JOHN DICKERSON, CBS HOST: Today on FACE THE NATION: sharp elbows in the Democratic race for president, and Donald Trump says Republican game is crooked, as campaign 2016 continues.
The once cordial Democratic contest has gotten snippy and sarcastic as the New York primary nears.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Hillary Clinton called them out. Oh, my goodness. They must have been really crushed by this.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DICKERSON: After that raucous debate, the candidates took a cooling-off period in two very different places. Hillary Clinton went fund-raising with movie stars in Hollywood. Bernie Sanders took his family to the Vatican.
We will talk to Sanders.
And then it's on to the Republican race. Donald Trump has huge lead heading into New York's primary. But he's been crying foul.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: So, the system is rigged. It's a bad system. It's a dirty system.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DICKERSON: And blaming the Republican Party rules for recent delegate losses. We will see what RNC chairman Reince Priebus has to say about that.
Plus, we will have new Battleground Tracker polling. And we will talk to Dr. Anthony Fauci about the Zika virus threat here in the U.S.
It's all coming up on FACE THE NATION.
Good morning and welcome to FACE THE NATION. I'm John Dickerson. The New York primary is two days away, and according to our CBS News Battleground Tracker, the forecast is looking good for the front- runners. Donald Trump leads the Republican field by more than 30 points. And Ted Cruz and John Kasich are in a tight race for second.
Pennsylvania holds its primary in 10 days. And things look promising in the Keystone State for Donald Trump, too. He has a 20- point lead at 46 percent. Cruz and Kasich are in close race for second with 26 and 23 percent support among Republican primary voters.
California is one of the last stops on the primary calendar. It could be where Donald Trump goes over the top with the 1,237 delegates he needs to secure the nomination. He's ahead there too with 49 percent support. Ted Cruz comes in at 31 percent, and John Kasich is at 16 percent.
Turning now to the race for the Democratic nomination, Hillary Clinton spent most of her weekend in California. Our Battleground Tracker has her up there by 12 points over Bernie Sanders 52 to 40 percent. And in her adopted home state of New York, she holds on to her 10-point lead; 53 percent of Democratic primary voters say they will support her and 43 percent are going for Bernie Sanders.
As for Bernie Sanders' weekend, he is back from his trip to the Vatican, where he met briefly with Pope Francis.
And he joins you us now from New York.
What has happened to the Democratic race there? "The New York Times" described you having a ferocious performance in the debate this week.
SANDERS: Ferocious, I'm not quite sure what that word means.
I think what has happened is that I have become a little bit tired of being beaten up by the negativity of the Clinton campaign. And we're responding in kind. Look, the differences that we have in how we raise money, she has super PACs and raises whole lot of money from Wall Street and other powerful special interests.
She is $12 minimum wage. That's not good enough. I am for $15- an-hour minimum wage. Her views on foreign policy, whether it's the war in Iraq, Libya, Syria, are very different than mine. Our views on fracking, whether or not we will have clean water in the United States of America and around the world, are very different than mine.
So, I think what we are doing, at least I am doing, is making it's very clear that my views are out there, representing the needs of working families, the middle class. And I am prepared to take on powerful special interests. I don't...
DICKERSON: What negativity has got you so irritated from Hillary Clinton?
SANDERS: Oh, you name it.
She came into -- after we had won eight out of nine caucuses and primaries, I think they made it very clear that what their goal was -- and I think I quote appropriately here -- disqualify, defeat and then reunite the party later on. They have gone after us in every single area in a way that just misrepresents my views, the idea that they have said in the past that I attack Planned Parenthood, when I regard Planned Parenthood, for example, as one of the great organizations in this country. I want to expand funding for Planned Parenthood.
But on and on it goes. But I think what you are seeing now is the real differences of opinion between Secretary Clinton and myself. And probably most significantly is we raised seven million individual campaign contributions, more than any candidate in American history at this point, averaging $27.
She is out there raising money from the wealthy and the powerful, and I think you can judge a candidate based on how you raise money and who you ultimately become dependent upon.
DICKERSON: Let me ask you about that. In the debate, you were asked to name an example where the money she raised from Wall Street had influenced her, and you didn't offer an example. She said that proved the attack was phony.
SANDERS: Well, first of all, I did offer an example.
But, second of all, let me offer another one now. She voted for a bad bankruptcy piece of legislation which benefited Wall Street, at the expense of the hard-pressed consumers in this country. That's an example.
But you never can say, John, just because you vote for something, that that was caused by something else.
DICKERSON: But isn't that the implication of what you're offering in the critique of her? Isn't that kind of what you're saying?
SANDERS: No. No.
The broader critique is, after Wall Street's greed and illegal behavior destroyed our economy and drove us into a major recession, in my view, the proper response, and the response of many economists and many Americans, is, look, these people are running a fraudulent operation.
We can't trust them. They have too much wealth, they have too much power, too much concentration of ownership. The proper response, my view then, my view today, is break them up. That is not Hillary Clinton's response. That is the best example, but bankruptcy legislation is another piece of legislation where she was on the wrong side of the issue.
DICKERSON: You have also tied her -- the money she takes to her position on the minimum wage with a tough ad in which you mentioned the $200,000 speech fees that she gets and then that she doesn't support the $15 national minimum wage.
Aren't you kind of fuzzing up what is an economic policy dispute you have with her and making it seem like she's just being stingy?
SANDERS: No, it's not a question of being stingy.
It is, look, if you can go before Goldman Sachs or Morgan Stanley end up after an hour's work or 20 minutes' work with a $250,000 check, and that is your life, and then refuse to support the fight for $15, the need to have a $15-an-hour national minimum wage, I think you are living in world far removed from where working people are.
The truth is the minimum wage today is a starvation wage; $12 an hour for you is not enough. The American people in state after state now are moving to 15 bucks an hour. She's behind the curve.
DICKERSON: But you are suggesting, Senator...
SANDERS: And all I'm saying is, maybe if you make $225 in an hour, you maybe don't know what it's like to live on 10 bucks minimum wage, 10 bucks an hour.
DICKERSON: On the crime bill, there has been a lot of discussed of the -- discussion of the 1994 crime bill, which you voted for, which she supported. Do you regret your support for that crime bill now, in retrospect?
SANDERS: Look, that bill -- whenever you have a piece of legislation that has -- it's a big bill and lot of stuff in it, it has the Violence Against Women Act, and I -- during my tenure as mayor of Burlington worked very hard against domestic violence and had the ban on assault weapons, something that I believe in fervently -- I believed back in 1988 when I ran for office, believed it on that vote.
But there is no debate that that legislation has resulted in massive incarceration, that we today have more people in jail than any other country, that we have a broken criminal justice system. And I am leading the effort now to make certain that we have very strong reforms of the criminal justice system right now.
People are in jail who should not be in jail. We have to prevent people from going into jail. We need a parole system. We need to end the so-called war on drugs, which has resulted in a disproportionate number of African-Americans being arrested. There's an enormous amount of work that has to be done now to address the crisis in criminal justice.
DICKERSON: Now a quick political question here at the end.
Donald Trump says the Democratic nomination is stacked against you because of the superdelegates. Do you agree? SANDERS: Well, it's not only that.
I will tell you, the answer is, yes, that we -- Hillary Clinton is the candidate of the establishment. And she has many, many times more superdelegates than we have. But I will tell you something that also is of concern to me. We're going to go -- we're going into Tuesday here. We're fighting hard. I think we have real shot to win on Tuesday if there is a large voter turnout.
But even here in New York state, you have a voting system which makes it impossible for independents to participate in the Democratic primary, that makes it impossible for people to register on the day of the election, which many states do, which is going to result in a lower voter turnout than I would like to see.
But at the end of the day, because we are defeating Trump by much larger numbers than is Secretary Clinton, in poll after poll, national polls and in state polls, I think lot of these superdelegates are going to conclude that Bernie Sanders is the candidate to prevent what must not be allowed to happen. And that is Donald Trump becoming president of the United States.
DICKERSON: All right, Bernie Sanders, thanks so much for being with us.
SANDERS: Thank you.
DICKERSON: Now to the Republican race.
Reince Priebus is the chairman of the Republican National Committee. And he joins us from party headquarters.
Welcome, Mr. Chairman.
Donald Trump seems to have a pretty simple charge in the case he's making, which is the person who gets the most votes should get the nomination. Why is that wrong?
REINCE PRIEBUS, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: Well, I mean, it's a majority country. It's a majority-rules party.
And the reality is, is that having plurality means that the field has a majority. So, you have to get the majority of delegates in order to be the nominee. And, ultimately, the delegates of our party through the votes and participation in all the states decide who the nominee of our party is.
DICKERSON: I would like to play a clip for you of something that Donald Trump said and get your reaction to it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: The Republican National Committee, they better get going, because, I will tell you what, you are going to have a rough July at that convention. You better get going, and you better straighten out the system. (END VIDEO CLIP)
DICKERSON: Do you take that has a threat?
PRIEBUS: Not particularly. I don't know if it's hyperbole or positioning.
But the truth is, is that there are facts. And the RNC doesn't have the power to change the rules between now and the convention. The rules were set years ago. And each state's delegate system was set in October of 2015.
And it's up to the delegates at the convention to decide what they're going to do about rules, and it's up to each individual state over the next four years to decide how they're going to allocate delegates. So, I don't take it personally, John, because I kind of just rest on the truth. And it matters when something is right and something is wrong to me.
DICKERSON: But he has shown some ability to get his supporters exercised and energized when he says something like this. That's what I wonder, if that gives you any pause.
PRIEBUS: Well, I mean, sure, it gives you pause, but that's why I'm talking to you and I'm talking to many media outlets as much as I can to set the record straight that the rules have been set, the rules are set by each individual state.
The RNC doesn't have the authority to change the rules, even if we wanted to, and that each candidate has to know the rules, learn the rules and abide by the rules, and ultimately the majority will decide everything in Cleveland.
DICKERSON: You mentioned that the delegates are the ones who make the rules. It's all in their hands. Trump's complaint would be that some of these delegates who are coming in, that he's being snookered out of those delegates, that those delegates are not being picked through a fair process, so that, while they make the rules, the people who are actually going to Cleveland are getting there through a funny system.
PRIEBUS: Well, it's not really a funny system.
There's two parts. I mean, on one part, there are delegates that are allocated to each candidate based on the outcome of each of these contests. So, like, for example, in Florida, Donald Trump won all delegates, 100 percent, even though he received about 55 percent of the vote. Those delegates are bound to Donald Trump no matter what.
They could like someone else, but they're bound to vote for Donald Trump. Now, there's another part of the process, which is making sure that as a candidate the people that are sitting in those seats are people that once the process gets going are friendly to your wishes and desires. That's a function of each campaign doing a good job in each of these states with grassroots activists in the party, because ultimately it's the grassroots in our party that have a lot of power at the convention over what the rules say and what the committee work is.
And that's just a relationship issue in each of the states.
DICKERSON: Do you think Donald Trump is just not very good at that second stage part of this process?
PRIEBUS: No, I don't -- it's not matter of good or bad. It's just a matter of the facts being that each campaign has to go into each of these states and work with the party and the grassroots.
If they want to have 100 percent of everything they want to have happen, they have to be 100 percent committed to each of these states and how they select delegates.
DICKERSON: His -- Donald Trump's ally Roger Stone, who has worked with him over the years, has threatened to send out the room numbers of any delegate who is pledged to Trump on the first ballot, but then switches, what do you make of that?
PRIEBUS: Yes, I don't -- it's not helpful. And it's not -- I don't find it to be an appropriate threat.
And I'm committed to making sure that the delegates have a great week, that they have a fun week, but a constructive week and a safe week. And we're going to do that. We are going to have plenty of security, plenty of protection for all the delegates. We will be prepared. It will be a great convention. It will be an historic convention.
And either way, whether we have presumptive nominee beforehand or at the convention, it's going to be a great week. And I know that everyone here understands that we're watching American history.
DICKERSON: All right. Chairman Priebus, we thank you so much for being with us.
PRIEBUS: Thank you, John.
DICKERSON: Up next with more on our Battleground Tracker is CBS News directions -- elections director Anthony Salvanto.
You think I would get it right by now, Anthony.
DICKERSON: So good to have you back here again.
Tell us first where we are in New York and California with the Republicans.
ANTHONY SALVANTO, CBS NEWS ELECTIONS DIRECTOR: Well, New York sets up very well for Donald Trump even without the home state advantage. They see him as authentic.
They see him as effective, which in New York more so than some other states they define as a president who could negotiate well, right? And that same metric is helping John Kasich a little bit, too. But they also see Donald Trump as the most electable of the candidates.
When we asked these New Yorkers, who ostensibly know him best, do you think that Donald Trump will pivot to the general election and become a little less outspoken than he is right now, they overwhelmingly said no.
DICKERSON: So, they're OK with him being outspoken, because they're New Yorkers.
SALVANTO: Because they're New Yorkers.
Now, in California, we see a lot of very conservative Republicans. And we don't often pay attention to California as we get to this part of the primary process, but they will have, if you will, their moment in the sun, or at least their political sun, as they will probably be the decisive primary when it all comes down to it, whether or not Donald Trump goes over the top.
There, the immigration question helps him a lot. That's keeping him on top. There's a lot of opposition to illegal immigration there and also fears of terrorism. All of those things are propelling him. We will see a dynamic out there in California that makes for kind of fitting finale to all of this, because the electorate there looks very much like the kinds of conservatives who have been participating in these primaries all the way up to now.
DICKERSON: So, let's pull back now and look at the entire Republican race. The big question is, how well does Donald Trump have to do in New York to get him to that -- to get to 1,237, that number we keep hearing?
SALVANTO: The key for everyone watching New York is, can Donald Trump get over 50 percent? Now, the polls suggest that he can.
If he does, he will get the bulk of delegates out of New York. And he needs to do that to get back on the path to 1,237. Now, what we mean by paths is, he's got to then keep on winning through April, through May and then out to a big win in California, in order to make it.
And even if he does, the math suggests it's going to be close.
DICKERSON: Going to be a squeaker.
Update us on the Democrats in New York and California.
SALVANTO: The race in New York looks very much like it has in previous primaries which is to say, Bernie Sanders leads Hillary Clinton on some metrics, like honest and trustworthy, like being authentic, but Clinton is up on him big on, is she specific about policy?
She's got a wide lead there. And that has been a criticism of Bernie Sanders in New York, of course. And so she's got the demographics on her side there as well. All of that adds up to her lead. What is keeping Bernie Sanders campaign going also is that his voters say that they feel they are part of a larger movement, a movement that is larger than just their individual vote.
And I think that contributes a lot to the enthusiasm that they continue to feel.
DICKERSON: Which is why he may take that movement all the way to the convention.
So, tell us now where the Democratic big picture is with the pledged delegates, and then the superdelegates. Walk people through that.
SALVANTO: Well, the elected delegates will probably not shift very much coming out of New York, because, in the Democratic races, they give out delegates to both the winner and to the loser. So, if it's anywhere near close, they will probably just about split them.
The difference, though, is, as you mentioned in your interview, the superdelegates. And superdelegates are party leaders and elected officials who are free to choose whichever candidate they want at the convention. And right now, they overwhelmingly back Hillary Clinton. So the difference for Bernie Sanders is, if he's going to catch Hillary Clinton, the math is not on his side.
If he is, he needs not only big wins in places like New York to get elected delegates, but he will also have to do some persuasion. He will have to convince these party leaders and elected officials who are superdelegates to come over to his side as well.
DICKERSON: All right, Anthony Salvanto, thank you for straightening all of that out for us.
We will be back in one minute.
DICKERSON: We turn now to another story that dominated the headlines this week, the growing fears over the Zika virus.
Dr. Anthony Fauci is the director of allergy and infectious diseases at the National Institutes of Health.
Dr. Fauci, first, tell Americans what they can expect in terms of Zika in the United States this summer.
DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NIAID: Well, we already have what's called travel-related cases, over 350 people who got infected in the regions, in South America, the Caribbean and here in the United States.
We very likely, though you can't say definitively, will what we call local transmitted cases as we get into the robust mosquito season into the summer. And the reason we think that is going to happen is because infections that are quite similar to Zika, like dengue and chikungunya, which are transmitted by exactly the same mosquito and have been in the Caribbean, South America for awhile, we have seen in the past little clusters of local transmitted cases within the country.
The critical issue is that, in the past, we have successfully prevented it from becoming sustained and disseminated. And that's what we have to be prepared to do when we do get those locally transmitted cases in the United States.
DICKERSON: To keep that from happening, to move quickly, do you need -- Congress has not acted yet. Is that -- I mean, are we at state of real peril here, or -- give us sense how urgent things are.
FAUCI: Well, we need to act -- we are acting -- not we need to -- we are acting right now from a number of standpoints.
There's a general public health standpoint, much of the work done by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in both their work domestically, their work in the territories like Puerto Rico, and their work internationally like in South America.
At the NIH, for example, we already are starting on the development of a vaccine. There's mosquito-control issues that the CDC and others are responsible, because they work with the state and local health authorities. We can't wait to start those things. We're starting them right now.
DICKERSON: What about Congress? Do they -- and how much more helpful would the money from Congress be in the...
FAUCI: Well, it's more than helpful. It's necessary.
That's the reason why we asked for it, because, right now, we're using money from other accounts to do that. And that is going to be just a stopgap measure. We are going to have to get the money to be able to do the full job that we planned to do.
DICKERSON: Didn't we go through with this Ebola, in the sense of, why doesn't Congress kind of get what you're saying?
FAUCI: Well, Congress gave us money for Ebola, and we did very well with Ebola.
Right now, with the fiscal constant, there's a disagreement. I mean, I don't want to get into the politics of it, but I can just tell you, from a public health and a research standpoint, we do really need that resource in order to be able to get the job done.
DICKERSON: From a public health perspective, what should pregnant women or women who are thinking of becoming pregnant in the United States, what should they do?
FAUCI: Well, if you are staying in the United States right now, there are no local transmitted cases.
So, women in the United States getting pregnant should not be worried about anything regarding pregnancy. If you're pregnant, thinking of becoming pregnant, might be pregnant, definitely you should not travel to the areas where there are outbreaks, such as South America, the Caribbean and Central America.
So, the CDC travel advisory should be adhered to by pregnant women.
DICKERSON: What if there do -- does become a local case in the United States. Does that totally change the equation?
FAUCI: Well, yes, it depends on the extent of local case in the United States. If you just have a couple of clusters that you can essentially sustain the suppression of it by not allowing it to become widespread, very likely any major change there -- but if we do get widespread changes, then we are going to have to reexamine.
The CDC, in real time, always examines what the situation is, and makes recommendations accordingly. For example, we just found out over a period of several weeks that there's now sexual transmission from men to women. So, there is -- and from men to even a male sexual partner. There was a case of that.
So, recommendation now that if you're a man and you to go this area, and you might be infected and come back, you should refrain from sex or use safe sex for at least six months if you don't have a pregnant partner, or if you have a pregnant partner, for the entirety of the pregnancy.
So, one should follow those recommendations that are very well delineated by the CDC.
DICKERSON: All right, Dr. Fauci, thank you so much for walking us through all of that.
FAUCI: Good to be with you.
DICKERSON: And we will be right back.
DICKERSON: In news overnight, an earthquake measuring 7.8 magnitude rocked Ecuador's central coast late yesterday.
At least 77 were killed, and hundreds injured in the sparsely populated area near Quito. The Ecuador quake is being described by one expert as six times stronger than the back-to-back earthquakes that hit half-a-world away in Japan late last week.
In Kumamoto, rescue and clean-up efforts continue following the two quakes that claimed the lives of at least 41 people and injured more than 1,500.
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 a lot more FACE THE NATION, including our panel and another look at contested conventions.
Stay with us.
DICKERSON: Welcome back to FACE THE NATION.
Joining us now from Chicago is Democratic strategist and CNN senior political commentator David Axelrod.
David, let's start with Bernie Sanders, who I talked to earlier. What's your sense of his path to the nomination?
DAVID AXELROD, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, you know, everybody was wondering why he went to the Vatican in the middle of the New York race, really at the end of the New York race. And I suspect he was maybe looking for some divine intervention because it's going to take a minor miracle at this point for him to upset the -- the apple cart here. The fact is, Hillary Clinton has a -- a -- a fairly significant delegate lead. And Bernie Sanders would have to win landslide after landslide starting in New York to change that math. And you look at your own poll and others, it doesn't look like he's going to win in New York. Even a tie would not be very helpful to him. And so, you know, I think that he's running out of runway here, which may be why he -- he seems a little bit aggravated with the whole situation.
DICKERSON: A lot of Democratic strategists I've talked to in the last week or so have basically said that he has to do some big or there has to happen somehow a huge kind of game-changing event to change that structure. Do you feel like that's right?
AXELROD: Without question. Look, if he -- if these polls are right and he -- and he loses in New York on Tuesday, and then you have five states coming up the following week, quite a few delegates where polls suggest that he'll do no better than tie and may fall behind a little, he's going to have to win like two-thirds of the remaining pledged delegates to catch Hillary Clinton. And if -- if -- if she is ahead in popular vote and she is ahead in delegates, it's very hard to turn to the super delegates, where she has a huge lead, and say, you really ought to come with me. So I -- I think he's got -- he's run a splendid campaign, John. He's influenced the debate in a big way. And I think he's surprise a lot of people. But at this point, it just looks like time is running out.
DICKERSON: Did you see his influence on the debate or in this nominating fight in the debate when Hillary Clinton changed her position on minimum wage?
AXELROD: Well, there's no doubt that on economic issues he's pushed her hard and I think she's responded to that. And probably to her benefit in terms of strengthening her candidacy. But, you know, I -- a lot has been made of this debate, the irascibility of the debate, and there's no doubt that it got testy. But I think back to 2008, Barack Obama had a debate with Hillary Clinton in Myrtle Beach that made this debate look like a high tea. And so, you know, I'm not -- I wasn't impressed that this was some sort of cataclysmic confrontation and that the party is cascading to disaster.
I think that he has influenced her. I think she's embraced a lot of his positions. And I think he'll have a lot of influence at the convention and it -- and probably will play those cards very aggressively.
DICKERSON: What is your feeling about the convention? I mean there seems to be every signal from the Sanders campaign that regardless of what the numbers are, he's going to go all the way to the convention, maybe just make her win it on the first vote. Will that cause bruised feelings?
AXELROD: Well, it may cause bruised feelings. One of the advantages that both parties have is that the conventions are earlier this year, so there's more time to heal bruised feelings. But, you know, it will be interesting to see how he plays it after the final primaries on June 7th. Hillary Clinton endorsed Barack Obama shortly after those primaries. Now, she did go to a first ballot, but she then walked on the floor of the convention and halted the vote and -- and moved that the convention embrace Obama by acclimation. And that was unifying gesture. And it -- and the questions is whether at some point Senator Sanders will -- will do the same. And that would, obviously, that would be advantageous to the Democratic Party.
DICKERSON: Is there anything that Bernie Sanders is bringing up in this -- or anything that's coming up in the -- in the Democratic race here that can be weaponized by the other side in a general election, either the Hillary Clinton transcripts or anything like that that lives on?
AXELROD: John, my sense is that they have quite a weapons factory going over there. And anything that has been fired by Bernie Sanders will be fired by the Republican Party regardless. So, I don't think that Bernie Sanders is doing significant damage that wouldn't be done by the Republicans. But, you know, I know there are lot of Democrats who are concerned about the tone of the debate and that he may land a blow that could weaken her as a nominee. My sense is that once the candidates are chosen, given the situation on the Republican side, that Democrats will come together, some more happily than others. But it's hard to see the party sitting idly given what's going on, on the Republican side.
DICKERSON: Let me ask you about the Republican side. John Kasich's pitch in life is that he would be a tougher general election candidate against Hillary Clintons. Is he right about that?
AXELROD: Well, on paper that's true. And there -- there's reason to believe that that's true. The problem is, he wants to be the nominee of the Republican Party and the Republican Party doesn't seem interested in having him as the nominee. So that's just a theoretical discussion. He has to struggle not to overcome Marco Rubio, who has more delegates and isn't even in the race. And I have respect for John Kasich, but it's very hard to make the case that you finished a distant third and therefore the party should turn to you. I think he's got a very tough road to hoe here.
DICKERSON: And very quickly, last question. Who would be easier to run against, Ted Cruz or Donald Trump from the Democratic perspective?
AXELROD: It's a -- you know, I think people have run through that scenario very often and, you know, I -- I think that Trump on -- in theory is more vulnerable, but he's also a guy who can land the unexpected blow. He plays by his own set of rules, and that makes him a little bit more frightening. I'd go for the conventional if I were a Democrat and I'd say let's -- let's try Cruz and see what happens.
DICKERSON: All right, David Axelrod, thanks so much for being with us.
AXELROD: It's good to be with you, John.
DICKERSON: And we'll be right back with our panel.
DICKERSON: Now for our politics panel. Susan Page is "USA Today's" Washington bureau chief. Clarence Page is a columnist with the "Chicago Tribune." Amy Davidson is a staff writer and contributor for "The New Yorker." And Ron Fournier is a senior political columnist for "The National Journal" and the author of a new book, "Love That Boy."
Susan Page, started with you. Who has the better argument between Donald Trump and Reince Priebus about the Republican nominating process?
SUSAN PAGE, "USA TODAY": Well, Reince is -- Priebus is technically correct. You know, the rules have been in place for a long time. So, read the rules and know what they are. But, you know, Donald Trump has a very powerful political message to make here, which is, if he -- if he's gotten the most votes, if he's gotten the most delegates, why in the world would you deny him the nomination? And this is the dilemma, I think, for the Republicans. They have two bad choices. They can nominate Trump and lose a lot of traditional Republicans who find him unacceptable. They can not nominate Trump and they'll lose his supporters. I don't think they have a really good option here.
DICKERSON: Yes, Amy Davidson, when Reince Priebus explains the rules, as Susan says, he's walking through well-established party rules. But sometimes, you know, when you look at things in the light of a new day, it seems, you know, Reince Priebus said he can rest in the truth. I don't know if he's that restful right now.
AMY DAVIDSON, "THE NEW YORKER": He didn't look restful. I think one thing that Trump has going for him in this argument is that it fits so well with the general case he's been making, that things are rigged, that it's corrupt. He's basically worked on the assumption that you -- that you can't tell American people -- the American people enough that the political system is corrupt. That he -- he explains his -- his contributions to Democrats by saying, I was a builder in New York. I had to buy them off. And it's -- it works for him because it doesn't contradict anything that his supporters like about him.
DICKERSON: Clarence, one thing Donald Trump has been doing in addition to making this claim about the Republican Party is, he's kind of retooled a little bit his campaign. I don't know, what do you make of it? What do you -- do you think that's right?
CLARENCE PAGE, "CHICAGO TRIBUNE": Well, he's -- he's found the need to retool because he did not have much of a ground game, for example. Ted Cruz has found a distinct advantage in a number of states by having people there to -- to roust up votes for him and delegates for him. Even though, as we know by now, the delegates and the votes are not necessarily connected, or at least not in the way most people might think. And that's why Reince Priebus is running into this problem now and why Trump has something of an argument. Much like the 2000 during the Florida debacle or in 1968 when Hubert Humphrey got the nomination without having the votes in the primaries. That's -- that's the sort of thing that hits the voters by surprise and they say, oh, it is rigged. It must be rigged. I don't understand it, it must be rigged. And so this gives Trump some -- some traction with that argument.
Ron, what do you make of -- you've covered so many presidents. As a candidate, what does this tell us, Donald Trump's approach to this other complicated business, what does it tell us about him as -- as a potential president? What are we learning about his skills?
RON FOURNIER, "NATIONAL JOURNAL": That he'll do anything he can and say anything he can to get what he wants. He's a very bottom line Machiavellian guy. But he's also tapped into something that's real out there. People understand that politics really needs to be reformed.
And let's talk about the arc of reform here on this specific instance. Up until the 1970s, everything was picked, all nominees were picked by a bunch of white men in smoke-filled rooms. Since the '70s, as historian Matthew Dalick (ph) wrote about today in "The Washington Post," we've had a sensible blend of voters participating and making their voices known and men in -- mostly men in smoke-filled rooms making decisions, at least the establishment.
I think going forward what Trump is tapping into, what Bernie Sanders is tapping into, is the public believes in evolution, at least in political evolution, and going forward we need to have a more democratic, more accessible, more transparent process for nominating candidates or these parties are no longer going to be relevant. So if you want to be a relevant party, a millennial party, you need to find a different way to nominate people who are going to be leading the party.
DICKERSON: So the question is, can that be done, Susan, while you're also actually trying to put a convention together? I mean that seems like awfully -- S. PAGE: Yes, good luck with that. Yes. And, you know, the one thing that Reince Priebus said that I think is -- is actually not entirely accurate or a little misleading is that the rules are up to the convention. Well, that's true in the end. But the RNC rules committee is meeting this week in Hollywood, Florida, and they could send to the convention rules committee, which is a separate body, different rules.
S. PAGE: And, in fact, I think we may see a really fierce battle that begins this week in Florida over, do we use the House of Representatives rules or do we use Robert's Rules of Orders? How easy would it be to open the nomination to people who did not compete in the primaries. This fight is going to start really soon.
DICKERSON: And we're going to get -- go ahead, Amy.
DAVIDSON: And the key thick on that is that the delegates, even if they're pledged to Trump in theory, are not pledged to him on rules questions, only on the nomination question. So a Trump delegate can, even before the balloting starts, vote against Trump's interests.
FOURNIER: And --
S. PAGE: And you know who's focused on who's getting on that rules committee is the Cruz campaign.
S. PAGE: Just as they've been focused on delegate selection process in a way that the Trump campaign has not. They are focused on who's going to be sitting on that important rules committee that on the 18th starts to -- decides what rules that convention will -- will abide by.
DICKERSON: And for a senator whose colleagues say he doesn't know about how to play strategy, he's played the back room part of this game very well.
You were --
FOURNIER: How about this for a little irony. Right now, this weekend, in Miami-Dade County, they're not using a smoke-filled room, but they're picking delegates in a cigar warehouse.
DICKERSON: A little throw back.
Clarence, Susan mentioned the idea of maybe another person coming in on the stage based on the way that rules may be written. Paul Ryan, the House speaker, tried to take himself off the stage this week. What -- what did you make of that?
C. PAGE: It reminds me of that song, "I won't dance, don't ask me." You know. He -- and naturally -- he sounds very much like he did when a lot of folks wanted him to run for speaker of the House, and said he wasn't going to do it. And, of course, we know he's now speaker of the House.
I think it's important for Ryan personally to stay -- to try -- to be an honest broker, he is speaker of the House and he may be called upon to at least help resolve the disputes that are rising now. And I can't help but believe that if he was offered the presidential nomination he would take it. However, a lot of folks say, maybe it's too soon, he wants to wait, because he's basically a moderate conservative, a pragmatic conservative and -- and that's what makes him very attractive right now, people trying to find an alternative for the more ideological folks.
DICKERSON: Yes, Amy, the best way for him to be a draft candidate on the third, fourth or fifth ballot is to have behaved beforehand like he wasn't ever going to want to run.
DAVIDSON: That he's doing it for the country, he's doing it for the party. Somebody's got to get the nomination. If there's really a deadlock, then it's going to be -- it's going to be opened up. And he may say, I hate to do this, you made me.
S. PAGE: I actually think Paul Ryan means what he says. I don't think this is some calculated strategy on his part. And I think he's playing a longer game, which is, whoever they nominate for president, he's going to be an alternative voice for what it is the Republican Party stands for. That is not a bad position to be in. And, remember, he's also a young guy who could run in four years, eight years, 12 years, when the situation may be a little less turbulent in the Republican Party.
FOURNIER: I trust the House speaker here, too. What I don't trust is that an unruly, angry, disruptive, desperate for change group of convention delegates would do anything conventional.
DICKERSON: I -- I think that's right. I mean he -- he -- his motives may be pure right now but we --
S. PAGE: Right.
DICKERSON: It may be on the ninth ballot where people are looking around and he's the only --
FOURNIER: If not him, maybe somebody else who's not even in the mix right now.
S. PAGE: Well, remember what -- remember what Mo Udall said in 1976. He said, if nominated, I'll move to Mexico. If elected, I will fight extradition.
DICKERSON: All right --
FOURNIER: Mo -- best quotes ever in the business, Mo Udall.
DICKERSON: Let's move now to the Democrats here. Ron, what's your sense of -- does David -- David Axelrod described a situation in which Bernie Sanders has to -- basically lightning has to strike for him. His supporters think that that's -- that that suggests the system is rigged. What's your feeling about where things really stand?
FOURNIER: Well, they're both right. David rights -- David Axelrod is right, that we have to have a fundamental change in the race, whether it's something involving Secretary Clinton or lightning strikes with Bernie Sanders. And the Bernie Sanders people are right that the system is rigged. Now, this is the system he decided to run in. He wanted to run in the Democratic primary, which is -- which is rigged towards the establishment. Again, in -- in the '70s, the Democratic Party became more democratic in that primaries have a lot more power than they did before the '70s. But they don't want to give up all the party to the people -- or all the power to the people. So you still have these party establishments who get to vote for whoever they want, no matter how the voters vote in their districts or in their state. And they -- they're going to hold sway.
DICKERSON: Amy, the -- David Axelrod played down any sense of contention between the two candidates. A lot of other people this week spent a lot of time talking about how tough the battle and push and pull was between the two of them. Bernie Sanders certainly seems a little irritated in my conversation with him. What's your sense of where the Democratic race is now and how much lasting damage could be created between now and the convention?
DAVIDSON: Well, a lot. But, you know, in terms of the super delegates, it -- it cuts both ways. There are so many super delegates that it's basically very possible that Bernie Sanders can prevent Hillary Clinton from getting an absolute majority, the magic number, without any super delegates, at which point he's said that -- his campaign has said that they'll just treat that as a big primary that hasn't happened yet, a 700 delegate primary that's going to happen at the convention and really push it to then. So a lot is going to depend on how the Clinton campaign responds to his ideas about a party platform, about their direction and how they go after him. And if it's in a way that reinforces questions that the Sanders supporters have about her forthrightness, it could be quite damaging for her.
DICKERSON: Susan, one of the things that was brought up in the debate was the 1994 crime bill. Both Bernie Sanders voted for it and Hillary Clinton supported it as a part of her husband's administration. Why are we talking about the 1994 crime bill?
S. PAGE: Because politics has -- the -- the position of the Democratic Party, the ideological position has really shifted to the left.
S. PAGE: And also because it's a different time. Crime is much less of an issue now than it was in -- in 1994. A lot of people lined up behind the 1994 crime bill. But look at what Hillary Clinton herself has described at the unintended consequences, which was the incarceration of so many African-Americans, especially African- American men. Attitudes toward that have changed, just as attitudes have changed in a significant way since the Bill Clinton administration on things like the Defensive of Marriage Act. You know, their -- their were a series of things that a moderate centrist Democratic president did in the 1990s that don't look -- that now are controversial in new ways when you look at the party in 2016.
DICKERSON: Clarence, one of the things that Bernie Sanders said is, you know, he had criticized Bill Clinton for defending has wife for using the term "super predator" --
C. PAGE: Right.
DICKERSON: In the context of this debate in the 1990s. So he -- and he said basically it was a racist term and everybody at the time knew it was a racist term. Is that right?
C. PAGE: No, everybody at the time -- quite the opposite.
C. PAGE: "Super predator" was a term that -- that John Dilulio, the sociologist at the University of Pennsylvania came up with who, by 1999 was regretting it because he looked at the numbers again and found that a new generation of super predator teenagers was not being created after all. In fact, crime went down among juvenile and adults after the early '90s.
But, meanwhile, though, even most of the Congressional Black Caucus, but about two votes as I recall, supported the crime bill and felt that something needed to be done. The problem was, you know, Dilulio wanted a broad-based group of reforms to try to prevent crime, turned young people away from crime. The Republican Congress at that time was more interested in punitive actions, and that's why the whole mass incarceration trend increased. Now -- nowadays, Susan's right, you've got a -- a cross party coalition now of folks even, what, Ted Cruz and Rand Paul, who want to see the cost -- the high cost of -- of incarceration and the ineffectiveness of it reversed. So it's a different world now.
FOURNIER: You know, as a -- as a policy matter there are now tens of thousands of African-Americans who are in jail right now under sentences that have been rolled back by Congress because of the crack -- you know, the cocaine disparity. But they're still in jail because they weren't grandfathered. And with the stroke of the pen, a stroke of the pen, President Obama can free them. And for some reason hasn't. I mean there's just been a few, 30 or 40, but there's -- there's thousands of African-Americans who are in jail under this old crime bill that now the Democratic Party is abhorrent to but the Democratic, liberal president, for some reason, hasn't used his executive clemency powers. I can't figure it out.
DICKERSON: Go ahead, quickly.
DAVIDSON: Another way that the -- the -- those debates and that whole super predator era has come up and might come up more is with actually Donald Trump, who, one of his early forays into politics was in the case of the Central Park Five.
FOURNIER: That's right.
DAVIDSON: These were 14, 15, and 16 year olds who were labeled super predators in that way and whose execution he called for in an ad in the -- in the "Daily News." He later, when they were exonerated, when they were shown to be innocent in the last year or two, has not regretted that at all. Has said that they were, you know, pulling a scam on the city.
DICKERSON: I want to just quickly, before we leave here, mention, Ron, your new book, "Love That Boy."
FOURNIER: Thank you.
DICKERSON: Tell us quickly about where the title comes from. There's a political --
FOURNIER: Yes --
DICKERSON: I know we're going to talk about this later on the web, but --
FOURNIER: Thank you. When my son was five, he had a quirky, awkward encounter with President Bush. My son was quirky and awkward because he has Asperger's syndrome. A wonderful, quirky condition. And President Bush, on the way out, grabbed me by the hand and said, "Love That Boy." And at the time, as a father struggling with this, I thought he meant, well, that's kind of quaint. I love my boy despite his idiosyncrasies. You know, over the course of doing this book ten years later and talking about other parents, a lot of child development experts, I realize I need to love my son because of what makes him different, not despite it.
DICKERSON: And -- and very quickly, and you go -- then go on tours with him to historical places and --
FOURNIER: Including he visited with President Clinton and President Bush and they both could not have been more gracious. It's a good reminder of how decent these men and women that we cover, that we often -- people like me get cynical about. It was a very gracious thing they both did.
DICKERSON: All right, Ron, thanks so much.
FOURNIER: Thank you.
DICKERSON: And thanks to all of you so much for being with us.
We'll have more with our conversation with Ron on our website, facethenation.com. And we'll be back in a moment.
DICKERSON: Donald Trump says his opponents are trying to steal the nomination. That was also the charge at the Republican Convention of 1952.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I place before this convention, for president of the United States, the name of Dwight David Eisenhower.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DICKERSON: Thou shalt not steal. That's what Eisenhower's forces chanted in Chicago that summer. The accused thief, Senator Robert Taft. Taft controlled the party machinery and his allies seeded his delegates instead of Eisenhowers.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He rigged, deliberately rigged these votes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DICKERSON: All that stood between Taft and the nomination was a vote by the whole convention, okaying what the back room boys in the credential committee had worked out for Taft. A debate raged between conservatives, who backed Taft, and Eisenhower, who moderates thought was more electable.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I accept your summons. I will lead this crusade.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DICKERSON: It was a shocker. Taft was overthrown. In an effort to unite the party, Ike chose a rising conservative senator with sterling anti-communist credentials as his running mate, thirty-nine-year-old Richard Nixon. Ike rolled on to victory in November. And the chaos of the 1952 convention was swept aside.
Republicans were happy. Conservatives were not. They would carry on the fight until they could get their own nominee 12 years later, Barry Goldwater. We'll look at his bumpy convention in 1964 in our next installment.
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.