Clinton goes on the attack as Sanders continues to surge

Fresh worries for the Clinton campaign amid new e-mail woes, falling polls


This is a rush transcript from "Journal Editorial Report," January 24, 2016. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

PAUL GIGOT, FOX HOST:  This week on the "Journal Editorial Report," as her e- mail woes continue to mount and poll numbers continue to drop, is Hillary Clinton still inevitable, or is it time to take Bernie Sanders seriously?  

And with Iowa just over a week away, Donald Trump and Ted Cruz slug it out for the top spot while other Republican candidates set their sights on a strong finish in New Hampshire.  A look at who's poised to break out of the Granite State pack, after these headlines.


GIGOT:  Welcome to the "Journal Editorial Report."  I'm Paul Gigot.  

Fresh worries for the Clinton campaign as new reports reveal that the former secretary of state's private e-mail server contained information classified at levels higher than previously known, including a level meant to protect some of the government's most important secrets.  This, as polls show the Democratic presidential race too close to call in Iowa and Bernie Sanders opening up a big lead in New Hampshire, with her chief rival claiming this week that Hillary is no longer the inevitable nominee.  


SEN. BERNIE SANDERS, I-VT. & DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  When we started, we were in 3 percent in the polls.  We were 50 points behind.  Today, the inevitable candidate does not look quite so inevitable as she did eight and a half months ago.  



GIGOT:  Joining the panel this week Wall Street Journal columnist and deputy editor, Dan Henninger; Washington columnist, Kim Strassel; and assistant editorial page editor, James Freeman.  

So, Kim, start off with these new e-mail revelations about Hillary Clinton.  How serious are they?  I frame it by putting it this way.  Michael Mukasey, the former attorney general of the United States, a Republican, said this week in our pages that he thinks that these new charges combined with everything else warrant a criminal charge against former Secretary Clinton.  

KIM STRASSEL, WASHINGTON COLUMNIST:  They arguably do, because what we found out this week is that the inspector general for the intelligence community sent a letter to Congress saying that Clinton's server contained some of the most top secret stuff you could have in the United States, including references to what are known as special access programs, which are often technology programs about military technology.  

Why this matters, Paul, is because it puts a lie to Senator Clinton's or Clinton's argument that none of this information was classified at the time, because you don't have military weapons programs that are unclassified and later becomes classified.  

GIGOT:  But. Kim, the response from the Clinton campaign, look, this is just -- these are U.S. officials quoted just the drone program, right?  Everybody knew about the drone program because it had been the targeting of terrorists by drones because it had been reported in the press.  What's your response to that?  

STRASSEL:  We don't know exactly what are in these e-mails and how detailed these conversations were and what information was sitting there available to any Chinese hackers.  The reality, regardless of whether or not some Senators have mentioned the drone program in public, it remains one of the most guarded secrets in the government and she's a government official who was supposed to protect those secrets.  

DAN HENNINGER, COLUMNIST & DEPUTY EDITOR:  One other important point here, Paul, we may not know what's in the e-mails but the FBI does and, ultimately, as Michael Mukasey pointed out in the article, this call is going to be made by FBI Director James Comey whether or not to proceed.  
What that means is a huge cloud is hanging over the head of both Hillary's campaign and the Democratic Party as well.  They've got to be worried that this happened at some point when they least need it.  

GIGOT:  All right.  Let's turn to the challenge, James.  Hillary's problems, Clinton's problems, are part of the explanation for Sanders doing better.  People are worried about it, as Dan said, but know she has this ethical cloud over her head.  How else do you explain the Sanders' surge?  

JAMES FREEMAN, ASSISTANT EDITORIAL PAGE EDITOR:  Well, he certainly has gotten a free ride in media terms.  He has not been seen as a serious competitor to this point, and so his past positions, his philosophy, has not been examined in detail.  For younger voters who have flocked to him in the Democratic Party, they're probably not learning in school as much as maybe earlier generations did --



GIGOT:  Don't know who Eugene Debs is, the great Socialist of a century ago, his hero.  

FREEMAN:  I think they may be largely ignorant of the enormous pain and suffering caused by Marxism over the last century or so.  But I think this is the challenge for the Clintons.  Hillary Clinton ran left to try and blunt this problem.  It didn't work.  Now she's in the center.  I think Bill Clinton maybe will have to tell us why Marxism doesn't work.  


GIGOT:  James, your problem is -- your problem is Hillary Clinton has tried in the last week to say that Bernie Sanders is well to Socialist.  It hasn't worked.


GIGOT:  And she's pulled back in and said, and saying, well, my esteemed opponent, Bernie Sanders, really puts some good ideas on the table, they're just impractical.  So that -- the line of attack you suggested isn't working.  

FREEMAN:  There's a lot of education that has to be done because, again, I think Socialism is not the dirty word it should be and used to be.  I think this is a job probably not for Hillary but for Bill to explain Marxism and why it doesn't work.  

GIGOT:  What about the electability?  That I have to hear, by the way.  


The electability issue is the one that Bernie is focusing on now, saying, look, I do better head to head against Trump than Clinton does.  That's true in our poll.  Those polls, these surveys so far out from the election don't really mean all that much, but it does suggest to some Democrats and maybe Sanders, without the ethical baggage, could be a stronger candidate.  

HENNINGER:  Yeah.  I think there are other forces in play here.  To me, extraordinarily ironic, Hillary Clinton was defeated in 2008 by a candidate running under the banner of hope and change.  Effectively, that's what Bernie Sanders is doing again.  He is an idealistic Socialist and that appears to younger people, who are still wedded to the idea of hope and change.  And the idea that Hillary Clinton would be defeated or challenged again by the Obama base that was assembled in two elections, must really be a hard pill for her to swallow.  

GIGOT:  One thing about Bernie Sanders, he does have to win Iowa.  


GIGOT:  And New Hampshire.  If he doesn't win there, his momentum --


HENNINGER:  30 points ahead in New Hampshire.  

GIGOT:  Well, but he has to win both, and that's the crucial point.  If he does that, he hurts her.  If he doesn't win that, I think she rolls.  

All right.  Still ahead, with Iowa just over a week away, Ted Cruz and Donald Trump trade blows over establishment ties and conservative credentials.  A look at their battle for the top spot, when we come back.  


GIGOT:  With just over a week to go, Republican front runners, Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, are locked in a fierce battle for first place in Iowa.  And on the campaign trail this week, the two continued to trade blows, questioning each other's big bank connections and conservative credentials.  


DONALD TRUMP, R-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Low interest loans, low interest, and now he's going to go after Goldman Sachs.  Doesn't work that way.  Goldman Sachs owns him.  Remember that, folks.  
They own him.  

SEN. TED CRUZ, R-TEXAS & PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  If, as a voter, you think what we need is more Republicans in Washington to cut a deal with Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, then I guess Donald Trump is your guy.  That's what the Washington establishment is saying.  


GIGOT:  All right.  So, Kim, they are competing to say who's the bigger phony in claiming to be an outsider.  


I kind of think they're both right.  


But what do you think in terms -- who's winning this argument?  

STRASSEL:  Look, I think it's a little draw, although it does show when you start throwing the word "establishment" around, it's up to anybody to get to define what that actually means.  

What's really happening here, look, they're trying to appeal to the same group of voters, which are this primarily electorate that is unhappy with businesses usual and they're looking for the most authentic candidate.  So that's who they're pitching to.  I think you saw some other things this week.  Sarah Palin's endorsement of Donald Trump, that's something that I think probably is less of a help to Donald Trump than it is a hurt to Ted Cruz.  

GIGOT:  Yeah, I agree with that.  

STRASSEL:  Those are the people he really wants to get and she's authentic to those people.  She appeals to those people and she's saying Donald is the real thing more than Cruz.  

GIGOT:  I agree with that, James, in the sense that Cruz wants to suggest that he's the only legitimate fighting conservative and Palin really dented that image because she has a reputation, whatever you think of her, as a fighting conservative.  

FREEMAN:  But I think conservatives, people who want the government to be smaller, to spend less, to do less, if the choice is Trump and Cruz, they've got to rally around Cruz.  




FREEMAN:  -- down the line on every issue.  And this idea that it's disqualifying to take loans from Goldman and Citibank, Donald Trump routinely did business with mafia-controlled companies.  His explanation is either, you know, a combination of I didn't know, I didn't really have a choice.  I mean, I think as a president you want someone who stands up to mafia-controlled companies not who goes along to get along.  

GIGOT:  The issue is, in fact, Trump scoring points against Cruz by saying, look, he got low interest loans from the big Wall Street banks that were bailed out, even though you're running against the big Wall Street banks.  He's tarnishing Cruz's image as an outsider.  

HENNINGER:  Well, I don't think anyone should want to get down in the mud and fight with Donald Trump because he's too good at mud wrestling.  Look, Ted Cruz was running a campaign targeted at so-called red state conservatives, real conservatives, but he was also trying to run to get the red meat conservatives, shut down the government no matter what.  Guess what?  Donald Trump has stolen the red meat from him.  He is better at that.  And very upset at it and now he's launching these strange attacks against Trump.  It's a losing proposition for Cruz to attack at that level.  

GIGOT:  Yeah, Kim?  

STRASSEL:  It's not even the banking question.  He's got a new ad out, too, in Iowa where he is saying that Ted Cruz is a hypocrite in essence on immigration, showing him and some of these votes and positions that he had in the past in which he sounded as though he was in favor of legalizing Americans and now he says he's not.  It's a very hard-hitting ad.  And I think has put Cruz a little on the defensive because his strategy up to now was to not attack Donald Trump.  He's had to change that.  He's coming out and doing it, but not doing it as aggressively as the Donald, and in that regard, Trump may have an advantage.  

GIGOT:  And National Review magazine has rallied several conservatives to say Donald Trump is not a real conservative and you should oppose him.  

FREEMAN:  That's for sure.  

GIGOT:  But, news flash, OK, that's not news that Donald Trump does not have a coherent philosophy.  And "National Review" and those people who made immigration, opposition to immigration a litmus test of the Republican nomination created the room for Donald Trump to run through.  They made it possible for him to come, emerge as an anti-immigration candidate.  Now they tell us, oh, look, what we created, we don't like it.  

FREEMAN:  Yeah.  I mean it's -- it's shocking.  When you look back at the 1980 campaign and watch Ronald Reagan and George Bush debating who is going to be more welcoming to immigrants and what a strength they are to this country, you realize what a terrible turn the Republican Party has taken on that issue.  Now if you have a choice, Trump and Cruz -- we talked about shutting down the government -- tactics were not good.  Cruz shut down the government to stop Obamacare.  Trump has promoted a health system worse than Obamacare.  More government control.  

GIGOT:  What they did by downplaying national security, by downplaying economic growth and saying immigration is the biggest issue out there, what they did is they said that, oh, Marco Rubio you're not conservative enough, Jeb Bush, you're conservative enough, none of the Republicans are conservative enough for this group.  Now they're telling us, uh, oh, we don't really like that, maybe one of these other people is acceptable.  

HENNINGER:  Trump has said when he gave his announcement speech, taking on immigration, he was surprised what pick-up there was, and he said he just ran with it after that.  

GIGOT:  Absolutely.  

Still ahead, as Ted Cruz and Donald Trump slug it out in Iowa, other Republican candidates are banking on a strong finish in New Hampshire.  A look at who is poised to break out of the pack in the Granite State, when we come back.  


GIGOT:  As Donald Trump and Ted Cruz fight to the finish in Iowa, many of the other Republicans presidential candidates have their sights set on New Hampshire, hoping for a strong showing there when voters head to the polls in just over two weeks.  And while Trump still maintains a clear lead in the Granite State, the scramble for second place is on.  

So, Dan, do you see any of these other four candidates, John Kasich, Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, breaking through?  

HENNINGER:  Yeah, I think any one of them could, Paul.  I mean, they're bunched very closely and the polls are based on relatively small samples.  So if you do the margin of error, either direction, it's hard to know who is in the lead for the second spot.  And these candidates are all professionals, Christie, Kasich, Rubio, and Jeb Bush.  And I think they're gotten to the point where they are making strong presentations on behalf of their own campaigns.  But they've also gotten to the point where they've got to go negative and start attacking each other and knocking the other guy down.  And somehow that's beginning to overwhelm the positive.  

GIGOT:  That's exactly what is happening.  

Let's get a flavor at that by looking at Jeb Bush's attack through the super PAC on John Kasich.  


ANNOUNCER:  Take the Kasich quiz.  Forced Obamacare expansion in Ohio, voted for massive defense cuts and defended the process that closed Pease Air Force Base, which cost thousands of local jobs, even had the worst rating on spending of any governor in country, Republican or Democratic.  
John Kasich, wrong on New Hampshire issues.  


GIGOT:  And here's the Kasich response.  

ANNOUNCER:  Jeb Bush once stood tall before his campaign sank like a rock and he started desperately slinging mud on fellow Republicans.  That's not presidential, Jeb.

John Kasich did cut Ohio's taxes, cut state spending, turned a deficit into a surplus, brought back jobs from Mexico and China.  That's John Kasich.  


GIGOT:  So, Kim, what do you make of that exchange?  

STRASSEL:  Look, what is happening here, Jeb Bush is using his super PAC as going after pretty much every candidate out there.  

GIGOT:   Right.  

STRASSEL:  What he's trying to do, look, John Kasich is making the pitch out there that he's a governor who made a difference.  Bush is trying to tarnish that reputation.  I think that John Kasich is -- you know, his report is pretty good in Ohio.  


GIGOT:  It's excellent.  

STRASSEL:  It's excellent.  He's having a tougher time with the pitch up in New Hampshire.  It's a bit of a weird one.  He's sort of appealing, as it were, to more moderates than Independents, trying to get them to come because they can in New Hampshire.  Independents can vote in either primary.  You see them actively going after some of those people.  That's something that could help them in New Hampshire but you've got to wonder if it's a path to success in the more conservative states when he gets down the road.  

GIGOT:  You know, the super PAC, usually they would go after the front- runner.  These super PACs are not going after that.  They are going after the middling part of the pack.  And Bush, in particular, not spending money against Trump.  Spending money against Rubio and Kasich.  And could it mean that none of these guys are able to break out?  

FREEMAN:   Yeah.  I think Jeb Bush has a good record in Florida.  He still could break out.  But if he only succeeds -- if he doesn't break out and only succeeds in having a super PAC destroy the other potential contenders to Trump, I think it would be a great disservice to the country.  

I agree.  John Kasich is better than his rhetoric, and you might see that going forward.  He actually has a very good story to tell to conservative voters.  He just hasn't spent a lot of time telling it yet.  

GIGOT:  What about the Rubio attacks on Christie's record in New Jersey?  Governor Christie is really taking offense on those.  He claims Christie is for Common Core, claims that he wrote a check to Planned Parenthood.  Christie says those aren't true, but those attacks do begin to hit Christie a little bit.  

FREEMAN:  It has hit him but he needs to -- I guess it's a mixed story.  On the Planned Parenthood thing, Chris Christie zeroed out what was significant funding from the state of New Jersey.  This is not an easy political decision for a politician in New Jersey.  

GIGOT:  That's for sure.

FREEMAN:  He took a lot of grieve for it and he vetoed it again and again and he got squishy Republicans in the legislature to uphold his veto.  
That's a win for him for pro-life voters.  

On the Common Core stuff, it's harder to say Christie is an opponent.  His education department has been driving along, and now they are changing the name, but really it's Common Core.  

GIGOT:  They all hope to break out because they want to emerge as a third candidate to Cruz and Trump.  In the process of attacking each other, they may make it more likely that Cruz or Trump is the nominee.  

HENNINGER:  I completely agree, Paul.  A lot of it is negative advertising is grasping at straws, it's Mickey Mouse.  Chris Christie supported Common Core and while we're trying to talk about entitlements and tax reform.  In toto, I think they are diminishing the four of them against the two top guys.  

GIGOT:  All right.  Thank you, Dan.  

Thank you all.  

We have to take one more break.  When we come back, "Hits and Misses" of the week.  


GIGOT:  Time now for our "Hits and Misses" of the week.  

Kim, start us off.  

STRASSEL:  A hit to Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner for standing up to one of his state's larger public employee unions, ACME.  That union's contract expired more than a year ago but it's been refusing to negotiate in good faith over a reformed contract.  It's hoping to wade out the governor or break him.  Instead, he went to the State Labor Relations Board and asked essentially for the authority to make a final offer and force them to accept it or go on strike.  He knows that this is vital to the state's finances.  So it's good to see him standing up.  

GIGOT:  James?  

FREEMAN:  Paul, this is a miss to the beer cops at the U.S. Treasury and in state liquor commissions.  


You probably know the most expensive ingredient in beer is taxes, but it's not enough to take our money.


They are also telling brewers what the labels can look like, the font sizes.  There's a New Hampshire brewer who was told he couldn't call his porter "soothing" because that implies a medical benefit.  It's time to get the government out of this business.  Let consumers decide which beers to drink.

GIGOT:  All right.


HENNINGER:  Well, a miss to the president.  The FBI announced earlier that the murder rate in the United States rose 6 percent in the first half of 2015.  Now recall that FBI Director James Comey gave a very famous speech citing the Ferguson effect, which is that political pressure was causing the cops to pull back.  Barack Obama then gave a speech saying people shouldn't use data to fit their agenda.  Well, Paul, it looks like Barack Obama is the one who is whistling past the graveyard here.   

GIGOT:  So, James, this beer, this is the "politics is all local" category for --


FREEMAN:  Hey, it's a consumer issue that I think all our viewers can appreciate the importance here, especially on a big tailgate weekend.

GIGOT:  All right, thank you.

FREEMAN:  NFL playoff.  

GIGOT:  And remember, if you have your own hit or miss, be sure to tweet it to us at JERonFNC.  

That's it for this week's show.  Thanks to my panel and to all of you for watching.  I'm Paul Gigot.  Hope to see you right here next week.  

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