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CNN Projection: Joe Biden Wins South Carolina Primary; Former DNC Chair, Terry McAuliffe Endorses Joe Biden. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired February 29, 2020 - 19:00   ET

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


[19:00:00]

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: As we move on one state tonight, 14 states Tuesday.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Tuesday is going to be huge. Polls are about to close in South Carolina. This is a make-or-break moment for Joe Biden's presidential campaign and we can now make a major projection.

CNN projects that Joe Biden is the winner in South Carolina. This is the former Vice President's first primary victory. He was counting on South Carolina to help keep his campaign going.

This gives him -- this gives Biden a much needed boost as he looks to challenge the front runner Bernie Sanders on Super Tuesday, that's only three days from now. Joe Biden, the winner of the South Carolina democratic primary.

Dana, a major-major win for the former Vice President.

He desperately needed it. He got it.

DANA BASH, CNN HOST: You can't understand how important this is for the Biden candidacy. His firewall helped. He promised that he would win South Carolina and he delivered on that promise, according to our projection.

Talk to voters in any of the early stages as I have, in Iowa New Hampshire and Nevada and even South Carolina, the question always was, I like Joe Biden for those who are thinking about him but I don't know that he can win.

Well, he has a win now and the hope inside the Biden campaign is that they will finally get the momentum that they have been looking for to show that he is somebody who is electable. You have to be electable as a democratic primary candidate or as a Democratic Party nominee before you can obviously beat the president of the United States.

So this is really, really huge for Joe Biden.

BLITZER: And it looks, John King, like the fact that we could make a projection right as the polls closed, it's going to be a significant win for the former Vice President.

KING: And that would be incredibly important for all the points Dana was just making in the sense that 14 states vote on Tuesday. Joe Biden has some resources, not a lot of resources. He can come we're nowhere close to matching Bernie Sanders and not even in the ballpark of matching what Michael Bloomberg's spending on television side.

So what does he need? He needs South Carolina, not just to be - this is the third time he's run for president. This will be his first win. This will be a first win. So there's a point of pride there. Just a simple point of pride and we should all step back whoever you support at home, whoever your candidate is. It's hard to run for president.

So this is a big night for Joe Biden in the history of Joe Biden. Now in the moment of this campaign, a moment of great urgency because a third of the delegates will be awarded Tuesday night, he's kind of used this as a springboard.

Do African-American voters in other states say I'm going take validation from African- American voters in South Carolina so does it help him? Alabama votes Tuesday. 54 percent of the democratic primary electorate in 2016 in Alabama was African-American. It was 32 percent in North Carolina. 54 percent in Alabama. 19 percent in Texas. Is this a springboard?

Because Joe Biden even if he had some money, even if you raised a boatload of money tonight, can't get ads on TV fast enough in these Super Tuesday states. There's just simply not enough time. He can do some but not a lot. So is this a one-off, is it a big win for Joe Biden or is it a spring board?

Here's something else you're going to hear tonight. The Biden campaign was already having conversations. Its -- its top aides with other people in the party, trying to get other candidates to get out of the race. If Joe Biden has a very big win tonight, they will try. That doesn't mean they will succeed but they will try.

And one other question I would ask here is where will the Tom Steyer numbers come in. Tom Steyer's spent $22 million -- $23 million, almost just on television and Facebook adds. Lot more in direct mail. Can he get - does he get something out of South Carolina? Does he get any delegates or is Tom Steyer among those who have to say, is there a reason to go on.

BASH: I mean, that is really the conversation now after we take a step back and we explain how important this is for Joe Biden, given his history, the conversations have been going on but they haven't really come to any conclusion obviously.

And the notion of the non-Bernie Sanders people splitting the vote and how do they amend that, how do they change that and what it means is that people are going to have to take the hard look in the mirror and say OK, maybe it's not me.

Does it really - it's really doubtful at this point that it'll happen before Super Tuesday but you never know, we'll see how the market is.

KING: And that's the hard part for Joe Biden. In the sense that Bloomberg's definitely not getting out before Super Tuesday. He's not on the ballot until Super Tuesday. His whole strategy is built around Super Tuesday. So what have - Biden gets to win tonight.

The question is how does it translate in the next 72 hours because he so desperately would need to follow up on Tuesday with more, with more. Bernie Sanders is expected, we'll see what happens, expected to get the most delegates Tuesday. Can Biden surprise that math a little bit?

BASH: So let's get over to Wolf, who has some new information about delegates.

BLITZER: All right, Dana, David Chalian's here. David, 54 delegates are at stake in South Carolina right now. We've projected that Joe Biden will win, presumably will get a big chunk of those delegates.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yes and of the four early states, South Caroline is the biggest delegate prize, not as big as what we'll see on Super Tuesday but 54 delegates at stake you know. We are already able to allocate in our delegate estimate, 14 delegates tonight at least, Joe Biden will win.

That leaves 40 that we haven't allocated yet. We're going to wait to see how the vote comes in as you know Wolf, delegates are allocated both based on the statewide vote total and percentages as well as how the candidate's do in each congressional district.

They have to hit 15 percent threshold in each congressional district to get those district level delegates and 15 percent statewide, to get statewide. We know with his statewide victory, he's going to get right now these 14 delegates.

[19:05:00]

BLITZER: And maybe -- maybe more so where does this put the overall count, given the fact that now four states have voted?

CHALIAN: So we still have a long way to go but yes, take a look up there, you see, you need 1991 delegates to secure the democratic nomination. Look what happened with Joe Biden tonight. He just jumped ahead of Pete Buttigieg and that's with 14 delegates.

We saw 40 to allocate from South Carolina. You've got Bernie Sanders with 45 delegates to date. Joe Biden with 29 people. Pete Buttigieg at third now with 26. Elizabeth warren with eight and Amy Klobuchar with 7.

Just before we projected South Carolina, Joe Biden only had 15 delegates. Look, he basically doubled his delegate total already, Wolf. This is really significant. Now again, these first four states are about momentum and proving your worth in this race.

When we get to Tuesday, a third of the delegates are at stake but this is where we are as of right now. Delegates to date, Sanders, Biden, one and two.

BLITZER: Biden needed this win, he got this win. We'll see what happens in the days ahead. Let's go over to Anderson. ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Hey welcome back. Sorry. We were in the

midst of discussion. I'll include you in on the discussion. David Axelrod, what do you make of this from Joe Biden?

DAVID AXELROD, CNN HOST: Listen, this is Leap day and he needed to leap back into this race and he needed a big win to do it. Obviously, being called so early suggests he's going to have that kind of sizable win and it's going to create a lot of conversation around a lot of campaigns, about whether there is a path forward.

This thing could narrow it down very quickly to a race between Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden.

COOPER: Gloria.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: It's momentous for Joe Biden. It could be for the democratic race as well. A little factoid here, which I'd like to share with you about Biden. If he -- this is the first time Biden has ever won a state across 32 years in the three times he has tried to become President of United States.

AXELROD: And good timing, I'd say.

BORGER: Good timing for him and we've all been talking about this before tonight which is the size of the margin. If it is very big, that is very important for him because then they are going to go to other candidates and other candidates may go to them, particularly like say Tom Steyer who spent $24 million in the state. They get a delegate or so out of it.

And now to say OK, we need to consolidate against Bernie Sanders because I think their goal is on Super Tuesday, according to the people in the Biden campaign that I've spoken with, is to be the clear second to Bernie Sanders across a lot of states on Super Tuesday.

COOPER: Nia.

NIA MALIKA-HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLLICAL REPORTER: No, I think that's right. One of the things that I came into this, looking to see if it will make a difference with Jim Clyburn endorsement. You know, in a lot of ways I was like, I didn't necessarily think it would make a difference.

While I was on the ground in South Carolina over the last couple of days, so many people talked about the Clyburn endorsement. It was playing on the radio. The audio of his endorsement and folks have ties to a Jim Clyburn, not just older African-American, their kids, their grandkids as well because he's been on the scene in African-American communities throughout that state for many, many years.

So that seemed to be a deciding factor, some of the exit polls clearly showing that we'll see what Steyer does. People talked about Biden and Steyer, they liked that Steyer showed up in a lot of these African- American communities. He was at Allen University in HBCU.

He was with Juvenile and Yolanda Adams over yesterday. So we'll see how well he does. I'll also be interested to see how well Joe Biden did with white voters. We've been talking a lot about after African- American voters.

He clearly will do well in the state but he hasn't shown any assurance of white voters and we'll see how he does tonight.

COOPER: OK, I got to go to a quick break in. We're going to have more from the folks in just a moment. We expect to hear from Joe Biden soon as he celebrates his first primary win in 2020. There's much more ahead as our special coverage continues.

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[19:10:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: And we're back. The best political team in the business. Watching the South Carolina results come in. Joe Biden, the winner with 54 delegates at stake. The win here from Joe Biden. I want to go to Governor Terry McAuliffe. Governor, a lot of folks have been wondering if you're going to endorse somebody, when you're going to endorse somebody, have you made a decision?

TERRY MCAULIFFE, FORMER DNC CHAIRMAN: I have made a decision. I will endorse Joe Biden. I'll be with him in Norfolk tomorrow at 7:00 tomorrow night. He's coming up to Virginia. You know, I have thought long and hard about this. For me, it's about beating Donald Trump and to me, it's an electability issue.

Who is the best shot at beating Donald Trump. You know healthcare is our biggest issue That's why Democrats win. I want someone who's going to protect Obamacare and expand Obamacare and we have Virginia on Tuesday.

You know, Tim Kaine yesterday came out and endorsed Senator Biden. I mean Tim works with all these senators. He decided the Joe Biden was the best shot. Lamont Bagby, the head of Legislative Black Caucus in Virginia.

I think Joe Biden, he's the best chance to win in Virginia in the general election. So you know, he can't sit in side lines so I'm going to go all in for Joe Biden. I think he has the best shot at beating Donald Trump and most importantly, not only winning the presidency but helping us in Senate and House races.

I worry in Virginia. We've got two new members, Abigail Spanberger and Elaine Luria in very tough districts. Joe Biden would be the best person to top the ticket to make sure we keep those seats.

COOPER: And how does tonight change the path they had for Joe Biden, for Mike Bloomberg for ==

MCAULIFFE: Yes, good question. I'm hoping tomorrow actually some of the candidates decide to get out. If you do not have a pathway, let's not wait till Super Tuesday and we've had candidates who've run great races.

I mean look how impressive Pete Buttigieg has been. You know, winning Iowa. He was a Mayor. He was able to do but I would ask these candidates you know not after Super Tuesday but tomorrow, do you have a pathway and if you don't have a pathway, who is it that you think is the most electable and can help the Democratic Party from the top to the bottom in all the local races and statewide races.

COOPER: Who do you think should get out?

[19:15:00]

MCAULIFFE: Well, it's that -- you know, I don't want to tell people they should get out because they've been in, they've worked hard for a year, they've gotten in a lot of support but I do think that Pete and Amy and Tom Steyer and others, they need to make that decision --

COOPER: But you just did say --

MCAULIFFE: I'm not going to tell what to do.

COOPER: What about Bloomberg?

MCAULIFFE: I think the Mayor's got to take a tough look now. Now I believe leaving tonight with such a huge win in South Carolina and I've said on this show now for seven months. I want to know about South Carolina. I want to know who's going to win the hearts of the African-American community.

To me as you know, in Iowa, New Hampshire, only 15 percent of eligible Democrats actually voted in those early states and the caucus states, we had. Now we've got primaries but to me who wins the heart and mind of the African-American community and tonight, Joe Biden proved that he is that candidate.

This is a broad coalition that you have to build. We cannot win unless we've excitement in the African-American community. Joe Biden proved tonight that he is the one to build that coalition.

COOPER: David, actually what do you think about for Mike Bloomberg path ahead?

AXELROD: Look, I think the whole rationale of his candidacy was that he wanted to represent that center left wing of the party and he felt Biden was going to falter. That plan has gone awry now. Biden hasn't faltered and as long as Biden is competitive in this race, as he apparently will be now, there -- where's the path for Bloomberg here?

I think he's going to -- my guess is he'll go through Super Tuesday but I don't think -- I don't think he has television ads scheduled for after Tuesday and I think he and his team are going to have to have a hard discussion if Biden's momentum continues on Tuesday and he finishes second and closest to Bernie Sanders.

ANDREW YANG (D), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I remember when I was in the field and Bloomberg declared and we were very, very concerned about what state he was going to enter in and to me, Bloomberg made a really crucial mistake by not getting in on South Carolina because he was on the debate stage in South Carolina.

He had many endorsements including from mayors in South Carolina and advertising really works in South Carolina. If he had put his ad dollars to work in South Carolina, I believe he'd have double digits tonight and he'd be suppressing Biden's margin of victory.

But the fact that he waited till Super Tuesday is going to give Joe, a real burst of momentum and I think it's going to be potentially a difference maker.

HENDERSON: And he also ran into a buzz saw named Elizabeth Warren on the debate stage who really I think in some ways exposed him as somebody who in the past obviously endorsed and supported Republicans like Lindsey Graham in South Carolina, talking about his record, in terms of stop and frisk, as well as a discrimination lawsuits at his businesses.

So there was one thing for him to have to spend all this money, $400 million on campaign ads but somebody else showed up and it was exposed.

AXELROD: The question is not whether he should have gotten into South Carolina. That's one question. Another is should he have gotten into the debates before Super Tuesday. There was always that danger of the wizard of oz thing, where you have to step out from behind the commercials and he lost in that -- in that --

COOPER: Michael, we haven't heard from you.

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think that what the other candidates have to evaluate tonight is the depth of support that Joe Biden exhibited with voters of color because folks in South Carolina like us, have been watching Iowa.

They've been watching New Hampshire. They've been watching Nevada and no one gave into the idea of momentum. They made a decision apparently that they were going to hang with him, that they owed him one. They stood tall and consequently, I think it sets the stage for those states that are about to unfold including Virginia.

COOPER: Van.

MCAULIFFE: But there are six southern states too which is a lot of African-American vote in the Super Tuesday.

VAN JONES, CNN HOST: Look, to me it's very simple. Joe Biden stood with the first black president and black voters did with Joe Biden.

MCAULIFFE: Right.

JONES: This is his night. He had a strategy, a lot of us doubted. I doubted very, very loudly that he could have a firewall where African- Americans would stand with him while everybody else ran away from him. He was correct. He was vindicated tonight. He proved that loyalty matters. Being there for the community for

years and years matters. There are now two candidates that have proven they can put together multiracial coalitions. One is Bernie Sanders with his reliance on the Latino vote and now you have Joe Biden with his reliance on the black vote.

Those are the two that meet the threshold of being able to put together a multi-racial coalition but Joe Biden vindicated himself. This strategy was pummeled by everybody including me. He was right. I was wrong.

COOPER: Alex.

ALEXANDRA ROJAS, FMR 2016 BERNIE SANDERS CAMPAIGN ORGANIZER: I think that this victory tonight was a real life saver for Joe Biden's campaign and I think that they had no other option but to have a strong performance tonight.

I mean I think the context that we have to put into this is the fact that he is you know Obama's vice president, there's a lot of trust that I think that a lot of you know, folks have with his prominence sort of there.

And I think that the other thing to sort of pay attention to here is how that impacts on Super Tuesday. Is there going to be momentum especially from what you just said which is Bernie Sanders also doing extremely well with Latino voters when you look at California, when you look at Texas and some of the other Super Tuesday states up.

But it's definitely a victory for Joe Biden today.

BORGER: You know, I just want to ass to Van's point, we were talking about white voters and if you look at the exit polls, Biden and Sanders are about even when it comes to white voters today.

[19:20:00]

And one thing that I think Biden will look at is that he did OK with those younger voters. Sanders probably beat him but Biden did OK and we know that he hasn't been able to but my one question for you Terry, is where's the money? Is suddenly is Bloomberg going to give a speech Sunday night and say, I'm getting out and I'm giving all my money to Joe Biden?

Where is the money coming from?

AXELROD: You know the money. Is she going to raise --

COOPER: Let's pause on that answer. I got to get this break in. We're also going to take a look at more exit polls reading how Joe Biden won in South Carolina tonight. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:25:00] BLITZER: Now we got a key race alert right now. The first numbers are just coming in very, very early. We've already projected Joe Biden is the winner but look at this. These first numbers showing right now that up right now is more than 70 percent of the vote. Tom Steyer right now in second place at 12.2 percent.

Bernie Sanders 10.8 percent. Everybody else, Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar, Tulsi Gabbard trailing way, way behind. Those are very early, very early numbers but you get a sense of why we were able to make an early projections for Joe Biden.

Let's get some more exit poll information how Biden did it. David Chalian's got that.

CHALIAN: That's right Wolf. These numbers mirror the numbers you were just showing and it shows you why Joe Biden was able to be the projected winner and why he is on course here for pretty substantial victory.

Look at the African-American vote. Remember 56 percent of the electorate African-American, majority of voters. Biden, 60 percent. Sanders is next way down here at 17 percent and by the way, that's only three points better with African-American voters than he had four years ago against Hillary Clinton.

So he didn't substantially improve his standing. Tom Steyer, the only other competitive person in this category at 14 percent. Warren at 5, Buttigieg at 3. Take a look at another strong Biden category, voters 65 and older, senior voters.

This has always been a Biden strength, even more so here in South Carolina. 58 percent of them Biden's winning compared to Steyer at 14 and Sanders at 13. Take a look at moderate voters and remember, they made up 40 percent of the electorate today.

This is a more moderate, more conservative electorate than we've seen to date in this democratic nomination contest. Biden wins moderates overwhelmingly so. 52 percent of them. Sanders gets 14 percent as does Steyer. Buttigieg, down a 10 with moderates and Klobuchar who likes to own that space, she's all the way down at 4 percent with moderates.

Again this is because of the overwhelming advantage Biden has with African-Americans and just to make the point of how strong a state this is for Joe Biden, look at the very liberal voters.

They're 20 percent of the electorate. They make up one in 5 voters. Joe Biden is winning them with 39 percent, the very liberal ones. Sanders is at 30 percent. I mean where did you ever think Joe Biden was going to beat Bernie Sanders among voters who identify as very liberal?

Well, it's right here in South Carolina. Anderson.

COOPER: David Chalian, thanks very much. Right before the break Gloria Borger was asking Governor McAuliffe about Mayor Bloomberg. Where -- what does the next week hold for Mayor Bloomberg? Super Tuesday. CHALIAN: So that's the big test now because you've got you know 48

hours. We've got 14 states. There's no way you can raise money and you can get it on the air. So this should be a huge boost for the vice president but you go to all 6 other states with large half African- American votes, this should be a springboard for people to come out.

The Democrats wanted to get this down to a 2-person race. I think leaving here tonight, it is a 2-person race and I think you're going to see a lot of consolidation so I think the momentum should help him in those states on Super Tuesday and then I think he's going to raise a tremendous amount of money.

COOPER: But Andrew Yang, if you were Mike Bloomberg and your reason for getting into the race not only was you really wanted to be president and have for a long time is you didn't think Joe Biden's up to it and you do not want above all, Donald Trump to become the president, what do you do?

YANG: Well, you take a long hard look at your path ahead. If Mike ends up underperforming in the Super Tuesday states, he may be below the 15 percent threshold to get delegates in many of those states. He hasn't bought ads past Tuesday and I think it Mike's a very, very rational actor where he's not going to be the spoiler.

If he senses that he's the spoiler, I think he makes a very quick decision about making a change and one of the things I said the other night was that Mike, obviously can bankroll any candidate he chooses.

He chose himself but if he drops out then I think he would put his money behind the strongest moderate which at this point is clearly Joe Biden.

JONES: And we talked to Bloomberg's team. You know, they do see multiple ways to be useful. In other words, if you're Bloomberg, you've got $30 billion - $60 billion. You can stop Trump two ways, You can do it or you can help somebody else do it and it's very, very clear that Bloomberg's primary interest is stopping Donald Trump from having a second term.

He's got two ways to do it but if he doesn't get out after Super Tuesday, I think he becomes part of the problem, not the solution.

COOPER: He has said all along governor, that he would pushes resources to whoever the nominee is. He probably didn't think it would be him and that it would happen so quickly.

MCAULIFFE: Yes, he's got I think like 2500 staff now. They're all paid through November. Let me say this --

COOPER: So all his staff if he dropped out that this week, they would all go to whoever to --

[19:30:00]

MCAULIFFE: Michael Bloomberg care's about one thing, beating Donald Trump. He is passionate about it. I think the prop for Mayor Bloomberg, I think his ads are great. I think, the process hurt him. He got in late. He probably should have done those first four states and I think that hurt him.

But you know, he's been such a huge asset to us in Virginia on gun prevention, on climate change. He's got a great message.

But I think the process hurt him. He wants to beat Donald Trump.

COOPER: You can't -- but so, you can't imagine him dropping out before Tuesday?

MCAULIFFE: No, he's got too much money invested in.

ANDREW YANG, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I don't know that the process -- I'm sorry.

ALEXANDRA ROJAS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No, it's okay. I was just going to say that, I think it's interesting. You know, we're talking about one billionaire. There's another billionaire that spent $22.5 million on this race and clearly had a little bit of a ceiling.

We're still waiting for the results to come in. But, you know, to get at least right now showing about 14 percent, there is a ceiling when it comes to even raising money and the ability, I think of advertisements to really work.

And so I think the question heading in, right, is not just about moderation, it's also about motivation, who is going to have the energy and the momentum to be able to I think translate this into actual people power, so Biden showed that tonight and I think that we will see it carry --

COOPER: Would anybody sees star dropping out before Super Tuesday?

BORGER: Yes, I do. I think if he's going to look at it, and he's -- as you say he's a practical guy. He spent an awful lot of money here, over $20 million. He hopefully will get a delegate out of it.

But the question is, at one point -- at what point do you become a spoiler? And a lot of that -- a lot of his vote came out of Joe Biden's backside, and so they're going to say, wait a minute, you want to get out -- but I think he might come to that conclusion himself. He's run a good race. He's talked about the issues he has cared about.

From talking to the Biden people, I can tell you what they care about right now, which is on Super Tuesday, they want to make sure that they are the alternative to Bernie Sanders, and that there is a distance -- how much distance is there overall, between the number of delegates that Bloomberg may get and the number of delegates that Biden may get.

And they want to be on the top of that and they want, you know, Biden to be way ahead in that. But they said to me, and this is before tonight, that that's the metric they're going to use. Because they don't, you know, they want to be, too and they want Bloomberg to be back and they want to measure the distance between the two. HENDERSON: But I mean, if you think about the other metric, Bernie

Sanders looking ridiculously strong in these contests going forward, California has got about what? Five hundred delegates. He's been leading in all the polls, we'll see if Biden can make up some of that room.

And he has run before and won in some of these states going back to 2016. Places like Utah, Vermont is obviously on the ballot. Minnesota is on the ballot. He looks strongly -- or Massachusetts, as well.

So you know, if you flash back to 2008, a race that went down to the wire, but Hillary Clinton, even winning states couldn't overcome 100 to 200 point, you know, 200 point or 200 delegate margin because of the way this thing is structured, so good for Biden then if he is coming in second, but you've still got some of these other candidates.

SMERCONISH: The other candidates by staying in the race are accentuating, they're compounding actually a Sanders lead. Because if they don't reach that threshold, the 15 percent, that vote gets whacked proportionately by those who do meet the threshold. That's how a candidate gets 30 percent in this process and can still yield 45 or 50 percent overall. That's all the more reason for them to evaluate what they're doing. Absolutely.

AXELROD: I think the high likelihood is that Bernie Sanders will be the delegate leader. I mean, I think it's going to be hard to deny on that.

The question is, how close is the second candidate? And how close is Bernie Sanders to the majority? And if he's not close to the majority, and the second place candidate is close to him, then I think you're headed to a fight at the convention.

Let me just say one thing about Sanders. He has done -- he has done well in this campaign, but a lot of the question was, well, you know, he's done big work in the African-American communities, built these --

If these exit polls are right, he didn't do appreciably better with African-American voters in this primary than he did four years ago, and he didn't do very well with moderate voters in this primary either.

So there are cautionary notes for Sanders in these returns.

COOPER: Well, let's take a quick break. We expect Joe Biden to take a victory lap very soon, address voters in South Carolina. We'll be back in a moment.

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[19:38:29]

BLITZER: It's another key race alert right now. Still early in the actual vote. We have projected that Joe Biden is the winner in the South Carolina Democratic Presidential Primary, two percent of the vote is now in Biden with 58.4 percent; second place, Bernie Sanders, 13.3 percent; 12.3 percent for Tom Steyer; Buttigieg, 6.1 percent; Elizabeth Warren 4.8 percent; Klobuchar and Tulsi Gabbard, they are trailing.

Let's go over to David Chalian. David, we're looking also at the all- important delegate count as it unfolds right now. At least right now, Biden is at 52.8 percent. Buttigieg is at 15.1 percent. So he might -- might get something, right?

CHALIAN: Well, yes. But we'll see if he can maintain that kind of percentage. Remember, Wolf, it is an early, early --

BLITZER: Three percent.

CHALIAN: Three percent in, 54 delegates at stake. But here's the key. Remember, to get delegates, you need 15 percent. Joe Biden is the only one significantly over that threshold.

You note at this particular moment, Pete Buttigieg is at 15.1 percent. But we'll see if he can maintain that level.

This is just the statewide, so really only Joe Biden here is going to earn a delegate, assuming Buttigieg falls just below that 15 percent. As more vote comes in, you see Bernie Sanders at 11.7 percent. You see Tom Steyer also at 11.7 percent and Elizabeth Warren is all the way down here at 4.2 percent.

Now it's also by congressional district. So we will look throughout the night as the vote is coming in at each congressional district to see who gets above that 15 percent threshold.

[19:40:03]

CHALIAN: But in this scenario, Joe Biden is winning the lion's share of these delegates and that is what is so important. Take a look at where we are in the delegate scoreboard to date in this entire contest. You need 1,991 delegates to win the Democratic nomination.

We've been able to allocate 14 of the 54 delegates tonight so far in South Carolina to Joe Biden, and that jumped him ahead of Pete Buttigieg. Biden has now at 29 delegates today. Bernie Sanders is at 45.

So here is something to watch all night long. Does Joe Biden -- as he accumulates delegates in South Carolina with this very large victory that he may be on the precipice of having here -- does he actually overtake Bernie Sanders in the delegate count tonight? I will watch that very closely throughout the night.

You may have two front runners in this race in terms of the delegate count when the night is over, Wolf.

BLITZER: That's potentially very significant indeed. John King, you're taking a closer look right now and with three percent of the vote in, only Biden is above that 15 percent threshold, you need to get a delegate. KING: Right and I just want to be careful and emphasize the early

part as you just said. We're at three percent reporting. So far the map is filling in all Biden blue. We'll see if that changes throughout the night.

The most important thing is to your point, it is early, as we get later in the night, and we get more votes, we'll have to look at congressional districts as well, because you can pick up delegates in a district.

But in the statewide vote right now, Joe Biden is the only one above 15 percent. We will watch that congressional district level. We will watch as it plays out.

Also, just to emphasize, we have none of the major population centers and yet actually, we just got them -- oh, there we go as we're here. See, it's wonderful to come over here and get a live data feed and the results are coming in.

Spartanburg County, one of the larger counties in the state. Joe Biden getting 53 percent there. A pretty healthy lead. It's pretty early on, but it's a pretty healthy lead.

The largest county in the state is Greenville County, Joe Biden under 50 here, but at 43 percent, a pretty healthy lead.

You just wandered out, I am just going to pop it out for you right now and you see this. This is what Joe Biden needed. Now, we'll watch as the rest fills in, but the map is filling in with Biden blue.

You come up here to York County, 46 percent. Again, more than two to one everywhere we go, right, just tap and look, 68 percent in Cherokee County, and so as it fills in, I am waiting to see, this is not -- we're looking for Georgetown County along the coast here. It's a smaller county of the ones right along the coast.

But again, Joe Biden above 50 here. More of your moderate voters along the coast here. We will see these later. Horry County here where you have Myrtle Beach. Some Republicans in general elections down here. We'll see how these fill in.

But if you look at it right now, especially up here, David Chalian talked earlier about the African-American vote. Greenville County including the City of Greenville coming in strong for the former Vice President. Spartanburg County next door coming in strong for the former Vice President.

The question, Wolf, is just -- I just want to show you something here, just as you watch this. As this fills in. Let's watch the night as it goes on.

We've been talking about Joe Biden gets a big win here, can he capitalize? Can he use South Carolina as a springboard into Super Tuesday?

I just want to go back in time a little bit here and go to 2016 and come in North Carolina. You see, Joe Biden is winning all up here. Hillary Clinton won. There's a lot of similar counties. A lot of similar counties right along the border, smaller, rural, heavy African-American population counties. Does it translate? Not automatically.

But if you're looking at this Joe Biden in South Carolina tonight, as we come back to 2020, and come back into South Carolina, can he take this? Can it translate into the neighborhood, if you will, if he has that support? That's what he's hoping for on Super Tuesday, because he's had to focus so much time here.

He has spent less time than some of the other candidates in the Super Tuesday states. He is hoping this is a springboard.

BLITZER: So Biden clearly in first place. So what about second and third place? Can we see who is doing a second place? Bernie Sanders, for example, how's he doing?

KING: We can take a peek at that. As you see right now, there's no counties in South Carolina where Sanders is running first. Of the ones coming in here, and these ones, they're Biden blue, but that means Sanders is running second in those and you fill in some more of them here. You tap the third.

So Bernie Sanders is running second or third in most of the counties where we have the results right now, most of them, not all of them, but you watch that, and that's a way to see again, as you watch this, can he get 15 percent? That would get him some delegates, and we will watch that play out throughout the night. No question.

BLITZER: What about Buttigieg? And Steyer?

KING: Let's pop this out again. Make sure it's clear. It is clear. Bring it out. So now, you come up with -- let's just start with Mr. Steyer, who spent a lot of time here in South Carolina competing. He is not first anywhere. He is second in those counties. That's a strong showing for him there. And he is third in some other counties.

Again, second and third -- a distant second and third, clearly since he is running 12 percent statewide, but the question is, again, we'll watch his votes throughout the night and then we'll isolate it by congressional district to see. Mr. Steyer spent more than $22 million on television ads in South Carolina alone, television and Facebook ads. A lot of money on direct mail as well.

Does he get his bang for a buck? Does he get anything? Can he get delegates? We will watch that as we go on.

I think you asked me about Buttigieg. Let me bring this back up and we look for Mayor Buttigieg and we come through -- obviously, he's not coming in first in any county. Second? Nowhere, not yet. And third, just a couple, two -- one, two. See if this one behind here as this closes off for us, so we'll close that for a second, so two counties were Mayor Buttigieg is running third at the moment, and you see he's running just almost eight percent statewide at the moment.

[19:45:03]

KING: Again, we want to watch as this plays out.

BLITZER: What about Warren?

KING: Clear this back up. Let's take a look at Elizabeth Warren. So first, we'll click this on here, bring it up. Obviously, she is not running first anywhere. She's not running second anywhere. And she's not running third anywhere.

Again, this has been -- in the early contest, Elizabeth Warren throughout the summer was talking about a national infrastructure, a great organization. It has failed to deliver for her now in several contests, and the fourth one. And again, she's not even with the candidates here. If you map it up, you have to go down here, Elizabeth Warren six percent, Amy Klobuchar just below five percent.

So another disappointing performance for Senator Warren. Again, she wasn't expecting to win South Carolina, at the moment she shows up nowhere when we look at counties first, second or third.

So questions about her organization as you go into Super Tuesday, now to pop back out to the statewide. We're up to four percent. So far, everything is filling in Biden blue.

And remember, just as a flashback. We don't know it's going to turn out this way. In 2016, this was a big night for Hillary Clinton, a trouncing. In a two-candidate race, a trouncing, the whole state filled in for Clinton blue. At the moment, Joe Biden is hoping for, if he can't get a repeat, at least something close, again to send a message into Super Tuesday.

BLITZER: Huge night for Joe Biden, indeed.

Coming up, South Carolina voters, the views of the candidates for better or for worse. There are some surprises in our exit poll. We'll have details of that. Much more of our special coverage right after this.

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[19:50:45]

BLITZER: Former Vice President Joe Biden, the winner of the South Carolina Democratic Presidential Primary. We projected that right at the top of the hour. We're standing by and we expect to hear from him very soon. We'll have live coverage once he goes to the microphone, of course.

In the meantime, I want to go back to David Chalian. He is looking closely at the exit polls. We're getting more information, David on how he did it.

CHALIAN: This is really interesting, Wolf. We asked voters heading the polls today their opinions of the candidates, favorable- unfavorable. Take a look here. Joe Biden, I guess this won't surprise many people with his big victory tonight. Seventy six percent have a favorable opinion; 20 percent of today's voters said they an unfavorable opinion.

Compare that to Bernie Sanders, 53 percent said they have a favorable opinion, 41 percent unfavorable.

Take a look at Michael Bloomberg. He was not on the ballot in South Carolina. He was not doing a blanket ad campaign. There were ads that dint appear on national cable there. Look at how upside down he is, 26 percent favorable, 66 percent unfavorable. That is pretty much the same among African-American voters, massively upside down in his favorable rating, very unfavorable opinion. That is something that he is hoping his massive ad campaign can help cure in the Super Tuesday states.

BLITZER: Very interesting. So Dana, what does that mean for Bloomberg going ahead to Super Tuesday? He didn't formally compete in these first four states, but he's competing in the 14 on Tuesday.

BASH: Right. And his presence is everywhere. Right? But he didn't place the, you know, millions -- tens of millions of dollars of ads in the Super Tuesday states in South Carolina, so they didn't see all that positive engagement, but it's not good.

The flip side, the other thing I want to talk about is what Chalian talked about at the beginning, which is Joe Biden's favorability, I mean, 85 percent among black voters, and that is obviously in keeping with how well he did in South Carolina, but it's important going forward to Super Tuesday -- six states in the south, where there is a huge African-American electorate demographic as part of the electorate where he is going to rely on that kind of goodwill, which is showing in South Carolina to do well, and get more wins on the board.

It is a delegate race, he's got to add it up. But when it comes to the perception that he is a winner, which he is seizing tonight with this huge South Carolina victory, that's the way he wants to try to keep it going.

KING: He has to count on momentum here in the sense that he was not competing on television at anywhere near the levels in the Super Tuesday states as Bloomberg or Bernie Sanders, or anyone else in the race.

So he needs some momentum here. Number one. The benefit a lot of people think he will get us even if it doesn't vault him into a California win, for example, it'll vault him into being above 15 percent, to getting delegates in some of these other places where Sanders leads in the California polls, Bloomberg spent a lot of money there. Sanders leads in the Texas polls, Bloomberg spent a lot of money there.

But if Joe Biden now is more competitive in the states where he can't win on Super Tuesday -- that will help him in terms of the delegates. David Chalian was talking about the end of the night, we could see Biden either come very close or perhaps even catch Bernie Sanders in the delegate race so far. The question is what is the math on Wednesday morning and to Dana's

point about the African-American vote. In Virginia, in 2016 primary, it was 26 percent. In North Carolina, it was 32 percent. In Texas, it was 19 and Alabama, it was 54.

So on Super Tuesday you have a number of places where if Joe Biden can replicate or come close to replicating his support among African- Americans in South Carolina tonight, that automatically puts him in the game.

Again, maybe not for victory everywhere, but it gives him some states where he would have a reasonable chance of victory. The Terry McAuliffe endorsement, watch tomorrow, former Governor of Virginia, our CNN contributor now, watch tomorrow to see if more Democrats come out to try to create a show of force if you will, that look at this big win in South Carolina to try to help Joe Biden, you know, to generate more momentum, the optics of momentum.

BLITZER: Arkansas and Tennessee in the south as well, significant African-American population as well who will be voting on Tuesday.

Joe Biden's supporters are waiting to hear directly from the former Vice President. He's in South Carolina as he celebrates his first primary victory. We will have live coverage right after this.

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[19:59:37]

BLITZER: Welcome back. Let's have another key race alert right now. We've already projected Joe Biden is the winner of the South Carolina Democratic Presidential Primary, but the numbers are coming in at eight percent of the estimated vote that is now in.

Joe Biden with 53.8 percent. Look at this. Everybody else is below 15 percent. That's the number you need to get delegates. Bernie Sanders, 14.6 percent; Tom Steyer, 12.3 percent; Pete Buttigieg, 7.7 percent; Elizabeth Warren, 6.1 percent; Amy Klobuchar, only 4.1 percent.

[20:00:09]