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Voting Begins for South Carolina GOP Primary; Remembering Justice Scalia: Funeral Mass Begins Soon; Jeb Bush Arrives at Greenville S.C. Polling Station; Clinton, Sanders Battle for Nevada; Report: Cruz Met Carson in a Closet. Aired 7-8a ET

Aired February 20, 2016 - 07:00   ET


[07:00:00] VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Brad Thomas, good to have you this morning.

We've got the breaking news here at the top of the hour.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLACKWELL: And the breaking news this morning, polls opening here in South Carolina.

Good morning. I'm Victor Blackwell, live from the campus of the University of South Carolina where the voting now begins. The state prides itself on picking presidents.

And after a week of the fiery debates, the threats of lawsuits, the photoshop scandal. And remember that papal dust up? That seems like it was eons ago, it was just two days ago. Who will emerge on the top today and who will have the narrative of momentum as we move through the primary season? The decisions in the hands of the voters.

Let's go straight to Brian Todd. He's live at a polling station in Mount Pleasant.

What are you seeing there? I imagine we're just seconds into voting. I'm sure that the line isn't stretched out the door just yet.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Not just yet, Victor, we just started the voting as you mentioned. You said just a moment ago, this state prides itself picking on presidents and they get started on that bright and early in the morning. We counted about 18 to 20 voters lined up here just a moment ago and they are just getting to the polls right now.

Our photojournalist Steve and I are going to take you to the lines and show you the excitement of the early voting here at the National Guard Armory in Mount Pleasant. I counted about 18 to 20 people 7:00 in the morning on a Saturday, you've got to be impressed with that, Victor.

They line up here, they go over to these polling stations here. It's all digital. They have five stations here where they can cast their votes, at the end of the day it's registered on digital cartridges, then a central cartridge feeds that data into a machine that prints out the results and they send it to a central headquarters here.

So, you've got these people checking out here and were going to be monitoring the voter turnout throughout the day because that's going to be critical as we progress throughout the day here.

What's interesting here in South Carolina is that you don't register by party. You come in and they basically tell you -- the poll workers are trained to ask you as a voter, you know, say this is the Republican Party primary, is this the party -- the primary that you want to vote in today because it does get confusing, the Democratic primary is one week from today. So, when a voter affirms that they show their photo ID, then they are off to the races.

It doesn't take very long. They've already started processing people pretty quickly in here. People are coming in and out pretty quickly. We are not technically allowed to talk to them when they go out, we may sample some of them as we go out and ask them who they've supported, so we may be able to get a temperature what have candidate is doing well at least in this area.

You've got three precincts and a voter turn out will be a key thing we're going to be watching.

BLACKWELL: Yes, the line not stretched out the door but certainly you've got that trickle, that line inside, people going in to vote.

Brian, the GOP party chair here in South Carolina has said that he expects that this will be a record turnout. Already tens of thousands of people voting here that in person absentee the state's, I guess, equivalent of early voting. So, the numbers expected to be huge today.

TODD: I think they are, victor. You've got the sense of that. We were in Iowa, we were in New Hampshire, they had record turn outs in both of those states. There's just so much energy and excitement generated for the Republican primary here this week, the Democratic one next week.

What I can tell you here is here in Charleston County, the most populous county in South Carolina, an election official told me the actual registered voters, the number of registered voters has increased by 40,000 since 2012. We're going to see if that generates into some real energy at the polls today. We do expect it will.

BLACKWELL: All right. Brian Todd for us there in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, as polls are now open across the state here for the GOP primary. Brian, thanks, we'll check in with you throughout the day.

Now, as voters head to the polls in two states, not just here in South Carolina but also in Nevada, the decision could help shape this race. As the caucus start there in Nevada, I should say. Who gains the momentum, who loses it?

Take a look at the last minute pitches from both sides.


BLACKWELL (voice-over): Donald Trump trying to turn a lead in South Carolina polls into a win and he tells supporters he expects he can run the table if he can start with a win here. And this morning, he has a message for black voters across the state.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I will do more for the African-American people in one year than Barack Obama has done in his seven years, soon to be eight years and then, by the way, he's out and thank goodness.

BLACKWELL: South Carolina may be the site of Jeb Bush's last stand as he's not pulling any punches.

JEB BUSH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Donald Trump has never shown any interest in anybody else other than himself, and the two candidates that are -- that are gifted speakers, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, have shown nothing in their past that would suggest they could make a tough decision.

BLACKWELL: With the state's governor, Nikki Haley, by his side, Senator Marco Rubio is confident he can recover from that disappointing showing in New Hampshire and win the GOP nomination.

[07:05:01] SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I can't wait to be the nominee of this party, because we're going to take conservatism to people that have not voted for us in a long time.

BLACKWELL: Ted Cruz says he can relate to people of the Palmetto State better than anyone else in the race.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: South Carolina and Texas, we've got a whole lot in common.

BLACKWELL: Meanwhile, the Democrats are going head to head across the country.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There's a caucus here in Nevada.

BLACKWELL: Hillary Clinton comes in with endorsements from South Carolina Congressman Jim Clyburn and the voice of Morgan Freeman.

MORGAN FREEMAN, ACTOR: She understands that our country can't reach its potential unless we all do.

BLACKWELL: But Bernie Sanders says it's not about the endorsements, it's about voter turn out.

SANDERS: Show the world that democracy is alive and well here in Nevada.


BLACKWELL: We've got live pictures here for you of a precinct in -- polling station there in Greenville, South Carolina. You see some of the reporters there waiting.

We're expecting former Florida Governor Jeb Bush to come here and greet voters shortly. This, of course, an important state for Jeb Bush. He used that narrative of momentum coming out of New Hampshire with that fourth place finish, but that narrative ends today as South Carolina voters go to the polls.

What will be the narrative coming out of this state as we go ahead to look ahead to march 1st and the rest of the primary calendar. The choice now in the hands of voters here in the state.

We'll bring you Jeb Bush when he arrives at this polling station in just the next few minutes.

Also a programming note: CNN will host the last debate before Super Tuesday. Join Wolf Blitzer live from Texas for the CNN Republican presidential debate. That's Thursday at 8:30 p.m. Eastern, right here on CNN.

And when we come back, Donald Trump has been taking shots at Jeb Bush and his family for days now, weeks, but have his harsh words hurt Bush's campaign? And could low voter turn out in South Carolina mean the end for Bush?

Now, we don't expect a long turn out across the board, but could potential Jeb Bush voters stay at home? Maybe they aren't motivated. We'll talk about it.


[07:10:19] BLACKWELL: All right. Right now the polls are open here in South Carolina. We're about ten minutes in, they opened at 7:00 eastern.

Expecting Jeb Bush to arrive at a polling precinct location in Greenville, South Carolina, we'll bring that to you live when we see him pop up there.

And this week his mother, Barbara Bush, was out on the trail again with him. After that poor showing in Iowa and New Hampshire, he can use all the help he can get and he has been pulling out all the stops here, even lashed out at Trump for accusing his brother for lying for going to war in Iraq, a lot of push back and I guess backlash from voters here in South Carolina after that comment from Trump.

Let's listen to Bush.


BUSH: I've watched my brother do something extraordinary which was to lead us through a difficult time and, yes, Mr. Trump, he did keep us safe after 9/11, and you are just dead wrong.


BLACKWELL: All right. Let's bring back, CNN political commentator Ben Ferguson, and Republican writer and commentator Kayleigh McEnany, also a Trump supporter.

You know, the Bush family historically has done well here. I wonder even though we saw the backlash against Trump for saying that George W. Bush lied to get the country into Iraq, even that strong defense from Jeb Bush, it didn't seem to help him much.

BEN FERGUSON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It didn't seem to help him much. I think in the last 24 hours, that audio coming out of Donald Trump saying that he would have invaded Iraq and actually criticizing Bush 41 by saying we shouldn't have had to go because we should have done it right the first time, that was something I think that is going to help Jeb today specifically.

I wish for him, I'm sure his campaign thinks I wish this video -- or the audio a week ago, because then we could have used that to say what a hypocrite Donald Trump is. Donald Trump the whole time has been saying on this campaign trail, "I was against going into Iraq. I always have been".

And then we hear this video from him doing an interview with Howard Stern saying, "I would have invaded Iraq," that would have been a great talking point.

KAYLEIGH MCENANY, REPUBLICAN WRITER AND COMMENTATOR: No, he was always against the Iraq war. Yes, that sound bite came out, that was in the early days. That's when we were deciding to go whether --

BLACKWELL: September 2002.

MCENANY: Yes, that's when Donald Trump did not have the benefit of intelligence information. He is not a politician.

FERGUSON: But he said he was always against it.

MCENANY: When Hillary Clinton was for the Iraq war, when John McCain was for the Iraq war, when all of these Republicans and Democrats alike were for the Iraq war on the Hill, Donald Trump was saying it was a bad move. So, that audio, it's one segment, the fact is it does not matter.

FERGUSON: I think it matters out here. In a military place -- but in a military place like South Carolina, it does matter because --

MCENANY: It does not matter.

FERGUSON: I strongly disagree, and most military people don't like a flip-flopper on military stuff.

MCENANY: No, he was not a flip-flopper. When every politician was for the Iraq war continually, Hillary Clinton was saying she's for it up until 2007, Donald Trump was against it. That is what matters.

FERGUSON: But if your defense is that Hillary Clinton said it, too, I don't think that helps you if you're Donald Trump right now.

MCENANY: All the Republicans, Jeff Sessions was for the Iraq war.

FERGUSON: I'm not disputing that.

MCENANY: Everyone was for the Iraq war when Donald Trump was against. So, the fact is, he was on the right side of this issue when no one else was.

BLACKWELL: Let me ask you this. I mean, Donald Trump uses this having no military intelligence to his benefit when he believes he is right. He says, you know, I didn't have any intelligence and I was against the war from the start.


BLACKWELL: And then back in 2002, when he says he was for the invasion he says, well, I didn't have any intelligence --

MCENANY: It was hardly a ringing endorsement of the invasion, too.

FERGUSON: Not only was he in favor of it, but he actually was implying that he would have been in favor of a full on invasion back during the Gulf War when he said we screwed it up the first time.

So, you can't -- I mean, look, Donald Trump, you cannot have it both ways and for a guy that loves to use the word liar --

MCENANY: It is not both ways.

FERGUSON: It is both ways.


FERGUSON: He calls Jeb a liar all the time. If Jeb Bush would have done this, you guys would be calling him a liar yet again today.

MCENANY: He is not a liar. He has said from early on in the invasion he was against the Iraq war and in 2002 that one sound bite he said, yes, maybe it is time to go in, maybe. It was not full on, let's get into Iraq. He has never said that. It is false.

FERGUSON: But he did say we screwed up the first time.

BLACKWELL: We will see if it resonates with exit poll and the poll that counts, the vote here tonight in South Carolina.

But speaking of the numbers out of South Carolina and this military vote, that has been the argument that Jeb Bush has made with Lindsey Graham out with him, making the production, talking about we don't want to go from -- his characterization incompetent to crazy trying to make the case for Jeb Bush to be a strong commander in chief. But people are not buying that, either.

What is his case moving forward out of South Carolina?

MCENANY: I think he should really hammer home I have a conservative record. One of the biggest ironies in this race that Jeb Bush has one of the most proven conservative records, but somehow he's characterized as establishment and not conservative.

I would argue he is more conservative than Rubio, far more conservative than Kasich. But that message somehow has not resonated. It's been more outsider versus establishment. He needs to hammer home I've lowered taxes by billions of dollars in Florida.

[07:15:01] I have always been pro-life. We don't hear that coming from Jeb Bush.

FERGUSON: Yes. Jeb Bush's biggest asset is that the Bush family is loved by those in the military. And there's a lot of military people that love his brother. I think that like him, he just did not use them early enough.

He should have embraced his family more at the beginning because he does have a record that is attractive to run on. I mean, on paper, if you look at what Jeb Bush has accomplished in his life, he is what I would refer to as a great candidate on paper.


FERGUSON: But if you can't sell it, and he hasn't been able to connect the way that his brother or dad has been able to, and if he doesn't do well here, I just don't see a path forward to him. I know his campaign doesn't like to hear that, but that's the truth.

How do you keep moving on if you don't have a great showing here in a place where you should do very, very, very well.

BLACKWELL: All right. Ben, Kayleigh, thank you so much. Always a fiery conversation which I enjoy.

Later this hour, we'll talk about Ted Cruz who we haven't talked about this hour.

But there was this interesting meeting that "The Daily Beast" is reporting between Ted Cruz and Ben Carson in a broom closet. You've got to stay with us for that. We're going to have that conversation.

Keep watching the latest on the South Carolina primaries. We have live special coverage throughout the day.

And be sure to stay with us all day for the coverage of the Nevada Democratic caucuses. A lot of action on both coasts. We're going to cover it all day here on CNN.

Now, when we come back, thousands of people will be gathering in Washington today for a funeral mass for Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. We have live coverage there as we take you to D.C.


[07:20:32] AMARA WALKER, CNN ANCHOR: We will be getting right back to Victor Blackwell in South Carolina in just a few minutes from now. I'm Amara Walker with the other big story today. Thousands of mourners expected at this morning's funeral mass for

Justice Antonin Scalia. Beginning at 10:00 a.m. Eastern, CNN will bring you special coverage of the ceremony which will take place in Washington's Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

It's not only the nation's largest Roman Catholic Church, it is one of the largest churches in the world.

And CNN's Supreme Court reporter Ariane de Vogue joining me now with more.

Ariane, so, what details are you learning about today's funeral ceremony?

ARIANE DE VOGUE, CNN SUPREME COURT CORRESPONDENT: Well, the funeral for conservative icon Antonin Scalia will be held, as you said, later today at the basilica, it there will be about 3,000 people there including Vice President Joe Biden, Attorney General Loretta Lynch, presidential candidate Ted Cruz.

Scalia's son Paul Scalia will actually be the celebrant. He'll lead the ceremony and other of his sons will be the pallbearer. Justice Clarence Thomas, who was Scalia's ideological soul mate, will be one of the lectors.

Scalia was never shy. He was a conservative Catholic, never shy about that. When he went across the country, he did talk to law groups but he also talked to religious groups.

Some of his critics said, they blamed his religion for his position on cases such as abortion and same-sex marriage, but Scalia always pushed back and said he didn't believe that those issues were in the Constitution, it didn't have to do with his religion. He said it should be decided by the states. So, he always pushed back on that. Later today, there will be a private burial.

WALKER: Well, President Obama will not be attending. He is sending Vice President Joe Biden on his behalf. There has been some criticism, although President Obama and the first lady were in attendance yesterday as Scalia's body laid in repose.

Why is the president not going to be there?

DE VOGUE: Well, I think he made his point that he was going to go there and pay respects when the body was lying at the Supreme Court, and indeed he and Michelle were there. And later on, it was interesting, he said that he was going to spend the weekend with a binder of notes for potential replacements for Justice Scalia. And yesterday, at the Supreme Court a couple of those people who have been noted on some of the short lists were actually there at the Supreme Court to pay their respects.

WALKER: From the people that you've been talking to and the reaction that you've been seeing, how have mourners been remembering Justice Scalia? DE VOGUE: Well, he -- he was for them a conservative icon and what's

interesting about Scalia is even those who didn't believe in his ideology respected him as a judge. One of his best friends on the bench was, of course, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and she was his ideological opposite but she really respected the kind of judge he was, the fact that he was trying to help the lower courts by giving clear concise opinions.

So, even for those who didn't believe in his judicial philosophy he had a lot of deep respect.

WALKER: Absolutely. That's what we're hearing by many accounts.

Ariane de Vogue, great having you. Thanks so much for that.

DE VOGUE: Thank you.

WALKER: In the meantime, Lee Otis joining me now. She is a former law clerk for Antonin Scalia when he was a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals and after his appointment to the Supreme Court.

Lee, another former law clerk describes Scalia as a great boss. Let's take a listen to that first.


IAN SAMUELS, FORMER SCALIA LAW CLERK: He loved his law clerks. He really did. He was universally beloved by his law clerks. He was just about the best boss that you could ever hope for. I know that sort of contrasts with maybe sort of acerbic view of him, but he is quite -- I don't know if I would say sweet.

TV ANCHOR: But jovial.

SAMUELS: Extremely jovial and he really loved his law clerks, he described us as nieces and nephews who all went on to do very well.


WALKER: So, Lee, did you share a similar experience? What was it like working for the justice?

LEE LIBERMAN OTIS, SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT, THE FEDERALIST SOCIETY: It was great, actually. It was a little scary at first because he was always two steps ahead of everybody.

[07:25:01] But after you got used to that and you realized that he was the justice that actually was quite a good thing and he was -- he was very interested in what we thought and very eager to have us challenge him on everything because he thought our job was to help him get it right and he thought that we were most helpful when we stood up for different views if we had a different view of a case. He was just terrific.

WALKER: He no doubt had a colorful and fiery personality as many say. Are you going to be attending the funeral today? OTIS: I will.


So, overall, how would you like people to remember him also from your point of view how are you remembering Scalia?

OTIS: Well, I'm going to miss him a lot, that's the first thing. But in terms of how to remember him, I think that he should be remembered as the justice who really helped change how people thought about the Constitution and thought about the Constitution as a law that is binding on the courts and not something that the courts shape.

That was really his biggest contribution because when he was appointed to the Supreme Court, it was widely believed that the Constitution really had no fixed meaning and that the courts just did whatever they thought was the right thing to do. That was the widely held view among legal -- in the legal academy and among judges and I think Justice Scalia really made a difference on that and, you know, helped shift the view of the Constitution back to something that's binding on the judges.

WALKER: Yes, very influential, was absolutely a staunch constitutional originalist.

Lee Otis, I appreciate your time. Thanks so much for that.

OTIS: Thank you for having me.

WALKER: Well, polls now open in South Carolina's Republican primary. Ahead, we're going to take a closer look at the turnout and who stands to benefit the most.

And on the other side of the country, Democratic voters in Nevada getting ready to caucus for their favorite candidate. How usual will minority voters be to the outcomes? That's next.


WALKER: Mortgage rates inched up this week. Take a look.


[07:30:55] BLACKWELL: Welcome back to CNN's special live coverage of the South Carolina primary.

You see here former Florida Governor Jeb Bush taking photographs with voters. This is Greenville, South Carolina. Excuse the jump in camera. This coming in from a photographer there who is trying to catch as much as he can.

We see there former First Lady Barbara Bush there, other members of the Bush family there. You can hear some chanting there. They're chanting all in for Jeb.

And this is a crucial state for Jeb Bush, of course. His father won here in 1998, back in 1992 that primary from Buchanan back in 1992 and, of course, George W. Bush winning here in 2000. Polls, although they have been all over the place we have to add that disclaimer, have him somewhere around third or fourth place here, a disappointing finish.

But he's hoping to have a narrative of strength and maybe momentum as he moves through the March calendar. We're expecting reporters to maybe ask a question or two. So, if he starts to speak we will of course listen to what he has to say.

We have there Jeb Bush's wife there, Columba Bush.

We have Brian Todd who is at a polling place in Mount Pleasant.

You were there at the top of the hour as soon as polls opened, the people walking in there. I understand you've spoken with some voters.


What's interesting about the voting dynamic here is that a lot of people come in that we talked to them about when they made their minds up about a candidate, a lot of them said, maybe a few days ago, a couple of weeks ago, maybe within the last month. So, that gives you a sense around this primary that has been generated by the GOP candidates.

The crowd here has thinned out a little bit here at the National Guard armory after a fairly long line going out the door when we started.

I just talked to a poll manager they said they expect this to ebb and flow throughout the day. We do expect a heavier turn out this year than four years ago. But she said the peak may be noon and 3:00 p.m. Eastern Time.

They have these digital voting stations that are covered on these sides. The votes are tabulated on cartridges. One central cartridge tabulates all of them. They print it out on a machine that comes out later on the day at 7:00 p.m. Eastern Time after the polls close. Then the results are off to the headquarters in Charleston County here.

What's interesting is that you don't have to register by party when you come in here. You can -- you register as a voter, they ask you when you come in here. They say this is the Republican primary do you want to vote in this, you say affirmative then you are off to the races as far as voting.

But they do admit -- I talked to an election official who said that there has been a bit of confusion, there has been a logistical challenge in holding this primary on a Saturday, finding places like this that are available. That's one challenge because sometimes they want to go to churches, those aren't available, synagogues not available, other places on a Saturday not available.

Finding poll managers to volunteer to come in here on a Saturday, two consecutive Saturdays in a row, today and next week for the Democratic primary, that's been a challenge.

Then, of course, getting out the vote. Donald Trump has pounded that message basically for weeks now in South Carolina. He says don't just come out for the rallies, come out to vote. The candidates are really trying to galvanize the vote.

The fact that it's held on a Saturday, that may be a bit of a challenge in the voter turn out. But we will see, Victor, they do expect a fairly heavy turn out even on a Saturday.

BLACKWELL: Brian Todd, stand by as we watch the Bush family, Jeb Bush, his mother Barbara Bush arriving here.

This is a gymnasium. We see a polling station in Greenville, South Carolina.

The Jeb Bush campaign has invested, of course, heavily here, four offices across the state, nearly two dozen staffers, they had the endorsement of former opponent and now supporter, South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham. They had hoped to get the endorsement of the very popular governor here.

[07:35:01] I think we can maybe hear a bit of this conversation. Let's listen if we can.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As we move that way we will ask everyone to stay back.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We could move everybody out now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, that would be great.

BLACKWELL: All right. Not a clear microphone there, maybe we will have something a little more formal from Jeb Bush and Barbara Bush. Guys, if you hear that let me know.

But he hoped to get the endorsement of Nikki Haley here, that endorsement late this week went to Marco Rubio. The question here, if Marco Rubio does pert here than Jeb Bush does here and that is the expectation -- there is some momentum here for the Rubio campaign -- what then is the case for continuing in this race from Jeb Bush?

The Bush campaign announced late yesterday that they are continuing on, announcing some of the campaign leadership in states moving forward, but remember that's what we heard from the Chris Christie campaign ahead of the New Hampshire vote and he left the race soon after a disappointing finish there in New Hampshire.

So, of course, the polls, again, have been all over the place, the most important vote, the most important response is coming in the next 12 hours as the polls now have been open for about 40 minutes, they close at 7:00 p.m. Eastern here in South Carolina.

Now, that's the Republican race. There is a contentious race for the Democrats in Nevada. The Democratic caucuses there beginning at about 2:00 Eastern Time.

Tight race between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders there, both Democratic candidates out campaigning late into the evening yesterday trying to pick up some last minute votes.

Let's bring in Nomiki Konst, Democratic strategist and Bernie Sanders supporter, Larry Sabato, director for the Center for Politics University of Virginia there.

Good to have both of you.

I want to talk about this close race there despite Clinton having the early ground game, early lead, a lot of money poured into it -- what are expectations, Larry, for this campaign? The latest polls show that it's very, very close.

LARRY SABATO, DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR POLITICS, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINA: Well, Victor, early on as you know Nevada was considered part of Hillary Clinton's fire wall. Well, the fire moved on and Nevada has now become very close. Iowa turned very close, New Hampshire turned into a Bernie Sanders rout, and Clinton was hoping to stop the Sanders momentum in Nevada.

Look, it's a caucus. It's almost impossible to poll a caucus well in advance. So, you know, it could go either way, but it will be a shock if it's by very many votes. So we'll get through Nevada and somebody will have a little extra momentum and then the burden is really on Hillary Clinton to win big in South Carolina. She has to make South Carolina her New Hampshire, that is by winning by a wide margin.

BLACKWELL: But, you know, a win is a win and we of course have to look just back to Iowa with that 2/10 of a percent win for Clinton there. If she goes after a virtual tie in Iowa or a close win I should call it, losing by double digits in New Hampshire and then potentially this could be a loss here, even if it's a small number in the caucuses, how does that impact her narrative that she is the candidate who can win and that these states that Bernie Sanders is doing well in are just kind of outliers?

NOMIKI KONST, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, I mean, that's exactly it. Her campaign thus far has been about being the electable candidate, the realistic candidate, in her opinion the reflection of the Democratic Party establishment, per se. As opposed to Bernie Sanders in her -- from her narrative being the candidate who can't get anything passed, his pie in the sky narrative, you know, he is a dreamer and manipulating the population that's backing him. That's sort of the narrative right now in Nevada.

But the reality is that Nevada is very hard to caucus, you have a very diverse electorate, many first time caucusers will be turning out this time around and especially if Bernie Sanders does have organization on the ground. Anybody can turn up, you can have a Democrat, you can have a Republican, you can have an independent, so you can bet that Bernie Sanders is tapping into those independent voters, those potential Republicans who might be more socially liberal in Nevada. The organization is a very different type of organization in Nevada,

but as Larry was saying, the polling is highly inaccurate. I mean, we're going back to Harry Reid was losing to Sharon Angle last time around and he beat her by 6 percent. Mitt Romney was beating John McCain 4 percent and then came out 38 percent ahead.

The polling is highly flawed in Nevada.

[07:40:00] So, we don't know. It's all going to be about turn (AUDIO GAP)

BLACKWELL: Let's talk about South Carolina. Still a week out from there and it seems that if the polling if the surveying that we're seeing shows that, of course, Hillary Clinton has an advantage with African-American voters here, and Bernie Sanders spoke much about the advantage that she has in an interview with BET. I want to read here, I'm looking down so I get it right what he said about Hillary Clinton cozying up as he says to President Obama to get the African-American vote.

He says that "Hillary Clinton now is trying to embrace the president as closely as she possibly can and we know what that's about. That's trying to win support from the African-American community."

Nomiki, that's a pretty heavy charge.

KONST: Yes, and to be fair, I mean, she is doing exactly that.

BLACKWELL: That this is just pandering?

KONST: I believe clearly she has strong ties to the African-American community in South Carolina. You know, she's run a campaign there before, her husband has run campaigns there before. They're very close to the leadership there.

But the reality is that her record and former President Clinton's record is not very strong for African-Americans. I mean, they are the designers of welfare reform. She was key to designing welfare reform, which we know what the affects of that were.

You know, he accepted private prison money. There's the crime bill. There is a whole slew of issues that have affected -- deeply affected African-Americans, and I think that's part of Bernie Sanders' message, is yes, it is about the economy because guess who is hurt the most in the economy, African-Americans, women of color, those are the people who are hurt the most and those are the people who Hillary Clinton is pandering towards.

But she hasn't been out there working with them on the ground, you know, over the past 30 years. So, I think he's speaking to that in the most cautious way possible without saying pandering, but I will say it's pandering. I mean, she's going around to different communities, you know, suddenly their best friend again. Every eight years. That's what it is.

BLACKWELL: Nomiki, stay with us. Larry, I want you to stay with us. We're going to take a quick break.

When we come back we will show this photograph and talk about it now from the "Chicago Tribune." An archival photo of Bernie Sanders being arrested in 1963 during Chicago public school's boycott. We will talk about this photo, what this means for the campaign's narrative of decades of work for social and racial justice.

Stay with us.


[07:45:57] BLACKWELL: All right. Let's bring back Nomiki Konst, Democratic strategist and Bernie Sanders supporter, and Larry Sabato, director for the Center of Politics at the University of Virginia.

We are continuing our conversation about the Nevada caucuses starting at 2:00 p.m. Eastern today on the Democratic side.

But I want to talk about what happened just this morning, the "Chicago Tribune" posting this archival photo of Bernie Sanders arrested back in 1963. This was during a Chicago public schools boycott.

The Sanders campaign has been trying to, Larry, reinforce the narrative that he has been working for social and racial justice for decades, but he's having difficulty getting that to stick. Is that resonating and if it isn't why? Why isn't that resonating?

SABATO: Well, the photo is certainly more evidence of the fact that Sanders has been a civil rights activist for a long time and that's important for him. That's a message he has been trying to take to the African-American community.

He's trying to balance obviously the decades of work that Bill and Hillary Clinton have done in the same field in the civil rights arena. It's not really a question in this primary and in this general -- in this nomination contest whether Sanders and Clinton have been pro- civil rights. I think it's pretty clear both of them have been. It's more a question of power politics.

Congressman Jim Clyburn from South Carolina has now endorsed Hillary Clinton. That's a big, big get for Hillary Clinton, and it really matters in South Carolina and that's where she has to do very well.

BLACKWELL: And how does -- Nomiki -- I'm getting feedback in my ear, guys -- how does Senator Sanders, I guess, rebound after this big endorsement from Congressman Clyburn?

KONST: Well, look, this is clearly not the outcome that we wanted. Congressman Clyburn had said that he wasn't going to endorse initially and now he is, but I think that's because things are tightening up and he's probably received a lot of pressure from the Clinton campaign to do so, to lock down the African-American vote so that it she does come out with a very big -- large win in South Carolina.

But the reality is we have two different Democratic parties here. We have the old guard, the establishment, the wing of -- she has all of the endorsements pretty much. She has all of the media endorsements. She has all of the money. I mean, that is the Hillary Clinton machine.

As opposed to Bernie Sanders which is a very much grassroots new type of Democratic Party and he's got the majority of voters under 55. He has minorities under 45. I mean, this is the Bernie Sanders base right now which is the future of the Democratic Party.

And I don't think that they necessarily respond to these endorsements because so far it hasn't worked. In fact, it's almost this anti- establishment narrative. If you want to look at the Republicans, every time an establishment candidate or establishment leader endorses Ted Cruz, it works to his advantage and I think the same thing works for Bernie Sanders.

BLACKWELL: We'll see the impact here on either side as we are on voting day here in South Carolina and caucus day in Nevada.

Nomiki Konst, Larry Sabato, thank you for being part of the conversation.

When we come back the latest on Ted Cruz and this bizarre meeting reportedly in a storage closet with Ben Carson to discuss dirty campaigning in Iowa. We'll talk to national spokesman for the Cruz campaign when we come back.


[07:53:15] BLACKWELL: Welcome back. I'm Victor Blackwell live in Columbia, South Carolina.

The polls here are open. They opened at the top of the hour and voters are already in line going in casting the votes here in the state that prides itself on picking presidents on the GOP side.

Now, let's talk about one candidate specifically, Ted Cruz. "The Daily Beast" is reporting Senator Cruz held a secret meeting with rival, retired neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson, to discuss the, quote/unquote, "dirty tricks" campaign in Iowa -- when Cruz told caucusgoers that Carson had quit the race.

Let's bring in Rick Tyler, the national spokesman for the Ted Cruz campaign.

Rick, first, what can you tell us about this meeting? Good morning.

RICK TYLER, NATIONAL SPOKESMAN, TED CRUZ CAMPAIGN: Well, look, they were at the conservative review convention. I'm getting a little feedback in my ear, sorry -- they were both there. That's the same meeting Marco Rubio skipped and they were there together and took the opportunity to meet briefly.

BLACKWELL: Why was it in a storage closet, though?

TYLER: I wasn't there so I don't know exactly where the meeting took place. It took place maybe in a small room, but it was a private meeting just the two of them.

BLACKWELL: The meeting reportedly was about what the Carson campaign considers to be dirty tricks in Iowa. I wonder Carson hitting him on that and Trump and Rubio this week have called your candidate a liar. There was a photoshop controversy this week.

Is this sticking? Is this resonating, do you think?

TYLER: Well, let's revisit the facts. First of all, Ben Carson outperformed his polls and Donald Trump did not.

[07:55:05] Ted Cruz outperformed his polls because we had almost 20,000 volunteers in Iowa working the ground game.

But let's also remember what Donald Trump said early in the campaign. When Ben Carson was leading Donald Trump, Donald Trump compared Ben Carson to a pedophile. Now, if you want to devastate someone's campaign, I think that would be the way to go. Yet Donald Trump stands on the debate stage and points to Ben Carson and says Ted Cruz stole the election from him, but it was Donald Trump who compared him, made this horrible comparison with Ben Carson. If you want a devastating effect on a candidate, that's what you would do.

Also, as you recall, CNN reported Ben Carson was not continuing on to New Hampshire and that was simply shared with the campaign, nothing more than that.

BLACKWELL: I don't want to relitigate that but what CNN --

TYLER: I don't, either --

BLACKWELL: -- he was going to Florida first and then D.C. and South Carolina.

But just to be clear here, we don't have much time left, your candidate potentially, some of the latest polls have him maybe in second place, but there is momentum from the Rubio campaign.

How do you expect Ted Cruz will do tonight?

TYLER: I think Ted Cruz is doing well. We've got over 10,000 volunteers. We knocked on 100,000 doors in the past week.

Look, this is a chance for South Carolinians to actually put a real conservative, someone with a proven record, someone who's gone to Washington and fought the establishment.

Marco Rubio didn't do that. He assimilated. He was the chief sponsor of the gang of eight bill that provided amnesty. As recently as yesterday, ICE officers were reporting that Marco Rubio had betrayed law enforcement and kept them out of the process. So, Marco Rubio put gang members -- illegal gang members ahead of law enforcement and you can read about that on Breitbart. But this is a chance for South Carolina --

BLACKWELL: I got your talking points, but how do you think your candidate will do tonight?

TYLER: Look, we've already placed first in Iowa, placed third in New Hampshire and hoping to do well in South Carolina. We don't have to win it. Marco Rubio must win it. He's 3-5 now. We can't go 3-5-3 and expect to go on.

BLACKWELL: All right.

TYLER: We hope to do well.

BLACKWELL: Rick Tyler, national spokesman for the Ted Cruz campaign. Good to have you this morning.

TYLER: Thanks, Victor.

BLACKWELL: Quick break, we'll be back.