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Voters Head To Polls In The First-In-The-Nation Primary. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired February 11, 2020 - 07:00   ET

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


[07:00:00]

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN NEW DAY: We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is New Day. John and I are coming to you live from Manchester, New Hampshire, where polls are open in this first primary of the 2020 presidential election.

This is shaping up to be a tight race for this state's 24 delegates. Mayor Pete Buttigieg was up early this morning meeting with voters here in Manchester. This is a video from just the last hour. Right now, we are waiting to see Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar show up and vote. She got some votes in the very first little townships to cast ballots early this morning, they vote right after midnight, and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg who is not even on the ballot in New Hampshire also got in a few write-ins.

Of course, there are many hours to go here until the polls close and a winner is declared, but we are standing by, John, and we will be speaking with voters as they come out this have polling place at this elementary school in Manchester.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN NEW DAY: Yes. You know it is an important day for these candidates because they have stepped up their comments, some say the attacks on each other, and today's outcome really could reshape the race all together.

Bernie Sanders, can he emerge in the driver's seat? Pete Buttigieg, can he emerge as the leader among the moderates? Might Amy Klobuchar see a bit of a surge off of her debate performance? And what happens with Joe Biden? Will he leave here in a position where he can survive over the next few weeks until South Carolina?

This morning we have interviews with some of the top candidates, Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar, Joe Biden. You will hear from all of them. We'll also speak to the campaign manager for Bernie Sanders as well.

Joining me now, CNN Political Correspondent Abby Phillip and also with us Ron Brownstein, CNN Senior Political Analyst and Senior Editor for The Atlantic.

Abby, I do want to start with Bernie Sanders here because he has been leading in all the polls in New Hampshire, which have been consistent. New Hampshire is a state he won by a lot four years ago. Does Bernie Sanders emerge in the driver's seat of this Democratic race if he wins here today?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: He very well could, and he could win here by a decent margin. I don't think it's likely that he will have the same margin that he did the last time around. Frankly, I think the electorate is a lot different now than it was at that time, but I also don't think that he needs to. He just needs to have a convincing victory. I think if he wants to continue to make a case about turnout, that needs to show up here in New Hampshire. But there are other dynamics at play.

I spent some time this week talking to undeclared voters who, as you know, can participate in this primary. Some of these undeclared voters are people who used to be Republicans and are not Republicans anymore and they are, you know, centrists, moderate type of people. And they are playing in this primary too, and that is going to be to the advantage of some of the more moderate candidates, like Amy Klobuchar and Pete Buttigieg.

BERMAN: So one possible story line out of here is Bernie Sanders in the driver's seat, clear winner. Another possible outcome, Ron, and you write about this, is a muddle.

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: It's a muddle.

BERMAN: Part of the reason, I don't want to put words in your mouth, because you wrote them and put them in my hand, is the idea that you have a series of niche candidates right now that no one really reaches across the broad spectrum, the Democrats.

BROWNSTEIN: Yes. I think the muddle is likely to be the messaging. And I think Bernie Sanders could very well emerge from here the first among equals but with all of them well below establishing a true broad base of support in the party.

I mean, this was Bernie Sanders' best state in 2016. He won everything here. He won men, he won women, he won liberals, he won moderates, he was powerful across the board. I think this time you're seeing the party much more divided up. I mean, three numbers kind of jump out at me from what we've seen so far. In the entrance poll in Iowa, Bernie Sanders won 7 percent of the people who voted for Hillary Clinton.

So, basically, he is building -- he is bringing back what he had last time not really going much beyond it yet. Joe Biden was at 1 percent according to the CNN polling unit among blue collar white voters who are younger than 45. That's supposed to be his base, Middle Class Joe. And then I saw a poll in South Carolina that had Pete Buttigieg at one half of 1 percent among African-American voters last week.

So everyone at this point has significant limits and that points toward a lengthy kind of war of attrition at the moment.

BERMAN: I want to play some sound to Joe Biden. Now, Don Lemon had a chance to speak with Joe Biden. And this really gets to what you both were talking about. The deal is Biden who was struggling to survive last year but it also gets to what a Bernie Sanders frontrunner situation would look like. [07:05:10]

So listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN (D), FORMER VICE PRESIDENT, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Bernie is a good guy. You want to run, you say you know Louisiana, you know Georgia, you want to run with the top of the ticket defining the Democratic Party as a socialist? And he is not a bad -- Bernie is a great guy but it's his self-definition. So the question is who can help us win back the Senate most?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: It is interesting. We are going to play much more of this interview between Don and the vice president a little bit later in the show, but you do get the sense that that message might resonate differently after today, Abby, as this race moves to Nevada, South Carolina and especially Super Tuesday?

PHILLIP: Yes. I mean, I think Bernie Sanders has a lot of questions that he has to answer about what it would actually look like if he were at the top of the ticket. And you're going to start hearing it not just from Joe Biden but from all of the other candidates. There has been kid gloves applied to Bernie Sanders up until this point. Real reticence from the candidates to go after him for a lot of reasons and some of which is that they are genuinely concerned that there will be some kind of repeat of 2016 where they can't, at the end of the day, bring his people back in if he is not the nominee. But at some point, these issues are going to get tested.

And, you know, I don't know that necessarily Joe Biden is 100 percent correct about that. I remember vividly when people used to say that Donald Trump could not possibly lead the Republican ticket and he certainly did. And I think that, frankly, you're probably going to see Bernie Sanders making some version of that case, which is that you guys all wrote off the guy who is sitting in the White House now and that's what they're trying to do to him.

BERMAN: Ron, what do the next two and a half weeks look like for Joe Biden if he does not emerge here? And, look, we don't think he's going to win. Anything could happen today. But if it's an outcome, it's an even worse outcome than I think he would like.

BROWNSTEIN: Yes. No. And, look, with almost anyone else, you would say if they came in as the national frontrunner to Iowa and New Hampshire and they finished fourth or fifth, that would be it. But there are two kind of mitigating factors here. One is we don't know if anyone else can break his hold on African-American voters in the race beginning in South Carolina. Bernie Sanders got about 20 percent last night, again, he is at about 20 percent this time. There is no sign that he's going beyond that. And, second, no one is pulling away. I think no one is really establishing kind of a dominant coalition (ph). He probably gets one more bite at the apple but he could be very diminished at that time (ph). BERMAN: It's interesting. We're looking at live pictures right now of Pete Buttigieg delivering some Dunkin' Donuts because this is New England to a polling location. He is in Hopkinton, New Hampshire. He should be here at Saint Anselm College moving those donuts to me, but that's a different story.

I think you're seeing two different things here. Number one, and I saw this yesterday on the trail, Pete Buttigieg is using to his advantage the fact that he's 38 and the rest of the candidates are not. He is everywhere. He is everywhere. This is already the second time we've seen him out meeting with voters this morning.

And then, Abby, to Ron's point when we are talking about Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg wants to be that guy, that guy if Joe Biden is really severely wounded out of here who can bring that part of the party together, but --

PHILLIP: Big but.

BROWNSTEIN: Big but.

BERMAN: And this is where you've done a lot of reporting.

PHILLIP: Yes. I mean, he has a real problem that the support that he has among people who are not white is almost zero. And it is a real problem for him that he can only solve if he can really credibly come out of these first two states in particular looking like he can win.

I am not even convinced that that is going to be enough, frankly, at this point. There's a lot of questions about his record on issues that matter to black voters. I also think the thing that matters the most to black voters is do they think this guy can actually win. He has not credibly made that case yet and it's going to be a problem.

BERMAN: And, again, as we look at Pete Buttigieg meeting with voters here, I was impressed yesterday by the clinical nature of this campaign. They know that getting on T.V. and being out there with live cameras the morning of the primary is smart. This is smart politics here.

I do want to say because we have about 30 seconds left, I want the obligatory 30 seconds on Michael Bloomberg here, because this is something we have never seen before. He is moving up in national polls. His ad spending a reaching a level that is --

BROWNSTEIN: No one has ever seen.

BERMAN: It's basically infinite ad spending.

BROWNSTEIN: Right. And, look, it's what you said about Bernie Sanders to an even greater degree. No one has raised any of his vulnerabilities. No one has spent a time talking about stop and frisk on television or a minute in the debate.

So we don't really know. I mean, he clearly has bought a beach head in the race. But whether he can go beyond that, I think, will ultimately depend on engagement with the candidate.

By the way, can we just note, today is probably the last day of the Iowa/New Hampshire dominance of the early stage of the process.

[07:10:00]

It's gone on since 1972. It is highly unlikely we will ever see two 90 percent white states at the front of the Democratic process again. And this is the last day of a half century of Iowa and New Hampshire having the dominant role in winnowing the Democratic field.

PHILLIP: We may be witnessing history.

BROWNSTEIN: Yes.

BERMAN: And 1 percent of the Democratic electorate or the electorate in New Hampshire was African-American. It will be 60 percent in South Carolina. So there is a reason it might be the last day.

BROWNSTEIN: Yes.

BERMAN: All right. Ron, Abby, thank you very much as we're watching these live pictures of Pete Buttigieg.

Let's go to Alisyn, who is at a different polling location.

CAMEROTA: Okay, John, let's see how voters are feeling this morning. Joining me how now are two of them. I'm here with Lori and Donald. Thank you both for being here. You don't know each other. But we've just dragged you both over here.

Lori, in terms of who you voted for, I have a hunch that it's Pete Buttigieg based on the button you're wearing.

LORI CROUSE-PIERONI, NEW HAMPSHIRE VOTER: Absolutely.

CAMEROTA: Why did you make that choice?

CROUSE-PEIRONI: I've been a fan from very early on with Mayor Pete. His views are very important to me.

CAMEROTA: Like what?

CROUSE-PEIRONI: Healthcare, the environment, women's rights, immigration. I could go on and on. And I've seen him several times and I am definitely a huge supporter, and just to unify the country and bring some calmness in.

CAMEROTA: You see him as a unifier.

CROUSE-PEIRONI: I definitely see him as a unifier.

CAMEROTA: Donald, who did you vote for?

JOHN LONG, NEW HAMPSHIRE VOTER: Elizabeth Warren.

CAMEROTA: And what do you like about her?

LONG: I've liked her for a long time, ever since she created the Consumer Financial Protection Board, I've been a huge fan and I think that she fights -- she's fighting corruption and has plans for everything. That's kind of a -- it's a running thing, of course, as everybody knows, but she's really strong and really conscientious and I just think she's just the one who could win for all of us.

CAMEROTA: You both sound like you've made your decisions a while ago. You haven't -- neither of you have been on the fence, is that right? Is that fair to say?

CROUSE-PEIRONI: For me, yes.

CAMEROTA: For you. And did you make your decision a while ago?

LONG: When I first saw Elizabeth speak in person a year ago, she didn't talk about impeachment and I was very disappointed and saddened by that. And then she got -- she was the first of the candidates to come out for impeachment of the president and then I was all in. And you start fighting corruption, you've got to start at the top.

CAMEROTA: Just out of curiosity, how many times here in New Hampshire have you gone to see Elizabeth Warren?

LONG: I was just doing a little bit of calculation in my head and I think at least six times, as many as ten times.

CAMEROTA: You New Hampshire voters just -- you like to kick the tires. How many times have you seen Pete Buttigieg?

CROUSE-PEIRONI: I don't think he's been in the state as much as Elizabeth. I've seen him three times.

CAMEROTA: And so, Donald, what about the feeling that she's gone from frontrunner to underdog? Do you sense a weakening of momentum for Elizabeth Warren?

LONG: I don't really believe there is. I mean, I see what you -- I do sense something, but I think it might just be a lull. I'm hoping it's just a lull. And we'll find out today how strong she is because she's a tremendous organizer, her organization is really something. So I guess we will see today whether she's as strong as I perceive her to be.

CAMEROTA: Some of the polls have Bernie Sanders leading. Why wasn't he your choice? What do you like better about Pete Buttigieg?

CROUSE-PEIRONI: I know he's a progressive, but I'm more of a kind of a centrist so kind of -- to me, I just -- you know, his viewpoints and just being more in the middle of the road type of thing.

CAMEROTA: In terms of the enthusiasm level on the side of the Democrats, all of them, do you think that the big field is a problem because nobody is coalescing around one candidate? LONG: I think it is a little bit of a problem. I'm hoping that it will be winnowed down pretty soon because I think that once you put the voters who think alike together, it's going to be really strong behind one candidate.

CAMEROTA: How are you feeling about the momentum on the side of the Democrats? Do you feel it?

CROUSE-PEIRONI: I do. I do, very encouraged, a lot of great candidates. Just Mayor Pete is my personal favorite and choice, but very, very enthusiastic and motivated.

CAMEROTA: I really hope that Mayor Pete shows up here with Dunkin' Donuts. That's what I'm really -- since he has already gone to a polling place with Dunkin' Donuts.

Lori, Donald, thank both very much. Thanks for sticking around and telling us about your motivation in your vote. We really appreciate it.

So for some candidates, of course, there is a lot riding on today's vote in New Hampshire for all of the candidates, but some more than others. So how well does this state do when it comes to predicting who will actually win the White House? Harry Enten has the answer. He joins us next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:15:00]

CAMEROTA: New Hampshire voters are already hitting the polls here in Manchester and around the state, but do the results here of whatever happens today predict who will win the Democratic nomination?

Let's get the forecast with CNN's Senior Politics Writer and Analyst, Harry Enten. Harry, great to see.

HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICS WRITER AND ANALYST: Oh, my -- usually, we are together.

CAMEROTA: What is the answer?

I know, I'm sorry that you are not here. You would really be enjoying it.

ENTEN: I went to school in New Hampshire. Look, let's take a look at the results historically of the New Hampshire primary, getting an understanding of how predictive the state normally is. So I went back since '72. That's the start of the modern primary. And what we see is that you really do need historically to come in first or second in New Hampshire in order to go on and win the nomination. You see it up there, you see all the candidates going back since '72, all the nominees and how they finished in New Hampshire, all finished either first or second.

There are no exceptions to that rule going all the way back. You don't necessarily need to finish first. Hillary Clinton obviously got blown out here last time around by Bernie Sanders, but you do need to finish first or second. And I would think that that's at least a somewhat troubling sign for a number of candidates, including the former vice president of the United States, who's has obviously been struggling there.

CAMEROTA: Yes. I mean, if history holds true here this year, but obviously this year seems so different than others. And so, historically speaking, what percentage of the voters in New Hampshire vote Democratic?

[07:20:06]

ENTEN: Yes. So, look, I think if you take a look -- here is the other thing I'm looking for tonight. Take a look at the winning percentages of the people who won the New Hampshire primary going back. And what you see is Bernie Sanders last time around actually had the highest percentage of any Democrat going back since 1972. But the thing I'm watching for tonight, if you look at the bottom of that graphic, what you see is Jimmy Carter won the New Hampshire primary in 1976 with just 29 percent of the vote. I will call that the Carter line, like the Mendoza line in baseball.

And I'm very interested to see given the polling that we've seen from that state will the New Hampshire primary winner tonight actually be able to reach that 29 percent because if they don't, I think it's another sign of the fractured field that we saw in Iowa where you saw all those candidates finishing above 15 percent. And it would be another sign that even if you win here, you may be a frontrunner but you are a very, very weak frontrunner.

CAMEROTA: Harry, what about the demographics that we always hear about how New Hampshire is not representative of what the rest of the country looks like? You know, it's extremely white. And so how does that play moving forward?

ENTEN: Yes. I mean, if there is one reason why perhaps New Hampshire won't necessarily be predictive, let's take a look at this. We've gone over this over and over again. The New Hampshire Democratic electorate is really white, 95 percent versus among potential Democratic primary voters nationwide, it's 57 percent. African-Americans make up just 1, 1 percent of likely primary voters according to Marist versus nationally African-Americans make up about 20 percent of the Democratic primary electorate.

And given this year where we've seen such a divide along racial lines in the Democratic primary, I'm just not necessarily sure that the Democratic electorate in New Hampshire will be all that predictive going forward. It's a big warning sign. So although we're watching the results tonight very carefully, I would be cautious in reading too much into it necessarily.

CAMEROTA: Harry, here is a question about timing. After everything that happened in Iowa and the debacle there and how we've had to wait so long for the results to trickle out, what does the timing of when they announce the results tonight, if they do, what does that mean? ENTEN: Yes. I mean, I went back since 2008. Keep in mind polls across the entire state, some close at 7:00, all of them close by 8:00 Eastern Time. I went back since 2008, and what do we see? We see that the races have generally been called actually pretty early. The last three races since 2012 were all blow outs, they were called in the 8:00 P.M. hour. But even in 2008 with the Democrats, when Hillary Clinton won by a very small margin, a low single-digit win over Barack Obama, it was still called in the 10:00 hour. So if the past holds, we won't have to worry about staying days and days and days in order to know the winner in New Hampshire.

CAMEROTA: That would be really nice.

All right, Harry, thank you very much for all of that information. I will bring you back a little piece of New Hampshire.

ENTEN: Yes. Bye.

CAMEROTA: Bye.

Okay. John, back to you inside the cozy warm studio.

BERMAN: I assume you mean the bed bugs you have that you're going to bring back, but that's okay. Thank you very much, Alisyn. We will talk to you again in a second.

We've been talking about the candidates. We caught up with several of them on the trail over the last 24 hours, Pete Buttigieg, event after event after event, trying to capitalize on his momentum out of Iowa. What's different for him now and what does he see as his biggest challenge going forward? That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:25:00]

CAMEROTA: Welcome back to New Day.

Voters are already casting their ballots across New Hampshire this morning. 24 delegates are at stake in this state for Democrats. So how is turnout looking? Well, CNN's Athena Jones is live inside the polling precinct behind me here at this elementary school in Manchester. What does it look like inside, Athena?

ATHENA JONES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Alisyn. Well, there is a steady flow of voters that's been coming in since polls opened at 6:00. Let me step out of the shot and show you what's going on behind me. You can see folks lining up and then heading over to cast their votes.

We, as you mentioned, are at an elementary school. This is Ward 12 out of 12 wards in Manchester. Manchester accounts for about 6 percent of the registered voters in New Hampshire, so it's an important spot. And in this particular polling location, about 5,300 voters are registered to vote here. Now, one of the things we're going to be looking at today is turnout. And we should be able to get a sense of this throughout the day as they have to empty the voting machines every now and then and there is a counter on the voting machine.

Now, just about an hour-and-a-half in, there had been about 210 voters so far. We've spoken to about 10 percent of them. So far, we're seeing a lot of support for Bernie Sanders and a lot of support for Pete Buttigieg. And, of course, turnout is something that Sanders has said would really help him, it's something he has been stressing, including in his closing rally last night.

So we will be watching closely to see how this stacks up as the voters continue to flow in here. John?

BERMAN: All right. Athena Jones inside a polling place here in New Hampshire. Athena mentioned voters for Pete Buttigieg there. The former South Bend Mayor has already made two stops this morning at polling locations. He has been crisscrossing the state packing his schedule with events. I managed to catch up with him back stage at an event in Milford, New Hampshire, to talk to him about how it's different now for him after his success in Iowa.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BERMAN: So when I last saw you, it was before the Iowa caucuses. Obviously, a lot has changed since then. You emerged from there with a lot of momentum. How does it feel tonight? How different does it feel?

FMR. MAYOR PETE BUTTIGIEG (D-SOUTH BEND, IN): Well, it feels really good. The energy we're seeing among our volunteers, organizers and the voters showing up at our events tells me that we have momentum right now and are in a great position for a good night.

[07:30:01]

But New Hampshire is a state that thinks for itself. Voters don't like to be told by other states or really anybody.

END