Return to Transcripts main page


Chaos in Israel; Debate Winners and Losers; How Clinton's Performance Affects Biden; Trump Leads GOP by Double Digits in Nevada, S.C. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired October 14, 2015 - 16:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: It's the political hangover. Today, we try to piece together just in what the heck happened last night in Vegas.

I'm Jake Tapper. This is THE LEAD.

The politics lead. Going to the scorecards after fight night in Las Vegas, Hillary Clinton's campaign riding high after a strong and steady performance in last night's debate. But it's another candidate who may have literally hit the jackpot, actually not literally, figuratively, but why Bernie Sanders has a lot to celebrate today.

The world lead, chaos and panic in Israel after two more terrorist stabbing assaults in one of the holiest cities in the world. Is another Middle East conflict about to explode?

And the national lead. They're being worked to the point of exhaustion in a job where one second of lost focus could cost hundreds, if not thousands of lives, America's airports in desperate need of air traffic controllers.

Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

We're going to begin today with the politics lead, the first day of the rest of the race for the Democratic presidential nomination after a debate that, much like the city in which it was hosted, had it all. The instant reaction is in from the political experts and from voters.

Pundits and the political establishments say that Hillary Clinton crushed it, in command, human, with details at the ready. But flash polls and focus groups give it to her rival, Bernie Sanders, who abided by his campaign mantra, let Bernie be Bernie, with a laser-like focus on income inequality and improving the lot of the middle class.

Many Sanders supporters so energized by his performance that they're reaching into their pockets now to spread the wealth to him and his campaign today, the Sanders campaign saying that the candidate raised more than $1 million in small contributions off the debate.

Now, and all five candidates helped CNN make a little TV history last night. The CNN debate attracted 15.3 million viewers, the most ever for a Democratic debate. The CNN Republican debate at the Reagan Library garnered 23 million viewers, making it the most watched program in CNN history.

CNN senior political correspondent Brianna Keilar is live for us now in Las Vegas.

Brianna, you're at a Hillary Clinton event. What does the campaign say?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, her campaign, as well as Bernie Sanders' campaign, Jake, they are just thrilled.

As you mentioned, Bernie Sanders raking in the cash after his debate performance, and Hillary Clinton's aides just really feel that she did what she needed to do. She had a very tough summer. She needed to pull out a really good debate performance. And they feel that she really hit the mark.

It's also very important for her as you look ahead to the next week. She's going to be having a very contentious, we would expect, hearing with Republicans on Capitol Hill as they investigate the Benghazi attack.


KEILAR (voice-over): Hillary Clinton pushed back on criticism that she frequently changes position.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Are you a progressive or are you a moderate?

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm a progressive. But I'm a progressive who likes to get things done.

KEILAR: Defending herself against charges from Martin O'Malley and Bernie Sanders that she's quick to favor military intervention.

CLINTON: I was very pleased when Governor O'Malley endorsed me for president in 2008. And I enjoyed his strong support in that campaign. And I consider him obviously a friend.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (VT-I), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I do not support American ground troops in Syria.

CLINTON: Well, nobody does. Nobody does, Senator Sanders.

KEILAR: She hit her chief rival early on, taking aim at his weak spot with liberals.

COOPER: Secretary Clinton, is Bernie Sanders tough enough on guns?

CLINTON: No, not at all. Senator Sanders did vote five times against the Brady Bill.

KEILAR: The Vermont senator on the defensive.

SANDERS: We can raise our voices, but I come from a rural state. And the views on gun control in rural states are different than in urban states, whether we like it or not.

KEILAR: Sanders was more comfortable talking about climate change.

SANDERS: The future of the planet is at stake.

KEILAR: And the economy, railing against casino capitalism while in a Las Vegas casino hotel.

SANDERS: I believe in a society where all people do well, not just a handful of billionaires.


KEILAR: Sanders tried to portray himself as mainstream, explaining why he identifies as a Democratic socialist.

SANDERS: I think we should look to countries like Denmark, like Sweden and Norway, and learn from what they have accomplished for their working people.

KEILAR: Clinton painted his ideas as impractical.

CLINTON: But we are not Denmark. I love Denmark. We're the United States of America.

KEILAR: Though this moment about her recent decision to oppose the controversial Keystone XL pipeline after leaning towards its approval as secretary of state could come back to haunt Clinton.

CLINTON: I never took a position on Keystone until I took a position on Keystone.

KEILAR: But it was Sanders who gave Clinton one of her best moments of the night when asked about her e-mail controversy.


SANDERS: Let me say something that may not be great politics. But I think the secretary is right, and that is that the American people are sick and tired of hearing about your damn e-mails.


CLINTON: Thank you. Me, too. Me, too.


KEILAR: And with that, for the first time, Jake, you may say that Hillary Clinton's campaign is feeling the Bern a little bit, I might -- I think you might say, between Sanders' defense there of Clinton on her e-mails and the recent comments by Republican Congressmen Kevin McCarthy linking the Benghazi Committee's efforts to Clinton's flagging poll numbers.

Her campaign feels that she is going in to this week ahead where she will have this Benghazi committee hearing really in the best way possible. She's going to have two events here in Las Vegas today. We're here awaiting her at the first one. And then she goes on for a few other days of campaigning across the country.

Bernie Sanders, meanwhile, trying to continue with what really was this attempt to have some mass appeal. He is appearing this afternoon on "Ellen" -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Brianna Keilar, thank you so much.

Let's go now to CNN chief political correspondent Dana Bash, who, of course, was one of the questioners at last night's debate.

Dana, much of the pundit class has pronounced Clinton the unequivocal winner. But the flash polls and the focus groups and Democratic operatives, people who were maybe still on the fence, what are they telling you?

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, there's no question that Hillary Clinton did herself a world of good in her performance. She performed very well. There were no real stumbles, except maybe when you look down the road at what Brianna just played in her piece that Keystone pipeline line in her debate, talking about the fact she hadn't decided until she decided. It was a little confused.

Easy to put into an attack ad. But I think, at the end of the day, I have talked to some Democrats today, Jake, who say when you look at the stage, she didn't really have a lot of competition for the kind of Democratic nominee that could potentially win in November.

And so what does that mean? It means that people who are still pushing Joe Biden to run, I know that the conventional wisdom this morning and all day was more along the lines of that he's less likely to run because she did so well. Well, I'm talking to some people who think that there actually is a bit of room still for Joe Biden, because the way people view Hillary Clinton, again, moving forward towards the general election, is kind of baked in the cake, that she still has her problems, that there's still a number of people who have known her, who have watched her for the past 20 years who are never going to vote for her, and so in talking to some people who aren't necessarily Joe Biden supporters, I can tell you, but who have kind of a counterintuitive view that this means Joe Biden shouldn't and couldn't run because of last night.

TAPPER: And, Dana, we, watching on television, saw tons of interesting moments. You had a special view of what was going on stage. Tell us something that we didn't see on TV last night.

BASH: Well, you know, when you moderated the debate in Simi Valley at the Reagan Library, it was so intimate. There were just a few hundred people on the stage that was built 45 feet in the air. And so the candidates had their families right there.

I mean, within arm's reach, they could really talk to them during the breaks and move around. This was an auditorium. It was very big. It was about 1,400, 1,500 people, and we were really up on a stage. So, during the breaks, they didn't have as much chance to interact with their family.

And some of them walked down to the stage. Bernie Sanders walked to the edge to talk to some of his people. But it wasn't that kind of intimate feeling. And the other thing I noticed is that there were a lot more people when you moderated the debate, which I questioned in, 11 people, but in this one, even though there are five of them and a lot of them served together, there wasn't a ton of interaction between them, not a lot of familiarity.

You would -- I would have thought at least, covering a lot of these candidates in the Senate, that there would have been more of that.

TAPPER: It's an interesting note. At the Simi Valley debate, some of the candidates as they walked on stage had their arms on each other's backs and were chatting.

BASH: Yes.

TAPPER: And you didn't really see that last night.

Dana Bash, thank you so much. Don't throw away those last few bucks on the penny slots.

Let's take a closer look at last night's debate with former White House press secretary for Hillary Clinton Lisa Caputo and CNN political commentator and strategist, Republican strategist Ana Navarro.

Ana, let's look at some of the reviews, some of the tweets about the debate, some headlines the morning. "New York Times": "Democratic debate turns Hillary Clinton's way after months of difficulties." "Washington Post," "A self-assured performance by Clinton in Democratic presidential debate." The Daily Beast, "Hillary Clinton goes full Khaleesi, sets the CNN debate stage on fire," a little "Game of Thrones" reference there.


Ana, do you agree with that? I don't know about the Khaleesi one. That seems a little strong and there were no dragons of course there, but what is your take? Did she win, you think?

ANA NAVARRO, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: In fact, another one of the differences was that yesterday that room was very, very cold, as opposed to the debate in Simi Valley, where people were wilting like spinach in front of our eyes.

TAPPER: Right.

NAVARRO: Look, I think that both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders did themselves a lot of good with their base, with the people that already supported them. They said things that I think are very popular with the Democratic base.

And they had good performances. He was incredibly authentic. She looked like a seasoned debate veteran, which she is. Nobody that has seen all of Hillary Clinton's 25 debates in the last presidential election in 2008 or her previous ones as senators would be surprised at the fact that this woman knows how to debate and she showed it yesterday. She was comfortable. She -- Stella got her groove.



And, Lisa, obviously, Hillary Clinton a very seasoned debater. She had a lot of good moments last night, some questionable ones as well. But I think it's fair to say that this was the moment of the night and certainly was the most discussed on Twitter and Facebook. Take a look.


SANDERS: But I think the secretary is right, and that is that the American people are sick and tired of hearing about your damn e-mails.


CLINTON: Thank you.


TAPPER: Now, I know that a focus group and I know that a Facebook poll are not scientific, but Bernie Sanders did do very well in both of those at CNN, especially the Facebook poll. Do you think that he maybe expanded his reach last night?


What I do know is he absolutely -- he spoke to his base. He absolutely played to the base. I think that was a gimme that he gave to Hillary Clinton on the e-mails.

TAPPER: An in-kind contribution, yes.

CAPUTO: An in-kind contribution, somebody said earlier today.

And I think that took a lot of air out of the room and the questions stopped. And you could just sense everything change right there. And I think it allowed her to pivot and go right to wanting to get into some policy proposals, so she was trying to position herself as a candidate who's both experienced and is for change, and was able to articulate some specific policy proposals.

I think Bernie was Bernie, if you will. But I also think Hillary was Hillary. I think you saw a Hillary Clinton that was very authentic. Someone said earlier today that that's the Hillary Clinton that I know as a friend and I see so often, the humor, the ability to imbue a little bit of the gender card, not in a full-frontal way, but in a tactful way, the ability to be substantive

TAPPER: Let's talk about that for a second, because I know Ana was not a big fan of what's the biggest difference between you and President Obama, and she mentioned her gender.

Why didn't you care for that so much?

NAVARRO: Because she said it over and over again during the debate. It's interesting because I was on the morning show today like a hundred hours ago in Las Vegas. And they had a voter from Las Vegas talking about it, a female, a Democrat. And she had the same exact reaction.

It almost felt like every half-an-hour, she was talking about being a woman. You know, when you're the only one woman standing on the stage, I'm not sure that you need to emphasize it to that degree.

TAPPER: But, Lisa, very quickly, if you could, she didn't do it in 2008. And the campaign is trying to do some things differently this time.

CAPUTO: I think there were a lot of lessons learned from 2008. And I think that those have been thought through and they're taking a whole different strategy this go-around.

And I think that -- I don't think it was repeated over and over again last night. I do think that she was obvious about it and stated it. And you're right, it wasn't something stated in 2008. She was told to stay away from it.


NAVARRO: How many times did you hear it?

CAPUTO: Two or three times.

NAVARRO: I heard it three times, plus her telling us it takes her longer to go to the bathroom.


TAPPER: We're not done with you. We're not done with you. Stick around. We're going to come back. We're going to continue our politics lead.

We're going to dig deeper right now into the Joe Biden question. Does last night's debate leave more room for a Biden bid or less? Biden himself discussed the debate today. We will check out what he said in just a few minutes.

Stay with us.



[16:18:35] JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to THE LEAD.

More on our politics lead. Many insiders today saying that Hillary Clinton did what she had to do on the Democratic debate stage, possibly enough to keep her only serious challenger, Senator Bernie Sanders, in second place nationally and everywhere else but New Hampshire.

But another big looming question: was her performance strong enough to keep the Vice President Joe Biden on the sidelines?

CNN's senior Washington correspondent Jeff Zeleny is live for us in Las Vegas.

Jeff, no doubt many of the vice president's fans were hoping Clinton would choke last night. She did not. The V.P. spoke today in Washington. Any hints as to which direction he's leaning?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, I can tell you that the vice president watched this debate last night at home in the Naval Observatory in Washington.

He reported to work today at the White House. He had a private lunch with President Obama. He talked to reporters after a speech he gave. All things seem normal on the outside.

On the inside of this sort of shadow campaign in the wings I guess if you will, it is still going on. I talked with several supporters of his today who said that things are ready to go if the vice president decides to make up his mind. They do not believe the window is closed simply because of one debate performance.

I'm told the vice president thought everyone's performance was actually pretty strong. But he said, look, this is one debate. There will be others.

He expounded a little bit, he almost seldom does talk about 2016 in these debates but expounded a little bit during his speech today.

[16:20:01] Let's take a listen.


JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I thought every one of those folks last night, I'm mildly prejudiced, I thought they all did well.


ZELENY: So, of course, he gave a thumbs-up to all these, you know, would-be potential Democratic rivals. But, you know, the reality is, Jake, a lot of Democrats say their patience is running out, running short for the vice president to make up his mind. They ask, what is he waiting for. There was not some huge opening last week. Yes, she appears before the Benghazi committee next week, unlikely that would provide an opening as well.

But his supporters insist he's operating on his own timeframe still possibly leaning toward running, at least thinking about it. But will not make a decision probably for another week or so. So this wait and see game, Jake, continues. I can tell you even some Democrats last week who wanted him to run are now not so sure because they think the party is just fine without him -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Jeff Zeleny in Sin City, thanks so much.

Donald Trump is not holding back on criticizing the Democratic candidates. His new line of attack as new numbers give Trump some room to talk.

And in our world lead, an Israeli woman stabbed today, a Palestinian man killed. What it might take to calm Mideast tensions after intense conflicts, ones that go back generations.


[16:25:44] TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. We're going to continue our politics lead on the Republican side now.

We have a brand new CNN/ORC poll out of Nevada, and another one out of South Carolina. They both show Donald Trump holding a double-digit lead. Trump is registering at 38 percent support in Nevada to Dr. Ben Carson's 22 percent. In South Carolina, Trump doubles Carson's support 36 percent to Carson's 18 percent.

There are other candidates there as well. They're all in single digits.

Let's get right to CNN's Sara Murray who's at a Donald Trump event in Richmond, Virginia.

Sara, these are some big leads for Mr. Trump.

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: Absolutely. I'm sure when Donald Trump gets here and this event gets under way in a couple hours, you will hear him bragging about these big leads as he wants to do.

Look, the latest nationwide poll show him in a much tighter race with Ben Carson, but when you look at the swing states, it does show Trump with a very wide lead. What's amazing is once you get past Donald Trump and Ben Carson, basically no one even registers. Everyone else is below 10 percent. So, it really has become a two-man race in places like Nevada and South Carolina, Donald Trump is clearly dominant.

TAPPER: And, Sara, Donald Trump set his sights on a new opponent recently. He posted a brand new Instagram video earlier this afternoon. Let's take a quick look at that.


NARRATOR: The world is a dangerous place. We need a tough, strong leader.

And it's not this guy.


TAPPER: This is just illustrating a point that Donald Trump made several weeks ago which is how can Bernie Sanders be tough on foreign affairs if he can't even handle some activists protesting his rally. But why the sudden focus on Bernie Sanders?

MURRAY: You know, it is a really interesting change in tactics because if you are looking at Donald Trump on Twitter last night, he actually had fairly nice things to say about Bernie Sanders. It was almost overnight that he decided that Bernie Sanders blew it in the debate, that he's not tough enough, and, you know, Trump is kind of giving his Republican opponents a break today and going after Sanders instead.

I think what will be interesting here in a place like Richmond, Virginia, is whether Trump will come out on stage tonight and slam Bernie Sanders. Whether he'll talk about whether Sanders said one of the number one risks right now is climate change. Those are some of the things we're going to be looking out for tonight, Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Sara Murray in Richmond, Virginia with the Trump campaign. Thanks so much.

And if you ask him, Donald Trump thinks luck was a lady last night. He thinks Hillary Clinton caught a break because the four guys flanking her on stage decided to, quote, "just let her off and punched with velvet gloves." Clinton in Trump's mind, quote, "came out the winner."

Let's bring in Ana Navarro and Lisa Caputo.

Ana, let me start with you. Very simply, do you think at the end of the day, if the front runners remain who they are, can Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton?

ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think he's got to change his tactics. But right now Donald Trump has been the front runner with a very big margin for a long time.


NAVARRO: So, I think he needs to start acting like a front runner. What we saw yesterday from the Democrats was a serious debate. You can debate serious national policy issues and still have it be interesting, engaging, lively, feisty, interesting. You know, we need to do that on the Republican side. We need to discontinue talking about Rosie O'Donnell and hating each other and have a debate on the issues. So, I hope that the Republicans including the front runner Mr. Trump

take a page from last night from the Democrats and the next debate two weeks from today, they do the same.

TAPPER: Lisa, let me ask you. A new FOX News poll pits Republicans against Clinton in hypothetical matchups. I know we're still a year and a month away. But Dr. Carson beats Hillary Clinton by 11 points, Trump beats her by five, Bush by four, Fiorina by three. That's got to cause some concern in the Hillary Clinton campaign.

LISA CAPUTO, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY FOR HILLARY CLINTON: I don't think so. We're a long way away. She demonstrated exactly what she had to do last night, substantive, in command, presidential I would argue.

I also think that she closed the window for Joe Biden because she was able to capture, I think and play to in some respects, the center- left. Bernie Sanders wanted to make it about ideology, she shut that off. She said, I'm a progressive who gets things done.

And she was looking ahead in some respects when asked, you know, who are your enemies and she kind of went through the list and she said, and the Republicans. So, she's very forward looking, yet focused on what she's got to do to get there.