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Matthew Leaves Record Flooding; Major GOP Figures Condemn Trump; Attacks May Get Personal at Tonight's Debate; GOP in Meltdown as Trump Refuses to Quit; GOP in Crisis as Tonight's Presidential Debate Looms; SNL Takes on Trump's 2005 Comments, Apology. Aired 7-8a ET

Aired October 9, 2016 - 07:00   ET


CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: Take a look at what's going on in North Carolina.

[07:00:01] Just waterlogged. That's a road, not a lake, a road. Cars have been abandoned as you see there.

And then, in Savannah, Georgia, people are wading through streets in knee high water. So, we are certainly thinking of all these people and watching what's happening to Matthew.

Thank you so much for starting your morning with us. Your next hour of NEW DAY starts right now.



REPORTER: Tumultuous 24 hours for the Donald Trump campaign. A ton of Republicans have pulled their support.

REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: There is a bit of an elephant in the room, and it is a troubling situation.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: There are growing calls for Trump to step down.

REPORTER: Governor, should Mr. Trump withdraw? Will you be staying on the ticket?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: "The media and establishment want me out of the race so badly. I will never drop out of the race. I will never let my supporters down."

RUDY GIULIANI, FORMER NYC MAYOR: There is nothing that is going to cause his dropping out.

JEREMY DIAMOND: Are you staying in the race?



PAUL: 7:01 on a Sunday morning, and always so happy to he you with us. Keeping us company. I'm Christi Paul.

Victor Blackwell in St. Louis, Missouri. Victor, because, of course, big day.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Yes. Yes. It is a very big day. I'm at Washington University, the site of tonight's second presidential debate.

And as the final preparations are made, the Republican Party finds itself in a state of chaos, facing political catastrophe unlike anything in modern times. In just a few hours, here at Washington University, Donald Trump will take the stage to fight for his political life.

We are now less than a month before Election Day. Top leaders of Trump's own party are banding together in this continued drum beat ending their support for the candidate. Look at the gallery on your screen.

This comes after a stunning video revealed Trump in 2005 casually talking about sexual assault. Now, Trump has apologized, but Trump's own running mate refuses to defend him. Senator John McCain says he will write in a candidate for president.

Former Republican Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says, "Enough. Donald Trump should not be president. He should withdraw." But that's easier said than done.

Meantime, Hillary Clinton is plotting her approach to Trump's remarks and personal attacks that may be lobbed at here tonight. Now, more than 80 million people are expected to tune in tonight. Debate number two capping off one of the most extraordinary weekends in American political history.

As his party spirals, Donald Trump is refusing to back down.

Joining me now here outside tonight's debate venue is CNN national correspondent Sunlen Serfaty.

And, Sunlen, what we saw from Donald Trump yesterday was fist pumping defiance. He's not going anywhere.

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. He is not. And this is really unchartered territory that we're entering right now. You know, we have a Republican nominee 30 days out who is facing some serious headwinds here. Republicans within his own party are revoking their endorsement. Many are calling for him to drop out. Donald Trump is certainly going into tonight's debate, one of the most critical nights of his political life with his back against the wall.


SERFATY (voice-over): A defiant and fist pumping Donald Trump emerging from Trump tower to chants of support. Despite the chaos in the Republican Party, Trump says he's not going anywhere.

REPORTER: Are you staying in the race?

TRUMP: One hundred percent.

SERFATY: Trump also tweeting this, quote, "The media and establishment want me out of the race so badly. I will never drop out of the race. Will never let my supporters down."

TRUMP: And when you're a star, they let you do it. You can do anything you want.

BILLY BUSH: Whatever you want.

TRUMP: Grab them by the (EXPLETIVE DELETED). You can do anything.

SERFATY: After a 2005 video of Donald Trump making lewd and sexually predatory comments about women surfaced, Trump was forced to make an unprecedented apology before dismissing the controversy as a distraction.

TRUMP: I said it, I was wrong, and I apologize. Washington is totally broken. Hillary Clinton and her kind have run our country into the ground.

SERFATY: This morning, the GOP is in meltdown as lawmakers rescind their endorsements of Trump. And sources tell CNN those at the top of the GOP, including House Speaker Paul Ryan, wish Trump would step aside.

RYAN: There is a bit of an elephant in the room. And it is a troubling situation.

SERFATY: Some Republicans now saying Trump's running mate, Mike Pence, should leave the ticket. In an extraordinary move, Governor Pence said he was offended by Trump's remarks before canceling plans to represent him at a political event Saturday.

REPORTER: Governor, should Mr. Trump withdraw?

SERFATY: Meantime, one of Trump's closest advisors, Mayor Rudy Giuliani, said Trump's campaign against Washington insiders will go on.

[07:05:06] GIULIANI: Most of the people who turned on him are members of the establishment. So, I would see this as, if you want -- if you want change in Washington, you vote for Donald Trump. If you want to keep things the same, you vote for Hillary Clinton.


SERFATY: And while all eyes are most certainly on Donald Trump tonight for the debate and how he handles all of this fallout, this sets up a potentially really important moment for Hillary Clinton, too, according to people close to her, as she prepares, Clinton does, prepared to bring this up early, potentially often up there on stage. This will be the first time, Victor, that we hear her publicly comment on this scandal. BLACKWELL: All right. Sunlen Serfaty, thank you so much.

All right. Let's talk about it with CNN politics executive editor Mark Preston.

Mark, we have seen just a continued drum beat of Republicans declaring that they will not be voting for Donald Trump. We just saw here on Twitter, if we have it, we can put it up. If not, I'll read it for you, from former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, says, "For the first time I've become a citizen in 1993, I will not vote for the Republican candidate for president."

Now, let's be clear, Schwarzenegger was a Kasich supporter and never formally endorsed Donald Trump. But it reinforces this continued drum beat, some calling it a mass exodus, from the Trump campaign.

PRESTON: Yes, it's not even a drip, drip, drip, it's a continuing draw of the water out of the faucet right now. And I think we're going to continue to see it tonight.

And I think, depending on what happens tonight, Victor, I think tomorrow morning, you could see a lot of people start abandoning Donald Trump.

Here's the problem for Republicans right now. You have House Republicans, everyone of them are on the ballot in November. You have several senators, Republican senators in peril right now and connecting themselves to Donald Trump right now could be disastrous. They could be dragged down and lose in November.

BLACKWELL: Where is the defense? We have not seen nor heard from the campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway.


BLACKWELL: She's not tweeted since the video was released. We have not seen her. There's no strategic phone calls, nothing.

PRESTON: Well, let's go back to when the story broke on Friday, right? If you go back to Friday and you look at how long it took for them to actually respond to this. They put out a statement, it was -- there was no bones to that statement. That forced them to put out a video statement six hours later.

That was not him apologizing. That was him saying, "I'm going after Bill Clinton". And then we saw the statement from Melania Trump that didn't come until midday on Saturday.

Now, what they should have done is Melania's statement should have come out immediately. They knew this was coming. They should have been prepared for it. But what we're going to see in the next couple of hours, is you're going to see Rudy Giuliani, one solo voice on speaking for the Trump campaign.

I do think -- look, when we place blame on this, the blame goes solely on Donald Trump. It doesn't go on his staff. Donald Trump is the CEO, this is his campaign, he's the one who needs to answer for it.

BLACKWELL: OK. So, one voice for the campaign. However, you're going to have surrogates in the spin room.


BLACKWELL: And you're going to have, what, a dozen or so people answering questions, they've got to be there tonight, right? We have to see Kellyanne Conway at some point today. We've got to see the -- we've got to see Chris Christie. We've got to see Rudy Giuliani here.

And do they have their singular voice, their singular message yet?

PRESTON: Well, certainly, the singular is, A, those who were leaving with us, they were never with us, right? As you pointed out, Arnold Schwarzenegger was a big John Kasich fan, not a Donald Trump fan. But, tonight, to your point, they're going to have to be on message tonight when they go into that spin room, no matter what happens.

They're going to have try to promote his candidacy because again, if things go badly tonight, there's going to be a lot more bleeding.

BLACKWELL: What we've heard from his supporters was that he has to be contrite in the first five minutes or so.


BLACKWELL: He's got to apologize and then shift to the issues.


BLACKWELL: But we're not seeing that from Donald Trump?

What is he tweeting about? He's retweeting Juanita Broaddrick who accused Bill Clinton in 1999 of sexual assault.

PRESTON: Right. Which just gives us more evidence to the fact that we're going to see tonight, I mean, the fact of the matter is, too, is he also put out a tweet that said been an interesting 24 hours. Well, that's saying something, isn't it? Of course, it's been an interesting 24 hours.

But to your point about Juanita Broaddrick, clearly, that is another sign that tonight is going to turn very personal, very quick.

BLACKWELL: All right. Mark Preston, thanks so much.

PRESTON: All right. We, of course, will get to some of the questions from those undecided voters at tonight's town hall, because they will have a major role in this debate rooted in curiosity possibly, but what will it lead to? What will be -- what will be the moment this year from these town hall debates? How personal and how sharp might the line of attacks be in this year's debate?

Our guests break it down for us. That's coming up next.


[07:13:27] BLACKWELL: I'm at Washington University, the site of tonight's second presidential debate. And tonight, Donald Trump may have just 90 minutes to save his campaign for president as he faces off with Hillary Clinton. Now, after the first presidential debate, Trump hinted he could have used more personal attacks.


REPORTER: Anything that you wish you did differently?

TRUMP: No, I'm very happy that I was able to hold back on the indiscretions with respect to Bill Clinton because I have a lot of respect for Chelsea Clinton and I just didn't want to say what I was going to say.

REPORTER: Which is?

TRUMP: Which is I'll tell you maybe at the next debate. We'll see.


BLACKWELL: Well, now with seemingly nothing left to lose, will that be his strategy for tonight? We've already seen his retweeting of tweets from Juanita Broaddrick who accused Bill Clinton of sexual assault, and accusation coming back in 1999.

Ron Brownstein joins us now, CNN senior political analyst and senior editor at "The Atlantic".

And, Ron, we were talking during the break --


BLACKWELL: -- you've never seen so many senators defect from a Republican nominee.

BROWNSTEIN: No one has ever seen anything like yesterday in at least 100 years. The previous 24 hour period where as many Republican leaders abandoned their party's presidential nominee, you'd have to go back to the day in June, 1912, when Theodore Roosevelt and his supporters walked out of the convention and renominated William Howard Taft of the formidable Bull Moose Party.

We're now up to nearly 1/3 of Republican senators saying they're not going to vote for their party's nominee. That's unprecedented, even going back to 1912. You know, the modern -- the closest moderate equivalent would be 1964 campaign with Barry Goldwater, which was very controversial.

[07:15:04] But even then, it was a handful, five or six Republican senators, almost all clustered in the Northeast, who say they wouldn't support him.

The former president, Dwight Eisenhower, cut an ad for him. Richard Nixon campaigned for him. By comparison, the party was a paragon of unity compared to what we are seeing today. So, I think this is really -- since the Roosevelt/Taft schism over a century ago, this would be the biggest fissure in the Republican Party over its nominee since them.

BLACKWELL: We've just put up a gallery of those seating members of Congress both from the House and the Senate who has said they will not support Donald Trump, but let's go to the two individuals.


BLACKWELL: Look at this.


BLACKWELL: Let's go to the two individuals. We have up there Arnold Schwarzenegger who wasn't a Trump supporter from the beginning. But Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan.


BLACKWELL: Respectively majority leader and speaker of the House. People are waiting for them to here, to definitively say, "I'm still with Trump or I can no longer support him."

BROWNSTEIN: Especially agonizing for Paul Ryan because Trump is anathema to his vision of the party. Ryan is a disciple of the late Jack Kemp. Ryan's belief is that Republican, the future of the Republican Party is taking conservative ideas into every community, competing for African-American and Hispanic voters. He worries in his heart of hearts that Trump is defining the party too narrowly in effect as a party of white racial backlash. He's never been sympathetic to Trump.

Remember in June with the controversy over Judge Curial, he said Trump is engaged in the textbook definition of racism. The problem they've got is they fear that if Trump totally collapses, that Republican turnout will collapse and cost them the majority in the House and be Senate. Plus, they do agree with Trump on a certain set of core economic issues, taxes, regulation, repealing Obamacare.

I think they are in a horrible place but it is hard to imagine that Paul Ryan can get all the way to the election in particular without more distance from Donald Trump whose vision for the party, in addition to the personal issues, his vision for the party he fundamentally rejects.

BLACKWELL: And Donald Trump would have gone into this debate with some significant rhetorical ammunition at least with the release from WikiLeaks, the hacking of John Podesta. His emails, who's with the Clinton campaign, and the claim specifically against trade after what we heard from Bernie Sanders during the primary.

BROWNSTEIN: Yes. And trade was the most uncomfortable moment for Hillary Clinton. She was caught in this kind of no man's land where Donald Trump was slamming NAFTA, was slamming the TPP, and she didn't want to defend them and she didn't completely, you know, renounce them.

The big revelation from those was that she was talking about the possibility of the hemisphere wide free trade zone some day.

BLACKWELL: Open borders, open trade.

BROWNSTEIN: Open borders, open trade, going through all North and South America. Bill Clinton talked about that as well in 1994. The beginning of the TPP was Bill Clinton talking about a free trade zone in Asia. He talked also about a hemispheric free trade zone.

The reality is the Democratic coalition is now more pro-trade than the Republican coalition. And I think Hillary Clinton has been caught out on a limb on a policy that I'm not sure she fully believes in and which is one that it's kind of at odds with the people who are actually voting for Democrats these days.

BLACKWELL: But does that resonate at all tonight?


BLACKWELL: Can you me that stick?

BROWNSTEIN: Well, I think -- no. I think it's going to be secondary.

Look, the town hall debates tend to be often a little more diffused. They're not as focused as they are with the journalistic moderator driving it. They're interesting, but they're kind of a little bit of fireworks that go off all over the place depending on people. It's traditionally -- it's been harder to level the personal attacks at the town hall debates. Voters get up and want to know what you're going to do to make your lives better.

So, I do think it will be somewhat relevant. We have an extraordinary back drop here and it's hard to believe that what Paul Ryan called the elephant --


BROWNSTEIN: -- is not going to kind of land in the middle of the stage.

BLACKWELL: All right. Ron Brownstein, always good to have you.

BROWNSTEIN: Thank you.

BLACKWELL: And, of course, you can watch tonight, the big debate, it's at 9:00 p.m. Eastern, right here on CNN. And our own Anderson Cooper will co-moderate.

Now, before the debate begins, you can watch our pre-debate coverage this afternoon starting at 4:00 p.m. Eastern.

Big show still just a half a day away. Christi, I'm going to send it back to you in Atlanta.

PAUL: All righty. Hey, thanks, Victor, so much.

I want to tell but this community in southern California. It's a tough wakeup for them today. Two police officers were fatally shot in the line of duty overnight. What happened that a response to a 911 call ended in this?


[07:22:42] PAUL: Twenty-two minutes past the hour.

Hurricane Matthew has killed 10 people collectively in North Carolina, in Georgia, in Florida and hundreds in the Caribbean. And in its wake, record flooding, major power outages. North Carolina is water logged. Look at these pictures coming in to us. You see cars abandoned, which is a good thing because they didn't try to get through the water.

And then, Savannah, Georgia, we've got people who are wading through streets in knee high water there.

Here's how a man near Savannah described the storm as it hit his home.


GEORGIA RESIDENT: As night fall hit, the winds increased and it was constant, just constant wind. All of my windows just immediately got blown out. I lost power. All the fencing around my house just went down like match sticks.


PAUL: The National Weather Service has downgraded Matthew now to a post-tropical cyclone. But it says hurricane-force winds could still hit North Carolina's outer banks today, so it's not over yet.

Listen, police in Palm Springs, California, have identified now the man accused of killing two police officers who were responding to a domestic disturbance call. Investigators say those officers were met by gunfire from 26-year-old John Felix. A 35-year veteran of the force and a new mom were the two shot and killed. A third colleague was wounded and is being treated at the hospital.

Now, the police chief battling his own emotions here and he described the confrontation that they encountered at that front door.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The officers, from my understanding, were near the front door trying to negotiate with the suspect to just comply. It was a simple family disturbance, and he elected to open fire on a few of the guardians of the city.


PAUL: Police eventually brought that shooter into custody after an overnight standoff. The thoughts are with the community there. Donald Trump is looking to push past his latest controversy with the

Republican Party in turmoil, it seems. So, what exactly does all of this mean for tonight's town hall debate where voters get to ask a lot of those questions? Stay close.


[07:28:18] PAUL: Twenty-eight minutes past the hour right now. I'm Christi Paul and my colleague, Victor Blackwell, is in St. Louis, Missouri, where about 80 million eyes -- pair of eyes will be tonight.


BLACKWELL: Yes. Good morning to you. I'm live at Washington University, the site of tonight's second presidential debate. The question this morning, can Donald Trump right the ship after this weekend of chaos in his campaign, amid the revolt within the Republican Party?

And how will Hillary Clinton respond to Trump's 2005 audio bombshell? One thing that's clear, despite the flurry of calls to dropout, Donald Trump says he's not going anywhere.


REPORTER: Are you staying in the race?

TRUMP: One hundred percent.


BLACKWELL: Saturday, a defiant and fist-bumping Donald Trump emerged from Trump Towers to chants from supporters and this comes after that stunning video revealed Trump in 2005 casually talking about what amounts to sexual assault. He has apologized and still a tidal wave of lawmakers rescinding their endorsements of Donald Trump. That started on Saturday and sources tell CNN those at the top of the GOP, including House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, would prefer Donald Trump to step aside.

All of this is ratcheting up the anticipation for tonight's faceoff between Trump and Clinton. The Clinton camp has been relatively quiet in their responses to those 2005 tapes. But aides tell CNN expect Hillary Clinton will bring it up early on in tonight's debate.

Let's talk with CNN politics commentators Tara Setmayer and Jeffrey Lord. Jeffrey Lord is a Donald Trump support. Tara Setmayer is not.

Good morning to both of you.


[07:30:00] TARA SETMAYER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: But we are friends.


BLACKWELL: Jeffrey, let me start with you because what we've heard from each of the Trump supporters is that he needs to be contrite tonight. He needs to apologize and then shift to the issues. That's what they want to hear. Donald Trump is not doing that, at least on Twitter.

What he's retweeting tweets Juanita Broaddrick, a Clinton accuser from '99. If that's what he needs to do, why isn't he doing that?

LORD: Well, I think he will do the first that you're suggesting, but I personally think the other is necessary. Look, these are the folks who are making a big deal about sex. I mean, the Democratic Party, these are the folks who do this. Hillary Clinton --

BLACKWELL: The Democrats are making a big deal about sex. I don't know if I have enough time right now to dissect and analyze that but go ahead.

LORD: These are the folks. They're all upset about this sort of thing. This is a political party that rallied to Bill Clinton.

BLACKWELL: Go ahead. $

LORD: Let me finish. That rallied to Bill Clinton when -- and interestingly the American people rallied to Bill Clinton because they did not think issues like this were important. They stuck with him.

And I would submit to you that the American people out there that are supporting Donald Trump don't think this stuff is important either. It's the party elites. It's people -- the consultant class and all of that sort of thing who have a problem with this.

But average rank-and-file voters that I talk to, that come up and talk to me because they recognize me from CNN, these folks are passionate about this. They're not going anywhere.

BLACKWELL: What I'm seeing is a difference, Tara, I'll bring you in on this, the difference between -- and I think you're talking about the Lewinsky episode, is that what you're discussing?

LORD: Right.

BLACKWELL: OK, between that and this --

LORD: And Juanita Broaddrick, and the whole numeration of issues --

BLACKWELL: Well, Juanita Broaddrick was in 1999. But Lewinsky episode was consensual. What Donald Trump was, I don't have to wait, I just jump on her like a -- I'm not going to use because of the hour, and that is essentially sexual assault.

Tara, from your perspective?

SETMAYER: Yes. I think the dismissing of the -- of what Donald Trump said is just oh, these are just words. I think that is really missing the point here. No, they're not words.

If you listen to how he's talking about women in this one clip, I mean, we've heard several other prior to this, but this one speaks as though he already done it. He says, oh, they'll let you do anything, like grab them in the blank and all the things that -- oh, yeah, I tried to F her.

He's obviously done this before and it was successful apparently, the way he was bragging it. That is concerning. And I would disagree that Americans don't care about this.

I would say that women who have been in situations where they felt uncomfortable, where they've been in situations where they're sexually harassed, where they -- sexual assault victims. I've had people reach out to me thanking me for standing up not only for sexual assault victims and women, but I've had men reached to me to thank me to say, "I've nursed my wife or girlfriend through the horrific events of sexual assault." This is very real for them.

So, I think as Republicans and as conservatives particularly, those who went after Bill Clinton, and deservedly so for what he did in the 1990s, who are trying to brush this off as if it's just some kind of random act and it's inconsequential I think are hypocrites, because this is consequential.

We're talking about the president of the United States and his character. It's not OK to be a sexual predator. I don't know when Republicans all of a sudden decided that was something that was OK. It's not OK and Donald Trump needs to be held accountable for it.

LORD: Of course, it's not OK to be a sexual predator.

SETMAYER: Jeffrey, you're saying that people don't care.

LORD: Tara -- Tara, we are talking about an accusation of rape, of rape, for heaven's sakes and Hillary Clinton was an enabler. And that she bullied the woman who was accusing her husband of rape.

SETMAYER: OK. Does that excuse Donald Trump?

LORD: And threatened her. Now that is a big deal. That is a big deal.

BLACKWELL: But here's the other --

BLACKWELL: But every minute you spend speaking about that, you don't go back to what all of Donald Trump's surrogates and supporters say are his winning issues are the issues of the economy and jobs and trade. The other thing is, Bill Clinton is not on the ballot. Donald Trump is.

LORD: No, but it's the issue -- it's the issue of can you do this stuff and get away with it? $ this is what Tara is saying is he, Donald Trump, shouldn't be allowed to get away with it. If it applies to Donald Trump, it applies to Hillary Clinton because she was the enabler here. BLACKWELL: Let me bring up something else. Let me bring t statement

up. Melania Trump. Let's put it on the screen, guys.

Melania Trump, obviously Donald Trump's wife, released a statement through the campaign, "The words my husband used are unacceptable and offensive to me. This does not represent the man I know. He has the heart and mind of a leader."

And she goes on to stay here, the only copy I have is what's on your screen, I hope people will accept his apology as I have and focus on the important issues facing our nation and the world.

[07:35:04] LORD: That's right.

BLACKWELL: Jeffrey, every time you're on, you've got a Reagan story. I don't remember Nancy Reagan ever having to put a statement out condemning the words of Ronald Reagan.

LORD: Well, Nancy Reagan had to defend Ronald Regan. I mean, I was in the White House --

BLACKWELL: She didn't have to say I'm offended by what my husband said through the campaign

LORD: No, no, look, they're different personalities and different --

SETMAYER: Right. Ronald Reagan had class.

LORD: When I -- when I say that they're alike, I'm talking about politically and the kinds of folks that they appeal to. That's what I'm talking about. And the kind of enemies they have.

Ronald Reagan's biggest enemy was the Republican establishment. They couldn't stand him. They couldn't buy him. And now, they all pretend, oh, how great he was and all of this kind of stuff. They -- I mean, I was there. They hated his guts.

SETMAYER: For different reasons.

BLACKWELL: Tara, we're getting this statement from Melania Trump, from Mike Pence as well. Through the campaign, the principals are condemning the words of Donald Trump.

SETMAYER: Of his own vice president condemns him. This is unprecedented.

Jeffrey knows, we go back and forth about this all the time, that I feel that trying to compare Ronald Reagan and Donald Trump is a disgrace to Ronald Reagan's legacy, because Ronald Ragan was a class act, he was thoughtful, he was a convicted conservative. And he would never -- I mean, he actually was -- believed in the -- that the presidency was bigger than himself.

Donald Trump is a narcissist and egomaniac and apparently a sexual pervert who has -- disrespects women, who has a love affair with authoritarians and who is just taking the Republican Party along for this disaster of a ride with his campaign and unfortunately leading a lot of the people who support him astray. It's about his ego trip and not the actual future of the country.

So, you know, for us to sit here and say that it's just elites and people that are condemning Donald Trump, that's not necessarily true. People who -- people from his own -- even in his own circle cannot defend this because they see that what Donald Trump is doing is not only is he destroying the party but this is bringing such disrespect to the office of the presidency that it's untenable and we need to protect our Republicans down ballot and rebuild moving forward because otherwise the Republican Party is not going to survive.

BLACKWELL: Tara Setmayer, Jeffrey Lord, thank you both. You all will be on air all day so I know Jeffrey wanted to jump in there. He'll have many opportunities up until debate time.

Let's turn now to CNN politics executive editor Mark Preston.

I wanted to pick up on one note there that we had an exchange with Jeffrey about was every minute spent speaking about Bill Clinton and Juanita Broaddrick and the Lewinsky affair, it takes them away from talking about what they say is their strongest point.

MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICS EXECUTIVE EDITOR: Well, it is their strongest point. If you go back to the first debate, Hillary Clinton was certainly back on her heels when it came to the issue of trade and jobs. The first 20 minutes of the debate was largely forgotten because the rest of the debate basically consumed it.

You know, I think that Donald Trump is going to have a very difficult time if he comes out tonight on to that stage and Hillary Clinton brings up the subject of this videotape that we saw with Billy Bush. If that happens, Donald Trump is not going to be able to contain himself. We have seen that time and time again in the campaign trail, that if you throw one punch at Donald Trump, he's going to try to throw ten at you. And when that happens, it's not very good politics and not good strategy.

BLACKWELL: We have to know if that's something he wants to do because by the retweeting from Juanita Broaddrick, it doesn't seem that he does.

Let me ask you also about this, we heard from Jeffrey Lord, that in the comparison to Reagan, which we hear the Reagan comparison often with Jeffrey, who's still sitting next to me outside the camera shot, he said they have similar enemies, including the Republican establishment.

Do you expect we'll see a return of Donald Trump that we saw at the end of the primary? He wrapped it up. Everyone expected him to turn to Hillary Clinton and he was still attacking the GOP. Now that we're seeing this exodus, are we going to see in the last 30 days Donald Trump start to attack his own party?

PRESTON: Well, listen, I think that Donald Trump is going to be fighting a two-front war. The first front is with the Democratic Party, the second front is with the Republican Party. And quite frankly, it's a war that's been ongoing since the first day as Jeffrey is nodding his head off camera, which is true.

The first day he announced his candidacy, he didn't like the idea that the Republican Party did not embrace him. He got frustrated by that. He didn't understand that.

And to your point, Victor, he won the nomination and he continued to fight that front. To win in November, you have to have your party united behind you. You have to have that baseline of vote. And right now, Donald Trump is, as we've been talking this morning, is bleeding that now.

BLACKWELL: Let's look at this from the other side. Put into context the quandary that the RNC finds itself in.


BLACKWELL: With some even calling for if Trump or if the RNC cannot get Trump to step aside, then Reince Priebus, the chair of the RNC, should step down.

[07:40:00] They put their mailers on hold because they don't know in which direction to go.


BLACKWELL: Where are they?

PRESTON: Well, a couple of things, though. It's a little simplistic to say Reince Priebus should force Donald Trump to step out. The RNC is made up of 168 members from across the country. They would have to collectively come together to try to get him out.

But the fact of the matter is, Donald Trump is not beholden to the RNC. He didn't win the nomination because of the RNC. He won the nomination based upon the support that he got in the Republican primaries.

The RNC is in a quandary right now because most of them did not want Donald Trump as their nominee. They are political insiders. They are the establishment. There's not much they can do at this point.

BLACKWELL: All right. Mark Preston, thanks so much.

I still have my "amen" corner over here, Jeffrey Lord, who's agreeing with what they hear from Mark over here.

And, of course, you want to watch the debate tonight, show time, 9:00 p.m. That's when everything starts. CNN's Anderson Cooper will be co-moderating, along with ABC's Martha Raddatz. But the special coverage starts at 4:00 p.m., right here on CNN.

Christi, sending it back to you in Atlanta.

CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: All righty. You know, everything is watching this. Who else is watching it? We know the folks at "Saturday Night Live" wasting no time taking all of this in and getting some laughs out of a rough few days in politics.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you not entertained?



PAUL: So the roller coaster of politics makes for a lot of material for one particular cast. "Saturday Night Live." And, Victor, they came out swinging, let's say.

BLACKWELL: They certainly did, right from a jump in that cold open. Alec Baldwin taking on Donald Trump's latest controversies during the open of the show.

[07:45:04] That first sketch. Here's part of it.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Donald Trump loves women. He respects women. He's never said a single bad thing about women. I dare you to show me a single shred of evidence that proves otherwise.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news alert.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, looks like Donald Trump finally got what he wanted, a working microphone.

Newly leaked audio shows Donald Trump and Billy Bush making lewd comments about women on an "Access Hollywood" bus in 2005. Here to address this breaking scandal is Donald Trump himself.

ALEC BALDWIN AS DONALD TRUMP: I would like to take this time to formally apologize.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What? What are you saying?

BALDWIN: I deeply apologize.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you trying to say apologize?

BALDWIN: No, I would never do that. What I am doing is apologizing to all the people who are offended by my statements, but more importantly, to the people who were turned on by them. I hear it's 50-50.


BLACKWELL: All right. Let's bring in CNN senior media correspondent Brian Stelter.

Brian, what I'm always impressed by is the turnaround time, because that apology video was released after midnight, early Saturday morning and they're on Saturday night.

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: The writers had to rewrite a lot of the show. If you were a Trump fan, you might have cringed during SNL last night. If you were a Clinton fan, you probably loved it.

The best jokes on a show like SNL have a lot of truth to them. And that's why I love this part of the show -- Clinton, the character of Clinton reacting to all of these Trump stories.


KATE MCKINNON AS HILLARY CLINTON: It is a very, very sad day for our country and for all women, minus one.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Now since Mr. Trump's comments were so bad --

MCKINNON: So bad, just horrible. Horrible.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you think he should drop out?

MCKINNON: Oh, no, no, no, give him a shot. He deserves that.

But I would -- I would like to address all of the women out there who heard Trump's comments and are still voting for him. My babies, your brain broke.


STELTER: OK. There, Kate McKinnon really living up to the interesting challenge of playing Clinton. She won the Emmy last year partly for this. I think she's going to be in the running for it next year.

BLACKWELL: Yes, and we know that these candidates, especially these two, pay attention to this show and how they're perceived on air.

STELTER: They have to. I'm sure Clinton or Trump or may be both, will have a cameo sometime later this month on SNL. First, though, they've got to get to the debate tonight.

BLACKWELL: All right. Brian Stelter, always good to have you.

STELTER: Thanks.

BLACKWELL: Thanks so much.


PAUL: Thank you, Brian. Yes.

And you can catch "RELIABLE SOURCES" this morning at 11:00 Eastern, right here on CNN.

Voters looking for any telling signs that tonight's town hall, presidential debate, may want to visit a moment from the face to face with the vice presidential hopeful.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You could say Tim Kaine brow beat his opponents --


MOOS: -- with his eyebrows.

KAINE: And he said, that makes me smart.


PAUL: Our Jeanne Moos shows us one key to maintaining a poker face, straight ahead.


[07:51:54] PAUL: But so many things going on during the vice presidential debate. Some people watching Tuesday night couldn't take their eyes off Tim Kaine's eyebrows.

CNN's Jeanne Moos reports on the up and downs of the brows.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You could say Tim Kaine browbeat his opponent --

KAINE: Slobs.

MOOS: -- with his eyebrows.

KAINE: He said, "That makes me smart."

MOOS: The debate was best summed up by the Grinch.

GRINCH: Hmm. It is a wonderful night for eyebrows.

MOOS: From the first word Tim Kaine uttered --

KAINE: Elaine --

MOOS: -- his eyebrows rose to the occasion.

KAINE: That passion throughout life.

MOOS: His left brow in particular.

KAINE: Twitter war with Miss Universe.

MOOS: In the political universe, Kaine is famous for his levitating brow.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tim Kaine, of course, is the people's eyebrow. MOOS: The brows first came to national attention back in 2006.

KAINE: My fellow Americans --

MOOS: As Kaine gave the Democratic response to the State of the Union.

KAINE: From huge surpluses --

MOOS: The state of his brows was up.

KAINE: When we work together.

MOOS: Though the left brow seemed to work separately.

KAINE: We must.

MOOS: Tim Kaine's eyebrow must have its own Twitter account. "Clear eyes. Full brows. Can't lose."

By the time he was nominated for V.P. --

KAINE: Do you really believe him?

MOOS: Kaine seemed to have tamed his brows a bit. They were no longer the furry caterpillars of a decade ago.

KAINE: It's an honor tonight.

MOOS: But even the more buttoned down of Tuesday's debate launched GIFs and tweets, speculation that Kaine prepped for the debate but lifting weights for his eyebrows.

Can we all be honest and admit that this VP debate is really about eyebrows versus no eyebrows?

"Fun fact, Mike Pence doesn't have eyebrows," read another tweet.

The Democrats definitely don't think Kaine's eyebrows are low brow.

They flaunt them on tee shirts. Kaine himself Instagrammed a pumpkin with an arched brow last Halloween.

KAINE: I have an uncontrollable left eyebrow.

MOOS: He once gave Jon Stewart a button.

An eyebrow raising debate may be a distraction, but how bad can it be being compared to Spock and the rock.

KAINE: He trash talks --

MOOS: Jeanne Moos --

KAINE: Hard work.

MOOS: -- CNN --

KAINE: There's a better way.

MOOS: -- New York.


PAUL: All righty. And, SNL, as you know, went full force last night on all of the politics we've seen in the last 24 to 48 hours. Take a look here.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Now, Mr. Trump, many Republicans have stood by you through a lot of other scandals but are now pulling their support, people like Senator John McCain.

BALDWIN: Coward.


BALDWIN: She's a four.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And Idaho Senator Mike Crapo.

BALDWIN: More like crap-o.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. But you must admit, this is bad for you.

BALDWIN: The only person I need is my running mate Mike Pence. I love Mike Pence. I respect Pence. I'll always have Pence.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, actually today he said he can't condone your remarks and then he cancelled his campaign events.

[07:55:07] BALDWIN: Mike Pence is a loser. I hate his guts. I call them puny Pence.


PAUL: They never miss a beat, do they?

All righty. Thank you so much for starting your morning with us. Listen, I want to remind you, 9:00 p.m., Anderson Cooper will co- moderate the big debate tonight. We're getting word from a source that Hillary Clinton is planning to address Donald Trump's comments over the last few days and in that video. She will do so early in the debate, possibly even in her opening statement. We'll be watching for that.

Do stay close. "INSIDE POLITICS WITH JOHN KING" starts right after the break.