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NEW DAY SATURDAY
Bush Family Visits South Carolina Polling Station; Inside South Carolina Polling Station; Funeral Mass For Justice Scalia; Democrat Nomination Race; Politics of Scalia Replacement. Aired 8-9a ET
Aired February 20, 2016 - 08:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[08:01:03] VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. I'm victor Blackwell live in Colombia, South Carolina where it is primary day. Voters are already hitting the polls. We're an hour into voting here casting the Republican ballots in the primary here.
I'm live on the campus on the University of South Carolina. You'll hear from some of the first-time voters here a little later this morning. This is a state that prides itself on picking presidents.
Moments ago, Jeb Bush along with his wife, Columba, and mother, Barbara Bush, visited a polling station in Greenville, South Carolina. He's the first candidate out this morning.
You see him there shaking hands with voters, took a few pictures. We heard chants of all in for Jeb there and he needs voters to be all in for him. This is a state historically great to the Bushes in '88, '92 and 2000. Here is what he said just a few moments ago.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How do you define South Carolina?
JEB BUSH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Beating expectations. This is the third of a 55 jurisdiction process, 50 states and a few territories, and such a volatile time to be able to beat expectations would be helpful and I think we'll do that. We'll see.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: South Carolina has been very pro-Trump from what we've seen so far, what do you want to send the message to voters that can possibly sway that decision otherwise?
BUSH: Trump can't win. Plain and simple. This isn't about appealing to people's deep anxiety which is legitimate. He can't be president. A ton of people would be very uncomfortable with his divisive language and with his inexperience in so many ways.
The way he speaks it's pretty clear he hasn't thought it through and we're living in dangerous times, I think we need somebody that can be president from day one.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People are worried at some point -- (END VIDEOTAPE)
BLACKWELL: All right. You got Jeb Bush there speaking to some reporters outside of that polling station in Greenville, South Carolina.
Let's go to another polling station in Mt. Pleasant where our Brian Todd is there. Brian, polls have been opened for about an hour now. What are you seeing?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Victor, very energetic start to the day as we kick off doubleheader day with the Nevada caucuses and South Carolina primary so crucial. Pretty steady flow of voters coming in to the National Guard armory in Mt. Pleasant.
Our photo journalist and I will take you inside. We had a line out the door when we started and trickled down a little bit, but we know it's going to ebb and flow. That's what poll managers told us.
They expect the peak to come a little later. The demographic is mostly older voters showing up in the early going here, but again we expect that to change throughout the day.
The process is come in here, check in at the station over here and got five digital polling stations here covered on three sides. Those are tabulated at the end of the day on a cartridge for each station and a central cartridge will printout on another machine and goes to the central tabulation station in Charleston.
We do expect pretty heavy voter turnout. That's been really the message that the candidates have been pounding. We've heard Donald Trump saying it rally after rally in South Carolina.
Don't just show up here for the entertainment, don't just show up to the rallies, get out and vote. I can tell you when they -- the polls close at 7:00 p.m. Eastern Time.
I talked to an election official here who said that if you're out the door in a long line as the polls close, you're going to get in even if the line extends down the street, you're going to get in and be able to cast your vote.
I asked him about something that happened in New Hampshire when they had lines of cars down the street from the polling station where we were in New Hampshire and we were told then that even if you were in a car way down the street in a long line that you would get in.
But they did have to have police officers cut off that line. This election official in South Carolina said we'll have to make that call later on depending on the situation. Obviously, they don't have that problem now but again, victor, we're just getting started.
The peak is supposed to come in the next few hours and we'll see about turnout what we've talked to people as they have come out and a lot of them have said I didn't make up my mind until about two days ago. [08:05:04]One guy said he made up his mind up this morning as he walked in. So there is a lot of energy here and we are expecting again a pretty healthy turnout here in Charleston County, the most populous county in South Carolina -- Victor.
BLACKWELL: I spoke with a few voters yesterday who said they expected they would make their mind up when they are in the voting booth, listen to their heart and head and choose then. So it comes down to today. Brian Todd expecting record turnout. Brian, thank you so much.
I want to bring in CNN senior political analyst, Ron Brownstein and Jonathan Martin, national political correspondent for "The New York Times." Good to have both of you.
Jonathan, I want to start with you and Donald Trump. Most people expect Donald Trump will win here in South Carolina, but it's now a game of margins. If this is a single digit win, does that damage this narrative of strength?
JONATHAN MARTIN, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": It would suggest that what he said in the final days in this primary did damage him, that you can't in South Carolina target both the leader of the Catholic Church and the last GOP president and expect to have no sort of ramifications for doing that.
And by the way, lots of other stuff, too, that I'm leaving out, that people have taken a sort of second look in saying I'm curious, I enjoy sort of take it to the man attitude but maybe not a commander-in- chief.
I think that's what reaction is if he does win narrowly here. New Hampshire he outperformed his polls there and the similarity between this state and New Hampshire as Ron knows, is that it's effectively an open primary state.
You can show up to vote today because lots of Trump support comes from outside the party structure and so these are the kind of states that are really good for Donald Trump.
BLACKWELL: It may actually benefit because the Democrats next week and some of those potentially Democratic voters that wanted to get in on the action will get in on the action today and not wait a week to do that.
Ron, let me come to you with Ted Cruz. You wrote about this possibly being the alamo for Ted Cruz and this is a state with two-thirds of the GOP voters identify themselves as conservative Christians. He's up against Marco Rubio momentum.
RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Absolutely. Look, first of all, how great is the South Carolina Republican primary. It is one of the most compelling weeks in American politics since 1980. It has picked the winner in the GOP race every time except one.
I think Ted Cruz along with Jeb Bush probably has the most at stake here and the reason is Ted Cruz like Rick Santorum in '12 and Mike Huckabee in '08 is lopsidedly depending on Evangelical voters.
In New Hampshire, he only won 8 percent of voters who are not Evangelicals so if he cannot perform well here with this very heavy Evangelical presence, if he has a disappointing showing, I think it would suggest that Donald Trump has cracked his kind of, you know, his castle keep, his support among Evangelicals.
And that would auger poorly for Cruz looking ahead into the southern states where he is relying on the Evangelical vote to power him through. Jeb Bush is the other one with the most at stake I think here.
Because if he finishes significantly behind Marco Rubio in a state that was the turning point for his brother in 2000, it's hard to see a legitimate rationale for going forward.
BLACKWELL: Ron by your analysis, hearing that ranking, you got Rubio in third but Jonathan, let me come to you. Rubio has the endorsement of Tim Scott and the endorsement of Nikki Haley. He's got Trey Gowdy and I've spoken with some voters who just the imagery of the four of them on stage looks like the future of the Republican Party. Do you expect him to finish second here?
MARTIN: The Charleston paper for two days running this week had these big pictures of Nikki Haley and Marco Rubio. Great publicity. Marco Rubio should be able to get second place in that state given the support that he's had this week.
Given the kind of attention that he's gotten for having the governor's endorsement over the course of the last three days, he should be able to get 20, 21 percent and grab second place and if he can't, it will raise questions what is the issue with his candidacy.
The good news for Rubio coming out of South Carolina, though, will be if he beats Bush soundly here there will be immense pressure on Bush to leave the race and that will lead to the thing people have been waiting for and can be hugely helpful to Rubio going into Super Tuesday.
The possibility of a three or four person race is the scenario the party needs to finally get at Trump.
BLACKWELL: Guys, in the control room, can we re-rack the video of Jeb Bush speaking to supporters in Greenville this morning? We don't have to listen to the audio because I think that makes the point.
And Ron, as we get that video ready, I want to come to you, the Jeb Bush we saw this morning was not a motivated Jeb Bush. He came out and took a few pictures and shook some hands.
But if you look at him, he looks pretty solemn that he's resigned to whatever will happen today and this is not apparently going to be a great day for his campaign.
BROWNSTEIN: No, and I think they -- look, after the showing in New Hampshire they had an opportunity to revive here in South Carolina. [08:10:05]It hasn't happened. The governor's endorsement went to Marco Rubio and it's kind of left Jeb Bush out there without a lot of wind at his back.
And I think as I said, it would very hard for him to make a plausible case for going forward if he does not finish well here. You know, for Marco Rubio, I think the stakes are high and don't dismiss the possibility that he could finish second.
I think the risk for Rubio is that right now he is like Donald Trump, he is drawing across the party. He is showing support really from all segments of the party, but he is not showing deep support yet in any individual segment of the party.
And the question will be in particular whether those more white collar main stream conservative voters as Jonathan was suggesting would coalesce behind Rubio and the choice between Cruz, Rubio, and Trump if Jeb Bush gets out.
But you still have John Kasich there who is a competitor for those voters. That part of the party remains more fragmented while you have the Evangelical and blue collar sides coalescing to a greater extent around Trump and Cruz.
BLACKWELL: John Kasich after tonight he's not expected to win here. He said that from the beginning --
MARTIN: He's not going to be here.
BLACKWELL: You can tell a lot about what a candidate believes about how they'll finish up by where they are on the night of the vote, but where does he have to finish to, I guess, continue his argument that he has a place in the race? He can't wait until Ohio, Illinois, and skip the March 1st states.
MARTIN: I think it would help him immeasurably if he found a way to beat or at least tie Jeb Bush here because then he can say I'm very much still a serious candidate and had very little organization in South Carolina and I still beat this scion Jeb Bush in the state.
But look, there will be questions about what Kasich's path is for. Very few folks in the party believe that he's going to be the nominee by somehow skipping ahead to March 8th in Michigan.
And ignoring the elephant in the room which is a quarter of the delegates that are out on March 1st, Super Tuesday so he has to come up with a more compelling argument beyond I can compete in Michigan.
As Ron knows, that's a very hard thing to do if you're not in the conversation in the weeks leading up to the state. That will be tough. One fast point that Ron made that I want to echo, and that is I'm very curious about Ted Cruz.
Ted Cruz being pinched on the right and the left from Trump and Rubio, both, who are making incursions into his Evangelical base, Cruz needs to show that he can solidify that base. But also as important show that he has some group potentials. Cruz can't just be the Evangelical only candidate. He has to show the he can expand his coalition.
BLACKWELL: All right, Jonathan Martin, Ron Brownstein -- go ahead, 10 seconds.
BROWNSTEIN: Just real quick, we're talking about the moral victories second and third and we're sliding the big point here. If Donald Trump wins South Carolina after winning New Hampshire, there is just enormous momentum behind him and these candidates are maneuvering to be the principle alternative to Trump.
If he gets enough momentum out of here, that maybe more like being the last speed bump for Trump. So it really matters what he does as well here tonight because if he scores well particularly with Evangelicals, it would signal he could have a very big day on March 1st that could leave the entire field well behind and facing a very uphill climb.
BLACKWELL: Yes, we're rolling into Alabama, Arkansas, Oklahoma --
BLACKWELL: All coming up. Texas and that's going to be a showdown. Looking forward to that one. Thank you both. It's the last debate we're looking ahead to before Super Tuesday.
Of course, join Wolf Blitzer live from Texas, as we said, for the CNN Republican presidential debate. That will be a showdown Thursday 8:30 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN.
We're live from the campus of the University of South Carolina all morning long bringing you the very latest on the Republican primary now underway as we see candidates stopping at polling places here across the state. We'll bring those to you live, as well.
Now after the break, our other big story this hour, CNN outside the basilica in Washington D.C. where thousands of family, friends, dignitaries, and strangers who simply admired Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. We'll be there for a special mass and funeral service.
AMARA WALKER, CNN GUEST ANCHOR: We're going to get back to Victor Blackwell in South Carolina in just a few minutes from now. But first, I'm Amara Walker with the other big story we've been following this morning.
We want to show you live pictures of the national shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. It is one of the largest churches in the world where thousands of mourners are gathering to pay respects to the late Justice Antonin Scalia. Funeral services begin in less than three hours from now and CNN special coverage begins at 10:00 a.m. Eastern. CNN's Carol Costello is live outside the church with more on today's ceremony -- Carol.
CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Amara, isn't this a beautiful facility? This is the basilica in Washington, D.C., one of the largest Catholic churches in the entire world. In fact, it's the largest Catholic Church in the United States and North America and one of the ten largest churches in the entire world.
This is where Antonin Scalia's funeral mass will take place. His casket due to arrive 10:45 Eastern Time. His sons will be pall barriers and his other son will be the celebrant. He'll say the mass and he'll offer the homily.
Justice Clarence Thomas will read the scripture inside the church along with a conservative (inaudible) who is a dear of Justice Scalia's. We're expecting just about 3,000 friends and family among the guests today, Joe Biden and his wife, the Attorney General Loretta Lynch.
Ted Cruz is expected to be here. He's taking a break from the campaign trail. Dick Cheney and his family is supposed to be here and also most of the Supreme Court justices.
For the mass itself, it will be a traditional Catholic mass and a lot said in Latin because that's what Justice Scalia's favorite kind of mass was. He loved the thought of a traditional conservative Latin mass.
If you ever sat through a Catholic mass done in Latin, it's truly a beautiful ceremony. So we look forward to that because we expect CNN will take that live.
Joining me now to talk more about this is Joan Biskupic. She is from Reuters and written a biography on Justice Scalia. Welcome, Joan.
JOAN BISKUPIC, AFFAIRS EDITOR, REUTERS: Thank you, Carol.
COSTELLO: Justice Clarence Thomas also a Catholic will read scripture during the mass today. The significance of that?
BISKUPIC: A couple of things, Carol, and I thought you were exactly right to hit the traditional service. You know, there are lots of brands of Catholicism in America in various ways and Justice Scalia liked his as pure as can be.
He would sometimes kid about -- he was serious about not being crazy about Vatican two and would often when are they going to get rid of the guitar mass of the '60s and '70s.
[08:20:10]But Justice Clarence Thomas shared that belief in that kind of Catholicism. You might remember that Justice Thomas as a young man had gone into the seminary for a while, thought about becoming a priest, was greatly influenced by catholic nuns when he was growing up. He left the seminary and went to Holy Cross then and then to law school and for a while frankly was away from the Catholic Church and then came back. And I think it's quite a message that the Scalia family is choosing this old friend of Justice Scalia's from the court and from a personal, personal life, too.
COSTELLO: Definitely so. You mentioned Latin masses, very few Catholic churches across the country offer mass in Latin anymore. Why was a little girl, they did that all the time but that went by the wayside. They wanted to make it more exciting for young people.
BISKUPIC: That's right, he didn't like that part --
COSTELLO: No, he did not. I want to read you something Justice Scalia wrote back in 1988. He said, quote, "Weddings and funerals but especially funerals are the principle occasions left in modern America when you can preach the good news not just to the faithful, but to those who never really heard it."
I think by some national outlets taking this funeral mass live probably would have made Justice Scalia pretty happy.
BISKUPIC: I think so. I think so. He was a man of tradition. Everything about him was done with flourish and taking a look at the early program of what we'll see today. You know, there will be a choir, beauty in the celebration.
And a lot of if not literal Trumpets but the atmosphere and passion by which he lived and he probably would appreciate the fact that thousands of people will come into that beautiful basilica and hear the word.
COSTELLO: That's right and thousands outside of the church who will be watching on television will hear the word of God. Joan Biskupic, thanks so much.
And Amara, just a little bit about politics on this day and I hate to inject it when we expect a beautiful mass to take place, but Ted Cruz is taking a break from the campaign trail to attend the mass.
As you know, there's been a lot of controversy over President Obama and Michelle Obama not coming to the mass and Joe Biden and his wife will take the president and first lady's place because Joe Biden had a relationship with Justice Scalia.
But still, you know, there will be people bothered by that but hopefully for the most part we can keep the politics out of what's expected to be a beautiful service today.
WALKER: Yes, unfortunately, politics seeping back into Scalia's death, but it will no doubt be a very moving day. Carol Costello, appreciate that. Thank you very much.
Of course, we'll have live coverage of Justice Scalia's funeral throughout the day right here on CNN. Coverage begins at 10:00 a.m. The funeral mass begins at 11:00 a.m. Eastern. All right. Still to come, Donald Trump says he can do more for African-Americans than President Obama. We talked live with the representative from the Clark County Nevada black caucus about whether she thinks Trump can deliver on that promise.
And we're just a few hours away from the Democratic caucuses in Nevada. Coming up, we'll take a look at the tight race between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.
BLACKWELL: Primary day here in South Carolina and we've got live pictures here of a polling station in Mt. Pleasant. You see there is traffic in and out already just an hour and a half into voting here. Polls opened at 7:00 Eastern here and will be open until 7:00 p.m.
Although we've learned from the secretary of state that tens of thousands have already submitted absentee ballots, the absentee in person is the equivalent of early voting in other states. Nearly 40,000 of those have been submitted. A record here.
So we are expecting again, record turnout, may be 650,000 votes cast in the primary today. Republicans only, the Democrats out in Nevada.
But let's stay in South Carolina. This could shape up to be a shift, a major shift in the race here based on how the candidates perform, of course, if they beat expectations or lose momentum.
In just a few hours, as we said, people in Nevada will caucus a tight race between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. Both Democratic candidates out campaigning late into the evening yesterday trying to pick up last-minute votes.
Clinton talking about immigration reform there, listen what she said last night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We are not going to deport 11 million or 12 million people, certainly I would never let that happen and these candidates running for president on the Republican side that say they will round up and deport 11 million or 12 million people are just feeding the fears, anxieties and attitudes of people who think that might be a good idea. It will never happen.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLACKWELL: All right, let's bring in Jerry Crawford, a Hillary Clinton advisor. Jerry, it's good to have you this morning.
JERRY CRAWFORD: Victor, good to be with you.
BLACKWELL: So after Iowa and that came down to just two-tenths of a point with Hillary Clinton winning there. Her supporters said wait until Nevada and South Carolina. There is a fire wall there.
And after that double digit loss in New Hampshire, they said again, wait until Nevada and South Carolina there is a wall there. We're in Nevada and that fire wall to paraphrase another analyst seemed to have burned out. What is happening in Nevada?
JERRY CRAWFORD, HILLARY CLINTON ADVISOR: Well, first of all, I was there volunteering all week and I was astonished and pleased with how well organized the effort once again have put together in Nevada, I think that look, let's give credit to Senator Sanders.
He's really a feel good inspirational candidate.
[08:30:00] But as we go forward, Democrats who care about having a Democrat actually win the presidency are going to rally more and more to Hillary Clinton. She has proven she can take on the Republicans and win. She's proven she's tough enough to deal with him in a general election and the same simply can't be true for Senator Sanders
So, if people care about the major issues or right in the middle of the Supreme Court shakeup, if people care about global warming and terrorism and all the rest, they need somebody who can win and that's Hillary Clinton.
BLACKWELL: So of course, we know that the early contest and mostly about narrative. There aren't many delegates on the line in the first several states there are more to come in March as go through the calendar. But if the narrative from Hillary Clinton is that she can win against a Republican, she's got to prove her strength against the Democratic primary candidate and if she has this narrow win in Iowa, a defeat in New Hampshire and we don't know what will happen tonight at the best it will be closed by all estimates, doesn't that jeopardize that narrative that she is the stronger of the two?
CRAWFORD: Victor, that's a great question and I think it's the important question. Here is the thing, and John Sasso wrote a brilliant piece in the Boston Globe about this week.
Bernie Sanders has yet to be tested. He's yet to be vetted. He hasn't -- the press hasn't gone after him but most importantly, the Republicans haven't gone after him. Why? Because they want to run against him in November, it's a target-rich environment. He's a socialist. He has advocated massive spending programs. At some point -- I mean, you can only imagine how good the Republican effort would be against him and they are licking chops hoping they get the chance.
So look, he's a terrific guy. He's just not ready to win a general election and as people start to focus on that, thoughtful people, people who know what is at stake in electing a Democrat, I expect Hillary to emerge decisively.
BLACKWELL: Was he also is expected to win here in South Carolina next week of course, the focus on South Carolina's on the Republicans today.
But let's talk about what happened last night with the release of more of the e-mails from the state department as that FBI investigation continues. I hear your chuckle there and many of her supporters say this is a non-issue but it gets to the question that continues to haunt her candidacy, the question of honesty and trustworthiness. How does if you take the e-mails as context or not, how does he overcome that challenge?
CRAWFORD: Well, look, I think that for Republicans who spend their time watching Fox News will never get past that just as in 2008 we never got past the notion that Barack Obama was a Muslim. We never got past the notion that he had been born in Africa, some people want to believe the worst ...
BLACKWELL: But there are some Democrats who have questions about her honesty and truth worthiness, so it's not just the Republicans this rearing its head in the primary.
CRAWFORD: It's fed by the republicans and it's fed by groups like Fox News. That's where it gets into the public space. You know, it's remarkable that she is still in the position she's in after all the incoming attacks she's taken in the past year. E-mail is just one, Benghazi another but you see what happens when she has the chance unfiltered to take on her critics as she did on the Benghazi here and completely dominated Trey Gowdy's committee.
Look, I'm glad we're talking about the e-mails. Let's get the e-mails out. She has said pointblank there's never been a situation where she either received or sent a classified e-mail as we speak this morning, that continues to be the case, you know, the fact that somebody might declare a document to be classified after the fact, so what. I just don't believe that this is going to be an issue that has staying power as we go into a general election.
BLACKWELL: All right. Jerry Crawford, Hillary Clinton's supporter with us this morning. Jerry, good to have you.
CRAWFORD: Victor, take care of everything over there in South Carolina.
BLACKWELL: I'll do my best, thank you, sir.
Let's bring in Yvette Williams, chairwoman of the Clark County Black Caucus there in Nevada.
Yvette. I want to start with the caucus's support of Bernie Sanders. First, why the endorsement?
YVETTE WILLIAMS, CHAIRWOMAN, CLARK COUNTY BLACK CAUCUS: We're a grassroots organization. We are birthed from the 2008 Obama campaign.
[08:35:01] We are 100 percent volunteer organization so we want to talk about support for Senator Sanders, we're talking about an organization of 100 percent voting electorate.
Our membership is not just exclusively black I do want to say that. We do have a very diverse membership but the majority of us are black, the majority of us are registered Democrats. We are nonpartisan organization and so, when we looked at the presidential candidates and who could earn our endorsement. We took an opportunity to speak to both campaigns. We found that Senator Sanders' platform, his agenda, his platform mirrors ours very much
And so, it wasn't very difficult for us to make that decision. It was a one member vote. Every member voted and Bernie Sanders received the endorsement 2 to 1 from our grassroots black voting electorate. And so, you know, he's our guy. He's talking about things that are important to us. Yeah.
BLACKWELL: Let me jump in. I apologize for interrupting but I want to get to what I asked Jerry is why are we seeing this shift in Nevada? Hillary Clinton has been there for several months first going back in April after announcing and now we're seeing such a tight race. Can you give us an idea of what is happening there?
WILLIAMS: Well, I think that, you know, earlier on, you know, we heard the ready for Hillary early on. And I in fact, you know, jumped on board with that whole pact initiative of recruiting her to run, but then once we got into the actual debates and understand being the differences in both candidates, you know, I shifted my personal opinion of who I wanted to support in the presidential candidate and I think that's what is happening.
I think what's happening as people start to bet both candidates and pay attention to what the long history of both candidates, you know, people are making a decision.
I'm a voter. I'm not a paid staffer. I'm just a regular voter out here in Nevada and wanting to do what's right for our community.
BLACKWELL: All right. Yvette Williams there with the Clark County Black Caucus. The chairwoman of the caucus. Thank you so much for being with us this morning.
WILLIAMS: Thank you so much. Appreciate us having an opportunity to get the grassroots voice out for a change.
BLACKWELL: Certainly. You know, this is in South Carolina the day of the Republican primary but the Democrats have their turn as we face next week just days before the party primary. Candidates make their case.
The CNN South Carolina Democratic presidential town hall. That's Tuesday night 8:00 p.m. eastern right here on CNN. We'll be back in a moment.
[08:41:40] WALKER: Welcome back everyone. We'll get right back to Victor Blackwell in South Carolina in just a few minutes.
I'm Amara Walker with the other big story we've been following this morning. A funeral mass for Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia begins in a couple hours from now. Scalia's son Paul a Catholic priest will perform the service at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington.
CNN's live coverage of the funeral begins at 10:00 a.m. eastern.
Now, still unresolved is who will replace Scalia on the high court and what happens to the cases already before the court?
CNN Legal Analyst Paul Callan is here to explain what we can expect. Paul, I guess the question is do you expect the president to make a recess appointment because the Senate is in recess until Monday. The White House isn't dismissing that that could happen. Is this the president's best option?
PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it probably is his best option because at this point in time, it's almost impossible to believe that anybody would be ratified by the Senate if they are in session.
I think it's still highly unlikely that a recess appointment will be made. You know, Amara, there is a fascinating history of this. It's been done twice in American history a Supreme Court justice has been appointed during an interim appointment.
The first time it was done, it didn't work out very well. George Washington appointed John Rutledge as the second chief justice during a recess appointment. He was subsequently rejected by the Congress and Rutledge in fact, resigned from the court and attempted to commit suicide.
It wasn't done again until President Eisenhower. The 1950s appointed William Brennan and he went on to be a very distinguished and lengthy- serving justice of the Supreme Court. So hasn't been done very often. I would be surprised to see it done here.
WALKER: You know, there is also some, you know, really crucial decisions that are looming for the Supreme Court's -- excuse me. Term and I read a really interesting article written by Linda Hershman in the Washington Post, Paul. The headline was if the Republicans block Obama's Supreme Court nomination he wins anyway and she argues that, you know, Obama and Democrats will win even if the Republicans stone wall a nomination because you have the lower federal courts that are stacked with Democrats. She writes a nine out of 13 courts of appeals have a majority of Democratic appointees.
So do you agree with that perception even though you have, you know, abortion and affirmative action and these kinds of cases that may not be favorable if it stays with the lower courts?
CALLAN: You know, Amara, I think that's sound analysis. You know, the Obama administration and the President has been very, very successful in making appointments to the lower courts over a period of time and as a matter of fact he's really changed and created a lot of diversity on the bench for the first time in American history.
So that's true. But the second thing I think it's critical is that remaining on the court now are four liberal justices and three conservative justices and Anthony Kennedy kind of votes on both sides, although, lately he's been voting for with the liberals. So even if the Supreme Court can put together the majority, it's more likely to be a liberal majority in the absence of a new justice than a conservative majority.
So from a policy standpoint, she's absolutely right. The Democrats win in a stalemate situation.
[08:45:05] WALKER: Yeah, all right. Well, a lot is at stake here and a highly politicized issue, no doubt.
Paul Callan, a CNN legal analyst great to having you. Thanks so much.
CALLAN: Thank you.
WALKER: All the Republican primary underway right now in South Carolina. CNN is there live covering what could be a pivotal moment in the race for the White House.
And new this morning just as voting gets underway a Super PAC supporting Ted Cruz takes one more jab at Donald Trump. Details on the radio ads and phone calls slamming Trump on issues of the confederate flag and LGBT equality. That's next.
BLACKWELL: Fewer than two hours into voting here in South Carolina and see the voters are already at the polls. There is passion across South Carolina today as this now has come to the third contest. Polls open at 7:00 this morning. They'll be open until 7:00 p.m. you're looking at Mount Pleasant this morning. We'll continue to follow the South Carolina primaries with our live special coverage throughout the day.
Now this is a state with a reputation for brass knuckle politics and we've got an example for you. I want you to listen to one of the radio ads put out by the Cruz pac first reported by NPR. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[08:50:02] DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Put it in the museum, let it go.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's Donald Trump supporting Nikki Haley, removing the battle flag from the confederate memorial in Columbia.
TRUMP: Respect whatever it is that you have to respect because there it was a point in time. Put it in a museum.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People like Donald Trump are always butting their noses into other people's business. But Trump talks about our flag like it's a social disease.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLACKWEL: Again, that was a political action committee supporting Ted Cruz, not the campaign but you heard that they're saying that he treats the confederate flag like a social disease. The ad closes by saying "Send Trump and his New York values back to Manhattan." Our Jeff Dewitt is joins us from Phoenix, He is the state treasurer there and the Trump supporter. Jeff, you told Fox News a few minutes ago that this was taken out of context, Donald Trump did. Could this hurt Trump here in South Carolina?
JEFF DEWITT, STATE TREASURER OF ARIZONA: You know, Ted Cruz keeps coming up with something on every Election Day that's so off the mark and it's just another example. And I don't know how Ted Cruz can stand in front of the word that says trusted anymore. It's pretty much time after all his antics to change to the word busted.
And it's another example of dirty politics it's completely off the mark. It's what politicians do right on Election Day , they will come out with some completely, you know, spun thing rhetoric that's full of misinformation because they know that tomorrow when it's cleared up, they will win votes over it.
Ted Cruz does this to his advantage as much as he can try but it's very transparent and voters have already learned that he can't be trusted and he is just another political hack. This is who politicians do and what the American public is sick of. They're sick of politics as usual, and the political elite getting rich off the backs of our grandchildren and that's what Ted Cruz represents.
BLACKWELL: Let me ask you about Donald Trump. This week it seems like he was (inaudible) ago that spat with the pope, the pope saying that he was not a Christian and then calling for the boycott of Apple. I mean could that dig into what most expect would be a double digit lead here and then erode the narrative that he is as strong as he -- I guess at one point was here in South Carolina, moving into the March 1st primaries.
DEWITT: Well, keep in mind what the Pope said was anyone that supports building a wall is not a Christian. So he didn't single out Donald Trump. And he made that very clear yesterday. But if that's the case, then there's a lot of people.
I myself am a Christian and live in Arizona. We have tens of thousands of illegals come over every month and I'm very much in favor of building a wall but I don't believe that makes me not a Christian. So that's one of the hot topics in this country and really, I think what this issue is going to hurt the most is actually, someone we haven't talked about, Marco Rubio.
When you look at the lead story on the Drudge Report today that talks about how the National ICE President Chris Crane has just come out with his talks about when Marco Rubio was pushing the amnesty bill. And he says that Marco Rubio surrounded himself with big business and pro-amnesty that's looking for cheap labor. And when you read that article, I think that's the one that really needs to make the headlines today. It shows that Donald Trump is the only one who is taking a principle stand to protect our country and that's what's going to resonate with the voters.
BLACKWELL: We certainly know that immigration has been a hot topic here across the state and the voting has begun about two hours now into voting here and polls will be open until 7:00. We'll see how this shifts the race as we move to March 1st.
Jeff Dewitt there in Phoenix for us. Thank you so much.
[08:53:47] We'll have more of our special coverage live throughout the day of the South Carolina primary after a quick break. We'll continue. Stay with us.
BLACKWELL: I'm Victor Blackwell live in South Carolina on the campus of the University of South Carolina, a big day for Republicans. Could this shift the race moving forward?
Also a big day for Democrats out in Nevada, as the caucuses start at 2:00 p.m. Eastern, will Hillary Clinton's fire wall hold there? We'll continue our live coverage throughout the day.
WALKER: Yeah, it's going to be a riveting day great job out there Victor. I'm Amara Walker in Atlanta. Smerconish is coming up after a short break.