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Special Report

Sanders and Clinton ease up; Trump continues to pound Cruz

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," April 8, 2016. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm aware of the Romney rule where if you don't win a majority.

GOV. JOHN KASICH, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There is no Romney rule. That's so yesterday. Look, the issue is to have an open system. I think they will. I don't know, but I don't think so. I don't think they're going to be having to make some rule that existed four years ago. At the end you have to come together. You can't be a baby. You know, if you don't get enough votes you go on. That's the way it has to be.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DOUG MCKELWAY, GUEST ANCHOR: John Kasich, the only one of the three GOP candidates to actively campaign today, outlining his path to a potential nomination. It centers around the abolition of this rule 40-b, the so called Romney rule which requires the nominee to have a majority of votes in eight of the states. Let's bring in the panel right now: Steve Hayes, senior writer for The Weekly Standard; A.B. Stoddard, associate editor of The Hill, and we welcome to the panel for the first time tonight, Ben Domenech. Ben, we'll start with you since you're the newcomer tonight.

We've seen so many of these quote/unquote coronations, theatrical coronations at conventions in the past several decades that we are unused to any kind of a contested convention. And I think the populous, the people who voted in the primaries are unused to this, unprepared for it, and will be angry at any sort of a contested --

BEN DOMENECH, THE FEDERALIST: They are going to be angry, but I think they'll be a lot more angry if you see what plays out in Cleveland to be the sort of thing that we saw it play out in the minds of a lot of people fancifully writing Paul Ryan fan fiction here in Washington over the past week where we had all these different people talking about an open convention where you can name someone who had not ever run for president before to fill that role. That has only happened once in the 160-year history of the Republican Party. I think if that's the outcome in Cleveland, people would be a lot more furious than if they have one of the two frontrunners currently in the party who while they both may be unpopular in Washington for different reasons are getting out voters behind them, are having that support, and that support is as the nominee, not just as the vehicle for someone else to take that job.

MCKELWAY: Let's talk about this concept of a new candidate parachuting into the convention as has been suggested. Lindsey Graham addressed this issue on CBS this morning.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, R-S.C.: I'm trying to get us the most viable nominee for 2016 that could win without destroying the party. I think Trump destroys the party. And if you parachute somebody in and try to ignore millions of votes, you're going to destroy this party. So we're right back to Ted.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MCKELWAY: And A.B., Charles Krauthammer addressed this in an op-ed in "The Post" today, a syndicated op-ed, in which he called it "imprudent to the point of suicide" if the parachute somebody else in. What do you think?

A.B. STODDARD, THE HILL: Right, there is a fantasy and it is fertile and alive that you get someone like Paul Ryan to come in at the last minute. But it is stupid at this point for the Republican Party to talk that way. The best thing is it is someone who ran.

But there is of course the scenario in which Cruz's and Trump's match-up numbers against Hillary are a disaster at the end of June and that the party faithful, the people who serve as delegates, come there wanting to win. They see the end of the Republican Party before their very eyes, and they say, we don't care. We're going to pick John Kasich who still matches up well against her. Or we'll going to call on someone like Paul Ryan on the ninth go-round. It is not out of the realm of the possible, but it is terrible to talk about it now. And they would have to be running around the country assuring the delegates now with secret whispers, don't worry. There will be a chance that Ryan will come around. They can't do that. You have to have a campaign that just includes Cruz and Trump, and Kasich will hang on because he is the most electable in those match-up numbers and the real party operators still believe he is the most electable. He might have to drop out at some point, but you can't focus on anyone but the three at this point.

MCKELWAY: You keep seeing these polls that Kasich is the most electable of the three, but I wonder, Steve, if that might change dramatically once he were become the nominee, as if he's Democrat-lite. Why take Democrat-lite when you could have the real thing?

STEVE HAYES, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: I think it's inconceivable that John Kasich would be the choice of Republican delegates after hasn't won for the entire presidential campaign other than his own state.

My favorite was this quote that you played in the intro: "If you don't get enough votes, you go on," said Kasich. Actually, most people if you don't get enough votes, you don't go on. You drop out and you let the other people fight. But this is Kasich's plan. What I find baffling here at this point is John Kasich is training all of his fire on Ted Cruz in New York. That makes no sense. John Kasich's entire play, if you think he has a play, is to keep Donald Trump from getting to 1,237. Every vote, every vote for John Kasich or Ted Cruz is the same vote in effect. You need to be attacking Donald Trump and keep him from getting the requisite number of delegates. The fact that Kasich isn't doing that -- I've been somewhat skeptical of people who have said that John Kasich is just a blocking back for Donald Trump or he wants a part of Trump/Kasich ticket. But it is hard to explain what he's doing here other than with that explanation.

MCKELWAY: I want to turn to the Democrats really quickly. We've been telling you yesterday how they took gloves off. Put the gloves back on a little bit today, at least Bernie Sanders did. Listen up.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS, DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Certainly. Does she have the experience? Obviously she does. She was secretary of state, a U.S. senator, I thought an outstanding first lady in many respects, breaking the mold. What I meant by that, what I thought I made clear, is you call into question the judgment of somebody, I believe, who voted for the war in Iraq which turns out to be one of the more disastrous foreign policy blunders.

HILLARY CLINTON, DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I've been called a lot of thing over the years, but unqualified has not been one of them. And this morning he finally acknowledged that of course he doesn't really believe that. This is all pretty silly.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

MCKELWAY: Despite all this, Bernie Sanders refuses to attack the elephant in the living room, which is the FBI investigation of Hillary Clinton. Why does he refuse to do that?

DOMENECH: It is amazing to me the thickness of the bubble that has surrounded Hillary throughout this entire process. And even these modest attacks on her now are interpreted by all of her allies as being something completely out of the realm, something completely inappropriate. That's just a sign of how weak of a candidate she is. At the end of the day, Bernie Sanders is on track to win 40 percent of the popular vote in the Democratic Party. The only person in the history of the party of the modern era who had that happen and not become the nominee was Hillary Clinton in 2008. That shows her weakness.

MCKELWAY: A.B.?

STODDARD: Yes. The e-mail thing is a tricky thing for Bernie Sanders. But I do believe that he is staying in now because he is moving and he has a cause and he is having a wonderful time and is raising an unbelievable amount of money. But I think he believes that the FBI thing could help him in the convention setting if it was not even an indictment but damning enough to really puncture her.

But really, all roads lead back to Donald Trump. And without Donald Trump taking up so much oxygen in this race, the e-mail story would have been a wrap-around news event the likes of which we have never seen if it weren't for Donald Trump being the story of this year.

MCKELWAY: Steve, what are your thoughts about why Bernie refuses to address this FBI investigation?

HAYES: I think he had the big moment in the debate and he said repeatedly, he's been asked about it several times since then, do you regret saying that you don't want to talk about her damn e-mails? And he says no. He repeatedly says no. He would look foolish if he started to. I don't agree with A.B. I don't think that if Donald Trump weren't in the race everybody would be talking about covering the e-mails because Hillary Clinton has this built-in advantage in that the mainstream media doesn't want to report on the email story.

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