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House Supports Senate Against Obama Supreme Court Pick; Winning Trump Stumping in Virginia Today; Cruz Gets Big Endorsement in Texas; High Stakes in 11 States on Super Tuesday. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired February 24, 2016 - 11:30   ET



[11:31:54] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: The Republican-led Senate has said it would not even consider any Supreme Court nomination from President Obama, no vote, no hearing, not even any meetings. And moments ago, they got support from the other side of the capital. House Speaker Paul Ryan made the case that Senate Republicans had a constitutional right to refuse to hold confirmation hearings on anyone the president nominates. The speaker says the stakes are just high.


PAUL RYAN, (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Everything is up for grabs, congress, the presidency, the Supreme Court, and we owe this country a choice and that's exactly what we're going to give them.

The president has every right to nominate someone. But let's not forget the fact that Congress is a separate but equal branch of government, and the Senate has every right not to act on a nominee. Both sides have rights here. And there is a precedence not acting on a nominee in the middle of a presidential election.


KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Let's bring in CNN's senior political reporter, Manu Raju.

Manu, as we were discussing yesterday, you've been doing great reporting on what where things stand on Republican leadership on Capitol Hill and what they're going to do about it, how they're responding to the president. Paul Ryan making it pretty clear where things look like they're going from here.

MANU RAJU, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Yeah, he doesn't look like it's going very far, Kate. He said there's not much precedent for acting in an election year but there's no precedent for giving a nominee a hearing, since the modern era, 1955, when confirmation hearings became common for Supreme Court nominees. Virtually everyone whose has been given a nominee -- hearing unless they have voluntarily withdrawn. In addition, there's no real appetite to going through that process of these courtesy call visits that the nominee will go through in meeting with all 100 Senators, something Republican leaders are also being hesitant about.

Yesterday, I had a chance to ask Mitch McConnell about it. He wasn't too excited about meeting with the prospects or prospective nominees.


RAJU: Sounds like the president will still nominate someone. Can you talk about how far you're willing to go in preventing this nominee from going forward? The first step is often a courtesy calls with each Senator. Will you not meet with a nominee?

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, (R-), SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: I don't know how many times we need to say this. The Judiciary Committee has unanimously agreed that we hold no hearings. I said repeatedly, and I'm now confidence my conference agrees, that this decision ought to be made by the next president, whoever we've elected. I don't know the purpose of such a visit. I would not be inclined to take one myself.


RAJU: So now the question is, where do things go from here? The president still plans to nominate someone, but does he nominate a more moderate person to the bench that could get Republican support or does he aim for someone squarely at firing up the Democratic base? Democrats say that's not mutually exclusive. But that's going to be a key consideration going forward. Because, John and Kate, it looks like, no matter who the president proposes, unless something dramatically changes, they're not going very far on Capitol Hill.

BERMAN: On the subject of Republican opposition, we just heard moments ago from Senator John McCain and Lindsey Graham, Republicans, on the president's proposal to close the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, which, by the way, McCain has for years said it should be closed, but both came against the president, Manu?

[11:35:19] RAJU: That's right. You're seeing Republican opposition building. McCain and Graham, particularly McCain, should be someone the president could win over but McCain has been saying all along, this plan -- the president missed his window. The president had an opportunity to build support in Congress for this plan, but right now he does not think the president has moved aggressively enough and he thinks the options have been pretty vague that he's laid out so far.

He just talked about it to reporters on Capitol Hill. Here's more of what he had to say.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R), ARIZONA: This is a series of facts, a wish list that is nonspecific, and it clearly does not meet the requirements that we laid out in law requiring for them to submit a specific plan.


RAJU: So, as we know, the president wants to move forward with this plan, assuming he lays out more specifics. He'll need support from Republicans on Capitol Hill. And if he can't get John McCain's support, he probably won't get other support from the party's leadership as well.

BOLDUAN: That's exactly right. That's one Republican that he could have looked for. And even Lindsey Graham saying they met with the president on Guantanamo Bay, and it looks like the discussions did not go the way the Senators wanted. A lot more to come on that.

Manu, great to see you. Thank you so much.

RAJU: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Coming up, Ted Cruz is pinning his presidential hopes on his home state of Texas. He got a big endorsement from his home state. Will it be enough to help him top Trump? A Cruz supporter is joining us live.

BERMAN: Speaking of Donald Trump, the big winner in Nevada, the big winner in South Carolina, the big winner in New Hampshire, he is set to hold his first big event of the day. He is in Virginia today, a key Super Tuesday state. We will take that event live.


[11:41:44] BERMAN: All right, AT THIS HOUR, we're waiting to hear from Donald Trump. He is getting ready to speak in that room in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Virginia, a key Super Tuesday state. They vote in six days. The state that voted yesterday, by the way, Nevada, gave Trump a huge win.

BOLDUAN: Did well there. So what do voters in Virginia want to hear from Donald Trump?

Let's get back to Phil Mattingly. He's in Virginia Beach, following the Trump campaign, and speaking to some of the folks who live there and vote there, and will be hearing Donald Trump there today -- Phil?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Thanks, Kate. Obviously, a big week for voters. Donald Trump speaking here in just about 20 minutes.

I'm here with Mike Konkel, who is a Trump supporter and a naval veteran and a retiree, lives just down the block.

Mike, what is it about Donald Trump that appeals to you?

MIKE KONKEL, TRUMP SUPPORTER & NAVY VETERAN: I like that he's an outsider. He's not a professional politician. He supports our military, our veterans. That's probably the dominate motive.

MATTINGLY: And one of the interesting things we've been paying attention is veterans and their support for Trump. What is it -- with a military background, when you look at his national security proposals -- that stands out to you and appeals to you?

KONKEL: I think rebuilding our military. It's really been degraded over the last seven or eight years and we need to be strong. Rebuild the military.

MATTINGLY: Thank you.

Guys, as you can hear, a veteran, Donald Trump very appealing, and that matters in this state. Obviously, a big veteran presence, especially in the Virginia Beach area. Donald Trump going to be giving brief remarks and taking questions from the audience and Pat Robertson, the founder and chancellor of Regents University here, in a couple minutes.

BERMAN: Thanks, Phil.

The first word out of his mouth was "outsider." And people of Nevada, you look at the entrance polls, that's what they said they wanted.

BOLDUAN: You see that in almost every state really. That's a big motivating factor.

Phil, thank you so much.

Thank you so much to Mike Konkel. Great to hear, straight from the voters, what they want to see from politicians.

Let's talk about another man running for the White House. A big endorsement today for Senator Ted Cruz. The governor of his home state, Greg Abbott, announcing he is backing Cruz. And that couldn't come at a more critical time for Cruz, this morning, facing the tough reality of another third-place finish following the Nevada caucuses.

BERMAN: Texas offers the biggest pot of delegates on Super Tuesday, 155. Donald Trump, a victory, at this point, not guaranteed.

Joining us now is Brent Bozell, the founder and president of a Media Research Center, a Ted Cruz supporter.

Brent, thanks for being with us. Really appreciate it.

An interesting time in this Ted Cruz campaign. A lot of people saying he should do this, he should do that, and some supporters, including these Iowa guys, they both said, overnight, essentially, he should stop talking about Marco Rubio at all and direct all of his attention towards Donald Trump. Your thoughts?

BRENT BOZELL, FOUNDER & PRESIDENT, MEDIA RESEARCH CENTER & TED CRUZ SUPPORTER: Well, first let me separate the Media Research Center from me personally. Because one can't endorse and one can, and I have obviously indorsed Ted Cruz.

I agree in this sentiment, in this sense, I think it's time for Ted Cruz to take the gloves off. He has been hit by one chief shot after another by both Donald Trump and Marco Rubio. I'm not suggesting any cheap shots. I'm suggesting he go full frontal, goes after Donald Trump for the position that he's been a fraud in this campaign. Espousing an ideology that up until this campaign, he never believed in across the board. I think he's in a relatively good position. With all the media hype, we've only seen 5 percent of the votes. And by the way Ted Cruz is going to win Texas. He has 155 electoral votes. If Cruz wins that, when he does, I think Marco Rubio is out of the campaign and that's because he will lose his own state. It will be a two-man race, which is exactly what Ted Cruz is wanting.

[11:45:58] BOLDUAN: And it's fascinating you talk about the two-man race because that's what Ted Cruz wants. But he also says that if you are -- about Donald Trump, if you are the 65 percent of people who don't want Donald Trump and don't think he can take on Hillary Clinton, there is one candidate you will support. Listen.


SEN. TED CRUZ, (R), TEXAS & PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If you're one of the 65 percent of Republicans across this country who doesn't think Donald is the best candidate to go head to head with Hillary, who believes we do better in elections when we actually nominate a conservative --


CRUZ: -- then the first four states have performed a vital function in presenting a clear choice.


BOLDUAN: Donald Trump laughs at that suggestion. He says, if Kasich, Rubio and Carson drop out, the voters are going to come to him, too, not just Ted Cruz. Why do you think Ted Cruz is right there?

BOZELL: Because the polling data backs him up. It backed up the fact that the only person who loses to Hillary Clinton at this point is Donald Trump. Every other candidate beats her and it's showing that a head-to-head match up between Cruz and Trump that Cruz wins overwhelmingly against Trump and that's the data. With Donald Trump, it's bluster, bluster, bluster. And there's going to be a point where serious attention is paid to his record, by the press. The press is so infatuated by the guy, they have to start looking at his actual record.

BERMAN: Brent, has there been a rough patch in the Cruz campaign? I mean, he lost evangelicals in South Carolina and in Nevada. These are both groups that, in theory, Ted Cruz, you would think he would win. And not to quote these Iowa guys, supporters of Ted Cruz like you, he said last week, Trump debated the pope and Islam, and we debated Rubio on videos, narratives and Photoshops. No one cares about that stuff. Does there need to be a change in the Cruz campaign?

BOZELL: I think so. And if you were in first place, we wouldn't be having this conversation, but he did come in third last night. But that said, there's a long, long ways to go, and these campaigns go up and down. And everybody knows he's got the funds to stay in this for the long haul and I wonder if Marco Rubio is going a have that. Certainly, Kasich doesn't have that. Certainly, Carson doesn't have that. But Cruz does have that, so it will be a two-man race.

BOLDUAN: Brent, you really think it's the media's fault that Donald Trump is running the board right now in these states? You don't think this has anything to do with what voters think about Donald Trump or Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio? You think it's the media's fault so far?

BOZELL: No, I didn't say that. I think the media --


BOZELL: I said the media is playing a roll in this. I think there is infatuation. You're going to be covering Donald Trump live. When was the last time you covered a Cruz speech live or a Rubio speech?


BOLDUAN: Whenever they're live in our hour.

BOZELL: I don't know about that.

But, look, there's no question, when we did an analysis with the MRC and Donald Trump is getting more coverage than 16 other candidates combined. Think about that.

BERMAN: We just heard from a voter, Mike Konkel, in Virginia, about to hear Donald Trump, and the first words out of his mouth was Donald Trump is an outsider. That is something resonating, Brent, no?

BOZELL: And if there's a serious conversation about him, you will find out that he's the ultimate insider that brags about the deals he makes with Washington, who has praised Hillary Clinton, has called himself a Democrat, talks about working with Washington, talks about making deals with them. That's the real Donald Trump. I think that conversation needs to be had.

[11:50:08] BERMAN: Brent Bozell --


BOLDUAN: That will be one of the conversations on the stage Thursday night for that big CNN debate.

BERMAN: Brent, thanks so much for coming on. I hope you come on again.

BOZELL: Thanks.

BERMAN: It was fun having you on the show.

BOLDUAN: Thank you, Brent. Thank you.

BOZELL: Thank you.

BERMAN: Coming up, in six days, one of the biggest days of the entire primary season, in fact, the singling-biggest day of the primary season, and some candidates may not get past it. I'm talking about Super Tuesday. It may not be so super for all of them. We'll discuss who needs to do what on that day.


BERMAN: Just six days away from the single-biggest day of the entire primary season, Super Tuesday, and for some candidate there is may be no Wednesday -- if you know what I mean.

On the Republican side, there are 11 states up for grabs, 595 delegates, about half the delegates needed to steal the nomination.

BOLDUAN: Joining us now, Ryan Williams, a former spokesman for Governor Mitt Romney, Romney's presidential campaign, as well as Governor John Sununu; and Errol Louis -- I can't say your name even though we talk all the time -- CNN political commentator and political anchor for Time/Warner Cable News here in New York.

Great to see you both. Thank you for both being here.

So we're short on time and we want to fire through this, Errol. Let's go through the map. Put up the map of Super Tuesday. What is the path for success for Ted Cruz on Super Tuesday?

[11:55:13] ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Ted Cruz has to win Texas. That's more than just sort of a personal embarrassment if he loses his own state. And he's got to do well in the Deep South, and in Georgia and Alabama. His claim to fame to be sort of a leader of the evangelical seriously conservative wing of the Republican Party will be called into question if he can't do well in those states. And by -- well, I mean, second place, a close second, somehow try to keep up with Donald Trump, who is, of course, still the favorite in almost all of these states if you look at the polls. So he has to do that at a bare minimum. A hard thing to do. And he has to clear a threshold and Texas. Not to get too deep in the weeds, also in Tennessee. You have to get 20 percent or you get delegates, so he's got to do that and invest in that, even if his time and money would be better spent elsewhere.

BERMAN: Ryan, first, thanks for coming on the show. Good to see you after a long time.

Talking about Marco Rubio, his path to Super Tuesday, how many of the 11 states will he win?

RYAN WILLIAMS, FORMER SPOKESMAN, MITT ROMNEY PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN & JOHN SUNUNU CAMPAIGN: Probably none. He's in second place in many of the polls in these states. Minnesota seems to be his best state but his job is to narrow this with a two-person race with him and Trump. He needs to come in second, cross the thresholds to get the proportional allocations in many states but he doesn't have a state where he'll win. He needs to come in second, build up delegates heading into some of the winner take all march dates and show momentum. Minnesota is probably the best opportunity for him to maybe squeak out a win, perhaps.

BOLDUAN: If you look at the map, Errol, it's not mathematically possible for Trump to lock in the nomination after Super Tuesday, but there's more to this than math. Do you think he will effectively have locked it in without locking it in? LOUIS: It depends on what kind of victories he wins. If he wins a

state, that's one thing, but if he wins the state the way he did in South Carolina, you know, when you win the whole state, you know, because Virginia, for example, is similar to South Carolina in that you get some proportionally, you get some just for winning the state. If nobody wins any of the congressional districts, if Rubio doesn't sort of try and focus and maybe win some of the district that cover the suburban areas around Washington, D.C., then Trump gets a big blowout victory. He has a much stronger claim. He has a lot more momentum. And in this very hyperlinked environment that we're in, media environment, everybody in all the other states starts to see it, and there is something called a bandwagon effect where people want to be with the winner.

BOLDUAN: People want to be with the winner.

BERMAN: And that bandwagon could matter on this next map we're looking at, Super-duper Tuesday, March 5.

Ryan Williams, Errol Louis, great to have you on. Thank you for being with us.

BOLDUAN: Thanks, guys.

And we're talking about the guy that just won the Nevada caucuses, Donald Trump. He'll be live in Virginia Beach, Virginia, his first live event since crushing competition in Nevada.