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GOP Town Halls Previewed; Newest Election Poll Numbers; Super Bowl and Grammy Moments Discussed. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired February 16, 2016 - 22:00   ET


[22:00:00] DON LEMON, CNN TONIGHT: There you go, live pictures of the White House. And the president, President Barack Obama on his way back there tonight after some pretty tough talk for Republican front- runner, Donald Trump.

This is CNN TONIGHT. I'm Don Lemon.

We're counting down to our two-night republican town hall in South Carolina where Trump has a 16-point lead in our new poll.

Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton tops Bernie Sanders by 18 points in the state's democratic contest. Will South Carolina be the turning point in this race?

And speaking of turning points and race, everybody is talking about, everybody is talking about Beyonce and Kendrick Lamar. But what do their mic-drop moments at the Super Bowl and Grammy's really mean?

A discussion you don't want to miss, coming up in this hour. Lots going on tonight. But let's get right to the race for the White House.

Here to discuss that, CNN's Gloria Borger, also Larry Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia, and Mr. Mark Preston, CNN Politics executive editor.

It's great to have all of you on this evening. Gloria, you first, President Obama weighed in on the GOP race today. Let's listen.


BARACK OBAMA, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA PRESIDENT: I continue to believe Mr. Trump will not be president. And the reason is because I have a lot of faith in the American people. And I think they recognize that being president is a serious job. It's not hosting a talk show or reality show. It's not promotion. It's not marketing. It's hard. And a lot of people count on us getting it right.


LEMON: So, Gloria, not surprising that he would say it shouldn't happen, but he's saying it's not going to happen.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. He didn't say, Don, that Donald Trump wouldn't get the nomination from the Republican Party. He just said like a good democratic partisan that he did not think Donald Trump would be president.

Look, the president doesn't like Donald Trump. I mean, you remember way back, what, a year or two years ago, when Donald Trump was the 'birther' issue about Barack Obama and where he was born and show me your birth certificate. He doesn't like the guy.

But I truly believe what we heard him say was, look, I know what this job is like and he's not ready for it and he's not qualified for it. And that's what you'll hear from the president on the campaign trail is Trump is the nominee no doubt.

LEMON: Trump responded saying it's a compliment and if he have run instead of Romney that Obama would have been a one-term president. You know, is this president, I don't know, is he getting into this kind of back and forth with a candidate, does that usually happen?

BORGER: No, I don't think it usually happens but honestly, I think it helps Donald Trump here in South Carolina. Republican voters don't like President Obama at all, and suddenly you have Donald Trump going mano-on-mano with the president while the rest of the candidates are fighting amongst themselves.

So, I think if anything and I don't think the president intended to this do or maybe he did if he wants Trump to get the nomination. But that's a little Machiavellian that that could also be. But I don't think he intended to necessarily elevate Donald Trump, which is exactly what occurred.

LEMON: Yes. President Obama weighed in on the democratic race, too. Let's listen to this, too.


OBAMA: I know Hillary better than I know Bernie because she served in my administration and she was an outstanding Secretary of State. And I suspect that on certain issues she agrees with me more than Bernie does. On the other hand, there may be a couple issues where Bernie agrees with me more. I don't know. I haven't studied their positions that closely.


LEMON: So, Mark, he hasn't studied their positions that closely. Do you believe him?

MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICS EXECUTIVE EDITOR: No, absolutely not. Clearly he knows what their positions are. You know, Don, it's interesting after he made those comments, if you saw the commentary afterwards, the question was he endorsing Hillary Clinton?

We only have to go back about three or four weeks ago, if it was even that long, where he gave an interview to Politico where he seemed to endorse Hillary Clinton. So, at this point I think that, you know, Barack Obama is being drawn into this race whether he likes it or no not, he's going to have to answer eventually who he wants to be the democratic nominee. But it's very dangerous for him because in many ways the grassroots is

fueling the Bernie Sanders' candidacy, in many ways the grassroots have fueled his candidacy. And then you have Hillary Clinton, you know, who has really strong support from the establishment.

So, this is going to go on and on and on until he finally makes a declarative statement about who he wants to be the democratic nominee.

BORGER: And Mark, what does he mean that he hasn't studied their positions?

PRESTON: I know, come on.

BORGER: Bernie Sanders would get rid of Obamacare...


BORGER: ... and put in single payer. I think the president has studied that, don't you think?

LEMON: Yes. Larry, who better to talk about the polls, the polling positions than you. So, let's talk about this. Let's look at this new CNN/ORC poll out in South Carolina, Trump ahead of Cruz 38 percent to 22 percent. I mean, if he does this well on Saturday, what does that mean, Larry, for Super Tuesday?

[22:05:04] LARRY SABATO, VIRGINIA UNIVERSITY CENTER FOR POLITICS DIRECTOR: It sets Donald Trump up very, very well for Super Tuesday and particularly the SEC primaries in the south.

And, look, if you want to be even more Machiavellian than Gloria was, apologies Gloria, I would extend what she said. Your poll showed that after the debate when Trump attacked Bush, George W. Bush on 9/11 and the Iraq war, Trump dropped considerably.

Now, you know, the White House pays attention to these sorts of things. Why would the president single just Donald Trump out knowing that the republicans hate him? Because it's going to push some of the republicans who are on the fence to Donald Trump and it will solidify Trump's backing.

So, I think Trump took a hit at the debate. He said some things he shouldn't have said, he went too far. Now President Obama may have restored Trump, strengthening him because everybody knows the democrats rightly or wrongly, maybe their judgment's crazy, but they want to run against Donald Trump, they think he's very, very vulnerable.

LEMON: Mark Preston, you're there on the ground so let's...


BORGER: No, we've all made...

LEMON: Go ahead, Gloria.

BORGER: You know, I was going to say, Don, we've all made a career of underestimating Donald Trump.

PRESTON: Donald Trump, right.

BORGER: And I would have to say if that's the president's reasoning and Larry might be right and we can all be Machiavellian about it, I think democrats underestimate Donald Trump at their own peril.

Look at what republicans have done. You have establishment republicans punching jell here. They -- nothing -- you know, they do -- nothing they do works against Donald Trump and the democrats could find themselves in the same position.

PRESTON: Yes. I know, look, Don, I mean, if we go back to August when he attacked John McCain, we thought he was left for dead. He got stronger when he attacked Megyn Kelly.

BORGER: Right.

PRESTON: We thought he was left for dead, he got stronger. He just continues to get stronger and stronger and stronger. At least he holds his strength, which I think republicans have been very surprised by.

LEMON: Larry, you want to weigh in?

SABATO: Yes. I go back to 1980. Democrats hoped, prayed that everything they could to help Ronald Reagan become the republican nominee, because he was the one candidate they were dead sure Jimmy Carter could beat and we all know what happened in November of 1980.

So, I think Gloria and Mark are absolutely right, you have to be cautious about it, but looking at the republican field, I can see why democrats think Trump with the strong support of about 35 percent to 40 percent of republicans and the strong opposition of at least that many republicans would be vulnerable in a fall election.

LEMON: Let's look at the breakdown now from Evangelicals. Gloria, I want to -- let's move on now. I want to talk about, because Trump leads 42 percent to 23 percent.


LEMON: And speaking of support, non-support, does this surprise any of you? First I'll ask Mark Preston.

PRESTON: Yes. I mean, listen, the fact is it's only been the last couple of months where we've really seen Donald Trump embrace his religion. And the question is, is he really that religious? But the Evangelical voters, I think we make the mistake, Don, of putting Evangelical voters in this little slot and think that's all they're going to vote on.

But they vote on a whole of other things. They vote on the idea of conservatism as a whole. And Donald Trump has been preaching that cause, he's been preaching that. He's a conservative, that he's pro- Second Amendment rights, he talks about how, you know, how he has evolved on marriage and what have you. But what's interesting, though, in that debate the other night, he was

praising Planned Parenthood, not for...


LEMON: The abortion aspect.

PRESTON: ... the services providing regarding abortions.

LEMON: Right.

PRESTON: But, right. But for their health care. Afterwards, a very prominent republican in South Carolina said to me can you imagine if somebody attacked George W. Bush and praised Planned Parenthood and he only gets stronger.

So, to Gloria's point and to Larry's point, it's an enigma. It's nothing we've seen certainly in modern day politics, Donald Trump's appeal to the electorate.

BORGER: So, here's the thing. He wins the support of Evangelicals overwhelmingly but when you dig deeper into our poll about who shares your values, he's in a tie with Ted Cruz. And this is where you see Ted Cruz really making a move on him. Talking direct into the camera today in an ad about abortion.

Ted Cruz knows where his voters are and they're not just Evangelical. They are social conservatives. And if Donald Trump has an Achilles heel, it's on the values question and that's what Cruz is trying to mind right now.

LEMON: Hey, Larry, this is for you. I want to ask you about the democrats now, OK? In the democratic race, Clinton bests Sanders by 18 points, 18 points, 56 to 38 percent. I mean, after a virtual tie in Iowa and a second place finish in New Hampshire, a convincing win in South Carolina it's critically important to the Clinton campaign, right?

[22:09:58] SABATO: More than critically important. She had better win handily in South Carolina. Let's not remember -- let's not forget she's got to worry about Nevada, which comes before South Carolina. She could potentially take another blow there.

But South Carolina is really her territory because of the make-up of the electorate there, very substantially African-American. If Sanders keeps her to, say, single digits, we're in for a race that goes all the way through June. If she doesn't, if she starts getting some traction, then the race could end sooner than many people think.

LEMON: All right. Thank you, everyone. I appreciate it. Larry, Mark, and Gloria, see you all soon.

We have a unique two-night event. It's coming up on CNN this week. All six republican presidential candidates answering questions from the voters of South Carolina.

It is our live televised town hall moderated by Anderson Cooper only here on CNN tomorrow night and Thursday night.

Ben Carson, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, they are going to kick it off tomorrow, and then John Kasich, Jeb Bush, and Donald Trump, they are going to fill questions from voters Thursday night in South Carolina. Don't miss it, CNN GOP presidential town hall, a live two-night event tomorrow and Thursday beginning at 8 p.m.

And when we come right back, on this broadcast Donald Trump's republican rivals sparring away at the frontrunner but who's a real shot at the number two finish?


[22:14:59] LEMON: Donald Trump has comfortable lead in South Carolina but as he would say, he is taking plenty of incoming from his republican rivals, not to mention from the President of the United States.

So, let's discuss now. Republican strategist, Lauren Claffey is here, Matt Lewis, the author of "Too Dumb To Fail," he's here, GOP strategist, Kayleigh McEnany is here, and CNN contributor Bakari Sellers is here as well.

Hello to all of you. Kayleigh first, your reaction to President Obama weighing in on the GOP race tonight.

KAYLEIGH MCENANY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: This is incredible for Donald Trump. You couldn't him a bigger hand out in the President of the United coming after him. This plays right into the hands of the South Carolina electorate.

They're Tea Party conservatives, they're Evangelicals. Their voters who are very frustrated with the president. This probably sealed the deal for Donald Trump tonight having the President of the United States, who is very unpopular, attack him. Big win...


LEMON: Him becoming the nominee. You think is sealed the deal?

MCENANY: I think so. Not -- maybe not the nominee, certainly South Carolina and if he wins South Carolina, that probably will seal the deal for him being the nominee.

LEMON: Bakari, don't up think Donald Trump was like...

BAKARI SELLERS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: He was. He does. And it takes an amount of support. He's no longer debating against Ted Cruz, he's no longer taking pot shots at Jeb Bush, which is his thing.


SELLERS: He's doing it better than most.

LEMON: So why would the president do that? SELLERS: I think the president truly has a problem with the rancor

and tenor of Donald Trump. I think most Americans do outside of 28 percent of voters that Donald Trump commends. So, yes. I mean, I think that the president took a pop shot and it's going to help out Donald Trump tremendously.

LEMON: I want to move on to the democrats but let's quickly, Matt, if you -- what's your response? Why do you think -- does this help Donald Trump? Why would the president do this?

MATT LEWIS, "TOO DUMB TO FAIL" AUTHOR: I think it does help Donald Trump. And I don't like it. I think that this is an example of something that President Obama does a lot, which is actually stoked divisiveness and problems.

I think he wants there to be turmoil on the republican side. I think he wants republicans to nominate a guy like Donald Trump with all of his problems for political purposes. I think it's playing politics with a pretty serious topic.

LEMON: But the question I think many people would say, you know, why punch down? Why would you even mention? Lauren? Is that not a fair question?



CLAFFEY: He's praying that Trump becomes the nominee. That's their best hope. If it's a more palatable republican that's put forth and Hillary Clinton is the nominee, it's going to be much more difficult for the democrats to win the nomination and they know that. So, this isn't necessarily Obama wanting to be decisive or anything like that. I think it's mostly...


SELLERS: President Obama.

CLAFFEY: ... President Obama. I think it's mostly that is looking forward to the general and they think that they can beat Trump.

LEMON: What about the president's -- what about what he said about the democratic race, Lauren?

CLAFFEY: I think that he is waiting to get in, but I think that he's inching to give Clinton an endorsement, but it's too early. You don't want to weigh in as the head of your party when there's such a divisive and tight race going on in the primary.

LEMON: Yes. Matt, let's look at this new CNN poll. The new CNN polls is out tonight. I mean, it's hard to imagine how Trump loses South Carolina if you look at those polls.

LEWIS: I agree. It's really unbelievable. I think that right now, you know, we've been going through all these stages of grieving. And I think if you're a republican or a conservative who has been sitting around magically hoping that somehow people would come to their senses and turn on Donald Trump and state after state -- we saw in New Hampshire where Donald Trump didn't just win the non-college graduate, liberal republicans, he won basically every cohort in the exit polling.

And so, Donald Trump is for real and it seems like the only way you have a chance to beat him is someone in a head-to-head competition of someone like a Marco Rubio could mano-on-mano, but that's not going to happen. So, I mean, it's getting that time -- time to get concerned.

MCENANY: You know what, I get so frustrated, Don, I just want to say something. With conversations like this. Because I hear two republicans saying how sad they are that Donald Trump could be the nominee, how somber they are. The point is Donald Trump has riled up the establishment...


LEMON: Bakari is loving it.

SELLERS: I love it. So, I'll come with it.

MCENANY: ... on both sides. No, Donald Trump has riled up the establishment on both sides. He's riled up President Obama, he's riling up the GOP rhino establishment, he is making the settled politicians angry.


LEWIS: Wait a second.

MCENANY: And Americans love that.

LEWIS: Rhino, rhino, Donald Trump is the guy who supported, you know, abortion, who supported single payer health care. He supported single payer health care. And so, we're rhinos? He's not a conservative by any...


MCENANY: He's someone who evolves. He is someone who evolve just like Ronald Reagan.

LEWIS: At the age of -- at the age of 70. At the age of 70 Donald Trump had this -- had this epiphany.

MCENANY: It doesn't -- it doesn't matter what age. It doesn't matter what age, he change and he has been consistent with that.

LEMON: Matt, people can change.

LEWIS: Yes, I agree.


LEWIS: I agree.

CLAFFEY: Can I just want to jump in there.

LEMON: Go ahead, Lauren.

CLAFFEY: I'm not saying that Donald Trump wouldn't be a fine republican nominee. I'm just saying that because of his previous comments he's going to pose a problem for republicans in the general with Latinos.

[22:20:02] Now, given the way that he's been able to campaign, he might be able to turn that around given the general election. But right now as it stands, he is going to be easier for the democrats to beat because of those comments.

LEMON: OK. Let's talk about on Saturday, right, because, I mean, it was interesting. I hope up you guys watched the debate.


LEMON: It was crazy, it was a little...

CLAFFEY: Of course.

LEMON: ... it was amazing. So, who do you think did the -- who bested -- or was it best, was it Rubio, was it Kasich, was it Bush on Saturday? Who did the best?

SELLERS: Rubio. I think that Rubio by far did the best. Rubio had the highest level of expectation because his last debate was abysmal to say the least. But Rubio was amazing. And Rubio did great things by setting himself apart in the debate.

One of the other things that we saw was Jeb Bush actually stood toe to toe with Donald Trump. That's something that no one had seen before. He actually stared him in the eye. He actually win mano-on-mano. And we saw what happened, Donald Trump flinched. Now, that's not going to do anything for Jeb Bush in the polls.


SELLERS: But it does show that someone is taking...


LEMON: What about this coming Saturday? Who has to do the best there? Matt?

LEWIS: Well, you know, they all do. But, look, I'll save Marco Rubio because still, you know, he has the chance to come in second place in South Carolina, he has a chance to sort of maybe finally get the so- called establishment lane to coalesce around him. That has to happen if they're -- if he's going to have a shot so I'm going to say Rubio.

SELLERS: Well, Matt, I just disagree with you. I think that the race is for third place. I think that Donald Trump and Ted Cruz. Ted Cruz is on the ground game, similar on what we saw in Iowa is going to surge past everyone else.

So, he's going to be first and second. The question I have is, Rubio and Bush and Kasich, and I know that those are somewhat of the establishment lane people, but I'm trying to see who comes in first out of those three.

LEMON: Yes. Go ahead. Kayleigh, do you want to weigh in?

MCENANY: Yes. I think that's absolutely right. You know, if Jeb Bush won, that would be a huge victory for Jeb. But it would be an even bigger victory for Ted Cruz and for Donald Trump. Because it would ensure that you're not -- you're going to keep that establishment lane split, you're not going to have a Marco Rubio emerge to be a viable challenge to Donald Trump, if Jeb Bush can win an edge over Rubio, that is a massive victory for Trump and Cruz. It seals the narrative we have so far, which is this is becoming a two-man race.

LEMON: All right. Every one, stay with me. When we come right back, Donald Trump is rewriting the rules of this campaign, but is he damaging the GOP in the process?


[22:25:00] I'm back now with my panel, Kayleigh McEnany, Lauren Claffey, and Matt Lewis, and also Bakari Sellers here with me in New York. Kayleigh, to you first, do you think that Donald Trump continues to be able to defy politics?

MCENANY: Yes, he does. You know, he's proven every one wrong from the very beginning. People said he wasn't a viable candidate. He quickly soared in the polls above Jeb Bush, who was the forgotten nominee everyone said would be coroneted for the GOP nomination.

He won in New Hampshire astoundingly, it appears that he will win in South Carolina and in Iowa, I would argue that was a huge victory. He came in second place in a state that he was not supposed to do well in, that was full of Evangelical Christians, a constituency that he doesn't played very well with certainly non-Iowa. So, yes, I think that de defied expectations and will continue to do so into a general election.

LEMON: I'm wondering if you think that, you know, traditional republican candidates themselves are being damaged by this process. Because here's what you say. You say Trump has given a voice to conservatives and populists.

MCENANY: Yes, that's the thing. Donald Trump is broadening the Republican Party, because forever we have had a Republican Party where you're only welcome in if you're staunchly conservative or you're only welcome in if you're staunchly establishment.

He eviscerated all of the boundaries. Now everyone is welcome in, regardless if you're populist, if you're a libertarian, if you're an independent, or if you're an even democrat leaning. You are welcome in our party. That doesn't mean it's free range on his values, he has his values, but he's broadening the tenor in a way the GOP should have done a long time ago.

SELLERS: But that's not how you win the White House. I mean, with all due respect, Kayleigh. I get this. I get him broadening...

MCENANY: Yes, it is.

SELLERS: No, it's not. I mean, in all due respect. I mean, I get the fact that he's broadening the -- within the Republican Party. But Donald Trump has absolutely no appeal to minorities in this country. And you cannot think that you can win the White House if you cannot appeal to minority voters.

The fact to the matter is Barack Obama...


MCENANY: Well, that's wrong.

SELLERS: ... Barack Obama won the President of the United States and he did not win the majority of white voters in any state. So, I just think that he is broadening -- he may be broadening the appeal within some tent that you all have within your own sect of GOP personalities but he's not doing well with minority voters.

MCENANY: Polling in the falls showed him doing the best with minority voters among anyone in the party. Moreover, he puts states like Pennsylvania in play, Michigan in play. Union leaders have openly professed that they're scared of their members defecting to him. He is broadening the tent among minorities and among independents.

LEMON: OK. So, Matt, I want you to explain why you think the republican candidates are missing a golden opportunity here.

LEWIS: Well, look, I think that if you look at this republican bench, you have people like Marco Rubio, who I think is a very eloquent, inspirational, solution oriented conservative. Ted Cruz obviously highly intelligent, great resume, you've got people on the bench like Nikki Haley, governor of South Caroline, candidates like Bobby Jindal, a Rhodes scholar who ran and didn't do very well.

These candidates -- this race could have been entirely different without Donald Trump. He's overshadowed them. And I think he is really by playing, you know, TV, getting us to sort of chase everything he does every day, this hasn't really been a very substantive campaign.

I think it might have been very different if you had Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz having a substantive debate about conservative philosophy.

LEMON: I think it's been a substantive discussion that I've seen in the news, the debates have been substantive. I mean, there has been...


LEMON: Yes, sir. Yes, it has. Come on.

SELLERS: No, no, no.

LEMON: There's been theatrics, yes.

SELLERS: The republican debates are -- no, it is all theatrics.

LEMON: Any time, Bakari, that you have these many people, I went to lunch today and guess what people were talking about?

[22:30:00] The presidential campaign, they're talking about Donald Trump, they're talking about Ted Cruz. They're talking about Hillary Clinton. I mean, and that's -- if you have people having a discussion and on some level, I think that's, you know, I think that's substantive.

SELLERS: Because knowing it row emotion, because they're playing on fear, they're playing on hate.


LEMON: But they're engaged.

SELLERS: That's fine. They are engaged. And they are both in excitement. I will actually say that, you know, republicans in this country now have the enthusiasm edge, they have the excitement edge. We've seen that in Iowa, we've seen that in New Hampshire. They're going to have record turnout in South Carolina. That's something democrats have to play catch up to.

LEMON: Yes. OK. Lauren has been patiently sitting by. Lauren, I want to -- let's talk about Jeb Bush, OK? He's on the campaign trail today.


JEB BUSH, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I wish we could actually have that argument on a debate stage instead of (barking) it's like. So, you know, in debate preparation, you all might find this interesting. The conclusion is when you debate a guy like Trump, you have to have the last word. Because he's a bully.

And so, he doesn't stop talking. And I actually saw tapes. He just start -- he just starts, I mean, it's not what he says, it's just that fact that he says it louder and louder and louder and you just have to keep talking through it. It's not a skill set I ever envisioned being necessary to aspire to the presidency of the United States, but I've gotten better at it.


LEMON: That was -- that was interesting there. So, Lauren, has Jeb really gotten, Jeb Bush really gotten better at it. I mean, he has taken his glasses off, after all.

CLAFFEY: He has taken his glasses off. You know, I think he's gone through an evolution here. He's definitely getting better than when he first started, but I don't think they ever anticipated that the populist feelings in this country and within the GOP would manifest itself the way it did.

The Bush camp has not known what to do with Trump from the beginning. But I don't think it's a uniquely republican problem or opportunity that people are getting engaged like this from a very populist standpoint. You're seeing it on the democrat side as well.

And so, yes, Bush, I mean, having to get a little bit more feisty but the reason why Trump is leading and has been leading South Carolina for 200 days at this point is because people view him as the one who can change Washington.

And I don't think that Bush taking off his glasses or getting a little built more feisty is going to necessarily change people's mind about that.

LEMON: And what about tweeting something like this? Look at this, this says what the campaign tweeted today, it' a picture it says "America." Now he later said that he didn't know of the tweet but noted that he had appeared at a high security firearm company in Columbia, South Carolina today.

So, I mean, what does this say about the Bush campaign that he's trying to do something? What is he trying to do, Bakari? Especially considering what happened in Charleston.

SELLERS: Well, I'm not sure what he's trying to do with that. I think he's throwing anything against the wall to see if it sticks. I think that was a pretty tasteless tweet. I think without any context, especially in South Carolina he was 90 miles away from where we had the Emanuel massacre. I mean, that tweet was inappropriate. I expect an apology from that camp tomorrow.

LEMON: You should, and, by the way, that's his name engraved on the gun.

SELLERS: Yes. And I understand where he was. You know, I am a concealed weapons permit holder in South Carolina. I understand the culture. But right now that tweet I feel just being a South Carolinian, losing a friend of mine, where we're talking about reigning guns in, I don't understand it.

But, I mean, you know, when you get rid of the exclamation point, when you get rid of the glasses and you wheel out your brother who you didn't want on the campaign trail with you just a year ago, you're try anything. And so, maybe this stick, but I doubt it.

LEMON: That's going to be the last word. I'll see you guys soon. Pardon me, well, Kayleigh, you know, we'll continue the conversation.


LEMON: We have a unique two-night event coming up on CNN this week. All six republican presidential candidates answering questions from the voters of South Carolina. It is our live televised town hall moderated by Anderson Cooper only here on CNN tomorrow night and Thursday night.

Ben Carson, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, kick it off tomorrow, then John Kasich, Jeb Bush, and Donald Trump, fill questions from voters Thursday night.

Don't miss it, CNN GOP presidential town hall, a live two-night event tomorrow and Thursday beginning at 8 p.m.

When we come right back, fist it was Beyonce at the Super Bowl, then Kendrick Lamar at last night's Grammy's. Are music superstars changing the conversation about race in America with their mic-drop moment?


LEMON: Our live pictures now, you see Air Force One arriving at Joint Base Andrews, the president in his way back from California to the White House. And there is Air Force One on the tarmac; live pictures now of President Barack Obama arriving near Washington, about to head back to the White House.

Kendrick Lamar's fiery performance at the Grammy's last night has a lot of people talking and it comes on the heels of Beyonce's powerful Super Bowl show. What are they saying about race in America?

Here to discuss that is Nischelle Turner, CNN contributor and Entertainment Tonight host, Marc6 Lamont Hill, CNN political commentator, and Kierna Mayo or Mayo, if you want to say it, editor- in-chief of Ebony Magazine. She informed me it's either way. Either way is proper you could say.




LEMON: It's tomatoes, tomatoes, but we like to just call her ma'am here, right. So, our boss lady.


LEMON: Boss lady, yes.

TURNER: Our boss lady, yes.

LEMON: I want to listen to 10 seconds from Kendrick Lamar's performance last night. Literally, just 10 seconds listen to it.

Marc, those are some strong words. I mean, you hate my people, you plan to terminate my culture, not your usual award show material, is it?

MARC LAMONT HILL, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Not usual award show material, but I love that. I thought it was the performance, I thought it was lit, man. He did what good artists do which is to challenge -- yes, lit, as they say in the African-American community.

It was a -- he challenged the standards, he pushed the boundaries, he did something really, really powerful. I thought it was great and I loved watching the scared people in the audience as their eyes got really big like deer when he started talking like real black and talking real black stuff. I loved every minute of it.

LEMON: Kier, the Grammy's are typically about mainstream entertainment, is there a risk? Is there a risk of alienating fans who might resent being called racial or evil?

[22:40:05] MAYO: Certainly. But I think this is something that black artist have always faced. You know, there is always the possibility of alienating. And I think anyone who is unapologetic black especially today is going to be facing that.

LEMON: But the kind of people who listen to Kendrick Lamar, I mean, they're not going to be turned off buy it, right?

MAYO: Well, I mean, again, you're talking about this war show.


MAYO: So, there is a difference between people who are synthetized to hip-hop in general.

LEMON: Right.

MAYO: A crossed race is very different than you are at mass populous audience watching an award show. So, you're going to have a certain level of they'll not push that.


LEMON: They're not fans anyway, right?

MAYO: They're not fans theoretically, they're not fans.

LEMON: Right.

MAYO: But it's very hard not to be a Kendrick Lamar fan.

LEMON: It was very powerful.

MAYO: Certainly if you have the album.

LEMON: Yes. So, Nischelle, it is not just into showing your album, right? We still say it.

MAYO: Album.

LEMON: I said "CD" and someone said how old are you? "CD" what are you talking about? Nischelle, it's not just Kendrick Lamar, I mean, Beyonce is also stirring up controversy with her Super Bowl performance. But, I mean, you know, to Marc's point, when he talked about good artist -- and Marc, I've been sort of saying the same thing that isn't it traditional among artists to reflect the satisfaction in the culture.

For example, this is a new Bob Dylan, Marvin Gaye, you look at Nina Simone, and John Lennon and on and on.

TURNER: Well, you know, I think that it's very important we were just talking about this last weekend, Kierna and DeRay saying that they hope more artists will now start lending their voices to social change and to speaking out about causes.

There are some artist who do that maybe not in the music, John Legend is one of them, he's very active, you know, Russell Simmons, those that common, those guys really do that. But I think we are seeing another level of it now, and that phrase that we've been using, unapologetically black, and saying, you know what?

HILL: Yes.

TURNER: We are going to take a stand and we are going to do it through our art. And I think that art is the place that is a great place to do it because it starts these conversations that all types of art is beautiful.

Kendrick Lamar's performance last night was performance art. It was one of the most amazing things that I have seen in a very long time on a stage.

LEMON: OK. So, listen when you talk about that, I want to follow up because part of being an artist, right, you want to be relevant, are they down for the cause, are they moving units and/or doing what artists must do to stay relevant, which is to reinvent themselves. Madonna reinvented herself, Michael Jackson reinvented himself, David Bowie reinvented himself.

HILL: Yes.

LEMON: Is this -- right? So, is that -- that's part of the game, though, right, Marc?

HILL: Sometimes it is, but some people are being conscious. It's just back in the days where R&B singers when they call brick and nobody brought the record they went gutsful, and suddenly Erin find a lawyer when it couldn't find any record sales. Sometimes that's the case.

But I'm seeing these artists behind the scenes who are doing the same work as they're doing in front of the scenes. Kendrick Lamar - when you talk to Kendrick Lamar, he cares about these issues and he's doing it.


HILL: J. Cole was down there in Ferguson. Talib Kweli was down in Ferguson. Tuff Crew was in Ferguson. So, mainstream artist, underground artists they're not just talking about it, they're living that life. Not all of them but many of them and that's what I find rewarding, that they are linking their art to political action. LEMON: Kierna, do we see a generation gap in black pop culture as the

older generation on board with artist like Lamar, Kendrick Lamar and Beyonce are doing?

MAYO: Is the older generation me or is the older generation beyond?

HILL: It's Don.

LEMON: It's Don and the old Lamar.

MAYO: It's Don, maybe...

HILL: You say CD, bro, and that make you that generation.

MAYO: So, is there a generation gap? Yes and no.

LEMON: I hate trash.

MAYO: In some respect, I think that in earlier hip hop, for example, when I came into the game in '90, '91, I think there was a lot of apologetic blackness, if you will. So, you know, within hip hop and within hip hop's ranks, of course...

TURNER: That's a good point.

MAYO: ... we talked freely among ourselves but I think there was a lot more censorship and I think there was a lot more self-awareness about how others would perceive this internal conversation. I think now somebody has flicked the switch and the flood gate has opened and it's quite clear to me that we are not going back into the space where we're apologizing for the things that we say at home when you guys are not looking.

Now we are empowered in a sense to actually say those things. But I also think to the extent that there a Beyonce and a Kendrick making the work like this. I'm fine with that being the extent of their contribution. I think in any movement everyone has a role.

HILL: Yes.

MAYO: And I do not expect...

LEMON: Amen.

MAYO: ... or need, quite frankly, Beyonce or Kendrick to lead in any other respect. I just need them to be black people in America at the same time that I'm a black person in America and to react and to respond to the things that we do in mass in similar ways.


MAYO: So, when Trayvon Martin is killed, that doesn't just hurt average black people that, hurts celebrity black people, that hurts wealthy black people, that hurts all of us.

LEMON: And that hurts America. MAYO: And we're American from the top, yes.

LEMON: Amen. Don't go anywhere. We'll continue our conversation, plus more, when we come right back.


LEMON: We're talking about social justice now, culture, Beyonce, Kendrick Lamar, artists.

Back with me Nischelle Turner, Marc Lamont Hill, and Kierna Mayo. So, I want -- I think Kierna, what you said is so important. If you can just follow up on -- to clarify for every one, you said, you don't need Beyonce to say another thing or Kendrick Lamar to say another thing.

MAYO: Yes.

LEMON: You don't need them to take on the mantle of this.

MAYO: Right. I guess I was kind of talking about roles and responsibilities and we were talking off camera just that you wouldn't hire a chef to fix your car. I don't think that we need to look necessarily to our artists to be the only pillar.

The statement that Beyonce made is made in a perfect Beyonce context. I don't necessarily need her on a podium. I don't even need her leading the march. You know, we have Marc Lamont hill. I don't want him to make a record but I always want to hear him every night.

HILL: I got bars, I got bars, Kierna.

MAYO: Receipts, Marc. Receipt.

HILL: Right. Right.

LEMON: But I think that's a point. I wrote about this in my book back in 2011 about what's called the blacks box, that the larger culture expect us to be in a certain way. And then we do it to ourselves.

MAYO: Right.

LEMON: That's why we expect everyone to be a sort of leader in the rights movement. We expect everyone we have the same expectations and that's not - for African-Americans - it's not fair.

[22:50:02] MAYO: It's not fair to do it to ourselves it's not fair to allow others to do it to us. I don't think any movement has ever been predicated by everyone doing the same thing.


MAYO: Again, we all have got to get in where we fit in and master what we master and be true to who we are.

HILL: That's right. MAYO: Again, I think that Beyonce is reacting to being a black mother in America in 2016.

LEMON: Right. Yes. And Nischelle Turner, that is why this resonates, because it feels authentic. And you can, you know when people are, you know, trying to put one over on you.

TURNER: Yes. Indeed. I mean, you know, I sat down with Kendrick Lamar and interviewed him a couple years ago. This was at the Grammy's, I guess a couple years ago, and I was saying to him, you know, hey, you're at the Grammy's now, you're this big success, you know, you're from Compton, which is just like three miles always from here.

Did you ever as a kid sneak down here? And he was like, listen, I'm from Compton, those walls were thick, we didn't even think about that. Where we're just trying to get out of the struggle like this.

So, this man has lived what he preaches, he lives it every day, he's still trying to make change and he is very authentic. This is what I love about him, though, and what I love about artist in general.

You saw him on stage last night going so hard that veins were even popping out of his head almost. He's such a humble and soft spoken man in person. I mean, he just really kind of blends in but he makes such a statement in his art and I think that's so fantastic.

LEMON: And Kierna had a moment to put this up, this was a cover and it's just a copy of the cover of Ebony Magazine. This was your first cover or is it the editor-in-chief?

MAYO: Right. I was the cover director. That was actually the first cover that I directed.

LEMON: June of 2015. So, you were ahead of the game.

MAYO: Yes. We were ahead of the game. And I bear witness to what was said. He's just a gentle soul.

LEMON: Marc, do big performances like this, a Super Bowl or the Grammy's, does it really change anything, you know, out here on the streets as they say in the real world?

HILL: Well, we need more than just performance. We need to change relations of capital, we need to change the institutions that govern had us -- govern us and over determine our lives.

I mean, obviously one great performance at the Grammy's or the Super Bowl doesn't that. But what it does do is it creates a spectacle, which creates public attention which can lead to action on the ground.

A sit-in on the 60s didn't change anything. Crossing the Pettus Bridge didn't change anything. That was a dramatized action that led to something else on the ground.

So, what Beyonce does is we're talking about the Panthers now. Beyonce does this. Now we're talking about race. Kendrick went to police terrorism. This is what we want our artists to do in my -- yes?

LEMON: So, I have one, you know, for all of you youngsters, you millennials here, this is what artists used to do, back when people had talent, before auto tune. You know you would see a performance. You would hear it in a song.

You know, artists of all different colors. So, to me this is not controversial. I feel like this is artists always respond to social conditions or at least good artist.


HILL: You know what the difference is?

LEMON: Go ahead. Go ahead, Marc.

HILL: You know the difference is, a lot of times, like, for example, when you have Motown, you had very dressed up artists, right? He made the -- Barry Gordon made the music in certain ways so it sounded good to white people. They listened to radios, they wear suits, they were very respectable.

And then you have what's next which is something different, right? They're all gut bucket, you know, kind of stuff. But what's happening now is the mainstream is moving -- is moving over and now you got artists who own the main stage who are fancy who would, you know...


LEMON: Just college like Marvin Gaye. I mean, it was still about social just.

HILL: No, no, no. But remember, when Marvin Gaye "What's Going On," Barry Gordy punched him in the face and said why did do you that, when it went platinum. No, literally.


HILL: And then once it went platinum he said I want you to make me 10 more of those. The whole things get changed when it made money. Now all of a sudden we are realizing that you can change public appetite, we can take the profit out of our own destruction. And Kendrick can make us some money but he can also make some political...


LEMON: I want to talk about this, OK. So, let's play this. This is Taylor Swift through some shade at Kanye West last night saying, you know, he made her famous. Take a look at this.


TAYLOR SWIFT: I want to say to all the young women out there, there are going to be people along the way who will try to undercut your success or take credit for your accomplishments or your fame, but if you just focus on the work and you don't let those people sidetrack you, someday when you get where you're going, you'll look around and you will know that it was you and the people who love you who put you there.


LEMON: Nischelle?

LEMON: OK. So, I want to...


TURNER: Where do I start? Where do you want me to start?

LEMON: But, you know, does she have a point? Who won in this whole Kanye versus Taylor Swift thing?

TURNER: Well, I don't think it's over so I don't think we can crown a winner yet. But what I do think is that, you know, she was of course talking directly to Kanye because of the line in his song, famous, I made that bitch famous, talking about Taylor Swift. And she kind of hit back and said it's misogynistic, I didn't give you permission to do this, I didn't know about it, and so they kind of had this back and forth.

[22:55:07] Well, you know, what I do think it's kind of interesting because the line is "I made you famous." And of course, he's talking about in 2009 where he rush the stage at the American Music Awards, when he thought Beyonce should have won and Taylor Swift won.

Do I think he made her famous? No, she was already famous. Do I think he raised her profile? Yes. Because I think that people started taking a second look and say, who is this Taylor Swift that got Kanye all riled up with, that won over Beyonce? I do think that, and I do think that there is little bit of and I don't want to call it hypocrisy...


LEMON: But Nischelle, Taylor Swift is so much more record known than Kanye West by...

HILL: He rolls.

LEMON: ... like 75 million.

TURNER: Well, it's a different art.

HILL: Kanye is a rock star. Come on.

TURNER: And, Don, at that point in 2009, we were just starting to know Taylor Swift. She was still the country artist who was just crossing over.

LEMON: Right.

TURNER: So, there was something to hit him raising her profile. He didn't make her famous. She was -- she obviously already won, but we started paying more attention to her then and trying to figure out what was so great about Taylor Swift that she won over Beyonce. I do think that.


LEMON: All right. But the fact that she won means that she's already famous and then she's one of the top selling...

TURNER: Yes, she was.

HILL: He turned it up...

LEMON: ... you know, artist in the world and history, I mean, come on. Come on, Kanye.

HILL: He made her -- he made her a lot more famous. And look, he was disrespectful he was misogynistic artist.


LEMON: Marc, all right, whatever.

HILL: I condemn what Kanye did.

TURNER: He was beyond disrespectful.

LEMON: I can't -- I think it was disrespectful. I don't believe he made her famous. I think she was already famous.


HILL: Yes, she was beyond -- but he made her more famous. He made her more famous.

LEMON: Was it a more -- was it a pop and the culture and -- yes, sure. But did he make, no, you can't say that.

HILL: I didn't know who Taylor -- I didn't know who Taylor. I know who she was until Kanye.

MAYO: But I think...

LEMON: I got to go, quick, quick, quick.

MAYO: I think she used this opportunity. I mean, granted she's having her young feminist moment and we celebrate that theoretically.


MAYO: But I do think that she used this opportunity to then ride Kanye for some added points.

LEMON: They're yelling at me. Their voices in my head are yelling at me. It's not the normal ones.

MAYO: It's the Taylor? LEMON: It's the producers. All right. Thank you, guys. Thank you. I'll see you right back here tomorrow night after the town hall. AC360 in just a moment.