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Post-Debate Coverage Of Democratic Presidential Debate In New Hampshire; Aired 11p-12a ET

Aired December 19, 2015 - 23:00   ET



[23:00:00] MARTIN O'MALLEY (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Because for the 24 hours with those issues being so urgent to people as he tune in tonight wondering how they are going to even be able to buy presents for their kids, instead, we're listening to the bickering back and forth. Maybe that's normal politics in Washington. But that is not the politics of higher purpose that people expect from our party.

HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I worry greatly that the rhetoric coming from the Republicans, particularly Donald Trump, is sending a message to Muslims here in the United States and literally around the world that there is a clash of civilization, that there is some kind of western pot or even war against Islam. Which then, I believe, fans the flames of radicalization.


O'MALLEY: I am the person on the stage that has passed gun safety legislation with a ban on combat assault weapons, David. And look, there are profound differences on this issue.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We can do all the great speeches we want, but you are going to succeed unless there is a consensus. In 1988, just to set the record straight, governor, I ran for the U.S. house. We have one house member from Vermont. Three candidates in the race. One candidate said, you know what? I don't think it's a great idea that we sell automatic weapons in this country that are used by the military to kill people very rapidly. Gun people said there are three candidates in the race. You vote for one or the other, but not Bernie Sanders. I lost that election by three percentage points, quite frankly for that reason.

So please, do not explain to me, coming from a state where Democrat governors and Republican governors have supported virtually no gun control.

Excuse me. Do not tell me that I am not shown courage in standing up to the gun people, in voting the ban assault weapons, voting for instant background checks, voting to end the gun control loophole and now in a position to create a consensus in America on gun safety.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Senator, thank you.

CLINTON: I think a lot of people are understandably reacting to fear and anxiety about what they're seeing. First, what they saw in Paris. Now, what they have seen in San Bernardino. And Mr. Trump has a great capacity to use bluster and bigotry to inflame people and to make them think there are easy answers to very complex questions. And we also need to make sure that the really discriminatory messages that Trump is sending around the world don't fall on receptive ears. He is becoming ISIS' best recruiter. They are going to people, showing videos of Donald Trump insulting Islam and Muslims in order to recruit more radical jihadists.

SANDERS: And I say this with due respect, that I worry too much that secretary Clinton is too much into regime change and a little bit too aggressive without knowing what the unintended consequences might be.

CLINTON: But I'll tell you what would have happened. If we had not joined with our European partners and our Arab partners to assist the people in Libya, you would be looking for Syria.

DAVID MUIR, ABC WORLD NEWS ANCHOR: Racist is up more than 200 percent.


MUIR: Should corporate America love Hillary Clinton?

CLINTON: Everybody should. With respect to my own husband, I am probably still going to pick the flowers and the China for state dinners and stuff like that.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: A little synopsis, a little something to highlight this two-hour plus Democratic presidential debate.

Dana Bash, Hillary Clinton is a very good debater. I think she's made it clear on repeated occasions and David Axelrod, contest by 2007, 2008, she was a very good debater as well. Didn't get her the nomination. But she did well tonight.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, she did well. And, you know, I agree with the Democrats who are here on this panel in saying that the DNC, whomever was worried about her debating was crazy, basically.

BLITZER: The accusation against the DNC only six debates. Republican have many more and some of these debates are on a weekend and Saturday night when most people aren't home.

BASH: The Saturday before Christmas, exactly. Look. And to be fair, we don't know exactly who did it and why, and so on and so forth. But yes, of course, she has a lot of experience at this. She did it how many times during the democratic --


BASH: But who is counting? During 2008.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That was eight years ago.

BASH: That's right. During 2008.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just yesterday.

BASH: But look, the bottom line is that the Republicans, the most interesting thing to me to be reading is that Republicans on twitter, because they are watching her and dissecting everything she does with a fine tooth comb because they -- I mean, unless something crazy happens, they are sure she is going to be there.

[23:05:07] BLITZER: She is someone, David, she is someone with a long record going back to 1992 when her husband was elected president of the United States.

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR COMMENTATOR: There's no question about it. Now, part of that is an advantage because there are a lot of things that are baked in the cake that are not going to be particularly effective against her.

But I want to talk about something that S.E. said in terms of foreign policy and national security. I was struck in this debate about how utterly confident she was in talking about these issues. If I were a Republican strategist and I were being honest with myself, I would say, you know what? She's not going to fall over when we start talking about national security. She has got great command of these issues and she's very confident when she speaks of it. I think that was probably the strongest part of her performance.

BLITZER: Four years as secretary of state will give you a lot of confidence in talking about national security jobs.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: That's one thing. I mean, campaigns don't always end as they started. We thought this was going to be a Democratic campaign at the very beginning about income inequality, about her connections to Wall Street. Well, it has turned because of tragic events in the world to the national security campaign. That plays into her strength. So the DNC made a miscalculation, I agree with him, and they were trying to help her. There is no question about it.

Now the question is, have they hurt her by sort of shielding her from a massive national audience here. But I mean, she will have plenty of time to do this. But that's what I'm so struck by. You know, the economic issues that we thought this was all going to revolve around, the thought of Elizabeth Warren maybe jumping in because of income equality. Those things are set aside. This is a different campaign now. It is national security from here forward.

BLITZER: And there was an excellent example of the differences between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton when it comes to regime change in some countries in North Africa and the Middle East. Listen first to Bernie Sanders.


SANDERS: A difference of opinion of Secretary Clinton on this.

Our differences are fairly deep on this issue. We disagreed on the war in Iraq. We both listened for the information from Bush and Cheney. I voted against the war. But I think -- and I say this with due respect, that I worry too much that secretary Clinton is too much into regime change and a little bit too aggressive without knowing what the unintended consequences might be.

Yes, we could get rid of Saddam Hussein, but that destabilized the entire region. Yes, we could get rid of Gadhafi, a terrible dictator, but that created a vacuum for ISIS. Yes, we could get rid of Assad tomorrow, but that would create another political vacuum that would benefit ISIS.

So I think yes, regime change is easy. Getting rid of dictators is easy. But before you do that, you have to think about what happens the day after.


BLITZER: All right. Peter Beinart, did he make his case strongly?

PETER BEINART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. What is fascinating here is you have a cross cutting debate within both party. Bernie Sanders standing a little bit like ted Cruz who is allowing Marco Rubio on exactly the same ground, right. The one of kind of more realist position, which stick with the bad dictators to at least provide stability. The other view being we have to overthrow the indicators (ph) because they are the cause of the instability, this producing jihadist terrorism. This will be a very different general election debate if she's standing up there against Cruz or Trump --

BLITZER: But Trump doesn't disagree with him when it comes to this. He makes many of this very same point.

BEINART: Right. So the point, if Hillary is running against Trump or Cruz, she will be running against someone who is against the Libya intervention and who even said that they were against the Iraq war. If she's running against Rubio, she will be -- again, someone with a view similar to her own.

BLITZER: All right. Listen to Hillary Clinton. She spoke out a regime change as well defending her stance.


CLINTON: That's exactly what I just said and what I just described.

MUIR: Yes, but Secretary Clinton --

CLINTON: Because now we have a U.N. security council that will enable us to do that. With all due respect, senator, you voted for regime change with respect to Libya. You joined the Senate in voting to get rid of Gadhafi and you asked there be a security council with resolution. All these are different issues. I know that. I have been dealing with them for a long time. And of course, we have to continue to do what is necessary when

someone, like Gadhafi, a desperate with American blood on his hands is overturned. But I tell you what would have happened if we had not joined with our European partners and our air partners to assist the people in Libya, you would be looking at how the Libyans are turning their attention to try to dislodge ISIS from its foothold and begin to try to move together to have a unified nation.

SANDERS: I was not is secretary of state --

MUIR: Senator Sanders -


BLITZER: Paul Begala, I know you support Hillary Clinton, but is she vulnerable when it comes to Libya which is a total mess right now? ISIS is taking over huge chunks of Libya. Gadhafi may be the gone. And yes, he was a dictator, but in the end, he was actually cooperating with the U.S., gave up his nuclear program, compensated the Pan Am 103 victims, waits a blunder to get rid of Gadhafi in exchange for the ISIS developments in northern Africa right now?

[23:10:23] PAUL BEGALA, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, Moammar Gadhafi killed a lot more Americans than Saddam Hussein ever did before we invaded this country, OK? He has - he does that did (INAUDIBLE). He bombed the Disco Tech (ph) in West Berlin, back when there was Berlin with American -- filled with Americans soldiers who took down and airplane willed with Americans. He was a terrorist.

What people want stop sign politically his strength, certainty, command. And it's important to have experts like Peter and others go through line by line, really, really important. But what voters do, as somebody who is strong, usually for Democrats that's a harder burden. Awesome for women it's a harder burden. Hillary is a democratic woman who is seen as stronger on terrorism than any of the Republican men.

BLITZER: The criticisms leveled against her and President Obama for that matter, all of those, including Marco Rubio who supported getting ready of Gadhafi is they didn't have a game plan to follow up and make sure that there would be some democracy, some sort of peaceful situation in Libya that would emerge in the aftermath of Gadhafi.

BEGALA: Right. And people want to know going forward what is going to happen next. I thought it was interesting that she had the briefing book. This is where you have, Bernie, you voted, for regime change there as well. These are really well --.

AXELROD: His answer was not very good, which is, well, you were the secretary of state. Well, you were the United States senator voting on this. But you know, what is really interesting to me is not the attack and byplay, but with how basically meek -- the others, particularly Bernie in leveling it. And if you really wanted to hurt her, you would say you sound more like those people we heard on the stage last week in Vegas than you do a Democrat. He didn't do it and he didn't attack in other ways where he could have because I think on some level he expect her to be the Democratic nominee.

S.E. CUPP, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: She is a formidable debater. You are all right. But she didn't really get a lot of challenges tonight. I mean, if you can imagine her saying at a general election debate, touting her record of coalition building in Iran and Libya, you better believe someone on that stage, whoever it is, is going to have something to say about it.

BLITZER: So let's say Donald Trump or Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, deal with her on this issue of regime change?

CUPP: Well, whether it's regime change, whether it's trusting Russia to respect & a no fly zone, her coalition building in Iran, I mean, any Republican, and we have got wide diversity of intellectual opinion on foreign policy, but any Republican is going to go after her competency, is going to go after her decision making, her judgment when it comes to foreign policy.


BLITZER: Hold up Patti. Go ahead and respond to that.

PATTI SOLIS DOYLE, FORMER HILLARY CLINTON CAMPAIGN MANAGER: Well, what's struck me about that exchange is that she invoked her experience as secretary of state, as senator, working with foreign leaders. There is not anyone on the stage tonight or anyone on the stage in Las Vegas who has any of that kind of experience whatsoever. And so, I agree with Paul, voters are going to see their competency as she debates them. And she could have the winner.

BEINART: `The problem is that, though, Americans right now don't think Barack Obama is doing a good job inciting terror. I actually haven't to think that he probably get deserves more credit than he is getting. Most Americans don't think he is doing a good job. And so, she, as his former secretary of state is the inheritor of that. Now, she can say I want to do a different policy in Syria, but she is basically wedded to his foreign policy. And so, if Obama's foreign policy continues to deteriorate in public opinion, that hurts her.

BLITZER: How do the Republicans, Dana, respond to Hillary Clinton?

BASH: Well, I think you just heard, the bottom line is I think what makes this election so fascinating is the fact that there is a divide within each party that we saw a display within the last weeks on the two debate stages about regime change versus keeping dictators in place because it is more realistic, realism. But the bottom line is, if you're a Republican and the general election, all you're going to do is Benghazi. And you know, you name your issue across the worlds --


BASH: Russian resent. That, yes, she was secretary of state, yes, she has command of the issues. Rhetorically she understands them, but they are going to say she didn't execute them properly across the board. That is - I mean, the playbook is already written. AXELROD: She had quite work on Benghazi in October and it didn't work

out oddly for her. But on Peter's point, I think it's not just a matter of her being Obama secretary of state. I think people also, as Paul said, look at the style of the person. And her style is so distinct from Barack Obama. And she comes up, frankly, you know, he is a little more reflective on these issues. She is more muscular on these issues. I think we saw some of that tonight. So I don't think it's going to be as easy as perhaps some Republicans think.

[23:15:01] BLITZER: All right, guys, stand by for a moment.

Coming up, Hillary Clinton zeroing in on Donald Trump slamming his rhetoric on Muslims.


CLINTON: He is becoming ISIS' best recruiter. They are going to people, showing videos of Donald Trump insulting Islam and Muslims in order to recruit more radical jihadists.



[23:19:14] BLITZER: Welcome back. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.

One of the most significant moments of tonight's Democratic presidential debate came with Bernie Sanders apologizing to Hillary Clinton for a breach of the DNC computer files.

Tom Foreman is here with a closer look at what the controversy is all about -- Tom.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, I will explain to you in one minute what this complex issue is all about.

Simply put, when we talk about this server idea, what we're saying is that the DNC operates essentially a warehouse of information. It's a computer with a lot of information in it that the campaigns can all benefit from. That computer, however, also allows each of these campaigns to sort of have their own area that is unique to them and that has information that only they can get to. So everybody is connected to their part of the warehouse, in a sense.

The people who oversaw the warehouse allowed the walls to come down between these chambers accidentally. When that happened, all of a sudden somebody from the Sanders camp went into the Clinton camp and looked around. They say it was an accident. It happened a little time, a small incident. DNC says, no, we think it happened a lot and maybe you rummaged through hurry files before he went back and said there is a problem here. That is the problem and it's still not decided, Wolf, as to exactly what happened even as they try to be nice.

[23:20:33] BLITZER: Certainly not. There are bubbles. We'll see how that falls out. There was also a lot of bashing of Donald Trump, the Republican

presidential front-runner. Listen to this clip from Bernie Sanders.


SANDERS: Somebody like the Trump comes along and says, I know the answers. The answer is that all the Mexicans, they are criminals and rapists. We have to hate the Mexicans. Those are your enemies. We hate all the Muslims because all the Muslims are terrorists. We have to hate the Muslims.

Meanwhile, the rich get richer. So what I say to those people who go to Donald Trump's rally, understand, he thinks a low minimum wage in America is a good idea. He thinks low wages are a good idea. I believe we stand together to address the real issues fixing this country. Not allow that to divide us by race or where we come from. Let's create an America that works for all of us, not the handful on top.


BLITZER: I don't know if Donald Trump, maybe somebody can check, has already tweeted reacting to some of this. But Nia-Malika, it's still very strong words against the Republican presidential front-runner, which I suspect in a conservative Republican contest can help Donald Trump.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Yes. I think in some ways he was really the only candidate on the Republican side that they mentioned. Democrats have been involved in this rebranding campaign, right, trying to rebrand the Republican Party as the party of Trump and not as the party of Lincoln. It is unfortunate he wasn't mentioned more because he is such a magnet for flawed in those kinds of audience.

And just for donors and excitement from Democrats, they very much see Donald Trump as amassing to some of their value and beliefs. So it is not a surprise if he came up over and over this debate. You have seen Hillary Clinton really go after him in speeches. She's launching this whole love not hate campaign around some of his remarks and I suspect it will continue.

BASH: Funny that you mentioned whether he has respond on twitter because I had already looked at it. I just saw one of them. All you heard from the debate is the pathway to citizenship for all and taking our guns away, #tryme.

BLITZER: That's a tweet I think from @realDonaldTrump.

Listen to this. This is Hillary Clinton speaking about Trump.


CLINTON: Trump has a great capacity to use bluster and bigotry to inflame people and to make them think there are easy answers to very complex questions. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Very -- more strong words, David Axelrod. But you think this is clearly going to be the theme of the Democrats. A lot of them already assuming he's got a shot. He's got a shot at getting the Republican nomination.

AXELROD: Remember, the mission of the Republican Party after the last election was outreach to minorities, outreach to younger voters, outreach to women. Donald Trump is destroying that project. And Democrats are going to hold him up as the bright shiny objects he is until and if and unless he goes away.

ZELENY: The Clinton campaign hopes Donald Trump is the nominee. But most of them, if you talk to him in an honest moment, they do not believe he actually will be. So the person they are still most fearful of is Marco Rubio. And they are also beginning to wonder about if --

BASH: Ted Cruz.

ZELENY: Senator Ted Cruz, thank you. So many Republicans, I couldn't think. If Ted Cruz is going to emerge from that. But Trump is good for everyone's base because it makes, you know, these Democrats sound tough. But they don't think he's going to be the nominee.

CUPP: But there is a reason. Only one Republican candidate was mentioned and that is because Democrats want to hold Trump up as a proxy for the party. This is why for so long I have been sort of lamenting the advent of Trump because it is so easy to use his rhetoric and his bombast and his ridiculous policy proposals to paint the whole of the party, all of whom primarily denounce a lot of the things that he says, most of them.

AXELROD: Well, except for the front running other candidates.

CUPP: Most of whom do. But do denounce him. But as the same. And that's a huge problem for our party, as David said. We had actually made significant progress in the years since 2012 in outreach to women, in outreach to younger voters, in outreach to minorities. And he has -- the damage that he is doing is not just right now. It is lasting. It is immeasurable. And it has, you know, conservative -

BLITZER: Paul Begala, if Hillary Clinton is the Democratic presidential nominee, who would she rather face, Donald Trump, Marco Rubio other Ted Cruz?

BEGALA: Well, as you know, I don't communicate with her at all. I made no contact with her, I but I can channel her mind right now ala "Star Wars." I'm seeing orange, seeing white hair, it's either a wookie or -- let me think -- Donald Trump. That's amazing, right.

[23:25:17] BEINART: The problem is beyond Trump. Just as happened in 2012, Trump has moved the debate, especially on immigration so far to the right that now Ted Cruz, who really could be the nominee, is saying not only he doesn't support a path to citizenship, but he will not support any legalization of undocumented immigrants. So Trump has moved the debate so far that even the candidates who are considered more moderate than him, are moving to a place where it will be hard to win Hispanic votes.

BASH: And Wolf, on that now, what I read to you was actually retweet. He also retweeted one that said Donald Trump won the debate. And I think this conversation might actually show.

BLITZER: When people say to you, David Axelrod, be careful what you wish for. If you're a democrat and you wish Donald Trump were the Republican nominee, he's been very, very surprisingly strong so far.

AXELROD: He has. Look, I was one of the many who didn't think he would get this far. So there is that element of fear because he has, you know, even though he wants a wall on the border, he knows wants no boundaries himself and he will say or do anything to advance this --.


AXELROD: I used it before but not on CNN.


AXELROD: So, you know, I think that there is that element of risk with him as the nominee. But at the end of the day, he is so out of the mainstream on several issues that I think it would be very difficult for people at the end of -- go in the booth, punch that button, the majority of Americans, I don't see it. I think Hillary Clinton wins that race by not a little.

BLITZER: You know, I want to move and talk a little but some other subjects.

But Patti, I want you to react as I was a young reporter in 1980 when White House officials of the Jimmy Carter administration were high fiving each other when Ronald Reagan, someone they called this b-level Hollywood actor got the Republican nomination and they simply assumed it was over, Jimmy Carter would be re-elected president of the United States. We all know what happened after that. So don't be so sure that Donald Trump, if he is the Republican nominee, he's going to lose, right?

DOYLE: No. I think he's going to lose. We are talking about 270 electoral votes. We are talking about a coalition that Barack Obama built in 2012 of Hispanics, of African-Americans, of women, and there is not a shot in heck that Donald Trump can build that coalition, or even whittle away a small percentage of those away from the Democratic --

AXELROD: And will somebody has to stand up for Ronald Reagan, OK? I want to stand up for Ronald Reagan. Ronald Reagan was a serious person. He was a two-term governor of the largest state in this country. He had a record by public life. And by today's Republicans' standards he was on the left.

BLITZER: I totally agree. I was only pointing out that White House officials at that time were belittling him as a Hollywood actor.

BEGALA: Keep in mind then, along David's point, Ronald Reagan got 37 percent of the Hispanic vote. It has much smaller vote then. But he got 37 coming a state with largest Hispanic population. He said this. Hispanics are Republicans. They just don't know it yet, OK. That's inclusive, it's welcoming, it's classic Reagan and it's not what Mr. Trump is saying to people.

ZELENY: We don't know what Donald Trump would stand for in a general election. He's shown he is a sort of flexible, shall we say, on policies. So if he got the nomination, who knows what he would campaign on.


HENDERSON: And does he bring new voters to the electorate? I mean, part of the theory from 2012 is that all of these millions of white voters stayed home as in some ways been debunk. But that's one theory that you hear in conservative circles. Six million white voters stayed home, you know, would more people come out.

BLITZER: I think it's fair to say all of us have been surprised at how well Donald Trump has been doing over this past six months. We will see if he can continue that as well.

Coming up, Hillary Clinton defender ties to big business and gets a laugh along the way.


MUIR: Should corporate America love Hillary Clinton?

CLINTON: Everybody should.



[23:32:15] BLITZER: We're back with our political correspondents and our commentators and our experts. We are discussing the democratic presidential debate. Here is Hillary Clinton speaking about her husband, the former president, if she's elected.


CLINTON: With respect to my own husband, I am probably still going to pick the flowers and the China for state dinners and stuff like that. But I will certainly turn to him as prior presidents have for special missions, for advice, and in particular how we are going to get the economy working again for everybody which he knows a little bit about.


BLITZER: Let me get the women to react, first of all. What did you think? BASH: That bummed me out. It really did. I mean, she is going to

have -- if she is president, she is going to have a lot on her plate. She is not going to get -- I didn't mean that -- that was an accident, but I'll own it. She's not going to have time for that kind of stuff. And, you know, it's kind of a bummer.

Look, the bottom line is, the first female president, whomever she is going to be is going to have to make those decisions. And I think, you know, stepping back on China patterns and flowers is probably one of the first things that she should do.

HENDERSON: Yes, you know, I mean, we saw this kind of break in the role like, God, why did she say that? You know, I think it gets at her sort of odd relationship with feminism and what feminism is. Is she a feminist? Is she post-feminist? And so, you know, I don't think she will have time to pick out the flowers and pick out the China pattern. But for some reason she felt like she need to say that which I think kind of get that again this odd relationship she has with feminism and what it means to be the first female president.

DOYLE: Yes. I worked with her and she was a first lady. And she does have a very genuine love of flowers and state dinners and picking out China patterns and many. She really does. But that answer sort of bummed me out, too. I think she is the president of the United States. She wins and she's going to have --

BLITZER: Is it a generational thing, S.E.?

CUPP: I don't - I mean, look, as a conservative, you know, you embrace your femininity, that's fete fine. But it was cringe worthy for me because maybe she is a big fan of flowers, but it felt very contrived. It felt like I'm putting on my human outfit.

AXELROD: Does she know more about China than Donald Trump?

CUPP: No way.

CUPP: No. It felt like she was trying to like have an authentic, you know, grandmother moment. And that always feels to put on. It is, to me, it doesn't ever feel genuine like, no, you are not going to be picking out China pattern if you're the president of the United States. You're just not.

BLITZER: What did she say, remind us in '92, about baking cookies?


BEGALA: Brilliant young press aide in Iowa named Lily Adams who I follow on twitter. During the debate, as soon as Hillary mentioned that about I still pick out flowers in China, Lily, a smart, young woman working for Hillary in her press office tweeted out, here is how Hillary deals with China and linked it to a video of her speech where she went to Beijing and attacked China for human rights. I thought that was a brilliant turn from --.

(CROSSTALK) [23:35:24] BEINART: From what she said. I think it shows that she's been back in 1992, it's hard to believe, she was really a cultural lightning rod on the impression, when she did make that comment about women all across the country were sending her --. I think it shows you how much she's progressed as a politician. She is much, much more adept on the issue so far. And so far through the dog which has not barked in this campaign, which is good for her.

AXELROD: One of the things that I thought that bothered me more, but Paul and I disagreed on this, was she referred to in the last Clinton administration. And I thought claiming herself as the successor to the last Clinton administration, I thought it what it is was -- she did one on her own.

BLITZER: She did say that she wanted to use her husband to help get the economy working again. Bill Clinton's economy during his two terms was good.

AXELROD: It was good. But I think one of the things she's done very well in this campaign is establish her own persona. They haven't been campaigning together very much. He hasn't been much of the public presence. He has been doing a lot of fundraising. I think there is a reason for that. And I don't think you want to bring him back into the discussion right now.

BLITZER: Is that a problem, bringing him back into the discussion?

ZELENY: Not in the Democratic primary, it's not. He is still the most beloved figure. And she has said a few times that would, you know, perhaps be an envoy or something and that is the central question. I'm at a lot of her town hall meetings. And voter after voter after voter asks her, what is he going to be up to? They are just fascinated by him. So I think he is definitely going to have a substantive role. He is playing a very large behind the scenes role in this campaign. He is her top adviser, no question. He is in New Hampshire tonight, not sitting in the debate hall but watching it.

So I think that, you know, it's an obvious question but, no, she shouldn't have said the last Clinton administration because that's sort of getting ahead of herself as though there's going to be a next one and we are far from there.

BLITZER: Would she be wise to go back and just talk about you get two for the price of one?

HENDERSON: No. And she exclusively said I'm not running for the third term Clinton administration or, you know, third term Clinton administration or third term of Obama. I'm running for my first term. So, you know, I think this is going to be a constant thing, you know. When do you invoke Bill Clinton? What kind of role he plays in the campaign? And I think sometimes she will distance herself and sometimes she will embrace it.

BLITZER: You worked for both of them.

BEGALA: I really only for him, but I loved her. BLITZER: Well, she was the first lady of the United States.

BEGALA: She certainly was.

BLITZER: So you really worked for her, too.

BEGALA: The president of the United States. But I loved Hillary and now I work for her super Pac that is trying to elect her. That phrase that you reminded people of, two for the price of one, that is something we used for Bill Clinton in 1992. People loved it. And I can tell you this. You go around the country, it has just reported. People like the fact that her husband did a good job and it's less I think important now than it was in '08 for her to establish her own identity because she has been secretary of state for Barack Obama. It is not only Bill Clinton she gets a good term, but also Barack Obama.

Democrats in this case, we get to the general elections, my party has an embarrassment of riches. We can send Bill Clinton out to campaign. He hope to send President Obama out to campaign. There is a lot - Joe Biden. There is a lot of talent. I want to see if George W. Bush is going to campaign for these guys. Dick Cheney campaigned for the Republican Party. There is not a chance in the world. They are going to be in a witness protection program. You are going to see them on the milk cartons and nowhere else.

BLITZER: S.E., how worried would the Republicans be about Bill Clinton getting out there and I assume he will be an active campaigner if she gets the Democratic nomination?

CUPP: I think not very, frankly. Look. He is gifted. He is incredibly talented and he is beloved, inexplicably for many. But no, he is also - I mean, he has had some dangerous moments the on the campaign trail. He has not always been a positive for her or for Obama, you know. He has a tendency to go rogue. And I think any sort of associations with him really make it look like she's there on her own. And I think that's the campaign she should be running. Obviously, she doesn't need my advice. But I think she should be running her own campaign. And I think trotting him out looks a little insecure.

BLITZER: She says I determine to win as prior presidents have for special missions, too.

BEINART: Yes. I think they deserve credit this time around. If you remember in 2008, Bill Clinton was a little rogue. He made a couple of comments about Barack Obama have him winning in South Carolina was just like he jack when he - that it really got them in trouble, forced conflict that didn't want to have. This year, for whatever reason, the campaign has been able to use him effectively without making him a destruction.

DOYLE: He learned his lesson well. And for, you know, she was asked that question. She didn't invoke him out of nowhere. She answered a direct question. She is running her own campaign. She is not campaigning with him. I think we're make too much of nothing.

BLITZER: Did Al Gore make a big mistake in 2000 by not using Bill Clinton enough?

[23:40:02] AXELROD: Yes, I think so.

BLITZER: Maybe that's a lesson that Hillary Clinton learned, as well.

AXELROD: Maybe so, I mean. But she -- this is a slightly different situation. Look, I think Bill Clinton is the most talented political figure of our time. I don't think there's any question about that. I think he is very gifted. I think he is incredibly smart. But I also think it's not incredibly smart for him not to campaign with her because he eclipses anyone who stands next to him.

BLITZER: Good point. All right. One of the most fiery exchanges at the debate came when the candidates talked about guns and how to keep them out of the hands of terrorists.

Tom Foreman is back with rather reality check on that.

Tom, what did you see?

FOREMAN: One of the challenge here, Wolf, for Hillary Clinton was would it make Americans safer if they actually had more gun in their hands? And she, of course, as you would expect, took exception to that idea.


CLINTON: In and of themselves, in my opinion, will not make Americans safer. We lose 33,000 people a year already to gun violence.


FOREMAN: So let's take a look at those numbers there. And she does have the basic number right. The CDC, the Centers for Disease Control, say about 33,000 people a year are lost to gun violence. Here's some details, though. Out of that number, you have to know that about homicide and legal interventions, police shootings, self- defense, that sort of thing, are less than 12,000. About two-thirds of these deaths are suicides. These are all critical, they are all important. But so are these details. And because she's had the chance to see these before and she's often avoided them, we're going to say what she said was true, but it is misleading. You can find a whole lot more on a lot of the other things said by the candidates by going to -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Tom, thanks very much.

Jeff, it is critically important issue for these especially democratic presidential debates.

ZELENY: No doubt about it. I mean, it is a central issue, but there are not, again, that many divisions between the two of them. It is one of those things were we saw many, many, many, many more differences on the Republicans stage that you moderated this week as oppose to the Democrats. But it is a central issue. And it is something that again is going to play out in the general election again and again and again, no question. But it's not the issue that it used to be. I mean, it used to be an issue that divided the Democratic Party, as well. Those days are over. They are long over and I don't see that changing.

BLITZER: This is the issue, especially in New Hampshire, states might go after it.

AXELROD: Well, Bernie Sanders, you know, as was pointed out several times, had a more conservative record --

BLITZER: From neighboring Vermont.

AXELROD: Because he was from Vermont, so yes. But I don't know how that will play in the Democratic primary. Even in Iowa, I think the numbers on the Democratic side support gun safety, gun control issue. But one interesting finding in "the Washington Post"/ABC poll this week that I found depressing, frankly, was that for the first time since they have been pulling this issue, the majority of Americans support or oppose the ban on assault weapons. Which tells you how the issue has shifted in light of this terrorism.

BLITZER: Also an exchange on corporate America and their relationships with these democratic candidates. Listen to this.


MUIR: Should corporate America love Hillary Clinton?

CLINTON: Everybody should.

MUIR: Will corporate America love a president Sanders?

SANDERS: No, I think they won't. So Hillary and I have a different --


BLITZER: Nia, that underscores the difference right there.

HENDERSON: Yes. It underscores the difference. I thought it was good moment for Hillary Clinton because, you know, a lot of people tweeted about it and it showed, you know, her being light hearted. But clear that Sanders has a very different relationship with Wall Street, has a very different approach. I mean, he is going after Wall Street, essentially calling them corrupt. And then on the one hand saying that Hillary Clinton is somehow in the pocket of Wall Street and would be a pan of Wall Street if she was in the White House. But yes, clear differences. And this is Sanders' sweet spot. He wants to talk about billionaires and he wants to be the enemy of Wall Street.

BLITZER: We have another clip. Hillary Clinton speaking about ISIS. Watch this.


CLINTON: When we look at these complex problems, I wish it could be either/or. I wish we could say yes, let's go destroy ISIS and let's Assad continue to destroy Syria which creates more terrorist, more extremists by the minute. No. We now finally at where we need to be. We have a strategy and a commitment to go after ISIS which is danger to us as well as the region.


BLITZER: Peter, what do you think?

BEINART: Yes. That was a good answer. And she's right, actually. She - the Obama administration does finally have a strategy. It's a very difficult issue. But John Kerry is now beginning the diplomatic process. They have a U.N. resolution there. And she's right on the substance which is that Bashar al-Assad is the recruiter for ISIS. As long as you have him there and a government that has no legitimacy, it would be very difficult politically to rally Sunnis against ISIS. So I think she showed her command of the material there.

BLITZER: Do you agree, S.E.?

CUPP: Well, yes and no. She used tougher language than even President Obama is using, just in the press conference we saw this week. He has gone from Bashar al-Assad must go to his exact words, Bashar al-Assad must is going to have to leave which is like sort of looking at him as this unwanted lingering party guest who is we are all just waiting to, you know, sort of finally leave the party so we can start doing the dishes. And Hillary Clinton is a more vocal advocate for regime change than President Obama, it would seem.

[23:45:30] BEGALA: This is about attributes more than issues. The attributes that that (INAUDIBLE) as the strategist are these. Strong leader, cares about people like me. These are two very different things. President Obama got re-elected because he beat Mitt Romney on both of those side. He was stronger against terrorism and he compared more about people like me in the middle class.

Hillary Clinton is going to match up against Donald Trump. Donald Trump now is the leading candidate and also the leading candidate on Republicans on terrorism by far, by even more than it leads to the polls. Normally, he leads on terrorism. Why? The guy know anything about it. It's because he projects strength. His only foreign policy account is keeping the Pier Hotel from invading Trump tower, OK. He don't know nothing about --.

BLITZER: Standby, guys. Because we have much more coming up.

Hillary Clinton get us gives a nod to another big event that many more Americans are paying attention to right now.


CLINTON: Thank you. Good night and may the force be with you.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [23:50:03] BLITZER: While we've been diving with the headlights of the tonight's Democratic presidential debate, "Saturday Night Live" has been having some fun looking back at CNN's Republican presidential debate earlier in the week. See what you think about the way they portrayed the moderator. Watch this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Live from the Venetian hotel in Las Vegas, it's the Republican debate with your moderator, Wolf Blitzer.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good evening. For those of you who missed our earlier under card debate featuring Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum, well, the results are in and everybody lost. Now, let's meet the candidates. Nine are here tonight. The five who are actually have a chance are Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Ben Carson, Marco Rubio, and poor sweet Jeb Bush. Would the rest of you just wave to your parents know you're here.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We begin with the front-runner, Mr. Trump. Your opening remarks?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Debate -- debates are stupid. You should be paying me. And Wolf Blitzer looks like Papa Smurf.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wolf, may I take a desperate swing at Donald now?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Go ahead, Mr. Bush.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is what he does. He says these offensive things then he bullies anyone who challenges him. Well, guess what? You can't insult your way to the presidency.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, really, jug head? Because I'm at 43 and you're at three. Jeb, you're a nice guys, but you're a lightweight and I know for a fact that you pea sitting down.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's go ahead. Senator, you said you were relentlessly carpet bomb ISIS. Is this a real strategy?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, Wolf, if I'm president, I can promise you, ISIS will hate me. And how do I know? Because everyone who knows me hates me. Democrats hate me. Republicans hate me. I have what doctors call a punchable face. Politico actually did a poll and I was voted the candidate most people wanted to throw a beer at. So look out, ISIS. Because I'm going crash your party and just like every party I go to, I'm going to ruin it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Governor Christie, what steps would you take to keep Americans safe? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wolf, I would like to answer that with a series of

fear mongering statements.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are attack and we are all going to die. Mothers are putting their kids on buses and these buses are being driven off cliffs by terrorists. Today in our great country, one out of every three babies born are already in ISIS. They are here, folks, and I am the only one up here with the stones to take them on. I am a cowboy on a steel horse I ride. Bon Jovi forever!



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is -- trying to start World War III.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sir, we're not taking comments from the audience yet.



BLITZER: Very funny. Very funny. Let the record show John Runitski did a very nice job playing Wolf Blitzer. What did you think?

BEGALA: I thought he was great. He doesn't bring the gravitas that you bring. I don't think you look like --.

BLITZER: I thought it was very good. I've been portrayed by others. He did a good job, S.E.

CUPP: No. He can't hold a candle to the real deal. Nice try, though.

BLITZER: This was very funny, though, you have to admit. The whole skit.

BEINART: The whole skit was excellent, yes. And I think is interesting. I haven't seen Ted Cruz were. The fact that these did Cruz as unlikable I think is a sign of why they have some problems as the Republican nominee.

BLITZER: What did you think?

DOYLE: I thought it was very, very funny, but not as funny as the actual debate.


BLITZER: Good Democrats thinking about the Republicans. What did you think, Jeff?

ZELENY: Look. I think that Chris Christie was probably my favorite of all of those. I mean, he did say some things that were sort of scary at the debate, but perhaps not as scary as that. But I still think you're the best, Wolf.

BLITZER: I've been portraying Wolf Blitzer for a long time.

HENDERSON: I think that guy has to work on the bass in his voice. But yes, I mean, this was funny. I thought we kind of inner play between Bush and Trump there making fun of the way Bush is trying to go after Trump and not doing it so successfully. So I mean, this is "SNL" at its best, political season.

AXELROD: Actually, that Bush exchange was sort of devastating.


AXELROD: To Bush. Bush is trying to get his strength caution up by going after Trump and they just gave him a swat right there.

BASH: It is going to Jeb Bush events, you kind of hear some of the same thing as what the fake Wolf Blitzer just says, go into poor Jeb Bush. You know, people say, he seems like such a nice guy. When you're a candidate, you don't want somebody leaving your event to say, oh. You want somebody to say, yes!


[23:55:10] BLITZER: Very nice. Do you think he'll come back, Jeb Bush?

AXELROD: I think it will be tough. But he is obviously chosen this route. Nobody else has been willing to take Trump on. Finally, he has kind of leverage his way. He is trying to leverage his way. I think it is a very long shot.

BLITZER: Can Jeb Bush come back?

CUPP: I think so. Yes, I'm so glad he's finally sort of taken the governor off the race card and decided, OK, we got anything else to lose. I'm really going to go after Trump in a way that can matter. I don't know if it will work, but I don't think it's -- it's too early to count him out.

BLITZER: Paul, your heart is with your fellow Texan, Ted Cruz.

BEGALA: Actually, I've been long on Cruz for a long time, seriously, just as a talent and somebody who I think honestly can win the Republican nomination. I don't think he's the strongest candidate, but I'm not a Republican. With Jeb, it's been so interesting to watch this. Because everybody thought he would be the leader. But he said this in one of the debates, when asked what's your biggest drawback, he answered honestly, I don't do anchor well. Well, his party, did dominate by anger and he just doesn't do. Well, he is a bad fit for his electorate.

BEINART: And the other problem is that his lane now is very crowded. He is the modern establishment. You've got Rubio and you've got Christie surging now, right. The Cruz is now basically alone in that conservative evangelical role.

BLITZER: We will leave it on that note.

Guys, excellent, excellent conversation. Thanks to all of you for joining us.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. The news continues next right here on CNN.