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Interview With Presidential Candidate Donald Trump; Interview With Presidential Candidate Hillary Clinton; Interview With Florida Senator Marco Rubio; Interview With Texas Senator Ted Cruz; Interview With Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders; Candidates And Their New Kind Of Pitch In This Week's State of the Cartoonion. Aired 9-10a ET

Aired February 21, 2016 - 09:00   ET




JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): What a night.

The election is amping up and the voters are having their say, and all the big winners are here.

Hillary Clinton wins a close race in Nevada.

HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Some may have doubted us, but we never doubted each other.


TAPPER: But Bernie Sanders says it's too soon to count him out.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We have come a very long way. We have the momentum.

TAPPER: Where does the race go from here? They will both be here in minutes.

Plus, Donald Trump wins again.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We will never, ever forget South Carolina.

TAPPER: Is he now unstoppable in his race for the Republican nomination? I will ask him.

And Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio battling for second place.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The good people of South Carolina continue to defy the pundits and to produce extraordinary results.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: For me, the state of South Carolina will always be the place of new beginnings and fresh starts. TAPPER: Is it now a three-man race? Both candidates join me next.


TAPPER: Hello. I'm Jake Tapper in Washington, where the state of our union is front-running.

The leading candidates from both parties picked up wins. And the night's biggest names will all be right here this morning.

First up, Donald Trump, who sealed a decisive victory in the Republican contest in South Carolina, 10 points ahead of his closest rivals, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, who battled for the second-place trophy, with Rubio ultimately winning it by a nose.

And, in Nevada, Hillary Clinton winning a hard-fought race against Bernie Sanders. Both of them will be here shortly.

But, first, let's get right to Donald Trump, who basked in his big win.


TRUMP: There's nothing easy about running for president, I can tell you. It's tough. It's nasty. It's mean. It's vicious. It's beautiful.


TRUMP: When you win, it's beautiful.


TAPPER: And the winner of the South Carolina Republican primary, Donald Trump, joins us right now.

Mr. Trump, congratulations on your victory. What do you think this means for the race going forward? Are you unstoppable?

TRUMP: Well, certainly, you can be stopped. I mean, I'm dealing with very talented people.

They're politicians. They're senators. And I guess -- do we have any governors left? I don't know. Let's see. I don't think so. But we have a lot of talented people. And we will see what happens. But, certainly, nobody is unstoppable.

TAPPER: Your campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, said that you have not gotten the credit you deserve from the party for leading the race.

Why do you think that is? Do you think some Republicans still don't take you seriously?

TRUMP: Well, I'm an outsider, and -- which I'm proud to be.

But don't forget, I was a member of the establishment totally. I was a big campaign contributor. I gave lots of money to everybody. I mean, I would give money to everybody. And I was a very big donor to the Republicans. I used to be a donor to everybody, frankly, because, as a businessman, that was a good thing to do.

But, yes, the day I decided to run, which was June 16, I became an outsider. And all of the establishment sort of said, well, wait a minute, what happened to him? He's not supposed to be doing that. That's not in the cards.

And I don't want money. I'm self-funding my campaign, so I don't need donor money and lobbyist money and special interest money. And that bothers them, because the special interests want to control their candidates, and I can't be controlled. I'm going to do what's good for the people and for what is good for the country.

I mean, this is a great opportunity. The drug companies control the drug industry. I mean, it's ridiculous. And the military companies -- yes, everybody controls everything.

I'm going to do what's right. I'm going to be fair to everybody, but I'm going to do what's right. And that's why we have the big deficits we have. That's why we make the bad trade deals, because all of these politicians are controlled by lobbyists and donors, et cetera.

TAPPER: Last week, Senator Rubio said he didn't think a brokered convention would necessarily be a bad thing.

Are you concerned at all that party leaders might try to block your nomination at the convention?

TRUMP: I don't think we're going to have a convention, a brokered convention. I think it's unlikely.

I think -- I think I'm doing better than that. And so far, I'm really on my way. I thought I actually won Iowa, if you look at it real closely. But even if I didn't, I just got one delegate less, because I came in a very, very close second. So, I have a second and I have two firsts. And New Hampshire was a blowout, and this one was a blowout.

And, you know, I don't think -- I don't see where there's a convention. I think most of the smart people are saying there's not going to be a convention. Interestingly, the ones who say there's going to be a convention, usually, they are the pundits that have been wrong forever, the ones that have been wrong about me, not you, because you have been right about me. And I appreciate it.


TAPPER: Senator Cruz says that you attack him every day because you know he's the only one who can beat you. Is that right?


TRUMP: No, it's not right. But he's very talented. And, certainly, he could beat me, and so could Marco, and so could the others that are running. You know, crazier things happen in the world of politics.

TAPPER: Governor Jeb Bush dropped out last night. He was once the front-runner, once expected to win the nomination.

Many would point to you as the primary reason his campaign sputtered. Do you think, by labeling him low-energy and targeting him so quickly, do you think that's what did him in?

TRUMP: I just don't know what did him in.

I can tell you, I like him. He's a good person. He's a good man, but he really hit me with a lot of commercials. He was spending $25 million on commercials on me. And I said, wow, that's another commercial. That one is really bad and not true, although some was true. I mean, I will tell, some was true, but a lot of it wasn't true.

And I said, wow, that's a big commercial. And then it just kept going on and on and on. And I said, who's doing that? And it was Jeb. And then there would be a new one, and it was Jeb, and then a new one, and it was Jeb.

So -- and then, you know, a couple of -- we had a couple of robo-calls the morning -- yesterday morning and -- the morning of the election. And they were brutal. And that was done by Ted Cruz. We had two really brutal robo-calls, and one on the flag and one on gay rights.

And I want to tell you, they were tough, tough, tough. So, you know, this is a tough business, I will tell you. I think real estate in Manhattan is a lot easier.

TAPPER: You also took on Jeb's brother President George W. Bush in South Carolina, a state that he won in 2000. And then you won it handily, even though you took on George W. Bush.

Do you see Jeb's loss and your victory in South Carolina as a vote on the entire Bush legacy, in a way?

TRUMP: I hope not, because it shouldn't be. It wasn't meant to be.

Jeb fought very hard. It wasn't his time. That's all. He's a very capable person. It just wasn't his time. And, you know, I know the family. My son knows his son. And my son Eric knows Jeb's son, and he says he's an incredible young man.

And, you know, it -- it was really just not his time. It was really -- you know, four years ago, I think he would have won, although it would have been -- you know, with Mitt and him, it would have been a good contest. But this was not really his time.

TAPPER: There's a lot of concern, as you know, among Republican Party leaders in Washington about, can you win a general election? Let's talk about demographics for a second. If the next Republican

nominee wins the same share of the white vote that Mitt Romney did in 2012 -- that was 59 percent -- that nominee would need to win 30 percent of the non-white vote.

Now, with all due respect, sir, a lot of Republican leaders in D.C. struggle to envision you accomplishing this, especially given the fact that there are white supremacist groups and individuals like that who support you, some of whom you have even retweeted.

TRUMP: Well, that, I know nothing about. I mean, I don't know about retweeting. I mean, you retweet somebody, and turns out to be a white supremacist. I know nothing about these groups that are supporting me.

I will tell you this. As a candidate, I will bring over many, many Dems. We're going to bring over a lot of Democrats. We're going to bring over a lot of independents. Nobody else will. In all fairness, the other candidates, they will never bring over independents. They will never bring -- we're talking about the Reagan Democrats.

We're going to bring over tremendous numbers. We're going to bring over youth. Bernie's not going to make it, in my opinion. And I never thought he would. Hillary won't make it. Frankly, if she gets indicted, that's the only way she is going to be stopped.

And I think it's going to be between Hillary and myself. They say that it will be the largest voter turnout in the history of United States elections. And I want to tell you, that's a great compliment to the country, because we have such a low voter turnout compared to a lot of other countries.

So, I think it will be the greatest voter turnout in history. I mean, the stories -- if it's Hillary against me, that's going to be a tremendous turnout.

I'm going to win. I'm going to win places like Michigan that the Republicans can't even think of. You know, they always talk about the six states, right, with Ohio and Pennsylvania and, you know, et cetera, et cetera. I won't go through the numbers.

But I will win places like Michigan that people don't even talk about. I will have a chance of winning New York. If I win New York, the election's over, OK, from an Electoral College standpoint. I have a chance of winning New York.

I will win states that aren't in play. I will win states that the Republicans don't even think of. And one of them that comes to mind is Michigan. And another one is New York.

Upstate New York, I'm like the most popular person that's ever lived virtually Upstate New York. They're great friends of mine. And we will do very well in New York. I don't know, maybe win it, maybe not, but we're going to do very -- we're going to come awfully close to winning it. And I think I have a great chance. The other thing is, African-American voters, I think I'm going to get

a tremendous amount. And you have seen the stories where African- American leaders are saying, you know, my people really like Trump, because I'm going to bring jobs back from China and Mexico and Japan and Vietnam and India, and all these places that are taking our jobs. I'm going to bring jobs back.


And a recent poll came out where I had 25 percent African-American. And the Republicans usually get about 4 percent or 5 percent. And one of the hosts said, if he ever gets 25 percent, this election's over. You might as well not run it.

I'm going to do great with the African-Americans. African-American youth is 58 percent unemployed. African-Americans in their prime are substantially worse off, you know, economically than a -- than the whites in their prime. And it's very -- it's a very sad situation.

I'm going to do great with African-Americans. You watch. And I'm going to do great with Hispanics. I employ thousands of Hispanics. I'm going to do great with Hispanics.

TAPPER: I want to get some clarification on comments you made this week at the CNN town hall about Obamacare. Take a listen.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Why would an insurance company not have a preexisting -- insure somebody with a preexisting condition?

TRUMP: Well, I like the mandate. OK, so here's where I'm a little bit different. I don't want people dying on the streets. And I say this all the time.


TAPPER: So, sir, what did you mean when you said, "I like the mandate"?

TRUMP: Well, what happened is, we were talking over each other, and it wasn't Anderson's fault, because I think Anderson's terrific. I thought he did a fan -- I thought it was a great evening, and we got tremendous reviews on it. They got tremendous ratings, which is always nice, too.

But what I'm talking about is very simple. There's no mandate, no mandatory anything. We're going to end Obamacare. We're going to terminate. It's going to be repealed. It's going to be replaced by something much better, whether it's -- whether -- first of all, we have to get rid of the lines between the states so there's competition. OK?

We have to. And we will go health care savings accounts. We have -- there's many different ways. We're going to get great health care. You're going to have your own doctor, which people don't have, even though Obama promised. You are going to have your own plan. And we're going to have great health care.

The one thing I say is this. Call it whatever you want. People are not going to die in the middle of a street because they have absolutely no money and they're sick. They're not dying on the sidewalks, and they're not dying on the streets if I'm president. They're just not.

And, as a Republican -- a lot of people say, oh, that's a terrible thing to say as a Republican. Let me tell you this. Every time I mention it -- you know I have the biggest crowds, far bigger than Bernie. Bernie is second, I will say, but I have far bigger than Bernie.

I will make a speech in front of 20,000 people and I will say, we cannot allow people on my watch or on any watch to die in the middle of a street or on a sidewalk because they have absolutely no money. We will get them to a hospital. We will get them to a doctor. We have to take care of them.

Do you know I get standing ovations when I say that from Republicans?

TAPPER: Mm-hmm.

TRUMP: And then somebody will say, he's not a conservative to say that.

So, you can call it whatever you want. I don't like the term mandate, personally, because that sort of means mandatory. I will just say this. People are not going to die on the streets of any city or of anyplace if I'm president. And every time I say it, I get standing ovations from Republicans.

TAPPER: But -- but, just to clarify, you're saying now that you would not support requiring every individual in America to have health insurance? You wouldn't support that?

TRUMP: Yes, that's right.

And, honestly, we were talking over each other. We were.


TRUMP: And it was my fault, not Anderson's fault. But we were talking over each other.

Obviously, the answer to that is exactly that. But -- but, with that being said, we have to take care of people. We have to take care of people.

TAPPER: Last question, sir. We heard from your wife, Melania, last night, which doesn't happen a tremendous amount. Are we going to hear more from her going forward?

TRUMP: Well, Jake, she's a very, very brilliant woman.

I have -- you know, I know her academic background. And I -- you know, she was tremendously successful before I met her. She's very smart. She also is a very private woman. And there's something very nice about that. She's a great mother. And she has some interesting causes that are going to be fantastic for the country.

And she will. I mean, she -- she's -- she -- I really just surprised her when I said that. I said, say a few words, Melania. There's only about 40 million people watching. Say a few words.


TRUMP: And she got up and she spoke beautifully.

Yes, she will be very much involved. She will be very much. What she really loves doing, though, is being a mother to Barron.


Mr. Trump, thank you so much. Good luck in Nevada. We will see you on the campaign trail. And congratulations again.

TRUMP: Thank you very much, Jake.

TAPPER: Let's turn now to the Democratic race, where former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton got a big win at a time that she really needed one. Victories are important, but sometimes stopping a rival's momentum is even more crucial.


CLINTON: The truth is, we aren't a single-issue country.


CLINTON: We need -- we need more than a plan for the big banks. The middle class needs a raise.


CLINTON: And we need more jobs.


TAPPER: Clinton's 52 percent to 47 percent victory over Sanders was aided by overwhelming support from African-Americans, a constituency she hopes to carry her to victory in the next primary next weekend in South Carolina.

And former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton joins me now.

Madam Secretary, congratulations on your victory in Nevada.


CLINTON: Thank you so much, Jake.

It was hard-fought. And I just can't say enough about the team on the ground, who have been there for months, and the thousands and thousands of volunteers, who really got to work. We saw so much great activity the last week. And it turned out to be more than enough. And I'm really happy about that.

TAPPER: You really went into overdrive just the last 48 hours, really working until early, early in the morning and rallying your supporters.

How exactly do you think you did what you needed to do to get over the finish line with this victory?

CLINTON: I think it was a lot of things.

First of all, we have been on the ground there for months. So, we were building an organization, developing the relationships, really getting to know people in every community across the state, so that, as we built that, we were able to understand more about what was on people's minds, how best to connect with them, to make my case to them.

And we had, as I say, thousands of people who were engaged, from Las Vegas to the smallest rural town. And I just felt like the people who were working on behalf of our campaign were really committed and dedicated. They did not get in any way knocked off course.

They never doubted we could do this. And they turned out to be right. And I am so grateful to each and every one of them.

TAPPER: In your victory speech, you said the United States is not a single-issue country.

Supporters of Bernie Sanders in his room, in his -- where -- it wasn't his victory room, but wherever that room was -- they booed when you said that on TV.

Now, I know Senator Sanders called you to concede. I presume he was more gracious than the booers.

CLINTON: Well, he did call me before I made my speech. And I appreciated that very much.

But, look, I don't think we are a single-issue country. And I am certainly not a single-issue candidate. I want to knock down all the barriers that are holding people back. We spent a lot of time talking with the voters in the last week about the barriers they felt did impede their getting ahead.

Of course, a lot of it is economic, and it needs to be addressed. That's why I'm not only against bad things and I want to stop them. I want to start some good things, more good-paying jobs with rising incomes again, once and for all making sure women get equal pay for the work we do, doing more to help small business, going after clean, renewable energy, especially in a state like Nevada, where it should be the solar capital of the West.

So, we had a lot of opportunity to talk about bigotry and discrimination, student debt, the deck being stacked against people, the whole range of concerns that were brought directly to me. And, of course, being -- being there, we heard a lot about people feeling that the great recession in Nevada just knocked them down. It was one of the worst-affected states in our whole country, and what more could we do to keep the economy growing and creating more good jobs.

Heard a lot about the fears that hardworking immigrants have over deportation, raids and roundups, which I oppose. And we heard a lot from the African-American community in particular about how they still felt that systemic racism was an issue in their lives.

So, there are a lot of concerns, from health care to education, all of which were raised with me. So, when I say, look, we're not a single- issue country, I say that from a lot of experience, because are these other issues that we're talking about, economic inequality, political finance issues, what to do to make sure Wall Street never wrecks Main Street again, are they important?

Absolutely. That's why I have taken positions on them. I have spoken out against them. I was actually doing that before the great recession. But we're going to talk about the issues that are on the minds of Americans. And that's a broad number, because we have to address all of them.

TAPPER: Obviously, you did well. You won.

But, looking ahead, you still have 47 other states to go, plus the District of Columbia and some territories.

CLINTON: That's true.

TAPPER: So, I do want to look at some areas -- let's call them areas for possible improvement.

One of them is that Bernie Sanders did better with Latino voters, and you not as well with Latino voters, at least according to our entrance poll, as many people anticipated. This is a constituency you have worked very hard to cultivate.

What do you think happened, and how can you fix it, how can you improve your standings with Latino voters?

CLINTON: You know, that's just not what our analysis shows, number one.

We don't believe that the so-called entry polls were particularly accurate. If you look at the precincts, you look at where we dominated, there's a lot of evidence we did very, very well with every group of voter. We did well and better than we thought in rural areas, which I was very happy to hear. We held our own up in Reno.


So, it was a broad-based turnout. And we dominated, of course, in Clark County, where Las Vegas is. So, you know, we look at all of this. We obviously are guided by the information we have. We think that it shows that we always have to work hard for every single voter. And we intend to do that in every place.

I'm in Texas right now. I'm in Houston, about to address a large crowd that's gathered here late at night. We're reaching out to everybody. And we want to do as well as we can with everyone.

TAPPER: An area of improvement, I think you will grant me, even if you don't believe the entrance polls on Latino voters, is potentially independent voters.

And I know that you have blamed the whole trust issue with independent voters on decades of unfair attacks by Republicans, smears against you by Republicans. But how do you fix it going forward? If you do become the nominee, you're going to need independent voters.

CLINTON: Absolutely.

And I'm going to do what I have always done. I'm going to keep, you know, reaching out to voters. I understand that voters have questions. I'm going to do my very best to answer those questions. I think there's an underlying question that maybe is really in the back of people's minds. And that is, you know, is she in it for us or is she in it for herself?

I think that's, you know, a question that people are trying to sort through. And I'm going to demonstrate that I have always been the same person, fighting for the same values, fighting to make a real difference in people's lives long before I was ever in elected office, even before my husband was in the presidency.

So, I know that I have to, you know, make my case. I have to demonstrate what I have achieved. I have to really make clear that, look, we want a -- we want to make progress in our country. We want to make a real difference in people's lives. That's what I have always been about. That's what I would do as president.

So, I'm very hopeful. And we will continue to work hard to make that case and to win over as many voters as possible to get the nomination. And then we will see who the Republicans nominate, and we will go from there.

TAPPER: Well, let's talk about that. You're heading to South Carolina, the South Carolina Democratic primary Saturday. You're favored to win there. You're polling strong there. You have scored some key endorsements.

The Republicans held their contest. Donald Trump won handily, his second victory. You have said that a race against Mr. Trump would be quite a showdown. Is there a chance the Democrats are underestimating him?

CLINTON: Well, I don't -- I don't know, Jake. I'm not thinking about that far ahead. They have to finish their nominating process. We have to finish ours.

But I do believe that the message that we want to take to the American people, that we can do better together, we can build those ladders of opportunity again, we can have broad-based prosperity, rising incomes, knock down the barriers that hold people back, I think that's a winning message, because I think that's what the American people are looking for.

You know, that great recession was such terrible blow to so many people. And the repercussions are still working its way through the economy and through the political system. So, I'm very committed to making the argument that I think is the winning argument about what we can do together.

I want to find common ground wherever I can. But I want to move this economy. I want to fix our political system. I want to make government work better for people. And I want to knock down those barriers of discrimination and debt and feeling like the deck is stacked against you that too many Americans, you know, now are worried may be the case.

TAPPER: As a former secretary of state, I really am interested in your views on the foreign policy issue that has emerged on the Republican side that I'm sure you have opinions about.

Donald Trump was asked this week about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and he said -- quote -- "Let me be sort of a neutral guy. I don't want to say whose fault it is. I don't think it helps."

Now, Senator Ted Cruz, on the other hand, said -- quote -- "I have no intention of being neutral." He would be standing by Israel.

You're a former secretary of state. What do you think about those answers? Where would you be?

CLINTON: Well, I think both of them missed the mark.

First of all, Israel is our partner, our ally. We have longstanding and important ties with Israelis going back to the formation of the state of Israel. I will defend and do everything I can to support Israel, particularly as the neighborhood around it seems to become more dangerous and difficult.


I also believe the Palestinians deserve to have a state of their own. That's why I support a two-state solution. That's what I have worked on. That's what I tried to move forward when I was secretary, and holding three very intense conversations between the prime minister of Israel and the president of the Palestinian Authority.

Those are not mutually exclusive. I happen to think that moving toward a two-state solution, trying to provide more support for the aspirations of the Palestinian people is in the long-term best interests of Israel, as well as the region, and, of course, the people themselves.

So, I don't think either of the answers you just relayed to me really grapple with the challenges that we have to continue to work to overcome. TAPPER: Madam Secretary, thanks so much for joining us. Good luck in

South Carolina. We will see you on the campaign trail.

Congratulations again.

CLINTON: Great. Thanks a lot. Thank you very much.

TAPPER: Secretary Clinton's opponent, Bernie Sanders, will be here shortly.

But, first, let's turn to the heated battle under way between Senators Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz.

Last night, both claimed a victory of sorts, while still falling short to Donald Trump.


RUBIO: After tonight, this has become a three-person race, and we will win the nomination!



TAPPER: But can either of the senators take down Donald Trump, as this cowboy campaign heads to the Wild West for the next contest in Nevada?

They're both here.

Let's start with Senator Marco Rubio of Florida.

Senator, good to see you. Welcome.

RUBIO: Good to see you. Thank you.

TAPPER: There's a report this morning that Mitt Romney will endorse you this week. What would an endorsement from Mr. Romney mean to you?

RUBIO: Well, that report is false. I have no reason to believe that he's anywhere near endorsing anyone.

We would love to have his endorsement. We would love to have the help of everyone, because we have got to bring the Republican Party together. We're not going to win, we're not going to beat Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders if we're still divided in September and in October.

So, it's important to nominate someone that can bring everyone together, ultimately. We have to be on the same team. And it's one of the reasons why I believe I will be the nominee, because I give us the best chance to unify.

And, of course, bringing Governor Romney on board would be a part of that. We would love to have his endorsement, but there's nothing forthcoming. I don't know where those reports are coming from, but they're false.

TAPPER: You came in second in South Carolina. You had a lot invested in the state. Every major Republican endorsed you, from the governor to Senator Tim Scott to Congressman Trey Gowdy, and on and on. Why do you think you didn't win?

RUBIO: Well, first of all, because about 30 percent of the vote is coalesced around one person in Donald Trump.

And then the 70 percent that is left over or the 65 percent is divided up among five or six people. And you do the math fairly quickly, and you realize that, if this was a more traditional or narrower race, the results would be different.

Look, the Democrats have a two-person race. You only have two choices. Yesterday, when people went to vote in South Carolina, they had six. And that really divided up the vote a little bit. And so that dynamic is beginning to shift.

Obviously, Governor Bush has now suspended his campaign. Governor Kasich is primarily focused in Michigan. And so that, I think, is what gives us an opportunity now to begin to bring -- coalesce and bring together Republicans who understand that we have to nominate someone who will unify our party, who will reach out to people that haven't voted for us and grow our party and ultimately who can win.

Who do the Democrats fear most? Who do they not want to run against? I think everyone now acknowledges that that's me. That's why they spend so much time and money attacking me.

TAPPER: You have yet to win a single state. The next contest is Nevada, where you spent part of your childhood. Can you win in Nevada?

RUBIO: I hope so.

We're going to work hard to do it. Again, we're going into a different dynamic now, because there's less choices. We think that accrues to our benefit. And we will see how that plays out. We're heading there tonight after we make stops in Tennessee and in Arkansas.

And people can keep track of our campaign. They go to our Web site,, and you will see when we're coming to a state near you.

TAPPER: Donald Trump has now won New Hampshire and South Carolina.

As I'm sure you know, as a student of history, no Republican has ever won New Hampshire and South Carolina and not gone on to win the nomination. Why do you think you can stop him?

RUBIO: Because we have never had a race where 15 credible candidates began and where you had so many choices. There's never been a race like this. You cannot apply the rules of the other races to this one. I think

last night was truly the beginning of the real Republican primary. We went through the semifinals and the quarterfinals. And I think you're now down to a core probably of three candidates who are running full- scale national campaigns.

And here is where it really begins at this point now, is -- and this is where I think the race last night was reset in a way that, quite frankly, I think is going to be very beneficial to our efforts.

TAPPER: You said you don't think a brokered convention would necessarily be a bad thing.

Are you OK with primary voters, by plurality, choosing one candidate, but party leaders nominating someone else?


RUBIO: Yes, I'm not sure where I ever said that. I'm not in favor -- I'm not saying I'm cheering for a brokered convention. I think someone on my campaign was asked about its chances and they said it's possible especially in an unusual year like this.

I don't think it's likely. I think the voters are going to decide it. I most certainly don't want party insiders deciding this because if party insiders had been the ones deciding this nomination, I wouldn't be standing -- I wouldn't be here right now doing this interview with you. I wouldn't be in the Senate, for that matter. They didn't want me in the Senate. So I want the voters to decide and I think the chances that it's going to be decided in the primary process are very high.

TAPPER: You had some very gracious words for your fellow Floridian Jeb Bush, who was something of a mentor to you years ago after he dropped out of the race. Have you spoken with Governor Bush?

RUBIO: No. I called him last night. Obviously he was there with family and friends and others. So we haven't had a chance to speak but -- by the way, my feelings weren't just last night. Throughout this campaign I've always said very positive and nice things about Governor Bush. I don't think you'll see a single instance in which I said anything personally negative about him.

And I repeatedly said that I wasn't running against him. That I had admiration and affection for him. That didn't change during this campaign and it's still true now. I didn't run against Jeb Bush. I ran for president because I believe that I give our party the best chance to bring our party together to grow and to unify our country, and to win. We can't lose this election.

And if you're watching today, ask yourself, who is the person that gives us the best chance to beat the Democrats? Both polling and Democrats will tell you, it is our campaign. And so I hope people will sign up and join our effort at

TAPPER: We've seen the dynamic in this race. Donald Trump goes after somebody who is not polling as well and can destroys that person whether it is Rick Perry or Lindsey Graham or Jeb Bush.

You're now rising in the polls to a degree. Are you ready for Donald Trump to come after you?


First of all, Donald Trump did attack us. He attacked us in August, September, October, November. He was, you know, attacking us then and he didn't destroy anybody. What he's been good at is saying things that are over the top and then the press covers it. Everybody -- you guys like to cover it because it helps with ratings and it's interesting, and you can't ignore it.

But we're at a different stage now. I mean, Republicans now have to nominate someone. We can't lose this election. If Hillary Clinton is elected or Bernie Sanders, all of Obama's disastrous policies become permanent. I think that's what's going to drive voters from here out. We have to win.

And I give us the chance to nominate someone. I'm as conservative as anyone in this race. I have a 15-year record of conservative action that people can look at. So I didn't just become a conservative two years ago. But I'm the conservative that can unite our party, grow our party and win this election. We have to win. And if I'm nominated, we will.

TAPPER: Senator Rubio, good luck in Nevada. We'll see you on the campaign trail.

RUBIO: Yes, sir. Thank you.

TAPPER: And now to Senator Ted Cruz, who came in a very close third place. We spoke last night while the final votes were still being counted.


TAPPER: Senator Ted Cruz joins us now. Senator, thanks so much for joining us.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you, Jake. Great to be with you.

TAPPER: So Donald Trump has now won both New Hampshire and South Carolina. No Republican has ever done that without actually going on and winning the Republican nomination. Why do you think you can stop him?

CRUZ: Well, I think we had a terrific night tonight. We -- it's Saturday night that you and I are speaking. Right now we're effectively tied for second place and that puts us in a position of having won a strong victory in Iowa, a strong third place finish in New Hampshire, and now a strong second or third place finish in South Carolina.

And I think what this has teed up, those three states together, is really a couple of things. Number one, we continue to see conservatives uniting behind our campaign. But number two, Jake, it is now apparent the only campaign that can beat Donald Trump and that has beaten Donald Trump is our campaign.

And although Donald has consistently managed to score numbers in the 20s and 30s, his unfavorable -- an awful lot of Republicans are very concerned Donald Trump is not the right candidate to go head to head with Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders. And as the field narrows, we're seeing more and more people coming to us because we're looking for a strong, proven constitutional conservative to stand up and present a clear contrast with the Democrats and win in November.

We've got to win in November. And I think tonight's result will result in yet more people coming to, supporting the campaign, joining, volunteering. And the closer is gets to a head-to- head race, the stronger position we're in.

TAPPER: Well so two questions based on that. So the first one, are you saying that Donald Trump cannot beat Hillary Clinton, that Hillary Clinton would beat him?

CRUZ: Well listen, the national polling has consistently shown that head-to-head Donald loses to Hillary. And head-to-head I beat Hillary Clinton.

And I believe the only way to beat the Democrats is to run a candidate that has a significantly different record. I think if we nominate a candidate that has the same record as Hillary Clinton on partial birth abortion, the same record as Hillary Clinton on Obamacare and socialized medicine, the same record as Hillary Clinton on granting amnesty to 12 million people here illegally and allowing them to become citizens, and for that matter the same record as Hillary Clinton on the Wall Street bailouts and the Obama stimulus, I don't think that's a path to victory.


I think the way we win is to follow Reagan's admonition that we paint in bold colors, not pail pastels. And the more this race narrows what we're saying is that old Reagan coalition coming together behind our campaign as the strongest conservative who can win, not just the primary, but win the general and lead the effort to turn the country around.

TAPPER: Well, the other question, is you seem to be calling for all the, by implication, for the other candidates to not continue to run, or at least for their supporters to go to you. You seem to be saying that the race is between you and Trump and anybody who doesn't want Trump to get the nomination should support you.

Should the other candidates think about dropping out?

CRUZ: Well, listen, that's a decision every candidate's going to have to make.

But you know, one of the clearest pieces of evidence that Donald sees our campaign as the only campaign that can beat him, is he devotes almost every ounce of his energy to attacking us with everything he has. Usually with nasty, false personal attacks. Donald ignores every other candidate in the race because I think he views the rest of the field as not a meaningful threat. And for that matter, the third place finisher, Marco Rubio, does the same thing. He attacks us almost with every breath out of his body, personal attacks. And consistently avoids engaging with Donald Trump.

I think we need a clear, meaningful, substantive policy differentiation with Donald Trump, and then with Hillary Clinton. That's how we're going to win is on substance and record. Not on a battle in terms of who can out-insult whom and who can throw more attacks. That's not what we are -- have done in the past and that's not what I'm willing to do going forward.

TAPPER: I believe actually Marco Rubio is the second place finisher, but moving on, you talk about winning. I have to --

CRUZ: Actually, to be fair, Jake, it's Saturday night and they're still counting, so we don't know right now who's second and who's third. We'll know tomorrow morning when this airs. But right now they're still counting the votes and it's neck and neck.

TAPPER: Moving on, in terms of South Carolina, it would seem to be on paper to be friendly terrain for you. 72 percent of the voters who turned out were evangelicals who largely supported you in Iowa. It's a conservative state. You have an impressive ground game.

If you can't win in South Carolina, where can you win?

CRUZ: Well, number one, a week ago Donald Trump had a 20-point or even larger lead in this state. So, that lead, much of it disappeared in this past week. Number two, if you look at Marco Rubio, you know, the candidate that -- expectations should have been that he would have won the state is Marco Rubio.

Marco Rubio had the popular governor supporting him. He had the very popular Senator Tim Scott supporting him. And a very popular congressman, Trey Gowdy, supporting him. All of the political establishment in South Carolina came behind him and he had millions and millions of dollars of TV advertising backing him up, and yet his results have been -- you know, he has now finished third in Iowa, fifth in New Hampshire, and either third or second in South Carolina. We don't know right now. And I've got to say, that's really striking.

You know, Jake, if you contrast that to Iowa -- Iowa, I was in the same position as Marco. The leading conservatives in the state in Iowa were backing me. And we won. We won decisively when we had the leading players behind us.

When Marco had leading players behind him, he couldn't come anywhere close to Donald Trump. That ought to be a real warning sign as to what state exactly is Marco going to win. And if you want to beat Donald Trump, you have got to look at the only candidate, the only campaign that has ever beaten Donald Trump. And the numbers show -- you know, the polling shows head to head that I beat Donald by 16 points head-to-head nationally. And so as you see other candidates that are suspending their campaign, that are moving on, their supporters are trying to decide, where do I want to go? And I think there are a lot of people that have good-faith concerns, real concerns, that Donald Trump is not the best candidate for us to nominate. And I would say, if that's where you are, I would encourage you to come to, join us. Because if we stand together, that's how we're going to win and that's how we're going to win the general as well.

TAPPER: Donald Trump, with all due respect, even though you did beat him in Iowa, he seems unstoppable in some ways. He certainly defies all expectations.

This week alone he went after George W. Bush on his handling of 9/11. He said he likes the Obamacare mandate. He praised Planned Parenthood. What does it say? He got into a spat with the Pope. What does it say about the Republican electorate that it doesn't seem to matter what he does, he seems to win 35 percent of the Republican vote?


CRUZ: Well listen, an election is an ongoing conversation. I think what we're seeing is the field narrowing.

We're headed on to Nevada. And then 10 days from today is Super Tuesday. It is the so-called SEC primary. It is states where we've got tremendous support. We've got a tremendous team, including the crown jewel of Super Tuesday, which is my home state of Texas, where we have incredible support from the wonderful people of Texas. I think we are headed in the next 10 days to a remarkable 10 days. And then it's going to be particularly clear that it's a two-man race and I believe head-to-head, we not only beat Donald, but the polling shows we beat him by 16 points decisively and nobody else has been able to do that.

TAPPER: Senator Ted Cruz, thank you so much. Good luck in Nevada. We'll see you on the campaign trail.

CRUZ: Excellent. Look forward to it, Jake. God bless.


TAPPER: Let's turn back to that contentious Democratic race where Bernie Sanders conceded in a phone call to Hillary Clinton last night, but on stage he refused to call it defeat and he promised the fight would go all the way to the convention floor.


SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I believe that when Democrats assemble in Philadelphia in July at that convention, we are going to see the results of one of the great political upsets in the history of the United States. (END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: And Senator Bernie Sanders joins us now.

Senator, thanks so much for joining us. The big question coming into Nevada was whether you could do well with non-white voters. And you seemed to do well with Latinos. But Hillary Clinton, to be frank, cleaned your clock with African-American voters. Is that a concern going into South Carolina, where they are a majority of the Democratic electorate?

SANDERS: Well, it is a concern, Jake. But let's remember this, four or five weeks ago if I was on your show, you would have noted that I was 25 points behind in the polls in Nevada. We ended up losing by five or six points.

I believe we won the Latino vote, which is a huge, huge way forward for us. We did badly with the African-American vote. But I think the more the African-American community hears our message on a broken criminal justice system, which has more people in jail today than any other country on earth, largely African-American, Latino, when they hear our message about the need for real -- for an economy that represents all of us, not just the one percent, I think you're going to see us making progress there as well.

TAPPER: I don't know if you heard, but earlier in the show Hillary Clinton disputed the idea that she didn't win the Latino vote. She said that's not according to their analysis of the numbers.

SANDERS: Well, that is according to -- you know, who knows the answer is. But according to analyses that I have seen, that is the case. And nationally, it is clear that we are doing better and better with Latino voters. We started way, way down and now we're doing much better.

And look, here's the other truth. The truth is that for a campaign that started off as a fringe campaign at three percent in the polls, we have enormous momentum. You have noticed that one of the recent national polls actually had us ahead of Hillary Clinton in state after state. Her margin is narrowing.

So I think people are responding to our message. Of a rigged economy where ordinary Americans work longer hours for lower wages and almost all new income and wealth goes to the top one percent, a corrupt campaign finance system in which billionaires are buying elections. I think our message is resonating. And obviously, the proof of that is that Hillary Clinton is more or less echoing much of what we are saying. I think that indicates the success that we are having.

TAPPER: For the record, sir, as you know, we never considered you a fringe candidate. But let's move on.

Hillary Clinton has been referring to you as a single -- you know that, sir. Hillary Clinton has been referring to you as a single- issue candidate. What do you think when she says that? SANDERS: I haven't the vaguest idea what she's talking about. If she

thinks that income and wealth inequality, and the fact that the rich get richer while everybody else gets poorer is the only issue, it's not.

We're the only major country on earth that doesn't have national health care system, guaranteeing health care to all people, talk about that. We need to have free tuition and public colleges and universities so that our kids today can do well in a global economy. We need to have the wealthiest people in larger corporation pay their fair share of taxes. We're working very hard to transform our energy system so we effectively combat climate change. We are talking about dozens of issues so I'm not quite sure where Secretary Clinton is coming from.

But what I will repeat is I think we have got to address this real crisis of a corrupt campaign finance system in which billionaires and their super PACs are trying to buy elections. Now, one of the things that we're up against right now, Jake, is that Hillary Clinton's super PAC funded by Wall Street and other powerful special interests are going to pour a lot of money into this election against us.


We rely on individual contributions, 27 bucks a piece. So you're seeing the impact of billionaire and Wall Street super PACs on an election. That has got is to change. We have to overturn this disastrous Citizens United Supreme Court decision.

TAPPER: In your concession speech last night you said, now it's on to Super Tuesday. Eleven states will have Democratic contests on March 1st.

Which of those states do you expect to win?

SANDERS: I think we are going to do well in states like Minnesota, Colorado, Massachusetts, Oklahoma. Last poll I saw had us at 80 percent of the vote in Vermont, I think we're going to do well there. And I think we're going to do well in some other states as well. After that we're going to fight hard for Michigan, Kansas. There are states out there that I think we have a real shot to win in.

And by the way, Jake, as you know, and I hope many of the viewers know, these state-by-state primary and caucuses are proportional. For example, we lost in Nevada which meant that Hillary Clinton got 19 delegates. We got 15 delegates. It's not all or nothing. But I hope in the coming weeks we start winning some big states and start collecting a lot of delegates.

TAPPER: Your brother, Larry Sanders, gave an interview to "The Daily Beast" this week and he said that Bill Clinton was a -- quote -- dreadful president, in general, for poor people.

Do you agree?

SANDERS: Look, I read that interview. My brother lives in England. He is not part of our campaign I disagree with what he said. He speaks for himself, not for me or my campaign.

TAPPER: Fair enough. I disagree with my brother on a lot of things, too, although I love him dearly as I'm sure you do yours.

Let's turn --


SANDERS: Me, too. I love my brother. He's -- yes.

TAPPER: Let's turn to the Supreme Court. One possible contender to replace Justice Scalia that the Obama administration is discussing is Judge Sri Srinivasan whose past clients include Exxon Mobil as well as former Enron CEO Jeff Skilling.

Do you think this background of Judge -- of Mr. Srinivasan should be of concern to progressives?

SANDERS: Well to be honest with you, I have not studied his record. And it's something that I certainly want to look at. So I really -- to be honest with you, Jake, just can't comment on that right now.

TAPPER: Do you think that the Senate should be able to filibuster a Supreme Court nominee?

SANDERS: Look, Jake, this is something that is very troubling to me, and I think to the American people.

This is not, you know, an issue that needs a lot of debate. The constitution of the United States is extremely clear. President of the United States has the right to nominate candidates, justices, to the United States Senate. No one debates that.

The idea that Mitch McConnell and the Republicans are in the Senate are trying to deny the president his constitutional right to appoint Supreme Court justices is really an outrage. And it is an outrage because these guys -- Republicans, they love the constitution. They talk about the constitution day after day after day. Except, I guess, when you have a Democratic president who is doing his constitutional duty and nominating a Supreme Court justice.

So, I hope very much that the American people are loud and clear and say to the Republicans, let the president, the president must have the right to do what the constitutional mandate.

TAPPER: Quickly, sir, "The Chicago Tribune" uncovered a photograph this week of you being arrested during the civil rights era. What do you remember from that day?

SANDERS: I remember it pretty well. I remember being arrested. This had to do with opposition to segregated schools in Chicago. I mean, I remember very clearly being arrested, being thrown into a police wagon and driven to the police station. It was an interesting day.

TAPPER: All right, Senator Bernie Sanders, good luck in South Carolina. We will see you on the campaign trail, sir. SANDERS: Thank you very much, Jake.

TAPPER: Have you not heard enough from the candidates? Perhaps you would prefer their message in song? The perils and pleasures of singing politicians when we come back.


CRUZ: I just called to say I love. I just call to say I care.




TAPPER: Welcome back.

On a lighter note, candidates have been on the trail making their pitch for when it comes to having pitch, well, we've discovered most politicians sink at their own peril. It's the subject of this week's "State of the Cartoonion".


TAPPER (voice-over): "Vanity Fair" referred to CNNs recent Republican town hall last the day that music died thanks to Marco Rubio trying to reassure South Carolinians that the electronic dance music or EDM he likes is perfectly wholesome.

RUBIO: The lyrics are clean, the beats and music is fun. I've gotten into it.

TAPPER: And even more questionably Ted Cruz recreating a song he privately performs for his wife.

CRUZ (singing): I just called to say I love you. I just called to say I care.

TAPPER: The truth is with the exception of dearly departed Martin O'Malley whose thrashing skills were impressive, these forays (ph) into music are risky. For every President Obama pulling off Al Green...

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES (singing): I'm so in love with you.


TAPPER: ... there are at least five failed attempts like Mitt Romney channeling the Baja Men.


TAPPER: John McCain's (INAUDIBLE) Beach Boys... SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: That old Beach Boys song, bom, bom, bom -- anyway --

TAPPER: ... or Hillary Clinton doing the "Nae Nae" on "Ellen". And a class all his own, of course, is Bernie Sanders who put out a folk album.

SANDERS (singing): If I went walking that ribbon of highway.

TAPPER: This is a real thing. Perhaps to be charitable Mr. Sanders is trying to get the nation to unite in common cause in this case that this should never be heard again.

SANDERS (singing): This land is made for you and me.


TAPPER: Thanks for spending your Sunday with us. I'm Jake Tapper in Washington.

"FAREED ZAKARIA GPS" comes next.