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Iowa Democrats Promise Majority of Caucus Results by 5:00 P.M. E.T.; Bloomberg Avoided Early States Saying They're "A Muddled Mess". Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired February 4, 2020 - 13:30   ET

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


[13:30:00]

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: And not just Buttigieg but Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren. They're all claiming a huge success out there.

Bloomberg is not really competing. He didn't compete in Iowa and New Hampshire, South Carolina. Nevada a little bit. But really going for March 3rd , Super Tuesday. That will be make or break for him.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Without a doubt, that will be make or break for him. And we've seen him rise in the national polls. He's not yet polling at that 15 percent threshold that you need to accumulate delegates. But he obviously has limitless funds to spend and the spending has been working.

You're right. His strategy is totally unconventional and unprecedented. But it's one that gets about to be put to the test in a few weeks on Super Tuesday.

BLITZER: All right, stand by.

Mark Preston, Bloomberg, according to "Forbes," is worth about $50 billion. If he spends $1 billion on this campaign to become president of the United States, guess what, he still has $49 billion.

MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Can you imagine spending $1 billion to run for president without any idea you could actually win? We thought Tom Steyer was crazy with the amount of money he was spending to try to win.

What's interesting about this, the Bloomberg strategy right now, as David was just talking about, with Biden in the situation right now where people think he is wounded, does Bloomberg now really make an aggressive effort to try to get the establishment Democrats onto his side?

Because right now, if you are to look at what we think could be the results -- and we don't know what the results are -- but looking at the entrance poll yesterday, Bernie Sanders and Pete Buttigieg clearly were the favorites of Iowans, or at least from Iowans that were going into caucus. If the establishment wants to stop Bernie Sanders, which they seem to

want to, you have to wonder at some point if they think Biden is a lost cause to immediately go over to him.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Right. Which is part of this unbelievably and large amount of money and resources he's pledging to put into the race, that is what they're betting on. Even though there are no results, the Biden campaign is reacting saying, OK, it's time to make our move.

But it also totally plays into the dynamic that Bernie Sanders, and to a lesser extent, Andrew Yang and other campaigns who are really pushing hard against the notion of the, quote, unquote, "rigged" system within the party, and even more broadly, across the country as part of the Sanders campaign. The more Bloomberg puts into this, the more that buoys his argument with his supporters.

It doesn't happen in a vacuum. It's a very real difference and a debate within the party that's even going to grow more as Bloomberg puts more money in.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Dana, President Trump, increasingly over the last several days --

BASH: Exactly, because --

BLITZER: -- seems to be obsessed with Bloomberg.

BASH: Because he sees it. First of all, there's the billionaire versus, you know, the billionaire.

BLITZER: The $50 million billionaire --

BASH: Yes.

BLITZER: -- versus maybe the $1 billion billionaire.

BASH: We don't know. We don't know. But he says he a billionaire, Donald Trump.

And there's New Yorkers. There's a whole --

(CROSSTALK)

BASH: There's a whole lot of baggage in there.

But, regardless, President Trump sees exactly what's going on and that could not thrill the Bloomberg people any more for the president to potentially see him as a threat.

But the other part of the Bernie Sanders dynamic is the debates, and Bloomberg is likely to be in the debates.

BLITZER: All very significant and interesting. And it's interesting when Trump slapped Bloomberg the other day,

Bloomberg slapped him right back, big time.

Iowa Democrats will release some caucus results within the next few hours, but how will they do it and what will the numbers show? We're going to try to find out.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[13:38:22]

BLITZER: Let's quickly go to our senior Washington correspondent, Jeff Zeleny. He has some news out of Des Moines.

What are you learning, Jeff?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we are getting more official details of the release of the majority of those Iowa caucus results coming this evening at 5:00 eastern, 4:00 Central time here in Des Moines.

We have a new statement, let me read to you, from the communications director at the Iowa Democratic Party, really confirming what we've been reporting in the last hour and a half or so.

She says this. She said, "Today, we informed campaigns that we will be" -- let me pull it up on my screen world.

Let's start again. "Today, we informed campaigns that we will be releasing the majority of caucus results at 4:00 p.m. Central time. Moving forward," she says, "just like we would on caucus night, we'll continue to release results as we're able to. We're also executing our plans and procedures to gather the paper documents and chase any additional precincts to report results as we normally would on caucus night."

This is from Mandy McClure, the communications director at the IDP.

Wolf, to break it down a little bit, they're going to, we believe, release a chunk of results at 5:00 p.m. Eastern time. Basically, a day after Election Day, some 22 hours or so after we thought we would get these results, they'll release a chunk of them.

And then we're told they'll continue to roll in as they come in. So we do not know, the important point, when the winner will be projected. It all depends how close this contest is.

And if you listen to several campaigns, they believe it is quite close, at least for some of them. That is going to be an open question: Are we going to be ending the evening here with a projected winner of the Iowa caucuses or will it go into a second day?

Of course, voters in New Hampshire who had just a week to decide obviously will be looking at and considering this as well, the State of the Union address tonight.

[13:40:07]

So still a split screen here from Iowa, Wolf. But the question will be: Are we able to determine where these votes are coming from at 5:00 p.m.? Is it a broad smattering of votes across the state? Is it from larger cities, smaller places? We do not know.

But that is something that we are keeping our eye on as they release those now in a few hours.

BLITZER: Did they say, Jeff, they would release the popular vote, the first round, the final round, and then the state delegate, the all- important delegate count, all three of those outcomes?

ZELENY: Wolf, the Iowa Democratic Party has always pledged to release these numbers at the exact same time because they do not want any interpretations given of the popular vote being more important than the state delegate.

We assume, and they did not answer this question for us, that they would be releasing them all at once. That was the plan last evening, was to release them at the same time. It is my expectation that will be the scenario.

If they would depart from that, that would cause even more of a controversy here. And these campaigns are already somewhat furious about this, particularly the winning campaigns. So it is their expectation that it will all roll out at once.

But, Wolf, this is still, I'm told -- and I'm standing in the very building, actually, where the war room is. They're still going through these. They're trying to find these numbers. We'll see what they have for us today at 5:00 eastern -- Wolf?

BLITZER: We'll be anxious to determine that.

Let's go over to David Chalian.

And let's talk a little bit about these three categories of numbers that presumably the Iowa Democratic Party is going to release at the same time, which wouldn't have been the case if this had been a normal Iowa caucus.

CHALIAN: Except here's the difference. Having three numbers, having three sets of numbers is brand new this year. This was a new process introduced into the Iowa caucuses, to report out the popular vote.

So as you know, in Iowa, in the caucuses -- we saw this last night in some precincts -- there are two rounds of voting. Voters show up at the caucus location, form their initial preference for which candidate they want to support.

Then there's a calculation to see which candidates don't meet the 15 percent viability threshold. Then their supporters have the chance to realign themselves and support candidates who are viable.

Then we get that final round of voting after that tally is done of a popular vote. And then we get the all-important state delegate equivalent percentages.

That's how you determine the winner of the Iowa caucuses.

So the Iowa Democratic Party had told us all along, we're going to report out all three simultaneously. First round popular vote, final round popular vote, and the important metric that determines the winner, the state delegate equivalent percentages.

Here's why I'm fascinated by this statement by the Iowa Democratic Party. The expression says, "just like we would have on caucus night." What does that mean?

I agree with Jeff. My expectation is they're going to report all three of those things simultaneously as they plan to do. But the question is, "just like we would have on caucus night, on caucus night, we would not have gotten 50-plus percent of the vote in one shot. As you know, it would roll in, 10 percent reporting, 20 percent.

So is this going to roll in? Is it going to roll in by county and we're going to see it, or is this going to be one big dump of first- round popular vote, final-round popular vote, and these percentages with more than 50 percent?

But we don't know where in the state it's from and what is the makeup of these voters and is it representative of the whole state.

I think we need a little more when they say, "just like we would have on caucus night." I think they need to explain, before we get to 5:00 eastern, exactly how this is going to roll this out.

BLITZER: Because that will be very, very critical. The campaigns will be watching very closely as well.

OK, David, stand by.

Still ahead, once we get these partial Iowa caucus results in a few hours, can they be trusted?

[13:43:58]

Much more of our special coverage right after a break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Welcome back to CNN's coverage of the Iowa imbroglio. We are still waiting for the results of the Iowa caucus. We're told, at 5:00 p.m. Eastern, a majority of the results will be presented to the American people by the Iowa Democratic Party.

Let's talk about this.

First of all, can I just say, why are they being so opaque? Why are they not --

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: We don't even know what they're going to release at 5:00?

JESS MCINTOSH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: This is the strangest -- by this point, you would have expected some serious crisis communication folks to have had a conversation to explain that what needs to happen now is for them to be a person who stands in front of other people and says, here's everything that happened, take some questions, and go from there. Instead, they're doubling down on the opacity.

TAPPER: Yes.

MCINTOSH: It's --

(CROSSTALK)

BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Your use of words is amazing.

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

SELLERS: "Opacity," I love it, yes.

TAPPER: It's the opposite of transparency.

(LAUGHTER)

MCINTOSH: I think transparency into the Iowa caucuses was, frankly, not a good idea because the Iowa caucuses is not a great process to see how sausage gets made.

But at this point, you've already let the cat out of the bag. We know it's getting decided with coin flips. We're watching this bonkers stuff happening in auditoriums. Now we need some answers.

SELLERS: I also think that -- I also think that leaking out, not leaking out, but sending out your own numbers --

TAPPER: Which is what the Sanders campaign did.

SELLERS: -- or sending out the 60 percent of the numbers, all it allows candidates to do is build up a narrative and spin what may not be the final result.

MCINTOSH: Right.

SELLERS: It just causes confusion.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: And how dangerous is it? Let's consider what will happen for the rest of the election. How dangerous is it? Joe Biden sends out this letter last night, which effectively challenges any result. [13:50:08]

MCINTOSH: Right.

BORGER: So you --

TAPPER: A letter that you don't think he would have written if he had --

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: -- likely won the so he's challenging the result.

MCINTOSH: Right.

BORGER: Of course not.

So he's challenging the results. Pete Buttigieg saying, OK, I think I won. You have Bernie Sanders out there releasing numbers that are very good to him. And so what happens for the rest of the campaign?

I mean, Iowa has affected -- we may not realize this right now until it sort of soaks in about what's going on in New Hampshire, et cetera, et cetera, but does it affect the way people view candidates? Nothing succeeds like success.

TAPPER: Yes, and --

BORGER: So --

(CROSSTALK)

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: And does it affect the way people view the Democratic Party? Right? I mean, this was a big night for not only obviously Iowa and the campaigns but the Democratic Party. This is the start, the kickoff to 2020. This race where Democrats obviously want to beat Donald Trump, and this is what you get? This hot mess?

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: I want to ask Alex, obviously, the Trump campaign and Trump supporters are out there, prominent ones, trying to sow seeds of discord by suggesting -- and they've said this publicly, President Trump has -- the DNC is again rigging the game against Bernie Sanders.

They're trying to -- it's pretty obvious, they're just trying to get Bernie Sanders supporters to either not vote in November, assuming Sanders is not the nominee, or vote for him, vote for Trump.

Are there Sanders supporters who are willing to believe that when it comes from the Trump team?

ALEXANDRA ROJAS, FORMER 2016 BERNIE SANDERS CAMPAIGN ORGANIZER: Well, I think that it's not just -- Trump is doing his own thing. And then you also have a series of events leading up to, even before we get to Iowa, that I think understandably made a lot of not just Bernie supporters but supporters of all Democratic campaigns skeptical.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: Like what?

ROJAS: The "Des Moines Register" poll, one of the most important polls coming out before Iowa, deciding not to get pulled out.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: Because they had a glitch. They had a mistake. They decided in the interests of, we want to be as accurate as possible --

(CROSSTALK)

ROJAS: Sure.

TAPPER: -- so we're just going to pull it.

ROJAS: Sure. Sure. But I think for most folks that aren't politicos sitting on here, TV pundits talking, understandably, I think, from the outside, it looked a little weird.

And I think going into this, right, a lot of opponents of Bernie Sanders, such as Pete Buttigieg, Joe Biden, were saying, look, Bernie's going to be the one who comes out early and says he's the one that won no matter what. Bernie is the one that's going to dispute the results no matter what.

Bernie got backed into a corner having to come out with his results because you have Pete Buttigieg claiming victory, even though there's no results out, and then you have Joe Biden, whatever the results are, is disputing them. So I think that --

(CROSSTALK)

ROJAS: -- we're shooting ourselves in the foot as Democrats --

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: Do you think that Bernie Sanders, who has been pretty statesman like about everything, especially considering the fact that the odds are based on early polls, they're based on what we saw on the ground, the odds are he probably won, if not won, came in second, but he did really well.

MCINTOSH: Yes.

TAPPER: When -- Alex's point is Bernie and Joe Biden -- I mean, Buttigieg and Biden did what everybody was saying Bernie was going to do.

MCINTOSH: Yes. I thought Bernie struck exactly the right tone last night. He came out and he said, by all indications, we've had a good night. He thanked his supporters.

I mean, people worked their tails off --

TAPPER: Oh, yes.

MCINTOSH: -- for -- like, these organizers are -- you send the best in the country to Iowa, and then you cultivate the Iowans who become the best in the country to do it.

It is such a heartbreaking thing for those kids who have put in that much time. So I think Bernie did exactly what he needed to do. I don't even begrudge him putting out his numbers today.

We're in a terrible position now. This is why we have a party infrastructure so that you do not have to rely --

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: Wait, do you have a party infrastructure?

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

MCINTOSH: But you don't have to rely on the campaigns for data

(CROSSTALK)

MCINTOSH: The effective facts.

SELLERS: I think that yesterday -- I said before we got to the Iowa caucus that will never end, was a day that Democrats could finally own the narrative. We had impeached and today you have the State of the Union.

BORGER: Democrats own the narrative today.

SELLERS: We do but not --

(CROSSTALK)

SELLERS: But in the way we wanted to.

(CROSSTALK)

SELLERS: Bernie Sanders, Bernie Sanders, to his credit, actually came out and did the correct things.

BORGER: Right.

SELLERS: I mean, we're still trying to beat back the narrative and remind people that the DNC did not put its finger on any lever. I mean, Bernie Sanders literally got beat by four million votes in 2016. You can't spin that any other way.

But now what he did was I think he learned a lot of lessons from that. And Bernie Sanders was very statesman. I actually, I think that Joe Biden's going to do extremely well, but I'm very disappointed in the message the campaign came out. We cannot be trafficking in the same innuendo that Donald Trump does.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: It feeds into it. Absolutely.

BORGER: If Joe Biden doesn't do well, this is kind of he gets a mulligan on this because --

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: Gets a mulligan on what?

(CROSSTALK)

BORGER: On where he placed because they're moving on. The story's going to be New Hampshire.

(CROSSTALK)

[13:55:01]

TAPPER: So the imbroglio helps Biden in a way.

(CROSSTALK)

BORGER: I'm not saying -- I'm not saying in the long-term.

MCINTOSH: Right. Right.

BORGER: But I am saying that the big story last night would have been Joe Biden fails. The big story today is Iowa fails.

HENDERSON: Iowa.

TAPPER: The Iowa imbroglio.

HENDERSON: That's a good point.

BORGER: That helps Biden.

TAPPER: Everyone, stick around.

As Iowa Democrats scramble to release partial caucus results soon, is the state's tradition of being the leadoff presidential contest doomed?

Our special coverage continues ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)