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The Latest on Donald Trump; Politicians Say the Darnedest Things; Iowa Poll: Sanders Shrinks Clinton's Lead; Empty Your Notebooks. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired August 30, 2015 - 08:30   ET





JOHN KING, CNN HOST (voice-over): Donald Trump reaches back in time to explain his growing support.

DONALD TRUMP, ENTREPRENEUR: You have a silent majority in this country that feels abused, that feels forgotten, that feels mistreated.

KING (voice-over): Trump says he means Americans who want a stronger president. Critics say it's an appeal to angry whites.

Plus Hillary Clinton makes an eye-popping comparison.

HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: We expect that from some of the terrorist groups. But it's a little hard to take coming from Republicans who want to be the President of the United States.

KING (voice-over): Just tough? Or too far?

And with the boss' blessing, Joe Biden thinks more about 2016.

JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have to be able to commit to all of you that I would be able to give it my whole heart and my whole soul and, right now, both are pretty well banged up.

KING (voice-over): How the death of his son impacts Biden's big decision.

INSIDE POLITICS, the biggest stories, sourced by the best reporters, now.



KING: Welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm John King. Thanks for sharing your Sunday morning.

With us to share the reporting and their insights, CNN's Maeve Reston; jonathan Martin of "The New York Times;" Robert Costa of "The Washington Post" and "The New York Times'" Maggie Haberman.

We begin with the man of the moment, Donald Trump, of course, who is sending the strongest signal yet that he will not mount a third party presidential bid if he fails to win the Republican nomination.


TRUMP: The Republican Party has been treating me very, very fairly. All I ask is fairness. In terms of victory, that would certainly be the best path to victory. We're going to make a decision very soon and I think a lot of people are going to be very happy.


KING: Says a lot of people will be very happy. We'll see if that --


KING: -- a lot of people, they're going to love it, right. That was Saturday in Nashville.

Mr. Trump easily took first place in a straw poll conducted by a gathering of Tea Party groups and where Mr. Trump presented himself as the Tea Party movement's perfect bullhorn.


TRUMP: At least I have a microphone where I can fight back. You people don't. The Tea Party people are incredible people. These are people that work hard and they love the country and then they get just beat up all the time by the media. It's disgusting.


KING: Simple math. Yes, simple math tells us why running as a Republican appears to be Mr. Trump's best option.

Take a look at the numbers here. Brand new Iowa poll out just this morning shows Donald Trump atop the GOP pack in Iowa: 23 percent of likely caucusgoers back the billionaire businessman; Ben Carson noteworthy at second percent at 18 percent; the Wisconsin governor Scott Walker and Texas Senator Ted Cruz are next at 8 percent and then Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio at 6 percent.

Now there's a similar pro-Trump anti-establishment ring to the latest national numbers, too. Take a peek

Again, it is Trump and Dr. Carson leading the pack. Look at the slide month-to-month. Hard not to notice. The sliding numbers of the two candidates, who, in the spring, previewed as the big players in this race, Jeb Bush and Scott Walker.

So the numbers don't lie. Trump is much more than just a summer fling for Republican voters and this week he says he knows why.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TRUMP: So you have a silent majority in this country that feels abused, that feels forgotten, that feels mistreated. And it's a term that hasn't been brought up in years, as you know. People haven't heard that term in many years.


KING: If the calculation back in the spring was this will flame out, how different are things now in the Republican campaigns, that it is clear that we are going back to school with Mr. Trump and we are likely to go into the new year with Mr. Trump?

Because he's leading nationally, he's leading in Iowa, he's leading in New Hampshire and he's starting to talk about spending money and he seemed to hint there, seemed to hint there that he was ready to say, I'm going to stay as a Republican.

MAEVE RESTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right. There's sort of like a hint of a threat in his remarks on the third party bid.

But I think that, you know, every campaign now has realized that he is a serious force to be dealt with. Thinking about their strategy, obviously, we see Jeb Bush hitting a lot harder, coming back at him and some of the other candidates using that as their way to get some oxygen in the race finally.

It will be interesting to see because Trump really is getting organized in some of these early states in a way that no one thought possible before. And it will be interesting to see whether he can translate all of that into actual caucusgoers come next winter.

KING: And interesting to see. He has risen in the polls in part, not exclusively, but he got attention early on with his tough views on immigration. That helped him with the conservative base that thinks the senators and the governors and the other politicians aren't going to do anything about it. That helped him.

But now you have the Republican front-runner -- this hasn't happened in my lifetime -- the Republican front-runner for president says one of his central economic planks would be -- listen here, CNN's MJ Lee interviewed Donald Trump -- raise taxes.


TRUMP: I want the hedge fund guys to pay more taxes. I know them, they're all supporting Jeb Bush and Hillary. I want the hedge fund guys, who pay very little, to pay -- they make a lot of money --


TRUMP: -- and a lot of it is luck. They pick a stock and all of a sudden they make a lot of money. I want the hedge fund guys to pay more taxes.




KING: But as a -- as a -- this is -- this is like sacrilege in Republican politics, except this new world we're in, which none of us can -- let's put -- let's be clear -- we don't completely understand it -- is a populist guy going to the Tea Party, saying, I'm going to screw the rich guys.

MAGGIE HABERMAN, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": He's a populist guy who rides around in a gold plane.


HABERMAN: This is a very -- you said something that I think doesn't really get stressed enough, which is that -- and we were talking about this before.

We're seeing something we haven't seen before. So every efforts to say this thing is just like every other thing that has happened before, there is not much value at the moment in predicting. We can just cover what's happening in front of us.

What he is -- what he is tapping into is a populist sentiment on the Right, a feeling of anger at the establishment, a feeling, in terms of the Tea Party, anger -- that's what you were talking about, tax the rich guys.

And then he says, I know these guys. He is combining this brashness and this anger but, also on the immigration front, A, it became very clear at the end of last year's midterms the midterm was going to be a pretty, pretty powerful fuel in the Republican primary for the presidency. You saw it come back as an issue.

And it is tied to the wages issue. I mean, essentially --


HABERMAN: -- immigration. What you hear is -- you hear -- Republican voters are hearing this as, you know, you want more people coming in to keep our wages down. People will argue the economics of that. People will argue whether that's true. But that is what Trump is feeding into.

KING: And what he does in the race -- and I guess if only Nixon can go to China, can only Trump say Republicans should raise taxes?

Because what you're going to have now in the days and weeks ahead is Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders saying, on this point, I agree with Donald Trump, how about you, Jeb?

JONATHAN MARTIN, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Yes. He really does squeeze the other mainline candidates with the donor class that is driven almost entirely by economic issues. And by the way, it's not just the hedge fund guys. He said yesterday in Nashville that he wants to protect Social Security -- he said Medicaid. I think he meant Medicare.


MARTIN: But, you know, he is speaking to a Republican Party that is increasingly downscaled, that is older and that is much more populist in orientation. They are not driven to politics, these activists I'm talking about, because they're worried about the capital gains rate. They're in politics because they're concerned about the border, what's happening to my country.

And here comes along this guy, all the celebrity in the world, a bombast in the world, who is speaking directly to their issues in a way that -- he doesn't mince words.

And look, I don't know if that's 51 percent of the primary. But it's 25 percent.


KING: -- 17th candidate in the field --

HABERMAN: I mean, 25 percent was enough for Mitt Romney with how many were left by the end?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right. Right, no matter --


MARTIN: -- which is why --


MARTIN: -- which is why it's Labor Day and you're a Republican establishment type and you see this happening. You see that big of a field, where you only need a plurality win, it's time to think of putting money --

KING: And in the world of super PACs, where these guys who normally would drop out, get to stay in. So that's helping Trump.


MARTIN: -- one negative TV ad aired against Donald Trump. And he's been leading in the polls for two months.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But here's the thing, on the other hand, though, what is the TV ad that you run against Trump?

What is the ad?

KING: Well, Jeb Bush tried it on the stump this week. Jeb Bush tried it on the stump this week. He said he wants to raise taxes. That's not a Republican. He spoke in favor of single payer health care; that's not a Republican. He came out once in favor of late-term abortions; that's not a Republican.

Jeb Bush blames us in part but also seems like he is saying the other candidates need to get tougher. Listen.


JEB BUSH, FORMER GOVERNOR OF FLORIDA: This is a guy who is the front- runner. He should be treated like a front-runner, not as some kind of alternative universe to the political system.


KING: I think he's asking us to do that, Robert.

But the other candidates have also, for the most part, been hit or miss, intermittent backed up Trump.

ROBERT COSTA, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Trump's not running an ideological campaign. Yet every one of his rivals is running against him like he is.



COSTA: So he's running as a traitor to his class, who understands Wall Street, who will fight Wall Street and be a proponent for the lower middle class. This is his campaign.

He's not running to be Bill Buckley's favorite or to be friends with Bill Kristol. This is for working-class, conservative people, who haven't voted in a long time. That's what he's running.

I checked in with Lewandowski, campaign manager for Trump, checked in with Trump this week, about the third party thing. They're aware Virginia may try to keep them out.


KING: The loyalty pledges, right.

COSTA: But they like everyone squirming. So they're not going to make a promise.

I said to Trump directly, are going to really -- he said look I'm not making any promises.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: South Carolina will be so much leverage to have.


KING: -- I think you hit the nail on the head. They like everybody squirming. They like that.

Everybody sit tight. Next, Hillary Clinton's new approach to e-mail questions and a new label for Republicans.

First though, let's call this a hair-raising "Politicians Say the Darnedest Things." (MUSIC PLAYING)


TRUMP: Come on up here. They're going to let you -- I just -- you have to do an inspection. This is getting crazy.


TRUMP: It is.

Say it, please.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, I believe it is.



CLINTON: If anyone wonders if mine is real, here's the answer. The hair is real. The color isn't.

And come to think of it, I wonder if --


CLINTON: -- that's true for Donald, too.




KING: Welcome back.

Safe to say this is not a happy morning at Clinton campaign headquarters. And here's why.

I'll show you, above the fold in the Sunday "Des Moines Register," the new Iowa poll out still shows Clinton in the lead in the kickoff --


KING: -- caucus state.

But Bernie Sanders is closing in. Secretary Clinton, for the first time, is below 50 percent in this poll.

Let's look closely at the numbers here, Clinton at 37 percent, Sanders at 30 percent, Vice President Biden -- not actually running -- but he polls third at 14 percent.

Now remember, Sanders is also leading in some New Hampshire polls. And clearly had Secretary Clinton in mind when he told the big Democratic meeting Friday, voters are looking for something new. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VT.: With all due respect -- and I do not mean to insult anyone here -- that turnout, that enthusiasm, will not happen with politics as usual.


KING: He didn't want to insult anybody there. But he did want to make a reference to somebody --


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'll leave it up to you to guess.


KING: It's interesting, though, Jonathan, Maggie, you guys both wrote about this week. Look, you know, Democrats get jitters. It's part of their DNA.

Democrats get jitters just like humans breathe oxygen.

However, there is a sense of -- a deeper sense of jitters in the Democratic Party right now when people look at all these poll numbers. It's one of the reasons people are going to the vice president.

One of the questions is how does she handle all this e-mail controversy? And Democrats were heartened a bit when she was in Iowa earlier in the week, when she set the jokes aside and she said this.


CLINTON: I know people have raised questions about my e-mail use as secretary of state. And I understand why. I get it. It clearly wasn't the best choice. I should have used two e-mails, one personal, one for work. And I take responsibility for that decision.


KING: That's what a lot of people in the party want to hear. "It was a mistake." Not another joke.

But to the same reporter who she said, "What do you mean, wipe it with a cloth?" Ed Henry of FOX News, who sometimes gets under her skin, he asked a question at the Democratic National -- he had several questions, including about the ethics of Bill Clinton giving paid speeches. And Hillary Clinton didn't like it.


CLINTON: Let me answer one of your questions, because I think that's what you are entitled to.


MARTIN: Well, this is the challenge. The campaign very much wants her to take the tone that you saw in the first clip.


MARTIN: And they recognize that joking about it a couple weeks before in Iowa was a decision that, in hindsight, maybe we shouldn't have done that.

But the problem is the candidate herself is driving this, as Maggie pointed out this week in her story.

And when she's pressed, her true emotions come out and she doesn't want to really engage and she doesn't want to sort of take it in a way that legitimizes it.

And so, it's fascinating to see those clips side by side because the first one is what the campaign wants. And the second one is when she's pressed a little bit how she acts.

HABERMAN: It's also -- it's who she's pressed by, I mean, if we're being honest. She -- Ed Henry, as you said, does get under her skin. And we saw that in the "wipe it with a cloth" press conference, which really was, I think, just four questions from Ed Henry before she left.

She, I think, does not think she did anything wrong. And we don't actually know what happened. So I mean it is too early to say whether she did or didn't. A lot of her critics want to say she did.

The problem is to the point she said in that earlier answer, there are legitimate questions about this. There are reasons people have questions about this. And as Jonathan said you have to feel for her staff because they are in a really tough position in the sense that -- and, by the way, in contrast to '08, I think at this point in the '08 campaign, you would have seen sort of anonymous sniping. You're not seeing that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're hanging together.

HABERMAN: They're hanging together and I think they share her view that the press has been unfair.

What you are seeing with that statement, Ed Henry, is she does believe the press has been unfair.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But one fast point though --

KING: And then she walked out. She didn't take any more questions, too. That was it.


KING: -- I'm out of here.

HABERMAN: But the problem is, it's not just the press. She said about that -- the thing that she said that was -- that was problematic -- well, several things she said have been problematic. But one of the things she said was, "Nobody asks me about this but you."

I've experienced on the trail, I know I'm not the only reporter who has, voters at her events, who have brought it up to me, I have not asked the question, they have said, I'm concerned about these speed bumps with her.

I said, what do you mean by speed bumps?

And they'll say these e-mail issues.

RESTON: That's the thing; the e-mail issue represents something to Democratic voters that's much broader than --


RESTON: -- Clinton ads --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a stand-in.

RESTON: -- like they don't understand exact -- but it seems --


RESTON: -- shady. There's something shady and that's what they bring up in conversation.

KING: In this Quinnipiac national poll this week, they did this word association thing, where they said what's the first word that comes to mind?

The first word that came to mind for Hillary Clinton was "liar."


HABERMAN: Well, one of the things that you're seeing, John, that -- I think a problem for her is -- and you actually see this with Jeb Bush. They have eerily similar profiles, as do, honestly, at least in this respect and in some others.

But in this one neither one of them is actually really driving their own message. And so when you are not driving your own message, people fill in the blanks.

So Hillary Clinton is talking about a patchwork of progressive ideals in some cases, in some cases just Democratic base ideals.

But there is no sort of, you know, I'm a fighter and I'm fighting for you, is her message. But there's not sort of some overarching --


HABERMAN: -- theme that I think people are really able to --

RESTON: And they also both just feel -- when you're on the campaign trail with both of them, they just seem to kind of project that they're above the process in some way. And you see that in flashes of irritation, both with Jeb and with Clinton.

And voters kind of key in to that and don't like that; whereas like Trump is out there, just kind of mixing it up and people like to watch that and respond to that.

KING: And the Democratic campaign early on looked very much like a Republican campaign. You had sort of it was her turn; you had an anointed front-runner. That's what we've seen in the past, but Bernie Sanders there, essentially making the point, folks, there's something in the water this year and you need to think outside the box and think differently.

Can he make that sway?

He's doing it with voters out there.

Can he do it -- you know, super delegates matter. The party infrastructure does matter more in the Democratic primary process than it does in the Republican primary process.

Can he meet that case to them, "Think again"?

COSTA: Yes. I mean, you should -- every time you go up to New Hampshire, especially in Iowa, there's this joke among some people that Bernie Sanders has a lot of these Vermont types, fish fans following him around.

This is a real presidential campaign. He's rising in the polls without going negative on Hillary Clinton. He's capturing all the populist energy. Joe Biden isn't scaring his supporters off, his looming candidacy.

And so Bernie is surging. He is connecting with what the Democratic base want post-Obama: to move more to the left, to have energy. And that's a powerful force. It's not a joke.

MARTIN: Hillary does have a trump card, no pun intended. She is a history-making candidate in the sense that she would be the first female president. And if you look at her numbers, they're very strong among women -- is a key, key part of her winning the Democratic primary and potentially the presidency.

And I think the Bernie thing is obviously serious and --


MARTIN: -- gender matters.

KING: Right. And as we point out, her weaknesses -- we should every time make clear she also has a lot of strengths, too, we're going to watch as this one plays out.

Everybody sit tight; the Republican establishment is watching nervously. You might notice that as Donald Trump takes flight in the polls, Jeb Bush isn't exactly setting the world on fire. Now there's someone else taking a close look at the field wondering what he can do about it. Our reporters share from their notebooks next.




KING: Let's head around the INSIDE POLITICS table, ask our great reporters to share a nugget or two from their notebooks.

Maeve Reston?

RESTON: Well, I think the hottest conversations going on right now in the donor community is among the anti-Trump donors: how do you take down Donald Trump and what's the vehicle to do it?

And there are a lot of donors out there who see it as much too dangerous, obviously, for the candidates or their allied super PACs to go after Trump. So they're looking to more establishment PACs to potentially take him down in post-Labor Day ads. So we'll see where that conversation goes.

KING: See where it goes and how much money might be spent.


MARTIN: The Obama-controlled DNC could not pass a resolution this weekend expressing support for President Obama's Iran deal. It's a bit of an embarrassment for the administration, seeing as how it's his party. He appointed Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

And it has revived this sort of latest round of eye-rolling among Democratic operatives about the state of the party.

Of course, President Obama has not put a lot of focus on the party itself.

But it is going to be fascinating to watch what Hillary Clinton does with the DNC. A lot of people in the party noticed in her speech last Friday to the party, she pointedly said that she's going to rebuild the party from the ground up.

Now when you say "rebuild," that implies that something has to be built back up again.

Keep an eye on the former governor of Michigan, Jennifer Granholm, someone who could be involved in the party at some point this year or next year when Hillary Clinton -- if she becomes the nominee.

KING: We'll keep an eye on that "if" and I think a bit of an embarrassment is that you're being a very diplomatic understatement there. It's a big embarrassment for the president.


COSTA: This is the summer of Trump and the one person I'm really curious about his perspective is Mitt Romney.

So on late Saturday I checked with people close to Romney.

I say, "What is he really thinking about his race?"

And here's what I found from several people who had conversations with him, who are close to him.

One, he thinks the race hasn't started yet. He's watching it very closely. He's very surprised that Jeb Bush hasn't got a lot of traction. He thought Jeb would be better at this point.

He also thinks the race doesn't really start until January and February. And in terms of ruling out a run, he's not running.

But he thinks the race begins in January and February and he's watching it very closely and people just kept telling me the same thing, he's keeping an eye on it. He's surprised how the race is unfolding. And it's in flux and Romney is on the sidelines.


KING: Very telling, shrug and a wink.

OK, guys. Very subtle.

Yes, Maggie?

HABERMAN: Jeb Bush spent the weekend in my home state, three fundraisers in the Hamptons. He is raising very aggressively and his supporters feel very good about that.

But where they're not raising is equally as important. They're not doing a lot of secondary cities, tertiary cities, places outside New York, L.A., Texas, havens for money.

That's because, among other things, August is the toughest month but also because Jeb still doesn't quite have a case to sell to a lot of donors. And they are trying to figure out, you know, can they pivot past this rough patch?

One donor said to me if this was September or October and we were still having this conversation, I would be concerned. They are hoping we are not still.

KING: Well, we will check back to see if they are in a month or two, Maggie. Thank you.

I'll close with this. A quick thank you and a farewell.

One of the key behind-the-scenes players in our INSIDE POLITICS family, we do view it as a family, is moving on.

Hardy Squire (ph) not only helped steer this half hour every Sunday morning but has been waking up before sunrise, yes, before sunrise for the past year-plus to produce our weekday morning segments on CNN's "NEW DAY."

As he leaves for a new adventure, I just want to say thanks, good luck and we'll call you every morning 5:30 anyway.


KING: That's it for INSIDE POLITICS. Again, thanks for sharing your Sunday morning. We'll see you soon.