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Interview With Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson; Terror Fears; Battle For Wisconsin Is On; Report: Trump's Strategy to Be Provocative in Primaries; Sanders: Clinton 'Nervous' About Upcoming Contests; Urgent Hunt for Dozens of Terror Suspects. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired April 4, 2016 - 18:00   ET



WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now: badgering voters. On the eve of their crucial showdown in Wisconsin, Donald Trump and Ted Cruz battle for every last vote. Both men are predicting victory. What will Badger State voters decide?

Dueling rallies. Tonight, Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders hold simultaneous campaign rallies. Thousands of supporters from across the political spectrum, they are expected to turn out to support their candidates.

Must-win moment? Senator Bernie Sanders crisscrosses Wisconsin, hoping to add another state to his winning streak. But could Hillary Clinton's last-minute campaigning ignite a surprising surge?

And terrorists at large. A dire warning in the wake of Paris and Brussels. Dozens of suspected ISIS terrorists, they remain on the loose right now. Who are they? Where are they? Could they strike again?

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

We're awaiting dueling campaign rallies by Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. Get this. Both rallies are in Milwaukee. And they are across the street from one another at the same time. Trump predicts tomorrow will be a very big day, an unbelievable day, he says. But Ted Cruz says Wisconsin voters are about to make a very powerful statement that will be felt, in his words, all across the country.

We're also following ominous news in the war on terror. CNN has now learned security officials are chasing dozens of suspected ISIS terrorists and others identified as part of a wider terror web.

We're joined tonight by Senator Ron Johnson. He chairs the Homeland Security Committee. He's also from Wisconsin. And our correspondents, analysts and guests, they will have full coverage of all the day's top stories.

Let's begin with CNN's Jim Acosta. He's at the site of a rally where Trump predicted victory.

Can he put all of last week's mistakes, Jim, behind him?


Donald Trump is looking to pull off a big come-from-behind victory here in Wisconsin. He's not only trying to catch Ted Cruz, who appears to be way out in front. The GOP front-runner is also doing some cleanup after a messy week.


ACOSTA (voice-over): Donald Trump knows the stakes all too well. After a bruising week, a big W. in Wisconsin could change everything.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I have been given the last rites how many times, like 10? Every week, it's the end of Trump. Then they walk in. Sir, I don't know what happened, but your poll numbers just went through the roof.

ACOSTA: While he's scrambling to catch Ted Cruz, who's leading in Wisconsin, the GOP front-runner is attacking John Kasich, accusing the Ohio governor of being nothing more than a spoiler.

TRUMP: He's lost like 29 or 30 or 31 times, whatever the hell it is, every single state and every single island. He ought to get the hell out. And let me tell you, he hurts me much more than he hurts Cruz.

ACOSTA: Already looking ahead to New York, Kasich's message for Trump, don't hold your breath.

GOV. JOHN KASICH (R-OH), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Donald Trump said that I need to get out of the race because I'm getting his voters. Well, wait, no, no, I have got news for him. I'm going to get a heck of a lot of his voters.

ACOSTA: Trump is also busy mopping up his recent messes, telling "The New York Times" he made a mistake retweeting an unflattering picture of Cruz's wife. But he is still dominating headlines, with "New York" magazine saying Trump is sweaty and spent after wearing a bulletproof vest at his rallies and he raised eyebrows when he predicted over the weekend the country is heading towards a very massive recession, a comment he tried to clean up today.

TRUMP: What I said is, we're going to go into a massive recession, but I also say, if I'm president, that's not going to happen, because I'm going to straighten things out.

ACOSTA: Add to that Trump's furious attempts to clarify his position on abortion, after saying last week women who undergo the procedure should be punished if it's made illegal.

TRUMP: Right now, the laws are set and that's the way the laws are.

ACOSTA: The real estate tycoon's team is lashing out at its critics. One internal Trump campaign memo titled "Digging Through the Bull" says America is sick of them. "Their idiotic attack just reminds voters why they hate the Washington establishment, Donald Trump 1, Washington establishment/media 0."

As for Cruz, he's confident that Trump's stumbles are keeping him in the hunt, especially if the race goes to a contested convention, where he wants to hold Kasich to GOP rules requiring candidates to rack up eight wins to qualify for the nomination.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There are only two candidates who will have met that threshold. The choice will be between me and Donald Trump.


ACOSTA: Cruz is trying to capitalize on Trump's weakness among women, blaming him for a "National Enquirer" story that claimed the Texas senator was being unfaithful to his wife.

CRUZ: It's completely made-up nonsense. It's simply not true. I have always been faithful to my wife. I love my wife.


ACOSTA: Now, speaking of wives, Trump will be with his wife, Melania, when he appears in Milwaukee later on this evening. That rally will be just down the street from an event held by Bernie Sanders, a potentially volatile mix, as so many Sanders supporters have shown up as protesters at Trump rallies.

Wolf, we have seen that firsthand. It's possibly going to be a very interesting night there in Milwaukee -- Wolf.

BLITZER: We will watch it closely, Jim Acosta in Superior, Wisconsin.

Let's go to the scene of that big rally, that Trump rally, which is, as we just learned, across the street from the site where Senator Bernie Sanders is holding a rally of his own tonight.

CNN's Sara Murray is joining us from Milwaukee right now.

Sara, Trump is pulling out all the stops to get a big finish in Wisconsin right now. How confident are they?

SARA MURRAY, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. This is going to be Donald Trump's third event here in Wisconsin of the day.

And, as Jim mentioned, we're expecting Melania Trump to join him. We know Trump is sort of trying to rehab his image among female voters after the whole back and forth about his abortion position. So we will be looking for any sign that he's using Melania Trump here in Milwaukee to maybe help him do that.

The other story they have been trying to move beyond, though, is the story of Trump's campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, who is of course facing that battery charge. And since then, it's spawned a number of stories about whether there could be a staff shakeup afoot. I spoke to Corey Lewandowski earlier. And he was adamant that that is

not the case, that his role has not been diminished. He said, in fact, a number of the senior staffers that have been brought on recently have been his hires. And he says that everyone in the Trump campaign is first and foremost loyal to Donald Trump, but, secondly, they're loyal to each other because they know they're going to battle with the political establishment.

So, as Trump tries to get past all of these hurdles, he is still facing yet another one and that's of course the primary here in Wisconsin tomorrow. This is a state where Ted Cruz still does appear to have an edge in recent polls. We will have to see if this sprint to the finish by Trump can move his numbers here in the state -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Find out very, very soon. All right, Sara, thank you.

For his part, Senator Ted Cruz is predicting Wisconsin voters will send a very different message tomorrow. The senator spoke with CNN's Sunlen Serfaty out on the campaign trail in Wisconsin today.

What did he tell you, Sunlen?

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, Senator Cruz certainly is projecting confidence, not only in predicting an outright win here in Wisconsin, but also what that win could potentially mean going forward and how it could reshape the race.

Senator Cruz was here at this tea shop moments ago, where he toured and tasted the many selections of Wisconsin cheeses. And I asked him about the stakes tomorrow. And he should point blank that he thinks Wisconsin will be a turning point and will have broader implications going forward. Here's what he had to say.


CRUZ: And tomorrow here in Wisconsin, you know, today, Donald Trump announced at a rally, he predicted a big win here in Wisconsin. Well, that may be true, but I do think the people of Wisconsin are going to decide that.

And I hope the people of Wisconsin have a different result, and I think if they do, it will make a powerful statement all across the country. Number one, it will continue to add to our delegates. And we're seeing state after state after state our delegates are growing. But, number two, I think it will have a powerful impact on the states that are coming up.


SERFATY: And that last part there really seemed to be the key takeaway in his potential messaging going forward, trying to frame his potential Wisconsin win and the broader last few weeks that Donald Trump has gone through, use that as a springboard going forward and really to paint Donald Trump as a downward slope, a downward trajectory. Of course, all this to say with a win or without a win in Wisconsin,

Ted Cruz certainly has a steep uphill climb ahead of him to get to 1,237 -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, thanks very much, Sunlen Serfaty reporting.

Joining us here in THE SITUATION ROOM, Republican Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin.

Senator, thanks very much for joining us.


BLITZER: So how critical is your home state of Wisconsin for both Cruz and Trump and, for that matter, Kasich?

JOHNSON: Well, it's like all these primaries.

It's very important for them. What is unique about Wisconsin, it has been kind of isolated. Had a couple of weeks building up to it. And I think there's going to be a week or so afterwards, when this is going to be all the news. So, it's an important race.

I'm just hoping they have got some fresh cheese curds, because that's actually the best.

BLITZER: Everybody loves cheese in Wisconsin. Everybody loves cheese all over the country, I should say.

Was it smart, though, for Donald Trump to really go after the governor, the Republican governor, Scott Walker, in these days leading up to the primary?

JOHNSON: Well, I wouldn't think so in terms of Republican primary voters. You know, Scott Walker has provided some really excellent leadership in Wisconsin.

BLITZER: He's won three times in Wisconsin, including a recall.

JOHNSON: Yes, as has Paul Ryan.

Within the Republican base, Scott Walker and Paul Ryan...


BLITZER: But Trump is not going after Paul Ryan, but he's really going after Scott Walker.


Here's the question. Does that alienate potential voters tomorrow because Scott Walker presumably still got some support among Republicans?

JOHNSON: I would assume it's not helpful.

BLITZER: You haven't endorsed anyone yet, right?

JOHNSON: No. I'm staying out of it.

BLITZER: Why? Why not tell the people of your home state of Wisconsin, you know what, I think X is better than Y or...

JOHNSON: I think endorsements, from my standpoint, are extremely important.

I have got to have a real comfort level. I did endorse Mitt Romney before the last primary. And the reason I did, Wolf, is, when I met with Mitt prior to the primary, he said he expected to be a one-term president because expected to fix these problems. And he knew it wouldn't be popular, it wouldn't be fun.

When he picked Paul Ryan as his running mate, it kind of confirmed my choice. I have to -- I think an endorsement is something incredibly important. I would never do it just strategically. I would have to have full confidence that I have got no questions about the person.

BLITZER: And you don't have full confidence in any of these three remaining...


JOHNSON: I have got concerns. I just don't have that comfort level.

BLITZER: Give me some examples. What are your concerns -- for example, let's talk about Trump. What is your concern about Trump?

JOHNSON: Well, for example, as chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, we have held 14 hearings on border security alone.

It's more complex than just slapping up a wall. We have got to take a look at all the complexities in terms of eliminating the incentives for illegal immigration. I'm concerned from the standpoint of trade. In Wisconsin, we have got a lot of agricultural products that are exported.

We have a lot of manufacturing products that are exported. I don't want to engage in a trade war. We have to have fair trade, no doubt about it. And maybe we can negotiate a better deal than is on the table right now, but trade and handling those world markets open to American -- or to Wisconsin products is extremely important.

BLITZER: Cruz, he is your fellow senator. What's your concern about him?

JOHNSON: I just have some concerns.

BLITZER: You want to be specific?

JOHNSON: Not particularly.

BLITZER: Because I don't think maybe one senator has endorsed Cruz so far. He doesn't have a whole lot of support among the Republican Senate colleagues.

JOHNSON: From my standpoint, I like the Ronald Reagan 11th commandment. Speak no ill. My intention is to endorse whoever the Republican nominee is going to be. I have voted. I have done by secret absentee ballot. And so that's how I'm voicing my support.

BLITZER: You think Kasich, though -- he has no mathematical chance of getting the Republican nomination in round one, getting that magic number of 1,237. But his hope is there would be a contested convention and he will emerge on the second, or third or fourth ballot. Is that realistic?

JOHNSON: Again, I'm no political pundit, Wolf.

BLITZER: You're a politician.

JOHNSON: I'm a manufacturer from Oshkosh, Wisconsin.

BLITZER: But you are a smart politician too.

JOHNSON: Well, now I'm a citizen legislator.

Listen, I like the governor model. Obviously, John Kasich has done some good things in Ohio. I think that's an important state for Republicans to win in the presidential election. So, listen, all these candidates have their pluses. They all have their minuses.

Again, from my standpoint, I just didn't have the comfort level across the board. I'm going to let the process play out.

BLITZER: But you are committed to working for whoever emerges as the Republican nominee, assuming it's one of these three?

JOHNSON: Sure, because the comparison is going to be Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders, a committed socialist and I think hopefully Americans realize that socialism doesn't work. It didn't work for the Soviet Union, Venezuela, or what should be the (INAUDIBLE) Cuba.

And let's face it. Hillary Clinton has more baggage than a claim area in an airport. I think she's going to be a very flawed candidate. So, obviously, I will not be supporting Democrat nominee. I will be supporting the Republican nominee.

BLITZER: You have seen all these reports that there's a lot of hope that Paul Ryan, the speaker of the House, from Wisconsin, he could emerge as the Republican nominee if there's a deadlock, if there's second or third round, no one gets the magic number. Is that at all realistic? Because he keeps saying he's not interested.

JOHNSON: Listen, nobody can predict what's going to happen here. Nobody can predict it.

So, obviously, I have a great deal of respect for Paul as a person of integrity, of intelligence, of ideas and courage. Wolf, that's what I'm going to bed every night praying for is a nominee and a president with those qualities, because we have enormous challenges. (CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: He kept saying he didn't want to be speaker. He turned out to be speaker. You think the same thing could happen this time?

JOHNSON: If a party, if a nation turned to you and said, listen, would you be our leader, who would turn that down, particularly if you realized you are qualified for being that leader?

BLITZER: Are you under a lot of pressure from your constituents? They say, Senator, who should I vote for? Do you get that kind of question all the time?

JOHNSON: Not really. I think people realize my position is a valid one. To just voice my support by voting in a secret ballot and who am I to tell the people how to vote? They can evaluate that themselves. I'm happy to provide them the information the challenges facing Wisconsin and this nation and let them decide for themselves.

BLITZER: We have more to discuss, more politics to discuss.

But you are also, as you point out, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee. There are major terror threats out there. I want to discuss that with you as well.

Much more with Senator Ron Johnson right after this.



BLITZER: As we count down to CNN's coverage of the Wisconsin crucial primaries, we're back with the state's Republican Senator Ron Johnson.

We're waiting dueling rallies in Milwaukee right now, a city you know well.

You're also chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee. You're on the Foreign Relations Committee. You have seen these reports over the past 24 hours that they are looking for dozens of suspected terrorists in Europe right now who may have had a role, maybe an indirect, but a role in the Paris and Brussels terror attacks.

Here's the question. Are you concerned some of these terrorists could make their way to the United States?


Now, obviously, Europe is more vulnerable. They're in closer proximity to Syria. You have had that enormous migrant flow, because we haven't taken care of the situation in Syria. But my concern would be those Islamic terrorist operatives moving through Africa into Central or South America and then coming up through our completely porous border.

You could have someone with a completely clean record who have been self-radicalized in Europe using our visa waiver program as well. I think it's more than likely, though, that you would come and move those individuals through our porous southern border.


And we have actually got a category called in homeland security called SIAs, special interest aliens. These individuals are being picked up in Central America from Yemen and Somalia and Syria and from Pakistan. That's where I think our greatest danger is.

BLITZER: I know you're holding a hearing tomorrow. Your committee is holding a hearing on this tomorrow. This sounds like a nightmare scenario. How do you find these guys before they come into the United States?

JOHNSON: It's extremely difficult.

We're looking for a needle in a haystack. The problem is, there are more needles and the haystack is growing. But, again, I'm more concerned about the fact that ISIS continues to exist. They are extremely effective at using social media and they use that to radicalize homegrown terrorists here. And we saw that obviously in San Bernardino.

BLITZER: But you don't agree with Trump that there should be a temporary ban on all Muslims coming into the United States until the U.S. can figure out what's going on? That's the way he...


JOHNSON: No, but I certainly believe that we should not take any shortcuts in the vetting. I understand how if we're bringing refugees from Syria, we don't have the complete information.

What I have suggested to the administration is, well, let's list some criteria. How about women, children, relatives of Syrian American citizens that have the financial wherewithal to support them and take no risks? Know that whoever we let in, we have absolute certainty that we know their complete background.

BLITZER: Because the administration wants about 10,000 or 20,000 to come in this -- Syrian refugees.

JOHNSON: And the administration pretty well has the authority to bring those people in.

My job as chairman of the committee is hold their feet to the fire. Don't take any shortcuts. There's no reason for taking any risk whatsoever, which is why I sponsored the SAFE Act in the Senate about having the secretary of homeland security certify that we are taking no risks.

BLITZER: You agree with Trump that NATO is now obsolete?

JOHNSON: Absolutely not. No, I think we need to strengthen NATO. I'm highly concerned about

Putin's aggression, partly because of the weakness we have shown. We need to strengthen NATO. I think we need to put additional forward forces in some Eastern European countries, certainly support the Balkans.

It was my resolution that confirmed what was a unanimous vote of the Senate to provide lethal defensive weaponry to Ukraine. And this administration has not used that. So, no, I think NATO, if anything, needs to be strengthened. I agree that our European partners have not been following their commitment for just a 2 percent spending...


JOHNSON: ... GDP. There have been four of them that have. More of them have to meet that commitment and I would say potentially up that commitment as well.

BLITZER: Senator Johnson, thanks very much for coming in.

JOHNSON: Have a great night.

BLITZER: You too, Ron Johnson, the senator from Wisconsin.

Just ahead, how critical is Wisconsin for Donald Trump, especially after his rather rocky week?

And for the Democrats, will Wisconsin voters help Senator Bernie Sanders cut into Hillary Clinton's big lead in convention delegates?

We will be right back.



BLITZER: We're awaiting dueling campaign rallies by Donald Trump and Senator Bernie Sanders in Milwaukee right now.

They will be in arenas that are directly across the street from one another. Despite his rocky week, Donald Trump is telling Wisconsin voters he has a feeling tomorrow will be, in his words, a very big day, an unbelievable day.

Joining us here in THE SITUATION ROOM, our senior political reporter Nia-Malika Henderson, our chief political analyst Gloria Borger, CNN political commentator Ryan Lizza -- he's "The New Yorker" magazine's Washington correspondent -- and "Washington Post" assistant editor David Swerdlick.

In this "New York" magazine article, this profile of Donald Trump, it goes back to 2014. And apparently his strategy was to be less presidential, more provocative, if you will, to get his name out there. Seems to have worked, hasn't it?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I would have to say it worked. He says if he hadn't done that, he would have been like the rest of these folks and he would have just blended in to the woodwork and that he had to find a way to distinguish himself.

I think we can safely say that Donald Trump has actually succeeded in distinguishing himself. He's different from any candidate we have ever seen on the national stage.

BLITZER: The article also suggests that Ivanka Trump, his daughter, told her father, you have to act more presidential, to which he told the magazine this. He said, "You know, there's a difference between being presidential when you are now president of the United States and being presidential when you are running against 17 other people."

The suggestion being, he likes his daughter and he listens to his daughter, but he's really in charge.


And this has been a recurring theme about whether or not he can be presidential. Certain people giving him this advice, his daughter in this instance. His wife his given him this advice, too, and I'm sure other advisers and people observing his race have also given him that advice.

The comeback is always he's his own man. Corey Lewandowski, who is his campaign manager, apparently has this let Trump be Trump sort of motto in terms of how they're going to go about this campaign. And Trump himself has also said -- in that "Washington Post" article, he said sometimes you have to break some eggs.

I guess the eggs is the candidacies of all these other, you know, all these other candidates and also the norms of presidential politics. I do think that a lot of voters when they look at how candidates campaign, it's almost as if a campaign is a job interview for the presidency. And I think that's what you see some of his opponents starting to seize on this idea. He's such an unpredictable candidate. Can you imagine Donald Trump in the White House?

BLITZER: Will he continue that strategy?

Assuming he gets the Republican nomination and let's say he's running against Hillary Clinton. Will he continue what some call the outrageous comments, the provocative comments, or will he try to project a more presidential, softer side?

RYAN LIZZA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, the best evidence for the answer to that is the Bob Woodward and Bob Costa interview that ran in "The Washington Post" this weekend.

[18:30:00] They interviewed him for about an hour, an hour and a half. I read that entire transcript. It's posted online. And over and over again, those two journalists tried to get Trump to explain when he's going to change, when he's going to pivot, when he's going to be more policy focused, when he's going to be more presidential. And for an hour and a half, Trump said, "It's not happening. It's not

happening. It's not happening. This is who I am. And I've got to wait to get Kasich" -- what he calls the leftovers, Kasich and Cruz, out of the race.

But I -- you know, one thing from the New York magazine piece and that "Washington Post" interview is, you don't see Trump believing that he needs to pivot, that he needs to change, that he needs to become a policy wonk. He believes that what got him to this point is what he's continuing to do going forward. And a lot of Republicans do not agree with that.

BLITZER: He's doing these lengthy interviews, David, with "The Washington Post," the Bob Woodward, Bob Costa. You saw that long interview he did with "The New York Times." David Sanger, Margie [SIC] Haberman. Very long interview on national security, foreign policy. He's not -- and this "New York Magazine" long interview. He's not shying away from opening up with serious reporters.

DAVID SWERDLICK, ASSISTANT EDITOR, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yes, no, because I think he's shown an incredible ability to filibuster in some of these interviews, right? He has talked about that he'll -- he'll reduce deficits; he'll get rid of ISIS; he'll do it all quickly and cheaply and also lower taxes and bring jobs back from overseas. And when reporters, some of the best reporters, my colleagues at the weapon "Washington Post," have tried to pin him down on some of these issues. They've been able to pin him down on a few things.

But they have a sense in the Trump campaign, the small cohort that is the Trump campaign, that what the average voter cares about, whether it's the Wisconsin primary or something else is the big picture. He is shaking things up. He's a businessman. He, quote unquote, "tells it like it is." And that's what people are responding to.

BLITZER: He won't pivot until -- he's got to do what he's got to do. He's got to hire some political operatives to make sure he gets the delegates...

BORGER: Well...

BLITZER: ... if there's a second or third round. He needs some experienced political establishment hands.

BORGER: And he started doing that. He's hired Paul Manafort who worked in the Gerald Ford camp, who got the nomination that time for Jim Baker, who was running the show at that time.

He started to reach out, but now you're down to the math. And you're down to this question of delegates. So it's one thing to woo primary voters, because primary voters want to send a message to the establishment. They're angry; they're mad. Everybody understands that. We've talked about it for months and months.

The delegates who go to a convention are pols. They want to win. They're not so angry at the establishment. They're part of the establishment, a lot of them. So what Trump now has to do is charm them and get them to his side in a very different way and convince them that he can win, because that's what they care about.

And I think that that's going to be a little bit difficult for him, given the polling that we see nationally, particularly in a head-to- head matchup against Hillary Clinton. So this is his new challenge. And that's why people are saying, "Well, OK, at a certain point, you have to pivot," because, well, primary voters don't care about electability, the people who go to these conventions do.

BLITZER: Nia, he also did something a lot of us saw -- thought was surprising. He acknowledged to Maureen Dowd, "The New York Times" columnist, that he did make a mistake in retweeting that unflattering picture of Heidi Cruz. And he said that was a mistake.

HENDERSON: And this was something that we hadn't seen from him. Twice now, not only with the Heidi Cruz thing but also with the abortion comments, he reversed himself on that. I think in some ways, the backdrop of this is what Gloria is talking about with him needing to pivot but also just Wisconsin. I mean, if you look at the kind of politics that they practice in Wisconsin and sort of the Midwestern niceness of Wisconsin and even the kind of person that somebody like Scott Walker is. You know, this kind of plainspoken, aggressively normal person and does very well among Republicans there. They are 70 percent approval rating. But in some ways that's what he's playing to.

That Heidi Cruz tweet, I think, really -- really, I think settled in the American public in a way that a lot of things hadn't, because it was so easy to understand. I remember listening to an Easter sermon on Easter Sunday, and the preacher actually mentioned that. He said, you know, "What do you make of this whole Ted Cruz/Donald Trump dust- up with their wives?" So I think it penetrated people and really, you know, caused some consternation with...

BLITZER: A good point. I think it was probably a mistake for him...


BLITZER: ... to go after Scott Walker, the Republican governor, as tough as he did in a way that he did. Scott Walker was not running for president anymore. He didn't necessarily have to do that.

LIZZA: I think March is a month of mistakes for Donald Trump. It started, actually, on February 28 with Jake Tapper's interview when he didn't immediately denounce the KKK. It went through the Heidi Cruz retweets, the mistakes on how to understand the Wisconsin electorate, right through to having five different positions on abortion in the course of, you know, 48 hours.

BLITZER: At this rally today, Melania is going to be there. His wife is going to be there with him. Is this part of the effort to try to bring back some of that women support?

[18:35:15] LIZZA: Yes. They've got to, I think, humanize him a little bit. Right? I mean, Trump has seen the people's champ throughout this election as Ryan said, though. It's been sort of a bad month for him ,because on some of these issues, like abortion, like Heidi Cruz, you don't have to be a policy wonk, as you said, Nia, to get into it. It's one of those things where people expect Trump to have a gut feeling about an issue, and his gut has been wrong.

BLITZER: Both Trump and Cruz, they agree on one thing -- that Kasich should not be running. They want Kasich out. Who would get that support, though? Let's say Kasich were to drop out?

BORGER: Well, they both say they would get Kasich's support. And, you know, I'm not sure either of them is right. I think John Kasich is every Democrat's favorite Republican to a -- you know, to a degree.

As we've been saying throughout this election season, I think it would be more likely that Cruz would get support, rather than Trump. And honestly, you know, I don't think we know. And by the way, I don't think Kasich is going anywhere. The interesting alliance will be, though, at the convention will be that Ted Cruz and Donald Trump will team up together, because they don't want to change the rules that require that you have a majority of -- that you have eight wins in order to get nominated from the floor, which of course, Kasich does not have. So they're going to be on the same side on that rules fight, which will be interesting.

LIZZA: Cruz realizes that the "stop Trump" people are not necessarily pro-Cruz people, right? And that you get into a contested convention, and just because Cruz comes in there in second place, that doesn't mean anything.

BLITZER: There's a lot of excitement happening on the Democratic side, as well. Let's take a quick break. We'll update you on what's going on between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. Much more right after this.


[18:41:33] BLITZER: Senator Bernie Sanders is crisscrossing Wisconsin today. He plans a big rally tonight in Milwaukee just across the street -- get this -- from the arena where Donald Trump is also holding a rally of his own.

Our senior political correspondent, Brianna Keilar, is following the Democratic race. She's in Wisconsin.

Brianna, where is the Hillary Clinton campaign going on right now? Where is Hillary Clinton when all of this is taking place in Wisconsin?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: And Wolf, I should also -- I will mention that it is very loud here, as you can see. It's almost like a concert with the musical stylings of space cat taking place behind me here.

But Hillary Clinton is not in Wisconsin. She is actually in New York, where she is going to be speaking in upstate New York at a high school very shortly. And Bernie Sanders here in Wisconsin is talking a very big game.


KEILAR: Here in the Badger State, Bernie Sanders is looking to narrow Hillary Clinton's delegate lead.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don't want to get Hillary Clinton more nervous than she ready is. She's already under a lot of pressure. So don't tell her this. But I think we win here, we win in New York state, we're on our way to the White House.

KEILAR: He's counting on college students and union workers to give his campaign a boost in Tuesday's primary.

SANDERS: I am not a candidate who goes to the unions and goes to workers, and then leaves and goes to a fund-raiser with Wall Street. You are my family.

KEILAR: Clinton tries to defend herself.

CLINTON: When trade is done right, it helps put thousands of Wisconsin companies in a better position to export billions of dollars.

KEILAR: Sanders is targeting Clinton's support of NAFTA in the '90s and a the trade pact with Asian and Pacific countries that she supported as secretary of state, an accord she now opposes. The latest polls show the race a dead heat, perhaps why Clinton added a last-minute swing through Wisconsin. But her campaign is downplaying expectations.

KAREN FINNEY, SENIOR SPOKESWOMAN, CLINTON CAMPAIGN: We always knew it was going to be tight. I think Wisconsin, to some degree, favors Senator Sanders, but look, it's going to be close.

KEILAR: Clinton spent today campaigning in her adopted home state of New York, attending an event touting New York's move to raise the state's minimum wage ahead of the April 19 primary with 247 delegates at stake.

CLINTON: This is what makes America great.

KEILAR: Taking a shot at GOP front-runner Donald Trump.

CLINTON: Donald Trump has said that wages are too high.


CLINTON: He's fired, that's funny.

KEILAR: This as a debate over debates is raging in the Democratic primary. Both campaigns agreeing to one but not a date. The Clinton campaign offered a date Sanders has a rally planned near New York University, five days before the primary.

CHUCK TODD, MODERATOR, NBC'S "MEET THE PRESS": He's proposed Sunday evening, April 17. Are you in? CLINTON: I'm not negotiating, chuck. We've proposed Thursday, the 14th, which gives people more time to digest what happens in the debate. Is he in?

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Hillary Clinton said this morning she's up for debating on Thursday, April 14. Are you in?

SANDERS: I'm not quite sure what -- how that works on our schedule. I think we can work out a date that works for her schedule, that works for my schedule.


KEILAR: And some of the tension in this back and forth over to the debate, Wolf, comes from the fact the Clinton campaign doesn't think Hillary Clinton will benefit a whole lot from a debate.

[18:45:00] New York is her home state. She is very well known.

And Bernie Sanders really has not much to lose and a whole lot to gain. He needs to win, disproportionately delegates in these upcoming races, really to a considerable degree, a very tough feat for him. And he would seriously like to make an impact at a debate -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Brianna, thanks very much. Lively crowd behind you.

Let's get some insight from our political experts.

So, Gloria, if Bernie Sanders were to win tomorrow in Wisconsin, he's won five of the last six contests, what's would that mean?

BORGER: It would mean momentum. It would mean another talking point for him.

But because this Democratic contests are all proportional, it doesn't really push him that far ahead. I mean, what Bernie Sanders has to do, heading into the northeast, is win by huge margins. And that's really his problem. He can continue to give her a headache.

But honestly, in order for the math to work for him, and to make, for example, New York be an existential moment for Hillary Clinton, he really has to win overwhelmingly. And the question that we're all asking is, where, really, can you do that?

BLITZER: On the Democratic side, these are not winner take all states. They're proportional. If he does win, though, it's going to be -- he's going to raise a ton more money. He's already raising more money than she is. Last month raised, what, almost $45 million. She raised almost $30 million.

HENDERSON: Yes. And, you know, I mean, that's the thing you say about campaigns. You don't lose. You shouldn't sort of run out of money. It doesn't look like he's going to do that any time soon.

BLITZER: Does he have a real pathway to winning? HENDERSON: I think the short answer is no. I think the long answer

is no because of these rules. The Jesse Jackson rules put in place in 1988. It's just hard for him to catch up.

That's Southern firewall that Hillary Clinton built up early essentially is going to sustain her through this whole thing.

BLITZER: It's not just the southern firewall. The superdelegates. She has more than 400. He has 30 basically. If she can maintain that and not lose that, that's a huge firewall.

LIZZA: I agree with Nia. It's very unlikely for Bernie to do. Let's make the most sympathetic case for Bernie Sanders. Some kind of scandal engulfs Clinton. Some upset like beating Hillary Clinton in New York. She's been in three Democratic primaries in New York. She won the first two as a senator, 80/20, and she beat Obama there roughly, 60/40.

If Bernie Sanders wins the New York primary, who knows? That could start changing the minds of the superdelegates. The Sanders campaign would point to the head to head matchup, where Sanders actually does better against Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.

If he dramatically changed the momentum of the race and Hillary Clinton looks like a much, much weaker candidate than she does now, there are scenarios which the superdelegates might shift. That's a big, big if.

BLITZER: One of the big issues is not just in New York state, but every place he goes. He goes after Wall Street. Wall Street happens to be in New York state. How is that going to impact in New York state?

SWERDLICK: Well, it depends on who shows up to vote. If the voters that are enthusiastic about sanders, the younger voters, voters, more progressive voters, people who want to see some change in this election show up for sanders, that may make a difference. If the traditional Democratic voters, older women of color, single women, et cetera, that I think propelling the Obama coalition, it's not clear to me that it's going to make a difference.

I think -- I agree with everybody here. I don't see how Sanders really takes over this race, but he can push Clinton throughout the next several states.

BORGER: The Clinton campaign this evening just a few minutes ago released one of these memos to the public about where the race stands. And it shows you by the fact that they've released a memo as the Trump folks kind of let be released, it's that they feel the need to explain that they're really far ahead.

And in the memo, the campaign manager says that Hillary Clinton have to win four remaining -- I mean, that Bernie Sanders has to win New York, Pennsylvania, California, New Jersey, with roughly 60 percent of the vote. If even going to be within reach of her. And that's a pretty tough road for him. Absolutely.

LIZZA: But he will go into the convention with, if things go the way they are now, it's roughly going to be 60/40, right, is what the national numbers have been all along. She'll have 60 percent of the delegates. He'll have 40 percent.

That's a big chunk of delegates that buys him influence on the party platform. There's a big issue differences between the two of them.

BLITZER: That raises an important issue, because you need those Democratic establishment politicians to help you, if it's going to go to the convention, let's say.

And Hillary Clinton in recent days have been making the point, he's not a Democrat. He's an independent. He's not a Democrat. He's not worked for other Democrats.

They keep saying, he doesn't raise money for other Democrats, for the party. He's not a party loyalist.

Is that going to resonate?

HENDERSON: You know, we'll see. I mean, she is taking pains to say, you know, I've been a Democrat all my adult life. I guess she had a spate of being a Goldwater girl when in high school. I mean, I guess that the average Democratic voter is sitting -- especially to party people, I think that matters, kind of state and local people throughout the country who run the Democratic Party.

[18:50:05] And this whole idea of rebuilding the Democratic Party, you know, which needs to be rebuilt significantly in a lot of these states. That's certainly I think going to an attractive argument to certain people but to the average voter, probably not.

BORGER: And Sanders attracts independence in primaries that aren't close. So, who cares about whether you are a Democrat or not if you are an independent?

HENDERSON: And I think, in some ways, it's also a reminder in sort of underhanded way of saying, I'm a Democrat and Bernie Sanders is a socialist, a Democratic socialist.

BLITZER: Numerous states, that's close, right? Democrats and independents can't vote in New York state. Only registered Democrats in New York state. Is that -- I know in Wisconsin, it's open, independents, Democrats, they can vote for anybody they want.

BORGER: Let me check that for you, Wolf.

BLITZER: This whole notion of not really being a Democrat in a state like New York state, is that going to resonate?

SWERDLICK: I don't know that enough voters care about that anymore, Wolf. I think it's about what candidate is more effective in getting their message out, which candidate is going to come out of Wisconsin with more momentum? As we talked about before, Sanders has the money to keep going. Even though the math doesn't quite work for him in the long run, he has the money and the message to keep going.

I -- it's not clear to me that voters are sitting there and making their calculations based on how long he's been in the Democratic Party or running in the Democratic primary.

BLITZER: And you're checking it for me?

BORGER: I'm checking -- I'm checking right now.

LIZZA: But the Democratic Party has to deal with what he has -- what he's activated on the left, right? This is -- I mean, this is the Democratic Party's version of the Tea Party now. They have put an incredible amount of pressure on Hillary Clinton to move to the left on certain key issues like trade, like welfare reform, like criminal justice, her Wall Street. And that pressure is not going away.

If she's president, it's going to come from the Senate --

BLITZER: Hold on for a moment. He's raised a lot more money last month than she did and that's going to keep him going. We'll see what happens.

We're counting down to the Wisconsin presidential primaries. Critical matchups from the Republicans and the Democrats. Join CNN for all day coverage tomorrow.

Just ahead, following the massacres in Paris and Brussels, security agencies are on the hunt for dozens of ISIS operatives and terror suspects right now. Some of them directly linked to the bloody attacks.


[18:56:50] BLITZER: We checked. New York state, the Democratic primary is closed. Only registered Democrats can vote two weeks from tomorrow. Potentially good news for Hillary Clinton.

Other important news we're following right now. Following the ISIS massacres in Paris and Brussels, there's now an urgent manhunt under way and it's now stretching to dozens of terror suspects.

Our Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr has been looking into this for us. What are you learning, Barbara?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the bottom line tonight, the hunt is on for dozens of suspects. No one can say where they are, or what they might be up to next.


STARR (voice-over): The terror attacks in Brussels and Paris have European and U.S. security officials chasing dozens of ISIS operatives and terror suspects identified as part of a wider terror web stretching from Europe to the Middle East, including at least eight suspects they believe are linked to the ISIS attacks in Paris and Brussels. About 18 additional jihadists not directly linked to specific attacks, but tried in absentia in European courts also on the run. Their whereabouts is unknown.

The manhunt underscoring the reach of ISIS permeates base in Syria to direct attacks in the west with operatives train in bombings and weapons tactics.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We need to do even more to prevent the flow of foreign terrorist fighters. After the Paris attacks, the United States deployed search teams to Europe to bolsters these efforts and we'll be deploying additional teams in the near future.

STARR: Those teams working on border and aviation security in Europe.

COL. CEDRIC LEIGHTON, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: ISIS is able to place people wherever and whenever they want to. They are able to in essence create cells when and where they need to create those cells. They are also operationally capable of hiding under the radar.

STARR: President Obama will begin reviewing options for increased efforts in both Syria and Iraq as the U.S. looks to accelerate its campaign against ISIS. The U.S. recently bombing a suspected ISIS chemical weapons laboratory at Mosul University, targeted air strikes increasingly going after top ISIS leadership.

U.S. operations looking for Fabien Clain, a senior operative involved in planning external attacks. He is believed to be in and around Raqqah.

One military option, additional U.S. Special Forces inside Syria to help local fighters take more ground back, including Raqqah.

PETER COOK, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: The big focus would be in Syria, particularly as you look towards Raqqah, is doing what we can to enable those local forces to make them more effective and to be able to provide even more pressure on ISIL as those forces isolate Raqqah.


STARR: Another new effort tonight. A U.S. military training program restarting to train Syrian rebels -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Very important stuff going on right now. Barbara, thank you very much.

That's it for me. Thanks so much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.