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Iowa Democrats Say, Plan To Release Results As Soon As Possible Today. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired February 4, 2020 - 10:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: -- Wolf Blitzer.

[10:00:00]

And we're back here in the CNN Election Center, that's because we still have no official results from the Iowa caucuses, some 14 hours since they began, none, zero. We're told to expect numbers sometime today after a truly stunning meltdown of the vote-reporting system. It left 11 -- it left Democratic presidential candidates, and all of us, I must say, in the dark about who won the first contest of 2020.

There's certainly a lot we still don't know about how Iowa went so horribly wrong. But we do know it's a totally huge embarrassment as the Democrats kickoff their fight to defeat President Trump and move on to the next battleground in New Hampshire.

Right now, the future of the Iowa caucuses and the state's first in the nation status are more in doubt than ever. We have reporters standing by with the candidates as we cover this truly unprecedented moment In American presidential politics.

First, let's go to CNN's Jeff Zeleny, he's in Des Moines for us. Jeff, what is the latest? What are you learning?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, good morning. I am told at this hour that the chair of the Iowa Democratic Party and some of the other top officials there will be briefing campaign officials, presidential advisers shortly, just giving them an update on the progress overnight that is going to eventually lead to some results, we believe, at some point later this afternoon perhaps. The timing is still uncertain.

We are getting a new statement just a short time ago from the chairman of the Iowa Democratic Party and walking through these inconsistencies that we have been reporting and really for the last 12 hours or more or so it became clear something was indeed wrong here in Iowa with those counts. The statement walks through talking about the integrity of the process, it does not say anything about the results.

But it does say this, Wolf, let's take a look at this and read this together here. It says, because of the required paper documentation, we have been able to verify the data recorded in the app and used to calculate the State Delegate Equivalents is valid and accurate. Precinct level results are still being reported to the IDP. Our plan is to release results as soon as possible. Our ultimate goal is to ensure that the integrity and accuracy of the process continues to be upheld.

So let me break that down for you. What that means essentially is the Iowa Democratic Party last night was trying to report three separate numbers. The popular vote, if you will, which is done for the first time in the Iowa caucuses, as well as the delegated equivalence. We talked about this so many times last evening. So that is one of the reasons they believe that this -- the counting process was slowed down.

But, Wolf, the bigger reason was the app. This counting app that was designed just for this simply failed. We are talking to chairman across the State of Iowa who are hosting these caucuses who said they simply didn't work. So they tried to call the results in. And as you know, Wolf, those phone lines were jammed, leading to an hour-and-a- half wait in some respects. So I am told about 250 or so precincts maybe still withstanding -- outstanding, excuse me, so those are going to be counted at some point.

But, Wolf, regardless of this, the embarrassment and the stain on the Iowa caucuses is resonating today here in Des Moines.

BLITZER: What an awful, awful embarrassment. Jeff Zeleny, we'll get back to you.

I want to walk over to David Chalian right now. David, what, 14 hours ago, you and I were standing here, you were standing, I was standing, and we were wondering would it be a half an hour or 45 minutes. We start getting precinct results, 10 percent, 15 percent, by 10:00, 11:00 at night, 90 percent. So far, 14 hours later, right now, we have zero percent.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Nothing, yes. I was going to show you all the different modes of voting, the first round and the final round in the state -- no, we have zero, nothing has been reported. My understanding now is that the state party is trying to work through this morning a timing when they may be able to start reporting results and trying to figure out how that would be. Would it be dumped all at one time or will it come on a rolling basis? That is still being worked out and determined right now.

But, Wolf, I think we have to step back here and just appreciate the enormity of what this moment is. Think back over the course of the last year, all these candidates who have built these massive organizations, who have invested so heavily there, all the events we in the press go and cover and watch to see how is the candidate interacting with Iowa voters at the state fair, how are they doing on this -- giving a speech on a big night that the party puts together a big dinner.

All these important moments in Iowa because it leads up to the first kickoff contest that is so critical for momentum out of that first state, it's a proof point. It's after a year of wooing voters, campaigning and saying, your message is superior, you're the right candidate to beat Trump, last night was supposed to be a proof point for these candidates and they didn't have it.

And so it really does alter the very DNA inside this nomination race going forward in many ways. And so not to have the ability to have momentum out of it is a huge problem for some candidates that may have done well last night.

[10:05:05]

And, by the way, candidates who may have been doing worse than expectations, perhaps, got away with something last night because there is no sort of recriminations this morning for those campaigns because we don't know. We don't have any results. But it is undoubtedly going to significantly impact all these candidates now in New Hampshire and this -- not having these results will significantly impact how the campaign moves forward.

BLITZER: David, the statement that we received from the Iowa Democratic Party saying that we'll get results later today, unknown what time later. The question a lot of people are going to ask, will we be able to trust these results?

CHALIAN: Well, the same paper statement is trying to give assurance that you will. That because the party has a verifiable paper record of everyone who showed up at the caucuses with these preference cards, what they're saying is, yes, it may take a while. But when they report, they want to do so with supreme confidence. That doesn't mean people may not question it, but the party is so focused on that, Wolf, to make sure when results are reported, they are done so accurately and in a confident manner.

BLITZER: All right. David, thank you very much. We're going to get back to you.

John king, Nia-Malika Henderson are here. So, so far, 14 hours later, John, which of the candidate seems to be benefiting a bit from this fiasco in Iowa and who is suffering from it?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I don't think we know the answer to that question. There are some people who think that Biden could be, quote/unquote, benefitting. Put that in quotation marks, if he was having a bad night, we'd be having a different conversation this morning, they moved on to New Hampshire. And, interestingly, the former vice president staff now questioning the results, questioning legitimacy of what we are going to see later, saying, they're so worried about the irregularities last night, that they're not sure they can trust the results. Is that a campaign that knows it had a bad night, trying to spin it to move on? We don't know.

But here's what we do know. We have to be careful. We do not know how this will change the campaign, but it will change the campaign. This is the day normally last night, 10:00 or 11:00 at night, two or three candidates give speeches, they beat expectations, they get a bounce, two or three people get a bounce out of Iowa. In a crowded field like this, two or three people normally get the boot.

This is a a huge race. We have New Hampshire, Nevada, South Carolina and then a crowded calendar. Joe Biden is short money already. Some of these other candidates short money already. If you're a donor today, Bernie Sanders will be fine, he raises a lot of money online. Some of the other candidates raise a lot money online. If you're a donor to Amy Klobuchar or Joe Biden, you're sitting and saying, what do I do, is this worth the investment? That's the answer we don't have right now.

And today is normally a defining day, especially with a crowded field, where some candidates get a bounce, other candidates have to step back and start having very difficult conversations. Can I go on? That has been delayed. How much? Forever? Will it make a difference? Will we be having that conversation tonight? That's the uncertainty that this abomination has cuased.

BLITZER: What's awful for the American public especially but also for the campaigns, the candidates, their supporters, they spent a year trying to generate support in Iowa, spent a ton of money, people were working breathlessly for their respective candidates for what?

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: That's right. And people wanted clarity out of these results. They wanted -- I think probably a smaller field, they wanted to figure out what might happen going forward in some of these states. And they wanted a return on their investment, right? If you were campaigns that spent millions of dollars on the ground, on the air as well, in terms of advertising and the state party benefiting greatly from this as well. And so now you got nothing after that year.

Listen, the state party had months and months and months to sort of figure this out. They clearly didn't do it. I think a lot of scrutiny will go on Iowa. The process is very undemocratic, right? You got to go there for three or four hours and sort of trade votes and all that sort of thing. It is not a very demographically diverse state. So I think all of those questions going in Iowa have some scrutiny, I think that is going to be heightened at this point and real questions at whether Iowa can handle being first.

BLITZER: Yes. The pressure is going to mount on the national, the Democratic National Committee to do something about this disaster that we have seen unfold.

Coming up, the 2020 Democrats have already moved on to New Hampshire. How are they spinning what still hasn't happened in Iowa. More of our extended coverage of the first presidential contest of 2020 just ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[10:00:00]

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: All right, welcome back to our continuing coverage.

So here is the state of play. When Iowa does its job the right way, it has a big impact on the election. When it screws up in epic fashion, it has an even bigger impact because this process is not about the unknown. It's about the known. We're supposed to know right now, so how did all the hype shake out? How did they do at the top? Why did they do that way at the top? Who fell back and underperformed? What does it mean going forward for the big metrics, like what? Who these brilliant people sitting on my left and right are talking about today, who they're upset at, what it means going into New Hampshire, who is raising money? All of that has been denied by a process that should have been easy. They had one job and they screwed it up.

So the effect of the unknown, David Axelrod, how do we measure what this means?

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, in some ways, it means nothing now, which is -- makes it mean everything. I mean, the graphic says too early to call, but it's really -- we're verging on too late to matter.

[10:15:00]

And for the people who are competing there, the people who did well, that's a disaster. Pete Buttigieg, for example, put all his chips on Iowa and the idea was he was going to be shot from a cannon by doing well in Iowa into the rest of the races. It was a pop gun because he never had results.

He did well. Everybody agrees he did well. He thinks he won based on what he saw but he didn't get the benefit of it. His people say they thought they could raise $5 million off of a showing like they thought they had last night, just off into the atmosphere.

CUOMO: So the money moment is gone, Gloria.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. And Biden needed it tremendously. And he's not going to get it. And I don't know whether he would have gotten it anyway. But what Biden did get was no definitive results, which kind of helps him. Of course, he's -- you have a candidate challenging the election and one thing that he won when we don't know, and I think that this is supposed to catapult you into raising money. Biden needs the money, and who knows if he's going to get it or not.

Look, my feeling is that each of these campaigns internally know how they did. They have -- they have people at precincts, everywhere, and they were getting their reports back. So what they don't know is whether they won. And -- but I've got to believe that the campaigns have some sense of how they did. But they can't share it. Maybe, privately, they're talking to donors and saying --

CUOMO: They can't share it except when they give a national speech for 40 minutes saying that they won, which we heard at least two last night.

BORGER: David and I disagree on that. Because David thinks -- I understand your point that it was good strategically, but in the end, if you claim victory, you have to sort of then define what victory means because if it comes in second, maybe it's victory.

CUOMO: But now, you can question the results. So if they say you came in second, you say you came in first, you say, says who?

So let's look at it in terms of the play. Now, what's the opposite play? The opposite play is what the Biden campaign did, this can't be trusted. This can't be trusted. What's the downside and upside to that?

JENNIFER GRANHOLM, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, the downside is that you throw election integrity into question overall, and that's what the Trump team has been doing. Trump obviously building on that this morning by his tweets, I worry that this is a setup for the general election, because all he can say in the general election is, you know, elections are -- you know, if he loses, he's going to be hanging on to the banisters at the White House while they're trying to drag him out because he's going to say it was an illegitimate election.

There's one other thing, Chris, I think is really important. The one sort of silver lining for Nevada is that Nevada was using the same app.

CUOMO: This is the silver lining --

GRANHOLM: The silver ling, two weeks to figure it out. They better figure it out because, honestly --

JESS MCINTOSH, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: That's the thing. Campaigns aren't using the stupid app. The campaigns are doing it the way they've always done, and with people in precincts calling in numbers that they're writing it down. And that's why they know more than the Iowa Democratic Party does at this point.

I think the biggest story coming out of this actually has nothing to do with any of the candidates. This might be the end of the first of the nation Iowa caucuses.

GRANHOLM: Thank goodness.

BORGER: Or any caucuses.

MCINTOSH: Incompetence instead of the undemocratic or discriminatory nature of it. But if incompetence is what gets us to a --

CUOMO: I hear you. Wait a minute, hold on. What about that effect on our Resident Robin Hood. You do not like the idea that you cannot -- that you don't have the little guy who is out there trying to make it, he or she trying to show I can do it door-to-door, person-to-person and slowly build. Is that a romantic notion at this point?

VAN JONES, CNN HOST THE VAN JONES SHOW: Well, listen, I --

AXELROD: And where is your green hat?

CUOMO: He's got too good a shaved head put it away, spoil it away.

JONES: You've got to keep the glow in there. Listen, I think it's time out for Iowa. Iowa needs to be putting time- out. This is a massive -- this is a springboard for our entire party and the springboard broke. And as a result, we are sprawled out here, we don't know what's going on.

But I don't think that it's bad to have one state at the beginning, it needs to be more diverse. I do believe that sometimes somebody, who nobody who's heard of, who wouldn't have enough money to compete, starting out in California or ten states, could catch fire.

I do think -- and by the way, Deval Patrick is still sitting out there, who could catch fire. He's the only person coming in with a high integrity move today. He said, hold on a second, listen, you love him, I love him, Deval Patrick said, hold on a second, Pete is out there declaring victory with no facts and Biden is out there throwing dirt on the process just like Don Jr. He's coming in as a high integrity voice, he might be able to start mattering again.

Listen, I'm idealistic, I'm romantic, I believe in the process, but I don't believe that Iowa should maintain this monopoly and they should be in time-out.

BORGER: Do you think he should rotate it maybe?

JONES: Rotate it to another --

CUOMO: rotating is a half measure though. You've got to figure out a solution or not. Having spent most of my educational life in time-out, it doesn't work because it gives that kid time to figure out how to get around the system better than next time.

[10:20:04]

What do you see as a net effect?

ALEXANDRA ROJAS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I mean, I think, obviously, Iowa being such a debacle is a huge story. But I think the biggest story is actually that the Joe Biden is coming in fourth or fifth place, right? And that the entire argument about electability means that you have to win. And he's not going to have a strong performance and a lot of people will try to minimize, I think, the result of that, but the reality is is that the Democratic frontrunner, the former vice president of the United States, is not -- yes, we don't know, but he's --

BORGER: We don't know.

JONES: We have some intimation he did very, very poorly.

ROJAS: And anecdotally last night as we were watching the results come in. I think caucus site after caucus site, there was a dampening in enthusiasm. And I think the reality of what last night showed is that there are two progressives that have come out in the top two or three and that it's incredibly huge for this moment that the United States wants big ideas -- CUOMO: Right. Look, the frustration of being factless -- we're going to take a quick break here -- is that people are going to be able to run away with a different read on a situation, because I can't tell you where the former V.P. finished. But we will be able to do soon.

And when we return with our coverage, we're also going to start talking about what the already impact is of this. For instance, what does this do to the state of the race for New Hampshire? A lot more coverage ahead. Stay with CNN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[10:25:00]

BLITZER: The Iowa Democratic Party says we should be getting some results later today. They're not saying when. But clearly this is turning out to be rather, rather chaotic, an awful situation. Deval Patrick, one of the Democratic presidential candidates, the former governor of Massachusetts, just issued this very tough statement. Let me read it to you.

One candidate is calling the results into question because he apparently didn't do well. Another is declaring victory without any votes being confirmed. The way to beat Donald Trump isn't to act like Donald Trump. Our party and our country deserve better.

The statement from Deval Patrick seems to be referring to the Biden and Buttigieg campaigns. Jessica Dean is covering the Biden campaign for us. Vanessa Yurkevich is covering the Buttigieg campaign for us right now.

Jessica Dean, first to you. It looks like a real slap at the former vice president.

JESSICA DEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it certainly does, Wolf. And, look, the vice president's campaign is coming out this morning. They are continuing as we have seen them on the air here on CNN to push back against the Iowa caucus process, to call into question that everything has been checked and rechecked before those results are put out. They're also here in New Hampshire on the ground. They want to look ahead to what's going on here in the ground in New Hampshire. He's got two events today. They're keeping their focus on that.

And, Wolf, as you would imagine, we're also starting to get little spins from them also too on their internal polling data, where they think they did well, the rural areas, in different counties like Polk County. But, again, their line right now, Wolf, is that they want to wait and see until the official results come out before they declare anything.

BLITZER: Vanessa, you're covering the Buttigieg campaign over there, another candidate, according to Deval Patrick, is declaring victory without any votes being confirmed. That looks like a real slap at Pete Buttigieg. VANESSA YURKEVICH, CNN BUSINESS AND POLITICS CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. What we heard from Pete Buttigieg last night claiming victory is very much the message that he's keeping going today. He's found numerous morning shows talking about this victory. And he has also been at town halls here in Manchester and in New Hampshire, where he is going to continue to talk to voters.

We know that there is going to be a call with the Iowa Democratic Party later today. But until then, until we get these results, Pete Buttigieg very much sticking to that message that he came out victorious, the campaign not saying much more than that. But, clearly, he is trying to drive that momentum through the rest of the day as he has more than five events today where he is planning to tout that victory that he is claiming until we get those official results later today. Wolf?

BLITZER: All right. Vanessa, thank you. Jessica, thanks to you as well. We'll get back to both of you.

John and Nia, let's talk a little about how the campaigns, specifically the Biden and Buttigieg campaigns, are reacting very different ways, and the Biden campaign, as early, as recently as an hour or so ago, really going after the legitimacy, the integrity of what we are seeing in Iowa.

KING: And it leads you to believe that they understand that they'll be disappointed when the results do come out and want to try to convince voters in New Hampshire and beyond, pay no attention to Iowa, itw as messed up process, don't consider the results.

The Iowa Democratic Party says that when this is done, they have an apology, obviously, to their state and to the nation. But when they're done, they say they'll have the paper trail to back it up, the results will be credible. We'll see when we get there later today.

The biggest dynamic is just the uncertainty. New Hampshire votes in one week. Sometimes New Hampshire hugs Iowa. John Kerry wins Iowa in 2004, wins New Hampshire, the Democratic race was over quickly. Sometimes New Hampshire says, sorry, Iowa, and picks somebody else and changes the race and spices it up. Hillary Clinton won there early in Iowa last time and Bernie Sanders wins in New Hampshire.

So New Hampshire has this unique role of sort of responding to Iowa and either embracing or rejecting its choice. What is its choice? These candidates have seven days to campaign in Iowa. Some of them don't have a lot of money. They have to make decisions. Should you be advertising in Super Tuesday states? Should we focus just in South Carolina and Nevada after New Hampshire? The Boston T.V. market is expensive. That's tough.

There's a big debate Friday night.

[10:30:00]

Deval Patrick issued that statement. He's trying to get into the mix here. He's not in that debate. It's Biden, Buttigieg, Klobuchar, Sanders, Warren, Steyer and Yang. That's tough for him.