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CNN Live Event/Special
Interview With New Hampshire GOP Chairman Chris Ager; Interview With New Hampshire Secretary of State David Scanlan; New Hampshire Votes. Aired 1-1:30p ET
Aired January 23, 2024 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN HOST: Welcome to our coverage of today's first- in-the-nation primary in New Hampshire. I'm Kaitlan Collins in Washington, alongside Anderson Cooper in New York.
And, right now, voters are making their picks in the one-on-one Republican primary between Donald Trump and Nikki Haley. The former governor of South Carolina is hoping to prove her critics wrong and vowing to stay in this race. But, of course, the stakes could not be higher for her in the Granite State, as Trump's former rivals are now falling in line behind him.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: We have got reporters all over the state and analysts standing by here with us.
Want to go to the ground right now in New Hampshire with Boris Sanchez and Omar Jimenez.
So, Omar, what's happening where you are?
OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, so we have been at this polling place in Manchester throughout the day today.
We have had so many people, hundreds come in over the course of today. I'm going to walk you inside a little bit here just to see, and then we're going to talk to a quick voter in a moment. But this is kind of the setup here.
So you see it's a little less crowded than it was in the early morning side, but they will make their way to this main table here, where they get processed, they get checked, they get their ballot. Then they make their way over here to those familiar privacy booths, where they actually go to cast their ballot for who they want to represent the GOP party or if they're writing in President Biden's name.
Now, I mentioned we were going to talk to some voters. We have been talking to them over the course of the morning. And what's been interesting is, we have been hearing not just who they're picking, but also some very interesting nuances in why they're picking the candidates that they are.
So, for example, hi, ma'am. How's it going? I'm Omar. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi.
JIMENEZ: Nice to meet you. How you doing?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think I have seen you on TV.
JIMENEZ: Well, hey, we're both on TV together.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
JIMENEZ: So, tell me who you voted for and why.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, I voted for Nikki Haley because I was voting against Donald Trump.
JIMENEZ: And what propelled you to get to this point?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I want to -- I'm 74 years old. I have lived in a constitutional democracy all my life. I want to remain that way, and I want my grandchildren to grow up in one, not a dictatorship.
JIMENEZ: And I'm curious. Over the last two elections, have you voted Trump in the past? Was it something where you voted for him, you trusted him, and you were disappointed?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, I voted for him in 2016. I am a registered Republican. And I regretted that vote almost immediately, especially on his trip to Europe, where he insulted our allies and praised Putin.
JIMENEZ: And then, in 2020, was that enough for you to change your vote to Joe Biden?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, absolutely.
JIMENEZ: Why did you feel the need to cross party line?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because I want the world to be a safe place. I believe in a strong NATO. My father fought in World War II to defeat fascism. And I want it to remain defeated.
JIMENEZ: New Hampshire is such a unique place. You all get to actually see all of the candidates come here, In some cases, I'm sure get to meet them and even hear from them directly.
What impressed you most about Nikki Haley?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, actually, I was a pro-Chris Christie person. I lived in New Jersey for years. He was a wonderful governor.
But she's what's left.
JIMENEZ: Yes. So you were disappointed when Chris Christie got out of the race? What
-- she -- you basically didn't think that you would support anyone like DeSantis and obviously not Trump. So Nikki Haley was your -- the candidate you settled for?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Exactly.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
JIMENEZ: Do you feel good about her chances here in the state?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No. Well, according to the news reporting, no, but I'm hoping that we surprise you.
JIMENEZ: Well, hey, news reporting does not come close to what you guys actually do in the polls, so, so nice to meet you. Thank you for taking the time.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Nice to meet you.
JIMENEZ: Of course.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
JIMENEZ: And guess what? Now we're on TV together. So...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, there we go.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm a celebrity.
JIMENEZ: Yes, you are.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The only other time I have been on TV was when I was picking strawberries in New Jersey, and they put my daughter and I on TV for picking strawberries.
JIMENEZ: All right.
Well, now you get to pick candidates.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There you go.
JIMENEZ: Anderson, Kaitlan, I will send it back to you.
COOPER: Omar, if you only had a basket of fruit to give her, it would be as enjoyable as picking strawberries.
JIMENEZ: I know.
COOPER: Yes. Omar, thanks very much. Fascinating. Appreciate it.
This morning, Nikki Haley wouldn't nail down what exact threshold she has to hit for New Hampshire to be a success.
Want to bring in Phil Mattingly at Magic Wall to kind of give us a sense of where the margins may be that she needs -- Phil.
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN HOST: I haven't the slightest idea, Anderson, how I'm supposed to top that, but I will try and give you a sense of where things stand at the moment.
This is the map, obviously, the vast majority of it not filled in. Only one township so far has voted, Dixville Notch, always right after midnight on primary day, six voters for Nikki Haley, 100 percent, good start to the night. Whether or not that actually holds is a big question.
At least based on the polling, it looks like Nikki Haley has an uphill battle, part of the reason why maybe not setting expectations too high going into this day. However, Anderson, it is very clear, when you look at New Hampshire and the makeup of the electorate, this is the place where Nikki Haley wants to make a move.
She's done it by spending more than $29 million in this state alone, almost double what Trump and his allied groups have done over the course of the same time period. They know in the Haley campaign that this is the place to make a stand. What that looks like, though, will be very dependent, not just on Republican voters, but on undeclared voters.
And this is a big difference with the New Hampshire primary. Why? Sometimes, it can be not always guaranteed to end up how the polling looks. Take a look at the registration of New Hampshire voters. And I will explain why this is so important. You have 268,000 Republican -- registered Republicans, 262,000 registered Democrats.
This right here is the number everybody is paying attention to. There is no question, when you look at the latest CNN/University of New Hampshire polling, Donald Trump, when it comes to the Republican primary electorate, has a significant advantage; 67 percent of those go towards Donald Trump.
On the undeclareds, however, that's where Nikki Haley, very clearly, has an option to move forward. And that's what they're looking at. If you look at the most recent CNN poll, Nikki Haley at 58 percent with undeclared voters, Donald Trump at 30 percent.
Here's the problem that the Haley campaign has. With Donald Trump's significant support within the Republican primary electorate, 58 percent is probably not going to be enough. It will depend on how many of those undeclared voters decide to declare to vote in the Republican primary. And of that group, how many go to Haley?
If Haley runs up huge numbers, particularly in the suburbs, higher- educated parts of the state, of which New Hampshire has many more than Iowa, then she has a very real chance here. That's what the campaign is banking on. We will have to see as the day plays on, Anderson.
COOPER: All right, Phil, thanks very much.
Let's go back to you, Kaitlan.
COLLINS: Thanks, Anderson.
For more on all of this, I want to bring in New Hampshire's secretary of state, David Scanlan.
And, Mr. Secretary, thanks for being here. I know it's a busy day for you.
How are things going so far? And are you still predicting that record turnout of over 320,000 voters?
DAVID SCANLAN (R), NEW HAMPSHIRE SECRETARY OF STATE: Well, this is a typical Election Day.
I have visited several polling places this morning. There was a solid surge in turnout as the polls opened this morning. It has lightened up a little bit since then. It's still too early to tell whether my predicted numbers will turn out or not, but the voters are turning out. So we will see what happens.
COLLINS: We will see what happens. We're excited to see how many voters turn out and what they decide.
The other part of this is that it's not just the Republicans here who are waiting to see what their fate is, but there's also this write-in campaign from President Biden. And I know that those ballots have to be hand-tallied. How long do you expect that to take, just for our expectations tonight?
SCANLAN: The results will come in before the end of the night. And the great thing about this election is, it's one ballot. There's one race on the ballot. It's vote for one.
There are still over 100 towns in New Hampshire that hand-count their ballots. That's a sort-and-stack method. And so there should be no difference in reporting the outcomes in terms of time from past elections. In the machine-count towns, the moderator is going to have to sort out the ballots that have write-in votes on them.
And then, once that's done, it will simply be sorting those ballots and stacks for the candidates that had write-in votes and then counting them up.
COLLINS: Right. SCANLAN: They have brought in extra help to do that job, so it won't take that long.
COLLINS: OK, that's good to know.
And as we see these voters who are going to the polls to vote, I mean, you just saw a Republican who was speaking with our correspondent Omar Jimenez, but we know that there are a lot of independent voters that are not affiliated with a certain party that will be also able to vote today.
The former president has been falsely claiming that New Hampshire law allows Democrats to vote in this Republican primary. Can you just set the record straight on who can vote today?
Anybody who is registered as a Republican can only vote in the Republican primary. Anybody who is registered as a Democrat can only vote in the Democratic primary. The undeclared voters have the opportunity and the option to go into the polling place, declare a party, obtain that party's ballot, and then, after they go through the act of voting, they can change back to undeclared status when they leave the polling place.
If a voter does not change back to undeclared after voting, then they will remain a member of the party that they just voted in.
COLLINS: OK, so no registered Democrats are voting in this Republican primary today.
When it comes to the outcome here, and we don't know what it's going to be, we're waiting to see what the voters decide, but this is obviously one of the first states that we ever saw Donald Trump claim there was election fraud in. Do you have any concerns about him claiming something like that tonight if it doesn't go his way?
SCANLAN: Well, obviously, there are concerns. That narrative certainly doesn't help instill confidence in the election process, but this is not the first time that has happened.
And New Hampshire conducts its elections in a way that is transparent, it's observable. And when those claims arise, we always ask, where's the proof? Where's the evidence? None has been provided. We do know that there are individual cases in every election where a voter votes inappropriately, and our attorney general's office has prosecuted those and there have been convictions.
It's usually two, maybe three in any given election, but those certainly are not widespread and they are not organized. And they are being caught.
COLLINS: And, lastly, before we let you go, Mr. Secretary, there has been this robocall that was going out to your residents in New Hampshire that was an imitation of President Biden's voice. It was not his voice and it was telling them not to go and vote today.
I know there's an investigation into this. Have you learned anything more about who's behind that call?
SCANLAN: No, not at the moment. That's a form of voter suppression and has no business taking place during an election.
And so our attorney general will aggressively go after that. But, generally speaking, it's an artificial intelligence issue that is of concern to secretaries of state across the country that now there is this ability to do these fake phone calls, where it actually sounds like a candidate.
And we have to be able to get a handle on that moving forward. That's going to be a challenge that every state faces in this election cycle and future elections.
New Hampshire Secretary of State David Scanlan, I know you're busy today. Thanks for your time.
SCANLAN: My pleasure.
COLLINS: Still ahead: The former president has been making clear to voters that he would like to see a decisive win in New Hampshire tonight, telling them -- quote -- "We are not playing games."
He's not the only one hoping for a big win. So is the Biden camp. We will explain why in a moment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have been a lifelong Republican until President Trump came into office, and I would like to get the Republican Party back to its normal conservative values.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: In this head-to-head primary in New Hampshire, Donald Trump is galvanizing Republican support against Nikki Haley.
Trump's recent rivals are now his allies. Tim Scott, Doug Burgum, Vivek Ramaswamy all campaigned with him last night. Throw in the DeSantis endorsement and the pressure is certainly building on Haley to step aside and clear the way for Trump's nomination.
My team of analysts are here with me now.
S.E., I mean, Nikki Haley, I spoke to her biggest supporter, Governor Sununu, last night, said she's going on not only to South Carolina, but beyond. S.E. CUPP, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, I talked to the campaign
today. They have a $4 million ad buy running in South Carolina starting tomorrow. So they're spending money. They're looking ahead to the future.
They're sort of tamping down expectations here that she doesn't need to win, she just needs a good enough finish to keep going.
COOPER: Do you think that's true?
CUPP: Listen, this is -- politics is perception, right? And the perception of Trump's inevitability is very powerful and potent. It's powerful for voters. It's powerful for us in the press in how we cover this. It's powerful for other donors and endorsers and surrogates.
So that can be powerful. But I do think, we have to remember, in Iowa, that 40 percent of Iowa MAGA Republicans, evangelicals, 40 percent chose someone other than Donald Trump. There are people out there -- we just interviewed a couple of them -- who want a Trump alternative.
Nikki's making the case, and she's doing her best to make the case that, as that lovely young lady said, she's what's left. She's hoping to sort of be the last man standing when this is all...
COOPER: I don't think that's a slogan she wants to embrace.
CUPP: It's not. It's not.
KAREN FINNEY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Hey, but if it works...
CUPP: But there's some truth there.
CUPP: And you have got to embrace being the last man standing and being what's left. She likes to say she outworked, she outsmarted everyone else to end up here. And she is what's left. She did last. She is on the ballot.
FINNEY: But it's part of what else is she saying, no coronation, which was a message we heard in 2016 in Hillary's campaign, right?
COOPER: No coronation of Donald Trump.
FINNEY: Correct, no coronation of Donald Trump, that, look, for those people who want to see this contest continue on and not just be decided after two states, I'm what's left.
I mean, it's the truth, to what S.E. said.
FINNEY: I think her challenge, though, is that, from what I'm hearing from folks on the ground in New Hampshire -- I talked to our -- the Democratic state party folks -- there's not much of a ground game.
There -- again, it sounds like we may see a similar pattern to what we saw in Iowa, where there was plenty of money spent. But, again, if you're not doing more than town halls, and knocking on doors and really having people evangelize why you are their candidate, that makes a difference in terms of enthusiasm.
And the other thing I have heard is that, on both sides, there's just -- there's not a lot of enthusiasm at this point. I always like to see yard signs. People think it's goofy, but we all like to fly the flag for our team.
FINNEY: And, again, not a lot of yard signs also means inevitability. People are likely thinking it's inevitable that it's Trump.
CUPP: The Haley campaign is saying that, in Bedford and Seacoast...
COOPER: By the way, I just want to let viewers know we're showing you a motorcade of the former President Donald Trump arriving in Londonderry, New Hampshire, part of his campaigning efforts today.
Sorry. Sarah, Go ahead.
SARAH MATTHEWS, FORMER DEPUTY WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Yes, well, I think, even on the enthusiasm, we saw that play out in Iowa, where we ha -- there are, I think, believe, 750,000 registered Republicans in Iowa, 15 percent turnout there.
Sure, they had a once-in-a-lifetime kind of snowstorm, but I think that it is indicative of how the Republican Party feels and what S.E. said about Trump's inevitability. And I feel like people think -- they see the polling, they see the media reporting. And what's the point? Why should I even go cast my vote?
Which is disappointing, because if more people participated in our primary process, then maybe they wouldn't be upset with the choices that we have. I know there are millions of Americans who don't want to repeat of the 2020 election, but that's obviously what this is going to end up looking like, unless Nikki Haley kind of defies expectations and performs well in New Hampshire.
LEE CARTER, REPUBLICAN POLLSTER: At the same time, though, 82 percent of Trump supporters in Iowa said that they had made up their mind a long time ago. They were super excited to vote for him, that his enthusiasm is so strong.
You can see it out there now. When you talk to voters, they're saying, he's a person who cares about me. He's a person who's going to fight for me. We might not agree with it, but that's what they're saying. They are so, so excited. When you talk to Nikki Haley supporters, they say, well, it is time for the next generation of leadership.
What does that really mean? That's not exciting. That's not galvanizing. While 50 percent of Republicans might agree it's time for the next generation of leadership, it's not something you say about yourself. It's something you demonstrate. You demonstrate that you're a leader for the next generation. You can't just say it. It's like saying, trust me.
I think Nikki Haley has got the right concept, but she doesn't have the right message, and it's just not resonating.
COOPER: Haley's message, Lee, in these final days, has been Americans don't want to see a 78-year-old take on an 81-year-old for the presidency. Is that a galvanizing message?
CARTER: I don't think so.
Everything is a reaction to Donald Trump. If you're reacting, you're not acting. You need to be the one that's setting the pace that everybody wants to be on, and she's just not doing that. Yes, people don't want it, but why do we want you?
If I say, I'm voting for Nikki Haley, what does that mean for me? Why is America, why am I better off if she's in office? She hasn't made that case. Everybody is reacting to Donald Trump. Trump alternative is the number one piece of language that I hear out of voters' mouths when they're talking about Republican candidates.
That's all in reaction to Donald Trump to one man. He's a once-in-a- generation figure. Whether you like him or not, everybody's reacting to him.
FINNEY: You know, the other thing I would say that we're not talking about, we haven't talked about much in this election, which on some ways is a good thing, as a woman, as a female candidate, women have unique challenges.
Part of why some folks may not be enthusiastic about her is, they're looking at her and they're saying, can she be the commander in chief? It's part of why she talks so much about being at the U.N. and being able to talk tough with foreign leaders.
CUPP: Foreign policy, yes.
FINNEY: Because people are looking and saying, do I see her taking on Putin? Do I see her being able to manage the economy? It's part of why she keeps mentioning that she's an accountant, right?
She's trying to constantly credential herself.
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES (R) AND CURRENT U.S. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: They want to see our country be great.
I have been watching you all morning, and you're almost fair. You have been OK.
TRUMP: No, it's been -- I'm very confident. This is it.
Look, this is -- we just stopped there. We stopped at a polling site. We picked it at random. We may stop at one more. And nobody knew we were coming. This is pretty amazing.
QUESTION: ... staying in through Super Tuesday.
TRUMP: I don't know.
QUESTION: Is she a threat to you?
TRUMP: No, no, she -- and I don't care if she stays in. Let her do whatever she wants. It doesn't matter.
I can just say that there's never been a movement like this, make America great again, in the history of our country. I just stopped here and I figured I'd see three or four people and maybe walk inside. And you see a crowd like this. And this is organic. This is organic.
QUESTION: Have you spoken personally with Ron DeSantis yet?
TRUMP: Yes, I don't want to comment on that.
QUESTION: Would you consider DeSantis as your V.P.?
TRUMP: He endorsed me. Would I consider who?
QUESTION: Would you ever consider DeSantis?
TRUMP: I just can't comment on that.
QUESTION: Nikki Haley wanted it to be a two-person race, right? I mean, she got that. You think it's going to go in her favor at all?
TRUMP: I think it hurts her, actually. I think it's going to hurt her.
Probably have a big loss today, but who knows. But in -- the next state is Nevada, where I have 100 percent, because they all pulled out when they looked at the polls. So I have 100 percent, a lot of delegates, big state. And then I go to South Carolina, and I'm beating her by 60 points.
So I just don't know. I mean, that's up to her. I'm not going to -- I would never ask anybody to pull out. I didn't ask Ron to pull out. I didn't ask Vivek to pull out, nobody. But we have great support. And most of the people that pulled out have already supported me. So it's actually quite nice. But I'm very honored by this. We expected to come here. And who would think you would have a crowd like this? This is -- thank you, everybody.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
QUESTION: President Trump, what's your message to the president to the American people on the injustice that you're experiencing and the big concern that the election -- they try to steal it again in 2024? How can people help stop that?
TRUMP: Well, we're going to be watching very closely.
I very much appreciate that question, because it's a very important question, more important than most people would understand. We have to make sure we have honest, fair and free elections and strong borders. If we don't have borders and elections, we don't have a country.
And you see what's going on with the border. There's never been anything like it on the border. Millions and millions of people are pouring into our country illegally. And many come from prisons. They come from jails. They're terrorists. Nobody's ever seen it. They come from -- by the way, I saw a report this morning, they're coming in from mental institutions all over the world.
They're pouring in. And it makes sense. Why would somebody running a country, where it costs so much money, why would they keep the people? They're dumping them into our country. Mental institutions, jails and prisons, they're coming into our country, and a lot of terrorists are coming in. This is really bad.
I heard somebody yesterday...
COOPER: And that's former President Trump at a stop in Londonderry in New Hampshire out campaigning today as voters are going to the polls.
I want to bring in Kaitlan Collins in Washington -- Kaitlan.
COLLINS: Yes, Anderson, just to note, I do believe that was a planned stop. That's why you saw so many supporters there. And, obviously, you saw reporters anticipating the former president's arrival, as he's making stops in New Hampshire today, something you don't really often seeing him do.
But just to note, I mean, he was talking there about Ron DeSantis and Nikki Haley, but he did get asked a question by it's not clear who, someone who was maintaining that the election was stolen, asking if he was concerned. It was going to be stolen again. Obviously, it was not stolen. It was a free and fair election in 2020.
But that is a message that Trump has been continuing to push. And New Hampshire is actually one of the earliest states where he ever claimed there was election fraud. Back in 2016, he claimed that. And you heard the secretary of state, a Republican, I should note
earlier, just talking about how concerning that is for state officials here in not a very -- not just New Hampshire, but every state, but certainly here, as he's there today, hoping to put this race to an end today, though saying -- he said he didn't care if Nikki Haley stays in the race.
I should note his advisers have made clear privately, at least, Anderson, that they would like to put this race to bed today and move ahead and look to the general election.
COOPER: All right, Kaitlan.
I want to bring New Hampshire GOP -- Chris Ager. He joins us now.
Chris, what's your takeaway on the current mood among New Hampshire voters?
CHRIS AGER, NEW HAMPSHIRE GOP CHAIRMAN: So, the Republican turnout today looks like it could be record turnout.
So there's a lot of interest. I think it's on both sides. There's a lot of interest and enthusiasm for President Trump. But there's also the alternate-to-Donald-Trump movement that's solidified around Nikki Haley. And so both sides on the Republican side appear to be coming out in full force, so a lot of enthusiasm in terms of coming out to vote.
And right now, there's about a 3-1 margin of Republican voters over Democrat voters, especially since President Biden's not on the ballot. So we expect to have, again, very, very good turnout on the Republican side today.
COOPER: Do you think Nikki Haley can win in your state?
AGER: I think it's possible she could win. It feels on the ground that President Trump has more support. His supporters are more energized and vocal, but you never know with our electorate.
A lot of times, people are very quiet about who they're going to vote for. The polls can be double digits off, as they were in the 2022 Senate race, where General Bolduc had a 10-point lead in almost every poll. Election night, he ended up winning by less than 1 percent. So you can't take the polls at face value.
We really have to wait until about 8:00 tonight to figure it out, but it feels like it's Donald Trump's to lose.
COOPER: New Hampshire is certainly known for taking great pride in being the first-in-the-nation primary. How do people feel about Trump's attitude that this is a done deal, he's won, it's time to coalesce behind him for the general election?
What are you hearing?
AGER: That we don't buy into that. We allow every candidate the best opportunity they can to campaign in the state. We want it to be fair for all of the candidates and then let the people decide.
We don't want the pundits, Washington insiders, advertising, media campaigns. That doesn't decide the election. It's the individual voter going into that secret ballot and marking their candidate of choice. And so we have to respect that. Until the votes are counted, we really don't know what's going to happen here in New Hampshire.
It might feel like Donald Trump, but, then again, there's an argument that says Trump supporters may be oversampled because they are so passionate and they wear it on their sleeve, whereas Nikki Haley supporters and alternate-to-Donald-Trump voters may not. So, even the polling may -- might be off.