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Trump Could End The Night On Cusp Of Clinching GOP Nomination; Trump On Super Tuesday: "No Path" For Haley To Win; Haley In Charleston Today With No Campaign Events Planned; Today: 865 Republican Delegates Up For Grabs In 15 States; Trump: "We're Getting Rid Of The Romney's"; Haley Vows To Stay In Race "As Long As We're Competitive"; Haley Hoping For Strong Night In Conservative Utah; Haley Voters Unsure About Other Candidates, If She Exits. Aired 12- 12:30p ET

Aired March 05, 2024 - 12:00   ET



DANA BASH, CNN HOST: Today on Inside Politics, it's a Tuesday to remember. Americans in more than a dozen states across the country are casting their ballots this Super Tuesday. The decisions could end the primary season and all but hand the Republican nomination to Donald Trump for a third straight election.

Plus, is this Nikki Haley's last stand? She's on the verge of mathematical elimination. So, what's her next move? And more importantly, where will her supporters land. And four years ago on Super Tuesday, Joe Biden pulled up a staggering political comeback. This time he's an incumbent president, preparing for a rematch with monumental consequences. We'll look at warning signs for both men with eight months to go until the general election.

I'm Dana Bash. Let's go behind the headlines at Inside Politics.

First up, it is the biggest primary day of 2024. And it could end with the general election matchup that most Americans say, they don't want. 865 Republican delegates are up for grabs in 15 states across all time zones. Right now, Donald Trump has 276 delegates. The magic number to look for is 1215. Which means as of tonight, the former president could be on the cusp of having the delegates he needs to clinch the nomination.

CNN has full team coverage on this crucial day. Kristen Holmes is in Palm Beach, Florida, where Donald Trump is hosting an election night party. And Kylie Atwood rather is in Charleston, South Carolina, where Nikki Haley is spending the day. Kristen, I want to start with you. What are you hearing from your sources inside the Trump camp?

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN, NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Dana, Trump's team feels very confident going into today. They believe that -- while they know he's not going to be the nominee after tonight that he's going to get enough wins. He could possibly be the nominee by next week. And by that, I mean crossed that delegate threshold and that was really on full display. When Donald Trump did an interview with Fox this morning, take a lesson. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP (R), FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT AND 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I want everybody to come together. We're going to have a unified party because our real opponent happens to be named Biden. There's no path for her to win. Whether she likes tearing, better not, there's no path for her to win, no matter what.


HOLMES: So, one thing I want to focus on is him saying there's a unified party because this has really been part of the annoyance on Trump's team that Haley hasn't dropped out. They understand that there are some people who are just never going to back Donald Trump, even Republicans who are never going to back Donald Trump.

But they do believe that there is a section of Republicans of conservative voters who are still looking for an alternative. So haven't gotten behind the former president, they want those people to come behind him before they pivot into this general election.

Because they know that no matter what happens, it's going to be an incredibly tight election between a rematch between President Joe Biden and Donald Trump. And they are going to need all the support every single vote that they can possibly get. So, what they're focused on right now is how to get those people who are maybe still looking at Haley to come behind Donald Trump as they start looking ahead to November.

BASH: Yeah. We're going to look at some of those numbers in a minute. I don't know who's going to win tonight. But you Kristen and Kylie, who are about to get to are tied for the best live chat locations of the day. That is for sure. Kristen, thank you.

Kylie, let's show him what we're talking about. You're in Charleston, South Carolina. Nikki Haley is home there in South Carolina. She does not have any events planned tonight. I was talking to her on the show on Friday, asking which Super Tuesday state she was going to be in and she said she would be back home. What does that tell us?

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN, NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, listen, the fact that she wants to be here in her home state is telling, she wants to be with those close to her. This is not a state that is voting today. Let's just remind folks. South Carolina already had its primary a few weeks ago. And when Nikki Haley is asked about the longevity of her campaign beyond the Super Tuesday, she often says that she's not thinking that far ahead.


Her campaigns, last scheduled rally was last night in Texas. Of course, they could schedule more but there aren't any more on the calendar as of now. And she was asked earlier this morning on Fox if she will drop out if she doesn't have a successful showing tonight. She didn't commit one way or another, but she was very protective of her supporters. Listen to what she said. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NIKKI HALEY (R) 2024 GOP PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don't know why everybody is so adamant that they have to follow Trump's lead to get me out of this race. You know, all of these people deserve to vote. 16 states want to have their voices heard. They don't want to be ignored. They don't want to be just said that that's nothing. They're actually quite something. And they want something different in our country, and I respect them tremendously for that.


ATWOOD: Now, back in January, around the time of the New Hampshire primary, Nikki Haley's campaign pointed to Super Tuesday presenting fertile ground for them because 611 of the 16 states and territories voting today has open or semi open primaries. But when Nikki Haley was asked if she's relying on Democrats and independents to boost her today, she said no.

She pointed to the fact that only 5 percent of her supporters here in South Carolina were Democrat. So, she has certainly not been trying to speak specifically to Democrats and independents, though we know that moderates have really boosted her along the way here.

And another thing to watch, Dana, is that over the weekend, Haley indicated that she no longer feels bound by the commitment she made last summer to support the eventual Republican nominee. She said that the RNC now is a different RNC than it was when she made that pledge. And she gave another reason today for not feeling bound to that pledge, saying that Trump never signed the pledge.

And so therefore, she doesn't have to necessarily uphold that pledge. She says it will be her decision as to if she will support that eventual nominee or not. But right now, her and her team are really focused on what happens in all these states on Super Tuesday.

BASH: Yeah. And she clearly feels that she has some leverage when it comes to where her supporters may go. And you can see that in the way that she is answering or -- answering those questions differently than she has in the past. Thank you so much, Kylie from beautiful Charleston. Appreciate that.

I want to talk about all of this with my great panel. On the Super Tuesday, The Washington Post's Isaac Arnsdorf, Margaret Talev of Axios, and Bloomberg's Mario Parker. I don't know, Margaret, we were coming on air. She said, does it feel like Super Tuesday? I'm going to actually now after listening to them, I'm going to go with yes.


BASH: What are you looking for today, Margaret?

MARGARET TALEV, SENIOR CONTRIBUTOR, AXIOS: Well, I mean, look, we all know where the numbers are going. Even if Donald Trump doesn't hit those numbers tonight, he's on a path that seems irreversible. A few things I'm watching for obviously, in Virginia, those results are going to be important.

They're going to tell us quite a bit about how college educated suburban and ex-suburban voters in around metro areas feel about the fall lines in this race and whether they can stomach another Trump term or whether they really want an alternative. So that will give us some clue.

BASH: North Carolina is similar.

TALEV: Yes, North Carolina is interesting for so many reasons. This is Democrats hoped to would be the most battleground, you know, Trump states. I'm not sure it's tracking that way. But the governor's race is going to be very interesting, especially if the current lieutenant governor becomes the Republican nominee for governor. So, we'll be watching that contest. And then of course, in the California Senate race, I think that's the other race we'll be watching, you know, on the Democratic side.

BASH: You know, that's a fascinating one for sure. Isaac, you are on the campaign trail with Donald Trump a lot, exclusively maybe. So, I want to ask about some of the things that Kristen was touching on about how the Trump campaign is looking, not just that what the results tonight tell them. But also, kind of big picture, assuming that he is the nominee. How he gets some of the Nikki Haley voters back.

And the New York Times poll over the weekend told us a lot of interesting things about the national snapshot right now. One of them, everyone focused on Biden and what it said about Biden, but there's a lot in here about Donald Trump as well.

A question is whether or not Republican primary voters -- how they feel about Donald Trump being the nominee. 48 percent enthusiastic, 32 percent satisfied, but 18 percent are either dissatisfied or angry. So, if you look at that, and against that backdrop, listen to what Donald Trump said about people who aren't quote, unquote, "MAGA." He said it over the weekend in Virginia.


TRUMP: I'm lucky that I'm able to explain it to the public because if you weren't able to explain it, the public wouldn't know. And they believe what they see. So, I don't want to win this way. Look, I want to win based on my policies are better. We're going to cut taxes. We're going to get interest rates down.


They say always tried to demean. Well, MAGA really represents 48 percent of the Republican Party, now it represents 96 percent than maybe 100 percent. We're getting rid of the Romney's of the world. We want to get Romney's in those out.


BASH: If Romney's of the world still exist and they're going to be put in a position of having to choose from three choices. Trump, Biden, I mean, I guess there are others if they live in a state where there's an independent on the ballot or stay home. What are you hearing from people in the Trump camp about statements like that from their candidate?

ISAAC ARNSDORF, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, and that's really the argument that Nikki Haley is making is that that she is representing a significant constituency here that is not going to go away.

BASH: But he's not exactly courting them with those statements?

ARNSDORF: Well, he is -- you know, if you look back to New Hampshire, when it was all about -- it was supposed to be his night and he was so mad about what Haley did that it was all about her versus Michigan when he came out and he didn't mention Haley at all.

And so, they've been trying to look ahead to the general -- focus on Biden, just ignore Haley, make her go away. And but you're not seeing a ton of -- short of maybe letting off the attacks on Haley. You're not seeing a ton of outreach toward the voters who Hayley is speaking to. And those voters who you heard Haley talking about energizing her to want to stay in the race.

MARIO PARKER, NATIONAL POLITICS TEAM LEADER, BLOOMBERG: And yeah, to Isaac's point. I mean, I think if you look at one of the questions right now is what does Haley do from here, right? She doesn't have the delegate math to go forward, et cetera. But if you look really closely, what she is doing is -- to your point, Dana, creating some leverage, right?

Donald Trump: The Art of the Deal, et cetera, bringing that to the table. We know that he's bleeding support in the suburbs among independents, et cetera. He's going to meet the full coalition of the Republican Party in November, no matter whether she has 15 percent of that slice, 10 percent of that slice. When she could go to the table at Mar-a-Lago and say, hey, I may or may not endorse you, what can you give me in return?

BASH: And then let's look at the other side of the aisle, the Democrats. And the New York Times had a story today that kind of encapsulates some of the frustration by the president and his team. And the headline is, do Americans have a collective amnesia about Donald Trump.

The frenetic pace of the Trump years meant many Americans made Trump news and obsessive habit or tuned it out completely. The rat-a-tat volume coincided with the continued rise of siloed algorithm-driven -- siloed, excuse me, algorithm-driven social media and shrinking attention spans. That environment created a kind of numbness that not even 91 felony counts or enormous civil penalties for defamation and fraud can break through.

PARKER: Yeah. If the Biden camp is frustrated about not being able to get their economic message through point B -- option B, or bullet point B, is the fact that they just can't believe that Americans don't have the same type of angst around Donald Trump that they had in 2020.

What's important to remember in 2020, was that the election was held in the backdrop of a Pandemic, the most impactful racial reckoning in the country in about 50, 60 years as well. And they just can't seem to stir that angst against Donald Trump.

There's the CEPI of you among the electorate, and we see that borne out in polls as well, where they're not hitting Donald Trump for presiding over COVID. Instead, they're remembering those low gas prices that were attributed to the lower demand during COVID.

BASH: And that's the amnesia that they're talking about. And, Margaret, the other obvious difference -- just to state like to be completely Captain Obvious (ph) here is that Joe Biden has been president for four years, and they see him through that lens, and they see him through -- his approval numbers have gone down as some incompetence tend to deal with when there are tough times. And so that's -- he's the opponent of Donald Trump, not just the former vice president who has been a private citizen for four years.

TALEV: That's it. I think there, -- you can look at the lessons of 2016, and say that one of the mistakes that the Democrats made was spending too much energy, talking about why it shouldn't be Trump, but not enough energy articulating the case for yourself. You don't want to repeat that mistake.

On the other hand, you don't have a race where voters are essentially seeing President Biden and former President Donald Trump as two incumbents running against each other, which is like --that's a weird thing to say. But that's what it is. It's a race against two incumbents.

And Trump's advantage is not that people love his chaos or his legal stuff, or the way he treats people or his personal, you know like, all these things. It's that they -- were their memory goes back to a time either pre COVID or early COVID. Where they felt were many rank and file voters felt like they had more money in their pocket at the end of the day, and that against the current specter of inflation. You could talk about how the stock market's doing and unemployment rate.


But the bottom line is the prices of goods every day are in people's heads. And Joe Biden has not figured out the psychology of how to message that and how to -- how to tell people, look, you need to compare apples and oranges. Or you're not going to get what you think you're going to get like he has not figured out how to make that case and you've got two candidates very weakened by their own problems, grasping onto the weaknesses of the other to attack them.

BASH: Yeah. Very well said. Well, he's got eight months to figure it out. Up next, we talked about Nikki Haley. Will she win anywhere tonight? We're going to take you out west to one of her best opportunities and look at the road ahead for Trump's last challenger standing.



HALEY: It's not normal for Donald Trump to pick the side of a tyrant over our allies. It's not normal for Donald Trump to go on to pay $60 million in campaign contributions towards his personal court cases. It's not normal for Donald Trump to continue to mock the military. And it's not normal when Joe Biden called his opponents fascists and Donald Trump calls his opponents vermin, none of that is normal.



BASH: That was Nikki Haley in Texas last night. It would -- could have been her final campaign rally. Now she's not planning a Super Tuesday speech tonight. As we discussed with Kylie Atwood, she has no other campaign events on her schedule. It will be a decisive night for her campaign.

Let's head out west to Utah, which in the past has been a little bit less, I would say, a lot less Trumpy than other deep red states. That's where CNN's Brian Todd is. Brian, what's the mood there? Do people on the ground there feel more of affinity or more polled to Nikki Haley? Or is this maybe going to be more of the same and what we expect to see in other states tonight?

BRIAN TODD, CNN, CORRESPONDENT: Well, Dana, that's a good question. And it's kind of an unknown here because Donald Trump has gotten lukewarm support here in Utah in past caucuses and past elections. First, I'll set the scene for you. We are at the foot of the beautiful Wasatch Mountains here. Take a look at that view here in Sandy, Utah.

This is the caucus site that we're going to be covering tonight. This is Alta High School here in Sandy, just south of Salt Lake City. This is a place where 32 precincts are going to be holding a vote tonight. And the voters won't even start gathering here for almost eight hours at about 6 pm local time, 8 pm eastern time. 32 precincts and 32 different rooms are going to be caucusing just inside those doors there. And we're going to be covering it live.

You mentioned Nikki Haley's support here. Here's her advantage here. We talked about Trump's lukewarm support here in pass elections. Donald Trump lost the 2016 caucus here in Utah handily to Ted Cruz. That wasn't even close. Also, Nikki Haley has picked up some support here. She campaigned here last week.

The Governor of Utah, Spencer Cox, says he doesn't like Trump or Biden as candidates. He does like Nikki Haley, but he has not fully endorsed her yet. But his wife Abby Cox has endorsed Nikki Haley. The Lieutenant Governor Deidre Henderson has endorsed Nikki Haley. So those are Haley's advantages.

In addition to the Mitt Romney factor, Mitt Romney, of course, the retiring U.S. senator, still a very popular figure here, and he's been of course, very harshly critical of Donald Trump for years. So, will the Mitt Romney factor play into this? And will Haley support elsewhere play into this? That could happen.

The advantage that Donald Trump has here tonight is that this is a state run -- excuse me, a party run caucus here. The Republican Party is running the caucus that tends to draw more kind of committed Republican voters and those tend to be a little bit more conservative. So, Donald Trump may have the advantage there tonight. We're going to see how it all plays out. And we'll be able to show it to a lot of our viewers live when the votes being counted here, Dana.

BASH: OK. I would say you're maybe runner up for best at live shot location of the day. Not what you said. What you said was amazing. We're just talking about the backdrop. I'm kidding. It's gorgeous there. Thank you so much, Brian. Appreciate your reporting.

Let's get back to our panel and talk more about the Nikki Haley of it all tonight. And let's just look at the numbers. The math problem, Isaac, that she has. 865 delegates at stake tonight. But when you look at what's going to be awarded by the end of tonight, that 421 in winner-take-all states, 195 in winner-take-all congressional districts, 238 proportional delegates. So, assuming that Donald Trump gets the vast majority of that, and remember it's 12:15.

ARNSDORF: Well, we've been doing that for weeks already. And you know ---

BASH: But this is -- but we've been doing it for weeks, but this is the biggest part of delegates.

ARNSDORF: Yeah. It's just math ---

BASH: Just math.

ARNSDORF: -- that not seeing a path for a whole. But my point was that just it's all -- we've already kind of been struggling to see where she was going with this. What -- you know what her -- what she was playing at and what she was still in the race for? And getting answers like, well, to be president was like, but where's the path?

And but, you know, I was moved by what she said in Michigan that 40 percent is not 50 percent, but it's not nothing. And that she is really -- clearly feeling like she is running for this substantial Republican coalition. That is -- that is not voting for Trump and wants to be giving voice to that state.

BASH: Yeah. It's not nothing. But if you just look at the math because that is where we are right now. 43 percent of the proportional delegates tonight. That's her highest margin in any state so far. That would only be 110 out of 850 plus.

PARKER: Yeah. And just speaking with the Trump campaign this morning, they're workshopping language around avalanche of delegates, right? They're trying their hard as to try to push her out of the race, so they can fully and more efficiently pivot to this general election.

[12:25:00] They're reminding us quite consistently about the fact that they've got about seven days out before they hit that magic number, et cetera. And they're now casting Nikki Haley as a thorn in president -- a former President Trump side and hindrance to his being able to gain some type of momentum against Biden.

BASH: And Margaret, let's go back to the nothing comment because the question that we were talking a little bit about earlier that is going to be even more in focus after tonight is how Donald Trump is going to get those voters and whether they will even come to Donald Trump. Our Jeff Zeleny has been in North Carolina, talking to voters. Let's listen to Haley voters. Let's listen to some of what they said.


KIM BRAND, HALEY SUPPORTER: I hope that somebody is lurking behind the scenes, coming out with an alternative. But if not, then I would vote for Joe Biden over Donald Trump in a heartbeat.

STACEY VAN GRONIGEN, HALEY SUPPORTER: I hated voting for Trump last time, but I'll do it again with my nose plug. I just can't believe though that that's what we have to choose from.

GERRY ST. AMAND, HALEY SUPPORTER: I've been intrigued for a while now at the whole notion of it -- of a legitimate third party.


TALEV: So, if you're watching this, you can say, is Nikki Haley trying to be the future third party candidate? Or is Nikki Haley trying to recapture the Republican Party if Trump is not -- it becomes the nominee if not able to win again. And it is that latter. But so, I mean, what she has been doing is establishing herself over these past number of weeks as the standard bearer of the opposition inside the Republican Party.

There's the Liz Cheney model, and there's the Chris Christie model. And neither one of those is established to be the standard bearer of a future nominee of the Republican Party, at least not right now is how it looks. That role is available, and she is positioning herself. She's trying out for that role. And if Trump is resoundingly reelected this time around and manages to serve for four years without getting impeached multiple times, without there being a crisis. Then I don't know where Nikki Haley is in 2028.

But if any of those pieces don't fall into place -- if he becomes the nominee but cannot get reelected. If he were to become reelected, and it would be a disaster. She is saying the things now that she will go back and look to later and say, I told you. I told you this was a risk for the party are the elements the Republican Party that used to be elements of the Democratic Party. The working class, the elements of populism, the rust belt.

There are elements of the Republican Party that are out in the wilderness right now that Nikki Haley is a part of the ties to corporate America, the respect for the establishment, the strong national security. She is seeking to hold on to that aspect of republicanism and to try to rebrand it down the road.

BASH: Do you have a real quick?

ARNSDORF: Well, the problem with the -- I told you, so again, is that she doesn't have the last word there. And you've already got all these Republicans saying, every day she spent, every day she stays in the race hurts Trump against Biden. Every dollar she spends is a dollar spent helping Biden. And so, the story in response is going to be well, no, no, it's not that you told us. This is your thought.

BASH: You made it happen. Yeah. Very interesting. Thank you so much. Appreciate it. Coming up. The Cookie Monster has had enough. He says his favorite food is shrinking. And he's not alone. The White House's message to Cookie Monster and the rest of the world about so called shrink inflation. That's next.