Return to Transcripts main page

INSIDE POLITICS

Iowa Caucuses Tomorrow; Candidates' Final Pitches. Aired 8:30- 9a ET

Aired January 31, 2016 - 08:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[08:29:48] JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Still with us to share the reporting and their insights this morning, CNN's Nia Malika Henderson; Ron Fournier of the "National Journal"; Peter Baker of the "New York Times"; and Jackie Kucinich of the "Daily Beast".

Let's start right there.

Bernie Sanders needs the high turnout. He's trying to gin them up. Even the President said, Peter, in his interview with Glenn Thrush of Politico, Bernie Sanders is not Barack Obama. Then he had to have a meeting with Bernie Sanders.

PETER BAKER, "NEW YORK TIMES": Just to confirm that he wasn't Barack Obama.

They put his thumb on the scale, and yes, he is not.

KING: But he kind of put his thumb on the scale for Hillary Clinton, and then he pulled it off and had a meeting with Bernie Sanders. But to the degree, to Sanders' point, if you look at any data -- this is where you know, some people don't trust polling. This is in every single poll. If you have a younger crowd, if he turns out younger people like Obama did, if he turns out Independents like Obama did, if he gets an influx of a lot of new voters who have never caucused before like Obama did -- that's the recipe.

BAKER: Well, and how unlikely that this accept septuagenarian socialist from Vermont, you know, cranky member of Congress for many, many years would suddenly be Obama who was this rock star young guy who came out of nowhere. It's a very different profile and yet he's targeting a lot of the same constituencies.

Whether he could pull it off is a different thing. You know, every Democratic -- most Democratic primaries tend to have an establishment figure and a challenger figure, whether it be the Howard Dean figure, the Paul Tsongas and so forth over the years, in the end, Barack Obama was the one -- those examples that actually pulled it off largely because he had great support within the minority community that is not true for Bernie Sanders. That's not a big deal in Iowa as it will be later on in the trail. And the question for Bernie Sanders is whether he can transcend his sort of natural starting base.

KING: They've tried -- this has been mostly polite for a Democratic campaign. The differences have mostly been on policy. But you can kind of tell they're under each other's skin in the final days because of the stakes. So Bernie Sanders, he's not saying that Hillary's being mean, but he doesn't like some things.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I am disappointed by the tone of her campaign. She is talking to the people of Iowa and saying, Bernie Sanders wants to dismantle health care. But it is not true to suggest that she will be the stronger candidate in November.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Fun.

RON FOURNIER, NATIONAL JOURNAL: You can a say lost of things about Hillary Clinton but she hasn't been very mean to Bernie Sanders. This has not been the toughest campaign we've seen.

Look, the question is whether he's going to be Howard Dean in 2004 or Barack Obama of 2008. Is he going to turn out his voters or not? And there's three structural things I notice that actually cut against Bernie Sanders that if I'm Hillary Clinton, I have some solace.

One is that the preregistration numbers are down in Iowa -- actually in both parties. Now, you can vote on the day of caucusing, but it would really help Sanders if he had more people already in his pocket, and he doesn't.

Two, for Barack Obama, the college students were home. School was out of session. So they were spread around the state, which without getting into the math is a big deal in the caucuses. For Sanders, they're all in school, so they're just in a few districts which plays against him.

Lastly, one thing I was surprised by the Ann Seltzer poll, the gold standard, is that the enthusiasm for Hillary Clinton is better than or at least the same as it is among Bernie Sanders supporters.

For those three things, I would never predict a caucuses, but they lean towards her.

KING: You mentioned the college thing. One of the things the Sanders campaign -- we'll see their organization -- one of the things they say is that they're trying to convince those college students to go back to their hometowns around Iowa because the Democratic rules are very complicated. Go to cnnpolitics.com if you want to read them.

You have to reach viability in your caucus and there will be some chess going on. We'll talk a little bit more about that in a minute. They're trying to get these guys to go home.

FOURNIER: How likely is that?

You're a father, how likely is it that a college kid is going to go home to vote? KING: It depends what's in the back seat of the van, I guess. You

mentioned, you know, this guy is the oldest candidate. He would be the oldest president ever elected in the United States of America were he to win the election, but he's trying desperately -- eagerly -- desperately is the wrong word -- he's trying aggressively to target young people including this will be jarring to some of us older folks, but let's watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Go to the caucus. February 1. Vote Bernie Sanders.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Change the future.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: February 1st. Another cold night at home or a hot night at the caucus. Feel the Bern.

Want real change? Caucus February 1. Bernie Sanders. Oh, and take the folks with you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Come on, that's good.

NIA MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: It's good. It reminds me of this is what Ron Paul was doing in 2008.

JACKIE KUCINICH, DAILY BEAST: Rand tried to do.

HENDERSON: Yes, Rand tried to do, he hasn't been able to do it. But yes, that kind of energy and it's worked so far. He's gotten big crowds, but I think Ron Paul got big crowds as well in 2008, but those crowds didn't vote -- right. They didn't show up. They were attracted to the kind of faddish and trendy nature of Ron Paul. And in some ways it's the similar thing with Sanders.

The other thing, if you talk to people at these rallies, you go to these rallies, they like Hillary Clinton, you know. And before, in 2008, there was a lot more division, I think, between the Obama supporters and the Clinton supporters. So I think --

BAKER: Are you talking about the Sanders rallies?

HENDERSON: Yes.

BAKER: Interesting.

HENDERSON: They like Clinton -- some of them were with Clinton before and they'd be perfectly fine with a Clinton.

[08:35:04] KUCINICH: Part of me wonders if Hillary would have the enthusiasm that she has right now with her voters, if Bernie Sanders wasn't giving her a run for her money. And that maybe people won't stay home because they think that, you know, they want her to win. And otherwise they would have been kind of complacent and maybe, you know, stuck around home by the fire.

KING: Let's talk about it a little bit. At the beginning of the block, we played her saying I don't want to overpromise. That's an interesting political strategy in the sense especially if you go back to 2008, which everyone's trying to make the comparison because that's the last Iowa Democratic race we had where Obama was just aspirational, transformational, I'll bring you hope, I'll bring you change. The people who criticized him said I'll part the red sea -- you know, that he was overdoing -- I can walk on water.

But she's saying essentially Bernie Sanders -- don't believe what you hear from this guy. He's unrealistic. That's an odd message in a Democratic primary, but will it work?

BAKER: Because she is trying to say go with pragmatism because you know it's going to -- you know, we're going to face a general election contest where, you know, they'll rip him apart. The idea of a socialist as a Democratic nominee is just manna from heaven for any Republican nominee. And that's what Donald Trump, Ted Cruz and all of them are counting on.

She's trying to say let's think ahead. Let's be smart. Go with your head, not your heart.

FOURNIER: If she wins Iowa, she wins the nomination, it won't be because of that message. It's because she's a Clinton, she has all these huge advantages. It's not going to be because hey, I'm not a change agent.

KING: Bill Clinton was out there making the case she is a change agent. It's a hard message for someone who's been around so long to make. It would be hard for anybody.

FOURNIER: He pounded her pragmatic message. Actually it's a different message she's given than Bill Clinton.

KING: Right. One of the things the Clinton people are doing is they're training their people at the Democratic caucuses because the rules are complicated. If you're at a caucus, let's say -- I'm making this up -- but if there are four delegates at stake and you know, you've got two and Bernie Sanders could get two, but if you gave some of your people to Martin O'Malley, he could get one and block Bernie Sanders.

So they're playing this chess that we're going to have to watch out caucus night to see if it matters. Sometimes it doesn't matter. The numbers are just the numbers. But every now and then there's some trading.

Another thing1 she's had to do in the final days is to deal with another story about the e-mails. The Obama State Department is saying we can't release 22 of these e-mails because they say they're now classified, they're top secret. Now Hillary Clinton's point is they were not when they came to me. There was no such classification label. That's been done after the fact.

FOURNIER: -- which is irrelevant.

KING: But you can tell it's a serious issue or they view it's a potentially serious issue because she took time yesterday to talk to reporters on camera about it, something she would not have done if she wasn't a little bit worried about it. Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I didn't send or receive any e-mails marked classified. I take classified information really seriously. And I just think that if the Republicans want to use this for political purposes -- that's their decision.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Now, the end of that, it's interesting. Because all the Republicans are criticizing her, which they should probably have the discipline to bite their tongues because, again, this is an Obama administration decision. And she's right. The classification process is complicated.

But, but, if she had not ignored the advice of her boss and not had a private e-mail server, we would not be in this boat.

BAKER: Her problem at this point is not the Republicans. Her problem is the FBI and the Obama Justice Department. And what Democrats are quietly absolutely petrified about is that come summer, you know, you find an indictment of people around her, of her, a request for a special prosecutor, something that just basically turns this into a complete disaster for the Democrats in which it's too late to change horses.

KING: So does that -- Bernie Sanders says I won't touch this. Remember the famous debate moment early on. Enough about your damn e- mails or something like that -- I don't care about your damn e-mails.

But does this unconsciously, subconsciously or just because it is what it is help him?

HENDERSON: I think absolutely because remember what the caucus process is like. It's a conversation, right? And so if you're Bernie Sanders supporter and you want to peel some folks away from O'Malley or Clinton essentially, this is what you can say. Listen, it could be dangerous if we nominate Hillary Clinton with all of this e-mail controversy swirling around her.

FOURNER: What happened this week exposed another disingenuous talking point of Hillary Clinton. She's been saying all along, oh, this is just a matter of the State Department and the CIA. They're debating over what's confidential and what's not. Well the State Department just said no, no, we also agree -- Obama State Department -- that these were top-secret e-mails.

The other thing she keeps saying -- now she's left with they weren't marked classified when I touched them. First of all, when you're secretary of state, a lot of things you're talking about is born classified.

Second of all, there have people who have been prosecuted for mishandling unmarked e-mail. She knows that, her campaign knows that, more importantly, the FBI and the Justice Department know that.

KING: The big debate about this -- some people have differing views, there's one fact, again, if she had just not had a private server, these e-mails would have been available months ago because they would have been in the government files and we couldn't have been dealing with this now. But --

FOURNIER: Nine months into her term, the regulation was not to do that.

KING: We'll see how this one plays out.

Up next, a magic travel guide to Iowa's decisive destinations and a look ahead to where this remarkable campaign heads next.

But first, a little Donald Trump showmanship in Iowa arriving in Dubuque to the tune of "Air Force One".

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: If you want to follow extra closely Monday night a few points of interest if you have a laptop or smart phone as you follow the results here on CNN. This is our 2016 Iowa map. Monday night, we get to fill this in. We actually get to stop talking and start counting votes.

Some places to look at. Well, let's go back in time. This is the 2012 Republican race. Rick Santorum actually won narrowly over Mitt Romney. Santorum is the brown, Romney is the red, this orangish-pink that's Ron Paul. As Jackie noted earlier, watch some of these Ron Paul counties as we go through the night.

And also look at this here. This is the Mitt Romney map. This is where Marco Rubio needs to win. It's also where Donald Trump is running pretty strong. Watch this one as we play out. But for Ted Cruz, he's got to win all the brown.

Now, let's go back in time to 2008, switch over to the Democratic race. Clear the teleprompter here. See the light blue out here -- eastern Iowa? This is where Barack Obama ran it up big against Hillary Clinton. A big battleground here also Polk County in Des Moines -- that's the largest population center in the state -- that's Barack Obama's color. The darker blue is Hillary Clinton in 2008.

[08:45:06] Three candidates this time, not the crowded field. We'll see what Hillary Clinton can do out here. And especially right here in the center part of the state, Bernie Sanders looking to run it up in Iowa City and Ames. Those are the college towns.

Nia-Malika Henderson, as we get into the final days, what are you going to be looking at the most? HENDERSON: You know, I think it's turnout. And in 2008, Obama was

able to get huge turnout, as you said, it was partly because of those college students were there. What was it -- 240,000? In 2004, it was closer to 150,000 -- 140,000 or something like that.

In talking to the Clinton people, they think it's going to be somewhere in between those two numbers, and they're going to rely on the sort of core Democrats, older voters, voters who make over $50,000 and women as well, and they feel pretty good.

And they also feel like Sanders, in this sort of last stretch, is becoming more of a politician. And they feel like that sort of blunts some of his outsider cred.

KING: We will see if we lose Republicans after Iowa. I think it's likely we'll lose some. It's hard again for Huckabee or Santorum who have won it before to stay if they don't do well. But we'll see.

Another interesting factor in the Democratic race, it's Hillary Clinton who has essentially let the Democratic National Committee say, well, we have a plan -- only so many debates -- is now suddenly open to more debates. Again, you don't do that unless you think you might need them. They haven't settled on the wheres yet and the whens yet, but it does appear they're trying to work on four debates. It does appear we will have more. Why?

FOURNIER: Hillary Clinton needs the debates. I always thought she was making a mistake by limiting it. She's very good in debates. She looked like she was scared, she looked like she thought she should be coronated by having -- and she looked like she was part of the establishment by having the DNC sit on the debates.

So it's good. It makes her a better candidate. It's the right thing to do.

BAKER: Also getting ready for a longer, grind-it-out campaign -- right. In 2008 she assumed that this would be over relatively early. Didn't really prepare for what would come in the second and third stages of a long campaign. They've got to think ahead. What happens if it's like 2008 again? We've got o be prepared.

KING: A lot of fun. Two fascinating races -- Iowa goes first.

Up next, our reporters share from their notebooks including the perspective of first-time caucusgoer that Mr. Fournier and I are lucky to call a friend and we're blessed for years to rely on as a trusted colleague.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[08:51:31] KING: Let's head around the INSIDE POLITICS table and ask our great reporters to give you a little sneak peek at tomorrow's news today. Nia-Malika Henderson.

HENDERSON: Speaking of Iowa, Iowa of course is a largely white state, but there are African-Americans there, about 3 percent of the population is African-American. And in 2008, 4 percent of the caucusgoers on the Democratic caucuses were African-American. Obama won about 70 percent of those.

And Clinton is taking a page from Obama's playbook, trying to court those African-American voters. Last week she went to a Baptist church on Sunday. And this Sunday you'll have John Lewis, and other CBC members fanning out to different black churches in Iowa to court this vote. This vote is mainly in places like Des Moines, Waterloo, Cedar Rapids and Davenport.

And in a race that's going to be really close, as we can tell from these polls, these voters will matter. All of these voters on the margins will matter. And it also will allow, I think, Clinton, her basic pitch is that she's going to do better with populations that are more diverse. So it will be an argument that she's able to make if she does well with these voters.

KING: Smart strategy. You're right, every vote's going to matter.

Ron.

FOURNIER: Remember Mike Glover (ph) our colleague at the A.P.?

KING: Sure do.

FOURNIER: A legend in Iowa politics. I talked to him as I always did -- my first stop in Iowa, probably what you hear is I always sit with Mike Glover even now that he's retired. He's going to do something Monday he's never done before. Now he's a retired AP journalist.

He's going to caucus and he's going to caucus with the Democrats. And his mindset I think is kind of -- might help us kind of understand why the Democrats are kind of tortured in Iowa between their head and their heart.

He says for the longest time he was going to support Hillary Clinton. She was the inevitable nominee in his mind. All he cares about is the best candidate beats the Republican nominee.

But then e-mail happened and he started distrusting her credibility a little bit. But mainly it was Donald Trump. If Trump is going to win the nomination, Mike Glover suggests, anybody can beat him on the Democratic side. So now maybe I can go more towards my head.

So now he's leaning towards Bernie Sanders. Donald Trump has kind of given him permission to go a little bit more towards his heart than his head. And I wonder if there's other Iowa Democrats going through the same kind of thinking.

KING: We could check in with Mike after his caucus to see what he figured out in the end and see if he was decisive.

Peter.

BAKER: Well, look for President Obama to get back into this race pretty soon. He's actually going to reassert himself the day after the New Hampshire primary next week. He's going to fly to Springfield, Illinois and mark the ninth anniversary of when he kicked off his own presidential candidacy.

Why is he going to do that? Well, in theory, he's going to talk about how to make our politics better the way he did in the State of the Union address. He's also going to be, I think speaking to the two winners who will be emerging from this Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primary. And give them his views of what he thinks they ought to be talking about try to shape the race as best he can -- never an easy thing for an incumbent on the way out.

It's been nine years since he was sort of at the height of his stardom. But he doesn't plan to sit down yet.

KING: Not ready to cede the stage. We'll watch that one.

Jackie.

KUCINICH: Well, continuing on with the Iowa theme, I'm going to be watching where Bernie -- Johnson County where Bernie Sanders really has a strong base. And if Hillary Clinton is able to cut into his base there and he's not able to get these new caucusgoers, these college kids out to caucus, it's going to be -- he might not be able to sustain his momentum.

I'm also watching the 16 counties Ron Paul won to see if Ted Cruz is able to capture some of the more libertarian-minded voters there to boost his numbers.

KING: Those are great points. The battleground within the battleground will affect the margins.

I'll close with an interesting update on a presidential potential 2016 candidate who isn't on the Iowa ballot or the New Hampshire ballot for that matter. The former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is dead serious about being ready to launch a third-party bid for president if -- it's an important if -- he sees an opening after the Democratic and the Republican nomination battles take better shape.

[08:55:10] The latest sign of serious preparations from Team Bloomberg -- conversations with the veterans elections law attorney Trevor Potter who was general counsel for both of John McCain's presidential campaigns. A source familiar with these conversations tells CNN Potter is being consulted by the Bloomberg team about election laws including for an Independent or third-party guy, the critical issue of ballot access.

Potter's a longtime Republican and a one-time chairman of the Federal Election Commission. His firm has a policy of not discussing its clients so no comment from there and a top Bloomberg aide involved in the planning did not respond to a message seeking comment.

But the source familiar with these conversations says it is dead clear that Bloomberg is very serious, doing everything it takes to be ready.

That's it for INSIDE POLITICS. Again -- thanks for sharing your Sunday morning. We'll see you soon including another special hour- long show IP next Sunday live from New Hampshire and stay with CNN as we cover the Iowa caucuses like no other news organization including "STATE OF THE UNION" -- that's next live from Iowa.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)