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CNN Live Event/Special

Coverage of the first primary caucus in Iowa; 11-12mn ET

Aired February 01, 2016 - 23:00   ET


[22:59:59] JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, I can tell you the mood is very joyous here every time the lead the numbers has come up this crowd cheers. And actually, you can see the crowd behind me here, it's one of the actual smaller size rallies that Bernie Sanders has had.

Of course, he came to such prominence with his big rallies. But his aids are pouring through all these numbers. They are looking at a couple counties in particular. Johnson County as John mentioned earlier where Iowa City is. But Polk County here in Des Moines is the only place they believe they can actually pull out a victory here.

But Wolf, it is as close as it could possibly be, 0.8 percent. And Senator Sanders, I'm told, is going to try to speak within the next 30 minutes or so, if the results are a little more firm. And he is going to declare victory here. He believes that his upstart candidacy has nearly taken down the former first lady, the former secretary of state. So this is not being viewed in anyway other than a positive fashion here at the Sanders campaign. And those numbers still being out, Wolf, means this is going to be very, very tight. The Question is, will both of these candidates be able to fly to New Hampshire tonight before these results are known here in Iowa -- Wolf.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: We will stand by to hear from Bernie Sanders. We will standby to hear from Hillary Clinton as well. As soon as we get these final numbers.

Once again very, very close between Democratic candidates. Look at how close it is. There is still plenty of votes out there. It could still go either way.

Anderson, this is the race to watch.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: And interesting David Axelrod, both sides saying they are the winner tonight.

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. And if I were each of them, I would get out and declare it. Get the heck out of Iowa and go to New Hampshire. I'm not we are even going to know tonight exactly.

COOPER: And again, it just tied again, 49.8 percent.

AXELROD: This is going to be -- this could be a fraction one way or the other. And I think they both, you know, they both can claim victory, but let me give it to my friend, Van, the neutral over here. This was a good night for Bernie Sanders.

COOPER: But if Hillary Clinton comes in second even if it is by a fraction, can you really claim victory?

AXELROD: Yes. I think the optics of that would be damaging to her. And I think what has always been at stake here is if Bernie Sanders could string two races together, I think it foreshadows a longer campaign. He will raise a lot of money off of this. He has been able to raise a lot of money. And money is what keeps candidates going.

COOPER: And Michael, not just raise a lot of money, Michael. Raise money in, you know, I think average donations of $27 in this last round.

MICHAEL SMERCONSH, CNN HOST, MICHAEL SMERCONISH SHOW: Right. In return for which personally I belief he owns his donor base nothing. I have to go back to somewhere I was moments ago and say. Given this thin of a margin, if he had said more about the email, might he would won this race out-rate. And that is the question in my mind.

VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: The reason I don't think so is because Democrats don't care about the email. Second of all, people actually admire Bernie because of his integrity. I'm going to tell you. He is going to break the internet tonight raising money. You're going to see a flood of money pouring from small dollar donors because of this incredible achievement.

Listen, as a Democrat, you can be incredibly proud of both of these candidates. They both win. Good race. They stuck to the issue. It wasn't this food fight you saw on the other side. What Bernie Sanders has done is going to break the Internet tonight. And you're going to see no matter what happens now, he will do well in New Hampshire and this thing will go on.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, Hillary Clinton's goal was to make him look like a regional candidate, right? One state wonder. It's so close tonight that's not going to happen.


BORGER: That's just not going to happen. So she didn't achieve that goal. Paul, you are looking at me like I'm wrong.


COOPER: I do see a slight manic glaze.


HENDERSON: I think Sanders goal was to put in a credible showing, he clearly did that into show everyone that he is a viable candidate, that he is electable. And I think he is going to use these results to keep making that argument. That you saw him making more and more in these Clinton (ph) day.

PAUL BEGALA, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: This is what they say tonight, matters a lot, as an old speech writer. The speech that Barack Obama gave when he won Iowa, 100 years from now, that will be in whatever they'll have, as Peter says, like great American speeches. It was telling to me that Marco Rubio in great order gave up a beautiful oration for a guy that plays third. It is close third. Still, it is a participation trophy Marco.

AXELROD: You should have heard the first place speech he had.

BEGALA: I thought Trump -- I've never thought I would end are - Trump showed grace and some humility. It was a terrific speech for Donald Trump.

Hillary and Bernie, we haven't heard from Senator Cruz, the winner of the Republican pact. Hillary and Bernie tonight, they shouldn't only say Bernie, making a free advice. He shouldn't only say, look I'm viable, I can win. That's sort of the establishment's part. He should continue to rev up to advance just things especially he is terrific fundraising.

What does Hillary do now? Well, she is at her most appealing when she can fight back as an underdog. I think even Axelrod agree with that. So she (INAUDIBLE), but she will fight. She will work hard. And I think she is actually in a weird way more appealing when she gets knock on a canvass.

[23:05:12] AXELROD: That was certainly the case in 2008 when, you know, we thought we had won, and she came back and she win. Here is a problem that I think she needs to solve, though. When you build your candidacy around experience. It's necessarily about you. Bernie Sanders goes out there and speaks for an hour in a speech and he makes it about himself at all. He makes it about them. When Barack Obama ran, he said, yes, we can. It wasn't yes I can, it was yes, we can. It was about all of us. And so, it's challenging to inspire people around the message that is largely about experience.

BEGALA: Let's see what she says tonight. That's why this really matters.

AMANDA CARPENTER, FORMER CRUZ COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: But I would say the lesson that is drawn from the showing by both Senator Cruz and Senator Sanders is that the base matters, whether you're a Republican or Democrat. When these candidates are forced to work outside traditional party networks in terms of fundraising or outreach in emails, they become tougher. They become stronger. And once they have such a ground swell of support, they cannot be ignored. And so, this is part of the remaking of politics that I think Barack Obama has started that certainly it has continued and is not going to stop.

COOPER: The other interesting thing is, you know, early on, when people didn't think Sanders was all that viable against Hillary Clinton. There were a lot of in Clinton supporters who were complaining that, you know, a tough race would make her a better candidate. I guess one way to spin this with Clinton supporters tonight is this is going to help her be a better candidate.

JONES: She is a much better candidate. Listen, I'm going to tell you. The past two to three weeks, Hillary Clinton has blossomed into the kind of candidate that you dream about. Listen. We did that town hall on CNN, she was brilliant. And she was able to show she is probably the best person to be president of the United States in a very, very long time. And that would not have happened had she not have this sort of determined fight back.

COOPER: And just on Republican aside, I mean, the tight battles have made a lot of those candidates a much better candidate.

LORD: Right. When you go out and do this, no matter whether you are Donald Trump or anybody else, if you do this over and over and over again you get better at it. And to be perfectly candid, this is better for November because you can't get better at it and you can't do this you shouldn't be there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And you won't be.

AXELROD: The question I have for everybody here is, is there an impact in South Carolina, in Nevada, can Bernie breakthrough in states that aren't 99 percent white and mostly liberal in the primary electorate. I think that that is what he has to show before people begin to say yes, this is a real challenge. And she is in real jeopardy.

BORGER: But I go back to the numbers this evening in which he did really well which is on the question of who cares most about people like me.

AXELROD: Very important.

BORGER: Very important question. And he just what 75 to 22?

COOPER: Yes. You know, let's go back to Wolf and John. Look at more numbers where there are still some votes out there -- guys.

BLITZER: Let's take a look, John, at these Democratic numbers right now. To be precise, it says 50 to 49 percent, 49.8 percent for Hillary Clinton, 49.5 percent for Bernie Sanders. It's very, very close.

JOHN KING, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Let's hope we stay in addition and don't have to go to long division.

Look. When you look at the map, it is very interesting. Again, you start here, Des Moines, Polk County. Someone on twitter says it's a drinking game, every time I say Polk County. So load up, folks. Polk County, 53 percent to 46 percent, consistently throughout the night, she has kept about that margin. Fourteen percent of the votes still out in the states most populous county. That bodes well for Secretary Clinton as long as she keeps that margin. You heard Jeff Zeleny say, the Sanders campaign is looking at the key precincts in this area, we don't know exactly which precincts are out. As the vote trickles in in Polk County, she's kept that lead. Keep an eye on that as we go forward.

Let's just move just to the west. Dulles County, the Des Moines suburbs here in the eastern part of this county. Again, Secretary Clinton has a big lead here. We are up to 94 percent now. She has to keep that as they count out the rest of the votes and give you up to delegates there.

For Sanders, you move up here. Story county, that's where Iowa State is right here. He is winning very big in this county, 12 percent of the votes still out. It's not as big a county so aren't as many delegates at stake. But he needs to keep that margin as they count them.

Then the battleground shifts to the east. You have Lynn county, (INAUDIBLE). For Senator Sanders, here's one of the problems. Ninety percent of the vote is in. His margin here is healthy, not as big as her margin in Polk County but he needs to keep this, maybe build on it, as they count the final 10 percent of the vote here. Then you come up -- down to Johnson County, which is where the University of Iowa is, you see the huge win here. But look. They got to 100 percent for Bernie Sanders here, so there are no more votes in a place where we know he has been waiting for a basket of votes here.

So where else do you look? I just want to check over here. In Scott County where Bernie Sanders is winning, and just narrowly. And there is only five percent of the vote still out. So if you look at the map, yes, there are some votes to be gain. One check for Secretary Clinton here. They are up to 89 percent of the view (ph). The closer one here but she is ahead.

So you can find a few votes here, a few votes here. But the battleground left in Iowa, really, is right here in the center part of the state. Still 14 percent unreported here. If Secretary Clinton can keep that margin she will hold on to this narrow, narrow, narrow, tiny lead. But we will keep an eye on this one as we count the vote.

I want to show you one quick thing on the Republican side, Wolf, as we do this. Here's the math right now -- 28, 24, 23. So the question is, Marco Rubio is what? 2200, 2300 votes? As they come in, can Marco Rubio catch Donald Trump and get into second place? It is not out of the realm of possibility. It will not be easy. It will be very tough. But let me show you how he could do it.

Over here, Scott County again over to Davenport, 100 percent in now. So there is one place he is not going to get the vote. That was only in the '90s, a few minutes before he picks up a little bit there, but not enough.

Johnson County, Iowa City, they are up to 93 percent. Donald Trump is running third. Marco Rubio can pick up some votes here, not a lot of votes left out there. He could pick up some there. Then he really has to run it up here, 95 percent, Story County. Again, Trump running third. If Rubio can pick up some votes, it is possible. Very tough. And then you're down here. These are your major population centers. At 95 percent, Marco Rubio 27, Ted Cruz 25, Trump, 22. Slight possibility if he runs it up there as the final precincts come in. And he runs it up here as the final precincts comes in, here is the suburban voters just outside the Des Moines going by a decent number for Marco Rubio. So would I bet on it? No. Is it mathematically possible that Marco Rubio can close that gap as the final votes come in? It is.

[23:11:33] BLITZER: All right. Very, very interesting. It's close between Trump and Rubio for second and third place. Ted Cruz, we have projected he is the winner of the Iowa caucuses. Extremely close on the Democratic side as well. 49.8 percent for Hillary Clinton. 49.5 percent for Bernie Sanders. Still plenty of votes outstanding. So we are going to watch that closely.

KING: And just worth noting. That number for Ted Cruz, smashing the record. When Mike Huckabee won in 2008, that was a record. He got over 40,000 votes. Cruz smashing the record tonight. A very impressive turnout operation for Ted Cruz that over-performed his last poll numbers. Remember, he was going down in the polls in the last week. Tonight, he proved he has an organization worth competing in. As we go on, keep an eye on that.

BLITZER: Yes. Very nice turnout.

Jake Tapper is with us as well.

Jake, the turnout was impressive both on the Democratic and the Republican side.

TAPPER: That's right, Wolf. And it wasn't just impressive on the Republican side. The chairman of the Republican party of Iowa just spoke here in the media center in Des Moines, and said, in fact it was record setting, more than 180,000 individuals voted in the Republican caucuses, that is a more than 50 percent improvement from 2012 when it was 120,000. So it is interesting, Wolf.

Once begin, all the pundits were wrong about Donald Trump, but this time, they were overestimating him. There was record turnout. All these new Iowa caucus goers and yet they weren't turning out for him as so many pundits thought they would be.

Back to you, Wolf.

BLITZER: And it is incredibly close on the Democratic side, 49.8 percent for Hillary Clinton, 49.5 percent for Bernie Sanders. What, there's still 8 percent of the vote still remaining, at large. It doesn't get closer than that, Jake.

TAPPER: It certainly doesn't. And you are going to hear as both Jeff Zeleny and Brianna Keilar reported, both campaigns, both candidates declare victory. Something to keep in mind as we go forward into New Hampshire, Wolf.

Independent voters are very, very big. They're the biggest voter group in New Hampshire. And they can vote in either the Republican primary or the Democratic primary. There's actually a lot of overlap between Sanders voters and Trump voters. I suspect they are going to be going after each other for those independents in New Hampshire. Right now, we are going to go to Jeff Zeleny who is in Sanders headquarters, who has some breaking news.

Jeff, what's going on? ZELENY: Jake, I can tell you, we were expecting senator Sanders to

leave and head for New Hampshire. We are at a hotel just right across the street from the airport. You can see his plane from the parking lot here. But I'm told now by his spokesman that senator Sanders is staying put. He has holed up in his hotel suite here with his wife, Jan, and his family. He is staying at this rally. He wants to see the results of this election.

Some of his advisers were thinking he should just give a speech, declare a victory and head east. But I'm told that senator Sanders at least for now is waiting here in Des Moines. He wants to see those results from Polk County.

And Jake, one other thing that I do expect to happen this evening. Some supporters of senator Sanders will be calling on the Iowa Democratic Party urging them to release the raw vote totals. Of course, on the Democratic side of this Iowa caucus campaign, it is only the delegates. So we never know exactly what the raw votes totals are.

Some Sanders supporters believe he would have won that fair and square. So that's where this could be heading as this goes forward here. But so far, you can see the crowd behind me. They are still waiting in anticipation of Bernie Sanders to come out. But so far, they're working on a speech and we'll stay here and see how long it takes him to come down -- Jake.

[23:15:11] TAPPER: That's right. And the margin of error, the margin between Clinton and Sanders has been razor thin all night but we just got some more votes in from the Iowa Democratic Party. And Hillary Clinton with 94 percent of the vote is leading Bernie Sanders, has taken the lead, 50.2 percent over Bernie Sanders 49.3 percent. That's just in the last minute or so. So that's some interesting news, Jeff. And obviously, there's still votes to come in.

Jeff, have you been told by the Sanders campaign whether if they declare victory, it's because they believe they have one no matter what a moral victory or do they believe based on the actual hard concrete numbers that they have won.

ZELENY: You know, Jake, it is a moral victory at this point. I mean, they don't have any much more information, you know, than we do. Of course, they have precinct captains out there. They're going through all this. But this - you know, I heard this more than an hour ago. Senator Sanders believes that he won here. His message won over. So whether he actually wins first place or a close second, he believes his message won over.

And on the fundraising side, they believe that's going to be a very compelling message. So regardless of the race -- of the actual winner here, we saw four years ago, Mitt Romney was the winner on the Republican side. And then a few weeks later, it was Rick Santorum.

Regardless of that, this outcome tonight ensures that this race is going to go on for months and months on the democratic side. So we will have to see what senator Sanders says when he comes here (INAUDIBLE). He will be focusing on the moral victory, the issues he's been campaigning for here, that he believes are so strong behind people - Jake.

TAPPER: Right. And the moral victory is, of course, important.

But let's go now to Brianna Keilar who is with Clinton headquarters, because regardless of a moral victory, there is an actual victory of who wins more votes and who wins more delegates.

Brianna, what are you hearing from the Clinton campaign?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Jake. Well, they are declaring victory. Perhaps a little bit early because the results are not official. But just to tell you, people here at Drake University as they await Hillary Clinton, are getting very excited every time the numbers update on CNN are that's what they're watching, they have the volume up, every time numbers update. Things are --

TAPPER: Brianna, I have to cut you off. I'm sorry. I apologize, Brianna. We are going to go to Ted Cruz headquarters right now, where Senator Ted Cruz is taking the stage in Des Moines. Big exciting night for Ted Cruz, whose organization and the message ruled the day. Ted Cruz, the senator from Texas, just elected in 2010. A freshman not beloved by party leaders in the Senate is going to take the stage. There he is with his wife, Heidi. A big, big night. Possibly the best in Ted Cruz' political life. Let's listen to what he has to say.


TAPPER: Ted Cruz was not favored several months ago to win the Iowa caucuses. But his message of constitutional conservatism endorsements from local leaders. You saw the Congressman Steve King, the congressman from the most conservative district in Iowa. Iowa's fourth congressional district. There he is hugging his wife, Heidi. Former executive at Goldman Sachs. That was an issue that Donald Trump brought up quite a bit. Apparently to no avail -- to little avail, at least. And there he is, Ted Cruz. Let's listen in.

[23:20:04] SEN. TED CRUZ (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: God bless the great state of Iowa.


CRUZ: Let me first of all say, to God be the glory.

Tonight is a victory for the grassroots. Tonight is a victory for courageous conservatives across Iowa, and all across this great nation. Tonight the state of Iowa has spoken. Iowa has sent notice that the Republican nominee in the next president of the United States will not be chosen by the media. Will not be chosen by the Washington establishment. Will not be chosen by the lobbyists. But will be chosen by the most incredible powerful force, where all sovereignty resides in our nation by we the people, the American people.

Tonight, thanks to the incredible hard work of everyone gathered here, of courageous conservatives across the state. We together earned the votes of 48,608 Iowans. To put in perspective, your incredible victory that you have won tonight. That is the most votes ever cast for any Republican primary winner.

Tonight is a victory for millions of Americans, who have shouldered the burden of seven years of Washington deals run amok. Tonight is a victory for every American who's watched in display as career politicians in Washington in both parties refuse to listen and too often fail to keep their commitments to the people.

Tonight is a victory for every American who understands that after we survive eight long years of the Obama presidency, that no one personality can right the wrongs done by Washington. The millions who understand that it is a commitment to the constitution to our shared insistence that we rise and return to a higher standard, the very standard that gave birth to the greatest nation that the world has ever known. To the revolutionary understanding that all men and all women are created equal. That our rights do not come from the Democratic Party or the Republican Party or even from the tea party. Our rights come from our creator. And the federal government's role, the federal government's responsibility is to defend those fundamental rights, to defend us.

And while Americans will continue to suffer under a president who has set an agenda who is causing millions to hurt across this country I want to remind you of the promise of scripture. Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning. Tonight, Iowa has proclaimed to the world, morning is coming. Morning is coming.

From day one this campaign has been a movement. For millions of Americans to organize, to rally, to come together. Whatever Washington says, they cannot keep the people down, and tonight is a testament to the people's commitments to their yearnings to get back to our core commitments, free market principles. Constitutional liberties and the Judeo-Christian values that built this great nation.

When the Washington lobbyists settled on other lobbyists in this race. When the media in one voice said a conservative cannot win, nationwide over 800,000 as courageous conservatives said, yes, we can. 800,000 contributions at with an average contribution of $67. That is the power of the grassroots.

But it's more than that. It's 12,000 volunteers here in the state of Iowa. It's over 200,000 volunteers all across this great nation. You know, during the course of this campaign people have asked Heidi and me, are you tired? And I will admit it is 16, 18 hours a day, six, seven days a week. We are not tired at all.

To the contrary, we are inspired by each and every one of you. I leap out of bed every morning amazed that at a time when our country is in crisis, every one of us has the opportunity to stand and lead, that we have been put in a place of leadership for such a time as this.

[23:28:19] BLITZER: All right, we're going to break away from Ted Cruz, the winner of the Iowa Republican caucuses. There you see, Hillary Clinton and her husband and daughter. She's about to speak, she's slightly ahead of Bernie Sanders right now. HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Wow! What a night. An

unbelievable night. What a great campaign. This has been an incredible honor to campaign across Iowa, with so many of you to make the case for the kind of future, we want. For the Democratic Party and for the United States of America.


CLINTON: There is so much at stake in this election, I don't need to tell you. Every single one of you who came out for me, who worked so many hours from my young organizers with energy and passion, to the families and friends across this state, I am deeply grateful.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We love you, Hillary.

CLINTON: Well, I love all of you. But here's what I want you to know. It is rare that we have the opportunity we do now, to have a real contest of ideas. To really think hard about what the Democratic Party stands for and what we want the future of our country to look like if we do our part to build it. I am a progressive who gets things done for people.


[23:30:08] CLINTON: I am honored to stand in the long line of American reformers who make up our minds that the status quo is not good enough. That standing still is not an option. And that brings people together to find ways forward that will improve the lives of Americans. I look back over the years of my involvement from the very first job I had at the children's defense fund. And I know. I know what we are capable of doing, I know we can create more good paying jobs and raise incomes for hardworking Americans again. I know that we can finish the job of universal health care coverage for every single man, woman and child. I know we can combat climate change and be the clean energy superpower of the 21st century. I know we can make our education system work for every one of our children, especially those who come with disadvantages. I know we can make college affordable and get student debt off the backs of young people. And I know we can protect our rights, women's rights, gay rights, voting rights. Immigrant rights, workers rights. I know too we can stand up to the gun lobby and get common sense gun safety measures.

And how do we do that? We do that by securing the nomination, and then we do it by winning and going into that White House as others before have, determined to push forward on the great goals and values that unite us as Americans. I congratulate my esteemed friends and opponents, I wish Governor O'Malley the very best. He is a great public servant who has served Maryland and our country. And I am excited about really getting into the debate with senator Sanders about the best way forward to fight for us and America.

In the last few weeks, we finally began to have what I think is one of the most important substantive conversations. That the Democratic Party could have. And I am thrilled at all of the people who are playing a part in that. I know that we may have differences of opinion about how best to achieve our goals. But I believe we have a very clear idea that the Democratic Party and this campaign stands for what is best in America. And we have to be united.

When it is all said and done, we have to be united against a Republican vision and candidates that would drive us apart and divide us. That is not who we are, my friends, I follow their campaign very closely. I understand what they're appealing to, and intend to stand against it. I will not -- I will not let their decisiveness, their efforts to rip away the progress that we've made be successful. Because we can't afford that.

As I stand here tonight, breathing a big sigh of relief, thank you, Iowa. I want you to know, I will keep doing what I have done my entire life. I will keep standing up for you. I will keep fighting for you. I will always work to achieve the America that I believe in, where the promise of that dream that we hold out to our children and our grandchildren never fades but inspires generations to come. Join me, let's go win the nomination. Thank you all, and god bless you.

[23:35:02] COOPER: There you have Hillary Clinton -- let's get a quick feedback from some of our panelists - David Gergen.

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Amazed, spirited. We are going to have a great debate with Bernie Sanders.

COOPER: No doubt it's about to get a lot more.

GERGEN: We are in to be a much longer campaign. I thought she came out -- given the circumstances, she knew she just escapes but she did it I think with a lot of spirit. She's tough and she wants to be --

COOPER: She seems to be - I mean, from that town hall, that CNN recently did, that's the first time I've been in the same room with her. And certainly in that room, she played very well, as did Bernie Sanders frankly, she seemed to be in the zone in these final days, as did Sanders.

GERGEN: You know, some people do that. It is like baseball. If you can get in that zone, giving you just -- the ball is bigger, comes at you. She seems to have found more of a voice. I don't think it's dramatic. But (INAUDIBLE).

COOPER: Clearly, we're waiting to hear, obviously, from Bernie Sanders as well, Gloria.

BORGER: I think her campaign is very good this time about putting her in front of the right size audience. You know, I was at a bowling alley with her I think it was last week. She's great with audiences of like 75 people. She's not so great with these huge audiences, and they've managed to make her better, obviously because she's on the trail all the time. But also because she relates better, when the audience is smaller and she can pick people out of the audience and talk to them. And that's her real skill she's developed as a candidate since the beginning of this campaign.

COOPER: Dan Pfeiffer, your candidate ran against her in 2008. Did well against obviously. DAN PFEIFFER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: That's right. Look. This

is obviously not the night that I think they were hoping for. Even with the win that's closer than it would be. But she had a good speech there. And they learned some lessons. Like 2008 when we won, the backdraft at her speech was old Clinton administration veterans, (INAUDIBLE), it was the exact image that we, the Obama campaign wanted, that looked like status quo and they look like change. So they learned some lessons. We will see how they apply them before.

COOPER: I just want to go to Brianna Keilar who is standing by headquarter. She did not declare victory here, correct, Brianna? I mean, just she said, you know, she is relieved but she didn't declare, correct?

KEILAR: No, I mean, she didn't exactly full on embrace the victory. What we're hearing from aids is they're saying, looking at what we see here in terms of the numbers we believe we have won. So I think she's trying to instead of having this really drawn out process of getting to the final results, her team feels looking at the numbers, they feel confident enough to say she will win, even if she's in this odd situation of not being able to say I have, because the result is not final. But you did hear her say that, she has breathed a sigh of relief. Certainly she, before this crowd, that is certainly acting like she's won Iowa. She certainly feels relieved considering what she went through eight years ago in Iowa, Anderson.

COOPER: Brianna, I want to go to Jeff Zeleny who is at Sanders headquarters. And I know the crowd was probably watching Hillary Clinton's speech. I wonder what the reaction is there and when you expect senator Sanders to come out.

ZELENY: Anderson, they were watching the speech. And every time she said that she's a progressive, this crowd booed, and some people in this crowd said, she's a liar. So when Hillary Clinton said I'm a progressive that gets results, which is the standard part of her stump speech, this crowd was not happy about it.

But Anderson, you can see behind me here, it is a dancing celebratory atmosphere. I'm told that senator Sanders is still in his hotel suite. He will be coming down to speak shortly. He plans to leave for New Hampshire within the hour. So we will be hearing from him shortly. And again, will declare victory on all of the campaign pledges and promises he made here. I'm told he will not contest the numbers. He will let this counting go on. That he will declare at least a moral victory and an ideological victory. And Anderson, this race is going to continue on to New Hampshire, and certainly on beyond that - Anderson.

COOPER: Jeff, I just have to jump in. You have to look at our screen, with 93 percent of the vote, it's gotten even closer. Hillary Clinton at 49.8 percent, and Bernie Sanders at 49.6 percent. And I think, if we still have Jeff, obviously, for that crowd, Jeff, right now that is got to be very good news indeed.

ZELENY: It does. And this is exactly why senator Sanders, he is a long time politician in the sense that he has seen a lot of election results. He wanted to stay here in Des Moines, stay in his hotel, to see how these results were going to come in. And now that he has done that, he could well be giving his speech that is a real victory speech. Those numbers are coming in. We are talking to a lot of his advisers and they frankly do not know what the real numbers are.

This is so bitterly close, Anderson. It's really hinging on a number of precincts right here in Des Moines, right here in Johnson County where Iowa City is, as well as possibly Lynn County where Cedar Rapid is, so, so close here.

So this crowd, I'm not even sure is actually aware of that latest change. But we expect to hear senator Sanders pretty shortly, Anderson.

[23:40:08] COOPER: All right. Jeff, Thanks very much.

I want to go back to Dan Pfeiffer, former senior adviser to President Obama. If you were counseling Bernie Sanders, would you suggest he wait until later hours when the numbers are finally clear or that he come down now and just give a speech in sort of prime time.

PFEIFFER: I think he should come down now and give his speech. He can claim a moral victory, he should do that. He should get to New Hampshire because if he didn't -- he has to win New Hampshire to keep going. That he should feel good about what he did in Iowa. He really -- what would have been better would have been a decisive win, right? Because then he would have had a ton of momentum. This is basically going to end up being a tie. Get to New Hampshire and get to win indeed.

COOPER: We have to take a quick break. When we come back, we believe Bernie Sanders will just be about ready to speak. We will bring that to you, live.


[23:44:34] BLITZER: We have a key race alert. Let's update you on the Democratic side right now. Look how close it is. Hillary Clinton ahead by three-tenths of one percent over Bernie Sanders, 94 percent of the vote now in. Hillary Clinton very slightly, very slightly ahead but not by much.

That's Bernie Sanders headquarters over there, you are seeing that picture. We're going to be going there momentarily, once Bernie Sanders starts speaking. We will have coverage of that as well.

Remember, Wednesday night, CNN special town hall in New Hampshire. Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders on the same stage, answering questions from voters in New Hampshire. Anderson Cooper will moderate the CNN special town hall.

Let's go to Jeff Zeleny. He is over at Bernie Sanders headquarters right now.

I guess momentarily we will hear from the senator, right?

[23:45:23] ZELENY: That's right.

Wolf, I'm told that senator Sanders is coming down in the elevator right now, and he is going to be making his way through this crowded ballroom right here at a Des Moines hotel, just across from the Des Moines airport. He is going to be flying immediately to New Hampshire after this.

You can see the crowd behind us here, a lot of them are precinct captains who worked very hard on this Iowa caucus campaign for months. We talked to them throughout the evening, and they believe that he won a victory at least of his ideas. It's important to keep in mind where he started this race. Many of these people here were with him at that point. And senator Sanders has been writing his speech himself I'm told. And he is going to, of course, keep championing these issues that he has been talking about. It will be interesting to see if he comments on Secretary Clinton's speech. I'm told he was watching her speech up in his hotel room. That he will be taking the stage here any minute, Wolf.

BLITZER: Standby, Jeff. I want to go to Jake Tapper. He is in Des Moines for us as well. Even if he comes in slightly, slightly second, Jake. This is a huge win for Bernie Sanders as well. Getting as close to Hillary Clinton as he has in Iowa. He was nowhere a few months ago.

TAPPER: What a night it is, Wolf. And look at the final vote count - not the final vote count. Look at the vote count where we are right now, with 94 percent of the Democratic vote in, Hillary Clinton has 49.9 percent. Bernie Sanders has 49.6 percent. It is a thin, thin margin right now. And there are still votes to be counted.

And as you say, Wolf, what a remarkable achievement by Bernie Sanders, even if Hillary Clinton's lead remains. The idea that months ago when he was 50 points behind, 40 points -- there's Bernie Sanders right now with his family, his wife Jane coming in. It is a proud crowd. They are excited to have been part of this Sanders campaign in Iowa. Let's take a listen to what the senator from Vermont has to say.



SANDERS: Nine months ago we came to this beautiful state. We had no political organization, we had no money, no name recognition. And we were taking on the most powerful political organization in the United States of America. And tonight while the results are still not known, it looks like we are in a virtual tie.


SANDERS: And while the results are still not complete, it looks like we'll have half of the Iowa delegates.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE) SANDERS: I want to take this opportunity to congratulate Secretary Clinton somebody -- yes. And her organization for waging a very vigorous campaign. And I want to thank Governor O'Malley. It's never easy to lose. I've lost more than one campaign. But he should know that he contributed a whole lot to the dialogue that he ran an issue oriented campaign. And he won the respect of the American people.

If I think about what happened tonight, I think the people of Iowa have sent a very profound message to the political establishment, to the economic establishment, and by the way, to the media establishment. That is -- and that is given the enormous crises facing our country. It is just too late for establishment politics and establishment economics.

What the American people have said. And by the way, I hear this not just from progressives, I hear it from conservatives, I hear it from moderates. And that is, we can no longer continue to have a corrupt campaign finance system.


SANDERS: I am the former chairman of the Senate veteran's committee. And in that capacity, not only have I worked hard to try to protect the interest of our veterans, I've had the privilege of meeting so many, men and women who put their lives on the line to defend us and protect our way of life. And what they were protecting is an American democracy of one person, one vote. Not billionaires buying elections.


SANDERS: I am overwhelmed and I am moved by the fact that millions of people throughout this country have helped volunteer in our campaign, that three -- we have received in this campaign three and a half million individual contribution contributions. People who went to And you know what the average contribution was? It was $27!


SANDERS: We do not represent the interests of the billionaire class, Wall Street or corporate America. We don't want their money. We will -- and I am very proud to tell you, we are the only candidate on the Democratic side without a super PAC.


SANDERS: And the reason that we have done so well here in Iowa, the reason I believe we're going to do so well in New Hampshire, and in the other states that follow, the reason is, the American people are saying, no to a rigged economy. They no longer want to see an economy in which the average American works longer hours for low wages while almost all new income and wealth is going to the top one percent.


SANDERS: What the American people understand is this country was based and is based on fairness. It is not fair when the top one-tenth of one percent today owns almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent. It is not fair when the 20 wealthiest people in this country own more wealth than the bottom half of America.

So you guys ready for a radical idea? Well, so is America. And that radical idea is, we are going to create an economy that works for working families not just the billionaire class.


SANDERS: And yes, when millions of our people are working for starvation wages, we are going to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour. And yes, we are going to have pay equity for women.


SANDERS: I've been all over this state of Iowa, we have spoken to some 70,000 people. And in meeting after meeting, I hear people standing up and they say, Bernie, I went to college. I graduated college, now I am 60, 80, 90 thousand dollars in debt. That is crazy. That is crazy. People should not be punished financially because they want to get a decent education. And that is why I believe in the year 2016, public colleges and universities should be tuition free.


SANDERS: And then my critics say, well, Bernie, that's a great idea, all this free stuff, how are you going to pay for it? I will tell you how we will pay for it. We are going to impose a tax on Wall Street speculation.


SANDERS: The greed, the recklessness and the illegal behavior of Wall Street drove this economy to its knees. The American people bailed out street's time to help the middle class.


SANDERS: And when we talk about transforming America. We will end the disgrace of having more people in jail than any other country. Disproportionately African-American and Latino. What we are going to do is provide jobs and education for our kids not more jails and incarceration.


SANDERS: And I will tell you something that really does astound me. I'm on the Senate energy committee, I'm on the Senate environmental committee. I have talked to scientists all over the world. The debate is over. Climate change is real. And we have a moral responsibility to work with countries throughout the world to transform our energy system away from fossil fuel to energy efficiency and sustainable energy.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE) SANDERS: And what amazes me, what totally amazes me, is that we have not one Republican candidate for president prepared to come up and tell us, and agree with what virtually all scientists agree with. And you know why they are not prepared to do that? Because on the day that they do acknowledge the reality of climate change and call for change, you know what happens? They're going to lose their campaign funds from the Koch brothers and the fossil fuel industry.


SANDERS: So I say to the Republicans, stop worrying about your campaign funds from big oil or the Koch brothers or the coal industries. Worry about the planet you are going to leaving your children and your grandchildren.