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THE SITUATION ROOM
Jeb Bush to Meet with Rubio, Cruz, Kasich; Trump Calls Himself a 'Uniter,' Predicts 'Softer' Debate; Trump: 'It's Over' If I Win Florida, Ohio; Clinton and Sanders Face Off After Michigan Shocker; North Korea Says It Has Miniaturized Nuclear Warheads. Aired 5-6p ET
Aired March 9, 2016 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[17:00:14] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, Trump's triumph. The GOP front-runner adds three more wins and leads in the home states of two of his rivals. Ahead of CNN's Republican debate, Jeb Bush schedules urgent huddles.
Mis-steak? Donald Trump displays water and wine and meat that may not really bear his name. Why did he turn his victory news conference into an infomercial?
Misstep. Hillary Clinton stumbles with a shocking loss to Bernie Sanders in Michigan. Clinton may be eyeing November, but did she take her eye off the ball days before more crucial contests. The Democrats debate tonight right here on CNN.
And mischief. North Korea says it has miniaturized nuclear warheads that fit on its ballistic missiles. Could Kim Jong-un's little nukes cause big problems?
I'm Wolf Blitzer on the campus of the University of Miami, and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: On this, the eve of CNN's Republican presidential debate here in Miami, it may be do-or-die time for Donald Trump's rivals, as the front-runner scores three more big wins in Michigan, Mississippi and Hawaii.
After picking up a win last night in Idaho, Ted Cruz today picked up a surprise endorsement from former rival Carly Fiorina. Cruz is calling on Rubio and Kasich to clear out and let him go one on one with Trump. And former candidate Jeb Bush will be meeting with all the GOP candidates not named Trump.
Just four hours from now Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton face off as CNN airs the Democratic presidential debate, hosted by Univision. That comes less than 24 hours after Sanders scored a shocking upset in Michigan. Clinton holds a big lead, but tonight's debate is all about momentum, with critical contests coming up on Tuesday.
And North Korea's threat of a preemptive nuclear strike becomes more chilling with the claim by Kim Jong-un's regime that it has miniaturized a warhead to fit on ballistic missiles. I'll speak with Sean Spicer, the chief strategist in the Republican National Committee, and our correspondents, analysts and guests, they'll have full coverage of all the day's top stories.
Let's begin with the Republicans. Counting down to tomorrow night's showdown. CNN's Sunlen Serfaty is inside the debate hall. There's a lot riding on this debate, Sunlen. What's the latest?
SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There absolutely is, Wolf. Donald Trump comes in with the wind at his back, with the momentum after his commanding wins, but his rivals right here on this debate stage will be going in, desperate to stop him.
SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It is now up to the men and women of Florida.
SERFATY (voice-over): It's game on in Florida.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We're going to do really well in Florida. It's my second home.
SERFATY: Ted Cruz, gloves off, ready to rumble, stepping squarely into the Sunshine State spotlight.
CRUZ: We're competing hard to win Florida.
SERFATY: Mocking Donald Trump today --
CRUZ: I don't have any steaks to sell you. I don't have any wine. I don't have any cleaning products.
SERFATY: -- for the front-runner's unusual Super Tuesday night event last night.
TRUMP: We sell water.
SERFATY: Featuring displays of Trump branded products, including Trump wine, to rebut critics calling into question his business credentials.
TRUMP: And we have Trump steaks. And by the way, if you want to take one, we'll charge you about, what, 50 bucks a steak.
SERFATY: But the origin of that steak is in question. Trump Steaks has been defunct for years, and photos of the steaks, apparently wrapped in plastic labeled Bush Brothers, a Florida meat company, lit up social media. The provision company tells CNN they do business at Trump properties.
Cruz also going after Trump today on Florida soil for hiring practices at his nearby resort.
CRUZ: You don't get to spend years exploiting our immigration laws to take advantage of American workers.
SERFATY: And rolling out the surprise endorsement of former rival Carly Fiorina.
CARLY FIORINA (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I looked at the ballot, and I saw my own name on the ballot. But then I checked the box for Ted Cruz.
SERFATY: Trump today basking in the glow of his dominant win.
TRUMP (via phone): To come up with the kind of numbers, not just winning them but winning them in a landslide, was so incredible, it made me feel so good.
SERFATY: Holding his victories up from the Deep South to the Midwest up as vindication, urging the Republican Party to unite behind him now.
TRUMP (on camera): The bottom line is we have something going that's so good, we should grab each other and we should unify the party. And nobody is going to beat us, OK?
SERFATY: But Ted Cruz is saying not so fast.
CRUZ: Yesterday we won one, and we took strong seconds and threes and earned delegates in each of them. This is a battle to 1,237.
[17:05:06] SERFATY: Cruz is calling for the other candidates to step aside, arguing he's the only one with a viable shot at beating Trump.
CRUZ: You're running out of elections. You're running out of delegates. At this point, I've got 361 delegates. Donald has about 100 more and nobody else is close in the delegate count.
SERFATY: As Cruz and Trump escalate their face-off, Marco Rubio is facing a do-or-die moment in his home state.
SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I believe with all my heart that the winner of the Florida primary next Tuesday will be the nominee of the Republican Party.
SERFATY: After suffering devastating losses, emerging with zero delegates Tuesday night.
RUBIO: You are given an incredible task a week from now, and I need your help. I need your vote.
SERFATY: A new CNN/ORC poll shows Rubio is down 16 points in Florida. In Ohio, Trump is also leading Buckeye State governor John Kasich by six points, who is facing a must-win situation of his own.
GOV. JOHN KASICH (R-OH), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And now the home court advantage is coming north. And next week we are going to win the state of Ohio.
SERFATY: The stakes are incredibly high for tomorrow night's debate here. This will be the last time that the candidates face off before the voters head to the polls in Florida and Ohio next Tuesday -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Sunlen, thank you.
Let's look ahead to tomorrow's crucial CNN Republican presidential debate right here on the campus of the University of Miami. I'm joined by our political reporter, Sara Murray.
Florida, Ohio looming next Tuesday. Lots on the line as far as this debate tomorrow night is concerned. What do we -- what can we expect to see and hear from these four remaining Republican candidates?
SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the stakes are huge for this debate. Remember, the last one was pretty rowdy. There was a comparison of hand sizes. And, you know, Donald Trump really came off, I think, a little bit as this brash personality that we see on the trail.
Now, he talked to CNN's Chris Cuomo and said things might be a little bit different on CNN's debate stage. Let's take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP (via phone): I think the debate tomorrow night will be a softer debate. I really do. I believe, it's going to be a softer debate. I hope it's going to be a softer debate. I can tell you that I go in much more as a uniter.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MURRAY: So we might see a kinder, gentler Donald Trump. But I think what they're really going for here is a more presidential Donald Trump. We've seen that in these news conferences he's having on election nights. He wants to appear as the Republican front-runner and as someone who can have the $ Republican base rally behind him.
And I think that that's not the moment they got in the last debate, and they're hoping to rectify this this time around and have Donald Trump try to stay above the fray.
Of course, the challenge, as you know for Trump, is when he is hit, he has a tough time not hitting back. And we saw that at the press conference last night with all the Trump steaks and the Trump wine and the Trump water, so we'll see which Donald Trump we really do get on stage tonight.
BLITZER: You're right. I think he's going to try to be softer, but once he's slugged by either Rubio or Cruz, you know what Donald Trump -- you've been covering him for months. You know what he's going to do.
MURRAY; He hits back hard, Wolf.
BLITZER: Certainly does. Thanks very much, Sara, for that report.
Let's get more on how the Republican Party and top officials are reacting to today's breaking news out of the campaign trail. We're joined by the Republican National Committee communications director strategist Sean Spicer.
Sean, thanks very much for joining us here in lovely Miami.
SEAN SPICER, COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE: It's the best-looking situation room you've had.
BLITZER: It's a great looking situation room here in Miami. Let's talk about these polls, first of all, Florida and Ohio. If Trump wins both of these home states of Kasich and Rubio, is it over for them?
SPICER: I think that's what they're going to have to decide. I know that they have talked about the importance of winning their home states, but ultimately, it's going to be them that have to decide whether or not they move forward or not, whether they have the requisite number of support, financial backing to continue. I think they've personally talked about what's at stake for each, though.
BLITZER: Because it's winner-take-all --
SPICER: That's right.
BLITZER: -- starting next Tuesday. You don't split up the delegates.
SPICER: So 99 delegates in Florida and 66 in --
BLITZER: If he wins those delegates and, let's say, he wins Illinois, Missouri, North Carolina, he's well on his way, right?
SPICER: Right. Again, the name of the game is 1,237. Whoever gets to 1,237 with pledged delegates becomes the nominee. And that would definitely be a big boost depending on how it shook out in the end.
BLITZER: What if he doesn't get 1,237, but he gets the most going into the convention in Cleveland, but he's just shy of 1,237?
SPICER: Well, I mean, the rule says 1,237. And so I think then it would go to the delegates -- going to the delegates to make that decision. Remember, the convention --
BLITZER: Then it would be a contested convention.
SPICER: Sure. But the convention works like the House of Representatives. There are delegates that are elected to represent the people, activists and voters of that state. That's their job, the same way you elect a member of Congress to goo Congress and represent your interests.
Normally, at least in the last 50-something years, 60 years, rather, 1948, we on the Republican side haven't gone beyond one ballot, because someone has gotten the requisite number of -- of delegates to take the nomination. In 1978, Gerald Ford had a plurality but not the majority, and you know, they worked with the delegations to win the first ballot. But you have to get that number to get the nomination at some point.
[17:10:02] BLITZER: He says he's now a uniter, that he wants to unify, unite the Republican Party. Do you believe he can do that?
SPICER: I think all of them have to. We have to be united as a party if we're going to win. Divided, we cannot beat Hillary Clinton.
BLITZER: Given all the animosity that's been out there -- and you've seen it, we've all seen it over these last several months -- is it doable?
SPICER: Of course it's doable. I mean, look, I just look at 2008, what happened on the Democratic side. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton said a lot of nasty things about each other --
BLITZER: Never as nasty --
SPICER: Well, it's all, you know, in the eye of the beholder. I think they said some pretty nasty things.
BLITZER: But it wasn't as brutal.
SPICER: Look, I watched the CNN "ROAD TO THE WHITE HOUSE" series that's been going on. We have a history in our country of people saying nasty things about each other. But we unify as a party; we'll come together.
One thing our party gets: every single person on the stage and all of our supporters understand while they might have a favorite, that if we don't come together, Hillary Clinton will win. There are at least on just one issue alone four potential Supreme Court justices up for potential nomination at some point during that president's first term.
There's a lot at stake. We have to be united, no question about it. We've done it before. We'll do it again.
BLITZER: Could you see a scenario where Cruz and Rubio might combine their forces, work together to prevent Trump from getting the nomination?
SPICER: I think that that sounds nice in theory. I just don't see how two campaigns that ultimately both believe that they're the best -- they'll be the best nominee were able to coordinate that.
And at the end of the day you also have to remember that it's voters that make these decisions. So I think even if one of them threw their support behind another or came up with some scheme, it's the voters that make these decisions. And I think that you can't just tell voters, "Go vote for this person and do that." They support someone because they believe in them generally speaking, whether it's, you know, in a primary or general election. I don't think you can manipulate voters that way.
BLITZER: What do you expect to see and hear at this Republican debate tomorrow night. Is it going to be as brutal as the last couple were?
SPICER: Look, I think there's a lot at stake. I think each of these individuals know that going especially into March 15. This is the last opportunity they're going to have to draw distinctions between themselves heading into this sort of winner-take-all phase, where the first two of ten states are going to vote winner-take-all. They're going to try to draw those distinctions. How they do it and the tone, I don't know.
We've said that we'd like to see this taken back down a little bit, take the tone back down, make it more "P.G.," as the chairman has said. I heard Mr. Trump make those comments to Chris Cuomo this morning. I hope that they -- they do that. Because I think we, from a party standpoint, want to continue to grow this party. If you look at the number of people that are voting, that are excited to be part of this party, it's at record levels.
The more that we can inspire more people to be part of this and present a positive message for our party going forward, the better.
BLITZER: Sean, stand by. We have a lot more to talk about, including the news, the surprising news today the Republican National Committee files a lawsuit to get Hillary Clinton documents from the State Department.
Much more with Sean Spicer right after a quick break.
[17:17:33] BLITZER: We're back here on the campus of the University of Miami, the site of tomorrow's crucial Republican presidential debate.
With make-or-break primaries looming next Tuesday in Florida and Ohio, new polls show Donald Trump leading, at least right now, in both of those states.
Let's continue our conversation with the Republican National Committee communications director, Sean Spicer. How do you make sure the debate tomorrow night isn't as acrimonious, as bitter as the last two have been? I know that your boss, Reince Priebus, has been having conversations with the various campaigns.
SPICER: I think part of this comes down to, you know, what we tell the audience at the beginning, what we talk to the candidates about. I think the chairman has been very clear in his public statements that we want to take that tenor down; we want to talk more positively about what candidates believe in.
BLITZER: You can't really control these candidates.
SPICER: No, we can't. I mean, I think what we can do is hopefully try to explain what I think is best for the party, what I think would be best for people to understand that and make it a better viewer experience so that they -- they get a chance to hear more from the candidates and less from the audience.
BLITZER: So all of a sudden today the Republican National Committee files a lawsuit with the government, seeking all of Hillary Clinton's e-mails and documents from the State Department during the four years she served as the secretary of state. Why did you do this today? SPICER: So first of all, let's take it back a step. We filed Freedom
of Information Acts over a year ago. We joined the Associated Press, VICE, "The Washington Post," "The Wall Street Journal" and CNN, frankly; and we've all been stalled and been blanked, you know, by the government as far as this.
I think we are at a crucial point. Democratic voters, Republican voters, independent voters deserve an opportunity to know both what happened during her tenure as secretary of state between her and top aides, aides that we haven't seen any communication from, like Cheryl Mills, Brian Patagliano [SIC], Patrick Kennedy, and then we also file the second suit that deals with her time after she left the State Department that deals with what those aides did to interact with key entity (ph).
But all of us are being stonewalled. We're frankly all in the same boat on this.
BLITZER: Why not let the news organizations pursue those areas? Because once the RNC gets involved, it certainly has the appearance of being purely political.
SPICER: Well, again, I think we're joining VICE, the A.P., CNN and others. We have an interest in this. Yes, we are a political entity. We have a right, like you do, like every American does in the Freedom of Information, to ask what's going on.
There's a point at which you realize that their goal is to kick the can down the road, and we have to act. We have an obligation to our voters, to our supporters to show them that we are as equally concerned with this information as news organizations and other outside groups like Citizens United.
BLITZER: Don't you have confidence in the Justice Department, the FBI, the career law enforcement officials who are investigating all of this right now?
SPICER: Well, I would ask don't -- doesn't CNN? Doesn't "The Washington Post"? Everybody is in the same boat. We've all been -- been stalled on this.
And I think at some point each of us has taken the action that we have, because -- because we haven't had the response that we're legally entitled to.
BLITZER: Because it does give the appearance of being -- I heard from the Clinton campaign and the Bernie Sanders campaign, they don't agree on a lot, but they both lot this was just a political witch hunt on the part of the Republicans.
SPICER: But it's -- look, then it's a political witch hunt by CNN, by "The Wall Street Journal," by "The Washington Post," by VICE. At some point, everybody's after it. But they've claimed that it's a political witch hunt when inspectors general appointed by Barack Obama went after them. They claimed it's a political witch hunt when Democratic judges ruled against them. Everything that Hillary Clinton does is a conspiracy somehow.
But yet, all they have to do is comply with the law. That's it. All this is, is saying if you comply with the law, that you're supposed to comply with instead of kicking the can down the road, none of this would have to happen. But everything to them is a conspiracy; everything is a witch hunt. They never seem to have to follow the rules and the law that everybody else has to.
That's the problem with Hillary Clinton. No matter what, it's she has one set of rules for her. Everyone else has a different set of rules. Everything is a witch hunt against her. She shouldn't have to follow the law.
BLITZER: But this is the State Department. She doesn't control the State Department anymore. It's up to the officials at the State Department to make these documents public.
SPICER: Right. Well, at some point it's up to now a judge to do that. But I think at some point we all recognize that it doesn't matter who you are. They're continuing to stunt (ph) news organizations, individuals, associations and now a political party.
BLITZER: I know you're going to watch the Democratic presidential debate tonight.
SPICER: I am.
BLITZER: Univision is hosting it; CNN will simulcast it. What are you specifically looking to hear and what do you want to see?
SPICER: Well, I mean, last time, when they had the debate in Michigan, they didn't talk about veterans once. They didn't talk about terror groups. They never mentioned ISIS. I think the question I have: are they going to actually address issues that Americans are concerned about? Or are they going to go play footsie again on who can, you know, spend more government, expand more government.
At the end of the day there are real issues that need to get solved in terms of the debt, the deficit, Guantanamo Bay, ISIS. Those are real issues that affect all Americans and that frankly have continued to be avoided by both of these candidates.
BLITZER: Sean Spicer, thanks very much for coming in.
SPICER: Thank you for having me.
BLITZER: Good to have you here.
We'll watch the debate tonight and watch the Republican presidential debate tomorrow night here in Miami.
We'll take a quick break. Critical developments happening these days right now leading to the race to the White House. We have new developments coming up right after a quick break.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [17:26:55] BLITZER: We're following the breaking news in the presidential race, Donald Trump telling CNN today he thinks the race for the nomination is over if -- if he wins next Tuesday's primaries in Florida and Ohio.
New polls indeed show him leading in both of those states, which makes tomorrow's CNN Republican presidential debate here on the campus of the University of Miami more important than ever.
Joining us now, our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger; our chief national correspondent, John King; our national -- our political commentators Ana Navarro and Donna Brazile. Guys, thanks very much.
The Republicans, Gloria, as you know, they've thrown almost everything at Donald Trump in recent weeks, indeed --
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Not almost everything, everything.
BLITZER: Romney most recently last week. But following last night, what's left for them to do to stop -- stop him from moving forward?
BORGER: Praying a lot. I think, look, the question is what happens next Tuesday, and what happens at CNN's debate tomorrow could be really important in that.
Wolf, if Trump were to win both Florida and Ohio -- and John is better at this than I am and knows the numbers better than anybody -- but if he wins, I think, you know, you've got to say game over. And if he doesn't, or if it splits, then I think you have more of a question.
And I just spent some time on the phone with somebody who's doing rules for this convention. It is making my head explode, OK? Because it is so arcane and so confusing and so crazy. And what's going to happen is that Cruz and Trump may be on the same side of the fight at a convention, because Cruz wants to be able to be the man taking on Trump at the floor. He doesn't want anybody else in this fight. So anything can happen.
BLITZER: It's -- it's fascinating because next Tuesday Florida and Ohio, our CNN/ORC poll shows Trump is winning in both of those states. A Quinnipiac poll that just came out, Trump is at 45 in Florida; Rubio is at 22; Cruz 18; Kasich 8. In Ohio, Trump is beating Kasich 38 to 32; Cruz 16; Rubio 9. If it stays like that, presumably Trump might be right: it could be over.
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: After Michigan last night, I'm going to be with millions of Americans and be somewhat skeptical of polls. It's hard to poll in this environment. I'm not beating up on the pollsters. It's just hard to poll in such a volatile election.
But to Gloria's point and to your point, look, if Trump wins in Florida and wins in Ohio, if you think about the different demographics of those states, that means he's probably also winning in North Carolina, in Illinois and Missouri. If you're winning in Ohio and Florida, then you're winning everywhere. You're winning every constituency. You're winning in a broad-based way.
Well, if he wins four or five of the states next week after rebounding last night, what is the argument? What is the argument against him? At some point, you know, forgive me, the establishment may have to take Mitt Romney's advice and self deport. Because what argument do they have?
Because they're not only arguing against -- arguing against Trump at that point. They're arguing against their voters. Isn't the customer always right?
And if the customers in Ohio and Florida and New Hampshire and Nevada and all across the South are voting for Donald Trump, at what point do you have to stop saying, "You people are stupid" if he's winning? It's just -- they're in a box -- they're in a box, and I don't know the way out.
[17:30:10] BLITZER: I think it's fair to say, Donna, that -- that Trump is unique. Even the way he handles election nights, last night once again for the third time he gives a speech, and then has a little news conference. But even the speech at times he opened up. It sounded like an infomercial, if you will. Watch this.
TRUMP: Very successful companies. Let me just -- I'm going to do this in about two seconds. I built a great, great company. I have Trump International where you were last week. It's also really wonderful to have you at Trump National Golf Club. It's a great, great resort and place.
Well, there's the water company. I mean, we sell water and we have water. And we have Trump Steaks. And by the way, you want to take one, we'll charge you about, what, 50 bucks a steak? No, no.
He said, "Trump Magazine is out."
I said, "It is? I thought I read one two days ago." This comes out, and it's called "The Jewel of Palm Beach," and all it goes to all of my clubs. I've had it for many years. And it's the magazine. It's great.
Well, I sold the airline, and I actually made a great deal. And by the way, Trump University, it's -- we're holding it. When I win the lawsuit, which I'll win. Their report cards were all excellent. Beautiful statements. We love it.
But we have a lot of great people that want to get back into Trump University. It's going to do very well. And by the way, the winery, you see the wine. Because he mentioned Trump Vodka. It's the largest winery on the East Coast. I own it 100 percent. We're very proud of it. Make the finest wine, as good of wine as you can get anywhere in the world.
So I want to put that to rest. You have the water. You have the steaks. You have the airline that I sold. I mean, what's wrong with selling? Everyone said you can sell something. You have the wines and all of that. And Trump University, we're going to start it up as soon as I win the lawsuit. Does that make sense? I mean, that's it.
BLITZER: Did you ever hear anything like that before on an election night? He did really well. He won three of the four states, and so he could be very proud of that. But that's pretty unique, you've got to admit.
BRAZILE: Wolf, if you were just channel surfing with your remote control, you would have thought that you were on the Home Shopping Network. I mean --
ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Or the Food Network.
BRAZILE: The Food Network. He didn't give us any recipe of what to do with his wine or his steaks.
Look, Donald Trump is an unconventional candidate. He's running an unconventional campaign. Typically, a candidate comes out, thank his supporters, thank his volunteers, kiss his wife and say, "We're on to the next stop." That's not Donald Trump.
Donald Trump was re-litigating the battle he had earlier in the week to Mitt Romney. He was trying to respond to this notion that he's a failed businessman and a con artist. And what did he do last night? He got up and said, "I'm the greatest. I have all of these products. Look at these products." He had them lined up for reporters to see to take pictures. And guess what? He's still winning.
BLITZER: He's still winning. And let me show the numbers once again, the new poll numbers that came out in Florida and Ohio. You've got to -- whatever he's doing --
NAVARRO: Do you really have to show them to me again? Once is --
BLITZER: Take a look. Ohio right there. Ohio, 38 percent, Trump; you see Kasich 32; Cruz 16; Marco Rubio, your friend, only 9 percent.
You've got to give him a lot of credit, Donald Trump. He may be unusual. He may be extraordinary in the style he does, but it's resonating out there.
NAVARRO: Look, I think he has definitely, definitely touched a nerve that's going on in the Republican base, in a part of the Republican base.
I will tell you that the reason the game is not over and the reason that we're still going to try to throw everything and anything at him is because he's not winning a majority of the vote in any of the states.
So you have got to think, you've got to summarize that, well, you know, a majority of people do not want Trump. Maybe there's some that, if he becomes the nominee, will come to grips with the idea of Donald Trump.
But there's a lot of us right now who are coming to grips with the idea of Ted Cruz. It blows my mind that, actually, he's become an acceptable alternative.
BLITZER: Could he be acceptable to you?
NAVARRO: Anybody but Trump is acceptable to me.
BLITZER: Even Ted Cruz, because I know you're not a big fan of Ted Cruz?
NAVARRO: Oh, that's an understatement.
NAVARRO: But you know, if I have to -- you know, look, if I have to choose between strep throat or leukemia, I'll choose strep throat, you know? I mean, at least one is curable. I think -- I think Ted Cruz knows how government runs. He might have -- he might try to obstruct it every now and then, but he does know how it runs. He's read the Constitution.
And I think he's got a much better temperament than Donald Trump. He's not angry tweeting in the middle of the night. He's not, you know, using expletives in front of children. And he's not offending every possible group that he can.
So yes, all of a sudden Ted Cruz is becoming acceptable to people like Lindsey Graham, to people like myself who just a few days ago found him --
KING (ph): Look at that.
BORGER: Here's what I don't understand about last night and the speech, whatever it was that you just showed. Trump had a big moment last night. He won -- he had a big moment, won these states. And instead of turning it into something larger, which if you've going to pivot to being the nominee at some point, you need to do that, he made it a smaller moment.
[17:35:15] NAVARRO: Because it gets under his skin.
BORGER: I know, but you want to be president?
BLITZER: And if you slap him, he's going to slap you right back.
BRAZILE: He punches back.
BORGER: There's also drama unfolding on the Democratic side in the race for the White House. Stay with us. Much more when we come back.
[17:40:08] BLITZER: Less than 24 hours after Bernie Sanders pulled off a stunning upset of Hillary Clinton in the Michigan Democratic primary, the two will face off tonight at 9 p.m. Eastern as CNN simulcasts the Democratic presidential debate hosted by Univision. Clinton scored a knockout in Mississippi and holds a big league in delegates, but almost 700 delegates are up for grabs in next Tuesday's five big primaries, making tonight's debate all the more critical.
Let's turn to our senior political correspondent, Brianna Keilar. She's standing by at the debate site.
Brianna, what's the latest there?
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, there, Wolf.
Bernie Sanders will be taking part in this key debate tonight, but make no mistake: his eye is on Ohio, where his campaign believes that his attacks on Hillary Clinton's past trade positions will give him the edge, especially with this momentum coming off of his big win in Michigan.
KEILAR (voice-over): Tonight Hillary Clinton is courting support in Florida ahead of a crucial debate here, hoping to keep her Southern state winning streak alive and convince voters she can go the distance after losing Michigan and her momentum overnight.
BRAZILE: This should scare the Clinton folks, if anything.
KEILAR: Polls had shown Clinton leading Bernie Sanders by double digits, and she seemed convinced she'd win.
HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The sooner I could become your nominee, the more I could begin to turn our attention to the Republicans.
KEILAR: But as results poured in, the Great Lakes State delivered a great big upset, forcing Senator Bernie Sanders, who had already shuttered his election night rally, to hold a hastily-arranged news conference at his Florida hotel.
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I just want to take this opportunity to thank the people of Michigan, who kind of repudiated the polls that had us 20, 25 points down a few days ago.
KEILAR: Sanders's final push against Clinton -- attacks on her support for past trade agreements and connections to Wall Street -- seemed to resonate with voters there.
SANDERS: Secretary Clinton supported virtually every one of these disastrous trade agreements written by corporate America.
KEILAR: And may now provide him with a message he will most likely use on stage again tonight and that will help him in Michigan's industrial neighbor of Ohio, where Clinton has a 30-point advantage and where she held her rally Tuesday night.
CLINTON: Thank you all so very much. KEILAR: But as much as Clinton may have lost Michigan, she still
walked away a winner, handily taking the Mississippi primary and picking up more delegates for the night than her opponent.
And tonight the math is still very much in Clinton's favor. She has a lead of 217 pledged delegates; and her outlook for the next big series of primaries is better than Sanders.
KEILAR: Now, Hillary Clinton may have to hit pause on her recent pivot, Wolf, to the general election that we've been hearing. You saw there in that piece and focus a little more on this primary battle that she's in with Bernie Sanders.
BLITZER: All right, Brianna, thanks very much.
I want to bring back our political experts. Donna Brazile, the big debate tonight, the Democratic, will there be fireworks? And if there are fireworks, over what?
BRAZILE: Trade. I mean, we saw last night in Michigan that six, in ten voters believed that, you know, these so-called trade agreements take away jobs. She has to answer that. I think that's a big issue.
The second thing is, we saw two big gaps last night. One with young people. We've seen that before, but also with independents. She has to close the gap.
So I think tonight you're going to see a much more testy appearance between Senator Sanders and Secretary Clinton. Look, he won four caucus states; she won two primary states. He won in small states; she won in two Southern states. She has to win next week. She has to win to maintain the delegate lead, Ohio, Illinois, Missouri. Look, those are open primaries where independents can come in and play and some of the Republicans who like to stir a little you know what up.
So I think next week is going to be crucial for her. Crucial for her to not just maintain a delegate lead but to also --
BLITZER: Hold on a second because, Gloria, she by all accounts was the front-runner. Why couldn't she just put it away once and for all?
BORGER: You know, I think at a certain point you have to look at the candidate. This isn't the first time this has happened to Hillary Clinton. And of course, this is a very different situation from 2008, because she's still overwhelmingly more likely to be the nominee than Bernie Sanders, although his campaign disputes that.
I think that Hillary Clinton campaigned in some of the wrong places, didn't show up a lot in Michigan, which a lot of people were complaining about when I was talking to them last night.
And I also think that Hillary Clinton as a candidate, when compared with Bernie Sanders and shifting positions on issues like trade, looks a little less authentic. And I think in a state like Michigan, that can be a problem. You have to show up. I think they were pivoting towards the general election.
NAVARRO: Let's not forget that debate, tonight's Democratic debate, is on Univision.
[17:45:01] CNN is simulcasting it but this is also the first time that Hispanic community is getting to see Bernie Sanders, is getting to hear him. I suspect that there will be discussion on immigration.
NAVARRO: It's something where Hillary Clinton has shifted positions. A year and a half ago she was one of the first voices to call for the immediate repatriation of the minors on the border. If Bernie Sanders is smart, he's going to bring that up. He's going to remind Hispanics that she shifted positions of where she was in 2008 where she couldn't even answer a question on driver's licenses and whether undocumented immigrants should be given those.
You know, she's not always been the patron saint of immigrants, of undocumented immigrants, and Bernie Sanders should be well-prepared to take her on, on that.
DONNA BRAZILE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: He also has some immigration votes stemming back in his first early years in Congress.
BRAZILE: So immigration is going to be a key issue. But Bernie Sanders has shown he can grow support with minorities. That's another surprise from last night. 30 percent of the African-American community, he received votes in Nevada. That was her firewall. She has holes. She has to repair those holes. So tonight a lot of the -- I think a lot of the fire will be aimed at Bernie Sanders, but you know what, Hillary Clinton already --
BORGER: But last night --
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: John, what do you think?
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, if you look at the map, the funny thing is she's winning where Obama won in 2008 and now Sanders is starting to win where Clinton won in 2008,. He's winning the white working class voters.
Look, the polls were off in Michigan last night. I think Gloria makes a key point. You know, just like on the Republican side, if you underestimate your opponent in this volatile climate where people are looking for something new and different, you run a huge risk. And some of this is issues based, some of it is generational based, but Bernie Sanders is getting younger minorities. You make a key point. Can he get younger Latinos to come over his way? He won on the college towns, independents crossing over. She should never take her eyes off him until she's -- NAVARRO: Last night we learned that minority groups are not group
think. They're not one homogeneous blob as I saw over and over again. We saw that African-Americans in Michigan vote very differently than African-Americans in Mississippi.
BORGER: And she is the best when her back is up against the wall.
BLITZER: Hold on, guys.
BLITZER: We'll see what happens. We'll see what happens.
And to our viewers, remember CNN is simulcasting the big Democratic presidential debate hosted by Univision. Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton, they face off, 9:00 p.m. Eastern. You can watch it right here on CNN.
Coming up, as Donald Trump shows off steaks that may not really bear his name, Jeb Bush may be cooking up something with the other GOP candidates. Why are they scheduling urgent meetings now?
And a chilling new threat from Kim Jong-Un. North Korea says it has miniaturized nuclear warheads that fit on its ballistic missiles.
[17:52:06] BLITZER: North Korea's threat of a preemptive nuclear strike is now even more chilling with the claim by Kim Jong-Un's regime that it has miniaturized a warhead to fit on ballistic missiles.
Brian Todd has been digging into all of this.
Brian, you're also learning about a new challenge from the North. What is it?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, tonight we've got breaking news of another provocation from Kim Jong-Un. The South Korean military says North Korea has just fired two short-range ballistic missiles into the sea off its east coast. The South Koreans track this closely. Both they and the U.S. military say they are monitoring the situation tonight. A U.S. Defense official telling us they are urging North Koreans to refrain from provocative actions.
As Wolf mentioned, this comes as Kim's regime has come out with new details of a dangerous nuclear capability.
TODD (voice-over): Kim Jong-Un beams with pride and inspects a silver metal spear which could someday rein destruction on his enemies. His news agency says he's acquainting himself with a nuclear warhead which his regime says tonight has been miniaturized to fit on a ballistic missile.
U.S. officials tells CNN they have to work on the assumption that what Kim says could be true but they have nothing to verify that.
BRUCE KINGNER, THE HERITAGE FOUNDATION: We can't underestimate them. They will get there if they're not already there. So we have to be concerned especially at a time when North Korea is again threatening to attack the U.S. and its allies with nuclear weapons and conventional weapons.
TODD: A U.S. intelligence official tells us North Korea's missile and nuclear weapons programs represent a serious threat to America's interests and the security of its closest allies. A key reason why U.S. and South Korean forces are having live fire drills tonight. And blasting mountainsides. The largest ever joint military exercises between the two countries.
Kim Jong-Un's regime believes they are practicing to target him and his nuclear program. Analysts say that's why he's threatening a nuclear attack against them. Weapons experts believe Kim could strike South Korea or Japan with a shorter range nuclear-tipped missile. But he's not there yet with a long-range nuclear fitted ballistic missile which could hit the United States.
DAVID ALBRIGHT, INSTITUTE FOR SCIENCE AND INTERNATIONAL SECURITY: It's tricky to launch something, have it re-enter the atmosphere at very high speeds, and have the re-entry vehicle and the warhead survive. And they haven't done those kind of re-entry tests.
TODD: For its part, South Korea's Defense Ministry says it doesn't believe Kim's regime can yet miniaturize a nuclear warhead. A respected former U.N. weapons inspector flatly disagrees and says it's dangerous to underestimate Kim.
ALBRIGHT: They work in a world where they've often seen countries or analysts downplay what they've done. And their reaction to that is, well, you -- we want you to fear us. And we're just going to work harder to make sure that it's real what we're doing. They get more dogged about success the more people make fun of them and say it won't work.
[17:55:03] TODD: David Albright says the North Koreans have been working on their nuclear program for a long time. That's they're not idiots. And he points out one more ominous trait. Every time they do a nuclear or missile test, even if it fails, they learn something new -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Can these new U.N. sanctions Brian slow down North Korea's nuclear program?
TODD: It would be possible, Wolf. Analysts say they can but only if China follows through on enforcing those sanctions. So far China is in favor of the sanctions but they have rarely enforced them against North Korea. China is very afraid of destabilizing North Korea which would of course lead to a massive crisis right along its border. It looks like that nuclear capability will go unchecked for a while.
BLITZER: Brian Todd, thank you.
Coming up, ahead of high stakes debates, Donald Trump shows off some branded products in states that may not necessarily really bear his name.