Feedback
Meet the Press

Meet the Press - March 13, 2016

MEET THE PRESS - MARCH 13, 2016

CHUCK TODD:

This Sunday, fear, loathing, and now violence on the Trump campaign trail. Days before make or break primaries on "Separation Tuesday," Trump's opponents blame him.

SEN. TED CRUZ:

When you have a campaign that affirmatively encourages violence.

CHUCK TODD:

And openly worry what will happen if he's the nominee.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO:

I still at this moment continue to intend to support the Republican nominee. Getting harder every day.

CHUCK TODD:

While President Obama blames the Republican party for Trump's rise.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA:

How can you be shocked? This is the guy, who remember, who was sure that I was born in Kenya.

CHUCK TODD:

My interview with Donald Trump at a critical moment in his candidacy, Ted Cruz and John Kasich join me as well. Plus the Democrats, Bernie Sanders' win in Michigan gives him new hope and the Clinton campaign new reasons to worry about the Midwest. And our brand new polls out of Florida, Ohio, and Illinois. There's a lot more uncertainty about Tuesday than you might think.

Joining me for insight and analysis this Sunday morning are Republican strategist Alex Castellanos, Anne Gearan, of The Washington Post, Pulitzer-Prize-winning historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, and influential radio talk show host, Hugh Hewitt. Welcome to Sunday. It's Meet the Press.

ANNOUNCER:

From NBC News in Washington, this is Meet the Press with Chuck Todd.

CHUCK TODD:

Good Sunday morning. Students of history know how familiar Chicago is with violence at political events. In 1968, anti-Vietnam war protesters famously clashed with police during the Democratic National Convention in Chicago. And even though what played out ultimately became known as a police riot, the chaos tarnished the Democratic party and helped lead to Hubert Humphrey's defeat and loss to Richard Nixon later that fall.

Fast forward to Friday night in Chicago, that pushing, shoving, and fighting led to Donald Trump canceled scheduled appearance. Trump's Republican opponents, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio and John Kasich agreed the ugly scene was the result of a toxic environment, nurtured and encouraged by Trump. And here's Hillary Clinton adding her perspective yesterday.

(BEGIN TAPE)

SEC. HILLARY CLINTON:

If you play with matches, you can start a fire you can't control. That is not leadership, that is political arson.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

But to his supporters, it was another example of opponents trying to deny the leading candidate for the Republican nomination his right to free speech. And all of this comes just days ahead of what we're calling, "Separation Tuesday," five primaries that may finally separate frontrunners Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton from their opponents.

And we have three new NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist polls out this morning in those states. Let's start with the Republicans. In Florida, an absolutely must-win for Marco Rubio, while Rubio trails Donald Trump by a nearly two-to-one margin, 43-22. Ted Cruz at 21 percent right behind Rubio.

In Illinois, Trump's lead is smaller, but it's significant over Cruz and Kasich. He's got a nine-point lead over Cruz, but Kasich a close third there to Cruz. But in Ohio, it is Governor John Kasich holding a slim six-point lead over Donald Trump, 39-33. Obviously, a Kasich win there would keep him in the race and complicate Trump's efforts to win a majority of the delegates before the convention.

On the Democratic side, it's Hillary Clinton leading Sanders in all three states. She's up 61-34 in Florida. Clinton has a 20-point lead in Ohio, 58-38, but both campaigns dispute that one. And it's much closer in Illinois, where Clinton leads by just six points, 51-45. A lot of Democrats believe Rahm Emanuel backlash is helping Bernie Sanders there. We're going to get to the Democratic race later, but we're going to start with the Republicans and the Republican frontrunner, Donald Trump. Mr. Trump, welcome back to Meet the Press, sir.

DONALD TRUMP:

Good morning.

CHUCK TODD:

I've got to start with what's been happening over the last 48 to 72 hours. Do you accept any responsibility whatsoever for the escalated tension that takes place at your rallies?

DONALD TRUMP:

Well, I think if anything, a lot of people have praised me for canceling the one rally. We had 25,000 people coming; we got a lot of them not to come through notice. And the rest of them, we canceled because we had disrupters out there, that they weren't really protesters, they were disrupters. They were like professionals.

They had Bernie Sanders signs all over the place, and they were made by Bernie Sanders people. I mean, these were professionally-made signs. And rather than going, which I could've done pretty easily, I would have gone, I would have made a speech, you would have had an awfully big riot, and a lot of people would have been hurt. And I've been given a lot of credit for not going. And everybody dispersed, and nobody was injured or hurt or beyond that.

CHUCK TODD:

Okay. But, you know, earlier in the week, and look, earlier in the week, there was an incident between a supporter of yours and a protester. And I want to play a piece of sound from a couple weeks ago from you and ask you about it on the other side.

(BEGIN TAPE)

DONALD TRUMP:

Here's a guy, totally disruptive, throwing punches. I love the old days. You know what they used to do to guys like that when they were in a place like this? They'd be carried out on a stretcher, folks. I'd like to punch him in the face, I'll tell you.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

Mr. Trump, 17 days later, that actually happened. One of your supporters decided to sucker punch a protester. Do you accept any responsibility for creating this atmosphere?

DONALD TRUMP:

I don't accept responsibility, I do not condone violence in any shape. And I will tell you from what I saw, the young man stuck his finger up in the air, and the other man sort of just had it. But I still, I don't condone violence. As far as my previous statement, we had somebody that was punching and vicious and gone crazy, a disrupter, they're not protesters. I'm telling you, they're disrupters, they're professionals.

And he went absolutely wild punching, and frankly, when they punch, it's okay. When my people punch back because they have to out of self defense, everybody says, "Oh, isn't that terrible?" The fact is, that we have very peaceful rallies. I've had many, many rallies. I have 25,000, 30,000 people coming to rallies.

And out of that, we have very, very little problem. We haven't had a real injury or anything. And then Chicago I canceled, and I did a great thing by canceling it, because who needs the problems, who needs people getting hurt? I didn't want that.

CHUCK TODD:

But when you say--

DONALD TRUMP:

So instead of getting--

CHUCK TODD:

But Mr. Trump, when you say, you know, "If you see somebody getting to ready to throw a tomato, knock the crap out of them. Seriously, just knock the hell out of them. I promise you, I'll pay for their legal fees." How is that not condoning what this older gentleman did to this protester?

DONALD TRUMP:

Well, let me explain what happened. We were told just as I was going up on the stage, I was told by the secret service, "Sir, there's a person or two people in the audience that have tomatoes. They are going to throw them at you, we think. If they do throw them, you have to be prepared."

Now, if you get hit in the face with a tomato, let me tell you, with somebody with a strong arm, at least, let me tell you, it can be very damaging. Not good. So I was told people were in the audience, two people, with tomatoes, and they're going to throw them at me. What I did is I said, "By the way, if you see anybody with tomatoes, right at the beginning, you've got to stop them. Do whatever you want to do." I have no objection to what I said. I would say it again. People are there doing harm, you have to go and you have to use equal force.

CHUCK TODD:

Do you plan - I'm just curious--

DONALD TRUMP:

It's not fair. It's a one-way street.

CHUCK TODD:

I'm just curious, do you plan on paying for the legal fees of this older gentleman in North Carolina who sucker punched the protester?

DONALD TRUMP:

Well, I'm not aware. I will say this. I do want to see what that young man was doing. Because he was very taunting. He was very loud, very disruptive. And from what I understand, he was sticking a certain finger up in the air. And that is a terrible thing to do in front of somebody that frankly wants to see America made great again. And so we'll see.

CHUCK TODD:

And that condones --

DONALD TRUMP:

I'm going to take a look at it. But I want to see what that man was doing.

CHUCK TODD:

And that condones a sucker punch though?

DONALD TRUMP:

No, as I told you before, nothing condones. But I want to see. The man got carried away, he was 78 years old, he obviously loves his country, and maybe he doesn't like seeing what's happening to the country. I want to see the full tape. But I don't condone violence.

CHUCK TODD:

So you might pay for his legal fees?

DONALD TRUMP:

Well, I'm going to look at it. I'm going to see, you know, what was behind this because it was a strange event. But from what I heard, there was a lot of taunting and a certain finger was placed in the air. Not nice. Again, I don't condone the violence. I don't condone what he did. But you know what, not nice for the other side either.

CHUCK TODD:

It's possible you could help him with legal fees, if this man needs it?

DONALD TRUMP:

I've actually instructed my people to look into it, yes.

CHUCK TODD:

Okay. I want to ask you about the moment yesterday in Dayton. Looked like a scary moment, being rushed the stage. I want to ask you. You said it was -- you praised the secret service, but then you said the man had ties to ISIS, that turned out to be a hoax. Did you go over the top there on that? Where did you get that--

DONALD TRUMP:

No, no, no, no. He was, if you look on the internet, if you look at clips --

CHUCK TODD:

Well, it turned out to be a hoax.

DONALD TRUMP:

--He was waving an American flag.

CHUCK TODD:

Well, it turned out to be a hoax. Somebody made that up, sir.

DONALD TRUMP:

Excuse me. He had talk. Well, I don't know what they made up. All I can do is play what's there. He was walking, dragging the American flag on the ground. Is that a correct statement? Was that a hoax too? Was he dragging the flag on the ground?

CHUCK TODD:

Well, that I don't--

DONALD TRUMP:

And just dragging it along?

CHUCK TODD:

I'm talking about the ISIS tweet.

DONALD TRUMP:

Well, you didn't see the clip.

CHUCK TODD:

We're playing the clip right now.

DONALD TRUMP:

No, excuse me, you didn't see the clip. He was playing Arabic music, he was dragging the flag along the ground, and he had internet chatter with ISIS and about ISIS. So I don't know if he was or not. But all we did was put out what he had on his internet. He's dragging the flag, the American flag, which I respect obviously more than you.

He was dragging the American flag on the ground like it was a piece of garbage, okay? I don't like that. And a lot of people don't like that. And he also had chatter about ISIS, or with ISIS. And you take a look at it. I mean, people are looking at it very seriously now. But you have to check it before you ask the question.

CHUCK TODD:

Well, I-- no, we have checked it. That's my point, sir. There's no ties to ISIS for this man. No law enforcement official. And this video that you linked to appear to be a hoax.

DONALD TRUMP:

Okay, look, well, was it a hoax that he's dragging the flag? Was that him? It looked like the same man to me. He was dragging a flag along the ground and he was playing a certain type of music. And supposedly, there was chatter about ISIS. Now, I don't know. What do I know about it? All I know is what's on the internet. And I don't like to see a man dragging the American flag along the ground in a mocking fashion.

CHUCK TODD:

Alright, Marco Rubio said some pretty tough things about you yesterday, I want you to play it and get you to react to it on the other side.

(BEGIN TAPE)

MARCO RUBIO:

He doesn't want to say anything to his supporters, because he doesn't want to turn them off. Because he understands that the reason why they're voting for him is because he has tapped into this anger. When the person you're supporting for president is going around saying things like, "Go ahead and slap them around, I'll pay your legal fees," what do you think is going to happen next? Someone's going to actually literally believe it and take it upon themselves.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

Is Marco Rubio right? Are you afraid to tell your supporters to back off?

DONALD TRUMP:

Look, first of all, Marco Rubio has the worst voting record in the United States Senate in many, many years. He doesn't even show up to vote. He's defrauded the people of Florida. He won't even show up to vote. And I want to tell you, for him to be talking like that is absolutely a shame.

I have great support, I have great supporters, far greater than you understand. The fact is, if you look at the polls going into the primaries, if you look, and the caucuses, we're up 65 and 70 percent. Some are up 102 percent.. Millions and millions of people are energized. They're going in and voting. And by the way, that's not for Marco Rubio and it's not for lying Ted Cruz. That's for Trump. I mean, they're there, they're voting for Trump because they want to see America made great again.

CHUCK TODD:

But I want--

DONALD TRUMP:

Ted Cruz is big trouble.

CHUCK TODD:

I understand that. But I want to button this up a little bit, because this violence on the campaign trail, it's got a lot of people concerned. And I guess why won't you go up on stage and ratchet it back? I mean, you've used rhetoric about Islam hates us, surveillance of certain mosques, calling Mexican immigrants racists. What did you expect? A lot of people say you're reaping what you sow here, that the reason there's so much tension at your rallies is you've used such divisive rhetoric. Do you have any regrets?

DONALD TRUMP:

The reason there's tension at my rallies is that these people are sick and tired of this country being run by incompetent people that don't know what they're doing on trade deals, where our jobs are being ripped out of our country, Chuck. They're being ripped out. On ISIS, where we can't even beat ISIS with our military. Our military's not being taken care of, we can't even beat ISIS.

On our vets, who are being treated horribly. Frankly, they're being treated worse than illegal immigrants. The people are angry at that. They're not angry about something I'm saying. I'm just a messenger. The people are angry about the fact that for 12 years, the workers in this country haven't had a pay increase, Chuck. In 12 years, they haven't had an effective pay increase.

CHUCK TODD:

So you will not--

DONALD TRUMP:

And that's what they're angry about.

CHUCK TODD:

You will not call for ratcheting back the rhetoric? You will not call for it?

DONALD TRUMP:

Well, I haven't said anything that-- I'm just expressing my opinion. What have I said that's wrong? I mean, I talk about illegal immigration, I talk about building a wall, I say Mexico's going to pay for the wall, which they will. And all of these things. I mean, what have I said that's wrong? You tell me. The fact is, they're really upset with the way our country is being run. It's a disgrace.

CHUCK TODD:

I will leave it there. Mr. Trump, stay safe on the trail, and we'll watch you Tuesday.

DONALD TRUMP:

Thank you.

CHUCK TODD:

Thank you, sir.

DONALD TRUMP:

Thank you.

CHUCK TODD:

It would be fair to say that Tuesday is make or break for my next guest, Ohio Governor John Kasich. He needs to win his home state of Ohio to deal a blow to Donald Trump. And the signs are good for him this morning, with our latest poll giving the governor a five-point lead. Governor Kasich, welcome back to Meet the Press.

GOV. JOHN KASICH:

Thanks, Chuck. Always great to be with you.

CHUCK TODD:

Well, let me just start with what's been the dominant theme over the last 72 hours. You yesterday went out of your way to criticize Donald Trump for creating the toxic environment that appears to have engulfed this campaign over the last 72 hours in his own rallies. How can you still sit there and say you'll support him if he's the nominee if he is creating a toxic environment like this? I've got to think, you seem to be struggling with this.

GOV. JOHN KASICH:

Well, it's tough. I mean, but he's not going to be the nominee, Chuck. I mean, as you know I'm ahead in Ohio. I'm going to win Ohio with the great support I hope of the Ohio folks here who I think are going to help me to take the message and the formula that's helped to fix Ohio, improve Ohio to Washington.

And, you know, it's tough. I mean, I just listen to the last minute of this interview. Everything is negative. Everything is, "America's losing, and we're terrible." I mean, come on. Look, we've got our challenges. People are worried about the security of their job, they're worried about the wages, they're worried about not getting any interest in the bank, they're worried about their kids' future.

But, you know, we can fix these things. We've been through far tougher situations before, the Depression, World War II, 9/11. We can fix this. And you know, I walk into a room, and I tell people, "We can get this done by remembering we're Americans before we're Republicans and Democrats," and conservative principles can fix this thing. Of course it's a struggle.

CHUCK TODD:

You know, I have to say, you said yesterday he's close to disqualifying himself. What more does he have to do to disqualify himself?

GOV. JOHN KASICH:

Let's see what happens. The last debate, okay, everything settled down. You remember, I kept calling for, I don't know how many debates, for people to put out their vision and be positive. And it was moving in the right direction. Let's see. He's not going to be the nominee, Chuck. I have to tell you. It's not going to happen.

CHUCK TODD:

Well, by the way, how does it happen for you? We've done the math. You go on to win Ohio, you need 112 percent over the remaining delegates to get to the magic number. Now, I wasn't a math major, but that's mathematically impossible. So how do you get there? Obviously it has to be a contested convention, right?

GOV. JOHN KASICH:

Well, look, there's a thousand delegates you have to pick, is my understanding. And don't be surprised if I go to the convention with the largest number of delegates. Is it likely that we'll have to have some sort of a multi-ballot convention, yeah, it's probably likely. But you know what, you never know in politics, Chuck. You know that.

What's true today is not necessarily true tomorrow. All I'm doing is telling people I've helped to create over 400,000 jobs in Ohio, we're running surpluses, wages are going up faster than the national average. I did it in Washington, and I want to go back and do it one more time. That's what I want to do. And that's what I'm focused on.

CHUCK TODD:

Now, obviously, this whole thing, contested convention, not only hinges on you doing well in Ohio, it may hinge on Rubio doing well in Florida. Here's what Marco Rubio said about you yesterday.

(BEGIN TAPE)

SEN. MARCO RUBIO:

Clearly John Kasich has a better chance of winning Ohio than I do. And if a voter in Ohio concludes that voting for John Kasich gives us the best chance to stop Donald Trump there, I anticipate that's what they'll do.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

And as you know, his campaign went on to say that they're encouraging their supporters to do that in Ohio. Why aren't you reciprocating and asking your supporters in Florida to do the same thing for Marco Rubio?

GOV. JOHN KASICH:

Well, Chuck, first of all, my voters are not like robots where I can say, "Go do something," okay? How do you run for office and tell people to vote for somebody else? But let's be clear, I'm not in Florida. In fact, I tried to call Marco last night to wish him good luck. I couldn't get him, but look, I want to do the best I can.

CHUCK TODD:

You want him to win. You want Marco Rubio to win Florida?

GOV. JOHN KASICH:

I'd like to win Florida. I don't see that it's in the cards like it is I'm going to win Ohio, okay?

CHUCK TODD:

Fair enough.

GOV. JOHN KASICH:

But look, the bottom line is, I don't go telling people what they should do, particularly when they're for me. You know, "Go support somebody else." If that was the case, that doesn't make sense to me, okay?

CHUCK TODD:

Fair enough. Is your campaign now working actively with other campaigns, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, for strategies to deny Trump delegates? Are you at that phase in the campaign in yet?

GOV. JOHN KASICH:

No, no. I'm not. I mean, if it's going on, I'm unaware of it. Because here's why, Chuck. This is not class president. This is commander in chief and leader of the free world. I mean, I've got the foreign policy experience and the success in domestic policy experience and the success to be able to help lift this country, bring people together. So all this, it's just, to me, that's just, you know, stuff that's way out here. I'm more focused on giving people some hope that America can get its spirit back.

CHUCK TODD:

All right, Governor John Kasich, I'm going to leave it there.

GOV. JOHN KASICH:

Thank you.

CHUCK TODD:

Stay safe on the trail.

GOV. JOHN KASICH:

Thank you.

CHUCK TODD:

Tuesday's going to be fascinating.

GOV. JOHN KASICH:

All right, Chuck, thank you.

CHUCK TODD:

You got it. When we come back, how much is Donald Trump to blame for the violence at his rallies? And later, Ted Cruz says Donald Trump quote, "affirmatively encourages" violence. I'll ask him about that and more in just a few minutes.

***COMMERCIAL BREAK***

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back, the panel is here. Alex Castellanos, veteran Republican strategist, who of course has worked for the Doles of the World, the Bushes, Mitt Romney, he is the Republican establishment right now. Anne Gearan, political correspondent at The Washington Post, Pulitzer-Prize-winning historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, and conservative radio talk show host, Hugh Hewitt. All right, I started with historical footage, so I'm going to start with you, Doris. How did we get to where Chicago Friday night, for a brief period, looked like Chicago '68?

DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN:

Well, it not only looked like Chicago '68, but Chicago 1912. I mean, when Teddy and Taft were running against one another, there would be clubs and baseball bats in the front of the room to not let the opposing delegates in. There was a man holding a gun to the chairman's head. They scuffled in the lobbies and dynamite explosions went off.

So we should remember that we've been through this before. But the difference is, that we're seeing it live now, just as we did in '68. And so you're feeling what's happening to our country. As an historian, I might say, "Oh, this is exciting to be able to know that 200 years from now, an historian will be able to detail this the way I couldn't in 1912 because I don't have the pictures." But as a citizen, it's pretty scary and bad.

CHUCK TODD:

Look at this comp reel we put together of Trump and some of the remarks that he's done. Take a listen.

(BEGIN TAPE)

DONALD TRUMP:

He was swinging, he was hitting people, and the audience hit back. And that's what we need a little bit more of. Do you know what they used to do to guys like that when they were in a place like this? They'd be carried out on a stretcher folks. I'd like to punch him in the face, I'll tell you. No politician's going to solve it. I was going to say they're full of (BLEEP) but I won't say that.

So if you see somebody getting ready to throw a tomato, knock the crap out of them, would you? Seriously. Okay. Just knock the hell. I promise you, I will pay for the legal fees. I promise. See, the first group, I was nice. Oh, take your time. The second group, I was pretty nice. The third group, I'll be a little more violent. And the fourth group, I'll say, "Get the hell out of here."

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

Hugh Hewitt?

HUGH HEWITT:

Well, the Trump tractor beam is pretty strong. But Marco Rubio hopes that someone flips it off. And I think it took a big hit over the last 72 hours. If you remember the 1999 W.T.O. protests in Seattle, the battle for Seattle, nobody liked that and recoiled from it. There are professional disrupters, they do go to this, he is now a magnet for it.

CHUCK TODD:

He's a magnet for it. Right.

HUGH HEWITT:

And that is going to accelerate. And John Kasich, I think we're going to have a throwback Tuesday where he wins in Ohio because he is the opposite of that. He's actually, um, I was reminded of him when I was seeing George Schultz in the front row of the Nancy Reagan funeral, perhaps the greatest living American public servant, went ashore at Peleliu, extraordinarily credential. John Kasich is credential, Donald Trump is the tractor beam on the disappointed. But I think this weekend is changing.

CHUCK TODD:

All right, Hugh, I'm going to, every Sunday we come to this point. I was joking with the producer Alex, for the last six weeks it's been, "Boy, Trump's in trouble." Then Tuesday comes and he wins big. "Oh, he's about to run away with it." Then he does something controversial. "Trump's in trouble." Same pattern, Alex?

ALEX CASTELLANOS:

How many times can you bury Donald Trump?

CHUCK TODD:

Only for him resurrecting again.

ALEX CASTELLANOS:

Forever, right. This race hasn't changed. It looks like after Tuesday, John Kasich is going to be the new Marco Rubio in a three-way race. Guess what, Donald Trump has the most intense third. This thing goes on almost exactly unchanged, despite all of this. This is the most fun and the most frightening campaign that I've ever seen in that sense.

Long-term redefinition I think of the Republican party. I used to think Trump wouldn't do that, he's so unique, too generous that, well, Trump is Trump. He's not really a Republican or a conservative. This is going somewhere that none of us, I think, imagined. And there's a good chance that Republicans just need to take this thing, assert themselves by offering a better, more hopeful visionary direction of where this party needs to go.

CHUCK TODD:

You know, Anne, though, what I've been surprised at is Rubio, Cruz, and Kasich won't go that final step and say, "You know what, I just can't do it. If Trump's the nominee, I'm walking away." And I just think that makes them look like typical politicians who won't want to have it both ways.

ANNE GEARAN:

Right. And they also won't say, they won't call him a racist, they won't kind of go that final mile where they make the point that what he's doing is, in their view, out of bounds, and they will not countenance it. They go almost there, but not quite.

CHUCK TODD:

Stuart Stevens this morning in The Post, Alex, Romney's chief strategist, made the comparison to George Wallace. He went for the George Wallace route and said the Democratic party did shut Wallace out and threw him, essentially, rhetorically threw him out. Does the Republican party need to do that with Donald Trump?

ALEX CASTELLANOS:

I...No, I don't think so. Because I don't think Trump is a racist. I don't think he has violence in his heart. I've seen first-time candidates get up there, you get up on stage, you're starch, you're having fun, a protester, it works, and you do more of it. And it's all fun and games until one day there's blood on the floor.

CHUCK TODD:

And now there's blood on the floor.

ALEX CASTELLANOS:

And now there's blood on the floor. And how Trump reacts now, what I've seen so far, he's reacting exactly the wrong way. He needs to demonstrate now that he's mature, but for the Republican party to tell a bunch of frustrated voters that no, therefore you have to accept more of the same failure from the Republican establishment, who's changed nothing, failure from a democratic establishment that offers nothing--

CHUCK TODD:

And that ignited '68. I mean, that's what they need to be careful of. Right.

DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN:

I mean, this could have been a dividing line in a good way for Trump. If he had answered your question differently, and he doesn't, there's no way he's going to disavow what he said about the wall, and things like that. He's harnessed the anger through that. But he could say, "If my rhetoric did produce some of the feelings, than I want to say to my supporters that I shouldn't have used that rhetoric and I will not use it in the future."

CHUCK TODD:

Hugh, imagine if--

DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN:

He could've been presidential potential, this was the moment, it gave him a real moment, and he didn't take it.

CHUCK TODD:

Hugh, imagine if he had--

DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN:

Because temperamentally he couldn't.

CHUCK TODD:

Imagine if he had told me, "You know what, I just got off the phone with a young man that was hit. And I said that I was sorry that this happened to him." Imagine if that--

HUGH HEWITT:

It'd been very-- What Alex has said, what Doris has said, Donald Trump is a developer. Developers do what works. What he has been doing is what has been working. It is not working this weekend. And I expect that the reason that disavowed him is that --

CHUCK TODD:

That I don't know.

HUGH HEWITT:

He will not change. He will change and they won't have to disavow him.

CHUCK TODD:

I don't know if we know that it's not working though. You come here many Sundays and say that, but then Tuesday happens. I'm going to pause here. We'll be back in a moment with Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, who says if only Marco Rubio and John Kasich would get out of the race, he could beat Trump one on one.

***COMMERCIAL BREAK***

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back. Well, you may not have noticed, but there were a couple of contests yesterday that didn't get much attention. Marco Rubio won the Republican caucus in Washington, DC by one point over John Kasich. Ted Cruz took the GOP Caucus in Guam. Yes, Guam. Every delegate matters. None of this changes the delegate math, per say. Donald Trump now leads, though, Ted Cruz by 84 votes. Yesterday, I was joined by Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, and we started by talking about Trump.

(BEGIN TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

Let me start with the tone of the campaign. And you have addressed this a couple of times in specifically having to do with Donald Trump's rallies.. Let me play two different explanations you've given to this, one from the debate and one from Friday. Here it is.

(BEGIN TAPE)

SEN. TED CRUZ:

We've seen for seven years a president who believes he's above the law, who behaves like an emperor. And when you have a campaign that disrespects the voters, when you have a campaign that affirmatively encourages violence, you create an environment that only encourages this sort of nasty discourse.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

Is Donald Trump the one that's responsible for the tone of his rallies and Donald Trump alone?

SEN. TED CRUZ:

Well, let's be clear. Listen, the protesters have no right to engage in violence. They have no right to threaten violence. And these protesters, whether it's Black Lives Matter or Bernie Sanders protestors who are coming in just trying to shout down any speaker, that's not free speech. The First Amendment gives you a right to speak, but it doesn't give you a right to silence others.

So the protestors are behaving abusively and wrong. But, at the end of the day in any campaign, responsibility starts at the top. And it is not beneficial when you have a presidential candidate like Donald Trump telling his supporters, "Punch that guy in the face."

CHUCK TODD:

What would you advise Donald Trump to do because this is reflecting on the Republican party as a whole, or it could, considering he's currently the frontrunner?

SEN. TED CRUZ:

Listen, I think every candidate ought to aspire towards civility, towards decency, towards bringing us together. I don't think we should be using angry and hateful rhetoric. I don't think we should be cursing at people. And I'll tell you, listen, I've been troubled. I mentioned at the debate this week. I'm troubled by the rallies that Donald holds, where he asks all the people there to raise their hand and pledge their support to him.

This is America. We don't pledge allegiance to a man. We pledge allegiance to a flag. We pledge our support for the Constitution. But that is something that you see kings and queens doing of their subjects. And all of this is part and parcel of the same thing. We need a president who understands he works for the people. Listen, I am running to pledge my support to you, not the other way around. And I hope that all of the candidates reflect that understanding.

CHUCK TODD:

I want you to react to something here that President Obama said at a fundraiser, responding to the tone of Donald Trump rallies. Here it is, sir.

(BEGIN TAPE)

PRESIDENT OBAMA:

And what's been happening in our politics lately is not an accident. For years, we've been told we should be angry about America and that the economy's a disaster. And that we're weak. And that compromise is weakness. And that you can ignore science and you could ignore facts and say whatever you want about the president. And feed suspicion about immigrants and Muslims and poor people and people who aren't like us.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

That's the president essentially saying, "This has been happening for years," before most of his term.

SEN. TED CRUZ:

You know, Chuck, Barack Obama's a world class demagogue. That language there is designed to divide us. No, Mr. President, we're not angry at that. We're angry at politicians in Washington, including you, who ignore the men and women who elected you. Who have been presiding over our jobs going overseas for seven years.

Who have been cutting deals that are enriching the rich and powerful, the special interests and the big corporations, while working men and women are seeing their wages stagnating. And he talks about immigrants and Muslims. Mr. President, we're mad at a president who wants to bring in Syrian refugees who may be infiltrated by ISIS. And you're unwilling to be commander in chief and keep us safe. So don't engage in attacking the people, like the president did. I'll tell you, that language is the kind of self-righteous--

CHUCK TODD:

All right.

SEN. TED CRUZ:

--moralizing from the President that makes people angry.

CHUCK TODD:

You think that's worse than what Donald Trump's been doing?

SEN. TED CRUZ:

To be honest, I think it's very much the same. They're both engaging in demagoguery. We need instead a president who wakes up every day working for the hardworking taxpayers. If I'm president, Chuck, my focus is going to be the hardworking taxpayers, bringing back jobs and economic growth.

We're going to do that by repealing Obamacare, by passing a simple flat tax. By abolishing the IRS, by pulling back the regulations that are killing small businesses.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me talk about your path to the nomination. Isn't it fair to say that your strategy is to get to a contested convention because you can't win this before the convention?

SEN. TED CRUZ:

Not remotely. Not remotely, Chuck.

It works perfectly. In order for anyone to be the nominee, you need 1237 delegates. There're only two of us that have any plausible path to get there, me and Donald Trump. I've got 362. He has 99 more than I do right now. And nobody else is remotely close. Now, what this primary has been about for the past year has been narrowing and narrowing and narrowing the field.

When we get head to head, not only do I beat Donald, but I beat him squarely. What we're seeing happening right now is we're seeing Republicans uniting behind our campaign. Now, a lot of the media focuses on Florida and Ohio. What the numbers are clear, if Kasich and Rubio had dropped out already, we would be beating Donald Trump right now in both Florida and Ohio.

CHUCK TODD:

You know our Florida poll, the combined number of you and Rubio would be able to overtake Trump. But you've been campaigning in Florida. Rubio has a better shot at beating him.

SEN. TED CRUZ:

Absolutely.

CHUCK TODD:

Denying Trump the delegates is what you need to do in Florida, is it not?

SEN. TED CRUZ:

No, we're not engaged in this delegate denial strategy that came out of the Washington establishment because they have dreams of a brokered convention, dropping their favorite Washington candidate in to win. That would be a disaster. The people would revolt.

The only way to beat Donald Trump is beat him at the ballot box. And there's only one candidate that can get to the 1,237 and beat Donald Trump, and that's me.

CHUCK TODD:

You've said some tough things on Trump. Why are you comfortable supporting him as the nominee if he ends up the nominee?

SEN. TED CRUZ:

Well, listen, I pledged at the outset I will support the Republican nominee whoever it is. I do not believe it will be Donald Trump

CHUCK TODD:

Why are you making a pledge to a party and not to the voters?

SEN. TED CRUZ:

Because Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders would be a manifest disaster. If Hillary is the president, we will lose the Supreme Court for a generation, the Second Amendment will be written out of the Bill of Rights. We'll lose our religious liberty. We'll be buried in debt. And our kids will remain coming out of school without jobs, without opportunity.

Hillary would be disastrous for this country. So the answer is not simply to resign yourself to Donald Trump, who would be a disaster as well. The answer is to beat Donald.

CHUCK TODD:

Given everything you've just said about him in this interview, you still will support him if that's what the Republican party does?

SEN. TED CRUZ:

You know, Chuck, I'm a very simple man. When I give my word for something, I follow through and do what I said.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

Coming up, why Donald Trump's track record in the primary so far actually provides some big clues on which states he's going to win on Tuesday. Then later.

(BEGIN TAPE)

LARRY DAVID (AS BERNIE SANDERS):

My message is resonating with a very diverse group of white people. And I've got supporters of all ages, 18 year olds, 19 year olds.

* * *COMMERCIAL BREAK* * *

CHUCK TODD:

And we are back. It's Meet the Press Data Download time. Five states are going to be voting on Tuesday: Ohio, Florida, North Carolina, Illinois, and Missouri. But it you don't need polls to look at Trump's chances in a state. Right now, just look at how he's already performed. So we looked at the 15 states Donald Trump has already won to see what we've found.

And guess what? Two things have jumped out at us. Number one, Trump has been running in states where the unemployment rate is above the national average of five percent. And two, he's winning in states where the African American population is above eight percent. Now to be sure, this doesn't apply to every state Trump has won.

However, he is nine for nine in states where both of those factors are in place. So, what does that tell us about where Trump might win in the future? Of the 24 remaining contests on the GOP side, four have unemployment above five percent and black population above eight percent. And guess what? Three of those four states are voting on Tuesday: Illinois, North Carolina, and Florida.

And guess what? Polls are showing that he is ahead in all of those three states. There is after fourth, Connecticut, also fits this. They don't vote until April 26th. So what does this all mean? People vote for many different reasons. But what Trump has tapped into, this issue of race and economic struggle, they're closely tied and he's taking advantage of it.

African American population is an indicator, not because Trump is winning the minority vote, but because he's winning among white voters who live in communities with large minority populations. When we come back, why we might be looking at "Separation Tuesday" this week, will Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton finally separate away from the rest of their packs?

***COMMERCIAL BREAK***

CHUCK TODD:

Panel is back, to look ahead to what we're calling "Separation Tuesday," what I'm calling "Separation Tuesday." I'm trying very hard to make this work. Because, you know, like our friends on Game Day, you know, they try to do "Rivalry Saturday," well, this is "Separation Tuesday."

We go through the best-case scenarios for all. Let me put pretty real quickly, if Trump wins Florida, and loses Ohio, then he has to win 59 percent of all remaining delegates in a three-way race. If Cruz wins 35 percent of proportional delegates in Illinois, Missouri, and North Carolina, best-case scenario for him, he then has to win 80 percent of remaining delegates in order to make it to the convention without a contested convention.

By the way, if Rubio wins Florida, and the proportion of delegates he's been winning, say, a 15 percent rate, you have to win 98 percent of all remaining delegates. And then here's our favorite math that I used with John Kasich earlier. If he wins Ohio, he's got to win 112 percent of remaining delegates. Alex, you're a math major, right?

ALEX CASTELLANOS:

Yeah, absolutely.

CHUCK TODD:

How does that work out for you?

ALEX CASTELLANOS:

Two and two right here. But Trump's got three things going in this convention. Assuming he loses Ohio, he's still going to come in awfully close. He's got a carrot, a stick, and a deal. He's very good at deals. The stick is, his voters are intense and we're going to want to keep those voters in the Republican party. It's going to be hard to exclude those voters. Tell them, "Hey, Trump, you've come in with the most votes, but you don't have any right to this nomination."

CHUCK TODD:

It's going to be tough to do, isn't it?

ALEX CASTELLANOS:

That's the stick. The carrot is, you've seen Ben Carson join the Trump campaign. What would a Trump administration look like? A convention can sort out a lot of those things. And if Trump's as good at making deals, you know, that's a card he can play. The problem is, this kind of intense emotional violence we're seeing this week makes that awfully tough to achieve.

CHUCK TODD:

I was just going to say, it feels like short-term gain, long-term pain for Donald Trump to unify the party.

ANNE GEARAN:

I mean, he hasn't tried. And so far he's had no reason to. He's winning by bringing in people who haven't been traditional Republican voters in many cases or who've been disaffected in others. He says he wants to be a unifier and at some point, he would actually have to start doing that. But to this point, there's been no imperative for him.

CHUCK TODD:

Hugh, will the stop Trump movement ever fizzle? I feel like it has fizzled. But meaning will it ever die? Will they ever sort of capitulate and say, "You know what, nothing wecan do about it, it's his nomination, he's won"?

HUGH HEWITT:

I don't think so. I think the party would split. Senator Ben Sasse has pretty much committed. I turn to Professor Kearns to talk about 1912, because that was an irreconcilable breakup, irreconcilable differences. And I do think Kasich and Cruz can make a marriage. I don't know how you make a marriage with Donald Trump and either of the other two. And so with lying Ted, he said it to you this morning.

CHUCK TODD:

Again.

HUGH HEWITT:

It's a divorce and it's final.

DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN:

You know, I think just listening to what Hugh said, I think the "Never Trump" movement has said such tough things about him, they're not just talking about his ideology, they're saying he's unfit, he's delusional, he will destroy our party, he'll destroy our country.

If you've said those kind of things, and these are big people on record, real activists in the Republican party, how can they turn around and say, "I think they'd be better off." They themselves have said, "We want a third party or we want to split, we have to create this new Republican party for the future."

CHUCK TODD:

Well, barring a sweep by Trump, then it seems like the conclusion is after Tuesday, assuming Kasich wins Ohio, contested convention here we come. Cleveland, get your rule books ready. The Democratic side, Anne, it's been interesting here. Because if it wasn't for this Republican race, we'd be sitting here going, "Boy, what's going onhere?" We showed the Illinois numbers.

I can tell you, the Clinton campaign's very nervous about Ohio. They are very nervous about Missouri, which looks an awful lot like Oklahoma to them. Rahm Emanuel's unpopularity may cost them votes in Chicago they normally would have. And they're even thinking North Carolina's going to be close.

ANNE GEARAN:

Yeah, I mean, this week is sort of a replay of Super Tuesday for them, where--

CHUCK TODD:

But in a more defensive crouch.

ANNE GEARAN:

Right, exactly. Absolutely. As I'd say, without many of the advantages going in that we thought she had there. And we really can't underestimate the blow that Michigan dealt to the campaign. She was supposed to win there. She expended a lot of political capital and a lot of time and effort to win there, and she lost badly.

CHUCK TODD:

Anne, I tell you, I think the auto bailout hit, I think they wish they had done it sooner.

ANNE GEARAN:

Oh I, yes, yes, right.

CHUCK TODD:

They sort of blew that one. But they've been wary, Alex. It's sort of like they have one foot in the general, they don't want to alienate Sanders, they don't want to anger him or his voters. And at the same time, they need to defeat him.

ALEX CASTELLANOS:

They need to defeat him. Well, Bernie Sanders is going to be the Democratic nominee. The only question is--

CHUCK TODD:

What?

DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN:

What?

ALEX CASTELLANOS:

Yes. Whether he's wearing a man suit or whether he's wearing a pant suit.

CHUCK TODD:

Oh. I see what you're saying.

ALEX CASTELLANOS:

This campaign--

CHUCK TODD:

You watched a little Saturday Night Live Clearly.

ALEX CASTELLANOS:

The campaign belongs to Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren. It's not Hillary's campaign. She's the figurehead. And that's why it's so different.

CHUCK TODD:

But she grabbed it. She's going to grab the message.

ALEX CASTELLANOS:

She's going to grab it. She'll end up being the nominee. But it doesn't fit her at all. How can she sell that in the general?

CHUCK TODD:

You know how she sells it? Donald Trump.

HUGH HEWITT:

In sports, there's something called the second baseman can't throw to first. Golfers can't make putts. Hillary has the yips, she had a terrible week at the Reagan funeral with the AIDS comment. She had a terrible response to Chicago. She makes more unforced errors than Steve Sax and the Dodgers.

CHUCK TODD:

Wow. A Steve Sax reference, that's going way back.

DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN:

But I must say, she came out and said she misspoke. I mean, you've got to give her credit for being able immediately to say, "Look, they all get exhausted." She said the wrong thing about AIDS and what Reagan had done. She's in a funeral, you're at that golden moment for someone. But most importantly, most importantly, she said, "I, mis-" That's when misspoke really works. "I said something wrong. It was an accident."

CHUCK TODD:

I want to, actually, I'm going to pause here. We're going to play it on the other side, because it's interesting that she used "misspoke." Because it may be a "misremember," not a "misspoke." And I'll explain that in a second. We'll be back in less than a minute. Our endgame segment and a transformative moment from SNL that Alex just previewed. Here it is.

(BEGIN TAPE)

KATE MCKINNON (AS HILLARY CLINTON):

Thank you millennials, for lending your support to the biggest outsider Jew in the race, Hillary Rodham Clinton.

(END TAPE)

***COMMERCIAL BREAK***

CHUCK TODD:

Endgame time, the panel is here. As I promised, Doris, let me play first of all the quote that we're all talking about. This was Hillary Clinton with Andrea Mitchell at Nancy Reagan's memorial service.

(BEGIN TAPE)

HILLARY CLINTON:

The other point I wanted to make too is it may be hard for your viewers to remember how difficult it was for people to talk about HIV/AIDS back in the 1980s. And because of both president and Mrs. Reagan, in particular Mrs. Reagan, we started a national conversation when before, nobody would talk about it.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

All right. Well, they quickly cleaned this up after getting a whole mess of complaints from the L.G.B.T. community. Hillary Clinton put up a tweet, put it up and said, "While the Reagans were strong advocates for stem cell research and finding a cure for Alzheimer's disease, I misspoke about their record on HIV and AIDS. For that, I'm sorry." Now, a misspeak, that didn't look like a misspeak. That looks like, and they gave an explanation of what she was trying to refer to.

ANNE GEARAN:

Well, yeah. I mean, it's kind of unbelievable that she could completely conflate or misremember one of the central tenets of the AIDS crisis, right?

CHUCK TODD:

Right, that did the Reagan administration do enough?

ANNE GEARAN:

Exactly, at the time that the crisis emerged, the president was looking the other way. And actively doing so is the way that narrative goes. And that Nancy Reagan was a chief among that. But during the Reagan, administration, C. Everett Koop, the surgeon general, recognized the problem and actually tried to knock on that door at the White House to get the White House to do more. Yes, I mean, she might be, kind of, like--

CHUCK TODD:

Behind the scenes, right. Behind the scenes, supposedly, Alex, you hear that she saved C. Everett Koop's job, for instance. That she quietly said, "No, no, no, no." But--

ALEX CASTELLANOS:

Can a Republican defend Hillary Clinton on the rare occasions we get a chance. The woman made a mistake, we all do. You know, she campaigns so mechanically sometimes, you think she's patented, not born, right? She has to make a spot that she actually has a mother to remind us of her humanity. She made a mistake. She said, "Look, I'm sorry I did that. I got that one wrong." Good for her. That's the kind of candidate that I think people would love to see a little more of.

CHUCK TODD:

A little more spontaneity?

DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN:

I agree with that. I mean, one of the great things Lincoln said when he would make a mistake, he said, "I like to think I am smarter today than I was yesterday." So she's smarter today than she was yesterday. She understood what this is all about. I mean, that's critical for growth for some candidate or for any kind of leader.

They're all going to screw up at some point or another. And they have to acknowledge it and grow from it and figure out. So I give her credit for that. I mean, I understand why the people were angry though, because that was a huge moment in the AIDS community. And they're right to be angry.

ANNE GEARAN:

Absolutely. And in the intervening hours before the apologies, they--

CHUCK TODD:

It took them awhile.

ANNE GEARAN:

Well, not that long. They--

CHUCK TODD:

It was a brushfire. They didn't know this was going to be such a thing.

ANNE GEARAN:

Well, it became a thing instantly. I mean, they got a lot of blowback. And they tried to deal with it as quickly as they could.

ALEX CASTELLANOS:

I think outrage in America, though, just overwhelms everything. And at the end of the day, it devalues genuine outrage, which we need. And there's plenty of opportunity for that in this campaign .

HUGH HEWITT:

The Reagan years were silent. The Reagan years were silent on AIDS. And it's part of the principle planks of the criticism of President Reagan that the Band Played On, all those books, that they stayed silent. I just think it's a terrible campaign and response. Every candidate makes mistakes, that either you respond to them quickly. And the Chicago statement was awful.

CHUCK TODD:

Well I'll tell you, and this Rahm-- If they lose Illinois, it is on Rahm Emanuel. And apparently, he knows it. There's nothing he can do about it. He's a toxic figure that just is what it is. But it's fascinating how she's getting punished for Rahm.

ANNE GEARAN:

He's been invisible with her.

CHUCK TODD:

Well, and has to be. All right. Alex has given all this away, but we've got to give you some SNL. They did a great little thing, a great little take. You getting that whole thing here now Alex. Bernie Sanders and the impact on Hillary Clinton. Here it is last night.

(BEGIN TAPE)

KATE MCKINNON (AS HILLARY CLINTON):

You're fired up, you're angry and I'm angry, too. Because the top 10 percent of the top one percent controls 90 percent of the wealth in this country. So thank you, millennials, for lending your support to the biggest outsider Jew in the race, Hillary Rodham Clinton.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

Doris, that actually is what's happening. Hillary, Bernie Sanders has won the message primary.

DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN:

I think that's true.

CHUCK TODD:

He won the message, as Alex said, he won the message primary. She may win the nomination, but he won the contest.

DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN:

Well, then what you learn from that is you learn this is where young people are feeling, this is their sense of rendezvous with destiny. You have to get that younger generation to support what you're doing. You've got to move in that direction. You know what's fun about watching this though, it just reminds you, politics used to be fun.

CHUCK TODD:

I know.

DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN:

You know, when they did dirty tricks on each other, they were fun tricks, dressing up a whole bunch of nuns looking like, they held Nixon signs saying, "He's the one," and they're looking--

CHUCK TODD:

Or inviting. They're basically sending too many pizzas to ta fundraiser.

DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN:

I know.

CHUCK TODD:

I mean, literally like high-jinks.

DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN:

I know.

CHUCK TODD:

We're not getting high-jinks.

HUGH HEWITT:

We're not getting high-jinks, but I do think that clip demonstrates why some Republicans are in despair. Because a Kasich-Cruz ticket would beat Hillary Clinton.

CHUCK TODD:

Not Donald Trump.

HUGH HEWITT:

It's very hard to imagine.

CHUCK TODD:

It's harder to imagine because she gets to make the race about him, and you guys can't make the race about her. All right, that's all we have for today. We'll be back next week. If it's Sunday, it's Meet the Press.

***END OF TRANSCRIPT***