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Post-Address Discussion of President Barack Obama's State of the Union. 11p-Midnight ET

Aired January 12, 2016 - 23:00   ET


[23:00:00] WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: All right, hold out for a moment.

Jim Sciutto, our chief national security correspondent is here. You have breaking news. What have you learned?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: New information has come and gone in Iran. That was the original timing discussed for the release of the American sailors, the ten American sailors held by the Iranian revolution guard. but that time has passed because remember, the original reason given for waiting for daylight was that the Iranian Navy does not operate at night. So now, daylight has come. The soldiers still - sailors still not released.

We are told to expect this in about three hours' time until mid to late morning. That would be up to 2:00 a.m. U.S. time. But again, I'm told by U.S. officials that all relies upon Iran following this plan that has been made between U.S. and Iranian officials. And I've been told by a number of officials I'm talking to tonight that a lot of people are on tinder hooks tonight in Washington waiting to see if and when this deal will comes through on time.

BLITZER: And are they still confident the deal will come through? We heard the vice president suggest optimism, the secretary of state John Kerry expressed optimism. Do they still think this is for all practical purposes is a done deal, those ten American sailors will be freed?

SCIUTTO: From the beginning they have expressed confidence it will come through as designed, but you speak to people in private and they say listen. I will be comfortable only when I see it happen.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: And Jim, one of the things that is going on here, obviously, Iran like every other country has its own internal politics. One of the things going on here, as you and I discusses earlier today, the revolutionary guard, they are the ones -- the extremists within Iran, they are the ones that have taken these American sailors captive or hostage or whatever they are doing with them. How much are the leaders of Iran, the moderates or what passes for a moderate in Iran, Rouhani and the like. How much are they hoping to get the guard to turn over the Americans?

SCIUTTO: Listen. It has always been a question because the revolutionary guard, they march through their own tune on so many things. They were the same ones that launched the rockets. It is very close to two weeks ago and with many things that Rouhani and the Iranian foreign minister have promised to the Iranian people things like releasing dissidents, et cetera. They have not been able to deliver in part because of opposition from hardline.

BLITZER: All right. Let's hope those Americans are released and released quickly.

Jim Sciutto with the breaking news.

Anderson, back to you.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Yes. Just past 11:00 here in Washington, D.C.

We are back with our political team getting reaction to President Obama's final and forceful state of the union address. As we have been talking about. He shared an optimistic view of America and its future rejecting claims about the nation's economic decline as political hot air included thinly swipes at Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and Ted Cruz on several sensitive issues. Listen to some of the president's rejection of those who have question America's place in the world to end his own record.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Anyone claiming that America's economy is in decline is peddling fiction. Look, if anybody still wants to dispute the science around climate change, have it. I think there are outdated regulations that need to be changed. Food stamp recipients did not cause the financial crisis. Recklessness on Wall Street did.

If you doubt America's commitment or mine to see that justice is done, just ask Osama bin Laden.

I am guessing we won't agree on health care any time soon, just a guess.


COOPER: And back with our panel, national - chief national correspondent John King, political commentator Michael Smerconish, chief political analyst Gloria Borger, former Obama's senior advisor David Axelrod. We also got Paul Begala, Democratic strategist and co- chair of a pro-Hillary Clinton super PAC, Amanda Carpenter, former communications director for Sen. Ted Cruz, Van Jones, CNN political commentator and former Obama administration official, Mike Rogers, national security commentator for CNN, former chair of the house intelligence committee.

In terms of the tone of this president, John King, is it different than what we heard in the state of the union last year?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, sure, because it's the last one. And in the tradition, all presidents, Democrats and Republicans say, I want you to pass this, I want you to pass that and I want you to pass this. I hope you can work together on this. And they give you a laundry list. Bill Clinton was famous for it. But this president also gave a couple of very long state of the unions where they list ten or 12 and every agency gets to contribute their idea and they fight over what gets mentioned. And it is a big elbow match for the six weeks leading up to the state of the union. This time the president, he mentioned a few things he wanted, but essentially said I'll get back to that. I want to talk more thematically. So it was very different.

And I thought it was striking in how much he clearly wanted to defend what he has done and what he is doing in a context of a very competitive campaign to replace him in which he is, especially in the Republican race, he is the issue. There is constant criticism of everything. We will repeal Obamacare. We were weaken the world. We are not standing up to ISIS.

If you listen to the Republican campaign, they casts this presidency as a complete and abject failure and he was rebutting them very forcefully.

COOPER: How do you judge effectiveness of the state of the union? Because I mean, we always make such a big deal of it every year, I mean, if anybody can remember any line from the state of the union last year, please speak up right now because I don't think a lot of people can. What is an effective --

[23:05:01] GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: The way sometimes you judge it is if a president's poll numbers, you know, take a real pop the next day. I think that may have happened with Bill Clinton, for example, in the past. But I think that's not the way you are going to judge this speech because President Obama has been stuck at 44, 45, 46 percent. The public has already decided kind of who he is and how much they like him.

What struck me about this, though, and I just want to say one thing about tone with the president. This is a person who is leaving office. He is not tethered to whether Democrats succeed in their reelection as he was in years passed, particularly 2014. And this is also a president, I think, who seemed more at ease. Cracked a joke at the beginning of this where he said, you know, I know some of you, I'm going to make it short, because I know some of you are antsy to get back to Iowa. And he seemed to be just more at ease in the sense that I'm going to be liberated from this job soon.

COOPER: But he is somebody making a push for a Democratic president?


PAUL BEGALA, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: But also for an agenda. I went back and I read President Reagan's last state of the union address. He already called for a line item veto, a bounced budget amendment and amendment to the constitution to outlaw abortion in all cases. Republican still won on that.

Bill Clinton's last state of the union address, he called for gun safety legislation, a minimum wage, equal protection protections for women. Same things President Obama was talking about tonight. The parties use these -- presidents use these to organize the government, first off, so that everybody in the government knows what they are supposed to be working on but also to organize the country says here is my agenda. Let's move forward on that.

VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think he also tonight need to say back to his base, look at some of the things I did for you. His line on clean energy and climate and sputnik, I thought that was brilliant. He said in the past, we didn't argue about whether sputnik was up there. He just went after it and try to fix it. So he did some of that stuff. I think he could use some victory laps.

But also, if you look at every single progressive constituency that was out there, whether you talk about the kids that won on keystone pipeline and push climate back up or whether you are talking about the dreamers, what you have a grass roots that has taken over this party. There is a grass roots progressive movement that has taken over this party and has set the agenda from black lives matter to to the dreamers, all the way across the board. And he was blowing a bunch of kisses to his base. And that was important.

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR COMMENTATOR: You know, I actually think that belittles what he was doing then. I actually think he was outlining very big ideas about what defines the future, you know. And Mike said, well, you know -- wait a second. Mike says it was contentious and political because he didn't agree with the Republicans. We have two parties for a reason. He has a very well defined view of what the future demands and that's what elections are about.

COOPER: So does he continue to go against the Republicans?

AXELROD: Does it help define the debate in the coming year? I think it will.

COOPER: But does he continue to attack Donald Trump, Ted Cruz? Moving forward?

AXELROD: I think he offended by Donald Trump. He is a guy who believes that we are an American community that we shouldn't turn on each other, that we shouldn't certainly do it by religion and race and tribe.

COOPER: You wouldn't be surprised if he continues to go after Trump.

AXELROD: He didn't name Donald Trump tonight. But I think he is going to stand up for the America that he believes in.


MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: The long ball that he was playing to David's point and it's the war on terror. Because I heard him say we are strong and he defended that perspective. I also heard him say that ISIS doesn't posed or what did he say, fighters in the back of pickup trucks don't pose an existential threat to the United States. And then, I thought this was very important. He said that the Middle East transformation that is now underway is going to play itself out for a generation. I thought this was the president trying to address the climate of fear in which we live and trying to lessen that fear and add some perspective.

AMANDA CARPENTER, FORMER COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR FOR SEN. TED CRUZ: But there was one line in the speech that I think spokes the fear. The line where he says it is a bunch of rhetoric, when people talk about the enemy gaining strength that's rhetoric and hot air. That plays into the Trump base. That plays into people who are so fearful, from fear an attack on our homeland.


COOPER: Let's just play what he said about ISIS because it relates to what we're talking about.


OBAMA: Masses of fighters on the backs of pickup trucks, twisted souls plotting in apartments or garages, they pose an enormous danger to civilians. They have to be stopped, but they do not threaten our national existence. That is the story ISIL wants to tell. That's the kind of propaganda they use to recruit.



MIKE ROGERS, CNN NATIONAL COMMENTATOR: You know, this is where I think this president gets in so much trouble. And to David's point, no, I don't expect the president to come out and say let's all get along. Big group hugs, big smooch, let's all get syphilis.

[23:10:02] BEGALA: I'm against syphilis and Trump. Not in that order.

ROGERS: This is where the problem, though. He says we should all get along. I want to get along. And then proceeds to attack Republicans on points that are very divisive. Why would you do that if you have this platform, this national platform which is exactly what he has done for seven years? All seven years he doesn't do it and now he says --


ROGERS: But that's what you were saying.

AXELROD: No, no. What he said was we are going to have differences in a democracy. But let us respect each other in those differences.

ROGERS: And he proceeds to insults the people's positions by trying to categorize them.


JONES: You love Reagan, right? Reagan was brilliant at doing exactly that. He say, hey, listen. Let's have this (INAUDIBLE) on Nikki Haley, but he would also have a vigorous defense of his own positions.

ROGERS: Which is fine.

JONES: But let me finish. I also think it's important that we take him seriously when he tries to help Americans understand where we are. If you were told us 15 years ago after 9/11 with 3,000 Americans dead and with American icons blown up and laying on the ground that the next major terrorist attack would be in 15 years and wouldn't be 3,000, it wouldn't 2,000, wouldn't be 1,000, wouldn't be 100, it will be 14 tragic lost that we -- he knocked the heck out of Al-Qaeda and now he is going to knock the heck out of ISIS. But let's make sure -- you're the guy on this.

But I think it's important that we listen to what he is trying to say. We have made progress in this war. It's going to be a long war. But we are not in the same position we were in with the Soviet Union.

ROGERS: To say that the foreign policy is going well and it's about four guys in a back of a pickup truck is fantasy and it is --.

JONES: And Donald Trump says we're getting wiped up.

ROGERS: We have ISIS that went from a small little portion of eastern Syria is now in 20 countries. There are 50 different states with investigations on ISIS, and this is the problem. When the president dumbs down -- don't worry about this. We got it covered --


SMERCONISH: Without giving the statistic what I heard him trying to say was this, your risk of being killed by a terrorist if you are an American is one in four million and Trump is trading on a climate of fear that scares the crap out of people. Keep it in perspective, ISIS poses a threat but not an existential threat and nobody is under estimating what transpired on September 11th. But you got to be realistic.

BORGER: But I do --

ROGERS: To say that terrorism doesn't have both a broader impact --

SMERCONISH: It should have been a law enforcement matter and not invasion of Iraq.

ROGERS: This is the problem. This is why we didn't deal with the problem in eastern Syria. This is why he pulled out Iraq. And for him to say that everyone loves America more today is fantasyland. If you talk to the foreign leaders, I did, they always asked us what is going on in America? Why are you pulling away from the world? Where is U.S. leadership?

JONES: We were more popular under George W. Bush.

ROGERS: At least when he said he would do something he did.

BORGER: Mike. But Mike -- BEGALA: Like invade the wrong country.

BORGER: You raised pulling away from the world. What is Donald Trump talking about? Is he talking about pulling away from the world?

ROGERS: Listen. I'm not here to defend any person's individual foreign policy decision. I'm telling you this president has presented the next president - and I don't care who it is - I don't care if it's Bernie Sanders, we have a huge problem internationally.

JONES: Mike, hold on one second.


JONES: No, sir. He is going to turn over a much better country than the one he inherited, number one. And he is going to turn up --.

ROGERS: Not on foreign policy.

JONES: Are you insane? Come on.

ROGERS: You're arguing the position of the U.S. in the world is better than what it was. You have ISIS in 20 countries and 50 different states. You have attacks in Paris. You have the Chinese --

COOPER: Let Van respond.

JONES: You can run through the list of horrors you are concerned about Iran.

ROGERS: And China and Russia.

JONES: Can I finish?

Iran -- you want to talk about Iran. Iran got the biggest help it ever got from George W. Bush when he knocked out Iraq. Iran, exploded. It specific under George W. Bush, not this president. If you go through the list --

ROGERS: Unfortunately your facts are --


BEGALA: Mike made a really interesting point. The chances of an American being killed by a terrorist is one in four million.

[23:15:01] SMERCONISH: John Muller in Cato is a political science professor at Ohio State. He wrote a book called overblown the data is all there.

BEGALA: One in four million. Against that threat, we spend hundreds of billions, maybe trillions of dollars, the chances of an American man getting cancer, not dying from it, getting it, is one in two. American woman, one in three. And against that, we spend about five billion a year. So the president tonight I think one thing that really could be a lasting legacy is tonight, he asked the vice president to lead a moon shot to kill cancer. This Congress, Republicans and Democrats work together. Nobody commented. But they actually increased funding for the national institutes of health. And the president is saluting that. All of us are much more threatened by cancer.

BORGER: You can't deny, though, and here's where I'm going to agree with Mike. You can't deny that the American public is anxious.


BORGER: Whether ISIS, you know, is an existential threat or whether it is not an existential threat, the America public is afraid.

BEGALA: And you fight fear with facts. You don't --


CARPENTER: He said it's rhetoric and hot air.

AXELROD: It is the role of the president to cater to anxiety or address the anxiety with facts. And that's what he tried to do tonight.

ROGERS: There was no - this some notion that he laid out a list of facts is just wrong. It is fundamentally wrong. He had great rhetoric. I'm not saying he didn't have a great rhetoric. But I will tell you in the position in the world, we are in much worse shape. Russia is on the move --

COOPER: But just factually, isn't globally the number of people dying in wars less than ever before. Your chance of actually dying a violent death today is less than any previous generation in history, on the first day of battle of the World War I, didn't it simply like 30,000 --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To compare us to World War I.

COOPER: No. But it is actually harder to maintain a war the way it used to be. It is harder to maintain a war for as long as they need to be run. It is harder to keep it going and you don't have as many deaths from war.

JONES: That's why we have these net jobs running.

Listen. One idiot and one gun can do a lot of damage. And that's -- we are going to be fighting that for the next 20 years. But that is a different threat than Al-Qaeda organizing massive acts, mass casualty inside our borders.

AXELROD: Since, Mike, you want facts and we should talk facts. You look at polling around the world. And it is just a fact that our standing is higher than it was when this president took office. I mean, that's a fact.

ROGERS: This is simply not true.

JONES: You are saying among leaders.

ROGERS: You don't have a country, by the way, Iran who right after the Iran deal, about a month ago launches tests on missiles that are in violation of the U.N. sanctions. And here is where we get in trouble. And this where I fault this administration. The administration says that's a problem. We are going to do something about it. They send it to Congress that we want sanctions. Iran says, you know what, of you do that we are -- all bets are off. They go back to Congress and take the sanctions back. If you don't think that has real implications for U.S. national security, you are wrong.

AXELROD: That same country under the last administration was steaming toward an atom bomb and now they are a good distance from it because they had to ship --

ROGERS: As a guy who sat in every one of those meetings, absolutely inaccurate. What happened was the administration pulled back on a whole set of decisions because they wanted an Iran deal. Some of those decisions included action on a growing problem of ISIS when our Arab league partners came to Congress and the United States, me included, and said we have a problem with this group, it wasn't even ISIS then, this is going to get out of hand. We need some help. The president said we're busy. We got this other action going on.

I sat in those meetings. I was a part of those meetings, Democrats oppose it at that time in those meetings.


AXELROD: Are you saying Iran is as close today to a bomb as they were before this process began?

ROGERS: I think Iran is in a much better position on all of the other secondary --

AXELROD: Are they closer to a bomb than they were before --?

ROGERS: Well. Here is -- no, it's not that easy. Because all of their -- there are three legs to that nuclear stool and we -- there's three legs to the nuclear stool. If you want to have a discussion about the implications of what the Iran deal including by the way Quds force activities, including holding ten sailors when they will get around or releasing them --

AXELROD: I wanted to --


COOPER: I do want to say we have the first results of the instant poll of the Americans who watched the president's speech tonight. I want to go over for that Wolf.

[23:20:05] BLITZER: Very interesting results, Anderson. Look at this, 53 percent of those who watched the speech, the speech watchers had a very positive reaction to the president's remarks tonight, 20 percent were somewhat positive and 25 percent negative. The very positive reaction to the president's speech is as high as it has ever been reaching the same level as it was in 2013.

But look at this, nearly half of those who watched the speech say the Obama presidency has fallen short of their expectations. Remember, this poll doesn't reflect the views of all Americans, only those who watched the speech, a group that is more democratic than the population as a whole. We are going to get more results for you.

But, Jake, these are fascinating. The most positive reaction among those who watched the speech of any speech going back to 2013 which was pretty high.

TAPPER: But as you know, a key part of that is the fact that Democrats and those who are inclined to like President Obama are more likely to watch the speech than Republicans and people who don't like President Obama. And I'm looking at social media, looking at emails and talking to people and people I know who are Democrats thought it was a great speech and got them excited. It reminded them why they voted for Obama. And people who are Republicans hated it, thought he came across as hectoring, as lecturing, maybe was not describing the United States that they know. You heard some of these disagreements in our panel just a minute ago. And then people in the middle who were like, yes, I remember, you know, that's the Barack Obama I voted for, but a lot of the stuff hasn't happened. So it makes sense. Especially when you consider that so many people who like Obama were watching.

BLITZER: A lot of people really did have high expectations of this presidency. And if you listen to the results of this poll, this instant poll we have tonight, those people are disappointed by and large that the expectations have not been achieved.

TAPPER: One of the things that President Obama talked about tonight and has not really made this a major part of his presidency at all it's his desire to change the campaign system not just campaign finance system and taking up big money but also making gerrymandering a thing of the past, talking more about making it easier to vote, not harder. One of the key parts of that, of course, is taking big money out of politics and most people watching are not big money people, have not given a lot of money to politicians to political parties, like the idea of those people having less of an influence. Of course, one can observe that it is easier to make that argument walking out the door when you don't have any more campaigns money to raise for yourself. But we will leave that aside for a second and just talk about that is something that is popular, getting it done, of course, is a big challenge.

BLITZER: Well, his final state of the union address, the reaction among those who watched the speech when we go back eight speeches this is the highest it has been.

TAPPER: And when you think about it, Wolf, that's exactly what he wanted because this is a historic speech, his very last one kind of a cap stone, kind of a book end to that speech he gave in 2004. John Kerry's Democratic convention. It is an end. It is a legacy speech, a big, important speech.

BLITZER: Anderson, I am anxious to get some reaction from your friends over there.


And then John King, I mean, you and I started off this discussion, it was an hour and a half ago saying that this speech harkens to the Obama running 2008. I think Van said even though Obama running in 2012.

KING: Remember whether you voted for him, supported him or not, how aspirational and inspirational he was the candidate in 2007 and 2008. And there was a lot of that here, to David's point, that looking, he has this selection too, I think you are under estimating that part.

To try to lay out an aspirational, we can deal with these things. We can fix these things. We can get through even the hard stuff if you lift your heads up and that is very much, that's very much Obama. Up to the point I made earlier. My question is, how many minds can he change or even is that his goal. If his goal is still be hold the Obama coalition together, if he keeps that coalition together, guess what, whoever the democratic nominee is wins the White House in November.

BORGER: You know, the Democratic nominee has a challenge, to John's point, which is to keep the Obama coalition without Barack Obama. That is not easy. And as we saw in this conversation tonight you are not going the change of these minds here. I mean, David Axelrod is not some --

AXELROD: I'm sensing that Mike's coming around to my --


COOPER: But does this president spent his last year as sense of campaigning for his legacy?

BORGER: Mobilizing, getting out voters. That's what he has got --.

JONES: Whoever run --

BORGER: People who don't like him don't like him.

JONES: Whoever the Republicans nominate, they are going to have to run against a Barack Obama, a Michelle Obama, probably both Clintons, and it is going to be about defending this version of American top (ph). You were right when you say this is Obama's version of America. Except that he is proud of this country and it showed tonight. But he does not want us to get pulled into dumb wars.

BORGER: But here's the difficulty - Van, here is the difficulty for the Democratic candidate no matter who it is. You have to coalesce the Obama coalition, you have to put it together without saying you are the third term of Barack Obama. And that is a very tricky thing to do for any candidate to kind of thread that needle. [23:25:16] AXELROD: But the set of issues he outlined tonight or

issues that a democratic candidate could run and win. And I think that is the important element.

KING: But the fight to, let's call is a healthy disagreement among our friends here that we had a few minutes ago. Then we go back, and if you took Nikki Haley speech and did a pie chart of what she stalked about. Yes, she talked about Obamacare. Yes, she talked a little bit about big government, whoever. She spent most of her time on immigration and terrorism. She talked to security issues. This is where the Republicans think their gold is in 2016. They think the way to win this election is to peel off enough people or if you can look, if we have the electoral map, peel off four sate -- Florida, Ohio, Virginia and one more from the Obama coalition and the Republicans win, just barely but they win. They get to 270. You only have to change four states if you change the big ones - Florida and Ohio happened to be pretty big. But at this moment and we have ten and a half months to go, at this moment, they think security is their money in this election campaign.

BORGER: Anxiety.

KING: Play on the anxiety. And that includes the border. Nikki Haley's speech, you know, was for a reason. It was laying out the early benchmark. Yes, she took a shot at Trump, couple shots at Trump, maybe, but the early foundation of where the Republicans, they need to go this year.

BEGALA: That is why - I mean, I'm for Hillary anyway but that's why I'm for Hillary. She, of all Democrats, and all the Republican journey, she is the most trusted to be tough on terrorism. If this election is about security --

KING: That's not what Democratic voters are worried about right now, though, as much.


BEGALA: That's why this thing is not a gimmick. Bernie is a very formidable, very impressive politician. But if this thing turns on security, Hillary --

AXELROD: You mentioned, though, that we have ten and a half months and I think it's important -- we didn't know that Lehman brothers, for example, was going to collapse on September 15th 2008, completely transformed the debate in that election. We really don't know what the election is going to be about. But I think it's a good bet that the economy and some of the anxiety that Mike talked about is going to be at the center of it. And whoever can speak to that compellingly I think is going to have a much better chance.

COOPER: David, do you see parallels - I mean, you ran against Hillary Clinton in 2008. Do you see parallels her then to what is happening with her now and Bernie Sanders?

AXELROD: Well, I think that Bernie has mobilized a young, progressive base within the party that we've seen before. I think she's much more -- someone said that she allured to, that she has been caught unawares. She has been organizing Iowa in a way that she never organized it in 2008 and I think that could provide a firewall for her there.

I will say a couple of things about the two-them, though. I watched Bernie Sanders here. I thought that he better develop a better answer on the gun question than he had tonight. He looked flummoxed there. And you know, we talked - we can call him a fresh face, but when you say, you know, I have cast 10,000 votes on a lot of complicated issues and it is hard to - I mean, he sounded like a guy who has been in Congress for 25 years which is not what he wants to be.

On the other hand, I really regret the Clinton campaign sent Chelsea out to make the attack that she did today. I don't think it was the right attack. Bernie Sanders is proposing single payer universal health care. You can hardly say he is trying to take health care away from anyone or retreat from Obamacare. He is trying to exceed it. And so, it is really not an honest - it wasn't an honest attack and it's not something that they should have sent her out to do.

CARPENTER: And on the healthcare front, I found it very interesting that in Obama's state of the union he sort of change the argument about Obamacare. He made the argument that we passed this so we can fill the gap when you change jobs.

If I remember it right, portability wasn't the big selling point of Obamacare, it was affordability. But now premiums are sky high. Deductibles are sky high. He can't run on affordability. Hillary Clinton is going to have to answer for that. And so, I think Obama kind of waving the white flag on that a little bit. And Republicans should spend much more time on the cause of health care and how it has gone up under Obamacare because everyone's premiums --.

COOPER: But you are saying it is preexisting conditions --


BORGER: Preexisting conditions, no preexisting conditions was a huge part of this debate. And correct me if I'm wrong.

AXELROD: No. That was the single biggest selling point of the plan.

BORGER: OK. And I think-- so I must be right. And I think the Republican Party is going to have a very difficult time trying to take something away from people that they now have.

CARPENTER: But if they can offer them something better and able to shop across for healthcare state lines that will be cheaper, that you can have plans that give you greater access to doctors and you are going to have more services that you need and you are not paying for services that you will never lose, that is far more appealing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Eat ice cream and lose weight. That's in there.

[23:30:02] ROGERS: You know what, though, there was an alternative that included a lot of the things you just talked about. And the biggest part of it was that they were going to get that 15 percent of the people who are not covered, they were going to get covered in healthcare. That was the debate. Unfortunately, the 15 percent still exist. It is just a new 15 percent - yes, they do. The numbers are clear on this. It is actually above 14 percent and there is the problem. Half of the companies who are engaged in trying to provide this health care are pulling out of the market. It's not working and the fines are going to go up next year.

COOPER: We're getting more reaction to president's speech in real- time with our instant dial testing, our digital testing. I want to go to Wolf.

BLITZER: Anderson, we invited viewers to weigh in on the president's speech in real-time with our instant digital dial test.

CNN's Tom Foreman is joining us now with the results.

What did we learn, Tom?

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf. About 125,000 people joined us online for our Microsoft pulse test. We put the Democrats on top there in blue, the independents in purple and then Republicans down there in red. And they weighed in with awful lot of votes, minute by minute, saying what they liked and didn't like about the president's speech.

One of the biggest areas of divergence where they disagree was when the president talked about his nuclear deal with Iran. Watch the highlights parts of the line as he speaks.


OBAMA: That's why we built a global coalition with sanctions and principle diplomacy to prevent a nuclear armed Iran. And as we speak, Iran has rolled back its nuclear program, ship out its uranium stockpiled and the world has avoided another war.



FOREMAN: Republicans have raised a lot of questions about that deal all along. And under the circumstances of today as you might expect they clearly did not approve of that out there in our audience taking part with Microsoft pulse.

But if we move on to another point, you can see a different opinion here. If you talk about red tape which he brought up, that's one of the areas where you had the greatest agreement between all three groups. Listen.


OBAMA: I think there are outdated regulations that need to be changed. There is red tape that needs to be cut. There you go, yes. (END VIDEO CLIP)

FOREMAN: Big applause and support there. Interesting point through all of this roof - through all of this thing. Nobody went through the roof on this basically. The Democrats hovered up here around 88 to plus 90 percent the whole time. Independents below them and Republicans at the lowest level. And at no point that these lines cross. At no point did you ever say anything that broke up that order -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Tom Foreman. Thanks very much.

Jake, that sort of reinforces the notion that Democrats loved what the president had to say and Republicans didn't.

TAPPER: You know, it is funny because President Obama, one of the propositions of his speech this evening and also of his presidency, is that the American people are not as divided as the politics of Washington, D.C. suggests they are. Maybe we are. I mean, maybe the American people are just as divided. Maybe that is why presidential elections are so close. Maybe that is why that Congress flips back and forth, they control of the Senate and House. And maybe that is why we see the fact that those screens didn't cross, not to quote, Ghostbusters, but the idea this seems didn't cross, seems rather significant. That there was never any moment of overlap.

BLITZER: Dana -- Dana Bash is with us here now and just came back from the (INAUDIBLE). Assume you spoke to a lot of the members as they were leaving. Was the reaction the same among the members as it has been among the viewers at large?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Look, it was predictable. Frankly, the Democrats, who I spoke to thought he did a wonderful job, kind of capping his presidency, saying the things that he wanted to say and ending it the way he wanted to and Republicans shrug their shoulders and said same old same old. There was a lot of disappointment from Republicans that he didn't talk more about the channel of ISIS. That he didn't define it more that he didn't lean into it more and his strategy. But yes, I mean, I think it was -- I think this was true for any Obama speech, but particularly now it was a Rorschach test. If you like him you liked it. If you didn't, you didn't.

BLITZER: He was certainly fired up, the president of the United States in that address. He clearly worked hard to prepare it and deliver it.

Stand by, we have a lot more viewer reaction coming in. The president addressed the issues that broke through tonight from debate watchers who weighed in on the speech. Much more coming up right after a quick break.


OBAMA: Let me tell you something, the United States of America is the most powerful nation on earth, period. Period. It's not even close. (END VIDEO CLIP)


[23:38:32] COOPER: Welcome back. Tonight, President Obama kicked off his state of the union address, his last one, by referencing the other big political event going on right now, campaign for his job. Listen.


OBAMA: I know some of you are antsy to get back to Iowa. I have been there. I'll be shaking hands afterwards if you want some tips.


COOPER: Iowa casts the first presidential vote of 2016 in less than three weeks. Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton have been campaigning there today.

I want to go live to campaign trail in Iowa. CNN political reporter Sara Murray is covering Trump and CNN senior political correspondent Brianna Keilar is with Clinton.

Sara, first to you. What was Trump's day like?

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, sure. Donald Trump is here on the campaign trail and his aides said he was going to be watching the speech from his jet. And if he was watching he saw that he caught it from both sides of the aisle, both Nikki Haley and President Obama taking shots at Donald Trump. Nikki Haley talking about the dangers of listening to the siren call of the angriest voice, almost the same caution that the president talked about when he was talking about. It is clear of the most extreme voice just because we are fearful. That was interesting also to see the president take a shot at Ted Cruz talking about carpet bombing civilians and saying those kinds of things only work as sound bites from TV studios. That then Ted Cruz said that he is never going to apologize for wanting to kill terrorists.

But, Anderson, it is interesting, if you dig in to those comments, they really blanket both Cruz and Trump who have come even closes to one another whether they are talking about bombing ISIS and the families of ISIS or whether they are talking about the need to block Muslims from entering the U.S. So it is clear that President Obama wanted to be after the tone we are seeing from the Republican front runners right now.

[23:40:20] COOPER: All right. Sara Murray, thank you very much.

I want to go to Brianna Keilar who was with the Clinton campaign.

Secretary Clinton talked to Alysin Camerota, that is going to be on "NEW DAY" tomorrow morning, an extensive interview. What was her day on the campaign trail?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Her day on the campaign trail today obviously that interview and she had events here in Iowa for her second day swing and she had a fundraiser in Detroit.

But during the state of the union address, pretty interesting, Anderson, her campaign out with an ad called I'm with him, meaning President Obama, and it's a campaign ad that focuses on guns. As Hillary Clinton faces a tough, tough challenge from Bernie Sanders in New Hampshire and an increasingly, tough challenge from him in Iowa. She is trying to zero in on the issue that she thinks there is the most daylight between him and President Obama and between him and the democratic base because of his moderate stance on gun laws which sort of hued to him coming from Vermont.

In this ad, she basically is taking advantage of the fact that President Obama has said he doesn't want to support a candidate who doesn't really go where he is on guns. And it's something that certainly they are zeroing in on really the Clinton campaign being a bit of one-trick pony, I guess, you could say, really putting all their eggs in this basket as a new Quinnipiac University poll shows her down five points in Iowa. I'm not so sure that the Clinton campaign would take that number to the bank. But another poll, a Monmouth University poll, showing Bernie Sanders up 14 points in New Hampshire. It is a really tough race here for Hillary Clinton.

COOPER: Yes, Brianna. Thank you very much.

And again, we saw our Dana Bash asking Bernie Sanders earlier on in our broadcast about that new campaign commercial. Do you think this is an effective attack by Hillary Clinton against Bernie Sanders? Because this is something we asked him about during the first democratic debate. It is essentially the issue of liability for gun manufacturers, if those guns are used in violent crimes.

AXELROD: I think he is uncomfortable with this issue. I think you can see it in the way he answer that. And Bernie Sanders is generally a very forth right guy and he is clearly struggling with this. I had a podcast. He was on my podcast. I said if you were still living in Brooklyn, would you cast the same votes you cast? And he said no, probably not.

COOPER: Is this an issue that Democrats, that brings Democrats to the polls. Because traditionally, I mean, that's one of the arguments that's why there hasn't been from the Democrats' position progress on further gun control because it's not the issue that is driving people to the polls.

KING: It's not an issue that has become a determinant issue in national elections. But if you look at the Democratic primaries, again, if you ask Republican voters what is the most important issues to you, they talk about immigrants. They talk about security. They talk about the economy.

If you ask Democratic voters, what is most important to you, they talk about the economy and jobs. But guns is pretty hot. And it's one of the few areas, Bernie Sanders is saying Hillary Clinton, you know, is too cozy with Wall Street. He says Hillary Clinton is to the right of her on many of the economic issues. This is one of the places where Hillary Clinton can get to the left of Bernie Sanders in Iowa first, liberal Democratic electorate and say I have been consistent on this issue. And when Bernie Sanders, I mean, he doesn't like to talk about it. You can see that when Dana was talking to him because he is, as a Vermont senator, a gun rights state he was much more pro-gun.

SMERCONISH: The decision to tie herself to the president when bringing this on because she could have gone after Bernie Sanderson this issue saying everything that she said and left President Obama out of the equation. I thought it was very interesting that she wanted to attach herself to him on this.

BORGER: But you know, this is such a change in the Democratic Party. I mean, I remember covering elections, Al Gore, for example in 2000, Bill Clinton in 1994, it may have cost him control of the assault weapons ban. They have cost him control of the Congress. And Democrats used to be afraid of the gun issue. It's only now because of the Obama coalition that we have been talking about tonight where voters are younger. They are more urban, and gun control is a popular issue on the presidential level now.

The question I have about the Democratic Party is fine for Hillary Clinton to have this fight with Bernie Sanders and get to the left of him on guns, but what does it do to members of congress? Those Democrats who are still in states that might be pro-gun? Those are the people who deserted the president on the last vote.


COOPER: We do have results of a new instant poll. Later, I want to come back to Paul Begala on this issue because, you know, he is very close to the Clintons, obviously.

Wolf, what have you learned?

BLITZER: We have more on the results of the CNN instant polls of Americans, Anderson, who actually watched the president's speech tonight. We are seeing some differences in the opinions and policies he laid out tonight compared to his record since taking office. We asked which of Mr. Obama's policies on specific issues will move the country in the right direction. Climate change came out on top followed by the economy and gun policy.

But take a look at this. When we asked which of the president's policies have been a success over the past seven years, climate change and the economy still ranked highest but gun policy was seen as the least successful issue. Remember, this poll doesn't reflect the views of all Americans, only those who watched the speech, a group that is clearly more democratic than the population as a whole.

Are you surprised by these results, Jake?

[23:45:43] TAPPER: No, because I think that President Obama himself has talked about the gun issue as one where he feels that he has not succeeded, where he has failed, obviously, the people who responded to the poll leaning democratic are inclined to agree with President Obama on this issue. And then, in terms of media coverage of gun violence, there have been a lot of horrific stories in the last few years. BLITZER: And that's one of the reasons, Dana, why the president and

the first lady an empty seat up in the gallery. You were there. You saw that empty seat to underscore the deaths from gun violence, 30,000 a year, here in the United States.

BASH: That's right. But I have to sort of echo what Gloria was saying. It feels in some ways like I'm in bizarre world on Capitol Hill listens to Democrats and eve in covering politics talk so intensely about gun control.

It's not that many of them didn't think this before but they never said it, at least for a while because people like Rahm Emanuel, now the mayor Chicago, decided to go out and get Democrats onboard and take over the house back in 2006 in large part by getting them on board because they were pro-gun Democrats.

BLITZER: Yes. It is a good point, Dana. We're taking a closer look at the instant reaction to the speech including one rare moment where Republicans, Democrats and independents all agreed. That's coming up next.


[23:50:50] BLITZER: We are getting more reaction to the president's speech. Let's go back to CNN's Tom Foreman. He is tracking results from our digital dial test --Tom.

FOREMAN: Hi, Wolf. There were times when our 125,000 people took part in our Microsoft polls reading here tried to agree. The Democrats in Blue, the independents in purple, the Republicans in red. And one of those moments came on the subject of education.


OBAMA: We should recruit and support more great teachers for our kids. And we have to make college affordable for every American.



FOREMAN: So you didn't get the readout there. But what happened during that part was, what you saw with everybody surged up when we should make it affordable for everybody, every surge together, but then when we went to college, you saw the Republicans dropped off there. I'm going to guess it is because so many Republicans are wary of the idea that the government starting to pay for that wholesale. It's one of those areas where they wanted to agree, Wolf, but couldn't get there.


Jake, even when they agree they have to work together. And so much bad blood right now. Can they work together?

TAPPER: Well, let's end on a nice note which is that usually a lot of members of Congress from the opposing party of the president even send out their responses trashing the speech before. It is even being been delivered. That is not uncommon on Capitol Hill.

But one nice note, Congressman Fred Upton, a Republican, put out a note, press release applauding the move to eliminate cancer, for cancer research saying he wants to work with vice president Biden on that. So that is a nice little thing where the Republicans and Democrats can come together.

BLITZER: Who doesn't want to eliminate cancer? Everybody wanted to eliminate cancer.

BASH: Of course, absolutely. I don't want to be sort of the party pooper here. But everybody agrees on that. Everybody agrees on affordable college. Everybody agrees on good teachers. I mean, who would oppose that? The devil is in the details, whether or not the government is going to pay for it, whether or not the private sector is going to pay for it and how it is going to happen.

BLITZER: Let's take another break. When we come back, the biggest takeaways from tonight's state of the union address.


[23:56:36] COOPER: And we're back with our panel in the final moments here. We are going to actually replay the state of the union in case you miss it. So you can watch that just coming up in a couple of minutes.

Will people remember this tomorrow, a month from now, six months from now?

BORGER: I think it depends on what party you are in. I think for Democrats who were looking to be re-inspired by President Obama, I think they will remember it. I think Republicans will continue to dislike it and will remember it less.

COOPER: And do you think that President Obama continues with this message out on the campaign trail?

BORGER: I think what the president was doing - look, he is not running for re-election but his legacy depends on who the next president is. And he needs to have a Democrat to continue his legacy because a Republican can undo everything he has done including executive orders, including Obamacare. So what he was doing was laying out the blueprint for the next Democratic nominee. Now, I know that David doesn't think this was a totally political speech. It wasn't.

AXELROD: Right. Well, all I am saying is it was for the election and beyond the election because he committed to certain things that are consistent throughout. This speech was one of his best speeches I think and it was completely connected to the speeches we have seen in the make back to 2004 at the Democratic convention.

And the other thing I would say about tonight is that we learned and much probably that Donald J. Trump casts a large shadow over both parties.

SMERCONISH: I was going to say that Donald Trump says he is going to make America great again. Barack Obama's message tonight, America is a great place. And the legacy of this speech, I think, is a rejection of the grab bag whomever the next president might be they will not feel compelled to give a laundry list as the state of the union speech.

KING: But the degree to which Donald Trump has change and it is continuing to change the political conversation in America, this is the president's night, right, the president's biggest night of the year. The incumbent president of the United States and then the governor of South Carolina chosen by the Republican Party to respond to the president, both of them, took shots at Donald Trump. He has, whether you like it or not, whether you agree with him or not, he hasn't won anything yet but he is the Republican front runner or one of the front runners. He has dramatically changed the conversation in this country.

JONES: If I were a Muslim parent tonight I would be very, very reassured. I'm proud of this president. I'm proud of the Democratic Party. I'm proud of those activists out there that have made our party better. I'm proud we have a president of the United States willing to stand with a community that has been unjustly tarred with the worst actors on the world stage. This president stood up for everybody including a Muslim and I'm proud of it tonight.

COOPER: Mike, what is your takeaway?

ROGERS: He has a chance to do something on bringing people together. I really believe that. There are people who really want to do it. I think three months from now you are going to find unfortunately only because I have been down this path with this president before. If you liked what you saw on the last seven years you're going to like what you see on the next 12 months. And I think it is really going to come down to that, unfortunately.

COOPER: Amanda, just about 45 seconds.

CARPENTER: Yes. You judge the success of the speech on whether it changed political dialogue. The answer tonight is no. Obama is officially a lame duck and the era Obama is over. Let 2016 began officially.


BEGALA: The era of Trump and the Republican Party is ascendant. And he defines their party. Barack Obama defines mine. I like going to the election with those odds.

COOPER: All right. We will have more from all these people on twitter, I'm sure, Paul Begala especially because he tweets late at night just like Donald Trump.

We are going to have much more to come on President Obama's final state of the union speech ahead. I hope you stick around for that.