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Iowa Democrats Promise Majority Of Results At 5:00 P.M. Eastern Time. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired February 4, 2020 - 13:00   ET

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


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[13:00:00]

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: We're following the chaos and the confusion in Iowa. The state Democratic Party prepares to finally release some of the results from the caucuses. I'm Wolf Blitzer in the CNN Election Center.

The presidential candidates' campaigns were briefed by phone just a little while ago on the breakdown of the vote reporting system and what happens next. We're told party officials promise to go public with a majority, a majority of the results as they have them at around 5:00 P.M. Eastern. It's already been some 17 hours since the caucuses began and we've gone without any official results at all.

Our correspondents are standing by as we cover this unprecedented delay in learning the winner of the first presidential contest of 2020. Let's go over to David Chalian who is closely monitoring all of these developments. David, what's the latest? What are you learning?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Well, what we heard is the Iowa Democratic chairman, Troy Price, the man in charge of this caucus process, was on the phone with campaign representatives from each of the campaigns in the last hour. And in that call, as you noted, Wolf, he said the Iowa Democratic Party is going to report results at 5:00 P.M. Eastern, at least 50 percent. Actually, he said it will be more than 50 percent of the overall vote.

What is unclear still at this time is exactly how that information is going to come in. Is it going to be in one complete dump of information statewide? Are we going to see that county by county? How are we going to be able to know, when we get the majority of that vote in, from what part of the state it is from so that we can determine, is it sort of representative of the statewide vote, might it represent one part of the state more than the other? Those are questions that are still outstanding.

The key here, they're actually going to start reporting results, something we've been waiting for now. You can do the math, I guess it's about 15 hours, 16 hours?

BLITZER: 17.

CHALIAN: 17 hours we've been waiting for it. And now we know at 5:00 P.M. Eastern, the party plans to deliver a majority of the vote. I just want to stress, not knowing how this vote comes in will, of course, determine how we can interpret the meaning of this vote.

And the other thing I would note that Chairman Price said on this call, Wolf, to these campaign representatives, he said, it will release just like it would have on caucus night. That is quite a statement to see if this is really going to roll out exactly as it should have done on caucus night or in some other fashion, Wolf.

BLITZER: You know, it's interesting, David, I want to bring in Mark Preston and Dana Bash, because, Mark, some of the campaigns are already complaining that there's only going to be a partial release. They assumed that 100 percent of the precincts would be reported.

MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. And we heard just on that phone call that there was an incredibly amount of pushback against the Iowa Democratic Party chairman, saying, if you release -- if you don't release all of the numbers, then people are going to take that as fact, whatever the first number set that you released. So there is some truth to that.

But I do think that the Iowa Democratic Party is trying to get out the numbers out as quickly as possible. There's incredibly amount of pressure on them right now to at least show data that is not corrupted. They know nothing is wrong with it. They've told us that now for going on probably 15 or 20 hours now. But yet we'll have to wait and see in a couple of hours.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's true. But what David was saying that we are hearing as part of this call, but the reporting that we have that we're going to get up to or around 50 percent of the data, why? And if that's what the campaigns who were on this call were trying to get the answer to, why? Why not all of it since we are, by Wolf's calculation, 17 hours into it?

And they said, in the statement that we obtained, that Troy Price, the chairman of the Iowa party, said to the campaigns that they have confidence in the numbers, that they have all the information. Why is it just half at this hour?

PRESTON: One thing that I've heard from sources just in the past couple hours is that they're at the point now where they have to get it right. Meaning --

BASH: That's fair.

PRESTON: -- they have to -- there's no way that they can release any kind of data, any kind of information that isn't going to be 100 percent full-proof.

So at this point, I think that the Iowa Democratic Party has just kind of got to -- just got to wait and go through it. And what I'm told is they're literally going through it and checking it by hand. I mean, that is a big delay. Technology has been the biggest downfall for the Iowa Democratic Party in the selection. BLITZER: They had a really crummy app that screwed up the entire thing, apparently, Dana. They're trying to do it old school now, actually going through the paper.

[13:05:01]

BASH: But old school was faster.

BLITZER: Yes.

BASH: That's what -- they prepared to do it to have certainly the app and to do it very, very quickly. They did have this backup. And I will say having been at a caucus last night, it is different. What they had as a backup is part of the reforms that they did put in place this year.

And thank goodness that those reforms were added as part of the overall changes to the way that they did the Iowa caucuses, because they do have the hard copies of what each person who was there to caucus actually wanted to do and the totals of each section of each precinct. It just does take a while given the fact it's beyond old school. It's really rudimentary.

PRESTON: And you know what this has led to is, literally, in the last hour, we saw the South Carolina Democratic Party now put out a statement saying, don't worry about our election. We have put in safeguards. There are new safeguards this year.

You're going to see more and more of that, I think, as these states are going to be voting, certainly from Democrats who are concerned, because there's always the conspiracy theory that this is against Bernie Sanders, or this is against Joe Biden or what have you. So I think Democrats are very, very weary of putting out anything that could be wrong at all.

BASH: Yes, there was that. There are those conspiracy theories or, in some cases, real concerns based on events that people who support Bernie Sanders saw with their own eyes, same with Hillary Clinton. But it's even a more fundamental, rudimentary question which is the validity of the voting system and voting rights, and it's such a fundamental core part of who the Democratic Party is to make sure that everybody has the right to vote. And the fact that this first incredibly important contest for choosing the person that they hope will beat Donald Trump has any kind of taint to it, is -- it's almost hard to wrap your mind around.

BLITZER: Yes, it certainly is. Jeff Zeleny is in Des Moines for us watching all of this unfold. When they say, Jeff, more than 50 percent of all results will be released around 5:00 P.M. Eastern, what's the thinking behind that? Why not 100 percent?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: That's a good question. And there was a big divide in that, if they thought they could wait several days or if they thought they needed to get something out. I talked to actually a Democratic official earlier who said, we've waited this long, perhaps we need to just get it all out there and get it right. But there was pressure from some of the potentially winning campaigns who wanted some of these numbers out.

But it's not going to solve any of the questions, because as David was saying earlier, we do not know where all of these are coming from. It's almost certainly not to be a representative sample of 50 percent or plus 50 percent from the majority of the state. So that is something that we'll be watching.

As Dana was saying, the paper trail here, that is significant. That was Bernie Sanders who drove that change from four years ago. He left Iowa four years ago just narrowly losing to Hillary Clinton and he thought he was robbed. So his campaign worked with the DNC and essentially forced these rules. So now, there is a paper trail but it's also led to these rule changes, which is some of the confusion. Bernie Sanders is leaving Iowa right now for New Hampshire. But, Wolf, when those results are announced, all eyes will be on that.

Jeff Weaver, the campaign manager for Bernie Sanders, real quick, he accused other campaigns of trying to slough off this because he says they're not doing quite as well.

So the spinning really begins here in about four hours, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes. There's a lot of spinning that's going to be going on. We're going to start getting these results from the Iowa caucus over the next four hours or so. We'll watch it closely. Everybody stick around. We're covering the breaking news. Much more right after this.

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[13:10:00]

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to CNN's live coverage of the Iowa caucus that would not end. We are here with our panel and we are awaiting at least partial results from the Iowa Democratic Party, which we're told will come at 5:00 P.M. Eastern. And let's discuss what happened, what this all means and where the presidential candidates go from here.

But before we do that, we just got some sound from Senator Bernie Sanders. Let's roll that, if we can.

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SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Last night, obviously, I am disappointed. I suspect I can speak for all of the candidates, all of their supporters and the people of Iowa that the Iowa Democratic Party has not been able to come up with timely election results. I can't understand why that happens, but it has happened.

And I want to just introduce --

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TAPPER: All right. So that's Senator Bernie Sanders, and then what he went on to do, and we're not going to repeat what he did, but Jeff Weaver, one of his top strategists, then before the cameras and they put out a press release like this yesterday, Gloria, is they gave the Sanders Campaign raw totals of what they think the results were. They said they did it in the interest of transparency. It's also in the interest of, hey, we think we won.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Right, exactly. Well, everybody is sort of -- we saw Pete Buttigieg last night go out and claim victory. Amy Klobuchar was out first. She did not claim victory but she said we did really well.

It was an opportunity for candidates to spin without any facts, without knowing anything, and we know how dangerous that is. And so now, we are waiting for the Democratic Party to come out and give at least 50 percent of what they know.

TAPPER: Is that what they said, most of the returns?

BORGER: So what they will give us, according to my understanding of it, is what people are most interested in, is the popular vote and the delegate equivalence, which is what you count, and there are 41 at stake in Iowa.

[13:15:02]

But they're not waiting to give it to you all. I guess they're doing a do-over as if this were election night, perhaps, and we were getting 50 percent of the returns in. I don't know if all the campaigns are going to be very happy about that. But what we have now are campaigns spinning the results that should be hard facts. And we don't know what they are, and conspiracy theorists, weaving conspiracies out there because we are in a situation in this country where we don't trust elections.

TAPPER: So what's interesting is the Biden campaign, and there was every indication that Vice President Biden was probably not going to have a great night last night, although we'll see what the results are. Maybe I'm wrong. The Biden campaign is out there openly saying that they don't trust what the results will be, which is the kind of thing, by the way, the Democrats used to criticize candidate Trump for, say.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Yes. And it's hard to imagine that they would be making the same comments if they were confident that they actually did well. Symone Sanders, who is working for the campaign, said they finished somewhere in the top four. It's unclear if it's one, two, three or four, but obviously there's speculation that they didn't perform as well as they wanted to.

They spent a lot of money in Iowa, right? There were times when they felt like Pete Buttigieg had sort of collapsed and they felt like they were surging. Some of the polls showed them doing very well, but the more recent polls didn't show them doing so well, maybe 15 or 13 percent in some of these most recent polls. In some ways, people are saying, well, listen, this is good for Biden because he can sort of spin it and there's not -- TAPPER: The fiascos they provide.

HENDERSON: Yes, in a sense that now we're not focusing on what would be, I think, focus on as a collapse. But the problem is he's still got the money problem. That doesn't fix any of this sort of spin that they are issuing. And this idea -- his entire candidacy is built on this idea that he's a winner, right, that he is unbeatable.

So far, there are no wins. He's going to go to New Hampshire. That doesn't seem like a strong state for him. We'll see what happens in Nevada. So you've got to be worried if you're the Biden campaign.

JESS MCINTOSH, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, all this does is delay what's going to happen to the Biden campaign. If --

TAPPER: Assuming the results aren't good.

MCINTOSH: Assuming the results come in and he is in fourth or fifth place, that is a serious blow to a candidacy that has staked its entire rationale on being the safe, electable choice. He has all of the support parked in South Carolina. There has been polling to suggest that that is not the most enthusiastic support. And if he comes in with a really disappointing finish in Iowa, I think that support is going to go in a lot of other places, and no one is really entirely sure what that means.

BORGER: Money will go --

MCINTOSH: He's already starting to have money (ph).

TAPPER: We actually have an expert, South Carolina Democrat, with us. Bakari, what do you think? I mean, if -- again, we don't know what the results are. But all indications are that Vice President Biden did not have a great last night. If he doesn't do well in Iowa and then also doesn't do well in New Hampshire, does his firewall of South Carolina, where he is really strong, especially with African-American voters, does that crumble?

BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No. And so I think -- to be completely honest, I think that the -- I always wanted to see the caucuses go away. I didn't want to see them like crumble in flames, like they did last night, due to gross negligence, is what you said, or whatever it may be.

But I do think that Buttigieg, Warren and Sanders had an opportunity to have that momentum come out of Iowa and they will rob that moment. It's something they can't recapture, because now, we're turning the page. We're on the State of the Union, we're on the impeachment vote, we're on New Hampshire, we're on debates, town halls, et cetera. So they can't recreate that momentum because now the story is not which candidate won Iowa, the story is --

TAPPER: The mess.

SELLERS: -- the mess. So let me just -- on black voters real quick. That this is all good and the political theater is great, however, until your candidate can actually get above 15 percent of the black vote anywhere, then your candidate is going to have a great deal of trouble. And what Joe Biden has shown is that he is very strong in the African-American community, which means he'll do well in South Carolina, which also means that he'll do well on Super Tuesday, which also means he'll do well in March, because the majority of the voters during that time period are voters of color, which Iowa and New Hampshire are not.

TAPPER: All right. So just stick around because I want to get your reaction too. We have some new sound from Senator Bernie Sanders. I know you're very progressive. You're in favor of both the Warren and Sanders candidacies. Take a listen to what Sanders just had to say.

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SANDERS: And the people of Iowa, as I've said many times, take enormously, seriously, their responsibility in being the first in the nation to vote. So I think the people of Iowa have done their duty. So I think the people of Iowa have done their duty. And, unfortunately, I think the Democratic Party here in Iowa has been negligent in not getting us timely results.

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TAPPER: What do you think? Is that right? Is that the right tone?

ALEXANDRA ROJAS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I mean, I think that we shouldn't be blaming the people of Iowa. I think that this is definitely an issue within the bureaucracy of the Democratic Party.

But I think the real takeaway from tonight, right, is that progressive ideas are popular.

[13:20:01]

Common sense solutions, tackling the climate crisis with big, bold climate action, having healthcare, right, I think we saw in entrance polls that 60 percent of people that went to the caucus want government-run healthcare. We obviously want to level the playing field. That's what's huge.

And I think the sort of with Pete, Bernie and Warren coming out on top, it's really a repudiation of the old guard that I think Joe Biden represents is this sort of boring establishment politics compromised with corporate America Republican like (ph). And I think that we saw that the majority of the Democratic base does not want that.

SELLERS: Let me also -- all right, let me just clarify one thing. Because what last night was not is a vote of the Democratic base. And so when people talk about this being indicative of something, it's absolutely not. Last night, you had 3 percent of the electorate was African-American, 4 percent of the electorate was Hispanic. That is not what the Democrats want.

TAPPER: It's definitely wider than the average Democratic vote.

ROJAS: I don't disagree with that. But at the same time, like the narrative leading out of Iowa usually is that this is an important state for who the frontrunner is.

TAPPER: All right. Everyone stick around, we've got more to talk about. We're standing by for the partial release of the Iowa caucus results. Will the numbers offer any clarity? Back in a moment.

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[13:25:00]

BLITZER: The waiting for the results of the Iowa caucuses, we're told, by the Iowa Democratic Party that more than 50 percent of all the results will be released around 5:00 P.M. Eastern. Let's check in with CNN's Vanessa Yurkevich. She's in New Hampshire for us. She's covering the Buttigieg campaign. What are you hearing over there and what's been the reaction, Vanessa, so far?

VANESSA YURKEVICH, CNN BUSINESS AND POLITICS CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Hi there, Wolf. Pete Buttigieg just wrapped up his second official campaign stop of the day and he wasted no time addressing the crowd saying, once again, that he is touting his victory in Iowa.

This is what he said. He said, we are still waiting for some math, but we have arrived with the momentum and we've arrived victorious. So, again, clearly talking to the crowd here, telling them that he has emerged from Iowa victorious.

But as we know, the campaigns just wrapped up a call with the Iowa Democratic Party chairman who said that just in a couple hours, they would be releasing the majority of the results. It's also worth noting, Wolf, that Pete Buttigieg has really made it sort of a thing on his campaign that he does media gaggles. He talks to reporters. He has not allowed the press to ask him any questions since 7:00 A.M. this morning.

And it's very unusual for him to sort of operate in this kind of way. As the press, we want to ask him, why is he declaring victory? What happens if he is not the frontrunner out of Iowa? So those questions still very much unanswered. But, of course, what we will get some answers to, Wolf, are those numbers coming out of Iowa in just a few hours as the Democratic Party in Iowa announced that they would be giving us some more information on that in the 5:00 P.M. Hour Eastern Time, Wolf.

BLITZER: And we'll see when the remaining numbers will be released as well. Vanessa, thank you very much.

Let's go over to David Chalian. David, you're getting some new information on another campaign, the campaign of Michael Bloomberg, the former New York City mayor, who is spending hundreds of millions of dollars in campaign ads but really didn't campaign in Iowa at all.

CHALIAN: Yes. So you may recall that in the weeks leading up to the caucuses, one of the things that we talked about when we looked at Bloomberg's campaign strategy here to avoid the first four early states was, well, it's a muddled mess out of the early contest. That is exactly the kind of scenario that Bloomberg is hoping for so that he could come in with all that money, come in to those Super Tuesday states.

I don't know how you get more of a muddled mess than having no results. So this is sort of teeing precisely for Bloomberg. And The New York Times is the first to report and our Bloomberg reporters have now confirmed that, indeed, he met with his campaign and he is asking to say to his staff, double the spending I currently have up and the television markets come up with campaign ads and increase the campaign staff to 2,000 people.

So he is looking to take this chaos out of Iowa, no clear momentum candidate because the results aren't in, and make a larger footprint in that all-important Super Tuesday state where, I mean, more than 40 percent of the delegates are at stake that you need to win the nomination in ads Super Tuesday. So he's saying, let's up the spending, let's up the staff. There is no momentum candidate at the moment out of Iowa, despite what you're hearing Vanessa Yurkevich just reported about Pete Buttigieg claiming to be victorious.

Well, I guess being victorious is in the eye of the beholder, right? I mean, that is more spin than based in results because there are no results. So they may be very pleased with their performance, but he's defining victorious, I think, loosely since we actually have no results to get who won in Iowa.

BLITZER: And not just Buttigieg but Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, they're all claiming huge success out there.

Bloomberg is not really competing. He didn't compete in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Nevada a little bit, but really going for, what, March 3rd, Super Tuesday, that's going to be make or break for him.

[13:30:06]

CHALIAN: Without a doubt, that will be make or break. And listen, we've seen him rise in the national poll.