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Trump Holds Commanding Lead In Final Iowa Poll; Hours From First Votes Of 2024 Presidential Election; Trump's Legal Challenges Collide With GOP Primary; DeSantis On Vivek: Trump' Threw Him Under The Bus"; Monday Could Be Coldest Caucus Nigh On Record; Countdown To Iowa. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired January 14, 2024 - 22:00   ET




ABBY PHILLIP, CNN HOST: Good evening to you I'm Abby Phillip along with Kaitlan Collins here in New York. And thank you for joining our special coverage of the countdown to Iowa.

The first votes of the 2024 presidential election are now just hours away. Anticipation is building and so are those icicles. Subzero temperatures are set to make Iowa's caucuses, the coldest in history.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN HOST: And Iowans no cold. I mean, despite that, though the candidates today have been pushing voters to still turn out tomorrow clearly concerned about the effect that it could have. Nikki Haley and Ron DeSantis are hoping for momentum from tomorrow's caucuses. Donald Trump hoping it is the beginning of the end for at least one of them.

Our team of reporters has been following the candidates across Iowa today, Kristen Holmes, Kylie Atwood, Jessica Dean. We've got all of them here covering all of the candidates. I want to start with Kristen Holmes, who's covering the Trump campaign for us.

Kristen, we've seen the former president. He has spent probably less time in Iowa than the other candidates here but he is still setting big expectations for tomorrow. What has been his closing message to Iowans?

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Kaitlan, his closing message is please show up on Monday and caucus. Remember, it's not just about winning for them. It's about winning by a margin that is big enough to stop the momentum of his GOP rivals, namely Nikki Haley. They want to set the tone with a wide enough margin, a big enough definitive enough lead so that it sets the tone for the entire primary season and again, stops anything that they're seeing from their GOP rivals. So Donald Trump today in a very long speech probably making up for some lost time because he had to cancel most of his event went after Nikki Haley but also stressed the importance of caucusing no matter what.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You must go caucus tomorrow for the first step. Really the first step. We got to do 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 darling, even if you vote and then pass away, it's worth it, remember.

If you're sick, if you're just so sick, you can't turn, I don't think, get up. Get up.


HOLMES: Now, obviously some of that was a joke. But we are told that Donald Trump has been increasingly concerned about turnout. He has been asking advisors and allies about whether or not they think the weather is going to hurt turnout. He also has been urging his supporters not to be complacent. There has been a concern among both Trump and his campaign team that because those polls show him leading by 20 or 30 points that his supporters, well, in conjunction with the weather, might just decide that Donald Trump has enough support.

They don't need to show up on Monday. So that's why you're hitting -- hearing him really hit home that message over and over again, asking, urging people to show up on Monday.

COLLINS: Yes, I think some voters might say to find worth it, as he phrased it there. Kristen Holmes, thank you for that.

Kylie Atwood is tracking the Nikki Haley campaign where she just spoke to CNN and also responded to the attacks that Trump has launched her way today saying that she is, quote, "not tough enough."

Kylie, what did a Governor Haley have to say about this?

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: She said that the former president knows he's in trouble. She effectively believes that it's almost a good thing that former President Trump is going after her because it means that he thinks that he has a target on his back. Telling CNN's Dana Bash that when she worked for the former president in his administration as the ambassador to the United Nations, he was actually quite complimentary of how tough she was back then. Listen to what she said.


NIKKI HALEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: 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. Everybody that's ever worked for me or worked with me, 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.



ATWOOD: Now, two person race, that is what Nikki Haley's team has said this will turn into once they get to New Hampshire. But of course, she's got to have a strong showing here in Iowa before that can actually be the case. If DeSantis does well here in Iowa, she won't have boxed him out like they're expecting she will be able to do.

Now, one of the things that they're watching for tomorrow is turnout, you know, how excited their voters are? When they -- if they actually get to the polls, given these cold temperatures. But there were a lot of folks at this final event here who had only seen Nikki Haley for the first time tonight and some of them told me that they were going to go caucus for tomorrow. So we'll have to watch and see.

COLLINS: Kylie Atwood, thank you.

And Jessica Dean, tracking the DeSantis campaign where he just wrapped up his final event of the day.

Jessica, what are we hearing from Governor DeSantis, especially given the Des Moines Register poll numbers that just came out last night that actually -- I mean, it's in the margin of error, but it hasn't been third place heading into tomorrow?

JESSICA DEAN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kaitlan, everyone in his orbit will say that they don't think that that's indicative of what is going to happen tomorrow. The candidate Ron DeSantis has been saying is such probably as well. And there's a reason, they believe that the ground game and the organization that they have here, I was told, by never backed down the super PAC that's aligned with him. They told me some -- over 900,000 doors knock in the state of Iowa. They have a lot of touchpoints precinct captains in 99 counties.

They believe that that is going to help them tomorrow, that they have committed enthusiastic voters, and that that is going to carry them very well and very far tomorrow, especially with this X factor of this extremely dangerously cold weather. So, DeSantis just wrapping up his last event here in Ankeny, Iowa. What was interesting, and what we all kind of noted is that he really went after former President Donald Trump only mentioning Nikki Haley, I counted one time by name, but really going after Trump, listen.


RON DESANTIS, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He's running a candidate -- he's running a campaign about putting himself and his issues first. That's what he cares about. You can be the most worthless Republican in America, but if you kiss the ring, he'll say, you're wonderful.

You deserve a nominee that's going to put you first, not himself first.


DEAN: Kaitlan, nobody has more on the line in this primary in Iowa than Ron DeSantis. He is counting on this. He's gone to all in, moving a lot of his campaign staff here, visiting all 99 counties, spending millions and millions of dollars. He wants to see a very strong finish. He wants to emerge as this alternative to the former president.

The question is, will that happen? Can that organization that they have touted again and again carry him through to get him where he wants to be as he heads into the next phase of this primary? We're going to find out tomorrow night. Kaitlan.

COLLINS: Indeed, we will. Jessica Dean, thank you.

PHILLIP: And joining me now is former Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. He ran for the GOP nomination back in 2016, and is now the president of Young America's Foundation, a conservative youth organization.

Governor Walker, thanks for joining us tonight. You have not endorsed, as my understanding in this cycle, but you have predicted in the Washington Times that Trump is going to be the nominee after Iowa. How do you think it works that Trump can win a state like Iowa spending perhaps the least amount of time there?

SCOTT WALKER, (R) FORMER WISCONSIN GOVERNOR: Well, I think voters in that state like a lot of across the country recognize that Ron DeSantis has done a fabulous job as governor in Florida, Nikki Haley, a colleague of mine from the past one as governor did an outstanding job as Ambassador of United Nations. But in the end, voters want someone who's proven and I think that shows, certainly with caucus voters, I think we're going to see it not only in New Hampshire and Nevada, but even in places like South Carolina former President Trump's likely to win big. And that's because in the Midwest in particular, but across the country, a lot of voters look and say, you know, there's politicians candidates who say all the right things, but then go to Washington failed to deliver. Donald Trump may not always say or tweet the things that we do, or the way we do, but I think a lot of voters do look and say but he gets the job done and that's why he's so far ahead.

PHILLIP: So some of your fellow Republicans, including New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu and former Maryland Governor, Larry Hogan, say that that's not true. That there is one candidate who is best positioned to be Donald Trump and it's -- or to be Joe Biden and it's not Trump. Listen.


GOV. CHRIS SUNUNU, (R) NEW HAMPSHIRE: Donald Trump is simply the weakest candidate.

LARRY HOGAN, (R) FORME MARYLAND GOVERNOR: I think we want to have the strongest possible nominee in November. Poll show that that is Nikki Haley. That she's 17 points ahead of Joe Biden and it's a tossup with Trump and Biden and DeSantis is losing.


PHILLIP: What do you say to that?

[22:10:00] WALKER: Well, one you got to believe the polls. But I think if you do and I think those polls probably are largely accurate that right now the person who would attract the most swing voters, moderate voters in the polls, I've seen if key swing states, the one who pulls the best is Nikki Haley, the next after that of the three is Governor DeSantis. But I think the problem for each of them as challengers, is in five of those six key battleground states, Donald Trump pulls ahead of Joe Biden.

And so, even though they might make the case that they're a little bit better, a little bit more likely to win, as it stands, and again, we just saw last week, Michigan, a key battleground state the last couple of cycles, Joe Biden is losing to Donald Trump in that state by eight points. And if this election is a referendum on the economy, Joe Biden gets blown away. We saw it even before the first presidential primary debate. We did a poll at young America's Foundation of Young People, and the number one issue of college students is actually the economy.

PHILLIP: But what if it's --

WALKER: And that's where Joe Biden is really in trouble.

PHILLIP: What if it's a referendum on Donald Trump? I mean, it's possible that he could be a convicted felon in November. And as you heard Ron DeSantis just say, he thinks that this is going to be a race. It's all about Donald Trump's 91 problems.

WALKER: Well, again, I think you see, though, in poll after poll and focus group after focus group, even people who are aligned with some of the other candidates, Ron DeSantis, Nikki Haley, just saw Nikki Haley supported this morning, talking about how they still believe that all these legal issues are largely politically motivated, they're campaign related. And I think that's true not only with Republican voters overall, even those who aren't necessarily voting in the caucus of the primaries for the former president.

I see it in swing states like mine in Wisconsin that people get that. They can see through this, they see the nonsense. And again, in some regards, I heard your previous segment, if he's tied up normally conventional wisdom would be that would be tough for campaigning, but everyone in America is going to vote, knows who Joe Biden is and they know who Donald Trump is. This isn't a matter of introducing themselves. And in some regards, the more time and attention put on Joe Biden as opposed to Donald Trump, if that takes his time away from campaigning is probably a good thing for those of us who want to see someone other than Joe Biden in the White House.

PHILLIP: All right, former Governor Scott Walker, thank you so much.

WALKER: Thank you.

PHILLIP: And our panel is here.

Alyssa, what you make of what he had to say there?

ALYSSA FARAH GRIFFIN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I'm a big fan of Scott Walker, I think. My issue is this. We've had these polling data of people who will say they'll vote for Donald Trump if he's a convicted felon. Now, it's a plurality of Republicans. I think that may look very different after we actually see him on trial, after we actually see his former chief of staff likely testify against him, likely Vice President Pence testify against him.

It'll be a real litigating of the worst day of his presidency, January 6, the interaction that we all saw with our eyes. So I think, well, that may be the position now because there's fatigue with Joe Biden, people want to see, you know, someone wearing their jersey back in the White House, I could see those numbers precipitously dropped by the summer of this year.

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think there's a cohort of voters, some Republicans, a lot of independents, who really don't want Biden would vote for Trump but would abandon ship if he becomes a convicted felon, they won't associate their franchise with it.

At the same time, I was taken aback this morning by this ABC News, "Washington Post" survey, Joe Biden at 33 percent job approval nationally, huge majority of Americans who say he doesn't have the mental acuity right now to serve as president, let alone for a second term. And so when I think about the impact of a conviction on Donald Trump's candidacy, I continue to think about the ongoing impact of dissatisfaction with Biden and the belief that he's simply not up to it. And you throw on the possible third party candidates, which I think are hurting Biden. And you could see a world where Trump gets convicted and still wins this thing.

DAVID AXELRON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, I actually think that it would be in Biden's interest for Trump to do well tomorrow, to do well in New Hampshire, and to dispatch the primary race and get on with the general election --


AXELROD: -- so that he can -- that he can bring Trump into sharp focus here. And I think Trump winning, you know, week after week and looking like the Harlem Globetrotters defeating the Washington generals every week helps him look formidable. But I mean, I think this is going to be a battle. I don't think it's going to be -- you know, no one's going to run away with this. It's going to be a close race.

And there's no doubt that this is a liability if he gets convicted, which is why he's fighting so hard. Obviously he wants to dispatch them if he's president. He also knows that it's bad for him if this -- if this trial goes forward in Washington on the January 6 issue.

COLLINS: But can we -- that Ron DeSantis that we just heard from at his final event of the night before tomorrow starts, hearing him talk about Trump is so remarkable because he is someone who would not talk about Trump like that at the beginning of this campaign. The closest he would get is talking about their policy differences. He shunned the mainstream media. I mean, what do you make of his last minute change in approach to -- not just Trump but the whole campaign as he's on the brink of everything tomorrow?


ASHLEY ALLISON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: They vote tomorrow and he decided to do it, what, like, on Christmas Eve? It's too little too late. You know, stores closed early on Christmas Eve, because it's too late.

So I think, you know, Ron DeSantis did effort to be mini me in terms of Donald Trump. And people didn't want him and mini me, they wanted Donald Trump. And I hope that if he is convicted and if he is the nominee, then people will say that's our bridge too far. But we had the January 6 hearings, and those were broadcasted everywhere. We saw January 6, live in action, and we've had indictment after indictment, and his numbers have just gone up. So I'm not sure if conviction is going to do it.

But I agree with X, as Democrats, we want this done, we want Donald Trump and let's get to the general.

JENNINGS: You what's amazing --

AXELROD: Biden pretty well. His numbers actually were better during that period of the January 6 hearings, when people were really focused on Trump and his numbers relative to Trump.

Can I just say one thing on your point about the speech in Ankeny? We should point out that that is a suburb of Des Moines, where Haley has strength and where it's, you know, more the profile of her voter, the anti-Trump voter. And I think that as much as anything, he was talking to his audience there --


AXELROD: -- because now it's like hand to hand combat, appearance after appearance. That that may have something to do with why he emphasized that at that particular event.

PHILLIP: The other person who probably wants it to be wrapped up as soon as tomorrow night is Donald Trump. And he's perhaps doing it in an interesting way. This weekend, he went after Scott's favorite person --


PHILLIP: -- Vivek Ramaswamy. But listen to what Ron DeSantis had to say.

COLLINS: I was wondering who that was going to be.


DESANTIS: I noticed that they -- that he threw --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Vivek. Yes. DESANTIS: Yes, yes. He threw him under the bus. You know, it's like, I've never seen a candidate run for an office and basically campaign for another candidate in the same race before and that's what's happened. But the minute he wasn't useful, you know, they dropped the hammer on it.


PHILLIP: Do you see a strategy, first of all, Scott, in Trump throwing Vivek Ramaswamy under the bus who -- some people saw Ramaswamy as an attempt to soften DeSantis. And now DeSantis, at the end there, he's saying this is all going to be about Trump's legal problems.

JENNINGS: Yet for the long time in his campaign, Vivek was essentially a surrogate for Trump. Trump doesn't come to the debates. He's not doing all the other stuff. So Vivek was kind of his stand.

And he showed up at the courthouse, I think in Miami and you know, was wearing a Trump hat. And he's running against Trump, but he's wearing Trump's paraphernalia. And so, there was some usefulness in this.

But here at the end, what is Trump trying to do tomorrow night? Beat expectations. And this 50 percent number could be one of those expectations. Well, if he doesn't get there, one of the reasons is going to be because of a Vivek --

AXELROD: Right. Right.


JENNINGS: -- 5 percent or 6 percent or 7 percent or 8 percent away from him. And that's going to really make Donald Trump angry. I did note that Chris LaCivita, who's Trump's campaign manager compared Ramaswamy to a parasite clinging on to the bottom of a shark in a tweet tonight. And so, while they found usefulness in him for a while, I think -- I think the worm has turned on his view.

AXELROD: You know his positive numbers in that poll are higher than -- much higher than Haley. So I mean, he had like a 53 --


AXELROD: -- positive 37 negative. So, he's actually done pretty well in that.

ALLISON: And just to be clear, Donald Trump is the shark of predatory.


ALLISON: It must the interest animal in ocean. Yes. Just making story.

PHILLIP: I think Donald Trump is supposed to be the shark in that very specific analogy. Everyone, standby. We will be coming back in just a bit.

We're going to turn to another major factor in the race, which is of course the weather. The candidates, they've all been pressing voters to turn out for them in these extremely, extremely dangerous temperatures in Iowa tomorrow. A live update on just how cold it's going to get up next.



COLLINS: Tomorrow's Iowa caucuses are set to be the coldest on record by a lot. Iowans are going to wake up to temperatures more than 15 degrees below zero. And it's not going to get much warmer than that throughout the day, which obviously could be a major factor and a wildcard potentially for turnout. Chad Myers is in the CNN Weather Center tracking the forecast.

And Chad, let me tell you there's a lot of concern in here about the livestock in Iowa and how they're going to be faring tomorrow. But what about the people? What are they going to be expecting tomorrow?

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: The people are going to be taking care of the livestock. That's what's going to be happening because a lot of them are going to have time to spend four hours going into town and then going back to the farm and finding out things went very wrong while they were gone. I grew up in Nebraska and I know how these things were.

But Kaitlan, we never think of Iowa as a purple state. But right now, Iowa is a purple state. It is 14 degrees below zero right now in Cedar Rapids, 13 below in Des Moines. It is 16 degrees below zero at Spirit Lake and Okoboji where I used to go as a kid. And that's cold. Even without the wind, it is cold.

And tomorrow, the numbers are going to look exactly the same. Maybe a degree or two warmer, but as you said, there's snow on the ground. When that sun hits the snow, it's not going to warm the land very much because there's just going to bounce back up and that snow. The coldest we've known about now here for the last couple of elections 2004 at 16. And we know that this 2004 was affected by that 16.

We're going to be 20 degrees colder than that for tomorrow afternoon. So people going to those election places are going to be standing in line driving, we are now 31 degrees. The departure from normal, people so yes, (inaudible) it's cold. No, it's 31 degrees colder than it should be tomorrow. So, very cold.

COLLINS: Put your blankets on your cows. Chad Myers, thank you.

MYERS: Absolutely.

PHILLIP: And joining me now is Nicole Schlinger, a longtime Republican strategist in Iowa, who's worked with four different presidential campaigns. She's also the president and cofounder of campaign HQ, which helps turn out voters for GOP candidates nationwide. Nicole, thanks for joining us.

[22:25:06] You are in Des Moines, you know exactly what it is like to be out in an Iowa winter. What are you seeing, first of all, on the roads as you're driving around and hearing from people about turnout at the caucuses tomorrow?

NICOLE SCHLINGER, IOWA REPUBLICAN POLITICAL STRATEGIST: Absolutely. Well, roads were significantly improved today. Once you can get out from the gravel and onto the county roads, the hard surface roads, things are looking good, and they're only going to get better by tomorrow. You know, turnout will be impacted. And this will be a good test of candidates' organization.

A good campaign organization for a caucus campaign will include precinct captains who should be working to make sure that everyone who's identified for that campaign and for that candidate has a plan to get out and vote. And that includes vans, that includes people with pickup trucks who are going to give rides, wheelchairs for the folks who might not be steady on their feet. This is going to be a real test of Iowa caucus organization.

PHILLIP: Yes, to say the least. Can you give us, though the big picture view on the caucuses, because I think a lot of people tuning in tonight they may not even really know what a caucus is. It takes a lot more time than simply going to the polls at your leisure on Election Day. Walk us through what that looks like.

SCHLINGER: Yes, absolutely. So, the main difference between a caucus and a primary is that a caucus is a party organizing function. It's run by the state party and volunteers at over 1,600 precinct locations across the state. And so, doors open at 06:00, and it starts at 07:00. There's no absentee voting, you have to show up.

And you have to bring an ID and register as Republican either beforehand or when you get there. And then we'll conduct some party business and then conduct our presidential preference poll. Every candidate will have a chance to have a representative of their campaign speak, then we'll pass out paper ballots, and everyone will have the chance to write down their candidate of choice, those will be collected, and then they'll be counted and overseen by representatives from each of the campaign so that we know that one person one vote that it gets counted securely, and reported back to the state party securely.

That's the kickoff of how we nominate our delegates who are going to represent us at the national convention next summer, which is where we're going to choose our nominee for president who's going to be going up against Joe Biden to take back the White House. And so we'll also be starting our party platform process at that time. People can come and propose planks that can get all the way up into the national platform, which is really an amazing opportunity for grassroots folks to get involved, to get elected to higher positions in the party. And it all starts on Monday night.

PHILLIP: So do you think in the midst of I think a lot of backlash in some corners about caucuses, which are pretty low turnout events. Does the caucus survive for Republicans after the cycle? SCHLINGER: I think that there are differences in the way that Republicans vote at caucuses and the way the Democrats historically had voted. As I said before, with Republicans, it's one person one vote. And that means that we have a verifiable paper trail to ensure that our results are safe, secure and accurate. That's really important.

But what's even more important is the caucus process ensures that every candidate gets vetted by regular everyday salt of the earth Americans. And if a candidate can simply buy their way to the nomination on television, then certain voices might not get an opportunity to be heard. In Iowa, you can run for president, it doesn't matter how much money you have. And every candidate is going to get their opportunity for caucus goers to vet them to ask them questions. Every time we see some front runners stumble, and to me, I would rather see that in Iowa right now and not next November when they're on the debate stage with Joe Biden. So the caucus plays an important process -- part in our process, and a part that makes our candidate ultimately better when we went out the field.

PHILLIP: All right. Nicole Schlinger, thank you very much for joining us tonight.

SCHLINGER: Thank you.

PHILLIP: And with only a few hours to go, Ron DeSantis is downplaying a new poll showing him in third place ahead of this crucial first vote in Iowa. He's saying that he likes being underestimated. We'll talk to a congressman who has been close at his side all week, next.



COLLINS: Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is projecting confidence tonight despite what the polls show.


RON DESANTIS (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We're in this for the long haul. We understand that you got to win a majority of the delegates. We understand that there's a long process here. But we're going to do well because we've done it right.


COLLINS: The governor has gone on to hold multiple in person events even with the weather that we've seen happening in Iowa. And among those, they are on his behalf, as he has been for several days, working overtime is Texas Republican Congressman Chip Roy. Congressman, thanks for being here.

Just last month, Governor DeSantis said they were going to win Iowa. Does he still feel that way tonight?

REP. CHIP ROY (R-TX): Well, look, I think he's got an excellent shot. And I think we've got all the organization in place. And like there's a reason when we got done on, you know, Thursday, I got in -- and flew out to St. Louis to try to get out here to get to Des Moines, my flight was canceled. And I had to rent a car drive eight hours through the blizzard to get to Des Moines. And then spent, you know, all day Friday and Saturday on the road with the governor, and then again today, criss-crossing the state.

I mean, I literally went from yesterday from Council Bluffs into basically Nebraska, all the way across ended up in Davenport, almost Illinois, and then today up to Dubuque on the Cedar Rapids back to Des Moines. Tomorrow we'll get up to Sioux City. Look, people of Iowa expect to go earn it, and the organization that they put in place is how you get that done.

There's a reason Nikki Haley didn't show up to her event in Dubuque today. She's a no show. There's a reason that Donald Trump has been skipping debates and no showed in Cass County. When you know, Governor DeSantis went to Cass County just yesterday. I think that's going to show up tomorrow night, and I think the people on the ground are enthusiastic and ready to support Governor DeSantis. We'll see what happens tomorrow.

COLLINS: Would a third place finish tomorrow mean the end of the DeSantis campaign in your view?


ROY: Well, look, I think the governor is in it for the long haul. I mean, he now understands this is a delicate game. Part of this takes time to get people focused to listen to the message.

When they hear his message, I promise you, they're listening. And we've been converting lots of folks. You know, I'll sit there and lay out, you know, someone who supported -- after I supported Ted Cruz, by the way, I was his chief of staff, as you know.

You know, look, I supported Donald Trump in 2016, and he was the guy who wanted to come in and shine a light on the swamp. But look, there's been a lot of deficiencies, and I'm not afraid to point him out. I've done that and laid out the record. And Governor DeSantis has done the same thing. And when we do that, we convert people.

So we'll see what happens. I think he's going to have a really good night, tomorrow night, I do not expect that finish. I think he's got a good shot to win it. The organization on the ground, it's a turnout game.

Look, I keep telling the people of Iowa, they hold in their hand -- they hold in their hand the power to change this country, to put in place a candidate we can get in behind, get -- that we're proud of, and that we can, you know, rally behind tomorrow night and send to the other states for our kids and our grandkids, you know? And that's the message I've been delivering.


ROY: I think if we have the turnout operation tomorrow night in the freezing cold, we'll do very well.

COLLINS: Well, congressman, you just said you're not afraid to point out Donald Trump's deficiencies. You are one of five, I think, total House members that have endorsed Governor DeSantis, a lot have endorsed Trump. And, you know, Trump pays really close attention to who endorses him, who doesn't certainly who campaigns against him. If Trump is the nominee, are you worried about any retribution or blowback from him?

ROY: No. I mean, first of all, look, we put our faith and principles not in princes. Second of all, like my old boss, Governor Rick Perry. Remember he called President Trump a cancer when they were out on the campaign trail. He ended up being a secretary of energy. Politics is a rough and tumble business. If you can't take that you shouldn't be in it.

Look, I think President Trump should show up and debate Governor DeSantis he's not doing that he's not doing it for a reason. You're going to have a checklist of the issues. Governor DeSantis has cleaned his clock up and down the ballot. So the reality is, he's in a really good spot tomorrow night to do a good job.

I don't fear any of that. I'm out here to try to represent the people that I represent, to try to make this country a better place for my kids and grandkids. And the people of Iowa are responding to that. They get it. They know we need to look forward, not backwards. We need to focus on their issues, not the former presidents' issues, not the donors' issues like Nikki Haley tends to focus on. So I think we ought to move forward. And Governor DeSantis is the right guy to do it as you know,

COLLINS: Congressman, well, I don't know anything. We'll see what the voters decide tomorrow. But I do want to ask you because there was just a call with House Speaker Mike Johnson. Back in Washington, a lot of questions as he's facing what is one of the toughest moments of his short tenure so far as the speaker, Congress is facing to government funding deadlines over just the next month alone.

You had said that there were conversations about potentially removing him from that job, have those conversations become more serious? Should he be worried about job security tonight?

ROY: Yes. I mean, look, as I've said, you know, Mike's a friend, I have no interest in going down that road. I had no interest in going down that road with Kevin. But the fact is, that tool is on the table. We've got to keep having a conversation about getting it right.

What I can tell you the American people are sick of, is doing the same old, same old. And what are we going to do right now? Apparently, the strategy is to put yet again another continuing resolution, this would be the third round, to basically extend almost to six months, half a year, and Nancy Pelosi spending levels. That's not why Republicans were given the majority to spend at Nancy Pelosi levels.

And, by the way, just to buy time to then pass a bill that will spend more than Nancy Pelosi spending levels. That's a non starter. We need to secure the border, cut spending like we said we would, and then use that to go try to build a majority of November.

COLLINS: Congressman Chip Roy, stay warm out there in Iowa. Thank you for your time tonight.

ROY: We'll do it. Let me know when you get over (inaudible) retirement.

COLLINS: Probably never, so thank you for bringing that up again. I really appreciate it.

Meanwhile, as we talk about Iowa, not Alabama, winning it is a big deal but it does not always mean that those candidates are going to the White House. We're going to take a look back at caucus history, what the past might tell us about the future right after this.


COLLINS: Iowa caucuses hold a unique place in the process of selecting a president, that they are not, at least recently, the most accurate predictor of who that person will be. For more than a half century we have seen politicians dedicate months, sometimes even years to courting voters in the state that as the 31st largest population.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Democrats in Iowa are beginning a series of party caucuses which take the place of a primary there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Monday when Iowa begins the actual process of selecting a president.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, election year literally begins tonight. The place, Iowa.



COLLINS: Since the caucuses began back in 1972, these 20 candidates have claimed victory. Whether those politicians went on to become their party's nominee, depends a little bit on which party they come from. For Democrats, these seven eventually saw their names appear on the general election ballot. For Republicans, only four have won Iowa and gone on to win the nomination. That includes a 20 year gap between George W. Bush and Donald Trump. As for actually going from a win in Iowa to a seat in the Oval Office, only these three; Jimmy Carter, Barack Obama, George W. Bush have won a contested caucus in Iowa and then become president.

What Iowa does often produced is surprises. It has always been that way. In 1972 George McGovern was a long shot senator from South Dakota, who used his second place finish in Iowa to propel him to the Democratic nomination. In 1980, Ronald Reagan was considered such a lock that he skipped the last debate. The winner of the Republican caucus that year turned out to be George H. W. Bush, getting enough attention to lend him a spot on the ticket as vice president. [22:45:04]

In 2004, Howard Dean's fall from early front runner to third place in Iowa prompted this infamous scream in Des Moines right after he lost the caucuses. He was trying to keep his disappointed supporters fired up.


HOWARD DEAN, FORMER GOVERNOR OF VERMONT: They we go to Washington DC to take back the White House.


COLLINS: The flip side of that story would be Jimmy Carter who actually got fewer votes than people who chose uncommitted, but he used Iowa as a springboard.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Jimmy Carter clearly the winner scored well came from nowhere.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When Carter first visited Iowa one year ago, few people had even heard of him.


COLLINS: Then in 2008, the Obama mania started with this win in Iowa.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A crushing crowd at this annual Iowa steak fry devouring Barack Obama, rock star treatment for a 45-year-old senator in office just two years 97 out of 100 in Senate seniority. (END VIDEO CLIP)

COLLINS: But for all the stories that look like that, there was also a lot more that look like Rick Santorum or Pete Buttigieg, or Ted Cruz's even for whom winning Iowa was only a highlight. Despite all the stumbles that Iowa has had, like in 2012 when Mitt Romney was originally declared the winner only forever to find out a week later, that Santorum actually had 34 more votes.

Or in 2020, remember those technical glitches that left no clear winner for Democrats for weeks. But Iowa is often about momentum, the conversation coming out of the caucuses can often turn on who can exceed expectations. Surprise second place finishes often generated tension, especially for those like Gary Hart in '84, Pat Buchanan in 1996, even John Kerry in 2004, all three men dramatically overperformed at the polls had predicted and they use that momentum to pull off wins in New Hampshire.

It's exactly what Nikki Haley is hoping to do tomorrow and what Ron DeSantis wants to prevent. Of course, none of those candidates went on to become president, I should note, but Haley is hoping to turn history on its head and next chapter of Iowa will be written tomorrow. Big question is what those expectations look like if anyone exceeds them. Predictions on all of that more with our panel right after this.



PHILLIP: We are now just about an hour away from caucus day in Iowa, and tomorrow's results will have a major impact on what comes next. New Hampshire's primary is only nine days from now. Joining me one last time tonight is our great political panel.

Guys, believe it or not, Donald Trump is once again so in doubt in election results, if that's going to shock you. Take a listen to what he had to say.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: In New Hampshire, they are actually signing people to vote. And I think that's disgraceful. I don't even know if they're allowed to do.


PHILLIP: What does he even talk about?

GRIFFIN: He's referring to same day voting, a concept he should learn. But listen, that speaks to the fact that I think he actually thinks Nikki Haley may be closing in his lead in New Hampshire. He's starting to sow the doubt. We saw this in 2020 when his numbers got close. He's scared.

JENNINGS: I think he's looking at -- and we're hearing about the polls for Haley. She's relying on a substantial number of Democrats and Independents, both in Iowa and then for, not Democrats, but Independents because it's only semi-open in New Hampshire. And I'm sure he's responding to the idea that non Republicans may put his margins in jeopardy. And that's, of course, what his campaign is going to argue if the margins aren't quite what they want. They're going to say, you know, among the Republican Party,

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: -- It's also a way to mobilize Republicans by raising that up -- by raising that specter. But he always takes this insurance policy app before every election, if he does. Basically, he thinks any election that he doesn't win is a crooked election. So this is a normal refrain for him.

But I think he's going to have a good day tomorrow. I don't think he's going to have to make any excuses tomorrow. You know, these polls, he has 28 point lead in that Des Moines register poll, great enthusiasm, got an organization. It would be shocking to me if he didn't have a good day tomorrow.

ALLISON: I think he's sowing doubt because he's selfish, and he's a liar. And he has done it to date and it actually hasn't backfired on him. So let's play this out, let's say it doesn't go like he wanted it to in Iowa and New Hampshire. He still wins but not as wide a margin. And he literally tries to rip the Republican Party apart like he has tried to rip our country apart.

What do you do then as a party? Do you have people who are brave and stand up and say, not on our watch? Well, they haven't done it yet and so he's banking as, you know, the insurance policy that Axe has just mentioned.

GRIFFIN: Well, he also truth be on the lookout for dirty tricks. I think he sees this as an animating factor for his voters to turn out if they feel this kind of specter of there are some wrongdoing and people are trying to keep your vote twice with part that. But again, it's also an insurance mechanism in case he in fact underperforms.

PHILLIP: Just coming to new party trick and the Republican Party, if you don't like the results, just say it's rigged.

JENNINGS: Well, the trick is no matter what happens, you're the victim. Like no matter what happens in the world, whether it's an election or somebody didn't give you the right order at the drive thru. I'm a victim, you know? I mean that is the victimization in American culture right now like --

AXELROD: So I love, just to change the subject, I love that DeSantis says I love being underestimated, I love being the underdog. He entered as the overdog.

PHILLIP: That's right.


AXELROD: I mean, his expectations were - I mean, he spent eight months reducing expectations for himself. But in the last month, he has been a different candidate, I think, and he's closing strong, and he does have organization. And you look at that poll, and you think he might eke out a second. But in terms of him saying, well, I'm going on to South Carolina only because it's on the way to Tallahassee if he finishes third.

PHILLIP: Do you think, if he finishes third, that that's it for him?

JENNINGS: I mean, I guess it depends on the margin. On his candidacy, though, you know it's amazing. Independent expenditures, negative ads in this campaign today, Ron DeSantis has faced nearly $48 million. The next closest person is Haley, 24, Trump 22, Biden 21. It's pretty obvious (inaudible) --

AXELROD: (Inaudible) came from Trump.


ALLISON: Well, I mean, Ron DeSantis was the culture war candidate. And it's not -- I'm surprised actually, it didn't play as well as he thought it would. But maybe that's a lesson for folks don't go after every constituency in American population. PHILLIP: Look, that's another conversation but -- that's another conversation but that woke ideology thing has really gone by the wayside. Yes.

Everyone, great night. Great conversation. Thank you so much. And thank you for joining us tonight. The news continues right here on CNN after a quick break.

COLLINS: Thanks so much.