'This Week' Transcript: Chris Christie, Ted Cruz, and Bernie Sanders

ByABC News
February 28, 2016, 9:37 AM

— -- THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT FOR 'THIS WEEK' ON February 28, 2016 and it will be updated.


ANNOUNCER: Starting right now on This Week with George Stephanopoulos, Trump takes command. Just two day until Super Tuesday, the billionaire frontrunner rewriting the campaign playbook.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We have a really good chance of winning.

ANNOUNCER: A former foe now joining his side.

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE, (R) NEW JERSEY: I am proud and happy to be part of this team.

ANNOUNCER: While his rivals hit back harder than ever.


This is a scam.

Donald Trump will never be the Republican nominee.

ANNOUNCER: We're covering all the week's stunning surprises and looking ahead to Super Tuesday with Chris Christie and Ted Cruz here live.

Plus, Hillary's landslide victory.

HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Tomorrow, this campaign goes national.

ANNOUNCER: Is this the start of her big move? Bernie Sanders responds here live.

From ABC News, a special Super Tuesday addition of This Week. Here now, chief anchor George Stephanopoulos.


GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC HOST: As we come on the air this week, it's getting harder and harder to find words to describe a presidential race that's sounding more and more like a grade school playground.

Just two days from Super Tuesday, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are dominating this race. Clinton trounced Bernie Sanders in South Carolina Saturday by nearly 50 points, cruising into Super Tuesday's southern states on the strength of overwhelming support from African-American voters.

And with Donald Trump ahead right now in nearly all the Super Tuesday states, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz have unleashed a barrage of new attacks, trying to slow the Trump steamroller.

ABC's Jon Karl is here to start us off. Good morning, Jon.


As he appears on the verge of winning it all, Donald Trump is facing his biggest test yet, a sustained assault of personal insults, substantive attacks and mockery that looks like it could have been designed by Trump himself.


KARL: On the campaign trail Saturday, Donald Trump predicted a Super Tuesday rout.

TRUMP: Hopefully we're going to win Tennessee, we're going to win everything. I think we're even -- I think we're even really have a great chance to win Texas.

KARL: And after his double digit wins in South Carolina and Nevada, some establishment Republicans finally agree he could actually win this thing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Trump, he's got the momentum. I think there's more than a 50 percent chance he's the nominee.

KARL: Nowhere was that hammered home more than with Friday's shocking endorsement.

CHRISTIE: We need a first class president, and we're going to have it in Donald Trump.

KARL: New Jersey's tough guy governor, Chris Christie, who once mocked Trump as the entertainer in chief is now in his corner.

But with Trump on the verge of an insurmountable lead, Marco Rubio has decided desperate times call for desperate measures.

RUBIO: Well, I don't know anything about bankrupting four times. You bankrupted four companies. I don't know anything about starting a university that was a fake university.

KARL: Around the campaign, Rubio has insisted he wouldn't go after his fellow Republicans.

RUBIO: And I know that there's this craving in the media for people to attack each other, but I've never been a campaign that attacks people.

KARL: Now he's using Trump's playbook, mocking the frontrunner with personal insults.

RUBIO: How can a person with the worst spray tan in America attack me on Twitter for wearing makeup.

He said he wanted to sue me. He's going to sue me. He should sue whoever did that to his face.

KARL: Besides the insult assault, Rubio has a new label for the billionaire businessman.

RUBIO: He is a con artist.

Con artist.

I will never stop until we keep a con man from taking over the party of Reagan.

KARL: Trump and his new wingman were happy to return fire.

TRUMP: This lightweight Rubio, total lightweight. And little mouth on him -- bing, bing, bing. Bing, bing, bing, bing, bing.

CHRISTIE: When the heat was on Senator Rubio in those debates, you saw what happened. He melted. He melted.

KARL: As the campaign turns into a food fight, the question is Rubio's aggressive strategy too little, too late?

With so much at stake, Senator Lindsey Graham had a colorful diagnosis for the state of the Republican Party.



STEPHANOPOULOS: And Jon Karl joins us now along with the rest of the roundtable.

I want to start with Hugh Hewitt, Salem Radio Networks.

You were in the middle of that debate on Thursday night as well. And we just heard Lindsey Graham, the Republican Party bat bleep crazy?

HUGH HEWITT, CONSERVATIVE RADIO SHOW HOST: Yes, it was an interesting red wedding debate.

I can't complain about the ferocity or the velocity, as Hyman Roth said in Godfather II, this is the business we have chosen. So I like covering things like that.

But we are on the verge of a tipping point in the Republican Party where it could actually split for the first time. I've got a note this morning from Meg Whitman who is the finance co-chair for Chris Christie denouncing Chris Christie for political opportunism. And that's kind of a shattering thing when your finance co-chair takes a roundhouse at you.

So, we are at the verge of a real meltdown in the Republican Party. It might happen Tuesday.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Split in the Republican Party, Greta?

GRETA VAN SUSTERN, FOX NEWS: I don't know about that.

Look, you know the problem with this is it's entertaining, but it's not particularly inspirational by any of these candidates at this point.

I mean we all probably shouldn't laugh and do laugh at the things that are said. You heard the audience laugh.

But the Republican Party has got to come to terms with the fact that they're not inspiring, they're entertaining.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And Jon Karl, trying to come to terms with Donald Trump, the real possibility he's the nominee.

KARL: Absolutely. But I am told that there are at least two dozen House Republicans that have told their colleagues that they will not support Donald Trump as their nominee. So if he goes, if he solidifies this on Super Tuesday and goes on the win this nomination, he will be the leader of a very divided Republican Party, some who simply will not support him.

VAN SUSTEREN: But the voters are supporting him. That's the -- you know, like all the candidates can say, or all the politicians can say we won't support him, but at least so far the voters have.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Meantime on the Democratic side, Donna Brazile, that win for Hillary Clinton yesterday in South Carolina got a higher percentage of the African-American vote. Now there were three candidates eight years ago, but higher percentage than Barack Obama.

DONNA BRAZILE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Everyone was surprised last night, not just by the margin, but the depth and the real excitement she had in South Carolina.

Her southern firewall is intact. But as you well know, this is a race about delegates, not just winning states. And so the real question is, will she be able to replicate that in other southern states like Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi?

STEPHANOPOULOS: And Katrina Vanden Heuvel, you are the editor and publisher of The Nation. You endorsed Bernie Sanders. Does he have a viable path going forward?

KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL, THE NATION: Yes. I would say not so fast. Don't write Bernie Sanders's political obituary after South Carolina. There is a path ahead. 17 states vote in the next two weeks. Whatever happens, he has -- and I think he has a path -- he has injected new ideas into this campaign. He has transformed the Democratic Party. He has opened space for more progressive movements.

But as Donna knows, it's way too early after South Carolina. I think he goes to the convention. This goes through May. He will have pledged delegates. And he will fight to shape the platform.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And we will talk to him ahead. I want you all to stand by right now.

But right now, we are going to turn to Senator Ted Cruz. He's in Arkansas this morning.

Good morning, Senator.


CRUZ: Good to be with you.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Thank you, Senator.

Thanks for joining us this morning.

New polls out this morning show you're looking pretty good in Texas, but Donald Trump is strong in so many other Super Tuesday states.

If he wins everywhere else, how can you prevent him from getting the the nomination?

CRUZ: Well, I think Super Tuesday is going to be the most important day of this entire primary. And -- and it is, right now we're in -- we're in a strong position in Texas and we're running neck and neck with Donald in states throughout Super Tuesday.

And I think it really depends on turnout. If conservatives come out and vote on Super Tuesday, we're going to have a strong day.

I also depends, George, you know, 65 percent of Republicans believe that -- that Donald Trump is not the best candidate to go head-to-head with Hillary Clinton, that Donald Trump loses to Hillary Clinton.

And -- and the only candidate that has beaten Donald Trump, the only candidate that can beat Donald Trump is me. And so I think more and more Republicans who are recognizing Donald Trump is not the right person for us to nominate. If we come together and stand united on Super Tuesday, we're going to have a good election night.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But, you know, you talk about that support from conservatives, but the fact is that in most of those states, Donald Trump is winning among conservatives, winning among your strong base of Evangelical Christians.

CRUZ: Well, you know, I think the debate last week really started to show some significant differences. And -- and in particular, the difference you saw is -- is you saw Washington deal makers -- listen, it's Washington deal makers that have gotten us in this mess.

And Donald promises yet more deals with Democrats. Remember, Donald is someone who has contributed financially to Jimmy Carter, to John Kerry, to Hillary Clinton, to Chuck Schumer.

He is someone who had funded open border Democrats for 40 years and -- and, indeed, one of the striking things, you know, Donald talks a lot about immigration, but in the 2013 battle over amnesty, when I was leading the fight against the Rubio-Schumer Gang of Eight amnesty bill and we defeated it in Congress, Donald Trump was funding the Gang of Eight. Five of the eight members of the Gang of Eight received, collectively, over $50,000 from Donald Trump.

And you can't be funding open border Democrats, like Donald Trump did, and, at the same time be claiming that you're actually going to secure the border and stop illegal immigration.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You've been making that point about Donald Trump supporting Democrats for -- for several weeks right now. It doesn't seem to be sticking.

Why not?

CRUZ: Well, listen, I know we're seeing real movement in the polls. We won in Iowa and -- and I think on Super Tuesday, we're going to have a good night. You know, I've got to say, George, it was striking at the debate this week when Donald Trump disagreed with me. He disagreed with me, number one, on Israel. He said that America should be neutral between Israel and the Palestinians. I strongly disagree with him on that.

If I am president, America will stand unapologetically with Israel.