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Polls Open In South Carolina; Attack Ad: Victim Calls Trump A "Fraud"; Crisis in Syria: Temporary Truce Begins in War-Torn Country. Aired 7-8a ET

Aired February 27, 2016 - 07:00   ET


[07:00:00] VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking news now at the top of the hour. We start live from Columbia, South Carolina, right now.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLACKWELL: And right now, the polls are open across South Carolina. Live pictures now from a polling location in Lexington, big contest in the Democratic race, Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton, fighting for every last vote.

So far, Clinton is leading by a wide margin in the polls. She spent most of the week here in the state campaigning. And this afternoon, she's in Alabama, but will head back to South Carolina for her watch party tonight.

Now, after a concern and rally in Columbia last night, Bernie Sanders, he's already looking ahead to Super Tuesday, campaigning in Texas and Minnesota today.

CNN senior Washington correspondent Joe Johns is live at that polling station in Lexington.

And, Joe, good morning to you. I wonder what is voter turnout expected to look like? 2008 was a banner year for the Democratic candidates. What are we expecting this year?

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: I've got to tell you, Victor, they're not expecting anything like 2008. They're not expecting anything, quite frankly, like the Republican race just last weekend.

So I wanted to give you an idea of the setup here. This is River Bluff High School in Lexington, South Carolina.

Let's just walk through. We actually haven't seen a voter yet. Voting begins at this hour across the state.

Authorities say turnout is not expected to be anything like, as you said, 2008, and it's a reflection of the race. The Republican race has been very noisy, very energetic. The Democrats have been much more civil.

Now, here you go. Here's an idea of what's going on. We've got a handful of poll workers and right across the way here, we have three discreet polling stations and that's about it. That's what authorities say they think they need.

Another reason why they're not expecting turnout to be that big is because Hillary Clinton is so far ahead in the polls. That's a big problem for candidates because their voters can be concerned that, you know, I have other things to do. So, they don't go to the polls.

Bernie Sanders has been traveling around the country. He's out west, probably going to end up in Minnesota today. Hillary Clinton today is in Alabama, Fairfield, Alabama, and expected to show up to South Carolina for what they hope is going to be a victory party.

So, no voters yet, Victor. We're still watching, and South Carolina is going to the polls today. Back to you.

BLACKWELL: You know, Joe, about this time when we had the breaking news last Saturday for the Republican primary, there were people who were already trickling in at 7:00. I wonder, what possibly was the impact of having these primaries on separate days? Maybe some those independents who might have voted in the Democratic primary were so excited by what happened or what was happening in the Republican primary that they decided not to wait a week and vote in that one.

JOHNS: Right. Absentee ballots, and there have been about 36,000 absentee ballots cast across the state, probably about one-tenth the authorities and Democratic primaries are expecting. That's quite a number of absentee ballots, quite frankly, for South Carolina. Still not expecting the turnout here to exceed what happened in the Republican primary, Victor.

BLACKWELL: Yes, and a good indicator of what the candidates expect will happen is where they are on the night of the returns and what we're expecting tonight, that Hillary Clinton will be here. Bernie Sanders will be outside of the state, still struggling to make the inroads into the minorities across the state and across the country.

JOHNS: Absolutely right. And that's been the big challenge in this state. It's the statement that Hillary Clinton is trying to make in South Carolina that once you get past Iowa, once you get past New Hampshire and the demographics of the voting electorate expand, she wants to make a statement that minority voters, African-American voters come to her.

So, this will be a big test of that as we go into Super Tuesday.

BLACKWELL: All right. Joe Johns for us at the polling location in Lexington, South Carolina. Joe, thank you so much.

Of course, the race for the White House getting hotter on both sides as the remaining candidates look ahead Super Tuesday.

And really for many, they say a do-or-die contest. Here's the latest from the campaign trail.


SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Friends do not let friends vote for con artists.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He was so scared like a little frightened puppy.

BLACKWELL (voice-over): The rowdy Republican CNN debate spills onto the campaign trail and Marco Rubio comes out swinging, taking aim at Donald Trump's tweets.

RUBIO: I've only reached two conclusions. Number one, that's how they spell the words at the Wharton School of Business where you went.

[07:05:01] Or number two, just like Trump Tower, he must have hired a foreign worker to do his own tweets.

BLACKWELL: And then, a former Trump rival hits back at Marco Rubio.

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Marco Rubio, your campaign is almost over, buddy. Showing a lot of desperation today, throwing punches from every angle, but none of them are landing because America has made their decision.

BLACKWELL: And Governor Chris Christie has made his decision to endorse Donald Trump.

CHRISTIE: Donald Trump represents strength, and Marco Rubio represents Washington, D.C.

BLACKWELL: On the Democratic side, as polls open in South Carolina, the State Department releases another 1,500 pages of Hillary Clinton's e-mails with the final batch coming Monday.

MARK TONER, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: We take our obligations to the courts seriously, and we're making every effort to comply with this order.

BLACKWELL: And Bernie Sanders hopes to gain some of the momentum lost after the setback in the November caucuses.

Sanders rallying in Columbia and Orangeburg, at the historically black Claflin University.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You have to earn the black vote. You don't own the black vote.


BLACKWELL: You see there, on some of that video, a lot of the seats were empty. Key here, of course, for Democrats campaigning across South Carolina, black voter polls as we say opened at the top of the hour across the state for the Democratic Party.

Joining me now, the chairman of the South Carolina Democratic Party, Jaime Harrison.

Good to have you with us this morning.


BLACKWELL: I want to start with the video we saw there of HBCU in Orangeburg, many of the seats reportedly empty there. There's a small crowd there for Bernie Sanders. He's been working here and across the country to try to make inroads into minority communities.

Has he been successful?

HARRISON: You know, think he's had some traction with younger African-Americans, but he has not had as much success with older African-Americans, particularly in a place like Orangeburg, which is a very unique community, it's my hometown. Orangeburg has two historically black colleges but a senior African-American population as well.

So, what I saw yesterday, I went down to Orangeburg and talked to some people. I saw the Hillary Clinton rally that she had there in Orangeburg, because she and Bernie Sanders were next door to each other.


HARRISON: At the Hillary Clinton rally, there were a lot of older African-Americans and at the Bernie Sanders rally I saw many more college students. And so, you know, it's that kind of dichotomy that's played out in Iowa and New Hampshire that's playing out here in South Carolina as well.

BLACKWELL: You know, some of these Sanders supporters have criticized the Clinton campaign, Hillary Clinton, specifically for what they call pandering to the African-American community. I imagine that's a difficult balance because if you don't say anything, you're ignoring the community. And in some cases, you can be called a panderer.

HARRISON: Yes. You know, I don't like this whole pandering language that's being used because both Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton have been talking to African-American voters and they should. African- American vote in the Democratic Party is probably the foundation for this party, the most loyal constituency within the Democratic Party.

And so, it's important that both of them talk African-Americans, talk to them about the issues that are important to them, and I don't see what either of them have done thus far as being, quote/unquote, "pandering".

BLACKWELL: Let's broaden the conversation, talk about turnout today.


BLACKWELL: I don't expect and I'm sure you don't expect that we'll see what we saw in 2008.


BLACKWELL: OK. What do you expect to see today? HARRISON: Well, you know, in 2008, we had about 500 -- a little over

500,000 voters. We broke records that year. If you take a look at 2004, it was about 292,000 voters.

I anticipate being somewhere there in the middle, probably in the 350,000 to 400,000 range. When I checked the absentee ballots for the contest earlier this week, we were at about 40,000 and that was eclipsing the number where we were in 2008.

I still don't think, though, we will have more voters than we had in 2008 because that was just a different type of race, different dynamics. This race started a lot slower with many -- with less candidates than in 2008. And so, you know, it's a different dynamic.

I know people like to compare it to the Republican contest, but, listen. There were about 17 Republicans in South Carolina all at once. If I'd threw a rock, I would hit a Republican running for president.

So, you know, you just can't compare it where we only had three at the height here in South Carolina. So, I think, you know, voters are very interested. They'll come out and vote. But, again, 2008 was just a different time.

BLACKWELL: Let me ask you about the impact of the calendar, having these primaries on separate days in different weeks, have you seen an impact on the Democratic race because the Republican race was a week ago?

HARRISON: No, you know, we had different days in 2008 as well and actually 2008, the Democrats, we had 100,000 more than the Republicans did.

[07:10:05] I mean, one of the things that Matt Moore who's a Republican chair, he and I get along very well. We try to get it on the same date, but we have to sit our RNC and DNC people down at the same time and say let's get the calendars where they're the same.

The problem is the RNC uses its third primary. The DNC uses South Carolina as its forth. So, somebody has to slip. My thought is let's move South Carolina up to third and let's go with that.

BLACKWELL: Are you seeing a drop in enthusiasm because the Republicans have left and they're splitting it?

HARRISON: No, not really. I mean, the number of interviews I've done haven't gone down.


No, but, really, the voters are -- the voters are very interested and the activists, I can tell you, are out there. I'm surprised I don't see some of them out on campus right now.

BLACKWELL: All right. Well, you know, the sun's just coming up. Maybe you will. HARRISON: Maybe, it's too cold.

BLACKWELL: Yes, it is too cold.

Jaime Harrison, thank you so much.

HARRISON: Thank you, Victor.

BLACKWELL: You need a coat. I'm out here in gloves.

All right. Thanks, Jaime.

Coming up in a few minutes on the GOP side, is it too late to stop Trump? Some of the candidates are calling him unstoppable. We'll talk about a Trump supporter about the effort underway to at least slow the momentum.

Right now, though, it's the Democrats' turn in South Carolina. The polls are open here. Who will make their move before Super Tuesday? The South Carolina Democratic primary. All day coverage, special coverage live here on CNN.

When we come back, our political coverage continues. The gloves are off in the Republican race for the White House. Marco Rubio stepping up the personal attacks on Donald Trump and to the reprise of many, Chris Christie makes a return to the campaign trail, this time standing with Donald Trump and brings along one of his supporters.


CHRISTIE: Let's have one more message for someone who's had a pretty big mouth today. Marco Rubio, your campaign is almost over, buddy.



[07:15:46] BLACKWELL: I'm Victor Blackwell live in Columbia, South Carolina.

The polls here are open in the Democratic primary, about 15 minutes in. They close at 7:00 p.m. Hillary Clinton expected to win today.

But, of course, question will be about the numbers inside the numbers. The vote among African-American voter here and the margin sets it up for Super Tuesday.

Let's turn to the Republicans now and these claims of con artist, a liar, choker, a lightwork -- lightweight, rather, those are a few of the insults and there are many flying between the GOP front-runner Donald Trump and the man who wants to beat him, Marco Rubio.

The two are taking their fight from the CNN debate stage to the campaign trail where the mudslinging shows no signs of letting up. Well, now, Super Tuesday maybe the final chance for someone to stop Donald Trump. And this weekend, attack ads are making that their goal like this one,

charging the front-runner with profiting off undocumented immigrants.


AD ANNOUNCER: How much do we really know about Donald Trump? A federal court ruled that Trump's company hired illegal immigrants to help the construction process for Trump Tower. He even paid a million dollar fine.

And his hotel in Washington?

REPORTER: "The Washington Post" interviewed about 15 laborers at the D.C. hotel site, reporting that many revealed they had entered the U.S. illegally.

AD ANNOUNCER: Trump makes big money off illegal immigrants. Can conservatives trust Donald Trump?


BLACKWELL: Marco Rubio on Thursday night's debate went after Trump about the legal immigrants he employed to build Trump Tower in New York. He also went after him about Trump University. Watch this ad.


KEVIN, TRUMP UNIVERSITY VICTIM: I spent about $30,000 in Trump University, and basically, all it did was ruin my credit and ruin my life.

Trump University, they promised everything from start to finish -- their expertise, their knowledge, their input, the financing. But they didn't deliver on anything.

You've got to remember, there's 5,000 victims in this. In the end, there is no there there. Trump is just fraud, a misrepresentation, a BS artist.

America, don't make the same mistake I made with Donald Trump.


BLACKWELL: All right. Let's talk about this. We've got now, CNN political commentator and the host of "The Ben Ferguson Show", Ben Ferguson with us, along with Arizona treasurer and Donald Trump supporter Jeff DeWit.

Ben, I want to start with you. Are these ads too late?

BEN FERGUSON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I don't think they're too late. I think they should have started running earlier. I think that the candidates that I should have started firing a lot earlier.

The Marco Rubio that you're seeing right now over the last two days is a Marco Rubio that has obviously energized his crowd. These are real issues that should be answered and there's real blood in the water now for the first time on Donald Trump. What is he hiding in his tax returns?

Donald Trump had no problem using the openness you have to have with your elected officials to attack not only Marco Rubio but saying he can't even do a credit card right, and look how terrible he is at his finances because he had to take out a loan for something. He did the same exact thing with Ted Cruz, saying he got a big loan from the Wall Street bank.

Now he says you can't see my tax returns because I've been audited. It was the first two years, now it's up to, what, 11 or 12 years in a row? I don't believe he's been audited 10 or 11 years in a row first off. And there's obviously something in there he does not want people to see and I think that's connecting with voters from Rubio and Cruz going into Super Tuesday.

They should have done this earlier. Is it too little, too late? Well, it will be interesting to see what the voters decide on this, but there's a lot of Trump supporters now that I talked to who are saying for the first time, they're wavering a little bit because he seems to be doing the opposite of what he claims he was going to do, which was open, transparent, not be a politician, and now, he's playing politics with his own tax returns.

BLACKWELL: Jeff, what do you I have to say about that? Why not release the tax returns the years that are not being audited now?

[07:20:05] JEFF DEWIT, DONALD TRUMP SUPPORTER Well, those questions just came up this week. He was never asked this before.

Mitt Romney, as part of political establishment, obviously it's what derailed his campaign, one of the many things he did wrong in his campaign four years ago. And so now, he's using the Harry Reid attack on Donald Trump but --

FERGUSON: It's not a Harry Reid attack.

DEWIT: He's released his financials well before the deadline. You can go online right now and see explanations and detailed breakdowns of $10 billion in assets, and so I don't know what we're going to get by this anyways, but it's very possible as you said that we'll come out with this down the road when his routine audit is over, but no accountant in the world --

BLACKWELL: Jeff, let me -- let me jump in here. "USA Today" has reported that the IRS says there's no reason he can't release the tax returns. So, I mean to say that he has to wait, that's personal choice, and if he's choosing to be transparent, he can release those documents.

DEWIT: And not only can he release those documents, but the IRS also said it would be virtually impossible for someone to be audited 10 years in a row.

I think the candidates should be asking of Donald Trump at least show us the paper that proves you were audited for the last decade because I think that's a lie. I don't think it happened. The IRS implied that doesn't happen unless you're doing something on your taxes that's a red flag year after year after year.

I don't believe him that he's been on for a decade straight and I would also say this -- there's something in there he doesn't want them to see. And if we don't know if he was investing in the big banks that he's criticizing. He very well could have invested in Goldman Sachs while criticizing Ted Cruz for getting a loan. He could have been investing in companies that were exporting jobs out of America.

Remember, he's been tough saying, I'm not buying certain products anymore that are going to make factories in Mexico.

We have no idea what he's invested in or where it's being invested. So, you add all of this up, and yet he attacks Ted Cruz for taking a single loan, which is disclosed, it is out there and says it's not transparent. Look at how he's being controlled, look at what he's hiding.

Donald Trump knows this is now an issue. He can stop it and make it all go away by being transparent. He's purposely choosing to hide something and I think there's something in there that connects him to liberal groups that he would be in serious trouble for supporting.



BLACKWELL: Let me get you in here. I want to ask you a question. Let me ask you about policy here because in Thursday's debate, Marco Rubio asked for specifics about Trump's health care plan and aside from talking about creating competition nationally, he said there was nothing else there, what else do I need to explain?

I would imagine at this point, going into Super Tuesday, this is the time to explain when are voters going to get the specifics behind those plans?

DEWIT: Well, the specifics are already online at as well as debates at multiple times.

I want to touch base on what the other fellow jus said. Said he doesn't know what he's investing in and he's not transparent. Again, all of these investments are detailed already. An income tax return is not a summation of assets.

There's nothing in there that's going to show you a listing of all assets. That's already been put out. That can already been found on line. So, he's not hiding anything. What's funny, too, is --


DEWIT: Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, they asked where are your tax returns and they said, oh, they're coming very soon. But how can they criticize Donald Trump when they have yet to do so themselves? (CROSSTALK)

BLACKWELL: We have to leave this conversation here. We've got to leave this here. But there are still questions about the charities that Trump supports the tax rate that he's paying. He says he will release them, IRS telling "USA Today" there's no reason he can't release the returns, that that is a personal choice.

Thank you, both. We'll, of course, continue the conversation.

Let's talk about the surprise endorsement, Chris Christie and his decision to back his former rival Donald Trump. Jake Tapper will talk with the former presidential candidate on "STATE OF THE UNION". That's tomorrow morning at 9:00 a.m. on CNN.

And, of course, our political coverage special coverage continues all morning on NEW DAY.

But, first, other stories making headlines. In Kalamazoo, Michigan, a somber weekend for victims being laid to rest after last week's shooting rampage.

And Yoko Ono hospitalized after suffering extreme flu-like symptoms.


[07:27:59] CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: So many thoughts going out to Kalamazoo, Michigan, after that five-hour shooting spree. Funerals are being held this weekend for five of those six victims. Richard Smith and his 17-year-old son Tyler are going to be laid to rest in a joint funeral service.

Memorial services also being held for Barbara Hawthorne (ph) Mary Lou Nigh (ph) and her sister-in-law Mary Jo Nigh (ph). A private service for Dorothy Brown was held yesterday. And Jason Dalton is charged with six counts of murder -- the suspect obviously in that case.

Yoko Ono is in a New York hospital this morning. A publicist says she has extreme flu-like symptoms. She likely, we're told, will go back home today but her son Sean Lennon tweeted his mom's fine, just tired and dehydrated. Ono, of course, is the widow of ex-Beatle John Lennon. She turned 83 last week.

Joaquin "El Chapo" says he'll be extradited to the United States if he can do his time at a medium security prison. That is his contention. And this is according to his lawyer. Guzman, remember, has broken out of Mexican maximum security prison twice now.

Listen, we're taking you to South Carolina. The polls are open this hour at the Democratic primary, presidential primary. Voters choosing, of course, between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. Will that state that some carved back in 2008 be her salvation this time around? We're talking about that next.


[07:31:56] CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: So mortgage rates inched up this week. Here's your look.


VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Victor Blackwell live on the campus of the University of South Carolina here in Columbia, South Carolina.

We return now to our live special coverage of the Democratic primary across this state. The polls are open, but the voter turnout, at least at the site we're about to show you is a little thin. It's Lexington County. That is a Republican stronghold, but Hillary Clinton is hoping for a big win across the state, a state she lost to Barack Obama back in 2008.

Bernie Sanders honestly is not expecting to win here. Of course, he's hoping to narrow the margin. Already stumping in Super Tuesday states today.

CNN senior Washington correspondent Joe Johns is live at that station -- polling station in Lexington.

But statewide, what is the Democratic Party expecting to see, Joe?

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: I think the Democratic Party is expecting to see Hillary Clinton win in South Carolina. The question, of course, is the margin. It's all really a question of expectations and whether Bernie Sanders can keep it reasonably close if he were to keep it within single digits here in South Carolina. A lot of people would say that's almost a win for him.

So, keeping it close for Bernie Sanders, for Hillary Clinton, of course, she wants to see a blowout here, trying to make a statement that she can bring African-American voters, minorities, those in the demographics that are a little bit different from what we saw in Iowa and New Hampshire as we move to the southern states, Victor.

BLACKWELL: And where will the candidates be tonight, Joe?

[07:35:02] JOHNS: Hillary Clinton is trying to make the pivot to the Super Tuesday states and beyond while at the same time keeping an eye on South Carolina. She's going to be in Fairfield, Alabama, today before coming back to Columbia, South Carolina, for what she hopes will be a victory party.

Bernie Sanders will be farther out west, Austin, Texas, a couple events there. Then he goes on to Minnesota from that point. So busy schedules for both of these candidates. A lot of frequent flyer miles, Victor.

BLACKWELL: Indeed. Joe Johns there for us in Lexington. Joe, thank you so much.

Now, as Joe said, this could be another big day for Hillary Clinton. Even with a win here in South Carolina, she will, of course, continue to be hit on several fronts just as the last of her State Department e-mails are released. That's coming on Monday, we're told. The calls are growing louder for her to release the transcripts of paid speeches to Wall Street banks.

Listen to what South Carolina voters told me about those speeches.


BLACKWELL: "The New York Times" and Senator Sanders, they're both calling for Secretary Clinton to release her transcripts of the Wall Street speeches. Do you think she should?

LAURETTE BURDYL, SOUTH CAROLINA VOTER: I think she should, but I don't think it's that big a deal. Personally, that's not a showstopper for me.

LEAH LAKE, SOUTH CAROLINA VOTER: I hope she does that. I think that is part of being transparent.

LAWRENCE DIXON, SOUTH CAROLINA VOTER: I really don't care if she releases them or not. I think it's up to her.



AXE: Transparency and also I -- if she's got nothing to hide, then release the transcripts.


BLACKWELL: All right. So, a split for those few voters.

I want to bring in CNN political contributor Errol Louis.

Errol, I wonder if there's this widespread expectation that with the omnipresence of cellphone cameras and what we've seen from politicians, the 47 percent, and even Ted Cruz this time talking about New York values and Donald Trump behind closed doors, that people -- do they believe she would have said something in those speeches that would be detrimental to her campaign?

ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: You know, that's what I can't quite get over honestly, because this is somebody who's been in the public eye one way or the other. And make no mistake about it, if you're talking to hundreds of corporate executives at some retreat, that's a very public speech.

Hillary Clinton, her statements are measured and parsed, and she's been on so many sides of so many issues for so long, it seems hard for me to believe that there would be some explosive, dynamite, some statement that she absolutely couldn't walk away from, couldn't claim that she was misinterpreted on, and that's going to provide some fodder.

I think for the Sanders campaign, the real effective part of this is just to sort of shine a spotlight on the fact that she has, in fact, done a lot of business in a lot of different ways with different corporations that have donated to the Clinton Foundation or paid her personally. The case they're making or the larger point they're making, which I think is a good one, is that she is somewhat compromised. If you want somebody who's got some distance from the world of corporate leadership, Hillary Clinton is not your candidate. She's been very much in bed with them so to speak politically for many, many years.

Now, she says she can remain independent, but that's for the voters to judge. Bernie Sanders is shining a skeptical eye on all of that.

BLACKWELL: And you talk about a larger narrative. Of course, that is even part of the narrative of trustworthiness and being honest with voters, something that Hillary Clinton has acknowledged is still a question that she's trying to answer. Have you seen of late as we've now seen the vote in South Carolina that she's making any headway there with some those who are still skeptical?

LOUIS: Well, you know, here's the thing, Victor -- Hillary Clinton is still the favorite to win. She's got surrogates, she's got endorsements, and she's got a lot more money than Bernie Sanders and she's moving through the states everywhere she goes. The problem is that trustworthiness factor seems to be expressing itself in lower voter turnout, and that could be a problem down the road.

So, it won't do you much good to win the primaries as Hillary Clinton seems on track do if along the way you lose a big part of the Democratic base that they -- that they lose some of the excitement. They don't trust her, they don't support her. That's what they're telling the pollsters, and maybe they stay home in November. That's the problem she's really got to worry about.

BLACKWELL: Yes. Well, they've got to deal with the contest in front of them. Voters here in South Carolina going to the polling today, and turnout here, nothing like it was in 2008, but that's probably going to be across the spectrum as we go through the primary season. We'll see what the numbers end up being tonight.

Errol Louis, thank you so much.

LOUIS: All right. Thank you, Victor.

[07:40:00] BLACKWELL: All right. Coming up in a few minutes, we'll talk to a Bernie Sanders supporter. He says Sanders is the man who understands the, quote, "regular American". He doesn't believe that Hillary Clinton does.

Also, we'll talk with a Sanders supporter who says Democrats are afraid to talk about the truth. His truth, he says, is Hillary Clinton is benefiting from white privilege.

Also, other stories making headlines as violent clashes in Syria now being reported across that country coming just hour as f the temporary truce began.


PAUL: Forty-four minutes past the hour right now. Some of the killing and the destruction has stopped, at least

temporarily in Syria because the war-torn country is roughly 13 hours at this point into a, quote, "cessation of hostilities". It's basically a cease-fire. It means a temporary halt in fighting between President Bashar al-Assad's regime and the Syrian opposition.

Now, Russia's also reportedly suspended air strikes in some areas, and as a reminder, though, of how horrific things have been there, the United Nations has estimated at least a quarter million people have been killed. Half the country's population, half, has been uprooted and has fled as we've been following, you know, the Syrian refugee crisis, and some of those who have stayed in Syria are starving.

CNN international correspondent Arwa Damon live in Istanbul, Turkey, for us right now.

[07:45:03] I understand although the cease-fire is in effect, there have been some clashes in the country. How serious and expansive are they?

ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, by Syria's standards, Christi, and those are very low and miserable standards, this is actually a fairly significant reduction in hostilities if not necessarily a cessation of hostilities. There were clashes that were reported in the coastal city of Latakia. That is a regime stronghold. There, fighting broke out between regime forces and rebel forces, 12 rebel fighters killed according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Other clashes breaking out Aleppo, between the regime and ISIS. Artillery being traded in some areas on the outskirts of Damascus, and the Damascus suburbs, very contested area. But, again, by Syria's standards, this is a very low level of violence.

And what is perhaps most significant for the population there is that since the cessation of hostilities went into effect, there have been no reports air strikes, no Russian fighter jets raining hell down on civilian populations, no helicopters indiscriminately dropping barrel bombs and those two factors were the lead causes of death.

So, on the one hand, it does appear so far to be holding to a certain degree. Of course, the other critical issue in all of this is does this reduction in violence at this stage mean that that much needed humanitarian aid is going to be able to reach those many numerous besieged populations, Christi.

PAUL: That's what I was wondering about, if those folks are finally going to get some help.

Arwa Damon, we appreciate it so much. Thank you.

Listen, we're going to take you back out to South Carolina's Democratic primary, 46 minutes into the doors opening there.

We're talking to a Bernie Sanders supporter next who says Sanders, he believes, is a man who understands the, quote, "regular American". He does not believe Hillary Clinton has the capacity for that. We're going to ask him why. That's next. Stay close.


[07:50:49] BLACKWELL: Happening now, voting has begun in South Carolina, but it looks like most voters here are not necessarily feeling the Bern. Senator Bernie Sanders has already moved on looking ahead to Super Tuesday states.

CNN senior Washington correspondent Jeff Zeleny is following his campaign.

Jeff, good morning.


JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Victor, the South Carolina primary is now upon us. The Bernie Sanders campaign is hoping for a more than respectable showing but they certainly not counting on a win. He has not spent much time here this week. He's been across the country in Ohio, in Illinois, in Minnesota. He's going to spend tonight in Minnesota, as well looking ahead to the Super Tuesday contest next week.

But in South Carolina, it gave him a chance to test his message, it gave him an opportunity to see he can reach out to a more diverse part of this Democratic electorate. He did not spend as much time as some advisors on the group had hoped he would. But at this point, it's all a matter of mathematics. He knows to keep going in this contest, he needs to do well next Tuesday to surprise the Clinton campaign in some states.

We'll see if he does that here, but South Carolina is feeling so different than it did eight years ago when it was Hillary Clinton who was outside the state, not remaining on Election Day when Barack Obama, of course, won this contest.

Bernie Sanders looking beyond South Carolina to the next wave of races next week -- Victor.


BLACKWELL: All right. Jeff, thank you so much.

I want to bring in H.A. Goodman. He's an author and journalist and he wrote a piece that got a lot of people talking. He wrote it for the "Huffington Post" and here's the title, "Bernie Sanders earned his success, Hillary Clinton embodies white privilege."

All right. H.A., thanks for being with us. I want you to take a few seconds. We don't have a lot of time.


BLACKWELL: But tell us, why do you believe Hillary Clinton embodies white privilege, what we're seeing in this cycle? GOODMAN: When you look at prison lobbyist donations, so she accepted

money from prison lobbyist. When you look at the manner when she treated Barack Obama in 2008.

James Rucker has a brilliant piece in "The Huffington Post" that talks about the racism that she used against Barack Obama.

When you look what Bernie Sander was able to accomplish. He beats Donald Trump by a wider margin than Hillary Clinton. He beats Donald Trump by six points.

Hillary Clinton barely beats Donald Trump by a little over two points. So, if you don't want a neon Trump sign on the White House, you vote for Bernie Sanders. That's without an FBI investigation.

White privilege issue, powerful voices, Dr. Cornell West, Tim Black, Benjamin Dixon, Yvette Carnell, many other voices, have spoken about this issue.

What I address was this -- if Barack Obama or Michelle Obama in the future were to go ahead and run for president, currently, Hillary Clinton according to the polls, 67 percent amount of Americans distrust Hillary Clinton. She was protested by Ashley Williams, very courageous woman, about Hillary Clinton said black youth were super predators, OK?

There is an FBI investigation, Lieutenant General Michael Flynn with Jake Tapper at CNN said that she should dropout because of. Edward Snowden, Defense Secretary Robert Gates agree that --


GOODMAN: -- coordinations have her intelligence --

BLACKWELL: Let me ask you this --

GOODMAN: That were Barack Obama, that he would never survive politically.

BLACKWELL: Let me ask you this and playing devil's advocate here, why is that not attributed to being a Clinton? Having 25 years of national political access in an infrastructure, why is it related to Clinton being white?

GOODMAN: And you're 100 percent right. It's not specifically related to that. There are definitely many layers of privilege.

I will say this, part of the article was what I wrote in the "Huffington Post" that was published on "Salon", when Bernie Sanders was able to accomplish on his own and what Hillary Clinton was able to take advantage of. Part of the issue is white privilege. When you look at Boston's Black Lives Matter president calls Hillary Clinton's racial justice record abysmal.

[07:55:01] When you look at what Hillary Clinton was able to get away with in terms of scandal, if it were a person of color, they wouldn't have got away with that. Hillary Clinton is continually embroiled in scandal, 67 percent of Americans distrust her, 74 percent of independents distrust her.

BLACKWELL: Let me --

GOODMAN: Bernie Sanders --

BLACKWELL: Let me get to --

GOODMAN: (INAUDIBLE) nationally behind Clinton.

BLACKWELL: I apologize for the delay, that's why it sounds to viewers at home like I'm cutting you off where you're taking a break.

But finally, because you're running out of time, your suggestion Hillary Clinton benefits from white privilege and Bernie Sanders earned his success, let me challenge you on that. If there were a 74- year-old Democratic socialist calling for free tuition and free health care for all, and he would be a black man, do you think he would have as much support?

GOODMAN: I addressed that and no. I also do agree with you. Had he been black, it would have been difficult to educate people on the fact that he's Democratic socialist like FDR, like Teddy Roosevelt.

But I think what Hillary Clinton and at any point in this campaign, the Clinton campaign would be derailed by the FBI investigation. So, the things she's able to overcome in part is because of white privilege.

I do not want Donald Trump. I think Donald Trump is an absolute buffoon and clown.

BLACKWELL: All right.

GOODMAN: Polls show Bernie Sanders beating Trump by a wider margin.

BLACKWELL: Got it. H.A. Goodman, also a Bernie Sanders supporter, thank you so much for spending time with us.

GOODMAN: Thank you very much. Pleasure to be here.

BLACKWELL: All right. There's a lot to come up this morning, we are certainly of course continuing our live special coverage of the South Carolina Democratic primary in the next hour of your NEW DAY starts after a quick break.

PAUL: Stay close.