DNC chair Tom Perez on delegate math, momentum and pandemic preparedness

DNC chair Tom Perez on delegate math, momentum and pandemic preparedness


JUDY WOODRUFF: After Tuesday’s Democratic
presidential primary contests, former Vice President Joe Biden has a clear lead. He won four states, Idaho, Missouri, Mississippi,
and Michigan. Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders won North Dakota. And there is no projected
winner yet in Washington state. Our Lisa Desjardins has more. LISA DESJARDINS: Today, Bernie Sanders spoke
in a smaller, more sober setting than usual. The senator from Vermont said that defeating
President Trump was still his number-one goal, and he will keep challenging Joe Biden for
the Democratic nomination, despite yesterday’s primary night letdown. SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), Presidential Candidate:
On Sunday night, in the first one-on-one debate of this campaign, the American people will
have the opportunity to see which candidate is best positioned to accomplish that goal. REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D-NY): There’s
no sugarcoating it. Tonight’s a tough night. LISA DESJARDINS: Sanders supporter and New
York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez took to Instagram to console supporters and
congratulate Biden. In a majority of yesterday’s contests, moderate,
suburban and black voters propelled the former vice president to victory over Sanders, leading
to this moment last night in Philadelphia, with Biden making this appeal directly to
Sanders backers: JOSEPH BIDEN (D), Presidential Candidate:
I want to thank Bernie Sanders and his supporters for their tireless energy and their passion.
We share a common goal. And, together, we will defeat Donald Trump. LISA DESJARDINS: One major Biden supporter,
longtime South Carolina Congressman Jim Clyburn, told NPR that it might be time soon to wind
down the primary fight. REP. JAMES CLYBURN (D-SC): I think we will
be at a point where Joe Biden will be the prohibitive nominee of the party, and I think
the DNC, the Democratic National Committee, should then step in, make an assessment, and
determine whether or not they ought to have any more debates. LISA DESJARDINS: Both scrapped planned events
last night because of coronavirus concerns. And the planned TV debate on Sunday will go
on, but without a live audience. For the “PBS NewsHour,” I’m Lisa Desjardins. JUDY WOODRUFF: To give us more insight on
how the Democratic Party is handling this changing primary race, I’m joined by Democratic
National Committee Chair Tom Perez. Tom Perez, welcome back to the “NewsHour.” TOM PEREZ, Chairman, Democratic National Committee:
Always a pleasure to be with you. JUDY WOODRUFF: First question, does Bernie
Sanders still have a chance to win the Democratic nomination? TOM PEREZ: Certainly. We’re — a little under 50 percent of the
delegates have been allocated. The magic number is 1,991. And so primaries are often about
— they’re always about math, and they’re often about momentum. And, certainly, the vice president has achieved
some momentum here in South Carolina, Super Tuesday, and then this week. I have coached enough team sports and been
around politics enough to know that momentum shifts do occur. And our job is to make sure
that we continue to have a fair process and continue to work so that, whoever our nominee
is, we can hit the ground running and we will be united as a party. And I’m confident we will. JUDY WOODRUFF: So how do you respond to Congressman
James Clyburn’s saying that it’s time for the DNC, it’s time for this primary process
to be shut down? TOM PEREZ: Well, I think it’s always up to
the candidates to figure out when it is time to say when. And I respect the judgment of Senator Sanders
moving forward. We have four more very important races next Tuesday. Those will provide us
with some more information and insight, because they’re big states, Ohio, Illinois, Arizona.
And the biggest prize of all next Tuesday is Florida. So we will be over the 50 percent mark by
the end of the day Tuesday. Two weeks from Tuesday — or two weeks from yesterday, we
then go down to Georgia. And so that’s basically what we have for the next few weeks. And I think then, again, this is about math.
This is about understanding where you are in a process. And I don’t think it’s my place,
as the DNC chair, to tell somebody when it’s time to end your campaign. That’s always up to the candidates. I didn’t
call Pete Buttigieg or I didn’t call Amy Klobuchar or any of the candidates who got out. I never
called anyone and said, I think it’s really time for you to get out. That was a judgment
that they made on their own, based on their own analysis. JUDY WOODRUFF: But it does sound as if other
leaders in the party are saying that, either out loud or privately. TOM PEREZ: Well, again, I can’t stop others
from doing what they’re doing. What I can do is make sure that everybody
gets a fair shake. And one thing I know — because I have had the good fortune of working with
both the vice president and with Senator Sanders, one thing I know is that, whoever our nominee
is, they are both going to work their tails off to defeat Donald Trump. And we have seen an absolute explosion in
turnout. And I credit not only the two of them who are still in the race. I credit all
the candidates, the excitement that has been generated throughout this Democratic primary. You look at yesterday, more record turnout.
You look at Super Tuesday, record turnout in New Hampshire. JUDY WOODRUFF: Yes. TOM PEREZ: Blew through the numbers in 2008,
South Carolina, the same thing. So, the energy is there, the momentum is there.
And we will come together as a party. JUDY WOODRUFF: I’m sure that you heard Senator
Sanders’ statement today, the questions that he said he wants to hear Vice President Biden
respond to having to do with Medicare for all, having to do with college debt, with
climate change, suggesting pretty clearly that he wants, he expects Joe Biden to accommodate
some of Bernie Sanders’ positions. How far do you think Joe Biden should go in
accommodating some of the more progressive ideas of Bernie Sanders? TOM PEREZ: Well, I think — again, one of
the things that gives me great optimism as we move forward, Judy, is that what unites
us as a party far exceeds what our differences are. Everybody running for president understands
the imperative of combating climate change and making sure that we make decisions based
on the science. Everybody understands that. Everybody running for president understands
that we should make sure everyone has access to quality, affordable health care. And thanks
to LBJ and Barack Obama, we’re about 85, 90 percent the way up the mountain of universals
health care. They undeniably have differences of opinion
on how to get that 15, 10 percent to the mountaintop, but the imperative of getting there, they
have complete agreement on. And the imperative of making sure that people with preexisting
conditions being able to maintain their coverage, they completely agree on. Taking on the pharmaceutical industry, they
completely agree on. So, what unites us, I think, far exceeds what our differences are.
And the voters will see that. JUDY WOODRUFF: Two quick questions about coronavirus. Given the severity of what we know is now
going on, it’s a pandemic, should our two political parties find ways to work together
that they haven’t found before now on this issue? TOM PEREZ: Well, I think there are a number
of areas where I would hope that we could have worked together. One letter we sent a long time ago was, if
either party obtains information that was a product of foreign interference, we should
never use that information. We sent a letter a while ago calling on the Republicans to
come together on that. Unfortunately, they said no. I would love to figure out ways to work together.
We should be following our public health guidance, our public health professionals. I have great
respect for the doctors and other professionals at the National Institutes of Health. I had the privilege of working with many of
them in the Obama administration. And I think we should be able to come together. This is
— coronavirus is not about right vs. left. It’s about public health. And it’s about making
sure that we, as a nation, can come together. It’s very disappointing to see the absence
of sufficient preparedness. I saw how preparedness worked with Ebola. You may recall and your
viewers will recall, when President Obama took office, H1N1 was very real, and that
preparedness helped. Those shouldn’t be partisan issues. We should
be able to come together around principles of preparedness. JUDY WOODRUFF: Very quickly, plans still on
for the Democratic National Convention in July? TOM PEREZ: Yes, they are. And we’re going
to continue to work with federal, state and local officials to make sure that we put no
one in harm’s way, so that we can have a good convention. JUDY WOODRUFF: Tom Perez, thank you very much. TOM PEREZ: Thank you.

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