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CNN Live Event/Special
Donald Trump Very Pleased With Support From Iowans; Only Nikki Haley Or Ron DeSantis Can Be Next To Trump; Vivek Ramaswamy Drops Out Of The Race; Nikki Haley Thank Her Supporters In Iowa; Mixed Opinions Shared By GOP Voters. Aired 11p-12a ET
Aired January 15, 2024 - 23:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: But we have really the support of the people of Iowa, which has been just incredible.
Another man who was actually the first person to endorse me in the entire country. He's a state senator. His name is Brad Zaun. He looks like he's the most handsome guy, I think.
TRUMP: You made it. He had a drive from his caucus location. You made it. I call him the Marlboro man.
TRUMP: You want to say something, come on. Fill up, say something.
STATE SEN. BRAD ZAUN (R-IA): Well, I'll tell you, I had to actually do a TV interview bragging about you. The reason why I was late was because of that, but is he awesome or what?
ZAUN: I am honored to be the first person in the United States to endorse this guy. The next president, the 47th president of the United States, Donald J. Trump.
TRUMP: And when he says endorsed, we're really talking about 2015. He endorsed me before, actually, long before I knew I was going to run. I said, who's this man in Iowa? He's a senator, a state senator, is a good-looking guy too. Doesn't he look? You could pay him and give him a lot of money.
And by the way, Mr. Chairman, I want to thank you for being here. You are so great. Comes all the way from Missouri, which isn't that far. You can't drive an electric car that far though.
Thank you very much. I appreciate it very much. The group of people that we have on the stage is just emblematic of the tremendous group that we've had. We've had such a great team. You know, we did well. We were looking really good in 2016.
And just to go back to the senator, he was saying, I said, who is that guy, Brad, his name? Who is he? He keeps endorsing me, he keeps saying Trump, and I didn't even know I was running. He endorsed me four months before I knew I was running, about four months before the escalade ride down with our great first lady.
And that was Brad, I said, who is he? So, he was the first one. But we have people that are so incredible. Your Republican Party chairman, Bobby Kaufmann, and his son, who is a brilliant guy, and he worked with us.
TRUMP: And I will tell you, that is a family of real professionals, Matt Whitaker, who was the --
TRUMP: -- talented and very good attorney general. Where is Matt? He's around here someplace and he's been with us all the way. You know, we have a man that was very impressive. And I say there's nothing wrong with it. He's so solid and so good that he didn't catch on.
Sometimes being a little controversial is good. He's so perfect. Although he did break his leg during the campaign, that wasn't so good. But it sort of stood out a little bit, Doug. But Doug Burgum from North Dakota, the governor, and his beautiful wife, Kathryn.
TRUMP: And he got out of the race. What people don't know is that he actually supported me on the other side twice already, right? Then he decided to do it, and he was outstanding. But the traction is never easy, right? You need controversy for traction sometimes, and this guy is the most solid guy. There's no controversy whatsoever.
And he's one of the best governors in our country, and I hope that I'm going to be able to call on him to be a piece of the administration, a very important piece of the administration.
TRUMP: And also, just to conclude with this, the entire Trump team, and that includes my two boys who are really here all the time, whenever we needed them.
TRUMP: Whenever we needed them. They are great. Eric and Don. And look at all these people. Suzy, I have to say. And Chris. Chris. And they want no accolades. They just want a victory and they want to make America great again. That's all they want actually. They don't want to be speaking. They don't want to have pictures. They just want to do their job, right? I want to thank you very much, Jason, everybody. You're really
fantastic. What a job you've done. Thank you. So, we're going to come together. We're going to drill baby drill right away.
TRUMP: Drill baby drill. We're going to seal up the border.
TRUMP: Because right now we have an invasion. We have an invasion of millions and millions of people that are coming into our country. I can't imagine why they think that's a good thing.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Donald Trump declaring victory with a historically strong showing in the Iowa caucuses.
If these numbers hold the biggest victory for a non-incumbent president in the modern era for this contest, a relatively subdued speech as these things go so far, although here he is right now under, under my voice. You hear him repeating his anti-immigrant rhetoric.
He did take time to praise his rivals, Haley and DeSantis and Ramaswamy by name. Rather, untrumped like to do that, a gracious, but perhaps a sign of some message discipline, at least for one night.
He also praised his wife, all five of his children, all five by name. The victory for Mr. Trump was a decisive one. The numbers still coming in, but Trump on course, as of now, to have the strongest showing of any non-incumbent in the modern era of the Iowa caucuses.
And the entrance polls show how, with majorities of caucus goers saying that they believe the lie that President Biden didn't win legitimately. It's a false belief but it shows the degree to which Trump has remade and refashioned the Republican Party in his image not only with new Republican voters coming in but also by convincing Republicans of his ideology even when empirically false.
Mr. Trump, of course facing 91 felony charges, and the majority of caucus goers today said that they would vote for him for president even if convicted whether related to his attempts to overturn the 2020 election or his handling of classified materials.
Either way, nonetheless, a powerful, powerful victory for him, record breaking if the numbers hold. Erin?
ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: Jake, you know, interesting. We understand, at least Kristen said, they got rid of the teleprompter right before he was starting to speak. And then, as Jake emphasized, very uncharacteristic. You don't want to read too much into it, but clearly, he got the message. That this is when he was saying, Kaitlan, you know, come together, praising his rivals, that was what he wanted people to hear in this moment. KAITLAN COLLINS, CN HOST: Yes, it shows how confident he feels coming
off of this win. I mean, I haven't heard Donald Trump give a speech like that probably in eight years, and I've been to a lot of Donald Trump's speeches. I mean, he hasn't called Ron DeSantis Ron since Ron DeSantis entered the presidential race.
BURNETT: But Ron DeSantimonious.
COLLINS: He has only called him by nicknames and called him disloyal. And to see him give that speech, I think, speaks to how he feels after this victory tonight. But I also think this is a speech that he's giving after he has not had any wins in several years.
I mean, he lost the 2020 election. He's facing 91 criminal counts. He's going to be in a New York courtroom tomorrow for a trial where a jury will determine how much he owes the columnist, E. Jean Carroll, for defaming her, something that they've already decided. They're not deciding that. They're deciding how much he owes her.
And I think that is what is fueling that attitude that you saw there where he was speaking graciously of his opponents, clearly calling on them to drop out of the race and talking about this notion of uniting the country, which struck me given obviously how polarized the country is at this moment and this idea of uniting liberals and conservatives in that speech.
But I think it's also because he has not had a win like that in so long. I mean, he's only dealing with criminal charges and civil suits and trials.
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: But he's trying to keep a sense of inevitability about this. I mean, this is the kind of speech you would expect to hear from a candidate after Super Tuesday. If they've won, you know, five or six states and they're rolling to the nomination, this is the very first contest, --
COLLINS: Right, right.
PHILLIP: -- the first one. And he was sending all kinds of signals to Capitol Hill, to his rivals. He, just two days ago was attacking Vivek Ramaswamy tonight, he was praising him, he was using Ron DeSantis' actual name.
I mean, he's sending a signal to his party, this thing is over, and he wants them to get on board. We'll see what happens. But that was the signal that was unmistakable to me as he heads into this next week going into New Hampshire.
MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And I was struck by the number of senators and congressmen that were there. I mean, it just shows you that is he has a grip on the electorate, a grip on the base. He has a grip on the establishment too, very much so.
I mean, at the beginning of Trump's candidacy, there was a lot of hesitation on Capitol Hill among members. They were looking at Ron DeSantis, and you started to see slowly, member after member started to get to behind him. That's been an increasing trickle over the last several days.
And you're seeing the Republican leadership in the House all fall behind him. One of the first people to praise Donald Trump for his victory tonight was a new speaker, Mike Johnson --
BURNETT: Right. Very early. Yes.
RAJU: -- coming out very early saying, it's time to unite the party. There's still divisions, Mitch McConnell, John Thune, the one and two Republicans in the Senate are not behind Donald Trump yet. They clearly want to move on from Trump, but they're going to almost, it looks like they can be stuck with him as the nominee.
But Trump expecting the days ahead that more of those Republicans, they'll decide to get on board behind Trump because they don't want to be on the wrong side of the party's nominee potentially.
COLLINS: With all the congressional endorsements mainly of him, I think there were five for Ron DeSantis. And with what Abby just said, that Trump's clearly calling on the party to fall in line.
Ron DeSantis is not falling in line. A senior campaign official says that he is staying in the 2024 race. He is going to go on to New Hampshire. As we know, he has a town hall scheduled with CNN tomorrow night.
But they said that they do believe based on the numbers that they've seen so far after they were complaining about how early this race was called, that he has earned his ticket out of Iowa. So, Ron DeSantis is not dropping out of the race.
PHILLIP: I think the conversation around the Republican Party is always, as they were saying earlier, is that half full or half empty for Trump. Is it that he has so much support, or you know, maybe about half the party wants to vote for someone else.
But when you look back 2016, and even 2020, Trump has only consolidated Republicans, even when there has been division. When in 2016 he came out of Iowa with just 25 percent of the support of Republicans, he went on to consolidate almost all the support in the high 80s, 88 percent in the general election, even more so in 2020 against Trump.
Trump has shown that he can bring Republicans back into the fold. So I don't necessarily think that people should read too much into the folks who cast ballots for DeSantis or Nikki Haley, and whether or not that means Trump is losing support.
PHILLIP: At the end of the day, when Republicans put that red shirt on, they stick with the candidate who is tied to their party. And the challenge has always been, how do you get them to not do that? It just hasn't worked over the last couple of cycles.
RAJU: Yes, and I think one of the questions here is too, the extent to which the Biden team comes and points to this victory to try to essentially scare their supporters to start to fall in line. Have you seen poll after poll where Biden is behind?
We know a lot of Biden Democratic voters, a lot of people who are independent, who don't like Donald Trump, simply don't believe that Donald Trump will be the nominee. But even though it's been clear for months for people who follow this very closely that Trump is the dominant front runner, perhaps it will be more clear to those same skeptical voters after today that Donald Trump could very well be the nominee. The Biden team undoubtedly will try to capitalize.
BURNETT: I mean, Manu, you raised the point earlier, he's winning non- college, obviously. He's doing better than anybody else among college educated. Huge improvement. And also now, Audie Cornish did mention, who knows what independent means when you self-identify in an entrance poll as independent. In Iowa, it's unclear. But nonetheless, he won that group as well.
So he may look at tonight and say, well, actually, there is a path for me to win back some of these people, you know, that had strayed away from the Trump train.
RAJU: Yes, and look, the question is whether or not he can convince the rest of the party that that's the case as well. And undoubtedly, that's going to be one of the key points that they're going to talk to. There's about what, 15 or 16-point swing among college-educated voters, still 36 percent. There's still a lot of those same voters.
That was Nikki Haley's biggest voting bloc. Where do those other 30 percent who voted for Nikki Haley among college-educated voters go? If she were to drop out, do they go to Trump, or do they decide it's time to vote for a Democrat?
PHILLIP: And, Manu, you make such an important point about the Democrats and what they have to do here. And, of course, there's some persuasion that has to happen, especially for the disaffected voters in the middle of the electorate and even in Biden's base.
But fundamentally, they just want to remind people Trump is probably going to be on the ballot. And what does Donald Trump mean? Is it the guy we saw tonight with all the platitudes and praise and let's bring the country together, or is it the one from a couple of days ago or a couple of weeks ago talking about whether or not he's going to be a dictator if he's elected in office?
PHILLIP: Which Trump is it going to be and how the Biden campaign frames that is going to be perhaps more important than trying to necessarily persuade Republican leaning voters to vote for Joe Biden.
COLLINS: But before we even get there, looking at New Hampshire and where Nikki Haley would be poised conventionally speaking bait to do better than she has done maybe in Iowa tonight. And Ron DeSantis telling his campaign telling me that they are going to stay in this race.
That is exactly what Donald Trump wanted to be the outcome of this. He wanted to have a decisive victory for himself and he wanted them to still be in a race for second place because they believe that that helps them going into New Hampshire. Because otherwise, if it had not been a strong showing for Ron DeSantis, he had gotten out of the race, Nikki Haley would be consolidated as the Trump alternative in this race.
And right now, I mean, we still have to wait, obviously, and see what happens. That's not what's happening here. So I think if you are someone who doesn't want Donald Trump to be the Republican nominee, that would probably be the best argument, but that's not what we're seeing play out right now.
BURNETT: And look at the map here, as everyone can just see. Right now, Trump leading in every single county in Iowa, except for the one where we don't actually have any votes come in yet. So, it would be 98 counties right now. He is leading in Iowa.
And the one that we, I can't say 99, because we just don't have the data. And overall, that adds up to now a win margin here, 50.9. Now that's moving back and forth a little bit as these final votes come in.
But you know, you talk about unprecedented, looking at a map that way where it's every single county certainly is something new. Anderson?
ANDERSON COOPER, HOST, CNN: Erin, thanks very much. I want to check in with Kylie Atwood who is at Nikki Haley's headquarters. Kylie, what are you hearing?
KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: Well, listen, Anderson, we're hearing that Nikki Haley is going to come down and speak with her supporters here at the headquarters any moment now. Of course, she's going to be speaking on the heels of President Trump's victory speech here in Iowa.
And it comes as it looks like she is poised to come in third. Of course, we haven't called the race definitively in terms of if she will pull out a victory ahead of Ron DeSantis. But it does look like she's closely behind him right now.
It's important to note that her campaign has been consistently saying that they want a strong showing in Iowa. They haven't defined what that looks like, of course, and they believe that if she came in second, it would be great because they would have exceeded expectations. But if she came in third, that would have been OK because it would have been altogether damaging for her campaign.
But if she does come in third here, what I am hearing from sources close to Haley's camp is that it just puts an incredible amount of pressure on her campaign to do very well in New Hampshire.
Of course, we have seen those recent polls where she's closing the gap with former President Trump, but she's going to have to do very well there if she comes in third here, particularly heading then next into South Carolina, which is her home state.
They feel good about that, but they haven't really been talking a lot about South Carolina. They've been talking a lot about New Hampshire. So we're waiting here for her to come on down. We're hearing that could be any moment now.
And her supporters will be curious to see what she has to say to them because throughout the day, she made her pitch to Iowans across the state, but we haven't heard anything from her tonight since we have called Iowa definitively as a victory for former president Trump.
COOPER: Yes. Kylie, we'll check back in with you. We'll obviously bring Nikki Haley's comments as soon as she gets to the stage. We'll continue to monitor that while we wait for those comments.
Alyssa, what do you expect her to say, then? I mean, she clearly, obviously, is going to go on to New Hampshire.
ALYSSA FARAH GRIFFIN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, no expectation that she's going to drop out. Listen, she's going to say this is where she was expected to be pretty much this entire primary. It was toward the end that she had enough momentum in Iowa. It looked like she might be able to get second place.
She made that gaffe early on about, you know, New Hampshire's actually who chooses president. So I think she's going to lean into that. My caution is this, while I do think she'll perform well in New Hampshire, Vivek likely dropping out tonight would end up likely benefiting Donald Trump. I think he's expected to endorse him.
And then South Carolina is a challenge. South Carolina is not Nikki Haley's South Carolina anymore. She was a popular two-term governor, but it is Henry McMaster and Donald Trump's South Carolina now. So it's hard if you're not able to win in your home state.
SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: And the polling averages in New Hampshire right now, Trump leads Haley by about 14 points. Ramaswamy's clocking in at around five. You figure most of those are headed for Trump. So, him consolidating behind Trump, if that's what happens and the reporting is confirmed, would be hard.
Now, Chris Christie obviously got out, but didn't endorse Haley. And --
COOPER: I want to check in with Kaitlan Collins. Kaitlan?
COLLINS: Field is going to look like, I am being told by an official that Vivek Ramaswamy is suspending his campaign. He has just informed his staff and his team that he is going to do so after tonight's Iowa caucuses. That means he will no longer be in this race.
Of course, a question of who he endorses. He is certainly someone who is going after Trump voters as well. You saw the former president attacking him in recent days because he was worried, he could cut into his margins in Iowa, but then praising him after that decisive victory in Iowa earlier.
But yes, we are still waiting to hear from him, but I am told that Vivek Ramaswamy has indeed suspended his presidential campaign, Anderson.
COOPER: All right, Kaitlan, thanks for that. We're just minutes away from Nikki Haley speaking. So, we're just got to --
JENNINGS: Well, if Vivek gets out and then also endorses Trump, you know, Christie got out and the thought was his getting out would help Haley, but he didn't endorse Haley.
And so, I assume there'll be more pressure on him to rethink that as we head towards New Hampshire now. But it does underscore that Trump is not without reinforcements. It gets maybe some tonight, but then over the next few days, there'll be more and more reinforcements like this to try to close the lid on this thing.
DAVID URBAN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: And I just say also, combining with Scott and Alyssa said, the momentum that Trump's going to have out of this, right? Just the narrative that Nikki Haley had going into, I'm going to be the challenger. What Alyssa just pointed out, there's no path for you. What's your path? Explain it to me. Explain it to your donors when you're going to go ask for more money to go forward.
COOPER: It's not even a two person, I mean if Ron DeSantis wasn't in it, maybe she could have some more of a message.
URBAN: Maybe, maybe, but as Alyssa points out, she's going to do poorly in South Carolina. She's going to get drubbed, if you move forward Super Tuesday, none of those states favor Nikki Haley brand of politics.
DeSantis has a stronger case moving forward to say, I'm the person, I finished second in Iowa. I finished, you know, a distant second, but still a second. He's going to bypass New Hampshire, he's going to do it, probably have a, if he makes it to South Carolina, if there's enough money to make it to South Carolina and still compete, you know, he has at least a strong case.
But, you know, Trump is going to put so much pressure on people to get out. And not just Trump, but there's going to be all these other politicians. And as we pointed out, Ron DeSantis, a young guy, he's got a long future. Twenty is not that far away. GRIFFIN: But looking forward to the general, 40 percent of Iowa
Republicans did not vote for Donald Trump tonight. I don't think we should lose sight of that because he's basically an incumbent. He ran unopposed obviously in 2020, didn't have to do the Iowa caucuses.
That means there is still an appetite of voters who want to see something other than him. And that's not a number to scoff off in a state that he's expected to perform extremely well.
JENNINGS: Well, a lot of --
DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: You can't win the nomination of the Republican Party if the other candidate is dominant among Republicans.
AXELROD: And that is the problem here. She's relying on independents and Democrats, and that's why she's competitive in New Hampshire. So, I mean, I think we saw these numbers kind of scream through in these entrance polls.
AUDIE CORNISH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And Trump himself actually referenced it in the rest of that speech. I mean, we cut away as he went into language, violent language about migrants, invasion, et cetera. He also started going off about what he called the Biden indictment trials, which I'm sure we're going to hear more of that language, calling them election interference.
And then he said, look, there's a lot of people, there's polling showing that you all thought that the 2020 election was trouble as well. So it's like he's still leaning into that and he is encouraged by the portion of the electorate in Iowa that agrees with him.
AXELROD: Also, we should point out that despite his good wishes, tonight he's pounding the living heck out of Haley on the air in New Hampshire right now on immigration, on social security, on taxes.
URBAN: Global, being a globalist.
JENNINGS: Well, immigration was the number one issue in the entrance polls. I thought it was noteworthy how gracious he was. I mean, he could have walked out there and ground a few axes.
CORNISH: Yes, but that's setting the bar so tremendously low to thank the people --
CORNISH: -- who worked for you in the state.
JENNINGS: No. CORNISH: I mean, I think the rest of the speech went --
JENNINGS: I'm talking about towards Nikki and DeSantis.
CORNISH: -- in a different direction.
JENNINGS: No, he was very gracious towards Haley and DeSantis and Ramaswamy. He did not sound like somebody who wanted to --
COOPER: But once you crush everybody, it's pretty easy.
CORNISH: Well, it's easy to be gracious.
JENNINGS: Grab their bones and tell him. But you all are not.
AXELROD: Not so if you're Donald Trump.
CORNISH: He was making a Super Tuesday kind of speech. He was getting up there and saying, thank you, thank you, and to all those other nice little people who also ran.
JENNINGS: I think you're -- I think you're totally misreading this. I think he wants these people on his team ASAP.
AXELROD: Yes, yes.
CORNISH: He does, but he's saying it's over.
JENNINGS: And that was the way to do it, and that was a smart thing to do. He took the prompter down. That was the correct vector in my opinion to do that.
AXELROD: The question is, --
KATE BEDINGFIELD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: But I don't think this is also like a Lou, this is a Lucy in the football moment, right? Like we're going to watch, you know, two minutes of him doing something that's strategically in his interest, which is trying to bring these people into, you know, onto the team as quickly as possible and discuss it as if like, wow, has Donald Trump become a new Donald Trump? Is this like the new more disciplined Donald Trump?
No, he was making a strategic call because he knows it benefits him. I don't think that this represents the new Trump who's going to be incredibly disciplined.
AXELROD: No, but I think it has to be said that he hasn't always done what's in his strategic interest.
BEDINGFIELD: Sure, sure, sure.
AXELROD: And the fact that he even, at this particular moment, was able to muster some strategic discipline is interesting because what we know is he's got a more disciplined campaign now.
AXELROD: The question is, are they? And he's also got a bunch of crazy people on the fringes of his campaign who he also talks to. And the question is, --
AXELROD: -- is he listening more to his campaign? And is he impressed by what they produced tonight?
BEDINGFIELD: But also, the rigors of a day-to-day -- of the day-to-day campaign in the general election. I mean, you don't get to just go out having just won.
AXELROD: Of course.
BEDINGFIELD: And make, you know, --
COOPER: I'm going to give back to Jake in D.C. Jake?
TAPPER: We have another projection to make right now. CNN can now project that when all the votes are counted, Ron DeSantis, the governor of Florida, will come in second in the Iowa Republican caucuses.
DeSantis invested a lot of time and resources in Iowa. He visited all 99 counties. He was counting on a strong showing to keep his campaign hopes alive. He predicted he would win Iowa at one point. This could give him a needed shot of momentum heading into the next contest in New Hampshire, where Nikki Haley is expected to perform well.
Again, CNN projecting that Ron DeSantis will come in second place.
Let's go to Jessica Dean right now, who is at DeSantis headquarters. Jessica Dean, second is not what he said he was going to do, but we are projecting he will come in second. The governor of Iowa, Kim Reynolds, behind you, turning, spinning this into a victory of sorts, I suppose.
JESSICA DEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right. That's what they're trying to do is say that this was, this is a victory of sorts that he has punched his ticket out of Iowa is what one campaign source was telling us that he is now moving on, that he is in this for the long haul, which is what we've heard from him over and over again for the last several days as he's been closing out his campaign here in Iowa.
Jake, the fact remains, as you alluded to, look, he -- they spent millions and millions of dollars. He went to all 99 counties. He spent a lot of time here. They certainly wanted a big finish here. Second is better than third, that's for sure.
But one source saying that they don't love the numbers, that they're not great. Ron DeSantis coming out right now behind me to the crowd. I think we're going to watch for him a little bit and maybe take a listen to what he has to say to the supporters who gathered here in west Des Moines.
Again, Ron DeSantis coming in. We're projecting second place in the Iowa caucuses and coming out to supporters here in west Des Moines, Jake.
TAPPER: Okay, let's listen in Governor DeSantis takes the podium.
RON DESANTIS, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you. Thank you so much.
DESANTIS: They threw everything but the kitchen sink at us.
DESANTIS: We love you too. They threw everything but the kitchen sink at us. They spent almost $50 million attacking us. No one's faced that much all the way, just through Iowa. They -- the media was against us. They were writing our obituary months ago.
DESANTIS: They even called the election and before people even got a chance to vote.
DESANTIS: But they were just so excited about the fact that they were predicting that we wouldn't be able to get our ticket punched here out of Iowa. But I can tell you, because of your support, in spite of all of that they threw at us, everyone against us, we've got our ticket punched out of Iowa.
DESANTIS: And what I learned by going around Iowa is that this country has a basic decency. We've got hardworking people, God-fearing people, patriotic people. You just don't see it every day because of all the nonsense that gets spewed out there by the media, by social media, all this other stuff.
People want to have hope for this country's future. And that's what we represent. We represent a chance to reverse the madness that we've seen in this country, to reverse the decline of this country, and to give this country a new birth of freedom and a restoration of sanity.
DESANTIS: That's what we are going to do. So, we have our marching orders. Our marching orders are to do all we can to preserve what George Washington called the sacred fire of liberty. The same fire that burned in Philadelphia in 1776 when our founding fathers signed the Declaration of Independence.
The same sacred fire of liberty that burned at a cemetery in Gettysburg when our first Republican president, Abraham Lincoln, pledged our nation to a new birth of freedom. The same sacred fire of liberty that was on the beaches of Normandy in 1944, when our band of brothers stormed those shores and helped free the world.
The same sacred fire of liberty that was at the Berlin Wall in 1987 when Ronald Reagan stood there and said, Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall. This is our responsibility to carry this torch and to preserve this sacred fire of liberty. Don't run away from this responsibility. We welcome this responsibility.
DESANTIS: We thank you for your effort. We thank you for your support. You helped us get a ticket punched out of the Hawkeye state. We have a lot of work to do, but I can tell you this, as the next president of the United States, I am going to get the job done for this country. I am not.
DESANTIS: I am not going to make any excuses, and I guarantee you this, I will not let you down. Thank you all. God bless you.
TAPPER: Florida Governor Ron DeSantis taking his far second place victory, second place showing in Iowa. He came in well behind Donald Trump. Current vote, 91 percent of the vote in. Donald Trump's at 50.9 percent. Ron DeSantis has less than half of that at 21.3 percent.
Governor DeSantis saying he got his ticket out of Iowa, saying he's going to keep going, keep on running. You see his congressional supporters on the day is there along with his wife Casey and the governor.
And let's go to Dana Bash now if we can, who I think is in Clive, Iowa. Dana Bash, Ron DeSantis, surpassing the Iowa Des Moines Register poll, which had him in third place, although we should note that poll also suggested that Nikki Haley, who in their poll was in second place that her support that there was not that much enthusiasm for her campaign compared to the other two candidates, Trump and DeSantis.
And let's face it, this horrific weather didn't help anybody that didn't have the --
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes.
TAPPER: -- incredibly dedicated base that Donald Trump asked.
BASH: That's exactly right. And I'm actually here now in Des Moines, Jake. The caucus was done in Clive. So, I'm here along with my colleagues as we've been watching Ron DeSantis, as Jake said, he was very ebullient about getting what he called that ticket out of Iowa.
And it is true that he can live to see another day now. When it comes to, I think what, well, the first thing that matters is his support from voters in the future. We'll see what happens.
But to keep him going to test those, he needs money. And he spent a lot of money. It was a big question whether donors were going to give him another look. Maybe this will actually encourage donors to keep him alive, at least on life support or more.
And I've been talking to people inside the DeSantis campaign, I think all of you have as well. They're very, very relieved that they can say, we're going on. New Hampshire, he's going to touch there, maybe put a toe there when he speaks to Wolf Blitzer tomorrow night.
But he really has almost no advertising there. He's going to try to push Nikki Haley hard in her home state of South Carolina. That's going to be his focus.
KASIE HUNT, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: I mean, my sense, Dana, was that this was a bit of an emotional rollercoaster for the DeSantis inner circle tonight.
HUNT: I kind of what I was hearing was he was going to get out, then he was going to stay in, then he was going to get out. And then of course, we've polled it for him being second and the decision the announcement was made and we're now reporting he's going to stay in.
But the question I still have is, what donors are going to continue giving money when he's going on to New Hampshire where he's the average polls he's at six and a half percent, and then South Carolina he's at seven. Nikki Haley, former governor, at 21.8 percent, and Trump is hanging out around 50 percent.
BASH: You heard --
HUNT: Where's the path?
HUNT: Well, that's it that's a very good question which I think a lot of people with checks are going to be asking before they ride it.
But you heard before this, Donald Trump saying that Nikki and DeSantis were having fun with each other. I think that is one of the key dynamics we're going to be looking for in the future.
Donald Trump, his campaign, they're just fine with this battle for a second because --
CHRIS WALLACE, CNN HOST: Absolutely.
BASH: they're going after each other. And here in Iowa, Nikki Haley spent, and her allies spent, over $30 million in ads. And much of it was to tear DeSantis down.
WALLACE: Yes, you know that the old line, it's a classic line, is that there are three tickets out of Iowa. That three of the candidates of the dozen candidates, whatever, have a road to go on. There may be three tickets out of Iowa but Donald Trump's is first class. And Nikki Haley and Ron DeSantis are in Sturridge (Ph).
You know, they've got tremendous problems. Nikki Haley, obviously has a competitive race according to at least one poll in New Hampshire. We'll see how well she does particularly with the fact that Democrats and independents undeclared voters can vote in that race.
But you know, she's trailing by 20, 30 points in her home state of South Carolina. And I think DeSantis has an even tougher road to run. But given the fact that he's really not competitive in New Hampshire or Nevada, he's talking about South Carolina.
South Carolina isn't for another month. So how without another victory does he or even a close finish, how does he stay in the race for another month where the other two candidates, probably Trump, but maybe Nikki Haley are piling up victories and he's waiting in a race where, as you point, Kasie, he's written single digits in South Carolina, it's really a tough row.
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: And the former president was kind to DeSantis and Haley tonight but that's not going to last. Minute commercials on the air in New Hampshire right now blasting her on immigration. So, this race is fully joined.
You're right about the three tickets out of Iowa. There may be two and a half. I mean, the reality here is it will go on a bit. But let's talk about Donald Trump.
ZELENY: Let's talk about this. He's right over 50 percent. And that's what we all sort of said was the threshold. The historic numbers were George W. Bush in 2000, he won 41 percent of the vote. And in 1998, Bob Dole, OK, had a 13 percent thing.
So, we're going to go to Nikki Haley right here who's now in West Des Moines and she has a big speech to give tonight as well.
BASH: Yes, let's listen.
NIKKI HALEY, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you, Iowa.
(CROWD CHEERING) HALEY: You know, I want to say before we start, when you go through something like this, you can't do it unless you have a faith. And God is so good.
HALEY: And I want to say to my husband who is deployed, who I know may or may not be watching this right now, Michael, I love you.
HALEY: And what keeps me going is I know we sleep under the same stars. So I want to say to Rena and Josh and Nalin, I am so proud of you.
HALEY: The best job I will always have is being your mom. I want to thank my parents who are at home every day. They reminded us how blessed we were to live in America. I want to thank my sweet brother who came out here and was caucusing for me.
HALEY: A good Desert Storm veteran, and I want to thank my other siblings there. I want to thank Michael's parents, Bill, and Carol Haley, who've been fantastic along the way as well. You can't do this without the strength of your family.
I want to congratulate President Trump on his win tonight. We have had an amazing 11 months here in the Hawkeye State.
HALEY: I came to Iowa early and often and I kept coming back. Even though the cold weather is brutal. But the kindness of Iowans will never be lost on me. You're faithful, patriotic, and hardworking Americans. And I will forever be grateful for the time that we had.
HALEY: At one point in this campaign, there were 14 of us running. I was at 2 percent in the polls. But tonight, Iowa did what Iowa always does so well. The pundits will analyze the results from every angle. We get that. But when you look at how we're doing, in New Hampshire, in South Carolina, and beyond --
HALEY: I can safely say, tonight, Iowa made this Republican primary a two-person race.
HALEY: Tonight, tonight, I will be back in the great state of New Hampshire. And the question before Americans is now very clear. Do you want more of the same?
HALEY: Or do you want a new generation of conservative leadership?
(CROWD CHEERING & CHANTING)
HALEY: Thank you. I've spoken a lot of hard truths to America. And here's another one. I voted for Donald Trump twice. I was proud to serve in his administration. But when I say more of the same, you know what I'm talking about. It's both Donald Trump and Joe Biden.
HALEY: They have more in common than you think. Seventy percent of Americans don't want another Trump-Biden rematch.
HALEY: A majority disprove of both of them. Trump and Biden are both about 80 years old. Trump and Biden both put our country trillions of dollars deeper in debt, and our kids will never forgive them for it.
HALEY: Trump and Biden both lack a vision for our country's future because both are consumed by the past, by investigations, by vendettas, by grievances. America deserves better.
(CROWD CHEERING & CHANTING)
HALEY: We deserve a new direction under new conservative leadership. We deserve a president who will focus on the needs of our people, not on themselves. A president who will rebuild our economy, close our border, and stand up to our enemies.
Most importantly, we deserve a president who will stop our self- loathing, end division and fear, and make America strong and proud.
HALEY: Our campaign is the last best hope of stopping the Trump-Biden nightmare. But it's more than that. Republicans have lost the popular vote in seven of the last eight presidential elections. That's nothing to be proud of. We should want to earn the support of a majority of Americans.
HALEY: All the evidence says that if it's a Trump-Biden rematch, it's going to be another toss-up election. It could go either way. We could have more disputes over election interference. And Joe Biden could win again.
HALEY: With Kamala Harris waiting in the wings.
HALEY: Lord, help us if that happens. And then look at what happens when I go head-to-head against Biden.
HALEY: We win in a landslide, it's not even close. That means no recounts, no lawsuits, and no doubts.
HALEY: It means no more Chuck Schumer leading the Senate.
HALEY: No more endless votes for House Speaker because we'll have a huge House majority.
HALEY: We'll term limit the do-nothing Washington politicians. We'll rebuild our economy and secure our border. No more excuses.
HALEY: And make no mistake, we will restore our national pride. We are blessed to live in America and it's time that we remember that. And as we head to New Hampshire, I have one more thing to say.
UNKNOWN: We're going to win.
HALEY: Underestimate me because that's always fun.
HALEY: I love you, Iowa, but we're on to New Hampshire.
(CROWD CHEERING & CHANTING)
HALEY: You know, I have some people I need to thank. Right here in Iowa, we have so many great supporters and I only have time to mention a few, but it's important. Marlys Popma, many of you know and love Marlys, who has been a conservative fighter her entire career.
State Senator Chris Cournoyer, our amazing state chair who has been hustling all over this state but she has been a fantastic friend. Thank you, Chris, for all that you've done.
HALEY: Our state rep Austin Harris, our very first endorsement in Iowa. He believes in us when not a lot of people did.
BASH: And we've been listening to former U.N. ambassador, former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley address her supporters right here in Iowa after coming in third place according to CNN's projections, a very close third to Ron DeSantis as second, both of them very, very far behind Donald Trump.
A lot of what we heard tonight was her trying to get people to see her as somebody who can, not just be in the White House, obviously that's what all of these presidential candidates want, but somebody who can appeal to Republicans, to Democrats, to independents.
And we were all collectively struck by the line when she said she is the last best hope at stopping Trump and Biden and the Trump-Biden nightmare.
ZELENY: The Trump-Biden nightmare. So combining the two of them together, --
ZELENY: -- she's not quite done that before. That's her message, obviously, as she goes forward to New Hampshire. She's been really pushing the electability message. She cites that Wall Street Journal poll, which is a bit dated now, but still serves her point that she's electable over Joe Biden.
The problem is she still has a very difficult path to the nomination, but interesting. No mention of Ron DeSantis.
WALLACE: I was --
ZELENY: She says this is a two-person race --
ZELENY: -- and mentioned Donald Trump but no mention of DeSantis. So the reality is she'll have the New Hampshire playing the field largely do herself. But he's going to South Carolina in the morning. So this is still a three-person race.
WALLACE: I thought it was a really smart speech by her. She didn't finish second, as she and her supporters were hoping. She finished third, but she acted like she finished second.
And basically, if you told me this was the speech that was written anticipating a second place finish, and she decided I'm going to give it anyway, and said Iowa has turned this into a two-person race, and just ignored Ron DeSantis like he's not a relevant player in this race. It's her against Trump.
And then as you point out, she also twinned Trump and Biden and basically said, I'm the solution. If you don't like either of them, pick me.
HUNT: Right. And my question is going to be, is that what she's going to be hammering at day and out in New Hampshire in particular, because she's gotten criticized for essentially not touching Donald Trump in a serious way, not going after him.
And that being part of why she hasn't really broken out the way some might say she could have. Is she going to do more of that?
I think it's also just remarkable how fast the expectations changed for Haley here in Iowa. I mean, I think a week ago --
HUNT: -- if we had said, Nikki Haley is within, you know, two points of Ron DeSantis. That would have been considered a big win, but that Des Moines Register poll really changed things.
HUNT: And to your point, it still is a three-person race.
BASH: That's right. And again, I just want to underscore, she spent millions more than anybody else on advertising her and her allies to try to beat back Ron DeSantis. Didn't entirely work.
We're going to try to sneak in a quick break. We are continuing our coverage of the Iowa caucuses. Stay with us.
TAPPER: Welcome back to our coverage here as we are at this hour of the night approaching midnight East Coast time. Donald Trump, we have declared the winner of the Iowa caucus with 51.1 percent of the vote, a historically sweeping victory.
Ron DeSantis in second place, 21.3 percent of the vote. Third place goes to Nikki Haley, 19 percent of the vote. If you look at the map of Iowa here, 99 counties, all, 98 of them going for Donald Trump. The 99th, Johnson County in the orange there, where Iowa City is, Nikki Haley is ahead there. But just at this hour, just by one vote. Just by one vote.
So, who knows what's going to happen there. But as of now, 99 counties but Johnson is not one, still tremendous showing for Donald Trump.
Let's turn now to David Chalian, who can catch us up on what this all means. David, what does this mean in terms of delegates? Because that is actually the name of the game here. Who walks out here with what?
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yes, so there are 40 delegates at stake tonight in Iowa, and Donald Trump has 20 of them so far that we've allocated. Ron DeSantis has eight. Nikki Haley has seven.
Now look up there in the corner, Jake, you see, you need 1,215 delegates to win the Republican nomination. As you said, that is the name of the game. That's how you become the Republican nominee.
Forty at stake tonight. And if you add this up, you'll see we still haven't allocated three of the delegates. They're allocated proportionately and we got to wait to see where each vote rests itself and comes in at the end of the night to get those last three delegates allocated.
But obviously, Trump's big victory in the caucuses translates to a big victory for delegates. Twenty for Trump, 8, DeSantis, 7 Haley, and 2 for Ramaswamy.
And even though he's dropped out, according to the rules in Iowa, those bound delegates Ramaswamy keeps all the way to the convention. So those will stay with him even though he's no longer a candidate in this race.
TAPPER: If he endorses Donald Trump, which I think he's expected to do, they don't just automatically transfer?
CHALIAN: Yes, he has already endorsed him, I believe, on the stage tonight in Iowa. And no, they do not transfer. They remain Ramaswamy delegates right up until the convention.
TAPPER: Yes, you are correct. I have just been told.
TAPPER: He did endorse on the stage this evening. We're getting a read right now on how results are, Iowa are playing in the next battleground state.
Let's turn to that battleground state. It's New Hampshire where we find our own Gary Tuchman. He's in Exeter, New Hampshire with a group of local Republicans planning to vote in next week's primary.
Gary, you've been watching the caucus coverage with these voters, what are you hearing from them?
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, we're in the southeastern tip of New Hampshire in Rockingham County, population about 300,000. This has been a Republican stronghold forever. Only four Democrats have ever won the presidential race in this county since World War I.
But most recently in 2020, Biden beat Trump. We have 10 people with us from Rockingham County who don't want to see the Democratic winning streak go to two. Correct, you're old loyal Republicans.
TUCHMAN: And they've all been watching CNN's coverage of the Iowa caucus with me today. The first question I want to ask all 10 of you, one sentence headline of what you think this caucus was all about.
UNKNOWN: I would say Trump trumps Iowa, and DeSantis and Haley move forward.
UNKNOWN: I would say that Iowa and then New Hampshire are kicking off a Republican revolution.
UNKNOWN: I'm surprised at DeSantis with all the amount of money and time that he spent that he didn't have a bigger lead over Nikki Haley.
UNKNOWN: DeSantis limps past Haley for second place.
UNKNOWN: Donald Trump proves once again his resilience is like no other.
UNKNOWN: You don't need a debate to win Iowa.
UNKNOWN: Because Donald Trump did not debate. He's five debates.
UNKNOWN: Bring on the great state of New Hampshire.
TUCHMAN: With a New Hampshire accent. I like that.
UNKNOWN: Haley gets frozen out of Iowa.
UNKNOWN: Donald Trump wins Handley in Iowa.
UNKNOWN: In homage to Coach Belichick, we're on to New Hampshire.
TUCHMAN: Coach Belichick, the retired coach of the New England Patriots, who did not have a good year, I'm sorry to say, because I know you're up, but they've won a bunch of Super Bowls.
OK, it's important for our viewers to know who you're supporting right now, to see the context of the comments you're making. How many of you are voting a week from tomorrow in the New Hampshire primary, the first in the nation primary for Donald Trump?
Two, three of you are voting for Donald Trump. No, not you. How many are voting for Donald Trump? Rage on really high. Two of you. How many are voting for DeSantis? One. How many Haley? One, two, three, four. That leaves three of you I haven't heard from. Andy, who are you voting for?
UNKNOWN: David Stuckenberg.
TUCHMAN: OK, so he is the businessman from Florida who's also running, OK?
UNKNOWN: He is better.
TUCHMAN: Who are you voting for?
UNKNOWN: I am undecided at this point.
TUCHMAN: You over-decided?
UNKNOWN: And I'd be happy with any of them, to be honest.
TUCHMAN: You'd be happy with any of them?
TUCHMAN: OK. And Jason up there, Jason Grosky is the chairman of the Republican Party here, so you have to remain neutral, correct?
JASON GROSKY, CHAIRMAN, NEW HAMPSHIRE REPUBLICAN PARTY: Correct, through the primary.
TUCHMAN: Have you made a decision, though?
GROSKY: I think so.
TUCHMAN: OK, but you can't tell us.
TUCHMAN: OK, so the Trump supporters we have are, how do you feel about these results? Donald Trump getting over 50 percent of the vote in Iowa?
UNKNOWN: I expected it. I'm happy with it.
TUCHMAN: And how do you feel about that?
UNKNOWN: Very happy with the results.
TUCHMAN: OK, raise your hand if you voted for DeSantis. You're going to vote for DeSantis on Tuesday. How do you feel about this second place finish?
UNKNOWN: I'm really psyched by it. I think it's a great turnout, a great result. But again, for me, whoever wins the primary, I'm supporting. So, let's get to New Hampshire. Let's go.
TUCHMAN: Well, you heard Nikki Haley just say while we were watching that it's a two-person race even though she came in third place. Do you buy that?
UNKNOWN: No, not at all. I think what he showed is that he is a viable contender. And, you know, it's the first stop. So let's see what happens in New Hampshire. But, no, I think he's going to do great.
TUCHMAN: OK. Nikki Haley. Supporting for Nikki Haley, how do you think the night went for her?
UNKNOWN: Disappointing. I thought she would be a close second to Donald Trump, but I did not envision her losing by that much, though. Disappointed in the results.
TUCHMAN: Nikki Haley's support, how do you feel?
UNKNOWN: I'm a little bit more optimistic with tonight, considering how much time and money that Ron DeSantis spent in Iowa. I think she fared really well, and then now she's coming to New Hampshire, where I think she's going to do very, very well.
TUCHMAN: If Donald Trump is the nominee of the Republican Party, are you all prepared to vote for Donald Trump?
UNKNOWN: Absolutely, yes.
TUCHMAN: Anyone not definitive about voting for Donald Trump?
UNKNOWN: Not definitive on that.
TUCHMAN: OK, tell me why, Bob.
UNKNOWN: Well, I expect my president to act and conduct the prudential affairs of our government in a presidential manner. And I don't think he's been a good reflection of the kind of character I would like to see in the White House.
TUCHMAN: Are any of you also troubled with his character?
TUCHMAN: But you're still ready to vote for him? Because you're not going to vote for Biden. No one here is thinking of voting for Biden. Who are you thinking of voting for if it's Trump versus Biden?