Krauthammer: Cruz must end speech with endorsement; Carson talks past Trump jabs

This is a rush transcript from "The Kelly File," July 20, 2016. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

MEGYN KELLY, HOST: And breaking tonight, three former Trump rivals take the stage this hour at the Republican National Convention to talk about their party, its candidate, and the future of the country.

Welcome to "The Kelly File," everyone. I'm Megyn Kelly on a very busy night here in Cleveland. Before Governor Mike Pence takes the stage for the very first time as Donald Trump's running mate, we will hear from no less than three of Mr. Trump's former primary rivals. And some might even say, potential future rivals. Should Mr. Trump win it all in November?

We're talking about Governor Scott Walker, Senator Marco Rubio, and Senator Ted Cruz, who interestingly he held a campaign-style event right here in Cleveland earlier today. And in a moment that can only be described as surreal or one you just cannot make up, Senator Cruz's rally was literally overshadowed by Donald Trump's plane. At the exact moment Senator Cruz discussed how he fell just short of winning the nomination and just watch the crowd's reaction upon seeing air Trump fly by. Watch this.


SEN. TED CRUZ, R-TEXAS: Our party now has a nominee. And I don't know - -


All right. That was pretty well orchestrated! Jeff, did you e-mail them to fly the plane right when I said that?


KELLY: Can you believe that? In moments, we'll get reaction from the Trump campaign. But first, we begin with "America's Newsroom" co-anchor, Bill Hemmer, live on the convention floor. Bill?

BILL HEMMER, CO-ANCHOR, "AMERICA'S NEWSROOM": Megyn, good evening. I've been with the Texas delegation the last two hours, all 155 of them. One outstanding question tonight. Will Ted Cruz, more than two months after dropping out of this race, endorse Donald Trump? We don't know that answer right now. Many in the delegation hope he will. Many in the delegation want him to. Some others express the fact that they believe he should stand by his principles. One woman told me that he signed a pledge 11 months ago here in Cleveland, Ohio, and he has to stick to his word.

The Attorney General Ken Paxton, leads this delegation. I spoke to him a moment ago. He says he doesn't know what Cruz will do. It's a 50/50 shot to see whether or not he does. Also, Cruz will be out in about 45 minutes.  In about an hour's time, you'll see 32-year-old Eric Trump. His moment in the spotlight tonight. A night after following his sister and Donald Trump, Jr., who was well-greeted here by the delegation in Cleveland, Ohio.  I asked Eric Trump how the speech will go tonight. He said, it's going to be good. And then he followed with, and you're going to love it. We'll see at 10:00 Eastern Time tonight -- Megyn.

KELLY: Throughout the day, political analysts have pointedly reminded people that Senator Ted Cruz has yet to endorse Donald Trump after their bitter primary battle. Now Senator Cruz is being offered some words of advice from Governor Chris Christie. The New Jersey governor delivered a resounding show of support for Donald Trump last night and is making clear he wants Senator Cruz to do the same.


GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE, R-N.J.: So I hope Ted Cruz gets up tonight when he speaks at the convention and keeps his word and endorses Donald Trump. He should, and especially the way he was kissing Donald's rear end for the first six months of the campaign. And if he doesn't, he's less of a person and then he presents himself to be to the American people.


KELLY: Joining me now, Katrina Pierson, national spokesperson for the Trump campaign. Good to see you.


KELLY: Happy birthday, first of all.

PIERSON: Oh, thank you.

KELLY: Great way for you to celebrate it.

PIERSON: I can't imagine being anywhere else.

KELLY: Should Ted Cruz endorse Donald Trump tonight?

PIERSON: Absolutely, Megyn. Look, in the beginning, Donald Trump everyone questioned if he'd be loyal to the party. And he signed that pledge and he committed to doing everything he could for party unity. He's been meeting with leaders, he's been talking to grassroots, he's been going all over the country meeting with governors and senators and representatives because of his commitment to unite the party. Now it's time for the senator to do the same.

KELLY: I know they spoke, Ted Cruz and Donald Trump, do you know how that went?

PIERSON: No, they are not talking about what they discussed, but they have talked, and again, Mr. Trump invited Senator Cruz to speak, again, making that effort to unify the party. Mr. Trump understands how important that is --

KELLY: Will Ted Cruz get that done if he doesn't say, come on, let's get behind Donald Trump?

PIERSON: I think if he doesn't endorse, it's really more of a reflection on him, not really on Mr. Trump. I mean, if we've seen the attempts to stop Mr. Trump if they've failed miserably. And the rules committee, 87 to 12 was the vote. During the Roll call, there's so much support here for Mr. Trump. Talking about 13 million Republican votes, breaking the record, 38 states.

KELLY: But you said Senator Cruz's people still aren't there. They're booing Trump's plane. Which, I mean -- what do you -- just -- once again, Donald Trump overshadows Ted Cruz. I mean, it was really unbelievable.

PIERSON: Well, it was a sign. It is time to acknowledge that Donald Trump won the primary and it's time to back the nominee.

KELLY: It was divine intervention.

PIERSON: It was divine intervention. And that's perfect for Senator Cruz.  A lot of these individuals feel like this is God's plan. But the one thing we know as believers that sometimes our plan isn't God's plan.

KELLY: Do you agree with Chris Christie that it's a character moment for Ted Cruz?

PIERSON: Absolutely.

KELLY: He was saying, you know, after -- as he put it, the way he kissed his butt in the first six months of the campaign and then they fell apart, Cruz and Trump, that this is a character-defining moment for Ted Cruz.

PIERSON: It is --

KELLY: And you used to work for Ted Cruz, I want to audience to know. You know, you worked for both --

PIERSON: I volunteered for his campaign, absolutely. And this is why it's much more important for Senator Cruz, because he is the candidate of the people. He is the one that runs on the constitution and wants to put government back in the hands of the people. Well, the people made their decision. And now it's time to act accordingly.

KELLY: What do you make of it? Because tonight we're not just going to see Ted Cruz, we're going to see Marco Rubio, we're going to see Governor Walker. All of whom have been so harshly critical of Donald Trump. He was, of course, harshly critical of him as well. But there's been a lot of bad blood, particularly in this election cycle. How full-throatedly did they need to come out in favor of Donald Trump. And do you think, really, the party and these guys can let bygones be bygones.

PIERSON: I think though. And I think that when they do come out and get their speeches, some of them are going to support the nominee, some of them want to support the party, and some want to support Donald Trump. And that may be enough with a lot of voters. However, it's different with Senator Cruz. Because he was very popular among the base. He was right there to the bitter end with Mr. Trump. And they did have a very nice relationship early on. And this is more about Senator Cruz keeping his commitments in honoring the party nominee.

KELLY: So what are you, a Leo?

PIERSON: Cancer.

KELLY: Cancer, OK.


Kat, great to see you.

PIERSON: Good to be here.

KELLY: Thank you for being here.

So when Senator Cruz takes the stage tonight, he's hoping to channel another conservative, who also failed to win the party's presidential nomination the first time around. In 1976, incumbent President Gerald Ford beat California Governor Ronald Reagan in the delegate battle at the convention. After President Ford delivered his acceptance speech, he waved for Ronald Reagan to come down and speak to the roaring crowd. What happened next proved Reagan's legacy was far from over.


RONALD REAGAN, 40TH PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I believe the Republican Party has a platform that is a banner of bold, unmistakable colors with no pale pastel shades. We've got to quit talking to each other and about each other and go out and communicate to the world that we may be fewer in numbers than we've ever been, but we carry the message they're waiting for. There is no institute for victory. Mr. President --



KELLY: What a moment. Charles Krauthammer is a Fox News contributor and syndicated columnist and with me now. Charles, how good would it be for Senator Cruz to do that tonight?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I think he wants to follow the Reagan footsteps. It's one of the classic scripts in American political history. The runner-up, very popular with the base, comes in, sort of unexpectedly, delivers a speech of his night, and graciously then endorses the guy who beat him. Knowing that they might -- they were likely to lose, they did lose, it was a close race, but they did lose, and that he would be the -- and he would be the heir. Which he was.

In 1980, he was the front-runner and he kept it and the rest, we know, is history. Cruz sees himself as that kind of man. Therefore, I think even though we heard this is a matter of character, he's a matter of promises, this is a matter of political calculation. Cold and raw. Cruz made a cold and raw political calculation at the beginning, first six months, don't attack Trump. Deflect, when everybody else was decrying the denunciation of Mexicans, Chinese and the McCain remarks and all of that, he refused to comment.

So he thought he'll ride the Trump train, or actually a more accurate metaphor, he was drafting behind the Trump car on the racetrack. And then when it came down to a few, it was one on one, and dog eat dog. And he took a lot of insults and blows, particularly for his wife. And that's a point where I think it did get personal.

KELLY: Uh-hm. And his father. And his father.

KRAUTHAMMER: His father is involved in the Kennedy assassination. That is a little bit far out there. That's twilight zone.

KELLY: That really got to him. You could tell.

KRAUTHAMMER: It got to everybody. Because that is, you know, a little bit out there. Way out there. So now he's got to decide, I suspect -- I have no inside information. But I've been watching Cruz, I think a lot of people understand him. If his calculations are sort of astute as I think they are, and he's -- remember, he's a freshman came out of nowhere. He's the runner up in a nomination. He had no business getting this far. I think he's looking to 2020.

He's going to give the speech of his life. And it will be about conservatism and beliefs and implicit criticism of Trump, perhaps, but he's got to end it with an endorsement and a call to arms to beat Hillary.  That's the script. I wonder whether he'll follow it. As you know, the real script, the one he's written has not been read by the Trump people.

KELLY: Right.

KRAUTHAMMER: It could be a decoy. That's what I would do. Like a phony script and then you make it up. But I think that's the path he's got to follow.

KELLY: So the risk to Ted Cruz in endorsing Donald Trump is that, as you saw with the plane flyover, a lot of Ted Cruz supporters still do not like Donald Trump. They don't believe he's a conservative and they don't want Ted Cruz throwing in behind him. Although tonight we're hearing that the Texas delegation wants him to endorse him tonight, to endorse Trump tonight. And in Ted Cruz's, you know, bruising battle with Donald Trump in the primary, he called Donald Trump a pathological liar, called him utterly amoral, called him a bully, called him a fraud, called him a cavern of insecurity. And that was just for starters. So, I know that it's always difficult in the primaries. They always throw some punches, but that was extraordinary. So does he lose some credibility at all if he endorses?

KRAUTHAMMER: I really think not. We have very short memories in American political history. We have had runner-ups who said something like that. I think this year, probably the level of the personal vitriol was a little bit higher than normal, but this is not off the charts. And they all reconciled, they all say, well, in the heat of the battle, you get Obama and Hillary in 2008, then all of a sudden they're chums. You get Johnson and Kennedy, 1960. This goes back a very long way.

So forgetting is very easy. We have even shorter attention spans in the age of social media and television, nobody remembers yesterday. So I think that can easily -- I think Cruz will have no trouble blockading his supporters. Blockading his enemies is something different. And that's the more important job. He'll always have the support. He's not going to lose that. He needs to convert people who are pro-Trump, and should Trump lose, who will be looking for a leader.

KELLY: I would love to know what happened in that phone call between the two of them, because I bet Trump was his charming -- Trump, you know, he can be his aggressive, sort of punching everybody Trump, but he can also be very charming and I would love to know how he did it with Ted Cruz. We'll find out at the end of that speech, perhaps.

KRAUTHAMMER: But above all, we have two champion political calculators.  They're looking out for themselves. And here, their interests coincide.

KELLY: Charles, great to see you.

KRAUTHAMMER: My pleasure.

KELLY: Still ahead, Scott Walker, Marco Rubio, and a special, special message from the Trump family about their dad. Those video compilations are -- they tend to be the best moments of these conventions, sometimes.

Plus, new fallout on a fierce speech from Governor Chris Christie. Did he go too far? A couple of special guests of her own weigh in next.


GOV. SCOTT WALKER, R-WIS.: -- On the phone with Donald Trump. And this very subject came out. Think about it. The Supreme Court, he and I talked about the court, he raised that as a concern, and we talked about the fact that Ronald Reagan nominated Justice Scalia over 30 years ago to be on the court, when I was in high school. We cannot conceive the court to liberals like Hillary Clinton for the next 30 years.


The consequences are too great. After hearing the FBI director's report a few weeks ago, heck, I listened to that and said, I wouldn't even give Hillary Clinton the password to my iPhone, let alone access to highly classified information.



KELLY: Governor Scott Walker fired up, speaking to a crowd without prompter. The only one we've seen, really, who's not using a teleprompter, just sort of riling up the crowd from the heart. And getting the crowd chanting "America Deserves Better," we heard moments ago. We're still waiting for Senators Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz to make remarks. When they speak, we'll going to listen in. But another big story is the continuing fallout from last night's fiery speech from Governor Chris Christie.  Governor Christie brought the convention crowd to his feet with what he called a, quote, "prosecution of Hillary Clinton's record."



CHRISTIE: So, as to Hillary Clinton, the charge of putting herself ahead of America, guilty or not guilty?



KELLY: Well, while most at this convention seemed to love that, a lot of mainstream media folks, uh-uh.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The night was heavy on harsh rhetoric, much of it directed at Hillary Clinton.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you think it's good? They were chanting "lock her up", "lock her up" having a really good time with it. Do you think that's a good thing for American politics, when political disagreements result in basically a crowd becoming a mob saying, lock her up?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You incited this crowd to get on their feet, to talk about her, to say guilty over and over again. Do you think that is unifying the party in a way that's good for the country?


KELLY: But despite the criticism of the New Jersey governor, the attacks on Mrs. Clinton seem to be taking hold. With a new L.A. Times poll showing Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton now tied. Resulting in a polling average that is now almost a dead heat.

Joining me now, former senior adviser and former campaign manager to President Obama, David Plouffe. David, great to see you.


KELLY: This is the guy who got Barack Obama elected, so who knows what he speaks.

PLOUFFE: And a few other people.

KELLY: I give it all to you. So, she's leading him now. The Real Clear Politics of all polls by just 2.8 percent. It's pretty close. What do you make of that?

PLOUFFE: Well, we won only by four points against Governor Romney and that was an Electoral College landslide. So, it doesn't take much. But most of these poll shows, huge number of undecided voters. And the real trick for a campaign is to understand who those voters are, how they're likely to break, and what's the best way to reach them. And I think when you unpack that, it probably suggests that Hillary Clinton should be headed to a pretty comfortable lead in the national votes.


PLOUFFE: But I think the question really is because, I think a lot of those undecided voters lean Democrats. I think they're going to see some Republicans stay home. And she clearly has turnout challenges too. But I look at it from the Electoral College, first. So, Mitt Romney got 203 electoral votes. And right now, I don't see a single state that Romney lost that Trump should be favored in. And that's really what --

KELLY: Pennsylvania?

PLOUFFE: I don't think so. I mean, Hillary Clinton's --

KELLY: Ohio?

PLOUFFE: No. I mean, we won -- where we were right now in Cleveland, we won this area by 260,000 votes. Won the state by almost 200,000.  Pennsylvania --

KELLY: But if you look at today's polls, because he's not running against Barack Obama, he's running against Hillary Clinton.

PLOUFFE: But the reality is, in both the Philadelphia area and the Cleveland area and the suburbs, she's going to walk out of there with big margins. There are just not enough votes in my view for Trump to make up.  Even if --

KELLY: So why do the polls show them tied in Pennsylvania? Tied in Ohio?

PLOUFFE: Well, also, you know, I ran a presidential campaign, was responsible -- I never paid attention to the polls. What matters is, you have a pretty good sense of the presidential campaign, who's going to vote.  There's a lot of people who say they're undecided, that truly aren't.  Because you have some sense of how they're likely to break, based on characteristics. The real question is, there are some true undecided voters. And that's where the campaigns lies. Both campaigns do have turnout challenges.

So, I think when you look at Pennsylvania, Ohio, Florida, Virginia, and that's the other thing. Trump could win Florida, Ohio, and Virginia and Clinton could still win the presidency, because she wins the rest of the Obama states. So she has her challenges. I think Democratic enthusiasm is not what we need it to be. She needs to work on that next week, just as Trump needs to do that here in Cleveland.

KELLY: How do you think the convention is going so far? What do you think of it?

PLOUFFE: Well, I think the only thing that matters is Trump's speech. He energizes Republicans, gives them more confidence, and I think particularly provides an economic message, that is captivating to true swing moderate voters, it will have been a success.

KELLY: You don't think the kerfuffle over Christie is anything --

PLOUFFE: No, I mean, it's -- I don't think -- I haven't seen anything yet that suggests that this would reach out to moderate voters, even voters who voted for Obama twice. But what matters is Trump's speech. So if he nails that, and I think he's got to do three things. He's got to unify the party. He's got to get the party more confident, but he also have to send a strong signal to swing voters in places like Ohio. This guy's got some interesting ideas, particularly on the economy. The truth is his son, I thought, laid out the best articulation of the Trump economic theory we've heard yet. He needs to do that tomorrow night.

KELLY: You've been, you know, it's been interesting to talk to you about Trump, as this campaign has gone on. At one point you said, you know, they would rather run against Ted Cruz because Donald Trump is so unpredictable.  What do you think now?

PLOUFFE: Well, when we talked a few months ago, I thought there was a chance Trump could make this race very close.


PLOUFFE: I don't think he's really seized the opportunity. I mean, he really had two to three months before Clinton got done with Sanders to define the race, define the economic choice, and really start talking toward the middle of the electorate, and unify the party. He really hasn't done those things. He's squandered that. He's still unpredictable, like getting ready for the first presidential debate, you'll going to have to prepare for like four different Donald Trumps. It's going to be an enormous challenge. I don't envy them that.

And I do think he has appeal to some voters in Ohio, some voters in Pennsylvania, south west of Virginia that maybe a Cruz wouldn't. I think the trouble is he probably hemorrhages support in suburban areas. So, that's a challenge for Trump. Gain what he can in some of those more rural conservative areas without losing too much suburban vote.

KELLY: David Plouffe, always so fascinating. So fascinating. Thank you so much for being here. Well, here to respond, Dr. Ben Carson, renowned neurosurgeon and former Republican presidential candidate himself. Dr. Carson, great to have you here. Thank you so much.

PLOUFFE: Always great to be with you, Megyn.

KELLY: So, what do you make of that? I mean, I heard that from a few pundits, that Trump and this convention has done little to reach out to persuadables and more moderate voters? Do you think that's the goal?

DR. BEN CARSON, R-FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, first of all, I would take issue with that. You know, a lot of these persuadable voters are listening to what's being said. And many of them have been buying the propaganda that's put forth by the secular progressive movement about how wonderful Hillary Clinton is. And I think that's why for the first few nights, there's been these educational seminars on who she really is.  People need to understand that.

KELLY: We were talking before about all the terrible things Ted Cruz has said about Donald Trump. You were in a similar vote, where Trump was not nice to you, either. But you forgave. I mean, can you -- how did you get passed that? Because he really did savage you? But you've become a full- throated supporter.

CARSON: Well, because it's not about me. If it was about me, I would never be able to get over it. But this is about our country. This is about what happens to our children and our grandchildren. This is about whether we become a country that is of and formed by the government versus a country that is of and formed by the people. That's way bigger than any individual.

KELLY: What do you make of the mainstream media criticizing Chris Christie's challenge? Criticized you because you made a reference to Lucifer in talking about Hillary Clinton. Do you expect them to be as questioning if we hear harsh rhetoric at the Democratic National Convention about Trump and his supporters next week?

CARSON: Of course not. They'll barely even mention it. But, you know, we don't -- we can't worry about them. They're almost a lost cause. They've forgotten what their mission is, as the press and the reason that they are the only business that's protected by the constitution, because they were supposed to be honest and on the side of the people, not taking sides.  They're a lost cause. But what we have to do is we have to go out and educate people, so that they understand what the stakes are here.

I've heard even some Republicans talking about, well, you know, if Hillary gets in, we only have to deal with it for four years, eight years at the most, but that, of course, is very naive thinking. Because not only do the Supreme Court, but the federal courts will be packed with people who share her ideology.

KELLY: Those are lifetime appointments.

CARSON: Absolutely. And our children will have to pay the price for that.

KELLY: You know, and by the way, they are saying that Ted Cruz has already made up his mind to run in 2020, no matter -- even if Donald Trump wins.  Have you made any decisions along those lines?


KELLY: What?

CARSON: I have no intention of ever running for public office again.

KELLY: Never again?



CARSON: Well, I wouldn't even have done it this time had it not been for the tremendous outcry of the people.

KELLY: Yes, they were demanding you do it.

CARSON: Right. That's the only reason that I did it.

KELLY: So, you don't feel melancholy at all being here, like this could have been me? This could have been my time on the stage as a nominee?

CARSON: I feel relief.


Being in, you know, two or three or four cities, waking up and not knowing where you are.


CARSON: I mean, no, this is a relief. But I still am just as passionate about saving our country and I will continue to devote my efforts to making sure that we create an environment of safety and prosperity for our children.

KELLY: Well, I know there's so much love for you out there among Republican voters and others as well. I mean, we hear it from our viewers of all political stripes. Thank you for spending time with us.

CARSON: Thank you, Megyn.

KELLY: Great to see you, Doc.

Night three of the Republican convention is underway, and we're waiting on speeches right now from some of Trump's fiercest rivals, including Marco Rubio, and as we mentioned, Ted Cruz.

And still ahead, in a "Kelly File" exclusive, you got to wait for this. Mark McKinnon reveals what he learned backstage, right after Donald Trump Jr. cast the votes that put Donald Trump over the top when it came to the nomination. He was there with the Trump family. He joins us live.


KELLY: Breaking tonight, day three of the RNC, and the theme of the night is "Make America First Again." And we are waiting two highly anticipated speeches from two former Republican presidential hopefuls, Senator Marco Rubio and Senator Ted Cruz.

And joining us now from the floor of the convention, "America's Newsroom co-anchor, Martha MacCallum. She's down there with the Texas delegation as we await a speech which we're told that's coming up early now. We should expect him any moment from their senator, Ted Cruz. Martha?

MARTHA MACCALLUM, CO-ANCHOR, "AMERICA'S NEWSROOM": Hey there, Megyn, good evening. We are here in the thick of the Texas delegation. Let me tell you, this is going to be one of the most interesting moments of tonight. All day long, we've been trying to get a handle on what Ted Cruz will say and whether or not he will endorse Donald Trump tonight. The campaign has been very tight-lipped about this as has the Cruz people.

It's worth pointing out that the Cruz structure is still very much in place. A lot of discussion about whether or not Ted Cruz is going to get up there and essentially make a case for himself for 2020. I have read his speech and the contents are embargoed, but I can tell you from a general sense that essentially he is not going to endorse Donald Trump. But he will stand up there and tell people that they need to vote and that they need to vote their conscience.

Another person I spoke to, very high in conservative circles said to me today, this could be a Reagan '76 moment for Ted Cruz. Almost a speech that he hopes, perhaps, will make people have some buyer's remorse. That they might stand up and say, Ted Cruz is thinking like a conservative, perhaps he's the person we should have picked. Of course, it's too late for all of that. We saw the last-ditch efforts of that unfold on the floor here over the course of the last couple of nights, but the "Never Trump Movement" is over.

But Ted Cruz will make his case as a conservative and many say with his sights on 2020 regardless of what happens here, even if Donald Trump wins this election there, those who believe that he will contest that in 2020 so, a lot of sour grapes between these two campaigns.

It's interesting that he's speaking here tonight, that he was given a plot with apparently no assurance of an endorsement. So Ted Cruz will take the floor shortly here this evening. And we'll get a better sense of what he's going to say, and most importantly, Megyn, how it goes over on the floor. How will the Trump people here respond to this message from Ted Cruz tonight? Will they be receptive? We'll see. Back to you guys.

KELLY: Absolutely. Martha, thank you.  

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