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AT THIS HOUR WITH BERMAN AND MICHAELA

Winners, Losers in Calm GOP Debate; Sanders Meeting with Jesse Jackson, Releasing New Ads; Trump Defends Supporters: They Should Hit Back. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired March 11, 2016 - 11:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[11:30:00] ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: -- and get this down to a two-man race in hopes that Cruz would be able to take care of -- handle Donald Trump later, or vote for Rubio, because I think there's a legitimate and strong argument to be made about stopping Trump by not giving him those 99 delegates in Florida and the 66 delegates in Ohio.

Last night, I was so proud of Marco Rubio. I hated the Marco Rubio that I saw two weeks ago on the debate stage. I hated the schoolyard bully. The guy I know showed up last night, played, played hard. He showed principle and conviction and his faith and showed that he's still in this, his heart is in it, and he won over my vote. He tugged at the heart strings with the Cuba answer, which I thought was perfect, and I thought it showed his principles to supporting the freedom fighters in that country.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Ana, though, what do you make of Alex Conant saying that? I mean, it's one thing to maybe say this is the reality. But as the campaign's communications director, what do you make of Alex saying we want every Republican voter to vote for Rubio in Florida because that's the best way to stop Donald Trump, but they should also vote for John Kasich in Ohio?

NAVARRO: Well, he didn't exactly say that. He kept saying he was stating the obvious. You guys tried to get him to say that.

(CROSSTALK)

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: He said, yes, I'm stating the obvious. He said it. He said, yes, I'm stating the obvious there. I don't think he's enthusiastic about saying it.

(CROSSTALK)

(LAUGHTER)

NAVARRO: The Rubio campaign is putting some money up against Kasich here in Florida. Kasich has zero chance of winning Florida, but I think that they are trying to make the argument that they need every anti-Trump vote they can get in Florida because they realize that in Florida it is for all the marbles, the eggs are all in the Florida basket. They need to win it. And it might be very close, and if it is very close, being able to voters who may like John Kasich better than Rubio to vote for Rubio for no other reason than electability and stopping Trump, it's an argument. If you're making that argument in Florida, it's hard not to make the same argument in Ohio, where Marco has zero chance of winning the state.

BERMAN: We'll talk about the debate. But I think this is interesting. Amanda, let me ask you about this. Cruz is campaigning in Florida. He doesn't seem ready to concede Florida to Marco Rubio. Should he be playing the game? Does he think the best way to stop Donald Trump is letting Rubio win Florida and Kasich win Ohio?

AMANDA CARPENTER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I'm not a fan of this strategic voting idea. I think it's very processing. I would never want to be in the position of telling someone to vote for someone you don't want to become president. I think that puts people in an awkward situation. This is a time to play for all the marbles. Marco wants to become president, he should say vote for me in Florida and Ohio. Everyone vote for me. I want has many votes as I can get. Play for all 50 states. That's what Cruz is doing. It's made him competitive in Maine and Michigan where people thought he could only do well in these southern evangelical states, but the big surprise is that even though Cruz is losing some of those southern states to Donald Trump, he's still performing very well.

Kayleigh, what's your reaction to this?

KAYLEIGH MCENANY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look, any time -- I'm going to quote Ted Cruz on this. He said any time you hear about a brokered convention, this is the establishment talking, and let's be very clear. When Alex says in Ohio you need to vote for Kasich, what he's advocating for, although he's not saying it, is a brokered convention. There's no numerical path forward for Rubio or Kasich. There is one for Donald Trump and Cruz. They are advocating for a brokered convention that would ultimately thwart the will of the people by surpassing Cruz and Trump and putting something like Kasich or Rubio in. It's not over until it's over, but it's important to understand what they're advocating for, when they're doing that. It would be disastrous for the Republican Party.

BERMAN: Ana, you've been to conventions. You've worked in the party for a long time. This would be a strain on the party to have this fought out on the convention floor if Donald Trump heads there with the most delegates, even if he doesn't have a majority?

NAVARRO: Oh, I think it would be volatile. I think it would be dramatic. I think it would be emotional, and very difficult. I think people are very emotionally invested in the 2016 race. The people who support Trump support him entirely. The people who oppose Trump oppose him entirely. There's very few people in the middle. There's very little gray area here. Yeah, I think it would be a very difficult moment for the Republican Party.

Look, until and unless somebody gets to 1237, you cannot make the argument that you are thwarting the will of the majority of the people. You might be going against, maybe more people, but there is a requirement. 1237 is not just a random number, like Donald Trump said yesterday. It is 50 percent plus one of the delegates accounted for in the Republican Party. Until and unless somebody gets to that magic number, there is absolutely no argument to be made that they are representing the majority of the Republican Party.

[11:35:27] BERMAN: All right. Kayleigh, Amanda, Ana, stand by. We'll get back to you.

We're going to take a break right now. We're also waiting for Rubio. He has a live event coming up in Florida. I wonder if he's going to talk about Ohio and Florida. I doubt it. He's putting all his eggs in the Florida basket right now, competing hard for that state. He knows it's Florida or bust. We'll bring you this event. You can see him getting warmed up.

BOLDUAN: On the Democratic side, Bernie Sanders is meeting with a prominent African-American leader ahead of Tuesday's primary contest. Can Sanders bridge the gap with Hillary Clinton when it comes to African-American voters and their overwhelming support so far for Hillary Clinton? We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:40:32] BERMAN: Let's talk about the Democrats. A new push by Bernie Sanders to reach minority voters ahead of next week's Super Tuesday Part Three. Tomorrow, Senator Sanders will be sitting down with Reverend Jesse Jackson in Chicago. Bernie Sanders actually endorsed Jesse Jackson for president twice in 1984 and in 1988.

BOLDUAN: Also this week, he released three new ads aimed at Illinois voters, including this one we're going to show you featuring images of his 1963 arrest while protesting school segregation in Chicago.

Joining us to discuss is executive editor for CNN politics, Mark Preston.

Mark, a lot to get to on this issue of Bernie Sanders meeting with Jesse Jackson, and this meeting coming up. He is gaining, if you look at Michigan, especially, he is gaining more support among African- American voters. That's something that Jeff Weaver was happy to highlight after Tuesday's primaries. But Hillary Clinton is winning by 30 points and above. Do you think he can make up the gap and make a difference ahead of Tuesday's votes?

MARK PRESTON, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, CNN POLITICS: Well, he's trying to, specifically with young African-Americans. He thinks his message, which is resonating with young white voters, is now starting to resonate with younger black voters. They always knew they were going to do poorly in the south. They knew Hillary Clinton, who is well known within the African-American community -- her husband, back in 1992, was called the first black American president. Hillary Clinton clearly has the edge, but for Bernie Sanders, they see an opening to chip away at that. As they look to their path to the Democratic nomination, they see different parts of it coming together, young voters. They're trying to chip away at her lead among African- Americans voters. And as we head into the industrial Midwest, a little more concentrated, as Illinois, Ohio and Missouri are all voting, they are trying to get the blue collar voters to come to them. BERMAN: Mark, you are not known to America as the czar of town halls

at CNN, but you are that man. We have a big town hall in Ohio. Ohio votes next Tuesday Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton sitting down with CNN on Sunday night. That's their last chance to deliver a message to Ohio. How big will that be, and what do you think they'll do?

PRESTON: Very big, and it's happening Sunday, which gives a full day of media coverage the next day in the Midwest. There's a reason why it's being held up in Ohio. Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders both fighting for delegates up there. Could be important as well, in North Carolina. Textile industry down there that was hit hard by the economy. We expect to have Hillary Clinton try to talk, John, about the economy and real solutions, which she thinks are achievable solutions to try to turn things around and get jobs back to America. Bernie Sanders will continue to hit home on trade. It worked for him well in Michigan, try to tie Hillary Clinton to what he says were bad trade deals, NAFTA, promotion authority, and also dealing with China. It's going to be epic in many ways. It could be a turning point in the campaign. It seeps overused, but every week is a turning point. It's a major moment in the campaign.

BERMAN: Absolutely.

Mark Preston, thank you so much. Thank you for setting up the town hall. It should be a great event.

On that programming note, it's Sunday night, the state of Ohio, 8:00 p.m. eastern time. Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, they sit down for a Democratic town hall. Again, it's at the Ohio State University in Columbus. They will take questions from voters just two days before the primary in that state. 8:00 eastern, only on CNN.

BOLDUAN: Donald Trump being asked about the growing violence we're seeing at some of his rallies. When he's asked about it, he said we've had violent protesters at the rallies, and he also says the audience is swinging back, and that's very, very appropriate. What do you make of that reaction? We're going to discuss.

[11:44:32] BERMAN: Plus, for the candidates not named Donald Trump, this is it. It is a last-minute mad dash to the Tuesday voting states. What are their strategies? We just heard the communications director for Rubio, saying if you're a Rubio voter in Ohio, vote for Kasich, that's the best way to stop Donald Trump. Much more coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: As we speak, the Republican candidates back out on the campaign trail. Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz holding dueling events in Florida. We're just a few days from next week's critical contests. 360 delegates at stake total on March 15th. Florida and Ohio, they are winner-take all.

BOLDUAN: Let's bring back our panel, CNN political commentators, Kayleigh McEnany, Amanda Carpenter and Ana Navarro. Guys, one thing discussed in the debate last night, and it was also become more and more of a topic whenever Donald Trump takes questions. It's the growing violence at his rallies. He was asked about that this morning during the endorsement Ben Carson gave him, and here's what he said about the growing violence in the crowds.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE & CEO, TRUMP ORGANIZATION: The particular one, that was a very -- a guy who's swinging, very loud and started swinging at the audience. The audience swung back. I thought it was very, very appropriate. He was swinging. He was hitting people and the audience hit back. That's what we need a little more of.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: That's what we need a little bit more of. Now he's not talking about this circumstance, but in a different circumstance. A man in North Carolina is charged with assault after punching a protester in the face. Is this something we need more of?

[11:50:12] MCENANY: No, I think Donald Trump was clear, if someone punches at you, you are allowed to punch back. If someone is assaulting you, you have the right to defend yourself. That should be uncontroversial. As for Donald Trump, it there is such an effort to paint the Secret Service connected to Donald Trump when they have committed violence or someone at his rally, this is not Donald Trump. He's a candidate on the stage of 30,000 people looking at him. It's not his job to baby-sit 30,000 people, that's the job of the authority and policemen. He said there is no place for violence. That's all he needs to do.

BERMAN: Amanda, are you satisfied. Sometimes it is not about doing it yourself but fostering the environment that allows it to happen. Do you think Donald Trump is in some way responsible for helping to create that environment?

CARPENTER: I think Donald Trump has an obligation to challenge his supporters to treat people who protest better. Certainly I'm reminded of how he acted in many of the circumstances. He protested a lot when he gave speeches. Particularly during the shutdown and one time it was contentious, Code Pink, an anti-war group, protesting him. What he did instead of rallying the crowd and heckling them he invited them to the front of the stage and invited them to a discussion. I think that helps everyone foster a debate environment where we can make progress and understand each other. I have never seen Donald Trump attempt that. I'd like him to try. Regardless if you support him or not you should be welcome at a rally.

BOLDUAN: Ana, you've seen a lot of rally. The rallies I've been at, I haven't seen protesters rather -- the level of protesters we have seen at Donald Trump rallies. Why are Trump rallies different than other rallies?

NAVARRO: Kate, everything about Donald Trump is different than other candidates and other campaigns. I think that he's beginning to sound more unifying and more presidential, and this has to be part of it. It cannot be a regular occurrence that protesters get assaulted, beat up. You have a reporter claiming -- she just filed a police report today saying Donald Trump's campaign manager had manhandled her during one of the rallies. You have Donald Trump saying I'd like to punch that protester in the face. That's not presidential. Yes, his people may like it when he says punch back, but his supporters are loyal and enthusiastic about him. They listen and pay attention to the things he says. He's got the bully pulpit to call on his supporters to be a little more civil, to be a little more American in the sense that the First Amendment right allows protest. Protests -- presidents get protested every day of the week. Are they going to get beat up outside the White House? Are people going to have baseball bats and clubs outside of the White House and beating up anyone protesting there? Have you ever walked in front of the White House? It is filled with people protesting the guy or woman who may be inside.

BOLDUAN: We will if the tone changes. Donald Trump wants it more civil and now he thinks he is more presidential.

Kayleigh, Amanda, Ana, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

BERMAN: We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[11:57:02] NARRATOR: Douglas focuses his attack on Lincoln.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: If you desire Negro citizenship then support Mr. Lincoln and the black Republican Party.

NARRATOR: His weapon? Race hate.

MARGARET WASHINGTON, PROFESSOR OF AFRICAN-AMERICAN HISTORY, CORNELL UNIVERSITY: He accuses Lincoln of being in favor of race mixing, in favor of black equality. He calls him a black Republican. He calls him things far worse.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lincoln did a lot of things that today seem -- but he never appealed to the darker angles of our nature, and Douglas did, and Stephen Douglas should have been ashamed of himself.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: Appealing to the darker angles of our nature. A phrase that seems to mirror the criticism of today's politically charged environment. But on this Sunday's episode of CNN's "Race for the White House," you will see the bitter matchup between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas, a race defined by vicious mudslinging, heated debates, and racially charged attacks.

BERMAN: Joining us now is African-American history professor at Cornell University, Margaret Washington. You saw the professor quoted in that clip we showed. Professor, thank you for being with us.

I'm struck every campaign season -- we were talking about this -- everyone always says it is the most negative campaign ever, can you believe the level of rhetoric on the campaign trail. And then like the one we saw talking about what happened in 1860, where the level of discourse was not exactly particularly high.

WASHINGTON: That's true. The Lincoln-Douglas debate is before 1860 but leading in to the presidential campaign that will take place in 1860. In some ways, we can see the relationship between the two campaigns in terms of the accusations on both levels.

BOLDUAN: Why do you think it is so important to look back and learn about today?

WASHINGTON: Of course, we know for a fact that the kinds of attitudes that Lincoln had versus the kind of attitudes Douglas had a profound effect later on, especially during the Civil War era. We know from what is happening today that this kind of anger, this kind of attitude that our candidates are pushing forward -- and I'm particularly talking about the Republicans -- is counterproductive and it can lead to situations that have happened recently in terms of people coming to the rallies and being attacked. And certainly some of this went on in the past. I think for this to happening to date is shameful.

BERMAN: Professor Washington, thank you for joining us. Thank you for participating in the documentaries. Your voice is a wonderful thing to have.

A programming note, you can see much more of "The Race for the White House" Sunday night at 10:00 p.m. right here on CNN.