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CNN Projects Donald Trump to Win Nevada; Trump Dominating Nevada GOP Caucus with 44.5 Percent of Vote; Rubio Trailing in Second; Carson, Kasich in Single Digits; Trump Declares Victory to Supporters. Aired 12-1a ET

Aired February 24, 2016 - 00:00   ET

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


[00:00:04] JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: And it's very exciting, we're going to have something for new two seconds. And CNN is ready to make a projection. CNN is projecting that Donald Trump will be the winner of the Nevada Republican caucuses. This is based on exit polls and results in sample precincts across the state. We do not know the order yet. We do not have enough information to say where the others will be, but we do know that Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz will be in the top three.

Donald Trump, the big news, Donald Trump projected to win the Nevada caucuses. Let's go to Jim Acosta now, if we can, who is at Trump headquarters in Las Vegas, Nevada. And Jim Acosta, he got off to a slow start, second place in Iowa and then, one, two, three, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Nevada. Donald Trump the winner, we're projecting as the winner this evening.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, via satellite: That's right, Jake. Now we can say Donald Trump has won a caucus in addition to those two primaries. As you were saying, Jake, the Trump campaign knows all too well there were organizational problems in Iowa. That did not happen here, in Nevada. When you talk to top Trump campaign officials here in the state, they felt like when they were looking at the landscape across the state of Nevada all day long, that precinct after precinct, caucus after (no audio) they were seeing the same results that Brian Todd was just (no audio). It was Donald Trump dominating across this state, across multiple sites across this state.

And, you know, you were talking about Super Tuesday and what lies ahead. They are very confident inside the Trump campaign. I can tell you from talking to Corey Lewandowsky, the Trump Campaign Manager, and going to David Chalian's point a few moments ago, they are built, they feel like they are built for a national campaign, that they have staff and volunteers and organizational strength in 20 states, 20-plus states, and building on top of that.

So for people who think well, Donald Trump, he can fill an arena. He can bring in a big crowd, but can he go national? Can he go state to state and start running the table? They feel like, inside the Trump campaign Jake, that they are well equipped to do that and that they're going to start doing that on Super Tuesday. That's obviously the big test for this campaign, what happens on Super Tuesday, but they feel like they're very well positioned in just a week from now; Jake. TAPPER: We haven't seen a Republican presidential candidate be this dominant in a long, long time. Jim Acosta from Trump headquarters. Let's talk to David Chalian, Dana Bash right now about these results. David, first of all, explain to our viewers why we are calling this race so early.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: So this is based on a couple different things, Jake. We have the entrance polls that we've been talking about all night. How -- people tell us as they go in to the caucus site how they intend to vote. So that's one piece of evidence that we have. We also have people out and about in probably a dozen sample precincts right now that have started supplying us with real votes. So we weight the entrance poll with the real votes that we have in these sample precincts and we do that in a way that gives us a 100-percent confidence that we can project Donald Trump the winner in this. That doesn't mean we're projecting the margin of victory here, it just means there's a 100-percent confidence that when every vote is counted at the end of the night, he will be the winner.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: And the fact that we were able to do this so early, so quickly, I mean, really, the minute that the caucuses officially closed, shows how dominant he appears to be. And the one thing I think is interesting and important to point out is that something Jim was talking about, that he won South Carolina, a primary; he won New Hampshire, a primary; but he really did have trouble in Iowa because it was a place where he needed to organize. This, and Nevada is a place where, we are told, that he and his campaign went out to train people pretty early on last year. So they actually got out ahead in the organization that you really need to do to win a caucus.

TAPPER: All right; standby Dana. We have a key race alert. We're going to bring you some actual numbers coming in right now.

All right, with 3-percent of the actual vote in, Donald Trump leading with 42-percent of the vote; Ted Cruz with 22.8-percent; Marco Rubio right behind him at 21.8-percent. Pulling up the rear in single digits Ben Carson at 9.8 and John Kasich, who barely competed in Nevada, 3.3-percent. These are actual votes coming in. 30 delegates are at stake in Nevada. There you see Donald Trump, when the actual numbers are coming in, taking a momentous lead, one of the reasons why CNN projected that he would be the winner of the Nevada caucus this evening because his lead is so dominant.

Let's check-in right now, if we can, with Sunlen Serfaty, who is at Cruz headquarters. Sunlen, not a good night for Senator Ted Cruz.

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Not yet; and I can tell you, Jake, there was a sense of disappointment when this race was called for Donald Trump. People here gathered at Cruz's headquarters, booed as that was announced. [00:05:02] They raised their Ted Cruz signs defiantly in the air, but I don't think this number one finish for Donald Trump is a big surprise to the Cruz campaign. They never had predicted a win. They had been remarkably downplaying expectations in the previous few days but this does little to really end the cliff- hanger for them tonight. The big question, of course, who takes silver, who comes in second here? That is a big part of their messaging in going forward, they want that momentum heading into Super Tuesday states. Ted Cruz, right now, is huddled with staff. He is said to be watching returns. We also know a little bit of color behind the scenes, that he was eating kabobs with his staff earlier tonight; but, of course, nerve-wracking finish yet to be announced here tonight. Jake?

TAPPER: All right; Sunlen Serfaty at Cruz headquarters in Las Vegas, Nevada. Let's check in with our magician friend, John King, at the Magic Wall. John I suppose you're going to be able to tell me now a little bit, a little bit better about how Donald Trump pulled this off.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Can I ask you a question first?

TAPPER: Sure, of course.

KING: It was just the other day, do you remember who came in second in the Daytona 500? No? Never mind.

Let's look at - let's look, very early results so far in, obviously, Clark County, if you were with us the other day for Democrats, it's more than 70-percent of the state population. We have zero votes from Clark County yet. So we have a long way to go in the county, and this filled in while we were talking there. Washoe County, where Reno is, out in the western part of the state, Trump at 44, Rubio at 32. Cruz at 16 there. So if you're scoring silver and gold it's just one of the counties there. It's the second largest county. If you look at the results right now, though, this is the western part of the state, much more rural up here. This is where you would expect Ted Cruz, if he is getting your traditional Tea Party evangelical voter, you would expect some support up here, but right now, it's filling in all Donald Trump and we've seen this -- we just watched this the other night in South Carolina and we saw it in New Hampshire, 42, 23, 22. So, like the other night in South Carolina, looks like this is where we'll be spending our time because the campaign says it matters.

They do get delegates, it's proportional; so second and third matters, you get one or two more delegates than the other guy, but this has to be a concern for those who are trying to top Donald Trump. This is the first time he's going to win a state, if that number holds, above 45-percent. He was 35-percent in New Hampshire; 33-percent in South Carolina; everyone keeps saying shrink the field, Donald Trump will stay in the 30's and we'll catch him, somebody will catch him. Well, Nevada is saying tonight, not here.

If we pull out now, this is just the delegate count here, so pay no attention. So you pull out now, this is, again, three out of four, after four contests. So momentum, we're in the momentum phase of the campaign, one state at a time, he's won three of the first four; I just want to make the point again. South Carolina, wins across the state. Yes, Rubio has some success in Charleston, some success in the state government area but Trump wins in evangelical land. He wins along the coast. He wins in the suburbs, around here. Same as up in New Hampshire. So if you're looking at the race, right now, after four contests, a very different state than South Carolina, New Hampshire. Trump wins, and wins handily. Now, he goes west. So he's the Northeast, the South and now the West, filling in and winning handily. At some point the Republican Party, which says we don't want Trump, -- what's the rule in business? The customers always right?

TAPPER: Yes.

KING: Republican voters of all different stripes are voting for Donald Trump and now you have the momentum going in to Super Tuesday. I'll just bring up the map for you so you can peek at it. Here's what it's going to look like, something like this, after tonight. Trump could actually go a little bit higher than that if his numbers are up in the 40-percent. We assign these delegates here with him winning with 35; so he could get another delegate or two.

Then you're heading into Super Tuesday and, again, it starts to get busy. I mean, let's assume Ted Cruz wins his home state of Texas. So we'll give this one back to Ted Cruz. That's the one -- we expect Cruz to win Texas, at least based on today. That's the one we would take away from Donald Trump. What else?

TAPPER: Yeah.

KING: At the moment, what else? If that's the case, he starts to pull away. So you've only got a few days. They keep saying they're going to get to him, but you've only a few days to stop him from getting a huge early delegate lead.

TAPPER: And we don't know what the final vote is going to be, of course, but right now, with the limited vote in, 5-percent in, he's up with 42-percent. So, Anderson, all those people saying that Donald Trump had a ceiling of 33, 34, they might have to get measurements for new drapes because it looks like his ceiling is getting higher.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Yes, and Donald Trump might be measuring the drapes at another building coming up very soon. I mean, Michael Smerconish, when you look at the delegate math, especially moving toward Super Tuesday, it's hard to see how Donald Trump doesn't continue to move forward.

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It really is, as he's obviously the big victor tonight. I have my eye on Ted Cruz's numbers because the Cruz strategy seemed to be a strategy of doing well in the South, doing well in the West, ala Ronald Reagan. Well he lost South Carolina. He's now lost the state of Nevada. That doesn't bode well for what's to come, I think, on March 1st.

One other observation, if I might, not only is the 40-percent number awfully impressive but if the internals are correct, relative to the entrance polls, the breadth of the victory - I mean, it's hard to find a category where it wasn't Donald Trump being the victor. I think that's what's significant.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, and I think now, as you look at the Cruz/Rubio fight, one of them has to get out in order for the [00:10:01] other one to succeed against Donald Trump. COOPER: And that even assumes all the voters for that candidate go to the other one.

BORGER: And even then that's very difficult. If you look at the states that are coming up and you look at -- let's look at Florida; March 15th. Marco Rubio thinks he can win Florida. Polls are showing otherwise; very early polls, by the way. But that's March 15. You still have to go through Super Tuesday. You still have to go through Michigan. You still have -- you know -

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: One thing that's clear, or seems clear, as we look at the early numbers is there's not going to be enough the separation between Rubio -

BORGER: Exactly.

AXELROD: -- and Cruz for Rubio to claim some great momentum coming out of the state. There's still mired fighting with each other for second and third. If this were a football game Donald Trump has broken through the line and he's headed toward the end zone and now it's a question of whether - if somebody can probably catch up and tackle him before he scores?

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: It's also true, I mean, if you look at what Rubio's done and what Cruz had done, I mean Rubio got about 23-percent in his first state, 11-percent, 23- percent, 23-percent going through these last states, and Cruz as well, kind of stuck in the 20s. It's almost like they're the ones with the ceilings. They haven't been able to breakout yet, maybe they will in these upcoming states, but so far they haven't been able to put together a broad coalition.

AXELROD: And it looks like he's going to continue to show dominance among voters who call themselves somewhat conservative, voters who call themselves moderates, and so that is a very solid base from which to work.

COOPER: And at a certain point, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, they have to win somewhere.

AMANDA CARPENTER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, absolutely. I keep looking at that margin, how close it is between Cruz and Rubio, and I just think every second is going to count up until that Thursday debate because that's really the last chance to change the dynamics of this race before we go into March 1st.

We've seen Marco Rubio have a terrible debate performance. We've seen him have good performances. We've had Ted Cruz have wonderful breakout moments. We've seen him kind of perform okay. This is make or break time. This could shape the election. This could shape the next president. I'm kind of baffled that Marco Rubio isn't in Nevada right now to possibly give some kind of speech, since he's been so good at framing this in the past.

COOPER: To Amanda's point about the debate on Thursday, Donald Trump has, according to pundits, had not stellar debate performances from time to time and it doesn't seem to make a difference.

KEVIN MADDEN, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Right, and I think debate performances have a dramatic impact when they're concentrated on one state electorates. So we've been going from state to state, Iowa to New Hampshire to South Carolina and we had debates that were concentrated there. But this is a dozen states over one day; that's a much wider universe of voters that you're going to have to dramatically change the direction and the trajectory of this campaign.

COOPER: Do you see any route that Donald Trump is not the GOP nominee, Kevin?

MADDEN: I do. I think it is a very narrow path and with every day it gets more and more narrow.

COOPER: Kayleigh, you're a Donald Trump supporter. Do you see any path that Donald Trump is not the --

KAYLEIGH MCENANY: I don't. I think Donald Trump is, at this point, I think, the inevitable nominee. Look at Nevada. Look at past elections. We saw in 2012, this is a state that Mitt Romney carried by 30 points, nearly 30 points. Look at 2008, he nearly carried it by 40 points. This is a cookie cutter state for someone like Marco Rubio but Marco Rubio couldn't pull it off here. What can happen at this point to change it?

COOPER: Van, do you see anything because we have to take a quick break because we want to get Trump when he comes?

VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: We are living in the land called Never. They said never could he stay in; never will he get above 40-percent. This is now Never and Never is terrifying to me.

COOPER: You're, of course, a Democrat. Let's take a short break. We're expecting Donald Trump any moment. We, of course, will bring that to you live. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[00:17:26] TAPPER: Welcome back to CNN's live coverage of the Nevada Republican caucuses. You're looking at live coverage of Donald Trump's headquarters in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Just a few minutes ago CNN projected Donald Trump will be the winner of the Nevada caucuses. We do not have enough information to say whether Marco Rubio or Ted Cruz will come in second or third but we do know that those will be the top three finishers, most significantly, of course, was the dominant win projected by CNN of Donald Trump winning the Nevada caucuses.

We are waiting for Donald Trump to come out and declare victory, as we have heard him do a couple other times this election season. Let's, right now, go to the campaign headquarters of someone who is having a rather disappointing night, Marco Rubio. Jason Carroll is at Rubio headquarters. Jason, Marco Rubio told me on Sunday they were hoping for a strong showing, maybe even hoping for a win. It's a state where he spent to some of his childhood. He went to an LDS church for a little bit, but not a good night for Marco Rubio.

JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well clearly not the night that they wanted but still they are feeling encouraged by having a strong second place finish, that's what they're hoping for at this point, Jake, a strong second place finish. In speaking to one of the campaign operatives here, he tells me they still feel as though this is not over for them. They feel if some of the other candidates were to drop by March 15th, even better if it happened before the 15th, if it happens before Super Tuesday, they still feel as though they have a shot at taking some of these states going forward. I mean, they obviously recognize at this point that time is becoming of the essence if they're really going to have a significant win going forward.

In terms of tonight, Jake, they feel their ground-game was strong. They're still waiting for some of the results to come in from Clark County, where we are, which includes Las Vegas. It is the most populous county here in the state; some two million people live here. They feel as though they had a strong ground game here, especially in the suburbs. So still looking for those results to come in. The campaign still pushing the point, still pushing the message that they are the alternative to Donald Trump and if they can have a strong second here in Nevada they're going to be keeping up with that message as Marco Rubio moves on.

As you know, tonight, he's not even actually here in the state, not even at - actually not even here at this watch party. He's moved on to campaign in Minnesota and Michigan. So they're already looking ahead, Jake; still looking ahead, still pushing the message that Marco Rubio is the bankable alternative to Donald Trump.

TAPPER: All right; Jason Carroll at Rubio headquarters. With 6- percent of [00:20:03] the vote in, let's just bring you up to date on actual vote. 6-percent in -- Donald Trump has 42.9-percent of the vote. Marco Rubio with 25.2-percent, so he is in second place, as of right now with 6-percent of the vote in. Ted Cruz, third place, with 20.4-percent. Ben Carson and John Kasich in single digits. Let's talk about how this happened.

Dana Bash, David Chalian, earlier tonight with some of the entrance polls, you said that a vast majority of the people who turned out to caucus this evening wanted an outsider. They did not value somebody with political experience. How did they vote?

BASH: Well, just that way. You know, already tonight we're seeing that the Republicans here in Washington are kind of moving their way through the stages of grief, realizing that the Washington, and, more importantly, the Republican Party as they know it, is never going to be the same and your numbers show why.

CHALIAN: Yes, these voters are just not in the same place at all with the, sort of the Republican establishment. Jake, you were saying, we looked at this before, now we can see how the vote breaks down among the candidates. So among that very angry electorate, take a look at this. Remember, 58-percent of the Republican caucus-going electorate tonight said they're angry; the angriest electorate we've seen. Donald Trump wins the angry vote, 49-percent to 23-percent for Cruz, 21-percent for Rubio and 5-percent for Carson. Those that are looking for an outsider, again, that's 61-percent of the electorate, Trump wins them going away. He is the outsider, with 70-percent of that vote to Cruz's 14-percent, Rubio at 8 and Dr. Carson down at 6- percent.

BASH: And we talked earlier about the fact that while this electorate in Nevada, the Republicans, is still predominantly white, it is more diverse than in the past contest. How did that playout, with regard to who they voted for?

CHALIAN: So we're talking a look here specifically at the Latino vote. They made up 9-percent of the electorate, which is high, a tick higher than we had seen previously there in 2008, significantly higher than in 2012. Look at this, everyone. This is the wow number of tonight. 44-percent of the Latino vote goes to Donald Trump. Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, two candidates with Cuban heritage, Rubio at 29- percent, Cruz at 18-percent and John Kasich down at 4-percent. Now, obviously, with only 9-percent of the vote this is a smaller sample. There's a 10-percent margin of error on that particular statistic; but Donald Trump, the guy who created his candidacy on building the wall and tough on immigration, is winning this Republican Latino vote 44- percent, 29 to 18. It's just an unbelievable statistic.

TAPPER: David, can you put that number up one more time? It is a rather remarkable number.

CHALIAN 44-percent, there you go, to 29-percent to 18-percent.

BASH: And - okay, so not only is his cornerstone of his campaign about building a wall and being tougher on immigration, remember when he started his campaign on June 16 he created a lot of controversy among Hispanic -- the Hispanic community by talking about people coming into this country, about rapists and things like that, and people thought that he was never going to even come close to getting any votes, at least anything that was really tangible from the Hispanic community, and the fact that he appears to be baiting the two Latino candidates on the Republican side, it's remarkable.

TAPPER: It is remarkable, although we should caution that he still enjoys tremendously high, very high unfavorability ratings from the Latino population at large, as opposed to a slice of Latino Republicans in Nevada.

BASH: No question. No question, but this is the first contest within the Republican primary calendar to begin to test his ability to reach out to Hispanics because of the makeup of Nevada.

TAPPER: All right; a lot for Anderson and the panel to chew over. Anderson?

COOPER: Certainly is; and it's interesting, Ryan Lizza from "New Yorker" is joining us, also CNN Political Commentator. It's not true that nobody predicted he would do well among Latinos. Donald Trump actually repeatedly said he would do well and at least in Nevada, he has in this entrance poll. RYAN LIZZA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I would be a little bit cautious about the entrance polls on Latino number. Remember, this entrance poll is, what, a thousand or fifteen hundred voters? The sample size on Latinos, as David pointed out, is very, very small, 10- point margin of error. So there's a huge fluctuation. That said, he won across every category. I'm looking at the entrance polls. There's almost no demographic, racial, age -- category -- income, college degree. All the categories we've been talking about all campaign; Donald Trump has won every single one. He's won in New Hampshire, which has an electorate with a lot Independents. He's won in South Carolina, which has a, sort of, nicely divided electorate of the Republican vote. And, he's won in Nevada, which has a huge number of Mormon population and a huge number of very - self-described very conservative secular voters. He's winning everything.

BORGER: It's such durability that I don't think anybody would have predicted [00:25:01] for Donald Trump. I mean, we originally said, ok, Rubio, Marco Rubio appeals to the educated voters and Donald Trump appeals in -- appealed in early polls, before voting started, to the -- what we call the undereducated voter.

COOPER: Someone over here explain to me how Donald Trump does not get the GOP nomination.

BORGER: I don't know - I don't know how he doesn't because I don't know what the incentive is right now for Cruz or Rubio to drop out and stop trying. I mean, Rubio's not running for re-election, right?

[Cross Talk]

COOPER: If Cruz dropped out what percentage of Cruz voters would -

AXELROD: Exactly.

BORGER: And Cruz has Texas coming up, by the way, on March 1 and I -- they think they're going to win it, although they even seem to be hedging their bets on that right now.

AXELROD: If I were Donald Trump I'd let them win it. I'd let them win it -

BORGER: Right.

AXELROD: Keep them close in the race.

BORGER: Exactly.

AXELROD: But here's the thing, this thing is broadening out, as was mentioned before, to a wide array of states and that really favors the guy with the superior name recognition, the star quality --

COOPER: Who, by the way, has been in a lot of those debates and big rallies.

AXELROD: If you're going to beat Donald Trump, you'd want to beat him in one of these early states where you can ambush him, where you can lay siege. It's much, much harder when you go to the broader tableau of --

MADDEN: Not only that, it's also about to get much more expensive. I mean, think about it. We're 20 days away from Florida, which is -- I think even the Rubio folks would say is a must-win state for him.

BORGER: Totally.

MADDEN: It costs $3 to $4 million to be on the air across all those media markets for just one week. So --

COOPER: It's also (inaudible) Donald Trump is not an unfamiliar name in Florida. I mean, he's -

MADDEN: Right, that's -

COOPER: -- got a place down there, Mar-A-Lago.

MADDEN: That could be his home state.

MCENANY: The last poll in Florida shows him trouncing both Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz. It was taken in January, but it shows him beating Rubio by more than 20 points and Cruz, likewise, by almost 20 points, and that was in Florida.

BORGER: How embarrassing is that?

AXELROD: And he's the one guy who doesn't need money because all he has to do is sit in his lounge and pick up the phone and call every show in America and he gets on television and he creates news and he tweets and he creates news.

COOPER: But, also - just let me push back on that. It hasn't just been that all the media has been putting him on. He's been offering himself up when a lot of these other candidates would not do interviews at all.

[Cross Talk]

MADDEN: The point I make about having those resources to do that, is that nobody has made a concentrated, broad and sustained argument against Donald Trump. They have all started to try and play bumper cars against each other in their own lanes. So I think in order - so to answer your question, how does someone beat Donald Trump now, first of all it's going to have to winnow to one person. It's going to have to winnow to - you know, Marco Rubio is probably in the best position to take on Donald Trump. He's going to have to do so in a broad and sustained way over the months of April and May and that's going to be very expensive. It's going to be a very tough job. He has the to go out and get the voters rather than hoping they fall to him.

CARPENTER: I will say this one thing, if they are successful in squeezing Cruz out, it's very likely more Cruz voters go to Trump than go to Rubio in this environment.

COOPER: We have to take a quick break. We are awaiting Donald Trump's victory speech. A lot to look forward to. Stick around; we'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[00:32:01] TAPPER: Welcome back to CNN's live coverage of the Nevada republican caucuses. You're looking at live pictures of Trump headquarters in Las Vegas, Nevada. We're waiting for Donald Trump to come out and declare victory. CNN has projected that he will be the winner of the Nevada Republican caucuses.

Let's look at some of the actual vote that has come in. With 8- percent of the vote counted, Donald Trump with a dominant lead, 41. 9- percent. Marco Rubio pulling up a silver medal, 25.3-percent. Ted Cruz right behind him at 21.5-percent. Ben Carson and Governor John Kasich in single digits, but that is a very, very strong lead, 41 percent, by double-digits, almost by 20-points.

David Chalian and Dana Bash, what are we expecting Donald Trump to say when he comes out this evening? And how do you think this might affect his demeanor when he takes the stage on Thursday at the Republican Debate in Houston?

BASH: Well, look, there's no question that he is the guy to beat. I think he has already been aware and expecting incoming, because it has been happening, although with Jeb Bush not on the stage now, it might change the dynamic a little bit because it's probably just going to be Ted Cruz versus Donald Trump, unless Marco Rubio decides to engage with Trump in a way that he hasn't before.

TAPPER: I feel like Trump will still insult Jeb Bush, anyway, even though he's dropped out.

BASH: Right, and Lindsey Graham.

TAPPER: He just likes it.

BASH: Yes, and Lindsey Graham. It is a little bit, you know -- we could probably spend hours with him on the couch figuring that out. The bottom line is that he's going to probably come out and talk about what we have heard before in his past victory speeches, that he feels like he's capturing something that is really happening out there in the republican electorate and he's right about that.

TAPPER: He is.

CHALIAN: And I would expect, to the debate stage on Thursday night, I mean, I do think Ted Cruz is going to take the place of Jeb Bush, just being the vehicle for the Trump slams. I mean, we've seen it on the campaign trail. He's been relentless after Cruz. I would be very surprised if that abated in any way on Thursday night, especially because next Tuesday Texas is one of the contests and I have no doubt that Donald Trump is going to look to try do his best to embarrass Ted Cruz in his own home state.

TAPPER: He likes doing that too. Let's go to Jim Acosta, who is at Trump headquarters in Las Vegas, Nevada. Jim, the mood there has got to be pretty jubilant, I would imagine. ACOSTA: Oh, yeah. They are excited here at this Trump watch party. I have to say, Jake, we may be getting close to seeing Donald Trump here in just a few moments. There was a steady stream of people coming in. We understand they were sort of waiting for this room to fill up before Donald Trump comes out here. Now you're hearing them cheer as they - as I come up on screen about seven seconds later than when I'm talking, but I will say though, just to jump off the conversation you were just having, in terms of what we're going to hear from Donald Trump, you know, he was pretty feisty. He was pretty fiery in the last 24 to 48 hours.

[00:35:01] It was just 24 hours ago, Jake, when Donald Trump was saying he wanted to punch a protester in the face. My guess is that Donald Trump is not going to be in that same fighting spirit tonight. We probably will hear a much more gracious, magnanimous sounding Donald Trump later on, when he comes on and speaks. that's been pretty consistent in terms of what he has said other -- at other victory parties.

At the same time, though, he's been going after Ted Cruz. Earlier today he was saying Ted Cruz is a baby, that he's a soft baby that is the best liar he's ever seen. Do we hear that same kind of language from Donald Trump given the fact that at this point it looks like he's nearly doubled the support that Ted Cruz had earlier in these caucus results? I think the other thing to look for is what his tone is, what he says about Marco Rubio. These two candidates have not really tangled with each other. If Marco Rubio ends up being the remaining lone anti-Trump candidate standing, at some point they're going to have to engage. So maybe we'll get a taste of that in just a few moments, Jake.

TAPPER: All right; Jim Acosta, Trump headquarters in Las Vegas. Indeed, I played that baby clip for the co-chair of the Cruz campaign, Congressman Steve King, and he assaulted and assailed Trump's demeanor, saying it wasn't -- or suggesting it wasn't presidential, Anderson.

COOPER: Certainly something those - some have accused Donald Trump of before, and Donald Trump often replied, and we've even talked to him about this, he will say well, look, campaigning is one thing. When you're president it's another thing. I can be many things to many different people and if and when I'm in the White House, although he usually says when I'm in the White House, I will be different than I will be on the campaign trail.

Van, what do you make of his - I mean, huge victory, and, again, to Ryan's point, it's across the board. I mean, you look at the, -- based on the polls, it's a stunning victory.

JONES: It's a stunning victory. The numbers are stunning. I think we talked a lot about the math. Sometimes it's good to talk about the meaning. You got a guy who apparently got - you've got this anger at Washington, D.C., part of it because of the imperial presidency of Barack Obama. Yet this guy is running explicitly as an authoritarian strongman. He never talks about going to congress or the courts or any other - he is declaring himself when he is president he will do all this stuff, most of it extraconstitutional. That is very, very strange.

Listen, I never like to stick up for Ted Cruz. Let me just - I think that - you know, Ted Cruz reminds me of Richard Nixon without the dazzling good looks and the warm personal charm, okay? So I'm not a Ted Cruz fan but for Donald Trump to have labeled this guy as a liar when Donald -- the fact-checkers no longer fact-check Donald Trump. So there's something happening here. I think the meaning needs to be explored.

COOPER: I want to hear from Kayleigh, who is a Trump supporter, but we have to take another quick break and we're also, obviously, going to bring Donald Trump live. We'll take a short break; we'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[00:40:01] TAPPER: Welcome back to CNN's live coverage of the Nevada Republican caucuses. You're looking at live coverage right now. That is Trump headquarters in downtown Las Vegas, Nevada. We are waiting for Donald Trump to come out and declare victory after CNN has projected him the winner of the Nevada caucuses by a sizable margin.

Let's take a look at the actual vote as it comes in, with 9-percent of the vote in, Donald Trump is ahead with 42.1-percent of the vote, Marco Rubio pulling up the rear by - he's quite far back there, 25.1- percent. Ted Cruz in third with 21.8-percent. Ben Carson and John Kasich in single digits. This is a big victory, Anderson.

COOPER: It's a huge victory, there's no doubt about it. It's got to - you're a Trump supporter. It's got to feel pretty good, and what's amazing, as I think Ryan said earlier, across the board. I mean, in all categories, among evangelicals, Donald Trump way out in front.

LIZZA: Latinos.

KAYLEIGH MCENANY, TRUMP SUPPORTER: Sure; he's bringing everything together with this common thread of anger. He's harnessed the anger that's in the electorate. Here's the thing, the rhetoric that you all have spoken of, you know, it's really important to note that that is Donald Trump's strong suit because here's the thing, voters think when Donald Trump speaks to them on the campaign trail, this is the way this man speaks at his kitchen table at home. When they listen to Marco Rubio in that New Hampshire debate repeat over and over again that same line, Obama knows exactly what he's doing; likewise, when you look at President Obama, who has all the flush speeches we want to hear soaring off the teleprompter but the policies haven't materialized, there's real anger in the electorate and Donald Trump speaks in a candid manner and voters trust Donald Trump because of that.

COOPER: David?

AXELROD: Just one beautiful garment of anger.

JONES: I mean, when you say - and this is what's fascinating to me, when you say he speaks to anger, you say it almost like that's a good thing.

MCENANY: There's -- it's a fact. There's anger in the electorate and he has captured that in a bottle and people trust him. He has captured the anger in the electorate.

JONES: Here's the thing: for me leadership is not going to people's basest emotions and stirring people up. There is taking people some place. My concern is we're starting to adapt to the absurdity of having some authoritarian guy threatening people, I want to punch you in the face -

MCENANY: He is taking them somewhere, that's the thing. He's restored hope in the American people.

COOPER: As a supporter, do you mind him saying I would like to punch that protester in the face or -

MCENANY: I don't mind it.

AXELROD: That's not what he says at the kitchen table.

MCENANY: How many times have we thought to ourselves on the subway, oh, my gosh. That person comes near me I'm going to --

JONES: Is that the new criteria of leadership? People just blurt out whatever you might say on the subway?

MCENANY: They trust him. Hillary Clinton has a very stark dishonesty problem. They trust Donald Trump.

COOPER: To her point, there is an authenticity to Donald Trump which, you know, which is not reflective - I think for his supporters would say they don't see that in other candidates. Listen to the way he's talking. He's off the cuff.

MADDEN: I agree people are seeing what they want to see. what I find fascinating about Trump supporters is their ability to rationalize what they don't like with what they do like. But, you know, let's not kid ourselves that this is some sort of policy-oriented vision for where he wants to take the country.

MCENANY: Why not? I've heard so many policies from him? So many; from taxing imports from Mexico to ending the trade imbalance --

MCFADDEN: Which I think -- these are all like - these are all -- he is much [00:45:02] more inclined to try to appeal to people based on attributes than he is on issues. I think there is something that's speaking to some of the -- you're right, he has captured some of this anger but --

COOPER: Amanda, how much, for Ted Cruz supporters, if Ted Cruz was to leave, how many - I mean, what's your sense of how many Cruz supporters would go to Donald Trump because people are assuming Cruz drops out, that goes to Rubio but I don't - that doesn't seem that to be the case? CARPENTER: It's hard to say, but the biggest issue -- why Marco Rubio is not the de facto Republican nominee is because he signed on to the "gang of eight" bill. I think if immigration is a topic issue for a voter who is choosing between Marco Rubio and Donald Trump, if Ted Cruz is not in the race, they go to Donald Trump.

BORGER: Here's something maybe you guys can explain to me and this is good for your guy, Cruz. Trump wins overwhelmingly but on the question of shares - who shares my values, he consistently doesn't do well and he didn't do well tonight. He was beaten on shares my values by Ted Cruz and by Marco Rubio. So here you have the frontrunner candidate who is on the road towards being the nominee, yet, and we've seen this in other contests where they thought he'd waged the most unfair campaign -- remember that -- or didn't share your values, yet he wins overwhelmingly.

CARPENTER: You know what I think it is, I think people don't identify personally with Donald Trump. They hate Washington. They want to send someone to Washington to punish Washington. I agree that the next president is always a reaction to the previous president.

BORGER: Uh-huh.

AXELROD: Yes.

CARPENTER: I think there's voters who are going in the wrong direction and saying well Obama did all these bad things. I want our guy to do it on our side. That is not the right reaction.

COOPER: But even in those exit polls, shares my values was, I think, at 30-percent, in terms of what people wanted -

CARPENTER: Right. Right.

COOPER: -- but all the other things were much more and Donald Trump won in all of those.

BORGER: Dominates.

AXELROD: He dominates.

BORGER: He dominates everything else.

COOPER: He tells it like it is.

[Cross Talk]

COOPER: And in the other major categories -

AXELROD: His base, --

BORGER: It's the only exception.

AXELROD: His base, now he's expanding out from it, but his base basically has been non-college educate whites who have been really disadvantaged in this economy who feel disdained by elites who he is punching in the face all the time, and, you know, there is -- that is what is going on here.

LIZZA: David, we have to rethink -

COOPER: By the way, Donald Trump is about to come out, we're told, at any moment so we'll be bringing that live.

LIZZA: -- that tonight because he won people with postgraduate degrees tonight.

BORGER: Right.

AXELROD: But if you look at his - I agree with that. I agree.

LIZZA: He won with white collar voters, which is pretty stunning.

AXELROD: I agree.

HENDERSON: Those are the voters that Rubio is going after.

AXELROD: I think there's a bandwagon effect. I think there is a bandwagon effect. By the way, one of the things on winning, on can win, Rubio won that category again tonight. Trump was not that far behind but Ted Cruz was hovering around single digits. I think people are beginning to conclude that he may not be able to win, which I think is the beginning of -

COOPER: Cruz?

HENDERSON: Cruz and Rubio because they're not winning.

LIZZA: The problem for Cruz and Rubio is the presentation trophy stage of the contest is over.

[Cross Talk]

LIZZA: You can get a second place and exceed expectations in one or two of the first four states, but that ends next Tuesday.

HENDERSON: I think Rubio -

LIZZA: No more grading on a curve.

AXELROD: They will leave behind a stirring collection of third place victory speeches, which we can all cherish.

JONES: Won't history look back and say that the establishment just completely botched this with this whole presentation trophy strategy in the first place? This whole - won't it look like, looking back, that the whole fantasy that you could get third and second and third and second and -

AXELROD: That's not how it started, Van. It started with Jeb Bush - Jeb Bush was going to be the establishment candidate. That's how it started.

[Cross Talk] MADDEN: -- taken and again we can quibble at the idea of what the

establishment is and who it is but I think the bigger mistake was this idea of deploying hope as a strategy, which was let's hope that Donald Trump -

JONES: Disappears.

MADDEN: -- collapses on his own. Let's hope, that people recognize that he's a hypocrite. Let's hope that people recognize or find out that he's had past liberal positions and he's supported one democrat after the next. And the idea that that was going to happen on its own was the big mistake. None of these campaigns, in a broad, sustained, concentrated way went out and took Donald Trump on.

BORGER: Jeb Bush totally did.

MADDEN: No, he did not. No, no, no, no, no. Donald - I'm sorry. Jeb Bush waited and waited and waited.

BORGER: He waited too long.

MADDEN: His campaign said, time and time again, this is not our fight to have. As a result, he got blocked out by the sun and never had a chance to make a case to voters that this was about ideas, that he was the right -

AXELROD: They were locked in an endless struggle -

COOPER: Ok, Donald Trump.

[00:50:01] AXELROD: -- for who could be the Donald Trump alternative and left him completely unmolested.

COOPER: And here's Donald Trump, victorious in Nevada. Let's watch and listen.

[Cheers and Applause]

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE, via satellite: Oh, boy. We love Nevada! We love Nevada! Thank you. Thank you.

[Cheers and Applause]

TRUMP: Oh, this is a great place. Thank you.

AUDIENCE: Trump! Trump! Trump! Trump!

TRUMP: Thank you. Thank you very much. Great evening. We will be celebrating for a long time tonight. Have a good time. Have a good time. You know, we weren't expected -- a couple of months ago we weren't expected to win this one; you know that, right? We weren't. Of course, if you listen to the pundits, we weren't expected to win too much and now we're winning, winning, winning the country.

[Cheers and Applause]

TRUMP: And soon the country is going to start winning, winning, winning.

[Cheers and Applause]

TRUMP: So I want to thank the volunteers. They've been unbelievable. These people, they work like endlessly; endlessly. We're not going to forget it.

And we've had some great numbers coming out of Texas and amazing numbers coming out of Tennessee and Georgia and Arkansas, and then in a couple of weeks later, Florida. We love Florida. We're going to do very well in Ohio. We're beating the Governor, that's good. It's always nice to be beating the Governor. Michigan -- the whole thing. I mean, it's going to be

an amazing two months.

[Cheers and Applause]

TRUMP: We might not even need the two months, folks, to be honest; all right?

So tonight we had 45, 46-percent and tomorrow you'll be hearing, you know, if they could just take the other candidates and add them up -

[Laughter]

TRUMP: -- and if you could add them up because you know, the other candidates amount to 55-percent, so if they could just add -- they keep forgetting that when people drop out, we're going to get a lot of votes. You know, they keep forgetting. They don't say it.

[Cheers and Applause]

TRUMP: So I want to begin by thanking my boys. Eric has been all over the place making speeches. He's getting better than me, so I'm a little jealous. and Don went up to Elko, and you were all over, right? He loves the rifle stuff. This is serious rifle. This is serious NRA, both of them. Both of them. We love the 2nd Amendment, folks. Nobody loves it more than us, so just remember that.

And Corey and Hope, the staff, the whole group, Charles and Dan and what a group we have; it's just been amazing.

I want to just thank a couple of friends of mine that are here: the owner of this incredible hotel, Mr. and Mrs. Phil Ruffin, stand up. Great guys. Phil said Donald, like for the last three months, he's driving me crazy. He says Donald, I want to put $10 million into your campaign. I said Phil, I don't want your money. I don't want to do it. I'm self-funding. Every time I see him, it's hard for me to turn down money because that's not what I've done in my whole life. I grab and grab and grab. You know, I get greedy. I want money, money.

I'll tell I what we're going to do, all right. We get greedy, right? Now we're going to get greedy for the United States. We're going to grab and grab and grab. We're going to bring in so much money and so much everything, we're going to make America great again, folks. I'm telling you. we're going to make America great.

Another great friend of mine, somebody respected by everybody, a great friend of Phil too, Mr. and Mrs. Steve Wynn. Stand up, Steve; stand up. Two great people. Steve is always calling, he's always got advice, right, Steve? Donald, I think you ought to do this and that. His advice, I like to listen to, I'll be honest with you. So Phil and Steve, as families, you appreciate it. You've been great friends. Thank you. Thank you.

So this was very exciting tonight, but I'll tell you, it looks like we won by [00:55:02] a lot, evangelicals. I love the evangelicals. I have to tell you, Pastor Jeffress has been so incredible on television and elsewhere. He's been great. And, as you know, Liberty University, do we love Liberty University? Huh?

[Cheers and Applause]

TRUMP: Jerry Falwell, Jr., an unbelievable guy. he's been with us and with us from the beginning. I want to thank jerry and his family. It's been amazing, the relationship. So, we won with evangelicals. We won with young. We won with old. We won with highly educated. We won with poorly educated. I love poorly educated people. We're the smartest people; we're the most loyal people.

You know what I really am happy about, because I've been saying it for a long time, 46-percent with the Hispanics. 46-percent, number one with Hispanics.

[Cheers and Applause]

TRUMP: I'm really happy about that. So -

AUDIENCE: Trump! Trump! Trump! Trump! Trump!

TRUMP: Thank you. So I'm very proud of you. This is an amazing night. I love the country. I love the country. We're going -

[Cheers and Applause]

TRUMP: We're going in the wrong direction. We're going to keep, as you know, we're keeping that open and we're going to load it up with bad

dudes - we're going to load it up with a lot of bad dudes out there. We're going to have our borders nice and strong. We're going to build the wall, you know that. We're going to build the wall.

[Cheers and Applause]

TRUMP: And I have a lot of respect for Mexico. You just heard we won Hispanics, but let me tell you, Mexico is going to pay for the wall, right? It's going to happen. It's going to happen. They know it. I know it. We all know it. We have a tremendous deficit. We have a trade deficit with Mexico. They'll pay for the wall. They'll be very happy about it, believe me. I'll talk to them. They'll be very, very thrilled - they're going to be thrilled to be paying for the wall.

We're going to be the smart people. We're not going to be the people that get pushed around all over the place. We're going to be the smart people. You're going to be proud of your president and you're going to be even prouder of your country, ok?

[Cheers and Applause]

TRUMP: So tonight, folks, this was a great evening. I love this place. I love this state. I love Las Vegas. I have spent and invested so much money over here, Trump International Hotel. I keep telling Steve we have the best hotel in Las Vegas. He's fighting me all the time, but that's okay. I just want to say it's a great state and they have great people. I was so proud.

You know, I went to caucus. I was all over the place tonight. The people are amazing. The enthusiasm, it was unbelievable to see. The people of this country are absolutely amazing. I love you folks very much. Remember, make America great again, we're going to do it and it's going to happen fast. Thank you very much, everybody. Thank you.

[Cheers and Applause]

TRUMP: Thank you very much. We love you! We love you! Thank you! Thank you!

AUDIENCE: USA! USA!

TAPPER: A triumphant Donald Trump declaring victory, his third such speech in four contests, having handily won. CNN is projecting the Nevada Republican caucuses. We have more votes are coming in. Let's take a look at the actual votes, with 12-percent of the vote coming in: Donald Trump dominating with 44.5-percent of the vote. Marco Rubio about 20 points behind him at 24.3-percent. Ted Cruz, third place, 21.1-percent. Carson and Kasich still in single digits. It is a dominant win, not just a win for Mr. Trump in Nevada. It is a dominant win.

Let's talk about this with Dana and David. You heard Trump making his point that he's not just winning one specific demographic group. He is dominant among them. He fudged a little on one thing, he didn't actually win young voters.

BASH: Right, that's the one thing; but, look, if you have told me or frankly if I would have told you a year ago that there would be a billionaire reality TV star who would go in front of the Nevada electorate and talk about winning and say that he's so happy because I love the poorly educated, I would have told you that you were nuts, especially given the fact that he's an Ivy League guy, but that is what's happening right now. That is what's happening in our electorate. We should say he didn't just win among the "poorly educated", he won across did board. People who have high degrees, people who don't have graduate degrees, people who barely have a high school education. So he did run the board on pretty much everybody, except maybe the young people.