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Results Expected Soon for New Hampshire Primary; N.H. Exit Polling: When Voters Picked Candidates; Clinton, Sanders Campaigns Strive to Drive Turnout; New Exit Polling on Undeclared Voters in New Hampshire. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired February 9, 2016 - 17:00   ET


[17:00:12] WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Who wins New Hampshire depends on who turns out to vote. Just moments from now, we'll bring you the first answers to that key question.

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 with New Hampshire's secretary of state predicting a record turnout. We've just received the first exit polling data on who is actually casting ballots. The question: does the mix favor one party or another, one candidate or another? We're crunching the number right now. We're going to bring them to you throughout the next two hours.

BLITZER: It's going to be very exciting coverage that begins right now. In addition, as always, we've got our correspondents, our cameras and all the major events, the prime locations tonight along with our expert analysis left, right and center.

Let's begin with the Republicans first in the campaign frenzy leading up to this very moment, including -- we should warn you -- some pretty rough language from Donald Trump.

Here's CNN's Jim Acosta.


JEB BUSH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And if you're not supporting me, don't tell me.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): With voters streaming into the polls, the battle for New Hampshire is most over. And the GOP candidates have the bruises to prove it. Jeb Bush is still sparring with Donald Trump.

BUSH: There are no solutions, nothing serious about his message. And at some point we get to the point where we actually have to offer solutions.

ACOSTA: And Trump is offering no apologies for repeating a supporter's below-the-belt attack on Ted Cruz.


OK. You're not allowed to say, and I never expect to hear that from you again. She said I never expect to hear that from you again. She said he's a (EXPLETIVE DELETED). That's terrible, terrible.

ACOSTA: No big deal, says Trump.

TRUMP: Well, I didn't say it. Somebody else said it. I didn't say it.

ACOSTA: Cruz isn't buying it.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Donald does not handle losing very well. He didn't like that he lost in Iowa. And his response often is to simply yell and insult and engage in profanity.

ACOSTA: The brash billionaire is more worried about repeating his mistakes in Iowa, where his ground game fell flat.

TRUMP: The polls don't mean anything if we don't get up, don't get out, don't vote.

ACOSTA: So he deployed one of his secret weapons, daughter Ivanka, to persuade any remaining undecideds. Marco Rubio is hoping minds were made up days ago, well before he was busted by opponents for regurgitating talking points at last weekend's debate, a performance that inspired Democratic activists to dress up as Rubio robots who scuffled with the Florida senator's supporters. Rubio is blaming the press.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Yes, that's a media thing. For voters? Voters are excited about it. Especially in New Hampshire. Voters in New Hampshire are serious about this. They understand what's at stake here.

ACOSTA: But Chris Christie isn't letting Rubio forget.

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R-NJ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The fact is, that wasn't tough on Saturday night. And it wasn't tough on Senator Rubio. They haven't seen tough yet. Tough is Hillary Clinton.

ACOSTA: Still, the surprise of the night could belong to John Kasich, who has staked his campaign on New Hampshire and won the state's first votes in Dixville Notch.

GOV. JOHN KASICH (R-OH), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: When you win big in Dixville Notch like I did, what else can you say? It was huge. I just saw Trump. I said, "Trump, I crushed you."

He said, "Yes, you did. You killed me."


BLITZER: And Jim Acosta is joining us now from a postcard picture- perfect Manchester.

Jim, so primary day finally here. You're over there at Trump headquarters. Any word from the Trump camp as they await the results?

ACOSTA: Well, Wolf, Donald Trump just returned from some last-minute stops at polling places. He answered a couple of questions and insisted his showing in Iowa was a strong second, nothing to feel bad about.

The campaign here is feeling very good about tonight, Wolf. They do not see this as a repeat of Iowa. That's obviously reflected in the polls.

And Wolf, I just had a chance to go inside and eyeball the election watch party headquarters here behind me. It is nothing like those arena-like venues where you see those supporters cram into. It should make for pretty atmosphere later on tonight, Wolf.

BLITZER: Should indeed. All right, Jim Acosta, thank you. And as we said right at the top, New Hampshire's secretary of state is predicting a record turnout with another top official, saying it could even be picking up a bit right now.

Our Brian Todd is standing by at a polling place in the town of Hudson, New Hampshire.

Brian, what are you seeing there in terms of people actually showing up at the polls?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, a tremendous amount of energy here in Hudson. The story, as you mentioned, is turnout. Check this out. This line goes out the door, and we're just getting into the rush-hour crush of voters here. We've got three hours left until the polls close in this precinct.

[17:05:10] We wanted to take it out the door, but frankly, we couldn't get back in, and if we can't get back in, we can't show you how the process works. We're going to do that for you right now.

This is what's really cool about covering these balloting stations here. We get to show you how the process works on live TV in real time. Here's how it goes. People will line up here. They've been doing this all day long, since 7 a.m. Eastern Time. They line in here. They check in at these desks over here.

They are asked whether they're Democrat or Republican. Then they're handed a ballot, and they go vote. It takes the average voter -- we timed it -- at about 35 seconds to cast their ballot.

Now, if a voter says that they are undeclared, then they are asked -- excuse me, guys, thank you very much -- then they are asked which way they want to vote, Democrat or Republican. They say it. They're given a pink ballot for the Republicans, a blue ballot for the Democrats. Then they cast their vote. That's critical, because the undeclared voters, Wolf, are a crucial part of this turnout here.

Once they cast their ballots, then they come out. And if you're undeclared and go one way or the other and you want to re-register as an undeclared voter, then you stand in this line. And then you go out, and you're done.

Now, the undeclared voters here are a dominant factor in this polling station. Many, many people have been undeclared here. Many of them that we saw have gone to the Republicans.

As of an hour ago, they had almost 6,000 voters come through here. The majority of them, by about 1,200, had gone Republican, Wolf, so we'll see who that benefits.

We're told that the undeclared voters, at least the white-collar undeclared voters might benefit John Kasich. The blue-collar undeclared Republican voters might benefit Donald Trump. Bernie Sanders gets the bump among the undeclareds, according to analysts on the Democratic side, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Brian Todd. Thanks very much. We'll stay in close touch with you, as well.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Whether it's the turnout, the exiting polling, the Republican race for second place or, as always, the possibility of something happening that no one expected.

There's plenty to talk about with our panel: chief national correspondent, John King, host of CNN's "INSIDE POLITICS"; chief political analyst Gloria Borger; CNN national security commentator, former Republican Congressman Mike Rogers; senior political analyst, former senior White House staffer to Democrats and Republicans, as well as an all-around bon vivant, David Gergen; CNN political commentators Geoffrey Lord and Amanda Carpenter. He of Reagan White House fame, she the former communications director for Senator Ted Cruz. He's a Trump supporter, she not so much. Also Sanders supporter and Obama critic Bill Press, who's also a CNN political commentator. And finally not just because today is Mardi Gras, a child of Louisiana, Democratic Party official, as well, CNN political commentator, Donna Brazile.

John, Gloria, let's start with both of you. There's so much to watch for. In terms of the Republican side, there is a real fight for second and third right now.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. I think there is. And that's what makes this evening so fascinating, because if you assume that because Donald Trump has been first in the last, what, 75 polls that he's going to win tonight, what we see is a bunch-up here of the Republican mainstream.

And we saw Marco Rubio get a bronze medal in Iowa, but everyone paid attention to him after that. He had a bad debate Saturday night. And now the question is, will this muddle of establishment Republicans start sorting itself out?

COOPER: Right. Will there be a narrowing of the Republican field after New Hampshire?


narrowing. The question is how many do we lose, and that depends on the margins. Let's start with first and foremost. Trump needs a win. We all expect he's going to get a win, because he's had the big lead in the polls, but Trump needs a win. If Trump doesn't get that win, then it's a trap door beneath him. If he loses two in a row, I think his candidacy will near collapse.

COOPER: Really? You think so?

KING: However, if you lose two in a row and your brand is winning, yes, as you go south. I don't think that's going to happen. He's been ahead, as you noted, in the last 377 polls in New Hampshire have had Donald Trump with a pretty healthy lead.

So then the question will be what's the margin? Then he'll have to perform again. But a win is a win. If Trump wins New Hampshire, he's on the map again. He's going south as the leader. He's already running harsh ads against Cruz in South Carolina. A Trump win in New Hampshire, we're back to a very unpredictable race.

But then, who is the center right candidate? And, you know, Rubio had momentum. Did the debate stop it? Kasich thinks that he can climb into second place. Jeb Bush felt really great the last week. Chris Christie peeled the skin off Rubio in the debate. The question is did it help him. Carly Fiorina, even if he gets 4 percent or 6 percent, that comes from somebody. That goes to affect those margins. Ted Cruz would come in third which he would claim as a moral victory.

There's Tea Party voters there. There's libertarians there. There aren't many evangelicals. But the possibility of Cruz, you know, coming into third place, which would give him a moral victory. But that center right splintering, look, we will lose one, maybe two candidates if not tonight, by tomorrow. We just don't know who they are, because it's going to all depend on the margins.

COOPER: David, a lot of voters have not made up their minds, particularly on the Republican side.

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: It's very fluid on the Republican side, and I think that's why everybody is watching tonight. New Hampshire is predictably unpredictable. It's very, very special in that regard.

[17:10:07] I do think it's all about an expectations game. And that is if Trump wins -- and he's expected to win by ten points or more. He's been ahead by double digits in all the polls. If that margin narrows, say, to five, six, seven points, the person that comes close to him is going to get a lot of publicity coming out of here and a big bump coming out. Beating the expectations game is really, really important.

COOPER: What are you looking for tonight?

MIKE ROGERS, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY COMMENTATOR: Well, it's always interesting. Nobody in these primaries -- presidential primaries loses. There's always the spin is I came in 15th place, and I'm a winner.

COOPER: It was a strong 15th.

ROGERS: Because nobody thought I'd even show up and ride the bus.

But I will tell you that one of the things that they're looking for is how can I spin out of this to keep money alive for the next state? That's really what you're seeing.

All these super PACs have changed the game politically in presidential primaries. Certainly, I've learned that in this cycle. Where you don't have to be No. 1 in Iowa and No. 1 in New Hampshire, and everyone else goes away. They'll have enough money to keep playing to a longer term strategy.

COOPER: Do they need -- do they need new money to get to South Carolina?

BORGER: Well, John Kasich, for example, needs money to continue.

COOPER: Bush has money regardless.

BORGER: Bush has money no matter what. Kasich needs it; Rubio wants it.

KING: I would just be careful about over emphasizing the importance of these super PACs. There's a reason Scott Walker left early. There's a reason Bobby Jindal left early. There's a reason Rick Perry left early.

Yes, you can have a super PAC that can help you. They can run ads, and they can destroy the other candidates or they can boost your candidacy. They cannot pay your staffers. They cannot pay your nuts and bolts day-to-day campaign operation. That's hard money.

If Chris Christie is in fifth or sixth place in New Hampshire tonight, he's not going to be able to raise any more money. He will go. If Kasich disappoints dramatically -- if Kasich's second or third, he's going to stay in the race. But if he doesn't, if he disappoints, he's not going to be able to raise any money.

And even Bush, who has the money to go forward, and there's no reason to believe he would get out before South Carolina, he's going to have to start having some tough conversations. If your name is Bush, and you keep coming in fifth or sixth, it's time to start having those very tough conversations.

BORGER: Well, the Bush people they've got to beat Marco Rubio. This is mano a mano tonight for these two men. And just talking about expectations, the Democrats, if Hillary Clinton loses by less than double digits, they might be able to spin that into -- into a victory of sorts. Comeback kid, 1992, Bill Clinton. Comeback gal.

GERGEN: Gloria, I would think that Bush has to beat Kasich more than he has to beat Rubio. BORGER: No, they -- they -- well, no, because Kasich is not as much

of a threat to them. Rubio is the real threat to them. And they believe...

GERGEN: But if Kasich punches way above his weight tonight, and that's what everybody is looking for, that would really hurt them.

BORGER: And they believe Rubio is more of a threat in the long run then Kasich, and they might be wrong about that.

ROGERS: I still think that, wherever you end up here, do you end up in a position where you can make a pitch to your donors to keep you alive?

COOPER: Right.

ROGERS: That's where the strategy is in this. Even second or third place here is really important for them. But it's all about can I spin this into the next state to survive one more state?

COOPER: Amanda, your former boss, Ted Cruz, he can spin this saying, look, New Hampshire wasn't a great area for me, not a huge number of evangelicals, but we're heading back down to the south now, this is prime ground for me. I need to stay in this team.

AMANDA CARPENTER, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, sure. And I think it's been pretty (UNINTELLIGIBLE) that New Hampshire is a place for the establishment people to sort it out.

But if Donald Trump does win New Hampshire, nobody can ignore that he's real anymore. And then Ted Cruz has a very strong argument to say, "I'm the only one that's taken on Donald Trump and beat him."

Now they'll go into South Carolina. Trump already views Cruz as a threat. That's why he's putting out attack ads against Cruz right now. So Cruz will say, "I'm the only one who can beat him. And also, the terrain in South Carolina is very much like Iowa. I can win again. So get on board. If you want to stop Trump, vote for me."

I expect that to be the argument. It's the one that I would tell him to make.

COOPER: Geoffrey, do you believe that Trump has to win by a certain margin in order to win? Or is a win a win?

GEOFFREY LORD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No, I think he can win within reason. A win is a win is a win.

But to Amanda's point, if he wins, and Ted Cruz goes south and says that, there will be a coronary like you've never seen throughout the entire Republican establishment if they come to realize those are their two choices. Because, I mean, the establishment this year has never gotten their act together. They've become, if I may, fat and lazy and out of shape. They were not ready for this. They've controlled things for so long, they were totally taken aback by this. CARPENTER: There's too many vanity campaigns in that lane. They need

to get real and understand that one or two of them only has a shot here. The other people have got to drop out, because the big field only helps Donald Trump.

CLINTON: What about on the Democratic side? I mean, Donna, Hillary Clinton does -- if she gets in close to single digits to Bernie Sanders, is that going to be spun to a win?

DONNA BRAZILE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Oh, absolutely. The Democrats are one for two in terms of winning New Hampshire but two for two in terms of spinning New Hampshire. So I'm sure that, if she comes in a close second, she's going to spin it.

You know, the Republican establishment is both busted and disgusted. Well, the Democratic establishment tonight is watching this to see just how well Bernie Sanders is doing, not just with young people but also blue-collar individuals, the so-called mill towns or former mill towns.

I was there for five days, and you know, when you're there for five days, you start to get a flavor of what's going on. And I'm telling you, I saw a lot of excitement.

Now, the independents, I don't know what happens when you go to a bar -- not a supermarket, a bar -- and everybody says they're undeclared. And I say that cannot be true. But somehow or another, those undeclared voters are turning out tonight. And I think Bill Gardner is right, the secretary of state. We will see a historic turnout.


BILL PRESS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think it's very interesting, first of all, this whole dynamic in New Hampshire between the Democrats. Because Bernie is trying to win by the biggest margin that he can, and Hillary is trying to lose by the smallest margin she can. Right? I've never seen a campaign like this.

But you know, for the spin, obviously, the Clinton people say, "If we can get it down to below 10 -- right? -- then we've got a big victory" or anywhere in that. I -- the spin that I've heard from the Sanders campaign, which I love, is, "Look, in Iowa she won by 0.25 percent, and they declared it a huge victory. So for us anything over 0.25 percent is momentum."

COOPER: We've got to take a quick break.

Up next, the first exit polling numbers, starting with the key question: when did voters actually settle on the candidate they voted for? How long did they stay undecided? Answers to that next as we look there at a live picture of some of those voters still waiting to cast their ballots in this first primary of 2016.


BLITZER: Take a look over there. Beautiful picture. Trump headquarters in Manchester, New Hampshire. Polls closing at 7 p.m. Eastern in most parts of the state, 8 p.m. in the rest. Right now our first clear read on who's been casting ballots. Exit polling from voting locations around the Granite State.

One question: how late did people wait to decide who to vote for today? Our CNN political reporter, David Chalian, is here with the answer. What is the answer how late people waited to actually make up their mind?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Wolf, you know New Hampshire voters are famous for waiting until the last minute. They want to meet everyone.

But this Republican race remained really volatile and fluid until the end. Take a look at these numbers in our exit poll. Last few days, 46 percent of Republicans who showed up to vote today said they decided in the last few days. Fifty-three percent said earlier than that. OK.

And then we asked what about the recent debates? Did that have an impact on your vote? Sixty-five percent of Republicans today said it was an important factor in their vote; 33 percent said no.

So that was -- that debate came Saturday night. Folks weren't deciding. That was an important factor. It just shows you how fluid the race was on the Republican side.

BLITZER: What about the Democratic side?

CHALIAN: The Democratic side, interestingly enough, was a little more solidified. Take a look at this.

Only 22 percent of Democrats today said that they decided in the last few days. That's different than 77 percent who had decided earlier. And they had a debate, of course, last week at the end of this process. And the numbers there show that 53 percent of Democrats said that debate was a factor in their decision, but 45 percent said it was not a factor in their decision.

This year I look at this and said, if I'm the Bernie Sanders camp and I've been leading in the polls this whole time, I look at these numbers and say, hey, this race was solidified on the Democratic side pretty early on. The debate didn't move a huge swath of the electorate, apparently, and a lot of the Democratic electorate had locked in on their decision earlier.

BLITZER: I know you and our team are going through a whole bunch of numbers right now. You're going to be sharing more throughout this hour and next hour, as well. David Chalian, thanks very much.

Anderson, let's get back to you.

COOPER: All right. Let's check back in with our panel. John King, how do you read those numbers in terms of, you know, the debate seemed to have made an impact on a high number of Republican voters? KING: Well, reflex tells you that, if they processed like the news

media did, that it was a bad night for Rubio, that maybe it halted his momentum. We'll have to wait until we see the numbers. Sometimes the voters are counterintuitive to what we think, especially Hew Hampshire voters. Sometimes they just like to stick it to everybody, including Iowa and us.

But if so many people thought the debate was so important, and clearly, if you're watching the beginning of the debate was not a good night for Marco Rubio. He did better as the debate went on. But that first few exchanges with Chris Christie were bad. I can tell you from being up there last week, he was moving. There was no question that Rubio was moving up heading into that debate.

So if that stopped it, again, it gets back to the point where we're talking about. One of the big questions tonight will be what are the margins between Rubio, Kasich, Bush, Christie and where does Cruz fit in there? And if that stops his momentum, well, that will affect those margins.

COOPER: And yet, if you have so many Republicans who are undecided up until just recently, a lot of the polls then, really, are called into question, are they not?

BORGER: Exactly. Look, this is a very unsettled Republican race. It has been. You look at the size of the field, and New Hampshire, I think, reflects that when people say they decided late. You know, this is a race where people were watching the debate at the last minute. They were seeing the candidates come to New Hampshire. And I think it reflects the kind of nature of this entire Republican race that we've seen so far.

Ironically, it's usually the Democrats who are unsettled and the Republicans who are pretty settled. And this time they've flipped, because the Democrats decided a while ago. And they're much more settled and much happier, by the way, about their choice.

COOPER: So 46 percent of Republicans just the last few days, 22 percent of Democrats.

BORGER: Exactly.

KING: There's a couple of reasons. No. 1, there's been a civil war going on in the Republican Party since about halfway through the second Bush term. A fight for control of the party, a fight in the philosophy of the party. Populism versus establishment, Tea Party versus establishment. So that's part of it. That's what's being litigated in this presidential primary.

[17:25:02] But you also have a very deep and qualified field. So when you go in the suburbs, you have a two-term governor. You might -- you know, some Republicans might not like their politics, but you have a two-term Governor Bush, a two-term Governor Kasich, Florida and Ohio. A governor of New Jersey.

You know, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio sort of who came in in the Tea Party class, party stars. And then the disrupter, Donald Trump. When you're at rallies in the past week, these Republican rallies are like two miles apart. So you see somebody at a Bush rally who then shows up at the Christie rally, that night is at a Rubio rally. That's what they're doing is shopping.

COOPER: David.

GERGEN: I think those numbers of people who decide late and the debate influenced them is extraordinarily high.

COOPER: Really?

GERGEN: I'm really, really like, "Whoa."

And you know, when we watched that debate, we knew that Rubio had slipped badly, but you had the sense it was one of those naked moments in politics when you suddenly see into the inner core of a candidate and you make a judgment. Is this person up to this job or not. And I do think it may have really, really hurt Rubio far more than we thought.

But in -- but by the same token, it may well have helped some of the governors who shone that night like Bush, like Kasich, like Christie.

COOPER: Right. Of course, the other question is the undecideds, or the -- the...

CAMEROTA: Undeclared.

COOPER: Or undeclared as they call them in New Hampshire, which way are they breaking? Brian Todd anecdotally was saying at the polling station he was at, a lot of them are going, it seems, to the Republican side but that's just anecdotally.

CARPENTER: You know, we talk a lot about the debate performance and how it impacted Marco Rubio. But I think we've got to give Chris Christie some credit.

I think it's very conceivable that he gets a bump out of this, and he probably pulls some votes from Donald Trump. If you're an undecided New Hampshire voter and you maybe like Donald Trump's brash personality and the way he shakes things up but are turned off by some of the comments that maybe he made about Ted Cruz in the last couple of days, I could see that type of voter going for Chris Christie who has a similar personality but also some...

COOPER: Well, he was supposed to be a tell it like it is guy until Donald Trump came along.

GERGEN: Believe it or not somebody else was telling it worse.

BRAZILE: I don't think the undeclared voter went necessarily for the tough person or the tough guy or the bully. I think they were looking for someone who they believed could bring people together. And that's been, you know, Governor Kasich. He's been the sort of candidate that has been able to go and walk into the barber shops and visit the malls and hold the town hall meetings. This is my anecdotal. I saw more bumper stickers, Kasich bumper stickers.

COOPER: He says he held more than 100 town halls. I mean, he was living there basically.

PRESS: Now, this is a very smart strategy, I believe, on the part of John Kasich and he is the most independent, I believe, the most unpredictable, almost one that Democrats could support.

And one factor I'd like to see after this is all over is these undeclareds, when they walk in, if I were a Clinton or leaning Clinton, an undeclared, I'd probably want to have some mischief in the Republican primary tonight and vote Republican.

BORGER: Well, that's just you.

CARPENTER: And this may be part of it. There's so much excitement. We're seeing maybe record turnout. We'll see how the numbers end up.

People don't want this show to end. I mean, everything that happens tonight is really just about positioning for South Carolina and then going into SEC Tuesday because Donald Trump may be running the greatest reality show we've ever seen, and we don't want to see it cancelled.

BORGER: Can I say something about Kasich? The thing that I think I'm going to look for tonight with Kasich is whether he wins Republican voters. Because remember John McCain. John McCain won New Hampshire by winning independent voters, so-called undeclared voters. But then it was a problem for him after that.

He needs -- Kasich needs to show that he can win with Republicans, and this is going to be an issue for him when you head to other primaries that might be not so hospitable to him. Maybe in the Midwest he does better.

ROGERS: One quick thing: I don't think it's the show. I think these voters in these early primary states -- and I've been in New Hampshire and Iowa and South Carolina -- take this very seriously. And I think that late break is they're still trying to determine which candidate fits the kind of America that I'm looking for?

One thing we saw in Iowa: the candidates that did the best on national security scored exactly in the order of which they won. Trump, Cruz and Rubio scored the highest of Republican voters in Iowa. As a matter of fact, the candidate who had the weakest national security position was Rand Paul, the isolationist, and he -- he was the first one to fall out after Iowa.

I think you're going to see a little bit of that issue focus for these voters. That's why I think it was 65 percent. They were looking for that one thing on an issue that made them comfortable.

GERGEN: And you think that issue was national security?

ROGERS: Well, the polling that we saw with the work that we were doing there was that national security was either No. 1 or No. 2 in every one of those early states.

COOPER: Certainly among Republicans, not among Democrats.


COOPER: ... further down. It was like 6 percent said terrorism on the Democratic side.

Just ahead, inside the Democratic race how Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders spent primary day and the mood tonight inside their campaigns.


[17:34:48] BLITZER: Decision day in New Hampshire. The first-in-the- nation primary now in its final few hours. Hillary Clinton spent much of the day shaking hands, greeting voters, thanking volunteers.

Our final CNN/WMUR tracking poll had her trailing Senator Bernie Sanders by 26 points. If she manages to defy the polls, as she did back in 2008, it would be one for the history books.

Our senior Washington correspondent, Jeff Zeleny, is joining us now from the Clinton primary headquarters in New Hampshire. Jeff, the Clinton campaign, what kind of results do they say they're realistically expecting tonight?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, ever since she stepped foot in the state of New Hampshire some eight days ago after Iowa, they have been lowering expectations every single day. I mean, never mind all the history that the Clinton campaign, the Clinton family has in this state.

Of course, 1992 is a pivotal moment for Bill Clinton, and 2008, as you said, was a pivotal moment for her. They are saying that they can't win. But when you talk to them privately and some of her supporters on the ground here, they actually believe she can win.

The polls are all over the board. Because of these independent voters we've been talking to and about all day long, some who are playing in the Republican primary, they simply don't know.

But this is much closer than the 25 points would suggest. I am told that most sides believe this is within, you know, five points or so; and that is not a lot of space or so. If they get out their vote, which they've been trying to do today, it could be much tighter than some of our suggestions before have indicated, Wolf.

BLITZER: What have they been doing in these final few hours to get out the vote?

ZELENY: Well, some of it, we've seen. I mean, she's been -- was aggressively working across Manchester, working across southern New Hampshire this morning. She was being very visible. They're working the phones behind the scenes. Virtually the entire Brooklyn campaign office, their campaign headquarters, has descended upon New Hampshire. They're door knocking. They're leafletting. A lot of volunteers from Boston, from Washington, from New York.

So the Clinton campaign has descended on -- on New Hampshire to try and get those Democrats out to vote. The people who have been so loyal to the Clintons in the past. But Wolf, this is a different state. The population has changed in the last eight years or so, so that is going to play a role into tonight's results, as well.

BLITZER: All right. Jeff Zeleny, thank you.

As we said, Bernie Sanders had a double-digit lead going into today's primary. He was out in the snow, as well, today, visiting a polling place in Concord. But overall, his day was still lower key than Hillary Clinton's. His campaign saw a surge in donations after his virtual tie in Iowa. Tonight they are hoping for a decisive win.

Brianna Keilar is joining us now from the Sanders primary headquarters in Concord.

Brianna, what has the Sanders campaign been doing in this final push for voters in New Hampshire?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, certainly, Bernie Sanders has been taking it easy today, compared to that whirlwind of a day that he had yesterday that culminated in a big concert at the University of New Hampshire.

Today he woke up. He had breakfast with his kids, with his grandkids at Perkins, which, as you know, is a chain restaurant, but it's one that has become Bernie Sanders' go-to ever since he did all of his campaigning in Iowa.

And then he did visit that polling place, but afterwards. And I should say he visited one polling place today. Compare that to Hillary Clinton's three. And then he took a walk just to relax. Obviously, to wind down before going back to his hotel ahead of the primary results coming in tonight.

But we're hearing, Wolf, from the campaign that they are -- they're pretty confident. I mean, they would be silly to not admit that. They are so far ahead in the polls. Certainly, are they admitting that they're going to clear Hillary Clinton by as much as we've seen in the polls? No, but they're feeling pretty good going into tonight.

And then later tonight, Bernie Sanders is going to be here at Concord High School for what they are expecting will be a victory party.

BLITZER: And, Brianna, what's next for the Sanders campaign after the primary tonight?

KEILAR: they're going to be concentrating on Nevada, of course. The caucuses there is a week from Saturday. And then beyond that South Carolina, the Democratic primary taking place on February 27.

Bernie Sanders will have a better shot at challenging Hillary Clinton in Nevada than he will in South Carolina, just because of the demographics, because he's definitely not doing as well with African- American voters as Hillary Clinton is, and that's a huge factor in South Carolina.

But he'll be looking toward Nevada and trying to build momentum on what he is expecting will be a win this evening.

The other issue is are we going to see more, I guess, play when it comes to this generational divide that has developed? You know it's young people, and that includes young women who gravitated toward Bernie Sanders over Hillary Clinton, Democrats, of course.

They didn't come out in as big of numbers, I think, as Bernie Sanders would have hoped in Iowa, as much as Hillary Clinton's campaign feared. And I think he's hoping that they really come out here in New Hampshire.

Since Iowa, we've seen this kind of chasm open up between Democratic younger women and older women over these comments that Gloria Steinem made over the weekend and Madeleine Albright made over the weekend, basically chiding young women for not supporting Hillary Clinton. We'll see if that factors in, Wolf.

BLITZER: We certainly will. Brianna, thank you.

Just ahead we're getting more exit polling on the voters who could decide the outcome in both races. Tonight the undeclared voter. Breaking news on that when we come back.


[17:44:45] BLITZER: As we've said, most of the polling stations in New Hampshire close a little more than an hour from now, 7 p.m. Eastern. All of the polling places will be closed by 8 p.m. Eastern.

Independent voters, they're actually called undeclared voters in the Granite State, they make up a huge chunk of the electorate. They play a key role in every primary, and they certainly can vote for either Democrats or Republicans.

[17:45:02] BLITZER: We have some new exit polling data on them.

Our political director David Chalian is with us once again. What are we learning?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Well, you were right about undeclareds. These independent voters make up the largest chunk of the New Hampshire electorate. And take a look at how they choose to play today. On the Democratic side, 41 percent of Democratic primary voters today are independents or undeclareds. 55 percent are Democrats. On the Republican side, 62 percent are Republicans, 35 percent are independents or undeclared.

So, Wolf, what you see here is that the Democratic electorate has more independents in it as a share of the overall vote in that primary tonight than does the Republican electorate. The Republican electorate is a little bit more of the party faithful tonight.

BLITZER: They're showing up and we don't know what that means for, let's say, Bernie Sanders on the Democratic side or Hillary Clinton on the Republican side, let's say for Donald Trump.

CHALIAN: Well, we do know that independents have fueled the Trump and Sanders candidacies, there's no doubt about that. But I would say that if you are looking at these numbers and you are in the Bernie Sanders' camp and you see that 41 percent of the Democratic electorate tonight are independents, you look at that number and think that's a pretty good number to us.

BLITZER: Well, we'll see if it is. We'll find out pretty soon.

All right, David Chalian, thanks very much.

Anderson, let's go back to you.

COOPER: Yes. Let's talk about that with our panel.

Is that your take also, John, for instance?

KING: If you run Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders head-to-head with traditional Democrats, with declared Democrats, it's a very close race. When you add in the independents, that's when Sanders pulls away. So if you have more than four in 10 of the voters tonight, the Democratic primary, say they're undeclared independents, that's a recipe. Let's count the vote but that is on the surface a recipe for a Sanders win.

COOPER: And then a smaller percentage on the Republican side, how do you read that?

KING: That's an interesting question.

BORGER: Yes. But if -- yes.

KING: Fewer new voters maybe helps the establishment guys some but remember Trump gets a lot of blue-collar Republicans, too.

BORGER: Right. And it could -- you know, it could be good for Trump to a degree, but I think the person the undeclared voters could really help is John Kasich because, you know, these are people who could vote in either party, they may be just more independent voters and those are the that Kasich has been looking to attract. Also Jeb Bush has been looking to attract independent voters as well as Chris Christie, by the way, so the folks in that establishment group, the muddle, as we call it, are looking for the -- to pull these establishment voters, independent voters over.

It's not good for Cruz because those people are not going to vote for him. Solid conservative Republicans are going to vote for him and there aren't as many in New Hampshire as there were in Iowa.

ROGERS: I would say, a third -- a third of voters showing up undeclared in any primary is a big number.


ROGERS: So even though I think the numbers are a little misleading, you say well, it's bigger in the Democrats. A third of your voters that show up are undeclared or independent in a primary?

COOPER: Right.

ROGERS: That's a big deal.

GERGEN: How much -- go ahead, please.

PRESS: Just looking at some of the numbers we were just showing, go back to that so many of the -- so few of the Democrats decided in the last few days, they were already set, right? So few of them are really impacted by the last debate where Hillary really went after Bernie. If you look at these numbers, the percentage of Democrats who were undeclared, I saw today that 59 percent to 38 percent of those Democratic undeclareds go for Bernie Sanders and then 30 percent of New Hampshire voters are not -- were not there in 2008. Totally new people.

So Hillary can't go back to those people and say, you were with us before, come on back. If you add those four up, I think that looks like it could be a good night for Bernie Sanders. And I want to say right up front, BS to anybody who says it's only because he's a next- door neighbor.

COOPER: Which is something the campaign -- Hillary Clinton campaign has been putting forward a little bit.

We're going to take a quick break. In a moment we're going to talk more about our exit polling. I want to get the panel's thoughts on the undeclared voters who picked a Democrat. We'll be right back.


[17:53:27] COOPER: In about an hour, most polls will close in New Hampshire. Others are open until 7:30 or 8:00. We'll be here obviously throughout the night bringing you the results and expert analysis.

Before the break we got new exit polling on undeclared voters. We're back with our panel to get their take.

You know, it's interesting, Donna, I mean, in this previous polling independents in New Hampshire were heavily favoring Sanders. Do you think they're the driving factor in this kind of turnout, in the deficit for Clinton?

BRAZILE: Absolutely. If Secretary Clinton is unable to make up the gap with unmarried women who tend to be independent or undeclared, young voters, youth, millennials, they tend to be undeclared, and first-time voters, so that's a gap. That's a gap that she's struggling with. That's a gap that she hasn't been able to overcome so far. But remember, this is just the second contest. But these numbers suggest tonight, at least from what we see, that Secretary Clinton is struggling with those voters that she's having a problem making a closing argument with.

COOPER: You know, yesterday on the broadcast, Paul Begala was saying -- you know, Paul, who obviously is working for a Hillary Clinton super PAC, was satisfying everybody in the campaign just needs to chill. They just need to get through New Hampshire, move on to Nevada, move on to South Carolina where the demographics are more in Hillary Clinton's favor. Just take a chill. Do you agree with that?

BRAZILE: Yes, that sounds like a brother that went through the 1994 campaign when Gary Hart just came out of nowhere and, you know, in a heavy snowstorm. I was there when I was there, Anderson, that all of a sudden the snow would start falling again and it's 1984.

[17:55:01] He's right. You chill, because as you know, there are only 24 pledged delegates available tonight. The big prizes come next month in March. This is about delegates, but there's no question the Clinton campaign, they have a very good ground operation. Who said that Brooklyn is up in Manchester? Brooklyn and I also think parts of Queens is up there in Manchester.


KING: Have you ever seen chill and Clinton in the same sentence?



COOPER: A vote called monkey business.

GERGEN: How do you explain then if they ought to have a chill, why are we getting these stories about Bill and Hillary Clinton being very dissatisfied with the quality of their internal --

COOPER: You know, let's hold that, I want to hear that but we've got to take a quick break but first let's go back to Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Anderson, in about an hour, as we mentioned, most of the polls will be closing in New Hampshire. It's a big night for the state, a big night for the candidates.

Coming up, we'll be checking in with our reporters. They're at several of the candidates' primary night headquarters. We'll also have more exit polling results. We'll be right back.


[18:00:03] BLITZER: Once again, we want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

COOPER: Thanks for joining us. Right now New Hampshire voters are turning out in potentially record numbers.