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THE SITUATION ROOM
Interview With RNC Communications Director Sean Spicer; Trump Denying Reality?; Clinton Leading Trump in New Poll; Trump Sticks to Claims of 'Rigged Election'; Iraq: 100 ISIS Fighters Killed in 24 Hours. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired October 24, 2016 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: "We're winning." Trump dismisses the polls as phony, claiming he's poised to beat Hillary Clinton and defeat a system he keeps describing as rigged. Is the Trump camp and the Republican Party in touch with the reality of the race? I will ask the Republican Party's chief strategist.
Looking ahead. While Clinton works to turn out the vote, we're told she's already working on her presidential transition to-do list. Is she being prudent or overconfident?
And advancing on ISIS. The terrorists are setting toxic fires as coalition portions push within miles of Mosul. We're getting new information about this pivotal battle in Iraq and the secret tactic that helped protect U.S. troops.
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: The breaking news tonight, our new snapshot of the presidential race. Hillary Clinton holding a five-point lead over Donald Trump in the just-released CNN/ORC national poll.
Both candidates consolidating support heading among their core supporters into the final two weeks of the campaign. Tonight, Trump says the polls are phony and part of the rigged system he's railing against. He's talking optimistically about winning, while his campaign manager has publicly admitted that Trump is behind.
We're standing by for Trump's final event of the day in Florida. Clinton, meanwhile, is getting an assist today from someone she praises for getting under Trump's skin. That would be Senator Elizabeth Warren. Warren played on Trump's now famous debate jab at Clinton, telling New Hampshire voters that "nasty women" have had it with guys like Donald Trump, all this as sources tell CNN that Clinton is thinking beyond the election already, stepping up plans for a transition to the presidency, assuming she wins the White House.
A lot to discuss with the Republican National Committee's chief strategist and communications director Sean Spicer. You see him there. He's standing by, along with our correspondents and analysts as we cover all the news breaking right now.
Up first, let's go to our political reporter, Sara Murray, with more on our new poll and Trump's swing through Florida.
Sara, what's the latest?
SARA MURRAY, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, Donald Trump is certainly trying to sprint through to the finish. He's scheduled to hold five events here in Florida today.
This is a pivotal battleground state where the race is tight. But as for the polls, like our new CNN poll that show Donald Trump trailing, he says this is all just part of the rigged system.
MURRAY (voice-over): Donald Trump is barrelling his way through the Sunshine State, spitting fire at his latest enemy, the polls.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: How is Trump doing? Oh, he's down. They are polling Democrats. The system is corrupt, rigged and it's rigged and it's broken. And we're going to change it.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
MURRAY: Two weeks until Election Day, Trump is trailing Hillary Clinton in battleground states across the country. But he's not buying it.
TRUMP: These are what they call dark polls. They are phony polls put out by phony media, and I will tell you what. All of us are affected by this stuff. And what they do is try and suppress the vote. This way, people don't go out and vote. But we're winning this race. I really believe we're winning.
MURRAY: A statement not only in direct contradiction with credible polls, but also Trump's own campaign manager.
KELLYANNE CONWAY, TRUMP CAMPAIGN MANAGER: We are behind. We feel that with Hillary Clinton under 50 percent in some of these places, even though she has run a very traditional and expensive campaign, that we have a shot of getting those undecided voters that somehow have said, I know who Hillary Clinton is. I don't want to vote for her.
MURRAY: Over the weekend, Trump traveled to Gettysburg to make his closing argument.
TRUMP: We will drain the swamp in Washington, D.C., and replace it with a new government of, by, and for the people. I'm asking the American people to rise above the noise and the clutter of our broken politics.
MURRAY: But the GOP nominee muddled his own message by beginning his speech, making headlines with an alternate plan if he wins the White House to sue all the women who have accused him of sexual misconduct. At last count, that's nearly a dozen.
TRUMP: Every women lied when they came forward to hurt my campaign. Total fabrication. The events never happened, never. All of these liars will be sued after the election is over.
MURRAY: And today, Trump is mocking the adult performer who accused him of unwanted sexual advances a decade ago.
TRUMP: One said, he grabbed me on the arm. And she's a porn star. Now, you know, this one that came out recently, he grabbed me and he grabbed me on the arm. Now, I'm sure she's never been grabbed before.
MURRAY: Amid growing concerns about the GOP's ability to keep the majority in the Senate, Trump also made a rare pitch for Republicans down the ballot.
TRUMP: Get out and vote. And that includes helping me reelect Republicans all over the place. I hope they help me, too.
MURRAY: But even if everyone agrees with his take on these four very competitive battleground states...
TRUMP: I actually think we're winning. We're up in Iowa, we're up in Iowa, we're doing great in North Carolina, I think we're doing great in Florida. I think we're going to really -- I think we're going to win Florida big.
MURRAY: Those four alone will not be enough to deliver a victory in November.
MURRAY: Now, I have spoken to a number of Republicans who tell me they believe this message from Donald Trump, the drain the swamp, the term limits message, is effective, and they're a little confused about why he didn't start it months earlier.
But they say even if he continues to hammer home that message, they're not convinced he can turn around his steep polling deficit in as many battleground states as he needs to do clinch a victory on November 8 -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Sara, thank you, Sara Murray reporting for us.
We're standing by, by the way, to hear from Donald Trump. He has a rally that is going to be beginning shortly in Tampa, Florida. We will have coverage of that. Stand by for that.
I want to go to our senior White House correspondent, Jim Acosta. He's on the scene for us at that rally.
Jim, Trump stepping up his attacks against the news media even more so today, right? JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf.
Donald Trump earlier today took his demonization of the news media one step further. In the past, he has described reporters covering his rallies as disgusting and dishonest.
Just earlier today, I should say, he described them as criminals. Here's what he had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: The media isn't just against me. They're against all of you. That's really what they're against. They're not against me. They're against what we represent.
Like Hillary Clinton, they look down on the hardworking people of the country. That's what's happened. The media is entitled, condescending, and even contemptuous of the people who don't share their elitist views.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA: Now, also in those comments, Wolf, he described members of the process crooks and thieves. All of this rhetoric is starting to whip up the crowd at these rallies really against the news media. Just a few moments ago, a woman hit me with her sign.
Routinely at these rallies, we're hearing chants of "CNN sucks." I apologize for having to use that language. But, Wolf, for those Republicans who are dissatisfied with the coverage of this campaign, the Trump campaign has an answer. They just announced a little white ago that on Donald Trump's Facebook page, they're going to be holding coverage of the campaign on their own, every night at 6:30.
They're promising campaign coverage and their first broadcast, if you want to call it that, on Donald Trump's Facebook page is later on tonight -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Because there is some suspicion he's already thinking if he loses of starting what they call Trump TV. Is this a precursor? What are you hearing about that?
ACOSTA: They're not calling it Trump TV, but it sure sounds it, Wolf.
But instead of journalists or anchors or reporters hosting the coverage, they are members of the campaign, senior strategists, that sort of thing, nothing resembling what anybody would consider to be sort of an independent news media. This is straight from Trump Tower, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Jim Acosta over there at the Trump rally, thanks very much.
I want to bring in the Republican National Committee's chief strategist and communications director, Sean Spicer.
Sean, thanks very much for joining us. SEAN SPICER, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR:
Good evening, Wolf.
BLITZER: Don't tell me you're comfortable with Donald Trump's attacks on Jim Acosta and other working reporters who are simply trying to do their job at these events. I assume you're pretty upset about that, as so many of us are.
SPICER: Well, Violence is never acceptable, whether it's at a reporter or any other human being. So, all violence should be denounced.
But, ironically, it was Hillary Clinton's campaign, as we found out in a video today, that's been part of an effort with the DNC to incite violence at rallies, Trump rallies. The videos that came out today show that there was a coordinated effort from high up in the Democratic operative world between the DNC and Hillary Clinton to incite violence.
So, I actually am somewhat shocked that that hasn't been covered more, considering all of the faux outrage from the Clinton campaign over some of the things that have gone on. The idea that they were part of a process and potentially that it went as high as Secretary Clinton herself, according to these videos, the lack of coverage of this and the questions that need to get asked and the answers that need to come should be almost the top story tonight, as far as I'm concerned.
BLITZER: Well, we haven't confirmed those videos.
But I will say this. When you hear some of the things that uttered at these Trump rallies and the threats that are made at the working news media, the reporters, the photographers, the journalists who are there, it gets pretty scary from time to time.
I know you have been there, I know you have heard it, and I know you want it to tamp down. Don't you think Donald Trump should tell the people at these rallies, look, these guys are just doing their jobs?
SPICER: I think, look, Donald Trump has a message to get out. Again, I don't think violence has its place in political discourse.
Equally, I think Hillary Clinton should answer the questions about whether or not her campaign and the DNC were actively paying operatives to incite violence at rallies. That to me seems like a very, very big question that deserves an answer.
BLITZER: And it's worthy of reporting, to be sure. And we will follow up.
Sean, you have been doing this for a long time. You're the chief strategist for the RNC. Do you acknowledge right now that Trump is behind in the polls?
SPICER: In some states, sure. And in some states, he's ahead. But we have a battleground state strategy to get to 270 electoral votes, and I feel very comfortable with where we are right now and the momentum that this movement has to propel us to victory.
BLITZER: What is your pathway, Sean, to victory? Which battleground states do you project you will win?
SPICER: I think we will win Florida, Ohio, Nevada, Iowa. I think we will take New Hampshire, Maine too.
If we add up all of those, and I'm just a little off on the math right now, and North Carolina, that gets us right into there. And then we have got states like Pennsylvania, Michigan, Virginia, others that I think are traditionally blue states.
But the interesting thing about the map this cycle, unlike last cycle, is that states that Obama won twice, you look at where Trump is playing in, whether it's Nevada, Iowa, Florida, Virginia, New Hampshire, Maine too, states that were twice carried by Obama, it's Trump that in fact has expanded the map and given additional paths to 270 that we didn't have last cycle.
BLITZER: Clarify, because it's obviously been a sensitive issue over these past few days. What are the grounds, under what circumstances would Donald Trump not concede?
SPICER: Well, I think, if it's a decisive victory, he is going to concede.
I think he reserves his right, as any candidate should, as Al Gore did, to make sure that, if it's a close race, that he can utilize the laws that exist to ensure that there's a recount and every vote is counted properly, whether that's military ballots or other absentee- type ballots.
But I think he's going to make sure that, despite a lot of pundits and media types proclaiming this race over, that every American in fact has an opportunity to vote and have their voice heard.
BLITZER: Do you think the U.S. election system is rigged?
BLITZER: Because Trump keeps using that word rigged. You hear it over and over. You heard it again today, the system is rigged, the system is rigged.
SPICER: Yes, right.
BLITZER: That doesn't spread a lot of confidence about our democratic process, does it?
SPICER: No, but I think there is a concern that he has, as someone who doesn't run for office, and it's understandable. Obviously, a lot of people support this, which is that you have a lot
of folks in the media, frankly, and a lot of pundits who have proclaimed the race over and said Hillary is up this much, the race is over. She's beginning her transition, when, in fact, again, even your own poll shows today us down five.
You in your previous segment a few moments ago talked about that we're up in a couple of these key battleground states and it's close in others. I think that what we want to do is be encouraging people to vote, to get involved in the process, not declaring this race over.
And when you look at a situation that broke today, where you see that Terry McAuliffe, one of the Clinton's longest-time aides, is helping to funnel money to the deputy director's wife who is seeking the Democratic nomination for state Senate in Virginia, it's a little shady to see $500,000 going to a candidate's wife, when the deputy director is personally overseeing the Hillary Clinton scandal.
BLITZER: You're referring to the story in "The Wall Street Journal," which I read very, very closely.
This woman was running for, what, the state legislature at the time. At the time, her husband was an FBI official. He was not in charge of that investigation. And she was a Democrat. She eventually lost the election. But she was a Democrat. What's wrong with a Democratic governor giving money to a Democratic candidate for office?
SPICER: She was a first-time candidate running against an incumbent state senator, and they funneled $500,000 to her.
That's a pretty big chunk of change for someone with no political experience and again who just -- whose husband just happens to be the number three and eventually number two person at the FBI.
I think -- but the problem, Wolf, is this. It's a pattern. Over and over again for the last 30 years, we have seen that Hillary Clinton has a level of one set of rules for her and one for everyone else. This Clinton Foundation, over and over again, we have seen deals, whether it's...
SPICER: ... or Haiti.
BLITZER: Sean, I will point out, and I want to move on, that Donald Trump is a first-time candidate with no political experience either. He's doing pretty well right now.
This woman did not do all that well, but Donald Trump is doing pretty well right now. He got the Republican presidential nomination.
SPICER: Right. Hillary Clinton didn't get it -- Hillary Clinton did pretty well on that deal, I will tell you that.
BLITZER: Yes, all right, let's talk a little bit about draining the swamp.
We keep hearing Donald Trump ask the American people to drain the swamps, the swamp. He's referring to what's going on here in Washington.
As you know, the Republicans have the majority in the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. When he says drain the swamp, does he want to get rid of all these Republicans who have been around for a long time as well?
SPICER: No, I think he wants to set up a set of rules.
Republicans since 1994 have been talking about passing term limits and giving the American people more say in what is going on. I think when you look at the government the way it's been run right now, where you have the IRS going off on random tangents against conservative groups, VA abominably running a program where veterans are waiting and dying for care, a government that is unbelievably unresponsive, I think what he wants to do is set up a system where can he bring in fresh blood and make sure that Washington is starting to pay attention to the frustrations and concerns of the American people.
BLITZER: Well, the Republicans who have been around for three terms, five terms, eight terms, 10 terms, does he want them out? Because he wants term limits, but does he want these people no longer to run? We're talking about Republicans now.
I think it's not a unilateral disarmament. He wants to set up a system by which both parties will assure that fresh blood comes in, that we have some turnover and some citizen-type legislators that get brought in.
So it's not a question of one part or another. It's a question of making sure that we create a system that's bringing in people with private sector experience and a better understanding of what's being -- of the concerns and frustrations and needs and solutions that the American people are looking for.
BLITZER: All right, so let me just get -- you're the chief strategist for the Republican National Committee. Is the RNC in favor of what Trump is proposing, term limits for members of the House and Senate?
SPICER: Yes, it's in our platform.
BLITZER: So, you're with him on that.
All right, Sean, I want you to stand by. We have more to discuss. We will take a quick break. We will be right back.
BLITZER: We're following the breaking news.
A just-released CNN/ORC poll shows Hillary Clinton holding a five- point lead over Donald Trump among likely voters nationwide.
We're back with the Republican Party's chief strategist and communications director, Sean Spicer.
Sean, as you know, several Republicans who unendorsed Donald Trump have now re-endorsed him. We're talking about some like Senators John Thune of South Dakota, Deb Fischer of Nebraska, Mike Crapo of Idaho.
Does Donald Trump really want the endorsements of these senators who had originally earlier abandoned him?
SPICER: Look, you saw him earlier today. You played a clip.
He wants every Americans' support. He will take it from wherever he can get it. The more unified we are as a Republican Party, great, the more independents and soft Democrats we can pick up. But, frankly at this point, I think he understands that most Americans right now are looking for change.
There's a huge contrast between his message of change and 30 years of Hillary Clinton's message of the status quo and the establishment. Look, there's a closing argument that is coming down. He laid out an agenda for his first 100 days.
But more than anything, the Hillary Clinton campaign has tried to sell Donald Trump as the risky choice. And I think what has gotten overlooked is she actually has the record of risk right now, whether it's Russia, the failed Russia reset, her actions in Libya and Syria, her handling of classified information.
Over and over again, when given the opportunity to make tough choices, Hillary Clinton has proven the tough -- that she's had the risky choice, the failed choice. I think we have to continue to push that narrative out there, and then his positive agenda for the first 100 days as we go forward.
BLITZER: If he wins the election, is he in favor of Paul Ryan staying on as speaker of the House?
BLITZER: In Gettysburg, in this big speech he delivered over the weekend, when he announced what he's going to do in his first 100 days, as you know, he opened his speech with a lengthy chunk threatening to sue all the women who have accused him of sexual misconduct.
Should he be threatening these women?
SPICER: Well, I think the more that we focus on the issues and the contrasts, as I was talking about earlier, the better.
I think this race is coming down to a message of change. And the more that he can talk about on issue after issue, whether it's national security, immigration, health care, education, early child care, where he differs from her, the change that he will bring to Washington, that's where I think that most of the voters right now, those who are still frankly undecided, are looking for.
The more we can keep the focus on that, the better, because he has the message that's resonating with the majority of Americans.
BLITZER: But he sort of stepped on his own message, didn't he, by opening up talking about something totally unrelated, going ahead and threatening to sue these women who have come forward. That was a mistake, right? He should have just gone to the 100 days, talk about substantive domestic economic issues, national security issues, this is what I'm going to do as president, not open it up with 10 minutes on these sexual allegations.
SPICER: Well, I think, frankly, he feels aggrieved, that he wants to protect his good game, and make sure that people understand that he's not just sort of letting it go, that he's going to fight to make sure that he's proven innocent on this.
But then he got right to the point those areas that I enumerated where he's going to bring change to Washington on a whole host of issues.
BLITZER: Sean Spicer, thanks very much for joining us.
SPICER: You bet, Wolf. Thank you.
BLITZER: Sean Spicer is the chief strategist, communications director for the RNC.
Just ahead, Senator Elizabeth Warren teams up with Hillary Clinton, using Donald Trump's notorious debate insult to fire up women voters and their support for Democrats.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Get this, Donald. Nasty women are tough. Nasty women are smart. And nasty women vote.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: The breaking news tonight, our exclusive now CNN/ORC poll shows Hillary Clinton five points ahead of Donald Trump nationally just two weeks before Election Day.
Let's get to our panel. Gloria Borger, what, it's 49 percent for Hillary Clinton, 44 percent
for Donald Trump. Can Trump make it up over the next 15 days?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Sure. This is an election that is not -- it's not over. Anything can happen. I think he needs -- it would be unprecedented in a way, but -- and he needs some kind of structural change to make this up.
[18:30:06] But there are a few things that caught my eye, Wolf, in the internal of our polling. And these are his problems.
Temperament, 2-1 Hillary Clinton has the temperament to be president.
BLITZER: Better temperament?
BORGER: Better temperament.
Commander in chief question, who could be commander in chief, Hillary Clinton is up 15 points on the commander in chief.
And then when you look at the demographics of the country, particularly college-educated white voters, we've been talking about that a lot during this election. Republicans have not lost with college-educated white voters since 1956. Keep that in mind. Romney won those voters by six points. And Trump is losing them by 11 points.
So he's got to make in-roads with college-educated voters. And the way to do that is to talk about issues, not about himself so much and his own problems but about the issues, because that might have some resonance with voters. When he start talking about draining the swamp, or he's, you know -- that -- you know, being anti- establishment, being the outsider, that's what he needs to focus on if he's going to make any headway.
BLITZER: I think he was slightly ahead in our new poll when it comes to the economy.
BORGER: Yes, he was.
BLITZER: If it's "the economy, stupid," that would be good news for him.
BORGER: Right. And he -- so he needs to sort of focus on the areas where he actually does well, and -- and he hasn't been doing that so far.
BLITZER: And it doesn't help him when he starts a big speech in Gettysburg over the weekend on the first 100 days of a Trump presidency by going after the women who have come forward and made these allegations of sexual misconduct toward him.
Today, he implied that one accuser, the 11th accuser, couldn't be trusted, because she probably had been grabbed before; she's an adult film star. Does that complicate matters for him? DAVID SWERDLICK, ASSISTANT EDITOR, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Well, this
one isn't complicated. It just further drives this narrative that, one, like you said, he's not focused on the issues, and two, he is alienating voters in general with this issue but particularly women. CNN/ORC, he's down by double digits among women.
And one of the reasons is that, look, Wolf, you expect him to deny the charges. What you don't expect him to do, if he's being a smart politician, is to blame the women by saying, "Maybe she's been grabbed before" or talk about the fact that, "Oh, well, I wasn't attracted to one of the accusers anyway." That is part of his problem. It's not nearly that he's saying, "I didn't do it."
BLITZER: If he sticks to the issues, he's better off than dealing with these -- these other matters. But sometimes he can't help himself. He's being attacked, so he attacks right back.
SWERDLICK: He's running for president, and yet it looks like he's trying to litigate these charges, using that time.
BLITZER: Rebecca, he says he doesn't believe in these new polls that are out. He tweeted this today, quote, "Major story that the Dems are making up phony polls in order to suppress the Trump. We are going to win." What's the strategy with a tweet like that?
REBECCA BERG, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, part of it is self- preservation, right? Trump thinks very highly of himself and his brand; and part of his candidacy is based on him looking like a winner. And so when the polls don't reflect that -- we've seen him over the course of this election cycle cite the polls at all of his rallies to give himself the sense of being a winner. When the polls don't reflect that, it becomes a lot more challenging for him to sell that message.
But it's also about voter enthusiasm. If your supporters or potential supporters don't think you have any chance to win this election, how does that affect turnout on election day? It could depress turnout, and that would be a major concern for Donald.
BLITZER: He tweeted also today, Ryan Lizza, on the Kurdish/Iraqi military offensive designed to liberate Mosul, the second largest city in Iraq, from ISIS, from the terrorists. He said this: "The attack on Mosul is turning out to be a total disaster. We gave them months of notice. The U.S. is looking so dumb. Vote Trump and win again."
This operation has been underway for a week or ten days. It's really only the beginning. This is a liberation of a city of a million people, and there are a lot of ISIS terrorists there. So it's not -- it's going to take a while.
RYAN LIZZA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, I mean, his analysis of how that operation is going is at odds with most of the news accounts. I mean, it's obviously not a cake walk; but it's not what he's saying.
It also points to the fact that he's so at odds with how other Republicans talk about something like this. I could not imagine another Republican like John McCain or Paul Ryan talking about a U.S. -- maybe not a U.S.-led operation or a...
LIZZA: ... U.S.-backed operation where we have an important role here, talking it down, talking about it as a disaster in the middle of the operation.
I mean, all of this, all of these things, all of these errors go back to that statistic that Gloria mentioned about temperament. At the end of the day, the Hillary -- Hillary Clinton's campaign, their -- their strategy was to disqualify Trump as a possible presidential candidate. Nothing else matters, none of the other policy stuff matters if you convince voters that he doesn't have the temperament to be president, if he's unfit to be president. That has been Clinton's strategy from day one. And these final polls are showing that it's working: 2-1, voters are saying he's not fit to be president. Doesn't matter what you say about anything else if that's the case.
[18:35:09] BLITZER: But Gloria, I want to talk about foreign policy in a fun way. "Saturday Night Live" poked some fun at Trump when it comes to his style of rhetoric when it comes to foreign policy. I'll play the little clip.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ALEC BALDWIN, ACTOR (AS DONALD TRUMP): First off, Mosul is sad. And we're going after Mosul because ISIS is in Mosul. But she created ISIS, and Iran should write us a letter of thank you, because Iran is taking Iraq. And so we're going to Mosul, and Iran's going to write us a letter of -- listen, where Aleppo is a disaster, and Iran is Iraq, and with Mosul is ISIS and...
TOM HANKS, ACTOR (AS FOX NEWS ANCHOR CHRIS WALLACE): Mr. Trump, Mr. Trump, we have to move on.
BALDWIN: Oh, thank God.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Funny stuff. But that kind of humor, it does have an impact out there, doesn't it?
BORGER: Well, it does have an impact. It goes into the commander in chief -- the commander in chief question. It may be why Hillary Clinton is up 15 points on that.
Getting back to Mosul, how do you move 40,000 troops around in secret? He keeps saying, you know, "We have to keep this secret. You have to" -- it's a military operation. So I think that -- that this doesn't give people any confidence in him as a -- as a military leader.
Having said all of this, let us just say that Donald Trump has a base of support that is rock solid. But he has not done much during this general election to add to it. He only seems to subtract from it. And I think what we're seeing is Republicans trying to get to him, his own staff trying to get to him, telling him, "Stick to the issues that brought you here. Do that, and maybe you can -- you can build your coalition and win in those battleground states."
SWERDLICK: When you get to some of these issues like Mosul, I think, you know, obviously "Saturday Night Live" was a comic rendering...
SWERDLICK: ... but in the actual debate, the way he talked about it, it gave the sense that he had advisers in his ear giving him talking points on issues that he had not really thought through.
BORGER: Not his comfort -- not his comfort...
BLITZER: Not an easy subject to discuss. It's very sensitive subject but critically important.
All right, guys, stay with us. Just ahead, is Hillary Clinton already planning ahead for a transition to the White House? We're getting new information that's coming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now. We'll be right back.
[18:42:02] BLITZER: More now on tonight's breaking news. Hillary Clinton enjoying a five-point lead over Donald Trump in our exclusive new CNN/ORC poll.
Our senior political correspondent, Brianna Keilar, is covering the Clinton campaign for us. Brianna, Hillary Clinton is now trying to help fellow Democrats take control of the U.S. Senate.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: She is, Wolf. It's a sign of just how confident she and her team are that she has a lock on that 270 electoral votes that she needs. We're seeing her shift focus here in recent days to help other Democrats also on the ballot.
KEILAR (voice-over): Hillary Clinton making a campaign swing through New Hampshire.
HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: We are more than our disagreements, we Americans. There is so much more than unites us than divides us.
KEILAR: And she's got help from liberal darling Elizabeth Warren, senator from neighboring Massachusetts, who took aim at Donald Trump for this remark at the last debate.
TRUMP: Such a nasty woman.
WARREN: Get this, Donald. Nasty women are tough. Nasty women are smart. And nasty women vote. And on November 8, we nasty women are going to march our nasty feet to cast our nasty votes to get you out of our lives forever! KEILAR: But for many Americans, election day has come and gone. According to an analysis from Catalysts by CNN, 5.1 million votes have already been cast across the U.S.
As Clinton and her campaign are feeling confident about her path to the White House, she's focusing more on helping Democrats take back the Senate, campaigning here in the Granite State with Governor Maggie Hasan, who is leading in the polls as she looks to unseat incumbent Republican Kelly Ayotte.
CLINTON: Unlike her opponent, she has never been afraid to stand up to Donald Trump. She knows he shouldn't be a role model for our kids or for anybody else, for that matter.
KEILAR: It's a familiar refrain Clinton is using. Over the weekend in North Carolina, she rallied voters for Deborah Ross as she tries to take on Senator Richard Burr.
CLINTON: Unlike her opponent, Deborah has never been afraid to stand up to Donald Trump. Because she knows he's wrong for North Carolina, wrong for America. And people of courage and principle of both parties have stood up to reject his dangerous, divisive agenda.
KEILAR: Clinton is steadily moving her focus beyond Donald Trump, upping her planning for what she believes will be a transition to the presidency, a source close to Clinton tells CNN. But Clinton denies she's getting ahead of herself.
CLINTON: You know, I'm a little superstitious about that. We've got a transition operation going.
[18:45:00] And I haven't really paid much attention to it yet because I want to focus on what our first task is, and that is convincing as many Americans as possible to give us a chance to serve.
KEILAR: Now, here in New Hampshire, Donald Trump has been a drag for the Republican incumbent Kelly Ayotte, Wolf. I said there that Maggie Hassan is leading. That was not always the case. As Donald Trump started to struggle in the polls, we've seen the same thing with Kelly Ayotte. And so, Hillary Clinton is hoping that she can help pull it out for Maggie Hassan, a chance that perhaps they didn't think they would have before.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, Democrats really want that majority in the U.S. Senate.
Brianna, thank you very, very much.
Gloria, is Hillary Clinton's support for these Democrats in very tight races working?
BORGER: Well, we don't know yet. But I think at this point, they're feeling so confident that they're thinking about governing. And if you look at the --
LIZZA: Even though she said she wasn't --
BORGER: If you look -- even though she says she's not thinking about the transition. When you look at the last 7 1/2 years of this president, you've seen a hallowing out of Democrats at the state legislative level. They've lost 900 state legislative seats. Governors are, what, almost 3-1 Republican governors.
So, what they're trying to do, in addition to taking back the Senate and getting close to taking back the House, they're trying to take advantage of this opportunity. They believe that they that advantage right now by trying to get people to vote straight Democratic.
Ironically, Republicans want ticket splitting to occur. Democrats are saying no, no, just vote all Democrats.
BLITZER: And it's interesting, because a lot of these Democrats who are in these tight races, they want to be seen with Hillary Clinton on this day. Maggie Hassan today, the Democrat governor of New Hampshire, running against Kelly Ayotte, she wants to be seen with Hillary Clinton. A lot of times, some of the Republicans candidates who are in tight races, they don't necessarily want to be seen with Donald Trump.
SWERDLICK: And that' the change we've seen in the race and the polls in the last month, especially during the debate season. Clinton is finishing strong, Trump isn't. And I think that's why.
Wolf, I just wanted to say that, I think one thing that's making it easier for Democrats right now is that there's no pretense really on either side about making this point about we need Congress, too. In past times, they would say, oh, we need unity after the election. But now, it's like, our side needs to control everything, or we won't be able to --
BORGER: But she's also calling Republicans on the phone and saying I can work with you and they're making that public. So, she's doing -- she's having both sides.
SWERDLICK: Both ways, yes.
BLITZER: And we're also seeing President Obama take an extraordinary role right now in going out there, not only trying to get Hillary Clinton elected but these down ballot candidates, as well.
LIZZA: Yes. Look, as Gloria pointed out, one of the most underappreciated stories of the Obama years has been the complete gutting of the Democratic Party at the state house level and gubernatorial level. A lot of Democrats have been critical of President Obama that he didn't focus enough on party building. He didn't focus enough on those down ballot races. His approval, according to the last Gallup poll is 57 percent. That is historically high for an outgoing president and he's using that political capital to help Hillary Clinton increase her numbers in Congress, and in the statehouses.
One of the projects that Obama has said he wants to work on after he leaves the White House is gerrymandering. He has a new appreciation about the Republican lock on the House of Representatives, and he wants to do something about it. And to do that, you've got to win statehouses.
BLITZER: You certainly do. You know, as far as transition teams are concerned, Rebecca Berg, we do note that Hillary Clinton's aides are saying, you know, they're working, moving forward. They're starting to think about cabinet positions, White House chief of staff.
Jason Miller, the senior communications adviser to Donald Trump, he says Chris Christie is still in charge of the transition team on the Republican side, on the Trump side. But we haven't seen much of Christie lately. He hasn't been on television a lot, but he's supposedly still in charge of the transition.
BERG: Supposedly he is. He does have his hands full, however. This Bridgegate proceeding is ongoing, the trials ongoing in New Jersey. He hasn't been called yet to participate in that. But that's certainly something that must be weighing on him personally, and affects him politically.
And at a moment when that is in the news, especially in New Jersey and New York, it's not necessarily an opportune time for the Trump campaign to have him out front as the face of the campaign. But he also hasn't really taken on that role recently for Donald Trump. It's not really clear why, because the transition team is not a full-time job. It must have been a decision that he or the Trump campaign made that he wasn't going to be the most effective messenger.
BORGER: Well, after the videotape was released, he didn't go to the debate shortly thereafter. And I was told by somebody who's close to Chris Christie that he didn't go for obvious reasons.
BLITZER: You're talking about the "Access Hollywood" video.
BORGER: The "Access Hollywood" tape. And I think, you know, you're right. Christie has problems but make no mistake about it -- both of these campaigns have detailed governments in planning.
[18:50:07] I mean, it would be malpractice to do anything other than do that.
BERG: And they're required to --
BORGER: They're required, they have to do it, they have funding from the federal government. And if Hillary Clinton --
BLITZER: They have offices here in Washington.
BORGER: Right. And Hillary Clinton says she's not thinks about it because she's superstitious, she is kind of superstitious. But if she's not thinking about it, every other Democrat is because they're thinking about how to proceed next.
LIZZA: And, frankly, it's more important -- Chris Christie has a pretty important role here, less likely obviously that Trump is going to be the next president, but still possible. If he is president, he's a new candidate, he's got a divided Republican Party.
Having a team in place ready to go is incredibly -
BORGER: Yes, we heard Jason Miller last hour, David, suggests, you know what, we'll worry about the transition after the election. Right now, we got other issues we got to worry about.
But this transition process, you know, they got to get ready for it if he's going to win the presidency, they have to be ready. People in the administration are assigned to brief them. The Clinton transition people, the Trump transition people, it's a very important part of a continuity of government, if you will.
SWERDLICK: Right, there's a short runway to get the government up and running especially as Brian said, he's never held office before, Donald Trump. So, you're going to have to rely on advisers like Christie, like other people to put those, I think, is it 3,000, 4,000 government appointees in place? Yes, I think that's right.
BLITZER: Cabinet members.
BLITZER: Obviously, it's a big deal.
All right, guys. Stay with us. Don't go too far away.
Just ahead, there's another important story we're following. Dozens of terrorist forces killed and hundreds of miles of territory reclaimed. There are critically important new developments tonight in the major military offensive against ISIS.
[18:56:26] BLITZER: There are new developments tonight in the battle to retake Iraq's second largest city from ISIS.
Our Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr is working the story for us.
Barbara, update our viewers on this critically important moment in this military offensive.
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Good evening, Wolf.
The Pentagon insists there is solid progress in that fight for Mosul, but that doesn't mean there aren't plenty of challenges coming down the road.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) STARR (voice-over): Kurdish Peshmerga forces and Iraqi units both firing heavy weapons on the advance, as they draw closer to Mosul from the northern and southeastern flanks. The closest forces now just ten miles from the city.
Defense Secretary Ash Carter wrapped up a visit to Iraq to check on the fighting.
ASHTON CARTER, DEFENSE SECRETARY: It is absolutely essential that we destroy ISIL in these cities of Mosul and Raqqah. However, even in Iraq and Syria, that doesn't end the campaign.
STARR: But in the Mosul area, there is progress. More than 100 ISIS militants killed in the last 24 hours, according to Iraqi commanders. Iraqi and Peshmerga forces reclaiming more than 300 square miles around Mosul from ISIS. U.S. military analysts are poring over valuable intelligence coming from the battlefield.
CARTER: We get more intelligence, more information about how they're operating, therefore, get new opportunities to attack external plotters.
STARR: ISIS operatives and family members have been leaving the city, heading west to Sinjar, many trying to cross into Syria, according to local tribal leaders.
Fighting is expected to intensify as troops close in on Mosul. For U.S. forces, ISIS is challenging their presence. The terrorists set a massive fire of sulfur pits causing a toxic plume. U.S. troops have been warned to wear masks.
In a classified incident near Mosul, the Air Force brought down in an unusual way an ISIS drone threatening U.S. forces.
DEBORAH LEE JAMES, AIR FORCE SECRETARY: Fairly quickly, we were able to bring it down. We brought it down through electronic measures.
STARR: CNN has learned that two Air Force planes brought it down by jamming its signals. The government contractor, Battelle, has already sold 100 of these drone jammers, a way to make sure U.S. military bases can be safe from drones carrying explosives.
STARR: Now, if you look just at the numbers on the battlefield, they're not in ISIS' favor right now. The U.S. estimates at the most, ISIS has about 5,000 fighters in Mosul, that would be the maximum they think they have. There's about 35,000 Iraqi and Kurdish Peshmerga fighters.
So, they hope even with all of ISIS' bombs and booby traps, those forces, those coalition forces can continue to make progress -- Wolf.
BLITZER: So, Barbara, one week into this military offensive, how long is it expected to last? STARR: So that's the big question, you know, because when you look at
it, still, they're making progress, but there's a lot of obstacles in the way, some of those physical obstacles. Nobody's really making any predictions yet.
You hear weeks, you hear months. The big unknown, there's 1 million people in Mosul, will they rise up against ISIS? Wolf?
BLITZER: We'll find out soon enough.
Barbara, thank you very much. Barbara Starr reporting.
That's it for me. Thanks very much for watching.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.