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Wisconsin Polls Closing Shortly; Polls In Wisconsin Closing Momentarily. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired April 5, 2016 - 20:00   ET



[20:00:09] WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: One state is about to make a big impact on the presidential race.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: It's a heated battle for delegates and for momentum as the campaign enters a critical new phase.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER (voice-over): In the Midwest right now, both presidential front-runners in tough new fights.

HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We got to finish the job and get the nomination.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: Against opponents with new momentum.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: What I want, Wisconsin to win it for me, OK?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: Will there be new upsets in this unsettled campaign? It's Wisconsin's choice. Tonight, in the fight for the GOP nomination --

TRUMP: If I'm nice, I will be presidential, but I'm going to lose, right?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: Donald Trump embroiled in a series of new controversies giving fresh fuel to his opponents.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Nominating Donald Trump would be a train wreck.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: Ted Cruz aiming for a Wisconsin win to slow down Trump. While John Kasich defies both his rivals by refusing to call it quits.

GOV. JOHN KASICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Donald Trump said that I need to get out of the race because I'm getting his voters. I'm going to get a heck of lot of his voters.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: In the Democratic race tonight --

CLINTON: We actually have to do something, not just complain about what is happening.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: Hillary Clinton trading new barbs with Bernie Sanders as he works to extend his new winning streak.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: With your support here in Wisconsin, we have a path toward victory.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: Now, it's time for voters to have their say.

CLINTON: Let's face it, on the Republican side, what we're hearing is truly scary.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: The pressure building as both sides look beyond the primaries.

TRUMP: If she gets in, Hillary's going to be a total disaster.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: Wisconsin is choosing. Dozens of delegates are on the line. And the campaign trail is taking new twists. Right now.


COOPER: And you're looking at live picture of polling place outside Milwaukee, Wisconsin. It's a state where both parties' front-runners may be vulnerable right now.

Welcome to our viewers in the United States and watching around the world. I'm Anderson Cooper in the CNN election center with a special edition of "AC 360."

The two Democrats and three Republicans in the presidential race are all competing in Wisconsin right now. These are open primaries which can be unpredictable to say the least. There could be surprises tonight. We are less than an hour away from the end of voting. We will have our first chance to project winners once the polls actually close.

For the Republicans, Ted Cruz appears to have the advantage tonight leading Donald Trump and John Kasich in pre-primary polling. This is an important new test for Donald Trump after a very turbulent week for his campaign. The outcome will help determine whether he clinches the nomination outright or faces a contested Republican convention. Forty-two GOP delegates are on the line tonight. The winner will get at least half of those delegates, but could win them all depending on how widespread the victory is.

The Democrats are bracing for a close contest tonight. Bernie Sanders has a slim edge over Hillary Clinton and momentum from winning five out of the last six states. There is a new chance for Sanders to make a dent in Clinton's large lead in the delegate race. Eighty-six Democratic delegates are up for grabs tonight. They'll be split proportionately between the candidates based on the results.

Let's go to Wolf Blitzer. BLITZER: Anderson, thank you. We have our correspondents following

all the presidential candidates' campaigns tonight. Let's go to Sara Murray. She is covering Donald Trump for us right now.

So Sara, what's the latest over there?

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: Well, Wolf, as Anderson pointed out, Donald Trump is coming off a tough week and is hoping to turn that around with a surprise win tonight in Wisconsin. But his advisers are downplaying expectations there and trying to turn the stakes around on Ted Cruz.

I spoke to his campaign manager Corey Lewandowski who told me I think all the pressure in the state of Wisconsin is on Ted Cruz to win saying if he doesn't sweep in Wisconsin, he is almost mathematically eliminated from clinching the nomination.

But look, the anti-Trump forces look at how Trump will perform tonight and say if he loses, this is a kink in his armor, a sign he cannot bring along white working class voters in the Midwest. And if he can't do it in a primary, he can't do it in a general election.

Now, looking at Trump's organization here in Wisconsin, it's pretty scant. He has about two offices. Politicos on the ground say there's not much there. And the Trump campaign as usual has been unconventional in how they recruit their volunteers even taking to reddit to bring some people in in the run-up to the primary. We'll see if it pays off tonight, Wolf.

BLITZER: We certainly will. All right, Sara. Thanks very much.

Let's check in with Sunlen Serfaty. She is covering the Cruz campaign for us. What's the latest over there, Sunlen?

SUNLEN SERFATY, NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, Ted Cruz is the only Republican candidate tonight to be holding a formal election night watching party that's much more elaborate than usual for Ted Cruz election night setup. Really projecting a big sign of confidence for him tonight here in Wisconsin.

But Ted Cruz is also sending a very clear message tonight to Donald Trump and that message is game on in New York. After speaking here tonight, Ted Cruz will fly to New York and he will then be campaigning over the next 48 hours on Donald Trump's home turf holding the events in the Bronx, and an event Thursday outside of Albany. The Cruz campaign does not want to cede New York to Donald Trump and they feel confident about their grassroots team that is already in place on the ground in New York. They also feel good about the fact that New York awards delegates on a congressional district-by-congressional- district basis, something that speaks to Ted Cruz's organizational skill - Wolf.

[20:05:47] BLITZER: All right. Sunlen, thanks very much.

Let's go to Jake Tapper and Dana Bash - Jake.


And Dana, one of the things that I'm going to be looking for this evening is the margins because as we know, this is really becoming a race for every single delegate, both on the Republican side and the Democratic side. Donald Trump right now has a 266-delegate lead nationally. Now, Wisconsin only offers 42 delegates, but the question is, if Ted Cruz wins, which he may win, is he going to get all those 42? Is he going to get some of those 42?

Every single one of them is crucial especially if Donald Trump wants to walk into the Republican convention with enough delegates because it is becoming increasingly likely that that might not happen.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's exactly right. And talking as the day progressed today to people who are in the never-Trump movement, helping spend a lot of money in Wisconsin and obviously elsewhere before. And that you'll see them spend money in the future. They have been, liked you can almost hear them biting their nails on the phone because they are so nervous for the reason you just said because Wisconsin is so important. Not so much for Trump, but for the anti-Trump movement. If they don't do what they hope and think they're going to do here, have Ted Cruz really run up the delegates, it's going to be much harder to stop Donald Trump.

TAPPER: And it's going to -- in a lot of ways this is the last attempt by the never-Trump movement because they had on their-

BASH: Last ground.

TAPPER: Yes. They had on their side the incumbent governor, Scott Walker who is very popular with Republican voters. There is more than $2 million in Superpac dollars being dropped in negative ads on Donald Trump. If Donald Trump somehow wins the day here, never-Trump is really going to have some, you know, some soul-searching to do.

BASH: That's exactly right. And that's another important point to underscore as we go into the coverage of this evening which is Wisconsin is not really Donald Trump territory for a whole host of reasons. Whether it is the fact that it is highly educated, comparatively, and the fact that the electorate just kind of tends to not be his voters. So this is a place where Ted Cruz should win. If Donald Trump comes close to Ted Cruz or picks off more than a couple of congressional districts in the north, that will be perceived as a big setback for the never-Trump movement because expectations are so low for him now.

TAPPER: And then, of course, Anderson, there's the Democratic race. Big question in the Democratic race is will Bernie Sanders win this evening and will he win decisively? He needs those delegates, too if he is to make his case at the Democratic convention.

COOPER: That's right. Of course, New York comes next and a lot of competition there between Sanders and Clinton already there.

Coming up tonight, will tonight's results bring Republicans closer to that contested convention, the delegate race? And the first results out of Wisconsin just ahead on this special

edition of "AC 360."


[20:12:29] BLITZER: Only about 47 minutes away from the polls closing in the state of Wisconsin. This could be a pivotal moment, a pivotal moment especially in the Republican race for the White House.

Let's go over to John King over at the magic wall.

They are trying desperately to get to that magic number 1,237 delegates need. Depending on what happens in Wisconsin, that could be critically important for all of these candidates.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And if Donald Trump can win tonight, it makes his math a bit easier as he tries to get to the magic number of 1,237. He is the only candidate with a plausible scenario to get there. So if you're Ted Cruz, you're trying to win tonight to stop Donald Trump from getting here and then increase the odds of an open convention and hope you have the hot hand as we fill out the remain primaries.

So let's just look at the math. And Donald Trump's number, we have it at 740, that's because Wisconsin we haven't officially sorted out yet. The Cruz campaign deciding whether to contest Wisconsin -- Missouri, I'm sorry. Missouri. But Donald Trump is about to pick up, probably has a few more than we give him. So let's give him those.

Now, we look at the state tonight. If Trump can do this, win statewide, win most of the congressional districts, the stop-Trump movement, Wolf, after spending so much time, so much money in this one standalone state tonight, what a message that would send if Donald Trump could surprise us tonight and win Wisconsin. Most people expect Ted Cruz will win tonight. Under this scenario, we give him 36 of the 42.

Let's say Donald Trump wins two congressional districts. There are two in the northern part of the state where he thought he might have good chances. Let's say it turns out to be something like this. So then you're still looking -- Ted Cruz hasn't done all that much with the math here but he would have momentum. Look. You see Donald Trump winning here, Donald Trump winning here, Donald Trump winning here. For Ted Cruz the message would be I stopped you in the Midwest. I won a key battleground state. And then we come east. If you look here you would be inclined to think this map favors Donald Trump more than Ted Cruz.

But what Cruz is hoping is for a big victory tonight to give some momentum. The next contest in Donald Trump's home state. If Donald Trump wins them all, well then Wisconsin won't feel so bad. But Ted Cruz is hoping that he can come into New York after where he has won here and taken the delegates and then he comes into New York and maybe Donald Trump wins but you keep him lower and split the delegates.

And so, it's about math and momentum tonight. Right now as we have this conversation, Donald Trump needs 56 percent about of the remaining delegates to get to 1,237. If he gets shut out in Wisconsin tonight, that math gets more difficult. That's why tonight is so important.

BLITZER: Tonight's important. And two weeks from tonight the New York state primary. And if he gets more than 50 percent, Trump in his home state of New York, that would be a huge bonanza for him.

KING: Fifty percent state wide then 50 percent of the congressional districts to get them all. The Trump campaign believes he can do that. They believe they can win them all in New York. But a setback tonight could alter the momentum.

[20:15:03] BLITZER: All right. Anderson, back to you.

COOPER: Yes, very exciting hours ahead. A lot to watch for. Let's start with our panel of analysts and reporters.

David Axelrod, both on the Democratic side and Republican side, who are you watching tonight over the next few hours?

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think some of this we talked about already, obviously how Trump fairs and whether you can make it more remote he can get to the 1,237. It is one of the stories about Trump. The other is have the hits of the last few weeks taken a toll on his --

COOPER: Right. Or is it wishful thinking?

AXELROD: And I think that is going to be important in terms of projecting forward. On the Democratic side, this is becoming a real issue of math and given the Democratic Party rules, Bernie Sanders would have to turn in a surprisingly large victory tonight to begin to send a signal that maybe he can turn this dynamic around because right now there seems to be an inexorable movement toward Clinton's nomination.

COOPER: You don't think any size victory is enough for Bernie Sanders to start that conversation?

AXELROD: Well, I think no. What I am saying is, you know, if he were to win some dramatic margin in Wisconsin, I think people will begin that conversation, will give him a push-off to there's Wyoming in between, but New York which is the big one coming up. But if he wins a modest victory here, I think that the dynamic doesn't change.

COOPER: Gloria?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: It's the way the delegates are proportioned because the Democrats are so democratic.

AXELROD: Yes. We want everybody to go home happy. Yes.

BORGER: So that even if Bernie Sanders were to win tonight by a sizable margin, he wouldn't gain enough delegates to really make a huge dent at all in Hillary Clinton's formidable lead. On the Republican side, I think if Cruz wins, and he wins by more than

ten points, I think, you know, we're looking at a contested convention here. I think that he's got to do it and Trump can say, you know, this state wasn't hospitable to me in the first place, I didn't expect to win. And if Trump gets over, you know, gets around 35 points, he will be performing the way we thought he was going to perform, but we could be at a brokered convention.

COOPER: I want to hear from Nia and Michael in just a moment. We have to take a quick break. We are closing in on our first chance to project the winners in Wisconsin. Much more election coverage ahead.


[20:21:30] BLITZER: Once again, we are now less than 40 minutes away from the polls closing in Wisconsin. We will see what we can project at that time.

On the Democratic side, very, very close race. I want to go over to John King over at the magic wall. By all accounts in Wisconsin could be very close.

KING: Could be close. A state with a progressive tradition, Bernie Sanders hoping to tap into that as we watch the results come in tonight. This is about momentum for Bernie sander Bernie Sanders. He comes in with the wins out in west, Alaska, Hawaii, momentum at his back. But the math still in Secretary Clinton's favor. You see right now, these are just pledged delegates. We will keep the superdelegates out of this for now, 1259 to 1020. So she comes in with a 239 lead, 239 pledged delegate lead into the night.

Let's just assume, well, this is why it's so hard for Bernie Sanders to the point David Axelrod was making a few minutes ago. Even if Bernie Sanders wins Wisconsin tonight, right, he certainly wants that win tonight, let's say he wins by 10 points, 55-45, if that happens, cuts eight delegates off her lead. That's the big problem for Bernie Sanders. He needs to start winning, of course, to catch up. But he needs to start winning 60-40, 70-30 especially in the states with large pools of delegates.

Let's assume for the sake of argument, Sanders does that, win tonight 55-45, cuts eight delegates off her league, then we come into, just like Donald Trump, New York would be Hillary Clinton's, what she believes to be her home state firewall, right? So if she could win again -- if she's winning 55-45 by 10 points, she goes back up to 256, she stretches out her lead.

And even if senator Sanders won tonight 55-45 and came into New York and shocked Hillary Clinton winning 55-45, he closes the lead but 55- 45 is not good enough for Senator Sanders. Let me show you something. Bernie Sanders -- this is a hypothetical. He won everything left on the wall, 55-45. He doesn't catch up. Now, she would be short of the 23-83, you need to win at the convention. There are would be a huge crisis in the Democratic Party about how this happened. But this, I just show this for the example, how hard the math is for senator Sanders, that even if he won everything left which isn't going to happen, even the Sanders campaign tells you that's not going to happen. There is some plenty of states here Hillary Clinton has favored in. But it shows you the challenge of the math and the democratic rules that he can't win 55-45. He has to start winning as you come back here, he has to go into some of the states and win 60- 45, win 70-30. It's the only way to make up the math.

BLITZER: That doesn't even include the superdelegates. But she has a firewall by all accounts. She has a lot more superdelegates than he does.

KING: You bring them in, that's what happens. She way out here with the superdelegates she has as of today. Now, they can switch their mind. If Bernie Sanders started winning, winning, winning, winning, some of them would change their mind. But at the moment, the dynamic of the race, that's why he has to keep winning but then also win by bigger margins to get closer in the pledged delegate count to make some of these people nervous. Otherwise, Hillary Clinton has 483 at the moment to his 31 in the superdelegates. That's a nice thing to have your back pocket as long as she keeps the momentum.

BLITZER: Still another 200 superdelegates who are undecided as of now. And those superdelegates, until they stand up on the convention floor, they can change their mind relatively easily.

KING: They can. Which is why for the most part we like to count it this way with the pledged delegates. But it is just a fact of life that as long as she keeps winning, as long as she has momentum, she does have those superdelegates in her back pocket.

BLITZER: Week from Thursday, April 14th, CNN will host the next presidential debate. That will be a Democratic debate, Anderson, we will host in Brooklyn.

COOPER: That's right. Being moderated by a very young, talented reporter by the name of Wolf Blitzer I believe. So we're looking forward to --

BLITZER: I have heard of him.

COOPER: Looking forward to that. Nia-Malika Henderson, what are you looking for tonight?

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Yes. I think the coalitions, who do they look like on both sides? In terms of the Democrat, Hillary Clinton hasn't done well with white male voters. Is she able to do better with that constituency? You see Bernie Sanders has struggled with African-American voters. It won't be a tunnel back to American voters, something maybe like 10 or 12, 13 percent in this electorate. How does he do with that?

And then on the Republican side, is Ted Cruz able to hold on with evangelicals? You have seen Donald Trump do well with evangelicals, and then those blue-collar voters, is he able to do well, Ted Cruz, with those blue-collar voters in then I think the emergence of Scott Walker has been fascinating in this race. He has been so pivotal to this never-Trump movement. [20:25:35] COOPER: Obviously the governor of Wisconsin.

HENDERSON: The governor of Wisconsin cut a really great ad I thought that was really effective for Ted Cruz. If Ted Cruz wins, it's going to have a lot to do with Scott Walker's voice and help. He's been out on the stump a lot with him tweeting about him all the time. And he has been able to I think show good contrast with Donald Trump going after him but not in a nasty way. So it will be interesting to see how he emerges and if he can be kind of a sort of national leader of this never-Trump movement.

COOPER: Michael Smerconish, you know radio better than anyone, radio in Wisconsin, not national radio, but Wisconsin talk radio has been --


COOPER: Yes, very engaged. And Donald Trump has had a tough time winning over a lot of them.

SMERCONISH: Yes, no doubt. And it's just one of I think several factors that that don't bode well for him tonight. In my view, this evening begins the final chapter. It's the spring chapter that goes up until the stage of the convention. And Donald Trump's got to close this deal because I don't believe, Anderson, if he can't get to 1,237 before Cleveland, I don't think he comes out of Cleveland with 1,237. And the dynamics just don't favor him. When you look at New York which had a rule change a year ago, when you look at Pennsylvania, my home state, Jeffrey's home state, it's really two-thirds of the delegates there are not committed.

These are party regulars. These are committee people who are being rewarded. Their allegiance is going to be to the GOP, not necessarily to a particular candidate. And I don't think on ballot two, three, four through infinity, they suddenly come around to Donald Trump. So he needs to get there.

COOPER: We're going to take a quick break as we count down to the first results tonight. We're getting some new clues about the outcome from our exit polls. We'll look at that, the numbers coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [20:31:12] COOPER: Welcome back to this special edition of "AC360" on primary night in Wisconsin. A very exciting night, polls close a little bit under 29 minutes from now. We hope to get some numbers as soon as they do that we can give to you but we'll be watching that very, very closely to give a sense of which way the night is going for Republican candidates as well as the Democratic candidates. Right now let's go back to Jake Tapper. Jake?

TAPPER: Thanks, Anderson. One of the things we try to do as we bring you election night coverage is not only to tell you how you are voting, but also why you are voting the way you are.

So let's look at the exit polls right now with our political director David Chalian who is in the CNN election center. And David, how are the Republican voters who are going to the polls today, how are they feeling about the country, how are they feeling about their party?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yeah, this electorate, this Republican electorate in Wisconsin tonight, Jake, is a little different. It's not quite as fiery a Republican electorate as we've seen in some of the other contests this season thus far.

Take a look at this. We asked people how they feel about the Federal government. You see here that 53 percent say they're dissatisfied, 32 percent say they're angry. If that number holds, and these numbers can change throughout the evening, but if that number holds, Jake, that is on par to be the lowest level of anger that we've seen from any Republican electorate.

We also asked them, "Do you feel betrayed by your Republican leaders?" 51 percent say yes, and that is a simple majority there of Republicans saying they do feel betrayed by their own party's leaders. 46 percent say no. But that, again, is on the lower end of the scale that we've seen, so it's a less angry, less betrayed Republican electorate tonight which, you know, those are attributes if you are in the "Never Trump" movement, you probably see a lot of good news in those numbers.

TAPPER: Interesting. David Chalian, thanks. And Dana, I guess there probably a few reasons for this. One, the unemployment rate in Wisconsin is lower than the national average although higher in the city of Milwaukee. Two, they have a very popular, very conservative Republican governor who has survived three different statewide contests there. Maybe Republican voters there, a lot of them are feeling things are OK.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah. And the simple fact of the matter is that Ted Cruz is trying to follow Scott Walker, the governor's playbook electorally to the nth degree, you know, because they have in their not so recent past this experience in winning as Scott Walker says over and over again three times in four years. And so, I was in Wisconsin last week and particularly in suburban Milwaukee, that is very Republican, very much Walker country.

TAPPER: You're referring to crucial Waukesha County?

BASH: Crucial Waukesha County, you just like saying Waukesha, don't you?

TAPPER: Yeah. But they -- but, what were you saying about the voters?

BASH: No, no, that they're -- that those are typical Walker voters, traditional Republican voters in Wisconsin and those are the voters Cruz -- that's who Cruz is appealing to.

TAPPER: And we're going to be looking, Anderson, this evening for the results in crucial Waukesha County.

COOPER: Oh, and well, John King knows a lot about Waukesha and will zero in on Waukesha as soon as we can get to Waukesha.

Jeffrey Lord, you know, I talked to over the last week or so a number of talk radio people in Wisconsin who universally, they all were, I shouldn't say, opposed to Donald Trump, were not fans of Donald Trump, but said they didn't feel that Donald Trump got Wisconsin, that he understood the sort of Wisconsin nice, the sort of civility that they believe is part of the DNA of voters there.

Do you think that that's true? Do you think his personality is ...

JEFFREY LORD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Of course, it's possible. But I mean, I say this as somebody who's -- most of his family is from New York. And New York is the culture in and of itself, people are fairly blunt spoken, plain spoken.

[20:35:00] It's a different sort of approach and it is not Midwestern nice. They're nice in their own fashion, but it's a different cultural experience here, so I can perfectly understand that it might not be exactly the kind of fit. He might have had the same problem in Iowa although he did fairly well in Iowa.


LORD: But, you know, the curious thing, every four years we adjust to a potential president who comes from somewhere in America. I remember when Jimmy Carter was teaching America how to drain a pond, you know, and finally eventually a lot of Northerners voted for Jimmy Carter. So, you know, it's a learning experience to some degree and maybe this is not what

COOPER: What are you going to be watching for tonight particularly in the exit polls, in the numbers as they come out?

LORD: Well, I want to see how the trade issue plays out. I mean think that is very important going on, period.

COOPER: We've already seen in exit polls tonight that David Chalian showed us several hours ago on both the Republican and Democratic side, a lot of suspicion, a lot of dislike of trade agreements.

LORD: Right, right. I mean that there is a significance of this that goes beyond Wisconsin. I mean, this is going to go all the way to the convention, as we discussed before, the platform. What is the Republican platform going to say? One of the folk, the groups that was anti-Trump here was pouring all this money in was the club for growth. You know very free trade. So they're pouring all this money in. We get to a convention and this becomes an issue with a lot of delegates. It's going to be a big deal.

COOPER: I want to get more from our panelists on this. But we do need to take a quick break on this special edition of "360" question ahead, will Wisconsin surprise us tonight? We'll get a better sense very soon when the polls close at the top of the hour. A lot more ahead.


[20:40:32] COOPER: Welcome to this primary night edition of "AC 360." polls close in the State of Wisconsin in less than 20 minutes, 19 minutes and 30 seconds. We're hoping to get numbers just at the top of the hour as soon as polls close. Obviously going to bring those to you. Back to our commentators, S.E. Cupp, in terms of what you're looking for on the Republican side.

S.E. CUPP, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, look, I think this -- primary is going to be a referendum less on Wisconsin demographics and whether they're nice people, and more on Trump's very, very bad week. I mean, we've all mentioned it, but let's just examine exactly what he's been dealing with. It is an impressive tower of crap that he's been staring at for the past week even for Trump.


CUPP: Who has survived quite a bit?

COOPER: Was that an impressive tower of

CUPP: Of crap. I mean even -- for Trump. He's had to clean up the abortion comments, he's had this leaked memo trying to give the campaign a pep talk about its very bad week. There was the Heidi Cruz apology and then the slew of policy proposals that have been, I mean rowdily mocked.

COOPER: Do you think it actually did real damage? I mean, being mocked by pundits on T.V. hasn't really amounted to much for Donald Trump.

CUPP: I know it's done damage because he has changed his campaign M.O. He has apologized for the first time that I can remember.

COOPER: Although in exit polls tonight already David Chalian has shown a lot of folks have made up their mind earlier as opposed to just in the last couple of days.

CUPP: In that may be. In that may be. And, so it might not be a referendum on today's tower of crap, but, you know, the past week has been a really bad one for Donald Trump. And ...

COOPER: You can just say TOC from now on, by the way.

CUPP: TOC. Tower of Crap. I mean even on the substance, on the substance of his policies, the fact that she's offering substance and hasn't had to in the past, shows he's trying to switch the playbook because it's not been working for him this past week.

DONNA BRAZILE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: He's had a wall of controversy. He's had a wall of controversy. But, you know, he is still the frontrunner on the Republican side. And unless the Republican electorate decide to turn against him which I think there's some evidence that they're now turning against him, Donald Trump will still walk into Cleveland, fly into Cleveland with the bulk of the Republican delegates.

I mean, just look at the math. Look at the remaining states. I don't want to take John's job away from him because he's doing such a great job at the wall. You put me up against the wall, I would have to fight you.

But the truth is, is Donald Trump is the frontrunner and if they want to take it away from him, they're going to have to learn how to steal. On the democratic side, we have a big night as well. And that's amazing because out of night tonight we'll have a little bit to say.

We're looking at turnout, of course, in Milwaukee County in Dane County which is Madison, and Green Bay. That's 17 percent. So 17 percent Green Bay, and 61 percent. President Obama won big last time. Senator Sanders should have a good night. Will it be a big, big night? He needs big upsets right now. And without a big upset, we're going to see a very long, protracted, but Secretary Clinton will continue to accumulate delegates as well.

COOPER: And Paul?

PAUL BEGALA, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Yeah. I'm not at all sure that the tower of damage is hurting him.

COOPER: Right.

BEGALA: Hurting Trump. It doesn't mean that he wins. I went back and looked at all the previous primaries. He consistently, Mr. Trump, consistently hits between 35 and 45 state after state after state. Really interesting. Very little, actually, regional differences.

Now, he may not win, but until he gets below 35, the bigger problem is this. In this is in the exit polling. Over a third of Republicans, Republicans in Wisconsin primary today, say if Trump is the nominee, I can't support him.

Guess what, the same percentage says if Cruz is the nominee, they can't support him, either. This is a party coming apart. That's the problem is that the party is fracturing and I think it may be irreconcilable when they get to Cleveland. That's a far bigger problem, frankly, than whether Cruz wins today or Trump wins today.

LORD: It is a problem.

COOPER: How much of tonight is a referendum, S.E. would say it's a referendum on Donald Trump and his, perhaps, a bad week. How much of this is a referendum on Ted Cruz and his ability to be strong coming into the convention?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: It is, it's a referendum on both to answer your questions. For Cruz has to prove that he can win somewhere and win somewhere big that's out of his comfort zone. And Wisconsin's out of his comfort zone. There are Evangelicals, it's not a huge number of Evangelicals. There's lot of suburban establishment Republican voters that that he should he wants to win.

[20:45:07] I don't know why they're not going to John Kasich or shouldn't go to John Kasich, but that's a whole other question. And for Trump, I mean, if you look at the early exit polls, this question of whether this last two weeks of garbage has ...

CUPP: You're all prudes tonight. That's so fun.

BEGALA: It's early.

COOPER: It's early.

LORD: It's early.

COOPER: Wait until the midnight hour.

BORGER: ... has affected him. If you look at the early exit polls, he doesn't seem to be having a huge gender number. You know, he's being beaten with women, but, you know, in so far as the number of women he normally attracts versus his gender number now as we see it early, it doesn't seem to be much of a problem. That's because Trump supporters are Trump's supporters. Whether he can get over that 35 percent threshold remains to be seen.

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: You know, I actually -- I disagree slightly in that I do think it's I think it's about Trump.


AXELROD: And I think it's about the anti-Trump coalition. What we see in Wisconsin, Michael talked about it, is this very powerful coalition of establishment Republicans led by the governor of talk show hosts who all converged on Donald Trump. So I think that the test is of that coalition, the stop-Trump coalition, the never-Trump coalition. They've been as pointed here as we've seen them in any state.

COOPER: Yeah. We are just about 13 or so minutes away from the first results in Wisconsin. When we could reveal one or perhaps both winners. It's all after the break.


[20:50:32] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: We're closing in on the top of the hour, that's when the polls close in Wisconsin. We'll have a chance potentially to project the winners of tonight's primaries in the Republican race. Will Donald Trump face a new loss to Ted Cruz, or will the GOP frontrunner bounce back from a series of controversies? And we're standing by to find out.

In the Democratic race, Hillary Clinton is facing a tough fight against Bernie Sanders tonight. That will he add to this recent winning streak as the primary race heads into the homestretch? By the end of the evening, half of all the Democratic delegates will have been awarded. That makes it tough for Bernie Sanders to close the large gap with Hillary Clinton in the delegate race.

On the Republican side, 2/3 of all of the delegates will be assigned after tonight as the party moves closer and closer to what's likely to be a contested convention in Cleveland. Let's go to Jake right now.

TAPPER: Thanks, Wolf. Our correspondents are covering all the campaigns tonight. They're digging for new information. Let's start off with Sara Murray who's in New York covering the Trump campaign.

And Sara, Donald Trump in Wisconsin talking about how it felt right to him. It felt like New Hampshire, it felt like South Carolina, places where he won. But behind the scenes, his senior adviser is setting a different kind of expectations.

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Yeah, that's absolutely right, Jake. They have been lowering expectations and part of that is because in Wisconsin, they have faced, you know, this anti-Trump movement and this anti-Trump movement isn't planning on stopping, they are vowing to go all the way to the convention.

And one of the things that we are learning is the leaders of an anti- Trump Super PAC were actually in New York today where they were holding private meetings with high-dollar donors and with business leaders. The point of these meetings is to try to ensure that they have the resources they need to take this fight all the way to the convention in Cleveland and try to prevent Donald Trump from clinching the nomination.

Now, one of the things that they are trying to do tonight in Wisconsin is to keep Donald Trump below this 15-delegate threshold. You know, a person who is familiar with these meetings, who's familiar with this strategy says that if they can keep Trump below 15 delegates in Wisconsin that it is possible to keep him from clinching the nomination in Cleveland, Jake.

TAPPER: And that's exactly what's at stake, so much at stake in Wisconsin. But can they keep Donald Trump from getting the crucial 1,237 delegates?

Now let's go to Jeff Zeleny who is with the other frontrunner, Hillary Clinton, on the Democratic side, also in New York. And Jeff, the Clinton team definitely very much setting expectations low for her results in Wisconsin.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: No doubt about that, Jake. And that's all because of Michigan. You'll remember several weeks ago when they lost the state of Michigan, the campaign did not, sort of, telegraph how difficult that would be. That's what they've done from the very beginning here, say how difficult the state of Wisconsin is going to be.

But if you're wondering where Secretary Hillary Clinton is at this hour, she's not in Wisconsin, she's not in a state that's going down the line, she was -- she's been in the Bronx holding a fund-raiser. There are 15 million reasons why. Bernie Sanders raised $44 million during the month of March. She raised some $29 million. That is the blunt reality here that they have to keep raising primary money here. Even though she's completely far ahead in the delegate hunt, they have to keep this race alive and keep raising money.

But she will not be holding an event tonight. She'll not be speaking tonight. She'll be going back to her home in Chappaqua to watch these results come in. Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Jeff Zeleny with the Clinton campaign in New York. And let's bring back our political director, David Chalian who's in the CNN election room.

David, you have some more results from the exit polls. What are they telling you?

CHALIAN: I do. Also, we're back on the Republican side here, Jake. We're taking a look at exactly what you all been talking about, Donald Trump, if this is indeed going to a contested convention, how did Wisconsin Republican primary voters feel that this contest should be resolved if nobody gets to 1,237?

Take a look at this. 56 percent of Wisconsin primary voters believe that if you were the winner of most of the primaries and caucuses, you won the most votes heading into the convention, even if short of 1,237 delegates, you should be the nominee. 42 percent say the best candidate should be selected by the delegates at the convention, if, indeed, nobody wins 1,237. Well, that is going to be a big talking point for Donald Trump right there.

TAPPER: Indeed, David. But I have to say and let me bring in Dana Bash, 42 percent of the people who are going to the polls in Wisconsin, that's a minority. But still to me, that seems like a fairly big number of people who say the delegates at the convention should pick the best candidate, not necessarily the winner of the primaries. Am I wrong?

[20:55:00] BASH: No. It is quite a big number, and, you know, you can look at it two ways and I think, you know, if you are the Trump campaign, you look at the 56 percent ...

TAPPER: Sure, of course.

BASH: ... and if you're the Cruz campaign ...

TAPPER: That's clearly the majority. I don't mean to diminish that.

BASH: No, absolutely, 42 percent. But I take your point that, you know, usually over the past what, 40 years, it has been kind of a given that the winner of the primary process would and should get the delegates to get the nomination at the convention. So, I know that that's your point, before that it wasn't -- it was sort of, we don't remember but it wasn't that much of a given.

But the fact that Donald Trump at least according to these exit polls, we'll see how he does, isn't -- this isn't exactly the best electorate for him and even those people are saying 56 percent. 56 percent are saying it should be the nominee is, perhaps, telling as to how steadfast these Republicans are.

TAPPER: Sure and should, I mean, Wisconsin is very important and if he does not have a good night, that's -- Donald Trump, that's a big story. But we should also continue to point out he is still way in the lead in terms of delegates and he's got New York coming up, his home state where he leads significantly in every poll.

BASH: Absolutely. TAPPER: This could be the beginning of a tough time for Donald Trump. This is not the beginning of the end for Donald Trump necessarily.

BASH: I totally agree. And I think that the best way to look at tonight is to flip that around and to say this is a crucial night, not necessarily for Donald Trump but for Ted Cruz.

TAPPER: Right.

BASH: He's got to prove that he's going to do well here so that he can keep going in a robust way. Donald Trump doesn't really have anything to prove in Wisconsin.

TAPPER: Right. And maybe even more broadly, it's a big night for, an important night for, not just Ted Cruz but any non-Trump ...

BASH: That's right.

TAPPER: ... or the "Never-Trump" movement. That's really who the onus is on tonight. Because Donald Trump, no matter what, he's in the lead, he'll live to see another day, he'll live to fight another day, he's got the New York primary coming up. If I were a candidate, I would still rather be him than any of the others. It's the "Never- Trump" forces that really have a lot on the line. Wolf, let me go to you.

BLITZER: All right, thanks very much. About three minutes to go till the top of the hour, John. That's when they close the polling in Wisconsin, set the scene for us. We're going to see what we can project, if anything, at the top of the hour.

JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR, "INSIDE POLITICS": Polls close at the top of the hour. We'll see the map begin to fill in. Let's go back in history a little bit so just to give you the lay of the land of what to look for. Let's go back first to the 2012 Republican presidential primary.

This is before Mitt Romney picked Paul Ryan, remember, this is Paul Ryan's home state. Romney won but 44 percent to 37 percent. Rick Santorum gave Mitt Romney a run for his money in the state. And look at the map, you see so much filled in for Rick Santorum and yet Romney wins. How did he do that? Well, Wolf, more than half of the votes statewide for Republicans is going to come down here in the Milwaukee area.

Let me pull this up for you a little bit, show you what we're looking for here. This is Milwaukee city, itself, Milwaukee County. This is bigger for the Democrats and this for the Republicans but obviously, a big population center, you watch what happens there. Then you come out here, this is Scott Walker's home base, the governor of Wisconsin, the Republican governor of Waukesha, about 7 percent of the population, suburban Republicans very big right here.

You move to the north here, you have Washington County and you move over here, Ozaukee County right there. That's where the Republican based in Wisconsin is. This is critical tonight, Ted Cruz and Donald Trump. We've seen in the past primaries when he was hot and winning, Trump was succeeding in the suburbs.

So let's watch tonight to see if Ted Cruz if he's going to win in Wisconsin he's going to do it down here in the Milwaukee suburbs. Another place to look from the Republican side, even though Madison, one of the most liberal cities in America, this is important in the Republican race, Dane County, because delegates are awarded statewide and then by Congressional district.

So, if you're John Kasich, you're looking to pick up a Congressional district, this is where you're looking to do well down here. And now we want to watch the rural parts of the state, especially up here in the northern tier of the state. Donald Trump's trade message sells best up in here.

If Donald Trump, even if he loses statewide tonight, can he pick up delegates in the Congressional districts? This is where we want to look on the Republican side, the northern part of the state. How does Donald Trump essentially fill in the Rick Santorum map and pick up a couple Congressional districts and went along the line?

BLIZTER: What about the Democrat?

KING: We'll watch that. On the Democratic side, let's go back to 2008 as we look at this and switch it over to the Democratic primary. You see, then-Senator Barack Obama beat Hillary Clinton quite handily here and if you look the lighter blue is then-Senator Obama. He ran it up.

The most important place for the Democrats, let's start in Milwaukee. This is where you have the African American base usually 8 percent or 9 percent, maybe 10 percent of the electorate. Wisconsin Democratic primary, we'll see how it plays out.

Critical to Secretary Clinton tonight to turn out African Americans here. And then you move over here, again, I mentioned this in the Republican side, this for Bernie Sanders is a huge, the University of Wisconsin in Madison, it's the liberal bastion, liberal place in the state where Bernie Sanders wants to turn it out big, about 9 percent of the statewide population.

And then you move out again, if you look at how Obama filled in the map in 2008, that is Bernie Sanders' goal tonight to not only win but to win across the state and, Wolf, of course Democratic proportional rules. So, the margin will affect the delegates if he wins by 10 points, 55-45 percent, pretty even split. If he can win bigger, that would help his math.

BLIZTER: Certainly would. It's going to be critical right at the top of the hour. We're going be watching once the polls close. We'll see what we can project if anything.

[21:00:00] That's coming up right now, we're also going to be releasing the results of our exit polls. Stand by for all of this. We got a key race alert. We are not able to make any projections right now but here are the results based on the CNN exit poll information.