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CNN Live Event/Special

Trump And Haley Face Off In New Hampshire GOP Primary; What Issues Are Driving Voters To The Polls?; Voters Head To Polls For First-In-The-Nation NH Primary; Deadliest Day In Gaza For Israeli Troops. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired January 23, 2024 - 13:30   ET



CHRIS AGER, CHAIRMAN, NEW HAMPSHIRE REPUBLICAN PARTY: Whereas Nikki Haley supporters and alternate to Donald Trump voters may not. So, even the polling may -- might be off.

So, yes, let's wait and see tonight and see what happens.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: I'm with you there. Chris, thanks very much. Appreciate it.

I want to bring in CNN's Kristen Holmes who is joining us. Kristen.

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Anderson. I just want to give a shout out really fast to our embed, Alley Main (ph). That's the reason that we had a camera at the location. The Trump team did not give us or any national media access to that location, but the embeds are the backbone of our political operation. So, I want to make sure that we give her credit for finding that location and getting him on camera.

Now, the most important thing that he was talking about and which I thought was quite surprising is that he said he didn't care if Nikki Haley stayed in the race. Well, we know that that's not true. And he said he would never call for anyone to get out of the race. Also, not entirely true. Last night, we heard him say essentially everything but that. He said that the entire Republican Party was backing him. The only thing that was stopping him from unifying the country was Nikki Haley. And gave every single allusion or alluded to that she should drop out of the race.

The other part of this is that we know that it has annoyed him that he -- she has maintained her position in the race. But I will tell you that talking to his senior advisers who I talked to you just this morning, they are feeling much more confident now than they felt just a week ago. They implemented a two-pronged strategy. They hit Nikki Haley over immigration and Social Security.

And the immigration point is something I want to mention because you heard Donald Trump talking about it there. That is his number one talking point in New Hampshire. They believe that Republicans care about immigration more than anything else in this state. And that is why you have seen him not only hammer at home. Obviously, it's a national talking point for him, but particularly with advertisements here, Nikki -- hitting Nikki Haley on that topic.

It's something that they hope will bring out Republican voters because they had been watching her polling very closely. They saw at one point had gotten significantly closer that had them very concerned. But today, in recent internal polling, they do believe that they are going into this confidently.

COOPER: Kristen Holmes, thanks very much. Much more of our special coverage of today's primary in New Hampshire after a quick break. Stay with us.



KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN HOST: And welcome back to CNN's special live coverage of the first in the nation presidential primary in New Hampshire.

I want to get back to CNN's Boris Sanchez, who is at a polling place in Belmont. Boris, what have you been seeing on the ground since you've been there?

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Kaitlan, a steady flow of voters coming in here to this location in Belmont.

I actually want to get out of the way because there's something important happening right now at this location. Hopefully, you can see it, but there's actually absentee ballots that are being processed right now as we speak. There's a big stack of them and they're going through them one by one, verifying names.

People that want -- perhaps want to challenge one of the absentee ballots can do that during this process. And then they go through and are added to the larger stack of votes who are -- folks who are voting in person today.

As we zoom out, this is where folks come in, they give their name, they check their IDs. And eventually, they go back to the voting booths. Obviously, if they're a registered Republican or Democrat, they get a ballot designated to that party. If they're unregistered or independent, they can ask for one or the other.

And then when they get in the booth, Kaitlan, that is where the magic happens. They fill out a bubble -- of President Joe Biden. They write in his name. Remember, he's not on the ballot here in New Hampshire today.

The importance of Belmont. Why is it significant? Why are we watching it closely? I've been texting with folks close to the Trump campaign who said that they are watching how the former president is going to do here because it could be an indication of how well he performs against Nikki Haley and whether this primary potentially could end today.

This is a working-class area. Historically Republican. In 2016, Donald Trump won the primary here by tripling, tripling the number of votes that the second-place candidate at that time, John Kasich got.

Earlier, I spoke with a woman outside who says that she's actually here as an undeclared independent voter against Donald Trump, seeing him as a threat to democracy. Here's some of what she shared with me.


LOUISE SCANLON, NEW HAMPSHIRE VOTER: He hasn't got any respect for democracy because he hasn't got respect for the law. I did vote for Nikki Haley because I wanted to vote against Trump. I want to see her on the ballot rather than him. And I don't know if I will vote for Biden or Nikki Haley come November.


SANCHEZ: So, of course we will be watching what happens here. It is just one sliver, a microcosm of the broader picture in what is a big day of voting in New Hampshire, Kaitlan.

Boris Sanchez in Belmont, we'll continue to check in with you. Thank you.

And my panel is here with me.

And Tia Mitchell, I wonder what you make of -- I mean, this is just two voters. We'll obviously wait to see what the numbers say. But between the voter that Boris just spoke with and the voter that Omar Jimenez spoke with at the top of the hour, someone who voted for Trump in 2016. They both cited democracy as a reason for voting for Nikki Haley here.

TIA MITCHELL, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION: Yes, I think the Democrats will be applauding like, OK, our messaging is working a little bit. We know Vice President Harris, President Biden have delivered speeches on democracy. They're trying to frame one of the key themes of the general election contest as whether voters want to protect democracy by not allowing President Trump to return to the Oval Office.


I think that being said, there are still a lot of Republican voters. Again, we know New Hampshire is a different type of electorate. That's why we can't read too much into what does or does not happen tonight. But there are a lot of Republican voters, for them, protecting democracy is supporting Donald Trump because they believe the falsehoods and the misinformation about why he did not return to the Oval Office in 2020.

So, I think, yes, it's resonating among a certain type of voters in New Hampshire, but I think it resonates the opposite way for a lot of Republican primary voters, some in New Hampshire, but also in other states.

LULU GARCIA NAVARRO, JOURNALIST, NEW YORK TIMES: What worries me when I hear those comments is actually, for Nikki Haley's chances, is that it's always something about Donald Trump. He is still the center of why people talk about her. I don't like Trump because X. I don't like the way he talks. I am pro democracy.

There is very little that I've seen of people saying, this is why I really like Nikki Haley. This is what she represents to me. This is what I want in a president of the United States. And that, I think, speaks to the fact that this is, as it's being called, the last stand for the anti-Trump vote.

We are just seeing people saying, I don't want Trump, so I'm going to go for Nikki Haley. But they're not saying, I want Nikki Haley.

COLLINS: Is this the last stand for that anti-Trump vote? Because, I mean, we've seen -- I think we started out with 13, 14 candidates here. It has now been whittled down to two Republicans. It is a pretty clear choice. I mean, you can see the differences. Even if Nikki Haley doesn't always -- she's only started laying out her real criticism of Trump himself in recent days. But what does it say if Republicans do overwhelmingly choose Donald Trump?

LEAH WRIGHT RIGUEUR, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: So, I think it says a couple of things. The first part is we have to remember that at the beginning of all of this, there were a whole lot of candidates who were running like Trump light.

So, they weren't actually rejecting Trump. They were trying to be Trump. You know, Ron DeSantis immediately comes to mind. Refusing to criticize him, essentially having the exact same platform, even the same talking points and mannerisms. It's not until the very end that somebody like Ron DeSantis starts lightly criticizing Trump.

But one of the things that we do know as these candidates have dropped out is about the strength, the continuing strength of Trumpism in the Republican Party that exists even without Donald Trump, right?

So, when Donald Trump wasn't even on the radar two years ago, when it seemed like he was just completely gone from the political realm, Trumpism was still the ideological choice for the majority of Republican voters, not for everyone else. And I think this is actually a critical point because Trumpism has overtaken the Republican Party, it still remains true that there is a large segment of the Republican Party and a very large segment of the general population that rejects Trumpism altogether.

And so, what happens during the general election when it comes down to essentially Trumpism versus everyone else. That's where the real race happens.

COLLINS: I'm so glad you brought that up because I want to -- Governor Sununu of New Hampshire, one of Haley's -- Nikki Haley's biggest surrogates, has been kind of making that exact argument that you just brought up there about Republicans and the fact that they repeatedly lose. I just want to listen to what he said about this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GOV. CHRIS SUNUNU (R-NH): When it comes to Republicans, we're tired of losing. We're tired of losing. We lost in '18 and '20. We're going to get that big red wave in '22. Hey, Donald Trump, where the F is the red wave? Give me a break.


ROB GODFREY, FORMER NIKKI HALEY SPOKESPERSON: Here's what I would say. I think regardless of what anybody has to say tonight, this is the first time that votes are being cast in this primary. And this is a primary that we now have down to two candidates and a clear choice between style and some differences on policy.

And so, what I think people need to do is step back and take a deep breath. But voters do what voters do, which is vote. And we'll see what the results are tonight. I think regardless of what the results are tonight, we're going to have a two-person race that heads to South Carolina, Governor Haley's home state. Where she will absolutely rekindle relationships and be energized by people who sent her to the governor's mansion twice, people she knows, and people who know her, and people who -- she starts with a posture that other candidates didn't start with in other states, and that's a posture of likability.


People know her and they like her in South Carolina. And so, what she has to do is translate that likability into votes for president, which is something that is a tall order, because Donald Trump will come down with the trappings of, for all intents and purposes, incumbency, having run for a third straight time as for the Republican nomination and he --

JCOLLINS: But is that the thinking? Because I mean, you heard her earlier saying to Dana Bash that she just needs to do better than she did in Iowa to stay in this race. Is that really the thinking privately?

MITCHELL: And I mean, I think that's how she's managing expectations for tonight, knowing that Trump could still win. She's not -- she's pulling distant from Trump right now.

I think the argument that Governor Sununu and Nikki Haley are making about electability in the general election is spot on. But unfortunately for them, that's different than the argument they need to make in a primary election. And that's where Nikki Haley is struggling, even going into her home state, even in ideal situations in New Hampshire, where there's a big independent cachet of votes that she's banking on. Even then, she's still polling distant from Donald Trump.

Even when you focus just on Republican primary voters, it is his party. It is shaped in his image. It just doesn't look like there are pathways for Nikki Haley to really compete with Donald Trump, particularly in states that have a more traditional primary.

So, yes, they're talking about -- I mean, Governor Sununu made key points about the fact that Republicans haven't been very successful in tight general elections since Trump, particularly in 2022, particularly after the downfall of Roe v. Wade. But that's just not messaging that we see has been impactful in these primaries.

NAVARRO: I think because Republicans fundamentally believe that Biden is incredibly weak and that Trump can beat him. Also, we saw this when you poll Republicans, the majority of them believe that the 2020 election was stolen from Donald Trump. And so, that he didn't lose then.

And so, you have this situation in which, yes, I don't think Donald Trump is going to be the stronger candidate between the two of them, but to a Republican voter, that message doesn't resonate because they just don't see it. They see a winner. They see a fighter.

COLLINS: That's been the argument Nikki Haley's been making. She's continued to make it in these final days. We'll see if it does resonate in New Hampshire at least. Everybody, stand by. We'll come back. We get your great thoughts on all of this. We have much more of our special coverage of the New Hampshire primary ahead.

We're also tracking other events today, especially what's happening in Israel and Gaza as there has been the deadliest day for the IDF since October 7th. More in just a moment.



COOPER: Turning now to Israel's war against Hamas, where Israel is mourning the loss of two dozen soldiers in what's become the deadliest day for its troops since the war began.

The IDF says that most of the soldiers were killed when a rocket propelled grenade caused two buildings to collapse in Southern Gaza. It comes as CNN has exclusive reporting that Israel has proposed that senior Hamas leaders could leave Gaza as part of a broader ceasefire deal. Israel has also offered Hamas a two-month ceasefire in exchange for the release of all hostages held now in Gaza.

CNN's Jeremy Diamond is in Tel Aviv for us. So, what can you tell us about these ceasefire details?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, there are certainly a lot of ideas being put on the table, perhaps more momentum than we have seen in several weeks now on the front of these hostage negotiations, but still no inklings of a deal actually to come.

But what the Israeli side is putting forward, we're learning, is offering the longest pause in fighting to date, potentially as long as a two-month cease fire in exchange for a phased release of Israeli hostages during that period. This Israeli initiative is one Israeli official put it to us is -- would also involve the withdrawal of the Israeli military from most population centers in Gaza and perhaps even the return of Palestinian civilians to Northern Gaza. Now, an Israeli official told us that many steps still need to be taken, and this is really just aimed at trying to establish a framework for these negotiations.

Separately, our colleague Alex Marquardt also learning that from two sources familiar, that Israeli Mossad chief, David Barnea, put on the table an idea to allow Hamas leaders from Gaza to be able to leave the Gaza Strip as part of a broader ceasefire agreement. But that is being viewed for the moment as untenable.

The Qatari government today saying that there are ongoing negotiations. Both sides are responding to ideas here, which is notable. Hasn't always happened in the course of the last few weeks since that last ceasefire deal.

But amid all of this, Anderson, the war is certainly ongoing. The Israeli military is currently engaged in a major offensive in the Southern City of Khan Younis. Intense fighting there, very much worsening the humanitarian situation at several hospitals in the area, where thousands of internally displaced Palestinians have been sheltering.

And amid all of this as well, the Israeli military announcing that yesterday was the deadliest day for its soldiers since the beginning of this war. 24 soldiers killed in a single day, 21 of them in a single incident after a Hamas militant fired a rocket propelled grenade at a tank. That seems to have ignited explosives that were being laid to demolish buildings, killing soldiers who were inside that building.

But, again, amid all of this, the pressure certainly mounting on the Israeli prime minister to try and find a deal for the hostages. The question is, how much does this deadliest day actually change the calculus on the negotiations, on Israeli public sentiment, going forward? Anderson.


COOPER: All right. Jeremy Diamond from Tel Aviv. Jeremy, thanks.

Much more of our special coverage of the New Hampshire primary ahead. We're going to talk to a radio host who interviewed both candidates this morning. We'll be right back.


COOPER: And we are back to our special coverage of the New Hampshire primary. I'm Anderson Cooper, New York, with Kaitlin Collins in Washington.

Voting well underway in the first in the nation primary. But before any votes were cast, Republican frontrunner Donald Trump.