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If Trump Wins Ohio, Florida, It's Over; Obama Administration blame N.Y. Dam Cyber Attack on Iran; Voters Worried about Economy; Preparing for Tonight's CNN Debate. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired March 10, 2016 - 13:30   ET



[13:33:27] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Nancy Reagan lying in repose today at Simi Valley at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. We're going to have special coverage of the funeral tomorrow starting at 2:00 p.m. eastern. 2:00 p.m. eastern that special coverage. Our Brooke Baldwin will anchor that special coverage tomorrow.

In the meantime, I want to get to this race for the White House.

Joining us now, Adam Smith is the political editor of "Tampa Bay Times"; and Dan Balz is chief correspondent for "The Washington Post."

Let's talk about Florida. Adam, a state you know well. What's going to happen on Tuesday?

ADAM SMITH, POLITICAL EDITOR, TAMPA BAY TIMES: We are weirdly disloyal in Florida. We've had two hometown favorites, Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio, neither has been close to leading in the polls since probably July.

BLITZER: So Trump looks like he's going to win in Florida?

SMITH: It's Florida, so nothing is predictable. But Trump looks favored right now.

BLITZER: And the polls have been very consistent. Trump showing a strong lead.

DAN BALZ, CHIEF CORRESPONDENT, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yeah, there have been some that show a big lead and some that show a smaller lead. But he's leading in all of them. And if Rubio is truly competitive, he should be tighter at this point than he is. I agree with Adam that it's always a little unpredictable but you would have to rate Trump.

BLITZER: The hometown Senator, if he doesn't win on Tuesday, everybody seems to think it's over, right?

SMITH: What's the case? If he can't win Florida, the ultimate battleground state that Republicans must win to win the general election, hard to make the case he's the strongest candidate.

BLITZER: That helps Cruz or Trump more, or does it help Kasich?

BALZ: Well, Kasich --


BLITZER: Trump keeps saying I'm going to pick up a lot of those supporters, too.

BALZ: He may well. But the issue for Kasich is he's got his own battle on Tuesday in Ohio.

BLITZER: The polls there are mixed.

BALZ: The polls there are mixed, yes.


BLITZER: He's ahead in some but behind in others.

BALZ: He's clearly in that race in a way that Rubio doesn't appear to be here in Florida. But Cruz still has at this point the greater claim to be the last man standing. But if Kasich has a victory in Ohio, we're talking different situation on Wednesday.

[13:35:22] BLITZER: Let's say Kasich does win in Ohio and, hypothetically, and Marco Rubio loses in Florida, there's three that continue. Realistically, can Kasich show something? In other words, does it make any difference if he wins in Ohio or not?

SMITH: Yeah. He's got an argument in terms of going on. But in terms of getting the delegates, that window is closed.

BLITZER: In terms of the delegates, do you agree with him?

BALZ: He's so far back in the delegates and Ohio is not going to vault him in a serious delegate fight.

BLITZER: Let's talk about Jeb Bush. He's meeting with the Republican presidential candidates not named Donald Trump. What does that say to you?

BALZ: He's doing the obligatory thing. I'm sure all would like to get his endorsement and he's going to hear them out. And we'll wait to see whether it's in his own interest to jump in this race on behalf of somebody else. It would seem unlikely but who knows.

BLITZER: He was a popular governor in Florida. If he were to make an endorsement before Tuesday, that could be significant.

SMITH: In 1998, I would say that would be huge but after this last presidential primary, now not so much. I think he'll probably watch the debate tonight and, more likely than not, he will not.

BLITZER: He won't get involved. He left on a very -- it was a beautiful speech he delivered as he left, but clearly a huge disappointment. A year ago, everyone thought it was a lock for him.

BALZ: He was. He was the early favorite, the early front runner, raised all that money, and everybody looked at him and said this is potentially a juggernaut. But, you know, Wolf, at the same time, it was always clear there was resistance inside the party to another Bush. And I think he was never able to overcome that, put aside the Donald Trump problem.

BLITZER: Yeah, we'll see how Trump does on Tuesday in Florida.

And Adam and Dan, as you know, Florida is basically three different demographic, south Florida, central Florida, north Florida. If Trump does well in all three, that will bode well for him. As we look down the road, we'll study the exist polls, as we always do.

Guys, thanks very much for coming in.

Take a look at this. Another look at the stage for this setup for tonight's CNN Republican presidential debate. The candidates are scheduled to arrive any moment now for the walk-throughs. We'll keep you updated.


[13:41:55] BLITZER: We've got breaking news right now. We've learned the Obama administration plans to blame Iranian hackers for a 2013 cyber attack against a New York dam.

Let's get to justice reporter, Evan Perez, in Washington.

Evan, what are you learning?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. Hackers working for the Iranian government, it is believed, where behind the 2013 attack in Rye, New York. And now the Obama administration is getting ready to publicly say so. U.S. officials tell me the Justice Department is preparing an indictment against people believed to be behind the attack.

The hack isn't considered to be very sophisticated, but they did get into some back office systems, and not the operational systems of the dam. But still, it's an attack that alarmed the White House, because it shows how vulnerable U.S. infrastructure is to this kind of attack.

We expect an announcement in the next week, and this is part of a strategy in recent years by the administration to, quote, "name and shame" countries and if possible, the people behind the cyber attacks.

In 2014, if you remember, Wolf, the Justice Department charged members of the Chinese military with breaching U.S. industrial companies, and last year, the FBI publicly blamed North Korea for the devastating attack on Sony Pictures, so we expect to hear more from the Justice Department in the next week or so -- Wolf?

BLITZER: So they're saying these hackers were working directly for the Iranian government. Will they get into specifics, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, the Iranian military, will they talk about the more moderate elements at the top leadership that the U.S. has been negotiating with on this Iran nuclear deal? How specific will they get in naming names?

PEREZ: Well, we don't example know, but we do know that the administration and certainly the FBI and the intelligence agencies have been keeping an eye on the growing capabilities of the Iranian military and hackers that are working for them. In this case, Wolf, they were using off-the-shelf software, which is worrisome, because if you can do damage with a software you can get off the Internet, that is something that really raises a lot of concerns for U.S. industrial companies, and for the infrastructure, for certainly the power grid and so on. So it's definitely something that is on the minds of the administration.

BLITZER: Yeah, we'll see the names that are named in the indictment and how high that goes.

Thanks very much, Evan Perez.

Let's get back to the race for the White House. Exit polls in several of the primary states have shown voters' number-one issue is the economy, the state of the economy. Take a look at Michigan, for example, where 92 percent of Republicans voters said they were worried about the U.S. economy. Among Democrats, it was 80 percent. Why is that, especially when employment, the unemployment rate now is relatively low, 4.9 percent? It was around 8 percent when President Obama took office some seven years ago.

So let's bring in Greg Ip, the chief economics commentator for the "Wall Street Journal."

Greg, unemployment relatively low right now, under 5 percent. Wouldn't it suggest that people are more encouraged, the millions of jobs created, hundreds of thousands virtually in every month? The U.S. was losing 800,000 jobs when Obama took office, 800,000 jobs a month.

[13:45:24] GREG IP, CHIEF ECONOMICS COMMENTATOR, WALL STREET JOURNAL: Absolutely, Wolf. Of the total job creation record of the last seven or eight years and back down to what economists consider a full employment level. Two reasons. One, we know a lot of people have dropped out of the labor force because they retired, went on disability insurance, gave up. So those people -- that means the unemployment rate is a little understated as a result. So, secondly, the wages that people have jobs are getting aren't as impressive as they used to be. Wage growth in recent years has been around 2 percent versus 4 percent before the recession. And I think that feeling of not really being able to stay much ahead of inflation is really eating away at people's sense of security.

BLITZER: Because as they say, a lot of people have dropped out. Some have suggested that the work level right now, the number of people participating in the job market, shall we say, is almost at a record low. Is that true?

IP: That is true. The labor force participation rate has dropped in the last seven or eight years. However, it's really not the case as some people argue this is entirely because it's a weak job market. A lot of that is demographic. We are a country getting older. So the first baby boomers began collecting Social Security in 2008. So we would have had a drop even without the recession. But it is still the case that a lot of people are not working might be contributing to the overall sense that things aren't quite right in the country.

BLITZER: What about homeownership? We know the disaster in 2007-2008 when people were losing their homes in that mortgage bubble, the disaster that occurred. What about now? What does it look like?

IP: Pretty discouraging. And I think this alone speaks to some of the anxiety out there. The home ownership rate reached a record of 69 percent prior to the recessions, but after the foreclosure crisis and the recession, it's now down to around 63 percent, which is roughly where it was in 1995. The average young family starting out in the job market wants to start a family, buy a home, is finding it very difficult to get a mortgage, put together money to make a down payment, given that regulations are much tighter. So between the weakness of income and the much greater stringency there is on people's ability to basically get what they used to think their parents could assume they would have at this age, I think that, too, undermines security. Along with the mission of opportunities in sectors like manufacturing that used to be the source of really good- paying work.

BLITZER: Whatever Democrats and Republican voters, so far, what they disagree on a lot, but they clearly are both worried about the state of U.S. economy right now.

Good explanation, Greg. Thanks very much for joining us.

IP: All right. Thanks for having me, Wolf.

BLITZER: Coming up, the Republican presidential candidates, they're getting ready to debate tonight. They're expected, actually, to arrive here on the campus of the University of Miami at the debate hall momentarily. They'll begin their -- what we call their walk- throughs before tonight's big event. I'll check out the podium, lecterns, stage for a closer look at what the candidates will face in this final showdown before next Tuesday's Super Tuesday. Your sneak peek, right after the break.


[13:52:25] BLITZER: Take a look at this, some live pictures coming in. This is the CNN stage for tonight's Republican debate. We expect the candidates to arrive any minute now to tour the stage, get a little feeling for what's up on this stage. We'll bring you some of that live once it happens, so stick around for that. That's coming up.

Earlier, I had a chance to go inside the debate hall with our senior White House correspondent, Jim Acosta, who gave us the lay of the land on that stage and some insight into what we might hear from each of the candidates.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) BLITZER: Let's go on the stage and take a look at this debate --


BLITZER: It's a really beautiful hall here, a magnificent setting for this historic presidential debate.

ACOSTA: I'm always amazed our crews can tear down these stages, set them back up at another college campus. It's really a team effort.

BLITZER: Remember when there were eight, nine, whatever?

ACOSTA: We used to have a kiddie table.

This is Rubio.

BLITZER: Donald Trump over here.

ACOSTA: That's right.

BLITZER: Ted Cruz. And John Kasich.

What are you hearing, is it going to be one of these really lively tough assertive debates or is there going to be a little softer tone now?

ACOSTA: Donald Trump is hoping it will be a softer debate but I don't think so. I think Ted Cruz has decided he's ready to be that nasty anti-Trump candidate we saw Marco Rubio behave like in recent days, and he's gone after Trump in the last 24 hours saying he's not here to sell steaks, he's not here to sell wine.

BLITZER: Trump will stand over here, so to the left, Cruz, and to his right, Marco Rubio. For Rubio, and his home state of Florida, as you well know, this is basically do or die.

ACOSTA: This is make-or-break for Marco Rubio. If he can't win his home state, he's going to fall so far behind in the delegate count it almost doesn't make sense for him to stay in the race anymore.

The same goes for John Kasich. He's in the same situation in Ohio. If you look at the polls, he might have a better shot at treating Trump in his home state. No question, if Marco Rubio can't win in Florida, he would be in big trouble.

You would think Trump would not be distracted by a lot of booing and other types of noises being made at rallies because that's what happens at his events, but you see it happen at almost every one of his debates --


ACOSTA: -- people are yelling and screaming through his debates. Donald Trump likes to say these are the contributors, donors to his opponents. The RNC has said that's not the case. I can't remember a cycle where the debates have been this rowdy, not only on the stage, but in the audience as well.

BLITZER: Looking forward to debate, thanks.

ACOSTA: Thank you, Wolf.


[13:55:00] BLITZER: Our Jake Tapper, he'll moderate the debate. Dana Bash will join in the questioning. Hugh Hewitt will join in the questioning. Two hours. All of the activities really begin around 8:30 p.m. eastern, the pre debate, if you will. The debate closer to 9:00 p.m. eastern. It goes for two hours. This is the last chance for these four Republican presidential candidates, to make an impressive showing of the important primaries that are coming up. Marco Rubio, his last chance to show he's a serious candidate. Similarly, for John Kasich in Ohio, do or die there. A full complement of presentation. Very important debate coming up tonight. Stick around for that.

Any minute, you'll start to see the candidates walk through the debate hall. We'll have live coverage of that. Stick around for that.

I'll see you later today, 5:00 p.m. eastern, in "The Situation Room."

The news continues right after a quick break.