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Voters Go to the Polls in New York. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired April 19, 2016 - 16:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: New York, New York. Will Donald Trump's hometown advantage put him over the top here? Will the city that never sleeps punish Ted Cruz for his slam on New York values? And if she can make it here, can Hillary Clinton snap Bernie Sanders' winning streak?

THE LEAD starts right now.

Good afternoon, and welcome to a special edition of THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. And we are live in New York.

Here is something that hardly ever happens here in the Empire State. The primary vote here actually matters on both sides of the aisle, New Yorkers playing a crucial role for the first time in decades. The Democrats have 247 delegates at stake here. Republicans have 95.

Four presidents were born in New York, and the Republican front-runner voting at New York's Central Synagogue just a few blocks away from Trump Tower, well, he would like to be number five.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Who are you voting for?



TAPPER: Hillary Clinton voted at an elementary school in the suburb of Chappaqua, along with former President Bill Clinton.


HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I just urge everybody, come out and vote before 9:00 p.m. tonight.


TAPPER: Brooklyn-born Bernie Sanders does not vote in New York, since he obviously lives in Vermont, but that did not stop him from making this prediction:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (VT-I), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We are feeling very good. And if there's a large voter turnout, despite the impediment of three million people not being able to participate, I think we're going to do just fine.


TAPPER: Voters heading to polls right now across New York state, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, by far, the front-runners, according to the latest public opinion polls.

But after some recent bumps in the road, each candidate is hoping a big win here will blunt the recent momentum of challengers, Bernie Sanders and Ted Cruz.

CNN's Brianna Keilar has that story.


BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump voting in their hometowns this morning.

CLINTON: This has been a joy during the last two weeks to be here all over the state.

KEILAR: Front-runners hoping polls that show them with commanding leads in New York will sweep them to big victories.

TRUMP: I think I'm going to do well. I mean, we will see. Who knows? It's politics, right?

KEILAR: Even as Trump's staff is getting a shakeup. His national field director, Stuart Jolly, resigned Monday, days after Trump brought on former Scott Walker campaign manager Rick Wiley above Jolly as national political director. Jolly's departure shrinks the circle of aides loyal to Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, as newly hired convention manager Paul Manafort gains more clout in the campaign.

Trump is downplaying the staff moves.

TRUMP: When you bring in new people, and we're bringing in very high- level people, as you know, the one ran Walker's campaign. He was and is a very top guy, so when you bring other people in, I can see some people, their feelings get a little bit hurt.

KEILAR: As Trump looks to stop Senator Ted Cruz's recent gains in the delegate count, he's fueling the Republican Party's delegate selection process.

TRUMP: In the case of the Democrats, they have superdelegates. In our case, it's worse because it's more sinister. It harder to see. But it's actually more devious and it's worse.

KEILAR: But what he calls devious, the RNC and other GOP groups call delegate selection rules, ones Trump's team has yet to matter. Trailing Trump in New York, John Kasich and Cruz are looking ahead, Kasich in Maryland and Pennsylvania, where Cruz also spent New York primary day.

Bernie Sanders took a quick walk in New York today before also moving to campaign in Pennsylvania, the Vermont senator saying the New York polls are selling him short and lamenting the rules that don't allow independents, who generally support him over Clinton, to vote.

SANDERS: Afraid she's going to be disappointed. We're feeling very good. And if there's a large voter turnout, despite the impediment of three million people not being able to participate, I think we're going to do just fine.


KEILAR: Now, Clinton and Sanders, in a dispute over how she raises money, Jake, with this joint fund-raising account with the DNC.

Specifically, he's questioning about the money that the DNC has, how that actually could benefit Hillary Clinton in this arrangement. The Clinton campaign firing back. They say this is a false attack. They say completely allowed. And it certainly does appear to be legal, but it's highlights that she is relying on big-money donors and he's relying on small-dollar donors.

TAPPER: That's right. Brianna, thank you so much.

We will have more to talk about that on subject in a second, but right now, CNN's Jim Acosta is traveling with the Trump campaign, the Republican front-runner, of course, hoping for a win in his home state.

Jim, thanks for joining us.

Donald Trump is fond of saying these are my people at rallies here in New York.



TAPPER: Those rallies of course have been full of raucous supporters. Does Trump's campaign think that he will sweep all 95 delegates today?

ACOSTA: Well, it's going to be tough, Jake.

But I talked to a top official inside Donald Trump's delegate operation who said, yes, it is possible they will beat that 50 percent threshold needed in New York's congressional districts and statewide to sweep up all 95 delegates.

If they don't get all of them, the campaign does not see that as some sort of setback. As for Trump, he was asked as he was casting his ballot here in New York earlier today what it means to vote for himself for president here in his home state. And here what he had to say about that.


TRUMP: I think I'm going to do well. I mean, we will see. Who knows? It's politics, right?

You know that better than I do. But I think we will do really well. It feels really good. Great support. You see all the people over there, all positive. No hecklers, no nothing. No, I think we're going to do really well.


ACOSTA: Now, I have been told by the campaign that they believe they have exited the stage of the campaign that favored Cruz, where caucuses and state conventions were key, and have entered the final stretch which puts Trump on some pretty favorable terrain, especially, Jake, as you know, here in the Northeast.

TAPPER: And, Jim, let's talk about this shakeup on the Trump campaign. Is it just beginning? What more can you tell us about that?

ACOSTA: Jake, sources inside the Trump campaign say, no question, campaign manager Corey Lewandowski is now shifting into a more reduced role, more of a chief of staff role, as it was described to me, as the campaign's new convention manager, Paul Manafort, takes on more of a strategic position inside the organization.

They have also brought in some seasoned veterans that Brianna was talking about, like attorney William McGinley, who confirmed to me he is now working on delegates and convention rules. Also, Rick Wiley has joined the campaign after working for Governor Scott Walker's presidential campaign.

But, Jake, one source I talked to earlier today said people are wondering inside the Trump campaign what is Corey Lewandowski's role now?

TAPPER: We have been hearing a lot less from Donald Trump than we're used to, and what he has said has been less outrageous than in the past. Are Paul Manafort and Rick Wiley, the gentlemen who joined the campaign you just mentioned, are they restraining him?

ACOSTA: That's no easy task. Remember, Jake, it was Lewandowski, as you know, who used to say, let Trump be Trump.

But, lately, you're right, Trump has been more cautious in his comments but his attacks on the RNC and the party system for awarding delegates have raised eyebrows. Maybe not a total lid has been placed on what Trump is saying these days. And one Trump source tells me, from what he's hearing from party regulars, is that they don't mind that Donald Trump is running anti-establishment campaign.

They just want to see Donald Trump running a more professional campaign and that will go a long way in attracting some of these nervous uncommitted delegates that they are going to need down the stretch, Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Jim Acosta with the Trump campaign, thanks so much.

Joining me, our mega-panel for the hour.

Let's start with Carl Bernstein, CNN political commentator and author of "A Woman in Charge: The Life of Hillary Rodham Clinton." Also with us, Ryan Lizza, a CNN political commentator and Washington correspondent for "The New Yorker," Maggie Haberman, CNN political analyst and "New York Times" correspondent, senior political analyst David Gergen, who was an adviser to President Nixon, Ford, Reagan, and Clinton.

Also with us, political commentators Jeffrey Lord and Ana Navarro. He's a Trump supporter who was Reagan White House political director. She was a Jeb Bush supporters. Also, the former governor of Michigan joins us, Jennifer Granholm. She's a senior adviser to Correct the Record, a super PAC that supports Hillary Clinton. And with us as well, Jonathan Tasini,the author of "The Essential Bernie Sanders and His Vision for America." He's a Sanders supporter who challenged Hillary Clinton for her New York Senate in the 2006 primary.

Let's do a quick run down the row. What are you looking for tonight as the results come in, Carl?

CARL BERNSTEIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Black turnout, whether Hillary will continue to get huge black support and get people to polls and whether young people are going to come out enough to support Bernie Sanders to the point where he can get her numbers down to below single digits; 8 percent, 9 percent, would be very good for him in this situation.


RYAN LIZZA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, the expectations are sort of out of control for the two front-runners, right? It's their home states here.

So it's about how big a blowout Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton have. And on the Trump side, very specifically, the delegates, because we all know it's now a battle to deny him that 1,237. And so does he hit 95 delegates or does Ted Cruz and John Kasich eat into that delegate count?


TAPPER: He needs to get 50 percent in all of the 27 congressional districts.


LIZZA: And he will take home all 95, yes.

TAPPER: Really run the table.

Maggie? MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: That's right. All of the

above. And also how Bernie Sanders does in the Hudson Valley. That was a real stronghold for Zephyr Teachout when she challenged Andrew Cuomo in the Democratic primary in 2014.

I think that will tell us about how his support translates to different areas going forward.

TAPPER: Speaking of translation, tell people where the Hudson Valley is.

HABERMAN: Hudson Valley is north of the city. It's a swathe in the middle of the state, and it's an area where the last person who had a very similar profile to Bernie Sanders did very, very well in a primary.


It's not a perfect analog, but it's something to watch for.

ANA NAVARRO, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: And they're known for their artisanal cheese, their fois gras.



TAPPER: That's nice. I like that.


DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Building on Ryan's point about margin, I think it's all about margins.

But the margins create the momentum. I thought the momentum was going to shift more in Cruz's direction after Wisconsin. It looked like the odds were favoring, because he's got the inside game playing so well. But if Trump can really roll up the score here and then do that in Pennsylvania and Connecticut, I think it's going to be very different and going into the conventions, there's going to be a sense maybe the man with the most votes should indeed take it, 62 percent of Republicans now say.

TAPPER: I think that's part, Jeffrey, of his strategy now of more a restrained Donald Trump. Is that right?


TAPPER: If you say so.


LORD: I think he's going to do very well. I do think there's going to be a lot of momentum.

Yesterday, I went to opening of the Trump campaign headquarters in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Got to come to Central Pennsylvania, as I believe he will, next week, because that's the sort of Republican base and in the fall campaign you really need it. I expect him to do very well and have him begin the final push here to June 7.

TAPPER: Ana, what are you talking for?

NAVARRO: On the Republican side, I'm looking to see if Kasich and Cruz break the 20 percent barrier. Are we going to have...

TAPPER: You get no delegates if you don't break that barrier.

NAVARRO: Exactly.

So, at the end of the night, are we going to be left wondering, should Ted Cruz have coordinated with John Kasich here so that John Kasich, who was the second in most polls, could have taken New York and maybe taken some delegates?

If Donald Trump ends up with all the delegates, if neither Kasich nor Cruz ends up with any delegates, I think the answer to that will be yes. And Ted Cruz will come home and regret it tomorrow.

On the Democratic side, I'm looking to see how Bernie Sanders does with diversity voters. He's had a very hard time until now. New York is a microcosm of America, where we have a lot of diversity within the state. I want to see how he does with Latinos. I want to see how he does with African-Americans, with young people, with women, around -- just look at the entire spectrum.

TAPPER: Governor?

JENNIFER GRANHOLM (D), FORMER MICHIGAN GOVERNOR: I agree with Ana's last point. I will be watching that as well.

But I will be -- two weeks ago, three weeks ago, Bernie Sanders was saying New York was a must-win state for him. I think anybody looking at the numbers has to agree that he's got to start eating into her numbers. If he doesn't, and she ends up gaining on him, it's so difficult to see the path going forward.

But I will also look to see how he positions, if she wins tonight, how he positions himself vis-a-vis her. If he continues down this path of being very personally negative, that will be very damaging for the Democratic Party overall in the fall, and I don't think that will inure to his benefit or how he's viewed in this race overall.

TAPPER: Jonathan?


And let's remember Bernie Sanders, I think this will be similar to other states. He was 30, 40 points behind just a few months ago. And in almost every single election, the ones he's won, he's come from very far behind to either win or tie. In Wisconsin, he was about five or six points out, won 71 out of 72 counties. What I'm looking for is actually up in the upper state, Buffalo, Rochester, areas that have been devastated by terrible trade agreements that Hillary Clinton has supported generally, Bernie Sanders has opposed throughout his career.

If he does well there, it will be probably a message he can carry into Pennsylvania and other states.

TAPPER: All right, fascinating stuff.

Stick around, everybody.

Coming up next, a cautious Hillary Clinton, a confident Bernie Sanders.


CLINTON: I never count any chickens before they hatch.

SANDERS: Afraid she's going to be disappointed.


TAPPER: Clinton's campaign says Sanders might be the Ralph Nader of 2016. Is the senator from Vermont running to be a spoiler?

Stay with us.


[16:17:47] TAPPER: Welcome back to this special edition of THE LEAD, live in New York. I'm Jake Tapper.

It is primary day in New York. Democratic voters choosing either Hillary Clinton, who lives in the state, or Bernie Sanders, the Vermont resident who grew up in Brooklyn.

Sanders has now moved on to Pennsylvania. That's one of the five states holding a primary election next week.

CNN's Jeff Zeleny is in University Park, Pennsylvania, with the Sanders campaign.

Jeff, thanks for joining us.

Sanders has been saying that the polls here in New York are not measuring the depth of his support and that Hillary Clinton is going to be disappointed today. Does he actually think he can win and pull out a victory here?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Jake, I think there are a couple of things. There's an on optimistic view that all of those people who turned out at his rallies over the last two weeks in New York, really by the tens of thousands, if you had them altogether, the optimistic view of a Sanders supporter would say, look, all the enthusiasm appears to be on our side.

But the realistic view is something a little bit different. They know that it is math is tough in New York. They know that the Clinton campaign has inherent built-in advantages there.

So, no one that I've talked to in the Sanders universe today is projecting or expecting victory. Bernie Sanders, turning his attention toward Pennsylvania. He had a rally a short time ago in Erie, Pennsylvania. He'll be coming here to State College, home of Penn State University, this evening. So, Jake, he is looking forward, certainly hoping for a win. But I think if he was expecting one, he would be in his native Brooklyn tonight.

TAPPER: It's significant that New York is a close the primary, only members of the Democratic Party can vote, no independents. How might that affect Bernie Sanders?

ZELENY: Jake, that is the key thing to keep in mind tonight measuring support across the board. Only Democrats who were registered Democrats last month can vote in this.

Bernie Sanders actually ran into a man today doing some walking around midtown Manhattan, he was approached by a man who said, look, I wanted to change from an independent to a Democrat to vote for you, but I had to do that last October. And this is what Bernie Sanders told him --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It shouldn't be this hard.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: No, it should not be. Today, 3 million people in the state of New York who are independents have lost their right to vote in a Democratic and Republican primary.

[16:20:04] That's wrong. You're paying for this election, it's administered by the state, you have a right to vote.


SANDERS: And that's a very -- that's a very unfortunate thing, which I hope will change in the future.


ZELENY: So, that's the blunt reality here, Jake. You had to have been a registered Democratic voter in March before this. And if you were switching parties, you had to do that last year. That will take away a lot of Sanders supporters.

But they knew that. They know the rules here. They're not surprised rules. That is one reason that close primaries are better for the Clinton campaign because they always going to favor the establishment candidate.

TAPPER: And, Jeff, explain to us the concerns that the Sanders campaign is raising about Hillary Clinton's campaign fund-raising in conjunction with the Democratic National Committee. Is this illegal? Is this unethical? Tell us what the charge is.

ZELENY: Well, Jake, the charge is, the Sanders campaign is saying the Clinton campaign is raising money in coordination with the Democratic Party really to help Democrats down ballot in the Senate races, in governor races and other things. That's one of the reasons you're getting such high ticket fund-raising events like last weekend at the Clooney's house, for example.

The top event last weekend, $353,000 per couple. The reason you can get that high is you can give to a bunch of different state parties. It's called the Hillary Victory Fund.

The Sanders campaign is saying that the Clinton campaign is benefiting from this, sort of an in kind contribution. Well, the reality is this is available to the Sanders campaign as well. You can do joint fund- raising committees.

This is one of the things that happened with these campaign finance laws with the Supreme Court ruling here. So, all the finance experts, campaign finance experts we've talked to said it's not illegal, it may be not quite, you know, the spirit of the law here in terms of the high dollar amounts here, but I think the Sanders campaign is simply trying to raise this in the final day to show that the Clinton campaign is beholden to big donors here.

But there's nothing illegal that we can see in this at this point. But the Sanders campaign certainly wants to raise this as an issue in the final day. We'll see if this works before this New York primary tonight -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Jeff Zeleny, thanks so much.

Let's back again -- check in back again with the best political panel in the business.

Jonathan Tasini, let me start with you.

As a Sanders supporter, this accusation from the Sanders campaign, that there's something untoward that the Clinton campaign is doing with the Democratic National Committee in this fundraising, the DNC says, hey, we offered to set something like this up with the Sanders campaign as well. It's a way to support down ballot Democrats running for the Senate, running for the House, and even state houses and such.

JONATHAN TASINI, BERNIE SANDERS SUPPORTER: So, let's talk more about what Jeff said. You can then take the money, you can get -- take $2,700 to the individual campaign. The DNC can take a chunk and then you give I think $10,000 to each of the campaign committees.

What the Sanders campaign is saying is that millions of dollars are being used in an indirect way to actually support Hillary Clinton's fund-raising efforts and they're saying that's not the proper issue. That will be up to FEC, you know, the experts, the lawyers to decide if that's correct or not. TAPPER: Governor Granholm, here's what Larry Noble with the Campaign

Legal Center told Think Progress. Quote, "they," meaning DNC, "really are throwing their weight behind a particular candidate. Their argument is that it helps the party generally, but the practical and legal reality is that it benefits Hillary Clinton. You don't expect this thing to happen in the primaries. People are pushing the envelope further and further until it shreds."

JENNIFER GRANHOLM, FORMER GOVERNOR OF MICHIGAN: First, that is total B.S. What happens is that she raises money, $10,000 per state, there are 32 states who are part of the joint fund-raising agreement, and that -- they put that to work electing local Democrats.

This attack by Bernie Sanders, filing a lawsuit by Bernie Sanders, is really -- it's an attack on the Democratic Party. I mean, the question -- we have to support these -- we have to support these local races. We've got to support these local Democrats.

She doesn't get any more than the $2,700 per individual donor that's allowed by law. And the suggestion that she is doing something improper, this is an extension again of the personal attacks that the Bernie Sanders campaign had been waging which is, to me, is terrible strategy if you look forward to the general election.

If you look forward to the general election, it's as though Bernie Sanders team is singing off the Republican playbook, and that is very dangerous.

TASINI: What I said was, and I want to emphasize, the issue at here with the fund, is that there are potentially millions of dollars, not money going to the state that are being used to help Hillary Clinton fundraise separately. Let's find out if that's true.

I want to end on one other thing, part of the reason this is coming up, with all due respect the DNC has not been even-handed here. And it goes back to the question of when there were -- the whole debate over debates. There's no question, sorry, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, in my opinion, in my generation, one of the most incompetent chairs of DNC, has tried to put her finger on behalf -- on one side on behalf of Hillary Clinton.

[16:25:02] And the whole idea when we tried to get a lot of debates when the campaign started and the Clinton campaign did not want that, and Debbie Wasserman Schultz did everything possible to schedule the debates when nobody was watching, which was foolish, because we wanted to expose the population to Democratic values, I think that should be seen in the context.




TASINI: People don't trust -- many people don't trust the way the DNC is operating, separate and aside from the way the governor described, the particular issue. I think that's at heart the issue.

TAPPER: And, Governor, let me give you the last word, but I also just want to paraphrase the pollster for the Clinton campaign who says that Bernie Sanders is acting like a potential Ralph Nader, a spoiler. Do you really believe that?

GRANHOLM: Well, I mean, Bernie Sanders came into this race saying he was not going to be Ralph Nader and he chose to be a Democrat because he believes in values of the Democratic Party. And I totally believe that that's true.

And I firmly believe that in his heart, if he sees no path, he is to fully embrace the Democratic ticket. You believe that too, I'm sure, right? Because there's -- you don't want to have -- now, in the poll that was done today, there was 40 percent of Bernie Sanders supporters who say they will not -- they will not vote for Hillary Clinton.

He's got to be helpful with those, if in fact he's not the nominee, in the same way that if he were the nominee, she would make sure all of that money she was able to raise went to benefit him. That he actually got the benefit of her supporters.

So, my guess is, eventually we'll see that. If it's too late, though, then he does become the Ralph Nader.

TAPPER: Jonathan, I'm sorry.

TASINI: The Ralph Nader thing, that was thrown in again. I have to say, Bernie Sanders has been part of the Democratic caucus in the Senate and the House, was chair of the veterans committee when he was in the Senate. He's no Ralph Nader. He's been a solid supporter of the Democrats.

GRANHOLM: And he's got to prove it.

TAPPER: Everybody stay with me. Stay with CNN for complete coverage of the New York primary. We're going to have some exit polling data beginning at 5:00 p.m. Eastern.

Coming up on THE LEAD, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani will join me here in the studio. He kind sort of endorsed Trump this morning. We'll talk to him about that.