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Vice Presidential Debate Tonight; Polls Show Clinton Leading In Pennsylvania And North Carolina; Michelle Obama Speaking Live In Charlotte; Pence Arrives At Debate Hall; Interview with Sen. Amy Klobuchar. Aired 1-1:30p ET
Aired October 4, 2016 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[13:00:12] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, I'm Wolf Blitzer. It's 1:00 p.m. here in Longwood University, the site of tonight's vice presidential debate. Wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks very much for joining us.
Up first, the number two names on the ticket go one on one in their only debate just hours from now. The vice presidential debate comes 35 days and counting until the presidential election here in the United States. Democrat Tim Kaine, Republican Mike Pence, they will square off as Hillary Clinton regains some momentum. And Donald Trump fends off questions about his taxes.
Voters are evenly split over which vice presidential candidate will do a better job in tonight's debate. In our brand new CNN-ORC poll, 38 percent expect Kaine to come out on top. 38 percent also say Pence will come out on top.
Of course, you can see the debate right here on CNN. It starts 9:00 p.m. Eastern. It's scheduled to last 90 minutes with no commercials. It will consist of nine segments each, 10 minutes long after a coin toss. Tim Kaine will go first. Each segment will open with a question and the candidates will have two minutes for their initial response.
The presidential candidates and their surrogates fanned out across the campaign trail today. Hillary Clinton and daughter Chelsea, they took part in the town hall in Pennsylvania. Bill Clinton rallied supporters in Athens, Ohio. First lady Michelle Obama, she's campaigning for Hillary Clinton in Charlotte, North Carolina. And Donald Trump took part in an energy roundtable in Denver.
Let's bring in our Senior Washington Correspondent Jeff Zeleny covering the Clinton campaign and our Senior White House Correspondent Jim Acosta who's covering the Trump campaign.
So, Jeff, let me start with you. Tim Kaine's strategy tonight, what is it?
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Tim Kaine's strategy tonight, Wolf, I think is a couple things. One, it's to continue the argument or try to continue the argument against Donald Trump that has really been playing out over the last three days or so about his tax returns and what was in them. So, he will continue to prosecute, sort of, all of that.
But I think it's something else as well. It is to get some voters comfortable or try to get them comfortable with Hillary Clinton herself, with her honesty, her trustworthiness. So, I think his double task tonight, if you will, is to take on Donald Trump in ways that she has and keep this momentum alive.
One thing about vice presidential debates that can be interesting, they can keep things going or they can sort of halt things. So, Republicans would love for the script to be flipped a little bit tonight. It's Tim Kaine's job to make sure that does not happen.
BLITZER: And Jim Acosta, what about Mike Pence? He's got a tough assignment tonight. He's got to reverse what's been a pretty tough week for Donald Trump.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right. And Mike Pence has been described as Trump's explainer in chief, the way that Barack Obama had Bill Clinton as his explainer in chief four years ago.
You know, from talking to people close to Mike Pence and close to this process, they say that he is ready, the Indiana governor is ready for these Trump tax attacks, that he's going to be responding to those. But that he's going to be taking the fight to Hillary Clinton on foreign policy, on the Clinton Foundation, on Benghazi, you name it. They feel like there's target-rich environment there that hasn't really been tapped into because of this pretty negative news cycle that they've been in for the last week and a half.
And I think it's also a study in contrast between Donald Trump and Mike Pence. Mike Pence has been preparing for this vice presidential debate since he got the nod from Donald Trump back in July. A contrast that, with the preparation Donald Trump put into this process before his debate in Hofstra, there's no comparison.
I think that's why tonight, you know, people have been calling this the thriller in vanilla and the war of the bores maybe. But this could be pretty scrappy tonight, because these or two political pros who are going to be prepared.
BLITZER: With a lot of experience.
BLITZER: And they will be both prepared.
There are new polls, poll numbers, just coming out this hour, Jeff, in key battleground states. I know you've got the numbers.
ZELENY: Right, we do. And let's start with Pennsylvania. A new Monmouth University poll in Pennsylvania has Hillary Clinton at 50 percent, Donald Trump at 40 percent. So, that 10-point difference there between the two of them, this is one of the biggest margins we've seen in Pennsylvania. It may be a slight outlier, we'll see. But she definitely has an edge here in Pennsylvania.
But she is campaigning in Pennsylvania. One of the reasons is it is one week before the deadline to register people to vote. That's why this is so key in Pennsylvania.
We also have numbers, though, coming in from North Carolina, an Elon University poll here shows Hillary Clinton at 45 percent, Donald Trump at 39 percent, and, of course, Gary Johnson at nine percent here. And Gary Johnson is significant in North Carolina. There's so many college students, so many colleges in North Carolina. So, keep your eye on that. This, again, is also all after those first debates. A slightly higher edge than we've seen in other surveys.
But the Clinton campaign also focused on North Carolina. That's why Michelle Obama is there campaigning as well today -- Wolf.
[13:05:01] BLITZER: All right, everyone, stand by. The first lady, Michelle Obama, she's speaking in a rally for Hillary Clinton in Charlotte, North Carolina. Let's listen in.
MICHELLE OBAMA, UNITED STATES FIRST LADY (live): -- the children's health as first lady, for quality child care as a senator. And when she didn't become president in 2008, Hillary didn't just throw in the towel. No, she, once again, answered the call to serve and earned sky-high approval ratings. She hung sky-high approval ratings as our secretary of state.
And for those who question her stamina to be president, Hillary's resilience is more than proven. As she said in the debate last week, she's the only candidate in this race who has traveled to 112 countries, who has negotiated a cease-fire, a peace agreement, a release of dissidents, who spent 11 hours testifying before congressional committee.
Hillary Clinton is tough. See, I've watched her. When she gets knocked down, she doesn't complain. She doesn't cry foul. No, she gets right back up. Comes back stronger for the people who need her most. And let's not forget that Hillary is one of the few people on this entire planet, and clearly the only person in this race, who has any idea what this job entails; the staggering stakes, the brutal hours, the overwhelming stresses.
See, and this is the beauty of it. She knows this and yet she stills willing to do this job. See, because Hillary was raised to believe that she has an obligation to use her talents to help as many people as possible. And that is why she's running.
See, now, for me, that's dedication. That's what love of country looks like. So, when I hear folks saying that they're just not feeling inspired in this election, I really have to disagree. Because right now, we have an opportunity to elect one of the most qualified people who has ever endeavored to become president.
Hillary -- I remind people, Hillary has been a lawyer, a law professor, first lady of Arkansas, first lady of the United States, a U.S. senator, secretary of state. See, Charlotte, that is why I'm inspired by Hillary. That's why I'm here. I'm inspired by her persistence and consistency. I'm inspired by her heart and her gut. I'm inspired by her life-long record of service. No one in our lifetime has ever had as much experience and exposure to the presidency. Not Barack, not Bill, nobody. And, yes, she just happens to be a woman.
So, as someone who is experienced this, trust me, experience matters, preparation matters, temperament matters and Hillary Clinton has it all. She is the real deal. And I have come to know her very well over the years, and I know that she is more than ready, more than able to be an outstanding president for us all.
So, we cannot afford to squander this opportunity, particularly given the alternative, because we know that being president isn't anything like reality T.V. This is not an apprenticeship. It's about whether someone can handle the awesome responsibility of leading this country.
So, really, take the time and think about this. As you prepare to make this decision, and this decision is yours, I urge you to ignore the chatter and the noise and ask yourselves which candidate really has the experience, the maturity and the temperament to handle this awesomely hard job? Which candidate's words and actions speak to the values we all share, values like inclusion, opportunity, sacrifice for others? See, because your answers to these questions on Election Day will determine who sits in the Oval Office after Barack Obama.
[13:10:13] And I want to be very clear, elections are not just about who votes but who doesn't. So, for any of you who might be thinking that your one vote doesn't really matter, or that one person really can't make a difference, I want you to consider this. And I share this with everyone, because it's the same in every election, every election. Not just the presidency. But back in 2008, Barack won North Carolina by about -- by about 14,000 votes. And that sounds like a lot but when you break that number down, the difference between winning and losing this state was a little over two votes per precinct. Do you -- do you -- do you hear that? If just two or three folks per precinct had gone the other way or stayed at home, Barack would have lost this state.
But then, let's not forget what happened in 2012, Barack actually did lose this state by about 17 votes per precinct. So, I just want you all to think about it. Everybody in this room who didn't vote, everybody didn't pick up the phone who thought, I didn't feel good. I forgot. I didn't talk to my mother. I didn't pick her up. It didn't matter. What does it matter? It matters. Do you hear me? It matters.
So, the fact is that each of you just in this hall could swing an entire precinct and win this election for Hillary. Just by getting yourselves, your friends, your family, that's it, out to vote. Just take care of you. Find a neighbor, find a friend. You can win this. But you could also help swing an entire precinct for Hillary's opponent -- BLITZER: All right, we're going to continue to follow the first lady of the United States, Michelle Obama. She's speaking in Charlotte. But you see on the right part of your screen, Mike Pence, the Republican vice presidential nominee, he has just arrived here at Longwood University in Farmville, Virginia. He's going to be doing a little walk through, go up to the stage, get a feeling for that, as both of these, the Republican and the Democratic vice presidential candidates will have an opportunity to do. It's a very important part of the pre-debate preparation.
I want to get some quick reaction to what we just heard from the first lady. Jeff Zeleny, Jim Acosta are still with us. Even before we started to listen to her live, she made three points about Donald Trump, Jeff. She said, he can't be trusted with nuclear codes. He has no problem mocking women's appearances. And he doesn't understand soldiers and their issues. Very strong words, very political words from the first lady.
ZELENY: Incredibly strong words from her and the words she's been making as she's been campaigning across the country for Hillary Clinton. And it's both a good thing and a bad thing, I think, for the Clinton campaign, that the first lady is out there. One, it's a sign that they know that they need some more enthusiasm among their Democratic base. So, that is why she's in North Carolina, that has one week to go before voter registration.
But I was so struck by how she was breaking down the map there at the end. Seventeen votes per precinct would have flipped it the other way. She is really trying to get people engaged. And it will take a village to get some Democrats and others enthused about this election. And that's what she is trying to do by talking to the people who may not vote as opposed to the people who will. And she's one of the most popular messengers out there in all of politics.
BLITZER: Yes, she definitely is a big asset for Hillary Clinton and in North Carolina. As we reported this Elon University poll has Hillary Clinton at 45 percent right now, Trump 39 percent. North Carolina goes for the -- if it goes for the Democratic candidate, that's a huge win.
ACOSTA: It is hard for Donald Trump to figure a way to win this electoral college map, if he doesn't have North Carolina. And the polls we're showing, up until this debate in Hofstra, and the last week, this damaging week for Donald Trump, he was inching towards getting ahead in North Carolina which was going to be very good news for the Trump campaign.
I will say, you know, getting back to what Jeff was saying about what Michelle Obama was talking about, what you were saying Michelle Obama was talking about. Donald Trump was saying out on the campaign trail yesterday, he did not mean what people were saying with respect to what soldiers and coming back with PTSD and not being strong enough. He said he did not mean that and that those words were taken out of context.
But, you know, we should point out, this is -- this is the most political we've ever heard Michelle Obama sound in her last eight years of first lady. And it just goes to show you how concerned this White House is about winning this race. They are nervous at that White House about Hillary Clinton's chances, at this point.
BLITZER: Yes, they certainly are and that's why they're out there in --
BLITZER: -- full scale.
All right, thanks very much, guys.
I want to get the Republican take on tonight's debate and more. Sean Spicer is with us. He's the Chief Strategist, communications director for the Republican National Committee.
[13:15:02] Sean, thanks very much for coming in.
SEAN SPICER, RNC COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: Thanks for having me.
BLITZER: Let me get your quick reaction to what we just heard from the first lady of the United States. Donald Trump can't be trusted with nuclear codes. He has a problem -- he has a problem. He mocks women's appearances. He doesn't understand soldiers and their views.
SPICER: Well, I'm going to agree with what Jim said. I mean I think the White House realizes that this camp -- that they -- they are worried that Hillary Clinton has an enthusiasm gap. People are not excited the way they were for Barack Obama, especially the first time, never mind the second. They have a problem on their side getting young voters and minority voters excited about a Hillary Clinton thing. And I think in general, there is a problem with voters who don't trust Hillary Clinton. I think they recognize that and they're going, you know, as Jeff and Jim pointed out, I mean you see a first lady that has largely been policy and issue focused over the last eight years, getting out there, swinging harder than ever, because I think that just really epitomizes how concerned they are that Hillary Clinton can't deliver.
BLITZER: But since that first presidential debate, her numbers have gone up. She's gotten a nice little boost and his numbers have gone down.
SPICER: Yes, but -- right. I mean I -- right, I think we've seen a back and forth the last week. We've got two polls out this week, the "L.A. Times" poll and the UPI (ph) that show Donald Trump ahead two and five points respectively. But I'll admit, I mean we're in a neck- and-neck race. And I think not just nationally, but statewide. I think tonight gives us an opportunity to draw that contrast. I think that's what Mike Pence is really going to do tonight is get in there and talk about the differences of accomplishment between him and Tim Kaine and then, frankly, the difference in philosophy between him and -- he and Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine. I think that's a big difference. You know, the first lady, it was interesting when she was talking, was
reading off a litany of how long basically Hillary Clinton's been in Washington. And one of the things that's interesting is I think they believe that that's a strength. They believe that 30 years of Washington insider is a positive thing, and that's the same thing with Tim Kaine, governor, senator, mayor of Richmond. They come into this believing that more time in government is good. I think the Pence/Trump team belies that being the agent of change, talking about shaking things up, is actually what voters are looking for. And I think that's -- that's where the disconnect is right now.
BLITZER: Mike Pence, the vice presidential running mate, he spent a lot of time in government, too. He was a member --
SPICER: Well, you know, he --
BLITZER: Member of Congress for a long time.
SPICER: A member of Congress.
BLITZER: A governor and now --
SPICER: One term governor. But the difference also is, they don't talk about how long they've served, they talk about the accomplishments they have. I mean when Tim Kaine was governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia, taxes went up and unemployment went up. Under Mike Pence in the last four years in Indiana, taxes have gone down, unemployment's gone down. He's actually talking about his accomplishments as governor, the things that he delivered for the American people. I think Tim Kaine and Hillary Clinton are stuck on how many years in Washington they've served.
BLITZER: Well, take a look at this Pennsylvania, Monmouth University poll, just out this hour. In Pennsylvania, a state he has worked hard.
BLITZER: He thinks he can turn that state in his favor. Hillary Clinton, 50 percent, Donald Trump, 40 percent, a ten-point advantage in Pennsylvania.
SPICER: Well, I don't think it's that -- that much. And I agree with Jeff, it's probably an outlier poll. I do think she's probably a couple points ahead right now, but he is putting in more and more time. You're going to continue to see him and Governor Pence out there. I think the ground game that we have put together in Pennsylvania ensures that we know who our voter are, where the potential persuadable voters are. And there's a reason that Pennsylvania is where it is on the map. The really interesting thing is, because it's in a -- it's an election day -- they don't have a robust early vote program, is that we know that we can go in there and continue to fight hard all the way through Election Day.
BLITZER: Have you been involved in helping Mike Pence get ready for tonight's debate?
SPICER: I have not.
BLITZER: Have you been in -- in the presidential debates, are you involved at all?
BLITZER: What does that mean, tangentially?
SPICER: That I offer up my advice when asked.
BLITZER: Is Donald Trump get -- doing a better job this time getting ready for the Sunday night debate?
SPICER: Yes, I -- he is. And -- but I also would take issue that he did do a good job last time. I mean he has spent a lot of time with his -- with his issue advisers and his political advisers preparing for the debate. I admit that I think there's a lot of things that we probably could have hit her harder on last time or some missed opportunities, but I think when you look at by and large what the Clinton campaign wanted out of that last game, they wanted him to make a gaffe. He came in. He looked strong. He talked about where he was on issues. He stood firm on trade. She didn't. I mean, look, I think it's being, you know, if anyone was graded on a curve, it was Hillary Clinton. Donald Trump came in, stood firm, talked about where he was on the issue and the direction and changing (INAUDIBLE).
BLITZER: But all the serious polls, not these online polls that are not scientific and they're not even polls, they're surveys, really, all the serious polls, as you well know, the state polls, the national polls show she won that debate decisively.
SPICER: Yes, OK, but I think if you're going to look at that, then you'd have President Kerry and President Gore. President -- I mean John Kerry won every single of those debates against George Bush, three in a row, most of them by fairly wide margins. It didn't turn out too well. I think if Donald Trump continues to deliver the message of change and make sure that Hillary Clinton it continued to be tagged at the candidate of the establishment and the status quo, that's the contrast we want to drive. And there's a reason that this enthusiasm gap exists, because people are tired of Washington politicians and want some change.
BLITZER: And our new poll, that enthusiasm gap has diminished by about --
SPICER: Right, but it's -- but it -- but we still have the advantage in it.
BLITZER: All right.
SPICER: I get it, but again, part of it is some of her folks coming home. They continue to have that problem with minorities and youth that are part of that niche coalition that they have to tie together to win.
[13:20:07] BLITZER: That's why the first lady is out there -- SPICER: That's right.
BLITZER: Trying to recreate that Obama coalition that got him elected president, twice.
SPICER: That's right.
BLITZER: All right, thanks very much, Sean Spicer, for joining us.
SPICER: You bet.
BLITZER: Up next, team Clinton hopes their vice presidential candidate can keep up the attacks that Hillary Clinton has been hitting over the past week, but are her attacks on Bill Clinton's mistresses fair game for Republicans as they are suggesting? We'll take a quick break. We'll be right back.
By the way, the vice presidential running mates, Mike Pence, on the Republican side, you saw him arriving here at Longwood University in Farmville, Virginia, just moments ago. He's doing a little tour of the stage. We'll have full coverage of that and a lot more when we come back.
[13:25:10] BLITZER: Welcome back to Longwood University here in Farmville, Virginia. That's the site of tonight's vice presidential debate. Hillary Clinton's running mate, Tim Kaine, will try to build on her momentum, but Donald Trump's running mate, Mike Pence, is likely to go on the attack against Hillary Clinton's record. Amy Klobuchar is the Democratic senator from Minnesota, and a very strong supporter of Hillary Clinton, and Tim Kaine for that matter, as well.
Thanks so much for joining us.
SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D), MINNESOTA: Well, thanks, Wolf. A lot of excitement out here in Farmville.
BLITZER: All right, so here's some surprising words from Bill Clinton. He was out on the campaign trail once again. During a stop in Flint, Michigan, he said this about Obamacare. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL CLINTON, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: But the people who are getting killed in this deal are small business people and individuals who make just a little too much to get any of these subsidies. Why? Because they're not organized, they don't have any bargains power with insurance companies, and they're getting whacked. So you've got this crazy system where all of a sudden 25 million more people have health care and then the people that out there busting it sometimes 60 hours a week wind up with their premiums doubled and their coverage cut in half. It's the craziest thing in the world.
(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: All right, now this is the legacy of President Obama, Obamacare, the Affordable Care Act. That's -- he's proud of that. And here you have Bill Clinton saying it's a crazy system, the craziest thing in the world. How do you explain that?
KLOBUCHAR: Well, I think many of us, including Hillary Clinton, want to see changes to the Affordable Care Act. For me, it's always been a beginning and not an end. And it's been very difficult whether, in my case, the medical device tax repeal, whether it is bringing down the cost of the pharmaceutical with negotiations under Medicare Part D, or stopping some of these crazy practices where the generics and the big pharma come together and pay each other off to keep products off the market. Those things have to stop. And all he's saying here, in my mind, I wasn't there, is that we have to make changes to this bill. And it's crazy that we can't make changes to the bill. But the reason we haven't made changes is that the Republicans, every time we want to propose something, say it should be repealed.
So my hope is that Hillary Clinton, with her strong health care background, knowing how complex all of this is, can come in and work with both sides of the aisle to get those changes made.
BLITZER: Exactly five weeks from today, the election will take place. Is this the time, with five weeks to go, for bill Clinton to be calling Obamacare the craziest thing in the world and to be saying, so many millions of Americans are having trouble paying for their medical insurance, if you will, because the prices have gone up so high?
KLOBUCHAR: Well, I think this is something that --
BLITZER: Is that smart for him to do it? Is that -- is that going to helpful -- helpful to his wife?
KLOBUCHAR: I'm not going to -- I'm not going to second guess what he said there. Bill Clinton, throughout this campaign, has been out there for Hillary Clinton every step of the way. And everyone, when they sometimes when they say thing maybe doesn't pick the best choice of words. But the point is that Hillary Clinton has been very clear, especially when it comes to the cost of prescription drugs, what's happened with Epipen, that we need to make changes and we need to bring down the cost of some of these health care drugs and we also need to make some changes to the exchange and for small businesses, as he points out, and make it easier for them to get in.
BLITZER: Crazy system, that's what he's calling it.
BLITZER: Pretty -- pretty -- and the Republicans, of course, and the Trump campaign, they're really using this already, if you're talking a look at press releases.
KLOBUCHAR: Of course they are. Yes.
BLITZER: Our -- last night Governor Pence, the Republican vice presidential candidate, he said this about tonight's debate. "Hillary's record on foreign affairs alone could literally take up the entire 90 minutes, and it wouldn't be pretty." I assume you're expecting Pence to really go on the attack on foreign affairs, on Libya, Iraq, Syria, Iran. All of that region clearly in horrible shape right now from the U.S. perspective.
KLOBUCHAR: Well, I think, first of all, you have to look at the fact, who is his running mate? Who is running for president? That's Donald Trump. Look at what Tim Kaine is going to be able to focus on with foreign relations. And, by the way, Tim Kaine has done a really strong job in the Senate calling for an authorization of military force debate so that Congress isn't hiding from its duties.
But Tim Kaine is going to be able to say, look, Donald Trump, he wants to destroy our NATO alliance, he's talked about adding nuclear weapons to Asian countries that don't even have them. He's focused on building walls instead of building bridges. And he's going to be able to really talk about some of the things, not to mention Trump's continuing double down on his friendship with Putin and his respect for Putin at the same week that we hear that the Russians, there's strong evidence that they've brought down that plane that Ukraine.
BLITZER: There's also -- he doesn't want to destroy NATO, he wants to improve NATO.
KLOBUCHAR: But he has said -- he has said that --
BLITZER: Well, he said -- he said -- he's said that NATO allies have to pick up their own expenditures --
KLOBUCHAR: That is correct.
BLITZER: And pay what they're supposed to pay in order to make it a more viable alliance.
KLOBUCHAR: That is correct, but he has been willing to say, we can let NATO go, at a time when Russia has been more aggressive than we've seen them in decades.
[13:30:04] BLITZER: He wants NATO to be strong. Well, that -- that's another issue.
KLOBUCHAR: OK. All right.
BLITZER: But let's talk about something that fully potentially could come up in tonight's debate and clearly is out there.