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GOP Rivals Tone Down Insults & Spar on Policy. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired March 11, 2016 - 07:00   ET


CUOMO: Jared (ph), James and Rudolfo (ph), thank you very much for making your points. Good luck in your election ahead. Appreciate it.

[07:00:07] All right. There's a lot to be covered with what happened in the debate last night ahead of these all-important primaries here in Florida and Ohio. And we have the man of the hour, Marco Rubio, who's fighting for his life is coming up on the show. Stay with us.


SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We don't get our act together, a bad situation will become much worse.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The answer can't just be wave a magic wand and say, "Problem, go away."

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There's nobody on this stage that's more pro-Israel than I am.

GOV. JOHN KASICH (R-OH), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'd be, you know, maybe running for president in Croatia if we didn't have immigration.

TRUMP: Strong doesn't mean good. Putin is a strong leader.

CRUZ: The answer is not simply to yell, "China bad, Muslims bad."

HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The other side is running a campaign based on insults.

CRUZ: I'm not interested in being politically correct. I'm interested in being correct.

TRUMP: I cannot believe how civil it's been up here.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

CAMEROTA: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to your NEW DAY.

Chris and I are live here at the University of Miami. John Berman is in for Michaela in New York last night. The Republicans showed a new civility in their final debate here before Tuesday's critical primary in Florida and Ohio. The debate highlighting policy over personal insults. Some say Donald Trump appeared more presidential than he has in the past. Some say it was actually more low-key than he had in the past. There have been 11 debates, and this one was different.

Ted Cruz, fair to say, had eyes for one man on that stage last night, and it was certainly Donald Trump. He made it clear a dozen ways that this is a two-man race but with only one choice, him. Big question from Marco Rubio: here he is. This is his home field. This is where he went to law school. This is his state. Did he do what he needed to do to stay in this race, and that means winning Florida? We're going to hear from the senator himself in just a few minutes.

Now, all of this comes as Trump gets a really surprising endorsement. One-time rival Dr. Ben Carson is going to come out for Trump this morning. We have this covered the only way CNN can. Sara Murray in Palm Beach. That's where they're going to have this big endorsement announcement this morning. Of course, at Mar-a-Lago -- Sara.

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Chris. Like he said, the stakes could not have been higher for these candidates to go on to the debate stage last night. And they responded by putting aside the childish insults and, if you can believe it, actually digging into the issues that voters care about.


TRUMP: I cannot believe how civil it's been up here.

MURRAY (voice-over): A major shift in tone at last night's GOP debate. The rivals moving away from the personal attacks of the past...

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Have you seen his hands? They're like this.

TRUMP: Little Marco spews his crap.

I call him Lying Ted.

MURRAY: ... and toward more civil contrasts, as Trump's competitors argue he doesn't have the details to back up his campaign promises. From U.S. trade deals...

TRUMP: Trade deals are absolutely killing our country. And the only way we're going to be able to do it is we're going to have to do taxes unless they behave.

CRUZ: Donald is right. For example, he was just talking about international trade. He's right about the problems. But his solutions don't work.

The effect of a 45-percent tariff would be, when you go to the store, when you go to Wal-Mart when you're shopping for your kid, the prices you pay go up 45 percent.

TRUMP: The 45 percent tax is a threat. It's not a tax; it was a threat. It will be a tax if they don't behave.

MURRAY: ... to Social Security... TRUMP: It's my absolute intention to leave Social Security the way it

is. Not increase the age. And to leave it as-is. We're going to get rid of waste, fraud, abuse and bring back his...

RUBIO: The numbers don't add up. The bottom line is we can't just continue to tip-toe around this and throw out things like, "I'm going to get rid of fraud and abuse." But you still have hundreds of billions of dollars of deficits that you're going to have to make up.

MURRAY: ... and Mideast peace.

TRUMP: If I go in, I'll say I'm Pro-Israel, and I've told that to everybody, anybody that would listen. But I would like to at least have the other side think I'm somewhat neutral as to them so that we can maybe get a deal done.

RUBIO: The policy Donald has outlined. I don't know if he realizes it's an anti-Israeli policy. Maybe that's not your intent, but here's why it is an anti-Israeli policy. There is no peace deal possible with the Palestinians at this moment. There just isn't. Because there's no one to negotiate with.

MURRAY: The audience chuckling at Trump's seemingly simple response about whether he would close the U.S. embassy in Cuba.

TRUMP: I would probably have the embassy closed until such time as a really good deal was made and struck by the United States.

MURRAY: As Rubio jumped at the chance to weigh in on an issue that might give him a boost here in Florida.

RUBIO: Here's a good deal. Cuba has free elections. Cuba stops putting people in jail for speaking out. Cuba has freedom of the press. Cuba kicks out the Russians from Lourdes and kicks out the Chinese listening station in Bebelkan (ph), Cuba stops helping North Korea evade U.N. sanctions.

MURRAY: The Sunshine State senator looking for any opportunity to go after Trump in the do-or-die debate for his campaign.

[07:05:10] JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Last night you told CNN, quote, "Islam hates us." Did you mean all 1.68 billion Muslims?

TRUMP: I mean a lot of them. I mean a lot of them. There's tremendous hatred, and I will stick with exactly what I said to Anderson Cooper.

CRUZ: The problem is presidents can't just say anything they want. It has consequences here and around the world.

TRUMP: You can be politically correct if you want. I don't want to be so politically correct. I like to solve problems. We have a serious, serious problem.

CRUZ: I'm not interested in being political correct. I'm interested in being correct. We are going to have to work with the people in the Muslim faith, even as Islam itself faces a serious crisis within it.


MURRAY: Donald Trump is set to have another big day today. He's going to be picking up the endorsement of Dr. Ben Carson, which might seem a little bit surprising. But a Carson insider tells me there's still a lot of residual anger toward Ted Cruz over what happened in Iowa. And actually, Ben Carson and Donald Trump both have homes here in Palm Beach. And they've known each other a while. They were friendlier than they might have seen at that point on the campaign trail -- Chris.

CUOMO: Yes. Two points of comparison there, Sara. They both have homes here in South Florida. And Ben Carson thinks Ted Cruz stole the election from him in Iowa. Two very different, if not equal, motivations.

All right. So -- so last night in the debate, it was really different. And that's what they say you wanted. You want to hear these candidates talk about what matters, the policies. And you got it, with Jake Tapper all night long keeping a steady hand.

So, we got to talk to Donald Trump right after the debate. His big controversial points about Islam, about the violence at his events. Here's what he had to say.


TRUMP: I thought it was a very elegant debate. I thought it was very substantive. And I thought it was a really -- I think your folks did a great job. I thought it was very fair. And we needed this kind of a debate. We needed this kind of a tone. And I'm glad it took place tonight.

CUOMO: Do you think it played to your advantage?

TRUMP: I think so. I mean, look, the other is the other. If somebody hits, we hit back. And I think that's true in life. That's true in running countries. It's true in running businesses. But I just found this to be a very elegant evening. And everybody did a very good job.

CUOMO: One of the questions is what would happen if it were you versus Ted Cruz one on one. When you're up there on the debate stage, listening to him make the case, you making your own, how was your confidence level in terms of how that would go, you versus him?

TRUMP: Well, I think it would go very well. I mean, we're doing very well against Ted right now, as you know. We're leading. And we have a lot more people voting for Trump than voting for Ted.

But I like Ted. And we -- I think we all did a very good job tonight. I thought it was -- I thought it was actually terrific and very different. Because it has really been harsh. And I like that also. But I think there was something -- we were ready for this kind of an evening. CUOMO: There are a couple points of contrast up there on the stage

tonight. One was what was -- I guess you could basically call it the all versus some argument about Islam. You, as you'll remember, spoke to Anderson; and you said there's a hatred coming from Islam towards the United States.

TRUMP: No doubt about it.

CUOMO: The criticism is but not from all Muslims, but from some. And you understand the sensitivity to it. You call it political correctness. The counter is that it's just correctness. What do you want to say now?

TRUMP: I don't want to say anything. I've answered the question. I've answered it many times. There's a great hatred, and we have to get to the bottom of it.

CUOMO: The concern is that you wind up painting with too broad a brush. You said in the past you hire Muslims, you have Muslim friends. You're not saying they're part of the hatred, right?

TRUMP: I do, but there's a lot of -- you look at the mosques and you go to various places and you look at what's going on there. And it's very truly 100 percent. And certainly, you can say radical Islam is a disaster right now. It's causing tremendous problems worldwide, not just here. But the question was asked about Islam, and there is a great hatred. There's no question about it.

CUOMO: One of the people up on the stage with you tonight said it makes an environment around the world where Muslims feel that the United States has antipathy towards them, negativity towards them.

TRUMP: We're just going to have to run our own place. We have a country. We have a country with a lot of problems, a lot of debt, a lot of, you know, weakened the military. We have so many different problems right now. We're just going to have to do our thing.

But the question was asked of me. And I'll tell you what, you probably heard the audience. The audience was -- and I don't do it for the audience. I don't care in terms of doing it for the audience. And I'm not doing it to be incorrect politically.

But there is animosity like I've never seen before. And hopefully, we can straighten it out.


CUOMO: He uses the word "elegant," Donald Trump does, to discuss the evening, to describe it. Usually a word I reserve for you.

So let's talk about the big points: CNN political commentator, former communications director for Senator Ted Cruz, Amanda Carpenter; CNN political commentator and Republican strategist Kevin Madden; and former George W. Bush political director and chairman of the American Conservative Union, Matt Schlapp. [07:10:09] So last night, fair to say your man on the stage was the

most devoted to point out the contrasts specifically with Trump. What was the plan? How do you think it was executed? What was the impact?

AMANDA CARPENTER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: He was focused like a laser, convincing voters this was a two-man race. And not only is Donald Trump watching him. He's like Hillary Clinton. It's kind of a two-for-one attack. And every question he got, even some for Marco Rubio, he managed to direct it that way. He wasn't interested in picking a fight with Marco. Everything was on Donald Trump.

CAMEROTA: And but that -- were the stakes higher for Marco Rubio? I mean, he -- all eyes are on him. He has reached the Rubicon. The Rubio Rubicon.

CUOMO: I like it, Rubiocon.

CAMEROTA: But that he was -- what did you think of his tone? What did you think, that he really sort of did lay off Donald Trump last night?

MATT SCHLAPP, CHAIRMAN, AMERICAN CONSERVATIVE UNION: He is a God- gifted communicator. He had a great night. He's had so many great debates. The question is, do -- are voters seeing a president with him, because for some reason it doesn't seem to correspond with, you know, a surge in the polls.

I would say here in his home state of Florida that usually you just -- you just count on winning your home state. Ted Cruz won his home state. He's, of course, got to win here. But he's got to go further than that. I think that's really why most people view this as Donald Trump is close to being inevitable. And Ted Cruz is the alternative. And the other two guys on the stage, both great people. People don't see them as part of that mix anymore.

CUOMO: Kevin, let's give a point of analysis they're probably not going to hear much this morning. "The X Factor" for Marco Rubio is not what happened on the stage last night. It's what may already have happened in Florida; 1.5 million votes were already cast in Florida. It's an early voting state. They're putting, like, all their chips on that. What's the rationale for why those votes would break Rubio's way?

KEVIN MADDEN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think they believe that they see so many of the late breakers actually moving towards Marco Rubio and so many of the other contests that if they have that amount of votes banked already before they go into it, coupled with some late breakers, they are in a great position.

CUOMO: But the polls would not pick up.

MADDEN: Right. Correct. And so that they're in a position here to really win. At the same time, since it is his home state, they also feel that they have a built-in structural advantage with voters here that is key to their winning the state. That's why they have -- you know, you've seen in all of these previous

states campaigns start to play the expectations game. And they try to lower or manage expectations. With Florida, Rubio campaign has embraced expectations, guaranteeing that they're going to win here. There is a risk to that, but at this point in the contest, they really don't much. They don't have a choice.

CAMEROTA: Earlier before the debate, Donald Trump sat down with Anderson Cooper and stated very -- something very controversial about Islam. He said, "Islam hates us." And he did not back down on that last night when Jake Tapper gave an option to clarify. So Marco Rubio drew a distinction between how he feels about that. Let me play you that moment.


RUBIO: The problem is presidents can't just say anything they want. It has consequences here and around the world. If you go to any national cemetery, especially Arlington, you're going to see crescent moons there. You're going to -- if you go anywhere in the world, you're going to see American men and women serving us in uniform that are Muslim. And they love America.


CAMEROTA: That was a nice reminder that he gave the audience there. But did he -- he had an opportunity where he could have said Donald Trump is wrong. He's flat wrong. But he didn't do that.

CARPENTER: Yes. He should have went harder at Donald Trump in that moment, just using what Donald Trump had said on stage that night. Donald Trump says, "Listen, I think all Muslim people are evil. But somehow, by the same token, I'm going to be able to negotiate with people in the Palestinian Authority. I'm going to be able to negotiate..."

CUOMO: He did not say all Muslim people are evil. But he did paint with a broad brush about the problem.

CARPENTER: But when you speak that way about a billion people using those kind of words and then saying that I can somehow be this great negotiator, those things just don't add up. And Marco Rubio should have put those two things together.

SCHLAPP: Look, I worked for President Bush. And when 9/11 happened, our talking point was Islam is a religion of peace. And we tried not to use any of these analogies to the crusades. We were very careful to try to appeal to moderate Muslims.

And I think the American people, they heard all that. And they do realize, there is a big problem with the fact that we have radicalized Muslim terrorists who are on a regular basis, a daily basis, coming after us.


CAMEROTA: ... Trump was drawing a distinction...

SCHLAPP: Alisyn, this is right. This is what -- this is where Trump goes too far. We had a jihadist problem, which these jihadists are all Muslim. So it's fair to say that there's some serious problems with the religion. But there are wonderful Muslims, and there are Muslims that we need in order to...

CUOMO: This is the same thing. I know this hits home close to you, Matt, because of your own family. But this is what you guys were saying last time about just Latinos. Now it's like you found a guy to double down on all -- the bigger group that he could find of all Muslims. This was the talk about the GOP coming out that can not alienate all these Latinos, like throwing them all in a bunch, like they're going to hop over a fence. And now he's doing it with 1.6 billion people. The question is, what's your party going to be?

[07:15:05] SCHLAPP: But the other thing is we shouldn't do is avoid the tough answers. And I think one of the questions on global security is talking clearly about who our enemy is. And I think Trump is connecting with people on who our enemy is.

And I think the American people get it. There is -- when he gets into this whole question about political correctness, I do think there's a benefit to people that are unvarnished.

And by the way, when it comes to that, Hillary Clinton, she's all about the varnish. And I think that's going to be a great juxtaposition if we're there.

CAMEROTA: And last...

CARPENTER: I just want to give Marco Rubio a little bit of credit on this point. Best of the line was saying, "I don't care about political correctness. I want to be correct."

CUOMO: That was a great line, great line.

CAMEROTA: Kevin, last word. What's the takeaway from last night for voters?

MADDEN: Well, I think the issue is that the civility sort of broke out at the debate. Right? The headline coming out of that. But civility at this stage in the race didn't change anything during the debate. It didn't change the trajectory of who's in first, and who's second and who's third. And that always benefits the front-runner. So Donald Trump comes out of this debate in the same position he was going in, which is front-runner.

CUOMO: Well, what we want to know is whether or not Senator Marco Rubio got to change his position, right?

CAMEROTA: Right. And we'll have an opportunity to ask him that.

Thanks so much, panel. Great to have you.

CUOMO: One man who likes to hear that he had a great line last night, know who it is? Senator Marco Rubio. He's making the rounds this morning. He's going to come on NEW DAY to talk about what he wanted to do last night and why he believes he's going to be in this race going forward.

Here he is. Good to have you, Senator.


[07:20:32] CUOMO: Senator Marco Rubio receiving praise for his performance at a debate that largely shunned the punchline. This was about policy. The question is he came in there with a very specific purpose: to stay alive here in Florida. That means winning on Tuesday. How does he feel he did and what is his fate?

Senator and presidential candidate, Senator Marco Rubio joining us now.

Senator, good to have you here on NEW DAY. Let me put up numbers that are familiar to you but for the audience sake. Here is the poll of polls. The average of the last six measurements of what's going on in your state. It shows you 16 points to the south of Donald Trump. You came in here last night, your team said, with a plan to change that. What is that plan, and do you think you executed it?

RUBIO: Well, we felt good about the debate. And credit to CNN for having a policy debate. And I thought that was important. As far as the polls are concerned, I don't have to tell you I'm not very concerned about them. I don't think they're accurate. We're going to find out on Tuesday.

But I feel good about our work here. You know that's happening -- I think what's happening in Florida is, you know, Ted Cruz has some supporters here, but he's not going to win. And so John Kasich is not going to win Florida. And so there's a majority of Florida Republicans that do not want Donald Trump to win Florida or be the nominee.

And so what's happening increasingly is that supporters of Ted Cruz and John Kasich are realizing that, no matter how much they may like their candidate, they can't win Florida, and a vote for them is, in essence, a vote for Trump. And so a lot of those folks are starting to move our way, as well.

CUOMO: Any concern that the pendulum swung the other way too much last night, but you could have gone at Trump more directly on some of these pinpoints of contrast that you made?

RUBIO: Well, we made policy contrasts last night. But I think we have to ask ourselves here, because this is interesting. We had a debate like we did two weeks ago, where people say, "Oh, we don't like it." It's too personal. They're not talking about policy.

So then we have a debate about policy, and people are asking why didn't you guys get personal? Here's the bottom line, guys. It's not entertainment. OK? And again, credit to CNN for asking policy questions. This is not a reality show. It's not about entertaining people. It's about informing people.

We are electing the president of the United States, the commander in chief of the most powerful military in the world. And I think it's important to know that this person who we're about to vote for know what they are talking about.

When it comes to foreign policy in particular, I think last night you did see some sharp distinctions. And I thought I was able to make them without calling anyone a name or going in that direction.

CUOMO: Well, you're going to get a big amen from a lot of people. They wanted to hear about what matters. And certainly, that was the setup of the debate. A huge point last night, and many credit you with the line of the night on it, was when Donald Trump said, "You want me to distinguish between all and some Muslims. That's you being politically correct, media."

And then you said, "No, no. It is some Muslims, not all. And I'm not being politically correct. I am being correct."

How dangerous do you believe it is, not just for your party but for this country, to say all Muslims hate America?

RUBIO: Well, let me put it to you this way. The next president of the United States will be the commander in chief. They will meet with men and women. And invariably, if they're out there, they are going to meet with a man or woman in uniform who happens to be Muslim who is willing to die to defend our country.

How are you going to face them as commander in chief, knowing that you're going around saying all Muslims hate the United States? I don't think you can be a good commander in chief.

Or you have allies in the Middle East. How does the president of the United States go around saying these things now reach out to the king of Jordan or the president of Egypt or our allies, military allies in Saudi Arabia or the Sunni tribes that we need in order to defeat ISIS in Iraq and Syria.

If you're going around saying all of you in America. No. 2 it doesn't happen to be true. The fact of it is that the majority of Muslims do not hate America. We don't know that. I don't know what he bases that on.

Now, is there a radicalization problem in Islam? There absolutely is. We shouldn't be correct -- politically correct about that to say there is a problem with radical Islam, radical jihadists, radical Islamic jihadists. That is a real threat to Islam, and it is a real threat to America.

But we are going to need to work with Muslims to defeat radicalization, both at home and abroad. And that's why I know people like that Donald Trump says whatever he wants and what they feel like saying. Presidents cannot say anything they want. Presidents have to understand that their words have consequences, often life-and-death consequences for real people in the real world. CUOMO: Very often, you picture yourself and picture yourself as,

"Look, I'm a new generation. I see things a different way. I speak for the future of this country."

[07:25:08] One of the departures from that image is where you are on climate change. You spoke about it last night. You spoke about what practically can be done to make a difference with what you say is the weather. Why not embrace the science, though? You didn't speak to that specifically last night. The science to 99 percent of the community is clear. It's something that's seen as a future perspective. Why don't you share it?

RUBIO: Because, No. 1, OK, there is a consensus among scientists around the world that humans are contributing to what's happening on our climate. What there is no consensus on is how much of the changes that are going on are due to human activity. In essence, the sensitivity argument.

And as a policy maker, here's why that matters. Because these people that are pushing this are acting on it like it's some sort of religious tenet that they want us to admit.

You know, here's the bottom line. We don't know how much of it is due to human activity. And that's relevant in the policy world. Because they are asking me to support public policies that, by their own admission, climate activists, these kind of policies they want us to adopt, would not have a measurable impact on the ecology or the environment now or for the foreseeable future. Meaning in my lifetime, on the other end...

CUOMO: You could paint it as a denier, though, Senator?

RUBIO: Sure. By the people who want us to say yes or no. Well, they can paint me any way they want. But the bottom line is, what I won't...

CUOMO: As a scientist, you can say whether or not...

RUBIO: It won't do anything for our environment.

Yes. But, look, climate change is measurable. Right? Is the sea level rising? You can measure that. You can measure whether sea level is right. That's not the question you should be asking a policymaker. The question you should be asking a policymaker is what can we do in government to affect the rise of sea levels?

And the answer is pass these laws that we want you to pass. So I asked the environmentalists and others who are supporting those laws, well, how many inches or feet of sea-level rise will that law prevent?

And their answer is it won't prevent any. But it sets an example. It sets the state. And I've asked the economists, and they say it will have a real impact on our economy.

So they are asking me to support public policies that will do nothing to affect the environment but will have a direct and immediate impact on our economy. I think that's a terrible tradeoff. I don't think that's a good way to go forward.

So these people are off on their own crusade here. But it's just not good public policy.

CUOMO: Understood, Senator. So this may be your last chance to reach our office with -- our entire audience with your own words. Tuesday is a big day. Any way you look at it. What do you say to the voters in Florida for why they should not look at Trump, they should look at Marco Rubio to be their next president?

RUBIO: Well, first, for Republicans, I would say I give us the best chance to beat Hillary Clinton. And every -- if you care about polls, every single one of them says that. I'm the only one that can unite the Republican Party that's left in this race. And I'm the only one that can grow it, that can take the conservative movement to people that don't vote for conservatives now.

I'm also the only one running on an agenda that says it is time to turn the page. The 21st century is here. We have an economy. We have a world that's very different from the world we're leaving behind. We need to take our conservative principles and apply them to the challenges of the 21st century. That's what my campaign has offered from day one.

If they elect me as president, this generation is going to confront and solve our problems. And I believe we have a chance to leave our children the freest and the most prosperous Americans that have ever lived. And I ask them to go to my website,, make a donation. Join our effort.

CUOMO: Senator Marco Rubio, thank you for coming on NEW DAY and good. Thank you, Senator.

RUBIO: Thank you.

CUOMO: All right. So Senator Rubio and the rest of the Republican field certainly keeping their cool last night. So who wound up coming on top because of this shift in tone? We're going to ask the one and only Michael Smerconish, coming up.