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tv   The Lead With Jake Tapper  CNN  February 25, 2016 1:00pm-2:01pm PST

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mother. you know it's wrong. you know! >> a passionate vice president joe biden there. again, he will be on the oscar stage sunday night. thank you so much for being with john and i today. "the lead" with jake tapper begins right now. welcome to "the lead." i'm jake tapper, we're live in houston. it's debate night in america, quite possibly the most critical debate of the republican race so far. five candidates still standing five days before super tuesday. donald trump has decisively won the past three states in a row. will he go for the kill tonight? will he make the case that this is already over? will marco rubio and/or ted cruz with one win between the both of them stop attacking each other
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long enough to stop the guy that could bury them just five days from now. the best political team on tv is here to bring you all the highlights, arrivals, analyses and some of the bruising moments on the trail leading up to this big night. first, sara murray is standing by here in houston. she's in the spin room. sara, the candidates are arriving. the big question is whether any of trump's rivals will lay a glove on him tonight and perhaps even more so whether they'll even throw a punch. >> reporter: that's right, jake. the challenge is really two-fold. they have to stall donald trump's momentum. he's coming off a string of three victories. they can't just go on this debate stage and let him stay there unscathed. if you're marco rubio or ted cruz, you're also trying to knock the other guy off. both of their campaigns have said they believe they can win against donald trump in a head-to-head matchup, but they are stubbornly sticking in this
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race as is john kasich. i think we've seen a little foreshadowing and a little realization that they know they need to take on trump. marco rubio had some harsh words for trump last night essentially questioning whether he is prepared to be commander in chief. and ted cruz has been laying into trump a little bit on the trail as well. ted cruz has another challenge today. he has to convince voters that all this stuff about him being a liar, about his campaign being up to dirty tricks is not true and his advisers tell me he is ready to push back forcefully against that narrative on the debate stage tonight. jake. >> all right, sara murray, thanks so much. tonight is it, perhaps the last shot for republicans not named donald j. trump to go after the republican front-runner. with super tuesday so close and so important, they need to figure out a way to tank trump or he could be the presumptive nominee within a matter of weeks. the establishment's pick, marco rubio, would need to win, say, a state, something he hasn't done and something he keeps hearing about on the trail. >> at what state do you think
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that you're going to be the one to trump donald trump? >> well, we'll win in florida. >> a new poll out of florida shows that rubio may be in trouble in florida. the quinnipiac university survey found rubio 16 points behind donald trump. cnn senior white house correspondent jim acosta is here in houston as well. jim, what is rubio's campaign saying about this poll? >> yeah, jake, a senior rubio advisor just told me a few minutes ago he will win florida, quote, take it to the bank. as for the gop establishment, they have been accused of taking it too easy on donald trump but no more kid gloves for the gop front-runner, as marco rubio, ted cruz and now the last republican nominee, mitt romney, are all attacking trump just hours before tonight's debate. tonight cnn republican debate could be donald trump's biggest test yet.
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with the gop establishment in a near panic trump will win the nomination, the republican front-runner is now under siege from all sides. >> thank you. thank you. >> from the establishment favorite, marco rubio. >> the front-runner in this race, donald trump, has actually alluded to the fact that he thinks parts of obamacare are pretty good. >> to conservative fire brand ted cruz. >> there is only one campaign that has beaten and that can beat donald trump in this race. and if we stand together and say the stakes are too high to gamble, to roll the dice when we don't know what someone would do as president. >> texas, georgia, florida, so many different places, they take early voting. >> trump, who posted a facebook video to get out the vote on super tuesday told anderson cooper he'll be ready at the debate for rubio, who's desperate to win a state somewhere and signaling he will be on the attack. >> so far everybody that's attacked me has gone down.
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maybe that's a good thing for the country because maybe that's what our country needs. >> john kasich is making the case he should be the establishment's first choice. a super pac ad argues rubio's strengths are overrated. >> washington politicians and lobbyists are rushing to crown marco rubio, but national polls so john kasich is the one who beats hillary clinton by 11 points, not marco rubio. >> as for trump, he has other problems, namely the gop's last nominee, mitt romney, who's calling on the real estate tycoon to release his tax returns. >> i think there's a bombshell in there is because every time he's asked about his taxes, he dodges and delays. >> trump, who tweeted out a pic of what his tax returns look like accused romney of doing rubio's dirty work. adding i'm going to do what mitt romney was totally unable to do, win. romney fired back saying me thinks the donald protests too
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much. he has tangled with romney, to john mccaino george w. bush. >> they lied. they said there were weapons of mass destruction. there were none. >> trump says the matter will be settled in time, telling cnn he will release those tax returns. >> i get audited every year, which i think is unfair. i go through large audits, but we'll make a determination over the next couple of months. >> now, sources close to romney tell me the former gop nominee just wants trump to stop stone walling on his tax returns. as one person close to romney for years added, the former massachusetts governor also wanted to show the current candidates a lesson, how to hit an opponent. romney knew exactly how to wield a blade when needed. jake. >> jim acosta, thank you so much. joining me now to talk about the 2016 race and tonight's debate, the governor of the great state of texas, greg abbott. he just endorsed senator ted cruz from the lone star state yesterday. governor, thanks for being here.
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>> thank you, jake. >> so the polls indicate that ted cruz is well positioned here in texas to win. but would you say it's a must-win? doesn't he have to win his home state? >> well, ted is showing that he's able to galvanize the conservatives in this country. and the more he's able to get out his message about the real conservative values, the more that the field has been winnowed down. i think general conservatives based upon issues will galvanize not just here in texas but across the s.e.c. primary states. >> one of the reasons he won in iowa was he had such strong support among evangelical or born-again christian voters, but donald trump won those voters who were also in sizeable quantities in south carolina and nevada. why? are you surprised by that? >> well, for one, i do anticipate that ted cruz will continue to win the evangelical vote. but another is that of course the evangelicals are very upset
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about the way government has been run, about how their principles have been trampled upon, about the way the supreme court has been rewriting the constitution to destroy the values and principles that have been held dear in this country for 200 years. >> why would they vote for donald trump? >> they see in donald trump a symbol of their frustration. they can find in ted cruz a solution for their frustration. i think ted cruz as president is going to be able to solve all these problems far more effective than any of the other candidates. >> former ted cruz communications director, amanda carpenter, who is a cnn contributor, she makes the point that she's disappointed cruz hasn't adapted his language to better meet republican voters where they are. you look at the exit polls and you look at donald trump's success so far. the voters are angry, they don't want a washington insider. they want somebody fighting for their jobs. they want somebody who's perhaps a little bit more protectionist and populist when it comes to trade.
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are you surprised or disappointed that senator cruz isn't adapting more to where the voters are? >> you know, he has a great message that i think now that the field has been winnow ed down will connect with people. let's talk about jobs and a lot of americans are concerned about jobs. ted cruz's message but also his solutions are far more effective because he understands that the biggest killer to jobs right now are all the heavy hand of regulation from the united states government. obamacare, the epa, dodd-frank, et cetera. ted cruz is the one who's able to bring all these things down very quickly once he's elected. that will stimulate gdp in the united states and get jobs growing again. >> white supremacist group is out with a robo call endorsing donald trump and telling voters, republican voters presumably that are being targeted not to vote for rubio or for cruz because they are cuban american, specifically the robo call says the white race is dying out in america and europe because we are afraid to be called racist.
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donald trump is not a racist, but donald trump is not afraid. don't vote for a cuban, vote for donald trump. what's your reaction? >> what we see here in texas by, for example, me winning the latino vote, ted cruz winning the latino vote, and that is core conservative values and principles transcend racial lines. core conservative principles resonate with angelos, hispanics, african-americans, asianing, with every demographic group. they want hope, promise, more jobs and economic opportunity. >> do you think donald trump should decry the racist and white supremacists that are out there campaigning for him? >> that's up to him. i don't know what the message is, but i think that ted cruz is going to run a very positive campaign, a campaign that's focused on the issues, a campaign that will connect with america and ensure that the future of america is far more promising than what we've seen under the obama administration. >> you just talked about how you won the latino vote here in texas, how ted cruz won the latino vote here in texas.
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"the washington post" has a poll out today indicating that 8 out of 10 latino voters nationwide have a negative view of donald trump. can you win the white house, your party, if he is the nominee? >> i'm not a pundit and i'm not an expert on the polls. i do know ted cruz and i know that ted cruz can win the white house in november and that's why i'm supporting him. he's the right guy who can galvanize hispanics, angelos, asians, african-americans, all demographic groups in the united states because he stands for the core conservative principles that will put america on the right pathway. >> governor abbott, thank you for joining us. i hope you enjoy the debate tonight. >> thank you. tonight it's their last best chance. how to senators rubio and cruz stop the trump train before it steam rolls through super tuesday. that's next.
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welcome back to "the lead." we are live from houston texas where cnn will host the last republican debate before super tuesday. you're looking at live pictures
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of dr. ben carson. he's in the cnn spin room talking to reporters, talking to our own sara murray, getting a little predebate spin, i guess, of his own. we have a little bit more than four hours until tonight's showdown. let's talk strategy with amanda carpenter. she's a conservative writer and was communications director for senator ted cruz. also with me republican strategist kevin madden. thanks to both of you for joining me. so a simple question, i'll start with you. it's the same question for you, kevin, afterwards. can trump be stopped and what is an effective way to do so if you think he needs to be stopped? >> of course. this is the race where anything can happen, as we've seen before. debates have consequences. they can change outcomes. with that said, it's going to be hard to do. i think it comes down to making it a character attack. as we've seen in previous debates, donald trump is actually kind of timid. he'll lay back, let the others duke it out and go to twitter later on that night.
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i think there's a chance someone can get under his skin with a type of question and even in the last cnn town hall anderson cooper was able to ask him about his previous statements about the iraq war and he didn't handle it that well. i think donald trump can be exploited in this environment. it's very hard to make a moment and both ted cruz and marco rubio will bow trying very hard to do that. >> you think a character attack is the way to do it? >> i think that is where he's i think what's what gives people the most worry about him. when i talk with my republican friends, the thing that comes up again and again is i don't want to tell my children i voted for donald trump. there is a guilt factor. people are worried about what he would be as a role model for th country. we'll see if somebody goes there. >> the hard part about that is doing it in a debate. i think that's better done with the infrastructure of a campaign ads, that type of thing. >> surrogates. >> i think in a debate, the one thing donald trump has been bad about is offering the specifics and filling in any of the
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details. so these campaigns have to continue to press him or at least expose the fact that when donald trump talks in very big powerful rhetoric, there is no -- there are no details behind any of it. i think if holding him accountable to that will begin to expose him on that vulnerability that he has. >> let's talk about what democrats might do with donald trump in a way that republicans have not been willing. buzzfeed's andrews kaczynski spent hours and hours listening to old interviews with donald trump. he came up with a few choice comments. let's roll some of that audio. >> because i like kids. i won't do anything to take care of them. i'll supply the funds and she'll take care of the kids. it's not like i'm going to be walking the kids down central park. >> what is the most outrageous offer you ever got. >> levels of beauty you wouldn't believe. some incredible beautiful women will walk up and flip their top
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and they'll flip their panties. >> there's more than that. that is what was deemed safe to air on cnn. democrats seem very excited about using some of this to target at women voters, kevin. >> here's the thing. it is stunning to me that we know that these type of tapes have been out there. any really routine opposition research should have exposed that. and the campaigns that are running against donald trump in a primary should have had that and they should have made -- that was the time to make what amanda alluded to before, open donald trump's character to questions from the public. at the heart of voting for a presidential candidate is, is this somebody that i can trust, is this somebody who understands the problems of somebody like me, is this someone that i want to leave to protect my family. when you have that type of rhetoric, that really does expose that candidate to losing on those type of questions. >> and what do you think? you're a republican woman. would that have been effective
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in primaries? could it still be? >> when he started making comments about megyn kelly, i always thought since he came on the scene as a presidential candidate that his attitude towards women would make it very easy for hillary clinton to exploit and then become president. but listen, there's a lot of material out there. you know, people talk about an october surprise. republicans need a march 1st surprise in this week. i think he has a long record of things out there. it could happen in this environment. there may be more. thank god somebody is doing the work. >> one second, kevin. nothing he has said or done that people, no offense, like you thought would hurt him has hurt him. if anything, he has gotten stronger and stronger. >> because at the outset of this campaign, he was able to really build a strong connection on populist economic messages and things like immigration and national security. not by offering details, by offering bold declarative statements on what he would potentially do as president. during that time, nobody
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attacked him on some of these vulnerabilities. remember, all the other campaigns deployed hope as a strategy and said let him self-destruct. front-runners don't fall on their own, they have to be tripped up by other campaigns and that has been absent for six months. that's why he is pretty well dug in. this is a last-ditch effort and it may not work but think about it, any of these other campaigns had that type of research dropped on them with an interview that they had done with howard stern using that type of language, they would have been disqualified from the beginning because the media and other campaigns would have attacked them on it. >> let me reiterate, that was some of the stuff in the stern files. >> what you could play on television. >> kevin, amanda, thank you so much. appreciate it. just as the republican establishment is beginning to line up behind marco rubio, a new poll shows trouble for the florida senator. could donald trump beat him in his own state? that's next.
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welcome back to "the lead." i'm jake tapper coming to you live from the lone star state where no one is messing with texas. no one is messing with you, texas. you're looking at florida senator marco rubio, he is arriving to the debate hall moments ago. let's bring in one of senator rubio's biggest supporters, former presidential candidate, louisiana governor bobby jindal. he's joining me on the phone. governor jindal, thanks so much for joining us. at an event yesterday senator rubio called out donald trump by name, something he's been
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reluctant to do in the past. you have experienced attacking trump but it didn't work. it didn't work for you, it didn't work for rick perry, it didn't work for lindsey graham, it didn't work for jeb bush. is there a way to go after your front-runner that didn't work? >> jake, first off, thank you for having me. i think with the unfortunate death of justice scalia, voters are realizing just how important this election is. the court is divided on issues like religious liberty, second amendment rights, the sanctity of human life. the next supreme court justice i think as voters realize how important this election is, rubio will do better and trump will do worse. >> but, governor, that's what people who supported cruz and jeb bush and rubio and others said after the attacks in france. now finally the electorate will get serious. i don't know that the death of justice scalia is going to change anything. >> well, look, i think rubio projects a positive image for conservatives. he is forward-looking. he can unify the party, he can
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attract voters across party lines, across demographic lines. i think voters know it's important we win. i think there are a lot of voters that are supporting trump as a protest vote. i think they understand as a consequence as the stakes get higher and we get closer to this actual election, i think more and more voters are taking a second look at rubio. i think he can do well across the country. i think donald trump has a ceiling. certainly he's got some support but i think a majority of republican primary voters have still said they don't support donald trump and head-to-head rubio beats him so i think rubio will continue to grow his vote share. i don't think trump can do that. in part because rubio is optimistic, he's a conservative. he's not saying no to obama, he's offering serious solutions. i know trump channels people's anger and that's great but he doesn't take the next step and say this is how we're going to fix our economy, this is how we're going to fix our foreign policy and shrink the government spending and borrowing. marco rubio is doing that. >> governor, that's the same
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critique that people have had of donald trump since last summer. the latest quinnipiac poll in florida finds donald trump 16 points ahead of marco rubio in his own home state. do you agree that if rubio can't win florida that he should drop out? >> no. first of all, look, these polls -- scott walker was going to be our nominee if you listen to these polls. jeb bush was inevitable if you listen to these polls. donald trump was not even on the radar screen if you listen to these polls. polls don't win elections, voters decide elections. there's no one state that will decide this nomination. we've had four early states vote, those are important states, but 46 more states, the district of columbia and there's a lot of campaigning left to go. this is going to be a marathon, not a sprint. secondly, i would say this. i think that as we move forward, as voters begin to examine their records, they'll see that donald trump is not really a conservative. yeah, he channels that anger very well but he's been for the government taking our health care and subsidizing every
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american's health care. he has not been a conservative consistently either during this campaign or before this campaign. i think as voters take a closer look at their records, more and more are switching to rubio. you saw some trump voters leave him in iowa and i think they'll do that across the country. as more -- as we get closer to this election and as the stakes get higher and higher, i think rubio does well. look, you look at education plans and health care plans, rubio is not just saying no to obama, he's offering specific, conservative solutions that grow our economy, shrink the government. donald trump is not doing that. >> the optimism of louisiana governor bobby jindal. thank you so much for talking to us, governor. appreciate it. coming up next, the last republican presidential nominee attacking donald trump, warning of a bombshell in his taxes. will trump release his taxes? that's next. ( melodic, calm music )
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i declare, i'm not going to pay for that [ bleep ] wall. he should pay for it. he's got the money. >> that was former mexican president vicente fox responding to donald trump's claim that he will build a wall and get mexico to pay for the wall along the border with the united states. the republican front-runner arriving here at the debate hall in houston earlier today. welcome back to "the lead." i'm jake tapper coming to you live from houston. let's bring in the first sitting member of congress to endorse donald trump, congressman chris collins, republican of new york. congressman, thanks so much for being here. >> jake, happy to be with you today.
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>> so you support mr. trump. here is a former world leader reacting to the comments on the campaign trail. do you believe donald trump will be an effective leader on the world stage? >> jake, you know, tonight i think what we're going to see with mr. trump, you're going to see the only chief executive on the stage, the only man who's ever signed the front of a paycheck on the stage, someone who spent four decades negotiating in the private sector and that makes him the perfect individual to be the president as he sits down with world leaders. he's not going to have his you know what kicked as president obama has. when obama went to cuba and found out they had one of our hellfire missiles, he went, oh, would you please give it back. that's not how you negotiate. look at the iranian nuclear deal where they're self-inspecting their own facilities. this has been a disaster. donald trump is a skilled negotiator. he's not going to let putin, he's not going to let the ayatoll ayatollah, the folks in north
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korea or iran get the upper hand. we are the superpower. donald trump knows that. donald trump is going to represent america on the world stage with the backing of the american people. >> a lot of democrats are gleeful today because buzzfeed made a collection of some of the racier things donald trump has said about women on the howard stern show. i'd like you to take a quick listen. >> a person who's flat-chested is very hard to be a 10, okay? i mean it has to be extraordinary. >> i saw a woman who was totally beautiful. >> right. >> she was angry that so many men were calling her. how dare they call me, it's terrible. they're all looking at my breasts. so she had a major breast reduction. the good news, nobody calls her anymore. and the bad news, nobody even looks. >> are you at all concerned about democrats using those tapes to hurt the republican
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party in november, assuming trump gets the nomination? >> oh, you know, jake, it's going to be a dirty election, you know that, they all are. but i can tell you the republican response is anyone but hillary. i don't know that hillary would even have the audacity to take donald trump on on his stance with women, given her stance with monica lewinsky and her husband and all of the past misdeeds of bill clinton as she basically stood by her husband and all of his actions and in fact demonized the very victims of his actions. i don't think hillary clinton would even then be as disingenuous to suggest she's going to go after bill. again, anyone but hillary. the republican party is very quick low after super tuesday going to unite behind donald trump as our next president. a chief executive who's going to bring jobs back from china to the united states. he's going to stand strong against iran, north korea, russia. he's going to fight isis and
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you're going to see the best cabinet ever assembled by a president in the history of this country with only the best and brightest as the treasury secretary, secretary of state and on and on. donald trump is going to listen. that's what private sector people do. i think as you're going to see tonight, there's going to be one person standing out on that stage and that is the next president of the united states, donald trump. >> congressman, hillary clinton denies that she attacked any of the women who were accusers of bill clinton. but let me just ask you one other quick question because we're running out of time. mitt romney today calling for donald trump to release some of his recent tax returns. don't voters, republican voters have a right to know and see the returns of trump, rubio, cruz, just to make sure that the candidates are as vetted as possible, to make sure there's nothing in there that could hurt the republican nominee in november? >> well, it will be up to donald
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trump whether he releases tax returns or not. that's a private matter. i can tell you that someone myself with very complex business dealings, there's certain things in tax returns that you don't want to release because you don't want your partners in different enterprises to be, if you will, having their financials exposed. i have business partners that if i reported every detail in my tax returns, i'd be basically releasing my business partners' incomes, which is not fair to them in a privacy situation. so there are laws. i'm sure mr. trump is going to follow all the laws and disclosures, but it will be up to him. and what is his different business interests to decide whether he's going to release those details and, again, potentially expose business partners in violation of their privacy. that's the difference in a private sector guy like donald trump and career politicians like mr. rubio and mr. cruz who don't have these outside business interests. it's the pros and cons of having
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a chief executive doing what they're doing. so that's up to mr. trump to decide what he'll do on the tax return front. >> okay. all right. new york republican congressman chris collins, a big supporter of donald trump as you just heard. thanks for joining us. >> happy to be with you, jake. on the democratic side, a huge primary just two days away in south carolina. but has bernie sanders already given up on the palmetto state? plus, is the republican national committee plotting a plan to try to control donald trump? we will ask the chairman of the rnc coming up.
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welcome back. you can see the debate prep going on right behind me. we have more on our politics lead right now. it's just two days before democratic voters make their pick in south carolina and the two candidates are taking two very different approaches. while hillary clinton is focusing her efforts in south carolina today, bernie sanders is absent. he is in ohio and going to
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illinois and michigan instead, raising questions that maybe senator sanders could be giving up in south carolina. hillary and bill clinton are not. they're holding a combined seven campaign stops in south carolina just today, despite a substantial lead in the polls there. cnn's jeff zeleny is in south carolina and filed this report. >> reporter: not one clinton -- >> thank you very much. >> reporter: -- but two, spanning out across south carolina today, working for a big win in saturday's primary, hoping to wrap up the fight with bernie sanders. clinton called out republicans for trying to repeal obamacare. >> every one of those republican presidential candidates, they have insurance and it takes a lot of gall for them to say, well, we don't need that affordable care act. >> reporter: she also warned that sanders health care for all plan would threaten president obama's signature achievement. >> we can't go back and throw our country into a contentious debate, which is what my esteemed pro opponent, senator
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sanders has proposed. >> reporter: sanders was rallying voters in ohio. >> ohio, as you know, is one of the important political states in this country. you're having a primary here on march 15th. with your help, we can win this primary. >> reporter: he also visited michigan, appearing at a community forum in flint for residents contending with the city's poisonous drinking water. >> if we are looking at children being poisoned and perhaps suffering irreversible brain damage, if that is not an emergency, i just don't know what an emergency is. >> reporter: it's a sign sanders is looking ahead to march, when a large share of the party's delegates will be awarded. the clintons are taking it one state at a time. the former president urged democrats to look beyond any criticism the primary has stirred up about his wife. >> you can't pay any attention to all these terrible things they say about her. >> reporter: she came face-to-face with controversy
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wednesday night. black lives matter activist ashley williams asked clinton to apologize for the high incarceration rate for black americans. >> we have somebody saying we are -- okay, we'll talk about it. >> reporter: it was a reference to this speech clinton gave as first lady. >> they are not just gangs of kids anymore, they are often the kinds of kids called super predators, no conscience, no empathy. we can talk about why they ended up that way but first we have to bring them to heel. >> reporter: but clinton has disavowed much of the 1994 crime bill and talks about ending systematic racism. >> we've got work to do to knock down those barriers and that includes taking on systemic racism which is still a problem in america. it includes reforming the criminal justice system. it includes providing alternatives to jail and prison.
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>> reporter: of course bernie sanders, jake, also voted for that 1994 crime bill. he was actually in congress. but that uncomfortable moment last night was followed up by i'm told a donor who was in the room asked her to actually comment on that, why she said those words bring them to heel. jake, i'm told she apologized for that. she has not talked about it at all today in south carolina. you can see people lining up behind me here for her fourth event of the day. no doubt about it, she has a commanding lead here in this primary on saturday. jake? >> jeff zeleny, thanks. let's bring in ba carry seka baa supporter of hillary clinton. this language has upset a lot of people in the black lives matter movement and it's one of the reasons that former naacp leader ben jealous cited when he announced support for bernie sanders. >> i'm concerned with the language as well. even when you look at the
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context of it when she's talking about cartels and gangs, it's words that shouldn't be used. hillary clinton acknowledged that. she actually apologized for using that language. the mass incarceration bill that we talk about, the crime bill of 1994 that we talk about, the only person in this race who had a vote at that time was bernie sanders. and i want to hold hillary clinton accountable as well, but if we're going to hold hillary clinton accountable, we have to do so with the same lens with bernie sanders. and that's all we're asking for. and then i'm from denmark, south carolina. three stoplights and a blinking light where we have back-breaking generational poverty. you couple with that mass incarceration and environmental injustices, i need someon that's going to address those issues. and that is what hillary clinton is talking about today in south carolina. >> we'll hear lots more about this issue in the days and weeks to come. a bold move to prevent trump to not -- one drops out of the race and the other join the other's ticket. are they considering it?
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introducing nascar on xfinity x1, get live race stats right on your tv. change the way you experience nascar with xfinity x1. welcome back to "the lead." i'm jake tapper coming to you live from houston where right behind me five republican presidential candidates will face off at tonight's cnn republican presidential debate. we are fewer than four hours away from the big texas-style showdown with fewer candidates sharing the same stage. each candidate will get more time. and it's guaranteed it will be a little more heated than ever as we head toward super tuesday. let's bring in the chairman of committee, mr. reince priebus. thank you for joining me.
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>> happy to be here. >> the republican field is narrowed down to five. do you think it will get more heated than usual? >> i don't know about more heated but when you have more time to talk about issues and policies, it will give the candidates more time to express the detail of what they were talking about. when we had 10 and 11 people on the stage, very difficult. but now you're getting to the place where there are few people on the stage and we can have a real conversation about what people's plans are, what these candidates' plans are for this country. >> the 2012 republican nominee, mitt romney, calling for all of the candidates, not just donald trump, but all of them to release at least a couple years of past tax returns so in case there's anything out there, republican voters can see it and weigh in and make their decision instead of waiting until there's a nominee and then there's a bombshell before the general election. >> yeah. >> good idea? decent proposal? >> the candidates eventually are going to have to do this, right? i don't think -- i don't think it's uncommon. but, you know, when they decide
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to do that and what the timing is, you know, it's up to them. whether those decisions are helpful or hurtful to them, those are the campaigns' decisions they need to make. >> but for the fairness of the voters, wouldn't it be better for them to do it while voters are still voting? >> that's up to the campaigns to decide. they gain or suffer based on those decisions. if it's a bad decision to wait, they'll suffer. if it's a good decision to wait, then they'll benefit from the decision. that's the truth. >> so politico has a report saying you're considering holding back resources from the republican party to possibly, quote, discipline donald trump. this is politico's report. >> politico is the key word in the whole thing. >> dangling access to these resources, priebus thinks he can steer trump toward policy wide policy goals and away from the rhetoric republican officials see as divisive and dangerous. >> actually i read the headline and i didn't even read the whole thing. >> is it true? >> well, when he was quoted in the article, i never actually
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spoke to the reporter. i thought that was a little odd. >> so none of it is true? >> it's ridiculous. it's ridiculous. there's nothing about it that's true. but that -- beside the point, though, put that article aside for a second. i think it's important for people to realize what's happening here. these folks are competing to join our party. we have a nomination contest for the republican party. and our party is going to choose someone to join our party. we're not joining a candidate, they're competing to join us and that's what happens in a nomination process. so they're joining the party that's built up the resources, the mechanics, the ground game that they're going to need in order to win in november. so it's a team effort ultimately when it's all done. >> speaking of winning in november, after the 2012 loss you issued what became known as the autopsy about what went wrong. one of the conclusions was that the republican party needed to do more outreach and be more
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welcoming to latinos, women, other groups. >> yeah, that's right. >> can your party win with a nominee who has an 80% disapproval rating among latinos? >> well, obviously you have to improve. you know, one of the things that's important to remember about that growth and opportunity report as far as our role in that report is that woe needed as a party to be more active in black and hispanic and asian communities. we did. we did in an unprecedented way. i think people are being objective and can see that the rnc is a couple times bigger than the dnc. we've put our money where our mouth is when it comes to engagement -- >> and yet -- >> look, these are things that candidates have to deal with and tone matters. sometimes our mothers of told us it's not sometimes what you say, it's how you say it, but it's also what you say. so tone matters. dignity matters. and engagement matters. all that together, i think we
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can do much better. we did much better in 2014 than we did in 2012. >> good luck. hope it's a great debate tonight. good to see you as always. watch the last republican debate before super tuesday only here on cnn, 8:30 p.m. eastern. that's it for "the lead." i am jake tapper. i turn you over to chris cuomo and anderson cooper, who are manning "the situation room" for wolf today who is preparing for the debate. see you later on tonight. happening now, gop showdown. the republican presidential candidates just hours away from a pivotal debate here on cnn. extremely high stakes for everyone not named donald trump. on the attack, trump's closest rivals, but talking about him is one thing. saying it to him on the stage quite another. so how far will they go when it