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RNC Says Party Will Unite Behind One of Four Candidates; GOP Seeing 120 to 130 Percent Record Turnout in Battleground States; Trump's Plans for ISIS. Aired 12-1a ET

Aired March 11, 2016 - 00:00   ET


[00:00:30] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: And welcome to the University of Miami, site of the final republican debate before a major day, big Super Tuesday, including winner-take-all primary here in Florida. This could be the last time we see all four GOP presidential hopefuls on stage together. It was, in many ways, the first time we saw them quite this way, more substance than sniping, tough exchanges but nothing below the belt. Here are some of the key moments.


DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: You said the concept of opening Cuba is fine. Why do you agree with President Obama and disagree with what Senator Rubio just said?

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don't really agree with President Obama. I think I'm somewhere in the middle. What I want is, I want a much better deal to be made because right now Cuba is making, -- as usual with our country, we don't make good deals. We don't have our right people negotiating. We have people that don't have a clue. As an example, I heard recently where the threat was made that they want reparations for years of abuse by the United States. And, nobody's talking about it; and they'll end up signing a deal and we'll get sued for $400 billion or a trillion dollars. All that stuff has to be agreed to now. We don't want to get sued after the deal is made. So I don't agree with President Obama. I do agree that something should be -- should take place. After 50 years it's enough time, folks.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well I don't know where Cuba is going to sue us, but if they sue us in a court in Miami they're going to lose.


RUBIO: Third, --

JAKE TAPPER, CNN CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: You have said positive things about Putin, as a leader, and about China's massacre of pro-democracy protesters at Tiananmen Square you said, "When the students poured into Tiananmen Square the Chinese government almost blew it. Then they were vicious. They were horrible, but they put it down with strength. That shows you the power of strength. How do you respond - TRUMP: That doesn't mean I was not endorsing that. I was not

endorsing it. I said that is a strong, powerful government that put it down with strength, and they kept down the riot. It was a horrible thing. It doesn't mean at all I was endorsing it.

As far as Putin is concerned, I think Putin's been a very strong leader for Russia. I think it's been a lot stronger than our leader, that I can tell you. I mean, for Russia; that doesn't mean I'm endorsing Putin.

TAPPER: When you were a member of Congress you were outspoken about the Tiananmen Square massacre. What do you think?

GOV. JOHN KASICH (R-OH), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think that the Chinese government butchered those kids and when that guy stood in front of that -- that young man stood in front of that tank, we ought to build a statue of him over here, when he faced down the Chinese government.


TAPPER: Earlier a man was arrested and charged with assault after sucker punching a protester in the face at your rally in Fayetteville, North Carolina. This is hardly the first incident of violence breaking out at one of your rallies. Today Hillary Clinton, your potential general election opponent, clearly indicated she sees this is an issue for the campaign. She said, this kind of behavior is repugnant. We set the tone for our campaigns. We should encourage respect, not violence. Do you believe that you have done anything to create a tone where this kind of violence would be encouraged?

TRUMP: I hope not; I truly hope not. I will say this, we have 25, 30,000 people, you've seen it yourself. People come with tremendous passion and love for the country and when they see protests, in some cases, -- you know, you're mentioning one case which I haven't seen, I heard about it, which I don't like, but when they see what's going on in this country, they have anger that's unbelievable. They have anger. They love this country.

RUBIO: Sure the climate is changing, and one of the reasons why the climate is changing is because the climate has always been changing. There has never been a time when the climate has not changed.


RUBIO: I think the fundamental question is, is the climate changing because of something we are doing and if so, is there a law you can pass to fix it? So on the issue of flooding in Miami it's caused by two things: (1) South Florida is largely built on land that was once a swamp; and (2) because if there is higher sea levels, or whatever it is that may be happening, we do need to deal with that through mitigation. I have long supported mitigation efforts, but as far as a law that we can pass in Washington to change the weather there's no such thing.

TRUMP: First of all, I think I'm going to have the delegates; okay? I think. Let's see what happens.

[Cheering and Applause]

TRUMP: Let's see; but if somebody doesn't have the delegates, and I guess there's two of us that can and there are two of us that cannot at this moment, but if some -- no, that's just -


TRUMP: By the way, that is not meant to be a criticism. That's just a mathematical fact; okay? If two of us get up there -- I would say this: if Marco, if the Governor, if Ted had more votes than me, in the form of delegates, I think whoever gets to that top position, as opposed to solving that artificial number that was set by somebody, which is a very random number, I think that whoever get it is most delegates should win. That's what I think.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There are only two of us [00:05:03] that have a path to winning the nomination, Donald and myself.

[Cheering and Applause]

CRUZ: At this point, I have roughly 360 delegates. He has about 100 more than I have. We have, at this point, beaten Donald in eight separate states all over the country, geographically from Maine to Alaska, from Kansas to Texas, all over this country we have beaten him. And so, for the people at home, if you're one of the 65, 70- percent of republicans who recognizes that if we nominate Donald Trump, Hillary wins, that's why the media wants him to be the nominee so much. If you recognize that, then I want to invite you, if you've supported other candidates, come and join us.

TRUMP: I listen and I watch Ted on television and when he speaks and he's always saying I'm the only one that beat Donald in six contests and I beat him and -- but I beat him in 13 contests. He never mentions that.

[Cheering and Applause]


COOPER: A few of the moments the voters will be talking about; we'll be talking about it as well. Randi Kaye watched from Tampa with local republicans, some of them still undecided. Let's go to her; Randi?

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT, via satellite: Anderson, we were watching here at the Tampa Bay History Center in downtown Tampa with a lot of undecided voters trying to choose their candidate. They really like the tone of the debate; that that was the one thing -- and they heard a lot of substance which they were happy about.

Let me ask you first, here, just off the top, who thought that Marco Rubio was the most presidential tonight; raise your hand. Okay, quite a bit of you. Who thought that Donald Trump came off as the most presidential? Just three of you.

And what about Ted Cruz, most presidential tonight? Okay.

I know we also talked earlier and a lot of you told me you thought Donald Trump was the most improved candidate. Why does he get the win for most improved?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, to be fair, he has the most to improve upon.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We saw before he was insulting people, when he was specifically told not to insult people. He cleaned up his act a little bit; give him credit.

KAYE: what about you, sir?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think this is the first debate that I've seen where I didn't feel like I was living in the movie "Idiocrasy."


KAYE: One of the issues that came up tonight, which got a lot of reaction from our crowd, was the issue of Cuba. Marco Rubio talked quite a bit about Cuba. You were sort of debating tonight between Rubio and Cruz. I think you've decided on Rubio and that had a lot to do with what he said about Cuba.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Absolutely; he looked very presidential. He talked about issues in Cuba that the Hispanic community agree with him. I am sure that the Hispanic community must be very happy right now.

KAYE: What do you like about his stance on Cuba?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well he's not happy with the way President Obama is handling the issues with Cuba. Opening up with Cuba is not a good idea unless you do a good deal to the United States, but not to Cuba only.

KAYE: Got it; and Anderson, another thing that we talked about, which we saw Donald Trump tonight, he was really doubling down on his remarks to you about Islam, from last night. So that got a big reaction here from this crowd, standing by those remarks. What do you think about Donald Trump's handling of those remarks on Islam tonight at the debate?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it's inappropriate for anybody to get against any religion. I'm originally from Egypt and I'm Orthodox Christian, so I've been persecuted in Egypt; we all did. But I will stand behind the freedom of religion of anybody, Muslims, Jews or Christian. This is the American way and this is the Christian way.

KAYE: Let me ask this group, because one thing we heard Ted Cruz say tonight, he turned the camera on the audience and he asked people who feels disrespected by Washington and got a big response there. How many of you feel disrespected by Washington? All of you; every single person. What is it -- let me ask you, why do you feel disrespected by Washington?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well I feel particularly disrespected by Hillary Clinton. If you listen to Hillary Clinton last night, you -- you heard an economic disaster. You heard an immigration disaster. You heard terror coming through our shores. She's endorsed all of the policies of Obama. He hasn't respected the Constitution. She doesn't respect human rights. She doesn't respect. she's supposed to be a champion for women, but she negotiates and takes money from countries that abuse women.

KAYE: Okay; let me ask you, sir, what is it that you feel disrespected about -


KAYE: -- as we get a cheer from the audience there?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I definitely feel that the military, veterans and their families, feel like they've made the back -- the commitment, but we've never seen the reciprocal return. The only one that addressed those issues, and did it very clearly, was Marco Rubio.

KAYE: And just finally, as we toss it back to Anderson, back there, please, everybody, who decided on a candidate tonight; raise your hand. Almost all of you. Look at this group, Anderson. Almost everyone here, finally just a few days away from the Florida primary, have finally decided on a candidate. Back to you.

COOPER: Randi, if you could just ask them, were any minds changed? I mean, [00:10:01] seems like all of them decided on a candidate tonight. Is it a different candidate than they came into this debate thinking or did it just solidify previous thought?

KAYE: Let me ask them. Anderson wants to ask all of you, did any of you change your minds on a candidate tonight or did it solidify who you were sort of leaning toward? Anyone change their mind? You, sir; you did? Who were you thinking of and did you change your mind to?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think all four are more presidential than what the democratic party has. I can vote for any one of them.

KAYE: Had you - were you picking someone before you came in tonight and then changed your mind?

UNIDENTIFIED: Yeah, I'm backing Cruz; but after watching the debate tonight I could vote for any one of these people and be comfortable with (inaudible).

KAYE: Anyone specifically change their mind on a candidate? No. I know one woman here was wavering, she was wavering. She came in for Rubio, was kind of on the fence for Cruz and then went back to Rubio by the time that debate was over. ANDERSON: All right, fascinating. Randi, thanks very much and please thank them for staying up late for us. We really appreciate it.

Back this hour with John King, Gloria Borger. Also joining us CNN's Senior Political Reporter Nia-Malika Henderson, on my right; also, CNN Political commentators on my left: GOP Strategist Ana Navarro; Kevin Madden; as well as Andy Dean, former president of Trump Productions.

Nia, we haven't heard from you yet, what did you make of tonight?

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL REPORTER: Yes, I agree with that crowd. It was a status quo debate, but it was a status quo that the Republican Party desperately need. we came into this cycle hearing so much about how deep and talented this field was, but that often got

lost in kind of the din of Donald Trump. I thought tonight all of those candidates on the stage showed that they were talented, that they were experienced, that they had a grasp of a wide range of issues from foreign policy to common core.

So I think, in that way, they all acted like frontrunners. Whether or not that's going to do them any good going into Tuesday, that's probably part of the status quo that isn't so good, if you're Marco Rubio or Ted Cruz or John Kasich. But I think the Republican Party very happy tonight, certainly the RNC is.

COOPER: Ana, do you think Marco Rubio, who clearly needed to have a good night tonight, -- Florida - I mean, he himself said, in talking to Wolf Blitzer after the debate, he wouldn't say whether he would drop out or not but he did say whoever wins Florida is going to win the nomination. So the implication is if he doesn't win, he's not going to be in it.

Does his argument that a vote in Florida for Cruz or Kasich is basically a vote for Donald Trump? He's telling people, even if you like Cruz or Kasich, vote for Rubio in Florida. Do you think that actually impacts anybody here?

ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, I think it does. I think it's a legitimate argument. If it's not going to be Rubio who wins, it's probably going to be Trump. You are helping Trump get 99 more delegates, which is not Trump change in this delegate count.

I think Marco had a very good debate; a solid, solid debate. I think he knew his back was against the wall. He completely owned that Cuba question, in front of the hometown -

COOPER: That was a very strong response.

NAVARRO: -- crowd that cares about that issue. There's a lot of Cuban-Americans in the Republican Party. It is not a coincidence that that's where Ted Cruz started tonight. His first initial answer, his opening statement, was about his Cuban heritage; and you saw Marco play his up as well. But when it came to the Cuba answer, Marco was beautiful.

COOPER: Very specific -

NAVARRO: He was passionate and informed, knowledgeable, solid, conviction, principle. And, you know, Donald Trump looked like he hardly knew what he was talking about, in comparison; and frankly, even Ted Cruz didn't match up to that Marco Rubio answer.

COOPER: You know, let's just play that sound and then I want to hear from Andy Dean what he thought. Let's play Rubio's response.


BASH: -- opening Cuba is fine. Why do you agree with President Obama and disagree with what Senator Rubio just said?

TRUMP: I don't really agree with President Obama. I think I'm somewhere in the middle. What I want is, I want a much better deal to be made because right now Cuba is making, -- as usual with our country, we don't make good deals. We don't have our right people negotiating. We have people that don't have a clue. As an example, I heard recently where the threat was made that they want reparations for years of abuse by the United States. And, nobody's talking about it; and they'll end up signing a deal and we'll get sued for $400 billion or a trillion dollars. All that stuff has to be agreed to now. We don't want to get sued after the deal is made. So I don't agree with President Obama. I do agree that something should be -- should take place. After 50 years it's enough time, folks.

BASH: Senator Rubio I know you want to get in; but just to be clear, Mr. Trump, are you saying that if you were president you would continue the diplomatic relations or would you reverse them?

TRUMP: I would want to make a good deal. I would want to make a strong, solid, good deal because right now everything is in Cuba's favor. Right now everything, every single aspect of this deal is in Cuba's favor. It's the same way as the Iran deal. We never walked -- all we do is keep giving. We give and give and give --

BASH: Mr. Trump, just to be clear, there is an embassy that you would have to decide whether you would open or whether you would close it? Which would it be, in Havana?

TRUMP: I would probably have the embassy closed until such time as a really good deal was made and struck by the United States.


[00:15:04] RUBIO: All right; first of all, the embassy is the former consulate, it's the same building; so it could just go back to being called a consulate. We don't have to close it that way. Second of all I don't know where Cuba's going to sue us, but if they sue us, but if they sue us in a court in Miami they're going to lose. Third -


BASH: Senator Cruz, if you become president, would you reverse course and once again break diplomatic relations with Cuba? CRUZ: Yes, I would; and I think this exchange actually highlights a real choice for republican primary voters. When it comes to foreign policy, do you want to continue on the same basic trajectory as the last seven years of the Obama foreign policy?


COOPER: We should point out there was an edit there. Actually, Rubio's answer did go on longer and was much more specific.

Andy Dean, how do you think your guy, Donald Trump, did tonight?

ANDY DEAN, FORMER PRESIDENT, TRUMP PRODUCTIONS: I think he had a good night. He started the night and ended it with the same answer, with the same meaning, and that was, millions of new people have come to the process. Many of new people are voting. That's a good thing for the party; and if he does well on Tuesday, which it looks like he's going to do, it's time for the Party to unify.

Anderson, it's just not the people voting at the booth, it's people paying attention to the Republican Party in a way that they haven't done in the last decade. I actually looked up the television ratings, --

COOPER: Right.

DEAN: -- of the republican debates, aggregate average -

COOPER: It's enormous.

DEAN: -- 16 million. The democrats aggregate average, 9 million. So you're see ago lot more interest and a lot more people voting for Trump. He wanted to get that across at the beginning and at the end. I thought it was a good night.

COOPER: Kevin Madden?

KEVIN MADDEN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, look, I thought it was a very civil debate and I think the strategy there was Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz thought civility would work in their favor. But, you know, it also worked to Donald Trump's favor tonight. It was a lot like a victory formation that he was running. And Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, where in the pa -- in recent debates they've been aggressive going after them, they laid back and I think they -


MADDEN: -- they tried to break through with a lot of voters that maybe haven't made up their mind, by doing it with substance.

NAVARRO: They also laid back from each other.

MADDEN: They did.

NAVARRO: There was very little cross attacking.

COOPER: Did you expect them to be more aggressive with him on policy as opposed to, you know, hands or whatever --

MADDEN: No, I did. I expected them to be more aggressive on policy but to draw a much harder contrast. I mean, look, there were several times during this debate where Donald Trump was a babbling mess on big issues, like national security and foreign policy, and Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz went and made their respective points without pointing that out. I think that works with Donald Trump because, quite frankly, his supporters, they're not really interested in a lot of policy details. They like the idea of strength and clarity and this feeling that he's going to be stronger and he's going to make great deals. He goes into these, like, endless, tautological answers that -- where he just repeats himself and his ability making deals over and over. It was a surprise to me that they didn't go hard at that.

COOPER: We're going to have a lot more to talk about. We do have to take a short break. When we come back, we'll put some of those statements made tonight on that stage to a reality check, to see if they fit the facts. Also the republican party's communications director joins us, ahead.


[00:22:27] COOPER: Well, the tone at tonight's debate may have been softer but the candidate's claims, you could say they were as bold as ever. Tom Foreman has a Reality Check; Tom?

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Anderson. Donald Trump has said over and over again that the U.S. must attack ISIS' oil assets and he really doesn't like the White House's reason for not doing so. Listen.


TRUMP: We're not knocking out the oil because they don't want to create environmental pollution up in the air. I mean, these are things that nobody believes. They think we're kidding; they didn't want to knock out the oil because of what it's going to do to the carbon footprint.


FOREMAN: That is a very big claim out there, but there is a problem with all this. First of all, there have been hundreds of strikes against ISIS' oil facilities there. Yes, they've been mainly aimed at things like distribution systems and refineries. They haven't hit the oil wells, proper, a whole lot. So why has Donald Trump got this idea in his head that that's because of pollution?

Well, maybe it's because of this, an interview last fall with a former official from the CIA who said, "We didn't go after oil wells... because we didn't want to do environmental damage, and we didn't want to destroy that infrastructure." This got a lot of play in conservative press, but not so much the second part of it down here. It was really focused on the first part, because this part is what many people in the administration say matters because if you do really gigantic damage out there it will be very hard for the region to recover when and if ISIS is driven out. The bottom line is Trump left that out of his assessment. It misrepresents the statement and that means that, while there is a kernel of truth to what he said, it is absolutely misleading; Anderson.

COOPER: All right, Tom. We'll have more of that ahead. Let's go now to Sunlen Serfaty, who is with the GOP communication's director, Sean Spicer; Sunlen?

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Anderson; I'm here with Sean Spicer, who is also the Chief Strategist of the RNC. Tell me your impressions tonight, especially about the tone of tonight's debate.

SEAN SPICER, RNC CHIEF STRATEGIST & COMMUNICATIONIS DIRECTOR: I think the tone was much better tonight. I think we heard a lot more from the candidates than we might have in the past couple debates. It was very substantive. I think for voters coming into this crucial Tuesday, where you'll enter that winner-take-all state phase of the campaign, they got a lot out of this. They covered a lot of issues tonight, a lot of issues that are on the minds of voters and it's going to be important as people make up their decision.

SERFATY: Is there any regret that this did not happen sooner among these potential nominees?

SPICER: Well, look, you've got to go through certain iterations of a cycle, and each one has to play to a strategy that they think is going to be best [00:25:01] for their campaign. I think at this point in the cycle the voters are ready to see more substance, to see some of these covered more in-depth. So what I'm really excited about is the level of intensity that we're seeing, the turnout, the record turnout in all of these states. That's something that's very beneficial. It's going to be important for us heading into November.

We've got, in the battleground states, like here in Florida, we're seeing 120-percent, 130-percent of record turnout. You've got 690,000 early returns already in Florida. That shows that something's happening on our side.

SERFATY: Did anything tonight in your opinion change the trajectory of this race?

SPICER: We don't know. I mean, that's important. The question is, how many voters in those key states this Tuesday are still looking to make up their mind? And we're seeing, in some of the states, at least from the exit polls, that there's a good amount that make up their mind at the end. So I think for a lot of those people, those viewers, those voters that were waiting to see something or get another look at a candidate this could have been very important.

SERFATY: And going forward, tell me your predictions? When do you think you'll get a nominee?

SPICER: It's really not up to me to determine that; that's going to be up to voters. We'll see more people involved in this process than ever before, but what I can tell you is this: even if somebody ran the entire table, which is almost impossible, between now going forward, we couldn't have a nominee until the first week of May. That means that we've got a little bit -- ways to go. There's a lot more states, a lot more people that are going to be a part of this process.

SERFATY: Sean Spicer, thank you very much.

SPICER: Thank you.

SERFATY: Anderson, back to you.

COOPER: Back with our panel, he's got to be a relief tonight, certainly, with the way this debate went and what - I mean, is this neverTrump movement, is it too soon to tell what the fate of it is and will that be clear Wednesday morning, next week?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: To the first point, the end coming from all stripes of republicans, people support these different candidates, people who don't have a horse in this race involved in the party, was all a great sigh of relief tonight that they were debating, for the most part, issues and that the attacks were about policy and not personal.

To the #neverTrump movement, it means different things to different people. To republicans, at the moment, it means trying to stop Trump from getting the nomination. There are some people who then say, if Trump wins the nomination we mean the "never" part, and we won't be for him in November. That's why it was remarkable tonight, Sean's boss, the party chairman, in his introductory remarks had to say there is no doubt the party will unite behind one of these four gentlemen. Well, there is doubt. There's quite a bit of doubt. That the party chairman has to say that this deep in the process, tells you there's a lot of tension. Kevin knows this better than I do, and Ana knows this better than I do because they know the players involved in this.

Do we give money to the anti-Trump effort? Do we try to tackle people who are planning to endorse Trump? Do we get the lawyers involved? How deep are we going to plan to block him at the convention strategy? That's all going on and it's pretty intense and there are disagreements, among the people who share that goal of stopping Trump, about how to do it. I think everybody understands and I think the candidates did tonight, why the tone was so civil. Those conversations get more specific and more urgent once we understand Tuesday night and Wednesday morning what this very big Tuesday of voting does to the race.

BORGER: You know, I think that Reince Priebus probably had conversations with each candidate saying we can't allow what happened at that last debate to happen again. And I think the stop Trump moment may have had some impact on tonight's debate as well. The question that I have, and you guys can answer this, is whether the candidates overcorrected to a certain degree; because they still have to make their case against Donald Trump and they let him off the hook on a lot of stuff saying okay, there was a way not to touch social security. You know, you could -- you could - with waste, fraud and abuse deal with the budget. He seemed to change his position on how to deal with ISIS, for example, talking about 20 to 30,000 ground troops, which I don't believe we've heard from Trump before; talking about Putin again. And while they differed with him, it wasn't a stark sort of contrast. They said well, I disagree, let me tell you what I think.

[Cross Talk]

NAVARRO: I think each of them had a very specific reason not to draw the stark contrast. For, you know, John Kasich, it's because he's the Barney the dinosaur candidate. You love me; I love you; we're a happy family. For Ted Cruz it's because he now wants to be the uniter. He wants to be the one who brings in people if he ends up being the two- man race with Donald Trump; and for Marco Rubio I think it's because he realized that going into the gutter with Donald Trump backfired on him. And I think Rubio, whatever happens on Tuesday, he wants to do this if it is -- if it means end this, with the real Marco, the authentic Marco.

BORGER: Right.

NAVARRO: The Marco I saw there tonight is the Marco I've known my entire adult life, the Marco who's been an exemplary star, political star in Florida. I am so glad that he did that.

COOPER: But, you know, on the whole numbers don't add up thing, this is now the second debate -


COOPER: -- where Donald Trump has been confronted with the reality that the numbers don't add up.

[00:30:02] The FOX debaters did that; they had graphics and everything. Dana Bash did this on the stage. And, Donald Trump has the answer for it. Now, you can say that the answers aren't specific, that they actually don't answer the question, but I -- the question is, are the other candidates confronted with the same thing that reporters are confronted in when confronting Donald Trump with this, that you can punch all you want on it, but ultimately, it's sort of just evaporates? I mean, he just sort of continues to answer and continues to answer the answer that he wants to answer as opposed to the question you've actually asked.

MADDEN: Yes, and it's incredibly frustrating for them and they haven't been able to land some punches because of that; and they are, they're experiencing the power of Donald Trump to not answer a question and just to move on to the next topic and talk directly to his supporters on the bigger issues that they care about, which is whether or not -- or the bigger ideas that he stands for which is that well, he's not going to let the media play the game of holding him, you know, accountable for numbers. He's not going to let the media bog this down in details. instead it's about the big deals that he's going to --

COOPER: You've just got to renegotiate all the -

MADDEN: Right. COOPER: -- deals and the numbers will add up.

DEAN: But there is something to that because, if you look at China, he did mention that we lose $500 billion in trade to China every year. If you can get that down to maybe a $100 billion lose to China, you know, it's not perfect, but we're gaining $400 billion. if you can do the same with India, with Vietnam, with Mexico, you're talking about real numbers here that dwarf the size of social security. So I think there is a real answer there that resonates with people who are against dumb trade, like Trump says.

And one thing I would say about Rubio is, I think his behavior changed as a result of what happened two days ago because there was so much negativity that was thrown out over the past ten days and then the answer came in two nights ago in Mississippi and Michigan. When Trump hit 47-percent in Mississippi and 37-percent in Michigan, and Rubio came in last in both, I think they realized that the super negativity just didn't work.

COOPER: Without a doubt.

HENDERSON: I think one of the effects of leaving Trump alone, in some ways, is that for stretches of the night he looked like an ordinary politician. Since all of the energy wasn't concentrated on him he had to stand up there and measure himself against the others who were talking policy in detail. So in that way I think it could be a good thing that they left him alone and he had to stand there on his own.

COOPER: But nobody really got under his skin, you know, which Rubio, for all the volatility of that last week, clearly got under his skin -

BORGER: They weren't trying.

COOPER: Right, and clearly wanted to, and that's when Donald Trump gets red in the face and becomes a different candidate.

BORGER: Well it didn't work for them, when they got under his skin; it only backfired on them.

COOPER: Right.

BORGER: And you were saying on the break that Trump is in their head. I think Trump is so in their head, they don't know how to deal with it.

MADDEN: Well that's -- that's what the problem is, is when you're veering from strategy to strategy during - from debate to debate or contest to contest, when the one candidate who has had a consistent strategy, which has been Donald Trump, that means he's in command of the race.

COOPER: Right.

MADDEN: And what these campaigns need right now, when I'm referencing to Kasich, Rubio and Cruz, is, they need to alter the trajectory of this race. I think they made the calculation that they're not going to be able to do it in just a debate.

COOPER: We've got to take another short break. We're going to check on the clams made on the stage. More checks into who told the truth, who stretched the truth; another reality check coming up. We'll, of course, continue the conversation right after a quick break.


[00:37:20] COOPER: One of the other memorable moments from tonight on the debate stage was when Donald Trump was asked about a comment he actually made to me yesterday about whether he thought Islam was at war with the West. Let's watch his answer.


TAPPER: Last night you told CNN, "Islam hates us." Did you mean all 1.6 billion Muslims?

TRUMP: I mean a lot of them. I mean a lot of them.

[Laughter and Applause]

TAPPER: Do you want to clarify the comment at all?

TRUMP: Well, you know, I've been watching the debate today and they're talking about radical Islamic terrorism or radical Islam, but I will tell you, there is something going on, that maybe you don't know about and maybe a lot of other people don't know about, but there's tremendous hatred and I will stick with exactly what I said to Anderson Cooper.

RUBIO: Well, let me say, I know that a lot of people find appeal in the things Donald says because he says what people wish they could say. The problem is, presidents can't say anything they want. It has consequences here and around the world.

[Cheering and Applause]

TRUMP: Marco talks about consequences. Well, we've had a lot of consequences, including airplanes flying into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and could have been the White House. There have been a lot of problems. Now, you can say what you want and you can be politically correct if you want. I don't want to be so politically correct.

[Cheering and Applause]

RUBIO: I'm not interested in being politically correct. I'm not interested in being politically correct. I'm interested in being correct.


COOPER: An interesting exchange. You know, it was interesting hearing, and certainly that last line by Marco Rubio played very well in the room. MADDEN: Yes; and also, I think, you know, Marco Rubio can talk circles around that entire stage, when it comes to policy on national security and foreign policy. And, at that moment I think he had one of those commander-in-chief moments that really offered him a chance to draw a very stark contrast with Donald Trump. The only thing I'd say is that he probably didn't go far enough. He could have really put the hammer down right there and he had that soundbite, and he kind of pulled back a little bit and Donald Trump then kind of got out of the grasp.

DEAN: I would disagree a little bit, in that Rubio is more nuanced but I don't think the people are looking for that. I think that what Trump is doing with radical Islam is what Ronald Reagan did in the 1980's. It's very simple and it's very clear that we're not going to tolerate this hatred. This isn't bigotry or anti-religion. It's a culture that he's talking about. It's a culture that's specific in the Middle East.

If we look at Muslims in America, we love Muslims in America. Once again, doctors, engineers, these are 3 million wonderful people and they celebrate American culture, where if a woman wants to get a divorce, she can get one; somebody wants to leave the religion of Islam in America, they can do so without harm; but in the Middle East their culture does not tolerate that. [00:40:02] If you leave the religion, you could be sentenced to death. If you divorce your husband, you could be killed. So that culture, which is a culture of hate, is something that needs to be confronted.

NAVARRO: You see, I disagree. I think Marco was not nuanced at this debate. I think that while Donald Trump was saying that in Cuba he was somewhere in the middle, Marco was being clear he stands with the dissidents; he stands with the people fighting for freedom. I think that on the Muslim question, on the Islam question, he turned it into a beautiful answer about the soldiers and the tombstones at Arlington that have the crescent moons. I think he did draw a stark contrast. He did it his way, you know, with the poetic prose that we've come to be used to from Marco.

COOPER: The other thing Marco Rubio said, which wasn't in there, was it wasn't just about military personnel who have died and served this country honorably who are Muslim. He talked about the kingdom of Jordan. He talked about Egypt. He talked about Saudi Arabia, Gulf States, states that the U.S. actually needs alliances with in order to fight ISIS, in order to defeat radicalism.

KING: You will not find, or you would be hard pressed to find -- you wouldn't fill a hand -- hate to bring hands into the conversation but you wouldn't a hand, you can go to the far left in the foreign policy establishment to the far right in the foreign policy establishment, and you would be hard time finding more than a couple of people who would say a president can say what Donald Trump said about Islam. They would say it was reckless. They would say it's irresponsible for a commander-in-chief to say that. That's what they would say, and that's the point Marco Rubio was trying to make. I don't want to be politically correct, I want to be correct; but this has worked for Donald Trump, politically. COOPER: Right.

KING: With Donald Trump, if he's president of the United States, at his first foreign policy team meeting would the people he'd bring in please don't say that anymore? I suspect they would. It has worked for him politically. it is not the language -- think back to whether it's democrat or republican presidents we've had. Post 9/11 its only been George W. Bush and Barack Obama; it's not the kind of language you hear.

BORGER: Speaking of foreign policy also, Israel tonight, and playing to a Florida audience, became a huge issue because Donald Trump has said he would be an, "honest broker," and everybody was then competing for who is more pro-Israel on that stage and Donald Trump came around and said no one's more pro-Israel than I am.

COOPER: In fact it was the first time, I think, and somebody, I remember, in a previous post-debate discussion we had, this is the first time he mentioned his daughter, who's Jewish, and her husband, as well. Her husband's Jewish, his daughter converted when she married her husband.

The other thing that's interesting Marco Rubio said, after the debate to Wolf Blitzer, was sort of reflective looking back at his decision to stop going after Donald Trump in the way he had been.

BORGER: Right.

COOPER: I want to play that because it was sort of interesting to hear, sort of, the thought process there.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: You were blunt the other day, I think yesterday, in acknowledging that you shouldn't have gone down to that personal level in that last debate, the debate before, and you even said your kids were embarrassed.

RUBIO: They were; and I'll never do that again. Again -- Donald deserves criticism on all the other issues regarding Trump University and all that's fair game and that needs to be examined, and I don't back off of that at all. But when it comes to the personal stuff I regret very much and I'll never do that again.

BLITZER: I don't know whether it hurt you, in terms of -

RUBIO: I don't know, but whether it - it doesn't matter, politically. I can just tell you, I didn't think it was a good reflection of my faith and what it teaches me on how I need to live and it's not the kind of candidate I want to be. And, more importantly, my kids and my wife were not happy about it either and rightfully so.

BLITZER: What did they say to you?

RUBIO: They were just embarrassed by it. Again, I'll -

BLITZER: Whose idea was it to do that?

RUBIO: I don't think it was an idea. I think it was me responding to insults that he had made, but I just - look, I'm never going back into that gutter again. It really -- from now on, our campaign is going to be about what I've always wanted it to be about, and what it's been about for the whole time but for one day I guess -


COOPER: You know, to -- to Andy's point, it clearly hurt him. He just got a shellacking, following up. His numbers basically drop. You know, all of that talk of Marcomentum disappeared -


COOPER: -- and Marco-collapsed.

HENDERSON: It did. I mean, if you look the headline from "The National Review," which is a national conservative publican, and the headline about Rubio is what might have been. I think, you know, you watch that performance tonight and the way he handled the question, I don't need to be politically correct. I need to be correct, and talking about those tombstones and dead soldiers in the way that Lindsey Graham did, you wonder if he did that earlier if it would have made -

[Cross Talk]

COOPER: But it also clearly was an intentional thing. I mean, for Marco Rubio to say, well, I don't think it was really a decision that was made, it was clearly a decision that was made.

BORGER: It was.


NAVARRO: It was.

COOPER: I mean, let's be real.

DEAN: I don't blame him though.

COOPER: He came out in that debate --

DEAN: Look, they put so much effort into these campaigns. These are hundreds of people's lives, tens of millions of dollars over a nine- month period. I think Rubio would have always regretted not trying every single strategy to win.

COOPER: Right.

DEAN: He tried it, it didn't work. He's a human being.

COOPER: And also, when you think about the immediate press coverage the day after he started doing that, and for the next several days, suddenly he was leading evening newscasts. He was getting a lot of attention.

MADDEN: And you know what emerged in that answer? Is Marco Rubio's [00:45:02] character. Marco Rubio knew what he did was wrong and Marco Rubio was willing to admit it. That's a really important test in presidential campaigns.

NAVARRO: Listen, I -

MADDEN: They are revelations of character and I think that's a contrast he ought to continue to make if he's going to stay in this campaign because I think the lack of character that Donald Trump displays when he makes insinuations about entire religions, the lack of character that it takes when he starts insulting people like John McCain, who's a POW, those are big tests the American people, I think, want to see. And I think Rubio, by admitting he was wrong, he passed a huge character test.


NAVARRO: Look, I know Marco Rubio well. I know his family. I know his wife. I know how committed he is to his faith. I think that answer he gave to Wolf Blitzer was incredibly honest, frank and really heartfelt. I do believe that probably Janette, his wife, who is a woman of great faith, very strong faith, didn't like it and I do think that his kids, he's got teenage kids, probably were embarrassed. So I think he, at some point, reflected about it and yes, it didn't work politically but I think the part that he talked about is also true.

I don't know what's going to happen on Tuesday. I don't know if Marco is going to win. I don't know if Marco's going to lose Florida. I don't know if he's going to stay in. I don't know if he's going to get out. What I do know is that I, as somebody who's known him for so long, somebody who has voted for him has supported him, I'm very glad that if this is the last time that Marco is going to be on the national stage, this is the memory I will have of him, not the Chris Rock, not the comedian that he tried to do.

BORGER: You know, it's sort of poignant because this is what happens in the heat of a campaign. You try everything, as you were saying, and you can't blame Marco Rubio for trying to fight back, to get back in the game, and they did it in a way that was unartful and overdone, and but this is what happens in the white heat here -

COOPER: In a lot of ways.

BORGER: -- and he felt bad about it.

COOPER: A lot more ahead, including Tom Foreman with another Reality Check; we'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [00:50:34] COOPER: Well, for two hours tonight, here at the University of Miami, the Republican Presidential Candidates were on the stage. They met in their last debate before Tuesday's key primaries, including winner-take-all Florida and Ohio. No mudslinging this time. The question is how do they do when they come to truth telling? Tom Foreman is back with another Reality Check; Tom?

FOREMAN: Hey, Anderson; many conservatives consider common core a real infringement on state's rights and when Ted Cruz, tonight, went further saying that President Obama has basically shoved this education program down the throats of America.


CRUZ: It has used race to the top funds to effectively blackmail and force the states to adopt common core. If I am elected president, in the first days as president I will direct the department of education that common core ends that day.


FOREMAN: There is no question that money tied to the Race to The Top Program, which is White House Initiative, has been linked to common core with the Administration making it a de facto requirement that you take on some of these standards if you want to access other money. Is that blackmail? Well, that's a matter of opinion. Some would say it's just the way government works.

But what about this idea that Cruz said he will wipe it all out in one day. Look at all the states out there that have either adopted common core already, they're all in yellow, or the orange ones there are those that have repealed or revised it. It's basically everywhere, no matter how you look at it. Only these states now can really change it, and they would have to do it one at a time. No president, no matter how he feels about it, would have the power to wipe out common core on his first day in office, or maybe at all. So what we're going to say about what that he said is absolutely false and you can find out more about all of this by going to our website, Anderson?

COOPER: All right; tom Foreman, thanks very much. Back with our panel for some final thoughts; John? Does business matter tonight?

KING: Yes, it matters a lot because this was Survivor: Debate Edition for John Kasich and Marco Rubio. Their performance tonight -- I know over the next four days of campaigning I know they'll mostly be focused on their home states to determine who gets -

COOPER: So whose tiki torch gets extinguished?

KING: It's a great point because if both are gone, the arc of the raise has changed dramatically. If one is gone, the arc of the race has changed significantly and so their performances tonight, and the impact it has back home, or in this case at home here for Marco Rubio, are a huge element of the race. I think that's why you saw Trump and Cruz more cautious tonight because they understand that. They don't know the next act of this race until Tuesday plays out.

BORGER: The thing is they didn't touch Donald Trump though.


BORGER: And if you're going to change the arc of the race, you have to touch Donald Trump -


BORGER: -- and I don't think they did. I really don't.

HENDERSON: And you saw Cruz with that almost preacherly moment saying come into my tent and follow me; and we'll see what happens on Tuesday if people in Florida and these different states heed his call.


NAVARRO: Well, you know, you keep saying that this is the last debate. I wish you would be able to sign a pledge to me because this is not going to be the last debate.

COOPER: Well, no; officially what, there's -

NAVARRO: Officially this is the last -

[Cross Talk]

NAVARRO: But Donald Trump tonight -

HENDERSON: He said he -

COOPER: He was saying I think we're about done with this.

NAVARRO: Wait; are you really telling me there's another debate after today?

KING: There's one on the books for the 21st, it's only city but no sponsor has been announced. I think they're waiting to see what happens Tuesday.

NAVARRO: I think tonight's debate was a -- we saw in tonight's debate what a normal race could have looked like if it was a policy discussion. For a while there it felt like they all had (inaudible) in their water. It was all about issues. It was all about policy. It was a lot less about personality. I actually think it worked for them not to go after Trump because it takes away from him that platform. There was no memorable moments about little Marco and lying Ted in this debate. It was a different, subdued Donald Trump.

COOPER: Tell me you didn't miss that just a little bit? I'm kidding.

NAVARRO: You mean the penis references? Sure.

COOPER: Wow, you didn't have to spell it out; Andy?

DEAN: Well I would say that I think that Marco Rubio did a great job for Dade County. I think he's going to run stronger after this debate in Dade County, but I think when John King goes to the board on Tuesday night, and we look in northern Florida, I think Donald Trump is going to dominate northern Florida, to a degree we've never seen any candidate ever do in a Florida primary and I think because of North Florida, I think he's going to carry this state. [00:55:05] MADDEN: Look, it was a good night for everybody and, you know, a good night for everybody right now means nothing changed and nothing changing is really good if you're the frontrunner.

COOPER: Right.

MADDEN: So Donald Trump still in the lead.

COOPER: Do you -- do you agree with Marco Rubio who said earlier to Wolf Blitzer that whoever wins Florida is going to get the nomination?

MADDEN: I -- I think that's pretty accurate. I think that's been the case of the last two presidential primary elections and I think it will be the case this time.

COOPER: What about Ohio?

MADDEN: Well, I think Ohio, I think John Kasich is probably more like a -- has a better chance to make a case there as a favorite son candidate but is very unlikely to ever be a candidate that would win enough delegates, obviously mathematically it's almost impossible for him but -- or serve as a fusion candidate.

BORGER: Trump/Kasich?

MADDEN: But if Rubio loses though --

COOPER: I can't see Kasich -

KING: If Rubio loses Kasich becomes the last main stream republican standing.

COOPER: Right. Right.

KING: What does that mean? Who knows, but that's

NAVARRO: Can you see any of those as a VP to Trump?


COOPER: All right; we'll see. The tribe has spoken.


COOPER: (Inaudible) the debate team, thanks very much for watching. An encore of the debate starts after this quick break; enjoy.