Transcript: Gov. Steve Bullock on "Face the Nation," June 9, 2019

Bullock: Debates should be about "more than the DNC rules"

The following is a transcript of the interview with Montana Gov. Steve Bullock that aired Sunday, June 9, 2019, on "Face the Nation."


MARGARET BRENNAN: We go now to Montana Governor Steve Bullock who is in Denver, Colorado, a stop on his way to campaign in Iowa today. We have seen this new Iowa poll, Governor. And it says about two thirds of likely caucus voters say they prefer someone who can beat President Trump versus someone whose agenda they actually agree with. Given that read, you're not breaking through in these polls. How do you make the case that you should be the candidate?

GOVERNOR STEVE BULLOCK: Yeah. Margaret, thanks for having me, first. Yeah, and I just got into this about three weeks ago because I had a job to do. My legislature was still in session. But really we need to make sure that we can not only bring out our base but also win back places that we lost last cycle. And I'm the only one in the field that actually won in a Trump state. He took Montana by 21 points. I won by four. So I think that I have something meaningful to offer to this. I've also- my whole time I've been, governor I've led with a legislature that's about 60 percent Republican, but we've been able to get progressive things done like getting dark money out of our elections and getting health care for 10 percent of my population, record investments in education. So, look, number one focus certainly is beating Donald Trump. But we also got to bridge some of the divides to make our economy and government work for folks outside of D.C. again.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But if what's convincing voters is your viability rather than your platform, and at this point you do not qualify to appear on that debate stage at the end of the month, you have just a few more days to kind of rectify that. How long can you stay in this race and can you make it onto that debate stage?

GOV. BULLOCK: Yeah and we still have 240 days before Iowans first express their preferences in the caucus, so was certainly disappointed this week when I heard that they wouldn't count one of the polls, but if I had to choose between chasing a hundred thousand voters and getting health care for one hundred thousand Montanans, like I just did, I'd make that choice for health care each and every day. I think we still have a long way to go before this thing is decided. You can go back to 1991 Bill Clinton didn't even get into this race until October of the year before, so -

MARGARET BRENNAN: But how do you get the kind of money you need to be able to sustain the race if you can't make it onto the debate stage?

GOV. BULLOCK: Sure. Well was so pleased even the day I announced about three weeks ago a million dollars came in don't- contributions from all 50 states. So we'll continue to get out there. We'll continue to both listen to folks and also travel. Like this week I'm going all throughout rural Iowa and you'll look at a third of the counties in Iowa voted for Obama twice and then Trump. If we can't win back places like that, if we can't win back places like Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania we're not going to actually win this election. I can do those sort of things.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Your campaign certainly was critical of how the DNC made the determination regarding qualifications for the debate stage that you just were explaining. Given all the controversy back in 2016 how the DNC handled things, do you trust that they are playing fair with you?

GOV. BULLOCK: Well I get that, you know, we want to make sure that we get on to making sure that we have a candidate that can beat Donald Trump. But really at this point we still have a long way to go in this and this is about people talking to people and actually the voters expressing their preference more than the DNC rules.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But do you trust that the DNC will play fairly by you?

GOV. BULLOCK: Well I hope that the DNC will play fair by everyone in the field because that's their role is to facilitate the voter's options. Not to try to limit it. And certainly am- did have frustration, disappointment that a poll that was, by their standards, I think viewed as you know one of the qualifying organizations that this is where we are. But where we are you know there's some things I can control some things that I can't.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Talking about those campaign finance issues,  I mean that's really the only policy platform on your website right now. What do you stand for? What is your main agenda item that defines you?

GOV. BULLOCK: Well, yeah, I was attorney general when Citizens United decision came up and I've done more to try to make sure that elections are decided by people not corporations than anybody else in this field. Fundamentally we got to get the economy working for all of us not just the Donald Trumps of the world and we have to make sure that people believe that their vote and their voice matters. Once we start doing that we can deal with- And that's the way we'll make meaningful progress in other areas.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, farm bankruptcies have doubled over the past five years. So if you're president, how do you change that? How do you handle China in a way differently than President Trump has?

GOV. BULLOCK: Sure and first of all we have to ma- do everything we can to make our farmers and ranches viable. Even in Montana, we did like student loan assistance to try to get people back to the family farm. I was talking to someone in Iowa two weeks ago, lost $147,000 last year. And the notion the USDA will pay $70,000 bucks back is what this farmer was saying. Not only do they have a financial hit but they're also, you know, we're going to lose markets. So the way that the Trump Administration's approached this, is just sort of the blunt instrument of tariffs, certainly isn't working. And I think he's kind of turned America first into America alone. We've always made sure that we have open access to markets not by going alone, but by going with other partners across the world and doing everything we can to open up markets.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, your state's senator, Jon Tester, was recently on the program. He said he hadn't yet made an endorsement when I asked if he would back you. Have you persuaded him yet?

GOV. BULLOCK: Yeah I- I think that Jon Tester is now on board and I'm awfully excited about his endorsement. I've known and worked with him for a long time now. But he's also been such a voice in both rural areas, places that we need to win back, bridging some of the divides, he got over a dozen bills just dealing with the veterans' passed under even this president, and he's also — though D.C. hasn't done much — he's been a voice for making sure that we get the big money out of the system, which we have to do.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Governor thank you very much.  We'll be back in a moment.