Return to Transcripts main page


Trump, Clinton Face Off At 9PM in Second Presidential Debate; GOP in Turmoil After Trump's Lewd Remarks; Trump Hints He Will Attack Over Bill Clinton's Infidelity; Polls Show Clinton Leading Over Trump among Women Voters. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired October 9, 2016 - 18:00   ET



[18:00:15] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now: tonight could be the most critical moment in the race for the White House. Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton in their second presidential debate:

ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: And one big issue hanging over the match up, of course, the video of Donald Trump making lewd comments that has caused Republicans to abandon him in droves in just the past 36 hours, seemingly putting his entire campaign, Wolf, in jeopardy, tonight.

BLITZER: It all comes down to this, three hours away, two candidates, one winner.

BURNETT: And good afternoon, Wolf. I'm Erin Burnett.

BLITZER: And I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Welcome to debate night in America. It is on this stage right here where in just a matter of hours, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump will come face-to-face again. The debate co-moderated by CNN's Anderson Cooper and ABC's Martha Raddatz could very well be Donald Trump's last chance to save his campaign and make it anywhere near the White House.

Both candidates landed in St. Louis just a little while ago. It's the first time Trump left his building in New York City since the scandal of a leaked audio tape broke Friday night. One of Trump's top advisors says he will likely apologize for the tape tonight. But the candidate is also promising to go further and make Clinton answer for her own husband's infidelities.

First, I want to play for you the tape looming over this evening. I must warn our viewers, it is graphic, contains obscene language.

Here is Donald Trump during an appearance on "Access Hollywood" back in 2005.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DONALD TRUMP, BUSINESSMAN: You know, I moved on her actually. You know she was down on Palm Beach. I moved on her and I failed. I'll admit it. I did try and (EXPLETIVE DELETED) her. She was married.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's huge news.

TRUMP: No, no, Nancy. No this was -- and I moved on her very heavily, in fact, I took her out furniture shopping. She wanted to get some furniture, I said, "I'll show you where they have some nice furniture."

I took her out furniture. I moved on her like a bitch, but I couldn't get there, and she was married. Then all of a sudden I see her, she's now got the big phony tits and everything. She's totally changed her look.

I better use some Tic Tacs just in case I start kissing her. You know, I'm automatically attracted to beautiful -- I just start kissing them. It's like a magnet. Just kiss. I don't even wait.

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


BLITZER: Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton has her own controversy to deal with tonight. No doubt she will have to, an e-mail hack is uncovered. An apparent paid speech Clinton made back to a bank in 2013 and it contradicts some trade policies she's touted during the presidential campaign.

And at one point, she said to have told the bankers it's important to have a, quote, "public and private position in such matters."

Perhaps the most consequential debate in presidential history is just hours away, three hours away. Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are facing very different types of political challenges tonight.

Let's talk it over with our panel. Our chief political correspondent Dana Bash is with us. Our senior Washington correspondent Jeff Zeleny is here, and our political reporter Sara Murray as well.

All right, Jeff. He not only has to reassure his supporters, his base, but he's got to bring in undecided voters as well. And tonight is an opportunity to reach tens of millions of people.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRSPONDENT: It certainly is. I mean, absent this, even Friday, before this bombshell in "The Washington Post" that really has captivated a campaign like I can't even think of anything else has in five that I've covered. He was already facing uphill battle tonight now that it's magnified so much here.

But, look, it is an opportunity here. I was talking to just a lot of average voters. People I met along the campaign trail this weekend. Average voters of supporters of his are not as concerned about this anecdotally speaking, as some party leaders are. But, boy, he's never had a moment like this. It's an important moment

for Hillary Clinton as well, though, because any talk of confidence or overconfidence in campaign, I'm being told is being squelched. They're not supposed to gloat. There's a no gloat policy.

And she has a fine line here to walk as well. She's trying to seize on some of these moderate voters who are offended, angry at him, and some of them don't like her. So, she has a task as well. But no doubt, Donald Trump tonight -- if he's going to save his campaign, he has to do it in the early minutes of the debate.

BLITZER: And, Dana, one interesting thing -- Chris Christie who has been very close to Donald Trump, helping him prepare, he's the head of s transition team if he were to be elected president of the United States. He was supposed to be on the Sunday talk shows, cancelled. Supposed to come here to St. Louis, not here.

[18:05:01] What happened?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: The official line is he has important business to tend to New Jersey, but he always has important business and yet, he has found an incredible amount of time in his schedule to help his good friend Donald Trump through thick and thin.

And the fact that he's not here speaks, I believe speaks volumes. We don't know specifically from him the real deal but, you know, he has put everything on the line for Donald Trump and this tape, the way it's played out cannot be something that sits well with him. But he has and Sara has reporting on this. He certainly has been helping Donald Trump up until and through this bombshell on Friday night, really try to refocus his debate prep.

And I am told separate from this whole issue that they have been impressing upon Trump, stay where you did well at the first debate in the first 20 minutes. She's not a change agent. She's not going to make things different. She is, you know, saying one thing this public and saying something different in private just like a regular politician. That's where they are praying that he stays focused tonight.

BLITZER: What are you hearing, Sara? Is Trump going to go after her because of her husband's sexual infidelities?

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: Well, look, the campaign is not going to say win way or the other. Yes, we're definitely going to do it or no, it's definitely off the table, in part because this is Donald Trump that we're talking about. And so, if he feels attacked and he feels like it's right to bring that up, he will do that. We have seen him sort of ignore the guide of ages in the past.

But in talking to advisers, in talking to his supporters, that's not what they want to see. They want to see him come out. They want to see him give a contrite apology. And they want to see him go after Hillary Clinton on things like trade, on this hack. They feel like he has so much ammunition against her without going after her own personal scandals, and they believe that that's the kind of thing that can win over voters.

And I have to tell you that talking to voters, talking to undecided voters, even talking to Trump supporters, they don't want to hear about his tax returns or, you know, things he might have said 20 years ago or Hillary Clinton, the way she navigated Bill Clinton's infidelity. They want to hear candidates talk about job and trades. I think it's almost a disappointment to see incidents like this continue coming up and dominating the narrative. They're not really getting the answers from the candidates they want and some of the issues that they really care about.

BLITZER: Jeff, I assume she's going to try to get under his skin and get him to react in some unexpected way.

ZELENY: It's why she spent seven hours yesterday alone preparing. This is just on Saturday, five hours on Friday and two more days before then. So, she has prepared perhaps even more I'm told than she did at that first debate. And that is one of the central thing she will definitely try and do.

I'm told also on this whole tape issue from '05, she's going to say this is not a one-off. This didn't happen one time, create a pattern of this and perhaps, you know, continue where she started in that first debate with Miss Universe. She has a lot of ammunition on that score, but I'm told she also wants to use this as an opening to be presidential and to reach out to some of the people who over the last 48 hours have decided they cannot vote for Donald Trump express how serious and how these stakes are.

BLITZER: And if more of these kinds of vile tapes come out, shall we say, in the next few days or weeks, as a lot of people anticipate, there could be other tapes, it could cause a huge problem.

BASH: It could. It's hard to imagine something more vile and more problematic than what we saw come out from "The Washington Post" on Friday, because it's not just about words that he's used to sort of defame women or, you know, say bad things about their appearance and things we had heard during the primary and up until the last debate when we were talking about what he had said to Miss Universe.

These are the top Republican woman in Congress said herself, these are suggestions of assault and violence against women. That's a whole different ball game. That's why you're seeing the one surrogate that's gone out for him, Rudy Giuliani try to bring up the Juanita Broaddrick issue from back in the '90s. I'm just not sure that's going to fly.

MURRAY: But I also think that's why you're seeing so many defections, is Donald Trump really has been in the public eye in a non- conventional way. Not the same way a politician has been for decades. And so, people just don't know what else you could find if you looked back through "Apprentice" tapes, if you look back through his old interviews, through the lead up to his old interviews. I think that's part of what's driving people away is they're not willing to sit here and wait to see what else could come out in next 30 days. All right, guys. Everybody stay with us. We have a lot more coming

up. We're also getting ready, of course, for the debate night here in America and our coverage is getting started.

We'll have much more of our special coverage in this very special SITUATION ROOM from Washington University of St. Louis right after this.


[18:14:28] BURNETT: Deja vu right now for the Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump tonight, having to defend his own words. This time though, of course, it's going to take place on the second presidential debate, with tens of millions watching. The stakes are very high for Trump and Hillary Clinton.

Trump, though, of course, the underdog, the higher hurdle tonight after polls indicating he lost the first debate.

I'm joined again by my panelist, our chief national correspondent John King, chief political analyst Gloria Borger, senior political reporter Nia-Malika Henderson, our senior political analyst David Gergen, former Donald Trump campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, political analyst Kirsten Powers, Trump supporter Andy Dean, and CNN political commentator, Hillary Clinton supporter Bakari Sellers.

[18:15:07] David Gergen, it is -- it is unusual for Donald Trump. He is now the underdog in the polls, with this tape, in every way. It is not situation that he is used to operating under.

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I think it's smart to come into these debates with surprises. Something you say that's going to be, shape the commentary after the debate and be recycled on television. So, from Trump's point of view, I would advise him to come in and have a blanket apology that covers not only his tape but other things that have occurred in this campaign that he's going to be nailed for. She's going to come back and insist he'd apologize --

BURNETT: Right. Gloria was reporting if he apologizes for the tape, she's going to bring up other issues.

GERGEN: So, do it up front.


GERGEN: Go ahead, yes, and then cover all the things that may still come, that may reflect badly and talk about how he's changed man.

Look, obviously, she needs her chance to talk, but if she really wants focus on this, I'm going to bring up -- I don't want to bring it up, but if she forces me, I'm going to do it.

BURNETT: So, you think, is it -- is it, so then it's OK. There's a scenario under which it is not bad for him with undecided voters to bring it up. GERGEN: The situation in which he invites him by being contentious

and going on for a bit. And what I don't think he needs to do is pivot. Not have a fight with her about Bill and everything like that. He needs to have a fight between the people and the establishment, between the people and the elites and why change has to come.

I think that that, instead of having that fight, he's David against Goliath. He gets his supporters up.

For her, I just want to add one thing. As much as I think she needs to say, OK, I believe this is abhorrent, what he's said. I also think she needs to go to a positive agenda for women. She's been fighting for women and for children all her life. She has a good story to tell, and this ought to be in a direct appeal to women about how much she can do for them as the American president and how much she can do internationally trying to empower women across the word.

BURNETT: And, Corey, here's the reality -- he has to win over women to win. So, he has to, you know, assuage his base tonight. His base doesn't seem to be upset by this tape in the same way. But that's not enough for him to win. He's got to get women to vote who is not voting for him.

How does he do that tonight?

COREY LEWANDOWSKI, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I agree with David a lot but I also think, if you look at Morning Consult poll, the poll that was just conducted post the release of this tape, 74 percent of the Republicans say, we're not leaving Donald Trump.

You know who's leaving? The weak, feckless leadership of the Republican Party is leaving. The people who live in the beltway --

BURNETT: You're making the David versus Goliath argument as well.


David, Donald Trump walked outside of Trump Tower yesterday and was absolutely mauled by the people who want to support him. I have seen it first hand across this country, in every state in the country. You know what I saw yesterday and continue to see today, weak, elected leaders who want to put their own political interest first.

Reince Priebus is a great example. Donna Brazile, tough as nails, would hold the Democratic Party and held the Democratic Party together under the Clinton leadership and all the scandal that happened, and the Democrats all stuck together (ph).

You know what happened to the Republicans, we need an apology. Donald Trump makes an apology and say, we're leaving anyways. It's egregious. There's absolutely no --

BURNETT: So, you're say Reince is weak?

LEWANDOWSKI: Absolutely. Not only is he weak, he's failed leader. And on top of that, let me just tell you something, the American are so tired of the people in Washington, D.C. telling them what to do. That's why Donald Trump beat all of the establishment, all the people who are supposed to be the leaders of the party moving forward. Donald Trump beat them all. He got 14 million votes in the primary and he's going to win the election.


GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Let me ask you about Reince he's the one who came out after Indiana I believe, declared in a tweet that Donald Trump was the winner.


LEWANDOWSKI: He was the winner. He won.

BORGER: Right. No, no, no, but he gave a signal to the Republican Party and said Republicans time to get behind Donald Trump. He has put himself on the line for Donald Trump time and time again.

BURNETT: He was on the plane today.


LEWANDOWSKI: Where was he today on the talk shows saying Donald Trump is our leader? Where was the RNC? Where was Sean Spicer today? Today?

BORGER: So, what are you saying? Are you saying the Republican Party is abandoning Donald Trump?

LEWANDOWSKI: No, what I'm saying is that Donald Trump --

BORGER: I mean, the leadership.

LEWANDOWSKI: Donald Trump has tapped into something that the Republicans have lost in the last 30 years, which is the rank and file people out there. That's why they're upset. That's why they picked Donald Trump as their nominee.

BURNETT: So, Bakari --

LEWANDOWSKI: And that's why Donald Trump continues to have 75 percent of the Republicans self-identified supporting Donald Trump and all the Republican leadership who want to self-preserve, make sure that they're elected in the next cycle are walking away.

BURNETT: Bakari, here's the thing, though, to Corey's point. The 25 undecided voters that CNN spoke to before the tape, we spoke to after 16 of them, only two would change their mind. The rest of them, the other takeaway was, what Trump did was terrible but the Clintons are liars.

That speaks to the David versus Goliath and the overall that the perception out there is leadership is fleeing but maybe not the voters. BAKARI SELLERS, HILLARY CLINTON SUPPORTER: Going in, I'm going to

talk about what David did because I don't have the audacity to disagree with David. But just a little bit here.

[18:20:02] The things that you were saying that Donald Trump needed to do is something that he hasn't shown us he's capable of doing.

And Donald Trump has not shown on the largest stage, which was the last debate, that he can step up to the challenge. So, I don't know why we think he can today. I don't think Donald Trump can win the debate tonight. I think his goal is to survivor and move onto tomorrow.

With that being said, again, Donald Trump, I love you, Corey, but with all due respect, there are not enough white men in America to elect Donald Trump the next president of the United States. Donald Trump has to begin to branch out and bring women under the tent, he has to bring Hispanics under the tent, he has to bring minorities under the tent, and if we've see him do very well, that is make sure that his base is shrinking and getting smaller, and the Republican Party can't --

BURNETT: So, Kirsten, what does he need to do tonight to women over some women, OK? But that has to be a bar he must cross?

KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. But he needs to -- yes, like you said, he has his base with him. They're behind him. There's not enough to elect him. And so, he has to do something to reach out.

You know, I think, I don't know, Corey, were you doing a preview of what he's going to do, is he going to come out and basically rail, you know, sort of, you know, rail at everybody and say it's me against the establishment. Maybe that's what he is going to do. But that's not going to bring anybody new in. He needs to bring in new people. And I honestly think the only way he's going to do that.

The other thing, the Morning Consult poll was taken right after it came out. So, I think we need to wait and see how people respond.

BURNETT: A little bit more time for that to soak in.

POWERS: And I also think a lot of people actually haven't listened to it and don't know what he said and they might hear that tonight. They might just be thinking it's locker room talk. They don't actually know what it was.

LEWANDOWSKI: A lot of people have listened to it. The poll is scientifically significant. It's factually based reported by the media.

And more to David's point, and I think it's exactly right, the establishment is overplaying their hand here. Donald Trump has been the populist candidate. He has been the candidate that has gone directly to the people that has bypassed the mainstream media.


LEWANDOWSKI: Attacking the media and the establishment has worked time and time again.

BURNETT: All right.

BORGER: These are Trump supporters who have turned on him.

BURNETT: Pause. You're going to be with us as we continue this hour.

For Donald Trump, the pressure is on and there is such a question of how he should handle this. His Democratic opponent, though, is facing her own very big test tonight. Can she show she can win it? We're going to speak with one of Hillary Clinton's most prominent supporters about what she is up against this evening on debate night.


[18:26:56] BLITZER: In about two and a half hours, we'll watch Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton come face-to-face on this debate stage behind me. It will be their first meeting since Trump apologized for some vulgar comments he made about women back in 2005 but also suggested that Bill Clinton has done, in his words, much worse.

Donna Brazile is the interim chair of the Democratic National Committee. She is joining me right now live.

Donna, thanks very much for joining us.

DONNA BRAZILE, DNC INTERIM CHAIR: You know, Wolf, I find it unfair. Unfair. I mean, for Donald Trump to try to place blame on Hillary for being in a marriage that was in trouble.

I mean, clearly, they had to work it out. When that happened, she suffered. Chelsea suffered.

I mean, it would be unfair for Hillary to walk up to the stage tonight and you said, you know what, I'm going to blame Melania Trump for your behavior, Donald. She's known Donald Trump from many, many years. I think she will be able to this without going into what I call the cesspool of the 1990s.

BLITZER: How should she handle it? Let's say he says to her, your husband is not running for president. You're running for president. But what you said about these women who are accusing him of all of these sexual acts, you degraded these women, you spoke ill of these women, you've humiliated, what if he goes down that road?

BRAZILE: Well, first of all, Donald Trump is not one who can throw a stone. I mean, given the comments that -- the lewd comments that he's on record, on tape. Given the things he's said throughout this campaign season about women, about Carly Fiorina, about Megyn Kelly, these are public women. And the things he's said about Hillary Clinton.

Can we just stop talking about people's looks, their voice, and how long it takes for her to go to the bathroom? Remember that one? So, I think tonight, Donald Trump needs to come in here with a little bit of contrition -- a little bit of contrition -- knowing that the American people will be the final judge of whether or not you're really serious about saying "I'm sorry".

BLITZER: So, if he does raise these issues, how should she react?

BRAZILE: With grace. With the dignity of the office that she is seeking, by looking at the voters who will ask these questions and say, look, I care about you, I care about your family. This election is about the future.

What Donald Trump believes in terms of his locker room banter which by the way, that is the crudest locker room banter I've ever heard. And I was in the locker room as a student athlete.

Donald Trump needs to come here tonight and not just look into the camera and say to the American people, I am sick and tired of what I've been saying about so many people, from John McCain to Hillary Clinton. Tonight, I want to talk to you.

He needs to come in here and change his game. If not, you know what? Hillary is going to clean his clock.

BLITZER: In the election you mean?

BRAZILE: She's going to clean his clock because he's not going to let him get away with the kind of vile, misogynist, predatory behavior that he's, you know, espousing in those video. No, she's not. She has fought her entire life to ensure that women are respected, that women are treated with dignity. That's why she fights for equal pay, paid family leave.

Secretary Clinton is going to come here tonight with real solutions, so that the American people know there's a choice between these two candidates.

[18:30:02] One is unfit. She is the one who will succeed.

BLITZER: If he does apologize and shows real contrition, should she just move on?

BRAZILE: She's not coming here to throw the mud. He's been the mud thrower. He's been the one who says, I'm going to bring this up. What kind of candidate would spend most of his time talking about trash and not talking about real issues? Real issues.

Wolf, how are we going to raise the wages? How are we going to keep the country safe and secure? What are we going to do about student debt? They are real issues. Climate change. Look at Hurricane Matthew. So I think Secretary Clinton, tonight, is going to come here with real solutions.

BLITZER: You've heard some of these Republicans say Trump should drop out, Pence should be the candidate. How would you react if that were to happen? It's unlikely to happen, I should say, but that's what some Republicans are calling for.

BRAZILE: Well, look, I got a new watch and I'm going to just tell you, it's a little bit too late to do that, Wolf.

First of all, the RNC would have to meet to remove him off the ticket, then state parties all over the country will have to decide. Governors and secretaries of states will have to decide on the ballots. If you live overseas, if you're a Democrat or a Republican abroad, guess what, or independent, your ballots have already been delivered.

By the middle of this week, more than half the American people will have their ballots. Too late. They're stuck with someone, as the Governor of Ohio say, they knew that he was prone to be this vulgar.

BLITZER: Some Republicans are already suggesting -- Republican insiders, privately at least -- that they've already lost this election. Do you think that they already have?

BRAZILE: Well, I'm going to work very hard because I know that both the Clinton campaign, the DNC, all of us, the senatorial and the congressional campaigns, we're working for down ballots from the courthouse to the White House. We're going to work every day over the next 30 days to ensure that we can bring about a victory not just at the White House but all across the board.

BLITZER: Donna Brazile, thanks very much.

BRAZILE: We're working hard.

BLITZER: I know you are.

BRAZILE: All right.

BLITZER: Appreciate it. Trump's presidential ambitions aren't the only thing at stake tonight. Republicans worry his latest controversy could also cost them control of the U.S. Congress.

Up next, we'll talk about the turmoil inside the GOP. We are live here at beautiful Washington University in St. Louis just ahead of the second Presidential Debate.


[18:37:08] BLITZER: The Republican Party is in turmoil right now just hours before one of the most significant debates in U.S. presidential history.

Donald Trump's vulgar comments about women are triggering a crisis within the GOP. Loyalists like former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions, they are sticking with Trump, but Republicans are backing away from him as well including Arizona Senator John McCain, New Hampshire Senator Kelly Ayotte, both facing re-election battles. Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger are also abandoning Trump. Let's bring in our Senior Political Reporter, Manu Raju, and our Chief

Political Correspondent, Dana Bash.

Manu, there seems to be some disunity within the Republican establishment, the Republican leadership. You've been doing a lot of reporting on this. What are you finding out?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: You know, the elected Republican leadership in Congress has still not backed away from Donald Trump, other than John Thune. He's the number three South Dakota Republican on the Senate side. But for the most part, they're tepidly standing behind him.

They want to see what happens tonight, whether he clears a big hurdle, show some humility, an apology for his comments, and also communicates a vision for their party. That's going to be very destructive. It's also going to be instructive.

Tomorrow morning, House Republicans are convening, having a conference call, to talk about the presidential race going forward. They're going to hear from Paul Ryan and what he thinks that the Party should do. They're going to hear from the rest of the Republicans on down the ranks.

And on the Senate side, we don't know yet. Well, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, where he stands on this. So while we've seen a number of rank and file Republicans and ones in tough races run away, we have not seen the elected Republican leadership run away from Trump. And if they do, that could be a big problem for Trump.

BLITZER: And, Dana, you and I have been talking about Chris Christie, the New Jersey governor and top adviser to Donald Trump. All of a sudden, he's MIA, missing here. He's supposed to be here. He didn't go on any of the Sunday talk shows he was scheduled to appear. You're getting new information?

BASH: Well, just I don't think that we have to read too far between the lines to know why he is not here. He has been an incredibly loyal soldier to Donald Trump, not just, you know, kind of following but trying to shape the way Trump has approached this campaign since Christie, of course, himself dropped out as Trump's opponent and has been trying to kind of play the role as the guy who is Trump's old friend who can and is willing to say things to Trump that nobody else will.

But it just seems as though what happened on Friday night was so big and so monumental that even Chris Christie couldn't bring himself to get on Trump's airplane and come here and be his representative and be in public, never mind appear on the Sunday shows to talk about him and defend him. He just clearly didn't have it in him to do that.

BLITZER: And let's not forget what happened over the weekend. Trump was supposed to go out to Wisconsin. Paul Ryan was going to be there, a lot of other Republicans. Reince Priebus was from Wisconsin. He was supposed to be there. The video tape comes out late Friday. All of sudden, he's disinvited. [18:40:11] Mike Pence then is told, you go out there and represent us.

He doesn't want to go. These are extraordinary developments.

RAJU: They are. The Republican Party is in self-preservation mode. You either look at Republicans down ticket who are trying to run for re-elections, they are worried about, of course, putting off voters, women voters, suburban women voters, but they also need Trump's supporters. So they're trying to navigate that fine line.

And you also have folks who are worried about 2020 potentially, like Mike Pence who could potentially be a candidate in 2020. How he deals with this key moment could go a long way in determining his own political future. So a lot of Republicans are looking out for themselves as they watch the top of the ticket in close.

BASH: Which is why even Mike Pence, who is only somebody we're talking about because of Donald Trump, because Donald Trump put him on the ticket, is giving some distance between himself and Donald Trump, basically saying, you're on your own until this debate is over, until we can figure out whether or not you have properly been contrite, apologized, and been able to kind of right this big, big wrong that he is clearly very upset about.

BLITZER: He's going to be watching, Mike Pence, this debate tonight very closely.

BASH: But not here, not here. He won't be here.

BLITZER: But he's going to watch it in terms of --

BASH: No question.

BLITZER: -- where he goes forward.

BASH: Absolutely. And that just tells you everything you need to know, that even his running mate is kind of on hold with regard to his desire to be out in front of this ticket and be the person who represents Donald Trump in Wisconsin or anywhere else until he sees how tonight goes.

BLITZER: Do you remember a time when the Republican Majority Leader in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, the Speaker of the House, another Republican, Paul Ryan, they issued those blistering statements --


BLITZER: -- in the aftermath of that video?

RAJU: This has just been such a remarkable year for that reason. I mean, Republicans can barely even get to say the name of Donald Trump, the leadership. They call him the nominee. They don't like to answer questions about him.

And they've showed some unity in recent weeks that's been papering over those divisions, but when that tape came out, it was just too much for these leaders. Right now, the dam is about the break if Donald Trump doesn't clear a major hurdle tonight.

BLITZER: Yes. Manu and Dana, you guys are going to be with us, obviously, throughout this night, a historic night here in America. Thanks very much.

I want to send it back to Erin now. Erin, behind me, the stage --


BLITZER: -- it's going to be pretty lively tonight.

BURNETT: I think, of course, in typical Wolf way, understating. Yes, indeed. And John King. I mean, lively, as Wolf said, it certainly will be. You know, you have this on the heels of the Republican establishment fleeing Trump, as if, finally, there was a straw that broke the camel's back. They all go fleeing and this morning he says, I will never quit. Is that "no" means no?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That is no means no today, and he said it very emphatically.


KING: At least he said it emphatically in a couple of newspaper interviews. There are some people around him -- I was in communication with two yesterday, one who's in the campaign payroll and one who doesn't know the person on the campaign payroll but he's been a personal friend of Donald Trump for more than 20 years -- who said, if tonight goes badly, and they were channeling "The Art of The Deal, that may be never was the starting part in a negotiation with that Republican leadership, they would like him to go.

I think that's most unlikely. I think that's most unlikely, but there are those watching him who say, you know, remember Donald Trump has said in the past, if I tank in the polls, maybe I'll get out.

So the people who are remembering those words are saying these things, and they're saying it not because they think it's going to happen, some want it to happen, but because of the gravity of this moment.

When we were at the first debate, Donald Trump had a chance to seize control of the race. The battleground states are moving his way. He had pulled in a virtual tie in the national polls.

Now, go Florida, North Carolina, Ohio, Nevada, Colorado, Virginia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Hillary Clinton is stretching leads in the ones where she was ahead. And she is ahead by a couple in the Floridas and the North Carolinas which are still tight.

So even before this tape came out, this was the night of the campaign, the defining night, for Donald Trump. Today, at this point earlier, which is why he has to find a big way to deal with this tape issue as soon as possible and so he can move onto other issues.

Those hacked John Podesta e-mails, great opportunity for Donald Trump. Hillary Clinton saying, you know, you go to the banking industry to find the people to regulate the banks. I want a hemisphere of open borders. There's a lot of opportunities.

BURNETT: Free trade, all of it, yes.

KING: Yes. There's a lot of opportunities for Donald Trump to get at her and to get back to his change message. But if he's stuck under the cloud of this tape, he can't get there.

BURNETT: And, Nia, you know, on this front, you know, there are some, obviously, in the past three to six hours, Republican establishments saying they will write in Mike Pence, right --


BURNETT: -- Kelly Ayotte. You had people coming out and saying that. And yet, Mike Pence, even though he didn't appear on stage yesterday, has made it clear --


BURNETT: -- that he is not going anywhere.


BURNETT: He is going to stand by his man.

HENDERSON: And where he is going. He's going to be on the campaign trail in different swing states all next week campaigning for him. Mike Pence looks at the same polls that some of these leaders are looking at, and that is Donald Trump is doing extraordinarily well among Republican voters. 90 percent or so of Republican voters are going to vote for Donald Trump come November.

So a lot of these folks are thinking about their calculations going forward. Pence, I'm sure, is thinking about 2020. Cruz is thinking about 2018 and 2020. So there is a big split between these leaders who are making their calculations and rank and file voters who are going to vote for Donald Trump.


[18:45:11] KING: Just think about it, Erin. The fact we have to check, his vice presidential nominee is still with the nominee? That tells you something.

HENDERSON: Well, yes.


GERGEN: Sure. That is true, yes.

BURNETT: And there were a lot of people, Andy, who were hoping that that would be the way.


BURNETT: That the only way to get Donald Trump out would be to get Mike Pence to abandon him.

DEAN: Well, that's not going to happen. I mean, Pence is behind Trump. And I think that -- John mentioned "The Art of the Deal," which is Donald Trump's thing, but he also wrote a book called "The Art of the Comeback." And I think there's one thing that's more powerful than the politics of personal destruction, and that's the beauty of a comeback.

And I think tomorrow morning, that will be the story if Trump can paint the picture, which he needs to paint tonight, that he is the one standing between the cultural elites, and the media McCarthyism, the Federal Reserve elites who are acting against the American public's interest and Donald Trump is the guy and he's willing to go it alone without the Republican Party hierarchy and he needs to appeal directly to the people.

BORGER: Well, but here's -- I mean, this is what's so stunning about what Corey just said a few minutes ago because the Republicans --

BURNETT: Calling Reince Priebus weak and feckless.

BORGER: Right, right.

BURNETT: Just for anyone who wasn't watching at that moment, yes.

BORGER: The Republican Party hierarchy has been behind Donald Trump. Reince Priebus has been behind Donald Trump for quite some time and has taken a lot of guff over it from a lot of Republicans, and he stuck with his candidate. And so what we see, I mean, there's a --

LEWANDOWSKI: So would you prefer he is supporting Hillary Clinton, Gloria?

BORGER: Well, no, no, no. But what I'm saying is --

LEWANDOWSKI: So what do you --

BORGER: But wait a minute, wait a minute. I'm just --

LEWANDOWSKI: -- what would you propose the RNC chairman do?

BORGER: It's not my job to tell the RNC Chairman what to do, but you have the context of the debate playing out, which is, Trump, will he apologize? What will he do? And then you have a subcontext of what's going on in the Republican Party.

And I think what we see happening, I mean, Corey, you would call it the establishment --


BORGER: -- but backing away from the --

LEWANDOWSKI: Hundreds of millions of people call it the establishment, because that's what it is.

BORGER: But the party is being split apart even further that it already --

LEWANDOWSKI: From working class and the elites, absolutely.

BORGER: Well, and this is how Donald Trump is going to play it.

BURNETT: OK. David, could --

BORGER: Outsiders --

GERGEN: I join in that (ph).

BURNETT: -- can that work for Donald Trump?

BORGER: Is that --

BURNETT: If he goes in tonight and makes that the dividing line, can that work for him tonight to get undecided voters?

GERGEN: Absolutely. But I do want to, I mean, emphasize, this is not just a debate about Donald Trump. This is also a debate about what kind of presidency Hillary Clinton can have.

She went into the last debate basically even. She came out five points ahead several days later. If she can raise that again, if she can get a landslide in this election, and tonight can determine that, she can take the Senate back.

If she comes in with a landslide, there will be a lot of Republicans who will have to work with her. If it's a very close election, there are a lot of Republicans who could go the other way. This has an enormous amount to do with the capacity to govern the next four years.



SELLERS: That's what I want to talk about because we spent a lot of time talking about this tape and Donald Trump as if Donald Trump is actually debating himself. And he's not, because the most pivotal aspect of this is that Donald Trump's going to have to worry about getting out of his own way first. But Hillary Clinton can put this election away tonight.

People are giving Donald Trump one more look over tonight. And if Hillary comes out, and this is what she had to do last time, I think this is the only time -- I think she really missed the mark in the last debate, and I said she has to channel her inner Katy Perry -- she somehow has to become this inspirational figure that a lot of people are waiting on her to become.

I expect Hillary Clinton tonight to tell a lot of personal stories about people that she met on the campaign trail, and I think that she's waiting. She is waiting on that attack, that Bill Clinton line of attack, that infidelity attach, because she can sit up there and talk about not only going through that pain as a woman who was cheated on but standing on that stage contrasting Donald Trump and about to be the first female president in the history of United States. And I think that's going to be very powerful.

LEWANDOWSKI: Erin, you know, no one wants to talk about the WikiLeaks and the fact that Hillary Clinton has a private persona and a public persona.


LEWANDOWSKI: She says things privately and she says things publicly. And --

SELLERS: But, wait a minute, Donald Trump does too, you know.

LEWANDOWSKI: Excuse me, it's my turn.

SELLERS: But Donald Trump does too.

LEWANDOWSKI: And then how about the fact that she says the bankers and Wall Street know how to regulate themselves best because they know the industry? How come she hasn't released those things?

All of a sudden, we see the WikiLeaks where she says, I'm for open borders, I'm for free trade, I'm for all of those things --

BURNETT: That's true.

LEWANDOWSKI: -- that she has said, I've never said. Never has the media reported that Hillary Clinton has been for open borders. And every time she's been accused of being for open borders, the response has been, there's no proof to that. Well, now, there is proof and she hasn't denied it. And Podesta, himself, the chairman of this campaign, doesn't want to go and authenticate each and every e-mail because he knows every single one is accurate.

KING: Right. Right. But Donald Trump has to have the credibility to make the argument. You make good points.

BURNETT: Right, right.

KING: There are some great things on those hacked e-mails to use against Hillary Clinton. There's politics as usual. She says one thing, plays by different rules. There's a great basket of material there. The question is, are the American people going to listen to Donald Trump?


KING: Do they view him with the credibility to press the case?

BORGER: Yes. Can they call him President (ph)?

BURNETT: Kirsten, can he do that?


BURNETT: That is the question. Last time, what he was --

POWERS: Right.

BURNETT: -- you know, Corey, to his failure, was unable to bring up those points and criticize her. He ended up playing defense. That'd be a different strategy.

POWERS: Well, he also can't -- those are great things that he should bring up, for sure, but he can't be on the attack the entire time. And so, I think, the other issue is, let's remember, one of the main problems he had in the last debate was, he wasn't as substantive as Hillary was. He wasn't as up on the issues as she was. And from the sounds of it, he hasn't studied that much more than he studied for the last debate, and she's been studying more for the debate.

[18:50:02] So, you know, maybe we'll get past -- we've been spending this whole time talking about this. Maybe they'll get past that and then it will be about, you know, where he is on the issues and whether he can answer the questions that people are asking.

BURNETT: OK. Thank you, all, very much. And, of course, women. Women could cast the decisive ballots in this election. And the 2005 tape of Trump making vulgar comments makes winning those votes a lot harder on the undecided women front.

Up next, John King does the math and explains why this controversy has put the Republican candidate's entire campaign in danger of failure. John King is getting up now to run over to his wall. We'll be back live for the second Presidential Debate right here in St. Louis next.


[18:55:28] BLITZER: In just over two hours, Hillary Clinton will step on to this debate stage right behind me and publicly respond to Donald Trump's vulgar and explicit remarks about women. Trump has vowed to bring up Bill Clinton's infidelities during tonight's debate. Women voters will be watching both candidates very closely. They make up more than half the nation's electorate.

I want to bring in our Chief National Correspondent John king, the anchor of "INSIDE POLITICS." John, tell us about the trends we're seeing now involving female voters especially in recent elections.

KING: The trend has been moving in Hillary Clinton's way in this election, Wolf, and we don't have any data yet about the fallout from this caught on tape moment for Donald Trump.

But let's just look at a little bit of history here. In 2012 -- excuse me. In the 2012 election, Mitt Romney lost to President Obama nationally, and he lost by 11 points among women. Look at that, an 11-point gender gap in the Obama-Romney race. That was key to President Obama winning re-election.

Let's compare that to where we are now in this race. This is our most recent CNN/ORC national poll. And a 13-point gap, Clinton over Trump. So she's in line a little better than the President right now nationally. And again, these polls don't take into account what we're trying to learn about the possible impact of this Donald Trump conduct in this tape.

That's nationally. We elect presidents state by state.

Around the first debate, Donald Trump was ahead in Ohio. Right now, Hillary Clinton is a little bit ahead and the gender gap is one of the reasons. Again, 55 to 44 in 2012, 11 points. Just like the national split, it was 11 points in Ohio, Barack Obama winning the women's vote. Look at this, 12-point edge right now for Hillary Clinton. So she has a slightly bigger lead than the President in battleground Ohio.

Let's move to North Carolina, one of the most, if the not the most, competitive state in the United States right now when it comes to demographics. Obama won it in '08, Romney took it back for the Republicans in '12. A more conservative state. President Obama barely won, 51 to 49 among women voters, Hillary Clinton with a much bigger lead right now in North Carolina, Wolf, heading into this debate.

One of the reasons that it has gone from slightly Trump ahead to slightly Clinton ahead here in battleground Florida. Trump can't win without winning Ohio, North Carolina and Florida. And look at Florida, again, a more conservative state, the closest state in 2012.

Obama had a seven-point edge among women, key to his victory in Florida. Hillary Clinton with a much bigger lead among women in Florida right now.

So as we've talked throughout the day, heading into the first debate, advantage, Trump. Heading into the second debate, advantage, Clinton, with the wind at her back. Her support among women voters, her gap over Donald Trump was a key factor already.

The question now is, Wolf, what happens tonight. And as we go through this week, we'll get t impact. Are women voters more turned off by this Trump tape, and does that Hillary Clinton advantage stretch out? If it does, it's a huge advantage as we head into this final 30 days.

BLITZER: Do you get the sense, John, that Trump and his advisers are really sensitive to this issue, finding more support among these women voters?

KING: Well, his campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, this has been her calling card in Republican politics. She understands, Wolf, that in close presidential elections, close presidential elections are won in the suburbs. So they are won outside of Philadelphia, in Bucks County, in Montgomery County, they are won right there. They are own in other states like the Research Triangle in North Carolina if you bring that out here.

Kellyanne Conway completely understands this. The question is, can she get her candidate to communicate tonight to women in a way that gains him votes? And trust me, the Clinton campaign believes his attacks on the former Miss Universe, his comments in this tape, help them solidify, cement, her advantage, if you will.

One of the battlegrounds within the battleground, the fight for the women's vote, Hillary Clinton has a huge advantage. Donald Trump must use his national platform tonight to try to cut into it, Wolf, or simply, the math just tells the story. Right now, the arithmetic is moving her way. He has to bring it back.

BLITZER: Yes. The last thing he needed was this video tape surfacing on Friday, late on Friday.

KING: Right.

BLITZER: It's caused him and his campaign enormous, enormous grief, and there may be more down the road in these coming days. At least that's what a lot of people suspect.

All right, John. Thanks very much. Our CNN special debate coverage continues right now with Erin Burnett, OUT FRONT.