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AT THIS HOUR WITH BERMAN AND MICHAELA
Clinton, Sanders, Vie for Michigan; Trump to Speak Live, Reacts to Cruz's Rise; Cruz Gains Steam, Delegates; Cruz, Trump Push for 2- Man Race. Aired 11-11:30a ET
Aired March 7, 2016 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[11:00:00] CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you for joining me today. I'm Carol Costello.
AT THIS HOUR with Berman and Bolduan starts now.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: I'm John Berman.
A big hour of live action on the campaign trail. Just hours before Super Tuesday, the sequel.
BOLDUAN: I love sequels.
BERMAN: This time it's personal.
You're looking at live pictures right now out of Concord, North Carolina. Donald Trump getting ready to speak shortly. How will he respond to the new surge of support for Ted Cruz? Ted Cruz inching ever closer now in the delegate race.
BOLDUAN: But first, dueling events. Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, fresh from their fiery CNN debate. They're making their pitches to voters in Michigan. You're looking live at the Bernie Sanders rally. He's in Kalamazoo right now. A lot of contests we'll look at. Michigan has more delegates at stake for Democrats and Republicans all of the other states on Super Tuesday the sequel. Clinton and Sanders have several campaign events across the state.
BERMAN: It's also perhaps why Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton clashed so fiercely at last night's debate.
Joining us, CNN commentator, Bakari Sellers; and Hillary Clinton supporter and former South Carolina State Representative, and Michigan state Senator, Bert Johnson, who just endorsed Bernie Sanders for president.
Senator, let me start with you.
There's an interesting exchange which in some ways encapsulates the policy and the tone of the entire debate. It had to do with the issue of the auto bailout. Let's listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) HILLARY CLINTON, (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE & FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: I voted to save the auto industry. He voted against the money that ended up saving the auto industry.
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS, (I), VERMONT & DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Whoa.
CLINTON: I think that is a pretty big difference.
SANDERS: Well, if you are talking about the Wall Street bailout, where some of your friends destroyed this economy --
CLINTON: You know --
SANDERS: Excuse me. I'm talking.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR & DEBATE MODERATOR: Let him respond.
BOLDUAN: All right. The "Excuse me, I'm talking," we'll get to that in a moment.
First, Senator, let me ask you. The auto bailout, it's something that Hillary Clinton really brought up for the first time, the fact that Senator Sanders voted against it. How do you think he handled his response to that question last night?
STATE SEN. BERT JOHNSON, (D), MICHIGAN: I thought he handled it very well. One, he was a little bit righteously indignant. He should be. He was in favor of saving the auto industry. He's talked about trade and manufacturing, and in this state, in particular, we have been ravaged by -- we are now Rust Belt cities across the state. We've been ravaged by the subtraction of manufacturing across the country. Bernie Sanders has been all about that. That's what his campaign is hinging on.
BERMAN: But he did vote against it, just to be clear.
BOLDUAN: That's right.
JOHNSON: I think what he brought forward is the progress made, which we have always been a part of when you're an elected official. He talked about the reason that he couldn't vote for the bill, and it had bad things in it. He clarified such going into the debate when he talked about the fact that sometimes there are good things and sometimes there are bad things. I don't think anybody walked away thinking he was not in favor of the auto bailout.
BOLDUAN: What do you think, Bakari? Was Hillary Clinton being cute with the facts?
BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I don't think she was. Bernie's a good friend of mine. We both know when you're an elected official, all you have is your vote.
BOLDUAN: And Bernie Sanders brings up -- there's a very important vote that Bernie Sanders brings up quite a bit in terms of the Iraq war.
SELLERS: Correct. I think if we're going to talk about judgment, we have to feed each candidate out of the same spoon. She talked about the Export/Import bank, which Bernie Sanders voted against that as well. He was on the same side as Ted Cruz and the Koch brothers. I think she was making sharp distinctions. I don't think that any candidate necessarily was scathed or damaged so they couldn't bounce back. It was a sharp discussion on trade and that's a stark difference from what we saw on the Republican debate.
BERMAN: On the issue of sharp, the fact that Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton interrupted him. Bernie, let me finish it. You saw a bit of it there. Important? Not important?
SELLERS: I think tone is important. I think that in a debate, especially in a debate where you're this far along, that tone is very important. I don't think Bernie Sanders is sexist or any of those things. I think he made a mistake with his tone. And it reminded me of when Barack Obama looked at Clinton and he said, "You're likable enough," and all the supporters of Barack Obama said, oh, that wasn't quite the tone that you wanted. And I think he made some tone mistakes last night, but Bernie Sanders is going to be fine.
BOLDUAN: What do you think, Senator? Did he overstep?
[11:05:00] JOHNSON: There were no tone mistakes last evening. As a matter of fact, Bernie has been a gentleman, and it time he made a distinction between Hillary and himself. We're all Democrats, but in particular, Bernie Sanders is saying, listen, if we're going to look at results and if we're going to look at tone and things that matter in these debates, then when we're talking about blacks, we have to bring up a number of things that blacks should be upset with related to the Hillary campaign and things that have happened in the past. I think he was trying to say let me get my point out, make my points. This is not a sensational thing. Bernie was pushing facts. The facts speak for themselves.
BERMAN: On the issue of race, there was a question about whether or not the candidates had a racial blind spot. A racial blind spot. Bernie Sanders gave an answer, which I think a lot of people on both sides, it did raise some eyebrows. I want to play it and get your reaction.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SANDERS: When you're white, you don't know what it's like to be living in a ghetto. You don't know what it's like to be poor. You don't know what it's like to be hassled when you walk down the street or get dragged out of a car.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: I've heard white people upset saying there are white people poor.
BOLDUAN: And African-Americans are saying not all African-Americans grow up in ghettos.
JOHNSON: If we look at the word "ghetto," it stems from an understanding that was a reference to Jewish people a long time ago, and so, frankly, what he was saying is ghettos, we know hem as Jews. We also understand there are people living across the country living in ghettos. Those situations are being put together by policy. I don't think there was anything bad with that. Some folks have tried to make hay of that, and are really trying to be political. Bernie speaks from the heart. He's authentic. People are flocking to his campaign because of that. I don't think there was anything to make hay with over that.
SELLERS: I give Senator Sanders a pass on that. Senator Sanders has run a fairly honorable campaign. I think he fumbled his words. He was trying to speak to the heart of issues going on in the African American community. I disagree with what he said, but he deserves a pass. There's no reason to imply that Bernie Sanders was saying something other than what he felt was the right answer that night.
BOLDUAN: Do you think it is going to --
BOLDUAN: Senator, final word on this. Do you think it will help in any way for him to try to win over more of the African American voting electorate?
JOHNSON: Listen, it's pretty clear. If you're African-American across the country, it's very difficult for you to be with Hillary Clinton based on what has happened over the Clinton years in office.
SELLERS: That's not true, Senator.
JOHNSON: Let me finish. Let me finish. I think if you understand what has happened to blacks, if you understand that there's been this villianization of blacks, through policy that as emanated from the federal office or offices, you understand that the Clintons were on the clock when that happened.
When you talk about a candidate of her magnitude making statements, back in the day, if you will, about black children being super predators and what not, that's something I, as a black man, take offense to. And I understand that if we're going to unite is really about uniting this country, those facts have to come out so we can heal from those things. There are people upset with the hangover from the Clintons. And Bernie is not the establishment. He's a guy who has gone out to promote a different kind of presidency.
BERMAN: We're going to move on, but I will say, you said it's going to be hard for black people to vote for Hillary Clinton. With states with large black populations, with 80 percent of the African American vote, have gone for Hillary Clinton. At least some people have not had a hard time voting with her.
Senator Johnson, Bakari, thank you for being with us.
BOLDUAN: Thank, guys.
JOHNSON: Thank you.
BOLDUAN: An important programming note, a big week of political action here on CNN. Tomorrow, we'll have complete coverage of four big contests, Hawaii, Idaho and Mississippi. And then come Wednesday, CNN will be simulcasting the Democratic debate hosted by you Univision and "The Washington Post." And then Thursday, the CNN GOP debate in Miami. Please be there with us.
Let's turn to the Republican race. Donald Trump getting ready to speak at a rally in Concord, North Carolina, very soon after winning two of four states on Super Saturday. Losing the other two to Ted Cruz.
BERMAN: Donald Trump also called on Rubio to get out, drop out of the race because he wants to take on Ted Cruz one on one.
Let's get to Chris Frates in Concord, North Carolina, at the rally -- Chris?
CHRIS FRATES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, John. We're right outside of Charlotte, North Carolina. And North Carolina voting March 15th. That's why Donald Trump is here.
But the big story, of course, today is how well Cruz did on Super Saturday. He picked up big states in Kansas and Maine. Donald Trump even cracking, of course, he won Maine because he was born in Canada. Trump has tried to suggest that because Cruz was born in Canada he's not qualified to run for president. Cruz saying that's ridiculous. He's an American citizen and can run. That shows how contentious this is getting.
And don't count out Rubio. He got a big win in Puerto Rico. He won all the delegates because he won by such a big margin. That's important going into the big prize. That's Florida on March 15th. Rubio looking to pick up his home state there. And the establishment looking to Rubio to put the breaks on the Donald Trump train. So Marco Rubio needs to have a big night in Florida.
But expect Donald Trump to go after Cruz. Cruz really starting to stand out as that Trump alternative. In fact, when you look at the delegate count right now by CNN, Trump, 389 delegates and Cruz with 302. Rubio has about half that. We expect we'll hear more about Cruz and Rubio in a few minutes.
[11:10:58] BERMAN: Chris Frates in Concord, North Carolina.
We'll hear from Donald Trump shortly. Stand by for that.
In the meantime, does the Cruz surge make a contested convention more likely? We'll ask RNC official, Sean Spicer, who will join us live.
BOLDUAN: Plus, a scathing report on Rubio's meltdown. Hear who supporters are blaming for the troubles.
And a mysterious incident involving a Ted Cruz supporter one day a pastor led a prayer at a Cruz rally. He was shot outside a church. A manhunt is underway. What's the motive?
[11:15:28] BOLDUAN: Ted Cruz's big weekend, wins in Kansas and Maine, a close finish in Louisiana, helping bolster his argument he's pushing that it's a two-man race, him and Donald Trump, as we head into the next crucial round of contests tomorrow.
BERMAN: A close weekend race and closer delegate race raises the possibility there might be a chance for a contested convention.
BERMAN: Let's talk with Sean Spicer, communications director for the Republican National Committee, chief strategist.
BERMAN: Sean, Reince Priebus, RNC chairman, on Friday at CPAC said the odds of a contested convention were unlikely or small. That was Friday. This weekend, Cruz won more delegates than anyone else. Are the odds for a contested convention rising?
SEAN SPICER, COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR & CHIEF STRATEGIST, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE: Well, I think when we get closer and don't get a front runner they slightly increase. We're still in that 85, 90 percent the chairman talked about on Friday. We'll have to get further into March before that becomes a reality. Either someone will get closer to that 1237. We're 906 delegates into a 2472-delegate race, a third of the way through. Let some more states vote.
BOLDUAN: As you point out, how things play out, even if someone starts winning state after state, it will be a long time before they get to 1237.
SPICER: Right. As of this morning, with Puerto Rico's 22 delegates being delegated, 906 total allocated. If someone runs the table, takes every delegate, almost impossible, they would have to wait until the first week of Marsh to clinch the nomination. (CROSSTALK)
SPICER: No, May, sorry.
SPICER: That gives some idea of the perspective. Again, Romney didn't clinch the nomination until the 3rd week last time. We're still a big earlier than we were before, condense the entire calendar, like 68 days. People are excited about or what's different is you have more states going on two days, whereas it was one state, one state or two or three. This time you have four or five.
BERMAN: Another thing making it exciting is you have people associated with -- all the campaigns calling for a contested convention. You have people like Mitt Romney suggesting we should position yourself for a contested convention. We asked Barry Bennett, who ran Ben Carson's campaign, now a supporter of Donald Trump, what would happen with a contested convention. He said it would be like wearing a bomb vest and having the party blow itself up at the convention. Do you have concerns?
SPICER: No, not at all. When you look at the record turn out we've seen in almost every primary and caucus we've had on our side, especially concerning the low turnout on the Democratic side, there's excitement and enthusiasm. So while I still maintain we'll have a nominee going into Cleveland, if we were to end up with that scenario, I think we'll continue to see record enthusiasm and interest. From our debates to turn outs, the Republican field is exciting people and I think it will continue to through Cleveland and into November.
BOLDUAN: Passion, there's no shortage of that. But what do you say to folks who say, if this go to a contested convention and people take on Trump there, it will be stolen from Trump. What about all those people who are out voting for Trump --
SPICER: It can't get stolen. Delegates are elected. It's the will of the delegates. That's what happened in '76. You go back. At the end of the day, this is still a representative opportunity here. People elect delegates, delegates go. The same way the House of Representatives operate in the terms of a representative democracy. Do you talk about votes getting stolen in the House of Representatives if an amendment passes? I still believe, the chairman believes whoever gets that 1237 will be our nominee or whoever has the plurality. The rules --
BERMAN: Whoever has the plurality?
SPICER: Well, whoever -- and it depends on what that is. But going into the convention, look, the delegates have an obligation. Prior to 1972, that's what they did. They were elected to go in and speak on behalf of the people that elected them and choose the nominee. But this is the process we have in our party and, frankly, the other party shares as well. It's the process of how the House of Representatives works. We will walk in, we'll come out unified, and win in November, because the power was on the Republican side in -- frankly, all of our voters, no matter who you are for, understand that the prospect of a Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders presidency is completely a trajectory that we can't --
BOLDUAN: Quickly, before the convention, we have the big CNN debate on Thursday in Miami. What should we expect? What do you want to see, Sean Spicer, speaking on behalf of the RNC, happen on Thursday?
[11:20:] SPICER: Two things. I think you'll continue to see the ratings and excitement we've seen all along. We're in a crucial phase. There's a lot of interest so I think --
BOLDUAN: Right, but what has driven ratings has been Trump.
SPICER: Right. But with that being said, I'll echo what the chairman said yesterday on the Sunday shows, which is that we need to be conscious of our tone, something the chairman has talked about for the last four years. We have to be welcoming, reach out more, and keep it more P.G.
BERMAN: Will you give me an example of something that's happened in a recent debate that is contrary to that or the tone was not right?
SPICER: I will let your viewers decide themselves.
BERMAN: I want to make sure we're clear --
SPICER: I think that we need to grow as a party through addition, not subtraction. We need to reach out and talk about why our party is better, why our values are better, why the solutions we offer are contrary to the other side. We need to talk about things like veterans, ISIS and terror, and protect the unborn, something no Democrat talked about last night on the stage. We have an opportunity this week to once again showcase our party in contrast to the other party. I hope our candidate use that opportunity.
BOLDUAN: What are the chances that someone's hands are brought up in this next one?
SPICER: I'll continue to place my bets on Powerball?
BERMAN: Sean Spicer, not putting his hands anywhere near that one.
BERMAN: Sean Spicer, thanks so much.
BOLDUAN: Sean, thank you.
SPICER: Thank you.
BERMAN: We appreciate it.
No secret right now that Rubio is going all in, in the state of Florida, but Cruz smells blood there. Hear what these two rivals are doing in a showdown that could really decide the nomination.
BOLDUAN: Plus, moments from now, front runner, Donald Trump, will speak live. See someone warming up the crowd. We'll see what he responds to today. Likely, he'll respond to Cruz's surge and double down on all of the names he like to call Rubio, and his calls for Rubio to drop out. Stand by for that. We'll be right back.
[11:26:34] BOLDUAN: As we hear from Donald Trump, let's turn to the man closely nipping at his heels, Ted Cruz. He scored two decisive wins on Saturday bringing his delegate count -- look at the delegate map -- to 302, closely behind Trump.
BERMAN: Both front runners pushing others to exit the race so they can turn this into a two-man race, a one-on-one dual.
Let's bring in Brent Bozell, founder and president of the Media Research Center, and a Ted Cruz surrogate.
Mr. Bozell, Brent, thanks so much for being with us.
Let me throw a word out, see if you like the sound of it: Cruz-mentum.
BRENT BOZELL, FOUNDER & PRESIDENT, THE MEDIA RESEARCH CENTER: I love it. I love it. Yeah, and it's definitely there, no question about it. He won the two states he won, he won resoundingly, whereas, the two races Trump won, he eked out. Cruz raised $1.5 million on Saturday alone. He has momentum. And it's time for Marco Rubio to say it's been a good run, but there's no way I'll make it. What we'd like to see if Rubio throw his support behind Ted Cruz.
BOLDUAN: It was a big Saturday night, but let's talk about the path forward. A lot of smart minds are saying the math and the map going forward does not look good for Ted Cruz, only getting harder for him. There's really only one state to have a caucus left.
BOZELL: But, Kate, nobody said he'd win these states on Saturday either. I thought it was interesting, I heard a media report say when it was over, well, everybody expected him to win. That's another thing, nobody expected him to win. Trump was expected to run the board. Cruz will be -- his momentum is getting stronger by the day. In a two-man race, what will happen is people will realize if Trump is the nominee, get ready for President Clinton. He can't beat Clinton, which is why more and more people are taking a second look at Ted because they know he can beat Clinton.
BERMAN: You mention Rubio. Let's turn the focus to that. Mitt Romney, the last nominee, said he could understand -- Republicans should think about voting for Marco Rubio in Florida, think about voting for John Kasich in Ohio, and voting for Ted Cruz in states where he will be strong. A lot of people in the broader "Never Trump" network are upset that Ted Cruz is opening up campaign offices in Florida and looks like he may compete there. Is it a mistake for Ted Cruz to try to compete in Florida, perhaps taking votes from Rubio?
BOZELL: No, because this needs to be a Cruz/Trump campaign. If it's a one-on-one, Cruz wins. If it's bifurcated, spit with Kasich and Rubio and Cruz, they split the vote and Trump becomes the nominee. I love Mitt Romney but he really doesn't have a good track record for making predictions on what ought to happen in presidential campaigns.
BOLDUAN: Who should -- it doesn't look like any time soon -- Rubio's campaign has said absolutely, no, we're not dropping out. Where should the focus be now for Cruz? Should he focus on Rubio or do you think he should focus on Trump?