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Iowa Caucuses Coverage; Iowa Caucus Doors Open Soon; Results Awaited for Iowa Caucuses; Cruz Campaign Makes Final Pitch. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired February 1, 2016 - 18:00   ET



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

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Anderson Cooper. Thanks for joining us.

We are now just one hour from the moment when doors open at caucus sites across Iowa, and just two hours from when they close and the voters inside get down to the business of picking a candidate and perhaps making history.

BLITZER: We have correspondents and cameras at all the major events in prime locations tonight, expert analysis left, right, and center. Plenty to talk about.

By the end of the night, a billionaire with no political experience whatsoever could be one big winner and a self-proclaimed Democratic socialist could be the other, or a Canadian-born freshman senator or former senator and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The polling is tight on both sides. So get ready for a surprise or two.

We begin the hour with Sara Murray. She is over at Donald Trump caucus night headquarters in West Des Moines.

Sara, what is the latest from the Trump campaign? How is Mr. Trump making his final push?

SARA MURRAY, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, I think that everyone is realizing this could be a truly incredible night. And that counts Donald Trump as well. They do not want the take anything for granted.

Donald Trump held two campaign rallies today, which is a bit of an unorthodox move for a candidate on caucus night. And we're also expecting him to appear at some caucus sites. Which ones, we don't know. And the same goes for his children. They have been all over the state today, doing some retail stops. And they too will appear at caucus sites.

Wolf, this is a shrewd move. A lot of people have said will Donald Trump supporters turn out? Going out to caucus is not the same as going to a rally, where Donald Trump is the entertainment. But by fanning himself and his children out to these caucus sites, they're guaranteeing some celebrity appeal, at least at a couple of the precincts around the country, Wolf.

BLITZER: Sara, how confident are they that Trump will emerge the victor tonight?

MURRAY: When Donald Trump was holding his rallies earlier today, he said he wanted to emerge victorious. He has made it clear that he really wants to win this state. But I would say that he and his team are cautiously optimistic right now. They know that the poll numbers look good for them. They feel confident in their ground game, even though they have been really tight-lipped about it. It's been very much behind the scenes.

But I think they feel like they are in a good spot heading into this night. As you know, though, better than anyone here, it all just depends on who shows up tonight. And there is no guarantee until they open those doors at the caucus sites, Wolf.

BLITZER: And so far the weather is pretty good, so that should encourage turnout. Sara Murray, thanks very much.

Ted Cruz is holding a pre-caucus rally right now at a Baptist church in Marion, Iowa. He is counting on a big evangelical turnout this evening, but not a high overall turnout. A lot of experts believe that would mean a surge of first-time caucus-goers who would be expected, many of them at least, to go with Trump.

Our Sunlen Serfaty is in Des Moines at Cruz headquarters tonight.

Sunlen is joining us now.

This is Cruz's last push for voters, Sunlen. What is his game plan? What has it been like so far today on the ground there in Iowa?

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the Cruz campaign is touting that they have blanketed this state; 12,000 volunteers were deployed today to really get out the vote.

For the candidate himself, I think that it's no coincident that his last formal event before coming here to this rally later is about evangelicals, speaking and rallying evangelical voters at a Baptist church nearby. This is where he needs to perform well tonight. He has always been about appealing to evangelicals.


But he needs to see those numbers perform for him tonight. In his final pitch, it was a very direct message to evangelical voters, all about character, questioning to point-blank to people out there on the trail saying the person you plan to caucus for, do they have integrity? Do they have character? Really trying to make that direct contrast with Donald Trump with evangelicals out here on the trail -- Wolf. BLITZER: Sunlen, you're there in Des Moines where Cruz will be

rallying as the votes come in. What is the campaign expecting tonight realistically?

SERFATY: Well, they have been really, I should say, Wolf, downplaying expectations for days. And this is significant and a notable shift, because for months Ted Cruz himself predicting a win here in Iowa, saying that he didn't even think he had peaked at one point in December.

So it is a pretty significant shift that they're now kind of downplaying expectations. Ted Cruz himself today, you can sense a little bit of doubt in his voice today. He said he is at peace where he is in Iowa. He's saying, although he does feel good, he went on to say this is in God's hands. This is in voters' hands. He says if Donald Trump wins here tonight, he will happily congratulate him and then move on -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Sunlen Serfaty, thanks very much.

Now to Marco Rubio. He is running a third in most of the polls, contending at least in the eyes of election watchers to be the leader of the alternatives to both Trump and Cruz. He will be campaigning right to the very end with a string of visits scheduled tonight to caucus sites, even as the voting again.

CNN's Manu Raju is over at Rubio caucus night headquarters in Des Moines. He is joining us now.

Manu, several of Rubio's opponents are having rally-type events today, but Rubio's final push for Iowa voters is a face-to-face approach. Is that right?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. In addition to that, Wolf, he has also dispatched hundreds of volunteers to make thousands of phone calls to uncommitted voters. And what the campaign is hearing back is good news, according to campaign officials that I speak with.

They feel like they're doing well in the polls, probably even better than what "The Des Moines Register" said that they were at last week, which is about 15 percent of the vote. They think that they will probably surpass that. But they are still managing expectations. They believe that they are probably almost certain to get third place. They do not think they are going to get into second place at this point, Wolf.

And it's notable where Marco Rubio is going tonight. He is going into Polk County. That's here in Des Moines, that county a very populous part of the state in which they believe they need to do very well here in order to get that strong third-place finish.

BLITZER: What are they really realistically expecting in the campaign, Manu?

RAJU: They believe if they have a third-place finish and are much higher than the other establishment type favorites in this race, the governor specifically, if they are 10 points, 15 points higher than them, they will have a very strong message to tell out of Iowa and they can go into New Hampshire trying to be that unity candidate. We will see if they're able to do that just in a few hours -- Wolf. .

BLITZER: All right, Manu, thanks very much.

COOPER: I want to get a first quick take from our panel, Wolf, on just what to look for in this next hour as the doors open at caucuses one hour from now.

Kevin, in terms of, you look at Donald Trump. You look at Ted Cruz. They have campaigned so differently in Iowa. Ted Cruz has gone to all 99 counties, really reached out to evangelicals, reached out to local officials. Donald Trump has had big events there, obviously. He has been spending more time there lately, but has not spent the time that Ted Cruz has and has not really advertised until just the last couple of weeks.


And I think what he is trying to do is that he is taking a new approach to what is usually a traditional process, which is trying to build up a whole lot of buzz, trying to get a whole lot of free media, and then build a new coalition, some evangelicals, some independent voters, new voters that he expects to come and support him, because he is a very untraditional candidate, someone who can challenge the status quo.

And that's what is going to be put to the test, is whether or not -- it think this is a big test on whether or not momentum is going to be able to beat grassroots infrastructure.

Chairman Rogers, how effective do you think Donald Trump's attacks against Ted Cruz have been just in the last couple weeks? Ted Cruz was higher up in the polls, according to a lot of different polls. He then went after -- Donald Trump suddenly pivoted, went after him on the Canadian birth issue and other issues.

MIKE ROGERS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I think it leaves a bit of a mark, but I don't think it's fatal by any means.

And, again, it's going to come down to turnout. I think that rallied Ted Cruz voters to go out and grab a friend and bring them to the poll. I'm not sure that was helpful in that round of attacks. But beyond that, Donald Trump did something pretty interesting. About a few weeks ago, started having smaller group meetings where he was walking people through exactly, his campaign team, taking those new voters and walking them through exactly what to expect, how you go into a caucus, how you vote and how it works, because that can be very intimidating if you have never participated in politics to any degree.

That could be a switch that you're going to see here in little bit. But as far as the give and take on Cruz and Trump, most of those folks, no, I think most of those folks have already committed. It may fire up the wrong crowd in some of those cases. [18:10:05]

COOPER: Amanda, your former boss, Ted Cruz, in order to win, he doesn't just have to get his largely evangelical supporters to come out. He has to hope the Donald Trump's new people don't come out, right?


And I think that's why Ted Cruz has made such an aggressive play to go to those 99 counties, to pick up and win the places that Huckabee and Rick Santorum have won before. He has been very up front saying that I want to be the candidate that conservatives coalesce behind.

He is not necessarily interested in taking on and stealing voters from Donald Trump, but everyone else in the field. Think about Ben Carson. Cruz went up in the polls when Carson went down. And Cruz could still benefit a lot from the demise of Ben Carson.


COOPER: You think a lot of Carson supporters would go to Cruz?

CARPENTER: Yes, I think it's very likely. Huckabee, Santorum, even Rand Paul people, if they're in that caucus and they see where the momentum is and they want to get behind a candidate to win, Cruz can be their guy.

Cruz has been very up front in the race, saying this is between me and Donald Trump. If you don't vote for me, a candidate who has a chance of at least slowing down his momentum, you're voting for...


MADDEN: Amanda makes a good point, real quick. There is an anybody but Trump caucus out there. And who can finally get them in the last...




MADDEN: Because you know what? They don't want their vote wasted.

BORGER: Here is the fascinating thing about Ted Cruz. Here is a man who was against NSA surveillance. And he is the most data-driven candidate, bar none, even including Barack Obama. This is somebody who knows everything about every voter in all of the 99 counties of Iowa.

He knows where you shop, what you do, who you're likely to vote for, whether you go to church every Sunday or just twice a month. He is so data-driven. And that will in the end I believe help him if he is close to Trump. (CROSSTALK)

CARPENTER: One of the things, I think they have learned a lot of lessons from the Barack Obama campaign, which one thing broadly I think we should all recognize. Before it was conventional wisdom a senator could not win. Now we have not only Ted Cruz doing well, but also Senator Sanders.

And I think it's because the Senate has become a proving ground of sorts, where people can show where they are on the positions and prove to voters where they stand.

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I guess Ted Cruz knows almost as much about us as Google. So, we have to assume...



GERGEN: Yes, probably so.

But what I find fascinating about this is that Ted Cruz is playing the game that Barack Obama did to a very large extent. He is running a terrific ground game. And Trump has been engaging in an air game. And that's very new to politics.

But there was a really interesting story came out of Politico today that he got together with people back in Christmas of 2013 and started planning this out and said, I'm going to do an air war. I can keep the media's focus.

But there is an interesting question. I don't want to stretch this analogy too far. But if you're running an air game, do you need boots on the ground to win?

COOPER: Right.

GERGEN: Do you need boots on the ground?


BORGER: Well, he needs a lot more boots. Let's put it that way.

MICHAEL NUTTER (D), FORMER MAYOR OF PHILADELPHIA: You always need people on the ground.


NUTTER: The air game gets you the attention. The ground game wins elections. That's really my perspective.

MADDEN: And if Trump wins tonight, it will be because he has a better ground game than any of the people that you have seen in Iowa before.


MADDEN: If Trump wins tonight, it will be because he had a better ground game than many people thought.


BILL PRESS, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: This is a time -- this is a time, organization, organization; 100 years ago, I was Democratic state chair of California. I learned the hard way.

You can do all the advertising you want, all the rah-rah-rah rallies. When it comes to Election Day, it's all over. And if you don't have the old GOTV, people, they know -- you have to know who your voters are. And you have got to get them out. It's as simple as that.

And if Bernie has got it, he wins tonight. But just one other quick point. As complicated as the Democratic caucuses are, it's even more complicated than we learned, because they're weighted. So based on the turnout the last time, if you have 200 people at once caucus, you don't get as many delegates as you do if you have 200 people at a different caucus.

So, Bernie has to get his young people not in the college towns. But he is asking them to go home.


COOPER: Explain that, because that's very confusing.

PRESS: Well, again, they're weighted based on how they did, how they voted, how many turned out the last time.

So Bernie supporters are mainly in these -- a lot of them in these college towns, right? The college towns, you could have 500 people. You will not get -- even if you win it, you don't get as many delegates as if you have maybe 300 people back home. So he has been telling his students go home and caucus. Don't stay in your college town.


BORGER: But the Republican caucuses...

PRESS: That's a tough challenge.

BORGER: But the Republican caucuses are much more straightforward.

PRESS: Right.

BORGER: They're different. We should point that out. They are different from the Democratic caucuses, right. You vote and leave.


GERGEN: Won't we get two sets of results tonight? We will get a delegate count, plus we will get a voter count?

BORGER: Eventually.

GERGEN: Won't we get a voter count?

BORGER: Eventually. It takes long time.


JEFFREY LORD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: ... county level and work their way up.


GERGEN: Right. But won't we know sort of how many votes were cast and who they went for? One person could win the delegate count and somebody else could win the popular count on that basis.


BORGER: I doubt it.

GERGEN: But if the college kids all...



ROGERS: One note of caution on this. Remember, they are folding up pieces of paper with names written on them and putting them in a shoe box. Some of them are bedazzled with those little jewels. I'm not kidding.


ROGERS: They will have to open the box and count them. If you remember the Santorum-Romney issue in the last presidential race came down to a few problems in actually folding out the pieces of paper and counting them. This is not going to be instantaneous, electronic...


COOPER: Chairman Rogers, I just love that you know what a bedazzler is.



COOPER: We're going to take a break. You have been watching infomercials.

We have got to take a quick break. A lot more to get to. We will get the latest from Clinton caucus night headquarters, where the pressure could not be any higher, and late reporting from the Sanders and O'Malley camps as well. We will also be joined by a top Cruz campaign official about expectations for his candidate, the senator now doing a little Q&A with voters in Marion as we speak.

We will be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


BLITZER: To give you some idea of how drastically the race in Iowa has changed since the outset, Hillary Clinton once held a nearly 30- point advantage over Bernie Sanders in the polls.

Tonight, they're neck and neck. And because Senator Sanders holds a big polling edge in New Hampshire, it really puts a lot of pressure on Secretary Clinton to secure a victory tonight.

Given that, are they feeling that pressure over at Clinton caucus night headquarters?

Let's check in with our Brianna Keilar, who is there.

Brianna, what is the latest? What is Secretary Clinton's final push looking like?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, today is so much about the waiting game after Hillary Clinton made her case last night for why she thinks Iowans should caucus for her, where she said that she is basically more electable and that she's more capable of getting things done.

We saw a number of events yesterday. Today was about going out, seeing volunteers. She brought them treats on the south side of Des Moines, thanking them for all of the work that they have put in for her.

And then she relaxed a little bit, had some coffee with her daughter and her son-in-law, some coffee and pastries, before getting ready to wait for these results to come in tonight, Wolf.

BLITZER: Brianna, Secretary Clinton, I know you ran into her earlier today. How is she feeling about tonight?

KEILAR: Yes, I ran into her. I wasn't expecting to see her, Wolf. And she was in really great spirits. She was smiling. So it seems like certainly she seemed relax and perhaps confident going into this, which is really what we're hearing from some of her aides.

They feel good. They're looking at the indicators. They're looking at the polls over time here in the last couple of weeks. And they feel like the numbers are on their side. They feel like they have done everything they can when it comes to organizing, when it comes to getting people out to caucus. But so many of them also remember back to 2008.

And this is what they say, Wolf. They say, we thought things were good going into that night too. And then, of course, she was given a stinging third-place defeat. So there is really, I think, this sense for them of anxiety a little bit, that even though they're feeling good, they don't quite trust it. They want to see what the results are before they're really going to feel confident. BLITZER: Yes, Barack Obama came in first. Senator, former Senator

John Edwards came in second. She came in third. Brianna, thanks very much.

Workers at the Sanders headquarters got a pep talk today from the boss. Listen to this.


SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (VT-I), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We will struggle tonight if the voter turnout is low. That's the fact. So what is our job today, is to make sure that we have the highest voter turnout possible. That happens, we win. Let's good get them. Thank you all.



BLITZER: All right, Jeff Zeleny is there for us tonight.

Jeff, what is the Sanders campaign telling you about how they will determine if Iowa turns out to be a success?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, in a word, it is turnout again, which is even more important in these caucuses than the elections.

Everyone who has come to see Senator Sanders in the closing days of the campaign has been contacted by text, by e-mail, by phone call. They're trying to turn out their number ones, they call them. They organize people by one, two, three. One is the most committed supporter. They believe that they have enough number ones to have a big turnout here. The number that they're eying is this. If it's more than 160,000 people who turn out tonight, they believe that they're in good shape.

If it's more than 170,000 people, the Clinton campaign, I'm told, believes that that is essentially or close to being out of reach for them. To put it in some context here, this would be in between the 2004 turnout and the 2008 turnout, when there were some 240,000 people here. But the Sanders campaign is doing something new.

They're trying something new, Wolf. And this will be a test of it tonight. Social media. Will social media through Snapchat, through Facebook, through Instagram be able to turn out supporters, rather than a brick and mortar organization that they have used so many years here?

So, in a word, it is turnout, getting these younger and newer voters out to caucus in about an hour-and-a-half's time -- Wolf.

BLITZER: What else are they trying to do, Jeff, to get people mobilized and get out there and caucus?

ZELENY: Well, one of the things that they're trying to do is just sort of the supporter-to-supporter network. There are so many volunteers here from outside of the country for all campaigns.

But the Sanders campaign in particular is using a lot of out-of-state volunteers, as well as in-state volunteers, to go back and redouble up their effort here. The specter of 2008 is not hanging over them. A tiny specter of 2004 is hanging over them. That was Howard Dean. We famously saw him crash in the Iowa caucuses.

He won -- finished third place. He was soaring for so long and crashed. But all the Sanders advisers believe that so much is different now, because the social media, how we communicate is different now.


So that is one sort of benchmark that Bernie Sanders wants to beat, that Howard Dean crash here in Iowa.

BLITZER: Yes. And the Hillary Clinton campaign is doing that social media, new development as well since then. All right, Jeff, thanks very much.

COOPER: Wolf, thanks very much. I want to talk our panel.

My understanding on the Howard Dean thing is that that campaign did not sort of in the final moments continue to check in with their caucus-goers and kind of push them to go. And a lot of people they thought were going to come out to caucus actually didn't. And that lesson has been learned by all of these candidates.

BORGER: Right. Absolutely. They had a lot of younger voters from out of state who came in and didn't really organize the way they needed to.

I remember them walking around in their bright orange caps. Remember that? And so a lot has been learned from the mistakes of Howard Dean by the Bernie Sanders campaign. What was interesting about what Jeff was just saying is that they're figuring it's around 160,000 that they need to get out.

I mean, Barack Obama had 239,000 people turn out in 2008. So they don't need anything like, they believe -- this is their analysis -- what Obama had to beat Hillary Clinton last time around.

GERGEN: But that suggests it's going to be a much lower turnout overall.

BORGER: Right. Well, they believe that.

COOPER: But to Bill's point earlier, the fact that if you have all these younger voters, if they're voting by their college, that's not a good thing. Or if they're caucusing by their college, that's not a great thing for Bernie Sanders. He has got to get them to go to their home districts.


BORGER: To spread it out.

PRESS: You have got to get the right number of people in the right caucuses to really -- to get the delegates that you need and to win these caucuses.

And in the course of the campaign, look, Tad Devine and Jeff Weaver are real pros. They know this. And the Clinton people know it too. But enthusiasm, as you said, Gloria, is great. And Bernie's got it. But that's not enough.


NUTTER: You have to show up.

COOPER: Mayor Nutter, you're a Clinton supporter.


COOPER: The Clinton campaign says they have learned the lessons of 2008. They have focused -- they have taken Iowa a lot more seriously. They have had a lot of small meetings in smaller groups where they felt she really shines as a candidate. She has said she is a different candidate.


COOPER: Do you think, though, voters in Iowa see her as a different candidate or do they see the same person she was back in 2008?

NUTTER: Well, as they say, you only get one time to make a first impression. They know Senator Clinton.

They know first lady Clinton. They know Secretary Clinton. She is not a new person. But you can change campaign styles, campaign tactics, and the things that you do on the ground. And, again, as has been one of the themes of this campaign, I think experience does matter. And you learn from the things that have happened in the past, and see what others have done. Secretary Clinton knows how to do that.

GERGEN: She is more experienced. But there is a fascinating generational split here...

COOPER: Divide, right.

GERGEN: ... in Hillary's case. It was really, really interesting, that "Des Moines Register" poll over the weekend, that she does so well with people -- women over 45.

But under that, Sanders beats her heavily.

COOPER: Right.

GERGEN: And it does really raise questions. Will -- the Obama coalition of 2008 and 2012 depended heavily on the youth vote.

COOPER: In Iowa.


GERGEN: And everywhere, and in the general election. It was hugely important in both general elections. Can she bring that along, or is the generational difference such that she is going to have a harder time with that...


COOPER: The thing that she has, the part of the Obama coalition she has in other states, because there is not as big an African-American population, is African-Americans in South Carolina and elsewhere, as we have talked about. The question is young people.

GERGEN: Absolutely. Yes.

But it's also, is age going trump -- or is it going to overtake the question of her being a woman, being the first woman? And the younger voters don't seem...


BORGER: To Bernie?

GERGEN: No, young women don't seem to -- it doesn't seem to matter to them as much.


PRESS: People under 45, Bernie Sanders leads her 78-21.


BORGER: And among young women too.


GERGEN: It's extraordinary.

PRESS: Under 45, men and women.


PRESS: That's why I think, tonight, we will see what happens. But I really believe Hillary has much, much, much more at stake than Bernie does. She has to win tonight.

She lost to Barack Obama, fine. But he was a rock star. Bernie is a 74-year-old socialist from Vermont, you know, who is an outsider. And for her to -- if she were to lose to Bernie, I think it would be a real...


NUTTER: I love that. Great spin. (CROSSTALK)

NUTTER: The reality is that Senator Sanders has run a philosophical campaign. He wants an ideological debate about a lot of things.

Secretary Clinton is practical, pragmatic, knows how to get stuff done. And people will make a decision about those kinds of things. But I want to go back to one of the points that David made very, very early on, about 1,680-plus caucus locations. This is Iowa. Great state, great people. And it's kicking off this incredible big night.

[18:30:11] We have about 1,680-plus voting divisions in Philadelphia. It is as if the citizens of Philadelphia were kicking off the national campaign and directing the momentum for what's going to happen over the course of the next, you know, eight, nine, ten months.

COOPER: Right. That's the context.

NUTTER: That's the context with which we're operating here.

COOPER: We're going to take a quick break. Before we do, a reminder. We've got something special in store Wednesday night, a "360" Democratic town hall. Clinton, Sanders, O'Malley, all will be there. I'll be moderating. Eight Eastern Time, Wednesday night in New Hampshire. No matter what the results are tonight, they will all be there. It's going to be a fascinating night. Tune in for that.

Coming up next, about a half hour from opening time at the caucus locations throughout Iowa. And about 90 minutes from the actual caucusing,/ We'll check back in with the Democratic and Republican caucus site for a closer look at what is about to unfold. The first real contest in this amazing presidential election. We'll be right back.


BLITZER: Senator Ted Cruz just wrapped up a pre-caucus rally at a Baptist church in Marion, Iowa. Earlier today he spoke with the town of Jefferson, where he explained an accomplishment that he called the full Grassley.


SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We are, with this stop, completing the very last stop of the full Grassley. We have now been to all 99 counties in the great state of Iowa.


BLITZER: Grassley, of course, being the long-time Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley, who visits every county in the state every year.

Joining us now, the full Tyler. Cruz campaign communications director Rick Tyler. Rick, thanks very much for joining us. So what's your prediction? How is the senator going to do tonight? RICK TYLER, CRUZ CAMPAIGN COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: Well, I think

he'll do very well. We'll either win or we'll come in a close second. And I'm confident that our turnout operation is as good as it gets. We've had 12,000 volunteers working. We're making over 20,000 calls a day. I guess there have been 24,000 calls, knocking on 2,000 doors a day. That's been going on for weeks now.

And so I feel pretty good. I feel like it's all come to this. A little nervous. But we've got about a half hour till caucus time starts. And so hoping that Iowa will bring it home for us.

BLITZER: Listen to what Donald Trump says about Senator Ted Cruz's suggestion about his policies. Listen to this.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE (via phone): Ted Cruz is a total liar. I am so against Obamacare. I've been saying it for two years in my speeches. I'm going to repeal and replace Obamacare. I don't even know where he gets this. But he is a liar.


BLITZER: All right. So why does the senator insist that Donald Trump would be -- supports Obamacare?

TYLER: Because he has said that he would -- he would fund single- payer health care system, which is where Obamacare is leading to. And Senator Cruz didn't say he supports Obama care. He said he supports an Obamacare-like system of where Obamacare is taking us, which is single payer.

We all know what happens with single payer. You get -- you get lower quality, higher costs, less choices, less innovation; and it costs lives and money. And so that's his -- those are Donald Trump's words.

You know, it's kind of sad, really, actually, that Donald Trump, you know, wants to do name-calling and invective and insults and thinks that that's really effective. And I just don't think -- I think the voters of Iowa are just kind of sick of that behavior.

And so their campaign attacked Congressman King today. It went over like a lead balloon. It was just not well-received by the Iowans, who were there, actually, to see Donald Trump.

And so, you know, I just think it's sad that he's going to stoop to this level.

BLITZER: So how bitter is this relationship? Now they used to have a so-called bromance. But it's really deteriorated.

TYLER: Well, Ted Cruz has said over and over again he likes Donald Trump. He has not returned the invective. In fact, he never has. Lots of people called him lots of names, because he doesn't want to get along with Washington. He wants to change Washington. But he never returns it in kind. So I think that speaks to the character of Ted Cruz.

So, look, it's going to be a -- I think it's a two-person race. And I hope to come out on top tonight. We'll see how Donald Trump reacts to actually losing. We'll see what happens.

BLITZER: Was that the full Tyler, Rick?

TYLER: I guess so.

BLITZER: All right. The full Tyler. Rick Tyler, thanks very much for joining us.

TYLER: Appreciate it.

COOPER: Wolf, doors open in about 20 minutes for the Iowa caucuses. I want to check in with Jim Sciutto, who's at a Republican caucus site in greenfield, Iowa.

What's happening there, Jim?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: How you doing, Anderson? We're at Notaway (ph) Valley High School. This is the southwestern corner of Iowa. It is rural. It is agricultural. Corn is king, they say, here.

There's also a strong evangelical streak here, which would seem to break in favor of a Ted Cruz, perhaps a Donald Trump with a Falwell endorsement. But other candidates not leaving it to chance. Darrell Issa, who's a surrogate for Marco Rubio, he's come all the way down here to the southwestern corner of the state to speak here tonight to try to peel away some of those Cruz and Trump supporters to go the way of Marco Rubio.

BLITZER: Do we know how large of a turnout they're expecting there tonight?

SCIUTTO: Well, I spoke to the precinct chair, and he says they're expecting a record turnout tonight. In fact, they're prepared to accommodate as much as twice as many voters as they had just four years ago. It doesn't mean they'll get there. But they're prepared for it.

But at the same time, it's very unpredictable. They've said that here in Notaway (ph) Valley, in Springfield -- Greenfield, rather, they correctly predicted, correctly voted for the winner of the Iowa caucuses going back to 1996. Precinct chair says, though, tonight completely unpredictable. He doesn't have a real sense of who's going to come away a winner tonight.

[18:40:27] COOPER: Right. A potential with a lot of new caucus goers. Jim, thanks.

Let's go now to a Democratic caucus site. Pamela Brown joins us from Des Moines. So what's happening there, Pamela?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Already, people are starting to come in. They just walked into the church, Anderson. They've been registering here.

And we've already seen both Bernie Sanders supporters as well as Hillary Clinton supporters who have arrived tonight. In fact, the Hillary camp set up shop where Barack Obama's group was eight years ago when Barack Obama won this caucus site. And Hillary obviously did not. So they're hoping that this will give them good luck, and that things will change this time around.

We're expecting a huge turnout here tonight. Eight years ago there were a little more than 100 people. There were a lot of first-time caucus goers. Tonight we're expecting even more people. There are around 600 Democrats registered here in this precinct. A little over 400 independents.

And of course, the Bernie Sanders camp is hoping to get the young people in, those first-time caucus goers to cast their vote.

The hot commodity, of course, tonight will be those who haven't decided yet, who are coming here, floating in between candidate, and who are here to be swayed. We're told that those that have made up their minds will be swarming around those who haven't, trying to get them into their groups. We're going see a lot of action here very shortly -- Anderson.

COOPER: And the weather in that area, is that going to be a factor tonight?

BROWN: Only in a good way, Anderson. And that's one of the reasons they think the turnout is going to be so high tonight. It's because it's a nice day here. It's not even that cold here in Iowa. The snowstorm hasn't set in yet. And so as one person we spoke to said, there is no excuse for people not to come out and caucus here, particularly in this precinct.

Cooper: All right. Good to know. Pamela Brown, thanks.

Coming up, the latest polls in Iowa show Bernie Sanders just barely behind Hillary Clinton. Her lead within the poll's margin of error. That's why tonight is so fascinating, so important. The question is can Sanders pull out a victory in the heartland? I'll speak with someone who wrote the book on him, next.

Also, take a look. Two GOP candidates who have already jumped ahead to New Hampshire, John Kasich and Jeb Bush.


JEB BUSH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He had written two memoirs. Because it was all about him and his ambitions. And he's, as I said, an extraordinary, extraordinary speaker. And he was there for two years as the United States senator when he lost his campaign.

There was nothing in his background about whether he could forge consensus, unite around the things that we agree on. Nothing. And the net result is we have suffered as a...



[18:47:25] BLITZER: The Iowa caucuses are about to get under way, the first big test for the presidential election and for Senator Bernie Sanders. The question tonight is whether he can overcome what seems to be Hillary Clinton's razor-thin lead over him in the polls in Iowa.

Joining us now is political strategist Jonathan Tasini. He's the author of the book "The Essential: Bernie Sanders and His Vision for America".

Jonathan, thanks very much for joining us.

I know you're hoping for a Sanders win tonight in Iowa. But if Hillary Clinton does win and he loses, how does that affect his strategy moving towards New Hampshire and beyond?

JONATHAN TASINI, POLITICAL STRATEGIST: Well, look, I think the reality is that we're sort of getting into the weeds with Iowa. There's 44 delegates at stake. We feel very confident about the work that's been done. But this fight is going all the way to the convention.

Wolf, if you had told me back in May that Bernie Sanders, who was at 3 percent in the polls, within seven months would essentially be tied with the presumed front-runner in Iowa and be closing fast in national polls, have raised $20 million just in January, which means he will be competitive in all the Super Tuesday states on March 1st, you would have said, you know, what are you smoking? You wouldn't have believed it.

So, this campaign is just started. We feel very, very good about the number of volunteers that are out there, the energy, the enthusiasm that's going to spread all across the country. And this will go all the way to the convention.

BLITZER: I remember. I agree with you. Six, seven months ago when he announced, it would have been amazing if somebody had made those predictions. So, what do you attribute to that success?

TASINI: Well, frankly, and with all due respect, the media did not catch this. It's very simple: Bernie Sanders is calling for political revolution. He is running against somebody who represents the status quo.

The status quo is something that nobody in the Democratic circles really likes, and doesn't want to embrace. The status quo represents the banks that we have to break up, the health care system that isn't working for people, and trade agreements that aren't working for people.

Bernie Sanders represents something completely different. And he has ignited people all across the country. I've travelled to all the early states, to Florida. The enthusiasm is just incredible. People sense a chance of supporting Bernie Sanders is changing the future of the country.

BLITZER: So, Hillary Clinton says she wants to pursue the strategies laid out by President Barack Obama. Bernie Sanders, though, he has a different idea, right?

TASINI: Yes, absolutely. Look, there are a lot of good things that Barack Obama has done. At every rally I've ever been to and heard Bernie Sanders speak, he said Barack Obama has done very good work and again, in the face of almost united Republican opposition.

[18:50:00] But Bernie Sanders wants to expand that and essentially take apart a system that is not working for people. So, health care is a great example. He says thank God that Barack Obama got the Affordable Care Act passed. That still leaves 29 (INAUDIBLE) people not covered by that health care plan and we're still paying premiums and co-pays that are outrageous.

Bernie Sanders' plan will save people thousands of dollars. That's completely changing the health care system and that's just indicative of the way he looks at the economy in general and again, it's a political revolution and people are thirsty for that. They really understand that the system is corrupt and they want to change that, and Bernie Sanders represents a movement.

He says it's about a movement. It's not just about him. He will be elected, but people have to stay engaged.

BLITZER: Jonathan Tasini, supporter of Bernie Sanders -- Jonathan, thanks very much for joining us.

TASINI: Always a pleasure, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Take a look at this. These are live pictures coming in. John Kasich, Jeb Bush, they're at events in New Hampshire right now. Both candidates putting in a lot of work in there.

Anderson, they're already looking way beyond Iowa. They're not going to do well in Iowa, so they're looking to the next contest a week from tomorrow in New Hampshire.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: And it's interesting. I mean, a lot of people are saying, even at the last debate, the GOP debate on FOX, that a lot of the candidates were -- they were in Iowa, John Kasich in particular, they were focused on how they are going to do in New Hampshire and trying to appeal to a New Hampshire audience, and here on this incredibly important day in Iowa. These folks are already in New Hampshire trying to get out the vote there.

BLITZER: They're trying desperately to get out the vote.

All right. We're getting closer and closer to the big moment right now.

COOPER: That's right. Caucus sites around the state of Iowa opening at the top of the hour. Coming up next, John King lays out what to look for as the night unfolds. The crucial clues that could spell victory or defeat of a candidate.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You and your campaign speak in general terms about how Ohio has 400 new jobs that's been created.


[18:56:33] COOPER: Just minutes from now, doors will open at caucus sites across Iowa. This is what it looks like. Iowa voters arriving to their designated meeting places where they'll cast the first ballots in the 2016 presidential race. Voting begins about an hour from now.

Now, you've heard it before, we're going to say it again. Turnout is obviously key to who wins over the next couple of hours. We're going to start to see the first signs of how the night might end.

John King is here to brief us for what to watch for -- John.

KING: So, we watch those lines outside. Then, we get the early entrance polls, and we get a little sense of the composition of the electorate, how many young people turned out, how many evangelicals turned out. And then, Anderson, finally, after all this talking, the wall will start to fill in with the results.

What we're looking for? On the Republican side, remember, it's complicated because we have so many candidates. We're expecting, of course, Marco Rubio to be in play tonight if you believe the polls. One of the big question is how does Donald Trump do? And obviously, Ted Cruz, they're in alphabetic order right now, the senator here.

So, let's go back to 2012 to say what are we going to look for. See all this gold? This is when Rick Santorum, remember how late that night was, Iowa 2012. Rick Santorum won very late because like Mike Huckabee in 2008, that green is Mike Huckabee, in 2012, Rick Santorum won almost all the small rural counties. That's where you find your evangelicals, your social conservatives, to a degree, the Tea Party voters.

Ted Cruz needs to copy the Santorum map if he is to beat Donald Trump in Iowa tonight. Then you look for Trump. Number one, can he steal some of this? Romney won a few of them, but can Ted Cruz -- Ron Paul won a few too. That's the light orange here.

Can Ted Cruz essentially infiltrate the evangelical turf and take some of that -- I mean, can Donald Trump, excuse me, do that to Ted Cruz? And then the battle will be on the Romney map. The dark red is where Mitt Romney won in 2012 in the population centers, Polk County, Ames, Cedar Rapids, Davenport and Dubuque.

Between Des Moines, Cedar Rapids, Davenport and Dubuque, you have the biggest cities in Iowa, they're not huge, but they're the population centers. Can Donald Trump win those area areas? That's the fight for the suburbs or that's where Marco Rubio is organizing the hardest, along the Romney map. So, watch out and see here. And then, of course, we're going to look for surprises.

COOPER: What about on the Democratic side?

KING: When you get to the Democratic side, let's start in 2008, to make it easier to go back, because if you look now, on the Democratic side now -- let's come over to D's here. Right now, of course, Hillary Clinton, Martin O'Malley, Bernie Sanders have a blank slate.

For Bernie Sanders, number one, we're going to look in the college towns. We're going to look in Iowa City. We're going to look in Ames. We know young people are for Bernie Sanders.

One of the challenges for the Sanders campaign, Anderson, though, could he get them to leave the college towns and increase his odds in other parts of the state. But let's go back in 2008 because it's instructive. The dark blue is Hillary Clinton.

Where did Obama win? Obama won big in the east. Just a little bit of Clinton over here, Dubuque, Cedar Rapids, Iowa City, Davenport. This area is critical. Can Hillary Clinton hold her own in the east, even just splitting this with Bernie Sanders?

And then in the central part of the state, again, Obama won in Ames, which is where you fin the college towns right there. He was huge. That's about 3 percent. And you find traditional Democrats. They tend to be for Hillary Clinton, older Democrats, people involved.

This is where to the degree labor union fight will play out here in Polk County. Barack Obama won it big eight years ago, Hillary Clinton was actually third, just behind John Edwards. Hillary Clinton needs to turn the Des Moines area, the dark blue, and she needs to compete with Bernie Sanders out here in the East.

One thing I know when I was out there, Anderson, Hillary Clinton the remembers the pain of this.

COOPER: Right.

KING: And they're much better organized. The question is, can organization overcome the Sanders' passion?

COOPER: We'll be watching this as the votes start to come in late into the morning. Doors are about to open at caucus sites. Again, the caucusing itself is just an hour away. And then it all becomes real, the first votes of this primary election, the first chance to see not just what people will tell pollsters but what they're willing to do about it when it actually counts. Tonight for the first time in this election, it really does count, which makes this a very big night.

Our coverage continues right now.