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CNN Live Event/Special

Trump Wins Iowa GOP Caucuses As DeSantis Takes Second; Iran Launches Missile Strikes In Iraq And Syria; Hamas Psychologically Tormenting Hostages Families; Trump wins Iowa Caucuses; Ramaswamy Drops Out of Race after 4th Place in Iowa; GOP Rivals Head to New Hampshire after Trump Wins Iowa. Aired 1-2a ET

Aired January 16, 2024 - 01:00   ET




LAURA COATES, CNN ANCHOR: Well, the weather was frightful and the result, delightful. I mean, that is, if your name is Donald Trump, the first in the nation state did its thing. And that thing is telling us this Republican Party wants to make the former president again. Welcome to CNN's Special Live Coverage of the Iowa Caucuses. I'm Laura Coates here in New York.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Abby Phillip here in Washington. And tonight, a drubbing at the hands of Donald Trump. As of this moment, he swept across 98 of the state's 99 counties. His voters showed up. They powered through those record low temperatures and the remnants of a blizzard still scattered on those Iowa roadways.

Now, CNN is projecting that Ron DeSantis will claim second place, Nikki Haley a third place finish. Both, though, say that tonight offers them a path forward, a road to the nomination. Now, as for Vivek Ramaswamy, tonight is his last as a 2024 candidate.

The entrepreneur says that he is out and that he'll campaign for Donald Trump from this point forward. DeSantis will now go directly to South Carolina before circling back to New Hampshire. He believes he did enough tonight to survive and to advance. But Haley sees this race pretty differently. She says it's now a two person contest with DeSantis relegated to the past.


NIKKI HALEY, U.S. REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: When you look at how we're doing in New Hampshire, in South Carolina, and beyond, I can safely say tonight Iowa made this Republican primary a two-person race.


COATES: Harry Enten is here at the magic wallet. Take us through the results from tonight, Harry. A very significant night. Just how big is, I mean, I'm seeing a sea of red and one yellow dot. Tell me.

HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR DATA REPORTER: I mean, just look at the numbers right here. Right? Look at this. Donald Trump with about a 30- point win, just a little bit south of 30 points over Ron DeSantis. Nikki Haley, 19 percent of the vote. Way back there.

You look at this. There are 99 counties in the state of Iowa. There's just one county that isn't red on this particular screen. We can go into it right now, Johnson County.

Look at this. Nikki Haley beat Donald Trump or is leading by a single vote. When you're looking at that, you know that we're dealing with a blowout. There are other ways that we can sort of just see how big this blowout was. I mean, take a look here. Donald Trump with a margin of victory was more than ten percentage points.

Look at this. It's still basically the exact same red Johnson County, which we pointed out before. And then we can go right here in Astoria County where Trump won it by a little bit, by about four percentage points. So the fact is Donald Trump with an absolutely huge win.

I just want to also note from a historical context just how big this win was. The previous largest win in an Iowa Republican caucus was back in 1988. We see Bob Dole defeated Pat Robertson by 12 percentage points. Laura, you don't have to be a genius at math to know that this-29 point margin or this 30 point margin is larger than this 12- point or 13-point margin back in 1988.

COATES: Well, all lawyers are known for their genius math. Thank you very much. But go back to that original one, because just seeing that, I mean, just think about this. You mentioned the 99. DeSantis traveled to 99. He made a big deal about going to all 99 places.

Now you've got 99 counties and not one actually goes to him. So what does this mean down the road in terms of who's second place? Is it truly DeSantis then, or the one person who could beat the one area?

ENTEN: I mean, look, I think that's going to be a real question for Ron DeSantis and for Nikki Haley sort of going forward. But here's the thing that I will note. You know, if we look at where Nikki Haley came in second place, it is not really a lot of counties on here, right? There's a little bit going on in the suburbs. You see this right here, which we mentioned. See this right here, Cedar Rapids.

But for the most part, the person who came in the most amount of second counties, if we zoom in right here, we can see that it, in fact, was Ron DeSantis who came in second place in most of these counties on this particular map. So the fact is, I don't know what's going to happen going into New Hampshire.

But the thing again that I note is New Hampshire is a very different state than Iowa.


There are a lot more places that look like Ames and a lot more places that look like Cedar Rapids in New Hampshire than in Iowa. And we know that Ron DeSantis is well behind in Iowa at this particular or in New Hampshire at this particular point.

So I think that's going to be the real question going forward. But I guess both of them sort of have something that they can hang their hats on, DeSantis eking out that second place. But Nikki Haley actually winning a county.

COATES: I mean, compared to Donald Trump, though, this is not a decisive, even second place for either of them. A lot more to get to be checking back with you, as always, Harry, and giving some more thought to what this really means.


PHILLIP: Thanks, Laura. Let's discuss this with our panel here in DC. So, Jane, a three-person race, but the gap between the winner and everybody else is 30 points. How does that work?

JANE COASTON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: That means it's a one person race. I'm aware that both Haley and DeSantis will continue the fight. And there's actually some precedent for finishing second in Iowa, actually really helping in future contests. I think we just saw from 1988.

PHILLIP: It helped Trump. I mean sort of.

COASTON: You can see it helped Trump. Well, depending how you look at it. But I think we can see here that this margin is so big that it almost makes this race right now uncompetitive. Obviously, we're going to see what happens in New Hampshire and we're going to see what happens in South Carolina, Haley's home state.

But I think it really is worth saying here that DeSantis's entire strategy of going to every county, of really talking up Iowa about how he appealed to Iowa voters, he made his entire personality about appealing to social conservatives in Iowa, about talking about how Trump wasn't anti-abortion enough, he wasn't fitting to what social conservatives in Iowa wanted. Well, guess what? They wanted Trump. That's what they got.

PHILLIP: And they don't care about the policy, it seems to me is that, you know, Trump is not making an argument that he is the best policymaker of the bunch and voters are like, OK, fine.

LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yeah. I mean, his entire campaign from the beginning has been about he is being persecuted and he will be voters retribution. And I think what's striking is that Nikki Haley and Ron DeSantis have tried to, at different points, take wax at Trump and say that they know, stop the chaos, that they would better policymakers.

But then they seem to agree with the premise of his campaign, which is that if you ask if he is being persecuted, they say, yes, he is and that they would pardon him if he's convicted. And even just tonight, Nikki Haley was saying that ultimately, even though there was a subsection of the voters tonight that said if Trump is convicted, I think three in ten or so caucus goers said that if Trump is convicted, they don't think he'd be fit for president.

And a lot of those voters voted for her when she was asked. So do you agree with them? She said no, that Trump would be fit.

KRISTEN SOLTIS ANDERSON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: There's a really important thing that's buried in all of this, which is that there was a report from one of the caucus sites tonight. Molly Ball, a reporter who I adore, was there. And she said that there were people who got up and gave speeches. And the speech for DeSantis was vote for him because he was great on policy during COVID look how he's governed Florida.

The speech for Haley was, she's going to be the most electable. She's going to broaden the Republican Party. And then the person got up and gave a speech for Trump. And the person who spoke for Trump said, I think he cares about people like me. It was like this emotional connection to him that he's fighting for me. He's on my side, and that's it.

And so all the kind of rational arguments you want to make about, well, this on this policy or this on this electability, the Republican base, people have always said Republicans were the ones who voted with their heads and Democrats were the one who in primaries chose with their hearts. That's completely flipped now.

Republicans, the base wants what the base wants, and the base wanted Trump tonight.

PHILLIP: I can't think of a better encapsulation. I saw that from Molly. It's a perfect encapsulation of what's going on. But, Preston, what do you think about this? Nikki Haley tonight, she says Donald Trump and Joe Biden have more in common than you think. Our campaign is the best hope of stopping a Trump-Biden nightmare.

It's an argument she's been making, but it's a new framing of it as she heads into New Hampshire. Do you think it will be effective?

MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: It's almost a new framing of something that we've heard a lot of people talk about, of saying, my God, is there going to be another Trump-Biden election? Is it going to be these gentlemen who are way past, you know, the age of hope, right, because they are running to become president right now for a generation that they're not even going to be around for anymore?

And I do think it's an interesting play by Nikki Haley to try to bring the age element into it without absolutely saying the age element.

PHILLIP: Is it crazy to think that perhaps some Trump supporters actually want this rematch, that they think that the last time it was stolen from him.

COASTON: Oh yes, absolutely.

PHILLIP: That they want to try, try again.

COASTON: They want to do it again. [01:10:00]

And it's interesting because I think from Trump's perspective, he also wants to do it again. It's interesting because Trump's presidency, a real thing that we are all alive for, seems to exist in this weird miasma where if you talk to Trump supporters, they talk about how great everything was all the time and even some of the events that took place in 2020, COVID somehow gets retrofitted to not be him. That's by fault somehow, even though that's not who was president then.

So I do think that there's a real sense of, like people, they want this rematch also, because if you have been told again and again that Biden didn't win, of course Trump won, then obviously you're going to believe that obviously Trump would win again.

And so, it just seems, I mean, it seems to me to be illogical, but pretty much everything does right now.

ANDERSON: Well, and this is also why the electability argument that folks like Haley and DeSantis have kind of been trying to make for a year hasn't landed. CNN did a focus group with a bunch of Iowa caucus goers who they made them watch all of the debates and then they focus group them after each one.

And at the end of it all, they said, who are you voting for? Anybody change your mind? None of them had changed their mind. And they said, how many of you think that Biden will beat Trump? They all think that Trump's going to win a general election. So the electability argument just didn't fly. It's only those independent voters who do not participate in Republican primaries in very big numbers, except in New Hampshire. That's what Mickey Haley is counting on, which is why the only reason she is still in the game in my view.

PRESTON: Which is interesting about Johnson County there that Harry was talking about, that's the University of Iowa, which you would tend to be more liberal or certainly more moderate in their Republicanism. And Nikki Haley did pretty well there which --

PHILLIP: But it's still slicker.

PRESTON: I mean it's just -- it's one vote. But it's still, I mean, it was her best performing place. And it's interesting can she take that and put that into New Hampshire.

PHILLIP: What happens after New Hampshire? I mean, you've got Nevada, which is a little bit of a tricky situation. But let's talk about South Carolina. I mean, this electorate, this Republican electorate from New Hampshire onward does not actually get that much more favorable for Nikki Haley.

So, how does she make that pivot? She has to at some point get some people who are with Trump now to change their mind.

BARRON-LOPEZ: And it's really difficult to see that happening just because poll after poll are showing that even in states like South Carolina, self-identified Republicans go for Trump by big margins. And the independents or the ones that lean more to the center or to the left may go for Haley. But how do you win a primary when the self- identified Republicans and the people that consider themselves conservative aren't going to vote for you?

And so far, yes, she tonight made the argument that you mentioned, Abby, of trying to say, look, I can avoid this Biden-Trump nightmare disaster, that voters on both sides of the aisle have actually said they don't necessarily want to see a rematch.

But she's not getting any more forceful against Trump when it comes to character, when it comes to highlighting the fact that so many of his former administration officials don't even think he's fit to be president. And so if she's not going to change her attack lines against him, I don't know how she wins South Carolina.

PHILLIP: Yes, I mean, it's not clear to me any of it is working --


PHILLIP: -- attacking him or not attacking him. Stand by, everyone, though. We'll discuss next how the majority of these Iowa Republicans believed, as we've been discussing, that this last election was stolen and that Trump is, in fact, fit to be president, even if he's convicted of what he's been charged with. This is CNN's special live coverage.

ROSEMARY CHURUCH, CNN ANCHOR: Hello and welcome, everyone. I'm Rosemary Church. We will 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. Kurdish officials in northern Iraq report at least four people have been killed by Iranian missile strikes. This happened in the city of Erbil, where Iran claims it targeted and destroyed a spy base for Israel's Mossad.

Iran also fired missiles at terror groups in northern Syria, which it says were involved in the recent bombings in Amman, near the grave of slain commander Kassim Soleimani. The U.S. is condemning the Iranian missile strikes, calling them reckless and imprecise and undermining Iraq's stability.

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 anti-ship ballistic missile struck a bulk carrier, causing minor damage.

A Houthi military spokesperson vowed future strikes on Yemen will not go unanswered and that a response to the recent American and British attacks will inevitably come.


Israel is accusing Hamas of psychological torment against the families of hostages. That's after the group released three videos between Sunday and Monday showing the same three hostages. The first two videos show all three being held in Gaza alive, but the last one shows two of the hostages dead. It's unclear how they died, and the video is highly edited. CNN's Nic Robertson has more.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: So the IDF spokesman, Rear Admiral Hagari said that the Hamas videos were psychological torture and cruelly exploiting innocent people. Hamas on Sunday released a video of three hostages, one woman and two men, Noa Argamani, Itai Svirsky, and another man who Hagari said his family didn't want. him to be named.

And in the last video on Monday, Hagari said that the way that Hamas, through Noa Argamani, had described what happened to the three, he said that Hamas claimed that an IDF bomb had killed them. He said that wasn't true, that IDF does not target where they know hostages are.

Now he also said that the IDF had been in touch with Itai Svirsky's family and the family of the other man. He said that they relayed their concerns about the two hostages who were depicted in the last Hamas video appeared to be dead the way that Hamas depicted them.

So this was deconstructed by the IDF, calling it psychological torture in the way that Hamas had initially shown the three. And then with their last video, he said, Hagari said, at least it showed a proof of life for Noa Argamani. But this again in the ids view, psychological torture. Nic Robinson, CNN, Tel Aviv, Israel.


CHURCH: And that's the latest for now. I'm Rosemary Church. We return now to our live coverage of the Iowa caucuses.

COATES: Shark Iowa's entrance poll showing a picture of what caucusgoers really do think about Donald Trump's legal woes. Harry Enten has much more for us at the magic wall. Harry, what are you seeing?

ENTEN: What am I seeing is this is a republican electorate that really loves Donald Trump and is a Republican electorate that sometimes on some of these questions are showing you things that you might not ever have imagined.

So take a look here. Trump fit for the presidency if convicted of a crime. This isn't just that he's being tried for crimes, it's if he was actually convicted. Is he fit for the presidency? Look at this. The overwhelming majority, 33 percent of Republican caucus goers in the state of Iowa, said yes, he is fit for the presidency, even if he committed a crime. Just 32 percent of those Iowa caucus goers said no.

And I'll tell you this much what's going on here, Laura. This really does fit with a lot of the data that we have seen throughout this republican campaign for the presidency. Because I want to take you back a little bit in time. Look at the two of the biggest fundraising days for Donald Trump so

far. On both of these days, he raised well north of a million dollars. One of those days, April 4, was the day that Trump was arraigned in Manhattan court. OK? That was one of the days. One of the other days, Trump booked in Fulton county jail.

So the fact is, two of his biggest fundraising days so far were on days where he was in court, where he could eventually be convicted for serious crimes. But it's very clear that a lot of Republican voters are actually rallying him around this particular point. It'd be very interesting to see if these big fundraising days continue on going forward.

Here's another sort of thing to keep in mind just on that fundraising front, right, which I think we were sort of getting on that first entrance poll that were looking at. Just look at the amount of money that Trump has raised. These potential convictions and being tried for these different crimes, being arrested, being put through the system, they have super energized Trump's campaign for the presidency.

You know, back in the first quarter of 2023, Trump raised just $19 million. In fact, there was a real question of whether or not Ron DeSantis would be a better fundraiser than Donald Trump. But look at what happened in quarter two when, of course, he was arraigned in Manhattan court. He was up to $35 million. What about this? In quarter three, when, of course, that Fulton County, that infamous picture photo of him being booked in Fulton county, he raised a little bit more than $45 million.

So his fundraising has just gone through the roof despite all the problems. In fact, I'd make the argument his fundraising has gone through the roof because of these problems.


Lastly, this is something that we have seen over and over again, Laura, in all of this different data that we've been looking at, it's a fundamental question. Do you think that Joe Biden legitimately won in 2020 and we have seen overwhelmingly, over and over again, that the vast majority of Republicans believe, no, he didn't legitimately win back in 2020.

And look at that same thing right over here, right down here. Let's circle this. Look at this. 66 percent say no. Just 29 percent of Iowa Republican caucus goers said yes, Laura. And I think this really gets at the fact that Donald Trump in many ways is untouchable and he's able to almost bend reality to someplace that honestly just isn't on the side of truthfulness because 66 percent of Iowa Republican caucus goers, simply put, aren't where the facts are. Laura.

COATES: Go back to that first slide and show me --


COATES: -- one more time about those numbers. I mean, 63 percent believe that he is still fit for office even if convicted of a crime. That number, to me, is so counterintuitive for so many reasons, particularly for a party that's tough on a crime and beyond. I've got a great panel to talk about all of this with. Harry, thank you so much.

They are here with me right now. I'm so glad you're here. First of all, think about these numbers. For many people, one would think one conviction, one trial, one allegation, one indictment would be something that would make someone step back and say, I probably shouldn't run any longer. This has become not his kryptonite. This is elevating him in a way, and it's not even making a difference at all in the Republican Party. Why is that?

GEOFF DUNCAN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think those stats are great proof that Republicans believe in criminal justice reform and second chances. I mean, this is --

COATES: Put that on the slogan for us. There you go.

DUNCAN: This is another chapter of opposite day. I mean, nothing makes sense. I mean, when I started in politics 10 years ago, it was keep your nose clean, don't get in trouble, don't have any bankruptcies, don't get a DUI, don't do all these things, and make sure you play it straight. Well, Donald Trump has debunked all that. And the more he does wrong, the more people he insults, the more people he assaults, he climbs in the polls.

I think this is a temporary moment of insanity. That's my prayer. But if you're a Republican that believes the 2020 election wasn't rigged, believes January 6 was a horrible day in this country's history, and you don't want Donald Trump to be the president. Today was a tough day.

COATES: Is there a place for that Republican anymore?

ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: There's a place for Republicans that recognize that Donald Trump lost the election and Joe Biden's a duly elected president. But when you look at those two numbers that we're looking at, this is what Donald Trump's supporters and his voters believe. They believe two things. They believe he is a victim, and they believe he was victorious in the election. And it's no coincidence that both of those cross tabs, about six in 10 people think that Donald Trump is fit to be a president, even if convicted.

And about six in 10 don't think that Joe Biden is a duly elected president because Donald Trump and the other networks that they watch continuously say that Donald Trump won the election, that there was widespread voter fraud. Donald Trump was right to try and overturn the certification of the election.

And they don't look at the specifics of any of these legal cases. They look at them as one whole weaponization of the DOJ, overzealous prosecutors going after Donald Trump. And they believe Donald Trump, even most people, rational minded people, understand there's something to look at with these legal issues.

They look at all of these as a whole and look at Democrats and liberal justices going after Donald Trump because he is a political threat to Joe Biden.

COATES: So, fascinating you mentioned that, Bakari, because it sounds as though the doubling down in terms of. Look, of course I think you're fit if I think you're being persecuted and didn't do anything wrong. And it's almost like an odd version of political civil disobedience, I'm going to say, and be against the system that I don't think is actually just, it's delusional, I think.

BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: And I think that you're right. I mean, we kind of live in this world of echo chambers now, where individuals, they get their news from the same places. Donald Trump speaks into this echo chamber, and they don't let any truth kind of seep into that.

I think one of the things that we have to pay attention to, though, is one-third of Republicans don't believe that. That's a very large number for somebody who's going to carry the mantle of the Republican Party into November.

But you can also deduce from that if one-third of Republicans don't believe that, I want to see what the number of independents who believe that is because that's where the November election will be won. And I can guarantee you that number won't look anything like that, in fact, it'll probably be flipped on its head.

COATES: Why do you think that?

SELLERS: Because I think, first of all, independents are going to be the key to this election. I mean the fringes are going to come out with great energy. I know that's a question for Democrats one side and Trump supporters on the other, but they're going to come out with great energy regardless. The middle is where this race is going to be won. That kind of 40 percent, that's not as loud as those fringes.


But also, independent voters usually are not in those echo chambers per se. They're the individuals who have jobs and they go to work and they're not on Twitter all day and they don't listen to everything. They're not riding, listening to whoever the conservative radio news host is at that particular time on the radio.

And so, they are appreciating their daily task. They are what makes America run every day. And they're not as in tune to that echo chamber as some others may be. I want to believe that.

COATES: I don't know, Ashley. Maybe they have earbuds listening to it while they work. I don't know. It's a whole thing.

ASHLEY ALLISON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, Geoff, I appreciate the joke about criminal justice reform. I will say, though, that the rules of you can get away with everything. It doesn't apply to every candidate. The former first lady Michelle Obama talks about that in a podcast she recently did. I'm sure there are some candidates that probably had higher Melanin count wouldn't be getting off Scott free like and having this echo chamber backing them on the Republican or the Democratic side.

That being said, the reason why so many people are saying Donald Trump is a threat to democracy is because I've been so curious, why are these numbers the way they are?

Well, if you go to other countries who have lost democracies or they have fallen to dictators, it's because you take steps to allow echo chambers to be developed. You question institutions, you make people have distrust in the media, you sow lies, and you build folks around you that are so extreme that you try and counter the other side with the absolute radical extremism that you would never think would actually happen.

And when you do that and you're consistent and you don't have people keep you accountable within your own party, you become someone who can say, I will be a dictator on day one. And that is what Donald Trump has been doing, not just since 2016. He's been doing it since he called for the execution of the central or the exonerated five.

He's been doing it since he was doing discriminatory housing practices. And he started doing it when he started questioning our former president Barack Obama's legitimacy to be president. And that is why Donald Trump is the real threat. And that is why people who are now living in this echo chamber don't actually think having a conviction is a problem, because they don't trust the institutions that Donald Trump has sold so much doubt in.

COATES: Well, you've got voters in Iowa tonight in these caucuses who disagree and say it's enough for them and they want him there. And by the way, you saw those numbers. Not even a close second. I mean, you've got DeSantis and Haley battling within, like, one or two percentage points. That means that, look at this, 51 percent heard everything we talked about today, and they still said yes. There you go.

Well, next, everyone, stick around. We have a lot more to talk about tonight. We're going to be doing a lot of special coverage, unpacking all of this. We're going to talk to a DeSantis surrogate about the path forward. Is there really one? We'll also talk about Vivek Ramaswamy, who is now endorsing Trump despite, you remember, Trump's attacks on him. My, how the tables have turned. This is CNN's Special Live Coverage.



ABBY PHILLIP, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to CNN's special coverage of the Iowa caucuses. And if you're just joining us tonight, Donald Trump has won the Iowa caucuses breaking 50 percent, a big number for him. CNN is projecting also that Ron DeSantis will take second place with just over 21 percent and Nikki Haley, not too far behind them there at 19 percentage points.

Laura. LAURA COATES, CNN ANCHOR: I mean, it's really striking to see those

numbers now. It's finally here. Actual votes have been cast with these caucuses.

Let's get right to Hal Lambert, a DeSantis supporter, excuse me, who used to back the former president Donald Trump, who of course was the victor in Iowa. He's also the founder of investment firm Point Bridge Capital.

Hal, thank you for joining us. It's a big night, obviously. The governor did not come in first place. You said this Friday that he needed a very strong second place. He spent a ton of money, a lot of time in Iowa visiting every single one of the different precincts, or at least the areas of Iowa.

It's pretty close to Nikki Haley still though. What's your reaction

HAL LAMBERT, DESANTIS SUPPORTER: Well, I'll just say this. I mean, there was almost $50 million of negative attack ads spent against Governor DeSantis, more than anything against Donald Trump or Joe Biden combined. So he has survived all that. Came in second.

Nikki Haley said it herself just five days ago. There's only two tickets out of Iowa. Well, she came in third. They were all projecting -- the polls are all saying she was going to come in second. She underperformed.

And by the way, a large percentage of her support here in Iowa were Democrat crossovers. We saw it firsthand with people coming in and changing from Democrat to Republican on the day of the caucus, which is allowed. So she even got that percentage by a lot of Democrats support.

And so I think Ron DeSantis had a good night. And by the way, I don't think It's a huge positive that the former president and effectively an incumbent, barely has 51 percent. I mean basically half the Republican voters in Iowa don't want the incumbent president back.

So again, that's actually kind of low number. Well below let's say, you know, Joe Biden is polling within his own Democratic caucuses or his own Democratic party.

COATES: It did strike me when you talk about the number 51 percent, which meant that everyone who voted for Haley, everyone who voted for DeSantis not actually want him to be the person. And yet it's still a majority over a majority, 51 percent.

You were initially a big Trump supporter. There is a huge gap though. I mean, if you don't look at it from the glass half empty or half full, it's still got at least 30 points between DeSantis and Trump, more than 20 points, at least. How does he close that gap?

LAMBERT: Well, this is, this campaign is built for the long haul and we've got a long way to go.

[01:34:51] LAMBERT: So he's headed to South Carolina tonight. He'll be in South Carolina tomorrow. And then he'll be up in New Hampshire. So the governor is going to be back-and-forth between South Carolina and New Hampshire. And then obviously it's eight days to New Hampshire.

So you know, we've got a long way to go. We're going to go all the way through Super Tuesday. There's a lot of voting, a lot of elections still to go through. So one thing I'll say, I do want to add this, you know, there was some frustration certainly on my part, and the campaign's part and others that the media called this before the voting actually started.

I was at one of the caucus centers. It took about 30 minutes before you could even possibly begin to vote and most of the people were still doing speeches in support. And so we had -- it witnessed it firsthand, you know, people saw, hey, it was called for Trump.

There was one caucus center were one of my colleagues was at it four or five people walked out and disgust. So you know, it's really, you know, I consider it pretty much election interference for the media to come out and called this prior to voting ever starting.

COATES: Well, Hal Lambert thank you. I will note of course, when we did make that prediction, it was based on entrance polls, not on actual vote and we were very clear about that.

But your point is well-taken. Thank you for joining us this evening.

Let me turn to my panel and get some reaction especially on that last point that was just raised, that the media had some hand-in by announcing entrance polls that somehow influenced negatively in some way, shape or form, to voters, caucus goers who brave the cold in Iowa. Do you buy it?

BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No. Donald Trump would have won rain, sleet, snow, shine, whether or not we would have called it at 7:00 yesterday, two weeks ago, tomorrow. It didn't matter.

This was Donald Trump's race. It was signed, sealed and delivered.

I appreciate Ron DeSantis and the spin. They have a great spin. Election interference is like the du jour -- you know, it's like the spin du jour. So let them have that.

The fact is Ron DeSantis and Nikki Haley, there usually is two tickets coming out of Iowa. I think what we found out is that there's only one. I think Ron DeSantis probably needs to go back to Tallahassee. They'll come to South Carolina where he's going to get walloped anyway.

COATES: You think so?

Yes. That's the question.

SELLERS: In South Carolina.

COATES: That's the question tonight.

SELLERS: I mean Donald Trump has the governor, has the attorney general, has the United States senator, has elected officials. I mean, this is -- I don't know what they're doing other than consultants.

I mean, Geoff, that's your side. I mean, the consultants are making a ton of money on these guys. But this race for all intents and purposes is Joe Biden versus Donald Trump. Unless I'm saying something wrong.

GEOFF DUNCAN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, those consultants keep winning the game. You know, I've been critical of Donald Trump within hours of the 2020 election. We've got to stop using technical gaffes to off-gaffe losses, right? I mean, that's kind of one of the big issues we've got going here. And this is on both sides.

If you lose, you lose. Donald Trump beat the brakes off everybody tonight unfortunately, and this is no longer Donald Trump problem. Like I said, I've been critical of him since hours after the 2020 election.

This is now a GOP base voter problem, right? Our dashboard is lit up with every warning sign that this is now another huge train wreck for us, whether or not we get beat in the general by Joe Biden. I mean, the happiest person tonight is probably Joe Biden, right.

He looks up and his team looks around and goes our job just got a lot easier than if you know, if Nikki Haley would have overperformed and then walked into New Hampshire. Now, all of a sudden they're doing all kinds of calculus.


ASHLEY ALLISON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. I mean, Joe Biden wants to run against Donald Trump. That is literally what their campaign is on. He started, he ran the first time because he wanted to protect the soul of our nation against Donald Trump.

It's clear Democrats want to run against Donald Trump now. And they probably will because based off of tonight, you know, like Bakari said, it's a one ticket out of Iowa.

I just don't see a path for anyone else because I don't know if you can continue to raise the amount of money that you need to do to pivot quickly to build infrastructure in South Carolina.

Nikki Haley put all her eggs in New Hampshire. DeSantis put all his eggs in Iowa. I mean, he came in second, but like they wanted -- Donald Trump was setting expectations --


SELLER: Nikki has a -- has a infrastructure in South Carolina.

ALLISON: She should. She was the governor.

SELLERS: But that's how strong I'm trying to articulate Donald Trump is. Because he's going to smash her infrastructure in South Carolina It's the momentum. It's the present. It's -- Donald Trump is a blunt force object. And when he comes to New Hampshire, I don't -- New Hampshire's weird.

New Hampshire has been weird in Democratic politics. I remember Barack Obama won Iowa than when -- got destroyed in New Hampshire by Hillary Clinton and then came to South Carolina, and became president of the United States.

New Hampshire is going to be a weird state because Independents can vote in those primaries. And so it's pseudo-open primaries in New Hampshire.

But when you come to South Carolina, I mean, he is a blunt force object, just extremely popular. His views, his policy, his rhetoric -- all of those things are just far superior in terms of the voters' minds than anybody else.

ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: COATES: And to Hal's concern about the entry -- entrance polls, maybe swaying voters. Look, they were already at the caucus at the time. They're -- they're worried about getting safely to the caucus by the time we were putting out that information.


STEWART: They're not being swayed by that. Many of them had their minds made up as they went there.

But DeSantis' strong showing tonight is a result of a very strong ground game that has been in the works for quite some time, put in place by Jeff Rowe and the super PAC that has supported him doing the Commit to Caucus, reaching out to evangelicals, Bob Vander Platt (ph) really helped to engage those voters.

He doesn't have that in New Hampshire and South Carolina. So that's going to be a problem. And all of this about the threats to democracy and to your point about Biden just can't wait to go against Donald Trump.

When we listened to what these voters tonight wanted, they're not concerned about the threats of democracy. They're concerned about three things. Someone that shares their values on immigration, on the economy, on education and safety. Someone that will fight for them. And they view Donald Trump is that and they're not concerned about the temperament that they do so just as long as they have those two factors. And that's the winning message for Donald Trump today and looks like in the future.

COATES: Well, you all witnessed history today. The first time the media has been accused of election interference in favor of Donald Trump.

Take note, everyone.

Next, Vivek Ramaswamy is dropping out of the race, revealing what he's doing on the trail from here out.



PHILLIP: Vivek Ramaswamy dropping out of the presidential race after a disappointing fourth-place finish in Iowa. Ramaswamy had funded so much of his campaign from his massive personal fortune.


VIVEK RAMASWAMY, FORMER REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: As of this moment, we are going to suspend this presidential campaign. And this is going to have to be -- there is no path for me to be the next president absent things that we don't want to see happen in this country.


PHILLIP: He used the debate stage to clash fiercely with his Republican rivals, even calling the GOP a quote, "party of losers". And that was quite a whimper after such a big voice that he had in this primary, frankly clashing memorably on the debate stage with so many candidates, but especially Nikki Haley.

You have Ramaswamy there bowing out gracefully. Earlier today, I wasn't so sure.

MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Listen, the American people were the winners tonight. Now that he has gotten out of the race. And the reason why is that we've seen him in the past 30, 45 days or so, who has gone from running what would be a, you know, MAGA campaign to then just drifting entirely into this, this whole idea of lies and conspiracy theories and promoting issues that aren't necessarily important right now to the campaign trail.

But they're important to him building up his resume in getting out there. And if you've noticed over the last again, 30, 45 days, you will see that a lot of his media interviews started shifting a little bit over to the more alternative media where he is going to find a home.

PHILLIP: And it's gotten very fringy.

JANE COASTON, HOST, NYT'S "THE ARGUMENT": And you even -- you even notice in that announcement that he said that, you know, I can't win absent the things we don't want to happen.


COASTON: He's been hinting and actually having conversations on the trail with people who firmly believe that Biden is going to have Trump killed or that evil pedophiles in the Department of Defense are going to have Trump killed.

And he's playing into this. He's playing -- he's been playing the yes- and game for three months with some of the wildest elements of the fringe. And it really -- Vivek was running the most online -- I thought DeSantis was running the most online campaign.

And Vivek said, I can one up this, but you've seen that again and again of playing to, you know, going on the trail with former representative Steve King, really playing to a very specific online audience.

It says things like based (ph) -- which no one knows what that means. And so --

PHILLIP: I don't know what that means.

COASTON: Of course, you don't know what that means.

PHILLIP: I won't force you to explain it to me.

COASTON: But it's a real, it's been -- it's a very online campaign. And in actual life on the debate stage, it turns out everyone found it very annoying, and that even played into it because he was like, oh, they don't want you to like me. It's so strange to watch.

PHILLIP: I wonder, I'm actually maybe a little bit surprised it didn't work more because he's on kind of solid footing in thinking that the conspiracies have a place that the kind of nod to a certain kind of you know, soft xenophobia, even racism, that Steve King of it all, that has a place.

He was willing to nod to all kinds of things. The 9-11 trutherism, the January 6th trutherism.

Why didn't it work?

KRISTEN SOLTIS ANDERSON, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Because you know, who else is in the race, who does some of those things?

His name is Donald Trump and he just won Iowa by 30 points. And it's almost the same problem that Ron DeSantis had, which is that he was running as like a Trump variant. And it turns out that Republican voters wanted the original formula.

And so in my view, Ramaswamy's run was never really to beat Donald Trump. It was to be a little bit of a stalking horse while Donald Trump wins, be the guy on the debate stage when Trump's not there, doing the Trumpy kind of things and build up a profile for yourself so that you can become that, you know, very online personality.

He's making a bet on what the future of the Republican Party looks like over the long term, thinking, look maybe in 2032, it'll be me versus AOC for the presidency. That's where I think his head's at.

PRESTON: Not a crazy bet by the way.

LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. I just think -- I mean, to your point, which is that yes, he leaned hard into the conspiracy theories. He leaned hard into lies about January 6, but those are all the things that Trump is running on. And he is the one that voters want.

Now, what we haven't talked about is the danger of all that, which is that while Ramaswamy has this force and repeats the lies that Trump repeats, there is increased risk of violence this coming election year.


BARRON-LOPEZ: And all of the extremism trackers and people who are watching extremism groups, not just extremism groups but also potential individual actors that get inspired by the type of violent rhetoric that has become more and more normalized amongst GOP leaders like Trump and candidates like Ramaswamy.

I mean, that's a big fear that we haven't talked about yet, that I think is something that is going to be very real this coming election cycle.

PHILLIP: Yes. I mean, it's -- it's nothing to dismiss because every other word practically coming out of Ramaswamy's mouth recently has been plots, really hinting at something very sinister there.

Up next for us, we'll take a look at the differences between the Iowa and New Hampshire electorates and their big standby.


COATES: All right. The 2024 Iowa caucus is officially in the books. But now New Hampshire is squarely in the candidates' sights.

Harry Enten has more about the difference between those electorates there.

HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR DATA REPORTER: You know, let's go up to New Hampshire because that is where I went to school. I love New Hampshire. Let's take a look.

What's the difference between the New Hampshire GOP electorate versus Iowa?


ENTEN: Well, New Hampshire's electorate is more moderate. That's good for Nikki Haley. She did much better among moderate Independent voters. They make up a slew more of the voters in New Hampshire than Iowa.

How about they're wealthier? That's another good group for Nikki Haley.

How about less religious in New Hampshire than they are in Iowa? Again, a much better group for Nikki Haley because Nikki Haley struggled among white evangelicals in Iowa.

They're a much lower percentage of that vote in New Hampshire, than they are in Iowa. Perhaps why It's not much of a surprise. This to me is the big thing going forward. If Nikki Haley is going to

break through anywhere, it's going to be in the state of New Hampshire.

So this was a previous CNN poll conducted by the University of New Hampshire -- New Hampshire top choices for the GOP nominee. This is with Chris Christie's voters reallocated to their second choice.

Look at what we have here. We have a tie for first place between Nikki Haley and Donald Trump at 40 percent, you'll notice here Vivek Ramaswamy though, that 8 percent with him out of the race, that may be good news for Donald Trump. And he may in fact be able to overtake Nikki Haley in the polls.

Ron DeSantis, you know, he got that second place. He got that silver in Iowa. He isn't going get that silver in the state of New Hampshire. I'll tell you that much.

But here is perhaps the big takeaway thing to keep in mind as we look going forward, the times Iowa, and New Hampshire had the same winner in non-incumbent GOP caucuses and primaries, Laura. Guess how many it is. It's zero. It's zero.

So if that history holds, New Hampshire in a week may have something very different than Iowa said tonight.

COATES: I love a whole slide devoted to zero. Only you, Harry Enten. What is it -- what number it was again?

ENTEN: Zero.

COATES: Zero. Alright. Well, thank you.

Next here, Donald Trump's surprising words for his opponents. Now, they are pretty surprising after, of course, months and months, some would say years of attacks.