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Bush Campaign Not on Life Support; Rubio Draws New Attention after Debate; Democrats' New Flashpoint: U.S. Troops in Syria. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired November 1, 2015 - 08:30   ET


[08:30:00] CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: Make some great memories today and good luck to all of you running the New York City marathon.


JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Jeb Bush insists poor debates don't mean his presidential bid is on life support.


JEB BUSH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We have the most money. We have the greatest organization. We're doing fine.


KING: But Debate 3 gives new buzz to Bush friend turned rival Marco Rubio.


SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Someone has convinced you that attacking me is going to help you.


KING: Plus Bernie Sanders stokes his campus appeal.


SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: States should have the right to regulate marijuana.


KING: And Hillary Clinton looks to build an African-American firewall.


HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We need more cities too busy to hate. And we need a country too busy to hate.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KING: INSIDE POLITICS, the biggest stories sourced by the best reporters now.

Welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm John King. Thanks for sharing your Sunday morning. With us to share their reporting and their insights: Jonathan Martin of the "New York Times"; Jackie Kucinich of the "Daily Beast"; Robert Costa of the "Washington Post"; and "The Atlantic's" Molly Ball.

Now Jeb Bush concedes he could have done a lot better in the Republican presidential debate the other night he says not to worry.


BUSH: It's not on life support. We have the most money. We have the greatest organization. We're doing fine.


KING: Doing fine, the one time Republican favorite says but he is now running fifth in the national polls, fifth in Iowa and fourth in New Hampshire, where he promises to prove all the critics wrong and come back.

Donald Trump and Ben Carson still lead the pack but as we wait now to see some data, polling, to see how Republican voters scored the third debate, this is widely considered one of its most important moments.


BUSH: Marco, when you signed up for this, this was a six-year term. And you should be showing up to work. I mean literally, the Senate -- what is it, like a French workweek?

RUBIO: The only reason why you're doing it now is because we're running for the same position and someone has convinced you that attacking me is going to help you.


KING: So if we believe the post debate zeitgeist -- I just want to get a little caution upfront from the same pundits and the same Republican strategist who said Trump wouldn't run, Trump wouldn't be serious, Ben Carson would never make much of himself. I want to be clear.

But these people now are saying, you know, Bush is on life support. Bush is in trouble. And that Marco Rubio with that and other strong moments in the debate is the resurging campaign. Yes?

ROBERT COSTA, "WASHINGTON POST": I would put an asterisk next to that conventional wisdom. I spoke with a lot of Bush people on Saturday and I said how do you really see this? They said look, it's late October, early November. Bush and Rubio both have a long way in this nomination fight. They believe Bush, in some ways, did expose Rubio's voting record to a

wider audience by bringing it up and they also believe that Rubio's record in Florida will get more scrutiny and attention in the coming weeks. And they believe Bush has the finances and the stature to stay in this race.

KING: All right. So we're nine days away from the next Republican debate. I think there's no question, Rubio and Cruz had strong performances which means they will get more attention at the next debate.

But listen to Rubio yesterday out in Iowa. He is picking up some big fund-raising support since the next debate. Now he's trying to translate that -- if you look at him though he is still at like 6 percent or 8 percent in the polls. The question is can he actually move voters? Here is part of his pitch.


RUBIO: Be careful of politicians that tell you how many jobs they created when they were a senator, when they were a mayor, when they were a governor. Politicians don't create jobs. The private sector creates jobs.


KING: That's also a Jeb.

MOLLY BALL, "THE ATLANTIC": Absolutely. Look, I think Bob makes a good point but things look real bad for Jeb right now, I mean. And how terrible is this that he's out on the trail with this message, "Jeb can fix it"? It just looks awful.


BALL: And when the best thing you can say about your candidacy when somebody asked you if it's going ok, it's well, we have the most money. That's been his problem all along is that he's got the most money but the candidate is just not something voters are interested in buying.

So, you know, the performance problem that Jeb has just gets worse and worse; after every debate if you look at the polling line it goes down. After every debate his podium is moving further and further from the center.

And a lot of these donors, the people on the inside, they've been hearing from the Bush team for months now. It's still early. It's still early. Just got to buckle in and wait. They're getting tired of hearing that, they're starting to lose faith.

KING: Plus 90 days -- 91 days until the Iowa caucuses. One year from Tuesday we pick a new president. Obviously we have to pick the nominees first. But to Molly's point Jackie, when Bush keeps saying I'll get it and he's out this morning saying, you know, somebody should write the comeback narrative. I'll be fine. JACKIE KUCINICH, "THE DAILY BEAST": Good luck with that right now.

But it should be noted while Rubio is widely considered to have won that exchange with Bush, he did cancel an event to go vote in the Senate last week. So, it's not that he's ignoring that issue. There has to be some concern that his lack of voting record in the senate this year will come back to bite him.

So, you know, while he did well in the debate, they are making some alterations as to how they're approaching his "I hate my job" narrative.

[08:35:00] MARTIN: Yes, a few fast points. First of all, Rubio's claim that he doesn't want to attack his rivals is silly because he uses language like that where it's obviously he did Jeb. It doesn't pass the smell test.

Secondly, Marco has a great advantage in this campaign he has got an amen corner in the conservative press. It is so revealing when he's under attack from the left or from folks inside the primary the people that rally to his side they want him to be their nominee.

They don't say it always. But if you watch this sort of knee-jerk defense of Marco on the right it is very, very revealing.

And lastly on Jeb, his challenge is this. These campaigns increasingly have become defined by debates and the press coverage thereof. And if it's about those issues, then your ground game and your fund-raising and your pedigree, it just doesn't matter as much. If you can't perform in this new system, it's going to be very hard for you to be the nominee.

COSTA: Real quick, there is a fault line, I would argue, in the conservative press between more of establishment conservative press which I think it's so true, it is an amen corner for Rubio. When you're looking at Breitbart and someone who's --

MARTIN: That's fair, sure.


COSTA: They are animated by immigration and they see Rubio as the --

KUCINICH: And talk radio.

COSTA: Yes, but Ann Coulter of Breitbart (inaudible) on more the populist right are still skeptical of Marco because they think, once he's the nominee, if he is the nominee he's going to get right back to immigration reform but among this sort of broader swath that (inaudible) Marco over Jeb.

KING: To that point Donald Trump is tweeting this morning that Paul Singer, this financier who came in to the Rubio for his fundraising -- an important voice in Republican fundraising that he, Marco is his amnesty guy. He wants Marco to get elected to pass amnesty.

It's it's not Donald Trump it's sometimes Ted Cruz and those are the alternative on the right. Ted Cruz made a mark in the debate by challenging the moderators. And yesterday in Iowa he doubled down on that point essentially saying that, you know, independent journalists, objective journalists shouldn't moderate debates. We should look for like, say, Sean Hannity.


SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: How about if we say from now on, if you have never voted in a Republican primary in your life, you don't get to moderate a Republican primary debate.


KING: Next it will be how about we don't let Democrats vote and then Republicans win? That's not how it works, Senator Cruz. I'm sorry. I understand your point. I understand that that has appeal among Republicans. But to the Cruz strategy -- Cruz comes out of this debate again, people saying a strong performance, hitting the media certainly helps with the conservative base.

But he continues to have a strategy that is dependent on Trump and Carson collapsing. I'm sorry, there is no evidence as we speak this Sunday morning -- Trump is down a little bit, Carson may be down a little bit. But Carson is leading in Iowa. Trump is leading in New Hampshire and South Carolina. And I think beyond --

COSTA: It's November 1st.

KING: Yes. And it's 90 days until people vote. Can you have a strategy -- how long can you -- I'm not going to attack these guys and your survival is dependent on them collapsing.

BALL: There is, to some extent a game of not it happening in the Republican primary where everybody has done that, not it, and is expecting someone else to sort of do the dirty work of taking out the front-runners, right? I think it has become clear in the ensuing months, especially since Trump announced that these guys are not going to implode on their own.

Now, it could still happen. And nobody also thinks that the polls you see now are predictive in any real sense of the way the primaries will turn out. The polls right now are meaningless except as an indicator of sort of base sentiment.

But you know, there's a lot of things we don't know basically. There's a lot of ground to cover until we get to voting. We don't know what's going to happen. I think the strategy of sort of making sure you have the money and the campaign to hang tight and you don't get one of these death spiral narratives started about you, as long as you can hold -- be in a holding pattern where you're getting a decent amount of the national vote and you can stay on that first debate stage that's not a bad strategy.

KING: Some of the establishment figures, you know, they see Trump coming down in Iowa. And some of them say this guy is not going to -- he won't let himself lose so he'll drop before Iowa. I don't think so, ladies and gentlemen. I don't think so. But listen to Donald Trump because Robert, you wrote about this with one of your colleagues.

Trump constantly -- you have to give him credit whether you like him or not. He recalibrates when he sees the moment. He was not very negative in the debate, did not go after his rivals even on the day beforehand on the trail. He had been especially critical of Ben Carson. And here, listen to him on the stump.


TRUMP: It's not about being a celebrity, I don't think. It's about having a view that's captivating to people in this country because they're tired of being taken advantage of. They're tired of being stupid. They're tired of having their leaders be out-negotiated on every single deal.


KING: For Trump that's actually kind of soft spoken and a little bit more, I'm going to use the word, humble at least in his tone.

COSTA: It is. And I've been covering Trump since January as he's moved toward the presidential campaign and you really can see a transition in his temperament. You see him as you said, recalibrating with the moment. But when you talk to Trump himself, he say she recognizes Carson's rising in Iowa. A lot of it's not because of his ideology but because of how he comes across.

[08:40:02] Trump wants to come back in Iowa. He believes he can be the nominee. He sees it on the horizon. The question is, how does he get there? And he's toning down his attacks on his rivals though when it comes to someone like John Kasich who took him on in the debate, Trump was ready with the Lehman Brothers line. And he's going after him on Twitter today.

MARTIN: But if Carson is winning Iowa a month from now on December 1, can Trump help himself in going after Carson? And that's what Cruz is counting on.

KUCINICH: But it hasn't worked in the past. When he's gone after Carson, it's kind of fallen flat. He's tried and it just hasn't been --

COSTA: He's not going after Carson now.


COSTA: He's working with Carson on the debate.

MARTIN: So herein lies the issue. Carson's like Bambi in politics. You can't shoot Bambi and nobody wants to shoot Bambi, ok. And so the fact is that Cruz doesn't want to go after Ben Carson because he wants Trump to. But if Trump is reluctant to and nobody touches Carson, the assumption is that Carson falls on his own. What if that doesn't happen?

KING: Right. I think that's the assumption. A lot of people are just waiting --

MARTIN: And that's --

KING: -- waiting for things.

MARTIN: Ted Cruz has to make a hard choice.

COSTA: Look at Trump in the polls in New Hampshire. I think Trump -- Carson wins Iowa. Trump, if he's still ahead in New Hampshire that complicates it for the establishment lane.

KING: It complicates for everybody. Then you've got a Carson win, you've got a Trump win and on we go from there.

Everybody sit tight. Up next, new clashes between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders over the death penalty and President Obama's big decision to send U.S. Special Ops Forces into Syria.

And at the top of the hour, stay right here, watch CNN's "STATE OF THE UNION" which includes farewell interview with the old speaker and a welcome to Washington, welcome to the gavel interview with the new Speaker, Paul Ryan.


[08:46:17] Welcome back.

President Obama's plan to use U.S. Special Operations troops inside Syria is now a flashpoint between the two leading Democrats in the presidential race. Hillary Clinton says she sees merit in the President's decision. Bernie Sanders, though, says he has serious reservations.


SANDERS: My nightmare is that the United States, once again, gets caught up in a quagmire, which never ends and which leads to perpetual warfare. I have gone to too many funerals in the state of Vermont from brave and young men and women, young men who fought and died in Afghanistan and Iraq.


KING: The President says this will be very limited, 50 or so special operations troops that are there to advise Kurdish forces for the most part. But it is risky. Once you're in, you're in. It's a risky decision.

How much do you see the politics of this? If you're Hillary Clinton, she has been more of a hawk in the Democratic field. She also has to remember her support for the Iraq war was her undoing way back in 2008. BALL: Right, exactly. I think it is easy to overread this, based on

the narrative of 2008. Obviously we know from 2008 what a significant weakness it is for Hillary with the left, her record on foreign policy. And that is only exacerbated by her tenure as secretary of state.

We know that she was a relatively hawkish voice inside an administration that is relatively hawkish compared to a lot of the Democratic base.

On the other hand it's not 2008. And I think the people who support Bernie are much more about his sort of record of full-throated economic populism and his talk about inequality. So, you know, as he broadens this to become a candidate who is liberal on a whole spectrum of issues from marijuana to war and the death penalty and everything else, he's clearly preaching to the choir there. But is that something that broadens his support or --

MARTIN: No, it doesn't.

BALL: -- or takes out people who are for Hillary right now? I don't know if it does.

KING: She somewhat favors --

MARTIN: He already has anti-war liberals.

KING: They're already his.

MARTIN: That's not Bernie's (inaudible).


KUCINICH: And they're not as powerful as they are this cycle, as they were in 2008. They were a big force then. Now they've sort of lost their steam. They've lost their --

KING: This is also Barack Obama, not George W. Bush.

MARTIN: Exactly.

KING: The Democratic base has to process that --

MARTIN: If you're Bernie Sanders and you're opposing Barack Obama on anything -- I don't care if it's free trade or foreign intervention. If Obama is for it, it's going to be hard to be against it and still win over his supporters and that's Bernie's challenge.

KING: Another big thing now. The Sanders campaign says it understands that Hillary Clinton has had a good couple of weeks. They say they're going to double down in Iowa and New Hampshire, which is smart if you're in the insurgent trying to take her out in the early states.

Hillary Clinton is taking a longer view. We saw her both in Atlanta and South Carolina on Friday and into the weekend courting the African-American vote. Her take is that maybe she gets bruised a little bit in the early states but once she gets to the more diverse states that she'll be just fine.

One potential complicating factor though is that earlier in the week she was asked about the death penalty. Her husband passed the crime bill that Hillary has now criticized. But listen to Hillary Clinton here where she says the death penalty needs to be reviewed but --


CLINTON: I do not favor abolishing it, however. Because I think there are certain egregious cases that still deserve the consideration of the death penalty. But I would like to see those be very limited and rare as opposed to what we have seen in some states.


KING: That's a safe general election position. Bernie Sanders quick to say in a statement, real criminal justice reform must have the United States join every other major democracy in eliminating the death penalty. Again, a difference on the left but is it enough?

COSTA: So far you see Senator Sanders pulling Secretary Clinton to the left on many issues but you haven't seen Secretary Clinton damage herself in how her campaign sees her as viable for the general election.

[085002] Sanders has changed the conversation, especially on the economic front but Clinton remains, as she was months ago, largely the front-runner for the general election if she gets the nomination.

KUCINICH: But should this become an issue, I wouldn't be surprised to see the Clinton campaign pushing out the fact when she was head of a law clinic in Arkansas in the mid 70s she helped to get someone off death row. So this has been an issue. She has sort of -- she has become more conservative on but she has been on the other side as well.

MARTIN: You do see the traces of the 1980s Democrats there and Hillary Clinton saying, we can't let the Republicans take us too far to the left. I can't go that far in the death penalty. Even though she has adapted to the year 2015 politics, you still see at times this sort of old tendency of well, we have to be careful because we can't give them fodder for the general. And I think you see it.

KUCINICH: That Clintonian caution.

KING: That was Bill Clinton's rise in national politics. Parties too close to the labor unions, too soft on crime.

BALL: And specifically on the crime issue and I think this is a really interesting issue for this election. Because on the one hand there is -- we have to remember, Hillary was being asked about of this in the context of having rolled out her criminal justice reform plans and talking about incarceration, police brutality, profiling -- all these issues that are very animating for the left right now. At same time you do have, in some big cities, rising rates of violent crime and so there is a fear that crime is going to be an issue that hurts the Democrats again, if people start to feel like there's this crime wave. And all the Democrats are talking about is pulling back on what the police are able to do.

So I think you have Clintons who are deeply scarred by this issue because it was the issue for Bill Clinton when he was coming up in national politics. She is going to be mindful of that. She's not going to forget about the different ways that issue can break.

MARTIN: Just real fast right now. In Louisiana, there's a runoff for the governor's seat which is open down there. Republican David Vitter, his main point of attack against the Democrat is that the Democrat and Barack Obama want to open the prisons and release thousands of felons out.

So you do see the politics of the issue changing, at least in a Deep South state where Republicans see some overreach in trying (inaudible).

KING: We'll watch how that one plays out.

Up next, some early tests for the new House Speaker Paul Ryan as our reporters share from their notes.


KING: Let's head around the INSIDE POLITICS table and ask our great reporters to give you a sneak peek of the big stories just ahead. Jonathan Martin.

MARTIN: Marco Rubio coming off his big debate performance last week John is hoping to capitalize on that and he's going to be in two of the GOP financial hubs this week, Florida and New York. He's going to be raising money twice this week in Florida and then twice in New York -- once in Manhattan and once over in Connecticut.

It's going to be fascinating to see who comes to those events. Obviously, Florida, possible overlap with Jeb Bush who, of course, was a governor there. And then in places like New York, a lot of people there were leaning towards Bush because of their ties to the family. Who comes to those events? Keep your eyes peeled.

KING: Ka-ching -- we'll keep an eye on that one.


KUCINICH: There's been a lot of chatter about the Republican candidates taking it to the RNC and taking back the power. But people familiar with this process tell me there are some hard realities that they're going to confront. For example, the under cards are pushing to have all 14 people on stage. Told that's not going to happen.

Ben Carson's camp has been pushing for longer opening statements. Also told that's not going to happen. So while they are getting a little bit of leverage, the sort of pie in the sky, big ask probably not going to happen.

KING: Pie in the sky, big ask will not happen.

Ok -- Robert.

COSTA: I recently sat down with Cory Lewandowski -- Trump's campaign manager and I said how do you see the map? And he said the March 1 SEC primary, the Deep South, that's where Trump could really catapult toward the nomination. So to prepare for that Lewandowski said his biggest hire is going to be a regional political director for the South, hire more people in Georgia, coming out of South Carolina with some momentum. That's how Trump sees it. He may not win Iowa and New Hampshire, in South Carolina hopes to but if he doesn't he wants that March 1st primary -- those SEC states to be Trump places where they can maybe get victory.

KING: If Trump is still around at that point, bad news for Ted Cruz.


BALL: So much news in the campaign this week, we almost didn't get to the big news on Capitol Hill, new Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, who, you know, there was a sort of big kumbaya moment. He was elected with almost all of the votes of the Republican conference.

And he has this two-year deal that Boehner pushed through that sort of clears the decks for him. But he is still going to have some challenges. He's got some big tests coming up. They have to actually pass a funding bill to flesh out this budget deal. They've got to pass a highway bill.

So pretty soon we're going to see whether Paul Ryan gets any sort of honeymoon from the House conservatives and whether he stands a chance of actually managing the chaos over there any better than his predecessor did.

KING: Herding the sheep.

On that, I'm going to close with a bit of a follow up on that. Nine conservative Republicans -- they're the ones who refused to vote for Paul Ryan when the House chose its new speaker last week. Now some in the Republican establishment were looking to pay them back with the primary challenge.

It's the latest bad blood in an establishment versus Tea Party fight that we've all watched play out over the last few election cycles. The establishment forces acknowledge there's no way they can beat all nine but they are looking at each district now, looking to surprise three or four of these House rebels if they can recruit top tier candidates by the filing deadlines.

Keep an eye on that one.

[08:59:59] That's it for INSIDE POLITICS. Again thanks for sharing your Sunday morning. We'll see you soon.

"STATE OF THE UNION" starts right now.