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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
Super Tuesday 2 Pirmary Coverage; Preliminary Results. Aired 7- 8p ET
Aired March 15, 2016 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[18:59:53] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: All right. John, thanks very much. Right now we're standing by for the first votes out of Florida on this Super Tuesday. They could be released literally at any moment now. That's when the state of Florida will start releasing official votes, even though the polls remain open in the state of Florida. We're also looking ahead to the half hour when we may be able to reveal the first winners of the night. That is when polling are closed down with critical battlegrounds of Ohio as well as in North Carolina.
Also tonight, the presidential candidates in both parties, they are battling for nearly a third of the delegates needed to win their respective nominations. It's a critically important night. We're watching all of this very closely. And Jake, I've got to tell you, we're going to get the official numbers very, very soon. The first official numbers released by the state of Florida.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: That's right. Any minute now. And on this make-or-break Super Tuesday, we have correspondents Wolf at all the candidates' headquarters, they're standing about right now. Let's go to Jim Acosta, he is at Trump Headquarters in Palm Beach, Florida. And Jim, they've got to be on pins and needles there. Some big states coming down tonight.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. That's right, Jake. And I talked to a top Trump campaign official here in Florida who says, yes, they will win Florida. Will it be as big as those 20-point margins we're seeing in the polls? They don't think so. They think that's tough considering that this is the home state of Marco Rubio. But I talked to a separate top Trump campaign official who said look at Ohio they're looking at numbers that are being shared with them from the Kasich campaign. This say they're getting some internal numbers in the Kasich campaign. They don't do internal polling at the Trump campaign.
That shows that John Kasich should win the state of Ohio. So, they're not going to get that clean sweep of the board like they were hoping for earlier on in this process and they're not going to get that one- on-one with Ted Cruz that they were hoping for after tonight. But they still feel like a knockout punch here in Florida. Knocking Marco Rubio out of this race. Still changes the dynamic because it gets it down to three candidates. And at that point they feel like Kasich should be easy pickings.
Now, we're going to hear probably more about this later on tonight Jake at this news conference here in Mar-a-Lago, we're inside this huge ballroom speaking of huge -- huge ballroom. Just to give you a sense of the landscape here. We're in the press section of this press conference that is going to take place later on tonight. There are only two rows for the press. Sixteen rows for Trump supporters going up to the podium up there at the front of this ballroom. So, this is going to be half election party and half press conference coming up here in a couple of hours -- Jake.
TAPPER: All right. Jim Acosta with the Trump team in Palm Beach. Let's slide South now down the Peninsula to Miami where we find our own Sara Murray. She's with Rubio's headquarters.
And Sara, obviously Marco Rubio has said, no matter what, he's going to state in the race. But this is his home state, he really needs a win.
SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Jake. I mean, in the last 24 hours, he has said that Florida's not a must-win. He has said he must go on to Utah, irrespective of what happens here tonight. And Jake, as you and I both know, this is sort of what candidates need to say as they go into this election nights, even if they're looking at a potential loss. But the big question for Rubio is, can he afford to continue campaigning if he loses in Florida. And we are getting this sense from donors that they are not willing to funnel a bunch more money into Senator Rubio's campaign if he does lose. One donor told me, everyone I speak to thinks it's over after tonight. That is a sentiment coming from his donor world. And remember Marco Rubio hasn't actually spent money up here on the airwaves in Florida. He's left it up to the Super PACs supporting him. They've spent about $10 million. But even they have not reserved air time past Tuesday -- Jake.
TAPPER: All right. Sara Murray at Rubio campaign headquarters in Miami, Florida. Let's go to our political director David Chalian, who is in the CNN Election Center.
And David, you're looking at the exit polls and looking specifically at what was on the minds of Florida voters as they went to vote today.
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: And more specifically, Jake, looking at the racial breakdown of Republican primary voters in Florida, because this is the most diverse state we've seen so far in the Republican contest this spire year. Take a look about how the racial breakdown works in Florida today among Republicans. Seventy seven percent of them are White, three percent are African-American, and 17 percent are Latino. Remember, of course, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz both on the ballot there. Marco Rubio the home state senator there. That is an uptick from Latino turnout from 2012. And in 2012, Jake, the state was 83 percent White, so here it's getting more and more diverse.
We also asked about immigration. Take a look at this. A majority of voters, 55 percent of Republican primary voters in Florida, believe that illegal immigrants working in the U.S. should be offered legal status. Only 35 percent take what is sort of the Donald Trump position here, and say that they should be deported to their home country.
TAPPER: Fascinating. Fascinating stuff, David Chalian, CNN Election Center. And Dana, I mean, this is one of the things that we've seen all along, this Republican election season, which is, a majorities of Republican voters actually are much more moderate on this issue of illegal immigration than Donald Trump is. And yet he continues to dominate in these primaries and caucuses.
DANA BASH, CNN ANCHOR: That's right. Because it's not so much about the issues, it's about the overwhelming emotion of anger. And wanting to have a total disruption in Washington. And the big institutions that run this country. And you know, just back on to what Sara was reporting, there is no question that there is a feeling of depression, despair, inevitability inside the Rubio campaign. People who are, you know, are close to him. You know, unless there is a huge surprise tonight, they are preparing for the worst. And the worst being losing his home state and likely not continuing on. Now, you know, he has said all day today that he's going to continue on to Utah. He's got this schedule in place. We'll see if that happens.
[19:05:43] TAPPER: We'll see if that happens. Marco Rubio obviously had a very optimistic future looking message. And that does not appear to be where a majority --
BASH: Exactly right.
TAPPER: -- of the Republican electorate is. Wolf Blitzer, you have a key race alert.
BLITZER: And let's do a key race alert right now, our first key race alert of the night. Let's look in Florida right now. One percent of the vote has already been released. A very, very tiny number. But Donald Trump has a significant lead. Take a look at this. 62.3 percent. 17.9 percent for Marco Rubio. The senator from Florida. Ted Cruz, 14.3 percent. John Kasich with only 3.8 percent. But this is extremely early. You see very small numbers have been coming in in Florida right now. These are the first official numbers coming in on the Republican side. On the Democratic side, also, very, very early. Hillary Clinton has a slight lead, 50.2 percent, 41.1 percent. But look at this, it's only a few hundred votes have been counted so far in Florida. So we'll continue to watch. That's our first key race alert of the night -- Anderson.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, thanks very much. Gloria, we've been hearing from Marco Rubio saying it's become harder and harder to guarantee that he would support the nominee if it is in fact Donald Trump.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Right.
COOPER: John Kasich last night when I asked him about this as well, he was sort hedging his bets saying, I'm going to have something to say about that in the days ahead. It sounds as if there's some sort of shift going on.
BORGER: Yes. And I think he will. And I think he has to. I think that John Kasich, if he wins the state of Ohio, which it looks like he's headed towards winning, he has to now come out and take on Donald Trump as others have. He has not done that so far.
COOPER: He started doing this just yesterday for the first time saying, look, I for the first -- claiming that just for the first time he starred reading some of the things Donald Trump had said. And that has made him start to re-access.
DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: He's been busy. He's been really busy campaigning.
COOPER: He says he doesn't watch the news, he watches the golf channel. That's what I read.
BORGER: Well, I would, too, if I were running for president.
COOPER: Yes, exactly.
BORGER: But I mean --
COOPER: But if John Kasich does win in Ohio, clearly he would hope to become the anti-Trump.
AXELROD: Yes. I mean, I think that's the plan, it's a little tough, you know, you look, John King put the map up, speculating on what might happen tonight. And there was one little purple state there, that was Ohio among a sea of other colors, mostly Trump. And so, you know, you're building from a base of nothing. I mean, if John Kasich wins tonight, it will be the first win he will have in this entire primary season. So it's hard to see building on that, what he can do is play a role in preventing Donald Trump from becoming the nominee. And that I think what he's at.
COOPER: Also, Michael, even -- every time I've talked to him, I've asked him, OK, so you say if you win Ohio, then what -- it's kind of amorphous his path forward. He says, well, the narrative will change, I'll get a lot more attention, I'll get a lot more interviews, I'll have the wind at my back.
MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN HOST, "SMERCONISH": It's very difficult to see a path that any of them have to 1,237 delegate votes before Cleveland except Donald Trump. There is a school of thought that says, Trump tonight is hoping for a Kasich victory in Ohio, Kasich stays in and the field continues to be divided.
COOPER: Let's go to Wolf for another key race alert -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. Let's go to another key race alert right now. Let's check it out. We just got some more official numbers coming in from the state of Florida on the Republican side. Still very early. Donald Trump, there you see it, it's five percent of the vote is now in. Donald Trump has a lead of 47.1 percent to 22 percent for Marco Rubio, 15 percent for Ted Cruz, 7.7 for John Kasich. You see a lead of about 26,700 for Donald Trump right now, with five percent of the vote in. These are votes, these are really absentee or early voters in Florida.
On the Democratic side, now seven percent of the vote has been counted. Hillary Clinton has a significant lead. 57.3 percent, to 40.4 percent for Bernie Sanders. She's up right now by about 18,700 votes. That's a significant lead. But once again, seven percent of the vote is in right now. Once again, we're waiting at the bottom of the hour, only a few minutes from now, the polls close in Ohio and North Carolina. We're counting down, we're getting more votes in from Florida. Let's take a quick break. We'll be right back.
[19:13:42] BLITZER: We've got a key race alerts. Official numbers coming in from the state of Florida, even though the polling is still open in the panhandle in the Central Time Zone. They've have released these official numbers. Eleven percent of the vote is now being counted in Florida. On the Republican side, Donald Trump has a significant lead, 47.2 percent. Marco Rubio 24.1 percent. Sixty percent for Ted Cruz. 7.1 for John Kasich. Donald Trump has a lead of almost 62,000 votes right now. Twelve percent of the vote is in actually. Twelve percent is in this, his lead just went up to about 65,700.
On the Democratic side, 14 percent of the vote has been released officially by the state of Florida. 62.2 percent for Hillary Clinton, 35.4 percent for Bernie Sanders. She has a lead of almost, almost 60,000 votes right now. Once again, these are official numbers being released by the state of Florida at the top of the hour. All of the polls in Florida will be closed, and maybe we'll be able to make a projection then -- Anderson.
COOPER: All right, Wolf. We have new contributors joining us. Let's introduce them all. Paul Begala, our new advisor to the pro-Hillary Clinton Super PAC. Also a commentator Jeffrey Lord is with us, a Trump supporter. Van Jones, former White House official, a commentator as well for. And S.E. Cupp, conservative writer and a commentator as well.
Paul Begala, begin commenting.
So, what are you looking for tonight? And obviously it's looking good both for Donald Trump and for Hillary Clinton right now in Florida. Though it's very early on the voting. Is voting still on the panhandle --
PAUL BEGALA, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: It's very early. I think the Democratic race has more clarity. Hillary Clinton is coming in with a large delegate lead. She has a pretty chance of ending the night with a large delegate. She loss some states, you know, win some states. The Republican side is so exciting, though, because we've had this talk for months now. It's a demolition derby. I mean, we could see 38-car pileup. I'm hoping for that, frankly. But it's likely -- it's likely -- if John Kasich shows strength that he I think has --
COOPER: If Kasich wins Ohio.
BEGALA: If Kasich wins Ohio, then you have the kind of calamity that I've been praying for.
COOPER: That would be the only state he's won.
BEGALA: It would be. It would be one more than me, which would be fine. Not enough to win. But enough to keep Donald Trump perhaps from winning a majority of delegates going into the Cleveland convention. Then you have what I've never believed we would see, open convention.
S.E. CUPP, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think the thing to watch in Ohio, and we learned a lot I think out of the Michigan primary, and Trump wins there. And I talked about this earlier. The Trump won counties like Oakland County. Very affluent, very well educated, not a place he was supposed to win. If he duplicates that in a place like Ohio, say Cuyahoga County, Chagrin Falls, Hunting Valley, if he duplicates that in Illinois in counties like Lake Counties, you know, Lake Forest and -- outside Chicago, I don't see where he can't win. He's already going to get sort of the blue collar, I think, the blue collar voters. Those are the places that would be the holdout.
CUPP: So I think as we get to see the returns coming in, and John King, of course, will keep us updated, that will tell us a lot about the rest of the map tonight.
VAN JONES, FORMER OBAMA ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, for the Bernie Sanders rebels tonight is everything. The big question is, was that Michigan miracle a fluke? Was it an outlier? Or was it the first domino in the industrial Midwest? The argument that the Sanders people are trying to make is simply this, Hillary won a bunch in the south. And who cares. Because Democrats don't win in the South. The key for the Democrats' victory in the fall will be the rust belt. Can you win in Michigan? Can you win in Pennsylvania? Can you win in Ohio, or do you let Donald trump redraw the map? If he can put Michigan and now Ohio in his column, he can make an argument --
COOPER: But doesn't that argue against the importance of the African- American voters, of Latino voters? Because we're looking in Ohio, overwhelmingly white. You know, and in many of these industrialized states.
JONES: Well, listen, obviously in our party, the African-American vote is very important. It's much more important in the South obviously for the primary than in the North. The reality is, he did much better among African-Americans in Michigan than people expected. He split the young Black vote. That was not the same that you saw in the South. But here's the deal, if, on the other hand, Hillary Clinton is able to beat him in Ohio, once again, we are where we are last week, then rationale for his insurgency collapses. Because she can win in the South, she can win in the north, she can win red states, Purple States and blue states. And so, tonight, it's everything for Bernie Sanders.
[19:18:19] COOPER: And Jeffrey, as we go to you, let's just again remind our viewers looking at the numbers here, I mean, Hillary Clinton way out in front in Florida. Donald Trump as well and again early voting still open in the panhandle.
JEFFREY LORD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. I mean, it is beginning to seem like it's going to be a Trump/Clinton race. And I have to say, we're seeing two sides of the sword here. Marco Rubio loses Florida and he loses credibility. And John Kasich wins Ohio. But still people think he has credibility, he is the governor of Ohio, for heavens sakes. I mean, you've got to be able to get beyond your own --
COOPER: I mean, do polls point, if Kasich does in fact win Ohio, then the chances of there being some sort of a brokered convention, some sort of a deal?
LORD: Frankly, I think there are people scheming as we speak to try and arrange that. I really do think that. Whether or not they will succeed is a whole other story. There would be such an incredible backlash if the perception was afoot that they were in any way monkeying with this and succeeded.
COOPER: Because already, I mean, we talked about this before, we've seen in the polls already, among voters, there's huge dissatisfaction, distrust of their own party leaders.
LORD: You know, one the things I learned when I was home in Pennsylvania this weekend, at a Harrisburg Patriot-News for which full disclosure I write a monthly column. But on a front page was a story that 46,000 Democrats had registered to vote in the Republican primary in April. And the comment was, obviously, that there's something going on here. And I have seen a few Trump people say that's why they're doing it.
COOPER: We have another key race alert from Wolf -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. Let's do another key race alert right now. We're getting more numbers up from the state of Florida. Let's take a look at this. Sixteen percent of the vote now officially in in Florida. Donald Trump has a very impressive lead. Forty eight percent to 23 percent, 23.5 percent for Marco Rubio, 15.8 for Ted Cruz, 7.3 percent for John Kasich. Donald Trump has a lead of more than 90,000 votes right now Florida.
These are official numbers coming in on the Democratic side, 18 percent of the vote is in. Hillary Clinton has a very impressive lead at the same time. 62.2 percent for Hillary Clinton, 35.3 percent for Bernie Sanders. She has a lead of more than 75,000 votes right now. Remember, we're only minutes away from our chance to project winners on this Super Tuesday. Will John Kasich pull off his first victory in his home state of Ohio and deliver a blow to Donald Trump. We could find out very soon. Stay with us.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [19:24:27] BLITZER: Let's get right to a key race alert. Take a look at Florida right now. The Republican side, 22 percent of the vote is in, it's coming in very quickly. Donald Trump has a very impressive lead, 44.8 percent, Marco Rubio 28.3 percent, Cruz is down at 15.6 percent, 6.5 percent for Kasich. Actually the numbers just changed. Twenty nine percent of the vote in Florida is in. Look at this. Donald Trump has a lead already of 122,000 votes more than Marco Rubio -- Marco in his home state of Florida. Critical numbers for Rubio. Take a look at the map. You see the dark red.
That's Donald Trump, the counties where he's winning impressively right now in Tampa, Orlando. But you see Rubio is ahead down at least in Miami, that's his home county in Dade County in Miami right there, so we're watching these maps. We're watching the numbers. So far, a huge lead, very impressive lead for Donald Trump in Florida. Let's take a look at the Democratic side right now. On the Democratic side, also an extremely impressive lead for Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders. She's got almost -- she's got more than twice as many votes that Bernie Sanders has right now. She's at 65.8 percent. He's only at 31.6 percent. She has a lead of 157,000. He only has a 140, 169,000.
Actually, the numbers have just changed. The third of the vote is now in. And look at this, her lead has actually gone up to 66 percent, 31 percent for Bernie Sanders. She has a lead of 183,000 votes right now, with a third of the vote in in Florida. The polls all close in Florida at the top of the hour. Take a look at the map. You see the map right now, the dark blue is Hillary Clinton. Those are the counties she's leading in right now. The light blue, you only see a couple of counties, maybe three counties right now, that is Bernie Sanders where he has a lead right now.
But it's very impressive, the Hillary Clinton lead is growing as we speak right now. 66.1 percent to 31.6 percent. We're counting down to the bottom of the hour. And our first chance to project winners on this make-or-break Super Tuesday, that's when the polls close in Ohio and North Carolina. In Ohio, we're watching one of the most suspenseful matchups of the night. Donald Trump battling with the state's Governor John Kasich for Ohio's winner take all bonanza of delegates. A win for Kasich would certainly, maybe likely keep him in the campaign, keep this campaign going. Possibly slow Trump a bit to clinch the nomination.
For the Democrats, Hillary Clinton is favored in Ohio. But Bernie Sanders is hoping to score an upset as he did a week ago in Michigan, another big industrial state. Let's go over to John King over at the magic wall. He's taking a close look at Florida for us right now. Florida, big leads right now for Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Very impressive leads.
JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: And a big chunk of the early vote released pretty quickly. Up to 29 percent of the vote. And you look at that, 25 to 27. And Marco Rubio's home state, by all accounts, make or break night for Marco Rubio. Big conversations if this holds up. Thirty two percent of the vote now. And Wolf, you see, 120,000-plus vote lead for Donald Trump. So, even after the polls fully close, and the vote start to come in, Marco Rubio would have to win Election Day, and win it big to make up that gap.
Let's look at the map. Lights being drawn distinction for you showing, here's this and here's that, the only place at the moment, and we have zero percent in, just a few votes, 60,000 votes or so, Marco Rubio winning at home in Miami-Dade County. He is from the Miami area with 63 percent of the vote in the early returns there. But again, just zero percent. And Wolf, when you pull out and look at the entire state, at the moment Donald Trump is winning everywhere.
Here is an area, if it is competitive tonight, you would look up here to see this Ted Cruz run strong up here, Georgia/Alabama border up in that way, does he run strong up there among more conservative evangelical voters helped make the difference. But at the moment, in the early returns, Cruz just shy of 16, Rubio at 27. Donald Trump at 45 and we've seen this in many other states, just to point out a bit. Look, where you essentially have an all-Trump map. Because Trump runs it up pretty big. Here is the state of Georgia, here's the state of South Carolina. We've seen this in the past in the early results in Florida are filling in, much as we have seen across this region of the country with consistent widespread, a very broad Trump Coalition, Trump winning in the suburbs around Tampa, winning in the rural areas.
We'll see as we get more of the vote in. But again, quickly, just in the moment of this conversation, up to 35 percent statewide in Florida. And Donald Trump is running it up pretty big. Let's flip it over to the Democratic side. A little bit of Bernie Sanders up here, up in the northern part of the state, just to the west of Jacksonville. But Hillary Clinton, the map beginning to fill in.
Number one, very important for her. Miami Dade 13 percent of the state population. She's winning with 80 percent there with just the very first returns coming in. Again, Broward County, if you work away up the coast, she's winning with 75 percent. Just the early returns in. But if this stays, Clinton blue down here, that's a good night for her. The rest of the challenge for Clinton is across here in the Tampa, Orlando, Daytona Beach area. Let's just take a quick pick here. Hillsborough County, 23 percent of the vote in. And that's a pretty significant number early on. Sixty five percent to 32 percent.
And then you move over to the map a little bit more to come over here. Orange County, Orlando area, six percent of the state population, Latino vote heavy in this area as well. The only 70 percent to 30 percent right there. So, as we pull out to the map and we look 44 percent, that's a very quick count in Florida so far with the early vote coming in. Sixty six percent to 31 percent at the moment. Wolf, it's early, we'll see what happens as more votes come in. But early on, the map is filling in just as Hillary Clinton would like. This would suggest a big delegate coup for her in Florida and early lead for Donald Trump as well in a state that could send Marco Rubio exiting the race.
[19:29:55] WOLF: Thanks very much. We're counting down to the bottom of the hour right now. That is when the polls close in Ohio. Winner take all for the Republicans. Also the polls close in North Carolina. We're about to release a CNN exit poll information. We cannot make a projection. We have a key race alert though. In Ohio right now, these are the exit polls we have. No projections
we can make on the Republican side. Take a look at this. Our estimate based on the exit poll information. The Governor, John Kasich, 45 percent. Donald Trump, 38 percent. Ted Cruz, 14 percent. It's tight in Ohio on the Republican side. Once again, no projection, even though the polls are closed in Ohio.
On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton based on the exit poll information, she's at 53 percent. Bernie Sanders 46 percent. We cannot make a projection.
We cannot make a projection in either of these contests in Ohio, or Democratic side and Republican side.
Let's take a look at North Carolina right now. In North Carolina, look how tight it is, based on the CNN exit poll estimates. Donald Trump 39 percent, Ted Cruz 35 percent. John Kasich 13 percent, very tight in North Carolina, based on the exit polls.
On the Democratic side, 54 percent for Hillary Clinton, 42 percent for Bernie Sanders. Remember, these are exit polls. The polls are closed in North Carolina and Ohio. We cannot make projections.
Remember, these exit polls are estimates based on our early survey of voters as they left their polling locations. The final outcome may be different. We can expect those numbers in fact to change throughout the night.
Let's get a key race alert on what's going on in Florida right now. Take a look at this. Polls still open in Florida, at least in the panhandle, for another half hour or so. Donald Trump with a significant lead, 45.5 percent over Marco Rubio, 26.8 percent. It just changed, 44 percent of the vote is in. Donald Trump has a lead of almost 200,000 votes, 46.1 percent over Rubio's 26.7 percent, 15.8 percent for Cruz, 6.7 percent for John Kasich.
On the Democratic side, a very impressive lead right now for Hillary Clinton, 289,000-vote lead over Bernie Sanders, 66.9 percent, 30.9 percent for Bernie Sanders. Remember, these are numbers that are being released in the state of Florida. The polls -- all the polls in Florida don't close, don't close until the top of the hour.
Jake, clearly there are races under way right now in Ohio, in North Carolina, where the polls have closed.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: That's right. At least according to the exit polls, there's nail biters there in Ohio and North Carolina. But, boy, look at the numbers out of Florida. Devastating, devastating for Marco Rubio.
And, Jim Acosta, this was -- obviously, this is Rubio's home turf. We have not called the state yet, but these early numbers coming in look bad for him. Donald Trump seemed to be in a rather celebratory mood, at least based on his Twitter feed.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right. Yes, he's already declared victory in Florida on Twitter, Jake, even though we have not declared any winner in the state of Florida. But you're right, they are feeling very good inside the Trump campaign about what is going to happen here in Florida tonight.
I talked to a top Trump campaign official here in the state of Florida who said, we may not win by 20 points. Well, look at the polls, or look at the results as they're coming in rig now. It looks as though they might meet or beat what the polling was forecasting coming into the Super Tuesday.
Why is Donald Trump doing so well in Florida? They feel inside the Trump operation in Florida, it comes down to one issue, and that is immigration. They feel like they were able to beat up Rubio on this issue of immigration, because of his past support for path to legalization and citizenship as part of that gang of legislation from years past, that Marco Rubio essentially walked away from Donald Trump used that again and again to beat up Marco Rubio and gain an advantage here in Florida, where a lot of voters -- yes, in South Florida, a strong immigrant population here.
But in northern Florida, not so much. The demographics changes, and so do the attitudes when it comes to immigration. As for the state of Ohio, very interesting dynamic taking place there. I talked to a top Trump campaign official who said, you know what, John Kasich may have a good night in Ohio, but this person also said, listen, John Kasich always wins his elections in Ohio so it's not surprising to see John Kasich do so well there.
The question inside the Trump campaign and yes, it's a little bit of spin, is where does John Kasich go from here? Yes, he may win Ohio tonight, but what other state on this map does he win in order to put together some kind of argument that he can be viable for the nomination, Jake.
TAPPER: And, of course, Florida is a winner-take-all state, all 99 Republican delegates go to the winner there.
And something else is to remember, six years ago, Marco Rubio running for Senate was a strong candidate. He basically chased the incumbent Republican governor out of the party and won the primary nomination with 85 percent of the vote. Kind of different thing going on right now in Florida for Marco Rubio.
But let's turn to the Democratic race and Brianna Keilar who is in West Palm Beach, Florida, with the Clinton campaign.
And, Brianna, good night in Florida so far with the numbers coming in, but looks like it's going to be much closer race in Ohio and North Carolina, at least based on our exit polls.
[19:35:06] BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, certainly a closer race. I do think the Clinton campaign would welcome those numbers that show her with a slight lead from the exit polling.
I'll tell you, here in Florida it's starting to feel -- I mean, you can hear it, it's sounding more like a party. There's been a ban that's playing pit bull tunes. And it's very clear that Florida Democrats are coming out here in force for Hillary Clinton.
Her campaign making the case that this is very important, maybe even more important than these Midwestern contests, because it shows, they say, that she is a better general election candidate. That she can court nonwhite voters, and that that ultimately is what is really going to matter.
But make no mistake about it, if she loses Ohio, that is really going to hurt for her. If she can win Ohio, if she can win Florida, these two big delegate-rich states, the campaign thinks she has a better case to say to Bernie Sanders, hey, you cannot catch up.
But important, Jake, to remind our viewers that unlike Republicans, both Florida and Ohio are not winner-take-all for Democrats. So, as long as it remains close in Ohio, they can roughly split the delegates. Here in Florida, with Hillary Clinton doing so well compared to Bernie Sanders, she would increase her delegate lead, we would expect, with a big win here.
TAPPER: All right. Brianna Keilar, at Clinton campaign headquarters in West Palm Beach, Florida.
And now, let's get to Wolf Blitzer who has a key race alert.
BLITZER: All right. Let's get to the key race alert right now. Take a look at this. We've got some Democratic numbers coming in from North Carolina.
First of all, 4 percent of the vote is in, Hillary Clinton has a significant lead, 64 percent to 34.3 percent for Bernie Sanders. Her lead is about 13,532 right now. Four percent of the vote is in.
On the Republican side in North Carolina, 1 percent, if that, only a handful of votes are in. But Donald Trump has the lead of 40.1 percent over Ted Cruz, 32 percent, John Kasich 14.4 percent, Marco Rubio 10.9 percent. Very, very early, less than 1 percent of the vote is in. But Trump has a lead in North Carolina.
Also in North Carolina, on the Democratic side, 6 percent of the vote is now in. Hillary Clinton maintains her lead over Bernie Sanders, 64.2 percent to 33.9 percent. She's got a lead of almost 21,000 in North Carolina. You just saw North Carolina on the Republican side.
We have another key race alert in Florida right now. Let's take a look at Florida. Take a look at this. More than half of the vote is now in. Donald Trump has a very impressive lead, 45.8 percent, 45.8 percent for Donald Trump, 27.3 percent for the senator from Florida, Marco Rubio. Just changed a little bit, 27.2 percent. Cruz in third place 15.5 percent, Kasich, 6.8 percent.
But look at this lead for Donald Trump in Florida right now. He's got a lead of more than 235,000 votes in Florida right now, 53 percent of the vote is in. Fifty-eight percent of the vote is in on the Democratic primary results. Hillary Clinton has a significant lead, even a bigger lead. She's at 66.6 percent, Bernie Sanders only at 31.2 percent. Her lead, look at this, her lead is 325,848 votes right now in Florida. That's an extremely impressive lead.
Florida, the Florida polls will all close, in the panhandle and a central part of the state at the top of the hour. We'll see what happens then.
But once again, you can see in Florida, on the Republican side, Trump with a very impressive lead, 46 percent, over Rubio's 27.2 percent. On the Democratic side, 66.6 percent for Hillary Clinton, 31 percent for Bernie Sanders.
Let's go back to Jake.
TAPPER: Thanks, Wolf. Let's go to our political director, David Chalian, who's in the CNN election center.
And, David, I know, as you pore over the data from the exit polls coming in, one of the things we're looking for is the assumption is Republican voters are not pleased with how things are going, but just how displeased are they?
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Right. So, we're looking at the close races in Ohio and North Carolina on the Republican side. And we want to start seeing what is making these races close.
You're right, Jake, the anger, dissatisfaction factor plays into this.
Take a look in Ohio, among the voter who are dissatisfied with the federal government, not angry, but dissatisfied, that's 53 percent of the electorate. John Kasich wins big 53 percent to Trump's 31 percent to Cruz at 14 percent.
But if you look at the angry electorate voters in Ohio, those are Trump voters. He wins them 52 percent to Kasich's 29 percent, to Cruz's 17 percent. They only make up roughly about 4 in 10 voters in the Ohio Republican primary.
Take a look at North Carolina. Similar trend we're seeing. This time with Ted Cruz on top of the dissatisfied voters. 40 percent to Trump's 32 percent, Rubio at 12 percent, and Kasich at 12 percent. They make up 53 percent of the North Carolina electorate.
And take a look at the angry vote in North Carolina. There's Donald Trump on top again, with 52 percent of the angry voters.
[19:40:01] Cruz at 30 percent. Kasich at 9 percent and Rubio at 6 percent. They make up about 40 percent of the electorate.
So, Jake, what you're seeing here is that if you are in the majority that say you are a dissatisfied voter, you tend to go for the non- Trump person in that state, in North Carolina that's Cruz. In Ohio, that's Kasich. But if you are an angry voter, you are a Donald Trump voter in both of these states tonight.
TAPPER: David Chalian, thank you.
And, Dana, I remember a few debates ago, Donald Trump was asked about his demeanor which often seems bombastic on the campaign trail, angry even. And he fully embraced the mantle of angry. He said he was angry and he gave a bunch of policy reasons why he was.
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's so true. I was watching David's reporting there and the numbers thinking back to 2014, covering Ted Cruz on the Senate floor, when he was the one who embodied all of the anger at Washington.
And, you know, little did he know then that Donald Trump would come along and capture the angry sentiment out there. And that he would be left with the merely dissatisfied. It's kind of remarkable.
TAPPER: Right. And there are other candidates who we've seen come and go, who were vessels for anger in some ways -- Senator Rand Paul, Governor Chris Christie.
TAPPER: But someone was in the angry lane. Donald Trump crowding them out completely, and Rand Paul and Chris Christie became footnotes in this campaign.
BASH: It really is so true. It was hard to imagine, again, just a couple of years ago that that would happen. But it is hard to compete with somebody who was willing to say, and willing to do the things that a nonpolitician, someone who is Donald Trump does. I mean, it's just the bottom line.
And, you know, that's why even Ted Cruz at the beginning was embracing Donald Trump, hoping that if he ever fell, Ted Cruz would get those voters. It didn't happen.
TAPPER: It's also a side observation about Senator Marco Rubio who had a much sunnier optimistic message.
BASH: As you said before, voters don't want that right now.
TAPPER: Dissatisfied and in many cases angry.
BLITZER: Thanks very much.
Let's go over to John King over at the magic wall.
John, you're taking a closer look at North Carolina right now, the polls are closed in North Carolina. What, 8 percent of the vote is in. Hillary Clinton has a significant lead. We have not yet made a projection in North Carolina.
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Not made a projection because we want to see the votes come in. But, again, if you look at the other primaries, the surrounding area, Hillary Clinton has done well. Why? African-American votes, obviously, Mecklenburg County, Charlotte, big pocket of African-American votes in here, early lead for her there if you're the Clinton campaign. This is how you want the map to fill in.
I want to pop up and look a little bit. You see a little bit of Bernie Sanders out here in the rural areas. This is Madison County, very tiny county right along the border. You see, that's where you would expect Bernie Sanders to do well.
We'll keep an eye on that as it comes in. But if you watch, not the big area for Hillary Clinton, up in the research triangle in the Raleigh-Durham area, Charlotte, key, Winston-Salem key, places where you have significant African-American votes. Also, she hopes to do well in the higher college educated women up in these areas.
We'll watch this as it fills in. But if you look at right now, take it for Hillary Clinton, I just want to pull back out and look. This has been her area. The southern states where you have the more diverse electorate, has been Hillary Clinton's wheel house so far in the Democratic primaries.
It certainly looks like it's filling in for North Carolina for her and early on in Florida as well, up to 65 percent, vote counted so far, and you see the map filling in convincingly for Hillary Clinton.
So, let's switch over --
BLITZER: What about the North Carolina Republicans?
KING: North Carolina Republicans, just since we're on Florida, take a quick look. Filling in for Donald Trump 60 percent. He's at nearly 46 percent of the vote. The only place Rubio is winning at home in Miami Dade right now.
So, let's up to North Carolina, take a peek there as well. This one's closer early on, but 6 percent of the vote in. Trump winning with 41 percent, you saw 41.2 now, to 30 percent for Ted Cruz. Kasich running a third, and Rubio disappointing fourth place in North Carolina at the moment. Again, just 6 percent of the voting on the Republican side.
So, no conclusions can be drawn from this. But just early on, same idea you want to look for -- close-in suburbs key to the establishment mainstream Republican, Donald Trump winning at the moment right now. So, the early results look good for Donald Trump in North Carolina, wolf. And, again, just like Hillary Clinton, if you look at the surrounding neighborhood, that's been his wheel house so far. We'll count the votes and see.
BLITZER: John, thanks very much.
We have a key race alert right now. It looks like in Ohio, 1 percent of the vote is now in, barely 1 percent. Very, very early. Donald Trump has a lead, 47.3 percent over Governor John Kasich, 33.9 percent. Cruz is at 9.9 percent, Rubio at 6.2 percent. Once again, very, very early. You see only a couple thousand, 3,000
votes are in. Trump has the lead, though, with less than 1 percent of the vote in.
On the Democratic side, 1 percent, also very, very early. Hillary Clinton has a significant lead, 71.4 percent over Bernie Sanders, 27.3 percent. But once again, only, tiny, tiny number of numbers have actually come in from Ohio right now.
Anderson, it's going to be a huge prize tonight, Ohio.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: No doubt about that. Florida, of course, as well.
And, David Axelrod, I mean, it's shaping up for Donald Trump to be a very good night, certainly in the state of Florida and not so much Marco Rubio.
[19:45:02] The question is, what does Rubio do now? Does he, in fact, back out if he loses or --
DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well --
COOPER: Or does he now come up with a reason to keep --
AXELROD: I want to quote my friend across the way here, Van Jones, who said last week this could shape up to be good-bye Rubio Tuesday. And I think that's about right.
I don't know how he continues in this race. He is not -- not only is he losing his home state, but he's getting nothing anywhere else.
AXELROD: I mean, there's no rationale. The only rationale for him to remain would be to be part of this kind of plot to deprive Donald Trump of the delegates he needs to get elected. But, you know, I would think that he would get out. And he might even get out tonight.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, if you're going to be part of a plot to stop Trump, you have to pay for it.
NIA MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Yes.
BORGER: And I think if you're a funder, right now, of Marco Rubio, you have to be saying, I'm not going to throw more money away. Now, there's a possibility that you could just withdraw sort of, you know, suspend your campaign if you wanted to play some games about not freeing up your delegates. But then again, to the voters, it looks like --
AXELROD: The other thing is, if you want to be part of the plot to stop Trump, you actually have to win delegates. Which he's not doing. But he's not doing very well lately.
BORGER: Right. COOPER: What extraordinary epic collapse for a campaign -- I remember "TIME" magazine, "the Republican savior" they called Marco Rubio, there was a time, what was it, right before Nevada, when it seemed like he was going to be the establishment candidate after Jeb Bush dropped out. And then he turned -- do you think it was the turning kind of using Donald Trump's rhetoric against Trump that made the difference?
MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think two oops moments with regard to Marco Rubio. The first of them is the Chris Christie takedown.
COOPER: Debate, right.
SMERCONISH: Because I think many voters looked at him ever since and wondered if there's any there there. And then, even Marco Rubio acknowledges today that he made a big mistake in getting in the gutter and fighting at Donald Trump's level. That didn't bode well for him.
COOPER: We've got another key race alert, let's go quickly to Wolf now and we'll come back to the panel.
BLITZER: I'm here.
BLITZER: All right. Let's do a key race alert right now.
Take a look at this -- let's start off in Florida. First of all, on the Republican side, 63 percent of the vote is in, 45.9 percent for Donald Trump, 26.9 percent, 16.3 percent for Ted Cruz, 99 delegates. Remember, a winner-take-all in Florida. This is a critical race.
In Ohio, less than1 percent of the vote is in. Trump has a lead there, 45.2 percent, Kasich 34.5 percent, Ted Cruz 11.6 percent. Kasich really needs to win his home state of Ohio.
In North Carolina, 72 delegates are at stake there, proportionally. Six percent of the vote is in. Trump has a lead there 41.4 percent, 31.5 percent for Cruz, 13.4 percent for Kasich. Trump has a lead of 8,100 votes or so. But only 6 percent of the vote is in.
Let's take a look at the Democratic side. Let's start off in Florida. On the Democratic side, 66, two-thirds of the vote is now in. Hillary Clinton has a very impressive lead, 65.6 percent, 32.1 percent for Bernie Sanders, 214 delegates are at stake for the Democrats in Florida. They don't close all the polls until the top of the hour.
In Ohio, less than 1 percent of the vote is in. Hillary Clinton has the lead there over Bernie Sanders, 68.1 percent to 30.6 percent. Only about 11,000 or 12,000 votes are in. Her lead is 4,400 votes in Ohio right now.
In North Carolina, the polls are closed there. The votes are coming in significantly, 10 percent of the vote is in. It just changed, 62.1 percent for Hillary Clinton, 34.5 percent for Bernie Sanders, 10 percent of the vote is in. She's got a lead of almost 34,000 votes in North Carolina right now.
We're waiting for all the polls to be closed right at the top of the hour. We're waiting for Florida, for all of the polls in Florida to be closed. We'll see if we can make projections. We'll take a quick break. We'll be right back.
[19:52:43] BLITZER: All right. Let's get right to a key race alert right now. We'll update you on votes that have officially come in so far.
We'll start in Florida on the Republican side. Look at this huge lead that Donald Trump has over Marco Rubio, 65 percent of the vote is in. Trump with 46.1 percent. Rubio at 26.7 percent. Cruz 16.3 percent.
Trump is ahead by almost 300,000 votes in Florida. Remember, on the Republican side, it's 99 delegates at stake, winner-take-all. Big win potentially for Donald Trump tonight.
In Ohio 1 percent of the vote is in, Kasich the governor has a lead over Donald Trump 40 percent to 35.7 percent. Cruz in third place with 15.1 percent. But it's early. Only lead of 840 votes in Ohio. Sixty-six delegates on the Republican side at stake.
North Caroli right now, 9 percent of the vote is in. Trump maintains his lead 40.9 percent to Ted Cruz's 33.4 percent. Kasich in third place 12 president 12.6 percent. Trump has a lead in North Carolina right now.
Let's take a look on the Democratic side, update you with a key race alert.
In Florida right now, Hillary Clinton maintains a very impressive lead, 69 percent of the vote is in. She's 65.2 percent. Bernie Sanders only at 32.5 percent. She has a lead of 362,000 votes. Her lead is more than Bernie Sanders has right now. That's in Florida, lots of delegates at stake there.
In Ohio right now, 2 percent of the vote is in. It's beginning to come in. Hillary Clinton maintains a lead there, 66.3 percent, Bernie Sanders, 32.1 percent. She's got a lead of almost 10,000 votes right now in Ohio but it's very, very early.
North Carolina, 13 percent of the vote is in. Hillary Clinton has a lead there, 58.7 percent to 37.9 percent. She's beating Bernie Sanders right now by more than 33,000 votes, 13 percent of the vote in North Carolina is now in.
We're counting down to the top of the hour. That's when the last polling places close on this very important primary night. That's when we may be able to project winners in Florida, Illinois, and Missouri. Here's what we're looking for. We just saw Donald Trump has a strong
lead in early votes in Florida. He's hoping to deliver a knockout punch to Marco Rubio in the senator's home state. Hillary Clinton also is counting on turning her large lead in Florida into a win.
[19:50:02] Bernie Sanders is looking at Missouri as a state where he may be able to score a new upset victory.
Let's go back to Jake.
TAPPER: Thanks, Wolf.
All eyes are on the front-runners, of course, and their leads in Florida.
Let's go to Jim Acosta who is in Donald Trump headquarters in Palm Beach, Florida.
And, Jim, we're just minutes away from possibly calling the state of Florida, but Donald Trump is not waiting for the media to call the state. He has already declared victory.
ACOSTA: That's right, Jake. He's already declared victory on a tweet that he sent out about 20 minutes ago so he's way ahead of all the news organizations but he probably has a right to. It looks like this is going to a big night for Donald Trump in Florida.
I can tell you from talking to top Trump officials here in the state, you know, they say, yes, Trump has big-name recognition, big name identification across the state. Consider all the properties that he has here, the tens of billions of dollars that are generated at those properties, the thousands of people who are employed at those properties like the one we're in right now, Mar-A-Lago, in West Palm Beach.
You know, that is one reason why they say Donald Trump almost feels like Florida is a home-state advantage for him despite the fact this is Marco Rubio's home state. You know, he also is very heavily connected and invested in local Republican parties across the state. He's going to be dining with the Palm Beach GOP later on this week, just one example of that, Jake.
TAPPER: All right, Jim Acosta.
Let's go from the Republican front-runner in Palm Beach to the Democratic front-runner in West Palm Beach, and that's where we find Brianna Keilar with the Clinton campaign -- Brianna.
KEILAR: Hi there, Jake. Looking at this big lead, this is certainly what the Clinton campaign has expected. They expect a big win here. That's why Hillary Clinton is in West Palm Beach and emphasizing the state of Florida.
The campaign is saying that they're looking tonight from Florida as they expect this to be announced in her favor, towards Arizona actually where they think they'll be able to make the case that if she can carry the favor of a diverse electorate here in Florida, she'll be able to do the same in Arizona and you can see the crowd getting very excited here in Florida. CNN is playing on the big screen.
Wolf, to you.
BLITZER: All right, Brianna, thanks very much.
I want to go back to John King.
John, the top of the hour we may be able to start making projections on CNN.
KING: And, certainly, if you look at the map the way it's filling in right now, North Carolina and Florida of our contest tonight, let's go back to Florida. And, look, 69 percent of the vote counted, fast count in Florida. And if you're in the Marco Rubio war-room and looking at these numbers, that's incredibly steep math to look up when you're at 70 percent of the vote.
Donald Trump filling in the map everywhere except Marco Rubio's home, this is Miami-Dade County, Marco Rubio is from West Miami, 75 percent of the vote in there. Marco Rubio with a healthy lead back home here. If you look at the rest of the state, it's quite bleak. I was talking to people earlier today who said, Wolf, actually Marco Rubio a couple weeks back got warnings from friends that the Florida operation wasn't in top shape, checked in his staff and told him not to worry.
If the results keep up like this tonight, you can imagine Senator Rubio not a happy camper. The conversation now, is can he stay on if the numbers hold up and has a disappointing huge loss in his home state in the expectation is that will not be the case.
If you flip over to the Democratic side, you look at this -- this is filling in just as Hillary Clinton would have liked it. It's a big basket of delegates. She's winning just about everywhere. Some Bernie Sanders support up in the northern part of the state, working class areas up there. Hillary Clinton right now with 76 percent of the vote in at 65 percent looking very strong there.
Let's take a quick peek at North Carolina -- like Florida, a key general election battleground. What's so interesting about tonight, Florida, North Carolina, Ohio, three of the big states will be contested come November, up tonight. Again, the early map, 16 percent, now 17 percent in North Carolina, 58 percent to 38 percent filling in just as Hillary Clinton would like it, especially in the areas where she's counting on a high percentage of African-American turnout, Mecklenburg County, 66 percent of that. So, that map looking very good for Hillary Clinton at the moment.
Let's switch over and look at the Republican race. Right now senator Cruz in at second place. You see him filling in in here, if Cruz is to compete in North Carolina, this is where you'll see it, 13 percent of the vote counted. Beginning to fill in for Donald Trump only at 13 percent.
Let's shift quickly to battleground Ohio. See the purple there. That's John Kasich for the first time, he is leading a state in this campaign, his home state. He's the Republican governor, of course, 8 percent of the vote counted, 45 percent to 31 percent. This would be a win for Kasich if these numbers hold up. They'd keep him in the race. A lot of questions about where he goes next.
But, certainly, in the home state contest tonight, Kasich ahead in the early returns. Marco Rubio well behind, decision time in Rubio campaign headquarters. In the Kasich campaign tonight, Wolf, they're thinking if we get a win here, what's our spring board, where do we go from it?
And the early results in Ohio just 8 percent, this is a state Bernie Sanders is hoping for tonight. The early results will cause cheer in the Clinton campaign headquarters -- but a lot of votes to count, Wolf.
BLITZER: At the top of the hour, all the polls will be closed and we got some critical information to release to all of our viewers. Stand by. We've got some major projections to deliver at the top of the hour which is right now.