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AT THIS HOUR WITH BERMAN AND MICHAELA

Cruz, Trump Push for 2-Man Race; Rubio Predicted to Lose Florida; Clinton, Trump Ahead in New Michigan Poll; Bill Novak Talks Nancy Reagan. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired March 7, 2016 - 11:30   ET

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


[11:30:00] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Who should -- it doesn't look like any time soon -- Rubio's campaign has said absolutely, no, we're not dropping out. Where should the focus be now for Cruz? Should he focus on Rubio or do you think he should focus on Trump?

BRENT BOZELL, FOUNDER & PRESIDENT, THE MEDIA RESEARCH CENTER: I think his focus will be on Trump because, frankly, it is a two-man race. There's no path forward for Marco Rubio. There is no path forward for John Kasich. So there's no reason for them to stay in. They should drop out. They should drop out gracefully. I would hope they'd take a long hard look and realize they have a lot more in common with Cruz than Trump. I think they want to see a Republican win in November. So it would be good to throw their support behind him. But where Cruz is concerned, he'll continue to be active in every single state active with the primary caucus.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Brent Bozell, thanks so much for coming in. Appreciate you're being here with us.

BOLDUAN: Thanks, Brent.

BOZELL: Thank you for having me.

BOLDUAN: Of course.

Coming up for us, Marco Rubio is facing a do-or-die in his home state of Florida. But his campaign is now facing a scathing report that's putting blame on his meltdown. The inside story coming up next.

BERMAN: Any moment now, Donald Trump holds a rally in North Carolina. I saw Twitter people are shouting bad things about Mitt Romney at this rally already. So this could be active. How will Donald Trump deal with Cruz and Rubio? We'll take you to the event live.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:35:50] BERMAN: What is going on with Marco Rubio? That's the question by many strategists, many supporters after picking up only two victories in this race, two for 20. He won in Minnesota and yesterday in Puerto Rico. Polls show Rubio trailing Donald Trump in his home state, Florida.

BOLDUAN: All the while, Trump and Cruz are looking to move this to a two-man race that doesn't involve Rubio. Both saying Rubio, it's time to get out. That's been a clear message after Super Saturday.

Joining us to discuss the state of play in Florida is the political editor for the "Tampa Bay Times," Adam Smith.

Adam, it's great to have you.

You definitely have your ear to the ground on what the situation and the state of play is in Florida. You guys did a poll of insiders, of politicos there, and nine the 10 of the politicos in your insider poll say that Rubio is going to lose Florida. How much trouble is he in, do you think?

ADAM SMITH, POLITICAL EDITOR, TAMPA BAY TIMES: Well, it may be the best news for Marco Rubio that he's toast. Most of the conventional wisdom has been wrong. There's one poll that suggests he's been five points away from Trump. There's another one that says he's two points away. It looks like an uphill battle. If you look at Louisiana where late deciders were moving away from Trump, that bodes well. Who knows? This looks like his last stand.

BERMAN: Actually, Louisiana voters not just moved away from Trump. They moved away from Rubio a lot more than even they moved away from Trump.

What has gone wrong, or what do you think the problem has been for Marco Rubio in his home state?

SMITH: There just has not been much of a campaign. It's kinds of the same story all along. A lot of people, even fans said that Marco that he never laid much of a ground organization and even in places like Iowa, New Hampshire, and he was sort of relying on a wing and a prayer and momentum to carry him along. That's been the case in Florida as well to a large extent. Donald Trump has not had much ground organization in most states but he started building a campaign on the ground here a couple months ago. Jeb Bush, when he was still in, started very early on. Marco sort of in a way has taken Florida for granted until just about a week or so ago.

BOLDUAN: I want to ask you that. No matter where you think your momentum is going to be or how well you think you're doing, winning the home state for all of these guys is clearly a huge thing. Texas for Cruz, coming up, Ohio for Kasich. It's no question for anybody and especially for Rubio's campaign that winning Florida from the very beginning was going to be key for him. Do you think that with all that in mind he has taken the state for granted?

SMITH: I do, and you'll hear that from a lot of people that like him. It's tricky in Florida. More than half the ballots will be cast by the time Election Day comes around on Tuesday. People have been voting for weeks and weeks. We've had more than a million votes already cast, and a lot of those votes came when all the momentum seemed to be on Trump's side. That's another obstacle for Rubio.

BERMAN: What about Jeb Bush, the former governor? Do you think he'll endorse Rubio? And if he does, does it help? We've seen time and time again when governors or former governors endorse in this race, it breaks against them for some reason.

SMITH: I can't pretend that I have inside information. I'd be surprised if he doesn't endorse Rubio in the end. And then your question is a great one. How much does that help? Oh, great, the establishment is behind Rubio. Now we know that for sure. That doesn't seem to be a winning message this cycle.

BOLDUAN: And Cruz has opened up 10 campaign offices in Florida. His campaign office was excited to talk about that, especially following the Super Saturday finish. Cruz's super PAC is putting out ads. What is Cruz's impact there?

[11:40:06] SMITH: I can't quite tell if it's just talk or not. I'm not sure I've seen a lot of spending. They did open up some offices that you find in the sort of activist community, some passionate Ted Cruz support. We have not seen a real commitment of money and that's what it takes. Florida is such a big state. It's like $2 million a week to advertise statewide. We've not seen that kind of commitment from Cruz yet. We'll see. Maybe it's coming.

BERMAN: We'll see if it's psychological warfare.

Adam Smith, great to get a sense of what's going on, on the ground there. Thanks so much.

BOLDUAN: Thanks, Adam.

BERMAN: We'll see how Ted Cruz does tomorrow when Republicans fight for delegates across four states. Will they line up for one candidate? Will they splinter among many? Of course, that's a big question for any of them, especially Donald Trump.

BOLDUAN: And that's the man that will be speaking shortly. Any minute now, we'll hear from Donald J. Trump. What he thinks right now about the state of the race. Meaning what he thinks about his opponents, Cruz and Rubio. They both picked up wins this weekend. So what is his strategy? What's his next line of attack going into the next sequel of Super Tuesday? We'll bring it to you live any minute.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:45:20] BERMAN: Some news just into to us, brand new poll numbers out of Michigan. A crucial state. Showing the candidates with the leads, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Now, Michigan has the biggest jackpot of delegates up for grabs tomorrow. This new poll, Monmouth University, let's show you the numbers as Hillary Clinton leading 55-42. Three-quarters think she'll win the nomination.

BOLDUAN: On the Republican side, some interesting numbers here. Donald Trump, the clear front runner right here at 36 percent. Cruz and John Kasich in a tie, really, at 23 and 21 percent respectively. And Marco Rubio trailing the field with 13 percent in Michigan now in this latest poll.

Joining us to discuss, conservative columnist and commentator, Kayleigh McEnany, a Donald Trump supporter; Republican consultant, Bruce Haynes, who worked for the South Carolina Governor Carol Campbell; and CNN commentator, Hillary Clinton supporter, and former South Carolina State Representative, Bakari Sellers.

Kayleigh, first to you in the new poll. Donald Trump at 36, and then you take a look at the rest of the field. This is interesting. Take a victory lap here. What do you see?

KAYLEIGH MCENANY, CONSERVATIVE COLUMNIST: Look, here's the thing. The NBC poll released two days ago shows Trump up by 19, another one by 15. He looks like the clear front runner. Red flag, it is alarming to see Cruz there just 13 points behind. And although I think Donald Trump will win, it's just interesting to see Ted Cruz inching up and doing better than someone like Kasich. Michigan is made for John Kasich. In many ways, it should be made for Rubio. To see Cruz surging in the state, it is troubling. It brings back those worrisome thoughts of him doing well in Maine. No one saw that coming. While this has good for Trump, Cruz is rising in places where he shouldn't be.

BERMAN: Bruce, there's interesting stuff in the polls. The first two days of the poll it was Trump ahead by more. Cruz in second. The second days of the poll, it's Donald Trump in front, not by as much, but John Kasich has vaulted into second place there. He's the man on the move in this poll. And again, in all four days, Marco Rubio just sliding way, way back down to 12 percent. What do you see there? Do you see a threat to Donald Trump or do you see it being a race to second?

(CROSSTALK)

BERMAN: Bruce?

BRUCE HAYNES, REPUBLICAN CONSULTANT: I think there could be a bit of a threat posing to Donald Trump here. It's interesting to see where it's going to come from. One of the things with Trump is that one of the key aspects of his brand has been strength, and strength is certainty. And we have seen some uncertainty from Trump a little bit in the last few days. He's walked back some comments on torture and H1B visas, and he needs to become the consistent candidate again who says what he thinks, means what he says, and doesn't get confused about what he stands on some of the issues. I think that's hurting him a little bit.

BOLDUAN: Bakari, let me bring you in on this. You saw the numbers out for Clinton and Sanders. Clinton with a lead, 55-42 in Michigan. Michigan is important across the board, but it's a big state. Both are competing in this state. Big cities. Diverse population. What are we going to learn after this vote in Michigan?

BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Bernie Sanders has had trouble competing in the south. And the campaign has come out and said we can do better with more diverse voters as we move through this steel belt, through the Rust Belt. Michigan is the first test there. I believe it's going to be closer than people are guessing, than the polls show. I think Hillary Clinton will come out on top, but Mississippi will be tomorrow and much of the same. When you look at them together, I think we've seen the best string of states Bernie Sanders is going to have. I think it's going to get rougher moving forward. I think if the polls are correct and Hillary Clinton comes out 10-plus and then goes down and puts into the 75 or 25 on the board, it's going to be rough for Bernie Sanders to rebuild the traction.

BERMAN: Bruce, I want to look past Michigan and talk about Florida. These outside groups, some of the never Trump groups, and some other groups are spending a ton of money just hammering Donald Trump in Florida, anywhere between $5 million and $0 million, a lot of money. Donald Trump as of now only spending $1 million, a little less. Would it be ironic if this billionaire were to lose support because he's unwilling to spend more money? As a consultant, it has to drive you crazy he's not spending more.

[11:50:12] HAYNES: One of the key rules in politics, John, is define yourself or others will, and there is a race on in Florida right now to define Donald Trump as inconsistent, as a con man, as all these things we've seen people working on. Marco Rubio zeroed in on his home state like a laser beam. He will make his last stand there. We will see. The history of this these things have an impact. You can't take millions of dollars of negative advertising defining you in this way and not respond to it. You know, it happened to John Kerry and could happen to Donald Trump.

BOLDUAN: Kayleigh, exactly to that point, everyone is focused on Michigan or Florida. Donald Trump today spending time in Concord, North Carolina. Knew I was going to screw that up at least once. What's the play there?

MCENANY: I definitely think that -- sorry, I'm having a problem with my ear piece. I can hear the producers. I think when you look at the southeast and North Carolina and Mississippi, that's where Donald Trump can really hamper Ted Cruz in the southeast. I think he wants to make sure to shore up those states. I think he is confident in Florida, up by 20 points. I think it helps that Cruz will play in Florida. He opened 10 offices there. I think that taking a way from Rubio. But he should not take it for granted. Despite a 20-point lead, that is an older poll, and it is time to invest there.

BOLDUAN: If you have ear piece problems, you can still answer the question. Kayleigh proved it right there.

(LAUGHTER)

Kayleigh, thank you so much.

Great to see you guys.

Bruce, Bakari, thank you guys so much.

BERMAN: Donald Trump getting ready to speak right now with voters in Concord, North Carolina. Will he respond to the new Ted Cruz momentum? The big wins for Cruz over the weekend.

BOLDUAN: Plus, the life and legacy of Nancy Reagan. We will talk to a man who helped her write her memoir.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[11:55:34] NANCY REAGAN, FORMER FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: Right away. Right away.

(CROSSTALK)

REAGAN: As you know, a blind date, but I knew right away. It took him a little longer.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: Ronald Reagan's name has been invoked constantly on the campaign trail as a conservative standard bearer. His wife, Nancy Reagan, known a driving force behind that man's success and the legacy. The former first lady of President Reagan, devoted partner, fierce protector during his political career and his battle with Alzheimer's, she died Sunday at the age of 94.

BERMAN: Flags at the White House, all around Washington, flying at half staff in her honor. She will be buried next to her husband at the Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California.

She was an iconic, influential figure in her own right.

Bill Novak worked with Nancy Reagan on her 1989 memoir, "My Turn." He joins us now.

Bill, thank you for joining us. Appreciate it.

You obviously got to speak to her so much, spend so much time with her. I was fascinated by the idea that you said she was someone who preferred listening than talking. What do you mean by that?

WILLIAM NOVAK, AUTHOR: In so many ways, she was different than what I had expected. She was the kind of person who you may want in a friend, a good listener, attentive to others. That's the side of her I saw. When you are helping somebody with their memoirs, you want to be the listener. You want them to be the talker. She was a little reticent.

BOLDUAN: As the tributes continue to pour in, you have written about the fact that the media image of Nancy Reagan was tough at times. You even said it was so frightening that it was difficult for you to get past. What did you find in the end after spending so much time talking to her?

NOVAK: Her media image was so frightening to me that I wasn't sure I should take on this book. I said to my wife, what do you think? And she said, just say yes, and I am glad I did. The woman I met with was nothing like that. She was in some ways fragile. She was grieving. She had lost both of her parents and almost lost her husband shortly after he was elected the first time. In a shooting that we -- whose seriousness that we didn't understand at the time and kept from the public but he was close to death. She was not, least to me, the powerful, scary person that I had envisioned.

BERMAN: You said as a highlight of your life as a biographer and ghost writer, one time when you were talking to her on the phone. Explain that.

NOVAK: We were on the phone because we did some interviews in person and some on the phone. Suddenly, I hear, "Not now, honey, I'm talking to Bill Novak," and I realized "honey" could only be one person, and that was a fun moment for me.

BOLDUAN: Their love story is one for the history books. As someone who got to observe it up close, closer than most, how would you describe it?

NOVAK: Very much as others have described it. She was very protective. She knew him well. She understood him well. She devoted her life to him. I rarely saw them together because I was there to see her, but when I had the chance to meet him, I found him genial and funny.