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Super Tuesday #2 Coverage; New Poll: Trump First, Cruz Second, Kasich Third. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired March 8, 2016 - 18:00   ET



WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news: closing the gap. New national polling shows a Trump/Cruz dead heat, a Kasich surge, and disappointment for Marco Rubio.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Closing countdown, just two hours away from our first results in four states including two that could help cement the race for some candidates and ice it for others.

BLITZER: Early answers, what exit polling is now revealing about the outcome tonight and what's driving voters to turn out today.

COOPER: Marco-mentum. Does Rubio have it in Florida, where he is campaigning hard and guaranteeing victory?

BLITZER: Turf talk, why John Kasich believes he will win his home state next week. Will his performance tonight in Michigan be the key?

I will ask him. He joins us.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer.

COOPER: I'm Anderson Cooper.


We begin the hour with a lot going on, including new polling that shows the race at least nationally is now a statistical dead heat between Donald Trump and Ted Cruz. Take a look and ask yourself, is this the beginning of a whole new race? Trump leading, Cruz second, but within the margin of error, John Kasich third, Marco Rubio now in fourth place.

Any or all of those numbers could move, though, after tonight. Plenty about to unfold as the results begin to come in, first from Mississippi and then Michigan, Idaho and Hawaii. It's getting really interesting for all of us.

Polo Sandoval starts out with what voters have been telling him tonight in Jackson, Mississippi.

Polo, how busy has it been there where you are? POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it really has been this

steady flow, and now that 12-hour window for people here in Mississippi to cast their ballot slowly closing, about two hours left here.

Obviously, with it being 5:00 here, we do expect that after-work crowd to begin to make their way here. And, again, what's interesting here, Wolf, is the moment that people walk in, those decisions to be made, either go to the Republican primary table or perhaps the Democratic primary table, which is to my right, which is -- after where they take their ballots and then cast them and then they -- to make their way out of here.

We really have seen a mix of voters here, Wolf. We have seen obviously people voting on the Democratic side and then what's interesting here, too, many of these crossover voters as well, so here in Mississippi, a state that's now sharing the spotlight with three others on this second Super Tuesday, it's not necessarily just about the people who are voting for the person that they want to win, but the person that -- at least casting their vote in order to try to -- for the person that they do not want to win.

So, again, very interesting dynamics here in the South, Wolf, as only two hours left for people to cast their ballots here in Mississippi.

BLITZER: And, Polo, you have been talking to voters over there. What have they been telling you? What's on their minds?

SANDOVAL: Well, the economy obviously a heavy issue here in the South. This is a place where obviously based on -- there is no solid national polling, so really it's very difficult to predict who is expected to come out the winner on both sides of the aisle here.

But I can tell you some of the conversations that I have had with some of these individuals, as I mentioned, many of them really voting for the other party. One particular person who is a loyal Hillary voter in this case picked up a Republican ballot in order to be able to vote for John Kasich, in their own words, trying to help derail this Trump train.

But we also have seen plenty of Trump supporters as well, in fact, just yesterday, a venue, a large venue, only a few miles from here, was packed as the Republican front-runner took the stage in front of many, many supporters, Wolf.

BLITZER: He did, indeed. All right, Polo, thank you very much.

Michigan tonight is crucial for Democrats and Republicans alike, especially that it looks a whole lot like some other key states, namely Ohio, Illinois, and Pennsylvania.

Let's go now to the Detroit suburb of Warren, Michigan, where our Jean Casarez is standing by.

Jean, what's the turnout been like where you are today?

JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's really picking up.

It's been constant on day. But let's just look over here. We have got a line, and people just continuing are coming in. And this is a large room. It can accommodate a lot of people. But we're seeing so much diversity here today, ethnic diversity, cultural diversity.

And we're seeing so many people bringing their young children here. We're seeing senior citizens. People are walking here with their walkers and their canes and their wheelchairs. I mean, the turnout just shows the passion. And some of the results, what they're doing here, I think, is extraordinary, if not surprising.


I spoke with a lifelong Republican from Warren, Michigan, right, which is the heart of the auto country, and he said that for the first time, he was switching lines and he was going to vote for Bernie Sanders. And that was because he believed Bernie Sanders was for the people and for the people of the auto industry that need help so badly.

And this is an open primary. You can be registered Democrat and vote Republican. You can be registered Republican and vote Democrat. I spoke to another lifelong Republican who said that they had voted for John Kasich -- we're hearing Donald Trump and John Kasich -- saying that if Kasich got the nomination, he didn't think he could beat Hillary, but he would vote for Hillary before he would vote for Donald Trump. That is a lifelong Republican.

BLITZER: Jean Casarez, thank you very much.

And even as voters have been casting ballots, we're also learning important new information about who they are, what the demographics look like, what issues are driving them on this day.

Our political director, David Chalian, is back with us once again with more information on the exit polls we're getting and some fascinating numbers.


You want to understand why you hear certain issues highlighted on the campaign trail by the candidates, these numbers explain why, because it's what the voters are concerned about.

In Michigan and in Mississippi on the Republican side, economy is one of the top issues. Take a look at this. In Mississippi, 81 percent of Republican primary voters are very worried about the direction of the U.S. economy. In Michigan, 63 percent are very worried about the U.S. economy.

And in this specific economic concern about trade, this is fascinating. A majority of Republican primary voters in Mississippi, 53 percent, believes trade with other countries takes away U.S. jobs. And in Michigan, we also see a majority that says trade with other countries takes away U.S. jobs. So, Wolf, why you're hearing so much about that is because a majority

of the electorate in these two different states, but majorities in both of them are worried that that takes away American jobs.

BLITZER: And those are big issues for Bernie Sanders. And Donald Trump, he keeps talking about trade all the time.

What about immigration?

CHALIAN: Here, we see a little bit of a difference between the two states and I think it's really interesting.

In Mississippi, we asked people whether or not illegal immigrants working in the United States should be deported or offered legal status. A majority of Republican voters in Mississippi, 51 percent, say they should be deported to their home country.

Flip-flop that with Michigan. Take a look at this; 56 percent, an even greater majority, in Michigan say that they should be given legal status. Only 37 percent of Michigan Republican primary voters today say that these illegal immigrants should be deported.

BLITZER: Very interesting numbers, indeed.

David Chalian, you're crunching the numbers. You will be back. Thanks very much.

CHALIAN: Thank you.

COOPER: And we're back with the panel, John King, Gloria Borger, David Gergen, Nia-Malika Henderson. And over on the commentator side, Mary Katharine Ham, Kayleigh McEnany, Bakari Sellers, and Peter Beinart.

Let's start with our analysts and our reporters.

Let's put up this new "Wall Street Journal" poll that we have just been getting. Let's take a look. Republicans' choice for nominee, 30 percent Donald Trump, Ted Cruz in second, very close within the margin of error there, at 27 percent, John Kasich moving up past Marco Rubio. Some fascinating numbers, certainly good news for John Kasich.

We're going to hear from him within this hour, but also this closeness between Trump and Cruz, John.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And yet national polls tell you, as David noted earlier, there's clearly signs of weakness in Trump, clearly signs of a reassessment throughout the Republican voters. That's bad news for Rubio. It's discouraging news for Trump in that he's coming down.

The question is, we don't have a national primary. We go state by state. And right now, Donald Trump is winning. And if he wins more tonight, then we go into March 15, and he will have a big delegate lead. And even if he's starting to weaken nationally, is it too late to stop him, is the defining question? GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: "The Wall Street

Journal" poll also suggests that -- they do some hypothetical matchups -- and Trump loses in matchups with Cruz and with Kasich, and also with Rubio, but with a smaller margin.

The question for Trump is, when you get down to one-on-one, right, what states are you going to be in? And the states that are coming are very good...

KING: New York.

BORGER: New York.

KING: Maryland.

BORGER: Maryland. Right, exactly.


KING: I don't see that -- I don't -- I mean, maybe Cruz can beat him one-on-one anywhere. But that will be the question if we get there. But if you look at the demographics of these states, you would rather be Donald Trump than Ted Cruz in the New York primary or the New Jersey primary or the Maryland primary.


DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: This poll is terrible news for Marco Rubio.

And he is really declining. It's hard to see how he sees Florida. I believe the man to keep an eye on is John Kasich. I think if he can come in second tonight, if he can really challenge him, he has...


GERGEN: He's the only person I think who can take a wheel off Trump's caravan.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And he's the one that sort hasn't gotten his hearing yet in terms of momentum.

GERGEN: Right.

HENDERSON: And you see now -- maybe you can coin the phrase Kasich- mentum or something. it sounds ridiculous, as did Marco-mentum.

BORGER: Where did that go?

HENDERSON: Yes. Exactly.

COOPER: Or Kasich chaos.




COOPER: I like mishegas in Michigan.


HENDERSON: You know, and he has sort of this compassionate conservative thing going on. He's obviously got a strong showing in Ohio.

COOPER: Right, and he's got Ohio coming up.

HENDERSON: He's got Ohio and it doesn't seem like he's going to have the same battle there that Marco Rubio's...


HENDERSON: But you got to win. No, it's true.

KING: It's a simple rule in every sport, including politics. You keep coming in second and third, maybe we give you a participation trophy, but you don't get the prize.

The prize is the nomination. If you want the prize -- I agree, if he can -- especially if Kasich wins Ohio and Rubio loses Florida, then Kasich is gone. If Trump gets those delegates, the math -- we will see what happens. But at some point, you have to win.

COOPER: Kasich all along, Mary Katharine and Kayleigh, the argument he's been making is, look, I'm going to win Ohio. And once I do that, I'm going to get my time in the sun, people are going to pay attention much more to me, I'm going to have momentum.

Is it too late for that?

KAYLEIGH MCENANY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: It's definitely too late.

This is an outsiders election. We have seen the outsiders -- Ted Cruz, who called Mitch McConnell a liar, who is disliked by everyone in the Senate, plus Trump, commands 70 percent of the vote. And we see dissatisfaction among the establishment lane. Marco Rubio is being rejected in each of these races pretty badly.

And you see Kasich overtake him in a state like Maine, comes two points from beating him in Kentucky, likely going to beat him in many states tonight. There's still dissatisfaction among the establishment lane, which is only commanding 30 percent of the vote.

So, when you have discontent and dissatisfaction with the establishment, and you can't even consolidate around one candidate, it's problematic.

COOPER: Right.

MARY KATHARINE HAM, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look, this is the reason why chaos reigns. OK?

Three weeks ago, we would have that Kasich is going nowhere, he's just hanging in there until Ohio, he will probably lose there, right? That was the argument we were all making. Rubio looks at this and goes, well, I'm hanging in here until Florida, because I can have a second surge, because chaos reigns.

None of them can tell themselves that it's time to get out of this thing. And the way it's set up is that second and third place and fourth place do matter for a long time.


COOPER: There's an incentive to just stay in it, hoping something just crazy happens.

HAM: Well, because then you got all those delegates that you can do something with.

PETER BEINART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think there's another thing about Kasich. Kasich has not been hit yet. No one has turned their attention to attacking Kasich. Right?

He's been able to basically go off on the side, as basically Rubio and Cruz and Trump have pummeled each other. And the interesting question, I think, will be, as we get closer to Ohio, let's say Kasich does do well in Michigan, does Donald Trump then turn his attention to Kasich, and Kasich -- can Kasich take a punch? We don't know that yet.

BAKARI SELLERS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: But we also see what strategy does and doesn't work, because the strategy that Marco Rubio employed -- and I'm sorry to keep hearkening on Marco Rubio's strategy or lack thereof -- but going down in the mud and wallowing with Donald Trump did not work, did not work well at all.

HAM: I'm going to totally take issue with that, because I think other people are benefiting from that...


SELLERS: I agree.


SELLERS: That's correct. Other people did benefit, but it didn't benefit from the attacker. What it did was, it benefited everybody around him.

BORGER: It's like Chris Christie. It's the same thing, a sacrifice fly.


HAM: Well, it's ongoing because today he's 50 percent, 47 percent of the spending against Trump in these states, and he's not going to pick up these states.


GERGEN: I think the Kasich rise also illustrates the importance of these debates in this whole race, because he has set himself apart in the last debate in particular.

When all the fur went flying, he was the nice guy, he was the dignified guy.

COOPER: And he's consistently been that.

GERGEN: And he's consistently been that way.

And, gradually, he's starting -- he's bringing a different axis to bear, and that is, do you want somebody who's crude and bombastic and narcissist and just blows your mind out vs. a dignified candidate?


HENDERSON: And will Rubio go after him in this next debate, our debate on Thursday in Florida? Does Rubio start to turn his attention to Kasich?

SELLERS: Well, that's why the debate is so important on Thursday. I mean, we always get to the point where we say the next debate is...


SELLERS: But this debate, because you're going into Ohio, because you're going into Florida, is that important, because now Kasich has that bullseye.

And Marco Rubio literally running at the bottom of the poll has absolutely nothing to lose.

COOPER: Everybody, we're going to continue this discussion. A lot to talk about.

Also ahead, we're going to hear from the Cruz camp on the senator's effort to overtake Trump. He's campaigning right now in North Carolina, getting a boost from that new poll.

We will also hear from tonight's other polling beneficiary, John Kasich, who we have all been talking just about. He joins us tonight from Ohio, his home state.

Later, where the two Democrats are both looking for a big momentum boost, in Michigan.



BLITZER: As we count down to results tonight in four key states, a unifying theme on the Republican side seems to be looking ahead. John Kasich's in Ohio. Ted Cruz is in North Carolina. Donald Trump

and Marco Rubio, they're in Florida, all states holding their primaries next Tuesday.

Marco Rubio is trying to avoid the embarrassment, not to mention the crippling blow of losing his home state. He says that's not going to happen.

Jason Carroll is joining us now from Ponte Vedra in Florida, where Senator Rubio's got an event tonight.

Jason, Marco Rubio is talking to voters, Florida today. What's the campaign saying about their chances for wins tonight in the four states where there's actual voting going on?

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, well, chances slim at best.

Look, Wolf, they're not expecting to have any wins tonight. What they're hoping for is just to keep accumulating delegates. In terms of showings, they're hoping for a strong showing in places like Idaho and Hawaii, but, again, not expecting any wins tonight.

They're managing expectations. What they are doing is focusing on the big prize, and for them, that's obviously Florida, his home state. It is a must-win for Marco Rubio. The campaign knows that. That's why they were campaigning in Tampa yesterday, campaigning here today, will be in the state again tomorrow.

They are hopeful that they can take Florida. They know if they cannot take Florida, they're going to have hard decisions ahead of them.

BLITZER: There's new poll numbers that we have been reporting to our viewers as well. Take a look at this.


BLITZER: Republicans' choice for nominee, 30 percent right now for Trump, 27 percent for Cruz, 22 percent for Kasich, 20 percent for Rubio. That's national, national numbers, the NBC/"Wall Street Journal" poll, among Republicans, once again, nationwide.


Any reaction to those numbers?

CARROLL: Well, look, obviously, those are not the numbers the Rubio camp wants to hear, but what the Rubio camp will tell you is, look, polls change, and they feel as though they have the good ground game here.

They say, look, we know this state, we have the database, we know where our voters are, we know when to key in on our voters to get them out. And, Wolf, they're also encouraged by early voting here in the state, which they say seems to show voters shifting towards Rubio rather than Trump. So, obviously, not the numbers they want to hear, but they're going to

stay on message that Trump is dangerous, Trump is not the real conservative, and that Rubio is the only one who can unite the party.

BLITZER: Jason Carroll, thanks very much.

Just like Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz is already looking ahead as well. He's campaigning hard for next week's contest in North Carolina. Right now, he's just outside Charlotte.

So is our Sunlen Serfaty.

Sunlen, what's the senator saying about this new national poll?

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, he's feeling very good, Wolf.

He came out here on the stage in Kannapolis, North Carolina, and really announced the poll results to the crowd, really drawing the impression that the wind is at his back, at least nationally, and saying point blank that he has momentum on his side.

Here's what he said to the crowd just moments ago we.


SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We know that we are closing the gap in state after state after state after state.

We know that just a few minutes ago, a new "Wall Street Journal" poll came out that had us in a statistical tie for first place nationwide with Donald Trump.



SERFATY: And later, he went right after Donald Trump in a big way, really mocking Trump as an insurgent candidate, saying to the crowd here in North Carolina, if you think that Donald Trump is insurgent, comparing him to George Soros, he said Donald Trump has been lining the pockets of politicians in Washington, and really looking ahead, Wolf, to March 15, the next big primary day on the calendar.

Here in North Carolina, they will vote here, and Donald -- Ted Cruz calling it a big, big day for his campaign, clearly really pointing all arrows to that day, where he feels it could be a breakout moment for his campaign -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Sunlen, thank you, Sunlen Serfaty reporting.

Let's get more now on the Cruz campaign.

Joining us, the senator's campaign communications director, Alice Stewart.

Alice, thanks very much for joining us.

We will get to those new poll numbers, Cruz doing very well right now in that new NBC News/"Wall Street Journal" poll. But do you expect to win any of the four contests tonight?

ALICE STEWART, COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, TED CRUZ CAMPAIGN: Well, we're looking forward to the results coming in this evening.

And at this point, Wolf, as you know, it's about the delegates. It's about racking up as many delegates as you possibly can and receiving the magic 1,237 number of delegates.

And, look, this poll that released says a lot of things. It's shows what we have been seeing for quite some time, is that the race is tightening. This has been a two-man race for quite some time. And the fact that Ted is at a statistical dead heat with Donald Trump says quite a bit.

And an important cross-tab in that, Wolf, is the head-to-head matchup between Ted and Donald Trump shows that Ted would beat him. And we have been saying that for some time. For Ted Cruz to -- head-to-head matchup against Donald Trump, to be able to defeat him, that's what we have been saying for some time. The polls show that. And that's why more and more people are galvanizing and coming behind Ted Cruz, because they know the inevitable is that Ted is the person to take on Donald Trump and certainly to beat Hillary Clinton in November.

BLITZER: Senator Rubio said today that a vote for Ted Cruz in Florida next Tuesday is a vote just supporting Donald Trump. Listen to this.


SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Here in Florida, if you vote for John Kasich or Ted Cruz, you are voting for Donald Trump. I am the only one that can beat him in Florida. I'm the only one that can stop him here.


BLITZER: All right, Alice, your reaction.

STEWART: Well, I think the poll today shows the trajectory of Marco Rubio's campaigns. He's in fourth place there.

And he's had a difficult time. In the past two weeks, he's been talking about spray tans and the size of Donald Trump's hands. That's not a winning strategy.

And what we have seen over the last several weeks and months is that more people are recognizing that we have a two-man race here. And it is between a true consistent conservative, which is Ted Cruz, who has been out there talking about the issues and policies and the economy and how we can do away with the IRS and fight ISIS, and we have Donald Trump, who has a campaign of insults and attacks.

And the fact that we're in a statistical dead heat at this stage of the game with Trump goes to show that more people are rallying behind Ted Cruz, and we expect to see some good numbers tonight, bringing in more delegates, and going into March 15 on a good note.


Another key factor with our campaign that's showing tremendous success is our fund-raising. We have announced $70 million raised, the most of any campaign. We have raised $1.5 million on Super Saturday over the weekend. And the fact that people are not just showing their support at the ballot box, but at the checkbook, we have an average contribution of around $61, this is a true grassroots campaign.

And we're seeing evidence of that at each and every state and caucus. But, as you know, it's about bringing in the delegates tonight.

BLITZER: All right. We will see what happens tonight.

Alice Stewart, thank you very much.

Just ahead, Governor John Kasich standing by to join us live on this second Super Tuesday. We're going to ask him what he thinks about the races right now, what's going to happen tonight, what's going to happen next in his home state of Ohio.

Also, we're getting more information from our exit poll data, as voters tell us what they're thinking on this important day. We will be right back.


COOPER: Governor John Kasich spent time campaigning in Michigan today, one of four states voting, of course, on this Super Tuesday part two. Now he's in his home state of Ohio, where the primary happens in a week. A winner-take-all contest. Governor Kasich joins us now.

[18:30:53] Governor, your thought first of all on Michigan tonight. Also, this new national NBC/"Wall Street Journal" poll that we've been talking about that shows you now slightly ahead of Marco Rubio.

GOV. JOHN KASICH (R-OH), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think the NBC poll says in the states going forward that there's basically a three-way tie, is what my understanding of that is. Look, I haven't seen it, and polls go up and down. But to the people of Michigan, you know, I've got the record of economic growth both in Washington and Ohio, and tried to run a campaign that's raised the bar.

And I would just ask everybody in Michigan -- it's no too late to vote -- to please get out there. And if you believe that we can do positive politics, politics in a positive way, I need your support. So it's going to be close. Really would love for you to get out there and give us a vote.

COOPER: Best-case scenario, what are you hoping for in Michigan? What do you think is going to happen by the end of the night? Where do you see yourself? KASICH: Well, Anderson, we're definitely going to have a strong

showing as to whether -- where we're going to come out, I don't know. That it's -- you know, from what I understand at this point, you know, we're neck and neck for a second, and maybe just a few points behind first. I don't know.

You know, you can't really trust all these exit polls. But look, we're going to definitely have a strong showing. And remember, just about a week ago, I was at about 8 percent and we've really seen a surge. But we'd like to finish the deal, but that's up to the voters of Michigan. And Anderson, if I spend any more time in Michigan, I have to start paying taxes.

COOPER: Senator Rubio said today in Florida that a vote for you or Ted Cruz is a vote for Donald Trump, arguing he's the only one who can stop Trump in Florida, which votes next week along, of course, with your home state of Ohio. To that you say what?

KASICH: Well, we're focusing on Ohio. We're focusing on Illinois. You know, we've had a campaign plan that we followed all along. We never thought that Florida, where we would be spending a lot of time for the simple reason that, with both Marco and Jeb, we didn't think it was worth investing a lot of resources, but we're going to spend, you know, cover to cover up here in Ohio; and tomorrow I'll be spending some time in Illinois.

So we're going to win Ohio. I mean, we had a boisterous crowd here tonight. Everything that we're seeing on the ground is good. And when I win Ohio, it's going to whole new ball game.

COOPER: Explain to me what -- what that path is, because you've said all along Ohio is must-win for you and you feel you are going to win. How is it a new ball game? Because the delegate count is still the delegate count. What do you see changing if you win Ohio?

KASICH: Well, the first thing is, Anderson, you know, I'm starting to get the attention that my message is finally being heard.

Secondly, the one thing we know about politics is whatever's true today is not necessarily true tomorrow. So we're going to take things one day at a time. You know, we'll be going to Pennsylvania. We'll be heading to the eastern seaboard. We'll be heading out west. And you just never know what's going to happen in politics, but it's increasingly looking like there, you know, we may not have anybody that will have exactly the delegates they need, and -- but we'll see. I don't want to get way ahead of myself. Whenever I talk about process, I always fail.

All I know is this. The message of my experience, my record, my resume, the success we had in Washington and Ohio, bringing people together, making sure everybody can rise and that we're Americans before we're anything else seems to be resonating, seems to be being in a position where people are beginning to hear it.

And finally, Anderson, what I tell folks is don't wait for somebody to run in from the government, begin to solve problems where you live, because you are the spirit and the strength of our country.

COOPER: So do you see this going all the way to convention and then something happening at the convention that allows you to get the nomination?

KASICH: Well, look, again, it's a long way to go. In this business, especially in this election, you never know what's going to happen.

So for me, it's -- was focus on Michigan, you know, and now focusing on Ohio, spending some time in Illinois, looking at some other starts, maybe Missouri, and doing the best we can now and taking it a day at a time. When you get ahead of yourself in this business, that's where you stumble.

COOPER: OK. Governor Kasich, always good to talk to you. Thank you very much, sir.

Back now with our panel. John King is here.

I mean, you hear what he's saying, that after Ohio, if he wins Ohio -- and he's confident that he will -- things will change.

KING: Things might change. Again, Ohio and Florida, whether Kasich and Rubio win in their home states will have a lot to say about the race going forward. It will have a lot to say with how many candidates we have. If they both lose, they're probably both gone.

COOPER; If Rubio loses Florida, you think he's gone.

KING: He has not said that flat out, almost impossible, especially -- especially given -- I don't want to dwell on national polls. But especially if he's in fourth place in the national polls, he's going to have a hard time raising money.

So he has to win Florida. Kasich has to win Ohio. If Rubio loses, especially, and Kasich wins Ohio, then Kasich will become the establishment alternative. Because they don't like Cruz; they don't like Trump. And he's right in the sense that -- John Kasich when he was in Congress he helped balance the budget.

As a governor, he can say he's a fiscal conservative, but he's more viewed as in the center of the party. Would he have appeal in Pennsylvania? Sure. Would he have appeal in Maryland? Sure. Would he have appeal in Connecticut, maybe in New York? I mean, you've got the Trump factor there. There's no question that, if a governor of Ohio, the biggest battleground state in presidential politics or one of the two, if you want to put four of him in there, is viable in a race for president, that's a big deal.

Now, winning one state is not going to do it. It might get him started. He'd have to quickly deliver on other states. But would it give him a stepping stone and a chance? Yes.

COOPER: Also interesting. I mean, even if he wasn't able to win, I mean, Donald Trump has said -- and I don't know if this is in Governor Kasich's thinking -- but Donald Trump has said as a vice president, he would be looking for somebody who has congressional experience, political experience. Governor Kasich, you know, has all that in Washington, and also he has been governor; and he has not been attacking directly talking about Donald Trump's hands or anything else.

BORGER: He hasn't been attacking anybody, honestly. He's run this positive campaign. I remember interviewing him, though, not too long ago, and he said to me he'd be the worst vice president in history, which I think is a tape we would probably be rerunning.

But he's a natural vice-presidential candidate if he doesn't get to that. The question is, if Trump went to John Kasich, what would John Kasich do?

COOPER: David.

GERGEN: Well, he -- I thought it was a really interesting interview you had with him. He said, "I'd be the worst one, because I want to be my own man. I don't like being No. 2."

COOPER: Right.

GERGEN: And he has been a very effective No. 1 as a governor of Ohio. It's -- he stumbled early on. Some of the things on Planned Parenthood I don't think have served him well.

But I do think that his jobs performance in Ohio, he's turned that into the highest increase in jobs anywhere in the Midwest now. And that is -- that's something he can bring to the table.

COOPER: Remember the days when everybody talked about governors as...

GERGEN: Yes. Exactly.

COOPER: ... the easiest path to president. That certainly hasn't turned out this time.

GERGEN: One thing. I think Donald Trump is now paying a price for not having a strong senior team around...

COOPER: That's an interesting point.

GERGEN: ... who can really help him. Because he's in a really -- this is tough going now.

COOPER: He has no -- they do no internal polling. He's basically getting polls like we are.

BORGER: Yes, yes.

BORGER: He needs somebody like a Jim Baker, one of these top guys who can help you sort of --kind of just -- the kind of stuff that you have going on in these rallies with these -- senior adviser would say, cut that stuff.

COOPER: Kayleigh, as a Trump supporter, do you think it's hurting him? I mean, not having a pollster, not having a really, you know, large team around him on the ground?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think he does need more of that. Look, we look forward to the CNN debate Thursday. If he had a strong senior adviser, that senior adviser should look at him and say, "Look, attacking is fine. That's what you do, but attack Ted Cruz substantively," because Ted Cruz has benefited from the sparring we've seen between Rubio and Trump. Because he's the guy on the outside talking about policy.

So I wish he did have a senior adviser who would look at him and say, "Hey, paint Ted Cruz as a political insider doing dirty tricks on the campaign trail. Paint him as the guy who can't get along with his Senate colleagues. How do you -- a president who gets things done when you can't cooperate with your colleagues? Do those sort of attacks rather than getting into the personal ad hoc."

HENDERSON: He's done some of that already, Donald Trump has. I mean, this is the classic Donald Trump philosophy. If you read "The Art of the Deal," this is his whole thing. You know, it pays to play a little wild, and sometimes it works; and it has worked for him all this time.

I think -- you know, if you look at Kasich, turning back to that conversation, one of the things that Kasich has proved is that he can do well among a diverse set of voters. He did very well among African-Americans.


HENDERSON: He did in his last election. Something like 22 percent. Did very well among African-American men. Something like 26 percent. He's got a real case to make. The question is does he have enough time to make it?

SELLERS: And the question is, is John Kasich -- is Governor Kasich and John Weaver's strategy really that genius? Because he's hung around. He's hung around. He's played -- he's played this role of being a very humble, just noble servant, that all he wants to do is serve the people. And he does do extremely well in Ohio. He won that race with 60-plus points.

He did well with African-Americans. He has a strong record in Congress. He can always go back to that talking point, to the last time we had a balanced budget: "I was there; I did it."

[18:30:10] So I'm not sure if it was just a genius strategy or if he's been really lucky or both. But Weaver has his in a candidate in a remarkable position that Marco Rubio and a lot of other people are very envious.

BEINART: Let's remember, it's very, very unlikely he's going to be able to get to that 1,200 number. So really, what you're talking about with Kasich is the hope that you are closes enough with both Cruz and Trump that in a contested convention the establishment rallies around you, because you're the guy who's not going to lead the party to doom. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I thing that's uniformly the hope if you're not

Trump, is that you end up with enough delegates to...

GERGEN: He has the possibility of having a late surge more than...

BEINART: A really epic surge.


KING: Listen, we're getting ahead of ourselves here. Really depends. It really depends. Does the late surge mean somebody other than Trump wins Pennsylvania and New York and Connecticut and out west and Indiana and California? Those are big prizes. Does somebody run the board?

To the point about Kasich, let's see what happens. Let's see if he can win Ohio and what he does next. If he takes off next, he has a chance to be a contender. Otherwise, there's a guy who wrote "The Art of the Deal" who might end up at the convention with the most delegates.


KING: John Kasich might not want to be vice president, but he might have enough delegates to help Donald Trump get over the top.

COOPER: We are only allowed to get ahead of ourselves after midnight. So we'll have to wait.

Just ahead, we've got new exit polling coming in, plus the latest from inside the Clinton and Sanders campaigns, including reactions to those two new polls out tonight showing the race is tightening. Details ahead.


[18:46:20] BLITZER: We're getting some new exit poll data coming in right now.

Our political director David Chalian has been going through the numbers. What's the latest?

CHALIAN: So, we're looking just at Michigan here and the Democratic side, Wolf, because what we're seeing is that both candidates are clearly speaking policy proposals that are resonating with the Democratic electorate. Big majorities believe their plans are realistic.

Take a look at this. Hillary Clinton's plans, 72 percent of Michigan Democrats say they're realistic, 23 percent not realistic. Bernie Sanders is in similar territory, or little bit lower, but 61 percent of Michigan Democrats voting in the primary today say his plans are realistic, only 32 percent say they're not realistic.

So while I know on our debate stage and elsewhere, Secretary Clinton has raised the question about Senator Sanders' policy proposals and if, indeed, they're pie in the sky or too unaffordable for the most people, Michigan Democrats clearly believe both of these candidates are presenting what they deem realistic policy --

BLITZER: Interesting numbers. I know you're going to get more for us as well. Stand by. David Chalian, thank you.

Joining us now, Robby Mook. He's the Hillary Clinton campaign manager.

Robby, thanks very much for joining us.

So, what do you anticipate out of Michigan tonight?

ROBBY MOOK, HILLARY CLINTON'S CAMPAIGN MANAGER: Well, Wolf, we believe that Michigan's going to be closer than a lot of the public polling has shown, but Secretary Clinton has finished very strong the last few days. She had a great debate performance. She ran on an affirmative proactive message about how we create more good paying manufacturing jobs in Michigan and around the country.

So, we think we're going to have a very good night. Whether we win or lose in Michigan, she will add r her delegate total that she accumulated starting back in Nevada, between the delegates she earns in Michigan and Mississippi.

I think the stakes for the Sanders campaign are very high, however. They have been talking for some weeks about how important Michigan is. They went all in, put all their chips on the table. They outspent us. They unleashed their harshest attacks to date.

And they said this is a make-or-break state. We'll wait to see the results. We feel very good about a strong showing this evening.

BLITZER: Strong enough to win, is that what you're anticipating?

MOOK: We're optimistic, but we think the race is much closer than the public polls show, and look, this is a delegate race and so we are very confident that Secretary Clinton will add to that delegate total tonight.

BLITZER: What about Mississippi?

MOOK: We feel very good in Mississippi. That is an important state in that delegate strategy. You know, Senator Sanders has barely communicated to voters in that state and what we really see resonate is Secretary Clinton's message about breaking down those barriers about reforming our criminal justice system, and what's why we've seen her leading with such wide margins in those Southern states and expect to see that again tonight.

BLITZER: Those are the two Democratic contests tonight. What about looking ahead to next Tuesday, a week from today, Florida, Ohio? These are huge states. North Carolina, Missouri. These are important states. Illinois, I should say.

MOOK: Absolutely, Wolf. And as Secretary Clinton said at the beginning of this campaign, she is not taking any voter, any delegate for granted. She's been working hard.

And I think those states represent the real coalition that Secretary Clinton demonstrated she can win. Hispanic voters, African-American voters, she won white voters on Super Tuesday. Obviously, women an important constituency.

So, she's been winning races from Texas to Massachusetts to Iowa to Nevada. We believe that she has the coalition in place to be successful in those states, too.

[18:50:00] BLITZER: Is she ready for the big Democratic debate, the Univision debate tomorrow night in Miami that CNN will also broadcast?

MOOK: Well, absolutely, Wolf. As I said, she had a very commanding performance in the last debate. Senator Sanders struggled to explain why he decided to vote against funding, the auto rescue. I think he's going to have to answer tomorrow night at the debate, and particularly the Florida voters, why he repeatedly opposed immigration reform, which is such an important issue for our country, and particularly in this primary.

BLITZER: All right. Robby Mook, thanks so much for joining us.

MOOK: Thanks so much, Wolf.

BLITZER: Let's get more on the upcoming races next Tuesday, primaries in five states, as I mentioned -- Ohio, Illinois, Florida among them. Just minutes from now, Bernie Sanders expected to speak at a rally in Miami.

Our senior political correspondent Brianna Keilar is joining us now with more on the Sanders campaign.

Brianna, what is Bernie Sanders doing in the final push for voters in Michigan and Mississippi tonight?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, I will tell you one thing that certainly the Sanders campaign agrees with the Clinton campaign on, and that is that they believe the polls in Michigan are a little tighter than what are reflected in the public polling that we're seeing. The Sanders campaign at this point thinks if the turnout is high in Michigan, things will be going well for the mayor.

But what they're focusing on is see Bernie Sanders be very sharp against Hillary Clinton on, and that is trade, really coming out against her, relying on labor support in Michigan. And painting some of her support of the past of trade agreements as a disastrous trade policy that she supported, that has hurt Detroit.

Now, when it comes to Louisiana, wolf, they're a little more realistic about their chances. That's much more of an uphill battle for Bernie Sanders.

BLITZER: It certainly.

Brianna, where is the Sanders campaign focused beyond tonight the most, looking ahead to next Tuesday?

KEILAR: Big focus here in Florida, including with Latinos here in Florida, we heard from Bernie Sanders' campaign manager, where perhaps a glimpse of Bernie Sanders will be charging Hillary Clinton with here in the next week, that when it comes to her policies and how they affect Latino-Americans, that her policies are ones of political expedience. So, we'll see if that comes out.

As well, we expect perhaps Sanders will be emphasizing his personal story that he is the son of immigrants, and this isn't just an academic experience for him as his campaign manager put it. And also, he'll also be focusing, of course, on Ohio. Some of the attacks you've seen in Michigan, when it comes to labor, when it comes to the auto industry, I think we'll be seeing that as well replayed in Ohio, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Brianna, thank you.

A quick program note, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, they will meet in a presidential debate hosted Univision, CNN be simulcasting the face-off, all starting at 9:00 p.m. Eastern. Anderson and "360" will have a full hour of pre-debate coverage and another full hour of analysis and highlights, right after the debate tomorrow night, after the debate is over.

Just ahead for us right here in "THE SITUATION," what the candidates stand to gain or lose tonight, and why the stakes may be higher for a couple of them. John King shows us what's going on at the magic wall.


[18:57:50] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: The polls are still open in Michigan and Mississippi tonight. The outcome in both states could shift the race for both parties. There's a lot riding at tonight's races, of course, for all the candidates for very different reasons.

John King is back at the magic wall to break it down for us -- John.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, this could be a defining night in the race setting up a decisive contest next week of the starting with the Republican side.

No question Ted Cruz delivered two body blows by splitting Super Saturday with Donald Trump. The question tonight, can Trump prove he's back in the ring and he's fine, maybe a little wobbly by winning, or can Cruz survive.

Look what Trump is trying to prove. Trump has already won across the south. This was supposed to be the wheel house, the foundation of the Ted Cruz campaign. Trump has won most of the South so far. He wants to take Mississippi and say, you might have hit me Saturday, Senator Cruz, but I'm back in the hunt. Then, it's up to Michigan, where Mr. Trump hopes to deliver a message both to Republicans by saying he's winning in a big battleground, but also to Democrats, to try to say I'm going to be the nominee and I'm going to change the map in November by putting Michigan in play. So, can Cruz pull off an upset in Mississippi or in Michigan, that would be the big surprise of the night, does Trump prove he takes the body blow but he has his momentum back.

Also, Republican contests in Hawaii and Idaho, a chance perhaps for somebody else to get in the win column other than Donald Trump, but the big contest, Mississippi and Michigan. Those are also the contest on the Democratic side, and the dynamics are actually similar. Just like Trump, Hillary Clinton has run it up across the south. She wants to win again big in Mississippi to send the signal, the African- American voters, the base of the Democratic Party, she wants to say, hey, Senator Sanders, you simply can't compete.

Big delegates at stake in Mississippi for Secretary Clinton and then right here, a defining test for Bernie Sanders. He says he's the candidate of blue collar voters, he is the guy who will prove to people who work with their hands, Wall Street will shaft you no more, I will help you as president, what better laboratory than here in Michigan, again.

Sanders needs to change the math and the momentum of the race. Michigan is an opportunity to do it. Clinton hopes to win there to say Senator Sanders, this shouldn't have been a laboratory for you, you gave me your best shot, I'm on the way to be the Democratic nominee.

So, momentum and message at stake, and also the math. Hillary Clinton enters the night more than 200 pledged delegates up over Bernie Sanders. She hopes to run it up in Mississippi, get a win in Michigan to prove to Senator Sanders, stay as long as you want, but I will be the Democratic nominee. You're more of a message candidate -- Anderson.

COOPER: John, thanks. The polls close in most of Michigan, all of Mississippi in an hour. Idaho and Hawaii later. We'll have all the results and reaction.