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Clinton, Sanders in Dead Heat in Iowa Polls; Amid "Against Trump" "National Review" Cover Former Carson Campaign Manager Switches to Trump Who Leads Polls; Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, D.C., Struggle After Blizzard, NYC Open; Flights Cancelled Due to Blizzard; Obama Praises Clinton, Sanders Campaign Responds to Obama Comments. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired January 25, 2016 - 11:00   ET



[11:00:47] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan.


Just hours from now, the Democratic candidates will make their full- time pitches to voters in Iowa. It is CNN's crucial town hall live at 9:00 eastern. The stakes are high, polls are tight and the time is running out.

BOLDUAN: We are now just one week from Iowa, from the Iowa caucuses. And a brand new CNN poll of polls is out this morning, and it shows Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton in a dead heat among voters there.

CNN senior Washington correspondent, Jeff Zeleny, is live in Des Moines with more.

Jeff, what's at stake tonight?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, the stakes are high. Good morning from Drake University here in Des Moines where there's going to be a final town meeting tonight between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders and Martin O'Malley, the former governor of Maryland, giving all these three candidates a chance to make their case to voters.

I can tell you, traveling across the state over the past week as we have, there are a lot of voter who are undecided or still have questions. Tonight, they will be able to do that and ask questions. We'll have undecided voters asking questions as well.

Secretary Clinton has been pressing her experience, saying she is the most experienced candidate in this race, and she's making an electability argument. But Sanders is asking people to follow their hearts and believe in the possibility of him. He's calling on the memory of what happened here eight years ago when Barack Obama beat Hillary Clinton eight years ago. Of course, a very different race. But that is a bit of the dynamic going into this town hall tonight.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely.

Jeff Zeleny, great to see you. Jeff, thanks so much.

A lot more to come from Des Moines.

BERMAN: Indeed. On the Republican side, a new poll shows Donald Trump 11 points ahead of Ted Cruz in Iowa. In the FOX News poll, Trump surged 11 points in the past two weeks. You see Rubio in third, but he did pick up a victory. He won the endorsement of the "Des Moines Register."

BOLDUAN: In CNN's latest Iowa poll of polls shows Trump at 31 percent, five points ahead of Ted Cruz. Rubio coming in third there as well with 13 percent. Ben Carson there at 8 percent.

Let's talk about this with Ben Carson's former campaign manager, Barry Bennett; as well as Jim Geraghty, a contributing editor at the "National Review."

It's great to see you.

The "National Review" is obviously the publication we were talking about so much last week when they had "Against Trump" on their cover.

So, Barry, first to you.

The secret is out, as we said at the top of the show.


In a surprise twist, you went from working with Ben Carson to now advising the Trump campaign. What's your role?

BARRY BENNETT, FORMER BEN CARSON PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN MANAGER: I'm just a volunteer. I'm an unpaid advisor. I went up and talked to them about all the next steps. After you become this certain nominee, there are lots of other things you need to do and do it fast. We've compressed the calendar this year a lot.

BERMAN: As an unpaid adviser, as someone who has been involved in this campaign, you have an inside view. Give us an inside assessment for the Trump campaign in Iowa. How is their ground campaign?

BENNETT: It's going to be surprising to a lot of people. The size of the caucus, how many people turn out is the thing that everybody watches. I think we'll set a record maybe this year, at least a recent record. The crowds are huge. I know even Dr. Carson's crowds are still huge. I think there will be a large turnout. Polling has shifted in the last week to 10 days to where Mr. Trump seems to be picking up steam in Iowa.

BOLDUAN: So, Jim, interesting things happened over the weekend. The "Des Moines Register" is endorsing Rubio. Rick Perry endorsing Cruz. Chuck Grassley not endorsing but showing up on stage with Donald Trump. Iowa Senator not endorsing but appearing with Marco Rubio. Glenn Beck endorsing Cruz. What does this all mean? JIM GERAGHTY, CONTRIBUTING EDITOR, NATIONAL REVIEW: I was going to

say I'm curious about the ones that are not quite official endorsements. If you're Grassley and you go up on stage with Donald Trump and say, I want to make America great again, people draw conclusions.


Joni Ernst with Marco Rubio this close to caucus time, same staffers, they're friends in the Senate, people are going to draw their own conclusions. I'm curious about why you wouldn't go the extra mile. For some people, it's close enough.

[11:05:24] BERMAN: Jim, is one better than another? Is Joni Ernst not endorsing but really an endorsement of Marco Rubio better than Chuck Grassley's endorsement but not really endorsement of Donald Trump?

GERAGHTY: I find it fascinating that Donald Trump is running -- we're going to turn the entire establishment up side down. And here's my friend Chuck Grassley who's been representing Iowa in the Senate for three decades.


BOLDUAN: Barry, weigh in on this. Also on the very much non endorsement of Donald Trump that came out in the "National Review." What do you say to it?

BENNETT: I think most of the endorsements don't mean a lot. It adds to the theater. In the end, it doesn't add much to the mathematics. It's people -- I think the people run a risk, a risk of alienating what we used to call Reagan Democrats who are now like Trump voters. They're allowed to vote for Donald Trump, and you don't need to demean them or call them names. Everybody has their opinion. It's a primary, an open field. Everybody is allowed to express their opinion. And you can do so loudly. But when this is all, you all need to coalesce around who wins.

BERMAN: Jim, do any of these partial endorsements, full endorsements, do any add up to Sarah Palin, which Donald Trump won last week?

GERAGHTY: That's a fair question. It was probably the one that got the single most attention. I think the SNL sketch indicated how people outside of the conservative movement see this. They see this as one that's only going to hurt him.

I do wonder if Palin packs the same punch as she in the 2012 or 2010 cycle, when she was the icon of the Tea Party. It's baffling to see. It's hard to see the Tea Party backing someone who supported the stimulus funding and the infrastructure spending of the stimulus and says he wants a health care plan that will cover everybody and be paid for by the government. Said I don't march with the Tea Party, back on April 15, 2009. But if Tea Party people want to line up against Donald Trump, we think they're making a mistake. That's why we said it forthrightly and clearly as we could. BOLDUAN: You said it pretty clearly.

BERMAN: Yeah, the cover sort of gave it away.

BOLDUAN: Said it all.


BERMAN: "Against Trump."


Jim, no matter what happens between Trump and Cruz in Iowa, look to third. A lot of folks saying there may be three tickets out of Iowa. Who gets the third ticket? Can Rubio pull it off?

GERAGHTY: He spent about $6 million in TV adds s in Iowa the last couple of weeks. Don't let anyone tell you Rubio isn't trying that hard in Iowa. He wants to win the state or at least do as well as he can.

I'm not sure the three, two, one mentality works. You see this gravitation toward the people at the top. I think it would be a pleasant surprise if Rubio finishes a close third. He thinks New Hampshire is more his style of state. We're going to see a real test to this. People have said the purpose of New Hampshire is to refute Iowa. If New Hampshire says, yeah, we like this guy too, then it means Iowa picks the one. I don't know if you've ever encountered New Hampshire folks. They love to say Iowa picks corn, we pick presidents.


BERMAN: I've heard that once or twice.

Barry, the three, two, one strategy, Rubio wants to come in third in Iowa, second in New Hampshire, and first in South Carolina. My questing to you, now that you're advising the Trump campaign, if Donald Trump somehow wins Iowa, if he comes out one in Iowa, does any three, two, one strategy for a guy like Rubio go by the boards?

BENNETT: I think if he wins Iowa, it's a one, one, one strategy. As far as third goes in Iowa, I'd be willing to wager Ben Carson wins third in Iowa. He's got the --


BOLDUAN: Would you be willing to bet $10,000, Barry?


BENNETT: I'm a multi-hundred heir.


BOLDUAN: Real quick, give me your final take, Barry, on the impact of Michael Bloomberg mounting a third-party candidacy would do.

BENNETT: I think it's going to be attractive to him to think about and maybe even do it, especially if Hillary ends up in legal problems. It could be very interesting with Bloomberg trying to get in on a center left candidate, lord knows what might happen at the Democratic National Convention. It seems like I've been doing this for years already, and we don't have anymore answers than we did when we started a year ago.

BOLDUAN: Barry Bennett, Jim Geraghty, great to see you. Thanks so much.

GERAGHTY: Thank you.

BENNETT: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: It's only getting exciting now. If you weren't excited, get excited. We're one week out.

Getting excited about tonight. Tonight is the night. 9:00 eastern only on CNN, the Democratic Presidential town hall live from Des Moines, Iowa. Chris Cuomo moderating. Again, tonight, 9:00 p.m. eastern.

BERMAN: All right. President Obama calls Bernie Sanders a "bright, shiny object." But he does seem to --


BERMAN: Exactly. You know, he does seem to raise some questions about Bernie Sanders, and his campaign now responds.

[11:10:12] BOLDUAN: Plus, the nation's capitol shut down again today after a historic blizzard. How major cities and major airports are struggling to get back to normal with all of this mess.

And this, a massive manhunt underway after a daring escape. Hear what three inmates did to break out of a maximum security prison using tunnels and bed sheets.


BOLDUAN: Happening right now, millions of you are digging out after one of the biggest blizzards in the eastern part of the country. Here in New York, 26 inches of snow fell on Saturday alone. That's a record for a single day. Still, right now students in New York are back at school. School buses are in service across the city. Bridges are open, subways are running. Many people are back to work.

BERMAN: Yay, New York.

Not the same scene as some other cities across the east cost. Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington D.C., all struggling to return to normal. Government offices in the D.C. area are closed.

Our Nick Valencia is in Washington. What's going on today there, Nick?

[11:15:19] NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's still cold here, John, but at least it's not snowing. The weather lightened up. The cleanup is ongoing. You can see it behind me. We see flights taking off behind me, behind the camera. You can't make it out, but that's a good sign. Things slowly getting back to normal after D.C. was pounded by the winter storm. More than 20 inches here. 31 straight hours of snow. The district doing so much to help community residents get back on their feet.

We want to highlight one of those programs. We're joined by the assistant principal for Jefferson Academy, Greg Dohmann.

How are you, man?


VALENCIA: Good, good.

You guys, tell me what you're doing to help out the local residents in this area.

DOHMANN: You know, every student loves a snow day, and we know our kids are at home enjoying the snow day, but school also for a lot of families provides the hot meals and heat and welcoming environment that they may not be getting at home. Chancellor Henderson and the folks at D.C. Public Schools identified 10 schools around the district that could serve as hubs today to provide a hot breakfast and lunch for our students and their families.

VALENCIA: You guys are doing that not just for the students but for the local residents here in this area, right?

DOHMANN: Yeah. We're the hub, really, for the southwest area. Whether the students go to Jefferson or not, they're welcome to come here and get a hot meal with us.

VALENCIA: You've been through this storm, too. How are you doing?

DOHMANN: I'm doing great, but I'm excited to see some of our students come up and see how they've been enjoying the storm, and hopefully eventually get back to school this week.

VALENCIA: Greg, thank you for taking the time with CNN.

The cleanup here ongoing. There was a brutal storm. It took the lives of at least six people across the river in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Here in Washington D.C., at least one death so far.

The snow has stopped but tomorrow, a bleak forecast. Rain is expected. Tons and tons of snow around here, John and Kate. Not a lot of places for this to go. The cleanup crews are taking this to ROK Stadium, the former home of the Washington Redskins, the professional football team here. But this is not quite over yet. Even though the snow has stopped, the cleanup still a long way to go -- John and Kate?

BERMAN: Slush is in your future, Nick.

Let's get over to CNN aviation correspondent, Rene Marsh, at Reagan National Airport where so many flights have been cancelled.

More than 12,000 flights cancelled along the eastern seaboard over the weekend, Rene.

RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION & GOVERNMENT REGULATION CORRESPONDENT: That's right. And we're seeing more cancellations today. More than 1,000 today.

But, look, I want to give you good news. There are people here and passengers, they have their luggage, they're getting boarding passes. There's life behind me this time, John and Kate. We also see aircrafts waiting at the gate. This is Reagan National. We have a similar scene over at Dulles International Airport. Good news for people trying to get in and out of the Washington D.C., area. Today is the first day they've resumed a limited number of flights, so some of that gridlock is freeing up. We saw yesterday, New York City, Philadelphia, Baltimore, all of those airports also started limited service.

But, and there's a "but." Unfortunately, we're still seeing cancellations today. There's still delays. I've been speaking to the airlines, and they say that many of these passengers have been rebooked, but it will take some time to get everyone to their destination.

And actually, I spoke to two passengers today. I want you to take a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED FLYER: I had eight cancellations, but they've been rolling all the cancellations over. So I'm thrilled to be getting out on time, headed back to New Orleans.

UNIDENTIFIED FLYER: The storm came in. I was in for business for an expo, and the weather had other plans.


So I had a nice little kind of, like, forced vacation in D.C. It was good. It wasn't too bad.


MARSH: All right. The guy you saw in the piece there, he had his flight cancelled eight times. So his fingers were crossed that he was going to get on this final flight here. That's a story we've been hearing from people, happy to finally get out.

Again, a reminder, it will take well through this week before the airlines can really catch up to themselves. BOLDUAN: Eight cancellations? He had a good attitude after all that.

Rene, thank you so much.

MARSH: Yeah.

BOLDUAN: On a very different note, the superintendent of West Virginia school system found a very creative way to call off school for a snow day after all of this. Check it out. Here is his take. Very well done, on Adele's hit song, "Hello."




[11:20:38] BOLDUAN: I mean, I am just saying. That is Keith Butcher, superintendent of schools in West Virginia. Well done.

BERMAN: He does it. This is not the first time he's done this.

BOLDUAN: That's right. That's right. That's a good way to call school.

BERMAN: One reason to root for a school day.

BOLDUAN: Exactly.

BERMAN: All right, is this election big enough for two billionaires? As Michael Bloomberg considers a run, we'll map out if there's a path to victory for him.

BOLDUAN: Plus, brand new this morning, President Obama seems to bend over backwards in his praise of Hillary Clinton. Also had some things to say about Bernie Sanders and the state of the Democratic primary. Pretty surprising. We'll have both campaigns on live to respond.


[11:25:27] BERMAN: All right. New this morning, a huge non endorsement, which is actually sort of pretty close to an endorsement.

BOLDUAN: A lot of those these days.

BERMAN: Exactly. President Obama defending and praising Hillary Clinton in an interview with "Politico." He says the perception of her being the front runner has been both a privilege but also a burden. He discusses the depth of her experience.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The fact that she's extraordinarily experienced and, you know, wicked smart and knows every policy inside and out sometimes could make her more cautious and campaign more in prose than poetry. You're always rusty if you're going back in. Look at my first debate

in 2012. If you haven't been doing it, you lose some of those muscles.


BOLDUAN: Joining us to discuss is Karen Finney, senior spokesperson for Hillary Clinton's campaign.

Karen, great to see you. Thanks for coming in.


BOLDUAN: The campaign can be more in prose than in poetry. Does Obama have a point? Do you need more poetry in your campaign?

FINNEY: If you've been watching, Hillary has been talking about issues people care about, but coupled with that is someone who is talking about and here's how we're going to get it done. I think that's really important. People love the big ideas but, at the end of the day, they want to know how are you going to make it happen? Particularly if you're someone who, if you're in a family that hasn't quite felt the impact yet of what President Obama has done to get the economy back on track, you're waiting, you're still waiting and you need to know that the next person to going to pick up where President Obama has left off and keep the progress going and make sure the Republicans won't roll it back. That's an important message for people. And I think people are very passionate about hearing about somebody who really believes not just in the issue and how to get it but how to get it done.

BERMAN: Yes, but voters also want to be inspired. The president was talking about poetry versus prose. You look at young people. Young people always want to be inspired. They want to dream. If you look at Iowa right now, people under 45 getting shellacked. Bernie Sanders at 59 percent, Hillary Clinton at 27 percent. How do you convince them, even if you are going to convince them, that she has practical plans to get things done? How are you going to get them excited about that fact? That doesn't seem to be happening.

FINNEY: I have to tell you, a couple of things. One, the polls have been all over the place.


BERMAN: You're not getting young voters in Iowa in any poll.

FINNEY: At the same time, our crowds, we've been pleased with the crowds. Over the weekend, we're seeing growing enthusiasm and excitement. It's becoming more real for people. It's a week from day. We're seeing the enthusiasm. I think a lot of people are excited about the idea of the first woman president. I think they're excited about her ideas. I think they're really happy to hear that she's actually talking about what they're talking about. She's talking about what they're talking about. She's talking about curing Alzheimer's because she heard about that from voters on the campaign trail. It's been important for her to listen and have what people are telling her being embodied in what she's also talking about. I think people have been excited about that as well.

BOLDUAN: Karen, does your campaign need a glowing endorsement, non endorsement right now from President Obama?


I ask this because in recent memory, this is the election of the outsider. Is that -- could this be a drag with President Obama speaking too glowingly of Hillary Clinton?

FINNEY: I hope not. I think the president is very popular and people appreciate the job the president has done. Everybody remembers it was a hard-fought contest in '07, '09. And --

BOLDUAN: Take that in the context of -- Karen, just last week, when Hillary Clinton was doing an interview with Wolf, she bristled and tried to say that she was less part --


BOLDUAN: -- of the Democratic establishment than Bernie Sanders. I mean, she --


FINNEY: He's been in elected office for a longer period of time, is part of the point she was making. Look, I think the thing about President Obama -- and I think this is something that people really respect. If you take a look at the friendship they've developed, they clearly have great respect for each other. I think it means a lot that here were these two competitors which was so hard-fought, who are now friends and have deep respect for each other and were able to come together and work and get things done for the country, like the nuclear arms deal that we got done with Russia. I think that's really important to people. And I think that says something about both their character. I think that's a good thing.

BERMAN: Another one of the secretary's friends is Michael Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York, who is now apparently considering getting into the race, getting in. What does that say that this guy who has worked with and seen Hillary Clinton over the years thinks that maybe there needs to be someone else in the race that's not her?