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Polls Open Today In 12 States; Speaker Ryan Calls Out Trump Over KKK; Republican Delegates Up For Grabs; Trump Loses To Clinton In Head-To-Head Poll; Sanders' Super Tuesday Strategy; Has Clinton Moved On To Trump; Clinton Counting on South; Sanders on Super Tuesday. Aired 1-1:30p ET
Aired March 1, 2016 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: -- from around the world, thanks very much for joining us.
We start with Super Tuesday underway. Voters in 12 states, here in the United States, get their say in the 2016 presidential race. On the Republican side, we have 595 delegates up for grabs, while the Democrats are fighting for 865 delegates.
None of the candidates sitting back. They're all out there on the campaign trail. They're trying to squeeze out every vote possible. Hillary Clinton is meeting with voters at a coffee shop in Minneapolis right now. Let's listen in, briefly, to hear what she is saying.
HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE (live): -- organizations and individuals who hold deplorable views about what it means to be an American to be given any credence at all. So, I'm going to continue to speak out against begins bigotry, wherever I see it or hear about it. And I wish everybody -- (INAUDIBLE) running for president. I wish every American would do the same.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right, folks.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let her keep moving (INAUDIBLE.)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, ma'am.
CLINTON: Thanks, Dan (ph). Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That Donald Trump will be the eventual nominee?
CLINTON: I don't know. I think that's going to be up to Republicans. I don't have any real insight into their thought process, obviously he has done very well. He could be on the path. Maybe somebody else can intervene and rise above that. But I'm going to wait and see who they nominate.
You know what? I think every one of them has views and have made comments that are deeply troubling to what I want to (INAUDIBLE.) So, whoever they nominate, I'll be prepared to run against if I'm fortunate to be the nominee.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. I'm just going to go right here. BLITZER: Hillary Clinton answering a few reporters' questions as she
is campaigning in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Later this hour, we'll take you also back to Minnesota, a Marco Rubio event scheduled this hour as well.
Helping us -- helping guide us through what's going on is CNN's Jim Acosta. He's following the Trump campaign in Ohio. Brian Todd, he's taking the pulse of voters in Virginia. And on the expectations are Mark Preston and Ryan Lizza. They're weighing in here in Washington.
Let's bring the Super Tuesday map back for a moment right now. One state not highlighted there is Florida. They don't vote until March 15th, that's two weeks from today.
But tonight, while the Super Tuesday states tally up the votes, Hillary Clinton, Marco Rubio and Donald Trump, they will all be holding events in the sunshine state. Donald Trump is expecting some big things today. He could conceivably run the table in the 11 Republican contests, although it would be a big upset for him to take Texas from Texas Senator Ted Cruz.
Brian Todd is watching the vote unfolding right now in Virginia. That's one of the key states up for grabs today. But first, let's go to Jim Acosta in Columbus, Ohio with the Trump campaign. Jim, what did we just hear at his rally there? He is keeping up, for example, the pressure on Marco Rubio or has he moved on?
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: He certainly is going back at Marco Rubio. He did that not only with his own comments here at this rally here in Columbus, Ohio. His chief surrogate, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, was doing it as well.
One thing we should point out, Donald Trump is feeling so confident about his chances on Super Tuesday, Wolf, he's not campaigning in a Super Tuesday state. He's here in Ohio which votes later on this month.
But as for this back and forth with Marco Rubio, you'll recall, over the last 24 to 48 hours, Marco Rubio has really been going after Donald Trump, sort of giving Donald Trump a taste of his own medicine. At one point, saying over the weekend, that Donald Trump wants to make America orange again, even talking about the size of Donald Trump's hands.
Well, Donald Trump had not really responded to that remark up until this point. But he did here at this rally here in Columbus, saying he does, in fact, have big hands. You could believe the rhetoric of this campaign has gotten to this point. Here is how Donald Trump put it just a few moments ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Now, the other day, I hear this Rubio, you know, I call him -- all right. I call him -- I call him little Marco. Little Marco. Hello, -- he said I had small hands. Actually, I'm six three not six two. But he said I had small hands. They're not small, are they? I never heard -- I never heard that one before. I've always had people say, Donald, you have the most beautiful hands.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA: So, there you go, Wolf, Donald Trump says he's been told time again he has the most beautiful hands.
Now, besides that, in the debate over the size of Donald Trump's hands, there has been this very tense atmosphere at the Donald Trump rallies, and we've seen over the last 24 hours, it was yesterday in Virginia, where you saw some black lives protesters ejected from the rally. They were ejected and then there was a tense confrontation, a violent confrontation between a secret service agent and a photographer who was covering the rally.
[13:05:04] Donald Trump seemed to acknowledge some of that. He didn't come out and say it, but he seemed to acknowledge the controversy that was created about that. He said that he wants to make America great for everybody again, trying to sound inclusive about the people coming to his rallies.
And we should point out, there were a few -- a few protesters that broke out during this rally here in Columbus, Wolf. But there were no violent incidents. Nothing happened to those protesters. They were escorted peacefully and quietly out of this event here in Columbus.
But no question about it, Donald Trump was acknowledging it, even just ever so slightly, during this event here in Columbus. And we should point out, Donald Trump said at one point just a few moments ago, that he likes -- he likes the rallies better when there are protesters than when there aren't. He says he likes the energy. It's higher energy, as he puts it, when there are protesters at his rally -- Wolf.
BLITZER: He also always says that he likes the protesters because the cameras then focus in on the huge crowds that have gathered in those various locations to hear what he has to say.
All right, Jim, thank you.
Brian Todd is in Virginia for us. The turnout, Brian, is going to be a big story there in Virginia which votes today as well. Nationally, in the electorate, it's gone Democratic. But it clearly is a swing state. What does it look like today, the traffic out there?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, traffic's been pretty steady. We're seven hours into the voting here. Six more hours until the polls close. It's been very steady. It was heavy early on when the polls opened at 6:00 a.m. Eastern time. It kind of ebbs and flows throughout the day. That's what we're used to in these situations.
People are coming in here now and checking in, kind of the post lunchtime crowd. Checking in here at the table. Showing a voter photo I.D. Then you go over here to these polling stations and vote on paper ballot only. You've got the privacy there with the partitions. Once you're done with the paper ballot, you bring it over here to the scanner. You put it in the scanner here, then a printout comes out later where they tabulate all the votes, send those votes over to the central counting station here in Loudoun (ph) County, Virginia.
You mentioned turnout, Wolf, is very key. It certainly is in northern Virginia and certainly so in this precinct. We kind of took a gauge of the new voter turnout here. We took a sampling of people as they exited. We sampled about 50 people and fully a third of them were first-time primary voters.
And among those we sampled, most of them went for Marco Rubio and Bernie Sanders, with respective parties. They're getting some good energy from the vote -- from the new voters in these primaries. We're going to see if it's going to be enough for them to pick up some delegates.
It's not win or take all in Virginia. You can -- you can win some delegates proportionately so. That's where Bernie Sanders on the Democratic side, Marco Rubio on the Republican side are going to hope to pick up some delegates there.
And not favored to win this state, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump far out ahead. But this is a place where Marco Rubio, Bernie Sanders can convince their donors, convince their followers that, hey, maybe I'm still a viable candidate. I might get some delegates here in Virginia. Also, the way Virginia votes, Wolf, as you know, is often the way the nation votes with its diversity.
And, you know, the blue collar in the central part of the state, upper kind of educated white collar votes in the northern part of the state, that's kind of how the country goes overall. So, it's a good gauge of how the nation is going to vote in November -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, good point, Brian. Thank you.
The speaker of the House of Representatives, Paul Ryan, weighed in on the presidential race today. He's not choosing sides among the Republican candidates, but he did take a shot at Donald Trump over his seemingly slow disavowal of the Ku Klux Klan. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. PAUL RYAN (R), U.S. SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: If a person wants to be the nominee of the Republican Party, there can be no evasion and no games. They must reject any group or cause that is built on bigotry. This party does not prey on people's prejudices.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Joining us now, Mark Preston. He's CNN Politics Executive Editor. Also joining us, our CNN Political Commentator Ryan Lizza. How surprised are you, Ryan, about the speaker now directly getting involved in this latest little uproar involving Trump?
RYAN LIZZA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: You know, not that surprised. I would be surprised if Paul Ryan didn't speak out about this. I mean, he's watching the likely nominee of his party fail to defend the Ku Klux Klan. I mean, I think he is as shocked as -- excuse me, not failed to defend, fail to respond to Jake Tapper's question about whether he wanted their support or not. And I think he was as shocked as everyone else that Trump sort of whiffed that, you know, obvious opportunity to condemn one of the worst domestic terrorist organizations in American history.
And so, look, Paul Ryan, for a long time, has been on the side of the Republican Party that wants to reach out to the core demographic of non-whites in the party that wants to do better with Hispanic voters. Frankly, whose political advice for Republican candidates has been the opposite of where Trump has taken this campaign.
It does show if Donald Trump is the -- is the nominee of the party and the president, you're going to see quite a -- and Paul Ryan remains the speaker of the House, you're going to see a tale of two agendas and two different personalities in the -- in the White House and in the -- and in the U.S. House because they have very different political philosophies, very different agendas.
[13:10:11] BLITZER: Stand by, Ryan.
Mark, Governor John Kasich of Ohio, he's a Republican presidential candidate. He's already predicted what he describes as a sweep for Trump of all the Super Tuesday states, although Ted Cruz seems to have a good shot at winning his home state of Texas. If Trump does run the whole table, with the exception of Texas, how could that impact this Republican contest?
MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICAL EXECUTIVE EDITOR: Well, Wolf, there's no question the narrative, tomorrow morning, will be that Donald Trump is well on his way to becoming the Republican nominee. Except we just can't get ahead of ourselves. We have to slow it down a little bit and acknowledge that there are still more contests in front of us. The way that the delegates are going to be doled out tonight is not a win or take all.
So, even if Donald Trump does sweep the board down in the south, he has to win by large margins in order to walk away with a large amount of delegates down there. Having said that, there is no question, at this point, that Donald Trump is the front-runner, that the wind is at his back.
But if you were in the Republican establishment lane right now, you are trying to think of any way you can to try to slow Donald Trump's momentum. If not to try to get Marco Rubio as the nominee, to at least try to deny Donald Trump enough delegates to become the nominee so that when they go to the convention, they can try to stop it and put somebody else in his place.
BLITZER: Ryan -- and, Ryan, let's talk a little bit about potential matchups out there. A brand new CNN-ORC poll just released looks at the hypothetical general election matchups. Bernie Sanders -- for Bernie Sanders, look at this, a clean sweep. He would top all three of the leading Republicans, Trump, Rubio and Cruz. It's not necessarily all that rosy of a picture for Hillary Clinton. The poll shows that she'd only beat Donald Trump in a head-to-head hypothetical matchup next November. Donald Trump for his part -- responded to our poll on ABC's "Good Morning America."
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
TRUMP: And I haven't even focused on Hillary Clinton yet. I can tell you, the one person that Hillary Clinton doesn't want to run against is me. And I have that on good knowledge. I will defeat Hillary. And we're going to take a lot of Democrats and a lot of independents away. And we're going to possibly win places like Michigan, New York, states that are not even in consideration. And, by the way, these aren't things that have been taken advantage of in the poll. I will beat Hillary Clinton much more easily than anybody else.
(END AUDIO BLIP)
BLITZER: All right, Ryan, does he have a point?
LIZZA: Well, two points. One on the Sanders' poll. It's been amazing how consistent that has been all year that Sanders has done better than Hillary Clinton against hypothetical Republicans. It hasn't really helped them very much with an electability argument in the Democratic primary.
But I -- you know, I have to say, Trump has a point here, in terms of how these polls -- the track record of these polls being a good predictor of what happens in the general election. You know, there has not been a campaign yet -- and these polls are coming out with, you know, absent -- actual campaign between Hillary and Trump where the voters have a whole lot of more information about the two of them and you actually see the lines of attack between the two of them. I don't put a lot of stock into the matchups this early.
And I think Trump is right. If he's the Republican nominee, the traditional coalitions of these two parties are going to be scrambled in some way that we just don't know right now. And I don't know if he's right, that, you know, that's going to be to his benefit. I think Hillary has quite a good case that's going to be to her benefit. But they're definitely going to be scrambled.
BLITZER: I think you're absolutely right. Ryan Lizza, Mark Preston. Guys, thank you.
This note to our viewers, all day we'll be covering the voting in all 12 these Super Tuesday states. Anderson Cooper, Jake Tapper, Dana Bash and I will bring you all the results as they come in later today. Our special coverage will start at 5:00 p.m. Eastern in the "SITUATION ROOM" and continue throughout the night.
Coming up, Bernie Sanders is targeting a handful of Super Tuesday states. Will that be enough to keep his momentum going? And is Hillary Clinton already turning her strategy towards Donald Trump? Stay with us.
[13:17:55] BLITZER: Live pictures coming in right now from inside a polling station in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Voters in 12 states holding primaries or caucuses on this important Super Tuesday. Hillary Clinton, she's out on the campaign trail today. Just moments ago she was asked about Donald Trump and the Republicans. Listen to what she said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, I'm just speaking out against bigotry and bullying whenever I hear it. And I hear a lot of it from the Republican candidates. They seem to have forgotten completely about issues and they're now running their campaigns based on insults. It's just turned into a kind of a one-upmanship on insulting. And I don't think that's appropriate in a presidential campaign and I'm going to speak out about it. But I'm going to let them choose their nominee. And if I'm fortunate enough to be the Democratic nominee, then I'll turn my attention.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Hillary Clinton is pinning her Super Tuesday hopes on her strength among minority voters in several of the southern states. She's coming out of a blowout win over Senator Bernie Sanders in South Carolina and she'll try certainly to keep that momentum going today. She's hoping for wins, for example, across the south and Texas, Arkansas, Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee and Virginia.
Joel Benenson is chief strategist for the Clinton campaign. He's joining us now from New York.
Joel, thanks very much for joining us.
There are some of your -- your friends out there, your supporters of Hillary Clinton, who think with the exception of Vermont, Bernie Sanders' home state, Hillary Clinton will sweep the -- all the other states. Do you believe that?
JOEL BENENSON, CHIEF STRATEGIST, HILLARY FOR AMERICA: Look, we think we're -- we're going to have a good day. I think that Senator Sanders is competing hard in Florida, five states or so. There are 12 being contested today. We're competing in all 12. Our goal is to, as we've said all along, Wolf, is, this is a big day. More than 20 percent of the delegates are going to be assigned today. And from here on out, the delegate count is what's going to matter.
We think we're going to come at it today with a good lead on committed delegates, and that's what's going to matter going through the rest of the month of March. And, you know, to win the delegates, you've got to compete in the states. You've got to either stay close or win big. We hope we win big in some states, like we did in South Carolina, because that gives us an additional delegate advantage. [13:20:08] BLITZER: Regardless of the outcome today, Senator Sanders says he is not going anywhere anytime soon. Listen to what he told reporters after he voted this morning in his home state of Vermont.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This is a campaign that's going to the Philadelphia convention in July. And I want to thank the millions of supporters throughout this country who are fighting to make real changes in this country. So our hope is that we can win a number of states, and in those states where we don't do well, obviously we want as large a vote as possible. And the goal of today is to end up with as many delegate as we possibly can.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: As you know, his campaign announced this morning it raised more than $42 million in campaign contributions in February alone. That's a ton of money. He has the money to keep this going for a long time, doesn't he?
BENENSON: Well, you know, he has been raising money all the way through. They certainly have been successful at that. There's no question. Just as we have. You have to manage your resources well. You've got to be able to compete in the states where there are big delegate shares.
You know, today, for example, the five states he has been competing in and spending his resources in total about 225, 230 delegates. Well, you know, that's as many delegates as there are in Texas alone. This is a big state with a big day with over 800 delegates. So you've got to manage your funds well for the long-term here. We -- we've been doing that. We've been saying all along, Wolf, as you've heard me say on your show here, March is the month that's going to matter most here, because this is -- by the time we get out of this month, close to 60 percent of our delegates are going to be committed and, you know, we think our goal here is to pile up a delegate lead today and go into the rest of the states this month.
BLITZER: As you know, there's widespread speculation based on her public comments that Hillary Clinton is already looking ahead to a possible general election showdown against Donald Trump. She keeps referring to stuff that he has talked about, not mentioning Bernie Sanders all that much. Is this a new strategy?
BENENSON: I think, Wolf, if -- you've been on this campaign and following it from the beginning. From the day Donald Trump got in and started insulting Mexicans and Muslims, Hillary Clinton was the first and most forceful voice calling him out, calling out all the other Republicans for staying silent. She has been talking about these outrageous comments from the beginning.
She said today, I think on the clip you showed just a few moments ago as our campaign has, we are focused on the primaries right now. We've got to take one step at a time. That's how we've been doing it, from Iowa, to New Hampshire, to Nevada, to South Carolina, and here today on Super Tuesday. You can't look too far down the road in these contests. You've got to just keep running your game plan, piling up delegates to win the nomination. That's what we're going to keep doing right now. And when Mr. Trump or any of the other Republicans say outrageous things, I'm sure Hillary Clinton will continue to call them out, but that's nothing new. She's been doing that all along.
BLITZER: All right, good point. Thanks very much, Joel Benenson, for joining us.
Bernie Sanders, meanwhile, says his campaign is going all the way to the Democratic convention in July. You heard him say it this morning. But can he win enough delegates to stay really viable? And where is he likely to win among the Super Tuesday states today?
Robert Dempsey is the Minnesota state director for the Bernie Sanders campaign. He's joining us from Minneapolis right now.
Robert, thanks very much for joining us.
So beyond Vermont, what states do you expert Bernie Sanders to win tonight?
ROBERT DEMPSEY, MINNESOTA STATE DIRECTOR, BERNIE 2016: Well, thanks, Wolf, for letting me join you.
We expect to do very well in Massachusetts, Colorado, Oklahoma and, as you mentioned, Vermont, and then here in Minneapolis -- or, I'm sorry, Minnesota as well.
BLITZER: And do you think you're going win or just do well? Because I know the delegates are distributed proportionately. So even if you don't win, you still get a bunch of delegates.
DEMPSEY: Absolutely. We do plan on winning Minnesota, but we have been working our math to make sure that we maximize the number of delegates that we're able to walk out of the state with.
BLITZER: Let me ask you the question basically that I asked Joel just a moment ago, that Hillary Clinton is really directing a lot of her attention right now not so much at Bernie Sanders, but looking ahead to a possible showdown in a general election campaign against Donald Trump. Listen to what she said in Virginia. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLINTON: At some point, you can't just say whatever pops into your head if you want to be the president of the United States of America. People around the world actually listen to what people running for president say.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Do you think she's already looking ahead to a general election and not paying all that much attention right now to the man you want to be the next president of the United States? [13:25:06] DEMPSEY: Well, you know, we can't really speak to her
strategy. All I know is that we are focused very much on finishing very strong today, and then the rest of the contests that lie ahead for us. So that is our number one focus, and we're going to continue that focus.
BLITZER: She's got a huge advantage over the so-called super delegates. That's a big problem for Bernie Sanders, isn't it?
DEMPSEY: Well, you know, you have to remember that these super delegates can change their mind. And, quite frankly, they can change their mind even after the voting's begun in Philadelphia. So we are focused on securing as many of the pledged delegates that come out of these states, Super Tuesday, on the 15th of March, the rest of the cycle, as possible. So we are just focused on winning as many of these delegates and then re-engaging in the conversation with those that have pledged their support to Secretary Clinton and seeing where we are come July.
BLITZER: It looks like this battle between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton will continue for some time.
All right, thanks very much, Robert Dempsey, for joining us.
An important note to our viewers, this coming Sunday night, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, they will meet on stage in Flint, Michigan, for a CNN Democratic presidential debate. That's Sunday, 8:00 p.m. Eastern, only here on CNN.
Up next, more on Super Tuesday and the expected outcome in Virginia and Texas, where the polls are now open.
Also, live pictures from Capitol Hill, where the FBI and Apple, they are respectfully making their cases. We're going to talk to two prominent lawmakers who have a plan to head off controversies in the future. Stay with us.