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Pence, Kaine Prepare to Debate. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired October 4, 2016 - 16:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Defenders in chief. Senator Tim Kaine and Governor Mike Pence, their one and only debate right here on CNN.

A special edition of THE LEAD starts right now.

Good afternoon. Welcome to a special edition of THE LEAD, debate night in America. I am Jake Tapper.

Right now, you're looking at the vice presidential debate stage in Longwood University located in beautiful downtown Farmville, Virginia. That's about 60 miles west of the state capital of Richmond. Virginia Senator Tim Kaine vs. Indiana Governor Mike Pence, they're about to square off just a few hours from now here on CNN.

Their 90-minute debate is scheduled to be divided into nine 10- minute segments. Tim Kaine won a coin toss and will get the first question. Moments ago, Donald Trump said he will be keeping a close eye on the debate, live-tweeting. "I will be watching the great Governor Mike Pence and live-tweeting the V.P. debate tonight starting at 8:30," with his customary "Enjoy."

On the campaign trail today, Hillary Clinton in her surrogates were out in force fanned out across crucial battleground states. Clinton about to rally supporters in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. The latest polls show Clinton with a slim lead nationally and holding a more comfortable lead in the Keystone State itself.

We're of course standing by for Donald Trump. He is about to speak live to supporters in Arizona. Trump fighting back after the report that he declared nearly $1 billion losses in 1995 and may have been able to use that loss to perfectly legally avoid paying taxes for nearly two decades, federal income taxes, that is.

Now the Republican nominee is seizing the role of underdog and portraying himself as the next comeback kid.

But the main event tonight is the highly anticipated vice presidential debate. Both candidates have been hunkered down for days in debate prep. Our correspondents are fanned out around the country covering all angles of this big night for both campaigns.

We are going to begin with Jeff Zeleny. He's in the spin room for tonight's debate.

Jeff, what is Senator Kaine's strategy for tonight?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, Senator Tim Kaine is really trying to do one thing first and foremost.

And that is continue where Hillary Clinton left off at the first debate, trying to keep this momentum and questions alive about Donald Trump. He has much more to work with now. I am told by a top adviser who has been involved in these debate preparations that he has been studying the tax code, the tax laws and is going to go pretty deep into raising some questions about that 1995 tax return that we now have been talking about for so many days.

Also, he is trying to validate Hillary Clinton. He is going to use the words honesty and trustworthiness. It's a central part of his strategy to try and make some people who may be on the fence about Hillary Clinton like her a little bit more.

Now, Jake, I have talked to several people who have helped prepare him for this. He has been studying intensively Hillary Clinton's record, as well as the Republican record, trying to be totally familiar with everything for tonight.

He has been doing some practice in Raleigh, North Carolina, to get off the trail to spend some time really going through all this. He has done a lot of debates before, as governor of Virginia, as senator of Virginia, but never before where he is trying to, you know, essentially help someone else. That's Hillary Clinton.

So his challenge tonight is to essentially not slow this momentum down that she started at that first debate at Hofstra -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Jeff Zeleny, thanks so much.

Jim Acosta is covering the Trump/Pence campaign.

Jim, you have been talking to your sources on the campaign. How is Governor Pence preparing for tonight? What's his goal?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Jake, his goal tonight is to win, in the words of one senior Trump adviser. They want to reset the narrative of this campaign. They want to get a win under their belt.

And they're hoping that Mike Pence can do it. And the way he's been preparing, he's been taking the conventional route. You will recall Donald Trump didn't debate with a stand-in for Hillary Clinton. Well, Mike Pence has been debating with a stand-in for Tim Kaine. That was Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker during these debate preparations.

He has even been practicing with a moderator. Standing in for Elaine Quijano from CBS has been Nick Ayers, one of Mike Pence's top aides. And they do know, as Jeff Zeleny was saying just a few moments ago, that Tim Kaine is going to hit Mike Pence tonight with these tax returns.

As one Democratic strategist told me, Jake, if the subject of immigration comes up, Tim Kaine is going to mention the tax returns. If climate change comes up, Tim Kaine is going to mention the tax returns.

Aides to Mike Pence know that that is going to happen, and they say that they're ready for it. In the words of this one Pence adviser, Mike Pence will hold his own tonight. He has been doing his homework and he is prepared.

One other bit of preparation that went into tonight's debate, Jake, just happened a little while ago this afternoon. Apparently, Mike Pence did test that microphone inside the debate hall, according to one aide. He wanted to make sure it's working tonight -- Jake.


TAPPER: All right, Jim Acosta.

Joining me now, my panel of CNN reporters, analysts, and contributors.

We will start with senior political reporters Manu Raju and Nia-Malika Henderson. We also have with us, political director of CNN David Chalian, chief political analyst Gloria Borger. Trump supporter Kayleigh McEnany is with us, former executive director of the Congressional Black Caucus and Clinton Angela Rye, former Reagan White House Political Director and Trump supporter Jeffrey Lord, and former special adviser to President Obama Van Jones, who is a Clinton supporter.

David Chalian, we are exactly five weeks out from Election Day, believe it or not. Can Mike Pence do anything that could actually help Donald Trump regain some of the momentum that he had about a week-and-a-half ago?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: I don't know how much momentum he can gain for Donald Trump, but I do think he can put a floor underneath what has been a really rough week for Donald Trump, obviously.

If Mike Pence gives a stellar performance tonight, I think it helps stabilize Trump. I am not sure it injects new momentum for him, but it certainly could help stabilize, which Donald Trump clearly needs to do.

TAPPER: And, Jeffrey Lord, let me go to you. Mike Pence has played a role in the past of, you know, cleanup on aisle two. Take a listen.


GOV. MIKE PENCE (R-IN), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I have a great deal of respect for John McCain.

Captain Khan is an American hero, and we honor him and honor his family.

I am not really sure why the media keeps dropping David Duke's name. Donald Trump has denounced David Duke repeatedly. We don't want his support.


TAPPER: I assume you are anticipating he will do something similar this evening after some of these rough stories and some self-inflicted wounds with the Miss Universe 1996, and also this "New York Times" story about his taxes.

JEFFREY LORD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Ever thus with vice presidential candidates, period, no matter who they are.

But in terms of the taxes, I have to say, I just totally think that this is an issue that helps, because it talks about -- it illustrates the problem with the tax code. Hillary Clinton also took advantage of this. So, you know, when you are doing the same thing, albeit for a lesser amount of money, and people all across the country -- I mean, basically, I get stopped in the street here by people saying, listen, I do this, I do this.

Are they saying now that if I take a tax deduction, I am not paying my taxes? I think that this issue could boomerang on these folks.

TAPPER: Let me just go to Van Jones, because I think you disagree.



This is obviously causing tremendous heartburn for the Trump campaign and for ordinary people. And here is the deal. It's not that he's done anything that's not lawful. It's just that it feels so awful that somebody at his level can do horrific things, lay people off, file these bankruptcies, stiff people, and he somehow still winds up on top.

And so it becomes a symbol. The other thing is, the way that this came across in the last debate, which is, this makes me smart, you guys can spin that and spin that and spin that. It came across as very, very arrogant.

And we put the two things together. I am getting away with murder and I'm arrogant about it. It doesn't look good.

LORD: I'm going told this by regular folks out there.


JONES: ... regular people who like you who come up to you who like you.

But everybody else is getting bombarded with the rest of America.


GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Don't you think -- and Kaine will try to prosecute this case against Trump and turn this into a character issue, which is, in our poll at CNN, 94 percent of the American public believes paying your taxes is the patriotic and civic thing to do; 73 percent of Americans believe that Donald Trump should disclose his taxes.

Americans believe they're not chumps, that they -- everyone wants to pay the lowest possible tax rate, but paying zero when you earn billions of dollars, as Donald Trump does, and they will prosecute the case about him as a bad businessman who lost a billion dollars.

TAPPER: And we are expecting Tim Kaine to go on the attack this evening. And he's been playing that role quite enthusiastically over the last few weeks.

Take a look.


SEN. TIM KAINE (D-VA), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Is there no limit to which this guy will descend? Ku Klux Klan values, David Duke values, Donald Trump values are not American values. Donald Trump can't keep get over the Nixon standard for ethics.

Our nation, it is just too great to put it in the hands of a slick- talking, empty-promising, self-promoting one-man wrecking crew.


TAPPER: Angela, is that what Tim Kaine needs to do this evening? Or does he need to make a more affirmative case about Hillary Clinton, if you had to pick one?

ANGELA RYE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: That's a hard question, Jake.

I think the reality of this debate tonight is neither of these candidates are well-known. So it absolutely has to be about their principles. He has to pivot very well in counterpunching at Mike Pence, but he also has to definitely tout Hillary Clinton's record, what she plans to do, what this new economic plan is all about, what they're going to do building infrastructure.


TAPPER: I know, but I'm asking you to make a choice.

RYE: I know. It's hard.

TAPPER: Which is more important?

RYE: I think he has to spend more time talking about what Hillary Clinton will do.

TAPPER: More building up.


TAPPER: We have to take a very big break, but -- not a very big break. We have to take a break, but we have a lot more time coming back.

We will be right back.

Coming up next, the latest polls show Clinton picking up steam in many crucial battleground states. We're going to break down the numbers.

Plus, we're standing by for Donald Trump. He's about to speak live in Arizona, where the most recent poll shows the race in a dead heat.

And Clinton supporters out in force slamming Trump for bragging about he takes advantage of tax laws.


MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY: Because not paying taxes for years and years, while the rest of us pay our fair share, doesn't make you smarter than the rest of us.



TAPPER: Welcome back to a very special edition of THE LEAD. It's debate night in America. And we're just hours away from the first and only showdown between the vice presidential candidates.

Hillary Clinton, meanwhile, is about to speak in Harrisburg in that crucial battleground state of Pennsylvania.

Earlier, Clinton campaigned with her daughter, Chelsea, and she took this question from a young supporter.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I see with my own eyes the damage Donald Trump does when he talks about women and how they look. As the first female president, how would you undo some of that damage and helps girls understand they are so much more than just what they look like?

HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: My opponent insulted Miss Universe. I mean, how do you get more acclaimed than that? But it wasn't good enough. So, we can't take any of this seriously anymore. We need to laugh at it. We need to refute it. We need to ignore it, and we need to stand up to it.


TAPPER: Joe Johns is in Haverford, Pennsylvania, where the event took place.

Joe, what will we hear from Clinton this hour, do you think?

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, Harrisburg is being billed as a voter registration event. The deadline for voter registration in the state of Pennsylvania is October 11th. That is, by the way, exactly one week from today. Now, the Clinton campaign looking at their numbers, sees themselves as

about ten points ahead according to one of the most recent polls, but they're not resting on their laurels for a couple of reasons. Pennsylvania being so important especially for Donald Trump, but I think also because this is the state where Hillary Clinton knows she needs some big numbers, no matter what.

One of the things that you look at in Pennsylvania is the number of people who actually showed up to vote during the primaries. It's been a bit of a slump here and nationwide for Democrats. They're worried about that as they try to bring together that Obama coalition of minority voters, of younger voters, and others to try to seal the deal this November.

Jake, back to you.

TAPPER: All right. Joe Johns, thanks.

And now to Donald Trump. He is about to hold a rally in Prescott Valley, Arizona. Trump has been testing out a new line on the campaign trail as something of an underdog and how he, even as a businessman, was underestimated.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: They said I had billions of dollars in borrowings in hundreds of millions in personal guarantee and no pathway out. But I never had any doubts, and I never ever gave up, like the people in this room. We never gave up.


TAPPER: Jason Carroll is at that Trump rally.

And, Jason, do we expect to hear more of this kind of language from Trump this evening?

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We absolutely do. You heard him there yesterday when he was in Colorado, when he entered that arena to thunderous applause, at the top of the arena. It was like a prize fighter entering adoring fans. That's pretty much what we are expecting here today.

In fact, he said yesterday, he said, I know how to fight. I know how to beat the system, and I know how to win.

A number of his surrogates, as you know, Jake, have been out basically calling him a financial genius for what he did. I spoke to a couple people in the room. Talk to them about Trump's explanation, and I have to tell you, a lot of them saying, look, we understand that Donald Trump for a period of time was in the private sector. We accept his explanation for what happened there with the taxes.

And in fact, a number of them have said, but going forward what they'd like to see is him not talk so much about the taxes but talk about the issues. That's why so many people in this room today have told me they're actually looking forward to the V.P. debate because they feel like that's the debate where the issues are going to be taking center stage.

So, as for what we are expecting here, we are expecting Donald Trump when he takes the -- takes to the podium to talk about the debate, but also once again to talk about those taxes. But again, a number of people here, even his own supporters, are saying at this point, focus on the issues, less about taxes, less about personal attacks -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Jason, thank you so much.

My panel is back here with me.

And, Nia-Malika, one of the people campaigning today for Hillary Clinton was Michelle Obama, going after Trump, though not naming him directly. Do you think that's effective?

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Oh, yeah. I think it's effective. She had that very clever moment when she was talking about Hillary Clinton, how she -- when she is knocked down, she gets back up. And so, she doesn't complain.

And she tapped the microphone, which way was, you know, all sorts of shade and clever. I think she's great in a state like North Carolina. It's a state with a lot of HBCUs, a lot of college campus --

TAPPER: Historically black colleges and universities.

HENDERSON: Right. She was in the campus of North Carolina -- in North Carolina State. So, yes, I mean, she's great. I think in any state, she's going to be great, partly because she is such a pop culture figure, right? If you think about this month, she is on the cover of "Essence" magazine. She's on the cover of "In-Style" magazine. Her approval rating is I think near 60 percent.

So, she very much, I think for a lot of folks, is the keeper of the Obama flame, right? At some of the rallies, you hear people elapsing into the old "fired up and ready to go". So, I think she's going to be great out there and different from what she has been before.

If you think about her in a lot of these mid-term contests, she was very reluctant in some ways to campaign for people whose last name wasn't Obama.

[16:20:03] She's very fired, I think, for Hillary Clinton and is going to be crucial in getting the Obama coalition out there, but also suburban white women as well and even older voters, older voters who are over 65. Hillary Clinton is actually doing quite well with those voters, which is very different from what Obama was able to do in 2012.

TAPPER: Very interesting.

Kayleigh, let's go back to Donald Trump taking this more underdog type role a little bit more. Let's roll a little bit more.


TRUMP: When the chips are down is when I perform the very best. The thing that motivates me the most is when people tell me something is absolutely impossible. For me, impossible is just a starting point. And that's what I am and what you are. We're fighters, and I am now going to fight for you. We're bringing our country back.


TAPPER: It's a new tone, a new tack. What do you think?

KAYLEIGH MCENANY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think it's a great tack. America loves a comeback story. The expectations are not high for Donald Trump in the next debate, given that there was a consensus among voters and polls that Hillary Clinton won the last debate. We can debate that, but that was the consensus.

So, if he comes back stronger, if he comes back and takes the offense and prosecutes the case against Hillary Clinton with her e-mail server, with the Clinton Foundation, he's going to look like the greatest comeback story ever. Let's be reminded, seven days ago John King was saying he's opened multiple paths to 270. Where will be seven days from now? Who knows?

TAPPER: It's a decent point. Manu, you agree?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Yes, I think he's running against this campaign against Washington. Anytime you can tap into that angst among the American electorate, it helps. I think that's one thing Mike Pence can do pretty effectively tonight. Make the case that they're the ticket that will change Washington and make the case to sell Republican and conservative values to the American public.

That's one thing that Donald Trump didn't do in the first debate. That's one of the things that Republican voters, establishment types, want to hear more of, explain why -- why Republican values could actually do well for the middle class. I think that is one thing they're going to hear a lot more of.

And this change argument is so effective when Donald Trump can stay on message. When he gets off message, that's when he gets into trouble.


VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: You know, why does he have to make this case? You are right. It's a great argument for him to make, but the psychology of his supporters. If you are a grass-roots Trump supporter, you're out there, you're doing hand-to-hand combat. And every time you look at the TV screen, you don't see Benghazi, you don't see the Clinton Foundation, you don't see anything except for your candidate making mistake after mistake after mistake. There is a demoralization crisis that begins to set in.

So, what he has to do is take that negative and turn it into a positive. Now, it's a brilliant way to do it. But the reality is, he had real momentum. He didn't have to make the argument that he was down, because he was up.

One of the things I think you'll watch now is, coming out of this debate and Sunday, is not the broader movement, but the core psychology of these Trump supporters. Can they buoy themselves? I see Trump supporters now, they are less aggressive now in promoting their candidate because they're embarrassed.

JEFFREY LORD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR I don't know which Trump supporters he's talking about.

TAPPER: There are a couple in this building!


LORD: I mean, I am seeing them in the Trump headquarters in my area of Pennsylvania on Saturday. And most of them were out in Manheim with Donald Trump. But the ones who were there, boy, they are pumped up.

TAPPER: All right. Coming up next, breaking news on a story that we have been following. A failing veterans hospital getting worse instead of better after two years of trying to fix it. Our report coming up.

And, Bill Clinton calls Obamacare a, quote, "crazy system". Does Hillary Clinton agree? We'll ask her campaign manager, Robby Mook.


[16:28:22] TAPPER: Welcome back to a very special edition of THE LEAD.

It is debate night in America, as you look at Hillary Clinton speaking to supporters in Pennsylvania. We're just hours away from the showdown between Clinton and Donald Trump's running mates here on CNN. It's the one and only time that Senator Tim Kaine and Governor Pence will go head to head. And it comes as brand-new polls are coming out in the must-win battleground states.

John King is live for us in Farmville, Virginia, to break it all down.

John, a lot of new polls from the battleground states, they all tend to agree that Hillary Clinton seems to be building momentum at least right now.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They do, Jake. And it underscores how important the debate is tonight and even more so, how important that second debate is Sunday night, the presidential debate.

Let's do it this way. Let's go back eight days in time. On the morning of the presidential debate number one, we were talking about Donald Trump's momentum, right? Now, we still project Hillary Clinton would win if the election were held today, 272 electoral votes. The dark blue solid Democrats, the light blue leaning Democrat.

But let's go back eight days ago, Jake. We were talking about polling that showed Donald Trump leading in Nevada. Polling that showed he had tied or pulled a little bit in North Carolina, and pulling that had Trump up and starting to build even a four, five-point lead in Ohio.

Look where that got him. It got him a lot more in play. We're having a week of this conversation, eight days ago. And we were saying, you have to keep an eye on Pennsylvania. We lean it Democratic but the polls getting closer.

We were saying we have to keep an eye on Colorado. We lean it Democratic but at least one poll showed Trump ahead. We were having internal conversations, even about Michigan as well. That was eight days ago.

Donald Trump looking favorable in the battleground states and making us have conversations about some of these blue states.

Well, let's move forward. Let's take this away, come back to where we are now. As you mentioned, a lot of new polls out the last couple of days. Three in Nevada, showing it's Hillary Clinton ahead in Nevada. Colorado, 11-point lead for Clinton in two polls.