Trump Takes South Carolina; Nevada to Hold GOP Caucuses Tomorrow; Is Donald Trump Unstoppable?; CNN Polls: Clinton Ahead by 25

Day-03

03

Tomorrow; Is Donald Trump Unstoppable?; CNN Polls: Clinton Ahead by 25

Points in S.C.; Uber Driver in Shooting Spree to Be Arraigned. Aired

7-7:30a ET - Part 1>

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: The stakes in the 2016 race could not be higher, with 16 states heading to the polls in the next two weeks.

[07:00:08] On the Democratic side, before Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders tangle in the South Carolina primary Saturday, they'll take part in a CNN town hall event. Chris will be moderating it. And that is tomorrow night.

CUOMO: Now, back on that GOP side, to beat Donald or to be Donald? That is the question for the party. He is savoring a big win in South Carolina that showed he can draw from all parts of the party. Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, scrambling to find their 2016 lane.

Jeb Bush's lane found the off-ramp after a disappointing finish. There are five remaining Republicans. They're all going to face off in a CNN debate Thursday in Houston, moderated by our man, Wolf Blitzer. Big, big, big right before Super Tuesday.

So let's get to our coverage. We've got CNN's Chris Frates in Las Vegas -- Chris.

CHRIS FRATES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, good morning from Sin City, Chris, where we're getting ready for the next round in this bruising GOP primary on Tuesday. The top three finishers in South Carolina taking their message to Nevada voters. Donald Trump arguing that he's the guy atop the field. He wants to stay there. Ted Cruz taking the argument he's the only real conservative in this race. And Marco Rubio saying he's the only candidate who can unite Republicans to defeat Democrats in November.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FRATES (voice-over): A reordered Republican field is barnstorming across Nevada ahead of the caucuses Tuesday. Trump's sweeping victory in South Carolina over the weekend still sinking in.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It is crunch time. We have to go out and vote.

FRATES: Trump is looking to build on his momentum after back-to-back victories, with his sights set on Super Tuesday, one week after Nevada's showdown.

TRUMP: I'll tell you what. We're just going one after another. Are we going to win Georgia?

FRATES: Meanwhile, the GOP front-runner was stirring up controversy over the weekend by retweeting this message, claiming both Cruz and Rubio are ineligible to be POTUS, and defending the retweet on ABC's "This Week."

TRUMP: I never looked at it. Somebody said he's not. And I retweeted it. I retweet things, and we start dialogue, and it's very interesting.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm going to spend zero time on his interpretation of the Constitution with regards to eligibility. And I'm going to spend all my time talking about what this campaign should be about.

FRATES: Questioning opponents' eligibility for the presidency is a favorite Trump attack.

Texas Senator Ted Cruz, meanwhile, is sharpening his counterattack.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: For folks who are concerned that Donald Trump is not the best candidate to go head to head with Hillary Clinton in November, it is becoming clearer and clearer that we are the one campaign that can beat Donald Trump. Indeed, we're the only campaign that has beaten Donald Trump.

FRATES: And Marco Rubio is making the case in Las Vegas that he is the new face of the conservative moment.

RUBIO: Of the people left in this race, no one can unite this movement or this party faster than I can. We will unite the Republican Party and the conservative movement.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FRATES: Now, one candidate missing from action here in the Silver State, Jeb Bush. He had a disappointing four-place finish in South Carolina, dropped out of the race. And that huge GOP field we started with down to just five candidates going into tomorrow night's debate.

And Alisyn, I'm pretty hot at the Craps table here. I've got to get back to it.

CAMEROTA: You go right ahead, Chris. We'll call you when we need you. Thanks so much for that.

All right. Let's bring in CNN political commentator and Republican consultant Margaret Hoover; and Republican commentator and Trump supporter, Kayleigh McEnany. Ladies, great to see you both this morning.

Margaret, let's just start with the buzz word of the day or the phrase "freak-out factor." Is the GOP freaking out about Donald Trump?

MARGARET HOOVER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: If they're not, they should be, Alisyn. I mean, that's -- that's the reality of the situation, is we as Republicans have gotten ourselves in position where the leading contender for the Republican nomination has hardly been Republican for more than a couple of years. I mean, he is -- he certainly has no positions that are recognizable, let along to the conservative movement, to the Republican Party.

And this train seems to have left the station. I mean, it is very hard to conceive what kind of really sort of earthquake kind of event could derail the momentum that Donald Trump has from behind them. Even if you do consolidate behind a candidate in the next couple weeks, you really only have until March 15, when these winner takes all states kick in.

So it's very hard to imagine what that would be, but -- you've got to fight for it. You can't just sort of give it away.

CAMEROTA: Kayleigh, I see you shaking your head. What are you not liking about what Margaret is saying?

KAYLEIGH MCENANY, REPUBLICAN COMMENTATOR: That's just not true. Donald Trump is very conservative. He's pro-life. He's limited government. He's free market principles. In fact, his history looks a lot like Ronald Reagan's, who was once pro-choice and pivoted and made a change.

But here's the thing about Donald Trump. Donald Trump recognizes that there are some policies within the Republican Party we have to change on. For instance, Americans have been paying into Social Security for their whole lives. And it is unfair for the government to all of a sudden take that away. That's one example.

He has said repeatedly, "I don't want people dying on the streets. I want to make sure that people in dire conditions have healthcare coverage." These are compassionate principles. These are America first principles. They are not ideology first principles.

[07:05:11] The Republican Party has needed to broaden the tent for a very long time. Donald Trump is doing that. He's bringing in independents. He's bringing in Democrat-leaning voters. And he's still winning conservatives and evangelicals. He is broadening this tent in a great way.

CAMEROTA: And to that point, Margaret, let me show you some exit polls from South Carolina, because that's what voters spoke to, the ones who supported Trump and even who didn't support Trump.

Look at this. They say "brings change." Forty-five percent felt that he was the candidate who brought the most change. "Shares my values." Thirty-four percent felt that that was Ted Cruz, but that wasn't enough to win. And then, "can win in November," Marco Rubio. So it's sort of all over the map. But if people just want a change agent, and that's what they're voting for most, it would be Donald Trump, Margaret.

HOOVER: There is no -- I mean, Kayleigh, first of all, I mean, there's nobody closer to Ronald Reagan -- I mean, further away from Ronald Reagan. Donald Trump started his political career in 1987 taking a full-page ad out in "The New York Times," saying Ronald Reagan wasn't strong enough on Iran.

So look, I mean, we know about Donald Trump that he's been philosophically all over the place. We also know it doesn't matter to his supporters. I think what's happening is there's a confluence of three main issues here. He's, you know, embodying this economic populist message, which is really resonating with a large part of the electorate and the economy that has been left behind over time. I think that, coupled with the fact that there is an anti-incumbent, anti-Washington establishment -- you know, anti-establishment feeling that, frankly, isn't new to the GOP. It's been around since the Tea Party movement. It kicked Eric Cantor out of office, and it kicked, you know, many of these incumbents who were in office for years and years out. There's that.

And then there's this confluence with a real desire for a strong man. Because I think what you've seen, every administration ushers in an answer to what is perceived as a weakness of a previous administration. And frankly, there is a perception -- I don't want to argue it if you're not, but a perception that the Obama presidency is very weak. And this is where you get the emergence of a strong man.

So you have sort of this strong man, economic populism that's anti- Washington sentiment that has all created a moment that has been tailor-made for Donald Trump, who has been running for president, frankly, for the last 20 years. And this just happens to be the best vacuum for him to step in. And really articulate the concerns of many Americans.

MCENANY: It's also -- it's also important to acknowledge that this is the fault of the Republican Party, too.

HOOVER: Kayleigh's right.

MCENANY: When you look at exit polls from what happened this weekend, 53 percent of people feel betrayed by the Republican Party. We have an establishment that has force-fed us candidates that has lost the last two elections that are trying to tell us that we need to believe and think a certain way with candidates who have poll-tested every word and a president who eloquently says things off a teleprompter.

People love Donald Trump, because he is candid. Let Trump be Trump is the only undergirding philosophy of this campaign. And people love that. The things he says at the kitchen table are the things that he says on the campaign trail. And people love it. He's going to be our next president because of it.

CAMEROTA: Hey, Margaret, let's talk about the math for a second. Because Donald Trump is far and away the front-runner. But if you look at South Carolina, that he just won, he gets 32.5.

HOOVER: That's right, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: And if you add up everyone else, they can beat him. But of course, I mean, is that the math that gives you consolation, as someone who is not a Trump supporter? HOOVER: No, no, let me just tell you. Very little will give me consolation right now. But it's true. If you have Jeb Bush, and Kasich, and Rubio altogether, they would have beat Donald Trump, had there been a winnowing.

And look, Kayleigh is right in the sense that the Republican Party really has created this problem. The rules this time were written to fix the problem from the last time around.

Remember: Mitt Romney didn't get his 1,192 delegates or whatever that threshold was last time -- I think it was 1,192 -- until June. He was a weakened primary candidate, and he was out of money. The RNC wrote the rules this time to avoid that situation so the clear front-runner would lock it up early this time and have the resources to go into a strong general election.

Well, that's how this has happened. This election, the goose is very likely to be cooked by March, April now, because Donald Trump has so much momentum and inertia.

So the Republican Party has really created the problem of Trump and allowed him to lock in the support and momentum early that will constitute the 11 -- 1,237 delegates that he needs. The only real hope is that there will be a winnowing quickly, and somebody can block him from getting that threshold votes and then potentially move into a contested convention.

CAMEROTA: Kayleigh, you heard Ted Cruz in the piece before say that he believes that he is the candidate who can beat Trump. He has the history, having done so in Iowa. Is that the candidate that you, as a Trump supporter, fear the most?

MCENANY: I think so. Look, this is an outsider's election. Polls show that. People want someone outside of politics. And that's Donald Trump. And second to that, you know, outside of Ben Carson, who is kind of fading quickly, is Ted Cruz, who, yes, he's been in Washington. But he's been the guy who stood up to Mitch McConnell and called him a liar. He was the guy who was on the right side of immigration.

So if you want someone who's like an outsider, you look to Ted Cruz. I don't think Ted Cruz will be the nominee. I think the momentum is behind Trump. I think he'll do well on Super Tuesday.

[07:10:12] But yes, that's the candidate to fear, not Marco Rubio, because Marco Rubio brings back those same establishment Republican frustration feelings that are really under girding the Trump movement.

So I don't think it's Rubio. I think if anyone, it's Trump [SIC]. But I think Trump prevails, nonetheless.

CAMEROTA: Kayleigh, Margaret, thanks so much for helping us break it all down. Stay with CNN all day.

HOOVER: Thanks, Alisyn.

MCENANY: Thanks, Alisyn.

HOOVER: Pleasure to see you guys. All day tomorrow for coverage of the Republican Nevada caucuses. Also, join us Thursday night as the remaining five Republican candidates square off in the final debate before Super Tuesday. Wolf Blitzer moderates live from Houston. That's Thursday night, 8:30 p.m. Eastern, only here on CNN -- Michaela.

PEREIRA: All right. Meanwhile -- meanwhile, the Democratic race is also heating up, as Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders shift their focus now to South Carolina. A brand-new CNN poll of polls shows that Clinton has a commanding lead five days to the primary. With her big win in Nevada, what can Bernie Sanders do to rebound?

Our senior Washington correspondent, Jeff Zeleny, is in Charleston, South Carolina, with more -- Jeff.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Hey, good morning, Michaela.

There's no doubt that Hillary Clinton is coming back to South Carolina with a big set of energy and a headwinds here -- or tailwinds, actually, pushing her toward South Carolina. She has a commanding lead here, but she's not going to let this time expire without pushing forward.

She's going to be campaigning across South Carolina with five mothers whose children have been the victims of gun violence. She believes that that is the central message here as she tries to keep defining Bernie Sanders.

But we saw Bernie Sanders yesterday. He's certainly not giving up. He was in Greenville, South Carolina, with a message for those voters.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: South Carolina has the opportunity to make American history. And I hope you will.

This campaign has taken on the economic establishment, all of the big money interests. And let me tell you, Wall Street is getting nervous.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZELENY: So that economic message is something that he is continuing to go impress on. And it's definitely resonating. But the question is, will it resonate enough here in South Carolina?

In 2008, some 55 percent of the Democratic electorate were African- American voters. The Clinton campaign reaching out to them aggressively, of course. But Senator Sanders believes he can win over a good share of them with that economic message.

But tomorrow night, Chris, at the town hall that you're moderating, the central question is, will she keep defining him as a single-issue candidate? He bristles at that notions. He says, "I don't know what she's talking about." That is what she's essentially trying to do here. It has diminished him a little bit. And that's why tomorrow's night is so interesting at that forum in Columbia -- Chris.

CUOMO: The new nice way of saying that on the Democrat side is "drawing contrasts." That's what we call it now. It's drawing contrasts. It's not taking shots anymore. It's just drawing contrasts. Jeff, I'll see you soon.

All right. Let's now give you the latest on this deadly shooting spree that terrorized Kalamazoo, Michigan. The suspected gunman is Jason Dalton, and he's going to be arraigned today. He's expected to face at least six counts of murder. The Uber driver even accused of picking up fares between killings.

CNN's Ryan Young is live in Kalamazoo. He has the latest for us. What do we now know?

RYAN YOUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Chris, a lot of pain in this community. People talking about this all over town. We went to a vigil last night. You could see everyone holding hands, talking about moving forward. But they also want to know, what's the motive for this crime?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

YOUNG (voice-over): Kalamazoo is in mourning looking for answers after six people were killed and two others injured in a shooting rampage on Saturday night.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is an opportunity that we get to pray for our victims.

YOUNG: Authorities say the suspect, 45-year-old Jason Dalton, doesn't appear to be connected to any of the victims.

JEFF GETTING, PROSECUTING ATTORNEY, KALAMAZOO COUNTY: These were very deliberate killings. They were intentional, deliberate. And I don't want to say casually done. Coldly done is what I want to say.

YOUNG: Neighbors who know the alleged shooter say they're in shock.

GARY PARDO, NEIGHBOR OF ALLEGED SHOOTER: He just seemed like a normal -- normal guy. This is just so -- so strange. We're wondering what might have caused him to do this.

YOUNG: Dalton worked as an Uber driver. A passenger who rode in his car just before the shooting said he was acting strange.

MATT MELLEN, PASSENGER IN ALLEGED SHOOTER'S CAR: We were kind of driving through medians, driving through the lawn, speeding along. And then finally, once he came to a stop, I jumped out of the car and ran away.

YOUNG: Shortly after that, authorities say the nearly seven-hour shooting spree started.

5:42 p.m., a woman is shot several times in a parking lot at an apartment complex. She survived but is in serious condition.

At 10:08 p.m., Richard Smith and his 17-year-old son, Tyler, are shot and killed at a car dealership.

And at 10:24 p.m., Dalton pulls into this parking lot at a Cracker Barrel, where he allegedly kills four women in their cars, all over the age of 60. A 14-year-old girl was also shot but survived.

Finally, after midnight, police locate Dalton's car.

PAUL MATYAS, UNDERSHERIFF, KALAMAZOO COUNTY: We determined that this was indeed our suspect. He was taken into custody.

YOUNG: Investigators believe Dalton was looking to pick up passengers even after the final shooting.

Uber said in a statement, "We are horrified and heartbroken at the senseless violence. We have reached out to police to help with their investigation in any way that we can."

(END VIDEOTAPE)

YOUNG: Alisyn, you know, we're digging for answers in this one. In fact, if you go to the neighborhood and ask people about the shooter, you want to know exactly what was going on in his life. They talked about the fact that he was a normal guy. Someone they'd seen in the neighborhood all the time. No one ever thought something like this could happen in this community. So you can understand, a lot of people asking questions at this point, just about the why.

CAMEROTA: And Ryan, it's so unsatisfying. I mean, people always ask why after a tragedy like this. And so rarely do we actually get the answer. But thank you for the update and staying on it.

Meanwhile, a Connecticut judge decides today if a lawsuit brought by the families of Sandy Hook victims can move forward. The suit seeks damages against companies that manufacture and sell the AR-15 rifle used by the gunman. The case hinges on a federal law that shields the gun industry from liability. The plaintiffs argue the gun maker knew the AR-15 was not suitable for civilian use.

PEREIRA: At least 20 people are dead after a devastating cyclone in Fiji. Many more have been left homeless after that storm battered the Pacific island chain with winds above 180 miles per hour. Power, water, telephone lines all knocked out. Many roads have been left impassable. Officials say this is the most powerful storm ever recorded in the southern hemisphere.

CUOMO: Virginia McLaren waited 106 years to visit the White House. She's finally done it for Black History Month celebrations and made her visit worthwhile, delighting everybody, including the president and first lady, with her dance moves. Behold and enjoy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What's the secret to still dancing at 106?

VIRGINIA MCLAREN, 106 YEARS OLD: Just keep dancing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: Just keep moving. When Virginia was born, Taft was in the office...

CAMEROTA: Oh, my gosh.

CUOMO: ... of president. Seventeen presidents ago.

CAMEROTA: You know what I also appreciate here, is the president, much like many men, fully understands that, while it is an honor to meet the sitting president, he understands everybody just wants to see his wife. And he sort of moves out of the way and says, "Have at it, Michelle."

PEREIRA: Yes.

CAMEROTA: He can dance. We've seen it. But she is the better dancer.

But I love that. The secret -- isn't that the secret to life, just keep moving.

PEREIRA: And be joyful.

CAMEROTA: Yes.

PEREIRA: Just be joyful.

CUOMO: A hundred and six years old. At that point to get what you've waited your life for.

PEREIRA: We can't complain about your achy pains anymore. OK? You and I.

CUOMO: Alisyn will move that well.

PEREIRA: True.

CAMEROTA: Dance party after the show.

All right. Fresh off her Nevada win, how will Hillary Clinton build off her momentum in South Carolina and going into Super Tuesday states? She's trying out a new message. Will it work? We'll talk with one of her advisers.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:22:21] CUOMO: Here's the theory of the case for the Clinton campaign. We are now on a roll, starting with Nevada. Now South Carolina right into Super Tuesday. Is that what it is, or is this just a one off and there's still huge problems to come for the former secretary of state? To make the case for Clinton is Karen Finney, senior advisor for communications and political outreach and senior spokesperson for Hillary for America. You've got a long title, Finney. Let's see if you can live up to it here this morning.

KAREN FINNEY, SENIOR SPOKESPERSON, HILLARY FOR AMERICA: All right, Chris. Bring it to me.

CUOMO: So what do you think you have now seen demonstrated in Nevada and maybe in South Carolina that shows the way forward is for Clinton?

FINNEY: You've got it. A couple things. No. 1, both in Iowa and Nevada, I think we've shown our ability to do very well in caucus states. And I think there was a theory of the case that that was a place where Bernie was going to -- Senator Sanders was going to have an advantage. I think we've demonstrated that in caucus states, we have a very solid organization and game plan.

I think also, if you take a look at what happened in the caucus states in communities of color, Hillary did very well, dare I say won those areas. And so I think when you look at South Carolina and you look at the rest of the states coming up in March, you see diverse populations. And I think you see areas where Secretary Clinton will do very well.

Here in South Carolina, I've been here off for about three weeks. And there's a lot of energy and enthusiasm. People are excited. People are also just excited that -- you know, that it's here, that the primary is coming this week. So we are feeling very good about how we're going to do this week in South Carolina.

CUOMO: Sanders presumptively still has the momentum, in terms of the big crowds and the energy. In Nevada's numbers, we see what may be underpinning that excitement. Let's put these up, in terms of positions of strength for Sanders, positions of weakness for Secretary Clinton. We saw with young voters, under 44 percent. We saw honest and trustworthy as an emphasis within the caucus, big lead for Sanders. We saw income disparity playing in favor of Sanders. These are core Democratic groups. How does Secretary Clinton make the case to these people?

FINNEY: Well, I think it's pretty clear, given her decisive win there, that when it comes to who do you trust to, you know, deliver for you and your family, it's clearly when folks got into their caucus sites, they believed that that was Hillary Clinton.

But here's another thing I want to mention, Chris. Particular -- a couple of things. One, we also saw that, particularly among African- American voters, the idea of building on President Obama's legacy was very important. The Affordable Care Act very important to folks here in South Carolina.

[07:25:12] Also the issue of guns. And earlier you were talking about the lawsuit going on today around the horrible Sandy Hook shooting. This is a real-time example of why these issues matter so greatly. CUOMO: Karen, Sanders says -- Sanders says, "I'm step for step with Clinton on guns except for this one time that I wanted to consider being fair to the industry so that they can't get sued in a way that no other manufacturer gets sued. Other than that, I'm step for step."

FINNEY: Well -- well, here -- well, that's not quite true. Right? He didn't -- he voted against the Brady Bill five times. Hillary Clinton worked on behalf of getting the Brady Bill passed. President Obama supports the Brady Bill. So I'm not sure where that stat went.

But most importantly, when we talk about the gun manufacturers' liability, now Senator Sanders -- that was a priority of the NRA. And Senator Sanders was not in the right place initially on that piece of legislation. Now he's sort of started to, you know, change his mind. He still doesn't think that that vote was a mistake.

I raise that issue with you because, you know, here in South Carolina, particularly in communities of color, when you have gun death -- gun violence being the leading cause of death for young black men, it is a very significant issue.

I spent yesterday afternoon with some of the mothers of young people who have been lost either to gun violence or over-policing issues. And I have to tell you, it's very powerful to hear them talk about what it is to lose a child to gun violence.

And so I guess what I would say is they don't see the consistency in Senator Sanders' record. They see the consistency in Hillary Clinton's record.

The other piece that I think is very critical is that, you know, folks also see a consistency in Hillary's record when it comes to the issues that she's worked on throughout her life, like juvenile -- like getting young people who are incarcerated with adults, getting them out. That was a case she worked on here in South Carolina. Children's health care, social justice issues. She's got a plan for criminal justice reform but also a plan for how do we invest in the African-American community and communities of color broadly, but how do we make those key investments so that we are addressing issues like systemic racism? I don't hear Senator Sanders with those -- with those kinds of specifics, and that's going to matter in these -- both in South Carolina and these March states.

CUOMO: Let me ask you one last thing here this morning, Karen. Which is that Secretary Clinton recently showed good introspection for a politician when she said, "You know, I think for some people, there's an underlying question of whether or not I'm in it for me or am I in it for them."

More in Home