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Biden wins TRANSCRIPT: 3/4/20, The Beat w/ Ari Melber

Guests: Blake Zeff, Melanie Mason, Michelle Goldberg, Ilhan Omar, Tony Cardenas

CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST: “THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER” starts right now.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Thank you, Chuck.

And thanks for joining us here on THE BEAT.

We are live from the Super Tuesday state of California and covering, obviously, clearly, a new phase in this race. Joe Biden taking the delegate lead after winning 10 states last night. That`s a lot of states, Biden surging so powerfully that he punched Michael Bloomberg out of this race, and then drew his endorsement today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOSEPH BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Just a few days ago, the press and the pundits had declared the campaign dead!

So, I`m here to report, we are very much alive!

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

BIDEN: And make no mistake about it. This campaign will send down shop packing.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And I will not be our party`s nominee. But I will not walk away from the most important political fight of my life.

I have known Joe for a very long time. I know his decency, his honesty, his commitment to the issues that are so important to our country. And I`m glad to say, I endorse Joe Biden.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Big news there.

Now, here on THE BEAT, we have been tracking the delegates since the start and warning against any other measurement for this race, from Washington insiders, to pundit predictions, as you have seen, Joe Biden arguing those pundits were wrong again.

So, as we have done after every race here, we have the numbers for you. These are the only numbers that really matter. Biden takes the lead with 513 delegates. That`s about 52 delegates ahead of Bernie Sanders.

And the counting, to be clear, continues right here right now in California , where 177 delegates will still be awarded from last night. So note, Joe Biden`s lead is still within that margin of outstanding delegates from Super Tuesday. This can remain a very tight delegate race, which is not to take anything away from the comeback.

One expert saying they have never seen anybody mount a comeback like this ever. And the delegate realities have Senator Warren assessing her path forward. She`s not on pace anymore to be able to win an outright majority. And she also came in third in her home state of Massachusetts last night, Biden racking up delegates with the Southern sweep as well in traditionally red states like Texas, Alabama, and North Carolina.

The surge juicing his fund-raising, though his win was impressive also because he was so outspent. And let me tell you, we have new reporting on THE BEAT tonight showing Bloomberg spent 24 times what Biden did per vote. More on that later.

All of this powering the Biden campaign`s argument that he has the political standing that money can`t buy. Many Democrats have also worried about Biden`s weaknesses, from the gaffes, to the debates, and that may play a role in the two-person race ahead.

The headline here, though, is that Biden not only one big. He won in a way that revives his standing. And a campaign that sometimes lacked for crisp narrative now has one, Joe Biden casting himself as, yes, a survivor, and that he will continue to be, he argues, a fighter and keep on fighting, whether people count him out or not.

Now, the survivor narrative is an iconic theme from Greek mythology to, of course, reality TV, to Beyonce. And if you listen again to Biden last night, he was on his Beyonce vibes, contrasting the way people treated him to his own inner power.

Thought that I would fail without you, but I`m on top. Thought it would be over by now. But it won`t stop.

You can hear that theme last night.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BIDEN: Just a few days ago, the press and the pundits had declared the campaign dead!

So, I`m here to report, we are very much alive!

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: And I turned to our panel tonight.

Congressman Tony Cardenas, a Democrat from California who`s back out in Washington, he endorsed Joe Biden. Blake Zeff, editor in chief from CAFE.com. It`s one of the many places he`s written for. And he was an aide to Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. And Melanie Mason, a reporter for "The L.A. Times."

Congressman, did you see that survivor narrative last night? And what does it mean about Joe Biden going forward?

REP. TONY CARDENAS (D-CA): What it means about Joe Biden is, he always had the right stuff. He just didn`t have the right amount of resources. And Bernie Sanders was outspending him in some states 3-1, maybe 4-1.

And now that`s not going to happen anymore. So it`s going to be a much more even, set race when it comes to people being able to get their message out. And I think when you get right down to it, people are going to realize and recognize that Joe Biden unifies people, he gets things done.

He talks about what he`s going to do and he can look back and say we have done it together.

MELBER: Do you see this as something that was basically inevitable, because, obviously, you believe in Joe Biden, he was inevitably going to come back strong on Super Tuesday?

Or, if you`re going to keep it real with us -- and I know you had a -- you were on here recently talking about your love for California. You mentioned some of the traditions out here. I want you to be real.

Would you acknowledge that this was also partly thanks to the rallying around him, that he might not have been as strong last night without all of these endorsements and the consolidation of the party?

CARDENAS: You just made my point. He`s a unifier. Joe Biden isn`t about Joe Biden, Joe Biden is about everybody else around him. He`s about the 328 million people in America.

He`s about making sure that people understand that I have been a lifelong public servant, giving of myself, making sacrifices and doing it wantingly and doing it in a way that he shows that he cares.

So that`s the point. Joe Biden knew he was never alone. And Joe Biden isn`t alone. And Joe Biden is getting more support now, and when it comes to resources, and you`re going to see Joe Biden out there toe to toe with whoever`s left. Right now, it looks like him and Bernie Sanders, and I think we`re going to see a wonderful culmination before the big July event.

MELBER: I`m hearing a lot of optimism from you as a Biden backer.

Stay with me there. I know you`re out in Washington working as well.

I want to bring in some of our guests, as mentioned here in the California Super Tuesday environment.

Blake, you have worked these kind of primaries. The Hillary-Obama primary had its debates. You understand how Obama put the coalition together? The big question, what happened last night?

BLAKE ZEFF, EDITOR IN CHIEF, CAFE.COM: Well, clearly, Joe Biden has had four of the most amazing days in political history.

I mean, let`s be honest. I know you wanted to get the congressman to keep it real. I will be real with you.

About a week ago, I think most of the people watching this were like Joe Biden might not be such a survivor in this race. But now he`s had an amazing four days, from Saturday on through Tuesday, and he changed this race, and now he`s clearly the front-runner.

I think the big thing to look for in this race moving forward is age. We have looked at this electorate, sliced and diced it in many, many ways. Age is really the number to look at because Bernie Sanders does very well with folks under 45, over 45, not so well.

Joe Biden, the reverse. So what does that mean? If Bernie Sanders wants to get back into this race and really win it, he`s going to have to do one of two things, either extend his coalition so that he is now doing better with older-than-45-year-old voters, or get those younger voters, those under-45 voters, to come out in greater numbers than they have so far.

MELBER: Melanie, take a listen to the way Bernie Sanders was putting it today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Joe Biden is somebody I have known for many years. I like Joe. I think he`s a very decent human being.

And I do not want this campaign to degenerate into a Trump-type epic where we`re attacking each other, where it`s personal attacks. That is the last thing this country wants.

Joe has his ideas, his record, his vision for the future. I have mine and I look forward to a serious debate.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Melanie, I take that bite -- that sound bite -- from Sanders to you with the same question for Blake, what happened? But also take us forward as a reporter.

Sanders is promising a race now that looks like two people as delegate front-runners without vitriol.

MELANIE MASON, "THE LOS ANGELES TIMES": Right?

I mean, the senator has definitely made it clear that this is a contrast race going forward. And he certainly made it clear, particularly to his supporters, that this isn`t going to be maybe nasty or below the belt. But let`s be clear.

When he is going to be talking about Vice President Biden`s vote in 2003, around Iraq, for example, or his support for trade deals, especially in key states like Michigan coming up, this is going to be a hard-fought race about policy and about records. And I think that that`s one that has the potential to get kind of nasty.

MELBER: Nasty, but do you think the Democrats will basically tune into this in the upcoming states and say, OK, here we go, we`re having now finalists, it`s easier to follow two things than 10?

Or do you think that because of the nature of the anti-Trump resistance, there`s really a desire to get this done and move on?

MASON: I think that what voters want more than anything else is clarity.

And I think that`s what we saw in results yesterday, right? We saw late- deciding voters breaking so decisively to Joe Biden because there was this sense of coalescing in that moderate lane.

When I talked to voters over the course of the primary, I think that they were quite frankly dying for clarity when it came to how many candidates they should choose from. So the fact that we`re down to two, it`s a lot easier than 10.

But you`re right, this sense of the most important thing is for Democrats to beat Trump. Democrats are not generally wanting a chippy primary fight. And so I think if it veers into that direction, we`re going to see calls to wrap it up.

MELBER: Blake, I mentioned you worked for Obama.

What he did well, and what Sanders has at times done well, although not as well in the results last night, is go on the ground, do grassroots campaigning, get people excited, right?

Look at these states last night that Joe Biden didn`t visit and won. What does that tell you?

ZEFF: One of the key things that happened in this race last night, Super Tuesday, throughout the country is really interesting about the differences between Democrats and Republicans.

Republican voters don`t really listen to their leaders. Democratic voters tend to listen to their leaders. They like to be told what to do by their party. And so you saw this happen, where the party came together, said, Joe Biden is our guy.

Four years ago, when Donald Trump ascendant in the Republican Party, the establishment Republicans sort of freaked out and said, please get behind Jeb Bush or someone else. At one point, it was Ted Cruz, right?

Well, the Democratic establishment has been shopping for someone, an alternative to Bernie Sanders. They finally settled on their one person. And the voters, largely, not all of them, but some number of voters did listen to them.

MELBER: Yes.

And they listened to them and basically said, OK, if what you`re looking for is unity, I guess we reviewed other people. They`re not only out. They`re backing him.

And, Congressman, that was a point you were making as well.

With all of this excitement, though, I do want to press you. And here on THE BEAT, we press everyone. We have all sides on. We do it substantively.

But I want to play for you something that we have heard from your fellow Democrats, including people in your Democratic Caucus, which is, OK, they like, some even love Joe Biden. But how will he do against Donald Trump, who is, according to the Democrats we have heard from, an impeachably unfair and nasty brawler, which is part of why your party impeached him for trying to cheat against Joe Biden?

We all remember that. And yet they`re worried, some are telling us, about whether Joe Biden has it and whether he`s going to be strong in the debates. Take a look a little bit quickly at how Joe Biden has done and stumbled at times in debates.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BIDEN: The only African-American woman that`s ever been elected to the United States Senate, a whole range of people...

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA): No, that`s not true.

BOOKER: That`s not true.

HARRIS: The other one is here.

(LAUGHTER)

BIDEN: No, I said the first.

Play the radio. Make sure the television -- excuse me, make sure you have the record player on at night, the phone. Make sure that kids hear words.

My time is up. I`m sorry.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Congressman, your response?

CARDENAS: Well, I have had the opportunity to get a front-row seat here to meet many of the candidates that have been on the stage, including Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren.

And the bottom line is this. Joe Biden is about other people. You will be surprised. When you get the chance to talk to Joe Biden, like I have, he doesn`t do most of the talking. He allows you to talk. He wants to hear about you. He wants to hear about what you`re concerned about, what you care about, et cetera.

And he always offers of himself. Now, when it comes to Bernie Sanders, with all due respect, Bernie Sanders is the opposite. I have had the opportunity to be around Bernie Sanders. And he usually does most of the talking.

So I have had a front-row seat to meet many of these folks. And the bottom line is this. Joe Biden, you showed some gaffes or what have you. But I think what you`re going to see coming down the stretch, you`re going to see him do very well in these debates.

You`re going to see it a lot more closer and personal about what you`re going to get from each personality and the promises and commitments they`re making, and whether or not they can complete those promises.

I think Joe Biden has a better record of completing his promises.

MELBER: And we appreciate you being fiery in what is going to be this two- person race. So, as you know, we`d like to have you come rejoin me later in the hour, where we`re going to have a substantive, but the big debate about these two candidates with someone from the other side.

I look forward to having you back, sir.

CARDENAS: Great. Always good to be here.

MELBER: Great. Thanks. I will see you in a few minutes.

I want to turn to one other important thing we were learning last night, Democratic voters increasingly turning out for Joe Biden. But look at this dynamic. Many still backing Bernie Sanders` health care policies. Take the key issue of -- and this is controversial -- but potentially replacing most private insurance with Medicare for all.

And look at this. This is not just from last night, but all votes to date in the Democratic primary, half or more Democratic voters saying they actually back Medicare for all.

Blake, it`s quite a map. This was something we saw you were actually tweeting about and other experts as well, saying, yes, life is complicated. And people may actually still want, shall we say, a more populist agenda than Joe Biden has traditionally backed.

And yet, last night, a lot of them also said they`re leaning towards Biden.

ZEFF: It`s absolutely staggering.

So, just to make this clear, there have been 18 states that have voted so far, Ari, in this election to date; 16 of them had entrance or exit polls literally at the polls when people were voting. And they were asked this question, would you replace the private health insurance system with a single-payer systems?

So, they were given that choice. And in every single state among Democratic voters, they chose the single-payer. This is Alabama, Tennessee, Southern states like that and Northern ones.

To your point about those -- many of those voters still voting for Joe Biden, I think that speaks to an interesting phenomenon with voters, which is often they don`t always vote based on policy. Sometimes, it`s temperament. Sometimes, it`s the person that they have known for a long time, or demographics, or other kinds of things.

That`s clearly evident by this trend.

MELBER: Melanie, where do you see that going? Because it -- there`s a lot of indications that the party has moved to the left. And yet Joe Biden may be still arguing that this is his final shot, and you could keep moving left. He will work with you.

And that goes to the political question I think a lot of people have their eye on, which is, who does Joe Biden look at for his running mate?

The Hillary Clinton model, no disrespect to those who`ve worked for her in the past, was find someone who you would barely notice. And no disrespect to Mr. Kaine , but, I mean, he`s not Senator Warren, he`s not an AOC.

Do you see both what Blake is saying, or do you disagree? And do you think that goes to, whoever the nominee is, who they should have as their running?

MASON: Well, first of all, whoever Biden was going to pick for vice president was going to be important for one factor only. And that`s his age.

And, ironically, I think the reason that he got to the White House for the first time around is, you had a nominee in Barack Obama who had to sort of supplement his ticket with an experience. And so that`s how you got Biden come in.

And now you need Biden to sort of deal with people`s concerns about his age. And so you`re going to need somebody who seems both fresh and young, but also qualified if need be.

In terms of I think activating maybe the more liberal side of the party, look, there`s a reason why Bernie Sanders today called for an hour-long debate about Medicare for all. I think those of us who watched all of the debates so far, we`re probably thinking, really? We need to do this more? Because there`s been a health care question in every debate.

MELBER: Well, me, health care debate, I`d like it to be three hours, not one.

(LAUGHTER)

MASON: No, I think that`s fair.

Look, health care for is really hard to distill into 20-second answers or even 90-second answers. So it`s a fair point by Senator Sanders.

MELBER: I more meant that it`s dry, but I appreciate how substantive you`re being.

(LAUGHTER)

MASON: Policy matters sometimes.

MELBER: Definitely.

MASON: But, that said, I think Sanders absolutely sees an ideological possibility here, and when you look at these exit polls.

And, look, people are not happy with the current health care system. But I think, to Blake`s point, the question is, when people are weighing all of their options at the polls, is it policy that`s going to drive them or is it this potential to beat Trump? Is it a sense of tone and tenor?

And that`s I think where Biden right now has an advantage.

MELBER: Yes.

Well, I really appreciate your nuance on that. It`s a reminder for all of us who are doing any of the reporting or narrating that voters can say more than one thing. If we`re listening to them, they can tell us about who they support.

In Democratic cases, it`s who they really want to beat Trump, but they may also be telling us other things about the country they want to live in. So that`s, I think, one of the best and, like, optimistic parts of all this.

Your first time on THE BEAT. I really appreciate your joining us out here on the ground in California.

MASON: Yes, it was fun.

MELBER: Blake, I think we`re going to be bringing you back to talk about our new reporting exclusive to THE BEAT on the money trail, and just why Mike Bloomberg face-planted.

Coming up, Bernie Sanders also digging into what they call a two-person race and what they call disappointing results. We have a Sanders supporter who is very prominent, Congresswoman Ilhan Omar.

Our special report, as mentioned, on that Bloomberg money.

I`m Ari Melber. You`re watching a special edition of THE BEAT on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: Life comes at you fast. So do campaigns.

This presidential race just changed more in three days than it had in months. Remember, Joe Biden was limping out of New Hampshire in fifth place, where, if you count it up, 90 percent of voters picked someone else, and then, boom, roaring back on Super Tuesday, taking the lead in delegates for the first time, a shift that surprised many, including the Sanders campaign, which was -- quote -- "caught off-guard by the comeback."

Joe Biden not only winning, but winning in a way that pushed Sanders to a worst finish in every single state this Super Tuesday than he did in 2016. That is a setback.

Today, Bernie Sanders stressing the issues that he believes separate him and the new delegate leader.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SANDERS: Joe and I have a very different vision for the future. This country.

Joe is running a campaign which is obviously heavily supported by the corporate establishment.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Now, we call it straight here. So let`s be clear.

Joe Biden`s embraced by some backers, some donors and, yes, Mike Bloomberg can reflect partly business interests. But nobody can factually dismiss all of the rank-and-file voters who have been going towards Biden.

That includes South Carolina. It includes last night. And it`s all the more striking, given this party`s very public search at times to consider someone other than Biden. We have just been discussing this.

There are his potential weaknesses and they are known and discussed by Democratic voters, from struggling in some of the debates this cycle, to making unforced errors in, at times, rambling speeches and rallies that Democrats themselves worried were lackluster, to the early states, which showed Democrats looking for alternatives to Biden.

In the race for majority of delegates, Biden`s comeback has turned this into a two-person contest. That is a huge, even historic search for Joe Biden.

But I want to tell you something tonight. Just as it was an exaggeration to count Joe Biden out right after New Hampshire, it would be the same to declare and crown him the nominee, when his delegate edge is just 10 percent over Sanders.

So, what happens in a two-person race, if we cover it factually, and not with predictions? And how does Bernie Sanders argue to Democrats he should lead a party that he has long criticized?

Well, we`re going to do something we believe is valuable here.

We have prominent surrogates from both campaigns, including Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, when we`re back in 30 seconds.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: We are back with this fast-changing 2020 contest and where it goes next.

And, as promised, we begin with Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, a Bernie Sanders supporter from Minnesota, a state that Biden carried.

Thanks for joining me.

REP. ILHAN OMAR (D-MN): And thank you for having me.

MELBER: Well, we will do policy and politics, but I`m starting with the politics.

As a Sanders supporter, what do you think the voters were saying last night, including, as mentioned, in Minnesota?

OMAR: Well, as you know, the 48 hours that preceded Super Tuesday, the airwaves were blanketed with messages that said Biden was going to win, that the party was coalescing its power and influence around him.

And so it makes sense that voters went into the voting booth thinking that they had to make a choice about who was going to be able to able to be a representative of the voices that they were giving in that ballot box.

What we do know is that every single exit poll showed that the voters actually cared about many of the policies that Senator Bernie Sanders is campaigning on. And that is the message that has resonated with them.

And when we do have the opportunity to get people to coalesce around our progressive movement and unite, we will have the opportunity for Senator Bernie Sanders to be the nominee for the Democratic Party.

MELBER: So, you raise something important and substantive. Let`s discuss that.

We were exactly reporting earlier this hour, for example, about how many Democratic voters now support Medicare for all. Obviously, Sanders gets credit for driving that conversation. And that wasn`t the case 10 years ago, for example.

But, as a Sanders supporter, I`m curious what you say. Does that cut both ways? Is it potentially a negative sign for Sanders if people are supporting his policies, but either don`t seem ready for him, or worry that, even if they like his policies, they worry whether or not he is the best person to defeat President Trump?

OMAR: Well, we know how fear sometimes can drive the decisions of voters.

We have seen that the last presidential election. And then we see people have remorse about the decisions that they made. We are now going to have a two-person race. And we`re going to give the voters an opportunity for them to realize that this is the presidential candidate that we need.

This is who is going to bring the kind of transformative changes we`re all after. And this is how we get to having a candidate that is excited about creating a better tomorrow for all of us in regards to getting Medicare for all to become the law of the land, in fighting for student debt cancellation, in making sure that we are leading the effort in protecting our environment.

MELBER: If Senator Sanders does better with young people, and worse with older voters, how do you change that?

OMAR: It`s all about perception.

And I think when there is a lot of time being spent, and energy spent on making people focused on what has been and picking the safer candidate, people make a different choice.

And I think we will have the opportunity to have a conversation about what it means for us not just to be aspirational, but to show them how we can make that be an actual workable policy that will transform their lives.

MELBER: You mentioned what voters were seeing heading into the Tuesday. And we have covered a lot of races. It was really something, the unity around Biden.

He gets more of that, though...

(CROSSTALK)

OMAR: Yes.

I -- yes, I spoke to that at the rally in Minnesota, when I spoke. People were literally gathering to put a damper on the movement that Senator Bernie Sanders was building.

And, in Minnesota, in a state that had -- when we had the caucuses exclusively focused on building coalitions around the policies that we all cared about, Senator Bernie Sanders won it handily.

And now that we had a primary, and we had an opportunity for us to organize, my district was the only congressional district the senator won. And if you look at our state, if there was a united force around progressive values, Senator Bernie Sanders would have won the state of Minnesota and would have carried many other states.

So, when we think about the particular policies that the senator cares about, when we think about the movement that he has created and energized, the senator wins. And when we think about the kind of America that everybody`s excited about, the senator wins.

MELBER: We`re about to be joined by one of your Democratic colleagues in the House who is backing Joe Biden, not Sanders, like yourself.

But I want to give you one more question on that, teeing up the fact that there will be a rebuttal. Fair is fair.

What, in your view, is the biggest reason that voters in these upcoming states should not vote for Joe Biden? What is your reservation about him? You spoke about why you like Sanders. But do you have a reservation that people need to consider, in your mind, about Biden?

OMAR: So, I don`t really often like to speak ill of any Democrat, because I think we`re all a family. We`re all, after all, going to make sure that we are united in our effort to defeat Trump.

But I think it is really important for us to think about who is in a position to lead our country to that better tomorrow. Vice President Biden has had some votes that he has taken that certainly are not representative of where many of us are at in regards to policy.

And many of us are still struggling and feeling the hurt of many of the policies that he has proposed, voted for and implemented. And it`s really important, when we`re creating an opportunity for people to choose a president who is going to alleviate the kind of anxieties and hurt that many Americans are feeling, we don`t pick a candidate that can be an example of that.

We need to pick a candidate that will help people see that there is an option for a better tomorrow.

MELBER: Congresswoman Omar, as always, thanks for coming on THE BEAT.

OMAR: Thank you so much for having me.

MELBER: Appreciate it.

And back with me, Congressman Tony Cardenas, a backer of Joe Biden, for the other side.

First of all, sir, your response?

CARDENAS: Well, Ari, I think that was a nice dialogue that actually reminds everybody, like she said, we`re not here to fight with each other. We`re just here to make sure that people understand what our positions are, in this case, the main candidates here.

So what I`d like to say is, when people talk about so many Americans are for Medicare for all, when you really look carefully, Americans want health care for everybody. And that`s what Joe Biden`s admin -- he was part of an administration and he was in charge of whipping votes to make sure that the most comprehensive health care policy got passed in Washington.

It`s called the Affordable Care Act. And we went from 20 percent of Americans who had almost no health care access down to less than 10 percent. That is the biggest increase ever in the history of the United States. Millions of millions of people now have access to health care.

Can we improve it? Yes. And that`s what Biden is talking about. He`s talking about making it better, making it accessible for everybody, but not doing it in a way that`s cost-prohibitive.

(CROSSTALK)

MELBER: The congresswoman, as you say, very diplomatically, but substantively raised the votes that have dragged Biden down among some Democrats, particularly among some younger Democrats.

Two that come to mind you`re familiar with would be supporting the Iraq War and the crime bill.

I think she was, broadly, I should say, alluding to that. What`s your response on that? And do you think that would matter in the coming states? Or do you think Joe Biden`s basically addressed that enough?

CARDENAS: Well, when you`re elected to office, you take tough votes, and sometimes you learn from those votes, and then maybe you won`t do that again, et cetera.

I think Joe Biden`s the kind of person that takes responsibility for his votes, and actually confronts the fact that maybe he would do it differently now, et cetera. You would have to ask him specifically on that.

MELBER: Yes.

CARDENAS: And I`m sure, in the next debate, he will get the opportunity to answer that question.

But, at the same time, Joe Biden`s the kind of person that he actually works on getting things done. He doesn`t just talk about aspiration. He actually works on aspirational things that can be achieved. And he has a track record of doing that.

MELBER: Congressman, thank you for being in the show more than once.

And, again, congratulations to you and your candidate on a big day for Joe Biden, Congressman Cardenas.

CARDENAS: Always a pleasure to talk to you, Ari.

MELBER: We also want you to know, our viewers, that Bernie Sanders will back on MSNBC tonight with Rachel Maddow 9:00 p.m. Eastern.

As we talked about this two-person race, Joe Biden was recently here with Lawrence O`Donnell. And, as you see, Bernie Sanders with Rachel Maddow, a newsworthy night, 9:00 p.m. Eastern.

Coming up, we turn to our special report. These are new numbers that we have crunched right here on THE BEAT that matter not only for how Bloomberg got out, but how money could matter in the race against Donald Trump -- when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: Now to new developments and new reporting after this eventful Super Tuesday, Bloomberg dropping out of the race today, endorsing Biden, who made that dramatic comeback after these primaries.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BIDEN: Just a few days ago, the press and the pundits had declared the campaign dead!

So, I`m here to report, we are very much alive!

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

BLOOMBERG: Today, I am leaving the race for the same reason, to defeat Donald Trump.

And I`m glad to say I endorse Joe Biden. And I hope you will join me in working to make him the next president of the United States of America!

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: A stinging laws for Bloomberg who spent -- take a look -- 400- million-plus dollars, dwarfing everyone else.

That`s three times, for example, what Sanders spent, six times what Joe Biden is spent all in. The money didn`t save Bloomberg when it actually came time for voters to decide.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TREVOR NOAH, HOST, "THE DAILY SHOW WITH TREVOR NOAH": Bloomberg came in with a bold strategy of completely ignoring the first four primaries and instead betting his entire campaign on making a big splash on Super Tuesday.

And to make that happen, he`s been spending money harder than a dad at Chuck E. Cheese trying to keep custody of his kids.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: We will go back and listen to Mike Bloomberg, who is, fair to say, not having the night he thought he paid for.

JIMMY KIMMEL, HOST, "JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE": He basically spent the cost of an "Avatar" movie to find out nobody likes him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: It was not the night he thought he paid for.

On Monday, we were reporting about this data, which we crunched right here at MSNBC. And now we have an update for you. This is brand-new, and you won`t see it anywhere else. And it provides evidence from Super Tuesday that the spending has a limit, especially depending on who you are.

Now, there was one thing we still didn`t know, which is how Bloomberg`s millions would fare, because he wasn`t even on the ballot, as mentioned, in those first four.

So now, for the first time, you can actually see the tally, Bloomberg`s votes on Super Tuesday with the math. Bloomberg spent roughly $240 per vote. Warren came in second, but far below that, with about $50 per vote. And that`s five times less than Bloomberg.

Then look at Sanders and Biden. This is actually impressive, when you consider the race. They were there, take a look, at just those tiny lines, $30 and $10 per vote.

Now, let me tell you why this matters for a minute before I show you some more of the charts. This is a test of one of the biggest questions and debates in this entire race right now. And it doesn`t matter whether you prefer Biden or Sanders or Warren or someone else.

There is a question about what happens when billionaires get further involved, particularly if they want to self-fund. We saw that with Steyer and Bloomberg.

And I can tell you now for the first time -- and I couldn`t tell you this, as mentioned, weeks ago, because we wait for the evidence, but I can tell you the evidence shows a real ceiling, particularly on billionaires who try to enter, if they don`t have other real popularity or credibility with voters.

So, with that in mind, take a look at what we`re learning. Hear are the front-runners, right, Biden and Sanders and Bloomberg. Bloomberg spending eight times what Sanders spent per vote. That`s after the Super Tuesday races he was banking on, Bloomberg ending up with 24 delegates, Sanders with 461.

Now, Sanders no longer has the delegate lead. Biden has it with 513 delegates after these elections. So, look at the numbers. Pretty astonishing, Bloomberg spending 24 times what Biden spent per every vote, Biden spending basically $10 per vote up to yesterday now.

That is the best return on investment of any candidate in this whole race, self-funded or not. Then, when you look at Sanders, he`s spent -- and this is very interesting. He has now spent triple what Biden did and came out as of right now with fewer delegates.

But these numbers go in all sorts of directions. But one thing I can tell you is, if you`re in the Joe Biden camp, these numbers that are new tonight provide an additional argument for his path ahead, that he can do more with less, not only pushing a billionaire out, but pushing out Bernie Sanders from the delegate lead while Sanders outspends Joe Biden 3-1.

I want to get into all this right now with "New York Times" columnist Michelle Goldberg, and back with us, Blake Zeff, a former aide to Obama and Clinton, who`s actually also done some writing about Mike Bloomberg`s fund- raising and spending.

Good evening to both you.

MICHELLE GOLDBERG, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Hi.

MELBER: Michelle, that`s a lot to digest.

I slowed it down, because I wanted to make sure everyone understands. I will give you my takeaway, and I`m curious yours. Mine is, there`s a limit to what people`s spending can do, especially if they`re unpopular with the voting group they`re appealing to, and that there is some good news in here potentially for Joe Biden.

I`m curious your analysis.

GOLDBERG: And I guess my analysis is that money can buy you your way in the door, right? It can buy you your way into the debates. It can buy you your way into contention.

It`s the reason why when there was a freak-out a few weeks ago about Joe Biden`s viability, the attention went to Bloomberg, and not to, say, Cory Booker or Kamala Harris, who dropped out because they ran out of money.

But it can`t buy you charisma, right? It can`t buy you a record that comports with the values of the Democratic Party electorate. So, I don`t think this proves by any means that kind of plutocracy is not a problem in our politics, just that there are still things in this flawed democracy that are not for sale.

MELBER: And so, to use your word, you think a slightly more charismatic billionaire with more credibility with Democratic voters who had Bloomberg`s money, the money might have made the difference?

GOLDBERG: Well, I think you -- again, I think you saw a few weeks ago a lot of panic about Joe Biden`s viability, about his ability to hold his own against Donald Trump. And there was a lot of people looking for a savior.

And they looked to Mike Bloomberg, right? The reason that Mike Bloomberg was on that stage, the reason Mike Bloomberg had this network and was able to kind of stand up a campaign so quickly was because of all this money.

It`s just that this money wasn`t enough to save him from being filleted by Elizabeth Warren, and it wasn`t enough to kind of hide the fact that he has a record that`s anathema to most -- or much of the Democratic electorate.

MELBER: Yes. And credit to Elizabeth Warren. She was very clear and factual in confronting him. She used her power on the stage that way, which is obviously any candidate`s right?

People argue, oh, when do you get out?

(CROSSTALK)

GOLDBERG: But let me just -- can I just quickly say...

MELBER: Go ahead.

GOLDBERG: My husband -- full disclosure, my husband`s consulting for Elizabeth Warren. I`m not sure how much longer I`m going to have to make that full disclosure on air. But I need to say that.

MELBER: Good. Appreciate that.

And Warren clearly using her power and her platform to make those points, even if they`re separate from her delegate strategy.

Blake, this may raise the question, well, how could you do possibly any worse than Mike Bloomberg? And the answer, of course, is Tom Steyer.

Also new tonight, now that we can do the apples-to-apples comparison, take a look at this -- $10 per vote for Biden shows his surge in his efficiency. Up the line, Bloomberg at $240 is a very expensive, some would say, humiliating way to spend your money.

But there`s Tom Steyer, who ultimately spend over a G per vote.

ZEFF: Over a G.

MELBER: Over a G.

ZEFF: Look, I see the Michael Bloomberg campaign that was as essentially a science experiment.

If you take a politician that is totally ill-fitted for the Democratic primary, and doesn`t have that much charisma, a competent person, he`s not a joke, but does not fit into the primary, and you take unlimited money and a very, very smart team, can you make it happen? Can you make it work? Can you have success?

And, clearly, the answer in this case was no.

MELBER: It sounds like you`re trying to say, stop trying to make Mike happen.

ZEFF: Exactly, or fetch.

MELBER: Or fetch.

ZEFF: But the question that you raised before is the really interesting one, which is, what happens if you -- because we could rush to this conclusion, right, and say, oh, it doesn`t matter if you have that much money and you can self-fund, because look, Bloomberg, it didn`t work, and, Steyer, it didn`t work.

But I think that`s the wrong conclusion, because you asked the right question to Michelle, which was, what if you took someone who actually was a good fit for the Democratic primary, was on reasonably equal footing with the other candidates, and then they had a monetary advantage where they could just spend endlessly, as Bloomberg did? Then what happens?

And we don`t have the answer to that yet, but I suspect that the money would go a lot further in that instance.

MELBER: Well, and, as mentioned, you were on with Chris Hayes and myself discussing the Bloomberg race while it was still launching.

And out in the field, we heard from Democrats. We showed on THE BEAT recently an African-American South Carolina voter who said, I`m still eying Bloomberg, I think he looks strong. They weren`t sure. And we heard that from people.

And it goes to Michelle`s point that the money was the reinforcement.

Given your scrutiny of Bloomberg, I want to play this potentially revealing moment in that debate, where he almost referred to -- quote -- "buying" Congress seats.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BLOOMBERG: They talk about 40 Democrats; 21 of those were people that I spent $100 million to help elect.

All of the new Democrats that came in and put Nancy Pelosi in charge and gave the Congress the ability to control this president...

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

BLOOMBERG: ... I bou -- I got them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Close call.

ZEFF: Close call.

MELBER: You`re not supposed to go on TV and say, I bought things that are illegal to buy.

ZEFF: It`s very rare to see that.

(LAUGHTER)

MELBER: So does this in any way, in your view, make other billionaires think twice, or it`s not the nature of them?

In other words, both you and Michelle are making a very nuanced point that we really want to hit here. There`s so much going on. There`s a reason we`re giving time to this, which is, if democracy is for sale, if the parties -- we have talked a lot about Republicans.

I have reported on how the DNC changed rules to get Bloomberg on the stage. Politically, that may have been the strategy candidates wanted, so, as mentioned, Warren and others could confront and all him accountable.

But from a democracy view, it still seems like there is this potential threat of the parties bending to any billionaire who says, well, I have the money, you have to deal with me. It`s almost an intimidation way to get on the stage.

ZEFF: Well, let`s be clear. I mean, when you showed those amazing charts, one thing that wasn`t in there was the amount of time that he spent that money in.

The other candidates were campaigning for a year, or two years.

MELBER: Right.

ZEFF: Bloomberg in three months spent all that money, right? So that makes it even more desperate, the spending.

And what did he get in three months? He was able to get on the debate stage. He was able to have offices in every state around the country. He was able to be taken seriously ,got a ton of media.

That barrier to entry was completely knocked down.

MELBER: Right.

ZEFF: And so for us to say, what does it get you, well, it actually got him plenty. It got him a fighting chance.

MELBER: Right.

And fairness to Mike Bloomberg, we have had his campaign manager on, and they`re invited back. I will mention there are some states -- we will show Virginia -- where the rate was not as dramatic. Hi rate in Virginia of $60 per vote was on par with what some other traditional Democrats did.

I want to mention that for fairness, and give Michelle the final word on this topic.

GOLDBERG: I think that -- again, I think that, to me, the really disturbing thing is not so much who was on the stage at some of these later debates, but who wasn`t on the stage at some of these later debates.

Again, I think that there would have been a role for Kamala Harris or Cory Booker when that panic set in about Joe Biden, and the only reason that they weren`t there was because they couldn`t raise money.

And there`s also just an opportunity cost, right? Candidates spend a huge amount of their time raising money and kind of sucking up to donors. And it`s something that the Bloombergs and the Steyers of the world are spared.

So although it`s kind of a happy ending that Michael Bloomberg was not able to purchase the nomination for himself, I don`t think that we should be complacent about the role, the really distorting role that money plays in our process.

MELBER: Really nuanced thoughts from two people who know a lot about these issues. My thanks to Michelle and Blake.

When we come back, we`re going to show you the implications of some of these huge voting lines last night, what voters are telling us and what it could mean for turnout in the general election.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: In some places last night, there was historic voter turnout, but, in other places, it was actually too hard to vote.

We want to show you some of the lines, voters having to wait more than three hours to exercise their rights in Texas and California. We also heard from a Texas voter who recounted a five-and-a-half-hour wait to vote, before this cycle, noting it was just five minutes.

Here`s what he told our reporters.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We really wanted to get our vote across. And we really felt like they must have been doing this on purpose to kind of steer people or discourage people to come vote.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: The Supreme Court limited the historic Voting Rights Act in 2013.

And there are many states where Republicans have basically pounced on that opening and tried to close even hundreds of polling places because of the control of the local government, many of these targeting areas where minorities vote.

There are many ways that this can be fixed. Not everyone will, of course, have the ability to wait hours and hours to vote.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST, "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW": McLennan County, home to Waco, Texas, closed 44 percent of its polling places between 2012 and 2018. During that time, its population grew by more than 15,000 people, more than two-thirds of that growth, African-American and Latino.

WILLIAMS: So who did the people of Texas see about that?

MADDOW: Well, they see their state representatives and state government. And they can only do so if they`re allowed, in free and fair elections, to choose them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: As a factual and constitutional matter, that is not a dilemma that should be part of voting in the United States anymore.

We will be right back with one more thing.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: We have been reporting tonight on why the new delegate count is making this Democratic primary very clearly a two-person race between Sanders and Biden for delegates.

And it looks like we are going to hear a lot more from both of them, which makes sense.

For your TV programming knowledge, Bernie Sanders sits down tonight at 9:00 p.m. Eastern with our own Rachel Maddow. I wouldn`t miss that.

But, also, you should know Joe Biden will be out on television on NBC`s "Today Show" tomorrow morning.

That does it for me. I will be back here tomorrow night at 6:00 p.m. Eastern.

Keep it right here on MSNBC.

 

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END