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Hillary Clinton Still Leads in Latest Poll; Democratic Presidential Candidates Prepare for First Debate. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired October 12, 2015 - 20:00   ET


[20:00:07] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Erin, thanks very much. Good evening, everybody. Thanks for joining us live from outside the Wynn resort hotel in Las Vegas. We're live for the next two hours here. This time tomorrow night the Democratic presidential candidates will be on the stage inside behind me. Hillary Clinton will have the center podium because she is the highest in the polls. The newest CNN/ORC poll shows her with a commanding lead here in Nevada and in South Carolina, as well. Bernie Sanders will be standing to her right. Martin O'Malley to her left, Jim Web and Lincoln Chafee on the ends.

I will be moderating tomorrow's event starting at 8:30 p.m. eastern. Cheryl Crow will sing the anthem. She says she is excited to be there for the debate and certainly we are, as well.

Tonight, we will be talking about the candidates' road to Las Vegas, what they need to do tomorrow night and how they are getting ready tonight.

I want to start with Hillary Clinton, our CNN senior political correspondent Brianna Keilar joins me now.

So what does Hillary Clinton, Brianna, been doing in the last couple of days and what message has she been trying to get across?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: She's been down as we say in the last couple of days here. Last few days, actually, Anderson, she was campaigning last week in New Hampshire and Iowa. She met with Black Lives Matter activists. She was in D.C. on Thursday. And then she went down on Friday, Saturday, Sunday and so she's had some time to prep in earnest. Her message here unfold by a senior Clinton campaign aide is to try to cut through the politics. She's spent so much of this early part of her campaign dealing with this email controversy about her practicing on email while she was secretary of state. So she's hoping to use this moment where there are going to be so many people watching the debate to really kind of reset and connect with voters in a way that maybe she hasn't been able to up until now.

COOPER: How specifically has she been prepping for the debate the last couple days? You said she's been down. Has she been doing mock debates? Has she just reading research?

KEILAR: No, she's been doing all of this as we understand it. But she's been prepping in earnest doing really full on mock debating where she has been preparing with a team of very experienced debate folks. For instance, she's been working with really they are lawyers, they are litigators. So these are people who are really good at asking question, who are good at answering questions who are really good of finding kind of holes I think in some of the arguments that she may have. And these are people with a lot of experience preparing President Obama, you know, back in 2012 for his debate performances. Shoes bee so she's been working with a team and they have been standing in, some of them is Bernie Sanders. One standing is Martin O'Malley and it's a little different perhaps than some of the other Democratic candidates, Anderson.

COOPER: And we understand that Hillary and Bill Clinton arrived in Los Vegas just a couple of hours ago. Do we know what they are doing the night before the debate?

KEILAR: We have no idea. In fact, we didn't actually know that Bill Clinton was going to be coming here to Las Vegas with Hillary Clinton. We asked and the campaign did not tell CNN but our entrapped producer who was there on scene at the airport was able to catch a glimpse and let us know. But what is she doing as she really gets ready for this big moment tomorrow with so much pressure on her? We don't know. We certainly know that she will be surrounded by some of her very close advisors, as well as her husband.

COOPER: All right. Brianna Keilar, thanks for the detail details.

Bernie Sanders, of course, trailing Hillary Clinton to polls. But since he announced his candidacy in April, his supporters grown from six percent to 24 percent of registered Democratic voters. His campaign appearance as you know draws massive crowds.

Jeff Zeleny joins me now with more on Sanders's road to the debate.

Where has Bernie Sanders been and what has he been doing in the days leading up to this?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Right before this he has done what he's been doing all summer, attracting tens of thousands of supporters. He was in Tucson, Arizona on Friday and then in Boulder, Colorado on Saturday. Of course, these are college towns, liberal audiences that really get all these people fired up.

But he has been doing what he has been doing. He has been talking about the economy, why he would be a stronger advocate, a better advocate. He also is bringing up the Iraq war. On Saturday, it is on a very interesting. He pointed that look, I voted against the Iraq war in 2002. So that is something I presume that he wants to bring up to this debate.

COOPER: Obviously, Secretary Clinton did not do that and that's a clear distinction.

ZELENY: Right. And she calls it one of the biggest regrets of her time in the Senate. But he is supportive pointing out the differences the two. But he is not been doing a normal debate prep session that Hillary Clinton has been doing. COOPER: He is not. He's not doing mock debates with tough mock trial


ZELENY: He is not at all. He has just been hold up in his hotel room here in Las Vegas since Saturday night with his wife Jane. He is one of his closest advisors. She sort of helps him with briefing books. His two sons are here. So he has been doing a little bit more in the last day, I'm told, but he is just being Bernie Sanders. I think you will now see a scripted Bernie Sanders out there on the stage tomorrow. He sort of like professor. When you see him out there on the road, people really are drawn to him. He's not a classic rock star, but he is, people like this unpolished Bernie Sanders.

[20:05:14] COOPER: The question is will anybody else on that stage feel the burn? Will they be the subject of, you know, of his attention?

ZELENY: Probably not. I mean, he's saying he's not going to bring up Hillary Clinton by name. He's not attacked her at all really the whole year. He points out some differences, I think he'll do a little more of that, but one of the top advisors says they want to show he's a serious candidate with main stream American values.

The translation of that is yes, he's a socialist Democrat from Vermont but look, he could win a general election. That's his burden tomorrow to show that he is a main stream candidate.

COOPER: It is interesting, though, I mean, this is a guy who has done a lot of debates, obviously, in Vermont. He has an accomplished debater but not on the national stage like this.

ZELENY: And I counted it up. She did some 25 debates in that 2008 cycle that went on and on and on as we all remember. So she is so much more practiced on this big debate stage. But he's been in the Senate a long time. It is not that much different. So I think it will be an interesting evening. And, of course, Martin O'Malley and others as well will also want to have some fireworks.

COOPER: All right, Jeff Zeleny, thank you very much.

Joining me now, the A-team of political commentary even though all their names start with B. Contributing editor at "the Atlantic Peter Beinart, Democratic strategist Paul Begala, he is co-chair a pro- Hillary Clinton super PAC. He was longtime advisor to President Bill Clinton in the 1990s, democratic strategist Donna Brazile, vice-chair of the DNC voter project and CNN chief of political analyst Gloria Borger.

Peter Beinart, I mean, what are you expecting for tomorrow? For Hillary Clinton what constitutes a win in this debate?

PETER BEINART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: She's had a very bad summer. But I think the good news for her is that people have forgotten how good a debater she is. She's a very good debater. She was much better debater than Barack Obama during much of that cycle in 2007, 2008 and it is because she is well prepared and she knows the issues very well. So I think to the degree she can get past the scandal and actually show what is her greatest strength? That she would be a capable president because she is actually a well-informed substantive person who was with views. I think it may help to get her beyond what is in a very tough patch.

COOPER: You know, Gloria, I hear people talking about this debate as a chance to kind of reintroduce herself. We have heard that, though, time and time and time again about Hillary Clinton as a candidate. This is a reintroduction.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: It's hard when you've been in politics for 30 years to reintroduce yourself yet again to the American public but her staff likes to say she's the most famous person you don't know. And what she's got to do is remind people why they are or should be excited about her candidacy. Because when you want to support someone, you want to be excited about them. You don't want to kind of hold your nose and vote for them. And she has, as Peter points out, had a terrible summer. So again, it is another opportunity to press the reset button one more time.

COOPER: Paul, you had some thoughts. What does Hillary Clinton need to do?

PAUL BEGALA, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: She needs to connect. She's got great ideas. They have not connected with voters. She needs to have a lot of problems and bumps along the road. That's the most important thing is to connect that the idea she believes in with the people because she believes people want to hear about her ideas, especially middle class wages. That's the single most important issue of Democrats.

COOPER: You tweeted out you had a one-word solution.


COOPER: This is what her strategy to what? Win the debate.

BEGALA: Win the debate. Win the election. So Hilary, if you're watching, she never misses a show. Vodka.

COOPER: Vodka.

BEGALA: Vodka.

COOPER: Vodka.

BEGALA: Hillary, I had the pleasure to have drinks with her. She likes a little vodka martini once in a while. She once drank John McCain under the table in Brussels.

COOPER: So you are saying drink before the debate?

BEGALA: A couple of shots of vodka. Loosen her up. Zest a funny person that never comes out in public. God forbid you actually show personality in the debate, right? Have a pop beforehand just kind of to loosen up. COOPER: We'll put some vodka in the room.

COOPER: Donna?

DONNA BRAZILE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Hey Anderson, if we have vodka and you're the moderator, just bring a six-pack and we will have a wonderful conversation because I believe that Hillary is comfortable when she's able to talk about issues, when she can talk about the people she wants to fight for.

And I also believe that she is comfortable in a debate where perhaps the other participants on the stage disagree with it because she is battle tested. So whether it is foreign policy where there will be disagreements among the Democrats, even in domestic issues where we might have a different approach, candidate by candidate she's ready. But you know what? You got to worry about the two book ends. You got Mr. Chaffee and --

COOPER: Jim Webb.

BRAZILE: And Jim Webb. And you know what? They are not going to sit there and let all the attention go to senator run. They want to get into the game. They want to be known. They want to introduce themselves. And I guarantee you Martin O'Malley which is an underdog you stop will make a way to get into the conversation.

BORGER: The interesting thing for those candidates is they have got nothing to lose, right? They can attack Hillary Clinton. Bernie Sanders does not want to attack Hillary Clinton and he won't and he hasn't been doing it because he has something to lose if he does that. What does Jim Webb have to lose if he says where were you on the Iraq war for example? You know. I mean, so that could be sort of the unknown thing here.

[20:10:09] BEINART: And that's what they all have in common. Webb was against Iraq, Chafee was against Iraq, Sanders was against Iraq. Remember what happened to Hillary against Barack Obama when they ganged up. If they go after her, Webb might be a lot tougher than Sanders, but all of them that could be an important moment.

BEGALA: Could be good for Hillary. This city of Las Vegas was built on the question, what do I got to lose? A lot of people went broke.

COOPER: I want everybody to stay with us here. There is a lot more ahead. We want to take a look at a number of issues. We are going to look at the latest polling, obviously. John King is going to join us with where exactly the candidates stand by the numbers going into this debate.

Also ahead, as the Democrats but turn, that doesn't necessarily mean it will be foot loose and trump free. We'll look how Donald Trump has already weighed in on the Democratic field when we continue.


[20:14:42] COOPER: Good evening. We're live from Las Vegas where the candidates will take the stage in the Democratic presidential debate about 24-hours from now. As I mentioned, the polls or how CNN determine who is going to be center stage at tomorrow's debate. And that of course will be Hillary Clinton.

John King joins me with a closer look where we stand by the numbers.

John, thanks for being with us. So Clinton has a solid lead. Let's look at the key states right now.

[20:15:06] JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: No question, Anderson. With that national lead, you have to call her the front- runner. But when you look and do go state by state, and that's nomination have decided, you do see she's facing a very tough some say surprising challenge from senator Sanders.

Let's start in Iowa. Iowa votes first. This is the Real Clear Politics average of several of the most recent polls. Clinton still leading in Iowa according to this average, but not by held a lot there, 37-31, the vice president at 15. That's the first state Iowa. Remember where Barack Obama stunned her in 2008.

New Hampshire which Clinton won in 2008, this one is interesting. Sanders from neighboring Vermont now on average at 39 percent to 30 percent for Clinton. Some poll haves shown even a bigger Sanders lead, Anderson. New Hampshire appears to be a trouble state for Secretary Clinton.

Then though, and we have brand new CNN/ORC numbers out today, she does appears to have a bit of a firearm. Nevada and South Carolina come next.

Let's go to South Carolina first. Look at this, 49 percent with the vice president in the race for Secretary Clinton, 49-24-18 for senator Sanders. But look at this without vice president Biden. Hillary jumps up dramatically in South Carolina to 70 percent. So at the moment, South Carolina looks like a good fire wall state and the debate will be out of Nevada, also early and important in the primary process. Again, if you are running in any election, you like to be at 50 or above, Secretary Clinton 50 in Nevada. That's a very strong number in our new poll. Sanders at 34. Biden at 12. If the vice president stays on the sidelines, Anderson, look at this. Secretary Clinton jumps up to 58 percent there.

So she is strong in the later states. The question is would a setback in Iowa or New Hampshire affect the numbers?

One last one, just because it is new today, a new poll from the race in the state of public policy in Virginia usually more of a general election battle ground in the primaries, but there 40 percent for secretary Clinton, 23 percent both for Sanders and Biden. This lead down from one several months ago. But if you look at it, Iowa and New Hampshire very tough states for Secretary Clinton. She does appear, Anderson, subject to change. Once people start voting sometimes things change and she does appear to have a later state fire wall.

COOPER: So John, I mean, if she is or her campaign is studying these numbers and of course, somebody there is, if she is in herself, what are her big debate goals?

KING: A little bit as you discussed in the last block, in any debate you want to fortify your strengths and you want to address your weakness. It is her biggest strength especially when you get out of Iowa and New Hampshire non-like voters.

Look at this just in South Carolina alone. Among African-Americans in our new poll in South Carolina, Secretary Clinton gets nearly 60 percent, sixth in tenths with the vice president in the race. If Joe Biden doesn't run, she jumps up to 84 percent. She wants in this debate to increase her strength, fortified his strength with Latinos and African-Americans. Other strengths, she is viewed as best able to handle big issues. So as you just heard Peter Beinart, she discussed it. Talk about the economy. Talk about health care. Talk about the middle class. Talk about foreign policy. She's perceived as a stronger candidate and this number goes up and down depending what state you are looking at. But generally she is considered the strongest general election candidate for the Democrats. She wants to make the case. This is much optics and tone as anything else that you want me on this stage against a Republican next November.

And of course, she wants to address her weaknesses. These are more general election issues than they are Democratic primary issues, Anderson. But even in the Democratic numbers, you see some doubts about honestly, higher unfavorable ratings than when she run the last time around and lower empathy scores meaning does she care about people like me, the needs of people like me. Look for her to try to address these as well in the big first debate.

COOPER: What about Sanders? Is he as big a threat as Obama was at this point in 2007?

KING: Secretary Clinton's strength among non-white voters after Iowa and New Hampshire, make you say no on paper to that question. No, if you look at it. But if you come and look at Bernie Sanders, he's a real threat especially if he can somehow win Iowa and then New Hampshire, then you see if all those later numbers change. So what he is trying to do, fortify his strengths and unify the liberal Democratic base around him.

He is going to say I'm Mr. Authenticity. I was here on the minimum wage way before anybody else on the stage. I was here on these healthcare issues, a single payer healthcare, way to the left even of President Obama.

Democrats see him as more in touch with their core Democratic values. His populist economics especially going after the big banks is something he wants to talk about, his anti-war record vote against the Iraq was which she is raised in recent days. Remember that from 2008, he wants to talk about that especially among anti-war activists in Iowa in early states. And he has been attracting like senator Obama did, Anderson, younger voters. He wants to use this big national platform to try to spread that. It has been working in Iowa and New Hampshire. He wants to attract younger voters elsewhere, as well.

COOPER: John, appreciate it. Thanks for the numbers. Back with our panel. Peter Beinart, Paul Begala, Donna Brazile and

Gloria Borger as I like to call them now, the killer Bs. All Bs. Anyway. Gloria -- Donna, when you look --

BRAZILE: You can call me Gloria. That's your mother's name.

COOPER: It is my mom's name. And I know you like my mom.

When you look at Sanders' numbers in South Carolina among African- Americans, I mean, Secretary Clinton decimates him among African- Americans. Her support is overwhelming, particularly if Biden isn't in the race. How does he begin to change that because that's essential if he wants legs beyond Iowa and beyond New Hampshire.

BRAZILE: There is no question Bernie Sanders has been a champion for civil rights and equality--

[20:20:05] COOPER: Going back, he was sitting at the University of Chicago to desegregate housing.

BRAZILE: He's been a champion but he's also been a senator of Vermont. You been to Vermont lately? OK, every time I go there I double the black population. He needs to campaign in the black community and campaign all across America. He needs to tell them about his record and you know, he may, you know, move up a little bit. Let me just tell you, Hillary Clinton is considered a sister. I don't know if you all know what that means.

COOPER: She's done the work, been there.

BRAZILE: Yes. She was married to the first black president. She's a sister, OK? No matter how we dice it and slice it, she is somebody who is not just comfortable talking about these issues, he has been a long-time champion, she has been a fighter for really tough issues in the black community. Talking about criminal justice reform, talking about economic issues, talking about child care, she's a champion.

She's a sister because people know that she has their back. And that's why she's up there -- look, remember, she was beating President Obama back eight years ago and Paul and I had a little fight, a little dust up, do you remember? A little family fight. But you know what? The truth is, people respect her work and they know that she will fight for equality for all people.

COOPER: So Paul, I mean, when you look at senator Sanders issues within the African-American community and Democratic Party with so many non-white voters in the Democratic Party beyond Iowa and New Hampshire, does he have a campaign?

BEGALA: He has a case and he can make it. But I got to point out Hillary has the record. Not that Bernie has any bad votes at all, but she was a senator from New York. You set aside who her husband was. You can't be a senator from New York and not put together multiracial, multi-ethic collations. That's the whole point of New York. And so, she's enormously comfortable in community with those issues and I think that's going to stand her in good step. COOPER: When we looked -- we saw the numbers for if Joe Biden does

not enter the race, it seems like in a number of states it breaks for Hillary Clinton certainly in South Carolina and elsewhere. What about in Iowa and New Hampshire? In New Hampshire where Bernie Sanders is in the lead. If Biden doesn't enter the race, do you think those Biden votes go to Hillary Clinton?

BORGER: Well, Look. If Biden enters the race, it's a problem for her, I believe. Paul I know disagrees with me. But, you know, I think that New Hampshire right now is Bernie Sanders. It's a Bernie Sanders state and -- are you disagreeing with me?


BORGER: Yes, it's a Bernie Sanders state. Iowa is another question. My question about Hillary Clinton is not that she -- Donna is absolutely right. That's why she is got to fire wall in the South. The question that I have is what happens to a campaign if by chance you lose Iowa and you lose New Hampshire? What then happens to Bernie Sanders or if Joe Biden gets in and turns it all upside down? I don't know the answer.

BEINART: But I think there is something else important to remember, we think that everyone knows Bernie Sanders. They don't. They know him in New Hampshire and Iowa. But if you look the national polls, about a third of Americans are undecided about him. They don't even know who the guy is. That's his opportunity tomorrow night. If he can make his case well as a populist champion, the one guy who can really change this, who is not in the pocket of rich people which is something. And even a lot of republican believe, we have a corrupt political system, then potentially he can begin to break beyond what is now his liberal white base.

BORGER: And that's what he is going to talk about. I was talking to one of his advisors today. He is going to talk about what he calls the rigged economy, which is bolstered by this corrupt political finance system. Hillary Clinton of course has a huge super pact. Bernie Sanders funded by small donations. I wouldn't be surprised if he gives you his, you know, address to just kind of fund him when fear. And I think he's going to try and draw the distinctions that way and it be very effective.

COOPER: Do you believe - I mean, Bernie Sanders, you know, we're hearing from his people and just as he has not done on the campaign trail, he is not going to be attacking Hillary Clinton.

BEGALA: I believe it.

COOPER: You believe it.

BRAZILE: Very classy politician.

BEGALA: But I like attacks and they should not be off limits, OK, seriously? But he is smart. Democrats, this is a big way my party is different from Republicans. Right now Democrats actually love their leaders. The president has an 85 percent approval rating. Hillary has got like 75. Democratic congressional leaders have like 65. So we like our party.

And the reason Bernie is not attacking Hillary, first, he has never done it. He had been running for office since 1973, had never run a negative ad. In this cycle, it is a very different situation. Usually the Democrats who, you know, form a circular party and hate themselves. This time it's a love fest and this will be a remarkably positive debate because of that.

BORGER: But don't you think he can point out the differences how he has been consistent over the years and how Hillary Clinton has been inconsistent --?

BRAZILE: He can point that out but she can also point out she's been a principle pragmatist who has gotten things done. Look, we don't disagree on the direction that the country should go and we disagree on how fast and how far and how to achieve the goals, climate change being a perfect --

COOPER: So you don't think she's vulnerable on the changes just in the last weeks or months.

[20:25:00] BRAZILE: Look, I think everyone needs to explain their positions whether on marriage equality or, you know, the trade vote. But you know, many of these issues, it's not right versus left, the Democrats. It is right versus wrong. And I think she has every opportunity tomorrow.

You know what, Anderson? I think she should bring it up before you can even just relax on stage, she should figure it, Anderson. They have been talking about me about my email drama. She should bring it up. She should hit it right up front about what the Republicans have done on Capitol Hill to try to bring her down. And she should not back down from the fight. And if I was her tomorrow, I would do more than have a quote-unquote "glass of what you know what."

I would bring my A-game on and let you know that no one is going to tear down her record of service, you know, simply because she made those stupid error with her email server.

COOPER: We will see what happens tomorrow. I want to thank our panel. We are going to talk about that.

Next, what a bombshell acquisitions by a Benghazi committee whistle blower could mean for Hillary Clinton and what President Obama said about her use of a personal email account. That's next.



COOPER: On the eve of the first Democratic presidential debate here in Las Vegas tomorrow night starting at 8:30, according to reports, Hillary Clinton is facing the imminent release of another batch of e- mails from her private account when she was secretary of state. Now, as you know, her use of that e-mail account has become a focus of attacks by her critics and Republican opponents on the campaign trail. In an interview that aired last night on "60 Minutes" President Obama addressed the attention the e-mail controversy has been getting.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: This is one of those issues that I think is legitimate, but the fact that for the last three months this is all that's been spoken about is an indication that we're in presidential political season.

STEPHEN CROFT, CBS ANCHOR: Do you agree with what President Clinton has said and Secretary Clinton has said that this is not that big a deal? Do you agree with that?

OBAMA: Well, I'm not going to comment on ...

CROFT: You think that's not that big a deal?

OBAMA: What I think is that it is important for her to answer these questions to the satisfaction of the American public and they can make their own judgment. I can tell you that this is not a situation in which America's national security was endangered.


COOPER: President Obama's comments come on the heels of Kevin McCarthy's remarks about Clinton's poll numbers falling as a result of the House select committee's Benghazi investigation. He later admitted his remarks were a factor in bowing out of the race for House speaker. He also said he didn't mean to suggest that the committee was targeting Clinton for partisan reasons. Yesterday, though, a former investigator for the committee dropped a bombshell on CNN "State of the Union" with Jake Tapper, accusing the Republican-led panel of doing just that, turning a fact-finding mission into investigation focused solely on Clinton and the State Department. It's an accusation that committee chairman Trey Gowdy vehemently denies. Here is what Bradley Podliska told Jake Tapper.


BRADLEY PODLISKA: I have a conscience. There is wrongdoing here, and I think it needs to stop. And I do not want the investigation to end. I want the investigation to be refocused back to its original purpose. The victim's families are owed the truth and as it stands now, they aren't going to get the truth. Hillary Clinton has a lot of explaining to do. We, however, do not need to shift resources to hyper focus on Hillary Clinton. We didn't need to de-emphasize and in some cases drop the investigation on different agencies, different organizations and different individuals.


COOPER: Mr. Podliska was fired in June. He says he lost his job in part because he refused to focus his investigative efforts on Clinton and the State Department. Mr. Gowdy says that he never voiced his concerns or objections. Next week for the first time, Hillary Clinton will testify before the committee. There's a lot to talk about their panel. CNN political commentators Kevin Madden joins me and Paul Begala is back with us. Paul is co-chair of a pro-Hillary Clinton super-PAC and advisor to President Clinton in the '90s. We heard President Obama there saying this is something that needs to be addressed, but that national security wasn't violated. How can he say there's not a national security problem if his own Justice Department is still doing investigations?

PAUL BEGALA, CNN COMMENTATOR: Well, he certainly has more and better facts than I do, and Hillary needs to send him a bouquet of roses. That was as calm a defense. You know, a lot of Democrats panic, and my people are kind of weak that way, and here is the president of the United States, most beloved Democrat in America, saying everybody calm down, national security was not compromised.

COOPER: I don't get how he can say that for sure if there is a department --

BEGALA: He's got pretty high security clearance. My guess is he knows.

COOPER: But there is an ongoing Department of Justice investigation, and he's what, getting e-mails about it?

BEGALA: I have no idea is the honest answer. But he's the best and most credible person that Hillary could ever hope for to defend her on this, and I thought he did a magnificent job.

KEVIN MADDEN, GOP STRATEGIST: But he did say Hillary Clinton has to answer these questions to the satisfaction of the American public, and I think up to this point, she has not. He's not the arbiter here. The ultimate arbiter I think will be the public when they render electoral judgment on Hillary Clinton, but also the investigators. You're right, Anderson. There are investigations going on right now. They will decide whether or not in a non-partisan way -- whether or not there were violations or there was some wrongdoing here, and that's ultimately where the test will be.

COOPER: Do you think at this point, though, the fact that you had this guy coming out saying this, you have the comments that McCarthy made, that now Secretary Clinton is on much safer footing?

BEGALA: Absolutely. It's gone from being a shield to being a sword. This never happens in life. You remember in "Annie Hall," they are waiting in line at the movies and the guy is bloviating about Marshall McLuhan, and --

COOPER: I happen to have Marshall McLuhan right here.

BEGALA: He says you know nothing of my work. People like me sitting there watching this, saying this is obviously a partisan deal. I've been through a lot and I know and can tell. But now an investigator, a Republican major in the Air Force has stepped forward and said, I was one of the investigators and I'm telling you it was a partisan investigation. That never happens in real life, and it did, and I think this makes this a win for Hillary, not a loss.


COOPER: You say she still needs to answer questions. Hasn't she been asked just about every question there is on this subject?

MADDEN: She has, and one of the big problems she's had and the reason that this problem has festered is that every time she gives an answer, subsequently the facts don't add up, and that's why she's continued to have these trustworthiness problems from her campaign. I think these are serious charges that the investigator has made, and there are legitimate questions that have to be asked. I think Trey Gowdy has to continue to make the focus on the fact that, you know, I thin the charge that this has been hyper focused on Hillary Clinton, the State Department (inaudible). Hillary Clinton as secretary of state has been a big focus of this for a reason, because she was involved with the decision-making that took place with regards to what happened in Benghazi. So I think that the public is not going to reject this the way that Paul has said, that they will want to continue to see these answers.

COOPER: You know, much was made, I think it was a Quinnipiac poll, in which 69 percent in a general election said that Hillary Clinton, that she's untrustworthy. When you actually break down the numbers, among Democrats, it's overwhelmingly positive, that I think was like 70 percent or something, I might be wrong a few percentage points, believe she's trustworthy, but among independents, she does seem to have a big issue here. Clearly among Republicans she has an issue but even among independents.

BEGALA: There's clearly work to do. The debate is one opportunity to do that. Again, if I were advising her, I'd say pick up this sword now, and show that this -- the reason they keep hearing these bad things about you is a partisan investigation is leaking --


COOPER: But hasn't she done that time and time again? Blame--

BEGALA: Because it's true. I lived through that. Do you think Ken Starr was on the level? Hell no! It was a completely partisan deal. So is this. We have an investigator himself saying it. A Republican investigator on a Republican committee says it's a Republican hatchet job. What the hell? Maybe I believe him.

MADDEN: This is why it will continue to be a problem for Democrats. Democrats keep saying that Hillary Clinton needs a better strategy with answering this, and once she gets a better strategy, she will be fine. The problem for Hillary Clinton is that her story doesn't add up. Time and time again, as there are questions about the e-mails, what she knew, when she knew it, what (inaudible), the answers have been refuted by -- I'm sorry, her answers have not added up to what she said previously. So that's the problem. Hillary Clinton's story not holding up to the scrutiny.

COOPER: You say jump on this, use this. BEGALA: Yes, because to use a different metaphor (ph), it has jumped

the shark. The Republicans as they always do -- I said this months ago to you - hide and wait. The Republicans will overplay their hand. You know, Benghazi is a legitimate issue to -- not the e-mails, Benghazi to investigate. It's been investigated seven times before this committee. And important findings were made, and Hillary made 29 different changes because of that, because there was clearly a crisis, and now they made it a partisan thing. It's not going to help.

COOPER: Paul Begala, thank you. Kevin Madden as well. Just ahead, Donald Trump facing some tough crowds, and some tough questions in New Hampshire today. See how he handled that when we continue from Las Vegas.



COOPER: We're back. In New Hampshire today, Republican front runner Donald Trump fielded questions at an event that was hosted by the bipartisan group No Labels, where some skeptics in the audience pressed him over his what they say was a polarizing tone and his positions. It was not the adoring type of crowd he is used to speaking in front of, and that was not the only thing that was unusual about the event. Trump was one of eight candidates from both parties who took part in the day-long convention. Our political reporter Sara Murray joins me now. So let's talk about it. Today was a different kind of event for him today. How did he play with the partisan crowd or bipartisan crowd, I should say?

SARA MURRAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You are absolutely right, Anderson. Usually he shows up and it's a rally of thousands of adoring fans. Today he was talking to skeptical and in many cases undecided New Hampshire voters, people who take their role in the nominating process very seriously, and he got a number of combative questions, including one about how he would treat women.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If you become president, will a woman make the same as a man, and do I get to choose what I do with my body?


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You're going to make the same if you do as good a job. You're going to make the same if you do as good a job, and I happen to be pro-life. Okay? I'm pro-life.


MURRAY: Now even though we don't tend to see Trump under these circumstances, he actually did a pretty adept job of pairing these questions. You see there, he just said I'm pro-life and left it there. There are a lot of Republican strategists who would like to see more Republican candidates answer the question that way and then simply leave the issue alone, Anderson. COOPER: Today's event was about compromising, about politicians

trying to work across the isle. Did Donald Trump convince voters that he's able to do that?

MURRAY: I think that was a big question on a lot of people's minds there. Can this guy, who is known for being sort of the insulter in chief of the GOP field, also be a guy who brings together both sides of the aisle? And he talked a lot about his business experience, about the different deals he's done as an example of how he would behave as president. And look, there are some voters who say they have seen him on "The Apprentice" or they read "The Art of the Deal," and they actually believe that could be the case, but I think there were a number in the crowd today who still left skeptical.

COOPER: All right, Sara Murray, appreciate it, thanks.

Tomorrow night of course we'll see if the - or any gloves come off at the first Democratic presidential debate, and if they do, who will target whom? Many expect that Donald Trump may be a punching bag among these candidates tomorrow night. After all he is the Republican front runner, he's been taking swings across the aisle for months now. Gary Tuchman tonight has some highlights.


GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: When it comes to insulting people running for president, Donald Trump is bipartisan. Democrats in the race are increasingly hearing the verbal invectives of the businessman from New York. There is Hillary Clinton.

TRUMP: Here is woman cheating the United States government for years with her e-mails.


TUCHMAN: There's Bernie Sanders.

TRUMP: I don't want to run against Bernie. It's too easy, right? Bernie? Some people say communist, some people say socialist. I don't know. I've always wanted to run against the socialist-slash- perhaps communist, right?

TUCHMAN: There is Martin O'Malley.

TRUMP: I thought when O'Malley made the statement that black lives and he said white lives matter, all lives matter, he was ...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Then he apologized.

TRUMP: And then he apologized like a little baby, like a disgusting little -- weak little pathetic baby and that's the problem with the country.

TUCHMAN: Donald Trump has never been a shy man, but his rhetoric during his campaign while striking many as juvenile has also helped propel him to front runner status. In Georgia this past weekend. TRUMP: I can tell you this, if that were a Republican that did what

she did with the e-mails, they would have been in jail 12 months ago.

TUCHMAN: Among the Democrats, Hillary Clinton by far has been his main rhetorical target.

TRUMP: Hillary Clinton, by the way, was the worst secretary of state.

Easily, she's the worst secretary of state in the history of our country.

She goes down as perhaps the worst secretary of state in history.

TUCHMAN: Sanders got some Trump vitriol after Black Lives Matter demonstrators came on stage at one of his rallies and took the microphone.

TRUMP: I would never give up my microphone. I thought that was disgusting. That showed such weakness, the way he was taken away by two young women, the microphone. They just took the whole place over.

TUCHMAN: Trump tweets his insults, too. "Hilary said such nasty things about me, but directly off a teleprompter, but there was no emotion, no truth, just can't read speeches." Trump has even made allegations against Hillary Clinton on a topic that he made famous.

TRUMP: You know that Hillary Clinton was a birther, she wanted those records and fought like ...

TUCHMAN: Donald Trump keeps saying this:

TRUMP: I get along with Democrats, I get along with Hillary, I got along with Bill. I got along with ...

TUCHMAN: But that was then.

TRUMP: She's not doing so well. I mean, honestly, she shouldn't be allowed to run.


TRUMP: No, she shouldn't be.

TUCHMAN: This is now.

TRUMP: No, she shouldn't be.

TUCHMAN: Gary Tuchman, CNN, Atlanta.


COOPER: We'll talk more about the Trump factor with our panel in the next hour, but just ahead tonight, we'll see how tomorrow night's debate is coming together. I'll take you from behind the scenes look with CNN's political director next.



COOPER: Welcome back, we're less than 24 hours from the start of the first Democratic presidential debate, which I'll be moderating right here, in Las Vegas. The candidates, of course, they are all getting ready and there was a lot for CNN to do to get ready as well. I want to take you right now behind the scenes with CNN's political director David Chalian to see just how this event has come together.


COOPER: So how are the podiums set up here?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Well, they are set up in polling order from the center. It's obviously, Secretary Clinton, the front runner in the race and then go out from there. As you know, Anderson, Secretary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are sort of in a category among themselves, right next to each other, and the other three guys, they are the lower tier polling folks. And they really got to justify how they sort of have staying power beyond this debate to make it to the next one.

COOPER: So it goes Jim Webb, Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, Martin O'Malley and then Lincoln Chafee.

CHALIAN: That's right.

COOPER: The big podium in the room, which is not here, of course, is Vice President Joe Biden.

CHALIAN: That's right.

COOPER: There is still time if he wanted to announce his candidacy, he could still come in?

CHALIAN: Without a doubt. We set up the rules that if indeed he decided to declare his intention, that he's getting in his race, we would make space for him on the stage, he'd be here at the debate.

COOPER: Assuming that's not going to happen and that's certainly my assumption.

CHALIAN: My assumption, as well.

COOPER: That's not going to happen because we are going to have to come up with a bunch of questions ...

CHALIAN: That's true.

COOPER: If that does suddenly happen, which would be fine. We also - the questioners as well. Juan Carlos Lopez is over here and our Dana Bash who's getting ready to do some preparation, some practice right here, they are going to be asking questions, as well.

CHALIAN: That's right. They are going to be asking questions from this perch. You're over there on the other side of the stage and then we're going to show you we were going to take some questions from the audience outside the room through Facebook.

COOPER: And that's Don Lemon is doing that. It really is a pretty intimate venue, I mean when you compare it to the stage where you had both the GOP debates where you had so many candidates on the stage at once.

CHALIAN: Yeah. I mean, I think we sort of flipped here. It was cacophonous on stage at the Republican one, because there were so many candidates, but it was an intimate audience. Here, it's more intimate on stage because there are fewer candidates.

COOPER: So, the Reagan library debate, there were probably 500 people or so in the audience. This looks like probably well over a thousand.

CHALIAN: No doubt about it. And who is going to be sitting in these seats, Anderson? Not only campaign supporters. You've got to remember, we're in Las Vegas. Big labor is a dominate part of the Democratic Party here in Nevada, and so you could imagine a lot of labor supporters here. There are roughest crowd. I have a feeling we may hear potentially a more vocal audience than in the intimate sort of more aghast setting of the Reagan library.

COOPER: And this giant -is for some Facebook questions from people around the country.

CHALIAN: That's right. As you know, we had this Facebook CNN camper that went around the country, solicited all these questions, people would go in, film their questions and we're going to bring in those voices from out and about across the entire country.

COOPER: So, some questions from the public, some questions from Dana Bash and Juan Carlos and questions from me as well.

CHALIAN: And some questions from you. So, let me turn the tables on you and ask you a couple of questions. You've done this before. What feels different about this time?

COOPER: I do think what you said. This is I think my sixth debate entering the primary battles. You know, certainly that in each one in the past there's been much more division among the candidates whether it's the GOP debate, or Democratic debate. You had candidates who are really going after each other, you know, Bernie Sanders has made a point of saying he's not going to do that. He's not been doing it on the campaign trail and Secretary Clinton has been cautious about anything that could be described as attacks on Bernie Sanders. So, you know, a lot can change when you suddenly have these candidates on a stage together. And we've seen that in past debates. But I do think that's the big -- that's what makes this so different. I think this is much more direct questions to candidates not relying on them to kind of turn to one another and challenge each other.

CHALIAN: Now I know from talking to the campaigns, and reporting - the candidates tend to get a little nervous, before they are going on stage. How about you? Do you get a little nervous? COOPER: I don't know about nervous. It's certainly a heightened

reality on that stage.


COOPER: There is a few situations I can think of that, the pressure is as intense as it is when you are moderating a presidential debate. These are all very high-powered people. They are, you know, highly charged people. They want, they all want to be president of the United States. One of them has a good chance of being president of the United States, and so it's almost like the molecules in the air are charged on that stage. And so you definitely get caught up in that and it's important to just try to stay focused on what the job is and remember that ultimately and ideally, this debate is not about the moderators, it's about the questions and it's about the candidates and how they answer them, and what they want voters to know about themselves. At least that's how I sleep at night.

CHALIAN: It will be fun.



COOPER: Well, there is much more ahead in the next hour of "360." We're live until the 10:00 hour here, live from Las Vegas as we countdown to tomorrow night's first Democratic debate at the Wynn Hotel. Up next, a look at each of the five candidates who are going to take the stage.