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CNN Live Event/Special

Trump Triumphs in Iowa Caucuses, Republicans Rally Behind Former President; Biden Campaign on Alert as GOP Unity Grows Stronger; New Hampshire Becomes Next Battleground. Aired 12-1a ET

Aired January 16, 2024 - 00:00   ET



UNKNOWN: I think I'd look to an independent candidate who came close to my Republican principles.


UNKNOWN: Maybe someone like Joe Manchin would be someone I'd consider. You know, I think his economic policies are good. I like the way he reaches across the aisle. And I think we need to have a president that's able to work with both parties so we can start getting things accomplished in Congress.

TUCHMAN: Do you think these Iowa caucuses were a good night for the Republican Party?


UNKNOWN: Absolutely.

TUCHMAN: Does it leave you inspired that this streak of one, Joe Biden winning in this county is not going to happen again here in 2024?

UNKNOWN: It's a good start.

TUCHMAN: You think it's a good start? Will you all be voting on Tuesday?

UNKNOWN: Absolutely.


TUCHMAN: Thank you for joining. It's a pleasure meeting all of you. I will tell you, we've been talking a lot about the weather in Iowa. I will tell you that right now the forecast in New Hampshire for a week from Tuesday is a high of 40 degrees and no chance of snow or rain right now. So it will feel like Tahiti here.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR AND CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, that's shorts weather at Dartmouth. Thanks, Gary. I appreciate it. A huge victory for Donald Trump tonight in the first contest of the 2024 presidential election. Donald Trump, the overwhelming favorite of Iowa Republicans to challenge President Biden in November, winning by a historically strong margin. We saw Trump a short while ago thanking his supporters who appear undaunted by the former president's four criminal indictments, 91 charges in his 2020 election lies. They're giving him a strong headwind into the New Hampshire primary next week.

Trump topping 50 percent with most of the vote counted. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis pulling off a needed second place showing in a state he was counting on to keep his campaign going. Former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, a close third. She looks to friendlier turf in New Hampshire, where independents can vote and the kind of Republicanism is more moderate. Let's go now to Jessica Dean, who is with the DeSantis campaign in Des Moines. Jessica Dean, what's going on there? They're off to New Hampshire. I believe he's going to have a town hall with Wolf Blitzer.

JESSICA DEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, but before that, Jake, and this is what's interesting and an indication of where this campaign is headed. They are going to South Carolina, an unconventional schedule on the way to New Hampshire. Usually everyone's getting on the plane right now and flying directly to New Hampshire. Instead, DeSantis has just added a second stop to an already planned first stop in South Carolina before he's going to head to New Hampshire. And advisers are telling myself and our colleague Steve Contorno that this is representative about where this campaign is headed, that the governor remains adamant he is staying in this race and he has trained his eyes on the state of South Carolina, where he and advisers feel like Nikki Haley is vulnerable.

Of course, it's her home state. She was governor there. They make the case she hasn't been on the ballot in many -- in several years and that the voter makeup there is more of a DeSantis voter than it is a Haley voter. And to that end, we are told that campaign staff is moving from here in Iowa to South Carolina. They know that New Hampshire is not polling great for Ron DeSantis in their campaign. So, it is not a surprise that they are starting to divert a lot of their attention right now to South Carolina. But the big question in all of this, Jake, of course, is you need money to continue on, to continue forward.

We know, according to sources that have told Steve Contorno and I that they will begin calling donors first thing tomorrow morning. But what I'm told by one fundraiser is that he came in second. It's a marathon. They have to get to South Carolina where they believe that DeSantis can knock Nikki Haley out. Now, that's a tall order. And there's a lot of ground to make up. As you mentioned, he came in a distant second place here in Iowa after spending millions and millions of dollars visiting all 99 counties and really putting in a tremendous amount of time and resources here. So, moving to South Carolina, it will be interesting to see if they can have a better showing there. With a little less time, a lot less time, frankly, months less time.

But we do expect that he will really turn his attention there, that that's where they feel like this is headed. They also feel like, Jake, advisors and sources close to the campaign have told us they feel like Trump could be vulnerable should he be convicted of any of these counts that he's currently charged with. The question is, is that actually true? Ron DeSantis wants to be the last man standing, if it is. Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Jessica Dean at DeSantis headquarters in West Des Moines. Let's go to Kylie Atwood now in Des Moines, who is with the Nikki Haley campaign. Kylie, I suppose it's on to New Hampshire for Governor Haley.

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. She made that very clear tonight. She said, I love you, Iowa, but we are on to New Hampshire, pivoting quite quickly out of the Hawkeye State here, of course, you know, thanking her supporters and thanking her family here on stage. But making it clear that she believes that the path for her still looks quite good after coming in third place here in Iowa.


Now, she claimed on stage tonight that this is now a two-person race between her and former President Trump. That is just not a reflection of reality, though, Jake. I mean, when you have DeSantis coming in number two here in Iowa, as Jessica was saying, his team is feeling quite good. So, it actually is still a three-person race. Nikki Haley feels like she still has momentum, however, in New Hampshire. She says she has momentum in South Carolina and beyond. And she did congratulate former President Trump on his win here in Iowa. She didn't mention Ron DeSantis by name at all in her speech tonight.

And that's significant. I mean, she's trying to cast this once again as a competition between her and the former president. But it's just not the reality right now. Now, when you talk to folks who are close to the Haley campaign, what they say after tonight is that the pressure has mounted in an incredible way for her to pull off a victory in New Hampshire. She's got to do not just well there, but really win the state to demonstrate that she can actually compete with former President Trump in a formidable way.

So we'll be watching to see what her next few days in New Hampshire look like. She's headed there tonight. That's what she told us. She's headed there tonight. That's what she told us. Folks here at her campaign headquarters in Iowa, we know she has a rally in New Hampshire tomorrow. She's going to be doing a bunch of media. She'll be joined by Governor Sununu, the governor of New Hampshire, who has endorsed her and her campaign, you know, feeling like they've got some momentum there and they want to seize on it. Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Kylie Atwood with the Haley campaign in Des Moines. Thank you so much. Anderson.

COOPER: Jake, thanks very much. I want to play actually some of the sound from Nikki Haley's voice. Speech tonight, particularly that line about it now being a two-person race.


NIKKI HALEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: When you look at how we're doing in New Hampshire, in South Carolina, I can safely say tonight, Iowa made this Republican primary a two-person race. (END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Now, math was never my strong point.

DAVID URBAN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Where's Daniel Dale when we need him?

COOPER: Does that hold true? I mean, is this --

URBAN: No, I mean, it's not a two-person race. I mean, you know, I'd like to hear what Governor Sununu has to say, because I think this afternoon I saw him on our network saying that she's going to have a strong second-place finish in Iowa and it's going to really good slingshot her here to New Hampshire. So clearly that wasn't the case. I think she spent -

AUDIE CORNISH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: She's still pushing the theory, though.

URBAN: Well, it's fine. It's kind of what politicians do. But she spent gobs of money, right, gobs of money to kind of just kind of tread water, it seemed like, in Iowa. And now she's, you know, headed into New Hampshire with kind of a -- It would have been better to have lower expectations. That poll, the Des Moines Register poll, didn't help her. Let's put it that way. I think that actually hurt her in the state. Then, you know, you'd set expectations high. How do you downplay that? And then she comes across, like, in third, you know, not even coming close to Trump. So -

ALYSSA FARAH GRIFFIN, CNN COMMENTATOR: Well, it's interesting to see the strategies kind of pan out for the second tier of candidates. DeSantis making these trips to South Carolina, thinking he may actually have more momentum there with the changing electorate since Haley had been in office, and her focusing still on New Hampshire. Nevada's a bit of a wildcat.

So, they have this sort of debate of, you know, Trump is going to do the caucus versus the primary. Nikki Haley's appearing in the primary. DeSantis and Trump are in the caucus. So, she's not in a position to get delegates there. So, what she's going to need to do, yes, perform well in New Hampshire, but she needs to pull off a miracle in her home state where the demographics and her support have changed quite a bit.

KATE BEDINGFIELD, CNN COMMENTATOR: I mean, I think it's, you know, it's interesting. She said it's a two-person race. That's obviously, that's wishful thinking. And, you know, I guess technically it's a three-person race. But I think the reality, it's a one-person race. I mean, you look at where Donald Trump is in New Hampshire right now, then you look at South Carolina, they're just, there's a lot of mathematical gymnastics. But the reality is we have not seen big pieces of the Republican primary electorate say they're looking for somebody other than Donald Trump. We didn't see it tonight. We're not going to see it in New Hampshire either.

DAVID AXELROD, CNN COMMENTATOR: Yeah, I agree. And if there was one big message out of this, these caucuses tonight is it's about Trump's strength. But she has an expectations issue now in New Hampshire. If she's going to vault into South Carolina, where, by the way, she's behind by 30 points in the aggregate polling.

She's going to have to pull something off in New Hampshire. This was not exactly a propulsion into New Hampshire. Now, the thing that I was interested in is what she said. You know, she basically used it to project message. And her message was the same one she's running in a new ad there, which is Trump and Biden are both lack of vision of America's future. They are both consumed by the past, by vendettas and grievances. So, she's trying to tie Biden and Trump.


But I'm not sure that that's what people think about Joe Biden. So, it seems like a stretch to tie them together in that way.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN ANCHOR: You know, it occurs to me, and I'm sure many people watching, that Trump's real competition and his running mate are his criminal and legal woes. They are seeming to be his biggest asset. They have not undermined him in the eyes of the electorate. It may have even boosted him to many in Iowa, making him a kind of legal and political martyr. And you can see that he tried to make the attempt today in his speech to talk about a coming together, which is very foreign to hear out of Trump's mouth over the last several months or years on this very notion.

But one of the things that Haley is focused on is, do you want more of the same? And you know what I'm talking about. She's obviously into me, not only maybe the personal or character flaws that she sees, but also the idea of the baggage, the weight of all of it. But instead, it might actually be stepping stools for him. And how you reconcile that as voters going into any of the states, I'm just not sure.

CORNISH: Or whether you need to. I mean, she said very kind things about Trump. There was a lot of kindness going around tonight in terms of saying congratulations to the former president.


AXELROD: That was all she said.

CORNISH: She could have not said it.

AXELROD: She said the bare minimum.

CORNISH: She could have said, hey, we need to do mental competency tests or whatever she's been saying on the stump. So, I think that there is a sense. Of like still being very delicate. It's just not giving fighter going into these.

URBAN: I think what Chris Wallace had the great line. I think it's the line of the night. Right. There are three tickets out of New Hampshire, of Iowa. Trump's his first class to Sanders and Haley and Sturridge. I think, you know, let's not lose sight of that. And if you think if you visualize it, that's kind of what happened. Right. Trump is going out, rolling out. And these two still the bottom fighting. GRIFFIN: Can I just mention, though, in 2020, of course, he ran uncontested. And I would Trump won 97 percent of Iowa. Tonight, he won just over 50 percent. There is an appetite within the GOP for something different. It is the minority. But that does exist. And if it gets down to a head to head race, there could still be something there.

AXELROD: If it's the minority -

URBAN: And I may grow hair, too, but I don't think it's going to happen.

COOPER: Still ahead. How convincing was Donald Trump's Iowa win? And what does it tell us about the Biden re-election campaign? We'll have more on that ahead.

ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: Hello and welcome, everyone. I'm Rosemary Church. We'll get back to CNN's live coverage of the Iowa caucuses in just a moment. But first, we do want to get you caught up on some international headlines. The U.S. is condemning what it calls reckless and imprecise missile strikes by Iran in northern Iraq and northern Syria. Iran claims it destroyed a spy base for Israel's Mossad and the sites of anti-Iranian terrorist groups. Kurdish leaders in Erbil. Iraq report at least four civilians were killed.

Iran says some of the missile strikes were in response to the recent ISIS terror attack in Kaman near the grave of slain military leader Qasem Soleimani. The U.S. says no American personnel or facilities were targeted and that it supports the territorial integrity of Iraq. Well, meantime, Houthi militants in Yemen are sending a clear warning to anyone planning to launch an attack on the country. It comes after they claimed responsibility for attacking an American vessel in the Gulf of Aden on Monday.

U.S. officials say an anti-ship ballistic missile struck a bulk carrier causing minor damage. Here's what a Houthi military spokesperson had to say.


BRIG. GEN. YAHYA SAREE, HOUTHI MILITARY SPOKESPERSON (through translator): The Yemeni armed forces consider all American and British warships and vessels participating in the aggression against our country as hostile targets within the bank of targets of our forces. The Yemeni armed forces affirm that the response to the Americans and British attacks is inevitable and that any new aggression will not remain unpunished.


CHURCH: Hamas is calling for more attacks on Israel after a woman was killed in what Israeli police are calling a suspected hit and run terror attack. Police say two suspects stole vehicles and ran over people in the central Israeli city of Ranana on Monday. Seventeen were injured, including seven children. The suspects are in custody. The attacks came the day after Israel's war against Hamas passed the 100- day mark. In a statement, Hamas said the attacks were, quote, a natural response to the occupation's massacres and its continued aggression against our Palestinian people.

Ukraine says rescuers are searching for survivors after Russia launched another strike on the hard-hit Donetsk region in the east. Local authorities say Russian forces fired a missile and dropped two bombs on one town on Monday, wounding at least three people.


Officials say at least five others were trapped under the rubble of a collapsed building after what they called, quote, another cynical attack by Russians against civilians. Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the Ukrainian Air Force says one of two Russian planes Ukraine targeted over the Sea of Azov was able to land. But still, he said, it is beyond repair and considered destroyed. Earlier, Ukraine had claimed both Russian aircraft had been destroyed. Moscow has not commented on Ukraine's claim.

North Korea's leader is calling for a change to his country's constitution that would redefine South Korea as the, quote, number one hostile country and permanent enemy. According to state media, Kim Jong-un warned that North Korea would completely occupy the South in the case of war, which he says is becoming increasingly likely due to recent escalations. Pyongyang (ph) says it will also move to abolish three state agencies aimed at promoting cooperation with South Korea following its decision last month to no longer seek reunification. I want to thank you for joining us. I'm Rosemary Church. We return now to our live coverage of the Iowa caucuses.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: Looks like Donald Trump just won Iowa coming out a few moments ago on social media. Also, this, of course, so closely watched by him and his campaign. And MJ Lee at the White House has been watching this all night. What is their takeaway right now, now that they see that Donald Trump has won and definitively so, MJ?

MJ LEE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erin, I think the Biden campaign's takeaway tonight is so many people's takeaway, and that is that the Republican Party is the party of Donald Trump. We saw the president tweeting some minutes ago that this election is about me versus extreme MAGA Republicans. The campaign said in a fundraising email earlier this evening that if Donald Trump is our opponent, we can expect endless lies. One Biden campaign advisor I was speaking with said, what tonight does is basically solidify and cement the idea that the Republican Party is the party of MAGA, and importantly, the party of the MAGA agenda.

And they expect the party to sort of double down on all things Donald Trump going forward. You know, Erin, we've talked about this a lot. The Biden campaign fully expects that the very likelihood in November is that they are going to be going up against Donald Trump. But, you know, when I've spoken to campaign advisors, campaign aides, White House officials, supporters of the president over the last few weeks, you know, almost to a person, everybody says this is going to be a really tough race. This is going to be a really close race. And they are particularly sensitive to the fact that their economic message hasn't broken through. But I would say the big asterisk to all of that is that they say voters are not yet paying close attention.

And they say that at some point when that changes, there is going to be a major reset of sorts. And, of course, what we're seeing tonight with Trump being projected the winner, he takes a big step in that direction. And the Biden campaign is very cognizant of that.

BURNETT: All right, MJ, thank you very much. And, you know, one of the things they're looking at, of course, John, is just how dominant was Donald Trump's win if you're Joe Biden. And you look at that map behind you. Wow. You haven't seen something so red in a caucus in a long time, if ever, right?

JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Sometimes one word does it, Erin, and that's the word. Wow. Yes, they're studying this, the Biden campaign. Guess what? They're also studying this in the Haley campaign, in the DeSantis campaign, in the half of the Republican Party, roughly.

They just not want Donald Trump. They're looking at this. And guess what? They might not like it, but they're saying, wow. Look, the numbers don't lie. That's a 30-point gap. That's a 30-point gap in the state of Iowa over his two opponents who say they get a ticket out, but they have a really steep hill ahead of them. The numbers don't lie. Your eyes don't lie. Ninety-nine counties, only one at the moment, shaded for Nikki Haley. It's Johnson County right here. And at the moment, she is ahead by one vote. One vote.

So you look out. You're coming into the night. You're thinking, this is Donald Trump's comeback. Ninety-one charges against him. Can he, do it? Well, we know Donald. Donald Trump's strength has been in the rural areas. Can he keep his strength in the rural areas? Look at this. He won them all. Every county we consider a rural county, Donald Trump won them all. You go back to 2016, when he was the new guy trying to take over the party, he split them, mostly with Ted Cruz there. So, Donald Trump was the newcomer then, still did pretty well. He is by far the most dominant figure in the Republican Party in small-town rural America. That matters.

Those votes add up as you move on through the nominating calendar and if he's the candidate in November. So then it was, okay, well, he's great. Donald Trump does great in small-town America. But the suburbs, that's Donald Trump's kryptonite, right? Was in 2020. Was for Republicans in 2018 and 2022. In the suburban counties in Iowa, I know it's Republicans voting tonight. But this was, if Nikki Haley was going to have a chance, if Ron DeSantis was going to break through, they were going to have to do it in the suburbs


Only that one county, Johnson County, did Nikki Haley win. Donald Trump won every other one of the suburban counties. Again, go back to 2016. This is Trump and that is Trump and that is Trump. But that's Marco Rubio. That's Ted Cruz in there. He split it in 2016. He is now, after some weakness as president in the suburbs, showing some signs that he might be able to rebuild in the suburbs, at least with Republicans. It is just simply dominant. If you take this out and look again, we can go deep into the numbers. We can do all these detailed explanations or we can just do that. That is a wow. That is what the math, the votes tell us tonight in Iowa as it has filled in.

But even before it filled in, David Chalian, our political director, saw this, David, as the early entrance polls started to come in. You're looking. Is Trump vulnerable? You know, is it the suburbs? Is it rural voters? Is it the issues? And the answer was no.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Exactly. He wasn't vulnerable on any slice of it. But one of the things I looked at is, well, how is he doing with the issues that matter most to Iowa Republicans? So, first of all, overall tonight, the economy was the number one issue. Thirty eight percent of Iowa caucus goers said economy was the most important issue, followed very closely by immigration, 34 percent; foreign policy and abortion down there at 12 and 11 percent. So, let's look then. Among economy voters. Right. So, for that 38 percent that said the economy was most important, Trump wins 52 percent of them. He wins a majority on the most important issue for voters.

DeSantis way back at 19 percent. That is larger than the overall 30 point lead. He has Haley at 16 percent among economy voters. Then look at this immigration voters again. They make up roughly a third of the electorate says it's the most important issue that they had on the top of mind with their decision tonight. Trump wins two thirds of immigration voters. Sixty four percent to DeSantis is 18 percent. That's a 46-point lead on the a dominant issue for Iowa Republicans. Haley down at 11 percent.

And just to show you one slice foreign policy, it was a much smaller share of the electorate that made that their most important issue. Only 12 percent. But that is where Haley bested Trump. Forty five percent to 36 percent. There just weren't that many voters, though, John, who said foreign policy was issues on the economy and immigration, which, by the way, you hear Donald Trump talk about on the trail in his ads every single day. Those two issues are what he's hitting. And that worked for him in the Iowa electorate.

KING: And it is fascinating in the sense that he didn't campaign as much as the other candidates there. He didn't spend as much money as other candidates there. But those numbers and that wall, Aaron, just tell you they follow him now. In 2016, he was the insurgent trying to win them over. He launched a hostile and successful takeover. The party now what Donald Trump says on the issues, Republicans follow him. It may not fit the ideology of the party, say, 10 or 15 years ago, but it's his party now. And that wall and those numbers prove it.

Now we move on to New Hampshire, a different electorate. If you're going to get them, that's your one shot. I would argue that is your one shot. You have to prove him vulnerable early on or else this snowball goes down the hill.

BURNETT: All right, John. So, you know, it's interesting you talk about New Hampshire and on to New Hampshire. They go. That focus group was fascinating that Gary just did. Right. It broke down. You had some Trump voters. Some DeSantis, some Haley in New Hampshire. You know what, Abby? Every one of them said except for one. One person out of the entire focus group said that he wouldn't vote for Trump if Trump's the eventual nominee. And maybe that is the core takeaway from what we're seeing.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN ANCHOR: Yeah. I mean, the Republican Party, they're interested in the process. And I think we've actually seen that pretty consistently in those focus groups that Gary's been doing after debates and town halls and the like. They like the process. They like that there're candidates in the arena. But at the end of the day, while many of them don't prefer how Trump conducts business, they will vote for him. We've seen that from top to bottom, bottom in the Republican Party, they will vote for Trump if it is Trump against a Democrat.

And that is the reality of today's Republican Party. It's a challenge, I think, for Democrats in particular, because Trump is not going to be easy to beat. He has a knack for consolidating. The Republican Party and the base, even people who actually really do not like him, he has a knack for consolidating those folks and getting them out to vote.

BURNETT: Yeah. And we saw that. We saw that tonight.

MANU RAJU, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah. And I was interested in those entrance poll numbers about the issues that the voters really drove them here on immigration, economy, siding overwhelmingly with Trump. DeSantis has been hitting Trump on the economy about the COVID during COVID and about the debt and the like and hitting him on being too soft on immigration. Not finishing the wall -


BURNETT: Not finishing the wall -


It did not work. Those attacks did not work. It's also, -- a lot of this also reminds me of 2016 in some ways. At that time, Marco Rubio was third place in Iowa. He declared victory. These two are a distance second and third place. They essentially declared victory. Haley says this is a two-person race. Well, it's not. It is still a three-person race. Even if there was a two-person race, it's still not clear they could catch up to Trump. But the fact that this is going to go on, potentially New Hampshire, South Carolina, is just going to make it that much more difficult for anyone to dethrone Trump.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Yeah, immigration being the second on those issues, right under the economy for voters in Iowa stood out to me because also if that's something that persists, it would be a warning sign for the White House because that is one of the issues where President Biden is much weaker with voters. And this is in Iowa. Obviously, it's a rural, more conservative state, but they're not a border state. And for them to have immigration as one of their top priorities stood out to me.

But listening to Ron DeSantis and Nikki Haley give their speeches where they both were touting how they finished here, even though neither finished the way that they wanted to, it also just shows it's a failure, at least certainly in Iowa. We'll wait to see what happens in New Hampshire of the Trump alternatives in this race. There have been many people who stepped forward and presented themselves and they were outright rejected to a large degree from these voters. And so, the question is whether or not that persists.

But what we have seen is, is Donald Trump, at least just in Iowa, able to resurrect his political career after leaving the White House the way that he did with January 6th. He was being impeached. He was an outcast. He was an outcast with a lot of Republicans before Kevin McCarthy made his trip down to Mar-a-Lago. And the way that in those three years he has been able to consolidate this support and to build the support with the Republicans who were there in the room with him, we'll see where it goes. We don't know where it goes after Iowa, but it does say a lot.

BURNETT: All right. Well, still ahead, more insight from our entrance poll of caucus goers about voters' views on Donald Trump's legal troubles and the divide between Republicans and people who say that they are independents.


COOPER: Donald Trump scoring a big win in Iowa tonight. The caucus victory coming as he prepares to head back to court in one of the many legal cases he's embroiled in right now.


A lot to talk about. We're going to go to Dave -- go to David Chalian with more from our entrance poll. David, what -- what other numbers do you have?

CHALIAN: Well, we're taking a look here, and obviously the Iowa Republican caucuses are dominated by Republicans, Anderson. They made up 82 percent of the electorate.

We asked them if Trump would still be fit for the presidency, if indeed, he's convicted of a crime. So among Republicans, the vast majority of voters tonight, 69 percent say yes, only 27 percent saying no, he wouldn't be fit for the presidency.

And look at this among independents on the same question. So independents are a much smaller share of the electorate, just 16 percent, but they're splitting evenly: 49 percent say yes, Trump still fit for office even if convicted of a crime; 47 percent say no.

We also asked about whether or not folks think the Biden election in 2020 is a legitimate one, which we know it is, but among Republicans, 69 percent, seven in 10 say no, Joe Biden's election was not legitimate. They're wrong. It was legitimate. Twenty-five percent say yes.

Again, among the smaller share, the 16 percent of independents -- And again, these are independents who are participating in a Republican caucus -- 41 percent say Biden was legitimately elected, but still six in 10 of these independents participating today wrongly say that the 2020 election was not legitimate, Anderson. COOPER: Wow, incredible. David Chalian, appreciate it. I mean, those numbers are extraordinary, not just among Republicans, but even among independents. The large number of people think the president was not legitimately elected.

CORNISH: And I'm more -- most obsessed with the number about how they fit -- feel if he'd be fit for the presidency, if convicted of a crime. All of a sudden that becomes 49, 47. It's much tighter.

COOPER: Among independents.

CORNISH: Yes, among independents.

COOPER: Although among Republicans, 69 percent would say yes, he'd be fit, even if he was convicted.

JENNINGS: There's obviously a cohort that, for them, a conviction, they wouldn't want to associate their franchise with it. Maybe.

David made the point earlier that the Biden campaign ought to be talking to these folks. And I doubt they get all of them. Maybe they don't even get most of them, but --

AXELROD: They don't have to get most.

JENNINGS: They just have to get a chunk of people that you would normally expect to come your way as a Republican. And so we -- we don't know what's going to happen.

AXELROD: The question -- the question is we don't know.

JENNINGS: But it's playing out there.

AXELROD: We don't -- yes, I think this is a promising universe to explore, but we don't know how people -- you know, there was a poll some weeks ago where I think 18 percent of Republicans said that they wouldn't vote or they didn't think he would be fit if he were convicted.

And yet, you know, some of those same Republicans are voting for Trump, and there's some other indications that they would stick with him in a comparative race with Biden.

So that's -- you know, this isn't completely predictive, but it does raise -- it's a big problem. Which may be why the president [SIC] is so eager not to have these trials go forward.

GRIFFIN: It's interesting, but the mechanics of it are complicated. I wish we had Elie Honig here to, like, lay out the trial dates and how they'll actually move.


GRIFFIN: Because the reality is, Donald Trump will very likely be the Republican nominee before conviction comes down at one of the major trials. So what you would be talking about is some unprecedented move to pull the nomination away from a nominated candidate, standing of some kind of outside convention. It'd be a complete, just an unprecedented event that no party has proposed.

AXELROD: No, that's not going to happen. If he's -- he's going to Milwaukee as a convicted felon, if he's convicted.

GRIFFIN: Yes, it just makes him --

AXELROD: No one's going to take it away from him.

GRIFFIN: No. My point being, if a conviction, which will likely come after for the convention --

AXELROD: Oh, I see.

GRIFFIN: This is where the waiting in the wings doesn't make sense. Very few legal minds think that this is -- he's going to be convict -- tried and convicted without an appeal before the July convention.

URBAN: Listen, I think it's all academic, as well, because as everyone around this table knows, right? This is -- this race isn't going to be millions of votes. This is going to come down again to 100, 200,000 votes in a few states, right?

What is -- what's going to happen in Macomb County, Michigan? What's going to happen in Erie County, Pennsylvania? There are a few places in the United States.


You know, in Pennsylvania, these races -- you know, in '16, we won by about 45,000 votes. And in '20, we lost by about 80,000 votes, right? So in each of these states, it's going to be razor-thin.

CORNISH: And each of those states, though, we will be looking at independents.

URBAN: Each -- right. Exactly.

AXELROD: The differences will make a --

URBAN: It's going to matter, right? But it's not going to be -- you know, we're not going to have to worry generically across the globe. It's going to be pretty narrow.

BEDINGFIELD: Yes. But I also think there's a chance that this universe gets larger, that as the more people dial into the race that even Republicans who right now say, you know, I'd vote for him. But look, if he's convicted, that's -- that's concerning to me.

The more they learn over the course of the next ten months about what Trump is accused of and, potentially, ultimately is convicted of, although obviously the timing is challenging. I actually think it's possible this universe gets bigger and not smaller.

AXELROD: Yes. If there is a trial, and there's one that's supposed to start on March 4. It's clearly not now.

BEDINGFIELD: Which would --

AXELROD: But it will slide a little. That's the one -- just a second. If there is a trial, and evidence is presented, and Mark Meadows, his chief of staff, testifies and other people testify, because clearly, the special counsel has not shared everything that he has.

The story is going to be told in ways that people hadn't heard it before. And that is going to have an impact on him. The question is how much and, in a comparative race, are people willing to set that aside and vote for Trump anyway?

COOPER: But 70 -- almost 70 percent of Republicans believe that the election was fraudulent, that Joe Biden did not win legitimately. Why would they believe what some court decides?

AXELROD: Because you're not talking to those 70 percent. You're looking at the people who --

URBAN: Swing.

AXELROD: -- who don't believe that the election was stolen and do believe that he'd be unfit.

COOPER: Right.

AXELROD: And it wouldn't be Republicans. It would probably be more among independents.

COOPER: But it's -- I mean, does it not? I don't -- I'm not naive, but I'm just amazed that -- I know you're focusing on those who are still gettable and -- but I'm just amazed that, at this point, all we now know about the election, all the evidence that is out there, all the things that were brought to the court, all the things that courts looked at and dismissed, that 69 percent of Republicans still believe it was not legitimate.

AXELROD: Yes. The most scrutinized election in history

COOPER: These are our fellow citizens.

GRIFFIN: But it matters -- that is why it's wishful thinking that, even if there is some -- which I do think the trial is going to be damning. I think he'll be convicted on January 6.

But to think that's going to majorly change public sentiment, I think that's wishful thinking.

BEDINGFIELD: But this also goes a little bit to what Urban was saying. I mean, we're not talking about the entire universe of voters --


BEDINGFIELD: -- who are going to vote.


BEDINGFIELD: We're talking about the very narrow --


BEDINGFIELD: -- universe of people who are persuadable in one way or the other. And we are in a state in this country where two-thirds of the Republican electorate thinks that the -- the president was not legitimately elected. That is a catastrophic state of affairs for our democracy.

But if you're looking --

COOPER: It's like a mass delusion.

BEDINGFIELD: Yes. And it is deeply troubling in what it says about the pervasiveness of misinformation, what it says about the state of partisanship in this country. It's -- it is a very frightening state of affairs.

However, from a campaign strategy perspective, that's not -- you're not talking to that entire universe of people. Like, the Biden campaign is not talking to the vast majority of those.

CORNISH: And we saw with the January 6 Committee that things can have an effect. It doesn't have to be epic, but it can actually draw people's attention and focus people's attention --


CORNISH: -- in an otherwise very chaotic campaign information space.

AXELROD: We should --

URBAN: But unfortunately -- I was going to say, it's acts (ph) about the trial, right? The trial, the Jack Smith trial. Let's not forget, the charges aren't -- you're not going to see the video of the police being beaten.

The Jack Smith charges are about Electoral College. It is very obscure kind of professorial presentations. It's not going to be a lot of sizzle.

AXELROD: We'll see --

JENNINGS: I mean, if he is a convicted felon, regardless of how you characterize the charges. But if he becomes a convicted felon, you have to admit, that there are people who -- who will not --

AXELROD: I find that troubling.

JENNINGS: Who will not want to vote.

URBAN: But here's -- Scott, here's what they're going to say. Here's the response.

He's convicted in the District of Columbia, where there were 360,000 votes against Donald Trump.

JENNINGS: I hear you.

URBAN: And 18,000 votes for Donald.

JENNINGS: I totally --

URBAN: So the jury. It was a rigged system.

AXELROD: That's exactly how DeSantis was defending him in Iowa.

But listen, we ought to stop just for a second and note the fact that we just talked all night about the Iowa caucuses. We talked about this strength that Trump showed and the size of his victory.

We should ask ourselves, if you had told any of us five years ago that a guy who was under four separate indictments, 91 counts, was the frontrunner for the Republican nomination and soared through the first contest, you'd say that's a novel; that's not a reality. And that's the reality we are.

URBAN: And getting stronger electorally.

GRIFFIN: But can I just -- I just want to underscore this again, because I think I misstated it last time.


He performed less well in Iowa tonight than he performed an Iowa in 2020. Granted, he was unopposed, but he lost in 2020. So I'm not sure that we can extrapolate that this means he's a more powerful opponent.

AXELROD: Did he have an opponent in 2020?

GRIFFIN: No, he didn't, but I think even just based on --

AXELROD: So he did better when he was unopposed than he did tonight?

GRIFFIN: But even, so you're talking about fifth -- 97 percent versus about 50 percent. I think that that's weak. So he's weaker than he was in 2020.

AXELROD: I don't know.

JENNINGS: He may -- there may be voters who don't prefer him right now. I mean, the people who voted for Haley and DeSantis.

But a massive chunk of them will be perfectly fine --

GRIFFIN: Well, that's the --

JENNINGS: -- to vote for him in November. The question for his campaign has always been, you know, if you walked in there tonight and voted for Haley, you know, can they be reeled in? Can all of them be reeled in? If you're somebody who -- who voted for him twice, but you don't like

the idea of him being a convicted felon, can you find a way to reel them in? And enough of them -- remember, he got 46 percent of the vote twice. Once it was enough. Once it was not.

And in the contours of this one, you cannot afford to lose or bleed --

URBAN: Also --

COOPER: The president certainly believes he can reel them in, because otherwise he would not have come out tonight and said nice things about Nikki Haley.

AXELROD: Look, she's already said she would vote for him even if he were convicted. She's already said she would pardon him. I don't think she's too far away from saying, if she doesn't win, that, I'm for him.

COOPER: he votes are in from Iowa. Next, it's New Hampshire's turn. Straight ahead, we're going to get a read on the stakes going forward after Trump's sweeping win tonight. We'll be right back.



BURNETT: The countdown is on to New Hampshire as Donald Trump looks to capitalize on his significant win in Iowa tonight.

It's now Tuesday here on the East Coast. So the next big contest is just one week away. So let's go to Omar Jimenez, because he's already there in Manchester, New Hampshire.

And Omar, obviously, all eyes now on where you are standing. Set the scene for us. Where exactly do they all stand coming off of tonight? And the stakes?

OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. All eyes move here to the tropical paradise that is New Hampshire, compared to Iowa. And based on what we saw tonight, obviously, former President Trump comes in with all the momentum based on his projected win there.

But what's really interesting and what we're going to be looking for is a potential opportunity for Nikki Haley. Obviously, she's projected to finish third in Iowa tonight.

But one of the reasons why she has a potentially interesting opportunity here in New Hampshire is that, when Chris Christie dropped out last week, who we were speaking to many of his now former backers, and many of them are ready to get behind Nikki Haley.

And the reason why that's significant is because recent CNN polling had showed her pulling within single digits of the former president. And in New Hampshire, you get undeclared voters along with Republican voters that they can vote in the primary, as well. So you have a little bit of a wider pool.

Now, the question, with all of that, is will that actually be enough to make a difference?

We heard Nikki Haley talking about how she believes it is now a two- person race, despite again, finishing behind Ron DeSantis in Iowa. But depending on how she can do here and potentially capitalize on some of these Chris Christie former backers could actually solidify that into a reality.

Now, it's easier said than done, because a lot of his supporters, as well, have also said it's not going to be so easy to win them over. One, we haven't seen any form of endorsement from Chris Christie, who some of these supporters said that would hold weight in swaying some of these folks.

But also, some of the holdouts at this point believe that Nikki Haley should be going harder against Trump. It's why they liked Christie. It's what they want to see in Haley. And they -- and they were troubled by some of the comments in the past; in particular, saying that she would pardon former President Trump if he were in that situation, as well.

So a potential opportunity for Nikki Haley to turn, again, what she believes is a two-person race into an actual reality. And that's why we've already got campaign events scheduled with her starting tomorrow.

But obviously, with all of this, you're going up against a major force that we saw play out in Iowa in the former president, Donald Trump.

BURNETT: Absolutely. Omar, all right, live in Manchester for us early on this Tuesday morning.

So let's go to John King. And John, you know, so much of this will also depend on the psychology of how tonight plays in New Hampshire, right? So in a sense, the kind of latest polls and data that you have of New Hampshire, we've got to see what tonight does to that.

KING: Right? And I get to the New Hampshire numbers Omar was just talking about in a minute. We'll dig deeper on them.

But as we go onto New Hampshire, this is exactly what Donald Trump wanted, right? So he goes onto New Hampshire with just what he wanted at stop one, Iowa. He's above 50 percent. His opponents are way behind him. Not only they are way behind them, they're fractured. No one candidate emerged as Look at me, the voters want me to be the alternative to Trump.

So now as we move on, we're having the conversation -- the people at the table have been through this, right? Since 2015, 2016. Yes, but.

Yes, Donald Trump did well, but we're going to a place where we're going to get them right? This is a conversation that has happened since then.

Well, maybe that will be in New Hampshire, but let me do the "but." Remember, that was his first win in 2016. He has a strong base there. Yes, he's vulnerable. Independents can vote, Democrats can cross over. Yes, he's vulnerable. The governor's on Nikki Haley's side.

But remember this was the source of his first win in a fractured field. It's not as big as it was then. But North of Concord, that's Trump country. Rural New Hampshire, just like rural Iowa, that's Trump country.

Can she beat him? Well, let's come back to the 2024 map and look. Can anyone beat him? Let's just look at that poll Omar was talking about. Forgive me for turning my back. I just want to stretch this out.

Yes. Our poll, taken about a week ago, did show she's in striking distance. Then single digits, 39 to 32. Significant that he's below 40 percent there. Remember, he got over 50 in Iowa tonight. So you have him down.

And Christie's now gone from the race. He was third. Right? So as Omar said, when you talk to Christie supporters, they're thinking maybe -- who are we going to go?

Well, in our poll, this is the opportunity. Whether Christie endorses or not, 65 percent of his supporters in our poll said Haley would be their first choice.

KING: DeSantis got nothing. Thirteen percent said they would stay at home. Trump and Ramaswamy, who's now gone from the race. Asa Hutchinson might get some.


So the opportunity is there, without a doubt, as you look at it. But I just want to come back.

In Iowa tonight, conservatives came out and voted. In New Hampshire, this is going to be the conversation. Who shows up a week from tonight?

If it is a conservative electorate, Donald Trump, among those who identify as conservatives in New Hampshire, wins by 40 points. Among those who are registered Republicans, Donald Trump wins by nearly 40 points.

Among those who do not have a college degree, he wins by 17 points.

If you do have a more moderate, more independent electorate, well, look, Nikki Haley wins by 42 points among moderates, 26 percent undeclared. That's what they call it in New Hampshire; that's an independent voter.

And those were a college degree by 12 points.

Trump did very well among college graduates in Iowa tonight. We will see what happens. Nikki Haley needs to keep that advantage to be competitive in New Hampshire.

So we're about to move on to stop two. Yes, Nikki Haley has a chance. She has the best of the long, long shots to get Donald Trump. That's the state she would have to do it.

But remember, Erin, this is the state that launched Donald Trump back in 2016. To think that it's easy, that would be a mistake. He enters their strong. And with the snowball, the way the delegate rules work in the Republican Party, if you're going to stop him, you'd better do it soon. Big night, one week from tonight.

BURNETT: One week from tonight. And here we are.

All right, so you know, interesting when he talks about independents. And whether it's going to be conservatives that show up next Tuesday or more independents. Now, I understand, Manu, that -- and I think Audie did raise this point earlier. The definition of an independent can mean anything anybody wants it to mean, right?

A lot of people who identify as independents have really only ever voted for one party. I understand it's complicated. An Iowa independent's not necessarily a New Hampshire independent.

But if you look at how Trump did among independents tonight in those entrance polls you've been looking at, he won them handily. Forty- seven percent of independents, self-identified independents, voted for Trump tonight. At least they said on the entrance polls, which is about in line with his overall performance.

RAJU: Yes, exactly. And I think, if you're -- for Nikki Haley, you want to have momentum coming out of Iowa. She does not have momentum coming out of Iowa.

She had momentum over the last several weeks. You know, there were poll after poll suggests she was doing a lot better. Our poll showed her within single digits.

"The Des Moines Register" poll that came out on Sunday did her absolutely no favors. It raised the expectations heading into today, because it said that she -- had her narrowly in second place.

Now is third place, a distance third place. She's going into this state, this must -- almost must-win state with the views she's in third place. Despite her saying this is a two-man race, it is not a two-person race. That's going to be a real challenge for her.

Yes, the electorate will be so significant. But if that is still a more moderate, more liberal electorate that comes out and votes, that's not going to be the case for primary state after primary state on the calendar after New Hampshire, which is the real risk from Trump.

BURNETT: And Trump has, you know, this rally tomorrow. You reported that Vivek was getting out of the race and endorsing Trump. And now Trump's going to have him at that rally. So to the extent that there's kind of that little extra, you know, zip, he's going to get that tomorrow.

COLLINS: Yes. Even if it's not that noticeable, not that significant. Even if it is a little bit of a boost, that could potentially help him, because Ramaswamy did say he's going with Trump to that rally tomorrow.

And on top of Nikki Haley also not having momentum coming out of this, despite saying that it's this two-person race, as she framed it earlier, Trump had a decisive win in Iowa. It's not like he was beneath what the expectations were and she can use that to her advantage, which is something that her team and certainly DeSantis, as well, was looking for. It was him to be beneath that 50 percent threshold, to not do as well as his team had been predicting. And that is not something that she is going to be able to use.

So I do think that's a real question. We don't know what's going to happen. But John King is right that New Hampshire was Donald Trump's first big win of the 2016 campaign. He still enjoys a healthy base there, and so we'll have to see what it looks like with that.

But I will also note that, before he gets to that rally in New Hampshire tomorrow night, he's on the plane right now going to New York. He is going to be at the opening statements of that jury trial in New York for the E. Jean Carroll defamation trial.

They've already found that he is liable for defaming her. They are deciding how much a jury will have to pay -- a jury will decide how much he will have to pay in damages.

RAJU: Yes.

COLLINS: So it just also speaks to what the campaign trail looks like for him. He's going to be there and then going to New Hampshire, potentially going back to New York for that trial on Wednesday.

RAJU: And you would think that a female candidate in this race could seize on everything that have come out in that defamation trial.


RAJU: Nikki Haley has not done that, perhaps to her detriment when we look -- right, look at this race at the end of the day. What do they decide to attack Trump on.

She's been talking mostly about chaos. Trump brings chaos. We need stability. It's not been those real serious character issues that have come out on a trial like that.

So I don't -- you know, he maybe --

BURNETT: Even though he's hit her in very clearly gendered ways, like when he says she's not tough.

COLLINS: Birdbrain.

BURNETT: And called her birdbrain, right? I mean, those aren't things that -- those aren't things that he would use to a man, you know. He's used -- it's very thinly veiled, but she's not responding in kind. She's not seizing on that gender issue.

[00:55:04] COLLINS: Right. I mean, Ron DeSantis would say it's not a gender issue, because he took just as much heat, if not more financially, from Trump in terms of negative advertising.

But yes, Trump has not held back on criticizing her or saying -- also using his experience with her, saying, I know her. I know she's not tough.

Also going after her foreign policy credentials. She has not used that relationship with Trump and wielded it. I mean, in your town hall with her when she -- because she does say chaos follows him, but she says rightly or wrongly. She says it, essentially, as passively as possible. She doesn't take a --


COLLINS: -- a position on it. I understand that, because Republican voters, she's trying to still appeal to them and doesn't want to essentially cross off anyone who could be a supporter of hers.

But the question is, does it actually hurt her? Because I do think with Ron DeSantis, we saw the price that he paid for not necessarily taking on Trump in a more head-on way earlier on in the campaign.

BURNETT: All right. Well, thanks to both. And of course, please stay with us tonight. Our town hall with Ron DeSantis in New Hampshire actually is tonight, 9 p.m. Eastern.

I'm Erin Burnett. Our special coverage of the Iowa caucuses continues next with Abby Phillip and Laura Coates.