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CNN Breaks Down First Results From N.H. Exit Polls; Soon: New Hampshire Polls Close Amid Strong Turnout. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired January 23, 2024 - 17:00   ET




WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: We're following breaking news. We're getting the first results from our exit polls in New Hampshire where the nation's first primary is underway. Welcome back to CNN's special coverage. I'm Wolf Blitzer in New York.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: And I'm Erin Burnett in Washington.

And of course, Wolf, we are going through the numbers right now. Standing by to report them as soon as we possibly can.

BLITZER: And we'll get those numbers to our viewers very quickly. Trump, of course, the front runner in just a short time ago telling reporters he feels very confident about tonight. Haley on the other hand, hoping to shatter expectations, telling reporters, she's in it for the long run.

Officials telling CNN the turnout has been strong and steady and could even potentially set a record.

BURNETT: And of course that, Wolf, that means we can be in for some potentially major surprises tonight. It's 05:00 with those exit polls. That's also rush hour for voters. And we understand some of our polling stations reporters, they're saying these next two hours a lot of people could be coming out to vote. And our reporters are of course at these polling locations in this final time here before polls close. Kristen Holmes is covering all things Trump related live for us at Trump's campaign headquarters in Nashua.

And Kristen, what is the latest there, the mood there in these final hours?

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erin, they're certainly not hoping for any surprises. They believe that they can walk away from this primary with a double digit lead or at least plus seven. That's the margin that they're looking for. Anything in that area they believe is a victory.

Now this is a very different Trump team that I talked to you just two weeks ago when they were very concerned about what they were seeing in Haley's poll numbers. They implemented a two part strategy. Now, just to remind viewers, in New Hampshire, Independents and Republicans can vote in the GOP primary. And what Trump's team was concerned about was those Independent voters, particularly voters who might go just to vote against Donald Trump or voters who are more left leaning who would be interested in a different choice. So they implemented a strategy hitting Nikki Haley in a series of ads, one on immigration that was to target their Republican base that they believe Donald Trump is still leading strongly.

The other was hitting her on Social Security, that was to try and stem what they saw as a rise in Independent voters who are interested in her and it was clear that that got under Haley's skin. We have seen her have to answer question after question about Social Security. She continues to say that she does not want to change those security, but those ads, they were effective. So that's where the Trump team is right now. They are hoping for a big margin.

So this is a definitive that they can put this to bed in terms of the Republican nomination, but they are waiting and they say anything in terms of a 7 percent or more would be a victory for them. Wolf.

BLITZER: Kristen Holmes reporting. Kristen, thank you very much.

Our Kylie Atwood is keeping a very close eye as well on Nikki Haley's campaign. She's over at the campaign's headquarters in Concord, New Hampshire.

Kylie, what can you tell us?

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's a Nikki Haley's campaign today, putting out a memo saying that Haley isn't going anywhere, saying that what we're seeing play out right now is democracy in action, reminding folks that she is the last one standing against former President Trump after 12 other candidates have dropped their bid. And Nikki Haley, for her part, is also projecting determination. She's not specifically saying how well she wants to do here in New Hampshire tonight. She says she wants to have a strong showing to do better than she did in Iowa, but not getting too specific in terms of what that would look like.

Now I asked her if she comes in double digits behind former President Trump, what that means for the future for our campaign? We don't want to get ahead of the votes but that's what some of the polls show could be possible. She said she doesn't want to write her obituary. She's headed to South Carolina, noting that her campaign has already invested $4 million in an ad buy there with ads going up on television as part of that starting tomorrow.


And also noting that her campaign has managed the economics, the money of her campaign well. We've -- we were told by her campaign that in the last two days or so since DeSantis dropped out, they have hauled in about $1.5 million in new donations. So they're feeling pretty good about that, obviously. And her final pitch to voters last night was do they want more of the same or do they want to move forward? And that's the answer that we're going to get as voters head to the polls tonight. Wolf. BLITZER: All right.


BLITZER: Kylie, thank you very, very much. Kylie Atwood reporting.

ATWOOD: All right, Wolf.

BURNETT: And, Wolf, we do have breaking news, exit polls in New Hampshire released just moments ago, and this gives us our first clues about who the primary voters are, whether they are perhaps more aligned with Donald Trump or Nikki Haley. The information in here is fascinating and illuminating. David Chalian, has been going through these numbers phonetically, but carefully, and here he is to give us the very latest that you've learned.

So David, what are you seeing in the early exit numbers?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: And just to remind everyone, Erin, you just said early exit numbers. So these are people who showed up earlier throughout the day, there are more exit polls taking place now as people are going to polls, these numbers will shift over the course of the night. But I want to highlight for you what a different electorate is, different political DNA in New Hampshire than we saw a week ago in Iowa. Look here, among New Hampshire Republican primary voters today, 24 percent say they're very conservative, 39 percent say somewhat conservative, 31 percent identify themselves as moderate. That number in Iowa last week was 9 percent.

That's how much more moderate this Republican primary electorate is than was the Iowa caucus electorate last week. Obviously only 6 percent in the GOP primary say they're liberal.

How about those undeclared we've been talking about for quite some time? Look at what a huge chunk of the electorate they make up, 47 percent. You see they're in the middle 47 percent of Republican primary voters say in New Hampshire are undeclared or Independents in New Hampshire, they're called undeclared, 49 percent are registered Republicans. That's even a tick higher than we saw all the way back in 2012 in terms of Independents being a share of the electorate the last time there was a Republican only primary without anything going on on the Democratic side. That is going to be welcome news for Nikki Haley's campaign to see that number.

Are you part of the MAGA movement? Only a third of voters in the primary today, again, these numbers are early, they will shift as we do more interviews, but 32 percent Say yes, they're part of the MAGA movement, 64 percent say no. In Iowa last week, Erin, that was split roughly half and half in the Iowa Republican electorate.

And do you think Joe Biden legitimately won the 2020 election? This is now an even split among Republican primary voters in New Hampshire today, whereas in Iowa last week, two thirds of Iowa Republican caucus goers said they didn't think, wrongly said that they didn't think Joe Biden was legitimately elected. Here, that's half and half. This is an electorate -- this is why Nikki Haley put all her money in New Hampshire here, this is an electorate that just by its shape and contours, as we're seeing show up today, is one that makes Nikki Haley more competitive against Donald Trump.

BURNETT: All right, David, thank you very much. I'm here with John King.

John, just going through all of this. I mean, it's pretty incredible. You know, you look at just the, did Biden when the election legitimately? In Iowa last week, 29 percent said yes, 66 said no. Here it's 49, 49. Now, 49 is still really high number by the way, I sort of take a deep breath at that. But it is a very different just slice of people.

JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: And so, again, let's emphasize, David emphasize, you emphasize, let me emphasize early numbers, right? Those numbers right there tell you, we talked about this earlier, the composition of the electorate. That's important. Who votes today? Not just how many, but who are they?

That's favorable, those numbers are favorable to Haley. Does it mean she'll win? Does it mean she'll be with an appointed to? It just tells you those early numbers are favorable to her.

To that point, though, I will say Chris Sununu is the Republican governor here. He's pretty popular, not among the most MAGA voters, but I talked to several Trump voters who do not consider themselves part of the MAGA movement. One guy, you know, Chris -- Devin MacGyver (ph), I'm sorry, as a construction worker, he says he drives past him every week and throughout the roads with their signs. He says he laughs out of them. He thinks, go home and clean your yard.

So, let's be careful about that. There are a lot of Trump Republicans who voted for him for transactional reasons who think the MAGA movement is just a little too much for them. But if you look at those numbers, especially the moderate composition of the electorate, let me come down here, we talked about this a little bit before. But I just want to point out, you know, the more moderates you see, right, this is from our poll, 71 percent of moderates vote for the Nikki Haley, 71 percent of conservatives vote for Donald Trump in New Hampshire polls. So the more moderate the electorate, the better for Nikki Haley, without a doubt.


BURNETT: All right. So now I'm just going through this -- the registered undeclared versus GOP. OK. So, in here you had, obviously also favorable for Haley, when you actually looked at the exit polls. And to your point about when we say numbers are still coming in, I think everyone should understand, we mean that they're still two to three hours of voting.

KING: Right.

BURNETT: And it's a rush hour. So we don't know what's going to happen in these numbers. You are having a lot more people come in. But --

KING: To that point, can I go back in time for a minute?


KING: I just want to go back in time for a minute. This is a long time back, right? But we were on the air in New Hampshire in 2008, the first year we had this amazing tool for us here. Some of our rivals had called New Hampshire for Hillary Clinton. Had called -- I mean, for Barack Obama, for Barack Obama.

And we did not and we waited, why? Because we were told we had people on the ground and we were told by smart people in campaigns to watch. And there were a lot of late votes down here in the Manchester area, working class people. You just mentioned 05:00, rush hour, people coming out after work. So let's wait.

Let's wait. Let's not get ahead of ourselves, right? This is why we count votes and this is why we're extra cautious here. Because sometimes what you see early on is not what you get at the end, not because anything nefarious is happening, because people vote at different times of the day and you have a lot of blue collar people here who a lot of them voted before they went to work this morning. We saw a lot of people out there early at 06:00 a.m.

But if you didn't do that, and you want to vote, you're going to vote at 06:00, 05:36, 07:00, right up to the last minute because you just got out of work.

BURNETT: All right, so now -- OK, on that front, again, these numbers could change but very conservative, somewhat conservative. When I look at that, obviously very different than Iowa, right? That was very conservative is more than half the electorate and very in some what, you are pretty much done. Here, though, very conservative is only a quarter, 24 percent so far. Somewhat conservative 39 combined with moderate 31 that is a dominant majority.

And that is very different than what you saw in Iowa. But also, John, I'm just looking back to my quick notes of New Hampshire in 2016, it is different than 2016. But honestly by not much, moderate up just a few points. So it's not a huge increase in moderate.

KING: It's not a huge increase. And so a couple points about that. Number one on the surface, those numbers say OK, that gives Haley a shot. She's in play because the electorate is composed of people who we know. Again, moderates like her, conservatives like him.

So the more moderate you hear your first instinct should be that keeps her in play, that keeps her competitive. That's important. Number two, undeclared, they outnumber statewide registration, undeclared in New Hampshire, Independents, they call them undeclared there, outnumber both parties. So, you think the more undeclared people that should, should benefit her. She certainly needs a lot of them to come off the sidelines.

However, a lot of Trump voters also are not fans of the Republican establishment. So some of them may not be registered as Republicans because they don't think of themselves as establishment people. So we need to be careful about that. I just want to add this, though, to go back to 2016. Even as we go through all this, this is the Republican Party in 2016.

As you noted, in 2016, in New Hampshire, you had a more moderate electorate than you did in Iowa while this is Donald Trump's first win. Donald Trump won here in 2016 with that more moderate, more Independent electorate. So the question is, does he still have a hold on these people? Or do those numbers say those people are looking for a new choice? Because if you look here, number one, this is the entire state.

So, we know for a fact, Donald Trump is the candidate of rural voters, right? So, anything you see lit up here now is a rural township, right?


KING: We call it townships in New Hampshire. John Kasich won some, Ted Cruz won one. Look at all that Donald Trump in the rural area, right?


KING: That's going back to 2016. Sorry, sometimes you catch the map when you go by. So let's pop it back out here and bring it back up. And now, one other quick thing here, look at suburban, right? For Haley to win, she's got to do well in the suburbs.

Well, these are the New Hampshire suburbs in 2016.

BURNETT: Right. Which are, by the way also give people some context. Boston suburbs too --

KING: Yes.

BURNETT: -- I mean, in some cases.

KING: North of Boston, yes. Donald Trump did very well there. So the question is, what is today's Republican Party today's Republican electorate, because undeclared are there as well, compared to this one? Back 20 -- you know, back in 2016, that more moderate, less conservative electorate love Donald Trump. The question is, what about today?

BURNETT: Right. And has that changed in light of all of the events that have happened?

All right, next, we -- we're just starting to go through it here, received some of the first exit polling data on who has actually cast ballots so far in New Hampshire even though a lot of people in rush hour here now are still coming in. These numbers are dynamic and changing. We've got a group of experts going through these in great detail to see who might actually benefit more from what we have just seen so far, Trump or Haley. Plus, will take you back to the ground to the polling sites in New Hampshire to hear from the voters who are going in right now to cast their votes. We'll be back.



BLITZER: Welcome back to our special coverage. Take a look at this live pictures of a polling place in New Hampshire less than two hours away from when most polls will close in New Hampshire's first in the nation primary. So what could be Nikki Haley's last stand? Potentially it could be Nikki Haley's last stand in her battle to beat Donald Trump. But we shall see. The exit poll numbers are now coming in just to CNN showing that 47 percent of voters were not declared as Democrats or Republicans 49 percent were registered Republicans.

Kristen, what do these numbers tell you?

KRISTEN SOLTIS ANDERSON, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: That maybe if these numbers hold, and that is a huge if, I am the world's biggest skeptic of early exit polls, but if these numbers hold, this could be very interesting for Nikki Haley, because these are the kinds of numbers you would need to see for her to even have a shot. When I see these numbers, whether it's the ideological makeup, whether it's the partisan makeup, it's a lot of the ingredients she'd need. The worst news for her is that 49, 49 split on did Donald Trump win in 2020.

BLITZER: Interesting indeed. These early exit polls, Ashley, show that what 63 percent of voters today identified as very or somewhat conservative, 31 percent consider themselves moderate. What does that -- what do you make of that as a Democrat?

ASHLEY ALLISON, CNN COMMENTATOR: Well, the other number that is very interesting is still of that electorate 50 percent still think Donald Trump won the election. And so, where is that 50 percent? I'm assuming it's predominantly in that 63 very conservative number that is most likely if you think Donald Trump is still the president, you probably are going to vote for him.


And then the question is to your point about early exit polls is, can he build up that number again? And if he does, then it looks worse for Nikki Haley to win. Maybe the margin is socially closer, but that number of very conservative is pretty telling.

BLITZER: In these early exit poll numbers, Jeff (ph), 32 percent of the voters identified as MAGA in these early exit polls, 64 percent did not. Does that give you hope as an anti-Trump -- as an anti-Trump Republican?

JEFF (PH): Pro-democracy Republican that's not crazy, yes, certainly it does. I mean, that number is staggering. I think all of these numbers really show some sharp contrast is what we were talking about the composite of the voter last week in Iowa. So certainly, there's hope here that Nikki Haley is able to be within a stone's throw either a couple points up or a couple points down, and then has a full month to walk into the South Carolina primary where all -- if she shows up a few points up or down in this race, I think the donors will start to come in and give her a legitimate shot to try to turn some -- change the mind.

BLITZER: Jamal, I thought another number that was significant, and I'm anxious to get your thoughts, the same number of voters in these early exit polls said they did not believe that Joe Biden won the election in 2020. The same number thought that Joe Biden did win the election in 2020.

JAMAL SIMMONS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, that's disturbing for the Republican Party, right? Because it means that people are living in fairytale land, it means that they have -- they've taken in with Donald Trump said and they have not -- they're not asking questions.

I was listening to what Kristen was saying earlier about the makeup of the electorate and it just, you know, reminds all of us that when Donald Trump ran the first time in 2016, there was a competitive Democratic primary that was happening. Hillary Clinton was running against Bernie Sanders. So you probably didn't have as many of those moderates and liberals that you're talking about. You're seeing in the electorate right now in the early exits, you didn't have them because they were all participating in a Democratic primary. So, what this means is, I wonder what this means for Dean Phillips, because it means maybe some of the people that he was counting on who might show up in that Democratic primary to try to give him a little juice to poke President Biden, maybe they're not there, because maybe they're all playing in the Republican side.

BLITZER: What do you think?

ANDERSON: Yes, I certainly this is an electorate that is slightly to the left of where things were in 2016 for the Republicans. In this time around, you know, Donald Trump, when he won in 2016, he won because he won both conservatives and moderates. He won Republicans and Independents in New Hampshire. His appeal is much stronger, but much more concentrated in the conservative Republican wing of the party. That's why he's so formidable in South Carolina.

That's why Nikki Haley's road still does look like it may end at the end of this. But New Hampshire, this is just a different electorate. If she's going to win anywhere, this has to be it.

BLITZER: Yes, and it's going to be fascinating, because fairly soon we will be seeing the actual results as opposed to the exit poll, early numbers. So everybody stand by.

Coming up, we're going to take you back to the ground to a polling station where there is strong turnout tonight, what this potentially could mean for both of these campaigns. Plus, we'll check in with a powerful GOP donor. He was for DeSantis. But now that DeSantis is out, who really support? Standby.



BURNETT: And welcome back to our special coverage of the New Hampshire primary election. These are live pictures from Manchester where voters are still filling in to cast their ballots. It is a pivotal moment right now. Donald Trump hoping to essentially clinched the GOP nomination. Nikki Haley, trying to keep her campaign alive and give it some real momentum heading into the next contests, including her home state of South Carolina. Boris Sanchez is in Belmont, New Hampshire.

And Boris, I know you have been there speaking to voters throughout the day. You're now in the last 90 minutes or so of voting but people who are finishing work, you could start to see another surge of people. What are you seeing and what are they telling you?

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: Erin, it is rush hour right now here in Belmont. I want you to take a look at the line right now, it is pretty much the biggest that we've seen all day. And keep in mind, these are several lines, they're sorted alphabetically for folks. I was just speaking to the moderator at this primary location, his name is Alvin (ph). And he was telling me that turnout here is getting close to half of all registered voters in this area.

We want to turn the camera over in this direction. When voters are done casting their ballots, they come over to this machine, they place it inside the machine. And Alvin here is about to tell us where the vote is right now. How many -- how many ballots have been cast?

ALVIN (PH): Two thousand one hundred and fifty-five.

SANCHEZ: And how many is that in registered voter terms? Like what proportion?

ALVIN: Of the total registered voters is 4,489? So we're almost 50 percent.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This guy's got the numbers.

SANCHEZ: This guy's got all the numbers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This guy's got the numbers.

SANCHEZ: Sir, you think it's running smoothly so far today?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, this is my first time here. So, I think it's OK.

SANCHEZ: We appreciate you sharing that with us. I do want to get you some perspective from a voter, Erin. But this kind of turnout is exactly what sources aligned with the Trump campaign are telling me that they want to see in Belmont. They believe that if he can run up the numbers here, he can close the door on the 2024 primary and defeat Nikki Haley.

We do want to take you outside though, because we want to sort of respect the process and give voters their privacy obviously. There is another really important race at least symbolically going on, that's on the Democratic side.

[16:30:01] Remember, there has been a spat between the DNC and the state of New Hampshire because in part, President Biden and the national party wanted to move the New Hampshire primary after South Carolina. Voters here didn't like that so much. They're holding the primary anyway, even though the DNC is not actually awarding delegates to the winner. But here we have, Mike. Mike, thank you so much for chatting with us. Mike, you mentioned that you came here to write in the name of President Biden, even though he wasn't on the ballot. Why?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I still think he's the best candidate for the presidency. I didn't know any other candidates on the ballot, to be honest. And so that's the reason I wrote him in. And I think he's doing a fairly decent job of being President.

SANCHEZ: Now. I had the chance to speak to some voters earlier who told me that they were offended by the decision by the DNC to prioritize South Carolina and move New Hampshire's historically. First in the nation primary back, were you offended at all? Do you feel like your voice is being silenced?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, I wasn't offended at all. I didn't take any and bothered by it at all.

SANCHEZ: And are you casting a ballot for President Biden in November you think?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, yes. Absolutely. Yes.

SANCHEZ: Mike, thank you so much for chatting with us. We'll let you get on your way. Thank you so much for waiting patiently for us. We do appreciate it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No worries. All right.

SANCHEZ: So there you have a snapshot of what's going on here and Belmont. Erin, it is just one area where folks are voting in one county in New Hampshire. But it gives you an idea of the enthusiasm as you're watching crowds leave this area. Erin?

BURNETT: All right, Boris, thank you very much. I want to now go to longtime Republican donor, Dan Eberhart, who's a staunch supporter of Ron DeSantis. Of course, DeSantis is ended his presidential bid on Sunday. And Dan, you and I have spoken over these years about the GOP. A week ago, obviously, last time you and I spoke you were all in for DeSantis. And now he's out. So you've got a two person race? What does that mean for your support?

DAN EBERHART, GOP DONOR: Well, look, I you know, I took a look at Nikki Haley. I went to one of her rallies. But, you know, I'd like to come out and endorse Donald Trump for president, Erin Burnett.

BURNETT: All right, so Dan, you as I said, we've spoken a lot. And I want to understand how you got there. So you've expressed real concerns about him, right? You've talked about his grievance politics. You've talked about your concern about his ability to be Biden. And in many of these conversations, you said something to me back in July, overall about Trump. I wanted to play it so everyone can hear it.


EBERHART: Trump is a weak front runner. He's much weaker than, you know, Biden. And he lost last time anyway.


BURNETT: Dan, that was you in July, saying he's much weaker than Biden, and he lost last time anyway. And then on Twitter a few days ago, you tweeted, if Trump were somehow we elected to be the oldest. OK. OK. He can't hear me, which is obviously a tough question to do if he can't hear me. So everyone, bear with me. I'm here with my panel while we work on this. McKay Coppins, and I want to hear what Dan has to say, because I have talked to him over the years, right?

So he comes to Trump not easily. This time, although he did raise money for him before. What do you take away from these exit polls as we see them? And just to clarify the exit polls, we have our people who picked a GOP ballot. So that could mean you're registered GOP or you're an independent, but not Democrats who are who are in this Dean Phillips, Joe Biden situation.

MCKAY COPPINS, STAFF WRITER, THE ATLANTIC: So I thought to me, the most revealing number in those exit polls was about whether Joe Biden had won legitimately the 2020 election that -- it's at 49 percent and even split, 49 percent said yes, 49 percent said no. You know, there's one way to look at that and feel really alarmed about what that means for America and the faith in this year's election.

On the other hand, I will say more than any other question, more than whether you identify as conservative or MAGA, that question of whether Trump really won the election is the litmus test that shows whether you have bought in to Donald Trump as a candidate. So what I'm going to be looking for tonight is if that number holds and only half of the voters in New Hampshire have bought Trump's lies about the election. What does that mean for how many more of the voters who don't believe him, you know, he's going to be able to pick off in this race?

We'll see if they hold. But I think that that was a revealing --

BURNETT: Hold on one second, I'm coming back to everybody. We got Dan back. So Dan, all right, you said you are now getting ready to you are on board with Trump. You're endorsing Trump. You're going to back him financially. And I was asking you about the concerns you've expressed about him in the past and our many conversations, you've talked about his grievance politics, you'd express real concern about his ability to beat Biden. So last summer, you and I were speaking in July, you said this.



EBERHART: Trump is a weak front runner. He's much weaker than, you know, Biden, and he lost last time anyway. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: And then in a tweet just three days ago, Dan, you said If Trump were somehow reelected, he'd be the oldest president at the time of his inauguration even older than Biden was. So I point all this out to show you have had and you have very serious concerns. What is it about Trump now that outweighs all of those concerns and makes it worth backing him again?


EBERHART: Well, look, first of all, you know, when I got into this a year ago, and I decided to back Governor DeSantis in the primary, I didn't think Donald Trump could beat Joe Biden in a general election. And Erin, I think the polling now shows a completely different story. And I don't think that's a concern anymore. So I think I'm left with Donald Trump is the presumptive nominee. And I think that look, we're going to have this horse race tonight.

But I think the door is closing or just about closed, or we'll close tonight on Nikki Haley's candidacy. And I think that what we're looking at here is a general election matchup between Trump and Biden. And I think that Donald Trump is better on the economy, better on energy, better on foreign policy than Joe Biden. And so that's why I'm putting my support and my resources and my time into trying to elect Donald Trump for a second term in 2024.

BURNETT: And if Nikki Haley does do better than expected tonight, and obviously, we don't know what these exit polls necessarily mean, and they are changing, right?


BURNETT: But 49 percent of the people who go have gone to the polls so far, I would picked up a GOP ballot say that Biden won legitimately, 49 percent say that he did not. Now I'm not saying that's a ceiling on Trump's support, perhaps it is, perhaps it isn't, just an important number to have out there. If she does exceed expectations, would that change your mind at this point, Dan?

EBERHART: It wouldn't change my mind at all. Look, New Hampshire. Either way, New Hampshire is going to be the high watermark for Nikki Haley. When we roll into South Carolina and beyond, we have more closed primaries with more red, more conservative voters. And, you know, when Nikki Haley lands in South Carolina, she's going to find a, you know, a state where the governor both senators are backing Donald Trump.

And I'd like to point out, you know, Ron DeSantis, had 15 state legislators or 75 state legislators in South Carolina supporting him in this race. And Nikki Haley had 15, not to mention, you know, the big number that Trump has. So I think in that state, she's going to perform very badly in her home state. And it just gets worse as you look forward to the Texas, Oklahoma's and Tennessee's.

BURNETT: All right, well, Dan, I appreciate your time and everyone should know obviously raised hundred of thousands still allows for Ron DeSantis, 100,000 for Trump by last time around and now formally backing Trump again. Dan, thanks very much. I appreciate it.

And we do have new results from our exit polls coming in, including answers to some more key questions. For example, what is the single most important issue for the voters who have been to the polls so far today? And we're going to talk to more voters live at the polls in this poll rush hour right now.



BLITZER: Welcome back to CNN special coverage of the New Hampshire primary election. We're digging deeper right now into the exit polls that were just released getting a more detailed picture of how Granite State voters are feeling about some of the major issues defining this primary. And we just got some more exit poll results. Our political director, David Chalian, has been going through the numbers with our team. Tell us about these latest numbers, David. What are you seeing?

CHALIAN: Yes, we asked New Hampshire Republican primary voters today. Well, what is the single most important issue to your vote tonight? You see there the economy comes in first with 34 percent saying that was the most important issue followed very closely by immigration at 31 percent. That's similar to what we saw in Iowa a week ago. Economy and immigration dominating for Republican primary voters this year so far.

The nation's economy, what do you consider the condition of it? Take a look at those bottom numbers, Wolf, nearly 70 percent, if you combine them say that the nation's economy is not so good or poor, only about 30 percent say that the condition of the nation's economy are excellent or good.

Immigration, do you believe most undocumented immigrants in the United States should be deported? A slim majority of Republican primary voters in New Hampshire, 51 percent say yes deported, 45 percent say they should be offered a chance at legal status. And on the issue of abortion, a national abortion ban, are you in favor of banning most or all abortions nationwide? Two thirds of New Hampshire Republican primary voters oppose such a national ban, only 27 percent say they favor a ban.

And then U.S. role in the world, how do you see this? You know, there's this isolationist versus more global perspective within the Republican Party, a debate. What you see as 40 percent of Republican primary voters say a less active role in the world is what the U.S. should be doing, 30 percent say more active, 26 percent say it should be the same as it is right now. Erin?

BURNETT: All right, thank you very much, David Chalian.

All right. Jamie, going through these latest numbers that David is sharing. And again, these are just the exit poll numbers that we have up into these recent hour, and people are still voting. So these numbers will change. But what stands out to you from these latest?

JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: So, obviously the economy, right? Everybody cares about the economy. This is -- there's that large number not so good that you're hearing there. I think it's actually interesting. The immigration 51 said deported, I think 45 if I'm reading my handwriting, legal status, that may be closer than I expected that I expected there.

The abortion ban, of course, fascinating flip. Once again, this is when you're looking at American voters as a whole. They do not want an abortion ban. You're seeing a big number there. Can I just go back for two seconds to the 49-49 on whether Biden was legitimately elected? This is a glass half full man.

BURNETT: That's why we love you McKay.

GANGEL: I will tell you that the texts that came through on my phone were five alarm fire when, you know, even what did you say? You are happy.



COPPINS: For the purposes of tonight, your -- I bet that your sources are right and you're right that it's a major concern for the state of democracy and what it means for November when, you know, inevitably we'll have another round of --

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: But then in a Republican primary is saying it's -- it's a little different.

COPPINS: I'm just saying if only half of the voters have bought into Trump's conspiracy theory, that could indicate that he has a ceiling for how many people are willing to vote for him.

BORGER: Can I just talk about the abortion number?


BORGER: Because I think that is so striking --

BURNETT: This is 67 percent oppose a ban in New Hampshire.


BURNETT: Only 27 percent favor it.

BORGER: Right. So here you have a Republican primary effectively. And you have this 67 percent number. And you have Joe Biden and Kamala Harris tonight, talking about Roe and talking about the repeal of Roe. And it is the one surefire issue, the one surefire issue that the Democrats have going into this next election. And, you know, it's unclear how motivational it will be. But when you see a number like that, you have to assume it's going to be very motivational. BURNETT: And it has worked for in red states, Kansas, Ohio.

BORGER: Right.

HENDERSON: And listen, Donald Trump knows this, right? That's why he is saying that if he is elected, he's going to, you know, negotiate a better deal on --

BORGER: Like it's a real estate deal.

HENDERSON: Yes. Like it's a real estate deal. And listen, it's also why Nikki Haley is sounding a little bit more moderate. Then Donald Trump is sounded much more moderate than Ron DeSantis as well. It is shocking to me, though, and we'll see if these numbers change. The immigration, right, 45 percent of these voters think that folks should be offered a legal pathway here in this country. You know, Donald Trump obviously wants to ride the immigration issue to the White House in the way that he did in 2016.

He doesn't quite have the build the wall slogan, but he has sort of more vicious things like --

BURNETT: Yes. Deportation.

HENDERSON: Deportation and poisoning the blood of the country. But so far, at least in these exit polls, some of these folks are sounding a very moderate. You know, I think the big question is, are we seeing that Donald Trump has a much softer underbelly, as a GOP front runner than we thought, then Iowa has indicated then a lot of the endorsements have indicated as well. I mean, the guy who was for DeSantis, he initially said in July, he's a weak front runner, he's weaker than Biden, and he lost anyways, right?

And so I'm really interested in how these numbers are all through the night into see how this GOP electorate actually --

BORGER: You know, and by, I mean, Trump has avoided a real issue oriented campaign except in his advertising. And this shows you that at some point, he's going to have to have to talk about issues. I doubt he's going to want to debate. But he's going to have to come to a decision on abortion. He's going to have to come to a decision on immediate deportation given this kind of polling. And he's going to have to figure out that if he wants to win the presidency, he's going to have to appeal to other than the MAGA base.


BORGER: And I think that's what some of these number show.

BURNETT: And McKay, we do need to get and obviously we'll see how it goes tonight and what it means, but the undeclared voters is short for independent, right? These are independents who are registered as such who can go request the Republican ballot, which they have done. We don't know much about them know specifically, right?


BURNETT: You can look at the overall a quarter very conservative, 40 percent or somewhat conservative, but you can't look within that undeclared.


BURNETT: And in that number could mean everything.

COPPINS: That, I mean, that could be the ballgame tonight, right? Who are those independents? Why did they show up to vote for a Republican primary? I know that --

BURNETT: People voted for Trump before.

COPPINS: I was going to say, there's a note of caution here that in 2016, Donald Trump actually did pretty well with Independents. He was bringing new people into the party. He was getting people who are not traditional Republican primary voters to vote for him. Now that was eight years ago Trump has remade the Republican Party in his image. Independents can be a very different type of voter this time around but that's going to be the thing to look for.

BORGER: People like to identify as Independent rather than a Democrat and a Republican.

COPPINS: Especially in New Hampshire.

BORGER: Especially in New Hampshire but throughout the country there's a, you know, there's a large group of people are saying I don't want to be affiliated with either party.

BURNETT: Right. All right, all thank you and we're going to go back to the ground after this where officials are expecting this final rush of voters before the polls close. You have at least an hour and 10 minutes and then our Kate Bolduan was an extra hour after that until 8 o'clock. Lots more votes to be cast. We'll be back.



BLITZER: And welcome back to our special coverage of the New Hampshire primary election. We'll have more on those breaking exit poll numbers in just a moment. But first, we're in the very final hours of voting in this the first in the nation primary and turnout today appears to be strong. John Berman is standing by for us at a polling location in Manchester, New Hampshire. John, I know you've been talking to voters there all day. What are they telling you?

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, Manchester Ward 6 right now, Wolf, you can see, there is a line right here. Everyone in line by 7 o'clock will be allowed to vote here. When they arrive, they walk up to this desk and the crucial moment for them before they vote is which primary they're going to vote in. They choose if they're going to vote in the Republican primary or the Democratic primary. If they're going to vote in the Republican primary, they grab a pink slip, Democratic primary, a blue slip. What we've been told is the vast majority of people here are voting in the Republican primary. Remember undeclared voters independence they can vote in either most appear to be voting in the Republican primary, which is not surprising given obviously, that President Biden is not competing here except as a write in candidate.


And one bit of editorial information I've been told, there are a lot of write in ballots here. I was told there are, this many write in ballots, a bunch. They're going to have to count them all by hand after and that will take some time. Let's get a sense quickly of how many ballots have been cast here. Let me just look right here at this capture, let's push in, 2,636, 2,636 ballots have been cast in Ward 6 so far.

So let's walk outside here, 3,700 ballots were cast in 2016. That was the record, 2,000 or so would be a record for Republicans. We don't know how many are voting in the Republican primary versus Democratic, but most are voting in the Republican primary. We do have one voter here who did just cast a ballot. What's your name?


BERMAN: Jennifer, you just voted in the primary here. Who do you vote for?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I voted for Donald Trump.

BERMAN: You voted for Donald Trump. Why?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I love his policies and what he said he's going to do for the country.

BERMAN: Did you consider anyone else?


BERMAN: Did you vote four years ago for Donald Trump?


BERMAN: Eight years ago for Donald Trump?


BERMAN: So you're Donald Trump through and through?


BERMAN: All right. Thank you so much. Nice to see you here.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you. BERMAN: I should note, Donald Trump did win this Ward back in 2016. Handily, he beat his nearest competitor by about 20 points or so. So this is the type of place he did well before. We'll see how well he does tonight. Wolf?

BLITZER: All right, John, thank you.

Joining us now an insider with a lot of political experience in the state, the former chair of the New Hampshire Republican Party, Jennifer Horn. Jennifer, thanks so much for joining us. I know you've been in close contact with your network across New Hampshire all day traveling to polling sites across the state earlier this morning. So give our sense -- give our viewers a sense. What are you hearing?

JENNIFER HORN, FMR. CHAIR, NEW HAMPSHIRE REPUBLICAN PARTY: Well, there's no question that we're going to exceed it. In my mind, there's no question we're going to exceed the expected turnout. Turnout is huge. If you look in Salem, you look in Bedford, two of our, you know, largest Republican strongholds here along the southern tier. In many of those polling places, turnout has already exceeded not just 2016. But what was expected today.

And to your point, it is largely, largely Republican voters and, you know, undeclared participating in the Republican primary. And Wolf, there can be an argument made for both candidates as to who this benefits. But as you just heard from that voter in Manchester, my money is still with Donald Trump.

BLITZER: Our most recent exit poll results show some favorable numbers for the Nikki Haley campaign, Jennifer, 31 percent of the electorate is moderate, 39 percent somewhat conservative. So what does that tell you about her chances tonight?

HORN: You know, I can't I cannot, you know, figure out heads or tails on how -- where -- why Nikki Haley is where she is exactly. She's not Trump, you know. And as we looked, as I looked through just a couple hours ago, the most recent polls, the daily tracking polls, Suffolk and UNH and St. A's, she is -- I think she's going to end up tonight right where those polls have her.

The enthusiasm amongst the Republican voters is soundly with Donald Trump. I was speaking to someone just a couple minutes ago who said, you know, they think he could break 60 percent tonight. I'm not going to put my money on that. But it's his night. And it's that enthusiasm at 7 o'clock this morning, there were Trump sign holders at every polling place in Salem, where Nikki Haley needs to do well and should do well. There wasn't a single Nikki Haley sign holder.

Now you can say signs don't vote. Of course they don't. But people who's standing out in the cold enthusiastic enough to hold those signs, they vote and that's where I really see the enthusiasm, manifesting itself today on the ground.

BLITZER: And we know Jennifer that Nikki Haley will certainly need a lot of support from women voters if she's going to do well in New Hampshire. Her campaign, though, has largely avoided highlighting her as the only female candidate in this race. Do you think that was a missed opportunity for her?

HORN: Probably not, frankly, because I've just never seen where Republican voters or conservative voters are really inspired by that sort of thing. They just don't tune in as much or care as much about the first woman president, the first African American President, you know, their response is always I want if it's going to be a woman, I want the right woman.

And, you know, we can speculate a lot about why that is. But I don't think it would have helped her and I just heard the conversation before me about the numbers, you know, the exit polling and those abortion numbers, those right to life numbers are really not in her favor. I think that has more impact than the fact that she's the first woman.


BLITZER: Jennifer Horn, thanks so much for joining us, the former chair of the New Hampshire Republican Party. And to our viewers, thanks very much for watching. We're standing by once again for the first pose to close in New Hampshire just about an hour. And our special coverage of the New Hampshire primary will continue right now.