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THE SITUATION ROOM
Uber Rampage; Interview With Ohio Governor John Kasich; Cruz Campaign Chaos?; Sanders Attacks Clinton Ahead of S.C. Vote; Kasich Criticized for Remark about Women Supporters; Russia, U.S. Agree to New Syria Ceasefire. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired February 22, 2016 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news: Rick rolled. Cruz campaign communications director Rick Tyler forced to resign over a false ad targeting Marco Rubio, Cruz and Rubio in a bitter race for second as Donald Trump heads into Nevada's caucuses with a very commanding lead. Who will come out of it as the strongest Trump alternative?
Out of the kitchen. John Kasich stumbles and gets called out on a tone-deaf remark about his women supporters. He quickly apologizes, but has the damage already been done to his struggling campaign? I will ask him when he joins us live this hour.
Shooting spree. An Uber driver on a rampage, killing six people at multiple locations, taking fares in between. Now he's charged with murder as investigators comb his past for clues. What was his motive?
Cease-fire failing? The U.S. and Russia announce a plan to reduce the bloodshed in Syria, but there's growing skepticism about the deal, even before it goes into effect. With ISIS on the offensive and not part of the agreement, is there any real hope for the thousands of civilians whose lives now hang in the balance?
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: We're following the breaking news.
Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz firing his communications director on the eve of Nevada's Republican caucuses. Rick Tyler forced to resign after tweeting a false story about -- a false story about Cruz rival Marco Rubio insulting the Bible. With Cruz and Rubio at war with each other, Donald Trump heads into tomorrow's caucuses the odds-on favorite following his overwhelming win in the South Carolina primary, where he picked up all 50 of the state's GOP delegates.
We're also following the shooting spree in Michigan. An Uber driver now charged with six counts of murder, accused of targeting random victims in multiple locations and driving customers in between the killings.
We're covering all that and much more this hour with our guests, including Republican presidential candidate, the Ohio governor, John Kasich. And our correspondents and expert analysts, they are also standing by live.
But let's begin with the surprise developments in the Republican race for the White House.
CNN's Sunlen Serfaty is in Las Vegas for us tonight.
Sunlen, some political drama, this on the eve of the caucuses there. What's the latest?
SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf.
This is a huge shakeup within the Cruz campaign. Senator Cruz has just fired his communications director, someone who is one of his top allies in his inner circle of his campaign, fired over spreading false video about Marco Rubio over Twitter. The Cruz campaign tonight very much in the middle of a storm.
SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This was a grave error of judgment.
SERFATY (voice-over): Ted Cruz is in cleanup mode, demanding the resignation of his communications director, Rick Tyler, after he distributed a video that falsely depicted Marco Rubio dismissing the Bible.
CRUZ: It turned out the news story he sent around was false. But I'll tell you, even if it was true, we are not a campaign that is going to question the faith of another candidate.
SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's part of a pattern.
SERFATY: Earlier today, Rubio called foul on the Cruz campaign for what he said were dirty tricks.
RUBIO: Every single day, something comes out of the Cruz campaign that's deceptive and untrue and in this case goes after my faith. And no one is ever held accountable.
SERFATY: Trump is seizing on this staff shakeup to slam his rival, tweeting -- quote -- "Wow, Ted Cruz falsely suggested Marco Rubio mocked the Bible and was just forced to fire his communications director. More dirty tricks," as he takes a South Carolina victory lap.
TRUMP: We won with everything, tall people, short people, fat people, skinny people, just won.
SERFATY: Meanwhile, despite saying last month that Rubio is eligible for the presidency...
TRUMP: He was born here. It's definite. He was born on the land.
SERFATY: ... Trump now raising some doubt, retweeting a message suggesting otherwise.
TRUMP: I'm not really that familiar with Marco's circumstance.
SERFATY: But Rubio brushing it off.
RUBIO: I'm going to spend zero time on his interpretation of the Constitution with regards to eligibility.
SERFATY: John Kasich is in Virginia today taking a shot at Rubio.
GOV. JOHN KASICH (R-OH), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I didn't have a script. I didn't have a teleprompter.
SERFATY: But that unscripted style is getting him into hot water over comments about his support among women during his first run for state Senate in the late 1970s.
KASICH: We just got an army of people who -- and many women, who left their kitchens to go out and go door to door and put yard signs up for me all the way back when, you know, things were different. Now you call homes and everybody is out working.
SERFATY: Earning him a rebuke from one supporter.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: First off, I want to say your comment earlier about the women came out of the kitchen to support you, I will come to support you, but I won't be coming out of the kitchen.
KASICH: I got you.
SERFATY: At his next stop, Kasich attempted to clean up his remarks.
KASICH: I don't run around with all these notes as lots of people do. I'm real, and maybe sometimes I might say something that isn't artfully said as well as it should be.
SERFATY: Back on that shakeup with the Cruz campaign, the Rubio campaign tonight very clear they want to push this even forward after that firing was announced. They came out with a new statement, this from Alex Conant, spokesman for the Rubio campaign, saying -- quote -- "There's a culture in the Cruz campaign from top to bottom that no lie is too big and no trick is too dirty. Rick did the right thing by apologizing to Rubio. High time for Ted Cruz to do the right thing and stop the lies" -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Strong words indeed from Alex Conant. All right, thanks very much, Sunlen, for that. With Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio fighting for second place in Nevada,
Donald Trump heads into tomorrow's caucuses the clear GOP favorite.
CNN's Jim Acosta is in Las Vegas for us.
Jim, the Trump campaign expecting another victory tomorrow night. What are you hearing?
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf.
And I think we had a first here today. For once, the story of the day is not all about Donald Trump. One day before the Nevada caucuses, Trump is milking this feud between Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz. He's been tweeting about it all afternoon.
We can throw one of those tweets up on screen. It says -- quote -- "Just saw the phony ad by Cruz. Totally false. More dirty tricks. He got caught in so many lies. Is this man crazy?"
Why is that important to Donald Trump? Because he's been harping on this since Iowa, when Ted Cruz was accused of dirty tricks against Ben Carson. Now, as for the campaign here in Nevada, Trump is riding high in the polls. The latest polls show he's way out in front of his nearest rivals in Nevada.
So, it's no surprise he's conducting just an abbreviated campaign in this state, only holding two rallies, including one here in Las Vegas later tonight, another one in far-off Sparks, Nevada, tomorrow before the results start rolling in tomorrow night. Wolf, his campaign is confident about its chances, but this is a caucus. And his advisers are well aware that Trump did not perform as well as the polls were indicating in Iowa. They have to be careful not to be too overconfident about they might do here.
They still have to get out the vote, get out those caucus-goers, Wolf.
BLITZER: A lot of work to do before tomorrow night. All right, thanks very much for that.
We're waiting to speak live with John Kasich. He's going to be joining us momentarily. We will get to that interview as soon as he is there.
But in the meantime, I want to bring in our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger, our senior political commentator the Washington correspondent for "The New Yorker" magazine Ryan Lizza, our senior political reporter Nia-Malika Henderson, and CNN political commentator Ana Navarro.
Ana, you were a Bush supporter. He's dropped out. I know you are friends with Marco Rubio. Can we say you are now a Marco Rubio supporter?
ANA NAVARRO, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Look, Wolf, I think what you can say is that I'm licking my wounds.
I was incredibly emotionally invested in the Jeb Bush campaign. You have to understand that that wasn't just a candidate to me. He's been my friend my entire adult life. I want to wait and see what he does.
And, look, give me a couple of days to rebound. It's not as easy as going from one spouse to another. It's never a good idea to go right into another relationship after a divorce.
BLITZER: All right, fair enough.
Gloria, you have interviewed John Kasich.
NAVARRO: That's family counsel from Ana Navarro.
BLITZER: All right, good words.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Good counsel.
BLITZER: Gloria, you have spent some time with John Kasich. We're going to be speaking with him live fairly soon.
He says it's really for all practical purposes a four-man race right now.
BORGER: He does.
BLITZER: He eliminates Dr. Ben Carson. There's still five Republicans running. Is it a three-man or a four-man race?
BORGER: I have talked to a lot of Republicans. There are some who would just wish that John Kasich would get out of the way so that they could consolidate behind Marco Rubio.
The establishment is running to Marco Rubio. But as one Republican said to me today, he said, look, John Kasich has a strategy here. And he said to me, look, you cannot have a conversation with John Kasich without understanding that he has got a plan, and this campaign to him is a crusade. It's a crusade about the kind of politics he wants to see in this country and he can go down a plan.
He's not Ben Carson. Ben Carson is hanging around. We don't know why. Maybe it's to stick it to Ted Cruz a little bit with those evangelical voters. We don't know. Kasich is saying it's a four-man race. His plan is, I'm going to win in Michigan. There are a handful of Super Tuesday states I might be able to win. We're going to get to Ohio, winner take all. I'm the governor. We will have to see.
So I think there is a plan there. Not everyone is convinced it will work, however, except John Kasich still is.
We were all surprised that Rick Tyler was fired today by Senator Cruz, his communications director, for this false story about Marco Rubio supposedly not believing in the Bible or whatever. You must have stunned by that too.
RYAN LIZZA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Yes. I was stunned by him actually having to resign, to be honest.
We're in the political season where these kind of things just have not been as big a deal for the front-runner, Donald Trump. Right? If this had happened to Donald Trump, he would have given the person a raise rather than asking him to resign.
But I think it's a sign frankly that Rubio -- excuse me -- that Cruz's campaign is a little bit rattled by Trump and Rubio constantly calling him a liar. That word used to be a red line in politics. Marco Rubio couldn't call Ted Cruz a liar on the Senate floor. His remarks would have to be taken down.
And they every day out there are accusing him of the L-word. And I think Rick Tyler had to fall on his sword, because this plays right into that argument against the campaign.
BLITZER: Donald Trump calls Ted Cruz a world-class liar, not just a liar, but a world-class, the worst liar he says he's ever seen. Those are strong words, Nia.
NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right.
And even Ben Carson -- Ben Carson hasn't used the L-word, but also was questioning Ted Cruz's believability and his honor and integrity. And, remember, Ted Cruz's banner says "Trust Ted." Right? So, they went right after that.
And I think it's done some real damage. And he here in throwing Rick Tyler overboard is really trying to tamp down on some of that damage. I reached out to Ben Carson's campaign, because they have been calling for someone to get fired. They said a day late, a dollar short.
HENDERSON: Yes. Right. It wasn't over them.
BLITZER: That's basically what the Rubio campaign says as well.
BORGER: Yes. Look, the calling card that Ted Cruz has is, I'm the values candidate. If you look at the exit polls, it shows that that is the area in which Ted Cruz excels better than any other candidate.
But a close second is Marco Rubio. And if he loses that voters who vote on ethics and values and social issues, then where is he? He's nowhere. He had to stop the bleeding.
BLITZER: It's interesting, Ana, that Donald Trump, as we all know, had earlier raised questions about Senator Cruz's eligibility to be president, because he was actually born in Canada. But now he's turning his sights on Marco Rubio's eligibility potentially because he was born in the United States, but both of his parents were Cuban immigrants to the United States, did not have U.S. citizenship at the time. He was born in 1971.
What do you think of this latest development?
NAVARRO: Oh, I think Donald Trump is on very thin ice. I think it's not going to work.
Look, Marco Rubio was born in Miami. And I know there's a lot of people in the United States who might think Miami is the closest Latin American country to the United States, but, no, we're actually part of the United States. Marco Rubio was born American.
And I will tell you, nobody can speak as pretty as Marco Rubio about being an American, the American inspiration story, American exceptionalism. So if Donald Trump challenges him on being an American, Marco Rubio, who is incredibly articulate, incredibly poetic, I think is going to respond in a very vigorous way.
And if I were Donald Trump, Donald, don't go there. Don't give Marco an opening because he's going to shut you down and shut you down very well at a debate on that.
BLITZER: He retweeted Sunlen's tweet on that, as you know, Gloria.
But Marco Rubio is getting -- picking up a lot of endorsements from Republican establishment, more members of the U.S. Senate and others as well. Presumably, this is going to help him.
BORGER: And former members of the U.S. Senate like Bob Dole, for example. That's worth, what, a vote.
BORGER: But, look, I think it's not the endorsements. We have learned in this campaign that endorsements don't matter. The question is where does the money go? Follow the money. Right?
And some of the money will no doubt go to Marco Rubio. But Jeb Bush, I'm told, has not given a signal yet as to who he's going to endorse. I'm told there are a lot of hard feelings still between the Rubio and Bush camps because of their Shakespearian fight that they have had. Some money could go potentially to Kasich. Kasich is looking for some Bush money.
In Texas, Cruz could get some Bush money. But it's the money that Rubio is looking for.
BLITZER: It's interesting, Ryan.
BLITZER: Hold on, Ana.
It's interesting that's money is important, but Jeb Bush and his super PAC, they had more than $100 million and it didn't exactly work out for them.
LIZZA: Yes, money is not everything. Donald Trump has proved if you can keep your face on the media full-time, that you don't need to buy television ads.
I think this race is very simple. Either the Republican Party rallies around Marco Rubio as their last chance to defeat Donald Trump, or Donald Trump is going to be the nominee. And Kasich is going to have to make a decision very soon about whether he wants to be the person that allowed Donald Trump to be the nominee or the person that fell on his sword and got out of the race.
BLITZER: All right, guys, everybody, stand by. Once again, we're standing by also to speak with Ohio Governor John Kasich.
We're going to get his thoughts on what's going on. He's a Republican presidential candidate. Much more right after this.
BLITZER: Once again, we're standing by to speak with John Kasich, the Republican presidential candidate. We're standing by for that. Hopefully, he will show up soon.
In the meantime, let's go back to our panel.
And, Nia, let's talk a little bit about Rudy Giuliani right now, because there's some word that he's been advising or helping, consulting Donald Trump right now, the former New York City mayor, the longtime New York City real estate magnate.
What are you hearing, if anything, about this?
This looks like they have been sharing phone calls. He's been advising him, Rubio -- Rudy has -- advising him on what he should say, if he's gone too far on some of the things he said.
Rudy obviously didn't have a great presidential campaign when he ran. He had the Florida strategy that never panned out. But he was in New York this figure that liberals hated, right? He was sort of a New York conservative that always stuck a thumb in the eye of liberals, and that in some ways is what Trump is doing as well. I think it also sort of sends a signal that Trump is running a serious
campaign. It doesn't necessarily, I think, signal that to voters. I don't think voters care, but sort of the establishment and kind of political -- the chattering class, he's doing things that normal politicians would do.
BORGER: But conservatives don't like Rudy Giuliani.
BORGER: That was his problem in his presidential run.
BLITZER: He supports abortion rights for women.
BORGER: Exactly. So, if you're trying to prove -- if you're Donald Trump -- and I don't know that he's trying to prove anything.
But you're Donald Trump, and your conservative bona fides are being questioned and you are being advised by Rudy Giuliani, the question is on what? If you're being advised on foreign policy.
HENDERSON: And the 9/11 stuff.
BLITZER: Ana, the Kasich supporters, the Rubio supporters, I know you are friendly with Marco Rubio, are basically -- are they appealing to the same group out there, those who like, let's say, Donald Trump or Ted Cruz, for that matter?
NAVARRO: I think there is -- I think that folks fall into different categories.
I think some are going to go immediately with Marco Rubio. I think some maybe in the Midwest who have more skin in the game when it comes to Ohio are looking at John Kasich. I think some of the Texas folks may be going for Ted Cruz, because, at the end of the day, a lot of politics. All politics is local.
But also I think there's donors. There's a lot of Jeb Bush donors and supporters and backers who are waiting to see and hear a path to victory from either, any of these three guys. It is somewhat unclear right now what the Kasich path to victory is, what the Rubio path to victory is, what the Cruz path to victory is.
Donald Trump coming out of South Carolina looks strong. So I think that after you have been burnt once, you want to make sure when you put your chips in again, it's for a winner. And folks are taking a good look at this. Not everybody rushes out the next day and changes course. Some people, I think, are keeping their powder dry until they see who might emerge out of the three non-Trump alternatives.
BLITZER: Let me ask Ryan.
Rubio has to win Florida, right? If he doesn't win his home state of Florida, is it over for him?
LIZZA: Yes. Look, Ana is right. So far in this campaign, we have been grading Marco Rubio on a curve, right? And there's a reason for that.
But it's legitimate because the entire Republican Party establishment does not want Donald Trump to be the nominee. This is not like previous races where you would say, oh, if you get a second place in Iowa, a first place in New Hampshire and a first place in South Carolina, you are the nominee.
Well, that's true if you are John McCain or Mitt Romney. But if you are Donald Trump when the entire elected establishment of a party doesn't want you, they will hold out as long as they can and they will accept Rubio not winning yet and pushing him forward.
BLITZER: The point is, he's got to win Florida, just like, Gloria, Cruz has to win Texas.
BLITZER: If he can't win his own state, it's over for him, presumably.
BORGER: It's a problem.
BORGER: Look, he has to win somewhere. It's not only Florida. He just has to win somewhere. Remember the original strategy we all heard was that he'd come in third and second.
BLITZER: You are talking about Cruz.
BORGER: I'm talking about Rubio.
BORGER: Third, second, first, right?
LIZZA: Now it's five, two, three.
BORGER: Now it's five, two, three.
BORGER: So, that never happened.
The way these delegates are proportional up until March 15, there's not going to be any final winner for a very long time, even up until the convention. Who knows, right? You may have an open convention. I don't like to call it brokered, because I don't believe there's anyone to broker things anymore.
But you just don't know. And so I think Rubio has to show some strength. And that may be why Ana is talking about these donors who have -- are sitting on their pocketbooks right now because they want to know that they're not going to back a horse that can't go anywhere. BLITZER: I keep hearing from Rubio supporters, Nia, from Trump
supporters, people who don't like Ted Cruz that Ted Cruz is going to end up like Mike Huckabee. He won Iowa, didn't get the nomination. Like Rick Santorum, won Iowa, didn't get the nomination. Cruz won Iowa, might not get the nomination.
You have heard that, those suggestions, he's another Huckabee or Santorum.
HENDERSON: Yes. And the pushback was always, he's got a lot of money so he can go the distance.
I think at this point, he might not even end up like Santorum or Huckabee, who won many states, because he has Trump to deal with in those Southern states that are all going to vote, a lot of them, on that SEC primary day, on March 1. He might come in second in those states, instead of looking like that Southern evangelical or regional candidate in the way that Santorum and Huckabee...
LIZZA: You can't be the candidate of evangelicals and the candidate of the South and not win evangelicals or a Southern state in South Carolina. So, exit poll results in South Carolina had real red flags for Ted Cruz.
BLITZER: Because Trump won a third of the evangelicals.
LIZZA: Because he's just got -- Cruz has this narrow slice of very conservative Republicans. And he's not expanding beyond that. And he's being squeezed on one side by Rubio and the other side by Trump.
BLITZER: All right, stand by, guys.
John Kasich, the Ohio governor, the Republican presidential candidate, he is now there. You are looking at a live picture. We are going to talk with him about the race for the White House as soon as we come back.
[18:30:33] BLITZER: Republican presidential candidate John Kasich is facing some criticism for a remark he made today. Here's what he said at a campaign event about women who backed him when he first ran for state Senate back in the late '70s.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[17:30:25] GOV. JOHN KASICH (R-OH), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I went to Washington following my mother's advice. I'd been in the legislature before that at the age of 26. And how did I get elected? Nobody was -- I didn't have anybody for me. We just got an army of people who -- and many women who left their kitchens to go out and go door to door and to put yard signs up for me all the way back when, you know, things were different.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: That remark earned Kasich a rebuke from one of his current female supporters.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I want to say, your comment earlier about the women came out of the kitchen to support you, I'll come to support you but I won't be coming out of the kitchen.
KASICH: I gotcha. I gotcha.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: And the Republican presidential candidate John Kasich is joining us now live.
Governor, you said that comment was not artful. But do you think you want to apologize to women out there for saying that they left their kitchens to campaign for you?
KASICH: Well, you know, look, Wolf. I mean, anybody would be offended, of course. Sometimes when you operate on the high wire without a net, sometimes, you know, you'll fall off and not say things exactly the way you want to.
But let me be clear: the beginning of my campaign for public office, I did -- I did town halls. Except they were in people's homes. They were at breakfast tables. They were during -- at evening when we had coffee, and I recruited people. And I want to be clear. We had a lot of women that played a major role in my political campaign, political life, and they still do.
In fact, Wolf, my chief of staff, first one to go in for a new governor, was a woman. She's now running my campaign for president. My lieutenant governor is a woman. The first person and only person I appointed to the Ohio Supreme Court is a woman. And you know, the fact of the matter is, there are a lot of women that are in the cabinet holding roles in my cabinet.
So, look. I mean, at the end of the day, people are going to jump on me now. I take orders from nobody. Not from Wall Street, not from K Street, not from special interests. And my campaigns have been good, because they've been basically staffed and energized by regular folks.
BLITZER: Governor, a lot of women think it was insulting. Why not just say, "I made a mistake? I'm sorry."
KASICH: Sure, I'm sorry. Anybody who's offended, of course. I'm not - look. Of course, I'm more than happy to say I'm sorry if I offended somebody out there, but it wasn't intended to be offensive. And if you hear the whole thing, you'll understand the context of it.
But look, all I'm saying to you, Wolf, is that without the power of the women who helped me out early in my career to give me a chance to hold public office, I wouldn't have made it. And I'm very grateful to all the work that they put in for me, and many of them that still do.
BLITZER: Speaking about women, you signed a bill defunding Planned Parenthood. And here's the criticism you're getting. You speak a lot about helping the poor, the most vulnerable. But as you know, Planned Parenthood does provide poor women with HIV testing, health screenings, prevention of violence against women. And the accusation against you is you were pandering to the most conservative wing of the Republican Party. Even Donald Trump says Planned Parenthood does some, quote, "wonderful things."
BLITZER: Explain your decision.
KASICH: Well, I'm not a panderer. And I think that Planned Parenthood did discredit itself, frankly. But we're robust funders of women's health. We think it's absolutely critical. And in the area of infant mortality, we've picked out the hot spots in our state, and I've driven the efforts that we need to do to reduce infant mortality. One of the toughest areas is the area that we find in some of our minority communities, which we're redoubling our efforts. I believe in early childhood education. I think these things are all critical.
So, even though I don't fund Planned Parenthood, we're going to spend a lot of money on women's health at the federal health centers and the hospitals. They will be able to get what they need, and I believe strongly that they ought to be able to have the kind of aid and support, and I've always stood up for them.
Think about the efforts on expanding Medicaid, where I've made more dollars available for people who really have to struggle. Particularly people, you know, who are the working poor, many of whom are women.
So look, I believe in women's health. I just didn't believe in doing it through Planned Parenthood.
BLITZER: Where exactly do you stand on abortion rights for women in terms of exceptions?
KASICH: The rape, incest and life of the mother.
BLITZER: All right. Because Marco Rubio only says he supports an exception for the life of the mother. But you support an exception for rape and incest, as well, right?
KASICH: Yes, sure. Yes, I do.
BLITZER: All right. Let's talk about some other news of the day. Ted Cruz's communications director, Rick Tyler, resigning due to tweeting a false story about Marco Rubio supposedly not believing in the Bible. Donald Trump has called Cruz a "world-class liar." Do you agree?
[18:35:05] KASICH: I'm not going to be calling anybody a world-class liar! I mean, the fact of the matter is, I've had a positive message, Wolf, and I'm not really interested in going negative on people.
Look, I've had millions of dollars of negative ads spent against me by a number of people, and I've remained above that fray. And I'm going to continue to be above that fray, talking about creating jobs and helping wages TO go up, that we're committed to that. Economic growth is so critical and not leaving anybody in the shadows once we achieve economic growth, like we've done in Ohio and like I did in Washington.
I don't -- I'm not interested in going down the rabbit hole of negative name-calling, liars and all that other stuff. I'm going to sell myself the best I can. And for the first time in this campaign, people are starting to pay attention. You know, for most of the time, nobody heard me. The press didn't give me any coverage. Now all of a sudden -- and I thank you today -- you're giving me an opportunity to be on the air, to hear my message.
And my message is fundamentally lift everyone. Get everybody to work together. We're Americans before we're Republicans and Democrats. And I'm not interested in commenting on all this -- these scuffles that on in these campaigns or the name calling.
BLITZER: All right. Fair enough.
Kevin McCarthy, the House majority leader, said today this is now, for all practical purposes, a two-person race between Donald Trump and Marco Rubio. You have five delegates so far. You saw an article -- maybe you didn't see it -- the Washington Post writer Jennifer Rubin wrote "Ten Reasons John Kasich Is Not a Contender."
Here's the question. Where do you win -- where can you win in a state?
KASICH: We think we can perform well. Look, Vermont, Massachusetts. We're here in Virginia. We're getting great response. Look, we're going into the Deep South. Places like Mississippi. You don't have to win. You have to be competitive. And then, you know, you can go north to places like Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, I mean, New Jersey, New York. The calendar goes north.
But, look, Wolf, here's the thing. Nobody thought I'd get in the race. Nobody thought I'd raise the money. Nobody thought I'd get in the debates. Nobody thought I'd do well in New Hampshire. I finished second in New Hampshire. And the people she's writing about finished well below me.
I never expected to do well in South Carolina other than show respect and probably did better than people thought. And we're in it. We're signing people up today. We're raising more money. We're fine.
And -- always been doubters. I've always been underestimated. But you know, people come up to me today, and they say, "You make sure you stay in there and hang in there." And as people begin to hear my message, you're going to be able to see, I believe, a chance for me to be able to climb.
And if you take, even, a look at the exit polls out of South Carolina for the late deciders who finally found out who I was with about three or four days to go, we did pretty well.
BLITZER: All right, Governor, we have more to discuss, so stick around. We're going to continue this conversation right after this very quick break. We'll be right back.
[18:42:37] BLITZER: We're back with the Republican presidential candidate, the Ohio governor, John Kasich.
Governor, sources are telling CNN's Jamie Gangel that at least some major Republican donors deeply concerned about a potential Donald Trump early win. They're looking to try to clear the field for Marco Rubio, because they think he has the best chance to prevent Trump from being the nominee, and they're privately urging you to drop out. Are they doing that? Are they privately urging you to drop out?
KASICH: No, I haven't heard from any of the special interests to get me to drop out. In fact, we're signing people up. We're signing up some significant Republican fundraisers, and our political organization is expanding, as well.
And you know -- I guess I wouldn't understand this. You know, I've spent about $5 million. They've spent about $50 million, and we're about the same in delegates.
And let me say one other thing. When we're picking a president of the United States, we better pick somebody who knows how to do the job. Somebody that's had the experience, somebody that's can bring people together. And, you know, if you ask people who are Republicans, who's the most experienced, who has the best results, the most accomplishments, most of the time, I win that.
In fact, last week, there was a CBS poll that came out and said I was the most qualified, beating everybody else. And by the way, I beat Hillary Clinton by more than any other Republican candidate in the latest USA Today poll.
Now look, we're going to keep going. Because, you know, when I travel places, people beg me. They say, "You stay in. You represent hope for me and for my family."
And this is all sort of political mumbo-jumbo from people who, you know, I don't even know who they are. And you know, the fact is, we're just going to keep on going, and at some point when we get the consolidation, I'm very hopeful, Wolf, it's going to be towards me.
BLITZER: Do you have the money to stay the course?
KASICH: Yes, we're raising money. We're doing fine. And you know, I'm not sure the other people have all the money. So, we're going to have enough money to hang in here and keep going. Of course we are. Like I was saying, we've seen a significant increase in the number of people who are helping us raise money, and also a significant increase in the number of political people who were skilled.
Tom Loeffler tonight, very close to the Bush family. A man down in Texas. He's come out, he's joining our team in a major role. Tom Ridge today endorsed me. He was the former homeland security adviser to President Bush. And you should talk to him about why he's done it.
[18:45:02] The fact is that we've got to have somebody that can straighten the country out, somebody that has the experience and, you know, I think people feel very good about that.
And, frankly, Wolf, I've got to tell you -- this is the first time since I've been running for president that I'm starting to get people to hear my message, and it's really good and it's working.
So, you know, it was a long road to get here. We're going to keep on going. And, you know, we'll see what happens down the road. I'm sure going to keep giving it my best and being positive and talking about growing the economy and leaving nobody behind.
BLITZER: I know that you are trying to get some of those Jeb Bush supporters. He's dropped out. You're trying to get some of that money as well. If they call you and say, why should I support you? What are you going to say to them if they may be leaning towards Marco Rubio, for example? Why should they support you?
KASICH: Most of them don't say that, wolf. Most of them when I call them and talk to them they say, yes, I know about you. I'm positive. I had one man say I was with some significant people in the Bush campaign, and we all to a person thought we should support you. You are the person who is the most qualified.
Because, you know, some people look at this is who is going to be the president of the United States. I mean, we're not electing someone to be senior class president.
So, no hit on Marco or anybody else. Let's just get the media to put up our experience, our background and our accomplishments and then let people decide. Most of these campaigns spent their time beating me up in all these states, Wolf. And, frankly, when you look at the poll numbers, I was tied for third in the national campaign.
But a lot of these people, they are Washington insiders. They are people -- they're the establishment. I've never been with them. They've never been with me, and it's OK. We'll continue to just plug forward.
BLITZER: Governor Kasich, thanks very much for joining us.
KASICH: All right, Wolf. Always good to be with you. Tell everybody I said hello.
BLITZER: We'll see you at the debate Thursday night. This important programming note, in fact, for our viewers: 8:30 p.m.
Eastern Thursday night, the remaining five Republican presidential candidates will be head-to-head in the next GOP debate. I'll be moderating that debate from Houston, Texas, here -- right here on CNN. Stay with us for that.
Let's turn to the Democrats right now, where Senator Bernie Sanders is trying to put the brakes on Hillary Clinton's momentum.
Our senior political correspondent Brianna Keilar is joining us with details.
Brianna, what's the latest?
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Bernie Sanders in Massachusetts today, a reflection of the fact that his campaign is pretty realistic about his slim chances in South Carolina, and Hillary Clinton fund-raising in California, perhaps a reflection of the confidence she has in her performance in the polls there.
KEILAR (voice-over): Bernie Sanders is trying to regain his momentum, fresh off a loss to Hillary Clinton in the Nevada caucuses.
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I am delighted that Secretary Clinton month after month after month seems to be adopting more and more of the positions that we have advocated. That's good. And, in fact, is beginning to use a lot of the language and phraseology that we have used. In fact, I think I saw her TV ad and thought it was me.
KEILAR: Sanders is going on the offensive today, tweeting about the lack of transcripts for Clinton's paid speeches saying, "It's been 17 days, 16 hours and 32 minutes since Hillary Clinton said she'd look into releasing her paid speeches to Wall Street."
Hillary Clinton is riding high after her rebound win in Nevada and hoping for another victory in Saturday's South Carolina primary. Clinton has an 18-point lead over Sanders in the Palmetto State, buoyed by her 37-point lead among black voters. And she's getting a little star power in her bid for support with a new television ad voiced by actor Morgan Freeman.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, CLINTON CAMPAIGN AD)
MORGAN FREEMAN, ACTOR: She says their names, Trayvon Martin.
HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Trayvon Martin, shot to death.
FREEMAN: Dontre Hamilton.
CLINTON: Dontre Hamilton, unarmed.
FREEMAN: Sandra Bland. CLINTON: Sandra Bland did nothing wrong.
FREEMAN: And makes their mothers' fight for justice her own. She speaks for a city poisoned by indifference.
CLINTON: We need action now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: Even as Clinton rebounds from her New Hampshire loss, questions linger about perceptions from some voters that she's not honest and trustworthy -- an area she acknowledged she needed to improve upon during an appearance on "STATE OF THE UNION" this weekend.
CLINTON: I think there's an underlying question that maybe is really in the back of people's minds, and that is, is she in it for us or in it for herself? That's, you know, a question that people are trying to sort through.
KEILAR: Sanders and Clinton also have their eyes on Super Tuesday next week, when 11 states will hold Democratic nominating contests.
SANDERS: Please do not come to me state by state and say, is this the end of the world? We are in this campaign to the end. We have gone much faster, much further than any -- many people would have believed possible.
[18:50:02] And with organizations like the ones behind me, we are going to do just great in this campaign.
KEILAR: Bernie Sanders talking about that all important black vote in South Carolina and also in these southern states that are part of the Super Tuesday contest. He said that African-Americans learn more about his proposals, Wolf, he thinks that they will be more on board with them, but Hillary Clinton continuing to hammer him as a one-issue candidate. Her message to black voters is that Bernie Sanders thinks really, the only solution to their problems is economic and it doesn't have to do with racism or other institutional issues.
BLITZER: And is the sense out there the exchanges between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders going to be more intense, the exchanges between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton in the coming days?
KEILAR: It is. I think you've seen a little bit of that already. But certainly, this tweet that you saw from Bernie Sanders about this Wall Street speeches that Hillary Clinton gave while she was back in private life between being secretary of state and now, an indication that he really is not going to give her a pass on some of these things, even as he might be fighting an uphill battle against her in these upcoming contests.
BLITZER: All right. Brianna, good report. Thank you.
Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, by the way, they will face the voters of South Carolina during a town hall 8:00 p.m. Eastern tomorrow night right here on CNN. It's the last chance for South Carolinians to question both of the Democratic candidates directly before Saturday's primary in South Carolina.
Just ahead, a fragile cease-fire is taking shape in Syria, but ISIS and other terror groups are still very much on the offensive. Is there any real hope for ending the misery?
[18:56:04] BLITZER: President Obama spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin today, hoping to solidify a new cease-fire in the Syria's bloody civil war. Syrian civilians are living under constant bombardment and many are on the verge of starvation as aid groups struggle to reach war-torn cities.
Our Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr is tracking the late-breaking developments for us.
What are you learning, Barbara?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Good evening, Wolf.
Well, a cease-fire may well be in the works, but there's a long way to go to make it really happened. We want to warn our viewers. Some of the scenes you're about to see are very graphic.
STARR (voice-over): Suicide bombers striking in Damascus, the Syrian capital. Scores killed, nearly 200 wounded. And a massive bomb attack in Homs where the Assad regime is supposed to be in control.
ISIS claimed responsibility for the devastation. Now, the U.S. and Russia announcing a plan for a cease-fire, but not with ISIS. President Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke on the telephone about the agreement scheduled to go into effect this weekend.
Questions already about how secure the deal is.
The U.S. warning it may be tough to get all sides to adhere to the agreement.
MARK TONER, STATE DEPARTMENT DEPUTY SPOKESMAN: You can't just flip a switch, it is going to take a little bit of time for us to actually implement it.
STARR: And an extraordinary admission on how the U.S. will keep tabs on the agreement in part by watching aid groups.
TONER: There's not going to be any monitors on the ground to look at this other than where we get information from in terms of intelligence but also through NGOs reporting on the ground and journalists, frankly, who get feedback as to who is being hit by whom.
STARR: At stake, the immediate fate of tens of thousands of Syrian civilians bombed by Russia and the Syrian regime, starving and lacking medical care.
Russia currently is dropping about 100 bombs a day, claiming it's bombing ISIS. The U.S. says Moscow is bombing civilians and Bashar al Assad's opposition forces with help from Iran and the regime.
JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: Russia has to talk with Iran and with the Syrian regime, and we have to talk with the opposition.
STARR: Putin saying he will get his side on board.
VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): We will do whatever is necessary with Damascus, with the legitimate Syrian authorities.
STARR: Assad told the Spanish newspaper he definitely supports the deal, but warns that could change if others try to improve their battlefield positions.
ISIS and al Qaeda are not party to the agreement. U.S. airstrikes against ISIS will continue and nobody expects ISIS to stop its attacks.
STARR: And while all of this is going on, the U.S. is still keeping a very sharp eye on Libya in North Africa. The estimate there now in terms of ISIS' strength, Wolf, the U.S. believes there could be somewhere between 5,000 and 6,500 ISIS fighters in Libya. They are tracking ISIS camps across that country now, Wolf.
BLITZER: Libya becoming a major base for ISIS right now. What else are you learning about these foreign fighters in Libya?
STARR: Well, I talk to U.S. officials today who said they believe right now that ISIS is recruiting inside Libya. They are recruiting fighters from other places in Africa. They are recruiting fighters essentially who have tried to go into Syria through Turkey, but can't get into Syria.
So, they're diverting them to Libya. And ISIS fighters on the run from airstrikes in Syria and Iraq. Libya very much a new front for ISIS, a big worry for the Obama administration, Wolf.
BLITZER: Clearly, it looks like it has become for all practical purposes a failed state.
All right. Barbara, thanks very much for that.
That's it for me. Thanks very much for watching.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.