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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Clinton Taking Lead Over Sanders in New Polls; POTUS Takes Potshot at Republican Candidates. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired November 3, 2015 - 16:30   ET

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


[16:32:54]

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Welcome back to THE LEAD. More now on our politics lead.

That is former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton taking questions from voters in Coralville, Iowa. In a brand-new poll out today, Mrs. Clinton has a razor's edge lead in New Hampshire over Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. Nationwide, however, she's stomping him.

Let's get right to CNN senior Washington correspondent Jeff Zeleny, who is trailing Clinton in Coralville today.

Jeff, the nationwide trend is great for Clinton, but, as you know, these state-by-state polls, which are much more competitive, are far more important.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: No question, Jake.

The state-by-state polls are more important, because, of course, primary elections are run state by state. It's not a national campaign until the general election campaign. But those Iowa caucuses are just 90 days away. That's why Secretary Clinton is right behind me here doing an organizing event, talking to a few hundred voters or so in the eastern part of Iowa, just outside Iowa City in the town of Coralville.

She's trying to reach out to voters, getting her -- all of them signed up on her team. Even though she's in Iowa today, she's thinking about New Hampshire. Her team is very pleased by a new poll that is out in New Hampshire today, a Monmouth University poll, showing that she's three points ahead of Senator Bernie Sanders.

Now, of course, that's inside the margin of error, but it's essentially a reversal of how her fortunes looked there about a month or so ago. So that is on the heels of these national polls that show her with such a lead, Jake, some 30 points or so in the "Wall Street Journal"/NBC poll.

But it is those state-by-state polls that give some hope to them that they are, you know, going along here three months before the Iowa caucuses that they are still having to work for it here. It's far, far, far too early to write Bernie Sanders off or even Martin O'Malley, who is also campaigning here as well, Jake.

TAPPER: And, Jeff, it looks as though Clinton is consolidating her base, but Sanders still has a lot of things going for him as well.

ZELENY: He sure does. He has the energy and the enthusiasm really inside this Democratic Party on his side.

Jake, I can tell you, when you walk into his headquarters, you talk to his volunteers, they are fired up. They're going to stick with him. They're very loyal. The Clinton campaign knows they have to do a lot more events like this. They have to sign up a lot more voters. They know this is not going to be a cakewalk, Jake.

[16:35:05]

TAPPER: All right. Jeff Zeleny in Coralville, Iowa, with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, thank you so much.

Let's chew over everything 2016 with former press secretary for President Obama's 2012 campaign Ben LaBolt, and former deputy campaign manager for Mitt Romney's 2012 presidential campaign Katie Packer.

And happy birthday to you.

KATIE PACKER, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Thank you, Jake.

TAPPER: So, Ben, let me start with this. Hillary Clinton showing some new strength in the polls when it comes to Democrats. But among all voters, and presuming she gets the nomination, she only has a 40 percent approval rating, and just 27 percent of all voters think she's honest and trustworthy.

Right now, looking at these numbers, it looks she's on a good track to get the nomination and then, bang, trouble.

BEN LABOLT, FORMER OBAMA CAMPAIGN PRESS SECRETARY: I don't know if I agree with that.

Look, President Obama's favorability rating was underwater for much of the 2012 presidential campaign, but he was winning on a key question, which is, who will fight for people like you? And that's a question that Hillary Clinton has been winning on all along.

The Republicans, in terms of the party approval rating, also have a 20 percent deficit. So, right now, this might look like a referendum, but it's going to turn into a choice between Hillary Clinton and the other candidate.

TAPPER: Katie, speaking of President Obama, take a listen to the president at a Democratic fund-raiser in New York this week.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Have you noticed that every one of these candidates say, Obama's weak, you know, Putin's kicking sand in his face. When I talk to Putin, he's going to straighten out.

(LAUGHTER)

OBAMA: Just looking at him, I'm going to -- he's going to be -- and then it turns out they can't handle a bunch of CNBC moderators on the debate.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Obviously, pleasing the Democratic crowd there, but your reaction?

PACKER: Well, first of all, I don't think that Putin's ever been stronger than he is today under this president and I think that's something that the Republican candidates are responding to.

I don't think the issue is the Republicans can't handle these debate moderators. I think that they're frustrated that these debate moderators don't seem to understand their role. Their role isn't to make a name for themselves. Their role to is distill the issues so that Republicans can decide who their standard bearer's going to be.

That's the point of debates in a primary. It's a different role in the general election. But I think that's the frustration. And they're trying to work that out and I expect that we are going to see some good debates moving forward.

TAPPER: Ben -- although I assume you thought some of the debates...

(CROSSTALK)

PACKER: Some of the debates have been fantastic.

TAPPER: Have been great, OK.

(LAUGHTER)

TAPPER: So, Ben, let me ask you, because Sara Murray brought it up earlier, Democrats boycotted the FOX News Channel/Congressional Black Caucus debate back in 2007. So a lot of Republicans are out there saying, you know, this isn't just about Republicans not liking moderators. Democrats didn't like the idea of FOX News Channel doing a debate back in '07.

LABOLT: Look, there's always a debate over debates.

I think what's happening on the Republican side with the debates right now, though, is that the Republican Party just isn't unified, and the debates have looked like a food fight because there's a big disagreement over foreign policy. There's lots of anti-establishment candidates doing very well on the Republican side right now.

And I think some of the institutional forces in the party are frankly getting worried about whether or not the primary's doing damage to the Republicans overall in the general election.

TAPPER: Katie, take a listen to Donald Trump this morning talking about Jeb Bush.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Look, Jeb is a nice guy. He's a stiff. OK? He's a nice guy. He doesn't have a chance, all right? He ought to do what Walker did.

QUESTION: You think he should drop out?

TRUMP: Oh, absolutely. He's no chance. He's got money, but the money's not going to do it. And he's been branded as a low-energy person. I don't know branded him that.

QUESTION: By who?

TRUMP: I don't know. I can't imagine.

But, look, Jeb is not a man that's going to make it, OK? He's wasting his time. He's wasting a lot of money.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Obviously, Donald Trump has a bias there, running against him. But I have heard some establishment Republican figures say, they have increasingly a difficult time seeing a path for Jeb.

PACKER: Well, I think that Jeb does have a very difficult path.

You know, I have heard repeatedly from people who like the Bush family, support the Bush family, that they're just not sure that there should be another Bush. I hear that talking to Republican primary voters that have high regard for Jeb.

But I do think that Jeb is trying to hit the reset button. I wish that Donald Trump would sort of kind of get out of the race himself and decide to be a political commentator, which is sort of what he seems to enjoy doing. He doesn't seem to have any other message but what the other candidates' weaknesses are.

I haven't heard him really articulate a plan. I'm not sure that he should be telling other candidates what to do when he doesn't really have a vision that he's articulated for the country himself.

TAPPER: Ben, I'm constantly asked by people, you don't really think Donald Trump's going to get the nomination? And my response is always, why not?

LABOLT: I think that's a very good point. Look, if you combine Trump's numbers and Carson's numbers, they have been above 50 percent pretty much for the entire primary.

[16:40:08]

TAPPER: Yes.

LABOLT: And so, you know, Jeb and Rubio have been down at 10 percent. You have to take these candidates seriously. It's a couple months before the caucuses now.

TAPPER: Yes. No, I don't see a reason.

But let me ask you, you worked on the Obama campaign, especially on the reelection strategy. Donald Trump -- he has a point there, among many. He really branded Jeb Bush. He's an expert brander not only of himself, but he branded Jeb Bush low-energy. I think that really has hurt him.

LABOLT: I think it sticks.

Look, if we look at 2012 campaign, I think that we effectively branded Mitt Romney and...

TAPPER: No offense, Katie. Sorry...

(CROSSTALK)

LABOLT: ... his values very early in the race, while he was still fighting the primary campaign, and that had a big impact on perceptions of the voters in the general.

Of course, we didn't have a primary to worry about, so we could focus on that in 2011.

PACKER: I remember.

(LAUGHTER)

PACKER: Thank you for the reminder.

TAPPER: And, Katie, what do you think about Jeb Bush, his attack on Marco Rubio for missing Senate votes?

I think there are a lot of Jeb fans who thought, oh, he just diminishes himself and why would you punch down at Marco Rubio, your protege, as opposed to trying to go after Carson and Trump?

PACKER: Well, I got into some trouble with some friends in Bush world the last time I talked about this issue on your show, when I just said I just think it's kind of a bogus issue. I think these candidates are...

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: The missing votes thing.

PACKER: The missing votes thing. All of these candidates missed something that's part of their day job when they decide to run for the next office.

You know, President Obama was sort of the champion at missing votes when he was running and he didn't really pay a price with voters. I just think it's sort of a silly strategy to be continually focusing on that.

You know, I think that this race is about tomorrow and it's about moving forward. And I think that voters are going to look to candidates that articulate that. And I do think that it was a mistake for Jeb to do that, but I think he's recognized his mistake and that I think he's -- and like I said, I think he's trying to hit the reset button and try to turn things around and we will see if he's able to do that.

TAPPER: All right. Ben LaBolt, Katie Packer, thank you both.

And happy birthday again to you, Katie.

PACKER: Thank you, Jake.

LABOLT: Thanks, Jake.

TAPPER: Coming up, drug kingpins in Ohio? Voters in the Buckeye State could legalize marijuana today. And if they do, a select few, including a former boy band member, could make millions.

Plus, the pope might have been treated like a rock star on his U.S. visit, but there's a surprising new finding about the fastest growing group when it comes religion in this country -- that story ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. Our National Lead now, happy Election Day! No. It's not that election. But there's still a lot at stake today.

Voters are heading to the polls to make picks in local elections, a couple of governors' races including a closely fought battle in Kentucky, their constitutional amendments, and ballot measures, including one in Ohio on the legalization of marijuana.

Let's get right to CNN's Stephanie Elam. Stephanie, recreational marijuana is legal in four states and right here in Washington, D.C. What makes this vote in Ohio notable other than the apparent endorsement of an ex-boy bander?

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Jake, there are more than just a couple of people with famous names who want Ohioans to vote to legalize marijuana today. While pushing their measure, there's another issue on the ballot, built to block legalization, even if legalization passes. It's a bit of a confusing showdown in the buckeye state.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ELAM (voice-over): It's all about the green in Ohio today. The growing, smoking, and spending kind and it's the cash that's causing controversy. For the first time in America, voters can say yes to legalizing medical and recreational marijuana at the same time. In Ohio, it's called issue three. But if they do, commercial

growing rights would go to just ten predetermined farms owned by, you guessed it, investors in the campaign to legalize the cash crop.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm Nick Lachey, Ohio is my home and I care very deeply about the people here.

ELAM: TV and music star, Nick Lachey, NFL player, Frostee Rucker, fashion designer, Nanette Lepore and even President William Taft's great-great grandnephews have a financial stakes in the game.

DUDLEY TAFT, SUPPORTER OF ISSUE 3: By no means do we share in all of the profits. Like I said, there will be competition, winners, and losers.

ELAM: There are also those in the middle, Ohioans who want to legalize marijuana, but don't want the green to line the pockets of so few. The man behind the campaign to bring legal pot smoking to the swing state says it could never pass without big budget backers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Groups of investors have the ability to fund campaign, spend about $25 million. You can't pass it with nickels and dimes and you can't pass it by wishful thinking.

ELAM: If it does pass, other growers will be allowed to join in after four years. Nevertheless, this vote could set the precedent for potential play to pay politics in the pot world. A frontier that's wide open and up for votes in at least six other states next year.

Ohio would join four other states and the District of Columbia to legalize recreational use including an allowance for personal plants. However, governor and current presidential candidate, John Kasich, is not onboard.

JOHN KASICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Sending mixed signals to kids about drugs is a disaster.

ELAM: It turns out mixed signals may be exactly what keeps legal marijuana and its investors out of Ohio. Opponents of Issue 3 can vote for Issue 2, an anti-monopoly countermeasure specifically designed to defeat Issue 3. If both pass, the courts may have to decide whether the state goes to pot or not.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ELAM: Now normally if two conflicting amendments pass in Ohio the state's constitution says the one with the most votes will become law. However a legislature-sponsored amendment like Issue 2 goes into effect immediately.

[16:50:04] A citizen sponsored one, which is Issue 3, would take effect 30 days after the election. That's why some believe, Jake, this decision will ultimately come from a court of law.

TAPPER: Stephanie, has there been polling on this? Any idea of how close the vote might be? ELAM: Right, when it comes to the legalization in Ohio, it looks like it's a really close vote to make. Whether or not both of these issues pass, that's still unclear.

TAPPER: All right. Stephanie Elam, thank you so much.

In other national news, it's a story we brought you yesterday, 43 Chipotle eateries shut down after about two dozen came down with E. Coli. Now the number is going up drastically.

Public health officials have confirmed at least 37 cases now across Oregon and Washington State. Most of the infected ate at the popular chain, Chipotle, some time during the past two weeks.

But officials have no clue which ingredient in the smorgasbord of options could be getting people sick. There is a lot of stuff to test, as you know, if you've ever eaten at a Chipotle.

So far one woman has sued over her illness. She claimed she ate a burrito bowl at a Vancouver, Washington Chipotle and then contracted the virus. The woman is seeking $75,000 in damages.

Wolf Blitzer's here with a preview of "The Situation Room." Wolf, Russia's now reporting the breaking news, bodies in the plane crash in Egypt show no evidence of a bombing.

You'll be talking more about this investigation with Congressman Adam Kinsinger and Senator Tim Kaine.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST, "THE SITUATION ROOM": Also we are going to talk about what's going on in Syria right now with the U.S. for the first time introducing ground forces, only about 50 of them, special operations forces.

He says the United States, that Congress has to authorize this that there has to be formal legislation, giving the president the authority to step up this war against ISIS in Iraq and Syria. We'll talk about that.

We'll talk about what's going on with this investigation, the mystery surrounding the plane crash, a lot going on. Adam Kinsinger, the congressman who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, will be joining us as well.

TAPPER: Tim Kaine always pointing out that pesky constitution. Wolf Blitzer, thanks so much.

In our Buried Lead, what's the largest religious group in the Democratic Party? The answer might surprise you that's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:56:23]

TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. Our Buried Lead now, they are the most numerous and most powerful religious voting bloc in Republican politics, Evangelical Christians. But the religion group that dominates the Democratic Party these days isn't a religious group at all.

A new Pew research study out today for which researchers spoke with 35,000 Americans found that "Nones," people who belong to no organized religion or are agnostic or atheist, Nones account for 28 percent of Democrats.

Let's talk about this study with Pew's associate director of Research, Gregory Smith. Greg, it's a fascinating study, so many things to talk about. But I find it astounding that the Democratic Party's biggest religious group is people who reject religion. How did the Democratic Party get to this place?

GREGORY SMITH, ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR OF RESEARCH, PEW RESEARCH CENTER: Well, part of what we see that the "Nones" are growing within the public as a whole. In fact, they are the fastest growing religious group in the United States, almost a quarter of all adults in the United States say they have no religion.

So they're growing among both parties but especially among Democrats. They are now more numerous than Catholics, members of the historically Black Protestant tradition, more numerous than main line Protestants within the Democratic coalition. It's a big change.

TAPPER: The American people, by and large, without question, a people of faith, more so than other comparable industrialized nations. But, we are becoming less and less religious as a public, why?

SMITH: That's exactly right. It's important to keep in mind that by any measure the United States is still a nation of believers, but we're seeing small but significant declines in the number who believe in God, the number who pray regularly, number who attend religious services with regularity.

A big part of driving that, behind these trends, is generational replacement. You have older cohorts, baby boomers, members of the silent generation, who are beginning to pass away, whose numbers are beginning to dwindle.

And they're being replaced by a new generation of young people especially millennials far less religious than elders have been before them.

TAPPER: I'm generation-x and I imagine a lot of my generation were "Nones" when they were younger, but then we got older and we started to becoming more church going and religious but that's not what happens happening with millennials?

SMITH: It doesn't seem to be. There is some evidence that as people get older they do tend to become more religious in certain ways, more prayerful, attend religious services. But importantly they don't become any more likely to identify with a religious faith.

And in these data, we're not seeing much evidence that millennials have moved at all in the last seven years. In fact if anything, the oldest group of millennials may be less religious today than when we first did a similar study back in 2007.

TAPPER: Is the fact that we are becoming as a nation somewhat less religious connected it all with the greater acceptance of gays and lesbians that you also measure in the study?

SMITH: There are a lot of people who think that that's a big part of what's going on, that the conservatism of many religious groups, when it comes to issues like homosexuality has driven some people away from religion.

And that's certainly consistent with what you see if you look at the political profile of religious Nones. They are much more liberal than people who are affiliated with a religion, particularly conservative Christians and much more accepting of homosexuality.

TAPPER: Again, that's "Nones," n-o-n-e-s, not the other kind. Thank you so much, Greg Smith. Appreciate it.

That's It For THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. I Turn You Over To Wolf Blitzer next door in "THE SITUATION ROOM."