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Today is Super Tuesday; Republicans Struggle to Support Trump if Nominee; Is Hillary Clinton's Lead Insurmountable; Polls Suggest Trump Can't Beat Clinton. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired March 1, 2016 - 11:00   ET



[11:00:00] DONALD TRUMP, (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE & CEO, TRUMP ORGANIZATION: He's like a robot. You wind him up and he talks.


SEN. TED CRUZ, (R), TEXAS & PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Our campaign is the only campaign that has beaten Donald Trump.

HILLARY CLINTON, (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE & FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: You can't just say whatever pops into your head if you want to be the president of the United States.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS, (I), VERMONT & DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There is nothing more that I would love to do than run against Donald Trump.

TRUMP: This guy couldn't be elected dogcatcher right now if he ran.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Frozen with anticipation.

Hello, everyone. I'm John Berman.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, everybody. I'm Kate Bolduan.

Super Tuesday, you are on the clock. And that means a huge chunk of the country is voting today. A huge chunk of delegates will be won today, about a quarter of all the Republican delegates out there. All the delegates out there in general. This is special live coverage of Super Tuesday, folks.

Here's a look at the battle field as we see it. 11 states on each side holding contests. If you want a sense of stakes, just let's take a look at the delegate map. For Republicans, 155 delegates in Texas. Cruz is set to cast his ballot in minutes. In all, the magic number for Republicans is 595. The total number of delegates up for grabs.

BERMAN: The Democrats more than a third of the delegates up tonight. Texas has the most. Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, they have been leading in almost all

the polls in almost all the states voting today. They could go a long way to locking up their nominations as the votes are counted tonight.

CNN all over the country, at campaign events and polling places. We're waiting for Donald Trump to hold a big rally in Ohio. That's minutes from now. You'll see it here live.

Jim Acosta is at the Trump event. Ed Lavandera is in Texas. George Howell in Georgia.

We'll start with Jim Acosta at the Donald Trump event where the front runner will be shortly -- Jim?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hi, John. Yes, we're in Ohio where Donald Trump will be speaking in a few moments here. It's remarkable that the GOP front runner is not in a Super Tuesday state on this Super Tuesday. Ohio votes later on this month in its primary. It goes to show you where the Trump campaign is right now in terms of its status as a juggernaut in this race for the GOP nomination.

Trump is, so far, according to latest polling, he can afford to do something like this. We'll wait to see his comments in a few moments. As you know in the last several days it's been something fierce, the back and forth between Donald Trump and Marco Rubio. The question, though, is, in these last 24 hours heading into Super Tuesday, is just how much the GOP as a whole is rallying around Donald Trump. Normally, a candidate who is this far ahead, who is doing this well in the polls, this well in the delegate count would have the party rallying around him.

But that is not the case. You have folks like Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan, Senators up on Capitol Hill, all criticizing the GOP front runner, asking him to tone down his rhetoric. The question, though, is whether or not Donald Trump complies. As you know from all the rallies that we go to on a daily basis, he likes to toss out the red meat, not only about rivals but about issues like immigration and building the wall on the Mexican border, something Donald Trump says he's not backing away from.

So we'll hear in a few moments exactly what Donald Trump's posture will be at this rally in Columbus. He'll spend the night in Florida. That's another state that is voting later on this month. He's feeling pretty confident about his chances here on Super Tuesday -- Guys?

BERMAN: Another state with another guy running for office right now lives.

Jim Acosta, thank you very much.

Let's go Ed Lavandera in Texas, the most delegate-rich, delegate-laden state voting today.

Ed, you're outside a polling station. ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, John. Here in Texas, this is a

state that Cruz needs to win. Turnout has been impressive throughout the morning here at this particular polling location where we're at. We're in the city of Allen, Texas. It's one of the suburban, sprawling suburban counties. This is just the kind of place that sent Cruz to the U.S. Senate and the kind of place where he needs to do well.

BOLDUAN: Ed Lavandera there for us. Ed, thank you so much.

Let's go from Texas to Georgia now, the second-biggest delegate prize on the Super Tuesday. Polls have been open now since 7:00 this morning. George Howell is at a polling station outside Atlanta.

What are you seeing on the ground there?

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, good morning. Very, very busy morning here. Just an hour ago, there were some 300 voters who came through. Just learned a few minutes ago, 500 voters so far, nearly 500. And there are some 3,000, a little more than 3,000 registered voters at this particular polling center alone. It is very busy here in Cobb County, which skews conservative.

I want to bring in two voters who just went inside and voted. This is a family divided.

Rob and Tammy Nevins, who did you vote for?

[11:05:12] ROB NEVINS, VOTER: I voted for --

TAMMY NEVINS, VOTER: I voted for Trump.

HOWELL: And you?

ROB NEVINS: I voted for Mr. Rubio.

HOWELL: OK. What was the reason for the division here?

TAMMY NEVINS: We really want to take the country in a different direction, and we want to win, so we just took the two what we thought were the best prospective candidates. I'd like to see them unite. I'd like to see Trump and Rubio together as a team.

HOWELL: So you kind of get a sense here that this vote is very divided, even among families.

When it comes down to it, a lot of people seem to be going for these different front runners. The Democrats show that Hillary Clinton is ahead, and right now the polls show that Trump is ahead in Georgia.

Back to you.

BERMAN: A split family there.

I don't think right now Trump and Rubio getting along quite enough to be talking about the Republican ticket right now. BOLDUAN: But crazier things have happened in this race already. We

will see.

BERMAN: Joining us now to discuss, CNN political commentator, Errol Louis; Doug Heye, a former RNC official, now a contributor for the "Wall Street Journal"; "New York Times" political reporter, Alex Burns; and CNN political commentator, Margaret Hoover, who has worked in the George W. Bush White House as well as presidential campaigns for George W. Bush and Rudolph Giuliani.

Everyone, I want to draw your attention to a statement a short time ago from Paul Ryan. He was asked about the comments made by Donald Trump over the weekend where Donald Trump did not renounce the endorsement or the praising statements given by David Duke to Jake Tapper that we did before and after. This is what Paul Ryan said just moments ago.


REP. PAUL RYAN, (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: If a person wants to be the nominee of the Republican Party, there can be no evasion and no games. They must reject any group or cause that is built on bigotry. This party does not prey on people's prejudices.


BERMAN: "This party does not operate on people's prejudices," however, he went on to say he will support whoever the Republican nominee is.

Margaret Hoover, I think that encapsulates the Republican Party's internal struggle. They're up in arms over what's happening. Donald Trump appears to be running away from the nomination. They don't want it to happen, yet the leading Republican in America right now, Paul Ryan, says, if it does happen, he'll support it.

MARGARET HOOVER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: There's clearly an internal tension about what to do about Donald Trump. Senator Ben Sesse of Nebraska has been clear, if Trump is the nominee, he's out for the Republican Party. That's not the Republican Party that he's for, and that's what the principles of the Republican Party or for.

This isn't done yet. Let people vote today. After people vote today, let's see where it is. It's quite likely Donald Trump will still be in the lead, but it has been only slightly more hours since a new tactic was taken against Donald Trump. It's begun to emerge in the polling, especially the CNN polling, as you see a softening of Donald Trump's numbers and a heightening of Rubio's numbers. In the match ups, Rubio is the only one that looks like he could beat the Democratic nominee, if it's Hillary Clinton.

BERMAN: How do you soften it up to 50 percent? He's at 49 percent right now.

HOOVER: This is brand new. This is a new tactic and strategy. We just -- again, we can the results until the polls are in. BOLDUAN: Alex, what does when you're talking about let the people

vote, Margaret says, what does Trump domination look like tonight?

ALEX BURNS, POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: If he were to win, too win everything but Texas, if he were to win everything but Texas and one or two other states, but the states he won, he won by 15 or 20 points, that's domination. We've heard a lot in the last couple of weeks about Cruz and Rubio jockeying for second place and the right to take on Trump over the long haul. The bigger picture that keeps getting missed if you keep losing to Donald Trump by 25 points, it doesn't matter whether you're in second or third place. It's hard to claim a mandate when you're that far behind.

BERMAN: Doug Heye, find me the silver lining in losing to Donald Trump by 15 points in every state if you're Rubio?

DOUG HEYE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think it goes to Margaret's point. The only silver lining is if there's a softening at the polls. If we see the Rubio attacks are working, we'll have a strategy for Republicans going forward. The stakes are high. It's a dangerous time for Republicans. To use blunt language, if we nominate Donald Trump, Republicans will be committing an abortion on their own party and it will be the end of the Republican Party as we know it.

BOLDUAN: But this was a creation of the Republican Party a little bit.

HEYE: A perversion of the Republican Party and a perversion of conservatism.

BOLDUAN: I'm saying the Republicans changed the rules, Errol, and frontloaded the primaries to give whoever the front runner is to give them this kind of lead that could look insurmountable. Is this be careful what you wish for?

[11:10:06] ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, they wanted to front load it. It was reasonable thinking it would help the nominee build support and money and get ready for a show down in November. What they didn't assume, I think, was that not everybody was going to pull their weight. When we looked at the first round of 13 candidates, you figure, Jeb Bush, and you've got Rick Perry and Walker. You've got all these people who, in a lot of different ways, were establishment. They were conservative. They were proven. They had won swing states like Kasich.

BOLDUAN: Looked great on paper.

LOUIS: It looked great on paper. Still, in some ways, looks great on paper, but it's just that they either didn't run good campaigns or didn't operate or anticipate or have an early enough or proper response to the chaos candidate.

BERMAN: The saying goes, Trump happens.


HEYE: Donald Trump has had a free ride for months and months.

BERMAN: He's been in the race since June.

HOOVER: No one has been attacking him since June.

BERMAN: Rand Paul tried attacking him. Jeb Bush tried attacking him.

HOOVER: Really, not in any way that got any traction. And --


BERMAN: Not any way that worked.

HOOVER: And not anything sustainable. And not with significant resources.


HOOVER: A million dollars is nothing. As you know, that's nothing in this race of $3 billion.

BURNS: Even today when you have speaker Ryan weighing in to chastise Donald Trump over the David Duke controversy, you're TILL not hearing him say what Doug said, is this man would be a catastrophe, a calamity for the Republican Party.


BURNS: He must be stopped. He's still not going there

BOLDUAN: He said I'll still support him. He's trying to have his cake and eat it too.

HEYE: Keep in mind, I spent the last three months in Boston, the biggest media market in New Hampshire. This is what you get. This is why these attacks haven't been happening, in part. You get 10 minutes of Donald Trump dominating the air waves and then thirty-second Right to Rise ad and then a 10 minutes Rubio ad and then go back to 10 more minutes of Donald Trump. That's how he's dominated. We've seen CBS said, it's great for CBS business, Donald Trump.


BOLDUAN: Should we make a turn then?


BOLDUAN: Let's make a turn, Doug Heye.

Thank you for that implicit criticism.


Appreciate that.

(CROSSTALK) HEYE: I singled out CBS, not CNN.


BOLDUAN: I saw your eyes and soul at the same time.


BOLDUAN: Errol, looking at the Democratic race, everyone says this is going to be a good day for Hillary Clinton, except the Hillary Clinton will say, maybe, but they still want to say they're trying to lower expectation. Do you think Hillary Clinton will be insurmountable in her lead after today?

LOUIS: She's going to get shellacked in Vermont.


BOLDUAN: Good word choice.

LOUIS: There's that, but she's going to be well on her way. And I think Bernie Sanders is going to have to try and find an answer. The way he got wiped out in South Carolina after spending a fair amount of money and a fair amount of time, he didn't just give up on South Carolina, and he still got clobbered. If that happens tonight in Georgia, he's going to have to start rethinking his strategy and recalibrating some of the rhetoric, find better surrogates. She'll need other validators to get her traction where the Democratic base, meaning black voters, are really going to help tell the story.

BERMAN: He has some money. He has some time.

Gentlemen, Margaret, thank you for being with us.

Stick around. A lot more to talk about. A big day here.

BOLDUAN: Oh, yes, we do. I don't know if you remember this, but it's Super Tuesday. Cruz will be casting his ballot live in Texas. He'll be in Houston. We'll take you there.

And Donald Trump says he is the one person Hillary Clinton does not want to run against. A new CNN poll suggests that might not be the case.

BERMAN: How will Donald Trump respond to that? Well, we're about to find out. Moments from now, Donald Trump, he goes to Columbus, Ohio, a state not voting today on Super Tuesday. What's Donald Trump doing? What's the strategy? What will he be talking about tonight when Super Tuesday comes to an end?

Stay with us.


[11:18:13] BERMAN: Live pictures to show you from Houston, Texas. Inside that room, any minute, Ted Cruz, will vote today, presumably, for Ted Cruz.


BOLDUAN: We could maybe bet on that one.

BERMAN: Texas is a state that he is expected to win. Ted Cruz very much needs to win.

BOLDUAN: The campaign has said it's a must in.

BERMAN: Make or break for him.

Let's talk more about today's Super Tuesday. I want to bring in Katie Packer. She was deputy campaign manager for Mitt Romney's presidential run. She now heads up an anti-Trump super PAC. Jeff DeWit is the Arizona state treasurer and a support of Donald Trump. And Matt Lewis, senior contributor for "The Daily Caller."

Katie Packer, in our last episode, she mentioned you're OK will the idea of this race going to the convention and Marco Rubio winning in a contested, brokered or a tumultuous convention. Given the House speaker, Paul Ryan, moments ago said he'll support whoever the nominee is, but do you really think --




BERMAN: That's a good point, a point well taken. But do you think a brokered or contested convention is your best shot.

PACKER: I wouldn't say it's our best shot. I wasn't specific to Rubio. I think any of the other candidates would be a better alternative to a candidate that isn't a Republican or a conservative. I think if it's necessary to go that far, I think there are other candidates will take it that far. I think a lot of Republicans are rejecting the notion we'll let our party be hijacked by someone who doesn't stand for conservative principles and, frankly, is a fraud on all the basic principles of their campaign. He's not a brilliant businessman. He's not someone who says it like it is. He's a con artist that has conned a lot of people and it's sad.

[11:20:09] BOLDUAN: Jeff, I want to pick up on what we heard from the house speaker a little while ago, which is really unusual that he has stepped back once again into the Republican race, which is very unusual. He was asked obviously Donald Trump stumbled with regard to David Duke, with the KKK. In his response, he says, a person who wants to be the nominee of the Republican Party, they must reject any group or cause that is built on bigotry. This party does not pray on peoples' prejudice. He went after Donald Trump again. What do you say?

JEFF DEWIT, ARIZONA STATE TREASURER: I don't know how this is going after Donald Trump because Trump has disavowed any form of racism for decades now. There's articles now coming out. The whole thing yesterday was obviously very contrived. Trump has disavowed David Duke, the KKK, racism forever. Racism is disgusting and it should never be a part of the discussions going forward because it needs to be completely eliminated from this country. And Paul Ryan gets that.

BOLDUAN: Do you think Paul Ryan is misguided? Do you think Paul Ryan is wrong? Because Paul Ryan said there can be no evasion and no games. I mean, you know what he's saying.

DEWIT: Paul Ryan, no, he's absolutely correct. Racism has no place in America at all. But that's what Trump says as well. This is a completely contrived situation made up by establishment using this little mic, earpiece technical difficulty they had -- and I've had those on CNN myself -- to hit at Donald Trump.

But the bottom line is it's already been debunked. If you look at all the articles today bringing up all these quotes for decades how Trump has completely eviscerated anyone who is a racist. He is absolutely not. There are many people coming out and speaking for Donald Trump on that issue. Trump is the leading candidate -- I disagree with what Katie said, too. I am very much a constitutional conservative in Arizona and I support Trump wholeheartedly. He very much is what the Republican Party needs right now to get out country back from the establishment.


DEWIT: That's why he's leading the country right now and getting a lot more votes than the other two combined, Ted Cruz and Rubio combined.

BERMAN: Let me -- Jeff, if it was an earpiece malfunction, it was a very acute earpiece malfunction and it only occurred during a very specific question and in the rest of the interview it was fine.

I want to leave that for a moment, Matt. I wanted to ask you about this notion of a contested convention. You know, are you really prepared to tell the voters in all of these states, you know, three out of the four states so far, maybe 10 out of the 11 states tonight, and who knows how many states going forward, are you prepared to tell the voters who cast their votes for Trump doesn't matter? Is this pitting Republican leadership against Republican voters?

MATT LEWIS, SENIOR CONTRIBUTOR, THE DAILY CALLER: It would be messy and ugly. It would hasten the coming apart of the Republican Party and the conservative moment and, yes, I think it probably should be done. And the problem is that supporting Donald Trump isn't like holding your nose and supporting a moderate like John McCain that you may not like. This actually, potentially violates your moral code. If you're a conservative like a Paul Ryan, if you endorse or support or you're the party of Donald Trump, you spend the rest of your career going out and proposing entitlement reform and talking about how it Benefits all Americans, and all you have to have is one liberal day you were the party of Donald Trump, the party who wouldn't disavow the KKK. This is a big deal. If there's a convention fight, it will be ugly. It will be messy, but it's probably needed because that's how big of a deal stopping Donald Trump is.

DEWIT: Why do you say he didn't disavow the KKK? He's done it over and over again.


PACKER: That's not true.


BOLDUAN: Guys --

PACKER: He had an opportunity and he refused.

DEWIT: For decades.


BOLDUAN: Jeff, Katie, hold on one second.

Thanks, guys.

Jeff, on one question, there's a very interesting and important, I think, new poll out from CNN. Donald Trump says he is the one candidate that Hillary Clinton does not want to take on in a general election. When you look at the head-to-head matchups that CNN has out just today, despite what Donald Trump says, your guy loses in a head to head match up with Hillary Clinton, both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. Clinton loses in a head-to-head to Cruz and Rubio. Does that spell trouble?

DEWIT: No. Keep in mind, that very same poll also said that Donald Trump, out of seven top issues, is the most trusted candidate of anybody when it comes to the economy, terrorism, and immigration.



DEWIT: That same -- that's the same poll I saw, and so he's the most trusted candidate on those three issues. It also came out this morning that in Massachusetts, the state's election chair in Massachusetts, who is a Democrat, said over 20,000 people have switched their party affiliation from Democrat to Republican so they can vote for Donald Trump. And when you look at the --


BOLDUAN: He kind of --


BOLDUAN: Guys, guys, guys.

[11:25:25] BERMAN: I want to get one last question to you, Jeff, to you. We talked about a broker convention. You're a Donald Trump supporter. How would Donald Trump supporters, Jeff, react if he ended up with the most delegates, maybe not a majority, but he ended up with the most delegates, winning the most states heading into the convention, and then somehow the Republican Party figured out a way to give the nomination to someone else? What would be your reaction, and the reaction of some supporters?

DEWIT: That would hand the election to Hillary Clinton. All these Trump supporters that are coming off their couch and people that haven't voted in years coming out in droves -- the turnout is huge for Donald Trump -- will then stay home. This would absolutely destroy the Republican Party, if they brokered the convention. People want their voice to be heard and their vote to count. If Donald Trump gets the most votes, he's the nominee, and we need to get behind him, and make America great again and take our country back.

BOLDUAN: Let's see what the landscape looks like after today.

Great to see you all. Thank you so much.


BERMAN: Moments from now, Donald Trump will make his final pitch on this Super Tuesday. He is going to Ohio right now, a campaign event in Columbus. A packed house. Ohio doesn't vote until March 15th. We'll see what he says in a few minutes.

BOLDUAN: Plus, Bernie Sanders says he's going to take it to the convention. Senator Barbara Boxer, a Hillary Clinton supporter, will join us live to discuss that and what does today look like.