Reacting to night one of CNN’s Democratic debate, on Wednesday’s Today show, NBC News political analysts and former Senator Claire McCaskill was relieved that the radical health care plans advocated by Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders were hammered by their fellow 2020 candidates. McCaskill also completely rejected any possibility of such extreme proposals ever becoming law.
Co-host Savannah Guthrie framed the debate as the supposed “moderates” and “pragmatists” versus “the progressives.” McCaskill declared the event to be “good for our party” because it exposed how far-left Sanders and Warren truly are: “I think a lot of people watching the debate last night finally figured out that Bernie and Elizabeth’s plan means no more insurance at work. No choice.”
The former Missouri lawmaker applauded “the moderates” pushing back and arguing that “We can do better on health care without taking away people’s choices.” McCaskill hoped that the debate reined in the far left of the Democratic Party: “And so, I thought that contrast, overall, brought our party back to a little bit – still left of center, but a little closer to center which, for electability, you can’t underestimate how important that is.”
Fill-in co-host Willie Geist followed up by asking about the likelihood that a government-run health care plan that bans private insurance could ever get through Congress: “...can Medicare-for-all, the program proposed by Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, pass through the United States Senate?”
McCaskill pointed out that even if Democrats won control of the Senate in 2020, “ they’re not gonna get 60 votes” to overcome a filibuster of the legislation. She concluded: “So, really, does anybody think that we’re going to take away everyone’s private insurance with a 60-vote margin in the Senate?”
Later in the discussion, McCaskill noted that the strategy of Warren and Sanders was to “just try to corral all the very, very left votes in the party.”
Prior to the NBC News Democratic debate in June, McCaskill took to the Today show to offer this promo: “I think people should tune in tonight just to see who makes a fool of themselves, because somebody will.” She also warned the candidates to not just appeal to “that left-leaning person on Twitter.”
Apparently Warren and Sanders are still not taking that advice.
Here is a full transcript of the July 31 segment:
7:06 AM ET
SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: Let’s turn to our NBC News political analyst, former Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri. Well, so it kind of was that debate the party has been having. It actually came out on to the stage. The moderates, the pragmatists, verse the progressives. What did you think of last night?
MCCASKILL: Well, I thought overall, it was good for our party. First of all, I think a lot of people watching the debate last night finally figured out that Bernie and Elizabeth’s plan means no more insurance at work. No choice. And I think what the moderates did last night was point out that we can do better on health care, we all know it’s the number one issue. We can do better on health care without taking away people’s choices. And so, I thought that contrast, overall, brought our party back to a little bit – still left of center, but a little closer to center which, for electability, you can’t underestimate how important that is.
WILLIE GEIST: I want to ask you a question, as someone who served in the United States Senate, that some of the candidates sort of got at it in a backhanded way last night, which is, can Medicare-for-all, the program proposed by Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, pass through the United States Senate?
MCCASKILL: I think people need to remember, that the 60 vote margin in the Senate is stopping all kinds of crazy town right now in the Senate. The fact that the Republicans have to have 60 is really a safeguard for the things, the values that my party cares about. So that 60 margin is not going away. And let’s assume Democrats take the Senate, they’re not gonna get 60 votes. So, really, does anybody think that we’re going to take away everyone’s private insurance with a 60-vote margin in the Senate? So there is a disconnect between the inspirational and the realistic.
GUTHRIE: And that’s one of the huge debates going on within the party right now.
MCCASKILL: It is.
GUTHRIE: But let’s also talk about the candidates. Who in your mind had a standout night? Who is seeming to fall by the wayside?
MCCASKILL: Hey, Elizabeth is good at this. She knows how to debate. She’s very good at taking complex problems and simplifying them. That can also be a double-edged sword. So she had a good night. She and Bernie made a decision not to go after each other. They’re gonna just try to corral all the very, very left votes in the party. I thought, frankly, that both Governor Bullock and Mayor Pete had pretty good nights. I think Mayor Bullock – excuse me, Governor Bullock – did a good job introducing himself. You know, he’s from a very red state. He’s won in a very red state. That’s music to the ears of Democrats across the country. I thought they both did well.
GEIST: Let’s turn the corner and look ahead to tonight. The frontrunner, Joe Biden, comfortable margin in most polls. Kamala Harris will be on stage next to him again tonight, as she was in Miami. What do you expect to see tonight?
MCCASKILL: I expect that Kamala will talk about her plan for health care, which involves choice, not doing away with private insurance. I expect that Joe Biden will be more prepared to pivot and punch, as we say in the debate world.
GUTHRIE: And if he isn’t?
MCCASKILL: I think it’s a problem for him. His delivery is important tonight. He’s got to come from a position of strength. If he’s strong enough to hold this nomination, he needs to show it on the stage tonight.
GUTHRIE: Alright, Senator McCaskill, always good to get your perspective. Thank you very much.
MCCASKILL: You bet.
GEIST: Thanks, Senator, good to see you.