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Snow Way Out; Sanders Surge; Palin Stumps for Trump; Major East Coast Storm Could Produce Historic Blizzard; Sanders Taking Pages from Obama 2008 Playbook; Carson Explains His Falling Poll Numbers. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired January 20, 2016 - 18:00   ET



WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now: Tea Party power duo. Sarah Palin lends her conservative star power to Donald Trump, crusading for the GOP front-runner with evangelical Christians. Will her endorsement of the billionaire businessman put him over the top in his very tight battle with Ted Cruz in Iowa?

Sanders surge. Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders riding a wave of momentum, gaining a stunning lead over Hillary Clinton in one key early voting state. Is he taking his strategy from the 2008 Obama playbook?

Snow way out, 50 million Americans in the path of a major storm that could bring more than two feet of snow to parts of the East Coast. Will Washington be buried by a record-breaking blizzard?

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

BLITZER: This is CNN breaking news.

And let's get to the breaking news. In New Hampshire, our just released CNN/WMUR poll of people who plan to vote in the state's Republican primary shows Donald Trump with a commanding lead. He has 34 percent, 20 points ahead of his closest rival, who is now Senator Ted Cruz. Senator Marco Rubio, who was second to Trump in our poll last month, has fallen to a third place tie with Jeb Bush who is now on the rise.

We're also following the race for the White House and the new Tea Party contender, Sarah Palin. She was the vice presidential nominee and she's moving. She's moving with Donald Trump. That's another blow to Ted Cruz, who is in a very tight race with Donald Trump in Iowa.

We're also following what forecasters say could be a monster winter storm impacting 50 million people along the U.S. East Coast with the Washington, D.C., area in the crosshairs of the potentially historic blizzard. Some areas could see more than two feet of snow and winds topping 50 miles an hour.

We're covering all of that, a lot more this hour with our guests, including the national spokesman for Senator Ted Cruz's campaign, Rick Tyler. And our correspondents and expert analysts, they are standing by right now.

Let's begin in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where Sarah Palin crusaded for Donald Trump today before an audience of Christian conservatives.

Our senior White House correspondent, Jim Acosta, is out there on the campaign trail for us tonight.

Jim, this is familiar territory for Sarah Palin.


And going rogue never felt so good for conservatives. Donald Trump and Sarah Palin on the campaign trail with less than two weeks to go to the Iowa caucuses, and while they may not be future running mates, Palin's support might just be the boost Trump needs to stay on top of this race.


ACOSTA (voice-over): It's a match made in Tea Party heaven, Donald Trump and Sarah Palin dishing out the conservative red meat and wooing evangelical voters at the Christian conservative-founded Oral Roberts University.

SARAH PALIN (R), FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR: Our candidate is ballsy enough to get out there and put those issues on the table, the issues that a lot of other candidates have wanted to duck and run from.

ACOSTA: Trump debuted a new line of attack, not on a Republican, but on Democrat Bernie Sanders.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This guy, he's a whack job. He's a wacko. He's beating Hillary Clinton. Oh, boy, and I tell you what, I really want to run against her, but I really would like to run against Bernie Sanders.

ACOSTA: Palin's jaw-dropping endorsement lit up the social media universe of 21st century campaigning.

PALIN: Go kick ISIS' ass!

ACOSTA: "I'm With Stupid" blared "The New York Daily News." "Lady and the Trump" screamed "The New York Post." And Palin is already full of surprises. Despite a campaign announcement that said she would be at Trump's side on this day, she was a no-show at his morning event, where the real estate tycoon tore into Ted Cruz's eligibility to be president.

TRUMP: Honestly, Ted has a problem, because how can you have -- let's say you have him as a candidate and he's running and then you find out you lose in court, you don't have a candidate all of a sudden.

ACOSTA: Trump still holds a commanding lead in national polls, ahead of Cruz and the rest of the pack by double digits. And he's way out in front in a new CNN/WMUR poll in New Hampshire, Cruz a distant second.


TRUMP: If you don't vote, we're just wasting time. We're just all wasting time.

ACOSTA: Here in Oklahoma, with Palin at his side, Trump declined to go after Cruz, who was once a favorite of the former Alaska governor.


ACOSTA: And the big question in all of this is whether this Palin endorsement will actually translate into votes. Many Republicans used to think it was a mistake for John McCain to choose Sarah Palin as his running mate in 2008, but in this outsider presidential campaign, courting a Palin endorsement is a no-brainer. And she's squarely in Donald Trump's corner right now -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jim Acosta out there on the campaign trail in Oklahoma, thank you.

Sarah Palin's endorsement of Donald Trump, despite her ties to Ted Cruz, comes as Iowa Republican governor is openly calling for Cruz's defeat.

CNN's Sunlen Serfaty is in New Hampshire for us tonight.

Sunlen, any response from the Cruz camp to Sarah Palin's endorsement of Donald Trump today? Any new response?

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the Cruz campaign, Wolf, continues to try their best to brush this endorsement aside, even though there is no doubt at all that it does sting for his campaign.

Already, today, you really see the focus of the political gravity, the focus of the political universe really focus squarely on Sarah Palin and Donald Trump, so already this endorsement, the two of them out on the campaign trial today really successful already in stealing a lot of attention, a lot of the energy away from Ted Cruz.

So, Cruz today here in New Hampshire for his part really trying to redirect some of the criticism and scrutiny that is on him right now specifically over his opposition to ethanol mandates, a big issue in Iowa and a big issue that Donald Trump has been really drilling down on him in Iowa. Well, Cruz was actually asked about this in New Hampshire by a voter. Here is how he responded.


SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Donald Trump promised not only to protect the ethanol mandate, but to expand it, to have the federal government do even more picking winners and losers by mandating ethanol be a larger part of the marketplace.

(END VIDEO CLIP) SERFATY: And Cruz had to take some time off the campaign trail today

to tend to his day job back in Washington. He attended a Senate vote there in Washington. He is returning here shortly to New Hampshire tonight.

But this is the exact kind of deviation that is not good for his campaign, Wolf, exactly the right moment when he needs to really be doubling down on his campaign trail message, trying to recapture a lot of that momentum that he's lost, even in the last 24 hours -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Sunlen Serfaty in New Hampshire, thank you.

Let's get some more on all of this.

Joining us, the national spokesman for the Cruz campaign, Rick Tyler.

Rick, thanks very much for joining us.

How big of a blow was Sarah Palin's endorsement of Donald Trump to your campaign?

RICK TYLER, TED CRUZ CAMPAIGN SPOKESMAN: Well, look, we would have loved to have Sarah Palin's endorsement. She's a great conservative, but, you know, Donald Trump is not going to be able to hide behind Sarah Palin's conservatism.

But you know what, Wolf? It didn't change anything we're doing in Iowa. We haven't knocked on one less door or made one less phone call. We have got 12,000 volunteers in Iowa working very hard. And I will tell you what else happened yesterday. We raised over $700,000 yesterday, which put us over the $50 million mark for this campaign. This campaign has raised $50 million, so we are built to last and ready to go.

BLITZER: Did Senator Cruz actively try to get Sarah Palin's support?

TYLER: I'm not going to talk about that, Wolf. We talked to a lot of people. We wanted to get a lot of people's support. We had a goal of getting 10 million conservatives behind, 10 million and one conservatives behind us, and we missed by one.

BLITZER: He tweeted -- and I will read the tweet -- this is from Senator Cruz. "I love Sarah Palin USA. Without her support, I wouldn't be in the Senate. Regardless of what she does in 2016, I will always be a fan."

He tweeted that yesterday. Does that still stand?

TYLER: Absolutely.

We hope to earn senator -- Governor Palin's support, and as coalesce the conservatives, that she will join us on the campaign trail with our other conservatives and defeat Hillary Clinton for the White House.

BLITZER: In 2013, the Iowa Republican governor, Terry Branstad, he called then candidate for the Senate Senator Cruz a bright young guy. I want to play, though, something he had to say about your candidate yesterday.



GOV. TERRY BRANSTAD (R), IOWA: I believe it would be a big mistake for Iowa to support him, and I know he's ahead in the polls, but the only poll that counts is the one they take on caucus night and I think it could change between now and then.


BLITZER: All right. Your reaction?

TYLER: Well, it's well-known that Governor Branstad's son Eric works the ethanol industry. And his job has been to derail Senator Cruz's campaign in Iowa since the very start.

He has failed in that. And so now the governor seems to want to try to derail the campaign as well, and he will also fail. But, look, Ted Cruz is pro-ethanol, except he's pro-free market ethanol, not pro-pick winners and losers, corporate welfare ethanol. And that's exactly what Donald Trump did when he went yesterday and said he wanted to expand the mandate.


What he's saying is, I want consumers to pay more for gasoline and more for corn products and pick winners and losers and make deals in Washington. Well, that's the problem with Washington. Washington doesn't need a deal maker. Washington needs a conservative like Ted Cruz to level the playing field, so that ethanol can compete with all the other energy.

So we're for all of the above.

BLITZER: In recent days, as you know, Donald Trump has really gone after your candidate, Senator Cruz, calling him, what, a nasty guy, a total hypocrite.

In an interview just published in "The New York Times" today, former Senator Bob Dole said Ted Cruz would be even worse for the Republican Party than Donald Trump. Were he to win the nomination, Dole says it would be a disaster for Republicans.

This kind of criticism, how much does it hurt Ted Cruz?

TYLER: Well, Senator Dole might want to call his office.

The establishment, if you hadn't noticed, is consolidating around Donald Trump. You can see that in your own poll in New Hampshire. The establishment has now picked Donald Trump. Why? Because the establishment in Washington, the deal makers, they know that Donald Trump will make a deal. He will play ball with them. He will keep them all in power. He will keep the gravy train rolling.

That's what is going on right now and your poll, I think, proves it.

BLITZER: Bob Dole said, "I don't know how he's going to deal with Congress," referring to Senator Cruz. "Nobody likes him."

If he's elected president, though, you got to make deals. That's the way Washington works, right?

TYLER: You make deals with the American people. You say what does the American people want to do and the American people put pressure on Washington. And they make it happen.

Listen, when senators and congressmen know that they have to be beholden to the voters and not to lobbyists on K Street, they will do exactly what the voters want to do, because if they don't, they know that they are going to have to come back and they will get voted out of office.

So, look, the presidency has a lot of power to communicate with the American people. And the American people will drive the Congress to do what it wants. And, by the way, Senator Cruz is the most -- one of the most well-liked candidates in America. And the Gallup poll absolutely proves that. And we have got other polls to prove it too. Donald Trump is one of the most disliked politicians in America.

BLITZER: Rick Tyler, the national spokesperson for the Cruz for president campaign, Rick, thanks very much for joining us.

TYLER: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: Just ahead, dire warnings about a major blizzard that could really impact on the East Coast. Millions of people may lose power due to record-breaking snow.

Plus, more from Sarah Palin stumping from Donald Trump. Which voters are most likely to be won over for the billionaire businessman?


PALIN: They are telling us we need to just chill. And I say, they are stomping on our neck and they are telling us just chill? No, we won't chill. In fact, it's time to drill, baby, drill down on what's going on and hold them accountable.




BLITZER: Sarah Palin is throwing her considerable conservative clout behind Donald Trump, the former Republican vice presidential nominee campaigning for the current GOP presidential front-runner before an audience of evangelical Christians today at Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Oklahoma. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PALIN: Donald Trump, he's talked about the issues that matter, the issues that you and I talk about and are concerned about, whereas there are some others who, no, instead of wanting to talk about the tough issues, they wear political correctness like a suicide vest.

Only one candidate has that proven record of success where he masters the art of the deal. He is beholden to no one but we the people. He's beholden only to doing the right thing. And he is perfectly positioned to make America great again. Are you ready for that, Oklahoma? Are you ready to see the change?


PALIN: Like I said yesterday in Iowa, no more pussyfooting around. Exactly one year from today, former President Barack Obama, former, he's going to be packing up the selfie sticks and packing up the teleprompters and the Greek columns and all that hopey, changey stuff, and he's going to head back to Chicago, where he can look for some community to organize again.


PALIN: But from there, he will finally be able to also look up, and when he looks up over his head, he's going to see that shining towering Trump Tower, because, yes, Barack, Trump built that, and that says a lot about our next candidate, who will be the next president of the United States of America, Donald J. Trump.

God bless you, Oklahoma. God bless the United States of America.


BLITZER: All right, let's get some more.

Joining us, our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger, our senior legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin, our senior political analyst Ron Brownstein. He's the editorial director of "The National Journal." And Republican strategist, our CNN political commentator Ana Navarro, she's a good friend of Marco Rubio, a supporter of Jeb Bush.

Gloria, your reaction to this new partnership. Does a Trump-Palin headline bring even more energy to Trump's candidacy?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Look, I think it works for both of them. She's a player again on the political stage. She hasn't been that for awhile.


And Donald Trump gets somebody with energy, enthusiasm, somebody who has credentials with conservatives. And Cruz has been attacking him on his conservative bona fides. Jeb Bush as well has been attacking him on that. And also evangelical voters, you know, Donald Trump went to Liberty University to try and talk to evangelicals, and I think she speaks the language better than he does. So I think it works for both of them. Whether they can get out the voters in the Iowa caucuses remains to be seen.

BLITZER: Ron Brownstein, what do you think?

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, first of all, it's worth it just to see, just to have an excuse for Tina Fey to dust off her Sarah Palin impression and come back with that.

It is -- look, I think Sarah Palin's star has dimmed in the Republican Party. She's not as influential as she once was, but she is a very dynamic figure and she has an audience precisely, I think, at a juncture of the race that could prove very important.

She is someone who has appeal to the intersection of both blue-collar voters and evangelical voters. And that's exactly where Donald Trump is showing surprising strength in the evangelical community and potentially cutting into the advantage that Ted Cruz has assumed would carry him not only in Iowa, but in the South and border states like Oklahoma.

Wolf, in many of those states, evangelical voters without a college degree are the single largest bloc of Republican voters. And if Sarah Palin can help what Donald Trump is already doing, which is making inroads among those voters, the South could be a lot more competitive than many people expect.

BLITZER: Jeffrey Toobin, Donald Trump is way ahead in our brand-new CNN/WMUR poll just released among Republican voters in New Hampshire. Take a look at this.

With three weeks to go, does Trump have the state locked down? He's got 34 percent, Ted Cruz 14, Bush 10 and Marco Rubio tied at 10.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I think one of the things you have to notice about the New Hampshire polls is that they just haven't moved much in the last several months.

You know, the second tier candidates have been bouncing around between 5 and 11 percent, mostly within the margin of errors of these polls, but it's been basically a very stable race in New Hampshire. The one thing we don't know is that New Hampshire results are affected by Iowa, the results of the Iowa caucuses.

Since we don't know what is going to happen in Iowa, we don't know how that's going to turn out. But what I'm struck by is just how little change there's been in New Hampshire over the past three or four months.

BLITZER: Ana, what strikes you?

ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: A couple of things. First of all, let's remember that this poll also shows that only 31

percent of Republican voters have decided who they're going to vote for, so there is still a lot of room for change and volatility.

I actually disagree with Jeff. I think there has been change. We have seen Chris Christie pulling ahead at one point. We saw Marco Rubio ahead. Now we see Jeb Bush pulling ahead. And I think you're going to see the folks in the establishment lane leaving it all in the field, leaving it all out there, you know, between now and the primary race there.

I think what you're going to see after New Hampshire is a unifying of that mainstream Republican lane. I think we're going to all demand that there be one candidate.

BLITZER: Jeffrey, go ahead.

TOOBIN: Just you used the phrase Jeb Bush pulling ahead. There is nothing in that poll that shows Jeb Bush pulling ahead of anything or anyone.

NAVARRO: He is third, Jeff. Do you know where he was before this?

BORGER: He is ahead of where he was.


NAVARRO: Pulling ahead means being better than where you were before.

TOOBIN: Ten percent, as opposed to 5 percent?

NAVARRO: Well, yes, Jeff. When you have 13 people running, 10 percent vs. 5 percent actually means a lot.


NAVARRO: And who wins that establishment lane out of New Hampshire is going to mean a lot.

BORGER: That's right.

And, also, one other thing to look at in this poll is Ted Cruz, because his favorable ratings are now 55 percent, and that's very high, and so that bodes well for him going forward in New Hampshire. You know, New Hampshire wasn't supposed to be his state.

If he does well in Iowa and he's got a 55 percent positive rating in New Hampshire and people haven't made up their minds yet, a majority, that's good news for Ted Cruz.

BLITZER: What do you think, Ron Brownstein? You study these numbers very closely.

BROWNSTEIN: Look, I think the big question is whether in fact what Ana describes happens after New Hampshire, which is whether the center-right establishment can consolidate behind a candidate. The story of this poll, as I largely agree with Jeffrey, is the muddle in the middle continues, and you have these four candidates, Christie, Kasich, Bush and Rubio, that are all dividing that vote. And it may not be that New Hampshire gives one of them a decisive enough advantage that the others feel compelled to step aside and allow that consolation to happen.

The other question is whether anything happens in Iowa that advances that consolidation in New Hampshire. And it may or may not. Rubio seems to be the one best positioned to get some boost out of Iowa, but his numbers there are also pretty modest.


It's possible that while Trump and Cruz move forward with a lot of momentum out of the first two states, the establishment center-right lane may remain more fragmented than many are hoping.

NAVARRO: Here is the difference, though, between Kasich, Christie, Rubio and Jeb.

Kasich and Christie have all their eggs in the New Hampshire basket. They don't have much activity. They don't have much of anything going on in South Carolina. Haven't invested the time or the resources there. The only way that they can make a blip in South Carolina is if they leave New Hampshire with the momentum of having won that establishment lane.

I would say that Jeb and Rubio are in a different position. They do have ground troops and they do have an effort going on in South Carolina. They can live to fight another day there.

BLITZER: Gloria, former Senator Bob Dole came out today in an interview in "The New York Times" describing, his words, cataclysm, wholesale losses for the Republican Party should Senator Cruz win. He said Cruz would be even worse for the Republicans than Trump.

Your reaction?

BORGER: Well, I'm not surprised he's saying that.

I have been talking to a lot of so-called establishment Republicans today and yesterday, and they are singing the same song. They don't like Ted Cruz, first of all. Dole doesn't like Ted Cruz. But they are saying that they would suffer greater losses in their Senate races than they would with Trump at the top of the ticket.

They just may be adjusting themselves to a new reality here, but they believe that Trump would be more willing to govern than Cruz. They just don't like him. So, it didn't surprise me that Dole said it. Of course, Dole said it on the record. And everybody else is sort of whispering in our ears and saying the same thing, but not on the record.

BLITZER: We're going to take a quick break. We're going to take a closer look at what is happening on the

Democratic side. Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, they are very close, very close in Iowa, Bernie Sanders way ahead, according to our latest poll, in New Hampshire.

We will be right back.


BLITZER: On the Democratic side, in the race for the White House, Hillary Clinton is facing an enormous challenge right now from Senator Bernie Sanders, he's doing remarkably well, not only in New Hampshire but in Iowa, as well.

[18:31:57] Let's go to Iowa. Jeff Zeleny is standing by with more. This is a nail biter, I take it, over there, Jeff.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: It certainly is, Wolf. I mean, Senator Sanders is giving Hillary Clinton more than a run for her money. In fact, she's running scared in New Hampshire with the new poll and in Iowa, it is neck and neck. But it's unclear if Bernie Sanders is able to repeat that performance in 19 -- in 2008 from Barack Obama.



ZELENY: Bernie Sanders is no Barack Obama, or is he?

SANDERS: In 2008, Barack Obama ran one of the great campaigns in the history of this country. He rewrote the caucus rule book right here in Iowa. Unbelievable.

ZELENY: In the state that launched the president's path to the White House...

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They said this day would never come.

ZELENY: Sanders is hoping that old Obama magic rubs off.

SANDERS: I'm not saying that we can replicate that, but I think any objective look at our campaign and the energy and the excitement that it is generating with young people and with working people, compare that to Secretary Clinton's campaign.

ZELENY: Sanders is riding a wave of momentum, with a stunning 27- point lead over Clinton in a new CNN/WMUR poll in New Hampshire. Today Bill Clinton urged voters there to take another look.

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're on a home field disadvantage here. But the real issue is, who can win the election? Who's prepared to do the job? Who can make real change?

ZELENY: And Secretary Clinton fought back in a new TV ad. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The person who lives here has to solve problems as

big as the world and as small as your kitchen table.

ZELENY: But Sanders is trying to repeat Obama's feat eight years ago, showing Clinton's not invincible.

OBAMA: I can't do it by myself. That's why we're here today. That's why we're canvassing, because in our history, change has always happened from the bottom up.

ZELENY: It's an open question whether Sanders, a 74-year-old democratic socialist, can replicate Obama's massive organization.

SANDERS: I think we've got a real shot to win here, and I'm feeling really, really good.

ZELENY: A record setting 239,000 people took part in the 2008 Iowa caucuses. Party officials believe turnout will be far lower this time, because Sanders hasn't spent the year building a robust team.

To gin up excitement, Sanders is going hard after the value of Clinton's experience.

SANDERS: She was secretary of state for four years. That gives you a lot of experience.

Dick Cheney had a hell of a lot of experience, God help us all.


SANDERS: Now Secretary Clinton took deep exception to that comment right there. She told NPR in an interview tonight that she spent eight years fighting against Dick Cheney when she was in the Senate and four years as secretary of state, cleaning up his mess.

But Wolf, it is a sign here that this race is getting negative and intense, and even in some situations even far nastier than that. The question is how will Democrats react to this? Senator Sanders is not being as positive as he was early on in his campaign -- Wolf.

[18:35:10] BLITZER: All right. Jeff Zeleny in Iowa for us. Thanks, Jeff, very much.

Can Bernie Sanders really show voters Hillary Clinton isn't invincible?

TOOBIN: I think there's no doubt. These -- the Iowa race is very close and he's clearly ahead in New Hampshire. Where he goes from there is less clear. But I mean, this is a real race. Bernie Sanders has plenty of money. Every time Hillary Clinton attacks him, he gets more money.

The Clinton campaign has not really found a line of attack against him that seems to work very well, and he's only gone up in the polls. That doesn't mean he's going to be the nominee, but it's been a good six -- four or five weeks for Bernie Sanders. That's for sure. BLITZER: You know, Gloria, Hillary Clinton's spokesman, Brian Fallon,

said on CNN today that Bernie Sanders has a lot of empty solutions, his words. Is that the game? Is that the strategy right now, to go after Bernie Sanders for having, quote, "empty solutions"?

BORGER: It has kind of a familiar ring to it, doesn't it, Wolf? When you think back to 2008, and Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. What they're saying in the Clinton campaign is that, if you look at Bernie Sanders' platitudes, that's fine.

But he's not going to get anything done in the Congress. He can't get anything passed. He's completely unrealistic, for example, about wanting to undo Obamacare, right? So their whole point is he's unrealistic, and it won't work.

I also have to say one other thing. I remember interviewing Bernie Sanders in November when you tried to get him to talk about Hillary Clinton, and he wouldn't, other than in what he called a contrast when asked a question.

Now you see him on the campaign trail, and he's raising the issue of her experience, comparing her to Dick Cheney. This is a very, very different race from the way it started.

BLITZER: You know, Ron Brownstein, let's talk about this new CNN/WMUR poll that shows Bernie Sanders clearly chipping away Hillary Clinton's dominance.

Look at these hypothetical matchups. This would be Sanders decisively beating, you can see there, all of the major Republican candidates. Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, much, much closer in these hypothetical general matchups. For example, against Rubio, 44 for Hillary Clinton, 45 for Rubio; 43 for Hillary Clinton against Kasich and 43 for Kasich. Very close. She does much better against Cruz and Trump: 47-41, she beats Cruz; 48-39, she beats Trump. But it shows that Bernie Sanders, in these general matchups in an election does better than Hillary Clinton.

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Right, and I think we talked before. I guess I'm kind of skeptical about specific general election polls this far out, because the choice really hasn't been framed in any meaningful way for voters.

Very few voters understand exactly what Bernie Sanders is proposing, how much it would cost, what it would mean in terms of the role of government. And so that choice, I think, is still somewhat theoretical.

But it does show you, and as the primary polls show you, Hillary Clinton is facing resistance within the Democratic Party and within the electorate. She has issues to overcome.

Her best asset is the one that they are talking about: competence ready to do the job on day one. But there is an inspiration gap that she faced in 2008 and that she is facing very much again in 2016. The big fire wall that does not yet seem to have been breached, though, when you look at the polling, both a Monmouth poll and the NBC/"Wall Street Journal" poll, she's still polling around 70 percent of minority voters. That doesn't matter in Iowa and New Hampshire, but as you move forward into the big states, Bernie Sanders is going to have to crack that, or it simply does not add up.

BLITZER: Do you believe, Ana, that Bernie Sanders would do better against a Republican presidential candidate than Hillary Clinton?

NAVARRO: Look, he might. I think Hillary Clinton has a lot of problems right now. She's got the problem of being Hillary Clinton. The more that voters learn about her and see her, and they know her a lot already, the less they seem to like her.

She also has a significant problem with this FBI investigation that is not going away; in fact, it's getting murkier. And, you know, going back to something that Ron just said about minority voters, Latino voters, I'm old enough to remember when everybody used to say that there was no way Latinos would vote for Barack Obama over Hillary Clinton, because Bill Clinton was so popular, because he was African- American.

I'm hearing the same thing now when it comes to Bernie Sanders, and I will say, you know, be careful with your predictions, because I think a lot of energy at campaigns that is astounding...

BLITZER: All right, guys. Everybody stand by. Everybody stand by, because our analysis will continue.

By the way, tomorrow the Democratic presidential debate, Hillary Clinton, will my guest right here THE SITUATION ROOM tomorrow, 5 p.m. Eastern.

Just ahead, a monster storm forecast to impact 50 million people along the East Coast and potentially slam the nation's capital with an historic blizzard. We're following the forecast. We're looking at how the most populous part of the United States is now preparing.


[18:44:46] BLITZER: Pieces are coming together for a major winter storm here on the East Coast that could impact 50 million Americans and produce a historic blizzard in the Washington, D.C., area. Some areas could see more than two feet of snow and gale-force winds.

Our meteorologist, Tom Sater, is in the CNN weather center. Tom, what's the latest forecast?

[18:45:00] TOM SATER, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, Wolf, we've got better confidence in the heavy snow in the D.C. area, than we do up toward New Jersey or New York City. So, again, 65 million Americans, we could see over a million lose power.

Here are the top three snowfalls in D.C., 1979, 18.7, 1899, 20, and then 28 inches in Knickerbocker storm in '22.

The models right now are going to give us anywhere between 20 and 30 inches in D.C. Blizzard watch will change to a warning and blue winter storm watch, all of these states will see warnings. It's ice, significant icing that will start as the storm moves out of Colorado and dives to the South.

So, tomorrow, Arkansas, southern Missouri, western Tennessee, icing. Then we'll start to see the ice flow up to the entire commonwealth of Kentucky. A third to a half inch of ice coating the trees from Charlotte to Raleigh in North Carolina. Then, the winds kick in. Gusts 20 -- no, that's nothing. How about 55, 60, 65 mile per hour winds with the heavy snow. That's going to down the branches, down the power lines and, of course, with that over a million could lose power and that may be conservative.

The computer models, which have been in such good agreement for the last several days continue to produce a one, two-foot snow across Virginia and the Delmarva Region. But again, it cuts off dramatically, Wolf, when you get up to New York City. Some models want to drop maybe eight to 12 inches. Others want to give it two to three. So, it's going to take a few more days to define and refine the forecast to see what will happen next and that large metropolis.

But again, D.C. get ready, Wolf. Pack a bag, more than a weekend bag, too.

BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, we'll be ready. All right. Thanks very much Tom for that.

Preparations for a potentially historic blizzard are underway right here in Washington, D.C.

CNN's Rene Marsh has an up close right away -- right now.

Rene, officials are taking this extremely seriously.


You can see the flurries already starting here in D.C. but not just here in Washington, D.C. It's cities up and down the East Coast. They are prepping with plows, snow plows, mountains and mountains of salt like you see behind me as the countdown begins for what could be a major storm that brings several cities to a standstill.


MARSH (voice-over): Fifty million people in the bulls eye of a potentially dangerous snowstorm. Cities up and down the East Coast have equipment on stand by ready for what could be the season's first massive dig out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Insulation to prevent frozen pipes and shovel.

LEIF DORMSJO, DIECTOR, DC DEPT. OF TRANSPORTATION: When you're dealing with a weather event of this magnitude, you really want to make sure you have all the available resources that can be deployed.

MARSH: In the nation's capital, people aren't taking any chances, shovels and salt are selling fast.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We didn't own a shovel since we moved here. So, we thought we better get one.

MARSH: Washington D.C.'s mayor is worried about potential power outages.

MAYOR MURIEL BOWSER, WASHINGTON, D.C.: If this is a blizzard and we have sustained winds and people lose power and it's cold over a sustained period of time, that would be my biggest concern.

MARSH: D.C.'s forecast shows some of the heaviest snowfall about two feet. The city has equipped some 2,000 volunteers with shovels to clear walkways and more than 800 people on snow teams to clear roads. The area's worst snowfall on record, 1922. But most recently, in February of 2010 dubbed Snowmageddon when two feet of snow blanketed parts of the Northeast.

Blizzard conditions including high winds and low visibility could have a major impact on air travel up and down the East Coast from Boston to Virginia, and airlines are already allowing passengers to change flight plans for free.


MARSH: All right. And at this point, we're not seeing a lot of cancellations as it relates to the airlines, but that could all change. They are waiting to look at those models. Once they have a more accurate read, you can expect those pre-cancellations because what they don't want is their aircraft or passengers getting stuck, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Rene, thank you.

Much more news right after this.


[18:53:37] BLITZER: Republican presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson is off the campaign trail today. He's in Nebraska with the family of a 25-year-old staffer who died following an accident on an icy Iowa road, and also injured three volunteers.

Our chief political analyst Gloria Borger is joining us now.

Gloria, you sat down with Dr. Carson and his wife before this happened.

BORGER: That's right, Wolf. I sat down with them on Monday night before that accident to talk about the state of their campaign, among other things, and I asked Candy Carson what she didn't anticipate before the campaign began.


CANDY CARSON, WIFE OF REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: First of all, I didn't see the campaign coming.

BORGER: Not at all?

C. CARSON: Well, no. I was hoping and praying that, you know, that I would get my husband back and that I would have an opportunity to have dinner with him sometimes, you know, just the two of us.

BORGER: You have gone in this campaign from being the leading Republican candidate way up in the polls to now 6 percent nationally. What happened?

DR. BEN CARSON (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, I think a lot of things happened. Paris happened and the San Bernardino happened. Plus, you have, I think, an almost unprecedented attack on my character.

But I have fought it by simply trying to get out in front of as many people as I can.

[18:55:04] When people actually hear me talk, they know that I know plenty about foreign policy.

BORGER: Do you think, compared to the other opponents, say, on that debate stage with you, that you are as well-prepared in foreign policy?

B. CARSON: Yes, absolutely. I would love to get into some in-depth discussions with them. I'm very willing and able to do that.

BORGER: In Iowa in particular, evangelicals particularly play a huge role. Do you consider Donald Trump to be a huge evangelical?

B. CARSON: Well, you know, I never like to comment on somebody's religion.

BORGER: But do you think he's having a campaign conversion here?

B. CARSON: Well, you know, he does some things that I think evangelicals identify with. You know, he tends to talk about things that are right versus wrong. And I'm sure there are some who may be a little skeptical about some of the depth of his evangelical conversion, but they like the fact that he paints things in a way that is very clear.

BORGER: But how do you counter that?

B. CARSON: Well, I suspect that you may be a little surprised on the day after the Iowa caucus.

BORGER: Why is that?

B. CARSON: Because, you know, I've been there a lot in the last couple of weeks. Every venue, standing room only.

BORGER: When you look at Donald Trump, what do you see? C. CARSON: He's The Donald. He's a wonderful entrepreneur. But when

I think of presidential candidates and who's most -- well, who's had the best experiences to prepare them for that, he's had more 2:00 and 3:00 a.m. calls where he's had to make life and death decisions after surgery.

BORGER: How does that qualify you to be president? That's the question.

C. CARSON: Because when you're operating on a child, a patient, it's not always what it looks like, and there's always complications. So, then you have to be very calm. And that's another thing that people like to say, that he's not animated enough and so on and so forth. But if you're operating on someone 10, 15 hours at a time, you've got to make these very minute incisions. If you sneeze too hard, if you breathe too hard, that person might lose their sight or their hearing, or they might die. That's the kind of person you want to have their finger on the button.

BORGER: But your nature, comparing you to Donald Trump, right, hot and cool and -- how does that play in politics?

B. CARSON: Well --

C. CARSON: Who do you want pushing that button? Someone who's saying, we're going to get those guys, we're going to get those guys, we're going to get those guys -- oops.

B. CARSON: That says it all. But the fact of the matter is, solving problems requires calm, steady intellect.

BORGER: I want to show you guys something to change the topic totally from something serious that was on "Saturday Night Live" recently. Did you guys watch this?


C. CARSON: Sorry.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's go to Dr. Carson.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, that question makes me furious, Wolf. I might go ham up in here right now. Of course, I can be tough.


C. CARSON: You know, they are about making fun, so, they are going to try to make fun.

B. CARSON: You know, I knew I had arrived is last year when they did four segments on me on "Saturday Night Live."

BORGER: But they all get it, though. Trump gets it. B. CARSON: Not four segments on one program. They were just

ecstatic. We finally got him. And they keep writing my obituary and then I turn around and I'm still there.

BORGER: And I just have to end with you, which is, you're a musician.

C. CARSON: The piano. Yes.

BORGER: And that relaxes you?

B. CARSON: Very much so.

C. CARSON: Every once in a while, we play together.

BORGER: You do? You play, too? What do you play together?

B. CARSON: Well, I sometimes play the bass part. I'm not that good but she's very good. So --

BORGER: So, she's got the gifted hand?

B. CARSON: She's got the gifted hands. I just add a little something here and there.


BLITZER: Nice piece, Gloria. But Dr. Carson really didn't take on Trump on the evangelical question. Are Trump and Cruz are really cutting in to his evangelical support, which is significant?

BORGER: Yes. They are. It is significant. I was surprised he didn't take him on on that issue. He says he doesn't like to talk about anyone's religion but one of the reasons Carson is going down in the polls is that Cruz is really getting his evangelical support and getting a second look.

BLITZER: Certainly is.

All right. Thanks very much, Gloria Borger, reporting for us.

That's it for me. Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. Go ahead, tweet me @WolfBlitzer, or tweet the show @CNNSitroom.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.