Return to Transcripts main page


Biggest Delegate Prizes In Mississippi; New Poll Out; How Numbers Add Up In Delegate Race; Republican Rivals Hope To Slow Trump's Roll; Trump Attacks My Faith When Worried; Super Tuesday Round Two; Mississippi Governor Endorses Ted Cruz. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired March 8, 2016 - 13:00   ET



WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Hello, I'm Wolf Blitzer. It's 8:00 a.m. in Honolulu, Hawaii. It's noon in Jackson, Mississippi, 1:00 p.m. here in Washington, D.C. Wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks very much for joining us.

A big day in presidential politics here in the United States. It's the second Super Tuesday of this, the 2016, race for the White House. There is voting in four states today, including Mississippi. There you see live pictures of a polling station in Jackson, Mississippi.

The Republican presidential hopefuls are battling for a total of 150 delegates today. For the Democrats, 166 delegates are in play. On both sides, the biggest prize is Michigan.

Hillary Clinton is looking for a decisive win there today, trying to extend her delegate lead over Bernie Sanders. Right now, she has 1,147 delegates to Sanders' 498, but that includes Clinton's 471 super delegates. Sanders has only 22 super delegates.

For the Republicans, Ted Cruz is trying to chip away at Donald Trump's delegate lead and stay within striking distance of the front runner. A new poll out just this morning shows Trump still in command of the race, although his support has dropped slightly since December. The new ABC News "Washington Post" poll shows he has 34 percent support nationally among Republicans. Cruz follows with 25 percent, Rubio with 18 percent and John Kasich trails with 13 percent.

We're watching all of this go down today. We're watching all of the delegate totals. Again, Michigan is a key contest for both parties today. Fifty-nine delegates are at stake for the Republicans and 130 for the Democrats.

Polling stations have been open for several hours now. Jean Casarez is joining us from Warren, Michigan, not far from Detroit. How's the vote shaping up? What's the latest over there, Jean?

JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it's fascinating here. It's been a steady stream of voters. And it's really the history of Warren, Michigan that I think leads to such interest here.

First of all, this is the Midwest. So, we're getting the pulse of not only Michigan but the heart of the auto industry which is truly who Donald Trump has been speaking to from almost day one about jobs being outsourced, companies going to other countries.

But also, what I'm seeing here is I'm seeing every spectrum. I'm seeing young voters. I'm seeing the elderly, people in walkers and with canes, they're coming. And young mothers with children. And they're teaching their children all about a civics' lesson of voting today. So, it's truly extraordinary.

Now, what am I hearing from the voters? First of all, on the Democratic side, I am hearing Bernie Sanders' name more than Hillary Clinton. And they're telling me the reason they are voting for Bernie Sanders is because they believe he is with the people and for the people. And they believe he is authentic in that message and that is what they want.

On the Republican side, I am hearing the names, Donald Trump. I am hearing the names, John Kasich. Not hearing Marco Rubio. Not hearing Ted Cruz at all.

And this is an open primary, so you can be a registered Democrat and vote Republican or vice-versa. And I actually spoke to a man who is really doing the opposite. A life-long Republican. He told me he's voting for Bernie Sanders.

Now, Wolf, the people that are voting for Hillary Clinton -- and I have spoken to some. I asked why and the number one reason they say is because of Bill. Their loyalty to Bill Clinton. And Bill is coming along. They believe the country was very prosperous during Bill Clinton's terms in office, and they believe that he can help the country even with his wife being president.

BLITZER: Interesting stuff. All right, Jean, thank you.

For the candidates, right now, it's all about the numbers and how they add up. Who can secure enough delegates to lock up the party's nomination. Let's take a closer look at the state of the race on both sides and what's at stake in today's contest. Our Chief National Correspondent John King breaks down the numbers.

We're going to -- unfortunately, we've -- hold on a second, here's John.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Four states with primaries on our second Super Tuesday II of the campaign, two for the Democrats, four for the Republicans. Hawaii, Idaho, Mississippi and Michigan, 166 Democratic delegates at stake; 150 delegates at stake on the Republican side. Just Mississippi and Michigan voting on the Democratic side.

Let's take a look at the state of play right now on the Republican side. Donald Trump with a delegate lead but Ted Cruz, after a good weekend, closing in at second place. He says he has momentum. Marco Rubio won Puerto Rico over the week. He says he's still on the hunt. A lot of question marks about that. Let's just take a look on our second Super Tuesday if Donald Trump sweeps with about 35 percent of the vote in those wins, he'll start to pull away a little bit. Ted Cruz hoping to run at least second everywhere and also hoping for maybe a surprise in Mississippi. Maybe a little closer than you would expect in Michigan and watch the smaller battles in Hawaii and Idaho. Sometimes, if you do get a surprise, that's where you get it.

[13:05:05] But if Trump sweeps, which is his belief going in, he'd start to pull away a little bit in the delegate side. This is why it matters. Donald Trump has won 43 percent of the Republican delegates to date. If he can win 54 percent from here on out, he'll clinch the nomination. Now, that's not as hard as it looks in the sense that we begin to move next week into winner take all, big prizes like Florida, big prizes like Ohio. If you can win them all, you'll -- you add to the numbers.

A little steeper hill for Ted Cruz. He's won 33 percent so far. He needs 60 percent. And you see Marco Rubio in third place and John Kasich in fourth place. They need to change the dynamic of the race, fundamentally, if they could ever make the math work. But Trump and Cruz right now at the top of the Pac looking for tomorrow and beyond to show they can add up some more delegates.

Let's switch to the Democratic side. Here's where we start. This is pledged delegates. Hillary Clinton with a 200 delegate lead over Bernie Sanders. She's favored in both contests tomorrow. If she picks them both up, number one, she'll start to stretch out her delegate lead; number two, she'll send a very important message to Bernie Sanders. I'm beating you in the south and now I'm proving I can beat you in the big industrial Midwest.

So, Michigan is a huge test for Bernie Sanders, not only for momentum and for the message of the Midwest, but also because of the math. If you look at a Democratic map, Hillary Clinton has won nearly 60 percent of the delegates to date. If she wins 59 percent, the same percentage of the pledge delegates meeting on primary and caucus day here on out, she'll clinch the nomination.

Bernie Sanders has a much steeper hill. He's only won four in 10. He needs to win 66. And this math for Hillary Clinton is actually a tad misleading. This she would clinch if she won only the pledge delegates. She also has super delegates in her back pocket, so Bernie Sanders needs to make a statement and make it soon. The Michigan contest in the Midwest would be the right place to do that, but the late polls show Hillary Clinton with the lead.

BLITZER: All right, John, thank you. John King reporting for us.

So, can the Republican establishment slow down Donald Trump's roll? How critical is it today for Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio in the contest? And what about John Kasich? Let's talk about all of this and more, the Republican race for the White House. Ryan Lizza is joining us. He's our CNN Political Commentator and a political commentator and Washington Correspondent for "The New Yorker" magazine. Mark Preston is our CNN Politics Executive Editor. And Matea Gold is National Political Reporter for "The Washington Post."

All right, guys, thanks very much. Mark Preston, I'll play a little clip. This is Ted Cruz just a little while ago, suggesting Donald Trump should be concerned going forward. Listen to this.


SEN. TED CRUZ (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Typically, when he goes down to attacking people's faith, it's a sign that Donald is really, really worried. I understand. The last election day, super Saturday, was a very bad day for Donald. He came in, proudly expecting to sweep all four contests instead he got clobbered.


BLITZER: He got clobbered. So, how -- will we see a trend tonight? We'll see if he gets clobbered. Michigan, Mississippi, those are critically important Republican contests today.

MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICS EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR: They are critically important contests. But, you know, in talking to folks who have actually won several campaigns down in Mississippi, Republicans now, say that it is a lock for Trump right now. And it's because there are no other races on the ballot necessarily down there.

And the fact is Republicans who live outside of the city tend to vote Democratic, often times, because the state, because the sheriffs and the county sheriffs, what have you, tend to be Democratic but they tend to be Republican. These are Trump voters, and they expect them to come out and support Trump.

Why it's important for Ted Cruz, though, tonight is that he needs to show momentum. If he can show momentum tonight, whether it's in Michigan or whether it's down in Mississippi or Idaho or elsewhere, Hawaii, that's important to his campaign because it will help his narrative as being the only one who can challenge Donald Trump.

BLITZER: It'll give at least some indication whether there has been a decline, in recent days, as far as the support for Trump is concerned. I want to play this other -- this other clip. This is Mitt Romney, the 2011 -- 2012 Republican presidential nominee, basically making phone calls on behalf of Marco Rubio in Florida. Not endorsing him --


BLITZER: -- but basically saying, vote for him to avoid letting Donald Trump win in Florida. Listen to this.


MITT ROMNEY (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm calling on behalf of Marco Rubio for president. Tomorrow, you have the opportunity to vote for a Republican nominee for president. I believe these are critical times that demand a serious, thoughtful commander in chief.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: And then, he goes on to say, if we choose Donald Trump as our nominee, he says the prospects for a safe and prosperous future would be greatly diminished.


BLITZER: Do you think that's going to will help Rubio in Florida, robo calls by Mitt Romney?

LIZZA: Well, tonight and next Tuesday are pretty big tests for the never Trump faction that Romney is sort of a de facto leader of right now. There's some evidence that they have started to slow Trump down, right? You showed that poll with Trump with a little bit of a declining support.

Now, look, that's one poll. But he's only got a third -- a third of the Republican vote nationally. His trend has been to go up, up, up, up as others have dropped out of the race. So, that's positive sign for the stop Trump movement.

And, look, Romney is now -- he sort of organized this strategy of, Republicans who don't like Trump, vote for Rubio in Florida and vote for Kasich in Ohio. But you've got to do something tonight.

[13:10:02] If they -- if Trump wins in Michigan -- which is sort of tailor made for him considering the way that trade deals have been viewed in Michigan. Donald Trump is much more anti-free trade than his opponents. A good state for him. If he wins in Mississippi, that shows huge -- two diverse regions of the country where he can succeed and gives him a lot of momentum going into those huge states on March 15th which are winner take all. If he wins tonight and next Tuesday, you're not stopping him.

BLITZER: Really? You think that's so important tonight for Donald Trump?

LIZZA: Absolutely. I mean, this is the moment. This is the tipping point where the never Trump movement has to show that it wasn't just a fluke last Saturday when Cruz took off.

BLITZER: Matea, Rubio, obviously stressing his home state of Florida a week from today, March 15th. A Monmouth University poll shows Rubio trailing Trump by eight points in Florida. But that has narrowed in recent days. Rubio says he's getting lots of pressure to stay in this race. Listen to this.


SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If anyone else, other than Donald Trump, was the front runner, every candidate in this race would have a tremendous amount of pressure on them to drop out. Instead, the pressure is to stay in. Please, the -- what we hear from people all over the country is please do not let Donald Trump be our nominee. He's going to get crushed and he's going to divide the Republican Party and redefine it in a very negative way.


BLITZER: So, Matea, he's really got to do well. He's got to win his own state in order to keep on going, right?

MATEA GOLD, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Well, there's no question Florida is going to a defining moment for Rubio. But he's getting a lot of air support now because of the stop Trump movement. And together, four different groups have already spent almost $18 million, largely in Florida. This is really bolstering his efforts to try to make this final case to voters in his home state. I mean, his supports say he'll keep going nonetheless. That'll be very difficult if he loses Florida.

BLITZER: All right, Matea, everybody, stand by. We're -- we've got a lot more to assess.

We're also watching the voters stream into polling stations in places like, where you're looking right now, Jackson, Mississippi. Could Republican candidate John Kasich pick up delegates there in a state he's campaigning in today? We're talking about Michigan. That's where he is.

And Bernie Sanders taking some heat for some comments he made in Sunday night's CNN debate. We're going to assess that.

Lots lot of developments on the Democratic side in this race for the White House.



[13:16:08] BLITZER: Polls are open now in four states on this Super Tuesday Two, as we're calling it. We have some updated delegate numbers to bring you right now.

Take a look at this. Hillary Clinton now has 1,150 delegates. That includes 472 super delegates. Bernie Sanders is now at 500 delegates with 23 super delegates. On the Republican side, Donald Trump has 389 delegates. Ted Cruz has 303. Rubio has 154. Kasich has 37 pledged delegates.

Ryan Lizza is our CNN political commentator. He's still with us. He's the Washington correspondent for "The New Yorker" magazine. Mark Preston is our CNN Politics executive editor. And Matea Gold is national political reporter for "The Washington Post."

Matea, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, they're clearly hoping to chip away at Donald Trump's delegate lead in today's contest in the upcoming March 15th primaries. And the March 15th primaries in Ohio, Florida, elsewhere, they're winner take all. So there is a feasible strategy for, let's say, Kasich and Rubio, if they do really well next Tuesday, to have some breathing room, some more life.

MATEA GOLD, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Yes, this is a really fascinating strategy by those in the party who want to stop Donald Trump from becoming the nominee. They're actually encouraging all these folks to stay in the race, thinking if Rubio wins Florida, if Kasich wins Ohio, those two states can help prevent Trump from accumulating enough delegates before the convention. But it really means that we are very likely on a path to a contested convention, which would be obviously a remarkable thing, and one that would be really unpredictable and one that Trump supporters I think would protest very greatly as he heads towards Cleveland with a lot of delegates behind him.

BLITZER: Yes, but even the -- you know, if there's a contested convention in Cleveland in July, you needs 1,237 delegates to be the Republican nominee. If you're short, you're not necessarily guaranteed the nominee. Those are the rules.

RYAN LIZZA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think that is a great point, right? The rules are the rules. You have to have a majority of delegates. And nothing is going to be stolen from any candidate on the first ballot if you don't have a majority, right? There's no nominee. And then it goes to a second and a third ballot and takes as long as it takes for the delegates there to decide who the Republican nominee is. There's nothing, as far as I can tell, there's nothing -- there's nothing in that scenario that is undemocratic or would represents a theft of the election. There would just be a lot of horse trading and the nominee will be chosen the way it was in the old days.

BLITZER: Talk about john Kasich for a moment. He's got to do well, relatively well in Michigan tonight, but he clearly, a week from today, has to carry his home state of Ohio.

MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICS EXECUTIVE EDITOR: Well, he's been making his whole campaign on the fact that he can represent the Midwest, the industrial Midwest. In some ways just kind of like a Bernie Sanders kind of pitch to, you know, a populist, except for him, populist Republicans and independents, these blue collar workers. Yes, he has to do well. But, you know, as we're sitting here thinking about it, in many ways, just to put this in perspective, in many ways Marco Rubio, John Kasich, Ted Cruz could all do terrible tonight. They could all do terrible -- or Donald could do terrible. Donald Trump could lose one of the big states next week, whether that be Florida or whether that be Ohio and everyone could still stay in. They could all stay in.

What Marco Rubio told us just a short time ago when he said, I'm being asked to stay in, that's absolutely right because the way this will work with a contested convention is, all they have to do is just keep on sniping away at delegates. And can you imagine going into July with a contested convention in Cleveland? I mean the political anarchy that would ensues is insane.

And then, guess what? What if Bernie Sanders doesn't win the Democratic nomination? What if he doesn't? And then we're going to go with Hillary Clinton. We ended up -- Democratic nomination, but Bernie Sanders, a week later, is going to have power at the Democratic convention. And we really are in this fascinating political time.

BLITZER: Let me get your thought, Matea, while I have you. Donald Trump now responding publically to the criticism he's gotten over a new practice, a relatively new practice, at some of his rallies when he asks voters to raise their right hand, pledge to support him. Some say the images that we're seeing invoke -- bring back memories of the "hail Hitler" salute from Nazi Germany. And he was asked about that earlier this morning on "Good Morning America."

[13:20:21] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE (voice-over): I have a tremendous following. We want to make America great again. It's a strong following. I don't know about the Hitler comparison. I hadn't heard that. But it's a terrible comparison. I'm not happy about that, certainly. I don't want that comparison. But, you know, we have to be strong and we have to vigilant and people agree with that.


BLITZER: What's your reaction to that, Matea?

GOLD: Wolf, this is really part of a greater sense of control that the Trump campaign is seeking to exert over their campaign rallies. We've, obviously, seen numerous disruptions, often violent at their rallies. They're now asking people to sort of pledge their allegiance to Trump to attend. They're really keeping an eye out for protesters, people who will disrupt the crowd. There's a greater effort to really segregate the media away from the protesters. It's creating, I think, a really intense climate in these rallies that is obviously their attempt to keep some security, but I think also evokes some images that people find disturbing.

BLITZER: Yes. OK, Matea, thank you very much. Matea Gold of "The Washington Post." Mark Preston, Ryan Lizza, guys, thanks to you as well.

Our March madness continues all day. We'll be covering today's votes in Michigan, Mississippi, Idaho and Hawaii. Tomorrow, come right here to watch the Univision Democratic presidential debate in Miami. We will air it. And on Thursday, our own Jake Tapper moderates the next Republican presidential debate in Miami. And on Sunday, by the way, Jake will also moderate a Democratic presidential town hall in Ohio with Hillary Clinton. That's all right here on CNN.

Still ahead, while it's not the top trophy of the day, a win in Mississippi, in that primary there, is still a sought after prize and Ted Cruz certainly hoping a new endorsement in that state will help his campaign.


[13:26:34] BLITZER: Voters are heading to the polls in Mississippi today. Republican candidate Ted Cruz is looking to beat the frontrunner there, Donald Trump. And he got a boost last night, landing a big endorsement from the Mississippi governor, Phil Bryant. Our correspondent, Polo Sandoval, is in Jackson, Mississippi, for us.

Polo, how important is the governor's endorsement to Republican voters in Mississippi? POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's a good question, Wolf.

Important? Absolutely, especially for the Texas senator. Is it foretelling? I think many people will argue that that is not the case, especially after seeing what happened in Maine over the weekend during that Super Saturday caucus event in Maine of which Paul LePage's endorsement of Trump, Donald Trump, essentially was not enough to actually lead voters to the polling location and, of course, ended up with a very different situation.

But, of course, ultimately we'll have to wait and see what happens at the end of the day here when those numbers begin coming in as voters continue to head to polling locations, just like this one, to see if the Bryant endorsement is enough to carry Cruz over the finish line.

BLITZER: How does the turnout look so far in Mississippi?

SANDOVAL: Yes, it's interesting because we have seen it come in waves. Actually, this is the quietest that it's been. But we do expect yet another group of voters to be coming in very soon, especially since the lunch hour. And the process is very simple. They basically walk in and they either go to the table behind me on the left or perhaps the table on the right and then, of course, pick up their Republican ballot.

And it's not necessarily about who these voters want to win, Wolf. It's, for some, including one woman that I spoke to, it's about who they want not to win. I spoke to a local resident here who traditionally votes Democrat. Today, though, she picked up her ballot from the Republican side because, in her eyes, it's very important that Donald Trump not secure that nomination. Of course, come the general election in November, she plans to join her husband, of course, at the other table and then vote Democrat.

But, again, it just gives you some perspective, some of the dynamics at play here. But there are people that are coming in, young and old alike. In fact, one woman, Wolf, has been voting since -- really for the last 90 years and she said she was not about to miss this particular election.

And the last thing I should mention, it's kind of a personal observation. There was a woman that was at a walker, clearly an older woman who went up to me and then said, if the people on these ballots had any idea how much -- how much work it takes for some of us to get to the ballot -- to the polling locations, then perhaps it would be a different situation, really a better situation. So it's interesting what's on the minds of voters as they had to vote. They know that the spotlight's on Michigan but they're happy and, of course, excited to be a part of it today in Mississippi (INAUDIBLE).

BLITZER: Yes, Michigan, Mississippi, Idaho and Hawaii today. Four important contests. We'll have extensive, live coverage throughout the day in to the evening. We'll see what time we can make projections on these four contests.

All right, thanks very much for that, Polo. Just ahead, Hillary Clinton draws comparisons to 2008 and sends a message to Bernie Sanders, help me like I helped Barack Obama. We're going to have details of that message and more when we come back.