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CNN Live Event/Special

CNN Projects Trump Wins South Carolina, Nikki Haley Vows To Stay In The Race; Interview With Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC) About South Carolina Primary Results. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired February 24, 2024 - 20:00   ET



DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's an important thing to have in the Republican electorate and the Republican system right now.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN ANCHOR, NEWSNIGHT WITH ABBY PHILLIP: Yes, I mean, as long as she has the money to keep the lights on, put aside even the money to put ads up. Just the money to keep the lights on to pay her staff, she can stay in this thing and she can make a case of why not, and her voters, especially given the ones the Kiley spoke to, they seem very receptive to that. There is a 30 percent of the Republican Party, maybe a little less, that wants someone else. It's not enough to win the nomination, but they're there.

BASH: OK. Anderson, over to you.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks very much. We are awaiting Nikki Haley's speech still. We have a key race alert. Let's take a look at the latest numbers here. Donald Trump 57.6 percent of the vote, Nikki Haley with 41.9 percent. That's with just 25 percent, though, of precincts reporting. So more numbers still to come in.

It is 8:00 p.m. Eastern here on the East Coast. Donald Trump is the projected winner of the Republican presidential primary in South Carolina. It will bring a huge blow to the state's former governor, Nikki Haley, in her own backyard. Even bringing him closer to clinching the GOP nomination.

We are, as I said, standing by to hear from Nikki Haley any moment. We'll obviously bring you her remarks live. That is the crowd that has been waiting. Let's check in with our Kristen Holmes -- Kristen.

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Anderson, I'm talking to a lot of sources here who are close to Donald Trump saying that now is the time to pivot to the general election. They believe these four definitive wins in a row make Donald Trump the presumptive nominee, even though the delegate math is not there, even though Nikki Haley has not dropped out of the race.

Now to be clear, he is not the presumptive nominee at this time, but this is four significant wins for the former president. And you kind of heard that in his speech tonight. He didn't mention Nikki Haley once, so that wasn't just because of this pivot to the general election. This is because it was the same speech he was supposed to give in New Hampshire when he won, but did not. As we remember this -- in New Hampshire, Nikki Haley took the stage first, giving a very enthusiastic speech, despite the fact that she lost.

And Donald Trump, instead of celebrating his win in the state, launched into a series of attacks for quite some time against Nikki Haley. His team not happy with that. He completely changed the narrative away from his win. Tonight a different person. He was celebrating his win. He was not mentioning Nikki Haley, and turning his attention to Joe Biden.

Now the big question is when we start to see Donald Trump's campaign actually move to a general. And I mean, not in terms of messaging but in terms of money, and Donald Trump did just get a big significant win in terms of funds. A new super PAC has been established by a long-term friend and donor, Ike Perlmutter, who used to be the executive of Marvel. It is going to be run by a family friend Sergio Gor, and they say they've already got donors from across the country.

Now this, of course, it's going to be at a time where Donald Trump not only needs money for a campaign, but also needs a significant number of funds for all those legal fees that he is facing. Now that's not where his super PAC money is going to go, but it is another avenue for Donald Trump to raise cash as he looks again towards a general election.

COOPER: Yes. Kristen Holmes, thanks. We'll check in with you shortly.

Want to go to David Chalian with more exit polling today.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Anderson, the other thing that Donald Trump needs in a general election is a fully unified Republican Party. We see his dominance here, but I'm going to take you inside these exit poll results among Haley voters. Obviously, the smaller share of voters tonight since we've projected this race. But I do think it is telling for the work Donald Trump and his team will have to do to bring the party totally unified, heading into a general.

So among Haley voters in the South Carolina primary tonight, what are your feelings if Trump wins the nomination? 78 percent of them will be dissatisfied if Trump is the nominee. Among Haley voters we asked, is Trump fit for the presidency if he is convicted of a crime? 82 percent of Haley voters in this Republican primary saying no, he's unfit for the presidency if he's convicted of a crime.

Who is physically, mentally fit to serve as president? Again, these are Haley voters we're looking at tonight. 74 percent of them not surprisingly say Haley is fit both physically and mentally to serve effectively. Only 4 percent of her voters think Trump fits that bill that he is physically and mentally fit. 18 percent say both of them are.

And here's one that's really interesting. Haley voters actually think Donald Trump can beat Joe Biden despite the fact that Nikki Haley every day says Donald Trump cannot beat Joe Biden. That's one of her main arguments day in and day out, why she's still in the race. 56 percent of her voters actually say that it's very or somewhat likely that Trump would indeed defeat Biden -- Anderson.

COOPER: David, at this point, is it clear, I mean, how many of those people polled may be Democrats?


CHALIAN: Oh, well, we do have a breakdown of party ID, but it's not a whole swath of them. I don't have it in front of me, but it is -- we saw like 20 percent of the electorate was independent, far less than that were Democrats in this electorate tonight. The vast majority of people voting in this primary are actually self-identified Republicans.

COOPER: All right, David Chalian, thanks so much.

Back with the panel in New York. I mean, we did hear from somebody who decided not to vote in the Democratic primary and decided to vote for Nikki Haley for this very reason.

BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: But let's -- I mean we're looking at the votes come in and one of the things that is kind of fascinating to watch is that this isn't a 65-35 race. Nikki is performing at over 40 percent. That's -- those are blinking lights for Donald Trump. I mean, that's 40 percent of a conservative military electorate that is rejecting you. Not only that, but per Jake and others, that she's competitive in two congressional districts right now.

Not only District One, which is Charleston and a low country, but also Jim Clyburn's district, which is District Six. And so when you think about these things, I mean, this is more competitive than people thought. Now, she's still getting beat by 17 points in our home state but she's performing at over 40 percent. And I think that is something that, I mean, Nikki can celebrate that per say, but the Republican Party has to be keeping their eye on that because 41 percent of the electorate in South Carolina is rejecting Donald Trump.

COOPER: But I'm told about 4 percent of those in the exit polls were Democrats.

SELLERS: Which is negligible. I mean, this isn't, you can't -- this isn't New Hampshire. Republican can't say, oh, my god, Republicans flipped it. It's anti-freedom.


SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I'm sorry. I believe in closed primary. People ought to choose --

SELLERS: It's called freedom. Smell it, smell it, Scott.


JENNINGS: We are. We're going to be smelling until November.

ALYSSA FARAH GRIFFIN, FORMER TRUMP WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: I think that last slide by Chalian was the most interesting, was even among Nikki Haley voters, they're convinced that Trump could beat Joe Biden. There was a time in this race, probably about six plus months ago when Trump was lagging Joe Biden and there was a window that another Republican could have emerged. But after the indictments came down and folks kind of coalesce around Trump and Trump started performing better head-to-head against Joe Biden, the race dynamics is fundamentally changed.

Never mind the fact that Nikki Haley performs far better head-to-head against Joe Biden. So long as enough republicans are convinced that Trump can beat him and Biden is weak so many of them are going to --


DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: This was in fact Haley's -- this was the principal message that she was delivering. If you go back to the first debate that Trump can't win, and she continued to say, you know, we've lost, we've lost, we've lost with Trump. But that is not a winning argument with Republican voters, right?

JONAH GOLDBERG, CO-FOUNDER AND EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, THE DISPATCH: Yes, but it's important to point out like the reason you talk about electability is to win voters. You don't already have, right? Because you can't attack Trump personally. It pisses them off.

AXELROD: Right. Right.

GOLDBERG: It does not shock me in the slightest that half of Nikki Haley's voters think Trump can win. That's why they're voting for Nikki Haley. Because they want to stop Trump from being president, not stop Trump from being the nominee of their party. That's a real thing. And that's why Nikki Haley is raising money from a lot of Republicans and conservatives because they don't want Trump to be president, not because they don't want him to be the nominee.

AUDIE CORNISH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I think the other problem, though is, you know, "Politico" was looking at her donors and more than 5,000 of her donors or people who had donated to Joe Biden in 2020. So there is -- we talk about the jet fuel being the thing to kind of keep you going when you're losing, you know, she is being buoyed by a mix of constituencies that at the end of the day still don't reflect the party itself. That's always going to be a problem.

KASIE HUNT, CNN ANCHOR: Someone sent me a note tonight that basically said the resistance retweets are not helping Haley. And that of course is the problem.

JENNINGS: She's an avatar for that crowd now. I mean, it's a mixture of a handful of Republicans who have never liked Trump. A lot of them never-Trump people who have gravitated out of the party. A lot of Democrats who of course hadn't blinked since 2016. She's an avatar for all of them. And she represents all of them.

SELLERS: But I don't want to quote -- please, Scott, forgive me quoting Gavin Newsom up here. I don't really want to quote Gavin Newsom, but he was -- he did make a good point about Nikki Haley. She's one of the best surrogates that the Democratic Party has right now. I mean, she literally is the one who is utilizing --

HUNT: The Biden campaign is like blasting out things that she's saying on a regular basis.

SELLERS: Because they're true about Donald Trump.

JENNINGS: I think she makes coherent points, unlike the person that they're actually working for. So they have to put out some kind of --


AXELROD: The problem is that she -- her appeal is what makes her a good general election candidate and what makes her a bad primary candidate. I mean, I said to you, Anderson, I remember sitting here and saying to you that she -- that Trump has great strength with one particular cohort that's important in a Republican primary, which is Republicans. She doesn't have that.

But she is -- she would be a stronger general election candidate because she does have appeals to independents, to some Democratic voters. But the problem --


AXELROD: Let me just finish this one point. The problem with the Republican Party, and it isn't just in the presidential races. The thing that it takes to win primaries makes you more vulnerable in a general election.


JONES: Yes, I mean, I think that the character that she's showing is impressive, though. And, you know, she's going to come out here. She's going to say what she says. We're going to move on. But the easy thing to do right now, to your point earlier, is just to quit. I mean, look, she's made a point. She's a household name. Everybody knows where she stands. Quit. She's not quitting. The lady is not for quitting. She's for staying. She's for sticking. She's for fighting. And I think it is something that's good about that.

And sometimes people actually believe stuff. I wouldn't have put Nikki Haley in that camp. I thought she was much more transactional, kind of a plastic politician, but there's something, something is happening here now that I think is admirable. You see her different.

HUNT: Can I ask you about that?

JONES: Sure. Yes.

HUNT: And the part I'm interested to know, because you know the state so well, too. One of the biggest critiques about Haley all the way through her career is that it has been hard to tell which version of herself she actually is. She has been this transactional -- I mean, I covered her very first race for governor in South Carolina. I was down there as that happened. You could see some of the things in that that you're seeing now, her grit, her political skills, her kind of willingness and she -- you know, call Sara Palin, gets that endorsement.

She was a fighter then, but she was a very different candidate ideologically, right? She was a Tea Party candidates. She was, if anything, modeling what became the Trump movement at that time. Then she goes and she works for Trump. She repudiates him after January 6th. It's a little confusing where she stands. Is this actually the real Nikki Haley that we're seeing now?

SELLERS: No, no, so let's -- so yes and no. The answer to the question is, she was a Tea Party candidate when Tea Party was necessary to be governor of South Carolina, when Sarah Palin came in and endorsed her. The thing that we're seeing about Nikki Haley is something that's always been true. She's extremely transactional. She's adiaphorous. She's a fence-sitter when it comes to different issues. You know, that's how she gets herself in trouble.

But what we're seeing is that she's a fighter. She always has been a fighter. I mean, she's been a fighter for a very long period of time. In 2010 when she ran for governor of South Carolina, Gresham Barrett was supposed to win that race. She ran against Gresham Barrett, who was a sitting United States congressman. I mean, she ran against Henry McMaster. She ran against Andrei Bauer.

All of these names who were bigger than the lowly state representative from Lexington County, when she got elected to the statehouse, she beat the oldest member of the general assembly the election before I beat the oldest member of the general assembly. And so she literally has been a fighter. This grit that you're seeing, the character that you're talking about, that is Nikki Haley. The problem is that the grit does not meet the consistency and political views, conviction.

GRIFFIN: And we know we're in a primary season right now. And there it is incredibly hard to see how there's any kind of a path for Nikki Haley. But the million-dollar question remains, where do her voters go? Because if she once again hold on to about a third of voters in a general election, are she keeping those from Donald Trump? Do they go to Joe Biden? Do they look for a third-party candidate?

That's what (INAUDIBLE), because if I'm a Republican advising Donald Trump, you know -- I'm sorry, a third of the state being with her, that is a glaring alarm bell in a general election.

COOPER: Just quickly. I just will come back. I just want to go to Kylie Atwood at Nikki Haley headquarters. She got some new information while we haven't heard yet from the former governor.

Kylie, what are you learning?

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Well, listen, what I'm told is that Nikki Haley is huddled in the same building that we are in right now, where this party is happening. She's with her closest aide. She's in a war room. What they're doing is they're tracking the votes that are coming in. I'm told by one source that she's in a very serious mood. Of course, that's no surprise given how high the stakes are for her. But one of the reasons that she hasn't spoken yet is because they want a larger percentage of the votes to actually be in.

They are looking at certain areas in the state where they are highly populated. They're not seeing all of the vote tallies in from those areas. So they're watching for those. I'm also told that it doesn't look like she's planning a dropout speech in any way right now. She just wants to see what the margins are looking like before she comes out here and speaks with her supporters in this room.

And I do want to say that this room is incredibly lively, Anderson. They have been breaking out into cheers over the last, you know, hour or so, particularly because CNN is on in the room and every time that someone says something that would be a benefit to Nikki Haley, they break into cheers. Just like I'm talking right now, I can hear them speaking behind me. So we'll watch to see when they decide.

It's a good time for her to come out. But Nikki Haley and her team closely monitoring everything that they're seeing across the state.

COOPER: All right, Kylie Atwood, with 30 percent of vote in right now. We'll come back to you.

JENNINGS: Can I ask you a question, Van? You raised the issue about -- you described Haley as having character, and staying in this race and that shows it's about character. Do you think the converse is true about the Democratic Party? Why wasn't there someone who exhibited the same kind of determined character to stay in the race against Joe Biden? I mean, a lot of people in the Democratic Party have the same questions about Biden's fitness that people have in the Republican Party about Trump.


Why don't you think someone took up that slot in the Democratic Party?

JONES: Well, because we did so well in the midterms that I think a lot of people looked at Joe Biden's cards and they said, hang on a second, this dude is always underestimated. People said there's no way Joe Biden is going to be able to get the nomination and he got it. He's going up against Trump. He beat him. And there's supposed to be -- going to be a red wave, looked like a red trickle.

And people said, maybe, just maybe there's something we don't understand about the Democratic Party under Joe Biden. And then that moment, I mean, if we've gotten crushed, destroyed in the midterm, I think a lot people would have jumped in, but at that moment, it didn't look smart and now things I think look different. You see it differently?

HUNT: Also Biden hasn't been indicted four times and he didn't try to, you know, overthrow an election. There's that.


JONES: But his numbers are bad. HUNT: Correct. Yes.

JENNINGS: But 86 percent of the country tells pollsters he can't serve another term. And so you're saying Haley is showing character by pointing out the obvious faults in Trump's candidacy, which I grant you but no Democrat with I guess the same character will --

AXELROD: But, Scott --


GOLDBERG: So I have a different theory about this. I think if Gavin Newsom thought he could become the nominee for 2024, he would trample small children to do it. What he won't do is risk being the candidate who got Donald Trump reelected.

AXELROD: Yes. Yes, that's right.

GOLDBERG: The fear of helping Trump is the great discipliner of the Democratic Party.


SELLERS: And country -- and what Nikki Haley is learning is the same lesson that any other Democrat would have learned running against Joe Biden, which is that there was no path to beat Joe Biden. I mean, anybody smart watching this, you're not going to beat Joe. You might beat him in Iowa. You may beat him in New Hampshire. You're not beating him in Nevada. You're not beating him in South Carolina. You're not beating him on Super Tuesday.

I mean, look, we know that he's a consequential grandfather. We know that, right, and the Democratic Party has embraced that. That is our candidate, but nobody was going to beat him in a primary and that's not --


COOPER: Van Jones.

JONES: I do want to hear from David, but first of all, I love Gavin Newsom. I just want to say, you said you didn't want to quote him. I just want to say I'll quote him all day. I've known the guy for --

SELLERS: We can have this debate in 2028.


JONES: Somebody to say something (INAUDIBLE) Democrats on this panel. I love Gavin Newsom, but there is I think a history here that disciplined our folks. When you look at the time that Democrats have challenged our sitting presidents, you have '68, you know, Johnson got challenged, Nixon won. Then you had '76, Carter got challenged and then Reagan won. So there is a real fear in our party. You challenge one of our sitting presidents and the other side won.

COOPER: David, and then we got to go break.

AXELROD: Yes, no. Look, I agree with what Jonah said that there was no desire, once it was clear that Biden was going to run, no desire to weaken him for the fight against Trump, but, Scott, it's also true that there is affection and respect for Joe Biden in the Democratic Party that is very broad. They don't have concerns about his character that a lot of Republicans have about Donald Trump.

HUNT: Just a quick note. I have some reporting that I just got from a source. I think the thing, number one to watch in terms of what Haley is going to do here is 40 percent, they're waiting to see if they can get that number. If it stays above 40 percent, I get the sense that they may be making a decision. She's got to decide if she's going to stay in this race after 100 percent. If they come in over 40 percent, I think we may see a very different Nikki Haley tonight than we might have otherwise.

COOPER: Coming up, we're going to take you to Nikki Haley's remarks to supporters and the nation when it happens. We're breaking down the scope of Trump's South Carolina win as votes keep coming in. We'll be right back.



JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: And I have that key race alert for you right now with 36 percent of the vote in. Donald Trump is still far ahead with 59.3 percent of the vote. He has 182,783 votes. That's more than 59,000 votes ahead of Nikki Haley who has 40.1 percent of the vote, 123,442 votes. With 36 percent of the estimated vote in, we have already projected that Donald Trump will win the South Carolina Republican primary.

Let's get an update now on where the fight for delegates stands with Donald Trump's South Carolina. David Chalian is crunching the numbers for us -- David.

CHALIAN: Yes, Jake. So as you know, 50 delegates at stake tonight. We've already been able to allocate 38 of them all to Donald Trump. There are 12 delegates not yet allocated. We were looking congressional district by congressional district as the vote comes in. Donald Trump won the statewide delegates and now he's won some of the congressional district delegates that we've been able to allocate. 38 tonight, so far 12 unallocated.

But take a look at where we are in terms of the delegates to date in this race. Donald Trump has now crossed the 100 mark. He's at 101 delegates thus far. Up there on the right-hand corner, you need 1,215 delegates to win the Republican Party nomination. Nobody has made a ton of progress yet. We've got that many contests. But Donald Trump is far ahead, 101. Nikki Haley with 17 so far. Ron DeSantis with nine, Vivek Ramaswamy with three. And like I said, there are still 12 not yet allocated from tonight's contests in South Carolina.

TAPPER: All right, and most of them have been allocated already. Let's talk about this while we wait for Nikki Haley to come out. Obviously with 40.1 percent of the vote, that's a roughly 19 percent loss in terms of percentage points. Haley is getting a shellacking, but it is not quite the shellacking that Donald Trump predicted. He said he would beat her by 25 to 30 points. We still don't know what it's going to be at the end of the day, but it does look like she's going to do a little bit -- I wouldn't say better, but not as horribly as that.

You buy that spin?

PHILLIP: I don't think it matters. I honestly do not think it matters what the margin is at the end of the day tonight for the purposes of determining what Nikki Haley's future is. The question is, can Nikki Haley win a primary in this contest?


That's not a question her campaign has been willing to answer to date. They say they're going to compete in Super Tuesday states. They have not said where they think they can actually win. Whether the number is 40 percent or 35 percent or 42 percent, this is a significant victory for Donald Trump that basically blows out of the water any real possibility barring something catastrophic that someone else will come in and take his place.

And spin is what it is, but I don't -- I don't see how 40 percent changes anything for Nikki Haley today compared to what it was like yesterday.

TAPPER: And yet, Dana, I mean, Bakari Sellers, former South Carolina representative, made the argument bad night for Haley, but also that's 40 percent of the South Carolina electorate not voting for Donald Trump.

BASH: And that is part of what I'm getting on my phone and maybe we all are from people in and around the Haley campaign. That's the argument that they're making around that 40 percent issue, and it's not just that Donald Trump perhaps, we don't know because we don't have all the votes in. The gulf could be wider by the time we get to the end of the night, but it's about expectations and Donald Trump setting expectations.

Of course part of this, maybe more than part of it is spin. But it does beg the question, and we've got some of the answers and the exit polls that we saw from David Chalian about what happens in a general election with those Haley voters, and how excited they will be to vote for Donald Trump in the general election.

PHILLIP: Can I just say -- can I just add real quick?

BASH: Yes.

PHILLIP: Exit polls. OK. Feelings if Donald Trump wins the nomination, 72 percent of the people who voted today said they would be satisfied.


RAJU: But I do think that there are warning signs for Trump, not just for the 40 percent or so of Haleys supporters. When you break down those Haley supporters, 78 percent say they'd be dissatisfied, the Haley supporters, if Trump were the nominee and then if convicted of a crime, 82 percent say no, he is not fit for president. That is actually consistent with what we've seen in the other primary states and could give, you know, the Biden people some hope in some of those swing states by picking up those Haley supporters. People, those right of center, moderate-leaning voters who clearly are out there.

We know from tonight and other nights, Trump is dominating with conservative, very conservative voters. That is one big reason why he's winning in this very conservative state. But when we get into the general election electorate, these are warning signs that they had to take seriously.

BASH: Yes, and let's be clear, there's no one --

TAPPER: I just want to interrupt for one second is because, Dana, at the moment you were saying at a second ago about we don't know the final vote.

BASH: Yes.

TAPPER: If we could put the votes up right now, Nikki Haley dropped below 40 percent on the vote board.

BASH: There you go.

TAPPER: She's now at 39.6 percent. Donald Trump at 59.8 percent. That's what 39 percent of the vote in. So we still have more than half the votes to come in.

BASH: Exactly.

TAPPER: And we should also note that in New Hampshire, she got 43 percent of the vote. So she has constantly been saying, she just wants to do better in the next race than she did in the last one and she certainly did better in New Hampshire than she did in Iowa. If you take out the, you know, the Nevada caucus for a second, the argument that she needs to do better in South Carolina than she did in New Hampshire, as of right now she is not.

BASH: Yes. This is her home state.

TAPPER: Right.

BASH: This is where she should be --

TAPPER: Where she won two statewide elections before.

BASH: Yes, and the other thing I think we should point out is we are analyzing this electorate because this is what we have. These are the freshest numbers to kind of get a sense of where Republicans are. That's no way suggesting that if there is dissatisfaction, even if it is close to 40 percent, with Donald Trump in South Carolina, the Democrat is going to win South Carolina. I mean, it's -- that is not even close to the case.

The question is going to be in going forward in some of the swing states, and the states that are going to determine the general election in November, and whether or not there are going to be people who are maybe it's not Nikki Haley or just any other Republican other than Donald Trump, if they're upset. I think at this point, we've pretty much established that by and large Donald Trump dominates.

RAJU: Yes. It is also interesting, too, Haley has been making the argument that Donald Trump is not electable. She has been saying that over and over again, or this is going to be a very close election and she would win much more handedly based on national polls that do show her having a more sizable lead over Joe Biden. That didn't really convince voters, her own supporters. A majority of her own supporters according to these exit polls believe that Donald Trump could win, could beat Joe Biden.

So that has been a real challenge for her, making that electability argument in large part because of Biden's weakness gives Trump a bit of a boost among voters who may not think initially thought he could win this race.

TAPPER: It's interesting because it was four years ago in South Carolina where Joe Biden's electability argument prevailed. Remember, he had gotten clobbered in Iowa, he'd gotten clobbered in New Hampshire, and then he came forward with the argument I am the only one that can unite all the different factions of the Democratic Party.


And with no small help from Congressman Jim Clyburn, the dean of the congressional delegation there, he was able to make that argument to the point that South Carolina pretty much ended the contest. I mean, Bernie Sanders stuck around for a while, but generally speaking, South Carolina bought the electability argument. It was just that it was Democrats.

A lot of these Republicans, by the way, think Donald Trump will win in. It's not just, they don't buy her electability argument, but they also just don't think that she's -- it's not that they reject the electability argument, they just don't believe it about Donald Trump. They think Donald Trump can win.

PHILLIP: Yes, I think that they are pretty comfortable with -- look, Republican voters are comfortable with, and I see Nikki Haley coming out to the stage.

TAPPER: She's coming up.

PHILLIP: But they're comfortable with Donald Trump as their nominee.

TAPPER: Yes. BASH: And look, I also think that what you said about South Carolina

for Democrats could play a very similar role for Republicans in this cycle.

TAPPER: Yes, let's listen in.



HALEY: Thank you, thank you, thank you.


HALEY: Thank you. You all are a rowdy bunch. But I love that about you. Thank you. You know, I want to start off obviously thanking my family. I am so incredibly blessed. I was able to speak with Michael this morning. Just his support has been amazing. The kids have really stepped up, sometimes too much, but they have stepped up in a way that has made me so, so proud. I am blessed because I had the ability to actually go vote today with my mom.


HALEY: You know, and there's something very special with the fact that she was a lawyer in India and she was named one of the first female judges. And because of the times she was never able to sit on the bench. But the fact that she could go with me and cast her ballot for her daughter as president of the United States was an amazing --


HALEY: I want to thank my parents who taught me strength and grace. I want to thank Michael's parents who have been unbelievably supportive through all of this. And I want to thank my brothers and my sister and their families for always supporting us every step of the way. Thank you.

I feel blessed tonight. I've felt blessed through this entire journey. Even when it's been tough I haven't lost sight of that. I've felt God's strength and grace every step of the way.


HALEY: Blessed to have served the state that raised me.


HALEY: And I look forward to continuing to be blessed to serve the state that raised me whether it's going and voting with my mom or whether it is being with our family. We're very grateful for the good people of South Carolina. Thank you.


HALEY: And it's a blessing to know that across our sweet state everyone wants to bring back the America we know and love. That's the underlying message of what happened today.

I want to congratulate Donald Trump on his victory, and I want to thank the people of South Carolina for using the power of your voice.


HALEY: No matter the results I love the people of our state.


HALEY: I love what we accomplished together, and I love how we united during our worst challenges and tragedies. I've always seen our state as a family. Families are honest with each other. They say the hard truths. That's what I've done this entire campaign, and that's what I'll do now.


HALEY: What I saw today was South Carolina's frustration with our country's direction.


I've seen that same frustration nationwide. I share it. I feel it to my core. I couldn't be more worried about America. It seems like our country is our country is falling apart. But here's the thing, America will come apart if we make the wrong choices. This has never been about me or my political future. We need to beat Joe Biden in November.


HALEY: I don't believe Donald Trump can beat Joe Biden. Nearly every day Trump drives people away including with his comments just yesterday. Today in South Carolina, we're getting around 40 percent of the vote.


HALEY: That's about what we got in New Hampshire, too. I'm going to count it. I know 40 percent is not 50 percent.


HALEY: But I also know 40 percent is not some tiny group.



HALEY: There are huge numbers of voters in our Republican primaries who were saying they want an alternative.


HALEY: I said earlier this week that no matter what happens in South Carolina, I would continue to run for president.


HALEY: I'm a woman of my word.



HALEY: I'm not giving up this fight when a majority of Americans disapprove of both Donald Trump and Joe Biden.


HALEY: South Carolina has spoken. We're the fourth state to do so. In the next 10 days, another 21 states and territories will speak. They have the right to a real choice. Not a Soviet-style election with only one candidate. And I have a duty to give them that choice.


HALEY: We can't afford four more years of Biden's failures or Trump's lack of focus. We're at $34 trillion in debt and counting. Not even a third of our eighth graders are proficient in reading. Families can't afford groceries. Nine million illegals have come to our border with enough fentanyl to kill every single American. And beyond our borders, the world is on fire. War is spreading further every day. If we aren't strong, those wars will draw America further in.

And it's not just about policies. We won't get out of our downward spiral if we keep obsessing over the past. Does anyone seriously think Joe Biden or Donald Trump will unite our country to solve our problem? One of them calls his fellow Americans fascists. The other calls his fellow Americans vermin. They aren't fighting for our country's future. They're demanding we fight each other.


The younger generation, my children's generation, knows it better than anyone. They deserve better. They deserve leadership.


HALEY: And so I will keep fighting for them and for you and for all of America.


HALEY: From the start of this campaign, I've made clear that I'm running for president to save America. I'm running to remind us what it means to be an American. In the America I know and love, we believe in each other. And we believe in America's inherent goodness. Now is the time to renew that belief. Now is the time to remember who we are. We're citizens of the greatest country in human history.


HALEY: And we must lead now more than ever before. I'm grateful to South Carolina, I always have been and I always will be. And I'm grateful that today is not the end of our story.


HALEY: We're headed to Michigan tomorrow.


HALEY: And we're headed to the Super Tuesday states throughout all of next week. We'll keep fighting for America and we won't rest until America wins.


HALEY: I want to give a few thank yous because we've had some people who've really -- there have been too many to thank. But I really have to single out Congressman Ralph Norman.


HALEY: Ralph has had pressure on him from every side that he needed to not support me and that he needed to step away from me. And he always said there's no way in hell.


HALEY: I want to thank Senator Tom Davis.

COOPER: And that is Nikki Haley speaking tonight. She said that in the next 10 days, 21 states and territories have the right to a choice and that she is moving forward to at least through Super Tuesday, which is obviously on March 5th.

What did you think of her remarks?

GRIFFIN: Willis and her team saying she's going to be in seven different states over the next 10 days. She's powering through. She said what she had to say last night. There's not really any better spin to put on it than to say, you know, somebody who's running as virtually an incumbent, Donald Trump, getting 60 percent, 40 percent being against him, that's not a mandate, especially with the entire Republican Party apparatus behind him, with most elected Republicans behind him.

Now it's unclear what a path could look like for Nikki Haley. I think we're all very open-eyed about that. But she is underscoring the fundamental weakness of Donald Trump and it should be a five-alarm fire for the party. But for some reason, it is not.

JONES: When she says 40 percent is not some tiny group, I thought that was really well put because it basically it looks like a landslide, I mean, ordinarily American politics that, but it's not a tiny group. There are a large number of people within the Republican Party who have a sense of disquiet and concern, and they are speaking and when she said, we don't want have a Soviet style election with only one candidate. I thought that was also well put and it puts the Russia thing back in the eye. Look, that was a really well-written speech and worth the waiting.


SELLERS: I was going to say the same thing. That speech was actually very well put together. You were commenting on her advance, kind of behind the scenes, the flags, the way she looked, she looked presidential. Her remarks weren't -- I mean she actually spoke from prompters. It wasn't anything random and off, you know, kind of off the cuff. It was very, very well done.

She reminds me of something that in 2016, do you remember when everyone was clutching their pearls when Bernie Sanders was running an insurgent campaign against Hillary Clinton? We all knew that Bernie Sanders was not going to beat Hillary Clinton. But Bernie Sanders forever had an imprint on the Democratic Party. For better or for worse, like him or not, he meant something to the Republican Party, and night after -- in Democratic Party, excuse me.


Night after night, we saw Bernie Sanders racking up 33 percent, 35 percent, 40 percent of the vote against Hillary Clinton. And I would come on panels like this every night and people would be like, oh, my god, Democrats, your hair is on fire. You know, you have people rejecting Hillary Clinton. The same thing is happening today for Republicans.

CORNISH: Well, to challenge that just a tiny bit.

SELLERS: Please.

CORNISH: Bernie actually stood for a number of things that felt qualitatively different from the centrist view of the candidates that were on the table.

GRIFFIN: Nikki Haley --

CORNISH: Nikki Haley, if you look at her record on abortion, for instance --

GRIFFIN: No, as a Republican -- no, if I could --


CORNISH: No, no, no. I genuinely believe this. I just want to say that I think that I met the Bernie Bros and the people who were supporting him and they were diehard. I haven't met as many diehard Haley fans except at this table and like in these circles. I just don't see the same devotion and commitment to him --

(CROSSTALK) SELLERS: Let me just -- and first of all, I'm not going to play devil's advocate because the devil doesn't need one and I'm not going to sit here and support Nikki Haley like that and say that she stands for this level of conviction. What I am going to say, though, is that the framework is the same. The fundamentals are the same. Hillary Clinton had a faction of people in her party who did not want her to be the nominee until certain concessions were made, until the party been in a certain direction and the party did that. And this may not be the same ones.

AXELROD: And she lost.


SELLERS: But that was a policy-driven argument. What Nikki Haley is arguing is that this individual who's in the Republican Party leading the primary does not have the morals or ethics --

COOPER: Let's hear from --

GRIFFIN: May I real quick? Two points here. She's arguing the question of unfitness and there is a large portion of the Republican Party, lifelong Republicans, who cannot support Donald Trump. And secondly, one of the most generation defining issues that's on the table right now, aid to Ukraine. She is fundamentally in a different place than Donald Trump.

AXELROD: May I ask you a question?

GRIFFIN: And 67 percent of Republicans support aid to Ukraine. Those just don't happen to be primary.

AXELROD: Why do you think he is unfit?

GRIFFIN: I mean countless reasons. January 6th is the most glaring. I think --

AXELROD: Why doesn't she ever mention that?

GRIFFIN: And she should. I have just -- by the way, this notion that I'm some kind of Nikki Haley sycophant, that's just --

CORNISH: Not sycophant. I'm saying supporter.

GRIFFIN: I want someone to beat Donald Trump and I don't want to rest that all on Joe Biden --

CORNISH: That's not the same as loving her, right? And that's the point that's being made here.

GRIFFIN: She should have made that more, and I've said from the outset of the primary, she came out swinging harder, that she may be in a different place. If she had spoken about his indictments differently, she may be in a different place because she could sway people who could have been convinced that these are bad.

SELLERS: But we're missing the point. It's not -- I'm not there saying anybody is in love with Nikki Haley.

GRIFFIN: I don't think I am.

SELLERS: What I am saying is that people are rejecting Donald Trump, and those are two different things. Like people are rejecting Donald Trump, there was a large number of people in 2016. Now, sure there were a lot of people who love Bernie Sanders, but there was a rejection of Hillary Clinton by a certain number of people in the primary. All I'm saying is that there is a rejection of Donald Trump. And how do I know that? 38 --


HUNT: A lot of those Democrats voted for Donald Trump in the general election. A lot of the Bernie Sanders supporters.

JENNINGS: They're not voting for Trump today. The vast majority of those people are going to end up voting for Trump. The question is on the margins.

SELLERS: Correct.

JENNINGS: As Alyssa says, there will be a percentage of people that can't do it. We've seen in some of the exit polling throughout the primaries that some folks say if he's convicted, they'll consider him to be unfit. Actually, about a third in most of them and that's a lot. I think most of them probably don't mean it or won't mean it by the time November comes around. But on the margins, there will be a few.

JENNINGS: The thing is she's not giving speeches just indicting Donald Trump. If you didn't know anything about these parties and you didn't know anything about these people. You were a space alien, you were Kodos and Kang, and you landed here, you would assume --

HUNT: You would leave immediately.

JENNINGS: You would assume she was a third-party candidate. This tonight to me sounded like someone who is running for president just as an independent, non-party person. Now that's not really possible for her, but that's how it feels to me.

COOPER: Donald Trump delivering a huge blow to former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley in her own backyard. We are digging into the numbers and we'll talk next to one of President Biden's crucial supporters in South Carolina, Congressman James Clyburn.



TAPPER: Donald Trump just took another leap towards the Republican presidential nomination and a likely rematch with President Joe Biden by winning the South Carolina primary in what appears to be a rout of the state's two-term former governor, Nikki Haley. Haley telling supporters just a short while ago that she's going to keep campaigning. She's going to keep fighting on despite the outcome and despite the pressure to drop out.

Let's take a look at where the votes are right now, with 60 percent of the estimated vote from the South Carolina Republican primary in, Donald Trump is ahead with 60, that's 60.7 percent of the vote. He has 294,810 votes. That is more than 106,000 votes ahead of former governor Nikki Haley who has 38.7 percent of the vote, and 187,920 votes. Again, that's with about 60 percent, 61 percent of the vote.

Let's talk about this all with the dean of the South Carolina Congressional Delegation, Democratic Congressman James Clyburn, who serves as the co-chair of the Biden-Harris reelection campaign.

Congressman, your reaction to this resoundingly Trump win in South Carolina, and Nikki Haley's pledge to keep campaigning.

REP. JAMES CLYBURN (D-SC): Well, thank you very much for having me. Well, this is not surprising and I think all of us expected that.


All of the polls predicted this kind of an outcome. But I just wanted to say, I believe that Nikki Haley should stay in the race. She is I think prepared to offer herself as an off-ramp that they may need between now and the convention, and if they get the convention she may be in position to be an alternative. So I don't think that she should take herself out of it, especially if she has the resources. And I understand that she does have to keep going. She should keep going. If I were in her place that's what I would do.

TAPPER: Are you saying that the Republican Party needs an off-ramp or an alternative because Donald Trump might become a convicted felon in the intervening time between now and the Republican convention?

CLYBURN: Some other things may get caught up with him. He's got to pay some big money now that I understand he's having trouble trying to find the bonding that necessary to satisfy his judicial issues. What is going to happen if they call the note so to speak and he's not able to pay it? So there are a lot of things that can happen short of a conviction in a court on any kind of felonies.

I think he could be that even more embarrassed if people found out that he cannot stand to pay this money, that everybody says or thinks he had.

TAPPER: You say this vote is stronger than people expected Haley to get. And I know you say that you want the Republican Party to have an alternative or an off-ramp in case Trump cannot do the job as Republican nominee. But do you actually see a path to the nomination for her past South Carolina, beyond some sort of extraordinary circumstance?

CLYBURN: No, I don't. But there could be an extraordinary circumstance. And that's my point. That she should stay in to maintain a position in case it gets to that. Because, remember, if Trump runs into problems, the MAGA Republicans are going to cry foul no matter what happens and they will be a problem for her. So she should keep herself available for those Republicans who do believe in a forward thrust for this great country of ours.

TAPPER: I want you to take a listen to something that Donald Trump said last night in an event for black conservatives about why he thinks he is picking up some support from the black community. Take a listen.


DONALD TRUMP (R), FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT, 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I got indicted a second time and a third time and a fourth time. And a lot of people said that that's why the black people like because they have been hurt so badly and discriminated against. And they actually viewed me as I'm being distributed against. The mug shot, we've all seen the mug shot, and you know who embraced it more than anybody else? The black population. It's incredible. You see black people walking around with my mug shot.


TAPPER: Your response, sir?

CLYBURN: Please. I'm not going to respond to that. I -- you know, I'm an 83-year-old South Carolinian who've been through some very difficult experiences. I say all the time, all my experiences have not been pleasant, but I've considered all of them to be blessings. And through experience, what has gone on today, that Donald Trump and his affinity for insulting people, a whole race of people, but this is not unusual.

The Central Park Five, what he did as a landlord in New York to black people, what he did to Omarosa. Looking in the camera referring to her, an African-American woman as a dog. What he did to insult the former, only African-American president we've ever had. Donald Trump is a disgrace. And I'll tell you, the only thing that I've ever experienced in that I really don't call a blessing is to have to live through Donald Trump's candidacy, and that to me should be an embarrassment to every red-blooded American.

TAPPER: Trump told that group of black conservatives that he was speaking to that, quote, "You owe Crooked Joe Biden absolutely nothing," unquote. He called President Biden racist. He attacked Biden for his role in the 1994 crime bill.