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GOP Stumps in Iowa, Trump Town Hall in New Hampshire; Rubio, Cruz, Bush Debate Immigration; Bill, Hillary Clinton All over Iowa as Sanders Releases Ad; Rubio Rallies for Support in Iowa. Aired 11- 11:30a ET

Aired January 29, 2016 - 11:00   ET


[11:00:00] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan, live in New York, fresh off the GOP debate. The sprint for the first finish line is on. Candidates pounding the trail with just days left before the first votes in the nation.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: I'm John Berman, live in Des Moines.

So what happens now? This is the site of the Iowa caucuses just three days from now. This was the site of a Republican debate last night, and that was just a short distance from an event starring Donald Trump who was not at the debate.

This is not the site of where Donald Trump is today. Oh, no. While the rest of the Republican field is stomping across Iowa, Donald Trump is campaigning in New Hampshire. He is, I believe, still in the middle of a town hall there.

Jim Acosta is with him -- Jim?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John. That's right. You could say Donald Trump is taking a bit of a victory lap out here in New Hampshire this morning after skipping last night's FOX News debate. He's essentially saying it was the right call, at one point telling the crowd in New Hampshire when people go after you, you have to be tough. He feels pretty good about what happened last night. He even mentioned that Ted Cruz seemed to have a rough night. If you look at the front page of the "Register," the headline makes it clear, a rough night for Cruz. Donald Trump seized that moments here. Here's what he had to say.


DONALD TRUMP, (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE & CEO, TRUMP ORGANIZATION: Cruz is in second place. He got really pummeled last night. Actually, I'm glad I wasn't there. He got pummeled. Wow. And they didn't even mention that he was born in Canada.


ACOSTA: Now, we know that Donald Trump skipped last night's debate because of this dust up with FOX News. He did not -- his campaign didn't like the statement that FOX News put out while Donald Trump was toying with the idea of skipping the debate. It seems, all the sudden, Donald Trump has a new media vendetta. He's

been going after the publisher of the "Union Leader." That is the newspaper of record here in New Hampshire. The publisher called him just a few moments ago, a bad guy, and a loser. Noting that the newspaper endorsed Chris Christie up here. So Donald Trump, it seems every step of the way as a new target in the media to go after. That's going to be a sneak preview of coming attractions. We'll be hearing that after the Iowa caucuses. But they feel very good, John and Kate, about skipping that debate last night. Donald Trump all but saying here that he feels like they taught FOX News a lesson.

BERMAN: All right. Jim Acosta for us in New Hampshire with Donald Trump.

The fact that Donald Trump is in New Hampshire, perhaps, a sign of how confident he feels about things in Iowa.

Let's bring in CNN political commentator, Margaret Hoover; and Matt Schlapp, chairman of the American Conservative Union, the oldest conservative lobbying organization in the U.S.

You heard Donald Trump say Ted Cruz got pummeled last night on the debate stage. The cover of the "Des Moines Register" today says a rough night for Ted Cruz. I'm holding it up. You can see it right there. Do you agree?

MARGARET HOOVER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I do. Last night was the circular firing squad of the Republican Party that I think really represents the debates of yesteryear. That debate would have been a great debate in 2012. It would have been a great debate eight months ago, but it almost is irrelevant now in the era of Trump. The fact is they're going after each other, and Donald Trump is still leading in the polls. He was the winner of that debate last night, not going, ended up allowing everybody else to focus on the guy who is trailing him, and now even more than he was before last night.

BERMAN: Cruz tried to make fun of that debate last night. He had a few pre-scripted jokes. One was about taking incoming fire from all directions, including the moderators. Let's play that.


SEN. TED CRUZ, (R), TEXAS & PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Chris, I would note that the last four questions have been, Rand, please attack Ted; Marco, please attack Ted; Chris, please attack Ted, Jeb, please attack Ted.


CRUZ: Let me just say this.


CRUZ: Well, no, no. A debate actually is policy issue. But I will say this. Gosh, if you guys ask one more mean question, I may have to leave the stage.



BERMAN: All right. Well, obviously he didn't leave the stage, but that joke did not go over too well. Is this a case of be careful what you wish for in he's been wishing for a race without Trump, and now he got it.

MATT SCHLAPP, CHAIRMAN, AMERICAN CONSERVATIVE UNION: Yes. Several of the candidates like ted think I've got to take advantage of this moment. It was overly scripted. There wasn't any kind of ease or spontaneity to it. The jokes were bad. I think the best performance was on the first question by Cruz. It's funny, and it worked. Beyond that, I think he had a rough night. I seldom agree with papers, but I agree with that one. He didn't take advantage of his moment. Trump is dominating the whole conversation, as frustrating as it is for the other candidates.

[11:05:28] BERMAN: In the absence of Donald Trump, there was a remarkable long exchange between many of the candidates on the issue of immigration. There was a whole Jeb Bush/Marco Rubio back and forth, and then, of course, there was the Ted Cruz/Marco Rubio back and forth.

I want to play, first, what Ted Cruz said about Marco Rubio.


CRUZ: John Adams famously said, facts are stubborn things. Facts are simple. When that battle was waged, my friend, Senator Rubio, chose to stand with Barack Obama and Harry Reid and Chuck Schumer and supported amnesty.


BERMAN: All right. Marco Rubio, though, ready for that line of attack. He went right after Cruz on the issue of character. Let's listen to that.


SEN. MARCO RUBIO, (R), FLORIDA & PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This is the lie that Ted's campaign is built on. And Rand touched upon it. He's the most conservative guy and everyone else is a Rhino. The truth is, Ted, throughout this campaign, you've been willing to say or do anything in order to get votes.


BERMAN: This is really interesting. You heard not just in those two candidates but from all the candidates right there. Did anyone come out of that on top? Is anyone more right than anyone else? It seemed to me that they're all right to a certain extent. HOOVER: Look, what I loved about that exchange is that it showed the

varying degrees of positions on immigration reform. That the Republican Party actually has. Nobody knows that now because everybody thinks just what Donald Trump says, get out, build a wall, let them back in through a beautiful door that says Trump over the top. But Marco did well in his response. He got applause from the crowd. He threaded the needle. Jeb stood up for being for his policies which is reforming immigration in a way that leads to a pathway for citizenship. No apologies. That's the kin of refreshing honesty I wish we'd had. None of that matters now.

BERMAN: But Cruz is right when he says Rubio stood up with Schumer and the Gang of Eight to try to get a bill passed. Is any discussion about this, even if Marco Rubio fights back, somewhat effectively to a draw, is any discussion about this for Ted Cruz a winner?

SCHLAPP: I think Ted Cruz comes out of this conversation about immigration with the most clear position, which is he didn't support that bill in the Senate, the Gang of Eight bill. And he's not going to support any bill unless we fix our borders first. That's where he is very clearly.

Yes, they had the clips they were able to run. I think what happened in the exchange was, is Jeb Bush made Marco bleed in this topic. Marco was stunned that Jeb hit him so hard. I think it's hard for Marco to both explain what he did literally just months ago and what he's saying now. I think it's particularly strong for Jeb to be able to say Marco, I supported your bill because you called me and asked me to support it, and I'm still supporting it and now you're not. That was a real moment for Jeb Bush. Now, I don't think it's going to help him with base conservative voters. I'm not saying it's going to change the race, but it was a moment where Jeb Bush really shined.

HOOVER: It would have been a moment four years or two years ago in a past reality.

SCHLAPP: That's right. Things have changed.

BERMAN: It might have been a moment eight months ago with Jeb Bush, but it's not.

I started the show by asking what now. What now? We had that debate last night. No other big events before the caucuses here. Are there any intervening moments that can change the outcome between now and Monday night or do you think this is pretty much set in stone?

SCHLAPP: I think there's a 50 percent chance that Trump not only wins in Iowa but he really wins the table. I think that's the honest answer. That's how this looks. The only way that changes, it's not going to be because Trump does something. He's already done things we thought maybe would hobble him. It's going to be him losing here in a surprise comeback from Cruz or someone else, and then the race would be open. If he wins in Iowa, we should all be candid. He could run the table.

BERMAN: Margaret, I don't want to put you in a box, but you are "establishmenty," more establishment --


SCHLAPP: Wait a minute. I need to scoot over.


BERMAN: You just heard what Matt said, if he wins Iowa, he could win the whole thing.

HOOVER: Look, you pay us here to be who we are and to be honest.


HOOVER: The truth is, that's what this is looking like here. Iowans wait until the last minute to decide. Very large portions, maybe up to 40 percent wait to decide who they're going to support in the caucuses. Anything can happen, but it didn't like anything is going to stop Trump in the next few days.

BERMAN: Both of you, do either of you think that Donald Trump should skip the debate next week in New Hampshire.

HOOVER: No. There's no reason for him to.

[11:10:09] SCHLAPP: No, absolutely not. He has clearly a real issue with Megyn Kelly. But the other debates he's done great on.

BERMAN: All right. Guys, Margaret Hoover, Matt Schlapp, great to have you here. Appreciate it.

Kate, back to you.

BOLDUAN: Thanks, John.

Coming up for us, right now Marco Rubio is holding a town hall in Iowa after a big night for him. What does that big night mean for that big Monday night? Coming up, we'll look at his chances there and down the road.

Plus, Bill and Hillary Clinton out in force today on the trail in Iowa as she and Bernie Sanders agree to more debates and are locked in a tight race in Iowa. I'll speak with her chief strategist about whether they see an opening now in New Hampshire and what Bill Clinton's role is this time around.

This is CNN special live coverage. We'll be right back.


[11:15:01] BOLDUAN: It was once unthinkable, many said, but Hillary Clinton and Sanders are locked in a tight race just three days out from the Iowa caucuses. In about an hour, the first of many Democratic campaign rallies kicks off in Iowa. As those two race to win over voters, Sanders has released a new ad appearing to attack Clinton for her ties to Wall Street. Take a look. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: One of the Wall Street banks that triggered the financial meltdown, Goldman Sachs, just settled with authorities for their part in the crisis that put seven million out of work and millions out of their homes. How does Wall Street get away with it? Millions in campaign contributions and speaking fees.


BOLDUAN: Joel Benenson is here. He's a Democratic pollster and a chief strategist for Hillary Clinton's campaign.

Joel, it's great to see you.

You might have noticed there or missing was any mention by name of Clinton, but to anyone following this race, it's clear that's one of the things Bernie Sanders has been hitting on her. He's not going negative, but he's kind of going negative.

JOEL BENENSON, DEMOCRATIC POLLSTER & CHIEF STRATEGIST, HILLARY CLINTON PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN: I think he's going negative. I think he's probably running the most negative campaign of any Democratic presidential candidate.

BOLDUAN: You think so?

BENENSON: I do in a presidential primary season. I think he's been more personal in his attacks and increasing it on the stump recently. Even in a hard fought campaign in 2008, I don't think we had the range of negativity on either side, and I was on Obama's side then, that we've had now. Feelings always get riled up and everybody thinks the other side is doing it. This is --


But, Joel, think back to all the debates. He helped her out on the e- mail thing and said I don't care about Bill Clinton's past.

BENENSON: He's running fundamental attacks and he's going out on the stump everyday and raising issues about her personally, her character, and other Democrats as well. Democrats, by the way, who enacted the toughest rules on Wall Street in the banking system in seven decades. He's running a campaign where, at this point -- I think he's feeling the burn a little bit, he's getting more scrutiny. In the last three weeks, he's been attacking and dismissing everybody who seems to not be aligned with him, including people like Planned Parenthood and people have been fighting for women's health to the human rights campaign. People who have been fighting for LGBT equality for America in decades. It seems once you're not with him, you become a focal point of his attacks. I think it's been negative and I think it's unfortunate.

BOLDUAN: On that note, this isn't him going negative, but maybe he was feeling the pressure. He got heated yesterday at a breakfast hosted by "Bloomberg Politics" when someone asked him about a fear that they'd heard from the Clinton campaign that he was going to be bussing in students to the Iowa caucuses. He went off on that. Saying that was absolutely ridiculous. Do you have a fear that Bernie Sanders and his campaign will be bussing in students?

BENENSON: No, and I don't believe anybody else in reality thinks that. I think people believe these caucuses have generated more turnout. We expect a high turn out. We expect it to be higher than the usual numbers in these caucuses in the 100,000 to 120,000 range. We think it's going to serve us well.

BOLDUAN: Let's look at the comparison. You know these numbers so well. In 2008, it was just under 220,000 that turned out for Democratic caucuses.


BOLDUAN: What do you think this time?

BENENSON: I think it will be -- you know, in the last contested one before that was in 2004, and it was about 120,000. You know, I don't think it will be quite halfway there, but somewhere in the mid 100,000 range. It's hard to project. Caucuses are not like primaries.


BENENSON: You have to know where to show up.


BENENSON: They're much harder to predict.


BOLDUAN: The question, first-time caucus goers. In the conventional wisdom -- not in the conventional wisdom. If you look at the most recent polls, first-time caucus goers, if more of them show up, it's going to help Bernie Sanders. How do you combat that?

BENENSON: We've looked at the data in a lot of interesting ways. First-time caucus goers doesn't mean it's the first time you're eligible to participate. If you're looking at those people --


BENENSON: There are a whole lot of people who have not participated in caucuses before who are with Hillary Clinton. They've been eligible but haven't gone and we know their intensity and desire to go and caucus for Hillary Clinton is high right now. We feel pretty good about that in the progression we're on about the turnout numbers we're seeing, and that this will be close, but we think we're going to prevail.

BOLDUAN: OK. Let's have some fun, since I know you would love to weigh in on last night. If fact that Donald Trump did not show up to the debate, genius or crazy? [11:20:01] BENENSON: I don't think it's either. But I don't think

-- you know, I think it didn't hurt him, because the rest of the Republicans didn't play their hands right. They tried to overplay their hands about Trump. He was not going to show up. They still didn't make their conversation about voters. They are having a debate about a narrow group of people with a set of policies that are out of touch with most of America. I think a couple of the candidates who have been called so-called establishment candidates on their side, even though I think their establishment is out of touch with America right now. I think Rubio did well on several issues and Kasich did well on several issues.

BOLDUAN: On that point, the person they attacked last night is Hillary Clinton. I want to listen to Rand Paul. He's said it before but he said out last night when he took on Bill Clinton's past and why it's relevant to this campaign. Listen.


SEN. RAND PAUL, (R), KENTUCKY & PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don't blame Hillary Clinton for this. I don't think she's responsible for his behavior. But I do think that her position as promoting women's rights and fairness to women in the workplace that if what Bill Clinton did, any CEO in our country did with an intern, with a 21- year-old intern in their office, they would be fired. They would never be hired again.



BOLDUAN: Rand Paul says it. Donald Trump has said it. They say she cannot be the champion for -- women's advocates with this lurking in her background, that this undermines her credibility. She and Bill Clinton are --


BENENSON: There is not a single person on that stage who could hold a candle to Hillary Clinton on who has done more for women, children and families in this country. Not one of them.

BOLDUAN: You're not concerned about this?

BENENSON: They have fought against women. Every one of them wants to deprive women of fundamental health care if they get it through Planned Parenthood, which tens or hundreds of million of people have done over their history. Not one of them wants that to exist anymore. They are constantly dis'ing women.

Hillary Clinton fought for health care for children. She's been an advocate for womens rights all over the world. She went to China and stood up and said human rights are women's rights and women's rights are human rights. Human rights, once and for all, for the entire world to hear. She's been, as secretary of state, the most vocal person going around the world talking about women, the abuses they face, the discrimination they face in developed world and enslavement, genital mutilation around the rest of the world. That's why you've had people say and appreciate efforts she's made around the world. Young women like Malala who was shot for going to school, just talked about what Hillary Clinton has meant to women around the world.

BOLDUAN: What I'm hearing Joel Benenson saying is we're ready for the attacks in a general? You just listed everything there, Joel.

It's great to see you.

BENENSON: We're ready for any one of those.

Thank you very much.

BOLDUAN: Great to see you. Thanks for coming in. We'll see you in Iowa.

Thanks so much.

A programming note for all of you. As we look ahead to the big caucuses, Bernie Sanders and Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz will be with Jake Tapper on Sunday on CNN's "State of Union." That starts at 9:00 a.m. eastern.

John Berman, back to you in Des Moines.

BERMAN: Thanks so much, Kate. That was a great interview.

Three days to go. The candidates, they are on the stump as we speak. Marco Rubio speaking right now here in Iowa. What will he do? What will he say that can change this race? Ted Cruz called him both charming and smooth. The insults are flying.

Plus, a debate coach joins us to tell us who he thinks won last night's debate.


[11:27:52] BERMAN: All right. I'm John Berman live in Des Moines.

The other gentleman on the screen is Senator Marco Rubio. He's in Burlington, Iowa, about two hours from here in the southeast. Marco Rubio running third in the polls here. He has his work to do. He wants to pick up as many votes as possible. He's nipping at the heels of Ted Cruz in the polls. He went hard after Cruz last night at the debate in Des Moines.

Let's listen to what he's saying.

MARCO RUBIO, (R), FLORIDA & PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The 21st century was just as good as the 20th century. It was better. It was a new American century. This is what we can do together, and that's why I'm asking you to caucus for my Monday night and that's why I look forward to answering your questions.

Thank you. (APPLAUSE)

RUBIO: Thank you. All right. I cannot see you.

All right. Here we go. So this bearded gentleman here, that beard keeps getting longer.


It's our victory beard. It's our playoff beard.

Where's the other Mike?

And this gentleman here. Did you shave today?


If you'll find them so everyone can hear your question. Don't forget the people in the front, too.

This gentleman right here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hello. In about sometime next week, the nation is going to forget about Iowa, but do you like corn, and what's your plan for oil independence?

RUBIO: First of all, I'm not going to forget about Iowa. We're going to come back in September and win it in the general election, too.


RUBIO: First of all --

BERMAN: All right, there's Rubio taking questions from voters in Iowa. The first question about Iowa. Very self-aware voters here. Voters wanting to know what they'll do with Iowa and the issue of ethanol. Ethanol subsidy is something I believe Rubio is more supportive of than Ted Cruz. That's a dividing line that I'm sure Marco Rubio will make clear as he speaks to the crowd in the next few minutes.

Another issue Rubio might have to address is immigration and his position over the last few years working with the Gang of Eight in the Senate on a bill which would provide legal status to many immigrants in this country. Amnesty is what some others call it.

CNN reporter, Manu Raju, is at this event with Marco Rubio in Burlington.

Manu, you know, Marco Rubio --