Return to Transcripts main page

THE SITUATION ROOM

Source: Chris Christie Suspends Campaign; Sanders' Sizable Win Shakes up Democratic Race; John Kasich Reflects on 2nd-Place N.H. Finish; Interview with Representative James Clyburn; North Korea Defiant against Looming New Sanctions. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired February 10, 2016 - 17:00   ET

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


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: OK, I'll take your word for it. Be sure to follow me on Facebook and Twitter. I'm Jake Tapper. Tweet the show @TheLeadCNN.

That's it for "THE LEAD." I'm Jake Tapper. I turn you over to my friend Wolf Blitzer. He's next door in a place I like to call THE SITUATION ROOM.

[17:00:15] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now: reshaped race. Thanks to the voters of New Hampshire, Donald Trump is reclaiming his huge lead. Other Republicans are calling it quits, and John Kasich is suddenly emerging as a force to be reckoned with. Tonight CNN is talking to Kasich out there on the campaign trail.

Heading south. Bernie Sanders savors a sweet victory after scoring a big win. Now he faces a new challenge as Hillary Clinton hunkers down to retool her campaign. Can Bernie Sanders win over African-American voters? I'll ask the powerful South Carolina congressman who helped start the shift from Clinton to Obama back in 2008.

And unstoppable. We're getting ominous new warnings about the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un. Top U.S. intelligence officials say he isn't about to stop after his country's defiant nuclear test and long- range rocket launch. Is North Korea now a direct threat to U.S. security?

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

We're following breaking news in the race for president. A source now tells CNN Governor Chris Christie just announced he's suspending his presidential campaign after his disappointing finish in the New Hampshire primary.

Donald Trump, fresh off his crushing victory in New Hampshire, brings his campaign to South Carolina tonight. He'll hold his first rally in a couple of hours. His rivals, including the New Hampshire runner-up, Governor John Kasich, got there first, and voters already are seeing a vicious ad war between Trump and Senator Ted Cruz. South Carolina also is a vital battleground for Hillary Clinton and

Senator Bernie Sanders. It will be the senator's first chance to prove he can attract African-American voters and knock a hole in what Hillary's campaign considers her firewall.

Also tonight, new warnings from U.S. intelligence chiefs about the threat posed by North Korea. They say Kim Jong-un's regime now poses the world's greatest nuclear threat.

Our correspondents, analysts and guests, they will have full coverage of all the day's top stories.

Let's start with the dramatically reshaped U.S. presidential race. CNN's Jim Acosta is awaiting Donald Trump's arrival in South Carolina.

Jim, his victory really shook up the Republican race. What is the latest that you're hearing right now?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. On his way to South Carolina, Donald Trump is firmly back in place as the GOP frontrunner, but the field is narrowing, and that means the battle for the Republican nomination is about to get even more intense in a state where politics is a full-contact sport.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA (voice-over): Donald Trump won't have long to savor his overwhelming victory in the New Hampshire primary. In South Carolina, the knives are already out.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We cannot nominate a candidate who has the same healthcare plan of socialized medicine as Bernie Sanders.

ACOSTA: And it's not just Trump's usual sparring partners, Ted Cruz and Jeb Bush throwing the punches.

JEB BUSH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Trump, even though he's not as successful as he claims, four bankruptcies, at least he's not embarrassed by his success. His success hasn't made it harder for someone, you know, that is struggling.

ACOSTA: Every candidate in the party's so-called establishment lane is in hot pursuit of the GOP frontrunner, including a newly-aggressive Marco Rubio, fighting back after a lackluster showing in New Hampshire.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Yes, I'm -- well, I mean the hard thing about Donald in the short term is he doesn't have any policy positions. He tells you what he's going to do, but he won't tell you how he's going to do it.

ACOSTA: That sense of urgency is due in part to the shrinking field of candidates, as Chris Christie is out of the race. Carly Fiorina dropped out, too.

And there's a new contender on the rise, John Kasich. He came in second Tuesday night, but was crushed by Trump.

GOV. JOHN KASICH (R-OH), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I did beat him in Dixville Notch. Come on. I mean, look, I think that it's going to be a long haul. You know, we just keep plugging.

ACOSTA: Trump is gearing up for a South Carolina brawl, unleashing a new attack ad on Cruz.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He runs a campaign accused of dirty tricks that tried to sabotage Ben Carson.

ACOSTA: But Trump is also facing harder questions on when he's releasing his tax records to the public.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I fight like hell not to pay taxes. I hate the way the government spends my money.

ACOSTA: And the New York tabloids that aren't letting up.

TRUMP (via phone): Well, the owner of "The Daily News," which is a totally failing paper. In fact, I think it's out of business.

ACOSTA: Once considered the establishment's best chance of defeating Trump, Rubio is vowing to learn from his mistakes in New Hampshire. Trying to shake off his disastrous debate performance, Rubio joked he wasn't as bad as Rick Perry...

RICK PERRY (R), FORMER TEXAS GOVERNOR: Oops.

ACOSTA: ... during the last presidential cycle.

RUBIO: Well, I mean, there's a big difference. He couldn't remember what he wanted to say. Apparently, I remembered it too well. I think that's the difference.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA: Obviously the big shake-up -- now, obviously the big shake-up in the race today is Chris Christie dropping out. That means more Republicans will be checking out Donald Trump.

And Wolf, just look behind me right now. You can see this massive line that's already forming. It's going to be another one of those big arena auditorium-style rallies for Donald Trump. The line is already mounting at this point, and we're two hours before his event starts here.

And it's worth pointing out, Wolf, after Trump learned from his mistakes in Iowa and beefed up his ground game in New Hampshire, there are signs he is ramping up here in South Carolina, as well. Not just this crowd behind me. He has the state's lieutenant governor behind him.

And one GOP strategist told us earlier today the current thinking in this state is that the state's governor, Nikki Haley, will be staying neutral before the primary. That may also help Trump if she does not go and endorse one of the establishment candidates in this race -- Wolf.

Jim Acosta, thanks very much. One thing about Trump, he gets those huge crowds at these events.

Now to the face for the Democratic presidential nomination. A decisive New Hampshire primary victory by Bernie Sanders is shaking up the contest. Sanders is cashing in on his win with an impressive fundraising drive, but also preparing for increased scrutiny as the campaign moves towards states that are seen as more favorable to his rival, Hillary Clinton.

Let's go to our senior political correspondent, Brianna Keilar.

Brianna, what's the latest on that front?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Bernie Sanders has been very visible today. He will cap off the day with an appearance on "The Late Show" with Stephen Colbert, as he clearly is relishing his New Hampshire win.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Tonight we serve notice to the political and economic establishment.

KEILAR (voice-over): Bernie Sanders claiming a big win in the New Hampshire primary, taking a victory lap on "The View," tasting the Ben & Jerry's ice cream named after him, Bernie's Yearning.

SANDERS: This is the first time I've tasted it.

KEILAR: And showing off his basketball skills. While also looking to expand his appeal to a broader swath of the Democratic Party.

SANDERS: There's a lot of hard work in front of us. But Whoopi, I think the message that we're bringing forth, that this country is supposed to be a nation of fairness. And we're not seeing that fairness right now.

KEILAR: Sanders is also firing back at former president Bill Clinton for recent attacks like this.

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When you're making a revolution, you can't be too careful about the facts.

KEILAR: Sanders trying to appear above the fray.

SANDERS: I was disappointed in President Clinton. I've known him for 25 years, and I like him; and I respect him. And I hope that this campaign does not degenerate into really...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But he's fighting for his wife.

SANDERS: I understand that. But nonetheless, let's keep it on the issues, not making personal attacks. KEILAR: Sanders' New Hampshire victory is also proving to be good

news for his campaign coffers, hauling in $5.2 million in the 18 hours after the polls closed Tuesday night.

As the Democratic primary fight enters a new phase, Sanders faces a new challenge: making inroads with African-American voters, a crucial constituency in states like South Carolina, which holds its primary later this month.

A meeting today in Harlem with the reverend Al Sharpton, the civil rights activist saying afterwards he'll wait until he meets with Hillary Clinton next week to pick a candidate.

One South Carolina poll showed Sanders trailing Clinton by 57 points with black voters, a sign of Sanders' uphill climb, but that was taken before Clinton's narrow win in Iowa and Sanders' decisive victory in New Hampshire. Following last night's stinging loss, Clinton said she's ready for a long fight.

H. CLINTON: And here's what we're going to do. Now we take this campaign to the entire country. We are going to fight for every vote in every state. We're going to fight for real solutions that make a real difference in people's lives.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KEILAR: Now, one day after New Hampshire, the state that gave Hillary Clinton such a sweet victory in 2008, delivered to her that loss last night, she was laying low today, preparing for the PBS Democratic presidential debate that will take place tomorrow night here at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much for that, Brianna.

We're standing by. Congressman James Clyburn, South Carolina, he's going to be joining us momentarily. He knows a lot about Democrats and South Carolina. We'll get his assessment on what's going on in just a few moments.

Right now here in THE SITUATION ROOM, our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger, along with our CNN political commentators, S.E. Cupp and Dan Pfeiffer. Dan's a former senior advisor to President Obama.

Gloria, let's talk about the Republican race right now. What's the Republican so-called establishment doing in the face of this enormous crushing win by Donald Trump in New Hampshire?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Locking themselves in a dark room, I think, and trying to figure out who's going to have enough delegates.

[17:10:08] I spoke with one member of the so-called establishment today who said, "Look, nobody is going to have 300 delegates by March 15." And the funders are holding back, and the establishment is beginning to get used to the idea that perhaps Donald Trump is going to be their nominee. So they might just adopt him. But they also believe, for example, that Jeb Bush got some life last

night, that Marco Rubio can compete in South Carolina, and I think quite frankly, if they had a choice between Cruz and Trump, they would pick Trump.

BLITZER: The assumption, even though John Kasich came in second, he's not necessarily going to do well in South Carolina. He will do well in some of the Midwestern states later, whether his home state of Ohio or Illinois or Michigan, states like that.

S.E. CUPP, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: If he can get there, right? You know, he's quickly running but look, great momentum for him.

To echo and build on what Gloria just said, she's right. Here's also what's happening in the Republican Party right now. The 70 percent of Republican voters who have not lined up behind Trump are still shopping for a candidate.

The problem is, they go into the Republican candidate department store, and it is sensory overload. There are a thousand options. There's this blaring loud music called Donald Trump that they can't see through. And frankly, we all in the media are the annoying salespeople following them around saying, "Welcome to our store. What are you here for today? Can I show you our selection?"

BORGER: We are not annoying.

CUPP: "Let me talk about our specials."

BORGER: It is no way to pick a candidate. And until we sort of lessen our inventory and clean out the shop, I don't know how voters are doing it right now.

BLITZER: The inventory was lessened today with Christie and Carly Fiorina suspending their respective campaigns.

CUPP: Sure. It was.

BLITZER: Dan, you know a lot about these campaigns. You know a lot about money being spent by the candidates. A lot of the Republican money right now is going on attack ads right now. A lot of them going after Trump, going after other candidates.

How big of a deal is this right now, the money that they're spending on attack ads as opposed to, let's say, positive ads?

DAN PFEIFFER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I mean, so far in this campaign, and Jeb Bush's super PAC proves this, positive ads have done nothing to move the needle. So maybe negative ads will work.

And I think the problem for the Republican Party in this case, if they do not want Trump to be their nominee -- and if I trust my friend S.E., I suspect that that's the case -- that they -- is that everyone has presumed that Donald Trump is going to advance to the finals here. And so everyone is fighting over who's going to get to fight Donald Trump, and so whether that's Marco Rubio against Jeb Bush, Jeb Bush against Marco Rubio and John Kasich, Marco Rubio against Ted Cruz.

And so Cruz is in an -- or Trump is in an ideal situation right now, which is some money is being spent against him, but he's having fewer attacks directed at him as an overwhelming frontrunner than any frontrunner that I can think of, at least.

BLITZER: Why is that, Gloria?

BORGER: Well, because they first have to eliminate other people before they can get to the big enchilada there who is Donald Trump.

BLITZER: Because he'll tell you they're afraid. They're afraid of him. That's why they're not going after him.

BORGER: Right. And people -- you know, to bring this full circle, people in the establishment are saying, "Well, who's the person who can actually take on Donald Trump?" And so far there isn't anyone.

BLITZER: Once you go after...

BORGER: Well, Ted Cruz won once.

CUPP: Yes, yes.

BORGER: But not again.

CUPP: Yes.

BORGER: And so they're kind of waiting out there for that, and they -- they really don't know. So right now they have to kind of fight amongst themselves and then deal with Donald Trump afterwards, which as Dan points out, gives Trump a lot of leeway.

BLITZER: Because Trump has made it clear, you hit him, he's going to slam you right back with all he's got; and he's got a lot.

CUPP: And he has successfully done that, taken some scalps from some candidates.

But look, Chris Christie spent the bulk of his, you know, week taking on Marco Rubio. I wonder how effective he could have been if he had directed a lot of that energy at Donald Trump.

You know, Ted Cruz bear-hugged Trump for a long time before he sort of pivoted. You know, Rubio, Jeb, they've tried here and there, but I haven't really seen a candidate viscerally go after Trump.

BORGER: Jeb has, don't you think?

CUPP: I mean, he's attempted. I don't think it's been that rigorous. I mean, talk about the fraudulent university, the failed businesses.

BORGER: Right.

CUPP: There's so much fertile ground there that they seem to just kind of be ceding to Trump. BLITZER: Yes.

CUPP: And just saying, "Well, Trump is going to be Trump, and eventually voters will snap out of it." Not happening.

BLITZER: Cruz, for example, Senator Cruz, he said that Donald Trump didn't have the temperament to be commander in chief. But then during the debate he refused to say that when he was standing right next to him.

CUPP: Exactly.

BLITZER: Which Donald Trump said, "That was a sign of respect that he has for me."

Stand by. I want to take a look at the Democratic side, what's going on after Bernie Sanders' very impressive victory over Hillary Clinton yesterday. James Clyburn, the congressman from South Carolina, is going to set the scene for us. That contest is coming up. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: We're following important developments in the race for the White House. We'll get back to our political experts right now. We're also joined, by the way, by CNN legal analyst Sunny Hostin. She's got some thoughts on what's going on, specifically in South Carolina.

Before we do that, Dan Pfeiffer, Michael Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York, he's now seriously considering -- he says he's now seriously considering a run for the presidency as a third-party candidate. He's got, according to "Forbes" magazine, 36 plus billion dollars. What do you think? Would he really hurt the Democrats, whoever the Democratic nominee is if he were to run?

[17:20:06] PFEIFFER: Well, I think, one, it's very hard in our two- party system for a third party to win. It's important for people to remember that, if he was able to gain traction and win some states, if no candidate gets to 270 then the Republican House would pick our president. So in that sense, if he gains traction in a three-way race, yes, he would help the Republicans for sure, because he has the potential to tip it to the House.

BLITZER: What do you think, Gloria? You think -- first of all, do you think he's going to run? Because apparently, people close to him have said to me he's very frustrated that Hillary Clinton is not doing well, she's very vulnerable, she might not win. She's got -- he's got some issues with her on some substantive matters, as well.

BORGER: He does. And look, I think when you have billions of dollars, and, Dan, he doesn't need a GoFundMe account to run. He can do this all himself.

I think when you have that kind of money, people have to take you seriously. And I think this is his last shot. I think there's a shot that he

could, you know, clearly throw this to the Democrats. I think their theory of the game might be to throw it into the House.

But I was told today that they can't make any decision until they see what happens after March 1. And when they see how the race shakes out after March 1, then they can start making some decisions.

BLITZER: Yes.

BORGER: And they have the luxury of having a lot of money.

BLITZER: And that's his real deadline, the first week or so in March to make up his mind.

Reince Priebus, the chairman of the Republican Party, says that he would welcome Michael Bloomberg coming in because he would take votes away from the Democrat and he thinks it would guarantee the Republican win.

CUPP: Oh, it would. Come on in, Mayor Bloomberg. The water is warm and shark-infested, but we would welcome you.

BORGER: You and Donald Trump agree on something.

CUPP: Look, I mean, his gun record, his nanny state, you know, reputation in New York precedes him. He is a no-go nonstarter with Republicans. So if anything, he would -- he would really hurt and weaken the Democratic Party.

BLITZER: Let's talk about the Democratic race. Sunny, you're with us right now. As you know, Bernie Sanders, he's working on getting very high-profile endorsements from leaders in the African-American community. More than half of the vote, the Democratic vote in South Carolina involves African-Americans. How do you see him faring against Hillary Clinton in South Carolina?

SUNNY HOSTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Listen, I think it's going to be difficult for him. I think it's an uphill battle. I had the opportunity to interview him and meet him today while I was on "The View," and he understands, quite frankly, that it is a problem. He understands that he has some work to do.

But what was clear to me is that he was going to do the work and wanted to do the work. He mentioned that he has had some significant endorsements from African-Americans in the community. He mentioned to me Cornell West, Ben Jealous, who's the former president of the NAACP, he mentioned some local support with local politicians. And so he certainly has a plan to reach out to the African-American community.

I asked him whether or not he realized that, in order to get the Democratic nomination, he would have to, in large numbers, get African-American support, get Latino support. He says he understands that and that he is -- he is ready to do just that.

BLITZER: What did you think? You were -- as you point out, you were on "The View" with him today. You had a chance to speak with him. What did you think? Does he have -- does he have the ability to reach out and bring in African-American support? Because as you know, in Vermont, it's a relatively small community.

HOSTIN: You know, I will say, you know, I've done "The View" several times. I've met a lot of politicians. The crowd loved him. Young people especially, but older people, as well. They were feeling the Bern this afternoon at "The View."

And because I've met so many politicians, I was a little bit wary of sort of who he was going to be. I can tell you, Wolf, he comes off as being extremely humble, extremely earnest. I was impressed. I think what you see is what you get when you talk about Senator Sanders.

BLITZER: Dan, a lot of people say Hillary Clinton on those exit polls when it comes to trustworthiness, "Does she represent the views that I want in a leader," he did a lot better in those exit polls than she did? And his authenticity, Sunny says, is pretty powerful.

PFEIFFER: Right. Look, we need to acknowledge that Bernie Sanders had a tremendous night last night all across the board. I mean, that was -- the idea that Bernie Sanders would win New Hampshire by 20-plus points is a pretty amazing thing.

I think -- and it -- look, it exposed some vulnerabilities that Secretary Clinton has, not just in the general election but in the primary. I have been a pretty big skeptic of Bernie Sanders' ability to expand his coalition beyond the very liberal, largely Caucasian states of Iowa and New Hampshire. He's going to get that test very soon, and we'll see.

But I think we should give him -- he has run a campaign that has felt very authentic to him. He has done it in a way where he comes off as very comfortable in his own skin, and he's -- and I think that is always a value in politics, but in our sort of hyper-speed, hyper- close-up Internet age, it's of even greater value.

BLITZER: And he does really well with women. He's 74 years old, but Gloria, women under 64 overwhelmingly, they went with him as opposed to Hillary.

BORGER: Yes. They do. And I think that's because of his passion and because of his ideas.

Free college tuition, for example, if you're a young woman and you've got college loans out there, you're just going to college, you know, this is -- this is really appealing.

I think Bernie Sanders has touched a nerve. And I think the one thing that you're going to see going into South Carolina is Hillary Clinton hugging Barack Obama as tight as she can, because she is going to say -- you're laughing, Dan, but it is true.

PFEIFFER: It felt very different when we went into South Carolina the last time. BORGER: Right, exactly, pretty different. But she's going to hug him

so tight. And she put out a memo last night in which she said that Sanders is going to have to explain how he differs from President Obama on lots of issues that she supports the president on, given the president's popularity.

BLITZER: What a difference eight years makes.

BORGER: You bet.

BLITZER: All right, guys, everybody stand by. Congressman James Clyburn of South Carolina, he knows a lot about that state. He's standing by live. Much more right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: The New Hampshire runner-up, Governor John Kasich of Ohio, is busy introducing himself to South Carolina voters right now. Before leaving New Hampshire Kasich advised his followers to fasten their seat belts. Is he the candidate the Republican establishment has been looking for?

[17:30:06] Out there on the campaign trail today, the governor spoke at length with CNN special correspondent, Jamie Gangel.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: You said fasten your seat belt. And you have exceeded expectations, but now the pressure is on.

GOV. JOHN KASICH (R-OH), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don't have any more -- you know...

GANGEL: Come on, you're in South Carolina.

KASICH: Look, look, look, pressure is a mom that's got three kids and a husband walked out the door. Pressure is not, you know, what I'm doing.

I mean, you know, as long as I do what I think I need to do, whatever the outcome is, I'll be fine with. You know, people were on our bus and interviewing me and looking at us for months. And they come on the bus, they say it's like Zen. Why is everybody so calm?

So, you know, look, life is short. How do I seem now? I mean, I'm calm and happy and grounded. And centered. See, the thing is when the big lights come on...

GANGEL: You keep using that word...

KASICH: Centered?

GANGEL: ... centered. Why?

KASICH: You don't want to lose yourself in this. You know, it's probably fool's gold, you know. All of a sudden you go from you're the governor of Ohio, and that's a big deal. Then all of a sudden you've got -- you've got 50 cameras on you. And you just can't be starstruck with that, because it's fleeting.

GANGEL: Let's talk about South Carolina...

KASICH: Sure.

GANGEL: ... for a minute. Jeb Bush went on the air this morning, and he said John Kasich has nothing in South Carolina. They're saying you have no money. You have no ground game. Can you compete here?

BUSH: Well, yes, we're going to compete here. We don't expect to win here. But on the other hand, if you take a look at the person that says that, they spent like well over $100 million, something along that, and they got like nothing. I mean, you know, so I'm not worried about what the other folks say.

And this is not -- this is not the end of it for us here in South Carolina. We'll be moving through South Carolina to other places.

GANGEL: So you don't expect to win here?

KASICH: Oh, no, no, no.

GANGEL: Some of these other states, the attack ads are already on the air.

KASICH: Yes.

GANGEL: Are you going to hit back?

KASICH: Well, I'm not going to sit there and be a, you know, a marshmallow or some kind of a pin cushion, people just pound me. Where I come from, the blue-collar town that I come from, you know, if you came in and beat our football team, we just broke all the windows on your bus. I mean, you know, that's just a joke, by the way.

But I mean, the fact is, I'm not going to just sit there let somebody just pound on me. But -- you know, and I can't predict what the future is, but I believe that this message of we can; we're Americans before we're Republicans and Democrats; these problems that we have can be solved; that we can -- we can get the shine back in America, you know, leave no one behind.

I think these are very important messages, more than me spending my time being negative about somebody else. The money is coming. You know, everybody wants to sit at the table. Not everybody maybe, but my early reports are people who sat around and said, "You know, I like Kasich. He's smart. He's experienced. He'd be a great president. But he's at 1 percent in the polls, so what am I going to do? I'm not going to help him."

Now all of a sudden they're like, "How do I get -- how do I get a seat at the table?" You know, so I think all these things will come over time. Or they won't. I mean, either they will or they won't.

GANGEL: When did John Kasich get this Zen?

KASICH: I've had it for a long time now.

GANGEL: You didn't always show it, though.

KASICH: Well, look, back when you covered me in Congress, you know, you don't know how hard it is to be a congressman and have an impact. And I was constantly fighting the establishment. So you can't, like, you know, just walk around, "La ti da."

Now I'm an executive. I'm running for president. It's a different situation. Now when I say things, you know, particularly in Ohio, I can get people to do things. Back then, I had to take a battering ram to knock down the walls of the city.

GANGEL: So strength?

KASICH: You see what I mean? So over time now I've gotten a little older, I've got a great family, and my faith has significantly increased.

[17:35:05] GANGEL: Talk to me about strategy. If you don't have to win here...

KASICH: That's right. Look...

GANGEL: ... you're already going to Michigan. Is it Midwest, is it Ohio?

KASICH: I think we're going to do really well in the south, too. You know, like in Mississippi, I can't wait to go there. I mean, we've got Trent Lott. I've got the governor of Alabama. I'm going to do great in the south. I mean, I think I'm going to do very well. We finally will get to the Midwest, which will be cool, Michigan.

My goal is to get Urban Meyer, the coach of Ohio State, and Coach Harbaugh of Michigan to ride in a car with me. And I am convinced if I can get that done, I can probably part the Red Sea.

GANGEL: Reality check. Donald Trump came in...

KASICH: Really strong.

GANGEL: ... No. 1, more than double your numbers.

KASICH: Yes.

GANGEL: He has not hit you very hard. But in the past you've called him a bully. You've said there's no...

KASICH: I don't think I called him any names. I just...

GANGEL: You called him a bully.

KASICH: Well, I don't -- if I did that, I don't remember it, because I usually try to -- I always try to stay on the issues. And what upset me about him in the beginning was, you know, trying to

pick 11.5 million and shipping them on a bus to Mexico and dividing people. I don't -- I don't like that. But look, he's calmed down actually. You know, he's settled down. Look, it's a long road. You know, the thing about...

GANGEL: But you think you can compete against him?

KASICH: Yes, over time I sure do. What do you think I'd be doing down here? I'd go home if I didn't think I could compete. Of course I think I can compete.

And you know what? You've got to remember in this 24/7 news cycle, the narrative changes like the flip. One minute you're dead; the next minute you're alive; the next minute you're dead; the next minute you're alive. You know, I am going to continue to enjoy this road I'm on. How do you like that? Whether you guys like it or not, I'm going to try to enjoy it.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: And Jamie Gangel is joining us now from South Carolina. Jamie, good interview. Kasich strikes a more optimistic tone than many of his rivals. Is that what you also see behind the scenes?

GANGEL: Absolutely, Wolf. I think any candidate who can say with a smile on his face and a shrug, "Yes, I'm going to lose South Carolina," John Kasich really is Zen.

That said, he grew up in Pittsburgh, the story about the windows on the bus getting knocked out. Next to the word "scrappy" in the dictionary is a picture of John Kasich. So if it gets tough, just let's wait and see what happens.

BLITZER: Coming off of his impressive second-place finish in New Hampshire last night, are you seeing bigger crowds out there in South Carolina right now for him?

GANGEL: Absolutely. They had an event this morning where they had 70, 7-0 RSVPs originally. There were more than 500 people there out the door, standing and waiting for him. The campaign is not used to this. They were clearly stunned when they got off the bus.

So even though this is South Carolina, even though he doesn't think he's going to do that well here, he is bringing out the crowds. What a difference New Hampshire -- what a difference coming in second in New Hampshire can make, Wolf.

BLITZER: It certainly does. All right, Jamie, good work, thanks very much. Jamie Gangel, our special correspondent.

Coming up, Congressman James Clyburn of South Carolina, he's a powerful figure in that state. That's where the next contests are going to be. We're taking a closer look on the Democratic side. There you see him right there. We'll talk with him about South Carolina and Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton right after this. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:43:29] BLITZER: Let's talk about the Democratic presidential contest. Joining us now is the House assistant Democratic leader, the South Carolina congressman, James Clyburn.

Congressman, thanks very much for joining us. I know you've said you're feeling a lot of pressure, including from your wife, one of your daughters to endorse either Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton, so give us the answer. Who are you going to throw your support behind?

REP. JAMES CLYBURN (D), SOUTH CAROLINA: Well, thank you so much for having me, Wolf.

Well, when I get home on Friday evening, I'm going to be spending a lot of time with family, friends. I'll be on the phone talking to a lot of people.

I think that they're probably right: People would like to know where I stand, irrespective of where that is. And although I said at the outset that I would stay neutral in all of this, I'm beginning to feel that maybe they're right, that I need to let people know where I stand and I'll probably do that, though not today or this week.

BLITZER: Well, we would be happy if you did it right now. You got a chance to speak to people in South Carolina, people all over the country right now. Do you want to give us a little clue?

CLYBURN: No, let's just wait until I talk to them. They may change their minds. So we'll see.

BLITZER: Your family. Unlike Iowa and New Hampshire, the Democratic voters in South Carolina, about half if not more, are African- Americans. What are the key issues you're looking for from Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton to try to convince you?

CLYBURN: Well, I'm very concerned about an effort to really target resources into communities of need.

[17:45:03] I think that this whole trickledown effect that we seem to do so often is leaving too many people in dire straits. For instance, we see the numbers increasing now almost 500 counties in the United States of America are now classified as persistent poverty counties.

And I'm very pleased that the speaker of the House, Mr. Ryan, has now decided that he's going to take a hard look at what the Congressional Black Caucuses has been advocating for several years on directing resources into these communities. I spoke with Harold Rogers today and it looks like we're going to get some movement on that.

I want to see the candidates talk about that. How do we do the infrastructure issues? How do we support historic black colleges and universities? I have seven in my district. There are 103 in the country. And for people not to understand the value of these institutions to our overall society I believe is up to presidential candidates to get people to understand that. BLITZER: All right.

CLYBURN: And so that's the kind of thing I am looking for and I hope we'll get it during this two-week period.

BLITZER: I know there's a little history between you and the Clintons going back eight years ago, I remember it well. You endorsed then Senator Barack Obama. He won South Carolina, as you know. The former president Bill Clinton, there's a famous phone call you discussed in your memoir. You told him, I think your words are, "Go ahead and chill a little bit." Have you gotten over that? What's your relationship with the Clintons like today?

CLYBURN: Well, we have a great relationship. I spent a lot of time, I was on the phone with Mrs. Clinton last week. I've seen the president, the former president several times. Mrs. Clinton and I set with each other at Senator Clementa Pinckney's funeral and we have had several conversations.

You know, I had my fish fried out in Charleston a couple of weeks ago and I spoke with her at that time as well as Senator Sanders. So the relationship between me and the Clintons are like any other relationship. Sometimes things get testy. But I've been married 54 years so I know what it is to have relationships that things get testy in sometimes.

BLITZER: Yes. Sometimes they go up and sometimes they go down. You're welcome to come back in a few days when you make up your mind and let the country know, let the folks in South Carolina know what you're doing. We always enjoy having you on the show, Congressman. Thanks very much.

CLYBURN: Well, thank you so much for having me.

BLITZER: Thank you.

Coming up, after a disastrous debate, a disappointing finish in the New Hampshire primary, Senator Marco Rubio trying to remain some serious momentum right now on the campaign trail. We're going to speak with the Republican candidate live here in THE SITUATION ROOM so stand by for that.

But first, after a series of provocative moves, North Korea now facing new sanctions. Will they change Kim Jong-Un's behavior?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:52:35] BLITZER: The North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un is defiant tonight in the face of sanctions from the United States and its allies. Brian Todd is learning more.

What's the latest, Brian?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, tonight U.S. officials are sounding an ominous warning about North Korea. Just moments ago the U.S. Senate passing a measure for tougher sanctions. But tonight U.S. intelligence officials saying North Korea's recent nuclear test and its launch of a satellite using ballistic missile technology simply cannot be sugarcoated. Those acts, they say, reflect a direct threat to the security of the United States and its allies, and they warn that Kim Jong-Un is not about to stop now.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (voice-over): A brazen nuclear test and this, a display of long- range ballistic missile technology in the guise of a satellite launch. Two blatantly aggressive moves by Kim Jong-Un within the span of a month that tonight have the U.S. and its allies reeling. And the U.S. Senate late today passing sanctions against the North Korean regime. A regime that America's top intelligence chiefs say poses the world's greatest nuclear threat.

JAMES CLAPPER, DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: Pyongyang continues to produce fissile material and develop a submarine launch ballistic missile. It is also committed to developing a long-range nuclear armed missile that's capable of posing a direct threat to the United States.

TODD: U.S. officials say the North Koreans haven't flight tested those missiles yet so it's not clear if they'd work but they say the recent tests and the fact that North Korea has expanded its production of weapons grade nuclear fuel signal that Kim Jong-Un's nuclear ambitions are full speed ahead.

PATRICK CRONIN, CENTER FOR A NEW AMERICAN SECURITY: It means that North Korea can go from a few or dozen or 15 nuclear weapons this year to perhaps 50 or 100 weapons in just five years time. That makes it a very, very big threat to regional stability.

TODD: And an added warning from America's top spymaster who says Kim has other motives to build up his nuclear arsenal.

JAMES BRENNAN, CIA DIRECTOR: He wants to showcase as a way to demonstrate his strength but also as a way to help to market some of his proliferation capabilities.

TODD: And where would Kim be marketing his weapons?

JONATHAN POLLACK, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: They might think that a country like Iran, for example, might be interested in both for the technology, but more to the point if they wanted the prestige of putting a satellite in orbit.

TODD: Iran denies it's trying to acquire nuclear weapons. But experts say the Iranians have long been cooperating with North Korea in developing nuclear and missile technology. A way for Iran to outsource that capability and get around its nuclear deal with the U.S..

CRONIN: They can pay for that nuclear program. North Korea can get money from that program and gain more technological insight and both Iran and North Korea can come away with a serious nuclear missile threat. (END VIDEOTAPE)

[17:55:15] TODD: Tonight the U.S. and its allies are trying to head that off by retaliating economically toward Kim Jong-Un. In addition to the Senate sanctions just passed, the Japanese are pushing for sanctions and the South Koreans say they're going to shut down the massive industrial complex at Kaesong, just inside the North Korean border.

That complex is run by South Koreans but tens of thousands of North Koreans work there and shuttering it would hurt Kim and his inner circle financially . A lot of the money from there goes straight into their pockets, Wolf. If that happens, Kim could retaliate by launching a military strike across his border, he could launch a fifth nuclear test. He could even arrange to have those workers -- the South Korean workers at Kaesong held hostage. That's a fear tonight.

BLITZER: Certainly is, all right, Brian, thank you very much.

Coming up, I'll talk about that and a whole lot more with Senator Marco Rubio, the Republican presidential candidate. He's standing by to join me live in THE SITUATION ROOM..

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)