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Preview of GOP Town Hall. Aired 8-8:38p ET

Aired February 18, 2016 - 20:00   ET




ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: And good evening. Welcome from the University of South Carolina in Columbia. I'm Anderson Cooper. We are moments away from another CNN Republican Town Hall. Jeb Bush, John Kasich, Donald Trump answering voters' questions here, making up their minds before the first in the south primary here in South Carolina.

It's been quite a day, to say the least. For Jeb Bush campaigning hard, looking for a badly needed boost from a state that's been good to the family. For John Kasich, hoping to capitalize on his second place finish in New Hampshire. A profoundly emotional campaign moment, we'll talk more about that in a bit.

And of course for Donald Trump riding high in the polls and never shying from a fight. He's now taking on Pope Francis. It begun when the pontiff returning from Mexico said this when asked about Trump. "A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be and not building bridges is not Christian. That is not the gospel." He went on to say. "We must see if he said things in that way and in this, I give the benefit of the doubt," the Pope went on to say. However, Trump who has made much of his Christian faith and the campaign trail was not about turning the other cheek.


DONALD TRUMP, (R) U.S. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The Pope said something to the effect that maybe Donald Trump isn't Christian, OK? And he's questioning my faith. I was very surprised to see it. But I am a Christian and I'm proud of it. OK, for a religious leader, to question a person's faith is disgraceful. I'm proud to be a Christian and as President I will not allow Christianity to be consistently attacked and weakened unlike what is happening now with our current president.


COOPER: More now on the controversy and potential political blow back starting with CNN's Sara Murray at the site of Donald Trump's final campaign event before the town hall. Sara, we just played a little bit of what Donald Trump, how he responded to the Pope's comments. Talk a little bit more about how this all started and how the day proceeded for Trump. SARA MURRAY, CNN CORRESPONDNET: Well, Anderson, Donald Trump never

takes criticism lightly, and especially on the issue of immigration. This is a cornerstone of Trump's campaign. So as soon as he got wind of the Pope's criticism, you heard him there. He was almost speechless. Just for a moment, saying it was unbelievable.

But he really went on to double down, essentially saying he doesn't think the Pope really understands the dangers of an open border. And in fact he even went so far to say the Vatican would need someone strong like a President Trump to defend it from ISIS. So, it is very clear that Trump has no problem being in a fight with the Pope just days before a primary in this state. No sign of backing down.

COOPER: Is there any sense of how this affects Donald Trump, if at all, in the race?

MURRAY: You know, it's really difficult to see if it upsets him personally. As you see he kind of shrug it off. He said it was unbelievable. But I have to say, talking to voters here, a lot of them, they just think this is all part of the political fight. I actually talked to one woman who said, you know, I'm a good southern baptist and I don't give a hoot if Donald Trump is in a fight with the Pope. So this is another one of those things where we look at it with shock and awe and say could this finally be the thing that breaks through the Donald Trump teflon? And I just don't think that will be the case this time. Anderson.

COOPER: Sara Murray, thank you. We look forward to seeing you after the town hall. And of course we're going to be talking to Donald Trump about this.

First though, how the other campaigns are reacting to Trump's comments about Pope Francis and what could be any political aftershocks, if there are any. CNN's Senior Vatican Analyst John Allen points out Catholics make up 20 percent of the country's voting age population, as well as a significant chunk of the South Carolina electorate.

More and all of it now from CNN Chief Political Correspondent Dana Bash, who joins us from outside the hall. So Dana, I mean other candidates are also weighing in on the Pope's comments about Trump. I understand you asked Jeb Bush about it today. What did he say?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. He has been one of the most critical, of course, of Donald Trump on pretty much everything. But on this, surprisingly perhaps, he came to his defense. Listen to our conversation.


Let's just talk about Mr. Trump -- how about Mr. Trump going at it with the Pope as a devout catholic. What do you make of that?

JEB BUSH, (R) U.S. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think the Pope said apparently he may not be Christian. I think his Christianity is between him and his creator. I don't think we need to discuss that.


BASH: So there you heard Jeb Bush there not once but even a couple of times saying, you know, it's not up to me or frankly even the Pope who he says is his own spiritual leader to say who is and who is not Christian.

[20:05:13] Ted Cruz who has been really getting into it with Donald Trump politically, also took a step back and said that's between the Pope and Donald Trump. The one person who you are going to talk to tonight who was a little bit more forward leaning was John Kasich who said, look, I like the Pope. I don't know what he said, but I still like the Pope.

COOPER: And in terms of Jeb Bush, I mean, some of the things he's been saying today on the campaign trail, he ended a town hall and sort of a -- when I read it, I read it as a somber message almost saying essentially, you know, I hope you aren't counting me out. How are -- and the stakes could not be higher for him right now.

BASH: They couldn't be higher. And I was just looking down to get the exact quote of what you're just referring to. He ended the town hall that you're showing here, by saying, I hope you don't think the end is near, and then he also, Anderson, said, if you aren't going to vote for me, I hope you at least pray for my family, and he said, I love you all.

So, that is certainly not the kind of rhetoric you hear from a candidate who thinks that he or she is on the precipice of a victory or even beating expectations. I talked to Jeb Bush a couple of days ago and said what do you have to do here? And he said beat expectations, whatever that is. I think that there was a really big blow inside team Bush not getting the popular governor, Nikki Haley's endorsement. That of course yesterday went to Marco Rubio. And, it is pretty clear that they are kind of treading water. And that kind of statement from Jeb Bush is kind of shows where his mental state is, where his emotional state is, never mind his political state that you'll be greeted with tonight.

COOPER: Yeah. And again, we'll talk to him about all of that. He'll be here. Donald Trump and John Kasich. Joining us now CNN Chief Political Analyst Gloria Borger, former South Carolina Republican Party Chairman Katon Dawson, Trump supporter, and CNN Political Commentator, Jeffrey Lord also with us, and David Brody, Chief Political Correspondent for the Christian Broadcasting Network.

Katon let me start with you. And we got to start with the Pope. I mean, does it have an impact here in South Carolina?

KATON DAWSON, FORMER SOUTH CAROLINA REPUBLICAN PARTY CHAIRMAN: As we said yesterday, Donald Trump is not talking about illegal immigration, he's having a bad day. The Pope got him back on message. And, Donald had a pretty good day. I mean we -- a couple hundred thousand Catholics in South Carolina out of 4.8 million people. I talked to two elected officials today, both Roman Catholic, and they weren't offended. They wouldn't challenge the Pope but they understood and really sort of in Donald's corner. So, you know, no harm no foul and Donald is back on message.

COOPER: Because he's talking about illegal immigration.

DAWSON: Yes, yes, and (inaudible) soon.

Gloria Borger: And, you know, his opponents haven't taken him on, on this because they're all within a hair of where he is on building a wall, on immigration. And, Jeb Bush who has lost no opportunity to challenge Donald Trump in recent months, today, when asked about it sort of backed off, right?

And so, they're not taking him on, on this. And the interesting thing about Trump is you never see him read a statement, as you pointed out. He was reading it word for word because he knew how careful he had to be with his words today responding to the Pope.

COOPER: Jeffrey Lord, a Trump backer. What do you make of -- I mean, your candidate now being in confrontation with the Pope of all people.

JEFFREY LORD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, there's two aspects to this, I think, Anderson. Number one, Bill Donahue of the Catholic League. I received a statement from him today. And he basically says that he believes that's the Pope was set up by the reporter, that's his answer was misreported or misunderstood and then transferred to Donald Trump who misunderstood it et cetera.

So, essentially he is defending both the Pope and Donald Trump. That aside, I think there's a political aspect to this, and I think Katon is right. I think that when anyone who is not an American, who's a leader, foreign leader, in this case, certainly the Pope, is perceived as interfering in an American election that there's an instinctive reflex in the American electorate not on like it. And it could be the Prime Minister of Britain for that matter, it would really matter. In this case, it's the Pope, and I don't think it was particularly good idea.

I mean, I suppose this congregational boy should be opining on the Pope's privileges but I'm just not so sure it's a good idea to jump into an American election like this.

COOPER: David Brody, you focused on Trump's bid to win over evangelical voters. Does the Pope's comments have any sway here in South Carolina?

DAVID BRODY, CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT FOR THE CHRISTIAN BROADCASTING NETWORK: Let me add it up for a moment here Anderson. Zero, zero percent. Can I go negative on that? No, absolutely not. As a matter of fact this is a good day for Donald Trump. Think about it, you have Jeb Bush and Ted Cruz coming to Donald Trump's defense, in essence.

[20:10:00] When has that ever happen? And so this is a good day. Look, if you're going to pick a fight about Donald Trump being "unchristian" or not a Christian, immigration is not the topic to do it on. I mean, you know, I'm sure Ted Cruz could suggest a few topics to the Pope on that story line but not immigration. And so, look, the only thing that could have gotten Donald Trump in trouble today is if he had gone to Twitter and blasted the Pope and called him a loser, but he didn't do it. And that's why he was reading that statement.

COOPER: Dana, as far as Jeb Bush is concerned, I mean his mom will be in the audience tonight here. Does the Bush campaign sees South Carolina as make or break? I mean, can they move forward from here if he doesn't, to your point earlier, beat expectations?

BASH: Well, they won't go there on answering that question. They, obviously, it's hard to say anything other than South Carolina is incredibly important. I mean that's just a fact. And, he hasn't done well at all in the first two contests. And this is, obviously, a place where, first of all, Bushes win historically. And second of all, they understand the stakes are incredibly high.

Having said that, I've talked to several Bush advisers tonight who have spent the day beating back rumors that's he is going to stop paying staff soon, that he is going to drop out if he finishes behind Marco Rubio. They insist that's not true. They insist that he's in it. He was even asked about it earlier today and said no, no, no. But, having said that, it's going to be very hard for him to continue with even the moral authority, never mind anything else, to keep going after they have spent so much money and he has spent so much time and so much energy everywhere, but especially here in South Carolina.

COOPER: Katon, do you see this race pretty quickly winnowing down, I mean after South Carolina?

DAWSON: Absolutely. I mean getting ready to vote 700,000 people. We've had wall to wall coverage. Last night's venue was remarkable for the voters. I can't tell you the people I talked to that helped make up their minds and change the venue from the cage fight we have to what we're doing in this. And I think the candidates have had everything they need to sell their program. A cheap state for advertising. So, I think that it's going to win a couple, my guess is two, maybe three, and then we'll have a little tighter race into super Tuesday.

And hopefully we have more venues like you're doing. I know Anderson it's a lot of work and expensive for the network, but this was an important time. To think about Trump, there's some candidates that's need someday news today and the Pope, courtesy of him, Trump got two- thirds of the day today.

COOPER: Absolute. Jeffrey, I mean that's a good point. Again, Donald Trump is dominating the conversation. I mean this time it wasn't really of his making. It was comments the Pope made.

LORD: Right. Anderson, the problem I think with Jeb Bush is the illustration that's a fairly old one in American politics. You can have all the money in the world but if you don't have a good message and can't communicate the message to the audience, to the voters, you're not going to get anywhere. So, at the end of all of this, Jeb Bush is left with lots of money. He spent lots of money and he's not getting anywhere.

And, in one brief instant here, the Pope has illustrated exactly what Donald Trump's message is and why so many are responding to him.

COOPER: You know, Gloria, it reminds me just of how little we know about the world of politics. It seems like we learned this lesson every presidential cycle. The kind of the presumptive nominees, the people early on and getting knocked out or end up faltering and somebody who we don't expect comes to, you know, rises to the floor.

BORGER: Exactly, the person with the most money doesn't necessarily always win, and, you know, I think Jeb Bush, case in point, Hillary Clinton learned that in 2008. And, the thing about Bush right now, honestly, so when you talk to his people, they're talking about the margin he loses by. And when a campaign starts talking about the margin of loss, you know, there's a problem.

COOPER: David, the way this all plays out Saturday, for a long time people thought Cruz had evangelical voters locked up. Donald Trump and Rubio could very well split that vote with him. Who do you think has the edge right now?

BRODY: Well, Donald Trump clearly has the edge as it relates to evangelicals. The polling has shown that. And, you know, it's interesting. Ted Cruz, it has got to be so frustrating for Ted Cruz. I mean, as a former solicitor general, he's litigating a case against Donald Trump in essence being a fake conservative, and yet it's not really sticking all that much. And why is that? Well, you know, we've always talked about Ted Cruz being an outsider and Donald Trump being an outsider.

But the reality is, Senator Ted Cruz is Senator Ted Cruz, and he also speaks very much in measured tones and like a politician, so to speak. And because of all of that, Donald Trump has a much different feel to him. A vibe to him, it's the guy next door. Even though he's a billionaire but he is the guy next door. I mean it's a fascinating political skill that a billionaire can relate to the cab driver.

[20:15:13] I mean, someone's got to write a book about it. You know, I'm going to write a book about it.

COOPER: The guy next door but just living in a much bigger house than you're living in -- than all of us. Jeffrey Lord, thank you, David Brody. Everyone else stick around.

Just ahead tonight, the uproar over a photo on a Ted Cruz funded website that the Rubio campaign is calling another sign "of how phony and deceitful the Cruz campaign is become." Their words, see it for your self, and hear what the Cruz campaign has to say in return with tonight's town hall now just minutes away.


COOPER: Welcome back with John Kasich and Jeb Bush and Donald Trump getting ready to take the stage in Columbia. Two participants in last night in Town Hall in Greenville fought it out over a misleading photo on the trail today, this photo posted on a Ted Cruz funded website, appears to show Marco Rubio and President Obama shaking hands and smiling over something called the Rubio-Obama Trade Pact.

[20:20:04] It didn't take the interweb long to spot it as a fake nor locate the stock photo. It apparently was made from identical down to the wrinkles on the suit. The image reversed with new heads of course on the body. Decide for yourself what to make for it. As for what the Rubio and Cruz campaigns are making of it, let's first go to Phil Mattingly, covering Rubio. So did the campaign have to say about this?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well look Anderson, and a rather luminous history of dirty tricks in South Carolina, this probably doesn't rank in the top 500 of most egregious, but that wasn't the Rubio campaign's point today. The reason they worked hard to get this out there, why they held a conference call later with surrogates, why Congressman Trey Gowdy released a video attacking Ted Cruz is this fits a narrative that they're trying to push, a narrative that Ted Cruz is deceptive and is running a campaign based on lies. And every time they're talking about that, that means Ted Cruz has to answer questions about it and that means Ted Cruz is on defense.

That's their key point here. Not so much that this photoshop was that bad, but they can keep trying to put Ted Cruz on defense. For Ted Cruz's campaign, they brushed this off. Rick Tyler, his spokesman, called this a pathetic attempt. Rick Perry, the former governor of Texas just released a lengthy statement attacking Marco Rubio for this. But the key point here, Anderson is this. Both of these campaigns recognize that in this state there are a subset of voters that could break either way. They're undecided at this point, so these attacks are only going to keep coming, Anderson.

COOPER: Yes, still a lot of undecided voters, a lot of undecided voters in this room which is why tonight is so critical in this state. Rubio, I mean by all the latest polls, he is not certainly in first place, doesn't necessarily have a good shot of actually winning but does seem to be gaining momentum. How does this campaign define success here? Will they say?

MATTINGLY: Well look, up until last night, this was largely get back on the horse, after a rather lackluster in New Hampshire performance. And then came the endorsement of Governor Nikki Haley. Now, the Governor who had 80 percent approval rating, a top tier uprising star in the establishment. That was a big moment for them. And Rubio advisers are now kind of not trying to lay expectations low anymore. They recognize that there's a real possibility they could pass Ted Cruz for second place, and they really need something like that to push through into a super Tuesday where they aren't really favored in any of the states on the map.

Now Ted Cruz's campaign having fun with that as well, Anderson. They're trying to push expectations very high. So it would be very interesting to see what happens on Saturday.

COOPER: All right, Phil Mattingly, I appreciate your reporting. I want to see how the Cruz campaign is reacting to all of this, this photo and Rubio's assetion that the Cruz folks are swallowed (ph) culture of dishonesty, their terms. CNN's Sunlen Serfaty joins me from Greenville, South Carolina. So, how did the Cruz campaign react? I mean they didn't exactly knock down the accusation, the picture was altered, what did they say?

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, they're not outright denying that this photo was photoshopped Anderson. They're preferring to use the word illustration and said of course to characterize this in a much less egregious sounding way. The Crus campaign says it was intended to be used as symbolism, a symbolic photo of Rubio and Obama hand in hand to make that point, to drive that home. And they say it was never intended to be presented as an actual photo.

And the Cruz campaign pushing really pushing back in a tongue in cheek way saying, if the Rubio campaign wants to supply another photo of Rubio and President Obama, they are happy to swap this out. Also tweaking, the Rubio campaign just a bit saying, really celebrating and thanking them for directing people to their anti-Rubio website, saying that traffic has been through the roof today. Anderson.

COOPER: And the death of Justice Scalia, that continues to play out on the campaign trail.

MATTINGLY: It absolutely does. And it's interesting today, Ted Cruz really went right after President Obama about this, saying that President Obama's eager to visit a place like Cuba but not eager to attend the funeral for a supreme court justice. That, of course, being Saturday in Washington, D.C., you know, Cruz knew Justice Scalia very well. He said he was very influential in his life. He was a former Supreme Court law clerk.

But interesting this morning the Cruz campaign said he was not going to attend the funeral himself Saturday even after criticizing President Obama for not attending. They say it was too difficult with his campaign schedule, Saturday being the primary here, and the Republicans here in South Carolina. But late today we got word from the Cruz campaign that it is still a big unknown. They are looking at the schedule potentially seeing if it will work but they say no final decision is made whether Cruz will attend that funeral on Saturday. Anderson?

COOPER: All right. Sunlen, thank you. Back now with Gloria Borger, Katon Dawson and Dana Bash, also joining us is CNN Political Commentator Amanda Carpenter, former Communications Director for Senator Ted Cruz.

I mean, Katon, we've seen a lot of stuff in South Carolina. Where does this photoshop image rank?

DAWSON: In the 500th, like the 426th worst one. You know, at least you can be better at it. And, what it did do was, at least they had a conversation.

[20:25:04] The Cruz team lost on this one and the reason why is he wasn't talking about the justice. He wasn't talking about what his expertise in his lane was. So everybody got distracted today but Donald Trump. Now, the visual that came out with Nikki Haley, Tim Scott, Trey Gowdy. The only African-American conservative Republican, young Senator, in his 40s. Nikki Haley, Indian-American governor. Trey Gowdy has been good -- that's a pretty powerful visual that the Democrats are going to have to face. I mean this is the face of the party in South Carolina.

COOPER: Right.

DAWSON: That's a pretty good day for him.

BORGER: I was at that rally today when the four of them stood up there, and it was the sort of new rainbow coalition of the Republican Party. And it had youth and diversity and it had energy. And, they knew exactly what they were doing when they were all up there together. And it was really quite striking.

COOPER: Amanda, I want to give you a chance to weigh in on this. Surely the Cruz campaign knew that this flyer, you know, the people would realize that it was a photoshopped image and they'd get pushback.

AMANDA CARPENTER, FRM. COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR FOR SENATOR TED CRUZ Yes, I mean I don't think they were ever trying to pass this image off as real. I mean, I can look at it and, it looked obviously photoshopped. I think it's, you know, representation of what Obama teaming up with Rubio. It's an echo of the gang of eight kind of stuff. And so I think Rubio just looks really silly.

Listen, the Rubio campaign has really been trying to make this narrative that Ted Cruz is a liar come true. They've used this. They've gone after fake Facebook postings that's Ted Cruz is not responsible for and this about, as evidence of this. They're trying to make this happen. I think it looks a little desperate. It looks even more desperate when echoing talking points about being a liar from Donald Trump.

But this is a make or break state for Rubio. He needs to have a good showing. I just personally think it's disappointing that he's acting like Donald Trump in order to do it.

COOPER: Dana, I want to play a clip from Governor Kasich today from a moment with one of his supporters at an earlier town hall.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Like over a year ago, a man who was like my second dad, he killed himself, and then a few months later, my parents got a divorce, and then a few months later, my dad lost his job. But -- and I was in a really dark place for a long time. I was pretty depressed. But, I found hope, and I found it in the lord and in my friends, and now I've found it in my presidential candidate that I support. And I really appreciate one of those hugs you've been talking about.

(END VIDEO CLIP) COOPER: You know, Dana, it is one of those moments, and it happens from time to time, particularly at town hall meetings like this, where, you know, it really breaks through all the kind of rhetoric and breaks through, all the back and forth, and it's just a very human moment.

BASH: Absolutely, and it's one that John Kasich has said, time and time again kind of keeps him going. And, the kind of moment that he says changed him as a politician and just as a human being, that this whole process has done that. It also is kind of reminder of how special these early contest states are and the people who get to live here in South Carolina, in Iowa, in New Hampshire.

They have these moments where they can have effectively a therapy sessions with somebody who they admire, a politician, and have that kind of one on one interaction. It is really quite remarkable, and it is a chance for us to step back and say, wow, you know, for all of the rhetoric, for all of the politicking, these are human beings, both the politicians and more importantly the voters.

COOPER: Katon, do you think there's still a lot of minds that have yet to be made up here?

DAWSON: I do. The history is, 55 percent said the last three days out of the exit poll in 2012. But they're starting to make their minds up. I mean today is Thursday. So, it's a busy day and it's pretty close. But I think it's enough to move the numbers, especially the expectations that was set by the candidate. Cruz has set an expectation of second place.

Rubio, an expectation of where he's going to be, and he could exceed expectations. That's what's getting ready to happen. It's what's going to happen to Ted Cruz if he doesn't come in second place. You know, where is he going down the road? What is he going to do? They've got money but only a couple of tickets have enough money. Jeb Bush is running out of money. Carson is out.

There's three campaigns that have money. Donald Trump has his own wallet, Ted Cruz's inability to fund himself, Marco Rubio to fund himself and the outlier, John Kasich. And Kasich is low on cash on hand, too. So, I think the financial advantage is going to be there, and we go into Super Tuesday that nobody can afford to buy all the media in those states.

[20:30:00] DAWSON: So they're both coming out here as large -- this is the last state that you can have a hub, that you can have people who are going to go around from cafeteria to cafeteria.

COOPER: Did Nikki Haley really help Marco Rubio perhaps get up into second place?

DAWSON: She does. I mean what the-- well what I found today with voters was if you haven't taken a good look or the Chris Christie exchange had you, you know, second -- this got him a really good second look in a place with a lot of undecided voters. BORGER: Yeah, that's what I found at the Rubio rally today. That people, like Nikki Haley, she's got over 80 percent popularity in the state. And if they were giving Rubio another look, because they like her, it's not that they're definitely going to vote for him as a result, but I do think she creates a sense of, well, maybe we ought to take another look at this guy because we like her so much.

COOPER: And Amanda and I should point out to our viewers, if you are joining us, we are awaiting the beginning, the start of our Town Hall. Governor John Kasich, we're really awaiting his arrival and the Town Hall will begin as soon as he does arrive. Then it's going to be Governor Jeb Bush and finally Donald Trump.

So it's going to be a fascinating night ahead. The audience is certainly ready. They are waiting and we'll get that going momentarily.

Amanda, what is Ted Cruz's explanation come Sunday morning if Marco Rubio does surpass him in South Carolina, particularly if Rubio is strong with Evangelicals?

AMANDA CARPENTER, FORMER COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR FOR SENATOR TED CRUZ: Well, all the margins are going to matter a lot. Does Trump have big double-digit leads? You know, how close are they all clumped together or not? That's going to dictate a lot of the outcomes here.

You know, it will be really interesting. Let's say, you know, look, say Marco Rubio does win South Carolina. You'll have Ted Cruz winning Iowa, Trump winning New Hampshire and Rubio winning South Carolina.

All three of them would have a pretty strong argument to continue going. I don't know where the other support goes from there if the others see the writing on the wall. But I think the March continues with at least those three. And that, I think would be a fascinating race.

The question would be, you know, are the votes divided potentially between a Cruz and Rubio that allows Trump to march forward? Or do Cruz and Rubio actually take votes away from Trump and make him weaker in a three-man race? It could go a lot of different ways and we'll have much more insight once we see those margins of victory or defeat on Saturday.

COOPER: Dana, we talked about some comments Jeb Bush made at the end of a Town Hall. He had a Town Hall I think was yesterday where his supporters, it was kind of remarkable. They were essentially giving him advice about what he should be doing better which is something you don't really see a lot at a Town Halls.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: You don't. And, you know, there has been this remarkable and probably unfortunate dynamic for the Jeb Bush campaign that we've seen going to his events for the past several months now, which is, people really like Jeb Bush.

And the feeling coming out of his events from a lot of voters is not what he wants, which is, oh, wow, I'm really fired up about this guy but, oh, wow, he's such a nice guy. And it's like I feeling bad for him, which is the worst thing you want for as a candidate.

But it's just -- it is kind of a reminder and it really crystallizes how much people genuinely like him, even if they don't necessarily think he's their guy.

Jut for example, I was at that event where Gloria was-- Marco Rubio's this morning. And I talked to several people who said they really like Jeb Bush but they want a new generation, they want someone who can beat Hillary Clinton. They don't think Jeb Bush can do that.

CARPENTER: I want to know if I may about Jeb Bush. I think his remarks tonight will be the most interesting to watch out for because it could go either way. In recent days he's almost sound like a terminal patient. You know pray for me. The end may not be near. Is he going to go out swinging really hard making that closing argument or quietly?

COOPER: Dana Bash, Amanda Carpenter, Gloria Borger, (inaudible) thank you all to Republican Town Hall from here in South Carolina.

In Columbia, is just moments away. Donald Trump, Jeb Bush, and John Kasich will be taking questions from voters and from me. We'll take a short break and then the Town Hall will begin. Stay with me.