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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

New Hampshire Votes In Primary Today; GOP Governors Betting on Strong Showing in New Hampshire. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired February 9, 2016 - 16:00   ET

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


[16:00:06]

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: And now a very special edition of THE LEAD live from Manchester, New Hampshire, on primary day, just hours away from the polls closing. On the Republican side, it's still fluid and very competitive in this crucial, unpredictable state.

I'm Jake Tapper, and this is THE LEAD.

Good afternoon. And cheers from the Foundry Restaurant in Manchester, New Hampshire. I'm Jake Tapper. Welcome to a special edition of THE LEAD.

We are just hours away from polls closing here. The Granite State known for surprises, and with nearly a third of Republican voters still undecided in these final days of campaigning here, there are very few certainties at this hour.

And for three Republican governors with everything on the line here, the results tonight could catapult them onto the next state or send them packing.

I caught up with all of them as they made their closing arguments across the state today. And while Jeb Bush and John Kasich were reflective, Chris Christie was ready to go another round.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JEB BUSH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's actually a great test, because, if you're going to be president, you're going to have a lot tougher challenges than this.

GOV. JOHN KASICH (R-OH), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: How could you better?

TAPPER: Yes.

KASICH: When you win Dixville Notch, the rest is all icing on the cake.

(LAUGHTER)

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R-NJ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Marco Rubio will leave the Senate this year, and there will not be any evidence that he was ever there. (END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Much more of my interviews with all three governors coming up.

Our reporters are fanned out across the state covering all the candidates.

We begin with Sunlen Serfaty who's in Hollis, New Hampshire.

Sunlen, so much in flux on the Republican side.

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Jake.

And we saw a real 11th-hour scramble for many of the candidates here in New Hampshire today, really speaking to the urgency of this moment for so many of them, especially those in the tier below Donald Trump and feeling the pressure to claim each and every last-minute vote.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Feeling terrific and having fun.

SERFATY (voice-over): It's the final frenzied push, New Hampshire so congested with candidates, their buses, like those belonging to Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio, whooshing past each other on the highway in search of any voters still up for grabs.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We have great energy, a lot of great support, so we're looking forward to the results tonight.

SERFATY: From diners to outside polling places

BUSH: I feel good.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes?

BUSH: I feel good. A little tired. It feels like there's -- all the work could pay off.

SERFATY: New Hampshire is ripe territory for surprises, and today there are still many votes on the table with three in 10 voters going into primary day still undecided, making the last-minute pitches today from the candidates imperative.

CHRISTIE: This is going to be incredibly close, everybody. Nobody, not me, not Jeb Bush, not John Kasich, not Marco Rubio, not Ted Cruz have the first idea of what's going to happen tonight. And we saw in Iowa that the difference of a couple hundred votes make a huge difference.

SERFATY: For Donald Trump, the big question is, can he turn his substantial lead in the polls here into something that eluded him in Iowa, an actual win? Trump pleading today over Facebook for his supporters to get out and vote.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: But the polls don't mean anything if we don't get up, don't get out, don't vote. We have to vote.

SERFATY: In a tight race for second, the jockeying between Bush, Kasich, Rubio and Cruz is a battle who for gets to leave New Hampshire with momentum.

KASICH: I'm on the 17th green. I'm going to 18. I don't look at the scoreboard. I go into the clubhouse, and when I play my best golf, particularly in politics, I usually win.

SERFATY: The waning hours marked with sharp attacks, Trump at his last big rally repeating a vulgarity shouted out by a voter about Senator Cruz.

TRUMP: I never expect to hear that from you again. She said he's a (EXPLETIVE DELETED). That's terrible, terrible.

SERFATY: And Jeb Bush making part of his closing pitch about standing up to Trump.

BUSH: We cannot hijack our party. Our party will not win if we're the reactionary party. People are hurting and I just feel like it's important to stand up to the guy. And I'm the only guy doing it.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SERFATY: And the Cruz campaign getting ready here for their election watch party later tonight. And Senator Cruz himself responded to Donald Trump's repeating of that profanity, saying that he believes that Trump leans on insults, rather than talking substance, because it's something that he just cannot do.

Jake, this is a very small preview of the battle we will see between these two headed towards South Carolina once they both get through New Hampshire tonight -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Sunlen, thanks so much.

Now let's go to Jim Acosta. He's live at Trump headquarters right here in Manchester.

Jim, Trump seems to have been shown some information suggesting voters don't think he's nice, it would seem, because he keeps telling everyone how much nicer a person he is than everyone thinks. How does this fit into his final pitch to New Hampshire voters?

[16:05:01]

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's a very good question, Jake. We just tried to catch up with Donald Trump here outside of his campaign headquarters here tonight, asked how he felt about tonight, see if he was feeling nice. He didn't answer. Got in his motorcade to make some last-minute campaign stops before

watching returns come in. I should point out the campaign, which is led by a New Hampshire native, Corey Lewandowski, is feeling confident about tonight.

But, Jake, to you question, we have seen Donald Trump shift gears in terms of his demeanor before. You recall after he lost in Iowa, he delivered that gracious concession speak to Ted Cruz. The next day, he went on the attack, and savaged Cruz and accused him of cheating. We know Trump will be nice until he feels like he needs to go on the warpath.

His campaign already has prepared an attack ad aimed at Cruz down in South Carolina, so it may not be Mr. Nice Guy for very long. We will probably see a nice-feeling Trump later on this evening if all goes well.

I will tell you, it's pretty cramped inside this election watch party. It's going to be interesting to watch. He typically has these big arena-sized crowds. To see everybody jammed in there later night, it might affect the mood. Might not be nice, Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Let's talk about all of this with our panel of top Republicans, national spokeswoman for the Donald Trump campaign Katrina Pierson, the communications director for Marco Rubio's campaign, Alex Conant, CNN political commentator Ana Navarro, who's a Jeb Bush supporter and friend of Marco Rubio, and Republican strategist and former adviser to Mitt Romney's campaign Stuart Stevens, who has endorsed no candidate.

Thanks, one and all, for being here. It's great to have all of you.

Katrina, let me just start with you. Obviously, Donald Trump enters this evening with a double-digit lead in polls, but we know that those polls are not necessarily so reliable. He seems to be rather subdued out there.

Is he worried that what might happen in Iowa might repeat itself or does he feel pretty confident?

KATRINA PIERSON, TRUMP CAMPAIGN SPOKESPERSON: No, he's not worried at all. He is very confident.

But I think what we're seeing is, he stepped up his campaign events, he's got the family out there doing more retail politics, and he's taking this very seriously. And that's what you're starting to see. It's not Mr. Trump just focusing on the polls. He really wants to drill down, get out and talk to the people.

TAPPER: Alex, I want to talk to you about Marco Rubio. Obviously, he took some hits at the debate Saturday night. And then there was this incident yesterday in Nashua where he repeated a sentence and a lot of his critics jumped on it. Let's play that and get some response from you.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Jeanette and I are raising our four children in the 21st century, and we know how hard it's become to instill our values in our kids, instead of the values they try to ram down our throats.

In the 21st century, it's become harder than ever to instill in your children the values they teach in our homes and in our church, instead of the values that they try to ram down our throats in the movies, in music, in popular culture.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Is there a threat here of Rubio being perceived as too much of a programmed candidate who hews too closely to his talking points?

ALEX CONANT, COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, RUBIO CAMPAIGN: No, not at all.

You have interviewed him countless times. And you know for a fact that he knows the issues better than anybody else running in the race. I'm glad you played that clip, because Republicans agree with what he's saying right there. That's why he emphasized in the his speech. And he says it everywhere he goes.

He believes America is headed in the wrong direction and we need to turn this country around. That's why he's running for president and it's why he said what he said at the debate Saturday night. And frankly it's why we saw more people go to MarcoRubio.com during the debate and contribute during the debate than any of the previous debates, why we have seen people like Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin, Erick Erickson rally behind Marco in the last 48 hours because they agree with him.

This country is headed in the wrong direction. We need a new president. That's why he's running for president. And he's going keep saying it. I don't care if the pundits and Hillary Clinton's campaign and her super PAC make fun of him. He believes it. He's going to keep saying it.

TAPPER: Stuart, it's an interesting question for those of us are part of politics and have been a while, whether covering it or advising candidates. Candidates are told stay on message, stay on message, stay on message, and yet Rubio is getting hit for staying too much on message.

STUART STEVENS, REPUBLICAN CONSULTANT: Yes. Well, I will take that vs. the other, going crazy off message. I will take someone accusing you of being on message too much.

I actually thought the most interesting thing about that debate was Chris Christie, because I think that it was a chance for him to show that he was a prosecutor. And I think that people are going to remember that, I think, more than what happened with Marco.

And I think they're really -- they're auditioning different skills. And they have different talents that they are going to bring to the electorate. Christie spent a lot of time talking about prosecuting Hillary Clinton. I think, you know, maybe not the best of luck for Marco to be in that position at that moment, but he showed that he had that skill set that he could go and do it.

TAPPER: Very interesting.

Ana, Jeb Bush has put a lot into the state of New Hampshire. He did not do well in Iowa. He needs to do well here. How well do you think he needs to do? Does he need to finish in the top three in order to credibly continue his campaign? Obviously, he has enough money to continue, but to do so credibly, does he need to be at least in the top three?

[16:10:00]

ANA NAVARRO, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: You know, Jake, I think this is a different year than what we have seen in the past.

You are not going to see this field whittled down to three people out of New Hampshire. I think everybody that you saw on the debate stage this week is going to be on the debate stage on Saturday. That includes Chris Christie, that includes Jeb Bush.

Certainly, a number two or three win would give him a lot of wind in his sails. If it's a number two win for Marco, I think it is a big night for Marco. If it's not a number two win for Marco, I think it's a problem for him. His people have been saying that that looks no -- so they have a three, two, one theory no how to win the path to the nomination, come in third in Iowa, which they did very successfully, come in second in New Hampshire, come in first in South Carolina.

But the only two out of that lane that have built groups and that have built ground troops operations in South Carolina are Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush. I think the other two need big wins a lot more in order to be able to be propelled with momentum to South Carolina.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: Yes.

CONANT: So we have never said where we need to finish here, other than we want to finish in the top tier.

The reality is that we're running a 50-state campaign. Jeb has spent $10 million in New Hampshire alone attacking Marco Rubio.

TAPPER: You mean him and his super PAC.

(CROSSTALK)

CONANT: Him and his super PAC. Team Jeb has spent $10 million attacking Marco here.

John Kasich has had something like 100 town halls in the state. Chris Christie has abandoned his home state. Basically, he's moved here to be governor of New Hampshire ahead of the primary. And Katrina's boss, Donald Trump, has run a great campaign here and he's been at 30 percent consistency all along.

So I fully expect that Donald Trump will win tonight. I think that the governors, given how much they invested here, they have to do well, they have to exceed expectations or there really is no path forward for them. For us, if we can finish in the top tier, we are going to be happy.

NAVARRO: But, Alex, let's not pretend that Marco's campaign or super PAC has been rope-a-dope. You guys have invested millions of dollars also against Jeb Bush and against others.

Every time I turn on the TV here, Conservative Solutions is hitting Jeb.

(CROSSTALK)

NAVARRO: ... out there linking Barbara Bush.

STEVENS: Gingrich won South Carolina last time and he got skunked in Iowa, he got skunked in New Hampshire, he came out of nowhere in South Carolina, and he had good debates.

I think what you're going to see is that whoever wins New Hampshire is going to be first or second in South Carolina. Cruz is going to be first or second because he won Iowa. And then it's going to be up to these other candidates to break out and to crack through.

And I really don't think that the voters of South Carolina particularly care who came in fourth, who came in fifth. These differences, you know, they may look good on the screen, 15 percent vs. -- it's going to be a very small number of human beings.

TAPPER: Yes.

(CROSSTALK)

PIERSON: I think it's fair to say this is a very different political paradigm that we're in, so we really can't compare it to previous elections, because that's just shattered at this point.

But to Alex's point, there are those that have to do well in New Hampshire because there will be no path forward. The establishment is freaking out. You have got Donald Trump and Ted Cruz now poised at Iowa and New Hampshire. They have to coalesce around someone, whether it's Marco Rubio or Jeb Bush. And I think that's why see the...

(CROSSTALK)

NAVARRO: We're freaking out a little less since Trump lost Iowa.

(CROSSTALK)

PIERSON: It doesn't look like it.

TAPPER: We could do this all night, and we will in some ways.

Thank you, one and all.

Coming up next, Bernie Sanders anticipating a win here tonight, although he says don't jinx it. How will the Clinton campaign stop his momentum if they can?

Plus, a top New Hampshire official predicting record turnout in the Granite State today. We are live with the ballot cam.

Plus, I caught up with all three Republican governors in the race, Chris Christie throwing one more jab at Marco Rubio.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRISTIE: He has a great future. But it's just not now and he's just not ready. He doesn't have the depth or the substance.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: We're live in New Hampshire.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:17:40] TAPPER: Welcome back to a special edition of THE LEAD, live from Manchester, New Hampshire, I'm Jake Tapper. And we are just hours away from all the polls in the Granite State closing and when White House dreams could come crashing to the ground.

Let's turn to the group of candidates known as the governors, Jeb Bush of Florida, Chris Christie of New Jersey, John Kasich of Ohio, all of whom are in the so-called "establishment lane" for the Republican nomination. They are fighting tooth and nail for survival in today's primary.

I spoke with all three of them just hours ago on the campaign trail.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CROWD: Jeb!

TAPPER (voice-over): Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, John Kasich -- three Republican governors, each of them putting everything they have got into New Hampshire. Among them, the three have spent 200 days in this state in the last few months, that means 500 rallies, meet-and-greets and town halls.

I caught up with Jeb Bush this morning outside a polling place in Manchester.

(on camera): So here we are. This is where it's going to happen.

GOV. JEB BUSH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Yes, this is democracy, ground zero in the greatest country of the face of the world. It's New Hampshire politics. I love it.

TAPPER: It made you a better candidate? BUSH: Absolutely, much better candidate, more incisive. And the

format, we're going to take on the road going forward, which I've done anyway. But the town hall format I think is a really good one for a time of real cynicism because people get to say what they think.

TAPPER: Yes.

BUSH: You know, it's pretty cool.

TAPPER: So you're going to South Carolina no matter what happens?

BUSH: Sure, I've got meeting, a town hall meeting at the VFW lodge in Myrtle Beach tomorrow night and a rally at Hilton head at Sun City Center I think, on 11:00 tomorrow.

TAPPER: What's your closing pitch to anybody watching right now?

BUSH: My closing pitch is that I have a committed record of accomplishment when I was governor of the state of Florida, detailed plans to fix the mess in Washington, and then I have leadership skills which we desperately need. We can't take a risk going forward. We're living in dangerous times, people are deeply disillusioned, we need a leader.

TAPPER: And last question, I've asked this of a bunch of candidates -- has this experience changed you in anyway, do you think?

[16:20:04] BUSH: You know, it's validated by love of country and my belief that we're on the verge of greatness just listening to people talk. It's made me more patient and --

TAPPER: You weren't a patient man to begin with?

BUSH: I've never been a patient man. I'm impatient by nature. And it's strengthened my resolve because it's not an easy process. You know, when you see people write you off pretty consistently and you have the determination to prove them wrong, it's kind of rewarding in that regard.

TAPPER (voice-over): Then, it was off to Derry, New Hampshire, to meet up with New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R-NJ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Oh, yes, that's all I've heard about for 72 hours. Anybody who comes up to me, whether it's a current supporter or someone who's new signing on or even an undecided voter says how important the debate was.

TAPPER (on camera): The polls seem to be all over the map. I can't really tell what's going on.

CHRISTIE: Yes, our internals are a lot different than your poll. It shows some real momentum on our part. And so, we feel good going into tonight. But like everybody, I think anybody could wind up from second to sixth in this thing and not be shocked.

TAPPER: And you have a ticket to South Carolina Wednesday no matter what?

CHRISTIE: I am on the plane going to South Carolina tomorrow morning. We've got three events scheduled in South Carolina tomorrow.

TAPPER: So what's your last pitch? Because there will be voters who have not yet voted watching this. What's your pitch to them? What do you want to say to them?

CHRISTIE: You want someone who is prepared, experienced, mature and tested to get on the stage against Hillary Clinton. If you are not ready, she will eat you alive. And we first, before we get to the White House, we have to go through her. And you're going to want somebody on that stage who their experience gives them the best chance to beat her.

Once you get to the White House, you can actually do the job because you actually managed something before in your life of significance and been held accountable for it.

And I'm the person who brings those two skills together. Nobody else on that stage and lots tried -- Ted Cruz, Jeb Bush and Donald Trump all tried to go after Marco Rubio. They weren't effective at it. I was. And I'll be just as effective against Hillary Clinton.

TAPPER: Did you see there was a clip of Rubio the other day kind of repeating a line that he said and catching himself saying it again?

CHRISTIE: Yes, sir.

TAPPER: What did you think of that?

CHRISTIE: I'm not surprised. That's who he is, Jake.

I mean, he's a very talented young man. And he has a great future. But it's just not now and he's just not ready. He doesn't have the depth or the substance. And he doesn't have it because he hasn't experienced anything.

I mean, Marco Rubio will leave the Senate this year and there will not be any evidence that he was ever there, any evidence, exempt for the amnesty bill he co-authored with Chuck Schumer and ran away from. Other than that, you know, he actually named something in the debate the other night in a bill on Hezbollah sanctions, that he wasn't even there to vote for and called it a major achievement. I mean, if that's what you're listing as a major achievement, you need to go do some work.

Maybe he should run for governor of Florida and do something like that and actually get some real experience. And if he does, he's got a lot a talent.

But I've already done that. I've been U.S. attorney in one of the fifth largest office in America. I've been the governor of New Jersey, governing a state that no one can say is easy to govern. I'm prepared to be president of the United States and I'm prepared to beat Hillary Clinton. TAPPER (voice-over): Then we met up with Ohio governor John Kasich

just hours before the polls closed at his campaign headquarters in Concord, New Hampshire.

(on camera): So, Governor, how are you feeling?

GOV. JOHN KASICH (R-OH), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: How can you feel better? When you win Dixville Notch, the rest is all icing on the cake.

(LAUGHTER)

TAPPER: As goes the Dixville Notch --

KASICH: So goes the world, yes.

(LAUGHTER)

TAPPER: You've tried to have an optimistic and positive message in a campaign that has notable for a lot of negativity. Do you think that in a way, your refusal to go negative like some of your opponents have been willing to, do you think that's hurt you at all?

KASICH: Well, you know, we're going to find out tonight but I don't get the sense it has. I get the sense that people are like, ah, we don't care about that stuff. I think our voters are pretty resilient.

But, Jake, you know, who knows? We won't know until we count the ballots. But look, the intensity of the attacks against me have just accelerated. And so, I think the interesting thing is having stayed positive, we now have an experiment. Now, we can see whether negativity has to work or whether positivity can overcome it.

TAPPER: Do you have to reach a certain threshold today? Do you have to be in like top three?

KASICH: Well, yes, we've got to do well. You know, I can't tell you exactly. We've got to look at where we are and how this plays out.

TAPPER: I've heard some people say, if Kasich does well in New Hampshire, that's great. But where does he go and when next?

KASICH: Well, yes --

TAPPER: Because this is such a distinct state obviously in terms of moderates and independents. You can appeal to them but where else are you going to find them?

KASICH: Jake, I think the voters are consistent in their concerns across the country. Job -- you know, am I secure in my job. If I lose it, can I get another job? What about my kids, they've got big, high debt, can they get a job? What about social security?

And I think they're the same.

TAPPER: There are going to be people watching this that have not yet voted. What's your message to them? What's your last pitch?

KASICH: Well, look, you know, it's about the head and the heart.

[16:25:01] It's about being able to create economic growth because everything starts from there.

Jobs are the cornerstone. But once we have the jobs, everybody ought to have a chance. And in order to do it, we've got to come together as a country and knock off all the negativity and partisanship and let's just go fix America.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TAPPER: Coming up next, according to polls, Hillary Clinton is facing an almost certain loss in this state. What's next for her campaign?

Plus, Brian Todd live on the street with the CNN ballot cam. Lots of people waiting in line to vote. Some of them still undecided, believe it or not. That's ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. We're live this afternoon in New Hampshire, Manchester, New Hampshire, where voting is underway.