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Face the Nation transcripts March 6, 2016: Trump, Cruz, Clinton, Priebus

Republican National Committee (RNC) chair Reince Priebus joins CBS' "Face the Nation" in an interview airing March 6, 2016.

JOHN DICKERSON, CBS HOST: Today, we will talk to the front- runners, Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton and Ted Cruz, interviews you will only see on FACE THE NATION.

Yesterday, Ted Cruz was the delegate winner, taking Maine and Kansas. Donald Trump took Louisiana and Kentucky. Is it down to a two-man race?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I would love to take on Ted one on one. That would be so much fun.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DICKERSON: Fun for Donald Trump, but not so much fun for the Republican Party, who some say is in the process of shattering. We will talk with Trump and Cruz. Plus, we will hear from the chairman of the Republican Party, Reince Priebus.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Hi. Whoa!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DICKERSON: And with Hillary Clinton's wins this week, she's turning her attention to Donald Trump.

Plus, a look at what is coming up in Michigan on Tuesday with new CBS News Battleground Tracker numbers. It's a hair-raising campaign, and it's all ahead on FACE THE NATION.

Good morning and welcome to FACE THE NATION. I'm John Dickerson.

We sat down with Donald Trump at his home in Palm Beach shortly before the polls closed last night.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DICKERSON: Mr. Trump, you're bringing a lot of new people into the Republican Party, but some people are saying they want to leave the Republican Party too. What is your message to those who want to leave? Is it, good riddance?

TRUMP: Well, I think they shouldn't leave. And I think they should get together and I think everybody should be unified.

And, frankly, we're building up numbers that are incredible within the Republican Party. You have been seeing, whether it's South Carolina or New Hampshire, I mean, the numbers are astronomical. And I don't think they have ever seen anything like this, actually.

And, by the way, the Democrats are losing. The Democrats are going down 35, 40 percent. And we're going up 50 percent, a couple of states over 100 percent.

DICKERSON: What do you make of the effort to try and take the nomination away from you, maybe even by going to the convention?

TRUMP: Well, I'm very surprised by it. And I'm very surprised hear about a third party, because I'm going to appoint conservative judges. And a third party that would mean that Hillary would win or whoever is going to be running, and you're going to have liberal judges, probably as many as four or even five, if you can believe that, during this period of time.

So, a third party means absolutely they will have four or five very liberal judges appointed, as opposed to four or five very conservative judges. So, I think it's really playing with fire.

DICKERSON: They say they can't be in party with you as the head of it.

TRUMP: Well, I don't understand that. I get along with people. I'm a unifier. I'm very much a unifier. And maybe people don't see that, but they will see that.

And my relationship to people has been great over the years. But, again, I'm new to politics. I have been doing this now for seven months. I think I have done very good job in seven months. But we have a tremendous number of people coming in and a tremendous number of people showing up to vote.

The lines in all of these states that I have won have been record-setting.

DICKERSON: Let me ask you about unifier. In this very room, your big night on Super Tuesday, you said about Paul Ryan that you hoped to get along with him, but if you didn't -- quote -- "He's going to have to pay a big price." You have also said about John McCain, he has to be very careful.

How can you be a unifier when you're saying those kind of things about two Republicans?

TRUMP: Well, if -- Paul Ryan, I think he would pay big price, because I think you would really have a split party. I think you would have a very split party. And he's done good job and unified -- and he's -- I may be more conservative than him.

I mean, I'm certainly stronger on the border than him. But he's done a very good job. I very much in favor of Paul Ryan because I think he is -- he very much is a unifier. He was sort of chosen for that reason, I think.

DICKERSON: A lot of people read that as a threat.

TRUMP: No, no, not a threat, not a threat. It's not a threat.

DICKERSON: Let me ask you about your position on torture. When you and I talked last week, you said that General Hayden was wrong when he said that military wouldn't follow you on the question of water-boarding and on the killing of terrorists' families.

In the debate, you said, "If I say do it, they are going to do it." You were talking about the military. Then, on Friday, you said, "I will not order our military to violate -- to violate those laws."

So, what changed?

TRUMP: Well, you never asked me violating laws, in all fairness. You weren't talking about violating laws.

I would say this. Look, we have an enemy in the Middle East that is chopping off heads and drowning people in massive steel cages, OK? We have an enemy that doesn't play by the laws. You could say laws, and they're laughing. They're laughing at us right now.

I would like to strengthen the laws so that we can better compete. It's very tough to beat enemies that don't have any -- that don't have any restrictions, all right? We have these massive restrictions.

Now, I will always abide by the law, but I would like to have the law expanded. I would like to make...

DICKERSON: How?

TRUMP: Well, I would like -- I happen to think that when you're fighting an enemy that chops off heads, I happen to think that we should use something that is stronger than we have right now. Right now, basically water-boarding is essentially not allowed, as I understand it.

DICKERSON: And you would like it to be, if you could expand it.

TRUMP: I would certainly like it to be, at a minimum, at a minimum, to allow that.

DICKERSON: Why do you think we don't have those -- why do you think we don't have water-boarding allowed?

TRUMP: Because we're a weak -- I think we have become very weak and ineffective. I think that's why we're not beating ISIS. It's that mentality.

DICKERSON: But you think people got rid of the law to be weak?

TRUMP: No, I think that we are weak. I think we're weak. We cannot beat ISIS. We should beat ISIS very quickly. General Patton would have had ISIS down in about three days. General Douglas MacArthur -- we are playing by a different set of rules. We are -- let me just put it differently. When the ISIS people chop off the heads, and then they go back to their homes and they talk, and they hear we're talking about water-boarding like it's the worst thing in the world, and they just drowned a hundred people and chopped off 50 heads, they must think we are a little bit on the weak side.

DICKERSON: The reason that the water-boarding was -- a number of reasons, but one of them was because worry was that if America does that, then our soldiers, American hostages will be treated even worse. That's the argument. What do you think of that argument?

TRUMP: They're doing that anyway. They're killing our soldiers when they capture them. I mean, they're doing that anyway.

Now, if that were the case, in other words, we won't do it and you don't do it. But we're not playing by those rules. They're not -- why, somebody tell ISIS, look, we're going to treat your guys well, would you please do us a favor and treat our guys well? They don't do that.

We're not playing by -- we are playing by rules, but they have no rules. It's very hard to win when that's the case.

DICKERSON: Isn't that separates us from the savages, rules?

TRUMP: No, I don't think so. We have to beat the savages.

DICKERSON: And therefore throw all rules out?

TRUMP: We have beat the savages.

DICKERSON: By being savages?

TRUMP: No. We -- well, look, you have to play the game the way they're playing the game.

You're not going to win if we are soft, and they are -- they have no rules. Now, I want to stay within the laws. I want to do all of that. But I think we have to increase the laws, because the laws are not working, obviously. All you have to do is take a look what is going on. And they're getting worse. They're chopping, chopping, chopping, and we're worried about water-boarding.

I just think it's -- I think our priorities are mixed up.

DICKERSON: Another topic.

Paul Ryan this week said -- quote -- "If a person wants to be nominee of the Republican Party, there can be no evasion and no games. They must reject any group or cause that is built on bigotry."

He was talking about you.

TRUMP: But I have rejected. How many times do I have to reject.

I reject David Duke, rejected David Duke. I have rejected the KKK, the Ku Klux Klan. From the time I'm 5 years old, I rejected them. I put it on Twitter last week. How many times?

You know, it's an amazing thing with Twitter. I have six million, more than six million. And I have another six million with Facebook. I have like 13 or almost 14 million with Instagram. When I put out a minor message, everybody picks it up. Donald Trump just tweeted something very unimportant.

Let me just explain. When I put out that I reject the KKK and David Duke, nobody picks it up. You know why they don't? Because they don't want to pick it up. They pick it up. You pick it up. Everyone else picks it up -- you saw -- simultaneously, practically at the same time. They don't want to pick it up.

Now, I have been asked this question so many times. I have rejected it so many times. In fact...

DICKERSON: What do you think of Ryan saying that, though? That's, I guess, my question.

TRUMP: I was -- I don't know. Well, don't forget, he's getting lot of his information from you guys. So, when I tweet about a rejection, almost right after that show ended, because maybe I wasn't clear or something. How many times do I have to say it?

Don't forget, I told CNN when Chris Christie endorsed me, a very good endorsement, and one of the questions -- that question was asked, and I rejected it there. That news conference was like a day before.

DICKERSON: You said I disavow...

TRUMP: So, I said it myself. How many times do I have to reject or disavow?

DICKERSON: Let me ask you this question. What about the -- David Duke is saying to his supporters and followers, vote for Donald Trump. White supremacist are saying, vote -- do you want those votes?

TRUMP: No, I don't want them. And I don't want him to say it.

I can't help if he says it, if he says it. But I don't want it and I don't -- if he says it -- John, if he says it, he says it, OK? Do I want it? No.

DICKERSON: And you don't want the supporters? TRUMP: No, I don't want anything. But how many times...

DICKERSON: What do you think of white supremacists, by the way?

TRUMP: I don't like any group of hate. Hate groups are not for me. But I have said this before. The press hates me to say it. They just don't want to pick it up. DICKERSON: You are turning, thinking a little bit more about the general election. In December of last year, you said -- talking about Hillary Clinton, you said, "We view this as war."

And then you asked the audience, "Don't we view this as war?"

Do you still view an election campaign against Hillary Clinton as war?

TRUMP: A little bit, yes. Look, it's highly competitive.

The last person she wants to run against is me. I can tell that you. I know that. And it was sort of interesting. One of your competitors said, I know that Hillary Clinton wants to run against Donald Trump.

And I called him. I said, listen, here is the story. If they say they want to run against me, that means they don't want to run against me. Do you understand that? Because that's the way -- it's like game of chess.

But I know for a fact, and you know for a fact, the last person she wants to run against is me. I have won numerous polls against Hillary, and I haven't even started on Hillary. I only had one brief moment four weeks ago. And because of that moment, Hillary went way, way down and Bernie got credit for it.

He -- they said he was running a great campaign. Had I not -- had she not given me that moment with her and Bill, Bernie would not be nearly as close. Now, Bernie is not going to win, OK, anyway.

But she went way down in that period of time. And the last person she wants to run against is me. And I will tell you, I will beat her. And I beat her in a lot of polls, as you know, but people don't say that.

DICKERSON: All right, Mr. Trump, we're going to have leave it there. We have run out of time. Thanks so much.

TRUMP: Thank you very much.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

DICKERSON: Democrats held contests in three states yesterday.

Senator Bernie Sanders won caucuses in Kansas and Nebraska. And former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton won in Louisiana.

Secretary Clinton joins us this morning from Detroit.

Secretary Clinton, you know what it's like to be in a tough delegate battle. The last time around, you stayed in it all the way to the end. So, do you think there's anything wrong if Bernie Sanders stays in this fight all the way to the end?

CLINTON: Well, I think that's up to him, John. I'm just very pleased at where my campaign is right now.

I was really gratified by the results yesterday. We will net delegates and we're feeling good about the upcoming contests. And I have really put together a great, broad coalition that I think is the key to winning in November against whoever the Republicans nominate.

DICKERSON: Speaking of winning in November, the Republicans seem to have all of the enthusiasm. More people are turning out for their primary process, much more than Democrats. Won't that hurt in the battle in November?

CLINTON: Well, I don't know exactly what that means.

I have gotten more votes than anybody running on either side. I have gotten more votes than Donald Trump, although I'm sure he doesn't want to hear that. And we have gotten it from a wide, broad base. In fact, I have gotten -- in the Democratic primary election, I have gotten more white voters, except for the state of Vermont. All told, I have had more support from white voters.

So, I feel really good about where our campaign is and where it's going.

DICKERSON: In places like Ohio and Massachusetts, there are reports of Democrats switching over, changing their registration, becoming Republicans so they can vote for Donald Trump. Aren't those voters you're going to want back? And how do you get them back?

CLINTON: Well, I want to get every voter back. I'm going to keep working during this primary to earn every vote and to make it clear that I'm running an inclusive campaign. I want to knock down barriers for all Americans, not just some of them.

And I hope that, as we move forward, people will be giving a second and third look to all the candidates, and that includes me. It includes Mr. Trump. So, I'm going to keep reaching out and demonstrating unequivocally that, if people are frustrated, discouraged, upset by what's happening in the economy or the government or political system, that I have come ready prepared to do what's necessary to make progress. And I think that's a very strong case.

DICKERSON: Let me ask you a question about something that was in the news this week.

Bryan Pagliano, the former State Department staffer, was granted immunity from prosecution in the criminal investigation into your e- mail server. And when this happened, I talked to Democrats and they worry that somebody is going to get indicted.

CLINTON: Well, there is no basis for that. It's a security review. I'm delighted that he has agreed to cooperate, as everyone else has. And I think that we will be moving toward a resolution of this, because, after all...

DICKERSON: So, you see this as -- you see this as good news? CLINTON: I'm sorry. What, John?

DICKERSON: You see this as good news?

CLINTON: Yes, I do. Absolutely. I think we're getting closer and closer to wrapping this up.

I also know that there were reports today about the hundreds of officials and thousand e-mails that they were sending back and forth that have been looked at and classified retroactively.

This really raises serious questions about this whole process, I think. Colin Powell summed it up well when he was told that some of his e-mails from more than 10 years ago were going to be retroactively classified. He called it an absurdity.

So, I'm hoping that we will get through this, and then everybody can take a hard look at the interagency disputes and the arguments over retroactive classification. Remember, I'm the one who asked that all my e-mails be made public. I have been more transparent than anybody I can think of in public life.

But it's also true that when something is made public, everybody from across the government gets to weigh in. And that's what's happening here. And we need to get it sorted out and then take action from there.

DICKERSON: Let me ask you about the two-part series this week in "The New York Times" on Libya. In it, former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said that President Obama set that decision whether to take action in Libya was 51-49 decision. Secretary Gates gave you credit for putting the president on 51 percent side of the line, in other words, taking action in Libya.

Does that square with your view of the way things happened?

CLINTON: Well, look, it was the president's decision. And I think he listened to everybody, just as he did when we were involved in the intense review of intelligence as to whether or not the president should order action to go after bin Laden.

These decisions are obviously, ultimately, the president's. I think we should remember where we were, the kinds of threats and actions that Gadhafi was taking. And I have to say that, when I look at this, an absence of action by NATO, by Arab League members would have probably turned Libya into Syria, which I think would have been an even more dangerous situation.

So, we all give our best judgment. I respect everybody who I worked with in the Obama administration, and then, ultimately, we make our recommendations to the president.

DICKERSON: Some people say it's not so much that Syria -- may be a bit like Syria, but it isn't so good right now.

CLINTON: Well, no, it's not good. I'm not saying that it is. But it's sure better than Syria. I think maybe 1,500 people were killed last year compared to probably 150,000 in Syria.

But what is happening is a very concerted effort led by the U.N., supported by United States, Europe and others to try to create a unity government in Libya, enabling the people of Libya to get what they voted for, John. I keep reminding people of this. They have held two elections. They voted for moderates. They voted for democracy. They voted for a path forward that has been disrupted because of the interference of outside forces, as well as internal squabbles.

But this has only been a few years. I think we have got to really work hard to help the Libyans achieve the goals that they have set out for. Of all, Gadhafi hollowed out their country. They left -- were left with basically nothing, not a functioning army, not a functioning government, et cetera.

So, yes, we have got work to do. But I actually am slightly hopeful that they will all realize they're going to do better if they work together. They stand against terrorist elements. We will support them. Others will as well.

DICKERSON: OK, Secretary Clinton, we're out of time. Thanks so much.

We will be back in a minute.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DICKERSON: And we're back with a quick look at where the race for the Republican nomination stands.

After yesterday's victories, Ted Cruz has narrowed Donald Trump's lead in the delegate count.

We caught up with him Friday at a gathering of College Republicans just outside Washington.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DICKERSON: Let me ask you about your political path. Is it to win the nomination and the delegates outright, or is it to just deny and get to Cleveland and figure it out there?

SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Look, we're campaigning to win.

And I will say any time you hear people talking about a brokered convention, I think that is the fevered talk of the Washington establishment. The Washington establishment is in a panic. They're confused. They don't understand what's happening.

And their favored candidates, the ones that they want to win, are not getting the votes. But if a bunch of Washington deal-makers try to step in, in a brokered convention and steal the nomination, I think we will have a manifest uprising.

If you want to beat Donald Trump -- and I don't think Donald Trump is the right nominee to go up against Hillary Clinton. If you want to beat him, you got to beat him at the ballot box. And our campaign is only campaign that has demonstrated we can do so over and over.

DICKERSON: Do you think there is something illegitimate, though, about trying to have a brokered convention, work it out at the convention?

CRUZ: You know, I think, if it's a bunch of Washington deal- makers and lobbyists who want to parachute in their preferred candidate because they don't like what the voters are doing, I think that is illegitimate. I think it's wrong.

DICKERSON: Ronald Reagan in 1976 used convention to try and beat Gerald Ford. So, there wasn't anything inherently bad about that.

CRUZ: But there's a difference there when that's coming from the people, when it's a battle of the people.

A lot of the folks pushing brokered convention in Washington don't want it to be based on the people. They want to drop in their favorite candidate and then try to stifle the will of the people. I think that would be an enormous mistake.

DICKERSON: Let me ask you about what -- the contests coming up, Michigan, Ohio, Florida, Ohio and Florida winner-take-all states.

How are you going to do well in those states, when you had trouble in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Tennessee, which should have been good for you?

CRUZ: Well, listen, you say we had trouble.

We earned delegates in just about every one of those states. Those were proportional states, and we did very, very well.

DICKERSON: But you were expected to win.

CRUZ: Well, you know, we were not expected to win based on the polling and where we are.

And Donald Trump is unique and one of a kind. A year ago, no one anticipated Donald Trump, but he has changed the rules. A year ago, we had 17 candidates. And what we have seen in the field is the field has narrowed. It's narrowed dramatically. And I think coming out of Super Tuesday, what Super Tuesday demonstrated is that if you don't think Donald is the right candidate to go up against Hillary Clinton, there's one campaign that has beat him not once, not twice, but five times.

And that is our campaign. We beat him overwhelmingly in Iowa. We beat him in Oklahoma. We beat him in Alaska. We beat him in Minnesota. And we beat overwhelmingly in my home state of Texas.

DICKERSON: Have you had any conversations or has anybody approached you about any kind of an alliance to stop Trump? CRUZ: Listen, I'm having the conversations with all sorts of people.

And what we're seeing is, we're seeing supporters from other candidates coming and joining us, whether they were with Jeb Bush, whether they were with Chris Christie, whether they were with Ben Carson, whether they have been with Marco Rubio or Rand Paul.

We're seeing people come together because they are recognizing that their candidates were not in a position beat Donald. And if Donald is the nominee, it is a catastrophe. Hillary wins. We lose the Supreme Court for a generation. We lose the Bill of Rights. And we lose the Senate.

DICKERSON: But any of these conversations in terms of jointly acting to deny him, not coming together Ted Cruz?

CRUZ: Look, my focus is very simple.

It is on winning 1,237 delegates to be the Republican nominee. We're on a path to do so. Coming out of Super Tuesday, fewer than a hundred delegates separate Donald Trump and me. And so as much as the media wants to just have a coronation -- and, listen, frankly, one of the reasons the media wants Donald to be the nominee is because the media knows Donald can't win the general, that Hillary would wallop him.

(CROSSTALK)

CRUZ: Donald may be the only person on the face of the planet that Hillary Clinton can beat.

And all of the attacks on Donald that the media is not talking about now, you better believe, come September, October, November, if he were the nominee, every day on the nightly news would be taking Donald apart. And the stakes are too high for us to risk that.

DICKERSON: The media also thought that he wasn't going to get this far. So, that's hardly...

CRUZ: That's true at first. But let's be clear. The media has given Donald Trump hundreds of millions of dollars of free advertising.

When you put Donald -- when every press conference is carried live on every television station, and you essentially have a massive in-kind contribution from the media, that has helped create this phenomenon.

And then I think an awful lot of reporters -- I can't tell you how many media outlets I hear have this great expose on Donald, on different aspects of his business dealings, or his past, but they said, you know what, we're going to hold it to June or July. We're not going to run it now.

(CROSSTALK) DICKERSON: You're saying reporters have told you that? They have told...

CRUZ: Absolutely. We have gotten multiple...

DICKERSON: And from which organizations have they told you?

CRUZ: You know, look, I'm not going to out media outlets, but I can tell you there is so much there.

When was the last time people are bringing up his tax returns, for example. We had a debate last night, didn't hear a word about his tax returns. Every other serious candidate...

DICKERSON: Well, you could have brought it up.

CRUZ: I could have, and I do often.

But as Mitt Romney rightly observed, the fact that Donald won't hand over his tax returns suggests there's a bombshell in there. The fact that journalists are not raising the question of what Donald Trump told "The New York Times" editorial board, the reports are...

DICKERSON: But the journalists brought it up, which gave you the platform to talk about it. So, surely they are. BuzzFeed wrote about it, so they are talking about it.

CRUZ: I promise you, come the general election, that will be the singular focus of the media. And I think Republicans, we have been burned by that before.

We're not interested in losing again, particularly when the stakes, I think, are catastrophic.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

DICKERSON: We will have more of our interview with Republican Ted Cruz in our next half-hour.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) DICKERSON: Michigan is the next-up primary state. Their contest is Tuesday.

Our CBS News Battleground Tracker poll has Donald Trump up by 15 points over Ted Cruz. Marco Rubio and John Kasich are in a close race for third in the Republican race. And among Democrats, Hillary Clinton is up 11 points over Bernie Sanders at 55 percent, while Sanders is at 44.

We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) DICKERSON: Some of our CBS stations are leaving us now, but, for most of you, we will be right back with lot more FACE THE NATION, including more with Senator Ted Cruz.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) DICKERSON: Welcome back to FACE THE NATION. I'm John Dickerson.

We continue our conversation with Ted Cruz.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DICKERSON: Conservatives used to talk a lot about the coarsening of the culture. The culture going. And that it was the job of a conservative politician to stand up and say, no more. Has this campaign improved the culture or made it worse?

CRUZ: Well, listen, there's no doubt that there are aspects of this campaign that -- that have gone into the gutter. I mean we saw moments with -- with Donald Trump and Marco Rubio engaging in insults, engaging in -- in off-color jokes, just getting nastier and nastier and nastier and throwing mud.

My approach, John, I'm not going to play that game. I'm not going to engage in the insults. I'm not going to throw the mud. I don't really have any views on the size of any parts of Donald Trump's anatomy And I'm not interested in talking about that.

But what I am interested in talking about is the issues facing the American people. Millions of Americans are facing stagnant wages or not having jobs. My top priority is bringing back jobs and raising wages, and we're going to do that by repealing Obamacare, passing a flat tax, abolish the IRS, reigning in the federal regulators, stopping amnesty and securing the borders.

DICKERSON: But --

CRUZ: That's my priority.

DICKERSON: You said last week when we talked, you said, Donald Trump is entertaining.

CRUZ: Oh, sure.

DICKERSON: But isn't that the trick, it's entertaining, but then this other stuff slips in and that's the way in which people -- conservatives I've talked to for years have said, that's the way the culture slips. And it's the job of a politics to stand up and say, no, there are guardrails here.

CRUZ: Well -- well, you know, listen, think about what presidents have meant in history. Think of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address. Think of FDR saying, the only thing we have to fear is fear itself. Think of JFK saying, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.

And -- and, you know, I think people at home are asking themselves, how would we feel if our children came in repeating the words of the president of the United States, if that president was Donald Trump. And if it would embarrass you to have your children repeat the words of the president, that's not a good thing. A president should unify us, should appeal to our better angel, should appeal to our shared values that make America who we are. And -- and that is how I'm trying to campaign and I think that's what the American people are looking for.

DICKERSON: Donald Trump said there needs to be flexibility on immigration. When you talked about "The New York Times" and the -- and the --

CRUZ: Yes.

DICKERSON: Off the record conversation, why not -- he's right, of course, in negotiation, there's flexibility, right?

CRUZ: He is mostly absolutely not right, but it was a stunning aspect of the debate that he said over and over again, flexibility, flexibility, flexibility. Actually, that's one of the reason why we're selling now yoga mats on our website, tedcruz.org. They're "breathe" yoga mats, that -- that if you find yourself boiling over with rage, you'll spend some time doing yoga and breathing and maybe it will help you relax.

But -- but, listen, conservatives are used to seeing Republican candidates run to the right in the primary and then run to the left in the general. It's part of the reason we're so frustrated, so angry. We're tired of politicians lying to us.

What was amazing about this debate, John, is Donald is already running to the left and he's not even out of the primary. I mean in the debate this week, Donald stood up there and said to Marco Rubio, I agree with you, Marco. I understand why you compromised and were flexible negotiating with Chuck Schumer on the Gang of Eight. Now, this is the Donald Trump who has made immigration the centerpiece of this campaign, who said he agreed with Marco Rubio supporting the Gang of Eight amnesty bill. That was stunning.

DICKERSON: And the last question is something that puzzles me, is that you talk about, he's going to be a president you can't even let your children watch TV. Marco Rubio says he's a con man. All of these terrible things. And then, at the end, you're asked if you'll still support him, and you do. Doesn't that undermine all of these criticisms that say he's going to be such a danger to conservatives and Republican values?

CRUZ: Well, listen, I think, number one, Hillary Clinton as president would be even more catastrophic. She would be a third term of Barack Obama. So I cannot support Hillary Clinton. But, number two, at the outset of this campaign, I promised I would support the Republican nominee. And -- and I am someone who keeps his word. You know, this past week, on Super Tuesday, in the state of Texas, we won an overwhelming victory. We won Texas by 17 points. And that was particularly meaningful because the people of Texas, they know me. They know my heart. They are the people that I made promises to. When I ran for Senate, I promised, you elect me, I'll lead the fight against Obamacare, I'll lead the fight against amnesty, I'll lead the fight against our debt and I'll lead the fight to protect religious liberty, the Second Amendment and the Bill of Rights. And the reason we won an overwhelming victory in Texas is because Texans said, Ted, you've kept your word. And I'll tell you, John, as president I'll do the very same thing.

DICKERSON: All right, we're going to have to leave it there. Senator Cruz, thank you.

CRUZ: Thank you very much.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

DICKERSON: We'll be right back with the chairman of the Republican Party.

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DICKERSON: We're back now with the chairman of the Republican National Committee, Reince Priebus.

Welcome, Mr. Chairman.

REINCE PRIEBUS, CHAIRMAN, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE: Good morning.

DICKERSON: Peggy Noonan says about the Republican Party, that it's shattering. Matt Schlapp, the chairman of the American Conservative Union, says that the conservative movement is hopelessly fractured. What's your view on the health of the Republican Party?

PRIEBUS: Well, look, I mean, if you look across this country, we're having record turnout. We've got 70 percent more people coming out in this Republican primary. So we're up 70 percent. The Democrats are actually down 30 percent. So there's no question that on the enthusiasm gap, we're crushing the Democrats. We're beating them on money, we're beating them on mechanics and, you know, I like our chances. We've -- we're prepared to beat Hillary Clinton.

DICKERSON: We've got a situation, though, where you've got the speaker of the House is calling out the frontrunner on questions of bigotry. The frontrunner is attacking Nikki Haley, the governor of South Carolina, who gave the Republican response. That's pretty tough stuff.

PRIEBUS: Well, it is tough stuff. And at times I've spoken out as well. So, I mean, I don't think there's anything wrong with drama and -- and intrigue. And we've got plenty of that. There's no question about that. The key, though, is, what -- can you come to -- can you get to a nominee, come together and then take it to the Democrats. I think that we'll get there. I'm confident that we will. And, look, we've got more Republicans elected today since 1900, but we do need to learn how to win a big cultural vote in this country and that's what I'm hopeful of.

DICKERSON: That coming together, that's the traditional thing that happens. But in these last couple of weeks you've got Senator Ben Sasse saying, nope, he won't vote for Donald Trump. You've got other people saying, let's start a third party. There's also talk of a kind of monkeying around to get a contested convention. That's different.

PRIEBUS: Right.

DICKERSON: That's -- that's -- that means the coalescing isn't going to happen.

PRIEBUS: Well, what it means is that it's -- we're in the beginning of March. We've got over 1,600 delegates to go. It means that people are concerned, at least in their own interests as far as who the nominee is going to be and they're making public statements likely to change the course of what they see as a direction that they don't like. But, ultimately, there's a long way to go. We are going to come together and we're going to beat Hillary Clinton, who's now dodging immunity agreements with the DOJ.

DICKERSON: What do you make of these -- the talk about the convention? Let's start with Mitt Romney. He's basically said, everybody who's not Donald Trump should have a strategy where Marco Rubio wins in Florida, Kasich wins in Ohio, denies him the number of delegates he would need to get the nomination. What do you think of such a planned strategy?

PRIEBUS: Well, I don't really think anything of it. I mean I -- my role is to basically be 100 percent behind whoever gets 1,237 delegates. I'm not going to do anything to help someone get 1,237 delegates, nor am I going to do anything to prevent someone from getting 1,237 delegates.

But, keep in mind what's going on here. We have a political party, both -- two political parties. These folks are running to join our political party as our nominee. So, yes, they pledged to support the event nominee. They want to take part in the process. And eventually we'll get to that point. They will join -- one person will join our party and we will be 100 percent behind that person.

DICKERSON: What do you -- for Republicans out there who are watching, when they hear about contested convention, there are rules to fight this out in Cleveland.

PRIEBUS: Sure.

DICKERSON: In other words, it's not a dirty word, right?

PRIEBUS: No. DICKERSON: It -- OK. So there is a process for -- with rules. A contested convention could be possible. So that's OK. It's not that --

PRIEBUS: It's not impossible. I still think it's unlikely.

DICKERSON: OK.

PRIEBUS: But it's not impossible. No.

I was general counsel, John, for two years before being chairman for six. I know the rules inside and out. I'll be prepared for anything. But I still think it's a -- very early to have this conversation. I think that in the month, if we're sitting in a situation where candidates are tied, then I think in a month you start looking at those possibilities. But right now we've got a long way to go.

DICKERSON: Do you think Donald Trump's success is because he's Donald Trump or because he's a Republican?

PRIEBUS: I would think probably a little bit of both. But, I -- again, I still think it's early. I don't know who's going to be successful and who's not going to be successful. What I do know is that we have a great opportunity here to win in November. An opportunity to save our country. And we're running against a person who's dodging the IRS and has to answer for a lot of things that people find to be pretty troubling.

DICKERSON: You have worked hard to try to expand the Republican Party in different communities where Republicans have had trouble before, in the Hispanic community, in the African-American community. How has Donald Trump and the way this campaign has played out so far helped or hurt those efforts?

PRIEBUS: You know, it -- it -- obviously the proof is going to be in the pudding and there is a long way to go. We have at the -- at the national party put more people on the ground in different communities than ever before in the history of our party. We've committed millions upon millions of dollars. We're invested hundreds of millions of dollars in our infrastructure and mechanics. We're far better than we were in 2012.

But, you know, I -- listen, I do think that tone and the rhetoric has to improve. I do think that you have to keep a PG rating during debates. And I think that the next debate needs to be improved in that regard. And so I'm hopeful that our candidates will -- will heed that suggestion.

DICKERSON: If the -- if the process goes forward, do you expect the Republican Party to keep gaining more people as it goes forward?

PRIEBUS: I think we are. I mean if you look at these -- the numbers that we're putting up in all of these states, it's astronomical. If I was a Democrat, I'd be very concerned over the lack of enthusiasm over a sluggish process that isn't going to end any time soon, even though Hillary Clinton is now seemingly winning these contests. She, obviously, didn't have a good night last night. And it doesn't seem to be ending for her. I think Bernie Sanders is going to do well out on the West Coast. Those contests aren't coming for a while. So they're in for a long process, whether they like it or not.

DICKERSON: All right, Reince Priebus, thanks for being with us.

PRIEBUS: You bet, John.

DICKERSON: And we'll be back in a moment with some political analysis.

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DICKERSON: We're back with our panel. But first we want to check in with our CBS News elections director Anthony Salvanto, who's in New York this morning.

Anthony, this effort by the establishment to come up with another nominee, other than Donald Trump, how's that going so far?

ANTHONY SALVANTO, CBS NEWS ELECTIONS DIRECTOR: Not well. The -- in Michigan, you still see Donald Trump in the lead, but very specifically it looks like the party is just not in line with its voters on this whether or not they're for Donald Trump. We asked voters who were not supporting Trump right now, what should the Republican Party be doing at this point? And you might have expected to see a big stop Trump number, but you didn't. You actually saw a rather split decision here. You had 47 percent who said that the party should indeed be doing everything they can to stop Trump from getting the nomination. But a similar number, 37 percent, said that the party should rally behind Donald Trump and get behind him on the way to November if Trump keeps winning primaries. And another fifth who said, well, they're going to take this as a wait and see.

So, you know, I think this dovetails with what we see as the larger theme of this campaign, John, which is that voters, no matter who they're for, are just not in the mood to be told what to do by anybody that they see as related to the party establishment.

DICKERSON: So even though they don't like Donald Trump, they're not in a break glass and it's an emergency state of mind. Why can't the establishment move more people?

SALVANTO: Well, for one thing, voters tell us that when they hear someone is connected to the establishment, it actually makes them less likely to vote for that person. And that's by a four to one margin. So I think that what you're seeing here is more of this outsider theme that we've seen throughout the -- throughout the campaign and I think that's certainly playing out in Michigan and I think it also speaks to the larger balancing act that the party has right now.

So you've seen Donald Trump get over three million votes and a lot of them profile as they're regular Republicans. He's won conservatives. You know, these voters do not appear to be in a -- in any mood to be told what to do by the party establishment. What do you do with those folks because you will need them come November in a lot of these battleground states, John.

DICKERSON: All right, Anthony Salvanto, thank you so much for being with us.

Here in Washington, we are here with Molly Ball, who covers politics for "The Atlantic," Michael Gerson is a columnist for "The Washington Post," Ed O'Keefe is a political reporter for "The Washington Post," and Ezra Klein is the editor of vox.com.

Molly, I want to start with you.

There was a flash mob of establishment people this week. They were all going to stop Donald Trump. How's that going for them?

MOLLY BALL, "THE ATLANTIC": Well, I think they would say it's still in progress. I don't think you can say that something has failed when it's really only been underway for a week or two. What's remarkable is that it's taken so long to get going. That it's -- really the denial didn't end until well after voting had started and -- and Trump had built up quite a bit of momentum. So there are a lot of people who fear that it is too late, but there -- you know, you have a couple of political action committees that have started up, that are seeking funding, that are airing ads in Florida. I think that is the main focus of a lot of these efforts right now.

And, you know, of -- as -- as -- as Anthony was saying, it is not a majority view in the Republican Party that Trump must be stopped. But I think it's very remarkable at this juncture to have a 43 percent plurality of a political party saying that they are hell bent on stopping the frontrunner.

DICKERSON: Michael, you wrote about the alternatives. What's the most plausible one for actually stopping Donald Trump?

MICHAEL GERSON, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Well, a lot of people will argue Cruz, who's in second place now. I mean he's the, you know, the presumptive challenger to -- to this. The problem is that Cruz is to the right of Donald Trump on some issues, like immigration, which I think does not solve that problem. So I -- you know, we've -- we're in a situation where the conservative critique of Trump is giving a little traction. But the establishment case for Rubio has not gotten any traction.

DICKERSON: Right.

GERSON: And Cruz has kind of benefited here. The question is, can he win in states that don't have a lot of evangelicals and that are not closed primaries and caucuses. You know, he hasn't proven that, you know, adequately yet. And the 15th will determine this. And Florida will have a lot to do with it.

DICKERSON: Who do you think, Ezra, about that idea that Cruz is now the alternative and that's the way it should go for those who want to stop Trump?

EZRA KLEIN, VOX MEDIA: I think to some degree that's been true for a long time. And part of the failure of the party to stop Donald Trump has been a complete unwillingness to unite behind Ted Cruz. I remember a couple of months ago, or maybe not a couple, the -- the -- there's a sort of time displacement effect of an election. But not long ago when Cruz beat Trump in Iowa, there was an obvious reason at that moment for the Republican Party to unite behind him. Unlike Donald Trump, Ted Cruz is actually a conservative. He actually believes if -- even if he goes much further than many in the party on it, he is fairly orthodox. He is very much connected to the core institution of the Republican Party, the core thinkers of the Republican Party. They -- and I and many other folks at that moment expected to see some uniting behind Ted Cruz and it didn't happen because they really, really, really had Ted Cruz. Lindsey Graham came out at a dinner recently and said, if you kill Ted Cruz on the Senate floor, the Senate would invoke to convict.

DICKERSON: But --

ED O'KEEFE, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Yes.

KLEIN: That's been a problem for them.

DICKERSON: But a sign of warming, Lindsey Graham said he would support Cruz now and they even talked on the phone.

KLEIN: Yes, for a time.

DICKERSON: So, my gosh, they may be picnicking soon.

Ed, let me ask you about Marco Rubio . Last night he got 17 percent in Kansas despite the endorsement from the governor and a senator and a former senator from the state, 16 percent in Kentucky, 11 percent in Louisiana. What's happening to Marco Rubio?

O'KEEFE: It's falling apart is I think is -- it's evident now that that's happening. And I thought it was striking that in Michigan you're hearing voters say, any time the establishment tells them who to vote for, they're running away from that. Well, look at what happened to Rubio. He runs in Tennessee this past week, has some last minute endorsements from Senator Lamar Alexander, from the governor, holds a rally there, loses miserable. Goes to Kansas, holds two events, really three events in the state yesterday after cancelling appearances in Kentucky and Louisiana, does miserably there as well after getting endorsements from Governor Brownback and Senator Roberts.

So, you know, he goes into Florida now. They're convinced that they can still win. There are some surveys that show that the race has tightened and it's probably helped by the millions of dollars in attack ads that are now airing against Trump. But if he can't get Florida, he might as well just go home to Miami.

DICKERSON: As Dan Diamond of Politico pointed out, other than Texas, if you get an endorsement from a -- from a governor in a state, it's the kiss of death. You -- you go an lose.

Michael Gerson, tell me about what you think the health of the Republican Party is at this moment? We hear lot of dire -- I talked about it with the chairman. What's happening? Where do you think things are with the Republicans?

GERSON: Well, if you look at this from 30,000 feet, Republicans have two of the least popular politicians in American at one and two in their party. A deeply divided party. They've been -- instead of doing outreach to groups that they needed to after the last election, they've been determining whether they should have an authoritarian as their -- as their nominee, someone who's not even really a small "d" Democrat. And I think it's disastrous for the Republican Party. It's either, you know, hurt it badly, with Cruz as the nominee, or potentially, you know, split it with Trump as the nominee. This is, you know, a very good outcome for Hillary Clinton.

DICKERSON: Molly, the establishment push against Donald Trump, isn't that exacerbating the very thing that caused Trump to rise in the first place, which is the sense that the establishment was basically completely out of touch with the people in the party and the conservative movement?

BALL: Well, and that's why, as -- as -- as Mike said, this party is falling apart, because you did have an establishment that was so profoundly out of touch with a lot of the voters and the base of the party that they completely failed to take seriously the candidacy of Trump and the -- and the anger that he was tapping. There was a feeling that this was a joke. There was so much denial that this was a real thing.

You now have a frontrunner who's won the majority of states, the majority of delegates, were pretty far down the calendar and normally that would lead to a sort of bandwagon affect. Everybody would be getting on board. But other than Chris Christie, you know, most of -- most of the -- of the sort of Republican office holders and donors and so forth are running screaming in the other direction, talking about a contested convention. So as Mike said, there's no visible outcome right now that doesn't entail sort of a falling apart of the party.

O'KEEFE: I think people have to appreciate what happened this week, that you had both the 2012 and the 2008 Republican nominees come out and say, we need to stop the guy who's on the verge of becoming the 2016 nominee. Mitt Romney and John McCain both saying that, you know, he's bad for the party, he's bad for the country and somebody else needs to step up. The problem is, of course, you ask Romney, well, would you be willing to put in your name? No. Would you endorse somebody? No. I just wanted to sort of say these things because I want to be able to look my grandchildren in the eye. Well, great that he spoke out. Unclear that it's actually going to help things at this point. But, still, it shows that there is -- there is no solution if you're someone worried about Trump possibly winning the nomination.

KLEIN: But that's why the poll result we mentioned a couple of minutes ago is so important, that four to one Republican voters do not want a candidate who is touched by the establishment. At a very core level, the Republican Party is failing in the most basic function of the political party. What a political party does in a very complex world like we have is help voters decide who to trust. If -- you've gotten into a point where when the political party says, trust this guy, the voter says, oh, that's actually a dis-endorsement.

DICKERSON: Right.

KLEIN: Then you've gotten into a very profound place of dysfunction because you've lost that -- that function of organizing information for voters. Now they don't have very, very good ways to figure out who to trust. And that's going to be a really hard place for the Republican Party to organize if the fact of the establishment is organizing can potentially becoming a boon for Donald Trump because it shows that he is standing up to a Republican Party that Republicans no longer like.

DICKERSON: Quickly, Mike, before we switch to the Democrats.

GERSON: Yes, I wouldn't underestimate that I think Republicans found some effective attacks against Trump in the debate, both as a financial fraud and as an ideological fraud. That, I think, got some real, you know, momentum this week, those types of attacks. And going forward, I mean, that may be an important achievement in the week.

DICKERSON: Molly, on the Democratic race, Bernie Sanders, is it -- is it basically over for him? Is Hillary Clinton on her way to the nomination?

BALL: I think she is. It is -- it is not over. But it is mostly over. And it is over because of the demographic alignment behind Hillary Clinton. As she told you earlier, you know, she has obviously gotten the vast majority of minority voters and I think, in a Democratic Party that is increasingly fueled by a minority-based national coalition, you can't be a credible nominee of this party if African-American voters don't support you. But it is also true that she is winning -- winning white voters, winning Latino voters. So she's got a very diverse coalition behind her.

Bernie did win two of three states last night. He does clearly still have a lot of support. And I think the party still has to grapple with what he represents. Even if he falls short, there has been a sort of uprising against the establishment in the Democratic Party as well by a vocal segment of the base that wants to see a more radical position.

DICKERSON: How does she fix the enthusiasm problem?

O'KEEFE: Well, I think one of the ways -- what's -- what's most curious is that he continues to raise so much money despite the fact that he's losing. And she's got to find a way to turn grassroots support, you know, not only into votes, but into cash. There's something to be learned from what Sanders is doing. And, you know, I think it's also a lesson to everyone that you think super PACs have an outside influence. Well, a lot of these guys have run out of money donated to their campaign. The reason Sanders is able to continue on is he's got all these people donating $20, $30 and that's what's keeping him in the race. And I think if she can find a way to convince those people eventually, you know, she'll be fine. But certainly he still enjoys that gap. DICKERSON: Ezra, what do you make of these stories in Massachusetts and Ohio of Democrats crossing over and registering as Republicans. Is that a real threat to the party or are these people who are effective Republicans in the general election and it's not a big deal?

KLEIN: I think that's usually what you see. I think every cycle we hear stories like that and it never proves to be a very large effect on the ultimate race. There is -- a political scientist will tell you that what presidential campaigns do is they're a long process in which partisans (ph) are reminded of who they like and who they hate. And I think that speaks to your question a moment ago about the enthusiasm gap, too. The way Hillary Clinton will solve the enthusiasm gap is she'll be running against a Republican candidate and very possibly a Republican candidate who will be scarier to democrats than any Republican who has been nominated in generations. And so that is going to, I think, reshape who Democrats -- whether Democrats turn out in a way the primaries don't.

DICKERSON: OK, we're going to -- going to have to stop you there.

Thanks to all of you.

And we'll be back in a moment.

DICKERSON: That's it for us today. Thanks for watching. Until next week, for FACE THE NATION, I'm John Dickerson.

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