tv Anderson Cooper 360 CNN February 16, 2016 8:00pm-9:01pm PST
thanks for joining us tonight. with primary politics reaching a boiling point in south carolina, new poll numbers predicting a win for donald trump, president obama went on the cameras and went on the offensive, spoke out on trump as well as the threat of gop obstruction if he names a supreme court successor to antonin scalia. today he made it plain. he said the constitution is clear on what he'll do next which is nominate someone election year or no next year. >> there's no unwritten law that says that it can only be done on off years. that's not in the constitutional text. i'm amused when i hear people who claim to be strict interpreters of the constitution suddenly reading into it a whole series of provisions that are not there. there is more than enough time for the senate to consider in a thoughtful way the record of a nominee that i present and to make a decision. >> that's not all he talked about. he also had a blunt assessment of the republican front-runner. >> i continue to believe mr.
trump will not be president. and the reason is because i have a lot of faith in the american people. and i think they recognize that being president is a serious job. it's not hosting a talk show or a reality show. >> and as we said, we got new polling numbers on the state of the south carolina race, first cnn's pamela brown joins us with more on a president who had quite a lot to say this evening. what more did the president talk about in his plan to nominate some of the supreme court? >> anderson, this is the first time the president is seeking questions in the wake of justice scalia's death and took a tough stance. as you heard, he said the constitution is clear, both he and the senate have responsibilities in filling a supreme court vacancy. he says he expects republicans to consider any nominee he puts forward no matter what, they have a job to do until they are voted out and he made the point whoever he chooses will be so indisputably qualified that republicans will essentially look bad if they refuse to even
consider that person. although, anderson, he would not give any hints about who is on his short list, and he said don't jump to any conclusions about whether he's going to choose a moderate. >> it was also, i mean, interesting to hear him just as we played, talking about donald trump. >> that's right. he spent a lot of time talking about donald trump today saying he will not be president, said that flat-out, that people are too sensible to vote for someone like him. he also suggested that trump is not qualified for the job. he has promotion and marketing experience but doesn't have the credentials to be president and he said trump is not the only republican candidate who he finds troublesome. let's take a listen to what he said. >> i think foreign observers are are troubled by some of the rhetoric that's been taking place in these republican primaries and republican debates. i don't think it's restricted, by the way, to mr. trump. i find it interesting everybody is focused on trump primarily
just because he says in more interesting ways what the other candidates are saying as well. so he may up the ante in anti-muslim sentiment, but if you look at what the other republican candidates have said, that's pretty troubling, too. he may express strong anti-immigration sentiment, but you've heard that from the other candidates as well. >> it's not often, anderson, you hear a sitting president talk about an opposing party's presidential candidates like that. it's interesting to note he took a much different and softer approach when it came to the democratic presidential candidates. >> yeah, i mean, he talked about hillary clinton, not quite an endorsement, though. >> yeah, it seemed like he was trying to stay above the fray and not play favorites between bernie sanders or hillary clinton, though he did make it clear that he's known clinton for a long time. here's what he had to say about that. >> i know hillary better than i know bernie because she served
in my administration and she was an outstanding secretary of state. and i suspect that on certain issues, she agrees with me more than bernie does, on the other hand, there may be a couple issues where bernie agrees with me. >> so there you heard it. certainly not a ringing endorsement of clinton, though in past interviews he has seemed to lean more toward clinton and just recently his former press secretary, jay carney, said that obama would like her to replace him in the oval office. anderson? >> pamela brown, thanks very much. more now on the court battle. president obama clearly not backing down from what could be his final big fight with a republican congress. joining us now, jonathan turley. gloria borger. and our "inside politics" anchor, john king. john, when president obama
engages donald trump even if it's to say something negative about him, does that help trump in a way or at least elevate him in the minds of republican voters? >> sure, it elevates him with republican voters and mr. trump at a town hall right after mentioned the president's criticism and said he took it as a badge of honor, took it as a compliment. remember when trump said he'd ban muslims coming into the united states. president obama came out and criticized him, hillary clinton came out to criticize him. trump is also in a direct debate with the president of the united states. and he's a few days away from a primary in south carolina and he's happy for that debate. >> gloria, is it possible that president obama's underestimating just how much donald trump has connected with certainly the conservative electorate? >> you know, i think president obama knows how to read polls, and he understands how well donald trump is doing. i'm here in south carolina. he's doing really well here in south carolina. so i don't think the president is really underestimating him. i think the president doesn't like him. period. i mean, don't forget, donald
trump originally accused the president of not being born in the united states before he said that ted cruz wasn't qualified to run for president because he was born in canada. and so there's no love lost between these two folks and this is also a president who clearly wants to see a democrat elected because if he doesn't, his legacy is really endangered and that's why i believe he probably wants to see hillary clinton elected because bernie sanders wants to change obamacare. >> and professor, when it comes to the supreme court, the senate can't stop the president from nominating someone to succeed justice scalia, the president can't stop the senate from ignoring his nomination, so does somebody blink? >> well, that's right. i mean, this is a power the framers gave to both branches, so the president does nominate, but the senate must confirm. and if their advice and consent is no advice and no consent, that is certainly within the right to do.
i think the better approach is to give a nomination, if he can find someone who actually wants to be the subject of that hearing. i mean, it's like joining the navy to be a target buoy. it's not exactly a promising naval career. but if you could find someone who's willing to run that, that risk, i think the senate should give them the chance. but at the end of the day, president obama is the answer to his own question. he says what is the senate going to do? he filibustered justice alito and though he had qualms at the time, he did exactly what he's telling the republicans not to do in many respects. >> yeah. john, the president, i mean, he's got no incentive but to back away from this fight, no one believes he's not on firm constitutional grounds. it's more a matter of politics really and he's got no more campaigns left to run and it also maybe sets up something that spurs democrats to go to the polls and vote against republicans. >> right. so, anderson, the president will take this in two phases. number one, he'll fight for his pick because he thinks he deserves to make the pick and he'll fight for his pick because
if he knows he get to appoint the one for antonin scalia, tip the court from a conservative 5 -4 majority to a progressive or liberal 5-4 majority. if a democrat wins the white house in november, this could be the obama court for a generation. he understands legacy value in the pick. he'll fight for it. if he doesn't get it, he'll go around the country trying to turn out votes to help democrats win the white house to make sure at least a democrat gets that pick next and if he does that, he will make the case and you can bet on it that republicans blocked him because he's the first african-american president and they didn't give it to him because of his race. that will when part of the president's argument in november. but first he's going to fight to see if he can get them to blink, anderson, and his biggest case there will be trying to influence the republican senate majority at risk this year, too, not just the presidency and the president will try to sway some of those borderline republican senators to try to get them to blink. >> gloria, it's interesting, we
got senator mcconnell who's saying the senate will essentially ignore whatever nominee the president puts forward. senator chuck grassley who chairs the judiciary committee seems to have slightly left the door open actually holding hearings when the president nominates someone which is obviously a key step in the confirmation process. >> yeah. i think what you see in chuck grassley is somebody who's under a huge amount of pressure, anderson. you know, this is somebody who's running for re-election for his seventh term. originally he sided with mitch mcconnell saying forget it, we're not going to do anything. he got criticized back home by "the des moines register." that's a problem when you're running for re-election in that state. he kind of backed off now and i think he's got pressure from his committee democrats and so the question is, who does the president nominate as jonathan turley was talking about? and that's what grassley has said. he said, let's wait and see who
the president nominates. you know, these fights are always contextual. if the president nominates somebody that grassley believes ought to be given a hearing in committee, he'll give him a hearing in committee. he's got a lot of power but he's also a politician that has to get votes back home in iowa. >> go ahead, professor. >> that's actually the interesting dynamic in who he selects, he's selecting someone to win. >> right. >> or is he selecting someone for attrition? if he wants to select someone for political attrition, i'd go for lynch, loretta lynch. i was impressed with how she handled herself. she has a great family story. she comes with some opposition from her earlier vote, but she'd be great if you're looking for political attrition. if you're looking to win, there are some wonderful candidates there, too, but the important thing is any moderate is going to move this needle to the left. i mean, you're replacing scalia. you're never going to find someone with that profile that's acceptable to the white house. >> we're going to watch it closely. professor, thank you. john, gloria, stick around. a lot more from the campaign trail, ted cruz launching a new verbal rocket at donald trump. and the passing of justice
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south carolina is the state where politics can certainly get rough, but where the toughest shots are frequently stealth attacks and sometimes whisper campaigns. this time around no one is whispering, marco rubio calling cruz a liar, trump never at a loss of words defending his attack on rubio at saturday's debate. >> i was being hit and hit and hit and i was really happy with the way it came out. i mean, i had to be very tough because, you know, you got to do it. i'm being hit by rubio at the end because he said, oh, i agree with them. where did this guy come from? here's a guy, i watched him -- it's true. i mean, all of a sudden he's agreeing with jeb and i said, i said, van, i said, where did this guy come from? two weeks before at the other debate i watched him melt. he was melting. he was sweating. i thought he just got out of his swimming pool.
>> donald trump in buford, south carolina, tonight. in a moment, new polling that to provide the first hint of how voters responded to his performance at that debate. first, his ongoing battle with ted cruz. joining us from charleston is sunlen serfaty. the attacks from the republican candidates are coming from all sides. what's the latest? >> reporter: that's right. they really are, anderson. it was interesting to see ted cruz today out campaigning when he was speaking directly in front of voters, he largely seemed to try to take on a different tone, gone were any large-scale or direct attacks on his opponents. he really seemed to try to almost connect with voters on how nasty this race in south carolina has turned. he called it today a circus and said the time for the games are over but make no mistake about it, this is not a thawing of tensions by cruz changing his tone a bit on the campaign trail. ted cruz and his campaign are very squarely focused on the opponents in south carolina, very squarely focused on taking down donald trump and specific
they're just the attack in very different ways. >> did cruz go after trump in a different way? >> reporter: he did. this is a big mark of defiance today by ted cruz and his campaign really digging in their heels against donald trump. they released a five-minute web ad. it was ted cruz speaking directly to the camera for five minutes, all about donald trump's record on abortion and this is one of the big issues that donald trump keeps laying in to ted cruz about saying he's a liar because he's misrepresenting, in his opinion, stance on abortion. ted cruz looking right to that camera. that's a very specific message he's sending to voters saying that donald trump spent most of his life before this election enthusiastically supporting pro-abortion. of course, donald trump, anderson, wasting no time responding calling that another smear. >> all right, sunlen, thanks very much. the question is how well is trump's brand of blunt language playing in a state where manners often matter?
he put it to the test in the debate over the weekend and have our serious polling since then. john king is breaking it down by the numbers. trump has a big lead in south carolina. should he be concerned about anything? >> yes, let's take a look at the numbers. you're right, let's start with the big lead. cnn/orc poll, 22% for ted cruz, 38% for trump. then rubio, bush, carson, kasich. that's a healthy lead. look at that with a few days to go and think, wow, this is a lock. here's where donald trump has to worry a little bit. in the calls before the debate, donald trump polling at 40%. post-debate he went wasn't to 31%. carson and kasich got a bounce post-debate. donald trump is coming down after the debate. there are some signs perhaps of an opening for the other candidates. here's one other quick point. half of south carolina republicans say they're locked in. they've definitely decided. 20% leaning one way so they're gettable. and 30%, 31% are still deciding. so they're wide open. so if trump was coming down because of the debate, there is an opportunity for his rivals,
but remember, a pretty healthy lead and not that much time. >> where does that lead come from for trump? >> if you look through, number one, a majority of the voters in south carolina are likely to be evangelicals. sunlen was mentioning ted cruz with an appeal, saying donald trump before this was pro-choice. 42% of white evangelicals in south carolina who say they're likely to vote in the republican primary are for donald trump almost a 20-point lead. 19 points over ted cruz. this is what has the cruz campaign apoplectic. they can't figure it out but can't peel them away. trump's support, look at on the issues, the economy matters, trump has a 44-point lead over cruz, when republicans in south carolina are asked who will best handle the economy. 35-point lead. who would best handle immigration. who would best handle isis? 44% trump leads on who would change d.c. trump leads on all the big issues up here. cruz is second on all these issues, but 44 points change d.c. 44 points in the economy. yes, on gop values, just barely
makes it. on social issues, ted cruz wins. that's not what the voters are looking for. they're looking for someone who's tough, strong on the economy and someone who will change washington. when you look at the issues portfolio heading into the final days, trump looks like he's headed for back to back wins. >> i want to bring gloria borger back in. trump, can he maintain that through saturday? ted cruz and jeb bush are not letting up on their criticism. >> reporter: well, i have to say it looks good, anderson. there are two numbers i pay attention to in south carolina from the voters. one is 60% believe trump has the best chance to win in a general election and also 60% believe he can bring change to washington. what are elections about? they're about winning and bring change.
sunlen was talking earlier about cruz talking about abortion. this is trump's achilles' heel. this question of values. and cruz and trump are pretty tied in that. but even if cruz were to go ahead of trump on that score, i'm not sure it could be enough to sort of win the primary down here. i think -- i think if trump kind of sits on his lead, doesn't make any huge mistakes, i think he's looking at a victory here. >> the question is, does the abortion issue, no pun intended, trump the economy, isis and all the other things trump has this huge lead? john, with new hampshire and iowa, we talked a lot about scenarios coming in second or third could be considered a win for candidates other that trump. at what point is a loss just a loss? if cruz or bush or rubio can't beat trump in south carolina, where can they beat them? >> you make a great point. they all say they plan on going on, they all believe donald trump will eventually unravel. at some point if trump can win new hampshire and win south carolina, the big thing if he
wins south carolina, anderson, a lot of people will look at the margin, was he coming down in the final days, did somebody get close, is there an indication as we move on to the more crowded primary calendar that perhaps some of the attacks are taking an effect? number two, is ted cruz second? ted cruz is going to go on, anyway. if ted cruz is second, he can try to make the case i'm the evangelical tea party candidate as we head into a calendar that goes heavily into the south in the next few days but we still have the question we have had from day one of this race. will there be, not who will it be, will there with one mainstream establishment alternative to trump and cruz? marco rubio thought coming out of new hampshire it would be him, if he stumbles in south carolina does jeb bush who barely survived new hampshire stay in the race longer? can kasich surprise us in south carolina? or does that three-way race for the establishment vote go on to another day? maybe absent one of those candidates if the money dries up. but unless and until that question is answered, most people still think if you had to bet today, trump has the greatest odds of winning the nomination, ted cruz second and
the establishment lane is a giant question mark. >> gloria, jeb bush who has pulled out his mom on the campaign trail in new hampshire, now his brother, the former president, george w. bush yesterday on the campaign trail, i mean, if he doesn't come in third in south carolina does he continue on? >> reporter: look, i think he's got a very difficult choice if he doesn't win, place or show. he brought out his brother who's really popular here. he's got a 77% approval rating in the republican party. and if that really doesn't help jeb and they've spent $100 million on this campaign, if you're an investor in this campaign, you're going to start asking some really hard questions. there are a lot of big funders who have kind of been sitting back waiting to see who does get that establishment lane to himself. jeb wants it. i think if he has a poor showing here, they're going to have to really reassess where they go. >> and john, i mean, south carolina's governor nikki haley,
big name in the republican party, said today it's safe to say she's not going to endorse donald trump, unclear if she's going to endorse anyone. by ruling trump out, does that exempt him to criticize her in these final days before the primary or is there any point in her doing that? he has plenty of other people he's running against. >> let's watch and see if he does that. she's very popular in the state. i'll make this distinction. remember the iowa governor said you should not vote for donald trump. donald trump used that to his advantage. the establishment in your state is out to get me, the establishment in washington. donald trump is fighting the big voices people don't like especially grassroots republicans. he's fighting president obama, fighting the republican establishment. nikki haley is popular in the states. that might require a bit more calibration for mr. trump to let it go and focus on his voters sometimes he can't resist. >> gloria, to be clear, george w. bush is no longer on the trail for his brother, is he? >> reporter: no, i think it was a big showing and whether he'll come back out again, we don't
know, but his mother is going to be out on the trail so it continues to be kind of a family thing. >> gloria, thank you, john king as well. just ahead, republicans on the attack as the south carolina primary approaches. will the republicans get tougher? that's next. on the democratic side, bernie sanders and hillary clinton vie for the crucial african-american vote. ut 9 out 0 americans... ...aren't getting enough important omega-3s. bayer pro ultra omega-3 can help, with two times the concentration of omega-3s than the leading brand. love your heart ... with bayer pro ultra omega-3. t...to help sense danger before7 was engiyou do. . because when you live to innovate, you innovate to live.
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welcome back. we're talking tonight about just how openly hostile the republican primary has become. ronald reagan's 11th commandment, thou not speak ill of any fellow republican clearly now ancient history. candidates calling other candidates liars, losers, stiffs, blowhards, jerks. donald trump who seems to be reveling in it, now threatening to sue ted cruz over his eligibility for office if he does not take back what he calls lies about him. >> he was born in canada. when you talk about a natural-born citizen, according to many great lawyers, i've been interviewed very strongly -- >> i'll ask you again, are you going to file suit? >> i'm thinking about it very seriously. we're thinking about it.
>> well, if it happens the lawsuit might just be more civilized than much of what we're seeing on the campaign trail. more now if our tom foreman. >> i have never, ever met a person that lies more than ted cruz. >> reporter: for the republicans -- >> i just said ted's tough saying things that aren't true. >> reporter: -- it's getting dirty down south. one word coming up again and again. >> liar, liar, liar. >> reporter: the desperate fight for the lead or at least a strong showing is driving a torrent of attacks on a litany of causes that can excite and enrage conservatives. gay marriage, abortion, immigration. >> we do not need someone in the oval office who mirrors and inflames our anger and frustration. >> the last thing we need is another bush. that i can tell you. that i can tell you. >> reporter: the gop debate in south carolina featured the sharpest exchanges so far. >> you fight isis first. >> this is a man who insults his way to the nomination. >> i don't know how he knows what i said on univision because he doesn't speak spanish.
second of all -- >> in espanol. >> reporter: the palmetto state has a long history of nasty political tricks. in 2000, john mccain was hammered by rumors he had an illegitimate black child. in 2007, mysterious christmas cards to voters suggested mitt romney favored polygamy. other republicans have been accused of infidelities, secretly wild ways and much more, all untrue and usually from unknown sources. so, some of the current attacks like this ad by cruz appear tame by comparison. >> south carolina cannot trust donald trump. >> i'm very capable of changing to anything i want to change to. >> don't give him that chance. >> reporter: the only two contenders who seem above the fray, if barely, ben carson and john kasich who sums up the race. >> it's like we had a demolition derby. >> reporter: and it may get
worse yet. some of the nastiest tricks tend to show up right before the voting. fliers misinforming voters about where they can cast their ballots or smearing candidates so late they have no time to respond. and of course, leaving no clues as to who was behind the dirty work. anderson? >> tom, thanks very much. joining us now, veteran of south carolina political contest, republican consultant, former state republican party chairman, katon dawson, cnn political commentators amanda carpenter and jeffrey lord, he's a trump supporter, former white house political director in the reagan administration. she's a former communications director for senator ted cruz. katon, let's start with you. things seem to be getting tough in south carolina with days to go, nothing really all that surprising, and last night you talked about how in south carolina they also don't like politicians whining about how tough things are. do you see any of the candidates being able to catch donald trump, though? >> probably not, but donald trump's done a few things that i find amazing.
he has threatened to file a lawsuit in a republican primary against another candidate which usually would disqualify you. he has insulted the former commander in chief which would usually disqualify you. he has called just about everybody a liar and they call ed him a liar, which would usually disqualify you and his numbers are pretty solid. what am i to say about it, anderson, except for this is odd and weird. it is south carolina. there's plenty of time left. in your poll that i saw earlier, there's still a 50% number that's shakeable and movable. i contend ted cruz probably hurt himself again today bantering back and forth with donald trump because you don't seem to win that banter. if donald trump is talking about anything than illegal
immigration in south carolina, he's having a bad day. that's what brought him to the party, so far. >> jeffrey, it's interesting katon talking about donald trump is sort of teflon, i fell like we've been having that conversation for six months. maybe this is the first time in south carolina but i feel like, i mean, isn't that the same story we've been showing since the beginning? >> it is, anderson. you and i and amanda and others have talked about this until the cows come home. it's the same story all of the time. this poll is interesting. look at his numbers on immigration, he's far and away ahead which i think, perhaps, just my opinion here, is contributing to the lack of effect that the bushes are having because, of course, both president bush and jeb bush are well known for their moderate views on immigration. and when you've got donald trump out there by such large numbers on immigration, i think that perhaps, you know, there are a lot of voters out there that see him as on the wrong side of the fence. they they like him, they may love him, but they think they're on the wrong side here. >> amanda, i want to play video from a youtube camera senator cruz put out earlier today
blasting donald trump. let's listen. >> a candidate that can't be trusted to protect the right to life can't be trusted to protect any of our other god-given rights, either. when you look at the voting records of politicians, what you'll find is if they're bad on life, they're always, i repeat, always, bad on everything else, too. >> how effective do you think this is? i mean, to katon's point, there's a lot of folks in south carolina still undecided or not exactly locked in on who they're going to vote for, but in that poll, social issues were pretty far down the list in terms of what people were looking for. with the economy, with isis and other things and they scored donald trump highest in all those. >> it gets to the core question, what does donald trump believe on an issue that is the most important moral issue? he's been all over the place on it, he said in the last debate that he thought planned parenthood was terrific. ted cruz is right, if people don't have a strong moral bearing on the life issue, they're usually malleable on so many other things. and so he's -- cruz has got to
keep making the case to that evangelical voter. your last poll showed trump up 42%. you know, he's got to keep making that pitch because it does speak to the fundamental broader question about donald trump, where does he come down on any given issue, and is he driven by any sort of moral compass, moral principle? the answer is no, but you have to keep making that case. >> you know, katon, it is an interesting dilemma and a dilemma that frankly his opponents have been wrestling with since he first entered the race which is how do you fight against somebody who seems impervious? it's like one of those superhero movies where, you know, one of the superheroes is impervious to any blows. i mean, how do you, for his republican opponents, how do you fight against that? do you have any tips in south carolina? >> anderson, you try to get him one-on-one. that's what they're trying to do. they're trying to thin the field down. it's not happening yet. if you look into the cnn poll, you saw it was rubio versus trump, it's a 44%-44% matchup. there's your frustration of certain candidates, let's get on him one-on-one.
kasich is making a little bit of a move. carson is going to stay flat, in my opinion. bush got a one-day bump. as good of friends as they are of mine, i don't see that -- he's got to get in double digits and that's going to be hard. rubio is in a pretty good place. cruz has got to get out the vote, and today i went by trump office and there are a lot of cars there, anderson, so he's gone ahead and bought himself a ground game, so we'll see, but, i mean, i've talked to campaigns who say we just want to be there when we can get him one-on-one if it's not too late. >> that's the thing. jeff, i mean, katon raises a great point which you have all these other candidates wanting to go one-on-one with donald trump not wanting to drop out because they don't want to this on that opportunity, but the fact that nobody is dropping out means it's a divided field and that benefits donald trump. >> it does benefit donald trump. you know, i'll tell you one little anecdote, anderson, when i got home from cnn from new
york on sunday, i was home about a half hour and the doorbell rang. this is suburban harrisburg, pennsylvania. i opened the door to find a young woman, she had no idea who i was. she was there with a donald trump petition for her brother who was also working in the neighborhood. it was 19 degrees out. to sign a trump petition for his delegate seat and also to put donald trump on the ballot. that's ground game. that goes directly to what katon is saying in south carolina. i think they've got their act together on this. i don't think it's going away. >> i assume you signed that, jeffrey, because you're a trump supporter. >> i did. >> i don't need to ask you. >> i did, anderson. i was going to sign your name but they told me it was illegal. >> she certainly knocked on the right door that night. amanda -- >> yes, she did. >> you say trump is not a conservative. how so? >> in the last debate we saw a very strong development on that front.
when trump stood up and said bush lied in that aggressive fashion and also made the comments about planned parenthood, i think he's making a play for the liberal vote. he is remaking the republican electorate. i know we talk a lot about he's not conservative, he's not conservative, he doesn't care. he's not trying to be conservative. i mean, he was asked on the stump about obama's amnesty for students and things like that. he goes, oh, it's great. i don't think he knew what daca, the acronym for it, actually was. he was asked about the vra, voting rights act. he said, i'll take a look at it. i don't think he knew what that was either. he's campaigning purely on personality and he's taking down the bushes which, you know, a lot of liberals don't like. he's calling ted cruz a liar left and right. i think he's trying to gin up part of the far left vote because south carolina is an open primary and he can expand the electorate there. i do have to say i am so disappointed to see marco rubio parrot donald trump's talking points about ted cruz being a liar.
at the end of the day, donald trump is the threat to the party. i think a lot of conservatives across the spectrum would be very happy with a cruz or rubio nominee, but rubio is not helping the cause for himself, elevating discourse or going to help unifying the party by acting like donald trump's mini me. >> we have to leave it there. amanda, good to have you on. katon lawson, jeffrey lord. this week i'll moderate two republican town halls in south carolina. tomorrow night, dr. ben carson, marco rubio, ted cruz will take questions from myself and also from voters. also on thursday night i'll be with john kasich, jeb bush, and donald trump at 8:00 p.m. eastern tomorrow and on thursday right here on cnn. just ahead in this hour, new poll numbers tonight in a democratic battle in south carolina. hillary clinton, bernie sanders fighting for the support of african-american voters. and talking bluntly about racial injustice. plus, justice antonin scalia memorialized inside the supreme court. his funeral plans set. questions linger over how texas authorities responded to his death.
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she's also beating him among two key blocs of voters, african-americans and women. on the campaign trail both candidates are talking openly and often about race and racial injustice. jeff zeleny reports. >> reporter: hillary clinton and bernie sanders are in a fierce competition to win over black voters. >> thank you, charleston. >> reporter: sanders campaigning today in south carolina. >> i am speechless. what can i say after that? >> reporter: clinton in harlem. meeting with al sharpton and other leaders. casting her bid for the presidency as another chance to break history. >> hold me accountable. hold every candidate accountable. what we say matters, but what we do matters more. >> reporter: their eyes are fixed on south carolina where next week's democratic primary will test the strength of clinton's southern firewall, and the breadth of sanders' appeal. >> thank you, sir. >> reporter: african-american voters are a critical
constituency making up 55% of the democratic vote in the 2008 presidential primary. the clinton/sanders battle is shining a light on criminal justice reform and racism. >> these inequities are wrong, but they're also immoral. and it will be the mission of my presidency to bring them to an end. >> reporter: sanders says racial injustice is rooted in economic inequality. >> and when we talk about inequality, it goes without saying that the african-american community is suffering even more. >> reporter: sanders believes his economic arguments will resonate with black voters. >> the african-american community suffered more and has recovered in a much less significant way. >> reporter: with him on the campaign trail today, erica garner. her father's death helped inspire the black lives matter protests. >> no justice -- >> no peace! >> reporter: eric garner died in 2014 after a new york police officer placed him in a choke hold during an arrest.
>> a fearless public servant that is not afraid to stand against the establishment for the people, the next president of the united states, bernie sanders. >> reporter: she's also the subject of a powerful campaign video. >> that's why i'm for bernie. >> reporter: the clinton campaign is fighting hard for south carolina. collecting far more endorsements including from eric garner's mother. >> we love you, hillary. >> reporter: they hope a strong win will solidify her position as the party's front-runner. >> so, jeff, the question is obviously how much progress can sanders make with african-american voters between now and when south carolina democrats vote? >> reporter: anderson, he only has 11 days and they are pretty realistic about what type of an uphill battle this is. he said, himself, today this is a long road to hoe here but a couple numbers give them some hope. while 37% of african-american voters are actually -- she's winning by 37%, he believes among younger african-american voters, they actually are listening more to economic
argument he's talking about. i was struck throughout the day as he talked about how young black men and women need jobs. he ties that into criminal justice reform. but, anderson, another number in our poll that stuck out to me, 34% of black voters are absolutely sure who they're going to vote for. 2/3 of black voters are open to changing their mind. that's why the nevada caucuses coming up this saturday make all the difference in the world. if bernie sanders wins there, they believe he has a new life in south carolina. anderson? >> thanks very much. just ahead tonight, after the death of antonin scalia, lingering questions about how texas authorities handled his death.
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antonin scalia's bench chair at the supreme court is draped if black to memorialize him after his death this weekend. a funeral is set for saturday. meanwhile, there are questions about justice scalia's death, how texas authorities handled it. brian todd has the latest. >> reporter: the sudden death of a senior associate justice of the supreme court, what some see as the bizarre handling of it afterward are leaving lingering questions. after justice antonin scalia was found dead in this room at a texas ranch on saturday, it
reportedly took hours to find someone to pronounce him dead. finally, when local texas judge cinderella guevara said justice scalia died of natural causes, she did it by telephone without seeing the body and without ordering an autopsy. that's allowed under texas law. judge guevara told the "washington post" she made her determination only after talking to investigators on the scene who said they saw nothing suspicious and tonight a u.s. law enforcement source tells cnn there were no signs of foul play. still, some are critical given scalia's high profile. >> well, i don't think a very good job was done with the death investigation. >> reporter: former washington, d.c., homicide commander william richie believes justice scalia did die of natural causes but he says judge guevara or a medical examiner should have been there in person to pronounce justice scalia dead. he says there are things investigators should have looked for at the scene. >> did day look for signs of
hemorrhage in the eyes and lips and smelling the breath for any unusual type of odor, removing the underclothing to see whether there was, you know, any trauma anywhere on the body? any injection sites? and there's no indication that any of that was done. >> reporter: checking for those trace of hemorrhage or odor richie says could have told investigators if justice scalia was suffocated or poisoned. conspiracy theories fueled by comments made by the owner of the ranch. john poindexter told a newspaper justice scalia was found with a pillow over his head. donald trump weighed in. >> it's a horrible topic. they said they found a pillow on his face, unusual place to find a pillow. >> reporter: john poindexter said, "the pillow was over his headboard and over his head when he was discovered. he looked like someone who had had a restful night's sleep. there was no evidence of anything else."
law professor jonathan turley said there wasn't anything suspicion about just scalia's death. >> when you have a supreme court justice who passes away, you don't have the same leeway, the same ability to make assumptions. you have to be held accountable to the public and to history. that's why an autopsy should have been done. >> reporter: texas judge cinderella guevara told the "washington post" she spoke to justice scalia's doctor who told her he suffered from several chronic conditions. the scalia family, which asked no autopsy be done, did not respond to cnn's request for comment on why they made that request. anderson? >> thanks for the reporting. a lot more happening tonight. amara walker has a "360 bulletin." >> emotional return to paris where the eagles of death metal. fans greeted the band to finish the show cut short three months ago by islamist gunmen. people were killed inside the bataclan concert hall where the american band was playing to a sold out crowd. today the u.s. and cuba signed a deal to resume commercial flights between the countries for the first time in more than 50 years.
the move starts the clock on a bidding war. u.s. carriers have 15 days to submit applications for routes they'd like to fly. when she wasn't collecting shoes, imelda marcos was collecting jewelry, and now the philippine government is putting it up for auction. 300 pieces worth an estimated $21 million, all of it seized after the former first lady and her husband were overthrown. >> quite a haul. amara, thanks very much. we'll be right back. i think it landed last tuesday. one second it's there. then, woosh, it's gone. i swear i saw it swallow seven people. seven. i just wish one of those people could have been mrs. johnson.
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motor raiding from south carolina. a two night event. that's 8:00 p.m. eastern tomorrow and thursday. that does it for this edition. thanks for watching. "cnn newsroom" starts now. great to have you with us. this is newsroom l.a. a lot to get to this hour from all the news in u.s. politics. officials at the pentagaltt tell cnn china has deployed surface to air missiles. senior international correspondent live. >> reporter: john, that's right. so let's go to this area. these are the islands in the south china sea. there are disputes over who owns them. the island we're