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Journal Editorial Report

GOP field gearing up for final debate before NH primary

This is a rush transcript from "Journal: Editorial Report" February 6, 2016. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

PAUL GIGOT, FOX NEWS HOST:  This week on the "Journal: Editorial Report," the GOP candidates gear up for a high-stakes showdown in New Hampshire.  With his rivals gaining the polls, can Trump pull off big win on Tuesday?  Will his Iowa momentum propel Marco Rubio to a top spot?  And will attacking Rubio help others break away from the pack?  

Plus, Bernie Sanders take Hillary Clinton on over our progressive credentials and Wall Street ties, but could the FBI wind up being her biggest obstacle to the Democratic nomination?  

Welcome to this special edition of the "Journal: Editorial Report."  I'm Paul Gigot.

And we're counting town to Tuesday's first-in-the-nation primary in New Hampshire.  That's where a shrinking GOP field is gearing up for tonight's debate, the last before Granite State voters head to the polls on Tuesday.  And with Florida Senator Rubio surging to second place after his strong showing in Iowa, the stakes couldn't be higher for the three Republican front runners.  

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, R-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  So, the person that came in third, they said, unbelievable results, unbelievable, this is a huge victory.  But I came in second and they said, Trump didn't do so well.  

SEN. TED CRUZ, R-TEXAS, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  If momentum were measured by the media, Marco Rubio would already be the Republican nominee.  

SEN. MARCO RUBIO, R-FLA., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I know this about politics.  When everyone's attacking me, I must be doing something right.  

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GIGOT:  Joining the panel this week, Wall Street Journal columnist and deputy editor, Dan Henninger; columnist, Mary Anastasia O'Grady; assistant editorial page editor, James Freeman; and columnist, Jason Riley.  

So, Dan, let's start off by focus on Trump because he was leading in Iowa and then he lost, and now he's leading big in New Hampshire.  I think he has to win in New Hampshire to keep this -- to prevent the story line from becoming not Donald Trump winner, but Trump loser.  

DAN HENNINGER, COLUMNIST & DEPUTY EDITOR:  Yeah, well, Paul, this is why we love the little state of New Hampshire.  It is so unpredictable.  We don't quite know how it's going the turn out on Tuesday.  But I would agree with you.  I think Trump could have lost either Iowa or New Hampshire.  He cannot lose both.  He has to win.  Moreover, I think he has to win by at least 10 points.  

(CROSSTALK)

GIGOT:  Really?  You think at least 10 points.  That's a big, big --  

HENNINGER:  Yeah, I think if he came below 10, it would suggests that there is some vulnerability there in the Trump candidacy, and that's why I think we're going to see a really rock 'em, sock 'em debate tonight.  I think Trump is going to go in there and try to suppress the others by focusing all of the attention on himself in his own Trumpian way --

(LAUGHTER)

-- and the others are going to have to fight their way through it.  

GIGOT:  Jason, what do you make of Trump's behavior since Iowa?  He first reacted graciously.  Briefly, but graciously, saying, thank you, Iowa.  Then quickly spun around and attacked Ted Cruz saying he stole the caucuses, I may sue him.  Now, he's kind of dropped that line and maybe even do some retail campaigning in New Hampshire, which is very much out of character.  

JASON RILEY, COLUMNIST:  He returned to form.  

(LAUGHTER)

I think -- I wouldn't be surprised at what he does.  I think he realizes the stakes are very high.  And that it's a different environment in New Hampshire.  I think he knows that he can perform there.  He knows it's a very different make up than we had in Iowa, where you had more than 60 percent of voters in Iowa self-identifying as evangelicals.  In New Hampshire, you have a very different electorate.  Back in 2012, nearly half of the Republican primary voters in New Hampshire were moderate or liberal.  
So I think Trump thinks he can have -- he has a shot at performing.  That's going to be his focus.  

GIGOT:  Do you think we have seen, Mary, maybe that Donald Trump has a ceiling?  His favorables are the worst in the Republican field.  Yet, he has enthusiastic support, no question. I wonder if there's a ceiling here on his support.  

MARY ANASTASIA O'GRADY, COLUMNIST:  Yes, this is exactly what his problem is.  You saw him complaining about the fact nobody got excited because he came in second.  The real problem is that he met expectations.  And if he goes to New Hampshire and only meets expectations, which he's ahead in the polls now, but if he only meets expectations and doesn't break through the ceiling, which looks to be somewhere around the 30 percent level, I think people will start to join that chorus, which says that while he might be popular in his primaries, he can't win in a national election.  

GIGOT:  He was supposed to be somebody who could break conventional political rules.  I think in Iowa, we found out maybe not.  And in New Hampshire, John Kasich's done 100 town halls.  He's still back in the polls, but that's what the voters kind of expect in New Hampshire.  And it will be a real test of Trump if he doesn't have to do that and can still do well.  

JAMES FREEMAN, ASSISTANT EDITORIAL PAGE EDITOR:  Yeah, there are some rules that I think are going to give him trouble.  You have to meet voters in New Hampshire.  They like to get to know you a little bit.  Two, money does matter.  He's saying I'm going to spend money.  He's been saying that a lot.  He basically hasn't to this point.  He's gotten where he's gotten through free media, TV programs putting him on.  But I think the conventional rules are going to assert themselves.  

The other thing that's going to assert itself that I think is going to be a problem for him is the longer this goes on, the more people look into his business background and all of the shady characters he's done business with, albeit he's saying, I didn't know at the time.  But that's going to be a problem for him.

GIGOT:  Dan, let's talk about Rubio because he was the other big story coming out of Iowa and has been surging to second in the polls.  Do you think he has to finish second here to be able to keep that momentum going into the south?  

HENNINGER:  I think it's probably very important for Marco Rubio to come in second, Paul.  New Hampshire is not Ted Cruz's state.  It's the most secular state in the country.  He doesn't seem to be trying to appeal to those voters u there.  It looks like he's pointing himself forward to South Carolina.  

GIGOT:  Ted Cruz is, yeah.  

HENNINGER:  Ted Cruz is.  Under those circumstances, I think Rubio probably does need to come in second because if he sticks at third, it will sort of undermine the momentum narrative that has built up around him and would make him look also as though he had some vulnerabilities that the others were going to be able to exploit in the primaries ahead.  

GIGOT:  It's fascinating, Mary.  There's -- Rubio is running a different race than Donald Trump and Ted Cruz.  They're focusing on the trouble the country's in, the anger, the frustration.  Rubio is, he hits those notes, but he also says, look, I can be the unifier.  I've got optimism we can solve these problems.  It's a different kind of conservativism and I'm the guy who can win.  

O'GRADY:  I think that distinction became even louder this week because Trump began to get frustrated and he was using four-letter words and behaving rather crudely.  And Rubio just kept smiling more and putting on his happy warrior face.  And I think that might be appealing to a significant part of the electorate in New Hampshire.  

RILEY:  I think what you see there is a difference of the analysis of what happened in 2012.  Trump and Cruz believed that not enough conservatives turned out for Mitt Romney.  Rubio believes that the party hasn't done a good enough job expanding --

GIGOT:  The party?

RILEY:  -- the appeal of the Republican Party.  

GIGOT:  And you think it's going to resonate with enough Republican voters?  

RILEY:  That's certainly what Rubio is saying, yes.  

GIGOT:  Thank you, Jason.  

Still ahead, Rubio's post-Iowa momentum making him a prime target for rivals whose White House hopes hinge on Tuesday's New Hampshire vote.  A look at their battle to break out in the Granite State when we come back.  

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE, R-N.J., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Marco Rubio is a guy who just has never had to make a difficult choice in his life.  

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GIGOT:  Just three days to go now until New Hampshire voters head to the polls and some of the Republican candidates are hanging their presidential hopes on a strong showing in the Granite State.  This week, those rivals set their sights on a common target, Florida Senator Marco Rubio.  

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRISTIE:  I'm not the boy in the bubble.  OK?  You know who the boy in the bubble up here, who never answers your questions, who's carefully scripted and controlled because he can't answer questions.  So when Senator Rubio gets here, when the boy in the bubble gets here, I hope you guys ask him some the questions.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GIGOT:  So, James, of the other candidates who aren't in the top three now-- I'm talking about Jeb Bush, John Kasich, Chris Christie, Carly Fiorina, Ben Carson -- who among those is the likeliest to emerge from this, if any of them are?  

FREEMAN:  I would say Christie and Kasich probably have the best chance to exceed expectations.

GIGOT:  Really?

FREEMAN:  Kasich, because he appeals to Independents and they can vote in the Republican primary in New Hampshire.  Christie, two reasons really.  One, because he's built for town halls, which is how New Hampshire campaigning is done.  He's great in that kind of setting.  Also, I think he's making a good argument, saying to Republican, before you fall in love with Marco Rubio, keep in mind this is a guy with a fairly thin resume.  

GIGOT:  Yeah, but could he be sacrificing himself?  He's taking down Rubio, but he's not helping himself by making a positive argument.  

FREEMAN, Yeah, and I'm not in any way guaranteeing a big night for Chris Christie.  I think he's always had the problem, as talented as he is, that the New Jersey record is not that great.  So I think -- I'm not saying he's definitely the guy, but I like at those two as someone who has a shot.  
Bush, I think voters have had enough of that family.  

GIGOT:  What about -- you agree with that, Mary?  You think that's fair about Jeb Bush?  He was the front runner and he is still doing -- neck and neck.  He's exceeding Christie by double digits, by four or five points in the polls.  

O'GRADY:  What I think is not true is that I don't think Christie has the best chance of these three.  I think it comes down to Kasich or Bush, and Bush has a lot of money, but he's been out of politics for a long time and it seems like he's just getting his sea legs and --  

GIGOT:  I think he's picked up his game though the last few weeks.  

O'GRADY:  He has, but is it too late, that's the question.  I think Kasich, the advantage he has is that he's a current governor and he's really spent a lot of time in New Hampshire.  And he has a relatively good track record.  He's very popular in Ohio.  And so, if those retail politics work, I think he has a very good chance on Tuesday.  

GIGOT:  Who do you think, Jason?  

RILEY:  I would agree with Kasich.  He's running as a genuine moderate in this race, so he's standing out in that way.  And again, the moderates can vote in New Hampshire, as James said.  I think Bush might go past New Hampshire because he has the money and the organization but I don't see him lasting much longer than that, but I do think it is truly a three-man race right now.

GIGOT:  Let's go to an ad that Jeb Bush is running in I think South Carolina.  

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  The first job of the president is to protect America.  Our next president must be prepared to lead.  I know Jeb.  I know his good heart and his strong backbone.  Jeb will unite our country.  He knows how to bring the world together against terror and he knows when tough measures must be taken.  Experience and judgment count in the Oval Office.  Jeb Bush is a leader who will keep our country safe.  

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GIGOT:  Dan, I find that fascinating on a couple of levels.  The Bush name was supposed to be a liability for Jeb and he wanted to win it in his own way.  Now, he brought his mother into New Hampshire to help campaign with him and now you see this ad by George W.  What do you think about that strategy?  Is it going to help?  

HENNINGER:  We are on the eve of the Super Bowl, of course, and that looks like Jeb Bush thought he had about three more plays and two of them were going to be Hail Marys.

(LAUGHTER)

And you know what?  Hail Marys work.  Throw it down in the end zone, jump up in the air, see what comes down.  

(LAUGHTER)

I think Jeb Bush is the one guy who has to get up there in the top-three finishers.  And he may come in behind Marco Rubio, but I think his big fear is that if Rubio finishes too far out ahead of him, there will be, as with his brother, a wave of Republican endorsements coming into Marco Rubio's camp, and that will pretty much blow the rest of them out of the campaign.  

GIGOT:  You know, the Bush saying it's fascinating to me.  It's one of the major stories here, Jason.  He had the money, he had the name and, yet, he hasn't been able to make the sale.  If you look at his policies, I think they're the best in the field.  And with his experience --

(LAUGHTER)

GIGOT:  Really?  They're the most specific, the most thought out, the most likely to be able to become law, if he were president --  

(CROSSTALK)

RILEY:  It's been that kind of electoral season though, Paul.  If a gubernatorial track record got you somewhere, Scott Walker would still be in this race, Governor Perry of Texas would be in this race.  It doesn't seem to have made a difference this year.  But I just don't think Jeb has been a good retail politician.  

GIGOT:  No question about that.  

RILEY:  That's been the problem.  

GIGOT:  No question about that.

(CROSSTALK)

GIGOT:  Since when is experience in politics a liability, Freeman?  

(LAUGHTER)

FREEMAN:  He had a great run in Florida.  I just think the Bush brand is beat up.  And it's a shame because I think he might have been the best of the three.  

I'd like to say a kind word about Jeb Bush, and that is he is I think the one guy in this race who has refused to buckle on immigration, has insisted this is a strength of this country.  And for all the people saying this is a threat to our tradition, I remind them, it's in the Declaration of Independence.  This was one of the grievances, the king wouldn't let people move here.  So this is how we get stronger.  And kudos to him for that.  I just don't think it's his year.  

GIGOT:  Student of history, James Freeman.  

(LAUGHTER)

Thank you, sir.  

Still ahead, even as the Republican candidates trade blows in New Hampshire, a new study suggests the eventual nominee may have a big advantage over his Democratic rival come November.  We'll take a closer look at the battle for middle class voters when we come back.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GIGOT:  As the Republicans candidates battle it out in New Hampshire, a recent study suggests the eventual Republican nominee, whoever it turns out to be, may be heading into the general election with some important advantages over his Democratic rival, including a double-digit lead among middle class voters in what's known as "intensity," measured by those who say they are extremely likely to vote in November.  

Republican pollster, Ed Goeas, joins me now from Washington to explain.  

Ed, great to have you here.  

ED GOEAS, REPUBLICAN POLLSTER:  Nice to be here.  

GIGOT:  Good to see you again.

GOEAS:  Good to see you.

GIGOT:  So, talk a little bit about that study.  And is the advantage that Republicans might have related to economic anxiety?  

GOEAS:  It's a combination of everything.  Very definitely, they have negative about the president in terms of the job approval he's getting.  If you look at the numbers on the president, he's at a 1.5 to 1, strongly disapprove of the job he's doing amongst these middle class voters.  

They are a huge part of the electorate.  They're 70 percent of the electorate.

GIGOT:  Right.

GOEAS:  And they're feeling rather strongly -- there's all this talk about who don't they don't like.  They feel the rich get the special deals and they get richer.  The poor get the programs and they get the bill for an increasingly ineffective government and that's where the anger you keep hearing about is being generated.  It's really, more frustration.  

GIGOT:  OK, but is it about -- how much of it is related to frustration about an ineffective government?  Because this has been a traditional argument that we are not the party of government, we can deliver private growth, and is it -- and so, if the people are frustrated with government that may be a Republican advantage.  

GOEAS:  It's interesting.  One of the things we saw in the study is that we see a big jump amongst Republicans saying they want government to do more -
-  

GIGOT:  Really?  

GOEAS:  -- as opposed to I want government to do less.  

GIGOT:  That should be --

(CROSSTALK)

GOEAS:  When you drill down on it, what you really found is they want government to give them their money's worth.  If they're going to pay for government, if they're going to pay taxes, they want to know it's efficient and effective, back to the Ronald Reagan themes of many years ago.  

GIGOT:  OK.  But the Democratic nominee, whoever it is, is going to be offering more government stuff.  We're going to be saying government's going to provide you with more Social Security benefits, provide you with more free college or low-cost loans, providing you with more family leave benefits.  Could that be an advantage for the Democrats?  

GOEAS:  No.  In fact, that's the trap for the Democrats.  That plays to "I'm going to give you more, but that means more for the poor," as opposed to more for the middle class.  What the middle class wants is they want government to give them an effective Social Security system, they want to give them an effective Medicare system for the future, they want to give them an effective education system.  But they don't believe it takes more money and more programs.  It takes more of a focus on making sure those dollars are well spent.  

GIGOT:  So, some of the ineffectiveness we've seen in government, say, in the V.A., for example, Veterans Affairs, has rubbed off them and the Obamacare program has rubbed off and said, look, you've got to deliver value for money.  Don't just make promises.  

GOEAS:  Well, in fact, Obamacare is a good example.  What they've seen is the cost of their health care going up an up and up, not a better system that brought down the cost of their health care.  

GIGOT:  So, you can't win an argument without having proposals and ideas.  
So, what are Republicans needing to offer?  Because I would say to you, I haven't heard a lot from the Republican candidates so far in the debates, in the public forums, in the advertising about the economy.  I'm know I've read -- I'm a wonk and I've heard a lot of their proposals that they're making, but they're not talking about them.  What should they be talking about?

GOEAS:  One of the things we saw in this study, and if you watch campaigns, one of the things Republicans get hit by Democrats on is questioning the intentions of their policies, not the policies.  And I think that's where you're seeing in someone like Speaker Ryan, who talks about in a very broad way, but targeted way, of I want economic policies that are going to create upward mobility for the middle class, upward mobility for everyone.  That kind of framing of the issues then will allow the presidential campaigns to really focus on what their intentions are and what the policies will do to meet those intentions.  

GIGOT:  In his tax reform, which has been a traditional Republican priority in the last campaign, Mitt Romney did talk about it, is that something that can sell or does that make Republicans vulnerable to the old charge that you want to help the rich?  

GOEAS:  It has to be done within the context to the broader scope.  Clearly, again, if you look at what they're concerned about, they're concerned about terrorism coming to this country, they're concerned that there will be an economic downturn in the next year.  They believe that the American dream, in fact, 70 percent, said that the next generation will not do as well as this generation.  It all has to be wrapped up in that package of, where are we going to take this country, how are we going to turn this country around, and what direction, where these policies will in fact meet that broader goal of everyone moving forward and the American dream becoming back within their reach.  

GIGOT:  What about the argument you hear, particularly from the Cruz campaign, that the key to winning this election is to do more to mobilize conservative voters, particularly white conservatives, that they didn't turn out in 2008 and 2012 for a moderate nominee, and you can drive to victory with that kind of strategy.  

GOEAS:  I think that's a piece of it.  I think, actually, you have, in Cruz and Rubio, maybe a combination of the two things that you need, that, number one, you need to drive this intensity of the Republicans.  Maximize the Republican vote in every state of the country, not just the presidential-target states.  

GIGOT:  Right.

GOEAS:  And then we need to reach out.  One of the things we found is that of the middle class African-Americans that's where we're getting 85 percent of the African-American vote.  With middle class Hispanics that's where we're getting 80 percent of the Hispanic vote.  So it all goes back to the middle class and the middle class message that drives to the future.  

GIGOT:  Fascinating stuff.  

Ed Goeas, thanks so much for being here.  

GOEAS:  Thank you, Paul.  

GIGOT:  Much more to come on this special one-hour edition of the "Journal: Editorial Report."  Still ahead, the Democratic candidates face off in their first head-to-head debate, but it turns out Bernie Sanders may not be Hillary Clinton's biggest obstacle to the presidency as the FBI investigation into her use of a private e-mail server continues.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GIGOT:  Welcome back to this special edition of the "Journal: Editorial Report," as we count down to Tuesday's first-in-the-nation primary in New Hampshire.  That's where Democratic rivals, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, squared off Thursday night in their first head-to-head debate, questioning each other's progressive credentials and trading blows over Hillary Clinton's Wall Street ties.  

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS, I-VT., DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Being part of the establishment is, is in the last quarter, having a super PAC that raised $15 million from Wall Street, that throughout one's life raised a whole lot of money from the drug companies and other special interests.  

HILLARY CLINTON, D-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I really don't think these kinds of attacks by insinuation are worthy of you, and enough is enough.  If you've got something to say, say it directly, but you will not find that I ever changed a view or a vote because of any donations that I ever received.  

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GIGOT:  We're back with "Wall Street Journal" columnist and deputy editor, Dan Henninger; columnist, Mary Anastasia O'Grady; assistant editorial page editor, James Freeman; and columnist, Jason Riley.

So, Mary, profound student of Socialism, that I know you are --

(LAUGHTER)

-- let's get back for a minute and think about this: How could a 74-year- old, a self-avowed Socialist, be tying somebody who's got the whole Democratic establishment behind her.  What does this say about the party and our country?  

O'GRADY:  I think there are two things in play here.  One is that the Democratic Party itself has moved much further to the left.  And I think the evidence is that is how many blue collar Democrats are interested in Trump.  They're not even voting in the Democratic primary.  

GIGOT:  Is that President Obama's doing?  

O'GRADY:  It's a combination of things.  But the second thing I think is what happened in 2008, the financial crisis of 2008, because I don't think the roots of that crisis are well understood by a lot of people in the electorate, and the narrative that the Democrats have held, which is that this is caused by something in the establishment, this was caused by the big banks and so forth, it has a lot of traction for people like Sanders.  And, somewhat, it is why Hillary Clinton, even though she's a limousine liberal --

(LAUGHTER)

-- who hates capitalism --

(CROSSTALK)

O'GRADY:  -- but loves capital --

(LAUGHTER)

-- is also neck and neck with Bernie.  

GIGOT:  It's fascinating, Jason.  In the Iowa exit polling, 84-14 (sic), Bernie Sanders beat Hillary Clinton among voters under age 29.  84-18 (sic).  That's called a route.  

(LAUGHTER)

RILEY:  It is a route.  But also, we cannot lose sight of the fact of how unrepresentative of this country Iowa and New Hampshire are.  Bernie Sanders is having a great run based on that fact.  

(CROSSTALK)

GIGOT:  Jason, I like both those statements.  

(LAUGHTER)

RILEY:  I like them, too, Paul.  But not a lot of people live in those states.  But the people who do live in those states do not reflect the people who live in other states in the country, and that's why Hillary thinks if she can just get past these two states, she'll be fine, that Bernie Sanders support will drop off significantly when the race turns to places like South Carolina and Nevada.  

GIGOT:  What do you think about her answer, James, that she's not part of the establishment, because she's running to be the first woman president?  Plausible?  

FREEMAN:  Obviously, those young people aren't buying it.  And I think they are representative, in a sense, that idealistic young voters in the Democratic Party are seeing her as part of establishment.  And certainly, all these people on Wall Street who are giving this money and who has been giving it for years, for decades, to the Clintons, seem to think they're going to get a better deal with her than Sanders.  

GIGOT:   I want to take this up.  We've got another exchange on Wall
Street.  

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR & DEBATE MODERATOR:  One of the things that Senator Sanders points to and a lot of your critics point to is you made three speeches for Goldman Sachs, you were paid $675,000 for three speeches.  Was that a mistake?  Was that a bad error in judgment?  

CLINTON:  Look, I make speeches to lots of groups.  I told them what I thought.  I answered questions.  

COOPER:  But did you have to be paid $675,000?  

CLINTON:  I don't know.  That's what they offered, so.

(LAUGHTER)

You know, every secretary of state that I know has done that.  

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GIGOT:  So, Dan, good capitalist answer.  That's what the capitalists are offering, that's what I'm taking.  

(LAUGHTER)

You buying that?  It struck me, at least to me, as an ineffective answer.  

HENNINGER:  Yeah.  What I'm not buying is how Hillary Clinton could have arrived at this point in the campaign and not have a persuasive or even adequate answer to that question, because she knew it was coming.  And that was a terrible answer.  And it's that sort of thing that makes Democrats really uncomfortable with her candidacy, and that is the erosion of her political skills when under pressure.  

And as for Sanders, let's look at what he's doing nationally, not just Iowa or New Hampshire.  The Quinnipiac poll came out this week and it was Hillary, 44, Bernie, 42.  Back in December, it was Hillary, 60, Bernie, I think, it was 30.  She had 61 to his 30.  He's made up 30 points in a little over two months.  And something is going on there.  And it has to do with the younger voters.  And I think Hillary's answers to him in the debate, in which she accused him of a smear against her, is the sort of thing that is going to turn off those 20-somethings.  

GIGOT:  OK.  

But the argument -- and I think this may be a killer argument Hillary hopes it is -- is he's not electable, Jason.

(CROSSTALK)

GIGOT:  Bernie Sanders is not electable, he's too extreme, and so you've got to go with me.  

RILEY:  For Bernie Sanders to be elected, Paul, you have to believe that America's problem with Obama is that he's not liberal enough.  And I don't think very many people believe that.  I just don't.  I just think that is -
-

(CROSSTALK)

RILEY:  And what Hillary Clinton is trying to do -- and it is walking a very fine tight rope here -- is that she wants to hold together that Obama coalition, young people, minorities and so forth.  And so, you see her out there defending President Obama's policies because she needs his voters in order to succeed --

(CROSSTALK)

GIGOT:  And his reply to her is, you know what, it's implicit, but it's basically, look, that FBI thing could make you unelectable.  

RILEY:  It could.  

(CROSSTALK)

GIGOT:  -- making the issue itself but he's letting it seep in.  

RILEY:  Yes.  Yes.  

(LAUGHTER)

O'GRADY:  There's also machine politics at play here, and I think Hillary owns that.  

GIGOT:  The machine on her side.  I agree with you.  

Still ahead, he's proving to be a tough competitor, but Bernie Sanders may not be the biggest threat to Hillary Clinton's White House hopes.  We'll look at the other cloud hanging over her candidacy when we come back.  

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED DEBATE MODERATOR:  Are you 100 percent confident nothing is going to come of this FBI investigation?  

CLINTON:  I am 100 percent confident.  

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GIGOT:  Bernie Sanders may not be the biggest obstacle in Hillary Clinton's path to the presidency as the FBI investigation continues into her use of a private e-mail server during her time as secretary of state.  It's an issue that's on many Democratic minds.  

Here's how Clinton addressed it in Thursday night's debate.  

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED DEBATE MODERATOR:  Can you reassure these Democrats that somehow the e-mail issue isn't going to blow up your candidacy if you're the nominee?  

CLINTON:  Absolutely, I can.  Before it was e-mails, it was Benghazi.  And the Republicans were stirring up so much controversy about that.  And I testified for 11 hours, answered their questions.  They basically said, yep, didn't get her, we tried.  That was all a political ploy.  

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GIGOT:  Jason, all a political ploy?  All partisan?  Is this all over?  

RILEY:  No, it's not over.  She's got an FBI investigation hanging over her head right now, and we don't know what's going to happen.  

(CROSSTALK)

GIGOT:  Does she know something we don't?  

(LAUGHTER)

RILEY:  I don't know if she does or not.  

But what we do know is that this is a vulnerability for her as a general election candidate, and a lot of Democrats are worried about that.  They know that even if Sanders wants to move on and not talk about the e-mail scandal, the Republican candidate will want to talk about it, and she will have to address it.  This weakens her as a general election candidate.  And it opens the door for other people to possibly want to get in and challenge her for that nomination.  

GIGOT:  What about, James, her defense now, new defense that she offered this week, which is that there was a study that came out, a review, really, of the e-mails of former secretaries of state, previous ones, and it was discovered that Colin Powell and Condi Rice, according to Secretary Clinton, also had the same problem and, therefore, basically, everybody does it.  Does that wash?  

FREEMAN:  This is the standard Clinton tactic, to say everyone does it.  The "it" is very different in the Clinton case versus --

(CROSSTALK)  

GIGOT:  The fact the details are very different.  

FREEMAN:  Very different.

GIGOT:  Explain to all of us.  

FREEMAN:  First of all, you're talking, Colin Powell, a couple of sensitive but not highly classified e-mails that were sent to his account.  Condi Rice --

(CROSSTALK)

GIGOT:  He did not have a private server.  

FREEMAN:  No, and that's where -- I was getting to that.  Now, I'll get to it.  This is the big difference when we talk about intent and why she's got an FBI problem, is that the -- there are a lot of government security procedures and people endeavor to follow them.  Sometimes, they're complicated and difficult.  Maybe it doesn't always work out exactly.  She, with intent, set up her own private e-mail system to get out of the normal federal recordkeeping process to make sure that voters and others could not learn about her communications in the future.  So, the intent was there, which you didn't have in any other case.  And the results are different.  22 e-mails -- and this is true of no one else.  22 e-mails that include such secret information the government will not release them now, even in redacted form.  You're talking about operations overseas by intelligence agencies, by our agencies.  

GIGOT:  Colin Powell also had on his desk a separate system to deal with classified communications, OK, not a private server off in Colorado somewhere.  

FREEMAN:  Right.

GIGOT:  Condi Rice did not even use e-mail.  So the e-mails were sent to aides.  OK?

But they're counting, Dan, on the Republican -- on the country -- she's counting on the country to kind of say, well, it's muddy, it's confused, you know, it's sort of politicians all lie.  Just confuse the issue enough and maybe it will go away.  

HENNINGER:  Yeah, it may go away in the country, but the question is, will it go away with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which, not withstanding her charges, I don't think they are a part of the Republican Party, at least not the last time I checked.  

(LAUGHTER)

And these statements she's been making, to me, have been very interesting, Paul, because where she says, I can assure you 100 percent that I have no exposure, or when she was asked last week whether it was an error of judgment, she said, no, I don't think it was an error of judgment.  I think those statements are being recommended to her by her legal time.  And the reason is, they are telling her, you cannot show any culpability or state of mind to suggest you knew what you were doing was wrong because, if you do, the federal prosecutors and the FBI are going to drive through that door and give them an opportunity to charge her with something.  So they've set up this steel wall between them and the forces of the FBI.  

GIGOT:  So, Mary, Bernie Sanders, once again, had the opportunity, teed right up for him in the debate, to use this issue.  He walked away from it again.  Smart strategy or not?  

O'GRADY:  It's baffling to me.  This is probably his biggest opening, is her corruption, the corruption of the Clinton family, the Clinton Foundation.  All of this baggage she carries with her is a big reason why all these young people don't trust her, and this is part of it.  

And by the way, as Dan was saying about the investigation, a lot of these people in Washington, who are involved in this investigation, are career people.  They're not politically appointed.  So they have an interest in doing their job.  And I think she's going to have a problem dodging that.  

GIGOT:  Jason, let's boil it down.  Big picture, what chances do you give Sanders of actually beating Clinton for the nomination, percentage terms, zero to 100?  

(LAUGHTER)

RILEY:  5 percent.  

GIGOT:  5 percent.

RILEY:  Yeah.

GIGOT:  5 percent.  Is that because you think if she gets in real trouble with the FBI, somebody else, like Joe Biden or John Kerry, will get in?  

RILEY:  Yes, exactly.  

(CROSSTALK)

RILEY:  I think that the biggest vulnerability here for Hillary Clinton is not Bernie Sanders displacing her as the nominee.  I think it's someone else getting in the race who can perhaps self-finance and already has the name recognition.  

GIGOT:  You taking the over/under on five?  

(LAUGHTER)

O'GRADY:  No.  If she gets indicted, she's out and we're going to get Biden or Kerry, for sure.  

GIGOT:  All right, thank you all.

Still ahead, with a bruising primary fight playing out on both sides, is there room in the race for an Independent candidate?  A look at former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's third-party chances when we come back.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GIGOT:  As Democratic and Republican presidential candidates slug it out in New Hampshire, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is said to be mulling an Independent run.  And a new survey released by Republican Pollster Frank Luntz suggests there may be an opening, with Bloomberg just a handful of points behind the front runners from both political parties.  

Doug Schoen served as pollster for Bill Clinton and has advised Michael Bloomberg since 2001.  He's also a Fox News political analyst.  

Doug, welcome.

DOUG SCHOEN, FOX NEWS POLITICAL ANALYST:  Thank you, Paul.

GIGOT:  So how much trouble -- let's talk to Democrats first.  

SCHOEN:  Sure.

GIGOT:  How much trouble is Hillary Clinton really in from Bernie Sanders?  

SCHOEN:  I think, as the Quinnipiac poll shows increasingly more and more, particularly with upscale white voters, I think she has a fire wall in the south, particularly with African-Americans.  But I think she's going to lose New Hampshire pretty convincingly, and then I think Sanders will raise more money and her numbers could well continue to erode.  

GIGOT:  And if Sanders cracks that minority vote, he could have a shot at the nomination or not?  

SCHOEN:  All bets would be off if he does.  There's so far no evidence he will, but this is a dynamic situation, Paul, and I don't think, in this case, you can rule anything out.  

GIGOT:   So, let's -- if she were to run into trouble with the FBI, do you think the party -- it looked like Bernie Sanders was the only alternative in the race and could win, would the party regulars and others step in to bring somebody in the race, a Joe Biden or a John Kerry?  

SCHOEN:  It's possible they would, and Joe Biden's the most logical name.  
But if you looked at the same Quinnipiac poll, Bernie Sanders is doing better against the Republicans than Hillary Clinton.  And as we saw in 1972, the Democratic Party and its base doesn't like to be told by anyone what to do.  

GIGOT:  But isn't that polling result because people don't know Sanders, really what he stands for?  They know him -- I mean, he calls himself a Socialist, but they don't know what that means in detail.  And I can tell you the Republicans would open that wide open.  

SCHOEN:  Oh, I'm sure that's true.  On the other hand, the word I hear for Sanders more and more is "authentic."  In a year where the electorate is polarized and people are deeply cynical, I think there is a certain resonance that goes beyond ideology.  

GIGOT:  Fascinating.  

OK, Michael Bloomberg looked at the race in 2008 and 2012 and said, no, I don't think I could win, therefore, I won't run.  What's different about the electorate and the circumstances this time that makes him think maybe he could?  

SCHOEN:  First, there's more polarization, as the Luntz poll showed.  People are more divided.  They're looking for nonpartisan decision making, results-oriented leadership, and someone who emphasizes consensus and conciliation, not the harsh, negative divisive politics we have seen on both sides this year.  

GIGOT:  So, but -- are there any nominees, in particular who would -- if they -- either party nominated them, say Marco Rubio or Hillary Clinton, say, that Mike Bloomberg might say, sorry, that's mainstream enough, I'm not going to get in.  

SCHOEN:  I don't think, at this point, I can answer that or even, in fact, he could answer that.  

(CROSSTALK)

GIGOT:  Why not?  

SCHOEN:  Because it's a totally dynamic situation.  If we were sitting here a week ago and I had told you that Donald Trump would sink badly, almost finish third in Iowa, and Ted Cruz would win --

(CROSSTALK)

GIGOT:  Some of us would have said --

(CROSSTALK)

SCHOEN:  Some, but not everyone.  We're going into New Hampshire, Donald Trump could win, as the polls released yesterday suggested, a pretty substantial victory, as I said.  Sanders is doing better than Clinton.  I think it's really hard to say what Bloomberg would or wouldn't do.  But I think what is clear, the polarization, the division in America is such that what politics he offers, conciliation, consensus, results-oriented, and also fiscal prudence, I think that that's something the electorate would like.  

GIGOT:  You really believe that Luntz poll that he could finish -- that he would start out in a race with roughly even terms with the other two candidates?  

SCHOEN:  Well, what I would say is, 1980, when John Anderson ran and, 1992, when Ross Perot ran, when both announced they were in the mid-20s, where Luntz has Michael Bloomberg, within a month of their announcement, and Michael Bloomberg will be able to get on the ballot and he certainly has resources.  

GIGOT:  But you have to deny one of the two other candidates 270 electoral votes to be able to win.  

SCHOEN:  You do.  

GIGOT:  You've got to win states, OK.

SCHOEN:  True.

GIGOT:  Perot got 9 percent of the vote, didn't win any states.  What states is Michael Bloomberg going to win?  

SCHOEN:  When Ross Perot dropped out in 1992, he was ahead in 37, 38 states.  And he had 313, 314 electoral votes.  So I think there is a broad- based desire across this country for a different kind of politics.  It's hard to say today what states he would win or lose.  But I do think it's fair to say he could be very competitive, very quickly in a national election.  

GIGOT:  One or two names?  

(CROSSTALK)

GIGOT:  Two names, like Florida and New York, Connecticut, California?  

SCHOEN:  Well, certainly, he would have to be competitive in the northeast where he's been a very, very successful mayor.  So far, the Luntz polling suggests he's been that.  

GIGOT:  All right, thanks very much, Doug.  

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Dan, start us off.  

HENNINGER:  Bill -- sorry -- New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who probably ranks number two in our missed rankings behind Barack Obama --

(LAUGHTER)

The mayor's long-running plan to get horse-drawn carriages off the streets of Manhattan and into Central Park, well, that final died this week.  The New York City council tabled the legislation under pressure from the unions.  So that means it is gone.  And I've got to tell you, Paul, I never quite understood this thing.  Those horses are about the last thing you've got to worry about walking around the streets of New York.  

(LAUGHTER)

GIGOT:  OK.  

Jason?  

RILEY:  Paul, President Obama visited a mosque in Baltimore this week, where he said some things that frankly needed saying.  He spoke about our tradition of religious pluralism in this country, but he also said Muslim leaders have an obligation to push back at people committing violent acts in the name of that religion, and also the push back at this lie that the West is oppressing Muslims.  This was a long-overdue speech but I think Obama made the most of it.  

GIGOT:  Hear, hear.  

Mary?  

O'GRADY:  This is a hit for Maurice White, the founder and leader of Earth, Wind and Fire, who died this week at the age of 74.  As you know, Paul, the '70s were kind of a grim decade, but Earth, Wind and Fire --

GIGOT:  But the clothes were good.  

(LAUGHTER)

O'GRADY:  The band was better than others because the band's mix of R&B, funk and jazz was sheer joy.  They sold 90 million albums, won six Grammys, and were inducted into the Hall of Fame.  Rest in peace, Maurice White.  

GIGOT:  Got to see Mary in some of those videos from the '70s.  

(LAUGHTER)

FREEMAN:  I can't top that.

(CROSSTALK)

(LAUGHTER)

FREEMAN:  Paul, politics can make you very cynical, but I've been inspired watching the grassroots movement of millions of Americans from all walks of life who are coming together to demand that the Monday after the Super Bowl be a national holiday.  I'm proud to associate myself with this cause.  

(LAUGHTER)

And by the way, I'm -- hate to change the subject, but did you get my e- mail about wanting to take Monday off?  

(LAUGHTER)

GIGOT:  No, but I assumed that the down payment on that was your casual Saturday look here without the tie.  

(LAUGHTER)

FREEMAN:  Well --

(CROSSTALK)

GIGOT:  Was this sort of the opening bid, the opening argument?  

FREEMAN:  Well, if -- if the argument --

(LAUGHTER)

-- listening to some Earth, Wind and Fire --

(LAUGHTER)  

GIGOT:  And the good guys are?  

FREEMAN:  Well, I think my attire says it all.  

(LAUGHTER)

GIGOT:  All right, Broncos.  

And remember, if you have your own hit or miss, be sure to tweet it to us @jeronfnc.  

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

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