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Chaos And Confusion In Iowa As Democratic Party Delays Disaster; Interview With Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D-MI) On State Of The Union Response. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired February 4, 2020 - 07:00   ET




ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is NEW DAY and we do begin with breaking news, and by breaking or broken, I mean the Iowa caucuses.

Several of the candidates have arrived here in New Hampshire for the next contest of the presidential nominating season, but there is no resolution, none at all, from the first contest. Problems with the reporting process in last night's caucuses means there are no official results from Iowa to report. Nothing. The campaigns have been told to expect results later today.

That is a little consolation to the candidates, to the volunteers who spent millions of dollars and weeks or months campaigning across the Hawkeye State. Several of them still are claiming victory based on their own headcounts or wishful thinking or both, but at this hour there is no official winner, no official anything, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: OK, John. And while the Democrats try to clean up the mess in Iowa, President Trump is already seizing on the debacle calling it, a, quote, "unmitigated disaster." This as he prepares for the State of the Union address tonight. So what will the president say about all of this, John?

BERMAN: You know, he's eager to say something.

Look, part of the Iowa tradition is hearing the results there, then flying overnight here to New Hampshire. The early morning arrival rally is a thing of political lore, but this year obviously that got all jumbled along with everything else.

So just before we went to air this morning I managed to chase down Senator Amy Klobuchar just after she touched down here in New Hampshire.


BERMAN: Senator, what happened in Iowa? SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: They had --

apparently they had a problem with the computer system and getting the numbers on. I think they'll be able to count them by hand, just like people used to, and then they will get them in.

BERMAN: Has the state told your campaign anything about when they might expect it, or what exactly happened?

KLOBUCHAR: Well, coming from a state that's had to count a few ballots as in recounts in Minnesota, I'm an expert on this and they can get it done. I'm sure they can get it done by tomorrow. I would hope so.

BERMAN: I was at a rally of yours -- I've lost track of time, I think it was two nights ago in Des Moines, in Beaverdale, at a junior high, and you -- one of the lines that you used that got the most applause was we better not screw this up.

KLOBUCHAR: I didn't mean the numbers.

BERMAN: Well --


KLOBUCHAR: I meant --

BERMAN: But -- but -- but is Iowa screwing it up?

KLOBUCHAR: No, you know what I meant by that. I meant that we need to have a candidate that can lead the ticket, that can bring people with her instead of shutting them out. And I made the argument that night that I make every day in New Hampshire that you want a candidate that can bring a fired-up Democratic base with her along with independents, there is a lot of them in this state, and moderate Republicans so that we can win big and not just eke by a victory.

And I think that's really important. If we want to get things done on climate change and prescription drugs and finally get some decency back into the White House, then we're going to have to bring people with us and my argument is that I'm the one to do that and my argument to our friends out here in New Hampshire and across the country is we know we can win in Kentucky, we just did, in Louisiana, in states like Kansas and Michigan where we won the governor's race. So, yes, we better not screw this up.


BERMAN: Now, props to the Klobuchar campaign. They had volunteers out there to meet the senator at the airport because they know these pictures will be all over the local news here in New Hampshire this morning and traditionally that's the picture you want to see. No results? Why not declare a type of victory for Senator Klobuchar.

Joining me now on the phone someone who was in the middle of this story last night, the Story County precinct secretary, Shawn Sebastian. And Shawn, thank you so much for being with us. And for those who were

watching CNN last night, they heard you. You were on the phone trying to report your results to the Democratic headquarters, but I guess they hung up on you after you were on hold for a while. Walk me through what you went through last night.

SHAWN, SEBASTIAN, STORY COUNTY PRECINCT 1-1 SECRETARY: Yes. So, you know, the caucuses are a complicated process so, you know, I got to the precinct about 4:30 to help set it up. We started at 7:00 p.m. We ended around 8:30 or so and since that time I started, you know, calling in the results and waiting on hold. So it had been like I think about an hour and a half. By the time I was on the phone with CNN, I had my cellphone on one hand listening to the hold music for 90 minutes and I was talking to CNN on the other.


And literally in the like, you know -- in that minute that I was talking to CNN, that's when I got off hold and I just didn't react fast enough, you know, when you are on hold for an hour and a half and you kind of like get stunned by the music stopping and needing to respond, you know, I like tried to get off the phone with Wolf Blitzer so I could report my results and they hung up on me because I wasn't responding fast enough.

BERMAN: Look, and this isn't reporting a problem with your cable box, this is trying to report election results for the Iowa caucuses where candidates have been spending millions of dollars. Have you been able to report the results at this point?

SEBASTIAN: Yes, I was -- I eventually got connected at 11:00 p.m. last night and was able to report my results.

BERMAN: OK. You posted online a picture of your tally that you were keeping and one of the things that people are wondering is if the way the results have been reported this year has contributed to the confusion here, part of the reason is there are going to be three separate results reported. The first alignment, that's basically voters' first preference, the second alignment that's where they went if candidates did not meet the 15 percent threshold, and then finally the state delegate equivalent.

So three different process. These may have confused the matter. Did you ever get any explanation for what is frankly still going wrong?

SEBASTIAN: So I will say that the rules of the caucus are very clear. I think the only thing that we don't know is why the reporting has taken so long. So, you know, the results that we got at every stage were gotten by -- you know, in a room with every participant, so in my precinct there were 285 people who saw the results at every stage, people from every camp saw it, double-checked it, you know, counted it multiple times.

So the results themselves will be accurate I think whenever they come out. And the results themselves tell us different things. So, for instance, in my precinct on the first alignment like when people just kind of state who they want, like who their first preference is, Bernie Sanders got over double the number of votes that Pete Buttigieg had, but at the end of the day when you do the second alignment and you do the math, Sanders won and Buttigieg each got two delegates each.

So on the delegates it was a tie, but on the votes, you know, Sanders got 111 votes, Warren got 82 votes and Buttigieg got 47. Once you do the second alignment and the math it shakes out to --

BERMAN: And that's why --


BERMAN: Yes. And look, and that's why the process changed this time, to provide the transparency so people can tell what's going on behind the scenes. It's fascinating that first choice Bernie Sanders voters outnumbered Pete Buttigieg two to one but they are all going to get the same number of delegates. Thank you so much for telling that because we have no other information frankly from across the state.

Shawn, one last question. You have to be passionate about Iowa and the Iowa caucuses and the Democratic Party and Iowa to do what you do. And I'm just wondering how frustrating it is for you this morning after the months of preparation and the campaigning you've watched to see this happen.

SEBASTIAN: Look, you know, I -- I really care about democracy and I think before we even got in that room today there were real concerns about just the Democratic nature of the caucus. This is a process that disenfranchises parents who have to take care of kids or elders.

This is a process that disenfranchises workers, who have to work those nights, and disabled people. Also Iowa is an over 90 percent white state who is making this massive decision for a party that's over 50 percent people of color.

So before we even got in the room today there were major issues with just the structure of the Iowa caucuses. And then, you know, it's not a simple primary where you see what everyone -- where kind of the main result is just like what every -- who everyone wants to vote for, right? There is all of these levels of math and kind of complicated things that don't really add to getting -- that don't really add to getting a Democratic result. You know, like we don't --

BERMAN: Right.

SEBASTIAN: it didn't help us to know what the Democratic will of the people of Iowa is to go through all of these levels of math. So to me there's things that are inherent in the structure that aren't about the delay in reporting that are a real problem.

BERMAN: Right.


Shawn Sebastian, we thank you for being with us this morning. We know you probably didn't get much sleep last night. And I know you, along with everyone in your state, waiting for the official results to be reported today. So thank you very much for being with us.

Joining me now, CNN Senior Political Writer and Analyst, Harry Enten, CNN Washington Correspondent, Jessica Dean, and CNN Political Analyst, David Gregory, he joins us from Washington, as well as CNN Political Reporter, Rebecca Buck.

David Gregory, Shawn Sebastian just told us everything all at once there about this whole process. You have an Iowa county official basically telling us he thinks the whole process is flawed to begin with. Second of all, you have him telling us that Bernie Sanders won the first ballot, the initial preference, 2 to 1, but is going to end up with the same number of delegates as Elizabeth Warren and Pete Buttigieg.

That's a window into all of this, into everything that is the Iowa caucuses this year.

DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. Just chaos, a horrible showing. These campaigns are going to find that it was a waste of time, an unnecessary test of their early organization because there's nothing to come of it and the results may be suspect. So whoever wins can claim victory, but those who fell behind can say how do we even trust in the process? And the campaign rolls on.

You are already in New Hampshire, the focus of the news, of the campaigns all turns to New Hampshire and beyond. There are debates there in a week, there are results, and then it goes from there and then Iowa becomes a memory and perhaps in the future a distant memory in terms of the role of the caucuses.

There is a couple of ramifications for this. It doesn't do much to help winnow down the Democratic field and you have a Republican opponent who is the president of the United States with a huge megaphone who we know who also has a State of the Union address tonight to say this is the Democratic Party that's in upheaval.

BERMAN: Rebecca Buck, you've been listening very carefully to how the candidates have been speaking since they knew they weren't going to get the results and you think that the words they've chosen do tell us something.

REBECCA BUCK, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: That's right. So we don't have the official results but we do have these tea leaves that we can read from the candidates themselves. And what we heard last night from Elizabeth Warren and Joe Biden were words that suggest disappointment with their results in Iowa, saying there's a long road ahead, that they are built for the long haul in this race. Those are not the words of candidates who are victorious in the Iowa caucuses.

And so that's something to watch, how poorly did they do? And I would actually take a little issue with what David Gregory had to say because if Joe Biden, for example, is a distant fourth in the Iowa caucuses, does that just disappear because of all of this drama around the results, or are there questions about, can he sustain until South Carolina where he's on more favorable turf?

BERMAN: We won't know. We won't know where he ranked until they release the full results. But I do agree with you. You don't talk about the long road ahead unless you don't like the road you're on right now.

BUCK: And Biden's lawyers also writing a letter to the Iowa Democratic Party taking issue with the process. That is not what you see from someone who's happy with the results.

BERMAN: Jessica, you've been on the ground here in New Hampshire for some time. You've also been covering the campaign. What do you see?

JESSICA DEAN, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I mean, I think that's exactly right. We haven't seen anybody else come out with a letter from their attorney, they are -- that letter is talking about acute failures within the process that they want to see these results before they're presented to the public. But, look, if you look ahead, is it possible that -- to David's point that after all is said and done in Iowa that the winner or winners are the losers and the losers are the winners because they are -- you lose the window to be able to capitalize on this.

He does have a point, now we turn to State of the Union, the impeachment acquittal and now we're here in New Hampshire and all eyes are here. So what does that mean going forward? How do these candidates capitalize on actual victories or perceived ones, and what's spin and what's not? We don't know right now.

BERMAN: No, you don't.

GREGORY: I think that's an important point -

BERMAN: You need to look at the calendar like real estate, right?

DEAN: Yes.

BERMAN: Go ahead, David.

GREGORY: John, I think that's an important point that Jessica made which is the perceived winners. You know, we came into this contest suggesting well, how many tickets are punched coming out of Iowa, you have the more progressive wing of the party, the moderate wing of the party, they're going to keep at each other for some time. We're going to get to a nominating contest that traditionally narrows down to two people. This may be wider than that.

There's Michael Bloomberg who's out in the shadows who comes up later. So we don't know. I think right now it's going to be about perceived victories and I take Rachael's point which is yes, Biden looks to be in trouble no matter what the state of affairs are in Iowa. But the more muddled the picture is out of Iowa, it almost as if we haven't started yet until we get results out of New Hampshire.

BERMAN: Yes. And look, I just think we all need to be careful until we see anything. DEAN: Absolutely.

BERMAN: Because we just don't know every county in Iowa with all the precincts when it's all counted out where it will be.


All I was going to say is you need to look at the calendar like individual pieces of real estate and you want to claim each day as a piece of real estate as your own and this will be a day that no one claims and this is a day that's one of the most important in the nominating calendar between Iowa and New Hampshire.

Harry, for all we don't know.


BERMAN: And one of the reasons -

ENTEN: A lot.

BERMAN: One of the reasons why I'm so glad you're here is because there are things we now do know because thank goodness we had the entrance polls, the often-maligned exit polls.


BERMAN: This time it's all we've got.

ENTEN: That's right.

BERMAN: And what have you seen?

ENTEN: So I think there are two quick things that I see from there. Number one, there was a big question going into these caucuses whether or not those caucusgoers under the age of 45 would make up a larger share of the electorate than they did four years ago. And what do we see in the entrance polls? In fact, they did. They made up nearly 10 points more of the electorate than they did four years ago.

That's good news for Bernie Sanders, right? Because he is counting on those younger caucusgoers. Perhaps the bad news for Bernie Sanders, though, is if we look at the percentage that liberals make up of the Democratic electorate in the Iowa caucuses that's the same as it was four years ago. So when you put that picture together I think it's good news for Sanders on more young caucusgoers, bad news for Biden, who wanted those to be older caucusgoers, and perhaps good news for Buttigieg because he does better -- he does well across the age board and he does better among moderates and conservatives.

BERMAN: What about turnout?

ENTEN: The other thing about turnout that I think is so important is we went into this caucuses thinking hey, maybe we might get record turnout. Didn't happen. We had the same turnout that we did four years ago, about at least according to the Iowa Democratic Party and that may be a bad sign for Democrats in enthusiasm and we saw that as well in the special election results in 2019 and 2020 where the Democrats' performance versus the 2016 baseline wasn't nearly as strong as it was between 2017 and 2018.

BERMAN: Rebecca, I do think it was having not just because I was the one who caught up with her at the airport, but Amy Klobuchar having that small rally there at the airport. Traditionally every campaign does that. You land with as many supporters as you can get at the Manchester airport. She did it. She seized the moment. A lot of people wondered are wondering whether she would even be in this campaign after Iowa.

There are no results. She seems to be happy with what she's hearing from a precinct. Why not come in smiling and declaring a little bit of victory?

BUCK: Right. Amy Klobuchar has played this in a very savvy way. We saw her come out last night in Iowa as we did not have any results to talk about, and essentially declare victory and say, we are punching above our weight, doing better than anyone expected. We did well here in Iowa and then coming into New Hampshire like a victorious candidate there today. And so she's faking it until she makes it essentially in this race.

And if this is a situation, I mean, of course, we're waiting for these results, but if this is a situation where Joe Biden places a distant fourth, really falls below expectations in Iowa, there are questions about, can he sustain until South Carolina, there might be an opening for someone like Amy Klobuchar to swoop in.

BERMAN: The most important day this week will be Friday night. The most important day besides today which is a lost day is now Friday which is a debate here in New Hampshire, and one of the questions has been is, will the other candidates for what would be the first time focus on Bernie Sanders who may or may not come out of Iowa with something of a victory. And that's a big question for the Biden campaign.

DEAN: Yes.

BERMAN: How much of a contrast does he wants --

DEAN: Right, and what arguments, what debates do they want to have. Look, when we were in Iowa I was with the Biden campaign. That was when the whole thing about Social Security started to come up when that voter asked Joe Biden about his record on Social Security and that was when the standards back and forth began. And the Sanders campaign has really wanted to have that debate, that discussion.

They didn't necessarily want to have it with this video floating around on Twitter, but the Biden campaign, look, they have to look at Bernie Sanders now as a real competitor in this race and really compare themselves to him and they think they can do that with Joe Biden's record.

BERMAN: All right, Harry, Jessica, Rebecca, David Gregory, thank you all for being with us this morning. We obviously have so much more to discuss because this is unfolding before our eyes.

Coming up in the next hour, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, Pete Buttigieg, who did declare a type of victory, he will join us here live, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: It will be very interesting to talk to him and find out exactly what he meant by some of the things that he said last night that are already making their rounds in memes, for instance.

John, thank you very much.

So President Trump makes his State of the Union tonight and after that Democrats get their turn to respond. The governor of Michigan has been handpicked to do that. What does she plan to say? She tells us next.



CAMEROTA: Breaking news. If you're just waking up, we are still awaiting the results from last night's Iowa caucuses. They are delayed officials say because of, quote, "inconsistencies with the count." How will this play into President Trump's State of the Union address and the Democratic response?

Joining us now is Michigan's Governor Gretchen Whitmer, one of two women delivering the Democratic response tonight.

Governor, great to see you this morning.

GOV. GRETCHEN WHITMER (D-MI): Good morning, Alisyn. Good to be with you.

CAMEROTA: This is not what you were expecting I assume to have to deal with, but you, of course, are the fate of the Democratic Party tonight in terms of the response to President Trump. So will you address this Iowa chaos?

WHITMER: No. I won't.


WHITMER: I -- you know, I'm going to stay focused on the issues that matter to Michiganders and I think the American people in every state. We want to know that our government works just as hard as we do, that they are focused on the things that are going to improve our lives, whether it's infrastructure or, you know, expanding access to affordable health care or just ensuring that everyone has a path to a good-paying job. So that's what I'm going to focus on tonight.

But it is a wild week, that's to be sure, and anticipating what the president may or may not say is a challenge, but I'm going to stay focused to the issues that I ran on and I think that's what the American people want to hear about.

CAMEROTA: We do, courtesy of the "Washington Post," have a bit of a preview of what President Trump plans to say tonight.


I'll read it to you. "The theme of Trump's speech will be the great American comeback which is how he and his advisers see his presidency after nearly six months of impeachment proceedings. Trump plans to present a vision of 'relentless optimism' as one aide put it and to summon lawmakers from both parties work together on economic policies and other issue areas."

As you know the president sometimes goes off script and so if he brings up the Iowa caucus chaos or impeachment and calls it a name as he has, will you pivot to talking about those things?

WHITMER: You know, we will have to see what he says. I mean, I think you're right that there is a history of going off script, but here is what I know. You know, this economy -- I anticipate that he will talk about the economy and try to take credit for, you know, Wall Street, but the fact of the matter is it doesn't matter what's going on in the stock market to so many -- you know, Michiganders and Iowans and people from Wisconsin and Illinois, and across our great country.

If you can't put food on the table, if -- we need an economy that is strong for the, you know, teacher that is using her own money to buy school supplies or for the small business owner that has to make payroll at the end of the week. And I think that's, you know, what we anticipate he will talk about in terms of the stock market or what's going on in Iowa, people want to hear real solutions.

CAMEROTA: But, I mean, that said I think that he's also going to talk about the hundreds of thousands of manufacturing jobs that he's going to take credit for. He's going to take credit for the very low unemployment. And so how do you counter that? Those are real numbers.

WHITMER: I think the fact of the matter is that there are farmers who have lost an incredible amount of money just because of, you know, tariffs and tweets that come out of the White House. Auto workers, you know, in the steel and aluminum tariffs came in, you know, unknown what was going to happen and there were layoffs.

I think that what the president is able to control has not gone well for the American people. Our standing in the world, our moral standing, our ability to have real credibility and impact geopolitics, all of these things have suffered under this president. But the most important thing that families across our country are worried about is, are your kids going to be able to have a better life than we had? That's what the American dream was built on and that's exactly what is at issue here.

I look at the young people across our country and my kids included, and they inspire me. They take on tough issues and insist on action and that's really what I think makes this country -- our future, you know, optimistic, but today right now we have tough issues to tackle. There are 275 important bills sitting on Mitch McConnell's desk that have not moved. Democrats are showing leadership across this country and I think we're really making a difference in people's lives and that's what's most important in our elected officials.

CAMEROTA: Well, when we do our voter panels here with Democratic voters what they often say is that they want some hope. They want some light at the end of what they consider this sort of Trump tunnel, and this morning with the chaos in Iowa, it is not giving them that confident feeling about what's going to happen in 2020. So will you -- I mean, will you be just sort of issues oriented or will you give them some of that reason to believe that 2020 might go their way?

WHITMER: I think both. You know, when you stay focused on the issues you win. You're able to show the real leadership that's making a difference in people's lives in this country right now and it's in our governors' offices, it's in Democrats who have the ability to take action and lead. And I think that is hopeful in and of itself.

But here's what we know. The American people are so tired of all of this, you know, politics of running people down on Twitter. That's not how you build bridges. What we need to do in this country is really focus on moving forward and ensuring that everyone has a path to a good life here and that's the challenge before us. Democrats are delivering on that. I think that is hopeful and I think that's what people in our country want to hear.

Iowa is one state. You know, one down, 49 others to go. And so I'm not going to jump into the Iowa politics. I'm going to stay focused on a vision for this country. That's why Nancy Pelosi asked me to give this address to the nation and Congresswoman Escobar and that's what we're going to deliver.

CAMEROTA: We will be watching. Governor Gretchen Whitmer, we really appreciate you taking time to talk to us this morning.

WHITMER: Thank you. Hope to see you soon.

CAMEROTA: Us, too.

So, John, we know that you will be speaking with Mayor Pete Buttigieg soon and he is already out and about, it sounds like, there in New Hampshire.

BERMAN: Yes, we hope to be speaking to him soon, but there, you're looking at live pictures of him in Nashua, New Hampshire, which I know you know well, Alisyn. He is in a cafe there talking to voters. No rest for the frustrated.