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Erin Burnett Outfront

GOP Candidates Blitz Iowa With Just Hours To Caucuses; CNN Speaks To Nikki Haley Just Hours To Iowa Caucuses; Poll: Haley Sees Less Enthusiasm Than Trump And DeSantis; Iowa Feels Like Negative 28 Degrees On Eve Of Iowa Caucuses. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired January 14, 2024 - 19:00   ET



JIM ACOSTA, CNN HOST: Keep our eyes on it, bring you any new developments as they come in.

In the meantime, thank you very much for joining me this evening. Reporting from Washington, I'm Jim Acosta. I'll see you again next weekend.

Coming up next, a special edition of "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" followed by a special edition of "AC 360" as we count down to the Iowa caucus. Have a very good night and we'll see you next weekend. Good night.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: And good evening and welcome to a special edition of OUTFRONT. I'm Erin Burnett on this Sunday.

And tonight the first contest of the 2024 election is only hours away. Now Republican candidates are out in temperatures well below zero, but they are still fighting to try to get everybody to turn out and vote in Iowa.

You're looking at live pictures right now of Nikki Haley's rally on election eve, and she is not alone. Ron DeSantis and Vivek Ramaswamy also holding events tonight. Their supporters are there, too, despite the dangerous conditions. And that's because of course the stakes could not be higher. There is so much on the line in this unprecedented election campaign season that we are now finally in the midst of.

Haley and DeSantis are desperately trying to close the gap with Trump, who just wrapped up his rally in these final hours. And, you know, as I say, it's unprecedented. But there is still some sense of history here. And in past elections, Iowa always ends up being about turnout. Trump, for one, has experienced that, and knows it.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You can't sit home. If you're sick as a dog, you say, darling, I got to. Even if you vote and then pass away, it's worth it.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BURNETT: I want to make sure to get that one in there tonight. All right. We're going bring you the candidates' closing pitches and break down the factors that could help propel someone towards the White House and send some others, well, ending their hopes.

Jeff Zeleny begins our coverage tonight. OUTFRONT live in Des Moines.

So, Jeff, it's freezing, and it can be very dangerous in many places where people may have to caucus. I mean, where does the race stand tonight?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erin, it's actually below freezing and the winds are the far bigger concern here. That is why all of the campaigns have their eye on the weather forecast, and even more than that, the specific road conditions. Have all these roads been plowed? Will they blow over again with all the snow that's been coming here this past week?

But because of all of that, I mean, all the campaigns of course have intense strategies. They know where their supporters are. Now the challenge is to get them out to those caucus sites tomorrow evening. But, Erin, across all of this, the biggest picture, can the Iowa caucuses be a roadblock for Donald Trump or a glide path to his nomination.


TRUMP: Brave the weather and go out and save America because that's what you're doing.

ZELENY (voice-over): Donald Trump is eyeing a knockout victory in Iowa, hoping the first contest sets him on a rocket ride to the Republican nomination.


TRUMP: Tomorrow, January 15th, I need each and every one of you to get out, everybody get out, just get out and vote. You've got to bring your friend. You know we say plus 10. So plus 10 or plus two or plus 20, but bring them all out because we have to set the stage for November.

ZELENY: On the eve of the Iowa caucuses, Nikki Haley and Ron DeSantis in a furious scramble for second place. Even as they work to sow seeds of doubt about the electability of the former president.

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Here in Iowa, you have the ability to change the trajectory of American politics.

NIKKI HALEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Do something. You can be the start of the solution that we have.

ZELENY: The closely watched "Des Moines Register" Iowa poll which showed Trump with a commanding lead found that 68 percent of likely caucus-goers have made up their minds. But a quarter of voters are still deciding. DESANTIS: You're one of those here today. I hope after this that you

commit to us and come out tomorrow and help us.

ZELENY: The stakes are remarkably high for the Florida governor, who has placed his hopes on a strong Iowa finish. He is counting on a robust organization to ward off a late shift towards Haley.

As the former South Carolina governor took the stage at weekend rallies, Drew Klein navigated the snow-covered streets of the Des Moines suburbs, going door to door in search of Haley supporters.

DREW KLEIN, IOWA REPUBLICAN ACTIVIST: Certainly encourage you to get out there. Obviously we're stumping for Haley.

ZELENY: Some Republicans said they intended to brave the elements. Others did not.

KLEIN: Do you plan on caucusing on Monday?


KLEIN: Not going to get out?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's too cold, buddy.

ZELENY: What do you think the weather is going to do for turnout on caucus night?

KLEIN: There are folks that are going to decide the stay home for sure. We're trying to overcome that as much as possible by, you know, just kind of laying out to them that the gravity of their votes and their participation and what that means.


When you're deciding between the couch and 70 degrees or negative five degrees outside of your front door, it's tough to get people to go.

ZELENY (voice-over): Tonight, the frigid weather remains the biggest wild card in a race that has been remarkably stable in its dominance by Trump. From summer to winter, with one of his biggest worries now being complacency among supporters.

TRUMP: We got to be sure that we put this thing away.

ZELENY: The Iowa caucuses come at a critical moment for the Republican Party. As voters render the first judgments on whether to choose Trump for a rematch with President Joe Biden or move in new direction.

Ann Wagener said she intends to skip her weekly bible study to attend her caucus. She knows Trump holds a commanding lead, but she'll support Haley to keep the Republican primary going beyond Iowa.

ANN WAGENER, IOWA VOTER: She needs to know that people are behind her, and the world needs to know that we're serious.


ZELENY (on-camera): And Erin, in the closing arguments today to voters, some interesting strands we're picking up. Particularly from the former president. He took on Nikki Haley in a way he has not before. He spent several minutes talking about her at a rally earlier this afternoon. He said she's not tough enough to be president.

For her part, she largely ignored him saying it's time for voters to move forward. Certainly Donald Trump has his eye on what comes after this. Of course, New Hampshire, as does Nikki Haley. But for Ron DeSantis, all of his hopes are placed in Iowa. There is no doubt there is no one that is campaigning harder or working more aggressively to make sure his campaign stays alive after Iowa.

But, Erin, for all of the millions of dollars spent on television ads and on strategy, it may come down to the weather tomorrow night and whose supporters actually are able to get to the caucus sites and who decides to actually leave their couches.

BURNETT: All right, Jeff Zeleny, thank you very much. Of course when it comes to things like foreign policy, certainly nobody would say Nikki Haley isn't tough. But that would be one of those gender things that the former president is very good at throwing out there.

Everyone is with me.

Alice, you have worked on a lot of campaigns in Iowa. Huckabee, Santorum, Cruz, two of them were expected to lose if you went by the final "Des Moines Register" poll, and ended up winning, right? So you have Trump led the final poll. Cruz won in 2016. Romney led the final poll. Rick Santorum won in 2012. So just to lay it on, but even though we are in this unprecedented moment, Iowa itself is often unpredictable.

ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It certainly is. And especially now that Mother Nature is coming in with this tremendous storm. It really is going to test the resolve of the turnout for these campaigns. And you can sit there throughout the spring and summer and fall, and work on to commit to caucus cooperation, but you really have to drill it home when you have these kind of conditions out there.

And, look, I think one of the things that is in Donald Trump's favor right now is in that "Des Moines Register" poll. We talked about where he is overall. But the enthusiasm gap is -- cross tab important. He has an 88 percent very high enthusiasm rating with the voters. Nikki Haley is down to like 40. So it just goes to show he has people that are more energized and enthusiastic about getting out there to vote for him.

So that bodes well for him. And look, overall the most important thing is turning people out to vote. Ron DeSantis has a tremendous ground game. And he has been working on this for a long time, knocking on doors, making phone calls, and doing this commit to caucus early. The question is, are those people still with him, and will they deliver?

Right now I look at Ron DeSantis as having the most to lose if he doesn't come in a very strong second place tomorrow night.

BURNETT: So, Margaret, your great grandfather, so often that this comes up in a conversation with anyone, right?


BURNETT: Iowa's only president.

HOOVER: Iowa's only president.

BURNETT: Herbert Hoover. So you're involved with the presidential library there.


BURNETT: And you know the state well. You know the politics of the state well. And I know today you've been talking to a lot of people who say they intend to caucus, farmers in that area. So what are you watching for?

HOOVER: I am looking to see if Trump has a strong over 50 percent, which by the way the Republicans in Iowa, you know, you can't help. You get on the phone with them. And Trump is the gravitational center of the universe in Iowa in terms of the Iowa GOP. He just is. And so the question is, you know, this poll has him at 48 percent. But anecdotally, folks I talk to, regardless of whether they're going to caucus for him, believe he is going to clear 50 percent.

So the question is, who comes in second? And is it a strong second? Does Nikki Haley have a prayer going into New Hampshire, or is this over?

JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Look, nothing is over because no one has voted yet.

HOOVER: He was on the phone, too.



AVLON: We're talking to the same folks, West Branch, Iowa shout out. But I think the important thing to also remember is that the governor of the state, Kim Reynolds, popular governor, Bob Vander Plaats, evangelical leader, both notably declined to endorse Donald Trump and backed Ron DeSantis.


AVLON: So the brass top leaders in Iowa have been looking for an alternative to Donald Trump. And look, the responsibility in Iowa is disproportionate, but especially this year.


KAREN FINNEY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: You know, we should just remember, now that we're really in it, it's not just about Trump. Turnout matters because it's about delegate allocation. Because now we are in the race for delegates. And it's 40 delegates coming out of Iowa. So part of the reason that Trump wants a big showing is, yes, having a big showing is going to have some momentum, right.


FINNEY: Number two, he wants those delegates. He wants to wrap up this nomination by Super Tuesday and have enough delegates that it's impossible to catch him.

BURNETT: So, Geoff, you know, it's interesting, though, is that in that "Des Moines Register" poll that Alice mentions is so important. It has Trump winning by the largest margin of any nonincumbent Republican presidential candidate. Now I understand there are many who say well, you treat him as an incumbent, because -- OK. But, nonetheless, it's a significant thing. But about a quarter of voters in the poll Jeff say that they have not made up their mind. Something Ron DeSantis is pounding the table about today.

What does that signal to you? Does it mean anything?

GEOFF DUNCAN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, in 2024, I can't believe we're still talking about Donald Trump as a commonsense conservative that really wants to just beat the brakes off Joe Biden. Anybody other than Donald Trump with a heartbeat and a Republican card in their wallet would be 10, 15, 20 points ahead. But here we are.

Yes, look, Donald Trump is like a bad boss. Nobody likes him except for when he is in the room. Right? Everybody wants to talk about him. I mean, they talk behind his back and when the day gets fired everybody jumps. If somebody can break the strings of gravity here and Nikki Haley can get 25 percent, 26 percent, 27 percent, Donald Trump can get under 50, Ron DeSantis can take his medicine and go home, I think we got a chance to roll it into New Hampshire and have actual momentum. Something that turns the tide.

But this is all a momentum game. If Donald Trump gets 50 plus points, then the game is going to keep going. Everybody is going to show up in the break room and act like they like him again.

BURNETT: Is there something, Basil, that something like this ground game, though, that Alice is talking about, that Ron DeSantis has executed so well? I mean, everybody would acknowledge that, that he has. Been to every county twice, he has gotten all the people in place. Is there any chance that that upside surprises?

BASIL SMIKLE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: There's always a chance. However minuscule at this point. But, yes, I think to everybody's point, and I think this is why Donald Trump is out there saying if you're close to death, come vote for me anyway, because he wants to guard against this inevitability stream, right? With him polling so high.


SMIKLE: Is he now concern that people will say, well, he's going to win anyway, so let me not come out. That's what gives Ron DeSantis the windmill and Nikki Haley a window to Karen's point about the delegate game. It really is about wrapping up these delegates. If he doesn't do well enough, that means you give DeSantis and Nikki Haley enough to carry into New Hampshire.

BURNETT: Which ironically, to your point, John, maybe why he focused on Vivek Ramaswamy. OK. Have we mentioned that name? And you'd think there's a reason for that. He's polling at 8 percent. But Trump came out today, Vivek started his campaign as a great supporter. Unfortunately now all he does is disguise his support in the form of deceitful campaign tricks, very sly. But a vote for Vivek is a vote for the other side. OK. That's a lot to expend on an 8 percent poll.

AVLON: It is. And I think it's a sign of someone's insecurity. Look, the Trump team has been saying, don't take it for granted. Make sure you come out. He knows his vote is coming. Ramaswamy is cannibalizing his vote to some extent. He's experienced at what Alice talked--

BURNETT: Right. The Haley voter is not maybe going to vote for Trump?

AVLON: That's exactly right. That 25 percent by the way is not going Trump at the end of the day. But as we saw in 2012 and 2016, the polls don't always -- are the predictor. I mean, when Ted Cruz beat Donald Trump in 2016, what did Donald Trump do? He said it was stolen. He said it was a fraud, he said it was rigged, which also just shows the reflexive nature of those lies in any election he loses.

But so, you know, don't take none of this for granted. Caucuses are different. And that's why, you know, no one should count -- you know, polls don't vote. People do. Pay attention to who --

BURNETT: All right. Everyone, stay with me. I mean, it is exciting. We were finally here. I feel like we've never left election mode. And now finally you're having the first votes.

OK, so, next, Trump not letting up on his opponents tonight.


TRUMP: Ron DeSanctimonious and Nikki Haley will never secure our border.


BURNETT: Plus, Trump says Nikki Haley is not tough enough. Well, what is her response to that? Dana Bash just spoke to her, and she is going to share with us. And live pictures out of Iowa tonight where it was important to note Jeff Zeleny corrected me as he should, I said it's freezing. He said no, it isn't. It's well below. 31 below to be exact. We'll be back.



BURNETT: And welcome back to a special edition of OUTFRONT. "Countdown to Iowa" on this Sunday, and tonight Trump making his final pitch to voters. Even his polls show him with a wide lead. Tonight he is not letting up on his rivals.


TRUMP: Ron DeSanctimonious and Nikki Haley will never secure our border, and they'll never come close to it. Ron and Nikki also want to gut Social Security and Medicare for seniors. Now they're changing their tune. First of all, they're both getting killed by Biden in the polls.


BURNETT: Obviously there is no poll that shows that. But it is worth noting that Haley, who likes to point this out herself, right, actually outperforms Biden by eight points in the newest poll that we have tonight, eight points as of now. So that's the facts from the polls.

Kristen Holmes is OUTFRONT in Indianola, Iowa.

And Kristen, what is the latest thinking from Trump's team?

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erin, after they saw the poll last night, they feel pretty confident that they're going win. But the question of course is how big of a margin are they going to win by. And I know that your panel talked about this. Anything over 12 points is going to be historic. But the bigger the margin, the better for Donald Trump, not just for the delegates. Not just to win.

It's because they really want to set the momentum going into the primary season. And on top of that, they want to stop any momentum that his GOP rivals have, particularly Nikki Haley. And that's what you heard so much of in his speech today, hitting Nikki Haley, saying she was not ready to be president, that she was weak, that he knew her well. At one point seemingly giving her a compliment, but then saying but she couldn't be president.

This went on and on for most of his two-hour speech. He is clearly at least somewhat rattled by what they have seen, his team have seen in New Hampshire in particular when it comes to Nikki Haley's poll numbers and the rise in those poll numbers. So they're hoping to stunt any sort of momentum that she has. The other part of this, and I know that you guys were just discussing this, is that he wants everyone to come out and vote.


I'm talking to several of his senior advisers who say, yes, he is worried about the weather. Yes, he is worried that it could impact turnout. A big part of their ground game that they organized was getting out first-time caucus-goers. In order to do that, they had to use data, seek out people who had supported Donald Trump, but never really shown up at a caucus. Are they going to show up this time? That's a big question. They believe they will. But he is pushing and pushing, pushing to get them there on Monday. BURNETT: All right. That's really what it's all going to come down.

All right, Kristen, thank you very much with your reporting.

And I want to go now straight to John King at the magic wall.

So, John, finally, tomorrow it begins. Iowa. So what are you watching for?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, finally, Erin, 24 hours from now, we'll be counting votes. And we'll be watching the wall fill in. 99 counties in Iowa, many of them rural. And that's key to Donald Trump.

Let's go back to what you've been discussing with your panel and Kristen just there for a second and show this poll. Excuse me for turning my back. I just want to stretch this out. Yes, yes, Ted Cruz came back, he was running behind and he won last time against Donald Trump. He was not leading in the last poll. Yes, Rick Santorum was not leading and then he won in 2012, surpassing Mitt Romney.

But the lead was nothing like that. Donald Trump at 48 percent, Nikki Haley at 20, Santorum at 16. So this would be an earth-shattering what if someone beat Donald Trump in Iowa. So largely, it seems to be a fight for second place. But can Trump stay under there? So what do you look for? One of the key things, Erin, and we talked a little bit about this the other night is if you look at here, the deeper the shading, the more evangelicals live in those counties.

That's the area Donald Trump split with Ted Cruz back in 2016. That is where the area where Donald Trump, mostly small rural counties, couple hundred people vote there, maybe a thousand people vote there, but if you add them all up, that's how he boosts and offsets any losses in the urban and suburban areas right there. That's the key. That's where Trump wants to run it up. And that's where they are a little bit worried about turnout.

Now if you're Nikki Haley and you're looking at this map, what you're thinking about is, can I get into the suburban counties? And can I get people to come out there? I just want to show you right here. The lighter gray counties, the lighter gray counties, around Des Moines and Ames, around Sioux City, around Cedar Falls, your traditional suburbs. These are not big cities like New York, not big cities like Philadelphia, but those are your urban areas. A lot of new people in those suburbs. That is the key.

If we're going to see Nikki Haley pull off any kind of a surprise, it will be there. If DeSantis is a surprise, it will be because he competes like Cruz did with Trump for conservative rural evangelicals.

BURNETT: Right. And of course we know people are allowed to register should they choose, you know, throughout the day tomorrow if they want to register a Republican to vote here. So obviously Trump sounding confident. And he does have that commanding lead. But, you know, as Basil is pointing out, he's worried, he's worried that with that lead coming out in the poll, that maybe people are, you know, a little lackadaisical. They don't actually show up tomorrow. Is that a reasonable concern when you look at the enthusiasm of his voters?

KING: Well, his people are enthusiastic. If you look at that poll, there's no question. His voters are far more enthusiastic than anybody else's. By far. However, talking to Trump campaign people, their support does tend to -- it tilts more rural. That's a longer drive to your polling place. It tilts older. Do you want to get in the car, risk a flat tire, risk something happening to you if you're older, if you have to drive 15, 20, maybe 30 minutes or more to your polling place.

So they are a little bit nervous like that. It brings up this interesting point here, too. They've been very, very confident to the end. Look at the ad spending here. Again, I have to turn my back just so I can stretch this out so people can see it. Haley's campaign and pro-Haley super PACs have spent about $8 million since the beginning of the year, January.

DeSantis a little more than $6 million. That's the DeSantis campaign and super PACs that support him. Pro-Trump has spent much less money because they entered the new year very confident. And you have to schedule that TV time a long time ago. So one of the reasons he's there or one of the reasons he's saying come out and vote even if you're sick, is that they were so confident they have not spent as much money on television.

That is a big debate about whether that works as much or not. But the reason he's out there at the last minute, the reason he's saying vote if you're sick, and Erin, the key here is they have those phone numbers, so they're texting these people. Are they telling the most people who are afraid to drive themselves, we'll come get you and give you a ride? Let's find out tomorrow.

BURNETT: Right. And that of course is a crucial part of it, right, the ability to be able to mobilize that and get them to the cars, the people and get them to vote.

Now, you, John, have been talking to those voters for five months now, and it's been interesting watching your reporting because, you know, you've been talking about how they say they've been getting really seeing old school campaigning ahead of these caucuses. Right? In a day driven by TikTok and social media, a very different type of campaign.

What can you tell us about the tragedy you've seen?

KING: I'm going to show you. Look, they see the TV ads. They get videos on their phones every day. They get texts. Even the people who are voting for Haley or DeSantis are getting texts from Trump. That's a sign of the Trump much better organization out there. But this is why I attend the campaign. I was out in Iowa covering campaigns, Erin, when the internet was a baby, when there was no such thing as social media.

A lot of direct mail. We used to go to evangelical churches on the Sunday before Iowa to see what people put under the windshields of cars. That's when you did your attack piece. You put it under the windshield on the car. People have come out of church and see, you know, Michael Dukakis this or Bob Dole that, well, look at this, this is pro from Team Trump here. This is a negative ad from DeSantis. Trump ignored Iowa.


And Nikki Haley saying right here, that she has, as you mentioned earlier, electability. She's the right candidate to take on Joe Biden. So there's TV. There's digital. But there is also some good old-school direct mail.

BURNETT: Old school direct mail. It's nice to see it. All right, John King, thank you. And we'll of course see you tomorrow.

And next, Nikki Haley picking up a big endorsement tonight from a popular former Republican governor who says she is the one with the momentum. And our Dana Bash just spoke to Haley in Iowa and Dana will be with us live from Des Moines after this.

Plus, new pictures from Iowa where it is -- we talk about the numbers. Let's give you this stat, colder than the North Pole. So which candidate benefits most from what you're looking at in your screen?


BURNETT: And welcome back to this special edition of OUTFRONT, "Countdown to Iowa." Just in, our Dana Bash spoke one-on-one tonight with Nikki Haley. Haley of course has been feeling some momentum going into the Iowa caucuses tomorrow night. But will it be enough? Will they turn up? Will it turn out? Sorry. Will it put a dent in Trump's massive lead?

I want to get straight to Dana. She's in Des Moines tonight.

And Dana, you had a chance to talk to Governor Haley, and you talked to her about a big endorsement tonight. Marco Rubio, who she had actually endorsed in 2016, but is now endorsing Trump. So talk to me about what she said to you about that.


DANA BASH, CNN ANCHOR: Well, it was really interesting, Erin.

I was in Ames, Iowa, where she had one of many events that she's doing today. She had just come off talking about the need to move on, the need for a new generation, a lot of what she told you in that townhall a couple of weeks ago.

And then we got the news about Marco Rubio. So, I asked her about that also about what Donald Trump had said about her at a rally where I was just before, where he said that she is not tough enough to be president.

Listen to both.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BASH: I was with you in 2016 in South Carolina when you endorsed Marco Rubio. I don't know if you heard he just endorsed, former President Trump. Is that disappointing?

NIKKI HALEY (R), 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I mean, look, this is where they do that. I don't care as much about elected officials endorsing as much as I care about the voters endorsements.

I've never really cared for -- I don't line up a bunch of endorsements to do that, I want to win the people's vote. Because at the end of the day, they're the ones that I'm going to be serving. They're the ones I'm going to be working for. They're the ones I'm going to be fighting for.

So as long as I get there, I don't care about the rest.

BASH: Larry Hogan endorsed you, is that something you welcome?

HALEY: I mean, look, if anybody wants to, we'll take it. But it's not something I seek. It's not something I fight for. I want to make sure that people know, I'm going to go into this, I'm going to over communicate, I'm going to tell them everything I know as president, and I'm going to fight every day to make them proud. That's what I did as governor. That's what I did as ambassador. That's what I'll do as President

BASH: Donald Trump, among other things says that you're not tough enough to be president. How do you interpret that?

HALEY: I find it comical because when I was at the UN, he always used to tell people don't mess with her, she is tough. And look, I was tough as a governor. You know, I took on, you know, whether it was like passing the toughest illegal immigration law in the country, whether it was taking on my own legislature, when I made them start to record their votes on the record, whether it was at the UN with Russia, China and Iran.

Everybody that's ever worked for me or worked with me, no one ever questions my toughness. He is saying this because now he knows he's in trouble. Now he knows this is becoming a two-person race. So I know that he knows the truth, it doesn't bother me at all.


BASH: So Erin, you saw her trying to brush off that criticism, which was more robust in the former president's rally today than we've seen, maybe in recent days. And that really has been her MO, as we've seen time and time again, to harness the notion that when people are attacking her, it means that she is winning, and that's why they're going after her.

But also to sidestep a little bit of the criticism beyond what she's already done when it comes to the former president, her former boss when she was UN Ambassador -- Erin.

BURNETT: All right, Dana, thank you very much. And really illuminating, Dana, having this conversation with Nikki Haley. Geoff, I mean, you know, you having been on a campaign trail. I mean, I can't even imagine what kind of fumes any of these individuals are running on, but specifically Nikki Haley and Ron DeSantis, who really have been doing the groundwork out there. You know, Trump has obviously been in the courtroom.

And so what do you make of that response? I mean, just you know, I don't think she was aware of the Marco Rubio thing before Dana told her it appeared.

DUNCAN: Well, Nikki Nikki's crushing it right. And just another -- 2024 is another chapter of opposite day, right?


DUNCAN: I mean, Donald Trump gets indicted, he goes up in the polls, right? Nikki Haley is crushing it. She is gaining momentum. She's doing everything that the history books tell us you have to do to win Iowa or to be strong or to be your party's nominee. And she's -- I mean, she's fitting a great time, right?

Foreign policy is an absolute must to be on your resume, and Nikki Haley has got it. She's got a strong governorship behind her in a southern state. She's killing it.

But in opposite day, you have somebody like Marco Rubio, who I actually supported early in the last cycle, and to see him come out. I mean, look, I think we're seeing what people are made out of right now.

Do you want to be a professional politician? Or do you want to be an American? And if you want to be a professional politician, and you're Republican, then you get in line. You say, Donald Trump, you hold your nose and you say, Donald Trump is the best and then you go home, you tell everybody you know that you can't stand him. Because that's what's happening all across the country.

BURNETT: Alice, what do you say to that? I mean, Marco Rubio -- I mean, is this Little Marco? I mean, right? I mean, I'm just saying -- right -- like that's where we are that this -- yes.

STEWART: Yes, so many are falling --

BURNETT: Obviously everyone knows that's what Trump called him.

STEWART: Exactly. Amongst many of the names he called other people.


STEWART: Look, many of the establishment Republicans are falling in line behind Donald Trump. We're seeing that across the board and that is unfortunate.

But to Geoff's point, in terms of Nikki having momentum, we're seeing that she is gaining in the polls, and in this Des Moines Register poll, she is the one that has actually gone up and others have not.

And she also has money, Americans for Prosperity, putting a lot of money for her to put these ads on the air. The thing that bodes well for her is we have all been talking about Iowa, it is so important. Iowa is the first in the nation test, but it's not reflective of the nation.


And she understands moving into New Hampshire, she is appealing to the people of New Hampshire. She is one that's more moderate and looking at the live free or die state. She also appeals to the people of South Carolina and hopefully can carry that on into these other states as we lead into Super Tuesday.

BURNETT: Yes, every --

STEWART: She has a ground game or a message that resonates past Iowa, so I think that will be beneficial.

BURNETT; So to that point, though, Basil, I am curious when you look in this poll, because yes, she is the only one who went up. DeSantis, Trump, they went down, she went up.

But only four in 10 of her supporters say they're enthusiastic about voting for her, and that is a stark contrast to DeSantis and Trump, right, who have much, much higher enthusiasm numbers, and in the polls, you know, there's weakness there.

Does that set the possible stage for however one would define it and underperformance that could influence this whole momentum narrative.

SMIKLE: So I think the underperformance is possible, but one thing that she does have that in some ways bodes in her favor, is that she might be a better general election candidate if she could ever actually make that argument.

Look, she, in that same poll, she is doing very well among Independents, and that says a lot about -- I mean, when you're a Democrat, and you're looking at this race and saying that a lot of these contests around the country are going to be won on the margins and Independents are very critical to this. If she were a different kind of candidate, if she could say the word "slavery," she could actually find a way to talk differently about what happened when she was presiding over the Confederate flag coming down and she didn't sort of kowtow too much early on to the MAGA Republicans, that I think she would have set herself up to be a better general election candidate.

Right now, she is doing better among Independents, but I don't know if she'll ever get to a point to make that argument.

FINNEY: Well, she's got remember, as the poll shows, a big portion of her support is Democrats who plan to caucus tomorrow and Independents and I think that goes to this, Erin, your question about intensity and enthusiasm, because if you're a Democrat, 40 below not so sure I'm going to go risk. And I think John's point too, about older voters.

But here's what I think is really important to keep an eye on tomorrow.


FINNEY: And that is the evangelical vote, because what we've seen -- two things. Evangelical vote critical to Republican victory in November. Those voters, as we know, have said, they see Donald Trump as the person who is fighting for them. Every time he gets attacked, that's who -- Geoff and I've talked about this, unfortunately, his support hardens.

But we're starting to see a little bit of a split in Iowa with evangelical voters who want to go -- who are supporting DeSantis and he has the support of a very significant evangelical leader.

So do we see a split in the evangelical vote? That's obviously something Nikki Haley hasn't been following, but it will matter again in South Carolina, and it will matter again in the Super Tuesday states.

BURNETT: And Margaret, it is amazing when you look at the polls, though, right? And there was one, right, where Haley was up 17 points over a Biden hypothetical race. The most recent one we have is eight points.

But within that same one, Trump and Biden, we're just checking here, two percent, which was well within the margin of error, right? So it is that -- it is that Independents and whether -- we will be very curious to see how many people register as Democrats to come into registers Republicans tomorrow.

HOOVER: I'm looking for early texting data from my friends to tell me how many people showed up at the West Branch City Hall to register --

BURNETT: West Branch, Iowa.

HOOVER: West Branch, Iowa. But listen, look, I'm with Geoff, in the sense that, you know, I desperately want somebody who is not Trump, and particularly somebody like Nikki Haley, who really could be a change agent at a national level, bringing a new generation of people into the Republican Party, which is something that I've been working for, for 15 years.

But the reality is, what I'm seeing is the electability argument at the primary level, especially in Iowa, isn't actually getting traction, because people are looking at Donald Trump versus Joe Biden and they actually see Trump as stronger and they see Biden because they're listening to all of this conservative media, which is showing him that Biden is old and Biden is slow and Biden is geriatric.

And so they think actually, Trump is the stronger general election candidate. That's what's happening at the grassroots level in Iowa right now. So the electability argument actually isn't playing as well as it should. AVLON: But the polls are, Donald Trump lied in his speech just a second ago where he asked people to die to vote for him. But Nikki Haley, poll after poll shows is the more competitive general election candidate.

If that's what you're looking for, that is a strong argument. We'll see how many independents show up. We'll see what the Evangelicals do. But I think it's a mistake to consider this a done deal.

Marco Rubio endorsing Trump after all of those insults and what he knows, that's a profile of cowardice, but what we've come to expect from establishment Republicans who back Trump.

DUNCAN: Evangelicals will regret voting for Donald Trump at some point in time.

BURNETT: All, thank you very much.

And next, Iowa in that deep freeze tonight. Right now, windchill factor 31 below. So how does this affect turnout in a state that says they are so used to winters?

Plus the DeSantis team working late into tonight to try to figure how to get voters to caucus sites tomorrow night? How to literally show up and drive them there? Our Iowa insider, conservative radio host, Jeff Angelo has new reporting on the DeSantis game plan.



BURNETT: All right, tonight, Iowa gripped by an historic storm, record low temperatures that are guaranteed to affect tomorrow's caucuses one way or another, and right now with the windchill in Iowa, it feels like a negative 28, which is colder than Alaska right now, whether this cold makes people want to stay inside. Well, of course getting people to turn out and to go out in the cold in the dark is what happens. That's what Iowa caucuses are all about tomorrow night.

The chair of the Iowa Republican Party saying just a few moments ago that he still expects a "robust" turnout.

Elisa Raffa is OUTFRONT of the CNN Weather Center and Elisa, this is perhaps the most important report of the night when it comes to tomorrow. Right? I mean, this really is about the weather. What do you see it looking like tomorrow night?

ELISA RAFFA, CNN METEOROLOGIST: We are not going to break zero as we go through the next couple of days in Iowa.

Iowa has had temperatures below zero since yesterday afternoon, still sitting at 11 degrees below zero right now in Des Moines with wind chills as cold as 30 to 35 degrees below zero.


Windchill warnings in effect for most of the state because those frostbite times are so low.

Here is a look at some of the temperatures and windchills Monday evening as people might be headed out to some of these caucus events.

You can see the temperatures for the most part are five to 10 degrees below zero. Windchill is 30 to 35 degrees below zero.

When you have windchills that cold, you're talking about frostbite can happen in 20 minutes or less. That's dangerous, because those frostbite times are just so, so low.

And when you look at you know, there's been a lot of talk, oh, Iowans have had cold. Yes, they have. When you look at the last caucus events, most of them have been in the 30s and 40s. You have 2004 at 16 degrees, but that high temperature on Monday will probably only get to minus four degrees. That would be the coldest caucus event that Iowa has ever seen.

And again, it's 30 degrees below average. Iowa gets cold, but not this cold. Thirty degrees below average, a cold snap coming the first of the season for them so far. Iowa is in the midst of their warmest winter on record so far, so a shock to the system. They haven't had cold like this in quite some time.

BURNETT: Yes, pretty amazing listening to you say the warmest of such a warm winter and then just in these couple of days, you know, fascinating.

All right, thanks so much. And next, first it was Ron DeSantis.



We're going to win Iowa.

We're going to win Iowa.


BURNETT: Things have changed. Now, just hours before the caucuses. It's this.


DESANTIS: We're going to do well. I like being underestimated.


BURNETT: DeSantis is the candidate perhaps with the most to lose tomorrow, so what does he have to do to be seen as a winner?

Plus, Nikki Haley stepping up her attacks on Trump. Is the criticism though too little too late?



BURNETT: Tonight, Ron DeSantis hailing his campaign's ground game in Iowa just hours before the caucuses begin and vowing that that ground game will leave no stone unturned.


DESANTIS: We built a great army here. Tomorrow is going to be -- going to be fun for us. We're going to get everywhere we can between now and Monday night. We feel -- I feel really good about all of the energy that we've seen.


BURNETT: OUTFRONT now from Iowa, Ron Brownstein, senior editor for "The Atlantic" who has covered many presidential campaigns including the Iowa caucuses extensively, and Jeff Angelo, popular conservative radio show host and former state senator who has his finger on Iowa politics.

Many of the Republican candidates have appeared repeatedly on your show, "Need to Know" with Jeff Angelo.

Jeff, I was glad I saw you, was it last week, and you know, it was much warmer. It was positively balmy compared to what you're experiencing.


BURNETT: Okay, so let's talk about Ron DeSantis --

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: It has always been in much warmer, Erin.

BURNETT: Yes. I know, right. It was the warmest winter here on record, and then here we are.

All right, so Jeff, Ron DeSantis says he's built this great army on the ground in Iowa and what's fascinating is, I know you actually stumbled today across a turnout training session for Team DeSantis. I'm sorry, actually it was last night at a hotel bar. What's their game plan? I mean, what are they ready to do, Jeff?

ANGELO: Well, it was amazing to talk to them after they had their training. So their game plan was to go door knocking and Erin, look, you know, there were a bunch of people here from around the country, including Texas and Florida. Welcome to minus 26 windchills. Some of them were telling me they were probably going to call Iowans on the phone instead.

But some hardy souls were going to get out there and they were going to door knock for Ron DeSantis. One of the things that I found interesting was they were told that they were hoping -- the DeSantis campaign was hoping that the Trump supporters would get complacent because again, poll after poll has him up on DeSantis by 30 points. Maybe it's too cold for the Trump supporters to get out tomorrow night and DeSantis pulls a surprise. So that's what they were -- that was their message to the DeSantis turnout crew to get them all fired up and out there.

BURNETT: But, you know, important you say that they're there. They're coming from Texas, they're coming from Florida to do this. They clearly care. He's got the passion on his own team.

But Ron, you know, DeSantis had for a long time because he had this great ground game and was out there going, you know, to county after county. He was promising victory. Here he is.


DESANTIS: We're going to win Iowa.

We're going to win Iowa.

We're going to win Iowa.


BURNETT: And now he's not at all talking about winning, right? He's trying to totally change the expectation game. He's saying this.


DESANTIS: We're going to do well on Monday.

We're going to do well. I like being underestimated.

We're going to do well in Iowa.


BURNETT: All right, the change couldn't be any more clear. It shows an acceptance of not winning. But what is doing well? What is doing well, for Ron DeSantis -- Ron.

BROWNSTEIN: I don't think there isn't doing well short of winning or shocking us by coming within single digits of Donald Trump. I mean, the issue isn't really expectations, Erin. It is the reality that he has put all of his eggs basically in this basket. He has visited all 99 counties. He has spent enormously here.

He has built an impressive organization, and he had a favorable electorate for his message. The problem is, is that the audience for that message has never been nearly as large as they expected.

I mean, they basically pitched themselves to the slice of Republican voters who want Trumpism without Trump. I mean, DeSantis was indignantly complaining last week that the media says he hasn't made a case against Trump when he has and in fact, he has from the right that you can no longer trust Trump to advance the America First agenda. That is a message that appeals to, I think we're going to see a relatively thin slice of the Republican electorate.

It has left a lot of room for Nikki Haley in the center among the voters who are most disaffected from Trump, but she too, you know, is kind of facing the reality that unless she and expand beyond what she's likely to see tomorrow and quickly you know, her runway could run out pretty quickly as well.

BURNETT: Jeff, what do you see happening here?


ANGELO: I see Trump winning big. I see DeSantis coming in second, because of the turnout operation. I think Nikki Haley has to be the most worried about this record cold we're going to have during an Iowa caucus, because she has the less enthusiastic supporters in Iowa and those are the kinds of folks that say, I think I'm going to make some chili and stay home tonight.

BURNETT: Ron, what's your number one to watch?

BROWNSTEIN: Well as Rush Limbaugh would say, ditto, I think for that analysis, I mean, Haley's problem here is that she has the voters most disaffected from the Trump era party, and they may or may not think it's worth coming out on a night that is so difficult. But look, she is consulting that part of the party.

I think that you know, you can lose sight of the big picture. Like Haley and DeSantis focusing on who comes in second, Trump is way ahead, one of them has to make a stronger argument than they've done so far to change that dynamic.

BURNETT: All right, thank you both very much. I know who will be there braving the cold, Ron and John. Thank you.

And our special coverage that lead up to the Iowa caucuses continues after this.