How Sanders exposes weaknesses in Clinton

Reaction from the 'Special Report' All-Star panel


This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," March 28, 2016. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


CHARLIE SYKES, RADIO HOST: Wouldn't it be a good way to start off your Wisconsin campaign by saying wives should be off limits and you should apologize for mocking her looks?

DONALD TRUMP, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, by the way, I think it's true, what they did is, Ted Cruz knew totally about it. He says he didn't know about it. He totally knew about it.

SYKES: It was not Ted Cruz or his campaign. Is your standard --

TRUMP: I'm just telling you he knew. He knew these people.

SYKES: OK, but --

TRUMP: I did a re-tweet, and it was a re-tweet by somebody else.

SYKES: Your wife is a beautiful, classy woman, why can't you say the same about Ted Cruz' wife?

TRUMP: I don't Ted Cruz's wife. I'm sure she's excellent, I mean, I just don't know her. But all this was, was a response to what he did.

SEN. TED CRUZ, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: When it comes to civility, there have been other candidates who have demonstrated a willingness to go to the gutter, to make personal attacks, to make sleazy attacks. I think the American people are sick of that.


BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: Donald Trump on radio in Wisconsin today, Ted Cruz responding to this back and forth about the candidates' wives and ads regarding them. In the meantime, some new polls, this is the RCP average, the Real Clear Politics average in Wisconsin, the next contest, and there you see it's pretty tight. As of now the average of recent polls on the Republican side, Donald Trump up 1.7 actually in the average. If you look at the Democratic side on Wisconsin, you see a pretty tight race there as well as Bernie Sanders tries to move forward and continue his win streak. Then next contest, again, Wisconsin.

Let's bring in our panel: syndicated columnist George Will, Jason Riley, columnist with The Wall Street Journal, and Ron Fournier, senior political columnist of National Journal. OK, Jason, the state of the Republican race as we head towards Wisconsin?

JASON RILEY, WALL STREET JOURNAL: Wisconsin is a very big deal, Bret. If Trump does well there, it could mean no contested convention. He could win on the first ballot in Cleveland. It's a state that plays to his strengths, lots of blue collar voters, not a lot of evangelicals. But the race is tight. The governor there, Scott Walker, of course was a former Republican candidate, has not endorsed, but he's leaning, he's hinted in interviews, toward Ted Cruz.

Also as we heard in the clip, unlike in other states, Donald Trump doesn't have the talk radio support in Wisconsin that he's enjoyed in other states. So he's in for a fight. I think that's why he's decided to go and campaign. How novel is that in the state?

BAIER: George, the Trump campaign has now hired somebody to oversee their delegate effort in part because this tweet over the weekend, Donald Trump saying "Just to show you how unfair Republican primary politics can be, I won the state of Louisiana and get less delegates than Cruz. Lawsuit coming." And Louisiana essentially, what happened was, some of the delegates went towards Ted Cruz. They were uncommitted, essentially, and signed on even though he won the state. So now the Trump campaign realizes every delegate I guess is going to matter.

GEORGE WILL, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Mr. Trump is nothing if not litigious, but what he's going to find out is the convention has its rules. The judiciary of the United States is not going to intervene in this. And the rule is that after the first ballot things change, and after the second ballot more things change. And you have to plan for those.

Mr. Trump, who took last week off, may not be as energetic in pursuing delegates as he ought to be. And it's going to matter particularly in places like Wisconsin, where you have a real fight now. You can buy a lot of air time for $2 million. And the Club for Growth alone is spending $2 million against Trump in that state.

BAIER: We should point out that tomorrow Governor Walker is going to announce his endorsement. The speculation is it's going to be Ted Cruz. If Senator Ron Johnson, the people have talked, maybe he's going to endorse Trump. It seems like Wisconsin is political ground zero.

RON FOURNIER, NATIONAL JOURNAL: I agree with both you guys. It's even worse when you're single, George, because the rules aren't in place for the convention. As you know, the rules get put in place once the convention starts.

And the fact of the matter, having Donald Trump complaining about having the delegates stolen from him, and Cruz playing the rules hard, here's the guy who's stretched the rules of bankruptcy to take money away from his creditors. Here's a guy who stretched the rules of eminent domain to take houses away from widows, and now he's going to complain about somebody playing by the rules but playing the rules as hard as possible to take delegates away from him? Cruz has done nothing that's illegal or immoral or wrong. He's just outplaying Donald Trump.

BAIER: But to Trump's point --

FOURNIER: If he wants to sue somebody, real quick, he should sue his own advisers who are political malpractice letting this happen.

BAIER: To Trump's point, if he does have the plurality going into the convention, isn't that going to cause quite something if the convention comes out with different rules?


BAIER: It could cause all kinds of problems. But you know what, that's the rules of the game. So if the rule was you get a plurality, then he would have grounds to say it was stolen. But that's not the rule. The rule is you have to get majority, and if not, you have to fight it out at the convention. Put on your big boy pants and play the game.

WILL: As Lincoln did in 1860 at the Chicago convention. Seward from New York had a large plurality before got to work and Lincoln wound up with the nomination. Aren't we glad?

FOURNIER: How many ballots did that go?

WILL: I don't remember.

BAIER: Glad you don't remember, because if you did, I would have been doubly impressed with your history.  


BAIER: Sanders, Bernie Sanders after a few wins over the weekend, here's what he said today.


SEN. BERNIE SANDERS, DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We've won the last five out of six contests, all of them in landslide victors. What we have said from day one is the south is the most conservative part of America. We did not do well there. Secretary Clinton gained a lot of delegates. No debate about that. We're out of the south. We're heading to the west coast which is the most progressive part of America. We think we're going to do very well there.

I think the momentum is with us. A lot of these super delegates may rethink their position with Secretary Clinton, a lot have not yet declared.


BAIER: At least one super delegate did. As you take a look at the delegate count on the Democrat side, you have delegates won, super delegates, and there you see the totals. Jason, is this a fool's errant or is this -- what is this?

RILEY: Hillary Clinton has that super delegate buffer. It's quite large. These are the people who at the convention can vote for whomever they want regardless of the outcome of the primaries and the caucuses.

I think Bernie Sanders deserves more credit than he's getting from liberal leads, in particular, more respect than he's getting. As he said, he's done well particularly in caucus states. His problem is that he's running out of caucus states and that he trails badly in these delegate-heavy big states coming up in New York, Pennsylvania, California, and so forth. So the math is not on his side, but he has exposed some weaknesses in Hillary Clinton.

BAIER: But for a frontrunner to take those losses is pretty stunning if you look at the wins over the weekend.

FOURNIER: It is. And we both know what's happening here. Even without the super delegates, the math cuts dramatically against Bernie Sanders. He can't overtake her in a delegate count. Mathematically he can't. What's out there is the FBI primary. And that's why he's in the race is in case the FBI comes down on Hillary Clinton.

BAIER: Whatever the number is, there are dozens of FBI agents on this case. And it seems like that raised eyebrow eyebrows today, "The Washington Post" story, "The L.A. Times" over the weekend and others.

WILL: It's 140 some, according to the "Washington Post," FBI agents. But if the Republican primary scramble wasn't so lurid and entertaining, the story in American politics today would be the divisiveness in the Democratic Party. He beat her by 40 points in Hawaii, 46 points in Washington, 64 points in Alaska. This is a staggering limping frontrunner.

RILEY: And in head to head matchups Bernie Sanders beats both Ted Cruz and Donald Trump. He started this campaign really as a protest candidate. I don't think he was in it to win. He may wish he had been in it to win from the start given how things have turned out.

FOURNIER: This is a populist revolt, upset voters on both ends of the spectrum who are not happy with the establishment.

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