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New Poll: Carson Closer Than Ever to Trump; Trump to Talk National Security Aboard USS Iowa; Unknown DNA Found on Slain Illinois Policeman's Gun; North Korea Preparing to Launch Satellite. Aired 5- 6p ET

Aired September 15, 2015 - 17:00   ET


[17:00:01] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now: battle lines. As the GOP candidates get ready for their next CNN debate, only 25 hours from now, Donald Trump is about to board a battleship. He'll fire some salvos on national security and foreign policy. But will he expose his weak spot and open himself up to counterattacks?

Carson's surge. The former surgeon general, Dr. Ben Carson, is quietly catching up to the billionaire. The latest national poll shows them just four points apart. But that really means they're neck and neck.

And Bush and blitz. Like all of the rest of the mainstream candidates, Jeb Bush is stuck in single digits. Can his supporters give him a boost with a $24 million advertising campaign?

I'm Wolf Blitzer, and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Twenty-five hours and counting to the big Republican showdown right here on CNN. But on this, the eve of the GOP debate, here at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, California, there are other numbers we want to take a look at and need to look at right now.

A new poll shows Donald Trump is still the leader of the pack, but he's now just four points ahead of Dr. Ben Carson, 27 percent to 23 percent. With the sampling error, that's effectively neck and neck. Will Carson keep turning the other cheek, or will he go on the attack?

It's all on the line right now for Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, and another so-called establishment candidates. They're all right now in single digits, and they're sure to go all-out in the debate tomorrow night, trying to bring Trump down to earth. Bush supporters are trying to give him a jump start right now with a huge ad campaign.

While his rivals are prepping for the debate, Trump is aboard a USS battle ship, fittingly enough, the USS Iowa. He'll talk national security, international affairs. That has supposedly been a weak spot in his campaign, but he's sure to fire up some major broadsides.

Let's begin our coverage this hour with our senior Washington correspondent, Jeff Zeleny. He's in the debate hall.

Jeff, first of all, set the scene. What's the latest? JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this is the

place where the Republican candidates hope to have a breakout moment here. It truly is not an overstatement to say that this is a make-or- break moment for so many of those candidates.

Of course, they're talking to the audience here in this stage. But it's the man in the center of that stage right there, Donald Trump, who they're all trying to take down.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We're going to have victory. This is a movement that's happening.

ZELENY (voice-over): The Donald Trump movement sweeping the Republican presidential race. He's riding a confident wave into the second GOP debate tomorrow night on CNN.

TRUMP: We've had a lot of fun. And now it's time to really start. Because this is going to happen, I'm telling you.

ZELENY: Trump and Ben Carson now battling for number one. A new poll today from "The New York Times" and CBS News shows Trump at 27 percent, Carson suddenly close behind at 23, up from 6 percent in August.

The rest of the field, battling to stay alive: Jeb Bush falling from 13 percent to 6, Scott Walker from 10 percent to 2.

Today, the Bush super PAC coming to the rescue, or hoping to, starting a $24 million advertising blitz to tout Bush as a true conservative.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The state was Florida. The governor was Jeb Bush. Proven conservative. Real results.

ZELENY: Republicans say they're looking for an outsider, which has given rise to Trump, Carson, and Carly Fiorina. But they're torn over whether they want a candidate who burns red lot, like Trump...

TRUMP: I hear they're all going after me, whatever. Whatever!

ZELENY: ... or more humble like the neurosurgeon, Dr. Carson.

DR. BEN CARSON (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's human nature to think that whatever you do is the greatest thing and provides everybody with their messiah. I don't have that complex, quite frankly.

ZELENY: Six weeks after Republicans shared a stage at their first debate, time is running short, and some candidates are desperate to jump start their campaigns.


ZELENY: They've tried huffing and puffing but haven't blown Trump's house down. Today the conservative group Club for Growth launched a $1 million ad campaign in Iowa aimed at Trump.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Trump wants us to think he's Mr. Tell-it-like-it- is. But he has a record, and it's very liberal.

[17:05:00] ZELENY: As most candidates cram for the debate behind closed doors, Trump is delivering another speech tonight. It's on foreign policy. He'll be on the deck of the USS Iowa, a battleship that waged war in the Pacific during World War II.

TRUMP: Unless I win, it's been a waste of time for me, folks, I'll be honest with you. It's been a total waste of time. I really mean that, too.


ZELENY: Now this foreign policy speech is the latest example of how Donald Trump is trying to evolve in his campaign. He's trying to show Republican voters, and perhaps his rivals, that he is substantive. Well, that will be the central question, tomorrow night on this stage right here, when Donald Trump takes center stage as the man with the frontrunner's bull's-eye right on his back -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Less than 25 hours to go until these debates. All right, Jeff, thank you.

And as Jeff just said, Donald Trump will soon be on the deck of the battleship USS Iowa to talk about national security, international affairs, not necessarily, according to his critics, his strong suit. Will it expose any new weaknesses?

Let's go to our political reporter, Sara Murray. She's already over at the floating museum. Set the stage for us, Sara.

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Sure. Well, this is a veterans group that's hosting Donald Trump tonight, and it's being billed as a national security speech.

So I think the big question is, if we will see Donald Trump dive into more foreign policy issues than we usually see in his normal stump speech. And if we get more policy specifics from him.

And he's had a very busy week of campaigning. And for the most part, none of his speeches have been specialized. In fact, he's spending a lot of time tweaking his rivals out of the first debate. Last night he went after Carly Fiorina.


TRUMP: You know, one of the things that I'm happy about, I'm surging, they said. Can you believe this one? I'm surging with women. Can you believe it?

I have such respect for women. I cherish women. I'm going to take such good care of women's healthcare issues, you won't even believe it. But I'm surging with women. One of the things coming out, I'm watching television and they said,

"Trump is surging with women." I said, really? That's amazing. You know, it's incredible. I make statements because, Carly's giving me a bit of a hard time, even though her poll numbers are horrible. She's the one, she was another one. She's surging. Ben is -- everybody's surging but me.


TRUMP: Hillary's not surging, I'll tell you that. They're not saying that.


MURRAY: Now Donald Trump has said events like this are his own form of debate prep. It allows him to meet with veterans, talk with voters, see what's on the top of their minds, and get a little more educated on these issues.

But as I talked to voters across these states, it's clear that they do want to see a little more substance from Donald Trump, whether it's at the speech tonight or on the debate stage -- Wolf.

BLITZER: We'll see how he does. Thanks very much for that, Sara Murray.

While Donald Trump's big brash personality certainly is gaining him lots and lots of attention, Dr. Ben Carson is quietly closing the gap.

Joining us now is Dr. Carson's campaign manager, Barry Bennett.

Barry, thanks very much for joining us.

Let's talk a little bit about what's going on, your candidate surging, to use that word in the polls. The new CBS News/"New York Times" poll, he jumped, what, 17 percentage points nationally among Republican primary voters since last month alone in the very important early state of New Hampshire. He rocketed 5 percent before the first debate to 17 percent.

Today, just getting ready for this debate. He was quiet in the last debate, you know. Do you really expect him to engage the others on stage this time? Walk us through his strategy.

BARRY BENNETT, CAMPAIGN MANAGER FOR BEN CARSON: Ben is going to be Ben and Donald is going to be Donald. You know, Ben spent his entire career cutting cancerous tumors out of people's brains. Yelling at the tumors and calling them names wasn't -- wasn't a very good strategy. He's going to be thoughtful, calculating, nice, and calm.

BLITZER: And if he's attacked by Donald Trump, will he remain careful and calm and nice?

BENNETT: You know, I'm sure God loves Donald Trump, and Ben is trying. BLITZER: With so many candidates on the stage, does Dr. Carson need,

though, to assert himself, maybe interrupt some of the other candidates? We saw some of that going on during the first debate.

BENNETT: I think that the contrast between the two styles, just him standing there being Ben is such a big contrast that he'll do very well.

BLITZER: Let's talk a little bit about some of the exchanges that have gone on recently, because it could get ugly. Dr. Carson, as you know, he avoided directly engaging with Trump, but Trump certainly didn't shy away from going after your candidate after your candidate criticized him on his religion, let's say.

Listen to this.


TRUMP (via phone): I don't know Ben Carson. He was a doctor, perhaps, you know, an OK doctor, by the way. You should check that out, too. We did not talk about a great -- he was an OK doctor.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: I don't know about OK doctor. He was the first man to separate conjoined twins there.

TRUMP: Because he's a doctor and he hired one nurse, he's going to end up being the president of the United States? But for him to criticize me on my faith is absolutely -- and for him to read from the Bible, in his memory. It looked like he memorized it two minutes before he went on stage.

CUOMO: Do you think you're more a man of faith than he is?

TRUMP: Ben Carson is not going to be the next president. That I can tell you.


BLITZER: All right. So if he hears that kind of talk from Donald Trump tomorrow night, how do you -- what is your recommendation? What's your advice to your candidate? How does he respond?

BENNETT: He will set the record straight, believe me. But he's not going to do it -- he's not going to return fire with ridiculous charges and name calling. That's just -- that's total ineffective.

BLITZER: He did apologize -- and that's unusual for these presidential candidates -- to Donald Trump for raising questions about Trump's faith. That was the right thing to do, right?

BENNETT: Yes. Absolutely. He didn't mean it as an attack on Donald Trump. It was one question led to another question led to another question. And he's not questioning Donald -- Donald's talked about his faith, you know, several times on the campaign trail. His words are far more interesting than anything that Dr. Carson could say. BLITZER: When Dr. Carson sees his numbers going up in the polls, he's

still behind Donald Trump, but he's ahead in some of these states, some of the national polls. He's way ahead of all of the other Republican candidates. What goes through his mind? Is he beginning to sense he has a real shot at becoming the Republican presidential nominee?

BENNETT: Oh, yes. We're running a campaign through the convention, and we're going to try our best to become the nominee, for sure.

You know, it's not just the polling. The fundraising is, you know, through the roof right now. We've raised a record amount in August, and we've already raised that much in the first 15 days of September. We're doing very well.

BLITZER: All right. Barry Bennett is the campaign manager for Dr. Ben Carson. Let me just say, as myself a graduate of Johns Hopkins University, he was a world-class famed pediatric neurosurgeon before he retired. He wasn't simply an OK doctor. He was -- he was amazing...

BENNETT: A lot better than OK.

BLITZER: ... in what he did. Yes, he was a lot better than OK.

All right. Thanks very much for that, Barry Bennett, campaign manager for Dr. Ben Carson.

All right, guys, thanks very much.

So what will they ask the candidates? Up next, I'll speak to two of the questioners in tomorrow night's CNN debate, CNN's Dana Bash and Hugh Hewitt of Salem Radio. They're both standing by live.


[17:17:28] BLITZER: We're a little over 24 hours away from the Republican presidential candidates' debate here at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California. I'm here. The debate will be moderated by CNN's Jake Tapper with questions also being asked by conservative radio talk show host Hugh Hewitt and CNN chief political correspondent, Dana Bash, both of whom are joining us now.

Hugh, let's talk a little bit about what we can expect. You've been questioning all of the Republican presidential candidates on your radio show over these past several weeks and months. What's your sense? Who do you think will break through? Will things get more combative tomorrow night?

HUGH HEWITT, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Well, I think it's going to be like a Knesset debate, Wolf. And they've got the podiums bolted down. The only way it could get more interesting is if Jeffrey Probst shows up, and "Survivor" breaks out. Because they are -- according to everything that's been in the newspaper, ready for Jake to blow the whistle and go at each other. And that will make for a very, very interesting couple of hours tomorrow.

BLITZER: Donald Trump, as you well know, he accused you of gotcha -- so-called gotcha questioning when you asked him specific questions on national security, foreign policy. He's about to deliver a major speech on national security in a couple of hours. How do you think that dynamic will play out tomorrow night?

HEWITT: Well, I've talked to Donald Trump since then, and we're good. He did mishear Quds, Kurds. That was a radio problem that often happens with transmission.

He didn't know the difference between Hamas and Hezbollah, but he said he doesn't need to know that now, and you know, that's a legitimate answer. I'm not out to get anybody. I don't think Dana is either. I want to hear what the differences are between these candidates on key issues of national security and domestic policy.

And so we're not -- I have no favorites. I have no dis-favorites. I think it will be more about the candidates talking to each other than the panel is.

BLITZER: Fair enough. That's the way it should be. Dana, explain how this debate potentially, though, could differ in style from the previous Republican debate.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the other debate, which by the way, I thought was fascinating. I was there, and I juts -- I couldn't keep my eyes off of it. But it was -- it was different in style because it was kind of a series of interview questions. You had three, you know, amazing journalists kind of asking their own questions of each candidate.

And except for the one memorable moment when Rand Paul and Chris Christie engaged on the very important issue of national security and of, you know, the data collecting and the differences over that between civil liberties and flat security, you didn't have a lot of interaction between the candidates.

[17:20:05] Our goal is to have almost entirely -- a debate entirely of interaction between the candidates, because that's what I think the Republican voters out there deserve. They want to hear the differences on issues and also on kind of approach between these two candidates and for them to mix it up.

BLITZER: It's a good point.

Hugh, I know you're driving from Stanford to the debate site here in Simi Valley. You said you want some time to think. Walk us through. How do you prepare for a huge night like tomorrow night?

HEWITT: Well, I spent a lot of time with Jake and Dana and your amazing team at CNN on the weekend; and they are really quite incredible in the depth and breadth of their research. And I've been at Stanford's Hoover Institution for a couple of days, listening and talking with Condi Rice, George Schultz. We had General James Mathis in off-the-record session yesterday with a bunch of other journalists, including Bill Hemmer, who was a debate questioner in the first debate, talking a lot about what is the purpose of a panelist.

You know, Jake's got the big job here. He's got to keep the time and the trains running. Dana and I just get to throw a question on the table, and hopefully leads to exactly what she said, exchanges between candidates, not between panelists and candidates.

And so I'm just very impressed with the entire CNN setup. They've got this so deeply researched. I can't imagine any candidate will come away saying they didn't have fair questions and a fair shot to impress Republican primary voters with why they ought to support them.

BLITZER: I think you're absolutely right, having worked here at CNN for 25 years. Excellent preparation going on.

Dana, this is a much smaller venue, though: 500 people will be in the audience, as opposed to thousands who were in a basketball stadium in Cleveland a few weeks ago. And that could have an impact.

BASH: That's right. LeBron James cannot play basketball on the stage that we have built, which is the venue in Cleveland.

I think it is different, and I think it will sort of feel more intimate, which is good. I think the question is going to be for Donald Trump, who very much fed off of the crowd last time around, you know, with the Rosie O'Donnell moment and so many others. It's going to be a very different kind of thing. I think certainly there will be people in the audience. But I think it will probably feel to him more like, you know, the set of "The Apprentice" as opposed to being in a big crowd that he's used to now on the stump.

BLITZER: Dana, good luck tomorrow night.

Hugh Hewitt, good luck to you. Of course, we will be watching. I think it's fair to say, people all over the world will be watching, as well.

The Republican presidential candidates now just one day away from their second debate right here at the Reagan Presidential Library. You can, of course, see it right here tomorrow night only on CNN. You hear the debate, by the way, across the country on the Salem Radio Network. To find the debate on radio in your area, go to

Coming up, the high stakes for one-time Republican frontrunner Jeb Bush. His supporters just started spending millions and millions of dollars in the political ad wars, but here's the question: Is it too late?


BLITZER: As we count down to tomorrow's Republican presidential debate right here in California, the debate will be on CNN, of course. We're awaiting a major pre-debate speech from Donald Trump. That's coming up tonight. He'll be on the battleship, the USS Iowa, tonight to talk about his ideas on national security. Let's get some insight from our CNN political commentators. I'm

joined by S.E. Cupp, Dan Pfeiffer. He's a former senior adviser to President Obama along with Republican strategist Kevin Madden and Ana Navarro.

Guys, thanks very much for joining us.

Trump gets a chance to flex his muscles, Kevin, later tonight aboard USS Iowa. A lot of people are saying on national security, almost a dress rehearsal for him going into the debate tomorrow night.

KEVIN MADDEN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I just can't see Trump really doing a dress rehearsal. I feel like he's been doing this -- you know, this celebrity candidacy thing for so long that he doesn't really need that. I think it's just Trump being Trump.

One of the things I think he's doing tonight is sort of taking this card off the table where so many other candidates will say, well, Donald Trump's not serious on national security; he doesn't have any policy platform.

During the debate, he's going to have this rhetorical touchstone that he can go back to anytime any of the other candidates or the moderators press him on national security or foreign policy issues.

BLITZER: A lot of people are saying that this is for Jeb Bush really coming down to make-or-break night tomorrow night. I know you like Jeb Bush. You support Jeb Bush. You're friends with him. He's not doing well in the polls right now. What does he need to do tomorrow night to get himself back in the groove?

ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: What do you mean he's not doing well in polls?

BLITZER: The numbers. The numbers are not good.

NAVARRO: He's No. 3. He's on the other side of Donald Trump. He's doing better than another 14 people.

BLITZER: He's in single digits. He's in single digits.

NAVARRO: That's better than 14 other people that are...

BLITZER: That's not good enough to go after Dr. Ben Carson or Jeb Bush.

NAVARRO: The question is, is it a make-or-break moment? I think one thing that Jeb Bush has done very smartly and strategically is he built himself a structure and got the financial resources in place so that he can play the long game. He has got the ability to wait this out so that the field goes whittling down.

What he has to do is make sure that when that field whittles down he's still standing there. And if it's Donald Trump, Jeb Bush is the alternative to Donald Trump. [17:30:06] BLITZER: That super PAC, in going after, trying to

strengthen him right now, they have $100 million. They're going to spend about a fourth of that, 25 percent, $25 million in commercials promoting him in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina. That's a lot of money to spend at this early stage.

NAVARRO: Well, they have a lot of money, and they have a lot of money they can spend. And I think it's one of the things he did. He said, "You know what? I'm going to load up front, and I'm going to put a lot of money into this before I start the campaign." You know, we all criticized him for spending six months doing this. But you know, he's put nuts away for the winter.

BLITZER: All right. S.E. Cupp, a lot of people think he's really got to show up tomorrow night and go after Trump, maybe even go after Dr. Ben Carson, who's really beloved by a lot of those Republicans who are going to be watching this debate out there. What is this strategy? What does he need to do?

S.E. CUPP, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, I mean, I think Ana's right that he's playing the long game. What he has to hope for is that when and if Trump and Carson deflate, Republicans don't run to other Jeb-like candidates, right?

He can sort of justify not getting a lot of the conservative excitement, because they're for totally different people, in Donald Trump and Ben Carson. If -- excuse me --conservatives start flocking to a Scott Walker or a Kasich, then Jeb has a much tougher time saying, "Well, it's not me that they don't like. It's that they like this anti-establishment." If they like another kind of Jeb, then he's in real trouble.

BLITZER: They're not flocking to Scott Walker.

NAVARRO: Not yet.

BLITZER: His numbers have gone down, down, at the same time.

I'm going to get to you in a minute, Kevin. Kevin, let's take a look at Donald Trump. Another ad campaign, though, against Donald Trump from the Club for Growth. It's an outside group. They're going after him, saying falsely advertising that I will raise taxes. That's what Trump says about this ad campaign that they have just launched. Take a look at some of Donald Trump's tweets. You know, when you attack Donald Trump, get ready to be hit back even harder.

KEVIN MADDEN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Right. Look, one of the things that this helps Donald Trump with is his ability to say, "I'm the anti-establishment guy, I'm the one that's going against all the money interests, all of the -- you know, the Washington insiders are gearing up." It sort of plays perfectly into his message.

And the other interesting thing about it is that they're going to put, you know, a couple -- a million dollars into ads out in Iowa, but with one tweet, Donald Trump can counter that and doesn't have to spend a dime. It's a fascinating dynamic to watch as part of modern campaigns and how people -- how the Trump campaign is using it to their advantage.

BLITZER: He doesn't have to spend money for advertising, because he goes on television. Unlike a lot of these other candidates who are very often afraid to do serious interviews, Donald Trump, he's not afraid. He goes on television, almost whenever some network asks him, and that, in effect, turns out to be good advertising.

MADDEN: He creates and then manages entire news cycles all about Donald Trump. And all of the these other campaigns right now are having the hardest time breaking through. The only way they ever get coverage right now is when they attack Donald Trump. That's a very tough place to be if you're these other candidates.

BLITZER: That doesn't help in the numbers either, based on all the statistics we've seen.

Dan, let's talk about Dr. Ben Carson. He's doing amazingly well right now. Another outsider like Donald Trump. He says you don't have to be loud to be energetic. That's sort of in response to Donald Trump suggesting that, like Jeb Bush, he's very low energy, soft; he's not necessarily ready to be president of the United States. What's his -- should be his strategy tomorrow night?

DAN PFEIFFER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I really have no idea what Ben Carson has done to get this level of support, but whatever it is, he should keep doing it. I don't think he should try to be Donald Trump-like and attack other candidates or attack Donald Trump.

One thing he needs to do, though, is if he gets attacked, defend himself. Unlike Donald Trump, who everybody knows everything about, people don't know a lot about Ben Carson. And so if people start putting negative information about him in the atmosphere and he does not respond to that, you know, he can go right back into the pack quickly.

BLITZER: He must be really energized. But take a look at these numbers, new CBS/"New York Times" poll in August Trump at 24 percent, nationally among Republicans. He's 27 percent, leader of the pack. In August, Dr. Carson was at 6 percent. He's now at 23 percent. That's going to energize him. He's just looking at those numbers.

I'm not sure how much more energizing he needs, and I'm not sure what his definition of energized means. It seems to me that most of the folks on that stage are running to be commander in chief. To him, energy means running to be insulter in chief.

And I think tomorrow's going to be very interesting with Ben Carson and Jeb Bush. One of the things that is different in this debate is that the podiums are crazy close, maybe a foot and a half, two feet from each other. So I mean, you know, a lot of hand movement. And they're going to be literally in each other's personal space. Might as well play, you know, rock, paper, scissor.

PFEIFFER: Arm wrestling. Arm wrestling. If there's a tie, arm wrestling.

BLITZER: All of us are fortunate enough. We'll have front row seats. We'll be watching it very, very closely. Guys, don't go too far away.

Coming up, as Donald Trump and his rivals prepare for tomorrow's debate, whatever happened to Ronald Reagan's advice that Republicans shouldn't speak ill of one another?

And we're also watching other developing stories right now, including some new information from our sources about that mysterious shooting death of an Illinois police officer. Stay with us.


BLITZER: We're counting down to CNN's Republican presidential candidates' debate right here at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California.

[17:30:15] President Reagan liked to quote the so-called 11th commandment: "Thou shall not speak ill of another Republican." It's a commandment that obviously has been broken repeatedly this year by all of -- not all necessarily, but most of the Republican presidential candidates.

They get attacked. They attack right back, especially Donald Trump. When he's attacked, he does not hold back.

Joining us now are CNN political commentator Ryan Lizza. He's the Washington correspondent for the "New Yorker" magazine. And CNN politics senior digital correspondent, Chris Moody. What about that so-called 11th commandment, Ryan? It was embraced by Ronald Reagan. We're here at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. Do these candidates tomorrow night need to respect that? Do they need to play nice?

RYAN LIZZA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: You know, that commandment's more been talked about than honored over the years, right, Wolf?

Reagan coined that back in the '60s when he was the sort of conservative firebrand, and it was liberal Republicans who were attacking him. And he sort of used that as a defensive mechanism. So the liberals in his party wouldn't go after him.

You know, look, Donald Trump certainly has not abided by the 11th commandment. If anything, he's come up with, you know, the sort of 12th commandment, or maybe the Trump's only commandment, which is attack every one of your opponents repeatedly.

And I think over the last week what's happened, his frontrunner status had solidified. One of the first scalps: the first Republicans has left the race, Rick Perry. And what did Rick Perry do? He was the guy that attacked Trump more forcefully than ever. I do not think that that commandment will be respected tomorrow night, at least not by Trump.

BLITZER: Chris, what do you think? Some of these other Republican candidates who need a boost, they're in single digits, medium, or low single digits right now. Do they need a boost by going after Trump directly on that debate stage tomorrow night? CHRIS MOODY, CNN POLITICS SENIOR DIGITAL CORRESPONDENT: That

certainly a strategy for many of them. Now of course, they don't always follow Ronald Reagan's advice to the tee, whether it's on immigration, providing amnesty to illegal immigrants or also undocumented immigrants or also on -- you know, when he was trying -- the insurgent he was going after Republicans as well in the 1970s.

But there are candidates that have been able to make a name for themselves by going after them. Rand Paul made an effort at that in the last debate, and it didn't go quite well for him. I think we'll start to see a different kind of attempt from him. He's going to be on the far end of the debate stage. And just like he was in the last time, Jeb Bush is going to make an effort. We've seen that in the ads being run by the super PAC. They give us kind of a flavor of what they might look like.

BLITZER: Chris Christie, the former -- the current governor of New Jersey, Ryan, he's got to do something to jump start his campaign right now. I'm getting a sense, though, we could see some lively attacks by him. What do you think?

LIZZA: Yes, he's had an interesting strategy over the last couple of weeks. Look, he's been hovering in the low single digits for weeks and weeks.

Remember back in 2013, when he won a huge re-election in New Jersey. He was considered a potential frontrunner in this race. So it's been a long, steady fall for him.

But his strategy has been to go -- to go after not just Trump but go after Jeb Bush, as well. And it's sort of this -- to talk about how, you know, voters don't want a food fight between Trump and Bush and that they're not actually addressing the problems before the country and to sort of, you know, criticize both of those guys and try and talk about his own positive agenda.

That's the tension here. Most of these other candidates are not known. They can't get in front of voters and explain what they're all about. And so they have two things they need to do.

One, they have to clear the way and get -- somehow damage Trump, but at the same time don't want to be defined by negative attacks. So pretty tough balancing act.

BLITZER: Yes, it is indeed. Chris Moody, Ryan Lizza, guys, thanks very much.

Coming up, Trump's on top, Carson closing in dramatically, but a new poll shows the mainstream candidates, as they're called, they're faltering. Do they find a way to bring down the GOP frontrunner in tomorrow night's CNN debate?

Plus, no trace of the suspects, an unusual gunshot wound and unknown DNA. We have new information on that mysterious shooting death of an Illinois police officer.



BLITZER: We're live here at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California. We're counting down to the Republican candidates' debate right here on CNN. Much more coming up on that in a few moments. But we're also following other stories as well including new information about that mysterious death of an Illinois police officer. Lieutenant Joseph Gliniewicz was shot to death two weeks ago shortly after he radioed he was chasing three suspects.

Let's get the latest from our CNN justice correspondent Pamela Brown.

What's the latest evidence? What are you hearing, Pamela?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we've learned that unknown DNA was found on Lieutenant Joe Gliniewicz's service weapon that was recovered at the scene. Officials have not traced that DNA back to anyone, but the hope among investigators is that that DNA belongs to one of the three suspects, that they're searching for right now.

Forensic scientists we've been speaking to say that this could be a crucial clue because of course not everyone would have had access to his weapon. And so what officials are doing is analyzing the DNA, putting together a profile and then running it through a national DNA database to see if there's a match with any convicted felons already in the database.

[17:50:09] But the tricky part here is, Wolf, if the DNA doesn't match a convicted felon, then that means investigators, you know, have to look at the other people they've been talking to, people of interest, investigators working on this case that may have touched his weapon, any family or friends that have touched this weapon. So if there is no match in the database, it's going to be very challenging for officials working on this case.

Also we have learned, Wolf, that the second shell casing in this shooting was found at a different area in the crime scene, not where Lieutenant Gliniewicz's body was found, indicating that the two shots that were fired happened at different locations within this crime scene -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Are they considering all sorts of other options as well, what might have happened? What are you hearing about that?

BROWN: They are. In fact, we're learning, you know, two weeks after the shooting of Lieutenant Gliniewicz, there still hasn't been any trace of the three suspects that he radioed in to dispatch, the two white men, one black man. As a result we're learning that investigators are considering the possibility, Wolf, that this was a self-inflicted gunshot wound because the videos haven't shown these three suspects. Nothing has panned out with that. There have been no eyewitnesses, nothing else to corroborate what Lieutenant Gliniewicz radioed in. Also we know the gunshot wound, that devastating wound was at a

downward angle beneath his bulletproof vest. In talking to officials, you know, this does not have the hallmarks of a typical shooting. It's very puzzling, questions are mounting, but on the other hand investigators are working off the fact that he radioed in about this, that there is this unknown DNA on his service weapon.

There's other evidence that haven't been released to the public. They continue to look at homicide as a leading theory here and also the fact that he was just weeks away from retiring, Wolf. A lot of this doesn't add up. It's still very much a mystery.

BLITZER: A huge mystery indeed. Pamela Brown, thanks very much.

Other important news we're following. Kim Jong-Un may be giving the Republican candidates something new to talk about tomorrow night. North Korea is now warning that it's prepared to unleash its nuclear arsenal against the United States.

Brian Todd is looking into this development for us. What are finding out, Brian?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this is likely to be a contentious topic at the debate when candidates discuss the threats facing the United States. The new chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff says he ranks North Korea among the top three threats to the United States above ISIS. Kim Jong-Un's latest salvo certainly bears that out.


TODD (voice-over): Kim Jong-Un rattles his nuclear saber at America. The head of his atomic energy program declaring the regime is ready to use its nuclear weapons any time if the U.S. and others pursue their, quote, "reckless, hostile policy" toward North Korea." Kim is also declaring his nuclear program is at full speed. The regime says its main nuclear complex at Yongbyon which produces material for nuclear weapons is operating normally. A U.S. official tells CNN they have no reason to doubt the claim and analysts take the threat seriously.

KELSEY DAVENPORT, ARMS CONTROL ASSOCIATION: If you look here, the snowmelt in this area. Snowmelt again on the reactor. This would indicate that the reactor is functioning, it's giving off heat causing that snowmelt. Also here in August, you can see tracks leading into the reactor area. That again shows that there's significant activity going on at these sites.

TODD: Kim's said to be as obsessed with developing nuclear weapons as his father and grandfather were.

MARCUS NOLAND, PETERSON INST. FOR INTERNATIONAL ECONOMICS: Remember, his grandfather, Kim Il-Sung, the founder of the country, saw the United States bring imperial Japan down to its knees with two nuclear weapons. So this is a regime that's been interested in nuclear weaponry for decades. TODD: Kim is not stopping there. His regime announcing its preparing

to launch a satellite into orbit for scientific purposes. The United Nations has warned North Korea to call off the rocket launch.

DAVENPORT: A satellite launch vehicle similar to this one pictured here could be used by North Korea to develop an intercontinental ballistic missile that's capable of reaching the United States and delivering a nuclear warhead.

TODD: The North Koreans aren't there yet. Weapons experts say they haven't tested re-entry on those missiles and they could break apart. Still these moves bring a warning tonight from Washington demanding that Kim stop his provocations. U.S. officials taking no chances, making sure Kim knows what kind of missile defenses America has at the ready.

MARK LIPPERT, U.S. AMBASSADOR FOR SOUTH KOREA: Ground-based interceptors to Alaska, surface combatants to the Western Pacific. A THAAD battery on Guam, another in Japan in order to be ready and vigilant for anything that the North Koreans may or may not do.


TODD: Why is Kim doing all of this now? Experts say he's under a great deal of pressure at the moment. He's got to show strength for the upcoming anniversary of the founding of North Korea's dictatorship and analysts say he's trying to keep his military leaders happy after purging so many of them, and letting them flex their nuclear muscle could be a way of keeping them at bay but only for the moment -- Wolf.

[17:55:14] BLITZER: Yes, and everybody in Washington, intelligence officials, national security officials, as you point out, very nervous about that October 10th anniversary date.

TODD: Right.

BLITZER: That could be a target point that everybody is worried about right now.

Brian, thanks very, very much.

Coming up, as the GOP candidates prepare for their big CNN debate right here at Simi Valley, California, the Reagan Presidential Library, only 24 hours from now, Donald Trump is about to board a battleship. He's going to fire some broad sides on national security, but will he expose some weak spots, maybe open himself up to counterattacks.