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Can Loyal Delegates Control the Convention?; Interview with Tom Ridge; The Trump Factor: PA Dems Voting in GOP Primary; Can Trump Get to 1,237 Delegates? Aired 9-10a ET
Aired April 23, 2016 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[09:00:15] MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Michael Smerconish.
No other state will send as many unbound delegates to the Republican convention this July, as my home state of Pennsylvania. My state's crazy rules mean that no matter who wins the GOP vote on Tuesday, 54 delegates can still support whoever they want. Is that fair?
So, which candidates will still be smiling after Tuesday's in the Keystone and four other East Coast states?
Plus, I'll talk to some of the 90,000 Pennsylvania voters who switched their registration to the GOP for the primary, many hoping to either help or hurt Donald Trump.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I needed to switch parties.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm tired of being blamed for all of the things that people don't want to get off their butt and do a job.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Donald Trump has been in real estate for quite a few years and I'm quite sure he's still in real estate.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's disrupted the system.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's saying it from his heart.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Something equivalent to third grade recess.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're going to learn $1 bet between him and another rich guy.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Nobody I know is voting. They think (EXPLETIVE DELETED). When Donald Trump joined, we all decided we weren't going to vote because it's (EXPLETIVE DELETED).
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: We'll get to that panel of Pennsylvania voters later. They had a lot to say. First, here's why my home state might be responsible for delivering
the nomination to Donald Trump or thwarting the GOP front-runner. It's got a unique delegate system that no matter who wins on Tuesday, keeps 54 of its 71 delegates in play.
And this is crucial to Donald Trump. With 15 contests left, he has 846 delegates. He needs to get to 1,237 to clinch the nomination. There are 674 remaining in play.
And according to CNN's number crunchers, if he continues at his current rate of victory, he could finish 75 delegates shy. So, Trump needs unbound delegates. No doubt, he'll seek to corral the delegates of candidates who have dropped out of the race. Think Marco Rubio.
But beyond those, the largest single group up for grabs will be Pennsylvania's 54 free agent delegates who, due to my state's wacky laws, will not be obligated to follow the wishes of the voters they represent. It's just one of many examples of my state's anachronistic rules that drive me crazy.
And get this, the Pennsylvania ballot, it contains no information about the prospective delegate' candidate choice, which forces voters to try to figure out who are these delegate candidates and how might they vote at the convention.
This week, I decided to do some investigating in my home congressional district, where four candidates are competing for three delegate slots. I e-mailed each and I asked them for whom they intended to vote on the first ballot in Cleveland and what would be their approach thereafter.
Two of them wouldn't commit. Another revealed a strong preference for Ted Cruz, and only one said she'd follow the results as voted on by the electorate.
Think about what this means, about the convoluted nature of Pennsylvania's primary. Depending on who wins, I could be represented at convention by three delegates who won't vote based on who won the district that sent them there.
This is why people refer to Pennsylvania's Republican primary as a beauty contest. I don't like it. At the very least, delegates should be obligated to follow the will of the electorate on the first ballot. Instead, these 54 are still in play after all of the campaigning and all of the voting is done.
And you can be sure that the man who wrote 'The Art of the Deal" will be looking to bargain with Pennsylvania's 54 uncommitted delegates to try to close the most important deal in our country.
So, who are these delegates? Who will get to make up their own mind? I thought I better talk to some.
Three join me now. It won't say on their local ballot whose they're for, but Ryan Belz is a student at Penn State, he's for Donald Trump. So is Matt Jansen, who works for a green energy start-up. Aldridk Gessa supports Ted Cruz and works in risk management.
Thank you for being here.
Aldridk, let me begin with you because you're running in the second congressional district, that's where I live. I'm unsettled by the idea that, say, John Kasich, or Donald Trump, could win the second, but you're going to go and vote at the convention for Ted Cruz, nonetheless. How come?
ALDRIDK GESSA, PA DELEGATE CANDIDATE, CRUZ SUPPORTER: Because I support conservatism and Ted Cruz is the most conservative candidate that we have on the slate.
SMERCONISH: Right. But what about the idea that my voice ought to be represented? If I should vote for Kasich or if I should vote for Trump and they win the congressional district, it doesn't seem to me that you go to Cleveland and instead cast a ballot for Ted Cruz.
[09:05:04] GESSA: Well, there are four delegates, candidates for delegates, running in the second congressional. I'm running publicly as a Ted Cruz candidate. So, all of the voters of the second congressional district have a chance to elect the people they want to send to the convention.
SMERCONISH: Matthew, that presupposes that the voters who go into the ballot booth know for whom any of you will be voting. It doesn't say anything inside the ballot booth.
So, let me ask you the same question that I asked Aldridk, do you think it's proper that this is the way Pennsylvania rules should function?
MATT JANSEN, PA DELEGATE CANDIDATE, TRUMP SUPPORTER: I know that there are pocket of inertia across the state that have sort of coalesce. Trump inertia, if you will, that have found each other. We've formed a group called DelegatesforTrump.com. And that is a highway to who the Trump delegates are, the strong Trump delegates in Pennsylvania, in all 18 districts.
SMERCONISH: If Donald Trump doesn't win your congressional district, will you re-evaluate whether you'll go to Cleveland and vote for him on the first ballot?
JANSEN: Absolutely not. And I have to say, absolutely not because I'm convinced that Donald Trump is going to went the fourth congressional district, as well as Pennsylvania.
SMERCONISH: Ryan, are you being lobbied by any of the other candidates? Are you getting contacted by the Kasich campaign? Or are you getting contacted by the Cruz campaign or trying to win you over?
RYAN BELZ, PA DELEGATE CANDIDATES, TRUMP SUPPORTER: I've got a few e- mails from the Kasich campaign, but just that's it. I haven't heard from the Cruz campaign. All of my communication has been from the Trump campaign since the beginning. SMERCONISH: What is your philosophy? What is your approach on not
only the first ballot, but on a second, third, fourth, if they required?
BELZ: Each and every ballot, I plan to vote for Donald J. Trump as nominee for the Republican Party. I have been a strong supporter of his since I was 7 or 8, when I saw him come down the escalator back in June, I knew he United States the plan who could make America great again.
SMERCONISH: Matthew, will you be open to a pitch if there is second or third ballot by, say, John Kasich, who says to delegates, OK, you voted for Donald Trump, he didn't get to 1,237, look at this polling data, I'm the one who can beat Hillary? Will you be open to that kind of pitch?
JANSEN: Absolutely not. Because he can't beat Hillary, that's the thing.
JANSEN: I'm sorry. She's a wolf. She's a wolf. Kasich did well in Ohio after he followed a terrible governor. So, you know, there's no way -- Donald Trump's the only one that can beat her, clearly, I hope the Cruz people understand that and come over with us on Election Day.
SMERCONISH: Aldridk, Ryan and Matthew are saying, look, this is it, man, I'm going to Cleveland if I'm elected and I'm for The Donald. Do you feel the same way about Ted Cruz, or is there any give, could you be persuaded on a second ballot.
GESSA: I will be voting for Ted Cruz on all ballots. However, I'm not opposed to a joint ticket with Kasich.
SMERCONISH: You know, listen, I'm giving the three of you a workout. And I don't mean to, because you didn't write the rules and I admire your passion, but there's something wrong with this picture that Pennsylvanians are going to go out and vote on Tuesday, in many instances not knowing whom they're voting when it gets to delegate position, and then 54 of you are going off to Cleveland and maybe determine who will be the next Republican nominee.
Ryan, talk me out of it.
BELZ: I completely agree with you. I mean, honestly, being a Trump supporter, I think it would be beneficial, if it did say who we support on the ballot, because if somebody votes for Trump but pick three Cruz delegates or Cruz, Kasich, Cruz delegate, their vote didn't matter except for the 17 statewide delegates.
BELZ: If it did say who we support, I think it would be better.
SMERCONISH: Donald Trump is -- Donald Trump is leading in the polls in Pennsylvania right now. Who knows how it all plays out? BELZ: Right.
SMERCONISH: But to Matthew and to Ryan, you're absolutely right. This could come back to haunt you insofar as Trump could win the state but who knows? Maybe a slew of Kasich or like Aldridk, a slew of Cruz delegates get elected, you guys wouldn't be happy because the will of the people wouldn't be represented.
Anyway, I wish all through of you good things. Good luck on Tuesday. I give you credit for running for delegate, okay.
GESSA: Thank you.
BELZ: Thank you. I appreciate it.
SMERCONISH: Joining me now, the former governor of Pennsylvania, Tom Ridge. He was also the nation's first secretary of Homeland Security. He's a supporter of John Kasich.
Governor, do you think that Donald Trump is going to get to 1,237 before Cleveland?
TOM RIDGE, NATIONAL CO-CHAIR, KASICH FOR AMERICA: Well, I don't believe he is up frankly, it's so sacred that my friend John Kasich's strategy is based upon his inability to get to 1,237 as well as Senator Cruz. And there's so many people talking about, Michael, I won more primaries than you did.
[09:10:02] I mean, it's like kids in a sandbox. In the political contest, unlike any other contest, whether the hockey playoffs or NBA, there's no shot clock. This game goes on until somebody gets 1,237.
So, it's still game on. And, frankly, it's a very exciting convention because of that reason because I don't think anybody's going to get to the number in either first or second ballot.
SMERCONISH: In which case John Kasich will be lucky to have tom ridge because this group of 54, not that they're monolithic, they're not, but it's the single, largest group of uncommitted delegates who will show up in Cleveland. They will owe nothing to anyone, mostly to the people who sent them there.
So, do you view your role in Cleveland, if Trump doesn't get to 1,237, as herding these cats?
RIDGE: Well, I'll do my best I can even before the convention to convince them that the nominee at the convention -- we have a lot of, as you well know, most states send a lot of grassroots, hard-working folks the establishment, whatever that is, they're paying several hundred thousand dollars in sipping drinks and watching the action on the floor. But the people who go to the polls, people that knock on doors, people that make phone calls, they're on the floor.
I think, frankly, in Pennsylvania, I want those 54 to think not just who's at the top of the ticket. We've got an incredibly fine senator by the name of Pat Toomey, we've got statewide elections. It's not jus$ who is at the top but who can lead the ticket. And, frankly, I think John Kasich is in a better position to lead the ticket in Pennsylvania than his two opponents.
SMERCONISH: Give me the benefit of your intelligence. Who is the best organized among the three at having run delegates with a loyalty to them?
RIDGE: Well, my read right now within Pennsylvania, I'm focused on that, is I think I give a slight edge to both Donald Trump and to the senator. John's got a place here. He's got some people working it. But the other two, I think, started working the delegate process before John Kasich did. So I think you're going to see a mixed result next Tuesday within Pennsylvania.
SMERCONISH: Right. Which brings me back to my original premise, if your guy runs well in some of the congressional districts he may have nothing to show for it if Ted Cruz outhustled him in running delegates. Your final thought?
RIDGE: Well, I think that's accurate. And I think that you know, you do reward hustle and you do reward organization. And we're going to see whether or not that hustle, organization is rewarded. But again, they are committed on that first ballot, legally, some of the states are committed on the second ballot. But the time you get to the third ballot, I'd like to think most people on that floor are not only interested in winning in Cleveland, and in the middle of the summer, they want to win in November. We've got a lot of Senate races at stake. You got a lot of other state races around the country at stake and county races.
So, I'd like to think we're going to pay attention to the fact that John has won in head-to-head with Hillary Clinton, he's 15 out of 15 over the last polls taken, whether or not that's an influence 90 days from now, you and I will be talking about it.
SMERCONISH: If it doesn't go that way, do you see yourself in Erie at the airport with Trump's hand in the air endorsing him?
RIDGE: Not a chance.
SMERCONISH: I'd like the fact you didn't beat around the bush on that, huh?
RIDGE: So, there's just nothing there for me. I will tell you, candidly, he hasn't taken criticism very well. He builds himself up by knocking other people down. He disrespected my fellow veterans, POW. And, not when he knocked McCain, how the hell can be he be commander in chief when he says POWs are not heroes and every Muslim's a potential terrorist.
I mean, so many things be I don't know whether it's public or private, maybe he's a chameleon, but what I see I don't like, and I can't support him.
SMERCONISH: Governor Ridge, when you come back, don't hold back your opinion. Tell me what you really think, OK? RIDGE: I'll be happy to, Michael. Thank you.
SMERCONISH: Up next, I'm one of thousands who switched registration to Republican for Tuesday's Pennsylvania primary. Did folks do this to help Trump win, or to stop him? Our exclusive focus group is next.
SMERCONISH: I think I started a movement. For Tuesday's Pennsylvania primary, 92,000 voters switched their registration to Republican.
I did it last month in a very public way. I wrote a column about it in "The Philadelphia Inquirer," spoke about it right here on the program.
But why did so many of us do it? Was it to stop Donald Trump? Or to help him?
I met with a group of Pennsylvania switch and ditchers at Union League of Philadelphia this week to try and figure out why.
SMERCONISH: OK, gang, we all have something in common, even me, we're all brand-new members of the Republican Party in Pennsylvania. And
I want to spend some time figuring out why did we each decide to join the GOP at this moment in time.
How many of you switched from Democratic Party to the Republican party? Raise your hand.
Wow! Everybody. Huh? Every one of you. Am I the only "I" who became an "R"?
FOCUS GROUP: Yes.
SMERCONISH: How many of you either favorably or unfavorably were motivated by Donald Trump, raise your hand. Oh my.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's your focus group.
SMERCONISH: Maybe this is -- maybe this is why I've never done a focus group before. Okay. I am looking at a jury of all former Democrats who were motivated to become Pennsylvania Republicans because of Donald Trump. That's the fact.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
SMERCONISH: Who joined the Republican Party to vote for Donald Trump, raise your hand. Oh, now the numbers begin to change. Isn't this interesting?
But something drew you in to vote for Donald Trump. [09:20:02] Are you voting for Donald Trump because you'd like him to
JERRY ZIMMER, FORMER GROCERY EXECUTIVE: I truly believe he cares about us. I have always been a proud American. I'm tired of apologizing for being a proud American. I'm tired of apologizing because I go to a Christian church. I'm tired of being blamed for all of the things for the people that don't want to get off their butt and get a job.
I don't mean to be so blunt, I apologize to liberals if I hurt your feelings. We need a leader that's going to lead all of us.
SMERCONISH: Mary Lou, I heard your husband already. Talk to me about Donald Trump, from your perspective.
MARY LOU ZIMMER, FORMER NURSING ASSISTANT: Well, I feel that Donald says a lot of what the American people right now need to hear. I actually believe he's saying it from his heart. He started saying things like the wall, like immigration, and he was told he was a bad person for doing it.
Now, everybody is starting to come around and say that he was right but they condemned him at the time.
SMERCONISH: CNN did a recent survey that said that 73 percent of women in the country view Donald Trump unfavorably. You're obviously not part of the 73.
MARY LOU ZIMMER: I'm not.
SMERCONISH: What do you think you get about him that the 73 percent don't?
MARY LOU ZIMMER: The fact that he's a businessman and that our economy, our country, is so definitely in need of somebody to straighten out our business.
SMERCONISH: Is there anyone among you who joined to vote for Trump because you want to prop him up so that Hillary or Bernie can beat him?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No.
SMERCONISH: Oh, a couple of those.
CLARK DELEON, COLUMNIST, PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER: Donald Trump, I believe, is truly a dangerous man for American democracy. If he was to be elected president, it would say more about the electorate actually than Donald Trump.
SMERCONISH: You don't want him to be your president?
DELEON: No, I do not. SMERCONISH: Even you vote for him, it's to prop him up?
DELEON: It would be to set up the showdown in the general election. Yes, essentially, I don't want Donald Trump to be president and I listened to Cruz, and he's even scarier in many ways.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
SMERCONISH: Cruz? Why not Cruz? Clark?
DELEON: Have you seen that bit about machine gun bacon on YouTube? It's Cruz making bacon on a machine gun muzzle putting tin foil around it and he actually ate it. I'm thinking, that's the guy running for president who wants to show you how you can make bacon from a machine gun. I don't know, it struck me as so bizarre.
SMERCONISH: Michael, you're a retired criminal defense attorney.
MICHAEL SEIDMAN, FORMER CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Yes.
SMERCONISH: You've heard a lot of B.S. from that witness stand.
SEIDMAN: I'm still hearing it.
SMERCONISH: Maybe some from your clients, who knows. How do you look at these candidates?
SEIDMAN: Well, originally, when I switched parties, the Republican Party, it was to vote against Trump. But the more I thought about it, let me previous face it saying none of the candidates on either side make me bowl over and I want to run out and vote for them.
SMERCONISH: None of them.
When it comes to time to vote, I'll vote for either Trump or Cruz, because I think either Democrat will win handily in the fall. Even in that respect, it's still the lesser of two evils in my mind.
SMERCONISH: So, recognizing that you were all Democrats who have become Republicans, how many of you in either 2008 or in 2012 voted for Barack Obama?
Wow! Look. Wait a minute, wait a minute. Keep those hands up. So, all but Joe voted for Barack Obama, at least once.
At let once?
JIM FINN, MECHANIC: I've been a middle class mechanic all my life. I've been a Democrat over 25 years now. And the last eight years, I just feel that -- I don't know, I feel that President Obama sits at his desk all day, with ISIS and everything. I just -- I have wanted to switch. I just felt like I needed to switch parties.
SMERCONISH: Let me ask this, how many of you -- I'm not saying to lock in -- but how many of you would consider voting for Hillary Clinton?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would consider?
SMERCONISH: Would consider.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sure.
SMERCONISH: Would consider voting for Hillary Clinton. To the rest, one, two, three, four five hands. Rest of you no way, she's dead to you politically.
How many of you would consider voting for Bernie Sanders? One more hand.
Now, Joe, interestingly, you'd consider voting for Bernie but not Hillary. You're from Scranton, that's where her roots are, how come?
LT. COLONEL JOSEPH ALBERT, U.S. ARMY, RETIRED: Hillary in my opinion, is out for Hillary. She's been planning this for eight years. She has everything nailed. She has the experts you can buy. She's got the pledged delegates.
What Donald Trump has done has disrupted the entire system.
DELEON: I don't think Donald Trump really wants to be president to govern the nation.
[09:25:00] I think he wants to run for president. I think that we're going to learn at the end it's $1 bet between him and another rich guy, like trading places.
SMERCONISH: Still to come -- more with my group of newly minted Pennsylvania Republicans and who their ideal candidates would be.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ALBERT: For once, Pennsylvania counts.
SEIDMAN: I don't like the way he's playing the game. He's Hillary. He's the Republican version of Hillary.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No one cares because we think it's a joke.
SMERCONISH: Why can't you say merry Christmas now? Who stands in your way of saying that?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The government.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: The three GOP candidates who did the whole grind and paid their dues, are they going to be dumped at this summer's convention? And what does saying merry Christmas mean to some voters?
More now with our focus group of Pennsylvanians who switched in the Democratic to Republican Party so they could vote on Tuesday.
SMERCONISH: from Democratic to Republican Party so they could vote on Tuesday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[09:30:06] SMERCONISH: Should the Republican nominee absolutely be one of the three finalists meaning, Trump, Cruz, Kasich? Who says yes, it ought to be one of three guys?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Assuming they get the required number of delegates?
SMERCONISH: I'm going to get there. Should it necessarily be one of these three? Don't look around.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm thinking about it.
SMERCONISH: So most of you think it should be one of these three. To those who didn't raise your hands, if not one of these three, Harriet, Michael, Joe, who?
Joe, do you have a name?
LT. COLONEL JOSEPH ALBERT, U.S. ARMY, RETIRED: Believe it or not, Jeb Bush.
SMERCONISH: Jeb Bush. But the odds of that are zero. Tell me.
ALBERT: I'll tell you why. Jeb Bush has the background, he has the experience, and most importantly, he has access to the people who not only helped make America great, but also helped drag it down a little bit, so he knows who to avoid, who to listen to.
SMERCONISH: Let me ask the Trump supporters, those of you for Donald Trump, should Donald Trump have to get to 1,237, that's the required number of delegates, or is it OK if he gets to 1,100?
JIM FINN, MECHANIC: That's fine with me.
SMERCONISH: What's fine?
FINN: Being 100 short or something like that. Still he's going to have the most -- you know, I just feel like he should have the nomination. SMERCONISH: Jim, he's saying the thing is rigged. He's getting
ripped off. Is he?
FINN: Here's the thing. Now, I'm not going to agree with him on that. I think he did know the rules.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Should have anyway.
FINN: He knows the rules, but I can see, you know, the whining and stuff like that, I think it should be the people. I mean, the people's vote not counting is just --
SMERCONISH: Should he have to get to 1,237 or is it enough if he's leading everybody else and he comes close?
THOMAS SIMONDS, OPERATIONS MANAGER: Well, if he comes close he should have the highest percentage of probability but he's going to have to work the deal.
SMERCONISH: What if he ends up at 1,150, not 1,237?
SIMONDS: I don't think he gets it automatically. He's going to have to do the work to get it. But he should be the highest considered one.
SMERCONISH: Go ahead, John.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's like saying you get a touchdown even though you only made it into the red zone.
SMERCONISH: So, you say you better get 1,237 or forget it?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Absolutely. Those are the rules. When he decided to run for president, he should have brushed up on all the rules.
FINN: If it comes to where we go to Cleveland and Trump doesn't get it or Cruz, I will not vote.
SMERCONISH: You're a Donald Trump guy, right?
SMERCONISH: Doesn't it concern you that in virtually all of the head to heads for the general election he gets beaten by Hillary, he gets beaten by Bernie, and the one guy who wins is Kasich. So why don't you say maybe Kasich isn't everything I want off with him?
SIMONDS: He's a winner and a fine man, but I don't like the way he's playing the game.
SMERCONISH: He's playing it like an adult.
SIMONDS: No, he's not. What he's doing is hoping he can hang around until the fistfight occurs and then he's going to slide in. And, you know, what's that doing to all the people out there doing all the hard work? SMERCONISH: What are you not getting from him? What is it you're not
getting from him?
SIMONDS: I think the issue is that most people like me agree that he's Hillary, the Republican investigation of Hillary. He's basically the same thing. He's another Obama, Hillary, you're going to -- he's a nice safe choice, but you put him in there, things are going to be the same.
If you got no complaints about the way things are, and fine, slide him in there and we'll go on and on. Unfortunately --
SMERCONISH: But you look at him as a continuation of the status quo.
SIMONDS: Correct. Correct.
SMERCONISH: OK. Jim, you wanted to get in on this.
Believe me, Jerry, I want to hear from you too.
FINN: I just think that if Trump does get the nomination, he will have to have a politician for vice president. That's all there is to it. Kasich, I think maybe he -- that would be a good thing there.
SMERCONISH: But it's -- I've got data here that I can show you and these polls are worth what you pay for them which is nothing.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Show me.
SMERCONISH: But I've got any number of polls that say Kasich versus Hillary, Kasich wins. Look at Pennsylvania. Did you know we're all Pennsylvanians. In fact, I have to get used to saying this. We're all Pennsylvania Republicans. Do you know -- do you think that Donald Trump has as good a chance of beating Hillary as John Kasich?
SMERCONISH: You're shaking your head.
FINN: With the support, he has to have support. So I mean, we've got to bring us together.
SIMONDS: You don't know what lies ahead. It's going to be different.
SMERCONISH: That's true. The thing has been nuts, right?
KIMERLEY ANDERSON, GRADUATE STUDENT: Trump and Clinton go head to head, they're both people who hit under the belt. They both are people -- he is like a giant child. Like if he came to my therapy room, he's been married three times. I look at him like he's a giant child.
He has no business with our foreign policy. If him and Hillary go, she's the same way but she's learned because she's female, she has to finesse things differently. She can't be a catty schoolgirl. SMERCONISH: We have a crazy system in Pennsylvania. We knew
Republicans. This is really odd. So, there will be three delegates selected from each congressional district and they have absolutely no requirement to follow the will of the people.
[09:35:10] I think they should. Do you think they should? We agree. Right?
John, what are you thinking?
JOHN POGAS, FORMER INSURANCE EXECUTIVE: I think at the end of the day, I'm hoping and praying that Pennsylvanians are going to look and say you know, do we really want someone who is as crass and obnoxious as Donald Trump is? Or are we going to look to someone who will bring civility in the White House in a guy like John Kasich?
ALBERT: I think for once Pennsylvania counts. Our primarily traditionally is so late it's meaningless. This year, it means something and I would hope people would take the time to vote on both sides, Republican or Democrat, because the Democrats have a choice too. They have just as major a choice as the Republicans do. Republicans have to decide do they want an outsider, do they want an insider, do they want someone from another planet.
FINN: Outsider, and I think with a little help I think it would be another Ronald Reagan.
SMERCONISH: Mary Lou?
MARY LOU ZIMMER, FORMER NURSING ASSISTANT: I want a person for president who I can honestly say merry Christmas.
SMERCONISH: Why can't you say merry Christmas now? Who stands in the way of saying that?
ZIMMER: The government.
SMERCONISH: The government, come on.
ZIMMER: I truly believe that.
SMERCONISH: They told you that on FOX. Right? Every December, they roll that out.
Kimberly, bottom line?
ANDERSON: None of my friends are voting.
Nobody I know is voting. They think it's a (EXPLETIVE DELETED) and when Donald Trump joined we all decided we weren't going to vote because it was (EXPLETIVE DELETED) for lack of a better term. That's what it was. Because my generation, we're not having these conversations. No one cares because we think it's a joke.
CLARK DELEON, COLUMNIST: I registered for this election because I wanted to have fun. It's like a roller coaster, just to be on that ride. Whether or not I vote for Trump will come -- I'll literally make that decision in the voting booth, but if I vote for him it will be so that he loses in the general election.
SMERCONISH: A takeaway for me, and I realize that we are not a scientifically drawn cross section, but I'm leaving this panel with the belief that Tuesday in Pennsylvania is a referendum on Donald Trump.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I agree.
SMERCONISH: It all comes down to Trump.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: Here to interpret what those folks in my Pennsylvania registration swap focus group is saying is someone that has just conducted a new poll in the state, Dr. Terry Madonna is the director for the Franklin and Marshall College Center for Politics and Public Affairs.
Terry, that was my first rodeo. You do this all the time. Do the feelings expressed by that group comport with your brand-new Franklin and Marshall poll?
TERRY MADONNA, DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR POLITICS AND PUBLIC AFFAIRS, FRANKLIN & MARSHALL COLLEGE: Yes, I think they do. In many ways, you know, you heard sort of an anti-government attitude out of some of them, some skepticism about the future, some sense that we've been left behind. You got that out of a couple of people and most of them switched for reasons to vote for a candidate.
A few, what we call strategic voters, I call it sabotage voting, meaning they're going to vote for Trump because they want a Democrat to win the general election, you know, Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton.
But that was a pretty good representation, maybe with one thing missing, and that's the sense of a lot of white working class, blue collar workers who feel that the recession is not over for them, that the economy has passed them by. You've got a little bit of that, but that's another one of the aspects of Trump's support.
And then lastly, you did hear an important element. Trump is the kind of candidate who sticks his finger in the eye of the establishment, who tells it like it is. That's literally what the polls, the quantitative survey, tell us, Michael.
SMERCONISH: Well, you saw that Donald Trump had a majority of my focus group in the latest Franklin and Marshall poll. You've got Donald Trump at 40. Ted Cruz at 26. And John Kasich at 24.
MADONNA: Yes. No, you're exactly right. In fact, if you take a look at the polls that have been done, he has about a 19-point lead in the Real Clear Politics average. You go to the Muhlenberg poll, 15-point edge for Trump. The Monmouth poll, 16-point edge. We're at 14.
So, there's a consensus among the pollsters that Trump is probably going to win this state. The only question I have is, can Cruz or Kasich get it closer? You know, somehow can they manage to make it more competitive?
Trump is not going to do as well in Pennsylvania as he did in New York where he won 60 percent plus.
[09:40:01] But I -- and the delegate situation you got into is another matter, but I will add something to that. Thirty-one delegates of those running, there are 162 candidates throughout the state that 54 get elected, 31 say they will vote for Trump if elected. They're not bound, but say that, and 28 say they will vote for Ted Cruz. So these Cruz and Trump do have delegates that say they will vote for them if they are elected, and Kasich has a few as well.
SMERCONISH: I don't like the system. I would be fine with it if when I went in to vote it said Dr. Terry Madonna will vote for x at the convention. I'm fine with that.
MADONNA: Right, no, you're absolutely right. But here's the philosophy of many Republicans, particularly the leaders nationally, oh, it's not the voters that pick the candidate for the presidency, it's the delegates and you've heard that many times.
SMERCONISH: Absolutely. Dr. Terry Madonna, thank you so much.
Still to come, will the rules change at the convention if Donald Trump doesn't get 1,237 delegates that he needs to clinch the nomination? I will talk to an RNC insider next.
[09:45:20] SMERCONISH: So, what if Donald Trump doesn't get the 1,237 delegates he needs to clinch the GOP nomination? Will the rules of the convention have to change to make the process work?
Randy Evan is Georgia's Republican national committee man. He's on the rules committee.
Mr. Evans, you have said that this is largely over, that Donald Trump is quote, on the doorstep. How so?
RANDY EVANS, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE MEMBER: Well, because he's already won New York very handily. The schedule really favors him. You've got the Northeast basically primary coming up on April 26th and he's within a stone's throw of 1,100 and once you pass that threshold, the delegates really start to jump on board.
Remember, you've got a whole generation of insiders who are looking at the possibility of an outsider president. They're going to want to stay on the inside. The best way to do that is to get on the Trump train. I think that train is certainly approaching the station. SMERCONISH: I've explained to my audience just a moment ago the
importance of Pennsylvania because of this unique, untethered system of 54 of the 71 being able to do whatever they want to do in Cleveland. Will you speak to the importance of the commonwealth of Pennsylvania?
EVANS: Oh, absolutely. The 54 delegates when combined with other delegates can either a deal maker or a deal breaker. If they decide to go a different way, they could be the one that stops Donald Trump or any other candidate from getting to the 1,237.
On the other hand, these unbound delegates have the ticket to get across the finish line, to provide the bridge that gets these candidates to the 1,237, gives them a presumptive nominee status and gives them the first ballot win so they win the nomination.
SMERCONISH: As a member of the Republican National Committee and one who is on the rules committee, what do you think of my state's system? I don't like the idea that I will walk into a ballot booth on Tuesday and there will be no indication of the viewpoint of those delegates for whom they support for president.
It's a pig and a poke. I'm voting for one of them and then they can go do whatever they want to do.
EVANS: Well, there are two schools of thought. One school of thought is really we should have the voters decide through selecting delegates. You'd be in that camp which is to say, hey, wait a minute here, this is what we the voters want to have happen at the convention.
The other school of thought is, we want to empower the state of Pennsylvania. We want to give them the ability to possibly pick a running mate even, to give them other positions of power and the best way to do that is to have their delegates be unbound so they can deliver the most back to the state of Pennsylvania.
SMERCONISH: You just had a rules committee meeting this past week in Hollywood, Florida. What was the big outcome, if any?
EVANS: The consensus of the committee was, we shouldn't change the rules in the middle of the game. We've already played seven innings. Why would you change the rules going into the eighth and ninth inning?
There was also this idea that if we made any change it would viewed with cynicism. There would be a perception by one of the three candidates that we were trying to help another candidate. And then there's the possibility of unintended consequences. Under Roberts rules of order, anyone of the 2,472 delegates, any one could raise a point of order. If they all did, they could end the week without a nominee.
SMERCONISH: Do you take umbrage that the process is rigged, that it's a sham?
EVANS: Well, I just think that Donald Trump is being a candidate who likes to dictate the topic of the day. I think the anti establishment, I am not them, I am not a part of a system in Washington, D.C., that is broken and needs to be fixed, and I think he views the RNC and the DNC as part of those problems.
So, I think it fits his overall thematic-- so no, I don't -- candidates say what they need to say to get elected.
SMERCONISH: What's your response to him when he does say that it's a rigged system?
EVANS: Well, that's like saying that it's a rigged system, that will are four balls but only three strikes. Now, that's just the rules of the game. The rules have been available since last October 1st. Every state had to turn in the way they'd go about picking their delegates and it's been equally available to every one of the candidates.
SMERCONISH: Will we have a clear picture on Tuesday as to whether Donald Trump is getting to 1,237?
EVANS: I think so. I think you're going to start to see the momentum pick up. There was a huge win in New York and I think if he sweeps in the northeast, really the last-ditch think you'll see a lot of folks try to make Indiana second this is the last chance to stop Donald Trump.
[09:50:01] I think Trump understands that. And I think if he sweeps in the northeast, really the last-ditch think you'll see a lot of folks try to make Indiana second this is the last chance to stop Donald Trump. I think Trump understands that. The rest of the field understands that. I think if he wins Indiana or does well in Indiana, it will be all but over.
SMERCONISH: The final question, will he get to 1,237 before stepping foot in Cleveland?
EVANS: I believe that he probably 1,100. I think once he hits that 1,100, and you've got 400 or so unbound delegates due to folks like Rubio's delegates and other candidates who have dropped out, combined with the 54 from Pennsylvania combined with other unbound, it will be pretty easy for him to get the last 137. He'll cobble together enough to get over the finish line.
SMERCONISH: Randy Evans, thank you so much.
EVANS: Thank you.
SMERCONISH: Up next, have we been seeing the real Donald Trump? Will we ever?
[09:55:00] SMERCONISH: Finally, a quick thought about Donald Trump. At a closed door meeting with Republican leaders this week in Florida, Trump strategist Paul Manafort tried to distinguish between the public and private Trump. He said, quote, "When he's out on the stage, when he's talking about the things he's talking about on the stump he's projecting an image for that purpose."
I believe that. And my hunch is, is that I'd be more comfortable with the private Donald Trump than the public one. I doubt the private Donald Trump bothers to even try to cite Two Corinthians.
Assuming he's winning the nomination, you can see the signs of Trump's pivot toward the center. His acceptance of transgenders using any bathroom they chose at Trump Tower, that was another indication.
So Tuesday will tell us a great deal as to whether he'll get the chance for a second impression. We'll find out.
As I like to say you can follow me on Twitter, if you can smell Smerconish. I'll see you next week.