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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

New Poll Has Clinton Topping Sanders By Nine Points Nationally; Sanders Outspends Clinton In Key State Of Michigan; Final Hours Of Voting Underway In Michigan; Clinton Slams Sanders Over Auto Bailout; 130 Democratic and 59 Republican Delegates At Stake; Michigan, 130 Democrats, 59 GOP Delegates At Stake; American Tourist Killed In Stabbing Rampage In Israel; Voters Heading To The Polls In Four States. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired March 8, 2016 - 16:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:30:50] JIM SCIUTTO, CNN HOST: Welcome back to a special Super Tuesday edition of THE LEAD.

Millions of Americans across the country are right now casting their votes. For Democrats, 130 delegates at stake, including the big prize of the night. That is Michigan. For Sanders, it is a chance to win a more diverse state. For Clinton, a win tonight expands her big delegate lead.

Jeff Zeleny, he is live in Cleveland at Clinton campaign headquarters.

So, Jeff, at the Clinton campaign, what are their expectations tonight?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim, the Clinton campaign certainly is thinking that tonight could be a night that moves them ever so closer to really what they see as the inevitable here, and that is taking on the Republican nominee.

We heard it in Secretary Clinton's own voice last night. For the first time in her closing rally in Detroit, she said, Democrats, the sooner you finish this nominating process, the sooner I can start taking on the Republican.

Now, she's not calling for Bernie Sanders to get out, because that would inflame his supporters, something she does not want to do. But, Jim, they do believe tonight will be a night where they win the majority of delegates, both in Michigan and Mississippi, but Michigan is the true focus here. And this has been an economic laboratory where both candidates have been able to make their best arguments here.

And a bit of a -- in the last 24 hours, the whole fight over the auto industry bailout has jarred this race a little bit. She's accused Senator Sanders of opposing it. He has come back and said, no, no, no, I didn't oppose this, we both supported this, I just voted for a different Senate bill. So, a little bit of nuance here. And how that plays out, how the

Michigan voters respond to the charges and countercharges about the auto bailout may tell us who wins tonight. But if the Clinton campaign actually has a strong showing in Michigan, if they get the majority of those 130 delegates, Jim, that could be a key moment for them to closing down this Democratic nominating fight.

SCIUTTO: OK. So let's talk about the Sanders campaign. As you noted, the polls show Clinton with a strong lead in Michigan. What are their hopes for pulling off a surprise win tonight or even just keeping it close?

ZELENY: A strong lead, perhaps, but there's not been that much public polling. And the Sanders campaign believes they have a good opportunity in Michigan because of this. If you looked at what was happening last night in the closing rally for Senator Sanders, some nearly 6,000 people in Ann Arbor at the University of Michigan, he had a crowd of some 10,000 people a week ago in Michigan State University, so many colleges in Michigan, so many new people coming into Detroit as it's having its resurgence and so many white voters.

This actually fits his state very well -- the demographics fit him pretty well here. They're hoping that this economic argument here gives him a lift. And if Senator Sanders would win in Michigan, Jim, this gives him license to go forward without any question at all here. You have to win Michigan if you're a Democrat to go forward -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: Jeff Zeleny with the Democrats in Ohio tonight.

I want to bring back my panel.

So, Peter Beinart, you heard Jeff Zeleny reference that there. Michigan is a state where Sanders' message of economic populism should be hitting fertile ground. What happened?

PETER BEINART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think what you saw is that, in both parties, there was an insurgency, from Trump on the Republican side, from Sanders. The difference is that Hillary Clinton got in front of that much more effectively than the Republicans did.

She started moving to the left more than year ago, recognizing where the currents in the party were. She moved to the left on criminal justice, which I think helped shore up her African-American support. She moved to left on trade coming out against the TPP, the Trans- Pacific Partnership.

She even moved to the left on financial reform on Wall Street. So, I think that she's been able to marginalize and contain the Sanders insurgency because she responded early and moved -- changed her brand in a way that the Republican establishment didn't do with Trump.

SCIUTTO: So, Bakari, one place where that's not so clear are Michigan, some of Michigan's most powerful unions who have yet to endorse a candidate. They know that many of their supporters are attracted to Sanders' message.

How do we see that effect tonight? Is that a concern for the Clinton campaign going forward?

BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think tonight is a laboratory not just the Rust Belt, as we move forward in this primary, but it also gives us a gateway to the future. It also allows us to look at what's going to happen in the general election if in fact Donald Trump is the nominee, because issues like trade, where Donald Trump can push the Democratic Party, are going to be very, very important.

[16:35:03]

But if you just narrow the focus down to what is happening tonight, if Bernie Sanders cannot win in a diverse state like this, if his message on trade does not resonate with voters like this, if he cannot get more than 25 or 30 percent of the African vote, then Bernie Sanders goes from -- he went from being a message candidate to a formidable candidate and he's teetering on going back to a message candidate.

No one's going to tell you that Bernie Sanders should get out of the face. But what Democrats will tell you is that the focus then will be on Donald Trump and/or Ted Cruz as we move forward. But Michigan is very, very important.

And dig into the demographics tonight, especially how female voters respond to Hillary Clinton vs. Donald Trump because that's going to be a very telling sign as we get closer to November.

SCIUTTO: Nia-Malika, the big issue, if you're talking about economics in Michigan, the auto bailout, Hillary has been -- Secretary Clinton has been hitting Sanders hard on voting against that bailout.

Has that been a key driving force?

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes.

I think what was so surprising about it was that it was a surprise in our debate. And Sanders kind of had a bit of a meltdown in that debate. And you could tell how sophisticated the Clinton campaign was this week with setting up that message with some of the ads they had out in courting African-Americans in Flint way before Bernie Sanders.

You could tell that they just have a more sophisticated machine. They are just more politically savvy than the Sanders campaign. And I think tonight -- I think Bakari's right. It does set up kind of the general. And it also shows that Hillary Clinton is both the Hillary Clinton from 2008, meaning she's able to win those big states she won last go-round, and she's also keeping this Obama coalition together.

I think the test for Bernie Sanders, he's got a problem with black voters, and he's not able to do well enough with white voters to offset his deficits among non-white voters.

SCIUTTO: And that's not just true of Michigan. It's in Mississippi as well, big portion of black voters.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. Right. But Bernie -- she does so well with black voters, like 60 percent margins.

HENDERSON: Yes.

BORGER: That one statistician was saying that he has to win white voters by 20 percent. And he is not doing that.

And if he were not to do well in Michigan tonight, one other impact would be that all those superdelegates who are elected officials and kind of look to say which way the wind is blowing...

SELLERS: No, they don't do that.

(LAUGHTER)

BORGER: You cannot make the argument, then, to these superdelegates, oh, hold off, because she would have the momentum.

SCIUTTO: David, quick final word.

DAVID GERGEN, SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Sure.

Bernie Sanders has had an amazing impact on this race. Who would have imagined that he'd still be seven points behind nationally? And very importantly, go to Peter Beinart's thing. Look how many times Hillary Clinton has been drawn to the left.

She looks like increasingly -- like she's joined the Elizabeth Warren- Bernie Sanders wing of the party.

SCIUTTO: So, maybe a message candidate, but a very strong message.

GERGEN: Very.

(CROSSTALK)

SCIUTTO: Panel's not going anywhere. We got a couple more blocks. Lots more thoughts to share.

Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders will be back on the debate stage Wednesday night at 9:00. And you can watch it right here on CNN.

And next here today, on this special edition of THE LEAD, people crossing party lines to defeat Trump. We talk to one of those voters next.

And we're just minutes away from the first exit polls that we can report here at CNN, a major sign of what we can expect in the results tonight.

Please stay with us.

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[16:42:38]

SCIUTTO: And welcome back to our special Super Tuesday II edition of THE LEAD.

As voters cast their ballots today in Michigan, Mississippi, and on the Republican side Hawaii and Idaho as well.

Jean Casarez, she is in Warren, Michigan, in the heart of car country, the birthplace as well of the Reagan Democrats, where Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump are each targeting working-class voters hit hardest by the loss of manufacturing jobs.

So, Jean, as you're there today, is there a big turnout today?

JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's steady.

All day, people have been coming in. This is the largest suburb in the Detroit metro area. And as these people come, they are the people of the car industry. And you just see how much they care. As we have talked to people after they voted, I would say, on the Republican side, we're hearing the names Donald Trump. We're hearing John Kasich.

On the side of the Democrats, we're hearing people for Hillary Clinton. And they -- all of them have said to us, we like her because she's going to bring Bill along, and Bill did so much for the country.

But when we're really hearing, even more than Hillary Clinton, we're hearing people like Bernie Sanders. Let's listen to the voters.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CASAREZ: Can we ask you who you voted for?

DEBORAH MEIKE, MICHIGAN VOTER: Bernie Sanders. I try to keep an open mind with Republicans, but this year, it seemed like a free-for-all. It just was pathetic, I thought. Their debates are pathetic, the fighting. I just really was turned off by most of it.

CASAREZ: Can I ask you who you voted for?

JEREMY WALLACE, MICHIGAN VOTER: Donald Trump.

CASAREZ: Why?

WALLACE: Because I want to see our jobs come back. This section of Michigan has the most auto industry. So I know a lot of people that have gotten laid off from stuff that's happened. So that message is very strong in our neighborhoods.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CASAREZ: Now, one thing that makes it unique here is, it's the open ballot process, the open primary.

And so when people come here, they're registered as a Democrat or as a Republican, but they can switch their sides. They can get a Republican ballot if they're a registered Democrat or vice versa. You just ask for what ballot you want and you get it. And that's how the Reagan Democrat was born in this area. I have got to tell you, I asked a man today who he voted for. He said he was a lifelong Democrat and he voted for the Republican. I said, well, you're a Reagan Democrat. He said, no, not quite. He said, I voted for Donald Trump, but I'm for Hillary Clinton. I want her to be the next president. And I figure if I vote for Trump and he gets the nomination, Hillary can easily beat him in the fall -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: That's strategic voting.

(LAUGHTER)

[16:45:00] SCIUTTO: Jean Casarez in Michigan in a polling station.

So, John, we -- we hear about that every election...

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes.

SCIUTTO: ... in those open primary states.

Is that in numbers? Do a lot of voters do that?

KING: You hear this, New Hampshire primary, contest on people do it or talk at tables about this big, yes, are there grand group that will get together to flood people in, it doesn't really happen all that much. Warren, Michigan, by the way, Dukakis tank ride. My first campaign at the general dynamics facility there, yes!

SCIUTTO: Gloria, to be fair, if it's not strategic voting, voting for Trump so that he faces Hillary because you support her --

BORGER: My head is exploding.

SCIUTTO: -- you do have candidates that are appealing to people typically who vote for another party. If we see that in numbers --

BORGER: In this race, we see a lot of people who can say either Trump or Bernie Sanders, for example, because there is that sort of populist message that appeals to both of those voters, because they're talking about to angry voters, voters who feel betrayed, economically left out who haven't had a raise in more than a decade, and betrayed by their own parties. I think there is a little bit of similarity there between -- in those voter profiles.

SCIUTTO: David?

GERGEN: My sense is that the Bernie Sanders supporters are really committed to him. But that people for the other candidates are uneasy. Even the Donald Trump supporters are uneasy. Not quite -- and the attachments are lighter and therefore --

SCIUTTO: Candidate or unsure of their chances?

GERGEN: I think unsure of the candidate. There's a lot of unease with all of these candidates. The approval ratings for all candidates is pretty darn low. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's the disease with Donald Trump.

SELLERS: When you look at demographics of who Bernie Sanders supporters are, who Donald Trump supporters are, they do come from the same vain but it gives them a box of a ceil, because both Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders have a problem with coalition voting.

They have a problem expanding their normal voter. Donald Trump has -- in order for Donald Trump to be 45th president of the United States, he has to do something other than bring in white working class --

KAYLEIGH MCENANY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Here's the thing.

SELLERS: -- and the same goes with Bernie Sanders as well.

MCENANY: Sanders isn't pulling in Republicans. You see Donald Trump pulling in moderates, democrats, that's something that hasn't happened in the Republican Party. I think an article came out yesterday that was great in a local Ohio newspaper.

It said in Mahoning County, which is in the northeast section in Ohio, they've had 7,000 early votes come in, 1,000 of those were Democrats who switched their party to vote for Donald Trump. He's appealing to parties and constituencies that we haven't seen the Republican Party reach out --

SCIUTTO: Hold that thought. We are coming back. I want to get to this table some more.

Next, breaking news, we do have some news we want to report. An American stabbed to death in a terror attack at a popular seaside resort. We will have a live report next.

And moments away, we will also see the first exit results from Super Tuesday II. This is a special edition of THE LEAD.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:52:14]

SCIUTTO: We have this breaking news now. An American tourist killed in a bloody stabbing rampage in Tel Aviv, Israel. Several others injured as well. All this happening not far from where Vice President Joe Biden was visiting today.

I want to bring in CNN correspondent, Oren Liebermann. Oren, what more do we know about what happened here?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The vice president had landed just a few moments earlier. He landed in Tel Aviv and went straight to a meeting with former Israeli president and prime minister, Shimon Peres.

Just after that meeting began, according to Peres' spokespeople, an attacker went on a stabbing spree in Jafa, an ocean front resort just south of Tel Aviv. Four people were stabbed right there on the boardwalk, and then police say the attacker kept on going north. We've seen video from Israel's Channel 10 that shows the attacker running along the street, reaching into cars with open windows and apparently trying to stab the driver or whoever is sitting in that open window.

One of the people killed or the victim of this attack who died was an American tourist, at least ten others were injured. Police say the attacker was shot and killed after they approached him along the street.

They say he's a 22-year-old from a Palestinian town in the northern west bank. As far as we know from police, this wasn't intended as an attack towards bidden although he was very close by.

Jim, as far as we know, this has not changed Biden's plans here in Israel, though, he did condemn it in no uncertain terms.

SCIUTTO: Oren Liebermann there in Tel Aviv on the sea. Now back to our Super Tuesday II coverage. I want to go back to my panel for some final thoughts. Mary Katharine, four big states, what do you predict tonight?

MARY KATHERINE HAM, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Let me argue for chaos over clarity. I think you have Trump in a solid position, if he drops one of these open primaries, Mississippi or Michigan, it's trouble for him.

Cruz will be arguing he's a strong second here. If he wins one, it's a bonus. Rubio, if he has any bright spots will come outside the prime time news cycle just as Puerto Rico and Minnesota did for him.

And Kasich, all along, has not need much of a rational other than bravehearting it all the way to Ohio. We're going to next Tuesday before we get much more clarity out of this.

SCIUTTO: Chaos over clarity, Peter Beinart?

BEINART: I think we'll find out whether Ted Cruz is a national candidate or regional candidate. He has to show in Michigan that he can do well in a state that doesn't have a lot of Evangelicals.

Yes, he did well in Maine but that was a little bit unusual. He wanted to show it's a two-person race. Find out what this is a two- person race. We don't have that many states left in the south.

So he's going to have to show that he can really start to establish himself as the alternative to Trump even outside Evangelical states.

SCIUTTO: David Gergen, you've advised a couple of presidents, as I remember. Final thoughts for tonight.

GERGEN: I'm watching two things. One is can Trump succeed in an industrial state because this race is moving in that direction? And secondly, how close can John Kasich come? I think John Kasich could become the one man who can actually derail Trump. If he beats him in Ohio, I think that wheels start coming off.

[16:55:09] HENDERSON: Yes, I think that's right. They're looking, if they can, for instance, beat Rubio, in some ways, they get bragging rights and they can claim that they can do what Rubio couldn't do. All of this sets up a high stakes for tomorrow night's debate between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton and also Thursday's debate between the Republicans.

SCIUTTO: Thanks to the panel. You're going to be seeing a lot more of these folks all through tonight going very late. The first -- the final hours of voting Super Tuesday under way right now. First exit polls now just moments away. We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCIUTTO: For THE LEAD today, I'm Jim Sciutto. A special edition of "THE SITUATION ROOM" with Wolf Blitzer and Anderson Cooper starts right now.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, Super Tuesday, 2.0, voters have their say in states. They could say a lot about where the entire race goes from here.