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Republicans Fannie Out in Nevada; Clinton Holds Commander Lead over Sanders; Clinton, Sanders Go After African-American Voters; Obama Speech, Q&A with Governors. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired February 22, 2016 - 11:00   ET


[11:00:00] RAFAEL ROMO, CNN SENIOR LATIN-AMERICAN AFFAIRS EDITOR: She says she has been able to be there only once for 15 minutes and that there was not really an opportunity to talk about many things because of the limits imposed on her - Carol?

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: I can only imagine.

Rafael Romo, reporting live for us, thank you.

Thank you for joining me today. I'm Carol Costello.

AT THIS HOUR with Berman and Bolduan starts now.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan.


Happening now, Nevada, you're on the clock. One day to go before the Republican caucuses there and one day to see if Donald Trump can pick up one more win in his quest for the Republican nomination. He's in Nevada this morning. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio continuing their "Silver is the new gold" tour, setting up a last-minute scramble for votes there. John Kasich, you ask? He is not in Nevada. He's holding a town hall right now. You're looking at John Kasich in Virginia.

BERMAN: As for the Democrats, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are headed east to South Carolina preparing for battle there. CNN's latest poll of polls shows Clinton with a commanding lead in that state. But Sanders is absolutely not backing down, trying to build momentum as they race towards Super Tuesday. We'll have all that for you.

Plus this. President Obama is getting ready to speak before the nation's governors at an event at the White House this morning. He's expected to take questions from those governors. And with Republican governors in the room, you can expect that Q&A could get a little interesting. We'll bring you the president's remarks live when they happen.

But let's get started, though, with the republican rumble in Nevada.

CNN's Chris Frates is in Las Vegas with more on this.

They're fanning out across Nevada, most of them, Chris.

CHRIS FRATES, CNN INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Kate. You have all the top winners from South Carolina, Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, all coming to the state today for their last-minute push. Nevada is an unpredictable state. It's difficult to poll here and the organization figuring out who is actually going to come out to vote is difficult. You have the three candidates making their push. Donald Trump wants to cement his lead atop the GOP field with another win. Cruz arguing he's the only true conservative in the race. And then Rubio saying he's the only one who can unite the factions and take on the Democrats in November.

It's tough to poll here in Nevada, but CNN did a poll last week that showed Donald Trump up 45 percent, and then you had Marco Rubio at 19 percent and Cruz at 17 percent in a virtual tie. You can see the fight between Cruz and Rubio in South Carolina to continue here in Nevada as they compete to take on Donald Trump. And Donald Trump not taking Rubio for granted as he starts to ascend in Nevada, questioning his eligibility to run for president. We saw that in Iowa. Ted Cruz was questioned about whether or not, because he was born in Canada, whether he could run for president. Donald Trump doing that again to Marco Rubio, because his parents were from Cuba. Rubio, born in Miami, says, of course, I'm a U.S. citizen, of course, I'm eligible. We're seeing some of that same tough, dirty campaigning in Nevada as Donald Trump turns some of his fire on Marco Rubio. This is only bound to get more heated and more nasty before polls open tomorrow -- Guys?

BOLDUAN: That's South Carolina sentiment traveling with them to Nevada, it seems.

Chris, thanks.

BERMAN: Joining us, CNN political commentator, conservative radio show host, Ben Ferguson; Jeffrey Lord, CNN political commentator, former Reagan White House political director and a Trump supporter; and CNN chief political correspondent, Dana Bash.

Ben, we're going to put you on the spot. You're no fan of Donald Trump. Let us stipulate that. The question for you isn't why should Trump be defeated by how. He's got a delegate lead right now, 67-11. It is early, but he has a delegate lead. He states that look advantageous to him. How is he stopped?

BEN FERGUSON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, one, you have to have a smaller field. It's obvious that Donald Trump supporters are solidified right around the 30 percent mark. That's good enough with a field as big as it is. I don't see how a guy like Ben Carson has a viable shot for the White House, a viable road. And I think a lot of people gained respect for Jeb Bush. He dropped out as soon as he realized this is not going to happen. For Donald Trump, you want everyone to stay in. That's how you're going to get your gains. It allows you to keep the focal point on you. Even saying absurd and ridiculous things like Marco Rubio may not be an American citizen. I mean, this is how low we've gotten. Yet, his supporters say we don't care what when he says or does, we just want him to win. If he has to say Rubio isn't an American citizen, so be it. You have to be putting pressure and Kasich and Carson to drop out.

BOLDUAN: And, Jeffrey, you clearly think that Trump should be unstoppable at this point as a supporter of Mr. Trump. What do you think of what Ben says, as the field winnows that's when Trump will really face his challenge?

[11:05:19] JEFFREY LORD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I respectfully disagree with my friend, Ben, here. I think, for example, if both Ben Carson and Cruz were to drop out that a good bit of their support would go to Trump. I don't buy into the notion that if everybody dropped out but, say, Rubio, all the support would go to Rubio. I don't see that. I think there is an anti-establishment fury running through the Republican Party at this moment, and given just Donald Trump and an establishment candidate, they will go, the majority of them, I think, or at least a substantial number to Donald Trump.

BERMAN: So, Dana, you covered the Republicans like glue, we like to say. There's been a movement in the last 24 hours in South Carolina of establishment endorsements flocking to Marco Rubio. You know what? The list is going to grow, right? So the question is, what does that do for Marco Rubio? What is his plan? How hard is he working? What's his path forward?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's not surprising since he's the only true establishment guy left. Of course, you have John Kasich, but he's not running as strongly as Marco Rubio.

So what's his path forward? I think that's an open question given the fact that you do -- as we heard, you do have more than one Rubio opponent in the field. It's not just Donald Trump and Marco Rubio. It's Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, who has a significant amount of support as well, not from the establishment lane, obviously, and Marco Rubio. I really do think it's not clear who is right, Ben or Jeffrey. It's not clear whether or not with the two or even three-person race all of the voters who are not Trump supporters now will go to the anti-Trump candidate or not.

But one thing I think we should underscore when we're talking about delegates is that South Carolina on Saturday night was pretty remarkable. Donald -- it is not winner-take-all. It hasn't been since 2000. But Donald Trump got all of the delegates. He got all the delegates. It was proportional and it didn't matter. I do think that we have to give edit where credit is due. In a state like South Carolina, which is pretty diverse when it comes to the Republican Party, look at that, he got all the delegates.

BERMAN: And the states, the states next week on Super Tuesday, SEC Tuesday, look a lot like South Carolina --

BASH: They do.

BERMAN: -- in their makeup and how they proportion delegates.

BASH: That's exactly right. BOLDUAN: And to that point, Ben, when you look at Ted Cruz, who really -- a lot of his candidacy in the early states was on winning over evangelical support. South Carolina was tailor-made for his evangelical support. Trump won them 34 to 26 in South Carolina. Can Cruz beat Trump going forward anywhere if he can't win those voters back over?

FERGUSON: Yes, if the field is smaller. This needs to be a three-man race. I think Rubio and Cruz both are viable options and candidates if it's a three-way race. As long as it stays a larger field, no. It will be hard for them to beat him in a state because Donald Trump supporters are solidified. They are solid. He was right when he said, I could go in the street and shoot a man and no one would leave me. We've seen that. He can question another man's eligibility for president, in Rubio, who is obviously an American citizen, and people say, yes, Donald, give us more of that. He's defied all the logic in politics. His people love him. As long as it stays the larger field, he'll continue to win, and others will have to try the strategy of, hey, we pick up delegates where we can in proportional states. Otherwise, it will be Donald Trump's to win or lose.

BERMAN: Ben, my question with the smaller field theory, Cruz and Rubio aren't going anywhere. This smaller field, even if you get it -- I don't think Kasich is going anywhere either, but leave that aside -- if it's a three man race, Donald Trump still picks up a huge number of delegates for another month.

FERGUSON: Yeah, but I think if you start to get this smaller, people start to really look at the issue of, OK, am I going to want Donald Trump as president, who has supported planned parenthood and given money to the Clintons and who said that other people aren't even American citizens. That's when people really start to look and say, do I want him to be president, and I think that's when you see one of these two candidates start to take a lead.

[11:09:53] BASH: Can I just add to that?

I think what Ben is saying is a very good point. If you listen to the "anybody but Trump" Republican point of view, and there are a lot of them out there, they will say over and over again, his ceiling is 30 to 35 percent. That's the reason why he's winning because the rest of the field is so split up. But there's no way to prove that until and unless the field isn't split up.

And, John Berman, to your point, Marco Rubio isn't going anywhere. Ted Cruz isn't going anywhere. John Kasich has the Ohio -- he's the governor of Ohio, has the Ohio primary on March 15th, which is winner- take-all. It will be very difficult to see him going anywhere before that.

BOLDUAN: When you lay it out that way, Dana, it looks like the field, other than Donald Trump, they need something to happen. Could it come in the debate on Thursday?

(CROSSTALK) BOLDUAN: Very possibly. Could it come in a big endorsement? The biggest one lingering out there is Mitt Romney. Why hasn't he come out yet, do you think? What are you hearing about? It seems the worst kept secret he will endorse, but why not now? They need help now.

BASH: He's a very methodical, meticulous person. We know that from watching him over two election cycles. Until now, he hasn't done it because he's had lots of friends in the race. Chris Christie was in the race, who is a real friend. Jeb Bush, other people who he knows well, and he didn't want to do that to one of his friends. Now, you know, he has maybe a relationship with John Kasich, but it's not the same.

I think you're right. It's entirely plausible, probable, if he endorses, he would do to Rubio, but I'm not so sure that's going to make such a big statement. It might --


FERGUSON: I don't think it will help that much.

BASH: Yeah.

BERMAN: Jeffrey, go ahead?

LORD: I would add one thing to what Dana is saying. If Mitt Romney does endorse, I think endorse Marco Rubio, I don't think that helps Rubio. I think all that does is further mark him --

FERGUSON: I agree.

LORD: -- as the establishment guy and that will hurt him.


BERMAN: Go ahead, Ben.

FERGUSON: If I was the Rubio campaign right now, I would want to delay a Mitt Romney endorsement as long as I possibly could, especially, I wouldn't want it during the SEC primary and southern states primaries. I think it actually hurts you.


BASH: But you also have Massachusetts and other northern states also.

FERGUSON: And that's where it would help you, but I think it would be detrimental in the south because now you are establishment. A lot of conservatives in the south do not like Mitt Romney. They thought he was a terrible candidate. They voted for Rick Santorum lat time. That was obvious that they were not going to jump on that bandwagon, so I don't think I would want that endorsement right now at least.

BOLDUAN: Only further allowing Donald Trump to say I'm the outsider, the guy everyone is up against. BERMAN: Yes. Yes.

BOLDUAN: Adding to that, because that's the one thing you see in every exit poll so far is that's what they want, change, throw the bums out, and the outsider candidate.

Guys, great to see you. Thanks so much.

LORD: -- the moving bandwagon.

BOLDUAN: Thanks, guys.


BERMAN: One programming note. The five remaining Republican candidates meet head to head. This is a huge deal. This could be one of the last big chances that Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz get to knock Donald Trump down. This is a GOP debate. CNN is hosting it Thursday night in Houston, Texas. Wolf Blitzer is the moderator, 8:30 p.m. on Thursday only on CNN.

Any moment now, President Obama, inside the White House, he will address the National Association of Governors. We are told the president is going to take questions from the governors. If you're a governor, what would you ask President Obama? That's coming up.

BOLDUAN: Plus this. Neighbors said that he would a nice guy. So what on earth would have motivated an Uber driver with no criminal record to shoot and kill six people, seriously injuring a 14-year-old girl? New information is coming in about this man accused in the Michigan shooting rampage. We'll bring that to you ahead.

BERMAN: And Donald Trump getting advice from a key figure. The former mayor of New York City, Rudy Giuliani, now on the phone with Donald Trump whenever Trump calls. What's going on here? Could there be an endorsement in the works?


[11:18:06] BERMAN: Live pictures now from inside the White House. President Obama about to address the National Governors Association. The audience will be our nation's governors. He'll talk to them and take questions from the governors. This should be interesting this morning. I see the governor of Virginia, a big politico himself.


BERMAN: New momentum this morning for Hillary Clinton in the Democratic race. She holds a commanding lead over Bernie Sanders in South Carolina, which holds its primary on Saturday.

BOLDUAN: This, as she's riding high following her win in Nevada over the weekend. As this race has shown, who is up, who is down can change and change fast.

CNN senior Washington correspondent, Jeff Zeleny, joining us from Charleston with much more on this.

What's the state on the race today, Jeff?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Good morning. No one knows better than Hillary Clinton how fast a race can change. She thought that she would be eyeing the general election by this point. She's still locked in a Democratic primary fight. They're taking it seriously in South Carolina. There's no question she comes into South Carolina with so many advantages. Particularly among African-American voters, who we talk about a lot, made up some 55 percent of the Democratic vote here in the 2008 primary, which she lost. Even inside of that, the most important constituency here in South Carolina over the next week are African-American women voters. That's why the Clinton campaign is aggressively rolling out a new advertisement. Is campaigning with mothers who have children to died in gun violence.

But Bernie Sanders this morning, just a short time ago, in Sumter, South Carolina, dropped by a prayer breakfast meeting, and he told voters, do not let them decide for you, decide for yourself. Let's take a listen.


[11:19:55] SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We've got a lot of work in front of us. Do not allow people to say to you, think small. We can't do this. It's too big an idea. No. If we take that mentality, nothing would have ever been accomplished. If we had that mentally of thinking small, do you think we would have an African-American as president of the United States today? If you were to say, this country will never overcome this racism, can't be done. Do you think women today would have all kinds of opportunities that they didn't have 100 years ago? 100 years ago, women couldn't vote in America.


ZELENY: Bernie Sanders talking about the women's vote in America, so that's important here, really, the exact voters who both the candidates are going after here. And the Sanders campaign is looking ahead toward Super Tuesday. He'll be campaigning in Massachusetts this evening. That's one of the Super Tuesday states they believe they can win. But going into this next week, that town hall tomorrow night in Columbia, South Carolina, with Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton, so important here, their final chance to make the chase to voters and answer questions have voters who may still be undecided in this race -- John and Kate?

BERMAN: Interesting. We know Bernie Sanders is looking ahead past South Carolina, because eh told us so in his speech in Nevada.

ZELENY: Right.

BERMAN: He said he's looking forward to campaigning in the Super Tuesday states.

Jeffrey Zeleny, thanks so much. BOLDUAN: Let's talk more about this. Joining us now is Anita Dunn, former White House communications director and former Obama campaign advisor; as well as Brad Woodhouse, a former communications director for the Democratic National Committee, now the president of Correct the Record, a pro-Hillary Clinton super PAC.

It's great to see you guys.


BOLDUAN: Good morning.

Jumping right off of what Jeff was talking about, the key vote, that very clearly Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are going for right now in South Carolina, African-American voters, women African-American voters. When you take a look at the entrance polls from Nevada, it shows who has a significant advantage there. Clinton's 76 percent support in Nevada, Sanders, 22 percent. That's a huge delta between the two. Do you think --

BERMAN: For a white candidate, too.




BERMAN: Fair point.

BOLDUAN: Does Bernie Sanders have time to turn this before voters go to the polls in South Carolina?

DUNN: No. I think there's a good reason that Bernie Sanders in his Nevada speech started talking about Super Tuesday and the March 1st primaries. He doesn't want South Carolina to be seen as a make-or- break moment for his campaign. It was never going to be a state where he did very well. The demographics are wrong. And it's a state where Hillary Clinton has spent time, where she has a lot of deep support, and where her message, which is increasingly around the intersection of race, gender, and economic injustice, is working. So I would say the Sanders campaign is going to compete there because they understand he has to compete, but that they're looking very much past it toward the March 1st primaries.

BERMAN: You talk about race, gender and justice, there's a new ad that hits those points incredibly hard. Clinton is doing events and putting ads up with mothers of people who have been killed and involved in police altercations. Let's play a little bit of that ad.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She says their names. CLINTON: Trayvon Martin shot to death. Dontrey Hamilton (ph),



CLINTON: Sandra Bland did nothing wrong.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And makes their mothers fight for justice her own.

She speaks for a city poisoned by indifference.

CLINTON: We need action now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And stands with the president against those who would undo his achievements. Just like --


BERMAN: So, Anita, you think this ad is the message and you think it resonates?

DUNN: I think that this ad is clearly the message. If you look at when she started shifting slightly in her message, I think very effectively, right at the end of New Hampshire and then into Nevada, where it became a message that, yes, economic injustice is a piece of this, but there are other injustices out there, and we want to break down all the barriers. That worked well for her in Nevada in terms of helping her stave off what would have been a really damaging Sanders victory had he won the caucuses. It worked well for her because it's more authentic to who she is and her record than maybe some of the messages she's been trying in the past. Authenticity works. Ask Bernie Sanders.

BOLDUAN: Yes. Exactly.

Brad, what does Nevada tell you for South Carolina and broaden it out. Take it to Super Tuesday, which is where we'll see more competition between Sanders and Clinton, so folks think. What does Nevada tell you?

WOODHOUSE: Well, first of all, I think Nevada tells you that Bernie Sanders is not the candidate of momentum. I think people thought after New Hampshire that he was the candidate of momentum, that he would tie or win in Nevada. I think what we found is that he was a regional candidate in New Hampshire. A poll came out showing he has an 86-10 lead over Clinton in Vermont. I think that explains why he did so well in New Hampshire and why he's leading South Carolina today and going to Massachusetts today. He's trying to find any friendly terrain he can. But it's not just the demographics of South Carolina that don't do well or don't -- aren't strong for Bernie Sanders. It's a whole bunch of states in March. It's Tennessee. It's Arkansas. It's Alabama. In fact, I think it's most of the Democratic primary contests that you have coming up aren't suited well to his campaign.

[11:25:41] BERMAN: Well, I mean, there is Massachusetts. There is Vermont. There are states -- (CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: Spending a lot of money in Colorado and Minnesota.

BERMAN: Those are places Bernie Sanders thinks he can do well. And there's another thing --

WOODHOUSE: But John --


BERMAN: Hang on. Hang on.

There's another thing Bernie Sanders thinks will help, and it's not a state but, shall we say, a state of honesty. Hillary Clinton still has a problem convincing voter she's honest. Look at the exit polls. She gets killed on the issue. People say honesty is an issue for them. They go to Sanders, and she talks about this. She talked to Jake Tapper about the issue of honesty and authenticity. Listen.


HILLARY CLINTON, (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE & FORMER SECRETARY OF SATE: I think there's an underlying question that maybe is really in the back of people's minds, and that is, is she in it for us or is she in it for herself. I think that's a question that people are trying to sort through.


BERMAN: So is there a way to fix that or do you just work around that, Brad?

WOODHOUSE: Well, look, whether or not there's a way to fix it, you're just talking about one measure of a candidate. Look, there were -- polls came out last week that showed she was leading in 10 of the 12 states that hold contests between March 1st and March 8th. In all of those states, with exception of Vermont, she, by far away, was the choice of people who want a strong commander-in-chief. So he wins on trust. She wins on commander-in-chief. She wins on another measure, he wins on another measure. The bottom line is she's winning more states and more delegates, notwithstanding that one result. I think we can overstate how important that is. He won that 82-12. She won the Nevada caucus by 6 percentage points. What in the end did it really matter? In the end, they'll vote for people who can express what they want in terms of their future, who can break barriers. They want someone -- and Hillary Clinton will break barriers. Bernie Sanders, I don't know, breaking dishes, I guess.

BOLDUAN: Anita, do you think folks are overstating the part of honest and trustworthy characteristic? That's always the stand out. If people trust you and they can look you in the eye and if you're someone who will be in their corner, they can trust what's coming out of your mouth, if it's not a problem in the primaries, is it a problem in the general? DUNN: Primaries are totally different from the general election. One

of the things that happens in the course of primaries is that more and more voters start tuning in as the contest moves to bigger -- you know, it's really a national contest, and increasingly more voters tune in. People start making judgments about her based on how she's winning the primaries and conducting herself. The broader general election audience is not paying a lot of attention to the primaries right now. I think everyone who kind of tries to project out and say this is a problem, that is a problem, there's a lot of campaign to go. Back in October, everyone was saying the primary was over.


BOLDUAN: -- though? This is someone who has been in the public eye for so long. To change that brand, to change that measure?

DUNN: I think the fact that she talked about it so openly with Jake on Sunday was an example of how she's decided to confront it directly, which is better way than trying to deny it exists or laughing it off or saying it really doesn't matter. If she confronts it honestly, it's the first step towards people saying, OK, she gets there's a problem, maybe I want to listen to her. I think she recognizes it and her decision to talk about it is the kind of thing you have to do in order to earn the credibility with voters.

BERMAN: I think we have President Obama -- hang on a minute.

Anita, Brad, hang on one second.

President Obama is speaking at the National Governors Association. Let's listen.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: -- host for you. Like me, some of you might be in the final year of your last term, working as hard as you can to get as much done as possible for the folks that you represent, fixing roads, educating our children, helping people retrain, appointing judges, the usual stuff.


Those of you who have been in office for a while have also witnessed all the progress that we have made together. And it has been a partnership.