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RNC Chairman Reacts To GOP Debate; Trump Versus Cruz: Who Fared Better?; Who's Supporting The Top-Tier Candidates?; Winners And Losers Of CNN Republican Debate. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired December 16, 2015 - 07:30   ET


ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Next hour, we'll talk to Carly Fiorina and Lindsay Graham. They will also both join us live.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: A lot of moments as well during the debate. We'll play them to you so you can process who was up and who is down.


CUOMO: Welcome back. We are still at the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas. This was the scene of the big night in amidst the canals and gondolas and beautiful architecture that is the Venetian, we had a big night that changed the state of play in the Republican race.

Donald Trump, big headline. He says, I'm going to stay a Republican. I will not run as an independent, but he wasn't the whole deal last night.

CAMEROTA: Right. But that is what the party had been waiting for him to say. There were moments between Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio. They were sparring on national security and immigration. There's a lot to talk about.

Joining us now is Reince Priebus, the chairman of the Republican National Committee. Good morning, Reince, great to see you. How are you feeling?

REINCE PRIEBUS, CHAIRMAN, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE: This isn't fair. You guys are inside the Venetian and I'm on the outside where it's like 32 degrees.

CUOMO: We are literally chilling you.

CAMEROTA: That is terrible.

PRIEBUS: It was a good night. I thought CNN and Wolf did an exceptional job. We were pretty pleased.

CUOMO: So, Reince, other than when you almost gave me a beat down right before the men went on stage, how did you feel about the state of play out there? And when you heard Donald Trump say I respect the party, I've learned to respect the people on the stage, I will stay a Republican, I'm not running as an independent, what did it mean to you? PRIEBUS: I never -- I never worried about it. I really -- it's not something I'm trained to say here with the question. I never was. I never lost any sleep over it. The truth is it's extremely difficult.

Once you start running on ballots as a Republican or a Democrat, it's very, very difficult in this country to then change your mind and reverse course because most states have what they call loser laws, which means once you're on the ballot in one party, you can't switch.

On top of that, I knew when the candidates gave me their pledge and when they agreed to their word that they were beginning to support our party, I never doubted that any of these folks would reverse course. I trusted the people that were on the stage and I always knew that they would adhere to the pledge.

CAMEROTA: That's interesting, Reince. Donald Trump is unpredictable. He's nothing if not unpredictable. In this whole race he's done things that were different than what people said he might do or they certainly had different outcomes.

[07:35:03]So you believed him but many in the party were fight nervous about it, because they said that if he were to run as an independent, that would be hanged the election to Hillary. Go ahead.

PRIEBUS: Yes, but the difference is that we're the only place the Republican National Committee, that's actually interacting with every single campaign on a daily basis. We know what's going on. We're visiting the campaigns.

Our political director, our finance directors, our chief of staff, they're all in communication, not just over the telephone but in person with all these campaigns. We know, you know, we know pretty much everything that's going on.

So I wasn't -- I was never worried about it and so it was one of those narratives out there that percolates every once in a while that we deal with, but it doesn't mean that we're actually sitting around biting our fingernails, you know, concerned that something like that will actually happen.

CUOMO: Reince, a couple things for you to help us on. One is, do you think that the party will continue to want undercard debates after last night? Do you think you're moving into a new phase?

And second, you have a classical Italian name, Reince Priebus, last night when Dr. Carson seemed to struggle with your last name, is that something you've become comfortable with? Does it just happen over the years?

PRIEBUS: Listen, from the moment I've been in kindergarten on, I've dreaded the first day of school when the teacher would try to pronounce my name. I tell people, it's what happens when a Greek and a German get married, Chris. It's like a cultural disaster. But it's been -- it's unique and I've learned to live with it.

I will tell you guys this. We named our kids Jack and Grace. One family tradition I put an end to and that's the name Reince. We're going simple now.

CUOMO: You think you're going to ask for another undercard, Reince, or do you think it's time to move into one echelon?

PRIEBUS: I think we're going to evaluate that as we go. I think it's been good. If you look -- we'll see what happens today, but I would bet that the ratings on the first debate are probably through the roof.

When you've got -- these past debates when you have 5 million, 6 million people watching the first debate, it's sort of hard to make the case that it's not something that's very valuable for our party and these candidates obviously deserve an opportunity to make their case.

CAMEROTA: Reince Priebus, thanks so much for getting up early and standing outside in the cold to talk to us. Great to have you on NEW DAY.

CUOMO: That wasn't my decision, by the way. I said you should be inside. Alisyn said she wanted you outside. I don't know why.

CAMEROTA: I said you were hearty enough to be out there.

CUOMO: Greek German, they love the cold.

CAMEROTA: Thanks, Reince.

For the first time, Ted Cruz, some said trumped Trump in terms of -- well, certainly in terms of talk time, but sometimes even in terms of tone during the debate.

CUOMO: It is a heavyweight bout. Who scored the points? Who won the matchups? There's one on your screen right now. We'll get a take from both sides, next.



CAMEROTA: All eyes on Donald Trump and Ted Cruz at last night's debate. They were expected to spar but, in fact, they played nice on stage. So which one fared better?

CUOMO: Big brains, CNN political commentator and former White House political director for Ronald Reagan, Mr. Jeffrey Lord, and also a Trump supporter, CNN political commentator as well, former communications director for Senator Ted Cruz, Amanda Carpenter. You see where we're going with this.

Amanda, we know what it was supposed to be. You told us before the debate several times, I don't think they're going to fight. In terms of how the men handle the moments, what did you see? What did you like, what did you not like?

AMANDA CARPENTER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I thought it was great. We saw a truce come between the two candidates. Take my former Cruz hat off, just as a Republican voter. I'm so sick of the in-fighting. We went through that in 2012 with Romney and Newt Gingrich. I do not want another repeat of that. I was happy to see that they weren't going to get into it and we have a substantive debate on the issues.

CAMEROTA: Not only did they got get into it they actually played nice. Here's a moment. Watch this.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Over the last three or four days I've gotten to know him. He has a wonderful temperament. He's just fine. Don't worry about it.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Senator Cruz. Senator Cruz, you have not been willing to attack Mr. Trump in public, but you did --

TRUMP: You better not attack.

BASH: The question is judgment.

SENATOR TED CRUZ (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Dana, what I said in private is exactly what I'll say here, the judgment that every voter is making of every one of us up here is who has the experience, who has the vision, who has the judgment to be commander in chief.


CAMEROTA: Jeffrey, ted Cruz didn't look altogether comfortable with the pat from Donald Trump. What did you think of their exchanges all night?

JEFFREY LORD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I thought it was very telling. I'm with Amanda. I don't like this primary stuff but you have to do it. That said, you must do it, it's always done. It gets rugged. You look at the history of the stuff in both parties, they're terrible, frankly.

So there are little telling signs. I thought that was a significant moment where he reached over, Donald Trump reached over and patted Ted Cruz on the back and he basically said, you've got a great temperament or whatever.

This is in fact, what happens when someone wins, finally, and all the others are supposed to rally around and all is forgiven and forgotten. I think you're already beginning to see a touch of that.

CAMEROTA: Isn't that premature? We're not at the point where Donald Trump has won.

LORD: You're right. You're right. It is premature. I think it was the communication that we've got to do what we've got to do. You do yours, I'll do mine. At some point we'll --

CAMEROTA: Be friends.

[07:45:03]CUOMO: Amanda Carpenter has the lump of coal look on her face. Do you believe anybody was looking to abdicate to Donald Trump on that stage last night? And do you think that Ted Cruz owned the potential of the moment that was presented him?

CARPENTER: Between Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, I think it was a good moment, a chummy moment. What I think is very positive is that we aren't talking about the Cruz/Trump matchup so much as the Cruz/Rubio matchup where a lot of people wanted to see this debate go.

CUOMO: Who did better there do you think?

CARPENTER: There was immigration, surveillance and the concept of military intervention, the issues where they clashed. Cruz won on immigration. I think it was more of a draw on the other two issues, due to the complex nature of the subject.

There's been some criticism because they were debating policy maybe a little too much. It may have been too much in the weeds. I think Chris Christie -- people are saying he had a great moment interrupting the two.

I didn't like that moment largely because if someone is campaigning to be commander-in-chief, president, I want them to have an interest in the legislation.

Who do you think sends him the bills to sign? Him dismissing this as inside baseball, I thought was a negative pore someone who may be signing those bills.

CAMEROTA: What a lot of people looked at the Jeb Bush/Donald Trump exchanges. Jeb Bush for the first time in a debate seemed to hold his own --

LORD: Yes.

CAMEROTA: -- stand his ground against Donald Trump and people thought that he -- because he exceeded expectations, won.

LORD: Right. You know, on a personal level, I like Governor Bush. Who doesn't like Governor Bush? The point is, I'm wondering if it's not too late here. There was this vast expectation here. I mean, all of the money and the establishment and all of this kind of thing and it didn't come to fruition.

I'm not saying this is necessarily his blame, I just think they perhaps over-expected something here, and it's not come to pass. I'm not sure it was ever destined to come to pass, that someone else, it could have been Donald Trump, it could have been somebody else on that stage, was going to overtake the third Bush as it were.

CUOMO: But you know what, politics is the world of perception as reality, you see rebirth all the time. Marco Rubio went from the reaching for the glass thing to now often looking like the most polished guy on the stage. You have Chris Christie who was written off, now he's back on the main stage. We haven't even had a vote yet.

LORD: Chris, this is, I think, forgetting for a moment Donald Trump and watching ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, you know what it reminded me of? You have to be old for this. When Senator John F. Kennedy addressed the Democratic National Convention of 1956 and gave an endorsement and speech for Adelaide Stevenson.

Everybody said, wow, who is that? They threw the thing up and he was almost vice president and he became the future. Those two guys somewhere are the future of the Republican Party.

CAMEROTA: Jeffrey, Amanda, great to have your analysis with us this morning. Thanks so much.

CUOMO: Early Christmas wishes to match the tie.

LORD: Yes, sir, we're on our way.

CAMEROTA: Very nice. In about 15 minutes from now we'll get reaction from more of the candidates. Carly Fiorina will be with us at the top of the hour. Also, Lindsey Graham, he'll assess his performance on the undercard debate which many felt was the most emotional of the night.

CUOMO: One of the reasons that we hype the debate so much is because they matter so much. The debate raised the stakes last night. So coming out of it, who's going to wind up in a different position?

CAMEROTA: Maybe ted Cruz, maybe Marco Rubio, of course, Donald Trump. But you might be surprised to know who voters -- which voters are supporting which candidate. We have real voters with us and we'll talk to them as well.

CUOMO: We have all the voters and who they want.



CUOMO: The race is different today because of what happened here at the Venetian in Las Vegas last night. Now this was the last big moment of 2015 for the GOP. Next up is the Iowa caucuses, 47 days away.

CAMEROTA: Time is flying.

CUOMO: Right? Who helped themselves? Who did not in last night's debate? There are numbers to discuss. We dig deeper with the candidates. Who they are attracting, who they need to attract for the race.

Let's bring in our CNN political director, David Chalian, and CNN Politics executive editor, Mr. Mark Preston. Gentlemen, great job last night coordinating what we all got to benefit from on the stage.

Let's take a look. When you look at the top guy, Trump, Rubio and Carson, who are their voters? Who do they have? Who do they need? Who's for Trump?

MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICS EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR: Everybody angry at Washington but yet not is Republican establishment and I don't think he had a very good night last night. I still think he did OK with those who don't like the Republican establishment and could still come out OK.

CAMEROTA: Why do you say he didn't have a good night last night?

PRESTON: I don't know. I think towards the end he seemed to lose a little bit of energy. And at one point, he seemed to get angry and he started to come after the media, coming after CNN. However he seemed tired at that point.

However, he powered through that and what have you, but if you look at other, you said Ted Cruz looking at Iowa, seemed to be like directing his message directly at the voters of Iowa, really hammering home some conservative values, and then Marco Rubio playing the conservative and mainstream game.

CAMEROTA: David, who did you think won?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: I don't think there was a loser among them. I think it was a really good debate and I think they each hit their own marks of what they needed to accomplish.

Two things happen. One, this was debate about what the presidency was about. So this was a real commander-in-chief test for those candidates. These are really big issues and I think avoiding the shiny objects and the side shows that sometimes dominate the campaign coverage probably helped the candidates quite a bit and certainly helped the voters measure up.

[07:55:10]I think also last night laid this predicate for Rubio versus Cruz battle that is going to be a dominant force going forward. And I think whether on surveillance or immigration you just started seeing where those two guys are dividing the party.

CUOMO: So what will wind up determining who wins that slice of the pie?

PRESTON: Well, what slice of the pie because it is really cut up in so many pieces right now, I think you have to look at three paths towards the nomination. The Donald Trump path and that is his path. There is nobody else in that lane.

You have the establishment path, which is the Marco Rubio path, which is moving into. Jeb Bush I think did OK last night. Did better certainly than he has done in the past and he's trying to retake that.

And then you really have the social/conservative path and that is clearly what Ted Cruz is trying to do. When you heard Cruz last night he certainly was reaching out and telling them I'm your candidate.

CUOMO: Let's talk about Cruz's supporters. They are only 22 percent female of all of the people who supported him. They are 50 and plus is 18 percent white Evangelicals they say 20 percent. I want to get to the female part because he needs more women in order to win. Was there anything last night that would attract women to him?

CUOMO: And why doesn't he have them?

CHALIAN: He certainly wants that to go up. But his favorable unfavorable numbers are the best in the field. He's a likable person right knew for those Iowa Republican conservatives. So that shows he's got real room to grow across the board because if he is somebody they find appealing in that way and he's not turning them off there is an opportunity for a sale.

CUOMO: And if they find him appealing in a room with a small number, that will work for him in New Hampshire as opposed to people who may not in a big forum like this find him as appealing.

CHALIAN: Right. No doubt about it. But Ted Cruz, Mark is right, he is going to make a play to own the social conservative Evangelical base that is a huge part of the nominating process especially in the early states.

But when the bluer states in the process and where establishment Republicans have tended in the past to make their play that is where Cruz has to figure out a path around Marco Rubio.

One thing about Donald Trump, when you come in a dominant frontrunner and you have a performance where you are unscathed, you emerge a dominant frontrunner still. And he is going to is this own path of his, potentially bringing in people from outside of the process that is going to fuel his candidacy.

CUOMO: He felt that also that he had had a good night for his position.

PRESTON: Yes and we're going into Christmas right now. We're talking about this campaign being frozen for two weeks. So what happened here last night and for the next two weeks is going to be frozen --

CUOMO: This is discussion around the festivists table.

PRESTON: Correct. Correct. And you are not going to see any of these candidates on the campaign trail. It is frozen until January. Then game on again.

CUOMO: Any question of Trump giving away the leverage of a third party candidacy was huge.

CAMEROTA: He's running with it.

PRESTON: You know who the big runner was last night was Reince Priebus. Sitting right behind us, watching Donald Trump say I will not do a third party candidacy, huge. CUOMO: We're going to get the reaction from more candidates right up. We have Carly Fiorina here. We have Lindsey Graham here. They will talk how they did and how others did. Stay with us for that. We've got a lot of news, let's get to it.


TRUMP: I am totally committed to the Republican Party.

JEB BUSH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You are never going to be president of the United States.

TRUMP: I'm at 42 and you are at 3.

BUSH: Doesn't matter.

TRUMP: So far I'm doing better.

CARLY FIORINA (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Time to take our country back.


TED CRUZ (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Marco can't have it both ways.

TRUMP: I've got to know him over the last three or four days. He's had a wonderful temper. He's just fine.

CHRISTIE: This is what it's like to be on the floor of the United States Senate.

BUSH: He's a chaos candidate and he would be a chaos president.

TRUMP: Jeb doesn't really believe I'm unhinged. He said that very simply because he has failed in this campaign.


CUOMO: Good morning. Welcome to your NEW DAY. It is Wednesday, December 16th, 8:00 in the east. Mich is in New York. Alisyn and I are here at the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas. This is the scene of the spectacle. The Republican race is now in a new phase because of what happened last night.

Nine candidates squared off in primetime. You had two big rivalries popped up. You had Trump and Cruz. What would happen there? You had Jeb --