, in terms of how you would protect yourself, it is a virus like the flu in that context, in that you should wash your hands frequently with soap.

If you are sick, you should stay home as a preventative measure not to get others ill. You should be -- on the community, communities should be preparing themselves. If -- it`s not time to cancel public events in schools, but there should be plans in place if there are.

Not a case where you want to see panic buying. But if you are somebody with diabetes or hypertension, you might want to think about having medicines in advance should there be a scenario where there`s stock out.

Those are the kinds of steps you can be taking. But, mostly, what you want to do is to prevent yourself from getting sick by handwashing and prevent others from getting sick by staying home if you feel ill.

MELBER:  I mentioned Mike Pence.

Mick Mulvaney, the president`s chief of staff, also speaking about this on behalf of the federal government, brief statement from him. Take a quick listen.


MICK MULVANEY, ACTING WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF:  Are you going to see some schools shut down? Probably. May you see impacts on public transportation. Sure.

But we do this. We know how to handle this.


MELBER:  Finally, what is your assessment of the federal government`s messaging here and trying to get people ready for the idea that, even if there are those types of measures, say, in certain regions, people are told to avoid the public areas, if possible, or shut down gatherings or schools, that that itself also shouldn`t automatically be a cause for panic?

Is that the right thing for everyone to keep in mind?

BOLLYKY:  It is the right thing to tell people not to panic. So that part is quite positive.

The two concerns I have around the federal response this week is the potential restriction on health officials, like officials at the NIH or CDC, speaking. We have -- this country is the envy of the world in terms of the experts we have on infectious diseases.

The community, really, the public needs to be hearing from them directly. So that`s important.

The second, I am concerned by some of the statements that have been made this week that have suggested that this is a hoax or a political strategy.

What we don`t need is to see this virus be politicized. People need to get accurate, reliable, sober-minded, science-based information about what they can do to protect themselves.

MELBER:  Well, shout-out to being sober. I think you have been in this conversation, which is appreciated. And there`s some key things everyone can keep in mind.

Thomas Bollyky, thank you so much.

There`s another developing story in Washington we want to give you the update on.

Donald Trump announcing that he intends to nominate John Ratcliffe, one of the most loyal political supporters of the president in the Congress, to be the director of national intelligence.

Now, if you are having some deja vu, it is because Donald Trump previously also announced the intention to nominate this same person, Ratcliffe, for the job. It was just last summer, but serious questions came up factually about his qualifications, including allegations he had deliberately inflated his resume.

And it was not Democrats, but Republicans in the Senate that basically pushed against this very pick. Even Mitch McConnell declined to publicly back him.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY):  Yes. I look forward to meeting with him.

Generally speaking, I would lean toward the president`s nominees?


MELBER:  When you don`t have Mitch McConnell in the Trump White House, that tells you something. This is a huge fight, and it comes against the background, of course, of the president accused meddling of not only in intelligence in the Russian meddling and the questions about how Democrats were being informed of ongoing 2020 meddling, but also a lot of questions about politicization of the Justice Department.

That`s a big story breaking on a Friday. We will obviously keep you apprised of it in our broadcasting tonight and next week.

But we continue here in the South Carolina primary. I have got two key campaign voices live from Columbia when we`re back in just 30 seconds.



MELBER:  We`re back live in South Carolina on the eve of the primary.

We`re going to talk to supporters of two campaigns here.


MELBER:  But, first, I want to share something with you in our reporting, because we have, as we like to get, views from different people supporting different candidates really talk it out, to have the dialogue.

Well, when we were at this Sanders rally that broke just about an hour-and- a-half since this show, we were able to talk to a bunch of different people at that rally, conversations with people who were obviously interested enough to go to a Sanders rally.

And I was able to ask them, why they were there and how politically experienced they were. Take a listen to some of these answers.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  This is actually my first rally. And this is the one I have ever been to.

And I thought it was amazing. I agree with everything he`s saying. I just graduated, have a ton of debt, so he really resonated with me, Medicare for all, education, all of that. I believe everything he is running for.

MELBER:  And do you know who you`re voting for?


MELBER:  Can he win South Carolina?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes, he can he win South Carolina.

And the people that get it in their minds that he can help the middle class and the poor, and not to help the rich. If they could get that in their minds, yes, he will win.


MELBER:  How long a drive is that?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  About three-and-a-half-hours.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  It was moving and uplifting. (INAUDIBLE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It was incredible. To hear Native Americans in a presidential candidate`s platform was huge.

MELBER:  It looks like you`re for Bernie Sanders.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I am, yes sir.

MELBER:  I mean, you got more than one garment.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  He stands for what I believe in. And there`s no better way that I can show my support for him and advocate for his policies without slapping Bernie on my body somewhere.


MELBER:  I`m joined now by Anika Noni Rose, the Tony Award-winning actress from "Dreamgirls," "The Princess and the Frog," and a lot more. She`s here as a surrogate for Elizabeth Warren.



MELBER:  And Benjamin Dixon is a "Progressive Army" podcast host, a supporter of Bernie Sanders.

And we have come to you on THE BEAT before. Nice to see you.



MELBER:  Since we happened to hear from people at a Sanders rally, I want to come to you first and ask, what do you think of folks that we heard from particularly new to politics?

I had people tell me it was their first ever rally. They`re interested in Sanders. What`s your response to that? What`s your argument for Warren tomorrow?

ANIKA NONI ROSE, ACTRESS:  Well, I think it`s important that people be interested in everyone.

I think it`s really important that we educate ourselves and we hear everyone who is in this arena, because we really have a fight on our hands this particular election.

I think Elizabeth Warren is somebody who is interested in the humanity of our country and preserving the democracy of our country. She is an ex- special education teacher. She`s an attorney.

It gives her a wide swathe of information. And when you`re somebody who chooses to be in special education, that means that you are somebody who sees people thoroughly, who sees them from the inside, instead of from the outside.

So this is a candidate, the first I heard of her way before this election was her talking about the mortality rate of black mothers. She was the first person I heard to speak about that. In 2020, nobody should be worried about their mortality rate when they go into have a child.

And yet, from the poorest of women to Serena Williams, black women specifically aren`t being heard. This is a woman who cares about predatory lenders and how they take advantage of the poorest of the poor and people of color, and they`re placed in their neighborhoods.

She cares about environmental racism, and she listens to scientists. More importantly -- maybe not more importantly, but just as important, she`s somebody who learns if a mistake has been made.

If she`s made a mistake, and you say, Elizabeth, you were wrong about that, she says, OK, well, how so? She takes it in, she implements it in the next plan that she has. And that`s important.

MELBER:  Let me bring Benjamin in.

When people say, well, Bernie Sanders looks different than other Democrats, is he too left, too liberal, what is your response to that? And do you have a view of why we are hearing from so many first-time voters that we heard at that rally?

Because I had people say, oh, this is this first rally I have ever been to.

DIXON:  Yes.

No, it makes a lot of sense, because there are a lot of voters who felt disenfranchised by the fact that the Democratic Party really wasn`t representing their best interests for a very long time.

Bernie Sanders is representing the most diverse subset in this country, which is the working class. And so if working-class voters get to hear someone who`s going to speak to their material conditions, someone who is going to speak to their real-life everyday issues, then that motivates them to come out.

MELBER:  Does it matter, do you think, that Sanders has traditionally emphasized more, as you just put it, class, and racial justice can be achieved as part of that -- we talked on the show about how Martin Luther King was marching against racism and racist terrorism, but also for economic justice, also for jobs -- but that he does it that way?

Or do you think that some of that still has to evolve, and there has to be more explicit racial justice, for him to be the Democratic nominee?

DIXON:  I think Bernie Sanders himself would admit that there has been a lot of evolution in his messaging.

But I want to make sure that we`re clear. There are plenty of African- Americans who are working class are living paycheck to paycheck, who can`t make ends meet. And so, when he says working class, I think we need to start thinking that it`s a diverse group of people, because it really is.

MELBER:  Both of you are here on your candidates, but I also want to look really broadly, particularly as we think about -- because diversity matters and we`re in a diverse state.

Let`s listen to what some of the different candidates have said here in discussing a major issue that everyone understands for this community, criminal justice reform.


BUTTIGIEG:  Cutting incarceration in half, reversing the harms of the war on drugs and, yes, expunging records so people can get their lives back on track and can reenter.

WARREN:  We need to end cash bail. I will end all for-profit prisons.

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  When people get out of prison, they then should have their rights restored and they should be able to vote.

TOM STEYER (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  We`re talking about criminal justice. I`m the only person this stage who believes in reparations for slavery.

MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  We let it get out of control. And when I realized that, I cut it back by 95 percent.

SANDERS:  Jobs and education, not more jails and incarceration.


MELBER:  Do you see a conversation that is better on these issues now in this primary, even as there are fewer -- there have been a shrinking number of people of color just on the debate stage at all?

ROSE:  I think that the conversation has become better probably because of the amount of people of color who were on the stage in the beginning.

And I think that it`s something that we cannot ignore. Senator Warren talks about stopping private prisons. She`s talked about releasing people who were put in prison for marijuana, which is no longer illegal, and it`s something that`s holding people for years for minor, minor things.

So I think that the fact that we did have a very diverse playing field in the beginning has brought these subjects to light, and people cannot afford not to speak on them anymore.

And I will say this, also. Elizabeth Warren doesn`t really have a black plan. Every plan that she has keeps black people, people of color, indigenous people in mind as she moves forward.

And The Root just recently said that her plan -- that her plans are the best for black people in America. They listed her plan as number one.

DIXON:  Well, I will say this about the clip that we just watched. I think Anika and I can agree, as the representatives of progressive candidates, that the moderates in this race, they really do have a problem in criminal justice in terms of their actual record.

To hear Mike Bloomberg speak about anything in terms of criminal justice is laughable, at his best. Pete Buttigieg has a problem in South Bend. Amy Klobuchar has a problem. Joe Biden has a problem.

And so the only two people in this race that really do not have a problem is one who I`m a fan of, Elizabeth Warren, but most certainly one I`m voting for, which is Bernie Sanders.

MELBER:  I think the counterargument we`re hearing from some people on that would be that Democrats who`ve been in Congress for a long time, which includes Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden, have the problem because of the history, because of the crime bill, because there was a bipartisan war on drugs.

What is your view of that weakness -- or do you deny that it is one for Sanders -- historically?

DIXON:  Yes, I think it`s the most disingenuous argument that`s going on in this race right now.

Bernie Sanders made it clear what he opposed in the crime bill, which was the effect that he saw that it was going to have on young black men. He made it clear at that time, but he also made it clear that he had a vote for it because of the Violence Against Women Act, which was tucked into it.

And I just have a feeling that, if the roles were reversed, if he didn`t vote for it, then someone today would be saying, oh, well, you didn`t vote for the Violence Against Women Act. So I think that particular argument is really bereft of any substance.

MELBER:  But he is part of the longstanding bipartisan war on drugs.

I mean, all the Democrats were in the `90s. I mean, that`s what they were doing in the Congress, right? I mean, that`s not contested.

DIXON:  But we have clear audio, video of him on the floor calling out the very specific policies in that plan that were going to hurt African- American men. And so he took a stand against it.

And, yes, he did vote for it, right? There`s no doubt that he voted for it. But the reason he made it clear he voted for it was because of the Violence Against Women Act.

MELBER:  I really appreciate both of your perspectives.

Benjamin Dixon, we have had you before. We will have you back.

DIXON:  Thank you for having me.

MELBER:  Anika, you`re coming back later in the show.

ROSE:  I am.

MELBER:  Which I`m excited about, because we`re going to get into some different stuff.

Coming up on this special primary edition of "Fallback Friday," as mentioned, we`re going to sit down with some of our guests, as well as a hip-hop artist from right here in Columbia.

And I`m going to talk to the voters here when we come back.




MELBER:  We`re back live right here at the Lizard`s Thicket in Columbia, South Carolina.

You can see people are pretty excited. We have been having a great time. And lately we have been out in the primary states. This is one of our favorite parts of the show is where we talk to and listen to voters.

How are you all doing?

Do you know who you`re voting for?


MELBER:  Joe Biden. Why?


Well, because we got to get the country back on track. Donald Trump`s been in there long enough. And we`re just kind of looking out for the future for the young kids. We got to get it turned around.

MELBER:  You mentioned kids.

We have seen some young people who are for Sanders. Why do you prefer Biden over Sanders here in South Carolina?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Well, I think that Biden is going to provide us with a vision to make the country -- to put it back on track. It`s kind of out of control. And there`s a lot of policies that are being disrupted, and it`s going to affect the future of our children.

MELBER:  And do you agree with that?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I totally agree with him. He`s my husband.



MELBER:  Now, do they always agree on everything?





MELBER:  And do you have a second choice behind Biden, or it`s Biden all the way, all the way the convention?



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I think that he can really take on Trump, actually.

MELBER:  Because?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Billionaire, billionaire.

MELBER:  Yes, B vs. B.

You know what they called billionaires? It`s all about the commas.



MELBER:  It`s all about the commas.


MELBER:  That`s a little bit of -- that`s J. Cole, who`s just one state away.

What about over here? Do who you know you`re voting for?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I think it`s going to be Joe Biden.

MELBER:  Why Joe Biden?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I think he can get somebody like Jaime Harrison down- ticket for South Carolina.


MELBER:  Harrison running against, of course, Lindsey Graham, who`s a big - - has become a big Trump ally.

When you say that, does that mean that you`re thinking if Bernie Sanders does win, if he is the nominee, you`re thinking what happens to that Harrison-Graham race?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Oh, you`re putting me on the spot, but yes.

I`m happy with anybody. I am happy with anybody on the Democratic ticket.

MELBER:  Did you think this would involve you not being on the spot today?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Totally. Totally.


MELBER:  This is a heavier lunch than usual.



Let`s go over here.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Collard greens.

MELBER:  What about you?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Now, I have to be perfectly honest. I just moved back to South Carolina. I`m a Joe Biden fan. I`m with my friend here.

And I do have some reserve about that. And the only reason why I will vote for him is because he has experience. I believe that there should be a gathering of all of them. And let`s bring this thing to an end and get Trump out of office, plain and simple.


MELBER:  And do you guys always agree as well?




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  We`re best friends. We`re best friends. Yes.

MELBER:  Oh, we can do a high-five. Yes, you get in there. Everybody gets a high-five.

What about back here? Do you know who you`re voting for?




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  She`s the smartest person in the race, and she`s a woman.

MELBER:  Do you have something in common with Elizabeth Warren then? Are you also that smart?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  No, my wife is smarter than I am.


MELBER:  I`m going to come around.

That sounds good. Do you agree?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  With me being smarter or with voting for Warren?


MELBER:  It`s the news. You answer whatever question you want.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I will also vote for Warren, because she`s a woman with a plan.


Let me go over here. What about you all? Have you -- you going to vote tomorrow?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Do I have to disqualify myself? Because I`m from Indiana.

MELBER:  OK. What brought you out here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Visiting a daughter in Charleston.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  And so we happened to be here at the right time.

MELBER:  Indiana will also have a primary. Who will you vote for there?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Probably Bernie.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I think he`s got a base that will come out strong. And I think that will make a big difference. I think there`s a lot of Trump voters that can go either way.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  And they may go to Bernie.

MELBER:  Great.

Well, right here. We`re hearing both in this state and some visitors a lot of energy, a lot of different candidates.

Thanks to everyone.

When we come back, we have a very special update and a "Fallback Friday" live from South Carolina.




MELBER:  Welcome back to our special live show right here in South Carolina. A lot of energy.

Now, we have some very special guests who are right here in the thick of this primary.

Anika Noni Rose is here campaigning, as mentioned for Elizabeth Warren. And, as a reminder, she is the Tony-winning actor. She starred in the Oscar winning-film "Dreamgirls," and many known as the beloved voice of Princess Tiana in Disney`s "The Princess and the Frog." Classics.


MELBER:  We`re also joined now for the first time by Columbia`s own Mook, a local rapper who has crowned himself the best rapper in South Carolina in a region known for music.


MELBER:  And as the world eyes tomorrow`s primary here, we have international journalists Niall Stanage, who`s been out covering the race.


MELBER:  On Fridays, we often ask who needs to fall back.

And, tonight, we are fixing to fall back with this presidential panel.

Who needs to fall back.

ROSE:  Lindsey Graham needs to fall back.


ROSE:  Make a little room for Jaime Harrison, maybe make some room for health care for his constituents.

He hasn`t had a town hall in three years. He has no idea what these people want. Fall on back.

MELBER:  Well, he`s not in touch with even going and talking to people who live here.

ROSE:  Not at all. Not at all.

MELBER:  Mook, who needs to fall back or what needs to fall back?

MOOK, RAPPER:  People need to fall back.

And all the money that`s going on with the politics. Like, there`s too much money going on. It almost made me feel like I need to be into politics.


MOOK:  Just because -- but, yes, I just feel like fall back from all the money that`s going on, so that we can actually see who is trying to make a change.

MELBER:  Yes, that`s interesting, because, as many people know, hip-hop does celebrate success.

MOOK:  Yes.

MELBER:  Nothing wrong with that. But you`re talking about the idea that people have billions, and they`re using it to, like, drown out other people`s voices.

MOOK:  Yes, definitely, definitely, yes.


Niall, how about that?

NIALL STANAGE, "THE HILL":  I think that`s -- I think superdelegates are who needs to fall back, all right, to be honest.

I don`t believe in this idea that the folks here who cast their votes should have their votes overtaken by other people who decide that they know better. That`s not making an argument for any particular candidate.

MELBER:  Sure.

STANAGE:  I just think the results need to stand.


MELBER:  What do you think about that?

You were telling us all about why you support Warren earlier, but would you rather see her win with the will of the voters or would you be comfortable with this idea that, oh, maybe at the convention, people who aren`t accountable could change the outcome?

ROSE:  I would love for people to win with the will of the voters. If people had won with the will of the voters, we wouldn`t be sitting under Trump right now.


ROSE:  Simple. One vote, one person.

We`re working with a system that was built under slavery to make sure that slave owners could have things that they wanted, and we`re still doing the same things. It`s got to change.


MELBER:  Niall, we`re -- and getting some applause for that here.

Niall, when the races get tight, we see process become paramount. We saw that with Clinton and Obama. Donald Trump was complaining about rules that it turned out benefited him because they round up in the Republican primary.

STANAGE:  Right.

MELBER:  Do you see this, depending on tomorrow`s outcome, as a race that will get more involved in process?

STANAGE:  I think it can do. It can definitely get into the weeds, particularly when getting into the weeds benefits one candidate or another.

We see a lot of times candidates make arguments when it`s in their benefit, as if they believe in this kind of overarching principle. And then, when it`s not in their benefit, the principle goes out the window.

MELBER:  Right out the window.

And we have seen candidates, including Sanders, change their position this very question about delegates.

STANAGE:  We have. I think he`s right now, personally. I think he was wrong back then, when he argued that superdelegates should come in and perhaps take it away back then from Hillary Clinton.

But right now, if he ends up with a plurality, or Vice President Biden or Senator Warren, that should be the nominee. I think it would divide the party if it`s otherwise.


Well, Mook, as you know, the only thing bigger than this red-blue divided America is the north-south hip-hop divide. It seems like the South has been getting back in it.

I`m curious because, we`re so close, with all these rappers coming out North Carolina, who else do you like they`re in your peers there?

MOOK:  In North Carolina?


MOOK:  J. Cole and DaBaby, definitely. I like those two artists.

MELBER:  Are there DaBaby fans here?




MELBER:  What about Jeezy?


MELBER:  Also one. Two, if you count me. Shout-out to everyone in North Carolina, J. Cole, Jeezy, DaBaby.

Mook, you`re a first-time guest here, a local artist. I appreciate you coming through.

MOOK:  Yes, first time. Yes, thank you.

MELBER:  Niall, I know that you have been out on the campaign trail and busy. And it`s great to have you, and have you in more than one block, Anika.

ROSE:  Thank you.

MELBER:  And thanks to everyone here.


MELBER:  This has been really fun.

I want to give all shout-outs, all due praise.

And we`re going to fit in one more break, and then we`re back live from South Carolina.



MELBER:  And we have such a great time here at Lizard`s Thicket in Columbia, South Carolina.

Obviously, all eyes on South Carolina, as here we are on the eve of the primary.

I want to thank everyone here.

And I want to tell everyone at home we will be back live. I`m anchoring special coverage 4:00 p.m. Eastern and 11:00 p.m. for late-night coverage. That`s tomorrow as part of our MSNBC special coverage of this South Carolina primary.

I want to thank everyone here in South Carolina. We will keep our eye on this state.


MELBER:  Keep it locked right here on MSNBC.

And let`s see. We did all right.


MELBER: "HARDBALL" is up next.