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Iowa Caucus Voters to Vote in First-in-the-Nation Contest; Trump & Bloomberg Campaign Trade Insults. Aired 6-6:30a ET
Aired February 3, 2020 - 06:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This is our moment in history, and it launches right here in Iowa.
JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If you stand with me, we'll end Donald Trump's reign of hatred and division.
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We are taking on the entire political establishment, both the Republican establishment and the Democratic establishment.
PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Running for office is an act of hope and so is caucusing, both volunteering or being part of this process.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Kansas City, we did it, baby.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Got a great bunch of guys, man. They're phenomenal.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The most important thing is taking this trophy back to Kansas City.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It feels unbelievable, baby. You can't tell me nothing. World champ for the rest of my life.
ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: There must have been sheer jubilation in the Camerota household. Big Kansas City Chiefs fans and big Shakira fans, frankly. And both the Chiefs and Shakira were the clear winners coming out of the Super Bowl, yes?
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Over the moon. Over the moon. My husband, lifelong Chiefs fan, even in the lean years. And my 13-year-old son were there. They kept sending pictures. They were so elated. And back at home, we had a full plate of nachos as we watched Shakira and J. Lo, and we all just were giving them standing ovations. It was fantastic. BERMAN: I've got to say, it was an unbelievable game. I always thought
that the Chiefs were going to come back, no matter how far ahead the 49ers were. I knew Pat Mahomes could do it.
And once again, I will say this, because people haven't focused enough on this. Shakira is a global treasure. Can we agree on that?
CAMEROTA: I've always known this. I've always -- I feel like you're late to the game here, John. I've always known this.
CAMEROTA: Shakira is phenomenal. But I do feel that you're downplaying J. Lo's moves.
BERMAN: I didn't even notice that she was there. All right. Alisyn Camerota, we'll come back to this later on.
CAMEROTA: We have a lot to say about this.
BERMAN: And I'm sure I'm going to be hearing from Jennifer Lopez fans.
Welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is NEW DAY. It is Monday, February 3. It's 6 in New York. It's 5 p.m. here in Des Moines, Iowa. I'm coming to you live from the campus of Drake University.
Let the voting begin. Finally. It's on. For real. Tonight, actual people will cast actual votes for president.
So this is my sixth time at the Iowa caucuses. And I have to tell you, I've never seen so many possible outcomes. You can imagine certain candidates finishing everywhere from first to fourth. And by that measurement, a candidate could come out of tonight with a victory or facing questions about whether he or she will even last another week. It's that uncertain.
The top candidates all here making the final pitch. And we have some last-minute drama we'll tell you about shortly, as well, Alisyn.
CAMEROTA: OK, John.
President Trump, meanwhile, appears consumed with a candidate who is not even competing in Iowa: Mike Bloomberg. The president is belittling the former New York City mayor on Twitter, and Bloomberg is not holding back in fighting back.
President Trump's impeachment trial is expected to wrap up this week. Closing arguments will begin today, with the final vote to acquit the president on Wednesday.
This weekend more Senate Republicans admitted the president's actions were wrong and bad, but they insist not impeachable, John.
BERMAN: Yes. All right. So Iowa, we're about, what, eight, nine hours away from people driving to their caucuses to get it all going. Let's begin our coverage with Jeff Zeleny, sitting right beside me,
about the final push here in Iowa -- Jeff.
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hey, John. Good morning. The candidates have done their jobs. Now it's up to the campaigns to get those voters out to the polls.
All elections are about turnout, no question. Caucus is so much different. Less than 12 hours now to make the final pitch, voters are still undecided.
SANDERS: If the turnout is high, we're going to win. So our job together is to create the highest turnout in the history of the Iowa caucus. Thank you, all, very much.
ZELENY (voice-over): Bernie Sanders and his Democratic rivals making one final lap around Iowa.
WARREN: We got the whole group here. You ready?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All right.
ZELENY: Rallying the faithful and working feverishly to convert the undecided in their closing arguments to voters.
BIDEN: You let only a certain bunch of us out of the gate. We don't all get through the gate. We don't -- we don't all get to move beyond where we -- where we've been. And, you know, it really matters. It really matters what you do.
ZELENY: Joe Biden downplaying his chances of winning, telling supporters on Sunday he believes the race is a tossup, as the voting finally begins tonight in the Democratic nominating contest.
On an unseasonably warm winter day, voters lining up to catch one more glimpse of the candidates as they deliver their own distinctive sales pitches on electability.
BUTTIGIEG: We've got to make absolutely sure that we win in November. So much depends on it.
WARREN: Our No. 1 job is to beat Donald Trump. Women win. Let's get this done.
SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: One of your jobs is to look at how we're going to win in the general. That is your job.
ZELENY: But before crowning a nominee for the general election, voters must decide whether to choose a progressive path --
SANDERS: Health care is a human right, not a privilege.
ZELENY: -- or more of a pragmatic one.
BUTTIGIEG: Mayors get things done.
ZELENY: The outcome of the Iowa caucuses will start but hardly finish that debate.
Many voters have been slow to decide and are still open to changing their minds as they keep searching to find the strongest candidate to challenge President Trump.
VAL DUDLEY, IOWA VOTER: Beat Trump. Absolutely. I'm tired of him. I'm tired of his lies.
ZELENY: Val Dudley listened to her top choices one last time on Sunday, saying she's still torn.
DUDLEY: Amy and Pete.
ZELENY (on camera): Is it a gut feeling at the end of the day or how do you make up your mind?
DUDLEY: I think it is kind of a gut feeling.
ZELENY: She believes Sanders is closing strong and said that concerns her.
DUDLEY: I'd support Bernie if he was our candidate. However, I think he's a little too wild. I think he's a little too out there to get some of the undecided people.
ZELENY: Of course, Val Dudley also said some of her children and her nieces and nephews do support Bernie Sanders. So that is one of the dynamics going into this evening here. What is the turnout going to be?
Bernie Sanders has said for several weeks here. If the turnout is big, he wins. If it's slow, he loses. We'll see if that is right this evening.
But no question. All the campaigns now are putting all this effort from the last year into the next final hours.
BERMAN: The high-water mark for turnout of the Iowa caucuses was 240,000 for the Democrats in 2008. One of the questions is will they be higher than that or lower than that? We will see.
ZELENY: I will.
BERMAN: We've got a lot more to talk about. Also joining us right now, CNN political correspondent Abby Phillip; CNN political analyst Alex Burns. He's a national political correspondent for "The New York Times." And also joining us is O. Kay Henderson, news director for Radio Iowa.
Most of this discussion will be focused on Shakira and Jennifer Lopez, but before we get to that, Kay, you know, we're just a few hours to go here.
O. KAY HENDERSON, NEWS DIRECTOR, RADIO IOWA: Right.
BERMAN: You've watched this all develop. This is the culmination of months and months of campaigning.
BERMAN: What do you see?
HENDERSON: Well, you mentioned turnout of 240 in 2008 as the high- water market. We had a competitive gubernatorial primary in 2018. Only 180,000 Democrats turned out that night.
So this will eclipse the most competitive primary we've recently had in the state, No. 1.
No. 2, you have candidates who've invested highly in the ground game, which everyone who pays close attention to the game here understands. And because of that, it's my guesstimation that we may see two people come out of here and claim victory. We may have someone who wins the raw vote total of people moving into the caucus on caucus night. And then we may see someone who emerges as the winner of the delegates.
BERMAN: You want to name names?
HENDERSON: And that is -- I'm not going to name names, but I think we all know where momentum may be and who has invested the most in the ground game.
BERMAN: Just so people know what we're talking about here, for the first time ever at the Iowa caucuses, we'll get a -- you know, a number of different results.
The two results that people should focus on are No. 1, the state delegate equivalents. That's what we've always taken out of Iowa. And that is who CNN will consider to be the winner of the Iowa caucuses: who ends up with the most delegate equivalents.
But we will also, for the first time, know who people's first choice was when they walk in the door. And we never have known that before. And that could impact how many candidates claim victory.
Alex, you've got a story out just this morning. I think everyone knows from talking to the campaigns, the sense here is that Bernie Sanders is on the upswing. And they are certainly setting expectations high. The Sanders team wants you to think you're going to win tonight.
The flipside of that is the Biden campaign has been setting a low bar and low expectations for tonight. What do you see?
ALEX BURNS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Look, I think it is absolutely the case that, across the campaigns, there is consensus, including in Bernie Sanders's campaign, that he is the guy with momentum over these last few weeks.
That doesn't mean that he's going to win. And it doesn't mean that he is going to win, if he does win, by very much. I think that that's a scenario that sort of all the campaigns are gritting their teeth and bracing for and perhaps the rest of us should be, as well. That there's not somebody who sort of wins this going away in a manner that would redefine the rest of the primaries and caucuses. If that does happen, I think it's likely to be Bernie Sanders than anybody else.
The Biden campaign has been, for a long time, pushing the idea. And I think, you know, points for consistency. Pushing the idea that he is the candidate with the greatest strengths sort of down the stretch in this primary calendar. So that if he is not humiliated in Iowa and New Hampshire, that if he sort of holds his own, even if he doesn't win, that he's still well-positioned in bigger, more diverse states where constituents that are more favorable to him than sort of white, young liberals in the Midwest get a louder voice than they do here.
And they're absolutely right about that. That that is where his candidacy stands right now. But that there's still that big "if," if he does not get humiliated in Iowa.
BERMAN: Traditionally, setting a low bar, it might be a smart thing. Obviously, you set the low bar, it's easier to cross it.
Abby, I saw Amy Klobuchar Saturday night, and one of her remarks was at the end -- and I think she said this before -- we better not screw this up. And I bring that up because it seems to be the message -- and leave Amy Klobuchar aside for a second -- that most of the Iowa Democratic voters are going into tonight thinking. They don't want to screw this up. They so desperately want to beat Trump that they might be looking at this choice tonight in a different way than they have in the past.
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I mean, I think every Iowa voter I talked to is sort of nail biting their way through this process, because they actually have no idea what it will take to beat Trump.
This is the problem. If they news clearly what what would be required in a candidate, they would -- they would choose that candidate. But the problem, is they're looking at all these people, and they're saying, Well, maybe this person because of this. And maybe that person because of that.
And I think, for that reason, one of the main reasons I think tonight is so uncertain, the second choice factor in Iowa this cycle is huge. It is huge. Because I think -- the voters I speak to are not -- they're not falling back on a second choice based on any kind of ideological outlook. They're falling back on a second choice, based on all kinds of other factors. Sometimes it's just their gut.
[06:10:07] And I think that, in that respect, there is a little bit of a sense that perhaps a Joe Biden could benefit from that. Because for a lot of people, he is a little bit of a fallback plan.
So if there are candidates like an Amy Klobuchar or even a Tom Steyer that some candidates -- some of these voters are interested in their first choice; they don't make threshold in some of these precincts. And on the second alignment, they have to move to another candidate. That's when you could see the real action happening tonight.
BERMAN: Jeff Zeleny, you, too, are a veteran of many Iowa caucuses, having worked here for a number of years, as well. No negativity. Relatively speaking, this has been a mostly sharp-elbows-free campaign. There have been some episodes. But I think one of the reasons is that the candidates are nervous about offending people and maybe not being that second choice.
ZELENY: No question. I mean, it has been a genteel affair, particularly compared to 2008. The Obama campaign and the Clinton campaign were at each other's throats by this point. Same in the Republican side in years gone by.
But Abby is absolutely right. Second choice. One thing I've been surprised by. Talking to so many Democrats, some are savvy strategists, some are average voters who are also savvy here in Iowa, who say they are going to go in and support someone who's likely to not meet thresholds so they can see how the room goes.
I met more Michael Bennet voters yesterday than I have the entire year. John Delaney voters, even though he's out of the race. And this is why. They will go in on the first choice, saying, I'm caucusing for Michael Bennet, knowing that he won't meet the threshold, which is 15 percent in most precincts. And then they can sort of see how the room goes and go where it's needed. That is what is fascinating.
ZELENY: I have heard that from people across the state. That is going on here.
But you can't go in uncommitted. Because if uncommitted wins, that could be viable.
ZELENY: And that will be like 1976 and Jimmy Carter.
PHILLIP: And the thing about that, going in -- going in with a sort of weaker candidate so you can realign, is that one of the thing that voters are doing is they're trying to look and see who's strong. Who's actually doing really well?
So that kind of thinking can benefit candidates who are already doing well. So if you -- if you have a caucus where you have a lot of candidates on the Bernie side or a lot of voters on the Bernie side or the Biden side, that realignment will benefit those candidates. BERMAN: Kay, you're the one here who's probably voted in a caucus
BERMAN: Never? But how much pressure can a campaign put on inside that gymnasium? Can you have someone who can win you over?
HENDERSON: Well, I think there is a fear among candidates that Bernie Sanders supporters will be the most vociferous in the room and will be badgering people. And that will likely backfire in a small neighborhood setting, which these caucuses supposedly are. No. 1.
And to the second choice, I think one of the things, as people interpret the results here, people tend to put these candidates in lanes. And what we see on the ground here is that people like an Elizabeth Warren for reasons other than ideology. They like her for her pugnaciousness. If you go to her rallies, you see tons of women wearing, "Nevertheless, she persisted."
One of the biggest applause lines, as you heard, for Amy Klobuchar the other day was that Mitch McConnell has a Democratic governor. So these people are really tuned in. And Mitch McConnell helped sort of elevate Elizabeth Warren as a debater and someone that women were seeing as someone who could go against Donald Trump.
BERMAN: All right, friends. Stand by for just a minute. We've been talking about the Kansas City Chiefs won the Super Bowl last night. And the president of the United States was quick to congratulate the people of Kansas for the big Super Bowl win. There's just one simple problem with that. The map. The Chiefs play in Missouri. We'll discuss next.
BERMAN: Just hours away now from the Iowa caucuses. That -- they are tonight. Democratic candidates are making their final pitches to voters, but the president appears consumed with one candidate who is not campaigning here. And that would be former New York City mayor, Michael Bloomberg.
President Trump obsessed with Bloomberg's height, of all things. And the Bloomberg campaign has signaled that they are ready to fight fire with fire.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TIMOTHY O'BRIEN, BLOOMBERG 2020 CAMPAIGN SENIOR ADVISOR: What I've said to people is when you get inside Donald Trump's head, all you're going to discover that you find there is a putter, a cheeseburger, a porn video, and somebody else's credit card.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, gosh.
O'BRIEN: And we're more than happy to occupy that space --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Wow.
O'BRIEN: -- and see him on a debate stage.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: Back with us, Jeff Zeleny, Abby Phillip, Alex Burns, and O. Kay Henderson.
And Alex, I want to start with you, because you happened to be the reporter who broke this story of Michael Bloomberg jumping into this race, and when that happened, I bet you part of his goal was to live rent-free in the president's brain. And there's evidence that it's working this morning.
BURNS: Well, you could say he's spending quite a bit of money, actually, on that -- on that lease. But he certainly is inside the president's head.
And what you're seeing happen is the president giving Michael Bloomberg exactly what he is looking for, that the Bloomberg campaign knows that they are not center stage right now in the Democratic primary, that they are not going to be competing in Iowa or New Hampshire or any of the two states, either of the two states after that. And they know that they have all kinds of issues with voters on the left.
But what folks across the Democratic coalition like is a Democrat who will take a sledgehammer to President Trump. And so that's exactly what they're doing. They're doing it in paid advertising. The president doesn't like to see that. He is -- he has expressed to his political allies concern about Michael Bloomberg's money.
And you see the Bloomberg campaign spending money on TV ads in a way that is specifically engineered to get a rise out of -- out of the president so that he comes after Bloomberg, and they can sort of keep on mutually escalating.
They started running an ad last week on a network favored by the president that showed all kinds of unflattering photos of the president in golf gear, sort of scrambling across a golf course.
Yesterday, you know, Tim O'Brien's response that you just showed was certainly quite sort of energetic, but the paper statement from the campaign was even more hostile to the president, saying he's a pathological liar who lies about his fake hair, his obesity, his spray-on tan. This is just exactly what the Bloomberg campaign hopes continues to happen, to draw out the president and elevate Bloomberg as a competitor in a race where there are a lot of Democrats who most voters are more familiar with at this point.
BERMAN: You know what's interesting about the Bloomberg ads with Trump looking not so great golfing, the White House -- the president tweeted out a picture, a photo of him golfing. They've gone to herculean efforts to hide his golf habit from the American people the last three years. But after Bloomberg starts running ads for he doesn't look good golfing, they tweet out a picture of the president taking a nice swing.
Kay, you know, Bloomberg is not running here, but you hear from voters. Do they want -- do Democratic voters, or people who will vote for Democratic -- do they want that pugnacious person who's going to insult back?
HENDERSON: Absolutely. They want someone who can -- you hear this phrase all the time -- go toe-to-toe with Donald Trump. Because they feel as if, in the 2016 race, Hillary Clinton held back a little bit. They want a person who will go out and, as the president says, punch back.
BERMAN: Sixty billion dollars, you know, can pack a pretty powerful punch.
BERMAN: And of course, I do think, Abby, that if you're Michael Bloomberg now, you are sitting back thinking this might line up well for me, these Democratic primaries. If Bernie Sanders does win in Iowa tonight -- he won New Hampshire in 2016 by a lot. Nevada, he came awfully close. He could go three for three in the first three contests there, and that is good for Michael Bloomberg.
PHILLIP: Yes. I mean, any time the moderates in the race show any sort of inability to consolidate the support, that's a good day for Michael Bloomberg. And particularly, when you get a little bit later on in the process, I think he had two things to do.
One was to prove sort of viability that money could, in fact, get him in -- solidly into the race. And a lot of the polls suggest that it has done exactly that. But he's sort of polling about on par with, you know, Pete Buttigieg who we considered one of the frontrunners in this race for quite some time.
But then the second thing is going to be what happens after the first four states. And when it gets a lot harder for the existing candidates to stretch out their money and stretch out their organization. And he's going to have a huge, huge advantage over some of these candidates, particularly the ones like Amy Klobuchar or Pete Buttigieg, who have not invested later on in the process.
So you know, Mike Bloomberg, I think, is probably feeling pretty good right now. He's looking at a bunch of moderates who are not able to really get ahold of the field. And even if he's up against a Bernie Sanders, I think he feels OK about that.
BERMAN: Look, Michael Bloomberg will not run out of money before Super Tuesday, unless you're talking about Super Tuesday in the year 12,064.
The president of the United States tweeted something extraordinary last night. Truly jaw-dropping. It was after the Kansas City Chiefs won the Super Bowl. And this is what the president wrote.
He says, "Congratulations to the Kansas City Chiefs on a great game and a fantastic comeback. Under immense pressure. You represented the great state of Kansas and, in fact, the entire USA so very well. Our country is proud of you."
Our country is not proud of how well the president of the United States understands the map. The Kansas City Chiefs play in Kansas City, Missouri. Now, yes, there is a Kansas City, Kansas, which the White House, I'm sure, will harp on all day today. But that's not the bigger Kansas City. And that's not where the Chiefs play. And it's not at all clear to me that the president knows there's a Kansas City, Missouri, this morning.
ZELENY: And Trump voters in Kansas, of which there are many, and Missouri could care less.
The reality here is the White House changed shortly after he sent it, or Dan Scavino sent it, or whoever sent that.
No, of course he doesn't know the difference between Kansas and Missouri. They're very close. Worlds of Fun, a great theme park, separates them.
But look, the reality here is that Republicans are, you know, eager to accept whatever the president says. So that's not important.
One more thing about Michael Bloomberg. We should point out, it is harder to jump onto a moving vehicle than people think. I mean, so jumping into this campaign on Super Tuesday, yes, he has many advantages, but it's not going to be easy for him either. But what happens here tonight is going to determine how fast that car is moving, I guess.
BERMAN: I'm not so quick to let the president off the hook with the map issue here. When the secretary of state --
ZELENY: Growing up in Nebraska, Kansas City Chiefs right below there. There are fans on both sides. I'm just saying his voters don't care.
BERMAN: The voters -- the voters don't care. But I do think it's notable after the secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, forced Mary Louise Kelly, who of course, you know, is a great diplomatic reporter to point out Ukraine on the map, which she did, by the way.
And the president of the United States, it's not clear to me whether he could point out Kansas City on a map.
BURNS: Look, just think what -- I mean, Jeff is, of course, right that the president's voters are not going to desert him over this, but imagine what President Trump would have done to Jeb Bush in 2016 if he had made a mistake like that. Or to Hillary Clinton in the general election. Or to Adam Schiff or literally anybody else who makes this kind of mistake. We'd be hearing about it at rallies for months and months.
ZELENY: One interesting Trump thing. So many cabinet secretaries are here in Iowa. Wilbur Ross, the commerce secretary, is attending a Republican caucus tonight in Chariton, Iowa. As Kay knows, a tiny town. The White House chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, is attending Republican caucus, all because the president is watching all of this, and they want Republicans to turn out. That, I think, is the more interesting story. We've never seen that before.
BERMAN: No. Although --
ZELENY: I'm not as worked up about the tweet as you are.
BERMAN: Although the administration sent Wilbur Ross to a Sheraton hotel, because they didn't realize that Chariton --
ZELENY: Slightly different spelling.
BERMAN: They did realize that Chariton was actually a town.
ZELENY: With a "C," yes.
BURNS: Nobody says turnout like Wilbur Ross.
BERMAN: That's right.
Guys, thank you all very much for being with us this morning. I really appreciate it.
So Republicans voted against allowing witnesses in the impeachment trial of President Trump. But we're going to hear -- will we hear from John Bolton anyway? That's next.