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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Live Post-Debate Special Coverage. Aired 12-1a ET

Aired December 15, 2015 - 23:59   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[00:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: 9 p.m. here in Las Vegas; the CNN Republican Debate now in the books. Panelist Hugh Hewitt called this the Christmas Dinner Debate because it will be what GOP voters talk about over their holiday meals. Well, tonight, along with my colleague Jake Tapper, we are starting early talking about what just transpired on the stage. Sadly we are not eating any Christmas meals here tonight.

Speaking of the candidates who made it happen, in just a moment we'll talk to Dr. Ben Carson who joins us; but, first, some of the key moments from tonight:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. JEB BUSH, R-FL, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Two months ago Donald Trump said that ISIS is not our fight, just two months ago. He said that -

DONALD TRUMP, R-NY, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Never said that.

BUSH: -- Hillary Clinton would be a great negotiator with Iran, and he gets his foreign policy experience from the shows.

TRUMP: Oh, come on.

BUSH: That is not a serious kind of candidate. We need someone that thinks this through, that can lead our country to safety and security.

HUGH HEWITT, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST, SALEM RADIO NETWORK: Mr. Trump?

TRUMP: Look, the problem is we toughness. Honestly, I think Jeb is a very nice person. He's a very nice person, but we need tough people. We need toughness. We need intelligence and we need tough. Jeb said when they come across the southern border they come as an act of love.

BUSH: You said on September 30th that ISIS was not a factor -

TRUMP: Am I talking or are you talking, Jeb?

BUSH: I'm talking right now. I'm talking.

TRUMP: You can go back. You can go back.

BUSH: I'm talking.

TRUMP: You interrupted me, Jeb. Are you going to apologize, Jeb? No. Am I allowed to finish?

HEWITT: Yes, one at a time. Go ahead -

TRUMP: Excuse me, am I allowed to finish?

HEWITT: Go ahead, Mr. Trump.

BUSH: A little of your own medicine there.

TRUMP: I know you're trying to build up your energy, Jeb, but it's not working.

HEWITT: Gov. Bush, please, one at a time.

[LAUGHTER}

TRUMP: Look, when Jeb comes out and he talks about the border, and I saw it and I was witness to it, and so was everyone else, and I was standing there, they come across as an act of love, he's saying the same thing right now with radical Islam; and we can't have that in our country. It just won't work. We need strength.

HEWITT: Governor Bush?

BUSH: Donald, you're not going to be able to insult your way to the presidency; that's not going to happen, and I do have the strength.

HEWITT: Could you order air strikes that would kill innocent children by not the scores but the hundreds and the thousands? Could you wage war as a commander in chief?

DR. BEN CARSON, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, interestingly enough, you should see the eyes of some of those children when I say to them we're going to have to open your head up and take out this tumor. They're not happy about it, believe me, and they don't like me very much at that point, but later on they love me. Sometimes you -- I sound like him.

[LAUGHTER]

CARSON: Later on, you know, later on they really realize what's going on. And by the same token, you have to be able to look at the big picture and understand that it's actually merciful if you go ahead and finish the job rather than death by a thousand pricks.

HEWITT: So you are okay with the deaths of thousands of innocent children and civilians?

CARSON: It's like -- you got it. You got it.

[BOOING]

HEWITT: Can you be as ruthless as Churchill was in prosecuting the war against the Nazis?

CARSON: Ruthless is not necessarily the word I would use but tough, resolute, understanding what the problems are.

SEN. TED CRUZ, R-TX, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Now, we've seen what happened in San Bernardino when you're letting people in when the FBI can't vet them. It puts American citizens at risk and I tell you, if I'm elected president, we will secure the border. We will triple the border patrol. We will build a wall that works and I'll get Donald Trump to pay for it.

TRUMP: I'll build it.

SEN. RAND PAUL, R-KY, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: So when you ask yourself, whoever you are that think you're going to support Donald Trump, think do you believe in the Constitution? Are you going to change the Constitution?

DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Mr. Trump?

TRUMP: So they can kill us but we can't kill them? That's what you're saying; and, as far as the internet is concerned, I'm not talking about closing the internet. I'm talking about parts of Syria, parts of Iraq where ISIS is, spotting it. Now, you could close it. What I like even better than that is getting our smartest and getting our best to infiltrate their internet so that we know exactly where they're going, exactly where they're going to be. I like that better but we have to -- who would be -- I just can't imagine somebody booing. These are people that want to kill us, folks, and you're objecting to us infiltrating their conversations? I don't think so. I don't think so.

BASH: Senator Paul?

HEWITT: Are you ready to reassure Republicans you will run and [00:05:00] abide by the decision of the Republicans?

TRUMP: I really am. I'll be honest, I really am. I mean, people have been putting to (inaudible). I really am. I could -

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

HEWITT: Dr. Carson, let me ask you -

TRUMP: I -- excuse me, let me -- can I just finish with my --

HEWITT: Oh, please.

TRUMP: I've gained great respect for the Republican leadership. I've gained great respect for many, and I'm going to even say all, in different forms, for the people on the debate, in different forms, but I have great respect for the people I've met through this process. I've never done this process before. I've never been a politician. I mean, for the last six months I've been a politician, but I will tell you I am totally committed to the Republican Party.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Some of the highlights from tonight's debate. I'm joined now by Dr. Ben Carson, who obviously was on the stage tonight. Dr. Carson thanks for joining us. How do you think you did?

CARSON: I think I did very well. I was very pleased with the debate because it gave me an opportunity to dispel the myth that I

don't know anything about foreign policy. I would have loved to have spoken more about it but at least I had an opportunity to show that.

COOPER: Was there anything that surprised you on that stage tonight, either that you heard other people say, that -- or that you heard from between some of these candidates?

CARSON: It was pretty much what I expected to see. I thought some of the exchanges between the candidates were a little bit unnecessary, but, you know, I guess people get caught up in emotion and they go further than they had planned on going.

COOPER: To those who, you know, think you're a nice guy, an incredibly accomplished guy, but may not have, as Hugh Hewitt pointed out, the toughness to make command and control decisions in a tough war, what do you say? Do you think (a) you put those, any concerns that people may have to rest tonight?

CARSON: Well, I would hope so; and I hope people recognize that toughness is not defined by the decibels with which you say something. Toughness is defined by what you're able to accomplish when you put your mind to doing something. That's what you really should look at. You should look at the kinds of things that a person has been able to accomplish. That will tell you a lot about how tough they are.

COOPER: You have taken a dip in the polls in the last couple of weeks. What do you attribute that to?

CARSON: The terrorist attacks in Paris and in San Bernardino and the narrative that I'm not tough and that I don't know anything about foreign policy. The good thing is that it's a marathon, not a sprint so there's time to repair that and to change that narrative, just by continuing to speak up about these issues and let people actually hear what I'm saying and not what people said that I said.

COOPER: You were also asked tonight about -- after Donald Trump said that he is pledging not to leave the Republican Party, not run as an Independent, you were asked as well. Just to be clear on your answer, you said when you talked about possibly leaving it was predicated on past subterfuge which you believe took place in the GOP. You've had a conversation with Reince Priebus. Are you saying categorically tonight that you would support whoever the nominee is?

CARSON: Yes, as long as there's no back room deals and an attempt to thwart the will of the people, absolutely.

COOPER: Dr. Ben Carson, I know it's been a long day. I appreciate you taking the time tonight. I hope your cold gets better, by the way. I heard you coughing a little bit. I hope you get better. CARSON: Thank you. Appreciate it, Anderson.

COOPER: All right, Dr. Carson. Let's go back to Jake; Jake?

JAKE TAPPER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Thanks, Anderson. With me here in the "Crows Nest", CNN's Senior Washington Correspondent, Jeff Zeleny; Senior Political Reporter Nia Malika Henderson; and I'm also joined by Chief National Correspondent John King; Senior Political Commentator and former top Obama Advisor David Axelrod; and, Michael Smirconish, host of CNN's Smerconish, as well as the Michael Smirconish Program on Sirius XM satellite radio.

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And he makes it.

TAPPER: And the breakfast cereal, Smirconish.

SMIRCONISH: I thought it was a vitamin.

TAPPER: And the vitamin Smirconish. Jeff, let me start with you. So what really - what struck you? You cover these guys on the campaign trail. Was there anything that surprised you this evening?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I don't think there were any clear breakout winners but there were losers, obviously, and I think we're down to five people who have a plausible, possible path to this nomination: Jeb Bush, Donald Trump, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz and Chris Christie. All of them are not equal, of course, but we need to see this Cruz-Rubio fight play out a little bit more. There are some real distinctions happening [00:10:00] there and immigration has -- somehow Marco Rubio has been able to escape this for most of this campaign year, shocking to me actually. We're not sure if it's already baked in, some conservatives who are opposed to his immigration views or if this is still going to play out; so that's something to keep an eye on. But Chris Christie, you know --

TAPPER: Hold the phone. I want to play some of the Cruz-Rubio back and forth that you were just referring to.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CRUZ: The front line with ISIS isn't just in Iraq and Syria. It's also in Kennedy Airport and the Rio Grande. Border security is national security. You know, one of the most troubling aspects of the Rubio-Schumer Gang of Eight Bill was that it gave President Obama blanket authority to admit refugees, including Syrian refugees, without mandating any background checks whatsoever; now, we've seen what happened in San Bernardino. When you're letting people in, when the FBI can't vet them, it puts American citizens at risk.

RUBIO: As far as Ted's record, I'm always puzzled by his attack on this issue. Ted, you support legalizing people who are in this country illegally. Ted Cruz supported a 500-percent increase in the number of H1V visas, the guest workers that are allowed into this country; and Ted supports doubling the number of green cards.

CRUZ: I understand that Marco wants to raise confusion. It is not accurate, what he just said, that I supported legalization. Indeed, I led the fight against his legalization and amnesty bill. There was one commentator that put it this way, that for Marco to suggest our record is the same it's like suggesting the fireman and the arsonist have the same record because they're both at the scene of the fire.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Nia Malika, you heard the Professor Zeleny just now say that there are five candidates with a path to the nomination. I noticed Ben Carson was not one of them, but he did add Jeb Bush and Chris Christie to the list. How do you think Bush did tonight?

NIA MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I think in some ways Jeb Bush -- it might be too much to say that he was reborn, but I think he made the case that he was back in to this fight. I was talking to people back in New Hampshire, sort of texting back and forth with them, and they were very much looking for Jeb to have a good debate. They like the fact that he took on Trump and he took him on consistently. They also mentioned they feel Rubio should take Trump on; he, of course, doing the Cruz strategy, Rubio is, by avoiding Trump. It seems to me that Bush is obviously making a different strategy, that the Establishment wants to see somebody chop Trump down to size and if, in the General, he's the person that emerges and does that, it will be to his benefit.

TAPPER: Although to be that non-Trump, the anti-Trump, John, is it that you're the most forceful one or just that you're the one that has the best chance of beating him?

JOHN KING, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Look, we are about to move into you have to beat him in a state. We're about to move from this national race, which Trump has dominated, is actually growing his lead as the year ends and we move into the election year, and we're days away from that. It's pretty amazing. Iowa votes in 48 days.

Trump's whole premise is winning. Right now Cruz and Trump are locked in a dead heat, or maybe Cruz advantage in Iowa. Most people on the ground there think Cruz is going to win Iowa. Then you move to New Hampshire where Trump is ahead, that is Christie's bet. That is Bush's bet. That is Kasich's bet and a lot of the Establishment that started with Bush is now saying Rubio is going to be our guy. He's going to be our Establishment horse against the Outsider, Trump and the Evangelical, Cruz. Well, okay, that's fine and clearly he's a good debater. A lot of people think, and we've talked about this, he's the best athlete on the field. The question is, is he ready for the major leagues? You've got to win somewhere. You've got to win somewhere and he's not winning anywhere.

DAVID AXELROD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We should also point out that New Hampshire is much different than Iowa in the sense that it's a primary and it's an open primary. So Independent voters can participate --

TAPPER: The biggest voting block in New Hampshire are the Independent voters.

AXELROD: -- and it gives a better chance, ostensibly, to a center right establishment candidate. There's just a glut of them, and the endorsement of the Manchester Union leader, of Chris Christie, has given him some energy. I thought he did well tonight. So Jeb Bush did have a more energetic performance tonight but the question is, is it enough? I suspect maybe not.

KING: Only one of those four may survive New Hampshire.

TAPPER: Yes, no, it's incredible; they're going to start to drop out.

Michael, I was talking to a Pennsylvania Republican -- you and I are both Philly boys -- a Pennsylvania Republican earlier today and he was praying for a Chris Christie win in New Hampshire, praying, because he thinks it is will help the senator, the incumbent Republican Senator, Pat Toomey, --

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Pat Toomey, sure.

TAPPER: -- keep his seat. This is a concern playing out in New Hampshire, with Kelly Ayotte, the Republican incumbent; Rob Portman in Ohio. They want somebody that the Republican Establishment wants to help them keep those Senate seats.

SMERCONISH: Funny you should bring it up because on Friday the Pennsylvania Society, which is actually a group of Pennsylvanians who go to New York for a political confab every year, gathered. Donald Trump was the headliner for a $1,000.00 per person fund-raising event. Pat Toomey, although he was in New York City for [00:15:00] the weekend, he had a scheduling conflict and was not able to make the event. So it proves your -- they don't want to be seen on the same stage. They're very concerned about the down ballot issues if Donald Trump is the nominee.

TAPPER: It's a serious concern. Let's check in with Gary Tuchman now. He spent the evening with about 150 Republican voters in gorgeous South Carolina, Charleston I believe. They watched the debates in a movie theater in Mount Pleasant, not far from Charleston. Gary?

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Jake, if you want to maximize the fun while watching a debate, do it in a movie theater like we've done. Pizza, popcorn, politics, great combination.

[CHEERS]

TUCHMAN: The Charleston County South Carolina Republican Party invited us to this viewing party here today and you can see, people here seemed to have a good time. 150 people were inside this theater. Some of the people have gone home to bed, but these folks have stuck around.

I want to ask you folks a question. I need quiet for a second. Quiet for a second, here's my question. You can cheer now when I answer this: how many of you thought this debate was good for the Republican Party?

[CHEERING and APPLAUSE] TUCHMAN: So you thought your candidates did well? They took a straw poll, this isn't a scientific survey, but there were 138 people voting. I will tell you that the winner, number one, in the straw poll vote, who did the best in this debate according to this group here, in Charleston, South Carolina was Ted Cruz, 31 votes; number two was Ben Carson, 24 votes; John Kasich came in third with 22; Donald Trump fourth with 18; Marco Rubio fifth with 16; Rand Paul with 10 votes, coming in seventh; Carly Fiorina with eight; and the last two were Jeb Bush with three, and those three aren't here anymore; and Chris Christie with two.

Now, I want to talk with some of the Ted Cruz supporters, who came in first among this group. This lady, right here, what is your name?

MARIN VENTURA, POLL PARTICIPANT, SOUTH CAROLINA: Marin Ventura.

TUCHMAN: Tell me why you thought Ted Cruz did so well in this debate.

VENTURA: I thought he was poised. He was knowledgeable and he -

TUCHMAN: You can look at me when you talk.

VENTURA: All right.

TUCHMAN: You can look at me.

VENTURA: He eviscerated -

TUCHMAN: Are you afraid of me by the way?

VENTURA: No, the camera -- and he eviscerated Rubio on immigration.

TUCHMAN: You bring up a good point. I think the Rubio voters, and there's a couple over here may not agree with you, but there was a lot of confrontations between Cruz and Rubio. What did you think of the way Marco Rubio did today?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I thought Rubio did very well and I think he's got the message for the future of the Republican Party.

TUCHMAN: And Ben Carson came in second among this group. These two people supported Ben Carson. I'm going to stand behind you. Why did you like the job he did?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, he was wonderful. He was very concise. He was very, just, to the point and succinct. Very clear.

TUCHMAN: And Donald Trump, who supported Donald Trump here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right here! Right here!

TUCHMAN: This guy right here. Okay, what did you think of -- Trump came in fourth place in the straw poll here, which isn't as good as he would have like to have done, Donald Trump here in Charleston, South Carolina. This is a crucial state, the third presidential contest, after Iowa and New Hampshire, but this state, the population is so representative of the country it's crucial. Why do you think Trump did well?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think Trump did terrific because he's very decisive. He knows what he wants to do and he has a vision of getting great people in office to work with him to get things done. I think he'll make a great president. And I think all of his experience dealing with government and all of his businesses makes him uniquely qualified and he has a clear vision of what he wants to do.

TUCHMAN: You could be his campaign manager in South Carolina, this guy, I'll tell you. I wish I could talk to all of you. Thank you for joining us today. You can see, this is an interesting slice of life, the political life, here in South Carolina, which they call Charleston, by the way. The people here say it's the friendliest city in America, right?

[CHEERING]

TUCHMAN: Anderson, back to you.

COOPER: No doubt about it. Gary, thanks; and thanks to everybody who waited around for us in that theater; appreciate it. A lot more to talk about tonight; more candidates to hear from as well as the Chairman of the Republican Party that, at times, has seemed to be struggling with how to deal with Donald Trump, with the Donald Trump phenomenon as well. We'll be right back.

[00:20]

COOPER: One of the big questions leading up to tonight's CNN Debate here in Las Vegas, of course, is how would be Republican Party deal with Donald Trump? Reports began surfacing that party leaders have been strategizing about how they might stop him and were even exploring the possibility of a brokered convention. CNN's Sara Murray has just spoken with Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus. She joins us now. Sara, what do you have to say?

SARA MURRAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, this has been the year of a lot of handwringing for GOP leaders. They've seen a guy leading their party who they weren't even sure was going to commit to running as a Republican and not as an Independent. I spoke with RNC Chairman, Reince Priebus, about that and the possibility of a brokered convention. Take a listen to what he had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MURRAY: I just wanted to know how you think this debate went, if you feel we got into some of the issues that are really on top of American's minds right now, in the wake of the Paris terrorist attacks and in the wake of San Bernardino?

REINCE PRIEBUS, CHAIRMAN, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE: Yes; no, I thought CNN did a great job tonight. It's a tough thing. You've got nine people up there, they're fighting hard. I think Wolf did a very nice job of trying to control the situation, which is not easy. I thought the time distribution was pretty good. It may not have been perfect, but I think it's hard to do and I think they tried to do a really nice job with that. I thought incorporating Hugh and Dana, as much as they did, was great. So I thought overall it was a good night for our party.

MURRAY: Now you saw Trump once again rule out an Independent bid. Is this a big sigh of relief for you or do you just -- are you still always kind of on edge with the possibility that it's Trump. He's very hard to predict?

PRIEBUS: I'm not on edge at all. Not at all, so --

MURRAY: You trust him when he says --

PRIEBUS: I think the media coverage and people running as Independents is laughable; I really do. I find it to be totally silly and an opportunity for the media to fill air time with silly stories. The next president is either going to be a Republican or Democrat and that's it; and every one of these people know it. If they want to be our spokesman, they want to participate in the Republican process, then they have to be aligned with the Republican Party, otherwise they will not be the spokesman or the nominee of our Party. Period.

MURRAY: What about a brokered convention? Is that laughable to you or is that something that you think could actually happen?

PRIEBUS: Look, I think it's highly unlikely and, as I said before, we'll have a nominee by the end of April -- or by the end of March or mid-April, it's nothing different. So I think the only way you ever get to that place is if someone doesn't have enough delegates on the floor. I don't think that's likely but it's not something we never think about. The idea that we never - I mean, you asked the question, everyone asked that question. [00:25:00] Of course we prepare for everything, but I think it's highly, highly unlikely.

MURRAY: Chairman Priebus, thanks so much; appreciate it.

PRIEBUS: All right, thank you.

(END OF VIDEO CLIP)

MURRAY: So, you see, an RNC Chairman who is reassured, who believes that there will not be an independent run; but you did not see him rule out the possibility of a brokered convention. I think that is a reality that more and more Republicans are entertaining because it is such a large field, such a fractured field and the rules are difficult for a Republican to finally cinch the nomination when there are so many Republicans. So very interesting to hear there from the leader of the Republican Party; back to you, Anderson.

COOPER: And very happy, obviously, he is about how things went tonight. Sara Murray, thanks. Here with us tonight, CNN National Security Commentator, also former Republican Congressman, Mike Rogers, Chair of the House Intelligence Committee. Also joining us CNN Political Commentators S. E. Cupp; Patti Solis Doyle and Kevin Madden. S. E. is a Conservative Columnist. Patti Solis Doyle ran Hillary Clinton's 2008 campaign. Kevin is a Republican strategist. Joining us, as well, Trump supporter and former Trump Executive Andy Dean is joining us; and CNN Political Commentator Van Jones, former Senior Adviser to President Obama.

Andy, how do you think the candidates did tonight?

ANDY DEAN, TRUMP SUPPORTER: I think it was a good night. "Drudge Report" did a poll over the past hour, 130,000 people, Trump 37- percent, Ted Cruz 24-percent. I also think the big win for Trump tonight is that there were two fights in the debate. There was Trump versus Jeb Bush, who has been universally rejected by voters, and then there was Rubio versus Cruz and they're highlighting each other's problems. Rubio is highlighting Cruz's problem on surveillance and national security and Cruz is highlighting Rubio's problem on immigration. So I think its lining up to be a good night for Trump.

COOPER: It was interesting. Donald Trump was given the chance to really go after Ted Cruz, you know, in previous days Donald Trump had said he was a little bit of a maniac. Donald Trump really stepping back from that, not going after him in any way, in fact, saying, "I've got to know him over the last couple days, nothing wrong with him, he's a good guy."

DEAN: That's purposeful. Why fight Cruz when Rubio is going to do it for you? Let them go after each other and then Trump's going to ride the wave. We like where he is in Iowa. We like the CNN poll, not the "Des Moines Register" poll, and we think we're going to win Iowa and New Hampshire.

COOPER: Kevin Madden how are you thinking?

KEVIN MADDEN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Like the polls where you're doing good and dislike the polls where --

DEAN: Exactly right, that's the Trump way.

MADDEN: Look, I thought that -- I think that the strategy that Cruz has is actually working pretty well for him, where bear hugging Donald Trump to the point where Donald Trump doesn't feel antagonized and I think that works to Ted Cruz's favor on the debate stage. The fight between Cruz and Rubio though, Rubio has much better command on the issues. I think he controlled the line of scrimmage, to use a sports analogy, but I think if you're a Rubio voter, you're convinced Rubio won tonight; if you're a Cruz voter, you're convinced Cruz won tonight. So I don't stink a whole lot changed, really, other than the atmospherics on the stage tonight.

COOPER: Do you think we're going to be hearing a lot more though about Rubio's position on immigration from Ted Cruz? I mean, that seems like a line that certainly Cruz wants to expose as much as possible.

MADDEN: Absolutely. The Cruz folks believe it's a vulnerability for Rubio. I think there are others in the field that believe the same; but if you talk to the Rubio folks, they also believe that Cruz has a vulnerability there because for many of his strongest supporters, it's new information to them that Ted Cruz at one time supported a pathway to citizenship as part of an immigration reform bill. So that may give them some pause inside the primary. COOPER: Patti, as a Democrat, what did you pay attention to tonight?

DOYLE: Well I actually agree with Andy. I thought Donald Trump, in terms of what he, needing to do what he did, he won. He needed to maintain his lead, go into the Christmas dinner, as Hugh Hewitt liked to say. He needs to maintain that 41-percent and he gave his supporters exactly what do you want to hear. He talked over the top tough when he said "what do you mean, they can kill us but we can't kill them"? He doubled-down on banning Muslims. He doubled-down on mass deportation. And, he also gave a crowd pleaser to his supporters; he bashed CNN for the way they talked.

COOPER: I've got to say, though, he seems more comfortable in the debate format now, and, again, he said this afterward to Chris Cuomo, that he hadn't done this before, he getting kind of used to it. Tonight I thought he seemed to enjoy the process and he seemed a lot more comfortable. He's always relatively comfortable but I thought tonight was probably one of his better debates. S.E., do you think so? You've got a huge frown on your face.

S.E. CUPP, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No, not so much.

COOPER: I should have gone to Andy with that one.

CUPP: Not surprisingly I didn't think it was a great performance. Usually he's kind of a nonfactor in debates. He's definitely a lot better at these rallies. Tonight I didn't think he was a nonfactor. I thought he had a poor performance. He struggled really to explain what he meant by closing down the internet, still not sure what he meant there. I think Marco got him tripped up on what the nuclear triad was. I actually - he got a number of boo's at times and, in particular, during one of Jeb Bush's lines, which was unexpected. So, no, I don't think it was a great performance, but his supporters don't - I mean, they don't care.

[00:30] I do think the debate between Rubio and Cruz was a really good one and they both won. Rubio won when he had to explain his foreign policy and the NSA data collection and Ted Cruz I think won on immigration. I think the point, though, that we're all seeing from these candidates, and Trump is a perfect example, if you need more than 15 seconds to explain your position, it is too granular and that's why someone like Trump is leading when it comes to terrorism; Marco wins on foreign policy, as opposed to Ted Cruz who has to explain this nuance position; and Ted Cruz wins on immigration next to Rubio who has to explain an nuanced position on immigration. This is just not the climate for that.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Here's some of the exchange on Rubio and Cruz on data collection.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MARCO RUBIO, R-FL, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We are now in a time when we need more tools, not less tools; and that tool we lost, the Meta Data Program, was a valuable tool we no longer have at our disposal. DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Senator Cruz?

SEN. TED CRUZ, R-TX, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, I would note that Marco knows what he's saying isn't true. What he knows is that the old program covered 20 to 30-percent of phone numbers to search for terrorists. The new program covers nearly 100-percent. That gives us greater ability to stop acts of terrorism, and he knows that that's the case.

RUBIO: This bill did, however, take away a valuable tool that allowed the National Security Agency and other intelligence agencies to quickly and rapidly access phone record and match them up with other phone records to see who terrorists had been calling because I promise you, the next time there is an attack on this country, the first thing people will want to know is, why didn't we know about it and why didn't we stop it; and the answer better not be because we didn't have access to records or information that would have allowed us to identify these killers before they attacked.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: When you hear the debate, what - who do you think did best on that?

MIKE ROGERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, I think if you're not familiar with all the details of that, I think that's where Chris Christie won a good shot there when he said, "I don't know if your eyes glaze over. It's hard to follow that debate." I don't think if you had a position you looked at that and thought, (a) I got flipped or, (b) I'm not sure I still understand what they were both arguing about. I happened to be intimately involved in that so I think they're both a little bit wrong, candidly, on their position.

(1) There is a program, it's not exactly what it was and, as Senator Cruz says, he was wrong in the sense in that we lose time. So it's not that we can go still do it. We lost a lot of time in the fact that you can't, in an event like what happened in San Bernardino, they would instantaneously be able to get that information. Now it may take hours or days to get that information.

COOPER: So they were both a little bit wrong?

ROGERS: I'm pretty excited, as a national security guy, that we're even having the debate on all of these things. But I will tell you one thing that I saw tonight on CNN's coverage of the event in South Carolina, what that told me, as a political candidate before, is that Ted Cruz has a better ground game. Those things are -- you have ground folks driving people to that event. So this wasn't about somebody walking in, not being a Cruz supporter said I think he won.

COOPER: Right.

ROGERS: This was Cruz supporters being driven to the event who then came out and said I vote for Cruz. I think that shows you he's got a better ground game there -- VAN JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I think that's very important because, a couple of things - first of all, if S. E. is right and they both won, that means Rubio loss because Ted Cruz is ascendant right now. He has better data. He's got a better ground game. He's got better numbers in Iowa. Rubio needs to get out there and really show he is that rising star. He did not look like that rising star today, from my point of view. I think he needed to be able to slow some of Cruz's momentum. He wasn't able to.

The other thing I think was important is that there was a lot of -- from a Democrat's point of view, a lot of mythology that was kind of unchallenged by anybody. Are you talking about the deportations. Ted Cruz talked about other Presidents deported millions of people. Obama has deported millions of people, in fact, the Latino community is mad at Obama about deportations; nobody challenged him on his facts.

Other things that are sort of as if Obama isn't being muscular, in terms of using drones and stuff, in fact, his base, Obama's base is mad at him for being too militaristic in some ways. So I think that part of -- some things that you saw going on there were -- there seems to be a mythology, that the Republicans have united around, that is counterfactual about how weak Obama is. I think when you get to the general election, you're going to have -- a whole bunch of people are going to be surprised at how tough this President has been and how tough Hillary Clinton is.

COOPER: We're going to go to Jake; we've got more tonight.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, thanks so much. Facts are stubborn things they say. There was a lot of tough talk tonight, claiming the Government, the Obama Administration, failed to do enough to prevent the San Bernardino terrorist attack. The female terrorist had posted her support for violent [00:35:00] jihad online. Tom Foreman now joins us for a reality check. Tom?

TOM FOREMAN: Yes, Jake, several of the candidates went directly at that saying if only security experts in the government had looked at social media closer, they could have stopped it; listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CRUZ: We didn't monitor the Facebook posting of the female San Bernardino terrorist because the Obama DHS thought it would be inappropriate --

CARLY FIORINA, R-CA, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Every parent in America is checking social media, and every employer is as well, but our Government can't do it?

MIKE HUCKABEE, R-AR, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This lady who came over here and shot up San Bernardino was posting things on Facebook, yet we were restricted from looking.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FOREMAN: The problem with all of that is that government officials tell us there is no policy against looking at social media. It's just not done a terrible amount of the time. It's not really common because they don't think it works terribly well. Why? Because it's a little bit too easy to conceal your identity on social media and the woman that Jake mentioned a moment ago there, yeah, she was using a false identity and sort of hiding her messages there. She wasn't on a watch list, so it probably wouldn't have worked. Could they get better at this? Sure, I'm sure a lot of them think they could but to suggest that somehow this was the key that was overlooked because of political correctness, this was simply false across the board. You can find out

more about this, and all of our reality checks at CNN.com/reality check. Jake?

TAPPER: Next, speaking of social media, we're going to get some online reaction from across the country; what debate viewers are saying on Facebook. We're going to check in with Don Lemon; he's at the Facebook lounge. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[00:40] COOPER: Welcome back. We've heard from the candidates, the spin doctors, our experts, panelists; but we wanted to get a sense of how the Debate played out outside of Las Vegas. To do that CNN partnered with Facebook. Don Lemon has been combing through the reaction. He joins us now from the Facebook Lounge. Don?

DON LEMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We've been listening to all the strategists talking about who they thought won, what were the best moments but 1.5 million people weighed in on Facebook, on CNN's Facebook page. We asked them a question, and this is the only question that we asked that was after, that they weighed in on after the debate, at the end of the debate: Did Donald Trump do a good job defending his position to ban Muslims from entering the United States? You can see 63-percent of people, of those 1.5 million people saying 63-percent said that he did a good job. Again, I have to remind you, this is an unscientific poll. This was just taken by people on social media, on Facebook who were watching the debate.

Also, interesting to point out here, what is the most effective tool for combating ISIS? An overwhelming number of people, 69-percent said Arab coalition. An Arab coalition is the most effective tool for combating ISIS.

Another question: should the U.S. accept refugees from Syria? 69- percent, 69-percent of people said no. So they were definitely paying attention to what the candidates were saying up on that stage and agreeing with most of the candidates, many of candidates who were up there.

What is the greatest national security treat to the U.S.? Obviously here they said ISIS. 73-percent of the people watching, ISIS.

The top five issues that people were discussing at home as they were watching the Debate, "discussing at home" meaning on Facebook. Islam, ISIS, terrorism, racial discrimination and immigration; those are the top five most discussed topics on Facebook. The top five candidates, and there's an interesting thing in here, of

course Donald Trump is number one; Ted Cruz is number two; but this is the first time that Jeb Bush has been in the top five. So people on Facebook think that Jeb Bush did himself a service in this debate, and then sharing that number three is Marco Rubio; and number five is Ben Carson.

Here is a top social moment on Facebook, right here, that was that second exchange between Jeb Bush and Donald Trump where Jeb Bush said, hey, Donald Trump, you're not going to insult your way to the White House. That was the top social moment, the most discussed moment during the Debate on Facebook.

Back to you, Mr. Tapper.

TAPPER: Thanks, Don, from the Facebook lounge to the Twitter Attic, we're back now with Jeff Zeleny, Nia Malika Henderson, John King, David Axelrod and Michael Smirconish. Let me ask you a very crass question, David.

DAVID AXELROD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: All right, let me give you an elegant answer.

TAPPER: Do you think we've heard President Obama and many other Democrats, and even some Republicans, say that what Donald Trump is proposing is xenophobic, the ban on Muslims, and obviously a majority of the Republican Party does not agree. Is this something that actually could hurt him in a general election, should he get the nomination? Do enough Americans share the view or care?

AXELROD: Well, the polls also show that in a general election, the numbers flip and there's a majority --

TAPPER: They don't support it but would it hurt him?

AXELROD: Well I think in combination with some of the other positions he's taken. I think one of the --

TAPPER: So no?

AXELROD: One thing that scares Republicans is the immigration position and the sort of anti-Hispanic tenor of his, and I think this all kind of blends together. Remember when Mitt Romney said he was going to ask Hispanics to self-deport, he also lost the Asian vote 75- 25 because everyone felt they were being impugned by that position. So I think Donald Trump runs into big problems in a general election when he has too deal with a much different electorate.

TAPPER: I just don't know if that's true; no offense to you, David, but I don't --

AXELROD: That is crass.

TAPPER: Michael, what do you think? I guess my question is I don't know - SMERCONISH: If it drives people to the polls. In other words, you

acknowledge the numbers that David's pointing out, 2/3 of Americans are opposed to what Donald Trump has put forth.

TAPPER: Right.

SMERCONISH: I think you're asking whether it's something that will drive people to the polls.

TAPPER: Exactly.

SMERCONISH: I think that it is that kind of an issue. I think that there would be an antagonism toward trump and the presumption of xenophobia and Islamophobia that I think would really do in the Republican candidate, if he were at the top of that ticket. That's my answer.

AXELROD: Here's the reality: we are becoming a more diverse country each election and his base is among mostly non-college educated whites who are resistant to that change. When he gets into a general election environment, these positions are not salable positions and I think it puts the Republicans in great jeopardy.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The facts and the data support what Michael and David just said. I think the question would be, if Trump is the nominee, what is the mood of the country come [00:45:00] November next year? Are Americans - are there more terror attacks? Are Americans as frightened as they are now? That could change the dynamic. If there are no more terrorist attacks and we go back to an election that's probably more about the economy and more about demographics and structural politics, then Trump's issues with nonwhite voters, if you look at the data, they're just off the charts; every second we sit here, we great more diverse electorate.

TAPPER: Nia Malika, you and I talk to voters all the time and one of the things you hear from them is look, maybe I don't agree with what Donald Trump has said about Mexican immigrants or maybe I don't agree with this ban, but he's talking about doing something and he's getting the issue on the table and that's what I like. It's leadership.

NIA MALIKA HENDERSON: That's right. In Santorum, in that undercard debate, that was essentially what he was arguing there, too. You heard his argument, although it was more of an establishment audience. They were clapping when he was trying to thread that needle, basically saying, listen, I don't necessarily agree with this policy, but it's a good thing that he's raising this issue. Sarah Palin was in the audience; she was clapping at that framing of Donald.

TAPPER: She supports the policy.

HENDERSON: Yes, and she supports Trump and Cruz, she likes both of them. But I think she's certainly got a read on that crowd that Trump likes and the Cruz crowd as well.

TAPPER: And Jeff, you worked for the "Des Moines Register" for years. This is not a measure of the diversity that David is talking about, the demographic advantage the Democrats have had in presidential elections, not necessarily really reflected in the Iowa Republican Party.

ZELENY: It's not reflected in that, but I can tell you when I talk to voters in Iowa, I was there on Friday night with Donald Trump, I was struck by the number of people who said they have caucused before. I'm not sure he's bringing in that many new people to the process in Iowa but to a person they were also looking at Trump and Ted Cruz. So that is the dynamic playing out there but people don't necessarily agree with everything he says but they love his strength. They love how he gives Obama hell. They love how he talks about I can beat Hillary, which may or not be actually accurate, most polls show the opposite.

TAPPER: Right.

ZELENY: They still like what he's saying, but I do believe as we get closer and everyone says when it comes time to pick a president, voters take a different view of this. Iowa and New Hampshire voters are very, very savvy here, so that is the thing we have to watch, going forward here. The race is propelling us but are those voters going to stick with Donald Trump? Is he giving them enough specifics? They love his strength, but I'm not sure about that. That's Ted Cruz's biggest advantage.

AXELROD: It's noteworthy that in Iowa the most strident anti- immigration voice in the whole United States Congress, Steve King, who has a lot of leverage in that particular caucus, has endorsed Ted Cruz.

ZELENY: Right.

AXELROD: So despite Donald Trump's nativism, it's Cruz who King has endorsed.

ZELENY: No question.

TAPPER: Donald Trump, do you think Donald Trump can get the nomination?

SMERCONISH: "Leaving Las Vegas," to quote the movie title, I'd rather be Ted Cruz. As I look at who's on - politically speaking, as I look at that stage tonight and I say who would I most want to be if I were one of them running for president, I think the momentum is more on Cruz's side. I think he's probably going to have a better organization. He has enough money. I don't think Trump, to Jeff's point, is going to spend his money, when all is said and done, and I think Cruz is leaving this town with a head of steam.

TAPPER: All right, thanks, everyone. Just ahead, another early measure of how the candidates did using online crowd sourcing. Who's odds of winning the nomination got better and who's got worse? Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [00:50] COOPER: What a night here in Las Vegas. The Republican Candidates facing off in their final debate of 2015, their first debate since the Paris and San Bernardino terror attacks; the focus tonight, obviously, national security. As we've said, the spin room has been buzzing. However, we actually have another early measure of who might have won tonight. CNN as partnered with "Pivot", an online crowd sourcing tools to get a prediction of how the candidates performed and how that has changed candidates chances of actually winning the Republican Presidential Nomination.

So, here are the results of that, the three candidates with the biggest change tonight: Donald Trump's odds apparently have fallen 3 points to 25-percent; Marco Rubio has dropped 2 points. He's now at 34-percent; Ted Cruz is up a point, now at 32-percent. Again, just one early measure of tonight's Debate.

I want to bring back our panel, joining me again Mike Rogers, S. E. Cupp, Patti Solis Doyle, Kevin Madden, Andy Dean, and Van Jones. Van you were talking about Carly Fiorina -

VAN JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes.

COOPER: -- a little bit during the break. I want to play just one of the things she talked about because we haven't talked much about her. Let's play that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CARLY FIORINA, R-CA, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Talking tough is not the same as being strong; and to wage war we need a commander- in-chief who has made tough calls, in tough times, and stood up to be held accountability over and over. Not first-term senators who never made an executive decision in their life.

One of the things I would immediately do, in addition to defeating them here at home, is bring back the warrior class, Petraeus, McChrystal, Mattis, Keane, Flynn. Every single one of these Generals I know, everyone was retired early because they told President Obama things that he didn't want to hear. I'll just add that Margaret Thatcher once said if you want something talked about, ask a man; if you want something done, ask a woman.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Not exactly accurate on some of the things she said.

JONES: Well, I mean, that was wrong. Obviously McChrystal had some personal issues and we can get into that. Here's what I like though about Carly, I mean, every time she got on the mic she did try to put forward an actual workable solution. For instance, there's this whole mythology that the reason that certain things aren't done in the federal government is because of political correctness. There are some things they don't do in federal government because the technology is so outdated that it's embarrassing. She said she would reach out to Silicon Valley to do something about that. Now, whether that would be the right answer or not, at least she's trying to identify real solutions. I think she should get a lot more credit for trying to be a voice of problem solving and not just point scoring.

COOPER: What's happened to her though on the campaign trail because, I mean, she's had strong debate performances in the past? We've seen numbers go up and then she slides down again.

JOHN KING, CNN CORRESPONDENT: She did really good on the debate stage. People when they meet her, like her. She does have a good story, but timing is crucial in politics and Carly Fiorina may have missed her moment.

CUPP: You know, it's weird; she always has a good debate performance as you say and then for whatever reason, she seems to disappear afterwards. I don't just mean in the poll, I mean physically. She kind of goes dark, and I know she's out campaigning a lot, but after these great performances I want to [00:55:00] see her on a morning show. I want to see her on a late night show. I know Carly, and I've met her and interviewed her a number of times; she's very warm. She's got a great personality. She's very funny and I wish more people would get to see that and for whatever reason, that does not seem to be the campaign plan.

KING: That's just (inaudible) I mean, I've never seen a debate performance like the one I saw in Simi Valley where the consensus coming out of that was that hands down Carly Fiorina -

CUPP: Incredible.

KING: - but she did not build infrastructure off of that. She did not raise the money after that. And that, I think, has hurt her in the interim. She went up very quickly; now you need a debate performance to get her out of this poll spiral that she's been in, along with Ben Carson. I think he faces very similar problems. I don't think the debate performance, as strong as it was tonight, I sort of agree with Van, I don't think she got it.

MIKE ROGERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I think she's having a hard time connect to voters, too. One of the things - I mean, she is a rock star when you sit her in a room and talk to her about national security, off the charts. She knows what in the heck she's talking about. When she got out after that particular debate and was doing even national security forums, she was just having a hard time connecting, and part of it is that CEO style of even temperament. Sometimes they wanted their candidates -- people want their candidates to get a little feisty, to get a little emotional. She missed that part and I think that's what cost her that momentum.

CUPP: I've been be on the trail with her and she really does connect on the ground. I just wish she would make more of these great debate performances and do the sort of get to know you stuff that other candidates do after they have a great debate performance. They go on the shows.

COOPER: To -- Andy's I'm sure going to jump in on this, Trump connects in a way that no other candidate out there does. For a guy who is as wealthy as he is, you might expect him not being able to connect and yet he has this bond. Peop -- there's genuineness to him, whether you believe what he says or like what he says or not, people kind of want to be part of that experience.

ANDY DEAN, TRUMP SUPPORTER: Right, well, I would think, to that point, Anderson, there are three things in the debate people look at: what you say; how often you interrupt; and your body language. I think Carly does well with what she says but she interrupts at the wrong times. There was a great moment between ted cruise and Marco Rubio and she interrupted that. That is bad debate etiquette. Then, also, her body language. If you notice Trump, when Jeb Bush is attacking him, he makes these faces and it's great, it makes people laugh and it makes him likable. Carly doesn't have the body language thing down.

CUPP: I think she's polished. I mean, like I said, I've spoken to her a lot and I've seen her. She's very polished. She's very serious. She knows her stuff. She's taking this race seriously.

JONES: The other person who is taking it seriously is Chris Christie. Chris Christie came to fight. I really, really thought when he did the thing he does, often scolding people, you guys are talking in ways that are not connecting with the American people. He's done it a bunch of times, but it was very effective tonight. Tonight when you had a Rubio and you had a Cruz and they were going down the Senate rabbit hole - I mean, --

COOPER: He turns and actually talks to the viewers at home.

JONES: He's, like, listen, guys at home, I know you don't know what they're talking about. I want to talk to you. When he does stuff like that, sometimes it's like - but tonight it was very, very effective. I think he's going to cause Rubio problems. Listen, you guys know I'm terrified of Rubio, I do not want him to win. I'm clear about that, I do not want to have to fight this guy, but I would have expected --

COOPER: Really? As a Democrat?

JONES: That's the one we don't want because Rubio will give us fits. He comes in with Florida. He comes in with the Latino connection. He comes in with the young thing. He's so different from Hillary Clinton. So we don't want him, but, I tell you, tonight I go to sleep sleeping better because between what Chris Christie is doing to him in New Hampshire and what Ted Cruz did to him

on the debate stage, I think Rubio's in trouble. You watch -

COOPER: That's a campaign commercial for Marco Rubio right there. Right there.

JONES: Just one more time to make sure it's right.

COOPER: Someone is getting the tape out. I want to thank all of our panelists, Andy Dean, Patti Solis Doyle, S. E. Cupp, Kevin Madden, Van Jones, Chairman Rogers. We mentioned the Fiorina clip wasn't exactly accurate. Tom Foreman, tonight, joins us with another Reality Check. Tom?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) FOREMAN: Everybody wants to talk tough, Anderson. No one tougher than Ted Cruz when you talked about he called the White House's failed Syrian policy.

CRUZ: Even worse, President Obama and Hillary Clinton are proposing brings of tens of thousands of Syrians refugees to the country when the head of the FBI has told Congress they cannot vet those refugees.

FOREMAN: This has been the hot issue lately but let's look at the numbers.

Since 2011, 2200 have come here. The White House says they want to bring 10,000 next year and there will probably be more but there's no indications that it will be tens of thousands. And while the head of the FBI says it very difficult to vet them, he hasn't said they're giving up and that it can't be done. So we have to say that his claim was ultimately false.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: All right, Tom, thanks for keeping them honest. That does it for us here.