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CNN Live Event/Special

Trump Wins Iowa Caucuses; GOP Rivals Head to New Hampshire After Trump Wins Iowa; Entrance Polls: Half Of Iowa GOP Voters Identify With MAGA; United Sates Condemns Iran's "Reckless" Missile Strikes In Iraq. Aired 2-3a ET

Aired January 16, 2024 - 02:00   ET




LAURA COATES, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Well, good night or good morning. It's 2:00 a.m. right here on the East Coast. It's 1:00 a.m. in Iowa where Donald Trump has been declared the winner.

A record shattering win to the former president, Congress up a pretty big question, is its race over after it's barely begun?

I'm Laura Coates right here in New York.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: And I'm Abby Phillip here in Washington, and you are watching CNN special live coverage of the IOWA CAUCUSES.

Now, the results out of the Hawkeye State are echoing across the nation. But what exactly is the message that voters sent tonight? And it might very well be that the Trump brand is still good as gold with Republicans.

So, how big exactly was this Trump win? If you add up Ron DeSantis, Nikki Haley and Vivek Ramaswamy. Their combined total is still not what Trump got tonight. That math for the second and third place finishers is cold and hard. And DeSantis and Haley, they are now arguing that they have a reason to keep running. But the question both will hear starting this morning and throughout the next couple of weeks, is an Iowa handout. Just one golden ticket to New Hampshire?

COATES: Oh, man, I love a Willy Wonka reference right now. The golden tickets. I see a golden spot on the all red, otherwise map. This is a pretty big night, we've been waiting for it to come. Would he, would he not? Were the polls correct? What can you tell us?

HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR DATA REPORTER: I mean, the polls gosh darn good.


ENTEN: I mean, I think the only thing that the final polls got wrong was that Ron DeSantis got in second place, and Nikki Haley got in third. The final polls showed that flip. But look, they were close in the finals.

But the polls got the most important thing right now, was that Donald Trump ran away with this race 51 percent. You can hit up all the other candidates, you are not going to beat 51 percent of the vote. So, Donald Trump had a massive victory.

And I want to just give you an idea of how big this win was, Laura, because take a look here. Let's look first off where Trump won by 10 points or more.

Look at this. You've still got a ton of red on this map. There are only two places where we don't have red on this map. One of them is where we have gold, which was there Nikki Haley, "beat" Donald Trump by -- it's not a percentage point it's literally a single vote Laura.

COATES: That's kind of -- first of all that's got to burn.

ENTEN: It's going to burn

COATES: I mean, one vote.


COATES: One vote.

ENTEN: One, one.


ENTEN: You -- he was literally one vote away from going 99 for 99. The other place was up here in Ames, up in Story County, where we see Donald Trump with that four-point win over Nikki Haley.

You know, I just want to give you an understanding, though, of one of the counties that I was sort of looking back in 2016, that to me sort of is indicative of how well Donald Trump did this particular (INAUDIBLE).

So, this is back in 2016. Look at Cedar Rapids. Right? Let's look at Linn County. We see this look pretty much like what we saw statewide. Perhaps, Donald Trump doing a little bit weaker than he didn't Marco Rubio -- Marco Rubio doing a little bit better. But Ted Cruz doing quite well.

Now, let's flip forward to 2024. Look at what we saw here. An easy win for Donald Trump, crushing Nikki Haley, crushing Ron DeSantis. Another way we could look at this Laura is take a look here. OK?

Let's take a look. And we're going to go -- we're going to look at the suburban areas. Look, what do we see here. We see a ton -- for you can get rid of that, there we go. Red, red, red, red, red, red, red, not little, of course, spot of gold there.

Another way. Take a look. If we look at the rural areas, what do we see? We see, it is already. So, this was a dominating win for Donald Trump. He won in the suburban areas, he won in the rural areas. He even won -- If we were to look at the most urban area even in Polk County, Des Moines, most population in the state. He wasn't even here. So, he won everywhere.

COATES: Do we have any idea why that one yellow spot went to Haley? Anything about that area in particular?

ENTEN: Why did that one yellow spot go to Nikki Haley? Well, you know, if Mark Preston, of course, noting university vote, a lot of university vote here.

COATES: Right.

ENTEN: And what we know from Nikki Haley's wins is if you were to look where Nikki Haley, in fact came in second place in the state of Iowa, obviously, she came in first place there.


What do we see? It's again, a lot of these suburban areas. Right? It's Ames, Sears Cedar Rapids it's here

of Iowa, obviously, she came in first place there. What do we see? It's, again, a lot of these suburban areas, right? It's Ames, see on Cedar Rapids, tear down and Davenport. And it's those areas around Sioux City as well.

So, the fact is that Nikki Haley did most well in these suburban areas she didn't do as well in the rural areas. If we look at where Ron DeSantis came in second place, we see there is a lot more red on this particular map than we saw on the previous map. And that is indicative of the fact that Ron DeSantis did well in more counties, he was able to come in second place in more counties than Nikki Haley did. And those rural areas really sort of added up as we sort of went through the state.

But the fact is, again, if we're just sort of talking about what this night is all about, yes, Nikki Haley got beat out for second place by Ron DeSantis. But it was just by two points, the real thing to look at here. First place Donald Trump. First place, we could do this 98 times. And that, I think, is a story you should take away from this particular night. It's that Donald Trump dominated this particular caucus. And again, if you go back to 2016 --


ENTEN: You know, he got 24 percent of the vote. He lost out to Ted Cruz, who got a little bit less than 28 percent of vote. You jump forward now, it's a very different story. Donald Trump dominated, dominated, dominated, that is really the only adjective I can use to describe his performance this evening.

COATES: I bet Ron wants the other thing to be true.

The person second place will then come on and go on to win. But I bet this map is the reason Nikki Haley, Abby saw this and said, maybe a two-person race. Who knows that she really meant, Abby?

PHILLIP: Yes, I mean, that may very well be wishful, thinking for all the reasons that Harry just laid out. We're back here in Washington with our panel.

Trump is not really known for being an extender of olive branches. But here is what he said about his two opponents. tonight.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I want to congratulate Ron and Nikki for having a good -- a good time together. We're all having a good time together. And I think they both actually did very well.

I also want to congratulate Vivek, because he did a hell of a job. They were very smart -- very smart people, very capable people.


PHILLIP: A lot of kindness, a lot of grace being extended to his opponents. What is going on here?

MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Oh, well, I mean, this is the Donald Trump playbook, right? I'm going to attack you -- attack you -- attack you, and then, when you show fealty to me, I'm going to embrace you.

He went after Vivek, saying, put a statement out or I guess a tweet or whatever he calls it nowadays. Unfortunately, when he's speaking to Vivek now, unfortunately, now all he does is disguise his support in the form of deceitful campaign tricks.

It's like 24 hours ago, he said that about Vivek, and now, they're best friends. And I'm pretty sure if that makes going on the campaign trail with him in New Hampshire, which will be interesting, too, because there is a sliver of New Hampshire, certainly along the coast, maybe, because, you know a little bit more about it. But it becomes very tea parties. That's where the Tea Party, what you know, was really entrenched in New Hampshire and the past couple election cycles.

Vivek will appeal to them. And look, he's certainly not going to help Trump -- rather hurt Trump on the campaign trail.

PHILLIP: Even called DeSantis, Ron. Where did DeSanctimonious go?



I mean, Trump is -- to me, I listened to that, and it sounds like he is trying to say, hey, guys, it's over.


PHILLIP: Let's just get on the same team here.

COASTON: I mean, he's been going after Ron DeSantis, privately and publicly for months now, going after his wife, implying that he knows terrible secrets about Ron DeSantis's wife, going after his genitals. It has been absolutely absurd.

And now he's like, oh, I don't have to do this anymore. It doesn't matter. You don't matter. It's actually weirdly insulting. It just says like, it's over. Go away.

PHILLIP: And we were talking, Kristen, about the polling being largely correct, not just in the last month or so, but really throughout this race that has kept Donald Trump really right there at the top.

And the dynamics of this race really are not changing all that much.

KRISTEN SOLTIS ANDERSON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No, it's been very stable. People's minds have not changed that much. They have not seen a lot to make them change their mind. And so, at this point, I'm not in the business of psychoanalyzing Donald Trump at all. So, whether his decision to be relatively magnanimous tonight is because he woke up on the right side of the bed and he won and he's in a good mood, or is it some deeper strategic thing? I don't know.

But I do know that even Republican voters who like Trump will often say,, I wish our party would just unify behind him.


SOLTIS ANDERSON: And those who don't like Donald Trump, are where sort of dreading a drawn-out bloody fight that ultimately, unifying the party, getting prepared for the battle to come in November. Is a really high priority for a lot of Republicans.

So, to the extent that there was any strategic thinking there versus just being in a good moot because he won Iowa that might be why.


LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I mean the takeaways that I'm looking at right now from Trump showing is that yes, he dominated tonight. But when you're looking ahead to the general because again, I know that there are multiple states that we're about to go through Nikki Haley and Ron DeSantis have not dropped out.

But we all right now I really see this as Trump heading for the nomination.

And so, in those entrance polls, one thing that stuck out to me is that the dividing line here in this party right now is that is between non college educated and college educated.

And college educated, continue to split away from Trump, and he still showed some weakness in Iowa with college educated. And that could be a problem for him in the general because it was a problem for him in the general in 2020. And it's some place that Democrats are now starting to dominate more on it's a segment of voters that Joe Biden is going to be laser focused on.

And also, within those college educated. Four in 10 in those entrance polls, said that they believed that Trump would not be fit if he were convicted of a crime.

PHILLIP: Although --

BARRON-LOPEZ: So, if you're Joe Biden, you might be looking at those numbers saying that's a segment that I really need to speak to.

PHILLIP: Although we should know that Trump improved his performance among college educated voters compared to the last time he ran in Iowa, which just says a lot about the Republican Party more than anything else.

Everyone, stick around here. Laura?

COATES: There is a lot going on tonight, Abby, and there is one interesting entrance poll. It showed a split among Iowa Republicans about the so-called MAGA movement. And look at this poll. 46 percent of Republican caucus goers say yes, they do identify as MAGA.

Now, of course, that means 50 percent do say no. So, we're back with my panel. Now. Does this strike you this new poll about who identifies with this movement or not?

ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: It kind of goes in line with what the results of the caucus were.



STEWART: Almost half of people, Republicans that came out to the caucus support Donald Trump and the MAGA movement. But here is the question. It depends on what your definition of MAGA is. Is it Donald Trump and his boisterous toxic behavior? Or is it make America great again.

Let it let's go back to securing the border and safe streets and pushing back on the Biden policies and the administration. I think Republicans see a difference in what they view MAGA as. And there is a clear distinction that some are really in the Donald Trump camp, and others just wanted to use that as a way to push back against the Biden policies as we saw today.


GEOFF DUNCAN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think -- I think MAGA is Latin for Donald Trump. Right?

That's the -- he could -- he could say anything in that would be the following. Those 50 percent would just fall right in line with whatever he said. I'm actually surprised it's 50. Right? That tells me that we're actually making progress, maybe seven more election cycles, we'll be able to finally get rid of Donald Trump and actually have a real conservative, because that's what Donald Trump has done. He's confused Republicans. He's confused conservatism with louder and angry.

So, the louder you are, the angrier you are, the more conservative you are, but that's not really the case. Because if you -- and I think this was a major issue, when postgame analysis with Nikki Haley and Ron DeSantis going to New Hampshire on that plane, somebody is going to say, he probably should have punched Trump harder faster in this race.

Right. You should have called him out for being a fake Republican, $8 trillion dollars where the debt. You talked about securing the border. I mean, he talked about securing the border. He built 50 miles where the fence and said Mexico is going to pay for it, neither happened.

COATES: Right.

DUNCAN: So, and you know, the $8 trillion the COVID response, all that. He was a fake Republican, but that's the spell that he's cast upon us. I hope it's a temporary moment of insanity.

COATES: Why are you giggling?

BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No, I just think Maga is Donald Trump point blank period. Right? And you know that for two reasons. The first is that Donald Trump has trampled on all of the traditional Republican values that they held true.

You can't be a Ronald Reagan type Republican. You can't be a George Bush type Republican. He has literally just trampled on what those legacies were. I mean, you heard the last race when he talked about George Bush, Jeb Bush, George H.W. Bush and any other bush that was around. He just literally talked about them like they were dogs. He did the same thing about anybody who was not MAGA. So, that's first.

The second part is, you can't replicate this. That's why -- That's why, you know, that it's a cultural personality. Other individuals have tried to replicate what Donald Trump has, and they simply cannot.

Ron DeSantis can't. Nikki Haley can't. There is no such thing as like, I don't believe in a such thing as unsweet tea.

I don't know what that is people drink up north. But there is also no such thing as Donald Trump like. There isn't. Like either you're Donald Trump or you're not, and people do not accept. They don't accept replicas.



SELLERS: Yes. Go to commercial. Let's go to commercial.

ALLISON: I always -- sorry.

No, I -- Donald Trump is MAGA. And MAGA is Make America Great Again. And I You can't pretend what that means like he is -- when Chris Christie talks about him, and we're like we want more people to hit Donald Trump harder.


When Ron DeSantis talks about kissing the ring finally, you know the night before, like too little too late. It's problematic. It's anti- Democratic. It is anti-inclusive. It is not conservatism. It is not truth telling. And it is a path that I wish the Republican Party would wake up.

I'm game for like a good election. I'm here for it, that's why I got into politics. I like people to have to win voters votes. But MAGA is about Donald Trump and Donald Trump is about destruction for anything that is not about him.

COATES: You have to wonder at some point in time, if no one can replicate it, if it is this high bar that can't be duplicated. Is Donald Trump MAGA enough for some who support MAGA? You have to wonder at what point that might change as well. That's the game we're playing these days.

Everyone, stick around. The question now, did Ron DeSantis start his attacks on Donald Trump? We just talked about this. Was it too late. We have a mashup. Plus, how Trump's legal calendar is about to collide with the political calendar. Saved by -- standby.


ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Hello, and welcome, everyone. I'm Rosemary Church. We'll get back to CNN live coverage of the Iowa caucuses in just a moment. But first, we want to get you caught up on some international headlines.

The U.S. is condemning what it calls reckless and imprecise missiles strikes by Iran in northern Iraq and northern Syria.

Iran claims have destroyed a spy base for Israel's Mossad and the sides 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 command 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 missiles struck a bulk carrier causing minor damage. Here is what a Houthi military spokesperson had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BRIG. GEN. YAHYA SAREE, HOUTHI MILITARY SPOKESPERSON (through translator): Again, the 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: Ukraine's Air Force says it targeted two Russian planes over the Sea of Azov. Only one of them was able to land, but Ukraine said it's beyond repair. CNN's Fred Pleitgen has details.

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The Ukrainians are saying that they have managed to hit two very important Russian aircraft for Moscow's aerial campaign against this country. One of them is called the A-50 Beriev, which is an airborne early warning and control system. In other words, an aircraft that picks out targets on the ground and coordinates the Russian Air Force's combat against those targets.

Now, the Ukrainians are saying that this A-50 Beriev was destroyed. They also said that they managed to hit a plane called an IL-22, which is essentially an airborne command post that the Russians are using.

Now, that Ukrainians had originally said that, that aircraft was also destroyed. However, later, an image emerged seeming to show that plane's tail heavily damaged, however, the plane apparently had managed to land at an airfield inside Russia.

Later, there was audio that emerged, seeming to show a Russian Air Force jet that was escorting this plane, asking an airport on the ground to give that plane clearance for an emergency landing.

Let's listen in.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (text): 72014. The aircraft asked to pass on information immediately. (INAUDIBLE) he was hit, plans to land in Anapa. An ambulance and fire fighters are urgently needed.


PLEITGEN: The Ukrainians are saying that these hits on these aircraft happened in the Sea of Azov, which is actually very far away from any sort of Ukrainian held territory. The Ukrainians have also not said how exactly they managed to hit these aircraft. The Russians for their part have so far not commented on the matter. Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Dnipro, Ukraine.

CHURCH: Thanks for joining us. I'm Rosemary Church. We return now to our live coverage of the Iowa caucuses.

PHILLIP: Weeks, Ron DeSantis has been shifting his tone pretty dramatically as he's been campaigning in Iowa.


He is now on the attack against the party's front runner, Donald Trump.

Listen to this.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDATE: How many people that served in his administration are lining up to endorse him this time around or be willing to come here and knock on doors in sub-freezing temperatures? Not very many.

Donald Trump is the party of the Washington, D.C. establishment. They've lined up behind him.

He is running a campaign about putting himself and his issues first. That's what he cares about. You can be the most worthless Republican in America. But if you kiss the ring, he'll say you're wonderful.

Those promises were not fulfilled. He did not deliver on those.

Donald Trump, I guess has found it in. He just going to be hanging out down in Mar-a-Lago. I'm sure it's probably 75 degrees there.

The problem is he didn't drain it. The bureaucracy got worse the weaponization got worse. He put a lot of these people in place.

I think the reality is if Trump is the candidate you have -- the election will be about legal issues, criminal trials convict -- maybe he's convicted.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Do you think Donald Trump is not pro- life?

DESANTIS: Of course not. I mean, when you're saying that pro-life protections are a terrible thing, by definition, you are not pro-life. When you say that you want to have a federal law at 18 weeks or 20 weeks that would override a state like Iowa, that is enacted pro-life protections. That would mean more abortions, not less abortions, because very few abortions are happening that late anyways.

So, he has flip flopped on this issue. I don't know if it's because of political convenience, or this is all where he always believed in. But here's the thing. Some issues are pretty fundamental. How do you flip flop on something like the sanctity of life?

I think, though, one thing in this race that I think is important to point out is Donald Trump flip flopping on the right to life.

Why shouldn't he have to answer questions? I mean, he's running on things like deporting illegals and building a wall. But he did that in 16 and didn't get it done. So, I think he owes answers to those questions. He has not been willing to do that. Obviously, if you go by polling, it hasn't hurt. But I think now that we're in the new year, I think voters do expect you to answer those questions. I think Iowans expect you to show up and debate.

But he couldn't even negotiate funding for a border wall when he had a Republican Congress.

He is now running in 2024. promising to do the exact same thing he promised in '16 and didn't deliver on. And it's like, OK, you know, fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me for this.


PHILLIP: New Year, New Ron DeSantis. But is it a little too late for him?

SOLTIS ANDERSON: It's too little and it's too late. And look, I hate to Monday morning quarterback this or Monday night quarterback this. Tuesday morning quarterback this, I guess as it is.

But look, there's an alternate universe where instead of waiting until the summer to get into this race, Ron DeSantis gets in the moment that the red wave fails to materialize in November of 2022. When Republicans are feeling wounded, they're going, hey, maybe we do need a different direction.

That was where Ron DeSantis was pulling the strongest against Donald Trump. Now, the question of all of these tough arguments, he is starting to roll out now. Would that have worked if he rolled them out earlier? There? I do have a little bit more question there. There is a lot of evidence that the harder you hit Trump, the more there is this antibody response from Republican voters, they feel the need to defend him.

But I do wonder, there is got to be a difference, I think between how a Republican voter hears a criticism like that, from Ron DeSantis, who used to get rave reviews at CPAC. He was beloved he's still a strong favorable with the base. Versus say a Chris Christie or even a Nikki Haley, who frankly doesn't have that same credibility with the base.


PHILLIP: But isn't there also a part of this that is about Ron DeSantis, showing that he is even willing to take on Trump that kind of toughness that Republican voters want to see from their candidates.

COASTON: I mean, he's been tougher on gay teachers and bisexual teens than it has been on Donald Trump. He's been tough. His entire campaign. And everyone he hired for his campaign was about finding the meanest people on the Internet to go scream at the opposition, about how they were groomers or about how they hated America, or about their how they were groomers who also hated America.

And none of this had anything to do with fighting the actual opponent that he apparently wanted to beat to become president of the United States, Donald Trump. So much of this is so late. And I am just so struck by how his entire campaign was -- should have been based on how he could take what he had done in Florida, where he'd had so many successes made that state what he calls the Freedom State, and that he can export that to America.


COASTON: He should have announced his campaign right after the red wave in front of a cheering throngs of fans at a major college Football Stadium in the state of Florida.


He announced on Twitter spaces, it didn't work. Then he talked a lot about Bitcoin and ESG, which most people don't care about.

And his entire campaign has been so limited by the people he hired, but the topics he's covered, and by his unwillingness to go after his actual opposition, because he keeps saying, Oh, I'm Trump without the drama. I'm Trump without legal issues. It turns out people like Trump.

PHILLIP: And it is amazing how his campaign has shifted. I mean, Ron DeSantis, and his very highly paid consultants. They were convinced that he can win this nomination by railing against wokeism, and coronavirus.


PHILLIP: that seems like a far-away fever dream at this point.

BARRON-LOPEZ: Yes, he started the campaign by, as Jane said, saying, you know, making it all about being anti-transgender, anti-transgender minors, and then also about saying that he wanted to change the way slavery was taught in schools, and there would not be A.P. African American curriculum in Florida. And that was the centerpiece of his campaign when he launched.

And then months go by and it's not working -- and it's not working -- and it's not working. And then, he pivots a bit more to different issues. But again, another thing that he did that his campaign did from the beginning, I think, because of the way the ecosystem was in Florida was that he didn't think he had to talk to regular reporters or the regular press, and that he could just go around on Twitter or go around in your --

COASTON: He proud at himself on that.

BARRON-LOPEZ: Yes. Go around in more conservative spaces, and just speak directly to voters, and that, that would somehow work. And then, you've seen in the final month or so that he has decided that he needed to have a somewhat more of a traditional press campaign where he was talking and getting his message out more, and it still didn't work, because it was -- it was too late.

PRESTON: You wonder, too if like, if he invested too much in the culture wars in a primary where he didn't necessarily have to, I mean, if you look at the numbers again, Kristen, I mean, you swim in numbers all day, basically. And if you look at the numbers, Donald Trump has such a strong grip on the evangelicals, and has such a strong grip on folks who have decided that they don't care that he was, you know, pro-abortion rights, you know, 10 years ago, or whatever was 15 years ago. But now that, you know, he is fully, you know, in the right to life camp. I think that Ron DeSantis was the right candidate at the wrong time. I do.

I think that, you know, had he run, you know, back in 2016, he may have given -- had he been in this position. He may have given Trump a pretty good run for, you know, for the nomination.

And as far as like taking Trump on, I remember back in 2015, having lunch with Marco Rubio, top aide back in August, telling me, listen, August 2015, we're going to let everyone else fight Trump. And then we're going to come in in October and November, and we're going to rise above it all.

And guess what happened? He became little Marco. So, you can't play those games?

PHILLIP: Yes, I mean --

SOLTIS ANDERSON: The one thing that the --

PHILLIP: And nobody seems to have learned that lesson.

SOLTIS ANDERSON: The one thing that I think is different from Ron DeSantis, from anybody else who has sort of had this failing strategy and a primary, he is still very well-liked by Republican voters.

His problem is not that Republican voters don't like him, it's that they liked Donald Trump a little more. And being people second place choice doesn't get you anything in this primary. But he could still run in 2028. And I think have a bright future in the party at this point.

And so, maybe even though his strategy failed to win him this time around, it did not burn bridges with the Republican base long term.

PHILLIP: In terms of his favorability, at one of the things that I -- no one mentioned is that DeSantis had to overcome some awkwardness, some real awkwardness on the campaign trail, and just in the last month, I mean, we were in Iowa last week and saw him there. The improvement has been actually really dramatic for him. So, we'll see how the next week goes. It's do or die time for these candidates, everyone.

Standby. Next, as Trump complements his rivals, are there any that he would actually consider potentially as a running mate, if he gets the nomination, we'll discuss that as our special coverage continues.



COATES: Welcome back to CNN's Special Coverage of the Iowa Caucuses. Now, Donald Trump has won the first contest in the nation, breaking 50 percent. We are also checking that (ph) Ron DeSantis will take second place, with just over 21 percent, Nikki Haley not too far behind with 19.1 percent.

So the question I am asking, thinking about second place, I'm thinking about who is second in command and who he might choose as a running mate eventually. And I wonder, if any of the people we saw tonight might be candidates? What do you guys think?

STEWART: I feel like the primary was, truthfully, too contentious for any of them to be his nominee. I think even though many people say they did not push back hard enough on him, he feels as though they did. And I know --

COATES: So, he's too slighted to think (ph) olive branch?

STEWART: Exactly. And he doesn't want anyone that is going to outshine him --


STEWART: --as vice president. Look at Mike Pence, wonderful man, great Christian, man of faith, he would never get in Donald Trump's spotlight and would never steal his shine as someone I know likes to say. I think he is going to look at someone that is going to be a little bit unlike him, someone like a Ben Carson. I think he has been talking to people, he likes his former Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

So, I think someone like that is going to be -- maybe a different gender, different race. His -- in his mind, that is going to make a better appeal to the electorate.

COATES: Let's join that (ph). I mean, if it were say Ben Carson or --


COATES: I didn't get the question out, she's like yes, she won this.

ALLISON: My apologies..

COATES: I was like -- what was I going to say (ph) about that Ashley?

ALLISON: Yes, please. Choose Ben Carson. Go for it.

No, I mean, I think -- you would pick Ben Carson because he's a black man and Donald Trump is trying to get more black men. I don't think that that's who black men are looking for. I mean, Bakari, you are a black man, maybe you can speak for all of us --

SELLERS: I won't translate, but continue.


ALLISON: Yeah. I don't think that that's going to get him where he wants to be. I mean when I think about selecting -- I think you are right. I don't think that it was a contentious primary at all, but Donald Trump is so sensitive, that --

COATES: Right.

ALLISON: --of course, like anyone who again doesn't kiss the ring, he is not going to want to support him. And I do think Nikki Haley would outshine him as his VP because that's why she -- he's scared that she might -- I mean she's not, but she might overcome him in this primary. But I would think about someone like, what would it look like to debate the current vice president, because that's going to be part of it.

What demographic are you actually struggling with? You know, right now, the polls are showing that the overwhelming majority of voters don't support the decision to overturn Roe, so maybe a woman would be something of a more -- to get that constituency.

COATES: Right.

ALLISON: But, I mean go for it. Ben Carson is your guy, those gifted hands.

SELLERS: Let's talk about who it won't be. So I agree.

DUNCAN: It won't be Mike Pence.


COATES: It won't be Mike Pence.

DUNCAN: That didn't work out very well for him.


SELLERS: Mike Pence doesn't want to do it anymore either, I'm pretty sure. But, one of the things that we talked about is, I don't think the race was that contentious.


SELLERS: I mean, we saw Kamala Harris go really hard at Joe Biden in that debate in Miami. But they had a longstanding relationship, so they were able to overcome that. You don't have those type of relationships, to your point, in this Republican primary. But, it will not be Nikki Haley.

COATES: Right.

SELLERS: It will not be Christie, no. It will not be these individuals who you can't trust. And that is something about having a vice president. You can't trust --

COATES: Why can't you trust either of them?

SELLERS: Because their goal is to be president of the United States.

(CROSSTALK) COATES: So is Kamala Harris' though.

SELLERS: It won't be Nancy Mace either. And so, I think when you look at these three individuals would have been hot-button names, Donald Trump is going to say I cannot trust them because they are going to want to live in my light, and live in my limelight. For Joe Biden, that was not an issue, that ego wasn't an issue for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. But that will be an issue for Donald Trump. I think Ben Carson is a pretty unique name to choose from. I think Sarah Huckabee Sanders doesn't bring you much, but it's still a very unique name and gives him the type of things he wants in a vice president.

DUNCAN: So, (inaudible), let's call honest balls and strikes here. I mean, the size of the universe is pretty limited, I mean who's willing to sell their soul to be Donald Trump's vice president?

SELLERS: (inaudible) Ben Carson and Sarah Huckabee Sanders.


COATES: Right.

DUNCAN: (Inaudible) Everybody, everybody who works with Donald Trump in the business world, in the personal world, in the political world regrets working with him, right? So I mean, the size of the universe is small. And -- but he wants an inferior person, right? But as a real leader, you want somebody there that does have those aspirations to eventually lead and has those qualities and characteristics.

Mike Pence, I mean think about what happened to him. I mean nice, sweet, Christian gentleman as you talked about, very polished, great leader from Indiana. He was supportive of him being hung. I mean this is real stuff.

STEWART: Right. Did nothing in January (ph).

ALLISON: But why?

STEWART: OK. (Inaudible) Republican question.

ALLISON: Is the list really that short? I mean think about all the senators, just this week, who came out and endorsed Donald Trump ahead of the Iowa caucus. Like, don't you think perhaps, like if they got a shot to be on a ticket, they would take it. Like, if he really was that radioactive, he would not have won the caucus and he wouldn't have gotten those endorsements. I don't know if the list is that short for Donald Trump.

STEWART: I agree, I think the party has fallen in line behind him. We'll see, certainly Marco Rubio tripping over himself to do this endorsement. The party has fallen in line behind him at this stage of the game, not to say that things may change down the road, but they are falling in line behind him. I'm going to go out on a limb and I'm going to say, one person that will not be Chris Christie.


STEWART: I'm just going to guess that.


COATES: That's a pretty secure branch that you are on right now. (Inaudible) action though, in terms of that long list which she said?

DUNCAN: Well, I do think the list is growing because unfortunately too many people want to be politicians and not leaders.


DUNCAN: I mean, that is the problem. They want to be a part of the cool kids club.

SELLERS: We forgot (ph) Stefani.

COATES: Yeah. And Tim Scott.

STEWART: And Marjorie Taylor Greene.

SELLERS: I actually think Tim Scott would be a dynamic choice.

DUNCAN: That's enough. That's too much.


SELLERS: I think -- all jokes aside, I actually think Tim Scott actually fits the mold --

ALLISON: He does.

SELLERS: --in a far superior way than Ben Carson. Tim Scott brings a level of gravitas, he bring an American story. He -- you don't need South Carolina, but he is able to talk to southern voters. He'll be good on the stump. He's not someone who is going to steal that limelight or shadow.

The question that Tim Scott has to answer is, what is he going to do when South Carolina comes around in a couple of Saturdays from now, because Donald Trump will remember that Tim Scott has been on the sidelines, and does he (ph) come out and endorsed the Donald Trump over the -- over the person who made him a United States Senator? I mean, that is a question, if he doesn't, I don't know --

ALLISON: And isn't that so telling about where the Republican Party is, like where is the loyalty to any folks in the party.


ALLISON: I mean, I don't -- we will see. But I agree. I think Tim Scott is a solid possibility. He can speak to black men, which again has been like a population that Democrats are continuously losing cycle after cycle, and black evangelicals. We talk a lot about evangelicals --

COATES: Right.

ALLISON: --but black folks' faith is very diverse. And so, he could actually --

SELLERS: Opportunity zones, HBCUs, the policy work that Tim Scotts has done.

COATES: Well, is it enough though? I mean we are talking about, is it a choice for Trump, is it a choice and a pairing that would make the Biden-Harris Administration and ticket fearful?



SELLERS: I mean, they get the candidate they want. They get Donald Trump.

COATES: Right.

SELLERS: So, that is who they want, with warts and all. Nikki -- Kamala Harris is going to be able to do and manage that race against whoever the vice president is. Tim Scott, Ben Carson would be just --

ALLISON: Yeah, I mean, that's what I said.


SELLERS: (Inaudible). I mean that's not a thing. I mean, so, that is fine. But I do think, I mean, if you want to just talk about where the country is and feel good about the Republican Party and feel good about a vice president, Tim Scott would be that person.

ALLISON: Yeah. And he is like the antidote to -- they are going to throw. It didn't work for DeSantis, the woke politics and culture wars, but Tim Scott can be somewhat of a false (ph) antidote to say like, oh, I'm a black man, so how could they be racist, that kind of thing.

STEWART: And his faith narrative and his religious background is very appealing. And if you recall, when he was running one of his big lines that always stands out is, we are going to be victorious, we are not going to be victims. And so, I think he will be able to sort of play off Donald Trump's being victim and he will focus more on (inaudible).


DUNCAN: Could you imagine waking up every morning with a text message from Donald Trump as to what he wanted you to do that day?


DUNCAN: Could you just imagine?

SELLERS: So Trump Ramaswamy, that's where (ph) we have it.

DUNCAN: There you have it. What an odd love affair that's been the last seven days.

COATES: It's clearly a quarter to 3 a.m. At this point --


COATES: Everyone is starting to dream. And stick around.

Up next, interesting changes. Some of voters who Trump struggled with in the previous races, the big question, will it make a difference in a general matchup with President Biden. We will talk about it next.



PHILLIP: Our reporters are fanned out across Iowa and New Hampshire, including at DeSantis and Haley headquarters. Shortly after the results were announced today, let's starts with Jessica Dean at the DeSantis watch party. Kylie Atwood.

JESSICA DEAN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Abby, now that CNN projected that Florida Governor Ron DeSantis will come in second here in Iowa, he and his campaign advisers remain adamant they will be staying in this race. But in a somewhat unconventional schedule moving forward, he will be immediately going to South Carolina tomorrow for a stop before continuing on to New Hampshire. New Hampshire of course is up next on the primary calendar.

But DeSantis' aides and sources familiar tell me and our colleague Steve Contorno, that they really see South Carolina as the next target where they really want to try to knock the former governor of South Carolina, Nikki Haley, out of the race in her own home state. We're told the campaign staff are moving from Iowa to South Carolina, that they think that Nikki Haley is vulnerable after people are beginning to give her a closer look.

And they also, sources tell us, that they believe that Donald Trump could be vulnerable moving forward if he ends up being convicted on any of the counts that he is currently facing. But there is, of course, one x-factor here and that's money. Do they have enough money to continue going forward? We are told by sources that they do, but we also know that starting on Tuesday morning rather, they will begin calling donors all over again, telling them this is a marathon, that they came in second place, that they have got to get South Carolina where they can knock out Haley and make it a two-man race.

But Abby, the question is can they actually get that done? They think the voters there in South Carolina are their kind of voters that will react well to Ron DeSantis' message. But the fact remains he did not do quite as well as they had potentially hoped that he would do here in Iowa. He did come in second, but was still a very distant second from the former president, a lot of ground to make up there. And they spent millions of dollars and a significant amount of time here in Iowa to get that distant second place finish.

But again, DeSantis now moving ahead in this race with that first stop in South Carolina and then on to New Hampshire tomorrow. Abby?

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Nikki Haley told supporters here in Iowa, after coming in third place in the Iowa caucuses, that she loves Iowa but she is on to New Hampshire, very clearly pivoting to New Hampshire quite quickly after the result of this Iowa caucus. She'll be flying into New Hampshire tonight where her campaign feels that she has quite a bit of momentum. She told supporters in the room here, that Iowa has made it into a two-person race between her and Former President Trump. Of course, that is not a reflection of reality given Ron DeSantis is still in the race and he came in ahead of her in Iowa.

But, they feel like they have some momentum going into New Hampshire, going into South Carolina, and in Nikki Haley's words, and beyond. She did not mention Ron DeSantis in her speech this evening. She did congratulate Former President Trump on his victory. And she will be headed to New Hampshire where she will do a series of events over the next few days. And we will wait and see what her pitch looks like to voters in New Hampshire.

Kylie Atwood, CNN, West Des Moines.

PHILLIP: Our thanks to Kylie and Jessica Dean for that. And up next for us, so many Republicans who attacked Donald Trump and endorsed one of his rivals say that they will actually still support the former president. We will discuss, as our special coverage continues.



COATES: While the Iowa entrance polls (inaudible) have been very interesting about on how Donald Trump's support from college-educated voters may have changed over time. Spoiler alert, it did. Harry Enten (inaudible) with me today. I mean it did. Take me back in time a little about how he used to perform.

ENTEN: Yeah. You know, if you were to look back in 2016, in the Iowa caucuses, Donald Trump came in third place among college-educated voters. He did not just finish behind Marco Rubio, he finished behind Ted Cruz as well. Let's flash forward though. This has always been a weak route for college-educated voters, but look what happened last night in the State of Iowa.

Who won among college-educated voters? It was Donald Trump. Although not by necessarily the biggest margin in the world. But, you know what, if this is supposedly Donald Trump's "weak group," I think he will very much take a nine-point win over Nikki Haley. I'll note, Nikki Haley finishing just ahead of Ron DeSantis there. So, this was a strong group for Nikki Haley, not necessarily the strongest group for Donald Trump. But he won it, Laura.

COATES: Yeah. ENTEN: He won it.

COATES: This tells me that, t00, the margin is much slimmer when you are talking about college-educated voters. Is it the same for non- college though?


ENTEN: Yeah. So, let's take -- go again back to 2016, right, non- college-educated voters. In the state of Iowa, Donald Trump did somewhat better amongst them, but again, he still lost to Ted Cruz, right? He got 28 percent of the vote, Ted Cruz came in with 31 percent of the vote. Let's flip forward to 2024. Woof, that is the word I would use.


ENTEN: Woof.

COATES: Woof is the word, OK.

ENTEN: That is the word. My goodness, gracious! What a strong group for Donald Trump? 65 percent of that vote. Ron DeSantis coming at second place, at 16 percent. Nikki Haley just ten -- just 10 percent of the vote, and that to me is going to be one of the big questions going forward. Because, again, look at where we were in 2024 among college voters: Nikki Haley 28 percent, non-college just 10 percent. That ain't going to work in a Republican primary.

COATES: As Harry Enten said, apparently that says woof everyone. Thank you, Harry. Thank you so much.

ENTEN: Woof.

COATES: Next, Trump's dominance among evangelical voters and what that means for the future of the Republican Party. Plus, looking ahead, fast forward to New Hampshire.