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CNN Projects Trump Wins Iowa Caucuses; Soon, Trump Expected To Speak After Projected Caucus Win; CNN Tracks Iowa Voter Turnout; Donald Trump Wins Iowa Republican Caucus. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired January 15, 2024 - 22:00   ET




Donald Trump came in third with 61 and Vivek Ramaswamy came in fourth with 40.

DANA BASH, CNN HOST: Thank you so much for giving us that information. Thank you.

So, Jake, this is just one, this is I believe the largest of the three precincts that are here. There are two others, one smaller one. I think there are only 36 people who voted there. Donald Trump won there, and then a third where Nikki Haley got 122 votes, after that, Ron DeSantis, after that, Donald Trump. Jake?

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Dana Bash in Clive, Iowa.

John King, there we have -- I mean, that is what happens in elections all over the country, just we have such transparency here that we're able to see even the individual representatives from different campaigns saying, yes, this is what actually happened, including the Trump precinct captain with her hat.

But Nikki Haley, we shouldn't make too big a deal of it. This is one district, and there are more than 16,000 precincts here. But Nikki Haley won this one precinct.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: With 92 to 77, to DeSantis, 61, Trump, 40, Ramaswamy. Haley wins in a suburban precinct, where this is where she needs to do well. I think you would argue that they would like to do it by more than that. We'll see how the other precincts come in, it's just one. But for Nikki Haley, you know Donald Trump is going to win in all these rural areas. If you're trying to get close to him, you have to really perform strongly in the suburban areas where you find your Marco Rubio voters, your more traditional Republicans, where Trump has had trouble, especially with suburban women.

So, that is a win for Nikki Haley in that precinct. I would argue if you're trying to offset all this red you see up here, it's not by enough. This is what Trump wants, right? This is what Trump wants Haley and -- Trump would like to win. But if he's not going to win, he's in play, he's third, and they're kind of fractured. So, that's the math. That's the math.

Back to as we get through the rest of the night, we have a long way to go before we can talk definitively about how much did Trump win by. Is there a clear second place or is it a very cluttered, close together, DeSantis and Haley, and who's second and third, and what does that mean going forward? We're going to have hours to talk about that.

I want to spend a minute, again, you started it, Dana was right there, what you just saw, the woman who was a DeSantis supporter, saying there's no precinct sticker on this, so we can't count it, setting aside a vote for her candidate, because it's not properly allocated.

The other campaign standing there, take a picture of it in case anybody has a vote and we have to recount it. That's democracy in action. And I just want to say this, because more Republicans are watching tonight because it's a Republican caucus night, maybe.

Guess what? People with the same conviction and the same determination to get it right are the people counting the votes in Philadelphia and in Fulton County and in Maricopa County, Arizona, and in Detroit, Michigan, Wayne County, Michigan, they might be Democrats, they might be Republicans, they might have been Sanders voters in a primary or Hillary Clinton voters in the past, they're Americans who show up to help with democracy. In most cases, they get paid nothing. The people who are on the payroll get paid little and they do that. They do that.

With everybody else watching, friends or neighbors who disagree, voting for other candidates, and they look around and say, we okay? And then they report the votes.

The distrust in American politics, in the process, in the legitimacy of the process, is a cancer on American democracy. And so as Republicans watch this tonight, set aside anyone who tells you, yes, but we do it right and the Democrats do it differently, or if it's in a blue city or a blue state, they do it differently. It's just not true, historically. There's zero evidence of that.

Now, back to the math, the person who most raises the most distrust about American elections is winning one tonight by a pretty convincing margin. That is what he needs to do. He's trying to make a comeback. He's trying to say, despite 91 indictments, despite losing in 2020, despite Republican performance in the 2018 and 2022 midterms that are on him, that I should be your nominee and the first verdict tonight in this very conservative state, but the very first verdict is Republicans say, we agree, sir.

TAPPER: Yes, and if this margin holds up, I mean, historically so with the biggest percentage ever in the modern era, George W. Bush with 41 percent.

Let's go to Kristen Holmes now who's at Trump headquarters in Des Moines. Kristen, the campaign has got to be feeling pretty great, at least as of now.

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Jake, they're feeling really good. We are expecting to hear from Donald Trump in about 30 minutes, maybe before that. Just now, an indication of that he's likely on his way. We just saw almost an entire congressional delegation walking in by Byron Donalds, Matt Gaetz, Mike Waltz, all here to support the former president. Obviously, all of them have come out and endorsed the former president, been here campaigning, crisscrossing the state as his surrogates.

But I do want to talk about one thing that John just mentioned, which was this idea of Trump not being able to get suburban women suburban voters, they are aware of that. And what they did in Iowa was try to expand the electorate to essentially favor Donald Trump. And they did that by using data that they collected since 2016, going through anyone who ever showed any interest in Donald Trump, went to an event, gave some money, they reached out and saw if they had caucused before.


If they had not caucused, they made lists of people they believed could caucus for Donald Trump. Then they recruited 2,000 or roughly 2,000 caucus captains, gave them these lists and told them that their job was to recruit at least ten people on the list and bring them to caucus.

This is a very sophisticated program that they had set up here. And the reason why it is so important to look at what they did is that this was a preview to what they will do if Donald Trump is the nominee in states across the country.

This is the ground game that they are planning to use across the country in various states, particularly important critical swing states. They want to try and expand the electorate to bring people out to vote. It is not just Donald Trump's base that they are focusing on now. They are actually trying to get new first-time voters, first-time caucus-goers, in this case, to the polls to support the former president. That's how they are trying to get these numbers up. Jake?

TAPPER: Kristen Holmes at Trump headquarters in Des Moines, where we expect Donald Trump to speak momentarily.

Let's talk right now with David Chalian about the entrance poll. David, tell us more about what voters, caucus-goers had on their mind as they walked into the caucuses this evening.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: One thing we were asking them Jake is when they made up their mind because the time of decision is actually revealing something quite interesting in this race. 36 percent of caucus-goers today tell us they made up their mind this month. Remember, it's January 15th. This month is within the last two weeks. Two-thirds of the electorates said they made up their mind before that.

But let's look at those who decided this month. These were Haley voters. She won the folks that decided in the last two weeks, 34 percent. DeSantis got 30 percent. Donald Trump was only a 24 percent with this group. So, the last two weeks of this campaign were good for Haley and DeSantis if that's when you decided. Their problem is if you look at those that decided a while back before that, remember, that's two-thirds of the electorate overwhelmingly for Trump. We've talked a lot about his sticky support. His voters were locked in from the get-go in this race. And if they made up their mind before overwhelmingly, 64 percent of those that decided before the last two weeks went with Donald Trump. Jake?

TAPPER: Fascinating stuff. Erin Burnett, over to you.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Jake. Well, I mean, when you talk, Kaitlan, about when they decided, interesting, obviously, when you say this month, the people who decided this month, which, as David points out, is just in the past couple of weeks, went for Hailey.

I was talking to a pastor tonight. One of them, actually, he had been praying with DeSantis before the CNN debate, it was at the CNN debate with Jake and Dana when he said, he just felt he saw in her eyes her demeanor, competency, and he switched to Haley. So, we've seen some of that.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: That interview was really interesting for him to say that he had prayed with DeSantis and then moved over to Hailey. What I see when I look at these numbers is this is not something that DeSantis' campaign wants to hear, because they really feel like he hit his stride probably in the last month or so.

It was a campaign full of fits and starts from the beginning. He had his issues with the launch. They persisted with internal campaign drama. They feel like they've done so much better in the last month. But when you look at these numbers and the people who had already made up their minds, it may be too late.

The other number that sticks out, I think it was 64 percent that said that they had already made up their decision before than the last month of so to vote for Donald Trump. And I think that that speaks to what we're watching happen tonight, which is Donald Trump has upended the way that you win Iowa. It is not typical that you see someone who spent very little time in the state, didn't do the Full Grassley, going into all 99 counties, gotten to an open feud with the state's governor, who is very popular, Kim Reynolds, because she chose to endorse DeSantis in this race, he changed the way that you win Iowa.

It doesn't mean it's changed going forward. Donald Trump is a unique presence, as we all know, in politics. But it does show that he had fewer events than Nikki Haley, Vivek Ramaswamy and Ron DeSantis, yet he has still early projected the winner of this race.

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: He also spent a lot less money on T.V., about half of the amount of money that Trump spent on T.V. compared to his closest rivals here. And, really, it just shows the his Trump has moved ahead here. That was one of the big numbers -- yes.

COLLINS: Yes, not spending hardly any money. It is really notable compared to what everyone else.

BURNETT: Yes. I mean, he really -- it was a distant third in terms of spending.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN ANCHOR: Yes. And so much has been made of Nikki Haley's stumbles and she's had quite a few in the last month. But the voters are clearly giving her a second look perhaps for different reasons and some of it has to do with momentum.

I mean, momentum begets momentum in politics sometimes. When it looks like you are winning, she showed some early strength in New Hampshire at the beginning of this year, that has a cumulative effect on voters.

I mean, we saw some movement, you know, a top Chris Christie supporter in New Hampshire, switch over to Nikki Haley earlier this month, really for the sole reason that he thought that she was winning.


He thought that she actually had a shot.

And for the voters who might think, well, we need somebody who's not Donald Trump, they want to jump on the train that is moving and that is helping her tonight in Iowa, even though she does not have as much infrastructure built in as either Donald Trump or Ron DeSantis. So, we'll see how this turns out.

But, so far, it's a it's a reasonably strong night for Nikki Haley, considering that DeSantis has been saying and his surrogates have been saying he has the best organization in the state. As far as we can see right now, that hasn't caused him to distance himself from the pack here in this --

BURNETT: This sort of return investment point we're making. And Trump is that much in.

RAJU: He's been overperforming with all the groups that he underperformed within the last go-round, even showing some of the entrance polls, up 14 percent among college-educated voters compared to last time. And just really the growth in Trump is about those non- college-educated voters. He is now, he's up 65 percent or so with those non-college-educated voters. Back in the last go-round, 31 percent supported him last time. So, you're seeing him just really carry wide swaths of the Iowa electorate, which shows why he's running away with the race.

PHILLIP: And this is his party.

BURNETT: As we await him giving his speech, which as Kristen was saying, in just a few moments, keep in mind, of those people who made their minds up in the last month, just in the past couple weeks, a quarter of them actually still went for Trump, still able to persuade people. You to feel like that was baked in, but we did see a quarter of them just make that decision in the past couple weeks as we await him giving what we anticipate will be his formal victory speech as his headquarters in Des Moines.

We will be right back.



TAPPER: Welcome back, election in America, caucus night. Really, a key race alert for you. Let's check out the numbers on the big board, 38 percent of the vote in, Donald Trump still with a massive lead, 52.2 percent of the vote. It's 25,813 votes. Pulling up second place, 20.3 percent for Ron DeSantis, Nikki Haley not far behind, 19 percent. In the way, way back, Vivek Ramaswamy, 7.7 percent of the vote, and former Arkansas governor, Asa Hutchinson, with 0.1 percent of the vote.

Let's go to Kristen Holmes, who's at Trump headquarters in Des Moines, where we expect to hear from the candidate anytime. Kristen, what's the latest?

HOLMES: Yes, Jake, we're expecting to hear from Donald Trump any moment now. And actually, unclear what he's going to say. They just took the teleprompter down a few moments ago. So, it looks like there might have been prepared remarks, but now he might be speaking off the cuff, which he's prone to do.

We are told that he has been watching the results behind backstage. He's watching CNN and Fox watching the margin in particular. This is what his entire team is looking at. We know that not only is Donald Trump big on the numbers but they wanted a definitive win here in Iowa. They wanted to set the tone for the primary season, and they also wanted to stop any momentum from his GOP rivals heading into New Hampshire.

We know that they were particularly concerned over Nikki Haley. They have seen her rising in the poll. They are already spending millions in the Granite State attacking Nikki Haley on various issues, including immigration, which they think is the key issue in that state. But it is a close margin. And they are hoping that this win, once the final margin is there, that it will be definitive enough to carry him into New Hampshire to give him that momentum and to keep him flying high. That has been something that they've been looking at.

Now, I can tell you they are very pleased. I had been really talking to a lot of senior advisers who had been tamping down expectations, telling me they thought it could be closer to just over 12 percent. Obviously, if the numbers hold, which there's still a lot of time to go, it will be well above that, Jake.

TAPPER: Yes, the numbers hold, it will be a historic victory, no question.

Let's go to Kylie Atwood, who's with the Haley campaign at Haley H.Q. in Des Moines. Kylie, how is the Haley campaign feeling?

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, listen, I just spoke with a source close to the campaign who said that Nikki Haley is here. She's at campaign headquarters. She's huddled with her closest advisers right now, and that comes obviously after she personally made the pitch to Iowans at a number of caucus locations tonight. And what that source said to me is that, right now, things are as they expected them to be in such that it's a tight race between Nikki Haley and Ron DeSantis for number two. This person was pretty upbeat about the prospects for Haley right now. Obviously, we still got a ways to go to see how that battle turns out for number two but they're feeling pretty good as they are watching what's happening.

The campaign, for their part, is being tight-lipped Jake. They're not saying much in real time about how they are tracking these numbers as they're coming in. Obviously, we know that they are looking at every single number coming in and making determination about how positive they feel about this but they're not telling us what those feelings are right now.

Nikki Haley, for her part, hasn't said anything. We don't know when she's going to speak here tonight, but what she did do earlier this evening was a tweet saying that they are seeing democracy in action and saying that there is a country to save, again, on Twitter, making her case that she has been making to Iowans across the state for the better part of the last few weeks.

TAPPER: All right, Kylie Atwood with the Nikki Haley campaign in Des Moines.

Let me throw it back to Anderson Cooper in New York. Anderson?

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Jake, thanks so much.

So, Alyssa, the former president is going to be speaking shortly. What are you anticipating? What is the taking down of the teleprompters tell you?

ALYSSA FARAH GRIFFIN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, it means he's going to go off the cuff. And I think that means that he's excited and happy about tonight's results. I anticipate he's going to say the race is over. Some of his top surrogates, Elise Stefanik, Mike Waltz have already come out and said it's time for the other candidates to consolidate and get behind Trump.

Now, that's an easier case to make if Ron DeSantis comes in second place.


DeSantis doesn't really have an operation in New Hampshire. He's been consistently fourth there. He doesn't have a big operation in South Carolina. That takes the wind out of Nikki Haley's sails. If Nikki Haley comes in second place, that's a much harder case to make because she is within striking distance in New Hampshire. But I expect he's going to say it's time for the party to come around me and this is over.

KATE BEDINGFIELD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: So, here's a maybe slightly counterintuitive point. That would be a great thing for the Biden campaign. The sooner people recognize Donald Trump is the nominee, the better it is for Joe Biden. So, if Donald Trump comes out tonight and says, you know, what Alyssa thinks he will say, that's a great thing for the Biden campaign that can then turn around and say, okay, now here's the choice, and go to their messaging on democracy and can raise money.

And so I suspect the Biden team is sitting around hoping that that's what they're going to hear from Donald Trump.

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think most people sort of think it's a mysterious thing, though, how we say, well, if Haley puts -- she's now behind by a point, if she wins second place by a point, that's a big thing.

I don't know that it makes a difference. The fact is that they're going to essentially tie and they're going to be 30 points behind Trump. This was not a good night for Haley, and it was maybe a moral victory for DeSantis if he wins, as you point out, he doesn't have anywhere to go.

GRIFFIN: Just to respond to that, she has risen up in Iowa in a significant way. It was not a state she was playing for. So, it would show that in this December-January period, she had real momentum. That is something you can harness. I'm not saying it's going to be a blind pass by any means.

AXELROD: She spent like $40 million in the last few weeks trying to win the state. She didn't have organization, which was a problem for her. But I was intrigued by this poll that David -- this entrance poll, the fact that, yes, 34 percent said they decided on her in the last month, but 30 percent, DeSantis. And I found that surprising. I would have thought that Haley would have had a greater margin there.

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: If you look at some of this entrance polling that is flying around out there, I mean, Trump, Trump didn't really struggle with much of anybody. I mean, college, non-college, he did well, independents, you know, I mean, that was thought to be sort of Haley coming in with a --

COOPER: Vivek Ramaswamy is doing all those push-ups with college students, didn't do anything.

AXELROD: Not enough, apparently.

JENNINGS: Voters put the brake on Vivek tonight, I'm sorry to say. And Trump pulled his chain, you know, this weekend, obviously. But I guarantee you, though, as they watched this number dancing around 50, you know, it could have been a bigger night if Vivek hadn't pulled 7 or 8 percent out of this thing. So, I'm sure someone in the Trump office is taking note of it.

AUDIE CORNISH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I have real questions though about who is an independent, what they mean by that and this answer. I'd love to see more data there. And I also think overall turnout was down and it wasn't just the weather. I think it's going to be interesting to see whether or not this is kind of depressing for this electorate, right, that like at a certain point, why bother? Trump is our guy and he's doing what needs to be done. DAVID URBAN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. I don't think -- I think the people showed up were excited. I don't know that what the numbers say.

CORNISH: Moderates sort of like 9 percent. I mean, that's just saying, you know what, never mind.

URBAN: Iowa is that you know a Trump kind of state, right? This is -- it is definitely a Trump state. We're going to go to New Hampshire, you're going to see a different outcome. Nevada is going to be very Trumpy.

CORNISH: How different do you truly believe that outcome to be?

URBAN: In New Hampshire?

CORNISH: I mean, it feels like a lot of these states --

URBAN: Well, no, it will be significantly different because you have a lot more moderns and Democrats and unaffiliated voters can vote in New Hampshire as well, so kind of skews the voting -- vote outcome there. But you're then you're going to go on next to South Carolina. And what you're going to see is the candidates going to stay the same and the ground operations going to stay the same. They're going to lift and shift their people from Iowa to New Hampshire, South Carolina. The operation is going to continue to churn and Donald Trump, if there are anybody left to be churned by South Carolina, it will be done if it's not done before.

JENNINGS: And at some point, finance has become an issue. Because --

URBAN: I was going to say, if anybody is left.

JENNINGS: If the conclusion is Trump's rolling, and these folks are not viable, the money will dry up.

COOPER: The former president is about to speak. We're going to take a quick break. We'll be right back.



TAPPER: More votes coming in from Iowa, so let's bring you another key race alert, 40 percent of the vote in. Donald Trump still has a massive lead with 52.5 percent of the vote. He has 27,144 votes -- just updated, 52.7 percent for Donald Trump. Ron DeSantis in second place right now, 19.9 percent of the vote. Nikki Haley in third, 18.6 percent of the vote. She's trailing him, but not by much. In the rear, Vivek Ramaswamy, 7.9 percent of the vote, and Asa Hutchinson with 0.2 percent of the vote.

John King, where are these votes coming in from and where do we expect them -- am I walking? Okay. Where are these votes coming in from and where are we still expecting votes to come in? KING: Come on in. Come on over. You see the counties in gray. That's where we're still waiting. They get reported from the precinct. We've seen our reporters in some of them. They go to the state party, they make them official. They come into the system. So, as we stand, pretty soon, we're going to start seeing a lot more votes come in, without a doubt.

So, what are we waiting on? Number one, where are we? That's a pretty convincing lead, and this is the battle we've been talking about. That's a muddle, right? It's a muddle. You'd rather be a 20 percent than 19 percent if you round those up, but that's a muddle. The question is, as we get the rest of the votes, does this stay this way? And, again, I've said it before, if it stays this way, he wins twice, he wins the race above 50 percent, and there's no clear alternative beneath him. And so the race carries on with Trump, the formidable frontrunner. We're not there yet. We're not there yet, but that's where we are at the moment. So, when the former president comes out to speak soon, you could expect him to be quite confident.

TAPPER: But just to interrupt for one second, there was -- the context is people were saying, oh, what if DeSantis slips to third place? Is there even a path forward to him? I think, as of right now, at least, based on these numbers, that's not a question anymore. He's, of course, going to keep going.

KING: It depends how you ask the question. Let's see where we're at the end of the night. I mean, look, if you're third, what's your rationale? Because the next stop, New Hampshire, it is a tough state for DeSantis. However, both campaigns, Haley is in stronger shape in New Hampshire. She's not going to get out. There's no way she's going to get out. But both campaigns are going to have conversations of what are we telling voters.


Do we need to change what we're telling voters if we're coming in 30 points behind Donald Trump? You know, is the party just -- is there anything we can say or has half the party decided we want him? We just slipped a little bit below 50 there as you look. This is what's going to happen as we go through. We're about half of the estimated vote counted right now.

TAPPER: Oh, look at that. Yeah, we're up to 50 percent.

KING: Yeah. Yeah. So, on our map at the moment, Donald Trump is winning every county that's reported votes except for two. We'll see if that holds up. There are more votes to be counted in these places. The two places where he's not winning at the moment, we're waiting on this. There's a glitch in the feed about the precincts. This county votes have been counted, but the precincts thing is too complicated to explain. But we're waiting for more. We've been stuck at this for a long time.

So, this is an important county for Nikki Haley and for Ron DeSantis. Haley needs to do well here if she's going to climb into second place. This is one of the places she would have to do it. If DeSantis beats her here or is competitive here, maybe. Where is he leading at the moment? DeSantis is leading out here in Sioux County. Again, just barely. By our count, 30 percent of the vote. We have to see if the rest of this comes in.

One of the things about Sioux County, if you come in and look at the demographics of Iowa -- sorry, let me come back up here for this -- it's one of the most evangelical counties in the state. If you look at the -- the darker the shading, the higher the evangelicals. That's what DeSantis hoped to do everywhere in Iowa -- is run strong among evangelicals. That is simply not the case when you look at all that deep red. Doesn't mean he's not getting votes in these places.

So, again, we started this a little bit earlier, let's just look at it again. Trump is leading just about everywhere, right? And so then the idea is, so where is DeSantis coming in second? The counties that stay lit, that's Trump red. He's leading in those counties. DeSantis is coming in second in most of the counties Trump is winning, most.

A lot of them, this is why, so you say at home, well, if he's coming in second in most of those counties, why doesn't he have a more clear lead in second place? Because Haley is coming in second, when you look here, she's coming in second to Trump in fewer counties, but she tends to be doing them closer to the major population centers.

TAPPER: So, more votes.

KING: She's coming in second where there are more votes. And so, that's what we're seeing play out, which is not unlike the Cruz-Trump dynamic, but this time Trump's on top with a bigger lead. And the second candidate is contesting in the conservative rural areas. And Rubio won in those population centers. Trump's doing quite well in them at the moment, but that's where Haley's coming in second.

So, we have to see, come back to the full results so we don't confuse people at home. We're up to 51 percent. We have to see if this continues. But at the moment, if you're Donald Trump, again, you want to be above 50 to quiet anyone who says he's under 50? We'll see if that argument works, but that's what it will be. You want to move that up a little bit, but you love that.

TAPPER: Yeah. David Chalian, tell us more about the people, what was on their minds of the voters when they -- the caucus goers -- when they came in today. Give us some more entrance poll data.

CHALIAN: Yeah, Jake. You and John were talking about this at the wall a little while ago, the education level, college graduate versus non- college graduate, and how that defines our politics also here in the Iowa caucuses.

So, among college graduates, which were roughly half the electorate, 51 percent of the electorate, you see that Trump is at 36 percent. He's winning college graduates to Haley's DeSantis not too far -- to Halley's 30 percent, not too far behind DeSantis at 27 percent.

I just want to note this number Donald Trump now at 36, eight years ago when he was running he was at 21 percent among college graduates, just 21 percent. Now, take a look at the non-college graduates Donald Trump's winning 65 percent of them. They make up, again, half the electorate. He's over two-thirds of the non-college graduates are with Trump. DeSantis got 16 percent, Haley at 10 percent.

Again, eight years ago, that Trump number was 28 percent. Tonight, it's 65 percent. Do you think Biden legitimately won the election? Thirty one percent of Iowa Republicans, just 31 percent, said yes, correctly, that Biden legitimately won 2020. Haley wins 54 percent of those voters. DeSantis, 30 percent. Trump, as you might imagine, only wins nine percent of those voters.

But two-thirds of the Iowa caucus goers tonight believe that Biden, incorrectly, they believe, that he was not legitimately elected. Donald Trump wins seven in 10 of them, 69 percent. DeSantis wins 18 percent. Ramaswamy at eight. Haley only wins five percent of those people that say Joe Biden was not legitimately elected in 2020. Jake.

TAPPER: Which of course, as you noted, is incorrect. Erin Burnett?

BURNETT: Important to always note that. All right, and we are awaiting, of course, Trump's victory speech. Manu, David was just going through there, something that you had alluded to earlier. If you're looking at college educated, non-college educated, Trump hugely wins the non-college, but does better than anybody else among college.

RAJU: Yeah.

BURNETT: And much better than he himself did last time around.

RAJU: Yeah.

BURNETT: What does that say?

RAJU: I mean, he's going to make the argument that he's going to be the most electable. And that's actually could help him down the line in these primary states. It's so interesting that the electability argument, that was just Haley -- DeSantis said that he could not win in a general election. But poll after poll said that he can beat Joe Biden.


He's going to point to these numbers to show, in particular, that he can win with that electorate, which has been such a vulnerability for him. And if you're Ron DeSantis after tonight, even if you become in second place here, if you narrowly beat Nikki Haley in this state, what is your justification for continuing into this race after all the investment you put in going through 99 counties, building the organization that they touted time and time again?

Getting the endorsement of the governor. This was built for Ron DeSantis to win. He said that he would win time and time again until recent weeks, but this is not the showing that he wants to.

BURNETT: I mean, again and again, he said it right, Kaitlan. And then a week or two ago, it changed to, we're going to do very well. COLLINS: Yeah, and as we are just looking at this and waiting on

Donald Trump to come out to that lectern and give his victory speech, I'm just struck by the other number though that two thirds of Iowa Republicans, based on what David just showed us, don't believe that Biden legitimately won the election and you see how that influences which candidate they're supporting here.

The small number that do think that Biden legitimately won the election, only nine percent of them voted for Donald Trump or said they were supporting Donald Trump. Nikki Haley and Ron DeSantis did better than them. Donald Trump, obviously, ran away with these voters and it just makes me think of how Ron DeSantis and Nikki Haley handled this campaign and where they were willing to go there with Donald Trump and where they weren't.

And on the election lies, there were parts of it where initially they would kind of answer it a certain way. I remember in New Hampshire when Ron DeSantis was asked by a voter about January 6th, and he said, I wasn't anywhere near the Capitol that day, not really addressing it. He did end up coming closer, saying that yes, he believes Biden won the election. But those are striking numbers to look at.

PHILLIP: And there are warning signs, I think, even beyond the Republican primary, for Democrats, for the Republican Party. Over the course of Trump's political career, we've been able to rely on these pretty clear stratifications in his voters. You know, non-college educated white voters typically vote Trump. That's his strong suit.

I think what we're seeing tonight is a flattening of some of that. He's doing well with college educated voters. He's doing well with non-college educated voters. He's doing well with women. He's doing well with men. I mean, this is a candidate who is basically becoming just almost like what you would expect a generic Republican to look like in spite of all of his flaws.

And for Democrats who are preparing for a general election, I don't think the Republican electorate is going to be, obviously, what the general election electorate is going to be, but Democrats should pay attention here because Trump has been able to somehow get college- educated voters, including some suburban voters, enough tonight, to give him another look, to push aside their concerns about his fitness for office, about the charges against him.

You cannot rely on the past necessarily to predict the future in this upcoming race. And I think, tonight, really underscores the way voters look at Trump continues to change and he is becoming more acceptable in the eyes of more voters than ever before.

UNKNOWN: Which is something a lot of Americans don't really hear.


RAJU: I wonder how much of that has to do with the Republican opponents not going after Trump's vulnerabilities like the fact that he has been charged 91 times. He's facing four cranial indictments. Instead, rallying behind him time and time again. And that could -- that helped him presumably be the electorate.

PHILLIP: They're making the argument for him. And in the 99th hour for Ron DeSantis then to change his tune, which in the last week, he's gone harder against Trump than he has in the last year. Too little, too late, obviously. But, you know, I think to be fair, we don't know what it would have been like if they had gone full-frontally against Trump on this stuff. Some of these voters just do not want to hear it.

COLLINS: Yeah, and you know, the thing is we know that we will probably hear and everyone should brace themselves for is for Trump to come out and continue to spread those lies. I mean, he does it in a lot of his campaign events and his appearances. He still says that.

He also says things and talks about what the second term is going to look like. You know, Dana was at that site with him earlier where she was talking about his record, what he's run on, all the other candidates are talking about what they will do. That is the one place where Ron DeSantis has been willing to hit him, saying he didn't actually achieve what he said he was going to do.

But he has also continued to talk about what he'll do if re-elected. And something he said yesterday stood out to me is, Abby and I were talking about this, is he was talking about getting the Justice Department back and the way that he's going to use that. And I think that is a key part of this that people are watching. Whether or not that's a message that the Biden campaign will use effectively is a big question.

BURNETT: Manu, you know, numbers -- as I know you like to look at them. But just to take a -- if you look at right now, the gap, and these numbers are changing bit by bit, but 50 percent-ish for Trump, he's going to come in just above, just below, 30 points back, 30 points. Just sometimes just to take a pause here and think about that.

If you add together Haley and DeSantis, you're still 10 points behind Trump.

RAJU: Yeah.

BURNETT: All right. And by the way, if one of them were to go away, all the votes aren't going to go to the other one, right? DeSantis goes away, some of those votes are going to go to Trump.


RAJU: Yeah.

BURNETT: Just to give a sense of where these numbers -- what they really are saying.

RAJU: It just really shows you that just increasingly, narrow path, perilous path for anyone to challenge him. You're right. DeSantis, let's just say he drops out here. That doesn't necessarily help Nikki Haley. Some of those voters were conservative voters. Some of those voters were evangelical voters. As we've seen, Nikki Haley's support has largely come from moderate

voters, from independent voters, people who don't necessarily identify with DeSantis voters, which shows you that unless something dramatically changes, Trump is going to be on a march to the nomination.

It'll be interesting to see, obviously the pressure will be on DeSantis after today, what to do. Nikki Haley herself, almost certainly would probably try to take it to her home state of South Carolina, but if she cannot turn around in South Carolina, how does she stay in the race?

BURNETT: All right. Well, Jake, of course, as we are all sitting here, also on the screen, the Trump podium where we're awaiting his victory speech any moment now from Iowa.

TAPPER: But first, I'm going to bring you a key race alert because we have even more of the actual vote in. Let's check it out. Donald Trump, of course, we already declared the winner of the Iowa caucuses. He is right now in the lead by 36,717 votes. That's how many he has, 50.3 percent of the vote.

Ron DeSantis in second place with 21.5 percent of the vote. Nikki Haley in third place with 19.7 percent of the vote. She's about 1500 votes behind Ron DeSantis in that battle for second place. The votes keep coming in and the margin that DeSantis has keeps getting slightly and slightly bigger.

KING: Yes, and so you see here 21,000 votes is your statewide lead right now. What's different from when you were here just a couple of minutes ago. A couple of minutes ago, Ron DeSantis was leading up here in Sioux County the Northwest Connolly State. They brought in more votes, around 60 percent of the estimated vote there.

So, we have a ways to go but a big jump for Donald Trump there and so he's now leading in this conservative county again in the northwest corner of the state, South Dakota, Nebraska, closer to there than, say, Illinois, over here.

TAPPER: Evangelicals going for Donald Trump this election as opposed to eight years ago is one of the big stories of the caucuses.

KING: Right. And so we know this is Donald Trump's party. The conversation tonight is by how much, how deep, what's the breadth and the depth of that. We know it's farmers, we know it's ranchers, we know it's evangelicals, is it suburbanites, is it college educated, is it that?

So, this is your 2024 map. You see the gray? That means counties. We're still waiting for votes. At the moment, Nikki Haley is leading in one. There, just go back and look at this. This is 2016, right? This was the fight. This was when Donald Trump was the outsider insurgent, saying all these establishment Republicans, guys with big names -- Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Governor Kasich, Governor Bush, Carly Fryer, the business, Mike Huckabee had run in Iowa before, Chris Christie, who ran again this time. Hundred and forty-four years plus, I think, was my math at the time of

elected experience in this 2016 field. Trump loses to Cruz here. Look, it's a pretty split night, right? There was a tug-of-war fight for whose Republican Party is this? Is it the establishment? Is it the insurgence guy? That was eight years ago. It's Donald Trump's party, period.

TAPPER: We should know more people voted eight years ago than this year.

KING: So far, we're only at 60 percent. I was just trying to do that math. You're exactly right. Lousy conditions tonight. That will be, we'll see where we get to the final total, but it does look like you'll come under the 2016. Guesting right now, we've got a ways to go, but you just do the math. If that's accurate, sometimes a big precinct comes in.

We've seen some pretty packed precincts. We've seen some pretty empty. I've been texting with voters all around Iowa and I was sending me pictures from their sites. Some of them are pretty crowded, some of them are pretty empty. Look, it's nasty conditions. So, if you live in a rural area, you got to drive 30 miles. If you're older, if you don't trust your car.

TAPPER: Yeah, not safe.

KING: If you don't trust your car. So, it looks like it's going to be down. How much down from 2016? We'll know in a couple hours when we get to the finish line. But more importantly, I mean, there is no argument about whose party this is, at least in the state, in middle America -- middle conservative rural America.

There's a possibility we're not done here yet. You're looking at 99 counties, and as we have this conversation right now, there's a possibility when we end the night, Donald Trump wins all 99.


KING: I mean --

TAPPER: Last of them now, 99 counties, but Ames ain't won.

KING: This is, yes, Story County right here where Ames is, but again, we've been stuck here. There's a glitch in the state party has more of these votes countywide, but they're having an issue with the precincts, and we count them by, you know, our system counts them by which precincts they came from.

So, there's a technical issue that's delaying us getting this in the wall. The state party has these votes. There's no big hang-up in Story County about counting the votes. It's a processing issue about getting them out to official, officially report them. So, that's going to change, and it's going to change quickly when it does. I just want to tell you that because we went up to 63 percent.

I just want to make sure it wasn't here. It was not. But that's going to, at some point, that's going to change. And when it does, because that's a big county, that number is going to change a little bit, too. But if you watch this fill in, again, it's a big win. We want to see what the final number is, all right? Trump would like that, you know, it was even bigger, but that's 30 points to your next, you know, 30 points to your next challenger right there.

And more as significant as significantly at the moment, at least they are lumped together. So, neither one of them can raise their hand and say, Iowa says I should be the person to take on Trump. Everybody else get out.


TAPPER: Yeah, fascinating stuff. Let's go to Anderson Cooper. We're still waiting for Donald Trump to come out. But until then, Anderson, take it away.

COOPER: Yeah, Jake, we're expecting that any minute. David, I mean, if you were the Biden campaign, what do you take away from the numbers tonight?

AXELROD: Well, look, I think I'd look at two big numbers in this entrance poll. One is, do you think Biden legitimately won in 2020? Twenty-eight percent said yes, and 32 percent said Trump would be unfit for the presidency if convicted of a crime.

Those are the voters I want to talk to. That's -- those are the people I want to isolate and understand and know how to communicate with. That's where I do my focus groups. I think that creates a possibility for Biden. So, I take some encouragement from that.

URBAN: Yeah, but you even asked the question earlier --

AXELROD: I'm not.

URBAN: On people who think Trump's unfit to be president, the follow- on question is, but would you still pick him over Biden?

AXELROD: Of course. And that's why they need to find out -- they need to learn more about these voters. But at least it creates a universe of voters that you want to talk to.

CORNISH: You can tell, don't stay home. Like, there is another option for you, especially if they start to see Haley falter.

AXELROD: Well, let me -- as I said earlier, I mean, there are -- there are doubts about the President, mostly about his age, and there are doubts about Trump, about his character and fitness. And the question is, how do you tilt people in his direction?

BEDINGFIELD: Yeah, well, tonight's also a fundraising night for the Biden campaign, right? I mean, they're absolutely -- they can look at some of these numbers and look for voters to target. But, you know, this is really a night that's about setting up this contrast. It's about putting Donald Trump forward as the existential threat. We know that's a motivator. I mean, the Biden campaign announced this morning that they raised

$117 million over the course of the fourth quarter of last year. I mean, they're sitting on a pretty solid war chest. And so for them, I think their strategic priority tonight is money, money, raise money, juice their base, remind people Donald Trump's going to be the Republican nominee.

COOPER: You made the point earlier that the Biden campaign watching this tonight, they want this settled. They want to see Donald Trump as the front-runner.

UNKNOWN: Yeah, they do. They do. Donald Trump -- Donald Trump

GRIFFIN: And that's what's remarkable because Biden advisors have gone out and actually said that they want Donald Trump to be the GOP nominee because they feel the greatest level of confidence head to head with him. They can litigate his indictments, January 6th, these drags that do not resonate in a general election.

And it's stunning because Republicans are still going ahead and nominating him, despite the fact, likely nominating him, despite the fact that others perform better against him.

URBAN: Yeah, and look, with all due respect to Kate, I know she's left the White House, but the messaging of the Biden administration hasn't been great, right? To date, I mean, in all these polls, the battleground states all across America, this is not one state. Trump is leading still. So, the Biden messaging on threat to democracy and daubs and all these things and the indictments, it's not working.

BEDINGFIELD: Well, no, no. But time and again, we've seen at the ballot box, that's not true, right? I mean, yes, polling, yes, polling.

URBAN: But that hasn't been Trump on the ballot.

BEDINGFIELD: Well, but it has been the Republican vision. It's been the Trump vision. I mean, every time voters have gone to the ballot box in the Biden administration, they've chosen Democrats. So, you know, yes, can polls give you information? Can you ask a question a hundred different ways in a poll to get an answer you want to get? Yes. And I'm not saying there isn't data in those polls that's not instructive to the Biden campaign.

UNKNOWN: Of course.

URBAN: I would just say this, in 16 and 20, I was working on the Trump campaign, we were never ahead of Biden in any polls, ever. Just so you know, never once. We lagged dramatically in every poll.

AXELROD: The question is what story, the question is what story Biden wants to tell, what contrast he wants to draw beyond the whole democracy issue. What story does he want to tell? Because the truth is they haven't really had an overarching narrative that they've been driving every day. Now, if Trump is viewed as the nominee, or essentially de facto

nominee, we'll see what happens next week in New Hampshire, the time has come to be consistently driving the same set of points surrogates the President, everyone.

CORNISH: And it helps that Trump himself will be out there more publicly in terms of people are paying attention tonight, right? All the people who might've been like, is this really happening, are going to see tonight, it's really happening.

URBAN: Does anybody think that there are people that don't think that Donald --

UNKNOWN: Yes. I mean, I don't know. No, but there are people who see a lot of wild cards, they're not paying attention.

CORNISH: There are people who are not paying attention.

JENNINGS: There are a lot of people who are very tuned out. This will be a reminder to them that there's an election. So, you know.

CORNISH: As will his appearance in court tomorrow morning.

JENNINGS: I would say that the Biden-like number from this weekend, that I mean, he was at 33 percent in the "ABC News", "Washington Post" poll, I wonder, coming out of this now that Trump's clearly, obviously in the driver's seat here, if they don't see a bump out of this among Democrats, if this doesn't like wake some Democrats up, if they don't see some pop up over the next couple, I'd be very concerned.

GRIFFIN: Well, and because this is where I feel like the democracy argument isn't really resonating from Biden. I'm somebody who can't vote for Donald Trump because of the threat to democracy.


Yet it does -- it's not translating to voters in a way that they feel like it's still animating enough for them to come out.

AXELROD: Look, it is --

GRIFFIN: And especially considering how low he's polling, that he risks losing them.

AXELROD: It is part of a message. It is part of a message of what kind of future do we want for the country. There are other elements to that message that go to middle-class viability and other things that have to be part of that message. Can I just say one thing before the President comes out with, I'm sure will be a message of humility and gratitude -- former president.

But, you know, he -- we talk about how he's performed relative to past candidates, but incumbents behave differently and he's treated like he's sort of an incumbent. Yes. In this race, we've never seen a situation like that. That's point one. Point two is well, yes, he's an unconventional candidate and he

doesn't appear as much as the other candidates and so on. He did one conventional thing here, which is he organized. And in a situation like this with what appears to be a relatively low turnout.

JENNINGS: And let me tell you what else --

AXELROD: That's important.

JENNINGS: Look, game respects game. The other conventional thing that's going to happen is a guy sitting at near 70 percent in the national polls who just romped in Iowa. I suspect, and he's gotten a lot lately, but I suspect you're going to see an avalanche of establishment or party-level endorsements over the next couple of weeks as they put pressure on people to close the door on this primary right.

GRIFFIN: That's what I'd keep my eyes on, is the consolidation that's going to come from endorsements, from money, from just to kind of say the primary is over and it's time to start fighting against the black.

COOPER: Well, do you think DeSantis and Haley speak tonight?

GRIFFIN: I think Haley should speak tonight. I think if DeSantis wins, he will speak tonight. I think Haley's got to speak.

COOPER: Well wins mean what?

UNKNOWN: If he finishes strong second.

GRIFFIN: Sorry, sorry. Wins this race for second.

COOPER: A strong second.

UNKNOWN: He intended --

UNKNOWN: He finishes with 20 percent.

GRIFFIN: But again, we knew that.

UNKNOWN: He'll speak for silver medalists everywhere.

GRIFFIN: Trump was going into this basically as an incumbent. If you combine the collective results tonight of the four candidates that are in the race, they would have been effectively the same margin that he would win by, about 50 percent. We've always known that a crowded field for the Republicans was going to favor Donald Trump.

JENNINGS: If you intend to keep campaigning, you have to speak and say that out loud. I suspect that's what Haley will do. You know, DeSantis has an appearance with us tomorrow night. He's supposedly going on to South Carolina. But these populations he's going to be competing in, South Carolina, the Super Tuesday states, they look a lot more like Iowa than they do New Hampshire. And so there has to be --

COOPER: By the way, the former president is coming out. He's going to work, maybe work the line a little bit. Let's listen in. Let's hear the crowd.



I'm lonely and I gladly stand up next to you when they met her still today. Cause there ain't no doubt I love this land. God bless the USA.

COOPER: As we wait for him to start speaking -- So, you think there's a good chance that Haley or DeSantis -- and DeSantis may speak tonight?

UNKNOWN: If you're going to keep going, why not go out and say, you know, if you're DeSantis, by the way, DeSantis actually beat the polling. You know, he was in the teens, now he's the one who beat the polling. If you intend to keep going, I think you have to go say that. But I think you have to have some realism if you're either one of them about the situation you're currently in.

UNKNOWN: Yeah, you're saying that fundamentally the numbers. The night is not that different from what we thought it might be, and their numbers are not --

UNKNOWN: There's such a basic courtesy, by the way. You've got supporters there.

UNKNOWN: Donors, right?

UNKNOWN: Haley has a real theory of the case for New Hampshire that she believes in, that her campaign team believes in. Trump obviously is coming out of tonight with a lot of momentum. She needs to come out tonight, remind people why she has a chance in New Hampshire and what her shot at the nomination is.

People are not going to draw that conclusion for themselves. She's got to go out and say it. And you've got Trump here flanked by staff and former governor Doug Burgum.

UNKNOWN: Yes. Burgum the first opponent who has endorsed Trump.

UNKNOWN: By the way, Ramaswamy, if he does get out tonight and endorses Trump, you know, it's about 24 hours to me. He's got some points in New Hampshire, so that's going to give him a little pop in New Hampshire. That's something he's looking forward to here, I'm sure, is consolidation actually in his direction as opposed to the other direction.

UNKNOWN: And by the way, I do think if and when DeSantis gets out, I would expect he would endorse Trump very fairly quickly afterward. Whereas I think Haley will play a longer game there before she would ultimately back him.

COOPER: You have no doubt DeSantis would --

UNKNOWN: would end up backing Trump fairly quickly. UNKNOWN: Well, look, I mean, think about it. Ron DeSantis is a young

guy, 28, right? It's only a few years away. He's still he still has a claim, a stake in this Trump base.

UNKNOWN: Which he said he would deliver for in a way that Trump may not be able to.

UNKNOWN: Well, he and Haley are. She's only 51. She's looking down the road as well.

COOPER: Let's listen in.

DONALD TRUMP; FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: Thank you. I want to thank everybody. This has been some period of time, and most importantly, we want to thank the great people of Iowa.


Thank you. We love you all. What a turnout. What a crowd. And I really think this is time now for everybody, our country, to come together. We want to come together whether it's Republican or Democrat or Liberal or Conservative, it would be so nice if we could come together and straighten out the world and straighten out the problems and straighten out all of the death and destruction that we're witnessing that's practically never been like this.

It's just so important and I want to make that a very big part of our message. We're going to come together. It's going to happen soon, too. It's going to happen soon. I want to thank some of the great people. We have so many Senators. If I go through every name, we'll be here all night, and everybody's going to get angry at me. But the Senators, the Congressmen from Washington, they came down from all different states.

I want to thank you very much. I want to congratulate Ron and Nikki for having a good time together. We're all having a good time together. And I think they both actually did very well. I really do. I think they both did very well. We don't even know what the outcome of second place is.

And I see Gary Lake. Congratulations, Gary. Very good. I spotted her after announced because she's terrific. She's going to be a Senator, a great Senator, I predict, right? You're going to be a great Senator. And I also want to congratulate Vivek because he did a hell of a job.

He came from zero and he's got a big percent, probably eight percent, almost eight percent, and that's an amazing job. They all did. They're all very smart, very smart people, very capable people. I think most importantly, I want to thank my incredible wife, First Lady, I'll say, former and maybe future.

But more important than Melania, I want to thank her incredible, beautiful mother who passed away a few days ago, and she's up there, way up there, she's looking down and she's so proud of us, and I just want to say to Amalia, you are special, one of the most special people I've ever known. And that was a tough period of time for the family, but she's amazing,

she was amazing. So, I just want to thank what she's done for our family and her husband who's home right now and very lonely. He's a lonely man, but he's going to be okay, Victor. They're great people, great parents to all of us really, great parents, but also to Baron. Boy, did she take care of Baron. That's how he got so tall. He only ate her food.

And I want to thank my family, generally. They've worked so hard, and they've taken so much abuse for being good people. I mean, good people, but Eric and Don. They really did. These two have been working so hard and they -- you know they have another job also so they have to do it all but they've been working so hard and I know that Ivanka is home and Tiffany's home and they're watching and I know that Baron's watching.

Good old Baron. I said, you're going to be a basketball player. He said, well I like soccer, dad, actually. I said, at your height I like basketball better but you can't sometimes you can't talk them into everything but he's a special boy but the whole family is just incredible. And my sister, Elizabeth, who's just the biggest fan. She's just an incredible person and always supportive. We love Elizabeth so much.

Also, we have a woman who took a big chance. You know in most states we have support of everybody, the Congress, the Senators. We had Marco Rubio. We had Rick Scott the other day. We have, no, probably 50, 55 percent of the Senators, and now they're all calling and saying, we want to endorse you, Sir. I said, oh, great.

Same thing with the Congress, men and women. We have tremendous, much more than anybody probably has ever had in this position. And we love them all, they're great. They're really trying to do a good job for our country. But one woman in Iowa who really stepped up was your Attorney General, Brenna Bird. She really, really stepped up. Where is Brenna? Come here.

BRENNA BIRD, IOWA ATTORNEY GENERAL: Thank you. Thank you. Proud to do it. We need you.

TRUMP: She stepped up, she's going to be your Governor someday, I predict. So, we'll see. We'll be watching, but she really did. She broke away from the pack. And she had tremendous courage and it wasn't easy. In some states, it's easy. In other states, it's a little bit more difficult. But we have, really, the support of the people of Iowa which has been just incredible.