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Waiting on Final Alaska Votes for the GOP; Results of Super Tuesday. Aired 1-2a ET

Aired March 2, 2016 - 01:00   ET


[01:00:01] AMANDA CARPENTER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: That probably helped Ted Cruz the most. I don't know if Ben Carson is going to do that or not, but I think that's a growing recognition that among the establishment, these are establishment types pushing Ben Carson to drop out and do this, but Ted Cruz is the vehicle to do this. And one dynamic that I think has changed in the race for Donald Trump and Jeffrey may want to talk about this is the growing recognition that he is not the best person to take on Hillary Clinton.

We saw the events in the last week. The last CNN Republican debate where he was more unhinged than he's been. The comments about the KKK coming out, fair enough, that was a big part of the discussion, and there's been polling showing that he doesn't match up well against Hillary Clinton because more than anything, Republicans want to win in November. Donald Trump's brand is winning.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Jeff Lord, do you believe -- do believe that, that he doesn't match up well against Hillary Clinton?

JEFFREY LORD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No, I don't, I don't. You know, one of the things I was looking at tonight -- there was a Gallup poll from December of 1979 that had Jimmy Carter beating Ronald Reagan, 60 percent to 32 percent. And the whole dynamics of that internals and all that, which is terrible for Ronald Reagan. And a year later, Reagan was president-elect having carried 44 states. So absolutely, I don't believe that.

COOPER: Kevin, do you buy Amanda's belief that establishment figures wanting to approach, based on Dana Bash's reporting, wanting to approach Ben Carson about perhaps dropping out, running -- is an acknowledgment that Rubio is the best candidate or is this just a sign of they just want to try to whittle down the field.

KEVIN MADDEN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I think they want -- I think that's right. I think it's the latter. That they want to whittle down the field. I think Carson is the first step.

COOPER: Right.

MADDEN: I don't believe he has a -- you know, a monolithic block of transferable votes that's going to, you know, dramatically impact the trajectory of the race, but I think many of these candidates, I mean, if you look at Cruz and Kasich and Rubio, they all have figures that can influence them or they're very close to they can in some way, have them look at this race in a new way. And all of them right now are talking to them in some way trying to get them to look at how they can unify the party because increasingly every step of the way we see people get more and more worried about Donald Trump. The question is whether or not the fundamentals were so set right now that there's much we can do right now.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: You know Kasich denies, for example, that Mitt Romney tried to get him to drop out. In fact, he says he got an e-mail from Romney after the last debate saying what a great job he did. I think the establishment would like the field to winnow down. And I think most of them would like --


MADDEN: You know what it is, Gloria? Part of it is, there's no one central dominating figure.

BORGER: Right. Exactly.

MADDEN: And we've seen this, this is good for the party when parties have -- tend to have their power paradigms, you know, diminish and there's more grassroots voices, but in this case, where there is a power lever that can be pulled, it's simply not there.

BORGER: There isn't anyone.

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: One thing Amanda said was that more than anything Republicans want to win in November, but you look at these exit polls, and there's absolutely no evidence of that. In fact electability is the least desirable -- I mean that's the quality --


LORD: One of the reasons to that I think, David, is --

CARPENTER: It's because they see that Hillary Clinton is so vulnerable. I've talked among Republicans, we feel that this is the election where Hillary Clinton is so weak the Democratic farm team is so depleted, we can get whatever we want. I think they're overreaching going with the Trump but I think that's why --


MADDEN: We have the highest negatives over the Democratic nominee than we've ever seen except that Donald Trump will have much higher. So it's going to be all of a sudden this race to see who hits the bottom last.

AXELROD: But there's a serious point here about electability falls to the bottom of the list of people's concerns. Shared values, you know, is another one. Shaking things up. You know, telling it like it is.

LORD: Too many Republicans. AXELROD: Bring about changes. These are the qualities that are

dominating the choice of Republicans. So they're not making a choice based on who they think -- Marco Rubio dominates that category about electability and he is not soaring in this race.

LORD: Too many Republicans are paying --

BORGER: Dominate the --


COOPER: One at a time. Jeff.

LORD: Too many Republicans, remember, being sold on the Mitt Romney is electable, John McCain is electable, Gerald Ford is electable, Bob Dole is electable, none of them were electable.


BILL PRESS, HOST, "THE BILL PRESS SHOW": Well, there is a problem with that, however, which is if you put somebody up there who is not electable, you're going to lose everything.

LORD: Unless of course they really are. Just can't see it.

PRESS: It's great to get the message out. Right? It's great to really feel good that you get your guy that is antiestablishment, anti-everything, but if you can't win, it's just a waste of time.

DAN PFEIFFER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think if you ask Democratic confidantes and strategists who they would most want to run against this election, it's Ted Cruz. Hands down, no question. Donald Trump, who goes in with huge negatives, but he has shown himself to be an immensely talented politician who has wiped the floor with some of the best figures in the Republican Party. He has an ability to bring out new voters, change the paradigm, huge vulnerabilities and flaws, but Ted Cruz would be our Democratic choice.

[01:05:02] BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: And the reason being is because Ted Cruz fundamentally doesn't change the map. I mean, it's still the same 2008 map, still the same 2012 map, the same terrain. I mean, Donald Trump, at least in theory, although I don't think this can be proven to be true, but at least in theory plays in New Jersey, plays in Pennsylvania. He plays in Ohio where as we talk before he may have a little bit more of a shot. He plays in Michigan. But Ted Cruz, fundamentally, and I was at one point I said Donald Trump was probably the favorite candidate we want to run against.

But I think it's actually shifting to Ted Cruz. I mean, I think Democrats across the country don't really fear either, but Ted Cruz is the candidate that is easily defeatable.


AXELROD: Look, there's an immutable reality about our politics, OK. We've been becoming a more -- and our country, we're becoming more diverse each election. I've said this before, we had 26 percent minority vote in 2008, 28 percent in 2012, it's going to be 30 percent or 31 percent in 2016. No party is going to win a national election if they get wiped out among that closes to third of the electorate.

And that is a fundamental problem for the Republican Party if they nominate a candidate, and I think both Cruz and Trump stand to have this problem who cannot make inroads with those constituents.

SELLERS: And you hit the nail on the head because one of the things -- and this is the problem with the Republican conversation. That is what drives Kevin Madden mad, I'm sure, is that when you have these antagonistic just diatribes coming from Donald Trump at the top of the ticket, we spent the majority of the week talking about the frontrunner of the Republican Party, disavowing the KKK. I mean that was the level of the discussion.

And so when you're talking about these minority groups, every single election cycle, Reince Priebus, he goes on this whole post mortem, we're going to reach out to minorities, where we're going to do better with Hispanics and we're going to do better with African-American. You can't do that fundamentally with Donald Trump at the top of the ticket. That's the problem.

BORGER: And you have -- and you have exit poll after exit poll showing that the category in which Donald Trump does the worst of the Republican candidates is shares your values. Because Donald Trump's candidacy is not about values, it's about a revolution. A mission. A takeover of the Republican Party. And that's -- and that's very different.

COOPER: Although to that point, if tonight, I mean, in those polls in most of these states, it was anger and dissatisfaction which were overwhelming --

AXELROD: Those are driving --

BORGER: It's the driving force but it's not your value. Your personal values.

AXELROD: Change, telling it like it is.

BORGER: Right.

AXELROD: It's a -- you know, I don't want to be coarse but, you know, it's his own version of a digital campaign, he's kind of giving the finger to the establishment. And everybody, everybody -- in a very angry party and people are flocking to him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I almost missed that.

AXELROD: Flocking to him because of it.


CARPENTER: Sitting here absorbing what my Democratic friends of this panel have been saying that they would rather run against Ted Cruz because they think Ted Cruz is more beatable in a general election than Donald Trump, who in the same breath, we talk about, you know, has dominated the headlines this week because he wouldn't disavow the KKK. I mean, this is madness.

SELLERS: About the map.

CARPENTER: Ted Cruz won Texas with 40 percent of Hispanic vote. He has a way to do that, I think he's certainly stronger than Donald Trump. And --

COOPER: We got to get --

CARPENTER: You know, I would feel a lot better about that ticket.

COOPER: We got a key race alert. I want to go to Wolf Blitzer -- Wolf.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Anderson, we do have a key race alert. Let's take a look at the last contest. Still outstanding Alaska right now, 6 percent of the vote is in. Donald Trump is ahead, 34.2 percent, Ted Cruz in second place, 29.9 percent. Marco Rubio, in third place, 18.4 percent. Very early, Alaska, 28 delegates at stake.

I want to go back to Paul Vercammen, he's in Anchorage, one of the polling places, one of the caucus sites out there.

Are they done where you are right now, Paul?

PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, not even close. And in fact, as we've been talking, they've been counting as we go, and excuse me if you don't mind. This is what it looks like. This is the official ballot and this is now District 22 in West Anchorage. Another of the more brisk districts in Alaska. Don't forget, four years ago they had three total votes of another district, but here we go.

We got Marco Rubio with 126 here in District 22. We have Donald Trump with 233. We've got Ben Carson with 52, and Ted Cruz with 187. Kasich with 33, and again, this is District 22 in West Anchorage. And momentarily, if you look just over here, District 24 also being counted up, and as soon as they have any of these raw numbers for us, they will give them to us, but they are still in the process of counting as we said, they were absolutely astounded by the large voter turnout throughout Alaska, reports from all over the state, people voting Republican who otherwise were independents, and some of them Democrats are allowed to do this in this presidential preference poll. Back to you now.

BLITZER: All right, Paul Vercammen in Anchorage, Alaska, for us. Donald Trump slightly ahead, Anderson, but it's still very, very early there.

[01:10:06] COOPER: David Axelrod, I mean, we hear yet again high voter turnout on the Republican side. We've talked about this a little bit before but how concerned are you about the so-called enthusiasm gap in a general election?

AXELROD: Well, I mean, I think if -- I think the Democratic Party should be concerned about that. The -- and I think -- as I've said before, I think it's a natural thing. One of the reasons why parties don't win third terms is their voters become a bit complacent, and the other party is aroused. And that's what's happened here. But then you have the added dimension of a Donald Trump, and I think the saving grace may be if he's the nominee of the party, and Cruz has a polarizing impact as well. If he's the nominee of the Republican Party, I think you're going to see key Democratic constituencies very much motivated to come.

COOPER: And, Bakari, that's your point. I mean, Paul Begala several days ago said this is what keeps him up at night as a Democrat. You actually think the presence of Donald Trump, if he's the general election candidate, that's going to drive Democratic enthusiasm.

SELLERS: I think that Donald Trump is the best geo TV mechanism or junk the vote mechanism that Democrats could ever have. I mean, especially you talk about Virginia, you talk about North Carolina, you talk about Texas. I mean, I'm not under any illusion Democrats will win Texas, but you have these large swaths of minority voters that we have ready-made ads for Donald Trump right now.

I mean, it's not hard to develop an image of Donald Trump disrespecting some ethnic group. I mean, that is not a farfetched ideal. And so I think that is something that the Republican Party's having a lot of fear with because not only does it affect the presidential ticket, but it also affects Rob Portman versus Ted Strickland. It also affects the Senate map. And it just changes a whole lot of dynamics that I think the Republican establishment is taking a step back and saying how do we brace ourselves for this, we've never seen anything like it?

LORD: You know --

PRESS: If I could --


PRESS: I agree that I think Donald Trump would be the best geo TV vehicle for the Democrats. I also think he's the best geo TV vehicle for the Republicans.

LORD: Yes. Absolutely.

PRESS: I think it's been proven in the primary.

SELLERS: No doubt.

PRESS: I've been spending a lot of time tonight think, how are Democrats going to run against Donald Trump? Because it looks like he's going to be the nominee. And I think Democrats take it for granted that it's going to be easy to roll over Donald Trump.

LORD: They're making a big mistake. COOPER: Yes.

PRESS: Huge mistake.

COOPER: Because there's a lot of Republicans who made that same mistake.


PRESS: He's got a lot of cross party appeal to blue-collar workers, you know, to independents, to first-time voters. He's brought them out in the primaries. He can bring them out in the general.

PFEIFFER: And he has the best economic message that any Republican candidate has had since Reagan. He is running as a populous reformer, champion of the working class. The next Republican president will have an economic message, more like Donald Trump than Paul Ryan or Mitt Romney in 2012.


MADDEN: I agree -- just real quick, I agree that, you know, Democrats need to be very careful what they wish for here. And if we look at some of the states, in places like Ohio, in places like Florida, he could have an appeal to a lot of those blue-collar, lower income, white voters that are going to be key in some of these sort of the turnout areas of those states.

But I think what Democrats will probably learn, which is that the -- that the Republicans learn too late is that when you define Donald Trump early and you -- you know, sort cut off the supply lines to those populous demographics then you -- or those demographics that are motivated by populous economics, you can have a fighting chance.

AXELROD: I think that --

MADDEN: The nuance is whether or not you can introduce him to new information.

SELLERS: That is also why this Democratic race is so interesting because I believe there's going to become a point relatively soon on the Democratic side where both candidates, because I don't -- I'm going to believe that Bernie Sanders doesn't need to get out of the race either, but both candidates can then begin to pivot and begin to define Donald Trump. And I think you'll begin to see that a lot earlier from the Democrats than you --


CARPENTER: And I want to talk about Donald Trump and getting out to vote on the Republican side. I want to pick up on something that Bill was mentioning. I'm not so sure that he's great for geo TV on the Republican side because there's people like me, the conservative, you know, maybe pure --

PRESS: How many primary -- SELLERS: Are you going to come out -- are you voting for Hillary


CARPENTER: There's a whole thing saying never Trump. I have a very hard time thinking of myself going and pulling the lever for someone who doesn't respect the First Amendment. That called women bimbos. I have a daughter, I can't vote for a president who potentially called my daughter a bimbo. Those are real concerns. Now I don't think I'm going to vote Hillary. I'd probably write somebody in. I'd probably vote for a third party candidate. But for Republican women who maybe aren't as hard lined as me, I think it's very hard for them to vote --

LORD: What we're leaving out of this conversation entirely are Hillary and her negatives. I mean, this is somebody on the public scene for what, 30 years or more. They all know her. I keep going back to this poll that we had this summer where the -- I guess it was a Quinnipiac poll where they asked people to volunteer. You know, their -- and the word -- the top word was liar, and the second one was dishonest.

MADDEN: I mentioned that. I mentioned that earlier.


[01:15:01] LORD: And Donald Trump is not going to be running in a vacuum.

MADDEN: I mentioned this earlier, the only way that you could really put yourself in peril, not beating Hillary Clinton would be to nominate somebody who had higher negatives, and guess what, Donald Trump has higher negatives than Hillary Clinton.

SELLERS: And Donald Trump has actually -- I mean, Hillary Clinton's been defined since 1992. I mean, this is nothing new. She's been in the public spotlight since then. Who hasn't been defined in this political process has been Donald Trump.


COOPER: David.

AXELROD: The one thing that I think Democrats should learn from this experience, watching this primary campaign, if Donald Trump is the nominee is that you have to put maximum pressure on Donald Trump from the beginning.


AXELROD: He's played this entire game on the other side of the field, on other people's side of the field, he's always on offense. He's got people on defense. And I suspect that you're going to see a very aggressive campaign to make him defend that.

COOPER: There is -- I mean, to David's point, Gloria, there is an advantage that whoever the Democratic candidate is will have against Donald Trump assuming he's the candidate is that they have learned the lessons that a lot of Republicans failed to learn early on because they have been able to watch what worked and what did not work against Trump.

BORGER: Well, nothing worked. Right? Nothing worked. And the Democrats, as David was -- I mean, the Republicans as David was saying just thought Donald Trump was going to implode on his own.

COOPER: Right.

BORGER: And he didn't do that. And if Hillary Clinton is running against Donald Trump, a woman, running against Donald Trump, I think there are some very potent arguments she can make in a different way, and it's very different. He's going to have to adjust his campaigning for Hillary Clinton, I would say.

COOPER: We've got to take yet another quick break in. Our coverage continues. We'll have more from our panelists as we continue to look at the votes being counted in Alaska. The last state we are waiting for. Details ahead.


[01:20:39] BLITZER: They're still counting the last ballots in the last contest of the Super Tuesday, it's now Wednesday, here in Washington, but in Alaska, it's still Tuesday.

Let's go to Paul Vercammen who's on the scene for us. 7 percent of the vote is in, Paul. Donald Trump is ahead, but not by much. 35.1 percent, 29.6 percent for Ted Cruz. 18.3 percent for Marco Rubio.

You had a chance to speak with a prominent figure there in Alaska.

VERCAMMEN: That's right, earlier this evening, Wolf, Sarah Palin was voting up in Wasilla where as we said it was rather brisk. And I asked Palin pointblank if Trump were to win, and you know she supports him, how does she think he would fair against Hillary Clinton.

Let's take a listen.