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Preview of GOP Debate; At Least 15 Dead in Flash Floods on Utah-Arizona Border. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired September 15, 2015 - 20:00   ET


[20:00:17] COOPER: Hey, good evening. Thanks for joining us. We are at the Reagan library in Simi Valley just outside Los Angeles. This time tomorrow night, on a stage that we built 45 feet in the air, to be at eye level with President Reagan's old Air Force One, 11 Republican candidates will try to outshine their setting and each other. Two of those 11, Donald Trump and Dr. Ben Carson, have risen greatly since the first debate. One quietly, the other not so much.

In about an hour, Donald Trump, in fact, will speak from the deck of the old battleship Iowa not far from the port of Los Angeles. It may also face protesters, about 100 there already.

CNN's Sara Murray is there. She joins us with the latest.

So what are we expecting from this speech tonight? What's the topic?

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, that is the big question tonight is whether Donald Trump is going to offer more specifics in his national security address. You know, he's here, he's been brought here by a veterans group that said they really want someone who is strong on the military, strong on foreign policy. They want to hear someone talk about handling sequestration cuts and getting more money for defense.

I think Donald Trump tends to say he'll do great things for the military, he tends to say he'll do great things for veterans. He doesn't offer a lot of meat on the bones of how he'll do that. We'll be looking for those policies a little bit tonight, Anderson.

COOPER: You've been talking to some of the voters who are there. Why have they come? What did they want to hear?

MURRAY: Well, a lot of them want to see Donald Trump up close. And as you can see the "USS Iowa" behind me it's pretty amazing venue for something like this. But look, a number of them have told me that they think Donald Trump would be a get commander in chief because they saw him on "the Apprentice." And he is great businessman.

One man actually told me that he thinks Donald Trump would pick an actor as secretary of state because his experience on "the Apprentice" picking good people to work for him. So, it is clear that his background in reality television, his background in business has carried over a certain appeal to the voters who are here today.

COOPER: Is it that they already plan to vote for him, or some there just a kind of be part of the entire Donald Trump experience?

MURRAY: You know, I think at a lot of events like this it's always a mix of people. There were a number of fervent Donald Trump supporters including one guy who made a Latinos for Donald Trump sign which is a pretty, you know, stark difference from the folks that are standing right outside the gates to my left who are protesting and who are saying that the things Donald Trump is saying about immigrants particularly Hispanics is extremely racist. So we really are seeing sort of a mix of folks here, just like we would at any other event.

COOPER: All right, Sara, appreciate your reporting. We'll continue to check in.

As we said, we do anticipate Donald Trump speaking sometime probably within the next hour. While Donald Trump campaigns his opponents have, of course, been getting ready for him as well for the debate here tomorrow night, and to the questions to Jake Tapper and his panel will be throwing at them tomorrow night on the stage.

Now, ordinarily, that means briefing books, flash cards, practice sessions, so-called murder sessions with stand in for your opponent. This, however, is not your ordinary debate nor it seems is Donald Trump the kind of opponent you can easily prep for. That is the question, how do you prep for what's going to happen tomorrow. Which is why what Jeff Zeleny has been finding out for us is so fascinating.

So how have the other candidates been getting ready for this debate tomorrow?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, quite simply a lot of them have been watching television, listening to the radio, watching what Donald Trump is saying and watching how voters are reacting to this.

I've talked to people from every campaign today, and to a person they say they're intrigued by what the electorate is responding to in Donald Trump. So they are going to try and repeat some of that anger.

One adviser for a top candidate told me that this is an angry electorate. We need to give that anger back to them with ideas, with solutions. So how they are for this is watching Donald Trump, but also trying to do more specific things of their own policies. Jeb Bush, for example, has been going at Donald Trump long distance for so many weeks. But tomorrow night on this stage you'll see right behind me here they're standing so close together, he's expected to call him out for not being a true conservative.

Now, that hasn't necessarily worked so far, but face to face in close quarters the question is will it or not? So this is an audience, a television audience, a large television audience that is going to be watching with a new eye most candidates believe. They believe this is a more serious electorate that's actually tuning in.

But some people are preparing differently. Marco Rubio, for example, he's not preparing to go after anyone, not preparing to throw any attacks. He wants to be the nice guy sort of standing on the sidelines. So does Ted Cruz. Ted Cruz has not been critical of Donald Trump and tomorrow night he's not planning to do so at all. He wants to sort of be around where the collateral damage picks up.

But for others like Scott Walker, he was on top in the polls in Iowa. His clock is running. His donors are watching his campaign very carefully. I talked to one of his donors just a short time ago and he said, look, if Scott Walker does not sort of pick it up, bring it tomorrow night, we're not sure that he'll succeed. So those are some of the pressures facing these candidates in the next 24 hours.

[20:05:22] COOPER: Yes, I mean, the pressure is intense.

Jeff, appreciate it.

With us now is Dana Bash who's going to be asking some of the questions tomorrow night during the debate along with Hugh Hewitt and moderator Jake Tapper. Also joining us here is CNN senior commentator David Axelrod who was candidate Barack Obama's close campaign adviser, knows a thing or two about political moments like these. So does CNN political commentators Amanda Carpenter and Jeffrey Lord. She's a former communications director for Senator Ted Cruz. He served as political director in the Reagan White House. These days Jeffrey is a Trump supporter.

Dana, what is -- first of all, how are you preparing? But, what is your sense about tomorrow night? About the various strategies that these candidates are going to come to it at?

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think actually Jeff's reporting was fascinating to me because I've tried to pull back from my, you know, usual reporting on all the Republican candidates for obvious reasons because I want to really kind of keep a distance since I will be asking questions.

But I think, you know, doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that Donald Trump is going to be the guy to take down and in the last debate, only one candidate, maybe one-and-a-half, Rand Paul and a little bit of Chris Christie tried to do that.

COOPER: Right. Rand Paul right out of the gate.

BASH: Right out of the gate. He knew that that was his strategy. He wanted it get into the conversation and to go after Donald Trump. But I think the difference is then Donald Trump was on top but he didn't have a solid grip on it. He has a solid grip on it now. And so, there's no way that any of these candidates can ignore that and ignore the differences between the policies and that's what our goal is going to be is to get them to talk about the policies and debate one another on them.

COOPER: David, I mean, how -- if you had a candidate, Republican candidate going against Donald Trump, how would you advise them to deal with him? Because, I mean, Rand Paul went after him, didn't really work. Rick Perry went after him on his faith. That didn't work out. DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR COMMENTATOR: No, I know. I think you have

to be very careful. Look, I would say about Donald Trump that this has been the summer of Trump. He's eclipsed the entire Republican field. But like most eclipse is, if you stare at it, you can blind yourself. And they shouldn't be staring at Donald Trump. They should be thinking about the messages they want to impart, give people a sense of who they are, get those one or two lines that might be quoted.

Again, now, there may be some value in some of these candidates sparring with Trump, but I can see other candidates. Rubio has no reason to go after Trump because he's not going after the Trump voter. He's going after the center right voter who may be anti-Trump. So, same is true with Bush, although he for personal reasons may have to do it. Kasich, he should get the safe driver award for what he did in the last debate. I expect to see him do the same thing in this debate. So it depends on what your objectives are and which lane you're competing in.

COOPER: It is interesting, Amanda, because I mean, to David's point, so many of these candidates have had their messages eclipsed by Donald Trump in all of this. So I can understand David saying some of them just want to kind of get a couple lines in about who they are and defining themselves in front of this large audience.

AMANDA CARPENTER, FORMER COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR FOR SEN. TED CRUZ: Yes, but at the same time, I think playing it safe is a bad strategy because what voters like about Donald Trump is that he is fighting, no matter what the issue is he's fighting on something. And so, when you play it safe, look at what happened to Scott Walker. He's completely imploded. And I think it's because he hasn't been active on so many issues.

But what I think will make a breakout star in this debate is someone who puts the infighting aside and somehow rises above to a leadership level, someone who like Newt Gingrich in previous debates who can say I agree with candidate x, y, and z and as president I'll do this to address your concerns. That's leadership. That's what we need to see.

COOPER: Jeffrey, I mean, the latest poll from CBS, "The New York Times" actually shows a much closer race between Trump and Carson than previous polls. How does Carson try to capitalize on that tomorrow night?

JEFFREY LORD, FORMER REAGAN WHITE HOUSE POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Just be Ben Carson. I mean, I think it would be a mistake for him and his character to launch some sort of Bobby Jindal-style --

COOPER: People liked the Ben Carson they're seeing so far.

LORD: They like the Ben Carson they're seeing. And as I have suggested before on occasion, you know, out of these kind of scenarios in the past we've seen presidential tickets develop with the two top folks. This is, and I know David is laughing over here, but --

AXELROD: I was smiling.

LORD: I see this as a battle starting to become a battle between outsiders. And that the establishment folks, for reasons - and Jeff's report was very interesting. He was calling these people and they were saying, well, we're watching television. We are trying to see what people look like and how they side.

COOPER: That seems a problem.

LORD: Yes. If they don't know that, they shouldn't be in the race in the first place.

COOPER: But I mean, David, when you talk about authenticity, I mean, you were critical of the Clinton campaign recently in a tweet. To have a bunch of advisers telling other Republican candidates, you know what, you got to be angry.


COOPER: To have these guys on stage saying I'm angry --

[20:10:00] AXELROD: Very, very dangerous. You have to communicate the essence of who you are, and what makes you distinctive, and what you're offering. If you try to be a faux Donald Trump, you're not going to succeed.

But one thing I would say about where we are in the race. It's important to remember that four years ago at this time that Rick Perry was the Republican front-runner. And so, what happens in September is just -- we're in the early innings of the game. And for Ben Carson, this is a very challenging time because he's now the spotlight is on him and now people are going to want to hear more from him, more about who he is, his substantive ideas, and I think that's his biggest challenge in this debate.

COOPER: But when does the moment come that people want to hear substance from Donald Trump? Because I mean, we listened - you know, we played last night a speech he made, I mean, it was full of the same kind of stuff he's been saying, I mean, he didn't mention Carl Icahn again but he talks about getting great people to do negotiations, how stupid everybody is, how, you know, parasites the media are, all that sort of stuff, and people enjoy it but at what point do people want to hear, well, wait a minute, what do you actually mean take the oil from Iraq?

AXELROD: I think that happens. I think that happens over time. I think there are stages of a campaign. And as I've said before, this is the swimsuit competition. The talent rounds are coming. And people begin to look at these people as perspective presidents of the United States. And those are more exacting tests. So I think it will come. I don't think, trust me, I'll take care of it, it's going to be beautiful, you're going to love. It is going to pass, it's going to be terrific and huge. I don't think that's going to pass muster later in the process.

BASH: I think David's right. And obviously, you have been through this several times. I just say mostly in 2008. Once the field -- it's so big right now. Historically big. But once it narrows and assuming that Donald Trump still is in the race, and he's part of it narrowing, there's going to be more expected of him. It's going to be him versus let's just assume hypothetically him versus candidate x, they're going to have to really duke it out more specifically on issues and I think the voters are really going to at that point demand more. I think. Having said that, to your question about sort of the outsider issue, maybe it was --

COOPER: Jeffrey's.

BASH: Jeffrey was talking about. It's kind of unbelievable that even someone like Scott Walker who's not a Washington insider, he's never worked in Washington, but he's a career politician.


BASH: The idea he can't get traction on the I fought the fight and I've won the fight in the Midwest, you know, that he can't get traction on that says a lot about, I think, that the desire - and it's not just about outsider versus insider. It's about a new perspective. Somebody who's not a career politician. And that obviously is what's driving this.

COOPER: And, again, Donald Trump, expected to speak with the backdrop of a decommissioned naval vessel. We'll bring you some of that.

Dana bash, thank you, David Axelrod, Jeffrey Lord, and Amanda Carpenter.

A lot ahead. We're on for two hours tonight.

As Sara Murray reported at the top Trump critics say he only offers applause lines, dealing with the world's steps onto an old battleship tonight. As you heard, he is expected to lay out his view in greater detail. We'll see if that actually comes to pass. And we'll see if he's actually met by protesters. Several have already shown up.

Later with that new polling that shows Ben Carson on the move, the central question, does a good debate performance or even a bad one really move the numbers at this time in the race? Some of the answers may not be what you expect so prepared to be surprised ahead.


[20:17:21] COOPER: Good evening. We're at the Reagan library less than 22 hours from tomorrow night's debate surrounded by flowers and fountains in a quiet corner of southern California for the preparations are under way. Donald Trump meantime will be speaking shortly aboard a decommissioned World War II battleship the "USS Iowa" about 90-minutes' drive from us. There we have been told he'll speak in detail about the kind of foreign and military policy he'd pursue as president. If he does go into great detail it would be the first time. Until now. CNN's Tom Foreman reports the GOP front-runner has mainly spoken in sound bites.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: They rip us off. They take our money. They make us look like fools.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Donald Trump was talking about Iran and the nuke deal, but he might have been talking about any number of countries. On the trail he is relentlessly describe and criticizing the world, all of it according to Trump.

TRUMP: They're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime.

FOREMAN: His comments about undocumented Mexican immigrants have made headlines recently. But last year, he was railing against Russia.

TRUMP: I mean, Putin has eaten Obama's lunch. Therefore, our lunch for a long period of time.

FOREMAN: In Iraq and Syria, he has argued for vigorous bombing of assets held by ISIS.

TRUMP: I would bomb the hell out of those oil fields. I wouldn't send many troops because you won't need them by the time I got finished.

FOREMAN: He favors renews diplomatic relations with Cuba do though he insists there is and everywhere else the U.S. is making bad deals.

TRUMP: But I know the best negotiators in the world, and I'd put them one for each country, believe me, folks, we will do very, very well.

FOREMAN: And, of course, there is China. Trump has accused China of shady trade deals, manipulating currency and making off with Iraqi oil so many times an edited video has become an internet sensation.

TRUMP: China. China. China. China. Chin China.

FOREMAN: Mind you he's not really blaming the Chinese.

TRUMP: They have tough, smart people. It's time that we have tough, smart people because we're not going to be able to go much longer the way we're going right now.

FOREMAN: Still, the depth of Trump's knowledge is unclear. He says he follows many military entanglements by watching TV and when a radio host asked him about an elite Iranian military force, he seemed confused.

HUGH HEWITT, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: He runs the Quds forces.

TRUMP: Yes. OK. Right.

HEWITT: Do you expect --?

TRUMP: And I think they have, by the way, been awfully mistreated by us.

HEWITT: Not the Kurds. The Quds forces. The Iranian revolutionary guards Quds forces, the bad guys.


FOREMAN: Trump said he misheard but did not answer a basic question lingering over his campaign, for as much as Trump says about foreign affairs, how much does he really know -? Anderson.

[20:20:04] COOPER: All right. Tom, we'll see if he says more tonight. And tomorrow night on the debate stage.

Perspective now from CNN national security commentator Mike Rogers, a former Republican congressman, who chaired house intelligence committee. Also chief national correspondent John King joins us who is host of CNN's "INSIDE POLITICS" and chief political analyst, Gloria Borger.

You know, John, we're going to see Donald Trump on this decommissioned "USS Iowa." You know, you think back to obviously President Bush on an aircraft carrier. You think of Michael Dukakis on a tank. It can be a tricky thing to have, to use a military facility as a backdrop especially for a guy who, you know, had a number of deferments and hasn't really put much meat on the bone in terms of specifics.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It can be a tricky thing if we apply what we know from past campaigns. If we've learned anything about Donald Trump, we should be very careful about applying anything we know from past campaigns.

For George W. Bush, remember, he flew onto the aircraft carrier. He was in the flight suit. He had the mission accomplished banner. After the fact when things went south in Iraq that turned out that event was a debacle. And President Bush, former President Bush has noted that and said the staff made a big mistake putting the banner up there.

I was there the day Dukakis got on the tank, Governor Dukakis got on the tank, the war in Michigan. Chairman Roger home's state. And he didn't want to wear the helmet. But they told him he had to. Go tank ride with the helmet for safety purposes. Again, I remember, I was a print reporter at the time. And at Sam Donaldson to my right, and Chris Wallace to my left, and they just started cackling. That's what my first introduction to the power of television.


KING: So I remember that day very well.

But look. The rules are different when it comes for Donald Trump. We are all waiting for specifics, right? He says he will tell China to revalue its currency and they will. He will tell Mexico to pay for the wall and they will. He says he will get along with Vladimir Putin and Putin will send Edward Snowden here.

None of those things are likely to happen, if anyone is elected president even including Donald Trump. However, we can say these things and say these things and we have been. I think he's at 30 percent in the polls.

COOPER: Without a doubt.

Chairman Rogers, I mean, his policy, what he says he would do with ISIS, bomb the hell out of them, take Iraq's oil. He says there is no Iraq. There are no Iraqis. It's not a real country. He would send in U.S. oil companies. He would surround them with American troops and take the oil. Is that a policy? Does any of that make any sense?

MIKE ROGERS, FORMER HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: No. It's a bit heated rhetoric. And I do think he has time to recover and I'd be very fascinated to hear his speech tonight. He has got to start talking about a coherent national security plan. It is a number-one issue in Iowa amongst caucus goers. That's big. Same with New Hampshire, it is number two. Same with South Carolina, it is way up there.

He is going to have to go to those states and have real conversations about national security. The one thing that gets us in trouble are adversaries and our allies are watching this, too, so that heated overcharged rhetoric doesn't show leadership. Makes them uncomfortable and it's going to make voters uncomfortable.

COOPER: And yet, Gloria, in a lot of the polls when people are asked, who would do best on national security, Donald Trump is number one.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I was just going to say in a poll of likely Iowa caucus goers, the question was asked who is best able to fight terrorism. And the answer was Donald Trump. So Donald Trump supporters are not waiting for his national security reveal tonight. We're waiting for the reveal because they're going to support him because they think he's smart, and they think he can learn on the job and he'll hire smart people and he's a good negotiator.

I think those of us who are covered presidential campaigns are saying you need to have those specifics and I think in doing it tonight, by the way, it's smart. Because he knows he's going to get asked questions tomorrow night on national security and he can say, well, I just said it yesterday.

KING: But how specific does he need to be? In the sense, look where we're sitting. Look where we're sitting. Democrats in the 1980 campaign said Ronald Reagan was a little nuts, he was imbalance. He was going to start a nuclear war. He served two terms as president of the United States. He ended the cold war. The Berlin wall fell on his watch.

It's not so much about the specifics when you run for president. It's about do you project an image of leadership? And Trump has that right now in part because the grassroots of the Republican Party doesn't believe anything anybody with a title says.

Remember in presidential campaign, George W. Bush was going to focus on our hemisphere. 9/11 happened. Bill Clinton said he would stand up to the dictators in Damascus and the butchers in Beijing. Had very good relationship with the old man, (INAUDIBLE), in Syria, had a good relationship with the Chinese. So what candidate Barack Obama is going to be the peacetime president. And look what's happened.

COOPER: Close Guantanamo.

KING: And so, what they say in campaigns almost never happens when they're president. It's more about do you trust this person to have that job?

COOPER: You know, let me play devil's advocate here. There are many different leadership styles a president can have and Donald Trump says, look, I -- even if I don't know the information, I find the best people, I put them together and I'm going to find the general McArthur in the military. Is that a valid argument?

ROGERS: Well, if you -- this is what's interesting about the Trump rhetoric, if you will, on these issues. If you went out to a town hall today, these are the same kind of issues in the same context that you would hear coming back at you as a candidate for whatever office you are in. He is turning that around to his advantage.

The difference is, I think, at some point somebody is looking to the commander in-chief. We have huge problems internationally. So external factors will start putting pressure on presidential candidates as they go. This is like no other country in the world. They'll start commenting. His comment on Japan. I mean, he can recover from these things, but he is going to have to do it. He's going to have to make that calculation.

Now, he doesn't have to get in and tell you how he's going to defeat is. He doesn't have to tell you all five things he's going to do to China to get them back in line. He needs to give the sense of the country's certainty and how we will act with our allies and our adversaries. If he can accomplish that, he might do that tonight. And in the debate he could recover from his national security. I would argue he's had missteps.

[20:25:49] BORGER: But the question is when does he have to do that? In a presidential debate, when it's just two people, maybe you have to do it then. But at this point --

COOPER: Right, with 11 people on a stage --

BORGER: Exactly. And the Republican field is not exactly full of people with huge amounts of foreign policy experience. Lindsey Graham, second-tier candidate. Arguably has the most foreign policy experience. Marco Rubio touts his foreign policy experience but he's been in the Senate for less than one term. The problem for Republicans is that somebody's got to go up against Hillary Clinton who's a former secretary of state.

ROGERS: In 60 or 90 seconds, it's really hard to put any meat on any bone.

BORGER: That's why he's doing it tonight.

COOPER: But I mean, there is a Teflon quality to Donald Trump that we've all seen. It's all been commented on before. But, you know, he told Chuck Todd he gets a lot of his advice from watching military advisers on television. Clearly not, you know, General Mark Hurtling who we've had on who has talked about his Iraq policies as just a nonstarter. But that doesn't seem to have blinked to anyone - no one blinked an eye at that.

KING: No. And if you call around and say is he bringing people in, you will see having the Henry Kissinger meeting, the Mike Rogers meeting? Is he bringing in the old guard, the new guard of the Republican Party or the conservative movement or even outside entrust to give him briefings? And what you get is no, he does this his way. He does this his way. Now, if he keeps listening, you know, vice president Michigan, vice president Rogers may get the phone call when this one plays out. Again, it's unorthodox in every single way. So far it's working. If you're Donald Trump, if it isn't broke, don't fix it.

COOPER: Gloria, thank you, Mike Rogers as well. John King.

Just ahead, we are going to take you inside the air force one pavilion where the debates are going to begin less than 22 hours from now. It's an extraordinary room. An inside look at how and where it's all going to unfold.



COOPER: Welcome back. We're waiting for Donald Trump to speak sometime within the next hour from the deck of the old battleship Iowa not far from the port of Los Angeles. About 100 protesters are gathered there. We're live tonight from the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California. The next Republican presidential debate hosted by CNN now less than 22 hours way. At 6:00 p.m. Eastern, the four candidates whose poll numbers are lowest, they are going to face off first. Then at 8:00 p.m. Eastern, the main event, the top 11 candidates sharing the stage. Front-runner Donald Trump in the center spot, Ronald Reagan's Air Force One behind them all. It is an extraordinary venue. Our political director David Chalian has been overseeing all the preparations. He shows me where and how it will unfold tomorrow.

All right. You have 11 candidates all on the stage during the main debate. How did you organize it?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: It's all done by polling, Anderson. Donald Trump dead center, because he's the leader. Then you have Rand Paul all the way on this end, Chris Christie all the way on that end. As you climb the polls, you get closer to the center of the stage.

COOPER: So you got Rand Paul, Mike Huckabee over here. Marco Rubio. Ted Cruz.

CHALIAN: That's right.

COOPER: Ben Carson. CHALIAN: Yep.

COOPER: Donald Trump. Right in the center because he's leading in the polls.

CHALIAN: That's right.

COOPER: You also have Jeb Bush right to his left.

CHALIAN: And look at how far apart this is. They're not that far apart. They are pretty close to each other.

COOPER: If they start gesticulating, they're going to hit each other.

CHALIAN: That's right. This I think is one of the main events that everyone is sort of tuning in to see, right, the establishment guy that people thought might have the nomination locked up early, and the total insurgent front-runner who's been dominating. This is a moment to see how these two calibrate against each other.

COOPER: You also then have Scott Walker, Carly Fiorina, again first time she'll be on the main stage.

CHALIAN: That's right. That's going to be a whole different dynamic. Obviously not because she's the only woman on the stage, but because she wasn't here last time. And because you know Carly Fiorina, she doesn't shy away from a fight. She and Donald Trump have been skirmishing a little bit.

COOPER: No doubt about it. Then you have John Kasich and Chris Christie.

CHALIAN: Which I love also, because Chris Christie and Rand Paul way down there, they go at it a lot. I feel like when you're not on top of each other, it invites that real cross-stage debate even more so.

COOPER: Also there's a lot -- there's a good chance Chris Christie, Rand Paul, just as Rand Paul did in the first one, are going to go after Donald Trump.

CHALIAN: Right, no doubt. A lot of attacks will be coming to center stage.

COOPER: There's also going to be an earlier debate. We have some of the photographs, the four participants because Rick Perry dropped out. It will be Lindsey Graham, Bobby Jindal, Rick Santorum and George Pataki.

CHALIAN: That's right. The other podiums will go away, and you will just have the four sort of undercard debate.

COOPER: So this stage was built, so the backdrop, so in all the shots you'd see the plane, Air Force One.

CHALIAN: Exactly. So everything you're going to see on the stage during the debate, Ronald Reagan's Air Force One right behind them. COOPER: Let's walk over here and take a look at where the questions

are going to be asked from. So over here this is going to be Hugh Hewitt and Dana Bash.

CHALIAN: That's right. So one of the things when the Republican National Committee put the debates together, they said, hey, we want conservative journalists to be part of this as well from conservative media outlets. So Hugh Hewitt from Salem Radio will be participating in the questioning. And, of course, our chief political correspondent Dana Bash will be sitting here as well.

COOPER: And it's already interesting because Hugh Hewitt did an interview with Donald Trump a few days ago, Donald Trump went after him based on some of the questions that he felt were sort of gotcha questions. So it will be interesting to see that dynamic play out as well.

CHALIAN: It's one thing to do it over the phone and on the radio, and now they'll be within feet of each other.

COOPER: No doubt about it. Right over here this is where the moderator --

CHALIAN: Jake Tapper, this is where he's going to be. This will be his perch. As you can see, he'll be able to orchestrate the entire evening, he'll be able to look each one of these 11 folks in the eye and pose the tough questions to them.


COOPER: One of the things that sometimes doesn't come across in television, and I know from having moderated these debates in the past, is the level of pressure and tension on this stage is palpable for people in the room. The stakes are incredibly high.

CHALIAN: These debates are make-or-break moments for a lot of these campaigns, and so you can't get much higher than that when you're talking about stakes. And you are right. You can feel the temperature rise right here, and you just feel how focused they are in accomplishing their goals. I've never seen anything like it. If you don't have a chance to sort of sit right here, you sometimes don't get that feeling on television, but I do think even on television you're going to be able to see these guys size each other up and figure out how do I get my message out and how do I take that candidate down?

COOPER: It's going to be interesting. David, thanks.

CHALIAN: Thank you.

COOPER: Interesting, indeed. Tomorrow's debates here at the Reagan library could be pivotal for any one of the candidates. For those who are polling in the single digits, the pressure is mounting to try to build some kind of momentum. For front-runner Donald Trump, the challenge is to hang on to his lead, with Dr. Ben Carson now closer than ever on his heels. There's no doubt that debate can move poll numbers. Tom Foreman joins us again with a closer look at what happened after

the last debate.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Anderson, what a difference a debate makes. Before the last debate, if you had measured the strength of these campaigns based on the polls by the height of candidates, Donald Trump would have been ranked well above everyone else, at 18 percent. But they weren't that far behind. Bush was at 15 percent. Walker at 10 percent. The rest down in this area.

Everyone thought at that debate he might get knocked down a bit. That was not the case. After the debate, look what happened. Trump soared up even higher. So much so that even though Bush, for example, did not really change position much, the gap between them grew considerably. And now as we head into this debate, look where we are now. Trump has soared up to 32 percent. And everyone else is stuck down here at the bottom with the exception of Ben Carson, the only one who really seems to be threatening to get up into that stratosphere with Donald Trump.

You know what the difference has been? One key factor. If you go back to June and look at the favorability factor, how much people thought well of Donald Trump in the Republican Party, and people who leaned Republican, only 20 percent thought well of him. Many more disliked him. And he has completely reversed these numbers. So much that now he has a much higher favorability rating, much lower unfavorability, and that is why the specter of Donald Trump will rise even higher over this debate than it did the last one. Anderson?

COOPER: Yes, it's incredible how he's turned those numbers around. Thanks very much, Tom Foreman.

Just ahead with one debate under their belt, will Donald Trump's rivals change their tactics tomorrow? They are going to start throwing the first punch at the front-runner. Should they do that? Our political panel weighs in.



COOPER: Tough words for Donald Trump from Joe Biden tonight. Speaking to Latino leaders, the vice president did not mention the GOP front-runner by name, however it was unmistakable who he was talking about. Listen.


BIDEN: Folks, I don't want anybody to be down right now about what's going on in the Republican Party. I mean this sincerely now. This is not -- no, I'm being deadly earnest about this. I want you to remember, notwithstanding the fact that there's one guy absolutely denigrating an entire group of people, appealing to the baser side of human nature, working on this notion of xenophobia in a way that hasn't occurred in a long time since the Know-Nothing Party back at the end of the 19th century. Folks, the American people are with us. I know it doesn't feel that way, but I'm telling you, I'm telling you the American people agree with us.


COOPER: Mr. Biden went on to say the vast majority of Americans are in his words basically decent. Here in Southern California, some members of the Latino community are protesting tonight at the USS Iowa at the Trump event. Mr. Trump has just arrived. If there's one question every candidate but one is asking themselves tonight, it is this. How do I handle Donald Trump tomorrow night at right here at the Reagan Library? We've gotten more than a few clues from the campaign trail over the past few weeks. Take a look.


BUSH: He believes that he can insult his way to the presidency.

TRUMP: How can Bush be in first place? This guy can't negotiate his way out of a paper bag.

JINDAL: Donald Trump is a narcissist and he's an egomaniac.

FIORINA: Donald Trump is an entertainer.

GRAHAM: He is shallow, he is ill prepared to be commander in chief.

PAUL: What's Donald Trump known for? Buying and selling politicians.

TRUMP: Rand is weak on immigration, he's weak on the military. He's got no chance.

CARSON: Humility and the fear of the Lord. I don't get that impression with him.

TRUMP: Ben Carson, you look at his faith and I think you're not going to find so much.

BUSH: What am I supposed to call the guy, too? Donald? I mean?


COOPER: Should point out Dr. Carson basically apologized for making those comments and said he didn't want to get into a fight with Trump. Now, as you know, Mr. Trump often says he doesn't like to hit first, but if he's attacked, watch out. So where does that leave his rivals tomorrow night? What should their strategy be when they are standing next to him on that stage? It's a question for our panel. Joining me now, CNN political commentators Ana Navarro, Jeffrey Lord, and Michael Smerconish. Ana is a Jeb Bush supporter and a friend of Marco Rubio. Jeffrey is a Trump supporter. Michael is anchor of CNN's "Smerconish." Ana, for Jeb Bush and for the others, how do you deal with Trump tomorrow?

ANA NAVARRO, CNN COMMENTATOR: I think you can break down the field into three different segments, right? Those who want to get close to Trump, and that would be people like Ted Cruz, those who want to be neutral and just kind of stay off the radar, Chris Christie falls in that category. And those who have been taking him on on the trail. Carly Fiorina, Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio. I think he's going to go, you know, in Trump world there's two kinds of people. Those who like me and those who don't like me, and the ones that don't like me I'm going to attack.


So I think that, you know, there are some folks that are not preparing to take him on, because they haven't taken him on and they're not going to start tomorrow. And the ones that have know it's very likely that it is going to come their way. If you've been at the debate stage, you see just how incredibly close -- it's almost as close as, you know, we are. So if that attack starts between Trump and Carson and Jeb, who are flanking him, how do you not respond?

COOPER: Michael, you've talked --

NAVARRO: Going to make for good TV.

COOPER: No doubt. Michael, you talked about punching in your weight class. What do you mean by that?

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN ANCHOR: Well, I think tomorrow night no one should take any crap from Donald Trump, and far too many of them did for too long. I think Jeb was flatfooted initially with the way in which he responded to the Trump phenomenon. What occurs to me is that if Trump should stumble tomorrow night, it's not necessarily to Jeb's advantage. It's probably to Ben Carson's advantage. It's probably to Carly Fiorina's advantage, because there are several debates playing out on that stage tomorrow night. Not just one debate. And in the end, I believe there will be an establishment candidate. And it might be Jeb, or it might be Kasich or it might be Chris Christie, and there will be one of the mavericks. A Ben Carson, a Carly, or a Donald Trump. And that's the way this thing is being winnowed.

COOPER: Jeffrey?

JEFFREY LORD: Well, I actually used to share Michael's opinion it was going to be one of each. Now I'm not so sure.

COOPER: You think it might be a Dr. Carson and a Trump?

LORD: Correct. Correct. I think all the passion is right there. And these other folks, and I think in that same CBS poll, 37 percent had decided and there was 60 percent, something like that, I mean, a good percentage that hadn't decided, but I have this feeling that they're going to be gravitating to one of the other three.

COOPER: But we've seen this kind of passion before. I mean, you know, everybody has said before, Rick Perry was high up in the polls the last time around at this stage in the primary battle.

LORD: He -- I thought honestly, Anderson, he cratered relatively quickly. I don't think -- I mean, if there were Rick Perry rallies with 20,000 people in Texas --

COOPER: There were not.

LORD: Right. I just didn't see this here. I thought it was kind of overblown. I think this is the real thing here.

NAVARRO: Look, let's put things in perspective. No. 1, this is a different year, and Donald Trump is a different candidate. He's got money and he's got name I.D. and celebrity status that the others haven't. But at this time in different elections, Dick Gephardt was ahead, Hillary Clinton was 19 points ahead when she was running in 2008 at this point. Rick Perry was ahead by double digits. I don't think we're going to be discussing any of their presidencies as, you know, past presidencies in the near future.

SMERCONISH: I think this is also a reflection of what the Republican Party has become, where according to numerous studies, independents now outnumber in this country, people who would rather be identified as an independent than a d or an r, are now the most growing demographic we have. I think there's been an exodus of independent types from the GOP, and so the very passionate who are for Trump, who are for Carson, are what's left behind.

COOPER: You know, David Axelrod earlier obviously a Democrat was saying before that if you are some of these candidates, you don't go after Trump, you basically just try to use the limited amount of time you're going to get when there's 11 candidates on the stage to have one or two memorable lines to describe who you are. Because at this point, they've been completely eclipsed by Donald Trump, and to have such a large audience at least be able to discover a little bit about who they are, rather than them wasting time going toe to toe with somebody who's probably going to slaughter them in a knife fight.

LORD: This was already a television show called Survivor.

COOPER: Right.

LORD: And, you know, there was such an outrage at the, quote/unquote, political class that I'm not really sure what these people are going to do to hang on to be the last person standing to this. Because if as we heard tonight, their campaigns are looking at television for heaven's sakes and trying to figure out what people think so they can follow, which is in essence what they're saying, they're totally lost here when dealing with a Ben Carson or a Donald Trump. I mean, they're totally at sea. I might add that's why so many people in the base, if you will, have such contempt for these folks, because they think that's exactly what they do, they run a poll, they say I'll go this way, then they run another poll and say I'll go this way, and by the way we can't do what we said, anyway.

COOPER: Jeffrey Lord, Ana Navarro, Michael Smerconish. Thank you very much.

Coming up, tragedy out of the blue, near the Utah-Arizona border, flash flooding throws people from their cards, a rush of water left at least 15 people dead. We'll have the latest from the front lines.


COOPER: Welcome back. We're awaiting a speech from Donald Trump aboard the decommissioned USS Iowa. Mr. Trump expected to talk about what a lot of his supporters have been waiting for, namely his views and policies on national security. How specific he'll actually be, we'll have to wait and see. As we watch that live shot and wait for Donald Trump to take the stage, we want to turn to a story, a tragedy really that struck on Utah/Arizona border. A community where most people are members of the FLDS, Warren Jeffs' polygamist sect. At least 15 people were killed. Four are missing tonight. Kyung Lah reports.


KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A frantic search using heavy machinery or their own muscle. Volunteer Chris Wiler (ph) dug all night.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As I was digging through, I was picturing if it was one of my babies out there, and just wanted to keep pushing.

LAH: Desperate to find the women and their children, one as young as 4 years old, swept away in these rushing waters. They were in their cars when flash floods struck, caused by heavy rain in the mountains above this canyon town. As the search stretches into the morning hours, relatives and friends begin to line the muddy banks. Many in this community are members of Warren Jeffs' polygamist sect known as the FLDS. They learn three survived. The rest either missing or found dead.


Flash floods can overwhelm without warning as Lydia Wyler learns. She was recording this video, not worried at first --

LYDIA WYLER, WITNESS: At the time we were just awestruck. It was just amazing, just wow.

LAH: -- then this happened. When you saw those kids and the women coming out of that --

WYLER: I didn't realize until that time. Then all of a sudden, my heart started pounding, I was like, oh my goodness, this is, like, seriously dangerous. Then the vehicle started sliding.

LAH: All the victims in this car escape unharmed. But for the others missing on the banks of this river, a deeply religious community prays for a miracle.

Kyung Lah, CNN, Colorado City, Arizona.


COOPER: And the searches will go well into the night.

Coming up in the next live hour of 360, Donald Trump expected to speak any moment now aboard the USS Iowa in Los Angeles, and we'll also take a look at how Trump is faring amongst evangelical voters after his comments referring to communion as my little wine and my little cracker. He made those comments several weeks ago, and it certainly hasn't hurt him in the polls among evangelicals so far. What he said about forgiveness and the Bible also ahead.