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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
Preparing for the Debate; Discussion of Campaigns. Aired 4:30- 5p ET
Aired October 13, 2015 - 16:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN: Is Hillary Clinton already looking beyond this debate to the general election? Is Bernie Sanders in a league of his own? I will be asking the political panel to weigh in. That's next.
TAPPER: Welcome back. You're looking live at the Wynn Resort in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.
There are no pro sports teams in this town, but don't worry, the Democratic candidates will bring a playoff-like atmosphere to the debate here tonight.
The best political team on television will be here all night.
We have with us right now former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm, who we should disclose advises a super PAC backing Hillary Clinton. We also have with us CNN's Ana Navarro, Dan Pfeiffer, and Kevin Madden.
Ana, let me start with you.
Hillary Clinton touched down at McCarran International Airport yesterday, and her first stop was at a union protest of a Trump hotel, even while she's preparing for this Democratic scramble, whatever you call it, scrum. She's already looking at the general election.
ANA NAVARRO, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Oh, absolutely. And she should.
Every time she touches down, or any candidate running touches down in Nevada, they need to be thinking about the general election. It's a huge state and it's a swing state. It's am important state. It's got Latinos here, union state. I think what she did yesterday was very, very smart.
Let's face it. Trump is a presence in the debate, whether we like it or not. He's going to be live-tweeting. This is bound to get very exciting. TAPPER: Dan, let me just take us back to the Nevada caucus in 2008.
You worked for the Obama campaign at the time. Hillary Clinton actually got more votes in the Nevada caucus, but Barack Obama got more delegates because you guys outfoxed her.
She has hired your people, though.
DAN PFEIFFER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Right.
TAPPER: That's not going to happen again.
PFEIFFER: Well, I would say I don't think so. I think the lessons to be learned from how you organize in caucus states, they have definitely learned.
TAPPER: They hired your guy, Jeff Berman, right?
PFEIFFER: They hired very smart people.
And I would say there's always a general election play when you're in Nevada, but there's also a primary play here, because the workers are the Culinary Workers are the most important union here and they endorsed Barack Obama over Hillary Clinton in 2008.
I think it's important for her to talk about Trump. That's always good for Democrats, but also she needs to shore that up.
TAPPER: Kevin, let's also just talk about Republican politics for a second. Big play here in Nevada, big group, is the Mormon vote.
KEVIN MADDEN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Yes.
TAPPER: They were locked up for Mitt Romney last time around. People are really going, Republican candidates really going after them this time around.
MADDEN: Yes. And I think one of the candidates that is probably positioned very well to do well with that group is Marco Rubio, who was -- actually had grown up at one point was -- his family was Mormon.
And it's the same thing on the Republican side. I think a lot of people put too much of an emphasis on Iowa and New Hampshire when they're looking at how the delegate count's going to go. And one of our candidates...
TAPPER: Interrupt for one second, because one of the candidates is arriving. The candidate is Jim Webb, for those -- and there's Jim Acosta.
Let's go right to him.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Folks who are watching you right now, watching you arrive, I guess a question that people might have is, who the heck is this guy? What's your answer to that, Senator Webb?
JIM WEBB (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, I think if anybody looks at the contributions that we have made to the country, they will know who I am and we will have a good show tonight.
ACOSTA: And how did you prepare for tonight? How are you coming into this mentally, would you say?
WEBB: Well, it's a good chance to be able to talk about a lot of issues that concern me and I think concern the country. And so we're ready to have a discussion.
ACOSTA: And which of your rivals are you setting your sights on? Is it Bernie Sanders, is it Hillary Clinton?
WEBB: Well, this is a chance for me to communicate with the American people about the things that we care about and to, you know, really have the opportunity to clarify some things probably.
But also this is just a great opportunity to talk to the American people, rather than the other candidates.
ACOSTA: And if there's one issue tonight that you would like to talk about, that issue is?
WEBB: I think I have a strong record of leadership that goes across party lines, at a time when people really are needing that in our country.
ACOSTA: All right, Senator Webb, thank you very much. Good luck tonight, sir.
Jake, there you have it, Senator Jim Webb.
TAPPER: Jim Acosta.
ACOSTA: Almost on the stage here in Las Vegas. He's arriving with a fellow Vietnam veteran, Mac McCarthy (ph), we're told by the campaign.
TAPPER: All right, Jim Acosta with Jim Webb, thank you so much.
Governor Granholm, let me go to you.
What do you make of the strategy there by Senator Webb? He's somebody who has a great record, but he really does not seem to have found an ability to get traction yet.
JENNIFER GRANHOLM (D), FORMER MICHIGAN GOVERNOR: Well, and I think a lot of people were assuming that he was going to be one of the ones to go on the attack. But what he's suggested here is that, in fact, he's going to be
talking about his policies, which I think, again, leads credence to those of you who have been opining -- and I think this is true on the Democratic side -- everybody wants to see a really substantive debate.
I think people think sometimes that's boring, but if you want to know what these candidates are going to do to grow the middle class, to bring down whether it's the price of prescription drugs or the cost of college, or whatever it is, or how you create jobs in America in a global economy, this is what they're going to be talking about. And I hope it stays at that level.
NAVARRO: But I have to tell you, I have never in my life been at a debate or seen a debate where before the debate anybody says we're going to go on the attack.
But, somehow, when you get on that stage, things happen and things change.
GRANHOLM: That's true.
TAPPER: Although the reverse happens too. The reverse happens as well.
And it can hurt -- remember Tim Pawlenty in the last -- he was going to go after Mitt Romney and then he refused to do it. John King, wherever he is, is the one who said, you're not -- you have said it on "FOX News Sunday," but you won't say it on the stage.
PFEIFFER: For Martin O'Malley tonight, who will be standing next to Hillary Clinton, his campaign has signaled -- he's been the most aggressive against her out on the stump. And will he do it to her face tonight?
And, look, this is make-or-break moment for him. He's basically in a single elimination tournament now. He's got to win each debate to get to the next one. And I think there's a lot of pressure on him to do that.
GRANHOLM: But, Dan, don't you think that it's really going to be a little bit challenging for him if he goes full on, because he's going to suffer a backlash against the...
TAPPER: We will get his answer after the break. I have got take a quick one here.
Ana, Kevin, Dan, Governor, don't go anywhere. We will be right back.
Jim Webb, of course, arriving here at the debate hall, heading to check out the stage right now.
We have a lot more to talk about, as the clock ticks down to the start of tonight's debate, more from the Wynn Resort Hotel in Las Vegas coming up on THE LEAD.
TAPPER: One of the candidates we're going to see tonight in prime time is currently checking out the debate stage.
That is former Virginia Senator Jim Webb, the former secretary of the Navy during the Reagan administration.
Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper in Las Vegas.
We're here with former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm, Ana Navarro, Dan Pfeiffer, Kevin Madden.
We're also talking all things Democratic debate with only hours left before the candidates hitting the stage.
Before we went to break, Governor Granholm asked Dan, don't you think it's a risk for O'Malley to go too hard at Hillary Clinton?
GRANHOLM: Dan, right.
PFEIFFER: Oh, absolutely.
He has to have the right tone. But if he leaves this debate without shaking up the race in some way, shape, or form, I think his campaign is in danger, if not over.
NAVARRO: OK, but let me ask you something. What is he risking? When you're an asterisk in the poll, what are you risking?
PFEIFFER: Well, he is running a legitimate presidential campaign. He has staff. He has an organization. He is not one of these advisers who are just going to stay campaigning with one staffer until to the end. So, he needs money --
TAPPER: Was there a money you have in mind?
TAPPER: Was that a Lincoln Chafee reference?
PFEIFFER: I think -- Look, there is a fundamental difference between O'Malley and the Chafee and Webb campaign in terms of organization and seriousness.
PFEIFFER: He is in a middle tier between Sanders and Clinton. KEVIN MADDEN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: You cannot run the risk to
defining his candidacy as being the anti-Hillary Clinton in the debate. He has to use this moment to step out and sort of draw a better narrative about himself.
TAPPER: And, that is the risk.
JENNIFER GRANHOLM, (D) FORMER MICHIGAN GOVERNOR: Yes.
TAPPER: You know this better than anybody --
TAPPER: When you go negative, you bring out the -- the other person's negative but yours too.
GRANHOLM: Absolutely. And, 68 percent of the democratic electorate like her and he is just going to be risking getting them all angry. So, he needs to think creative.
MADDEN: I would use the word aggressive. I think if he is very aggressive in talking about the things that animate this democratic base, like income inequality --
MADDEN: You know, if he starts to take on Wall Street -- if he attacked Wall Street and drew an implicit contrast with Hillary Clinton, who has spent the last two years --
MADDEN: -- doing speeches for Wall Street, that would probably be a better place.
NAVARRO: He is going to talk about Wall Street. He is going to talk about immigration, the Central American children on the border. He is going to talk about gay marriages. Places, he was there before -
NAVARRO: You know, while Hillary Clinton was evolving, he was already in the position that is popular with the democratic base.
TAPPER: Does that matter, do you think, Dan? Do people care where you were? How long it took to get there?
PFEIFFER: I think if you -- there is definitely when you evolve towards a place of the Democratic Party already is, that is good. But, I think, this is a question of values. It is not policy positions.
It is the critique against Hillary Clinton, which I think is unfair, but she is a calculating politician. And, the implicit contrast of O'Malley's being "I was all of these things before you," is that you waited until it was politically popular and then you moved. TAPPER: Do you think that the people tougher on -- look, they are all
calculating politicians, republicans and democrats. Are people tougher on Clinton, you think?
GRANHOLM: I do think they are tougher.
TAPPER: Because she is a woman or because she has been in public office for so long?
GRANHOLM: Or because she is part of the Clinton family -- I mean there is the whole Clinton derangement syndrome, which, you know, Benghazi is exhibit A of, right? The Benghazi subcommittee. Yes, you know, I mean really, they admitted it, right? So, there is, I mean whether it is whitewater, you name it.
TAPPER: A lot of people disagree with that. But, let us -- I do not want to go down --
GRANHOLDM: OK. All right. OK. They admit it. They admit it. So, whatever, a lot of people disagree.
GRANHOLDM: I am sure the ones who are on the committee like Trey Gowdy may disagree at least overtly, but internally --
TAPPER: We will just move on from that issue.
GRANHOLM: Anyway, but the point I wanted to make was that, in terms of evolution, andin terms of who you are, people want to know who you are, right? And how -- what your core is.
I am hoping that tonight gives her a chance to remind people, you know, her dad owned a small business, a drapery manufacturer. I mean she worked in his shop. People do not -- people watching tonight will not know that.
NAVARRO: This is not a Clinton derangement syndrome. This is simply that she is the front-runner. When you are the front-runner on a debate stage, people come after you.
GRANHOLDM: No doubt about that. No doubt about that.
NAVARRO: If she were at, you know, single digit, it would not be happening.
MADDEN: She -- She -- Hillary Clinton gets the badge of being a calculating politician because every single opportunity she takes on a position, she reinforces that. And, I think here we are with 25 years into her political career, and you are hoping that she shows her heart tonight?
NAVARRO: No --
TAPPER: Kevin while you were talking, the candidates arrive. There is something in the air. (LAUGHING)
MADDEN : Yes.
TAPPER: But, here is the independent --
NAVARRO: That cannot be the last word, though.
TAPPER: Bernie Sanders --
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I just want to ask you, how are you feeling about tonight? Is this about you versus Hillary Clinton?
BERNIE SANDERS, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANADIDATE: No.
ACOSTA: Is this a clash between you and Hillary Clinton tonight?
SANDERS: No it is not. It is about the collapse of the American middle class. It is about massive levels of income and wealth inequality. It is about a corrupt campaign finance system that allows billionaires to buy elections. I have a lot of respect for Hillary Clinton and hope we are going to have a serious debate tonight about the serious issues facing our country.
ACOSTA: Is this also about a defense of your views on socialism?
SANDERS: I am happy to answer any question that anybody wants to ask me. I think, if you look around the world, you will find democratic socialist governments in Denmark, Sweden, and Norway who provide universal high quality health care to all of their people as a right, free public education, very low levels of childhood poverty. I think there are things that we can learn from those countries and other countries around the world.
ACOSTA: And, if folks wondering how does Senator Sanders prepare for something like this? This has got to be one of the biggest political moments of your life.
SANDERS: Well, it is. One of the very nice things, I have got my wife and I got my kids here, and we have had a very nice day or two.
ACOSTA: I will not keep you out too long. I do not want you to feel the burned. All right, thanks very much. Jake, back to you. Senator Sanders.
TAPPER: Jim Acosta. Bernie sanders, Hillary Clinton's strongest challenger for the democratic nomination, walking into the debate hall. I have to bid you all adieu, unfortunately. Governor Granholm, Ana Navarro, Dan Pfeiffer, Kevin Madden.
GRANHOLM: I love it when you talk French.
TAPPER: Thank you. It is a little John Kerry -- when we come back, what types of questions will the candidates get tonight? And, how can you contribute from home? Believe me, you can.
Next on "The Lead," live from Las Vegas, ahead of the first democratic debate of the 2016 race for president.
TAPPER: Welcome back. We are live from Vegas. And, if you look closely, you can see Senator Bernie Sanders checking out the debate stage here at the Wynn Resort in Las Vegas. We are here live.
Senator Sanders, the independent from Vermont, the self-described democratic socialist, has so far given Hillary Clinton a real run for her money this race. And, in just a few short hours, the democratic candidates in this presidential contest will face off for the very first time.
Here with me now are two of the people who will be asking some questions. CNN's Chief Political Correspondent, my friend, Dana Bash, and CNN en Espanol Anchor, Juan Carlos Lopez. Also, mi amigo, thank you both for being here.
JUAN CARLOS LOPEZ, CNN EN ESPANOL ANCHOR: Buenas Tardes.
TAPPER: I appreciate it. Buenas Tardes. Dana, let me start with you. You were the debate questioner at the Republican Debate last month.
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes.
TAPPER: What is going to be different this time around?
BASH: Well, obviously, first and foremost, the numbers. I mean, you know, you were the one who had to sort of corral the 11 people on stage, five is not nearly as difficult. That is number one. I mean, that is probably the most obvious, but also it is unclear in the republican side who is really going to do it. I mean --
TAPPER: Who is going to debate? Who is going to, actually, try to debate?
BASH: Right, who is going to debate. And, now it is very clear. Hillary Clinton is the front-runner and everybody needs to figure out ways to chip away at her. I mean Bernie Sanders, obviously, is pulling her to the left.
But, just in terms of the dynamics and atmospherics, it is going to be everybody pointing towards the middle, much more so than I think it was with Donald Trump in middle.
TAPPER: Are there lots of differences on the issues or is it just shades of the same position?
LOPEZ: For Latino voters, shades of the same issues are not very different from other American voters. It is the economy. It is health care. It is security. It is education. That is what they are going to be listening. That is what they are looking for.
TAPPER: And, what is the challenge, do you think, Dana, for people looking to make a name for themselves, not the two front-runners, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, but the Martin O'Malley, the Jim Webb, The Lincoln Chafee. How do they break through in a way that makes people like them as opposed to, "Who is that guy?"
BASH: Look, it is not easy. But, I think just the fact that there is a reason why Martin O'Malley has been begging the democratic national committee for more than six debates. Because just the fact that they are on that stage, and have an opportunity to be seen is huge for them because they are, you know, what? 1 percent? 2 percent? All of them, each of them, actually is.
It is to really show, particularly when you are talking about like a Martin O'Malley, who was supposed to be the progressive alternative to Hillary Clinton, to show why, to show why he is different, to show why he is unique, and to get people excited about him in a way that maybe, Carly Fiorina was able to do and introduce herself to republican voters in the first two republican debates.
TAPPER: Juan Carlos, you are an excellent anchor and journalist. You also are an excellent anchor and journalist for CNN En Espanol. Your role tonight, how much are you looking at it from the perspective of my audience is Spanish speaking and Latino, and they have these issues that they are a little bit more focused on versus just your general business as a journalist?
LOPEZ: I think it is a mix of both, because they are looking at the issues. They are looking at the candidates. We have an interesting scenario, where we have republicans with a more diverse field.
You have Jeb Bush, who speaks Spanish. You have Marco Rubio, who is a Spanish speaker. You do not have that with the democrats. So, it is interesting to see how they are going to try to convince this very important electorate that is going to play a definitive role in the election next year.
BASH: It is actually interesting. You have a republican field, which is a lot more diverse than the democratic field. It is a little counterintuitive.
TAPPER: Dana Bash, Juan Carlos, thanks to both of you. Good luck. Enjoy yourself, as I know you will.
BASH: Thank you.
TAPPER: Also joining me now is CNN anchor Don Lemon live over at Facebook lounge. He will be asking the candidates questions submitted through Facebook. Don, the Facebook lounge sounds like a place I want to check out. What kind of questions are coming in? DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: It is really cool. I got lots of little
goodies here. I think lots of questions, of course, you know that, because you moderated the debate. But, I have to tell you, most people that I have been looking at and talking are really about gun issues.
A lot of people want to know about gun issues, considering what is happened around the country. People were asking, of course, about the economy and they are asking about women's issues. But, really questions are sort of spread out, but I think, overall, most people are talking about guns and religion, too, Jake.
TAPPER: Which candidates are Facebook users talking about the most?
LEMON: Well, we can do this. Listen, that was sort of the questions that are coming in. So, let me show you candidates, right? This is the top five. This is Facebook analysis. Top five candidates that people are talking about. Of course Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Ben Carson, Bernie Sanders, Carly Fiorina. These are the top five issues here.
So, these were -- this is where most of the questions are coming from. Religion, guns, economy, homeland security, Iraq, Syria, ISIS. Many people thought that race would be on there. Race is actually not up there. But let me show you this, Jake, because I think you will find this interesting.
So, Hillary Clinton, right? Hillary is leading when it comes to democrats. I just want to show you, this is her heat map across the country, right? And, if we go here, and we look at Donald Trump, the oranger it gets, that is his heat map across the country. More people talking about Donald Trump than anybody else in the country right now.
TAPPER: All right. Don Lemon, thanks and good luck this evening. Our coverage of the CNN Facebook Democratic Debate begins at 8:30. Tonight, Anderson Cooper will be the moderator.
That is it for "The Lead." I am Jake Tapper. I am now turning you over to one, Mr. Wolf Blitzer who is in "The Situation Room."