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Pre-Debate Coverage; Nancy Reagan Dies at Age 94; Arnold Schwarzenegger Endorsed John Kasich for President. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired March 6, 2016 - 17:00   ET


[17:00:00] WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Hillary Clinton comes in with the significant lead over Bernie Sanders in the critical delegate count. Sanders riding high on the morale boosting double win over Hillary Clinton on Super Saturday. They will step up on the stage tonight just as caucuses close in Maine. Which candidate can harness the momentum today? You will see it all here live as soon as we can project a winner in Maine, we of course will.

First we have to begin with some very sad breaking news. The death of the former first lady of the United States, Nancy Reagan. Wife of the 40th president of the United States. She passed away today of congestive heart failure at age 94. Tributes to Mrs. Reagan are pouring in across the country and from around the world.

My colleague Anderson Cooper is here with me. He knew the former first lady personally.

Anderson, you knew her thanks to your mom.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: I did, yes. I actually grew up knowing Nancy Reagan. My mom and her became very close friends when she was first lady. And she used to stay at our house in New York when she wanted to get away from Washington. And over the years we kept in touch. I saw her in, I took her to lunch in Los Angeles not too long ago. And it just a very sad passing. She, I think, everybody, you know, knew about her elegance, her grace. And her fierce protective nature of the president. And how much, I mean their deep love - I mean, they really had this incredible love story. And as he left the presidency and his Alzheimer's began to take its toll, I mean, she was really his primary care giver for about a decade and went through all of that. And it is a very sad day for everybody who knew her.

BLITZER: It certainly is. And your mother, Gloria Vanderbilt, she is on the phone with us, Anderson, right now.

COOPER: Yes, surreal. My mom.

BLITZER: I would love to hear her thoughts about Nancy Reagan.

COOPER: Hey, mom, are you there?

GLORIA VANDERBILT, FRIEND OF NANCY REAGAN (on the phone): Hi, darling. It is such a sad day. Nancy and I shared a somewhat similar situations and our upbringings, which brought us closer. And because of this she once said to me, we were bound at the hip and that was true. We formed a bond of friendship. She was a loving, you know, devoted friend. And my son -- when my son, Carter, died 29 years ago, she came from Washington it attend the funeral, to be by my side. I don't know if you remember it, but at the funeral at St. James's, we were sitting in the front row at Carter's funeral and this strange woman came in from outside from the street and boldly came down the aisle to where Mrs. Reagan and you and I were sitting. And it was really frightening. But she handled it, the unfortunate situation, with such grace, as if the incident, you know, not even happening, and then of course an attendant jumped forward quickly to usher the intruder out.

COOPER: Mom, what was it about -- what was it about --

VANDERBILT: I admired her so much.

COOPER: Yes. What was it about her - I mean, I remember you used to go to state dinners at the White House. I think you went to one where Princess Diana was there where she danced with John Travolta. What was -- you often talked about how trust worthy Nancy Reagan was as friend. She was always somebody worth to rely on.

VANDERBILT: Yes. I would trust her with my heart in her hand. And she had such fun humor and love of beauty and also a side of her that was a true romantic which of course, I'm all for that. But she was really -- I would trust her with my life.

COOPER: She was also, you know, fiercely protective of her husband. And the love affair between them is something I think that everybody could see.

VANDERBILT: It was absolutely the real thing. There was nothing about it that was -- that was put on or for the public or anything and they just absolutely adored each other.

BLITZER: You know what was so amazing and Gloria Vanderbilt, you will appreciate this, how she became his protector, especially after the assassination attempt during his first year of president. He survive the assassination attempt. All of us remember that. But it seemed to have made her even more devoted to protecting him and can you talk a little bit about that.

VANDERBILT: Well, I think that -- I think that's a -- true. She was absolutely, concentrated on protecting him. And it was as if she had a wall around her which projected him and it was absolutely something that nobody could break or get through at. She was fiercely protective of him.

[17:05:05] COOPER: I also think, mom, a lot of people don't sort of know just what she went through in the later years as president Reagan was declining. I mean, the toll that that took on her and the strength that she was and strength she had to have to get through that is the strength many families have to deal with.

VANDERBILT: Yes. And you know, she was so instinctively intuitively tuned into him, that she was by his side a she could anticipate, as he got more and more into Alzheimer's, she could anticipate and be there by his side to help him get through that. She was really just extraordinary.

COOPER: One of the things I remember, Wolf, she wrote, I think she said publicly or wrote publicly is that, I believe she said Ronnie has gone to a place where I can no longer reach him. And I thought the wording of that was just so touching that, though, he was still alive, he toward the end, apparently didn't recognize her or couldn't really communicate in that way and yet you know, to have the bond they had and then reach the point where she could no longer reach him --

BLITZER: Gloria Borger is with us as well. You covered those years. And she became so devoted later in her years to Alzheimer's research because of her husband, but earlier the whole effort to prevent alcohol and drug abuse really dominated from her first lady perspective.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: She became so devoted to this issue of stem cell research. And she took on a lot of Republicans on that issue and including George Bush.

BLITZER: With the embryonic --

BORGER: The embryonic stem cell research. She wanted several funding for it. And then when President Obama came in to office and provided federal funding for stem cell research, she was a big part of that push.

The thing that's struck, though, in watching our coverage, this of Larry King interviews we had with her, and maybe your mom can speak to this, but she said so poignantly that, you know, everyone says you get over someone's death. Your spouse's death. And she said, I never did.

COOPER: Yes, of course. That word closure is something you see on TV. There's no such thing. Just two little quick stories about the last two times I saw her. She invited me to speak at the Reagan library. Of course it was an honor to do so. And I went and I spoke. And she had a little dinner for people from the library afterward. And she knew there was a bakery in New York that makes something called crack pie which is like this just sinfully delicious pie made out of butter and stuff. And she had like somebody from the Reagan library make crack pie and she made the joked about the fact that, you know, she was giving me crack pie, of course. And the whole just say no thing. But she had a real sense of humor about herself and which I don't think often came across.

And also, just for the last, I spent an afternoon with her one time and I took her out to lunch at a friend's house, and she was just remarkably engaged in the world of politics at the time she was reading game change, the book by Mark Halperin. She was asking me about, you know, various candidates. She was asking me about my thoughts on various individuals, what they are like personally. And she was just so sharp politically, you know, even at the age of, you know, 91, 92, 93. She bass very deeply engaged and very, you know, fascinate bid it all.

BORGER: But that was her life. COOPER: Yes.

BORGER: And she was very engaged in the White House and very protective of her husband when he was in the White House and very --

COOPER: And at the time came under criticism for it.

BORGER: Exactly.

BLITZER: But she did play a significant role, maybe your mom can talk a little bit about this, the fact that she pushed Ronald Reagan as president to establish that personal relationship with Michael Gorbachev when he came to power and the then soviet union, to work towards ending the cold war. And we all know in the 1980s that cold war came to an end. She wasn't just involved in social activities, she helped him every step of the way. You saw that firsthand, Gloria Vanderbilt, didn't you?

VANDERBILT: Absolutely. She was just 100 percent there for him in every way. And politically, I think she is a great, great significance.

COOPER: You know, Anderson, I remember eight years ago exactly you moderated a Republican presidential debate at the Reagan library. She was the host. She took you around.

COOPER: She was. It was so nice. She took me around out. And you know, I have known her for quite a long time and I remember the debate began, we stood next to each other and she, you know, I had my arm and she had her arm in mine and she was just so - she so proud of that library and such a part of it and you know, just so in the DNA of it. And she will -- I'm assuming be laid to rest next to the former president at the Reagan library. I was there for the funeral. I remember covering it for CNN. And you know, it's an extraordinary thing. You know, they had been separated now and there is something nice about the fact that they will be together once again very soon.

[17:10:14] BLITZER: And Anderson, before I let you go, and Gloria Vanderbilt, stay with us for a moment.

Let's talk about this debate tonight, you are going to be moderating our CNN Democratic presidential debate. I assume at the beginning we will pay tribute --

COOPER: We will, absolutely. We will talk about her a little bit and we will have, obviously, a moment of silence.

And actually it is another, I remember my mom would get notes from her about me from Mrs. Reagan watching on television. Watching various news reports.

BORGER: That's cute.

COOPER: Mom, she would always say very nice things.

BLITZER: Let me ask Gloria Vanderbilt. Gloria, what do you think Gloria Vanderbilt, I should say Mrs. Vanderbilt, what do you think, Anderson? How is your son doing? Proud of your little boy?

VANDERBILT: Well, I tell you, I'm so over the moon proud that I'm speechless, you know. I just -- and I am his biggest fan. I watch every single show. Every night. Every night. Everything he does. And you know, I'm just -- I don't know -- I'm just speechless you know. And I'd like to think I had something to do with it.

BLITZER: I think you did. I'm sure you did. You have every reason to be -- that sound like my mom talking out me. We have something in common.

All right, Anderson, anything else we should know about this debate?

COOPER: No. I think it is going to be, you know, it is a fascinating debate. This is really focused on the beginning is really what is happening here in Flint. Obviously, there's a lot of national issues to discuss as well and what happened here frankly is echoed in what is happening in communities throughout the country. So, I think it is going to interesting to hear how the candidates, you know, what they say about what is happening here in Flint and also a lot of the other issues we are going to discuss.

BLITZER: 8:00 p.m. eastern. We are going to be anchoring every step in the way. Up until then, we look forward to the two-hour debate.

COOPER: So now can I say my mom has been in the SITUATION ROOM?

BLITZER: Well, sort of.

BORGER: Can I say I'm thrilled to be in "the SITUATION ROOM" with your mom?

BLITZER: Yes. We got two Gloria.

COOPER: Two Gloria. All right. Mom, thanks a lot, mom.

BLITZER: Gloria Vanderbilt. Thank you so much. Thanks for all your good word. Thanks.

VANDERBILT: Thank you. Lots of love to you all. Bye-bye.

BLITZER: Don't leave yet because we have two-and-a-half more hours before Anderson picks it up at the debate.

Gloria Vanderbilt, thank you very much.

Anderson, thanks to you as well. Gloria, don't leave.

Ahead this hour, the Democratic debate is what a little bit more than two-and-a-half hours from now. What we are expecting to see on the stage tonight. We will update you on that.

Plus the war within the Republican Party. Tuesday's races could change the game.

CNN coverage continues in just a moment. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:16:57] BLITZER: Welcome back to CNN special coverage of our Democratic presidential debate that's about to take place right here in flint, Michigan. The city of course gaining national attention after very dangerous amounts of lead were discovered in the tap water.

A little bit more than two-and-a-half hours from now, the Democratic president candidate Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, they will face-off right here on CNN. We have all of the angles coverage. The best political team on television is here with me. We will break it all down for our viewers here in the United States and around the world.

First, let's go to our senior Washington correspondent Jeff Zeleny. He has got the latest on the Bernie Sanders campaign.

They are gearing up for a significant debate tonight. This is a critical moment in this contest, Jeff.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: It is, Wolf. And Bernie Sanders is coming into this debate tonight with two wins last night in Nebraska and Kansas. He lost Louisiana but their eyes are pointed toward Maine. They think they will be doing a very well in Maine which is voting today at this hour, actually. They think by the time that this debate begins, he may have been victorious in Maine. Of course we will see that.

But he is coming into this with a bit of, he has seven wins, in his column right now, seven state wins. And for Bernie Sanders, this is a moment to show that he is still in this race and this show Democrats why he is still in the race.

Wolf, I have been traveling across Michigan. I was at a big rally with him Friday night in Grand Rapids. And it was some 5,000 or so people that are really responding to his economic message. And Wolf, if there is a state in the country that's a laboratory for this sort of dueling economic messages, I think it is here in Michigan. So that's why this primary in just a couple of days is going to be central to Bernie Sanders.

Now, he is happy that he has this debate at all. It wasn't originally on the schedule. So the Clinton campaign believes that this could give Bernie Sanders one last lifeline to make his case to Democrats here. But he is not holding back on pointing out differences between he and Secretary Clinton. I asked him just a couple of days ago when he was campaigning in Nebraska, actually, if he was going to respond to any of this concern for Democrats who believe that his tone is too sharp against his rival if he is going to tone it down at all and in pointing out differences on her paid speeches on super PACs on Wall Street. He said that's what campaigns are about. He kind of shook me actually, say that's what campaigns are about.

So I look for him to point out differences again tonight. I don't think he will talk about the email controversy. He stayed all the way from that. But he is pointing out with increasing frequency to turn over those Goldman Sachs speeches. So I think he will do that again tonight. And again press his economic message here in Michigan, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes. And he was sort of having some fun at her expense, pointing she was getting what, $250,000 for one of those Goldman Sachs speeches, saying they must have been Shakespearean significant as those speeches worthy amount of money she was getting. He seems to be stepping up the rhetoric. We will see if that continues tonight.

Jeff, stand by. I want to bring in our senior political correspondent Brianna Keilar. She is watching Hillary Clinton's campaign for us. What the latest on that, Brianna?


What Hillary Clinton is really preparing for exactly what Jeff just laid out right there, the thinking of the campaign is that Bernie Sanders is going to come out swinging and last night I was in Detroit at the Michigan Democratic part, a preview sort of a preview to this debate night. And both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders spoke.

Hillary Clinton stayed away from dinging Bernie Sanders but he was drawing a lot of contrast. So I think that Hillary Clinton is expecting that. You look at this new NBC News/"Wall Street Journal" poll where you see that she has a lead of 17 points among likely primary voters. It's only an eight-point lead among Democratic voters, however. And so, it really is in Bernie Sanders favor to try to make a splash in order to energize people and try to get some folks who may not good out to the polls on Tuesday night to go ahead and do that and narrow his lead with Hillary Clinton there.

I will tell you, I think this is going to be a special debate just because of where it is taking place in Flint, Michigan. Both Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton have come to Flint and tried to raise awareness about this problem. And also reach out to the community here and say we are listening. We care about what is happening in this community.

Hillary Clinton's national political director said the water crisis in Flint would not have happened in an affluent white community. So they are talking obviously to the people of Flint. But they are also talking more widely to African-Americans saying we feel like you have been mistreated or are more apt to be mistreated and we're listening to your concerns. So that's also going to be something that I think we expect Hillary Clinton to appeal to tonight here in Flint.

BLITZER: I think you're absolutely right.

All right, Brianna, we will get back to you as well. Bernie Sanders, he entered tonight's presidential debate with morale boosting super Saturday wins. Hillary Clinton has said she is looking past Bernie Sanders right now. Setting her sights, her focus, on the Republicans. So what strategies will Clinton and Sanders unleash tonight?

That and a whole lot more when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [17:26:18] BLITZER: Welcome back. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Flint, Michigan. This is the site of tonight's Democratic presidential debate.

About two-and-a-half hours from now, Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton, they all take the stage. They will go toe to toe for Q&A. Anderson Cooper will moderate.

Let's talk about what we can expect from tonight's presidential debate. Joining us, our CNN political commentator, the former Obama administration official, Van Jones. Also our CNN political commentator and Democratic strategist, Donna Brazile. CNN political director David Chalian is with us and Gloria Borger, our chief political analyst, is with us as well.

David, what does Hillary need to do on the stage behind us tonight?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Well, I think she needs to do no harm. And that is usually what a front-runner needs to do. She has to be a little bit careful here because she is starting to talk more general election messaging on her victory nights when these results come in and yet, she is keenly aware that she still has a primary contender to deal with.

And so, I think what you will see is that she probably won't jump to contrast with Bernie Sanders. But she is not going to let his drawing contrast go by. You will see her respond when she has to. But listen, for the most part of this, look at where we are. Both of these candidates are going to be eager to talk to the community here. That is going to be what they are so focused on. The different kind of debate. It is in a very specific location and they are going to want to talk directly to the communities.

BLITZER: This is a real crisis going on here in this community tonight, Donna. How important is this debate tonight for Bernie Sanders and his presidential campaign?

DONNA BRAZILE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think it's very important for both candidate for obvious reasons we're in Flint, a very distressed community but very resilient community. I mean, Van knows as well as I know about environmental justice. When communities like Flint are frayed upon by those who don't care about people who are poor, who are suffering. Both candidates have to discuss this in ways that will resonate not just here in Flint but across America to distressed communities that really want to know how government will help them.

You know, we hear from Republicans, cut taxes but the government has a small role. Here the government needs a large role in making sure that people here have been poisoned are able to rebound and come back and especially those children, Wolf. Walking down the street, seeing children with rashes, I mean, people yesterday when CNN had a service project, they wanted Neosporin (ph). I kept asking, why you want Neosporin (ph)? Rashes. Wolf, if that doesn't make you fight ant want to do something that help people, what will? BLITZER: It is a heart breaking situation. I have just been here

today and it is good to see the enormity of this crisis. It is a real crisis here in the United States. Bernie Sanders is behind in the Michigan polls and Michigan primaries this coming Tuesday. I want you to listen to what he said about Hillary Clinton and the speeches that she made a lot of money in.


SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If you're going to be paid, $200,000 for a speech, it must be a fantastic speech. A brilliant speech which you would want to share with the American people. Right?


BLITZER: I assume he wants her to release the transcripts of all those speeches she gave. He says she will do it if everybody else releases the transcripts of all of their speeches.

VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: He has to walk a tight rope on that. I think he may have a whole bunch of those zingers ready to go when he gets here. And he looks at this community, they don't want the zingers. We have spent a couple of days here, you know, CNN, we were all over this community. You can't sleep at night.

I mean, what do you do? You wake in the morning and you and can't brush your teeth because it might poison you. You can't make a cup of coffee. You can't take a shower. You can't make Similac for your baby because someone thought it was a good way to save money. And the EPA didn't step in. Somebody is got to take responsibility. So I think that it is time for Bernie Sanders to show that big old heart of his and not that sharp tongue.

[17:30:14] BORGER: And the argument that they are both going to make, to David's point, is they are going to make the same argument which is, this is what happens when you don't fund government properly. This is what happens when you want to take short cuts. This is what happened when you don't have the proper oversight pointing to Republican controlled Congress. And the larger point of course, that both of them are going make, is this is what happens when Republicans run the government. And there's not going to be a lot of --

CHALIAN: The current EPA is not here also.

BORGER: Exactly.

JONES: And so-

CHALIAN: There is going to be blame for everyone.

JONES: So the big challenge here is that the local control was taken away all the jobs left. They got really deepen the hole economically. People don't know this. So then the state stepped in. And so, they didn't have a mayor. They didn't city council. They had an emergency manager. That emergency manner reports to the governor and governor says save money. And that's how they ended up with bad water.

Now, the EPA should have step in at some point. They didn't step in. But I think what you are going to see from Hillary Clinton and say, you want to run government like a business? Are you from Bernie Sanders, Trump? You want CEO? This is the kind of stuff that happens with that mentality. And know Republicans will come back and say, where was the EPA? But I think tonight you are going to hear this argument about running government as a business to save as much money as possible can end up like this.

BORGER: And you are going to hear talk, I would presume, about investment and infrastructure that needs to be made in this country, because in urban areas, infrastructure is falling apart.

BLITZER: In every one of the speeches, you have to fix the nation's infrastructure, the roads, the bridges, everything else. That's one of the main talking points.

BORGER: You know, this is case number A. I mean, letter A. This is a timing --.

BRAZILE: When government loses sight of the common good, I mean, look. We both served in government before. When you lose sight of the common good, when you see people suffering, whether you are the federal government, state government and local government, and you don't step up and you don't provide the resources, when you let kids get poisoned with toxic water. Water, basic simple, you know, quality that we need, that's when government has to play a large role.

So the EPA is now here. HHS is here. All of the acronyms are here. But when residents are in their homes and they cannot get water, I mean, they have no way to get on a bus to carry a case of water, that is when you step up. You stop pointing fingers and --

BLITZER: David, this debate tonight was never scheduled originally. This is an add-on that they put in. So how does that play politically in terms of the front-runner Hillary Clinton versus challenger, shall we say, Bernie Sanders, the fact they have a two-hour debate tonight.

CHALIAN: Well, listen. If you look at the context of where we are in the race right now, Hillary Clinton obviously, as you mentioned earlier, Wolf, has a very significant delegate lead. She is the clear front-runner. And burden is on Bernie Sanders continually, even though he can raise a lot of money and still draw crowds, to proof he is metal that he has a path to win. He is going to have that burden for the next several months if he stays in this race. Because delegate lead is that large ahead of his.

Here is the thing. I doubt, Hillary Clinton, when she agreed to add on this debate, in the midst of her tough time in New Hampshire, an advance to New Hampshire, if she can do it all over again, I don't think she would want to be right now two debates this week with the Michigan primary. I think she would rather be doing other things.

BRAZILE: She is smart to do them for obvious reasons. And I know the rules. We still have over a thousand delegates on the table. This month alone, 28 percent of the votes have been taken, 28 percent of delegates. There's a lot of votes and you have to walk and chew gum. She has to focus on the fall but Bernie Sanders has a credible path if he is able to win big.

CHALIAN: That's why she didn't want it do the debates, I think, because Donna, what this does, this is an amazing opportunity for Bernie Sanders, right. It gives him more oxygen. His ability to raise money --


BLITZER: The front-runners never want to do debates. It is the challengers that want to use debates as an opportunity to argue.

All right, guys. Stand by. We are going to have a lot more coming up. Gloria Borger, David Chalian, Donna Brazile, and Van Jones.

Still ahead, he remains the front-runner. Donald Trump didn't clean up in the super Saturday voting. But there are signs of momentum maybe, maybe, starting to shift just a little bit in the Republican race. We are going to talk about that.

Our panel is standing by. Much more special coverage from Flint, Michigan, right after this.


[17:38:49] BLITZER: Welcome back to CNN special coverage from Flint, Michigan. This is the site of tonight's Democratic presidential debate. The showdown between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders starts just two-and-a-half hours from now. The two candidates will use this debate to court minority working class voters among others. And it comes ahead of the critical Michigan primary this coming Tuesday against the backdrop of the massive toxic water crisis gripping this host city of Flint.

So which candidate can harness the momentum today? You will see the debate live here that's coming up less than two-and-a-half hours from now.

Donald Trump meanwhile wraps up another week of campaigning. Still the front-runner in the Republican race for the nomination. But Ted Cruz turning up the heat. Cruz stealing some of Trump's super Saturday thunder winning two of the last four contests. And in the process narrowing the gap in the delegate count.

Meanwhile, in the last hour, CNN projected that Marco Rubio is the winner of today's Puerto Rico primary, 23 delegates at stake there. Four more states will host presidential contests this coming Tuesday including right here in Michigan.

Let's discuss all of these developments and more. Joining us, our CNN politics executive editor Mark Preston. Our CNN senior reporter Nia- Malika Henderson. Also, joining us, our political commentator, Republican consultant Margaret Hoover. And CNN political commentator, former Reagan White House political director, Jeffrey Lord. To all of you, thanks very much for joining us.

Mark, first of all, explain these two wins by Ted Cruz yesterday, Mark, especially in Maine. He was not necessarily supposed to win m Maine, right?

[17:20:29] MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICS EXECUTIVE EDITOR: No. He certainly wasn't supposed to win in Maine. And what makes it interesting is that when Donald Trump had a string of victories from Iowa to down through the south, you know, he did well. And people said in out west that he had a geographical grip on the country.

Now, Ted Cruz from Texas wins up in Maine as well. And it certainly comes at a time when there is talk about consolidating behind one candidate and establishment wanted Marco Rubio and Marco Rubio really faltered yesterday. He did terrible. Today in Puerto Rico win will lift him a little bit but you have to wonder if that's enough.

BLITZER: Yes. He did not do well yesterday. He did win Puerto Rico decisively massively winning Puerto Rico today.

Margaret, Trump calls now for Rubio to get out of the race. So what is Rubio's argument after a rather poor showing on super Saturday?

MARGARET HOOVER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look, I mean, Wolf, the one thing we all have to keep in mind is that roughly 32 percent of the delegates have been selected at this point, 32 percent.

Now, after March 15th, 50 percent, Wolf, has been selected. So you have a much better sense of where the duration is going but far too early for any right-thinking candidate that has their major stake ahead of them. I mean, last night's map was made for Ted Cruz, was made for Donald Trump. Marco Rubio never thought he was going to win in the Deep South.

So he has every reason to stay in. Frankly, for that matter, so does John Kasich. I mean, it was interesting. Kasich said that he would be dropping out if he didn't win Michigan as early as a month ago. He was running basically gubernatorial campaign in Michigan getting on a bus, going all over the state. You know, he is even going to stand tall in Ohio. Nobody should get out yet. I think the real reasoning comes in after March 15th, a week from now. That's when you really start to see where the tea leaves will fall.

BLITZER: Nia, as you know, turnout in Kansas, the Republican contest, 70,000 plus voters showed up yesterday as compares to about 30,000 who showed up four years ago in 2012. But Trump did lose there. Even though turnout was huge because the assumption was he is bringing out a lot of people who will vote for him. What happens?

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: And this is something he says in every rally, that he is bringing millions and millions of new voters to the Republican Party. He can do what no other candidate does. But here you see in Kansas, this is state where they are expecting maybe 60,000 folks to show up double last time. They printed more ballots but then they had to go to Kinkos and print more ballots because it was just that packed at these caucus sites.

Caucus is, obviously, different than primaries. And I think this does show that Cruz has just been very good at organizing. This something that Trump hasn't really done. He doesn't have much after ground game. He has got a name brand ID. And certainly momentum from all of the wins he has racked up. But this does show some strength for Cruz in terms of his organizing ability with that Kansas win.

It is a state that Santorum one last time, almost by the same margin polling that way of Kansas. And that way it sort of not surprising. But again, it sort of shows I think another flaw in the Trump campaign.

BLITZER: Yes. By all accounts Cruz does have, from the political perspective, very well organized highly efficient --.


BLITZER: Right. That have driven very state of the art, if you will.

Jeffrey, you're a Trump supporter. I don't know if you heard the Republican Party chairman Reince Priebus say this morning on ABC's "This Week" that the tone for the Republicans needs to improve. Has all of the rhetoric that we have been hearing, especially in the last week or ten days, or so ago had a negative impact on the overall Republican brand? .

JEFFREY LORD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I mean, maybe momentarily. But, you know, language and presidential campaigns, although it certainly I can see it's been tougher than usual here, but it can be pretty tough in a lot of these presidential campaigns.

You know, people are accused of being liars. And I mean, you go back in American history. They have been accused of being liars and I think Anderson was pointing out the other night on the air that the Andrew Jackson-John Quincy Adams campaign, they called the Andrew Jackson's wife, the less delicate name for prostitute. Things can get really tough. So I mean, I think that will change as time moves on here.

BLITZER: Jeffrey, stand by. I want everyone to stand by. Jeffrey Lord, Margaret Hoover, Nia-Malika Henderson, Mark Preston. There is much more to discuss. Out conversation on the Republican race with the presidential nomination continues right after a quick break.



[17:49:19] ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER, ACTOR: He was an action hero when he went to Washington.

Then when he ran for governor, I said to him, I'll be back. And he ran and I was there again. I mean, John Kasich can now take charge and be at the house. And this is why I endorse John Kasich, our great governor. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Former California governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, endorsing John Kasich for president. He was out there today on the campaign trail with the Ohio governor. Remember, March 15th. That's not very far from now. That's a key date for both John Kasich and his rival Marco Rubio. That's when their respective home states of Ohio and Florida hold their primaries winner take all as far as delegates are concerned.

Let's bring back our panel. Mark Preston, Nia-Malika Henderson, Jeffrey Lord and Margaret Hoover.

Mark Preston, Ohio for John Kasich who is not doing well so far. He's got to carry his home state of Ohio. He himself acknowledges it's over for him if he doesn't.

PRESTON: Make or break. I mean, he is the governor. He's won reelection here. You know, he all in Ohio. You know, where we sit in Michigan too, he needs to do well here too. He is all in on Michigan in many ways as well. His whole argument on this campaign is that he is the grown up, that he's the one who's balanced the budget and he is the centrist who can appeal to Midwest and voters. Well, he had got to prove it now. So he is all in that much like Marco Rubio, if he doesn't win Florida. If he doesn't win Florida, he's out as well.

BLITZER: March 15th. That's is coming up.

Jeffrey. Kasich - governor Kasich getting the support of former governor Schwarzenegger even though Schwarzenegger is going to be the new host of "Celebrity Apprentice" succeeding Donald Trump. Were you surprised Schwarzenegger endorsed Kasich?

LORD: No. Not at all. I think they have a longstanding friendship than relationship that goes back quite a number of years. So, you know, Arnold Schwarzenegger is a very loyal guy to his friends and I think that is terrific for Governor Kasich. Politically speaking though, I mean it is sort of amusing the host of the "Celebrity Apprentice" show, you know, squaring off in Ohio.

But I have to say I think all the candor of the political glow has worn off of the governor, governor Schwarzenegger. He's a good soul, but as we all know we sort of got into a personal situation there. And I think it is fan bases perhaps eroded a bit. And politically speaking, I'm just not sure he's got the clout that he used to have anymore.

BLITZER: Rubio, Nia, he win decisively Puerto Rico today. And because he won more than 50 percent of the vote, he is going to get all 23 delegates in Puerto Rico. That's going to give him a little boost heading towards his home state of Florida. If he doesn't win Florida, though, for Rubio it's got to be over.

HENDERSON: Yes. It's got to be over. And listen. I mean, it is a surprise that Marco Rubio is at this point where it's basically do or die in his home state and he has won so far Minnesota and Puerto Rico. And that wouldn't, of course, count in a presidential election, those votes from mainlanders on Puerto Rico's commonwealth.

So it's odd. I mean, here's a guy who came in with so much potential, the Republican savior. He was supposed to be the one that the map favored. And here he is at this point really down to Ted Cruz, down to Donald Trump, and really having to fight for his political future in his home state. And you have Ted Cruz encroaching on his territory opening in upstate in Florida. And people in Florida saying he doesn't have much of a ground game.

BLITZER: He has open up ten offices in Florida.

Let me get Margaret to weigh in on that. Margaret, as you know, the Cruz campaign now opening up offices. They want to be aggressive in Florida. And some people are wondering what's going on. Is there a new strategy here? How do you interpret it?

HOOVER: Look. It looks to me like Ted Cruz is trying to make this a two-man race and he thinks he can try to elbow Marco Rubio out in his home state. The challenge was really interesting here. You know, there is way more overlap between Cruz voters and Trump voters. And so, if you go to Florida, and you think, OK, where are those voters, they concentrate in the panhandle. That's where the evangelical, self-identified, very conservative and moderately conservative voters are.

It could happen that Ted Cruz makes some inroads there. But does he do, he takes them away from Donald Trump. That helps Marco Rubio. So, you know, Ted Cruz, you know, I'm sure he thinks he's doing it for his best, but there's a possibility it could have unintended consequences. The other thing about Marco Rubio winning in Puerto Rico, a million Puerto Ricans are also in Florida. That helps him his win today. Help gives him momentum into the state this week.

BLITZER: Jeffrey, the debate we are going to having between these two Democratic presidential candidates here in Flint, Michigan, where we are tonight, what is going to be the impact on the Republican contest in Michigan, let's say, on Tuesday?

LORD: Well, I think that, you know, after listening to whatever they have to say tonight, which I'm sure in many respects -- I mean, after a number of these debates, you get the core of each person's argument here. I don't really think that it will do anything other than sharpen the Republican attacks on the Democrats in general and Hillary Clinton specifically and to some degree Bernie Sanders. I mean, they will be dishing out in effect material opposition research as it were for these Republican candidates to use. So I'm sure that there are lots of people with DVRs running tonight in the Republican Party.

BLITZER: They're going to be listening carefully to see what Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have to say. And I suspect the Republican candidates, their names will be coming up often in this debate, now a little bit more than two hours from now.

All right, Mark Preston, Nia-Malika Henderson, Margaret Hoover, Jeffrey Lord, guys, thanks to all of you. As we have seen already, this election season, one bad night can spell

the end of a presidential campaign. It's one of the themes explored in the brand new CNN series, a revealing look at six of the most heated and ruthless presidential debates in history.

Tune in later tonight, 10:00 p.m. eastern for the CNN original series, "Race for the White House" narrated by Oscar winner Kevin Spacey.

Much more of our special coverage coming up live from Flint, Michigan in just a few moments.


[18:00:03] BLITZER: We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'M Wolf Blitzer reporting to you tonight live from Flint, Michigan, the site of tonight's Democratic presidential debate now just two hours away.