Return to Transcripts main page

Legal View with Ashleigh Banfield

Interview with Mike Huckabee; Examining the Latest Campaign Happenings. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired February 01, 2016 - 12:30   ET



[12:31:03] ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: All right, we are hours away from the Iowa caucuses. The key to a GOP victory is most likely going to lie in who evangelical voters choose, the man who won their hearts, their minds, and their votes, in the GOP Iowa caucuses in 2008, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee not doing as well this time around, but is he here and fighting and he is joining me from Des Moines, Iowa. Governor, thank you for being with me.

MIKE HUCKABEE, (R) PRESEDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thanks, Erin. And great to be here.


So, Let me ask you the question. You did this. You pulled this off.


BURNETT: You won it.

Right. Your on the ground guy helped you. Let me just ask you though, it's so different this time around. Obviously in the polls you're not going to win here. But what's changed?

HUCKABEE: Well, see no votes have been counted yet. We'll see how it goes. It's a very different year. There's a lot of anger out there. You know, I have often said that I'm a conservative, but I'm not mad at anybody about it.

Well, this year, it's almost like you need to be really, really angry about it. And that's not who I am. So, if people want someone who is just frothing, that's probably not me, but if they want someone who can get a job done, who can effectively govern against a wall of opposition, which I had the most lopsided legislature in the country, I understand how to be effective in that environment, but seems like people don't want you to be able to govern. They just want you to be able to throw rocks and break glass and if that's the case, I'm probably not their guy, even though I did mean a dispatronal (ph) government.

BURNETT: So, you feel this down. You solve this to the ground in Iowa. The anger, it's real and it's palpable?

HUCKABEE: It is. But, you know, I still want to believe that there are optimistic Americans who want the best for their kids and grand kids, who aren't just wanting to say, let's burn it down.

But who want to say, let's build it back and make it a great country where we can joyfully give it to our kids and out grand kids again.

BURNETT: All right, so, evangelicals are going to be crucial here, right, it's a group you know well.

HUCKABEE: Yeah. Big group.

BURNETT: It's a group who ...


BURNETT: ... got you to win, when you won.

HUCKABEE: You know what they were a big part of it. But the key to my winning eight years ago was really working class people. Now, a lot of those people are evangelicals, but quite frankly, if the evangelicals had completely coalesced around me, and they never coalesce around me and they never coalesced around anybody, I would have won even with a bigger margin, and as it turned out, I had the largest win in history of the caucuses. And I probably would have gone to win the nomination but if you go bag eight years ago, evangelical leaders, mostly supported Romney, Thompson, McCain.

They didn't support me because here's the problem. A lot of evangelicals say, yeah love what you stand for, we agree with you, but you know, this guy looks like he might win, and as a result, evangelicals end up splitting and splintering their vote.

BURNETT: Right, they try to go for a winner.


BURNETT: Right. And they tried to go for a winner. OK, so you know Donald Trump, has got Jerry Falwell Jr.'s endorsement.

(HUCKABEE): Yeah, right.

BURNETT: Of course, for business reasons, not for religious ones.

You know, but John King was traveling through Iowa, and he talked to a Baptist preacher who said, "Trump is a wolf in sheep's clothing and evangelicals know what that means. He stood for everything that we have been against."

So, I was talking to Donald Trump's two oldest sons yesterday, and I asked them about their father's religion. I said let's be honest. Your dad is not a religious guy. He hasn't pretended to be a religious guy. Donald Trump Jr. said of his dad, yeah, you know, but he is a believer, I mean, he is a God-fearing guy.


BURNETT: Is he? Is Donald Trump, a God-fearing person? Is he a person that has an evangelical -- you think you could if you were a voter you could support with a straight face?

HUCKABEE: Look, I could support Donald Trump if he gets the nomination. Donald Trump is a pretty straight forward guy, about who he is. I respect that. I would much rather have a guy like Donald Trump who, you know, is unfiltered, but you know exactly where he is coming from than a guy that pretends that he really, you know, is devout but deep down, I mean, it's not who he is every day.

BURNETT: And who are you talking about there? Ted Cruz?

HUCKABEE: Anybody. Anybody who is telling me they're devout, but their life doesn't show it. And I'm not going to, you know, try to dissect that. We have a lot of candidates. Can you go through the list and figure out who's that.

BURNETT: Well, I mean, I'm just looking at some of the things out there. I mean, you look at Ted Cruz who is talking evangelicals and, now there's been negative ads saying he doesn't give his money away. This is ingenious. That would be the sort of disparity between words and actions that you are talking about.

[12:35:07] HUCKABEE: I think Ted Cruz is certainly one of the candidates that has an issue of changing his mind depending where he is. And whether he is in Manhattan, he has a very different message to people than he does when he goes to Muscatine, Iowa, and I just feel like that sometimes, look -- look at every candidate and figure out what candidate has been virtually universally disparaged or at least questioned by the other candidates because they say he says he is it the most pure, the most consistent, but he hasn't been, and I think that's a problem to a lot of people.

BURNETT: For Ted Cruz. But you are saying Donald Trump is someone that, you know, you do think you could support. Not worried about his lack of obvious (inaudible)

HUCKABEE: I still want to fully Mike Huckabee. It's not too late.

BURNETT: Yeah, so let's me ask you Governor. Let me ask you though. How well do you need to do here in Iowa to move on? What is your math on the Mike Huckabee path to victory then?

HUCKABEE: Rather than say there are two or three slots out of here, I think sometimes people say that. A lot of it depends where the cluster is. In other words, if somebody gets 28 percent and somebody gets 26 and let's say I get 18, then there's a good chance to keep going forward. If I'm in single digits in the top three or four are in doubling digits, then it's harder to justify. So, a lot of it has to do with did you exceed expectations?

I mean, as much as people are saying, gee what do you have to do, if Ted Cruz has to win because he has been ahead, he has been at the top of the polls. If he doesn't win, then he has as much difficulty justifying going on probably as I do.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Governor.

HUCKABEE: Great to see you, Erin.

BURNETT: I appreciate your taking the time here in Iowa. And now to Ashleigh.

BANFIELD: All right, Erin. Thank you for that. I want to get us right back out live to Iowa because Bernie Sanders is stopping by his headquarters with his wife, Jane. Let's listen in and hear what he is telling his supporters.


BERNIE SANDERS, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Our success in this campaign up to now has been because of the enthusiasm of our volunteers, the willingness of the people of Iowa to observe listen to the message that we have brought forth, which is a message that says it is not acceptable that almost all of the new income and wealth generated in America today goes to the top one percent while at the same time we have the highest rate of childhood poverty of almost any major nation on earth. That is not what the American people want, and together that is what we are going to change.

Now, we have come a long, long way in the last nine months. My guess is today there was a poll out the today day, and it has us a little bit ahead, polls out the other day had Secretary Clinton a little bit ahead. We got a tie voting, that's where we are. But what every poll tells us and what, every political pundit understands is the following.

We will win tonight, if the voter turnout is high. We will struggle tonight if the voter turnout is low. That's the fact. What is our job today? It's to make sure that we have the highest voter turnout possible. That happens. We win. Let's go get them. Thank you all.


BANFIELD: There you go Bernie Sanders, at his headquarters in Des Moines, Iowa. When he says he has a good year, he has had a great year, $73 million he was able to raise last year, and just last month, the month of January the numbers came in. Bernie Sanders and his supporters were able to put together $20 million -- $20 million in one month. So, we'll see if that pays off for him tonight.

And coming up, we're going to speak to the chair of Hillary Clinton's campaign and see how the last month has paid off for her. See how the last year has paid off for her, and how it has changed and what that means for all important tonight. Our live coverage from the Iowa caucuses begins after this.



[12:43:21] SEN. MARCO RUBIO, (R) RPRESIDENTIAL CANDITATE: I have lived what people are facing now. And I than what we stand for is better than what Hillary Clinton stands for. An d o if I'm our nominee, we will - unite this party, we will unite this country, we will defeat Hillary Clinton, or for matter, Bernie Sanders, and I will be the next president of the United States.


BANFIELD: A lot of people are saying that today. That was Marco Rubio speaking to supporters at one of his field offices in Iowa this morning. Pledging to unite the Republican Party and defeat the Democratic nominee. Today is a big day. I don't need to say that. It's a big day for Iowa, but it's a big day for the rest of the country too.

Iowa caucuses can make or break a campaign, in terms of momentum -- anyway, in terms of a win or a loss later on where it really counts? Maybe not so much. We're going to talk more about this to with CNN political commentator and Daily Beacon, Sally Kohn and CNN political commentator Tara Setmayer and Roger Stone, former political advisor to Donald Trump, Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan.

A deep well of knowledge to draw up on there, Roger. I want to throw this out to all three of you, so you have to be brief. Iowa has a couple million people. Iowa does not share the same demographic as the rest of America. And of those few million people, only a couple hundred thousand actually go out to caucus. Why on earth does America put so much pressure and so much emphasis on Iowa? I'll start with you, Roger.

ROGER STONE: Because they're first, but the historical record of them correctly predicting the winner of New Hampshire in the nomination on the Republican side is scant, and the polls we're looking at are extremely unreliable and volatile. So, it's a media event, but it's not necessarily a predictive media event.

BANFIELD: We don't have 4-year-old memories. I mean, we can't go back four years to see that that predictability doesn't always play out Sally.

[12:45:05] KOHN: You know look. We have in our politics and culture more broadly that sort of fixation on the folk lore of white middle class rural farmland Americans, and kind to try to always put them at the foreground. I mean we treat them-- we treat those voters as more important in our politics and in our culture in general than they actually are in modern American and that's why Iowa is important.

BANFIELD: The we part of that is not just the media Roger as well. The we is the donors. They start to dry up if you don't do well in Iowa. So what is with the whole machine?

TARA SETMEYER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well the interesting part about that is that Sally is condemning it. But it was the Democrats who basically made Iowa first. The Iowa became first as a result of the turmoil in the Democratic National Convention in 1968.

So Iowa became first thanks to Democrats and then Republicans followed in 1976. So yes Roger is right. If the Iowa's first, are they representative of the country? No they're not now, but you could if you move it, if you try to move it you're going to find the same kind of arguments for every other state, so it's ingrained, if one of those things in politics that's very difficult to change. But it's still serves a purpose in other ways. It winnows down the field and it has a momentum, you know, it has to do with momentum. How the media covers it. It is a big media event.

All those things matter. And if you move it you're going to get the same criticism no matter what you do. No one is going to be happy.

BANFIELD: Let me ask you guys this if you think that's all of the different Iowa caucus moments that you have covered, when do we actually know? Do we always wait until the very bitter end, or do we start to get a really sweet picture at about 8:30 or even before that from people in line?

STONE: Well we already know that three years ago Rick Santorum won the caucuses even though he was never first or second at any poll. We didn't know for two months. So the answer is we may not know tonight. But also, it's important to recognize that Jimmy Carter bootstrapped and became a legitimate candidate out of Iowa. And that created kind of this lore that a dark horse candidates could break through in Iowa.

BANFIELD: Does that kind of divorce is not a patient nation because I'm asking this question. What time? I've been biting my nails for months here. What time am I going to know?

KOHN: Well, look two things. I think this whole rush to know -- and we've seen a lot of this in recent election. The rush to know is unhealthy. And I think it's also unhealthy because, yes, you can make a statistical case for it. But voters who out there especially when we start we talk to Super Tuesday and national elections. The voters are out there, one still feel like their votes count number one.

Number two the other reason Iowa is actually interesting is that the ethanol that drives Iowa elections is enthusiasm. So as unique as this caucus process may be, candidates can only win if their voters are enthusiastic. You don't just show up and pull a box. She got to actually participate. And that's why what I think is most interesting is what Trump and Sanders supporters in particular if they have the kind of enthusiasm to get out there to advocate for their candidates to bring others to the side that will be interesting.

SETMEYER: Yeah. And that what's it's going to be. I mean even if we were able to find out the results right away of the caucus at 8:30, you still don't necessarily know with delegates because of how complicated the Iowa caucus process is. They still have their state convention, their county convention, and all these things to get the delegates. So you don't actually really, really know the impact until later on. But absolutely agree with Sally that enthusiasm is key. I mean even -- and how the media covers it I think matters.

When we've had Marco Rubio surging, and if he does well, then will the media turn start talking about him? It worked for Gary Hart in 1984. He loss by 30 points, but they -- because the media said, oh, look, he performed better than we thought he did ...

BANFIELD: When, when he actually do that.

SETMEYER: I was actually a fourth grader.


STONE: I want to do a real quick rapid fire because during the break we always have our little chat session, and you were all three saying good night for, bad night for, so I just want to hear that from all three of you. Good night for, bad night for.

STONE: Good night for Marco Rubio, and good night for Donald Trump, not a good night for Ted Cruz.

KOHN: Completely degree bad night for Ted Cruz, and I think a good night for Sanders.

SETMEYER: I think good night for Sanders if we have large turnout. Good night for Marco Rubio no matter what happens. And I think it remains to be seen about Trump and Cruz.

KOHN: And can I just say ...

BANFIELD: No one saying good night for Hillary?

KOHN: Can I just, we'll, she's going to keep going no matter what, I think Rubio is going to keep going no matter what. And I say if Trump wins, though, bad night for America.

BANFIELD: Well, he has been saying he is going to run the table.

STONE: Actually if Trump wins bad night for Hillary.

BANFIELD: Well that's what some people say. Others say imperfect night for Hillary and Trump. And you hear it probably.

Guys, you're great thank you so much. I appreciate rapid fire actually being rapid. Awesome. Sally Kohn, and Tara Setmeyer and Roger Stone. I appreciate it.

We have already heard from a top Bernie Sanders aide this hour and we've also heard from Bernie Sanders himself.

[12:49:40] So coming up next, to the other side of that battle, the chairman of Hillary Clinton's campaign is going to talk about what is on the line for them tonight? What she's up to today?


BANFIELD: Welcome back. We are now approaching the seven hour mark from the Iowa caucuses officially getting underway. And Hillary Clinton is really trying to avoid a repeat of her 2008 defeat to President Obama. But this one is a close race.

Clinton and Vermont senator Bernie Sanders are neck and neck in the polls, edging ahead of each other every other poll, and they only have a few hours to sway the on fence Iowa voters.

John Pedesta joins me now live from Des Moines. He is the chairman of Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign and has a very long resume in Washington as well, in the Clinton White House at that time.

Mr. Pedesta, thank you so much for joining me today. I have one very simple question, and a lot of people are asking it. What happens to Hillary Clinton's campaign if she does not pull it off tonight?

JOHN PODESTA, CHAIRAMAN, HILLARY CLINTON CAMPAIGN: Look we intend to pull it off tonight, Ashleigh. We've been working since last spring to build what is the best organization that's ever been built here neighbor to neighbor. We have precinct captains in every one of the 1,681 Iowa precincts. 2,300 team leaders in those precincts. We -- she's finished strong here, positive here talking about what she can do to make people's lives better from raising incomes to providing affordable health care.

[12:55:16] So we feel very good where we are. And we tend to finish this off tonight, and win in Iowa.

BANFIELD: You are very, very good at your job, and I fully expected I wouldn't get the answer to the question that I asked.

So John Podesta, I'm going to go at this a different way. If things don't work out, because it's neck and neck right now, I want to just take you to the New Hampshire numbers right now. The latest CNN poll has Sanders at 57 and Hillary Clinton at 34. That's dismal in terms of looking ahead to New Hampshire. But if you skip one more state on to South Carolina, things really flip for your candidate. Hillary Clinton at 64 over Bernie Sanders 27.

So with that in mind, if things don't go well in Iowa tonight, and that's a possibility you got to give me that. Do you just move on past New Hampshire and think about South Carolina?

PODESTA: No, we're going to be in New Hampshire. We're going to fly from Iowa to New Hampshire. And campaign hard in New Hampshire to win every vote and win the delegates there.

Obviously, Senator Sanders is a neighbor -- New Hampshire has a tradition of voting for their neighbors. But we think we can do very well there. And if we get a win here tonight, we can go and compete and win in New Hampshire. But beyond that, we're going to fight for every delegate across the country. And we've got strong organizations in Nevada, South Carolina, and we're on to Super Tuesday. We have a more diverse electorate in those states. We think we can do very, very well.

But most importantly, I think, again, she's closing really strong here in Iowa. And it's given us a good base to go on and secure the nomination.

BANFIELD: All right. So talking about that organization, there's been much to do about some reports out there that your campaign from Hillary Clinton is equipped with all the best bells and whistles the same way that President Obama's where. That you've got an app on your supporters' iPhones that will tell you in real-time what's happening in all of those thousands of precincts in the caucusing. And that if it looks like that Martin O'Malley might fall below that critical 15 percent threshold and he will have to disburse his voters to either your candidate Hillary Clinton or to Bernie Sanders, and the worry is they'll go to Bernie Sanders, that you might actually dispatch some of your supporters, Hillary Clinton supporters over to Martin O'Malley's camp to keep him afloat and keep that disbursing from happening. Is there truth to that?

PODESTA: Well look that's what makes Iowa so interesting is it's so complicated. But what we're going to do is try to get every delegate we can for Hillary. And that's what our precinct leaders are -- know that they need to do and you said we're running a sophisticated campaign. We believe that we are and we're going to go out and try to get our voters to the caucuses and rack up the numbers that we need to win this out right tonight. And we feel like we're in a position to do that.

BANFIELD: So are you saying to me that you will not do that or that will be a strategic move if it's needed to move Hillary Clinton supporters over to O'Malley to keep them afloat?

PODESTA: Each precinct is going to be different. And we've got leaders who have been trained to know what to do but our goal is to get as many delegates as possible tonight, and we feel like we're in a very good position to do that.


PODESTA: We respect the campaign that Governor O'Malley has run here. And we know that he is competing hard. And we expect that he will make threshold in many precincts across those state.

BANFIELD: So then I just want to also if I can Mr. Podesta through up some historical Iowa results, and what they have led to just in case anybody thinks that, you know, what happens in Iowa doesn't stay in Iowa and moves you all the way to the White House.

Let's go back to people who had the benefit of winning Iowa and becoming the nominee. Barack Obama 2008, John Kerry, 2004, George Bush, 2000, Al gore, 2000, of course, on separate sides of the parties there. But then there have been those who did win Iowa and it made no hoot of difference for them. Rick Santorum, 2012, Mike Huckabee, 2008. And I put Tom Harkin in there 1992 because the guy who actually ended up doing much better than Tom Harkin was Bill Clinton. She's been excellent council for his wife given the possibility; she might not pull it off tonight.

PODESTA: Well look, I think this is really important state -- the reason we spent so much time here and that she spent so much time here is that she's really listen to the voters of Iowa. She's been in conversation with them. She's thanked them for making her a better candidate. But we're going to fight to win this nomination. And we're going to fight to get elected president of the United States.

[13:00:00] And we think Iowa obviously is the starting gun of that. But we've got a big country. We're going to compete everywhere. And we're going to win the delegates to secure the nomination.

BANFIELD: Thank you.

PODESTA: And then we're going to go on to November.

BANFIELD: Appreciate your time John Podesta. I know you've a busy day. I'll let you go. Thanks --