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CNN Live Event/Special

2024 New Hampshire Primary. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired January 23, 2024 - 16:00   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): And in 2016, one of this iconic trademark bowties became part of the National Museum of American Story's permanent collection.

Charles Osgood will be remembered for the grace and humanity he brought to his work.

CHARLES OSGOOD, CNN HOST: I could not ask for anything to -- not differently --in my life that I don't know what in the world I would rather do what I'm doing now. It's been wonderful.

So long it's been good to know you, a long time since I've been home and I got to be drifting along.


KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN HOST: And our condolences to his family. And he likes to say, we'll see you on the radio.

For the rest of you, we'll see you here as our special coverage of the New Hampshire primary continues right now.


ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: Well, turnout is strong in New Hampshire. Voters are continuing heading to the polls at this hour. Welcome to our special coverage of the New Hampshire primary. I'm Erin Burnett in Washington.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: And I'm Wolf Blitzer in New York. The New Hampshire secretary of state saying there could be record turnout today in what is now a two-person race, Donald Trump versus Nikki Haley.

BURNETT: And Haley is the clear underdog tonight. She has staked her entire campaign though, Wolf, as we know, on a strong finish in New Hampshire. She's trying to make the case that she can defeat Trump and win in the general election today, telling reporters that she is in this for the long haul


NIKKI HALEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This is -- this has always been a marathon. It's never been a sprint. We want to be strong in Iowa. We want to be stronger than that in New Hampshire. We're going to be even stronger than that in South Carolina. We're running the tape.


BURNETT: Meanwhile, Trump telling reporters that even if he is able to secure a decisive victory tonight, he will not ask Nikki Haley to exit the race, Wolf, and, of course, we're going to be getting some early clues about what's been happening. We talked about turnout looking very strong, but in about an hour from now, Wolf, we're going to get those first exit poll results. And that could tell us a lot.

BLITZER: Certainly could. We have ever reporters, Erin, fanned out all across New Hampshire as voters are heading to the polls.

Our Jeff Zeleny is covering all angles of today's primaries for us. He's joining us live from Manchester right now.

So what's happening, Jeff? What are you seeing? What are you hearing on the ground?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, the campaigns are furiously trying to turn out their supporters, sending text messages, making telephone calls, urging people to stop at their polling places on the way home from work if they haven't voted already, and Republican officials on both sides are saying that a high turnout they believe could benefit Nikki Haley. There are anecdotal reports of high turnout. We will see how the next few hours remain here.

But, Wolf. there's no doubt Donald Trump is trying to do what no modern-day candidate has done, win the Iowa caucuses in a landslide and deliver a knockout victory in New Hampshire, we will see if he accomplishes that this evening.

Of course, this is now a two-person race, something that Nikki Haley has long wanted, long hope for. Now, she has it. The question is, how long will this remain a two-person race.

She though was saying she's going to go on. She's scheduled a rally tomorrow evening in South Carolina. But for now, her campaign is focusing on those undeclared voters here in New Hampshire. The voters that makes so much of the difference, they make up 40 percent of the electorate.

So, they walked into polling places today, you can choose a Republican ballot or Democratic ballot. Many of them have chosen Republican ballots. Of course, they are running essentially against a registered Republicans who were more likely to support the former president.

So, Wolf, you can feel the tension here, this could either begin along chapter of the race going forward, or it could perhaps make this the one of the fastest primary races in history. There's not been a general election start in the 2004 campaign. It basically started in March 3rd. If he delivers a big win tonight, it could effectively start tonight here with rematch with Joe Biden. But Nikki Haley, her supporters believed that she will do very well

here. And she said she does not have to win, she just needs to do stronger than Iowa. The question is, what exactly that margin will be?

But for now at least, the polls open for at least three more hours in most of the state, even longer in some other parts of the state here. So the voting is still underway, Wolf.

BLITZER: These next few hours will be so, so dramatic. Jeff Zeleny, thank you very much.

I want to bring in CNN's Sara Sidner right now. She's over at a polling center in Concord, New Hampshire.

Sara, I know you've been talking to voters where you are. What are they telling you?

SARA SIDNER, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Look, we're about 30 minutes away from where Jeff Zeleny is. There has been a steady stream of people coming through, although up until about lunchtime, the folks here that are looking at the county, the numbers aren't as high as they thought they might be. But we'll have to, of course, wait to the end of the night.

But we have been talking to different voters who have been coming through here and there is a theme going on here. Those who talked to us seemed to be really pulling for Nikki Haley.


Take a listen


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I actually voted for Nikki. I really didn't -- now, Trump's had some good stuff, but he's got too much baggage. So I didn't go at Trump. I almost wrote in Biden, but I'm a Republican


SIDNER: Now, you heard that there. I mean, quite unusual. This is a person who says, look, he is a Republican voter, but he almost wrote in Joe Biden for president because he was so disturbed by some of the actions of Donald Trump and decided in the end to go with Nikki Haley.

We've heard the word bully a couple of times from voters who said that they just couldn't bring themselves to vote again for Donald Trump and that they were going to vote for Nikki Haley.

This is going to make, of course, the Haley campaign very happy, but you've got to look at the numbers in the end, right? You've got to look at everything in totality.

The other thing that they do here, that its really quite cool is at this gymnasium, at a school here, every time there is a voter who registers the vote and who votes for the first time, they ring a cowbell. We've heard that cowbell rang in the last 20 minutes or so. So there are new voters who are coming out to take part in this primary -- Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Sara, thank you very much.

And, of course, you know, those people registering day of, we'll see what sort of a role they play and maybe we'll find some of that out and some of these exit polls as we start to get them over this next hour or two.

All right. So I'm here with everyone to talk about this.

Jamie, you talk to your sources in these campaigns regularly, but in the Haley campaign, what are they telling you tonight?

JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: They keep asking me what time do the exit polls come in.


GANGEL: Because at the end of the day, this is about the numbers. Honestly, they don't expect to win here, so it's about the margin. And Nikki Haley can say, as we just reported, I'm not going anywhere and maybe if it's below ten point, she's not going anywhere. But the sources I speak to on her campaign are waiting to see, is this a small margin or if it's a big margin?

And as one said to me, if it is a big margin, what is her realistic path? She does not want to get pummeled in her home state of South Carolina. Money will dry up. Everyone in politics is in the race until they're not in the race.

BURNETT: And to this point about margins, Gloria, and you were just hearing this from Sarah as well, the margin in Iowa -- and she's just going to do better than Iowa.


GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: That's kind of an old bar -- yeah.

BURNETT: PTSD from the night.


BURNETT: Okay, 51 percent Trump, had 19 percent for Haley. So that's 32 points back, right? So she's going to well better do that than she did in Iowa. But that is the point, right? All joking aside. How close does it need to be for her to satisfy to herself?

BORGER: Well, single digits. You know, if she could -- if she could break into the single digits, that would -- that would obviously be good for her.

Her campaign manager put out a memo today saying, you know, look at all of these open primaries that are on Super Tuesday, 11 out of the sixth his team are open. We're not giving up. Michigan is open. We can --

BURNETT: Maybe those independents can play, yeah.

BORGER: The independents -- you know, she's playing for those independents and they can vote in those primaries. So this wouldn't be the end of the road.

But I think that you know, as Jamie was saying, they're realistic, too, because they need money and money can dry up very, very quickly. And what's interesting to me about this race is that Donald Trump is being treated like the incumbent. He is the incumbent here.

And people are either voting for him or not voting for him because they don't like him. They know who he is. They know his record and it's all about him. It's not about Nikki Haley, you know, because she didn't make it about Donald Trump enough at the beginning, she is now, but --


BORGER: She didn't do it early on.

HENDERSON: I was texting with some folks in South Carolina and they, too, are very much watching on New Hampshire to see what the margins are was asking what do they think the most they can expect from Nikki Haley in South Carolina. You know, 40s, mid-40s, maybe a ceiling of something like 47, but it all depends on how she does tonight. Can she keep it within 10 points or so?

And, you know, at that point, she'll have to make some decisions. But it does some like, and listening to the voter there, Nikki Haley is like, you know, a placeholder for those dissatisfied Trump voters who are really deeply disaffected by Donald Trump. You know, they're sort of morally opposed to him at this point, and you hear some of those folks I was listening to a focus group.

Some of those folks say they're going to the polls to vote for Haley, but then intend to vote for Biden in the general election. That gentleman who isn't New Hampshire sounded like a lot of the voters I've been hearing from. So, it's a really interesting dynamic. We'll see what the exit polls say.


Obviously, the Haley campaign wants to see the same thing.

BORGER: They want to have an alternative.

BURNETT: Four million dollar ad buy though already in South Carolina. Now, as you say, you can, you know, burn money if you want to burn money and get out of the race the next day, it doesn't mean anything unless it does.

MCKAY COPPINS, STAFF WRITER, THE ATLANTIC: Well, she has the money now, they need to portray strength now, right? There's no benefit to her campaign saying, if we don't do well in New Hampshire, we're getting out of here. They have to say we're going to stick, right?

BURNETT: No, absolutely not.

COPPINS: And I do think that, you know, texting with people who are Republican strategists, donors who are supportive of her, they want her to stake it out. They want -- you know, their -- she's the last best hope to stop Donald Trump, if you are an anti-Trump Republican, but they're also realistic. And what I've -- I've heard the same numbers. I've heard, if its not within four or five or six points, I don't really see the path.

That doesn't mean they wont hope that she'll stick around to try to make the case and hope for a miracle, but it would be miracle.

BURNETT: Well, but, Jamie, I just want to play something because she gave an interview today to Dana. Dana is there and it was so insightful because you remember the whole chaos follows him, sort of passive voice that was used by Nikki Haley, and never going after Trump. And then that's changed. She did.

And then she did this interview with Dana today and I want everyone to hear this part.


NIKKI HALEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think that he's fit but what I'm saying is, do we really want two 80-year-olds to be our options when we're talking about president. What I'm saying is you can't say that when you're 80, that you're not in decline. Scientifically, you are in decline, no matter who you are.

Yeah, I think he's fit. You can see that he's out there. He's like --


HALEY: I mean, look, we've seen him get confused.

BASH: He was found liable in a civil trial for sexually assaulting E. Jean Carroll. He's under investigation for obstructing attempts to get him to return classified documents that he took from the White House. He's arguing constantly that he deserves total immunity. You think that that conduct makes them fit to be president.

HALEY: If I did, I wouldn't be running.


GANGEL: Right.

BURNETT: So, she's clear and she's clear.

GANGEL: Right. So this is what, except for Asa Hutchinson and Chris Christie and Liz Cheney, this is the problem. This is the straddling they're doing.

What's interesting is yes, she -- the last couple of days. Oh, he's so confused. No, I'm not Nancy Pelosi. And as we saw there, but when push comes to shove, she says he's fit to be precedent over and over and over again. And what that means is as one source on the campaign said to me, it sounds like she's leaning toward an endorsement if and when she gets out.

BORGER: Well, she did raise her hand in that debate and said that she would support him. So --

HENDERSON: Because she wants a future in the Republican Party. She's got to return home to South Carolina, which is Trump country. So it makes sense for her.

BURNETT: All right. Well, you all stay -- stay with me as this conversation continues.

Our special coverage of the New Hampshire primary election continues.

John King is standing by at the magic law -- magic law -- the magic wall to break down where Nikki Haley support is the strongest in New Hampshire, and what that actually could mean for what we'll see tonight.

And live pictures out of Virginia. That is where President Biden is hitting the trail with Vice President Harris. This is the first campaign event for them together this year. They look eager to take on Trump.



BURNETT: Welcome back to our special coverage of the New Hampshire, first in the nation presidential primary, and a potentially defining night in the fight for the Republican nomination.

Right now on the screen, you are looking at Manchester. Voters there casting their ballots. Now the chairman of the New Hampshire Republican Party is predicting record turnout today. That's meaningful. We don't know what it means, but it's meaningful and in less than an hour, the first exit poll data will give us a sense of what that means, what voters are thinking in a state that does have a history of election night surprises.

So, John King is here with me at the magic wall.

So, obviously, the intense pressure on Nikki Haley. They're looking at record turnout. Does that mean good things for her or not? What are they watching?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It means she's not going to win six to nothing, Erin. She has six --

BURNETT: I did say this is not a mistake. This is the current status of the race.

KING: That's Dixville Notch. They voted midnight, it's tradition. The winner of Dixville Notch

often does not go into carry the state.

But if you're Nikki Haley, you liked the map right now, you have hundred percent of the vote. What does she look for tonight?

So you just said the chairman says we're going to have record polling, right? So the question is, this is from our poll, who -- who are those people? When they're asked on the way out in the exit polls. So you're moderate, you're a conservative, right? You're a Democrat, Republican, independent, right? She wants a more moderate electorate.

This is from our poll among New Hampshire voters who are going to likely to vote in the primary who described themselves as moderate. She gets 71 percent to 22 percent. So she wants a flood of moderates to the polls because if they are conservatives or those who identify as conservative, 71 percent of them say they're going to vote for Donald Trump, only 17 percent for Nikki Haley.

So we're talking about big turnout. That's great. If democracy is bringing people out to vote no matter who they that is great. The question for her is what's the composition of the electorate?

BURNETT: Now, Sara Sidner was talking about these cowbells that there ringing whatever someone votes is saying I'm the first time doing this. Okay. Now, just because you're a new register and does not mean that you're going to be an independent or for Nikki Haley. I understand that.

But it does raise the question about independents. They said this is so important in any race in New Hampshire but specifically for her.

KING: Right, again, its a fascinating question and again, you know, Trump critics don't like this, but Donald Trump does have a history of bringing a lot of new people out to the polls, whether you like Donald Trump or not, more voters is a good thing. But back to your point, undeclared is what they call independents in New Hampshire, you're undeclared, meaning you're not declared as a Republican or Democrat, undeclared voters can vote tonight.

There are more of them in the state of New Hampshire, then there are Republicans or Democrats. It's a more live free or die as the model, more libertarian, a lot of people rejecting both parties right now, they'd like to declare themselves as independent.

The truth is most independence mostly pick one of the parties, but Nikki Haley wants people who don't want to be Republicans because they don't like Trump. So, there are undeclared, but they're Republican leaning independents. Again, she wants moderates to vote, and she hopes that number is as high as possible because she does better with independents than she does with Republican.

BURNETT: All right, so play this hypothetical out.

[16:20:02] She doesn't do amazingly well tonight. She -- but she's not out. But what is her map from here? We hear about South Carolina, closed primary, only Republicans, a lot of Republican base.

But then they say, oh, but on Super Tuesday, you've got all these other open primaries. Again, the independents factor in. What is the path?

KING: The problem is she needs to come out in New Hampshire with momentum, not -- I don't think a split is enough, because what is the path? Where do you go? You go next out to Nevada.

Now there's both a primary and caucuses. She may well win the primary, guess what? No delegates, they are decided in the caucuses, the Nevada caucuses. Donald Trump has a pretty firm grip on the Nevada Republican Party. He's going to get the bulk, if not all of the delegates out of the caucuses.

Then yes, you do go to Nikki Haley's home state of South Carolina. She's losing there at the moment. If she won New Hampshire, that might shake it up. They might get a little hometown loyalty there.

But if she comes out in a split. Does it do that? That's a closed Republican Party primary. Then we go to Michigan. One of the states where Trump's election lying -- election denial runs really deepen the bloodstream of Republicans in the state of Michigan. That's a Trump state.

So Nikki Haley's -- without momentum really tough, tough minus a win here. Near impossible. Then you go to Super Tuesday.

Yes, it's a lot of states then, but guess what? Most of them in the south, lot of Trump states.

BURNETT: Right, and once you've had, you know, you end up a self- fulfilling prophecies. You need this.

All right. And that is, well, eye -- all eyes are on tonight. We'll go back with John in just a few moments, but let me just show you those live pictures out of Virginia because as I mentioned, this is also day one for President Biden and Vice President Harris, choosing tonight to kick off their campaign together.

What they believe could be the unofficial start of the general election. So what is their game plan? Part of it you see right in front of your eyes, restore Roe and we do have some new reporting next.

Plus, well take you back live to the ground in New Hampshire. I'd hear from the voters about who they're backing in tonight's crucial contests, our reporters are in all of those voting areas.


[16:26:25] BURNETT: And welcome back to our special coverage of the New Hampshire primary election. We're going to be checking back in with voters and just a moment as officials predict record turnout there tonight.

But first on this pivotal day for Republicans, President Biden and Vice President Harris are trying to seize this moment. They are appearing together for the first time of the 2024 campaign. Right now, moments away from taking the stage in Virginia, that's where MJ Lee is, of course.

And MJ, Biden, they see this as maybe the night this becomes a general election, at least that's how they seem to be handling it, and Biden wants to take attempts away from Trump and the GOP, it looks like.

MJ LEE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, that's right, Erin. I'm going to speak a little bit softly just to be sensitive to the programming that is getting underway now. But no question that this is the counterprogramming that the Biden campaign is offering tonight. As they want to make clear that President Biden is not on the ballot in New Hampshire. It's not competing in that state. There are no delegates up for safe.

But again, we're seeing the campaign focus from this issue of reproductive rights, which they very much expect and hope they say will be hugely mobilizing issue heading into November 2024. You know, there's no question that the Biden campaign though, even though they are focused here, would this event in Virginia, they are watching the Republican race for Republican primary, New Hampshire, very, very closely, as you said, at the Biden campaign, knows that this could end up being the night that sort of unofficially begins the general election.

It obviously depends largely on whether Nikki Haley ends up having a very strong showing. Now, Biden campaign officials and allies are other Democrats out. We have spoken to. They have -- many of them said that they're sort of eager, they're impatient. They're antsy for the general election to sort of get going already.

They believe that that is going to sort of jolt the borders that are not paying attention yet to the realization and the reality. And I should make clear this is the reality based on the Biden campaign's thinking that this is going to be a race that comes down to Biden and a Trump when it comes to November. So this is something that they're watching very closely. But for now, all eyes are on this event. And the issue of reproductive rights that again, they believe will be central to the 2024 election.

Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: Yes, they certainly. MJ Lee reporting from the Manases, Virginia, for us. Thanks, MJ, very much.

And as the president takes the stage of Virginia, voters are casting their ballots in New Hampshire. But in New Hampshire, President Biden's name doesn't show up on the ballot at all.

CNN's Brian Todd is over at the magic wall.

Brian, the primary process, not as cut and dry on the Democratic side. Walk us through it

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the New Hampshire primary on the Democratic side is let's just say, an interesting process this year. You've got basically first, President Biden, who's all but guaranteed to be the Democratic nominee for president. He's not even on the ballot in New Hampshire because of an internal party dispute over the date of the primary, the president is a write-in candidate in New Hampshire.

There are other names who are on the ballot, including Minnesota Congressman Dean Phillips, and author Marianne Williamson.

All in all, you've got 21 names on the Democratic ballot. And there's a space for writing in names at the bottom right there. In addition to the potential for Phillips and Williamson to take votes away from the president, there's also been a last minute effort to encourage voters to write in phrases in this space here, to write in phrases like ceasefire as a protest against hence the president from the pro- Palestinian wing of the Democratic Party.

Now the danger for President Biden here is that basically, New Hampshire could be an embarrassing showing for him if there is an embarrassing showing for him like if he gets less than 50 percent of the vote, that's going to spark a new round of doubts about the president's overall political strength and his chances of beating Donald Trump in November.


Now, in a CNN poll last week, here's what the numbers showed. The president again as a write-in candidate, he got 63 percent support. Dean Phillips got 10 percent and Marianne Williamson got 9 percent.

But Joe Biden -- well, you know what? He doesn't have a great history recently in New Hampshire? In 2020, he basically got crushed, finishing in fifth place with only 8.4 percent of the vote. This time, to make matters worse, even -- an even more fraught for the president in the Granite State, there is a robocall that's been circulating with a fake Joe Biden voice, which appears to be generated by AI, that's been reaching out to New Hampshire sure residents appealing to them not to vote in today's primary and to save their votes for the November election.

Take a listen


AI-GENERATID AUDIO: Republicans have been trying to push nonpartisan and Democratic voters to participate in their primary what a bunch of malarkey. It's important that you save your vote for the November election. Voting this Tuesday only enables the Republicans in their quest to elect Donald Trump, again.


TODD: Now it's unclear who's behind that robocall. The Biden campaign says the matter has been referred to New Hampshire's attorney general -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Interesting indeed, Brian Todd reporting for us. Thanks very much, Brian.

Let's bring in our panel.

And Ashley Allison, let me ask you. You just heard Brian, are you worried that President Biden could wind down? Up with less than 50 percent of the vote tonight

ASHLEY ALLISON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I don't think it matters one way or the other. There's no delegates at stake and the party has the right to decide which state goes first, and the Democratic Party decided they were going to go to South Carolina for a couple of reasons.

But most importantly, because it is more representative of the country and it also speaks to the base that has been loyal to the Democratic Party, African-American voters. And so that is where the race for the Democratic nominee takes place.

So, honestly, he's not on the ballot. It doesn't really matter. I respect the New Hampshire party if they wanted to continue on with this exercise, but it is not determinative of what is going to happen in the Democratic nomination party.

BLITZER: Jamal, let me get you involved in this as well. I want you to listen to something that Democratic Congressman Dean Phillips, who's challenging, as you know, President Biden said earlier today, listen to this.


REP. DEAN PHILLIPS (D-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Gretchen Whitmer, JB Pritzker, Gavin Newsom, Vice President Harris, where are you? I think she should enter the race and be assessed, but in the absence --

KASIE HUNT, CNN HOST: But you think she's qualified.

PHILLIPS: it's not my place. It's not my plate. Every experience I've had with the vice president has been, I think quite impressive, but that's the whole point.

What the president is doing right now is what Democrats have done for generations. They stick around too long.


BLITZER: What do you think?

JAMAL SIMMONS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think Vice President Harris said what she believes last night to Laura Coates, I love my job, I think was her quote.

So she likes being vice president. I think she'll stay on the ticket with Joe Biden.

Listen, if you're Dean Phillips, you're going to have a reckoning probably coming because depending on what happens today, if he is beaten by Joe Biden, who is not competing in New Hampshire, right? He can be beaten by somebody who's not even running. That says to me, how far should he keep this campaign going, might just be a little quixotic for him.

Listen, what's happening today in the Republican side is where all the action is. And I think Democrats are very focused on this. You see the president and the vice president right now down there Virginia. They are focused on what's happening in the fall and the fact that are talking particularly to women and across the country in the men who care about them.

But the fact that the Republicans, Donald Trump, has taken away the right for women have reproductive choice about their lives and importance.

BLITZER: That's going to be a huge issue and they're really using that issue, the Democrats, as we all know.

Let's go for the Republican side. Geoff, and talk a little bit about Nikki Haley and Donald Trump. Do you think she could potentially win tonight?

GEOFF DUNCAN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yeah, she certainly has a better chance than she did in Iowa. To me, this is all about turnout and specifically in the turnout which independent show up and what are those hotbeds? Because I think New Hampshire is more of a proxy on what the national votes are going to look like in the general election, as opposed to what I was.

And this is really going to shift to the suburbs who can win the suburbs. And for now, for the last few cycles, Donald Trump's been kryptonite for those suburbs. I mean, if we skate to where the pucks going in November, we know that there's just a handful of states that are going to actually matter.

And then there's certain areas in those states -- I mean, I can point to you in Atlanta, Georgia exactly what the eyebrow north Atlanta looks like. There's probably 50 neighborhoods that are going to determine how Georgia goes. And so this is more of a proxy and I think, obviously, Nikki Haley fares better with the suburbs as far as Republicans.

BLITZER: Kristen Soltis Anderson is with us as well.

Haley says, no matter what happens tonight, she's heading to South Carolina. That's her home state. Is it realistic? What do you think that she potentially could beat -- could beat Trump?

KRISTEN SOLTIS ANDERSON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: She has to win tonight. I know they're campaign is trying very hard to lower the bar, say she can -- if she just comes close.


But the reality is the type of voter in the Republican Party that Nikki Haley does best with, there's a lot of them that are might -- able to participate in tonight's primary in New Hampshire, there are fewer of them that can participate in South Carolina. And so, if she does not come out of tonight with a lot of momentum, it may well be that this is the coronation of Donald Trump, as of this evening.

BLITZER: Well, Ashley, even if she does win New Hampshire tonight, we have no idea what's going to happen or she even finishes very close second with this, simply be prolonging this fight because everybody anticipates in the end, it will be Trump and Biden.

ALLISON: That is everyone's anticipation, but here's what I will say. I want democracy to play out and I think that's really important, particularly right now for the Republican Party. I think Nikki Haley has to win tonight to continue the race. I agree with you.

But I don't think she should drop out if she does win. I mean, the road to the nomination is still extremely steep mountain, but if she wins, history has shown us that that is -- there's a strong chance to have a better chance of becoming the Republican nominee if you win New Hampshire than if you win Iowa.

But we cannot forget the strong base that Trump has on the Republican Party. But I think Nikki Haley has to win, but I just want to be maybe the odd duck out. I'm used to being that person, but I think she might have a shot.

New Hampshire voters liked to throw curveballs to my baseball player over here. And I think tonight might be a night where we see it happen.

BLITZER: He used to throw curveballs.

DUNCAN: Slider.

BLITZER: Slider.

OK, all right, in the Minor Leagues.

DUNCAN: That's right.

BLITZER: Never in the Major.

DUNCAN: Not yet, no.

ALLISON: Not yet.

DUNCAN: I still got a few years left.

BLITZER: All right. Yes.

SIMMONS: Wolf, I just remember this. That one reason for Nikki Haley to stay in this regardless of what happened? Its like the lotto, you got to be in it to win it. If she doesn't stay in the game, there's no way she gets to be me president of the United States, and you never know what might happen. We've seen some crazy things in the last few years in politics.

BLITZER: All right, guys, don't leave. We're going to having a lot to discuss. That's all coming up. This note to our viewers tomorrow, I'll have an exclusive interview with the second gentleman, Doug Emhoff. That airs in "THE SITUATION ROOM" tomorrow 6:00 p.m. Eastern. That will be interesting.

Up next, we'll take you back to New Hampshire where officials say they could be on track for a record turnout today. So what are voters saying about Trump and Haley? You'll hear what they're saying. That's coming up next.

Plus, well hear from a top New Hampshire Republican who had once believed the 2020 election was stolen from Trump but later changed his mind. Now, he's backing Nikki Haley.



BURNETT: And welcome back to our special coverage of the New Hampshire primary election. Live voters there, coming in still right now. That's in Concord, New Hampshire, where in the final a couple of hours here before polls close and across New Hampshire, we're getting reports of very strong turnout.

So the question is for what? Is that going to be a big boon for Nikki Haley or will voters helped Donald Trump all but lock up the nomination. The crucial questions tonight.

John Berman and Kate Bolduan standing by polling locations. They have been talking to voters all day, watching the vote.

So, John, I guess you're in Manchester. What has turnout been like where you are? I see some people behind you still coming in.

BERMAN: I'll give you a live count of exactly where I am in this ward in just a second, Erin, and this is Manchester, New Hampshire, the biggest city here. This is wards sixth were Donald Trump in 2016 in the primary won big, he lost this war to Joe Biden in the general election. So you can see there are all kinds of voters.

Actually right now, the table is empty, but I am reliably told the rush hour is about to begin five to seven. They could see the biggest rush. This pile of slips you see right here on the table, right there, when voters arrive, if they want to vote in the Democratic primary, they grab a blue slip right there. If they want to vote in the Republican primary, they grab a red slip right here than they go get a ballot.

Remember undeclared voters, independents largely, they can choose which primary devoted and they make up a really large voting bloc here in New Hampshire. They will not tell me right now until the polls close how many Republican ballot requests they had, or how many Democratic ballot requests they had. Now, I'm going to walk backwards. We're trying not to fall and I'm going to go to the tabulation machine and I'm going to give you a real live count of how many ballots have been cast in this ward so far.

We can't shoot the ballots just yet. But after these two women put their ballots in, I will shoot the vote count total. So you can see a live look. Let's push into the number right now so as of about 4:43 p.m., 2,310 votes have been cast here. 2,310. In 2016, which was the highest turnout, 3,700 votes were here. So they're about 1,400 votes short of that right now.

Could they get record Republican turnout? That's still possible. Remember, there may not be that many Democrats voting because Joe Biden didn't compete here. Although we have spoken to a few people who did write him his name.

We can talk to a voter right now. We can't talk to them on the way in, we can talk to them after they voted.

What's your name?


BERMAN: Valerie, it's very nice to meet you.


BERMAN: The million dollar question.

You voted, who do you vote for?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I vote for Dean Phillips.

BERMAN: You voted for Dean Phillips in the Democratic primary. Why do you do that?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm looking for change a little bit. Just like a lot of them had been saying, you know, we need to shake things up a little bit, you know, and I'm a little concerned about Joe Biden's age. You know, that does concern me a little bit.

I've been a registered Democrat on my life, so former from Massachusetts. So you come up, the ranks, but you're Democrat. I just think that I'm not ready to have Donald Trump in there again.


BERMAN: All right. Well, thank you very much. Dean Phillips, you cast a ballot for Dean Phillips.

Dean Phillips is on the ballot here. Democrats who want to vote for Joe Biden have to write his name and thank you very much. That is the first Dean Phillips voter we've spoken here. We have spoken to a number of voters who have written in Joe Biden on the ballot. Most voters here though, voting in the Republican primary -- Erin.

BURNETT: Yeah, absolutely. But it's an interesting part of the story. The layers of the onion in New Hampshire, idiosyncratic and fascinating.

All right, so now -- thanks to John, let's go to Nashua where Kate has spent the day talking to voter after voter.

And, Kate, what are they telling you?

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So, Nashua is the second most populous city in New Hampshire, second only to where John was -- John is in Manchester and we have talked to many voters who have come through here. This is ward three of nine wards in Nashua.

And we have -- we have met -- John met a Dean Phillips voter. We've met Dean Phillips voters. We've met Joe Biden voters. We have met Nikki Haley voters. We've met Donald Trump voters. We have really met across the board, lot -- all types of voters.

One thing we know is that this ward has just under a rigid -- just registered voters or just under 5,000 here in board three. So far, the latest count just a moment ago, is that they have 1,700 votes that have been cast. This -- this polling location, this closes at 08:00, a little bit later than a lot of the other parts of the state.

So unknown is exactly how many more people are going to be coming in, and if this will reach a kind of the record robust turnout that they're talking about tonight. But as I mentioned, Nikki Haley voters, we've met quite a few of them. We've also met quite a few of Donald Trump voters.

Donald Trump won ward three and the Republican primary here in 2016, also won Nashua in the Republican primary in 2016.

And here's Christopher Tsoukalas. He voted for Trump in '16, '20. And here's why he's voting for him again.


CHRISTOPHER TSOUKALAS, NH GOP PRIMARY VOTER: He's going to fix the economy. The economy is brutal right now. We're getting killed with groceries, fuel bills. Everything is just like mount -- it's unbelievable.

BOLDUAN: Was there ever a moment you considered voting for Nikki Haley?

TSOUKALAS: Yes, I did consider. I think she's going to make a good running mate for Trump, actually.


BOLDUAN: Christopher said economy, economy and economy is what he's voting on. What is unknowable is exactly if, if -- there how many Chris -- voters just like Christopher are in this war and turning out today. And if Donald Trump were able to pull out another win, but it all comes down to that black box. That's the ballot box right there.

That's where every voter undeclared Republican, Democrat after they have cast, after they have voted, they take it right there as you see happening, in action, right now. We're going to continue to watch. At 08:00 p.m., they'll hit the button and well be able to get that final count pretty quickly. Back to you.

BURNETT: All right. Thanks so much to you, Kate, and just look, at the numbers off of what Kate had, about 35 percent turnout there. But she says they're open until 8:00 and, of course, we hear about the rush hour, right, after work. So that 5:00 to 08:00, we'll see what happens. But right now, turn out there from the registered voters she talked about, right now running at 35 percent. We'll see how high it goes if it is a record and whether it's enough for Trump to take Nikki Haley out of the race for the Republican nomination, which he says he doesn't want to do, but he does.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT: I think one person will be gone probably tomorrow.


BURNETT: Yep. And her campaign responds next.

Plus, we are minutes away from getting the first exit poll results on who is actually casting all those ballots, say which where they're leaning. It's crucial information. It's coming up in a few minutes



BLITZER: All right. We're just minutes away from getting the first exit poll results out of the New Hampshire primary, which will give us a sense of who is showing up to vote at how they voted. Nikki Haley is determined to deliver an upset win over Donald Trump by turning out independent voters.

I'm joined now by retired U.S. Army Brigadier General Don Bolduc, who supports Nikki Haley, as a volunteer campaign chair for her New Hampshire campaign.

General, thanks so much for joining us. Thanks for your service, of course.

I know you've been out campaigning with Nikki Haley in New Hampshire. What's your sense of the level of enthusiasm for her on the ground? And how do you expect her potentially to win today? GEN. DON BOLDUC (RET.), NH VOLUNTEER CAMPAIGN CHAIR FOR HALEY: Well, I think the enthusiasm is high. I think that she's going to turn that into a very strong appearance today. I believe that she is going to win. Nikki Haley has gone from 2 percent in this state all the way up to margin of error with Donald Trump, and she has really connected with the entire electorate here.

And she's done it the New Hampshire way with over 150 appearances here in this state. So, she's worked hard. She's put to work in and it's going to show tonight.

BLITZER: We will see a fairly soon.

Earlier today, a group of U.S. military vets known as Veterans for Responsible Leadership, that's their name, put out an anti-Trump ad in New Hampshire. Here's a piece of that. Watch this.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT: I want to be a dictator.

AD ANNOUNCER: He talks about terminating the Constitution.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hail Trump. Hail victory.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You would never abuse power as retribution against anybody.

TRUMP: Except for day one.

AD ANNOUNCER: We know what a second term means.

TRUMP: You're not going to be a dictator, are you? I said, no, no, no, other than day one.


AD ANNOUNCER: When is one day ever been enough for a dictator?


BLITZER: So, General, a lot of veterans, as you know, live in your home state, did you think this ad resonates with them? And do you share those concerns?

BOLDUC: Well, I think it does and I do share these concerns because I believe that Donald Trump and Joe Biden are very divisive. They are two sides of the same coin. They're both divisive. They both have grievances. They both have investigations and its going to continue to separate America.

We need someone who's going to unify and that is Nikki Haley. That is her strongest attribute. Donald Trump will not serve America well in his four -- in his second term. We don't want them to have a second term. It's only four years. It's short-sighted. And Nikki Haley has long-term views for this country. She's going to

fix the economy and she's going to make America stronger -- America strong again. And she's going to set up a prosperous America for our children and grandchildren. President Trump just will not do that.

BLITZER: I know, General, you previously supported Donald Trump and his false claims that he won the election in 2020. But you eventually said you did the research that found that Trump was wrong.

Given your concerns and the fact that you've said Trump is now part of that swamp right now, would you support for Trump if he were to become the Republican nominee?

BOLDUC: I'm going to have to do a lot of thinking about that, but it is going to be very difficult for me to do that, because he -- he is just too divisive for me. He's tearing -- he'll tear the country apart. He's done it before.

He's already said he's going to be a vindictive president. He's focused on the past. We need to move forward, and that's why it's so important for people do support Nikki Haley.

She will move us forward. We will be more prosperous under Nikki Haley and that is just -- that's just a fact. And she beats Biden by 17 points.

BLITZER: General Bolduc, thanks so much for joining us. Appreciate it very much.

Up next, the first exit polling numbers are now coming in and they could give us important clues about how tonight will turn out for both Trump and Nikki Haley. Standby.