Return to Transcripts main page

AT THIS HOUR WITH BERMAN AND MICHAELA

Trump Promises New "Positive" Tone on Trail; Republican Debate in S.C. Tomorrow Night; S.C. High-Profile Leaders No Consensus on Endorsements. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired February 12, 2016 - 11:30   ET

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


[11:30:00] SAM CLOVIS, NATIONAL CO-CHAIRMAN & POLICY ADVISOR, TRUMP CAMPAIGN: I'll try to stifle my laughter going forward. Go ahead. I'm sorry.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: How interesting.

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

BERMAN: Marco Rubio is talking about all the candidates, but one of the candidates he's started talking really more than ever is Donald Trump. Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MARCO RUBIO, (R), FLORIDA & PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Donald Trump has zero foreign policy experience. Negotiating a hotel deal in another foreign country is not foreign policy experience.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: Fair shot right there? Marco Rubio sits on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He speaks a lot about foreign policy.

SAM CLOVIS: I think he thinks a lot about it. It's like an academic thinks about things, but without practical experience or walking the ground some place, you really don't have any experience. And I think if you go over and try to do business in foreign countries -- and I've done that -- I think you learn a lot about what's going on in those countries. You have to learn the culture and what's inside of the things. You can't even get started in business in a lot of areas unless you're aware of what's going on. I think you have incites as a business person that you wouldn't get sitting in a committee room in the Senate.

BOLDUAN: Real quick, you think Donald Trump has more foreign policy chops than Rubio?

CLOVIS: I do. Actually, I do. I think you can read a briefing book and get smart on what's in a book, and I think you can go out there and articulate that. And Senator Rubio is very good at that, but I don't think that gives you credibility in that area, necessarily. BERMAN: You said -- we were talking about Rubio. You were talking

about his debate performance in New Hampshire, and you said it's another thing you can't help laughing about.

CLOVIS: Right.

BERMAN: What do you mean?

CLOVIS: I don't know about the debate performance. I think that speaks for itself. That was New Hampshire. We have another debate tomorrow night. We'll have to see how things play out there.

What I do think is interesting is the criticism coming from Rubio to Trump talking about this particular area of foreign policy. I think if you've walked the ground and you've done business in foreign countries, you know where are about what's going on than somebody who sat in a committee room.

BOLDUAN: We know how Donald Trump feels about Rubio. We know how Donald Trump feels about Bush and Cruz. But Kasich placed second in New Hampshire. What does Donald Trump think of John Kasich?

CLOVIS: I think it would be an interesting conversation to have. I honestly don't know what Mr. Trump thinks of Governor Kasich. I think that Governor Kasich is-- was I think a very -- did a great job in New Hampshire, and he gleaned a benefit of over 100 town hall meetings. I think that we were able to come up there with our -- and put together the nonexistent ground game that turned out a 20-point win for us almost. And so I think that from that perspective, I think Governor Kasich should be applauded for that.

But I think he's probably run out of room. I don't think that his politics and his particular view of conservatism is going to play well in the south, particular. I think these are the issues that he's up against. And so for us -- we play golf. We play the course. We're going to go out there and make the score. We'll let everybody else chase us into the clubhouse.

BERMAN: Sam, sit tight for one second.

Jeb Bush is speaking in South Carolina right now at an event. Let's listen.

JEB BUSH, (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE & FORMER FLORIDA GOVERNOR: I was all in, man. You can't be passive when something like that happens. You never heard Governor Bush or Governor Riley blame FEMA. You never heard me be critical of Washington D.C. You never heard anybody say the dog ate my homework in Florida. If anybody on my team started saying it wasn't my fault, I'd politely sent them over into the corner and tell them said either stop or you're going to be fired. Because the first day in office as president of the United States, here's my pledge to you. Unlike my predecessor who was always critical of his predecessor. I won't blame anything on Barack Obama. I will accept personal responsibility as president of the United States, and my team will do the same, and we'll begin to solve problems rather than blaming others that they're not getting solved. (APPLAUSE)

BOLDUAN: There's Jeb Bush in South Carolina. We also told, right before we went to it, he also said about Donald Trump, you can't learn something if all you do is talk.

It's interesting what you hear from Jeb Bush. He says he's not going to blame other people when he gets into office. It's his office. He's going to take it. You hear Donald Trump blaming a lot of people. That's his angle. At one point, he even blamed Iowans because he wasn't even leading.

CLOVIS: I was there, and I heard the speech, and I think that's taking it a little bit out of context. I don't want to argue the point.

But I think one of the things we've raised in the campaign is the fact that we have, for 30 years, been given a bill of goods by both parties. Doesn't matter who is in the White House. It doesn't seem to matter who has control of Congress, that they continue to pat us on the head and tell us to go to the corner and be quiet and they'll take care of it. Well, if they are going to take care of it, they had the opportunities in 1994 and 2000 and 2006. They've had these opportunities, and they have failed us at every turn. In fact, they've lied to us. I think the Congress and the establishment of both parties ought to be ashamed of themselves for the fact that they come out and trot out these bromides to talk about how they want to take care of us, and at the same time, they turn right around and they keep the power elites and the donor class --

(CROSSTALK)

[11:35:30] BOLDUAN: Did George W. Bush lie to you?

CLOVIS: What's that?

BOLDUAN: Did George W. Bush lie to you?

CLOVIS: I think there were moments in his presidency when I -- I have great doubt about what was going on. I've been a Republican my whole life and I supported George W. Bush. I voted for him twice.

BERMAN: Great doubt about what?

CLOVIS: What's that?

BERMAN: Great doubt about what?

CLOVIS: I think great doubt about what happened in Iraq and great doubt about what happened in Afghanistan. I've got a little skin in this game. My son was there eight times. I saw the personal impact this had. I've seen the impact on our soldiers and Marines that have come home from those areas. And I see the amount of treasure and blood we invested over there, and to what end? The stability of what we have in the Middle East right now is unbelievably unstable, unbelievably fragile, and yet, we have put incredible doubt in the face of our allies and our friends over there. The gulf nations, Israel, Jordan, Egypt, they don't know if we're coming or going. We can put it on both parties. It doesn't have to come. You can sit here and yell at Barack Obama and blame him for all of this. But, in fact, this precedes him. It actually precedes him, probably other administrations. You could go back to Bill Clinton's administration, if you really want to get down to the brass tacks. So the stability and the instability that we have in the Middle East, there's a legacy there, and what we're trying to do is we're trying to figure out a way to go forward and to go in and create stability in the world. The best way to do that is to start with a strong economy in the United States and go from there. Because if the United States is leading economically -- and take a look at the stock market yesterday, and around the world. If we're leading economically, we're in a better position to lead everyone else in the world.

BERMAN: Sam Clovis, thank you for coming on.

Thank you.

CLOVIS: Thank you for having me. It's great to be on in person with you. I can't tell you what an honor it is. And I mean that from the bottom of my heart.

BOLDUAN: Thanks, Sam. Appreciate it.

BERMAN: Thanks, Sam.

BOLDUAN: Don't butter us up, Sam. We're not that --

(CROSSTALK)

BERMAN: Along those lines, it has been nearly four minutes since we last discussed the Ted Cruz porn controversy.

(LAUGHTER)

BOLDUAN: Stop it.

BERMAN: Have there been any new developments? That, and the one thing Rubio needs to do in Saturday's debate.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:41:58] All right. Tomorrow night, in South Carolina, the Republican candidates debate. It could be a doozy. Ted Cruz going after Donald Trump. Trump firing right back at Cruz, calling him "a liar, crazy and dishonest."

BOLDUAN: Let's bring in CNN political commentators, S.E. Cup and Margaret Hoover.

So, Margaret, Ted Cruz has a problem right now with this ad with this porn actress --

BERMAN: Performer. BOLDUAN: Performer, we will say. Let's broaden it out. Beyond that, he has other things going on that are seriously entertaining ads. He has a new one out, an office space ad hitting Hillary Clinton. He has the Donald Trump action-figure ad when they talk about imminent domain. I think it's awesome kids like to talk about eminent domain. He's setting himself apart in many ways with regard to the ads. Do you think this works?

MARGARET HOOVER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It certainly works in terms of earned media. We are talking about it. The story behind the story here is not just that Ted Cruz has good ads, but Ted Cruz has put more money and more effort into building this huge operation, this really of operatives. He has more money invested in data and digital and all the field operations. He has 10,000 volunteers in South Carolina. He is running the kind of campaign Republicans have been saying we have to do that Obama did in 2012 and 2008. Finally, we have the kind of expertise in data digital computer micro-targeting that the Obama campaign was so legendary for in 2012.

BERMAN: S.E., it always does seem with Ted Cruz, he knows what the message is and what the plan is. That's what it seemed like in Iowa and South Carolina. Am I wrong?

S.E. CUPP, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think that's right. Anyone looking at Cruz's campaign, thus far, would have to acknowledge how organized and deliberate and smart it is. I mean, remember, he was really the only candidate to navigate the early Trump waters and survive and not get dinged along the way. He's run a smart campaign.

The problem for Cruz is that he has, I think, limited support. He has evangelicals and far moderates in the party don't really like him. He's got zero appeal, I think, with Independents. So he's running a great ground game as opposed to some other candidates who are clearly winging it -- Ben Carson.

(LAUGHTER)

But I'm not sure it's going to be ultimately enough to make him electable either in a primary or a general.

BOLDUAN: And even before that, another Republican debate. That is tomorrow. This will be the first debate since New Hampshire. All eyes you can assume will in some part be on Rubio after his tumble, should we say, following that big debate.

What is the bar for Marco Rubio, Margaret? What does he need to do here?

HOOVER: I don't know, Kate, if there's much that Marco Rubio can do anymore. The portion of the electorate that is going to turn out for the South Carolina primary that would be open to a Marco Rubio or a Jeb Bush is about 27 percent. I mean, 65 percent of the GOP primary electorate in South Carolina are evangelicals. It's really a Trump versus Cruz game. They're fighting over one-third of the electorate, and then they're going to the SEC primary south. Honestly, Rubio and Jeb are going to become an asterisk in this race. It will become a Cruz and Trump -- that's where the bloodbath is. That's where this election is going in the next two weeks.

[11:45:41] S.E., last word. Give me the debate previews. Is it really that bleak for Marco Rubio? Who else may rise to the top?

CUPP: No, I don't think so. I think you're going to see one interesting contest between Cruz and Trump, and the other between Rubio and Jeb, both in the debate and in the primary there, the primary there next week.

Marco Rubio is a great debater. Marco Rubio is playing as the candidate who can win, and among voters who prioritize a candidate who can win, he leads. For other voters who don't care about winning, that's a fun vanity project. But a lot of conservatives and Republicans are thinking act who can be the best contrast with Clinton. All Marco Rubio has to do at the debate is highlight the other candidate's weaknesses in going against Clinton on all kinds of issues. I think he can reemerge, again, as the sane, you know, youthful, energetic, promising future of the party, winnable candidate of the Republican Party.

(CROSSTALK)

BERMAN: And the best news for him is Chris Christie is watching from home.

(LAUGHTER)

BOLDUAN: That's right.

(LAUGHTER)

And this is a high likelihood of getting nasty on the stage. I'm interested to see if John Kasich can remain positive.

Margaret Hoover, S.E. Cupp, thank you guys so much.

(LAUGHTER)

Coming up for us, South Carolina, make-or-break for the GOP candidates smoozing for the big endorsements. Details on why many of the GOP elite are having a hard time picking a side. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:51:16] BERMAN: So on President's Day, which is Monday, three teams of CNN anchors go head to head, testing their knowledge on all things presidential, from debates to running mates.

BOLDUAN: It's the CNN "Quiz Show," "Rae to the White House" edition. Here's a look at how the teams match up.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(MUSIC)

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST, A.C. 360 & CNN QUIZ SHOW: It's a big election year and this is the race everybody's watching.

(MUSIC)

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Ask not what your "Quiz Show" will do for you.

COOPER: Jake Tapper and S.E. Cupp. I think that's the powerhouse team.

TAPPER: John Quincy Adams?

BERMAN: That's right.

COOPER: Jake won the first one.

TAPPER: I'm undefeated.

COOPER: He basically dropped the mic, walked off and never came back.

TAPPER: I've never lost.

BOLDUAN: Seriously, Tapper. Seriously.

COOPER: You have John Berman, Kate Bolduan.

(SHOUTING)

COOPER: Kate's experienced on this. She knows what to expect.

BOLDUAN: Oh dear god, you're starting like that?

COOPER: John Berman is a three-time winner, a jeopardy champion. He's going to be tough to beat.

BERMAN: Berman, Berman, Berman.

COOPER: New entries to the game, John King and Van Jones.

JOHN KING, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: We are the outsiders.

VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Exactly.

COOPER: First-time player.

JONES: We've got them right where we want them.

COOPER: John King has been on the magic wall, but is he good at a game show?

It's still anybody's game.

(CHEERING)

(MUSIC)

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BOLDUAN: Yeah. You may have noticed. We're in the "Quiz Show," too.

BERMAN: Root for us, please. We need your support.

BOLDUAN: Big questions, like who decided the 1824 election?

BERMAN: Henry Clay.

BOLDUAN: Who said, where's the beef?

BERMAN: Walter Mondale.

BOLDUAN: And when Ronald Reagan, "I paid for this microphone, Mr. Green, who was he referring to?

BERMAN: The editor of the "National Telegraph."

BOLDUAN: Whose last name was not Green.

BERMAN: It was Breen.

BOLDUAN: Thank you very much. Enough said.

BERMAN: It's Monday night, 9:00 p.m., right here on CNN.

(LAUGHTER)

BOLDUAN: Fun one, guys. Please join us so you can see it.

Back to politics, just eight days out now from the South Carolina Republican primary. And among the high-profile leaders in the state, there's no consensus of which candidates to endorse. Senator Lindsey Graham left the race and backed Jeb Bush. Senator Tim Scott is supporting Senator Marco Rubio. Donald Trump picked up the backing of the state's lieutenant governor. And Congressman Jeff Duncan has endorsed Ted Cruz.

Let us talk to a key figure in South Carolina, South Carolina Congressman Mark Sanford, the former governor of the state, as well.

Thank you so much, Congressman, for being with us.

I want to talk about Donald Trump. The most recent poll has him up by 16 points. But he has been ahead there. I wonder if you can explain where his support is coming from in your state.

STATE REP. MARK SANFORD, (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: It's widespread. Oddly enough, his strongest concentration of supporters in the Upstate and the so-called Bible Belt, the I-85 corridor. I would argue, though it's not as much because of faith or religion, but because of economic populism. Those little towns that make up the I-85 corridor are really what was once the Textile Belt of our state. And some people have gotten new jobs in high-end manufacturing, but some people have been left behind as a consequence. I think there's been particular fuel for his candidacy from that region. BOLDUAN: You talk about the Bible Belt, Congressman. Who can win the

evangelical vote is a big question. Donald Trump today is slamming Ted Cruz, calling him a liar, and saying you can't really win evangelicals being that way, making a play for that voting block. What do you make of it?

SANFORD: I make of it the obvious, which is the elbows are going to get really sharp between here and next Saturday. I think the debate on Saturday will be a decisive inflection point in terms of the campaign. South Carolina has a history of very hard hits when it comes down to the wire. There aren't enough tickets out of South Carolina. Some people are going to get knocked out and you're going to see elbows fly. I think it's the beginning of what we'll see between here and next Saturday.

BERMAN: Congressman, you have not endorsed a candidate yet. I think I read this morning that you didn't think it was likely that you would endorse Donald Trump. Can you explain why?

[11:55:13] SANFORD: I will support the eventually nominee. I think that's the starting point.

I think he's said some things that are different, if you want to call it that. And that's being kind. And so that gives me pause. I'm going to listen openly in the debate, though. I'm going to make my deliberations over the next week and cast my vote with everybody else come next Saturday.

BERMAN: Congressman Mark Sanford, great to have you here with us.

SANFORD: Thank you.

BERMAN: I remember being in South Carolina in 2000 when you were endorsing John McCain, talking about the sharp elbows right there. That was tough race and you were right in the middle of it.

So thanks so much for being with us.

SANFORD: My pleasure. Thanks.

BOLDUAN: Thank you.

Moments from now, many of the Republicans candidates will be getting personal and talking about what the Congressman is talking about right there, their faith. They speak to evangelicals in South Carolina. Will the message stay positive? What are they going to say? That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)