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Can Trump be Stopped?; Trump Released Health Care Reform Plan; Clinton Raises $30M in February, less than Sanders; N.Y. Times: Clinton to Portray Trump as Bigoted; Christie Faces Backlash For Endorsing Trump; Six NJ Newspapers Call for Christie to Resign. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired March 2, 2016 - 20:00   ET


[20:00:10] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Thanks for joining us. President Obama spoke today with Astronaut Scott Kelly who has been in orbit for a year. He welcomed him back to earth and wished him luck getting used to gravity again. Somebody might consider doing the same for the Republican establishment.

Their world, ever since Donald Trump entered the race hardly resembles the one from a year ago. And after his strong Super Tuesday performance, they are not getting used to it, which is why tomorrow morning, just hours before Trump and his rivals take the debate stage in Detroit, Mitt Romney, the 2012 nominee, will go on national television.

While he's not expected to endorse any of them, he is expected to denounce one, Donald J. Trump. So, tonight, Republican Party resistance, the increasingly likely Republican nominee, new reporting from inside sources, fresh reaction from team Trump, a look at who among his opponents can stop him and that number is shrinking with the likely departure of Dr. Ben Carson who all but suspended his campaign today.

Also where this leaves Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, who are dividing up delegates, but not splitting their party. As "The New York Times" put it in the headline, "Democrats are falling in line. Republicans are falling apart." At least some are. As Dana Bash reports, though, others are trying even harder to take down Trump.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Trump is facing massive lawsuits for fraud.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This anti-Trump ad is now flooding air waves in upcoming contest states -- Michigan, Illinois and Florida.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The truth about Trump University, Donald Trump made millions while hard-working Americans got scammed.

BASH: A million-dollar Super PAC ad buy, the result of a Super Tuesday conference call with some 50 G.O.P. donors, who were begged to help stop Trump as Trump was racking up hundreds of delegates. DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Look, I'm a unifier.

BASH: In any other year with any other candidate, the G.O.P. establishment would be starting to rally around a candidate with Trump's momentum. Instead, lawmakers are making unprecedented moves away from him.

REP. BOB DOLD (R), ILLINOIS: I will not support Donald Trump now and I will not support him should he move on.

REP. SEAN DUFFY (R), MARCO RUBIO SUPPORTER: I think what America sees is Donald Trump as a manure spreader.

BASH: It's nothing short of G.O.P. panic.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Donald Trump is not a Republican.

BASH: Senator Lindsey Graham who can't stand colleague Ted Cruz now says he'd rather have Cruz as president than Trump.

GRAHAM: Ted and I are in the same party. Donald Trump is an eloper. I don't trust him.

BASH: But is this too little, too late? Republican strategist Doug Heye wrote an op-ed months ago calling on Republicans to stop Trump.

DOUG HEYE, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: There's been a whole mentality of first we couldn't attack Trump because he wasn't serious. Then we couldn't attack Trump because it wouldn't work. Finally, we couldn't attack Trump because it's too late. There's one common theme in there and that's allowed him to have a free ride for months and months.

BASH: Even G.O.P. candidates now pouncing on Trump spent most of the campaign embracing him.

(on-camera): If you think Donald Trump is so antithetical to conservatism, what took you so long to say so? Because you really cozied up to him for the majority of this campaign?

SEN. TED CRUZ, (R-TX) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, listen, Dana, for the last couple of months, I've been taking Donald on directly. I needed to build my base of support. I need to take care so that I was on a strong foundation first before I could take him on. And that was a natural process.

BASH (voice-over): Yet one former rival warns Republicans are attacking Trump at their own peril.

MIKE HUCKABEE (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Don't pretend that somehow that all these voters who have gone out and voted for him are stupid. They're not stupid.

BASH: Trump argues he is growing the G.O.P.

TRUMP: We're going to be a much bigger party. Our party is expanding.

BASH: But congressional Republicans in tough races worry Trump at the top of the ticket will drag them down. The Democrat running against John McCain is already out with this ad.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But no matter what Donald Trump says, John McCain would support him for president.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Including Donald Trump might support him?

TRUMP: She said he's a (EXPLETIVE DELETED). I would like to punch him in the face, I'll tell you.



COOPER: And Dana Bash joins us now. So the G.O.P. establishment really seems kind of desperate at this point. It's fascinating. So many are saying that they'd rather have Cruz now than Trump.

BASH: It is so true. Look, to be clear, most Republicans here in Washington, they would prefer Marco Rubio at this point, but they are -- many of them increasingly skeptical that he can do what needs to be done to get the delegates, Anderson.

In fact, I talked to somebody today who knows Florida well, likes Rubio who said that he's seen internal polling that Rubio could really lose his home state of Florida.

That's the reason why Republicans who did tell me about six weeks ago that they preferred Donald Trump over Ted Cruz are now saying they changed their minds. It's mostly because they didn't really think that would actually be a choice. And, you know, all of this frantic to-ing and fro-ing that has gone on today after last night, it really does illustrate the deep divide and the disconnect between the Republican establishment here in Washington and the grassroots.


COOPER: What about Romney speaking out tomorrow? I mean, does he really have much sway?

BASH: That's a very good question. Look, you said that -- you used the word desperate. That is the perfect word to describe Republicans here in Washington and the so-called establishment for lack of a better way to say it. That is the best way to describe them.

[20:05:11] And a lot of people have been saying we need a leader. We need a former nominee. We need somebody out there to speak to why they don't think Donald Trump is the right person.

So I'm told that he's going to probably praise Marco Rubio. Maybe even praise Ted Cruz. But the answer to your question is whether or not he's going to have much sway. It seems as though a lot of the people who are supporting Donald Trump never were really that enthusiastic about Mitt Romney or any of the so-called mainstream Republicans and therein lies the problem. Again, that really big disconnect within the Republican Party.

COOPER: Yes, Dana. Thanks very much.

More now on tomorrow's event. Donald Trump already taking shots at it tweeting this evening, "Failed presidential candidate Mitt Romney is having a news conference tomorrow to criticize me. Just another desperate move by the man who should have easily beaten Barack Obama."

Something we've seen a bit of already from Trump, the pre-emptive counterpunch.

CNN politics executive editor, Mark Preston, has been working his sources on tomorrow's speech.

What have you learned about it?

MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICS EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR: Well, Anderson, there's no doubt these two men at one point were certainly on friendlier terms. We saw Donald Trump had endorsed Mitt Romney back in 2012, but in just about 12 hours, we're going to see Mitt Romney out there giving a full-throated criticism of Donald Trump saying that not only is Donald Trump wrong for the Republican Party, but that he is wrong for the country.

Now this comes at a time right now where the Republican establishment are looking at the clock right now and realizing there's very little time to stop Donald Trump from receiving this Republican nomination. He has the wind at his back. He had some very big victories last night and he seems to be headed for some more as we head over the next couple of weeks.

In addition to that, you know, Mitt Romney is also going to make sure that he doesn't endorse one particular candidate. This is very important because there had been talk Anderson that he would get behind Marco Rubio. That has never happened. And in many ways, you have to wonder, is he doing that because he wants to keep his options open? We saw Ted Cruz win many victories last night.

The Republican Party right now, Anderson, does not have a figure head right now. Somebody that can bring everybody together. Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican presidential nominee, seems to be trying to fill that void.

COOPER: What's the game plan, though, for Romney? I mean, what is he actually hoping to accomplish with even more criticism?

PRESTON: Well, we're certainly going to have states coming up such as Michigan, which was his father's home state. That will be voting, you know, within the next week or so. What he's trying to do is to try to rally conservatives against voting for Donald Trump saying that, in fact, if you vote for Trump, it will be a vote to help really dismantle the Republican Party as they know it today.

The Republican establishment right now is so concerned about this, Anderson, that they are even gaming out a plan about how do you try to derail Trump from getting the nomination. And as we've talked over the past couple of weeks about trying to consolidate or at least there was a talk about trying to consolidate to a one-on-one race against Donald Trump, now they want to keep the field in some ways larger because the idea is, if you keep John Kasich in the race, if you keep Marco Rubio in the race, if you keep Ted Cruz in the race, they're going to continue to get delegates and that could deprive Donald Trump from receiving the delegates he needs in order to win the nomination.

In addition to that, Anderson, there's talk about running a conservative candidate on a third party ticket. And the reason why they might consider doing that is to provide a safe haven for down ballot candidates, using candidates running for the United States Senate or for the U.S. House that do not want to support Donald Trump, or it's a place for them to go if they think that Donald Trump is too nuclear hot for them, certainly for their own elections heading into November.

COOPER: Mark Preston, thanks very much.

Joining us now is chief national correspondent, the "Inside Politics" anchor John King; CNN political commentator and "The Atlantic" contributor Peter Beinart; chief political analyst Gloria Borger; senior political reporter Nia-Malika Henderson.

Also to my left, CNN political commentator Jeffrey Lord, Charles Blow and Margaret Hoover. Jeffrey is a Trump supporter and former Reagan political advisor. Charles Blow, nationally syndicated op-ed columnist in "The New York Times." Margaret Hoover is a Republican strategist and Sanders supporter, as well as editor and publisher of "The Nation," Katrina vanden Heuvel.

Welcome to you all.

Let's begin, John King, with you.

First of all, does this idea of now keeping the field suddenly divided in order to deprive him of delegates, does that make sense?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I think we're going to go through some of this a little bit later. You can make a case that, yes, if you keep more candidates in the field and if they can actually start winning some states, it's a novel theory in politics.


If they could actually start winning some states, that if a Kasich could win Ohio, if Rubio can win Florida, if either Kasich or Rubio can win Illinois and Michigan, yes, we can go through the numbers. It is possible.

COOPER: Right.

KING: Your odds are roughly the same as winning the Powerball. But it's just, look, listen to what Mark Preston just said. This is the Rip Van Winkle's party whose leadership has finally woken up after six months of evidence that Donald Trump was amassing first support and then votes to take over the party.

And they're going to try a desperate effort to stop him. And the very people Donald Trump is running against, they're now going to say to his voters change your mind, good luck with that.

[20:10:05 But then listen to the other option, running a -- the leaders of a political party, a great political party, the party of Lincoln and the party of Reagan, running another candidate in a general election? In other words, we may destroy our party. We may decide to break it because we don't want him to have it. If he wins it, by vote, I think they call it democracy. If he wins it, we're going to break it. That's extraordinary.

COOPER: Or we're going to have this convention, where we basically make a deal and bring somebody else in or decide for ourselves no matter what people have voted. That's not going to go over well.

PETER BEINART, CONTRIBUTING EDITOR, THE ATLANTIC: No, there's no good scenario. Even in the unlikely scenario that you were able to deny Donald Trump the convention, the nomination of the convention.

The chances of him running as a third party candidate would be very high and the resentment toward -- these are people in the Republican Party that they sort of, who dislike, loathe their leadership already.

Can you imagine how they will feel if Trump comes in with a big lead at the convention and is denied the nomination? That would also, to pick up on what John was saying, also probably break the Republican Party.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: So you have the establishment of the Republican Party leading an insurrection against their own base voters. I mean, it's crazy. When you think about it, and as John was saying, it's a measure of their own sort of sense of desperation and also a measure of how out of touch they have been with their own grassroots.

NIA MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: I think that's right. On my way home last night, I was talking to my cab driver. And I got into the cab and he said big night for the big man, meaning Donald Trump. And I asked him about his views.

He said he supported single-payer. He was neutral on abortion. This voter who voted for Trump in Virginia. He hated trade deals. And if Rubio got the nomination, he would vote for Hillary Clinton.

I mean, this is the kind of stew, the kind of ideas that seem contradictory. We heard S.E. Cupp last night talk about Republican voters being about purity. But this is anything but purity in terms of what they're thinking about.

COOPER: Jeffrey Lord, does the notion of Mitt Romney coming out tomorrow making a speech make you shiver?

JEFFREY LORD, TRUMP SUPPORTER: Actually, I want to send him a contribution for his airfare and -- (CROSSTALK)

COOPER: You want him to come out because it reinforces --

I hope CNN carries it from beginning to end. I mean, what more could he do? I mean, to be candid -- I mean, the leadership of the Republican Party is at this point incompetent. And this is a prime example. I mean, Mitt Romney should have been president of the United States. He isn't. He thinks this is going to send a message to conservatives ? They view him as the godfather of Obamacare. They view him as, you know, the heir to Gerald Ford and Nelson Rockefeller. I mean, this is --


COOPER: Charles, it's not as if Mitt Romney has been in the public eye, even in the last -- like I don't even know where he' been living or -- where is he -- it just sort of out of the blue he appears again?

CHARLES BLOW, OP-ED COLUMNIST, NEW YORK TIMES: I don't think that Mitt Romney is going to connect with the base of the Republican Party. I don't think the Republican leadership even understands what the base of the Republican Party looks like. They don't understand the resentment. They don't understand the feeling.

I don't think -- I think that there's a -- there is across both parties, particularly in the Republican Party, a real anxiety, particularly among white Americans in this country. And they have anxieties and they have fears, and they are looking at a dramatic demographic shift. They are looking at diminishing economic options and viability and they are all saying, this is just -- this is just one of the times we get to see it in the presidential election. You get to see it and experience it as a movement and people get to talk about it together.

But people are feeling a real sense of pain and disappointment. And that is not shared by minorities in polls and what have you. Minorities are much more optimistic. They have optimism about the future. They're optimistic about the economy. They believe in a government.

This is a white people in America are having kind of argument with themselves over this. And Donald Trump has tapped into a large part of that. And Mitt Romney is not going to be able to make them pull away from it.

COOPER: Margaret? What do you think?

MARGARET HOOVER, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I love Charles sort of telling me what the face of the Republican Party is doing. I mean, you're right. There is angst. There is anxiety. But this is it. I mean, this is the moment to pull out all the stops.

If you are a part of the Republican Party and you cannot see yourself supporting Donald Trump because you are afraid that it will no longer be a conservative party because you are afraid, it will no longer represent the best traditions of the Republican Party or Republican Party history, because you're afraid it will be a party of angry and bigoted and populist thinkers and not a party that represents individual liberty and individual thinking and fiscal conservatism and strong military support.

I mean, all the things that Republicans have said they have stood for for 50 years, maybe 80 years, really, since Herbert Hoover was president. No joke there.

Donald Trump is not going to represent those traditions in the Republican Party. And if it takes Mitt Romney and it takes every other person who can come out and say it, that needs to be done.

COOPER: I want to bring Katrina in a second.


KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL, BERNIE SANDERS SUPPORTER: Yes. I mean, it's sort of hard to believe how stupid the Republican establishment is. It's too little and it's too stupid to bring out Mitt Romney. Do they have amnesia?

Don't they remember he was the front man for "Wall Street's" greed revolution? I mean, he was the 47 percent candidate.

[20:15:20] But in a larger framework going back to what Charles said, I think we're witnessing the Republican crack-up. There has been an uneasy alliance between the Republican base and the establishment for decades. And there was referenced to an insurrection being waged.

Well, the establishment has waged war on a base because they've used a base, they've shafted a base for their corporatist policies. And now we're seeing a base say, wait a minute, they may not know exactly what Donald Trump is saying, but he's talking an industrial states about protecting jobs.

Last night he spoke about let's not ship jobs overseas. Let's punish these factories. There's a toxic brew at work as he talks about it. But I think we got to take a measure what is this establishment? And it is a Republican crack-up and we may be witnessing a realignment we haven't seen since 1860 as we talked about Lincoln.

COOPER: We're going to continue this conversation throughout the next two hours. When we come back, the neighbors are talking about the neighbor who is running for president. What people in Palm Beach, Florida, think about Donald Trump.

Also the latest on the Democratic side after a Super Tuesday that left both candidates with something to boast about and left the question open, can both candidate go the distance on the Democratic side?


[20:20:10] COOPER: We've got breaking news to bring you. Just moments ago, the Trump campaign put out details of the candidate's plan for replacing the Affordable Care Act, Obamacare. You'll recall in the last G.O.P. debate, Dana Bash pressed Donald Trump for specifics.


BASH: You will have time to respond if you let Mr. Trump respond to what you just posed to him.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO, (R-FL) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Yes, he's going to give us his plan now, right? OK

BASH: If you could talk a little bit more about your plan. I know you talked about --

TRUMP: We're going to have many different plans because --

BASH: Can you be a little specific?

TRUMP: Competition --

RUBIO: He's done it again.


TRUMP: There is going to be competition among all of the states, and the insurance companies. They're going to have many, many different plans.

BASH: Is there anything else you would like to add to that?

TRUMP: No, there's nothing to add. What's do add?


COOPER: And Dana joins us once again.

It's interesting, Dana, because, I mean, when you pressed him and also in other interviews he's given, he can really say two things about his health care plan which was, you know, eliminate the lines and competition. There wasn't much else that he would go into detail of.

What's in this plan now?

BASH: He does have a little bit more. He has it right on his Web site now. You can find his plan. I just pulled it up. And he calls for a couple of things.

First and maybe most importantly, he calls for eliminating, explicitly eliminating the individual mandate in Obamacare which you remember, Anderson, he suggested to you during a town hall in South Carolina that he actually liked. A lot of blowback from Republicans. And he said he didn't really mean that.

That you, guys, were talking over each other. Well, here on his Web site, he makes it very clear that that mandate, which is the central part of Obamacare that Republicans hate, he also wants to do away with. He also does have here the idea that he discussed in the debate of breaking down state barriers that prevent the sale of health care across state lines and making individuals health insurance premium payments tax deductible. So that's a new part of this plan.

And the other thing that is interesting, though, that I don't see in this plan is I know he's probably said this to you. He said this to me and he says it often. Donald Trump says that he doesn't want to let people die in the streets. And he says that he wants everybody to somehow be covered. Have health insurance. But he doesn't in this plan on his Web site say exactly how he's going to do that. There's not a real mention of how everybody is going to have health insurance.

COOPER: Does it say anything about pre-existing conditions because that was another thing he's talked about, that that should not be ruled somebody out from getting covered.

BASH: That's right. I'm just going through it now. I have not seen anything about pre-existing conditions. He talked about block granting Medicaid to the states. So perhaps that is one way where he's going to try to do it by the states and not kind of a federal way. That is actually a pretty typical and historic Republican idea and philosophical approach on health care. But beyond that, I don't see anything in my first glance at this, at this plan.


COOPER: All right. We'll continue to look at it. I want to bring, as Dana is here as well, I want to bring in our panel.

John King, I mean, you know, several days before a Republican debate, it makes sense that he would try to put this out because this is obviously something that could easily come up again.

KING: As the establishment tried to repudiate him, deal with him, defeat him, exile him, send him to Mars, whatever they can do, what is Donald Trump doing? We can debate the policy. We can look at it and see does he say how he'd pay for it. Are there enough bones to it?

But at the outline is a traditional, much like what Speaker Paul Ryan wants to do. Much like what most House Republicans want to do. This goes back even to previous Republican administrations.

So he's trying to say, hey, I'm one of you. Let's consolidate around me. I'm going to be your nominee. I'm going to repeal Obamacare. I'm not for the individual mandate. What are you so mad about? What are you so mad about? Here I am.

BORGER: He embraces a lot of Republican ideas which is allowing people to shop for the best prices, for their prescription drugs and for their medical care. So that it enables the patient to be making these choices. And I think those are things that Republicans --


BEINART: It doesn't make -- I mean, if you don't have a mandate, it doesn't make any sense because you don't have the young, healthy people in the system. And so then basically it blows up economically. But I think to go to John's point, you know, the advantage that Donald Trump has is that it does not matter to him one wit whether the thing that he said he contradicts today, the thing he said yesterday. He will say exactly the opposite thing on any particular issue.

And so, you know, we always talk about candidates moving to the center in the general. It's easier to do that if your pay absolutely no attention to what you were saying before. And that I think we started to see that last night. I wouldn't be surprised if he starts chanting his support for gay marriage within a few weeks now once he gets enough --


MALIKA-HENDERSON: The voters don't seem to mind that because they are so attached to him and there was also this sense, I think, among voters that there are many entry points to Donald Trump.

There's almost -- if you like him, you like him for all sorts of different reasons. You might like him because he wants to put Merry Christmas back on the Starbucks cups, or you might like him because people -- you know, he's a good father and he talks about his kids a lot. So in which also makes it very hard for him to be defeated because he isn't trying to fit this mold of a conservative.


COOPER: Dana, I just want to check back in with you. I know you've been reading this thing more.

[20:25:00] BASH: Well, yes, I mean, it's not that long. I just want to go back and make sure that I wasn't missing anything to be fair. That specifically talks about pre-existing conditions because you are right, that was the thrust of my question to him in the debate and that is, of course, the whole reason that the Obama administration and Democrats give for having the individual mandate because insurance companies say you need that to have the insurance pool big enough to cover people with pre-existing conditions.

And the answer is I don't see anything specific in there. He has some broad lines about the need to make sure that people get proper health insurance, but for the most part, to John's point, this looks like a really classic Republican blueprint on how to tackle health insurance problems.

Whether it's the bloc ranting as I said, whether it's the doing away with the barriers across state lines, so called HAS -- Health Savings Accounts. This is something that no Republican mainstream or otherwise could argue with.

COOPER: I want to go to a Trump supporter, Jeffrey Lord.

I mean, it is a smart move. You know, before this next Republican debate to have something else fleshed out. LORD: Right. Let me, last night before CNN, I was at the American Spectator Dinner for a little bit. And I had a good talk with Senator Jeff Sessions who has just come out in support of Donald Trump.

And it's very clear that in another area here, immigration and judges, he is giving personally advice to Donald Trump. And he already has a staffer who does immigration work for him now working for Donald Trump.

My point is, the Trump campaign is itself beginning to flesh out, as all presidential campaigns when they reach this point must do. They grow from that small cluster of supporters and they become, you know, in essence, a mimicking of the presidency itself. So I don't see anything surprising about this. And if you notice, the night that Justice Scalia died, Donald Trump was the only one to say, and by the way, here are two people -- and he named specific judges -- that I would consider for the Supreme Court. He got those from Senator Sessions. So he's consulting. He's doing what presidential candidates are supposed to do.

COOPER: Go ahead.

BLOW: I mean, I just have to say this. Donald Trump's supporters are not supporting him because of policy.



BLOW: It is posture. It is posture. The entire campaign is built on morning mirror affirmations. We're going to make America great again. We're going to win, win, win. You're going to get so tired of winning.

It's like one of those cassette tapes you used to buy in the 70s. You put it in and you feel better by the time you get to work, right? It's supposed to make you feel better about being who you are, that your position in America is not hopeless. That you -- that whatever position you find yourself in.

Now, if you are hurt or you are angry or you are afraid that you don't have to be because there's someone like me who is going to take all that away and make you feel better? That is the entire -- the entirety of what he is selling. It is not policy. So no matter, like you said, no matter what he puts out there, if he contradicts today, tomorrow --


COOPER: We've got to take a break. But we will continue this discussion. We're on for the next two hours. Let's have more of this and the larger question for many Republicans, the voting strength of the Donald Trump phenomenon. Whether it can be stopped as some Republicans are trying. John King breaks it down by the numbers for you.


[20:32:37] COOPER: We've been talking about the turmoil that Trumps bring toward the nomination has set off within some element to the GOP. Super Tuesday confirmed the worst of their fears, Mr. Trump won big last night, no doubt about that. He's swept seven states across the south and New England, however, it was not a shut out. He did not win every race but his momentum in his lead and delegates that is only growing. The question now from those in the Republican Party who want to stop Trump is, is it too late? Is it even possible? For that, here's John King with answers by the numbers.

You hear from a lot of people talking March 15th is the date, a crucial date in this effort by some of the GOP, but that's a long way away.

JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR, INSIDE POLITICS: If they wait for that, they're seeding another half dozen contest, more than that over the next several days including Saturday and next Tuesday. So let's go though the numbers, Vermont should be filled in here too as well from (inaudible). But Donald Trump 332 or so. These are rough estimates. They're still sorting some delegates. But he's starting to pull away a little bit. He's passed the one quarter mark to 1273.

If Donald Trump has a big -- if we go through March 8th, including this Saturday, we have a contest in Louisiana, in Mississippi, up in Maine, they -- Michigan next Tuesday. If Donald Trump runs the board then, just flat out wins them all, well, he's going to run out here. So if you don't compete with him, if you wait for the 15th, you're going to let Donald Trump get somewhere in the area of 450, maybe even more if he wins by big margines of these delegates.

Now here's another scenario for you. If you actually try to compete, can Ted Cruz finally prove, remember this was supposed to be Cruz country.

COOPER: Right.

KING: He's been slaughtered so far outside of Texas and Oklahoma and the evangelical state, can he win Louisiana, can he win Mississippi? If there's is a Trump moment of doubt, Ted Cruz should be able to win those states over the next few days, right? Can Marco Rubio win in a place like Kentucky? There's suburbs in Lexington, suburbs in Louisville. It's a state that if he spends some time as possible or Cruz could win to Kentucky, I gave it to Rubio again for the sake of it, Michigan, another state, can you go in and beat Donald Trump hard? Blue collar appeal? But the odds of this are probably somewhere as I said along the lines of the Powerball. But if you're going to stop Donald Trump, why wait to the 15th. There are some opportunities, maybe you don't win all of these but you could take some of them away and keep them back here because otherwise, if Donald Trump runs the board into March 15th, these are the states 15th -- here Ohio, here's Florida we'll get to these in a minute.

But if he runs the board, if he's going to stop now, then it's over. I mean, forget about it. I'm sorry, it's just mathematically almost impossible to stop him. So let's look at the scenario, OK, John Kasich wins his home state of Ohio. John Kasich is a hypothetical if you're at home you're saying this guy is crazy, John Kasich wins Illinois. This is the idea. Keep everybody in the race now and have them pick a couple of states and go get them.

[20:35:00] OK? If Kasich could do that just Kasich succeeds, it doesn't matter, I mean he's taken two big states but Donald Trump is still pulling out.

So let's look at another scenario where if you go back to what I said before, Cruz picks up a couple down here in the south. Rubio wins at home in Florida, Rubio somehow wins Kentucky and Rubio or Kasich, I give it to Rubio here wins Illinois, Kasich wins Ohio. And Rubio gets Michigan, then you get a race. But how many states is that? Again, to do this a parable walking remorse ...


KING: Yes if you look at any public data right now it's impossible to see this happening but why aren't they going after these states that both this Saturday. Why I aren't they going after the states that both Tuesday because if you let him pull up the map, if you let Donald Trump do this, even if you take one or two of these away, you don't have to be a mathematician to understand you're that far ahead, the horse is that far ahead and the other horse is on the track, that horse is going to win.

COOPER: What does the 15th look like for Trump?

KING: Well if you come to 15th here, I mean, right now, you find me a state. Right now, you find me a state with republican where Donald Trump is not ahead in the polls.

COOPER: Right.

KING: You can't. Now also to be fair, in a lot of these states, there's not good polling. There's not reliable polling. There's not recent polling, you know, since the KKK controversy, since the attacks on Donald Trump, since the conservative Super PACs finally said, maybe we should run some negative advocates to get this guy, that's an interesting idea. And so we don't really know.

And there are some signs if you go back and look at last night, there are some signs, you know, people are looking, oh well, you know, he didn't win Oklahoma. He didn't win Minnesota. His margins in Virginia were close. There are some people who are saying there could be some crumbs of trouble for Trump maybe that was just starting to build after the KKK, after some attack ads, after Rubio and Cruz going after him. So maybe it was just starting and it didn't have enough time.

That's what we're going to find out but which is why, I just beg the question, why in the world would you not contest these states over the next couple of days. I know time is short, money is tight in some of these campaigns, that could be an issue too. But if you let Donald Trump get anywhere near this by the 15th and then try to take away a couple of them, you got to take away a lot of them. You got to take away -- you have to fundamentally change the race Donald Trump can't keep winning 10 to 15. You have to do something like this or else he starts to pull away.

COOPER: Well, that's -- when you see it by the numbers there.

Just ahead, how the democratic race is shaking out as the dust settles from the Super Tuesday. We saw victories on both sides, but Hillary Clinton widening her lead.


[20:41:06] COOPER: The Super Tuesday lived up to its name for Hillary Clinton. She won seven states, including delegate-rich Texas. She now has a bigger lead in delegates than Barack Obama had over her at this point in the 2008 race.

Today, her campaign said they raised $30 million last month about $12 million less than Bernie Sanders. As for Sanders, he won four states yesterday including his home state of Vermont. He is vowing to fight on even as his rival is setting her sights on Donald Trump in the general elections.

CNN's Jeff Zeleny joins us now from Miami. Certainly, as we said, a big night for Clinton, any sense of where Sanders goes from here?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, Bernie Sanders is going to focus on the coming contests this weekend. They happen to play nicely into the kind of voter he's been reaching out to, largely white voters and college students as well. He'll be focusing on Nebraska, on Kansas, on Maine. Those contests are over the weekend on Saturday and Sunday.

And then going into Michigan, he is really focused squarely on Michigan. His advisers believe that his economic message resonates well with Michigan. And Michigan also has a pretty wide electorate. That's what he has been doing very well in. But he was a little punchy today. When he was in Maine at a campaign rally, he said, "Look, the pundits have been wrong all year long. They're predicting Hillary Clinton is going to win right now. I'm going to win in a landslide."

Probably not a landslide, mathematically it's not possible, but there are still roots for him. And to win delegates, the Clinton campaign even knows, they acknowledge he is going to win delegates in the next coming weeks.

COOPER: It's also important to acknowledge he's got money, a lot of money and that's still coming in. And he's got enormous enthusiasm and support.

ZELENY: He certainly does and a lot of his supporters have yet to vote. It's important to keep in mind that this calendar rolls out, you know, in a slow fashion here. So, presidential candidates leave the race when they run out of support and money. Not often in that order necessarily but he has both. So he is going to stay in and has every reason to stay in. He also has another reason to stay in. Eight years ago Hillary Clinton, you know, said I'm staying in until the very end of this. He's not in the same position as her, of course, but he's going to be hard pressed to respond to any calls to get out because she, of course, did not get out of the race back in 2008.

COOPER: Yeah, Jeff Zeleny, thanks. Up and now, the panel, also with us, Patrick Healy, political correspondent for the "New York Times."

Patrick, let's begin with you. I mean, you recently wrote a really fascinating story about how the Clinton campaign is beginning to pivot toward Donald Trump to that faceoff. We've seen that in a number of her speeches even in some of her victory speeches. What do you expect we're going to see from her camp if he does win the GOP nomination?

PATRICK HEALY, "NEW YORK TIMES" NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Right, it's what's happening publicly and what's happening privately. Publicly, they have to take Bernie Sanders very seriously. They still need to be seen as the strongest messenger for the Democratic Party. But privately, they are expecting Donald Trump to be the nominee. They think he is going to be a very tough opponent. And that they know that if Hillary Clinton is going to win the biggest political prize of her life, she's going to have to fight and endure and survive a brutal campaign that she was, frankly, six months ago not planning to have to run.

And that campaign is going to be one where she is going to have to try to push Donald Trump and kind of edge him toward the more sort of extreme positions and statements that Trump could possibly make. The thought is, is that for every white guy, for ever voter, swing voter that Hillary Clinton may lose against Donald Trump, she's going to need to pick up one or two suburban women, suburban can swing voters, even sort of moderate republicans who just didn't find Trump unacceptable.

COOPER: So, Patrick, that means, I'm assuming defining or redefining perhaps, Donald Trump in the eyes of many people, or in as many people as she can.

HEALY: I mean, they think that Trump is doing part of their job for them because whether it's on social media or, you know, in the news media, he is given to sort of, inflammatory statements and really sort of riling things up.

[20:45:05] But they know that they are going to have to do work. They're going to have to talk about what kind of ads. And they're looking at this now and their supporters, what kind of ads to run against him that get at people's uncertainty about whether he has the temperament and the tone and the ideas to be president but without seeming like, you know, they're going too far, they're getting too nasty because, as we know, Hillary Clinton has her own unfavorability problem.

So, what they're looking toward those is really is a fall campaign that could be very unpredictable, very nasty where Donald Trump is saying things to Hillary Clinton's face that she is frankly never had said before to her.

COOPER: I want to bring in the rest of our panelists both sides. Katrina, let me start with you. I mean, I know you're a Sanders supporter, obviously, but do -- how -- if it is Clinton against Trump, do you see this as just a scorched earth battle?

KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL, BERNIE SANDERS SUPPORTER: Let me just step back for a moment, when we look back at this campaign, which is vertigo inducing, we are going to look at something I call media malpractice.

We talked about why Donald Trump may be unstoppable. One reason, Anderson is that the media has -- so much of the media has lavished such scene amounts of attention on Donald Trump, whether it's for a cheap high ratings, Les Moonves of CBS at an investor's conference I think yesterday or today said, this ugly circus is coming to town. It may be bad for the country, but it's damn good for CBS.

And I think that's a disservice to this country.

COOPER: Do you think all those Trump voters have been actually watching news and actually listening to the media?

HEUVEL: I think it's a factor. But the largest thing is I think the media also wrote off Bernie Sanders and marginalized him when he began. We see where he is, it's a tough road ahead for Bernie Sanders. We have to be realistic.

On the other hand, don't write as political obituary for the reasons you cited. He has enthusiasm, he has extraordinary small donor fundraising up against the Clinton juggernaut. But in a larger way, Anderson, I think what we're witnessing, we talked about the GOP crack-up, we're witnessing a realignment perhaps within the Democratic Party and an emerging progressive force. You might call it the Warren Sanders wing, Elizabeth Warren, versus the Clinton wing.

And I think whatever happens to Bernie Sanders' campaign, he's going to amass a lot of delegates, he's going to go to the convention, he's going to drive a progressive force into the planks and he may inspire a new generation. We're witnessing in Baltimore of these Black Lives Matter ...


COOPER: You're not saying he's going to win and if there's a battle between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump?

HEUVEL: Oh, I think, I mean, what do you think? I mean, we've seen gutter politics. It could be -- scorched earth politics take on a new meaning. But I wouldn't -- I think the Clinton campaign is making a mistake ...

COOPER: By not paying enough attention to Sanders?

HEUVEL: ...Sanders, because I think in -- this election so unprecedented, we don't know what electability means anymore. And it's very possible that Bernie Sanders would post more of a threat to Donald trump.

COOPER: ...Katrina's point, people have underestimated Bernie Sanders just as the other side has underestimated Donald Trump.

MARGARET HOOVER, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: But what we know is this election year is more -- there are people who are angry, there are people who are upset. This is sort of the throw the jerks out on both sides, right. This is the Sanders sentiment, this is the sentimental propelling Trump. But we also know, especially if you're republicans, if the general election dynamic, well, it's very different than republican primary dynamic. And we know that the kind of race that Hillary is going to run against Donald Trump is going to be the highlight.

If he's a heartless, does this manage (inaudible), but they did against Mitt Romney, he's going to take everything you said about women and slash it all over the media and he's going to say that he's a erratic and untrustworthy.

And those things are things that are going to unset -- unsettle a general election electorate, things that frankly aren't upsetting republicans in the primary, it's a totally different race. And there is a very good reason that according to latest CNN polling, Donald Trump does not win and the general election match up with Hillary Clinton, this is why Marco Rubio does, this is why people are panicking. This is why, by the way, the rate is dynamic and you are going to see things starts -- tens of millions of dollars are going to be spent in the next few weeks trying to highlight Donald Trump's background, trying to highlight all the things that you only begun to hear about from Marco Rubio. Only 27 percent of people on Super Tuesday knew that the KKK had not been denounced properly by Donald Trump.

COOPER: We got to take a break here. We'll have more on this. Patrick Healy, also, thank you for joining us. Everyone else, don't go far. We're going to be talking more in the next hour.

A quick program note on Sunday, I'll be moderating the next CNN Democratic Debate at Flint, Michigan, starting at 8:00 p.m. eastern. I hope you join us for that, that's Sunday night.

Up next, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie facing massive backlash for endorsing Donald Trump from his home state newspapers calling for him to resign and from scores of people on the internet who all make variations of the same joke, that this is the face of someone being held hostage. A closer look at the backslash next.


[20:53:08] COOPER: Well, if you went online today, you probably saw some jokes about this image. Chris Christie standing nearly emotionless, some would say almost expressionless behind Donald Trump during Trump's Super Tuesday victory speech.

Online, the jokes have several forms, mostly stemming from the notion of Christie basically looked like a hostage. But the backlash from Christie endorsing Trump goes way beyond Twitter and Facebook.

Six New Jersey newspapers are calling for Christie to resign as governor and a New Hampshire newspaper said it made a mistake endorsing his GOP presidential nomination because, "rather than standing up to the bully, Christie bent on his knee."

Our senior political reporter Manu Raju has more to it.


MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: While Donald Trump was reveling in his Super Tuesday win, Chris Christie critics were relishing an awkward picture.

The New Jersey governor's gaze behind Trump turning quickly into a popular meme.

"I've made a huge mistake," joked one, restyled in another tweet.

Since endorsing Donald Trump last week, Chris Christie has endured a political backlash he hasn't experienced since the so-called Bridgegate controversy from 2013.

But this time, the criticism is coming from many Republicans as well.

REP. PETER KING, (R) NEW YORK: So, I was very surprised by Chris Christie and also, so many of the positions that Donald Trump has taken so opposite of what Chris Christie has taken. So, I was surprised to see him standing there last tonight. But again, everyone has to do what they have to do. I guess, it's hard for me to figure out.

RAJU: Christie says there's a reason why he's getting behind Trump. He can win in November and clean up Washington.

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE, (R) NEW JERSEY: Tonight is the beginning of Donald Trump bringing the Republican Party together for a big victory this November. The fight this fall is to make sure that a united Republican Party and united American people make sure that Hillary Rodham Clinton never gets back in the White House.

RAJU: Many (inaudible) that Christie is settling the score with Marco Rubio who's Super PAC spent big dollars to undermine Christie in New Hampshire.

[20:55:07] The attacks in his home state of New Jersey have been brutal. Six Gannett-owned newspapers that have been critical of Christie including the "Asbury Park Press" and "Morristown Daily Record" wrote in a joint editorial that the Governor should resign saying they were "disgusted with his endorsement and fed up with his opportunism, arrogance and hypocrisy."

New Jersey Democrats seizing on the Governor's absence saying it is hurting the state, particularly on Hurricane Sandy relief.

Should he resign? REP. FRANK PALLONE, (D) NEW JERSEY REPRESENTATIVE: I think he should resign. I think it's at the point now where he doesn't even want to be in New Jersey anymore. So what's the point? Just resign and get on with it and let somebody else do the job.

RAJU: In response, Christie's spokesman Brian Murray called Pallone, "one of the most shrill partisans and opponents of the Governor," calling the attacks, "dishonesty at its worst.''

He said that the Governor's staff met with Pallone on Sandy relief recently in Washington. But one person seems happy with Christie, Donald Trump.

DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This was an endorsement that really meant a lot.


COOPER: That was Manu Raju reporting.

Just ahead tonight, more of the effort inside the Republican Party trying to stop Donald Trump.

We'll speak with a GOP congressman from Virginia who says he will not support Trump if he's the nominee because his conscience will not let him.


COOPER: Welcome back. Good evening tonight for a significant, potentially growing portion of the Republicans Party, the time is now or never and the mission is just three words long, "Stop Donald Trump."