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One Day Away from First Democratic Primary Debate; New Polls Show Clinton Leading in Nevada, South Carolina; Donald Trump Speaks at No Labels Convention; Trump Maintains Lead in New CBS Poll. Aired 11- 11:30a ET

Aired October 12, 2015 - 11:00   ET


[11:00:00] CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Carol Costello. AT THIS HOUR with Berman and Bolduan starts now.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, I'm John Berman live from Las Vegas. This is special coverage of the first Democratic presidential debate.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Absolutely, Mr. Berman. I'm Kate Bolduan, everyone. Also something we're keeping an eye on this hour, we'll hear from the Republican front-runner, Donald Trump. He's going to be speaking at New Hampshire at the No Labels Convention, a group that's been pushing for bipartisanship and more civil discourse in politics. We're going to see just how civil Mr. Trump decides to be today. We're going to bring you his remarks live.

BERMAN: But first, Las Vegas, Nevada, just one day away from the first time the Democratic candidates will face off inside that building, on the same stage, at the same time. The Wynn Las Vegas resort hotel. How will Hillary Clinton respond to attacks? Will Bernie Sanders attack at all? What about Martin O'Malley, Jim Webb, Lincoln Chafee? Will these candidates with nothing to lose look for controversy, intrigue, some electric moment to make them relevant now in this race?

That is tomorrow. Today we have two brand new CNN polls with eye- opening numbers, especially if you are Bernie Sanders and maybe Joe Biden. Hillary Clinton with impressive leads here in Nevada, a crucial early voting state. Also the key early state of South Carolina. How will these numbers affect the approach on stage tomorrow night? Bernie Sanders' campaign manager told me earlier this morning that Sanders will rehearse possible exchanges with the other candidates and the moderator.

Let's take you inside that debate hall where all the magic will happen, inside the Wynn Las Vegas. Our senior White House correspondent, Jim Acosta, where all the action will happen just one day from now. Jim.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, John. We've said everything this morning except let's go ready to rumble. So we are one day away from the CNN Democratic debate. And you can see the podiums are right behind me. There they are, all five of them. And of course taking center stage will be former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton. She is the clear and present front-runner in this race right now. But to her right will be Vermont senator, Bernie Sanders, the Independent self-described Socialist. He's been giving her a run for her money in the polls, especially in New Hampshire. He's really captured the imagination of the progressive base of the Democratic Party and I think that sort of begins where these flashpoints will are going to be showing up in this debate tomorrow night.

Bernie Sanders has been indicating over the last 24 hours that he might take Hillary Clinton to task over her vote in favor of the Iraq war back in 2002. Bernie Sanders reminding his supporters he was against that war back in 2002. Sort of echoes of that battle royale between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Barack Obama used Hillary Clinton's vote in favor of the war against her over and over again. And he really exploited that issue to his benefit, as we all know, looking back at the 2008 race.

But the other candidates that will be on that stage, Martin O'Malley, the former governor of Maryland. A lot of people thought at this stage he'd be doing a lot better in the polls. He's really struggled to gain traction. He's going to be looking for a breakout moment on Tuesday night. Perhaps he'll go after Bernie Sanders on the issue of gun control. You know, Bernie Sanders coming from Vermont, being a pro-gun rights state in many respects. Bernie Sanders has been somewhat moderate on that issue. Martin O'Malley might try to seek an opening there.

But to give you a sense of the scope of this room, John, it is kind of incredible. Yesterday you and I were taking a look at this. There weren't any seats in here. But because of the hard work of all these hard-working CNN employees who have been setting the stage, we've got this debate hall just about ready to go. A few lighting fixtures are being put up, the sound board has come in, that's being tweaked. But the pieces are almost in place.

And, John, finally, just this one thing I want to show you, this big screen over here on the other side of the auditorium. That is where Don Lemon will be standing and he'll be fielding questions from Facebook users, sort of giving our audience an interactive feature for tomorrow night's debate. And so that will be something to watch as well.

But, John, of course, the x-factor in all of this, Vice President Joe Biden, he was in Delaware over the weekend, trying to decide whether or not he was going to run for president. Because the way the CNN rules are written, he can show up at virtually the last minute and join this debate. And at this point, definitively, still no word from the vice president's office that he will not be here tomorrow night. So some drama on that front as well, John.

BERMAN: Plenty of drama, as if we needed more with just one day to go before the first Democratic debate. Jim Acosta, thank you so much.

Want to talk more about the new CNN polling that really does paint a different picture of this race than we have seen up until this point. Hillary Clinton with a sizable lead over Bernie Sanders here in Nevada, also in South Carolina. Sanders running third there behind Joe Biden, should the vice president jump into the race. And you just heard Jim say we don't know what he's going to do.

[11:05:02] When they take the stage, the candidates, they're going to speak to a whole new audience -- bigger than ever before. In Nevada, nearly 60 percent of Democratic voters say they are still deciding. So there's a big opportunity to make a big impression for these candidates.

Let's dig deeper now with CNN political commentators Patti Solis Doyle and Dan Pfeiffer. Patti was Hillary Clinton's campaign manager in 2008; Dan a senior adviser to President Obama and then Candidate Obama in 2008, which makes this panel intriguing. Because, Patti, of the three of us, are you the one who has advised Hillary Clinton, been in the room as she was preparing for a primary debate. So when she takes the stage behind us, what's the one thing she needs to do and the one thing she needs to avoid?

PATTI SOLIS DOYLE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think she needs to do a couple of things. I think she needs to show her personal side. I'd like to see her have some light moments, show some humor when she answers some questions. I would be delighted if we saw a cameo by Val the bartender. And the other thing she needs to do is ,she needs to answer the e-mail questions with transparency and openly just as she's been doing over the past couple of months. I think, you know, the polls showed she's getting her mojo back and I think it's strongly because she's been answering these confesses.

BERMAN: What does she avoid? What's the danger zone for Hillary Clinton?

DOYLE: Getting riled up over the eventual attacks she's going to get from the other opponents on the stage.

BERMAN: Stay calm no matter what.

DOYLE: Stay calm.

BERMAN: All right, Dan Pfeiffer, of the three of us sitting here, you are the one person who has prepared a candidate for a debate against Hillary Clinton. So, if you are advising Bernie Sanders, Martin O'Malley, Lincoln Chafee, Jim Webb, right now, what would you tell them? What do you do to beat Hillary Clinton in a debate?

DAN PFEFFIFER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, you have to understand that Hillary Clinton is an excellent debater. We did something like two dozen primary debates with her in 2007-2008. At this point in that race, we had done 13 already I think. And in every one she was excellent, crisp, knows the substance up and down, is very good in the back and forth. And so you have to go in knowing that.

And so it's not so much for I think O'Malley or Sanders that you need to beat Hillary Clinton in this debate, because you're not going to win on points. You need to make a -- use this, your first time in front of a national audience, to make a case for your candidacy to be able to show why you could be an electable alternative to Hillary Clinton. Because that's what the argument that both Sanders and O'Malley have to make if they're going to have a shot here.

BERMAN: Is there a weak link though? Is there an Achilles' heel for Hillary Clinton that another candidate can exploit?

PFEIFFER: Well, I think the greatest opportunity for these other candidates is to go after her on shifting of positions, most recently on the TTP trade deal. The one time that she had a stumble in all the debates was in 2007, was when she -- in a debate in Philadelphia, right about this time, eight years ago, where she shifted her position on driver's license for undocumenteds. And that was a moment that opened the door for Barack Obama to make a run.

BERMAN: It was a key moment in that campaign.

PFEIFFER: Absolutely.

BERMAN: So these polls out today, they're very interesting. They show Hillary Clinton with fairly comfortable leads here in this state and South Carolina, very important states. There are some numbers in South Carolina I want to talk about right now. Because without Joe Biden in the race, if Joe Biden doesn't get in the race, Hillary Clinton is leading Sanders in South Carolina 70 to -- what was it? 70 to 20. That's big. It's even bigger among African-American voters without Bernie Sanders in the race. 84 to 7 among African-American voters in South Carolina. And African-American voters in a Democratic primary are a key voting bloc. So Bernie Sanders has to do something in this building behind us to fix that problem. How does he work at improving his position among black voters?

DOYLE: Right. Well, that's his No. 1 problem, is not only appealing to African-American voters but Hispanic voters. We know that he appeals to white liberals. And that's great. Nothing wrong with that. Some of my best friends are white liberals.

But the Democratic coalition is built with white liberals, women, African-Americans, Hispanics. So he's going to have to talk to a wider audience tomorrow night and he's going to have to talk about issues like immigration, education, health care, issues that matter to them with the same kind of zeal that he talks about income inequality.

BERMAN: A wider audience, not a whiter audience.

DOYLE: Wide audience, yes.

BERMAN: He's doing OK with the white audience. And Dan, this is an area where Hillary Clinton does have strength, it seems, with minority voters.

PFEIFFER: This is -- these polls show where the theory of the Bernie Sanders nomination reaches reality of the Democratic Party of today. He is perfectly designed to do very well in Iowa and New Hampshire. Candidates like Bernie Sanders have done well in Iowa and New Hampshire in the past. If he's going to be more than just a traditional anti-establishment progressive challenger in the Democratic Party, he is going to have to dramatically improve his standing. That is very, very hard.

It is also worth noting, though, that Hillary Clinton was beating Barack Obama with African-American voters in 2007 at this time in South Carolina and beating him handily with Latino voters in Nevada. So it's not impossible but it's the steepest of hills to climb. And he's going to have to do something massively dramatic over the coming months to change that dynamic.

BERMAN: Let's talk about the three other people right now quickly, Martin O'Malley, Lincoln Chafee, Jim Webb.

[11:10:03] I guess the question, Patti, is who's most likely to paint outside the lines here? Of the three of them, who is most likely to do something unexpected just to get in the headlines, to get to be a part of the story?

DOYLE: Well, that's what we don't know. It's so unpredictable because they have to do something, each -- all of them have to do something to break out. They need to make some noise, they need to jump upside down, they need to do something. But I think the most likely is probably Martin O'Malley. I think he's previewed what he's going to do, I think on CNN on "STATE OF THE UNION" this weekend.

BERMAN: He said Hillary Clinton likes military intervention.

DOYLE: Right, so I think we're going to see some pretty hard lines of attack -- not personally but on substance -- coming from Martin O'Malley.

BERMAN: Patti Solis Doyle, Dan Pfeiffer, great to have you here with us. Glad you're not working at opposite ends this time. And we can all come together right now.

Tomorrow night is the big event you need to watch. The very first Democratic debate hosted by CNN and Facebook. 8:30 p.m. Eastern Time. Kate?

BOLDUAN: Thank you, John. And right now we're also watching Donald Trump. He is speaking live before a convention. This is a conference, a group, that's pushing for more civility in politics, less partisanship. So what is a man who never shies away from an insult going to say? This as a new poll shows his dominance, continued dominance, over his Republican rivals. We're going to dip in live.

Plus, a bombshell that could have a very big impact on tomorrow's debate. A former congressional investigator of the Benghazi attack makes an explosive claim about the real target of the Republican-led panel spearheading the investigation.

We'll be back in a moment. This is CNN's special live coverage.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [11:15:50] BOLDUAN: Donald Trump, the Republican front-runner, bolstered by new poll numbers out just solidifying his lead ever more. He is speaking live right now in Manchester, New Hampshire, before a crowd. Let's listen in.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: -- you have to use the copper. So I said, this is not good. And you want one contiguous pour. So I had trucks based from -- literally from the rink all the way back to Harlem. All the way up, way up to 125th Street. Cement mixers. And we poured it all in one day. It was 24 hours. They were pouring during the day, during the night. It was 26 hours and 25 minutes. And we poured one contiguous pour. It healed beautifully. When the city did it, it was like this. So, they had on one side a foot and a half of water and on the other side they didn't have any water. So, they couldn't make ice. For a lot of reasons.

And actually, you know, when I talk about the price, the biggest problem I had was demolition. That was the biggest cost. I had to demolish everything that was done.

So I got it done. I got everybody together and we got it done. And to this day it's the most successful ice skating rink. I still run it. I run. Nobody -- every time it comes up, the city want -- they want me to -- they don't want to take any chances. But I've run it for many years and it's the No. 1 in the world and it does great.

And it's sort of -- I was thinking about it coming up because we were talking about No Labels. I was talking to Jon, I was talking to Joe, and we were talking about getting together -- I got together with everybody. The city, the council, everything had to be done fast. The beauty is I did it in four months, this after eight years, I did it in four months. I did it for $1.8 million. The city had spent over $20 million. And I always say most of it was demolition, OK? That's what happens.

And you can do that with this country. You can do it with the country. And, believe me, you can do things that people have no idea, construction-wise -- our roads are falling apart, our bridges, our tunnels, our airports. I just left LaGuardia airport. It's like a third world airport. No, it's third world. I mean, it's horrible. You look at it. You go out to the runways. It's horrible.

And I go to places, because I travel all over the world. I have so many different relationships and partnerships and very complicated stuff, and I meet the richest people, the richest companies in the world, and I'm partners with many of them in different parts. And you go to Qatar and all of the different places -- by the way, all over China, all over China. You go to Bahrain, you go to Saudi Arabia, you see airports -- you've never seen anything like it. You've never seen anything like it. They build temporary airports while they're building the big one that are 100 times nicer than anything we have in this country. We're just -- it's -- we've lost it. We've lost it.

Another deal that just happened, and this was, again, getting everybody together, the City of New York in the Bronx, right outside of Manhattan, and most of you have read about it, they had a 350-acre piece of land on the water, on the East River. The East River's great. People have apartments in the East River, right? He knows what I'm going to say. And there were 350. And expandable into 550 acres. This is like five minutes outside of Manhattan. I say, right off the Manhattan ramp. And they've been building a golf course, I think, for 30 years. I think. Somebody said it's really not 30; it's 21 years. Oh, OK. It's 21. So, whether it's 20, 21 or 30 -- but I think it's 30 -- it's been under construction for many, many years. We believe the cost is over $300 million.

In fact, the mayor said to me, what do you think it should have cost? I said about $7 million, but I believe the cost is over $300 million. And they couldn't get it done. And Mayor Bloomberg said, you've got to help us. Please, you've got to help us. So they went to an RFP. I got the RFP signed, a long-term deal. And I took it over; I got it done in less than a year for peanuts.

BOLDUAN: Donald Trump there talking about, essentially, getting things done. Among the list that he's listing out for folks at this convention in Manchester United (sic), the Central Park ice skating rink here in New York as well as LaGuardia Airport, he says, obviously needs some major improvements.

[11:20:05] We're going to be talking a lot about that, but mostly we're going to talk about Trump's dominance in the polls right now. And President Obama, he's also now weighing in on Donald Trump's surge. We're going to have that ahead.

Plus, President Obama's also talking about Hillary Clinton and her e- mail scandal. He says it didn't put national security at risk. But isn't that what federal investigators are looking into?

We'll be back in a moment to continue our special coverage ahead of the first Democratic debate in Las Vegas.


BERMAN: All right, I'm John Berman live in Las Vegas, just off the Las Vegas Strip.

[11:25:00] And here in this city, the main event not Penn and Teller, not Britney Spears, not Wayne Newton, not even Elvis impersonators. No, the CNN Democratic debate, the first Democratic debate of this election cycle. The first time that all five candidates will be on the same stage at the same time, facing each other, facing Anderson Cooper, our CNN moderator, and facing questions from you via Facebook as well. This is a crucial moment in this presidential race.

And, Kate Bolduan, I should tell you something you cannot see here looming over it all, as I am looking beyond our set, the Trump hotel. Donald Trump's presence felt here in Las Vegas even though he will not be part of this debate exactly. Kate.

BOLDUAN: Just the way he likes it. And I beg to differ on one point, John Berman. I have taken a very scientific poll and the other main event ahead of the debate that everyone is there for is John Berman, live in Las Vegas. This is a very, very big deal. BERMAN: Thank you.


BOLDUAN: I've stunned him to silence for once in my life. I will take that as an accomplishment.

Moments ago, speaking of Donald Trump, as John as so helpfully offering that up, Donald Trump, we heard from him just moments ago speaking at an event in New Hampshire. It was called -- it's called the No Labels Problem-Solver Convention. He's actually one of eight presidential candidates who will all be speaking at this event today.

But this right here, guys, is what matters right now. The latest polling out of CBS News puts Donald Trump ahead. He remains ahead of his Republican rivals with 27 percent support. Behind him, Ben Carson, six points behind him. And then take a look at the rest of the GOP field sitting or stuck, you might want to say, in the single digits right now.

Let's discuss this. Let's bring in CNN political commentator Amanda Carpenter; she's a former communications director for Senator Ted Cruz, which you saw there on that poll, and CNN political commentator Jeffrey Lord. He's a former political director in the Reagan White House and has written very favorably about Donald Trump.

Guys, it's great to see you guys. So let's discuss -- great to see you guys. Amanda, first to you. Amanda, when you look at these polls coming out of CBS, I mean, he continues to lead. He is the GOP front- runner. He is -- the rest of the field is in single digits. At this point, I know depending on where you stand, you're going to say it's early on or it's not so early on, but he continues to trod ahead when you see all those guys in single digits and woman in single digits. Is there anything they can do to stop him, Amanda?

AMANDA CARPENTER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, here's the thing, I mean, Donald Trump, it is not a fluke. We tried to say that this summer, we'll say maybe it's an August fling; it's not. He's been dominating the polls in the first or second tier since he entered the race in mid-July. And I think in the last presidential election cycle, on the Republican side, you saw a lot more movement. You saw guys like Rick Perry going the lead, Newt Gingrich, Herman Cain, before Mitt Romney eventually coalesced that support.

And so the other Republican candidates do have to be worried. But ,that said, this is an election where conventional wisdom has been turned on its head again and again. Donald Trump doesn't have a traditional on-the-ground network that I think it takes to win a GOP primary. And if you look at him speaking today at the No Labels Conference, which is a group deliberately designed to target moderates -- this is not going to activate GOP primary voters -- I think you kind of see where he's making bad investments in his time. He's a candidate who lives and dies by the camera. And I think, in February when we go to those early primary states, you could see that the emperor has no clothes and you see someone who has a traditional election get-out-the-vote strategy go ahead and take those early states.

BOLDUAN: I mean, it's going to have to be a big turnaround though when you look at his numbers though. But there are some warning spots or trouble spots, Jeffrey, that I want to ask you about it.

He's viewed very favorably among Republican primary voters at 53 percent in terms of his favorability. Ben Carson is viewed -- his favorability is the highest. Look at Ben Carson there, 62 percent favorable. Only 7 percent unfavorable. But Donald Trump still viewed favorably, but that number is the exactly opposite when you look at all registered voters. He's at 53 percent unfavorable and he's 60 percent of all registered voters, Jeffery, think he is dishonest. Is this what is going to catch up with Donald Trump?

JEFFREY LORD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No. No, I don't think so. I think, Kate, once you get to a fall election in 2016 or any four- year election like that, and you come down to two candidates, their negatives can tend to disappear because of the issue of the moment.

In this CBS poll, for example, 50 (ph) percent of Republicans said that they had the most confidence in Donald Trump in terms of economy. And as you listen to that sound bite, you can see. When he talks about getting it done with the Wollman Skating Rink in New York. Now, I know something about New York. I know what Wollman Skating Rink is; most people don't. But they take the point here that the government of New York City tried for years to get it done, couldn't get it done. They turned to him and he got it done ASAP and did everything he could to make it work.

That's what they respond to here. So, I think when we get to a fall election, we will see that there is that kind of response particularly on the economy.

[11:30:02] People want jobs. We've got almost 95 million people out of the workplace and they're not being counted.