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tv   Situation Room With Wolf Blitzer  CNN  December 15, 2015 2:00pm-3:01pm PST

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happening now, debate night, gop candidates are getting ready for a showdown here in las vegas, our cnn debate is it, the last of the year for the republicans, the last look before families gather for christmas and festivus or whatever and walk. and some white ouse hopefuls this may be their last chance. >> taking down trump, front-runner in national polls and his rivals need to find a way to try to cut into donald trump's lead. can they? donald trump says they will be coming after him tonight, everyone knows he can certainly dish it out. we'll see what happens on that stage tonight. terror scare, the nation's second-largest school system shut down. the fear in america is real. after the bloodiest attack since 9/11. national security is the theme
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tonight. a lot of talk about strength. but who will do something really different that makes a difference to your safety? our team captagon, wolf blitzer preparing to moderate tonight's debate. i'm alongside anderson cooper and you're in "the situation room." >> we are live here in vegas, the venetian hotel. this is the place to be. just a short while from now, the gop candidates will get after it on national security. who do you think will keep you safe? >> focus of the cnn debate, national security. it is the first time the gop candidates will debate since the slaughter in paris, as well as the massacre in san bernardino, california, the worst terror attack on american soil since 9/11 and the debate comes as los angeles school system, the nation's second largest, 650,000
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students, is completely shut down by an e-mail threat. officials in new york received and discounted a similar threat. cnn obtained a copy of the message which warns of pressure cooker bombs concealed in backpacks as well as nerve gas. >> all of this in context for tonight here in vegas. the iowa caucuses, seven weeks away. the latest polls show what we've seen to date, donald trump out in front, bigger than ever, 4 out of 10 republicans say trump is the man right now. that lead has grown since his proposal to ban muslims from the united states sparking outrage but a boost in the polls. in iowa, trump neck and neck with senator ted cruz. some polls show cruz leading. >> other candidates in the crowded field, if they are to make any mark, it is now or never. tonight is the night the front-runner, trump knows he will be the target tonight, they'll all be coming after me, he said, last night.
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the stage here is set for high drama. our correspondents, analysts and guests are standing by with full cov. >> a. candidates, they have been checking out the stage behind us, a last-minute look before the showdown. we begin with cnn's john berman. what can we expect tonight? >> i am backstage at the venetian theater. behind me is the door the candidates will walk in in a few minutes as they emerge from dressing rooms. they'll walk in right there, walk across the stage. you can even see here, five lecterns, they will be added after the first debate which begins in a few minutes added to make nine lecterns for the prime time debate. as you have noted, this is the final debate of 2015. there are some new factors which could have a major impact. number one, ted cruz moving close to center, he will be right next to donald trump. that is a position that has been fraught with peril. some of the people who have stood there, jeb bush, scott walker, remember him? number two, chris christie, back
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on the main stage after a one-night engagement in the undercard debate. he could be a big factor tonight. he knows how to control this type of event. number three, they will get 75 seconds, candidates get 75 seconds to answer the questions, they will get 30 seconds to respond if they're named by someone else, rebuttal, if you will, 30 seconds. they both get opening and closing statements as well. the candidates could get a chance to set the tone early on. finally this space, this is the venetian theater. a theater built for "phantom of the opera" to come to las vegas. seats 1400 people. "phantom" ran six years here. this is a space that knows drama, maybe nothing like tonight unless they start singing. >> all right, john, let us know if there's prefight trash talking that we need to know about as candidates take the stage. ted cruz is not going to like hearing himself described as moving to the center. he says he is the man on the right lane and he's going to
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stay there. donald trump is liking what he's hearing, two national polls have him higher than ever. people were wondering, what would it mean that he offered to ban muslims from the u.s.? well, it's helped him. there's no question that he's going to be a target tonight. he is the man in the middle. let's turn to cnn political reporter, sara murray. the other candidates are coming after him. this is the way he sets it up. he doesn't want to start it, but he'll finish it. >> reporter: yeah, it's really interesting, he did say that last night, it's like he's fully prepared for it. but you see a different donald trump on the debate stages than we do on the campaign trail. on the campaign trail he ripped into rivals. he goes after everyone. remember when you look at past debates, there were long stretches trump seemed to disappear, happy to let other candidates go after one another. trump is interesting he has a different day going on than other candidates. he decided to skip the walk-through that the other candidates are doing and for good reason. instead of doing that, he's
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meeting with sheldon adelson billionaire megagop donor, an interesting meeting for trump because he doesn't want think money, he doesn't want any big outside donors like this. trump also didn't have very far to travel. he tweeted earlier he's staying at his hotel, trump international. he's looking forward to a good debate tonight. he hopes he's treated fairly. >> sarah, thanks very much. focus of tonight's cnn debate, of course, national security. with america on edge after the bloody attack in san bernardino, there was a new scare today as we told you about in los angeles where the school system, with more than 650,000 kids, was shutdown after what officials called electronic threat. justice reporter evan perez has the latest on that. >> reporter: the reaction to this e-mail threat really does tell you a little bit about the atmosphere there in over in the west coast in california in the aftermath of the san bernardino attack. but you know, we have taken a look at the message.
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you can see why new york city got a similar message and they reacted a different way. we saw the message mentioned pressure cooker bombs and backpack bombs and a group of attackers preparing to take out -- take an attack against schools in los angeles and in new york, and the message made a reference to a vulgar reference to a male body part. that's one reason why new york city police commissioner bill bratton reacted to this by declaring it to be a hoax. take a listen. >> we have been in contact with the los angeles police department, the department i'm very familiar with, and a school system i'm very familiar with. it appears, as of this time, the school system out there acted on their own, without consultation with local law enforcement authorities, and they may have shut down their schools for the day. we see no need whatsoever to take that action here in new york city. that we do believe preliminary
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investigation that this is in fact a hoax and we'll investigate it as such. >> officials in los angeles were quick to defend the school district superintendent who made the decision. he wanted to make sure that the kids are safe, all 650,000 school kids there. the charlie beck, chief of the los angeles police department, addressed the media. here's how he put it -- >> anytime these kind of threats are made against our campuses, given all of the school shootings in america, given san bernardino, we take them seriously. we gave -- we gave the school district the -- our best advice on this, and they chose a path. you know what? as i said, everybody has to make decisions in life. some people, the superintendent in this case, had to make a decision that affects everybody in this city's children and another 100,000 of his own employees, and you know, i think it's irresponsible to criticize
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the decision maker. >> now we know that the fbi is investigating, they want to know who is sending messages. these are not uncommon, as you know, chris, for school districts and for universities to get these. some of them react like los angeles did, some react the way new york did but they just have to take it as each example so comes. >> no question they're not uncommon, evan perez, thank you very much. too common. the fear is very real. people are erring on the side of safety. that's what brings into short focus this debate here tonight. donald trump, once again national front-runner, but ted cruz is surging and not just in iowa. some polls do show him taking the lead here, which some expected, but not in this fashion. so let's turn to the national spokesman for the cruz campaign, rick tyler, good to have you, with anderson and me here. going into tonight, big part of the intrigue, how will senator
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cruz respond to his moment when he's talked, what he'll project? what can you tell us? >> i think what he'll do, what you'll see is ted cruz looking like a commander in chief, look like he's in control. i do think people will attack. he'll advance and defend his conditions. if the mashed potatoes start flying around, i'll expect them to pick it up. he'll try to stick to the substance. >> marco rubio is painting him as an isolationist. >> he's not an isolationist and nobody believes he's an isolationist. ted cruz is a conservative. the polls, the des moines register show more voters in iowa see ted cruz as their commander in chief. they say he has the right temperament and the most favorability rating. a lot of surprises that come out of the poll that veterans the establishment in washington befuddled. >> you have been playing a long ground game. >> yes. >> you've been preparing for this. when you look at most recent polls for those people still supporting dr. carson, their
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second choice is ted cruz. there's a lot of people who still could go to the ted cruz camp. what do you think has been working best for you? i mean everyone says you have a great ground game in iowa, even in south carolina, and other southern states. >> we've been working hard in iowa. 3800 volunteers, 170,000 nationally. our people want to be found. they want a conservative to lead and they see that in ted cruz. we've got all 99 county chairs named, a lot of hard work in iowa, announced after the debate we'll do our fly-around in the march 1st states. we'll be visiting seven states in ten days. we have ten stops. we did a bus tour in the summer, most people said what is ted cruz doing? we'll do that again, solidify the long game so we are prepared to go. what we don't want to do is win iowa and then that's the one state strategy. it got to be a national strategy. >> that's the challenge, right? the political campaigns a two-step dance. what do we do now? what do we do next?
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what do you do now, capture the moment, be the practical alternative to donald trump, that's why we're hearing what cruz is suggestive to people. then, second step is you can't be a one-trick pony, can't be just iowa. people expected you to do well in iowa, not this well, not this soon, perhaps, give yourself a pat on the back. how do you replicate? you put a lot of money, a lot of time into iowa. how do you replicate the success? >> for one thing we've got the most money on hand. candidates have to show that when they go into march 1st, you have to have available resources. we've had the most available resources. our super pac has not spent any money. i don't -- participating in strategies is interesting. >> didn't he hire people for the ground in iowa. >> they have not started to advise on television. march 1 is a time when it's going to get very expensive, very fast. we've already built the ground game in the states. most of the stated are southern states, evangelical states, all
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of them are in the south, over 50% evangelical, some like oklahoma and tennessee. alabama are 70% evangelical. even more so than iowa. we think we'll do well there. >> what do you do regarding donald trump? we've seen donald trump on the. campaign trail called cruz a maniac. >> a little bit. >> the movie "flash dance." 1983. >> how many times have i re-enacted that scene? >> donald trump has actually, you know, talked stuff on the campaign trail but often on the debate stage he doesn't necessarily attack candidates. do you expect him to come face to face. >> i can't predict. ted cruz likes donald trump. and it appears donald trump likes ted cruz. i think they have a rapport but they are in competition for the presidency of the united states. so they're both looking at distinguishing, many ways this could be down to a two-person race. >> here's the trick.
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is that he can't just look in front of him anymore. i thought one of the things that anderson did brilliantly in the democrat debate, there was a balance who each of the people wheth weren 0 the stage relative to their position. he's going to have trump in front of him, rubio and carson, not necessarily behind but next to him. they're going to come at him. how does he handle that in a way that shows him at his best? he can be nasty? he's smart, intellectual, pressing his points. >> he's a great debater. >> you keep saying -- we're hear from everybody -- he's not going to get into, he's going to be good, he's going to be his best self. >> if it's an attack on substance, we'll participate and clarify the substance andic maing people clear of policy. one of the thing that senator cruz has been strong, yes, he's very good at debates. i think he'll do extraordinarily well tonight. but he also knows his policy. he also knows how the government works and remains the original outsider. that's what the voters seem to
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be looking for an outsider. they see that in donald trump. but ted cruz is the proven outsider. >> is he pumped? >> ready to go. he's excited. >> pumped? >> this is look a prizefight. you see anderson before the democrat debate, back there punching the wall. >> thanks for being with us. next, center stage, that means donald trump will be getting it from both sides, front-runner says heiss rivals will all be coming after him. tonight, the question is can they do any damage? he's doing incredibly well in national polls. senator marco rubio is one of the rivals gaining ground on donald trump. what does he need to do tonight to hold momentum and gain momentum? we'll hear from a key adviser.
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the focus, national security. this follows the attacks in paris, san bernardino and on the heels of the threat of the los angeles school system. let's turn to experts with me, along with chris cuomo, david act act axle rod, gloria borger, john king. david, what are you expecting tonight? >> clearly, national security has a risen to the top of the list of concerns and donald trump has surfed what is an environment of fear out there effectively. i think you'll see candidates
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trying to see muscularity on the issue and capture the moment, and then there will be subplots, rubio, cruz, how they interact, they've been sparring. how do cruz and trump react as cruz is moving up on trump and taking over the lead in iowa. i think the guy to watch in the debate is chris christie, moving uple will with his muscular talk on national security in new hampshire and is a threat to block center right candidates in new hampshire from doing what they need to do. >> good phrase that gloria borger's using, muscular talk, you've got this distinction between how you -- >> i am wondering what muscular talk is. >> i think the illusion is -- >> donald trump. >> i they're talking tough. the situation is soft, there's weakness, i am strength. when you get to the how and the what, lay things out tonight fundamentally different from what's happening now. >> i think you've seen dr. carson tank in the polls
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they didn't seem to have expertise on national security. today we saw him lay out a plan how to fight isis. they know among republicans terrorism was 4% in november as your major concern. now it's 24% on republicans. so it's the top issue. the problem they have, they lay out their solutions, is that one of the folks is going to have to talk a general election audience at some point. we went through this with mitt romneying he went so far to the right he couldn't attack back during a general election. you can be muss ular, but democrats feel differ differently what you ought to do to fight isis than republicans. >> one of the debates in the debate, to gloria's point you have strategists for the republican campaign saying we go right into the primaries but we have to get back to the middle. ted cruz doesn't feel that way. he thinks you run a conservative campaign. trump is not an ideological
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candidate, he's not an ideological republican but yet the national leader. the last debate of the year, two republican races, trump winning nationally, and trump's terror play is the biggest reason he's had the biggest lead. what to republican voter think of obama? they think he's vacillating, not strong. trump is bomb the bleep out of them, kick out the syrian refugees, don't let muslims in the country. >> the question is do republican candidates on the stage go after him being critical as they have on the campaign trail. >> that's the risk. if you're jeb bush and chris christie, even on the muslim ban, which both said is a bad idea and a lot of counterintelligence people say helps isis when you do this, what does donald trump say? you are with barack obama, hillary clinton, and the republican establishment. if you do that to donald trump, he is happy as can be now because he wants obama, clinton, and the republican establishment after him. >> tonight they each have other
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people they have to go after in addition to donald trump. i mean, rubio and cruz will probably go it, rubio's going to take on cruz. paul will be challenged by rubio. christie will be talking about national security credentials. in a way, trump is out there but they all have other business to conduct tonight. >> do debates matter for donald trump? they matter to other candidates. >> he has not profited from the debates as others have. >> yet he's profited every other way. >> generally he does something outrageous two, three days after the debate to bring his numbers up to recover from what has been sort of a lackluster response to his, because part of what happens here, you have two hours, chris' point is a good one, you can't just do the initial line. there is substance that has to be addressed. and he hasn't really done that very well. >> also, you've got to be ready. if you bring your hands down you used a muscular thing, wolf blitzer will pop you in the nose
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with a jab, how, what? >> he doesn't answer. >> if you're peppered with questions, other guys are responding how to you answer. to your point, chris christie, can anybody on the stage argue better than the governor of new jersey who was the u.s. attorney, you know, for that district, to say you can just talk the talk, you have to walk the walk, i've walked the walk. >> i think you're exactly right. that's the case he's got to make. he's been making effectively in new hampshire. high don't think he can go the distance, he has other problems that will come back as he rises that has to do with new jersey but he's the most proficient debater, in my view, on the stage. >> trump is the national leader now. but go back to 2008, forgive me david axelrod but donald trump is hillary clinton and ted cruz is barack obama in the sense that he's ascendant in iowa. look at national polls in 2008, everybody says clinton, clinton, clinton, obama was coming, he made his move in iowa not quite
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the way cruz has. but what happens to donald trump's brand if he starts losing? he's all about winning. >> psyche is the question. >> can he handle that. >> what does he do. >> the proof is in the pudding. we see how he does tonight. if anybody wants to talk about 2008, it's ax, that's for sure. right now, we use a lot of prizefight analogies because it is like that for the men and women who have to get up on stage. they're thinking about how do i get ready, what are my points, what do i do? that's what's going on right now. we have two debates tonight. first one's coming up at 6:00. we'll have four people on that one. then 8:30, that's the main event tonight. we'll give you a look into the strategies on both sides when "the situation room" continues.
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we are getting ready for the first round of tonight's republican presidential debate right here at the venetian hotel in las vegas. behind us, the room starting to fill out. there's a lot of filibustering going on. focus -- >> filibustering? >> did you like that? it's latin. the first time all candidates have come together since the terror attacks in paris and san bernardino. it's a very serious setting for this discussion. let's check in with cnn senior washington correspondent, jeff zeleny, outside the debate hall.
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jeff? >> reporter: chris, people are arriving here at the debate. you can see behind me here, they've gone through security and they're filing into the debate. anticipation is building for this. of course, final republican debate of the year, stakes could not be higher. let's start with ted cruz. he probably has the most to gain, perhaps the most to lose in the debate. he's been coming on strong. he is going to, i'm told, avoid engaging donald trump, they've had a bit of a back and forth afar. face-to-face, do not look for senator cruz to engage donald trump. why? he wants to win over his supporters. if donald trump supporters peel away, ted cruz wants to be there to pick them up. one other thing for senator cruz, unused to facing conservative criticism. he will get a lot of that tonight from senator marco rubio, from chris christie, so watch the voting record. it's going to be revisited of senator cruz, his three top items. moving on to donald trump, i think there's no question here at all he is going to take on
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ted cruz. he's been doing it in campaign rallies. he said he was beholden to oil companies, raises the fact he's born in cuba, he's an evangelical. watch donald trump go after ted cruz hard. he's gaining on him in iowa, and across the country. finally, chris christie. i'm watching the comeback of chris christie. he's back on the main debate stage, after being relegated to the undercard debate one month ago. and the issue set in this campaign is lining up nearly perfectly for chris kissty. his advisers believe. he will talk a lot about global terrorism, his experience and look for him to question the experience of senator marco rubio and senator ted cruz. those are three of the things of many things we're watching here tonight. >> jeff, thanks very much. a big deal for chris christie to be able to get back on to the main stage after being on the runningup stage. that of course, the first debate. coming up tonight for candidates on that stage. that's what we are getting ready for shortly.
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as we continue counting down to the start of tonight's debates. want to bring in cnn's kate bolduan in the spin room, representatives of the campaigns trying to put the best possible light on performances, sometimes even before performances begin. kate, any of the candidates actually been by to do prespinning? >> reporter: yeah, prespinning, a new word to use. before the candidates have taken the stage tonight, spinning has already begun in the spin room. dr. ben carson, he came through here moments ago to take a tour. i went up and reminded him last time i met up with him in a spin room before our debate in california. listen to this. last time we met in the spin room, it was your first debate we were in california. what's different about this debate? >> i've had an opportunity to go through the process a few times. you feel a little more comfortable with it. >> foreign policy, something that you face a lot of criticism on, articles written, that's your weakness. >> that's why i'm looking
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forward to some questions about foreign policy. i can demonstrate that's not true. >> reporter: since the last debate you have seen a big problem in the polls, in nationally and even in places like iowa, key state for you. what do you attribute to the drop in the polls? how are you going to change it tonight? >> i attribute to the increased tension on security and terrorism and i'm considered a nice guy who is not tough enough to deal with those things. hopefully i can demonstrate that i still am a nice guy but can deal with those things. >> reporter: i think you can see right there, he lays out for us how high the stakes are for him, before going into the debate. they're even higher, i would argue, than before previous debates. give him a tour of the spin room. it's bigger than past spin rooms. we are less than 50 days now, anderson, to the first votes. in this room, very soon packed with 600 credentialed media
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across the country and around the globe. this really being the last major media moment of 2015 for the candidates and the last chance for them to face off before all of the cameras and attention this year. anderson? >> about to get very, very crowded in there. waiting for the start of the republican debate at venetian hotel in las vegas. what's it going to take to win the showdown? let's bring in dan pfeiffer, s.e. cupp, ana navarro and quchs cuomo. what are you wanting to see on the stage. >> from a perspective of trying to study the race, i'm curious to see how ted cruz and marco rubio will engage. i think the two the best chance to be the nominee if it's not trump. let's see how they do on national security and immigration. from a democratic perspective looking for everything they say that could be used in the general election. >> do you see cruz and rubio going after each other. >> that is more likely than
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tru trump and cruz going after each other. >> they both see themselves as playing a long game and long-term rivals. >> i think cruz is standing in rubio's way. he's jumped to the front of the pack as the anti-trump front-runner and i think rubio's got to make a move. he needs to discredit cruz on national security, number one objective. >> if he has a mark to make, that is the mark. putting aside s.c. how his position's helped him within and without the base, right? >> it's such an interesting dynamic between cruz and rubio on foreign policy now. for the past few months ted cruz has come under scrutiny in the party pejoratively calling other republicans neocons which republicans shouldn't do, it's an unwritten rule. his record, showing up at armed services committee, public hearing something like 17 out of 50, people questioning that.
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his position on syrian intervention, his position on nsa metadata collection have put him in a strange, almost rand paul-like position within the party. as we all know, terrorism is a top concern for americans now. marco rubio's job will to be paint ted cruz as inconsistent on foreign policy, not the tough, hawkish foreign policy leader we need now for this moment and sort of put his own hawkish foreign policy out there as the grown-up version of a foreign policy in the room. >> not talking about your guy much today, jeb bush. when he comes into tonight, what are expectations for him? how does he make that moment? is there strategy thinking like that motivating them? >> i think -- i think he's -- this is a game of low expect takings at this point for jeb bush. that is a -- that -- that can turn into an asset. all he needs is to be able to have one good line to create a
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good moment, to have some stylistic authority up there and it might change the narrative. jeb at this point realizes he's in a turnaround campaign. he needs to get people to give him a second look. you know i think -- i think that the race will be a firework between cruz and rubio. that opens up a space for somebody like a jeb, like a christie, to say, boys, boys, boys, now take this playground fight outside and you know, let's let the men with the experience talk about how we're going to take care of isis. >> has he been -- do we know if he's been practicing? has he been trying to change the debate strategy? i feel like we've had this discussion now, i can't remember how many times. >> i can. would you like me to -- >> it never has happened. do we know, has he been trying any new, you know, cereal or something? >> i mean, looking for the last debate, i can tell you i literally sent him a plate of nails with a side of bacon to
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eat for breakfast. we've read he's hired a media coach. i don't know how much he's been, whoing wi working with him, frankly. jeb is a polt si guy. it's very hard for him to embrace and accept the theatrics. but i think he has realized that the theatrics is part of the job description that comes from running for president, comes in being a primary and either you embrace it or voters are not going to embrace you. >> we'll see what happens tonight. nearing the first round of tonight's republican debate. will donald trump and ted cruz continue to play nice or are we in for a memorable confrontation?
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you are at the venetian in las vegas, the first of two big debates here tonight. that's a look outside, we'll know you a look inside. it is filling up behind us now. you have blue suits, you have gray suits, you have dappling of bald spots many women in red and people wishing each other luck but not meaning it. that can only mean one thing, it is gop debate night and stakes are very high. focus, national security. the candidates will be trying to
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project the qualities, voters expect of a commander in chief. what will that mean? what will work? let's discuss right now. we have senior political reporter nia malik ka henderson, analyst ron brownstein, national journal's editorial anchor, and michael smerconish. i'm chris cuomo, you have the one only anderson cooper. a lot about the polls banning muslims, a good thing for donald trump. the move down for ben carson, a good thing for ted cruz. they are teed up to windchill as a tandom. do you buy that? >> i don't buy there's a breakout fight between the two folks, trump and ted cruz. ted cruz will be able to pare this, turn to wolf blitzer you want us to fight thing and i'm not going to do it. ted cruz will take a lot incoming, his folks are expecting that and i think he's
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going to take incoming from marco rubio, maybe rand paul, we've seen the inner fight between the senators. i think they're the marquee folks and there's some action there. i do think in the undercard in this debate, chris christie, rand paul, they're going to want to get into the act. >> are you saying ted cruz will attack the moderator? stunned to hear. >> yeah, yeah. >> wolf blitzer, who knows how to kill a man 15 ways with 3 fingers, not advisable. >> the dynamic, right, cruz rising as carson pafalls. i agree with nia, i think the key fight may be rubio as the third person in this race who waiting for to step up, many people in the media expecting him to consolidate center right bracket, bush, kasich, christie failed. it hasn't happen. probably won't happen tonight. he seeps to have the clearest incentive to go after cruz from the right on national security, terrorism, intervention abroad,
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and he's signaled, i think, that's coming. >> a big opportunitier to chris christie the not only back on the main stage after the smaller stage, this is a topic that plays to his strength. >> he's distinguished himself in the debates. as a former u.s. attorney, someone who is eager to prosecute, he says, the case against hillary clinton and so often invoking september 11 and the role that he played thereafter. if i were looking at those establishment type republicans, jeb, marco, kasich, christie, i agree, i think it's an opportunity for christie among that group. >> optics, anderson cooper right to point out that christie should get a pat on the back making the undercard on top table. we haven't seen that move out of that group since carly fiorina. christie seems to be doing it with a ground game in new hampshire, hopefully that helps him, if one state a trend can make. the other one is, what's being done to trump within the larger establishment? the radio world coming after him. you do very well, you're a
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beautiful addition to it, he's getting attacked from some of his own. ones friends coming after trump. >> i think you're making reference to rush limbaugh, mark levine, sean hannity all who have had negative things to say about donald trump. they have supplanted the party leadership in the span of the last 30 years. it used to be you have to pay your dues if you're an elected official, rise through seniority. you say something incendiary, you're a fund-raiser juggernaut, you. >> tauted on table television news. >> trump, only because of his criticism of cruz. >> cruz is the chosen one thus far among the group. i think it's very important who they are for. >> it is. you've seen the establishment try to make the argument against trump everybody he's not the real conservative. jeb bush has done it. if you're in the top radio world, they have the credibility
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to make this race and charge him as as a faux conservative. he has sarah palin in his corner, donald trump, because she has credibility as well in that talk radio world. >> talk to the strategists fi filtering in they set a clear path for cruz and trump into the finals. cruz son kol dating evangelical voters in iowa eye, getting a nod from that, trying to move beyond na from other conservatives in the tea party and portions of the libertarian movement. trump is in a dominant position among blue collar republicans, 14-person race. who, if anyone, is that third candidate in the race out of rubio, kasich, bush, christie, who can really bring together more of that center right, white collar, more establishment? >> to your point, nobody's done it yet. >> i wonder if chris christie, instead of focusing on donald trump is better served focusing on marco rubio.
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>> he is. >> focusing on 3%, 4% than jeb bush. >> in new hampshire the candidate who finishes at the top of the group probably has a boost going forward in terms of trying to consolidate that part of the party without a candidate at this moment. rubio continues to kind of tilt toward the right in a way that makes him perhaps less focused on something you expect. >> key point, key point, what you say to me, i don't have to be faster than the guys coming after us, i have to be faster than you. it hurts when he says it to me. marco rubio, topic of discussion, with good reason. he's now among the top three or four in the field by most polls. what will happen for him tonight? we have one of the senator's top advisers joining us. come back for that.
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tand that's what we're doings to chat xfinity.rself,
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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. welcome back. we're awaiting the start of the big republican debate, the first since the slaughters in paris and san bernardino. the focus, national security. it is all happening on a day when los angeles schools are shut down by a terror scare, a terror scare that new york decided not to shut down their schools for. joining us now, communication director for marco rubio's
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campaign. potentially big night for your candidate. there is a subject which he has sent a lot of time on. what are you expecting to see tonight from his opponents and how much of an attack do you expect from a cruz, from a donald trump? >> you're right, senator rubio is on the select intelligence committee. he's been talking about tease issues, isis, syria, national security, for longer than just about anybody in the race. he's really been focused on it for the last 4 1/2 years. he doesn't just talk about it, he's a practitioner of foreign policy. and a lot of what we're seeing in syria are things that he warned about years ago. he said eventually the threat will come here and that's exactly what we're seeing. >> he was painfully right. there is a trick to national security. it is easy to talk tough and say the current administration is weak, that secretary clinton was part of that weakness so that she should be disqualified. that's the main line you will
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hear. however, the trick is what would you do differently than what is being done right now? that's hard to say about national security. what will the senator's answers be? >> i don't want to get ahead of what he'll say tonight, but he's been rear about what we should be coming in the mideast and syria specifically, creating a safe zone for moderate rebels that we can cocan work with. but the problem has gotten harder. >> a lot of the things are what they're trying to do right now. >> and that's what he will be talking about tonight. the more sub tan tistantive the can be, the more he can talk about specifics. i think that will really go to our benefit. >> a lot of talk about him going head to head against cruz on the campaign trail, he's referred to cruz as an isolationist. should we expect to hear that again tonight? >> well, we'll see what wolf wants to talk about. but there are big differences between senator cruz and senator rubio on foreign policy, on national security.
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senator cruz voted against the defense authorization bill every year he was in the senate. that funds the troops and the iron dome for israel. he voted to gut our u.s. intelligence programs, to rip out the patriot act that our intelligence agents use to keep us safe. his record on foreign policy isn't as strong as senator rubio's is. so i expect wolf will want to talk about that and we're happy to lay out the contrasts. >> see what happened? my man conan isn't want to get ahead of the senator but then gives you a laundry list of what cruz's short comings are. >> i'm just stating the record. >> so it will be interesting tonight to see how senator rubio deals with who is in front of him and behind him thanks for stopping by. a lot more coming up, the final showdown. and for some, may be the last chance to stay in the race. full coverage just ahead. and can you explain why you recommend synthetic over cedar?
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(donkey noise) hey candidates! answer the call already. style lets you stand out from the herd. what's inside sets you apart. the 2016 cadillac escalade. welcome back. we are live here on cnn, we are awaiting the start of the first republican debate tonight here in the extra knee shvenetian ho vegas. some 1400 or so people waiting for the start of this debate,
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the undercard, the first four candidates will be taking the stage in several minutes. as this debate gets under way. >> a lot of energy, this is the last debate of 2015. this is the last moment of seeing these men and this woman together before you go home for christmas and talk about who you like and who you don't. and for some of the people tonight, they may be their last best chance to make or break. and that's why there is so much desperation about making a moment tonight. national security is tricky. there is a lot of fear in this country. tough talk may not be enough for some of the americans. >> and especially in the wake of the san bernardino attack, in paris, as well, the los angeles school system shut down today. so there is a lot of national security issues to talk about. chris christie making the jump from the undercard debate which he was in the last gop debate, he's now back on the main stage aith the top tier candidates.

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