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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Monster Storm Drives Hundreds of Thousands from Homes; Trump Holds Town Hall Scrimmage Just Days Before Debate; Clinton Releases Tow New Positive TV Ads; Trump Will Do Trial Run At NH Town Hall Tonight; Rapper And "9/11 Truther" Macklemore Speaks At WH; New CNN/ORC Poll: Obama Approval At 55%; Polls In MI, OH, CO, VA Give Clinton An Edge Over Trump; New Hurricane Advisory Coming In Moments; Matthew Roars Toward Florida As Category 4 Hurricane; Deadly Hurricane To Make Landfall As Early As Midnight; More Than 20 Million In Hurricane Matthew's Path; Millions Warned: "This Storm Will Kill You". Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired October 6, 2016 - 16:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA (via telephone): And then we'll jump quickly to make sure our federal agencies are responding appropriately and rapidly. The president thankfully a few hours ago signed a pre- storm emergency declaration, which allows the federal government to begin to coordinate assistance and preposition assets.

[16:30:07] I think that was the right decision and that's good to see happen. And, of course, the federal government will be responding not just in Florida but apparently also in Georgia and South Carolina now at some point down the road.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: So, as you noted, there's an evacuation order close to 2 million Floridians under that order in your state. What's your message to those who are thinking of riding out this storm in their homes? We've even seen people on the beach in Miami, on the beach in Daytona. What do you want to say to them if they're watching TV right now?

RUBIO: Yes, look, I mean, I think ultimately people are responsible for their own decisions. We can provide information, nudge them along and hopefully encourage them. But in the end, people are responsible for their own decisions.

The one thing I would say, though, think about it this way. In many of these jurisdictions but not all of them, if they get a distress call and they're able to respond, they're going to respond. And so, you're going to have someone's mother, someone's father who's a firefighter, sheriff's deputy or police officer coming out to try to save you in very dangerous conditions a risking and potentially losing their lives.

So, that's what I want people to think about. Don't put yourself in a position where you put other people in danger. That's one of the things I hope people think about.

And the other is, these storms are not a game. I mean, just go online while you still have power and see some of the videos of what happened in New Orleans. Just a decade ago where they didn't know this was coming onshore until it was too late and the devastation. And I'm not saying we're going to have Katrina-style devastation here in Florida.

But those winds that it's bringing, category four, are going to do severe damage to a lot of structures and people are putting themselves in harm' way. They're putting other people in harm's way in the process.

TAPPER: All right. An important message from Senator Marco Rubio -- thanks so much. Good luck with the storm, sir.

RUBIO: Yes, sir. Thank you.

TAPPER: Ready, set practice. Donald Trump about to hold a scrimmage for this town hall presidential debate. Can his advisers train him to not take the bait? That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:36:16] TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. Our politics lead now.

To have a credible chance at winning the presidency, Donald Trump needs to reassure jittery Republicans and fleeing independents at Sunday's presidential debate. But he does not have much experience in the town hall format, talking with actual voters about their problems.

So, the Republican nominee is rehearsing in full view of TV cameras, in just a few hours at a town hall in New Hampshire. It's part of what Trump's advisers are touting as a more serious approach to debate prep. How serious will this run-through be? It's been moderated by a Boston Radio talk show host, Howie Carr, a Trump supporter. We have no idea how many curveballs those selected will throw, versus slow, underhand and over the plate meatball.

CNN's Phil Mattingly has this report now on what might be the most focused and sustained night of debate prep for the Republican nominee.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Call it a preseason game, just three days before the Super Bowl.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We have crowds like this all over our great country, thousands and thousands.

MATTINGLY: Today, Donald Trump holding a decidedly more low-key affair, New Hampshire town hall, pulling back the world on the secretive world of debate prep in real time.

TRUMP: So, let's take a few questions.

MATTINGLY: A similar format to Sunday night's crucial debate, though moderated by supporter and talk radio show host, Howie Carr. It's a dry run his advisers acknowledge is increasingly necessary in the wake of a poor first debate performance, but one that follows a well- regarded showing by his running mate Mike Pence, something Trump himself is taking credit for.

TRUMP: I'm getting lot of credit because that's really my first so- called choice, that was my first hire as we would say.

MATTINGLY: And advisers tell CNN they're hoping Trump can emulate, even as Pence continues to defer to the GOP nominee.

GOV. MIKE PENCE (R), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I really do think that whatever I was able to do the other night, that Donald Trump won the debate.

MATTINGLY: As Trump readies for debate number two, advisers tell CNN he's been watching the videotape of his first meeting with Clinton. Tonight's debate dry run comes as Trump's campaign looks to boost his historically low favorability ratings, with a new positive TV ad.

AD ANNOUNCER: What does electing Donald Trump mean for you? Families making $60,000 a year, you get a 20 percent tax rate reduction.

MATTINGLY: And as Trump himself pledges again not to bring up Bill Clinton's past infidelities, telling the "New York Post" he wants to, quote, "win this election on my policies for the future, not on Bill Clinton's past." All as House Speaker Paul Ryan prepares to hit the trail with Trump in Wisconsin, a boost from the GOP's top elected leader.

Still, Trump's own surrogates providing ammunition for Clinton, saying Trump's ban on Muslim immigration which Trump himself has never publicly backed off of doesn't stand.

PENCE: Because it's not Donald Trump's position. I'm proud to stand with him when he says that we need to suspend immigration from countries and territories that have been compromised by terrorism.

MATTINGLY: All coming as Trump on Wednesday night committed a swing state faux pa pronouncing Nevada, Nevada.

TRUMP: It has to be Nevada, right? If you don't say it correctly, and it didn't happen to me but it happened to a friend of mine, he was killed.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MATTINGLY: Jake, it took Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid about ten mines to get a statement out knocking Trump for that.

Look, a key behind-the-scenes player here to keep an eye on is Chris Christie. He held more than 100 town halls in his home state, became a master of sorts of the town hall during his failed presidential campaign. He held 76 in New Hampshire, fielded more than 800 questions. He was instrumental in setting up tonight's event and one Trump aide said he's been even more instrumental in Trump's debate prep this time around.

[16:40:04] We'll get to see in a couple of hours if any of that work is paying off -- Jake. TAPPER: All right. Phil Mattingly, thanks.

Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton is sticking to her strategy, continuing to remain out of sight to do debate prep while her surrogates fan out across the country. The hurricane forced President Obama to cancel plans to campaign for Clinton in Miami. But he's giving her campaign a lift in another way.

CNN senior political correspondent Brianna Keilar filed this report for us.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Hillary Clinton is spending another day off the campaign trail as she prepares for her second debate showdown with Donald Trump.

HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE: I'm looking forward to our next debate next Sunday. I thought the first one went pretty well.

KEILAR: While Clinton lays low, her campaign has two new ads hitting the airwaves.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want a president who stands up against intolerance.

KEILAR: Portraying Clinton as the candidate who will stand up to injustice and fight for American families.

CLINTON: I spent my life fighting for kids and families. And it will be my mission to build a country where our children can rise as high as their dreams and hard work take them.

KEILAR: Though observers and polls show Mike Pence performed well at the vice presidential debate on Tuesday, Clinton is trying to divide the Republican ticket, joking that Pence failed to stand behind Trump's controversial statements which Clinton called indefensible.

CLINTON: When your own running mate won't defend the top of the ticket, I think that tells you everything you need to know, about who's qualified and temperamentally fit to be president. Even Mike Pence doesn't think Donald Trump is.

KEILAR: Tim Kaine joining that refrain, saying Pence threw Trump under the bus by not defending his running mate.

SEN. TIM KAINE (D), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think there's a level of desperation in the Trump campaign right now. Donald clearly did a very, very poor job at the debate, at his first debate, and then two nights ago, his running mate basically threw him under the bus again and again and again.

KEILAR: Clinton is getting some backup on the trail today from major surrogate as her daughter Chelsea campaigns in Minnesota and Bernie Sanders holds four different events across blue collar Michigan.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT: It is absolutely imperative that we elect Hillary Clintons our next president.

KEILAR: And one of Clinton's best assets for rallying support, a popular President Obama.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is not me going through the motions here. I really, really, really want to elect Hillary Clinton.

KEILAR: His approval ratings continue to climb. A new CNN/ORC poll finds 55 percent of Americans now say they approve of the job he's doing as president. The highest rating of his second term.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KEILAR: And now, a big part of Hillary Clinton's campaign strategy is capitalizing on early voting in key battleground states like Florida. On a conference call with reporters today Clinton's campaign manager said that due to the hurricane in Florida, they are hoping election officials will extend voting deadlines to account for the storm. That's very important because the deadline for registering by mail or in person in Florida is Tuesday, October 11th.

TAPPER: Florida, a key battleground state.

KEILAR: Very key.

TAPPER: Brianna, thanks so much. Be sure to tune in to the next presidential debate. It's this Sunday evening on CNN. CNN's Anderson Cooper will co-host the town hall style matchup along with ABC's Martha Raddatz, live coverage starts at 4:00 p.m. Eastern, with a special edition of THE LEAD on Sunday.

Coming up, the softer side of Donald Trump, the presidential candidate releasing new campaign ads with a positive tone. Will they strike a cord with undecided voters?

Then, Hurricane Matthew, category four storm barreling towards the United States, the latest hurricane advisory coming in moments.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:47:43] JAKE TAPPER, CNN THE LEAD ANCHOR: Welcome back to THE LEAD. We're continuing to keep an eye on Hurricane Matthew as it barrels up the Florida coast. But let's go back to politics and bring in our political panel three days before the Second Presidential Debate. We have with us Washington Bureau Chief for The Daily Beast, Jackie Kucinich, Senior Political Reporter USA Today, Heidi Przybyla, and Senior Writer at The Federalist, Mary Katharine Ham. I want to get to 2016 in a second, but there's something that's bothering me a little bit this week. Jackie, let me go to you on this, the White House hosted rapper Macklemore as part of a panel discussion on opioid abuse in America. Macklemore is apparently a 9/11 truther. Here's a tweet from him from several years ago, "911, Bush knocked down the towers." Is it acceptable, I say in the most leading question ever, for the White House which has a war against birthers, and rightly so, to have a truther come to the White House? [16:48:35] JACKIE KUCINICH, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF FOR THE DAILY BEAST: Yeah. This is probably not a good idea but the White House, and I'm sure they're kind of taken by surprise that he was a 9/11 truther. But yeah, it's hard to make the - it's hard to make the argument that the birtherism is this horrible thing and everybody should be against it when you have someone like that.

TAPPER: A truther.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The super cool truther, right?

KUCINICH: But he's a -- yeah. And he wears those fur coats.

TAPPER: Yeah, and the Anti-Semitic masks. But we'll move on - we'll move on from Macklemore, and my feelings about him, to talk about 2016. Mary Katharine, Donald Trump not really experienced when it comes to the town hall type format.

[16:49:08] MARY KATHARINE HAM, SENIOR WRITER AT THE FEDERALIST: Right.

TAPPER: He's having this event tonight at Chris Christie helping him out. Is this something you can pick up, do you think?

HAM: I think he likes an audience, so that's something going for him. I think it's something he can pick up. The question is how much does he want to pick up? We learned just this week that he will be campaigning at least part of the day on Saturday with Paul Ryan in Wisconsin, so he will not be using that part of the time for debate prep. And I think a Christie/Trump combo, does that just like amplify your - his personality like two northern tough guys getting together for the town hall? I think Christie has been good at it in the past, but I wonder whether it translates of Trump at all, or whether he wants to learn.

TAPPER: Heidi, news out today as President Obama has a 55 percent approval rating in the news CNN/ORC poll. That's the highest approval rating he's had, I think since the beginning of his presidency. This frankly could help Hillary Clinton.

[16:50:01] HEIDI PRZYBYLA, SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER USA TODAY: Good timing, yeah. I mean, that's why you're seeing this week all of these surrogates including Michelle Obama, who has an even higher approval rating, hit the road for Hillary Clinton. And I think this is going to be a crucial part of putting back together that Obama coalition, because whatever the campaign is telling us about, you know, we just had -- got off this conference call with Robby Mook about how optimist they are, about this early voting numbers, et cetera, et cetera. If they can't get the same numbers, not just the percentages of that population, but the actual turnout numbers both among African- Americans and young people, then they're not putting that coalition back together, and it's important because even if Hillary Clinton can squeak out a win over Donald Trump, they know, they already have their eyes on the White House and the need for a big margin, just to give her a good push into having a good governing majority and also to help push up those numbers in the house and the senate. Tapper: So Jackie, Donald Trump, I think by all accounts except maybe

his family, had a bad week both the debate and then all the events afterwards, including the late night tweets, et cetera, and the polls seem to be reflecting that. Do you think that he can reverse this? Is this a trend that can be stopped?

KUCINICH: It could be. I mean, if he has a good debate performance, he looks like he's learned and he's adjusted, I mean, why not? Right? Because we've seen it swing back and forth base on who had a good week and who had a bad week. But the one thing about this debate prep that he's doing with this town-hall, he's missing a really big component and that's Hillary Clinton. That's someone who will challenge him and not be nice to him the entire time. And that's been his trigger, when she started picking at him, that's when he went off. So you know, for his sake, you have to hope there's some tough questions in the audience, because right now, it's fairly good for Donald Trump.

HAM: Well, I think what we've seen in the - in the first Presidential Debate and the Vice Presidential Debate is that the Clinton campaign is prepared to mitigate any sort of losses they had on the night of with their work that they do the week after.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

HAM: And I'm not sure that the Trump campaign has that operation in place and can do that.

PRZYBYLA: And the challenge for Donald Trump is that prepare though he may, he's now fallen into the trap, proverbial trap, twice. And so, he's been warned. You know, he -- right after the convection, it wasn't just Hillary Clinton's strong performance at the convention that hit Donald Trump's numbers but it was his fight that he got into with Khizr Khan, then we saw with Alicia Machado, and I'll bet anything, Hillary Clinton is going to come armed to this next form with more people, maybe contractors and more ways that she'll going to get under his skin. And even though he may be prepared to talk about the finer points of policy, he's had a -- that's his biggest challenge, is controlling that impulse.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Letting it go.

PRZYBYLA: Yeah.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Resist the relitigation.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yeah.

TAPPER: Al Gore coming back to the trail to win over millennials. Do you think this has any actual basis -

KUCINICH: Yes. I just -- I don't know that Al Gore is - really, millennials are like, "Oh, my gosh, Al Gore, this was what was missing."

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's like Gen X.

KUCINICH: But -

(CROSSTALK)

KUCINICH: And these climate change is something obviously the millennials care about, they want to discuss, but one of the headwinds that Clinton campaign is facing that even Obama didn't (INAUDIBLE) poll with 58 percent of millennials said they were going to - they wanted to vote in 2012, this year it's 47 percent.

TAPPER: 47? Oh, wow. That's -

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Maybe they get Macklemore out there.

TAPPER: Macklemore.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yeah, right.

TAPPER: Jackie, Heidi, Mary Katharine, thank you so - anyway, Hurricane Matthew getting closer and closer to Florida. Will this Category 4 storm get even stronger? The next update on the storm is just minutes away. Stay with us.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

[16:58:14] TAPPER: Welcome back. Let's go back to the "BREAKING NEWS" today, a monster named Matthew, a hurricane 4 about to slam into Florida. We're about to find out if this Category 4 storm is getting even stronger. Rosa Flores is with the CNN rover in Jacksonville, Florida. And Rosa, we are anticipating an update from the National Weather Service in just a few minutes. You are getting an on-the- ground look at the very serious situation there in Florida. What are you seeing?

[16:58:41] ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, the rain just picked up, Jake, and I want to kind of set the scene here, because the fire station that you see behind me is one of the fire stations that strategically placed because it's very close to the beach, but it can withstand hurricane winds. So, there's a team there that will actually wait out the storm. Now, we're hearing from the sheriff's office that people are not evacuating, so I want to get into the car here to give you a sense of what the evacuation routes are actually looking like. Now, we're going to head towards Jacksonville, away from the beaches, to give you a sense. Now, according to the sheriff's office, they're reporting that about 30 percent of the people on the beaches are actually evacuating. They're very concerned about that. They're out tweeting saying, we have a lot of roads in Florida, and we're not seeing people on the roads. That is a concern. And once we turn here, you'll be able to get a sense because it really just looks like a normal day in Florida with a little rain and not a lot of people evacuating. So we're going to turn here and we're headed towards Jacksonville away from the beaches. And you see, Jake, it really just looks like a normal day. You don't see a flood of people trying to get out. Jake?

TAPPER: All right. Rosa Flores, thank you and stay safe. That's it for THE LEAD. I am Jake Tapper. Our storm coverage continues. I turn you over now to Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM." Thanks for watching.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN'S THE SITUATION ROOM HOST: Happening now, "BREAKING NEWS," death and destruction -