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Wisconsin Votes for Presidential Contenders; Kasich: Contender or Spoiler?; Sanders Campaigns in Wyoming; Clinton Focuses on New York; What's at Stake in Wisconsin? Aired 5-6p ET

Aired April 5, 2016 - 17:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, pivotal primary. Will voters in Wisconsin make Swiss cheese out of Donald Trump's presidential plans? Will it make Hillary Clinton feel the Bern? Or put out this fire? It's all up for grabs tonight.

[17:00:24] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: We have breaking news: the first exit polling just came out. We're crunching the numbers to see who turned out today and what moved them to vote the way they did.

BLITZER: And what's next? Bernie Sanders says if he wins tonight and then in New York, he'll be the next president of the United States. Mapping out each candidate's path to the nomination and beyond. How it all might change after tonight.

COOPER: I'm Anderson Cooper.

BLITZER: And I'm Wolf Blitzer, and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Today only has one primary but for Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, John Kasich, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, this really is Super Tuesday. Truly matters to each of them. And for some, it could make all of the difference in the world.

Wisconsin is where a lot of Republicans are hoping to stop their own front-runner from getting the nomination. It's also where he could practically sew it all up. It's also where Bernie Sanders and his supporters believe they could turn his recent momentum into the makings of a rolling rout. All of this -- all of this in the spotlight right now. There's the back room planning for a contested Republican convention and a Clinton/Sanders slugfest that's shaping up in New York.

Covering it all for us tonight, our team of correspondents across the map and the best experts in the election business.

Up first, let's go to Jim Acosta. He's out there covering the Trump campaign. Jim, what is the latest?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Donald Trump is back in New York right now, but it speaks volumes that he does not have an election watch party scheduled for tonight. He has not done that often. But a come-from-behind victory for Trump here in Wisconsin would have a dramatic impact on this race. It would bolster his calls on John Kasich to drop out.

Now Trump's advisers are shying away from making any predictions or even handicapping the contest here in Wisconsin. And Trump is being cautious about his prospects, saying as much earlier today.

But it's clear who Trump will blame if he loses here in Wisconsin, and that is John Kasich. Trump says Kasich is simply staying in this race to play the role of the spoiler.

Ted Cruz, by the way, he's poised to do something he hasn't done very often, and that's beat Trump in a primary. All of this is about delegates at this point, and if Trump loses big in Wisconsin, Wolf, this race is all but certain to go all the way to the end to California.

I talked to a prominent operative in the "never Trump" movement earlier today who said if Trump is forced to fight this out at the convention, the party simply will not give him the nomination. We should point out, in the coming days, we're hearing from the Trump campaign they're planning a series of policy speeches for the GOP front-runner -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Donald Trump, as you know, Jim, he released a plan today outlining how he intends to make Mexico pay for the border wall. What more can you tell us about this plan?

ACOSTA: That's right. Speaking of one of Donald Trump's policies, this was Trump's answer to his critics, that he lay out a plan to force Mexico pay for the wall on the border.

Essentially, this is Trump saying his administration would start a diplomatic fight with Mexico and demand that they pay the $8 billion to $10 billion to build the wall or risk losing out on some $24 billion in remittances or money transfers that are sent from Mexicans living in the United States back to their relatives in Mexico.

Trump would also go after the visas used by Mexican business travelers.

President Obama earlier today, he slammed all of this, saying that the Trump plan would likely result in economic shockwaves throughout Mexico and send a flood of new Mexican immigrants into the U.S. That's why he called this plan half-baked. I asked for a reaction to the president's comments. And Trump's communications director, Hope Hicks, said the plan speaks for itself -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jim Acosta, thanks very much.

Ted Cruz went into the day leading in many of the polls, bearing the endorsement of Wisconsin's governor and the state's leading conservative talk radio hosts.

Sunlen Serfaty is covering the campaign for us. She's joining us from Milwaukee.

Sunlen, how's the Cruz campaign feeling going into tonight?

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, Cruz campaign officials telling me that they feel strong going into tonight, and certainly everything that they've been doing and everything that they've been saying has been all about projecting confidence.

Senator Cruz himself not shy about making any predictions, not downplaying expectations, saying pint blank that he believes he will win here in Wisconsin tonight.

And notably, Senator Cruz also making this larger argument about what a potential win here in Wisconsin would mean going forward. In a radio interview today, him saying that it's not just about these 42 delegates that he could potentially collect here tonight. It's about the broader implications.

He said that this race will have national repercussions that will send a powerful impact for those states that are coming up in the calendar.

And so, of course, it seems like he's trying to really hype this moment, turning it into something of a tipping point. Of course, Wolf, that strategy carries a lot of risk, a lot of weight to it, because that means that he must win here in Wisconsin -- Wolf.

[17:05:06] BLITZER: Certainly does. All right, Sunlen. Thank you very much.

John Kasich, who's been taking heat from both Trump and Cruz alike to get out of the race or, as Trump would put it, get the hell out; those are his words. Governor Kasich told Anderson last night he's not going anywhere.

He did, however, head back to Ohio to prep for his State of the State address. He is the sitting governor.

Phil Mattingly's covering his campaign from New York, where the governor is hoping to shock the field a couple of weeks from tonight. Phil, Kasich can't reach that magic number of delegates needed to win the nomination anymore. So how does that affect his ground game in this, the final push for Wisconsin?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, it exacerbates we've seen facing Kasich over the last couple weeks, the last several primaries. And it's not just with voters. It's also with donors. He finds people that like him, like his message, but just can't see how he can actually get to the nomination.

Now of course, the Kasich team is very honest about their pathway forward. It doesn't mean getting to 1,237, that requisite number of delegates to secure the nomination. It means getting to Cleveland and getting to an open convention.

What they want out of tonight is maybe one congressional district win: three delegates here, maybe six at the most and move on, Wolf, as you said to New York and Pennsylvania, getting back up to the East Coast, where they feel like the governor is on better, more solid ground for his message and his type of conservatism.

BLITZER: And as you know, Phil, both Trump and Cruz, they've called for Kasich to drop out of the race. How is his campaign responding to that?

MATTINGLY: Well, obviously, as you've noted, they've rejected that outright. And on some level they like it. It has energized the candidate. You've seen it over the last couple days, John Kasich in some ways relishing the opportunity to punch back at Donald Trump and at Ted Cruz. I think one of the interesting components here is this.

The campaign John Kasich specifically has complained over and over again, that they haven't gotten attention to get his message out. These attacks particularly coming from Donald Trump, who has ignored John Kasich the vast majority of the campaign, elevate John Kasich to that level, a level where everybody's paying attention.

And Kasich's team, their of the race has always been if their candidate has the opportunity to get his message out, he will rise in the polls. They're now waiting to see if that will happen -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much. Phil Mattingly reporting.

COOPER: For the next couple hours. Let's bring in the panel, test my lung capacity. CNN political commentator, "Daily Beast" columnist and progressive Sally Kohn; CNN political contributor, Clinton supporter, former Philadelphia mayor, Michael Nutter; CNN chief national correspondent, "INSIDE POLITICS" anchor John King; chief political analyst Gloria Borger; also political commentator Jeffrey Lord, Amanda Carpenter, Kevin Madden, Mary Katharine Ham. Jeffrey is a Trump supporter, former Reagan political honcho. Amanda is a former Cruz communications director. Kevin is a GOP strategist; and Mary Katharine is a conservative writer. And, of course, Jerry Mathers, as always, the Beaver.

Gloria, what are you expecting in the hours ahead?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: I'm still trying to get over the Beaver there. So, look, I think that...

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Gee, Wally.

BORGER: OK, we can go through the whole cast if you want.

Look, I think that Cruz needs to win Wisconsin tonight, and the margin of victory matters for him, right? Ted Cruz, if he can win in Wisconsin, he's not on, you know, terra firma there. It's not his natural habitat. It's not hugely evangelical. And so if Cruz can win here, then you know, people will say, well, you know, he staked a claim somewhere. We didn't think he could do it.

For Trump, I think everyone knew Trump was going to have some trouble heading into Wisconsin. But everybody thought he might get about, you know, the pollsters around 35 percent, something like that. If he does -- if he holds to that and does better, even a little bit worse, you could say that all of his problems over the last couple of weeks were a temporary speed bump, and maybe he -- and he could survive it, and he could move on to states that are friendlier to him, states like New York, for example. And you know, in the northeast and mid- Atlantic.

So, you know, for each of them, they have kind of something to prove here. I do believe that Cruz has more to prove. And I also, since this is a hybrid state, you know, Trump can pick up a few delegates even if he doesn't win the majority.

COOPER: John, I mean, is there a danger in overestimating what a Trump second place finish would mean?

KING: Yes. Yes, there's a danger in trying to project, look, Donald Trump has surprised us repeatedly in this race. This is his greatest test, in the sense that some of the wounds are self-inflected. He's had a lot of money spent against him. You've had a consistent campaign against him. And so this is his -- this is the biggest test he's faced in the campaign. Candidates lose states, it happens. The question is what happens after that? So No. 1, can Cruz not only win tonight, but can he shut Trump out?

BORGER: Right.

KING: Maybe Kasich wins a CD. But if Cruz can get all 42, that's a good -- that's good for Cruz. The question then is in the test we've talked about, can Cruz consistently perform? Not just perform in one state and have a good week, but consistently perform and be able to say with a straight face and credible number, "I am the alternative. I'm proving it, because I'm winning on a consistent basis."

And then No. 2, we go into Trump's firewall state. There's a loss in Wisconsin. Open a trap door and he falls in New York, and he falls below 50 percent. And New York becomes, you know, a battleground.

Or does he lose in Wisconsin, go home, wins and says, "I may not get to 1,237, but I'm still going to be way ahead of everybody else when we get to convention time"?

COOPER: Before we get our Democrats, let's go over to just the Republicans first. Since we're focusing on Cruz and Trump and Kasich, although we haven't mentioned Kasich, which is perhaps telling.

Jeffrey Lord, what do you make of what Donald Trump needs to do tonight, assuming he's not going to get a first place?

JEFFREY LORD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. I mean, if he loses, he can go on, as John said. He'll go on to these firewall states. He will go on to New York. I live in Pennsylvania; he's doing very well in Pennsylvania.

The Kasich thing is interesting, because John Kasich is from Pennsylvania originally, in western Pennsylvania; and he may well do some damage to Ted Cruz in there, the kind of damage that Cruz can't make up to overtake Donald Trump in Pennsylvania. So I think whatever happens here, the margin plays a role. Again, as

Gloria said, is this is a ten-point loss for Donald Trump, he'll go on. If it's less than that, I mean, you can see him declaring victory.

COOPER: Do you see Trump's campaign already making adjustments based on, you know, the perceived bad week that at least many pundits believe Donald Trump had? I mean, we hear talk about maybe some policy positions, some policy statements coming out.

LORD: I think the policy positions were already forthcoming, regardless. But I do think he's walked back some of this. You know, he said well, maybe, if he had to do it over, he wouldn't do the Heidi Cruz thing. I do think that he's gotten through, and I think, at least as I understand it, his family's talked to him about this kind of thing.

He believes in being, as we all know, aggressive to win this thing. And they talk about being presidential. And his point, in essence, is that presidents get to be presidential. Presidential candidates who act presidential -- think Thomas E. Dewey -- don't win the presidency.

COOPER: Amanda, how about your old boss, Ted Cruz?

AMANDA CARPENTER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, well, I think we've reached the phase of the campaign where operations do matter. Donald Trump has gotten so far based on the strength of his personality, and I think now we're seeing that he's boxed in by that.

Listen, Trump's campaign has put him in bad situations the past couple of weeks. Why was he talking to Chris Matthews about abortion? Why was he doing an interview with Maureen Dowd about previous escapades? These are bad decisions. Donald Trump needs a better campaign around him. I don't think that he can continue just to coast on his personality.

And in the meantime, you see Cruz relying on his strong campaign staff: picking up delegates in unexpected places, competing very well in Wisconsin.

And so I think Trump, we're starting to see him wobble a little bit. There are stories in Politico about how his campaign staff is in disarray, and that is very problematic, even going into New York and states that should be good for him.

BORGER: Are you saying Cruz is not relying on his personality?

CARPENTER: Well, he's more...

KEVIN MADDEN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, if Donald Trump is relying on policy, as Jeffrey said. You know...

CARPENTER: ... filter (ph). I mean, look at what he's doing in Wisconsin. I mean, he's very competitive there -- that was not a good state for him -- because Scott Walker largely gave him an endorsement. It's a big deal to get an endorsement in a Republican campaign... COOPER: But who was Wisconsin supposed to be good for? Because

people say Wisconsin wasn't supposed to be good for Donald Trump; it wasn't supposed to be good for Ted Cruz.

MADDEN: The odd thing is it ought to be better for John Kasich.

BORGER: Exactly.

MADDEN: But -- but that's going to be one of the stories.

I expect Ted Cruz to win tonight and to win big. And Ted -- the idea that Ted Cruz would win in a state that is, you know, not really full of evangelicals, is more of a suburban Republican along the lines of Paul Ryan, that's a very big surprise.

So I think what a big Ted -- what a big Ted Cruz win tonight would say that there has been a shift in this electorate right now. Ted Cruz has shown an ability to potentially unify the electorate.

I think if John Kasich were a surprise with a second place or very close third, it might tell us that there is a bigger shift going on inside the Republican Party. Now, it will be hard to try and transfer that to big changes in places like New York, in New Jersey, in Connecticut on the calendar. But we will have seen, you know, the limitations of Donald Trump's candidacy.

COOPER: We certainly haven't heard John Kasich talking big about doing well in Wisconsin. I mean, he really seems to be focused on -- he was in New York yesterday.

MARY KATHARINE HAM, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I always argue that John Kasich is always the big winner, because if it doesn't matter if you lose, you're winning. He's just going to march right on.

But here's what I think is interesting about the margin and about the fact this is not a terribly friendly place for Cruz, necessarily. I t may signal that voters in places like New York and Pennsylvania are warming to this electability argument, are looking around and going, "Well, this is the guy who has a shot, and he's not normally my kind of guy but maybe I'll go there because I don't see that Kasich has a path." And Kasich is not arguing he has a path. And so I think that makes a difference moving forward to those states.

COOPER: Is -- John, I mean, is there any evidence?

KING: Cruz doesn't really have a path either.

HAM: Right.

KING: Cruz's hope...

HAM: He is more plausible.

KING: Cruz's hope is that you're the guy who gets hot in the end, and then you get to an open convention, and the delegates say, "OK, this is the guy who stopped Trump." And if a plurality of the delegates or a majority of the delegates at the convention don't want Trump, then they go, "This is the guy who stopped him and he had momentum at the end. We owe it to him."

(CROSSTALK)

HAM: The issue is he's not even -- he's less plausible to that guy.

[17:15:09] KING: Right. Kasich almost probably wishes now that he had not run and that he was the Republican governor of Ohio when the convention came to Ohio...

HAM: Right.

KING: ... looking for a candidate. You know, in an odd way. But he is running now. So he just has to try to keep himself viable and do something as we go...

LORD: One of the things here is that -- is that Trump and Cruz decidedly now, it's very clear, the Republican Party wants an anti- establishment. When you add these two folks together, I don't see any path for anybody other than one of those two.

KING: But the one interesting thing in the last few days -- and these guys know these people better than I do -- is that Republicans -- there was a split in the Republican Party two weeks ago about should we just deal with it? Trump's going to be our nominee. Whether you're holding your nose or whatever, hug the bull and try to get through the rodeo.

And now after the abortion comments, after some of these other policy statements about nukes in Europe at the town hall with you, nukes in Asia, a lot of Republicans have said, "You know what? If he's at 1,236, we're going to stop him."

COOPER: We've got to pause it here. I know we only have nine more hours. I know we don't have a lot of time, but just stay with us. Hold this thought. Wolf has got breaking news coming up next: our first indication of who's turning out today and what is actually motivating them. That's the first exit poll results. Later, we'll look closer at a Democratic race that's closer and tougher than anything a lot of folks expected.

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[17:20:43] BLITZER: Our breaking news, the first batch of exit polling numbers, they are now out. Our political director, David Chalian, has been going through the numbers with the team. We're getting some initial indications of these voters in Wisconsin.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Absolutely. And one of the important things we're looking at is when did people make up their mind about this election? You heard before the break John King was talking about sort of the controversial statements that Donald Trump has been making. So take a look at these results. Among Wisconsin Republican voters

who went to the polls today -- and these are early numbers -- 33 percent say they decided within the last week. Sixty-seven percent said they decided before that. So the bulk of voters decided before a lot of the controversy that was surrounding Donald Trump's comments.

Wolf, we also took a look at party ideas. You know Wisconsin is an open primary, so independents can play in either primary. Take a look at this: 6 percent of the voters in the Republican primary are Democrats. Don't worry about that. They're just playing in the Republican primary. Sixty-five percent of voters today were Republican, and 29 percent were independent.

When we compared this to 2012, it is about the same of independent turnout in the primary, but it is an uptick among traditional Republican voters. That is a little bit higher of Republican turnout inside the Republican primary. And if I were in the Cruz camp, I'd be looking at that and thinking, "Well, if Donald Trump usually does better with independent voters, we usually do better with the rock- solid, reliable Republican Party line voters." If that poll of voters have increased, I'd be feeling good about that number.

BLITZER: Kasich would do well with the rock-solid Republicans, too.

CHALIAN: Yes.

BLITZER: So we'll watch that closely. David Chalian, thank you very, very much.

Anderson, back to you.

COOPER: Yes. Got more to talk about with the panel.

I mean, John, in past races, we've seen when it's folks who have made up their mind earlier, that usually seems to favor Donald Trump. And there does seem to be this sort of -- whether it's in sort of the pundit class or just folks who are against Trump -- this gleefulness over the last couple of days that maybe the tide was turning against Donald Trump, but there's not really been any hard evidence of that.

KING: No, and one state alone, even if he loses Wisconsin, that one state alone will not prove that. It will prove that he's being tested.

COOPER: Right.

KING: It will prove that he's being challenged. It will prove that his math, even as the front-runner, of getting to the magic number of 1,237 would be more difficult.

Donald Trump today, as we speak, needs 56 percent of the remaining delegates before the convention to arrive in Cleveland at 1,237. He's the only candidate with a chance. Even that's hard; to win 56 percent of the remaining delegates is not easy. He can still do it conceivably, if he gets shut out tonight or gets very -- a handful of delegates tonight, that makes his math more difficult. It doesn't mean he's done. It means you've stopped him in one state and an important state, but then you have to do it again.

And as Gloria noted earlier, the map is moving to a place where on paper you would think it's more for Donald Trump. New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island. It's moving to the -- you know, northeast and the mid-Atlantic, where nothing against Ted Cruz, but he's from Texas. He's a Tea Party evangelical guy. You would not associate Texas Tea Party evangelical with the states in the region I just mentioned. It doesn't mean he can't compete there; it doesn't mean he can't win there. But it starts as more Trump territory than Cruz territory.

COOPER: Mayor Nutter, I mean, obviously, a Democrat. I flew down here today. This guy on the plane came up to me and said, "Hey, it seems like the tide's turning against Donald Trump."

And I said to him, "How many times in this campaign have you said that?"

And he was like, "You know what? You're right. I've said it about eight or nine times, and I've been wrong every time."

MICHAEL NUTTER, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, at the start, we didn't even know there was going to be tide with Donald Trump. Three months, four months, maybe, have a little fun. Then he goes away, and there's a real race among the other 16 people that started out on the "R" side.

So every time he has been either underestimated or we've miscalculated, we in this world, are, you know, regular citizens.

So, tonight is tonight. We'll see what happens. There have been predictions already that, you know, Senator Cruz should do very, very well, and then everyone pivots, quite frankly, to super NYC and what I call the Atlantic Tuesday, with Pennsylvania, Maryland, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Delaware.

COOPER: So Sally, does tonight matter?

SALLY KOHN, COLUMNIST, "DAILY BEAST": Yes, I mean, I think obviously, it matters on the Republican side. And look, it's going to be incredible important on the Democratic side.

First, it's going to be interesting to see where Bernie gets his votes, whichever way it turns out. But frankly, I would argue, whether Bernie comes out a little ahead, Hillary comes out a little ahead, the fact that Bernie has closed the margin one way or the other, the fact that he now looks like he's closing the margin in New York, is incredibly important.

[17:25:10] We have to remember, Hillary Clinton is not the Democratic nominee yet. She is -- she keeps being called the front-runner, but you know, she's a front-runner. At this point, a front-runner should be consolidating their support. She seems to be losing support. He's gaining ground. He's gaining support, and he still wins in polling matchups with Donald Trump. So that's -- that's something we'll all be paying a lot of attention to. And is fascinating. NUTTER: But I think as someone who -- as someone who's run for office, I think generally, when you have more votes than anyone else. you're usually considered the front-runner. When you have more delegates than anyone else, you're the front-runner. And at some point in time...

KOHN: Like Al Gore.

NUTTER: ... you know, I mean, her margin is 240 right now. She'll get what she gets; he gets what he gets.

COOPER: Isn't that 2012? Isn't that very 2012, that whole more votes, you're the front-runner, winning is actually winning?

KOHN: Facts matter.

NUTTER: It will go up, it will go down, and then it's over.

KOHN: She's not -- I'm just saying she's -- maybe we should call her the front crawler. You know, she's just -- she's just not at this point in the race where you think she should be in consolidating the base of supporters and gaining the energy and momentum. And I think that's not just about...

COOPER: To Sally's point, I mean, for Sanders supporters, a number of western states have all gone for Sanders. Again, if he has a very good night tonight, it does create this -- you know, if she's the front runner she's not doing great with...

BORGER: But it's math.

COOPER: Of course, yes.

BORGER: It's about the math. And because Democrats are so democratic.

NUTTER: Yes, even the super delegates.

BORGER: And you're so proportional, right?

NUTTER: Right.

BORGER: That even if Sanders had a very big win tonight, if you look at where it might matter -- what it might mean with delegates, it might only -- you know, she might only -- he might only narrow the lead by, like, 20 or so.

COOPER: But John King, what about, again, to the Sanders point, which is the super delegates can flip? And we saw that happening back in 2008.

KING: Wisconsin is a springboard in both races in the sense that let's assume Cruz wins tonight. Can he use that as a springboard to go into Donald Trump's backyard and into a region that's Donald Trump and win again? That's you can't stop him unless you keep beating him. So Wisconsin alone is not enough. Can he use it as a springboard? Can Sanders win tonight and use it as a springboard to go into New York and beat Hillary Clinton? Because if Bernie Sanders won every Democratic primary left, 55-45, if he won every one left by ten points, which he's unlikely to do -- there are a lot of states there, including New York, where Hillary Clinton is favored -- but even if he ran the board by ten points in every state, he would trail her in delegates as they went to the convention. She would not have enough to clinch.

COOPER: Right.

KING: They would go to the delegates to leave it -- they would go to the convention to leave it up to super delegates.

COOPER: We've got to -- we've got to take a break. Again, only 8 1/2 more hours. We have a lot more to talk about. As you've been hearing from the panel, Democrats Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders looking ahead to their next big races: Wyoming's caucuses, New York's primary. We'll get the latest from the campaign trail.

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BLITZER: Even as Wisconsin voters are still heading to the polls, the candidates are looking ahead to the next crucial races. For Bernie Sanders, that means Wyoming, which holds its caucuses Saturday. As you probably know, Senator Sanders, he's racked up most of his wins in caucus states, and he's hoping to do the same thing in Wyoming.

[17:32:32] Brianna Keilar is following the Sanders campaign for us tonight. Brianna, Senator Sanders appearing tonight at the University of Wyoming, clearly hoping to appeal to younger Wyoming voters. What's the latest?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. And he'll be welcomed by this crowd, Wolf, already five hours plus before he's set to speak here at the University of Wyoming. And very interestingly, just a stone's throw from the Cheney International Center here. You have people lining up, ready to go in. So we're expecting a big crowd here.

Wyoming is a place that favors Bernie Sanders. He's banking on young people and also the fact that the electorate here is wider than the general Democratic electorate.

So on this Wisconsin night, where you might think that he might want to be in the Badger State, savoring a potential victory there, he is going to be here in Wyoming, where, yes, there's only 14 delegates at stake to Wisconsin's 86, but he'll be trying to create this image of momentum. If he does well in with Wisconsin, he'll say, "Here I am in Wyoming, where I'm also expected to do well. The momentum is in my corner" -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, he's already won five of the last six states. He would have to win, though, by a very huge margin tonight and going forward in order to get to that magic number at the convention. KEILAR: He would. And let's just put super delegates aside. And you

talk to Bernie Sanders supporters, Wolf, they know exactly what super delegates are. They know the breakdown between super delegates and pledged delegates.

He's still trailing Hillary Clinton by over 250 delegates. So what you need to pull off in Wisconsin tonight is something akin to what Barack Obama did back in 2008, when he beat Hillary Clinton by 17 points. And then he would need to use that to create some momentum, which he's clearly trying to do, to move on to some of these bigger states -- Pennsylvania, New York -- and still beat Hillary Clinton by several points. It certainly a very difficult feat but one that Bernie Sanders and his campaign thinks that he will be able to achieve.

BLITZER: Brianna, thanks very much for the caucus there.

The next crucial state, the next crucial primary, would be New York, exactly two weeks from today. Both Democratic candidates have deep ties, clearly, in New York. Bernie Sanders was born in Brooklyn. Hillary Clinton lives there. She's held one of its U.S. Senate seats for eight years.

Mrs. Clinton has been concentrating on New York over the past couple of days. She's in Brooklyn tonight, in fact. Our senior Washington correspondent, Jeff Zeleny, is on the scene for us.

Jeff, two weeks until the New York primary. Lots of delegates at stake there. So what's Hillary Clinton's message on this day as she campaigns in New York?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the New York primary has the biggest trove of delegates here, at least in this month; 247 delegates in the Democratic race, second only to California, which comes up in June. That's why Secretary Clinton was here.

She just wrapped up a town meeting a short time ago, talking about gun violence and other issues. But, Wolf, this is not exactly a tough campaign day for her. They're focusing more on just the matter at hand; she's focusing more on Donald Trump. She took a bit of a crack at him. She said he should get out of one of his many towers and walk the sidewalks here in this city and see the diversity, and prejudice is not a value of New York City.

So beside that, she did not really talk about many of her rivals. A couple of small digs at Bernie Sanders. But Wolf, what the Clinton campaign is doing is just trying to get through these election nights.

As Brianna just said so well, she has a big lead in pledged delegates, so hard for Bernie Sanders to catch up to her. That's where they just want to get through tonight. She's not having any campaign events at all tonight, Wolf. She'll be at a fund-raiser instead.

BLITZER: She's gearing up for New York. All right. Jeff Zeleny, thanks very much. COOPER: Want to give you a quick reminder. CNN is going to host the

next Democratic debate on April 14, at 9 Eastern. Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders facing off in Brooklyn just five days before New York's critical primary. The moderator, Wolf Blitzer. We have a lot to look forward to with that.

Just ahead tonight, delegates up for grabs in Wisconsin. How a win or loss could shift the balance of the candidates. John King breaks it down at the Magic Wall, coming up.

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[17:40:59] BLITZER: The polls in Wisconsin will be open for a few more hours. Forty-two delegates are up for grabs in the Republican contest, 86 delegates up for grabs in the Democratic contest. It's much too early to know how many the candidates will take home. It is safe to say, though, that the outcome of Wisconsin's primaries will change the math to at least some degree in both races.

John King is over at magic wall with me right now.

John, the Republicans who want to stop Trump tonight, they clearly believe Wisconsin could be critical.

KING: They do. They think it is crucial, crucial.

And let's start with where we are. As we start the day right now, Donald Trump needs 56 percent of the remaining delegates. Fifty-six percent of the remaining delegates to get here to the magic number of 1,237. He has a big lead, as you can see here; he's at 740.

So here's what the "stop Trump" forces are hoping for tonight. They want Ted Cruz to win. They hope he wins all 42, but here's a scenario where Cruz gets some, Kasich gets some by winning a couple of congressional districts. Shutting Trump out is critical for the "stop Trump" forces.

Then, what happens then, is Cruz gets the victory, narrows the gap a little bit. But that's not the big deal. What they hope, then, Wolf, is that we come into New York, which is a winner-take-all state, if you get above 50 percent statewide, about 50 percent of the congressional districts.

What they're hoping, then, is that Donald Trump's poll numbers come down and that, even if he wins, he just gets about half of the delegates here. Let's say I'll give this so John Kasich, Ted Cruz coming in third. You can flip that if you want to.

But what the stop Trump forces hope for, shut him out here, cut his delegate take out of New York maybe to about half, less than half if they can. But if this happens, then at that point, Donald Trump would need 61 percent. If he stumbles here, and then, even if he wins, loses delegates. That's what the "stop Trump" forces are hoping for. They believe if that scenario plays out as I just did it, that we're almost guaranteed an open, contested convention.

BLITZER: What happens if Trump is right, and he surprises everyone and actually wins tonight in Wisconsin?

KING: Well, that would take the steam -- it's a lot of steam -- out of the "stop Trump" movement.

Let's assume Donald Trump does surprise us. Play out this scenario. Donald Trump comes in first. Let's say Ted Cruz comes in second; John Kasich gets shut out. Cruz gets some delegates, but Donald Trump turns Wisconsin his way, and then hopes that he gets a big boost into New York, comes into New York and wins them all. It's conceivable. If he wins above 50 percent statewide, he can win all the congressional districts with 50 percent. Donald Trump is hoping to get all or most.

If that played out, a huge win in New York after a surprise win in Wisconsin, then Donald Trump could cut his math to just 50 percent, Wolf. So Donald Trump, he's been counted out before. The "stop Trump" forces think tonight is critical to them. But if Trump can pull out a surprise, then hold New York, that's very different math.

BLITZER: We've got several more hours to see what happens.

Anderson, back to you.

COOPER: Wolf, John, thanks very much. Jeffrey Lord, to John's point, I mean, Donald Trump, it is amazing how many times he has been counted out and underestimated.

LORD: Right, right. I mean, this has been going on from the get-go. I mean, this is something I felt strongly about right from the get-go, that he was being totally underestimated here. That he had a lot to say, that it jived almost eerily exactly with what the sentiment of the country was when you talked to regular folks out there, not political pundits.

COOPER: So you think whatever damage was done last week is not lasting?

LORD: That's right. That's right. I mean, he will go on from this.

I mean, what this remains me increasingly is the Obama/Clinton struggle or the Reagan/Bush struggle that went on until May or June. What is it, June 7 is the last of the primaries. This can go on for a while. But he still has the capability of winning this.

COOPER: Amanda, do you think it is being overplayed, or do you think there was some sort of a turning point?

CARPENTER: I do think so. But I want to focus for a moment on the durability of Donald Trump. Because I think there's lessons for other candidates to learn from it, even though I disagree so much with what Donald Trump does.

But what he does exceedingly well is that he makes himself available to the media. For so long, conservatives said, "Oh, liberal media, we're going to try to pretend to ignore it, not be accessible to mainstream reporters." Donald Trump owns it. He will say controversial things. He doesn't back down. He has total confidence. He's usually in total control.

And so I think other candidates, they want to compete on the national scale, they need to look at what Donald Trump has done, be willing to talk about anything at any time.

[17:45:01] When you encounter adversity, own it and continue.

COOPER: Although on the flip side of that is something we saw last week, which is perhaps at times he's overconfident about his ability to talk to anyone.

CARPENTER: Yes. He should prepare.

COOPER: And -- no, I mean, Chris Matthews, for instance, or Maureen Dowd, you know, as you said, maybe those were interviews he should have thought twice about or somebody in his circle should have said, do you really need do this?

CARPENTER: Yes.

COOPER: I mean, he clearly loves the limelight, he clearly loves, you know, being discussed.

CARPENTER: Yes. I just think he takes it too far. But there's a happy medium where you prepare to go into these interviews, you know if you're going to sit down with Chris Matthews in Wisconsin, when he is a Democrat, you're probably going to get asked about abortion. That's where meeting of the minds has to come together. You need to talk to staff, you need a lot of people prepare you. But like Donald Trump, don't be afraid to go in there and just say what you think.

COOPER: All right.

LORD: The irony is, I mean, you have had conversations separately with Carly Fiorina and with Ted Cruz, in which they'd complained about all the attention.

COOPER: Right.

LORD: And you correctly pointed out, we keep coming to you, you keep saying no.

COOPER: Yes. We put out invitations to Ted Cruz pretty much every day throughout much of this campaign and didn't get any response, you know, or never got him on the program.

CARPENTER: I will say just one more point, I would like to see Donald Trump and Ted Cruz debate again. This is one format that Donald Trump does is afraid of.

COOPER: I think Ted Cruz would like to see that as well.

CARPENTER: Yes.

(CROSSTALK) CARPENTER: This has so much has come out. Not even on the crazy scandal stuff but on NATO, about remittances to Mexico and the border. There are substantive things for them to debate. They should do it. The Democrats are going to do it in Brooklyn. It's going to be a great debate. Republicans should have one in St. Louis.

COOPER: Well, we will certainly extend an invitation to host that debate.

HAM: Let me make an argument, too, for some of the mistakes that he's made in Wisconsin, perhaps changing some of these pursuable voters' minds about electability because they are systemic issues, there's a reason perhaps in the exit polling that more Republicans are out. And maybe because Ted Cruz has a ground game that's working. He decided Donald Trump decided to go after Wisconsin's governor who has really, really good numbers in Wisconsin. That was not great move for him. He decides to go down the wrong path on abortion, or several wrong paths on abortion, enjoined all these women together in condemnation of him.

These are things that moving forward will affect a general election campaign obviously on their face and perhaps people are looking at that.

COOPER: And, you know, Kevin, it's interesting because we've been talking about the ground game of Donald Trump really from the beginning, from Iowa to New Hampshire days. We saw in Louisiana, you know, Donald Trump won in the popular vote. Ted Cruz basically outmaneuvered his campaign on the ground, got more delegates. Out of that Donald Trump talked about suing, said it was unfair, although those are the rules.

Can he simply hire more people and quickly get a better ground game in these states, or is it -- is that dive and cast?

MADDEN: Well, I think that's one of the problems that Donald Trump is going to have, just trying to shift towards being a more conventional candidate. I think Donald Trump, the businessman -- alleged businessman, has always been able to purchase things. You can't really purchase an organization. It has to be built.

BORGER: You can purchase delegates.

MADDEN: It has to be -- you can work delegates one by one in a very personal way but, you know --

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HAM: Good way of putting that.

MADDEN: But I think that the Cruz campaigns and Kasich folks are doing a much better job of reaching out to these folks and using their -- their existing organizations to do that.

COOPER: We are getting new exit polling in. We'll have the latest on that coming up next. We'll also check in with the polling station in Brookfield, Wisconsin. A big day in the Badger State. We'll be right back.

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[17:52:49] BLITZER: Our breaking news. A new batch of exit polling coming into THE SITUATION ROOM. Our political director, David Chalian, the team is crunching the numbers. What are you learning?

CHALIAN: Well, we're now looking at the Democratic side of the Wisconsin primary today. And looking at the key factor that race have played in this Democratic race, we've seen it time and again. Take a look at the results. Among voters heading to the polls and voting in the Democratic primary today in Wisconsin, 84 percent of them are white, 9 percent are black, 2 percent are Latino.

Now, Wolf, that 84 percent, only four states have had a white -- a larger white population than that thus far. Iowa, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and Vermont. So this is a big white turnout, which has meant good news for Bernie Sanders in a lot of these previous contests. He clearly didn't win all of those, but he tends to do better when turnout among white voters is much larger like it is here in Wisconsin.

We also took a look at party I.D. like we did on the Republican side. And take a look at this, remember, it's an open primary. So 72 percent say that they are Democrats. 2 percent say they are Republicans. 25 percent of voters voting in the Democratic primary today call themselves independent. So we saw a larger turnout, a slightly larger turnout among independents on the Republican side. Remember, it was 29 percent independents there.

Here it's 25 percent. That 72 percent Democratic number is the one to watch because that is going to be key if Hillary Clinton is going to be able to make this a fight with Bernie Sanders.

BLITZER: Interesting numbers. I know you're getting some more. Stand by. David Chalian helping us.

Let's check in at one of the polling stations in Brookfield, Wisconsin, right now. That's just west of Milwaukee. CNN's Jason Carroll is on the scene for us.

Higher voter turnout than expected, is that what it looks like?

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Without question, Wolf. You can take a look for yourself. The line is still out the door here. We've just gotten a recent count, 1800 people have walked through those doors so far to cast their vote. The Trump campaign saying they feel as though a higher voter turnout will weigh in their favor.

But I have to tell you, I've spoken to a number of voters coming in here, one of them an 89-year-old veteran who said that he initially was going to support Trump but he now feels as though he's carrying too much baggage. Also spoke to another woman who says she initially was going to vote for Trump. She, too, went to Cruz simply because she says she did not like the way Trump tried to articulate his position on abortion.

[17:55:06] Trump saying earlier today he's going to pull out a surprise here in the state. He was also saying it over the weekend. Despite the fact that most recent polling still shows Cruz ahead -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Jason, thank you.

We have much more in the next hour. The latest exit polling numbers coming in. Much more with our panel.

Plus, Donald Trump says he wants to build a wall and Mexico is going to pay for that. That you know. But now he's detailing exactly how he wants to accomplish that, a plan that President Obama is calling impractical.

Much more of what the president said. We'll also speak to a senior adviser to Donald Trump. We'll be right back.

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