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Democratic Presidential Candidates to hold Town Hall in Des Moines; President Barack Obama Compare Sanders and Clinton; Trump: I Have The Most Loyal People; Trump Turns Up The Heat In Iowa; Trump: Establishment Coming "On Line" With Me; Trump's Attack Strategies; Countdown To Democratic Presidential Town Hall; Trump On The Attack; Secrets Behind the Trump Attacks; New CNN Poll: Clinton tops Sanders, But Lead Shrinks; Democratic Presidential Town Hall Moments Away. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired January 25, 2016 - 20:00   ET


[20:00:08] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Erin, thanks very much.

The crowd is already in place. Good evening, everyone, from Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa.

Just an hour from now, Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and Martin O'Malley will take to the stage for a CNN town hall conversation with voters here and with potential voters nationwide. This is really their last big chance to reach both groups before the caucuses here a week from today.

Now on top of that, there are signs the national race is tightening somewhat. There's no CNN/ORC polling. Breaking news showing senator Sanders narrowing the gap slightly with Secretary Clinton. How each candidate does tonight and next week almost certain to move those numbers even more.

In addition, there's practically hand-to-hand combat on the Republican side and the possibility another well-known Manhattan billionaire may enter the race, former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg. We will have more on that andall of it shortly.

But first, Jeff Zeleny on the Democrats.


HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I know some of you are already supporting me, and I thank you. And I know some of you are still shopping. I like to shop, too.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): But the shopping season is running short. And the Democratic race between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders in Iowa is deadlocked. She continues presenting herself as a realist, taking aim at Sanders' proposals, starting with free college tuition.

CLINTON: I disagree with my esteemed opponent, senator Sanders. I don't think it is right to give me and my husband free college for our child. I think that if you can afford to pay, you should pay.

ZELENY: Sanders rallied voters all weekend and today asking them to join what he is calling a revolution, a political movement to bring real change.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Now nothing that I have described to you today is utopian. It is not pie in the sky. In fact, much of what I've talked to you about today exists today in other countries on earth.

ZELENY: The stakes of the election are high, and emotional.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And it's so hard to do anything to pay your bills.

ZELENY: As Sanders saw firsthand today.

SANDERS: It is not easy for people to stand up and say that. So I thank you for saying and for telling us what's going on in your lives because the truth is, you can't make it on $12,000. You can't live in dignity on $10,000 or less.

ZELENY: Sanders and Clinton have been trailing one another across Iowa trying to win over undecided voters and mobilize their supporters. But today, Clinton's voice showing the strain.

CLINTON: You do talk a lot in this campaign.

ZELENY: Iowa is a test of campaign organization. And the real activity is taking place behind the scenes in offices across the state.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: See you on February 1st, Iowa.

ZELENY: The caucuses are no traditional election. It's a series of galleries across the state next Monday night.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And it is as easy as one, two, three.

ZELENY: The candidates are telling voters how to take part. The implications stretch far beyond Iowa.

Sue Sorden supported Clinton last time and will again. But sees Sanders big crowds and worries.

SUE SORDEN, CLINTON SUPPORTER: I came and listened to Bernie. And like I said I loved his ideas, but I don't know that they are very practical. I don't know that they could be implemented. I just think Hillary has been around the political block a few times, and I feel more comfortable with her.

ZELENY: How does this feel versus that?

SODDEN: I'm always nervous. I'm always nervous when my candidates on a little shaky ground. I was very confident Hillary was going to win eight years ago. (END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: And Jeff Zeleny joins us now. You spent a lot of time covering things back here in 2008. How do things feel the same or different?

ZELENY: Anderson, I think first and foremost, Hillary Clinton has learned her lessons, or they say they have, from 2008. They spent almost all year building an organization. And they say they won't be surprised again. And Bernie Sanders is not Barack Obama. No question about it. But one thing that's changed is the power of social media. Bernie Sanders' big crowds are because he puts something on Facebook and people come. So the question is will the power of social media, and these young supporters, actually turn out for this arcane process one week from tonight.

COOPER: Right. A process many may have not have participated in up until now.

ZELENY: In fact, almost all of them won't be. They are a key demographic age 17 to 25. All of whom could not vote some eight years ago.

COOPER: All right. Jeff Zeleny. Thanks very much, Jeff.

There's a lot to talk about. Jeff is going to stay with us. I want to bring in chief Democratic voice and CNN political commentator Donna Brazile. She is obviously top DNC official. Also Katrina Vanden Heuvel, editor and publisher of "the Nation;" which is now endorsed Sen. Sanders.

Katrina, at the top of the program, we mentioned CNN's new polling showing Bernie Sanders gaining a bit of ground nationally. But we should also point out there was a FOX News poll here in Iowa showing Hillary Clinton leading Sanders 48 percent to 42 percent. Now, if she can pull off a win here, that's would be a big change in momentum for her, would it not?

[20:05:05] KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL, EDITOR/PUBLISHER, THE NATION: Yes. But I mean, look at the poll that CNN just released. I mean, it shows Bernie Sanders has essentially recreated the Obama coalition. Extraordinary support, 74 percent among 18 to 29-year-olds. Very strong support among independents. And also what struck me was the Democrats say they are happy, comfortable with both candidates.

Anderson, I think what Bernie Sanders needs to do tonight is speak forcefully about why he is a realist and a doer. His ideas are practical. They are in the mainstream of American political ideas, and he needs to say that the new realism is that we must dismantle a rigged, corrupted political economic system if we're going to have the transformational changes this country desperately need. That's why he has such enthusiasm. Will he get them out, the younger voters, to a byzantine process Jeff spoke of? That remains to be seen. But the organizing on the ground is pretty ferocious

COOPER: Donna, do you really believe that Sanders has recreated the Obama coalition? Because certainly among African-Americans, although Senator Obama didn't really have huge African-American support early on. Senator Sanders is lacking compared to Senator Clinton.

DONNA BRAZILE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think the comparisons at this point don't exist in large part because we don't know exactly what the electorate will look like next Monday night.

Look. President Obama did several things quite well. He energized the electorate. He brought in new voters. Meaning he was like one of the first candidates to really, truly expand the electorate. I didn't see that kind of enthusiasm for years on the democratic trail. He was also able to capture independents. Remember, independents can go and caucus with Democrats, as long as they register that night as a Democrat.

So I think tonight is very important, Anderson, because Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders and Martin O'Malley because look, even with two percent, five percent, they don't reach viability. Martin O'Malley supporters can, if it's a close caucus, they can rally with Secretary Clinton, or senator Sanders' voters.

But you have a lot of people who are still uncommitted. They are still shopping, as Hillary Clinton said earlier. So are they shopping for the revolution? Are they shopping for the candidate who will be able to implement many of the policies that I think both senator Sanders and Secretary Clinton agrees on.

So this is a very key moment tonight. This town hall will not only help galvanize the race in the closing days of the campaign but might energize more voters to turn out next Monday night.

HEUVEL: I think when Donna speaks --

COOPER: Let me just bring in Jeff here. Because as much as the Clinton/Sanders race nationally may be close and on a state-by-state basis, when you look -- let's put these numbers up. You look at some of these polls, a lot of Democrats still say by a wide margin they expect Hillary Clinton will be the nominee.

ZELENY: No doubt. She has all the attributes of the establishment. She has, you know, the support of the establishment. So right now, yes, most people believe she'll be the nominee. If Bernie Sanders beats her, that's could change that calculus a bit. But I think it's important to step back and show how strong she actually is. I mean, he is still an independent. He calls himself now a Democrat, self- avowed socialist. But how will that play out once people actually start going after that? So I think --.

COOPER: Even in South Carolina and the next steps beyond here.

ZELENY: He does not have the support from the diverse coalition of African-American voters and others, but he does have support in all those caucus states that Barack Obama won some eight years ago -- Minnesota, Montana. So this race could go on for a long time, particularly if he wins here in Iowa.

HEUVEL: I think --

COOPER: There's this argument that Bernie Sanders will somehow plateau, that after Iowa, New Hampshire, which are largely white, rural states, he can't surpass Hillary Clinton.

HEUVEL: Yes. And I was talking about Bernie Sanders recreating the Obama coalition in Iowa.

Listen, Bernie Sanders is still introducing himself to millions of Americans who like what they are hearing. Jeff is right. They are shopping. But the media, let's be honest. Bernie Sanders tonight could remind people that nine months ago he was at about three percent. He's at 38 percent today. The media lavishes so much attention on Donald Trump they forgot about the huge rallies Bernie was holding last summer. He has come a long way. So I think the poll released tonight also shows he is one-third support, pretty good support among non-whites, minorities, a coalition he needs to speak to carefully. But he has just introducing himself, Anderson. So I think it's possible.

The other factor tonight on Hillary Clinton, you know, she wrapped herself, made herself out to be a candidate of continuity in this moment of change. Jeff spoke of the establishment candidate. I think that's a tough position to be in at this moment of such volatility. People seeking change.

[20:10:05] BRAZILE: Well, Iowa is famous for putting the man (INAUDIBLE) in front of the front-runner so I'm not surprised if the polls keep fluctuating.

But when you talk about the establishment, she has lots of labor union activists on board supporting her. Planned Parenthood, women activists, civil rights activists. So she has a lot of activists who are bringing the energy and enthusiasm that I think that Bernie Sanders is also getting from the grassroots.

Look. This is a good moment for Democrats and great for America, and I'm glad that we have two candidates and three candidates, really, who are out there fighting for every vote.

HEUVEL: It's in stark contrast to the GOP.

COOPER: Katrina raises a good point. Donna, Katrina raises a good point which is has Hillary Clinton boxed herself in by linking herself to -- so closely now to President Obama?

BRAZILE: You want my opinion on that? Look, I support my president. I think he's done a fantastic job. He hasn't been right on all the issues but he's been really good for the country. The fact she says she's going to continue to protect health care, she's going to continue to create jobs like President Obama.

Look. She has said a lot of things that is consistent with what Democrats believe and I think a lot of independents and Republicans, if they can get the tape off their mouth. So I think Hillary Clinton will be able to come up with a message that says President Obama has done x, y and z very well and we're going to continue that. But on areas where we have to continue to create jobs, we got to continue to make college more affordable. Here are ways that I think I can do a better job. There's no reason why she should be boxed in just because she is supporting the president in those key issues.

HEUVEL: And --

COOPER: All right. Donna Brazile, Katrina Vanden Heuvel, Jeff Zeleny, thank you very much.

HEUVEL: Thank you.

COOPER: Coming up next, speaking of President Obama, he weighs in on the two leading Democrats. Even though he's not officially endorsing anyone, some think he gave more than a little boost to Hillary Clinton. We will play you what he said. You can decide for yourself.

Later tonight, Donald Trump's final push for voters here. And his talent hurting opponent, something unlike anything we have seen before every time someone gets close, someone gets hit. We'll talk about that with a CNN Democratic town hall less than an hour away. Stay tuned.


[20:15:37] COOPER: And welcome back. About 45 minutes until the Democratic candidates take the stage here in Des Moines. More than 600 people expected to be in the audience. The audience is already full. Nearly 300 press credentials issued. A lot of eyes on that stage and, of course, the national race with news breaking and new polling coming out just about hourly these days. Some pretty high stakes this week and, of course, tonight.

Joining us now with the preview is town hall moderator and "NEW DAY" co-anchor Chris Cuomo.

So, what's the plan here? How is this going to work?

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR, NEW DAY: I have the best seat in the house. Yours is pretty good. But I'm going to be up here with them. And this is very different than what we watched you do so masterfully at the debate. Anderson doesn't like compliments but it's the truth.

Town hall is different. This is the opportunity for the voters to directly bring the concerns of their heart and head to the candidates.

COOPER: They are coming out one at a time.

CUOMO: One at a time. They'll never be on the stage together, which I think is helpful for this. Because if they won't get into that typical, well, forget about me. Here's why Anderson is not the right guy.

COOPER: Right.

CUOMO: You know, instead of that, they are going to have to address this directly. And I think there will be a different dynamic. You know, you sit across from big shots all the time. If they don't like your question they say, look, let me tell you what matters. You can't do that to a voter. This is the person who is talking to you about their life and what matters to them. So it would be interesting to see how --

COOPER: So, you are asking the questions or is it all people in the audience? Follow-ups?

CUOMO: Yes. Off the top, we will just do a little scene setting there, get into some news of day, couple of highlight points with each of them that are relevant from a news perspective. Then right into the voters. And my really - my job is, less is more. So if something isn't addressed, when the question specifically is asked for, then we get into it. If there's a necessary follow, we'll get in. But really, the incentive is to just move it along and get as many voters at possible.

COOPER: It seems though Clinton and Sanders have definitely been highlighting the differences between them than the first debate that we did so many months ago.

CUOMO: Yes. They call it contrast now. It's not negativity. It's not criticism. It's contrast.

COOPER: So Sanders is going to come first then O'Malley and then Clinton?


COOPER: That's the order?

CUOMO: Yes. And they will all get equal time.

COOPER: Have you been working on this -- obviously, you have been working on this a while. What are you expecting tonight? Are you expecting them to go after each other or because they're not on the same stage to kind of just more interact with the audience?

CUOMO: That's the right question. Ordinarily, I feel like I know what we're going to get. I don't know how they will deal with questions they don't like coming from the audience. I do expect them to try to go outside the lines a bit. And that's why we're here.

COOPER: Right. All right. We will look forward to it, Chris. Thanks very much. Chris Cuomo.

We will also talk to Chris right after the town hall is over as well.

President Obama who made such a big impression here eight years ago is getting plenty of buzz tonight. The reason, a 40-minute interview he did with Politico. And though he says he is not endorsing anyone in the primary, just listen to how he assesses the two front-runners and judge for yourself.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think Bernie came in with the luxury of being a complete long shot, and just letting loose. As I've said before, I think that, like any candidate, her strengths can be her weaknesses. Her strengths, which are the fact that she's extraordinarily experienced and wicked smart and knows every policy inside and out, sometimes could make her more cautious and campaign more in prose than poetry. But those are also her strengths. It means that she can govern, and she can start here day one more experienced than any non-vice president has ever been, who aspires to this office.


COOPER: Well, let's talk about the Obama factor and other factors including the wild card. CNN political analyst and "New York Times" presidential campaign correspondent Maggie Haberman joins me. She broke the story in the "Times" that former mayor Mike Bloomberg is weighing a third party run. Also CNN senior political reporter Nia- Mallika Henderson joins me as well.

I mean, it is interesting hearing President Obama talk about these two candidates. What jumped out to you in his remarks?

MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: There were two things. He was very clear. He was asked by our former colleague, (INAUDIBLE), do you see an analog between you in 2008 and Bernie Sanders now? And he said, I don't think so. So that is real message to Bernie Sanders supporters who were thinking this could the second coming of Barack Obama for one thing.

The other thing that really struck me was that he basically absolved Hillary Clinton of attacks on him in 2008. You have seen various Democrats and some Republicans point to the attacks she leveled against him in that fight. This basically inoculated her. He said, you know, I took some things too seriously. They weren't that big a deal. And that gives her a real line going into tonight.

[20:20:17] COOPER: Nia, how about for you?

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: No, I think that's right. I mean, we don't know sort of privately that Obama as well as his top aides favored Hillary Clinton. But I think this was as close as he has come so far. And I do think there was that absolution that he gave her from 2008. So I think that was important. And one of the things I wonder if Hillary Clinton will almost -- just the audio of him praising her and really making the point she wants to make about her campaign, which is that she is the one who can deliver.

COOPER: Right. She has been making that more and more. But we have seen from both Clinton and from Sanders, I mean, whether it's contrasting their policies with each other. They have been getting more aggressive. You compare the last debate, very interesting to see what happens tonight on this stage compared to the first Democratic debate where, you know, Bernie said enough of the damn emails.

HABERMAN: Some of the things that are striking this time is that literally some of the exact same lines are being used by Hillary Clinton against Bernie Sanders that she used against Barack Obama and some of the same lines he is using that Barack Obama used against her. So you are seeing basically an appeal to types of voters as opposed to really a heart/head contrast. Those specific to two candidates.

But look, it is because the race has tightened. It is because in Iowa in particular, it has gotten very close. And the Clinton case is going to be made on getting out the vote. The Sanders case is going to be made on enthusiasm.

COOPER: I got to ask you. You broke this story about Mike Bloomberg. How real is this?

HABERMAN: He is really thinking about it. It is real. This is not actually consultant driven. This is something that he is interested in. He had said for as long as I've covered him, which goes back to his 2001 mayors' race, that president was one of the top three jobs he would ever want. He didn't even as mayor at the time, frankly.

COOPER: He's done, I understand - I mean, testing and polling to see, you know, what the metrics of it.

HABERMAN: Right. And we don't know what that polling showed. And there are different theories as just who this would hurt if he did it. I would not bet overwhelming weight on him doing it, but I do think it's much more real now than it was in 2008.

COOPER: Do we know what it would that what he is looking at? I mean, it is if Trump is -- gets the nomination, if Sanders does better than anticipated?

HABERMAN: It's the likeliest in a Sanders versus Trump or Cruz nomination fight. But Mike Bloomberg is not, as Ed Rendell said to me and my colleague Alex (INAUDIBLE), he is not suicidal. He is not going to do this to make a point. He is going to do it if he thinks he can win.

COOPER: Nia, the "Des Moines Register," how important is it endorsing Hillary Clinton and also there, obviously, for Rubio?

HENDERSON: Yes. They endorsed her in 2008 and some ways not a surprised. I think it's good for her that they endorsed her. I think for Rubio, might be a bit of a mixed bag. I mean, here is a guy who is trying to straddle two sides. On the one hand, he wants to be the conservative. On the other, he wants to be an establishment figure.

This, I think, gives him that establishment imprint in Iowa at a time when 70 percent literally of the caucus voters want somebody who is from the outside. I mean, if you add up Cruz, Trump and Carson, it gets about to 70 percent. So in that way, it's not great. But I think in the long term, as he wants to be the establishment figure who is the alternative to everybody else. It's good in that way for him.

COOPER: Do we know the timeline of when Bloomberg would actually have to throw his hat in the ring? HABERMAN: He set a deadline of March for himself which is really when

you would have to start circulating petitions for an independent nomination. It is not a lot of time. And it's not clear that it will be that settled, especially on the Republican side.

COOPER: Right. Maggie Haberman, fascinating stuff. Nia-Malika Henderson, thanks very much.

There is a lot ahead in this hour as we are awaiting the start of this town hall. What Donald Trump is saying about his comment over the weekend that he could shoot somebody and not lose votes? More on that ahead.


[20:27:48] COOPER: No doubt a lot of people will be watching tonight's CNN Democratic town hall which starts in about a half an hour. Plenty of eyes are also on the Republican campaign right now as well. That is because it is tight at the top of the race.

Just five points separating Donald Trump from Ted Cruz in Iowa in the latest CNN poll of polls. Five points and plenty of harsh talk with Trump calling Senator Cruz a nasty guy. Cruz firing back with a new ad slamming Trump's so-called New York values. Trump, though, saying the attacks won't stick even suggesting that nothing will sway his sway his supported, and I mean, him committing a felony in broad daylight. Listen.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The people -- my people are so smart. And you know what else they say about my people? The polls. They say I have the most loyal people. Did you ever see that? Well, I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn't lose any voters. OK? It's like incredible.


COOPER: Well, he said that over the weekend. Today talking to Wolf Blitzer, he kind of toned it down.


TRUMP: You don't think I was joking. You know I was joking. Of course, I was joking. And the whole room was laughing and I was laughing when I said it.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST, THE SITUATION ROOM: Because it gout - you know, you got some criticism.

TRUMP: Yes. No, from dishonest press. They said, he said something. When they show me I'm laughing, they are laughing. Everybody is laughing. Everybody is having a good time. Of course, I'm joking. You know that.

BLITZER: Of course. TRUMP: But - and the purpose of that is to say the people, you know,

they want to stay with me. They are loyal. They are tired of seeing our country being pushed around and led by people that are stupid people. They're tired of it, Wolf.


COOPER: He also told Wolf he thinks that Michael Bloomberg isn't really worth as much as "Forbes" magazine says he is and says he would beat him if he does enter the race.

Joining us now is CNN political commentators Ana Navarro, Amanda Carpenter and Jeffrey Lord. Ana is a Bush supporter and a Rubio friend. Amanda is a former communications director for Senator Cruz and Jeffrey is a Trump supporter who made has bones as White House political director during the Reagan years.

So Ana, Trump is now saying -- the point he was trying to make is that his supporters are loyal. And basically, he can do or say almost anything and they would still support him. From what we've seen over the course the last seven months, he certainly has a point. I mean, he does have a very loyal following. And seemed to ignore or, you know, embrace pretty much anything he says.

ANA NAVARRO, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Absolutely. I mean, I think he is completely right, you know. He has gone after Megyn Kelly. He has gone after POWs.

[20:30:00] He has, you know, says he's never going, you know, ask God for forgiveness. He called Iowans stupid in their state to their face. He has mimic a reported. And you what happens? His numbers keep going up.

So I Donald Trump is completely right. He's got very loyal supporters for whom these things don't mean anything, who think it is media conspiracy against him.

Look, Anderson, you know, Donald Trump could be caught on video clubbing baby seals that are being held by the Madonna incarnate and probably his numbers would go up, not down. And he's right. If he shot somebody on Fifth Avenue, depending on who he shot, I pretty much think his numbers would go up.

COOPER: Jeff, over the weekend in Iowa, Trump went to a church, he also stayed overnight in a holiday inn express, remarking that it -- should be noted that it was clean and the mattress was good.

The fact that that happened and it made news. I mean, it tells you really everything you need to know about how unorthodox his approach to Iowa has been so far. Because really, you know, most nights, he's jetting back to New York where he spends the night.

JEFFREY LORD, TRUMP SUPPORTER: That's right. And, you know, Anna is right. As a matter of fact, I understand there's a shipment of baby seals on their way to Iowa right now. I just think -- you're right, it is unorthodox. And he's trying something new and it working. It's works for him. Whether it would work for someone else, I don't know.

But, not to be forgotten here in all seriousness is, that Donald Trump has been a presence on the American stage for about 40 years, which is about the time that Ronald Reagan was on the stage before he ran for public office. People feel good, better and different that they know him. And in this case, for the good, they like him.

So he's a pretty established personality and once you think you know somebody, it's pretty hard to think, you know, somebody. It's pretty persuade people that he's somebody that he's not. So I think he's got a good advantage doing that.

COOPER: I want to play, Amanda, another part of Wolf's interview with Trump where he asks him why he says the establishment is actually against him. Let's listen.


DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, I think the establishment actually is against me, but really coming online because they see me as opposed to Cruz who is a nasty guy who can't get along with anybody.

You know, look. At a certain point, we're going to make deals. We can't have a guy that stands in the center Senate floor and every other Senator thinks he is a whack job, right? You know, you have to make deals.


COOPER: What about that, Amanda, because we've seen a beautiful thought when it comes to certain members of the Republican establishment and Trump, how much of that is based on the fact that if a choice is between Cruz and somebody else. They'll choose whoever is not Cruz. Even some of the people in the National Review start to Michael Medved on Friday who wrote against Donald Trump but said, "You know what? If it's between Cruz and Trump, I'll go for Trump".

AMANDA CARPENTER, FORMER COMMUNICATION DIRECTOR FOR SEN. TED CRUZ: Yeah. Well, here's the thing. The term establishment has really gotten thrown around a lot these days. But I encourage people who are interested in this fight to go look at a piece Jonathan Martin wrote for "The New York Times" in which a number of establishment type figures like Bob Dole, like a number of consultants connected to the Republican National Committee and other Republican organizations that have been in power a long time.

Essentially said, if it came down to Cruz or Trump they would support precisely for the reason that Donald Trump explained in that interview. He's a dealmaker. They feel like they can wheeled influence over a Donald Trump presidency, whereas with Ted Cruz, they know what's they're going to get. He has a long record standing up for principles and he's not going to be influenced by the lobbyists. And so, people feel like who, you know, live off Washington, who want to get the big consulting contracts, who want to keep things propped up like the export/import bank. They can get Donald Trump to do that.

And so, it's weird because Donald Trump is saying, "Oh, the establishment doesn't like me while laying out the case for his candidacy based on why they would like him". So it's just really confusing to hear him explain it that way.

COOPER: Jeff, to Trump supporters, they would say that, ultimately, if you are president, I mean, do you actually get anything done in Washington, there does have to be some compromise. There does have to be some give and take.

LORD: The difference, Ronald Reagan was a dealmaker. The point is, what direction do you make the deals in? Ronald Reagan steered the country right, and the deals that he make for the most part took the country in a conservative direction. Making deals in and of itself, there's nothing wrong with that. And I'm always somewhat amuse on the one hand, Trump critics are saying he's authoritarian. On the other hand, they are saying he wants to make deals.

There's nothing wrong with making deals. Deals get made all the time. Ronald Reagan made them. The question is, what direction do you take the country when you make them? That I think is the issue.

CARPENTER: But here's the thing, given Donald Trump's record on thing like the bailout, the stimulus. It's pretty clear that -- and I'm putting this very sympathetically, that he leans towards liberal policies when it comes to economic matters.

But the thing that I thought was most interesting in that Wolf interview was where Wolf was pressing him about his outrageous comments.

[20:35:03] and Trump said, "I'm going to be a different person when I'm president. Just trust me, I'm going to be different when I'm president."

And that I think is what should cause conservative voters most concern when it comes to Trump. You have no idea what you're going to get. Donald Trump was different in the policies two years ago than he is today. No telling where he would be two years from now, and that is too big of a risk to take with the presidency.

NAVARRO: Let me this, you guys are all argue ...

COOPER: Ana, do you believe that Donald Trump can be different?

NAVARRO: Yes, but so is Ted Cruz. You know, Ted Cruz was different on immigration when working for George w. Bush than he is now. The truth is, Donald Trump has changed his views and so has Ted Cruz.

And, you know, I've now heard Jeff and Amanda arguing about how the establishment feels. Well, as the resident establishment on this panel, let me just tell you, we can't stand either of them, and we are in a deep state of panic about the notion of either -- no, hold on, Amanda.

We're in a deep state of panic about either Donald Trump or Ted Cruz who I think a lot of us think would be very, very hurtful to the Republican Party, the Republican ticket. A lot of governors and senators running statewide in places like Ohio, like New Hampshire.

The difference is, Anderson, that we've known Donald Trump as a celebrity. We've known Donald Trump as the host of "The Apprentice" as a businessman for all these years. We've known him in a political spectrum, you know, the last six, seven months.

Ted Cruz, we pretty much has hated the establishment and we've hated him from the moment he's got elected. He's been nothing but a thorn on the side of somebody that obstructs any kind of progress legislatively.

CARPENTER: Well, I just got to say, conservatives have a longtime ...

COOPER: Amanda, you do the final thought.

CARPENTER: ... have been lectured by the establishment donor class and say, "When it comes to supporting the Republican nominee, you just have to swallow, you know, get drunk and vote for John McCain or whatever you have to do.

You know, there's ...

NAVARRO: A lot of us did it sober.

CARPENTER: And I don't care who the nominee is, I hope we can all come together because there's too much at stake.

COOPER: Ana Navarro, Amanda Carpenter and Jeffrey Lord, I appreciate it, thank you very much. We are approaching the hour of the start of the Democratic town hall here.

You heard Donald Trump suggest that Ted Cruz is, in his words, a whack job. We'll hear more about his blistering attacks on rivals. The question is, do they stem from a hot temper and thin skin or they actually part of a very well-thought out strategy by Trump?

Plus, with the CNN Democratic town hall minutes away, I'm going to check in with the Sanders and Clinton campaigns about what their candidates hope to do tonight to try to close the deal with Iowa's voters.


[20:41:25] COOPER: Welcome back. We're less than 20 minutes from the CNN Democratic town hall here in Des Moines, Iowa. Up until the Democratic debates have been notably civil in their tone, burden with the race tightening, many are wondering, is this the night the gloves come off, Donald Trump style perhaps? For month now, the Republican frontrunner has been rewriting the rules of engagement for attacking rivals. Watch.


TRUMP: The fact is that Carly Fiorina has had a terrible past. She was fired viciously from Hewlett-Packard. She was a disastrous CEO.

You have this clown Marco Rubio. I've been so nice to him. All of a sudden, he goes down in the polls and all of a sudden starts changing his tone. Ted has to solve his problem. He's got a big problem. Is he natural born? And a lot of people think that means you have to be born on the land, not born in Canada. And he was born in Canada.

This country needs help. It need leadership, Don, and it needs it fast. And Ted is not the right guy, hasn't got the temperament. Look, everybody dislikes him. He's a nasty guy that everybody dislikes.


COOPER: No matter how tough his attacks have been, Donald Trump's poll numbers not only do not suffer, they often spike. His attacks can seem random at times and sound off the cuff until you look at them very closely.

Monica Langley, Senior Special Writer for the Wall Street Journal has done just that. In her latest article, "Behind Donald Trump's attack strategy." She joins me now.

I read the article. It's a fascinating piece, Monica. You spent a lot of time with Trump. What did you find out about these attacks? Are they random? Are they improvised? And who is it who actually coming up with them? This is something that coming out of Donald Trump kind of on his own?

MONICA LANGLEY, SENIOR SPECIAL WRITER, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: Yeah, and the segment you just played has a lot of him sounding very angry, very hostile and off the cuff. But I spent three days with him on his plane, which is now the Trump Force One and in the motorcade. And I'll tell you, Anderson, he is very solitary figure. He's very calm. He is very measured. He thinks through everything. And unlike most politicians who have message gurus or people telling them what to say, he does it all himself in a very calculated fashion.

COOPER: It's really interesting. I mean his ability to I think to read a crowd and maybe read a moment in time is really extraordinary. I mean, I think we've seen that over the last several months. You were with him when he made the decision it was time to go after Cruz. Can you describe that moment?

LANGLEY: Well, here's what he did. He said Ted has been at the top too long. Let's take him -- I'm going to take him down. And then, he got off in New Hampshire and the first thing he did was start raising questions about whether he's eligible to be president because he was born in Canada.

A week later, he brought up the fact that he was challenging his New York values. And he got a loan from Goldman Sachs that he didn't disclose. Then he was calling him a nasty guy.

And you can see immediately Ted Cruz, who had the edge in Iowa, started getting behind Donald Trump in the polls in Iowa. And now Donald Trump has the edge in Iowa. So Donald Trump has done this methodically. And he's very strategic in how he goes after each person by finding a weakness and then doing it.

And the interesting thing is, even though you mentioned how he was in the holiday inn this pass weekend, and I did stayed another Des Moines hotel where he stayed last week, he does it all from -- all his strategic thinking is done in the comfort of his beautiful jet where he sits at a -- in a leather club chair, a wood table with 24 karat gold trim.

[20:45:06] And that's where I watched him work for hours thinking for what he wants to be for his attack. And then also as you say, he improvises a crowd. That's where he read the news and polls to decide what he's going to focus on that day.

COOPER: And his speeches which seem improvised, I understand you saw some of his notes when you went with him to New Hampshire. Because we've seen him take out pages before he starts to speak. Are they bullet points? What is it like?

LANGLEY: That's exactly right. He takes out one single page from his breast pocket. So we were about to land in New Hampshire. Ten minutes before landing in concord, he gets out a single sheet of paper and jots down 15 words, five points. And then that's all it is. And he goes and talks about those issues.

And he seems to be rambling. He'll go here. He goes there. But he goes back to those points. He was hitting Hillary Clinton hard. You'll see he has the Second Amendment. Well, what he did on that is on the Second Amendment, he brings the crowd in. He said, "If we had you, and you, and you", pointing to some big strong men in the crowd, "We would have had a different result in Paris".

So the crowd is like yelling, "Oh, yeah, we could do it if we had arms". You know, he said, if you all had weapons you would have stopped all this death.

COOPER: So it's really, I mean, it's really generated from Trump. It's not him sitting around in meetings and somebody saying, "You know what? Let's go after Cruz on the Canadian issue or let's hit this". You are saying from what you saw, a lot of this is just Trump thinking this through and going with his instincts?

LANGLEY: He sits alone on his plane at his own club chair, in his own desk. Behind him at a conference table sit the three top national staffers. And then behind that are the secret service in their own compartment.

And I can tell you, he sits most of the time by himself. He'll watch the news. He watches CNN and other news shows. And then he'll start writing notes and reads all the newspapers and the polls, and then makes his decisions. As he made the decision, it's time to take Ted down, meaning Ted Cruz. So that is the way he works. And he does it himself.

COOPER: It's fascinating. It's a fascinating article in "The Wall Street Journal." Monica Langley, thank you very much. I really like your writing, appreciate it. What a great inside look from that ...

LANGLEY: Thank you.

COOPER: Yeah, just amazing.

Just ahead, just minutes away from the CNN Democratic presidential town hall here in Des Moines, Iowa. The race could not be getting tighter. Various announcements are being made to the crowd. Here right now, Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders are deadlocked. The caucuses now just one week away, what do they need to do tonight to close the deal? I'll talk to both campaigns ahead.


[20:51:26] COOPER: All right, welcome back. The breaking news tonight, a new nationwide CNN/ORC poll that is just out shows Hillary Clinton with a wide but tightening lead over Bernie Sanders.

She's ahead 52 to 38. That's nationally. Just minutes from now, here in Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa. The Democratic presidential candidates, they are going to be taking part in the CNN town hall. As we've said, the last time they going to face each other before next Monday's caucus, a final chance to win over Iowa voters in this kind of a forum.

Joining me is Jeff Weaver, Bernie Sanders' Campaign Manager. What does Senator Sanders need to try to do tonight and also, in this final week to close the deal here in Iowa?

JEFF WEAVER, BERNIE SANDERS' CAMPAIGN MANAGER: Well, Anderson, I think this is going to be an extension of what he's been trying to do all week and all campaign here in Iowa in all other places, which is connect with voters. You know, talk with voters hear, what they have to say, talk about his agenda to improve their lives.

You know, this is -- this kind of format where, you know, he just talks to voters, this is a very, very familiar format.

COOPER: This plays to his strength, his authenticity, his ability to communicate with people.

JEFF WEAVE: Absolutely. I mean, you know, his ability to even in the crowd like this to talk one on one with a voter who has a question is very powerful. I think this is a very good format for him.

COOPER: All right. He -- how important, I mean, obviously Iowa, New Hampshire are critical for Senator Sanders. How important particularly is Iowa? And right now, they are just practicing applauding essentially. But how important is Iowa for your candidate? I mean, is this a must win for him?

WEAVER: No. We've always said we have to do well here, but we didn't have to win. You all remember back in the spring, we started out 55 points down.

COOPER: Right.

WEAVER: So, you know, all the polls now, there's some variance in the poll but all of them show the race here is very, very close. If it ends very, very close, if it's one person up, a few or down a few, that, you know, we've already won this, a huge win here.

COOPER: A lot has been made about what happens after New Hampshire. The first stop obviously being South Carolina. The criticism or concern amongst Sanders supporters is that, he doesn't have the level of support among African-Americans that Hillary Clinton has. Do you feel that if he's close in Iowa, if he's close or wins in New Hampshire that will make a huge difference?

WEAVER: Oh, absolutely. I mean, we've seen historically that early success translates into success in later states.

And I got to tell, you in South Carolina, I mean, we've seen public polls a few months ago, he was 40 points down. Now, he had two polls last week, both showed him 20 points down. He's moving in South Carolina as well. We had a high-profile endorsement today out of South Carolina.

So I think that the whole like firewall narrative that we've heard from the other side is just, I mean, it doesn't really hold any water.

COOPER: The statements made by President Obama too Politico in an interview, some are interpreting it as a nod to Hillary Clinton? What's your take?

WEAVER: Well, look, I think the president has been very even-handed in this whole process. He's really stayed out of it. You know, he said some nice things about the secretary today. He said nice things in the past about Senator Sanders. I'm sure he will again. You know, I think that, you know, we're very happy with President Obama.

And so, I don't -- a lot of people -- a lot of -- at this time in a presidential race, everybody turn, you know, parse every single word. You know, I think the president was just talking to a reporter, and I think a lot of people are reading more into it than ...

COOPER: For the next week, what does the week look like? I mean, is this a nonstop out here in Iowa.

WEAVER: It is, yeah, yeah. Well, you know, we're going to go to -- take a small detour tomorrow and go up to Minnesota for a couple of visits. But we're going to be doing events every day in Iowa between now and the caucuses.

So he's on the road, we have a big bus driving around, the big Bernie bus. He's going to towns big and small all around the state.

COOPER: And, is the itinerary set or do you look at polls and figure out where you need to bolster or ...

WEAVER: Well, you know, we obviously look at data, you know, where the delegates are, where we think we can add more delegates.

[20:54:58] But, you know, it such -- he is doing, it's such an intensive way, with three, four, five events a day, and we're really covering a lot of this ...

COOPER: How concerned are you that, you know, a lot of the young supporters that you have had, remarkably. I mean, to say the turnout has just been huge, that they are first-time caucusgoers. Will they go out, will they know how to do it, will they really be that committed?

WEAVER: Well, look, I think it come out to the Bernie rallies, right? I mean, that's not a walk in the park, that's an hour and a half long, you know, wonkish presentation on economics and his agenda.

COOPER: And they love it.

WEAVER: And they love it. So why they're not come out, you know, people say they'll not come out for a 45-minute or hour caucus. I just don't think that that's right.

COOPER: Yeah. Well, Jeff, an exciting week, thank you very much.

WEAVER: Thank you. Thanks for having me. Jeff Weaver from the Sanders campaign, what does Hillary Clinton need to do tonight?

Joining me now us Joel Benenson, the Chief Strategist for the Clinton Campaign. Joel, thanks very much for being with us.

What does your candidate hope to do tonight and in this final week?

JOEL BENENSON, CHIEF STRATEGIST FOR THE CLINTON: I think close out a strong campaign in Iowa, which has been strong from the start, by framing up this choice very clearly that what we need going forward is a candidate who can do all parts of the job of president. Keep us safe. Improve people's economic lives.

And what we need is someone like Secretary Clinton who brings progressive values to the table and a real tenacity to get things done that will make a difference in people's lives. That's what I think voters in their hearts want in the next president. And that's what she brings to the table. I think President Obama today very graciously made some nice comments about her that reflected that.

COOPER: The idea that Bernie Sanders is somehow less electable in a general election than Hillary Clinton was certainly something that, you know, folks in your campaign would like to try to push that message. When you ask voters in New Hampshire, which is obviously a key swing state in the fall, who need they'd support in a head-to-head match up. Senator Sanders does better against the leading Republicans than Hillary Clinton does, so how do you explain that?

BENENSON: In New Hampshire, if you look at the history of it in presidential primaries, if you are a New Englander, it's like a favorite son state for you. New Englanders have done well any time there isn't an incumbent president or incumbent vice president on the ballot there.

We've always thought that would be a very close place. We always thought it would be a very strong state for Senator Sanders.

We've got a long view here of how we're doing. We look at where Democratic voters are nationally and beyond Iowa, New Hampshire, looking at Nevada, South Carolina. We've got a very strong lead that we've got to fight, keep every vote and earn every vote going forward.

We're not going to let up or take our food of the gas at all. Secretary Clinton is going to be campaigning in all these states. We know this is a marathon, not a sprint. We believe she's the strongest candidate to keep the country strong and to keep it safe and keep our economy growing. And create the kind of jobs that will raise people's increase.

And that's what we think voters both in the Democratic primary and in a general election are going to want. And that's why we believe she's on a good path here for the nomination and towards November and becoming the next president.

COOPER: As you know, the Nation Magazine endorsed Senator Sanders. Katrina Vanden Heuvel, the editor, was on this broadcast earlier tonight saying that she believes Bernie Sanders has kind of recreated the Obama coalition in Iowa at this stage of the race, that he had back in 2008. Do you believe that?

BENENSON: Well, I actually don't, Anderson. I think that, you know, I was part of the Obama campaign in 2008. I believe when you look at Iowa and beyond, there are parts of this coalition that are very strongly in Secretary Clinton's camp, including Latino voters, African-American voters.

She's got very broad support here and it's why in national polls among Democrats, also in the majority of states. She's right now running very strongly. There's no question that Senator sanders has created some excitement on this stump. No one will deny that.

Now, the rubber hits the road in Iowa where 30 percent of the voters in 2008 made up their minds in the last week. And we think we've got the field operation to get our voters to those caucuses, have the impact we want on caucus night, and we're looking forward to a good night in Iowa next week.

COOPER: You think that your ground game, you have no doubt your ground game is better than Sanders in Iowa?

BENENSON: I believe it is. Right now, I've talked to the field people, I spoke to some of them this afternoon, a few of them. We talked about it on the campaign all the time. I think we're very savvy about it with a combination of people who have been through this on both sides in 2008.

We know what works. We know what it takes to be dogged and getting your people to the caucuses.

COOPER: Right.

BENENSON: It's not just enough to have big crowds. You've got to have a very diligent, steady, long-term operation that is in contact with these voters all the way through. You can't dial in two weeks out ...

COOPER: I've got to wrap.

BENENSON: ... and tell them it's time to caucus. Thank you, Anderson.

COOPER: Yeah, I've got to wrap you, because we're about to start. Joel Benenson, thank you very much for the Clinton Campaign that does it for us. Thanks for watching.

Time to hand it over to my friend Chris Cuomo who is the moderator of tonight's Democratic presidential town hall here in Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa. Chris?