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Countdown to Iowa Caucuses

Aired January 2, 2008 - 20:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: At this precise time tomorrow, it all begins, the first verdict on the 2008 presidential candidates. What happens in Iowa could change the course of an historic wide-open race for the highest office in the land. Tonight, our countdown to the Iowa caucuses.
I'm Wolf Blitzer at the CNN Election Center, along with the best political team on television. Our correspondents are all across the campaign trail. Candy Crowley, Jessica Yellin, Dana Bash, they're in Iowa. John King is in New Hampshire.

Let's begin our coverage though with our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley. She's in Des Moines. She's covering the Democrat Hillary Clinton.

What a day today, 24 hours exactly right now until they close those doors in the caucuses.

Candy, give our viewers a sense of what Hillary Clinton was up to today.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, she was up to mostly appearances on the eastern side of the state, the Mississippi side, giving basically her speech, along with prompting to please get out there. Please go caucus for me. We can make history.

As you know, she is targeting women 45, 50 and older that she believes will come to her caucus and caucus for her because, of course, she would be, if elected, the first female president. So, she has been working the eastern corridor of Iowa. She also stopped by campaign headquarters to thank campaign workers.

And, tonight, in all of the major media markets, she said kind of a final goodbye to Iowans and a final pitch.


SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I know you have waited for a long time for a president who could hear you and see you. And I would like to be that president. So I ask you to caucus for me tomorrow. Put on your coats and call up a friend and help me change America. If you stand with me for one night, I will stand up for you every day as your president.


CROWLEY: Hillary Clinton looking very presidential and ending with a theme that she started out with, which is she is the one most experienced and best able to walk into the Oval Office from day one to be president -- Wolf.

BLITZER: She's facing the possibility -- this is a possibility, Candy -- that she could come in third in Iowa. What are her advisers saying about that?

CROWLEY: Well, here's what they're saying. As you know, expectations are all. And so they have been out there saying, look, she was in single digits when she started out. The Obama campaign I will tell you immediately put out of polls from earlier in the year showing that she was not in double digits, that she was pretty close, although there were times that she was running third.

So, at this point, they're saying, listen, we have done amazingly well here in Iowa. We think we are going to do well.

They have told us all about their get-out-the-vote effort, which is pretty darn extensive and really has been put into place for months now. So we're going to test whether that turnout machine, the famous Clinton machine, and whether this appeal to first-time caucus-goers, largely women, is really going to work for her. But, at the moment, aides are saying what the rest of are saying. This really looks like a three-way tossup.

I want to bring in Jessica Yellin. She's covering Barack Obama's campaign.

And, Jessica, give us a flavor of what the junior senator from Illinois was up to today.

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, what we saw from Obama today was an effort to lock up his supporters and woo the state's many undecideds.

Obama's message remains clear, that he believes he's the man who is freshest, who is least tainted by the fights of the past, as he put it in his own new ad tonight, that he's the only one who can bring fundamental change to the United States. Obama has a quick response to the candidates who say that he lacks the experience or that he is a -- quote -- "roll of the dice."


SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It will be a roll of the dice, they say.

But you know what? The people of Iowa seem to disagree, because they understand, you understand that the real gamble would be to have the same old folks do the same old things over and over and over again and somehow expect a different result. That's the gamble we can't take.


(END VIDEO CLIP) YELLIN: Now, Wolf, like the others, Barack Obama is promising an agenda that includes bringing an end to the Iraq war, health care reform, help for the middle class.

But, unlike the others, he's relying on a very unusual strategy. He's trying to turn out independents and Republicans, wooing them with a message that he will heal the partisan divide in Washington, D.C. But it's an unreliable group of voters and it's not clear that they will definitely turn out tomorrow night.

The candidate who has done the most to try and woo those most reliable Democratic caucus-goers, the ones who come out in rain, sleet or now, that's John Edwards. And John Edwards has gone after them with a message that he will do more to fight the powers that be in Washington, that he's the man who will champion the little guy.

And it's just over 24 hours from now that we will find out which strategy works, who really walks away with Iowa -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Because the caucus turnout could be critical, getting those people to show up at those caucuses all over the state. Is there some sort of weather forecast, because weather could play a significant role?

YELLIN: Absolutely.

The one who is hoping for rain, sleet and snow would be John Edwards, because his caucus-goers are the ones who are going to come out in any conditions. They have come out before.

But it's Barack Obama who is really counting on first-time caucus-goers. And he's hoping for good conditions. And the weather forecast is chilly, but it is always is, but no snow as of now. So that's good news for both Barack Obama and frankly for Hillary Clinton, too. They both want those first-timers to come out -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Jessica, thanks very much. Stand by as well.

Let's go to the Republican side and see what's going on in this battle between Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney in Iowa.

Dana Bash is covering this part of the story for us.

And this is a real cliffhanger by almost all accounts, Dana.

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: No question. Neither camp really will tell you honestly that they know which is going to do well here.

But I can tell you that, just like Candy was talking about on the Democratic side with Hillary Clinton, both of these men today, their closing arguments, probably no surprise that they were going to back to the things that they think propelled to the place where they are right now, vying for the top spot. For Mitt Romney, he was talking -- of course, he's a former governor from Massachusetts, multimillionaire businessman. So, he really pushed issues of leadership and experience. And for Mike Huckabee of course he has this insurgent campaign. He was talking about his campaign as if it's a revolution, and specifically going into the issues that he thinks has made him do so well here, particularly among those evangelical Christians, those Republican voters.

He talked about his consistency, talked about his authenticity on social issues. Let's listen to a taste of both.


MIKE HUCKABEE (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And when I tell you that I'm going to fight for human life, it is not something that a pollster just told me last week that I need to say.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I have run things. I have built teams. I have been able to make differences, not just talk about differences.


BASH: Now, but as much as they are talking on the stump, that's certainly a big part of it. They both were talking on and on and on about the fact that their supporters needed to get out and get their friends and get their families to the caucus.

What really is going to be fascinating to watch, Wolf, is how -- which one of these campaigns actually succeeds, because they're very, very different. Mitt Romney is somebody who has been here with an amazing organization -- anybody will admit that -- that is very well funded. He has got databases. He has got computers. He knows what the voter lists are.

And they're working that in a very scientific way. On the other hand, Mike Huckabee doesn't have that. What he's relying on is enthusiasm and on passion from some groups of voters, coalitions of voters like evangelicals, pastors, homeschoolers, many of whom haven't voted before.

It's going to be fascinating to see which one prevails -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Did you get a sense that, these final hours before the caucuses, either one of these two front-runners sort of tone down the rhetoric or are they still going at it?

BASH: They both did. They both definitely did tone down the rhetoric towards one another.

But what's interesting about that, Wolf, you even heard that in the Mike Huckabee sound bite we just played. Even though they're not directly naming names and calling each other names, their messages are pretty clear in making what they call contrasts. And Mike Huckabee, for example, you heard him there. He said, I'm somebody who has always been against abortion. I promise I will fight for that. I'm somebody who has always been gun rights. I will fight for that.

He's not saying Mitt Romney wasn't that, but that's the message. And it's pretty clear to these voters.

BLITZER: Dana out in Iowa for us -- Dana, thanks very much.

John King has already moved on beyond Iowa. He's in New Hampshire right now. The Iowa caucuses tomorrow night, New Hampshire primary, the first in the nation, next Tuesday.

There's a very different story unfolding there. It in part involves Mitt Romney, but it also involves a dramatic comeback by John McCain.

Tell our viewers what's going on, John.


Now, John McCain is actually in Iowa tonight, a state where he has not spent all that much time. But he's hoping to be a bit of a surprise there, hoping he can perhaps come in third place and get some attention out of Iowa tomorrow night and hopefully as part of that a strong third place or fourth place, draw some votes away from Mitt Romney.

That is John McCain's strategy out in Iowa. Here in New Hampshire, he's poised for yet another surprise, just like back in 2000. He is now running just ahead. It's essentially a dead heat with Mitt Romney in our latest CNN poll here in New Hampshire, McCain drawing big crowds.

He believes he can reset the race here in New Hampshire after the Iowa caucuses. Now, he's campaigning as the maverick, like he did back in 2000, after a very difficult summer, some reminders today of the issues that could yet derail him, illegal immigration coming up in a town hall here, voters pressing him about his age.

He is 71 years old. He would be the oldest man sworn in as president if he could win this election. But the resurgence of John McCain, Wolf, a reminder yet again what a surprising campaign this is on both sides, what a volatile race it is on the Republican side, also a reminder, as we focus on these remarkable personalities, the surprise of Mike Huckabee, the methodical persistence of Mitt Romney, the emergence yet again of John McCain, that Republicans also face a choice, not only who they want to lead the party after George W. Bush, but about what.

Mitt Romney, as Dana noted, talks about his business experience, wants to make all savings on those who make under $200,000 a year tax free. Mike Huckabee has talked about those social issues and putting a preacher in the White House essentially. John McCain, unlike any of the other Republicans, talks a lot, as he did today, about global warming. So, major policy choices, as well as personality choices, for the Republicans as the process begins tomorrow night in Iowa and then comes quickly here to New Hampshire.

BLITZER: But explain to our viewers, John, why John McCain in New Hampshire would be very happy if Mike Huckabee could actually beat Mitt Romney in Iowa tomorrow night.

KING: Ask anybody here in Iowa -- New Hampshire, I mean -- who follows politics. A lot of this race is about electability.

Mitt Romney was the candidate over the summer who was expected to win Iowa. If he loses in Iowa, everyone expects he will drop six, eight, perhaps 10 points here in New Hampshire overnight. That would create the opening John McCain needs to win in this state.

Remember, only five days between Iowa and New Hampshire, a much more compressed window than we normally have. If John McCain can win New Hampshire, he believes, at that point, the man with huge resources, Mitt Romney, would be stumbling in the race, and he could then go on to South Carolina and beyond.

John McCain also believes, at that point, if he can win New Hampshire, that Fred Thompson, who only has modest support, but still some establishment support, especially as you head South, would be out of the race.

So, Iowa will set the table for New Hampshire. Iowa is, in presidential politics, Wolf, a four-letter word for surprise. So, we have no idea what is going to happen tomorrow night. But John McCain does believe, if Mitt Romney stumbles in Iowa, that he can win New Hampshire and then a volatile Republican race from the very beginning will be reset again.

KING: John King reporting for us. Excellent work.

To all of our team, thanks very much.

Iowa's strange way of picking winners may help some candidates more than others. Our Anderson Cooper and the best political team on television, they're about to take a closer look at who could benefit the most, who could be hurt the most by what happens in Iowa.

And here's something you almost never hear about, entrance polls. We're doing that -- not exit polls, entrance polls. You're going to want to hear what this is all about.

The best political team on television, they are here right now. They will be with us tomorrow night.

We will take a quick break. We will be right back.


BLITZER: For tomorrow's Iowa caucuses, the best political team on television is about to get even better and even bigger.

Let's go to Anderson Cooper. He's watching this story with us.

Anderson, we have got a great team.

ANDERSON COOPER, HOST, "ANDERSON COOPER 360": We do. And it's going to be a fascinating night tomorrow night. I'm here with David Gergen, former adviser to presidents Republican and Democrat, senior political adviser for CNN now, Gloria Borger, CNN political analyst, and Suzanne Malveaux.

I want to start with you, Gloria.

Undecideds and independents, how important are they tomorrow night?


Independent voters, according to "The Des Moines Register" poll, now could comprise about 40 percent of Iowa caucus-goers.

COOPER: And there's actually more independents registered than there are as Democrats or Republicans.


BORGER: Right. And that would be double what it was, say, eight years ago. So, you can see this size of independents swelling. Those are the voters that Barack Obama is really after.

If he can get those independents out and ask them at a caucus to change their registration from whatever they were to Democrat, then he could possibly win. But there is this large group of undecideds. I personally think a lot of those folks, if they're undecided tonight, they just might not go out in the cold tomorrow, Anderson.

COOPER: Do you agree with that, David?


I do think what is happening here is, what you're seeing is that, Hillary Clinton is in some ways the incumbent as the Democrat. And what often happens, Anderson, is toward the end of a campaign, the undecideds break against the incumbent. They make a decision not to go with the incumbent, so that there's a softness of all of this.

She needs to have wrapped people up early, not late. And this is awkward for her right now, because he may be able to bring the undecideds in. He may be able to bring the independents in.

And people get in there, as you know, with this 15 percent rule and want to go vote for Dennis Kucinich, and he's only got 3 percent, then they make a second choice. And they go stand with them. And Kucinich for example has already said, if you don't vote for me, if you can't vote for me, vote for Obama. COOPER: Yes.

I mean, that is a key point, Suzanne. How does that break? Does that break in Barack Obama's favor? If you have these 15 percent people, under 15 percent, are they more likely to go for Obama, as Kucinich is saying his supporters should?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, the polls are certainly showing that Hillary Clinton is not people's second choice, that she would be their first choice, but essentially if it was a second choice, that it would go to Barack Obama.

But it really is anybody's guess here. What I thought was really interesting on the campaign trail, if you listen to what Senator Clinton said today -- she said: We're fired up. We're ready to go, America's time for change -- that's Barack Obama. That is what he has been saying for weeks. He has got this whole story about this elderly lady he helps, Ms. Beck (ph). Are you fired up, ready to go, fired up, ready to go?

So, it's almost like their campaigns are morphing. Their messages are morphing. And she is trying to appeal to the people who he is grabbing on to.


COOPER: You read their speeches, and it's change, change, change, change. Those words are used several times in on sentence. The question is, who can really bring about change?


BORGER: Right.

I mean, if you heard Bill Clinton out on the campaign trail, Hillary Clinton, agent of change.

But, as David was saying, when you're running as the incumbent, it's kind of a mixed message to then say, I'm the incumbent, but I'm also the agent of change. How do you make that work? She says, I have got the experience to make sure that change happens.

That's a little tough argument to make, but it's clearly the one she's making.

GERGEN: In addition, though, the whole question of who is going come in at the last minute, organization now counts for a whole lot in Iowa.

COOPER: In terms of getting people out to the caucuses.

GERGEN: Your operation on the ground, how well you can do that.

One person we haven't mentioned on the Democratic side is John Edwards, who, I think both of you would agree, seems to have the best organization on the Democratic side in Iowa, which makes him a formidable candidate, better probably than what the polls suggest.

And, on the Republican, I would assume that, if Romney and Huckabee go in tied, Romney has much better organization.


COOPER: Well, that's a good question. Tomorrow, is it Romney's organization vs. Huckabee -- the passion of his supporters? And which one is going to win out?

BORGER: Well, I think it is Romney's organization. It's Romney's money.

But don't forget, Huckabee has a very passionate constituency in evangelical Christian voters, who will go out and support him. But, in these last couple of weeks, we have seen Romney's organization, his negative ads, really, I think, working against Huckabee, Huckabee to a certain extent working against himself by making a lot of missteps in terms of foreign policy, et cetera. So, I think that will be the fight there.

MALVEAUX: And I think voters are seeing a Huckabee that's less sure of himself. He comes across very confident and comfortable in his own skin.

But some people saw that kind of flip-flop with the ad -- he wasn't going to go negative, then he was, then he took it back -- as really an indication of someone who wasn't quite sure with...


COOPER: And coming on the heels of his comments about Pakistan also raising a lot of eyebrows.


MALVEAUX: Exactly -- what he was doing, if he was ready for prime time.

COOPER: We want to talk more about this later on in the program.

Right now, let's go back to Wolf.

BLITZER: Guys, thank you very much. Anderson, we will speak with you shortly.

One school is actually hosting four -- four -- caucuses. We are going to take you to what promises to be one of the busiest sites in Iowa tomorrow night.

Plus, you have heard of exit polls. All of us have. But what about entrance polls? We're going to show how they work and why you're going be hearing a whole lot tomorrow night about entrance polls.

Our special coverage continues right here from the CNN Election Center in New York .


BLITZER: Welcome back.

We have some brand new poll numbers coming in to us tonight from New Hampshire tonight. That's the crucial first primary state in the country. And that contest only six days away, next Tuesday.

Let's go to our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider. He's joining us with our special correspondent Soledad O'Brien.

You have got these numbers, Soledad. Tell us what they're showing.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: All right, Wolf, thanks very much.

You know, it isn't until next week, of course, so there's a little bit of time, but there are new numbers coming out of New Hampshire. When you look at that new CNN/WMUR poll, what strikes you?


Now, McCain's campaign was considered dead meat just a few months ago, when he nearly ran out of money. But look at the poll results we just got. Among Republicans in New Hampshire, it's a dead heat, 29- 29. McCain used to rely on independents when he ran against George Bush eight years ago. But he can't do that this time, because most of the Republican -- most of the independents in New Hampshire are not voting in the Republican primary this time. They're voting in the Democratic primary.

O'BRIEN: All right, stick with the same poll, but tell me about the Democrats. What are you seeing on that side?

SCHNEIDER: Well, take a look at independents and the registered Democrats.

You know, in New Hampshire, independents can vote in either party's primary. The independents are a major force in the Democratic race, because 42 percent of the likely Democratic primary voters are independents. That's a huge vote. And they're tilting to Barack Obama over Hillary Clinton. That's what is making that Democratic race also highly competitive in New Hampshire.

O'BRIEN: As Wolf pointed out, this is not a race until next week. So, let's talk about a race that is a little bit closer, the Iowa caucuses, of course.


O'BRIEN: We do an entrance poll. Why an entrance poll? What do you get that wouldn't get from an exit poll? SCHNEIDER: Because this is a caucus. A caucus is a meeting. A primary is an election. And that's a big difference, because you can't interview people leaving a meeting. They all leave at the same time.

Our poor interviewers will get trampled. So, they interview people as they go in to the caucus. And that makes the difference, because Republicans, it's very simple. They simply say who they're there to support.

Democrats have some bargaining and negotiation at their caucus. So, sometimes, people come in to support one candidate, and they go out, they exit supporting another candidate.

O'BRIEN: So, they could come in saying one thing, but the results can actually change?

SCHNEIDER: That's right.

And our entrance poll will tell us how many people came out to support each Democratic contender.

O'BRIEN: When it comes to caucus day, what are you looking for? What will strike you? Let's start with the Democrats.

SCHNEIDER: All right.

Start with the Democrats. First-time voters and caucus-goers, independents, young people, how many of them will there be at the Democratic caucus? Because they're being targeted by Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and some of the other candidates. We will see how many of them are there and whom they support.


O'BRIEN: Do the young people come out a lot for caucuses?

SCHNEIDER: They do not. Young people are a rarity at caucuses. We will see how many show up this time, because they have been targeted.

And then there's the experience issue. If you followed the Democratic campaign, it sounded like this: change, experience, experience, change, maybe both. Well, with the crisis in Pakistan, we're wondering, will experience suddenly matter a lot more to voters, and whom will they vote for?

O'BRIEN: What are you looking for on the Republican side?

SCHNEIDER: Well, there, religion is a very big issue on the Republican side.

O'BRIEN: Clearly, yes.

SCHNEIDER: We want to find out how much does it matter to the Republican voters and whether Mitt Romney's Mormon affiliation actually makes any difference. We will be looking for that.

Illegal immigration, that's a very big issue for Iowa Republicans.

O'BRIEN: In Iowa, really?

SCHNEIDER: In Iowa. Iowa is nowhere near a border.

O'BRIEN: Right.

SCHNEIDER: But they have meatpacking plants. They have farm workers, a lot of illegal immigrants. And it's got Republicans very angry. It's a big issue in the Republican race. They have been squabbling with each other over whose record is better on illegal immigration. Does it pay off for any candidate?

And electability -- we want to look at whether the Republicans are looking for the most electable candidate who can beat the Democrat. And who is that? That's what we will be looking for.

O'BRIEN: And I have got to imagine that's the case on all sides, right? You have got to pick the person who is not just going to win the primary; they're going to win it all.

SCHNEIDER: That's exactly what we're going to be finding out.

O'BRIEN: All right, Bill Schneider, thank you very much.


O'BRIEN: And, Wolf, we will send it right back to you.

BLITZER: All right, guys, thanks very much. We're looking forward to those entrance polls tomorrow night. Guys, thank you.

BLITZER: Certainly, there's no secret ballot in the Iowa caucuses. And you can vote more than once. Get this. Even a 17- year-old can take part. Iowa's caucuses are unlike just about any vote you will ever see. But we're going to show you how they work. It's confusing, but fascinating.

And Iowa is only just the beginning. This year's caucus and primary calendar has been turned upside down. We're going to help you make some sense of it -- Jeff Toobin standing by with that.

We will be right back.


BLITZER: Here at CNN's election center, we're planning to show you the Iowa caucuses as you've not seen them before. We have brand new technology designed to take you inside the quirky political processes out in Iowa and to bring you up to the minute results tomorrow night. Let's walk over to our senior analyst Jeff Toobin. He is keeping a track on all of this.

Jeff, this is fascinating material. Those political news junkies out there are going love learning how these caucuses work.

JEFF TOOBIN, CNN ANALYST: The important thing to remember is that the caucus is not an election. It's a meeting as Bill Schneider said. And it takes place in public. You have people who will show up in a school, in a firehouse and they will declare in public their support. And what we have done here is we have set up kind of a mock caucus. We have 100 question marks. That might be 100 voters and that's actually not atypical for an Iowa caucus.

BLITZER: I just want to point this is the Democrats, this is the Democratic process. Because the Republicans, they have a very different process.

TOOBIN: Very different and much simpler. But the Democratic process, people declare their support. So you and I are going to just decide how these 100 people are going to vote. Let's see how they're going to see how they do.

BLITZER: Throw some up there. We're working this.

TOOBIN: Mike Grave. There we go.

There we go. This is a little how the process works. People just show up and decide who they're going support. And we get, come on, come on, don't be reluctant to vote. OK. We've got a couple more.

BLITZER: Come on, he doesn't want the move. There he goes.

TOOBIN: Now, we, all 100 have declared their preferences in the first round of voting. This is where the distinctive rule comes into play. The 15 percent threshold. If you don't get 15 percent in the first round of voting you're out.

So look, there's are only two candidates left, Mike Gravel and Barack Obama. I think that would qualify as a big surprise.

BLITZER: It would.

TOOBIN: And so what happens now is all the rest of the people whose candidates are out, they get to vote. The decide who their second choice is.

BLITZER: And this is done in a public setting. People can cajole and try to convince their fellow Iowa caucus goers to support somebody else. Their second choice.

TOOBIN: That's right. And people can change their minds. Some Gravel supporters could come over and vote for Obama. So let me help you. We have some reluctant caucus goers over here.

BLITZER: These don't want to change their minds. They don't have to change their minds, they can just stay on the side lines.

TOOBIN: That's true. They can stay on the sidelines and that sometimes happens as well. So here we have the final results for the night. 50 percent for Obama and 39 percent to gravel.

BLITZER: In this one caucus.

TOOBIN: In this one caucus. This will then be reported to the headquarters in Des Moines and we all pull together and that will be the results that we get tomorrow sometime around between 9:00 and 10:00 Eastern.

Just to talk about the Republicans for a minute. It's a much simpler process. Everybody shows up, votes by secret ballot. Those results are reported to Des Moines, we will get the results. It's much more like a straw poll on the Republican side. There is no 15 percent viability threshold.

BLITZER: The Democrats clearly not as neat and tidy as the Republicans in Iowa.

TOOBIN: The old Will Rogers line. I don't belong to any organized party, I'm a Democrat.

BLITZER: Stand by. Because we have got some other stuff. We have a fascinating new video screen we've got we're going to show it off a little bit more. Stand by. I want to go to Lou Dobbs. He's also going to be part of our best political team. He's standing by with more on these caucuses. Lou?

LOU DOBBS, CNN HOST: Well, Wolf, it's fascinating to watch our technology maven Jeffrey Toobin move all of those votes around. I can't wait to see it tomorrow. And I have to say, as impressive as the technology is, the reality, this process, you referred to it as quirky, to me it's delightful. We're going see people in public expressing their opinions, coming down with a read and a test of which candidates they prefer in person. It is going to make for interesting neighborhood spats, I'm sure as well as a few new alliances.

But the process has worked before and we presume it will work again.

One of the people who will be watching this process is our Tom Foreman, who is out in Iowa, he's in a schoolhouse tonight. And Tom, I understand that there will be four caucuses, is that right, there where you are?

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Lou. And I agree with you. I was talking to a lot of caucus goers earlier today. This does sound delightful in so many ways. People from all around the neighborhood are coming in here to the Merrill School tomorrow. The Republicans are going to meet in this room. This is the school theater. And they are going to gather here and as Jeffrey Toobin described, it will be a very civilized and simple. They're going to hold essentially a straw vote, then they'll talk about their platform, then they'll move along.

But the Democrats have three rooms here. And it's a totally different equation with them. They have the gymnasium down the hall here, the cafeteria down there, big rooms that will have hundreds of people in them. And then they have got this room which will be a little bit smaller. But let's step inside. This is normally the school library. This is where it will be happening.

This is the room where you next president may begin, or that room, as people gather in here. This is what will happen. In this room, just as Jeffrey described, people will all gather in here and they will be milling around and talking. And then at some point, the leader of this particular precinct will say, I need everyone to basically show where you're going be.

And what will happen at that point is all the Obama supporters, for example, may gather around here, the Clinton supporters here. You may have Edwards people over here, you may have Richardson people over here, but they will divide themselves in this room to create little camps.

Then that leader is going look around the room, and he is going to say who has 15 percent and who doesn't. If you don't have 15 percent and you don't have 15 percent, then the feeding frenzy begins.

Essentially what happens is they turn loose delegates from the bigger camps who go to all these people and say, you know what, I know you like your guy, he's a great guy. But you know what? Our guy over here has a lot of things in common. Why don't you join us? While that's happening, people from all camps will be doing the same thing with all of them.

In the end, it will be up to the formula Jeffrey went through a little while ago, to decide how many delegates will go to each of the biggest camps. And at the end of the evening they'll pick up the phone, they'll punch in a PIN number just like you do at the bank and certify their results, guarantee it will all the campaigns and send it into the Democrats at the state headquarters here, the county headquarters in the state and decide who will get the delegates out of here. That's how picking your next president is going to begin on the Democrat side and on the Republican side in Merrill Middle School.

DOBBS: And Tom, there's something very comforting about that explanation, coming first of all from you, as always, but from the confines of a library makes me feel good about my sixth grade citizens' class and it's nice to see it working.

Our colleague, Tom Foreman, reporting throughout the evening here with the best political team on television and leading us all in that effort is a man that described the process as quirky, Wolf. Wolf Blitzer.

BLITZER: It's a quirky process but fascinating a really important process. Let's hope that those electronic - those PIN numbers and all those machines, Lou, work. And as you know, you've been covering that part of the story for a long time. Let's hope nobody fools around with that.

DOBBS: Especially for Toobin's benefit, certainly.

BLITZER: Lou is going to be with us all night tomorrow night as well. And you too can be part of the best political team. For those of you caucusing in Iowa tomorrow night we want your I-Reports. Send us your video, send us your pictures to We'll feature some of them in our election coverage right here tomorrow night.

It's a primary calendar unlike anything we've seen before. You're going to find out how everything is different this election year. That plus more of the best political team on television. Stay with us as we countdown to the Iowa caucuses.


BLITZER: Tomorrow's Iowa caucuses are only just the beginning. Presidential primaries will be coming to us at a dizzying pace over the course of the next month. Our senior analyst Jeff Toobin, once again, he is keeping us up to speed on who votes and when. This is going to be a very intense sprint over the course of the next month.

TOOBIN: There has never been a political calendar anything like this year. Of course Tomorrow the Iowa caucuses. Democrats, blue star, Republicans, red star. This coming Saturday, Wyoming primary, just the Republicans. Next Tuesday, of course, both parties will have the New Hampshire primary. A week later, the Michigan primary. This is where things start to get a little tricky. It will count for the Republicans. But the Democrats, even though the names will be on the ballots, no delegates will be decided and no one is really campaigning there.

On the 19th Nevada has the caucuses for both parties, South Carolina just the Republicans. A week later the Democratic primary in South Carolina.

Then the 29th, very similar situation to Michigan. You have the Republicans with the real primary, Rudy Giuliani is certainly pegging his hope there is. And the Democrats, their names will be on the ballot but the primary won't count.

Then February 3rd, who knew, a three-day Maine caucus for the Republicans ends on February 3rd. Nothing for the Democrats. Then we get to February 5th, which is just look at this map. It's almost easier to say which states are not having primaries than are. And of course you have almost all the big states. New York, Georgia, Minnesota, Illinois, California, plus all those other states.

And most people thought that this is going to be when the nomination is decided. Certainly more delegates will be up for grabs than you need to win. But you never know whether it is going to sort itself out by then.

BLITZER: And there's a good chance, not an absolute chance, that by February 5, we will know who the Democratic and Republican nominees are.

TOOBIN: That certainly, the way it was set up we assumed it would be the case and it may still be the case but it's been an unpredictable year and we don't know. But we'll certainly know a lot more on February 5th. There are not many states left to have primaries after February 5th.

BLITZER: Jeff Toobin is going to be with us throughout the night tomorrow night, too. Jeff, thanks very much.

And I want to show our viewers what's really at stake right now. And we're going to unveil our delegate estimate count and we're going to show you what's going on because these are the delegates who will determine who the nominees specifically are. Let's take a look at the Democratic side first, you need 2,026 delegates at the Democratic convention that's coming up in Denver at the end of August in order to be the nominee. Right now, if you take a look, there are actually are some delegates who are committed. These are the so called super delegates that we have estimated are already committed to these respective candidates. Biden, eight, Hillary Clinton, 154, Chris Dodd, 17 John Edwards, 33, Mike Gravel, 0, Dennis Kucinich one, Barack Obama 50 and Bill Richardson with 19. That's our estimate of those who are committed. Just the beginning of this process. Remember, 2,026 Democrats, delegates are need to make the nomination of the next Democratic candidate.

On the Republican side, a lot fewer delegates need. One thousand one hundred and ninety one and we estimate now because of the so- called superdelegates. We estimate that Giuliani already has one. Huckabee three and Mitt Romney has six. The others so far none.

But this is only the beginning of the process. So we're going to obviously over the course of the next weeks and months update this so we get a full, full sense of what's going on.

Our election special coverage will continue in a moment. We're live with our team of correspondents on the ground in Iowa and New Hampshire. And Anderson Cooper and the best political team on television are also back with more on what we can expect in just 24 hours. We'll be right back.


BLITZER: LARRY KING LIVE is coming up in a few months at the top of the hour. Larry is out in L.A. Give us a preview, Larry, of what's going on.

LARRY KING, CNN HOST: Suze Orman is going to be with us, Wolf. She's the number one "New York Times" best-selling author and a top financial expert. She's going to look not only on what happened on the stock market today but maybe a little look at how finances will affect Iowa tomorrow.

Speaking of that, tomorrow night, Wolf, we'll be on at midnight Eastern, 9:00 Pacific following all of your doings. We'll be on with winners and losers and Bob Woodward will head a special panel. That is al tomorrow night. Suze Orman tonight at the top of the hour, Wolf.

BLITZER: Sound great. Larry, thanks. Welcome back. We missed you over the past few days. Buy you look like you have your batteries recharged. Larry King is back live. He is in action. Let's go back to Anderson Cooper. He has got the best political team on television watching the story. Less than 24 hours from now they're going to seal those doors. No more people will be allowed to get back in.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: And it's anyone's guess who is going to win tomorrow night. Let's talk about it with CNN's Gloria Borger, senior political analyst, as well as senior political analyst for CNN David Gergen, advisor to presidents, Republican and Democrat and CNN's Suzanne Malveaux.

Tomorrow, has the media created a huge expectation out of tomorrow? A huge number of reporters are covering this? It's bigger than it's ever been before.

DAVID GERGEN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I find it incredible there are 2,500 news organizations that have accredited reporters in Iowa. Only in America could you have the fate of some 300 million people turn on the votes of some 300,000 people.

And yet I think the media attention to this is going to create a momentum behind at least one of the two winners tomorrow night.

COOPER: And it's not 300,000. It's about 100,000 or 120,000 who actually turn out for these things.

GERGEN: It's going to be bigger on both sides. But here's the other point is that for Rudy Giuliani, who has been the front-runner all along here all along for the Republicans, we were 45 minutes into the show tonight, I think, before his name came up.

COOPER: His strategy of course was basically to not pay attention to Iowa, it's all based on Florida. What's the thinking behind that?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, right now there are a lot of people thinking it wasn't very smart, that in fact Rudy Giuliani need to have a showing in Iowa or New Hampshire precisely because of the reasons David is talking about. That we're all playing so much attention there.

Instead, Rudy Giuliani has spent a lot of time in Florida, which is a state that he thinks he can win. His idea was, well, I'm just going to win a lot of those big Super Tuesday states. Where there are a lot of moderate Republicans there, though he doesn't use that word very much at all, who are like Rudy Giuliani who might support him.

But at this point it looks like it could be a strategy that has gone sour.

COOPER: And Suzanne, for Hillary Clinton, how important is it to come in first.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's real important for her to come in first. But they make no illusions, they don't think that is necessarily going to happen. What's most important for their team, talking to their advisors, is anyone but Obama. Obama cannot win. They don't mind so much if it's Edwards and the Clinton comes in second but if it's Obama, then they really feel they have lost a great deal of momentum. A great deal of stride.

I also want to bring up a point about the media. Which is it is not just about Iowa media. This is going to be international obviously. But you can tell, Mike Huckabee is going on Jay Leno. Hillary Clinton did a little thing with letterman. It is clear they also want the national press. They are wooing people. Whether or not it's on these comedy shows, to get more and more attention outside of that state.

GERGEN: I think clearly if Hillary is not going to win, she would prefer Edwards to win but I think her nightmare scenario is that she comes in third. If Edwards or Obama wins and then the other one is also ahead of her, that would be dispiriting for a lot of the Clinton folks.

COOPER: Joining us as well, John King who is in New Hampshire and Candy Crowley who is out in Iowa. John, for John McCain, how important is Iowa, how important is New Hampshire?

JOHN KING, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, New Hampshire is much, much, much more important to John McCain. I could add a few muches there if we had the time. He needs to win in New Hampshire and he more or less acknowledged that today.

In Iowa, he's trying to be a spoiler. He's trying to go out there and maybe get some establishment Republicans who are thinking about voting for Mitt Romney to come over to John McCain. John McCain can't win Iowa. He knows that.

But if he can come in a strong third place in Iowa and bring Mitt Romney down a little bit, he'll be very happy. Then he thinks he gets into an environment where he can beat Mike Huckabee. And Fred Thompson will be gone from the race. And that he will be back from the political dead.

One of the reasons I wouldn't write off Rudy Giuliani even though as David said it took 45 minutes for him to come up tonight. Everyone thinks Rudy Giuliani has made a huge strategic mistake. But remember, a few months ago, many in our business wrote off John McCain. He is now back in a position, still hard but in a position to win. This volatile and wide open. Anderson, strap in for the ride.

COOPER: And Candy Crowley, for Hillary Clinton, for Barack Obama, a lot of it is going boil down to organization. Also for John Edwards. Who has the organization to get people out to the caucuses no matter what the weather is, to have babysitters, to bring their friends along? Who has the organization on the ground?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I have to tell you something. I would love to give you an answer that says boy, this person has got the organization because we would have a better idea of who is going to win but the fact of the matter is they all have great organizations out here.

They've been building them since the beginning of the year. John Edwards of course has an organization that he could build on that dates back to 2004. Barack Obama is from neighboring Illinois. He has been bring able to bring in people to help. But they all have paid staff, they have precinct captains. They're all over the place, they're making enormous amounts of phone calls and knocking on 90,000 doors over the last week or so in some of those campaigns.

So it's even hard to say, if you look at their organizations, here's who is going win. They're offering baby sitting in the Barack Obama campaign. They are on the Hillary campaign offering to clear the sidewalks of anyone that needs to get to the caucuses. They're going to have caterers. So they are out full forces but all of them really have dynamite organizations.

COOPER: Catering, literally, catering. Suzanne Malveaux, you have been following these campaigns very closely.

Of the top tier Democrats, have any of them changed on the campaign trail. Have they grown, have they shrunk? Campaign is a marathon, it's not just a sprint. How have they changed?

MALVEAUX: I think Edwards has been very consistent. But the one person who really seems to have evolved really over the last couple of months is Barack Obama. Just watching. You may recall, weeks ago, people would complain that he's too academic, he's speaking above them.

And I have seen really just a different kind of candidate, where the cadence is punchy, he uses humor now, he uses repetition, if you believe, if you believe, if you believe, I'm the guy for you. He speaks very pointedly. And uses examples when he talks about change and hope.

COOPER: Do you think his message different or is it just his style?

BORGER: No, I think his message is absolutely the same. He's had a very consistent message all along. But he's just gotten more -- to be more of a candidate.

COOPER: The urgency of now which is a phrase he ...

BORGER: And more -- Hillary Clinton has changed. She started out by saying he was tough. Now she's telling people you need to like her.

COOPER: We have to leave it there. We're going to have a lot more tomorrow night from our analysts, best political team on television.

We're going to go to a short break. We'll have more with Wolf in a second. We'll be right back.


BLITZER: For those of you caucusing tomorrow in Iowa, we want your I-Reports. Send us your videos, your pictures, to We'll try to feature some of them in our election coverage.

I'm Wolf Blitzer at the CNN Election Center here in New York. Stay with us. Our complete coverage tomorrow.