Return to Transcripts main page


Senator Ted Cruz Fires Communications Director Rick Tyler; Trump Still Leads GOP Field While Democratic Candidates Tie In Latest Poll; Trump, Cruz, Rubio In Nevada Eve Brawl; Clinton Strong In S.C., Sanders Vows To Fight On; What Voters Think About Dirty Tactics; Uber Terrifying; Sen. McCaskill Diagnosed With Breast Cancer; Partial Truce In Syria Possible By Weekend; Lumber Liquidators Stock Plunges; 106- Year-Old Woman; Fullfils Dream, Dances With Pres. Obama. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired February 22, 2016 - 20:00   ET


[20:00:29] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening. Thanks for joining us.

And take a deep breath. If you are following the presidential campaign, like so many people now are, there is so much happening. And so much to happen, it is hard to keep up.

Tonight, after a major shake-up in one campaign and a tough new attack from another, we'll try. It's no longer one state at a time for the candidates. About two dozen primaries and caucuses in the next three weeks. And just this week alone the Nevada Republican caucus, the South Carolina Democratic primary, CNN Democratic town hall Wednesday, CNN GOP debate on Thursday. We will look at all of it over the next two hours.

We begin, though, tonight with a shake-up. Ted Cruz firing his communications director Rick Tyler for spreading the false impression that rival Marco Rubio had in some way disparaged the bible. He tweeted out of link to a video with the subtitle erroneously claiming Senator Rubio is saying there are quote "not many answers in the bible." What he really says is that it has quote "all the answers." Tyler deleted the tweet, apologized but it wasn't enough. This afternoon the senator fired him.


SEN. TED CRUZ (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Yesterday a staffer from our campaign sent out a tweets that tweeted a news story that purported to indicate Marco saying something negative about the bible. The news story was false. That staffer deleted the tweet, apologized and pulled it down, although I spent this morning investigating what happened. And this morning, I asked for Rick Tyler's resignation.


COOPER: Which is you might imagine it was not enough for his opponents namely Donald Trump and Marco Rubio who repeatedly accuse the Iowa caucus winner of playing dirty tricks. They cite a Photoshop ad which Sen. Rubio shaking President Obama's hand. The false rumor Ben Carson was dropping out of the race on caucus night and more. We have all the reaction from the fallout starting with Sunlen Serfaty in Las Vegas who was there when Cruz dropped the hammer on his top spokesman -- Sunlen.

SUNLEN SERFATY, NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, I think the Cruz campaign is very aware and very sensitive to this narrative that is slowly building around their campaign pushed by their rivals that they engage in dirty tricks and spreading of rumors.

So Rick Tyler's tweet really fell perfectly into that narrative. And I think there is the sense that they had to do something. And I think that's why we saw Senator Cruz personally come out and announce that he had called for his resignation. Senator Cruz really personally inserted himself into this controversy today saying he himself went through and did his own investigation into what went wrong this morning. And I do think that speaks volumes to where they feel, how they are being hit by these allegations that they are spreading rumors and really trying to regain control, take back the narrative so they don't get branded as the campaign that engages in dirty tricks.

COOPER: It is also - I mean, interesting Cruz described him as a staffer. I mean, in reality, he is a top staffer. He was a guy put forward always by the Cruz campaign. We have had him on this program many times.

SERFATY: That's absolutely, right. Rick Tyler is a close aide of Senator Cruz, or was a close aide of Senator Cruz. He was really in his inner circle, really, let in on strategy meetings. And as you know that he is all over TV all day speaking with authority for Senator Cruz. So he is certainly was more than just a staffer. I think, of course, that's a very intentional point by Senator Cruz to try to downplay his importance in the campaign and really try to move on.

Senator Cruz wasted no time with a rally this afternoon. He has two more tonight. Really not trying to dwell on this issue saying we have done it. We have fired him. Now, let's moved on. Of course, all this happening 24 hours before the Nevada caucuses. Not the kind of news day the Cruz campaign wants.

COOPER: And this rally he is having in Elko, Nevada right now. I mean, what is his message in these hours before tomorrow?

SERFATY: Well, we haven't seen him start that specific rally yet. He hit one of two late-night rallies he will have here in Nevada. But you get the message was really about not dwelling on this. He did not mention it, of course, at any of his rallies. Didn't want, of course, want to bring that in front of voters before they head to the caucuses tomorrow night. His message, really, is very simple about his rivals as he is making this closing message here to voters is that Rubio cannot beat Trump and he is the only one that can beat Trump. This is a message since he has hit the ground here yesterday, he has really been hammering at voters.

COOPER: And just so I'm clear. Is that Glenn Beck on the campaign trail right now for Rubio? SERFATY: That's right. He has Glenn Beck hit the campaign trail for

him a few times. He usually warms up the crowd.

COOPER: All right. Sunlen, thanks very much.

Reaction from the Rubio forces who got a boost from a string of endorsements today and over the weekend. Bob dole, Tim Pawlenty, the Utah Senator Orrin Hatch among them. He is also betting his Las Vegas too help him tomorrow.

Our Jason Carroll is covering the campaign and joins us from Reno.

So how did the Rubio campaign react to Cruz firing his spokesman?

[20:05:11] JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Marco Rubio spoke to reporters this morning, Anderson, basically calling this a pattern of deceit. His communications director also weighing in on this releasing a statement. Let me read part of it to you. It pretty much says everything he says. There's a culture in the Cruz campaign from top to bottom that no lie is too big, no trick too dirty. Rick did the right thing by apologizing. It's high time that Ted Cruz did the right thing and stop the lies. Again, that coming from Marco Rubio's communication director. Rubio basically saying, look, this is just another reason to prove that I am the most trustworthy candidate. I'm the right man for the nomination -- Anderson.

COOPER: And after South Carolina, for Rubio, what's the strategy in Nevada?

CARROLL: Well, in speaking to some of those on the campaign, basically what they have been doing is canvassing all the population centers. Up north we saw them at a rally up north in Reno. Again, he is going to be holding the rally down here tomorrow in Las Vegas. Another one tomorrow morning. And basically it's pushing that same message. I'm the one that's can unify this party. I'm the true conservative. I'm the anti-Trump man. So they are going to keep pushing the message. Will it work? That still seems to be somewhat of a question here. I can tell you that tomorrow the focus is going to be in looking ahead beyond Nevada because after they hold that rally here tomorrow morning in Las Vegas, they are moving on to Minnesota, to Michigan, to Texas. So once again, it's going to be a message of get out that I'm the right man who can unify the party but also at this point, Anderson, and in terms of strategy, it's moving beyond Nevada.

COOPER: All right. Jason Carroll. Jason, thanks.

More now on tomorrow, the campaign ahead and the Rick Tyler firing today. Earlier tonight on "the SITUATION ROOM" Idaho Senator James Risch said told Wolf Blitzer that Tyler quote is not the problem, this is a cultural problem in the campaign. Senator Risch has endorsed, of course, we should point out Marco Rubio.

Joining us now is 2012 Romney campaign strategist Stuart Steven. In addition, is the author of "the last season, a father, son and lifetime of college football." Also with us CNN political commentator Ana Navarro and Sam Clovis from national campaign, co-chair.

Ana, the Cruz campaign, first of all, is incorrectly telling Iowa caucusgoers that Ben Carson was suspending his campaign and then the Photoshop picture of Rubio and now this. I mean, the optics of this are certainly not good for Cruz's campaign.

ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: They are not good. And that's why you saw him take dramatic action by firing Rick Tyler today. The problem is, it's not one isolated event. It's a pattern of behavior. And he is dealing on the other side with a Marco Rubio communications staff that is very, very able. They are able to turn things like a sloppily photo shopped picture on the Internet to a media narrative today feeds more into that media narrative. Here's the problem Ted Cruz has. He can't be the evangelical, you know, bible thumper who is quoting the bible and values and social values and at the same time be a liar. It's very contradictory with the persona he is trying to project.

Now, I think he has got to move on. He has got to move quick. He did what he had to do today. He should put Alice Stewart who in his staff in charge. She is very capable and she should try to pass the page and go on a positive streak instead of this continuous infighting with Marco Rubio.

COOPER: Right. Sam it is interesting, though, that Cruz in announcing this just called Rick Tyler a staffer. I mean, as I said before, he was part - I mean, he was his spokesman. He was the one who has put out always on camera. So it is really even in saying that this guy is being fired it really downplays Tyler's importance to Cruz. Your candidate Trump tweeted Cruz was the biggest liar in politics and was saying he was playing dirty tricks. Clearly Trump is hoping to continue the focus on this dust-up in the Cruz campaign and this message of liar.

SAM CLOVIS, CO-CHAIRMAN/POLICY ADVISOR, TRUMP NATIONAL CAMPAIGN: Well, I think Ana hit the nail on the head. This is a pattern of behavior that's come forward here. And I think that really when it comes down to, it's pretty hard to undo this. I really think, you know, Alice is a great friend of ours and I know she is a friend of Ana's. And I know that she is very capable, but I mean, I think she is going to be given a herculean task to try to get this one covered up because it's not going to happen.

I think what's happened is you're starting to see Ted Cruz being branded in a particular way and I think with all the campaigns focusing on that's message, I think it's going to be very difficult for senator Cruz to come out from under this.

COOPER: Stew, you say the campaigns just don't do this kind of stuff when they are winning. How much do you think this does stick to Cruz? And might hurt him tomorrow in Nevada?

STUART STEVENS, FORMER ROMNEY PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN MANAGER: I don't think this is a big deal, frankly. You know, if you look back at other campaigns, Michael Dukakis fired his campaign manager and went on to win. Don't think voters particularly care about this. I think it's going to be about who can engage other candidates on big issues that are going to win. The one thing that Ted Cruz has going for him in this race is he's the only -- well, more than Marco Rubio, he has engaged the guy who is winning the race who is Donald Trump. And I think that to win this race, you are going to have to have someone who can engage and prosecute a case why Donald Trump shouldn't be and that candidate should be. And I thought last week when Cruz went out with his bill of particulars against the donations that Trump had, that's indicated a path that he could do. I think that that's going to be decisive in who wins this race, not the narrative about campaign staffers or even dirty tricks because, frankly, people expect dirty tricks in campaigns.

[20:11:03] COOPER: Everyone, stay with us. We have more to talk about. We got to take a quick break. We are going to have more on Trump's reaction to all this whether he can turn a polling lead in Nevada into his first win in a caucuses.

Also later, the Uber driver charged with carrying out a killing rampage in between rides (INAUDIBLE). You'll hear the chilling account of one of his last passengers before the shooting began.


[20:15:07] COOPER: Donald Trump holds a campaign event later tonight in Las Vegas. It will remain to be seen whether he will mentioned something about the Ted Cruz controversy. He has already holding forth though online, tweeting "just saw the phony ad by Cruz. Totally false. More dirty tricks. He got caught in so many lies. Is this man crazy?," end quote He also called Cruz quote "the biggest liar in politics."

Our Jim Acosta is covering the trump campaign for us tonight. He joins us from Las Vegas.

So tell us more about Trump's reaction to this firing by Ted Cruz.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, this is a first today, Anderson. For once the story is not all about Donald Trump today. And that seems to suit him just fine one day before the Nevada caucuses. Trump is really milking this feud between Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz. Maybe we will hear about it later on this evening. He has been tweeting about it all afternoon saying at one point quote "wow, Ted Cruz falsely suggested Marco Rubio, that he mocked the bible and was forced to fire his communications director. More dirty tricks." So that's just one of the tweets from Donald Trump today.

Now, this flap over the now former Cruz communications director Rick Tyler, actually, fits very neatly into the Trump playbook, Anderson. He has been slamming Cruz as dishonest for weeks, ever since Iowa. So now Trump can say tonight, I told you so.

COOPER: And obviously, he's rolling in to Nevada on a hot streak. How confident does his campaign seem about another win?

ACOSTA: Well, given the spat between Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz today, you know, Donald Trump is holding the best cards right now here in Las Vegas, Anderson. Trump is leading in the delegate estimate by about 6-1. He is riding high, as you said in the latest polls here in Nevada. We have to be a little bit careful, though because as we saw in Iowa, those polls were predicting that Donald Trump was going to cruise pretty comfortably to a victory there. It turns out that was not the case.

So you know, while Donald Trump is conducting a bit of an abbreviated campaign here, only holding two rallies, including one here tonight, one tomorrow in Sparks, Nevada, which is pretty far off the beaten before these results are released, the campaign is sounding confident about their chances but they also recognize, Anderson, this is a caucus. They are well aware that Donald Trump did not perform as well as polls were indicating in Iowa. So they have to be careful that they aren't being overconfidence.

My guess is, Anderson, and they said this. Donald Trump said this on the night of the New Hampshire primary. He learned his lesson from Iowa not to take things too lightly when it comes to turn out. And my guess is that lesson will be applied here in Nevada -- Anderson.

COOPER: All right, Jim Acosta. Thanks very much.

We are back with Stuart Stevens, Ana Navarro and Sam Clovis.

Sam, I mean, as you look at Nevada, how does it look to you for your campaign?

CLOVIS: I'm cautiously optimistic. I think we are going to be in good shape but you never know about caucuses, you know. The run-up to this is any indication, though, where we have record turnout in Iowa and New Hampshire and South Carolina, and we could end up with a record Republican turnout in this caucus as well. I think that that bodes well for us. I think we have done a lot of work out there. We have been there a long time. We have been doing all the things that are necessary in a caucus state to do this. And I think a lot of it is going to come down to the organization of the caucus and what the Republican party does because sometimes that has as much effect on it as anything else.

COOPER: Ana, what do you makes by these attacks now on Rubio by Trump questioning his citizenship. I mean, you are obviously a friend of Rubio's. Do you think any of it actually hurts him in Nevada tomorrow or elsewhere?

NAVARRO: I don't. I really don't. Look. I think it is sheer stupidity. It's one thing to question the citizenship of a guy who was born in Canada. It's another thing to question the citizenship of a guy born in Miami.

Yes, albeit, I admit, I know that there's a lot of people in the United States who think Miami is the closest Latin American country to the United States but we are actually part of the mainland U.S. And you know, I think that nobody speaks as articulately as Marco Rubio about being American. American exceptionalism. The American dream. Why immigrants from all over the world risk life and limb to come to America. So, you know, if Donald Trump attacks him on that, Marco is going to come back. And he is going to come back strong. He is going to come back with his own personal story talking about what being American is to him.

But Anderson, I want to go back to the point Stuart made before we went to break. I think that it's very important, and I hope he is listening, that my friend, Marco Rubio take on Donald Trump. Because for many of us, that's a litmus test right now. We want to be with a person who is not only capable, but also willing to take on Donald Trump and who can be the last man standing who can beat Donald Trump. It's an important thing for Marco to start doing. Sucking up to Trump, didn't work for Cruz. It's not going to work for Rubio.

COOPER: Stew, you worked on Romney's 2012 campaign and for George W. Bush back in 2000. You say that if you were advising some of these candidates namely Cruz and Rubio, you would sell they should be much more focused on Trump, on going after Trump.

[20:20:12] STEVENS: Yes, no question. You should be waking up every day thinking about how you are going to beat the front-runner which is - it is like any other campaign. Somehow or another this campaign has ended up in some battle for who is going to have the best losing position instead of who is going to win. You aren't going to get the glory unless you beat the guy who is in first place. They should be waking up every day thinking about how to get inside Donald Trump's head.

I only say it. That's a very messy head. I think that would be a very easy thing to do. I think Donald Trump is a very vulnerable candidate, but every day he gets stronger. And I think the idea of waiting to get Donald Trump 101 when he is stronger to attack him and contrast with him makes absolutely no sense. Go now.

COOPER: Sam, I mean, why is Trump going after senator Rubio now? Is it because he sees him as a bigger threat going into Nevada and Super Tuesday?

CLOVIS: I don't know about that so much as I think it is just the idea that we have, you know, three people effectively in this race. I think on Super Tuesday that's the way it's going to break. And I think if the numbers stay the same, then, I think that Marco Rubio and senator Cruz are still going to have to figure out how to get the other one out of the race because I do think it's going to come down to the last two standing and one is going to be Donald Trump.

And so, I don't think it's going to be Marco and Ted at the end. I think it is going to be Mr. Trump and one of the senators is going to be there. And I think they really have to focus on each other. I this idea of attacking the leader, Stuart, you know I agree with you on a lot of these things but I don't agree with you on this because I don't think it's going to work. They don't have enough room, and the math is not in their favor until one or the other of these two is gone.

COOPER: And the clock is ticking.

Stew Stevens, it is great to have you on, Ana Navarro and Sam Clovis.

As we said at the top, a very big week here on CNN. Thursday night, the CNN Republican debate from Houston. Wolf Blitzer moderates. Coverage begins 8:00 eastern time.

Just ahead tonight, Super Tuesday, just a week from tomorrow with hundreds of delegates at stake. John King will take us through the numbers next.


[20:26:20] COOPER: Well, obviously, a busy week in the presidential race with Super Tuesday a week from tomorrow. Twelve states, one territory, American Samoa, that is, having primaries and caucuses on March 1st. That's nearly 600 delegates at stake.

John King joins us with the look at how the delegate count stands right now by the numbers.

So where do the Democrats stand, John?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, the Democrats almost a tie. Hillary Clinton at 52. Bernie Sanders at 51 in pledged delegates. Those delegates decided in the contest so far. Remember, Hillary Clinton also has 445 super delegates. So keep 445 in mind.

I'm going to go ahead and say she wins South Carolina. And I'm going to say she wins it by 60/40. That's on Saturday. That would put her ahead at 84. Now we map out what you were just talking about Super Tuesday.

Let's bring up the Super Tuesday states. This gives them all to Clinton. But let's stop for a second. Bernie Sanders, we assume he will win his home state of Vermont so let's switch the order there and give it to Bernie Sanders by 60/40 margin.

He also says he thinks he can compete in Minnesota. Clinton campaign says it wants to compete too, but let's -- for the sake of argument give him Minnesota. He says he thinks he is competitive in Colorado. So let's give him Colorado. Again, this is hypothetical. And he says he thinks he can win Oklahoma. So let's also flip that.

So if we give Sanders those states and Clinton the rest, the winner is getting 60 percent, the challenger 40 percent. You see her start to pull ahead there and remember she has got 445 more super delegates pledged to her.

Then if you map this out, Anderson, through the end of March, this is where the Clinton campaign thinks unless Bernie Sanders can crack the demographics, start getting African-American votes that she starts to pull away. Because if she is at 13/13 plus 400 of super delegates, she starts to pull away.

This is what the Clinton campaign is hoping for by the end of March. At that point they think Sanders will get it, tone down his rhetoric, maybe stay in the race but stay as a protest candidate, now I think he can win.

Let's get though the next couple of weeks. At the moment the Clinton campaign thinks it's swinging its way, but let's watch the voters.

COOPER: How big of a lead does Trump have on the Republican side?

KING: Let's switch over the maps. Because at the moment, again, Donald Trump at the moment, three contests, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Iowa for the Republicans, Donald Trump has 68 delegates. You need 1237 to win. So we have got a long way to go on the Republican side. Again, everybody assumes Trump is going to win Nevada. That's in next Republican contest tomorrow night.

Let's say it is Trump, Rubio, Cruz and Kasich and assign those delegates. Then Trump has three wins and we are heading into Super Tuesday. Remember the conversation you were just having. How do you stop Trump? Well, here's Super Tuesday. Let's -- for the sake of argument say Ted Cruz wins his home state. It is not guaranteed. But let's say Ted Cruz wins Texas. We will give first, Donald Trump second, Marco Rubio third and Kasich fourth. And again, this is a hypothetical. John Kasich says maybe he can win in the northeast, maybe he can win Massachusetts. But Trump is ahead there. But just to be fair and have a little fun, let's give Massachusetts to Governor Kasich for the sake of this argument. Trump second, Rubio third, Cruz fourth. So then you have something like this after Super Tuesday. Donald Trump is starting to pull away because the Republican rules are more generous to the winner.

Now we take another jump in March and you -- look at this. Remember, today he jumps ahead. And again, let's stop a couple here. Florida votes then. Let's just say Marco Rubio wins his home state. We will give Trump second, Cruz third and Kasich fourth. And where else we have Ohio over here. Let's say Kasich stays in the race. That's one of the big question marks and wins his home state. We'll see that goes Kasich, Trump, Rubio, Cruz.

Even then, even then if they start picking up a couple of states, Trump has this huge lead. So I'm just going to play it out with Trump coming in first, Rubio and Cruz fighting for second and third. If you play it out through May, Trump is almost, even if you take a state or two away, Anderson, look where Trump is. Then you get into June to the convention.

But here is the point, if Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz keep fighting for second and third and they don't start beating Trump on a consistent basis, well, they will also be fighting for seats at Donald Trump's convention.

COOPER: Amazing. John, stay with us. I also want to bring in CNN political analyst and "New York Times" presidential campaign correspondent Maggie Haberman. Also CNN political commentator and Washington correspondent for the "New Yorker," Ryan Lizza.

Ryan, this idea that Trump

[20:30:00] could very soon be unstoppable -- Maggie Haberman, also CNN Political Commentator and Washington Correspondent for the New Yorker, Ryan Lizza.

Ryan, this idea that Trump could be very soon be unstoppable as John was just saying, not just based on momentum but based on math. How much stock do you put in there?

RYAN LIZZA, WASHINGTON CORRRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORKER: A lot. Look, we've been grading Marco Rubio on a curve since Iowa, right? He has to consolidate the anti-Trump vote and he has to consolidate the Republican establishment around him and the donor class and do it basically yesterday, right? Time is running out.

In between now and Super -- in between now and Super Tuesday is likely to be another Trump victory in Nevada. The bottom line as John pointed out, if you're not winning, you're not winning.

And I think the most important thing is, if Cruz can pick up Florida and Ohio, I think then he has a shot, then the momentum can change. It's going to be hard for him to pick up Ohio if John Kasich is in the race. And so frankly, Rubio's, Rubio's path is through John Kasich. With John Kasich in the race, it's very, very hard to see how he catches Trump.

COOPER: And Maggie, I mean as long as -- to Ryan's point, as long as Kasich is in the race but also Cruz is in the race, I mean, the vote is divided.

MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: The vote is divided although I have been skeptical of the idea that if Ted Cruz drops out, that all of that vote goes to Marco Rubio. I think some of it, particular vote will go to Donald Trump. There will be some who will go to Marco Rubio and all.

I mean, I think that you look at those numbers that John was just showing us and it is, it is breathtaking.

March 15th, the rules were changed to make Florida a winner-take-all state ...

COOPER: Right.

HABERMAN: ... within enormous number of delegates. That was done ironically for Jeb Bush, basically, to help him out of the front- runner.

This whole process was designed basically to benefit what was a 2012- type race that didn't exist this cycle.

So what could happen now is Donald Trump is an honorary resident of Florida.

COOPER: Right.

HABERMAN: If he moves into Florida at that point, I don't know why Ted Cruz, other than assuming he wins Texas next week, but I don't know why Ted Cruz would be likelier to win Florida than Marco Rubio. You could have a scenario, it's -- and I am not forecasting what would happen. Cruz should still be the favorite, although, I think Trump is ahead in polls in Texas. But let's say that Donald Trump wins Texas. Donald Trump then wins Florida. Kasich, you know, we don't know what's happening at that point. What is the argument for people who were losing their home states to stay in the race?

LIZZA: It's over.

HABERMAN: It's very, very problematic.

COOPER: Ryan, you're saying it's over if that's the case?

LIZZA: It's over if that's the case. I mean obviously, if Rubio loses Florida, he's got no case for going on. If Kasich loses Ohio, he's got no case. And if Cruz loses Texas, he's got no case. We have to win your ...


LIZZA: ... your big home state. That's their only shot.

HABERMAN: That's right.

COOPER: John, does that over, you know, what is competitors are calling dirty tricks by the Cruz campaign. I mean, does the firing of Rick Tyler, Cruz's now former communications director, put that issue to rest or I guess does it just sort of validate it and make it go on longer?

JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: It doesn't put it to rest. Campaign shake- ups, firing staffer, whether the campaign is going wrong, whether the staffers did something wrong, they become part of the conversation.

Donald Trump is trying to keep it alive. Marco Rubio is trying is keep it alive saying, "This is the Ted Cruz campaign culture." So that conversation will continue and it doesn't affect the general dynamic of the race that Maggie and Ryan were just talking about.

Donald Trump is winning more states at the moment and he's leading in most of the states looking ahead. And if he keeps winning, it's called the winner. We have this -- we have this remarkable -- we're in the middle of this remarkable campaign where people keep coming in second and third and saying, "I made history.''

You know, my patriots went home. My Red Sox went home last season. Rick Santorum went home four years ago as did Newt Gingrich. When you lose, you lose.

The only way to beat Donald Trump, it's a pretty obvious statement folks, is to beat him and they haven't proven they can do that.

HABERMAN: Yes. And actually to the point that Stewart Stevens was on the show earlier, he keeps making -- he keeps talking about how, you know, it's wonderful that everybody keeps saying, you can't stop Trump or how do you stop Trump. You try. You actually make an effort. You run a campaign against him that's actually consorted which really nobody has done. And what we've seen has been, you know, sort of fits and starts at best over the last six weeks.

COOPER: And Ryan, I mean, it's interesting when people are calling each other liars, but it's really Trump -- you know, that both Trump and Rubio using that word which is so rarely used in kind of presidential politics in a race like this.

LIZZA: Yeah.

COOPER: Both against Cruz. That word isn't being thrown by Rubio to Trump for instance.

LIZZA: Yeah. That word is to be sort of a redline, right? People used to not call each other liars so frequently.

I do wonder if Cruz has made a bigger deal out of this by firing his staffer and turning this into a much bigger, much longer story, right?

I mean, if they had just dismissed this and if Tyler had apologized, I think it would have gone away. But he's turning this into a two-day story by actually, you know, giving the death penalty for, you know, for this. Similar to what he did with that actress. The softcore porn actress who was in a Cruz ad and they, you know, they pulled down the ad and they turned it into a bigger story than they had to be. I think it was actually a mistake. I think Tyler could have survived this.

[20:35:00] COOPER: And Maggie, on the Democratic side, I mean, how big a win do you think South Carolina is? I mean, if Bernie Sanders can narrow the margin, can he claim some sort of a moral victory or ...

HABERMAN: He can claim a case to keep going, may have vanished the expectations for South Carolina. But I think that John is right. And I think that, you know, look, it is not at all the same sort of what we're seeing on the Republican side where you have one person whose way ahead but -- and several people who are way far back.

But I do think the Clinton campaign makes a compelling argument. Again, we have to see what the voters say.

COOPER: Right.

HABERMAN: But a compelling argument that now that the pledged delegate lead has flipped and she is one ahead, it is unlikely that that's going to start going backwards ...

COOPER: Right.

HABERMAN: ... any time soon. And I think this is what we're looking at.

COOPER: And John, it's remarkable. I mean, just a couple of weeks ago, Sanders has a virtual tie in Iowa, hug one in New Hampshire. Now, Hillary Clinton wins Nevada by five points and suddenly everyone is talking about how she's inevitable again.

I can't remember who it was on one of our primary night, but saying this exact thing would happened that she gets a couple of wins under her belt and the whole narrative to use that overused word, is going to change.

KING: Well, and it could change again. We are living in a wacky cycle and we should acknowledge that. However, Bernie Sanders has to crack her demographic lock, if you will, her history with African Americans, her history of Latinos. He may have had some success with Latinos in Nevada but it wasn't enough to get the win. That was an easier state to win. A caucus state is easier for a challenger for a liberal insurgent than the other states that are coming ahead. It's simply a fact. That doesn't mean it won't happen.

But if you look at the demographic advantage in the South, it's hard to see it happening in the short term. So Bernie Sanders has to do something surprising, something big. Win Michigan, win Ohio. Maybe that would stop the conversation for a bit.

But even then, by the time those states come, it looks like she'll have, not only the big pledge delegate lead, but those 445 and it's actually a bigger number, people who haven't come out publicly endorse through yet. Those super delegates, she will not lose them. They can change their mind. But as long as she's winning, she won't lose them. And as long as she doesn't lose them, she essentially has two aces in her back pocket in the poker game.


COOPER: John King, Ryan Lizza and Maggie Haberman, thank you. Fascinating.

Again, be sure to tune in tomorrow night when Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton take questions from voters in South Carolina at the South Carolina Democratic presidential town hall tomorrow night.

My buddy Chris Cuomo is the moderator at 8 Eastern right here on CNN.

Up next, presidential candidates on the attacks with Cruz, Trump and Rubio accusing each other of lying and dirty tricks. The question is, how do the voters feel about the level of rhetoric that's flying around?

Gary Tuchman went to find out next.


[20:41:25] COOPER: From photoshop pictures to fake videos, calling each other screaming liars, the Republican side of this presidential campaign has no shortage of plans in dirty politics and evocative campaigning to Steven's touch down at earlier the question of how voters respond to it all.

Our Garry Tuchman spoke to people at campaign events to hear what they thought about the rhetoric coming from the candidates they support as well as their rivals. Here's what he found.


GARRY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Since his South Carolina primary victory, Donald Trump hasn't let up on his GOP competitors.

DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You want to know something? I'm a better person than the people I'm running against.

TUCHMAN: But he isn't the only one making digs. Ted Cruz manage tot hit Trump when speaking about Jeb Bush withdrawing from the race.

TED CRUZ, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: A man who didn't go to the gutter and engage in insults and attacks.

TUCHMAN: And then there's Marco Rubio.

MARCO RUBIO, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I didn't become a conservative two years ago, or a year ago.

TUCHMAN: Among the litany of insults during the heat of the campaigning, we've heard Trump called Cruz, unstable and a liar.

Trump called Rubio a light weight and a clown. Cruz called Trump a liar, Cruz called Rubio a liar, Rubio called Cruz a liar and Rubio called Trump crude.

A CNN exit poll in South Carolina shows GOP voters believe Trump is the main instigator.

When asked who ran the most unfair campaign in the state, Trump topped Cruz, with Rubio coming in third.

Not surprisingly, almost all the Trump supporters we've talked to after the South Carolina win want Trump to be Trump.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't have a problem with a man, if somebody is stupid saying they're stupid.

TUCHMAN: Does it bother you though, when he says things like about Ted Cruz like he is the biggest liar that he ever meet?

And he says negative things about the pope?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. I was there. I witnessed it. I mean, he absolutely was lying.

TUCHMAN: And what about like the pope?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The pope swung first and everybody knows that Donald is going to deliver the knockout punch.

TRUMP: Ted Cruz!

TUCHMAN: Meanwhile, while many of Ted Cruz's supporters of his Las Vegas rally complain about Donald Trump's behavior. BILL KISH, CRUZ SUPPORTER: Trump is a schoolyard bully who is spoiled.

TUCHMAN: They say Cruz is just defending himself when he delivers his own attacks.

CARISSA HERNANDEZ, CRUZ SUPPORTER: I absolutely believe it's important that he defends himself. I don't know how much energy he really needs to put into it.

Because, I believe, true Ted Cruz supporters are going to support him no matter what, because we know the truth.

TUCHMAN: And at this Rubio Nevada events, his supporters told us their candidates has no choice.

DAN BEASTON, RUBIO SUPPORTER: If he doesn't respond, well, Trump will keep on doing what he's doing.

However, Rubio responds and shuts him down like Jeb Bush did, I think it will be fine.

TRUMP: I have never, ever met a person that lies more than Ted Cruz.

RUBIO: Ted Cruz has just been telling lies.

CRUZ: Whenever anyone points out their records, they simply start screaming liar, liar, liar.

TUCHMAN: There was already a lot of bad blood and the political season is still young.


COOPER: Gary, were any of the people you spoke within the rallies concerned that this kind of rhetoric could potentially hurt Republicans in a general election?

TUCHMAN: You know, certainly, is some concern among supporters about that.

But, these supporters are very loyal and they're very concerned that their candidate, whether it's Trump, Rubio or Cruz can be portrayed as weak or be disrespected or not, they considered a fighter.

So, there are nasty confrontations that the price of doing business right now, Anderson.

COOPER: All right. Gary, thanks very much.

Just ahead, new details denied about that Uber driver charged with gunning down eight people, killing six of them.

Plus, I'll talk to a passenger who survived the terrible ride with the elite shooter shortly before the rampage began.


[2048:49] COOPER: Tonight, at Kalamazoo, Michigan, the victims of Saturday's deadly shooting rampage were remembered at a vigil.

Communities, facing difficult day and the wake of what authorities are calling a cold-blooded massacre.

Over the span of seven hours, a gunman shot eight people at three different locations.

Six victims died. A 14-year-old girl is still clinging to life. The man charged in a murder is a 45-year-old Uber driver who prosecutors say carried out the killings between picking up fares.

He is being held without bond. Nick Valencia joins us now with the latest. What have you learn, Nick?

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is the first time we've seen the shooting suspect since he was charged with six counts of first-degree murder.

He's been charged with 16 counts in all, Anderson and the only time we saw any sort of emotion expressed by the suspect is when the judge read the attempted murder charge of a minor.

Of course, this suspect is a father of two young children, he's also married.

He appeared by a video conference wearing an orange jumpsuit, had glasses, his hands resting in his lap.

He said very few words. The judge asked him if he wanted to make a statement to which he were responded, "I would rather prefer to remain silent."

But at a probable cause, hearing right before the arraignment, I was at that and detectives laid out their case.

They said, even after this suspect was read his Miranda Rights that he admitted to, "Taking people's lives." It was a much different tone at the arraignment, Anderson.

[20:50:04] COOPER: Do authorities have any idea of what may have motivated this attack? I mean, not that anything really motivates them like this.

But, I mean, any idea about a motive?

VALENCIA: It is sickening, Anderson, when you think about the details, the senseless nature of this, how cold-blooded he was.

Imagine, he was taking Uber fares in between these shooting scenes.

We know that investigators seized 11 rifles from his home. We were actually there at his home earlier today and spoke with some neighbors and they said that he mostly kept to himself. He did loved guns, he like loud cars, but the troubling thing in this all is the motive.

Perhaps, we'll get more details about that right now, no clear motive, but this suspect does have his next court appearance scheduled for March 3rd, Anderson.

COOPER: All right. Nick, I appreciate the update.

Matthew Mellen was one of the suspect's fares on Saturday. He rode in the suspect's car just before the rampage started and during the ride he feared for his life.

I spoke to him earlier.


COOPER: Matthew, thank you so much for joining us. First of all, this has got to be such a scary ordeal for you.

How are you feeling today, how are holding up?

MATHEW MELLEN, KALAMAZOO UBER PASSENGER: I'm feeling a lot better today. It's been a long couple of days, definitely, just ready to get back into my normal life.


MELLEN: So to speak.

COOPER: Yeah, I can imagine. Take me back, Saturday afternoon, you called the Uber, so you can get a ride to your friend's house.

You get in the car. When did you realize something wasn't right?

MELLEN: We got about a mile from my house and he received a telephone call.

It was over the bluetooth inside the car so I could hear kind of the conversation.

He stated that he had a rider in the car and that he would call them back immediately after he had dropped me off.

Once he hung up with that phone call is when he started driving really erratically.

He was running red lights at that point, squealing the tires. We ran a stop sign and side swiped another vehicle. And that's when I, obviously, was started panicking.

COOPER: Did you say anything to him?

MELLEN: Yeah, I was pleading for him to stop the vehicle so he can let me out. He was surprisingly calm the whole time. He was just stating that, he was like, "Don't you want to get a ride to your friend's house? Don't you need a ride?"

And I was like, yeah, yeah, please just pull over and let me out. That's when he refused to stop.

COOPER: So, he was calm, hw wasn't -- he didn't seem agitated right knowing that he was calm, even though he's driving very fast and erratically?

MELLEN: Yeah, yeah. Exactly. We were swerving into oncoming traffic.

Once we got closer to my destination, I was yelling at him like please stop, please stop. That's when he started to get more agitated with me and he was stating that -- he was like, "Where is your friend's house, where is your friend's house?"

And I was pointing out random houses just so he'd stop the vehicle and I jumped out and ran away. That's when I called 911.

COOPER: And what did 911 say? Had they gotten any reports about him or?

MELLEN: I think this was the first report. They just stated -- I told them it was an Uber driver.

I gave them description of the vehicle and the license plate number.

One thing that a lot of people haven't realized is that I was actually picked up in a different vehicle than the vehicle he was apprehended in, so it was a -- I was picked up in a Chevy Equinox, silver Equinox and he was apprehended in a darker colored HHR. So,

COOPER: Did you see a weapon at any point?

MELLEN: I did not see any weapons. He never physically threatened me in the car.

Obviously, just besides the way he was driving. I felt threatened because he was driving so erratically, obviously, but I was never threatened personally with a weapon or anything like that.

COOPER: Well, it's so scary this encounter. Mathew, I appreciate you taking the time to talked to us about it, thank you and I wish you the best.

MELLEN: Yeah. Thank you, Anderson. I just wanted to say that community has really come together and rallied together.

Kalamazoo is a great place to live and that our thoughts and condolences are with the families of the victims.

COOPER: All right. And Matt, but Matthew, thank you again.


COOPER: Well, there's a lot more happening tonight. Amara Walker joins us with the 360 bulletin. Amara.

AMARA WALKER, CNN ANCHOR: Anderson, Senator Claire McCaskill said today, she will be undergoing treatment for breast cancer over the next three weeks.

The Missouri Democrat shared the news in a post on tumbler writing, "My prognoses is good and I expect a full recovery."

A truth between some of the groups fighting inside Syria could go into effect this week.

And that's according to a western diplomat with knowledge of the talks. The pending truce was brokered by the United States and Russia.

Lumber liquidators stock price punch 15 percent following a government report about the health risks of certain types of laminate flooring.

[20:55:01] In the report, the centers for disease control raised its earlier estimate of the cancer risk from aldehyde and some laminate flooring.

And Anderson, you're going to love this one and her, Virginia McLaurin, finally fulfilled a long hell dream to meet President Obama and marks a moment with a dance. And the video has gone viral.


BARACK OBAMA, U.S. PRESIDENT: Dancing. Come on. And what's -- what's the secret to still dancing at 106?



WALKER: She is just so excited. Ms. McLaurin is 106 years old. She began her campaign to come to the White House two years ago. Just adorable.

COOPER: Amazing. Amara, thanks very much.

Much more ahead in the next hour, including the latest in the Democratic race. Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders preparing to do battle in South Carolina.

Plus, more on the shake-up in the Cruz campaign and the brawling between the three top GOP candidates.


COOPER: It is 9 p.m. here in New York. 6 p.m. in Las Vegas. Just hours until the Nevada Republican caucuses and just hours after a major shake-up in the Ted Cruz campaign. Look at all of that. The reaction and the crazy quilt of campaigning in both parties with dozens of primaries and causes fast approaching. About two dozen in the next three weeks.

[21:00:00] Just this week alone in addition to Nevada, there's the South Carolina Democratic primary, the CNN Democratic town hall tomorrow, CNN GOP debate on Thursday.

We'll have more on all of that over the next hours starting with the Republicans with Jim Acosta.