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Face the Nation transcripts February 28, 2016: Trump, Cruz, Rubio, Sanders

This is the transcript for the February 28, 2016 edition of Face the Nation. Guests included Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Bernie Sanders, Anthony Salvanto, David Axelrod, Jamelle Bouie, Ruth Marcus, Peggy Noonan, and Ben Domenech.

JOHN DICKERSON, CBS HOST: Today on FACE THE NATION: Can anything or anyone stop Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton from going all the way to their party's nominations?

As Super Tuesday approaches, we will talk to the three top Republican contenders, Donald Trump, who leads by big margins in most Super Tuesday states, and Texas Senator Ted Cruz.


DICKERSON: Is he unstoppable?

SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There is no doubt that if Donald steamrolls through Super Tuesday, wins everywhere with big margins, that he may well be unstoppable. I don't think that will happen.


DICKERSON: He's not the only one vowing to stop Donald Trump. We will also talk to Senator Marco Rubio.


SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I will do whatever it takes. I will campaign as long as it takes.



DICKERSON: Hillary Clinton thunders through South Carolina with a big win. We will talk to her rival, Bernie Sanders, about his future.

Plus, brand-new CBS Battleground Tracker numbers.

It's all ahead on FACE THE NATION.

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

Two days to go until Super Tuesday, where there are primaries or caucuses in 12 states. And according to our CBS News Battleground Tracker, things are looking good for the front-runners. In Virginia, Donald Trump is at the top of the Republican field with 40 percent. Marco Rubio follows him with 27 percent and Ted Cruz is in third at 22.

Georgia is also showing 40 percent for Trump. Ted Cruz is running second at 29 percent. Marco Rubio is at 22. But in his home state of Texas, it's Ted Cruz who is up by 11 points over Donald Trump and Marco Rubio is in third with 19 percent.

John Kasich and Ben Carson are both much further behind in those three states. We will have more battleground poll numbers and results from the South Carolina Democratic primary coming up.

But, right now, we want to go to Donald Trump, who joins us from his home in West Palm Beach.

Mr. Trump, I want to start with a tweet from you this morning in which you write -- quote -- "The Republican establishment has been pushing for lightweight Senator Marco Rubio to say anything to hit Trump. I signed the pledge. Careful."

What does that mean?

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, they're not treating me well.

I signed the pledge. I have been very good. I have been very straight and honest and honorable. And they're not treating me well. They -- you look at the way they stacked the audiences in the debates, and I have won every debate according to every poll, every single online poll after the debate. But way they stack the audiences, the way they talk, they have this lightweight Senator Marco Rubio saying terrible things, just personal, terrible things.

And I don't think it's fair, the way that the establishment is treating Donald Trump. I will be honest with you.


TRUMP: I signed the pledge. And I will abide by the pledge, unless they default. But, as far as I'm concerned, they have defaulted.

DICKERSON: So, you wouldn't abide by the pledge right here right now? You wouldn't abide by the pledge, because you think they're defaulting?

TRUMP: Well, I think you understand exactly what's going on.

You just pick up any paper, and it's always talking about, how are we going to overthrow Donald Trump? I'm representing a tremendous -- I'm representing millions of people that have -- really feel angry and disenfranchised. And these are great people. And they like me and I love them. And I'll tell you what. We're not being treated right. The Republican Party is not treating me right, and they're not treating the people that I represent right.

DICKERSON: Let me ask you a question about this question of taxes.

You're being audited. You should you won't release your returns. What about releasing a summary? That is sometimes what candidates do. It will show your income, your charitable deductions, your effective tax rate. Would you do that?

TRUMP: Well, I have already done -- I have already released my financials, which are massive, and, by the way, which showed a tremendous company. It's over $10 billion in net worth that I have built with a very, very small starter loan years ago.

And I have already done that. And that's down and filed in the federal elections office, and if people want to go see it, they can see it. And, obviously, all of your cohorts have gone through them in great detail. And I have been given very good reviews, frankly, for what I have done.

DICKERSON: What about a summary, though, of your taxes?

TRUMP: You don't learn -- you don't learn very much from tax -- hey, John, you don't learn very much from tax returns, let me tell you right now.

But when you're under audit, you don't give your papers. An audit is -- I have been under audit for so many years. Every year, I get audited. For, I think, over 10 years, maybe even 12 years, I have been audited. And I think it's very fair. And I think I'm being singled out. And it's not a fair situation that the IRS audits me every year.

I have friends that are very wealthy, and I said, do you get audited? They don't even know what I'm talking about. They have never been audited. Why am I audited every single year? And until the audit is completed, obviously, I wouldn't show anything. I will show it as soon as it's completed. I have nothing to hide, because...

DICKERSON: What about...

TRUMP: ... frankly, everything of real value -- hey, John, everything of real value is in my financial disclosure form.

DICKERSON: You said that -- in an interview with CNN after the last debate, you said you were being targeted "maybe because of the fact that I'm a strong Christian."

What does that mean -- by the IRS?

TRUMP: It could be. It could be that. It could be because I'm a believer in the Tea Party. I love the Tea Party. I love the people in the Tea Party. And, yes, I have a lot of different likes and maybe dislikes. And I don't know why. But why is it that every single year, I get audited, and I have friends that are very wealthy and they have never been audited?

DICKERSON: Let me ask -- would you produce the audit letter, by the way, in terms of those who are just skeptical that maybe this is just an effort to not release your tax returns?

TRUMP: I don't think I would have problem with that. I assume I can give you a letter from a big law firm saying that we're under audit.

But I have been audited. And I will let you know how many years too. I have been audited for consecutive years, many, many, many years. And I think it's unfair.

DICKERSON: Let me...

TRUMP: I always say to my people, how come I'm always audited and friends of mine are never audited?

DICKERSON: Let me ask you.

TRUMP: I think it's very unfair.

DICKERSON: Let me ask you a question that's also been raised about foreign workers in Florida.

"The New York Times" said there were people who wanted the job. You had said that basically you only could find foreign workers because there weren't Americans who wanted the jobs. But "The New York Times" said there were people who did want to apply.

TRUMP: Well, they have to be qualified. It at Mar-a-Lago. It's during the season, when you can't get people. It's very, very hard to hire people, qualified people. And a lot of people didn't want the job because it's a three- or four-month job. You know, it's just during the season, during the -- we called it the hot season, the high season.

And it's very hard to get people, because it's just one of those things. I mean, everybody is working. And then during the off- season, it's easy, but we don't have the people during the off-season, because the club closes during off-season, so lot of people don't want a part-time job.

DICKERSON: One of the things you're saying is that American corporations should build -- come back to America, build their products here, have American workers.

But why wouldn't those corporations say basically a version of what you're saying, is they can't find the workers here and they got to go other places? Wouldn't they just say what you're saying?

TRUMP: Well, because they're full-time jobs. When you're talking about that kind of thing, you're talking about full-time jobs.

A lot of the people that we have made offers to, and where we make offers, when they hear it's a part-time job, or a it's four-month or five-month job -- and I understand this -- they're not interested. They're American people. They're not interested.

What you don't talk about is the thousands of people that I do hire. I have thousands and thousands of people on my payroll. Over the years, I have had tens of thousands of people that work for me. You're picking up one club where it has a high season where it's very, very hard. It's very hard to get people in Palm Beach during the season, during the social season.

DICKERSON: Michael Hayden, who is the former director of the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency, said that if you ordered U.S. forces to kill the families of terrorists, which you have suggested, and also to use water-boarding, as you have also suggested, that they would refuse you.

What is your response to that?

TRUMP: I don't know what he means by refuse. I can only tell you there's a lot of bad things going on. They're chopping off heads in Syria, and they're chopping off heads all over the Middle East.

ISIS is doing a number, and plenty of other beyond ISIS is doing it now. And all I know is that, when they start chopping off heads, we have to be very firm, we have to be very strong, we have to be very vigilant. And I heard a statement, and I disagree with his statement.

We have to be very strong. Can you imagine these people that chop off heads of Christians and plenty of other people, and they do it routinely, and they drown people in big steel metal cages? They drown them. They leave it in for a half-hour, and then they pull it up and everybody is dead. When they hear us talking about water- boarding, give me a break.

We have to get a lot tougher if we're going to win this war. If we're not going to be tougher, we're never going to win this war. This is only going to get worse.

DICKERSON: All right. Mr. Trump, thanks for being with us. We will speak to you again soon.

TRUMP: Thank you very much.

DICKERSON: We caught up with Senator Ted Cruz on the campaign trail in Virginia Beach earlier.


DICKERSON: What are the stakes for you on Super Tuesday?

CRUZ: I think Super Tuesday is the most important day of this entire primary election. It is the most delegates awarded in a single night will be awarded on Super Tuesday. And I think we are positioned to have a very good night on Super Tuesday. You know, about 65 percent of Republicans believe that Donald Trump is not the best candidate to go head to head with Hillary Clinton.

And we are the only campaign that has beaten Donald Trump. And we're the only candidate that can beat Donald Trump. If you look at the Super Tuesday states, we're running neck and neck with Donald in states all across Super Tuesday.

And so it is my hope that all of the Republicans who recognize that nominating a candidate who agrees with Hillary Clinton on a host of issues, who has a very similar record, is not the path to victory. And if we come together, if conservatives stand together, we're going to have a great night on Tuesday.

DICKERSON: If they don't, is he unstoppable?

CRUZ: Look, there is no doubt that, if Donald steamrolls through Super Tuesday, wins everywhere with big margins, that he may well be unstoppable. I don't think that will happen.

But I think if you're at home and you don't want Donald Trump to be the Republican nominee, then the only candidate who can beat Donald is our campaign. And so I would encourage, even if you like another candidate, stand with us if you don't want Donald to be the nominee, because if and when we stop him on Super Tuesday, that is how we end up beating Donald and nominating a proven conservative, which is what it's going to take to beat Hillary.

DICKERSON: What did you make of Chris Christie endorsing Donald?

CRUZ: Oh, listen, I don't think that was a big surprise. I think it was a blow to the Rubio campaign.

But, at the end of the day, the Washington establishment is going to go where they're going to go. This really on Super Tuesday is a battle to determine where conservatives go.

And I think the debate this week was really some powerful moments of clarity. We saw that Donald Trump, substantively, has the same issues on issue after issue as Hillary Clinton. He agreed with Hillary Clinton on Libya, toppling the government in Libya. That led directly to Benghazi, led to handing that country over to radical Islamic terrorism.

He agreed with Hillary Clinton supporting John Kerry. He agreed with Hillary Clinton on being -- quote -- "neutral" between Israel and the Palestinians. And I will tell you, as president, I'm not going to be neutral. America will stand unapologetically with Israel.

And then, on domestic policy, Donald Trump agreed with Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton on the Wall Street bailout, the TARP bailout of big bank. I think the government ought to be standing with mainstream, with working men and women. And then you put on top of that the ethical issues, whether it is refusing to release his taxes. And that's a real problem.

DICKERSON: Why is that a problem? Why is it a problem if he doesn't release his taxes?

CRUZ: Well, he said in the debate -- he said, gosh, I'm being audited for two years. Then he said three years. Then he said maybe five years.

Listen, if there's a problem in his taxes, the voters have a right to know, because come September, October, the general election, folks in the media are going to make a heyday about any problems in his taxes.

And I think primary voters have a right to know. And his excuse of it that he's being audited, look, that makes it even more important for him to release his taxes, so that voters can see if there is -- Mitt Romney suggested there could be a bombshell there. I don't know if there is or not. But Donald is hiding them from the voters, and I think he owes candor to the voters.

DICKERSON: Speaking of candor, he said some pretty bracing things about you. And you say you still like him and you -- how is that -- how can that be the case?

CRUZ: Oh, listen, Donald is a charming person. He can be fun. He can make you laugh.

DICKERSON: He's not saying charming things about you.

CRUZ: But he can turn on you.


CRUZ: Just overnight, he can turn on you And get nasty and personal and vicious.

But, listen, I treat him as an entertainer. I laugh it off. It's like going to the circus and seeing the acrobats and the dancing bears. He's willing to say things that are patently false.

So, for example, at the debate this week, he backed off of his health care position for 20 years. For 20 years, he has agreed with Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders on socialized medicine, saying Obamacare doesn't go far enough. He wants the government to pay for everyone's health care and to control it.

And he and I had a back-and-forth where I asked him, is it true or false that he said the government should pay for everyone's health care? He said it's false. Listen, within minutes, we put out a video just contrasting what he said there with video of him just a few months earlier saying exactly the opposite.

And what I think the debate this week did is gave real clarity to the voters that, to beat Hillary, we need a consistent conservative, someone who has stood for free market principles, who has stood for the Constitution and, critically, who stood for the working men and women of this country.

You know, you look at -- we talked a lot about Donald's record on immigration. There is irony that he has made the center of his entire campaign immigration, given that he faced a $1 million court judgment for being part of a conspiracy to hire illegal aliens, given that, just this week, news broke that he is hiring foreign workers at his fancy hotel in Florida.

And he claims -- he did interview after the debate where he said, well, gosh, you can't find Americans to do these jobs to be waiters or waitresses or bellhops.

I mean, John, what ridiculous nonsense. "The New York Times" reported roughly 300 Americans applied for those jobs. He only hired 17. Instead, he brought in foreign workers, because they're captive workers, because you can pay them less because they can't leave.

And I think the working men and women are getting hammered right now. They want someone they can trust to stand with them. And part of the reason so many conservatives are uniting behind our campaign is, I'm the only one who led the battle against amnesty, has led the battle to secure the borders, has led the battle for the working men and women of this country.

DICKERSON: Let me ask you a question about the borders and your position on immigration, particularly with respect to undocumented workers.

Bill O'Reilly presented with you a hypothetical about somebody who had overstayed their visa, and he said: "President Cruz is going to send the feds to his house, take him out and put him on a plane."

And you said, "You better believe it."

But in an interview with Jake Tapper, given a similar scenario, you said: "We don't have a system that knocks on doors of every person in America."

So, it seemed, in one case, you were not knocking on the doors and getting them, and in others, you are.


CRUZ: What is the difference? It's how law enforcement operates.

We don't have storm troopers that just knock on the door of every American citizen. We don't do that for any crime. But when we have evidence that a particular person has committed a crime, we send law enforcement to apprehend them.

And the specific question was visa overstays. You know, John, right now, current federal law requires a biometric exit-entry system when you come in on a visa. And the Obama administration is just ignoring federal law. Forty percent of illegal immigration is not people who cross the borders illegally. It's people who come legally on a visa and never leave.

If we have a biometric exit-entry system, we know, if John Dickerson comes in for six months and hasn't left, we know on the day after six months, OK, John has exceeded his visa. And with that exit- entry system, we can then send ICE, the law enforcement agents that exist, to go and get John and say, OK, you're here illegally now.

That is how law enforcement operates.

DICKERSON: All right, Senator Cruz, thanks so much.

CRUZ: Thank you, John.


DICKERSON: And we will be back in one minute with another of the top contenders in the Republican race, Florida Senator Marco Rubio.


DICKERSON: And we're back with Marco Rubio, who is at the airport in Arkansas, getting ready to head off to the next Super Tuesday campaign state.

Senator, I would like to ask you about a "Washington Post" headline this morning that says -- quote -- "Rubio's Strategy for Super Tuesday Is Survival."

Do you agree with that characterization?

RUBIO: No, I don't.

I mean, obviously, we're not the front-runner here. We're an underdog. And that's a role that I relish. I have been an underdog my whole life, both in life and in politics. We're going to do well. We're going to pick up a lot of delegates on Super Tuesday. As you know, they're awarded proportionately.

And we're going to move on. Here is what is never going to happen in this race. There's never going to be a time where the Republican Party rallies around and says you have to get out or anyone has to get out for purposes of rallying around Donald Trump.

Donald Trump is not a Republican. Donald Trump is not a conservative. Donald Trump is trying to pull off the biggest scam in American political history, basically a con job, where he's trying to take over the Republican Party by telling people he's someone who he is not.

And so we're going to do whatever he takes. We will be in this race as long as it takes. We're going to be in as many states as it takes to ensure that I'm the nominee and that Donald Trump never gets to 1,236 delegates, which is what he needs to be the nominee.

DICKERSON: What we hear in that answer is that, recently, your campaign has gotten a lot scrappier about Donald Trump.

The question from some, though, is, is it too little too late?

RUBIO: I don't think so, for a couple reasons.

One, look, I never wanted it to get to this point. I had hoped that, by its own course, by the way the media covers politics, people would open their eyes and see who Donald Trump really is. But that, unfortunately, has not happened. The polls in the early states indicate that he's been able to fool a significant number of people into believing that he is something that he is not.

Donald Trump is a world-class con artist. He conned all these people that signed up for Trump University. Now he's trying to do the same thing to Republican voters. He's trying to convince them that somehow he's the guy that is going to stand up to illegal immigration, but he hires illegal immigrants, that he's fighting for American workers, but he's hiring foreign workers for his hotels, that he's going to bring back jobs from China and from Mexico, but, in fact, he's creating jobs in China and Mexico, because that's where all of his suits and ties that he sells are made.

It's a con job. It's a scam. And we're going to -- we're going to unveil it here. We're going to going to reveal it. And I believe the more people learn about that, the less support he's going to have in the weeks to come.

DICKERSON: Donald Trump has won in three states. You say the voters there were conned. What does that say about the voters in those states?

RUBIO: Well, I think it has lot to do with the media coverage as well.

I'm not speaking about you in particular, John, but the media coverage for Donald Trump has been almost cheerleading over the last couple weeks. And I'm convinced it's because many in the press want him to be the nominee.

One, I think they think it's going to be good for ratings, and, two, because they know they have a lot of material to work with. If Donald Trump were to ever become the nominee, immediately, the hounds of hell would descend on him. They're going to tear him apart, everything he's ever done, from not releasing his taxes, to all of his failed business dealings.

And Hillary Clinton is going to have clear shot to the Oval Office. And so I think there are many out there that are rooting for that outcome, so that he's the nominee. And you can see it in the coverage he's gotten.

I mean, this guy has not offered a single serious policy proposal, which is important if you want to be president of the United States.

And again the other night at the debate, he refused to outline a health care plan. And they just kind of moved on, instead of pressing him on it. He gave a ridiculous answer on the national debt. And they moved on without pressing him on it.

No other candidate could have gotten away with that. So, I think there's a weird bias here in the media rooting for Donald Trump, because they know he's the easiest Republican to beat.

DICKERSON: Let me ask you about all the things you have now said about Donald Trump. You said he's running a big scam, he's a con -- it's a con job.

So, how can you possibly still then retain the position that, if he's the nominee, you will support him?

RUBIO: Because he's never going to be the nominee. So, I'm not worried about a hypothetical that's never going to happen.

Donald Trump will never have 1,236 delegates, which is what he needs to be the Republican nominee. It won't happen. In fact, I know I can get those delegates. And we're going to continue to work hard to make that happen.


RUBIO: So, all of these things we're talking about now, it will take time to sink in. But when voters begin to realize what we're really up against here, and what he's trying to do, I think you're going to see a sea shift here pretty quickly.

DICKERSON: What's confusing about that, though, is you say if he were the nominee, it would destroy the conservative movement. You're painting scary pictures of him being the nominee.

RUBIO: Absolutely.

DICKERSON: But then you're saying he will never be the nominee. You have signed onto the hashtag #neverTrump.

I guess what people wonder is, you say all these terrible things about him, but then why might you not, like Chris Christie, who said bad things about him, just turn around and endorse him once -- once he gets the nomination?

RUBIO: Well, again, he's not going to be the nominee, because we are not going to allow -- people will wake up and we're not going to allow a con artist to take over the party of Lincoln and Reagan.

He's pulling off a world-class scam here. I mean, he's telling people he's all these things that he's never been his entire life. He says he's fighting for the little guy, the working class. He has spent his entire business career sticking it to working people.

DICKERSON: Let me ask you...

RUBIO: When his projects go under, the first people that don't get paid are the contractors that he's -- some of whom have gone bankrupt. They're calling me. I'm getting nonstop e-mails and calls now from people that have been scammed by Donald Trump. And their stories are heartbreaking.

DICKERSON: Let me ask you this, Senator. You say you're going to stop him. Are you going to have to win -- are you going to win Florida? He says he's going to beat you there.

RUBIO: Absolutely. No, we're going to win Florida.

Florida is not going to vote for a con artist like Donald Trump. Again, look, he has the benefit of the fact that he's dominated media coverage, I mean, literally dominated media coverage because of the outrageous things he says and so forth.

That's going to end here. There's going to be real fight now for the heart and soul of the Republican Party and the conservative movement. And it is not -- I will do whatever it takes to prevent it from being taken over by a con artist.

And I ask people to sign up to our effort at so that, together, we can make this happen.

DICKERSON: Let me ask you. You will do whatever it takes. Your campaign manager has been talking about a contested convention, which means taking it all the way to the convention.

In that case, you would be basically taking the nomination away from Donald Trump. Wouldn't that just cause an uproar from all those people who voted for him, who have given him their support? Wouldn't that just create calamity in the party?

RUBIO: Well, my preference is that we beat him outright in the primary process. And I believe that's exactly what's going to happen here in the next few weeks, especially as we move to winner-take-all states. The terrain begins to change.

And I feel very good about it. I don't think it's going to get to that. But let me just say the rules are what they are in the Republican Party. You have to have X-number of delegates in order to be the nominee. And if you don't have those number of delegates, then there's a process in place.

Here is what would be a calamity, for Donald Trump to become our nominee.

DICKERSON: All right.

RUBIO: If he's our nominee, it could be the end of the Republican Party. It will split us and splinter us in a way that we may never be able to recover. And the Democrats will be joyful about it. It's not going to happen.

DICKERSON: All right, we're going to have to end it there.

Senator Rubio, thanks so much.

And we will be right back.


DICKERSON: And now for the latest in the race for the Democratic nomination.

Last night, Hillary Clinton had a big win in South Carolina. She won a whopping 73 percent of the vote, compared to 26 percent for Bernie Sanders. And in the Democratic race in our Super Tuesday Battleground Tracker, Hillary Clinton is up over Bernie Sanders by 20 points in Virginia. She leads 59 to 39.

In Texas, Clinton has 61 percent support from Democratic primary voters. Sanders has 37 percent. And finally, in Georgia, she is at 63 percent, compared to Bernie Sanders at 35 percent.

And we will be back in a moment with Bernie Sanders.


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 interview with Bernie Sanders.

Stay with us.


DICKERSON: Welcome back to FACE THE NATION. I'm John Dickerson.

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders joins us now from Rochester, Minnesota.

Senator, it was a disappointing loss in South Carolina last night. Coming up, there's Georgia, Virginia, Texas. When analysts look at that map, they say there's not a plausible path for you to the nomination. What's your response?

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, my response is that I'm in Minnesota. I think we're going to win here in Minnesota. I think we're going to win in Colorado. I think we're going to win in Oklahoma. I think we're going to do really well in Massachusetts. And I think we're going to win in Vermont. And I think we've got a number of states coming up that we're going to do extremely well and possibly winning, including California and New York state.

So I think we do have a path to victory. Now, I won't tell you that we didn't get beaten and beaten very badly yesterday in South Carolina. I congratulate Secretary Clinton on her victory. But, John, I think, for us, that is about as bad as it's going to get.

DICKERSON: When you look at the progress you've made, which surpasses all analysts who would have looked at your campaign from the beginning.


DICKERSON: Even given the progress you've made, is there enough time left -- I mean you've mentioned some places where you think you've done well -- but -- but isn't time kind of running out?

SANDERS: Well, no, I don't think so. I think you've got -- on Tuesday we're going to have over 800 delegates being selected. And I think we're going to win a very good share of those delegates. I think you've got major states coming up. And I think the important point is that people throughout this country are resonating to our message. And the message is that super PACs and a corrupt campaign finance system are destroying American democracy. We're proud that we have received four million individual contributions, more than any candidate in American history at this point.

And I think, John, people understand that the economy is rigged. They're working longer hours for low wages. All new income and wealth, almost all, is going to the people on top. That is why we are doing well. And I'll tell you something, even in South Carolina, as badly as we did, and we did very badly, we won the votes of people 29 years of age or younger. The future of the Democratic Party, the future of this country is involving young people in the political process, getting them to stand up for their rights, dealing with student debt, which I got to tell you is just crushing people all over this country, making public colleges and universities tuition free, those are the ideas we are bringing out, demanding the wealthy and large corporations start paying their fair share of taxes. This is what younger people, working class people want. That is the future of the Democratic Party.

DICKERSON: Might be -- in order to create the kind of movement you've been suggesting and that you want, you're going to need to attract African-American voters. And you're economic justice message just didn't seem to hit home in South Carolina and in other places. Isn't that a -- a kind of a fatal flaw?

SANDERS: Well, no question, I mean, let me be very clear, we did really, really badly with older African-American voters. I mean we got decimated. On the other hand, if you look at the younger people, African-American younger people, and whites, we did much better. So, again, I think our message -- the Clinton campaign was very strong. Remember, this is their fourth campaign in South Carolina. Two for Bill Clinton. Two for Hillary Clinton. They had it well organized. They did well. And I -- I congratulate them. We came into that state at something like 7 or 8 percent in the polls. It was a tough road for us to hoe. But I -- I want to thank all of our supporters, the members of the South Carolina state legislature --


SANDERS: Who stuck with us.

DICKERSON: Let me ask --

SANDER: But we are confident in -- in the future.

Yes. DICKERSON: Our polls show that one bright spot for you is that a big majority think that you are more honest and trustworthy than Hillary Clinton. What does it say to you, though, that voters may believe that and yet are voting for Hillary Clinton?

SANDERS: Well, I think people cast their votes for a number of reasons. I think if you look at your polls, you'll probably find that many, many people think that our views are closer to what they believe the future of America should be. That our views are closer on economic issues. And a lot of those polls come down to demographics, to age, to how much money you are making.

Look, at the bottom line is, we started this campaign, John, 3 percent in the polls. In the last two weeks, there have been some national polls that actually had us in the lead or reasonably close to secretary Clinton. If you were with me yesterday in Texas, you would have seen 10,000 people out in Austin, 8,000 people out in Dallas. We had a wonderful turnout here in Rochester, Minnesota, last night. I believe we have a lot of momentum.

You know, sometimes the media says, well, this state had an election, it's the end of the campaign. It is not. We have dozens of more states to go. We're feeling good about the future.

DICKERSON: All right, Senator Bernie Sanders, thanks so much for being with us.

SANDERS: Thank you.

DICKERSON: And we'll be back with more numbers from our CBS News battleground tracker.


DICKERSON: And we turn now to CBS News director of elections, Anthony Salvanto.

Anthony, let's start, Donald Trump, he is up everywhere in Texas. What have we learned new about his durability as a frontrunner?

ANTHONY SALVANTO, CBS NEWS DIRECTOR OF ELECTIONS: Yes, there's some signs here that what clearly started as a pushback against the establishment, against the Republican Party and politics as usual, is growing into something much more. You know, specifically, voters in Georgia, in Virginia and in Texas all think that Donald Trump has the best chance now to win the general election. And also they think that he has the most optimistic message of the remaining candidates. You know, and that to me is a signal that this isn't just about, for them, voting against something, against politics as usual. It's a signal that they're voting for something. And that is, in politics, very powerful because that's a campaign that will have legs.

DICKERSON: Tuesday we've got a bunch of states voting. One of them is Texas. Ted Cruz, we think, will do well in Texas. What have we -- what can you -- we learn about what's happening with Cruz in Texas whether it translates to any other state outside of his home turf? SALVANTO: Yes, it's not translating right now. In Texas, voters who know him say he has the most experience and say that he can best shake up politics. But Donald Trump owns those issues everywhere else.

And even more than that, you know, Ted Cruz -- and you heard him in your interview -- has been consistently making the argument that he's the conservative in the race. Well, he's winning that argument in all the states. They all overwhelmingly see him as the most conservative, but it's not enough because he loses some of the voters who think he's most conservative to Trump and also voters are placing more importance on, not just shaking up politics, but also fixing the economy and Donald Trump owns those issues. So it's, you know, on the -- on the political monopoly board you want to own, you know, you want to own space, but you want to own the most valuable space. And that shake up politics in these states, that's the top thing.

DICKERSON: And this is important again, just to be clear because it suggests if Cruz can't win outside of his home territory, he's not going to make inroads to stop Trump in other places.

SALVANTO: Right. He may pick up delegates elsewhere and he may hold serve in his home state, but right now he's trailing every place else.

DICKERSON: All the candidates say -- the remaining candidates who are not Donald Trump -- say, I want it to come down to a one on one race because then I'll have a shot against Donald Trump. In the numbers, do you see any evidence that if other candidates were to fall away, that the -- that enough voters would go to the remaining person who's the alternative to Trump that would actually change the state of things?

SALVANTO: No. You know, Donald Trump would get, when we ask people, well, if he doesn't get the nomination, who would you support? You know, Donald Trump would get enough of Rubio voters, enough of Cruz's voters, not a majority but enough, that added to his current standing would keep him as the frontrunner. So a consolidated race doesn't necessarily help whoever is left standing. And I -- I think that's important because if you figure Donald Trump is somewhere in the 30s, up around 40, he doesn't need that much to then get to a majority.

We've always talked about how he has a ceiling. He still does. You know, he -- he still does. There's a lot of people who would not make him their second choice, but his ceiling isn't quite as low as we once thought.

DICKERSON: All right, let's switch over to the Democratic races. Is it over?

SALVANTO: Not yet. But Super Tuesday looks pretty good for Hillary Clinton. And there's a couple of thing going on. One is, we talked about the demographics of these southern states. You saw the big support that she gets among African vote -- American voters and that's consistent across all these super -- Super Tuesday state that we -- that we surveyed. You know, people still say that Bernie Sanders is the honest candidate and is the principled candidate. But there's a similarity here almost to the Republican side, too. These are metrics that we thought going in would be winning ones, and they're not enough. So being principled and conservative -- being principled is important, but where voters are going now for Senator Clinton's -- or Senator Clinton's campaign is that they're seeing her as qualified and they're seeing her as experienced. That's obviously her campaign message. And they're voting on that. So she's got big leads over Sanders on those metrics, and that's what's driving lot of this.

DICKERSON: All right, great, Anthony, thanks so much.

SALVANTO: Thanks, John.

DICKERSON: All right. And we'll be back in a moment with our political panel to figure all this out.


DICKERSON: And we're back with more political analysis.

Peggy Noonan is a column for "The Wall Street Journal" and a CBS News contributor, David Axelrod is a senior political commentator for CNN, Jamelle Bouie covers politics for Slate and is also a CBS News political analyst, Ruth Marcus is a columnist for "The Washington Post," and Ben Domenech is the editor of "The Federalist."

Peggy, is Donald Trump unstoppable?

PEGGY NOONAN, CBS NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Well, we're going to find out. The indices are all in his direction, aren't they? I'm interested in -- in that his power, if that is the word, is such that he has actually been able to be in a way a one-man wrecking crew in the area of deportment and how one proceeds politically on the stump. Mr. Rubio is -- is attempting, as you know, to a -- to give Trump a fight in Trump's own style. I'm not sure how that works, but -- but certainly the indices are good.

DICKERSON: Yes, the 11th commandment is shredded to confetti, thou shalt not attack a Republican.

Jamelle, what's -- what do you think, in the Rubio -- as Peggy said, Rubio is -- is trying Trump's tactics, putting them them back on him. Is that effective?

JAMELLE BOUIE, CBS NEWS POLITICAL ANALYST: I think it -- it might have been effective had he be doing it six months ago. Had the entire Republican field six months ago been really hitting Trump on this point that Trump seems to really only be in this for himself.

As it stands, this -- at this stage, not only do I not think it's effective, I think it actually might be counterproductive because what it sounds like Rubio is doing is saying to people that he needs support from that you were fooled and you were conned, now come vote for me.

DICKERSON: Right. BOUIE: And I just -- I don't think that works.


RUTH MARCUS, "WASHINGTON POST": I -- I agree with that and I think there's another way in which it can be less than effective. You asked Rubio if it was too little too late. I think there's a little bit of too much too late, which is, he is just getting down in the muck with Trump. And when you get down in the muck, you get up with muck on you.

So, fine to go after Trump University, fine to call him a con man, except for the point that you're making about what that says about his supporters, fine to take him on, on his lack of policy and knowledge. But when you start talking about whether he wet his pants --



MARCUS: I think you kind of make yourself look a little juvenile there.

AXELROD: I mean the question -- the question is -- the question is whether you can knock off Trump by being a knock-off of Trump.


AXELROD: And I -- I think if people want -- if people want instability, they've got their man, you know?

BEN DOMENECH, THE FEDERALIST: Let me be the one voice for instability at the table here. I actually think -- I actually think the only way that you can beat Trump is recognizing that he is a one- man wrecking machine fueled by this cult (ph) personality. So you have to attack him on those bases. None of these ideological positioning issues matter for Trump. It's not something where you can say, one time you said this and now you said this. That doesn't peel off any of his people. The only way that you can do it is by out alphaing (ph) Trump, and I think that's what Rubio's attempting to do.

NOONAN: And, well I --

BOUIE: I'm -- I'm not sure --

DICKERSON: Go ahead. Go ahead, Jamelle.

BOUIE: I think -- I think you're right that the ideal logical positioning is useless and they shouldn't do it. But talking to Trump voters, I think that things that -- that they attach to, that they like about Trump, is that he seems like he gets them. That he is -- he is like them in some fundamental way. And so I think the arrant -- the avenue of attack for Republicans has to be convincing them that that is not true. And the Trump University thing is a start, but the con man stuff I think works against that.

AXELROD: There's another issue on his con man thing, which is, I heard you interview him. I heard you ask very plainly, would you support him essentially. And he said that he dance around the question. He said he's going to destroy the Republican Party. I don't believe he's going to be the nominee. But he never said he wouldn't support him. And so he sounds very much like a politician, and that is the language that aggravates those voters who are going to Donald Trump.

DICKERSON: That's right. Peggy, the con man in this political season are the politicians.


DICKERSON: That's the default setting for con man we've learned from the voters this -- so --

NOONAN: Yes. You know, I think the way for Rubio -- I agree with what Jamelle says, to -- to look at the -- to -- for Rubio to say to Trump supporters, hey, essentially he's conned you. He's a con man. That's what they do. You pour gold people.

My goodness, that's not the way to bring them in. How about something more interesting? How about you come forward and say, Trump supporters, I absolutely know what you think about the Republican Party and the Republican establishment and how disappointed you are. Guess what, I'm going to tell you what you're right about. What they've disappointed about. The Republican Party is always eager to tell you the flaws of the Democratic Party. Take Trump supporters seriously by conceding what is true about their critique of the GOP.

MARCUS: I think -- I think people have -- I think that the candidates have been trying to do that all along and it hasn't been working.


MARCUS: And I think that goes back to your first question about whether Trump is unstoppable at this point. I think the candidates, the other candidates, have essentially conceded that he is more or less unstoppable in the primaries. That the place to stop him, if he is to be stopped, is at the convention itself.

You see both Rubio campaign and the Cruz campaign and the Kasich campaign all positioning themselves. And I even -- I did some canvassing among the Republican establishments this weekend and in addition to the various stages of grief and resignation, you hear some crazy ideas like, well, it might not be too late for Mitt Romney to file in some of the later primaries.

NOONAN: Oh, my goodness. Oh, my goodness.


MARCUS: We're all talking about convention strategies now and not really primary strategies. DICKERSON: Yes.


DICKERSON: But, Ben, isn't that -- I mean we're getting to the high fantasy theories now, right.

DOMENECH: Exactly. Exactly. What -- what we're witnessing really is a political realignment, John. I mean I think we're moving from a traditional understanding of left-right politics that we've had for a long time --


DOMENECH: To something that looks very different. The thing to understand here is that Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders, they're -- they're not the disease and they're not the symptom of the disease. They are the beta test of a cure for the perspective of the people. And for those of us who have, you know, looked in -- in sort of the established order of the political fray over the course of the past several years, it looks like chaos. But to the people I think it looks like democracy. And I think that that's something that really is moving us to a new reality, where the parties are going to have to retrofit themselves and adapt to this new realignment.

NOONAN: I think that was very smart.


DOMENECH: Well, thank you, Peggy.

DICKERSON: So -- so a plus -- a plus one for Miss Noonan.

MARCUS: I want to note that.

DICKERSON: David, I want to ask you one quick question, though, about this idea of running against Trump. I mean you -- if you are the Democrats and you're watching this, if you are in the position you used to be in, are you gleeful, do you think Donald Trump is going to be a great candidate to run against?

AXELROD: I think four months ago Democrats might have been gleeful about running against Donald Trump. I think Democrats are a bit more wary now just because he's defied expectations throughout and he is speaking to a sense of anger and anxiety out there that could go to some core of the Democratic base, working class voters, although those -- working class whites have been drifting away.

What he can't do, I don't think, is -- is repair the breach with minority voters, particularly Hispanic voters. I think that wall he's built between himself and Hispanic voters cannot be breached.

MARCUS: It's pretty high.

AXELROD: And that's going to be very, very high here in the --


DICKERSON: He keeps -- he keeps adding.

AXELROD: So -- so I think that's a huge problem for him in a general election. With -- with women, I think he will galvanize the Democratic base. So I still think he is -- is -- has a -- a tough road to hoe to win the presidency. But i think he's defied expectations so much that people are a little wary now.


BOUIE: It's interesting, I think a lot of the anger in the electorate is not -- I don't think it's universal. If you look at polls of African-Americans, of Latinos, of people in the -- in I guess the rising American electorate, they say they're actually pretty optimistic about the country's direction, which makes a lot of sense a generation ago. Things were pretty bad. It's among a slice of older white Americans, younger white Americans who I think feel betrayed by, you know, spending all this money on college and all of a sudden being in a bad place that the anger is. And I'm not sure how Trump interacts in a general electorate where you have lot of Americans, black, Latino, Asian American, who do not fundamentally feel that same kind of anger. And there are -- there are white Americans who are with them on that. And so how this -- how this plays, to me, is (INAUDIBLE).

AXELROD: But I will say this, people say there's an enthusiasm gap. And you see it in the turnouts. And that's true. I think the -- the antidote to the enthusiasm gap for Hillary Clinton, should she be the nominee, is Donald Trump, and perhaps the Supreme Court debate.

BOUIE: Right.

AXELROD: And I think that will galvanize a base that may not be as enthused about her as they -- they were say about Barack Obama.

DICKERSON: And we saw Hillary Clinton trying to turn that page last night after her big victory in South Carolina.

MARCUS: Sure. You -- you saw her trying to do two things at once last night, which I thought she did just fine, which is to still be attentive to the Sanders' vote and the --the arguments that they want to hear from her and so -- so there was that about big banks and everything else and to turn her attention to her vision of making America great again, which is making America whole again.

I want to go back, though, and say one thing about Donald Trump and the excellent question that you asked.

AXELROD: Can't stay away from him.

MARCUS: I can't stay away from him, about taxes, because his argument is, we don't learn anything from tax returns. And that is just not true. Here is what we learn that we don't learn from other filings. Your income. What your effective tax rate is. In other words, how much you use loopholes and deductions and tax shelters. How much you've given to charity. And if you want to give it out, who those charities are for. And I understand tax lawyers don't want people under audit to give out their stuff, but audits end and you can do two things, give the tax returns for the audits that end and give the summaries.


DOMENECH: John, if you --

MARCUS: Case closed.

DICKERSON: Let me add a question to you, Ben --


DICKERSON: And then you can -- say whatever you want. But the question is this, when you talk about that beta testing that the public may be doing --


DICKERSON: Does that mean that there is a different standard or a lower threshold in terms of fact, which is to say Donald Trump has been fact checked to a fairthewell (ph).


DICKERSON: He says things and -- and he is called on it and -- and he has said about the voters, they don't care about policy position, they don't care about these small things because he's speaking to a larger truth. Do you think that's true or that there could be something that could knock him back?

DOMENECH: I think that there is something that happens, a phenomenon that happens around a conspiracy theory, where if you believe in a conspiracy theory, then every critique of that theory is simply more proof that the conspiracy exists. And I think that that's something that goes on in the person of Trump.

To Ruth's point about his taxes, few years ago Trump was -- was being roasted by Comedy Central. They always have rules about things that you can't joke about. Donald Trump's rule at that time, the only thing that you couldn't joke about was a suggestion that he has less money that he claimed to.


DOMENECH: I think that that suggests quite a -- quite a good deal about how to get under his skin.

DICKERSON: Peggy, on the -- back to the Democratic race. We saw Hillary Clinton make this pivot, Ruth point out, that -- that -- and -- and there seems to be general agreement that Donald Trump really helps her kind of elevate to her best self. Do you think that's right? Does it make it easier to run against Donald Trump for Hillary Clinton than say Marco Rubio, if you're a Republican? NOONAN: I guess two thoughts. One is that Bernie Sanders has -- whatever happens in his campaign, he has very much succeeded in pushing Mrs. Clinton to the left in terms of policy. That's a big thing. Whatever happens to him. We'll see how that goes.

With Mrs. Clinton and Trump, Trump is sort of a -- known as an outrageous, (INAUDIBLE) figure who gets away with a great deal. But Mrs. Clinton consistently, month after month, is also seen as a person who herself is not trustworthy, does not tell the truth. So we could wind up with these two wholly unusual figures where a half a -- most of the people in America say, he's outrageous, she's untrustworthy. I wonder -- next to brilliant Democratic thinker -- I wonder how Mrs. Clinton turns around a persistent, long-held reputation as dishonest and untrustworthy.

AXELROD: Yes, well, I don't think that -- that -- you know, that's a hard thing to -- you -- you can't stand up and say I'm trustworthy. You have to go out and navigate around that.

NOONAN: How would you fix it?


BOUIE: Untrustworthy.

AXELROD: You can't do it. it's not going to have much impact, let me say that.

NOONAN: I -- I didn't mean to put you on the spot, but that is the big question, isn't it?

AXELROD: Yes. No, that's -- no, it is a -- it is. The question is on what standards are people voting and what's important to them and do they, at the end of the day, feel that she is the strongest advocate for them on those issues? And in the case of Trump, whether he's a plausible commander in chief, a plausible president, because they absolutely believe that she is.

BOUIE: And -- and -- and to go back to a point you made earlier, David, Trump is, you know, not only the Trump in an earlier age rail against the Central Park Five, he was sued by the federal government for housing discrimination. I mean Trump is a guy who -- DICKERSON: All right --

BOUIE: Activates a lot of fears among black and Latino voters that can be -- I mean (INAUDIBLE) exploited to win.

DICKERSON: All right, there you go. That's going to have to be the last word, Jamelle.

Thanks to all of you.

We'll be right back in a moment.


DICKERSON: Please be sure to join me, Scott Pelley, Norah O'Donnell, Charlie Rose and Bob Schieffer on Tuesday night for complete coverage of Super Tuesday results. We'll be on from 10:00 to 11:00 Eastern and Pacific. We'll also have special coverage on our digital network, CBSN, starting at 6:00 p.m.

For FACE THE NATION, I'm John Dickerson. See you next week.

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