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THE SITUATION ROOM
Fiorina Scores against Trump in GOP Debate; Interview with Hillary Clinton; Clinton: 'No Evidence My Server Was Hacked'; The Highs and Lows, Winners and Losers in the Second Republican Debate; Fact-Checking Donald Trump; Aired 5-6p ET
Aired September 17, 2015 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[17:00:11] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, teaming up on Trump. The frontrunner, Donald Trump, was at center stage, which meant he got it from both sides of the GOP debate.
Did his rivals manage to knock him down a peg?
Trump is due to speak shortly. We're standing by.
Fiorina on fire -- after personal insults, former business executive Carly Fiorina lets Trump have it, face-to-face, on the debate stage.
Did she help her own cause and help her party appeal to women?
And a CNN exclusive -- Hillary Clinton joins me for her first live television interview from the campaign trail. She was everyone's favorite target in the Republican debate. Now the Democratic presidential frontrunner gets a chance to respond.
I'm Wolf Blitzer at the Reagan Presidential Library.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
She's only averaging about 3 percent in the national polls, but 23 million people who watched Carly Fiorina in last night's Republican presidential debate right here on CNN. And she may have come away, at least a lot of people think, as the winner right here at the Reagan Library.
The former high tech exec challenged billionaire Donald Trump on his corporate bankruptcies. And she won loud applause when her sharp response was heard to his insults about her appearance.
The other candidates also took their shots at Trump. And some, like Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio, may have given themselves a badly needed shot in the arm with their performances.
Hillary Clinton, of course, was not on the stage last night, but her name came up as much as almost anyone's, and not necessarily in a very good way. In a CNN exclusive the Democratic presidential frontrunner joins me for her first live television interview from the campaign trail. It's her chance to address the attacks from the GOP contenders amid new questions about her email controversy and a strong challenge in the fight for the Democratic presidential nomination from Senator Bernie Sanders.
My exclusive interview with Hillary Clinton, that's coming up next.
But first, let's begin here at the Reagan Library, where the dust is now beginning to settle after an extraordinary GOP debate.
Our senior Washington correspondent, Jeff Zeleny, is with me -- Jeff, it was extraordinary and people are beginning to understand what happened.
JEFF ZELENY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They certainly are, Wolf.
I mean the question among every Republican leader I talked to today is whether and how this field will be reshuffled as it goes forward here. There's one month until the next presidential debate.
And the question is, will this field remain the same or will some candidates not be on the stage after this because of Carly Fiorina?
ZELENY (voice-over): Carly Fiorina on fire, no longer a footnote in the Republican field.
CARLY FIORINA (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You know what a leader does?
They challenge the status quo.
ZELENY: The day after the GOP debate, Fiorina was everywhere. She did what most rivals have failed to do -- face-off with Donald Trump -- and win.
He gave her an opening with that comment to "Rolling Stone" about her face.
FIORINA: I think women all over this country heard very clearly what Mr. Trump said.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think she's got a beautiful face and I think she's a beautiful woman.
ZELENY: On CNN today, she reflected on that intense moment.
FIORINA: It's only a woman whose appearance would be talked about while running for president, never a man. And I think that's what women understand.
ZELENY: From his frontrunner's perch, Trump was center stage. He repeatedly dueled with Jeb Bush, who he accused of being soft on immigration because his wife was born in Mexico.
JEB BUSH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I hope you apologize for that, Donald. TRUMP: Well, I have to tell you, I hear phenomenal things. I hear your wife is a lovely woman.
BUSH: She is. She's right here.
BUSH: And why don't you apologize for her...
TRUMP: No, I won't do that because...
BUSH: -- right now?
TRUMP: -- I said nothing wrong.
ZELENY: Trump fired back at another member of the Bush family.
TRUMP: And your brother's administration gave us Barack Obama, because it was such a disaster, those last three months, that Abraham Lincoln couldn't have been elected.
BUSH: You know what, as it relates to my brother, there's one thing I know for sure, he kept us safe.
ZELENY: That line drew big applause.
ZELENY: Left unspoken, the September 11th attacks that happened on his watch.
But during a policy discussion starting with foreign affairs, Trump stood silent for 37 minutes, as other candidates took the spotlight.
SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You'd better be able to lead our country on the first day, not six months from now, not a year from now. On the first day in office, our president could very well confront a national security crisis.
ZELENY: Still, the best way for candidates to step in from the sidelines was to invoke you know who. Chris Christie broke up a feisty exchange between Trump and Fiorina over their gold-plated resumes.
GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R-NJ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The fact is that we don't want to hear about your careers, back and forth and volleying back and forth about who did well and who did poorly. You're both successful people. Congratulations.
ZELENY: The debate, watched by a CNN record-setting audience of 23 million, may reorder the crowded GOP contest. Ben Carson, who is polling just behind Trump, struggled to stand out. He reminded voters he's an outsider, something they say they're hungry for.
BEN CARSON (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Typically, politicians do things that are politically expedient.
ZELENY: Yet some politicians did have their moments, like Lindsey Graham, who is vying to make the main stage next time any way he can.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: That's the first thing I'm going to do as president. We're going to drink more.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
ZELENY: Now, there's little doubt that Lindsey Graham was the star of that first debate. Of course, he's trying to vault into the upper tier when there is the next debate at the end of October. But a key deadline is facing all candidates before then. They must report how much money they've raised. So that's why last night's debt was so important, Wolf, because their donors were watching. And all of them may not make it.
BLITZER: And money is certainly a critically important factor in all of these races.
All right, Jeff, thanks very much.
When they weren't turning on one another the Republican hopefuls took turns targeting Hillary Clinton in last night's debate in a CNN exclusive. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton joins us. This is her first live interview from the campaign trail. Madame secretary, thanks very much for joining us.
Great to talk to you -- Wolf.
I'm in Laconia, New Hampshire.
It's a lovely place.
I'm sure you'll be spending a lot of time there. Iowa among other states you certainly did take a lot of fire from the Republicans at the CNN debate last night. I assume you watched it especially from the lone female candidate up on the stage, Carly Fiorina. She said if you want to stump a Democrat she said ask them about Hillary Clinton's accomplishments as secretary of State.
If you were on that debate stage with her.
What would you say was your number one accomplishment as secretary of State?
You know, Wolf. I didn't get to see all of their debate. But I saw enough of it to know that this is just the usual back and forth political attacks the kinds of things you say when you're on a debate stage and really don't have much else to say. I didn't hear anything from any of them about how. They're going to make college more affordable or get down student debt or get equal pay for equal work for women, what. They're going to do to make sure that we deal with challenges of raising incomes for hardworking people. So I don't really pay a lot of attention to this kind of rhetoric that heats up the debate stage. They're all trying to vie for more attention from obviously the Republican Party.
I'm going to let them decide how best to do it. But if anybody's interested you know, there's a long list about what I have done. And I'm very proud of it you can read my book "Hard Choices," read about how I negotiated a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas you can read about how I put together the coalition that led to international sanctions against Iran you can read about what I did when I was first lady to get the Children's Health Insurance Program or as Senator working across the aisle on issues like getting better health care for our veterans, you know. This is just the silly season. I am looking forward to eventually debating on that stage whoever they finally nominate once they get around to doing that.
All right. So listen to what Carly Fiorina also said Madam Secretary about some controversial videos opposing Planned Parenthood, an organization you support.
Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
I dare Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama to watch these tapes. Watch a fully formed fetus on the table, its heart beating, its legs kicking while someone says we have to keep it alive to harvest its brain. This is about the character of our nation.
All right. Planned Parenthood says that video doesn't Madam Secretary. I want to explain Planned Parenthood says the video doesn't depict an aborted fetus. They say that was from a miscarriage had nothing to do with Planned Parenthood. This is an organization you support.
First of all, have you seen those very, very controversial videos?
Well, Wolf, let's break down what's happening here. Because I think it's important. I know that there's a move on by some of the Republicans in the Congress to actually shut down the United States government
over their demand that we no longer give federal funding to Planned Parenthood to perform the really necessary health services they do for millions of women so let's put aside for a moment here that there is no debate. And there should be absolutely no argument that Planned Parenthood does cancer screenings, it helps provide family planning and contraceptive advice. It works to provide you know, some of the most difficult kinds of counseling when it comes to giving an HIV test, for example.
What this is about is the fact that some of the Planned Parenthood facilities perform abortions, which is legal under the laws of the United States. I understand that the Republican Party and particularly the candidates we heard from last night wish that were not the case. Wish that abortion were illegal. And they could turn the clock back. So I think we ought to be very clear that Planned Parenthood has served to provide health care, necessary health care, for millions of women. And I think it deserves not only our support. But the continuing funding from the federal government so that these women and girls who are seeking the kinds of services that are provided will be able to achieve that.
BLITZER: All right.
Have you are you confident that Planned Parenthood, Madam Secretary or any of its affiliated groups if you will haven't violated any federal laws?
Well, Wolf, let me tell you what I know. And that is there is a willingness on the part of Planned Parenthood to answer questions. They have been doing so. Some people may not want to hear the answers. But they have certainly put those answers out there into the public arena. And if the issue the core issue that some on the stage last night or some in the Congress are trying to promote or trying to raise questions about, has to do with the kind of research that is done legally in the United States. Then that is an issue that goes far beyond any Planned Parenthood example. So I think it's important to sort out. There's a lot of emotion. There's a lot of accusations that are being hurled about. I think it's important to sort out and try to actually figure out what is going on. If it's the services they are trying to shut down, like providing family planning or breast cancer screenings, that is just wrong. And women deserve to be given support to get those services provided. If they want to shut down the legal provision of abortion services. Then they've got a bigger problem because obviously, Planned Parenthood does not use federal dollars to do that. And if they are more focused on the research that is going on, then that's a set of issues that certainly is not only about Planned Parenthood. So I would hope that the Republicans and particularly the Republicans in the House led by Speaker Boehner would not put our country and our economy in peril pursuing some kind of emotionally, politically charged partisan attack on Planned Parenthood to shut our government down. I think that would be a very, very unfortunate decision.
BLITZER: All right.
Let's talk about another source of criticism you received last night. This one from the New Jersey governor, Chris Christie. He said at the debate you can't tell the American people the truth. Those are his words. About your email the whole controversy says you should be prosecuted for having a server in your basement he says with national security secrets running through it. He says Russians, Chinese, even 18-year-olds could have hacked into your server you think that was possible that they hacked into your server? There's no evidence of that. Again, this is overheated rhetoric baseless charges trying to somehow you know, gain a footing in the debate.
And in the primary. And it really doesn't deserve any comment.
It took you a long time to say you're sorry about what happened the mistakes you made in organizing that server to begin with why did it take so long?
Well, you know. I was trying to explain what had happened. And, obviously, it was clear that I should have used two different email accounts. And I've said that that was a mistake.
I'm sorry. I've taken responsibility. But I've also for more than a year now been asking to testify before the Congressional committee that is investigating the situation in Benghazi. They would not let me appear.
Finally. And I'm very happy about this. I will be appearing toward the end of October. And I will look forward to answering all their questions.
[17:15:04] I'm trying to be as transparent as possible. That's why people are reading the contents of the emails that are being released. It's why I've turned over my server. It's why I will testify.
BLITZER: You've dismissed Donald Trump's campaign as entertainment, suggested, in part, he's not really serious. But the top Republican candidate right now, Donald Trump, and, for that matter, Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina, they're all political outsiders and your main Democratic opponent, Senator Bernie Sanders, he's pulling way ahead in some of these polls in New Hampshire and Iowa. He's running as an outsider, as well.
So how do you deal with that?
Why is Bernie Sanders, for example, ahead of you in these polls in New Hampshire and Iowa right now?
CLINTON: Well, I -- I've said for a long time, polls are going to go up. They're going to go down. I'm very confident and very comfortable about our strategy. I feel that our campaign in Iowa and New Hampshire, all the early states, and now we're moving on to the states that come after, are really coming together well.
I'm excited by the level and intensity of the support that I have. So I always thought this would be a competitive election. I'm looking forward to it. This is an important job. This is the most important job not only in our country, but in the world. And people have to fight hard. They have to make their case, and they have to earn the votes of the American voters.
BLITZER: You sat next to Joe Biden when you were the secretary of State for four years. He's been the vice president of the United States now for almost seven years, a heartbeat away from the presidency.
If he does decide to run, will you be able to tell the American people that you're more qualified to be president than he is?
CLINTON: Well, Wolf, I'm not going to comment on a hypothetical and I'm certainly not going to comment on my good friend and former colleague. He has to make up his own mind about what's best for him and his family, as he wrestles with his choice.
But I will tell the American people I believe that my set of experiences, my plans for the future, my vision for what America should be, what I've already told voters I would do on everything from making college affordable to paying down student debt to tackling climate change by making us the clean energy superpower, dealing with substance abuse and addiction, like I did here in New Hampshire today.
I have a very comprehensive agenda that I think addresses the very issues that Americans are talking to me about. And I know that having been around the presidency, both as the first lady in the '90s and then as a member of President Obama's cabinet, working with other presidents, as a senator and even in private life, I feel very confident that I'm the right person at the right time to lead our country to deal with the growing issues around incomes that are not raising enough money for people to feel they've got a better future, about the kind of jobs we need more of, about how more workers get to share in the productivity by sharing the profits of what they helped produce.
I'm the one out there talking very specifically about what I would do because I want to run a campaign that lays out my agenda, because when I get elected, I'm going to start working on it immediately.
BLITZER: I know -- I know your time is limited. A quick question, are you ready to tell Democrats, indeed, the American public today, that you're ready to accept more Democratic presidential debates than already scheduled?
You're under pressure to do so.
CLINTON: Well, Wolf, I have said from the very beginning, I look forward to debating. I look forward to the debate, you know, next month, you know, now just a month away. And I will certainly show up anywhere the Democratic National Committee tells us to show up, because I want us to have a good exchange of ideas and to make sure that Democratic voters first, and then general voters to follow, see exactly what we each stand for and what our positions are.
So, you know, I -- I am ready and willing, no matter what they decide, to show up and be there.
BLITZER: Are you ready to ask the DNC to authorize more Democratic presidential debates?
CLINTON: That's up to them. They can, you know, they made their decision. But I have made it clear that if they want to do more, I'm happy to do them. BLITZER: Clearly, you're influential, though, with the DNC. And if you want more debates, I'm sure that Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the chair of the DNC, would -- would go ahead.
Let me ask you one final question before I let you go.
You've praised your husband as a great president.
So let me ask you this.
Would you be a better president than Bill Clinton was as president of the United States?
CLINTON: Oh, Wolf, you know, that -- that's one of those questions that I cannot and will not answer. I will say this. I think if you look at the last 35 years, actually, if you go back further, I think it's pretty indisputable that having a Democrat in the White House is good for our economy, better for our economy than the alternative.
[17:20:13] I think my husband understood that and produced. I think President Obama inherited a -- a really big and dangerous mess and has, you know, been able to get us out of that ditch.
So I'm not running for my husband's third term. I'm certainly not running for President Obama's third term. I'm running for my first term.
But I do believe that both of them understood what it would take to try to clean up the messes they inherited from their Republican predecessors and begin to get the economy and the country working again for everybody.
And that's exactly the kind of president I will be, as well.
BLITZER: Madam Secretary, thank you so much for joining us.
Good luck out there on the campaign trail.
We'll look forward to covering you. We'll look forward to covering, obviously, all of those Democratic presidential debates, as well.
Thanks very much for joining us.
CLINTON: Thank you so much, Wolf.
Good to talk to you.
BLITZER: Thank you.
This important programming note for our viewers. CNN will host the first Democratic presidential debate. That's on October 13 in Nevada. Anderson Cooper will be moderating that debate.
We'll take a quick break. When we come back, much more analysis on what happened last night, reaction to what Hillary Clinton just said. We'll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
[17:26:03] BLITZER: We're following the breaking news in the presidential race. After taking hits from Republican candidates at last night's debate, the former secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, just sat down. We spoke in her first live television interview in this campaign. Let's get some reaction from our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger, and our senior Washington correspondent, Jeff Zeleny.
Gloria, what did you think of her response to some of the sharp criticism she took last night at this debate?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think she swatted it away, you know. And she basically said that everything was the usual political back and forth. They're political attacks whether it was her record as secretary of state, which she said to you, "Just read my book and you'll hear all about it."
Chris Christie's charge against her on her e-mail server she called it overheated rhetoric, baseless. She said she's comfortable and confident about our strategy. When you asked her about Bernie Sanders, Biden, you know, she's the right person at the right time. So she didn't give anything away. Also said if the DNC wants her to debate more, she'll debate more.
JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: I think that was the most striking thing. Bernie Sanders of course and Martin O'Malley leading the charge on calling for more debates. This was Hillary Clinton in 2008 calling for more debates against Barack Obama when she was following behind him.
So if the DNC wants to add more debates, there's only six right now. They certainly can do it. She said she's willing to do it. And I think many of her supporters believed that she would actually be strengthened by doing more debates.
One thing that I picked up on, you asked her if there was any evidence that her server was hacked. She said there's no evidence of that, but that is a question that is going on in some Republican circles, and certainly that's why the FBI is looking into this. So she, of course, does not know the answer, but she said there's no evidence of that.
BORGER: What I was reminded of, that actually, when Hillary Clinton first ran for president in 2007 and 2008, she was a terrific debater. You'll recall...
ZELENY: Much better than Barack Obama.
BORGER: ... Barack Obama was not. And so, you know, this call for more debates, I don't think it's necessarily bad for Hillary Clinton. She's good at it. And that was where she excelled in the 2007-2008 campaign. She was less good on the stump, less good out as a transactional politician with voters, but really good on that debate stage. And I think you saw a little bit of that today in the way she kind of
just, you know, swatted away, as I said, the claims of all those Republicans on the stage.
BLITZER: Actually, it's interesting also that she's making herself more available to the news media right now. She's doing more television interviews, granting more interviews. She wants her voice to be heard.
ZELENY: She does. She knows that she has to be more transparent. They know that they've made a tactical error over the last six months or so by keeping her so bottled up. And her advisors and her supporters believe that the best way for Democrats to see her as a -- as a leader to get away from this Bernie Sanders thing is to see her presidentially. The only way to do that is through interviews here. So I think she'll be doing a lot more.
But those debates, Gloria, you're totally right. She was so much better than Barack Obama. So she needs to get out there and do them. And I have a suspicion that the DNC will change their mind. So many people are calling on them to do so.
BLITZER: And she says she's ready to do more if the DNC and Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, the chair, ask for more.
Hold onto that thought for a moment. We're going to have a lot more coming up. Certainly last night's Republican debate here in California. Donald Trump congratulated Jeb Bush for showing what he described as more energy. In a minute, we're going to take a closer look at the drama and the substance of some of the more memorable debate moments.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Why did you say it? I heard it myself. Why did you say it?
JEB BUSH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We increased child support. We increased child support with a broken system.
TRUMP: You cut funding for women's health issues. You said it.
BUSH: I have a proven record.
TRUMP: You said it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back. We're back here at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California, the scene of the second Republican presidential debate last night. 23 million Americans tuned in as the three-hour debate gave the candidates plenty of chances to score points for both style and substance.
Let's take a look back at some of the highlights.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: First of all, Rand Paul shouldn't even be on this stage. He's number 11. He's got 1 percent in the polls. And how he got up here there's far too many people any way.
SEN. RAND PAUL (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think his response, his visceral response to attack people on their appearance, short, tall, fat, ugly, my goodness, that happened in junior high.
TRUMP: I never attacked him on his look. And believe me, there's plenty of subject matter right there.
[17:35:04] JEB BUSH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You got Hillary Clinton to go to your wedding.
TRUMP: That's true.
BUSH: Because you gave her money.
TRUMP: I was a businessman. I got along with Clinton. I got along with everybody.
TRUMP: That was my job to get along with people.
BUSH: But the simple fact is --
TRUMP: I didn't want to -- excuse me, one second.
BUSH: No. The simple fact is, Donald, you cannot take --
BUSH: I didn't want to -- Jeb, OK. More energy tonight. I like that.
SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You better be able to lead our country on the first day, not six months from now, not a year from now. On the first day in office our president could very well confront a national security crisis and a president better be up to date on those issues on his first day in office or her first day in office.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN DEBATE MODERATOR: But the point was I'm not sure we need half a billion dollars for women's health issues. He said he misspoke.
TRUMP: He said that.
TAPPER: You said that that's going to haunt him. Why do you think that?
TRUMP: I think it will haunt him. I think it's a terrible statement. I think it's going to haunt him absolutely. So why did you say it? Why did you say it?
BUSH: We improved --
TRUMP: I know. But why did you say it? I heard it myself. Why did you say it?
BUSH: We increased child support. We increased support with a broken system by 90 percent.
TRUMP: You said you're going to cut funding for women's health issues. You said it.
BUSH: I have a proven record. I have a proven record.
TRUMP: Yes. Except you said it.
TAPPER: Miss Fiorina, I do want to ask you about this, in an interview last week in "Rolling Stone" magazine Donald Trump said the following about you, quote, "Look at that face, would anyone vote for that? Can you imagine that, the face of our next president?" Mr. Trump later said he was talking about your persona, not your appearance."
Please feel free to respond what you think about his persona.
CARLY FIORINA (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You know, it's interesting to me, Mr. Trump said that he heard Mr. Bush very clearly and what Mr. Bush said. I think women all over this country heard very clearly what Mr. Trump said.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
TRUMP: I think she's got a beautiful face. And I think she's a beautiful woman.
DR. BEN CARSON (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I haven't had an opportunity to weigh in on foreign policy. And I just want to mention that when the war -- when the issue occurred in 2003, I suggested to President Bush that he not go to war. OK. So I just want that on the record.
FIORINA: You were forced to file for bankruptcy not once. Not twice.
TRUMP: I never filed for bankruptcy.
FIORINA: Four times. A record four times. Why should we trust you to manage the finances of this nation any differently than you manage the finances of your casinos?
GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm as entertained as anyone by this personal back-and-forth about the history of Donald and Carly's career. For the 55-year-old construction worker out in that audience tonight who doesn't have a job, who can't fund his child's education, I got to tell you the truth. They could care less about your careers. They care about theirs.
PAUL: Well, I think if we left it open we could see how many people smoked pot in high school.
BUSH: So 40 years ago I smoked marijuana. And I admit it. I'm sure that other people might have done it and may not want to say it in front of 25 million people. My mom's not happy that I just did.
(LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE)
BUSH: That's true.
TRUMP: I'm in favor of vaccines. Do them over a longer period of time, same amount.
TAPPER: Thank you.
TRUMP: But just in little sections.
TAPPER: Dr. Carson, you just heard his medical take.
CARSON: He's an OK doctor.
(LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE)
TAPPER: What would you want your Secret Service code name to be?
BUSH: Eveready. It's very high energy, Donald.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
TAPPER: Mr. Trump?
(LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE)
BUSH: That's a good one.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Very good stuff. I'm joined now by three of our CNN political contributors, Kevin Madden and Ana Navarro, Republican strategists. Peter Beinart is joining us also. He writes for the "Atlantic Media."
Guys, in fact, stand by. I want to take a quick break. We're going to discuss what we just saw. Lots of political news coming up, reaction to the debate last night. Stay with us.
[17:43:45] BLITZER: We're awaiting the start of the Donald Trump campaign rally in New Hampshire. Supposed to begin fairly soon. He's wasting no time getting back on the road after taking some incoming fire from his Republican rivals at last night's CNN debate right here at the Reagan Presidential Library.
We're back with Republican strategist Kevin Madden and Ana Navarro along with Peter Beinart of "Atlantic Media."
Kevin, break it down for us. For example, Jeb Bush, this was critically important last night. How did he do?
KEVIN MADDEN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, look, he decided to go on offense with Donald Trump. I think early on he seemed a little tentative. He wasn't that comfortable, you know, wielding the blade against Donald Trump. But he had one particular showdown that the Bush campaign today is using as a highlight of why he did well in the debate. And that was when he had that national security battle with Donald Trump and reminded everybody that it was his brother that kept us safe.
And that was a bad moment for Donald Trump and ended up being a win for Jeb Bush. And then you didn't hear from Jeb Bush for the next 35, 37 minutes after that. And that was where the debate started to shift. And Donald Trump got knocked down a peg and the other candidates started to take over. So I thought it was a pivotal moment in the race.
BLITZER: You're close to Jeb Bush. You support Jeb Bush, Ana. What do you think? Was this a win for him?
ANA NAVARRO, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Absolutely. And I think you can see it in the campaign today. You can see it in Jeb's reactions today. I think there is momentum. He was competing against the Jeb Bush from Cleveland. And you remember me telling you before the debate. He was, I think, you know, stumped by Trump. But he was going to get his bearings, he was going to get his rhythm.
[17:45:17] I predict that you're going to see Jeb Bush get steadily better with each debate. There's a guy who works very, very hard, practices, learns policy, he learns from his mistakes, he hears the feedback. And I think he's getting more comfortable. He showed humor yesterday. He showed he could laugh at some of the worst attacks from Donald Trump, the energy thing, which -- and by the way it helped that while he was giving that line Donald Trump was practically wilting next to him.
It also helped that the people who are firmly in his same lane, Scott Walker, John Kasich, did not have a good night last night.
BLITZER: Yes. Some of the so-called establishment Republican candidates.
Peter, you don't necessarily think Bush had such a great night, do you? PETER BEINART, CONTRIBUTING EDITOR, ATLANTIC MEDIA: No, I don't think
so. I don't think Bush was competing with the Bush of the previous debate. I think he was competing with the people on that stage. Carly Fiorina was very effective against Donald Trump. George W. Bush -- I mean Jeb Bush did get better later on in the evening, but I think in the critical early moments he went after Trump on the question of casino gambling in Florida. I don't think he won that exchange.
He's just not very quick on his feet when he -- on the pivotal point when he asked Donald Trump to apologize for insulting his wife, if you're going to go down that fight you need to be tougher. He wasn't tough enough in that exchange. And his basic problem is that he represents the Republican establishment at a time when most grassroots Republicans don't like that establishment.
BLITZER: And very quickly, Kevin, how strong was Carly Fiorina's performance?
MADDEN: Well, Carly Fiorina, again, also decided to go on offense. Look, there's one thing that we know about Donald Trump, right? He's been the brashest candidate to this point. But he's been really bad on substance. And what really made Carly Fiorina -- what really helped Carly Fiorina stand out was not only was she winning on the brawn, but she was winning with brains. So she was very aggressive. She was assertive. And at the same time she showed incredible policy chops. A command of some of the policy issues whether it was national security, foreign policy or the economy.
And I think that was why we're looking at any of the headlines that came out of this debate yesterday, she's at the top of all those headlines with her performance.
BLITZER: All right. Stand by. Thanks very, very much. We're going to continue our analysis.
During last night's debate Jeb Bush accused Donald Trump of trying to bring casino gambling to Florida, Trump denied it. So who's right? Stand by. We have a CNN fact check.
[17:52:04] BLITZER: Donald Trump is running on his record as a billionaire businessman but in last night's debate rival Jeb Bush reminded everyone that he once attempt -- he once blocked Trump's attempt to expand casino gambling in Florida.
Brian Todd is joining us. He's been looking into this back-and-forth. What are you finding out, Brian?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, a lot of buzz over this tonight in the debate last night, Donald Trump's penchant for boasting about his business deals took center stage and provided a highly charged moment, a moment that gave Jeb Bush an opening to take back some momentum in this race.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) TODD (voice-over): Jeb Bush was ready to publicly shame Donald Trump for Trump's boast that he can throw money at politicians and get what he wants.
BUSH: The one guy that had some special interest that I know of, that tried to get me to change my views on something, it was generous and gave me money was Donald Trump. He wanted casino gambling in Florida.
TRUMP: I did not.
BUSH: Yes, you did.
TRUMP: Totally false.
BUSH: You wanted it. And you didn't get it.
TRUMP: I would have gotten it.
BUSH: Because I was opposed to casino gambling before.
TRUMP: I promise I would have gotten it.
BUSH: During and after, and that's not -- I'm not going to be bought by anybody.
TRUMP: I promise if I wanted it, I would have gotten it.
BUSH: No way, man.
TODD: But CNN's investigation shows otherwise. Trump failed to sway Jeb Bush and win a multi-million casino operation in Florida.
DOUG GUETZLOE, FLORIDA POLITICAL CONSULTANT: Donald Trump wanted it really bad. Basically, spent a great deal of money, not only on the Republican Party but on these candidates also.
TODD: Doug Guetzloe is a political consultant who worked for Bally Entertainment in the late '90s and competed with Trump's organization to win expanded gambling operations in Florida.
How bad did Trump want a casino deal? In 1997 Trump held a lavish $500,000 fundraiser for Jeb Bush when Bush was running for governor. Records showed that later, Trump donated $50,000 to the Florida Republican Party. It's not clear that those contributions were specifically aimed at getting Bush to look favorably on the gaming industry but at every turn, Guetzloe says, Jeb Bush had the same response.
GUETZLOE: Every time he would make an attempt to even with spending vast sums of money, Governor Bush and his operatives would close the door.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The governor-elect of Florida.
TODD: Shortly after Bush was elected governor in 1998, Trumps abandoned his hopes of expanding the casino business in Florida.
LYNN SWEET, CHICAGO SUN TIMES: This percolating animosity is coming to the surface now that they're both running for president. What Trump perhaps did not figure in your CNN debate is that Bush would bring some of the inside information that he has because he was governor to the debate stage and Trump just was unprepared to deal with it.
TODD: Now responding to CNN, a Trump campaign spokeswoman said Trump never asked Jeb Bush personally to approve the gaming industry's expansion in Florida. The spokeswoman also said that that was approved ultimately by the next governor, Charlie Crist, who approved a deal for the Seminole Indian tribe in Florida -- Wolf.
BLITZER: And Donald Trump's claim that he never went bankrupt, at least personally getting a lot of buzz, as well. You had some fact- checking on that.
[17:55:05] TODD: That's right. Now, Wolf, that is true on one level and it's not true on another. Trump himself has never filed for personal bankruptcy but he has filed four business bankruptcies, the Trump Taj Majal and Casino in 1991 and three of his companies also. Trump Castle Associates in 1992, the Trump Hotel, Casino and Resort in 2004 and Trump Entertainment Resorts in 2009.
Now the Web site bankruptcy.com says that makes Donald Trump the top business bankruptcy filer in recent decades -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. Brian, thanks very much.
Coming up, the frontrunner Donald Trump gets it from both sides as his rivals team up on him in the Republican debate. Did they manage to knock him down a peg? Trump due to speak shortly, by the way. We're standing by for that.