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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Iowa Caucuses Discussed; Interview With New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio; Is Trump Still An Outsider If He Wins Iowa?; Clinton Seeks Iowa Win Despite Ghosts Of 2008. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired February 1, 2016 - 16:30   ET

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


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[16:31:58]

TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD.

We're live from Iowa, where voting in the 2016 presidential race will begin just hours from now. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has a long history with the Clintons. He managed Hillary Clinton's winning Senate run in the year 2000 and now he's here in Iowa knocking on doors for the Clinton campaign.

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TAPPER: And joining me now from Iowa City, Iowa, is New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Mr. Mayor, thanks so much for joining us.

BILL DE BLASIO (D), MAYOR OF NEW YORK: You're very welcome, Jake.

TAPPER: So, Mr. Mayor, how is the reception for a big city boy like yourself among the small town folk of Iowa? Are they greeting you well or eying you warily?

DE BLASIO: No, it's been a great reception. Iowans take the caucuses very, very seriously.

And they really weigh the information. They care about people coming to their door talking to them about the issues. I have gotten a great reception. I came out here with a team from New York. We have knocked on 1,800 doors since Friday and a lot more today we're going to be doing.

And the great thing is that people are so focused on the meaning of this state. They understand that they're the first in the nation, they understand they're making a big, big impact, really believe that changes people want -- this is a very progressive electorate, as you know, Jake.

I'm telling them, if you're progressive, you want to see greater taxes on the wealthy, higher wages and benefits for people, paid family leave, paid sick leave, Hillary Clinton is the person who can get that done and get it done now. And that, I think, is a message that resonates here.

TAPPER: That's interesting, because I think there are probably a lot of voters out there, progressives, who wonder how you, as a very strong progressive who has focused so much on income inequality, how you're supporting Hillary Clinton and not Bernie Sanders, who I think is probably, I think it's fair to say, more liberal than Hillary Clinton.

DE BLASIO: Well, let me tell you a couple of things.

First of all, I respect Bernie a lot and I think he's contributed greatly to the discourse in this country. And that's what I hear from Iowa Democrats. They respect all three of the candidates. But what I talk about is who's going to get the job done.

And Hillary Clinton's agenda, the actual platform, includes higher taxes on the wealthy, closing the carried interest loophole, the Buffett rule, the new tax that she put forward for folks who make over $5 million. It includes paid sick leave, paid family leave, higher minimum wage. That is a really strong progressive blueprint and exactly what we want to see in the Democratic nominee.

Walking in the door of the White House, she would have the most progressive platform of any Democratic nominee in, I would say, decades. So I feel great about where she stands. And the second question is, who can get it done? Who knows how to navigate all of the obstacles and stand in the fire and get it done?

Hillary Clinton has proven that. I always talk to people about the health care reform fight of '93 and '94. She had all of the power of the American health insurance industry arrayed against her. She stuck with it. I think what she did helped pave the way to Obamacare later on.

[16:35:07]

And that's the kind of fortitude that's going to be needed to make progressive change in this country.

TAPPER: Your predecessor, Mike Bloomberg, is now talking openly about maybe running as a third-party candidate. I know you're a strong Clinton supporter. Hypothetically, do you think a Bloomberg candidacy would hurt the Democratic nominee more or the Republican?

DE BLASIO: I think it's hard to say. But, again, it is hypothetical, as you say.

I think the bottom line is. I don't think people of this country are going to turn to a billionaire to fix the problems that were largely created by billionaires. And I think that's the contradiction here. This election is going to be about the economy. This election is going to be about the decline of middle class, and the needs of the working people and the need for a fairer economy.

I'm not sure what a billionaire can contribute in that context. So I'm not sure there's space for him. TAPPER: All right. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, thank you so

much. Have fun out there.

DE BLASIO: Thanks, Jake.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TAPPER: Joining me now, Jeff Weaver, the campaign manager for the Sanders campaign.

Thanks so much for being here.

JEFF WEAVER, BERNIE SANDERS CAMPAIGN MANAGER: Happy to be here, Jake.

TAPPER: Are you surprised that Bill de Blasio, this national spokesman for progressive causes who has made income inequality and combating it one of his major issues, isn't supporting Sanders?

WEAVER: It is a little surprising.

Clearly, Senator Sanders is the person who's been talking about this issue most consistently for years and years, as the vice president pointed out not too long ago. So, if income inequality is your top issue, Bernie Sanders is the obvious choice.

TAPPER: So, we reported earlier that the magic number for the Sanders campaign that you're looking for is 170,000 caucus-goers, that if you get above that number, you will feel like you're having a pretty good night because Bernie does so much better with the first-time voter caucus-goers than Hillary Clinton does. Is that accurate, do you think, 170,000?

WEAVER: Sure.

Well, without giving out a precise number, I would say that the larger it goes, the better it is for Senator Sanders. He's always been a proponent of large elections. If we see a large turnout here in Iowa, young people, first-time caucus-goers, people who don't go out every time, I think you're going to see him do very, very well tonight.

TAPPER: Senator Sanders prides himself on not running a negative campaign. He has made some tough calls when it comes to Goldman Sachs, when it comes to speaking fees. There's an ad running in rotation here doesn't mention Secretary of State Clinton, but very clearly targeted at her when it comes to taking money from big banks.

WEAVER: Well, Jake, look, it's a systemic problem.

And I think if you look at the people who have taken speaking fees and money from big banks, you can put Jeb Bush in that category and a whole host of other people. It's not just Secretary Clinton who has received a lot of money from big banks and taken speaking fees from Goldman and other.s

But it's an establishment politics that is run with money from Wall Street and other big interests. TAPPER: I know the Sanders campaign is often very sensitive to the

idea that the establishment is with Clinton because she's the establishment candidate. Has this race in Iowa so far been above- board? Have you seen anything that you think has been unfair when it comes to how the Democratic apparatus has operated?

WEAVER: No. Listen, the people of Iowa, the Democratic Party here in Iowa have been great. They have been very welcoming.

Obviously, the secretary had relationships with some people at the beginning that we didn't have, but I think we have built good relationships. I think the people on the street, the rank and file Democrats in Iowa, have been very warm and receptive to Senator Sanders' message of dealing with a rigged economy held up by a corrupt system of campaign finance.

So, we feel very great about Iowa. In fact, if you look at an early Bernie quote when he first came to Iowa, he came home and he talked to Jane, his wife, and he said, "I think I'm going to like Iowa, they're very much like Vermonters."

So we have a lot of affinity for the folks here.

TAPPER: All right, well, have fun. Good luck tonight. Really appreciate it, Jeff Weaver.

WEAVER: Thanks. Really appreciate it.

TAPPER: And in just two days, when the focus shifts to New Hampshire, CNN will host a live town hall with all three Democratic presidential candidates. That's Wednesday night 8:00 p.m. Eastern.

Coming up, a few months ago, he was way ahead in Iowa, even topping Donald Trump. What happened? We will ask Dr. Ben Carson.

And Donald Trump, the latest polls give him a slim lead in tonight's caucuses. If he wins, could he then run the table to the nomination? Stay with us.

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[16:43:20]

TAPPER: Welcome back to a special edition of THE LEAD live from America's heartland, Iowa.

We're just, just three hours away from the start of the Iowa caucuses and a night that could forever change the political landscape. Tonight, Republicans will decide if Donald Trump, the brash billionaire businessman and reality TV star, adds another title to his list of credits, winner of the Iowa caucus. Will this turn Trump into the prohibitive favorite?

Joining us now, CNN's chief political correspondent, Dana Bash, and the chief political reporter for "The Des Moines Register," Jennifer Jacobs. Jennifer, thanks for being here. Dana, thanks for being here.

So, Republican Senator Joni Ernst, conservative Republican here from Iowa, was asked how Ted Cruz gets along with his U.S. Senate colleagues. She said the endorsements are telling. Explain what that means.

JENNIFER JACOBS, "THE DES MOINES REGISTER": She is very delicate and considerate. She does not like to criticize her fellow Republicans, so she was trying to say very gently, look at the endorsements that Ted Cruz has received and that will tell you how popular he is with his fellow colleagues there in the U.S. Senate. And the answer is none.

TAPPER: He has none. He has none.

Dana, Donald Trump is running as the outsider in this race. He's the furthest thing possible from a politician. All the rules have been changed, Donald Trump. But if he wins tonight, does that change it at all? Does that change the equation? He's no longer an outsider. He will be the front-runner officially.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Possibly.

Look, I think that he's so unique to politics and such a unique character in politics that -- and he hasn't been in an elected office before. Yes, he will officially be the front-runner and, you could argue, will have more ownership over the party.

TAPPER: Yes.

[16:45:02] BASH: But he still has a lot of bragging rights as somebody who's never been elected and doesn't have to take money from contributors and so forth, which is a big part of the reason why his supporters like him.

TAPPER: Jennifer, as I just said, the rule book has been thrown out. If he wins tonight, this is a guy who has not pulled the full Grassley, visiting all 99 counties. I don't know how many counties he's visited, but he's not going into cafes and shaking hands and meeting Iowans.

He's doing huge rallies. He has not spent anything on polling. He has not run that many TV ads, just a cursory number of ads. He's just come here and attacked his rivals and held these huge rallies. Does this change Iowa politics forever, you think?

JACOBS: We asked Senator Chuck Grassley about that this morning as well because essentially someone pointed out he's had more than 40 rallies around the state and Iowans from every county have probably come to him.

So I asked if that's a reverse Grassley and he said, well, listen, the reason I go around the state is to actually engage with people and to encourage government participation, hear what my constituents are thinking. He gave Donald Trump an out and said when you're running for president, you have different purposes. If he can win Iowa by doing it differently, that's fine.

But you've got Ted Cruz who just finished in the town of Jefferson in Green County. Our records show he's missing two so there's a little bit of a dispute there.

TAPPER: Discrepancy.

JACOBS: We have some rules for ours. You have to have some advance notice and it has to be open to the public. A couple of events didn't meet our criteria so we show only 97.

But the point is when you go to all these counties, it's not about just stepping foot in the counties, the whole point of the full Grassley is to engage with voters and talk with voters and that is what Ted Cruz is doing.

BASH: And it's been really stunning, obviously I'm not an Iowan, but coming in as much as I have and to watch that the Iowa voters don't seem to be demanding from Donald Trump what they do from other candidates.

TAPPER: Yes.

BASH: To have that one-on-one time, to raise their hand and say, Senator Cruz, you don't support ethanol subsidies and here's why I think you're wrong and have a back-and-forth dialogue. It just doesn't happen.

I mean, sure Donald Trump has question-and-answer time but it's sort of a question and then sort of an answer and then move on.

TAPPER: You can't compare it. But if it wins, if it's successful, what can you argue with? Stay here, guys.

Next, Hillary Clinton trailing Sanders by double digits in New Hampshire. Does that make tonight a must-win for her?

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[16:52:06]

TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. We are live in Des Moines, Iowa. Tonight Hillary Clinton is fighting to avoid a bad case of deja vu.

The CNN poll of poll shows Hillary Clinton clinging to a slim three- point lead over Bernie Sanders in Iowa, but a loss is sure to draw comparisons to 2008 when Clinton lost to Barack Obama in this state.

Does that make Iowa do or die for Hillary Clinton tonight? Our panel is back with me, Dana Bash, Jennifer Jacobs. Dana, there's a big difference between Clinton/Sanders and Clinton/Obama.

That is New Hampshire was still up for grabs with Obama so she could go there and beat Obama so it was level playing field. Bernie Sanders, who's from neighboring Vermont, is double digits ahead of her in New Hampshire.

BASH: Yes, it would be shocking if Clinton would suddenly use any momentum that she got from here, assuming that she wins the Iowa caucuses, to be able to beat Bernie Sanders in New Hampshire. The difference is that large.

That's why if you're looking forward, it's South Carolina that the Clinton campaign is looking towards. That's the place that they hope to really stop any potential momentum that Sanders has from New Hampshire.

They feel like South Carolina Democratic voters are more her kind of voters, it's more urban, less white, frankly, than Iowa and New Hampshire.

TAPPER: And more moderate Democrats.

BASH: Yes and more moderate.

SCIUTTO: So Democrats in the state, Jennifer, are very liberal. Did I see a state -- tell me if I'm getting this wrong -- where the Democrats identify with socialism more than they identify with capitalism? Do you know what I'm talking about?

JACOBS: Yes, yes. They're very open to the idea of socialism.

BASH: Is that right?

JACOBS: Yes. It's not a threatening topic to them. They like it, they embrace the idea. They are fun with it.

TAPPER: Why is Bernie Sanders doing so well here? Clinton could still win, we should point that up, but why is he doing much better than six months ago any of us would have expected.

JACOBS: This is exactly why. It's because two-thirds of our Democratic caucus electorate thinks that the system is rigged to help the rich and powerful. And those voters, you know, go to Hillary Clinton.

She gets some of those voters, but she gets more voters who think it's the opposite, that the system is fair and anyone who works hard can get ahead.

It's that deep-seated frustration with government and the feeling that the rich and powerful have everything under control and they get nothing.

TAPPER: Very interesting. Dana Bash, something else very interests in the "Des Moines Register" poll that came out over the weekend, suggested that the big determinant for whether or not you're voting for Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders is not gender, it's age. Women under the age of 45 support Bernie Sanders.

BASH: That's right.

TAPPER: She's got to turn that around if she wants to win this nomination.

BASH: Yes, she does have to turn that around because I think there are lots of reasons for that. But just actually speaking as a woman --

TAPPER: Under 45.

BASH: Thank you, under 45, there's just not the kind of ooh-ah factor for younger women of having a female president. Gender doesn't matter as much to younger women as the older women who couldn't imagine seeing a female president in their lifetime.

[16:55:05]There are lots of other factors, I'm not saying that, but when it comes to the question of gender that speaks to part of it.

TAPPER: You're not going to predict what's going to happen tonight, but what has been the most surprising thing about this contest so far?

JACOBS: It's just been interesting to see how Rubio is now predicting that he could come in first or second. One of his top surrogates predicted he could come in first or second. He should. He's cut out to win the Iowa caucuses. So we'll see if that will be a fun one?

TAPPER: It's been great. Jennifer, Dana, thanks so much. More of our special coverage of the Iowa caucuses coming up next.

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TAPPER: Thanks for joining us. I'm sorry that Dr. Ben Carson was not able to get here on time but hopefully he'll show up in the next hour with Wolf Blitzer.

That's it for this special edition of THE LEAD with Jake Tapper. I'll be back with CNN special coverage of tonight's Iowa caucus at 7:00 Eastern. I now turn you over to Mr. Blitzer in a place that we like to call "THE SITUATION ROOM."