Return to Transcripts main page

CNN Live Event/Special

Hours From First Votes Of 2024 Presidential Election; Record- Breaking Cold Threatens Turnout Tomorrow; Iowa GOP Chairman Predicts "Robust" Turnout Amid Frigid Temps; Former Maryland Gov Larry Hogan Endorses Nikki Haley; Sen Rubio Snubs DeSantis and Haley, Endorses Trump. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired January 14, 2024 - 21:00   ET




ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: While Iowa prepares for tomorrow's caucuses, the city of Perry is also mourning the death of a principal who was wounded in a mass shooting at his school earlier this month. The family of Dan Marburger says he died this morning. According to authorities Marburger acted selflessly and put himself in harm's way when he was shot multiple times. His daughter says he tried to talk to the student shooter which gave some students time to escape the cafeteria. Marburger worked for the Paris School District for more than two decades. His wife wrote in a GoFundMe post today, quote, he fought hard and gave us 10 days that we will treasure forever. Also killed in the January 4th shooting was 11-year-old Ahmir Jollif, sixth grader. The news continues. The Source with Kaitlin Collins starts now.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN HOST: Good evening, I'm Kaitlan Collins here in New York alongside Abby Phillip. Welcome to our special coverage of the countdown to Iowa. This is it. We're just hours away now from the nation's first nominating contest. The stakes may be high but the temperature certainly is not. It is below zero in Iowa right now on this final full day of campaigning for the Republican presidential field. But even with Donald Trump's commanding lead in the latest poll out just last night, with 48 percent of support from likely caucus goers, he too is pushing hard for turnout.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We're up big in Iowa. Likewise, we're really upbeat. The higher were up, the higher we go, the better a signal. We send a good signal to New Hampshire but the better signal we send in November that will take our country back. So it's really important. But you got to get out and vote.


ABBY PHILLIP, CNN HOST: Nikki Haley and Ron DeSantis, they're also delivering their closing messages to voters. How they both perform tomorrow is the crucial question with Haley trying to make this a two person race between herself and Donald Trump. And DeSantis, of course, looking at a very tough road ahead and maybe some tough decisions to make if in fact he comes in third.


NIKKI HALEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's been 11 months and it comes down to tomorrow. If you will join with us and caucus, you will bring friends and family with you when you do it, I promise you our best days are yet to come.

RON DESANTIS (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Tomorrow is going to be fun for us. I like being underestimated. I like being the underdog. I think that that's better.


PHILLIP: That Kaitlan if history is any indicator anything can happen in Iowa, especially the freezing weather also playing a huge role in these last 24 hours. There's new last minute uncertainty about who is actually going to show up tomorrow in these frigid temperatures, how many of them and how they're going to even get there. We have a team coverage on this election eve. Dana Bash is in Des Moines following all the campaigns. John King is over at the magic wall for us crunching those numbers. Chad Myers is in the CNN weather center.

And Dana, you were out in the elements. That's a nice way of putting the bone chilling cold today. But you were with several of the candidates, including Nikki Haley, what's she saying right now, as Trump has now turned up the heat on her in these last 24 hours?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Abby, I was at that Trump event where she -- where he went after Nikki Haley. He did a lot of things in that event, which I'm sure you'll talk about throughout the hour. But one of the things that he did was really step up what he was saying about her. And part of his attack was that she's just not tough enough to be President of the United States. I did catch up with her shortly after in Ames, Iowa, and asked her about that.


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

HALEY: I find it comical because when I was at the U.N., he always used to tell people, don't mess with her. She's tough. No one ever questions, my toughness. He's saying this because now he knows he's in trouble. Now he knows this is becoming a two person race. So I know that what -- that he knows the truth, so it doesn't bother me at all.


BASH: And Abby, another sort of event that happened that sort of rippled around these campaigns was the endorsement that Donald Trump got from Marco Rubio, his former opponent in 2016. And the governor of excuse me, the senator of Florida, despite the fact that the governor is also in the race. And I should add that Nikki Haley endorsed Marco Rubio back in 2016. It was actually there at that event I asked her about that, about her reaction to it and she brushed it off and said that the endorsements that she's looking for are those from the voters, Abby.


PHILLIP: And of course Marco Rubio from the home state of Ron DeSantis, as well. But speaking of those very voters --

BASH: Yes.

PHILLIP: -- what are you hearing from them tonight on this election needs?

BASH: You know, there are still some undecided voters, believe it or not, and then there's some who are completely and totally intent on voting for those who they want to see. That is especially true, Abby, at the Trump event that I was at. I mean, we, you know, you covered Donald Trump. I covered Donald Trump in the past. And we saw firsthand the fervor with which people support him, and that is still very, very much at play here. I talked to somebody at his event, who is going to be a caucus captain tomorrow night and listen to the way she described why she supports Donald Trump.


BASH: Is there anything that he could do that would make you walk away from him as a supporter?

DENISE, TRUMP SUPPORTER: I would not have any idea what possibly he could do to make me walk away? No. I mean, if he, you know, did something bad, but I have not seen anything bad. You know, so he's -- the Lord's with him. The Lord's carrying him through this journey.


BASH: So you see that, Abby, you hear that. And I heard versions of that over and over again, when it came to the people who are going to go out and caucus for Donald Trump. And, you know, in 2016, I was here, he lost slightly to Ted Cruz. And before the caucuses, he was ahead in the polls. One of the big differences between then and now is that the Trump campaign had virtually no organization, which really matters here in Iowa back then.

Now, they do. They've been much more aggressive. I talked to another voter who said that in 2016, she just went in caucus for Trump because she liked him. She didn't hear from anybody in the campaign. This time around, she's hearing from the campaign or people who are associated with the Trump campaign over and over again. And he certainly needs that given where he is in the polls, even though he's ahead. They're concerned. He personally is concerned, I'm told, about complacency. And of course, he's concerned about the weather. Abby?

PHILLIP: And of course, what you just heard from that voter is backed up by that latest polling that we got over the weekend, about the enthusiasm.

BASH: Yes.

PHILLIP: Dana Bash, thank you very much for all of that.

COLLINS: And tonight, we also have CNN anchor and chief national correspondent John King at the magic wall where he lives these days. John, I think a big question as we are getting these new poll numbers in is where things do stand as we are on the eve of the Iowa caucuses.

JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR & CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Look, Kaitlan, this is my 10th presidential campaign. I covered a lot of Iowa caucuses, Iowa sometimes surprises. But the poll numbers, as you've been talking about, they're pretty overwhelming. So let's just bring up the poll and show it over the last five months. Forgive me for turning my back. I just want to stretch this out.

If you go back through the Iowa poll, a very reliable poll in the state. You go back five months ago, former President Trump was at 42 percent up to 51. He's at 48 percent right now. Nikki Haley has gone from six up to 20. So she can say yes, at least over the last five months I'm going up. DeSantis, a flatline maybe down a little bit, 19 down to 16 percent now. Yes, you know, Ted Cruz was behind and beat Donald Trump in 2016. Yes, Rick Santorum was behind and passed Mitt Romney at the end in 2012. But the lead was nothing like that. It was not 28 points.

That is not insurmountable. Nothing is insurmountable in politics. But it would shock the world if somehow Trump didn't win. The question is, by what? One interesting point, though, you heard Dana there, you were talking about the -- show about how Donald Trump is now saying don't be complacent people, make sure you get out there to vote. I think at one point today, he said go out and vote even if you're sick. I need you to get out there and vote.

That is a bit because they were so confident. The Haley movement at the end, it's not dramatic. It's nowhere close to Trump. But, you know, people supporting Haley have spent about $8 million since January. That's her campaign and Super PACs. Pro DeSantis about 6 million. The Trump people haven't spent that much money, it's only 3.6 million. So they entered the year, this is since January, they entered the year thinking we got this.

And now in the last couple days, they're smart. As Dana said they're well organized. The president saying, don't get complacent. They're trying to tell people if you're really cold, please. The organization matters. They're texting. We'll give you a ride. If you're afraid to go out and drive yourself, we'll do it. Can the other campaigns match that? Twenty-four hours from now we'll be filling this in.

COLLINS: Well, and not just getting people out on the road. I mean, that speaks to voter enthusiasm here. So when you look at these numbers, John, I mean what are you seeing about which candidate here has the most enthusiastic supporters because that could matter if the weather is as bad as we're predicting that it's going to be to motivate people, to leave their warm cozy homes and get out and go to high school gym to caucus.


KING: Yes, without a doubt. So let me just show you something first where the people live in Iowa. I'll show you total population here. The larger the circle, that means the more population in this area. So you look, here's the Des Moines area, that's the biggest area of the suburbs around it. Those are key to Nikki Haley by the way. If Nikki Haley is going to surprise us, it's going to come from the suburbs, and close around the cities like Dubuque, like Cedar Rapids, like Iowa City, those people don't have to drive as far, right?

These small rural counties, that's where Donald Trump does well. Some of those people have to drive 15, 20, maybe even more miles to get to their caucus site. Do they do that in the snow, especially if they're elderly? That is where organization will matter. But as you noted, that's also where enthusiasm matters. Now, look, I don't need to tell the two of you, Kaitlan Collins and Abby Phillip, a lot of time covering Trump a lot of time at Trump rallies. These people tend to be locked in.

Look at this in the poll. Are you extremely or very enthusiastic for your candidate? Eighty-eight percent of Trump supporters said that, 62 percent of DeSantis supporters said that, only 39 percent of Haley supporters says that. She has more moderates, more independents. We'd be more first time caucus goers. That is always been Donald Trump's -- Trump card forgive the pun, but it's intentional. His people tend to be locked in. We'll see if that helps on a very, very, very extra very cold night tomorrow.

COLLINS: Yes, it could make a difference. John King, thank you for that.

KING: Thank you.

PHILLIP: And as we mentioned, brutally cold weather will be the big wildcard for turnout tomorrow in the caucuses. Chad Myers is in the Severe Weather Center tracking the forecast. So Chad, it has been, I can't even imagine the cold that's happening right now in Iowa. What more can Iowans expect tomorrow?

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Again, tonight a very cold night and it does not get above freezing and does not get above zero for the entire state tomorrow. That means pipes could be breaking. That means other things are going to be going wrong in homes around Iowa. We talk about this all the time about trying to keep your pipes moving. Make sure that under the cabinet, the cabinet doors are open so that the heat can go under the sink.

Even right now, the air temperature, the thermometer is 13 degrees below zero in Des Moines, same with Okoboji, same with Sioux City. This is the area that has all the snow, at least it's not blowing around. If there's one good thing, there's not going to be snow and there's not going to be a blizzard out there. But we do know that in 2004, there was a big drop in the population density that went to these polls, and it was 16.

Tomorrow, the high is going to be minus 4, 20 degrees colder than when we know there was a distinct problem with populations going to the polls. And you say wait, no, it's just Iowa. It's just cold all the time. No. Minus 4 is 30 degrees colder than you should be. So this is cold on animals. This is cold on people. And in some places, dangerous. Fairbanks, Alaska is going to be 9, Des Moines is going to be minus 4, 13 degrees warmer in Fairbanks.

Something else that we haven't really assessed is that so far up to this date, we have had the warmest winter on record in Iowa. The animals aren't acclimated, people aren't acclimated. People are going, oh, if this is winter, I like it. Well, all of a sudden, you get smacked in the face with 13 degrees below zero and a wind chill of minus 30. That's a big difference. You won't be ready.

PHILLIP: Oh, man. It's a no thank you for me. Chad Myers, thank you very -- thank you very much.

COLLINS: And let's bring in our panel who's also warm inside of us and not in Iowa, Scott Jennings. I've been hearing from a lot of Trump's campaign people, people around him, they are very worried about turnout tomorrow, because they are concerned that if there is not a huge turnout, he's not going to have the resounding victory that they're looking for. I mean, what is the concern about what that could look like?

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, it's an expectations game. I mean, you looked at the polling, and he was at 48. And the Des Moines Register poll, there was an Emerson survey out today, had him at 55. And in the CBS survey today, nationally, he's at 69 percent. So it's sort of unheard of the idea that the party would nominate someone who's not 69 nationally, but on Monday night, if he comes in with a number that's way lower than what the polls were forecasting that provides a narrative to Nikki Haley or Ron DeSantis, or whoever to say, look, God can bleed.

And then that keeps the ball bouncing for them in New Hampshire and beyond. So they've been trying to lower expectations, the biggest win and a caucus, 12.8 percent They're going to spend anything above that number as a historic victory. The reality is, though, I think they need to be 20 plus, to keep up with where the polling has set expectations.

PHILLIP: I mean don't you think, though, that Trump benefits the most, in this kind of weather, give it up at the polls say about enthusiasm, just look at these numbers. I mean, we were just talking about them with Dana, 88 percent of Iowa voters who would support Trump are very, are extremely enthusiastic. And Nikki Haley is down there 39 percent which is why Ann Selzer was almost stunned by how her enthusiasm was so low but her support is second modest --


DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. I mean there are a number of warning signs in that poll. Once you get past the top line which was good for her, she had jumped into second place. I mean, her favorable rating had declined. It was two to one in August. It was just about even in this poll, the enthusiasm number that you mentioned. Half her support are from Democrats and Independents.

And it seems to me that to show up at a caucus and sit there for an hour or two and listen to Republicans make speeches to cast a ballot on a, you know, with a wind chill of 40 degrees below outside, seems like a stretch. You know, DeSantis and Trump each of their supporters like 80 percent of made up of Republicans. There are a lot of things that would worry me if I were Haley in this.

But, you know, we have two races going on here. It's Trump versus expectations, and Haley versus DeSantis. And those are the two things that we're going to be watching tomorrow night.

COLLINS: Even though Trump is spending a lot of time attacking Nikki Haley and his close -- I mean, today alone, he was saying that she's too liberal to lead Republicans, that she has the same backers as President Biden talking about the people who have funded her campaign, claiming wrongly. I should note that she's sided with Democrats on immigration.

ALYSSA FARAH GRIFFIN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: And one of his align PACs has spent $4.5 million against her in the final stretch. But here's the problem I think Donald Trump could win it and run into and granted, I think everyone here agrees he's going to win tomorrow night. But he has such a commanding lead that if it's freezing outside, it's very easy to say, other folks are going to show up for him.


GRIFFIN: I think that that may end up being a bigger measure than this question of intensity and enthusiasm in the poll. Nikki Haley, what's interesting in that poll is many of the second choice people that are supporting Nikki Haley are actually Joe Biden. So I almost wonder if voting for change for something other than Donald Trump, other than the status quo could end up being a bigger motivator.

AXELROD: Yes, no, that could be -- I'm sorry.

ASHLEY ALLISON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No, no, I was just going to say, you know, Donald Trump has also put a lot of energy in first time caucus goers. Well, this is when you really hope the infrastructure that they did try -- they did build this year, unlike in 2016, actually pays off. Because, you know, first time voters, it usually takes about seven touches to actually get them to leave their house, go to the polls and vote. And so --

PHILLIP: And so it's like 45 degrees outside.

ALLISON: Right, right. So now we need about 14, so you better hope the staff you have that volunteers you have are really going to be able to touch those folks and convince them to show up because if you're really just looking for a first time caucus voter, look, you could love Donald Trump, you could -- negative 40 wind chill, I don't know what that feels like. And so I don't really -- I don't want to know.

AXELROD: In this poll, he was winning 56 percent of first time caucus goers. The next person was Haley at 14, I think. So he's doing pretty well, with the first time caucus goes. And that's been their focus this whole race, not people who are sort of an initiated. They're going to Trump voters who haven't participated in caucuses before, and their operation has been focused on this for months, we'll see how it works in, you know, in these ridiculous temperatures.

JENNINGS: I'll take the other side of this. I think they are not going to have trouble motivating these first time people. I mean, we've seen people show up for Trump rallies, you know, you were there, hot, cold, raining, and that's just to show up and watch something. Now, with vindication at hand, it's their first chance to show up and actually do something. I think, come hell or high water. They're going to show up.

GRIFFIN: Counterpoint there, though, because we would have massive attendance at his rallies. And oftentimes, voters were not registered or hadn't actually voted. They showed up for the Trump show. They showed up to see the man. Now he's in Iowa today. I assume he'll be there tomorrow.

JENNINGS: Yes, big crowds.

GRIFFIN: It's much, I'll say, it's much more motivating if you get to see the man of Donald Trump than to actually deal with the caucus.

AXELROD: Well, you know, one of the things that he has done in this campaign, though, is I mean, Trump may be sort of wackier than ever, in some ways, but his organization is more rational than ever. And they have -- they have had -- they ran this race the way, you know, we would have others would have, they had a theory of the case, they'd been hammering away. Huh?

PHILLIP: I said that's a hiker icon (ph).

AXELROD: No. It is. I mean I like good field operation and well- conceived strategies. I mean, we'll see. I could be sitting here as -- my chair could be thinking tomorrow night.

COLLINS: All right now, but we listen to that soundbite from Trump today where he was speaking about getting turnout, people going out doing it in these conditions no matter what the conditions are. This is what he told supporters.


TRUMP: You must go caucus tomorrow is really the first step. It's really the first step. We got to do it and we got to do it big. You got to get out. You can't sit home. If you're sick as a dog, you say, Donald, I got to think. Even if you vote and then pass away, it's worth it, remember. If you're sick, if you're just a sticky cat darling I don't think, get up, get up.


[21:20:03] ALLISON: Oh boy, I mean how selfish right? But, you know, Iowa voters know how important this is. They actually know all eyes are on them right now. And this is really a choice for the will of whether you want to get rid of Donald Trump and you don't. And so for all of those DeSantis and Haley voters, they may have just as much emotion to show up in caucus for their folks as well.

JENNINGS: When I look inside the numbers of that Des Moines Register poll, by the way, and when I talked to people about the organizations, I agree Trump's got the intensity and the best organization he's had and three tries. But it's DeSantis, I would say his organization --

AXELROD: Could push him into second.

JENNINGS: He could -- we could find a few points there that you're not seeing showing up in the polling.

COLLINS: We will see if that happens. They're certainly hoping so everyone is sticking around. We have lots more to discuss with our panel. One thing about tomorrow is certain is that voters are going to have to brave those freezing temperatures. The question is will there be any surprises. The head of Iowa's Republican Party is here with his predictions right after a quick break.


COLLINS: Life threatening wind chills, exposure to frostbite potentially and icy roads are just a few of the things that are facing Iowans as they are preparing to caucus tomorrow as we have been warning it is on track to be the cold caucus night in history. But Iowans are a tough bunch as we all know. They're not scared of any snow or cold. Joining me now is one of them, Jeff Kaufman, chairman of the Republican Party of Iowa, who I'm sure is keeping an eye or two on the weather. And thank you so much for being here. As I said, you know, we know you're tough in Iowa, but are you worried about the effect that this weather could have on turnout tomorrow?


JEFF KAUFMAN, CHAIRMAN, REPUBLICAN PARTY OF IOWA: Well, I mean, I don't know if we're going to have a record turnout. I mean, we had an environment in terms of the enthusiasm and the organizational abilities of these campaigns. It looked like we were in an environment where we could shoot for that 186,000. I don't know that we'll get there. But I really do believe it's going to be robust. Today was clear. The ice, we're going to have another 24 hours for the snowplows to get out, doesn't look like we're going to have whiteout or blizzard. So we're focused on the temperature.

There'll be multiple, multiple times when it's below zero out here in Iowa. We're used to that. We're used to the precautions that you take. I honestly believe that we're going to have a robust turnout. And of course, from my perspective, I'm going to be letting the RNC know that exactly what Iowans did when it was below zero temperatures, and we need to be first in the nation again, that's going to be one of my pieces of evidence. I'm hoping that they won't let me down. I don't think they will.

COLLINS: We'll see about that. I do have a question for you about that -- about Iowa when it comes. But on the weather itself, Kay Henderson of Radio Iowa, obviously a veteran of the state, she notes and reporting tonight that only 28 counties had -- the 28 counties only have one location to go and caucus, that could mean a long drive for those folks. I understand the supersites was planned before we knew what the weather was going to look like. But was that a good idea? Are you worried about people safety?

KAUFMAN: Well, ultimately, that is the decision of each one of the county committees. As the Republican Party of Iowa, we aggregate that data, but the decisions whether you're going to have a supersite, or whether you have multiple sites, which the majority do have those multiple sites, we have one county down in Missouri border, that has I believe, over 13 different sites. And so that, as long as there's not ice on those roads, Iowans know those precautions.

They know how to handle that. We're giving advice to all of our chairs, try to make sure that the lines are inside as they're moving through because obviously people can register at that particular site to be a Republican. They have to show a voter ID and such. I feel comfortable with where we're going right now. And remember this is Iowa winter. And in the context of that, this is not anything that these individuals haven't faced over and over and over again.

COLLINS: How many first-time caucus goers are you hearing from? Is it a bunch?

KAUFMAN: Yes, it really is. You know, it's mostly anecdotal information. But Iowans actually been surprised. I'm neutral in this caucus. I'm bound by the Republican Party of Iowa constitution to be neutral. So we have an even playing field. And I went to almost all of the candidates events and the most recent events. I think now I've been to three events where they've asked new caucus goers to raise their hand.

I've been pretty amazed at how many are raising their hand, either enthusiastic. I've talked to several of them as they left. Of course, my job after the caucuses through, besides winning the general election is obviously to reach out to them, make sure that they know if they're a disgruntled Democrat, or if they're an Independent, or if they're just Republicans that have been hibernating for a while, let them know that there's a place for them in the party. And so my next role is to keep them.

COLLINS: One thing that Iowa is known for is it's known as the full Grassley, it's going to all 99 counties in Iowa, some presidential candidates try to do it, some don't even attempt it. Ron DeSantis is one of those candidates who has done it, he talks about it a lot. He also talks about the fact that he has secured the endorsement of your state's governor here and has really put in the work on the ground. I wonder what it says about the value of retail campaigning in Iowa, if that doesn't pay off for him tomorrow?

KAUFMAN: Well, in going to the 99 county tour physically, that certainly shows Iowans that you're not taking their votes for granted. At the same time, you're able to reach out to all 99 of those counties. If you go to one county and you're surrounded by four or five, you're going to actually reach the activists in those areas. You know, it's not over until it's over. And tomorrow night, we very well see that the organizational structure that's being able to be put together with this because, as you -- I'm sure as you know, Kaitlan, this caucus is just as much about organizational structure as it is a personality contest.


KAUFMAN: And so I think you're going to see some improved campaigns, especially from 2016.

COLLINS: And you're not worried about any backlash if Trump is the nominee, because your state's governor has endorsed Ron DeSantis. Here's something Trump is very unhappy about. He doesn't let Kim Reynolds at any of his events or anything like that, are you worried about that he might try to move Iowa from being first?


KAUFMAN: I don't -- I don't think so. I mean, you know, ultimately what matters. I mean, I don't want speak to the president or the past president I'd states and possibly future. We'll see who wins the nomination. But I really think he's going to look at what the people of the state of Iowa believe.

And Kim Reynolds did set the tone, because she endorsed does not necessarily mean that that all are not welcome here. And the party structure those of us that are actually running this caucus had been pretty vigilantly neutral across the board. So no, out of all the things I have to worry about, that's -- that's not one that I'm particularly concerned with.

COLLINS: Jeff Kaufman, you have a lot going on over the next 24 hours. Thanks for taking the time to join us tonight.

KAUFMAN: Thanks for your interest in Iowa.

COLLINS: Of course. And on the eve of those subzero caucuses that are going to happen there was another endorsement a notable one for Nikki Haley today. The question is, does it make a dent in what has been Trump's so far domination in this race? We'll talk about that next.



PHILLIP: Nikki Haley has picked up a big-name Republican endorsement from former Maryland Governor Larry Hogan.


LARRY HOGAN, (R) FORMER MARYLAND GOVERNOR: Nikki Haley's got all the momentum and what this race is really all about. And just to try to nominate the strongest possible nominee for November, it's time for the party to get behind. Nikki Haley --


PHILLIP: Hogan at one point was considering the possible third-party run to stop Donald Trump. And my next guest actually did enter this race last year and is now also supporting Nikki Haley. Former Texas Congressman Will Hurd joins me now.

Congressman, thanks for joining us. I wonder how much do you think that endorsement from Larry Hogan means to Nikki Haley at this point.

WILL HURD, (R) FORMER U.S. REPRESENTATIVE: It's just one more example of the momentum that Ambassador Haley has been building for the last 11 months. The fact that you have the Governor Chris Sununu governor in New Hampshire endorsing her. You have groups like Americans for Prosperity who have an amazing ground game in multiple states across the country is important. The fact that she's had so many small-dollar donors in the last 30 days. This is just one more example of the momentum. And she's going to pick up delegates tomorrow in Iowa and take that momentum into New Hampshire where she has a great shot of being able to shock folks.

I think, in your earlier segment and conversation, I think it was Alyssa Farah Griffin, who was talking about how the motivation of some of these voters. Many voters are going to go into the polls tomorrow in Iowa and say, Hey, do I want four more years of chaos? Do I want -- I want and I'm concerned about the cost of health care, for me, my aging parents, and for my children. I'm worried about a war in the Middle East and Europe, and who's the best chance the best person to elect to make sure that we have a strong America? And in my opinion, that's Nikki Haley.

PHILLIP: So what do you think is a strong showing for Nikki Haley in Iowa tomorrow? Some of the other candidates have said that they believe they will win, including Donald Trump. And at one point, Ron DeSantis. Does Nikki Haley believe that she can win?

HURD: Well, the team knows pick up some delegates, right? Donald Trump has said he was going to win by 16 points. And then he said he's going to be by 50 points. And now he's saying if he wins by 12, that's a success. If he gets under 50%, then that's -- that's a chink in the armor. We have to remember four years ago, Donald Trump had 99.5% of the vote in Iowa.

And so this is about picking up momentum. Being, you know, the recent polling coming out and showing that Nikki Haley is surging in Iowa. The fact that I think one of the biggest mistakes Ron DeSantis made was going to all 99 counties, because the more people learn about him, the less likely they are to vote for him. The fact that he's having a (inaudible).

PHILLIP: Can we talk about that polling? Can we talk about that polling though?

HURD: Say that again? PHILLIP: Can we talk about that polling that you just mentioned that Des Moines Register poll shows a majority of Haley supporters are, at best, only mildly enthusiastic about turning out for the caucuses tomorrow. That's really far below the others in this race, Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis. How concerned are you about those numbers, and whether people in this kind of weather will just decide to stay home?

HURD: So first off to all the islands that are going out to vote tomorrow, thank you for doing your civic duty and tough -- in a tough environment. I was in the Hindu Kush Mountains for a month and negative 20 degrees below zero. And it was uncomfortable. Let me tell you.

So what they're going into tomorrow is difficult. But this -- this enthusiasm gap that people are talking about? That number is really better to use in general elections against Democrats and Republicans. The fact that a voter may say, yes, I don't want to go out in the cold, but they're still going to go out. And so I don't think this is a concern. Ambassador Haley and her team have built a good organization and they've continued to grow. They've consistently grown in Iowa. So those numbers are not something that I think are concerning.

PHILLIP: Congressman Will Hurd, thanks for joining us tonight.

HURDS: Always a pleasure.

PHILLIP: And for the first time ever, there is a candidate on the ballot facing 91 criminal charges and awaiting for trials and some Iowa voters actually say that a Trump conviction would make them more likely to support him. The surprising new poll numbers we'll discuss next.



COLLINS: A new number just in that is worth looking at. It is the latest Iowa poll that came out last night right before the caucuses and it shows that a majority of likely Republican Iowa caucus goers people we're going to be turning out tomorrow night would not shy away from voting for Donald Trump in the general election, even if he were convicted. Here's what the numbers found. 61% of likely Republican caucusgoers say that a potential conviction doesn't matter in determining their support for him and David Axelrod, I guess maybe it's not that surprising. And we just heard from Governor Sununu of New Hampshire saying that he would still vote for Donald Trump, even if he's a convicted felon. But what do you make of these numbers?

AXELROD: Well, I think that Sununu is following the numbers. And I think this is, you know, I think it's unfortunate that he is, but it's -- this is the prevailing view among Republicans. I mean, everybody's got to get their arms around the fact that Donald Trump has a very strong base in this party and he has, as he often does, he's taken a bad story and he's turned it and he's turned these indictments into an emblem of his potency and the and the deviousness of the deep state. And a lot of the bass has bought that. And so you know, he's -- this -- we've talked about this before. We thought it was kryptonite. It's battery packs for him in the Republican primary. When he gets into a general election may be a different story. But these numbers don't shock me.


PHILLIP: Yes. I mean, 61% say it doesn't matter. 19% say it will make them more likely to support him.

PHILLIP: That's more than the people who say it'll make it less likely that they would support him. We talk a lot about, you know, who's going to get the Chris Christie vote, but doesn't matter. I mean, if this is what the landscape is?

GRIFFIN: Well, listen, think of it this way. The average voter is thinking about paying bills, sending their kids to college, paying their mortgage, the state of the economy, they look to their elected leaders to give them guidance on things like oh, a former president was indicted, how should I feel about that? I'm not going to sit here and read through an indictment. And when every one of the top tier of candidates running against Trump essentially said, it's a witch hunt. It's the deep state against him. It's the system working against him, that signal to voters, this isn't something legitimate that I need to be worried about. With the exception of Chris Christie, Will Hurd, and Asa Hutchinson, no one was saying no, he mishandled classified documents. This is legitimate.

No, he, you know, was we saw it happen on January 6, this is legitimate. So I think it's a result of the political infrastructure of the Republican Party, all defending Donald Trump when these came down.

ALLISON: And not just that he has senators even today endorsing him. People who actually are elected officials who have the platform to say, to say no, we could walk away from this. I mean, we heard a voter earlier that literally said the Lord is with Donald Trump, he has done nothing wrong. Well, no --

GRIFFIN: I think a felony counts if they had (inaudible).

AXELROD: It wasn't just -- it wasn't just senators who endorsed him today. It was Marco Rubio, remember from 2016 in a pitched battle with Donald Trump, in which he had some pretty unkind things to say about Donald Trump and who supported them. And that was Nikki Haley. And today, Governor Trump, I don't think the timing was an accident. You know, the history of this?

JENNINGS: Oh, yes. More than a handful of Jeb Bush, people took note of the Rubio endorsement --

AXELROD: Because she had committed to Bush and --

JENNINGS: Yes. No kidding. You know, on this on this poll, I'll give you what the Republicans are talking about today. They're saying, can you blame them? Look what Fani Willis is doing in Georgia hiring her boyfriend, put him on the payroll, paying him all this money on qualified prosecutor going on vacations with him and having to go and explain all that this weekend? So yes, I agree with everything that's been said here. This is, you know, he's got a strong base and what, but things have happened in these investigations that have given trump the toehold he needs to spin those stories into the battery packs, or the rocket fuel that you're talking about and what is happening right now in Georgia.

And, you know, as you all have pointed out, he's got the best campaign he's had and three tries. And when stuff like this happens, their ability to rapidly inject that into the Republican bloodstream isn't is incredible.

AXELROD: Yes. I don't know, Scott. I mean, he was he was getting the benefit of it before finally, well, it's a story.

JENNINGS: That's true.

AXELROD: So that may be helpful to him. But that's not why that happened. But they do believe -- by the way, your point is absolutely right. People are living their lives and they care about their lives. They also believe that Trump is some economic, you know, Maestro, and that's another thing. And they're basically saying that's more important to me than this stuff.

COLLINS: Yes. We'll see what President Biden makes that obviously he thinks Trump is going to be the nominee. Stick around ahead here for us. We're going to go deeper into what those legal troubles look like. You heard Scott mentioned there what's happening in Georgie. Elie Honig is here to lay them all out for us as he always is. How the court calendar is going to collide, though with that campaign on Trump's road to try to get the nomination once again. That's next.



PHILLIP: The day after Iowa former President Trump will be back in a courtroom and this time for his defamation trial brought by E. Jean Carroll in New York City. It's becoming clear that this election will be contested not only on the campaign trail but also in the courtroom. And here to break down the unprecedented array of legal challenges the current Republican front runner is facing is the guru, CNN Senior Legal Analyst Elie Honig.

So Elie, the big question here, of course, is the calendar. There's an election and then there are all of us court dates. What does that look like?

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: When we get ready, we've never seen anything quite like this. Let's start with the highest stakes. There are four pending criminal charges, two of them brought by DOJ Special Counsel Jack Smith, one relating to his effort, Donald Trump's efforts to steal the 2020 election, the other relating to classified documents at Mar a Lago. And then there's two state-level cases, one here in Manhattan relating to hush money payments to stormy Daniels, and then another down in Fulton County, Georgia for 2020 elections version. Let's have a little fun with the calendar. Look how nice and neat this looks.

Okay. Trials. First of all, Jack Smith's DOJ case starts March 4, the Manhattan hush money cave case is scheduled for March 25. Now they're both not going to go at the same time. That's impossible. One of them's going to have to give way. Jack Smith, other case scheduled for May 20. Forget about the Fulton County case. We don't have a trial date, not going to happen before the election.

Now, the election itself, of course, November 5th, we're not going to have a trial in October or September. That's just too close. Other important political dates, Republican convention, July 15th and the day after Jack Smith's case is supposed to start the 5th. That's super Tuesday. And remember, this is really important.

Donald Trump has to be physically in the courtroom for these criminal cases. He can pick and choose on the civil cases, but he will be off the campaign trail really for two months or so for each of these trials.

PHILLIP: Yes. This is already giving me anxiety. What about the question of whether he is even going to be on the ballot. That's also up in the air right now.

HONIG: Yes. So 14th Amendment says anyone who engaged in insurrection is disqualified of course, a couple of weeks ago. Colorado ruled Trump's out. He engaged in insurrection, but the Supreme Court is taking that case. Also the calendar tells us something here. That oral argument in the Supreme Court, which we'll be able to listen to. That's on February 8th, and you can tell when they're going to rule the court because March 5th again, that's Super Tuesday. 16 states including Colorado and Maine who both voting and so you can bet the courts going to want to clarify that before Super Tuesday.


PHILLIP: And you just mentioned the civil lawsuits that he's facing. What's the landscape there?

HONIG: Yes. Three of these. The Trump org civil fraud trial. We heard closing arguments just the other day. We'll get a ruling on that any day now from the judge. The E. Jean Carroll trial. The second one starts later this week right here in federal court in Manhattan. And Trump's been sued civilly by a group of January 6th, police officers. These two will be playing out alongside and overtop of the criminal cases and the primary and caucuses and the election.

PHILLIP: Is the busy?

HONIG: That's all you have though.

PHILLIP: So Elie, before you go. I want to ask you about something that Fulton County DA Fani Willis said today she defended the allegations against her of misconduct. Take a listen.


FANI WILLIS, FULTON COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY: Appointed three special counsel, this is my right to do paid them all the same hourly rate. They only check one. Gives it this some will never see a black man is qualified, no matter whose achievements. What more can one achieve? The other two have never been judges, but no one questioned their credentials.


PHILLIP: I mean, this is an allegation that she had an inappropriate relationship with one of her prosecutors. Did hat really hold water?

HONIG: Yes. I think we need to be careful about the allegations of the relationship. Keep in mind Donald Trump himself has not even joined this motion as of this moment. So let's be careful here. But I will say this. It is conspicuous to say the least to have the lead prosecutor on the biggest case this office has ever seen. Be a person who's never tried a felony criminal case. That should raise some real eyebrows about why this person.

PHILLIP: A lot more for us to learn there. Elie Honig, thank you as always.

HONIG: Appreciate it. Thanks. All right.

PHILLIP: And we are live from the ground in Iowa. Up next we have new details on what all of the candidates are up to tonight. From our great reporters fanned out across the state, you will also hear from my former presidential candidate DeSantis surrogate and much more when our special coverage continues right after this quick break.