CNN's Gergen: 'Strategic mistake' for Dems to have Sanders debate healthcare

CNN's Gergen: 'Strategic mistake' for Dems to have Sanders debate healthcare
© Greg Nash

CNN's David Gergen warned Democrats that “it's a strategic mistake” to have Sen. Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersSchumer: Franken should resign Franken resignation could upend Minnesota races Avalanche of Democratic senators say Franken should resign MORE (I-Vt.) participate in a debate against Sens. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamGOP and Dems bitterly divided by immigration We are running out of time to protect Dreamers US trade deficit rises on record imports from China MORE (R-S.C.) and Bill CassidyWilliam (Bill) Morgan CassidyTax bill could fuel push for Medicare, Social Security cuts Collins to vote for GOP tax plan Overnight Tech: Lawmakers want answers on Uber breach | Justices divided in patent case | Tech makes plea for net neutrality on Cyber Monday MORE (R-La.) on Monday night before a national TV audience. 

“If the Democrats make this a debate between single-payer and the Republican Graham/Cassidy bill, they will very likely lose that debate," said Gergen, a former adviser to Presidents Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan and Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonMueller’s probe doesn't end with a bang, but with a whimper Mark Mellman: History’s judgment Congress should massively ramp up funding for the NIH MORE

CNN announced Thursday that it will host a town hall-style debate Monday night where senators from both sides of the aisle will face off over the new ObamaCare repeal bill.

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The debate will pit Cassidy and Graham, the sponsors of the bill, against Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharFranken resignation could upend Minnesota races Avalanche of Democratic senators say Franken should resign Trump-free Kennedy Center Honors avoids politics MORE (D-Minn.).

Sanders just unveiled his own single-payer health-care bill, which he refers to as “Medicare to all.”

It would transform the country’s health-care system from one in which most people get health care through an employer to one in which all people would be covered by a universal, government-funded system akin to Medicaid.

While the single-payer idea has growing support on the left, including from a number of possible Democratic presidential candidates in 2020, it’s not clear that it has broad public support.

It would go much further than ObamaCare, which the Graham-Cassidy legislation would undo and replace with block grants that would be delivered to states.

Gergen argued that in having Sanders involved in the debate, Democrats risk moving the argument to terrain that will help the GOP by making it about single-payer vs. Graham-Cassidy, instead of the present system versus the GOP bill.

“It's a strategic mistake to allow that to happen,” he said. “[Democrats] must make it a debate between ObamaCare, the current existing system, which many Americans want to keep that, versus this radical change coming from Republicans.”

“They can win that debate. They would probably lose the single payer debate and the country would be transformed. But it's a Republican bill."

The event will be moderated by CNN anchor Jake Tapper and the network's chief political correspondent Dana Bash live from Washington, D.C. 

The network will broadcast the event from Washington, D.C., on Monday at 9 p.m.