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THE SITUATION ROOM

Interview With South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham; ISIS Expansion; Presidential Poll Numbers; Bush Ad Includes Former President; CNN/WMUR Poll: Trump Leads in N.H., Rubio Now Second; Source: Al Qaeda Group Suspected of Putting TNT on Plane; 6,000 ISIS Fighters Now Believed in Libya. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired February 4, 2016 - 18:00   ET

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


[18:00:00]

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news: Bernie's big number. A new CNN poll just being released right now shows Senator Bernie Sanders with a commanding lead over Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire, a state she won back in 2008. Can Hillary Clinton turn it around with only a few days to go before the first primary of 2016?

Republican reversal. Our exclusive poll reveals changes of fortune in the GOP field after Iowa, Donald Trump holding a double-digit lead in New Hampshire with Marco Rubio now in second place. Trump just sat down with CNN. We are going to hear from him this hour.

Explosive confirmation. CNN has learned investigators now believe it was, in fact, military-grade TNT that blew a hole in the side of a passenger plane in flight. Who planted it on board and why?

ISIS expansion. Terrorist forces now streaming, streaming into Libya. U.S. officials sounding the alarm as thousands of ISIS fighters work to establish a brand-new stronghold. Will Libya be a launchpad for new attacks on the West?

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: We're following the breaking news. Exclusive new poll numbers on the battle between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire. Telephone interviews conducted by New Hampshire Survey Center for CNN and WMUR show Sanders with a 2-1 lead over Hillary Clinton with just five days to go until the first-in-the-nation primary.

Also breaking, Donald Trump talking to CNN's Anderson Cooper about his battle with rival Ted Cruz and his accusation that the Cruz campaign engaged in fraud, in fraud to steal the Iowa caucuses. He also reacts to our exclusive new poll that shows Marco Rubio now in second place in New Hampshire. Will Trump be stepping up his attacks on Rubio?

And there's more breaking news. A source is telling CNN the explosion that ripped a hole in the side

of a Somali airliner in flight is now believed to have been caused by military-grade TNT. One passenger was apparently sucked out of the plane, which managed to land safely. At least two other passengers were injured.

We're covering all of that, much more this hour with our guests, including Senator Lindsey Graham. He's a former Republican presidential candidate and a key member of the Senate Armed Services Committees. And our correspondents and expert analysts, they are also standing by.

Let's begin with the breaking political news. Bernie Sanders growing his lead over Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire.

Let's go to our CNN political director, David Chalian. He's in New Hampshire for us tonight.

David, this is a state that Hillary Clinton won over Barack Obama back in 2008. But now these poll numbers show Bernie Sanders with a significant lead.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: That's right, Wolf. These numbers which are breaking just now, these CNN/WMUR brand-new poll numbers are showing that Hillary Clinton has a steep mountain to climb here in New Hampshire.

Take a look at them -- 61 percent of likely Democratic primary voters for Bernie Sanders, 30 percent for Hillary Clinton. That's a 2-1 margin. And the race is not that terribly different than it was right before the Iowa caucuses. In fact, Bernie Sanders has actually gone up a few and Secretary Clinton has gone down a few points.

She was looking for that win out of Iowa ,Wolf, to propel her in a way to start denting away at Bernie Sanders' huge lead here in New Hampshire, but because she emerged from Iowa eking out a victory and basically in a tie out of Iowa, it's not given her that bolt of momentum yet we have seen yet. Five days to go, but this is a steep mountain to climb.

BLITZER: Bernie Sanders, it's amazing, 61 percent, 30 percent for Hillary Clinton. And he's gone up as you point out since the last poll we took.

CHALIAN: That's right. He was at 57 percent. But here's the key. It's all about the expectation setting right now. Obviously, this poll is a huge lead for Bernie Sanders. Not many people think that come Tuesday on the primary day that he is actually going to defeat Hillary Clinton by 30 points if he wins here.

But it's a game of expectations. It's why the Clinton campaign keeps saying every day, hey, Bernie Sanders lives next door in Vermont. Of course, he's doing so well. But as you mentioned, Wolf, New Hampshire has been really good ground for the Clinton family. It's where Bill Clinton declared himself the comeback kid back in 1992 and it's where Hillary Clinton revived her candidacy after she suffered a big defeat to Barack Obama in Iowa.

This may be too big a hill to climb for her. She will spend the next five days trying to chip away at Bernie Sanders' lead so that she can at least, if she's not able to win here, is able to say, hey, we bested expectations.

BLITZER: Just to be precise, David, this poll was taken completely after the Iowa caucuses. Her razor-thin victory over Bernie Sanders in Iowa. Most of the poll was done before the CNN town hall last night, right?

[18:05:05]

CHALIAN: That is right. And we will see what kind of impact that has. She got strong very reviews out of that, as did Senator Sanders. I think it was a pretty good night for them.

They will have a debate tonight and then they will be into five days of sort of hammering out every piece of land here, every door to knock on, phone calls, real traditional get-out-the-vote effort to make sure their folks get to the polls on Tuesday. Not much time left, but enough where you can really still alter this gap.

I don't know if she can overtake him, Wolf, but I know that they -- both sides are going to try to do their best between now and Tuesday to get their voters out there.

BLITZER: I know a big percentage still of people, Democrats in New Hampshire, have not yet made up their mind as well. David Chalian, thank you very much.

Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders made their cases directly to New Hampshire voters in CNN's Democratic town hall where each of them claimed to be more aggressive than the other. And their questions to questions from the audience highlighted each candidate's strengths and weaknesses.

Our senior Washington correspondent, Joe Johns, is also in New Hampshire for us tonight.

Joe, you have more.

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, that's right.

What we're told is that Bernie Sanders is just starting an event right now in Rochester, New Hampshire. My colleague Jeff Zeleny who is there says the first thing out of his mouth was about Wall Street and the super PACs.

As far as last night's performance goes, they were strong on both sides and even as we look at this situation in New Hampshire, they are pushing in the final days toward the big vote next week.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHNS (voice-over): It is turning into a battle for the left, the Democratic candidates with strong performances, making their cases to New Hampshire voters at the CNN town hall, sparring over who is the true progressive.

While they never shared the stage, Bernie Sanders slamming Hillary Clinton for saying she pleads guilty to being a moderate.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (VT-I), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Then you can't go and say you're a moderate on one day and be a progressive on the other day.

JOHNS: Clinton responding that she reaches across the aisle to resolve issues.

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And I'm a progressive who likes to get things done. And I was somewhat amused today that Senator Sanders has set himself up to be the gatekeeper on who's a progressive.

JOHNS: Sanders attacking Clinton on her record.

SANDERS: There are other issues, Anderson, where I think she is just not progressive. I do not know any progressive who has a super PAC and takes $15 million from Wall Street. The progressive community was pretty united in saying don't listen to Bush. Don't go to war.

Secretary Clinton voted to go to war.

CLINTON: I don't think it helps for the senator to be making those kinds of comparisons, because, clearly, we all share a lot of the same hopes and aspirations for our country that we want to see achieved.

JOHNS: Each with personal moments, answering questions from voters about how their faith guides them in daily life.

SANDERS: My spirituality is that we are all in this together and that when children go hungry, when veterans sleep out on the street, it impacts me. That's my very strong spiritual feeling.

CLINTON: But when you put yourself out into the public arena, I think it's incumbent upon you to be as self-conscious as possible, but at the end be grateful. Practice the discipline of gratitude, and that has helped me enormously.

JOHNS: But Clinton and Sanders both had their stumbles, Sanders admitting to slow response to the problems plaguing the Department of Veterans Affairs, an issue first uncovered by CNN's Drew Griffin.

SANDERS: Your point is fair that we should've acted sooner. We should've known what was going on in Phoenix, those long waiting lines and the lies that some administrators were telling us.

JOHNS: And Clinton seemed ill-equipped to answer why she accepted almost $700,000 in speaking fees from Goldman Sachs.

CLINTON: Look, I made speeches to lots of groups. I told them what I thought. I answered questions. ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: But did you have to be paid $675,000?

CLINTON: Well, I don't know. That's what they offered.

(LAUGHTER)

CLINTON: So, you know, every secretary of state that I know has done that.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

JOHNS: And there was word today that the Hillary Clinton campaign has gotten $17 million, almost $18 million from financial interests, including banks, through December, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

The campaign has said in the past that she was the senator from New York, so there are some long-standing financial ties there with Wall Street, Wolf.

BLITZER: Joe Johns reporting for us, thank you.

On the Republican side, our new CNN/WMUR poll shows Donald Trump maintaining his double-digit lead in New Hampshire. Marco Rubio, though, now his closest rival in New Hampshire, he's in second place, with Ted Cruz, the Iowa winner, he's bunched in third place with John Kasich and Jeb Bush, as you can see there on the screen.

[18:10:02]

Let's go to CNN's Sunlen Serfaty.

Sunlen, quite a shakeup on the Republican side with only five days to go before the primary. What is the latest on the Republican side?

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It absolutely is, Wolf.

This poll was done entirely after the Iowa caucuses. And it shows absolutely no bump in the polls for Ted Cruz coming out of his win there and tonight shows Donald Trump holding tight to his lead.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SERFATY (voice-over): On the ground in New Hampshire, the race taking new shape, a new CNN/WMUR poll showing Donald Trump well in the lead, with Marco Rubio surging to second, close behind, Ted Cruz, John Kasich and Jeb Bush.

Today, the Iowa winner in Portsmouth taunting Trump.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Donald Trump is very rattled right now. He told the entire world he was going to win Iowa. And then he didn't win. And his reaction is, he got very angry.

SERFATY: His latest weapon, former Democratic President Jimmy Carter. The Cruz campaign is out with a Web video highlighting what Carter said this week about Trump.

JIMMY CARTER, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If I had a choice between Cruz and Trump, I think I would choose Trump. The reason is that Trump has proven already that he's completely malleable.

SERFATY: Cruz wearing it as a badge of honor.

CRUZ: That is real. Jimmy Carter yesterday, he said between Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, I would support Donald Trump.

SERFATY: Today, Trump is returning to basics, the hallmarks of his early campaign.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We're talking about a serious wall, we're talking about a Trump wall. This is going to be a wall that works, OK, believe me.

SERFATY: But noticeably absent, his ticking through all the polls that have him leading and attacks on Ted Cruz, Trump instead blasting all politicians, using profanity.

TRUMP: I would like to use really foul language. I won't do it. I was going to say they're full of (EXPLETIVE DELETED).

SERFATY: The unconventional campaigner going traditional after his Iowa loss.

TRUMP: Got to do it. It's called crunch time, right?

SERFATY: Not only holding a big rally, but the campaign beefing up his schedule today with four classic retail-style stops, meeting with local business leaders, attending a shift change at a police department and holding town halls.

This comes as the other battle among the establishment candidates is erupting into an all-out war, unleashing a barrage of attacks in the last 24 hours hammering down on Marco Rubio.

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R-NJ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He acts like the king of England. This is a guy who has been protected and coddled his entire political career.

JEB BUSH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think it's fair game to suggest that the two leading senators who have been successful politicians most of their adult life, but haven't had a record of accomplishment they can point to.

SERFATY: Christie making a play at independents in New Hampshire, bringing the new argument that Rubio is too far to the right on abortion.

CHRISTIE: On the issue of pro-life, Marco Rubio is not for an exception for rape, incest or life of the mother. Now, I think that's the kind of position that New Hampshire voters would be really concerned about.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SERFATY: And for the establishment candidates, New Hampshire is so key for them. Many of them have really pinned their hopes on this state, so they do have a lot to gain to kind of team up against Marco Rubio, stop his momentum going forward -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Sunlen, thank you.

Let's get more on all of this.

Joining us now, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. He's a member of the Armed Services Committee, a former Republican presidential candidate.

Senator Graham, thanks very much for joining us.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Thank you.

BLITZER: Let's talk a little bit about politics before we get to some other issues.

GRAHAM: OK.

BLITZER: This CNN/WMUR poll. I know you support Jeb Bush. You want him to be the next president of the United States.

GRAHAM: Right. Right.

BLITZER: He's bunched in third place right now. You see Trump at 29, Rubio 18, Cruz at 13, Kasich 12, Bush at 10. It's all close, within the margin of error. How important for Jeb Bush is New Hampshire?

GRAHAM: I think it's important for Jeb to get momentum out of New Hampshire and he will.

He has a ground game better than John McCain's. John won there twice. I have been up there to help Jeb several times. I'm very impressed with his ground game. This poll has a margin of error of 6.8 percent, 209 people in the sample. So, I wouldn't put a whole lot of reliance on it.

But I can say this, that Donald has a double-digit lead, and that second and third is really bunched up and the ground game will matter.

BLITZER: So, if -- let's say Jeb Bush doesn't finish first, second or third, what happens?

GRAHAM: Well, I think the key is that he improves his standing vs. Iowa.

BLITZER: Iowa, he did terrible.

(CROSSTALK)

GRAHAM: Yes, that's right. Here's what I think.

I think he's going to be very competitive in his lane and that, when he gets to South Carolina, he is going to do exceedingly well. His brother has an ad up. The Right to Rise people have an ad with his brother.

I can tell you this. There are more veterans per capita in South Carolina I think than almost any state in the nation. Commander in chief credentials will matter. A record where you have actually accomplished something will matter. So, I like Jeb's chances in South Carolina. The better he does in New Hampshire, the better he will do in South Carolina.

[18:15:03]

BLITZER: But you have no doubt he will at least continue on to South Carolina?

GRAHAM: They're not putting the ad up just because they're bored.

BLITZER: But if he comes in, let's say, fifth or sixth in New Hampshire, what happens then?

GRAHAM: All I can tell you is, that's not going to happen.

I am very comfortable with the idea that the people of New Hampshire are going to start looking electability and ready to be president on day one.

And I like Marco. I like Ted Cruz personally, but I don't think either one of them, quite frankly, in a first term of the Senate, has -- will be able to carry the day in a general election.

BLITZER: Who do you like more as commander in chief of the United States among, let's say, the three top Republicans right now, Cruz, Rubio and Trump?

GRAHAM: Rubio.

BLITZER: You think Rubio is...

(CROSSTALK)

GRAHAM: Well, all I can say, he has a world view consistent with mine.

Ted Cruz is going after the libertarian vote. He said he's the natural inheritor of the Ron Paul vote. He's right. Ted Cruz -- if you like Ron Paul foreign policy, you are going to love Ted Cruz foreign policy. He at his heart is a libertarian. He's not a Ronald Reagan Republican.

And Donald Trump's foreign policy is complete gibberish. So, yes, Marco has a world view consistent with reason and reality vs. the other two.

BLITZER: Why do so many of his Republican colleagues in the Senate dislike Ted Cruz?

GRAHAM: Because he gets ahead at our expense, when he shut the government down to repeal Obamacare, which I thought was a pretty dumb idea.

If the Democrats shut the government down to repeal the Bush tax cuts, we'd say, hey, guys, that's stupid. The bottom line is that when some of us said, no, we need to reopen the government, we can't repeal Obamacare this way, he accused us all of being for Obamacare.

That kind of behavior doesn't go down well with your colleagues when you accuse them of something they're not.

BLITZER: But are you suggesting that Senator Cruz is an isolationist?

GRAHAM: Oh, yes, I'm definitely suggesting that. I'm not suggesting. I said his record proves it.

He opposed going into Libya after Gadhafi fell. And you see what happened in Libya. He opposed helping the Free Syrian Army at a time when it would have mattered three years ago. He opposed taking military action after Assad crossed the red line.

Absolutely, in Ted Cruz's world, dictators do very, very well. This carpet-bombing stuff is a joke. We had 100,000 ground troops going into the first Gulf War. So, you are not going to win the war from the air. Absolutely. He wants to read Miranda rights to terrorists. I have seen him in action. Every time the libertarian cause was on trial on the Senate floor, he was with them.

BLITZER: You don't have any confidence in him basically to be commander in chief?

GRAHAM: I think he's been just as wrong as Obama, if not worse.

BLITZER: You think he's worse than Trump?

GRAHAM: I don't know if somebody anybody is worse than Trump.

You are asking me -- you asked Jimmy Carter, who would you vote for? Well, nobody really cares what Jimmy Carter thinks in our primary. And I like him as a person. But let me tell you this. If you are a Republican and your choices is Donald Trump and Ted Cruz in a general election, it's the difference between poisoned or shot. You're still dead.

BLITZER: And if Michael Bloomberg were to throw his hat in the ring, if it were, let's say, Cruz or Trump, you would go with Michael Bloomberg?

GRAHAM: No, I'm going to support the Republican nominee.

BLITZER: Even if that Republican nominee is not qualified?

GRAHAM: I'm going to buy a ticket on the Titanic.

BLITZER: Well, why would you support a Republican nominee who is not qualified?

GRAHAM: Because I can't have it both ways. I'm a Republican.

BLITZER: But isn't the country more important than being a Republican?

GRAHAM: Yes, the country is really important, but it's also important that my party understand what awaits them.

I'm trying to tell my party, for what it's worth. These guys did far better than I'm doing. I just know this. To win a general election, you have got to have the temperament, background, judgment and experience to be commander in chief.

I don't think Donald Trump has the temperament. His foreign policy is company gibberish. His domestic policy is all emotional. It won't work. Ted Cruz at his core is an opportunist when it comes to his political career. He has an ideological bent that won't sell with the American people.

And when it came time to say what Ted Cruz has done in the Senate, what he's done is run down other Republicans. He hasn't solved any problem. I think Jeb Bush has got a record that most people in South Carolina are going to appreciate. He's got a steady hand, a temperament that I want.

I don't want people going into war based on a Donald Trump or a Ted Cruz approach to how to...

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: We got to take a break, but, very quickly, why would you even support somebody like that, when you could support somebody, let's say, like a Michael Bloomberg if he were to throw his hat in the ring?

GRAHAM: Because I'm a Republican, not an independent.

BLITZER: Would you feel more comfortable with Hillary Clinton?

GRAHAM: Will Hillary Clinton support Bernie Sanders?

BLITZER: I'm sure...

(CROSSTALK)

GRAHAM: I think Bernie Sanders is a disaster. I think Bernie Sanders is a disaster equal to Donald Trump.

BLITZER: The only point I was making, there's something -- very often, party affiliation is important. But the health of the country is more important than the party affiliation.

(CROSSTALK)

GRAHAM: Yes, I think I have proved that I'm a pretty independent- minded guy. And I will do what I think is best for the country. But we're talking about nominating somebody to be the Republican standard bearer.

BLITZER: Yes. All right, we're getting some more comments from Donald Trump right now.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Just sat down with our own Anderson Cooper. I'm going to play that.

[18:20:00]

We have got a lot more coming up. Senator Lindsey Graham is with us. We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: We're back with Senator Lindsey Graham.

We have some breaking news we want to share with our viewers, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump talking to CNN about his allegation of fraud by the Ted Cruz campaign in his Iowa victory.

Here's what Trump told CNN's Anderson Cooper about his allegations of fraud by the Cruz campaign just moments ago, the rise of Marco Rubio and more. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: You came in second in Iowa to Ted Cruz. Let's talk about Cruz.

You have basically accused him of fraud, of stealing the election in Iowa. You talked about wanting a new election there. Have you actually spoken to Republican Party officials about that?

[18:25:01]

TRUMP: Now, look, I'm into New Hampshire now. It's just one of those things.

There was a lot of strange things. And I like Ben Carson very much. And he got pretty roughed up, frankly, although it affected me maybe more than Ben. But I'm so much, because I have been now here for two days, I'm so much into this, into New Hampshire, that I just -- I don't care about that anymore.

COOPER: But do you think Ted Cruz intentionally was spreading false information?

TRUMP: I don't care. I don't want to even say. Let's see what happens. I guess people are looking at it. Who cares? We're into here.

I picked up a lot of delegates. I was second. I picked up one less than he did. That's not even going to be a factor. But this is the place that I'm focused.

COOPER: Are you going to be focusing on Rubio in speeches?

TRUMP: I may. I may, but I don't think so much. I think the people have to make up their mind.

Look, I'm going to do things that nobody else can do, because I'm really good at trade. I built an unbelievable company. You saw that. Everybody went down, they looked. They never saw my numbers before.

My company that I built, very little debt. Tremendous cash flow. Some of the greatest assets in the world. And say that not in a braggadocios way. I say that's the kind of thinking we need in this country. We have $19 trillion in debt. Nobody even knows what trillion means.

We have $19 trillion in debt. Now with this horrible deal they just negotiated with the budget two weeks ago, that's going to add another $2 trillion in debt. We need somebody that has the kind of thinking that I have. Whether we like that thinking or don't like that thinking, it's really good for what we're talking about.

COOPER: One more on Ted Cruz. He did say that you basically had a Trumper-tantrum. Have you ever heard that phrase before?

(LAUGHTER)

TRUMP: No, I haven't. Actually, I love that phrase. I love that phrase.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: You could trademark that phrase.

TRUMP: I actually like that phrase. I may have to -- hey, that's good. I'm going to trademark it before he does.

COOPER: Right.

TRUMP: No, look, we need a strong tone nowadays. When you talk about tantrum, I don't have tantrums. You can't build great businesses and have the relationships that I have if you have tantrums. But I will say the . We need somebody with a strong tone.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: You can see Anderson's full interview with Donald Trump later tonight on "A.C. 360." That coming up at 8:00 p.m. Eastern. I think you are going to want to see much more of this interview.

In the meantime, we're back with Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.

What did you think of what he had to say?

GRAHAM: Well, I thought his tone was better, but we don't need a president who believes that most illegal immigrants are rapists and drug dealers, because they're not.

We don't need a president of the United States who tells the American people we are going to deport 11 million illegal immigrants, including their children who were born in the United States, which they are as much of a citizen as you or I.

We don't need a president who says he's going to ban all Muslims. If he understood from coming to our country anything about this war, he knows we need partners over there. And when you declare war on their religion itself, it's hard to get partners.

So, the only thing I can tell you, from a foreign policy point of view, his judgment and understanding of this war is tremendously flawed.

BLITZER: You have been watching and I have been watching, fascinating, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie really going after Marco Rubio right now on a whole host of issues, saying he's certainly not qualified to be president of the United States, but specifically saying earlier this morning that Rubio opposes abortion rights for women, even including cases of rape, incest or the life of a mother.

How is that going to play with Republicans, let's say, in New Hampshire and other states?

GRAHAM: All I can say about this, I have been a prosecutor. And I have stayed up all night with women who have been raped.

This is an area -- I'm very pro-life. I understand that the baby is an innocent victim here. But I could not tell a raped woman she's got to carry the child of the rapist. I have always had an exception for that.

Marco has an exception for the life of the mother. But I can tell you, most Americans are becoming more pro-life. But when it comes to a woman being raped, the idea of requiring her to carry the child of the rapist is a bridge too far for a lot of people.

I know what happened in Indiana and Missouri when two Republican senatorial candidates embraced that position. I do believe that will not sell with the American people at large.

I am very pro-life. I understand those people who are very sincere to have no exceptions. But this is a country, very diverse. I don't think it helps the pro-life movement in terms of growing. So whether or not Marco is the most electable person is yet to be determined.

He's a one-term senator. He's a fine man with a lot of talent. I can tell you this. I picked Jeb Bush, knowing Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz and everybody else, because I believe he's a good pro-life governor. He does have exceptions for rape and incest. His list of accomplishments as governor are very impressive.

But he called me and asked my advice about what to do with ISIL in Syria and Iraq, and I think he has a world vision and a temperament that would make him the most electable Republican and the best president.

BLITZER: As you know, Jeb Bush has invited his mother now, Barbara Bush, to come into New Hampshire to campaign.

(LAUGHTER)

GRAHAM: Yes.

BLITZER: She's a very popular woman. I think she's almost 90. She's 90 years old.

GRAHAM: Yes, she is.

BLITZER: But she is in great shape, thank God.

[18:30:13] And now George W. Bush, the former president, is doing a campaign commercial on his behalf. Smart?

GRAHAM: Yes, very smart. W. is very popular in South Carolina. Every day that goes by, we appreciate his strength. He made mistakes in Iraq. Clearly he did, but he corrected his mistakes. The surge did work. I blame Obama for the rise of ISIL, not Bush.

And every day that goes by, people appreciate President Bush's resolve. So yes, I think it will help to have President Bush.

And when it comes to electability, I think we're going to win this race unless we do something to lose it. I think Hillary Clinton is not trusted. I think people want to go in a new direction, not a third term of Barack Obama.

I don't want an election about rape. I want an election about a pro- life candidate that can grow the pro-life movement but also about a Republican who has an optimistic view of the future, ready to be commander in chief on day one. And you tell the American people, "Here's what's I've done in the private sector and the public sector that would make the American people believe I should hire you."

BLITZER: Were you surprised to hear about this letter the State Department inspector general now sent to Congress, saying that Colin Powell, while he was secretary of state, he had a private e-mail account. It was classified information they now discovered on that account and that staffers, top staffers for Condoleezza Rice while she was secretary of state, they had private e-mail accounts, and there was classified information on those accounts, as well.

GRAHAM: Yes, I'd like to know more about that. But none of them had a private server in their basement.

BLITZER: So explain to our viewers what's the difference if you have a Gmail account or an AOL account and you have classified information there. Those are very vulnerable, as you well know. Or if you have a private e-mail account on your private server. That's potentially vulnerable, as well, but some would argue a private server may be more secure than a Gmail account, let's say. GRAHAM: I don't think in this case you can make that argument. The

whole goal is to keep -- if you' re a public servant and you are doing business for the United States government, you're supposed to do it through a transparent system.

The problem is that most of these e-mails we wouldn't have known about if the Congress hadn't insisted they be turned over. You can't let a public official conduct public business and have a system where they can hide from the public things they don't want them to know, particularly about something like Benghazi. It's a trust issue more than anything else. This system, if you allowed people running the government to have systems like this, people in your business would really be shut out.

BLITZER: Always good to have you on the show. Senator Graham, thanks very much for coming in.

Don't leave yet. Coming up next, much more. We're following other breaking developments. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:37:26] BLITZER: We're following the breaking news. A just- released CNN/WMUR poll showing Donald Trump in first place heading into next Tuesday's New Hampshire primary. But Senator Marco Rubio now clearly in second place. The Iowa caucuses winner, Senator Ted Cruz, he's locked in a close battle for third place with Ohio Governor John Kasich and former Florida governor, Jeb Bush.

Let's dig deeper now with our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger; our CNN political director, David Chalian. He's back with us. And the former mayor of Philadelphia, our newest CNN contributor, Michael Nutter.

Gloria, when asked this week why he refuses to attack Trump, Senator Rubio said -- and I'm quoting him now -- he said, "When the time comes and it's appropriate, we'll do so."

We see his rise in the polls in New Hampshire right now. Is it the time to go after -- after Cruz and Trump right now?

GLORIA BORGER, CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: I don't think so right now. You know, I think he wants Cruz and Trump to go after each other, and that strategy seems to be working pretty well for him.

And if you talk to his campaign, as I do, you know, their whole strategy all along was place third in Iowa, second in New Hampshire and then move on to win somewhere next, perhaps South Carolina. And so right now, I think they're trying to stay largely positive and let Cruz and Trump go after each other.

And I was with Cruz earlier today. And he seems to have backed off that a little bit. But, you know, he's going to continue taking on Trump and vice versa.

BLITZER: David, New Hampshire, as Gloria just pointed out, certainly can propel candidates. We're showing live pictures of Cruz and Rubio right now at various events in New Hampshire. There's Rubio in Salem, New Hampshire. How does Rubio use the momentum he got coming out of Iowa and potentially go on, do really well in New Hampshire and maybe win South Carolina?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Well, you said the "mo" world there, the big "mo," momentum. That is what Marco Rubio is trying to convey. I was at an event with him earlier today in the Manchester area.

He's not changing his stump speech at all. He's sticking to his message, because his team and he believe that is what is working for them. They're trying to roll out some endorsements, Wolf. They're trying to point to new poll numbers showing him increasing his position, now moving into second place, he said. And trying to create a daily narrative leading up to the primary that he is the establishment lane candidate with momentum.

I don't know that we're going to see that yet. We haven't seen that with voters just yet. We'll see how it turns out on Tuesday, but it is clearly what the campaign is trying to create day in and day out with the press and creating this narrative that he is on the rise. That is, they believe, part of their success right now. Nothing breeds success in politics like success, and so they're looking to keep capitalizing on what was that strong performance in Iowa.

BLITZER: Michael Nutter, if you take a look -- closer look on the Republican side on this new CNN/WMUR poll, you see Trump in first place, Rubio in second place. But there's a real battle for third place. Cruz 13, Kasich 12, Bush 10. You go farther down, Christie is at 4; Fiorina is at 4. Dr. Ben Carson is only 2 percent. It's beginning to shake out, isn't it?

MICHAEL NUTTER, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Oh, it absolutely is. And I think you're going to continue to see candidates dropping. Anyone who's in single digits at this point in time, I think they're going to have to really re-evaluate what they're doing at this moment and whether they should really continue pursuing the presidency.

BLITZER: Listen to what, Gloria -- I want to play for you a clip. This is Chris Christie earlier today on MSNBC.

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GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R-NJ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Marco Rubio hasn't accomplished one thing in his entire career, Joe. I mean, the fact is that this is a guy who's only done one thing in the United States Senate. That was write an amnesty bill for illegal immigrants and then to run away from it when the heat got turned up.

BLITZER: Are you surprised he's going so bitterly, so strongly against Rubio like that?

BORGER: No, you know, this is Christie's moment. And if he doesn't make it here in New Hampshire, he's not going to make it anywhere. And so he's got to go after Rubio and get him out of his lane, which is what he's trying to do.

And by the way, Cruz now also has to do this. And when I was with Cruz earlier today, he tried to portray Rubio as a media creation that, you know, he raises a question. How can somebody who won the bronze medal suddenly be the favorite coming out of Iowa? So Rubio has a target on his back, doesn't he, Wolf?

BLITZER: He certainly does. On the Democratic side, Michael Nutter, we learned today that Hillary Clinton's campaign was outraised by Bernie Sanders' campaign in January, what, by about $5 million. They both raised a lot of money, but what does that say to you as a politician?

NUTTER: You know, $5 million in a month in a presidential race is almost no money. And so there will be months between these two candidates where someone is going to outraise the other one. I think that is -- I mean, that is so inside baseball as to be, A, immaterial to the voters in New Hampshire and probably be immaterial to most voters in the United States of America.

That's just campaign stuff.

BLITZER: He did get an endorsement, mayor, from Ben Jealous, the former NAACP leader today, Bernie Sanders.

NUTTER: Yes, I heard a little something about that. But, you know, people will endorse whoever they endorse for whatever their reasons are. I know Ben. I don't think he lives in New Hampshire, as far as I know. And, you know, Secretary Clinton and her team are focused on New Hampshire, then onto, of course, Nevada and South Carolina, all of those places.

I do find it interesting that New Hampshire, a great state in the United States of America, but I do find it interesting that the population of New Hampshire is 1.3 million people. That's actually smaller than Philadelphia. And certainly, the demographics are very different than in most other places in the United States of America.

BLITZER: All right. Guys, stand by. We're going to be staying on top of this story. There's other news, though, we're following, as well. We're just now getting some new details in -- on that midair explosion that ripped a hole in the side of a passenger plane. U.S. officials now believe an al Qaeda affiliate planted TNT on board.

Plus, almost 2,000 foreign fighters returning to Europe from Iraq and Syria. One official now tells us the terror threat is, quote, "as high as ever."

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[18:48:47] BLITZER: There's breaking terror news tonight, including new information about the explosion that ripped the hole in the side of a Somali airliner in flight. One passenger apparently was sucked out of the plane.

Our justice reporter Evan Perez is joining us, along with our chief national security correspondent Jim Sciutto.

Evan, you are getting new details on this explosive device. What happened in that plane? What are you learning?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE REPORTER: That's right, Wolf. The investigators have now found indications of military grade explosive, TNT. They believe a bomb ripped apart this hole in this aircraft and caused -- brought the plane down while they had to crash land the plane.

The FBI is helping the Somalis investigate this, Wolf, and they believe that the group Shabaab is behind this explosion.

BLITZER: Al Shabaab, which is an al Qaeda affiliate?

PEREZ: That's right, that's right.

BLITZER: Which is pretty worrisome stuff, because if they can do it on this plane, presumably, they can do it other places as well.

PEREZ: That's right. And, you know, there's a lot of worry about ISIS, but this always reminds you that Shabaab is still a potent force, al Qaeda groups are very much a potent force to this day.

BLITZER: This hole exploded at the relatively low altitude. If they would have waited a little more, that plane would have blown up.

PEREZ: That's right. The plane was delayed in taking off.

[18:50:01] So, that might explain why this, if it was in a timer, why the explosive did not go off at higher altitude.

BLITZER: And all this is happening as there is a new terror threat level in Europe right now.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: The terror threat level in Europe right now is as high as it's ever been. U.S. intelligence concerned that European intelligence, its assets, its capabilities, are stretched then as a result of the terror threat and the number of groups there capable of planning attacks. That, in addition to that, being stretched thin. There's a concern from U.S. intelligence that European intelligence doesn't have a complete picture of the terror threat in Europe right now.

The two countries under the greatest threat level are considered France and Belgium, of course, coming off two major attacks last year in France. U.S. counterterror, U.S. intelligence agencies working with their European counterparts as best they can. But really just the scale of the threat there, the number of players, the number of fighters coming back from Iraq and Syria, is an order of magnitude bigger than we have in the U.S. And when you look at those counterterrorism agencies, they don't have the same resources that we have here in the U.S.

BLITZER: And it's not just that. I'm told this has been -- maybe it's getting better, that French security services and Belgium security services, they're really not working together.

SCIUTTO: There has been talk about that. The view from the U.S. is they're working on it better. There's better communication than there has been in the past. But in Belgium, they're concerned that inside Belgium, there's a lack of communication between services there, just because --

PEREZ: Different languages.

SCIUTTO: You almost have two countries in effect there and difficulty of cooperation.

BLITZER: You got French speakers, the Flemish speakers. But French officials have told me they're really worried about Belgium. They don't have a whole lot of confidence of what's going on there.

All right, guys. Thanks very, very much.

Just ahead, U.S. officials sounding the alarm right now that thousands and thousands of ISIS fighters are streaming in Libya and North Africa, working to establish a new terror stronghold, not very far away from southern Europe, Italy, Spain, other countries.

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[18:56:27] BLITZER: There are troubling new developments in the war against ISIS right now. A surge in the number of fighters in Libya raising deep concern that terrorist forces are establishing a new stronghold.

Our Pentagon correspondent Barbara Star is working the story for us.

You've been talking to your sources, Barbara. What are you learning?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, tonight, sources are telling us, with Libya sitting just along Europe southern flank, the ISIS presence there very much now under Pentagon scrutiny.

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STARR (voice-over): A shocking new estimate -- Libya may now have more than 6,000 ISIS fighters, double the number from the previous U.S. intelligence calculation. ISIS is investing heavily, constantly sending fighters from Syria and Iraq on the run from airstrikes and sending in fresh recruits as well. U.S. officials say with no U.S. troops on the ground, they don't really know how many fighters are in Libya, but there's plenty of reason to sound an alarm.

ASHTON CARTER, DEFENSE SECRETARY: They're establishing installations where they train people. They're welcoming foreign fighters to flock there the way in years past they did in Syria and Iraq.

STARR: Another major concern: ISIS could generate cash from Libya's oil.

JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: That country has resources. The last thing in the world you want is a false caliphate with access to billions of dollars of oil revenue.

STARR: Just last month, ISIS attacked oil storage tanks, setting fires that raged for days, but oil revenue may just be the first step.

COL. CEDRIC LEIGHTON (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: We should be very concerned that Libya is going to be a launch pad for an attack on Europe, particularly Italy, Spain, France.

STARR: General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, has said military action in Libya may be needed. The U.S. may start by sending in drones to locate ISIS targets.

LEIGHTON: You can then map out where they are and how they conduct business. Once you do that, you can figure out what amounts to a pattern of life analysis and when you know their pattern of life, then you can target them much more easily than you could if you didn't have that intelligence.

STARR: For now, many ISIS fighters appeared to be concentrated around Sirte, along the central coastline. But with no central government, the fear is they could expand and control the coastline from Tripoli to Benghazi, giving them unfettered access to shipping in the Mediterranean.

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STARR: Now, what about those 6,000 ISIS fighters in Libya? Well, some in the U.S. government don't think the number yet is quite that high that they're maybe left there. But what no one is arguing about is that, tonight, Libya appears to be a third ISIS front after Syria and Iraq -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, after Gadhafi, there was so much hope. But now, Libya clearly has become a failed state, with ISIS gaining huge stronghold.

Barbara, what about concerns that ISIS fighters in Libya may be able to get relatively easily to Europe, whether Italy, Spain, on these refugee boats?

STARR: Wolf, I have to tell you, a source in the international naval intelligence community has said they believe now there is a, quote, "major risk" that ISIS will, in fact, try to do it. Think about the Mediterranean -- refugee boats, commercial shipping, cruise ships. It is full of maritime traffic and a lot of concern that ISIS will try and take advantage of that as they make their way to southern Europe -- Wolf.

BLITZER: What an awful situation. All right. Barbara, thanks very much.

And thanks for watching.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.