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CNN TONIGHT

GOP Debates Reviewed. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired September 18, 2015 - 22:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[22:00:19] DON LEMON, CNN TONIGHT SHOW HOST: A record-breaking 23 million people watched our CNN debate, and now on the night after, listen to what Donald Trump is saying in New Hampshire.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, (R) U.S. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The first thing I'm going to do is tell you if I'm elected president, I'm accepting no salary. OK. That's not a big deal for me.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: This is CNN Tonight. I'm Don Lemon. And we have all the must- see moments from the most-watched event in CNN's history. Who won, who lost and who will be the next to drop out?

This is the debate that's reshaping the republican race, and Donald Trump is not the only one in the spotlight.

Let's take a look at Hillary Clinton with our very own Wolf Blitzer in her first live TV interview from the campaign trail tonight.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WOLD BLITZER, CNN'S THE SITUATION ROOM SHOW HOST: Would you be a better president than Bill Clinton was as President of the United States?

HILLARY CLINTON, (D) U.S. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Oh, Wolf.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: But let's begin with our breaking news this evening. Donald Trump at an event in New Hampshire, and a moment that a shocking a whole lot of people. Trump decided to take questions from the audience. Unfortunately, for him the very first question was from a man with some very harsh words about Muslims.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFED MALE: We have a problem in this country. It's called Muslims. We know our current president is one. You know he's not even an American.

TRUMP: We need this question, this first question.

UNIDENTIFED MALE: But anyway, we have training camps growing who they want to kill us. That's my question, when can we get rid of them?

TRUMP: We'll be looking at a lot of different things. And you know, a lot of people are saying that and a lot of people are saying that bad things are happening out there. We're going to be looking at that and plenty of other things.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: CNN's Sara Murray was in the room for that. She joins me now. Sara, I'm interested as to what the reaction was. What was that moment like?

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, Don, this is the rub with Town Halls, right? You don't get to pick the questions and the campaign confirmed that they didn't screen them. And sometimes you get awkward questions like this one.

You know, it was quiet in the room. Donald Trump did not refuse the premise of the question; he just kind of went on and addressed the training camp issue. And so, the rest of the audience didn't really respond. Neither everyone sort of move, Don, to additional question.

Now, CNN's Dana Bash spoke with Trump's campaign manager who said that Donald Trump didn't hear the part about Obama being a Muslim. He only heard about the part about the training camps and that's what he's responding to.

But you see the video there, you see Donald Trump kind of interject at first when the man says the problem is Muslims and the man says Obama is a Muslim. You can kind of see Trump being taken a back like, really, this is the first question?

So, it's kind of hard to understand how he could not have heard that portion still responding. We're still trying to figure out what exactly is going on there.

But, you know, after that, it just kind of moved along like your normal Town Hall, Don.

LEMON: Yes. OK. So, we're going to discuss this with our panel in just a little bit. So, thank you very much. I appreciate that Sara Murray.

I want to bring in now Bob Beckel, a columnist for USA Today, Robert Costa of The Washington Post, and Kevin Madden who has worked with Mitt Romney's campaign among others, and CNN's chief political correspondent, Dana Bash.

Dana joins us now. Dana, Sara said you spoke with the campaign, and she gave part of what they said. Tell us what you heard from them.

DANA BASH, CNN'S CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. I spoke with Donald Trump's campaign manager who said that he is sure that Mr. Trump didn't hear the questioner specifically refer to the president as Muslim.

And that when he was responding, he was talking about the fact that, yes, we should look into training camps. But I'm not there. Sara Murray who is on at the standing reporter is on the ground so that's why I'm deferring to her about what it was like in the room.

I will just say, though, Don, that, you know, I actually was back in 2008 with John McCain in the room during a Town Hall when a voter now sort of famously asked him about the president being a Muslim and John McCain and push back.

LEMON: Hey, Dana, let's listen to it. Let's listen and then we'll talk about it. Here it is.

BASH: Oh, sure. Great. Great.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can't trust Obama. I have read about him, and he's not -- he's a -- he's an Arab. He is not...

JOHN MCCAIN, ARIZONA SENATOR: No, ma'am.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No?

MCCAIN: No, ma'am. He's a decent family man, citizen that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[22:05:04] LEMON: So, Dana, he handled that very well. The question is, did Donald Trump hear it? He heard it enough to respond to say, oh, this is the question I get like we don't really need or do we need this type of question?

So, he heard that part. So, it's interesting that he didn't hear the first part. So, just I'm assuming that, you know, I'll take him at his word. But even with what he said, did Donald Trump miss an opportunity to be statements man like, to be presidential by saying, no, the president is not a Muslim or that Muslims are good people.

They are -- many of them are American citizens and they live here and they are law-abiding citizens.

BASH: It's a great question because when John McCain had that moment, I was in the room for that in 2008, he kind of set the bar for what republicans are sort of expected to do when it comes to the idea that Obama isn't a Christian, as the president says.

He says I'm a Christian, I am not Muslim. And, you know, in the room at the time, there were a lot of boos. People didn't want John McCain to correct that woman. And that is because, you know, there are a lot of people in the republican electorate.

And I can let Kevin speak to this because, you know, he knows a lot more about the data that actually believe that Barack Obama is a Muslim. And in fact, our polling shows 43 percent of those responding who are republicans think he's a Muslim.

LEMON: It's unbelievable when that man stood up and said -- I cannot believe that there are people who still think that. You know, I know that Muslim remark jumped out to you, Robert, because you immediately tweeted about it and also you've gotten a response from Trump's campaign. What did they say to you?

ROBERT COSTA, THE WASHINGTON POST COLUMNIST: Well, first, Trump came out with his own statement tonight, and he said, instead of addressing the question about the training camps that was raised by the questioner or addressing the president's faith, he said the president himself is waging a war against Christians.

And in an interview I had Corey Lewandowski, the campaign manager, this is also the point Lewandowski criticized the press coverage of this. He said it's being overblown. And he said, Trump was addressing his concern with some conservative ranks that there are terrorist training grounds and groups within the United States.

LEMON: Bob Beckel, what's your response to this? You saw the moment.

BOB BECKEL, USA TODAY COLUMNIST: I'll tell you What's new? I mean, what did Donald Trump do? Does he ever answer a question like that? Of course, no. He left the guy do the dirty work, sat back and said, I don't know. We're going to look into it. We're going to get into there. He's going to look into everything.

I mean, this is a 'Trumpism' if there ever was one. Why is he going to correct a guy like that and be a statesman when he's been saying the same thing pretty much that that guy has said.

Let's remember, it was Trump who made the birth right thing a big issue for a lot of years. So, I'm not at all surprised fighting it a big deal. I think it's classic Trump.

LEMON: Kevin?

KEVIN MADDEN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, look. I mean, let's stipulate first that there's no party that has a -- has a monopoly on extreme rhetoric. I think both sides have it. I think Sara Murray made a really important point earlier that anything can happen when you have a Town Hall.

Donald Trump is learning that lesson now. I think Donald Trump has a lot of experience talking to people's anxieties and talking in a way that...

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Kevin, I don't disagree with you. I don't think anyone -- I think taking...

MADDEN: Hold on. I haven't...

LEMON: Let me finish and you can response. I think people are not taking... MADDEN: Let me finish my point.

LEMON: People are not taking offense to the question in that sense. I mean, many people and the questioner in that way. It's just the response. You don't know. People can say anything. we can't put together.

MADDEN: And that's where I was going.

LEMON: Yes.

MADDEN: That's where I was going with my answer. I think the big problem is that when you have a moment like that, that is unscripted, what happens is character and judgments are revealed.

LEMON: Right.

MADDEN: And we look back at the moment that Dana covered many years ago. John McCain's character and judgment passed the test. And I think if there's anything that a lot of voters are going to take away from this, and I'm not going to pass judgment on it. But I obviously disagreed with it the way he reacted. But some -- this will be a window into issues like character and judgment for a lot voters who witnessed that moment.

BECKEL: Kevin, just one, just one point.

MADDEN: Don.

BECKEL: I'm sorry.

LEMON: Go ahead, Bob.

BECKEL: Oh, good. Thank you. There's 120,000 voters who go to the caucuses in Iowa. The republican caucuses. I would bet you that 80 percent agree with the guy that asked the question. Now, I don't know if -- I've been in Iowa for five presidential races. And among the republican caucus goers, this is a very extreme group of people who do not believe that Obama is anything but the devil.

And they want him gone. And they do believe he wasn't born here. They do believe he's a Muslim. Now, they're wrong, obviously. But, you know, Trump -- in my own mind, this guy has grown as a politician. He knows how to let somebody else do his dirty work.

LEMON: Go ahead. Go ahead, Robert.

(CROSSTALK)

COSTA: Don, when you look...

MADDEN: I would disagree, I think that's a...

[22:09:59] COSTA: I would just say something real quick on the reporting side of this. So, when I spoke to Lewandowski tonight, Trump's campaign manager. I said to Corey, the key question here is that Donald Trump did not correct or respond to the assertion by the voter that President Obama is a Muslim.

And I said to Lewandowski, "What does Mr. Trump believe? Does he believe the president is a Muslim?"

BASH: Yes.

COSTA: Lewandowski response was that, "Mr. Trump speaks for mr. Trump." He did not give a direct answer to that question. That is what's going to linger with this controversy. Trump in his next interview will have to answer, does he believe -- if the president is a Muslim.

LEMON: Go ahead, Dana.

BASH: And if I can just add to that. I spoke to the same person to Mr. Trump's campaign manager and I said that very thing. Regardless of whether he heard it, what does Mr. Trump believe. And his answer to me was, that's not the issue. That's beside the point.

You know, sort of who cares and he went down the road of what, similar to what he said to Bob Costa, which is, this is the media making a big deal out of it.

LEMON: Do we say...

(CROSSTALK)

MADDEN: And by the way, as an operative, that's a cop-out for any campaign to say as a spokesman for a campaign, Mr. Trump speaks for Mr. Trump. That's your job in the campaign is to explain the posture and policies, the positions of your candidate.

BECKEL: Unless you don't want to correct it, Kevin.

MADDEN: I guess they're breaking the rules, but, you know.

LEMON: Yes.

BECKEL: It may be breaking the rules. Trump breaking the rules? My, God.

LEMON: Well, Kevin, you know, Robert said when I interrupted you, he said more articulately than I did, you know, why don't you just refute it, right? Because it's in the answer to the question and not necessarily the question. Do we still have Sara Murray there? Is Sara still there?

Sara, I want to speak to you what Bob Beckel said that some of the people who support -- some of the people just believe President Obama is the devil and that's in Bob's words.

When you are at these events with Donald Trump, what is it that like, what is the mood like, are people saying these sorts of things about the president?

MURRAY: I mean there certainly is a strong animosity toward Obama for many people who come to these events. But for most people you've talked to they feel like they can't trust Obama because of his policies.

Very few of them will come up to you and say that they don't think they can trust President Obama because they don't believe he was born here or because they believe he's a Muslim or something like that.

For the most part, they don't trust him on foreign policy, they don't think that he kept up with his campaign promises. I mean, I talk to a number of voters at this event who are actually democrats and are still deciding whether to support Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton.

So, I don't want to paint everybody who supports Donald Trump in this broad brush as people who have this sort of personal animosity toward Barack Obama.

LEMON: Yes.

MURRAY: Are there some of those people. I mean, clearly, and we heard from one of them tonight.

LEMON: Yes. Absolutely. Not everyone who supports him, you're exactly right.

So, thank you, everyone. Stick around. We're going to have much, much more to come here.

When we come back, the democrats have no intention of letting the GOP steal their thunder. Front runner Hillary Clinton is out on the trail today and hitting back. And what her critics said in last night's debate. You're going to hear from her. That's next.

[22:15:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: Back with me now on our political panel, Bob Beckel, Robert Costa, and Kevin Madden.

We were talking about an event -- talking about a comment and the way Trump handled it at a Town Hall in New Hampshire earlier. Listen to this and then we'll talk about it. Go ahead.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFED MALE: We have a problem in this country called Muslim. We know our current president is one. You know he's not even an American.

TRUMP: We need this question.

UNIDENTIFED MALE: But anyway, we have training camps growing. They want to kill us. That's my question. When can we get rid of them?

TRUMP: We're going to be looking at a lot of different things. And you know, a lot of people are saying that, and a lot of people are saying that bad things are happening out there. We're going to be looking at that and plenty of other things.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: OK. Robert, you're saying that Trump's camp is saying he didn't hear it. But he immediately reply soon as he said the first part, Donald Trump said, "Uh, we need this question as our first question."

So, he heard part of it. I mean, if you -- all you have to do is review the videotape. But my question is, what if the president was a Muslim. I mean what does it matter? Aren't Muslims Americans as well? Don't we have the right to religion in this country? So, what if he is a Muslim? He's not one. But, so, what's the big deal here, what's going on?

COSTA: Of course, every faith should be respected. The key political controversy here is that Trump did not correct the questioner. He did not even articulate whether he believes the president is a Muslim or not.

I spoke with Corey Lewandowski tonight, Trump's campaign manager. And when I asked Lewandowski what does Mr. Trump believe, he said, "Mr. Trump only speaks for Mr. Trump." I said to Lewandowski, the first thing Trump is going to be asking in his interview is what he believes on that question. That's going to linger over his campaign.

LEMON: The problem, we have a problem in this country with Muslims. Our current president is one, and he said how do we get rid of them, Kevin Madden. I mean, that is deeply disturbing.

MADDEN: Sure. And I think it's a comment that a lot of people would disagree with. And I disagree with some of the comments earlier that that's reflective of views within the party. So, I think there one of the things that I think was great about last night's debate was you saw on that stage 10 other candidates that should -- if they were asked that question they would have confronted it and they would have -- and they would have answered it very, very differently.

And that's one of the things that was great about last night was that so many of the other people in our party were on display. They were talking about policies, they were talking issues that matter. They were talking about their vision for the country.

And because of that, all of the republican voters out there who obviously would disagree with that one voter who made that statement are going to have a great choice of candidates, a great array of candidates to choose from.

LEMON: Bob, I want to move on but I want to ask you quickly. So, he, you know, Donald Trump and his campaign has said that he did not hear it.

[22:20:01] What do you think? Because you know he's going to respond to it. And I'm taking this way if he didn't hear it, he didn't hear it. How do you think he should move forward and respond?

BECKEL: Well, first of course, did he hear it? Of course he heard it. And let me just say one thing to Kevin. Nobody's painting a broad brush about republicans being anti Muslims. I was talking about 120,000 Iowa and caucuses goers. And among that crowd is a very...

(CROSSTALK)

MADDEN: Yes. And I thought it was a sweeping generalization that was erroneous and not backed up by a fact.

BECKEL: You did, you thought that was sweeping in a general note.

MADDEN: But that's your prerogative to make those types of...

(CROSSTALK)

BECKEL: Well, thank you very much. I'd suggest going to Iowa and check it out. But what does he do from here?

MADDEN: I have been to Iowa, and it's not true. So, go ahead, though.

BECKEL: OK. Well, I guess we have a fundamental disagreement about that.

MADDEN: We, do indeed.

BECKEL: Yes. And remember though, that the people that go to the Iowa caucus represent a small percentage of the republicans in Iowa.

But, anyway, look. The question is what does Trump do from here? Trump was not responsible for bailing out Obama on that particular question. Because there are people who believe that, and he will, I think, eventually back off the way he always does.

I mean, the guy says something and just a couple of days go by and then he backs in fills change his story. And we're starting to learn the M.O. of this guy. And it's surprising.

And I suspect that he'll try to work his way out of it some way. But in the meantime, the damage has probably been done to Obama among those people who believe that to be true.

LEMON: Gentlemen, thank you very much. I want you to stay with me again. Up next, Carly Fiorina is drawing a lot of praise for her debate performance taking on her rivals on stage not showing away from taking shots at Hillary Clinton.

[22:25:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: Hillary Clinton says she didn't get to watch all of last night's GOP debate, but she got name checked by the republican rivals and not in a good way.

The democratic front runner talked to our very own Wolf Blitzer today in her first live TV interview from the campaign trail. And Wolf joins me now.

Hi, Wolf. You know, Hillary Clinton took a lot of hits last night. Let's take a listen to one very important moment from that debate then we'll talk. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CARLY FIORINA, (R) U.S. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: So, as regards Planned Parenthood, anyone who has watched this videotape, I dare, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, to watch these tapes.

Watch a fully formed fetus on the table, its heart beating, its legs kicking while someone says we have to keep it alive to harvest its brain.

This is about the character of our nation. And if we will not stand up and force President Obama to veto this bill, shame on us.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Wolf, you got a response. What did she say?

BLITZER: Well, first of all, let me start to you were Planned Parenthood says that part of the video with that fetus in the table had nothing to do with Planned Parenthood. They said it was not an aborted fetus. They said that these guys who did the video, Planned Parenthood said they got it someplace else from some miscarriage, if you will.

I asked Hillary Clinton, though, if she had seen these very controversial videos. She didn't say she did but she did strongly defend Planned Parenthood. She strongly defended what the organization does for women and then she said this, Don. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON: What this is about is the fact that some of the Planned Parenthood facilities perform abortions, which is legal under the laws of the United States. I understand that the Republican Party and particularly the candidates we heard from last night, wish that were not the case.

I think it's important to sort out there's a lot of emotion. There's a lot of accusations that are being hurled about. I think it's important to sort out and try to actually figure out what is going on.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: And she also went on to really sharply condemn those republicans, especially the republican presidential candidates, Don, including the House Speaker John Boehner for not forcefully insisting that this notion of potentially shutting down the federal government to avoid this $500 million in federal funding for Planned Parenthood go away.

She said that would be a disaster basically. So, she was very forceful and strong in defending Planned Parenthood.

LEMON: Well, if I'm not mistaken, though, and as watching the interview, she didn't really take on Carly Fiorina specifically, did she?

BLITZER: No, she didn't. She didn't specifically go after Carly Fiorina, although Carly Fiorina in that debate and in almost all of her speeches directly goes after Hillary Clinton in very, very strong ways.

In fact, the other day, she almost came to Carly Fiorina's defense when Donald Trump was quoted in that Rolling Stones Magazine article about "Look at her face. Look at Carly Fiorina's face. Is that a face you want to be the face of the President of the United States," to which Hillary Clinton later said, you know, Donald Trump should start respecting women. So, in effect defending Carly Fiorina, but she didn't go after Carly Fiorina in the interview we had today.

LEMON: Let's talk about the person who is running against her on her side as a democrat, Bernie Sanders, beating her in New Hampshire. They're neck and neck in Iowa. Is she worried about that, Wolf?

BLITZER: I think she is. I think that she's becoming more transparent, that's her word. Right now she's doing more interviews, including this first live TV interview she did with me today.

You're seeing her more visible, especially now in these polls in New Hampshire and Iowa. Bernie Sanders is doing remarkably well. He's actually ahead in some of these polls. Of course, she's still ahead nationally among democrats. But in Iowa and New Hampshire, these first two contests, he's doing really well.

So, I think she is worried and she's getting more assertive, getting a little bit more aggressive. Not directly challenging him, not directly mentioning his name. Although she does say I'm a true democrat, I'm a real democrat, suggesting or at least implying he who is the independent senator from Vermont, socialist, self-declared socialist, if you will, maybe he's not a real democrat, not a true democrat.

So, there is a real implied criticism of him but not a whole lot of direct criticism.

[22:29:59] LEMON: Wolf Blitzer, thank you.

BLITZER: Thank you, Don.

LEMON: And one of the most noticeable exchanges during the debate was the face-off between Carly Fiorina and Donald Trump.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAKE TAPPER, GOP DEBATE MODERATOR: Trump said the following about you. Quote, "Look at that face. Would anyone vote for that? Can you imagine that? The face of our next president." Mr. Trump later said, he was talking about your persona, not your appearance.

CARLY FIORINA, U.S. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think women all over this country heard very clearly what Mr. Trump said.

(APPLAUSE) (END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Back with me now, Bob Beckel, Robert Costa, and Kevin Madden. OK, gentlemen. Bob first, a lot of people thought Carly Fiorina knocked it out of the park with that answer, what did you think?

BOB BECKEL, USA TODAY COLUMNIST: Well, I mean, you know, I think she did a good job. I mean, though, that there is a couple of things. I think that Fiorina winning this thing a big way is vastly overstated, number one.

One of the problems she has here is that she was with a group of people, all who were attacking Trump. Trump came out of that debate last night a little bloodied but not battled and somebody needed to take him on more directly.

I mean, this is the kind of time when you look at somebody square in the eye and say, instead of saying other women, you know, think that was a horrible thing to say, just look at him on a personal level and let him have it.

I've seen campaigns turn on one line. And I expected her to use to use whether it was some humor or some other things. But she went the other way.

And I also think that, look, Carly Fiorina, to stand up there and have the nerve to talk about that Planned Parenthood video when it's now been proven with virtually no question if that was not a Planned Parenthood facility is to me striking. It tells me a lot about her and what she's willing to do.

LEMON: Yes. Wolf Blitzer explained when Hillary said that or that video, that part of the video, excuse me, Planned Parenthood said was not part of Planned Parenthood. That was taken from somewhere else. So, Chris Christie had some fiery moments as well. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS CHRISTIE, (R) U.S. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, I'm as entertained as anyone by this personal back and forth about the history of Donald and Carly's career, for the 55-year-old construction worker out in that audience tonight who doesn't have a job, who can't fund his child's education. I got to tell you the truth, they could care less about your careers.

They care about theirs. Let's start talking about that on this stage and stop playing the games. John, I'm not done yet. Stop -- and stop please...

(CROSSTALK)

FIORINA: The track record in leadership is not a game. It's an issue in this election.

CHRISTIE: ... and Carly, listen. You can interrupt everybody else on this stage, you can't interrupt me. (END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Costa, did he bring some life back into his campaign?

ROBERT COSTA, THE WASHINGTON POST COLUMNIST: He did but Governor Christie's campaign at this moment reminds me of a Bruce Springsteen "b" side. It has a blunt 'leaderism' to it. But most people don't know about it, they're not paying attention.

And so, Christie is trying to revive his campaign by going back to his strengths, being a Town Hall person who could maybe have some sharp answers in New Hampshire. But it's a crowded field. And where his lane is it's still murky.

LEMON: Kevin, this next one is for you. I want you play you this moment. It's from Jeb Bush where he defends his brother, President George W. Bush. Here it is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, (R) U.S. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Your brother -- and your brother's administration gave us Barack Obama because it was such a disaster those last three months that Abraham Lincoln could have been elected.

JEB BUSH, (R) U.S. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You know what, as it relates to my brother there's one thing I know for sure. He kept us safe. I don't know if you remember, Donald.

(APPLAUSE)

BUSH: You remember the rubble; you remember the firefighter with his arms around him? He sent a clear signal that the United States would be strong and fight Islamic terrorism, and he did keep us safe.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: He got a lot of applause for that. Do you think that he's finally figured out how to answer tough questions when it comes to his last name? He had to have expected that.

KEVIN MADDEN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look, I think it was a really good moment if you talk to the Bush people. They would point that as a pivotal point of the debate where Jeb showed some strength, and then after that, you probably didn't hear from Donald Trump for another 35 minutes.

So, they claim that as a victory. I think the question on that, on how much of that is going to last for Jeb Bush is based on the fact that this is Jeb Bush having to litigate his brother's record.

For Jeb Bush to really get this debate, whether it's national security or the economy back on stronger footing for him. It has to be about Jeb Bush and his vision for the country and what he'd do in the future. So, he did all right last night litigating the past. But going

forward, he's going to have to pivot and start talking much more about himself. So, the next debate, it has to be about Jeb Bush and his record and his vision for the country, you know, versus having to defend his brother. That would be a better spot to be in.

LEMON: Was anybody on this panel surprise because when I was watching it and I kept expecting Donald Trump to come back and say, well, 9/11 happened on your brother's watch. Is there anyone surprise that Donald Trump didn't say that, do you think that no one wants to touch that? Go ahead, Kevin -- on 9/11.

(CROSSTALK)

[22:35:01] MADDEN: Yes, I'll jump in there.

COSTA: I spoke to Trump.

MADDEN: I'll jump in there real quick. Donald Trump was -- he seemed very tentative and that's why he disappeared for those 35 minutes. He seemed very tentative in getting into any part of the debate that had to deal with national security or foreign policy.

When he did, mostly what came out of his mouth was gibberish. So, I think that's when he pulled back in the debate.

LEMON: Robert Costa?

COSTA: We're seeing the evolution of Trump as a candidate. On one side, you have the comments and the exchange tonight with a voter making the assertion about the president's faith. And then yesterday you saw Trump a little more disciplined, a little more low key trying to have some response that showed some research and some prep when it came to Carly Fiorina's business record.

And so, Trump, he's balancing both sides to himself as a contender trying to be more establishment in his presentation and his preparation, but at the same time still having that brawl and swagger.

LEMON: A lot of people said Marco Rubio had a good night as well. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARCO RUBIO, (R) U.S. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: As the number one issue that a president will ever confront and the most important obligation the federal government has is to keep this nation safe.

And today, we are not doing that. We are eviscerating our military and we have a president that is more respectful to the Ayatollah in Iran than he is to the prime minister of Israel.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: And for President Obama's former senior advisor says Marco Rubio is the candidate that democrats need to be most worried about if he gets the nomination. Do you believe that is correct, Bob?

BECKEL: Well, as certain that somebody should say. But, look, he represents or can represent 17 percent block of the American electorate who happened to be Hispanics. He's going to cut into that. The last guy that did well among Hispanics to the republican was George Bush. And he got 45 percent of the votes.

Since then, the republicans have to be beaten 2 to 1. You can't get beaten 2 to 1 among Hispanics and expect to win this country, number one. Number two, and I think and I say this about Bush, I think finally, finally decided to fight back and I think it did him a lot of good.

Now he's got an answer for his brother, which is he kept us safe and there seemed to be a receptive audience to that. But now, I think what he's got to do and somebody has to do start putting Trump on the coals and say, now what are you going to do? Be specific, Don.

You kept talking about you're going to get four hostages out Iran before you get inaugurated. How are you going to do it?

LEMON: Yes.

BECKEL: And I think it is the press and his opponents have given him a wide berth on that.

LEMON: Thank you, gentlemen. Bob, Robert, Kevin. Kevin, get some sleep, Kevin. I've seen you on television 24 hours. You must be exhausted. You're a little punchy to it.

MADDEN: Well, Don, I'm the last guy here.

LEMON: Yes, the last guy.

MADDEN: I'm the last guy here.

LEMON: All right. I appreciated you guys. Thank you.

Up next, which candidate struck gold at the debate and who didn't do so well? I'm going to ask two of the people who questioned the candidates when we come back.

[22:40:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: Twenty three million, 23 million tuned in to the debate right here on CNN last night. So, which candidate scored big and who didn't do so well?

Let's talk about that. Now, two people who asked the tough questions last night. CNN's Dana Bash back with me now, and also Hugh Hewitt, host of radio's Hugh Hewitt show, and also the author of "The Queen, the Epic Ambition of Hillary Clinton and the Coming of the Second Clinton Era."

You guys did a fantastic job last night. So, straight off the back, congratulations. HUGH HEWITT, HUGH HEWITT RADIO SHOW HOST: Well, thank you, Don.

LEMON: Hugh, I'm going to you first.

DANA BASH, CNN'S CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Thanks, Don.

LEMON: You're very welcome. Hugh, you know, you've had 24 hours to absorb last night. What's your read on it a day later?

HEWITT: Well, I'm astonished that I am now part of the CNN record book. I never thought that would be on my resume that I had the part of the largest audience in CNN history. That's a little flattering.

LEMON: You're welcome.

HEWITT: It's great. We don't even count the radio audience. So, say in media group had millions more listening on the radio. So, it was enormous audience. And here's what I take away from it. This is just and aside. Your technical team is extraordinary.

They built an amazing set, they did amazing shots and they built an audience. And I believe in the conventional wisdom. Carly got the gold. Marco Rubio got the silver, Chris Christie the bronze. I have one bit of unconventional wisdom.

From talking to republicans today, Scott walker is the slow and steady rocky guy. I've seen this movie three times. People count him out. He never gives up, he never goes down. He gets up off the floor. So, keep watching Scott Walker to come back slow and steady in Iowa. So, that's my take.

LEMON: OK. Dana, you want to weigh in on that?

BASH: You know, I think it might be little bit harder for Scott Walker to do that, but when you're talking about Iowa, as Hugh knows probably better than I, it is not only slow and steady but really all about organization.

And he has been in there. His campaign has spent, you know, really banked it all on Iowa. So, I wouldn't be surprised. But I will also weigh in on the fact we do have an amazing team here at CNN and we were very happy to have Hugh. It was a lovely experience.

HEWITT: Thank you, Dana.

LEMON: OK. Dana, you know, an event tonight in New Hampshire.

BASH: Love fest over.

LEMON: I know. I was going to say move on like patting ourselves on the back. At an event tonight in New Hampshire, Donald Trump gave his opinion of the debate. Listen and then we'll discuss.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: But some evening. Now the problem with the evening, it did so well that CNN said, let's make it an hour longer. Can you believe this? That debate was three hours. It felt like more than that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Dana, is that true?

BASH: Which part? That it felt like more than that or that it was made longer?

LEMON: I probably thought like more than that to him. But it was scheduled to be as long as it was.

BASH: Yes, yes, it was.

LEMON: Yes.

BASH: I mean, because, look. Because we had -- you know, what Fox did is they had one debate originally scheduled for, you know, the people who were doing best. And then, the undercard was a late addition for them.

For us it never was. We were always going to have sort of one long debate, split into an intermission, if you will.

[22:44:59] So, that was always the plan. You know, the second one certainly went longer, perhaps than it was initially planned, but the fact is, there were 11 people on the stage. And, you know, you can make the argument that, you know, it maybe went a little long for Donald Trump's taste. For me, I was sitting there. It flew by.

HEWITT: And I want to agree, Don. People turn off bad movies. They stop reading bad books. They walk out of bad plays. Everybody stuck around. I said afterwards that Ernie Banks, Chicago cub, let's play two.

The American people are hungry for this. Jake ran a great debate in which people talked to each other, not the moderator. They did grand stand. It wasn't talking points. And so, the audience speaks for itself. There's a hunger. People are seriously concerned about where this country is going.

They seriously concerned, republicans are, about a third Obama term in the person of Hillary Clinton, and they were there to watch it. They would have stayed for four hours, five hours. So, my hats off.

And by the way, and I think this is true of all of them, they all said it was a long debate. Presidents sometimes have to go through three- hour crisis meetings like every day. And now chairs might help but it's not an unusual thing to have to be on your toes for three hours.

LEMON: Yes. I think people don't walk away from -- if you're having a good discussion. That's a motto of this show. People don't walk away from good conversation.

So, thank you. Again, nice job. Another pat on the back for everyone here. I'll see you guys soon.

HEWITT: Thank you, Don.

LEMON: Up next.

BASH: Thanks, Don.

LEMON: Fighting to be the GOP nominee in the field of 15 candidates. But how much longer can those struggling in the polls stay in this race? I'm going to talk to some campaign insiders.

[22:50:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: Did you know that both Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee have run for president before and have name recognition with republican voters? But both candidates are now struggling in the polls.

So, let's discuss. John Brabender, senior strategist for Santorum, and Alice Stewart, communications director for Huckabee's campaign. They join me this evening. Thank you for coming on so late. We appreciate it.

(CROSSTALK)

JOHN BRABENDER, SENIOR STRATEGIST FOR RICK SANTORUM: It's great to be here.

ALICE STEWART, COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR FOR HUCKABEE'S CAMPAIGN: Great to be here, Don. Thank you.

LEMON: It's god to have you. Alice, to you first. How do you say about last night? I mean, a lot of people. I want you to take a listen to one of the lighter moments from last night's debate. Here it is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE HUCKABEE, (R) U.S. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm here to say that I think we are in fact, the "a" team. We have some remarkable people. And in fact, not only are with the "a" team, we even have our own Mr. T. who doesn't mind saying about others, you're a fool. And I'm delighted to be here with all of these guys and would put any of them in an administration that I led.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: So, Alice, Mike Huckabee invoking Donald Trump right off the bat. We're not hearing Huckabee's name mentioned much as one of the candidates who did well as a stand-out performance. What do you think of this? Why do you think that is?

STEWART: It's unfortunate, as you were just discussing with Dana and Hugh, a three-hour debate and Governor Huckabee was asked three direct questions and only had nine minutes to actually speak.

So, it's a little difficult to be the talk of the town the next day when your time is limited. But what we are encourage is the fact that when he has the opportunity to speak he was very strong and made very solid points. Specifically, when he interjected on the Iran issue, which he's been very strong on and very force, so that the Iran deal is not good for America, it's not good for the world.

It's not good for our great ally Israel. And he made a very solid point that Barack Obama doesn't understand the problems with the Iran deal. The governor made that point quite clear.

And also, he made some very solid points on showing a positive outlook for the future and asked what would happen if he were president. He would make Americans' lives better, and also, make this country strong and increase the national security we have.

LEMON: I want to talk about your guy now, John, Rick Santorum participated in an earlier debate. Now I want to play a very interesting moment where he talks about raising the minimum wage. Watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICK SANTORUM, (R) U.S. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: What I propose is not anything but presidents proposed. I believe that would be harmful to the American public. But 50 cents an hour increase over three years, which is what I'm proposing, to me, if you are going to talk to 90 percent of American workers -- by the way, 90 percent of American workers don't own a bar. They don't own a business.

They work for a living. Their wage -- most of them are wage earners. And republicans are losing elections because we're not talking about them. How are you going to win? Ladies and gentlemen, how are we going to win if 90 percent of Americans don't think we care at all about them and their chance to rise?

TAPPER: Thank you, Senator.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: So, John, he took his own party to task there. I mean, I'm wondering if that's part of his strategy to try to appear as an outsider because outsiders are doing so well this campaign season.

BRABENDER: Well, one thing that people have always liked about Rick is his authenticity. Second of all, Rick has never been won who is just kind of regurgitate RNC talking points.

He feels very, very strongly that both parties but also the Republican Party has ignored hard working Americans. And he talked a lot about that whether it's relative to immigration, whether it's relative to increasing the stagnant wages that most Americans face, and being a leader is doing more than just following somebody else's talking points.

LEMON: One thing, Alice, though, that both of your candidates have in common, they both won Iowa. Mike Huckabee in 2008, Rick Santorum in 2012. I mean, this time around, how long do you think they can hang on?

STEWART: Well, we're in this for the -- certainly for the long haul, Don. As Dana just said, the key to doing well in Iowa and doing well in this process is organization. We have a tremendously strong organization.

In Iowa, the first caucus state, we have more than 140 leaders. We have more than 70 county chairs; we have a very impressive faith-based organization of leaders and pastors from all across Iowa.

South Carolina, the key state. We have similar numbers. We have more than 140 leaders. We have county chairs. And that's the key to success is not -- you know, whether or not you grab all of the headlines after a debate is having that organization in place, getting them out. It's not about being hot right now...

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: So, do you think that he can...

[22:54:59] STEWART: It's about being hot in February on a cold February night.

LEMON: He can go on and do well in the caucuses and especially in Iowa. But, John, I have to ask -- I've got to get this in. And if you can answer for me quickly I would appreciate it.

The next GOP debate, CNBC, RNC's communication director suggesting that there might not be an undercard debate. How would that change the state of this race?

BRABENDER: Well, I think it would change that, I think it would be unfortunate. If you took four years ago, Rick Santorum was only about 1 percent in the polls and wouldn't be included in the debates. Yet, he won one on one at 11 out of the 30 contested states, tied two others and came within a whisker of basically winning the nomination.

So, it's a mistake to say that we're going to have polling numbers dictate debate. Debates should dictate the polling numbers. And we're so far out that polls that these polls don't even mean anything.

LEMON: All right. I appreciate it. Thank you, John. Thank you, Alice.

STEWART: All right. Thank you, Don. Have a great night.

STEWART: Take care.

LEMON: You as well. When we come back, you heard some hard-hitting claims. But was everything you heard the truth? We're going to fact check the candidates next.

[23:00:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)