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Cruz Opens Up 10-Point Lead on Trump in Iowa; CNN GOP Debate in Las Vegas Tuesday. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired December 13, 2015 - 08:00   ET

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


ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Christi.

Both sides have reacted. Of course, one side is happier than the other.

[08:00:01] The Cruz campaign sees this big surge as a result of a lot of hard work. The campaign has spent months on the ground there in Iowa, building relationships with the evangelical community, which is very important in Iowa, building relationships with pastors and other faith leaders.

Here's a statement from Cruz's Iowa state director, Brian English. He said, "We have more work to do, but we can definitively say the message is working."

So this is interesting, this poll, because it confirms a trend we saw in another recent poll that also had Cruz ahead. But even more interesting is how much he has soared in this "Des Moines Register"/Bloomberg poll. He jumped 21 points since the last poll in October, and no other candidate has made that big of a jump in the past five cycles there in Iowa.

Now, perhaps not surprisingly, Donald Trump is raising questions about these numbers. He cited a recent poll from CNN. Look at this tweet. He says, new CNN Iowa poll, Trump, 33, Cruz, 20, everyone else way down. Don't trust "Des Moines Register" poll, biased towards Trump, he tweeted. He clearly meant to say biased against Trump.

But there he is raising questions about that poll, because this is not -- second place is not a place that Trump has been for several months now. So, it's an uncomfortable position for him -- Christi.

CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: You know, he has -- Trump has said an awful lot of things about Cruz. Cruz has kind of shuffled it off, you know, hasn't done anything about it, but when they're face to face there on the stage, do we have any indication of what to expect if he takes -- if Trump takes some shots at Cruz, is Cruz ready to go back at him?

JONES: Well, I would expect that Trump will try to hit Cruz, but like he said, he doesn't want to be in second place.

But it's true. Over the last several months, if you really look at it, Trump and Cruz have kind of been holding their fire against one another.

That's changed in recent days. We heard Trump go after Ted Cruz in Iowa on the issue of ethanol subsidies, which are important there in that state.

But Cruz has really tried to hold back. He tweeted the other day after this leaked audio of him, criticizing Trump's judgment and saying that his campaign will fade and those supporters will go to the Cruz campaign. Cruz later took to Twitter to say, "Look, the media wants to see a fight between me and Donald Trump, sorry to disappoint. I think Donald Trump is terrific."

The big question is, on Tuesday night, will he maintain that attitude or will he have to hit Trump back? Christi?

PAUL: Yes, a lot of eyes will be watching that, I'm sure. Athena Jones, thank you so much.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Let's talk more about this with CNN political commentators Jeffrey Lord and Ben Ferguson.

Gentleman, good morning.

BEN FERGUSON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Good morning.

JEFFREY LORD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Good morning, Victor.

BLACKWEL: All right. So, last week, we had the Monmouth poll putting Cruz up five points. Now we've got ten points right here in the "Des Moines Register" poll. They call this a big shake up.

Ben, first to you. Is this as big as it appears to be? Because 21 points is not the little engine that could.

FERGUSON: Yes. No, this is huge if you're Ted Cruz and it's big if you're any of the other candidates, because, ultimately, if you're in this field right now, you want to stop this Trump momentum.

So, if I'm one of the other candidates that's going on stage Tuesday night here at CNN, I'm hoping that anybody but Trump wins, and then it shows maybe he is not as invincible as he's been claiming and he's going to run away with this thing in every way. It also changes the way he campaigns, because it puts him on this back foot for the first time.

He's been leading in every poll. He's been telling every American that he's leading and crushing everybody in every poll. So, Ted Cruz can win this, even if it's close.

Even if it shows -- let's just say Ted Cruz comes in, you know, a point or two behind at the end of the election there. I still think that shows Trump's vulnerabilities and that's good for everybody else in the field, strategically.

BLACKWELL: Jeffrey, this is your guy.

(LAUGHTER)

BLACKWELL: For months now, he's been talking about how he's so far ahead in Iowa. Now, he's trailing in these two polls. What's your advice to him? How does he not only narrow that gap, but get back into the lead?

LORD: Well, I think, first of all, he's already doing it, he's going after "The Des Moines Register," which in Republican circles at least in Iowa, I suspect is not terribly popular to begin with. So he's already doing that.

I'm sure he'll draw some differences between himself and Senator Cruz. This is what candidates do. There's nothing unusual about this. The last thing to remember here is having worked for Ronald Reagan, Ronald Reagan himself lost the Iowa caucuses to George H.W. Bush. And then proceed to go on and win New Hampshire and South Carolina, et cetera.

So, there's much more to come. This is the opening act. And alas for Iowa, it doesn't always determine who the nominee is, as we all know, Senator Santorum won it four years ago and before that, Governor Huckabee. Neither of them made it to the nomination.

So, he'll just keep plugging along here. There's more than just the opening act, whatever happens.

BLACKWELL: Ben, let me ask you this. What will we see on Tuesday at this debate?

[08:05:01] Because the Donald Trump we see on the stump is not the Donald Trump often we see in debates. He's a lot more cordial when he's there with the other candidates. And do we see Trump will be going after them directly, trying to take those votes from him, or go after the other candidates to position himself as the last man standing other than Trump?

FERGUSON: Look, I think this debate is probably the most important debate we've had so far, for the fact it's so close to people actually getting to cast a vote. If you're up there on stage, you're one of these candidates, your campaign is kind of on life-support. You've got to go big, because you may not be at the next debate, because of your results.

So I think if you look at this, from Cruz's standpoint, you don't want to have a screw-up here and change who you are as a candidate. You don't want to overreach, you don't want to get into trash-talking conversation with Donald Trump on stage.

I think if Cruz comes out and shows that he has a better understanding of the issues on foreign policy, domestic policy, and other issues where he can say, look, I've done this. I'm a senator, I understand this. I'm an outsider senator, but I understand how Washington works -- and can show how well-prepared he believes he is compared to Donald Trump and shows Trump's vulnerabilities, that's probably his best plan moving forward.

But you don't want to get into some trash-talking war with Donald Trump. You're never going to win that war. He needs to make sure he stays true to kind of what he's trying to sell in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina.

BLACKWELL: Jeffrey, let me ask you, as we turn away from Trump and Cruz for a moment, I want to ask you about the $100 million man. Jeb Bush, who started this with this huge amount of money for not only his campaign, but the super PAC, languishing in the single digits in the latest polls, is he still in this?

LORD: You know, Victor, that's a good question. I have to say, I don't think he is. I, for one, have never really bought into all the Jeb Bush hype.

I mean, he's got a lot of money in the bank, a lot of it's like kryptonite money, a lot of it comes from lobbyists. This is not the year to be identified with that kind of thing. Plus he's got, you know, God bless him, he's got all the problems with his last name and all of this kind of thing. And then he's got his own problems, Common Core, et cetera.

One of these polls just the other day had him riding along at 3 percent. I mean, I think he's toast. He just doesn't realize it yet.

BLACKWELL: Ben, what do you think?

FERGUSON: He's got so much money, and yet no one seems to be paying attention to him, because he was the establishment's pick. And I think that hurts him more than the money coming from lobbyists, even, as the fact that the establishment GOP insiders chose Jeb Bush to be their guy. And people did not want that pick. We saw that with a surge of Trump. We've seen it with Ben Carson. We've seen it with Carly Fiorina. People do not want that pick that gave us Mitt Romney, the same people that gave you John McCain.

And so, I think his, from my perspective, I think his campaign is pretty much done. He has not done well in debates. So why would I expect him to be able to turn it around during this next debate and somehow keep some surge coming out of there?

I just don't see that happening for him. And it doesn't matter how much money you have, if people don't connect with you on the campaign trail, you're still going to lose.

BLACKWELL: All right. Ben Ferguson, Jeffrey Lord, I know we invited you on to talk about Cruz and Trump, but that stands out to me as one of the more remarkable story lines as what we're seeing as we get closer to this next debate.

Thank you, both.

FERGUSON: Thanks. Good to see you.

LORD: Thanks, Victor. Thanks, Ben.

BLACKWELL: And, remember, the last Republican debate of 2015 right here on CNN. Wolf Blitzer moderates the debate, Tuesday night at 6:00 and 8:30 p.m. Eastern and CNN is partnering with the Salem Radio Network, so to find the debate on the radio in your area, go to salemmedia.com.

PAUL: And are the Republicans are heading to a brokered convention is one of the questions that's out there. If so, if that happens, what does it mean? What are the consequences of it? We'll discuss that.

Also, before Donald Trump takes to the stage for the CNN Republican debate on Tuesday, guess what, he sat down with our Jake tapper. You'll get a preview, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLACKWELL: Ben Carson and Donald Trump both expressing strong concerns about the possibility of a brokered convention with Republicans gathered in Cleveland to choose their nominee and this is coming after top Republican officials met and discussed the potential for a brokered convention.

So what does this mean and how will it impact the race?

We've got CNN's Tom Foreman here to explain -- Tom.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hold on tight, because with this many candidates in the race, it could get messy. And here's how. Let's say you go into those early primaries and caucuses and nobody has a commanding lead anywhere. Maybe candidate "A" wins over here and candidate "B" over here and maybe candidate "C" over here, enough so that two or three or four candidates all think they can still keep playing this game.

And then you go state after state after state, and it continues and then you wind up at the convention itself with no one in a commanding lead. Already, you have what's called a contested convention.

And then if you get through the first vote there and nobody gets more than 50 percent, now you have a brokered convention.

What is a brokered convention? A brokered convention means that all of the delegates who showed up are no longer bound by how they're state constituents voted. Now they get to wheel and deal.

So, maybe candidate "B" says, well, candidate "A", I'll give you all my voters if you make certain concessions to me. Or maybe candidate "C" says I can give all of mine to you, candidate "D" or vice versa, if we can strike a deal here.

Through that process, as soon as somebody reaches 50 percent plus, a little bit over 50 percent, then it's all over. Doesn't matter that it was brokered, doesn't matter that it was contested, that person is now the nominee.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PAUL: All right. So let's talk more about this with a CNN politics executive editor Mark Preston.

Mark, we're 50 days out from the Iowa caucuses. Is it too soon to even talk about a brokered convention at this point?

MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICS EXECUTIVE EDITOR: You know, I don't think so. And the reason being is that we have 13 people that will be debating in two debates here now on Tuesday night.

We're seeing the support for each of these candidates split all across the board. Donald Trump, of course, is the front runner nationally.

[08:15:02] We've seen Ted Cruz make a move in Iowa, but still they don't have commanding leads at this point.

Now, this could all be moot, Christi in 50, 60 days right now if some candidate catches fire and wins Iowa and goes on to win New Hampshire and steamrolls on towards the nomination. But many people think that that's not going to happen. There are basically two or three lanes right now for this nomination. You have the Donald Trump lane. He's the only one in that lane right now, Christi.

You have the social conservative lane where Mike Huckabee and Ted Cruz and others are trying to play in that lane.

And then you have the establishment lane where the likes of Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush are trying to vie for those voters. What you have there then, it's such a division among the Republican voters at this point, that I don't think you're going to see a clear front-runner certainly through February.

PAUL: OK. So let's just say, let's just say that Donald Trump does not get the nomination. What happens to all of his supporters? Do they get so angry, because they are so passionate about him, or many of them are so passionate about him, do they get so angry that they don't even go to the polls and basically you hand it to the Dems at that point?

PRESTON: Well, certainly, even before you get to that point, will Donald Trump lead the Republican Party? Will he feel that as he has said time and time again, that he isn't being treated fairly by the Republican establishment? If he leaves the Republican Party, all bets are off.

Another thing that happens is, perhaps Donald Trump doesn't do as well. The support we're seeing in the polls right now has him up nationally, of course, and he's doing very well in the early states, but we actually have to see some photos. Those voters go with Trump, Trump ends up losing, more than likely, they will end up going to the nominee, unless this becomes a very divisive fight between Trump and the Republican establishment.

PAUL: Exactly.

All right. Mark Preston, thank you so much. We appreciate it.

PRESTON: Thanks. BLACKWELL: All right. Before Donald Trump takes the stage for the CNN Republican debate on Tuesday, he sat down with our Jake Tapper. We'll talk with Jake for a preview in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[08:20:48] BLACKWELL: All right. Just two days left until the next GOP debate. Donald Trump sat down for a one on one interview with CNN's Jake Tapper on "STATE OF THE UNION." Jake is with us now.

Jake, we've got these new polls in Iowa, but, of course, there's the proposal to ban Muslims from entering the U.S. Certainly, a lot to talk about.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST, "STATE OF THE UNION": That's right. And we did a deep dive with Donald Trump about this proposal, the religious liberty questions about it and as well as the national security implications. How would it work? We spent a lot of time talking about that.

We also talked about the fact that Trump is facing a real challenge from Ted Cruz and he had some tough words for Ted Cruz. As you know, Ted Cruz coming ahead of Trump in a new "Des Moines Register" poll.

We also talked about Justice Scalia's comments on affirmative action. What did Trump think of them.

All of that coming up. Plus, of course, we're going to announce the main stage and who made the main stage of the debate coming up in two days.

BLACKWELL: And, Jake, you know, this week, Trump resurrected this potential of running thirty appeared if he's not treated fairly. Has he fleshed out or put some meat on the bones of what that means?

TAPPER: He has not. And of course, running third party is very, very difficult. You have to have ballot access to all of the states, it's a tough thing to do.

But we did talk to him about the fact that there are these reports that Republican bigwigs are meeting behind doors talking about the possibility of a brokered convention, how could they keep Trump from getting the nomination. We talked to him about what he thought of all of that. His response has been all along that he signed a deal that he would support whoever the Republican nominee was, as long as he was treating fairly. And the questions of these closed-door meetings, I think, have him questioning whether or not the Republican Party is treating him fairly, Victor.

BLACKWELL: All right. So we see you're already in Las Vegas at 5:22 there on the West Coast. What else do you have for us this morning?

TAPPER: We've got a political panel talking about all the week's politics, the Democratic politics, of course, are important as well, with Senator Bernie Sanders still showing very, very strong support in first of the nation primary state New Hampshire. We'll talk about all of that.

Plus, we have a little special treat. It was yesterday, the 100th birthday of Frank Sinatra, who, as you know, is revered here on the Strip here in Las Vegas. We'll be taking a look in our "State of the Cartoonian" about Sinatra's ties to politics and his role with the Democratic and Republican parties.

BLACKWELL: All right. Looking forward to it. Jake Tapper, thanks so much.

TAPPER: Thank you.

BLACKWELL: And a reminder, check out Jake's interview with Donald Trump along with the unveiling of the candidate lineup for Tuesday's debate. It starts at 9:00 a.m. Eastern, right here on CNN.

So, it's one of the biggest traditions in college football.

PAUL: Yes, we have all the highlights in the Army/Navy game straight ahead. Stay close.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[08:27:58] PAUL: Listen. It's the greatest tradition in college football, the Army/Navy game.

BLACKWELL: Yes, and this weekend's game did not disappoint. Coy Wire is in Philadelphia. He was there for all the action.

And, Coy, I don't know if you call it a trend, you call it a tradition now? But we've got the same one we had for a while.

COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS: Yes, this was wonderful. They made it 14 straight. The army/navy game is one of the greatest spectacles in all of American sports. And the 116th edition did not disappoint, as you said.

Navy came into the game with a serious record, 13-game win streak, rank 21st in the nation. But Army, could only won two games the entire season, took this one to the wire. The last-second Hail Mary attempt, it fell short.

In the end, Navy's history-making quarterback, Keenan Reynolds was too hot to handle and too cold to hold. We were one of the first to catch up with him on the field after the game. Here he is and look at this emotion.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KEENAN REYNOLDS, NAVY'S ALL-TME RUSHING LEADER: This is a huge team. People came in big in the second half. I'm so happy. I don't even have words.

WIRE: You promised me you wouldn't cry and tear up. How are you feeling right now with your emotions?

REYNOLDS: I'm excited, overwhelmed and overjoyed.

WIRE: Your birthday is tomorrow. Is this the kind of present you were hoping for?

REYNOLDS: This is the perfect birthday present, I thought. It's not going to get better than this.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WIRE: Now, in that game, Keenan Reynolds became college football's all-time record in rushing touchdowns with his 84th and 85th scores. Navy beats Army, 21-17 in a spectacular display of college football, of pageantry, by the future defenders of our nation.

Christi, Victor, back to you.

PAUL: All righty. Seeing all of that enthusiasm, I can't imagine what the celebrations were behind closed doors.

BLACKWELL: Oh, yes.

(LAUGHTER)

BLACKWELL: Yes, the energy in that play.

PAUL: Coy, thank you so much!

WIRE: You're welcome.

PAUL: And he probably had a good time himself.

BLACKWELL: Yes.

PAUL: Thank you all so much for joining us and making us part of your morning. Make some good memories out there today.

BLACKWELL: Jake Tapper is live in Las Vegas and he has Donald Trump on the show on "STATE OF THE UNION" at top of the hour.

But right now, stay with us, "INSIDE POLITICS WITH JOHN KING" starts in just seconds.