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CNN Live Event/Special

Five GOP Candidates, Minus Trump, Spar At Third GOP Debate; CNN Anchors Discuss How Republican Candidates Fared In The Latest Republican Presidential Debate. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired November 08, 2023 - 22:00   ET



KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN HOST: All of this is coming as the Israeli military provides this update, saying that it destroyed 130 tunnel shafts in Gaza since that war began, since you saw Israel's forces moving into Gaza, of course, in that, forcing thousands of Palestinians to flee.

The United Nations says tonight that 40,000 people have evacuated to Southern Gaza just since Saturday alone. Of those who were able to make that to the open crossing along with the Egyptian border, many of them are still in desperate need for medical help tonight.

Of course, many people have been asking as this coverage has gone on how they can help. You can help in these efforts in Israel and in Gaza. Just go to or text RELIEF to 7070 to donate. These are vetted organizations that you can trust.

I want to thank you so much for joining us tonight. Up next, CNN's special coverage of the third Republican debate.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: And good evening. Thanks for joining us. I'm here along with CNN's Chief Dana Bash in Miami, site of tonight's third Republican presidential debate that has just wrapped up.

DANA BASH, CNN HOST: Anderson, I'm going to be speaking tonight with some of the candidates who just finished here on the debate stage minus, of course, the former president, the far and away frontrunner who has not attended any of these debates. And he is competing instead and in an event nearby.

COOPER: There were just five candidates this time. In a few moments, we'll hear what voters in Iowa watching with CNN's Gary Tuchman made of what they saw. Two candidates, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley were the two closest in the polls to the former president. So many eyes were on them, including this exchange they got into over China.


NIKKI HALEY, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Then we will go and end all formal trade relations with China until they stop murdering Americans from fentanyl, something Ron has yet to say that he's going to do. And then we modernize our military. When we strengthen our military, when we modernize it with the focus of cyber, artificial intelligence and space, when we make sure that we have the backs of our friends, whether it's in Israel, whether it's in Ukraine, and we should be arming Taiwan.

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Ambassador Haley said somehow I wasn't doing. She welcomed them into South Carolina, gave them land near a military base, wrote the Chinese ambassador a love letter saying what a great friend they were. That was like their number one way to do economic development.

In Florida, I banned China from buying land in this state and we kicked out on our universities and we kicked the Confucius institutes out of our universities. We've recognized the threat and we've acted swiftly and decisively.

HALEY: Yes, I brought a fiberglass company ten years ago to South Carolina. But, Ron, you are the chair of your economic development agency that, as of last week, said Florida is the ideal place for Chinese businesses.

Not only that, you have a company that is manufacturer of Chinese military planes. You have it. They are expanding two training sites at two of your airports now, one which is 12 miles away from a naval base. Then you have another company that's expanding, and they were just invaded by the Department of Homeland Security. So, mine was ten years ago.

DESANTIS: You gave them stuff. I didn't give them anything.

HALEY: Yours was six months ago. What's your story?

DESANTIS: And I abolished that agency that she's talking about.


DESANTIS: Enterprise Florida, we abolished it. And, of course, we banned China from buying land, not exactly a great recruiting pitch if you're banning them from purchasing land.

HALEY: He scrubbed the website last week.


COOPER: With me tonight, CNN's Senior Political Analyst Gloria Borger, CNN's Abby Phillip, host of Newsnight, CNN's Senior Political Commentator, former Obama Senior Adviser David Axelrod, who just exhaled loudly at that exchange. We have three conservative CNN political commentators, Alyssa Farah Griffin, Scott Jennings and David Urban. We should quickly mention that David is a consultant for ByteDance parent company of TikTok, the social network which came up in the debate.


COOPER: So why did you exhale so loudly? AXELROD: Just enjoying the great pageant of democracy, Anderson. I mean, look, first of all, this debate is sort of odd because it's like the silver medal round. It's like the gold medal winner has already been declared and this is the silver medal round. And now it's come down really to two candidates, Haley and DeSantis. And you get what -- you get this, by the way, is being carried out the same debate on television in Iowa right now.

One of them, the whole theory of the case is one of them is going to emerge as the Trump challenger and everybody is going to fall in behind. And the problem is has such a large lead nationally that it just may be meaningless.


COOPER: So, what are they hoping for? Some sort of criminal indictment and that somehow they will step into the breach?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I mean, look, Trump really only came up in the beginning part of the debate when they were asked directly about him. And other than that, to their credit, I mean, they were debating amongst themselves about their positions on issues, a little name calling here and there. I think that they're just hoping that he just implodes.

Nobody is really trying to take it to Trump, not even Chris Christie, the person who's obsessively in this race to take on Trump. I don't see anything changing there. I think Haley sees DeSantis as a problem for her. DeSantis sees Haley as a problem. Ramaswamy sees DeSantis and Haley as a problem. They're all fighting over the same 15 percent of the electorate and none of them really have a plan, it seems, to get beyond that and get closer to Trump. He's mid-40s and beyond. It's not changing.


GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I mean, 40 points ahead. And, look, they want to take home the silver medal, as David said, but what does that get you? It doesn't get you much.

And what was interesting to me about tonight was they were given the opportunity to take on Donald Trump right out of the box. And Christie did it and Haley did it, but Ramaswamy, of course, not so much. And DeSantis said, well, he said, we'd be tired of winning. I'm tired of losing, still didn't take him on frontally.

They didn't mention, well, a little sharper. They didn't mention anything about the trial, the former president's testimony this past week or the indictments. None of that came up. And it's clear that they're just still a little nervous except for Chris Christie.

URBEN: Yes. Because the underlying premise here, if they attack Donald Trump, whatever percentage they command now will decrease proportionate to their attack on Donald Trump, right? Because they're fighting in Iowa, they're fighting to gain relevance, but the party still wants Donald Trump. Until the party moves past Donald Trump, this isn't even a silver medal round. This is a J.V. game, right? This is not even for a medal.

ALYSSA FARAH GRIFFIN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: But there is a way to do it. I thought tonight was going to be probably the most fire that we'd seen just because we are two months out from Iowa. You have Nikki and DeSantis closing in. And there wasn't a real discussion around the electability issue.

Coming off of last night, Republicans on that stage should have been raising alarm bells. We lost in 2020, 2018, 2023 with Donald Trump. We continue to lose. Nikki Haley, the best case she has is that she performed head-to-head against Joe Biden better than any candidate on that stage and Donald Trump. That is the message you don't even have to alienate the voters by going after the policy, the personality or the indictments, and it wasn't there.

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: The electability argument was thought to be the main way to get at him for so long. And then the national polling started to change. For the last several weeks, Republicans have been looking at poll after poll showing Biden circling the drain and Trump going up nationally and in the swing states.

And so if you're a Republican and you like Donald Trump, you say, well, anybody is going to beat Joe Biden.

GRIFFIN: Well, that's the failure of litigating the case beforehand because --

BORGER: That was DeSantis' main argument, was I'm the one who's going to take on --

GRIFFIN: Yet he does worse head-to-head to Biden.

BORGER: But tonight, what was interesting was DeSantis, I think, for one of the first times, really took on Nikki Haley, because she's obviously standing in his way. And he took her on in ways that he hasn't done before. He attacked her without being attacked first.

URBAN: So, I would just say this about last night. What we saw last night across America, we continue to see is Republicans misaligning on the abortion issue, right? And every one of those candidates on that stage is on the losing side of the abortion question. They all want a six-week ban.

JENNINGS: Not Tim Scott. I mean, he laid out a pretty clear challenge to everybody to go to 15 weeks. But he's true. There is popular support for that.

URBAN: I understand that. But my point, to Alyssa is saying, like that's where they're -- this isn't really -- they're not really advancing the ball. They're not electable. They're not more electable.

AXELROD: Can we just -- before we jump to abortion, because I think Haley actually had a really strong answer on that, just a second something that Scott said. Nikki Haley's principal argument in the first debate was that Trump couldn't win and that she could. She didn't repeat that argument now for the reason that Scott said, Republicans believe any of these guys can beat Biden and they might as well go with the guy they like and the guy they want.

JENNINGS: I thought Haley, by the way, just on the merits, had a really strong night, abortion and otherwise.


I thought DeSantis had a really strong open. I thought so if you agree that it's gotten down to those two as the real possibles here, they both were very good.

There were some great answers tonight on DeSantis was assailing Biden over some of his response on Israel, I thought Haley taking on Ramaswamy. By the way, Ramaswamy is like the -- he's like the guy running the ship in Spaceballs he went right to ludicrous speed right out of the gate.

URBAN: Yes. But people like that, Scott.

JENNINGS: He's like 4 percent.

AXELROD: The empirical evidence says otherwise.

COOPER: In the realm of Mel Brooks movies, Spaceballs would not maybe the finest. But I like his baseball --

JENNINGS: This is now.

COOPER: Let's show the Nikki Haley -- what she said about abortion tonight.


HALEY: Be honest with the American people. This is a personal issue for every woman and every man. I am unapologetically pro-life not because the Republican Party tells me to be but because my husband, Michael, was adopted and I had trouble having both of my children. So, I'm surrounded by blessings.

Having said that, when you look post-Roe, a wrong was made right, they took it out of the hands of unelected justices and they put it in the hands of the people. And now we're seeing states vote. And what I'll tell you is, as much as I'm pro-life, I don't judge anyone for being pro-choice and I don't want them to judge me for being pro-life.

So, when we're looking at this, there are some states that are going more on the pro-life side. I welcome that. There are some states that are going more on the pro-choice side. I wish that wasn't the case but the people decided. But when it comes to the federal law, which is what's being debated here, be honest it's going to take 60 Senate votes, a majority of the House and a president to sign it.

So, no, we haven't had 60 Senate votes in over 100 years. We might have 45 pro-life senators. So, no Republican president can ban abortions any more than a Democrat president can ban these state laws. So, let's find consensus. Let's agree on how we can ban late term abortions. Let's make sure we encourage adoptions and good quality adoptions. Let's make sure we make contraception accessible. Let's make sure that none of these state laws put a woman in jail or give her the death penalty for getting an abortion. Let's focus on how to save as many babies as we can and support as many moms as we can and stop the judgment. We don't need to divide America over this issue anymore.


PHILLIP: So, can I just say about that? Nikki Haley, to credit words to, that has been her position from the beginning of her campaign for the presidency. And you're seeing a lot of the other candidates. I saw a softening in DeSantis' position tonight. I spoke to Chris Christie last night during our coverage of the election. He also adopted basically that position. Even Donald Trump coming to this place was after Nikki Haley.

And early on in this campaign, when she made those kinds of comments, she was criticized for not coming out strongly enough at a certain point to say, I support X number of weeks, 15 weeks, 20 weeks, what have you. So, you know, now that we have two cycles of basically the Dobbs decision being a political disaster for Republicans, people are looking at that answer and saying it's calibrated exactly the right way perhaps. But to her credit, she's been saying that.

And I'm seeing, you know, to my ear, I felt like DeSantis was the one who moved the most on his abortion. He signed a six-week ban.

AXELROD: Well, after he signed of 15-week ban.

PHILLIP: And he didn't talk about that, really. He was talking about basically some kind of compassionate conservatism position, which is not where he was a year ago.

BORGER: You know, the key was saying, no judgment.

COOPER: Let's just play what he said on --


DESANTIS: I'm reminded of a story about a young mother who was struggling in Jamaica about 40 years ago, 45 years ago. She was counseled to not have a baby because she was poor, baby wouldn't have opportunity, and she came close to have an abortion, but she decided to have the baby born poor in Jamaica.

And the reason I know that story is because that baby girl ended up immigrating to the state of Florida, becoming a lawyer and a judge, and I appointed her to the Florida Supreme Court in August of 2022.

You got to do a better job on these referenda. I think of all the stuff that's happened to the pro-life cause. They have been caught flatfooted on these referenda, and they have been losing the referenda. A lot of the people who are voting for the referenda are Republicans who would vote for a Republican candidate. So, you got to understand how to do that.


GRIFFIN: So, a fine night for Ron DeSantis, but I've seen him grow as a candidate. I've not seen him grow to be able to talk to a general election audience. As a Republican, I got what he was saying. It didn't move the needle for me. But Nikki Haley, to her credit, has had nuance and led on the issue of abortion from the outset of her campaign.


I would actually argue that if last night, you know, there's the kind of criticism over Glenn Youngkin in Virginia, had his message sounded more like hers, compassion, a lack of judgment for women, more resources for women, that's where you can get a broad swath of the country left, right and center to at least come to the table and have a conversation. That's a general election candidate.

And by the way, I think you're going to see Donald Trump likely falling her messaging without the ability to articulate.

AXELROD: Here's the thing about --

BORGER: He's already talked about it. He's already talked about, well, maybe we ought to do 15 --

GRIFFIN: Not able to articulate it.

URBAN: Let's cut a deal. We're in a great place. We should cut a deal.

AXELROD: Here's the thing about being a general election candidate. To be a general election candidate, you have to get to the general election. And so Ron DeSantis has one thing in mind, which is to win the Iowa, or to do well enough in Iowa, to keep on playing the game. And that is -- you know, there are a lot of evangelical voters in Iowa. This is why he so embraced that six-week ban in the first place.

So she may -- yes, she is showing up better in the polls, and she certainly may be the best general election candidate, but it's how do you get from here to there.

BORGER: I think she understands this is an emotional issue. It's not just Donald Trump saying, let's cut a deal, like it's a real estate deal. Like, oh, let's come up with 15 weeks. This is an emotional issue.

And I think that's what Nikki Haley understands and that's what Ron DeSantis was trying to do, by talking about a personal experience with someone. But when she says, let's not judge people on either side, I think people want to hear that because they understand it's emotional. And it's very different from any other issue they're going to discuss. And, you know, I think she's just -- she's been out front on this from day one.

JENNINGS: I think she's more able to go down this road to axis point than DeSantis, because she's really playing, like you said, Alyssa, for New Hampshire. He's playing for Iowa. And he just can't go as far. I think there will be Republicans who walk into the Iowa caucus who want exceptions or they want, you know -- they want something a little different. But, by and large, that's a more conservative group on this and other social issues than you might run into in New Hampshire.

So, you're just thinking about the map and the tactical move here. DeSantis has to get there. If he doesn't get there on round one, then she's left for round two and maybe at play.

URBAN: And, again, the question is does it what does it matter, right, that what does it matter, right? Because if Trump wins by 40 or 50 points in Iowa, is it --

PHILLIP: And, by the way, Trump is not playing by the same game. He's not playing the same game as any of these.

URBAN: And then he wins big in New Hampshire and he wins big in South Carolina and wins big in Nevada. This is all moved. This is academic. It's academic.

PHILLIP: He's -- the Susan B. Anthony list, the pro -- the anti- abortion groups basically think Trump is selling them out on this issue of abortion and it has not impacted him.

AXELROD: He appointed the court that overturned Roe versus Wade. That's all he has to say. That's all he has to say.

URBAN: And it hasn't hurt him in polls, right, reflected nothing is there's no diminution in this.

JENNINGS: his voters are not parsing out these issues. They want -- they got one issue, vindication They think he's going to get nominated. They think he's going to beat Biden fair and square. And they think they're going to be vindicated on Russia impeachment, policy, indictments --

URBAN: Impeachment too.

JENNINGS: All of it, they -- January 6th. They think they're getting vindication and ultimate, you know, we told you so. They're not sitting here parsing out these individual issues. The only way to get vindication for them is to nominate Trump. No issue is going to pull him off of that.

AXELROD: But, you know what, you talk about New Hampshire, I think that is -- there are a couple of -- you know, he didn't do well in Iowa. New Hampshire is kind of perilous for him here because you have independent voters participating. Haley is trying to do well enough in Iowa. She'd love to finish second to have that face-off in New Hampshire on the theory that DeSantis will be gone from the race. But the question is can anyone ultimately overtake Trump. If it doesn't happen in New Hampshire and it doesn't happen in Iowa, it's -- everybody gets the home game, a hearty handshake and that's it.

BORGER: And Haley believes she's got South Carolina, right? And that's her strategy, right, if she can place second in Iowa.

URBAN: I just think this is all academic.

GRIFFIN: And, by the way, national polls at this juncture one year out. But you combine the average polling of every candidate on that stage and they don't add up toward Donald Trump is. Like I think we have to start as a party being realistic about the fact that short of some outside factor and 91 indictments were not enough, Donald Trump will be the nominee.

Tonight, to me, did not, in any major way, move the needle. I think, if anything, it just narrowed it to Nikki and DeSantis.


JENNINGS: I agree. I don't think the needle moved also to your point about this idea of maybe DeSantis being gone at some point. There's -- a lot of those people are going to Trump. I mean --

AXELROD: No, that's absolutely right.

JENNINGS: Haley is not necessarily the (INAUDIBLE) choice.

AXELROD: I mean, one of the -- the DeSantis strategy was to out-Trump Trump and to run to the right of Trump. And he has succeeded in winning the admiration of Trump voters, but they have Trump.


URBAN: Look at the state of Florida. Donald Trump is far more popular than Ron DeSantis in his own state.

COOPER: We're going to take a short break. Candidate Vivek Ramaswamy joins Dana next, coming up.


BASH: The candidates, as always, had a lot to say at tonight's third Republican debate here in Miami. The question is, how did their words square with the facts?

For that, we're joined by our one and only Daniel Dale. So, Daniel, one of the candidates, Vivek Ramaswamy, made a pretty dramatic claim about the Biden family and aid to Ukraine.


Let's listen.


VIVEK RAMASWAMY, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And Joe Biden sold off our foreign policy. Joe Biden's son, Hunter Biden, got a $5 million bribe from Ukraine. That's why we're sending $200 billion back to that same country.


BASH: Daniel, is there any truth to that?

DANIEL DALE, CNN REPORTER: So, major problems of fact with both parts of that claim for Mr. Ramaswamy.

Number one, the claim about a supposed bribe to Hunter Biden is completely uncorroborated. And, number two, there is not one iota of evidence, nothing at all to suggest that U.S. aid to Ukraine, which has been approved by bipartisan majorities, has anything to do with any member of the Biden family.

So, what do we know about this claim of a bribe? Well, all we know is that in 2020, a confidential FBI source told the Bureau that four years prior he had heard the CEO of a Ukrainian energy company where Hunter Biden sat on the board, say that the CEO had given a two $5 million payments, one to one Biden and one to another.

So, a dramatic claim, but that that claim from the informant contained no proof whatsoever. And, in fact, the FBI report that memorialized the allegation said that this source could not even offer an opinion about the accuracy of the claim.

Now, subsequently, the House heard testimony from Republican Witness Devon Archer, an associate of Hunter Biden, who said that he had never heard anything about such a payment. And he characterized the claim from this Ukrainian CEO as a typical example of this man, Mykola Zlochevsky, exaggerating, embellishing his influence.

Now, as to aid to Ukraine, this again has been approved by members of both parties. So, is Mr. Ramaswamy suggesting here that Republican members of the House and Senate, like Mitch McConnell, is approving aid to Ukraine because of Hunter Biden? It transparently makes no sense.

BASH: Daniel, thank you so much. Anderson, back to you.

COOPER: All right. Dana, thanks very much.

It is interesting the more people see Vivek Ramaswamy, the less they seem to like him.

URBAN: Especially Scott Jennings.

COOPER: It's surprising, just interesting.

JENNINGS: Let me tell you, that going after the daughter.


JENNINGS: Terrible idea. And, look, I mean, it's like when you when you when you become a WWE villain, you know, you have to double down on all the things that cause the crowd to boo, get heat from the crowd. I mean, that's essentially what he's become here. He's not playing for the nomination. He's playing for that role in the Republican Party. It's why he started the debate by assailing the chairwoman of the Republican Party. That's such an inside baseball thing. There's not a voter out there --

PHILLIP: Criticizing the moderator.

JENNINGS: -- that's going vote on that.

URBAN: If you look at social media, a conservative Republican social media, Scott, listen, this is a Republican primary. They're all calling for Ron, his head on a pike. And so he's reflecting what they saw in social media. Look at -- you know, there's lots and lots. It's not me. Look it up. You're so -- looking up on your little machine.

GRIFFIN: He feels like if you put into chat GPT, what would it a candidate created by Elon Musk, Tucker Carlson and --

URBAN: Joe Rogan.

GRIFFIN: And Joe Rogan.

JENNINGS: In a meth lab.

GRIFFIN: And that's what you would get. And there's an unseriousness to it. We kind of glossed over it, and, frankly, I don't even like to repeat it. But he essentially called President Zelenskyy a wartime Jewish president in Ukraine and Nazi. That's just a ludicrous statement to make on national television. It's irresponsible.

And then there's just the showmanship and the insult. His unfavorables are the highest of anyone on that stage and it's not surprising.

AXELROD: By the way, I looked up on my little machine and what it tells me is that his numbers are in the toilet.

URBAN: If it's a strategy, it's not working.

COOPER: Let's go back to Dana in Miami. Dana?

BASH: Thanks, Anderson. I have with me here a Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina. Thank you so much for being here.

SEN. TIM SCOTT (R-SC): Yes, ma'am.

BASH: I want to start by something that you said about Iran and what the U.S., if you were president, would do about Iran.


SCOTT: I would tell President Biden with great clarity, if you want to stop the 40-plus attacks on military personnel in the Middle East, you have to strike in Iran. If you want to make a difference, you cannot just continue to have strikes in Syria on warehouses. You actually have to cut off the head of the snake, and the head of the snake is Iran and not simply their proxies.

In order for us to have a powerful response from America, we have to be in a position of strength. As President of the United States, my foreign policy is simple. You cannot negotiate with evil. You have to destroy it.


BASH: It's pretty provocative, I mean, to the notion of -- I mean, you're not saying bomb Iran. You are saying strikes. It sounds like you're saying limited strikes, but any strike directly at Iran would, no doubt, cause a much broader regional war.

SCOTT: I actually disagree. I think the fact of the matter is by striking Iran, you de-escalate the situation. You do not escalate the situation.

BASH: How so?


SCOTT: American military personnel since Joe Biden has taken office, over 40 since October the 17th. What we know without question is appeasement leads to war and it leads to conflict and leads to chaos. And that's what we're seeing right now in the Middle East.

The one thing that we have not tried is to actually strike the head of the snake. We know that Iran sends 90 percent of the money that Hamas has comes from Iran. We know that the attacks on American personnel has been funded by Iran.

We know that the drone attacks funded by Iran. If we are going to deal with the challenges that our men and women in uniform are dealing within the Middle East, you have to go to Iran.

BASH: And what specifically would that strike look like?

SCOTT: Well, we would use precision missiles to strike within Iran. We would use our MQ-9 to do so. Number one, number two, I would suggest that as opposed to striking an empty warehouse, that we strike military assets that would reduce their ability to impact our people.

BASH: Again, I mean, I understand what you're saying is that at this point it's kind of a proxy because, or it's a proxy on Iran's side, not necessarily on America's side, because they are using their assets to hit America. But to go into Iran is a whole different ballgame.

SCOTT: What we do know, without any question, left and right, we've all conceded the fact that Iran is using proxies to attack U.S. military personnel. You want to reduce the likelihood of their proxies attacking more military personnel, the most effective way to do that is to strike Iran.

BASH: Let's talk about the issue of abortion. It's very loud in here, so thank you for bearing with us. You were very clear about your position on abortion, which you have been in the past. Towards the end of the debate, Governor DeSantis was pretty tough on conservative activists.

He called it the pro-life community, saying that the pro-life community was effectively, these are my words, not his words, asleep at the switch. And that is in part why Republicans and those who are anti-abortion are losing these referenda across the country. Do you agree with that?

SCOTT: I don't agree with that whatsoever. Number one. Number two, I would say without question, 72 percent of Americans agree with a 15- week limit. A 15-week limit on a national level would stop what we saw yesterday, Ohio having the ability to have abortion up until the day of birth.

What we want in this country is to protect the culture of life. Giving states the ability and the flexibility to have 15 weeks to figure out the issue of life is long enough. Going beyond that, in my opinion, is just wrong and unethical.

And it is a position where I believe, because three out of four Americans are there and Republicans and Democrats could come together and get that legislation passed, that would be an important signal to this nation that we continue to create a culture of life and we give the kind of flexibility to states to make a decision.

BASH: How do you think what Governor DeSantis said is going to sit with the anti-abortion groups that --

SCOTT: With the pro-life groups?

BASH: Yeah.

SCOTT: Yeah, so with the pro-life groups.

BASH: Talking about Iowa, talking about a state like yours in South Carolina?

SCOTT: I don't understand why he said what he said. There's no reason to insult the pro-life voter unnecessarily. And frankly, if you are going to have a constructive critique, that's one thing. That was not a constructive critique.

I believe that the strongest base in our party is the base of common sense. It doesn't necessarily mean just the pro-life issue, economic issues, military issues, energy issues. But it does include the pro- life issue.

So, Ronald Reagan said it really well, the 11th commandment, "Thou shalt not insult" --

BASH: -- a fellow Republican.

SCOTT: You got it. That's what that whole debate was like.

BASH: That's what debates are for.

SCOTT: Debating each other is one thing. Insulting our voters is a totally different thing.

BASH: Yeah, I see what you're saying. I want to just ask you about the 15-week argument that you just made, because no, this was not on the ballot in Virginia yesterday per se, but it was a big part of what Governor Youngkin campaigned on, on behalf of the Republicans who were running for the state house.

And it was what he urged them to run on exactly what you're saying. A 15-week, he called it a limit, a ban with exceptions. And not only did that not -- not only did he not succeed in turning over the Senate, he actually lost the House. So, doesn't that fly in the face of the argument you're making?

SCOTT: Not at all. Elections are primarily about more than one issue. You cannot give the Commonwealth defeat for Republican governor on the shoulders of the pro-life movement.


That's just inconsistent with the reality from our perspective. If you can talk about the issue of life in a way that three out of four Americans agree with it. If you could talk about-

BASH: But he tried to do that, he rebranded a lot.

SCOTT: If you could talk about the issue of life that doesn't stop when the baby is born but continues. You'll talk about adoption as I talked about it and crisis pregnancy centers as I talked about it and providing resources and tax credits for the expected mother.

You have to make the issue of life holistic. By doing so, I think not only do we keep our voters, but we expand into independent voters.

BASH: Senator Scott, thank you so much.

SCOTT: Yes, ma'am.

BASH: Appreciate your time.

SCOTT: Thank you.

BASH: Nice to see you. Anderson, back to you.

COOPER: Jenna, thanks so much. So, what else?

BORGER: We were just -- well, we were just, I mean, Scott got the most speaking time tonight. David pointed that out during the debate. And if you want to go back to Ramaswamy, who's hard to avoid, the attack dog.

But what was stunning to me was the amount of vitriol on that stage against one person, particularly from Nikki Haley. She's just had it with him. When he talked about her daughter on TikTok and she said, you're just scum. Those are tough words.

But it was a bad move on his part. I mean, he's just becoming the attack dog, attack dog, attack dog. And as David pointed out, he's going down and down and down in the polls. And Tim Scott shows when you're a nice guy, you don't go up and up and up in the polls either. PHILLIP: But you know, to that point --

COOPER: Sorry, actually, Dana has Vivek Ramaswamy. Let's go back to Dana.

BASH: Thank you so much. Mr. Ramaswamy, thank you so much. We are on the air now. Let's see, where do I even start? Let's start with the way you started at the beginning of the debate. You really came out hot on kind of everybody.

RAMASWAMY: I'm very frustrated with the losing culture in the Republican Party.

BASH: Well, you came out, you went after -- for our viewers who didn't see the debate, you went after the RNC Chair who is hosting you here. You went after the network hosting you here, and pretty much everybody in between. You say you're frustrated but they're not your opponents.

RAMASWAMY: No, but I think that what I am doing in this race is speaking truth 360 degrees. I've been very critical of the Democratic Party. If you listen to my final words on stage, I think that it's important that the Democratic Party be honest about who the nominee is going to be. I think we all quietly acknowledge, it's very unlikely to be Joe Biden. Be honest with the people now. But I would say the same to the media.

BASH: What makes you say that? What makes you think that? He's --

RAMASWAMY: I mean, why is Gavin Newsom flying on a private jet using private funds or California funds to go to China. He's not running -- Gavin Newsom is not running for president in the same way that Ron DeSantis wasn't running for president for a year.

BASH: Joe Biden is -- well, he has the 7th largest economy. Okay, I don't want to talk about Gavin Newsom but could you ask that question? He's like the fifth or seventh economy in the world in California. So, but let's talk about Joe Biden.

RAMASWAMY: But what I would say is, to answer your question, I'm happy to talk about my point about Biden. I just think it's true that Biden is not going to be the nominee. I think that most people in the Democratic Party will quietly acknowledge it. Just say it out loud and you build trust with the people.

But what I'm saying is, as a Republican candidate, I can't just call out Democrats on their corruption. I've called out the Hunter Biden corruption from Ukraine and the $5 million bribe. And I will continue to do that. But I will call out the Republican Party, as well.

BASH: There's no evidence to support that.

RAMASWAMY: To support that he was paid a $5 million bribe from Burisma.

BASH: No. No.

RAMASWAMY: Well, if he was, that's corruption. BASH: We just did a fact check. But if he was, but I just want your -- some allegation where there is no evidence to back that up. Our Daniel Dale literally just talked about this.

RAMASWAMY: Absolutely there's a lot of circumstantial evidence and testimonial evidence to suggest that you have U.S. Senators saying they've received information. Investigations are proceeding as we speak but that is corruption in the Democratic Party that I have called out and I think we deserve to be caught on the Republican Party, as well.

BASH: But you just admitted that there is no evidence.

RAMASWAMY: No, I had not admitted -- there's absolutely evidence.

BASH: It's circumstantial evidence but $5 million --

RAMASWAMY: Recordings are actually turned over from Burisma.

BASH: We have to have them. Nobody has seen it. But let's just talk --

RAMASWAMY: Why haven't they released --

BASH: Let's talk --

RAMASWAMY: One thing I'll just say is bipartisan point. Whether you're Joe Biden or Nikki Haley, release your tax returns. Be completely open about where you've made your money. The American people deserve to know. I did something early in this campaign that, frankly, people in both parties should be doing. I put out 20 years of tax returns. I understand why people don't do it. But that's the kind of honesty we need in both parties. And so that's what I stand for.

BASH: You -- when we talked after the last debate in California, you said nobody likes to know it all and you seem to have, at least at that point, made a decision not to be as clear. But what I was going to say is to be as aggressive and to come out as hot as you had before. And you just, I mean everybody went, wow. And I know that was the point of what you did. But how do you think that's going to get you enough votes to beat Donald Trump?

RAMASWAMY: So, I've actually made a pretty clear decision on how we're approaching this race, certainly for the remainder of it.


It's been for most of this race today. I'm not a political horse race analyst.

I think a candidate's at their best when they're not calculating how you're building some sort of patchwork path using effective political slogans to win certain groups, focus group or otherwise. We're just not running this campaign that way.

I'm unrestrained in speaking what needs to be spoken that the other people are not saying about the Republican Party, about the Democrat party, about the media. And my bet is that that's going to be the winning political strategy. Because when I travel this country, that's what our base of voters is hungry for.

They're sick and tired of the poll-tested platitudes. I'm not somebody who does well with poll-tested platitudes anyway. So, we'll go with the truth of where I'm at my best, which is being unvarnished, being unshackled, speaking the truth not just when it's easy, but when it's hard. And I think that our bet is that will be the successful approach.

BASH: One of the arguments that you made was that Nikki Haley is not being sort of consistent because she allows her daughter, who I believe is not a young kid, she's an adult, to use TikTok and she was not very happy with that. Let's listen to what happened.


RAMASWAMY: I want to laugh at why Nikki Haley didn't answer your question, which is about looking at families in the eye. In the last debate, she made fun of me for actually joining TikTok while her own daughter was actually using the app for a long time. So, you might want to take care of your family first.

NIKKI HALEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Leave my daughter out of your voice.

RAMASWAMY: The next generation of Americans are using it. And that's actually the point. You have her supporters propping her up. That's fine. Here's the truth.

HALEY: You're just scum.


BASH: She said, you're scum at the end.

RAMASWAMY: Well, here's what I would say is that the last debate, I think her exact quote was, I feel dumber every time you speak after the TikTok issue, lecturing families across this country about leaving TikTok. It's not a sin to be on TikTok. The dirty little secret is it's a generational divide.

Most people, young people who I meet are, and the alerting moment is even if she's going to talk about TikTok sanctimoniously on stage, without mentioning that her own adult family members of the next generation are on it, we're not fixing the problem by just retreating and signaling our virtue.

To the contrary, the question came up in the context of Hamas, pro- Hamas content, spreading across TikTok. You think we're helping that by actually exiting as opposed to offering an alternative voice?

So, I think it's a failure of leadership that leaders like Nikki Haley would rather signal their virtue, pick on TikTok, say that, oh, I joined TikTok to reach the next generation of Americans. It reflects a startling lack of self-awareness to know that Republican Party needs to reach young voters. How about the young voter in your own family?

And I do think that that's a fair question to ask about the lack of self-awareness and it's a generational divide. She talks about a new generation of leadership. I think she's on the other side of that.

BASH: You have very young kids, so, I recognize that it's different from a grown kid, but why bring up somebody's family member? Isn't that a little bit of a of a blow below the belt?

RAMASWAMY: No, because it's not a sin for a young person to be on TikTok. I think the error is somebody sanctimoniously lecturing the rest of the country about the perils of it, while actually failing to set an example of leadership a little closer to home.

And I think that gets to the core point. We as a Republican party are not going to win by going back into our shell and hiding from the next generation. We have to show up and engage with the next generation. That's the point I was making and I stand by it.

And I think that this is part of my problem with the older generation of Republicans. They say, well, TikTok has some vague bad things with China, failing to recognize even American-owned companies handing over their user data to China and say our answer is to retreat when people in their own communities, schools, families, young people are using it and we're doing them a disservice by not showing up and actually engaging with them. So that's where I land on that.

BASH: Vivek Ramaswamy, thank you so much.

RAMASWAMY: Thank you.

BASH: Appreciate it.

RAMASWAMY: I appreciate it. Thank you.

BASH: Thank you. And we're going to have another quick break ahead of us. Up next, the political rally that the former president is leading here in Florida. Republican presidential candidates -- most of them were here. The ones who made the debate stage, he would have made it, but he decided to go elsewhere. We'll talk about that after a break.



COOPER: As we just mentioned, rather than appear at tonight's debate, the former president, a leading candidate for the Republican presidential race, decided to throw a political rally just up the road from where his challenges were gathered. Joining us now is Kristen Holmes. So, what happened at the rally?

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Anderson, look, this rally was meant to court Hispanic voters. This is a voting block that Trump's team feels like there is a lot of opportunity in. We know that Trump saw significant gains with Hispanic voters between 2016 and 2020, and they do believe that they can grow before 2024. And Donald Trump, in his effort to appeal to Hispanic voters, particularly Cuban voters, likened the criminal charges and trials against him to political persecution.


DONALD TRUMP; FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: Just like the Cuban regime, the Biden regime is trying to put their political opponents in jail, shutting down free speech, taking bribes and kickbacks to enrich themselves and their very spoiled children.


HOLMES: And Anderson, obviously there's nothing substantiated about that, that these are the same in any way. However, one thing to point out here is I talked to a number of Cuban voters and Hispanic voters that were at the rally, as well as members of the community, who said that this really spoke to them.

They were wearing shirts that had Donald Trump's mugshot on them. They had shirts that said, "Never Surrender". They said that what was happening in America reminded them of what happened in Cuba. I think that we need to point that out, because clearly this message is resonating with at least some people and there were thousands of people at this rally.

The other thing I do want to point out that happened at this counter- programming event was Arkansas Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders did endorse Trump.


Important to note here because of course it's happening the same week that Kim Reynolds, Iowa Governor, endorsed Ron DeSantis.

COOPER: And which of the Republican candidates, if any, is the Trump campaign keeping a closer eye on?

HOLMES: You know, Anderson, I think they're keeping a very close eye still on Ron DeSantis. I think even though they project full confidence, there is still concern particularly about Iowa that can be a wild card. They also have their eyes on Nikki Haley. They know that she is having a moment. They have seen the poll numbers as well.

Now, when you talk to them on the record in private and public, they really do have a level of confidence in the polls, but their eyes are still on, again, Ron DeSantis, Nikki Haley in particular. And it's really about Iowa specifically. Just this idea that there could be a wild card, the idea of the caucuses not being a primary, that people can be convinced, they're just not 100 percent, particularly Trump lost Iowa in 2016. So, they're watching that very closely.

COOPER: All right, Kristen Holmes, thanks so much. Back with our panel. You wanted to talk about Vivek Ramaswamy.

UNKNOWN: He always wants to talk about Vivek Ramaswamy. JENNINGS: I'm going to talk about TikTok, so, hush. Now, look, this whole attacking Haley on this TikTok on the daughter, terrible idea, but the idea of saying she was sanctimonious or hypocritical.

He joined TikTok on September the 14th. Five days before he announced that, he was at a Town Hall meeting in Iowa, telling all the Iowans there that it's like digital fentanyl and how China was using it to infiltrate the United States. Five days later, he gets a call from some YouTuber influencer or whatever, Jake Paul, and now he's on TikTok, and now he's assailing Nikki Haley and stupidly attacking her daughter.

I -- the amount of flip-flopping and absolute rewriting of his own personal narrative, mere hours after saying something else or days in this campaign, is just ridiculous. And I think he thinks if he just keeps talking fast and talking a lot, people won't notice. But the reality is they have, because he is plummeting and Haley is rising. And I just think this whole line of attack on her tonight is wrong and it's going to backfire.

PHILLIP: What I was going to say a little earlier when Gloria was talking about this is in some ways the Ramaswamy thing is not super consequential except that it has made Nikki Haley look like a fighter. And that has been really beneficial to her on these last, really the last three debates.

Every single time she's come away from the debate looking like she knows how to take it to her opponents and that has really been helpful. In a Republican primary, if there are people looking to see who could eventually be on a hypothetical debate stage with Donald Trump, that's the main question. Are you quick on your feet? Can you handle the blow by blow? When he said that she was wearing three-inch heels and was acting like Dick Cheney, she had a comeback for that.

BORGER: She said, I use them for ammunition and they're five-inch heels.

PHILLIP: So, it doesn't -- I mean, Ramaswamy is like in the single digit, so it doesn't matter in that respect. But it has, I think, in some ways helped out.

AXELROD: Well, I'll tell you something. He said that he's not a horse race analyst but he actually is kind of a weathervane. You know, in politics, Mario Cuomo once said in cowboy movies, "No one shoots backwards."

He was going after her for a reason. He knows that she's the one who's moving up. I mean, one of the things you look for in these debates is who's taking the most incoming. And the person who's taking the most incoming is the person who's moving. And she took a lot of incoming.

BORGER: But she looked good as a result of it. And he looked terrible. So, it backfired on him. I mean, he didn't only criticize her daughter, he didn't really criticize her daughter, he criticized her motherhood. Pay attention to what's going on at home. And I think that's what really touched a nerve. JENNINGS: He was after all the Republican women tonight. He was after Haley, unshun by the way. He was after Ronna right out of the gate. UNKNOWN: And then Kristen Walker.

JENNINGS: In our interview with Dana, he's here with the Republican culture of losing under Ronna. Well, who appointed Ronna? Donald Trump? Who was the president during all these election cycles? Donald Trump. But he didn't have the courage to say that. So, he's up after Ronna, but he has nothing for the guy who appointed her and then backed her for her current term.

GRIFFIN: But I do think Vivek is sort of this creation of the Donald Trump MAGA era where you are going to see these mini versions of Trump.

But to date, and I'm knocking on wood that this is the case, they've not been able to gain steam and a following in the way that Donald Trump has. He does have this sort of cache and value to him, this celebrity status that allows him to be a bully, to name call, to say things that make women roll their eyes and wish that he wouldn't say them.

With Vivek it's had the opposite effect and I said it from the first time he came out. It was sort of a Rorschach test some men were like, you know, it's unpopular. It's right men, we're like that was pretty powerful. Republican women hated it. He did not appeal to them. His numbers went down with them and he's precipitously declined -


AXELROD: Can I just say one thing that we probably should have said right at the beginning. There was some discussion before all these debates began about whether Trump was doing the right thing by not coming and so on. I mean, that has turned out to be a brilliant strategic move because he rightly knew that first of all, if he were there, then there would be a much larger audience.

Secondly, he would draw all the fire. And he knew if he wasn't there, there would be smaller audiences, and they'd spend their time going after each other. And that's exactly what you have.

BORGER: And they didn't go after him.

PHILLIP: Yeah, but you know what? It's going to be a real rude awakening, I think, for this country when Donald Trump really is front and center, he will be on some kind of stage. But what he is going to talk about is so different from what was discussed for two hours on this debate stage.

People, I think, are going to be really shocked by just the retroactive nature of everything that he talks about at these rallies. It is all vengeance. It is all Trump.

JENNINGS: But there'll be a debate at some point. PHILLIP: It is not any of this policy stuff. All of this policy stuff is great and interesting, but that's not what Trump is going to be doing.

COOPER: Just had a little more reaction to what the candidates said this evening, including from a group of Republican voters in Iowa.