Return to Transcripts main page
New Hampshire Voters On Their Final Decisions; Haley Campaign Today: "We Aren't Going Anywhere"; Trump Hoping Big New Hampshire Win Drives Haley Out Of Race; Haley Campaign: Super Tuesday Is "Fertile Ground For Nikki"; Trump, Haley Trade Attacks On Immigration, Social Security; Now: Voters Cast Ballots In First-In-The-Nation Primary; Haley On Calls To Drop Out: "America Doesn't Do Coronations"; Haley Slams Trump On Mental Fitness In Campaign Final Days. Aired 12-12:30p ET
Aired January 23, 2024 - 12:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DANA BASH, CNN HOST: Today on Inside Politics, get out and vote. People here in New Hampshire are doing just that. Facing a critical choice between Donald Trump and Nikki Haley.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT AND 45TH U.S. PRESIDENT: We started off with 13 and now we're down to two people. And I think one person will be gone probably tomorrow.
NIKKI HALEY (R) 2024 GOP PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: America doesn't do coronations. We believe in choices. We believe in democracy, and we believe in freedom.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BASH: I'm Dana Bash, live from (Inaudible) restaurant in Manchester, New Hampshire. Let's go behind the headlines at Inside Politics.
The first in the nation primary is on and there is a lot more at stake here in the Granite State than just the 2022 rather, GOP delegates up for grabs the entire Republican race and the political environment from now through November may hinge on what voters decide today.
Another Donald Trump blowout could make it difficult for Nikki Haley to keep her candidacy alive. But just minutes ago, her campaign manager released a memo, insisting that no matter what happens tonight, quote, we aren't going anywhere. Don't forget New Hampshire voters are known for surprises, and it's up to them.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Inaudible) Donald Trump and why did you feel this time that he was the one?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because my life was a lot -- I think everybody's life was a lot easier, better, economically. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think Nikki has the best chance of kind of bringing our country together. I think Trump has some great policies, but I think a lot of chaos follows him.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Many Trump supporter or to having to poverty behave, it seems like he might change that.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To my conscious all allow me to vote for. I am sorry.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And what has led you to vote for Haley instead? What do you like about Haley? What are some of the attributes that drew you to her?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She's not Trump.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BASH: I'll speak to Nikki Haley and New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu live this hour. But first, CNN is all over the Granite State today. As the country and frankly the world, everybody is waiting to see which Republican comes out on top tonight. Jeff Zeleny is in Manchester, right here where I am, and Kristen Holmes is in Nashua, New Hampshire.
I want to start with you, Jeff. You're right down the street from where we are. What are you seeing there when it comes to the turnout? And can you just give a little bit more about what the Haley campaign is saying in that memo?
JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Dana, there is a steady stream of voters that have been trickling in throughout the day and even as we've been standing here. We're in Ward 12 in Manchester at an elementary school and the voters certainly are coming out. We will see if it matches the projections that the election officials here are saying a record setting turnout. We will see about that.
For the Haley campaign -- Nikki Haley was at a polling place earlier today with Governor Sununu and she was talking about her way forward. She said yes, of course she will stay in this race. Looking ahead to South Carolina, moments ago, the Haley campaign sent out a reminder that she's having a rally tomorrow evening in North Charleston, South Carolina.
But take a listen to what she said this morning when our Kylie Atwood asked her about Donald Trump's claim that she should get out of the race.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HALEY: I don't do what he tells me to do. I've never done what he tells me to do. I didn't get here because of luck. I got here because I outworked and outsmarted all the rest of those fellas. So, I'm running against Donald Trump. And I'm not going to talk about an obituary. Just because you all think we have to talk about it. I'm going to talk about running the tape and saving this country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZELENY: So clearly, the question is how many of those undeclared voters -- those independent voters here in New Hampshire will decide to grab a Republican ballot? That's what they do when they walk into a polling place like this, either grab a Democratic or a Republican ballot and make their decisions.
She's counting on a good share of support from them as well as Republicans. But Dana, the question will be the margin of the outcomes tonight. If we take a look at a bit of the history of New Hampshire and Iowa, we are only one week and one day from the Iowa caucuses, but never has there been a winner in Iowa and New Hampshire a non- incumbent winner.
So should Donald Trump win tonight here in New Hampshire. He will also make history in that regard. There has always been a bit of a correction as Nikki Haley said or just a different verdict from New Hampshire voters in the primary here at least in recent time. But all eyes now are on the next hours of voting.
The Haley campaign is trying to get those undeclared voters out to the polls. They're focusing on a lot of counties where Donald Trump underperformed Governor Sununu when he ran the last time. So, as we talked to some voters here, they are making their decisions. There's no doubt but there is a sense here that the Trump campaign certainly walks into this primary day far more confident. Dana?
BASH: Thank you so much. Great to see you out there. Kristen, now to you outside Trump campaign headquarters in Nashua. You have some new reporting on what the Trump campaign is thinking, what their mindset, what their strategy is today. What are you hearing?
KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Dana. Look, they're way more confident today than they were last week. One of the things that we had talked about was them watching Nikki Haley's rising poll numbers and how they were going to handle New Hampshire.
Now today, I just spoke to a number of senior advisors who say they feel very good going into this primary. They took a two-pronged approach. They hit Nikki Haley on immigration, trying to shore up Republican voters who generally -- according to polling had sided with Donald Trump. And then they also hit Nikki Haley on Medicare and Social Security, which they were trying to get those independent or unaffiliated voters to come over to Donald Trump and they believe that this strategy worked.
Now, the question is, how big is the margin going to be? That is what the senior advisor to asked me today what he was looking for tonight. And how big win would mean that he would potentially be the presumptive nominee or Nikki Haley would potentially drop out of the race. But right now, what I'm being told by his senior advisors, by his inner circle is that if he does well tonight, they are going to start focusing on a more general election approach. They are going to start looking at various swing states. But again, Dana, going into this they are feeling very confident with those poll numbers.
BASH: Kristen, thank you so much. Appreciate that great reporting. And Donald Trump didn't make his closing argument to New Hampshire voters by himself last night. Three of his former 2024 rivals were there to signal the party unifying behind the dominant frontrunner.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Thank you very much, Vivek, we love him. Dynamo. He's a friend of mine -- become a friend of mine and a really good one. Doug Burgum. For the most respected people in all of Washington, Senator Tim Scott, South Carolina.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BASH: Notably absent from that group of rivals turned endorsers, Ron DeSantis. Joining me now to talk about all of this on this very exciting day two great political reporters, Lisa Lerer of the New York Times, and our very own Eva McKend of CNN. Nice to see you all. I should sort of lift the veil a little bit. Lisa, drove me back from a Trump rally, like an hour north of here. We got back at midnight last night. So, if we seem a little tired, that's why. Thank you.
EVA MCKEND, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS CORRESPONDENT: I don't know. Later night than you, I was in Dixville Notch.
BASH: Oh, you were.
BASH: OK, that's cool. We'll talk about that in a second. Let's start with the news that the Haley campaign is trying to drive as voters go out to the polls. And as we all talk all day long through a memo from her campaign manager, talking about the members of Congress, the press, and many of the weak-kneed fellas who ran for president are giving up and giving in.
We aren't going anywhere else. After South Carolina, we head to Michigan, which also has an open primary followed by a closed primary in Washington D.C. going through saying. On to Super Tuesday, despite the media narrative, there is significant fertile ground for Nikki.
MCKEND: Yeah. I mean, I think that this is a message that her supporters very much want to hear. When I was in Dixville Notch talking to voters. They really resented this idea that the race was over. They still want to have their say. And I think that this idea if Trump ultimately is the nominee that Republican leaning voters are automatically going to coalesce around him is a deeply problematic what I'm hearing from a lot of these voters in the state supporting.
Haley is that they would consider President Biden in a general election. So that is why she is staying the course because she has a constituency and people that are receptive to her message.
BASH: Dixville Notch, way up north. The earliest polling station historically open it's a great tradition here. Six voters they all voted for Haley, right?
MCKEND: They did.
BASH: OK. That's six voters. What are your thoughts on the sort of table setting that the campaign hailing campaign is trying to do?
LISA LERER, NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Well, look, you want to keep your supporters energized and mobilized and nobody likes to vote in a contest that they feel is over. So, I think you're seeing a real effort here to try to keep this margin as tight as possible. If it's -- you know if she comes in second and its notable defeat. If she loses by double digit margins, it's really hard to make a case that she should continue on in the race.
So, she -- I mean ideally if you're Nikki Haley you come in first, but if that's not going to happen you got to keep the race as tight as possible to be able to make a case for yourself to stay in. And also to be able to raise the money from donors who don't want to put money that feels wasted into a race to be able to continue on.
BASH: Let's talk a little bit about what you and I witnessed last night, Lisa, which is the last rally that Donald Trump had here. And before our voters go to the polls and it was really striking to me. I'd like to have your thoughts on the fact that, yes, we've heard a lot of the same specific the greatest hits when it comes to the reasons why he's been wronged.
And also, you know, why he should be president? But he didn't talk about two big issues, which he's been slamming Nikki Haley on from the beginning of this race. And she's behind me. She's coming up next. And that is immigration and social security. Let's listen to him,'
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: What she got out. She opposed om the border wall. She condemned my strong border policies.
HALEY: Not only do I want to build a wall, I want to do a whole lot more than that. And that's why we need to make sure we do a national e verify program in this country.
TRUMP: She wants to raise social security retirement age by approximately 10 years.
HALEY: I never once said I was going to raise the retirement age for anybody that was in the system.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BASH: I don't know when the last time you analyze the candidates' campaign with that candidate right behind me. But go for it.
LERER: Well, look, I think, you know, Donald Trump clearly sees this as a potent line of attack. People don't like the idea that the retirement age is going to be raised. They want to be able to retire and they want to feel like that promises a shirt (Ph). So, it's interesting to me that he's not someone who's known for attacking on policy. He's known more for attacking on style. And nick -- you know, with the nicknames that he's so famous for.
So, the fact that he's going after her on these two issues, which are really -- it's not an untraditional republican issue, like it's quite a traditionally Republican stance to want to restore fiscal responsibility to social security -- to entitlement programs. But it really shows in some ways that how important the state is for him to win and also how much Donald Trump has changed the ideology of this party.
BASH: That's such a good point. Listen to some of the voters who we talked to -- you might have talked to some of the same voters I did, Lisa. I talked to some at the Trump event last night, where they were explaining why they're all in for him. And they're not looking at Nikki Haley or anybody else.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CINDY BRYER, NEW HAMPSHIRE VOTER: I thought he was a good president before. And I think he can help fix this country.
SCOTT BRYER, NEW HAMPSHIRE VOTER: I'm worried about the border and people coming into this country illegally. And that's primarily my main concern.
NICHOLAS MOORE, NEW HAMPSHIRE VOTER: It's been pretty evident since he's left office, a lot of things have changed now for the better.
JENNIFER WALTER, NEW HAMPSHIRE VOTER: I haven't really quite heard what his plans are yet. Like, I haven't heard him come out and say what his vision for the future is yet.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BASH: And the flip side, why people who have voted for Donald Trump are going to take a look at Nikki Haley.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUSTY BRIDLE, NEW HAMPSHIRE VOTER: I think she's going to bring some common sense back to the White House. There's none there right now. There's no decorum.
BASH: Why is Nikki Haley the right person to do that right now?
BRIDLE: I think she can bring the younger people in. I think she can bring sensibility and the White House has been pretty old over the past two presidents. And I think that needs to change.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MCKEND: Yeah. Her whole argument is that it's time for a new generation of leadership. And there are Republican voters that want to hear this message. They're wanting to be voters with Trump no matter what, but there are. It seems like an increasing number of voters that are just looking for an alternative.
And Dana, on the social security issue, why I think the former president is sitting that so hard, you know, Republicans historically have lost elections on this issue. It is a huge vulnerability for them. He doesn't feel the need to offer any sort of policy prescription. He's not giving an answer, but he's beating her over the head on this, because he knows that it resonates with moves.
BASH: No two campaigns. No two elections are ever the same. But the one that is most analogous to this happened 24 years ago and that was in 2000. John McCain was really going for those undeclared voters. Let's just kind of give a sense to our viewers of where that ended up because of course, he won New Hampshire.
He won with Republican voters and independent voters and also newly registered voters by pretty big margins. Let's look at what our latest poll says about these two groups. The Republican voters Donald Trump is up by 47 points and those undeclared or independent voters she's only up by 27 points. Now that's a big lead. But in order to actually overcome Donald Trump, it's got to be bigger than that, right, Lisa?
LERER: It does. And, you know, another thing we've seen in some of these polling is that enthusiasm is much higher among these Republican voters who are supporting Donald Trump. He has a very strong following and it's a very passionate following.
So, if you're looking at who's likely to come out to the polls today, that's a really good measure. And that's part of why. I think there's a sense in this state that Haley may not be able to do what McCain did all those years ago and come from behind and win this thing.
BASH: Thanks to both. Appreciate your great reporting. Thanks again for the ride, Lisa. You saw her behind me. She is here with Governor Sununu -- Nikki Haley, Chris Sununu, live next.
DANA BASH, CNN HOST: Welcome back.
Let's get right to my guests here, former Governor and Ambassador Nikki Haley, and also her biggest supporter here, Chris Sununu, the governor of New Hampshire.
I think supporter -- I think I need to step it up. Hype man? How do I -- how do I describe it?
GOV. CHRIS SUNUNU (R-NH): I'm a fan. I don't know what to tell you.
SUNUNU: I'm just a fan.
NIKKI HALEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Oh, great partner, for sure.
BASH: Governor Haley, when Governor Sununu endorsed you, he said you would win in a landslide here in New Hampshire. And then he told me a few weeks ago that, if Chris Christie got out of the race, you would win.
Christie is out. It is just you and Donald Trump. So how is anything other than winning tonight a success?
HALEY: Well, he said that. I didn't say that.
HALEY: So let's be clear.
SUNUNU: I'm the hype man. I'm the fan.
HALEY: Yes, he's -- I mean, again, we want to be stronger in New Hampshire than we were in Iowa. Then we want to be stronger in South Carolina than we were in New Hampshire. It's a building game. That's what you want when you run an election.
You just want to keep getting stronger and stronger and stronger. That's our goal.
BASH: So, how do you define success?
HALEY: We will find out tonight when we see the numbers. I mean, I think you all will be defining whether it was successful or not.
BASH: How do you define it?
HALEY: If we're stronger than what we did in Iowa tonight, to me, then we're moving on.
BASH: I mean, Iowa was not -- Iowa was a big night for Donald Trump. You only won one of 99 counties by one vote. So the -- that was pretty low.
HALEY: Iowa was a big night for me as well. We started at 2 percent. We ended with 20 percent. I don't -- I think -- and that brought us into New Hampshire with a one-on-one race. I would say that was pretty good.
BASH: OK, so you're the one who defined success pretty high before. How do you do it now?
SUNUNU: Look, so we all -- again, that comment was, if everyone that could vote, right, because we want -- what we're trying to do is drive voter turnout, right? If everyone that vote, yes, she would -- it would be an easy one.
But -- so every new voter that comes out -- so, the successes and what we're seeing on the ground, we're out there today. People are coming in, not just in the morning. There's a steady stream of voters coming in all over the state. So, the high voter turnout bodes very well for the challenger.
If you want the incumbent, who is effectively Donald Trump, and this guy who used to be a disrupter, but is now basically the establishment guy that is just getting all the support out of Washington, D.C., the big government guy, that's him.
But if you want to think five, 10, 20 years down the road about creating an infrastructure for Republican conservatism, that's Nikki. And that's what people are coming out for.
BASH: Your campaign manager sent out a memo this morning, and it lays out the reasons why you will stay in this race through South Carolina and beyond. They covered a lot of issues.
I will tell you that I have covered a lot of campaigns. I have seen a lot of these memos written on the day of or the day before an election, and they really mean it when they're writing it. And then the results happen, and things change.
I mean, Chris Christie and Ron DeSantis both said that they weren't going to drop out, and then they ended up doing it. What assurances can you give voters in South Carolina and beyond that you're in it, that the tape that you talk about that you want to run through is months away?
HALEY: I mean, we just put down a $4 million ad buy in South Carolina. I mean, we have been running a very smart, strong campaign.
We had 14 candidates. It's now down to two. That's not because I was lucky. That's because I was -- outsmarted the rest of them and outworked the rest of them. We're going to continue to do that. Everybody's waiting to write my obituary. I don't know. You go from 14 candidates down to two, that's not an obituary. That's somebody who's a fighter.
That's somebody who's not giving up. That's somebody who believes in America so much that will put away what the media class and the political class is saying and say, look, we're going to get this done for the good of the country and watch us do it.
BASH: You're not going to go there? For example, double digits. If you lose my double digits tonight?
HALEY: I mean, I don't even want to talk about numbers, and I don't think you all should either. The only numbers I care about is, are people getting out to the polls?
And what we saw today, people are excited to get out and vote. I mean, look at the fact that the conservative "Union Leader" endorsed us. Look at the fact that the first six votes in the country that happened in Dixville Notch, all six came to us, not part, not one, all six came to us.
All of those things are wins. I look at the wins. I don't look at the obstacles, because, if you look at the obstacles, you never focused on what the endgame is. The endgame is, how do we go so strong that not only do we take care of this primary, but we go and we win a general, so that everybody can start to get back on track?
We have got to focus on the issues that matter, not about whether a poll is saying something or not.
BASH: Governor Sununu, you were just on another network, and you said some pretty tough stuff about Donald Trump, saying that he is not the Donald Trump of 2016 and...
SUNUNU: I don't think anybody thinks that.
BASH: ... he's off the tele -- if he's off the teleprompter, he can barely keep a cogent thought.
But he's still the guy that, if what you're doing here doesn't work out, which I know you're working very hard to make sure it does, you would vote for him for president?
SUNUNU: Yes, look, he's just not the same guy. And I think that's what people are seeing.
If he was the same guy and the whole nine yards, this would have been a fait accompli. But it's not. Folks want something different, which is why all -- everybody's coming out. They believe in a Republican Party of the future, not just litigating chaos of the past. That's why you're seeing so much excitement here.
And, again, if the argument is, oh, well, if Trump wins in New Hampshire, I guess this is done, well, if Nikki wins here, is Trump done? Is that the -- is that our argument? No, of course not. New Hampshire's biggest opportunity in every four years is to winnow down the field. We did that. Nikki did that.
I mean, Nikki did that even before we got to New Hampshire. And so these first three states are to make sure that America knows their options, 47 others to go. And it's the voters, not the media, not Donald Trump, not even Nikki Haley, the voters that will decide who leads this party and this country.
BASH: That, we definitely all agree on. It is completely up to the voters, but you have to make your case to them.
One of the things, just kind of bouncing off of what you said about that he can't even read a teleprompter without giving a cogent thought, you keep saying over and over again that Donald Trump is too old to be president since he confused you with Nancy Pelosi. You have also been noting that he doesn't have the cognitive ability, you don't think, and that chaos -- chaos follows him.
But do you think that he is fit to be president?
HALEY: I think that he's fit.
But what I'm saying is, do we really want two 80-year-olds to be our options when we're talking about president? And that's not being disrespectful. It's the fact that we need somebody that's going to go eight years ready, fully focused to do that. Neither one of them can say they can do that, right, one, because Trump can't run longer than four years.
But, two, is that really what we want to do, when we have got a country and disarray and a world on fire, that we're going to do that? So what I'm saying is, you can't say that, when you're 80, that you're not in decline. Scientifically, you are in decline no matter who you are.
HALEY: Yes, I think he's fit. You can see that he's out there. He's...
BASH: I mean mentally.
HALEY: I mean, look, we have seen him get confused. He was confused about me having something to do with keeping security away from the Capitol.
I -- clearly, he was talking about someone else. He was confused when he said that Biden was going to run us into World War II. Clearly, he met World War III.
This is more about, have you heard a vision from him on where he's going to take us in the future? You have it. You have heard about who he's going to go against in the past, what vendettas he's going to take care of, but nothing about the vision for the future.
BASH: Let me just ask you another version of the question of fit, because he was found liable in a civil trial for sexually assaulting E. Jean Carroll. He's under investigation for obstructing attempts to get him to return classified documents that he took from the White House.
He's arguing constantly that he deserves total immunity. Do you think that that conduct makes him fit to be president?
HALEY: If I did, I wouldn't be running.
So, the whole focus...
BASH: But you also have pledged to support him and endorse him if you end up not making it.
HALEY: Because I don't ever want to see a President Kamala Harris. That should send a chill up everyone's spine.
BASH: So, you think that, a President Kamala Harris, would be more dangerous than somebody who is alleged to and has been found liable for the conduct that I just described?
HALEY: What I worry about is, the media doesn't think Americans are smart enough to see that.
Americans are going to look, do they want someone that's tied up in investigations? No, Biden and Trump are both tied up in investigations. That's why they -- 75 percent say they don't want to see a Biden-Trump rematch. People don't want to have two candidates in their 80s.
People see that they both ran us trillions of dollars in debt that our kids are never going to forgive them for. This is about the fact that people want someone who's going to secure the border, bring down inflation, focus on getting education back on track, getting the country moving again. That's the biggest thing.
They don't want to deal with the negativity and the chaos of the past. And so this is not personal for me. I don't dislike Donald Trump. I don't dislike Joe Biden. What I dislike is the direction in our country. What I dislike is that I don't like my kids feeling like this, where they wonder if they're ever going to afford a home, if they're going to get a job, how they're going to -- how they're going to deal with this debt.
Those are the issues people, regular people want to talk about. They don't care about this -- the pettiness with Trump and Biden. That's actually what they want to get away from.
BASH: I was at a Trump rally last night. Immigration was the issue that voters told me they care the most about and the economy. And he was president, so they say, let's just go back to him.
SUNUNU: Yes, he didn't do anything with either of those issues, right?
Did we build the wall? That was the biggest promise that we got in 2016.
BASH: They argue they had more money in their bank account.
HALEY: The problem is...
SUNUNU: Yes, but they owe more money today. I'm sorry. They owe more money today.
HALEY: Yes. No, no, no. SUNUNU: Their kids owe that money; $34 trillion is not government debt, guys. It's your debt. It's our kids' debt. Like, we owe that money, not the government. We owe that money, and it comes out in terms of taxes.
So, the analogy I give is like, hey, buying a nice fancy house for your family and putting it on a credit card. It looks good out front. But my God, what have you just done to the family and the debt situation?
HALEY: Well, and not only that. He put us $8 trillion in debt in just four years.
So, yes, the economy may have been good, but he ran up the credit card to do it. Everybody knows that's not sustainable. We can't run our households like that. You sure don't want to run government like that.
And what should chill everybody is the fact, in two years, we will be paying more money on interest payments than our defense budget. That's not OK. And we don't want Russia, China and Iran to see that happen.