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High Stakes in S.C. for Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio; Justice Scalia Lies in Repose at Supreme Court; S.C. Primary Tomorrow, Candidates on Campaign Trail. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired February 19, 2016 - 11:30   ET


[11:30:00] MARGARET HOOVER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: First in South Carolina. He has a strong South Carolina team on the ground. His political people cut their teeth in South Carolina and they know the lay of the land. He does have to do well. There's no question. As much as it's make or break for Jeb Bush, it is make or break for Marco Rubio as well. And what we need to start seeing happening, if there's any prayer for a real competition to the nomination that isn't a Cruz or Trump, is a winnowing of the field before March 15th. Starting March 15th, all starts are winner-take-all. You continue for the next two weeks after South Carolina cobbling enough delegates to get through -- to sheer numbers to a nominations at the convention. But once March 15th happens, if there's not a winnowing of the field, Trump or Cruz win the table.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Let's talk about Ted Cruz for a moment right now. Ted Cruz caught in the middle of Rubio and Donald Trump. Ted Cruz has been fighting both these men quite hard and fighting for evangelical votes there. South Carolina was a state I think he thought he could win. He thought he could win a lot of March 1st states. He needs what tomorrow, Errol?



LEWIS: -- and some of the polls have suggested that that's not entirely out of the realm of possibility, or at least a close second. He needs to do well. He needs to do well with evangelical voters. He has an operation. He's been running a bunch of ads. He has three dedicated super PACs that have been pouring a ton of effort into this for weeks. He has to do as well as he can right now because that winnowing the process is going to get brutal starting Super Tuesday.

HOOVER: In some ways, the stakes are higher for Cruz and Rubio. Cruz has 10,000 volunteers in South Carolina or across the country. He has put so much money into data and digital and field, and his entire strategy has been to micro-target the individuals that have the precise profile of the Ted Cruz voter and get them to the polls. The challenge he's facing is that a lot of them like Donald Trump instead of him. And if he doesn't win evangelicals solidly, that poses a question for Cruz throughout the rest of the south.

BERMAN: That's the challenge, the terror inside the Cruz campaign is that somehow they slip behind Rubio. I think that's their biggest fear.

Dan Pfeiffer, I saved the man on top for you. I've been hearing from a lot of Republicans the last few days, if Donald Trump wins South Carolina and if he wins convincingly, and some polls suggest he might, this is one of those moments, this is a clarifying moment in this campaign that sets the stage not just for what goes forward in the campaign but the party as a whole.

DAN PFEIFFER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Right. I think if Donald Trump has a big win on Saturday, that will -- he is going to have a lot of momentum heading into the SEC primary, and in the bigger states. In these bigger states, it's going to be really hard for these other candidates to catch up because they come right after each other. They won't have time to campaign there. Once you get to the larger state primaries later in March, it's about momentum and name recognition. There won't be the chance to meet every voter like you can do in Iowa, New Hampshire and even South Carolina, and so if he heads into the contests with a head of steam, and the field is still split among three, four, five candidates, it's hard to see how he's not the nominee.

BERMAN: In some ways, the campaign catches up to what he's been doing all along, these big rallies, big media events, earned media manipulation. That's Donald Trump's forte right there. It will be right in his wheel house.

Again, the South Carolina primary is tomorrow. A clarifying moment in a 36 hours from now, we'll know a lot more.

Dan Pfeiffer, Margaret Hoover, Dana Bash, Errol Lewis, thank you for being with us.

We were just talking about Donald Trump and Jeb Bush. They have a lot to say about each other. What will Jeb say about Trump today? What will Barbara Bush say about Trump today? That's what Donald Trump has to worry about. Trust me. They're about to speak live. We'll take you there when it happens.

Plus, the breaking news this hour, breaking political news out of South Carolina. Hillary Clinton picks up the biggest endorsement you can get in the South Carolina Democratic race just one day before the Nevada caucuses. So what will this mean for South Carolina? What will this mean for Nevada? We will discuss.





[11:38:46] BERMAN: Welcome back. Right now, inside the hall at the Supreme Court, Justice Antonin Scalia lying in repose. You can see the public. The doors opened to the public a short time ago, filing past the casket. Surrounding the casket, law clerks who have clerked for Justice Scalia over the years. They will stand by his side all day, all night. President Obama due to visit the Supreme Court today to pay his respects. He won't go to the funeral. The Vice President Joe Biden will. Some beautiful images from inside the court as so many people, I suspect thousands and thousands file through today to pay their respects.

Our Pamela Brown is standing outside the Supreme Court watching, I think, the people go in.

We already, Pamela, this morning, quite a poignant event.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. A very somber day at the Supreme Court. You could really feel the history in the air when Justice Scalia's casket arrived here and was brought up the marble steps behind me.

And people began lining up outside at 6:50 this morning so they could go in at 10:30 to pay their respects. The first person in line, a 17- year-old girl, who is here on a class trip. Even though she doesn't agree with his politics, she knew today was a historic day and wanted to pay her respects and tribute.

[11:40:08] We also spoke to a former law clerk of Justice Scalia who said he was a master of the court and talked about his friendship with Justice Ginsburg, who is on the other end of the ideological spectrum, yet, they were best buds. On the bench, Justice Scalia would say they were the odd couple.

And even though not everyone agrees with Justice Scalia's and his opinions, what is agreed upon is that he really has left his mark on the court. He was very influential and changed the way the justices looked at the law with his originalism belief. He served 30 years, a longest-serving member of the high court. Today, was his last journey inside, so people could come pay their respects before the funeral mass tomorrow.

As you mentioned, the president will be coming this afternoon to pay his respects. He will not be at the funeral tomorrow. Instead that will be Vice President Joe Biden. The White House said in face of criticism that the president is not going to be there, that Joe Biden had a personal relationship with Justice Scalia and will leave less of a security footprint than the president -- John?

BERMAN: Pamela Brown outside the Supreme Court.

As she mentioned, today is not about politics. Today is about service, and Justice Antonin Scalia served this country for so many decades on the Supreme Court. And today is the day to thank him for that service.

The funeral is set for tomorrow. Father Paul Scalia, Justice's Scalia's son, will lead the mass at the basilica of the Immaculate Conception. Vice President Biden, so many other political leaders will attend. CNN will cover it live. Wolf Blitzer and Jake Tapper lead the coverage tomorrow at CNN, starting at 10:00 a.m. From remembrance to politics, any moment now, dueling rallies in the

final hours before the South Carolina primary. Donald Trump getting ready to speak live. Jeb Bush and, more importantly, Barbara Bush getting ready to speak live. What will they say? You must stay with us to find out.


[11:46:43] BERMAN: Live pictures from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. There you see the lectern where moments from now Donald Trump will take the stage, his first rally in his last campaign day in South Carolina. South Carolina votes tomorrow. It's happening within hours. Donald Trump by no means the only candidate out on the campaign trail. They are all out on the campaign trail.

And CNN is all over them. Sunlen Serfaty, chasing the Cruz campaign in Charleston, South Carolina. Phil Mattingly with Marco Rubio in Columbia, and Athena Jones following Jeb Bush in Spartanburg where, momentarily, we'll hear from Jeb Bush and Barbara Bush.

Sunlen, first to you.

Ted Cruz fighting the two-front war against Trump and Rubio.

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. That's part of his closing message as he tries to secure last minute votes. It's all about that he's the most tried and true conservative among all the candidates and really trying to dress down the other candidate's conservative credentials, specifically on Donald Trump. We heard him make the pitch to voters saying, look, I understand why you would want to support Donald Trump. You're ticked off at Washington, but he said, you have to look at the records and know what you're going to get. And on Rubio, also the campaign really wasting no name jumping on Rubio. Last night, at the last minute, he skipped a conservative gathering, where many of the candidates, including Ted Cruz, attended. The Cruz campaign really laying into that, saying that's proof he's not going to the conservative vote. These two campaigns are at each other's throat. Cruz wants to finish strongly, in second place, to poll ahead of Rubio as much as he can so he can argue that he's the alternative to Donald Trump -- John?

BERMAN: All right, Sunlen Serfaty with Ted Cruz in Charleston.

Let's take a look at the other end of the fight. Let's check in with the Rubio campaign. Phil Mattingly all over that in Columbia -- Phil?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, Sunlen hit it perfectly. The real fight, at least for the Rubio camp over the last couple days, has been with Ted Cruz. They've been punching back at the Cruz campaign's attacks over his decision to skip that conservative review conference last night, particularly when it came to Rick Tyler, Cruz's spokesman, saying Rubio is not a real conservative. The Rubio campaign continuing on the line that Cruz has been running a deceptive campaign, full of lies. We all saw the printout of the Photoshopped picture last night. But after a big event this morning in Columbia, where Nikki Haley, the very popular governor, gave a rousing introduction and closing statement for Rubio, his campaign running into a hiccup, plane troubles is forcing him to cancel his next event in Pawley Island, South Carolina, according to our embed with the Rubio campaign.

Still, a lot of events today. Really kind of trying to make that closing argument. And when it comes to that argument, it is he is a unity candidate. He's somebody who can bring everybody together. The campaign closely making the final picture at every one of his events. Marco Rubio and Nikki Haley, the governor of Indian descent; Tim Scott, the African-American Republican Senator; and Trey Gowdy, the young rising star in south Carolina, all up on stage together. That's the message they want to hammer home as they close it out here -- John?

BERMAN: That is the image they want people to see. Not a Photoshopped image of shaking President Obama's hand or an image of an empty hall where he can't get to today. Plane troubles do happen. Got to be frustrating for the Rubio team.

Phil Mattingly, thanks so much.

Let's check in with the Bush campaign in Spartanburg. Athena Jones is there.

We're about to hear from Governor Bush and Barbara Bush.

[11:50:27] ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, John. Actually, Jeb Bush and Barbara Bush just wrapped up their event here. This is at a popular restaurant here. They're on their way to the next stop nearby in Greenville. This was a very friendly crowd. And you could see the energy in Jeb Bush. He drew from the crowd. They laughed when Barbara Bush made brief remarks talking about how Jeb is one of her four favorite sons and saying he's honest and modest and kind.

Jeb Bush continued to make the argument he has been making, that people should want in the White House someone with a steady hand, someone with a proven record and the right temperament to lead. He also talking about who people should not want in the White House. Take a listen.


JEB BUSH, (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE & FORMER FLORIDA GOVERNOR: We'll never win by disparaging women, Hispanics, the disabled, POWs, calling them losers because they got caught. We'll never win by pushing people down to make ourselves look better. It has never been that way.


JONES: And so, of course, those are not so veiled references to Donald Trump, who he's referred to as a blow hard.

Polls show Jeb Bush is in fourth place here in South Carolina and many people say this is a make-or-break state for him. Talk to folks on his campaign, they say, look, we have staff ready in Nevada and have done a lot of work in the March 1st states, that vote on March 1st. They say they're going to go the distance.

Of course, what happens tomorrow is going to be important to the Jeb Bush campaign's next moves -- John?

BERMAN: Indeed.

Athena Jones, great to have you with us.

Thanks to Sunlen and Phil as well.

And in just moments, Donald Trump will hold his first event of the day, a rally in Myrtle Beach. You can look at a live picture right there. We will bring you there the moment it happens.

Plus, the breaking news just in this hour, one of America's greatest authors, Harper Lee has died, the author of "To Kill a Mockingbird," a book so many people read and cherished. She's passed away at the age of 89. Much more on the reaction ahead.


[11:56:28] BERMAN: All right. Live pictures again, that is inside the hall in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, where, moments from now, Donald Trump will address voters, his first rally of the day in South Carolina.

In case you've missed it, we've been trying to tell you that South Carolina votes tomorrow. The Republican primary is tomorrow. The polls open in the morning, close at 7:00 tomorrow night. South Carolinians just have a few hours left to the make up their minds, a few hours left to be undecided voters. So what do the voters themselves think?

Let's go to Victor Blackwell. He has been speaking with voters. He is in Columbia at the University of South Carolina -- Victor?

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No pressure, right, John? Fewer than 24 hours until polls open here in South Carolina. And we know that historically, at this point on the day before primary day, there are often so many voters here who are either undecided or still persuadable. GOP insiders here put that number this year maybe at 50 percent.

I spent the day speaking with younger, some first-time voters here on the campus and more seasoned voters off campus. And it's interesting, what I found when I've asked what attracted you to the candidate you've chosen or what are you looking for that you haven't found yet, it comes down to politics, often, not policy, tone, tact, the climate, looking for an outsider.

One of those voters, Brian -- his name is Brian Trueluck. I met him this morning. He is voting for Marco Rubio, but that's not where he started. I want you to listen to what he told me about the other top tier candidates.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BRIAN TRUELUCK, STUDENT: Carson is who I was for originally, but he's just, he can't win. Kasich won't be able to win. Jeb Bush blew his opportunity early on. I don't think Jeb -- Jeb seems to be just, you know, going along with the family line. Basically, he's just kind of a puppet in this thing. He doesn't seem to have his heart in.

BLACKWELL: Do you think Marco Rubio can win South Carolina?


BLACKWELL: Who do you expect will win South Carolina?


BLACKWELL: How do you feel about that?

TRUELUCK: I think the American people have turned into -- they're less savvy. The more news they receive, the less savvy they become.


BLACKWELL: I've spoken with a cross section of GOP primary voters this morning. And it's interesting, for each voter who says that he or she is either leaning toward a candidate or has decided on a candidate, every one of them has said that that candidate is Marco Rubio. Now is this scientific? No, and I'm only speaking to people here in Columbia, but interesting, nonetheless, just counting down the hours until the polls open here -- John?

BERMAN: We have just about a few seconds left. Victor, you were in Iowa then New Hampshire, in those states, everyone talks only about the election. Give me a sense of the feeling down there. Is this something that everyone's talking about or are they trying to get along with their lives?

BLACKWELL: You know, what's different here, of course, is that the Democrats are voting a week later. So there of course is an urgency here when you're speaking with GOP voters, but as it relates to how this compares to Ohio, people are, especially on a campus, are getting on with their lives, but you obviously feel that split, the difference between the urgency between the Democrats and the Republicans. We'll, of course, speak with the Democrats as we get closer to the 27th.

BERMAN: All right. Victor Blackwell for us in Columbia, South Carolina. We look forward to hearing all about that.

Guys, don't miss it. Tomorrow, CNN all over the South Carolina Republican primary, the Democratic Nevada caucuses. Don't miss the pre-game show with Wolf Blitzer, Anderson Cooper and Jake Tapper. Kate Baldwin and I pick up the coverage at 11:00 p.m. tomorrow night.

"Legal View" starts now.