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Insults Fly as Trump Stretches Lead; Bernie Sanders 'Stunned' at Surge in Polls; Democrats Block Effort to Kill Iran Nuke Deal. Aired 5-6:00p ET

Aired September 10, 2015 - 17:00   ET


[17:00:14] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now: Trump's big jump. The frontrunner stretches his lead even as he trades insults with Republican rivals. What will happen when they're face-to-face in the GOP debate?

Sanders stunner. The liberal Democrat admits he's stunned that polls show him leading Hillary Clinton in two early contest states. And Clinton admits she really is a moderate.

At close range. New details about the police officer found shot to death after saying he was pursuing three men. The latest evidence is raising new questions about the mystery of Fox Lake.

And highway sniper. Shattered windows and shattered nerves. As motorists worry, police scramble to find out who's behind a series of shootings along a stretch of highway in Arizona.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Stunning numbers and insults in the presidential race. Donald Trump tops our new poll at 32 percent, and a majority of Republicans say he's now likely to win the nomination. Ben Carson is in second place at 19 percent.

On the Democratic side, Senator Bernie Sanders has passed Hillary Clinton in the latest Iowa poll. But while the Democrats are keeping the gloves on more or less, Republicans are ripping into one another.

Trump is trying to save face after mocking Carly Fiorina's face, and the billionaire is even scoffing at Ben Carson's record as a neurosurgeon, while Governor Bobby Jindal is jumping on Trump, calling him a carnival act.

We're also tracking a dangerous situation unfolding right now in Arizona. Police there are hunting an apparent sniper after ten vehicles were hit by bullets recently on a highway running through Phoenix.

With just six days left to the GOP debate, I'll speak with presidential candidate Senator Lindsey Graham. And our correspondents, analysts and guests, they are standing by with full coverage of the top stories.

Let's begin with the Republican race, where the gloves have come off as Donald Trump stretches his lead.

Our political reporter, Sara Murray, leads off our coverage. Sara, what's the latest?

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, a day of name- calling for Republicans, attacking each other's faith, personality, even appearances, all as Donald Trump continues to dominate the field.



MURRAY (voice-over): Donald Trump climbing to his widest lead yet, still firing off insults in every direction.

TRUMP (via phone): Carly Fiorina has had a terrible past. She was fired viciously from Hewlett-Packard.

MURRAY: And attempting to clean up this comment to "Rolling Stone." "Look at that face. Would anyone vote for that? Can you imagine that? The face of our next president?" Saying he was not talking about Fiorina's appearance.

TRUMP: But Carly, the statement of Carly, I'm talking about her persona. Her persona is not going to be -- she's not going to be president.

MURRAY: Fiorina shrugging off Trump's insults.

CARLY FIORINA (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You know, honestly, Megyn, I'm not going to spend a single cycle wondering what Donald Trump means, but maybe, just maybe I'm getting under his skin a little bit, because I am climbing in the polls.

MURRAY: But a new CNN/ORC poll shows Fiorina making little progress. Trump pulls a wide lead, with 32 percent support from Republican voters. In second place, and gaining momentum, Dr. Ben Carson with 19 percent support.

The retired neurosurgeon, one of the latest GOP contenders to trade barbs with Trump, saying the major difference between them is their faith in God.

DR. BEN CARSON (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Probably the biggest thing is that, you know, I realize where my successes come from. And I don't, in any way, deny my faith in God.

MURRAY: A jab at Trump, who once referred casually to communion as...

TRUMP (on camera): When I drink my little wine, which is about the only wine I drink and have my little cracker.

MURRAY: And said he's never asked God for forgiveness.

TRUMP: When I do something wrong, I think I just try and make it right. I don't bring God into that picture.

MURRAY: Carson's attack could prove potent in a state like Iowa with its powerful bloc of socially conservative voters. Trump firing back.

TRUMP (via phone): Who is he to question my faith when I am -- he doesn't even know me.

MURRAY: Calling Carson a sluggish candidate.

TRUMP: Frankly, he looks like -- he makes Bush look like the Energizer bunny.

MURRAY: Even slamming the medical career of the first surgeon to ever separate twins conjoined at the head.

TRUMP: He was a doctor, perhaps, you know, an OK doctor, by the way.

MURRAY: Today Carson softening his tone, telling "The Washington Post" he doesn't want a gladiator fight with Trump.


MURRAY: Now today, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal also took his own shots at Donald Trump, calling him an egomaniac and a carnival act. It's pretty clear the claws are out on the Republican side, Wolf.

[17:05:07] BLITZER: They're really escalating the rhetoric, I must say. It's very, very dramatic. Much more coming up. Sara, thanks very much.

Over on the Democratic side, Senator Bernie Sanders tells me he's stunned at his recent surge in the polls. A new poll has Sanders edging ahead of Hillary Clinton in Iowa. Polls show him significantly ahead in New Hampshire. Clinton is still well ahead in the national polling. She's in Ohio today. So is CNN's Suzanne Malveaux.

Suzanne, what's the latest over there?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, it is quite stunning when you take a look at that Quinnipiac poll. I mean, those numbers, the dramatic leap that he's made, but I'm not completely surprised. I covered Sanders just last week. They're in Iowa. And those crowds are enthusiastic, and they're passionate.

Take a look at these numbers, Wolf. We're talking about Sanders at 41 percent, and then Hillary Clinton at 40 percent. They are neck and neck, Biden at 12 percent. And he hasn't even jumped into the race. Martin O'Malley at 3 percent. This is a dramatic decline for Hillary Clinton, just two months ago, down 21 points.

Now, one way that that she does shine, however, is that she does better with women. She also does better with leadership in dealing with an international crisis, but this is where she lags. That is in the trust and honesty factor. That is where she is just lagging behind those two, and the campaign realizes this. They know this. They know it is the price they've paid for months of these questions around the controversy and her e-mail. They are trying to get beyond that.

And that's why we saw today, Wolf, a different kind of message, one in which she says she is now a moderate.


HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You know, I get accused of being kind of moderate and center. I plead guilty. I think sometimes it's important when you're in the elected arena, you try to figure out, how do you bring people together to get something done? Instead of just standing on the opposite sides yelling at each other.


MALVEAUX: So, Wolf, read "moderate" as electable. That is what she is trying to do.

This was a relatively small crowd for this venue, but it was very specific. It was about women for Hillary. It's part of a series that started on Saturday, to talk about these issues that they believe will resonate with women: equal pay, child care, reproductive rights, things like this. All these things very critical to attract the independents, the moderates and those young families that she desperately needs.

BLITZER: It sounds like she's getting a little nervous about Bernie Sanders, who clearly is not necessarily moderate. He told me he's not a moderate. He obviously...

MALVEAUX: Not at all.

BLITZER: ... is making tremendous inroads, and she keeps saying she's a true Democrat, a real Democrat, suggesting maybe he's not necessarily a real or true Democrat. All right. Suzanne, thanks very much.

MALVEAUX: That's right.

BLITZER: Donald Trump is clearly making waves today for his latest attacks on Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina. He has insults for everyone, virtually, in the GOP field. Listen to his various attacks in recent days on Senator Lindsey Graham.


TRUMP: You have this guy, Lindsey Graham, a total lightweight. Here's a guy, in the private sector, he couldn't get a job. Believe me. Couldn't get a job.

I think he's been a terrible representative for South Carolina, and all he does is attack me. His whole line is to attack Donald Trump.

So far everybody that's attacked me has gone down the tubes. Lindsay Graham attacked me. He was at 3 percent; now he's at zero.

My primary focus is on the 16 people. You know, I have guys like Lindsey Graham who has zero.

Has anyone ever heard of Lindsey Graham? This guy. He made a very big mistakes when he ran, because the people of South Carolina are watching this farce.

So a poll came out the other day. He was at zero. Zero. Even Pataki was higher. Pataki was at zero with an arrow up.

So Lindsey Graham says to me, "Please, please, whatever you can do."

You know, I'm saying to himself, "What's this guy, a beggar?" He gave me his number, and I found the card. I wrote the number down. I don't know if it's the right number. Let's try it: 202-(PHONE NUMBER DELETED). I don't know, maybe it's -- you know, it's three or four years ago, so maybe it's an old number.


BLITZER: All right. Pretty tough words there. Let's discuss all of this with Republican presidential candidate Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. You were smiling as you were hearing it. But he was -- he was really going after you.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: At the end of the day, one, it was my number, and I would suggest you don't give your number to him.

You know, here's what's going to happen eventually. Somebody is going to look at his ability to be commander in chief, bring us together as president of the United States.

Tomorrow is the 14th anniversary of 9/11. We shouldn't be talking the way we are toward each other. We should be talking about a common enemy called radical Islam that's coming here if we don't stop them there. We should be talking about women being raped, sold into slavery. We should be talking about an Iran nuclear deal that's going to give the ayatollah a pathway to build a bomb, a missile to build it, money to pay for it.

[17:10:12] BLITZER: So are you suggesting he's not qualified, Donald Trump, to be president of the United States?

GRAHAM: I'm suggesting he's the most unqualified people on our -- unqualified person on our side of the aisle to be commander in chief. And that's saying a lot with Rand Paul, because his solution to destroying ISIL -- listen to this -- we're going to go to Iraq and Syria to get their oil to pay for our wounded soldiers. That won't destroy ISIL. That will turn everybody in the Middle East against us and help ISIL. So when you say things like that, you clearly don't know what the

Mideast is about. You have no idea of what you're saying. So I think he's very unqualified to be commander in chief, and I know I am.

BLITZER: The polls don't show that.

GRAHAM: Well, all I can tell you is that, in 2012, Rick Perry had an 11-point lead. In 2008, Giuliani was winning. If polls are any indication of what happens, he's not going to win.

BLITZER: Are you going to stay in this race, even though you're down there at 1 or 2 percent?

GRAHAM: I'm at 1 percent. One percent. I don't want to peak too soon. I don't want to peak too soon.

Yes, I've got -- I've got a message I think the country needs to hear. We're on the road to Greece. Somebody need to do what Ronald Reagan and Tip O'Neill did, save Social Security from bankruptcy, by working together.

You know, Hillary Clinton said, "I plead guilty" -- I wouldn't use that phrase if I were her -- "to being a moderate."

I'm a conservative that will work across the aisle, like Ronald Reagan did with Tip O'Neill. I want to save Social Security from bankruptcy. We need to adjust the age of (UNINTELLIGIBLE). And I'll do revenue as a Republican.

BLITZER: Obviously, so far it's not resonating.

GRAHAM: It's not.

BLITZER: Why not, if you want to prevent Donald Trump from being the Republican presidential nominee -- and I believe you do want to prevent him from getting the nomination -- why not at some point drop out and give your support to Jeb Bush or somebody else out there who may have a more credible chance of beating Donald Trump than you do?

GRAHAM: I'm not trying to prevent Donald Trump. I'm trying to save a country who's very much at risk from a failed foreign policy. President Obama has been a weak opponent of evil and a poor champion of freedom.

I've been to Iraq, Afghanistan 35 times, Wolf, in the last decade; 140 days on the ground as a reservist in Iraq and Afghanistan. I've dedicated my adult life to foreign policy, to understanding our military, what they need to win. And I've got one simple goal the day before 9/11, is to destroy radical Islam.

General Allen is one of the finest men to ever wear the uniform, but I couldn't disagree more with him about this success of this strategy to destroy ISIL. But it's not working. There is no plan in Syria.

BLITZER: So you think you have a better chance to get those points across as a Republican presidential candidate, as opposed to stepping out and working for some other Republican?

GRAHAM: Yes, I think I've got the best chance to beat Hillary Clinton, because her definition of flat broke and mine are a bit different. But I know I'm the best person to be a commander in chief at a time when we need one.

BLITZER: So why do so many Republicans -- what, 32 percent in our latest national poll -- go with him, as opposed to you, for example? A lot of Republicans think, now 51 percent, think he's likely to be the next Republican presidential nominee.

GRAHAM: If polling is any indication in the past, you know, why didn't Rick Perry win? Why didn't Giuliani win?

BLITZER: Because he screwed up at that debate.

GRAHAM: All I can tell you is that this is months away before we vote, and solutions to hard problems will matter over the time. And I am confident of the following: that my plan to destroy ISIL makes more sense than Mr. Trump or anybody else in this race. And I am very confident that I'll do well in New Hampshire. John McCain is going with me tomorrow. We're going to have a bunch of town halls together. Small group by small group, I'm going to make the case that I know how to destroy radical Islam, and I'm intent on doing it, and get us out of debt.

BLITZER: Clearly, I mean, you said recently, not that long ago, Trump has consolidated all the Republicans who think Obama is a Muslim that he was born in Kenya. What did you mean by that?

GRAHAM: When you look at the polling of the people who support Trump, they sort of overwhelmingly believe that.

Here's what I think Republicans should do: Elect somebody who is qualified to be commander in chief. All I can say is that the military is stuck with your choice when you vote for commander in chief.

We've had one novice in Barack Obama. This deal with Iran is a disaster in the making. President Obama's efforts to contain ISIL are not working. On his watch radical Islam is running wild. We're going to get hit again here if we don't deal with Syria and Iraq more effectively. We need American boots on the ground.

So I'm trying to make the case that I know how to prevent the next 9/111, and I'm intent on doing it.

BLITZER: So what does it say about the Republican Party right now that he is way ahead, not only nationally among Republicans but in Iowa, New Hampshire, your home state. He's doing much better in South Carolina, which is the third contest coming up.

What does it say about the Republican Party, that he's doing so well right now?

GRAHAM: I think people are frustrated with anybody associated with politics. But experience will matter over time.

The one thing I can tell you, if you're in the military, or you have a family member in the military, for God's sake, pick somebody who's experienced to make sure they don't send your loved one into a bad situation, like going to Iraq and Syria to say, "I'm here to take your oil to pay for our wounded warriors." You'll create World War III. Somebody who understands the Mideast that can get a better deal with the ayatollah.

[17:15:10] So I just beg the American people, think about those who are fighting this war. Make somebody -- make sure somebody who's going to be commander in chief knows what they're doing.

BLITZER: All right, Senator, stand by. We have more to discuss, including the breaking news on what the Senate, the United States Senate just did, basically giving a huge victory on the Iran nuclear deal to the president of the United States, a huge setback for you and the opponents of this deal.

Much more with Senator Lindsey Graham when we come back.


[17:20:12] BLITZER: All right. There's breaking news up on Capitol Hill. Senate Democrats just blocked efforts to kill the Iran deal. They failed to block efforts to kill the Iran deal. Opponents of the deal needed 60 votes but only managed to get 58. It's an important win for President Obama. He's calling this afternoon's vote a victory for diplomacy and international security.

If the president of the United States has won this battle, the Democrats [SIC] have lost this battle, 58 votes, not enough to let this debate continue to go forward.

We're back with the Republican presidential candidate, Senator Lindsey Graham, South Carolina. The president won; you lost.

GRAHAM: Yes, I think the world lost, and I think the people who voted for this deal own it. Our friends in Israel have got to be very disappointed.

Here's what the ayatollah said yesterday: "I'm telling you first, you will not be around in 25 years. And God willing, there will be no Zionist regime in 25 years."

If you told me a year ago that we would have -- the Democrats wouldn't let us have an up or down vote on this deal, the most consequential foreign policy decision in modern times, that we couldn't even get a vote, I'd have said, "No way."

If you had told me a year ago that we would have given the ayatollah $100 billion of new money and no limitations on how he could use it; buy more weapons by lifting the arms embargo; build a missile in eight years and have an unfettered pathway to a bomb in 15, I would have said there's no way we would have done that. And our hostages, for $100 billion, you can't get four people out of jail? This is a horrible deal for us and I think a death sentence over

time for Israel if it's not changed.

BLITZER: So you have 54 Republicans, four Democrats...


BLITZER: ... who voted to let the debate continue.

GRAHAM: Yes, and have a vote.

BLITZER: You needed 60. So you lost.

GRAHAM: Yes, we lost, absolutely.

BLITZER: So October -- so starting September 17, within a few months after that, the money can start flowing to Iran? Is that right?

GRAHAM: Within nine months. The ayatollah and his henchmen, who's a radical jihadist, who's a religious Nazi, who wants to kill the Jews as much as Hitler did, and he just told you yesterday. You know why he tweeted this out?

Some of my colleagues are saying this deal makes Israel safer, and they're protected under this deal for 20 to 25 years. He wanted to let my colleagues know, "No, I am committed to their destruction, and it will happen within 25 years."

So what will he do? In nine months, he'll get about $80 billion. In five years he can buy new weapons. In eight years, can get back to building a missile. And if they didn't cheat, in 15 years, he can enrich and reprocess uranium to make a bomb.

BLITZER: So it's over now. No matter what the House of Representatives does, the president got his way. This Iran nuclear deal now goes forward.

GRAHAM: Yes. The next president is not bound by it. If I'm president of the United States, I will not honor this deal. I will tell every world power, "I will not honor this deal. I will get you a better deal." I will ask Congress to give me sanctions to make sure that any company that does business with Iran can't use American banks.

BLITZER: I'll ask you what I asked Bobby Jindal earlier today. He's a Republican presidential candidate, as well. If Donald Trump gets the Republican nomination, are you committed to voting for him?

GRAHAM: Yes, I'm going to support my nominee. And if he becomes the nominee of my party, I think the nominee of the Democratic Party will beat him. We're going to get killed with Hispanics because of his rhetoric. I think he is really not a good choice to be commander in chief. And I'm afraid it would be the end of the Republican Party's chance to win in 2016. The best opportunity that I've seen in decades for us to win the

White House, Donald Trump to me is not a conservative, is not qualified to be commander in chief. And I fear that, if he's our nominee, we lose the last best chance to get the White House.

BLITZER: So you would vote for him over either, let's say, Hillary Clinton or the vice president, Joe Biden?

GRAHAM: I can't have it both ways. I can't say that I'm for my party and not be for my party. But I'm trying to tell you and other Republicans, I believe we would lose at a time we need to win.

I believe the change that this country needs will never happen if Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton are president. They're fine people. But Mr. Trump is not qualified, in my view, to be commander in chief and lead this great nation.

When he said something about Carly, the way she looks, we know exactly what he meant. He meant to hurt her, to be mean to her. So at the end of the day, I just think Mr. Trump would lose, because he's not qualified to be president.

BLITZER: But you would still vote for him?

GRAHAM: Yes, I would have to vote for the nominee of my party.

BLITZER: You don't have to.

GRAHAM: I'm telling you I would support my party's nominee. Because I signed a pledge. And at the end of the day the Republican Party is not going down this road.

I'll make a prediction. I don't know what will happen to me, but I promise you this: Mr. Trump will not be the nominee of our party.

BLITZER: Senator Graham, thanks very much for joining us. We'll see you out in California next week.

GRAHAM: Absolutely.

BLITZER: Coming up, the insults are flying as Republicans look for an edge ahead of next week's GOP debate. Governor Bobby Jindal, he's now jumping on Donald Trump, calling him a carnival act and an egomaniac.

And new details about the police officer found shot to death after saying he was pursuing three suspects. The latest evidence raising new questions about the Fox Lake mystery.

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: With just six days to go until the next Republican presidential debate, it's getting pretty nasty out there. The Republican rivals are already ripping into one another. Let's discuss. Joining us, our political reporter, Sara Murray;

our political commentator S.E. Cupp; our political commentator, Kevin Madden; and our other commentator Ryan Lizza. He's the Washington correspondent for "The New Yorker" magazine.

Kevin, it's your Republican Party out there. You just heard Lindsey Graham smeared, attacked Donald Trump, but saying, you know, in effect, I'll hold my nose, but support him if he's -- support my party if he's the nominee.

What's going on over here?

KEVIN MADDEN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, if anything that shows just how much they dislike him and all ready to run against Hillary Clinton. They want to talk more about that.

Look, it is a time right now like the starter's pistol for -- I think for the campaign has really gone off. This is the time now where all of these candidates are really interested in drawing contrasts with each other. And you're going to see more and more of that. We saw Bobby Jindal today begin to launch an attack on Donald Trump. And it was a slightly different one than what we saw with Jeb Bush, whereas Jeb Bush is trying to create a -- you know, ideological purity question about Donald Trump. Bobby Jindal has gone out there and said look, what you're seeing is a fraud, what you're seeing is a con.


BLITZER: Well, let me tell you a little bit.

MADDEN: Telling conservatives not to allow him to do that.

BLITZER: S.E., listen to the Louisiana governor, the Republican presidential candidate, Bobby Jindal.


GOV. BOBBY JINDAL (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: What's more dangerous is here's -- we got a man -- there's no ideology, there's policy, there's no intellectual curiosity. He's only for himself. He said -- you know, he said his favorite book was the bible, he couldn't name one verse that he liked that had an impact on his life.

Wolf, I don't think he's read the bible because he's not in it. This is a complete narcissist. It's been a fun show. The idea of Donald Trump is great. The reality is awful.


BLITZER: You remember anything like this going on among Republicans, as bitter, angry as that?

S.E. CUPP, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, maybe not Republicans. I think 1976 Democratic primary was pretty bad when you had folks like Jerry Brown saying anyone but Carter, and the Carter was the big frontrunner and they were really dismissive of him, but no, I mean, in recent memory, no, this is pretty nasty. But that's what happens. Trump has -- I don't want to say elevated because it's not an elevation, but he's brought this really down kind of to the gutter, and so I think, for lack of other solutions, some of the candidates are kind of going where Trump is.

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICS CORRESPONDENT: They've elevated their insult game, at least.

CUPP: Yes.

BLITZER: Trump does point out, Ryan, he often points it out, Bobby Jindal, Lindsey Graham, they're at 1 percent or 2 percent if that. He's at 32 percent among Republicans nationwide. So the more they attack him the lower their numbers go down.

RYAN LIZZA, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORKER: Yes, I think the kids calling it in social media trolling, right? Donald Trump has taken trolling into the presidential election process, right? He says things that are so outrageous, it gets his opponents so mad, and he's just doing it to elicit a response. And you know, whatever he said about Bobby Jindal, he was the governor of Louisiana.

BLITZER: Twice elected.

LIZZA: Twice elected. And the only time this guy can get on TV is when he has some vicious attack or funny line about Donald Trump. None of these guys can actually put out their sort of positive message and their positive policy agenda. It has to -- everything is about Trump right now.

BLITZER: I must say, Sara, I've been pretty surprised the last 24, 48 hours at this back-and-forth between Donald Trump and Dr. Ben Carson, who's second among Republicans in our national polls. He's doing very, very well, but they're really going back -- back and forth right now it's getting pretty nasty and pretty personal.

MURRAY: It is getting nasty. And it's very funny to kind of watch the way that Donald Trump has been going after Ben Carson, saying he's only an OK doctor. If you're going to go after Ben Carson for something, I don't know that that's what you would pick. But it is a sign, you know, they had this sort of truce between the two of them and Trump said Ben Carson is so nice I don't even want to attack him.

Look, everyone says the real campaign starts after Labor Day, and I think that what we're seeing. The gloves are off, and it just got a lot more vicious, more quickly, than I think a lot of people anticipated.

BLITZER: It shows you, Kevin, because Dr. Ben Carson, who's a famed pediatric neurosurgeon, he retired from John Hopkins University, which is one of the best hospitals in the world, so he's obviously not just an OK doctor.

MADDEN: Yes. BLITZER: He's a major, major pediatric neurosurgeon. I went to

John Hopkins University myself, so I have to be honest.


BLITZER: I'll be above the fray on that one, but the fact of the matter is that Trump, to his -- he points out I wasn't going to attack him. It was Ben Carson who attacked him on the immigration issues, saying you can't simply deport 11 or 12 million people, that's not realistic and then raising the issue of Donald Trump's faith. So Trump, he only responds. He goes on the counterattack after he's attacked. He was attacked first by Dr. Ben Carson.

MADDEN: But there's a lesson, you know, I think, for some of the other campaigns. The intensity with which Donald Trump punches or counterpunches is really again driving the tempo of this campaign. Some of these other campaigns when they've gone after Donald Trump, they jabbed a little bit. Donald Trump, when he decides to go after one of these candidates, he goes after them with a relentless nature in a way that is somewhat pretty effective. And again, it gets -- it gets coverage.

I think the interesting thing here also is Ben Carson. Ben Carson sees Trump's numbers out there as still a roadblock to his ultimate victory in Iowa. And the -- he didn't go with an ideological frame, instead he went with an evangelical appeal. That's the core of his support out in Iowa and he wants to continue to grow it because there may be some evangelicals that are supporting Donald Trump, maybe on some other issues, he wants to get that back.

[17:35:02] BLITZER: When Donald Trump, S.E., has gone into this one-on-one attack, counterattack, little vicious back-and-forth with various Republican candidates, so far Trump has won.

CUPP: Yes, I mean, and it's bizarre because he's not even using facts to do it, right? I mean, he can say something patently false. He can say something incoherent. I mean, in talking about Ben Carson on the one hand, he says I've known Ben Carson for years, and I've never heard him talk about faith. And then the very next second, he says, I don't know Ben Carson, he doesn't know me. Why is he talking about my faith? So it doesn't even matter the efficacy of these attacks are really just in the sort of bombast. Not in actual hard facts, at least for his supporters.

MADDEN: One of the things to add to that, too, all of this right now is taking place inside an earned media battle. When the ads start flying, when there's a couple of million dollars being pointed at Donald Trump, it will be very interesting to see whether or not that's what really makes the dial move on Donald Trump.

BLITZER: You still believe those ads make a difference?

MADDEN: And those ads will make a difference in concert with all these other campaigns starting to train their fire on them.

BLITZER: What did you think of the comment in "Rolling Stone" magazine he made about Carly Fiorina's face?

CUPP: Indefensible. I mean, in no other world would we be defending that. And just because Trump lives in Trumpland doesn't mean he gets to call the sky green. Face means face. He was calling her unattractive. Face doesn't suddenly mean persona or something else. But again, Trump gets a total pass from his supporters who no longer care what he thinks, what he says, it's all in the delivery.

BLITZER: I want you to react to that, make sure the polls are up there. Trump 32 percent, Carson 19 percent, Bush 9 percent, Cruz 7 percent, Republican choices right now that we're seeing in our CNN-ORC poll. But look at this. Among likely Republicans out there, who is most likely to win the Republican nomination, 51 percent say Trump.

MURRAY: Which is incredible, and I think a lot of that is just because when we first started looking at these numbers, and he jumped in the race, people didn't know how serious he was. There were questions about whether he would release his financials, there were questions about how he would respond once he started losing business deals, and he has weathered all of that, and he stayed in the race.

And now he's starting to, you know, aside from sort of playing fast and loose with the facts, act like a presidential candidate in terms of going out there, campaigning, engaging with his rivals, participating in these debates. And so I think in reaction to that people are starting to look at him as a serious candidate. But it is also very early.

CUPP: And I don't think a lot of average people know exactly what it takes to win the nomination. They rightly see that he's getting a ton of media coverage and he's up in the polls. And so maybe that's influencing opinion more than really sort of really gaming out what it's going to take for him to win Iowa, New Hampshire or --

MADDEN: I think it's more of an indication that right now voters don't see an end in sight with Donald Trump.

CUPP: Yes. That's true.

LIZZA: They're not -- also they're not engaged, not paying attention. But just to go back to your appoint there's going to be a lot of money spent against Donald Trump. It has to be.

BLITZER: Yes, he's --


LIZZA: But he's going to spend money. And his ads will be twice as vicious.

BLITZER: Right now he doesn't need to spend a lot of money -- yes. Right now he doesn't need to spend a lot of money because he's on television all the time going after these various candidates himself. All right. Guys, stand by, we're counting down to the second

Republican debate Wednesday, next Wednesday, September 16th. Live from the Reagan Library in California. You'll see it only here on CNN.

Coming up, other news we're following, a scary situation right now along a busy highway. Can please catch whoever is targeting cars and trucks along a major interstate?


[17:43:06] BLITZER: Getting some breaking news, new revelations right now only deepening the mystery surrounding the death of an Illinois police officer.

Let's go to our justice correspondent Pamela Brown. She's been working her sources. What are you learning, Pamela?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, tonight we're learning that Lieutenant Gliniewicz died from a single gunshot wound that came at a downward angle. The medical examiner has not ruled on an exact cause of death, raising new questions about what may have happened at the crime scene.


BROWN (voice-over): The gunshot wound on Lieutenant Charles Gliniewicz was so devastating, the medical examiner says that it only took one bullet to kill the veteran officer. Tonight sources tell CNN that bullet was fired into Gliniewicz's torso entering at a downward angle. Even, a source says, as he was wearing a bulletproof vest.

LAWRENCE KOBILINSKY, FORENSIC EXPERT: It's quite unusual because clearly you'd have to get close enough to your victim to have this happen. You'd have to get the gun away from the lieutenant. It seems that there was a proximity, a very -- it was a close-in shot with the gun practically in a contact mode.

BROWN: CNN has learned the medical examiner has still not ruled out if that shot was fired by one of the three suspects the officer described in a radio call moments before his death. Police say the case is still being investigated as a homicide, but have not seen the suspects on any surveillance video recorded near the scene.

COMMANDER GEORGE FILENKO, LAKE COUNTY MAJOR CRIME TASK FORCE: We are continuing this investigation based on the information that was provided to us from day one that Lieutenant Gliniewicz identified three individuals that he pursued in a heavily wooded areas, officers responded to back him up, and they found him murdered -- I'm sorry -- killed.

BROWN: Police have remained tightlipped about any evidence they do have, saying only that someone else's DNA along with the officer's gun was found near his body. One source tells CNN that gun had been fired, but police won't say if it fired the fatal shot. [17:45:07] KOBILINSKY: By looking at that bullet, looking at the

striations, the markings on that bullet it should be quite simple to show whether or not it was the officer's gun that fired that round. Then the gun becomes very crucial, because there might be DNA or fingerprints on that gun.


BROWN: And Wolf, I just spoke to an official who says a second bullet hit Gliniewicz's bulletproof vest. The medical examiner says he won't be able to make a determination of what happened until the forensic lab results are complete.

And Wolf, the Fox Lake Police just released a statement moments ago criticizing the medical examiner calling him unprofessional for releasing what they call sensitive information, and they say they haven't been contacted by or had any communication with him. Very strange.

BLITZER: Very strange indeed. All right. Thanks very much for that report, Pamela Brown.

Tom Fuentes is our law enforcement analyst. A former assistant director of the FBI.

When you hear this -- they said he died from a single devastating gunshot wound, what does it say to you?

TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, normally, Wolf, you know, the exact manner and how far away the bullets was fired, how many bullets might be something they'd want to keep secret so that only the killers would know this, because many people call in and confess to the crime even if they didn't commit just to get notoriety and other reasons. So often they want to withhold that type of information.

The information that they do want to release but haven't are descriptive information of who they're looking for, what they look like, what they were wearing at the time. And we've never ahead anything from any of the videos that they processed all of the first week of this investigation.

BLITZER: The fact that he had this bulletproof vest, yet the bullet went around it or whatever, what does that say?

FUENTES: Well, if one bullet -- if they're saying he was killed by one bullet that maybe went in above the vest, if he was leaning forward and it went it below the neck, let's say, and, you know, the vest is kind of -- goes around like a T-shirt. If it was just high enough to go above the vest and a second bullet was fired and hit the vest. Even that bullet would leave a bruise on the body. And it would do blunt trauma, even if it didn't penetrate the Kevlar, it would at least punch up, you know, go inward enough to do damage. Sometimes even break a rib.

BLITZER: The mystery continues. Tom, thanks very much. Coming up, the urgent hunt for whoever is targeting motorists

along a very busy interstate highway.


[17:51:48] BLITZER: We're following an alarming situation in Phoenix, Arizona. Police are investigating a string of shootings along a major highway.

Let's get the latest. Brian Todd is working the story -- Brian.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, tonight law enforcement officials tell us that so far there have been 11 confirmed shootings which are part of this investigation. The head of public safety in Arizona is not calling this a sniper case, but someone is shooting at vehicles in a heavily trafficked corridor in the Phoenix area and it's got local residents terrified.


TODD (voice-over): Shattered windows. Bullet holes. Police combing the highways. On the ground and in the air. Signs of what one law enforcement official calls a pattern of domestic terrorism that tonight has left motorists near Phoenix horrified.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why would somebody shoot at anybody at all? Especially to shoot at some innocent person? I mean, that's just insane.

TODD: Over the past two weeks at least 11 shootings incidents have been reported along the small stretch of Interstate-10. The latest incident under investigation a bullet struck this tractor- trailer. There have been no serious injuries so far but one teenager received cuts from a shattered windshield.

ARTHUR RODERICK, FORMER U.S. MARSHAL: It's just a matter of time. If this keeps going, whether he means to or not, the shooter I'm talking about, very likely is going to end up shooting somebody while they're driving the vehicle. If a driver gets shot or, you know, veers the vehicle off, we could have a major -- not only a shooting but a major car accident, too.

TODD: Former U.S. Marshal Art Roderick was a top investigator in the 2002 D.C. sniper case when 10 innocent people were killed. He says ballistics and indications of trajectory will be critical to investigators. They've already got serious challenges. No suspect so far. And few known leads. The head of public safety says there could be a number of different weapons used.

COL. FRANK MILSTEAD, DIRECTOR, ARIZONA DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY: I don't know if it's a pellet, I don't know if it's a BB. We are not finding what's shattering these windows out, we don't find the item, so I don't know what it is. So I go with projectile to be accurate.

TODD: Roderick says police have some advantages. It's a confined area along I-10. They could have surveillance cam footage to work with or audio sensors to triangulate where shots came from. But along a stretch of highway there are also disadvantages.

(On camera): In areas like this, what are investigators up against?

RODERICK: It's very tough in an area alongside of a major highway like I-10. You have areas like this over here, this kind of a junkyard, you know, with ramps crossing over. I-10 is very similar to this type of makeup. You've got wooded areas. You have fields. You have industrial parks. You pick an area like this, there's not going to be a lot of people around and nobody's going to hear or see what's going on.


TODD: Arizona's public safety director says they're looking for the public's help in this case. Art Roderick says information from the public is going to be crucial and he says police may have already gotten some critical information, maybe that they're holding back so that they don't tip up possible suspects, Wolf, including maybe an area they want to surveil.

BLITZER: Does the timeframe, Brian, of some of these incidents come into play?

TODD: It very well could, Wolf. Most of these incidents have apparently occurred when it was dark outside, either early morning or late at night. Art Roderick says those are the kind of patterns -- that those are part of what law enforcement teams are going to zero in on. But again, at least publicly, they don't seem to have many leads. It's frustrating for them on the ground.

[17:55:07] BLITZER: Let's hope they find the leads soon.

Brian, thank you.

Coming up, Donald Trump stretches his lead even as he trades insults with his Republican rivals. So what will happen when they face off one another in the GOP debate?


BLITZER: Happening now. Trump turning point. The Republican presidential frontrunner expands his lead and passes a potentially major milestone in our exclusive new poll. Now his rivals are ripping into him just days before the CNN presidential debate. Can Trump continue to fend off his closest challengers?

Burning up the polls. Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders makes a dramatic surge in Iowa where he's now in a statistical tie with Hillary Clinton.