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AT THIS HOUR WITH BERMAN AND MICHAELA

Make-or-Break Super Tuesday Voting Under Way; Presidential Race All about Delegates. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired March 15, 2016 - 11:00   ET

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


[11:00:00] CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: The under-employment rate is 9.7 percent. Those working part-time but want a full-time job, those given up working for work but would like to. But there are a lot of statistics out there. 42 percent is not one of them.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Christine Romans, thank you.

Thank you for joining me today. I'm Carol Costello.

AT THIS HOUR with Berman and Bolduan starts now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE & CEO, TRUMP ORGANIZATION: There's no violence. These are love fests.

-- the Bernie Sanders sign.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO, (R), FLORIDA & PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Don't worry. You're not going to get beat up at my rally.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS, (I), VERMONT & DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Let's make sure we have a huge voter turnout.

(CHEERING)

HILLARY CLINTON, (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE & FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: We are better than what we are hearing every night on television.

RUBIO: The Republican Party is not going to allow itself to be hijacked.

SEN. TED CRUZ, (R), TEXAS & PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: A vote for John Kasich or a vote for Rubio is a vote thrown away.

JOHN KASICH, (R), OHIO GOVERNOR & PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I will not take the low road to the highest office in the land.

TRUMP: Kasich cannot make America great again.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm John Berman. KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, everybody. I'm Kate Bolduan.

So you thought the first two were wild? Hold on, folks. Think of this one as Super Tuesday, part three, the search for Spock. Millions of people are casting ballots. The result could and likely will reshape the race to the White House. Polls are open in five states, Florida, Illinois, Missouri, North Carolina, and Ohio. Democrats have 691 delegates at stake. And if Bernie Sanders is going to catch Hillary Clinton, the Midwest is the place to do it.

BERMAN: For Republicans, 367 delegates up for grabs. Ohio and Florida, winner-take-all. John Kasich needs a win in Ohio to stay alive. And same for Rubio in Florida. But don't sleep on Missouri, Illinois and North Carolina. Cruz has been quietly mining for delegates there. But Donald Trump already has the first big win on Super Tuesday, mach, three. A victory in the granddaddy of them, in northern Marianna Island, he won nine delegates in the caucuses there. If you have that many, you win.

BOLDUAN: Winner, winner.

BERMAN: Let's go live to actual voters casting actual votes.

CNN's Kyung Lah is in Florida, Dan Simons in North Ohio.

Dan, let's start with you.

What are you seeing?

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, hey, John and Kate. We are just outside of Cleveland here. This is Cayuga County. The story line here is whether voters who twice elected John Kasich to statewide office will give him a lifeline.

When voters come here to the desk, they can choose either a Republican ballot or a Democratic ballot. So if you are a Democrat and you want to vote for Donald Trump or you want to vote for John Kasich, you are free to do so.

I spoke to a construction worker, a lifelong Democrat. Today he chose a Republican ballot and voted for Donald Trump. That crossover vote could be very important.

And before we leave, I want to tell you one thing about John Kasich. We know he's had some great endorsements from Arnold Schwarzenegger and Mitt Romney. He also has the endorsement of every Ohio State University coach since the '70s. I have to confess, I don't know a lot about Ohio State football, but I'm smart enough to realize that's a big deal.

John and Kate, back to you.

BERMAN: All right. Dan Simon, thank you so much.

If you pick against Ohio State in Ohio, that's just bad politics.

BOLDUAN: Unfortunately.

Let's bring in CNN's Kyung Lah at a polling station in Florida.

Kyung, if there is Marco Rubio country, where you are is it. What do you think?

KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. This is a county that should go into Marco Rubio's box. We're seeing a steady stream of voters. Florida rules say we have to stay 100 feet away from the area, the voting booth. That's where people are ticking their ballots. There's no one there right now. What we've seen is a slow number of people coming through, slowly filing those ballots. That is deceiving. Looks are deceiving. In this county, early voting is very, very good, according to people who run this county and keep track of the numbers. We're hearing that turnout here for Rubio very good. But what is interesting, Kate and John, is to the north, turnout in those anti-establishment counties looking very good for Donald Trump.

BOLDUAN: North and south Florida a little bit different from each other.

Kyung Lah, thank you so much.

In case you haven't caught it yet, it's all about the delegates. 1237 is the magic number on the Republican side, 2383 the number for Democrats.

Let's get more on this and more details from Christine Romans, CNN chief business correspondent and co-anchor of "Early Start" with some guy named John Berman.

(LAUGHTER)

Christine, what are you seeing?

[11:04:55] ROMANS: Math is fun, John and Kate. Delegate-rich Ohio, Florida, North Carolina, Illinois, Missouri, five states with more than 1,000 delegates up for grabs. The jobless rate officially at 4.9 percent. Home prices are rising. Stock market up 200 percent. In the states voting today, the focus is on closed factories, stagnant wages, and declining opportunities for anyone without a college degree.

The front runners want to wrap this thing up. Their opponents want to slow the delegate surplus of Trump and Clinton. Trump has a total of 471. Cruz, 371. He wants to make this a two-man race. These are winner-take-all races. Rubio, Trump lead in the polls.

Check this out. These manufacturing jobs in North Carolina, that's what it looks like in North Carolina. Manufacturing jobs lost since 2000, have not brought many of them back.

Let's look at Ohio, presidential battle ground. John Kasich is the governor. You can see Ohio manufacturing job loss also a similar picture to the North Carolina chart there. Kasich needs a win there in Ohio for any remote -- remote route to a contested convention.

Even narrow wins adds to Clinton's lead. If Sanders pulls out a Michigan-style victory in Ohio or Illinois or all three, Clinton still leads in the math but is under pressure a little bit more politically.

BERMAN: All right, Christine Romans, thank you so much.

You know what? If you want to watch the election returns come in starting at 2:00 a.m. tonight, this morning, wherever that is. We'll be back on TV then. Come back and join us then.

In the meantime, let's bring in CNN political commentator, Margaret Hoover, a veteran of two presidential campaigns; Molly Ball, the political editor for "The Atlantic"; Barry Bennett, a Trump campaign advisor and Ben Carson's former campaign manager; and Alex Burns, national political reporter for "The New York Times."

Barry, I want to start with you.

The Trump camp has the first big win of the day, the Northern Mariana Islands. Nine delegates. How did he do it?

BARRY BENNETT, ADVISOR, DONALD TRUMP PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN & FORMER BEN CARSON PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN MANAGER: The key though, it's a big win. That's the eighth win where Donald Trump has won a majority of the delegates in the state, which means right now he's the only person running on the Republican side that can be nominated at the convention.

BERMAN: That's rule 40. That's something that was put in place in 2012 hold. You need a majority of eight delegations to be nominated. Unclear whether or not that rule will hold. I didn't realize that was the eighth stake. We won't mock the Northern Mariana Islands.

BOLDUAN: You kind of hit that one out of the park, Barry. Not going to lie.

BENNETT: Not much there, right?

(LAUGHTER)

Hugh Hewitt tweeted this morning that, "The future of the Republican party hangs on Ohio today." What is that future?

MARGARET HOOVER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: What that means is that the future of the Republican Party hangs on a contested convention. And everybody who isn't for Donald Trump is with a wish, a prayer and holding their breath that Kasich wins Ohio and that we end up fighting this out in multiple rounds of voting at the convention in Cleveland. That's what this has come to. It's Donald Trump or mayhem. Some people think it's the same thing.

(LAUGHTER)

BERMAN: Alex, we're going to wake up tomorrow and what is going to be clear. Is the only thing that's clear is Rubio's future? ALEX BURNS, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: To

Margaret's point, depending on what the results show, we could see a contested convention has become more likely if Kasich wins in Ohio and Cruz does well. I think the person with the most definitive future is Rubio. If Rubio does manage to pull it out in Florida, then to a convention we're headed. There's almost no way for Trump to get a majority if he were win both Ohio and Florida.

BERMAN: We'd also be talking about the comeback of the century if Rubio wins Florida based on what the polls say.

BOLDUAN: Crazy things have happened. I'm going to say that. We'll see.

Molly, with all of this in mind, do you think today is more consequential for John Kasich or Marco Rubio?

MOLLY BALL, POLITICAL EDITOR, THE ATLANTIC: Well, it's obviously the defining day for both of their political futures. Kasich seems to have a better chance of persevering. When it's your future on the line, it feels pretty defining for both of them. There's a possibility tomorrow that both of these men are out of the race, and it truly becomes a two-man race. There's a possibility that Kasich is the establishment's last hope against Donald Trump, and Ted Cruz, which is something I don't think anybody would have imagined even a few months ago. We're looking at a different dynamic for the race going forward no matter what happens tonight. We shouldn't overstate it. Super Tuesday was a defining day. The Iowa caucuses were a defining day. There's a series of defining days in the primaries --

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: This is like "Indiana Jones, the Last Crusade," right? This is it.

(LAUGHTER)

BERMAN: The most recurring defining day.

(LAUGHTER)

[11:10:04] HOOVER: It also doesn't end after today. Even if Trump sweeps everything and everybody has to acknowledge he's the nominee, this fight in the Republican Party doesn't stop happening. Trump, that doesn't immediately go away, and there's going to be a process of conflict and maybe reconciliation or maybe not.

BERMAN: So it doesn't stop for one guy on this panel, that's Barry. Barry, who is involved with the delegate wrangling for the Trump campaign.

There are many scenarios for a contested convention. More likely tomorrow than it is today. If John Kasich wins in Ohio, maybe Cruz does well in Missouri and Illinois, then Barry, you will be fighting for delegates. I want to know what you're doing right now to get them in line. How much is the operation up and running? Tell us what's going on?

BENNETT: We have a fairly robust operation up and running in South Carolina this weekend. This is our first big chore. We're going to go across the country and make sure that our delegates get their slots and do our best and most robust supporters in the slots.

If we do get to a contested convention which is still unlikely, but if we do, the likelihood of Donald Trump winning a contested convention is pretty high. You know, really high. You know, if he has to find 37 votes in Cleveland and the opposition has to find 1237 people around a mysterious ticket that's not yet been named, our task is a little easier.

BOLDUAN: That's a compelling case, Margaret.

HOOVER: You know, I don't buy it at all, as a matter of fact. You might not be surprised.

(LAUGHTER)

One of the things now about -- there's a lot of time between now and then. Lot of time for people to think about how to change the dynamic of the never Trump movement. The main piece is, who are the delegates. Trump hasn't had a lot of experience identifying people on the ground. I don't know that he's going to identify the right delegates. On the converse side, the person who has the most robust field and digital operation is Cruz. He is going around right now identifying delegates. The people who are likely to be delegates are people part of the party structure, part of the party apparatus in every single state. They're more primed and likely to support a candidate they know rather than an outsider like Trump.

BERMAN: You mean the establishment?

BOLDUAN: Don't say it.

BERMAN: They're part of the establishment.

(LAUGHER)

HOOVER: Don't tell Ted Cruz that. Don't tell him he's running as the establishment guy.

(CROSSTALK)

BENNETT: Ted Cruz is the establishment.

Let's talk about Cruz and the establishment right now. It could be, and Molly was talking about it, it could be the story tomorrow or the next day, he's the last guy left for elected Republicans for the establishment around the country to rally behind if they choose to. What signs are you seeing or what are you hearing about the likelihood that people will fall into line behind Cruz?

BURNS: I think it's a tall order to have people fall in line in lock step behind Cruz, but there was for a while, this kind of, let's call it a sort of fantasy on the Republican side that they could co-op Trump. If he ends up as the nominee he's more malleable and teachable than Cruz.

(CROSSTALK)

BURNS: We heard that a lot. I think that fantasy has rapidly fallen away over the last couple weeks, especially after this weekend with all the incidents of violence against protesters, and Trump's unapologetic response. There are folks you hear for the first time who you never would have expected to say it, saying, with Cruz, we lose, but we lose respectably, which is not something they can feel they can safely bet on with Trump.

BOLDUAN: They definitely would not have said at the start of this race, that's for sure.

Molly, final thought. Let's end on the voters. Strategic voting, Margaret hates to talk about that.

(LAUGHTER)

I'm sorry. She loves it.

There's been a lot of talk about not voting for the person that you actually want to be elected but trying to work the some because you're looking at the field and what it looks like in your state. A lot of talk about it. We are seeing and hearing from voters that there's evidence that they're trying to do it. What do you think the impact of strategic voting may be?

BALL: I think it's likely to be negligible. The efforts are by their nature disorganized and small. Most people want to cast a ballot for someone they want to cast a ballot for. We heard anecdotal reports of Democrats crossing over to vote for Rubio as a gesture against Trump, especially in the Virginia primary. There were reports in Michigan about strategic ballots. There's also an idea that there's a contingent of Independents that are toss up between Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump, and when they have to pick either ballot, who they choose affects the other candidate. Again, I think the phenomenon is likely to be a small one and not definitive unless the race is very, very close.

BOLDUAN: We will see soon enough.

Alex, Margaret, Barry, Molly, thank you all so very much.

Our Super Tuesday coverage rolls on all day long. Stay with CNN. We'll have results as they roll in when polls start closing around 7:00 p.m. eastern.

BERMAN: A follow-up with the northern Marianna Islands.

[11:15:14] BOLDUAN: Exactly, John.

BERMAN: Bernie Sanders says Hillary Clinton's nervous. That as the Democrats face unpredictable races in at least three states. So will this be a sequel to the stunning upset in Michigan?

BOLDUAN: Plus, one of Donald Trump's biggest supporters says, don't worry, if Trump is not the greatest president, it's only four years. Did Ben Carson mean that? We'll discuss that as voting gets underway on this Super Tuesday, part three.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: Show me some voting lines. These are the polls in Missouri, the Show Me state. Get it? Live pictures right now at the polls. It's been open for four hours. Missouri is a crucial state in the Republican and the Democratic race. On the Republican side, it could help Cruz chip away at Trump's delegate lead.

BERMAN: It could.

Let's go to CNN's Brian Todd, live in St. Louis.

You have been talking to voters all morning, Brian. What are they telling you?

[11:19:57] BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Kate and John, a lot of voters telling us Donald Trump is on their minds. The Trump rally where a lot of people got arrested and it caused lot of divisions is on a lot of people's minds. We'll talk about that in one second.

We're going to show you this line. This is a Catholic Church, one of the busier precincts. Four precincts voting at this location. What's interesting about this Missouri is it's an open primary. You show a photo I.D. and tell them which primary you want to vote in. They'll give you the choice of paper ballots or touch screen. You have sample ballots. Democrats in green. Republicans in red. A lot of people choosing paper ballots. They cast their votes over here behind the partitions and then run them through this over here.

The Trump rally is on a lot of peoples' minds. We talked to at lot of late-deciding voters who have gone for Cruz because of Trump's rallies. A lot of people talking about the rally. It seems to be the buzz here in Missouri. We have talked to some voters who are supporting Donald Trump and a lot of them say the rally played a part, some people doubling down on Trump. We'll see how it turns out. Again, as I said, this is an open primary. And in this primary season, he has been benefitting from open primary format -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: Brian Todd in St. Louis. Brian, thank you so much.

Let's talk about what's happening on the Democratic side of this Super Tuesday, part --

BERMAN: Three.

BOLDUAN: Thank you.

Let's bring in CNN commentator, Bakari Sellers, a Clinton supporter and former South Carolina state representative; and CNN political commentator, Bill Press, a Bernie Sanders supporter; and CNN political analyst, John Avlon, editor-in-chief of "The Daily Beast."

Gentlemen, it's great to see you.

Bakari, first to you, my friend.

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: Yes, today is about voters going to the polls, and it's also, again, about the delegate count. Hillary Clinton is up in the delegate count. They like to tout that. But there's also these bruising losses that she has faced in states like Michigan. Even though she's up in the delegate count, be honest, how bruising are the losses in states like Michigan?

BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, the way you become the Democratic nominee is to win the delegate count. Barack Obama got beat in New Hampshire. He was up before the election. He lost Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Those losses do happen. The fact of the matter is tonight Hillary Clinton is going to have a resounding victory in the Florida primary. Bernie Sanders doesn't do well in those. He usually outperforms here when it comes to independents. She'll win in North Carolina. And at the end of the day, the Clinton campaign is going to tout an even larger delegate lead than they had going in to substantially larger at this point in time than Barack Obama had over Hillary Clinton at any point in 2008. I think today is going to be a good day, and we will begin to see the party pivot to coming together and moving out of this primary season.

BERMAN: Bill Press, I'm sure it was not lost on you that Bakari Sellers, Hillary Clinton supporter, mentioned Florida and South Carolina, but not the others where Bernie Sanders is more competitive. Bernie Sanders could win three of them today. It's certainly within the realm of possibility. But doesn't Bakari have a point. Even if that happens, Hillary Clinton could leave with more delegates tonight. Aren't you running out of time for moral victories in this race?

BILL PRESS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Absolutely not. I agree with almost everything he said until he got to Ohio or didn't get to Ohio, Illinois, and Missouri. Look, this is Bernie Sanders territory. It's his chance to do well there and to prove that Michigan was not just an aberration. These are your Rust Belt industrial states where his, particularly the message on trade and jobs and economic justice, I think really carries through. If he -- where I disagree with Bakari is we're not going to see things pivot tonight. I think we're going to see things just roll on, roll on into California and New York, Wisconsin, Oregon and Washington. If Bernie Sanders can win one of those three states tonight, that's big. If he wins two or three, that is huge. If he wins Ohio, he'll be able to say, like Hillary Clinton did in 2008, Ohio is the key state, that's my good one good reason for staying in this race all the way to the end.

BOLDUAN: Now, John, Illinois, Ohio, Missouri, they look a lot like Michigan. And have you seen anything happen in the past week that should give the Hillary Clinton campaign any more confidence that they're not going to be looking at a rerun in Michigan? JOHN AVLON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: No. I think there are a couple

key dynamics here. And Bill Press did a wonderful job of expectations setting. You see what he did there. One state is good.

BERMAN: One state. One state.

AVLON: One state is a blowout. That's right.

PRESS: I'll take it. I'll take it.

(CROSSTALK)

(LAUGHTER)

AVLON: That spin aside, Michigan was enormously important because the polls were 100 percent wrong. 20 point lead going in. Sanders pulled it off and started doing well with minority voters in a way he hadn't previously. Let's look at Illinois, where there's a lot of anger at the Chicago mayor, Rahm Emanuel. Sanders tying Clinton to Rahm. Does it offset the predominantly white voters? How does the urban vote turn out? Hillary has done a beautiful job of connecting in the south. She connected particularly with African-American voters. But the more Bernie is able to eat into that lead, particularly in the Rust Belt, in the industrial area, that's where we can make big surprises. That's what you need to watch tonight. His strength and independence is interesting, but what's fascinating is so many of the states she won last time around is where he's gaining ground. That's fascinating in the Democratic Party, but it reflects more on the primary turnout than any general election results.

[11:25:56] BERMAN: Sure, she's running the Obama path and he's running -- Bernie Sanders is running the Hillary Clinton path from 2008.

AVLON: That's right. Yeah, yeah.

BERMAN: Bakari, quickly, one thing I've noticed is Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton are working very hard. A lot of rallies. A lot of events. A lot of hours. A lot of town meetings. And they're both starting to slip up occasionally, saying things they have to apologize for later.

BOLDUAN: Clean up.

BERMAN: Hillary Clinton did it with the Kentucky coal miners. Bernie Sanders Bernie Sanders assuming a voter asking a question was a Muslim. I'm wondering if this was starting to take a toll on both of them.

SELLERS: You're seeing the ebbs and flows of campaigning. I've run a race. When you get near the end of a race, your body and mind start wearing down. Your mind starts wearing down.

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: But, Bakari, we're halfway there. SELLERS: Well, I know. At this point, I think the voters understand

who Bernie Sanders is and Hillary Clinton. You have Bernie Sanders with the gaffe about African-Americans in the ghetto, and you had Hillary Clinton make a gaffe here or there, especially when it came to Nancy Reagan, which was inexcusable. You have these things that are occurring. I think voters are starting to see these are people who will make mistakes, but the discussion on the Democratic side, the discussions are head-and-shoulders above the discussions on the other side. Kudos to both of them for pushing the discussion forward.

BOLDUAN: One final thought from Bill. You surprised us when we were doing a special when you said you, yourself, is formally the super delegate. What is Bernie Sanders doing to get the super delegates going his direction in take a look at the numbers when you add into the super delegates, basically they're all going to Hillary Clinton right now.

PRESS: He's doing what he should be doing right you which is winning as many primaries as he can. $ the more blue states he wins, the more of the key states the Democrats must win in November that Bernie wins, super delegates are going to start taking a look psychologically, and says this is where he need to do well in November. That's where Bernie has done well. Hillary did a lot of great red states in the south, but we're not going do win them in November. At it point, if it happens, super delegates will start switching to Bernie.

(CROSSTALK)

BERMAN: Be lightening fast, John.

AVLON: The big mistake that people are making right now is assuming that wins on the Republican side and the Democrat side in the state translates to general election strength in those states.

SELLERS: Exactly.

AVLON: It's not the case. It's a totally different voter cohort. Don't let anyone on either side spin you on that one.

BOLDUAN: It's like an Etch-A-Sketch.

BERMAN: We'll let you guys take this up during the commercial.

Thank you so much for being with us.

(CROSSTALK)

BERMAN: We are just talking about Ohio right now. It is the race, the state that one person says will determine the very future of the Republican Party. We're going to get insight from inside Ohio, next.

BOLDUAN: That's right. Plus, a little game play on voting day. Some voters admitting they aren't picking their favorites for strategic reasons. Why? And who are they picking? We'll talk to them.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)