tv Situation Room With Wolf Blitzer CNN December 14, 2015 2:00pm-4:01pm PST
>> not as nerve racking but also, look -- yes, it was very different. the field was bigger. we kind of have a little bit more of a groove, but it's always -- exactly. >> they're so prepared. and it's a reality show for political junkies in the prep room. >> here we go. that's "the lead." i'm jake tapper turning it over to brianna keilar in "the situation room." happening now, tough on talk. the eve of cnn's republican presidential debate. donald trump stretches his lead. a new national poll puts him 27 points ahead of his closest challeng challenger. cruz surging, texas senator ted cruz is charging hard in iowa. latest polls show him battling trump for the lead in that first in the nation gop contest. will they turn on each other in this debate? and terror arrest on the eve of a debate focusing on national security, a maryland man is charged with trying to aid isis, accused of pledging his support
to the terror group. with americans reeling in the aftermath of a bloody massacre, can the candidates offer plans to keep the homeland safe? wolf blitzer is on assignment preparing to moderate tomorrow's republican debate. i'm brianna keilar. you're in "the situation room." and we are live from the venetian hotel in las vegas. we are counting down to the final republican presidential debate of the year. the drama will play out in the theater of the venetian hotel. and as the candidates make their final preparations, the stakes are extraordinary. donald trump the front runner on the national stage and the latest poll shows him with his biggest lead yet at 41%. ted cruz a distant second at 14. but cruz is surging in the crucial early state of iowa where the latest polls show he and trump are fighting for the lead.
trump may be feeling the heat calling his rival, quote, a bit of a maniac. the tone may be a lot more serious tomorrow night. the cnn debate moderated by wolf blitzer will focus on national security. and it follows the worst terror attack on american soil since 9/11 in san bernardino, california. and the bloody slaughter on the streets of paris. passions and fears are running high, and trump's call for a ban on muslims entering the united states has added fuel to the fire. our correspondents, analysts and guests have full coverage of the day's top stories. and we begin with donald trump maybe riding high nationally, but he's feeling that heat in iowa. that could really make for some heated exchanges in tomorrow night's debate. we'll begin now with cnn senior washington correspondent jeff zeleny. jeff. >> well, brianna, it's been a little over a month since that last republican debate, but so much has changed since then. we've seen republicans one by one try and go after donald trump with little avail. now there's a new dynamic heading into the debate tomorrow night between ted cruz and
donald trump. they've been jockeying from afar, but tomorrow night they go face-to-face. >> thank you very much. >> donald trump still on top, but tonight ted cruz suddenly gaining ground. >> the united states -- >> even overtaking trump in a key iowa poll. on cnn's "state of the union," trump said he's more prepared for the white house than cruz. >> because i'm more capable. because i have a much better temperame temperament. because i actually get along with people much better than he does. >> he took it one step further on fox news sunday. >> you look at the way he's dealt with the senate where he goes in there like, frankly like a little bit of a maniac. never going to get things done that way. >> that generated a most unusual response from cruz, responding on twitter with a 1980s flashback to "flash dance." in honor of my friend, donald trump, and good-hearted maniacs everywhere. ♪ she's a maniac, maniac on the
floor ♪ >> a flurry of new polls show trump leading nationally but cruz nipping at his heels. trump at 27%. cruz 22%. in "the wall street journal"/nbc news poll, but not so in iowa where cruz leads trump 31 to 21 in a weekend des moines register/bloomberg news poll. his sudden momentum makes cruz a top target, but not only from trump. senator marco rubio is raising cruz's voting record accusing him of being weak on national security. >> i guess my point is each time he's had to choose between strong national defense and some of the isolationist tendencies in american politics, he seems to side with the isolationist. >> with time running out, other republicans also setting their sights on cruz for the first time. it's another way to draw attention from the man who will be at center stage at tomorrow night's cnn debate. now, for all of the hammering from republican establishment leaders, for all of the concern from party leaders, donald trump
remains on top. and let's take a look at this latest national poll from monmouth university. donald trump at his highest level yet at 41%, way over ted cruz as you can see there he's at 14%. so that is the dynamic going into this race tomorrow night, into this debate tomorrow night, the final one of the year. so much on the line for everyone including those bottom tier candidates who have one last chance to try and make an impression, brianna. >> the stakes are high. jeff zeleny, it's appropriate we are here in las vegas where donald trump, you know, he should feel very much at home, his own name tops his tower here 64 feet high and staggering style fits the glits of neon strip. does that give him a home court advantage over ted cruz and these other candidates? let's turn to cnn political reporter sara murray. sara, are you expecting a bit of a fight-night style rumble here between donald trump and ted cruz? >> you know, that's the big question, right? because you see donald trump on the stump, on the campaign trail and he does not hold back when
it comes to cruz or really at this point any of his republican contende contenders. he's gone after pretty much anyone. but we usually see a more reserved donald trump on the debate stage. you remember in past debates there would be long stretches where he would sort of fade into the background where he would let other republicans fight amongst themselves. and so i think the question is, sure, donald trump has a wide lead nationally, but will this tightening in iowa inspire him to go after ted cruz on a much bigger stage tomorrow night? >> and what about this letter, sara, that he released -- well, his doctor released. what did it say? >> so as you know it's of course tradition for republican -- for any presidential candidate to put out sort of a health record. and so today donald trump released his from his doctor. it called his test results astonishingly excellent, glowing about donald trump's health saying he's lost weight since he started campaigning. saying he has no history of alcohol use or tobacco use. and this was the kicker, this was what ended the letter from
the doctor, if elected, mr. trump i can state unequivocally will be the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency. so a very sort of trump-tastic endorsement from his doctor. i don't know if we could expect to see anything less from trump's own physician. >> yeah. he and his doctor share the same rhetorical style, i think. all right, sara murray there, thank you so much with donald trump. and joining me now we have a trump supporter and news director for the tea party news network. scottie, thanks so much for being with us. i know you as a trump supporter have been watching the polls. they're so important to him. he's really taken aim at his former friend, i guess you could say, ted cruz. he says he doesn't think he's qualified to be president because he doesn't have the right temperament or judgment. but is this really a response just to the polls? he's seen ted cruz really creeping up on him in iowa which is such an important place. >> no. because i think if trump wanted
to take and really take hard aim at cruz, i think he would hit a little harder than saying just these lines. i don't think we're seeing punches between these two. i think these two are still -- the bromance is still going on, the supporter base is still basically the same. we're going to see that tomorrow night. i'm not expecting to see claws come out after each other. rather i see people like cruz and rubio fighting to term who's the biggest establishment person between the two. and then you're also going to see rubio having to defend his turf from a chris christie who's now back on the main stage. and you know his main target is marco rubio. >> are you a little worried though that with the dip here of ben carson following the recent terror attacks that this is support that did not go to donald trump? i think he probably thought he would benefit from a ben carson dip and yet we've really seen ted cruz benefit from that. >> i'm not worried because ted cruz is an excellent man just like donaltrump. no, we knew that if dr. carson started to lose his base they
would go over to senator ted cruz and even it up. listen, i'm happy across the board right now because you have the majority of conservatives, the majority of the gop landing in the two most conservative candidates at the very top. so either way it is winning from a conservative standpoint. and i think you'll see as continuing as ben carson continues to apologize, or if he continues to show any weakness tomorrow night, he will continue to trot down in numbers. however, it's the candidate tomorrow night that shows strength. whether right or wrong, that shows they actually have passion and conviction and are not going to capitulate, that's who actually i think is going to emerge as the winner from tomorrow night's debate. >> what do you make of the fact that when we're looking at the national polls -- a lot of people looking at polls will say really for the election look at iowa, look at new hampshire, look at south carolina, but that national poll where donald trump has his biggest lead that he's had all along came after he made those controversial comments encouraging a temporary ban on
muslims entering the u.s. what do you make of that? >> i make it as he's tapped into the compassion of the american conservative who actually cares about their own family first. listen, we knew that ted cruz was going to takeiowa, evangelicals. he is the most evangelical of all the candidates. we also know in south carolina you see donald trump. new hampshire, the rest you see donald trump leading in those. the big question's going to be when we get past south carolina and see all these southern states, where are they going to fall? this is the place where majority of people do cling to guns and bibles and they're going to want to sit there and continue to see which candidate is going to allow them to hold onto their rights and still allow them to be christians or see their fundamental christian faith dominate and not be forever threatened as we continuously see. >> the focus of this debate is going to be national security. it's going to be foreign policy. is donald trump ready to really talk specifics? this is perhaps an area that he doesn't have as much experience in as some of the other
candidates. >> well, but at this point none of them really have any experience. jeb bush has a great -- his experience comes from a wonderful team he built from his brother, but most of them right now are just talking. but here's the thing, because of the events of the last few weeks it's not just a foreign issue. it is something here at home. and it's become very personal with all of these candidates. you know, you sat there and talked about how double digits donald trump is. you're going to see a lot of these other candidates tomorrow night realize they're never going to be in that number one spot. and they're going to start juggling for number two. that i think is where you're going to start to see some of these other candidates that have not even begun to get into the double digits saying we're going to start trying to kiss up to maybe a cruz or trump and hope maybe they'll appoint us as a v.p. >> all right. we'll see if that's the case. thank you so much. we are just a day away now from the final republican presidential debate of the year. it could be very pivotal. wolf blitzer is going to be the moderator when the gop candidates face-off here at the venetian in las vegas. that is tomorrow, so mark your
calendars. maybe you have some questions for the candidates. you can send them in. just go to facebook.com/cnn and comment on the top post. we are really reading those. and those will be part of the debate. we expect -- i'm not exactly sure i have to be honest. now, next, will sparks fly when ted cruz stands next to donald trump during the cnn debate? or will he continue to play nice? also, alarming new developments in the fight against terrorism. a man who lives near the nation's capital is accused of taking isis money to fund an attack. i absolutely love my new but the rent is outrageous. good thing geico offers affordable renters insurance. with great coverage
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as we count down to cnn's republican debate, a new national poll shows donald trump support among republicans at an all-time high of 41%. but new polls in iowa, which holds the first contest next year, shows senator ted cruz is surging. so what can we expect to see tomorrow night? let's talk about this debate strategy with cnn political commentators dan pfeiffer who's a senior adviser to president obama, along with s.e cupp and ana navarro. so, first to you, s.e., this is
national security the focus of this debate. it comes at such an important time where these candidates are really trying to make that case. look, i could be commander in chief and there have been two recent terror attacks. what's at stake and who has the advantage here? >> yeah. i think for people like marco rubio and chris christie who have been trying to take a more muscular foreign policy approach, this is going to be a good opportunity for them tomorrow night. carly fiorina to a lesser extent has been doing the same thing. marco rubio in particular really needs to define ted cruz's foreign policy as weak and inconsistent. that's his number one job tomorrow night. if he can't manage to do that, really appeal to the sense of frustration with the obama administration when it comes to dealing with isis, the real fear that's out there for many americans as it relates to terror, if he can't make his case, then i think ted cruz has unstoppable momentum going into iowa. so it's a very important night, i think, for marco rubio.
>> and you're friends with marco rubio. i'm imagining this is what you're expecting out of him. can he deliver? and if he doesn't how much is at stake for him? >> first of all, i think he will deliver. we have not seen one debate debate from marco rubio let. let us not underestimate his debating skills. he's very skillful, he's talented, knows how to connect with an audience. he's witty, humorous, quick, poetic in his rhetoric whereas we see from ted cruz a, you know, kind of a strange dramatic flare. what i see from marco rubio is a, you know, poetic rhetoric. he needs to show that he can land a punch and take a punch, because i think we expect there to be fireworks between the two rookie senators tomorrow on that stage. i also think marco needs to somehow define where he fits in this entire spectrum. i think he's trying to thread the needle. and, you know, not be establishment and also not --
you know, not just be base. he wants to be mr. congeniality, that can get along with everybody. and what he brings to the table, i think what he wants to bring to the table is, look, i can bridge that gap between the republican factions right now. i'm the unity candidate. it's a very hard needle to thread. will he be able to do it? i don't know. >> i was just talking, dan, to a trump supporter who said that he's going to be fine on this issue of national security. she sort of dismissed that other candidates had experience, but there's certainly a difference between being a businessman and being a senator where you're briefed on things constantly, you have the lexicon, it's just something you're talking about every day. what might the difficulty be for him? >> well, on a substance measure trump is always going to be behind others. and on a traditional experience measure where he does very well is he comes across as the strongest candidate. and it seems clear at least thus far within the republican primary people are looking for strength. and they're looking for strength particularly in foreign policy. and trump is playing that role. how he will do tonight --
tomorrow night is a very open question. he has struggled in debates, like the four worst days of the trump campaign are the four debates. but if people are looking for strength trump is going to win on that measure. >> so if he sort of delivers on that strong language we've seen him do throughout his campaign you think might he have a better opportunity for better performance this debate than on others? >> i think so. i think he has to standby the statements he said, continue to play that traditional strong man role he's been doing. it's been working. it's counterintuitive to anything we've ever thought about these things, question is will it continue to work is an open question. but, you know, we don't count out donald trump. >> you know, donald trump really has never had a great debate. >> no. he's a bad debater. >> he goes out -- sometimes he goes 10, 20 minutes without saying a word. but it doesn't matter. >> no. the consequences -- the stakes for donald trump tomorrow night are very low. >> i agree. >> because none of his momentum is garnered generally from these debate performances. he doesn't move in the polls the day after a debate. he declares himself the winner
almost universally that is not agreed upon, but he declares himself the winner and then goes onto saying some pretty provocative things. >> he doesn't even get politifact anymore because he says so many inaccuracies and statements that are made up that nobody bothers to politifact him. >> if there's a moment where he's called on something in realtime at the debate, but what does that do even if it doesn't hurt donald trump, what does that do for another candidate? or how risky is that too? >> look, calling out donald trump is calling out donald trump's fans as well. and i speak from experience. it's not a fun -- it's not pleasant. but at the same time i also hear from so many republicans, maybe the 60% of republican who is are not with trump, saying when are these guys going to call out donald trump either on inaccuracies or on this kind of divisive rhetoric or proposals that could never happen and maybe aren't constitutional. so i think if someone like rand, rand paul, or someone like chris christie really swings and lands
an effective punch ob trump, i think the part, the wing of the republican party that they are speaking to who are not with trump are going to be really pleased by that. >> but we haven't seen chris christie, we haven't even seen ted cruz in public take on frontally donald trump because they don't want to antagonize his supporters. he's got some very committed supporters, a significant number of them and everybody's hoping that at some point donald trump goes away and that they somehow are the successors. >> it might be a lot of wishful thinking, i think that's what's happened from the fall into the -- as we head into winter here. what about jeb bush, dan? because this may be one of his last -- maybe the last chance for him to really make an impact. how important is this for him? >> i think that his debate performances have been unable -- he's been unable to use them to lift his campaign. i think expectations are so low for his performance that if he has a moment it will help him. he has a long way to go to get
back into contention in any way, shape or form for this race. but it's important if he makes a mistake or bad debate, this could be it for him. >> i don't think so. look, i -- >> why not? >> why not? first of all because i think he's got the commitment. because i think he's got the inf infrastructure. because i think he's got the money to continue. and because i know jeb bush and this is not a guy that's going to go anywhere before votes actually start coming in. >> i don't think he'll drop out. >> it'd be crazy to base yourself on polls and things like that. he's still in the hunt. he's number five in most polls, six out of what 15-person race. >> it has been four months, months. and the consistency of donald trump's lead we've seen the consistency of jeb bush really struggling at a very low number. >> yeah. and with every debate he gets farther and farther and farther from the center of the stage. i think i agree with dan that expectations are low. that's a good thing for jeb bush.
because if jeb can have a good couple of lines, a good couple of moments, then it sort of makes relevant again. and maybe we're talking about jeb bush in a way that's not like where's jeb bush gone. but we're talking about something great that he said. >> that's absolutely true. we all think at this point that he can't have a good debate. if he actually shows us all wrong, if he goes out there and has a very good debate, our jobs would all drop and we'd be talking about it for, you know, a week. it'd be like me landing a triple axel in a skating rink. not going to happen. >> as we look now at ted cruz surging in the polls and, you know, we see some of the -- and i know a lot of people look at those head-to-head matches towards the general hillary versus ted cruz, hillary because she is the front runner right now. and they say that doesn't really mean a whole lot at this moment. but she does a better job against ted cruz, against donald trump in these contests -- in these polls. but what do you think in terms
of who the toughest matchup would be against hillary clinton assuming she clinches the nomination? >> i've said this before, i think it's rubio. i think these polls right now don't mean a whole heck of a lot because they will change as whoever becomes the nominee will have strength they don't have now. and essentially it's hillary against the other candidate in the eyes of most voters. if you look at candidate skill possible expansion marco rubio by far the top, i think. >> and also the contrast. the contrast of hillary of the '90s to rubio of today, of tomorrow, of the future, i think that's -- >> generational argument. >> generational argument. >> also demographically. i think he speaks to a new conservative movement. and she speaks to sort of the old democratic past. so i think that makes him particularly dangerous for her. >> i'll tell you this i remember in 2008 i was in the mccain campaign. we all really wanted the nominee
on the democrat side to be barack obama because we thought he would be easier to beat. boy were we wrong. >> all right, guys, thanks so much, dana, s.e., dan, really appreciate it. we are just one day away from this final republican presidential debate. wolf blitzer is going to be the moderator when the gop candidates face-off here at the venetian in las vegas tomorrow night. and maybe you have some questions for the candidates. you get to participate here. go ahead and send them to us at facebook.com/cnn and comment on the very top post. now, coming up, what will happen when ted cruz and donald trump stand shoulder to shoulder at the cnn republican debate? are they going to play nice, or are the gloves going to come off? and later, a man who lives near the nation's capital is accused of taking thousands of dollars from isis to fund an attack.
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we're counting down to the cnn republican debate here at the venetian las vegas. once again there actually will be two debates, both of them moderated by cnn's wolf blitzer. the early debate features george pataki, mike huckabee, rick santorum and senator lindsey graham. new jersey governor chris christie actually returns to the
main stage for this debate along with eight other candidates. donald trump is center stage. he has the center lectern. he'll be flanked by dr. ben carson and senator ted cruz. new polls show that while trump's lead is growing nationally, ted cruz is surging in iowa. here's cnn senior washington correspondent jeff zeleny. >> hey, brianna. as we get closer to the voting now, one thing on the top of the minds of these voters is who is the most presidential. and in iowa this contest is locked ted cruz and donald trump. it's the one place where donald trump has seen some vulnerabilities. so we're going to see tomorrow night an exchange between the two of them. donald trump already trying to raise questions about ted cruz's tem temperament. let's take a listen. >> look at the way he's dealt with the senate where he goes in there like a -- you know, frankly like a little bit of a maniac. never going to get things done that way. >> so by saying the word maniac, that is something that ted cruz seized upon. but he didn't fight back with
fire. he fought back with humor. in a tweet like this he said, in honor of my friend donald trump and good-hearted maniacs everywhere, and then did a link to "flash dance" music. this is what ted cruz actually thinks is a good moment for him. he believes he can use that sense of humor. he believes he can use that good natured spirit here to convince republican voters that he is the one for them. this music something we never thought we would hear in this republican presidential race. brianna. >> that's right. and now we all have this song stuck in our heads. thank you, ted cruz. jeff zeleny for us there in las vegas. with me now cnn anchor and political commentator michael smerconish. ron brownstein, the national journalist editorial director and cnn senior political reporter nia malika-henderson. michael, sort of an interesting response here. i love this song. i'll put it out there. i'm not unbiased.
i love this song. but is this the right approach? >> i think it probably is because no one on that stage who has engaged the donald thus far and tried to take him down has benefitted from it. so my hunch is that you know they're going to square off because trump will go after ted cruz tomorrow night. my hunch is that ted cruz the experienced debater and many have said this thus far, i think he probably faced more stiff competition when he was at princeton than he will with donald trump. he'll have a one-liner up his sleeve. and he'll be dismissive of him. and will not engage. that's where i think it goes. >> what do you think? >> you know, you've got two different potential lines of challenge for ted cruz. i think trump is actually the least important. trump will go after him on temperament and kind of style -- i mean, donald trump questioning someone whether they're too volatile to be president is a rough -- but i think probably what is more important is the attack likely from marco rubio on the substance of foreign policy. ted cruz had a libertarian flirtation. he kind of move when the party seemed to be moving that direction around rand paul.
and questions about surveillance at home and intervention abroad, he moved in that direction. that tide has notably receded among republicans amid growing concern about isis and terror. and he is somewhat standing out there in an exposed position. and i think marco rubio will come at him very hard on that. it's going to be an important moment for cruz who says he's trying to find a foreign policy somewhere between rand paul and john mccain/george w. bush. >> and, yeah, so he's going to try marco rubio is to have this moment with ted cruz. but a lot of people haven't necessarily been paying attention to that foreign policy. also sometimes in this race you wonder how much that matters. certainly it matters more in the wake of these two terror attacks, but what is it about ted cruz's appeal that is making him surge at this point in time? >> i think on the one hand he had that evangelical connection, he sounds like a tell advantage list, that's why he's doing well in iowa. he has a real serious ground
game. often with the surging candidates they don't have the money or infrastructure. he's got both. >> a lot in the campaign, not just super pac. >> yeah, real data guys. he's in some ways criticized obama in many ways, but he's very much replicated obama's strategy both in 2008 and 2012. in being super focused on data and the nitty grit ty of these voters so that he can connect with them. i think that's why people are putting money on cruz to do very well and do better than santorum, better than huckabee than some of these other insurgent candidates we've seen before. >> if you said to republican establishment folks, hey, one day you're going to be preferring ted cruz at the nominee -- >> yeah. >> ted cruz is not someone that the establishment loves. and one of his weaknesses may be that he has to broaden his support. that it's somewhat narrow with conservative republicans and tea party republicans, how does he do that? >> i think he has to for a general election, i'm not so
sure he does for the primary, nomination process, brianna. the reason i believe that is every time these national surveys come out i tabulate the vote among the maverick candidates, ted cruz, dr. carson, donald trump. it's somewhere in the 60-plus-percent range and add the establishment quotient and it's dwarfed in comparison. this year it seems as if the maverick vote controls the process. >> in a normal race i would agree with you that i think cruz would have to broaden. i mean, he is rising as nia said in iowa around evangelicals even when he gets beyond that he's weaker on the somewhat moderate. at a normal two-person race which is what the republicans and both sides have usually had that's not enough. there are signs this may be a three-person race in really the way we've not seen in the modern era with cruz at the evangelical and trump is in a dominant position in most cases of blue collar republicans and then we have the audition for the candidate we haven't met yet. the candidate center right more
collar establishment, marco rubio really hasn't closed the sale relative to bush, kasich and christie. you can imagine a world where all three of those lanes are filled well into 2016 winning different states and having the potential to deny anybody, you know, in the most extremist version of the scenario a first ballot victory. >> there are two debates here happening tomorrow night. one is sort of that undercard debate. >> right. >> how much -- or who specifically should we be paying attention to? chris christie has managed to get himself back on to the main stage. and really how many more of these do you think there will be? or do you think after this debate might some of these candidates who have been kind of at the kiddie table for these months say i got to go. >> you have to wonder about somebody like pa ta -- pataki who isn't showing up for good reason, even mike huckabee who was supposed to be -- appeal to
evangelicals, that's a lane completely clogged at this point. it's clear he's on the down slide there in this kiddie table. he's just lost his communications director as well. not a good sign. so you've got to wonder if going into this if you're huckabee for instance do you want to go to iowa, this place that sort of you made your bones, do you want to go into iowa and probably do very poorly. so i think they've got some decisions to make. >> i have about 30 seconds left so i'm just going to have you all tell me specifically the candidate that you are looking for to make a moment tomorrow night. >> ben carson, because he's in dissent. this is not his strong suit. and if he doesn't have a big night tomorrow night, i think he continues to slide. >> cruz has to fend off the criticism of his foreign policy from the right. >> rand paul to really be rand paul and be ron paul's son and really updo what rand paul does which is to be kind of the pitbull on the stage. >> i love this. all right, nia, michael, ron, i love it. so great. thank you guys. now, we are just now over 24 hours away from this final
republican presidential debate of this year. wolf blitzer will be the moderator when the gop candidates face-off here at the venetian las vegas tomorrow night. and if you have questions for our candidates, share them with us. you can send them to us at facebook.com/cnn and comment there on the top post. now, coming up, we have another isis arrest in the united states. a man who lives near the nation's capital is accused of taking money from isis to carry out an attack. also, investigators find new evidence on cell phones left behind by the san bernardino terrorists. for adults with an advanced lung cancer
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from the san bernardino massacre, president obama says there is a great sense of urgency in the fight against isis. but do authorities have their hands tied when it comes to combatting jihadists at home? cnn chief national security correspondent jim sciutto has been digging on that. but jim, first, tell us what you know about this new arrest. >> i'll tell you, brianna, some alarming details in this case. this is a serious one. a maryland man received nearly $9,000 in multiple payments via simple services like paypal from people believed to belong to isis overseas with instructions to then use that money to carry out a terror attack on u.s. soil and also to compound that he tried to cover his tracks as well. claimed that the money was for other things, but the fbi found very detailed records there. now, since january of this year more than 50 americans have been charged with terror offenses for alleged support to isis. this comes as the president met with his entire national security team today to discuss his isis strategy. he did try to change his tone using stronger language than
we've heard from him, but he left the substance of his anti-isis strategy largely the same. in fact, he defended it citing progress though admitting that it should come faster. two weeks after the deadliest terror attack on u.s. soil since 9/11, the president convened his entire national security staff at the pentagon to discuss the fight against isis. the president's language was strong. >> as we squeezed its heart, we are hitting isil harder than ever. >> reporter: and he cited progress, isis losing territory in iraq and syria, and losing senior leaders to coalition air strikes and special forces raids. >> the point is isil leaders cannot hide. and our next message to them is simple, you are next. >> but like his speech from the oval office last sunday, mr. obama announced no new military steps other than sending his defense secretary to the middle east to build up coalition military support.
>> we recognize that progress needs to keep coming faster. no one knows that more than the countless syrians and iraqis living every day under isil's terror as well as the families in san bernardino and paris and elsewhere who are grieving the loss of their loved ones. >> the pentagon visit, his first since july, comes as hard questions arise about missed signals before the san bernardino shooting. authorities have discovered online discussions about jihad between the attackers, syed farook and tashfeen malik before malik even applied for a visa to the u.s. authorities only began reviewing in the past several months, u.s. secretary of state john kerry says it needs more attention. >> clearly the social media has placed a whole new burden and new set of questions, but not impossible ones to resolve. and i think we need to look at this very, very carefully, which is what we're doing.
>> a three-day search of the lake near the shooters' home has turned up nothing. the crucial hard drive from their personal computer remains missing. we learned today that it was cell phones found at the attackers' home that led them to that lake. but we also learned that those social media postings were done under a pseudonym and with privacy settings that made them visible only to a small group, which means they likely would not have been found discovered even if those visas were subject to social media review. brianna shows how difficult it is to catch this kind of thing in advance. >> yeah, that's a very good point. jim sciutto for us in d.c. thank you. coming up, chilling new information that the mastermind of the paris attacks may have been nearby directing the massacre at a concert hall as it was happening. music: "thunder clatter" by wild cub ♪ ♪
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>> we're getting new chilling information of the mastermind of the terrorist attacks. massacred by phone. this comes as we learn disturbing new details of arrests in another major european city. cnn's brian todd has been looking into all of this. brian, what have you ordered? >> tonight, one of europe's key financial centers on high alert. intelligence agencies and in and around geneva, switzerland. they could have connections to the pair i attacks.
new information on where two suspects came from is especially concerni concerning. >> two men with syrian passports arrested in geneva, switzerland, a european security source tells cnn traces of pre-cursor chemicals which could be used to make homemade explosives were found inside their vehicle. u.s. intelligence had tipped off swiss authorities that terrorists, possibly from isis, were potentially planning an attack in geneva. >> any conversation that's specifically identifies a target like that should raise an alarm, i especially in a high-profile city like geneva where you have premiere banking institutions as well as united nations if a sglilts authorities in geneva are looking for two people with indirect links with two suspects in the paris terror attacks. one of the prime paris suspects meanwhile has become a ghost, the trail of abdeslam has gone cold according to an
anti-terrorist official and a childhood friend, the mastermind of the paris attacks, may have been directing the slaughter at bataclan concert hall as it was happening. french terrorist suspect jean-paul brassard interviewed a couple of witnesses who described a man standing in the doorway. >> the witness describes a man was shouting and yelling over the phone for over an hour, very agitated. >> reporter: witness, whose account is published in the ctc "sentinal" says abaaoud's head was shaved and was wearing loose layers of clothing and the witness later recognized him when his picture was slashed on the news. analysts say this is an ominous sign and a new isis tactic. >> isis is moving towards less of a static mode of terrorism and more towards a dynamic multi-hour rolling attack paradigm where you start an
attack and you keep it going for as long as possible for maximum impact. >> one expert says abaaoud could have been sending intelligence to the attackers inside the bataclan. >> to warn that there's an armored vehicle coming, a battering ram coming, a s.w.a.t. team entering from the roof, things like that. >> reporter: it and about appears abaaoud was communicating with one of the stadium bombers right until the moment those attackers started blowing themselves up. brianna? >> and this mastermind was especially determined to carry out a major attack and even though he's dead there's still a risk of this, right? >> that's right, brianna. people involved in other plots and people apprehended, they describe abaaoud and the believe is even though he's dead there's
other attackers behind the attacks, specifically a senior french-speaking isis operative who claimed responsibility and he's believed to be with isis insuicidia. >> thank you. coming up, donald trump's on top in the late national poll but ted cruz is surging in the critical state of iowa. will they turn on each other in tomorrow night's cnn debate? at&t knows the best kind of holiday... is the kind where everyone gets what they wished for. make this holiday extra happy when you buy one get one free on our most popular smartphones... like the samsung galaxy s6.
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happening now. trump's high mark. donald trump breaking into new territory in a new poll putting him above 40% for the first time in a national survey. with his front-runner status stronger than ever, will trump stealled show in our cnn debate? cruz competition. senator ted cruz emerge as the gop's new number two candidate trailing only trump nationally and neck in neck with him in iowa. will cruz be trump's target when the candidates face off? and breaking news. terror clues. new information about what led
the fbi to this lake as part of the san bernardino terror investigation, and there's also new details tonight about tashfeen malik's online postings. how did she ensure no one would see her calls for jihad when she came to the united states. world blitzer is on assignment preparing to moderate tomorrow night's republican debate and i'm brianna keilar at the venetian las vegas. you're in "the situation room." we're now just 24 hours from the final republican presidential debate of the year, and tonight the donald trump juggernaut that's dominated this campaign is stronger than ever according to a new moll. it puts him at 41%. that is up from 28% in october. polls are also showing dramatic gains for senator ted cruz of texas now in second place nationally at 14% and in a virtual tie with trump in the critical state of iowa.
and as the candidates prepare to debate terror and national security there's breaking news as well in the san bernardino terror investigation. sources now telling cnn it was two cell phones found at the home of syed rizwan farook and his wife tashfeen malik that led fbi dive teams to search a nearby labor. we're told meta data from those phones showed the couple at the park where the lake is located after the massacre. we're joined now by the republican national chief vat gist and communications director sean spirs and our correspondents and expert analysts are all standing by. do i want to begin with cnn's john berman who has the latest on the new polls and the new lay of the republican political landscape. john? >> reporter: brian narks i just came from the debate hall where 24 hours from now it all happens. wolf blither just running through a dress rehearsal to get ready for the big debate. two candidates will walk on that stage with bragging rights, ted
cruz surge ahead in some iowa polls and donald trump surging ahead nationally at an unprecedented level. in a campaign like no other with a front-runner like no other, a new poll like no other. for the first time donald trump breaks 40% in a national poll from monmouth university. 27% ahead of his clothest rival. it is also the first pole wholly taken since this controversial proposal. >> donald j. trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of muslims enters the united states. >> reporter: a notion that will be tested in the last republican debaste year, the first debate since the terror attacks in paris and san bernardino. >> how crazy are we to be allowing ourselves to be stoubt this kind of terror. >> reporter: donald trump has a new next door neighbor, ted cruz, who has surged into second
place in national polling and is running out in front or close in iowa. >> god bless the great state of iowa. >> reporter: until now, trump and cruz have remained friendly foes, almost campaign comrades. in 24 hours that could come to an end. >> i like him. he's been so nice to me. i mean, i could say anything and he would say i agree, i agree, but i think the time will come to an end pretty soon, it sounds like. >> reporter: trump is previewing a possible line of attack compared to senator cruz, he says, he is mr. agreeable. why should voters go for you over ted cruz? >> because i'm more capable, because i have a much better temperament, because i actually get along with people much better than he does. >> reporter: trump even accused cruz of being a little bit of a maniac while in the senate. cruz opened up a can of '80s in response tweeting in, honor of my friend real donald trump and good-hearted maniacs every, and he tweeted a link to the movie "flashgans dance." ♪ she's a maniac, maniac on the
floor ♪ >> reporter: trump will not be the only challenge for ted cruz. senator marco rubio already calling him weak on national security. >> each time he's had to choose between strong national defense and some of the isolationist tendencies in american politics he seems to side with the isolationists. >> reporter: there are some candidates having problems as they walk into this stage into las vegas. mike huckabee suffering a campaign shake-up. his well-respected well-known communications director alice stewart announced today she is leaving that campaign. brianna? >> john berman, thank you so much. donald trump is already here in las vegas. he's getting ready to hold a rally tonight and cnn political reporter sarah marie is there for us. i think a lot of people are wondering if this cruz/trump sort of fight that we're seeing in the polls is going to play out on debate stage. what are you hearing? >> reporter: yeah. i think that's what everyone is
wondering, and you saw there from donald trump, you know, he's getting a little sharper when it comes to tet cruz, but the interesting thing with trump is while he loves to throw punches at campaign events like this one, he tends to be a little more demure on the debate stage. you remember looking back at a couple of those debates there were long stretches where it seemed like trump just faded into the background so i think the big question and the challenge for trump now is do you change your strategy? does that approach change now that ted cruz is much closer to him in iowa? will trump feel like he has to go after him on a much bigger platform? >> and donald trump's doctor, as so many doctors of candidates do, has released a letter about his health, but this one's pretty unique, tell us about this. >> that's right, brianna. we're used to candidate's doctors releasing letters about their health. i don't think we're used to any letter like this that calls trump's lab results
astonishingly excellent and points out that he's lost weight over the last 12 months. lost weight while campaigning. help of has no history using alcohol or tobacco but line everyone is talking about, the line that really jumps out from this note is the last one from trump's doctor saying if elected, mr. trump, i can state unequivocally will be the health individual ever elected to the presidency. brianna, a much more glowing note than i think most candidates received from their doctor and kind of a similar rhetorical flair to what we see from trump. >> indeed. all right. sarah marie there ahead of donald trump's rally. thank you so much. i want to talk about this now with the chief strategist for the republican national xhilty, communications director sean spicer. i want to ask you about donald trump and ted cruz, we have these two clear front-runners here, but what are you hoping to see from them tomorrow night is. >> not just them but 13 candidates will take the stage
tomorrow night b.45 days out from the first votes being cast in iowa and i really hope those are robust substantive discussion that gives voters a real opportunity to distinguish who they want to support and i hope what happens is a real level of intensity and enthusiasm for what's happening on our side. >> you mentioned there's 13 candidates, two debates tomorrow. you have the undercard debate, some people have called it the kiddie table. is that going to continue after this debate, do you think? >> i think every debate we have a -- an analysis with the network partner and the we look at. right now considering the number of qualified candidates, it's been an easy decision to maintain and we'll continue to thaik make that decision on a case-by-case basis. it's unprecedented the level of qualifications they are bringing to the table. like like someone like carly fiorina or chris christie, get out there and get their voice heard and propel themselves back on the main stage, that's a
compelling opportunity for voters to hear. >> when it comes to the candidates, you're with the rnc, have to remain biased and can't put your finger on the scale for any of them. right now you have ted cruz and donald trump and both of them really establishment part of the republican party. we've seen this sometimes with other candidates whoult mattingly do win the nomination. with that in mind, what is the -- i guess, what is the strategy of the rnc if you end up with a candidate where you have to build a coalition around them that maybe wasn't so natural in the primary? >> the beauty of what happens and there's a lot of myths about how we operate. we're very neutral in the process. we're the resource provider, providing the ground data and digital messaging and opposition research and what we do, despite what a lot of people think we do, is make sure those resources are built up and the staff is built out on the ground in battleground states, the lists are made, et cetera and et cetera and whoever the nominee
is voters will decide. voters will elect delegates and delegates will elect the nominee of our party and we'll be able to sit there and hitch our wagon to whomever that is and provide the resources necessary to win in november. >> are you confident that donald trump will make good on his pledge if he's not the nominee to, you know, not run as an independent? >> yes. >> why? >> because, i think, look -- >> he's been making sounds -- >> honestly, look, i believe a lot of this is media driven. everyone wants to needle him over and over. when he's been asked point blank, do you have a problem with the rnc, he says no, absolutely not. i think reince has done a great job and bent over backwards. what he gets upset the quote, unquote establishment, someone involved in republican politics ten years ago takes pot shots at him which a lot of candidates do, donald trump, ben carson are new to the political system and sometimes it's hard to distinguished rnc from the gop establishment. at the end. day every single one of the candidates tomorrow night knows that only a unified republican
party beats hillary clinton. >> but in fairness, donald trump tweets out polls about an independent run by himself. that's not tamping down speculation. >> but when asked about it he's been very clear about it. look, your question is am i confident that he's going to either be the nominee or support the nominee? yes. >> okay. so reports at this point in time, and this is the first debate where you've really faced this, talk about whether there's going to be a brokered or a contested convention for republicans. all of the sort of like minutia of the delegate stuff aside because i've heard you answer this question before, is the rnc prepared for that to happen? >> sure. we're prepared for a fire, too. i don't expect there to be a fire, but what we do. we're a party that's had two hurricanes the last two conventions, so we take preparation very seriously, as we should. are we -- the only way though that we end up in a brokered convention is if the voters elect delegates and no candidate receives the 1,237 necessary to
take the nomination. >> you think it's overblown? >> of course it is. it hasn't happened in almost four decade. again, if it happens it will be up to the voters to make that determination because they won't have given any one candidate the requisite number of delegates to achieve a majority, fanned that were to happen, which i believe is a small, small chance, then we as a party will be prepared for that and we'll be prepared for another hurricane. i mean -- >> very boy scout of you. >> sean spicer with the rnc, thanks so much. >> the final republican presidential debate of the year, now less than 24 hours away. the gop candidates facing off here at the venetian hotel here in las vegas with wolf blitzer mod rating. if you have any questions send them n.go to facebook.com/cnn and we'll be back with you in just a moment.
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blitzer. doesn't donald trump really more than ever the man to beat with a new national poll putting him above 40% for the very first time. i want to get more now with cnn chief political analyst gloria borger and cnn political commentator david axelrod and correspondent jeff zeleney. ted cruz is surging in the polls and we look at iowa and he's doing very well and this is very key. people want to know are we going to see a ted cruz/donald trump showdown and yet at the same time sometimes donald trump disappears in the background here? >> for as much as we've talked about this ted cruz and donald trump showdown, i think it's not as likely to happen on stage as it is sort of a before and after. the reality is if you look at donald trump has performed throughout all the debates. he's very confident and self-assures and he is fine being in the background just a little bit because substance is not his strength always necessarily and i think that, you know, there's no reason for
him to stick his neck out there and the question is if ted cruz is asked will you say in public what we've heard you say privately. what does he say to that? so i think, that you know, trump is no shrinking violet but he does not need to pick any fights or engage any fights and ted cruz is a funny person. we see how he's responded with humor. i think that there's no reason to think that he will have a strong debate. >> i was speaking to a senior cruz adviser saying there's no point in attack donald trump from his point of view and everybody has gone through the audition now and people want to see a commander in chief and they don't want to get pet and small and they are in a pretty good spot right now particularly because they seem to be running away with iowa. >> if ted cruz's words from that audio message leak where he says that he thinks that, you know, donald trump and his canned day will peter out, how does that play on the debate stage? >> well, i think it's certainly
there, and it's hanging there. trump has noted that he doesn't say to my face what he said behind closed doors, and he may be tempted to say that again. i agree with jeff that's been trump's habit in these debates to be a little lower key with his opponents but he's faced with something here he's never been faced with b.said on tv, i don't go down, i just go up. well, in iowa, he's not going up, he's going down and cruz is going up. that's not inconsequential. donald trump say wear of that and may just take cruz on on the things he says in private as opposed to what he says in public. >> don't you think there's a danger for donald trump in taking cruz on like that? cruz has real support, among evangelicals that ben carson is losing. he's got real tea party support and libertarian support. not just another guy at 2% in the polls. >> i was at an audience friday night when trump started taking
on ted cruz and said he's beholden to the oil companies, that's fine, what he has to be, a senator from texas and did it in a pretty stillful way. his fans are going to be with him thick and thin. the reality is he's not expanding it or growing it. >> he's not been one to make those kind of finally calibrated strategic decisions. >> right. >> that's not his way so if he sees something in his way he tends to bowl over it, not navigate around it. >> i want to ask you about a report today in the "washington post" by tom hamburger. >> it is. >> fascinating from a campaign reporter perspective talking about the data collection that ted cruz's campaign is the doing to pinpoint voters to figure out what they are like and depending on what they are like how to talk to them, really how to sort of motivate them. what did you think of that article, bad idea, good idea for ted cruz? >> surprised by the level of sophistication building on work we did in 2012. >> that was so key for president obama. >> it was, and we did the same
thing, not necessarily to this level to give our people in the field tools as to how to approach individual voters and which voters not to approach at all. the only surprise thing about that piece from my perspective was how each the campaign was about it. we never talked about our tactics, and in my view tactics are meant to be executed and not spoken about at least until after the election. why before a vote is count, they are touting their techniques and their operations to me was a little bit bewildered. >> why would they do that. i've also heard that some republican donors are tremendously worried about republicans catching up technologically to what president obama had and obviously hillary clinton can just take that apparatus that he had and kind of like put it right on to her campaign. is the that playing into this? >> well, look. i think that the cruz people are trying to explain their rise in the polls and trying to show that they -- that they have a campaign that can -- that is
going to continue, and maybe that's one of the reasons they are doing it. i understand what david is -- is saying, but they have a campaign that they say is red for the south, you know. cruz has been smart about campaigning in the south, but in iowa i was told yesterday that they have got 70,000 pieces of data on every single voter. >> yes. >> in iowa. >> that maybe more than obama had. >> i'm sure marco rubio is thinking he's willing to let the campaign have the information but not the nsa. >> that's definitely going to be a topic. >> speak of marco rubio, how important of a night is this for him, jeff? >> it's an important night and marco rubio haeks seld in every debate. i can't think of one debate where he's had where he hasn't incrementally most ball along here. he eslow and stead and is approaching this position where he's fluent on every issue. he injects a bit of biography every chance he can so i think tomorrow night is important for him because he will be challenging cruz on his voting
record, as david just said and he has substance to back it up. marco rubio is still one of those candidates, he hasn't peaked too soon, that's for sure, hasn't peak the yet and is going in that direction and i think tomorrow night is an important night for him but he's performed fine throughout so i think tomorrow he will as well. >> here's the problem for marco rubio. he has tried to court each of the constituencies of the republican party, social conservatives, tea party conservatives, establishment republicans and he's done very well tat so far. the question is can you ride three horses and end up as someone's first choice and i don't know, he may end up as everybody's second choice but he has to win somewhere and it's not clear to me in the first four contests where that is, maybe here in nevada and he has to emerge here as someone's first choice, and -- and so he may have to make some choices in this debate as to which way he orients his canned. >> i really quick before i let you go because we're negative on time. very quickly, i want you guys to
tell me who you are looking for to maybe have a moment tomorrow night. >> well, i think cruz will be the guy that everybody's eyes are on. the guy who i would watch that nobody would mention is chris christie who has risen in new hampshire, a good debater and he's a threat to all these center right republicans so he's a guy i'll be watching as well. >> i think rubio has to look like he can be a commander in chief. he's got to have gravitas because he is, a lot of people's, second and third choice and he's got to tell people i can win somewhere because that's how he's going become popular, by winning. >> chris christie as well. he's doing a lot in new hampshire, doing a bit more in iowa than people think. has strong backers from people there but a good showing tomorrow night would send the signal that he's in it to win. >> jeff leny, david axelrod and gloria borger, thank you very much. the final republican debate of
the year is 24 hours away and the candidates face off tomorrow night with our own wolf blitzer moderating. if you have questions for the candidates, i'm sure you have a tons, send them to us at facebook.com/cnn and comment on the top post. now, coming up, we have much more from las vegas and the venetian hotel on this eve. new information in the san bernardino terror information and a terror arrest just outside of washington, all as president obama reviews his strategy to fight isis. ♪
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we have new details about the investigation into the san bernardino terror attack and what led fbi dive teams to that nearby lake where so far they haven't found anything. cnn justice reporter evan perez is working the story for us. evan, i know you're getting new information. what are you learning? >> you know, brianna, one of the things that happens after terrorist attacks like this certainly people start asking what if. in this case what if the u.s. government, homeland security and state department, had they been able to look at social media of tashfeen malik before she was able to get this fiancee visa and come to the united states this year, what if they had checked, they slight found, for instance, she was posting on social media about her support forgy happen for jihad. she was using the social media account but had a privacy setting so only her closest friends could she what she was post and was using a pseudonym and now investigators have found
all these postings but the question is if they had done some searching it appears out they would not have been able to find these postings because they had a privacy setting that would not allow the general public to see it and it does really add to the questions of what can the state department do and what can homeland security do to make sure that people getting these visas are not coming here to harm americans. >> there's also a maryland man who has been on terror-related charges. what are you learning about that, evan? >> his name is mohammed ashana ri and the fbi has been looking at him for months after they realized he received money from egypt from an isis operative. he was able to get $887 transferred to him via paypal and other means. you know, we've had probably more than five dozen of these isis supporter arrests in the
past year alone in this country, but it's very rare and certainly this is the first one that i can think of where the allegation is that this person was getting money sent from overseas and the question is what was that money going to in the fbi says that it's possible that this person was planning on carrying out a terrorist attack here in the country and the money was intended to help fund that attack or he was planning on traveling, part of what they are investigating here. charged with material support of terrorism and giving false statements to the fbi. brianna? >> evan perez in washington, thank you so much. president obama went to the pentagon to meet with his national security council about his strategy to confront isis and this terrorist threat. it's facing sharp criticism and also public waning confidence. i want to go to correspondent jim acosta. no changes afoot here, jim. this is perhaps more about
reassuring americans who are very worried. >> reporter: that's right, brianna. this week was billed by the white house as a time for president obama to review his strategy for defeating isis, but today it sounded like the president was still selling his existing isis plan to a skeptical public as he warned isis leaders they can not hide. with the public growing anxious about his plan to destroy isis president obama stopped by thing with where he offered up a commander in chief image with the anti-wafrpt rhetoric to match. we're hitting isil targets and their leaders can not hide. >> reporter: president met with every member of his national security team for a deep type into the military campaign to defeat isis. so far, mr. obama said, the u.s. coalition has delivered 9,000 air strikes against isis, targeting its oil infrastructure and forcing the terror army to give up 40% of its territory,
but president acknowledged progress isn't coming naft enough. this continues to be a difficult fight. isil is doug in including in urban areas using defenseless men, women and children as human shields. >> this comes as opponent are slamming his plan abstoo weak. >> number one is mutt together a global coalition on the ground made of primarily of arab sunnis. it will require special operators from the u.s. and other international partners. >> reporter: coming on the heels of the terror attack in san bernardino and as polls show, the public is lose confidence in the president's strategy. the white house acknowledged it's still formulating its isis plan. >> i think the message that we're trying to convey to the american people that the president and his team are quite hard at work on a strategy to d-wade and ultimately destroy isil. >> reporter: part that have white house approach is tolerance, something senior
advisers preached on a conference call with muss lumb and other religious leaders, a response in part to donald trump who has blasted the president for not condemning the islamic extremelism? he's not identifying the problem. he's wrong >> reporter: president will stay on that theme of tolerance when he attends a ceremony to naturalized new u.s. citizens here in washington and will make more veiled jabs at donald trump then and will return to his sale pitch when he visit the national counterterrorism center on thursday. brianna? >> thank you. ally's little sis and the terror threat going to factor large in this gop debate. it is after all about national security. i want to get more from kevin madden, political commentator and paul begala, he's with priorities usa, the superpac backing the hillary clinton run and we also have michael-sur-mer
skonish from right here at cnn cnn. a national security debate and who is best positioned, kevin, to really make a splash here? >> if you look at what the voters want right now, one of the reasons so many voters are responding to donald trump is because what they want in a national security debate is boldness, strength and clarity. now he's giving voters that woultd any substance and quite a lot of unconstitutional talk about banning muslims from the country but that's actually helped him. marco rubio, people will tell you he has the best command and control of those issues and a debate like this could give him an opportunity to really elevate himself on that regard and draw contrasts across the other field with the other candidates. >> what do you think? >> he's right. the problem with the trump approach is this, and this is the republican approach. the abc news/"washington post" poll, 60% of republicans agree
with mr. trump's proposal. we should bar all muslims from entering the country. that to me is kind of astonishing what, 60% of republican voters want to heart. guess what, 60% of all voters oppose it so they are on the horns of a dlim dilemma, okay. the substance that the base wants is going to cost them the election among people they need in the fall of 26. the primary is about your base but if you alienate the center you've got yourself the president. >> i there's a foil in president obama and his national security approach. a lot of americans, you know, they want more or they feel like that's not bold enough or in strategy coming from the white house. do you think we'll see more that or will we see more republican on republican.
>> i think they will be united in all things obama and to the points made by seven. simplicity rapid and. donald trump has a very simplistic message resonating with the public. i think that speaks to our limited attention spanz and 20-second sound bites and plays to the time in which we're living. >> there's a point you're both make begun style versus substance, clarity matters. i was watching the tape of the president, at pentagon. they don't do fake photo-ops, all these guys standing around him and when he delivers the payoff line. >> you're next. >> i have to say he looks down at his paper and he reads t.okay. i worked for bill clinton i.showed bill clinton tapes of ronald reagan. ronald reagan was the great communicator, and he was a great actor, and you doont that job if you're not an actor, and so i remember showing when clinton was in his first year showing him tapes of reagan, here's how
you do it and i looked at that line, that's great, a great line, what i want to hear my president say. i watched the tape and he didn't deliver it. >> and then we heard from the podium, josh earnest and others saying we're still formulating a strategy at a public is looking tat with a tremendous amount of anxiety and you're still coming up a tratdgy? i think you're going to see -- all of the candidates tomorrow night on the stage start to play off of that and draw contrast against the white house on that. >> stay with me, guys, many more questions for you ahead and a little more with you after the break. the final republican presidential debaste year is now less than 24 hours away. the gop candidates are facing off here at the venetian hotel and tomorrow night our very own wolf blitzer will be moderating and if you have any questions for the candidates, and i'm sure you have many, send them to us so we can get them to them.
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we are back now at the venetian hotel in las vegas where wolf blitzer will moderate the final republican debate of the year tomorrow night, and tonight there's growing speculation that this remarkable and chaotic campaign could culminate in a brokered or contested republican party convention. cnn's tom foreman has been working this story for us. how would this happen, tom? >> brianna, as you point out this, has been chaotic with all of these candidates out here. none of the models are really working, so even with the polls as they are today, this is how this could happen. let's say that we head into those early voting states, the first four states and say candidate "a" wins here in iowa and maybe candidate "b" wins up there in new hampshire and move over here in nevada and candidate "c" wins and more importantly nobody gets such a lead that nobody drops out and you have two or three or four candidates contending and they keep doing that state after state after state. if you come out of that into the actual convention and it is not
clear who is leading out there, then you already have a contested convention, and if you go through the first ball ott and nobody gets more than 50%, right at that moment, brianna, you have a brokered convention. >> what exactly is being brokened in all of this. what's being brokered is delegate votes. people supporting candidate "b" might go over to "a" and say if you give us those concessions we may give you support over here and candidate "d" goes to candidate "c" and says make something happen and we'll make a deal with you. at some point someone will go over 51% and when that happens they can drop the balloon and call it over. doesn't matter if that's the person who came in with the most support or not, that will be the one that wins and hopefully the
balloon drop will be a little prettier than the actual convention. >> yeah. that's a little better than that. wheeling and dealing. there's one candidate who says he's really good at the deal so maybe he'll have a shot to prove it. >> never know. >> thanks so much. we're counting down to the cnn republican presidential debate and we're back live now at the venetian. here with michael smerconish, paul begala and kevin madden. is that really hanging over this debate or this time going into iowa and new hampshire this, idea of a contested convention? >> only hanging over the reporters who are dying to write about it. >> you think are obsessed with it? >> we are. not one single vote has been cast and they are talking about a brokered convention. let's get into april or may until after everybody has had a chance to choose a candidate before we talk about the brokered convention. >> paul, do you agree? >> no chance. >> every cycle people who know nothing about electing a president predict a brokered
convention and it never happens, it never will. voters will decide this, and the republicans will pick. they will choose between the new zealand thalz and the cro-magnons and the neo-liths and a paleoiths but they will have a candidate. >> so much drama. i do want to get back to this poll where you said 60% of republicans are on board with the temporary banning of muslims coming into the u.s. that means 40% are not, and that brings me to my question for you, kevin, which is at this point in time, and maybe it's a little early to say that this is really the final push towards iowa and new hampshire and at this point in time with ted cruz who is not an establishment darling and donald trump who certainly is not. >> right. >> how much is the establishment freaking out? >> well, again, not -- we haven't had a vote yet and we still have 50 days until iowa. >> i know there's anxiety. >> the there's absolutely anxiety, but question is what
are you going to do to change it? and i think many of these candidates are going to go out and trying to make a better, stronger case on the issues that they think will matter to voters in iowa and new hampshire. we still have a lot of game lefrkts a lot of time left on the clock here before everybody has to truly go into panic mode, but there are clearly those two that are leading are not the establishment candidates, but guess what in the voters get to decide. we'll see. what the proses is here for. >> there's something to be said for fighting within your weight class tomorrow night. it occurs to me if jeb bush lands a blow on donald trump, jeb bush will not be the beneficiary. jeb bush is perhaps better served taking a look to his left or right to chris christie who is ascending in new hampshire and is somewhere i think with 12% of the vote maybe in second position and saying, you know, that's the guy i need to be most concerned about and how do i coalesce the establishment vote to myself as opposed on ted
cruz, ben carson or donald trump. >> the goal for this debate, the last debate of the year. you remember the only bonnie raitt song, let's give them something to talk about. you probably weren't born yet. >> i was too. >> this debate will end and we'll have the -- >> with their eggnog. >> and what are you going to talk about, cousin rita dumped uncle dave. >> donald trump took a shot at ted cruz and questioning his judgment and saying he's unyielding in nature. do donald trump's supporters wanted someone who is yielding in nature? that just struck me as so odd. >> we were rates people who live in glass houses. of all of the things he could say about ted cruz, his intemperance and intoobltd get along with his colleagues is not what you would expect from a man who has called everyone a loser and worse >> exactly. >> during the course of this
campaign. >> right. >> what do you think when it comes to marco rubio in this debate? his sights must be set on ted cruz, right? >> i think so. i think his -- i think more importantly though he still has to go out and talk directly to voters. there's one way to make a case for his candidacy and that's to draw a distinction with tom cruise. >> i love, that tom cruise. >> i stopped myself. >> you correct the yourself quickly. >> but other is to talk directly to the voters that are still -- that haven't made up mayor mind and there's still a lot in the early states about why he'd be the best president. >> ted cruz is ready to hit back, not if, but when marco comes after him. the thing that people think will trust marco is he actually tried to compromise. he was part of gang of eight that came up with a compromise
is death within the republican party. i think senator cruz would say, chuck schumer cutting a kruptd deal to let i just think -- >> is this risky, though? >> i don't think it's that risky with regard to marco rubio. i don't think he'll take that same demeanor with regard to the donald. with trump, i think he'll be dismissive, a humorous line. i think he has a few up his sleeve and i don't think you'll see him lock on with donald trump. although, i think donald trump will lock up with ted cruz. >> real quickly, before you go, what will you be looking for tomorrow night? who is the person that you're zeroing in on, whether it's for them to have their last chance? what do you think, michael? >> ben carson. because i think he's on the descent. there's a chance for him to staunch the bleeding and anything he loses will go to ted cruz. >> jeb bush. this may be the last time we see
him on national television. >> you think so? >> he is disappearing. >> i say ted cruz because not only is he going to get it from attacks from marco rubio in the establishment lane. >> well, it's going to be exciting. >> it will be interesting to see how he handle it is. >> which, by the way, here's a big prediction. i mean this. ted cruz is going to tackle wolf blitzer. i am not kidding. >> there's no downside to attacking the moderator. >> that's my man. that's my man. >> we love wolf. >> that's my guy. and i'll tell you, i'm going to be looking for wolf blitzer. >> i'm going to give him a flak jacket. >> thank you, guys. appreciate it. the final debate of the year is now less than 24 hours away. the gop candidates are facing off here tomorrow night in las vegas with wolf blitzer moderating. if you have any questions for the candidate, go to
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tand that's what we're doings to chat xfinity.rself, we are challenging ourselves to improve every aspect of your experience. and this includes our commitment to being on time. every time. that's why if we're ever late for an appointment, we'll credit your account $20. it's our promise to you. we're doing everything we can to give you the best experience possible. because we should fit into your life. not the other way around. we are live at the venetian hotel in las vegas counting down to our republican presidential debate with our own wolf blitzer as the moderator. you will not see will ferrell as george w. bush. he dropped a bombshell on
"saturday night live." >> i've made a big decision. i'm entering the race for the united states of america. [cheers and applause ] the field of republicans out there is so messed up, i figured it makes you miss me, doesn't it? and that is saying a lot. i've already got my campaign song. ready or not, here i come, you can't hide. i'm going to find you and make you love me. that's a little something from the fugis. i'm telling you, i can beat these guys. let's look at some of the front-runners. dr. ben carson, i can barely hear him when he talks. i tell you something that's not going to work when you have to go to china or where you have to talk loudly so they will
understand. not to mention, he's some kind of brain surgeon. and i've got news for him, running the country is not brain surgery. cruz and rubio. rubio and cruz. sounds like a miami law firm. if you've been injured on the job, call rubio and cruz. and then you've got this knuckle head. with the hair and the 100-foot wall. bring that picture back. i'll tell you something, whenever i get in a bad mood, i just picture his big, fat, orange face.
jeb. oh, boy. poor, jeb. you've got to admit, it's a pretty good plot twist. i turned out to be the smart one. of course, i wish you would have asked me about the exclamation point on the end of his name. look, i don't like the taste of broccoli. but it doesn't get any tastier if you call it broccoli! the republican voters don't want that. they want someone who is coo-coo for cocoa puffs but running a government is kind of like driving a school bus. you don't want a crazy person running that bus. you want a simple but reliable guy behind that wheel. someone with a steady hand who will be on time and get into one or two but no more than four accidents a year. you already know that someone. and that someone is me.
i'll is he auto you in the white house. thank you for watching. i'm brianna keilar. after proposing muslims being banned from the united states, the debate is less than 24 hours away. plus, ted cruz has been called names by the party establishment. and did one of the san bernardino shooters get a free pass? why did u.s. immigration officials completely ignore tashfeen malik's social media accounts before giving her a visa. let's go "outfront." good evening to all. i'm erin burnett. "outfront" tonight, trump is