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STATE OF THE UNION

Interview With Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders; Interview With Texas Senator Ted Cruz; Interview With Florida Senator Marco Rubio; Donald Trump And Hillary Clinton Lead Polls in Iowa; Predictions On Who's Going To Win The Iowa Caucuses. Aired 9-10a ET

Aired January 31, 2016 - 09:00   ET

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


[09:00:15]

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Only one more day.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's the men and women of Iowa.

TAPPER: The candidates make their final pitches before the first votes are cast, and we are all over Iowa.

Bernie Sanders joins us live, telling us his path to victory.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If there is a large voter turnout, I think we win.

TAPPER: Will he deliver Hillary Clinton's second Iowa loss?

Plus:

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: That's so nice.

TAPPER: As the clock ticks down, Donald Trump continuing his tough attacks on Ted Cruz.

TRUMP: Ted Cruz may not be a U.S. citizen. You know, he's an anchor baby. Ted Cruz is an anchor baby in Canada.

TAPPER: And, in an interview with us, Cruz punches back.

CRUZ: If I was interviewing with you and I called you up and said I'm not willing to show up at the job interview, you wouldn't hire me. That's what Donald said to the people of Iowa.

TAPPER: Cruz now also attacking Marco Rubio, who's rising in the polls here.

CRUZ: Marco broke his promise to the American people.

TAPPER: Rubio rising fast and hitting back hard in an interview with us. SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The lie that his

whole campaign is built on is that he's the only conservative, and everyone else is a sellout and a RINO. And it's absurd.

TAPPER: In this unpredictable race, what surprises await us tomorrow night? The best political minds will be here with insights from the campaign trail.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TAPPER: What a race.

Hello. I'm Jake Tapper, live in Des Moines, Iowa, where the state of our union is ready to vote.

We have just one day until the Iowa caucuses, when the first votes in this wild, wacky election season will finally be cast.

And on both sides of the aisle, it is very tight and very tense, as the candidates head into their final 24 hours on the campaign trail. The very latest numbers revealed overnight by the gold standard in Iowa polling, "The Des Moines Register," showing Donald Trump on top, leading his closest competitor, Ted Cruz, 28 percent to 23 percent, Marco Rubio in third place, surging with 15 percent.

On the Democratic side, it is within the margin of error, with Hillary Clinton leading Bernie Sanders by just three points, 45 percent to 42 percent, really anyone's race there, real nail-biters on both sides.

And you can feel the excitement here in Iowa. It is that energy that Senator Bernie Sanders is counting on to win.

And he joins me now live from Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

Senator Sanders, thanks so much for joining us. Appreciate it.

SANDERS: My pleasure.

TAPPER: So, the gold standard in Iowa polling, the "Des Moines Register"/Bloomberg poll, came out last night, shows a very close race, with Clinton ahead 45 percent to 42 percent.

What do you need to do to win? How do you expand turnout and win the Iowa caucuses?

SANDERS: Well, Jake, you know, when we started this campaign here in Iowa, we were 50 or 60 points behind Secretary Clinton.

We have come a long, long way. And the reason for that is, we have 15,000 volunteers who today are going to be knocking on doors. They're going to be making telephone calls. They're going to be urging people in very large numbers to come out and vote.

What I sense is, there are a lot of people who will participate in the caucus process on Monday night who previously were not involved in politics. That's working-class people. That's young people who now want to -- to direct the future of this country. They don't want to sit back.

And they want to take on a rigged economy, a corrupt campaign, finance system, and they want to stand up and be counted and have Iowa be the first state in the country to lead us in a very, very different direction.

So, I think, if the turnout is high, Jake, I think we have got a real shot to win this.

TAPPER: I'm sure you have seen the story in BuzzFeed, the Clinton campaign training caucus leaders to throw support to Martin O'Malley, who's in far, far third place, in some cases, in a way to manipulate the process, completely, according to the rules, but also some people might find it odd.

What do you think about that tactic?

SANDERS: You know, I can't keep up with what the Clinton campaign does, to be honest with you.

What I do get disturbed is, I'm seeing ads on television suggesting, for example, that I am attacking Planned Parenthood, when I have a 100 percent lifetime pro-Planned Parenthood voting record. I think they're one of the great organizations in America.

So, I don't know what the Clinton campaign is doing. All I know is that we are bringing out large numbers of people. We're creating a lot of excitement and energy on the part of people who really are tired of establishment politics and establishment economics, tired of seeing almost all new income and wealth going to the top 1 percent, want us to address climate change, want us to address a broken criminal justice system.

[09:05:13]

So, I'm feeling good, Jake. Our issues are out there. People are really enthusiastic. And if people come out to vote, I think you're going to look at one of the biggest political upsets in the modern history of our country.

TAPPER: The viewership for the Democratic debates has been very, very strong. You and Hillary Clinton have agreed to do more debates. The details have not been agreed to. You want to do one in Brooklyn. She's challenged you to debate in Flint, Michigan.

Will you debate in Flint, Michigan? Is that OK with you?

SANDERS: Sure. I don't have a problem.

But I -- as I understand it, this is what happened. You know, the DNC, without my input, without our campaign's input, announced six -- six debates. And then, suddenly, Secretary Clinton, because she may not be doing so well in New Hampshire, she wanted another debate.

And I said, fine, you want another debate, that's great, but let's do at least three other debates in California. Let's do one in New York. Let's do one in Michigan. But, obviously, if you do one in Michigan, you want to do it before their primary, not after their primary.

God knows, what's going on in Flint, Michigan, is an outrage beyond belief, a public health crisis. I don't have a problem with being in Flint, Michigan. Let's do it before their primary. So, let's work out the details.

I have always wanted more debates. I think our message is resonating with the middle class and working families of this country. So, to have those debates is something that I look forward to.

TAPPER: We learned recently that you now have protection from the U.S. Secret Service. Were you getting threats, or is this just part of rising in the polls and becoming a credible, legitimate candidate?

SANDERS: Well, I think, you know, security issues is probably something we should not talk about.

TAPPER: Fair enough.

"The Washington Post" wrote a scathing editorial about you this week. It said -- quote -- "Sanders is not a brave truth-teller." They cast you as just another politician pandering to liberal voters.

A Clinton ally says that her campaign is handing out copies of this editorial. I want to give you a chance to respond.

SANDERS: Look, I am not greatly beloved by the economic establishment, by Wall Street, by the big-money interests, or by, you know, the major media of this country, including "The Washington Post."

I am being attacked because I am too ambitious, because I say, among other things, that maybe we should have a tax on Wall Street speculation, whose greed and recklessness helped destroy our economy and the lives of many, many people, and that maybe we should use that money to make public colleges and universities tuition-free, and maybe we should do away with these outrageous corporate loopholes that allow billion-dollar corporations to stash their money in the Cayman Islands, not pay a nickel in taxes.

Maybe we should do that and use that revenue to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure and create 13 million jobs. Maybe we should expand Social Security, so that millions of seniors in this country don't have to live on $11,000, $12,000 a year, by lifting the cap and asking millionaires to contribute their fair share.

Yes, "The Washington Post" doesn't like it. They don't like my idea of a Medicare-for-all single-payer program, which would enable the United States to join the rest of the industrialized world, guarantee health care to all people, and, by the way, Jake, by the way, save middle-class families thousands and thousands of dollars a year on their health care costs.

We are taking on the establishment. "Washington Post" is the establishment. Doesn't surprise me they don't like my ideas.

TAPPER: Let's turn to national security.

There have been some questions about who is advising you on military and foreign policy issues. Who are the former generals or former senior defense officials upon whose counsel you rely?

SANDERS: Look, we have been talking in the last month to, you know, many, many, many people who are very knowledgeable about national security issues and foreign policy issues.

And I am confident that we have the judgment and the experience to do what has to be done for the American people. And I would just remind the viewers, Jake, that, on the most important foreign policy issue in our lifetimes, or at least in the last 20, 30 years...

TAPPER: Right.

SANDERS: ... I voted against the war in Iraq, and Hillary Clinton voted for it.

I am confident that, in terms of dealing with the Middle East crisis, the need to put together a coalition to prevent our young men and women in the military from getting involved in perpetual warfare, I am absolutely confident that I can handle that issue.

TAPPER: I know that you assert that you have the right judgment, but I'm just wondering if you could name a former military official who...

[09:10:00]

SANDERS: There are too many.

TAPPER: Too many?

(CROSSTALK)

SANDERS: Larry Korb is one.

Larry Korb has worked -- who, actually, I think, worked in the Reagan administration, is somebody we have consulted with.

TAPPER: All right. Fair enough.

At CNN's October debate, you famously told Hillary Clinton that -- I will spare you my Bernie Sanders impression, but you said -- quote -- "The American people are sick and tired of hearing about your damn e- mails."

Should voters take from those comments that you think nothing was done was wrong when it comes to how Secretary Clinton...

SANDERS: No.

TAPPER: ... handled classified information?

SANDERS: No.

TAPPER: Or is that not a fair...

SANDERS: No.

TAPPER: OK.

SANDERS: No. No, that is not, I think, a fair assessment.

I think this is a very serious issue. I think there is a legal process right now taking place. And what I have said -- and -- you know, and I get criticized. You know, Bernie, why don't you attack Hillary Clinton?

There is a legal process taking place. I do not want to politicize that issue. It is not my style. And what I am focusing on, Jake, are the issues impacting the middle class of this country.

You know, and, Jake, I go around the state of Iowa. I can't go to a meeting where kids do not tell me -- not kids, middle-class, middle- aged people, how much deeply -- how much in debt they are in terms of student debt or people who can't afford health care.

Those are the issues that we're going to focus on. There's a legal process under way with regard to the e-mail situation. It will play out. I'm not going to politicize it.

TAPPER: Fair enough.

Senator Bernie Sanders, congratulations on what you have been able to build here in Iowa. We will see you on the campaign trail.

SANDERS: Thank you very much, Jake.

TAPPER: Coming up next: Donald Trump says he skipped this week's debate because of an argument with FOX News, but his strongest rival, Ted Cruz, well, he's not buying it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CRUZ: If I was interviewing with you, and I called you up and said, I'm not willing to show up at the job interview, you wouldn't hire me. And I think that's what Donald said to the people of Iowa.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:15:52]

TAPPER: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Jake Tapper, live in Des Moines, Iowa, where we are just hours away from the first voting of 2016.

Here in Iowa, Senator Ted Cruz is locked in a brutal battle with Donald Trump, trying to win Republicans and win this state. Will it be enough?

I caught up with Ted Cruz on the trail here in Iowa.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TAPPER: Thanks so much for joining us. Really appreciate it.

CRUZ: It's good to be with you.

TAPPER: So, you told a group of pastors recently that, if Trump wins Iowa and New Hampshire, where he already enjoys a substantial lead, there is a -- quote -- "very good chance he could be unstoppable and be our nominee."

Are you the firewall? Are you the one that can stop Trump from being the nominee?

CRUZ: Look, I will leave political punditry to other folks.

TAPPER: This is your punditry.

CRUZ: What I can tell you is that we're competing hard here on the ground here in Iowa. We're competing hard on the ground in New Hampshire, in South Carolina and Nevada. And we're running a national campaign.

We have got an incredible team all across Super Tuesday, across the SEC states and...

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: So, you don't have to win here, necessarily?

CRUZ: No, absolutely -- we don't view any state as a must-win.

I think we're positioned to do very well in Iowa. I think we have worked very hard. You know, the grassroots team we have got is unbelievable. It is second to none. We have got 200,000 volunteers nationwide. We have got 12,000 volunteers on the ground here in Iowa.

And, tomorrow, we will complete what's known as the full Grassley. We will have been to all 99 counties in the state of Iowa. We will have stood in front of the men and women of Iowa and simply asked for their support, looked them in the eyes and asked for their support.

I think that's what it takes to win Iowa, but we're going to find out tomorrow night.

TAPPER: It's gotten heated between you and the front-runner, Donald Trump, in recent weeks. And you have expressed your concerns about him.

I know that you -- he attacked you first, for the record. But you have since counterpunched and talked about your concerns. In retrospect, should you have made your concerns about his, in your view, New York values, his support for partial-birth abortion and more, earlier, do you think?

CRUZ: Yes, well, listen, there's a phase to any campaign.

You know, a month ago, Donald was telling everyone how much he liked me and how much I was his friend. And then his poll numbers started falling, and ours started rising. And now I wake up every day and look at my phone and discover what new insult he has launched out.

TAPPER: There have been a lot.

CRUZ: And they're always interesting. I will give him credit that, when he insults someone, it's always memorable and colorful.

But, you know, my approach has been, I'm not going to respond in kind. So, I don't intend to insult Donald Trump. I'm not going to engage in personal attacks. No matter what he says, I like Donald. I will continue to praise him as bold and brash.

Now, I do think policy differences are fair game. I do think pointing out that he and I have very, very different views on questions like life and marriage and religious liberty, he and I have very, very different views and records on questions like health care and Obamacare and amnesty, and so all of that is fair game.

But I think the people of Iowa deserve more. I think the American people deserve more than just a battle of petty insults. And so I don't intend to play that game.

TAPPER: As you point out, there have been a lot of policy differences you have been highlighting with your opponents.

Lately, you have been focusing more on Marco Rubio, who trails you in the polls here, but some say he has momentum. He, this weekend, said that you -- your campaign is being deceitful about his record. Why should voters pick you over Marco Rubio, and why are you better to go after Hillary Clinton in November than Rubio?

CRUZ: Well, listen, I think the central question in this primary is trust. We are tired of being burned.

We keep having politicians who sound great on the trail, and they don't do what they said. If you look at when Marco and I both ran for Senate, when Marco ran in Florida, he promised the men and women of Florida he would lead the fight against amnesty.

In Texas, I promised the men and women of Texas I would lead the fight against amnesty. We made the identical promises. But when we got to Washington, he and I made very different decisions. He decided to break the promise he made to the people who elected him.

And he joined with Chuck Schumer and Harry Reid and Barack Obama, and not only did he not lead the fight against amnesty, but he led the fight to pass amnesty. It was the Rubio-Schumer amnesty bill. It didn't secure the border. It made it easier for Obama to bring in tens of thousands of Syrian refugees without mandating any background checks. That's a serious national security risk. And it granted amnesty to 12 million people here illegally.

[09:20:08]

Now, I made a very different decision. I chose to stand with Jeff Sessions and Steve King and millions of conservatives across the country against amnesty. We led the fight against it, and we defeated it in Congress.

Now, if you're asking, who can I trust to do what he said, the fact that, on a signature issue, Marco broke his promise to the American people is significant. That would be like me coming to Washington and suddenly discovering I was for Obamacare. That would be commensurate with what Marco did.

And so a vote for Marco is a vote for amnesty. And I will tell you this. If we nominate a candidate who supports amnesty, who has the same position on amnesty as Hillary Clinton, we will lose. The same millions of Reagan Democrats, of steelworkers and autoworkers and truck drivers and electricians who stayed home in 2008 and '12, they will stay home in 2016.

We have got to be fighting for the working men and women of this country. And amnesty takes their jobs and drive down their wages. We have got to be on behalf of the working men and women of this country.

TAPPER: Rubio's response to that, obviously, is that you offered an amendment that would have provided a path to legal status, not citizenship, but a path to legal status.

CRUZ: Yes. And his response is false.

The amendment I offered was 38 words. It was one sentence. And it said nobody here illegally will ever be eligible for citizenship, period, didn't say a word about legalization. I don't -- and the differences are very clear now. Marco supports amnesty. He supports legalization. And he supports citizenship today, as a presidential candidate.

I oppose amnesty. I oppose citizenship. I oppose legalization. And, you know, Jake, I will give you another difference, which is, I had pledged on day one to rescind every single illegal and unconstitutional executive order issued by Barack Obama.

That includes President Obama's illegal amnesty. Marco has gone on Univision in Spanish and told Jorge Ramos he will not repeal, he will not rescind Obama's illegal executive amnesty on day one. He says you can't do it overnight, and he won't do it. Now, that's a sharp difference. That's not a personal difference. It's not a personal insult. It's just a difference in policy.

And, by the way, Marco's support for amnesty goes back many, many years, when he was speaker of the House.

TAPPER: In Florida.

CRUZ: In Florida. He led the fight to provide in-state tuition for illegal aliens. I disagree with him on that. He's entitled to have that view, but he doesn't get to try to convince the voters that his position is different from what his record is.

And for anyone who says, well, gosh, how do I know who's telling the truth, I would suggest you look to what Jeff Sessions and Steve King and Rush Limbaugh and Mark Levin say. Every one of them says, Marco Rubio led the fight for amnesty and Ted Cruz led the fight against it.

You know, Jeff Sessions in Alabama said, if it weren't for Ted, the Rubio-Schumer Gang of Eight amnesty bill would have passed.

And that's a difference that matters. And I would note, during that whole battle, Donald Trump was nowhere to be found.

TAPPER: Let me ask you one final question.

The debate...

CRUZ: Yes.

TAPPER: ... you were -- obviously took a lot of heat from the fellow candidates on the stage. And your campaign argues it was an establishment audience, it was not an audience that were a bunch of Cruz supporters.

Do you think that Donald Trump didn't participate in the debate because he wanted you to be the target, or do you think it was because he didn't like Megyn Kelly or FOX News or whatever?

CRUZ: Look, I don't think it was because he was afraid of Megyn Kelly.

I think it was because Donald did not want his record challenged. It's the same reason, actually, that Donald engages in insults, because he can't defend his substantive record. His position on health care is the same as Bernie Sanders'. They both support socialized medicine, expanding Obamacare to put the government in charge of our health care.

His position on cronyism and corporate welfare is the same as Barack Obama. He supported Obama's TARP bailout for the big Wall Street banks. He supported Obama's stimulus, said it should be larger. And so, you know, look, I think it was a real mistake for Donald not to show up at the debate.

I think anyone who wants to win the state of Iowa owes the people of this state the respect to show up at the Iowa debate to answer the questions. I get that it is unpleasant to have your record subject to scrutiny, to be potentially criticized.

But this is a job interview. You know, if I was coming to work for you, Jake, if I was interviewing with you, and I called you up and said, I'm not willing to show up at the job interview, you wouldn't hire me. And I think that's what Donald said to the people of Iowa, that he wasn't willing to submit to the scrutiny.

And I think that's a mistake. I -- what I am doing every day is asking the men and women of Iowa, examine my record, pray on this. And I will tell you, if conservatives come out tomorrow night, Monday night at 7:00 p.m., if conservatives come out, we're going to win, and we are bringing together a grassroots army, person to person, friend to friend, pastor to pastor, Iowan to Iowan.

[09:25:04]

That's how you win the state of Iowa.

TAPPER: All right. Well, good luck. Thanks so much for doing this.

CRUZ: Thanks, Jake.

TAPPER: Appreciate it.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TAPPER: Some tough talk from Senator Cruz.

When we come back, I will hit the trail with Marco Rubio here in Iowa. He's been rising in the polls here and striking back at Ted Cruz's core argument to the voters about his authenticity.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUBIO: I think, as people learn more about his record, they will realize that he really has been very calculated. He's always looking to take whatever position it takes to win votes or raise money.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:30:01]

TAPPER: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION in Iowa.

One of the many cliches about politics these days, that there are three tickets out of Iowa after the caucus for the top vote getters. Right now competing hard for the bronze or maybe even the silver, is Florida Senator Marco Rubio currently locked in a tough war of words with Ted Cruz here. I caught up with Mr. Rubio on his way to a rally in Ames, and he pulled no punches when discussing his rivals.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TAPPER: Thanks so much for doing this. Appreciate it.

RUBIO: Thanks for having me. Thanks for coming.

TAPPER: So the buzz in Iowa is that there is Marcomentum, that you are rising.

Do you feel it? Does that seem accurate?

RUBIO: We feel good about our team and the work we've done here. What it leads to, we'll see. You know, obviously Ted is the front- runner. He's got 10,000 volunteers. He has put a lot of resources and time. He got every endorsement he wanted.

So, he's truly the favorite, but we feel good about our work and the work we've done here. What that translates to in future states, and we love being in Iowa and the people here have been fantastic. It has been a very rewarding experience.

So, I do feel good. Our crowds are growing. The people signing up are growing. Our campaign structure feels good about it. So we'll see what it leads to. But I feel real good about Wednesday. We'll have a strong showing on Monday night.

TAPPER: I was just talking to Senator Cruz and asked him why should people pick him over you? And he said that you both ran in 2010, promising that you would block amnesty. And he kept his promise, and you broke your promise.

RUBIO: Yes, so Ted's -- the lie that his whole campaign is built on is that he's the only conservative and everyone else is a sellout and a rino, and it's absurd. Even on immigration.

I mean, he helped design George W. Bush's immigration policy. He talked openly in an interview -- national interview about needing to reach a compromise on people that are here illegally. I mean, there's a tweet that was going around yesterday that he put out during the immigration debate talking about legalization. He said he wanted to bring people out of the shadows. He said he wanted to obviously pass immigration reform.

So I think it's just not an accurate statement. I've tried to fix a problem that's a very serious issue in Texas and in Florida, and it's a hard issue. And clearly we're not going to be able to do it comprehensively, and we're not going to be able to do it until we first enforce our immigration laws. But I don't support amnesty. We're not going to have amnesty when I'm president. There's going to be real consequences for violating our law.

But this whole notion Ted has that he's the only conservative, I think as people learn more about his record, they'll realize what her really is very calculated. He's always looking to take whatever position it takes to win votes or raise money. You know, we're not going to beat Hillary Clinton with someone that will say or do anything to get elected.

TAPPER: One of the things Cruz said is that you gave an interview to Univision's to Jorge Ramos in which you said in Spanish that you would not try to undo the executive actions President Obama made when it came to illegal --

RUBIO: That's also inaccurate. That just never happened. What I've always said is that the president's DACA on adults needs to be -- well now it's being stayed by a court, but I'll repeal it, and DACA needs to end, too. And I've always said that.

The only thing with DACA is, you know, people that are on it now would not be allowed to re-register and we shouldn't be adding new people to it. And that's consistently my position. So, it's just not accurate. I mean, at the end of this election here, he's just making stuff up. And it's strange, given, you know, the formidable organization that he has here in Iowa. He's obviously spooked by something. And so we expect the kitchen sink here in the next 48 hours.

TAPPER: Ben Sasse, the senator from Nebraska, with whom I believe you've campaigned.

RUBIO: Mm-hmm.

TAPPER: He's -- he's -- he hasn't endorsed anybody, but he certainly made it very clear that he thinks Trump would be a disaster as a nominee. And he's a constitutional Republican.

Sasse has brought up Donald Trump's private life. Talking about relationships he's had, extramarital, et cetera.

Is that fair game? Is that kind of thing fair game?

RUBIO: Well, I don't bring it up. I like Ben very much and he -- if he wants to bring it up, you'd have to ask him about it and I'm not condemning him for it. I'm just telling you that I don't bring that up because quite frankly in my mind, that's not the issue in this campaign. This country wants someone that will help undo the damage Barack Obama has done to America. So that's what I focus on. And that's what my campaign is about.

So I can talk to you about the things I say or don't say. What somebody else says, you'll have to ask them (INAUDIBLE).

TAPPER: You were talking about how voters seem to really like authenticity and genuineness. And when I talk to voters in Iowa, one of the things they say, the Trump supporters, is they don't bring up his policies, even. They just like that he says what he thinks and he doesn't care about political correctness. He doesn't care about ruffling feathers. He's just honest.

You are very disciplined politician. I'm not calling you ungenuine, but you're a very disciplined politician. Do you think that that might work against you in a cycle like this?

RUBIO: No, look. People can call it disciplined. I'm just -- I'm running on a very specific agenda. I mean, I'm running for president of the United States. I'm not doing this for entertainment. I'm doing it because this country is headed in the wrong direction.

Seven years of Barack Obama has done tremendous damage to our economy, to our standing in the world, to our national security, and those are the issues I'm focused on.

[09:35:02]

And I keep talking about them over and over because they're the reasons I'm running. And so -- Donald is the greatest show on earth. You know, he's very entertaining. But this campaign isn't about that. It's got to be about the serious issues confronting this country because if we get this election wrong, there may be no turning back on some of these issues.

TAPPER: Can Trump be stopped?

RUBIO: In terms of the nomination?

TAPPER: Yes.

RUBIO: Sure. This is a very unusual year. No one is -- it's a very unusual year. No one is unbeatable.

This election is not going to be decided by one or two states. I think the race will narrow after a couple states, but no one -- myself or anyone else -- is going to have to earn this nomination. And it is going to be a very unusual, highly contested, I think, longer-than- usual process given the size of the field and given the challenge before the country.

TAPPER: Where can you win? What states can you win?

RUBIO: Well we try to do well everywhere. Obviously I'm not the campaign strategist. You can talk to them about that. I'm running for president.

And so what I focus on is I go out every day and try to get as many people as possible to be inspired and believe in our message and vote for me. Whether it's here in Iowa on Monday in the caucus, whether it's in the primary a week later in New Hampshire. What that translates to, you know, we'll see. I feel good about it. But you know, I don't view it -- I really don't spend a lot of time thinking about the strategy. I spend most of my time thinking about what we need to do when I'm president.

TAPPER: A lot of people out there think that Trump can be stopped but not if there are so many traditional politicians, which I don't mean as an insult, but traditional politicians in the race. You, Christie, Kasich, Jeb Bush, et cetera.

Do you think after Iowa and New Hampshire it will be time for some of these traditional candidates to coalesce behind one?

RUBIO: No. You can't force anyone to do that. People are going to run until they feel it's time for them not to. And you know, I've never called for anyone to get out of the race. I think it will just happen. It always happens.

So I suspect that after Iowa, there will be perhaps a candidate or two that may decide not to continue. Certainly after New Hampshire, I think that will be the case. And so that will play itself out in due time.

But these people have worked very hard. I mean, I'm out there, but they're out there, too. They're out there -- they've been working for a year. They've been doing the town halls and shaking of the hands. They deserve to have voters, you know, weigh in on their candidacy and not have somebody calling on anyone to step aside. It will happen. And it will happen in the appropriate time, you know. No matter what our differences might be, I do respect people that are out there running for president in both parties. It's hard to do. Having done this, having gone through this now, I have tremendous respect for the people that have done it before, for the people who are doing it now.

TAPPER: One of the things that was interesting about the Republican debate the other night in addition to the absence of the front-runner was the fact that Hillary Clinton was mentioned, I think, 32 times. Barack Obama was mentioned, I think, the same. Donald Trump was only mentioned 14 times.

Before you are able to take on Hillary Clinton, as I know you're eager to do, you have to get past the front-runner. And it seems like a lot of candidates are reluctant to even take him on.

RUBIO: No, I mean, when I've had disagreements with Donald we've discussed those in the past. Not as much in the debates but -- because it just hasn't come up, but we've most certainly done it during the campaign. If you go back to early, late fall, you'll see that.

But this campaign is not about Republicans tearing each other up. This campaign is about ensuring that we can turn this country around. We're not going to turn this country around if a socialist like Bernie Sanders or someone like Hillary Clinton is elected president of the United States.

TAPPER: Senator, thanks so much. I really appreciate it.

RUBIO: I appreciate it.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TAPPER: When we come back, will Iowa deliver the victory that eluded Hillary Clinton once before, or will Bernie Sanders start the revolution he's been calling for? Our panel is here in Des Moines with insights from the campaign trail. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:42:55]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I'm leading every single state including this one, but this is the closest of all of them. This is the closest.

A poll came out yesterday or something. I'm leading only by five points. I'm not used to five points. I like New Hampshire where I have a 21-point lead. I don't like these five points.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: I don't like this five points stuff. Donald Trump lamenting his first place status here in Iowa.

Joining me to talk about that and the race here and much, much more, conservative radio talk show giant Hugh Hewitt, Neera Tanden, a former Hillary Clinton adviser, Republican strategist Ana Navarro, who's a Jeb Bush supporter, and Brian Schweitzer, former governor who endorsed Martin O'Malley.

Thanks so much for being here one and all in this freezing weather.

Let's put up the poll numbers from "The Des Moines Register" poll showing the Republican race right now. Donald Trump, 28 percent. Ted Cruz, 23 percent. Marco Rubio, 15 percent. Ben Carson, 10 percent.

Hugh, as Ted Cruz said, closed doors but wouldn't support his own punditry when I asked him about it, if Donald trump wins here, is he unstoppable?

HUGH HEWITT, HOST, "THE HUGH HEWITT SHOW": No. I don't think anyone's going to get over 30 percent. So I don't think this race is actually going to move New Hampshire much. I don't see the Carson number staying at 10 percent. So I see a lot of flexibility. I noted that Marco Rubio about three half hours this weekend, Ted is rushing to the end. Donald Trump is staying here 24/7. Wide open but I don't see anyone getting 30 percent.

TAPPER: OK. Can I ask you, do you think that Ted Cruz's ground game can make up and actually get him over the hump and have him win? Is that possible?

ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It is possible. Will it happen? We don't know. Really that is the gigantic question that is above both the Democratic and Republican caucus here on Monday.

Will celebrity stardom, will authenticity, will persona trump, you know, the classic organizations? We've got Hillary Clinton and Ted Cruz who have classic on-the-ground organizations in Iowa. We have got, you know, Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump who are all about persona, personality, just, you know, who they are, attracting all these rallies. The question is will the rally goers turn into voters? If they do, I think you see Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump win. If they don't, I think you see Hillary Clinton, you know, get it.

[09:45:07]

TAPPER: Governor, let me ask you, we'll get to the Democratic race here in Iowa in a second, but do you think Democrats, in general, are underestimating Donald Trump and how strong he might be in a general election?

FMR. GOV. BRIAN SCHWEITZER (D), MONTANA: I think everybody has including most of the pundits. But what Donald Trump is, none of the above. His voters are -- I don't like anything that's going on in Washington, D.C., and you don't sound or look like them. And I'm voting for you.

TAPPER: That's interesting. SCHWEITZER: What's interesting about Trump in Iowa is he might prove

that ground game doesn't matter. I think he only has 12 staffers here in Iowa.

And so is he able to reach people with social media and get them to show up on caucus night? I think something like 40 percent of the people who say they're going to vote for him on caucus night have never been to a caucus before.

TAPPER: Yes.

SCHWEITZER: Will they this time? Because if he gets them there and if he wins Iowa going away, it changes politics for Democrats and Republicans.

TAPPER: Yes, the rule book out the window.

Is Hillary Clinton underestimating Donald Trump, assuming she's the nominee and he's the nominee, is she ready? I hear a lot of Democrats in Washington, not you, kind of like sneering as if oh, he's going to be easy to defeat. And as has been pointed out, pundits are wrong about Donald Trump almost every single time.

NEERA TANDEN, PRESIDENT AND CEO, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: Yes going away. I agree.

I think -- look, I don't think, you know, if you're the Republican nominee, you have a very good chance of being the next president. Any major party leader, it could be president. So I think -- and also, we should recognize he's transformed politics. He's a new breed of political force.

TAPPER: Yes.

TANDEN: So no one should underestimate him. I do think he helps bring out the rising American electorate. He will bring out voters. You're seeing Latino voter registration going up now.

TAPPER: Against him.

TANDEN: Against him.

TAPPER: Yes.

TANDEN: But you know -- I mean, he will also attract different people to politics.

TAPPER: Disenfranchised (ph) white voters.

TANDEN: Yes. I think -- I think that's something that both parties have to deal with.

TAPPER: Let's look at the Democratic race right now from that gold standard poll, "The Des Moines Register/Bloomberg", Hillary Clinton, 45 percent. Bernie Sanders, 42 percent. Sorry, Governor Schweitzer, Martin O'Malley only had 3 percent there. If that ends up being the final vote count, is the headline, do you think, governor, Hillary Clinton wins Iowa, or is it Bernie Sanders almost beats Hillary Clinton in Iowa?

SCHWEITZER: I don't care what the headline is because it isn't winner take all.

When they leave Iowa -- if you get to 15 percent, you get some delegates and if you don't, you don't. So the point is is that what Bernie ought to say is, look, I got 45 percent and I won. And Hillary has to say, I won. Outright.

TAPPER: Yes.

SCHWEITZER: So, you know, Bernie really ought to say, I got 45 percent of the delegates in Iowa. That's pretty dang good. And go on to New Hampshire.

TAPPER: Did Hillary Clinton underestimate Bernie Sanders, do you think, or did the Clinton organization underestimate him?

TANDEN: You know, we've -- we've seen Bernie Sanders rise in the fall. So I think you know, this isn't just like he was rising just now. He went -- he had a big, big surge in the fall. Came down a little -- surging again.

So I don't think -- I think the reality is that people are tired of politics as usual. And I think what's great about this race is Hillary in the last week has really been, you know, fighting for it. She's really, like, doing better in the clutch.

TAPPER: Go ahead, Hugh.

HEWITT: This is -- this poll was taken before the 22 emails marked top secret/SCI/SAP were revealed.

TANDEN: Yes.

HEWITT: This is an enormously important issue of national security. Her biggest vulnerability is she is not trusted.

TAPPER: The Democrat --

(CROSSTALK)

HEWITT: Yes, they do and Republicans care.

(CROSSTALK)

TANDEN: "The Des Moines Register" poll, this question was asked about the e-mail. 85 percent Democrats say they don't care.

HEWITT: No, this is before the 22 emails on Friday came out that were marked top secret. She is lying to the American people.

TANDEN: She is not lying. HEWITT: It will make its way --

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: Let me ask -- let me ask one more question.

I want to go into the poll. One thing that's interesting is if you look at the Democratic vote, according to the poll, the most predictive thing about whether they support Sanders or Clinton is not gender, it's age. Older voters going for Clinton, younger voters going for Sanders. And women under the age of 45, look at that -- 48 percent of women under 45 are going for Sanders. And 33 percent for Clinton.

Why is Hillary Clinton not connecting, do you think, with younger women?

NAVARRO: Because younger women don't just go for gender. Because, you know, they don't think that being a woman is, you know, is an historical glass ceiling thing.

You know, we've -- we've grown up. I am a woman that's under 45. We've grown up without some of the limitations that the women that came in front of us had. So we don't see it to the same level that you may, if you are of an older generation. And frankly, because, look, Bernie Sanders comes across as authentic. It is fascinating that the 74-year-old from Vermont who's a cranky old guy...

TAPPER: Yes.

NAVARRO: ... is the one that is really resonating and cutting through with the young people because of passion.

TAPPER: We've got to pay the bills. We've got to pay the bills. Quick break right now. When we come back, panel, stay here. Get some final predictions on who's going to win, who's going to get a ticket to New Hampshire. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:54:15]

TAPPER: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Jake Tapper.

We're live in Des Moines, the panel is back now to give their final predictions and who is going to win the coveted Iowa caucuses tomorrow evening.

Governor, who is going to win both sides?

SCHWEITZER: OK. On the Democratic side you're going to see that Martin O'Malley underperforms and why? Because there could be a lot of horse trading. There will be more horse trading in the Democratic caucus than it would be at a Kentucky county fair. Because if you don't get to 15 percent -- you don't get any delegates. And what Martin O'Malley needs is for this primary to continue for the next two months. And that's going to happen on the Republican side too.

If you're Ben Carson you're going to throw your vote to Marco Rubio or somebody else because you need multiple people in this primary so it doesn't get over in two months.

TAPPER: You can be more concise on that if you want, Hugh.

HEWITT: Bernie wins the Democrats. Ted wins the Republican. If Donald comes in second Marco Rubio is a very close third.

[09:55:03]

TAPPER: Interesting. Ana.

NAVARRO: (INAUDIBLE) I've been wrong in absolutely everything I have predicted about Donald Trump.

(LAUGHTER)

I'm going to predict that he wins in hopes that he loses. And you know -- and I think on the Democratic side it's going to be Bernie Sanders because I really want to see Larry David give a victory speech.

(LAUGHTER)

TAPPER: All right. Neera.

TANDEN: I love how the Republicans really love Bernie Sanders. Maybe there's a message there.

(CROSSTALK)

NAVARRO: ... Democrats.

(CROSSTALK)

TANDEN: Not really. Let's see tomorrow.

TAPPER: What's your prediction?

TANDEN: When -- I think Hillary will win obviously (INAUDIBLE).

TAPPER: By a lot or a little?

TANDEN: I think it will be close. I think it will be close but she'll win which will be a good momentum. And I think sadly for America Donald Trump will win.

TAPPER: (INAUDIBLE)?

TANDEN: You know, more than a few points.

TAPPER: By more than a few points?

TANDEN: Yes. TAPPER: All right.

TANDEN: It's not going to go neck and neck.

NAVARRO: OK. So how about you? What do you think?

TAPPER: I don't do that. We're out of time.

(LAUGHTER)

Don't forget CNN's special coverage of the Iowa caucuses begins tomorrow at 4:00 p.m. Eastern. We'll be live all over the state as the votes are being counted. Thanks for spending your Sunday morning with us.

Go to CNN.com/SOTU STATE OF THE UNION for extras from the show.

I'm Jake Tapper in Des Moines, Iowa.

"FAREED ZAKARIA GPS" is next.