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Live Coverage Of The Democratic Presidential Caucuses In Nevada; 3-4p ET

Aired February 20, 2016 - 15:00   ET


[15:00:00] WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: We're getting ready, right at the top of the hour, a few seconds from now, they will be closing those doors, all of those people waiting in line presumably will be able to get in and participate in the caucuses. A very important moment right now.

All right. Right now the doors are going to be closing at those caucus sites. Kyung Lah is at one of them in Reno, Nevada for us right now. We don't have enough information yet to report on what's going on, Kyung, but it looks like packed crowd there where you are?

KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is a very packed crowd. And let me explain what's happened in the last few minutes or so, Wolf. What you are seeing over here is a line snaking back and forth, up and down the rows of this auditorium. Think of it like the security line at the airport. What these people are doing, they are being told to get inside. They are trying to put as many of these caucusgoers inside the auditorium as possible.

There's still, Wolf, a couple hundred people who are outside and what they're doing -- right now, is they are putting volunteers at the end of the line saying, that's it. It's over. Not letting anyone else in.

Hey, everybody -- we're on CNN. Who is supporting Bernie Sanders? And that's generally the sense we're getting. A lot of the people here, remember, at the University of Nevada-Reno. A lot of the people here tend to be younger. Some of them are -- is anyone a first-time voter? This group. All first-time voters?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm a second-time voter.

LAH: Second time voter, but a lot of them here, first-time voters, many of them students. A lot of Bernie Sanders supporters we have seen carrying signs.

And then what is happening over here, Wolf, is that they are getting ready to caucus. We are expecting that to happen.

BLITZER: In Las Vegas. The lines very long still over there, Tom.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Cue me again if need be.

BLITZER: I think we just lost our connection with Tom Foreman. We will try to reconnect with Tom Foreman. Boris Sanchez, those are another location, Rancho high school along

the strip in Las Vegas.

Boris, can you hear me OK?

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I can, Wolf. We're at K.O. Knutson Middle school, where right now voters have come inside to a gymnasium.

Just to give you an idea. We were outside a moment about. There are about 100 people still in line waiting to get in to register to get into rooms like this one. Right now we are looking at two precincts behind us.

How many of guys are first-time caucusgoers? Here for the first time. Raise your hands.

As you can see, there is a lot of people that are doing this for the first time. Nevada only recently started caucusing, and so the process is still relatively new to a lot of people, both Hillary and Bernie Sanders spent time teaching the caucusing process to officials in Spanish and English, because this is a very diverse community in east Las Vegas.

Right now outside getting back out there, starting to hand out tickets to everyone in line. Anyone with a ticket is allowed to come in. But if you don't have a ticket, too bad. You can't get in.

As I said, there are two precincts in here. In a few minutes we're expecting campaign officials to come in and start explaining the process and just start splitting the crowds into different groups. From what I have spoken - from what I have heard from the people I've spoken to outside, they're still very split. At first we heard a lot of support for Hillary. And as the line got bigger and bigger, we heard a lot of support for Bernie. So it should be interesting to see what happens in this room in just a few minutes, Wolf.

BLITZER: We'll watch it together with you, Boris. Thanks very much.

Dana, the process is a little complicated. You don't just go into a booth and vote. You got to sit there, you got to listen to instructions. It could go on an hour or so.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. Complicated and at times a little ruckus. So we will watch for that. But we are actually getting a very first look, Wolf, at what the people going to caucus are thinking, who they are.

And David Chalian, our political director is here.

So much of the discussion going into this has been that this is Hillary Clinton's first non-white firewall. That this is going to be good for her potentially because of that. What are we seeing about the makeup of the electorate?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Well, it is interesting. Because what we are looking for is, where is the electorate sort of the same that it was in Iowa and New Hampshire and where is it different? And the first thing to note is where it's different which is that there is a much - it is a less white electorate than we saw in Iowa and New Hampshire.

If you look -- overall, you look at the white makeup of the electorate in Nevada, this is according to entrance poll, you see that 64 percent of Nevada Democrats showing up at the caucus sites now are white, 12 percent black, 17 percent Latino, 4 percent Asian. That compares with 91 percent white in Iowa, 93 percent white in New Hampshire. This is the first test of a less-white electorate for both candidates and how they perform.

The other thing we're looking at is ideology. How liberal is the electorate? Seventy percent of Nevada Democrats showing up at caucuses today say they liberal, 30 percent moderate or conservative. And this is really interesting, Dana, because in 2008, 45 percent of the Nevada Democratic caucus electorate called themselves liberal. Today, 70 percent of the electorate in Nevada calls themselves liberal. That's more on par with what we saw in Iowa and New Hampshire. Roughly 68 percent in both states said they were liberal, about the same, 70 percent saying they are liberal but that's quite different than what the ideological makeup was in 2008.

[15:05:05] BASH: It is. And that we are just looking back at some of the numbers from 2008. Perhaps surprisingly, in Nevada, Hillary Clinton won 48 percent of self-described liberals. So what does that tell us about what we can expect this time around?

CHALIAN: Well, again, we don't know how these liberals are splitting right now between Sanders and Clinton, but it is a much more liberal- going electorate. That obviously would be welcome news to Bernie Sanders. That's been a big driving force behind his campaign. And also that I think the Democratic Party shifted to the left in a way over the last eight years that we're seeing come here now as well.

I do think one thing that's going to be very appealing to the Clinton campaign is this slight uptick in Hispanic participation. Right now we're seeing about 17 percent electorate Hispanic. That's compared to 15 percent in 2008. If they can edge that up a little bit, I think they have made a big play for those Hispanic votes and they would be happy to see their overall participation grow.

BASH: I don't know about you, but I have been getting emails and texts from Clinton people, sort of trying to walk back the narrative and the notion that this is going to be a very diverse electorate. Well, wait. It's actually pretty white and especially those that go out and vote. It is not as diverse as you think it is, trying to, of course, set expectations differently than they've been for months.

CHALIAN: Those weren't the same texts we were getting from them in December, when they wanted to remind us about how white Iowa and New Hampshire were, and just wait for Nevada and South Carolina and it is a less way --.

BASH: Exactly. But these numbers show, as you just pointed out, that it is a lot less 30 percent. CHALIAN: Without a doubt. And they made Nevada and South Carolina,

the Clinton camp has, you know, part of this firewall, noting that this would be a challenge to Sanders who is running very white Vermont. How he does with a more diverse electorate. That's one of the keys we are watching tonight and indeed, this will be a more diverse electorate.

BASH: It sure will. Very interesting numbers, Wolf. We will be watching as we see how those numbers break down among the candidates.

BLITZER: Yes. Nevada, a much more diverse state population-wise than either Iowa or New Hampshire. That's an excellent point.

I want to go to Brianna Keilar eight now. She is over at Hillary Clinton's campaign headquarters. What are you hearing there, Brianna?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, and the real story on that, Wolf, is that the Clinton campaign is banking on a minority of Hispanic voters but a very sizable minority here in Nevada. They're looking back to 2008 where they had 15 percent turnout, and they're hoping to hit that mark again. And their big play for this demo is so evident today in how you see Hillary Clinton spending some of her final moments, and how you see the campaign equipping some of these caucus sites. For instance, just this morning, Hillary Clinton on Univision this morning, making a play for Hispanic voters, and then we also understand that there are bilingual precinct captains for the Clinton campaign station at a number of caucus sites. So while they are managing expectations about what is going to happen here in Nevada, you look at those data points and you can see just how much they are banking on this key demographic and hoping to hit that 15 percent turnout mark they had in 2008, Wolf.

BLITZER: And Brianna, quickly, once the results are in, we will hear from Hillary Clinton. Right? She'll make some sort of speech?

KEILAR: Yes. We are expecting to hear from her, and it's actually not that uncustomary for -- for instance, a candidate to then head off to the next spot, but Hillary Clinton will be heading out of Nevada very quickly. Heading to Houston, and she will be at a historically black college, really with an eye towards South Carolina. Important especially if she doesn't do as well as she would hope here in Nevada today, Wolf.

BLITZER: We are anxious to get those results. Brianna, thanks very much.

Everyone is anxious, Jake, to get the results.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Right, Wolf. And of course, Hillary Clinton in 2008 won about 64 percent of the Latino vote. So she is really counting on Latino voters to turn out for her today in Nevada.

Let's talk about some of these results. Now Paul, obviously, this is just initial entrance polling information. It will be updated at 3:00 eastern. So we can't bank on it as if it's 100 percent factual, be getting more data. But that is a stark difference, 70 percent liberal versus 30 percent moderate to conservative. When Hillary Clinton won the popular vote in Nevada eight years ago it was 55 percent moderate to conservative Democrat.

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Enormous shift. As you point out in this. It is the two things that are going on in the Democratic Party, frankly, two things going on in America. We are becoming more diverse, racially. Right now, that seems to benefit Hillary. She is has got stronger appeal so far in the polling with people of color. But young people are becoming for liberal.

You know, way back in the dark ages, when George W. Bush ran against Al Gore, Gore carried the youth by one point. David Axelrod cause Barack Obama carried youth by 37 points. Young people just are more liberal. A lot of it is president. They like this guys. They rallied to him. And this is within the party, though, they are going to look for the most liberal person.

Bernie has appeal. It is really true and he is a terrific candidate. But some of it is he has got an audience that was ready for him. Young people have a more favorable view of socialism than they do in capitalism.

[15:10:00] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Democratic socialism.

BEGALA: Well, yes, as oppose to Republican socialism. I never really got that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know what it is.

BEGALA: But he had an audience, right. And that's one of the most important things. It is not just that he has created this. This is authentic. The base in the party, and the young people, that part of my base, had become much more liberal. Hillary has got to have to deal with that. Bernie is taking advantage of it.

TAPPER: And Bakari, Hillary Clinton last night kind of giving -- seeming to give voice to a little frustration saying at a rally, hey, look, I'm not out there talking about giving away a whole bunch of free stuff. I'm talking about actual, practical solutions to these problems. Specifically, that seems to be aimed very much at Bernie Sanders.

BAKARI SELLERS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, it is. And I think that - I think we have race and I like to call it as it's about dreaming with Bernie Sanders versus dreaming with your eyes open with Hillary Clinton. You have what's very practical versus what we want to achieve.

But I have always said, in order to embrace Bernie Sanders you have to somehow believe that he is more transformational than Barack Obama. And that is a hard sell to voters of color, which is why when we see these exit polls and we see that you have an uptick in Hispanic voters, that you have about 30 percent of the electorate, it appears, about 29 percent, being non-white voters, is going to vote well for Hillary Clinton. TAPPER: All right. Hold that there. Nevada is turning out in a big

way. Huge lines. Our entrance polls are providing some insight on what these voters inside of Nevada Democratic caucuses look like. We are going to have more information from our entrance polls.

Coming up, what issues matter most to the people in Nevada? Whom do they support? That's ahead.


[15:15:30] BLITZER: The Democratic presidential caucuses is in Nevada. They are now under way. People are gathering. They have gathered. They are lining up to make their choices known.

Jason Carroll is at one of those caucus sites in Las Vegas right now at Rancho high school.

Walk us through what's happening where you are, Jason.

JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well Wolf, we are just in the beginning process of how this is all getting under way. And where I'm standing is actually pretty important. This is a classroom inside Rancho high school, represents a precinct. And here is the way it is going to work.

Those who are in support of one candidate will stand on one side of the classroom. Those in support of the other stand on the other side of the classroom. Here is how it's looking in this room. Again, very early. Things haven't officially gotten started, but so far most of the people sitting here on this side of the classroom support Sanders. There's a few Clinton folks back there. Right here in the middle, that middle table there, the two folks there in the very back are uncommitted but that table, again, is for Sanders.

And everyone, Wolf, on this side of the room, they are sitting, eventually they will be standing, for Hillary Clinton. So that's how it's going to look and all of these classrooms here, wherever you are, here in the state of Nevada. You will stand or sit in support of your candidate. Once again, there are still folks are outside in line. This will not get started until all of them are actually inside -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. We'll watch together with you, Jason.

I want to go to Tom Foreman. He is over at Caesar's palace. That's the site of another democratic presidential caucus.

Tell us what's going on, tom, where you are?

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, they had so many more people than expected. There is about 150, it looks like now at this site. They may have 250 maybe even 300 who filled this room here. But they actually let everybody come in without completing the registration process.

Apparently, they are going to try to complete it while they are holding the caucus. I'm not sure how that's going to work out. And I have a feeling there might be some complaints before it's all done.

Nonetheless, let's go over exactly what's going to happen here. In this room the candidates areas will be delineated as we have shown here. Hillary Clinton's camp is going to be over in this area. You can tell from our shot a moment ago. There are many more people are on that side right now. And then on this side is where Bernie Sanders gatherers will be.

They will all have a chance until the counting actually gets under way to change if they want to. Anybody who wants to go from one side to the other can do so. But I have to tell you, based on what we have seen so far, there's not going to be a lot of appetite for people changing. A lot of passion on both sides.

And if, by chance, Wolf, if this comes down to be a tie, then in a very Vegas way they are basically going to pull out a special deck of cards, they have designated. A representative from each side will draw a card. And whichever card happens to be the highest will get the additional edge in terms of delegates coming out of this, Wolf.

BLITZER: Is that just the Caesar's palace decision to use cards like that? Or is that state-wide?

FOREMAN: No. State-wide, and bear in mind, there are six locations like this along the strip. Meaning, at large caucus sites where all of these people who work in the various casinos and restaurants and at valets, as everything else, can come during their break time here and you can see many, many people over here wearing their work badges and their work uniforms. So they need to get this moving on and get it done, because many of them have to get back to work. That's one of the other concerns why they probably opened the doors when they did, Wolf.

BLITZER: And it is just raising a little flag for me. You are saying these people, some of them have not even registered yet they are going to register as the process goes on? It sounds like, you're right. There's a potential there for some dispute.

FOREMAN: Yes. It was unbelievably slow, Wolf. I have people in line saying to me, we have been here before. They couldn't believe how slow it was. At times looked like the line was barely moving at all. So I'm going to say based on what we saw, three quarters of the people in this room did not get through the registration process before coming inside, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Well, there is a potential problem there. Hopefully it won't be.

Tom, we will get to you.

Dana, you and David Chalian, you are looking at these entrance poll numbers. And we are getting some fascinating new information.

BASH: We do. And as I go to David, I want to say that we just saw a tweet from the political director of the Culinary Workers' Union that should note that they declined to endorse this time. But the reason this tweet is interesting is because, David, they are saying that the good news is there are a lot of people caucusing. The bad news is a lot of the people who are online, they have to go back to work. So it could hurt turnout ultimately because they waited so long. It took up their time but they got off from work to actually go do this.

CHALIAN: Right. You heard Jeff Zeleny reporting about that before. That was a clear organizing strategy that is going on. And if those workers that were targeted by the campaigns to caucus during this time off from work are forced back to work as logically long and they can't accomplish that, that obviously upends that entire strategy that was put in place.

[15:20:13] BASH: Absolutely.

Now let's get to entrance polls. What are we learning more about the kind of person who is going, age and whether or not they have caucused before?

CHALIAN: Right. Take a look at this age breakdown. You see that senior citizens here have actually increased their participation from eight years ago, 70 to 29, 17 percent, 30-44 year old, 17 percent, 45 - 64, 35 percent. But look at the 65 and older number, 31 percent. Eight years ago in Democratic caucuses, that was 23 percent. So this is an older electorate.

Now, I should note that 17 to 29 number, that 17 percent, is a slight uptick from where we saw the youth vote eight years ago as well, but not as much as the senior uptick. So it is a slightly older electorate.

And take a look at this, 65 percent of Nevada Democratic caucusgoers are first-time caucusgoers. Now, that is not too big of a shock, I guess, because Nevada, Democrats haven't had a ton of practice with a high-profile caucus. Eight years ago, it was one of the first times that this was put up front on the calendar and obviously, you would expect a lot of first-time caucusgoers. It is not a tried and true tradition. However, first time voters in the New Hampshire Democratic primary, only 16 percent, first time caucusgoers in the Iowa caucuses this year, it was 44 percent of the electorate.

So this is the freshest, newest electorate that we have seen so far in a contest and that probably bodes well for Bernie Sanders, even if I'm sure there are a ton of Clinton supporters when we see those numbers come in, but having two-thirds of the caucus going electorate be new to this process. That is exactly the kind voter the Sanders campaign was looking for t.

BASH: It is. And was actually just going to say that there is no question that historically and just in terms of strategy Bernie Sanders people, that's all about getting out new people, but the other number that I thought was potentially good for Hillary Clinton is that, there are a lot more -- a lot older. And he tends to go for younger voters.

CHALIAN: There is no doubt about it. This being an older electorate is something that if you are in the Clinton campaign headquarters, you are looking at it and saying that looks pretty good for us.

BASH: It sure does -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Traditionally, historically, older people vote more in bigger numbers percentagewise than younger people do. See that continues to hold in Nevada on this important day.

We are showing our viewers some live pictures, people at caucus sites. We are standing by for the first real numbers to come in. We are going to share them with you when we come back.


[15:26:45] TAPPER: Welcome back to CNN's live coverage of the Nevada Democratic caucuses. You are looking at live images right now from Las Vegas. It's at the Knutson middle school where voters are beginning to make their choices, and caucus.

Let's go to Reno right now. I want to check in with Kyung Lah who is at the University of Nevada at Reno. It is a university town. It is one would probably suspect that it is something of a Sanders' stronghold.

Kyung, how is the caucus process going Reno right now?

LAH: Well, the choices aren't being made quite yet, Jake. They are delayed because there are still people in line. Same-day registration here in the state. We have counted about 50 people who are still registering to vote. And once they do register they get into this line. You can see the very end of the line here and then it snakes all the way around the auditorium, all the way around and then they get to the front where they do general check-in.

I'm going to have you walk over this way, Jake. This section here, it is a little difficult to see. But they are treating the auditorium like a security line at the airport. People snaking there up and down. These are people who have already registered to vote. So you have two groups here still checking in right now. And the caucusing hasn't started yet.

What we seen over here, walk back over this way. We are starting to see some of the people preparing to caucus. You see this gentleman over here? He has a Bernie sign. A lot of people here at this university campus either affiliated with the university or voters themselves who are university students, voting for the first time, predominantly from what we have seen, supporting Bernie Sanders as you suspected, Jake.

TAPPER: Not unusual for a college campus. Kyung Lah, thanks so much.

Let's talk about some of the entrance poll information and data that we are getting with our analysts.

Michael Smerconish, let me start with you. If you're Hillary Clinton and you are looking at this data, now it's early data. There might be -- it's going to be updated but it shows that it is a larger percentage of voters 65 and older than turned out in 2008.


TAPPER: But --



SMERCONISH: But the number or percentage who are first-timers seem problematic for her. Interestingly Jake, I just received my twitter feed a Hillary Clinton email that said, stay in line. You can caucus if you're in line. I wonder if the concern is that passion, again is going to play a role? Because you've heard reports. Some of the folks have to go back to work. Who's going to tough it out? And I think those there to tough it out there's to deliver a message, presumably they have been more Sanders people than they would be for Hillary. So problems in terms of the machinations of this caucus I think benefit him.

TAPPER: And that's, Nia-Malika, that is an unfortunate reality of a caucus. Have it on a Saturday so people are able to go but there are a lot of people in Las Vegas especially, who work on Saturdays.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: That's right. They work. And it's not like you can just go and pull the ballot and leave. It's very labor-intensive. Certainly, I think the Clinton campaign is looking at these entrance poll numbers and exit poll numbers, are looking at the breakdown. Also Latino voters, 17 percent, 18 percent in some of the numbers we're getting here. Are they going to do well among those voters? Are those first-time caucusgoers? Are they are younger? Are they are older? Are they Latino? Are they African-American? All of this is going to be very interesting and in some ways this will be a template of the race going forward. Right? How well do they do with white voters? Are they able to essentially split white voters with Sanders? Are they able to blow it out among Latino voters? Are they able to blow it out among African-American voters? But I'm sure they are looking at these numbers closely.

[15:30:26] TAPPER: And David, so different from 2008. When you worked for Obama, you were against Hillary Clinton in the Nevada caucuses. She had the white voter, especially the white working-class voters, quote/unquote, "sewn up."

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, she did. She did well with Latino voters. He obviously got the lion's share of African-American voters. But you know, Jake, I spoke to some folks who are supporting here. People in the political establishment areas. And they said the thing that struck them is they go to Hillary Clinton rallies and they knew everybody there. They go to Sanders rallies and they couldn't recognize anybody. And the question was whether these people would show up. These numbers suggest that the Sanders people may be showing up. And so, you know, it likely will be a close race, but this is the scenario that the Clinton people feared. GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: And (INAUDIBLE) America

is reporting from the ground there, the general manager of Caesar's just came to tell workers that they could stay, and not leave early. That they didn't have to get back to work and the culinary workers union is saying, you know, and Hillary Clinton's campaign, push for time off.

AXELROD: I think it is interested here. I have been interested to listen in on some of the phone calls that have been going on at the highest levels of Las Vegas right now.

BORGER: Right now in real time.

AXELROD: To keep these lines going.

BORGER: Right. So that people don't have to leave and they can continue to exercise their right to vote and caucus.

TAPPER: OK. When we come back, we're going to have the first numbers suggesting just how tight this race at the Nevada caucuses is. We'll have more data, more information, more live reports if caucus websites. Stay with us. Caucus sites, rather. Stay with us. We'll be right back.


[15:35:07] BLITZER: The Democratic presidential caucuses in Nevada. They are clearly well underway right now. People are inside. They're gearing up. This is an important moment. Right now we want to share more of our entrance polls, and what they are revealing. Remember, these are estimates based on interviews with a sampling of voters as they entered select caucus sites in Nevada.

Here are some of the numbers. All right. Based on the entrance polls, a key race alert, 49 percent right now for Bernie Sanders. Hillary Clinton, 47 percent, three percent uncommitted, especially close race is unfolding in Nevada. Right now 49-47. Slight advantage there, you see, for Bernie Sanders.

Once again, these are estimates, estimates based on a survey of the voters. The final outcome may well be different, and it's important to note that these first results come from interviews with caucusgoers who arrived early in the process. Experience has shown us that those who show up at the caucuses earliest may vote differently than those who arrive later. But you see right there, based on this early sampling, a slight, slight advantage for Bernie Sanders.

I want to go to Brianna Keilar. She is in Las Vegas over at Clinton headquarters.

You are speaking with people on both sides, with Bernie Sanders people, with Hillary Clinton people. What are you hearing, Brianna?

KEILAR: I just spoke a couple of minutes ago, Wolf, with Jeff Weaver, Bernie Sanders campaign manager and he said that he just been with Sanders. That Sanders is feeling great. He is spending time with his wife Jane and with his daughter, Heather and her Husband. They live in Arizona. So they made a short trip to support Sanders.

But he talked, Weaver did, quite a big game basically saying, look, this is a win either way for Bernie Sanders. He said quote "Clinton lost a 50-40 and 30 point lead in the first three contest. And right now Sanders and his aides are hearing reports of high turnout, which Weaver described as very auspicious for them. The campaign, I'm told, actually sending out texts to its supporters reminding them to stay in line. That if they were in line by noon, they are set and they said they don't want anyone going home. So they're trying to make sure that they do stay put - Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Brianna, stand by. We are going to get back to you. Brianna is in Las Vegas.

Dana and David are with us. A dead heat for all practical purposes based, Dana, on these very early numbers based on the entrance polls.

BASH: Very early. And you know, going into this we kind of got the sense from both camps that they really didn't know how this was going to happen, and it could be a dead heat. But I actually want to ask you, David, about something that we have noticed over the past several weeks which is Hillary Clinton really wrapping herself in the legacy and promising to continue the legacy of Barack Obama, and Bernie Sanders, he won't do that. And now we know a little bit more about why.

CHALIAN: That's exactly right. Digging through entrance polls numbers, Dana, we asked people and we asked this in Iowa and New Hampshire, too. We asked people, do want to continue Barack Obama's policies or would you like to go into a more liberal direction than Barack Obama's policies? And take a look what we are seeing today.

Among those who say we should continue Obama the policies, 72 percent are for Hillary Clinton, 25 percent are for Bernie Sanders. Take a look among those voters who want more liberal policies than Barack Obama. They are Bernie Sanders voters, 81 percent to 17 percent.

This is why, not only do we see Hillary Clinton wrapping herself in Barack Obama, but we see the Clinton campaign trying to drive a wedge between Barack Obama and Bernie Sanders. That he was thinking, perhaps, of maybe primarying him or encourages others to do so, that he called the president weak.

The whole litany of stuff that the Clinton campaign has been pushing about Bernie Sanders distancing himself in some way from Barack Obama being the liberal critic of Barack Obama. This shows why. They want to make sure that the universe of voters who want to continue Obama's policies remain larger than the universe of voters who want to go on a more liberal direction. We'll see when final numbers come in because that is what they are trying to drive up.

BASH: It is so interesting especially considering the fact that Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama were adversaries eight years ago. And you know, I found just anecdotally talking to people at Clinton events back in New Hampshire and Iowa, that a lot of people said that they were going for her because they supported Barack Obama, and they did agree with the idea that she was going to continue doing what he's doing.

CHALIAN: Never thought you would say this, Hillary Clinton is the Barack Obama candidate, but that's what it is here.

BASH: Absolutely, no way.

BLITZER: The president did pick her to be secretary of state.

BASH: He did.

BLITZER: So there is no doubt that whatever the bad blood during the primary and caucus process back in 2008, that went away when he asked her to be secretary of state.

I want to go back to Tom Foreman. He is over at Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas. That is one of the caucus sites going on.

You told us a while ago, Tom, it was very crowded, a little messy. What are you seeing right now?

FOREMAN: Well, maybe it's cleared up a little. They have counted everybody in here twice and they come up with the same number twice, 278. What is not clear yet is whether or not all of those people have been registered for this caucus yet, because so many were let in here unregistered. They keep working at tables up here trying to get them all squared away. But we don't know if that's the case.

Now, when they get to the actual deciding here, Wolf, when that happens, we will have moment-by-moment readouts dry up here, showing you instantaneously how people are voting. But we are hearing right now that each candidate is going to be viable in this room, which is not to be a surprise. The Clinton camp seems to have a big advantage in this room, but -- but -- that business of so many being in here without being registered is clearly going to be a concern as we move on through the day, whether or not everybody who wasn't here are supposed to be here, Wolf.

[15:40:48] BLITZER: Very, very interesting development. Hopefully they can figure it out, work it out. They only have what, months and months and months to get ready for this day. Let's hope it works out. It's a serious situation.

Tom foreman over at Caesar's Palace, where there is a Democratic presidential caucus under way right now.

You would think, Dana, and David, that they do have a long time to get all of this ready. I know caucuses are much more complex than just regular primaries, but still.

BASH: That's right. But the other complicating factor is that people can just show up and register right there. So that's why it's a little bit surprising what we just heard from Tom, because that -- the whole -- the whole goal of Democrats especially in Nevada is to use this process to sign more Democrats up for the general election.

CHALIAN: Exactly. It's a key battleground state. BASH: Of course.

CHALIAN: And those electoral votes are hugely important at the end of the day. And no doubt why Democrats wanted to move this contest up on the calendar initially and exactly what you're saying. Make it available to register. It is an organizing concept that is what the caucuses are, to try and indeed bring more Democrats into the process so they can identify them and target them come the general election.

BLITZER: It is a great concept. But what they have got to do, is make sure they do it right. That's very, very important.

BASH: Details. Details.

BLITZER: And no league battles once the dust settle.

All right. It is a very, very tight race right now in Nevada, the democratic presidential caucuses. Hillary Clinton/Bernie Sanders, they are in a battle. We will have an update when we come back.


[15:46:31] TAPPER: We are back with CNN's live coverage of the Nevada Democratic caucuses. A lot of turnout in the state of Nevada.

Let's go to Kyung Lah. She is in Reno at the University of Nevada at Reno. It's obviously university camp. It is probably a lot of Sanders supporters as you described, Kyung. But also you're saying in this messy democratic action, democratic with a small d, there's a snafu. They're out of ballots of some sort?

LAH: Well, this gives you a sense of the kind of turnout that they got, turnout exceeding expectations here. I just want to, gathered a few people who are first-time voters and registered to vote today. You may notice that the forms, the registration forms are in Spanish.

Does anyone here speak Spanish?


LAH: You guys are English speakers?

These are English speakers registering to vote filling out Spanish forms because they ran out of English registration forms. That is one snafu they have come up with here and come up with a solution that they're having them fill out these Spanish forms.

I've spoken to a guy who was here in 2008. And this side is very auditorium, Jake. And he says that the turnout here is much higher than what he saw in 2008.

So you know, as you point out, a student population. A lot of enthusiasm. We are seeing most of that enthusiasm right now, Jake, being directed to Bernie Sanders.

TAPPER: All right, Kyung Lah in Reno, Nevada. Thank you so much. Let's go to Boris Sanchez. He is at Knudsen middle school in Las

Vegas where the caucus process is beginning.

Boris, tell us, what's going on?

SANCHEZ: Hey, Jake, just a few moments ago they finished off reading the rules of the caucus. They read letters from both of the candidates to these voters. And these two precincts are about to start splitting up into sections to figure out who is supporting Bernie and who is supporting Hillary.

I can tell you just a few moments ago, I spoke to a precinct tier for this precinct behind me. He told me this is crazy. They didn't expect this kind of turnout at the Knudsen school. She said that they have re-aligned where the actual caucus sites were going to be, but they didn't really know exactly how many people to expect. She said this is much more than expected. Tremendous turnout here. And as you can see behind me, people are now counting to figure out viability, to figure whether or not there are enough caucusgoers that are voting for either side to drum up support to make the candidates viable.

The important thing to look for here is how many people are uncommitted. I only spoke to a handful in line who were still uncommitted. A big change in the past week at the CNN/ORC poll show that about a quarter of voters, more than a quarter voters here were still undecided. It appears a lot of people made up their minds and we will see exactly how they vote coming up in the next few minutes, Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Let's do to another caucus site where we find our own Jason Carroll.

Jason, where are you? And I remember shouting there not long ago. Have people calmed down?

Jason Carroll not hearing me. So we are going to talk about it, perhaps I needed to shout. Let's talk about what's going on with our panel right now.

Paul, the candidate breakdown, continue on Obama's policies. Clinton winning 72 percent of them, and be more liberal, Sanders winning 81 percent of them gives you an idea how the message of these candidates are delivering, how they're really breaking through?

BEGALA: They are. And in the debates that we have had, (INAUDIBLE), the third guy on the stage has been Barack Obama. It is remarkable. I do think, and Sanders seem to have been surging in to this. I do think he made a mistake when he denigrated Hillary for supporting President Obama saying that she was doing that to get African- American. That is insulting. It's not true. She joined his cabinet, for goodness sake, five years ago. Those sorts of things, little clumsy and this happens sometimes in a primary. But everybody for Bernie and everybody for Hillary loves President Obama. And then in Sanders campaign has got to be very careful about being disrespectful to the president. [15:50:27] TAPPER: Although, Van Jones, I have to say, maybe how

Bernie Sanders said this to I believe to Marc Lamont Hill on (INAUDIBLE), how he said it may have been clumsy, but it's also true that Barack Obama is very popular with Democratic voters, even more popular with African-American democratic voters and in South Carolina it's smart politics if you are Hillary Clinton to wrap yourself in the Obama flag.

VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, look. This is the first time in my life time that the Democratic Party is not running away from its core vote. Black vote is the core vote in the Democratic Party. In the Republican Party it's evangelical vote. The Republicans love that vote. They chase that vote. They just rock that little boat to sleep. They can't get enough of that vote.

When it comes to the Democratic Party and the black vote, we haven't felt that love you know, frankly the Clintons kind of came into office saying we're not reverend Jackson. We are not the rainbow coalition. We are in a third way. There was a whole lot of even with President Obama this sense from the black community, does he love us or can he love us in public. This has been a new dynamic where both candidates are rushing to us. I think Sanders would be very wrong to pretend that he was lowing black vote a whole bunch a year ago himself. So what's happening is you're seeing now the Democratic Party having to embrace its base. I think it's a good thing.

TAPPER: All right. You keep rocking that boat to sleep.

We are going to take a very quick break. When we come back, more live coverage of the Nevada Democratic caucuses. Stay with us.


[15:56:07] BLITZER: Very tight race according to our early entrance poll results between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders of the Democratic presidential caucuses, I should say, under way in Nevada right now. Looks like at least to the caucus site where we are covering bigger turnout than earlier expected.

I want to go to one of those sites right now. Boris Sanchez is in Las Vegas for us.

So Boris, what's happening where you are?

SANCHEZ: Hey Wolf. What we are seeing right now is the division between two different precincts in this one gym. And the precinct behind me, the voters to my left are all Bernie supporters. Voters to the right over there are all Hillary supporters. This is only one precinct. And right now they are counting down the exact number of people on each side. We are still watching the numbers as they come in.

Also, these voters had to fill out ballots to verify numbers because this might be close. In this gym there are two precincts, as I mentioned before. On the other side, Hillary supporters outweigh the Bernie supporters so those numbers are still being counted now. And we are hoping to get a clearer picture of exactly how many people are on either side. But from what we can tell so far, these two precinct are split. The larger precinct looks like it's going for Bernie. The slightly smaller precinct only by a few people looks like it's going to go for Hillary. But again, there's going to be a head count right now to figure out the exact split of delegates. And once we have those numbers, Wolf, we will pass them along to you.

BLITZER: They are sharing, Boris, with some of the numbers as they are coming right now. Let me pull them up. As of right now that precinct where you are in Las Vegas, let's take a look and see what we have. Put it up on the screen. It looks like it's what, about 57, 58, 59 percent so far for Bernie Sanders, 43 percent for Hillary Clinton. These are preliminary numbers coming in. I don't know if you have seen those at the site where you are, Boris.

SANCHEZ: No. I was just writing that digital thing.

BLITZER: All right. Boris, stand by.

I want to go to Tom Foreman. He is at another caucus site at Caesars Palace Resort at the casino over there. That's where they got a caucus. What are you seeing there, Tom?

FOREMAN: Yes. Wolf, they are just now firming up the numbers with our instantaneous readout here of 30 percent for Bernie Sanders, and 70 percent for Hillary Clinton in this room. That's really very much what it looked like as people were forming outside and shuffling in here.

But as we pointed out, Wolf, a lot of questions about the whole counting process here. There may be nothing wrong with any of it but absolutely will be something that officials are going to have to go over and over to make sure that these final results we're talking about here, 70-30 percent come out properly -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Tom Foreman over at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas.

I want to go to Reno right now. Kyung Lah is there. I know there were long lines, Kyung. Have they resolved all the registration issues? Are people already participating in the caucuses?

LAH: These are the same day registration voters. And I can show you, Wolf, finally, the end of the line. This lady in blue here, she is the last same day registrant. And then they have to get in this very long line which snakes all the way around until they check in.

At Boris' site where they are doing, they are starting to caucus, we haven't even started yet in this auditorium. It's probably going to be -- this is just a guess -- I'm going to say it is at least 30 to 45 minutes away before all of these folks are checked in before they even begin to caucus. So they are running certainly far behind what they anticipated. And it's going to take quite a bit longer than they anticipated.

As far as turnout here, we did speak to, Wolf, someone who was here in 2008 in this very room. He says that he feels that enthusiasm and turnout this time is much higher than it was in 2008 -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes. It feels like that University of Nevada Reno where you are, Kyung, that's very, very interesting.

We want to go to Jason Carroll. He is at Rancho high school in Las Vegas right now.

Jason, you're getting some numbers, early numbers from the count over there? Is that right?

CARROLL: These numbers just coming in to us from our precinct where we are, Wolf.