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AT THIS HOUR WITH BERMAN AND MICHAELA

Trump Accusing Cruz of Election Fraud; Clinton, Sanders Prepare for N.H. Town Hall. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired February 3, 2016 - 11:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


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[11:31:00] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: I think it's safe to say Donald Trump is not happy with his second-place finish in Iowa. So much so he's now accusing Ted Cruz of election fraud.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Officially accusing him on Twitter. He tweeted that Cruz, quote, "stole Iowa based on the fraud committed by Ted Cruz during the Iowa caucus. Either a new election should take place or Cruz results nullified."

I want to bring in Jim DeMint, former Senator from South Carolina, now the president of the Heritage Foundation.

Senator, thank you for being with us.

You've been around elections for a long time. How do you think voters normally respond to this post-facto complaint?

JIM DEMINT, (R), PRESIDENT, HERITAGE FOUNDATION & FORMER SOUTH CAROLINA SENATOR: Everyone is tired of the political games. I think the good news in Iowa is that so many people came out and voted. People are frustrated. They believe government is broken and I think they are going to do something to change it this year.

BOLDUAN: So when Donald Trump says it's fraud, he stole the election and it should be nullified, you say that voters are tired of the political games but what do you think voters should say?

DEMINT: Voters won't change in Washington. They know this is the election between those power brokers in Washington who want to maintain the status quo and all of those Americans who believe the government should work for the people rather than the other way around. That's the competition you're seeing. People are tired of political correctness and those really focused on favoritism for a few here in Washington rather than opportunity for all.

BERMAN: Well, you want change in Washington to be clear, to be sure, and the question is, who is most likely to get that change? It's the issue of, you know, electability versus purity, really. When voters in Iowa were asked about who the most electable was, it was Marco Rubio at 43 percent, Donald Trump at 25 percent, Cruz 22. You have a record and Heritage has a record of being on the side of purity sometimes instead of electability. What do you think in this case? DEMINT: Well, there's really no purity in politics. What we want to

do is move things in a positive direction. Americans know we haven't been doing that. Our debt just reached $19 trillion. People know that Washington is not working for the good of the people. They know there's a lot of cronyism here. I think you're going to see it in the Democratic and Republican primary, those who are going against the status quo, talking about a different way of doing things, those getting the most traction.

BOLDUAN: One of the folks getting a lot of traction right now is the man who won the Iowa caucuses, Ted Cruz. And Ted Cruz, he has a 100 percent rating with Heritage Action, separate from Heritage Foundation, but part of Heritage. No other candidate has that good of a rating. Marco Rubio may be the closest. Does that make Ted Cruz the favorite of Heritage?

DEMINT: We've got a lot of favorites in this race and we don't endorse candidates. We endorse the ideas and that's why we're so excited about how this primary has been going. The candidates that are at the top are running on those values and principles that make this country so exceptional. And Americans are drawn to that. The idea of constitutional government in the balance of the three branches of government, that's coming up. Dealing with our debt, being more secured, really getting more serious about terrorism, the people who are talking about the issues that the American people care about are moving to the top. Those that are talking about, let's get along, let's have some bipartisanship and work together, that's the old language that people are tired of. They don't believe it anymore. And they know that you don't get $19 trillion in debt unless there's been a lot of bipartisan cronyism in Washington. And hopefully, this election will end a lot of that.

BERMAN: If you can, for a moment, take off your Heritage hate and put on your South Carolina hat. There's been a lot of endorsements coming from South Carolina politicians over the last few days. Senator Rubio just picked up the endorsement of Senator Tim Scott. Jeb Bush was endorsed by Senator Lindsey Graham. Ted Cruz endorsed by Representative Jeff Duncan. And Donald Trump endorsed by Lieutenant Governor Henry McMaster. Which one of these do you think has the most pull?

[11:35:28] DEMINT: Well, they are all great folks, but I've been in a lot of elections myself and got a lot of endorsements. But I found that endorsements are not nearly as important as the ideas that you run on. And if people can determine that you're genuine, that you really believe what you're talking about, and you're going to fight for those things, that's what people care about. I think that's how folks are looking at candidates this year. Do they really believe what they are saying and do they have the courage to go fight this system in Washington to change things. And it will be a big fight. But, again, the encouraging thing is that we can have any political battle if the American people are behind us and that's what I see happening around the country. So I'm really encouraged about those who gravitated to the top because of the ideas that they are talking about. BERMAN: Does that include Donald Trump, by the way, who ran second in

Iowa, running first in national polls. Are you encouraged by Donald Trump?

DEMINT: Well, he's certainly running against the establishment and the weak-kneed folks here in Washington, similar to what Cruz, Carson, others have talked about. So I think certainly all of those at the top reflect in some way the idea that Americans have now that Washington's broken, it's corrupt, and we need someone who is strong enough to fix it and has the values that the American people themselves share.

(CROSSTALK)

DEMINT: Things are moving in the right direction.

BOLDUAN: Sorry. We're dealing with a little bit of a delay, Senator.

One thing, when you say conviction and values, there's one thing that has come up. You said Donald Trump is speaking against the establishment. Donald Trump himself has said that -- in some of his appearances, you need to be a little bit establishment because you need to get things done because that's why he's criticizing Ted Cruz for always being against everything, not for anything, can't get along with everybody, and everybody hates him in the Senate. Do you think Donald Trump is consistent enough for the like egg of the Heritage Foundation and voters?

DEMINT: I won't make that judgment about any candidate. But I do believe that the more this primary goes on, on the Republican side, and probably the Democrat side, the ideas and policies themselves will become more and more important. So to this point, it's been a lot about personalities and rhetoric and talking points but people are going to look under the hood as these primaries start and they are going to want to know what solutions that you have that are really going to turn the country around and so I think we're going to see a different kind of race as we move forward and into South Carolina.

BERMAN: Jim DeMint, thanks so much for being with us. Appreciate it, Senator.

DEMINT: Thank you both.

BOLDUAN: Thanks, Senator.

BERMAN: Any moment now, Governor Chris Christie is going to be live in New Hampshire. He's been talking about the fact that he's getting a big endorsement, and also going hard at Marco Rubio calling him the boy in the bubble. Are we about to hear more from Chris Christie?

BOLDUAN: Plus, we are just hours away from the Democratic town hall. Hillary Clinton facing off with Bernie Sanders and facing tough questions from the voters. Bernie Sanders is leading right now in the New Hampshire polls by a whole lot. So can Bernie Sanders lock in the win tonight? Could it help him break through Hillary Clinton's so- called firewall after New Hampshire? We'll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:43:13] BOLDUAN: All eyes on New Hampshire right now. You're taking a live look inside the opera house in Derry, New Hampshire. Just hours from now, 9:16, and I'm not going to count the seconds away before Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders goes face-to-face with hosted by CNN. Bernie Sanders has a 23-point lead, according to the most recent CNN/WMUR poll.

BERMAN: Joining us to discuss, Donna Brazile, Democratic strategist and CNN political commentator; and Mo Elleithee, senior spokesman for Hillary Clinton's campaign in 2008, and now the executive director of the Georgetown Institute of Politics and Public Service.

Donna, we just showed that recent poll. We showed a 23-point spread. I want you to give us a number. We saw Marco Rubio turn a bronze medal into the biggest win of all time. So tell me what the gap means for Hillary Clinton to say, hey, I'm the comeback kid?

DONNA BRAZILE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I don't know. I don't want to set expectations for her campaign but she understands --

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: Do it.

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

BRAZILE: I know you're trying to push all of my buttons. Let me just say, there are more than one on me.

(LAUGHTER)

There's no question that she has to close the gap. If she's going to not just secure the nomination but also be competitive in the fall, she has to close that gap. She also, like she did back in 2008, really needs to close the gap with first-time primary voters. This is a race, just like in Iowa, when voters can go up and show up that evening and all throughout the day, sorry, it's a primary, and vote. She has to close that gap. And thirdly -- and I think this is very important -- in 2008, she came in a close third in Iowa but went to New Hampshire and campaigned very hard and she was able to secure the women's vote. That's a very crucial vote as well. If she can close the youth gap, first-time voter gap and get women behind her, she will be able to close the gap with

Bernie Sanders who, by the way, he's running a very energetic idea, you know, very passionate campaign. Of course, he's from Vermont. But more than just his location, this is a candidate that is inspiring young people, first-time voters to get involved in the process. So I think if Hillary run a very energetic and passionate campaign, similar to what Bernie is doing across the country, she'll come in whatever place the voters give her. [11:45:51] BOLDUAN: Mo, one of the things that Donna is pointing out

is closing the youth gap. That might be a huge task to do if you look at some of the entrance polls coming out of Iowa. The youth numbers are really astounding. Sanders at 84 percent, Clinton at 14 percent. Support there in Iowa. When it comes to the youth number, which is key in every state. But here in New Hampshire, is the goal for Hillary Clinton -- does it need to be winning them over or just not pushing them away further?

MO ELLEITHEE, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, GEORGETOWN INSTITUTE OF POLITICS AND PUBLIC SERVICE: Well, look, I think both sides actually have something -- a couple of red flags when it comes to the youth vote. Yes, Bernie Sanders crushed Hillary Clinton with young voters and Bernie Sanders' problem is he's not turning them out. If you look at the difference between this primary and the last Democratic primary in 2008, based on what I saw, the young voters were the smallest part of the electorate and dropped by four or five points in terms of their percentage of the electorate. He's not energizing. Young people are not being energized to turn out. Both sides have work to do.

I will say this, New Hampshire like anywhere else, it's complicated and unpredictable. I'm not going to come on TV and predict the most unpredictable electorate in the country. Bernie Sanders' strengths in a lot of these polls is based on Independent voters. Remember this, Independent voters can go in and pull either parties' ballot.

(CROSSTALK)

ELLEITHEE: -- on the Republican side -- right. If they think the Republican side is more interesting to them on that day, and they pull the Republican ballot, that's a vote Bernie Sanders was hoping to get. So this is a big jigsaw puzzle they are both trying to figure out.

BERMAN: Mo, quickly, what are the risks for Bernie Sanders tonight? How careful does he need to be? Yesterday he said Hillary Clinton has been a progressive only sometimes.

BOLDUAN: Some days.

BERMAN: Some days. Just moments ago, Hillary Clinton called that a low blow.

(CROSSTALK)

ELLEITHEE: Yeah, he's got to be a little careful about that. He's got to worry about that.

(CROSSTALK)

ELLEITHEE: I would be a little careful.

BRAZILE: I agree.

ELLEITHEE: You know, look, in the polls in Iowa, Democrats like both of them and the progressive vote was -- the self-identified progressive vote was split between the two candidates. Democrats are not looking for a nasty fight here. They like both candidates. They don't want to see them going after one another. That's a risk for both of them.

BOLDUAN: Is that really nasty, Donna? We've seen more nasty on the Republican side.

BRAZILE: Look, there's some policy differences between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders but, you know, these policy differences I think as Democrats, as progressives, as Americans, we can argue about it. Whether we should raise the minimum wage to $12 or $15, universal health care versus single payer, if we want to talk about war and peace and justice issues. I met Hillary Clinton when I was a young lady working as an intern and I can tell you she's been a progressive fighter all her life. And Bernie Sanders, I got to know him during campaigns on Capitol Hill, campaigns across this country. These are two wonderful, fighting souls. And I would take Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders over any of the Republicans. And when I say any, I mean all of those who are still running.

BERMAN: Donna Brazile, Mo Elleithee, thank you so much.

Interesting, Donna said that she thought Sanders saying only some days being a progressive is a low blow.

Thanks so much, guys.

BOLDUAN: Important programming note. Bernie Sanders will be joining Wolf Blitzer at 1:00 eastern. What is his game plan tonight and what does he say about this progressive some days. I'm sure he'll be asked. Bernie Sanders will be live with Wolf this afternoon.

[11:49:52] BERMAN: At any moment, Chris Christie is live from New Hampshire. He needs to finish strong here. He says he's getting a big endorsement today. We'll bring it to you live.

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HILLARY CLINTON, (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE & FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: So I was a little disappointed, to be honest, yesterday. It was kind of a low blow when Senator Sanders said, in response to a question, well, you know, maybe she's a progressive on, you know, some days.

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BOLDUAN: That is exactly what Bernie Sanders said just last night, kind of questioning Hillary Clinton's progressive credentials. This, all ahead of tonight's big town hall. You can see there, starting to get a little dirty in New Hampshire.

BERMAN: Hillary Clinton is taking questions from voters right now. Her town hall before the town hall. Let's listen in for a moment.

HILLARY CLINTON, (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE & FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: Many, many, many attacks that had to be fended off all the time. And we have to do a better job internally. I mean, we lost an enormous amount of very important information under something called WikiLeaks and what Edward Snowden did and the like. So this is going to be -- we have got to be doing a better job of getting our government working with the private sector and able to protect what we need to protect without going overboard and that's always the hard line to walk. But it's a very important question.

Yes, right there. Yes, sir? Here comes a microphone slowly.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hello. Hello. My name is Ben. You didn't mention on your list of rights that Americans have voting rights. Now, do you believe that the federal government has any business -- anything they can do to help states who, of course, set up their own elections be more open to --

[11:55:45] BERMAN: To cut this man off, we did hear Hillary Clinton talk a little bit there. Many, many questions from voters at the town hall and even more tonight at the CNN town hall.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely, a very good tease.

Thank you all for joining us AT THIS HOUR.

BERMAN: Next, Donald Trump calling for a new Iowa election after he says Ted Cruz committed fraud. That's right. He wants Iowa all over again. Ted Cruz responding just moments ago. Stay with us.

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