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Jeb Bush's Son Says He'll Vote Trump; Interview with Debbie Wasserman Schultz's Opponent for Senate; Speaker Ryan Ahead of Opponent in Wisconsin; Growing Alarm over Trump in Republican Party. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired August 8, 2016 - 11:30   ET



[11:33:19] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: So Donald Trump, refresh our memory. What do you really think of Jeb Bush?



Very, very, very low energy, Jeb Bush.

His family's so ashamed.

He's got that little vicious streak because he's a gutless guy.

Jeb Bush is a total lightweight.

We have to get rid of the Bushs of the world. They're weak, ineffective.



KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: That's tough stuff.

Despite all the bad blood, the former Florida governor's own flesh and blood, his son, George P. Bush, is now urging Republicans to back Donald Trump for president, calling it a bitter pill to swallow. George P. Bush apparently the plan commissioner there.

Let's talk more about this with reporter, Bob Garrett, the Austin bureau reporter for "The Dallas Morning News."

Bob, thanks so much for joining us.


BOLDUAN: Of course. You have covered Texas, the Bush family and George P. now for years. What is going on? It came as a surprise to a lot of folks. GARRETT: There's really three things I think, Kate, to remember about

George P. Bush. One, he's in a real bind this year. Family loyalty would require that if he wanted to be invited to Kennebunkport, he needed to keep his distance from Donald Trump. He did. He didn't go to the Cleveland convention. On the other hand, he has his own career to manage. He's the head of the entire statewide ticket for Republicans in Texas this year. So it wasn't that surprising that he finally came around and said we've got to support the team.

Two other points are he's in no immediate jeopardy of going down with Trump. He's not up for re-election until 2018 as land commissioner. Some people think he may try to move up to state attorney general. We can talk about that.

Finally, he's a young guy. He's 40 years old. He can play this, see whether the Tea Party fades, see whether Trump fades. See how to navigate through these currents in the Texas Republican party.

[11:35:24] BERMAN: This is not without risk though, is it, Bob?

GARRETT: Well, there's risk. Some people were surprised that George P. Bush did not move more quickly to -- after his father withdrew, to support Ted Cruz, who was clearly sort of the rising star in Texas. In fact, George P. Bush was an early supporter of Cruz a few years ago. But he held back. Yeah, there's risk. I don't think anybody will remember George P. Bush for embracing Donald Trump. I think, you know, Donald Trump will be making his own memories and George P. Bush will be way down the list.

BOLDUAN: Maybe the people who do remember are the people with the last name Bush.


Like his father Jeb Bush. What do you think this means for his uncle, his grandfather, his father at this point? Do you think this moves them at all?

GARRETT: I doubt it. I mean, you know, if you look back at his grandfather, he was not a terribly ideological Republican, pretty pragmatic. He's the guy, you know, who said "read my lips, no new taxes," and then raised taxes. I think the thing Donald Trump represents is more a stylistic, affront to everything Bush. They sort of play politics in a certain way, viewing it as a contact sport, but, you know, with rules that gentlemen play by. And Donald Trump doesn't meet that definition. But I think the older Bushs are going to cut some slack to P., as we call him, because he's in a world they didn't have to navigate. He's in a much tougher situation. The Bush's brand on Republicanism is not on the ascent. It is, if anything, at risk of extinction.

BERMAN: Bob Garrett, "The Dallas Morning News," thanks so much for being with us. Appreciate it, Bob.

BOLDUAN: Thanks, Bob. GARRETT: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, hacked e-mails, losing the top spot at the DNC, and now fighting for her day job. Debbie Wasserman Schultz agreed to debate her primary opponent after some back and forth, would she/wouldn't she. Her opponent is with us, next.

BERMAN: Plus, "The week from Hell" -- that's what one Republican strategist is calling Trump's moment in the polls. We'll talk about the growing alarm from inside the party as top leaders worry about a possible drag on the ticket.


[11:42:22] BOLDUAN: She very publicly lost her job as head of the DNC in the leaked e-mail scandal. Now, Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz is fighting to keep her day job, her House seat. The six-term congresswoman hasn't faced a primary fight since she got to Capitol Hill.

BERMAN: Now she is battling Law Professor Tim Canova just to get to November. He is backed by former presidential candidate, Bernie Sanders, and he's raised a whole lot of money, almost as much as she has.

Candidate Tim Canova joins us now from Fort Lauderdale.

Thank you so much for being with us, Professor.

I want to read you an endorsement that just came out this weekend from the Florida "Sun-Sentinel" -- it did not go your way. Here's an excerpt.

"The bottom line is that on most of the issues, there's not much difference between Wasserman Schultz and Canova. Both are liberal, smart, and work hard. But because of her political savvy, vast experience, and command of the issues, Wasserman Schultz is the best choice."

Your response?

TIM CANOVA (D), HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES CANDIDATE: It was a strange endorsement. Everything it said about me was very positive. It had a lot of things to say negative about Wasserman Schultz, about the mistakes she made at the DNC, for instance. And it's a very strange statement to hear that there's not much difference between the two of us. She's raised a million dollars from political action committees, another million dollars from wealthy donors who have contributed $2,000 or more. My contributions, 76 percent of them are folks who have given $200 or less. And it's not just fundraising. She's raising money from big corporate interests and she's been voting their way for years, and she supports payday lenders here in South Florida, that's a big issue.

She supports these terrible trade deals. She supports private prisons and takes money from private prisons. Florida leads the country in the most private prisons in the entire system, and she takes money from big sugar companies that have contributed to this environmental disaster with the blue-green algae tide that's fouling our waters, killing sea life, and actually threatening the aquifer in South Florida.


CANOVA: Does that sound like there are not big differences between us?

BOLDUAN: So you called this endorsement a strange one. Try this one on. You had asked Joe Biden, the Vice President, to not campaign for Debbie Wasserman Schultz. You actually wrote an open letter about it saying, in the open letter, you wrote, "Please, Vice President Biden, you have been a stalwart Democrat and upstanding American. Please refrain from campaigning and fundraising for the disgraced Debbie Wasserman Schultz. She now deserves to sink or swim on her own."

The Vice President did campaign for Wasserman Schultz on Friday. Do you feel betrayed by the White House?

CANOVA: Excuse me?

BOLDUAN: Do you feel betrayed by the White House, that after your letter, he came and campaigned for --


[11:44:57] CANOVA: Oh, no, no. I don't feel betrayed by the White House. I think Vice President Biden was returning a favor, no doubt. The campaign appearance was a very brief one. I think anyone who has to actually face the voters again, like Hillary Clinton, should be very wary about appearing in public with Wasserman Schultz. She's one of the most divisive figures in the Democratic Party. Hillary Clinton has to win this state by -- has to win Florida. And to win Florida, she's got to win Brower County by at least 250,000 votes. Wasserman Schultz will be a drag on Hillary Clinton, whereas Hillary Clinton should be hoping I get the nomination. I've attracted thousands of Republicans and Independents to re-register as Democrats to vote for me.

BERMAN: Professor, Debbie Wasserman Schultz just this weekend agreed to debate you. This is something that you've been harping on a lot over the last few months. She now says she will engage in debates. What do you want to discuss on the debate stage with her?

CANOVA: Well, I just mentioned four major issues, from payday lending to the environmental disaster that she's contributed to, to bad trade deals and private prisons. Those are all issues to debate. I've got to say, I don't believe that she's serious about wanting to have debates. I wrote to her four months ago to challenge her to a series -- I wrote to her four months ago to challenge her to a series of debates. Last week, she told a couple of people in the press that she would debate me to try to get the issue to go away. Her office has never contacted mine. And Florida voters will remember, just a couple of years ago, Charlie Crist, who Wasserman Schultz had backed, had promised a debate to his challenger in the primary, Nan Rich. They set a debate, they had a schedule for it, and then at the last minute, Charlie Crist cancelled --


BERMAN: Why not just take yes for an answer now? If she says she's going to debate, why not just do it?

CANOVA: Oh, I would love to debate her, and I'll schedule it. But until she actually debates me, she's dodging debates. It's been going on for four months.

BOLDUAN: Have you reached out -- has your staff reached out to hers to set one up since she said this last week?

CANOVA: Absolutely. Absolutely. There's no response at all from her camp. So -- look, you take a look at the WikiLeaks and the e-mail disclosures, what they revealed, they revealed somebody who says one thing repeatedly but does another. And that's why my campaign today is filing a complaint with the Federal Election Commission against Wasserman Schultz. She used DNC resources time and time again to monitor my campaign and to try to crush my campaign, in violation of federal election law.

BERMAN: Obviously, we will look into this. We'll find out what we can.


BOLDUAN: And we'll get Wasserman Schultz's response as well.

BERMAN: We will look for a response from the congresswoman.

Thank you, sir, very much.

BOLDUAN: Thank you.

CANOVA: I would love -- thank you so much for having me on. Appreciate it.

BOLDUAN: Thank you. Thank you.

BERMAN: All right, any minute now, Donald Trump, he is speaking in Detroit. He's outlining his economic plan, including some new details. We'll bring you the speech as soon as it begins.

BOLDUAN: But first, a warning to Donald Trump: Fix things or the GOP could lose the Senate. Republicans leaders are worrying about what Trump's lagging poll numbers now could mean for the rest of the ticket, especially the Republican majority in the Senate right now. So what do they do about it? That's ahead.


[11:52:01] BERMAN: House Speaker Paul Ryan in his home state of Wisconsin today campaigning ahead of his primary tomorrow. By all accounts, he is way ahead of opponent, Paul Nehlen, who appeared on the show last week. Still, Speaker Ryan only recently received the endorsement of Donald Trump.

BOLDUAN: Joining us to discuss, CNN senior political reporter, Manu Raju, who is in Wisconsin following the campaign trail with Speaker Ryan; and CNN senior political reporter, Nia-Malika Henderson. She is in Washington for us.

Manu, first to you.

The Trump endorsement, it was a bumpy road getting here. What are you hearing about how it came about and the impact of Trump's endorsement for Ryan now?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, this has been viewed by the Paul Ryan campaign as nothing more than a distraction, this endorsement/non-endorsement issue that's been going on this past week. Paul Nehlen, the primary opponent to Paul Ryan really has virtually little chance of pulling off an upset tomorrow night. Ryan is essential a lock for this race.

One of the bigger concerns for Paul Ryan and congressional Republicans is whether or not Donald Trump's standing in the polls will hurt their ability to keep control of both the House and the Senate this year. The Democrats need to regain 30 seats. It's a pretty uphill climb to take back the House majority. But if Donald Trump continues to struggle in those battleground districts, that's the major concern for House Republicans, whether or not they can outperform the top of the ticket. Similarly, on the Senate side, the Democrats need to take back four or five seats, depending on what happens in the president race, to take back the Senate majority. But I'm told by Republican strategists, if Donald Trump is losing by eight to 10 points in those battleground states, it would be impossible for a lot of those incumbents to hang on.

Now I got a chance to talk to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell about his party's chances this fall and what Donald Trump means at the top of the ticket.


RAJU: One of the big goals you have this year is keeping the Senate majority. What impact does Donald Trump have right now? Is he more asset or liability?

MITCH MCCONNELL, (R-KY), SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: I don't think we know yet. We have to see where the presidential election ends up. One of the good things about the Senate is the races are big enough to stand on their own. I hope that Donald Trump is winning, but I don't think the Senate majority depends on the top of the ticket.


RAJU: This month, both McConnell and Ryan will hit the road and raise a lot of for their incumbents. And the message they're going to say subtly and director is give money to down-ticket candidates because perhaps they can have a chance than the top of the ticket -- John and Kate?

BERMAN: Nia-Malika Henderson, jump in. What are you hearing, particularly among some of these statewide candidates, Republicans, who might be concerned about a possible drag on the ticket?

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, in talking to Republican strategists, all those polls that came out last week, not only the polls that show Donald Trump doing poorly nationally, the polls that came out in New Hampshire, the polls that came out in Pennsylvania are sending a lot of worry to already worried Republicans. You have that race in New Hampshire that showed Donald Trump down 15 points to Hillary Clinton, and then Kelly Ayotte struggling against Maggie Hassan in that race there.

[11:55:09] I think one of things that the strategists are telling me is that these candidates, particularly in the swing states, have got to run their own race. If that means having this stance where they essentially say they would stand up to Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton, but send them back to the Senate, that they would be a check and balance on either one of these candidates or presidents. That is the strategy they'll have to run.

I think it's going to be evolving. On the one hand, a lot of the Donald Trump fallout is baked into the cake in some of these polls. But, again, this is going to evolve as the debates come, and these races probably at some point will tighten up in the swing states.

BERMAN: Manu Raju, Nia-Malika Henderson, thank you.

BOLDUAN: Thanks, guys.

BERMAN: A lot of these candidates, no doubt, with their eyes on Detroit right now watching what Donald Trump says new on the stump. Donald Trump is set to give a major economic speech in Detroit at the Economic Club. We'll bring you those remarks live.