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Trump On Trail In New Hampshire; Cruz Pushing For Support In Iowa; Rand Paul Returns To Main Debate Stage; Paul Slams Cruz And Rubio Over Immigration; GOP Candidates Battle Over Immigration Reform; Bush Blasts Rubio. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired January 29, 2016 - 13:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks very much for joining us.

We're counting down to the first official votes of the 2016 presidential election. In only three days Iowans head to the caucuses to carry out their first in the nation responsibility to that. And the Democratic front-runners have a series of stops in the state. Bernie Sanders, in fact, has four events. Hillary Clinton will be joined on the trail by her husband, Bill Clinton, and daughter, Chelsey.

On the Republican side, there's a four-way split to the state. Texas Senator Ted Cruz and Florida Senator Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, they've got to combine 14 events in Iowa today.

And then, there's Donald Trump. One day after skipping the final GOP debate in Iowa and holding his own rally, he's moved on to New Hampshire.

Our correspondents are spread out across these early voting states. Jim Acosta is in Nashua, New Hampshire. He's covering the Trump campaign. Sunlen Serfaty is following the Cruz campaign for us from Des Moines.

Let's start in New Hampshire. Jim, the primary, New Hampshire, on February ninth, eight days after the Iowa caucuses, what's the strategy there?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, it speaks volumes about the confidence inside the Trump campaign to have Donald Trump here in New Hampshire just 72 hours before the Iowa caucuses. But Donald Trump wanted to come here and take a victory lap of sorts. He, essentially, declared victory and said he won last night's Fox News-GOP debate by skipping it. He defended that decision saying that when people come after you, you have to be tough.

He also went after Ted Cruz, noting some of the tough reviews for the Texas senator. There was that front page of the "Des Moines Register" that said, rough night for Ted Cruz.

But Donald Trump did not stop there. He ripped into Cruz, at one point, using a term that is offensive to many Hispanics in talking about Cruz's birth in Canada. Here's more of what Trump had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Ted Cruz may not be a U.S. citizen, right? But he's an anchor baby. No, he's an anchor baby. Ted Cruz is an anchor baby in Canada. But Canada doesn't accept anchor babies. They just waited a long time. OK.

But, look, it is a problem for him, by the way. I think that's one of the reasons he's crashing. I think that's one of the reasons he's a nervous wreck, too. He's thinking, what the hell happened? Remember when I first brought that up? Everybody said, oh, that doesn't mean anything. That was about a week ago. Now, they're saying, I think his career is over, right?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ACOSTA: So, there you go, Donald Trump essentially saying, and here in New Hampshire, that Ted Cruz is on his way down in the Iowa caucuses and perhaps these contests after that.

Now, we should point out, Donald Trump also talked about the event -- the rival event he held last night to last night's GOP debate, saying he raised $6 million for veterans, about $500,000 on a Web site he created for veterans causes in the last 24 to 48 hours.

But, Wolf, we're going to see a side of Donald Trump we haven't really seen that much of over the next 72 hours. His campaign put out a press release announcing all of the campaign stops he has in Iowa. He has two to three a day, essentially, until the voters are going to those caucus sites on Monday night.

So, we have not seen Donald Trump do that many events in one day at a time, and so it'll test his energy level. He likes to say he is a high energy not a low energy candidate. That's going to be put to the test over the next 72 hours -- Wolf.

BLITZER: It certainly will be. All right, Jim Acosta, thanks very much.

Based on the polls two weeks ago, the Texas Senator Ted Cruz might have been preparing some victory speeches for Iowa but the script has dramatically changed with Trump now on top. According to the most recent polls, Cruz trying to hold onto second place. Sunlen Serfaty is following the Cruz campaign for us. She's joining us from Des Moines right now. What's the focus there, Sunlen?

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, right now, Wolf, we'll expected to see Ted Cruz, over the next three days, really sound like a broken record. His campaign manager telling me today not to expect any new tricks or new messages over the next three days.

But Ted Cruz, he says, we'll really drill down to Iowa voters here. His closing message -- a core part of that closing message which is all really about Donald Trump's dominance in the polls here, Cruz making the argument that if voters want Donald Trump to be unstoppable, that they have to start them here in Iowa, making the argument that Donald Trump could become a runaway train if he wins here in Iowa, goes on to win New Hampshire.

So, that is the argument that we're seeing Cruz make on the campaign trail. He will continue that this weekend. He has a flurry of campaign stops each and every day. On Monday, on caucus day, he will achieve the full graph hitting all 99 counties here in Iowa, a big achievement that his campaign likes to tell. They like to say he's out there meeting with voters.

But interesting, Wolf, this sort of message, this closing argument that they're making against Donald Trump, that was only started in the last few weeks, could turn out to be too little too late. We'll see come Monday night -- Wolf.

[13:05:01] BLITZER: We certainly will. Sunlen, thanks very much. The Republican presidential candidate, Senator Rand Paul, is making his way around Iowa today as well after making it back to the main stage on the Republican debate last night.

Rand Paul is with us right now. He's joining us from a diner out in Iowa. Senator Paul, thanks very much for joining us. I want to play a clip for you. This is when the moderators, Megyn Kelly, were discussing the whole issue of immigration reform here in the United States with both Senator Marco Rubio and Senator Ted Cruz. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. RAND PAUL (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I was there and I saw the debate. I saw Ted Cruz say, we'll take citizenship off the table and then the bill will pass. And I'm for the bill. The bill would involve legalization. He can't have it both ways. Particularly insulting though is that he is the king of saying, oh, you're for amnesty. Everybody's for amnesty except for Ted Cruz. But it's a falseness. And that's an authenticity problem.

MARCO RUBIO (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This is the lie that Ted's campaign is built on and Rand touched upon it that he's the most conservative guy and everyone else is a -- you know, everyone else is a rhino. The truth is, Ted, throughout this campaign, you've been willing to say or do anything in order to get votes. Ted, you worked for George W. Bush's campaign. You vote -- you worked -- you helped design George W. Bush's --- you helped design George W. Bush's immigration policy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: As you heard, Senator Paul, Megyn Kelly played some awkward clips for both Rubio and Cruz indicating inconsistencies in their positions on immigration. Who do you think won that exchange? Who did better? Would it be Cruz or would it be Rubio?

PAUL: You know, I think both of them showed some inconsistencies. You know, Rubio has always been for citizenship, a pathway to citizenship, and then he's backed away from it. Cruz has been for a form of amnesty, if you call legalization or giving legal status. Cruz always was for it. Now, he claims to be, oh, he's never been for amnesty. But he's -- I think he has been inconsistent on this issue.

So, I think there's a point to be made that both of them have changed their positions. And this goes -- and for -- Ted Cruz is particularly a problem because he's arguing that he's the only authentic one against amnesty. When, in reality, during the debate, he was for a form of amnesty.

BLITZER: Correct me if I'm wrong, Senator Paul, but you support some pathway to citizenship for these undocumented (ph) immigrants in the United States, legalization and eventually for some of them at least citizenship, is that right?

PAUL: Well, what I have -- what I have supported is once we have border security, I have supported binding a legal status but not citizenship. So, I have always supported that and that's what Cruz used to support and now says he never supported. And that's really the problem is one of consistency for Ted Cruz is that he used to support the position I do support which is once we have border security, we should be able to find work visas for those who want to stay and work as long as they're not criminals.

BLITZER: And those people should never be allowed to apply for U.S. citizenship? Is that what you're saying, Senator?

PAUL: What I've been for is no new pathway. And so, people who are in Mexico City who want to come and immigrate to our country have a pathway. Those who are here illegally I think could get in the same line but not in front of the line and no new pathway.

So, I have always supported some kind of solution to the problem. But the solution has to come once we've already developed border security because, frankly, the American people have lost trust in their government. When we've done this in the past, the government has promised to secure the border but then 11 million more people have come.

So, frankly, I think the American people are not going to support any immigration reform unless border security precedes any kind of path to legalization.

BLITZER: What was it like debating last night on the primetime stage without Donald Trump there?

PAUL: Oh, it was a pleasure. Let me tell you, I think this should be the new norm. Donald does his own little, you know, skit and acting thing that he does and that we have a serious debate among serious contenders. I think it was the best debate we've had because I think, in reality, he has done very little to elevate the discourse, but he's done a lot to demean the discourse.

BLITZER: What's your prediction for Monday night? How well are you going to do?

PAUL: We're going to exceed all expectations. We think we have a chance to win. Our phone callers -- we have 100 young men and women making phone calls, all volunteers. They've called a million voters in Iowa. We're trying very hard to get the youth turnout. If we get the kind of turnout we think we're going to get among the youth voters, we think we're going to shock a lot of people.

BLITZER: We'll see and we'll wait and see together with you. Senator Rand Paul, you're at a diner there in Brooklyn, Iowa. Who knew there was a Brooklyn, Iowa but you found it. Good luck out there.

[13:10:05] PAUL: Thank you.

BLITZER: As we just mentioned, the rivalry between Senators Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio and the inconsistencies on immigration, they were front and center in Thursday night's debate. Will those inconsistencies hurt their chances in the Iowa caucuses Monday night as we move forward?

Plus, Hillary Clinton discusses Iowa, more Democratic debates.

And the potential for a justice. Barack Obama in the U.S. Supreme Court and my interview with Hillary Clinton. That's coming up as well.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: The debate over illegal immigration certainly a hot button issue out there on the campaign trail, and it was a hot topic at last night's Republican presidential debate. Senator Ted Cruz came under fire from fellow Senators Marco Rubio and Rand Paul over the question of amnesty.

Let's dig deep are into this whole immigration debate. And joining us now is Juan Carlos Lopez. He's an anchor and correspondent for CNN in Espanol. And CNN Politics Executive Editor Mark Preston. He's in Des Moines, Iowa.

[13:15:05] Juan Carlos, you've been covering this story for a long time. The inconsistencies cited by Megyn Kelly, the moderator, as far as Cruz is concerned, Rubio is concerned, were those inconsistencies fair?

JUAN CARLOS LOPEZ, CNN EN ESPANOL ANCHOR: They've been happening, and we've seen that position. Now either Senator Cruz and Senator Rubio and their strategist knows something that no one else knows, but this hard line on immigration hasn't helped candidates in the past. You can see John McCain. You can see Mitt Romney. They didn't well - they didn't do well with Latinos with this hard position. And Senator Cruz is a - has - is seen by many in the Latino community as being up there with Donald Trump. So wonder what their strategy might be.

BLITZER: Yes. Well, what do you think, Mark? You're out there in Iowa. How - how's that debate last night, without Donald Trump on the stage, going to play for these Iowa Republican caucus goers?

MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICS EXECUTIVE EDITOR: Well, there's no doubt the immigration is really one of the cornerstone issues of this Republican presidential primary. But you know what, Wolf, it's not as if anyone's views were not already known on that issue. What I really think was - was really critical and, as you had Rand Paul on just a short time ago, the fact that Ted Cruz had not one but two of his Senate colleagues calling into question his integrity, and these are two gentlemen that don't necessarily like each other. Marco Rubio and Rand Paul come from different wings of the Republican Party. And the fact that they both aimed all their fire on Ted Cruz, certainly on this issue and others, I think was very damaging to Ted Cruz.

Now, on the issue of illegal immigration in general, yes, it is going to be - certainly an important issue in this primary, but at this point everybody clearly knows what the other's view is on the issue.

BLITZER: It's interesting, Juan Carlos, both Cruz and Rubio, sons of Cuban immigrants to the United States, they're Hispanic. How are they seen by and large in the Hispanic community?

LOPEZ: Senator Rubio probably better known than Senator Cruz. He has a story that a lot of people can relate to. Senator Cruz has not gotten that involved with the Hispanic community, the Latino community. There are groups now that are opposing them both because of their position. But I see Rubio, Senator Rubio, with a more nuanced position where he can return, where Senator Cruz has been clear now saying that he will not be, has been and will never be for any type of legalization, or as he calls it amnesty. So I think he's cast off the Hispanic vote.

BLITZER: Really?

LOPEZ: Yes.

BLITZER: Even in a general election, you think?

LOPEZ: In the general election. Because we know that Iowa and New Hampshire are not places where the Latino vote will be definitive or decisive. But for the general election, it's going to be very hard for him to come back. I was mentioning Senator John McCain, who's been very firm on immigration reform, for the primaries he went the - completely the other way. Hispanics backed off from him. Mitt Romney, you talk about self-deportation. Hispanics didn't vote for him. And Senator Cruz has been very clear. So I don't think that he is angling to get the Latinos to vote for him or see him as a Latino candidate or a candidate that wants to push Latino issues.

BLITZER: Mark, you've heard a lot of the analysts, the pundits say that Donald Trump, by not showing up at that debate, actually won last night by having the separate event supporting veterans. How's it playing out there?

PRESTON: Well, you know, Wolf, if you just look on the front page of "The Des Moines Register" I think says it all. It said Ted Cruz has a rough night. Donald Trump certainly won the night because he stood on the stage - you know, I was talking to my wife during it, Wolf, and she said, I feel like I'm watching a telethon. He raises $6 million for veterans. He stands on the stage. He commands all the oxygen in the room and he doesn't have one punch landed on him. Now, he goes to New Hampshire today for a rally and then he comes back

here to Iowa. I was talking to a very smart Republican strategist, certainly not a Trump supporter, who I said, who do you think won last night? The gentleman said to me, status quo, nothing's changed. And in that case, that's a win for Donald Trump.

BLITZER: Mark Preston, thanks very much. Juan Carlos Lopez, thanks to you as well.

This weekend, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and Bernie Sanders, they'll all join Jake Tapper on "State of the Union." That airs Sunday morning, 9:00 a.m. Eastern, right here on CNN.

Last night, Jeb Bush stepped into the spotlight. Many even saying he won the night. But is it too little too late? His policy communications advisor - there he is, Jeb Bush. His advisor is standing by to join us live from Des Moines. Michael Steel. We'll talk with him when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[13:23:25] BLITZER: Jeb Bush on the road in Iowa right now after sparring with his Republican rivals last night. He has three stops in Iowa three days before the caucuses and the first votes of this election campaign. In the GOP debate, Governor Bush took aim at Senator Marco Rubio over efforts to pass immigration reform.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JEB BUSH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: When you led the charge with the gang of eight, I supported it because you asked me to. I think it's important for people in elected office to try to forge consensus to solve problems. There's never going to be a perfect bill, but - but when you didn't do that, and you asked people to support, you

shouldn't cut and run.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: But, Megyn, (INAUDIBLE) -

BUSH: You should stick with it. And that's exactly what happened. He cut and run. And that's a - that's a tragedy because now it's harder and harder to actually solve this problem.

RUBIO: But, Megyn.

MEGYN KELLY, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Go ahead. This will be the last one.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Michael Steel is an advisor for policy and communications for the Jeb Bush campaign. Michael is joining us now live from Des Moines.

Michael, thanks for joining us.

A lot of the pundits, a lot of the analysts think your candidate, Jeb Bush, had a very good night last night in that debate. He was almost, they say, liberated by Donald Trump's non-presence there. What do you say about that?

MICHAEL STEEL, JEB BUSH ADVISER FOR POLICY & COMMUNICATIONS: Well, I think we definitely won the debate because he has a proven record of conservative leadership. He's got the best, most detailed plans for the future, whether it's the economy or confronting and defeating ISIS. And, you know, Wolf, Jeb has been taking on Donald Trump going back to the CNN debate at the Reagan Library, going back to the debate that you moderated in Las Vegas. And while the rest of these guys have been in the witness protection program, Jeb Bush has been taking on the elephant in the room.

BLITZER: So why, according to the most recent polls, isn't he doing better?

[13:25:02] STEEL: Well, I think we're concentrated on the early states, doing well in the early states. He's on the road here in Iowa today and then it's on to New Hampshire. And we're going to do well in the early states and win the nomination because he has the best record of anyone on the field to take the fight to Hillary Clinton and win.

BLITZER: Is he looking beyond Iowa right now, because we're showing our viewers the latest CNN poll of polls. He's not doing well in Iowa. Is he focusing in mostly on New Hampshire?

STEEL: Well, no. Right now he's on the road here in Iowa. As you said, he's got three stops today. He's going to be here right through the caucuses, and then it's on to New Hampshire.

BLITZER: In the olden days they used to say there were three tickets out of Iowa. Do you buy that?

STEEL: Well, I think we're going to see a number of different - there's a number of different contests going on here. I think we're going to do better than expected, and then it's on to New Hampshire and then South Carolina, and then the March 1 states.

BLITZER: He tries to establish himself as the so-called establishment candidate, fighting Cruz, fighting Donald Trump. Is that the way he sees it?

STEEL: Absolutely not. I think that he has always been a disrupter, an innovator. That's - he took on the entrenched interests in Tallahassee, turned the state government of Florida upside down, and that's what he intends to do in Washington, D.C. He's pushing for a strong message of conservative reform, a balanced budget amendment, a line item veto, term limits for members of Congress, a lobbying ban for members of Congress in the Senate. I mean this is a guy who has been a conservative reformer his entire career, and that's the record that he's sharing with voters right now, and that's what he wants to do in Washington.

BLITZER: So how well does he have to do in Iowa and then New Hampshire to keep on going?

STEEL: Well, I think that the - he's having a great conversation with the voters here in Iowa right now. He's going to have a great conversation, has been having that conversation with voters in New Hampshire, and we've got - we've got a team built for the long haul.

BLITZER: Is he going to be in Iowa Monday night to speak after we get the results of the caucuses?

STEEL: No. He'll be in - Monday - he'll be here Monday through - through the day, but then he's moving on to New Hampshire that - that evening.

BLITZER: All right, so when he does make a statement, it will be in New Hampshire, whatever the outcome of the Iowa caucuses, right?

STEEL: I expect so, yes, sir.

OK. Michael Steel, thanks very much for joining us. We'll stay in close touch with you and your campaign as well.

Up next, we have live pictures, by the way, coming in of the Democratic presidential frontrunner, Hillary Clinton. She's at an event right now in Des Moines. She's just barely edging out Senator Bernie Sanders according to the most recent polls in Iowa. We're going to take a closer look at that very tight race in Iowa. The Democrats final push towards the Iowa caucuses.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)