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Rubio And Cruz Throw Simultaneous Jabs At Donald Trump In Last Night's Debate; Trump Expected To Win Handily In Most States Voting On Super Tuesday; Rubio Throws Debate Handbook Out The Window. Aired 12- 1a ET

Aired February 26, 2016 - 00:00   ET



[00:00:24] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: And welcome back; 11:00 p.m. here in Houston, site of the most important Republican Debate before the most important day of the campaign so far, Super Tuesday. Donald Trump went in to tonight with three straight victories, of course, and the prospect of many more. His rivals went in knowing this might be their last chance to try to stop him. It made for an explosive mix at times. Here's a quick look at some of the best moments.


DONALD TRUMP (R) REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The nice part about -- you have many different plans. You'll have competition. You'll have so many different plans.



TRUMP: No, I'm not. No, no, no.

[Cheering and Whistling]

TRUMP: I don't repeat myself. I don't repeat myself.

RUBIO: You don't repeat yourself?

TRUMP: Here's the guy who repeats himself.

RUBIO: You repeat yourself every day.

TRUMP: I watch -- they're talking about repeating. I watched him repeat himself five times, four weeks ago -

RUBIO: And I saw you repeat yourself five times five seconds ago.

[Cheering and Whistling]

TRUMP: I watched him -- I watched him meltdown on the stage like I've never seen anybody -- MODERATOR: Mr. Trump? Let's stay focused.

TRUMP: -- I thought he came out of a swimming pool.

RUBIO: I said -

MODERATOR: Let's talk about your plan.

RUBIO: I see him repeating himself every night. He says five things: everyone's dumb; he's going to make America great again; --

MODERATOR: Senator Rubio, please.

RUBIO: -- win, win, win -

MODERATOR: Senator Rubio, please?

RUBIO: -- he's winning in the polls (inaudible) the lines around the state.

[Cheering and whistling]

RUBIO: Every night, same thing.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Are you talking about getting rid of Kim Jong-Un?

JOHN KASICH (R-OH) REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: When I say "regime change", I don't have to talk exactly what that means. Look, I've been involved in national security for a long time. You don't have to spell everything out; but what I'm telling you is you look for any means you can to be able to solve that problem in North Korea and in the meantime put the pressure on the Chinese and what we're doing is beginning to work against them. They are the key to being able to settle this situation.

TRUMP: I'm a negotiator. I've done very well over the years through negotiation. It's very important that we do that. in all fairness, Marco is not a negotiator. I watched him meltdown and I'll tell you it was one of the saddest things I've ever seen. He's not going down -

RUBIO: He thinks a Palestinian is a real estate deal.

TRUMP: Wait a minute. Wait a minute. And these people may even be tougher than Chris Christie; okay?

RUBIO: The Palestinians are not a real estate deal, Donald.

TRUMP: Excuse me; no, no, no. A deal -

RUBIO: They're not a real estate deal.

TRUMP: A deal is a deal. Let me tell you, I learned a long time ago --

RUBIO: A deal is not a deal when you're dealing with terrorists. Have you ever negotiated with a terrorist?

TRUMP: You are not a negotiator. This guy is a choke artist and this guy is a liar. You have a combination of factors. He can't do it for the obvious reason and he can't do it because he doesn't know how to tell the truth. Other than that, I rest my case.

RUBIO: There's the typical thing he does about any debate about policy --

BLITZER: One at a time -

RUBIO: -- he goes right for outrageous --

BLITZER: Gentlemen?

[Cross Talk]

BLITZER: Governor Kasich, you have the floor. Governor -


BLITZER: You will have a response, but I promised Governor Kasich he could respond.



KASICH: Wolf, there's something -

TRUMP: First of all -

BLITZER: Mr. Trump?

TRUMP: He's talking about the polls, I'm beating him awfully badly in the polls.

CRUZ: But you're not beating Hillary. But you're not beating Hillary.

TRUMP: Then if I can't - hey, if I can't beat her you're really going to get killed, aren't you? So let me ask you this, because you're really getting beaten badly. I know you're embarrassed. I know you're embarrassed, but keep fighting; keep swinging men. Swing for the fences. I know politicians, believe it or not, better than you do and it's not good.

CRUZ: Oh, I believe it. No, I believe you know politicians much better than I do because for 40 years you've been funding liberal democratic politicians. And, by the way, --

TRUMP: I funded you.

CRUZ: You're welcome to have the check back. TRUMP: I gave you a check. I gave him a check.

CRUZ: Let's be clear -- you gave me $5,000.

RUBIO: He never funded me.

CRUZ: And by the way, let's be clear.

[Cheering and Applause]

CRUZ: Donald claims to care -

TRUMP: You know why? I didn't want but he sent me [cross talk] his autograph --

CRUZ: Donald. Donald. Donald, I understand rules are very hard for you and it's very confusing.

TRUMP: Mr. Trump, you're doing a great job. I have his book.

CRUZ: Okay.

[Cross Talk]

TRUMP: Thank you for the book. Go ahead.

CRUZ: Donald, you can get back -

TRUMP: (Inaudible) a lot of fun up here tonight I have to tell you. Thank you for the book I really appreciate it.

CRUZ: Donald, relax.


TRUMP: I'm relaxed. You're the basket-case.



COOPER: Some of the moments that voters will be weighing, perhaps, and that will be looking closer at tonight as we also look ahead to Super Tuesday. We want to bring in the panel here, with a couple new faces. Debate

panel member and conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt who is on the stage tonight; CNN Political Commentator Ana Navarro, as well as joining John King; Nia Malika Henderson; Amanda Carpenter; and Trump supporter, Jeffrey Lord.

Hugh, it's always hard when you're on that stage, in the midst of a battle like that, to kind of get a sense of the ebb and flow of things, but what stood out to you?

[00:05:01] HUGH HEWITT, CONSERVATIVE RADIO HOST: Well I'm here to drag down your ratings. [Laughter]

COOPER: That was a comment that had made Trump.

HEWITT: I felt like I walked into a scene the "Deadwood" and all praise to Wolf.

COOPER: That's Shakespearian.

HEWITT: It was Shakespearian; but all praise to Wolf Blitzer. He kept it moving forward. He got a lot of ground covered. It was very substantive. I can't tell who won, but I can tell that most of the incoming was at Donald Trump.

COOPER: Right.

HEWITT: It really was a fuselage. So I don't know if he withstood it and grows stronger or if he bleeds out as a result; but it was just incoming after incoming.

COOPER: We have seen, Ana Navarro, in Nevada that those who made up their minds closer to election day, that there was some movement there from Marco Rubio. Does this - does tonight change anything, you think, in voters' minds?

ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look, I think what we'll know in four or five days with Super Tuesday occurs. I think Rubio had a very good debate today. He did what he had not done until tonight. He finally took off the gloves. He finally took on Donald Trump. I think there was a great idea. I'm very happy he did it because he's been fighting for number two with Ted Cruz for the longest time and it's gotten awfully exhausting and awfully small. I think if he needs -- he needs to elevate himself. It needs to be by taking on the frontrunner; and he came in tonight with the intent of getting under Donald Trump's skin.

One of the things that I noticed was he didn't follow the rules. You know, we saw that Jeb Bush was not effective in landing blows on Donald Trump because he kept following the rules. Marco today interrupted. Marco would not let himself be shut down by Donald Trump. I will tell you, you know, I'm from Miami, so I got a lot of experience with fast talking shouting matches. I had a hard time following these fast talking shouting matches tonight.

COOPER: Let's show one more exchange that Rubio had with Trump; let's listen in.


COMMENTATOR: Senator Rubio, you accused Senator Cruz in a previous debate of lying when he said that you said one thing in Spanish and another one in English. So in what sense did he lie?

RUBIO: Because it is not true that I'm not going to get rid of DOCA; I am going to get rid of DOCA. In the Spanish interview -- you just read out the transcript in Spanish. I said it will have to end at some point. That point will be when I eliminate the executive order and the people who they have those permits, when expire they will not be allowed to renew it and new people will not be able to apply. In fact, I don't even think we should be taking new enrollees in the program now. That is how the program ends and how you wind it down, is you allow the people who are on it, when the program expires, they cannot renew it and it goes away. But I will cancel the executive order as soon as I take it - as soon as I step foot into the oval office.

TRUMP: I have to say, he lies this time. He lied, 100-percent. 100- percent.


RUBIO: You lied about the Polish worker -

TRUMP: Oh, yeah. Yeah, yeah; 38 years ago.

RUBIO: You lied that there was a Trump University.

TRUMP: 38 years ago.

RUBIO: Oh, you lied 38 years ago. I guess there's a statute of limitations on lies.



COOPER: How much -- I mean, sometimes when you're on a stage you catch things that don't necessarily come out on camera. The -- obviously it felt like it must have been very tense up there on that stage. It felt like bristling at times.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It was extremely hot, hotter than the previous three I've done. Much hotter than I expect in March. I do believe that Marco Rubio looked like he swallowed the canary. I think he got exactly what he thought he was going to get the red wedding from "Game of Thrones." Ted Cruz -


KING: Ted Cruz looked like he got what he wanted. Donald Trump, of course, he's a master at this stuff and I defer to the people who watched it. He was not ruffled but he was under fire. I mean, he was having to go back and forth and so I praise to him as well.

AMANDA CARPENTER, FORMER COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, TED CRUZ: Yeah; the thing that's really interesting is that -- we talked before about how Donald Trump's brand is all about winning, all about winning, but this is the first night I think you really see him get rattled by a number of

questions that threaten his ability to win in a general election.

Cruz went very deliberately at that question saying hey, you donated money to the Clinton Foundation. We want to make an issue of the Clinton Global Foundation in the general election. Donald Trump hurts your ability to do that and he did that systematically, over and over again. So if the combination of attacks from Rubio and Cruz can just put that question mark in people's minds, Republicans want nothing more than to just win after losing the White House for two cycles. If people are worried that Donald Trump will not win, that's the beginning of Donald Trump going down.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I think one of the things that's interesting, we keep talking about brands, John did and then Amanda there, what is Marco Rubio's brand? It's been a little bit uncertain coming in to this. He hasn't really made an effective emotional case for his candidacy; it always sounded like talking points about him being the consensus candidate or being able to expand the party. Is -- you know, sort of the brand now, him as the Trump- slayer, and is that enough to kind of peel voters away from Donald Trump, to peel voters away from Ted Cruz? I think there's still some questions about how he makes the case that he should be president and maybe it's not enough just that he's able to take on Donald Trump.

KING: And then you put the drama of tonight into the context of where we are in the race.

[00:10:01] COOPER: Right.

KING: There's no question, Donald Trump came under aggressive, sustained attack for a longer period of time than in any other debate. To Amanda's point, whether he was rattled or certainly surprised that it kept coming because in past debates there's been a few exchanges and then off they went to something else. The question is, what's the impact.


KING: And right now Ted Cruz is leading in Texas and Donald Trump is leading in ten of the other 11 states that vote for Republicans on Tuesday, in most of them by margins that are unlikely, even if he loses some ground because of tonight, you know, -- the question is -- my question is, Rubio has to win Florida, which we have to wait for. Kasich, if he stays in, has to win in Ohio which we have to wait for. So on Tuesday, I mean, I guess Rubio is coming in second just about everywhere. It looks like it will be Cruz/Trump in Texas. That's probably the best Rubio can hope for but --

NAVARRO: I think he needs to move to one of those states, the one that is the most winnable. He needs to spend the next four days there, because I don't know how you get to March 15th with -

KING: Without a win.

NAVARRO: -- 15 contests having gone through and you have nothing to show but silver and bronze medals for it.

HEWITT: I just have a question: Rubio had, in the exit polls, the closing momentum over a week. Is momentum that closes a state by state thing? I'll ask John King, the expert on this, is that limited to Nevada or does that actually transfer to other states when you have closing momentum?

KING: No; I think there's no question that Rubio's standing has improved in the national polls, as well as in the state-by-state. So, obviously, if you're interstate, the problem with Rubio is we're out of the single state period of the campaign, where you can go to Nevada for a couple of days or you can camp out in Iowa or you can be in New Hampshire. Now, to Ana's point, if he wants to win one, he's going to have to pick one and spend more of his time there; and I don't know if any of them are within reach.

NAVARRO: Which would be should he pick?

KING: The one thing - well, you could make an argument for Virginia. You could make an argument for Vermont or Massachusetts, go for the smaller states, more moderate if he wanted to do that.

NAVARRO: Marco, are you listening to this?

KING: But Trump is well ahead in all these states right now. Only today did he start buying advertising. I do think the one thing Rubio did tonight is, if you have skeptical donors, can you really wait until the middle of March to get a win? Going aggressively, so aggressively after Trump will calm the donor class down a little bit, to say, okay, if he gets an opening he seems now better prepared to get it, but Trump is prohibitively ahead in all of these states and he has an early start. It's hard to beat.

HENDERSON: Even if he wins one or two states on -- on Tuesday, is that even really enough? I mean, you've got to -- you sort of sweep from Trump or a split with Cruz. If he wins Georgia or Virginia, is that enough?

ANDERSON: We've got to take a -- I want to toss it back to Jake Tapper who is standing by and then we'll come back; Jake?

JAKE TAPPER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Thanks, Anderson. Let's stay here with CNN Political Commentator Michael Smerconish and our Chief Political Analyst Gloria Borger. One of the interesting moments of the night came when Dana Bash, and then Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, trying to get Donald Trump to be more specific about what exactly he thinks should replace Obamacare, or more specifically what his position on health care is. Here's a brief excerpt.


CRUZ: On Obamacare, both Donald and I say we want to end it but for very different reasons. I want to end it because it's goes too far; it's killed millions of jobs; and it's hurting people's health care. Donald wants to end it because it doesn't go nearly far enough. And what was amazing in that exchange that was missing is for decades Donald has been advocating socialized medicine. What he said is the government should pay for everyone's health care and, in fact, a couple of debates ago he said if you don't support socialized health care, you're heartless. Now, liberal democrats have been saying that for years.

[Applause and Whistling]

TRUMP: I do not want socialized medicine, just so you understand. He goes around saying oh, he wants it. I do not want socialized medicine.

CRUZ: Donald, true or false; you said the government should pay for everybody's health care?

TRUMP: That's false.

CRUZ: You've never said that?

TRUMP: NO, I said it worked in a couple of countries.

CRUZ: You've never stood on this debate stage and said it works great in Canada and Scotland and we should do I there?

TRUMP: No, I did not. No, I did not.

CRUZ: Did you say if you want people to die on the streets, if you don't support socialized health care you have no heart?

TRUMP: Correct, I will not let people die on the streets if I'm president -

CRUZ: Have you said you were a liberal on health care?

TRUMP: Excuse me; let me talk.

CRUZ: Talk away. Explain your plan, please.

TRUMP: My plan is very simple. I will not -- we're going to have private health care but I will not allow people to die on the sidewalks and the streets of our country if I'm president. You may let it and you may be fine with it; I'm not fine here.

CRUZ: So is the government paying for everyone's healthcare?

TRUMP: We're going to take people and --

CRUZ: Yes or no; just answer the question.

TRUMP: Excuse me; we are going to take those people and those people are going to be serviced by doctors and hospitals. We're going to make great deals on it but we're not going to let them die in the streets.


TAPPER: It seems to me that the Trump health care plan is removing state barriers so that insurance companies can all compete within states, some sort of bare minimum of Medicaid that already exists so people don't die in the streets. Perhaps he would expand it, whatever that means, and that the government would pay, for and in addition, the government would cut better [00:15:03] deals with the pharmaceutical companies. What am I missing? Is there anything more? GLORIA BORGER, CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: No, and I think that's what Dana Bash was kind of pushing on because Trump's solution really seems to be, as he said, getting rid of the lines around the states, allowing health insurance to be sold across state lines, but when you push and when Cruz tried to push about socialized medicine, beyond what we have now, Medicaid, it -- he didn't -- he -- he didn't get specific. What he did was he turned it around, which Trump is really good at doing, and said I don't want people to die in the streets and who can be against that? Nobody can be against that.

So it was -- nobody touched him on it although it did to me, leave you wondering where -- where are the specifics in this. I mean, everybody else has got a 6-point plan and a 5-point plan and it's -- Trump's message is I'm going to make it work better for you. Obamacare is a failure. It's costing a lot of money. It's not working. Your premiums are going up. I'm going to fix it and privatize it, but what's the answer.

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: He's also said contradictory things about the individual mandate -

TAPPER: Right.

SMERCONISH: -- and, Jake, I couldn't help but think, as I watched each of them on the stage down there, talking about their desire to end the individual mandate these are five candidates who in every other circumstance are trumpeting personal responsibility. Stop and think about it. When it comes to insurance, what they're really saying is when it comes to your health insurance we're going to relieve you of the responsibility of making sure that you cover yourself, which I find this to be a huge contradiction and one that will be attenuated in the Fall.

TAPPER: Although it was pointed out by Dana or Wolf, I believe, that when Governor Kasich was a member of Congress, back when it was Republican wisdom to support the individual heritage -

SMERCONISH: Heritage, right.

TAPPER: -- and the Heritage Foundation -


TAPPER: -- behind it -- this was at a time by the way, when the Clintons, Bill and Hillary, were pushing employer mandate.

BORGER: Right.

TAPPER: The Republican position was individual mandate, personal responsibility, he did agree with that at the time.

SMERCONISH: Absolute; and the origin, many would say, of the Affordable Care Act going back to Romney-care, before that going back to the Heritage Foundation when it rose out of this conservative think-tank, the idea for a very conservative principle, which is, people out to take care of themselves so that they're not showing up in an ER and burdening society, but that's gotten lost on the stage.

TAPPER: It's weird because I would think it would be a republican principle because it's against freeloaders --


TAPPER: -- people who can afford healthcare -

SMERCONISH: That's my point, but you didn't hear that.

TAPPER: Well you don't hear it among Republicans at all -


TAPPER: -- even though it was Republican wisdom. I know that you're somebody who thinks Governor Kasich doesn't get enough attention from the media. So why don't you tell me what you thought his strongest moments were this evening?

SMERCONISH: Great! I think he distinguished himself, -- the uglier that it got in the center of that stage tonight, I think the better that he looks because he doesn't play that game; and you could make the same observation about Ben Carson, but I don't think that Carson has any conceivable path.

Strong moments for John Kasich tonight would include his responses pertaining to Apple, and the idea of what a commander-in-chief and a president should do in a circumstance like that. I think the words to the effect of lock everybody in that room and you're not coming out until you iron-out a solution. I also thought when he was pressed on the religious liberty questions, and he essentially said, Jake, bake the cupcake. I'm from religious liberty and protecting religious liberty when we're talking about religious institutions, but if it's commerce then you're the wedding planner or whatever, you've got to do your job.

BORGER: You know, I was talking to some Kasich people today and some of them urged him to actually take on Donald Trump a little bit this evening.

TAPPER: No, he wouldn't do it.

BORGER: And he wouldn't go near it and I think just in texting with a bunch of republicans tonight, there was some sense among republicans, hey, why did you let those two guys out there alone. You kind of wimped out on us. You needed to take on Trump, particularly because you're running, by the way, and Super Tuesday -


BORGER: -- and there was a sense from republicans that Kasich really didn't perform the way he should have, like Rubio, like Cruz, --

SMERCONISH: I disagree.

BORGER: -- and taking an opportunity to actually take on -- take on Trump.

SMERCONISH: It distinguishes him; it sets him apart.

TAPPER: I will say though, having been in Washington for a long time, Congressman Kasich, Congressman Kasich -

BORGER: Right.

TAPPER: -- not governor. If Congressman had been asked hey, is waste, fraud and abuse enough to solve the debt problem -

BORGER: Exactly!

TAPPER: -- he would have unloaded with a string of epitaphs about how that was nonsense, --

BORGER: Of course.

TAPPER: -- but that John Kasich -- that's 20 years ago.

BORGER: Who prides himself balancing the budget, etc.


BORGER: The Government wasn't in the red. There wasn't waste, fraud and abuse.

TAPPER: I got it. Anderson, back to you.

BORGER: Exactly.

COOPER: Jake, we're going to continue the discussion here; we're to take a quick break though. Coming up next we'll hear from Governor Kasich himself, as our special CNN Debate coverage continues.


[00:23:34] COOPER: We're back here at the University of Houston, at the School of Music's Opera House and it sure sounded operatic tonight. There was a lot of sound and fury; two exceptions, Ben Carson and John Kasich, who we talked about before the break. Sara Murray spoke with Governor Kasich a short time ago; she joins us now. Sara?

SARA MURRAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Anderson. John Kasich did not go after Donald Trump tonight and he doesn't look poised to win any of the states that are coming up on March 1st; nonetheless, he still says that he's confident.


MURRAY: So why don't you tell me - you were just saying it was a demolition derby on the stage?

KASICH: From the beginning. Look, I'm very happy with what happened. I think I was able to demonstrate the fact that I not only have the experience, but the plan to take it to Washington, get this economy moving again and clearly the ability to express, you know, what is a clear policy on foreign affairs. whether it was Libya, whether it was North Korea, whether it was Syria, whether we're talking about the Apple and the back door and the president's responsibility, I felt like today I was project what it really means to be an executive across the board. Healthcare, you know, it's just leadership that I think I was able to show tonight; I'm very happy about it.

MURRAY: Now you did not go after Donald Trump tonight, but obviously Texas Senator Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio both did. Is that a gift to you guys, for these two people to be hitting the frontrunner and then you can just come in and do a case with me?

KASICH: I think it's probably a campaign strategy on their part. I think they went in there wanting to do that. Look, I've been promising people that [00:25:01] I'm going to stay positive and at some point this race is going to head north and the field is going to shrink. I think when that happens then I will be in a better position to explain who I am, as opposed to somebody like Donald Trump. So I'm not worried about any of that now.

Look, no one ever thought I'd be on the stage at this point. We're growing. We're getting stronger. Our polls are rising all across the country. We're raising more funds. We're in a really good position and I'm thrilled.

MURRAY: Now when you -- when we head in to these March 1st dates, I know these are not the northern states you were thinking of, but what are the strong states for you on March 1st?

KASICH: Look, I think we're going to do - we're going to be out -- nobody's going to win but Trump, that's first of all.

MURRAY: You think nobody's going to win?

KASICH: Nobody else is going to win.

MURRAY: You think Cruz is going to lose Texas?

KASICH: He - well, look, I don't know that, okay? It's very, very close, but I will come out of Vermont, Massachusetts, we're spending a lot of time in Virginia. We hope those are going to be productive for us and then we'll move from that to Michigan and Mississippi, where we think we'll have a good shot at Mississippi. It will probably be our strongest southern state, but when it goes North, when it trends to Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania, you know, Michigan and then over to New York and New Jersey and Connecticut, who do you think is going to come north and be able to beat me there? So --

MURRAY: You don't think Donald Trump could beat you in New York?

KASICH: I think as it gets closer and closer to a two-person race, and I think it's inevitable, I think I will be in a really good position to be the nominee. MURRAY: So what is it like being in your position, feeling like you've - do you have a couple of states? It sounds like you think you could win Michigan. You --

KASICH: Look, I have to perform. It's about accumulating delegates all along, and we haven't spent that much money. We have a lot more people raising money for us now; but, frankly, we've spent very little money and I'm almost even with everybody except for Trump in the delegate count. So see husband our resources and we apply it in the places where we think we have the best chance. I'm not going out to predict victories, I'm just saying we're in this thing for the long haul.

MURRAY: But how does it feel to have people like Marco Rubio campaign coming out and saying John Kasich should drop out and make the way for us?

KASICH: Well maybe they ought to dropout because If they don't win Florida I don't know where they go from there. We'll just have to see. You know, when people talk about me dropping out, I'll tell you who they are; they're Washington types who I beat 25 years ago and I'm going to beat them again now.

MURRAY: Thank you, Governor. Appreciate it.

KASICH: Thank you.


MURRAY: So you saw a pretty defiant John Kasich there. Now, March 8, March 15, they're not very far on the calendar, but they are very far in terms of an election. I think the challenge is to keep up any kind of momentum until we get to these dates where his team feels confident they can actually win. Anderson?

COOPER: Sara Murray, thanks very much. Back with our panel. John King, you here Governor Kasich talk about states being productive for him. It doesn't mean he wins those states.

KING: Fourth is the new first, Anderson. I don't know, you haven't figured that out yet.

Look, these guys are all in a bind. I don't mean to beat them up. It's really hard to run for president. These are guys with healthy egos. They've also put hours and hours and hours and weeks and months into raising money and they all think there's going to be, maybe, this opening. After tonight, you did see, not in Governor Kasich's case, but with Rubio and Cruz going after Trump so aggressively, maybe you think again. There's going to be one last chance before Trump pulls away. So if you're Kasich - I understand the rationale; a lot of people in the "establishment" say get out. Let your supporters consolidate around Rubio. His answer is Rubio hasn't won a state. Why are you telling me to get out? If he starts winning, then that pressure might work. So right now Rubio says he's going to wait, at least until Florida. Kasich said he's going to wait, at least until Ohio. Cruz is waiting, at least through Texas. It looks like Cruz will win his home state of Texas and the longer those guys stay in, the longer Donald Trump racks up the delegate lead and pulls ahead. He's not at the point where he can't be stopped but he's starting to inch out there where -

[Cross Talk]

ANDERSON: There were multiple opportunities for Governor Kasich to, I'm not even saying go after Donald Trump, but even just - I mean, he was asked about is getting rid of waste, fraud and abuse is that enough to deal with the deficit, and he totally punted on that

CARPENTER: It's like John Kasich is trying to be the rational alterna - the last guy standing, the nice guy, like the default option of if all is fails. It's kind of funny. Like, Marco Rubio was talking earlier in the week about the possibility of taking it to the convention. It's like everyone just keeps trying to extend their fire wall more and more and more because no one can really believe that Donald Trump will be the nominee and so they're all setting up scenarios where maybe I'll they'll get it this way or that way because no one can come to terms with the fact that Donald Trump might roll through Super Tuesday. So they all kind of have a strategy that they think is somewhat plausible, somewhat; someday; somehow.

NAVARRO: It's the second stage of grief; it's called denial.


HENDERSON: And none of those strategies include actual wins.

CARPENTER: Yes, that's the problem.

HENDERSON: In none of those strategies include actual wins. I mean, that's the problem.

NAVARRO: The problem is, when you get into a room with donors, which is where this brokered convention idea was brought up, donors, the first question out of their mouth is, what is your path to victory? And if you're getting to March 15th without having won a single state, you've got to come up with something outside the box, like a brokered convention. I think the timing, you know, we just talked about Cruz in Texas, Kasich in Ohio, Marco in Florida. The timing is so important because for Cruz, that litmus test comes in four days; it comes on Tuesday. If he wins Texas he's going to get a bump out of that; no if, and's or butts, whereas Kasich and Marco have got to wait another 15 days.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: But the question is, even if they win their home states, how does it fundamentally, or does it, can it, will it fundamentally change the dynamics of the race because on --

NAVARRO: If they don't win it, it fundamentally changes of the -

KING: If they don't win, they're gone.


KING: But even if, say Tuesday, let's say he has a healthy margin in his home states. It's still proportional.


KING: Donald Trump will still get delegates and he might win the other ten, or he'll win eight of the other ten. Then on - if Rubio and Kasich both win on the 15th, Trump wins the rest of them.

NAVARRO: Well at least they get to stand on a podium and give a victory speech associated with a victory.


AMANDA CARPENTER, FORMER COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, TED CRUZ: I do think we saw the beginning of the Dump Trump movement in real time on that stage, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz teaming up to take on Donald Trump. Let's say Cruz does win Texas. A lot of people who are on the stop Trump at any cost train will say, you know, maybe Ted Cruz is our guy. I mean, this coalescing thing is still going on, and we've got to remember how fast this calendar has been designed.

HEWITT: They don't - they don't like Ted Cruz either though, Amanda.

CARPENTER: Things can change very, very fast in this environment.

HEWITT: They've designed it hoping to get an early nominee.

CARPENTER: I know, right.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON: And an establishment nominee.

KING: Here's my question for all you guys who know republican donors, and you're a Trump supporter so you don't want to answer this question; but where's the big money? If you thought that Cruz and Rubio effect lively presented the arguments tonight and if you thought if you did that on a sustained, consistent basis you could stop Trump or slow Trump anyway, where does the Republican Super PACs to go after is Donald Trump?

CARPENTER: The thing that I thought was interesting, you know, really in the last 48 hours, is Mitt Romney sort of pushing and throwing these attacks out there. I don't know what the donors are going to do. There's a lot of them that are scared. They've been in the press talking about it, but there's a lot of people on the side signs. There's Governor Perry, there's Chris Christie. There's people who were in the race who, if they decided to start throwing bombs in the press, forcing Donald Trump to answer questions, it could have an effect.

COOPER: Well, if you're Marco Rubio, do you start -- or even Ted Cruz -- do you start to have press conferences with some of those Polish workers who were hired by Donald Trump? Do you start to have people from Trump University who are suing Donald Trump at a press conference?

CARPENTER: Here's the thing that -

COOPER: Do you try to kind of do, like, the split vote --

HEWITT: There's two tracks right now: there's the fundamentals and there's the atmospherics. A debate like tonight changes the atmospherics, absolutely. I think Marco Rubio had a fantastic night. He was aggressive. This was the Marco Rubio people wanted to see for so long. The question is, how do you change the fundamentals which, as John has demonstrated, are very deeply rooted right now. Now, the way you do that is Marco Rubio has

to have the night he had tonight every day, 24/7 for -until Donald Trump is knocked down to size and then it becomes a two-man race.

Or, you know, Ted Cruz does the same by coming out of Texas with a big giant win. And that is -- the problem is every single day that it doesn't happen is a wasted day.

The Republican Party is fundamentally changing here. The era of Bush, this was no small thing with Jeb Bush's defeat and withdrawal. So this party is on the verge of becoming the party of Trump. You've got all these people out here who are terrified and yet at the same time, the oldest rule in politics, they want to be on a winner. They're standing there, freezing on the sidelines. They're not going to do, I think, what Amanda's saying because they're terrified that if they make the wrong decision he'll remember.

Let's take a quick break. Much more with our panel ahead. Also tonight we're going to get a reality check, this time on claims the candidates made on stage. The question, did they tell the truth, stretch the truth or just snap it directly in half? We'll be right back.


[00:37:44] Well, in all the personal back and forth on stage here tonight in Houston, candidates were throwing facts around as well. Our Tom Foreman tonight has been busy to see how factual some of those facts really were. He joins us now with a reality check. Tom?

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Anderson; I'm sure a lot of people had no idea they'd be hearing so much about Polish workers tonight but it started with a fierce exchange between Marco Rubio and Donald Trump; listen.


RUBIO: You're the only person on this stage that's ever been fined for hiring people to work on your projects illegally. You hired some workers from Poland --

TRUMP: No, I'm the only one on the stage who hired people. You haven't hired anybody.

[Cheering and Applause] RUBIO: He hired workers from Poland and he had to pay a million dollars or so in a judgment.

TRUMP: Wrong. That's wrong.

RUBIO: That's a fact.

TRUMP: That's totally wrong.


FOREMAN: What are they talking about? Well they're talking about something many of you have probably seen when you go to New York. Trump Tower on 5th Avenue, which opened in 1983, to put this building up they had to tear the old building down and so Trump hired a subcontractor, whom this lawsuit says brought in undocumented workers from Poland and then there were 200 Polish aliens on the job, sometimes referred to as the "Polish brigade", whom the company paid less than union workers, far less; less than half of what union workers would have made, about $4 an hour. 12 hour days of work there on top of which the lawsuit and then the "New York Times" and other media outlets found there were also inadequate insurance and pension payments for many of these workers, and when the company went bankrupt some of them missed their paycheck altogether and didn't get paid.

Trump said all along he knew nothing about any of this, it was being handled by the subcontractor; didn't know about people being on the job who were undocumented. Nonetheless, the court found that Trump was part of a conspiracy to withhold wages from these people in a substantial amount, $325,000 worth, and the prosecutor said it actually might have been millions. We'll never know because the whole lawsuit was eventually, after many years, settled with undisclosed terms.

So we don't know where Rubio got his $1 million claim here, but overall, what he said about Trump was mostly true, and Trump's response to all of it was false. It was also false when he said he was the only one who hired anybody. He hired maybe more than most people, but they all had to hire people on their staffs for various reasons.

[00:40:01] Another big talking point here, as it has been in every debate for the Republicans, has been Obamacare, which Cruz and Rubio both went after; listen.

CRUZ: I want to end it because it goes too far. It's killed millions of jobs and its hurting people's health care.

RUBIO: It is a health care law that is basically forcing companies to lay people off, cut people's hours, move people to part-time. It is not just about health care. It is a job killing law and I will repeal it as president and we will replace it with something substantially better for all Americans.

A job killing law? Republicans have enjoyed saying this a great deal but the Kaiser Family Foundation did some research which was released last Fall which showed that only 4-percent of employers had moved workers to part-time to try to not pay health care benefits for them and 4-percent also had reduced their staff to deal with all of this. In any event, it does not suggest the cataclysm that they suggested. It was confirmed by another study as well, on top of which the situation has been slowly improving with the economy and it's really impossible to establish a firm cause and effect between Obamacare and what's happening with some of these jobs. So we're going to have to say that their claims about this, for both of them, false.

And if you want to know more about all of this, how we make these decisions and many other things that our wonderful reality check team looked at, go to check; Anderson?

COOPER: All right; Tom Foreman. Back with our panel; do you think this knock on Donald Trump about hiring undocumented Polish workers, which was a lawsuit that went on for a long time, you think it's in the weeds?

JEFFREY LORD, TRUMP SUPPORTER: I mean, in the weeds. I mean, I just --

COOPER: Trump's response was look; this is 30 something years ago.

LORD: I find it hard to believe that Polish workers is going to be the rallying cry for defeating Donald Trump. I just don't see it. I mean, it's not a major issue.

NAVARRO: It's not the Polish workers, it's the hypocrisy. Tonight is not going to be the end all be all on that issue. If they want it to be effective there need to be ads in the next four or five days surrounding that issue and very effective ads as Kevin was saying in the break, we haven't seen any memorable ads in this election.

CARPENTER: I would say, there was a lot of material to work with on the issue of hiring illegal aliens. One of the lines that really stuck out to me early on in the debate when he was talking about how he couldn't find good American help in Palm Beach. I mean, how elitist, how arrogant, essentially saying it's hard to find good help. Those are rich people problems. Those aren't things that regular people struggle with. That is exclusively to Donald Trump and in a place like Palm Beach, so swanky.

HENDERSON: And I think it's Donald Trump sticking it to the little guy, whether it's Trump University, the Polish workers or not being able to find good help. He's the one -

COOPER: So do they continue those attacks? I mean, do you start to see those students showing up in ads?

HEWITT: well, do the campaigns is get nimble enough to do that? Do they find those people and try to get them to participate at campaign events? That would be good. If you can personalize an attack it makes it all the better and be - will they spend -- do they have the resources? Remember, these candidates now who are still in the race, they have money. Cruz has more than Rubio who has more than Kasich. They have money, but it's hard when you're running 10, 12 states at a time and then five states the next week. That money goes fast. So, do they have the resources or does the Super PAC community, as I said before, step up and mount some anti-Trump campaign? It's hard to break through in the election - so you're probably going to have to look past Tuesday --

COOPER: It's also interesting because these issues, -- I mean, I asked Donald Trump about the Polish workers my first interview with him, I don't know how many months ago, and he response was the exact same: this is something you're bringing up from 30 years ago. Come on, is that all there is? But it's interesting that nobody has run commercials on it previously. It's been a long time --

HEWITT: They left him alone for nine debates. I mean, Bush went after him a little bit and a couple of spars in the past debates but all the people running campaigns can tell you it has to be repetition, repetition, repetition.

KEVIN MADDEN, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: It also has to be done when voters are beginning to form their opinions about a candidate and one of the problems with waiting this long is that people's opinions about Donald Trump have calcified, particularly his supporters. They are dug in and what they -- when they hear one attack and one debate about Polish workers and what they've heard for six months is, I'm going to build a wall, on the issue of immigration, which do you think is going to have a greater impact on their perception of Donald Trump? I would argue that -- the argument that was made over a longer period of time, the wall, is probably going to win.

COOPER: All right, we're going to hear from Jeffrey and then we're going to play another exchange.

JEFFREY LORD, TRUMP SUPPORTER: Somewhere, when this campaign is over, we're going to find out when these opposition campaigns began their oppo research on Donald Trump and I'm willing to bet they didn't do a whole heck of a lot because they didn't take him more seriously. So now it's too late.

MADDEN: Either than or they looked in the Manhattan phone book and they didn't know where to start.

COOPER: Let's play another exchange between Rubio and Trump.


RUBIO: If he builds the wall the way he built Trump Towers he'll be using illegal immigrant labor to do it.

[Cheers and Applause]

TRUMP: Such a cute soundbite.

RUBIO: It's not a soundbite; it's a fact. Again, go online and Google it. Donald Trump Polish workers, you'll see it. The second thing about the trade [00:45:01] war, I don't understand because your ties and the clothes you make is in Mexico and in China. So you're going to be starting a trade war against your own ties and your own shoes.

[Cheers and Applause]

TRUMP: You know why? Because they devalue their currencies. They devalue their currencies -

RUBIO: Well then make them in America that make it -

TRUMP: Well, you don't know a thing about business.

RUBIO: Then make them in America.

TRUMP: Let me just tell you, they devalue their currencies, China, Mexico, everybody; Japan, with the cards. They devalue their currencies to such an extent that our businesses cannot compete with them. Our workers lose their jobs -

RUBIO: That's why you make them in China, not in Russia.

TRUMP: -- but you wouldn't know anything about it because you're a lousy businessman.

RUBIO: Well I don't know anything about bankrupting four companies. You bankrupted four companies. I don't know anything about it.

[Cheers and Applause]

TRUMP: You know why? You know why?

RUBIO: I don't know anything about starting a university --

MODERATOR: One at a time.

RUBIO: -- that was a fake university.

MODERATOR: One at a time.

TRUMP: That's called -- let me just tell you.

RUBIO: There are people that borrow $36,000 to go to Trump University -

WOLF BLITZER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hold on, one at a time Mr. Trump.

RUBIO: -- and they're suing him now. $36,000 to go to university -

TRUMP: By the way - by the way -

RUBIO: That's a fake school.

TRUMP: And by the way -

RUBIO: You know what they got? They got to take a picture with a cardboard cutout of Donald Trump. That's what they got for their $36,000.

BLITZER: All right, I want to move on.

TRUMP: By the way I won most of the lawsuits; and they actually did a very good job but I won most of the lawsuit.

Here's a guy that buys a house for 179,000. He sells it to a lobbyist, who's probably here, for $380,000 and then legislation was passed. You tell me about this guy. This is what we're going to have as president?

RUBIO: Here's a guy who $200 million. If he hadn't inherited $200 million you know where Donald Trump would be right now?

TRUMP: No, no, no, no, no. No, no, no.

RUBIO: Selling watches in Manhattan.

[Cheering and Applause]

TRUMP: That's wrong. I took -- that is so wrong. We'll work on that. I took $1 million and I turned it into $10 billion.

RUBIO: Oh, okay, $1 million.

TRUMP: I borrowed $1 million.

RUBIO: Release your tax returns so we can see how money you make.

TRUMP: I borrowed $1 million. I turned it into 10 billion.

RUBIO: Donald, you did not make that much money.


COOPER: So that happened? That was quite an exchange.


COOPER: That was quite an exchange.

NAVARRO: I kept thinking, I just felt such pity for whomever was having to do the simultaneous translation for Telemundo. Can you imagine that one? They need a break.

COOPER: I couldn't figure out who was screeching in the hall there. That strange voice in the back.

HENDERSON: I think what is going to be interesting is what does Trump do now with Marco Rubio because he has been so great at branding other opponents. Ted Cruz, he's branded him as a liar. He talked about Jeb Bush's low energy.

COOPER: The term (inaudible) comes to mind.

HENDERSON: I mean, in this -- you know, Marco Rubio is going to be branded by Donald Trump at a time that he needs to start winning and to start finding himself. COOPER: And I think we heard someone made this point earlier. Choking.

[Cross Talk]

COOPER: We're starting to hear that word a lot now tonight. I sense we're going to hear a lot about it from the days ahead.

MADDEN: Right, but, look, I think what we learned from that exchange though, too, was Marco Rubio is aggressive. I tried to use the analogy earlier, he looked like a boxer working a speed grab. He did the one thing that Donald Trump hasn't really experienced during this campaign which is somebody relentlessly attacking him and being on offense and interrupting him and stopping him and coming back. He hates that and I think he -- that was -- he had some tough moments there when you actually challenged him.

CARPENTER: The one thing I really thought was most interesting about that exchange was how Marco Rubio brought up the issue of Trump University, not they went to court and did those kind of things, but he charged students $36,000 and it probably wasn't a quality education. Look at what's going on on the democratic side of the aisle. Student loans is a huge deal. I mean, a lot of people on the left want automatic loan forgiveness. To go against a guy in a general election who profited off students and sent them little cardboard cutouts, that is devastating.

COOPER: We've got to take a quick break. More with our panel, more of tonight's remarkable moments; we'll be right back.


[00:52:26] Well, at the top of the hour we showed you some key moments from the rather heated debate, you might say. Now just the heat as much as you can pack into one minute. put it together. Take a look.


RUBIO: I don't know anything about bankrupting four companies.

CRUZ: Where was Donald? He was firing Dennis Rodman on "Celebrity Apprentice."

TRUMP: You should be ashamed of yourself.

RUBIO: If he builds the wall the way he built Trump Tower, he'll be using illegal immigrant labor to do it.

TRUMP: He lied; 100%.

RUBIO: If he hadn't inherited $200 million, you know where he'd be right now? Selling watches in Manhattan.

CRUZ: This is another area on which Donald agrees with Hillary Clinton. TRUMP: I think Bush did a hell of a bad job. First of all, very few people listen to your radio show, that's the good news.

RUBIO: A lot of these positions that he's now taking are new to him.

TRUMP: When you say crazy zealot, are you talking about you?

RUBIO: You may not be aware of this Donald, because you don't follow this stuff very closely -

TRUMP: I know you're embarrassed, but keep fighting; keep swinging, man. Swing for the fences.

I watched him meltdown and it was one of the saddest things I've ever seen.

You're a lot of fun up here. Thank you for the book. I really -

CRUZ: Donald, relax.

TRUMP: I'm relaxed; you're my basket-case.


COOPER: When it's all truncated like that, it is like a "Housewives" reunion episode.


COOPER: Doesn't feel like that when you're watching in real time, but all together -- just moving forward, I mean, what happens tomorrow? Do we see Rubio out on the campaign trail?

HEWITT: I think you have to see that Rubio on a consistent basis now; but remember, Trump also has a history, if wakes up and thinks he didn't have a good day of changing the race by saying something or doing something

NAVARRO: Wake up! He's going to be tweeting in the middle of the night.

[Cross Talk]

HEWITT: If he doesn't like the dynamic he does have a history of sort of pulling the pin and rolling the grenade and changing the conversation.

The former president of Mexico will be heard from again, I'm sure, courtesy of the Trump campaign.

COOPER: The former who?

HEWITT: The former president of Mexico.

COOPER: Vicente Fox, that's who came out.

HEWITT: Yes, exactly.

COOPER: Nia, how -

HENDERSON: You know, I think that's the question: what does Trump do? I think we sort of know what he's going to do. He's going to go nuclear on Marco Rubio going forward. Then I think the problem that Marco Rubio has. He had a fantastic night tonight. He showed up in a way they hadn't shown up before, but on Tuesday, the debate's going to be in the rearview mirror. If he can't win two, three, four, five contests, and right now the data just isn't there to suggest that he will do that well --

KING: And he is right, the Rubio campaign, if they're going to be effective, they have to take this debate atmosphere and start using it and executing upon this strategy that they have going right at Donald Trump, all the way from here, all the way through the March 1 and March 15 contest.

CARPENTER: I think Cruz's play going into Super Tuesday is something he [00:55:01] touched on a number of times in the debate is that, you now, you can't trust Donald Trump because he wants to be a Washington deal maker that won't stand up for Republican values. That is also a slight also to Marco Rubio because he also did the Washington deal with the "Gang of Eight." If he can tie those together a little bit, it looks like he's going frontally at Trump, that's where he's going to go.

HEWITT: I think the "Gang of Eight" will come back. I do think that this, I'll say it again, the Vicente Fox thing, this was not a small thing. This was Donald Trump's hot button issues. This is what, I think, got him here. This guy has just stirred it -

COOPER: For Donald Trump.

HEWITT: Right. started it. This is like poking a hornet's nest here, in terms of the American people. Essentially, I'm sure in the view of some, insulting them and saying, hey, we've got the right to flood your border and you can't do anything about it and we don't care.

NAVARRO: No, that's not what he was saying, but okay.


NAVARRO: Listen, I think what you're going to see tomorrow is you're going to see Donald Trump focus his cannons straight at Marco Rubio. Until tonight, you had not seen that. For the last few weeks Donald Trump has been focused on Ted Cruz, building up the liar narrative, the he's not worthy, he doesn't live up to his social values. I think tonight, you're going to see a shift on that. He's got a new target and that target is named Marco Rubio; and Marco has got a new target. His name is Donald Trump.

COOPER: We're going to have more ahead. Stay with us.