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THE SITUATION ROOM
New York Primary Voting And Analysisl Clinton Insider Predicts Good Night in New York; Sanders Campaign: 'There is a Path to Victory'. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired April 19, 2016 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now: pivotal primary. For the first time in a long time. Empire State voters could make a difference for the White House.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: And there's breaking news tonight: more exit polling data and what it says about how tonight may turn out. We're crunching the numbers, and we will bring them to you throughout the hour.
BLITZER: Dueling Democrats. You're going to hear how Clinton and Sanders, their teams are positioning themselves for what could be a race all the way to the convention.
COOPER: We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and watching around the world. I'm Anderson Cooper.
BLITZER: And I'm Wolf Blitzer. And you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
We have been anticipating this primary day for weeks, a home state showdown for the Democrats, for the Republicans, Donald Trump aiming for the home field advantage. He's trying to win big enough to take it all tonight. As for Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton, they're battling over the biggest delegate prize so far.
Polls close in less than three hours. Our full election coverage starts in two, and already we're getting signs of how the day is shaping up. More exit polling data coming in, that's just ahead.
First, let's go to CNN's Brianna Keilar with all the high points so far, Brianna, in what could be a primary for the history books.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump voting in their hometowns this morning.
HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This has been a joy during the last two weeks to be here all over the state.
KEILAR: Front-runners hoping polls that show them with commanding leads in New York will sweep them to big victories. DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think I'm going to do
well. I mean, we will see. Who knows? It's politics, right?
KEILAR: Even as Trump's staff is getting a shakeup. His national field director, Stuart Jolly, resigned Monday, days after Trump brought on former Scott Walker campaign manager Rick Wiley above Jolly as national political director. Jolly's departure shrinks the circle of aides loyal to Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, as newly hired convention manager Paul Manafort gains more clout in the campaign.
Trump is downplaying the staff moves.
TRUMP: When you bring in new people, and we're bringing in very high- level people, as you know, the one ran Walker's campaign. 2He was and is a very top guy, so when you bring other people in, I can see some people, their feelings get a little bit hurt.
KEILAR: As Trump looks to stop Senator Ted Cruz's recent gains in the delegate count, he's fueling the Republican Party's delegate selection process.
TRUMP: In the case of the Democrats, they have superdelegates. In our case, it's worse because it's more sinister. It harder to see. But it's actually more devious and it's worse.
KEILAR: But what he calls devious, the RNC and other GOP groups call delegate selection rules, ones Trump's team has yet to matter. Trailing Trump in New York, John Kasich and Cruz are looking ahead, Kasich in Maryland and Pennsylvania, where Cruz also spent New York primary day.
Bernie Sanders took a quick walk in New York today before also moving to campaign in Pennsylvania, the Vermont senator saying the New York polls are selling him short and lamenting the rules that don't allow independents, who generally support him over Clinton, to vote.
SANDERS: Afraid she's going to be disappointed. We're feeling very good. And if there's a large voter turnout, despite the impediment of three million people not being able to participate, I think we're going to do just fine.
BLITZER: And Brianna Keilar is joining us now.
Brianna, the Sanders campaign says that Clinton will be disappointed tonight. Any reaction to that from her campaign?
KEILAR: They're not reacting specifically to that, Wolf, but they're feeling pretty optimistic. You probably noticed they're not managing expectations really.
You hear publicly top aides to Hillary Clinton saying they think they are going to win here. To that end, she has what she's hoping to be a victory party happening right here in New York. And not only that, Wolf, her campaign clearly, assuming she does win tonight, is going to try to pivot yet again to the general election and to try to cast this as really a turning point, as sort of really the firewall for Bernie Sanders.
Hillary Clinton's campaign manager saying with this race that the math of the primary will be overwhelming. He said that Bernie Sanders will have a "steep and close-to-impossible path to the nomination."
BLITZER: All right. Brianna, thanks very much -- Anderson.
COOPER: Wolf, a big night in both primaries in a large and diverse state with each candidate seeming to favor a different path to victory
So, the question is, what are the keys to winning in New York? What should we all be looking for as the results start to come in tonight? And where does tonight fit in the bigger scheme of things?
All questions for John King, who is back with us now throughout the evening. We're at the magic wall.
The big challenge for Kasich and Cruz, try to Trump's delegates as low as possible. Let's take a look at the numbers.
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Here is why.
If you're Kasich, you're way back here, running in third place still technically behind Marco Rubio, who dropped out of the race, Ted Cruz 200 and a couple delegates behind there. You want to limit what Donald Trump can do. But, Anderson, 95 delegates at stake in New York tonight, and by all expectations and all the polling, Donald Trump is going to get the bulk of them.
Does he get all 95? Does he get 80? Does he get 75? That's why it's so important. What are we going to look for? Number one, we know that this is Donald Trump's wheelhouse, right, down right in the city itself of Manhattan. He's been a media and a celebrity there, a real estate celebrity there, for years. This is his wheelhouse.
Can Kasich maybe in the Upper East Side of Manhattan get some moderate delegates and Republicans in those districts? Can Ted Cruz -- remember, he was campaigning with some Orthodox Jews. Can he get some conservative votes out here to take some of the delegates away from Donald Trump, where most of the congressional districts are here in the New York City area?
Can Kasich pick up two or three and Cruz pick up three or four? That's key to get Donald Trump's number down as far as you can. So, we will see how well Trump performs in the city. Then we come Upstate, where we watched Donald Trump last night. He was up in this area of the state. What was he talking about? He was talking about trade.
This is an area hit hard by manufacturing job losses up here. Senator Cruz did not campaign much up here. That surprised a lot of people. Kasich has been up here. Another place, when we overlay the congressional district map tonight, were they able to, even if they lose the congressional district, get Trump under 50 to pick up one or two delegates?
That's really the game for Cruz and Kasich tonight. And by most accounts heading in, Kasich perhaps has more opportunity than Cruz, but it looks like Trump is heading to a big win.
COOPER: What can we learn tonight about the possibly or the likelihood of an open or contested convention?
KING: I think we're going to learn quite a bit in New York tonight and what New York tells us about where we're going.
Again, if you go back to the idea of Donald Trump has a 203 -- 205 -- excuse me -- lead in the delegates right now, so if Donald Trump has a big night in New York tonight, let's assume he gets 75, maybe he gets more than that. If he gets 75, say, John Kasich and Ted Cruz gets the rest, Donald Trump starts to move out.
Not only does that get him back to winning. Cruz won the last contest out in the Midwest. It gets Trump back to winning. It also starts to move his delegate math now. And just look if you had a strong April for Donald Trump, next Tuesday night, if he can run the board, win Connecticut, win Rhode Island, win Pennsylvania, win Maryland, win Delaware, then Donald Trump is 75 percent of the way to 1,237.
Essentially, with a big win tonight, Anderson, and then if can carry that momentum and get 75 percent of the delegates next Tuesday as well, Donald Trump could add 200, maybe even more delegates between tonight and a week from now and get out past -- maybe even past 930.
It's still a steep hill, it's still hard, but he would be the only Republican with a chance to get to 1,237. With a big win tonight, if he can springboard that and match it again next week, it makes the odds a little bit more likely that he gets there. Tough, but possible.
COOPER: All right, John, thanks very much.
I want to head back over here to the panel. I want to bring in the entire panel right now.
Kayleigh, I want to put to you something that Mitch McConnell said this weekend. He said he was "increasingly optimistic" that will the GOP presidential nomination will go to a second ballot at the Republican convention. Now, a lot of people interpret that as basically him hoping that Donald Trump wouldn't have enough delegates to actually win the nomination.
He's walked that back today, saying he was -- he spoke inartfully. That was his phrase. Do you buy it was just an inartful phrase or do you think this kind of points to some of the conspiracy thoughts Donald Trump has had -- or conspiracy thoughts -- but criticism Donald Trump has had about the process?
KAYLEIGH MCENANY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I think it was a moment of truth for Mitch McConnell.
He does not want to see Donald Trump be the nominee. Party insiders do not want to see Donald Trump be the nominee. It's no secret that McConnell has not been a fan of Donald Trump. I'm not sure if it was inartful speaker or him just merely having a candid moment, but the bottom line is guys like Mitch McConnell, guys like Paul Ryan would be wise to get on board with Donald Trump, who is broadening the ideological stance of the Republican Party and who can win this election.
If you empower Ted Cruz against the will of the people, he will lose this election to Hillary Clinton and we will watch her walk right into the White House.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Here's the thing about Mitch McConnell, though. He hates Ted Cruz. He called him a liar on the floor of the Senate.
MCENANY: He's the lesser of two evils.
BORGER: I don't know. Maybe McConnell is going to turn into...
COOPER: Do you think it was just inartful or...
DONNA BRAZILE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: He has to preserve his majority in the United States Senate. There's 34 seats up for grabs, several of them in presidential battleground states, Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Nevada, Colorado.
Mitch McConnell is trying to preserve those...
COOPER: But let me ask that.
Let me ask to our Republicans, if -- why is it the assumption that Donald Trump will not have coattails, that Donald Trump will not help bring in -- because he's bringing people in, if he's getting a lot of enthusiasm in the polls, that that would transfer to Republican candidates running in Senate races around the country?
AMANDA CARPENTER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Because he has no platform. He never talks about the issues. All he says is build the wall and make America great again. And everything else is just disparaging other people.
COOPER: I do believe he talked about bombing the hell out of ISIS.
CARPENTER: OK. There's that one, too.
MCENANY: And free trade.
CARPENTER: And also making the military start water-boarding, engaging in torture.
BRAZILE: And punishing women.
CARPENTER: There's that stuff that the Republicans can campaign on, I guess.
But the problem with Donald Trump is that he has no platform. The last time we saw him debate, Marco Rubio was on the stage and it was all about little Marco and the size of Donald Trump's hands. He's given other Republicans nothing else to talk about, whereas, Ted Cruz, he's been going to these states...
CARPENTER: Talking about all the issues they care about.
MARY KATHARINE HAM, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I agree.
And on top of that, there is the issue with the unfavorables in all these different groups. With women, it's -- and with many people, but it's creeping up past 70 percent with women, which is a problem.
I do think Donald Trump has the potential in a general election to scramble the map in a way that maybe others might not, with a Pennsylvania, with an Ohio. But the question is always how much is he subtracting vs. how much is he adding, and I think he's going to end up subtracting far more.
The other issue is, when you're talking about going to a second ballot, there are rules for a convention. They have been in place for a while. The 1,237 number has been in place for a while. If someone does not hit it, the reason you go to the convention is because you have a uniquely weak front-runner who has not consolidated the party.
Trump has a decision to make about whether he can and wants to consolidate the party. He's shown no ability or desire do that in the past, instead complaining and whining and trashing the party when things don't go his way, and specifically saying don't forget I only complain about the ones where we have difficulty. It ain't about enfranchisement. It's about Donald Trump.
MCENANY: No, that's not true.
Donald Trump had -- first of all, speaking of the second ballot, Donald Trump is going to walk into the convention unless something crazy happens with the most of the people's vote, the most of the bound delegates, and having won most of the contests in the Republican Party. COOPER: But he is complaining. He is criticizing the process when it works against him. He's not criticizing the process when it works for him.
MCENANY: He's criticizing the process when people don't get to vote.
BRAZILE: ... 37 of the raw vote and 42 percent of the delegates.
Of course the process worked for Donald Trump. He's won these winner- take-all states. That's why the rules are sometimes written to favor those who are front-runners.
MCENANY: But they should never be written in a way that cancels the people's votes. Like Donald Trump said in his "Wall Street Journal" op-ed, any responsible leader should be upset at the notion that an entire state did not get to vote.
COOPER: John, go ahead.
KING: Two things. Number one, if Donald Trump doesn't win on the first ballot, I think it is almost impossible for him to win.
KING: Yes, because so many delegates are going to peel off at that point.
COOPER: Because so many of the delegates who are committed to him aren't really Trump supporters.
KING: Some of those are still bound to him on the second ballot, but his number is going to go down. And the anti-Trump movement will be emboldened at that point.
But to the other point, this has been a fascinating conversation, because Gloria is right. Mitch McConnell despises Ted Cruz. He doesn't dislike him. He despises him. He does not want him in the Senate. He does not want to be in the same room with him.
But they have come to the calculation -- they think Cruz will lose too. They think Trump will lose. And they think Cruz will lose. But Cruz is predictable. They know what Cruz is going to run on. Your conversation with Donald Trump about nuclear weapons freaked the Republican Party out.
When he said to Chris Matthews women should be punished about abortions, then he changed his position and he said he misspoke, but it freaked them that every day every Republican candidate for every office in America would be asked what Donald Trump said today, what Donald Trump said today, and it would be impossible to run a consistent, planned, predictable campaign.
They would rather have Cruz than Trump because of that, because, OK, if I disagree with Cruz on this and this and this, I just say I do. And I agree with him on this and you run your campaign. With Trump, every day, they think, is quicksand.
BAKARI SELLERS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: But this is very unique, because after tonight, Ted Cruz will literally have to win over 95 percent of the remaining delegates out there. John Kasich has to win 120 percent of the remaining delegates.
But if this was not Donald Trump, if this was anyone else, this race would be over. I don't think anybody has ever seen anything like this.
BILL PRESS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I was just going to say, I think, just kind of reinforcing your point, I think what Mitch McConnell did, he's pulling a Lindsey Graham.
The famous Lindsey Graham, the choice is between being shot or being poisoned. And Lindsey Graham made them leap and now Mitch McConnell is making the leap. The phrase they're using, which I think is emblematic of the whole party disruption, is they'd rather lose with Cruz than take a chance with Trump.
BORGER: So you have Trump that wants to win on the first ballot and you have Cruz that wants to win on the second ballot, and you have Kasich who is like, I need a third ballot.
COOPER: We're going to continue the conversation in a moment.
Coming up next, we have more exit polling that could have a lot to say about how the voters in this very big primary are voting tonight. We will be right back.
BLITZER: Republican presidential candidate John Kasich, the Ohio governor, just starting a town hall meeting right now in Annapolis, Maryland. The Maryland contest is a week from today. We're going to monitor that, see what he says.
In the meantime, there's breaking news coming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now, exit polling, Democratic and Republican voters on the issues that brought them out to vote today.
Let's bring in Mark Preston, our CNN politics executive editor.
You're going through the numbers. What are you finding out?
MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICAL EDITOR: Well, Wolf, we have certainly had a lot of discussion about a contested convention and would we see Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, John Kasich and who else trying to get the Republican nomination.
Donald Trump has made the argument that if he doesn't get to the 1,237 delegates needed, if he was within striking distance, he should become the nominee. Well, guess what? More than seven in 10 Republicans actually agree with Donald Trump.
Let's look at that right there. While only 25 percent, Wolf, actually believe that it should be the best qualified candidate. But as we're talking about division within the Republican Party, let's take a look at these numbers right here.
Why you voted, your vote was because you supported the candidate, 69 percent, but, more importantly, if you look at the next number down right here, 30 percent, so this goes to show you that three in 10 Republicans right now had a protest vote today, not so much that they supported a candidate, but they opposed the other candidate.
Again, heading into Cleveland this summer, another sign of division within the Republican Party.
BLITZER: Important sign. Thanks very much, Mark, for that.
COOPER: Wolf, thanks very much.
Mary Katharine, it's hard to tell from that -- particularly that last exit poll, whether that protest vote would be against Donald Trump or against Ted Cruz or any establishment candidate by Republicans.
HAM: Yes. I mean, it could go either way in New York, which is why this is an interesting situation.
But I think, moving forward here, Trump is going to have a good night tonight. My question is moving forward, when you get to something like California -- and we may end up going that far, because he has do really, really well in all of these upcoming primaries -- can he manage a team that can go through this process and know the rules in a giant state like California and pick off delegates where he needs to do it?
Cruz has been working on this for a long time. Donald Trump's argument for his campaign is, I'm not experienced in government, but I'm the greatest manager and I will find the greatest people.
Thus far, that not been the case. And then when it comes to delegate wooing, he's the art of the deal guy. And he's saying all of these things that should be set up to favor me are unfair.
This is the rationale of his candidacy and it looks like it's failing.
COOPER: But is it too late for him to get that kind of organization on the ground in California that can reach out to those delegates and win them over the way that Ted Cruz has?
BRAZILE: Never late to reach out and begin to track your delegates and do delegate maintenance and make sure the people who are bound to you on the first ballot will stick with you. So, no, it's never too late.
COOPER: What does delegate maintenance actually mean? I have never heard that term. Like the care and feeding of your delegates?
BRAZILE: That's a nice term.
BRAZILE: I'm sitting here a lawyer and a soon-to-be-lawyer, and I'm trying to make sure. It's called network, making sure your network stays strong.
CARPENTER: I can tell you what Cruz has been doing for a long time. They have been going to people and they really are just asking questions. What issues do you care about? And then they will say Ted Cruz has done this and that on these issues. Can we ask for your support?
Other things that would qualify this far. Are you willing to travel to this convention on your own dime to show your support? And so they have a series of way they qualify people. They build a relationship with them and they know they can count on them when it comes to actually being a delegate and voting.
COOPER: Can you then do this late?
KING: In a state like California, it's hard to do late, because you have 54 congressional districts. And how do you put these teams in place? Is it impossible? No.
Is Paul Manafort an adult? Yes. Has he run a data-driven modern campaign? No.
KING: But does he know people? And I know, in fact, in town -- and these guys do as well -- he's calling everybody in this town who does this for a living, who has been in successful campaigns in recent years and saying, come in. Please, who can come and help me in this? But to Amanda's point, Ted Cruz has a state-of-the-art technical team, digital team, data team. So some people just want e-mails and texts. They just want the position paper on the issues. Some people might want a phone call. Some people want to talk to their neighbor because they trust somebody more local.
And a good campaign -- and the Obama campaign was exceptionally good at this -- identifies, how do you want to be communicated with? And you have Facebook. You have Twitter. You have all these social media tools the your advantage now.
So it can be done. It used to be just done with old-fashioned phone banking. Now it's done in ways -- if Gloria wants e-mail, just doesn't want me to call her, doesn't want to be bothered, e-mail and texts fine. You want a call or you want to come to a meeting, come have coffee, and you just -- you tailor it to what that specific delegate wants.
PRESS: First, I want to say for the record, for the three Democrats here, we believe in schmoozing. We are opposed to bribery. I just wanted to put that out there.
PRESS: But, in California, look, I ran as a delegate in California. And at one time, I was a superdelegate in California.
There are advantages now, today, that I didn't have then, meaning electronically. Everything is online. It's late, but it's not too late even for California. You know who the superdelegates are. We all know who they are. We know who the -- people are running for delegates, so you can get their names. You get in contact with them. They want to be talked to. They want to be wooed. And that's perfectly legitimate. They want to be maintained.
COOPER: Gloria, do you understand why Donald Trump did not do this earlier? Did he just, A, not think he would be in the race at this stage? Did he not think he would need too because he was getting such large rallies and that somehow that would translate?
Why do you think, for a guy who makes -- to your point his business ability, his organizational ability, his hiring all the right people his -- a prime selling point?
BORGER: I think they were overconfident.
I think, even in talking to people inside the Trump organization, they now realize there was a certain sense of arrogance, overconfidence. And they felt that when they kept on winning, that they could continue with the air war and they would not have to play this game at all.
In fact, after they won a bunch of states, they even fired a bunch of people who were on the ground. So this was a strategic decision. It wasn't an oversight. It was a thought that we don't have to do this.
And I think that you kind of look at that overconfidence now and you say, wait a minute, that was wrong. And that is why Donald Trump has decided, and it may be late, decided to bring in people who actually understand the ground game and know how to do it, because every campaign understands you have an air war and then you have a ground game.
And any campaign, no matter how successful, needs to understand how to woo and keep delegates.
KING: And it's incredibly hard and complicated to run for president. Look at this Republican field.
Let's go back and look at it. This was a field of 17 or 18 people who, whatever anybody watching at home thinks of one or the other, you had eight or nine sitting or former governors at one point;. You heard members of the United States Senate. You had two former presidential candidates.
What happens when you have 17 candidates? Sometimes, you're hiring people who haven't done this before. And you can run a great gubernatorial race and you can have great experience, and that doesn't mean you're not a rising star in your party. But when you come into the presidency world, it's very different because of these delegate rules, because of different state-by-state rules.
MCENANY: Ordinarily, though, delegate selection isn't the name of the game. It's not since 1976 we have been...
MCENANY: ... scenario.
Ordinarily, it's about winning the people's vote and then you have bound delegates just go up and vote for you.
COOPER: One at a time.
SELLERS: That's not accurate.
And I think one of the things that Donald Trump -- and forgive me for saying this, but I think it's a lot of what Gloria said. But it's also Donald Trump simply didn't know how to run a 21st century campaign.
One of the things that you saw with the Obama coalition in 2008, you saw the delegate maintenance. You saw all these things in Nevada and Iowa. And Donald Trump just did not have that apparatus in place. And now he's trying to build it. But it's data-driven, as John said, and he doesn't have access to data, and Ted Cruz does.
We have got to take another break. We will have much more with our panel ahead.
Up next, we're going to hear from the Clinton and Sanders campaigns about what each is expecting in New York today.
We will be right back.
[18:31:00] BLITZER: The polls are open in New York for about another 2 1/2 hours. Hillary Clinton and the former president voted at an elementary school near their home in Chappaqua outside of New York City earlier this morning. She said he's had a great time campaigning, seeing old friends and meeting new people.
Joining us now is the chief strategist for the Clinton campaign, Joel Benenson. Joel, thanks very much for joining us.
As I'm sure you've known, I'm sure you've heard Senator Sanders say many times, he's won eight of the last nine contests. The polls seemed to tighten a bit in the weeks leading up to the New York primary. How confident are you you're going to win tonight?
JOEL BENENSON, CHIEF STRATEGIST, CLINTON CAMPAIGN: Well, I think this is going to be a good night for Hillary Clinton. I think we're going to win this state. I think we're going to add to our pledged delegate lead, which as you know, is already nearly insurmountable.
So I think at the end of the night, it's going to be pretty clear that New Yorkers, who put their faith in Hillary Clinton once before and put their faith in her again; and that's because she always has their backs.
BLITZER: If the win is as slim as, let's say, single digits in her adopted home state -- we're talking about New York -- does that point to some blind spots in Secretary Clinton's support moving forward?
BENENSON: No. I think New York is competitive. Senator Sanders grew up here. You know, he touted his Brooklyn roots, as well he should. And it's been a vigorous campaign. New Yorkers are taking the measure of the two people that they are considering to be the nominee of their party.
And what's going to matter is, as I've said all the way through, a win is a win and especially when we add to our net delegate lead, Wolf. That's a good night for us, and that's what's going to happen tonight.
BLITZER: Bernie Sanders carried his home state of Vermont, what, by about 70 points or so. That was a landslide. BENENSON: Well, and we -- and his net delegates coming out of
Vermont, compared to what our net delegates that are going to be coming out of here tonight, is not going to be quite the same.
Look, the key here is in the large states, the diverse states. Hillary Clinton has won by big margins in states where the turnout has been 7 percent or more of the eligible voters. We've won 17 of 21 states or 22 states going into tonight.
That's how you have to win delegates and win the nomination, is by putting together a diverse coalition and winning the large states, whatever part of the country they're in. We've won well beyond the Deep South, as Senator Sanders likes to talk about. And that's how we've won and built up, according to your numbers, a pledged delegate lead of 229, which is much greater than Barack Obama's pledged delegate lead was at any time, Wolf.
BLITZER: Joel, let me ask you something you said earlier. It's caused some controversy. You said you wondered if Senator Sanders would, quote -- and I'm quoting you now -- "turn himself into someone who will do what he said he wouldn't do and be a Ralph Nader and try to destroy the party when it comes to defeating Republicans in November."
You honestly believe that Senator Sanders would try to destroy the Democratic Party if he doesn't become the nominee?
BENENSON: I think the only context you can put those words in is what is coming out of the Sanders' campaign. They've had language about every Democrat doesn't agree with them. They've railed against Democrats in Congress. He's run a campaign far more critical of the last two Democratic presidents, who between them created close to 40 million jobs for working Americans, and has said very little about George W. Bush's tenure, which really unraveled a lot of economic progress.
And even in the last couple of days, he's leveling more charges. I know they said this was a must-win state. They seem to be frustrated by the fact that they are not going to pull off their must-win, and they are increasingly assailing the character of any Democrats who don't agree with them and who aren't on their side. And I think that's not productive.
[18:35:05] I think Senator Sanders is at his best, and we're as Democrats at our best, when we talk about the issues, when we run the kind of campaign we need to unite the party and take on the threats from Republicans like Ted Cruz and Donald Trump, which are very real this year. And that's got to be our mission going forward, coming out of these primaries.
BLITZER: Joel Benenson of the Hillary Clinton campaign, thanks very much for joining us.
BENENSON: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Joining us now, a different perspective, a very different perspective. Tad Devine is the senior media advisor with the Bernie Sanders campaign.
Very strong words from Joel Benenson. Everybody remembers Ralph Nader, what happened in 2000 in Florida. He took about 90,000 votes. Al Gore lost Florida by a little bit more than 500 votes. He's making that suggestion that your candidate could do to the Democratic nominee that's Hillary Clinton something along those lines that Ralph Nader purportedly.
TAD DEVINE, SENIOR MEDIA ADVISOR, SANDERS CAMPAIGN: Wolf, I remember that well, OK, having worked for Al Gore. And I want to tell you something: Bernie Sanders is doing the exact opposite to Ralph Nader. He made a decision to run within the Democratic nominating process. And at the time he said he did so because he wants to make sure a third-party candidate who pulls away from the Democrats, an election Republican. He understands that.
And you know, it would be great if the Clinton campaign would be a little more welcoming to people like Bernie Sanders who decide to come into our process and participate, and not try to run them out of it.
BLITZER: So what you're saying is that Bernie Sanders has no -- no determination to destroy the party when it comes to defeating Republicans in November. If he loses to Hillary Clinton, will he go out there and work for her, work for other Democrats and basically do what she did when she lost to Senator -- then-Senator Barack Obama eight years ago.
DEVINE: He has said repeatedly that he will support the nominee in the Democratic Party. I'm sure he will. Listen, we all understand what's at stake here: to have someone like Trump or Cruz be our president, no one wants that. But right now, we're trying to win the nomination. We think we have a path to victory.
BLITZER: Well, what do you think is going to happen tonight?
DEVINE: Well, I think, you know, I think we had a good campaign in New York. I think it's very strong. We created a lot of excitement. When Bernie gets on the ground and 20, 30,000 people start showing up, it generates the kind of excitement we're going to need, not just to win the nomination, but to win...
BLITZER: Do you think you can win tonight? Surprise a lot of people?
DEVINE: Well, I mean, that would be a big surprise. I think we'll win a lot of delegates tonight. This is Hillary Clinton's home state. They don't allow independents to vote. That's been, from New Hampshire to Wisconsin, one of our strongest groups. So -- so, you know, we accept that.
BLITZER: These are the rules of the Democratic Party in New York.
DEVINE: I'm not complaining about it. I'm just -- you know, that's the reality of this process. I think she's strong in her home state. She has a lot of support there, but I think we'll do well.
BLITZER: What about the minority vote in New York state? He's had problems with the minority vote in the South, elsewhere around the country, as well. Why?
DEVINE: Well, I think because he's not as well-known as Hillary Clinton and because both President Clinton and Hillary have established a strong relationship, particularly in the African- American community. But I think we'll start to make progress. I think we'll see in the exit polls tonight -- certainly, we saw this in our own polling -- Latino voters beginning to move towards Bernie and also younger African-Americans. I think we're breaking through with young people across the board.
BLITZER: Tad Devine, thanks very much.
DEVINE: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Up next, we're getting more breaking news. New exit polling data coming in, what New York voters have to say about the battle for the White House. We'll be right back.
[18:42:56] BLITZER: Breaking news coming in. New Yorkers voting, answering our exit polling questions. We're back with our politics executive editor, Mark Preston.
You're going through the exit poll information. What else are we learning?
PRESTON: Well, Wolf, certainly from this early data right now that we're looking at, we're looking at four characteristics right now. What qualities matter to your vote, specific candidate qualities -- electability, peers, honesty and experience. Let's peel those off.
If you look at that, 43 percent are more interested in electability and experience, those voting with their head, so to speak. Cares about people and honesty, 54 percent voting with your heart. So as we see there, a split in the Democratic Party, certainly, New York Democrats, about voting with your head, voting with your heart.
BLITZER: How do those Democratic candidates rate as far as these issues are concerned?
PRESTON: Well, perhaps wouldn't come to a surprise right here, Wolf, but let's take a look at Bernie Sanders. Look at these numbers right here: 83 percent believe that Bernie Sanders is honest and trustworthy. Hillary Clinton, six in 10 New York Democrats believe that she's honest and trustworthy.
But when it comes to electability and perhaps the most important thing you would need heading into the November election, Hillary Clinton gets 64 percent. But look at that: only a little more than three in ten Democrats believe that it would be Bernie Sanders could actually win.
BLITZER: Because a lot of the Democrats, they want to win in November. So basically, what we're hearing from them is they may not necessarily think she's as honest and trustworthy as Bernie -- Bernie Sanders, but she could win more easily going against a Republican in November.
PRESTON: Absolutely. And we've certainly heard a lot from Hillary Clinton about her experience and how she would be ready to take on Donald Trump and would be battle-tested, and that she would be the better candidate heading into the general election, not only to win over the Democratic base but really to go after those independent voters. Many Hillary Clinton supporters believe that Bernie Sanders is too liberal to get those.
BLITZER: I know you're crunching the numbers with our team. We'll get more information coming in.
Meantime, Anderson over to you.
COOPER: Wolf, thanks very much.
It is interesting with these exit polls, because I mean, clearly, there are some possibly good information, good news for Hillary Clinton's campaign. But in the other exit polls, we saw not just that there was support for President Obama, but actually a large number of Democrats want more liberal policies than President Obama.
[18:45:06] KING: There's disillusionment. I think we hear it when these guys talk. Even in the Clinton campaign, she's tried to say the president could do more on this, or she often blames the, you know, the obstructionist Republican Congress as she puts it, but says that you can do more.
But I do think you see that, after a two-term Democratic president, it is remarkable, though, again, that the party is moving -- continuing to move to the left and Democrats are confident they can do that because they look at the two Obama coalitions in the last two elections and I think if we can keep African-Americans, if we can keep Latinos, if we can keep college educated women in the suburbs, we can keep doing what we're doing.
I do think you do propose the question, at least from my past experience in prior presidential elections, pre-Obama, will they move too far left? Will they move too far left and put some of those states, put a Virginia back in play, put North Carolina out of reach. You know, make Colorado more competitive.
That's my question. If the party -- if Democrats when you talk to them and you have some smart ones here, they feel very confident they're on safe ground doing this, but I do think as you watch the party keep going to the left, at some point, do you tip that electoral scale?
DONNA BRAZILE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: When you look at the issues, whether it's climate change, raising the minimum wage, protecting the women's right to choose, I mean, these are issues that are within the mainstream of I think America right now and that's why I think -- am I right? I got my supremes here.
You know, Democrats have been able to maintain 19 states, the last six elections, 19 states with 242 electorate votes. Republicans 13, with just under 112 electoral votes.
For Democrats the path to victory from 242 to 270 goes through Florida or it goes through a combination of Iowa, New Hampshire and perhaps Nevada.
COOPER: Although there have --
BRAZILE: We have to continue to have the kind of support that President Obama attracted to the party, but also we've got to continue to focus on the issues that long term will help us.
COOPER: But to John's point, though -- I mean, some of the things which have been brought up, particularly in the debates, I think about the Univision which we simulcast, where you had both Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton essentially saying no more deportations of anybody who hasn't committed a violent crime or serious crime, that's certainly going to play differently in a general election or be used by Republicans in the general election.
KAYLEIGH MCENANY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: absolutely. You know, border security is a huge issue. Most Americans do care about this. When you have candidates on the stage saying we're going to stop deportations all together, you know, we're not going to send criminals out of the country, that's something that she's going to have --
BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: The country is getting browner and I think the Democratic Party is recognizing that. The role of the minority voters are increasing exponentially.
And Barack Obama did was Barack Obama just didn't beat Mitt Romney, he crushed Mitt Romney. He got to 332 electoral votes and he showed other Democrats a pathway to get here. So, yes, I don't think by going over and talking about progressive issues or more progressive issues will alienate those because the fact of the matter is, that Republicans have a math problem. They have a fundamental math problem in the electorate.
BILL PRESS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I want to come back to these numbers. I think these numbers are fascinating, and I think they sum up the entire Democratic primary.
When you look at the -- what struck me as the most importantly was that the one that gets the least number of votes, right, of what you want to see in a candidate is the one who can win in November was only 11 percent. But when you add up that and the cares about people like me as Mark said between the head and heart, right, the head or the heart rather wins out over the head, and then Bernie has got the 83 percent trustworthiness, right, and you had the earlier with people looking for an outsider.
I mean, to me, that sums up the success of Bernie Sanders in this and why it's so close and the challenge for Hillary Clinton to bring those two together.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Electability is not an issue on the Republican side either. I mean, time and time again we see the Republican voters don't care much about electability either because primary voters want to send a message. Here's the issue when you get to delegates and you get to a convention. Delegates don't want to send messages.
PRESS: They want to win.
COOPER: They want to win.
GLORIA: They want to win.
COOPER: Mary Katharine?
MARY KATHARINE HAM, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I just think -- yes, neither party has really cared about electability this time around, and as we move forward I just -- the Trump argument has been that he can manage and he can win and he can wheel and deal, and I think on many, many fronts you see him not doing that.
On the other side of the ledger, you have Hillary who I think you're right, the underlying numbers show that perhaps Bernie is where the party is. I think there's always a chance that the party can alienate a North Carolina or Virginia enough to change the math, and that's the question with Trump, just as with Bernie Sanders' policies. You can't go too far.
AMANDA CARPENTER, FORMER COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR FOR SEN. TED CRUZ: But the thing is, on both sides, people don't care about electability as much because people are more engaged on the issues --
BRAZILE: That's right.
CARPENTER: -- Republican and Democrats. And Donald Trump can continue to avoid getting into the issues maybe through the primary.
[18:50:02] Maybe he wins the nomination outright, but sooner or later, he's going to have to dig in and talk with Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders about minimum wage, about regulating Wall Street, all these things he's never considered and I don't think people want to see that matchup.
I mean, if he wants to talk about why NATO is obsolete, I guess the former secretary of state, I could tell you, she's going to win that.
HAM: Even if people disagree with her and she moves far left, she will found (ph) on a stage that she knows what she's talking about, and that's questionable.
COOPER: We got to just toss over to Wolf. A lot more with our panel ahead.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Anderson, thank you.
Ted Cruz looking beyond New York right now. He's campaigning in Philadelphia. So does that say something about his expectations for tonight? We'll get the Cruz campaign's take and we'll also take you to another polling location to see how the voting is going.
[18:55:32] BLITZER: New York voters still at the polls right now. They have a little more than two hours to vote. Ted Cruz is hoping to pick up more delegates than Donald Trump's home state or will he be punished for his so-called New York values comments. As we mentioned earlier, Senator Cruz is already looking ahead. He's campaigning in Philadelphia tonight.
Joining us now is Ron Nehring. He's the national spokesman for the Cruz campaign.
Ron, thanks very much for joining us.
RON NEHRING, NATIONAL SPOKESMAN FOR THE TED CRUZ CAMPAIGN: You bet.
BLITZER: What are your expectations for tonight because some of the polls suggest he could come in third?
NEHRING: Well, our expectation is that Donald Trump is going to have a good night tonight, even the insufferable John Kasich was able to win his own state, not winning anything before or after. But Donald Trump is going to have a good night tonight, and that's -- you know, congratulations to him if he does well, as expected and we're already moving on.
We launched our campaign in Maryland yesterday. We're in Philadelphia today. Lots more states to go. We'll be probably at the top of the sixth inning with, you know, the states that are coming up now, and it's a long ball game. And then we move on to May, we move on to the June 7th states and wrap this up in California.
BLITZER: Tana Goertz, a Trump campaign senior advisor, accused Senator Cruz, the campaign I should say, of, quote, "stealing, lying and bribing people to become delegates." She said that on CNN earlier today.
What's your campaign's reaction? That's a very serious charge, obviously.
NEHRING: Well, that's absolutely untrue. They have no evidence to that. We would love to see the so-called evidence there is about that.
Look, Donald Trump has lost in the last five states, over and over and over again because from a management standpoint, Donald Trump is a mess and his campaign reflects the same type of flawed management, that you saw Trump steaks, or Trump mortgage or Trump magazine or these other failed business endeavors, which is why he has to go through yet another campaign reorganization today. People quitting, people being moved around because the Donald Trump campaign is such a mess.
So, you know, we're going to move on in terms of running for this -- the office of president of the United States, which we're well- prepared for and well-organized in the states coming up, and in the meantime, it's clear that Donald Trump is running for the most important office in the country, but he hasn't done his homework. He hasn't read about how you run for president of the United States.
And if he thinks being president of the United States is easier than running, then, you know, he's in for another surprise but he won't have that opportunity because he's not on track to become the Republican nominee. We're on track to do that at the convention in Cleveland.
BLITZER: But he's got a lot more votes, popular votes, he's got a lot more delegates right now. You're assuming he can't win on the first round?
NEHRING: Donald Trump will not become the Republican nominee for president of the United States, and he's not on track to get the necessary delegates that he needs and the reason why he's not on track is that exactly what we said would happen has happened. As this race narrowed from 17 candidates down to effectively two, Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, the Republican base is consolidated behind Ted Cruz.
That's the reason why we've had the last victories in the last five states and Donald Trump will do well in his own state but he's not getting that consolidation because it's happening behind Ted Cruz. That's why five candidates from president from this cycle have united behind Senator Cruz's campaign and that consolidation will continue.
BLITZER: Ron Nehring, thanks very much for joining us.
NEHRING: You bet, thank you.
BLITZER: Across New York, voters have just two hours or so to cast their ballots. Let's see how things are going.
Jason Carroll is joining us from a polling location in Staten Island, New York.
Jason, what are you seeing on the ground?
JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Here in Staten Island Academy, we've seen a steady stream of people coming in throughout the day here. As you say, still two more hours left, you can see a number of folks coming in after work to cast their votes.
One of the overarching themes we've seen in terms of speaking to voters throughout the day is this disappointment they expressed and excitement. Disappointed and again this is there is not a better crop of candidates and excitement they are telling us Donald Trump is in this race.
BLITZER: Does it seem like one of the candidates has a lot more support than the other?
CARROLL: Well, again, this is just anecdotal, but by far and away, Donald Trump. I mean, as we spoke to is the lesser of two evils and another woman voter, she said with all the candidates he's the man with the most plain-spoken language, the most unlike a politician. Elderly couples saying look, we know he says crazy things but he's the right man for us right now -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Jason Carroll, thanks very much.
Anderson and I will be back at 8:00 p.m. Eastern, one hour from now, a special edition of "360", the beginning of the special election coverage.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.