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Syria Conflict; Indiana Battle; Can't Stop the Gain; Indiana Loss Could Be Devastating for Cruz. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired May 2, 2016 - 16:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: My parents wouldn't let me go to the beach after nerd prom, so I'm here right now.

THE LEAD starts right now.

Brand-new polling releasing right now here on THE LEAD showing many voters in America think that primary season is basically already over, as Ted Cruz jaws with a Trump supporter, telling them they have all been taken for a ride.


SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Sir, with all respect, Donald Trump is deceiving you. He is playing you for a chump.


TAPPER: Accusations of men, women, children scalded and killed by the Syrian regime's chlorine gas bombs, new evidence that the cease-fire in that country has gone up in poisonous smoke.

Plus, it turns out that an extreme weight loss program on reality TV is about as successful as you might expect, a shocking study that shows "Biggest Loser" contestants may leave the show in a position to gain even more weight.

Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

Our politics lead now: a brand-new CNN poll and a whole lot of reasons for Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton to smile. Whatever you personally might think or hope, whatever reality has in store for all of us, the American public is in pretty much universal agreement that the general election matchup is set and will be Hillary Clinton vs. Donald Trump.

CNN political director David Chalian is here with me in Washington.

So, David, even though there are such high negative ratings for both candidates, higher for Trump than for Clinton, but both are pretty high, these same voters are pretty certain that those are the two it's going to come down to?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: They are indeed. Listen, the horse race itself, Jake, has been pretty steady over the

past month. They are each winning about 50 percent of their party and well ahead of their opponents. But you're right. Everybody thinks the primary season is over.

Take a look at this. Most likely to win the Republican nomination, 84 percent say Donald Trump. This is of all voters -- 10 percent Ted Cruz, 3 percent John Kasich. Just among Republicans, 91 percent of his own party thinks he's going to be the nominee. Only 6 percent of Republicans say that about Cruz, 1 percent about Kasich.

TAPPER: I want to meet that 1 percent.


CHALIAN: So does John Kasich.

And on the other side, Hillary Clinton, all voters, 85 percent of them think she will be the Democratic nominee. Only 12 percent say that of Bernie Sanders.

TAPPER: Very interesting.

And there's been a lot of concern throughout this process that it's been so contentious and divisive, especially on the Republican side, that it's going to be tough to unify the party and win the general election. What do voters think is going to happen about the unification process?

CHALIAN: You and I have talked a lot about this.

We have seen cycle after cycle parties do tend to unify, but I think Donald Trump has a tall order here, if indeed he is the nominee. Take a look at this; 49 percent of Republicans say that they are divided now and they will not unite in November.


CHALIAN: That's half the party; 41 percent say, yes, we're divided, but we will unite; 7 percent there say that they are united. Now, I would like to meet those 7 percent.

TAPPER: Yes, seriously.

CHALIAN: On the Democratic side, this is really interesting.

Hillary Clinton, only 23 percent, that bottom number there, of Democrats say they are divided and will not unite. But, Jake, that is a significant uptick from the mid-teens that we saw in our last poll.


CHALIAN: So, that's going to start to concern some Democrats in Clinton world that maybe Sanders hanging on and lingering on may be affecting the ability for the party to unite, because now more people say, Democrats, that they are still going to be divided in November. TAPPER: That's interesting. I asked Clinton about this in our

interview that aired yesterday, and she said that when she dropped out of the race in 2008, 40 percent of her voters were against Obama, but that number, in her view, thankfully lowered.

One final question. If Ted Cruz does not win Indiana -- and polls have been all over the map -- if he does not win, what then?

CHALIAN: Listen, I think this is a do-or=-die moment for Ted Cruz in many ways.

And we asked what people think, if he can't get to 1,237, what should happen? Fifty-two percent of Republicans say that he should not keep running, it's time for Ted Cruz to drop out because he's been mathematically eliminated from being able to get 1,237. So, I think there's going to be a lot of pressure on Ted Cruz to figure out a way forward after putting so much into Indiana if it doesn't come out his way.

TAPPER: Of course, he already has been mathematically eliminated from getting it before the convention.

CHALIAN: That's right.

TAPPER: He can only get it in a contested convention. But the pressure, it looks like, is building.

David Chalian, thank you so much.

The GOP is teetering on the edge of a cliff, says Senator Ted Cruz. Certainly, his candidacy could be if Cruz loses to Donald Trump tomorrow in Indiana's primary.

This afternoon, Cruz was confronted by some Trump supporters in Marion, Indiana.


SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Sir, America is a better country...


CRUZ: Thank you for those kind sentiments.

Let me point out, I have treated you respectfully the entire time. And a question that everyone here should ask...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you Canadian?


CRUZ: Do you want your kids...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you Canadian?

CRUZ: Do you want your kids repeating the words of Donald Trump?



TAPPER: CNN political reporter Sara Murray is in Carmel, Indiana, where Trump will speak any moment.

Sara, this state is very, very important for Ted Cruz. And he's already out there fielding questions about his future plans.


I think that's why you're seeing Ted Cruz and pretty much every surrogate he has running across Indiana today in this final push. And Cruz is saying that, no matter what, he's staying in the race until Cleveland. But Donald Trump sounds much more confident, saying: Look, if I win in Indiana, this thing is over.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you very much. Appreciate it.

MURRAY (voice-over): Donald Trump is aiming to deal a death blow to Ted Cruz's presidential hopes right here in Indiana.

TRUMP: Indiana is very important, because, if I win, that's the end of it.

MURRAY: Trump appears well-positioned to pull off a victory in Tuesday's primary. He draws 49 percent support from Republican voters in Indiana, a 15-point lead over Cruz, according to a new "Wall Street Journal"/NBC News/Marist poll.

But Cruz insists the race is much tighter.

CRUZ: We are neck and neck right now in the state of Indiana. And so for anyone here, Hoosiers, this is an opportunity where the entire country is looking to the state of Indiana.

MURRAY: He and his surrogates are blanketing the Hoosier State today, holding 10 events, and at one stop engaging in a debate with one of Trump's supporters.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And I believe in Trump. He's the only one that's going to put us where we need to be. What are you going to do about the Second Amendment?


CRUZ: Sir, this man is lying to you. And he's taking advantage of you.

If I were Donald Trump, I wouldn't have come over and talked to you. I would have told the folks over there, go over and punch those guys in the face. That's what Donald does to protesters.

MURRAY: All as the Texas senator vows to stay in the race until Cleveland.

CRUZ: I'm in for the distance. As long as we have a viable path to victory, I am competing to the end.

MURRAY: Meanwhile, Trump is still condemning the GOP primary process.

TRUMP: I have been saying it's a rigged system. The bosses want to pick whoever they want to pick. What's the purpose of going through the primaries?

MURRAY: And continued campaigning in colorful language this weekend, as he criticized trade deals with China.

TRUMP: We can't continue to allow China to rape our country. And that's what they are doing.

MURRAY: But it's clear the GOP front-runner is ready to make the shift to the general, as he accused Hillary Clinton of playing gender politics.

TRUMP: If she didn't play the woman card, she would have no chance whatsoever of winning.

MURRAY: And tore into Clinton for this remark to Jake Tapper.

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I have a lot of experience dealing with men who sometimes get off the reservation in the way they behave and how they speak.

TRUMP: She controls or handles men that get off the reservation. I won't even bring up the fact that the Indians have gone wild on that statement.


MURRAY: Now, before we get to the general election, of course, Donald Trump has to wrap up this Republican primary.

And even though the latest polls show him with a wide lead here in Indiana, the Trump campaign wants to prove that they are not taking anything for granted.

We're expecting Trump here in Carmel, Indiana, in just a couple minutes, and he will make another stop later on this evening -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Sara Murray, thank you so much.

Senator Bernie Sanders has a new line of attack against Hillary Clinton as he fights to stay in the thick of it in the Democratic race. Now his campaign is accusing Clinton of money-laundering.

His campaign manager told Politico Clinton is using cash raised for state primaries to fund her general election campaign. He's also making another play for superdelegates, those all-powerful Democratic insiders who have already pledged their support for Clinton.

And CNN's Jeff Zeleny joins me now live from Indianapolis, where Sanders will hold a rally this evening.

Jeff, the Sanders campaign seems to be taking on a sharper tone, when I thought they were supposed to be going in the other direction.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Jake, the tone is sharpening, but you can see behind me here people are lining up around the block here in downtown Indianapolis to go see Bernie Sanders.

The Democratic Party nationally may think this race is over, but if you talk to voters here, they still want to have their say.


SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (VT-I), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Let us tomorrow have the biggest turnout in Indiana history.


ZELENY (voice-over): Bernie Sanders is firing up voters today across Indiana. He's asking Democrats to put the brakes on Hillary Clinton's march to the nomination.


ZELENY: But she's already moving on.

CLINTON: We cannot let Barack Obama's legacy fall into Donald Trump's hands.

ZELENY: On the eve of the Indiana primary, Clinton is looking ahead to a fall matchup with Trump and to primary contests down the line.

Visiting Appalachia today, Clinton talked trade with Kentucky steelworkers.

CLINTON: But I don't believe that we should be subsidizing, in effect, the rest of the world. We have got some cards to play, and we need to play those cards.

ZELENY: She's won five out of the last six contests and is crushing Sanders in the hunt for delegates. Sanders is increasingly showing frustration, not only at Clinton...

SANDERS: When we talk about a rigged system, it's also important to understand how the Democratic Convention works.


ZELENY: ... but at Democratic rules, particularly superdelegates, or party officials who also have a say.

SANDERS: It makes it hard for insurgent candidacies like ours to win. But you know what? We're going to fight for every last vote. ZELENY: That fight is getting harder and his battle to win the

nomination more uphill.

Clinton is about 200 delegates shy of the magic number of 2,383. Sanders needs nearly five times that many pledged and superdelegates. The Sanders campaign is digging in, today accusing Clinton of running a money-laundering scheme, citing a Politico report that only 1 percent of the $61 million raised through the Hillary Victory Fund to help other Democrats is actually going to state parties -- the Clinton campaign dismissing the attack as desperation.

Trump is following Sanders' words carefully and plans to use them against Clinton.

TRUMP: Bernie Sanders said she shouldn't be allowed to run, that she's not capable. And -- and, you know, what he said is incredible. It's a sound bite.

ZELENY: We asked Sanders whether that bothered him.

SANDERS: No. The Republican Party and Trump have the resources to do all the opposition research they want on Secretary Clinton. They don't need Bernie Sanders' critiques of the secretary.


TAPPER: Jeff, is there anything to the Sanders charge of money- laundering by the Clinton campaign?

ZELENY: Well Jake, the term money-laundering is definitely strong. There is nothing to that exact phrase.

In fact, the Clinton campaign believes that the Sanders campaign is just trying to fire up their own donors here. One official called it shameful.

But there are some concerns from state party officials where their money is. This all comes from a joint fund-raising account, the Hillary Victory Fund. It's a joint account. She raises some money for her campaign, the national party, the state party. Some of these state parties have seen as money as they thought they would.

Now, Bernie Sanders could be raising money like this as well. But he's certainly decided not to do this. But, Jake, this is just the beginning of this here. Some state parties want their money, so they can use it for their own local races.

TAPPER: All right, Jeff Zeleny, thank you so much.

As you saw, Ted Cruz didn't exactly get a lot of support from Trump fans in the must-win state of Indiana. Would Cruz support Donald Trump if Trump gets the nomination? We're going to go one-on-one with Ted Cruz next.


[16:16:14] TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD.

Who's your candidate? Senator Ted Cruz is making his closing pitch to Indiana voters, hoping his last minute tactical changes will push him to victory tomorrow. But a new state poll shows one of Cruz's gambit to form an alliance with Governor John Kasich of some sort was unpopular with Republican voters.

CNN chief political correspondent Dana Bash visited with Cruz and his top state supporter, Indiana Governor Mike Pence today.

Dana, is the Cruz campaign feeling confident about tomorrow?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I would definitely not use the word "confident". I would say "anxious", and maybe underline that and put an exclamation point after it, Jake. Look, Ted Cruz has a lot of what he has been begging for. A one-on-one shot at Donald Trump since John Kasich doesn't appear to be really campaigning here because of the alliance you talked about, and he has a lot of the establishment that he never thought he would have. He has very fertile ground here, conservative ground here in Indiana, and yet, it is still going to be a tough race here.


BASH: Donald Trump only needs 47 percent of remaining delegates to win the nomination outright. You need 132 percent. So, will you support his candidacy if he, Donald Trump, gets the delegates before Cleveland?

SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Dana, nobody is going to get to 1,237. I'm not going to get to it but neither is Donald Trump. Now, I'll tell you, I think Indiana is going to be a critical state in that. Indiana is voting tomorrow, and I'm encouraged that we're seeing together, including, especially Governor Mike Pence.

BASH: What makes you so sure he won't get the delegates? I mean, getting 47 percent of the remaining delegates is not conceivable at all?

CRUZ: Well, he hasn't gotten 47 percent today. That's better than he's done. And I'll tell you --

BASH: But he sure did well last week.

CRUZ: You're right. He did well in his home state and he did well in the adjoining states. He won five states last week. But I'll tell you, in the three weeks that preceded that, I won five states in a row starting with Utah, and then North Dakota, then Wisconsin, then Colorado and then Wyoming, 1.3 million people voted in those states.

By the way, I earned more votes in Wisconsin than Donald Trump did in New York. Now, I get that the media found New York the most important election in the history of the universe.

BASH: Well, also Pennsylvania. I mean, that was -- it was -- but do you see -- I mean, you're data-driven campaign. CRUZ: Yes.

BASH: Do you see hard data that is really driving this message that you have that he's not going to get the delegates needed?

CRUZ: Absolutely. And I also -- I know the Republican Party. We are not -- the choice that Indiana faces tomorrow is who we are and which direction do we go. Do we get behind a campaign that l based on yelling and screaming and cursing and insults that is built on anger and rage and hatred? Or instead, do we unify behind a positive, optimistic, forward-looking conservative campaign with real policy solutions to bring jobs back to America, to bring in manufacturing jobs back to Indiana, to raising wages of working men and women?

BASH: Governor, when you endorsed Senator Cruz last week, you had almost as many nice things to say about Donald Trump as Senator Cruz. If he isn't successful tomorrow here, in Indiana, and Donald Trump does become the nominee, will you support him?

GOV. MIKE PENCE (R), INDIANA: Well, I made it very clear, I'm going to work my heart out to make sure that we elect a Republican president in the fall of 2016.

BASH: Even if it's Donald Trump?

PENCE: Look, I'm going to support the Republican nominee because Indiana needs a partner in Washington, D.C., but my choice in the Indiana primary is Ted Cruz because I believe he's a principled conservative who, like me, cherishes and has fought for the Reagan agenda of less government, less taxes, traditional values and a strong military, and I'm proud to stand with him.

[16:20:14] BASH: The governor just said he's going to support the Republican nominee, even if it's not you. You were asked I think nine times over the weekend to say what you just heard the governor say next to you, that you will support the Republican nominee even if it's Donald Trump.

CRUZ: You know, I would say to people in Indiana and across the country, it ought to make you stop and think, why is the media so desperate to get conservatives to give up our principles and support Donald Trump? And the answer is very simple. Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are both rich New York big government liberals.

And you look at the media executives and all the major media companies, they're all partisan Democrats and Donald Trump winning the Republican nomination is a win-win from a partisan Democrats' point of view, because if Donald is the nominee, Hillary wins and she wins by double digits.

BASH: I understand that the media are an easy target. I get that. But if you were way ahead right now, Donald Trump were behind, I would be asking the exact same question because the question is --

(CROSSTALK) CRUZ: So, I'm curious, Dana, when I have won five states in a row three weeks ago, were you asking Donald Trump, are you going to suspend your campaign?

BASH: No, we were in a different place with the number of delegates.

CRUZ: But you said if I had been winning you wouldn't have been saying that.

BASH: What I meant was if you were -- if you had 47 percent of the remaining delegates to get left and he had 132 percent, I would ask him yes, the same question. But the broader point is, you know, you all talk about uniting the Republican Party. By definition, aren't you helping to continue to divide it by not saying that you would support that?

CRUZ: It's exactly the opposite. Listen, I agree with Ronald Reagan when he said the Republican Party, it's not a fraternal order. You don't just slap an "R" on your jersey and lead the Republican Party. The reason the media wants Donald Trump to be our nominee is it represents a repudiation of the conservative principles of the Constitution.


BASH: And, Jake, on a lighter note, you remember last week Cruz had an epic gaffe here in Hoosier Country. He called the rim of the basketball net the ring and he got really hammered for it, understandably so, including by President Obama over the weekend, he put it in his rift at White House correspondents' dinner, and Cruz had kind of a light response that he said that maybe the president had seen his vertical. He said he's never been able to ere near the rim and maybe that's why he doesn't remember how to describe it -- Jake.

TAPPER: It's odd how candidates always bash the media and not for instance the plurality of the Republican voters who continue to vote for Donald Trump.

But, Dana Bash, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

They went from biggest losers to biggest gainers. Coming up, a new scientific explanation why contestants on the hit reality show could not keep the weight off, and this impact -- this could impact how everyone tries to lose weight.


[16:27:30] TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD.

Let's stick with the politics. Indiana very well could be it for the Never Trump movement. If Ted Cruz does not pull off a win there, it would be nearly impossible to stop Donald Trump from winning the nomination before the convention.

Joining me now to talk about it all, former adviser to the Jeb Bush campaign, Michael Steel, who has not endorsed any candidate, former battleground states director for President Obama's 2012 campaign and Hillary Clinton supporter, Mitch Stewart, and the vice chair of Donald Trump's Indiana campaign, Tony Samuel, who joins us from Indiana.

Tony, let me start with you. Ted Cruz is campaigning in Indiana. And here's a feisty exchange he had with some sign-wielding Trump supporters.


CRUZ: Donald Trump is a New York liberal who will take away your Second Amendment rights. This man is lying to you and he's taking advantage of you. And I would encourage you -- sir, look, I appreciate your being out here speaking. If I were Donald Trump, I wouldn't have come over here to talk to you.


TAPPER: So, what do you make of that? What's your take?

TONY SAMUEL, VICE CHAIRMAN, TRUMP INDIANA CAMPAIGN: Jake, he sounds more combative and more disruptive himself and just more taking a bizarre tact daily. More desperate, I think is what it boils down to, trying to dress down a voter and then going on and on. I saw it earlier. And it lasted for several minutes.

It was just a bizarre action. This campaign is taking a lot of bizarre actions and it's just getting -- it's kind of in a downward spiral.

TAPPER: Mitch, let me ask you, it seems possible, the polls are very close in Indiana right now. It seems possible that Bernie Sanders could theoretically pull off a victory there.

MITCH STEWART, FORMER BATTLEGROUND STATES DIRECTOR, OBAMA 2012: Well, I think it's important to define victory. Even if he gets 51 percent, which is a possibility, in order for him to stay mathematically eligible, he needs to win by 70 or 75 percent.

I was the Obama state director in the primary in 2008 and even though we lost by I think a point and a half, it basically signaled the end of the primary and I think, while Bernie Sanders and his campaign, there's certainly no reason to hang it up, it's going to be more ands more challenging for them from a math perspective to stay in the race.

TAPPER: Even if he wins tomorrow.

STEWART: Absolutely.

TAPPER: Interesting.

Michael, our new poll shows, take a look, 52 percent of Republicans think Ted Cruz should drop out now that he's unable to get the 1,237 delegates before the convention. And Republican voters are also most enthusiastic about supporting Donald Trump right there among the three candidates it's a plurality, not a majority. But it is still far and away in first place there. Is the never Stop Trump movement basically out of time and out of options?