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THE SITUATION ROOM

Interview With Utah Congressman Jason Chaffetz; Clinton Campaign Shakeup?; New Hampshire Primary; Trump Assesses Rubio's Debate Performance; CNN/WMUR Poll: Trump, Rubio, Cruz Leads Pack in N.H.; CNN/WMUR Poll: Sanders 26 Points Ahead in New Hampshire; U.S. Considers Missile Defense After North Korean Launch. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired February 8, 2016 - 18:00   ET

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


[18:00:05]

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And now there are reports of a possible Clinton campaign shakeup. Why is she struggling?

Racing for bronze, the nail-biting fight among Republicans for third place in New Hampshire. Who will survive? Who will emerge stronger and whose campaign will die?

We're covering all of it as the clock ticks toward the first votes now just hours away. I will talk about this dramatic race with the front- runner, Donald Trump.

Wild card, billionaire businessman confirming for the first time he may jump into the White House race. The former New York City mayor eying an independent bid. Which of the current candidates would lose the most votes if he were to run?

Unilateral threat. Kim Jong-un celebrating the rocket launch that is sparking outrage and condemnation in the West. The North Korean dictator believed to be working toward a missile capable of a nuclear strike on the United States. Will the Pentagon deploy one of its most sophisticated missile defense systems in response?

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

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: There's breaking political news tonight with just hours before the New Hampshire primary begins. We have new poll numbers that have just been released showing Hillary Clinton trailing Bernie Sanders by 26 points in that state.

On the Republican side, Donald Trump far out in front with Marco Rubio in second place, Ted Cruz in third. We're going to hear my interview with Trump in a few minutes.

And we're standing by for a Trump campaign event set to begin soon, and now a potential game-changer. The former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg confirming for the first time he's considering an independent White House bid, a move that would shake up this already chaotic contest.

We're covering all of this, much more with our guests, including Congressman Jason Chaffetz. There you see him. He's chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, also a Marco Rubio supporter. And our correspondents and expert analysts, they are also standing by.

Let's begin with the newest CNN/WMUR tracking poll conducted by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center just released minutes ago. It's showing Bernie Sanders, look at this, with a 26-point lead over Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire; 61 percent of those asked are supporting Sanders and 35 percent say they're backing Clinton.

Our senior Washington correspondent, Joe Johns, is in New Hampshire for us tonight.

Joe, the rhetoric at the same time is really, really heating up in these final hours.

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. We're waiting to see Hillary Clinton about a half-an-a-hour from now here in Hudson, New Hampshire. The voters in this state have seen a furious final push from the Clinton campaign as they try to close the gap with Bernie Sanders on the eve of this all-important New Hampshire primary.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (VT-I), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The American people are angry.

JOHNS (voice-over): Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton making a final push on the eve of the New Hampshire primary.

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Please, come out and help me tomorrow.

JOHNS: Clinton making the day a family affair, hitting the trail with her husband and daughter.

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The single best change-maker I have ever known, Hillary Rodham Clinton.

JOHNS: Clinton is trying to close the gap with Sanders, who holds a commanding lead in Granite State polls. Today, she questioned the purity of Sanders' anti-Wall Street message, noting his fund-raising efforts on behalf of the Democratic Party.

H. CLINTON: Senator Sanders took about $200,000 from Wall Street firms, not directly, but through the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee.

JOHNS: For his part, Sanders isn't taking anything for granted. Tonight, he's holding a rally with students and bringing in some musical star power, including Matt Nathanson and Jonathan Fishman from the band Phish. SANDERS: What people will be asking is not just who wins, but whether

the people of New Hampshire are prepared to lead this country in a political revolution.

JOHNS: A revolution Bill Clinton is now calling into question.

B. CLINTON: When you're making a revolution, you can't be too careful about the facts.

JOHNS: As the former president also draws attention to online attacks from Sanders backers directed at supporters of his wife.

B. CLINTON: She and other people who have gone online to defend Hillary and explain, just explain, why they have supported her, have been subject to vicious trolling.

JOHNS: Sanders denouncing the actions of the so-called Bernie bros in an interview with CNN's Jake Tapper.

SANDERS: It's disgusting. Look, we don't want that crap. Anybody who is supporting me, is doing sexist things is -- we don't want them. I don't want them. That is not what this campaign is about.

JOHNS: Sanders also taking a brief campaign detour over the weekend for a cameo on "Saturday Night Live" for an appearance alongside host and Sanders imitator Larry David.

[18:05:07]

SANDERS: I am so sick of the 1 percent getting this preferential treatment.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

JOHNS: So, a lot of back and forth, a lot of energy on the campaign trail, but we are hearing that, internally, there is tension.

A Democratic source telling me former President Clinton is concerned about a lack of imagination and the campaign playing it too safe as possibly one of the reasons why she finished in that very, very close race in Iowa and now is down in the polls in New Hampshire, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Joe, thank you, Joe Johns reporting for us.

Let's get some more on the just-released New Hampshire polls. Our political director David Chalian is with us here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

David, take us inside these latest numbers.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Well, as you saw those big numbers, 61 percent for Sanders, 35 percent for Clinton, if you look over time in the last couple of days, Wolf, take a look at this.

A couple of days ago, Bernie Sanders was at 58 percent. He's improved his position a little bit. Hillary Clinton holding steady. Not making a ton of inroads. This is why I think you hear her out and about in the last day or so sort of setting expectations that she doesn't know if she can put together something that will be truly a winning night in New Hampshire, but that she was still going to try to fight for every vote.

I think she's aware that she's holding steady at a level that would be difficult for her to win with that kind of number tomorrow night. The other thing our poll shows that I think is really important, you know in New Hampshire undeclareds, the independents in New Hampshire can choose to participate in either primary.

I initially had thought all the action being on the Republican side, this is a month or so ago, independents would flock to participate in that primary. Our poll shows they're splitting. Independents are roughly -- half of them want to play in the Democratic primary and half of them want to play in the Republican primary.

That's good news for Bernie Sanders. Those independents are helping to fuel his lead over Hillary Clinton.

BLITZER: It's interesting, because her razor-thin win in Iowa and the numbers she's getting right now, very disappointing numbers in New Hampshire, may be fueling this notion that Michael Bloomberg, the New York City -- former New York City mayor -- he is now, for the first time, publicly saying he's considering an independent third-party run for president.

CHALIAN: Right. He gave an interview to the "F.T." and said that it's not just speculation. This is something I'm actually looking at and considering.

He said he's very disappointed in the tone and tenor of the race thus far. He's paying very close attention to what's being said in both parties' primaries and he thinks there may be an opening in this cycle from he's seeing for somebody to come up the middle.

But, Wolf, you and I both know Michael Bloomberg is not going to do this on a lark. If he looks at this and looks at the filing deadlines and decides to get in this race, it's because he's looked at data that suggests to him that he can actually with all his billions put something together to win the presidency.

BLITZER: Yes. I'm told by friends of his, he'd only run if he's convinced he could win. He doesn't want to run as a spoiler. He would rule that out. He's got to make a decision by early March, right?

CHALIAN: Yes.

BLITZER: Because the deadlines for getting these campaigns under way coming up very, very close. David Chalian, thanks very much.

Let's get to the Republican race. Our brand-new CNN/WMUR poll shows Donald Trump maintaining his double-digit lead in New Hampshire. He's the choice of 31 percent of Republicans surveyed. Marco Rubio a distant second at 17 percent, followed by Ted Cruz at 14 percent and John Kasich at 10 percent, the rest of the field in single digits, 7 percent for Jeb Bush, 5 percent for Carly Fiorina, Chris Christie at 4 percent. Dr. Ben Carson is polling at 3 percent.

CNN's Sunlen Serfaty is joining us from Manchester, New Hampshire, right now.

Sunlen, the Republicans out, they're campaigning down to the wire. What's the latest?

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They are. A lot of votes, Wolf, left on the table. A third of New Hampshire voters still have not settled on a candidate and Donald Trump is now heading into another big test for his candidacy. Can he turn his lead here in New Hampshire into an actual win?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We have to get rid of the Bushes of the world. They're weak. They're ineffective.

SERFATY (voice-over): Donald Trump is on a mission to protect his lead.

TRUMP: He's an example of a real stiff. The last thing we need is another Bush.

SERFATY: Now going for Jeb Bush's jugular.

TRUMP: He's a sad person who has gone absolutely crazy. He's a nervous wreck.

SERFATY: And Jeb Bush is pointedly laying into him.

JEB BUSH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Donald Trump, you're the loser.

SERFATY: Calling Trump a liar and a whiner on Twitter, and doubling down on an interview with Dana Bash.

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And now we are the day before the New Hampshire primary and you're calling an opponent a loser, a whiner, and a liar.

BUSH: Well, he is a whiner. And I'm defending the honor of people that I really respect. And I think that's more than appropriate.

SERFATY: Bush was one of the only candidates to take on Trump in Saturday night's debate.

TRUMP: Well, let me just -- you know, he wants to be a tough guy. A lot of times, you'll have -- you'll have -- and it didn't work very well.

BUSH: How tough it is to take away property from an elderly woman?

TRUMP: A lot of time -- let me talk. Quiet. A lot of times... SERFATY: But the real battle royal is the fight behind Trump, Rubio, Cruz, Kasich and Bush all squeezed together in the polls and locked in a fierce battle for second place.

[18:10:16]

Rubio's rivals are seizing on his big stumble in the debate as a potential opening.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And let's dispel once and all with this fiction that Barack Obama doesn't know what he's doing. He knows exactly what he's doing. This notion that Barack Obama doesn't know what he's doing is just not true. He knows exactly what he's doing.

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R-NJ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There it is. There it is, the memorized 25-second speech. There it is, everybody.

SERFATY: Kasich and Bush also trying to capitalize. Bush's super PAC is out with a new Web video targeting Kasich, a sign Bush loyalists see him as the biggest threat among the governors.

RUBIO: What's the worst that could happen? We feel really good.

SERFATY: Marco Rubio is looking to rebound from his debate performance and counter the criticism that he's too scripted.

RUBIO: Why do you keep saying the same thing about Obama trying to change America? I'm going to keep saying that a million times because I believe it's true.

SERFATY: As his rivals twist the knife.

CHRISTIE: When the lights get that bright, you either shine or you melt. We cannot afford to have a president who melts.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SERFATY: And Ted Cruz, who just wrapped up speaking here at this American Legion post, he is trying very hard to set expectations here in New Hampshire very low. The Cruz campaign understands this is not Iowa. They do not expect to win. Their goal here, Wolf, is just to exceed expectations and then move on to South Carolina.

BLITZER: All right, Sunlen, thanks very much, Sunlen Serfaty reporting for us.

Let's get some more on all of this.

Joining us, Republican Congressman Jason Chaffetz of Utah. He's the chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee. He's a supporter of Senator Marco Rubio.

Congressman, thanks very much for joining us.

And, as you know, you just heard Rubio getting hammered for repeating that same message over and over, I think four times within a few minutes at the debate. He says it's consistent messaging. But Ted Cruz says Rubio had a very, very tough night. Trump says it was strange. Governor Christie says he can't take the heat. You say what?

REP. JASON CHAFFETZ (R), UTAH: I say he's just talking about his message. It's a positive, aspirational message and he's calling it like it is. He's calling out President Obama.

And so that's the worst they got on Marco Rubio at this point is that he says the same thing time and time again, that's he's consistent? I will take that. I think that's a winning formula.

BLITZER: What they also say is that if you like a first-term freshman senator like then Senator Barack Obama in 2008 on the Republican side, you will like a first-term 44-year-old freshman senator like Marco Rubio. You have heard that criticism.

CHAFFETZ: Of course they are saying it. These are people that are polling in less than single digits.

One poll has him at 4 percent, Governor Christie. So Marco Rubio, a Florida senator, is able to go into Iowa and have a strong showing, that bodes well for a Rubio campaign which is participating in all 50 states. I'm here in Nevada campaigning for Marco Rubio.

We're about the only game in town in Nevada. And if you're going to win in November, you better have a 50-state strategy and Marco Rubio has that.

BLITZER: Jeb Bush says Rubio -- I'm quoting now -- "is a bright charismatic leader that hasn't been tested." He said Hillary Clinton would -- quote -- "scrape the bark off a candidate that has never done anything."

Those are very, very strong condemnations.

CHAFFETZ: I think it's ridiculous. It's a bit shameful.

I think Marco Rubio has shown that a positive campaign, an aspirational campaign talking about how he's going to take the fight to Hillary Clinton. He's going to be the best contrast to Hillary Clinton when they get to that stage and actually have that debate. That's why I think young conservatives, like myself and Trey Gowdy and Mia Love and Chris Stewart and Kristi Noem and Cory Gardner and the list goes on, we're rallying behind Marco Rubio because we want a winner.

We want to win in November. That's why this new generation is getting behind Marco so that we can win in November.

BLITZER: Our Jamie Gangel is reporting that the attacks from Bush and Christie and Trump, for that matter, they are in fact having an impact on Marco Rubio, that some of his supporters are beginning to have doubts about them. I take it you have no doubts? CHAFFETZ: I have no doubts that he's our best foot forward if we want

to win in November. Those people you talk about, they talk about the past. They're kind of lost in the '80s.

And Marco Rubio is about the future. And that's the contrast with Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders, for that matter, that will be the winning formula come November. So, no, he's right on policy. He's got the strongest background out in terms of understanding foreign policy and being on the Intel Committee.

He's part of that new generation. He's rock solid. He's a conservative. He's got a spine. He knows what he believes in. He doesn't need a teleprompter to talk through these things. He actually believes them to his core.

[18:15:00]

BLITZER: The criticism that you heard from Chris Christie, he doesn't need a teleprompter because he memorizes these 25-second sound bites.

You heard that. And some people are suggesting, and it may be unfair, that because those are going to be replayed and replayed and replayed, those sound bites from the debate, it could be a Rick Perry "Oops" moment for him. You have heard that presumably as well.

CHAFFETZ: No, no, he didn't say anything wrong. He actually said what he believes, that Barack Obama knows exactly what he's doing.

And Marco Rubio has been talking about that for more than a year. So, of course he's going to use the same word track. He wasn't wrong in the policy. He didn't misstate the policy. He just happens to keep repeating it, as he has throughout the entire campaign. What's wrong with that? It's a pretty desperate attack from somebody who has shown no prowess to bring people together at any point during this campaign.

BLITZER: What's Rubio's biggest accomplishment?

CHAFFETZ: I think he's done a lot in terms of foreign policy and his leadership and understanding of the world and the tough world that we have done.

If you look at -- that we're in. If you look at what he's done with Obamacare, the risk corridors, he did great things there. He led out on eminent domain as the speaker of the House there in Florida. Human rights and trafficking around the country. And probably most important to me, he's actually a principled conservative. He knows what he believes.

He understands that federal government should be limited in its approach. And he can articulate that better than anybody I have ever met.

BLITZER: What's his biggest foreign policy achievement?

CHAFFETZ: Well, look, when you're sitting on the Intel Committee, when you're on the Foreign Affairs Committee, when you can actually go out and participate and make tough votes, that's about as good as it gets compared to everybody else in the field.

Secretary Kerry was involved in the Senate. Nobody questioned his knowledge of what was going on in the world. I disagree with his judgment and his approach. I think it's absolutely, totally, fundamentally wrong, but I think Marco Rubio's understanding of the world, he's been by far the best in all the debates in explaining what is going to take place in this world and he has shown the best judgment as to what we need to do in the future.

BLITZER: Well, they say he doesn't even show up for votes.

CHAFFETZ: He's been campaigning for president. No doubt about that. But what happens in the Intel Committee often doesn't show up in a public setting because it is done behind closed doors.

BLITZER: But they say he also doesn't show up for briefings at the classified briefings at the Intelligence Committee. You have heard that suggestion. And we have gone through some of those reports, and some of the most important meetings, apparently, he hasn't attended.

CHAFFETZ: And some of them, he has, Wolf. And you can go issue by issue. He's made no bones about the fact that he's been campaigning for the presidency.

And, as a conservative, as somebody who has been in the House, we have got to change that chief executive, because what Hillary Clinton did, what Barack Obama has been doing, what's John Kerry has been doing has been just fatal for this country. We can't keep doing that.

So, no, Marco Rubio is on the right track. He's articulated the best message. He's right on the issues. He's our best spokesperson and he contrasts the best against Hillary Clinton come November.

BLITZER: I can say this, having followed your career. I know you show up for all the votes in the House of Representatives and I know you go to all the important hearings as well for your committee and other committees as well.

I need you to stand by. There's more to discuss, because there's a potential huge wild card about to emerge if the former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg decides to run. And now he's publicly saying he's thinking about it very seriously. Much more with Jason Chaffetz right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:22:51]

BLITZER: We're following the breaking political news tonight.

A brand-new CNN/WMUR tracking poll in New Hampshire shows Marco Rubio in second place behind Donald Trump. The first ballots in that state's primary will be cast in less than six hours.

We're back with Rubio supporter Congressman Jason Chaffetz of Utah.

Congressman, will Marco Rubio be able, in your opinion, to clinch second place in New Hampshire?

CHAFFETZ: I think all he needs to do, Wolf, is finish in the top tier and bring that momentum down into South Carolina and then Nevada. And he's got good strong organizations there. He's right on the message.

And if I was Marco Rubio, I don't think you would want to trade places with anybody. I think he's poised in the right spot.

BLITZER: Your reaction to former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, now acknowledging, publicly confirming for the first time he's considering a run for the White House as an independent third- party candidate? Your reaction?

CHAFFETZ: I think it's a sign that the Democrats really have a cluster on their hands. They don't really understand, don't have their base together. They are all over the map. They have such wild swings in their support.

I think they really have a mess. And the Democrats don't have much of a bench either. You don't really have a cluster of candidates coming up behind them. And so I don't know what to make of it. I don't exactly know what his positions are, but on gun control and other things, that's very -- his position, Bloomberg's position on guns is very similar to Hillary Clinton's.

And it would be a huge and total contrast with Marco Rubio. So voters will really have a choice on their hands. But I don't know if he does it or not.

BLITZER: In an interview I did with Donald Trump earlier, he told me he sort of thought his biggest competition was going to be Marco Rubio. But now, after the debate, he says he's not so sure. Does Rubio believe Donald Trump is his biggest competitor?

CHAFFETZ: Having spent time in the room, in the car and other places with Marco Rubio, I think his personal belief is he has got to play his A-game, he's just got to be himself, he's got to convey that message.

It's what allowed the success so far. And if you are a positive, aspirational candidate, you aren't just down there shooting everybody down, that ultimately the voters will gravitate behind you, because, ultimately, Wolf, you have got to be able to build a campaign from coast to coast, unite the party and win in November.

[18:25:07]

And Marco is best poised to do that out of everybody else out there.

BLITZER: Very quickly, before I let you go, Congressman. Put on your congressional chairman hat right now.

I want to ask you, moving forward with this investigation into Hillary Clinton's private use of an e-mail server, I know you are looking into that. But if you are looking into her use of that and classified information that may have wound up on that private e-mail server, are you also investigating Colin Powell's use of private e-mail and classified information that may have wound up there, or aides to former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice who may have had private e- mail accounts where classified information wound up there?

CHAFFETZ: Well, the FBI has the lead.

We need to let them get through their investigation. I hope they get through with it sooner, rather than later. I don't think it's fair to Secretary Clinton. I don't think it's fair to the country to continue to have this linger. So, I want them to finish that investigation.

We have jurisdiction over Federal Records Act, the FOIA. And we will watch that broadly. But we have no pinpointed investigation on Secretary Clinton or Secretary Powell or Madeleine Albright or any of the others. But we are concerned when there's noncompliance across the board.

You saw that with Ash Carter, the secretary of defense. And so people have to comply with the law. And then that's our concern. But the FBI has got to do its investigation of Secretary Clinton. And it seems to be going full steam ahead.

BLITZER: All right, Congressman Chaffetz, as usual, thanks very much for joining us.

CHAFFETZ: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: Just ahead, my interview with Donald Trump. We're also standing by for a live Trump campaign event. We will monitor that.

Plus, the U.S. weighing options right now after North Korea's defiant rocket launch. Will the Pentagon deploy one of its most sophisticated missile defense systems in response?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: We're only a few hours away from the start of the New Hampshire primary. And we're standing by for a Donald Trump campaign event there as our newest CNN/WMUR poll shows him with a 14-point lead ahead of his closest rival, Marco Rubio.

[18:31:52] Trump joined me by phone earlier today to talk about the race.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Let's talk about Marco Rubio for a moment. What was your reaction? He clearly seemed to stumble at that Republican debate the other night, going back two or three or four times with the same line. I think it was four times he basically, instead of answering the question, he switched the subject, talking about President Obama, how he's doing a lot of damage to the country. How much damage do you think that did to Marco Rubio on the eve of the New Hampshire primary?

TRUMP (via phone): Well, I hope it didn't do too much damage. I mean, I just can't answer the question. I was standing there when it happened, and I sort of heard it once and that was fine. I heard it twice, and that was sort of OK. Because you know, some people repeat themselves.

And then I heard it at least two more times, maybe three more times, and I said it's a little bit strange. I didn't know what was going on, because I'm standing right next to him, and I keep hearing the same language.

So I really don't know if it hurt him. Maybe it didn't hurt him at all. Maybe it hurt him a lot. You will see that, probably, tomorrow.

BLITZER: Who is your biggest competition on the Republican side?

TRUMP: Well, I sort of thought it was going to be Marco, actually. I thought Marco Rubio would be maybe the biggest, just based on, you know, the way it was working out. I can't tell you. You never know. You never know. It's the world of politics. You and I know it pretty well. And you never really know the answer to a question like that.

I just worry about myself. I'm thinking only in terms of the people of New Hampshire. We have a great relationship. I'm going to have strong borders. Going to stop the heroin from pouring in.

It's the biggest question I get in New Hampshire, Wolf, is the heroin and the drugs that are pouring into New Hampshire. And you know, it's literally -- you know, it's so unusual, because it's such an incredible place and so beautiful. And yet their No. 1 place, and it's always about the heroin, the drugs are pouring in. I'll stop that cold at the border.

And guys like Marco and Jeb probably even more so, they don't have a clue. They can't -- they can't...

BLITZER: What about Ted Cruz?

TRUMP: Well, I thought that he was, you know, doing really well. And he was doing really well, but he doesn't seem to be doing so well up here.

BLITZER: You think he cheated in Iowa?

TRUMP: Say it, Wolf?

BLITZER: Do you think he cheated in Iowa?

TRUMP: Well, I think it was a sad situation for Dr. Carson. Dr. Carson is a wonderful guy. And, frankly, a lot of votes were taken, and if those votes weren't taken, it probably would have been a different result. So I was sort of affected by that, too. Not that I mind. In that case, it was the first time I'd ever done it. I came in a very strong second. Very -- pretty close. And frankly, a lot of votes were taken from Carson.

So -- but I don't even think about that now. I only think about New Hampshire. We want to have a great victory in New Hampshire. We're going to lower taxes, and we're going to do all of the things that I know that I can do that these politicians can't do. Because the politicians, they're all talk, no action.

Nobody knows them better than I do, Wolf. And, you know, I deal with them. I was on the other side of the ledger from them my whole life until seven months ago. And many of these people I contributed to. Many of the people I'm running against...

BLITZER: A quick -- a quick question about Ted Cruz, who won in Iowa, at least officially, according to the Republicans.

Before the Republican debate over the weekend, he had said, "You do not have" -- his word -- "the temperament to be president of the United States." He was asked about that at the debate. He refused to say that in front of you. He wouldn't say in front of you what he said earlier. What does that say to you about him?

TRUMP: It says -- it says that he respects me, and he respects me a lot. And a lot of these guys will talk big, but in front of you, they won't talk. What that says is he respects me. And I respected him for not saying it, because, you know, it shows that he had, you know, he has a great deal of respect for me. I respect the fact that he didn't say it, frankly. Because politicians will say anything.

BLITZER: Will you win in New Hampshire tomorrow? Will you win in New Hampshire tomorrow?

TRUMP: I hope so. I mean, it's snowing, and I hope the snow doesn't affect it. But I certainly have the biggest crowds, and we have a great turnout. And it's all about making America great again. And that's what we're going to do. And the politicians will never be able to do it.

Nobody knows it better than me. You don't even know. And I will tell you, they don't have it. They're not going to be able to make America great. It's not going to happen.

BLITZER: Let me -- let me wrap it up with one question, because it's a CNN report that we're just getting in from our Paul Cruickshank, our terrorism analyst. And it's important story, CNN now reporting that there was evidence that there are 60 ISIS fighters on the ground in Europe to carry out attacks on five cities in Europe before -- including Paris, London, Berlin and in Belgium. And the -- presumably, they're still there right now.

If you were president of the United States, what would you do about that?

TRUMP: I would knock the hell out of ISIS, Wolf. I would knock them out, and they would be gone so fast. And I'd use the full force. We would take care of them. It's a cancer on the world.

And this whole migration, letting these people in, and they may be ISIS, is insane. Look at what's happening in Germany. Look at what's happening in Europe. And you've just seen the beginning. We have no idea where these people come from. You've got to knock them out, and you've got to knock them out fast.

BLITZER: You want to give us details how you would do that?

TRUMP: I don't want to do that now. The last thing I want to do is that. We have to have a little bit of surprise every once in a while without telling our plans.

BLITZER: Donald Trump joining us on the phone from New Hampshire. Mr. Trump, thanks very much.

TRUMP: OK. Thank you very much, Wolf. An honor.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Let's get back to our breaking news. The new CNN tracking poll from CNN/WMUR showing Donald Trump with a sizable lead over his Republican rivals in New Hampshire. And several contenders with a chance at one of the top three spots.

Our experts are here to -- for reaction to today's top political stories. Joining us, our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger; our CNN political director, David Chalian; our CNN political commentator, Ryan Lizza -- he's also the Washington correspondent for "The New Yorker" magazine; and CNN Politics executive editor Mark Preston joining us from New Hampshire right now.

Gloria, first your reaction to what Trump had to say about Ted Cruz respecting him.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Oh, nice.

BLITZER: That's why he refused to say in the debate what he said earlier. He didn't have the temperament to be commander in chief.

BORGER: Right. I think it shows you that Donald Trump doesn't think that Cruz is much of a threat to him in New Hampshire, which would actually be the truth, and that he was being nice to Ted Cruz. And he's knocking Jeb Bush and he's knocking Marco Rubio because those are the folks that are actually more of a threat to him right now in a particular state.

I will also say that during the debate, I was kind of surprised that Cruz didn't take the opportunity to say exactly what he had said on the campaign trail. And I don't think that's ever a good idea. Remember Tim Pawlenty in 2012 had talked about -- what was it? Obomneycare. Obomneycare. And then when given the opportunity at the CNN debate to talk about it

again, he did not. And Cruz did exactly the same thing.

CHALIAN: It will change in South Carolina.

BORGER: It will change in South Carolina, but for now...

BLITZER: Minnesota, the former Minnesota governor. Romneycare, whatever he called it.

BORGER: But Trump is sitting on a lead right now, Cruz not a threat. So why take him on? BLITZER: Mark, Jeb Bush and Donald Trump, as you know, they clashed once again today. Trump told me that Jeb Bush is a pathetic person. Bush tweeted Trump calling him a loser, a liar, a whiner. Does Bush pose a bigger threat to Trump than polls may indicate?

MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICS EXECUTIVE EDITOR: I think so. Listen, I think that the debate performance that Jeb Bush gave the other night was something that his campaign and supporters have been waiting for. It wasn't just the words that Jeb Bush directed at Donald Trump; it was the fact that he looked him in the eye and he was trying to stare him down.

That's not something we've seen in Jeb Bush in any of these debates up until this point. Quite frankly, on his campaign trail, even his mother said that this isn't the type of person that he is. But I'm going to tell you, I saw Jeb Bush this morning. He seemed to have an extra spring in his step. And as we talk about tickets out of New Hampshire, Jeb Bush says he's going on. He's going to be one of those five tickets.

And what we all need to realize is that Jeb Bush has money. OK? He has money. And the Rubio performance the other night means that that Jeb Bush money is frozen, and it's not going to go to Marco Rubio as quickly as some people thought it would.

[18:40:15] BLITZER: Ryan, in an interview with Dana Bash earlier today, Jeb Bush echoed what Chris Christie has been saying, that Marco Rubio simply isn't ready for primetime. How precarious is Rubio's position right now?

RYAN LIZZA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, look, he had a big boost out of Iowa with an unexpected -- unexpectedly solid third-place position. He needed a great night on caucus night, sort of getting -- doing that speech that we all sort of -- it looked like a victory speech, even though he came in third.

And then the debate Saturday night, Chris Christie went at him so hard. And I did a lot of interviews out on the trail yesterday. And everyone said the same thing after that debate: "Huh. Wait a second. Maybe the coronation of Marco Rubio as the establishment candidate should slow down a bit."

And, look, I don't know if that's going to help Chris Christie, the guy who launched the attack, but it seems to have rebounded to the benefit of Jeb Bush and maybe John Kasich. And I think the outcome of all this may be a big muddle here in New Hampshire, rather than the clarity that we thought we were going to get tomorrow night.

BLITZER: Good point. So David Chalian, was Rubio's performance, what are you hearing at that debate, as bad as a lot of the pundits have suggested?

CHALIAN: You know, I think that the pundits probably...

BORGER: Pundit. Pundit. CHALIAN: I think probably overstated the momentum you had coming out of Iowa and probably overstated the Marco meltdown that somebody described Saturday night.

Clearly, it was not a good debate performance. Clearly, the news coverage out of that debate performance was gruesome and terrible. Luckily for Marco Rubio, perhaps over Super Bowl Sunday and perhaps people weren't as dialed into the news coverage up there as they otherwise would have been. But I would not overstate that somehow he crumbled, and his candidacy is over...

BLITZER: No.

CHALIAN: ... because of that debate.

BORGER: But you know what? The interesting thing about -- about that is that I think Chris Christie hit a sacrifice fly ball. And that it will benefit -- it will benefit Kasich more. It will benefit Jeb Bush more, ironically, than it would -- than it's going to benefit...

BLITZER: He really went after him.

BORGER: ... Chris Christie.

BLITZER: Still pounding and pounding.

All right, guys, stand by. Everyone stand by. Lots more coming up, including what's going on in the Democratic side of this race for the White House. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:47:04] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: We're following the breaking news: a CNN/WMUR tracking poll shows Bernie Sanders maintaining a sizable lead over Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire just hours before voters head to the polls.

The Clinton campaign is pushing back against reports of an imminent staff shakeup as they brace for an extended primary fight.

Let's get back to our experts.

Gloria, you've been doing some reporting on Hillary Clinton's so- called message challenges. What are you hearing?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, first of all, we should say that the campaign is pushing back on the story that there's going to be a huge shake-up. The campaign chairman Podesta has said no way. I talked to a senior Clinton adviser who said it is not true. Hillary herself has said it is not true.

Having said all of that, there is some sense that the campaign has been too slow to recognize the threat from Bernie Sanders, the real threat that he posed. I spoke with one Democratic source who said the problem is that the speeches, for example, the money that Hillary Clinton made, over $600,000 giving speeches to Goldman Sachs, has become a real problem for them. That it muddles their message, and that she herself as a candidate is not good at sticking on a single message.

You can't fire the candidate. You have to retool and that her message needs to be, I care about you. I want to raise the incomes of the middle class and they feel that she has not gotten through on that and that Bernie Sanders has, in fact, done a better job in talking about the middle class.

BLITZER: In the last couple of days, we've heard former President bill Clinton really take a more assertive, aggressive tone towards Bernie Sanders and his campaign. I assume that's part of the new strategy.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: No doubt. Although I don't know that Bill Clinton completely subscribes to every piece of strategy the campaign puts out. He feels he's got a pretty good touch at this stuff. And, you know, this is reverting to form.

We've seen this before. Bill Clinton likes making the argument for his wife and against his wife's opponent. We saw this in 2008 with Barack Obama and now, he sees clearly an opponent in Bernie Sanders that he doesn't think is getting the same level of scrutiny or being held to the same standard that his wife is. And he wanted to make sure some of those story lines out there about Bernie Sanders were brought to light. And he certainly knew what he was doing.

BLITZER: He certainly did. He's, obviously, fiercely assertive of his wife right now.

Ryan, you saw Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton and Bill Clinton out on the campaign trail today. Sanders said today, and I'm quoting him now, I think we are going to be -- I think we are going to do just fine tomorrow. What's the mood out there at these events? You're in New Hampshire.

RYAN LIZZA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, to be honest, it was a little bit of a reverse of what it's been in the last few weeks that I've been out with those two campaigns. The Hillary Clinton campaign, the crowd, was a little more boisterous. She even had a heckler which made things a little more interesting.

Sanders had a kind of low-energy college crowd. I think one of the interesting things that Sanders' advantage, he said something, at least to me that was new, trying to respond to this idea that his plans are unrealistic and that he couldn't pass his agenda in Washington.

[18:50:12] And he talked about the civil rights movement, he talked about the women's rights movement, he talked about the fight for gay rights and marriage equality. And basically said that that's what his campaign is about, and that if you want to move things in Washington, you have to build a movement like this, trying to answer this criticism from the Clintons that she's not realistic and that he would never overcome the gridlock in Washington. BLITZER: Mark, you're up there at Dixville Notch, that's where the

first votes will take place. They're being cast right at midnight tonight. What do you expect to see tomorrow?

MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICS EXECUTIVE EDITOR: Well, look, you know, coming out of here tonight, I have to tell you the person who probably has the most to gain here is John Kasich because he actually came here for a town hall last month. So, I've been told actually by his campaign he's calling the nine voters up here, Wolf, to get their votes for his support.

But, look, going up tomorrow, there's no question that Donald Trump is the clear leader heading into tomorrow night. Will he be the winner? Probably. Will he win as much as our polls are showing? Very unlikely.

I think what we really have to focus on, though, is to find out where does the Jeb Bush land, where does Marco Rubio land, where does Ted Cruz land? And then, as I think Gloria has said earlier, Chris Christie hit a sacrifice fly on behalf of John Kasich and Jeb Bush the other night.

BLITZER: We're going to get those numbers tomorrow, and we'll watch and observe and see what happens.

All right, guys, stand by.

This important note to our viewers: CNN will have special coverage of the New Hampshire primary all day tomorrow. Tune in for all the latest news, our analysis. Stay with us as the results begin to come in tomorrow right here on CNN.

Just ahead, another major story we're following right now. North Korea celebrates a successful rocket launch with rallies and a fireworks display.

But world leaders, they are furious about what they believe to be a ballistic missile test. Is the U.S. on the verge of deploying a missile defense system in response?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:56:36] BLITZER: A provocative rocket launch by North Korea is rattling nerves around the world. American allies in the region there scrambling right now to respond to the United States and is preparing a plan to bring a missile defense system to the Korean Peninsula.

Our chief national security correspondent Jim Sciutto is joining us now from the Pentagon.

Jim, what else are you learning?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, the latest development is that the U.S. has assessed that the satellite that North Korea launched into place is tumbling in orbit. That means it's not in a functional orbit. It's the second time that North Korea has launched a satellite into space and ended up in the same scenario that the previous launch in 2012. That said, they were able to launch into space, a vehicle about the same size as a potential nuclear device. And that considered an alarming step forward in its missile program.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SCIUTTO (voice-over): North Koreans took to the streets, celebrating the missile launch with an exuberant daytime rally and a massive nighttime fireworks show. Their excitement mirroring that of their leader's, North Korean state photo show an elated Kim Jong-un.

The second successful satellite launch in recent years causing U.S. and western leaders to express outrage and condemnation.

SAMANTHA POWER, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: Pyongyang claims it launched what it called a peaceful earth observation satellite. But nobody is fooled.

PETER COOK, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: When you're in a situation now where we have at the U.N. Security Council, not just the United States, but Russia and China condemning this action.

SCIUTTO: Beyond the angry words, the West has limited tools to respond. Economic sanctions are difficult because the west has virtually no trade with North Korea. Most effective new sanctions would further block access to world financial markets by North Korean leaders.

Still, China, North Korea's closest ally and trading partner, has resisted cutting off economic support such as fuel and food, fearing a collapsed state.

Faced with those difficulties, the U.S. is now considering a military response. CNN has learned that the launch has accelerated talks to deploy the THAAD, Terminal High Altitude Aerial Defense missile system, to South Korea. THAAD could be in position within weeks. The U.S. system today deployed only as close in the region as Guam, could apply pressure not only to Pyongyang but also to Beijing.

JOSEPH CIRINCIONE, PLOUGHSHARES FUND: South Korea wants to do it as protection against any North Korean missiles, but this really concerns China. They don't want to see increased South Korean-U.S. military action on the peninsula, on their border.

SCIUTTO: Today, the Pentagon said the missile system will be focused solely on North Korea.

COOK: This is a defensive system put in place to deal with the threat posed by North Korea. We don't believe that it should pose any sort of concern to the Chinese.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCIUTTO: China not accepting that reassurance today. Today, they say summoned the South Korean ambassador to protest discussions of deploying that missile system, Wolf. They are not happy with that prospect.

BLITZER: Jim Sciutto, what a disturbing story. Thank you very much.

And remember, tomorrow, CNN will have special coverage of the New Hampshire primary all day. Tune in for all the latest news and analysis. Stay with us as the results begin to come in as well. That's tomorrow right here on CNN.

Until then, thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Remember, you can always tweet @wolfblitzer, or tweet the show @CNNsitroom.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.